Bell Let’s Talk Day – Momming with Mental Illness

So I’ve been away for a while.  First, I took some time off for Christmas.  Then, I realized I was online too much, so I wanted to sort out my priorities… and then, my depression acted up.  I like to think of depression as something like arthritis: it’s always there, but sometimes it “acts up.”  In many ways, to me, that’s the most accurate description of depression.  I can still get out of bed.  I can still interact with people, and laugh, and chase my kids.  But it’s harder – almost impossible – on the mornings where my depression is acting up.  It can be affected by the weather: I have a much harder time dealing with depression on cold, dark days than on sunny ones (though this is not always the case).  In addition to the physical similarities, I also see a commonality in the way that people treat depression and arthritis.  If you have arthritis (or any chronic pain condition, like fibromyalgia), you know what I mean when I say this: people don’t want to hear you talk about it.  The first time you are with someone and you are having a flare-up, you tell them about your condition and they are sympathetic.  But if every time you’re with them, you move slower, or you complain (or even mention it), they eventually get tired of hearing about it… or at least it sure feels that way to you.  So you start to pretend that it DOESN’T bother you.  You smile through the winces; you get up and participate, even if all you want to do is sit and cry.

That.  That is depression.  Or at least what it is to me.

I have what is called, in some schools, “high functioning depression” because I can live a “normal” life, even when in the throes of mental illness.  I can camouflage.  I smile, instead of crying.  I play with my kids, and talk to friends, instead of staring at a wall.  I work, instead of sleeping.  I have learned what I look like when I’m “normal” and I emulate those behaviours as closely as possible.  I usually feel like people just don’t want to hear about it (even if that’s simply not true, it’s how I FEEL when I’m there), and that I can’t use it as an excuse for withdrawing from the world, because my friends/coworkers/family deserve better than that, even if it’s what I need for my own well-being.

And this is especially true as a mom.

How do you explain to a 2 year old that you literally can’t talk to her because it is taking every ounce of your energy just to be in clothing?  Or that you can’t walk to the playground today because the struggle to put together more than one-word sentences is simply too overwhelming a task?  My desperate desire for her not to see me having Rochester’s-first-wife-in-the-attic moments is so strong that I power through.  My intense need not to somehow pass this on to her, like some kind of mental flu.  It’s like jr high track and field: you HAVE to participate, even if you’d rather cut your own legs off than race the 800 meter today.  I get in my lane and run the damn race; it’s just that I’m running the race in knee-deep mud, so every stride takes 10 times the effort that it should.  And even when I know it’s not true, it feels like my lane is the only one with this mud in it – like somehow all the other moms got clean lanes.  So I’ll show up.  I’ll race.  I’ll put on my runners, I’ll get in my lane, and I’ll run this damn race like my lane isn’t full of mud.

And the cycle, as vicious as it is, requires that I then recharge from the herculean effort of doing something totally innocuous with copious amounts of sleep.  If you’re a mom, you already know the punchline: sleep is not something easy to come by as a parent.

That’s it.  I don’t have advice.  I don’t think of myself as somehow “better” than other people with depression, just because I can force myself out of bed.  Trust me, there are days when I can’t.  I understand the crushing weight of it.

So, moms out there with depression – I feel you.  A wild, sad, emphatic salute to you in your struggle.  For days when you show up, and days when you can’t.  Days where you smile and laugh and chase and tickle and days when you stare at a blank wall while your baby naps.  For the times you swallow what you want to say and say “I’m fine” and days when you can’t, and you cry when you’re asked if you’re alright.  Stay strong.

This is my annual post for Bell Let’s Talk Day.  I started trying to be more open about my mental illnesses several years ago, starting with a post on Bell Let’s Talk Day on facebook that marked the first time I ever openly anounced my struggles, and I want to end this one the same way I’ve ended them all: if you are struggling, reach out to someone (if you can) and know that you are NOT alone.  If you aren’t struggling, reach out to someone who might be.

A Hundred Excuses

I haven’t posted in a month.  I have a hundred excuses why.  Some are more valid than others, but none of them are the full truth.

Excuse 1: I had family come in for a visit.  They drove from Ontario to visit with us and, as the designated stay-at-home-for-right-now mom, I was more than happy to escort them about the city, showing off the place I love.

