Lessons for My Children: Earning Scars.

My family and I recently found out that we are expecting another child- a little brother to our precious little princess. The last several weeks especially have been tough- not just the physical reminders of this beautiful little soul taking up residence but the emotional and philosophical questions that come with it and the journey through my own relationships as we prepare to complete our family. I have realized that I have been, am being, scarred for life.

 

I am convinced that no one has the perfect family- nuclear or extended. There are ups and downs, trials and successes, bumps, detours, and burned bridges abound. My childhood was rarely joyful and often difficult. My parents had issues, individually, in their marriage, and with their children. When I was young I thought this was unique to us, my friends seemed so happy and I felt in a chasm of sadness fighting to breathe. I knew at a very young age that I had to escape, I knew I wasn’t meant for the life I had been born into and when I was 19 I did. I moved to a state where I didn’t know a single soul, I found a fresh start in salty air and in those 8 months there figured out just enough about myself to get a game plan on paper—which led me to another state where I knew no one. Along my way, over the four years or so since I’d left my family’s home I found myself pulled back into their lives. The difference was that now it was on my terms- I had severed my anger and resentment and was able to build those relationships into what I knew was healthy. You can’t ‘escape’ your past, I knew that but I had gotten desperate. And I couldn’t be happier with the choices I’d made to become myself. You have to make peace with your past, and I have. Most of my family and I are on spectacular terms- due to growth on both ends and healthy boundaries that I have seen over and again are vitally necessary for everyone’s health.

 

In my “journey” (I know, that sounds like a cheesy self help book’s intro) one of the hardest lessons I have had to learn is that just because you put work and reflection and intention into your life doesn’t mean that others do the same. Just because you love someone, especially someone you’re bound to forever (in my case my siblings especially), doesn’t mean that you can save them. Your advice, however brilliant and probably universal, isn’t applicable in word form. You cannot tell someone your lesson and they learn it- they have to put in the time, effort, reflection, sweat, tears, and intention themselves or else all that brilliance is merely empty words. Buddha said that ‘No one saves us but ourselves. No one can. And no one may”. My revelation has been not that this is true (that’s fairly obvious), but that the reverse is as well. We can’t save someone else. No matter how much we love them. No matter how much we try. And when we martyr ourselves for someone who isn’t ready to save themself, we become an exercise in futility and waste. That’s a hard lesson. It’s a painful realization to accept when you consider that that may mean your big sister, little brother, mother, father, or even child.

 

I believe that we are surrounded by competing ideologies. Half the world thinks “everything happens for a reason” and “things just work themselves out”. The other half knows that more often than not things happen because of the choices we make and that things don’t ‘sort themselves out’ like an autopilot button- people work things out for you and you think they work themselves out. Obviously I fall more towards the latter theory of life. And while some things in life might fall squarely in one camp or the other, most of life is a balance of those ideas. Yes, as my 94 year old grandmother says, “Shit Happens”. But, as she also reminds us, “Life is about what you do about it”. Too many people want to blame “shit” for their problems. They think that sticking their heads in the sand will result in their problems magically disappearing by the time they decide to peek out (and when that isn’t the case they stick their heads back in the sand so quickly you barely noticed they moved). It’s tempting, when we see a loved one with their heads in the sand, their backs bent and hearts heavy, to try to save them. Our heart begs us to pick them up, sand and all, and move them away from their problems. It tries to allow us to convince ourselves we can dress up their problems in shiny ribbons and spit-shine their faults. The problem is that those problems follow them (and if you’re carrying them that means they follow you, too) or the spit shine wears off and their battered, beaten faults are still there. The only way to make them go away is to address them. Not for you to address them, but for them to. Your role, if you really love someone, is to stand next to them or behind them, hold their hand, rub their backs, envelope them with your love and support. Otherwise, you’re just enabling them and their problems, faults, and mistakes only grow bigger and start to cast shade on you, too.

 

Perhaps the hardest part of this hardest lesson is: understanding that sometimes, too often, these people that you love so dearly have no intention of changing anything. They have no intention of growing up, of maturing, of changing one thing in their lives. Maybe they’re happy in their sorrows, maybe they’re terrified of the unknown despite the despair of the now, maybe they just don’t want to put in the effort. This is what makes that oft-repeated Serenity Prayer so impossible “The serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the WISDOM to know the difference”. If I ever have these three things I will consider myself fully grown.

