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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New Mama Mantras

There is nothing about motherhood that is easy. Even when it is relatively simple, even when it is straightforward, even when there are no complications, it is tiring and tough. Joyful, in a deep and incomparable way, but also tough.

I’ve started going to prenatal yoga again (cannot recommend enough!) which re-introduced me to the use of mantras to help me get perspective and calm the … down.

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Let Go//

These are the words that got me through labor. With every contraction I would breath deeply, inhale let, exhale go. But these words have served me well in the rough moments of new motherhood. Being a parent is frustrating. Babies get tired and cranky but can’t tell you what they want. They refuse foods you claim are their favorite.

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On Tuesday he loves Mexican food, on Friday he throws it on the ground. 

Everything is temporary//

This applies to the good and bad. In early childhood especially, everything is temporary. Breastfeeding is incredibly taxing and then suddenly it’s over. The moment you get used to a routine, your baby outgrows it. A bad attitude just needs a nap time. Baby’s favorite food ends up being given to the dog. Sickness takes over your world but only lasts a few hours, a few days. Teething seems endless, then the drool stops and another tooth is in. The constant internal discourse of “who am I now?” quietly dissipates.

Balance is about riding the fluctuations//

My yoga instructor recently shared this while we were practicing tree pose. Perhaps this statement seems obvious to you but I felt like she had smacked me in the face with her words. I have always lived and acted as though having balance as meant everything in its place, everything perfect when it is really about riding waves, flailing around and staying on the board. Why can’t I remember this in the moment? Here’s to trying.

This pregnancy is moving right along- only one week until we have our anatomy scan! I’m starting to feel movement and little kicks which is the best part of being pregnant. But I can tell my energy (and therefore sometimes attitude) is lacking so I am looking to weekly prenatal yoga, on top of increasing my other forms of exercise, as well as my new found/re-found mama mantras to keep me going.

And naps. Also a lot of naps.

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Turning 32: Acceptance, Love and Hope

In only a month I will be 32. Today I am in an unfamiliar city, which is pretty much my favorite thing in the world and I am enjoying it tremendously, despite having cried three times already for missing my baby.

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My boys without me

I am listening to two adorable baristas discuss giving up sugar. They are tiny, young, friendly and energetic. One is petite with a pixie look and a valley girl intonation. My 20-year-old self wouldn’t have tolerated her in conversation but completely envied her style. The other has an androgynous look and I am drawn to her smile instantly. My twenty-year old self would have followed her all around campus. I’m still eavesdropping.

But in a month I will be 32 which somehow feels more significant when I turned 30. When I turned 30 I was pregnant for the first time which overshadowed everything else. Two years later I am pregnant again, less overwhelmed by the enormity and more…surrendered? My life, in a long term think-about-the-future sort of way feels paused while I create new life, someone else’s life. My mind has shrunk- unable to take in much beyond my house and the people who live there. I know that since becoming pregnant two years ago I have not been as good of a friend as I once was. I forget birthdays and don’t return emails, never on purpose but simply because. 

I no longer write, travel or create crafts often- all of which are my favorite things. There is a half-finished gray knit hat in a plastic bin in my attic among piles of yarn waiting for me, hoping I will come back for it. But I don’t have the time or money (two things to enjoy traveling) or the energy (required of writing or crafting). Although I sometimes long to do one or many of these activities, mostly I don’t care. It’s become normal but in waiting Haines grow and become more independent, I have seen the light. It won’t always be like this. This is just a phase of life where I will do me, as best as I can do me, and this is enough even though it won’t look anything like before.

Normally in a new city I would be racing around, walking every street. Today I worked remotely, found amazing Mediterranean food, bought two books in the book store where I am now very unhurried. I am sipping tea from an actual teacup and saucer. The afternoon light is casting a gentle flow across old wood floors in the café and I’m admiring the energy of nearby baristas while I write.  

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This is a sign of my age right? When taking time to be slow is just as important as seeing the sights? Then again, bookstores have always been “the sights” for me. I am old enough to have only bought 2 books (it’s called living on a budget) but not old enough to know I should go ahead and buy all the books, because books are invaluable. 

I believe the new year really starts on your birthday. I always look to the new calendar year as a fresh start but birthdays are far more inspiring. So what do I want for my next year? What do I hope for 32?

I hope for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

I hope for calm in the face of chaos.

I hope to have a few moments like this one where I feel contented in everything, fully knowing that all is not perfect.

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Ten years of friendship

I hope to spend time with friends and have a few laughs. I hope to hold hands with my husband after the bab(ies) have gone to bed.

I hope to read a few good books and enjoy a few warm summer nights.

And if I am lucky, I hope to get a few good nights of sleep.

All in all, I think this could be a wonderful year.

 

Baby’s First Year Survival Tools

One of the things expecting mothers always panic about is all the things. You feel you need all the things! In reality, you won’t need half of what you end up with when you have a baby. A lot of people will try to give you things. You’ll most likely accept everything  thinking, how am I to know what I need? You don’t, so cut yourself some slack. I don’t know what you need either, but I do know what I used to get through HEB’s first year. If we have another baby we’ll probably need totally different things! But hopefully not because we’re not buying anything.

