Life, mamahood, Uncategorized

Let’s stop the ‘shushing’

Last week I wrote about not being able to form, let alone speak in, complete sentences since become a mom. Mainly, my brain is fried from having to keep mental tabs on another human 24 hours a day, and I’m generally pretty exhausted by the emotional and physical labor that goes into motherhood. Most moms can relate. Having a kid that looks and acts like you is (mostly) great, but there’s just something about it that sucks the life out of you and makes you really excited for bedtime, theirs and yours. And, while these topics often come up in conversations with a laugh and a stifled sob amongst moms, we rarely get into the nitty-gritty of how moms’ brains can change and how hard – and scary – those changes can be.

We joke about not having time for our husbands or being touched out after having the baby on top of us all day and night, but rarely ever talk about how painful it is to see our dejected spouse shrink back onto the couch after realizing that we really, like really, can’t stand to be touched. How we want to scream, “I want you too but I don’t have the mental energy and I’ve had a toddler attached to my boob and hip all day and the thought of anything entering my personal space right now infuriates me!” How much we wish we could shake the layers of exhaustion off and be fresh and welcoming for them, but that requires a hot shower and a major offloading of feelings about how the day went, and we still have to do the dishes and put the leftovers away and then before we know it, the baby’s awake again, frantically looking for the boob, banishing you back to the bed with him when all you really wanted was that hot shower…

Another thing that I rarely get out of my mouth before I’m being shushed and told not to think such things are the awful thoughts that pop up randomly throughout the day. If you’re a mom, you know what I mean. Sometimes, when the baby is playing, I imagine him moving the wrong way, and the TV falling on top of him, or his head smashing into the hard tile. I see it in my head; the blood, the bones sticking out, I hear the crying, the gasping for air. I still wake up in the middle of the night, my heart pounding in my ears – if only for a second – and check if he’s breathing, especially when I haven’t been woken up in more than 2 hours. One night – and the only night – when A slept 5 hours, I woke my husband up in a panic and insisted on waking the baby, too, just in case he was breathing but there was something wrong. Sometimes when I leave him with someone else so I can go to the bathroom or if we need to make an emergency shwarma run (yes, there is such a thing!), I imagine the person dropping dead and A crying until we come back, traumatized for life by what his little mind saw. Or what if they hurt him, or kidnap him, or let someone else hurt him?

My body physically reacts when he falls, when he cries, when he’s not feeling well. This is how we were designed, this is what connects us to our babies, even though they can be autocratic jerks most of the time. The thoughts that come and go, the visceral reactions to our baby’s discomfort are uncontrollable, and just because they’re ridiculous doesn’t make them any less scary. The constant stream of what-ifs can really take a toll, and – I should actually consider myself one of the lucky ones. Some mamas who struggle with these thoughts can’t actually see reason and find themselves consumed with horrible images, and unable to function. Their fears of the unreasonable grip them by the throat, leave them crying on the bathroom floor, and make momming even harder than it already is. It can be compounded by pre-existing health conditions, Postpartum Depression or Anxiety, lack of support in their journey through mamahood, or just a Type A personality that is having a hard time adjusting to the chaotic, sleep-deprived nature of being a mom and can’t compare to the perfectly curated shots she sees on her Instagram feed.

I’m not sure why as a society who’s so connected by this thing called motherhood refuses to talk about the ugly sides. I find it comforting to know that another woman is going through the same things I am; it takes the edge of the craziness that I see when I look in the mirror. I also think it’s important for those moms who may not have control over those thoughts to know that they’re not alone!

So next time your mom friend wants to talk about the uncomfortable side of this new life, try comforting her in a different way. Instead of telling her that it will all be OK, and not to think so negatively (I get this one a lot…), tell her that you too have those thoughts, feelings, crazy-lady moments, and thank her for being brave enough to share it with you.

Life, Uncategorized

Chronicles of a hair-brained mommy brain

I used to think that going out with a 4-month-old was tough, and then my son started walking. While it’s a lot of fun to chase him around restaurants while he squeals and points at other customers and tries to steal everyone’s cell phone off of their tables (read: NOT FUN AT ALL, GUYS!), I also realize that we can’t just stay in the house until he’s learned to behave. So, a couple of times a week, we gather our strength and leave the house. Usually I like to wait until my husband is home so I can zone out with my ice cream cone and just watch him chase A around, but I do have friends and they do invite me out and it’s hard to say no more than 14 times in a row, so eventually I end up going out with A by myself.

