Monday, February 22, 2010

Motherhood with a Side of Guilt

Now that I am a mom my life is fraught with guilt. They forgot to mention this issue in baby class. I think guilt is one of those things that no one talks about, but everyone deals with. As mothers, we feel that we have to do everything, and do it well. There is so much pressure out there to be the perfect mother and we give ourselves little room to fail.
There is guilt associated with everything--nursing, sleeping, holding, educating, even diapering. The pressure to breast feed is immense and there are numerous opportunities for guilt to take over. The current climate encourages mothers to think that they are bad or selfish if they choose not to breast feed for what ever reason. Yet lots of people our mother's age believe breast feed babies are not getting full or getting the right vitamins. Then there is the cloth diaper/disposable diaper choice. Guilt over all those diapers going to landfills, versus the horror of having to put dirty diapers in my washing machine. Then I hear about people having a family bed which leads to the question is cosleeping better than putting her in her crib? Does she feel unloved or lonely if she is not in our room? I flip flop between the worries that I am either holding her too much, or not enough. Should I feel guilty when I let her just lay on the couch beside me? Is it bad to hold her for three hours straight? And of course you want your baby to be smart. Does she have enough stimulation? She could be getting too much or is it making her cranky. Should I teach her sign language or read to her more? All of these things, plus about a million other things, can be guilt ridden decisions no matter which choice we moms make.
Babies don't come with instruciton books (serious mistake in my opinion) so we look to all these other ways to educate ourselves. There are books, DVD's, websites, support groups, and classes, all to help us be better moms. The amount of theories out there on how to raise a happy healthy child are overwhelming. A baby nurse told me when A was first born that Americans are over educated. I am starting to agree. I have looked to lots of different resources to help me help the child. Lots of these resources (especially the books!) serve up plenty of guilt with their advice. I know a lot of moms who swear by these books--The Baby Whisperer, The Happiest Baby on the Block, Baby Wise, etc. I think they have good ideas, but I can't help but feel that maybe I should trust myself a little more and look to the "experts" a little less. I think other Moms are actually the best resource, because their advice is practical and they will tell you what they think are the good parts of the theories, what really works. By being positive support for each other, maybe we can do away with some of the guilt that is so free flowing. If I know someone who is supplementing with formula, then i feel a little less guilt over giving my child formula. When another new mom tells me that she wears yoga pants all day, I feel a little better about my dread in having to wear pants that actually button. I think for Lent I will give up the guilt. I need to learn to trust myself and kick the self-doubt to the curb. I am a good mom, and my heart knows it, but my brain does not always believe it. With so much information out there it is easy to lean on what everyone else thinks instead of what your gut is telling you. So I say, NO MORE. I will make my decisions and stand by them. I will try hard not to let the guilt take over and to remember that I am a good mom. I will remind all of my friends that they are good moms too. We all need support to avoid the guilt that is always right there on the surface, waiting to rear its ugly head. And remember, the babies won't remember the time we forgot to give them a bath for 4 days or care that we bought generic diapers. They be just fine whether they get formula or the boob. Our babies will grow older knowing they are loved, and that is the most important thing. That I can do guilt-free.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentines Day

Happy Valentines Day!

I think Valentines Day gets a bad rap. Everyone calls it a manufactored holiday, one that the card comapanies made up just to make money. So what? In Valentine's defense, its fellow holidays Christmas and Halloween are about as commercial as they can get. So why does everyone pick on V-day? I love a holiday that celebrates love. So many people say, "Why do I need a holiday to tell someone i love them?" Simply put--you don't. But isn't it just a little fun to get a Valentine card? Doesn't it make you a little more warm and fuzzy on the inside to have a special person tell you that they think you are pretty special too? I love Valentines day because I think it is nice to take a special day to celebrate love in all its forms. Love for the husband, love for the little lady baby, and love for my extended family and friends. How can I put down a holiday that allows me a chance to remind all the people who are special to me that I love them?
So everyone, please give Cupid a break. No one is out there saying that Butterball has commercialized Thanksgiving, or Hershey's is ruining Halloween. So quit picking on Hallmark you Debbie-Downers. They are just giving us all a chance to tell people that we love them and that they are important. What is wrong with that? Just tell one person happy Valentines Day, I dare you. I bet the smile it puts on their face will have you feeling the love.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A grownup life

