6

i can’t find the pause button

Recently, the wonderfully talented Jennifer of Outsmarted Mommy wrote this post about wanting to find the rewind button. Since Jennifer is a fellow blogger who I respect and admire, and who gave me support and encouragement when I faced my first hater, this thought-provoking and beautifully written piece made me really consider why I hate being told to “Enjoy every moment.”  So, thank you, Jennifer, for forcing me to reflect on the advice I’ve been scoffing at.  And if you haven’t read her post, make sure you do!

After reading Jennifer’s post, I found myself questioning my own desire for the fast forward button. It will be great when she starts sleeping through the night, won’t it? I will be more rested when she’s not waking up three times a night to nurse, won’t I? It will be easier to address her needs when she can actually express what those needs are, won’t it? I have to believe these things, look forward to them, even if they’re not actually true, because that’s what makes this current stage bearable. Not even bearable, but possible. How can I face every day if I don’t think, hope, believe that there is an end in sight?

I can’t help but wonder: will I really miss these things? Even though everyone tells me I will, I can’t imagine it.  At 3:48 this morning, I was unceremoniously jerked awake to my baby’s persistent wails.  Even though she had eaten a little over two hours before, she was seemingly hungry.  At least for the first five minutes, until her hunger gave way to her sleepiness and she refused to wake up.  As I sat there, frustrated, exhausted, attempting to rationalize with a five month old that if she didn’t fill her belly now she would have to get up again in an hour, a fate desired by none, I thought: No way.  No way will I miss this.

Where can I find the freakin’ pause button?  Or better yet, the remote Adam Sandler had in Click so that I channel my future self, who of course has by then figured out this whole motherhood thing and has all the answers, and she can tell me what exactly it is I don’t want to miss out on.

Because “everyone” can’t be wrong, can they? The people who tell you to enjoy every moment clearly recognize that they did not and apparently regret that. They were probably offered the same advice on their journey through parenthood.  But they also did not heed it. Is it even possible?

Because the truth is, I don’t know how to live in the moment. When I wake up in the middle of the night to feed my daughter, I don’t know how to feel anything but bone tired or think about anything other than my nice, warm bed.  Knowing I am going to regret that I didn’t enjoy these moments that I wish away doesn’t make it any easier to enjoy them now.  In fact, it makes it harder.  It’s an enormous amount of pressure.  It makes me feel even more frustrated and anxious.  It makes me feel like I am just being set up for failure.

These are, of course, the rhetorical ramblings of an exhausted new mom who just realized that she hasn’t eaten anything in over twenty hours.  But that doesn’t erase the fact that I am desperately seeking the fast forward button when I need to hit pause.  And I don’t know how to stop.

I guess all I can do, all any of us can do, is take a deep breath and try to enjoy as many moments as I can.

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2

finding my moment

My daughter will be five months old in less than a week, and she still gets up three times a night to eat.  Sometimes she goes right back to sleep afterwards, and sometimes it takes her over an hour.  Some days she wakes up raring to go at 7:00 am, and some days it’s 5:00 am.  Sometimes she takes a two and a half hour nap, and one of her naps Saturday lasted a whole twelve minutes.  Whenever someone asks my husband or I if something she does is “normal” for her, we laugh.  The unexpected and the inconsistent is the expected and consistent with her.

What makes this even harder is that I am a planner. I like lists, schedules, routines.  I thrive on them.  I would love to have my girl on a schedule; in fact, I fantasize about it.  But while she seems to have inherited my determined stubbornness and my inability to sit still, my love of schedules not so much.

While she hasn’t slept in my arms for nap time in over a month (pause for brief and badly executed victory dance here), over the weekend she fell asleep while nursing.  It was shortly after the twelve minute nap.  I put her on my shoulder to burp her, which usually wakes her up.  Nope.  Out cold.  Knowing she needed the rest, I made the decision to keep holding her.