Now, I will say that I have amazing friends. They all have – or have been around – kids enough to understand that going out with my will be chaotic. And, really, I don’t deserve such gems of friends because I wasn’t nearly as great as them when I was single and childless. I was kind of an asshole and didn’t want to deal with screaming kids so I always avoided going out with my mom friends (I’m sorry, ladies, please forgive me!!!) But, aside from having great friends, you really need to have a lot of stamina, not just to chase to your screaming child while he makes a beeline for the stairs, leaving a trail of crumbs in his wake, but also to remember what you were saying 3 seconds before you started chasing him.

Seriously, having a continuous stream of conscious thought it hard enough with a toddler, so making sense of those thoughts and translating them into a coherent, grown-up conversation is damn near impossible. I would say I feel dumb most of the time but I don’t even think I get enough time to myself for that thought to cross my mind before I’m off chasing A again.

To top things off, just when he naps and I plan to sit down to do something productive, I have to clean up 37 messes and put away 467 things before I get the chance, by which time the cat or just the sound of oxygen moving around has definitely woken up my child and he’s either, a.) happily awake and ready to make 532 new messes, or b.) he’s screaming for the boob and I’m banished to lie beside him, going over my to-do list so that I won’t forget, ultimately falling asleep from mental exhaustion.

So, my point is that if you ever feel like having 76 incomplete conversations and watching me run around after a little terrorist all morning, apologizing repeatedly for the way he’s thrashing your house, hit me up!

Life, Uncategorized

New-old spaces

In a fit of restlessness, I moved all the furniture in the house around yesterday, thinking it would give me some inspiration, but something weird happened – I felt depressed. The sudden anxiety that hit me was strange, but I thought it was just due to the chaotic nature of moving things around; one step forward and 3 steps back, one thing rearranged, 3 messes to be cleaned up, especially with a toddler in tow. But as I was cleaning and reorganized, I realized that the reason I for the anxiety and melancholy wasn’t because of the cleaning I had ahead of me, it was for something that was already behind me.

Postpartum depression was something that I wasn’t going to let happen to me. I had read all about it, knew the supplements that made it less likely, had plenty of help around the house so I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed, and had a pretty good handle on dealing with depression due to several bouts with it previously. And then the baby came. Everything was spinning out of control. I was healthy, he was healthy, my husband was happy, everyone was congratulating us, but there was only one problem: I was miserable. Not only was I miserable, but I was also crippled by anxiety. As soon as the sun started to set, I went into panic mode, knowing the long, lonely night that stretched ahead, full of feedings, burps, and diaper changes, all while everyone else slept. That space I was in – the dark, isolated, suffocating space – made it difficult to function let alone interact with others.

Eventually, I made it out of that hole I was in, but the imprint on my life with forever be there. When I rearranged the bedroom, I realized that I had moved the things back to the way they were immediately after my son was born, and somehow I’d moved all the negative feelings back too.

I was exhausted after I moved everything so there was no way I was going to attempt to move them again, and after waking up this morning – happy and well-rested with my energetic toddler – I’m not sure I want to. I’m a firm believer in working through things, regardless of how painful they are. I know not everyone deals with things like this, and I respect everyone’s right to handle their own issues in their own way; our differences in perspective are what make us us. But for me, today, I think I’ll sit here and enjoy as many good memories in my new-old space as possible.

Life, Uncategorized

Moms need friends, too.

I’ve always been a pretty open person, and don’t usually shy away from divulging about my personal life with friends. I mean, chances are what I’m going through at any given moment is something that you too have faced, so why not share and at least get some comfort, if not a solution? The human experience is such a fascinating one because literally billions of other people have gone through or are going through the same thing as you, yet our days are punctuated by moments of isolation and our circumstances sometimes really make us feel like nobody else would get it. Throughout the years and the stages – high school, college, whatever the hell comes after that – our circles change, and we start to see the herd of friends thinning out, yet, with the more time that passes, we start to realize that’s actually not a bad thing.