Yesterday I turned 31. I am no longer dipping my toe in my thirties, I am now up to my waist. This birthday got me thinking about what it is to be a grownup. I suppose grownups have kids, a mortgage, and pay taxes. I do all of those things, but I still don't really feel like a grownup. About a week ago, my friend Jenn and I were talking about how much our lives have changed in such a short time. Eight years ago we were backpacking around Australia, hitchhiking in Tahiti, and skydiving in New Zealand. We were partying all night long without a care in the world. Now we are married with babies and jobs and bills. The only late night partying I do these days is the party Alice has at 3am every night which really is less of a party and more of a screamfest until the bottle is ready. Where does the time go? Have I become a grownup and didn't realize it? I have a daughter, a husband, a home, a dog and two cats. I even have Subaru for god's sake. I clip coupons, shop at Home Depot on the weekends, fall asleep during Jeopardy, and have to check my calendar before I commit to anything. Holy crap, I think adulthood has snuck up on me. When did this happen and how did I not realize that this epic transformation was taking place?
Don't get me wrong, I have welcomed all the changes that brought me to this point in my life. I don't regret no longer being able to stay up past 10 because I have to get up with the baby at 6. I don't miss paying rent instead of a mortgage. I certainly would not trade married life for the dating scene, or quiet evenings with the fam for the bar scene every night (though once in a while it is still nice!) I did my own thing in my twenties--I went out and conquered the world. I was fortunate enough to be able to travel, party like a rock star, and spend time living with my girlfriends. And it was a blast. I do occasionally miss the carefree feelings that come with being young and single and out in the world. The fleeting memory of sitting by a pool all day with the no other goals than getting tan, drinking beer, and playing Skipbo floats through my head and I remember how nice that was. But that is no longer my reality, and that is okay. My reality is spit up and dog hair and coordinating who is going to pick up the groceries. And believe it or not, that makes me happy! I did not come to this point in my life by surprise--I will not wake up one day and wonder how my life ended up like this. I made the conscious decision to live this life and I am proud of that. I did not get married on a whim or get pregnant by accident. Ever since I was little I have known that having a family was what I was meant for in this life. I have always known that I am not career oriented and I have always been okay with that, because I knew that my career would someday be just what it is now. That is not to say that I won't have other jobs, heck I am about to start working for pay again on Monday. But my career, the thing that I choose to devote my life to, is my family.
I have enjoyed every turn of the wheel--my childhood, full of playing and reading and school. My teens, when i thought high school would be the most fun i ever had. College, where i learned who I was and who I wanted to be. Traveling, which allowed me to discover life outside of America, meet interesting people and expand my horizons. Early married life, when i learned how to be a we instead of a me, and began to understand what love really means. And now motherhood--having the amazing responsibility of caring for this little person who depends on me for everything in life and who I love in a way I didn't know was possible. Realization time--I think that is what makes me a grown-up. I am embracing my life in my thirties for exactly what it is--a time to start my family and enjoy being a mom and wife. I will not spend this time mourning the girl that I once was and being afraid to be the grownup woman that I have become.
Being an adult is not your age in years, or being serious all the time, or paying bills. It is the realization that you are no longer just responsible for yourself and your own happiness. It is recognizing that we are all responsible for each other and that what we do affects many other people in many ways, whether it is your family, your coworkers, or your friends. It is being okay with who you are and looking forward to the person you are growing into.
So hello grownuphood. I embrace you, even though you snuck up on me. I look forward to all you have to offer. Hopefully you will be good to me, not giving me too many wrinkles and allowing me to avoid the fashion pitfalls that happen to many others when they embrace you (mom jeans, sensible shoes, and bubble hair). I am a grownup and it is great that I don't actually feel like one. Even though I am letting you in, please recognize that I will never be serious all of the time. I will never forget how to let my hair down and have fun. And I will always keep a part of me as that girl who stayed up all night to see the sunrise in Fiji.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Party of Three

