The Effort and Guilt of Doing Nothing

fullsizerenderOn the heels of my pursuit of peace post, I thought today I’d chat a little more about that and how HARD it is to just, well, chill out. I’m a bit of a ‘wound up’ person, I’ll readily admit it. Let’s just say there’s a reason my family lovingly refers to me as Scrat (Ice Age anyone?) Sitting around and doing nothing legitimately stresses me out, but if the holidays bring anything they bring times of extended sitting and visiting with family and friends. Which is a beautiful thing, but for me personally it’s hard. Like, WAY hard. My mind and body were always ‘on the go’ before kids, it’s just my personality, and now that I’m a mom I’ve gotten even worse. I come by it honestly, my mom is the same way. I used to (and still do) tease her that she is allergic to sitting still.

fullsizerenderI think our culture really contributes to this mindset of having to always be doing something. I mean, being busy is the norm. If you’re not busy, you just must be doing something wrong, right?! And life is busy, especially with kids. That’s just the way it is. But, at least for me, I feel guilty if I’m not accomplishing something almost constantly. Sitting with coffee? Well I could/would/should be folding laundry/picking up toys/cleaning something at the same time. Babes sleeping on my lap?! Time to crunch work emails! I mean, there is always, ALWAYS something to get done and heaven forbid I stare out the window for five minutes while I drink my coffee.img_1874 The only time I don’t feel pressured to be doing something is when I’m sleeping (which as you mamas know, with little ones, sleep isn’t exactly something that’s overflowing in my life at the current moment).

Many other cultures emphasize the importance of those moments of nothing, accept them and even celebrate them. And I think that is SO beautiful, and I wish our own culture was like that. So, while I cannot single handedly change our entire culture, I can start to work on my own mindset. Thus, in addition to my pursuit of finding peaceful moments, I’m going to actively work on fighting the guilt and stress that inevitably comes along with those peaceful moments of doing ‘nothing’. As parents, we aren’t exactly overflowing with opportunities for ‘relax’ practice anyway, so the holidays feel like a good time to start. Who’s with me?!

The Pursuit of Peace

In hopes of helping simplify and bring you a moment of peace, I have compiled a list of special discounts at the bottom of this post that I have procured to share with you, my dear readers!

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Pic Credit: @renegadedrifterphotography (Click to find on Instagram)

As I sit here, my babies sleeping quietly on my lap, drinking a cup of coffee and watching the deer wander slowly through the early morning snow outside my Christmas light wrapped window, a rare moment of beautiful, peaceful calm washes over me. My mind typically feels like a loud blend of several race car tracks, loud music and airplanes roaring overhead, all set to the soundtrack of babies yelling and people trying to talk to me through this insane commotion in my head. I feel like I am always in full speed ahead mode, wash this, move that, always trying to focus enough on the task at hand that I am able to move on to task number two (or two thousand) as efficiently as possible.

But in this moment, the silence strikes me. fullsizerender-3For a moment, the race car tracks are empty, the metal band in my head is still and the sky is clear of airplanes. No children are crying, and no one is trying to ask me anything. The loud static in my head has been at least temporarily replaced by the soft shhhh of the house heat and the gentle purring of the cat. For a moment, everything has stopped, everything is still.

And it feels incredible. I want to freeze this moment, to make it last. I find myself almost nervous to breathe because I am not ready to let it go. But reality is, it will go. The race car tracks will roar to life, the metal band will wake up, (as will most certainly my children) and the sky will populate itself once again with those ridiculously loud airplanes. And that is life. And I love my big, joyous, loud life. But big ships come in over quiet seas, and minds that never stop burn out. I mean, if I was a computer, I would have overheated and blown up quite a while back. As parents, I think one of our biggest challenges is trying to find these quiet moments. It’s so, SO hard to just STOP. To stop our physical, mental and emotional activity and just BE for a moment. There is always something to do, to think about, figure out, or complete.