The funny thing about becoming a mom is that you’re thrust into this community of other mommies and – whether it seems like it or not – you suddenly have so much in common with women all over the world. It’s also such a weird time because you’re typically physically isolated with a tiny human staring at you 24/7 waiting for you to do something interesting or give him the boobs, which can really take a toll on your emotional state and ability to string coherent sentences together. By the time the baby is old enough to take out and you have the chance to reunite with your friends, you may find that you don’t have much in common with them anymore, especially if they don’t have kids, and sometimes even if they do. Our families take over our lives and the small differences in philosophies now become more pronounced as you’re juggling the new role of motherhood as you see fit.

So when you do find a mom friend that you share the same philosophy with, it’s really a special moment. But, just like your growing bump opened you up to unsolicited advice from complete strangers, the way you raise your kid will, strangely, always bring out peoples’ very strong reactions. Having mom friends doesn’t always mean having a support system during the times when we need it most; I’ve found that it can often mean judgmental, harsh criticism and advice during the times when we need it the least.

Look, I get that you’re doing the best you can based on what you know and that your way really is the right way. For you. But for me? Well, maybe it is, but it probably isn’t, and that doesn’t make me wrong. I find my self-doubt crippling enough most days without having to hear whether or not I’m turning my son into a spoiled brat by staying home and co-sleeping. If I were going back to work and leaving him with (gasp!) a stranger, I’m sure I would hear how awful that is from other mamas, so it just seems like a lose-lose situation in which everyone wants to flaunt how great they are at motherhood, when I’m sure that we all waver in our confidence (if you have any, to begin with).

I guess I just wish making mom friends was a little less stressful and a bit more inclusive; I breastfeed and co-sleep, so I probably won’t be able to give you advice on formula or sleep training, but that doesn’t mean we can’t grab a cup of coffee and commiserate together about all the extra laundry we have now that our babies want to feed themselves or come up with theories as to why causing us excruciating pain (especially by biting the nipples at 4 am) is the funniest thing in the world to our littles.

Life, Uncategorized

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Sometimes. And other random weekend thoughts.

I’ve been feeling a bit foggy lately, so I thought I was dreaming my metaphoric fog into reality last night when I woke up to a house full of smoke, but it turns out I wasn’t. My house was really full of smoke at 1 am. Thankfully there was no fire (anymore); I guess apartment 9 was doing some late-night cooking and something didn’t go right. If I didn’t smell smoke every other day from this particular neighbor, I would have thought that was strange, but it totally made sense when my husband returned from downstairs where the night security told him that’s what it was.

It made me realize how vulnerable we are when we don’t have all the information, and how crazy it can make us. I thought back to the apartment building in London that was recently ravaged by flames, and the people who couldn’t make it out in time, knowing their fate, and just having to come to terms with it. Morbid thoughts for 1 am, I know, but sometimes I can’t help it.

Sometimes – most times, actually, we don’t really have all the answers, and – depending on how we usually let our brains wander – that can lead to negative unintended consequences. This is a phrase I’ve come to respect, since listening to Michael Bierut’s TED talk, and now I recognize it everywhere; in day-to-day decisions, when I’m cooking one thing and end up with another, and most usually when I allow myself to go down the road of either a positive or negative-thought process. Sometimes we don’t even have the right questions. And, sometimes, we doubt ourselves so much in the process of getting to the right answers that we derail a good thing before it even has a chance to get started. So, for now I’m trying to create more positive unintended consequences (does that negate the unintended part?) and I guess the best place to start is by getting all of the bad mojo out of the way and thinking only in love and light.

We’ve been stuck in the house lately. Partly because it’s Saudi Arabia in July and there’s nothing more than malls and restaurants to keep us – and the rest of the population – busy, but also because our car was rendered undrivable by an accident last week. It doesn’t really get to me until it does, if that makes sense. I can go about my days just fine – yoga, coffee, breakfast, baby naps, cleaning, exercise, cooking – and then suddenly, I realize how cooped up I am, like a cat, but without the luxury of just eating and sleeping. Netflix has been keeping us company a lot more, too, which I don’t think is too much to brag about, but it is what it is.

When I think of home, I miss a lot of things, but the ability just to leave the house at a moment’s notice (well, you know, within the hour now with a 10 month old) is one of the things I usually miss the most. Freedom of movement is important, but having somewhere to go is even more important. For the time being, I’m working on creating some of my own spaces and places to go. I can’t be the only one yearning to make a home away from home, right?