At first, all I could think about was how much my back already hurt, how my phone only had 4% battery, how the lunch my husband had just walked in the door with was waiting downstairs and I had skipped breakfast, and how I needed to get to the laundry before her morning blowout took the life of another innocent onesie.  You know, stuff regimented planners think about.

But then, she shifted.  She picked her head up, opened her eyes, looked right at me, smiled a sleepy, drooly smile, and nuzzled close to my neck.  It’s amazing how at moments your heart can feel so full you think it might explode.  This was one of those moments.  It hit me then that this might be the last time I get to hold her while she sleeps.  Forget to-do lists.  I decided to do what everyone keeps telling me to do:  just enjoy.

What is it that they put in babies that makes their smell so intoxicating?  It defies all logic.  Her entire self is usually covered in a mixture of curdled milk, drool, and urine, and yet she smells divine. It won’t be too long before she won’t let me hold her long enough to breathe her in. So I leaned in close and I drank in long, deep breaths of that sweet baby smell.

I listened to the purring sounds she makes when she transitions between sleep cycles and the soft exhalations after she gets in a comfortable position.  All too soon she will be talking back and telling me “No,” so I closed my eyes and listened to every tiny sound.

I could feel the peach fuzz growing on her head tickle the side of my neck.  I could feel the warmth from her body heat.  I could feel her little heart beating.  I rubbed my hands across that perfectly smooth skin, knowing that before long those knees will be perpetually scraped, those hands will always be dirty, and those chunky rolls on her thighs that I adore will cease to exist.

I watched her chest rise and fall with every breath.  I took in the look of peaceful content on her tiny face.  I smiled as her eyelids fluttered and she made sucking motions.  I laughed at the tiny hand that was still tightly gripping my tank top.  In no time at all, I will watch her crawl and walk and run, so I cherished this moment of stillness.

No, I didn’t eat my baby (although those chubby cheeks can be so tempting).  But I tasted life.  I tasted the moments that make motherhood so worth it.  I enjoyed every bit of my baby.  I enjoyed a time I know will not last.  At this stage, it’s hard to believe I will ever wish that I could just hold her for nap.  But I know that one day that will come.  So I snuggled a little tighter, a little longer, and I didn’t think about the pain shooting down my arm at all.  Well, at least not for the first four minutes.

10

dealing with it

Yesterday, I received my very first “mean” comment.  When I first started this blog, I knew that not everyone would like what I had to say, but I was naïve enough to believe that such a raw, honest, and vulnerable sharing of my soul would deter people from expressing their distaste.  Well, I was wrong.  Apparently “troll” no longer only applies to those creepy little dolls with the crazy hair.  After spending the entire day and night crying and obsessing over this comment, I got my puffy-eyed, sniffling, pounding headache self out of bed and wrote this letter to my daughter.

My dearest baby girl,

Yesterday, someone tried to post a really mean and hurtful comment on my blog. I spent a lot of time and energy being upset about that one comment.  It seemed to outweigh all of the really positive feedback I’ve gotten and all of the people I’ve helped.  And as I perseverated endlessly, I kept thinking about you.  About the fact that, despite how much my heart aches just thinking about it, you too will have to deal with people like this.  People who want to bring you down.  I won’t be able to take that pain any from you, even though I will want to. The best thing I can do for you is be a woman you can learn from, a woman you can admire and respect, a woman who doesn’t shy away from hard or uncomfortable things.  So, here’s what I’m learning:

1. It’s okay to cry.  It’s okay to scream.  It’s okay to want to be alone.  It’s okay to feel however it is that you feel.  Don’t try to stop those feelings at first.  Let them come.  Embrace them, knowing that dealing with them now will make it easier to let them go later on.

2. Don’t respond right away.  Take a shower.  Go for a run.  Eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.  Sleep on it. Because even though it feels really good in the moment to say or do exactly what’s in your mind, you usually end up with regrets.  This is hard to do. The Jersey came out in me yesterday, and all I wanted to do was find this person and go off Real Housewives style.  But what, exactly, would that have solved?  Give yourself the time and the space to gain perspective.

