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tug-of-war

This week, I had to go back to work for a few days.  On the first day, it was extremely hard. My baby girl was bouncing happily in her Jumperoo, smiling and drooling and being her absolutely adorable self.  I must have said good-bye to her five times.  Twelve kisses weren’t enough.  Three cuddles weren’t enough.  I had to get in enough to last me nine hours!  When I got in my car, there were tears in my eyes.

When I got to work, I had a really hard time getting into the swing of things.  I felt like I couldn’t remember how to do my job, and tasks took three times as long as they would have back in December.  But, like riding a bike, it came back after a few hours, and I hit my stride. I found myself energized, excited about using those parts of my brain after a six month hiatus.  I realized how much I had missed working.

But it wasn’t the same.  I found myself stealing glances at the clock, wondering if she was taking a good nap or what books she read after her bottle.  I kept turning on my phone just so I could see her face light up my screen.  Every time I did, I couldn’t help but smile.  I wanted to kiss those little cheeks and squeeze those not-so-little thighs.  I had to swallow the lump in my throat multiple times.  I missed her.

I couldn’t wait to get home.  I got to go rescue her from her crib when she woke up from her last nap, and my heart melted as she broke out into a wide grin and started to giggle when she saw me.  I spun her around in circles and held her close and sang silly songs.

But I was tired.  Really tired. My husband had to leave for a meeting with a client.  I tried to breastfeed, but my girl wasn’t having it.  She threw a fit, thrashing her legs and refusing to eat.  I was tired, and frustrated, and my patience after a long day was pretty much gone.  I quickly filled a bottle, which she happily grabbed and sucked down in record time. 

I couldn’t wait for bed time.  I had some ideas I wanted to work on before going into work the next day.  I found myself staring at the clock, wondering how it was possible that only three minutes had passed.  I felt exhausted, and confused.  All I wanted all day was to come home to my daughter.  And now that I was there, I could barely focus on her. 

Ever since my post on the pause button, I’ve really been trying to be present in the moment.  It’s hard.  I wasn’t even sure how to do it in the beginning.  And now that I am preparing myself to go back to work full-time, I’m finding it near impossible.

When I’m at work, I’m thinking about my baby.  When I’m with my baby, I’m thinking about work, or I’m too exhausted from work to think about much of anything but how warm and soft my bed is.

So, I ask you, working moms, how do you handle the tug of war?  How do you find ways to be present in the moment when you feel guilty, torn, exhausted? 

And, please, tell me, it gets better, right?   

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squeals of delight

With the exception of one time, baby girl has skipped right over laughing and gone straight to squealing.  Whenever she is happy/excited/possibly just plain bored, the toes start wiggling, the arms start flailing, and she lets loose with high-pitched squeals.  The first few times she did it, the noise (and probably the volume) shocked her so much she immediately burst into tears. 

My husband and I love it.  I must not smile enough, because the past few days my face has hurt from grinning widely as I watch my girl enjoy life so much that her body can’t even stand it.

But it got me thinking:  when was the last time I squealed with delight?  When was the last time I experienced such unbridled joy that I couldn’t even contain myself?  When was the last time I saw any adult exhibit elation with their whole being?

Maybe that’s also why I love watching her so much.  Because, for me, that kind of innocent enthusiasm, truly being exhilarated by life, is gone.  Why do we lose that?  Is it because, for babies, everything is so fresh and so new, and as you get older, no experience offers you that same kind of sensation, of originality, that those first few years do?  Are we jaded?  Self-conscious?  Too busy?

And how do we get it back?  I don’t know the answers to my questions, but when I see my daughter feel nothing but pure happiness, I cannot help but want her to always feel that way, and for me to feel that way too. 

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for my husband

My dearest baby girl,

When it comes to the dad gene, your dad has it in spades.  He’s just one of those guys who was born to be a dad.  He loves it.  He would rather spend time at home with me and you than do anything else.  And one day you will realize how truly rare that is. 

As I’m writing this, you are five months old and we are gearing up for the first Father’s Day (which you have already overshadowed because it is also the day of your dedication service at church, but your dad thinks this is the perfect way to celebrate his first year officially in the dad club). 

You are already like your dad in so many ways.  Some of them I love. You both have higher than average body temperatures (it must be nice to not need a sweater in July), you like to sleep with your hands behind your head, and you both think he’s the most hilarious person on the face of the earth.  Some things I wish you hadn’t inherited from him.  His love of country music and his dislike of Target for starters (both break my heart).  And what is it with you wanting to watch CNBC all the time?  Feels almost traitorous. 

And then there are the things that I hope you get from him.  Like his uncanny ability to pack the trunk Mary Poppins style when I can’t even fit half of the luggage in there.  Or his killer calf muscles. 

