The Birthday Question

Recently I was asked “a birthday question” of “What have you learned this year?”

What a fucking question.

What more could I have possibly learned this year? (Kidding, clearly I still have a long way to go.)

I have learned that I sell myself short. Sure, I knew this but I used to think of it as humility or sacrificing for the greater good. I realize now it keeps me from feeling like I deserve to ask for things- money, job title, support, friendship, time for myself. It’s funny how my children have been the ones who have taught me selflessness but also to advocate for myself. Tonight I kept one arm outstretched to block Haines from picking the blueberries out of my salad as the other arm spooned pureed carrots into Austin’s mouth.  Also, that moment pretty much sums up motherhood.

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I learned about boundaries. Boundaries are the key to relationships of any kind. It’s not something I ever understood the value of. They had a negative connotation. Shouldn’t our most meaningful relationships exist without boundaries? Anything goes! But boundaries are as simple as expecting honesty from your spouse/friend/parent or drawing a line between work and home. In parenting boundaries feel particularly few and far between but they can still exist if you choose them. It is not a bad thing to move a baby into their own room or to insist that a toddler maintains their bedtime simply so you can be alone for once. It is not bad to say, “Play by yourself for a few minutes” and mutter “…before I lose my shit.”

I have learned I am strong, resilient and patient- three words I would not have used previously to describe myself. Were these qualities there all along? Surely, they have not just sprung to life but whatever the case may be- I feel them now. This is as much due to being able to push through when things are hard as it is knowing when to call it quits.  

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I learned about the constantly evolving human. Even if we cannot change our bodies, our circumstances, our income, we can change our minds. We can change our outlook. We can change our perception. And that can change your whole life.

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I have so much more to learn and wonderful people to learn it with. Thank goodness. Here’s to 33.

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Postpartum Real Life

It’s hard to express how much I love my babies. The love is constantly evolving, growing deeper every day. It starts at this place deep in my chest that twists and wrenches tight when they cry. And when they smile, the warmth starts deep in my belly and blooms upward filling me.

But it’s also hard to express it, because it’s become increasingly clear to me that I have postpartum depression. People ask me how things are going, if the fog is starting to clear and I lie. Because we are still sleeping poorly at 5 months postpartum, my brain still feels broken and I have yet to regain control over my emotions.

I have two incredible children. Their voices fill my heart with joy. My husband is a supportive kind partner. I like my job. I do interesting, fulfilling work. Sometimes it is not enough. Sometimes it is more than enough.Logically, I know that I am lucky. In my best moments, I feel grateful and energetic. But so often I feel there is a wall blocking me from enjoying it.

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The wall effects the way I feel about Austin. It effects the way I feel about my home, my husband, myself. I hate that. I hate to admit it. I hate to think about it but there it is, all the same.

I am lucky to live in a time where women are sharing their stories, that struggling with a new baby is a common story that women are more honest about. Still I see picture perfect Instagram accounts, I see women getting through so much more than is on my plate and I think why can’t I do more?

Postpartum depression effects 1 in 8 women and yet we mostly hide it away, with little in the way of a safety net for new moms. Luckily when I described how I felt after my first pregnancy to my midwives, they recognized I had experienced it with Haines and shared with me that I would likely experience it again. So this time I’ve at least been able to recognize, this is not how I should be feeling. This time I’ve sought help. This time when I do things for myself, I try to recognize that it truly effects my mental health and isn’t just selfish.

I don’t write just to share. I write because I have so appreciated the women, friends and strangers alike, who share about their journey in motherhood raw and authentically. It has been enormously comforting to see the many paths of motherhood without the shine of glossy family photos.

I wish I had more words to describe this phase of life, but it’s too raw and too real. Too good and too hard. So I’ll just put this here for now.

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Self-Care January

I am a person of lists. And goals. I love lists of goals. Even lists of lists of goals. So when my friend @thenewchrissy declared that she would be doing monthly challenges for 2019, I jumped on board. We share a lot of interests and values but I modified her a few of her challenges to fit my needs.

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A lot of folks start the year with Dry January. It makes sense considering the overindulgence of the holidays but I wanted to start the year off on a different foot. With only a few weeks left in my maternity leave, I wanted to focus on just enjoying it and relaxing as much as possible before it was back to the grind. Thus Self-Care January.

Self-care on maternity leave (especially at the end of one without pay) is not spa days or days alone in self-reflection or girls weekends. It is a 30 minute bath at the end of the day with a magazine. It is going to the grocery store alone and walking the aisles very slowly. It is choosing not to fold the laundry and painting my toenails instead. It is getting outside everyday.

Having a reminder that I needed to make time for myself was really helpful as I faced going back to work. The prospect of going back to work has, in my experience, been worse than the actual return but it’s still painful.