3. Don’t let someone else’s lies become your truth.   My initial reaction after reading the comment?  I felt guilty.  I felt ashamed.  I felt bad for you that I’m your mom too.  I let myself believe everything this person was saying was true.  But then I read it again.  And again.  And again.  And a couple more times.  And you know what?  It’s not even close to being true.  I don’t need to defend myself (even though I really, really want to).  Because the only people who need to know this isn’t true are you and me.  And I KNOW that we both know how much you are loved.  You know who you are.  Trust that.  Believe that.

4. Deal with it.  I despise confrontation.  The thought of it makes my stomach knot up and my hands sweat.  When I read this comment, the two most appealing options to me were deleting it and pretending it never happened or stop writing my blog.  But you know why I didn’t choose either of those options?  Because of you.  Because I want you to be a strong, confident woman who stands up for yourself, for what is right, for what you believe in.

Both of those options, although tempting in their easiness, let this person (who interestingly enough decided to stay anonymous) win. To have power.  And not only over me, but over every woman who has struggled with being a new mom.  That kind of hateful judgment is exactly why I started this blog in the first place.  I won’t give them the satisfaction of posting it, but I will call them out:  Your comment was disgusting.  But you didn’t win.  So, even though this is really, really hard, I’m dealing with it (and adding a disclaimer to the comments section).

5. Find the silver lining.  I learned a lot from this experience.  I learned that I belong to an incredible community of fellow moms and bloggers who I could not have done this without.  I learned that for every bad comment, there are ten positive ones.  I learned that I can do things that scare me.  Trust me, I know how easy it is to dwell on what’s bad.  Even if the only silver lining you can find is that you made it through the day, find the good.

6. Forgive and let go.  You have zero control over how people act, but you have complete and total control over how you react.  So once you’ve dealt with it, forgive and let go.  This isn’t for the other person.  This is for you.  This sets you free from letting anger, hurt, and sadness keep you down. 

You are making me a better person, my darling girl.  I hope I am becoming a woman you admire and respect.

All my love,

Momma

***A special thanks to the ladies at Honest Voices for their support and advice.  Here is a post Jessica Severson shared with me about her first experience with a “hater.”  She said it much better than I ever could:  http://theseversons.net/2011/08/blogging-dilemma/

8

turning the switch

I’m just going to say the thing you’re not supposed to say (thanks, Samantha Jones): I didn’t want to be pregnant.  Maybe that’s why I had to take all nine pregnancy tests before I could finally force myself into believing it.  In fact, in addition to the throwing up all day (morning sickness must have been termed by a guy), needing a nap after walking up the steps, and subsisting on Saltines, ginger ale, and donuts (which I ate maybe twice in my life before I got pregnant), I spent the majority of my first trimester feeling bitter, resentful, and sorry for myself.

All the plans I had for myself went out the window.  I had to put my Master’s degree on hold when I was so close to finishing.  I had to stop running because of a cyst.  There went the trip to Paris we had been planning for next summer.

I missed long, scalding hot showers and nitrate-filled hot dogs and iced chai tea lattes.  I missed my flat stomach (because everyone loves hearing the doctor say at your very first appointment, “Whoa, you’re gaining too much weight.  You need to slow down”).  I missed seafood and margaritas and having energy.  All I could focus on was what I had lost.

This continued after I gave birth.  I felt trapped. I felt like I had lost all sense of who I used to be.  I felt sad, angry, bitter, resentful, and sorry for myself.

At my last therapy session, I told my therapist that I dreaded pumping in the evenings because all I did was watch the bags and get upset over how little was coming out.  She said I needed to turn the switch.  To have a mind of gratitude.

