Where is My Mind?

I’m totally losing it. I don’t think it’s shocking that a woman with a 7 week old baby would feel like her creativity is missing. But it’s been missing for a long time.

I first noticed it when I was pregnant. During the first trimester I was too tired to care that I hadn’t written anything and my craft supplies were collecting dust. In the second trimester I spent my extra energy canning. Three batches of tomato jam, one applesauce, one apple butter, one pasta sauce, strawberry syrup and strawberry jam later I found myself in the third trimester. There is no extra energy in the third trimester. Everything I had went to keeping my job and eating (I gained most of my weight then, which is not how it’s supposed to go!).

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Now I have a newborn. At 7 weeks we wake up at least twice a night and his preferred spot is in my arms. So no, I don’t have a lot of extra energy for writing blogs, writing letters, creative thinking, cooking fun meals or arts and crafts. And yet it feels so much more extreme than that. When I have a few moments to myself, I have no idea what to do. I have found myself just sitting on my couch staring off thinking, “What do I like to do?” “What do I need to do?” Tyler told me to get out of the house and take a break. I had no idea where to go.

Much of this can be contributed to my recent monumental life changes but I think it’s more than that. It’s not just Haines that’s blinding me, it’s the media. It’s the morning news, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. It’s watching the Today show in the morning while I try to wake up and automatically reaching for my phone every time I’m sitting for a few minutes with nothing to do. Considering the number of times Haines eats a day, that’s a lot.

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Milk drunk baby

I want my brain back, but that means learning to do nothing again. To sit with my thoughts, even if nothing comes at first. To take walks without music or podcasts. Deleting Facebook from my phone. And for the time being make lists so I can remember what’s going on! I know Haines will be impeding the situation for quite a bit longer but maybe I help find my mind little by little.

In the meantime:

  • I’m reading The Sun when I need help staying awake in the middle of the night instead of looking at my phone.
  • I’ve deleted the Facebook app from my phone so I can’t easily access it.
  • I will be making an effort to get outside every day. (If anyone has any tips for hiking with infants, I see this in my future…)
  • I will sit and do nothing sometimes simply to let my mind move itself rather than have outside influence.

One thing at a time, y’all.

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Get outside!

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6 Weeks Postpartum: We’re Going to Make it After All

(R.I.P. Mary Tyler Moore)

We’ve made it six weeks. Surprisingly the time has passed more slowly than I expected. I’ve been asked quite frequently how I’m doing, how motherhood is and so on but I have no idea how to respond. This is a strange new world and I’ve barely tapped the surface of it means to be a mother. How I’m doing rests entirely on how Haines is doing. If he eats well then I am happy. If he sleeps well then I am rested. If he cries and fusses then chances are I will cry and fuss. (Well, if he cries a lot. It’s not as though I cry every time his pacifier falls out.) It’s a very different existence when your demeanor rests entirely on how someone else is doing. I think in any other situation this would be a sign of an unhealthy relationship. In the world of newborns and perhaps parenting in general, it’s just normal.

In some ways I feel that I am also just starting out in the world, same as Haines. I have a new identity and new way of a life. Together we’re taking one step at a time.

Exercise

Haines has accidentally rolled over twice now (his arm was stuck underneath in a weird way that helped)! He’s lifting his head pretty regularly as well.

At my postpartum check up I had lost 27 of my 42 pregnancy pounds. 15 more to go! Hopefully I don’t have to lose all of those to get back into my jeans. I’m trying to walk every day. There’s a trail near my house that is a four mile loop and we do this regularly. I’m hoping to incorporate some other forms of exercise here shortly.

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Our first trip to Hugh McCrae Park

Sleeping

I am a champion sleeper but Haines is not. Typically he gets up twice a night which is pretty tolerable BUT he “talks” during the night. The snoring is fine. The occasional squeak is fine but all sorts of squeaking and other weird throat noises is not the easiest to tune out.

Nutrition

Haines is a champ eater. We’ve been incredibly lucky that breastfeeding, while not always fun, hasn’t been particularly difficult. He learned to latch quickly and I learned to help him quickly as well. Many of the women I know talk about breastfeeding as something they enjoyed particularly because no one else could do it. It gave them a special connection and an excuse to have their own time with the baby. I’m not all that crazy about being the only person who provides food to Haines. I love when Tyler or our of our parents gives Haines a bottle. Watching them get to have that time is incredibly special. Plus shouldering cluster feedings and eating in the middle of the night on my own isn’t sweet. It’s tiring. Of course these feelings may evolve as I go back to work and this becomes the majority of our short time together.

Many people told me I’d be insatiably hungry while breastfeeding but it’s not been as bad as while I was pregnant. I’m struggling to let go of my sweet tooth. Ice cream, cookies, candy, doughnuts… I can’t be stopped.

Sanity

Haines isn’t a particularly fussy baby, a fact that has directly contributed to my mental health. That being said, maternity leave is a strange alternate universe. One on the hand, I never think about work. I don’t miss it. I don’t have to convince myself to stop checking my email. It’s barely on my radar. BUT I miss structure. I’m a creature of habit. My day needs something to give it shape. If I’m not going to be drinking cocktails by the pool all day then I want to know that today is Monday or Tuesday or what have you (I don’t actually know what day it is).