I hope you have his confidence.  I hope you have his willingness to try new things without fear.  I hope you have his ability to walk into any room and feel at ease, able to talk to any person about anything.  I hope you have his work ethic and drive.  I hope you have his worry-free approach to life.  I hope you have his patience. 

I hope you have his desire to know as much as you can about as many different topics as possible.  I hope you have a variety of interests and hobbies and skills like him.  I hope you have his ability to see the positive in situations, to handle obstacles with a clear head, to not let the unexpected fill you with dread.  I hope you have his way of looking at the world as completely open to you.

There are things I want you to learn from him.  Watch closely.  Learn how to change a tire and put in hardwood floors and take care of things yourself (it’ll save you a lot of money when you realize the shape your first house is in too).  

Learn how to make a person feel like the most important in the room just by your smile.  Learn that you can have a successful career and still make family your first priority.  Learn that it’s ok to be silly, even in public, and that what other people think really doesn’t matter. 

Learn what a husband should really be.  Watch him reach for my hand whenever we are out.  Watch him kiss me as soon as he gets home and tell me he loves me randomly throughout the day.  Watch him tell me I’m beautiful and offer to make dinner and let me sleep in and surprise me with small gifts and indulge my Target addiction.  Remember these things when you make your choice. 

I read the other day that the single most important relationship in determining the kind of person a woman will be is the one she has with her father.  I spent that day really studying you two.  The impromptu dance party he threw when you got really cranky, the funny faces and noises he made while changing your poopy diaper that ruined the fifth outfit of the day.  The kisses he gave you as you two played on your activity mat, the dance he did to make you laugh when you were in your jumper.  How excited he was to get you when you woke up from nap, and the smile that lit up your entire face when you saw him. 

In other words, baby girl, you won the daddy lottery.  And I hope you come to that realization on your own one day.  I hope you see how much he adores you, and that you never stop adoring him.  I want to tell you not to take him for granted, but you will, of course.  It’s just a part of it.  But one day, when you have a little one of your own, take a moment to stop and watch your baby interact with her dad.  It will hit you then.  How blessed you were.  How much your dad influenced the woman you became.  Call him and tell him.  I know how much he loves to hear your voice. 

 

 

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i’ve been rejected

The past couple of weeks, my daughter has begun rejecting the breast.  At first I thought it was just normal five month distraction.  Too busy to eat kind of stuff.  But now every feeding session has turned into a struggle in which I end up frustrated, confused, crying, and dreading the next feed. 

The sessions usually go like this.  The first two minutes are great.  She eats like a champ, focused on the task at hand and guzzling away.  I allow myself to hope that maybe this “stage” is over.  But then the fussing starts.  It’s quiet at first.  Pulling away, grabbing at anything and everything with those chubby, dimpled little fingers.  Then the body starts to flail and the crying starts (hers at this point, mine comes after).  She sucks for maybe two seconds, then pulls off wailing.  Repeat, repeat, repeat until we are both miserable and I show her a bottle.  Which she instantly grabs for, puts in her own mouth, and slurps happily down.  No tears.  No jerky movements. The only sound is her swallowing.  And me dying a little on the inside.

I know that this is normal around her age.  I know that, considering the control freak I am, being able to hold her own bottle and look around as she eats gives her the independence and power she craves.  Intellectually, I know that this really isn’t a bad thing.  But as I watch my milk supply dwindle and I more frequently run to Costco to stock up on bulk cases of formula, I can’t help but take it personally.  It’s not just my breast that’s she rejecting; it’s me.

And so I stare out the kitchen window, my back to my baby and my husband, as I furiously scrub with the bottle brush and try to get rid of that telltale formula smell coming from my sink.  And while I do so, hot tears stream down my face. 

It’s not just about the breastfeeding vs. formula debate.  It’s not just about the fact that I am frustrated because I know my body is capable of keeping hers healthy, strong, alive.  It’s not just about those moments when she looks up at me while she’s nursing and strokes the side of my face.  It’s that, already, at five months, my baby girl is pulling away.  Asserting herself as separate from me.  And if I cry quietly in the kitchen now, how in the world am I going to handle the tween and teen years?  Is this what motherhood is?  At every turn, every milestone, do you simultaneously feel pride and joy while also feeling rejected and heartbroken?  I’ve obviously had my fair share of both of the latter, but I would take getting picked last for dodge ball any day.  This hurts.  

So tell me, moms, especially those of daughters, how do you handle the rejection?

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BIG NEWS! I was asked to share my story on thelifeafterbirth.com. Click on the link below to read it. Thanks for your support!