fullsizerender-2And I think we need to stop, to let the machine cool off, the water to be still, to RECHARGE and reset, to rest. And I think that takes focus, takes effort. And it’s hard to add one more thing to accomplish when you feel like your to do list is already out of control. I mean, yeah, great, let’s add ONE MORE THING to worry about, right? But I think if we can work on these moments, everything else will eventually seem a little less overwhelming, maybe if we find these quiet moments we can enjoy the loud ones a bit more. And while I don’t do New Years resolutions, (hello PRESSURE) I do believe I will add this pursuit of peaceful moments to the top of my goal list. Even if it means getting up fifteen minutes earlier.img_1714

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continue reading The Pursuit of Peace

The Birth Story of Harry and Arabella-Part Two

 

 

img_0549In preface to this post, I want to reiterate my firm belief that every mama and baby are different. What I chose for mine may be radically different than what you chose. Not only is that ok, I think it’s tremendously important. I will never judge you for your choices just as I expect to not be judged for mine. Or, as I’ve said before, human nature is to judge. I may judge in my heart but I’m keeping it to myself as should we all. Unless a child is in danger, what mamas need from each other is SUPPORT. To be able to share our learned wisdom and mutually benefit. I have chosen this path for my family because I strongly believe it to be the best one, as I am certain that is how you have chosen yours. I pray to be able to share perspectives among one another without shaming, I know I have drastically changed decisions in the past thanks to other mamas sharing their knowledge with me. I am an opinionated, naturally minded mama. And proud of it. Be proud of yourselves mamas, and I hope you enjoy part two of our birth story. The tale of a stubborn naturally minded mama who managed to infuriate nearly everyone on the pediatric floor of the hospital we birthed at. This is Day Two in the lives of Harry and Arabella.

img_0486The rest of November 8th is a fuzzy blend of blank spots and poignant memories, a sea of haziness with bright stars shining through. I don’t remember what I ate, I remember being voraciously thirsty and not being allowed to just guzzle liquid, instead I was spoon fed crushed ice and given small sips of orange juice (nothing has ever tasted better!). Immediately after the twins were born the barrage of unwanted requests for procedures on the twins began. No, we don’t want the eye ointment, no we are not circumcising him. (Not circumcising was a surprise decision we made late in the game, if you’re interested as to why we chose no circumcision for our son I’d be more then happy to share, comment below or send me an email).

fullsizerenderIt continued to be a battle. No you cannot give them that/no you cannot take them to the nursery we want them in the room with us. That one made me hugely popular, (not), especially when I followed my babies to the nursery for the car seat test, which we acquiesced to as they wouldn’t let us leave without it. I was up until 2:00am the day of my babies birth due to my refusal to be apart from my newborns. I regret nothing. My husband and I did have a beautiful morning together the following day, while it was periodically interrupted we had a few moments to just sit there alone, the two of us with our new family, soaking in the moments and trying to realize what had just happened. (Which is something I struggled with for a while, if you haven’t read it yet I shared my heart in my battle with PPD in a previous post, click here to read it).

img_0487My husband was my brave knight in shining armor, standing up for me and our babies against the surprisingly aggressive nurses on the pediatric floor. I missed my labor and delivery nurses soooooo much once they transfered us. Having never been hospitalized I had this naive notion that I would be able to relax for a day or two, snuggle my babies and just eat. Ha. Reality was that I wasn’t fed, no one brought me even liquid, they kept coming in every 15-20 minutes to wake and poke my babies and yell at me (literally!) for not writing down every breastfeeding session. Had I not been holding my babies and letting them nurse almost constantly I would have understood their concern. But as my babies were nursing nearly non-stop and frankly I was starving and foggy and stunned, I decided writing down “still nursing” every thirty minutes was not worth it. Eventually I got so irritated with their attitudes I admit I refused to out of spite. img_0485Yes, you can safely assume I was not their favorite patient. I wouldn’t do the tests, I wanted to change my own babies diapers (why is that weird?!) and I just wanted to go home. So I did. I demanded an early release and the minute we informed the staff we wanted to go home that day, wouldn’t you know everyone suddenly disappeared.img_0482