It’s hard to be present even in the parts of my job that I enjoy (which is the majority to be fair) when I’m aware of all the things I’m missing at home. Is he smiling right now? Is he cooing? Is he thinking about rolling over? (Yes, yes and not yet.) I race home to divide my time between two amazing, demanding children. One who wants cuddles and to be nursed. Another who wants to read books or tell me things like “I ride in Dada’s truck” (it’s not fascinating but it’s still cute). On my first week back of work, Haines was sent home from daycare with a fever and I was ecstatic to spend the following day with him. With Austin safely tucked away at my mom’s, we watched a movie, took walks and played hard. I loved it.

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Still at the end of the day, I was ready for a moment of me. I went to bed at 8. Best self-care decision ever.

February’s challenge is Snail Mail which I’m really looking forward to. I used to be an excellent pen pal but now I’m incredibly inconsistent. This month is going to be an opportunity to get back into one of my favorite activities.

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Back to Work

This week, after twelve quick weeks, I returned to work. In America, my friends congratulate me on being eligible and able to take advantage of the full twelve week leave. The men I know all say, “Wow, that’s a long time.” My friends in other countries think it is ridiculous that twelve weeks is considered ample time to recover and return to work. As someone who hasn’t slept a full night in months, I’m inclined to agree.

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I know there are so many benefits to being working parent. I drink my caffeine hot and enjoy adult conversations on a daily basis. I use my brain and solve problems that make me feel accomplished, even if just for the workday. I have a career, a boss, a field that I enjoy. Oh and the biggest advantage- dual income!

But I will never stop feeling that I am missing it. Not just missing out but truly missing “it.” Missing the best parts of the day with my boys. Missing them grow before my eyes. Missing everything. Our time together is mostly sleepy breakfasts, wrestling in and out of pajamas, perilous dinners (Will he throw a tantrum because we dared offer him food?), nursing in the wee hours, and reading a quick bed time book to one while the other protests, ready to be rocked to sleep. It is not nothing but it is also not enough. Would anything be?

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Even though I like most things about my job and my life, going back to work also makes me feel like I am running back into a hamster wheel. Thirteen hours of each day will be spent at full speed. Up at 6 so we can all get dressed, get fed, get out the door. Work hard to leave the office by 5 to get home, to get everyone fed, dressed, in bed around 7 before sweet tiredness turns into angry tears. Clean up, prep for tomorrow, take a shower in the hopes that there will be a few quiet, relaxing moments before nursing the baby again and lights out at ten.

There is no perfect balance. No parent doesn’t wish to be home, long to be at work, can’t wait for the kids to go to bed, and joyfully wake them up. Our situation will find its normal but for a few days at least I am giving myself the space to feel all the feelings as they are.

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There is something extra sad about going back to work this time knowing we will not be doing this again. We’ve decided our family feels just right as a foursome so there will be no more pregnancies, no more newborns, no more back to works. All of which is the right choice for us but it is hard not to feel wistful about the end of this chapter.

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2019: Seeking Me

2018, oh my. You were a beast. You were a beast to a lot of people. But you also brought me a lot of clarity and focus. And a brand new baby so thank you for that.

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I had wanted a lot of 2018 and I definitely got more than I bargained for (ex. baby). I had hoped for a year of tiny adventures (oops, how about one big baby?) as well as:

  • Save an emergency fund- Yes!! We have a fund that we have not yet touched, although mostly due to the generosity of others. Still that fund is there and holding strong for inevitable rainy days.
  • Keep a clean house- Yep. But then we had a baby so we’ll revisit this one in about ten years. Or more.
  • Learn to balance priorities at work- Honestly I learned to prioritize my home life over my work life which was not my goal. So this is still an area of growth.
  • Be present- Sometimes I was successful, sometimes not but this is a lifelong goal.
  • Drink less caffeine- Sure did. Cause I was pregnant. Now I have two children. So, currently not a goal.

I love the new year.  I love setting intentions and coming up with resolutions. In case you can’t tell, I’m a list maker. I’ve already been working on my 2019 bullet journal (bujo if you’re hip). List after list!

Because I like to go overboard with my lists, resolutions and hopes and dreams for the new year, this year is three-pronged.

First, a word for the year: Perception. I have a tendency to let my perception of events take on a life of its own. I call it spiraling. Something happens to interrupt my day- an incident, an email, a conversation, me- and before I know it that moment that I perceived as negative has attached it to many other negative thoughts and is now spiraling out of control. I start to lose my grasp on reality. The reality is my life is good, my day is good, my children are good, etc. One thing should not knock me off course. With that I strive to take a step back and better evaluate the moments in my life for what they are- moments and not something more substantial.

Part two is 12 monthly challenges. I was inspired by @thenewchrissy’s 2019 monthly challenges and decided to tag along for a few as well as make up my own.

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Part three is a more traditional resolution.

