Remembering What’s Important

I had started on a post about good/bad baby products for today, but honestly I can’t get through it.  I am having a “down” day, which is code for a day where my depression and anxiety is causing me to struggle with personing.  I have had struggles with depression and anxiety since I was pretty young, and some periods have been worse than others.  Being a mom has, unfortunately, triggered a lot of my mental health issues because of the constant feeling of not-enoughness that pervades a mom’s day to day living.

Yesterday was a bad day.  I looked around my kitchen and couldn’t make myself do dishes.  Which, of course, triggered feelings of failure because I was being “lazy” and couldn’t do what I feel is an expected bare minimum for me when I’m home all day.  I was a miserable ball of grump when I went to a pilates class and found out that it wasn’t pilates but *GASP* *HORROR* a barre class instead (“I didn’t come here expecting to do SQUATS for heaven’s sake” she says to the clearly offended instructor) making me feel like a huge bitch.  I went to school to help with auditions where I knew I would be letting everyone down because I wouldn’t be able to help with the show the way I would have before I had kids.  I was late getting home and didn’t have dinner ready.  I was short tempered with my daughter.  I was irritated with my son (Good Lord don’t you eventually reach a point of exhaustion where you just pass out?  When the hell does that happen for a newborn??  He could seriously keep national secrets safe in the face of sleep-deprivation torture).  I ate poorly because I had no energy and then hated myself for undermining my hard work to eat well for my health and milk supply.  I grumped at my poor mother on the phone.  I felt like a failure across the board.  The voice in my head repeated it to me: all the ways that I had failed all of the people around me.  I wasn’t giving enough to my kids, to my husband, to my family, to my job… and yet I felt like I had nothing else I could give… so clearly, I’m just not ENOUGH.

Yeah.  It was a bad day.  Depression, added in to the relentless erosion of parenthood, can be a beast.

In particular, it was my daughter I felt that I was failing.  I looked at her and someone else had put her hair in a ponytail (some well-meaning daycare working) and she had on dirty clothes with her runny nose and her perpetual daycare cold and I was crushed by the feeling that I was letting her down as a parent.  And even with that knowledge, I couldn’t stay patient with her when we were eating dinner (I spent seven damn minutes grilling this steak and you “no want meat”?!).

I was in tears by bedtime.  Not because of her – she is amazing – but because of me.  She’s TWO, dammit.  She wants to play hide n seek instead of putting on her pajamas; she doesn’t understand that I can’t help open the blue playdough when both of my hands are full, and she can’t help it that she can repeat the same sentence – “mommy help with boo paydough? mommy help with boo paydough? – a thousand times without realizing that she’s going to break me.  I came in to her room for the bedtime routine secure in my knowledge that I am a BAD MOM.

And then

We are lying in her bed, reading her story (“David’s Father” by Robert Munsch right now) and I’m lying next to her, with my head propped up on my hand while daddy reads and she yells out the parts that she knows.  All of a sudden, in one of those purely spontaneous moments that only kids seem capable of, she reaches a chubby little arm out and puts it around my neck.  She pulls my head down onto her tiny chest – I can hear her heartbeat like a butterfly through her fleece puppy pajamas – and she puts her sweet little lips on top of my head and says, entirely unprovoked, “I happy mommy.”

She’s happy.

She’s HAPPY.

 

I am not enough. I never will be.  I will never be enough to deserve the love that my daughter has for me… I will never deserve the way she looks to me when she needs reassurance… the trust she feels looking at me.  That’s a form of grace, you guys.  Undeserved, needed, precious beyond belief.  It makes my not-enoughness enough.

xo

Mediocre Mom

Post-Partum Self Care

Ok let’s start off by making one thing very clear: Self-care is NOT SELFISH.

Self-care is something that most of us used to do without thinking: we would feel overwhelmed at work; we’d go for a massage.  We were fighting with our partners; we’d take a bubble bath.  We felt unhappy with our bodies; we went to the gym (or, in my case, THOUGHT about going to the gym).  If we were sick, we would stay in bed, eat chicken noodle soup and watch bad television (here’s lookin at you, Chopped… who am I kidding, Chopped isn’t bad televisions, it’s the BEST television and if you don’t agree, we can’t be friends).  We were involved in self-care so regularly, that we often didn’t even realize that’s what we were doing.  For me, pre-baby, reading was key.  Whatever negative feelings I had, reading helped me care for myself.  It allowed me to get out of my busy head, escape for a while into a different world, and come back to reality restored.  I’m an introvert who holds a job that makes me act like an extrovert from 7:30-4:30 every day, and self-care was CRITICAL for me to stay human(ish) for my family, my husband, and my SELF.

Any you know what?  I was NEVER ashamed of taking that time.  I NEVER felt guilty that I needed to take an hour with a face mask on, in a tub, with my thick tome of sci-fi/fantasy escapism.  I knew that it was important, even though I never really stopped to think about it AS important… I just knew instinctively that I NEEDED that time in order to function fully in the other arenas of my life.

But then I was a mom, and everything changed.

If you’re a mom, you know what I mean when I say that all of the self-care you used to do without thinking suddenly seems almost prohibitively difficult to fit into your new life.  The first time I tried to take a bath after I had G, it took me 40 minutes to get into the tub.  I set up a swing (huge, hard to maneuver, and heavy, this thing required a fucking EXTENSION CORD to get it close enough to the bath for me to take one!) and then I nursed, and then I got all of my stuff together (towels, epsom salts, nothing fancy), then I put her in the swing and got one foot in the tub before I heard ppppffffftttttbbbbblurb.  Huge.  Blowout.  Poopmaggedon.  It was in her hair, for crying out loud.  So out of the tub I went.  Changed her, nursed her again (snacking babies will drive you nuts), changed the cover in the swing, and finally got into the bath.  Literally 5 minutes before she started crying.  I ignored her, muttering under my breath questions about why my own child hates me.  She cried harder.  I reluctantly looked over.  She has a spreading wet stain coming up the front of her onesie.  Fuck. ME.