 

Again, the reverse is true. As much as you can’t save anyone, neither can they save you. You can’t put your head in the sand and expect your parents, siblings, spouse, or child to change your world, either. If you look around and don’t like where you’re standing and what you’re standing in, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Roll up your sleeves, get dirty (ie accept the crap you created), and change your position. A definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and again and expecting different results and yet an increasingly overwhelming majority of people do just this. It is this idea of self-justification that they just KNOW they’re handling something right and if they keep doing the same thing they’ll be rewarded. I’ve yet to see that happen. Ever. Your life is a result of your attitude and your actions, period.

 

I’ve also learned a lot about myself. Mostly extensions of the aforementioned principles. I came to terms with my first two decades and those who had played roles in it (many positive). I spent some time in therapy- a fantastic tool I can’t recommend enough. It was enlightening because I hadn’t always thought about events and circumstances through others’ perspectives. It’s humbling, honestly. It’s not that I was wrong (or right), or that what I felt was fair (or wasn’t), it was that everything in life is complicated and sometimes the clearest understanding of life is only achieved through multiple angles. I truly believe that even the most genuinely happy and “put together” people in this world could benefit from therapy, from a neutral third party who is able to reframe your thought and force you to consider alterations to your attitude. I’m also convinced that too many people are so trapped in a tunnel vision within their own world of pain they don’t see the shadows they cast on others.

 

I conclude these drawn out and complicated thoughts with hope. Because I “found” peace in my life I have hope. I actually hate that phrase- “found” makes it sound like you just stumbled upon it like a penny one day out on your way to get groceries. Like everything else in life you have to fight for that hope. Fighting seems to have this negative connotation in today’s society of laid back and detached laziness. Fighting is a good thing- more often than not you are fighting yourself- fighting all your own fears, insecurities, faults, and pain to save the hope, grace, serenity, and courage that you can achieve. They’re not rights, you don’t deserve these things just because you breathe oxygen, they’re rights of passage, proof of growth, scars of battles hard fought. I have scars that you cannot see at first glance. They do not mar my face, they do not limp my gait. They soften my heart, clear my mind, and strengthen my resolve.

These are some of the lessons I want to pass on to my children. It’s so difficult because I know that simply saying this knowledge will do no good. They’ll believe what they see. They have to see me fight in life. They have to see me help them without solving their problems for them. They have to stumble, fall, skin their knees, and have their hearts broken. And they have to see me standing there with a full heart when they look up from their pain. With a band-aid, with an ice pack, (later on) with a glass of wine… I want them to earn their scars, as painful as it will be for me to watch it happen. Experience and observation have made me absolutely certain that true success and empathy in life are essentially impossible without this ‘journey’. No parent who loves their children wants to see them experience even the slightest bit of pain, but even less do we want to see them unhappy, unsuccessful, and lost- which is the alternative.

Tough Mommy Moments

My daughter is incredible. I know, I know- almost every mother out there has that opinion. But, really. She’s amazing. She’s almost always happy (unless she’s not getting her way of course), she’s always friendly, she flirts with everyone, eats everything, is kind, gentle, and compassionate. At just shy of 18 months, I think she’s doing pretty well. Her beautiful disposition is why it’s obvious when something is wrong. Usually, it starts with sleep interruption, fighting naps, crankiness between fits of laughter and giggling, and then becomes clinginess and tugging on ears.

I see the pattern because it has now repeated itself a full five times in the last eight months. Ear infection after ear infection. The latest being just three weeks ago when I was at the ENT for me and my fabulous doctor noticed that Sara didn’t seem as happy and flirtatious as usual (imagine how much fun I’m going to have when she’s 15!)- a little girl she’d only met once before but remembered her so vividly even she could tell something was off. She took time after my appointment to stay with us a little longer and check her out.

Not shockingly, she found a raging infection in her right ear- another round of antibiotics. Which, admittedly, she always responds well to. The doctor threw in that when she comes for her follow up she might want to discuss tubes, and of course my BP started climbing. I did what I do best when faced with a stressful situation: research. I took to talking to friends, reading studies, finding other parents advice and experience and the more I read the more I realized that she probably had other issues stemming from the plague of ear infections. As I mentioned, my daughter is amazing. Truly. She’s incredibly smart. And because I see how well she works through problems, plays with her puzzles, makes her art, finds things even I couldn’t I missed that her speech was slowly falling behind. She ‘talks’, but in her own language, a mix of jibber jabbering I am convinced is brilliant if only I could understand it.