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Newborn hell (or 0 to 3 months):

I have to be honest, those newborn days that everyone (without a newborn) glows over… those are pretty intense. Even if you are not breastfeeding you may start to think, surely this is impossible! Horribly enough we all started off as extremely needy, up all hours of the night, feeding every 2 hours, adorable little babies.

  • Netflix– get it, gift it, don’t judge yourself for binging it.
  • Chicco Keyfit stroller caddy– We loved this for the ability to plop our carseat right in and start strolling without ever disturbing our sleeping babe. There’s also tons of storage underneath so I could throw his diaper bag in there. I preferred using this for grocery shopping (heavy things in the caddy, light things in a basket) rather than a cart when he was small.
  • A breastfeeding station- Find yourself a Boppy or a Brest Friend or whatever and keep it near your comfiest chair or couch. Near that fill a basket with granola bars or easy to eat snacks, your kindle or your TV remote and remember to bring water when you’re sitting down to feed. Two minutes in and you’ll suddenly remember you’re DYING of thirst.
  • Rock n Play– Haines slept in the Rock n Play for the first 4 months of his life and absolutely loved it. Admittedly though we never put the batteries in so it didn’t rock him on its own. I would reach out and rock him to sleep in the middle of the night if needed, but never used the actual function. I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to stop.

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3-6 months:

This was a pretty tough time for me. I went back to work and Haines’ sleep had really gotten worse so the level of fatigue was high. At the same time though H started to interact with us. He was alert and playful. It really lifted me up.

  • Bouncy chair– This is something we didn’t know we really needed. It was a hand-me-down (as is everything else) and I wasn’t even sure why we would want it. Um… you want to carry this lightweight all over your house so you can get things done! This is what baby lays in while you cook dinner, go to the bathroom, type your blogs- all the important things.
  • Frozen meals- I had fixed some items in advance and my mom and Natalie also stocked my freezer as well. The first few weeks/months we were the beneficiaries of a meal train but that comes to an end well before the fatigue does. Having the world’s easiest meals on hand is very helpful. I also froze muffins to help me with my constant need to snack.
  • Ergo– We started out with a 2nd hand Chicco carrier which worked okay, but it was a huge upgrade when a friend gave us an Ergo. After a little while you start to want options for going out and having some sort of baby wearing device is a must. (Also, I tried a wrap and found it to be an enormous pain the tush.)

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6-9 months:

The first turning point! Everything was fun during these few months (minus sleep training and ear infections). Haines was excited for everything- food, Clara, being outside. There were also so many milestones during this time. He sat up, crawled and walked all between 7 and 9 months.

  • Kiddo food trays- I LOVED using these to make Haines’ baby food. I made all of his food at home which was much easier than I anticipated. When he napped on the weekend, I would dump all the veggies into a steamer before blending in our Nutri-bullet. Any blender will do. The only downside here- HEB moved on from purees pretty quickly. He wanted to feed himself!
  • Baby proofing- This turned out to be much more in depth than I would have expected. We had to get rid of several pieces of furniture that we deemed being too annoying with a baby to keep. If you’re going to try to limit your “No! Don’t touch that!” conversations than I will suggest going beyond outlet covers and cabinet locks. Every trash can in your house should have a heavy lid, your toilet paper should be moved near the ceiling and any knick-knacks resting within 3 feet of the floor should be moved. Probably just get rid of your blinds now.
  • Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes Musical Toy- For months this was Haines favorite toy. It could entertain him indefinitely. This is probably the only thing we ever tore up the house looking for.
  • Nursery rhymes- Start practicing now. This was the only way we could get perk up a cranky baby during diaper changes or going into his carseat.

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9-12 months:

This was the second turning point. We have a routine. We can mostly anticipate Haines likes and dislikes. He’s fussier and harder to console but also easier to distract. Children are weird.

  • Alphaprints book & The Itsy Bitsy Snowman are Haines two favorite books right now. They are guaranteed to lift his mood!
  • Bathmat– If your baby wants to crawl all around the bathtub then I recommend getting a non-slip bathmat for the tub. It has cut down on his falls tremendously and ours has a hook so it can hang on the shower to dry.
  • Spoutless sippy cup– Haines has struggled with all the other cups we’ve given him but took to this one right away! (Full disclosure: we still use a bottle most of the time, but this cup has helped a lot).

 

If you’re stressing about needing all the things, don’t. Get a carseat. Figure out a safe place for the baby to sleep. Buy a few diapers (and expect many more in gifts). Collect every hand me down you can. You’ll figure out the rest.

And remember, for better or for worse, this is only temporary.

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Working Mom Blues: Daycare Jealousy

As Haines goes through phases I’ve found I do too. This past week he learned to wave, give high fives and fist bumps. We’re also working on doing “choo-choo” when we pretend we are a train running around the kitchen. This was all adorable until he practically leapt out of my arms to high five his teacher at daycare. I’m sure you can see where this is going.