Listen, no one is saying self-care after baby is easy.  I would argue, in fact, that the very reality of how difficult it is for us to take that time makes it even more important that we INSIST on getting it.  Some of the self-care you used to do might not be possible anymore, if we are being honest.  If you are the kind of weird, sad little person who cleans their house as a form of self-care, you may not be able to do a full-day, whole-house clean anymore.  You may need to follow the 15 minute rule: put baby down for FIFTEEN minutes and do ONE small task in that time (dishes, counter tops, etc)… anything that you can FINISH in that time so that you feel that sense of accomplishment.

For me, reading is a challenge now.  I used to disappear for hours.  I’m the kind of reader that actually does not hear you when you talk to me while I’m reading.  I don’t even know you’re there.  I can’t read like that anymore.  Even after the kids are asleep, I have to choose between the kinds of self-care that are most beneficial for me, and, frankly, sleep will win every time.  Like, every time.

So here are some of my recommendations for self-care.

  1. Post-partum self-care HAS to start with you caring for a body that has been hit by a metaphoric train.  A 5-10lb, balled-fist waving, rooting, screaming, pooping train that Juggernauted its way out of your body by means of your most delicate parts… or straight out through your abdomen.  Your body NEEDS you to care for it.  If you had an episiotomy, or tore, you HAVE to take care of that.  Take your sits baths (or full baths, if you’re allowed), use your peri-bottle, sit on your donut.  Don’t lift stuff, if you can avoid it.  Go for physio.  Yup, they have physio for THAT.  I won’t get into the awful post-partum situation that developed down there for me, but know that, if you’re an Edmonton mom, CURA physiotherapy can seriously FIX you.  If you had a C-Section, STAY IN BED whenever you can.  Don’t lift things.  Take care of your stitches, and pay attention to the signs of infection.  Listen to your body and know that this is one of the most traumatic experiences your body will go through.  If you had been hit by a literal train, no one would expect you to have cooked dinner two days later.  No one would shame you for not picking up your toddler.  You only get ONE of these bodies.  Care for it.
  2. And while we’re on the topic of your body: fitness.  Ok.  I hate working out.  No, like HATE it.  I liked sport (note the lack of the plural) in school, but since then nothing has really piqued my interest.  I would not survive a horror film.  I’d look that mask-wearing, knife-wielding mad man in the face and be like, welp, guess I’m dying on this couch, then.  BUT taking care of your body becomes even more important post-partum, because of those happy little endorphins that you get from doing it… and endrophins make you happy and HAPPY PEOPLE DON’T KILL THEIR HUSBANDS (5 friend-points if you know this reference).  You don’t have to do anything crazy.  Just… go for a walk.  Take the baby.  Put in earphones and listen to your broadway musicals, or your gangster rap, and stroll.  Taking baby outside like this serves the added bonus of establishing his/her circadian rhythms, which helps with night sleep.  Don’t push your body too hard too fast.  Just because the dr clears you for working out doesn’t mean you need to start doing crazy high intensity workouts.  Do what your body CAN do.  Do it so that you feel good, not so that you’re punishing yourself to try to lose the weight.  A lot of people will tell you that you’ll lose the weight because of breastfeeding, but for me (and for other women I know) my body held onto fat while I was breastfeeding to fuel baby’s growth, so I didn’t start to really lose weight until I stopped breastfeeding.
  3. Speak positively to yourself and about yourself.  No conditions or write up here.  If you don’t already do this, START NOW.  Your children hear what you say about yourself.  Be kind.
  4. Get a hobby- especially one that is creative.  If you don’t have one yet, start one!  I found a fun list of easy-to-start hobbies and am working my way through them.  I started with calligraphy!  It’s a good one because if L wakes up while I’m doing it, I can put it to the side, take care of him, and then pick it back up.  Some hobbies don’t allow for this, so it’s important to take it into consideration.  This was especially important for me, because I did not really have hobbies before I had kids, because my LIFE was my job.  Suddenly, I’m off work for a year with a new human and I realized that I had nothing that filled my time except for her, and I often felt like I was failing in that arena, so I felt like I was failing across the board.  Try new things, friends.  Find something fun and stupid that you can do while you’re off.  Maybe you’ll find something you love.
  5. Eat.  Seriously, don’t forget to.  I won’t even say you should be eating super healthy, just stop forgetting to eat.  Get some breakfast in you.  I bought protein pancake mix that I can throw water into and cook in a couple minutes.  That and a coffee gets my day started on the right foot.
  6. Join a mom’s group.  I definitely already wrote about this.
  7. Take a bath or shower every day, if you can.  I like baths because I can have L next to the tub in his swing, or on the ground, and I dont have to get him completely asleep before I take it.  I have heard rumours of water-slings that you could use in the shower, but I’m terrified of slipping and killing us both.
  8. Find a way to stimulate yourself intellectually.  Babbling all day, or reading the same basic books, will drive you slowly crazy.  Mom-brain is real.  I have swiss cheese brain!  Sleep deprivation + hormones = my cell phone in the fridge.  I love podcasts (which I had never gotten into before L) and I find ones that I learn from.  It’s incredibly important to FEED yourself in all ways.  I am super into American politics and global events, so I listen to a lot of podcasts on that.  And seriously, if you haven’t listened to S-Town yet, you’re wrong and missing out.
  9. Do something that makes you feel pretty.  Buy a dress (or jeans or whatever).  Do your hair.  Paint your nails with that 30 second nail polish.  Look in the mirror, give yourself a big smile, and tell yourself how gor-ge-ous you are.
  10. When you’re ready, go on a date with your partner.  Even just to your own backyard.  I know that it’s hard.  I know that, in a lot of ways, it’s scary.  Do it anyway.  Trust me that you will not miss the extra hour of sleep the next day (and if you do, take a nap when baby falls asleep, if you can).  You NEED to stay connected to your partner.  Ask gramma to watch baby, or put him/her down for the night and take a monitor, or watch Netflix in bed with your headphones while baby is in the bassinet, or go for a walk together with baby snuggled into the stroller.  Hold hands like teenagers.  Kiss.  Talk about your days.  Talk about anything that isn’t the baby.  Talk about the baby.  Check in with each other.  Reaffirm your love, because even though it looks wildly different now, it’s still there and you have to protect it and shelter it and nurse it and care for it, or you’ll wake up from your baby-daze to find yourself living as roommates or strangers.  My husband and I walk to Starbucks with the kids on Sunday mornings and talk about our lives and plans, and we watch stupid TV together at night, even when we’re tired (we are committed Big Brother fans, so that’s our mindless date), and we PLAN for dates.  Right now, it’s hard, but we have already planned to go out in a few weeks for dinner and my first glass of wine (OMG I’VE NEVER BEEN SO EXCITED ABOUT ANYTHING EVER).  I have a hard time pumping, but I have amassed several ounces over the past couple of weeks so that we can make this happen.  Do it.  Trust me, it’s worth it.