Be me. I want to be authentic as best I can whenever I can. And in a lot of ways, I don’t know what that means. For a few years now I have unconsciously worked to confirm my style, my manners, my preferences to better fit my work or being a mom or whatever. Now I want to figure out- just what are my favorite bands, my favorite books? What do I like to wear? Where would I go if I could go anywhere? What do I care deeply about? Other than lists, preferably. The fog of babies has not lifted but I can see it clearing ahead of me and without wasting any of the preciousness that is life with littles, I will still seek me.

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Reconnecting with this person. Not her clothes though…

 

My Baby Turned Two

As much as it is easy to be caught up in the rapid development that is our newborn’s, it is hard not to watch Haines’ development with bewilderment. Only a moment ago he had his first Christmas and now he’s turning 2. Already this year it is his third Christmas season. How can that be? He’s just starting out in the world after all!

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Baby’s First Christmas

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Patiently waiting his turn to go through his stocking last year

These last few weeks I have probably watched Haines more closely than normal, wondering how big brotherhood is effecting him and waiting for him to cross that final hurdle to full toddlerhood. He’s two now. No longer a baby, not yet a big kid. His words are joining to become two and three word sentences although he still often grunts and signs for things. He still sleeps in a crib but also brings his dishes to the sink after meals. Haines repeats everything we say, clearly noticing more and more around him each day.

What a strange world this is. We’re trying to figure out the balance of reasonable expectations and actions have consequences and picking what battles we want to fight. Of letting him explore and try new things OR this is not worth my sanity for his adventure.

I thought this holiday season he might be old enough to start to enjoy the stories and traditions but he is still too young. He doesn’t understand who Santa might be or why we decorate the tree, not the floor, with ornaments. I scaled back my tree decorating dreams and we skipped decorating cookies. There will be time for that yet.

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Instead we’re taking advantage of this last opportunity to get by with a little less. We celebrated Haines’ birthday with a trip to Enchanted Airlie (holiday light display) and a low-key party. Burgers, queso and cookie monster cupcakes. Haines loved the cupcakes but probably not as much as he loved the fruit and yogurt dip my mother made. As always, Nana is his favorite! I cleared the furniture out of the living room to let the kids take over and that was it. We didn’t get him a gift. We didn’t decorate the house. We just loved him a little more loudly and filled our house with friendly faces. It was the best.

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Living That Newborn Life

We’ve hit 7 weeks (I think) and little Austin is starting to take note of the world. He’s watching the ceiling fan, staring at the parrots on our couch (yes, our couch has a parrot pattern- don’t be jealous) and today I waved my hand in front of his eyes while talking to him and he smiled. My heart exploded. Then he pooped everywhere which pretty much sums up newborn life. One moment I’ve overjoyed, the next minute I’m overtired. I wear Austin most hours of the day, except overnight or when he’s being held by someone else. All hail the Ergo!

Life feels incredibly surreal. It is a list of things to do, things I want to do that constantly disappear on me. Was I going to do something today? What did I want from that store? I don’t remember. I’m cleaning the house 15 minutes at a time which means the house isn’t getting very messy but it also isn’t clean.

Parenting is a strange new world again. I don’t know how to chase a toddler while I wear an infant. I don’t know how to convince him to stop standing on the coffee table while I’m nursing. Haines is in the midst of testing the limits and I’m in the midst of my new mantra “surviving not thriving”.

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The newborn days have an extra complication of really needing to take care of yourself while a tiny person demands that their needs come first. There’s those first days immediately following birth where baby wants to cluster feed but your nipples seem to be falling off in pain.

You’re sleep deprived but every time you go to sleep your finely tuned mom ears wake you up with tiny baby noises. Plus there’s the checking to make sure they’re still alive. And the feedings.

Not to mention the area that is unmentionable. The stitches from tearing or an episiotomy and just the general feeling that you have been hit by a truck below the belt.

Nothing like trying taking care of your biz while your toddler accompanies you to the bathroom. A kind offer of “poop paper mama?” Why thank you dearest.

And then, for me at least, there is the feeling you’ve lost yourself. Not totally, but the person I was before kids feels as though it is growing farther away. I told Tyler a story about boogie boarding in New Zealand and he was surprised since I never want to do that here, when we live at the beach. But there was a time when I went boogie boarding and sky diving and traveled to countries where I didn’t speak the language. Where is that girl now?

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She’s changing diapers and worrying about a toddler’s cough and trying not to wish these days away. These are days that are precious, where every tiny movement and sound is a new development and these developments make my heart explode. Just as much as I explode I also dream of days when we can play games with the boys or take them camping. Days when I am not preoccupied by nap times and nursing. I dream of hikes alone or just remembering that I like to hike.

Oh, newborn days. I’m loving you. I’m tolerating you. I’ll miss you when you’re gone.

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