Everyone said life would change after a baby. I can truly say I didn't really believe that it could be all that different. Hah!!! Boy was I a fool. What was I thinking? Though I do think it is the type of situation that you can never really understand until you are on the other side.
Anthony and I have a been a party of two for so long. We have been together off and on (mostly on) since 1998. I was a college freshman and he was a sophomore and we met through a friend on a random Friday night and the rest is history. It still makes me laugh that we went from flirting at a party in a dirty college apartment to being married with a baby! If only I had known that my life was changing that night, I might have had a little less vodka and worn a cuter outfit. I guess it all worked out in my favor. We have been married for 6 years this month. For 5 long years it was just the two of us. We did what we wanted, when we wanted. Dinners out every week, weekend trips, concerts, lazy Saturdays. We were a little family of two. When we got pregnant I told Anthony what I was most worried about--having to share him with another person. I was so used to having him all to myself and I worried that our marriage and relationship would change once we added a third party into the mix, especially one that would be so high maintanence for roughly the next 18 years. Then Alice came into our lives and everything became a little different, but not in the way I was worried about. It is different because we no longer put ourselves first. We are more apt to help each other without complaining and eye rolling. There is more love in our house than ever before. We both love the baby in a way that we did not realize was possible, and that changed our love for each other. The minute I had Alice I loved Anthony more than ever for helping me to create this perfect little person. I love seeing him be a daddy. Listening to him talk to her is hilarious and seeing her sleeping peacefully in his arms reminds me of why I fell in love him. It is funny how having a baby alters you. It doesn't change who you are or what your core beliefs are, it alters you in little ways. Parts of you become softer, now that you are so emotionally connected to another human being, and parts become tougher because you have to protect that little person. Those changes carry over into other relationships and make you a better person for it.
I am glad for our relationship that we waited so long to have a baby. I am not saying this is the right thing for everyone, but it certainly was for us. I wanted a baby so bad those first few years, but it was never the right time. Thank god for small (and big) favors. Sure, being married is more complicated than being single. But is really just like gaining a roommate who you say "i love you" to and share a tube of toothpaste and a bed with. Life as you know it basically stays the same. We have discovered the real changes happen when you bring a baby home from the hospital. No more spur of the moment movie and dinner dates. No more meeting friends for a beer. The world now revolves around a 7lb baby who has no idea what havoc they are causing. The sleepless nights alone are enough to cause marital strain. Add in endless laundry, colic and projectile pooping, and things really start to get dicey. Fortunately through it all we have remained a team. We have repeatedly said since Alice arrived that we are so glad we waited a few years. We worked out all of our new marriage kinks and are comfortable with each other. No matter how much you love someone when you get married, there are things you learn post-marriage, and every year of being married adds to that knowledge base. You discover what drives you crazy about your spouse, like how they squeeze the toothpaste (Anthony), or that they leave their drawers open just a crack (me). You figure out the best division of labor--who likes to clean the bathroom (me) and who is best at cleaning the floors (Anthony). We agree that had we started with babies straight out of the gate, before we had our marriage stabilized, we may not have made it through these first stressful weeks without losing it on each other. Sure there are still fights--I leave the wipes container open and he leaves bottles everywhere. There will always be times when one of us has just had enough and loses it, but hopefully they will be few and far between. As long as we remember why we started loving each other then we will come out the other side intact. Our time as a married couple has made us stronger parents, and being parents has made our marriage stronger. Win-win situation.
I certainly don't think this is true for everyone. There are plenty of parents out there who started their marriage and parenthood at the same time and have incredibly strong relationships. I also know plenty of married couples who love each other in amazing ways that have no kids, and never will. Every relationship is different and we all have to do the best for our own lives. We all live and love differently and what works for some does not work for others. What worked best for us was getting settled into being a party of two before we expanded our number of seats at the table.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sick and Tired

Today my lint is sneezy and stuffed up. Guess there was just not enough going on in my life, having a one month old and all. Now I have a nasty cold. And the real icing on the cake is that because I am pumping I cannot take any medicine because they all dry up breast milk. So here I am in a sea of crumpled Kleenex, flailing in agony. I absolutely hate not being able to breathe. Anytime I have a cold I load up on cold medicine. When the guy at the Target pharmacy told me i must suffer with no medicinal support, I seriously wanted to punch him in the face (sorry, that is the sinus pressure talking). I don't do sick well, especially when my treatment options are limited, so I decided to try some alternative medicine. I purchased a Neti Pot (FYI--they qualify for flex spending) and some Ocean Nasal Spray (vacation in a bottle to squirt up your nose). If you are unfamiliar with the Neti Pot, let me explain. It is a little plastic teapot that comes with packets of a salt solution. The packet gets mixed with lukewarm water in the teapot and then you use gravity to swish the solution around in your sinuses. It is so strange--you pour the solution in one nostril and then it comes out the other. It basically goes against the laws of nature and everything your mother ever told you not to do. We spend our whole childhood keeping water out of our nose in the pool and listening to our moms tell us not to put things up our nose. At first I was doing it wrong and half the solution was running down my throat, but I finally got it all worked out. The whole process is actually quiet enjoyable. Probably not on a regular day when I have a little more going for me, but today it was the highlight of my miserable existence. I highly suggest a Neti pot for anyone with a cold or general sinus issues. I imagine if you are permitted to use it in conjunction with some high powered Tylenol sinus and cold, then you would be back to normal in like 3.2 seconds...goodbye what ails you. As it stands, I will just have to muddle through, Neti Pot in one hand, remote in the other. If you want to see a hilarious demo that includes rockin' background music and a lovely retro bathroom--check out this link. Trust me, it is not as horrible as it looks. I think it was probably discovered by the same guru who came up with ear candle, but much more effective. You can get Neti Pots most anywhere these days. I purchased mine at Walgreens, because Walgreens is my jam and on my list of top 5 places I go most often. But if CVS is your jam, or maybe Rite Aid, they have them too I am sure (though if you are not shopping at Walgreens you are not really living my friend).
Wish me luck. Pray for me that I survive this cold and don't perish from inflamed nostrils and lack of sleep. Not to worry friends, I will press on to blog another day.