xo

Mediocre Mom

Get a Cluesday – Babywearing

Today is a post that I dedicate to first time mom me.  When I had G, she wouldn’t sleep anywhere but in my arms.  Not in a playpen, or swing, or Mamaroo, or carseat… just my arms.  It was exhausting.  I couldn’t get anything done, and my ability to actually care for myself was essentially nil.  I wouldn’t eat or go to the bathroom all day because I felt like I absolutely COULD NOT put her down.  Unless my mom came over to help me, I was trapped!  This became especially true after we started sleep training her (another post for another, more controversial day).  With her, I didn’t really do any babywearing… until she was about 6 months old when husband and I started finally figuring out that it might be helpful.  When I would finally wrangle everything together to take her to the mall or something (once in a blue moon, and only when I had help), I would end up carrying her in my arms all through the mall, terrified that I would smack her head into something/someone, or drop her because I am the least graceful gazelle on the savannah.  I would always pack my Ergo carrier under the stroller, and end up using neither the Ergo NOR the stroller because of her insistence that I carry her.

This will not do, friends.  This is not ok.

With Leo,  I decided to make babywearing a mission.  And boy howdy is it worth it.  You get your hand(s) back (I use the optional plural there because honestly I’m still not great at it and feel like I need to continue to support his little head with my one hand) which means that you can do the following things:

-cook yourself a meal (or at least grab a snack)

-brush your hair

-poop

Seriously.  If you’re a new mom, you know that these three things are next to impossible when you are carrying your kid everywhere.  I’m not so ambitious as to include “clean” on that list, though I’m sure my husband would love to see it on there, but if you are one of those people who get their yahoos from cleaning, go ahead and insert your insanity into that list mentally (because let’s be real: if you’re a cleaner, you probably love lists, too).  Point being: babywearing gives you two incredibly important high fives in one.  First, you have a teensy bit of independence back!  You could go check your mail, or prep dinner, or do some laundry… whatever floats your  boat!  Second, you get to still be holding your baby, which is super important, especially for new moms who often feel like their baby is going to disappear or turn green or something if s/he is put down at any point.

But babywearing is also super intimidating.  Ergos/Baby Bjorns have a lot of straps.  Moby wraps and Solly wraps are just a hugely (like, ridiculously) long piece of fabric that I definitely get tangled up in almost every time I use them.  Slings look cool, but um… what’s holding the baby?  And I find that, in the face of anything overwhelming (or even just whelming), I shut down completely and just carry my kid because it’s “easier.”

So!  My simple list of pros and cons, with links to good how-to videos for each.

Option 1: The ERGO 360

With G, front-facing in Paris

With L, today before I washed my hair just to demo it. Thanks for tolerating me, bud.


This is a harnessy backpacky thing.  But a front pack.  So like a fanny pack for a baby.  A big, baby-carrying fannypack (don’t act like you didn’t totally own a rad New Kids on the Block one in elementary to go with your neon windbreaker – you do you, nineties me, you do you).  There are a bunch of versions of the Ergo (or maybe the ergo is a version of one of the others), like the Baby Bjorn and the Lille Baby carrier, but I have an Ergo, so that’s what I’m going to talk about… plus they’re basically identical.

Pros:

-can be worn in a bunch of different ways (front carry, side carry, back carry)

-very secure!  (baby is not going ANYWHERE in this beast!)

-decently easy to figure out how to do at least one of the carries

-has a handy little head cover thing for protecting baby in inclement weather

-ergonomic!  This baby is pretty easy on your back, which is nice

-apparently you can nurse in it (yeeeeaaaaaah not this E-Cup mama over here)

-this is the only one my husband would wear so maybe that’s a pro…?

Cons:

-not very convenient to pack; it’s pretty bulky

-Although it’s usable in a bunch of different ways, I honestly could not ever figure out any of the other ways and have only ever used it front-facing, which is fine… that’s all I’ve ever needed it for

-expensive (Lille Baby is between $150-$250, Ergos and Baby Bjorns are $200-$300 PLUS an infant insert)

-I feel nerdy wearing it.  Like two-strapping your backpack in the 4th grade… sure it’s more secure and you know it’s probably for the best, but they’ll still shove peanut butter and jelly sandwiches into your indoor shoes when you’re out for recess.

Here is a tutorial on using the Ergo 360 with a newborn… which I just learned a few things from while pre-watching haha

My Take:

For me, the Ergo is the one I go to if I think I’m going to need to take him in and out of it.  I use it when I go pick up my daughter from daycare: I wear it in the car, then I slip him into it and tighten the straps, go in and get G, then loosen the straps and put him back in the car.  I found that the Ergo worked much better for me with a slightly older baby – especially one who likes to look around.  I wasn’t able to figure out how to do that with the Moby, so once G started wanting to look around while I carried her, the Ergo became my go-to.  My husband was excited when L started getting “big enough” to use the Ergo (technically you can use it with a baby of 7lbs and up, but neither of us felt like testing that).

Option 2: the Moby Wrap

Newborn snuggles in the Moby


The Moby is a hugely long piece of fabric.  That’s it.  It’s just a big ol’ stretchy rectangle.  This one is by far the most complicated to figure out (deceptive, considering that it is seriously just one piece of rectangular fabric).  It’s also the cheapest of the options, coming in under $100 for most versions.

Pros:

-To me, this one makes me feel the most secure.  Baby is seriously REALLY snug in there once you figure out the wrap.  I go hands-free in this one and it’s the only one I feel like I can really do that with.  I can even bend over and pick things up!

-cost!  This is half the price of the next cheapest carrier.

