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

The Birth of the Blog

Here we go.

Every day, I log on to social media and see all of these images of people and their perfect families.  The kids are well-dressed and stylish, the moms have full makeup on and are wearing silk tops without milk stains, and the days are lit with that perfect sepia tone of sleepy Sundays from memory or with the crisp brightness of the perfect summer day.  And I look up from my cellphone or laptop at my own life: the same shirt that I’ve been wearing for three days because heck, at least this one already HAS spit up on it, the child being sent to daycare in mismatched, too-small clothes, the infant sleeping for the first time since yesterday after clusterfeeding all night and I wonder: am I the only one who can’t keep it together?

I think not, friends.  I think not.

So here is where my blog comes from: a place of necessity.  I need to know that there are others like me out there.  I need others out there like me to know that there are others like them; namely me.  Our lives are not sepia-toned.  Our messy bun is legit messy (and often greasy).  We do not handmake our children special sensory montesorri toys or glide through motherhood on wings made of perfect patience.

We are working hard to just be mediocre moms.