Instead of thinking, Oh, I barely got anything, I am to say, “I am so grateful for every ounce of milk that I can give my daughter to make her strong and healthy.”  Instead of thinking how much I want to punch the construction workers who are working on our house in the face every time their muddy boots leave stains on my carpet, or they break something, or they don’t come back to work after their lunch break, I am to say, “I am so grateful we can afford to make these improvements and for how much we will enjoy our home when they are done.”  You see what she did there?  She turned all my losses into gains.  All my negatives into positives.  Her glass is perpetually half full.

I tried doing this when I got home. It felt fake. Forced. Completely inauthentic.  And then the news broke about the Oklahoma tornadoes.  Of the homes lost, of the lives lost, of the hope and happiness and security lost.  I looked at my home, and I was grateful.  I looked at my husband, and I was grateful.  I looked at my daughter, bouncing happily away in her Jumperoo, smiling and cooing and talking, blissfully unaware of the pain and sadness and loss that accompanies life, and I was grateful.  I was so aware of how much I have, of how much I’ve gained, of how much what I have and what I’ve gained trumps what I had and what I’ve lost.  I turned the switch. 

2

afraid of my baby? well, yeah

I have a confession to make.  I am afraid of my daughter. I know, ridiculous, right?  I mean the girl doesn’t even have kneecaps.  Her entire existence depends on me.  And yet, the fear.

I expected to feel lots of things when she was born: all-consuming love, an equally all-consuming desire to protect her and shelter her from this crazy world we live in, nerves over whether I really have what it takes to attempt to put a onesie over a head that only registers in the second percentile.  But what has caught me most by surprise is the fear.

It’s so easy to judge when you have no idea what it’s like to be a mom.  I mean, we’ve all been around kids before, so we know exactly what it’s like, right?  Ha.  Before she actually arrived, my husband and I knew exactly the kind of parents we were NOT going to be.  We were not going to refer to each other as “Mommy” and “Daddy.” We weren’t going to tiptoe around the house during nap times.  And we certainly weren’t going to let our lives revolve around nap and feeding schedules. 

And then she was born.  Sometimes when she’s wide awake and in the other room I still whisper to my husband to ask him a question.  Because I’m afraid of her. 

I’m afraid that she’s going to wake up too early from a nap and that shower I was planning on taking is going to be put off for another day.  I’m afraid she’s going to get hungry later than I expected and it will throw off the whole day.  I’m afraid that right when she falls asleep my dog, who clearly thinks that protecting our front door is as important as protecting the Mexican-American border and barks at anything within a 100 foot radius of our driveway, will hear a leaf that he needs to scare away and I will have to start the whole process all over again. 

My daughter will be five months old in a couple of weeks and my husband and I have gone out alone exactly once – for 28 minutes.  I’m afraid she will scream and cry if we leave her (not really sure how that’s different from her screaming and crying when we’re with her), and no one will be able to soothe and comfort her (because I’m clearly doing such a bang-up job in that department). 

Yesterday we brought her to my parents’ house for a bridal shower that my sister was hosting.  We set her up perfectly.  She took a great first nap, we wore her out on the Jumperoo, and timed it so her second nap coincided with when we had to leave.  She slept for an hour in the car and woke up happy. And then came time for her third nap.  We were armed with all the weapons from home:  swing, white noise machine, monitor, and favorite pajamas.  This also happened to be the exact moment when the food was going out and people were in and out of my parents’ house, yelling to one another, slamming cabinets and the back door on their way.  It was like a war zone.  I mean, didn’t these people know my baby was trying to sleep? Didn’t they know the world is supposed to come to a screeching halt during nap time?  And why didn’t I remember to purchase a Taser for moments such as these?

She was wailing, and after about three minutes that felt like an hour, I had decided it was time to leave.  She just couldn’t handle it.  And I was afraid that missing her last nap would make for a loud and restless night.

But I didn’t get her.  We let her go.  And she fell asleep. In fact, she slept for an hour and forty minutes!  A great nap by any standards. As Glennon Melton would say, “She can do hard things.”  And evidently so can I.