-good support for your back

-skin to skin!  (I’ve worn L in the moby without a shirt on so that we can get lots of snuggly skin-to-skin time.  The wrap completely covers both my front and back, so it’s essentially a shirt!)

Cons:

-the most complicated to get on

-tricky to get in and out of (both the other options can be sort of pre-set to slip baby in and out… this one is tricky to do that with and you have to re-tie it everytime you take it off)

-My moby wrap seems to make L very hot… not great for in the summer!

-I have for sure tripped and fallen while trying to tie this one around myself.

My Take:

The Moby is, despite its challenges, my personal favourite carrier.  I don’t use it as often as I’d like, but, especially in the winter with a little one, this is my favourite.  I can wrap him up super securely, with his little face shielded, and throw my coat over him.  I can’t say how effective it is with a toddler, because once G started wanting to look around, there was no way this baby would hold her.  But for Newborns?  Oh man, the Moby is the best for snuggles.  There is a 0% chance that either of my kids could stay awake in this one once I got moving – it is instant naptime and that is a hard luxury to turn down.  You can wrap a moby differently so that they can look out, but I found G WAY too squirmy and busy for it when she got to that age.

Here is a tutorial that I found really helpful for learning how to tie the Moby for a newborn. And here is one for you crazies who want to try to nurse in it.

Option 3: Ring Sling

Smiling in defiance against my growing awareness that I am not, in fact, a cool Instagram mom and I may have done this all wrong


The ring sling is basically exactly what it sounds like: a sling with a ring.  It comes in all kinds of fabrics, colours, finishes and lengths.  A lot of people make their own.  I want to love it.  I really, really want to love it.

Pros:

– arguably the easiest to get the baby in and out of

-older babies get a good view

-carrying position is nice and close to your chest and baby’s  head is unobstructed for smoochies

-totally customizable in terms of style

-all of the cool instagram moms wear them

-once you figure it out, it’s really easy to use and can be very versatile

Cons:

N.B. all of these cons are probably ones of inexperiences, so please don’t yell at me, ring-sling-moms

This one feels the least secure to me; I honestly don’t understand the physics of it

-to buy one of these seems to be kind of hilariously expensive: they run about 150$ on average

-you do not transform instantly into the stylish mom that you saw on insta (it’s like every time I get bangs thinking I’ll suddenly look like a Victoria’s Secret model and then I’m mad at my hairdresser)

nothing to protect baby from inclement weather. I ended up having to carry a hat to put over his tiny head, which gets continually knocked off because I’m awkward and gesticulate wildly when I talk. 

My Take:

Most moms that I know who swear by their ring slings will also tell you that it took them a long time to get the hang of it.  One of my friends had a practice baby (a bag of oats named Otis) that she used until she felt comfortable enough to switch to her real baby.  I am not that comfortable, and I don’t have it in me to practice enough to GET that comfortable.  Also, I swear that instagram convinced me that as soon as I put one of these bad boys on, I would become some sort of sun-flushed cheek, long wind-tossed hair, earth goddess type who easily maneuvers the playground in stylish clothes with one baby snuggled in her pre-softened-chambray-and-rose-gold fashionista sling and the the other running happily about the slides under my careful (but not hellicoptery) gaze.  This. Did. Not.  Happen.  I will admit that L sleeps in it, but I am terrified that he will fall out because I’m super new to it.

Here is a tutorial for wearing a ring sling.  I’ll point out, though, that she starts off by saying “I assume you know how to thread your ring sling” and see now that’s already too many steps for me.

Here’s my wrap up (boom. pun.): the Ergo is for sure the easiest to figure out, and, in my opinion, probably the one you’d be able to use the longest and in the most situations.  The Moby is wonderful for snugglies with your newborn.  The sling is an enormous lie made to make me feel inferior.  Whatever works best for you, use it!  Babywearing is a life-saver!

 

xo

Mediocre Mom

Why I Kept Her in Daycare

When I was off with my first baby, I had to make a major decision (as so many of us do) between going back to work and staying at home with my daughter).  Despite the seeming ease of this question, for me it was an identity crisis.

I wanted so badly to be the kind of parent who LOVED being at home with her kid(s).  Seriously.  I looked at my some of my SAHM friends and saw what amazing moms they were – they somehow always had it together, even with way more kids than me.  They were always out and about; the kids were stylishly dressed and in all sorts of beautifully-photographed activities.  They seem (and perhaps it’s not the case, but I can only report it from the outside!) very content with her kids.  On social media, they post funny mom-memes and beautiful photos of their sleeping kids with captions about how even when it’s hard, they are so blessed to be at home with their kids and see them growing.

But the part of me that is far more honest with myself than I sometimes would like, I knew I was not one of those moms.  I love my daughter intensely, but I found my mat leave to be one of the hardest years of my life.  I struggled with bad post-partum depression and anxiety for several months after her birth, and sadly did not find motherhood to be something that came naturally to me.  I don’t know – maybe none of us do, but it certainly felt at the time like I was the only person who struggled with it.  I missed adult companionship.  I missed the intellectual engagement I found in my job.  Additionally, I found myself in an internal war between how much I freaking loved this little human and how very deeply frustrating I found being at home with her.  I realized during my mat leave that I was not the kind of person who fell easily into chatter with small children, and I felt a deep sense of personal shame and failure over the fact that I had to work so hard to be patient and engaged with my own child, who I knew was one of the EASIER ones out there.

This struggle was compounded by the fact that the majority of my social interactions were work-based, so being away from work not only deprived me of my sense of personal fulfillment (I have long considered my profession to be more a calling than a job), I also felt that I had lost my entire social circle  as some of my best friends, and certainly the ones I spent the most time with, were my coworkers.  When I started talking about going back to work, I had to confront the challenges I would be facing: not only regarding trying to balance my work life (which typically involves a lot of work on evenings and weekends in addition to the regular work hours), but also in regards to finding a place for G.

I would first of all have to actually deal with and be okay with the sense of failure I felt in the fact that I knew I couldn’t stay at home with my daughter without ending up resenting her.  This has nothing to do with external pressures – although let’s be real, you can’t win either way (pick work and you’re a bad mom, pick staying at home and you’re wasting your potential) – and everything to do with my frighteningly consistent desire to put my child in a box on the side of the road with a “Free To a Good Home” sign on it.  I HAD to go back to work (for both our sakes).  But what to do with her while I was there?