No one answered our help button, and our room went from resembling a chaotic train station to a vacant ghost town. My poor husband had to track down what felt like hundreds of people to sign and deal with the voluminous amount of paperwork required to effect our release. It literally took all day, we didn’t leave the hospital until after 9 that night. I have never felt so judged and shamed as I did with the looks and comments we received as we headed home with our wee ones in their giant car seats. I did get to avoid the usually mandatory wheelchair ride out of the hospital as the nurses were so angry at me they were busy fuming and messing with the babies. We also had to agree to a mandatory weight check appointment with our pediatrician the img_0488following day, (an appointment that nearly destroyed my breastfeeding journey, watch my video on my feelings on the breastfeeding support that new moms receive by clicking here).

But eventually, we were headed home and yes, we must have checked that our babies were still breathing every thirty seconds. My family had gone home a little bit before us and never have I ever walked into anything as welcome as the paradise they made. img_0544My mother had prepared an Italian feast, wine awaited us, candles were lit everywhere and it was warm and peaceful. A radical change from the hospital environment we had just left and desperately needed comfort for this exhausted and struggling mama. I sank into the soft warm blankets and snuggled with my cuddly (and to my relief, happily accepting of the babies) cats, stared at these beautiful tiny new faces that had just come out of my BODY, and breathed deeply.img_0548

I still wasn’t prepared and had no idea how to deal with the influx of attention that happens when you have a baby. Everyone, EVERYONE wants to see you, well not you, the baby/babies. In hindsight, I plan on a lockdown next time I have a baby. I don’t believe birth is a medical crises but I DO believe it is something which absolutely requires, and deserves, time to adjust and heal from. But I’ll write more on that later.

In conclusion, I want to encourage you mamas to not be afraid to stand up for and demand what you feel is best for you and your baby. I know it was the right thing to come home early, it wasn’t easy, but we made it happen. Maybe it would be different next time, and such is birth. And had my babies had medical needs that required attention, obviously I would have stayed. But they didn’t. What they needed was me to be able to give them my all, and I knew in order to do that I had to get home where I would be cared for and feel safe. To get where I could bond with them and they with me and my husband.

Best laid plans inevitably change. Especially where children are involved. And that is ok. But never be afraid to stand by your decisions. Mamas almost always know best, and unless you plan on bunking in a snowbank with your newborn, I’d say you should have faith in yourself. You did make that human. Roll up your sleeves, mama bears, these are our cubs, and being with mama is really the main thing they need and truly all they want.

Click each link below for posts on:

postpartum recovery

the fourth trimester

breastfeeding support

breastfeeding in public

wine and boobs

and…

my opinions on coping with the “Everyone Comes out of the Woodwork Invasion Phenomenon” when you have a baby.img_0545

The Postpartum Experience

fullsizerenderAs I’ve mentioned before, my mother is Italian, and I come from a loving, high energy and very effusive family. No emotions on lockdown when I was growing up, (nothing has changed in that). Open expressions of love and feelings were never prohibited, and I’ll say with amusement that my energetically open, affectionate and readily communicative style of living was definitely something for my sweet husband to adjust to. But despite having grown up with such love and depth, I wasn’t prepared for the beyond intense, past all consuming feeling that is being a mom.
I don’t think anything, or anyone, can actually prepare you for the insanely, crazily beautiful, soul devouring, complete passions igniting, space vacuum roller coaster of love that is being a parent. You feel things you never imagined you could feel with an intensity you could not have imagined possible. You would jump in front of a speeding train for this tiny human, and every emotion in your body is woven tightly into their every breath.

