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.

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

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