We were a bit gunshy about daycare, so G spent several months with her nonna before we made the move to daycare in the early spring.  I was so nervous about it.  Neither my husband nor I had been in daycare as kids: his mom had stayed at home until the kids were all in school, and my parents worked alternating shifts and had me at my oma and opa’s house whenever they couldn’t be there.  Our in-laws had made similar decisions, with our sister-in-law staying home with her kids.  We didn’t have any friends with kids, really, and most of the friends that we knew had their kids with a grandparent or were staying at home.  Many of the daycares I looked at before finding the one we went with were too depressing for me to consider.  Like they were just orange jumpsuits and homemade shivs away from being tiny kid-prisons.  One place we went had a “yard” for their “outdoor hour” that was black tarmac with a chain link fence around it.  The kids were separated by age into little quadrants of the black chain-link fenced yard.  Tarps were slung across the tops of the fence to provide the pretense of shade.  To access the yards, the kids had to line up in between two secure doors to be counted.  They literally had inmate numbers, you guys.  And this place was EXPENSIVE!  I want champagne daycare at a beer budget and I won’t settle!

not her first day at daycare (I’m not on it enough to have gotten a picture of that haha) but look how cute her backpack is!


But once she started, everything changed.  While dropoff was awful (so. sad.) because she has some serious attachment stuff goin on, I quickly saw the benefits.  G has her mom’s social skills: when she wants to make a friend, she runs over and stands an awkward distance from them and just… stares at them.  If they look at her, or acknowledge her, she runs back and hides behind my legs.  But at daycare?  She made FRIENDS.  She learned to play with other kids, and to (sort of) share (she has a little boy who pulls her around in the wagon, and I think that counts as friends).  She gets to go outside everyday.  They garden.  They swim.  They go on field trips.  They colour their faces with super-indelible-never-come-off-till-youre-dead-and-maybe-even-later colouring markers.  Wanna guess how many of those things I did with her over my mat leave?  Ok, we did one of those things.  I’m not telling you which, but let’s just don’t ever get my kid wet (if you get this joke, you both read good books and also should be my friend).

So when L was born and we had to make a decision about whether to keep her in or pull her out of daycare, we decided to keep her in.  When I don’t feel like explaining my parenting deficiencies to people, I say that we kept her in so that we didn’t lose her spot for when I go back to work next year (this is actually true – the waitlist is huge and there are no promises), but the real reason is that I am not a good mom to her when I’m with her 24/7.  I’ve learned a lot about myself in the past two years: mostly how much stronger and weaker I am than I had thought.

Daycare not only gives her more than I can, they also let me give her more than I could.  With them, she gets a close, safe group of friends.  She has formed bonds with other people and it has helped her be more independent.  She has tended a garden, released butterflies.  She gets swimming and singing lessons.  She gets EXPERIENCES.  At home, I’m too overwhelmed with L to give her those things, and even when I’m not, I find planning and executing activities like that to be too big a task for just me (kudos times a million to all of the SAHMs out there hustling to give their kids experiences and activities on the regular).  Additionally, because I feel like I have had a chance to nourish my SELF, rest and bond with my new baby, I feel like I give her the better parts of myself when she’s home: evenings are full of playdough, tickles and songs (and tantrums, potty training and dinner and bath battles… I mean seriously.  You keep your cool after your kid poops in your hand or throws dinner on the floor and I will name you a Saint), weekends I feel like I had enough energy for adventures (also, I have access to the help of my parents and husband on the weekends, which makes adventures much easier to plan and execute).

Despite my wishes to be a super mom, I’m not.  I’m Mediocre (I once said that I was a bad mom and I was harangued for it because I was “not on crack,” so  I realized that the bar is perhaps a little lower than I’d previously thought).  I get tired, frustrated, over-touched, and bored.  I lack the energy or ambition to organize the kinds of entertainment that a busy 2 year old requires occasionally as a break from smashing pans together and reading the same book four million times.  This isn’t about comparing myself to other moms, this is about what is best for my kid, and for me.  And for us, it’s daycare.

xo

Mediocre Mom
Ps: still my favourite log entry from daycare

this kid is going places.  not college; but places.

Tuesday Get A Clues-Day: Tips for First Time Moms

I hope you had a wonderful long weekend – I know I did!  I took the littles to Allen Beach with their cousins and then my toddler and I baked cookies yesterday.  Needless to say, there was a lot of family time this weekend, which means not a lot of blogging time.  I’m okay with that trade!

But being at the beach made me realize something: I NEVER would have been able to make that happen when I had FEWER kids!  When Georgia was Leo’s age, I could barely make myself get off the couch, nevermind pack her up for a day trip!  When I realized how different this time around is, I started thinking about the things that I wish I’d known back when I had my first – and what things I did with my first that made the second time around so much easier (shame on me for claiming it’s easy when it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done).

Thus was born this new regular feature: Tuesday Get a CluesDay!  Every Tuesday, I will post something that I think would have helped first time mom me in the hopes that it will help other first time moms.  So let’s see what’s in the Get a CluesDay bag for today.

*drumroll*

JOIN A DAMN MOM’S GROUP.

Ok.  Ok.  I know that this sounds obvious from the outside, but if you’re anything like me, then even though you sort of know it’s a good idea, you will still not do it.  This is, to me, one of the MOST IMPORTANT things that you can do for yourself as a new mom.  Allow me to elucidate:

I am awkward.  Oh no, I know what you’re thinking: oh she’s one of those girls that claims that she’s awkward, but she’s secretly charming in a nerdy way.  Nope.  I strive to one day maybe hit “nerdily charming” instead of “deeply offputting” in social situations.  True stories: my friends don’t tell me when they’ve invited people I don’t know to something because they know I won’t come.  I genuinely map out exit strategies when I enter a room with more than 2 people in it (or 2 people or fewer if I don’t know them really well).  I one time hid under my desk at work to avoid a work social event.  I have brought up religion, politics, and cannibalism in casual conversation with strangers.  I have used information about how birds have sex to break the ice at dinner (but seriously, though, have you ever thought about it?  How DO they have sex?  I know, because I googled it, but I’m not telling you – you will have to google it yourself and then sit back in amazement that you’ve never googled something so interesting before).