As I read about the reasons that tubes can be recommended the speech delay issue kept reappearing and I looked up what was appropriate for age and found that she’s a little behind. In all other developmental milestones she’s functioning at the level of a 2 year old, but in speech she’s barely making the 12- month expectations. My heart sank that my beautiful little girl was having such problems communicating. My eyes were instantly open to the frustration she exhibits at looking at me intently, saying something intensely, and my inability to understand her request. Far beyond just being denied what she wants, she isn’t able to be understood. The whining, crankiness, it all centers around her frustration at expression. I armed myself with the information I needed, and at her follow up last week the doctor looked in her ears again (something she just LOVES (sarcasm intended)) and noted the persistent fluid that plagues her middle ear along with a scab and crust resulting from a past attempt to clean out some of the gunk that accumulated in her right ear. She was pretty sure she was going to place tubes but at a minimum she wanted to correctly clean out the ear from the scab, etc. “Can you just stay a little longer?” she asked, “I think we should do a hearing test before we schedule the procedure”.

We stayed and did the hearing test and as my baby sat on my lap and faced the wall with speakers in either corner a mere 2 feet away I knew without the doctor telling me that she wasn’t hearing everything. Mild hearing loss, she said. There are sounds, words, that she simply cannot hear. My heart sank, my baby girl has been living in a quieter world than I realized, not able to hear my voice when she needs it, not able to learn the words that will help her express herself. I’ve barely even allowed myself to think about what words she can and cannot hear. Does she hear me the thousand times a day I tell her I love her? It’s okay, they tell me, my reaction and heartbreak obvious I’m sure. The tubes will help, it’s like she’s diving underwater and you’re on the surface, she can hear some things, and she knows you’re talking to her, but once we get the fluid drained, she’ll be able to hear it all. She’ll start talking more, she’ll get there.

And so, tomorrow we will wake her up at 5:30 am and trek to the surgery center where we will hold her and snuggle her while they put a mask on with anesthesia and watch her fall to sleep, only to have to walk out of the room while the procedure is done. I’m assured it’ll only be a little while, that we’ll be back in the room before she wakes up, that she’ll never know we left. I’ve had surgery, much more complicated than this, I know what I remember. I remember being scared, in a new place, with unknown things, unknown people who look funny in weird clothes. “It’ll traumatize you much more than it will her” they tell me. I hope so. I know without any doubt that this is the right thing to do, that this will help her, that she needs this. I know that we’ll all get through this and it’s the start of a new chapter, but the thought of watching her fall asleep with a mask on her face and not knowing if she’s ever actually heard me when I tell her I love her scares me to death. It’s low risk, it’s a ‘normal/everyday procedure’, millions of kids have this done.

I know.

But this is my baby.

Sara-Fall2014

Security Measures Target Young Families More than They Thwart Terrorists

 

My family loves tennis. Every year around this time we trek down to Flushing and brave the awful traffic, worse drivers, and crazy lines to witness greatness. This is our first year with a little one, our daughter turned one last week, and so today we made the journey with the car seat occupied to introduce our daughter to the game we love so much. We parked, readied our survival kit (also known as a diaper bag), and took that beautiful stroll across the boardwalk onto the perfectly manicured lawns of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

We didn’t even make it to the security line. A designated USTA worker with a walkie talkie style speaker informed us that we would not be allowed in with our diaper bag. Why? It was backpack style with two thick straps and an employee was once strangled with a strap, so they’re not allowed. No, not even if they only hold diapers and a bottle. Oh, and the Beco baby carrier I’m wearing my daughter in? I might have trouble with that, too. Those two pesky wide straps. When we asked what made that type of bag so much more ideal for strangling employees when compared to the thin-strapped backpacks they sell inside or the long strapped totes and purses most people were walking in with the employee seemed confused and didn’t have an answer.

