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.

doula, Uncategorized

Sisterhood Sunday

Growing up, I was always looking for a fight. In every situation, I always seemed to find the underdog and defend them vigorously. My nana used to tell me I’d make a great lawyer, my mom would tell me I can’t fight for everyone, my dad would tell me some causes and people are better stood for in private. And while each person was attesting to some truth, there’s just something about being able to speak for people who aren’t able to speak for themselves; I’m instantly attracted to the downtrodden, no matter how hard something is to look at, I want to see it for all that it is and I want to know what I can do to fix it.

Things haven’t changed much (especially the looking for a fight part, according to hubby), so it’s no surprise that, as a woman, I feel called to support other women. Or, maybe in today’s highly but secretly competitive society – where perfectly posed shots of handcrafted cupcakes are currency and not liking someone’s picture on Instagram is grounds for excommunication – it is surprising. But that’s a different post for a different day.

If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that delivering my son was no walk in the park, nor was it a picnic (seriously, someone described their labor to me as being like a picnic before I delivered; no wonder my expectations were so unrealistic!). It was traumatic, and it still, to this day, has the power to flip my mood upside down. I’d always thought it was that way because the hospital that I went to wouldn’t give me the epidural, the country that I delivered in didn’t have higher standards of care, the doctor that was on duty at the time wasn’t nice to me and treated me as though I was weak and whiny. And, it may have been in part a combination of those things. But the biggest reason why I had such an awful birth experience was that I wasn’t prepared.

Yes, I Googled everything: pregnancy aches and pains, what was OK and what wasn’t, what to buy for baby, how to handle baby once he’s earthside, but all of that preparation was for before and after the labor. I didn’t research one thing related to the actual part where I was going to push a baby out of my lady parts. Looking back, it’s like, duh how could you be so dumb, but if I actually dissect why I didn’t feel the need to, I feel a little less stupid and a little more angry.

Growing up in a Western culture, we are often taught to see drugs as a blessing, a technological advance that we are lucky enough to have access to. It wasn’t until recently that the resistance and skepticism of such “advances” became mainstream and people started questioning our dependence on Big Pharma. What’s even worse is that the healthcare community and Big Pharma are in on it together. So it’s no wonder that one of the most natural things in the history of the universe – childbirth – has also become heavily medicalized, with all interested parties making a pretty penny off of every birth they highjack.

I’m not saying there haven’t been leaps and bounds made in terms of maternal morbidity and mortality due to technological advances, but I am pointing out that a majority of mamas don’t need any of that stuff because our bodies know what to do. (And, I would also like to point out that as far as developed nations go, the US is failing mamas and babies BIG TIME; two of the biggest reasons? The rise in C-sections and a greater focus on fetal and infant health over that of the mama.)

Y’all – we have been making and having and raising babies for as long as time has existed. We do not need a trained Obstetric surgeon to attend every birth. 

Naturally, when it came time for me to have a baby, not getting an epidural didn’t even cross my mind. Um, yes I will take the drug that makes me feel nothing so I can smile pretty for pictures when the baby is placed in my arms. So when the doctor told me I couldn’t have one, I really – for the first time in my life – was woefully helpless. I hadn’t studied even one technique to get through the pains of labor naturally, and at that moment, I was sure there weren’t any. My husband was at a loss, my doctor and nurse were overrun with patients, my closest female family members were 7,000 miles away, and I thought I was going to die from the pain. I didn’t have any other options because I hadn’t given myself any other options.

In retrospect, I know that beyond the other responsibilities that come along with mamahood, figuring out how and on which terms you want to labor is a huge one. It goes beyond whether you want drugs, episiotomies, or to breastfeed, and some may even say that it’s a political issue, the subjugation of women how it’s in the patriarchy’s best interest to make sure we’re not empowered (again, another post for another day)…

At your most vulnerable moment, when you’ve reached the lowest of lows, you’re lucky to have someone to be able to pull you out, or at the very least to chill in the darkness with you. This togetherness – this sisterhood, if you will – is something we all crave, but not many of us have the skills or resources to seek out. Yet, this village plays such an integral role in whether we’re successful in life, whether it’s in business ventures, creative adventures, or – yup, you guessed it – child rearing.

So, to do my part in empowering women with education and knowledge, I’ve become a doula and childbirth educator, as well as began my formal training to become an IBCLC.