Back to the point: when AB Health told me to sign up for their new mom’s group because I was showing signs of Post-Partum Depression (I wonder if it was the pungent smell of my stale sweat that gave me away?) I nodded woodenly before disregarding the idea entirely.  Even at my finest, I would never sign up to just go meet new people I don’t know… and you want me to do it with two hours of sleep and breastmilk leaking through my shirts?  How do you even manage it?  Do you nurse there?  Do people see your boobs?  What if my baby cries the whole time, or everyone is judgemental?  What if they’ve all got their shit together and I’m just hit in the face by how horribly unfit to be a mother I am?

Let me tell you the answer to all of those questions: the women you will meet in that room are just like you.  They are MESSED UP by childbirth and are so exhausted, overwhelmed and anxious that they don’t even notice the spit up in your hair… they’re worried about their own kids’ blowouts, boogers and bloodwork.  They’re thinking the SAME things as you.  They are wondering if they’ll ever lose the weight.  If they’ll ever want to even see a penis again.  If their babies skin/poop/weight/noises/sleep etc is “normal.”  If they are.  If they’ll ever feel like it again.

Go.  Meet these women.  They will need you as much as you need them.

I went twice.  I was overwhelmed both times.  Georgia wouldn’t stop crying, I was ashamed of the shield I had to use to nurse, and I felt like I was wasting my time because the course wasn’t answering my questions and I couldn’t even figure out how to phrase them to ask.  But here’s what happened: the course didn’t matter.  Honest to God, all of us agreed that the most valuable part of the meetings were the BREAKS where we got to finally talk.  Where we finally said the words “has anyone had sex yet?” and realized that we are NOT all weird… we’re all just figuring out our NEW NORMAL.

This was two years ago.  We are still friends.  Our kids go to each others’ birthdays.  We have coffee dates, playdates, beer and wine dates.  We send each other flowers when we have lost.  We celebrate our successes.  We ask each other about tantrums, potty training, and poop.  We tell each other about family-friendly spots, and places to avoid at all costs. We cry together, laugh together.  We are a strange family created because we were all cast to sea and found the same tiny piece of floating wreckage.  In many ways, they saved me.  I like to think I am a part of having helped them, too.

But it wasn’t easy.  Here is what I can tell you about how to get yourself out of the house and to a mom’s group.  Or to a workout class where there are other moms.  Or ANYWHERE to meet some mom friends.

  1. Just fucking do it already.  Stop making excuses.  No one knows what you used to look like, no one cares that you’re not wearing makeup, or that this is your 6th day in a row in the same semi-see through lulus.  Just go.
  2. Keep a packed diaper bag at the door so that you can just grab it and get in the car.  IF nothing else is in there, have diapers, wipes, a changemat, a cover (if you aren’t comfortable nursing without one).  IF you are bottle feeding (formula or BM), have some in the fridge to throw in your bag when you go.
  3. Don’t try to time it around nursing.  Obviously, it’s ideal to nurse and then leave right away, but it’s more important that you’re just THERE, so if the debate is between nursing there or not going… nurse there.  You will never meet other moms if you don’t leave your house.  Duh.
  4. Try a couple different places.  There should for real be a tinder for moms: we are all out there desperately seeking our mom-friends… even if we are too shy or overwhelmed to know how to.  Look for people with commonalities to you, but you’ll be shocked how much you’ll have in common just by nature of you both being new moms.

Wherever you decide to go, know this:  you’re not weird.  Well, you are.  Probably.  But you’re no weirder than anyone else!  If you suddenly feel like you have very little in common with your baby-less friends, you’re not alone.  If you feel like you’re doing it all wrong, you’re not alone.  If you feel like you’ve lost who you are, or your marriage, or your body… you’re NOT ALONE.  However you are feeling… that’s normal, I swear it.  And if what you’re feeling is depressed, or anxious, or angry… you’re not alone and you need support and help.  Find a group of women who will be there and for whom you can be a support as well.  Commit to a Facebook group with them, exchange phone numbers, find doable activities and ACTUALLY DO THEM…whatever you are capable of doing, do.  We started with playdates at each others’ houses, and added wine nights for us moms.  We set up schedules (it always helps to have a Type A in the group!) so that we could plan around our dates.  We went for long walks where we bonded and talked and cried.  Commit.  It’s worth it, I promise.

 

Thanks for reading!  Later this week, I’m going to post about why I’m the Mediocre Mom: I kept my daughter in daycare after I had my son.  It’s a choice that I’m conflicted about, but I want to talk about why I made the choice I did.

 

xo

Mediocre Mom

Why Fed is Best

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had a mental picture of how everything would go down.  I was only mildly afraid of labour (I was always the kid that had to burn her hand to know the stove was hot), because I had a mental image of being the strong, natural mother who did what was BEST for my child, both before and after her birth.  The books and interweb both told me a few things for sure: painkillers during labour are going to make your child drowsy and affect her ability to latch, and breast is best.  You’ll note that even the first one is tied to the idea of how important breastfeeding is.  I KNEW I was going to go into labour naturally, I KNEW I would not need pain meds or an epidural (based on the foolhardy assumption that I could breathe through ANYTHING and that I already knew REAL pain- more on this another day), I KNEW I would get skin-to-skin time immediately after birth, I KNEW I would breastfeed exclusively and I KNEW in my heart of hearts that I would bond with my tiny human the instant I saw her.

We had a plan.  I knew it was foolish to make one of those down-to-the-minute plans because you can’t plan a delivery THAT well, and I’m frankly not type A and could never make that sort of plan anyway… but we had a plan, regardless.  It was more dos and don’ts – a flow chart of possibilities that included my non-negotiables and my preferences.  Skin-to-skin and breastfeeding were the only non-negotiables.  Everything else was a “make sure it’s really necessary” sort of thing (epidural, c-section, etc.).