Life, marriage

Love is… Peeling Tomatoes

Marriage is hard, ya’ll. I’m only two years in and it’s been pretty amazing, but not without its fair share of challenges.

My husband and I had a whirlwind romance. From talking to dating to engaged to married within 6 months. It was one of those things that just worked; there was no agonizing back and forth or anxiety over whether I was doing the right thing. I was – and still am! – completely at ease and comfortable with the decision I made. I’m from California, he’s from Lebanon, and neither of us had ever visited each other’s home countries before meeting. Yet, somehow the fundamentals of our thinking mesh. Most of the time. There are plenty of disagreements and misunderstandings and times when I feel like we’re speaking different languages (and times when we are…). Add a kid into that, and there are times when we might as well be from different planets. Like, when I first realized that he wanted me to peel the tomatoes every time I made a salad, I couldn’t help but calculate the minutes I would spend in the next 50 years, hunched over the kitchen sink skinning tomatoes. I mean, some nights I want to forego the salad all together. But I (usually) don’t.20160219_142347.jpg

A very wise woman who I had the pleasure of knowing since I was 6 years old always told me that marriage isn’t about love and passion. Those things are great to have, but the cornerstone of any solid marriage is respect. Without that, you’ve got nothin’. There are many things that go into making a marriage – or any relationship – work, but if you don’t have respect for the other person, then you’re not going to get anything positive out of it. Along with respect, I would say, comes gratitude.

Look, I get that when you’ve had a sick, fussy baby attached to your leg/boob/hip all day and your husband walks through the door, the first thing you want to do – feel entitled to do – is to throw baby and lock yourself in the bathroom for an hour. (That’s not just me, right?) But to respect your spouse and the hellish day they’ve also had means that you sit and suffer through the next two hours until bedtime together, then lock yourself in the bathroom. (Kidding. Kind of.)

I often see posts about women not needing to thank their husbands for watching their own children and taking offense to calling it babysitting when it’s their own flesh and blood. Girl, I feel you, I do. And, without getting into the semantics, let me just say that if your husband thinks that he’s doing you a favor or putting himself out in any way by watching his own children every once in a while, then you’ve got a bigger problem than I can tackle in this blog post.

gratitude1.jpg

BUT. I do believe in saying thank you. Not because it’s a grand gesture or a huge favor, but because gratitude is important in a relationship, even if it’s for the things that should come naturally. Everyone loves to feel appreciated. Everyone needs to feel valued. I’m grateful for my husband as a partner. I’m grateful for the support, encouragement, cups of coffee, and affection he gives me, even when I smell like spoiled milk and haven’t washed my hair in days. I’m grateful for the little things he does for me, and the huge things he provides for our family. I know the pressure on men doesn’t always seem equal to that of a woman, but it still exists, and we’ve got to be aware and proactive in making our partners feel understood.

We chose our partners at one time, and all things considered, we’ve got to make the effort to continue choosing them every day. So, say thank you more often, even if you feel like it’s a silly thing to appreciate. You may even be shocked to see that gratitude brings out an even softer, more generous side of your partner.

Life, Uncategorized

Thursday Thoughts

What a week. It’s Ramadan – for those of you who don’t know what that is, here’s a couple of nice pieces explaining it – so the whole country is operating on an upside down schedule, which is always a great and not-so-great thing. Great because it means that we get to spend a lot more time with friends, eating good food (and let’s not forget the sweets!), and together as a family. Not so great because it means being social every single night, cleaning up and cooking (and eating) a ton more than usual, and sleeping/waking up later than responsible grown ups should. Also, Adam considers his 10 pm sleep a nice little nap that boosts his energy for the rest of the night.

Screenshot 2017-06-15 14.55.17
Ramadan sweets – @mama.fil

Spending so much time in the kitchen and cleaning up around the house can get really dull, so I really try to use it wisely and enrich myself spiritually, you know, filling up the cup so I can give to others, blah blah blah. TED talks to the rescue. If you don’t know what TED talks are, like, what? How? Where have you been? They’re great, short(ish) lectures given by inspiring(ish) people on cool(ish) topics. I add the (ish) because, as with anything, what you get out of them really depends on where you’re at mentally and emotionally and whether or not there’s a screaming baby tugging at your shirt or trying to eat/murder/love the cat. This week’s listens have actually inspired two blog posts, so it’s been really productive(ish).

