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

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.

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?

Life

Get on the bus.

 

I had a History teacher in high school who told the most amazing stories. I can’t remember a time in my life where I was so captivated by the words coming out of someone’s mouth (aside from when I met my husband, of course!) than when Mr. Welch told us stories. Marie Antoinette, the Crusades, the Salem Witch Trials; things that your average high schooler wouldn’t really care about, except we did. A lot. Because we had a teacher who brought those tales to life. One of my closest friends in high school can still recall the time I animatedly narrated the story of ill-fated Queen Mary I and her hysterical pregnancy that ended not in a prince being born, but rather in a large, foul wind and utter humiliation.

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Me (left) in high school

Mr. Welch had a story for everything, but the thing that really set him apart from other teachers was that he listened to our stories as well. As high schoolers, not many people took us seriously, but Mr. Welch did. Not many people thought the events in our lives mattered – the every day he said/she said was seen as just unimportant fodder that we wasted our time on. But Mr. Welch cared. He listened to us, asked us about our weekends, our future plans, our families. He shared details of his life, too, and made us feel like he was invested in us. To the overly-emotional teenager whose single mom was busy with work much of the time, whose closest sibling was 8 years younger, and whose dad lived 2,000 miles away, this meant a lot.

So when Mr. Welch told us the story of the bus, I listened.

The story goes something like this: each and every one of us will go through life, day by day, slaving away at whatever dream-of-the-month we’re dedicated to at the time. If we’re lucky, we love what we’re doing, if we’re not, well, we still get by. But at a certain point in everyone’s life, a bus is going to come. The bus will look different for all of us; for some it will be a covetable internship in a field we’d never dreamed of, for others it will be an invitation to a party with people we’d never get the chance to socialize with that will lead to a big career break. To get on the bus would seem like the craziest idea in the world. You may not have the money, it may not be logical, your parents would probably get upset. But some part of you, no matter how small or how quietly, will be screaming, “GET ON THE BUS!” And that’s when you have to make a choice. Will you risk getting on the bus, and maybe make the biggest mistake of your life, or will you stay, doing what you’re doing, and keep on keepin’ on? Mr. Welch’s advice? (and I quote…) “Get on the damn bus.”

So I did. When the chance to go to Saudi Arabia to teach English presented itself, I went. It was crazy. It didn’t make any sense; I was from Roseville, California and had never traveled by myself. I had no business going to a country where women couldn’t drive and where even in the most liberal of towns we were expected to don the abaya. My parents were scared and furious, and tried every play in the book to get me to stay. But I didn’t. And you know what? It was the best decision I’ve ever made.

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Me and my sister, Katlynn, the night before I left for Saudi Arabia

I’m not saying it has always been easy, or that I didn’t want to run home a billion times over the last 6 years. But the hard times built character, and the good times hold amazing memories. I met my husband, forged strong friendships with amazing people, and experienced unforgettable journeys all over the world, from Amsterdam to Hong Kong.

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Adam, hubby, me September 2016

And the adventure isn’t over yet. As I enter into motherhood, I realize that the world is still my doorstep, and as each challenge presents itself, I can’t help wonder what kind of storyteller I will be for my kids. Will I leave the same impression as Mr. Welch? Will my kids feel captivated by me or just humor me because I’m their mom then laugh about it later? Either way, I’m determined to make our life one with lots of stories to tell. I may not end up telling my kids the most exhilarating stories, but I’m determined to be right there next to them making the most amazing memories.