This is not where I tell you my birth story.  That post will be marked with an “abandon hope all ye who enter here” heading.  This is just where I tell you how hilariously, tragically, hopelessly wrong everything went and leave it at that.  (please note that I really do know how much worse it can go and I’m so grateful that my situation ended the way it did)

To start, I had “planned” (ha) on going full-term.  I was NOT interested in being induced early because the internet told me that’s more likely to end up in a c-section and with trauma to the poor baby who is not ready to leave the womb.  I went in to my 39-week appointment expecting to hear that I had not dilated at all and was going to for sure be going past my due date.  Yeah no.  I had not dilated, but I was required to deliver by 40 weeks.  I have an iso-immunization issue that is very dangerous to the baby after 40 weeks and, because my original OB had gone on leave partway through my pregnancy, both her and the new OB thought the other one had told me about this.  Yup.  So I walked out of that appointment with a good dose of shell-shock and an induction date.

It did not get better from there.  Everything I had wanted for my delivery became impossible.  Even skin-to-skin was denied me at first because I was hemhorraging and needed several professionals to stitch me up.  In part because everything else was denied me, and in part because I’m just naturally incredibly, stupidly stubborn, I set all of my hopes and dreams on the one choice remaining to me: breastfeeding.

The trouble started there.

First: she couldn’t latch.  We had… anatomical incompatabilities, according to the nurse.  In addition to this, my daughter had severe jaundice (partly a result of the iso-immunization issue mentioned above) and was too lethargic to suck even if we got her latched.  I held out.  I was breastfeeding and that was that.  The nurses wanted to supplement, the doctor recommended I supplement.  I held out for another day.  Another tear-filled day of women handling my breasts and my baby and trying their best to help me breastfeed.  A day of weeping over my baby who wouldn’t, couldn’t, wake up enough to eat.  A day of wrenching sadness as I grappled with the feeling that I was failing her regardless of which decision I made.  When I finally agreed to supplement with formula, I cried watching them give her the first bottle.  I couldn’t do it myself because I couldn’t bear the reminder of my failure.  She had lost a lot of weight already, and I knew it was because I had refused to compromise.

I wasn’t done yet, though.  The decision to supplement strengthened my resolve to breastfeed.  I bought a shield, booked a lactation consultation, read endless posts on my phone about how to fix a latch etc.  I was determined, and by God, I was going to nurse my child if it killed me.  And it seemed to be working!  The shield helped her latch enough to eat, and, with the help of my husband, we woke her up every three hours to forcefeed her for the next two weeks.

Sidebar: let me tell you something: if you’ve never tried to wake a jaundiced baby up to eat, you can never understand what it’s like.  It was a two person task and took at least an hour each time.  It involved ice cubes, ear flicking, clapping, foot tickling, begging, cajoling and crying each time.  Plus the recording process where we had to write down how much, how long, how often for everything she did to show the doctors/nurses.  I was insane with exhaustion and worry, but triumphant: we were nursing.  There was no more formula involved!  I knew how delicate a line I was walking though, because I had a low supply from having a baby who didn’t nurse fully for the first few weeks…but my joy at succeeding even this much overwhelmed my worry.

And then came the biggest roadblock.

We had only been home for a few days (we spent four in the hospital for her jaundice) when I collapsed with a dangerously high fever.  I had a severe infection and had to be re-hospitalized.  I refused morphine in the ambulance.  I refused any anti-biotic that would stop me from nursing.  My husband brought our daughter to the hospital and I nursed all day through my 105 degree fever, and then I pumped alone in the shower of my shared room every two hours all night to try to have enough milk for her at home (she couldn’t stay at the hospital with me overnight because I was not in the maternity ward).  The infection got worse.  They told me that if they couldn’t get it under control, I would require surgery, and the infection was severe enough that the risk of perforating my uterus was very high – I would have to be prepared for a hysterectomy.  I relented and they gave me very strong antibiotics.  I couldn’t nurse at all anymore.  My supply dwindled to almost nothing.  I cried almost non-stop.  In 8 days, I had lost all of the progress I had gained.  My daughter, when I held her, was like a stranger to me.  I felt like I couldn’t bond with her, and that I had failed in every way.

When I was finally released from the hospital, I tried to get back to nursing, but my supply was very low.  It took a long time and a lot of work to build it back up – I was on every natural and medicinal support I could be to raise my supply.  I used a shield, sterilizing it every time.  Nursing sessions were upwards of an hour, and then she would be hungry again in 20-30 minutes.  I waited anxiously every day for wet diapers that didn’t come nearly often enough.  I sat through awful appointments every few days at the clinic where we weighed her and watched her slide backwards down the growth charts, until we couldn’t use them anymore because she was underneath the lowest lines.

We started supplementing, but only at night.  I wouldn’t let my husband give her formula except for after the last feed before bedtime.  I wearily dragged myself out of bed every 2 hours to nurse, even knowing I didn’t have enough to fill her up for long enough to sleep longer than that.  Eventually, my husband, in a fit of frustration, asked me why I refused to supplement (bless his heart for being patient with my demands for so long), and when I, in a state of exhaustion so pure that I can’t actually tell you if my words formed a sentence, mumbled out a sentence about the importance of breastmilk to a baby’s development, he threw his hands in the air and said “do you honestly think you could pick out which of our friends are formula fed?  I bet most of them were!  Our moms only got a couple months of leave back in the 80s – can you tell me which of THEIR moms were failures?” (this later became a recurring joke between the two of us, but at the time, I burst out in tears because he had confirmed that I was, in fact, failing… a point which was absolutely not a part of that sentence, but try telling a sleep-deprived woman with PPD that).

And so we started to supplement.  I could never pump more than an ounce, so it was formula.  My supply slowly came back, and my daughter started to gain weight.  She re-entered the charts and settled comfortably at the 25th percentile.  When we started supplementing, my husband got a chance to bond in the same way that I had started to… and some of the pressure was off of me.  I could stop dreading appointments with the clinics.  I could see little chubby rolls on her thighs.  She started sleeping longer stretches.

Things got better – for all of us.  I can honestly say that I do NOT regret insisting on breastfeeding.  I nursed until 13 months, and she continued to have formula at night on one of our laps for another month or two after that.  My nursing sessions with  my daughter were times of peace.  She’s a very busy little girl, but our sessions, even when they were down to just one at night, were quiet times, where we babbled, napped and bonded.  I have never known anything like those times, and I wouldn’t want to lose them for the world.  But I can also say that my insistence on breastfeeding harmed my daughter, though fortunately not permanently, and also my husband.  I didn’t know how much it affected her until she was eating solids.  Almost as soon as she was eating solids full time, she rebounded up to the 50th percentile and started sleeping those 10-12 hour nights.  I realized much too late that my insistence on the “natural” method of feeding her is the reason that she was so small, and was also a big part of the reason I was so anxious and depressed.

