I don’t want to have it all

If you haven’t watched Michelle Wolf’s stand up comedy special, Nice Lady, do so right now.  Actually, wait until after you read my blog post.  She does a bit about the expectations of mothers and the demands that are placed on them. She observes how mothers are encouraged to work but if they call out sick they won’t be seen as being dedicated enough to their jobs, she jokes about how mothers are told to breastfeed but then they must do so in a private space.  She then comments about how a woman has to  please her husband before he leaves her, and that woman are supposed to navigate these things all the while smiling (The skit is much funnier to watch). But seriously I have never heard anything so real in my life.  My soul connected to that segment of her show because I feel the expectations that are placed on me now are higher than they have ever been.  I want to think most of them are what I place on myself, but I’m not entirely sure.  Here’s what a rundown of my day feels like:  breastfeed, clean the house, find the burp cloth I left somewhere, make nutritious meals, workout (but make sure it’s a time when the baby is asleep or when I can feed her first), practice yoga and mindfulness, be environmentally conscious and use cloth diapers/ decomposable disposable diapers, change diapers, change baby’s outfit due to baby shitting up her entire back, do laundry, do more laundry, fold clothes, take my vitamins, play with the baby, but NO TV or electronics for baby, research vaccines, go to work, find time to finish paperwork, help others, pump while at work, carry pumping stuff to and from work, remember to eat, oops I lost the pacifier, where the HELL is the burp cloth, make time for friends, be a good wife, take care of myself.  Sometimes I just want to explode.gil-head-explode-again

Other days I feel super empowered and accomplished when I feel like I’ve done it all, and done it all well. My mood is so high and I feel like I can take on anything, and proud of myself for being able to accomplish so much.Wonder_Woman_(2017_film)

On the days I forget something or feel I’m not doing my best, my mood plummets and I hit a low.  I cried twice yesterday.  When I’m overwhelmed, something as small as the paper towel roll not being replaced with a new paper towel spirals to the dark place in my mind where no one cares about me.  Being a Mom also means a new level of guilt I have never experienced before.  Even something as simple as making plans to celebrate a birthday escalates to having overwhelming guilt for wanting to be a role other than a parent and go out at night for the first time without my daughter.  Having it all is not a set structure; it is a super delicate balancing act and one small move can make everything crumble.

On top of that, what’s been even more emotionally tolling is how I haven’t lost all of the baby weight yet.  I am working out and eating healthy and expected that I should be back to my old size by now. Some women have boasted, oh just keep breastfeeding the weight will melt off.  Well fuck them because it’s been almost three months since I had my baby and I’m still 15 pounds heavier than I was when I got pregnant.  Which is another reason why there should be longer paid maternity leave in this country.  No one talks about the distress of trying to fit back into your old work clothes only to find you are two inches from buttoning those pants.Rubber-band-trick-9


And I don’t want to buy all new clothes (especially since I don’t have any money) when I plan to fit into my old clothes in just a few weeks (or so I have told myself).

All in all, you can probably see how I have or almost have a mild to severe mental breakdown almost daily.   And despite my baby being the reason all of these things in my life have changed, looking at her and holding her makes all of the craziness go away, even if only for a few seconds.  I have never experienced so much love and joy.  I just have to turn some of that love towards myself and remind myself that I am absolutely doing the best I can, and that best is good enough.  Also, please go find a mom and give her a big hug.

It’s beginning to look a lot like gender norms…

The Holidays are quickly approaching us.  I have done zero shopping and have begun stressing about choosing the right gifts at the very last minute for my friends and family.   Even though I have been out of work the majority of the past 6 weeks, it doesn’t seem that “skipping” the gift-giving part of Christmas is an option, even though people know I just had a baby 6 weeks ago.  IF YOU LOVE PEOPLE, YOU MUST BUY THEM THINGS!!! LOTS OF THINGS!!! Despite my husband and I doing secret Santa with our families, there is still an unspoken pressure to buy for all of my parents, my grandmother, all of the kids (and spoiled teenagers) in my family.   If I don’t buy gifts for all of these people,  I am afraid I will be seen as selfish or cheap.  And notice I say I, because I automatically assume the role of choosing and purchasing the gifts that come from both me and my husband.

Having a baby has already lead my husband and I to adhere to more of the typical gender norms, which is hard enough as it is for me.  I HATE CLEANING!  I don’t mind cooking but something really grinds my gears about me having dinner ready for when my husband comes home from work (I usually don’t).  I see a woman from the 50’s in an apron with a baby on her hips asking her husband if he needs anything and waiting on him hand and foot. halloween1 By no means does my husband expect this from me, but for some reason I feel like I am being taken advantage of (by society???) when I do certain tasks around the house.