When I first when I back to work, the build up to that first day was an emotional roller coaster. I cried for hours about other people raising our child and how we were terrible people and so on, even though I like my job and I had really struggled staying at home most days during maternity leave. We had never been able to get on a nap schedule (because you know, 12 weeks old!) and the lack of structure and unpredictable nature of baby life was hard for me to get a grip on. Still I grieved going back to work.

Once I got back to my job and realized I had placed my baby in very capable hands, I felt pretty good. I hate that Haines is at daycare for so long each day but he’s also really happy there. It makes things much easier. This past week was the first time I started to struggle with these feelings again.

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It’s a good problem to have. It’s good to have your child love their teacher so much you get a little jealous. She’s not some crazy person manipulating him into thinking she’s his mother like some Lifetime movie plot. She’s just good. She sings him songs, and teaches him to wave. It’s just when the teacher is the one who tells you what his favorite song is, your heart breaks a little. I didn’t know Haines could recognize Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, let alone request it (apparently there’s a hand gesture for this).

This week when she asked if she could feed him some of the foods the other kids are having at daycare I once again felt like she was telling me something I didn’t know about him. She was also taking away the one thing I contribute to his day- the food I make for him. It’s a minor thing. I like making his food but often the week feels like it gets away from me and sometimes it’s a pain. It will be easier when I have one less thing to bring for him.

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Pick-me-up flowers from a good husband

All the same every day this week I’ve felt heartache over our daycare situation. It’s the kind of thing I couldn’t imagine getting worked up over pre-baby life. I’m not quitting my job though. One, I don’t think we’re prepared for the financial changes we’d have to make and two, because I don’t think that’s who I am. Mentally, it would be very difficult for me to not have something of my own to go to each day.

I follow a lot of mom bloggers and Instagram accounts these days. I try not to get swept in by those who make parenting look picturesque and search out ones who honestly depict their lives. Stay at home, work at home, or work away from home- all of these are great and difficult. Each have their own challenges that sometimes don’t have a fix. You just have to get through.

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A Bad Case of Jealousy

I will start with the requisite disclaimer: I really like my life. I have a great husband, a happy baby, a sweet dog, a cozy home and a good job. I am undeniably one lucky lady. But…sometimes I get a case of overwhelming jealousy.

Over the last couple weeks friends near and far have gotten new jobs, visited old friends, explored far away lands, and so on. And I feel a little…stuck. Neither babies nor corporate jobs lend themselves to lifestyles of travel. Every tiny thing in baby life is new and yet each day is mired in repetition and routine. Every day Haines shows us a little bit more of what he is capable of. He gets more food in his mouth. He imitates and repeats our actions. He stands on his own two feet a few seconds longer, a tiny balancing person.

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Each little thing he does makes my whole body feel lighter. I actually can feel the physical sensation of joy filling me up. It’s so much more than I ever could have imagined.

And yet… it doesn’t negate the feelings of jealousy. I still am at a point where I am:

  • Figuring out how to make our routine fit my needs too. Every morning we try to find that perfect mix of play and get shit done. Each evening we try to unwind while keeping Haines entertained and hopefully giving Clara some attention too. When we break away from our routine for some social occasion it’s worth it but we often pay a price. Weekends are more fun now that Haines is more interactive, but still each day follows a fairly strict schedule. We wake up at the same time bright and early and follow the most important rule: fit nap time in whenever possible. When I can get a few minutes of Haines playing by himself or napping I work in vacuuming, baby food making, writing, bathroom cleaning and other things that aren’t particularly exciting. Still they’re essential for mental health.
  • Learning how to incorporate adventure into our lives. We don’t have the funds or the time to plan a European trip but we are finally starting to travel with baby HEB. We’ve visited all our parents (minus one that lives overseas) and have a trip to Charlottesville in the works next month. We’re even going to take our first overnight trip sans baby which is nerve wracking but incredibly exciting. When I feel downtrodden I don’t venture out as much but I know to stay upbeat I need long walks outside on the beach or in the park and so forth. I’m working on making outdoor, physically active time a required part of the weekend.
  • Reevaluating my career. This is easy to do being a new mom back at work. I have struggled over the last 6 months to feel confident in my abilities as a professional. When you are sleep deprived and feeling completely blinded in your home life, it spills over into your work life. Still even when I am feeling confident as a contributing member of my workplace, that often means I feel as though I’m taking away from my time or my focus at home. I don’t plan to leave my job or stop working but still I find myself changing the way I think about work and how it adds value…or doesn’t… to my life as well as I add value to my work.

One of my friends recently learned she’s pregnant and while she’s over the moon elated she also expressed feelings of apprehension, fear and general “what have I gotten myself into”. Everyone gets this idea that you can’t be both grateful and scared, happy and doubtful all at the same time, but every day I’ve experienced so far since becoming a parent is somehow a mix of total elation, frustration and a little jealousy.

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Yesterday Haines was asleep when I picked up from daycare and laid his head on my shoulder as we walked to the car. I could relive that one simple moment all day, with his soft chubby cheek on my shoulder, his sweet baby smell right next to me, his body normally wiggling, finally quiet. So I may, from time to time, mourn freedoms I used to have but I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

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