The first talk was something that really hit home with me, because I have been going back and forth about whether to start a few projects for far too long now, and it really gave me the push I needed to finalllyyyyyyy get started. In a nutshell: Tim Ferriss is prone to depressive episodes that have left him teetering on the edge of suicide too many times, and the one thing that he said scared him the most after the most recent one was how everything just came down to chance. If he hadn’t done xyz, he for sure would have gone through with his plan. So, as a business-savvy man of logic, he decided to kind of study the things that were likely to push him over the edge – which, like most of us revolve mainly around the decisions we face and the likelihood of failure –  and came up with a set of worksheets to analyze each decision not based on what his goals were, but based on the likelihood for failure, and by imagining the worst-case scenarios for each decision. So, instead of defining your goals, he asks you to define your failures and kind of work through those scenarios in your head until you’ve got a grasp on what that reality would look like.

Wow. Now, I’ve heard of such an activity before, especially while researching activities in controlling my anxiety, but this is different for a couple of reasons. First, because he actually set out a plan of how to consider these scenarios and gives you something tangible to write down, a guide to think it through. This is important because a lot of times people make abstract comments like, “change the way you think,” or, “refocus your attention on the positive outcomes,” and it’s like, if I could do that so easily, don’t you think I would have? Tim actually coaches you through it, so it makes it a little more manageable.

And that brings me to the second reason why I think this is different: because while you’re going through these worksheets – asking yourself to fully explore not only the absolute worst consequences if you take action, but also if you don’t take action – it gives you a little space to kind of feel yourself out. Through all of this, you remove the pressure of having to listen to yourself, which gives you the distance you need to hear yourself and feel out your intuition, which usually provides all the insight you need to make a choice (under normal, mentally-stable circumstances, of course, which are not always what we’re working with). Sometimes trying to listen to your gut can give you even more anxiety because you’re so close to the situation that you can’t get a real idea of what you’re feeling, or because there are so many emotions mixed up that it can be really difficult to get a straight answer from yourself.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Also don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @mama.fil, and Snapchat @kelisep

Life, Uncategorized

Biting babies and emergency rooms

My boobie-biter is back to his original (and then some) naughtiness!

The last week has been one for the books. It started out with what we thought was a really horrible bout of teething; we could actually see the little tips of the canines poking through and of courseee I had prepared for some sleepless nights and clingy days, but what came next was the kind of thing that makes you want to sink into a bubble bath with Netflix and a cigarette for the foreseeable future. First there was the night waking, which made any possibility of A sleeping in his own bed actually impossible and seem like a distant fantasy that I could expect sometime between the ages of 3 and 23. But then there was a fever, which I also knew could happen with teething, but this thing was relentless. Fevers scare me, and fevers that don’t go away – and keep rising, like up to 102, 103.1 – no matter what we do scare me even more.  So it was off to the ER for us, which brings a whole new set of fears when you live in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has many great things to offer expats and locals alike. Unfortunately, organization, professionalism, and up-to-date technology in hospitals are not typically among them. Each doctor we saw had a different course of action to take, a different suggestion, and by the time we were back in the ER two days later with an even higher fever, the doctor who looked at him for an entire 12 seconds decided he was dehydrated because he was crying but there were no tears and that he needed a full blood work up. 7 nurses and 4 pokes later, they couldn’t find a vein and I was holding my kid like some rabid mama bear and wouldn’t let anyone anywhere near him.

Mamas, when something like this happens – and this can happen anywhere, in any country – and you feel uncomfortable, or you want them to stop and take a moment to breathe, speak up! It doesn’t matter if they’re nurses, doctors, the president (or especially if it’s the president these days…); ask questions until you’re comfortable, and ask them what other options you have. One doctor (on the third trip to the ER when Adam hadn’t peed in over 13 hours) saw how upset I was and, instead of calming me down and reassuring me of the situation, flippantly suggested that we admit Adam to the hospital and give him IV fluids until he peed. If I hadn’t calmed down (OK, OK, hubby forced me to calm down, but still…) and asked what other options we had – which included just waiting it out because it actually wasn’t an urgent case yet – I would’ve been subjecting poor Adam to even more than he’d already been through completely unnecessarily.

