Postpartum Life

The weeks after baby’s birth are beautiful and totally brutal. There is the incredible joy of the new arrival. There are so many quiet moments caught up in watching this little life. Watching his little fists swat around in a robotic dance makes me laugh. One day soon he will see his hands and look at them in amazement. Another milestone arrived and on to the next.

At two and a half weeks, he sleeps for a couple hours at a time. Every day or so, he does a four stretch. Sometimes this is at night, sometimes it’s not. His face, completely relaxed, lips smushed in a pout is a heart wrencher but also puts me into a full sprint towards the nearest couch or bed. Total joy and totally tired.

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He eats well, something to be thankful for. I am happy when he is full and peaceful, but I do not wake up gleeful at 4 am when it is time to feed again. I don’t want to change his diaper although I am glad it is wet or dirty. I don’t want to uncover my own warm body to fetch him from his bed and fill him up, but I do. It is a gift for me to get to do so and my gift to him. Once we are cuddled up together and I halt his cries, then I remember the simple joy of our togetherness. Although not when he wakes up again 30 minutes later with an unknown complaint, cries of gas or needed comfort or more hunger.

I find myself considerably more patient with those in my life who wear diapers than those who speak in full sentences. I am almost as easily offended as I am tired. I have eaten so many sweets my teeth feel like they’re rotting.

I spend an unreasonable amount of time on the internet during our endless nursing sessions. The first weeks after birth are a tough time to be on social media so much and yet it is hard to avoid when you are desperately trying to stay awake at all hours of the day and night. I look at photos of friends and strangers adventuring across the world, across town, across their neighborhood. At once I am both jealous and totally content. I would love to be galavanting through another country or exploring a trail or cooking a divinely fancy meal.

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This meal will mostly sound like, “Taco! Haines taco! Haines bite!”

But I would also like to be here, just where I am, watching one baby sleep, knowing the other is also resting and will come home soon to blabber on about his day which I may or may not understand. “Haines paint. Elmo music! Mason (insert something unintelligible).” My home is warm in contrast to this rainy, chilly day. I’m sitting at a table I helped my husband make. In every direction I see photos of our family, art that tells the story of our lives.

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Cousin love

There is also a pile of laundry and a vase of flowers that need to be thrown out. I should have wiped the table before sitting down. There are remnants of Haines’ breakfast sticking my sweater to the wood. My breasts are sore and quite possibly leaking. My clothes don’t fit. I am almost always aware of my stitches and the discomfort that increases when I walk or stand for long periods.

Parenting is complicated. It is being thankful and a bit wistful all at the same time as you move between phases of life: childless to parent, baby to toddler, one child to two. But it is undoubtedly the best thing to happen to me. There’s no place I’d rather be.

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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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Grocery Strategy: Making Food Budgets Stick

Tyler and I have often said that if we didn’t like to cook so much, we probably wouldn’t have made it together. He likes death metal, I like folk music. He likes skate boarding, I like bicycling. He wants to go fishing, I’d rather read a book. We worked around all these things. I don’t listen to death metal but I will listen to punk. I spare him from my guilty pleasure country pop tunes (most of the time) and he’s open to hearing talented musicians of any genre that’s not jazz. Tyler used to take his skate board when I wanted to go for a walk (much harder to do with a baby and a dog) but will gladly ride bikes. I’ll happily go along fishing as long as I can bring my book. This may sound lacking in romance but what I think we really enjoy is each other’s company and we can do that outside over food then all the better.

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Hiking!

One of the downsides though of life with a tiny baby is cooking has been more functional than fun. We’ve struggled to be prepared at come meal time with ideas, food and the energy to accomplish actually making a meal. We’ve gone to bed without dinner in the last 9 months more than we have in our 7 years together. And yet our refrigerator is never bare. Between the downtown farmer’s market, our weekly Produce Box and general grocery shopping, we are much more likely to let food spoil and go over our food budget while we fall asleep at the dinner table. Our stomachs may be big (I blame baby- how long can I do that for?) but our eyes are bigger, at least when it comes to shopping.