Now, I have another baby bag, but given the size restrictions I recalled from last year’s visit we left it at home in favor of the smaller and easier managed backpack. And I have a stroller, in the car even, but chose to wear my baby because we wanted to check out the courts (where strollers were unable to access). After seriously considering just going home and boycotting the event in protest, we went back to the car and condensed our survival kit into a long strapped soft cooler and repeated the trek. We got to the security checkpoint and they opened our bag, and my wristlet and rifled through it, then eyed my baby carrier suspiciously, pointed out the straps and seeming unsure. Oh, how lucky they were they didn’t hold us up for that. Especially as ten feet in front of us we see a scantily clad woman breeze through with a backpack purse.

We requested a supervisor and were pointed in the direction of a nice, but ultimately unhelpful, man who changed the story. No, well, maybe it had something to do with an employee being strangled but it really goes back to 9/11. No backpacks because backpacks can carry more than other types of bags. Now. I’m no Tory Burch, but I’m pretty sure I can fit just as much, if not more, in a tote bag compared to the backpack. Or one of the bulky diaper bags we saw so many other young families dragging along. So, why the assault on backpacks? It would seem to me, in an exercise in common sense, the contents of the bag would matter more than the shape of the bag. Call me crazy, but this blacklisting of specific bags regardless of content seems asinine and unproductive.

A more complex consideration of the rule reveals another concern. While most adults can happily walk through events with nothing but what fits in their pockets, this is an impossible dream for anyone with children- especially small children. When packing all that is needed for a day away from home with a baby, it does not seem extreme to want to make carrying those items all day on foot as comfortable as possible (especially for daddies out there with bad backs!!). The unnecessary targeting of young families with such feckless rules might hint at an underlying desire to discourage those inconvenienced by said rule from attending such events. Considering that the day was Arthur Ashe Kids Day, we’ll give the USTA a pass on that and assume they weren’t intentionally dispiriting the crowd the day was targeting.

The supervisor we spoke with put the responsibility on the FBI for forcing them to initiate such procedures “because backpacks are more likely to be used to carry in things….like metal”. I might have had more respect for this sentiment if we hadn’t been made to step through the metal detector directly beside him a mere thirty seconds before, after our bags were searched, of course. And apparently, terrorists who target these events never bring their weapons in thick-strapped tote bags, purses, or those nylon thin stringed backpacks- they only use backpacks. I’m not sure if the FBI, assuming the spokesperson was pointing blame at the correct agency, thinks the general masses are that stupid or if they themselves lack the problem solving skills to consider alternatives to the potentially obvious solution of carrying forbidden items in a backpack style storage device, but either way the only people actually being thwarted with such ignominious rules are young families such as mine. And to bring the argument to my conclusion, in spoiling or discouraging us from attending these events with the next generation of Americans, the terrorists are winning the war in that they’ve managed to make us divert our attention from actual threats and attack ourselves.

 

Stop & See

Sara turned 6 months old this week. This milestone really hit me (I mean, I’m nuts. I think about crazy things, like 2.5% of our time with her in our home is over (given 18 years in theory) and how fast it’s all going…) and while I’ve been meaning to write this post since I started the blog, now I have to. A few weeks ago I was sitting at my computer, hammering away on something (probably schoolwork…) when I suddenly realized how quiet it was. Although I am a new mommy, even I know that’s usually bad. In the half second before I looked up to check on her I could just see poop everywhere, her facedown and unable to breathe, or a toy smothering her. Well, thankfully, none of these met my eyes. What did were her eyes. She had stopped playing her piano, kicking her feet, and jibber jabbering to look at me. As soon as our gazes met she broke out in this huge smile that is just indescribable. She just wanted to be seen. Of course, there was an intense flood of guilt that broke over my now warmed heart as I grinned back at her and sat down in front of her to get a better look.