And I can also say that my husband got those same quiet bonding times with her over her bottle of formula.  Our night time routine – breast, bath, bottle, book – allowed both of us to be a part of that special quiet time, and I see the relationship that it helped my husband to build with my daughter.  I know that anyone out there who pumps or supplements would agree… there’s nothing like daddy getting to feed his baby to help him feel like a part of the family and the relationships that are forming.

Ultimately, I have realized as a result of our breastfeeding journey, that, while breastfeeding might be the *ideal,* it’s incredibly hard and not always the right decision for you or for the baby.  You have to do what is best for you and your family.  And know that each baby is a different baby!  My experiences so far with my son are a VERY different story, but this post is already super long, so I’ll leave it there.

Do what keeps you sane.  Do what helps your baby grow and be healthy and happy.  A healthy you and a healthy baby are more important than what the books say, or what the internet will say, or what your mother-in-law will say (mine was actually very supportive either way).

 

-Mediocre Mom

IMG_1906

flashback to our bedtime bonding after we had finally figured out what worked for us

Spit Up and You


Pictured above: a woman covered in spit up and a baby who is peacefully sleeping now that he has rid himself of all that excess milk.

My daughter never spit up. She THREW UP like twice when she was actually sick, and the first time was when she was 18 months. I didn’t know then how lucky I was to have a baby who didn’t spit up. After she would nurse, I could look lovingly down into her sleeping, milk drunk face and then put her in her bassinet and go back to sleep. Sometimes she woke up, sometimes she stayed asleep, but at least I never heard THE SOUND.

If you have/had a spit up baby (a SUB, if you will), knows The Sound. Sometimes it’s a cough, or a gurgle, or a wet sort of “blug”… but there is a special sound that SUB makes when they open the floodgates and puke sour milk all over themselves. You know it, because it’s the sound that your baby makes the instant your eyes start to close after a 4:00 am nursing session. It’s the sound that comes after an hour of unsuccessful burping when you’ve finally (stupidly) convinced yourself that he must not have to burp this time.  It’s the sound of another hour of lost sleep because now the PJs, the sheets, the swaddle etc all have to be changed.

All this, I would add, while your husband continues to breathe in an obnoxiously peaceful way as he sleeps on next to you, unaware of both your baby’s decision to bathe in sour milk, and your increasingly homicidal thoughts toward that sleeping husband because of his complete obliviousness. (Or maybe that’s just me. Maybe you all never feel this way at 4:00 am.  Maybe you are all much more patient than me.  If so, can you send me some of whatever drug you’re taking?)

So what does a mom do?

Well a good mom probably worries over her child.  Is this healthy?  Is he okay?  Is he poor little tummy upset?  Is he taking in enough milk?  A good mom probably whispers reassurances to the little one while bouncing/rocking said baby and grabbing new PJs.  A good mom probably hides her frustration (or doesn’t feel that frustration because, admittedly, the baby did not do this on purpose because he is, in fact, a baby).

I am not a good mom.

I curse under my breath.  Or out loud.  Usually out loud.  I wait to hear if he will actually settle in to sleep on top of or in the spit up that I KNOW is in the bassinet because heck, if it isn’t bothering him, why should it bother me?  If he settles, and I’m reasonably confident that he has not asphyxiated, I go to sleep.  If he won’t settle, I get up – usually still swearing – and drunkenly stumble over to the bassinet.  I check to see how much spit up there is.  I do a quick analysis in my head about how uncomfortable this amount of wetness on his onesie would be (it’s a complicated algorithm based on quantity of spit up and location of wetness) and, based on the outcome of that assessment, MIGHT change him.  If I think he needs a change, I usually am too lazy to put out all of the changing stuff in a way that actually protects my bed from future spit ups, and change him as quickly as I can.  This strategy has resulted in me sleeping on top of a towel on top of my sheets on top of another towel because of him consistently spitting up AGAIN while I’m changing him and because of my unwillingness to change my sheets.  If I decide he doesn’t need new pajamas, I bounce him around for a while, or burp him, or nurse him… usually while muttering “what do you waaaaannnnntttt” until he falls back asleep.

Here’s the thing.  When you’re waking up at 4:00 am for the third round of nursing in one night, you’re so tired I think you’re legally probably insane and all you can think about is going back to sleep and your head is bobbing up and down as you fight sleep.  If your baby doesn’t have reflux, you get to then put them back down wherever they sleep, but if you have a SUB, your job is only just starting.  Now, you have to put them on your shoulder, or chest, or knee, or wherever, and force a burp out of that kid.  You can’t put them down for another 20-30 minutes, technically.  I try to remember how long it’s been, or what time I started this whole thing, but I’m so tired I can’t keep track.  Most of the time, they still spit up – either while burping, or once you put them down – and then you have to go through the whole darn thing again half the time.

I’ve tried the 20 minutes.  I’ve cut out most dairy (but not brie.  NEVER brie.)  I’ve tried the elevated head thing.  I’ve burped.  I’ve pleaded.  I’ve chanted ancient incantations.  He has still spit up every time.  An incomplete list of the places he has spit up AFTER I have at least tried to help his reflux: my boobs, my shoulder, down my shirt, on my skirt/pants/socks/underwear (yes, underwear), in my hair, on my carpet, on my couch and, in one truly traumatizing experience, directly into my mouth.  With the exception of the mouth incident of 2017, I usually don’t even change.  I just sort of… wipe it off.  It’s just going to happen again and, frankly, with two kids in the mix, I already have enough laundry to do, thankyouverymuch.

Spit up sucks.  I have no tips except for burp cloths.  If you can steal those huge waterproof mats from the hospital and wallpaper, carpet, and linen your house in them, that’s the best option, I think.

If you have any awesome tips, let me know!  So far, my best one is just to get a nice room spray and use that shit on EVERYTHING.
The Mediocre Mom