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I’m not giving up our trips to the farmers’ market (mainly because it gets me out of the house) or our Produce Box (because local and love it- use my referral code to check it out!) Finally we’ve started to use meal planning to help us get things on track. We don’t use an app at this point (although I’d love some recommendations!), because Tyler is fairly anti-technology. This is our kitchen board with our meals for the week, our grocery store and Costco lists. I’ve also started putting what’s left in our grocery budget and alcohol budget (priorities!) on the board to help keep us in line. We’re about 3 months in and we’ve yet to make our budget.

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All the Stores

We utilize Costco primarily to stock up on organic meats, drinks and paper products as well as dog food. We bought a chest freezer from Better Than Never and use that to always keep meat on hand. If it came in jumbo packs, we use our vacuum sealer to keep it fresh and in reasonable quantities. Harris Teeter is our go-to for almost everything else. Like everyone else I, too, love Trader’s Joe’s but it drives me nuts that all their produce seems to be wrapped in plastic and there’s always something you can’t get there. Same with Aldi (although the cost savings is worth the extra trip). Tyler has been doing a lot of off-shore fishing and crabbing so we’ve been able to have a fish or crab night almost every week. In the colder months we’ll swap in oysters for crabs. Beach living has some serious food perks!

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Holding Ourselves Accountable

So basically every month I set what should be a realistic budget that we won’t possibly meet, even though we rarely eat out. What does this mean? We’re not actually using our budget. The very last thing I want to do is make us miserable or feel like a budget nag so instead I’m creating more touch points throughout the month. I tend to be in charge when it comes to money but if Tyler doesn’t know where we are, then it doesn’t help either of us. Basically, he just needs to be using our YNAB account more (YNAB is my the answer to everything.Use my referral code to see for yourself!) so he can see where we are in real time. (Okay, also sometimes I shop hungry and ruin this all on my own.)

When in doubt, freeze it.

There is always a point each week where I start sizing up the likelihood that our leftovers, produce, etc is going to make it much longer. Instead of shutting the fridge door, I’ve started to drop it in the freezer. Most items freeze well, even if you do need to repurpose them. Frozen tomatoes- great for cooking pasta or pizza sauce! Frozen leftover herbs- freeze in water or oil and drop in soup or sauce! Equally important is remembering to use said items. Checking the freezer before I start meal planning isn’t my strong suit but I’m working on it!

Make a plan, Stan.

We’ve made great strides in creating a meal plan each week. Before Tyler goes to work on Saturdays we hash out ideas while taking turns checking the fridge for needed items and running to stop Haines from pulling down the floor lamp. (Anyone else battling how to have light in your house without a baby knocking themselves unconscious?) Tyler wasn’t wild about meal planning initially but now we each pick a couple meals to organize so that it’s not one-sided towards one person’s preferences. Now we always go to the store with not only our grocery list but the meal list as well. The next step will be better incorporating ingredients across the week so we don’t end up with extra random items like cabbage, which we never know what to do with. (FYI green cabbage in your smoothie- no. Purple cabbage, yes.)

With our powers combined we’ll eat healthy, delicious meals every day and stay on budget. Next up, world domination!

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Where is the Me in Motherhood?

 

These past two weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind. Work has picked up quite a bit which has left me working late and skipping my lunch time workouts. A year or so ago I would have found this mildly annoying but this is a new era. This is the era of baby. Working late means I can’t spend much time with HEB in the evening who goes to bed at 8. Skipping workouts at lunch almost entirely eliminates exercise from my life since putting HEB in the stroller equals sleep. No evening runs/walks for me.

It’s more than that though. There’s the sleep deprivation for sure as the wee babe has taken to sleeping mostly through the night only once or twice a week (yes, sleep training is soon to come), but that’s not it either. It’s me time. I feel selfish just saying it but that’s what it comes down to. That’s where my daily struggle lies. I miss my time. I came into parenting with the misconception that all babies nap. I knew I’d feel tied down at times but then I thought that there would be naps and I would blog or sit on the porch alone and feel like a human. Well…. bullshit. There are no naps.

I miss riding my bike to work.

I miss writing this blog.