Excuse 2: Holidays.  Between thanksgiving and Halloween, a lot has been going on.  G had her first movie experience, we have carved multiple pumpkins.  We have baked and eaten that baking.  I have gained back all of the weight that I had lost… you know what they say: Thanksgiving is the beginning of the end for every weak-willed dieter.

Excuse 3: I am a bridesmaid in a wedding and the bachelorette party was in Canmore last weekend.  A LOT of my focus had to go into that.

Excuse 4: L is in a BAD sleep regression.  G had them when she was a baby, but not like this.  I am getting absolutely no more than 90 minutes of sleep at night and only a few small breaks during the day.  I love him to little bits but I may leave him in a box on the side of the road with a “Free Baby” sign pretty soon.

 

Ok so not 100 excuses, but four.  Again, all of them real reasons why I have been lax in my blog posting duties, but none of them cover all of it.  The real reason was one that I hadn’t been able to recognize until I was at my book club last Thursday.  My book club, which has only had two meetings so far, is made up of women that I’ve never met, all of whom are small business owners or entrepreneurs.  They are incredible.  Beautiful inside and out, these women work their tails off to live their dream and to make their visions reality.  I was overwhelmed, surrounded by them, by how strong and utterly RELENTLESS they are.  Our book for October was “Thrive” by Arianna Huffington and while we all agreed that it was sort of “meh” overall, it had a few interesting points that became deep conversations for us.  One of the key points was hit on the head by one of the other women: we are constantly told to question our own abilities and value.  We have these deep desires and wants in our lives… oftentimes involving dreams we want to pursue.  But we stop ourselves.  We stop because we think of finances.  We think of responsibilities.  We think, most of all, “who am I to do this?”

And that line is what struck me.  “Who am I to do this?”  She was speaking of her own experiences, and yet it was like she was giving voice to the fear that hides in the back of my head: Who am I to think that I am worth hearing?  Who am I to think I can speak to this or that?  Who am I to think anyone wants to hear what I have to say?

For all of the many concrete reasons I had given myself for putting off posting, this was the one that they hid: my deep insecurity that no one should care what I have to say; that it is arrogant for me to think that what I have to say is worth being heard at all.

I recently read a piece by Joan Didion that talks about self-respect and the struggle to find it.  She likened it to a “well-lit back alley” where all of our self-knowledge waits to essentially mug us with the truths behind our masks and self-image and reputation:  here lurk the truths you can hide from everyone but yourself.  I think I LIVE in that back alley.  I am never unaware of my failings, big and small.  I still think about the time I called a kid a bad name in grade 4 and that one time I didn’t stand up for my mom when I should have.  I’m aware of the frustration I feel when I’m with my daughter – the short-tempered cruelties that shame me deeply.  I can’t pretend with myself to be any kind of parenting sage because I know too well the truth of myself, and to write any kind of piece that says otherwise is to be inauthentic.

It’s a funny duality that I have found in motherhood: I jealously remember the times in my life when I was truly seen, now that I am permanently relegated to the background of my children’s lives.  I once was the sun, with everything orbiting around my life, but now I am just one of those planets, orbiting G and L while they shine.  I guard the precious memories of my life BEFORE when I was Danielle and not just mom.  When I had interests and independence.  But the irony is that I think my greatest fear is to be truly seen now.  To be seen in my inglorious moments, my frustrated ones, my shameful ones. It’s one thing to embrace the messiness of parenthood – there is a deeply funny side to the trivial failings of our day-to-day lives: the spilled milk, the spit up accidents, the blow-outs.  There is a black humour to the first time your kid repeats the word “fuck” or accidentally does something inappropriate with total, pure innocence.  But it’s a different beast to look at our real failings as parents and as people.  Those are moments we do not want to be seen… and they are moments that I feel I have had more of since I became a mom.

And yet, I believe there is value in it.  I think that there are those moments where seeing someone else be vulnerable allows us a greater connection to both ourselves and one another.  I believe that we are closer when we see each other as human.  Especially in a time where social media makes it difficult to separate someone’s PROFILE from her LIFE.

So I’m back.  I have to believe that there is a value to what I want to say.  Perhaps it will be uncomfortable – for me, for people who read it – but perhaps there is value in that.  If I want to raise a daughter who sees value in her own thoughts and voice, I have to find that value in my own.

Fingers crossed.

 

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

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

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