Too often our intuition gets squished down because it ‘doesn’t make sense’ or because there’s no ‘real’ evidence of what we’re feeling. But that doesn’t mean what you’re feeling has no place in the discussion. You know your baby best, and if something feels off, it probably is. Social decorum and not offending someone who has an MD after their name should take a backseat when it comes to taking care of your baby.

Anyway, we’re on the other end of it now, thank God, and if you’re wondering what it was that made little A so sick – German Measles! I didn’t even know it was a thing that kids could get, and was super upset to know that he would have been vaccinated for it at 9 months, which he turned yesterday!

Also, did you ever notice baby’s personality changed after being sick? I swear the kid has developed some new not-so-desirable traits, some more grouchiness, aaand some extra rude nursing habits (aforementioned boobie biting being just one of them), all of which I’m hoping mellow out in the near future so this mama isn’t so mentally drained by the end of the day. Is there any hope? Also, any tips to get the biting to stop, please and thank you!

baby-proofing, Life, teething, Uncategorized

No sharp edges or pretty things

When A was born, I was so scared to hold him. Newborns are really floppy, and I was always scared that I would bend him the wrong way and he would just snap in half and, well… they were never good thoughts. I loved how tiny and cute he was, but also kind of wished he’d grow up a bit. Then when he did, I couldn’t wait for him to be able to roll over. Then sit up on his own. Then crawl. And now, we’re in the he-can-walk-holding-things-but-not-quite-by-himself stage. And now I can’t wait to have a house NOT decorated by brightly-colored alphabet mats and floors slick with drool.

You know that really classy, chic coffee table you found while vacationing in Morocco that you just HAD to have, no matter how much of a small fortune it cost to ship home? The one with all the abstract and cool sharp edges that jut out this way and that? Ya, that’s gotta go. Along with any low-hanging shelves, decor within 2 feet of the ground, those Bath and Body plug-ins that make your house smell less like dust and milk, all of it. Gone. Stuffed away into the closet (which also, by the way, needs to be dealt with because baby can reach all those dresses that you never wear anymore because they don’t have quick boob-access, which is pretty much what determines your outfits these days). Bye, bye.

Not to make it sound so negative, because I’m sure there is a lot to look forward to once baby starts crawling, then walking, then I can never sit down again because he doesn’t even sit still now and he can’t really move that much so what will it be like once he can move BY HIMSELF. Where was I? Right, baby-proofing. So ya, that’s where we are. Packing up anything cool and hip and trading it in for soft, squishy, and drool-proof.

What about you, mamas? Was it hard to transition your house to be baby-friendly or did you find it totally easy?

breastfeeding, Life

Am I Doing This Right?

This is part 1 of 2 of my breastfeeding journey. Yes, it’s going to take two whole posts to cover all that happened, and yes I will probably leave some things out – either because I forgot in order to actually be able to go through this whole process again with the next baby, or because I just really don’t want to scare you. I added a ton of links throughout the post that can help if you’re interested, so click away!

On September 5, 2016 I thought I was giving birth to a healthy baby boy. It turns out, I was bringing into the world yet another boobie barnacle.

This is not a list of dos and don’ts. I can’t provide that because your experience will be totally different than mine because you gave birth to an entirely different human than me. But I do want to share the details of my experience in hopes that if my story is anything like yours, you can see something that will help.

Now, before I go any further I want to make something clear: there is no disagreement that breast is best. It is. That’s just the fact. But that doesn’t mean that breastfeeding is going to work out for everyone – for whatever reason – and that doesn’t mean that formula is bad. Formula has kept millions of babies healthy, well-fed, and ALIVE for years. I don’t care how you feed your baby, and I am not here to shame you. Frankly, I think it’s sad and a huge testament to the state of the mommy community that I even have to preface my post with this. Feed your baby. Be proud of the choices you make. You are a warrior, mama, and nobody is here to make you question yourself. Breastfeeding is what I know because that’s what I did, and so that’s what I can talk about. I am passionate about breastfeeding because I had a really difficult time getting to the point where I loved it, and I want to share my experience with the hope that it can help other women love it too.