Do I want to take the trash out?  Not really.  Do I know how to fix something on my car (or anything for that matter?)  Definitely not.  I was never taught the more “masculine” tasks growing up.  My complex probably stems from childhood.  Being the only girl out of 4 children, very early on I strove for perfectionism and achievement.  My brothers knew this about me and used this against me for chores.  I clearly remember having to vacuum instead of my brothers because I did a, “better job” than they did.  I remember how angry I felt then, knowing they were tricking my mom into making me do their chores because I would usually try hard at whatever I did.

Fast forward to adulthood.  You know what vision I have of the holidays?  My grandmother cooking in the kitchen while the women help her.  After dinner the women (usually me and my grandmother) automatically start to clear plates and clean up while the men sit around, usually watching sports and drinking beers.   Never do they offer to help.   One Thanksgiving I actually boycotted cleaning and told the men it was their turn to help.  It worked, but for only one time.   For me, they would rather soak up their male privilege and be lazy while the women suffer.  My younger brother will actually make jokes about my role as a woman being in the kitchen.

And can we talk about Christmas cards?  Now that I have a little one, once again the pressure is felt to show off our new bundle of joy.  97c94fd2-f575-4550-80bb-5055dcd425b4_text_hi

I seriously wonder, has a man EVER organized the pictures, labeled, and sent out Christmas cards? Why is this task left up to me, and most women I presume.  Luckily, for most things I talk to my husband and let him know exactly when I feel this way and things he can do to help.  I don’t do these tasks and pretend like I love to do them to please my man.  He’s the first person that knows homie don’t play that game.   More women should speak out and refuse to do things just because it has traditionally been done by women.   Do things together!  Ask for help, and accept things even if it’s not done exactly the way you like them to be.   And if someone asks you why the presents aren’t wrapped on Christmas morning, just explain that Santa went on strike.

Let’s talk shit

Having an infant means changing diapers.  Lots. of. diapers.  I have been thinking about diapers incessantly since I was pregnant, because my eco-conscious mind has been debating various types of diapers and using the most eco-friendly as well as the most budget friendly diapers I could.  Now that the babe is here and is going through diapers faster than I can guzzle a meal into my mouth, I wanted to share some brands that have worked well.
My husband and I decided we wanted to use cloth diapers.  I was clueless as to which brand to use.  It really came down to cost.   Alva Baby was the cheapest cloth diaper we could find.  61hYt752aHL._SY355_
We did put some on our registry, but apparently people think you’re really weird when you want to use cloth diapers, so we only received 6.  We had found used cloth diapers online ( I can imagine this also that sounds really strange), and bought about 18 for $100.  But we soon realized that “one size” does not really mean one size.  I researched and realized that the baby would need newborn size.  We ordered a bunch of newborn size Alva Baby diapers band new which have fit her really well.  She has been in them over a month now and they still fit.  The only problem with these diapers is we can’t seem to get the poop stain out- we use Dreft stain remover, baking soda, and Seventh Generation Detergent and it still seems to leave a yellow stain.  I have no idea how the parents cleaned the cloth diapers we bought from them!  Cloth diapers are obviously a but more work, we do presoak them in a bucket in the bathroom and once full throw them in the washing machine.  Despite the staining I do like these diapers, although  I have not yet tried any other brand.
I also found Andy Pandy diapers.  503bbf89126b9754b5e34b373f87d697--pandy-diapersThey are bamboo and biodegradable which was super important for me, because you know, the earth and all.  I couldn’t live with myself piling up the landfills with Pampers or Huggies.  And being honest with myself I knew I wasn’t going to ALWAYS use cloth especially when traveling.  I do love these diapers, but the sizing does run large, and even though I purchased newborn size, I had to fold the tops of the diapers to have them fit the babe, and even then they seemed too large.  When she hit the 8.5lb mark they fit her much better.   They are absorbent and show when she is wet with a blue line on the diaper.   These run about $35 for 94.
Due to the Andy Pandy being too large at first, we did go with Honest Diapers. 81vxHODYjxL._SX355_ The newborn size are true to size.  And they are super cute as well- not like you ever really see the diaper since babies do usually have clothes on.  These are also absorbent and decently priced.  These run about $14 for 40.  So far she hasn’t had diaper rash and seems to do well using a combination of all three.
 I succumb to my role of the gruesome diaper changes, blowouts, and feces up the back of her clothes.  Luckily it really is true that your own kids poop is less gross to you than other kids poop, but it still does stink on many different levels.  🙂

Practicing mindfulness with an infant

I have always been a type A personality;  competitive, ambitious, finishing people’s sentences because they are talking too slowly, impatient, always busy working and looking to achieve my next goal.  I am used to a fast paced, work myself to the bone type of lifestyle.  When I started my private practice I would see 10 clients back to back, putting in 12 hour days.  Even when I was pregnant I was still working 10 hour days.  People would often ask me how I could possibly have the energy to do it.  Luckily, I was not very fatigued during my pregnancy and I love my job so much that it often doesn’t feel like work.  Another factor that contributed to my number of hours is having no paid maternity leave as a small business owner.   (I won’t even get into the horrific and pathetic lack of paid family leave time in this country).  I needed to ensure that the mortgage and certain bills would be paid for the amount of time I would be out of work.  Saving was all up to me so I had to be very savvy with my income for the past several months.