If you are visiting from thelifeafterbirth.com, welcome! Feel free to click around. My two personal favorite posts are “say grace” and “accept and embrace.” Thanks for coming!

Beth’s Story

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the impossible

The other day, my husband and I saw that Identity Theft had become available OnDemand.  Since we are probably years away from watching a movie with real people in it in an actual movie theater, OnDemand has become our new Regal Cinemas.  So, we made a plan.

That night, munchkin was asleep, the popcorn was popping, and our steely resolve to make it through two more whole hours was set.  I went to rent the movie…and my love affair with Fios ended.  We had been hoodwinked.  Identity Theft was indeed available, but only to buy.  Not to rent.  Talk about false advertising.

But the popcorn was already luring me with its delicious, buttery scent.  So we decided to rent a different movie.  We chose The Impossible.

If you haven’t seen this movie yet, you have to stop what you are doing and go watch it.  Right now. Seriously.  Actually, finish reading first, then go watch it.  But make sure you watch it.

In addition to being a wonderful heartwarming tale with a great cast, I learned two very important things from the film.  And I think what really separates a good film from a great film is when you learn more about yourself in the process.  Here’s what I learned:

  1.  Movies about natural disasters are not good for people suffering from depression/anxiety. You know why?  They remind us that we have no control.  In my everyday life, I can make lists, I can have backup plans for backup plans, but in the unlikely event that a tsunami crashes through my town, they will be useless.  Knowing that there are situations out there that may arise in which I cannot prevent, through careful planning and preparation, something bad from happening gets my heart racing and my hands sweating.  We had to pause the movie no less than three times because the dialogue could not be heard over my hysterical, frightened sobs.  Four times my husband suggested we turn it off.  If the beginning of the movie had not made it clear what would happen in the end, I probably would have stopped watching.  The movie reminded me to be aware and conscious of what triggers both my depression and my anxiety, and to not purposely put myself in these scenarios when it is completely avoidable.
  2. I am a mom.  Now, for those of you reading who are thinking, “Your daughter just turned five months old, why is this just now occurring to you?” hear me out.  Without knowing it, I watched this movie with my new mom glasses on.  I didn’t know I had them on, or even that I owned them, but as I watched it became clear.  The crying I did, the desperation and sorrow I felt, the questions of “What would I do?” that I asked were all a direct result of my new status as mom.  I don’t know if this movie would have impacted me so deeply if I weren’t a mom.  But that’s the thing about mom glasses – you can never take them off.  I’ll never know what it means to look at the world without those lenses ever again.  I’ll never again hear a story on the news about a car accident, or a tornado, or a missing child without being filled with cold dread and wanting to hold my daughter tight.  I am a mom.  And that will color how I react to things from here on out.  This is not necessarily a good or bad thing.  It just means that my perspective has been forever altered. And that there are probably a lot of movies that I should avoid watching.

Has anyone else seen the film?  What was your reaction?  Did you learn anything?

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beating baby boredom

Now that it’s been almost three months since I was diagnosed with PPD/anxiety, I’m becoming more and more aware of the ways in which it tries to seep into all areas of my brain and take control of my thoughts.

While reading Momastery the other day, I found a new term that perfectly describes how I’ve been feeling lately:  momotony.  My baby girl is at that interesting age where she constantly wants to be entertained, but there is not much she can do.  It’s been oppressively hot lately, so outdoor activities have been limited.  And since all she wants to do when she’s awake is move, move, move (wonder where she gets that from?), I feel guilty strapping her in the car seat and running errands.  So we read some books, she plays on her activity mat, we sing a few songs, she jumps in her Jumperoo.  I look at the clock.  Fifteen minutes have passed.  So we read some books, she plays on her activity mat, we sing a few songs, she jumps in her Jumperoo.  Is time actually going slower?  Repeat cycle, repeat cycle, repeat cycle until one of three things happens:  she needs to eat, get her diaper changed, or take a nap.  Has it really only been an hour since I talked to another adult? There it is: momotony.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love spending time with my girl.  Watching her learn more about herself and her relationship to the world is my favorite thing about motherhood.  But sometimes I just get plain bored. And as I’m learning, boredom is a breeding ground for anxious, negative, and self-critical thoughts.  PPD sees that boredom and attacks, usually full force and with no warning. 

So I have to be smarter than it.  I have to find ways to beat the baby boredom and reclaim my thoughts.  But that’s hard to do when you’re on your sixth rendition of a Raffi song and just looking at The Very Hungry Caterpillar makes you want to hurl the book across the room only to realize that you don’t actually even need the book because you know every single word by heart.   

I’d love to hear from you.  How do you beat baby boredom?