If you can’t breastfeed, but want to, and this information helps you, that’s great. If you can’t breastfeed, or you don’t want to, that’s great too. Regardless of how you feed your baby I would love to be able to meet up for a cup of coffee one day and laugh about how, even though we totally adore our kids, they can be super assholes sometimes.

Breastfeeding does not come naturally, contrary to what we are led to believe. Breastfeeding is something that most women are able to do, but it is not something that we immediately know how to do. And that’s the part that a lot of us can’t understand. If our bodies are able to create milk and our babies are able to suck as soon as they’re earthside, why doesn’t it always work?

I read everything there was to read about having the baby and virtually nothing about breastfeeding. Why? Because I didn’t think it would be that hard. In reality, it’s been the hardest part about motherhood so far. Why? Because I didn’t think it would be this hard.

I was absolutely shocked how much my son wanted to nurse. Boobie barnacle is not hyperbole. This kid did not leave the boob for 6 weeks. He would suck a little, sleep a little, suck a little, sleep a little, and if I tried to actually remove him from my breast, he would cry. A lot. The inner dialogue in my head was on a loop – Was my milk enough? Was he still hungry? Should I give him a bottle of formula just in case? Maybe I should go buy a scale so that I could weigh him before and after each feed. Am I doing this right? These thoughts that flooded my brain are the same thoughts that every new mom whose boobs are suddenly responsible for sustaining life has.

Now, I am not a doctor or a lactation consultant, but I am a mom who has talked to lots of other moms and the one thing they all said: this is normal behavior for newborns. It’s also normal behavior for new moms to call the doctor and ask a million questions and want to make sure their baby isn’t starving. My only advice when you’re worried if your baby isn’t getting enough to eat would be this: ask, check, consult, but make sure you’re asking the right person. Just because there’s an MD after their name doesn’t make them an expert on or an advocate for breastfeeding. My right person happened to be a local La Leche League leader and a Facebook group dedicated to helping mamas breastfeed, led by an amazing IBCLC/Doula, Cass Romero-Schroeder. These websites also helped – and still do! – a lot.

The fact is that we won’t know how much our baby is getting when they’re breastfeeding and if it’s our first time, we are going to be plagued with worry over the issue. But the number one indication that your baby is getting enough to eat – aside from his growth – is the number of dirty diapers he is having. Other things – like how full your breasts feel, how fussy the baby is, how well (or not) he’s sleeping – don’t necessarily mean you don’t have enough milk

After Adam’s first check up and weigh in, I knew that he was OK, and that my milk was enough. His doctor – who was encouraging and supportive of my decision to exclusively breastfeed – told me the best thing I could do is just keep feeding him whenever he wanted to eat, which was still all the time. She also told me that I needed to eat all the time and drink a ton of water and rest when I could, and that my body would know what to do. Our bodies know what to do. You are enough. 

One thing that I had heard a lot about before having the baby was different supplements and herbs that could help make more milk. They came in all forms – from pills to teas to cookies – and all had roughly the same ingredients. I’m not going to tell you that these don’t work, but I am going to tell you that the evidence that they work is anecdotal at best, and many of the ingredients may do more harm than good by irritating baby’s tummy. The best way to increase your supply – if you even have a low supply to begin with, which you probably don’t! – is to nurse baby all the time and take really good care of yourself. Eat A LOT of good food, and indulge in a little chocolate and ice cream, too. Take vitamins. Drink tea. Eat cookies. Do some yoga poses or take a walk. Do these things because it’s good for your body and soul, not because it will increase your milk. KellyMom has a great overview on how and when to take supplements, but I would really recommend getting in touch with an IBCLC if you’re worried about your supply. There are other issues that could be impacting your nursing relationship that an IBCLC would be able to discuss with you, too, such as lip and tongue ties. 

Overall, the more our milk is removed, the more it’s produced. That’s just how the boobs work. So feeding the baby is the best way to make more milk. Pumping is also a great way to kickstart the remove – produce cycle, but be warned: oversupply is a real thing and it is not fun. You know best what your schedule is going to look like, and if/when you have to return to work before baby is 6 weeks, pumping may be necessary. But inform yourself first and look out for cues of oversupply. Discuss your options with your person, and make a plan from there.

Look out for my next post all about my oversupply issues, the problems I had because of that, and how I was able to correct it, resulting in a happy boobie monster and happy mommy.