I cannot control what will happen in the future.  Despite my best efforts, I cannot orchestrate every detail of my life and everyone else’s.  The doorbell will ring when she is sleeping and the dog will most certainly bark.  My daughter will cry and be hungry at unpredictable times and sometimes not get a good nap. 

But she will learn from these experiences.  She will learn to be flexible, adaptable, that things don’t always go the way she wants them to. And, finally, I might learn these things too.  And that’s not something to be afraid of. 

2

that guy

I am married to that guy.  Oh, you know the one I mean, because most of you have secretly wished your husband was more like him and the rest of you have not-so-secretly spoken that wish out loud to me.  You have lusted over him at children’s birthday parties and when you see him at the mall picking out a present for me “just because.”

When I was pregnant, he indulged almost every craving (in his defense, I kind of set him up for failure when I requested an almond croissant from that off-the-beaten-path pasticceria we found in Florence – but that didn’t stop him from driving to five different bakeries to find a close alternative) and he gave me massages every night when I developed sciatica.

At my nephew’s birthday party, he played laser tag with fifteen nine-year-olds and they were all calling him “Uncle” by the end.  He lets my niece dress him up in silly outfits and grins from ear to ear when it makes her giggle uncontrollably.

He is a magnet for small children, all dogs, and little old ladies in the grocery store who need a big, strong man to reach something off the top shelf.

And our daughter.  I’ve never seen more mutual adoration.  When I was pregnant, I had dreams that since I was carrying her, there would finally be someone who liked me more than they like my husband.  No such luck.  It’s like they have their own little world, and they could stare into each other’s eyes all day and both be perfectly content.  He gets up with her in the middle of the night, rushes home to see her after work, and doesn’t care who hears him when he talks to her in a high-pitched baby voice.

He takes beautiful pictures, has single-handedly put in hardwood floor or tile in every room in our house, can make a killer balloon animal, loves to cook, and is the first to volunteer his time whenever anybody needs anything.

He watches Downton Abbey with me.  When I’m having a bad day, he makes me an appointment for a massage, or calls my best friends and arranges a girls night, or brings home my favorite cupcakes.  He tells me I’m beautiful every day, multiple times when he knows I don’t believe him, and makes me breakfast before he leaves in the morning because he knows that might be the only time I eat that day.

Last Friday, he emailed all of his clients and told them that he would not be available all weekend because it was my first Mother’s Day and he wanted to make it as special as possible.

And he’s gorgeous.  Not just in the “he’s my husband” biased way, but in the majority agrees upon way.  In fact, when he was in high school, he was approached by Abercrombie to model for them (and if you’ve been keeping up with the news lately, you know how picky they are).  He’s also good looking enough that he knew to turn them down.

With his gentle but persistent pushing and encouragement, I sought treatment for PPD and started this blog.

I’m not gloating, and I’m not trying to make you jealous.  Really. I’m trying to tell you that sometimes it sucks being married to that guy.  Why?  Because I am automatically THAT girl.  How could she be depressed?  Doesn’t she know how lucky she is?  What does she have to be sad about?  Most husbands don’t help out a percentage of how much her husband helps out.  He works for himself, and can be home more than most husbands.  She has so much support.  She should never complain about anything. She doesn’t know how good she has it. Why can’t she handle this?  Whether these questions are real in the minds of people who know me, or I imagine them because of my own insecurities, they are certainly questions I have asked of myself.  When it became quite clear that the crying and mood swings and utter despair went way beyond the baby blues, I berated myself. There are women who do this all on their own.  There are women who do this with two other kids at home and who have to go back to work after twelve weeks.  You’re married to Mr. Perfect.  What is your problem?  It goes further.  He should have married someone else.  He would be so much happier if he weren’t married to such a mess.

Just once, I want to be that girl instead of THAT girl.