A consequence of being type A and working so tirelessly is stress level and difficulty balancing personal and work life.  To manage stress I work out, ( I especially love doing barre classes), yoga, and mediation.  But when I had my baby, all of my stress relief/ exercise strategies came to a halt.  I noticed an increased amount of frustration towards the baby, as I couldn’t engage in any of the activities that have helped shaped my identity.     With a baby it’s almost nearly impossible to do things on the timeframe you plan.  If you want to go somewhere you no longer can say confidently that you will be somewhere on time.  The baby calls the shots- when she eats, sleeps, poops (like the explosive diarrhea she just had while sitting on my lap).  It is certainly a constant juggling act with meeting her needs.  The days can feel very chaotic and can fly by.

One of the hardest things to get used to has been breastfeeding.  It feels like I am ALWAYS feeding this child!  I often say there is no way she is hungry, I just fed her, only for her to ravenously suck at my nipple when I offer it to her.  I have been proven wrong on many occasions about her appetite.  Breastfeeding is challenging and can be painful and exhausting, so I began to think of ways to slow myself down and make the activity more enjoyable, rather than wishing it to be over and thinking about all of the other things I “could” be doing.  So I adapted some mindfulness techniques to be more in the moment.

Mindfulness- fully attending to the present moment and what you’re currently doing without judgement.  There is lots of research showing the benefits of mindfulness such as a reduction in anxiety,  and improved memory function and emotion regulation.  I began being mindful while breastfeeding not only to find more enjoyment in feeding my child, but also to incorporate a practice for me that I have been neglecting since she has been born.  This is how I have been mindfully breastfeeding:

  1. Pay attention to something that you see- I usually focus on my baby’s features, her cute eyes, nose, how much hair is growing in, etc.
  2. Pay attention to something you smell- I usually sniff my baby’s head or light a candle or plug in a tart warmer or essential oil that I enjoy.
  3. Pay attention to something you can hear- I listen to the noises she makes when feeding or put on music that I enjoy and helps me relax
  4. Pay attention to something you can touch/feel- I hold her hand or feel my hand supporting her neck, or pay attention to the sensation of her feeding.
  5. Pay attention to something you can taste- this one I don’t always pay attention to but you can eat a snack or a candy or gum while breastfeeding

I feel by being mindful I can appreciate the moment I am in with my baby and remember that I am doing the most important job, which is providing my baby nourishment which will give her health and vitality.  I feel more connected to my baby and am overall more calm and less frustrated with the whole breastfeeding process.  I may not ever be a Type B personality, but I can learn to go more with the flow and accept things for as they happen rather than what I try to plan.

Praising the partners

We all like to know when we are doing a good job

A few days ago it was my husbands birthday.  I woke up that morning to find that he was no longer in the bed, and I heard some items being moved downstairs.  The baby woke up and as I began to feed her, my husband came back upstairs.  In an annoyed attitude I asked him what he was doing.  My husband replied that he was cleaning out the guest room and organizing it along with all of the baby items.  My grumpy attitude quickly diminished and I felt remorseful for how quick I have been prone to anger with my husband and lashing out at him  verbally sometimes.  I realized in this moment that I need to stop feeling so angry and irritable with him.  In the past couple weeks I have scolded him for things he isn’t doing/ not doing “correctly,” and for not understanding my experience as a Mom.  Of course he can’t understand my experience, and it’s not his fault!  Biologically he was not created to have his body get pregnant, completely change, deliver a child, breastfeed, and feel his body has been completely hijacked.  Every time I complain about my body or my mood, he always comforts me and tells me how beautiful I am and what a great Mom I am.  I often dismiss his comments which probably makes him feel even more helpless.   On this day I realized how important it is to praise our partners, especially the ones who are doing everything they can.  My husband may not be able to physically feed the baby with his body right now, but his way of contributing is everything else he is doing.  All of the work he does around the house,  going to work every day as I take some time off, cleaning, changing diapers, burping, playing with the baby, etc.   All of these things help ease my stress and feelings of being overwhelmed which in turn makes it easier to care for the baby and be calm around her.  I know these things, but it doesn’t always make it easy to identify them in the moment.  I can identify them now because I am calm, but it is much more difficult to do when I am upset, or when anyone is upset.