In order to differentiate between the days I have tried my best to schedule something for every day. That has included inviting friends or coworkers for walks, having visitors, and exploring different parks or walking paths in town. Haines is only likely to be a good sport about our activity if he’s being pushed in a stroller. Some days this does the trick, others I feel totally without purpose. If my day has no purpose, what the heck am I supposed to do with it? Yes, cuddle and spend time with this sweet baby. And then what? Also, life with Haines is much easier inside the house than out and about but sticking close to home has a tendency to make me feel trapped after too long. The more I venture out the clearer my mind feels and the more myself I am.

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First attempt using Moby wrap. 

Survival Tips

Be prepared! My diaper backpack is kept fully equipped at all times. I try not to go anywhere without extra burp cloths, blankets, outfits, diapers, wipes and a pacifier. If we could get close to a feeding time and I might not want to breastfeed, I stick a bottle inside a wine freezer pack and take it along with us. I’m not great at being discreet while breastfeeding and I don’t always want to let everything all hang out.

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It looks like this except not nearly as pretty/fancy. 

Leave the house! If I can’t socialize every day then I still have to get out and about. Any place with a pathway to push the stroller is on the list to be explored. Once I get better at baby wearing all sorts of new areas will be open to us!

Talk it out. Tyler is really good at recognizing when I need a break but vocalizing the struggle is more helpful than just relying on his intuition.

Acceptance. Life with a newborn slows everything down. I have to accept the new pace and even relish it. This little guy makes it hard not to.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Falling in Love the Hard Way

I didn’t understand that I loved my son until we got to the hospital. I’m not entirely sure I understood that he was my son. I felt love. At home listening to Christmas music, holding him next to Tyler, I cried for how full my heart was. All the same it hadn’t hit me, I didn’t know the depth, until he was in pain.

It was the pediatric hospitalist, a doctor for the Pediatric ICU who showed me how to use the breast pump. I hadn’t nursed in over 12 hours and my breasts were enormous. I thought I knew what engorged meant  when my milk first came in but it could not compare to my breasts expressing the physical pain of my child not eating. When he cried my breasts cried draining milk through my shirt, aching with helplessness.

At lunch time that same day we had taken him to his two-week check up at the pediatrician. They had given him a clean bill of health and sent us on our way. Almost immediately upon arriving at home Haines become inconsolable. He refused to nurse. This wasn’t alarming, he’s a baby. He’s fussy. At 9 pm though he still hadn’t nursed and couldn’t be calmed for more than a minute or two. His piercing cry had weakened and his breathing was congested and labored. The pediatric after hours line sent us to the hospital to get him checked out.

We thought we’d be sent home with a tall hospital bill and being told that we had a bad case of new nervous parenting, nothing more. It quickly became apparent this wasn’t the case. Our ER room filled with nurses, technicians and doctors. They stuck a tube down his nose and then his throat to suction the thick mucous that was choking him. An X-ray machine was brought in, an IV set up. When the team for pediatrics came down to move him, one nurse kept a bag valve mask in her hand to be ready to manually breath for Haines if he needed it.

We were ushered out of his room when they announced that Haines would need an airway and a spinal tap. They were testing the spinal fluid, blood and urine for infection. Now it was me who was inconsolable. Although we were shown the family waiting room we stood in the hallway directly outside of his room waiting for someone to speak to us, waiting to see him. They had decided against intubating him but he did have a breathing machine, a CPAP, on for the first 12 hours or so. The sight of him twisted our insides. It wasn’t until the afternoon of the next day that I got to hold him. It was after 22 hours that I gave him a bottle, his first food.

After a few days we found out that Haines has Group B Strep, a blood infection. Anyone who has recently received prenatal treatment knows that pregnant women are tested for this. Individuals who test positive get antibiotics during labor to prevent babies from picking it up in the birth canal. I had tested negative. Little did I know that women could test negative one day and test positive the next. What would I have done if I had known? Nothing, of course. We did as we were told by medical professionals. We didn’t know, didn’t understand.

Once we got the news of the type of infection we also found out the treatment, 10 days of IV antibiotics. This was another heart sinking moment. We’re wanted to take this baby home and to unhook him from these machines and monitors. But all he needs to be a healthy baby boy is to finish his treatment. So we waited.

In a hospital, time takes a very different meaning. Day or night just means a different nurse is on shift. Either way I am watching bad movies and Law & Order SVU at all times. I have finally sorted the room so that the couch is more like a bed and I have reusable grocery bags filled with our items. One bag for snacks. One bag for our clothes. One bag for baby’s. One bag for books and things to do. I write this now just as much for the cathartic act as I do to fill the time.

Today we take home a bouncing baby boy who is fattening up and growing stronger every day. This wasn’t the way we wanted to learn to be parents but Haines is helping us learn fast. And he is showing us all about love.

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