I know things have gotten better in some ways, but in so many other ways I believe new mamas are left to hang dry in our culture post birth. I was blessed to have an incredible support system of husband and family and it was still the most grueling experience I’ve ever had. fullsizerender-3 Everyone says your life changes the moment your baby hits your chest. That wave, that feeling of joyous uninhibited love didn’t happen as suddenly for me as I fought through postpartum depression for a while after my twins arrived. PPD is a tricky beast, I found myself experiencing this completely overwhelmingly intense soul consuming love for these two tiny beings while simultaneously feeling terrifyingly emotionally dulled and vacant. I remember waiting for the wave to hit me after they handed me my babies, but all I could think was, where did these things come from?!
My room was filled with people within an hour of my twins being born. Well meaning family but it was too much. Thank God for the nurse who kicked everyone out for me so I could rest and try to wrap my head around what had just happened. (Standby for my full twin birth story post next week) In hindsight, I’m giving myself permission with my next kid to not see anyone for a while after birth. My life at the time my twins were born was pretty high stress, I was teaching 7 days a week and looking back I realize that is partly why I wasn’t able to identify that my feelings of depression were more than environmentally triggered. I believe the trickiest part when fighting a mental battle is how easy it is to lay blame for the situation on anything physically present, especially yourself.

You fill out a zillion forms after your baby is born scanning for the ‘baby blues’, but I, as I imagine most new mothers do, had no intention of admitting anything other than my joy at being a new mom. I had nothing to be sad about right, I had two healthy new babies! And in no way shape or form did I want anyone to think I was anything but completely capable of being their mom. I had literally waited all my life for this moment, no way was I admitting that I was anything other than fine.
As I’ve mentioned before, due to our circumstances I went back to work at three weeks postpartum. It was horrible, and I could (and will) go off on the ridiculousness that is ‘maternity leave’ in this country. My poor husband didn’t even get a week off. My parents stayed with us after the twins were born and I can truthfully say I wouldn’t have made it through without them. I was so blessed to have a mom who wanted to be there and support me in my new journey.

But despite my circle of support, going back to work that early meant many more people around me and my babies, and it would have been overwhelming no matter what but adding PPD to the mix meant I went into hard core survival mode. My goal every day was to get through hour by hour until it was over. I was completely shut down emotionally, but still had no intention of that showing so I put on a face and faked it like I’ve never faked it before. I could feel the precious moments with my babies slipping by and that made it so much worse. Every day I felt I was losing my long awaited time with them as I paddled desperately through my exhaustion and mental fog, and every day I felt more like a failure and more heartbreak over my lost time.

It is shocking how overwhelming it is to be a new mom. Not only do you have these tiny humans literally relying on you to SURVIVE, everyone has an opinion on how you should be doing it. Every day was like getting a fire hose of emotion to the face.
I wrote in a previous post that sometimes as a mama you are forced to pour from an empty cup, and I don’t believe there is ever a time where that is more true than when you have a newborn. This tiny human needs you, and needs you 24/7. You’re going through recovery from LITERALLY making and bringing a new life into this world, and you absolutely must dedicate everything you are to someone else. I mean, it’s hard to have time to PEE let alone heal and recover. You are completely and utterly the sole source of life to this tiny new being. No matter how supportive your spouse is, and no matter how much supportive family you have, I truly believe you will never experience any pressure in your life that is more intense than being a mom. Nothing has ever made me feel so tiny. And I had the support of my loving husband, parents, and sisters. Not all women are so fortunate.
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Add to this new mom pressure the social pressures and expectations of family friends and work and I believe it is a recipe that can quickly end in disaster. I was expected to be social, see people and have them see my babies. It was like pouring acid on my nerves but I strapped both my babies on me in wraps and a smile on my face and I slogged through. I love this article (mothering the mother, click to read it) from the birth without fear blog, it discusses the horrible lack of postpartum and bonding time that is allowed to mothers in our culture. As it says, in many cultures women are given 40 days to do NOTHING post birth but heal and bond with their baby. And think about it, can you really imagine any task more intense than MAKING AND GIVING LIFE? I remember reading in one of my mama groups of a mother in my area who stayed in bed for ten days post birth doing nothing but being with that baby. I was green as a crocodile in envy as I told my husband about this. And she wasn’t just being lazy and having a vacation. Heck no. She was adjusting to having birthed an entirely brand new human! Yet spending that time with your baby seems so excessive in our cultures eyes. I will never understand why we treat birth as a serious illness that needs massive medical intervention but the need for postpartum recovery time is so often slid under the rug and dismissed.