In a very simplistic explanation, our brain can be divided into various parts.  We have our brainstem, that is responsible for basic functions we do not have to think about (like breathing,  swallowing, heart rate).   We have our limbic system, (which deals with emotions, memories, and arousal) aka the emotional brain.  Then we have the prefrontal cortex (which deals with cognitive behavior and decision making, otherwise known as our rational brain).  Often when we are triggered or our emotions are activated we are predominantly in our emotional brain,  and it can be difficult to access our rational brain, which is why we can say or do things we later don’t mean, think things are going to be or feel a certain way forever, etc.  Due to lack of sleep, hormones, and various feelings, I have often been stuck in my emotional brain, and therefore lashing out.  I have been neglecting my rational brain,  which is helpful for logical thought and thinking through a certain behavior and consequences of that behavior.   Sometimes it feels as though there is a bridge between these two brains that has crumbled.  It is important for me to remember to incorporate my rational brain and to use the bridge between the two brains in order to manage situations more effectively.  This is called using the wise mind- valuing and using both emotions and logic to manage every day situations.   An example of how I could do this would be if my husband came home and sat on the couch; rather than just immediately demonstrating my anger and making a comment about how I am feeling angry because he didn’t come home and immediately take the baby, I could recognize that I feel angry, and then logically try to understand what is stemming that anger- did I take a nap today?  Was the baby extra fussy today? If I yell at him for sitting down,  is he going to be more or less willing to get along with me?  Then I can make a decision using both minds, the “wise mind” and recognize I feel anger but know it is coming from lack of sleep and knowing that my husband worked all day and maybe needs a few minutes to relax.  Then I can be more reasonable and perhaps ask about his day and let him know I would like him to take the baby when he is ready.

My changing moods and hormones do not justify me lashing out or making my husband feel bad about things he can’t/ hasn’t/ doesn’t know how to do.  Parenting is a team effort, and it doesn’t help anyone when emotions are running the conversations and interactions between the two.  I am working on being more patient and using my wise mind so I can better maintain my role as a partner and wife so that both my husband and myself feel happy not only as parents but also as equal partners in our marriage.   So let your partner know when they do a good job (even if it’s not the way you would do something) and let them know how valuable they are to your relationship.  We all like to know when we are doing a good job and are better motivated by positive reinforcement rather than punishment.

First blog post

(Pause for 25 min to change and feed her, while leaking breastmilk all over myself).

I am entirely new to the blog world.  I have only followed and read one blog so far in my life.  I don’t necessarily think my life is exceptionally special or interesting, but I have a strong desire to write openly and honesty about my experiences, connect to others, and to help other people feel like they have someone to relate to.  Within the past year I got married and had my first child.  I first had the idea to start a blog when I was pregnant, but I put it off until now (my baby is now over 3 weeks old).  I think this idea came to be when pregnant because it was an experience that was completely different than anything I had experienced, and wanted to share that with others and learn about other women’s experiences as I transitioned to motherhood.  I have been fearful of failure and not really knowing how to navigate blogging (I still don’t know, and don’t know how to get followers).  But I figure why not give it a try.  I enjoy writing and haven’t done so in many years.   My goal is to write about my life; my trials and tribulations, positive and negative experiences, and also offer advice and hope to others.

I am a social worker by trade and this has been my identity and purpose in life.  I love my job and work with people affected by trauma everyday.  It has been an amazing and rewarding career that I will continue to do for many years to come.  I would like to incorporate some of my knowledge and education as a therapist into this blog as well.

My husband is a recovering alcoholic.  He has been sober for nearly two years.  Him getting clean and being involved in AA saved our relationship and has helped him grow tremendously as a person.  Our relationship became stronger due to his journey and I wouldn’t change how we got to where we are.   He is an amazing husband and father, but this aspect of his life and being as involved in “the rooms”  also brings with it difficulties, jealousy, and loneliness for me.   I have often googled about spouses experiences of being married to someone in recovery without much luck.  I hope to bring some awareness and conversation about the spouses experience of recovery.

Most recently, I became a mom.  As I am currently typing my baby woke up and began crying.   (Pause for 25 min to change and feed her, while leaking breastmilk all over myself).  Getting used to caring for another human being above all of my own needs has been a tremendous adjustment in my life.   I know this role has only just begun for me, but it is certainly challenging, stressful, and wonderful all at the same time.  I have had bouts of crying as I breastfeed in the middle of the night, resentful feelings of my husband who can freely move about his life (i.e., leaving the house to go to meetings) while I sit home completely responsible for the food source for my child.  I also wonder how I will be able to balance all of these roles and still find time for me, especially when I return to work.

So this blog is going to be about what’s happening currently and touching upon all of these topics and more- going with the flow from day to day and expressing what’s going on in my life and how I am handling it from a real and honest perspective.