I live three hours at a time

Funny thing about life, you tend to live it in certain increments of time depending on what your situation is. Always thinking, when I get past this certain time, then the rest of my life will start. When I was in college I lived by the semester. You plug along studying your tush off, partying hard, all the while just trying to make it to the next semester. Each semester you live through puts you closer to graduation day. When I was engaged the looming date I lived for was the wedding day. Life as I knew it would change as soon as February 21st, 2004 had come and gone. Then the rest of my life would start. Once we started trying to have a baby, I started living month to month. Each month was divided into a set calendar by mother nature when certain things would take place. Often when I was scheduling things I would figure out the possibilities of whether or not I could be pregnant for said event and how far along I would be. Once I got pregnant there were two big timetables at play. The trimesters and the due date. Some doctor somewhere took the liberty of setting up a schedule that you are forced to be on that revolves around the growing baby. When I was pregnant I would eagerly look at how she was changing each week, and wait with much anticipation for every doctor's appointment. Then of course at the same time you are living for that magic day when your baby arrives. Only 4% of women deliver on their actual due date, but who cares. Having that date gives you a much needed goal. It lets you look at the calendar and say "my life will change forever on this day." Needless to say usually when that day rolls around you have a few more to go before the bundle of joy actually gets here and the life changing really commences. Your due date turns out to be less of a magic day and more of a cruel reminder to a very pregnant woman that she is overdue.
These days I live in three hour increments. For some reason the great higher power has programmed infants to work like little egg timers, set to go off every three hours. It is so strange, but I can practically set my clock by my little egg timer. She lives by the three hour rule. It is like there is an alarm that goes off in her brain and she starts fussing at every three hours like clockwork to eat. After she gets filled up, she hangs out for a bit, then back to sleep. And it is this same thing every three hours from about 6 am to 11 pm. During those nighttime hours she will sometimes go a little longer than three hours, but often it is as if someone has wound her clock and she sticks to the 3 hour rule. I spend half my day counting out the next three hours so I can figure out how in the heck I am going to get things done. Three hours seems like a long time when you are taking a car ride or watching a movie. However, when you are trying to wrangle an ornery infant and keep her happy, three hours goes by in the wink of an eye. I swear I get up at 6, feed Alice and change her diaper, watch one DVR'd episode of Sex and the City and it is 9 and time to feed her again. If you don't stick to the schedule it angers her highness greatly. When I have tried to push her a little past, she has certainly voiced her disdain to being made to wait. Yesterday, when trying to plan for my shower, I was literally counting on my fingers to figure out which three hour period would be most conducive to showering and actually getting to dry my hair and put on deodorant. All without having to do a feeding somewhere in the middle. Funny how life changes. In my previous life as an office manager at a medical office, I lived for the weekend. These days Fridays are basically the same as Tuesdays, which has taken some getting used to. No longer do I dread Sunday evening because I have to get up and go to work the next day. My job is sitting on couch in her boppy pillow staring at me on Sunday evenings, and I have to rise at the crack of dawn no matter the day. Fortunately while the pay is a little shoddy, the benefits are awesome.
So i will happily continue living my life three hours at a time until my egg timer tells me it is time to go more. Gosh, what in the world would I do with 4 whole hours between feedings? I guess that gives me a new day to live for.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Labor is Easy