My twins will be a year old next week, my PPD has improved significantly, it does eventually fade. I still fight guilt and cry for my lost moments with my babies, and I know there are things I will do differently should we have another child. I yearn to see a culture where birth is treated as a natural process and postpartum recovery is held on a pedestal of tremendous importance. Imagine yourself in that scenario. I wonder if I could have avoided or at least short circuited the PPD I dealt with. What would it have changed for you mamas? I hope sharing my story can one day touch some mama, more than anything I feel new mamas need someone who understands. Who can say, I get what you’re going through, and it’s not fair. One day I hope our culture changes and women can truly be there for each other in support like this, I hope our expectations of new mamas can evolve to where we see being a new mama for the serious matter it is, and as a culture respect it. I believe the health of our future depends on it.

Mamas Have Needs Too?! Or, Self Care is Haaaaard

img_9806Self care is hard. As a mama, it’s literally almost impossible sometimes. They say you can’t pour from a cup that’s empty but sometimes as a mom that is just what you have to do. Sometimes my kids don’t sleep, so I don’t sleep, and you know what? When they wake up the next morning I don’t get to just ignore them while I catch up on my zzz’s! Nope! They need fed, diapers changed and someone to watch them so they don’t knock out a tooth or stab out each other’s eyes. And yep, I am that person!
Sometimes I don’t get that glass of water or get to pee in a timely fashion because my babies have needs that can’t wait. Call me crazy but it’s really hard to go to the bathroom when my son is screaming because he pooped his diaper and it’s burning his little butt. So I change his diaper, and then eventually, I get to pee. Typically with a kid on my lap (or two). And as you might know from my last post, (click here to watch my rant on sharing love not germs) I just finished having the stomach flu. And nope, motherhood didn’t ‘pause’ whilst I fought that nasty virus.
I used to lecture my mom on self care. I still do sometimes since her kids are adults and she still doesn’t care for herself as she should. But, being a mom myself, I get why she doesn’t. Someday my kids will be adults and I I’ll probably need the self care lecture because let’s face it mamas, decades of a habit is hard to break. img_9796
And you know, I chose to bring these little beings into the world, they didn’t really have a say in it. So I don’t think it’s unfair that their needs are put before mine. That doesn’t mean though that some days aren’t so hard I want to cry, and sometimes I just want to eat my dinner without it getting slapped to the floor or shoveling it in my mouth at a race rocket pace. It doesn’t mean I don’t love my kids, or that I don’t want them more than anything. It doesn’t make me a bad mom that I look at photos of women with their hair and makeup done, their cute jeans obviously freshly washed and feel a pang of absence of my self worth.
Motherhood is HARD. Do I love it? With all my heart. Is it worth it?! Without question! I wouldn’t trade being a mama for ANYTHING. But. It. Is. Hard. So hard. Being the primary caregiver to tiny humans is no joke. There are literally lives DEPENDING on you, 24/7! HUMAN. LIVES. Whether or not your child survives let alone thrives is all on YOU. That’s one heck of a privilege and responsibility y’all.

img_9677I’m trying to remember to do little bits of self care when I can. Having a third cup of coffee (even if it gets cold), taking the extra 30 seconds to not only rip the ponytail off my head before bed but actually brush my hair, putting on a quick show for the babies so I can wash my face without screaming in the background. These things seem small but mamas you know, those small things are the first to go when you’re prioritizing your moves like a military captain for efficiency.
This won’t be my last post on self care, so tell me, what do you find is YOUR biggest challenge as a mama in caring for you? Let me know in the comments!

Hang in there mamas, and go buy some wine, I prefer the big bottles. A glass may help (I find it heavenly, and yes you can have it even if you’re breastfeeding!!!!). But I’ll go off on that later.fullsizerender