After meeting my husband, people always tell me how lucky I am.  And they’re right.  I am blessed beyond belief.  I am fully aware of that and am not saying anything to the contrary.  And him being so wonderful isn’t his problem; it’s mine.  I wish I could see myself through his eyes.  Someone like him chose to be with someone like me.  That counts for something. So until I can figure out a way to be that girl, I’m just going to keep thanking God that I’m married to that guy.

0

the importance of being showered

When I was 32 weeks pregnant, I was put on modified bed rest.  My little drama queen had already attempted the great escape twice, and the doctors wanted me to keep her in for at least another two weeks.  Since my bed rest coincided with Christmas and only lasted three weeks before my daughter was born, I remember very little from that time except that I sucked at bed rest (I took sanity trips to Target daily under my husband’s watchful and disapproving eye) and I became obsessed with Homeland.

I do, however, remember a phone conversation I had with one of my best friends. I was complaining about how much I hated bed rest (I know, what was I thinking?  The grass is always greener though), and this very wise friend told me to take lots of long showers because I would miss them when the baby was born. 

At first I thought she was crazy.  Tired I was expecting.  Milk machine I was prepared for.  But not showering?  I love showers.  Especially really hot ones that leave my skin all red and splotchy. And being clean is important. Why would having a baby make me become savage and uncivilized?  Oh, how I wish I could tell my pregnant self a thing or two.

My sister told me that when my water broke, I would have plenty of time to get to the hospital, so I should definitely shower first because I didn’t know how long I would be in labor.  I thought this was great advice.  It would keep my mind off what was about to happen to my poor body, and I would be all ready to meet my daughter.

It didn’t go down like that.  At 35 weeks, I woke up in the middle of the night sweating and feeling sick.  I threw up, called the doctor, woke up my husband, and we left for the hospital.  No shower.  It turns out I had preeclampsia and needed to be induced.  For anyone who was preeclamptic, the words “magnesium sulfate” probably still make you shudder.  They are the drugs I got after I delivered my baby, but I didn’t even remember that I had given birth because of said drugs.  Which is probably a good thing because my daughter was apparently whisked away to the NICU.  At least that’s what they tell me. 

Two days after I gave birth, I started to come out of my drug-induced state.  I had to be carried to the bathroom by my husband and had to pee with the door open so someone could keep an eye on me at all times.  Not really showering conditions.  Then I got discharged, but my baby had to stay in the hospital for a few more days.  Since I was technically no longer a patient, we were moved into a “courtesy room” that was the size of Harry Potter’s under the stairs room and had no windows.  Still not showering conditions.

On Monday, five days after we had arrived at the hospital, my husband convinced me to go home for one hour to shower and get fresh clothes.  What he didn’t say, because he is really nice and I was very fragile, was that I stunk.  Like the boys from Lord of the Flies before they were rescued stunk. 

So, after much coaxing, I went home.  I showered.  And I felt like a new person.  Being clean physically cleansed me emotionally and I was able to return to the hospital and make it through two more excruciatingly long, worrisome, scary days. 

My friend was right.  A lot of days I don’t have time to shower.  But I make it a priority. Not only is it a kindness I pay to my husband and others who are forced to be around me, but it rejuvenates me.  It makes me feel alive and human. I recognize the person I see in the mirror afterwards.  I am refreshed and ready to face whatever the day holds. And even though I am usually covered in drool and spit up and crusty milk within ten minutes, for those ten minutes I get to be me. 

Showers have additional benefits.  For one, the shower drowns out whatever noises are coming from the rest of the house.  Which is why I usually take them right after I put my daughter down for a nap. That means no screaming, no crying, just the sound of my own thoughts.  My husband likes that I take showers so much too.  Once I get in there, I don’t want to come out, and my legs have never been smoother. 

Maybe you don’t have the same need for showers as I do.  But you do have a need to be refreshed, to be alone, to collect yourself.  Whatever helps you do that, (showers, walking, reading), find time for it.  Make it a priority.  Make it sacred. I’m a better mom when I’m showered.