I miss working in the yard.

I miss staying up late just hanging out by myself.

I miss doing crafts and knitting.

I miss my house being passably clean.

My mother continues to tell me, “This, too, shall pass,” and I know she’s right but I should clarify.  It’s not that I want my old life back. I’m just searching for some balance. Where is that minimum I can use to get by? What parts of me can still be present as I learn to be a mother? What parts are still mine?

After a couple weeks of struggle, today I went for a run walk (where there was a moment of running). I went up a path I’ve never gone before. I was in the sunshine. I listened to music. I didn’t worry about anyone else. It was only 30 minutes but it was glorious. Now I’m off work early and sipping a beer. I’m almost a person again.

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Still there is so much guilt in writing this. I pull up my photos to look for one for this post and I see a pictures of HEB on my recently passed birthday and mother’s day. He is the best baby! Those were wonderful days! And yet here I am still feeling the way I do. There are many circumstances that make motherhood way more difficult and I have none of those. My point is though that this is all hard even when everything goes your way. My hope is that if someone else is feeling terrible about feeling terrible, if someone else is not sure who they are now that they’re responsible for another, that you know I’m right there with you.

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Okay, he sometimes sleeps, but only for about 10 minutes at a time. 

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Pretty much my favorite photo ever. 

 

Reflection: Growing Pains

2016 might be the most hated year ever. (It’s hard to say though since I’ve only been around for the last 30. Surely the years of the black plague top this.) Despite that I’ve heard many writers online say that while as a whole 2016 was the worst, personally it was a great year. For me, I would describe it as a positive year but overall it was a year of growth.

First off, I literally grew a person. It’s not often you get to use “literally” correctly but I really did. I have the traumatic childbirth memories to prove it (plus a baby).  Growing baby Haines was challenging in unexpected and totally predictable ways. The physical parts are trying- the fatigue, feeling physically weak, being sore in the third trimester, the discomfort of your organs moving to new places in the first. I hated having to slow down my lifestyle and feeling like I couldn’t do the things I enjoyed. Having those few months of discomfort and living in a body in which I felt little control taught me to be more aware and have empathy for those who deal with these issues on a daily basis.

I was surprised to find the social aspect challenging. While I loved discussing pregnancy and parenting with friends, answering overly personal questions to total strangers was frustrating and monotonous. And it didn’t help that many of my friendships have always included a shared love of beer. When one of your favorite social activities is visiting breweries and you’re pregnant, you’ve just damaged your social life.

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My last drinks before we knew about Haines.

Emotionally I struggled with bridging from a pre-pregnancy lifestyle to parenthood. As brain mushed from hormones so did my desire to be creative or try new things. My interest in the world narrowed severely as our little household began to feel like more than I could handle. Even now I have a hard wrapping my brain around all that is going on. Then again, I don’t think I’m the only one.

Second, I became a parent here in the last few weeks of the year. Childbirth followed by a taking a 2 week old to the ER were growing pains that I don’t need to repeat for quite some time. (Of course now baby Haines is teaching me how to handle his first cough/cold which I’m also not pleased to learn about.)  As an unexpected consequence of becoming a parent I’ve also learned that this little guy gives me strength I wouldn’t expect. No, I don’t sleep through the night now but surprisingly, it’s okay. Our trip to the hospital was terrifying, but also, it was okay. As long as Haines is here with us, everything seems doable. Even when it’s terrible.

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Professionally, I also evolved. For the first time I was in a position where I was speaking with high-level executives professionally on a regular basis. After years of experiencing anxiety with public speaking, I became my company’s Toastmasters club president, an organization dedicated to my top fear. It is with that same new confidence that I forged relationships and created programs that I’m proud of. It is also what allows me to feel comfortable taking 12 weeks leave to be with Haines. Thank goodness for that.

I expect 2017 to also be a year of growing pains… and perhaps every year going forward. We are still learning to get through the day and before I know it I will have to learn how to go back to work. I don’t have any resolutions for 2017 but I hope to learn about balance, who I am as a mother and a partner and my son.

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Photo credit: Zachary Sprague