No matter what you want your birth experience to be like, you deserve to be informed and supported completely. If more women empowered and supported other women, there’s no telling the things we could accomplish. If more women enjoyed their birth experiences and came together to help others enjoy theirs, who knows how our communities would change.

 

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

Hospital beds and laban – and a charcoal face mask

So here’s a funny story to kick your week off: my husband and I weren’t at our own wedding.

Now, if you know anything about Arab culture, it’s that they know how to get down when it comes to weddings. And the entire family/neighborhood/sometimes district comes to eat cake, dance a little, and, obviously wish the bride and groom well. But hubby and I? Ya, we couldn’t make it that day.

Rewind to a month before the wedding – we didn’t even want to have one. We were torn because while most of his family is a quick two hour flight away in Lebanon, mine is all in the US, meaning that at most only a few of my people would be able to attend our big fat Lebnani wedding. So we decided to nix the whole thing and just host small, intimate dinners for each of our families when we saw them.

But, once we arrived in Lebanon it was clear that EVERYONE was expecting a wedding, and we did not want to be the ones to let them down. We had a week, which, with everyone offering to help, didn’t seem like such a challenge. And then I got food poisoning. Now, this wasn’t an isolated event. The sickest I had ever been in my life was the first time I visited Lebanon, after my then-fiance had already left, which meant his parents were tasked with nursing me back to health. It was awful. I thought I would die. They kept feeding me laban (sour yogurt) with raw garlic and I wanted to scream, but it did the trick.

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You would never guess that I was throwing up between takes

So, 3 days before the big event, I came down with another case of food poisoning that was quickly taking over as the sickest I’d ever been, and it sucked. Aside from the whole experience of wedding planning being something so different than what I’d imagined – which was simply because I was from California and not in California, so it was just a whole other ballgame – I just didn’t have the energy to really get into it. By the time the wedding rolled around, I barely had the strength to walk, let alone smile, dance, and interact with people.

Now let me just say, even though the fact that the bride and groom were stuck in a room inside the venue didn’t stop anyone from partying, everyone was so understanding and really sympathetic. There was some speculation that it was one of the cousin’s who had bought the raw meat the day before the wedding for this Lebanese specialty – it wasn’t! I was sick a few days before that – so he felt horrible and kept apologizing. There was a sea of faces in and out of the room wanting pictures and to give us their well-wishes, family doctors bringing syringes full of different cocktails to stick me with to help stop the vomiting, and a whiff here and there of the delicious food being served. Then the time came to cut the cake and I used every ounce of strength I could muster to walk out in my 5 inch heels and wield the traditional sword to cut a slice of cake (that I couldn’t even eat, btw). To my credit, I lasted about 7 minutes before throwing up in front of everyone and making the final call that we needed to go to the hospital ASAP.

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The night ended with hubby and I both hooked up to IVs (he was sick too!) in separate beds at his parent’s house, laughing about how ridiculous the whole thing had been.

 

From that moment on, I decided to be proactive when I visited Lebanon and ordered an arsenal of supplements that would toughen up and flush out my stomach, should the need arise. One of those things was activated charcoal. Since I was pregnant the next time we went to Lebanon and couldn’t use it, I had a whole bottle just sitting around, and decided to see what other uses I could find for it. Which leads me to today’s DIY: charcoal face mask!

This mask is one of my favorites and it’s so easy to make. I open a few capsules of the charcoal tabs, mix it with a drop or two of essential oil – lavender or tea tree, depending on how my skin is feeling that day – and a tiny bit of aloe vera gel, paint it onto my face, wait about 10 minutes, then rinse it off after exfoliating with my clarisonic and a drop of sweet almond oil. You can also add some rose water if you have it laying around.

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My trusted and beloved Clarisonic, Now Foods Sweet Almond Oil, Nature’s Way Activated Charcoal, Lily of the Desert Aloe Vera Gel, and Woolzies Essential Oils

The ingredients in this mask are really great for acne-prone skin, if you have blackheads, or if you just want to get rid of the gunk that builds up over time. I would caution you to test it out on a small patch of skin first, especially if you’ve never used tea tree oil before.

Head over to my instagram @mama.fil for more pics of the products I used and to let me know how it worked out for you.

Enjoy!