I cannot believe Alice is 4 weeks old as of yesterday. Wow. Having an infant makes time travel at warp speed. I guess when you can't ever remember what day it is, that makes them run together more than usual. So now that I have a little distance on my labor and delivery, I feel it is my obligation to share my birth experience with others. Before you panic and throw your computer across the room, I want to preface all of this with the following: this will not include details of the ACTUAL labor or anything gross for that matter. It is more of an account of how things happened for me and why I am of the notion that labor is easy.
Before you get angry and start composing a hate email to me about how labor is not easy, it is hard and hurts, blah blah blah, I know that. Don't get me wrong, the physical act of labor is less than pleasant. Let's face it, there are some design flaws in the whole process. Things that are small should be bigger, and things that are bigger should be much smaller. Think mouse in a drain pipe, as opposed to Saint Bernard in a key hole. Get my drift? What I mean by easy is that it is not near as scary and awful as i imagined. I want to be the girl that everyone can say, hey I know a girl that had a super easy labor and no real problems. Please don't see this as me bragging. I am doing a public service for future mothers. The entire time I was pregnant everyone had a friend or an aunt or a cousin or a sister or coworker who had the most awful birth story. I heard about epidurals going the wrong way or not working at all, people going a month over their due date, and women who gained 75 pounds. I heard about babies being born too early and women's water breaking in the grocery store. The world is not lacking in horrifying tales of labor and delivery. Just today I was watching The Baby Story (i am on maternity leave, don't judge me) and this woman was screaming and panting and crying and ended up having a c-section. Recently in the news that crazy lady with 18 kids had her baby super premature with tons of complications. Heck, even when you go to baby class, they show you videos that are like war movies for parents-to-be. After the first class I decided I was in no way interested in going through what I had just watched. This baby was going to stay in forever as far as I was concerned. These "educational" movies were filled with women who were naked (of course I inquired if that was the norm, because i was not down with that) who seemed to be going through the most excruciating experience possible to bring their child into the world. Even the husbands looked like they were in pain, though that was probably because their ears hurt from the screaming and moaning at high decibels. Doctors and nurses were scurrying around and ice chips were being eaten and massaging of the back was happening. So naturally, after being inundated with this type of birth story from all sides, what else could I expect? I thought for sure there would be crying and screaming and some of that heavy pant-blow breathing. So at that point, no hurry to get her out...hwy would I want top put myself through that?
Though I said i wanted her to stay in forever, my tune quickly changed as soon as I got to about a month left. By the end I didn't care if they used a jackhammer to get her out, I just wanted her to vacate my body ASAP. So I waited and I paced and I complained. I bounced on the yoga ball and ate pineapple. I did things I choose not to discuss on my public blog. I did everything, short of castor oil and those weird herbs, to get her out. And then it was time and the day after my due date my water broke (which i was very worried was actually just me wetting my pants. thank god it wasn't). Of course, never being able to be easy, i was not having contractions or dilating or anything that is actually necessary to have a baby. I got an IV of Pitocin which kick started contractions, and can i just say, Ouch. So i then got that magical concoction that goes by the name of Epidural. If you are on the fence about natural childbirth, I would say that is crazy talk. Now, I am not downing anyone who chooses to go natural. It is really admirable and I am in awe of your strength. After two big contractions I was crying like a baby and my labor had just really started at that point. So as you can see, I am not the brave type. I choose comfort over valor every time. But after that epidural, things really were easy. I could feel some sensations but no real pain, just pressure during each contraction. When it was go time, I could tell when it was time to push, but there was none of the screaming and writhing I had come to the hospital expecting. We hung out between pushes and chatted. Anthony had snacks, I drank Gatorade, and we cracked jokes with the midwife. The fact that I was only able to move one of my legs didn't bother me at all. I actually thought it was hilarious when the dead one fell off the bed because the nurse let go of it. And those stirrups we hate and think we don't want to use? They were really helpful. I pushed for an hour and a half and then there was baby Alice and all was right with my world. I would have moved heaven and earth and gone drug free if I had to in order to get her here. But thank god that was not the case.
Again, I am telling my story because I feel like there are not enough positive birth stories floating around out there. I don't want easy labor to a myth or an urban legend. There is nothing less miraculous about birth if you get drugs or have an easy time. It is still a win. We all get to go home with a baby. So spread the word, tell your friends. It is possible for labor to be a positive and easy experience.


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