One of the truest things I’ve heard thus far about raising children is that the days are long but the years are short. Cliche, perhaps- but true. Days are sooo long-pump, feed, play, pump, schoolwork, dishes, pump, laundry, cook, pump, play, REPEAT. But these last six months have been a blur. We brought her home from the hospital yesterday, she rolled over last night, and now she’s half a year old? What?! It’s flown and I miss her littleness already. I realize that sometimes I get caught up in the rest of the world that I don’t always see my daughter. I don’t see that she just wants to be part of the action. That she deeply desires to be looked at, touched, and felt. Sure, I read her books, dance and sing with her, and fulfill her basic needs but as with other people I think sometimes we don’t take time to SEE our loved ones. Whether it is our neighbor, sister, mother, husband, or children we go through our daily lives with this idea that they’ll always be a part of it. As I am all too quickly learning, that’s a false reality. Even if everyone is physically there, they change. Sara today is so much different than she will be another six months from now. And while she may not remember these moments to tell her therapist in twenty years, I will. And as I firmly believe about just about every aspect of childrearing, it’s all about exposure. I want to expose her to books not because she can read but so she learns to love them. I want to give her a million different foods not because she’ll love them all but so that she can develop tastes for different things and learn to try them willingly and with excitement. I want to sing with her not because I’m Celine Dion but because I want her to feel joy and thrill in good music. I want to look at her, to see her, every single day so she knows she’s here purposefully. I want her to know that she is seen and valued and loved and not taken for granted. I want her to know these things so that she can look at others, to see them for who they are. I want her to know that she is seen and acknowledged so that she grows up to be a strong woman who isn’t afraid to look around the world and decipher what she should be looking at and what she can leave behind her.

I know, this sounds a little heavy for six months, but it starts somewhere, doesn’t it? Children need foundations of love and respect and to give them that they need to feel included in your life, not exist on the periphery. I have observed thoughtfully many types of parenting. There’s the center-of-the-world child who is materialistically spoiled and coddled with parents afraid to say no in fear of a future therapy session. There’s child who is an afterthought- a glorified pet that needs fed, told “no!”, and their bills paid. And, most commonly, some shade in between. I firmly believe that children your children are a part of your life, but everything you do shouldn’t revolve solely around them. They should learn to be a part of a family not the dictator of it. They should be taught value without power. They should feel like an integral part of your life, not an afterthought. My daughter should know I see her. Not that I see her on the floor rolling around like a crazy baby (seriously, it’s realllllly cute and she’s going to give me a run for my money one day soon!), but that I see her – whoever she is, whatever she chooses to be, I see my child. I recognize a piece of me inside of her and I feel her role in our family.

It’s about a connection. Not a moment of connection you get once every few months or years that makes you feel a little fuzzy inside, but a real connection that is then nurtured and maintained. At six months old she requires precious little- food, diapers, sleep. Playtime, tummy time, sit ups, airplane baby are arguable necessities as well. But outside of the physical demands she is growing this beautiful mind and soul that it is my job to foster, to love, to guide, to feed. I want her to build a thoughtful mind, always considering who another person is before judgement. I want her to build a depth to her soul that is boundless and vast. I want her to feel her life and her place in ours. I want her to find her role in this world, creating one if she needs to. She’ll have to learn strength and grace and a million other things that will be built on a sense of self. To do that she has to know she is seen. At six months old, this one of the few acts she asks of me. “Mommy, See Me”, I do, baby girl.

UAE Passes Law Requiring Breastfeeding

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2549580/New-mothers-breastfeed-babies-two-years-new-Emirates-laws-husbands-able-SUE-dont.html

Okay, where do I start? Gisele would be proud. I’m all for breastfeeding, or at least pumping. But, forcing it legally for TWO years? Seems a bit extreme, right? There are so many new mom issues (though breastfeeding moms are less likely to suffer from postpartum depression and offers mommies great benefits as well as baby), I can speak to. As a mommy who desperately wanted to nurse directly and has had to settle for pumping (this article doesn’t distinguish so I’m not sure if they have an issue with that- some do some don’t), I find it startling that they will demand to have a wet nurse come in and feed your baby for you (if you have a medical excuse as to why you can’t breastfeed) than just allow formula. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’m torn between the option in general- Yes, I would absolutely want my daughter to have all of the benefits of breast milk but would I feel comfortable with a strange woman nursing her? I understand that in the evolution of human history this is not uncommon, and perhaps it is the era we find ourselves in now that places the stigma on it and the pressure on bonding directly skin-to-skin with your OWN baby. But I’m not sure I’d feel great about that, let along being forced into it.

And is it the government’s place to begin with? I’m sure they’ll see a dramatic increase in the health of their population as the children who are affected by this law grow but is it their responsibility? Is it incumbent upon an outside source to determine what is best for your child or is it even ethical? Is this being done with the best of intentions or as a way of oppressing women (how can a woman work if they are legally bound to breastfeed their children for two years?) in a new and creative manner?

I’ve mentioned to friends and on social media before that I think every mom should have to really give breastfeeding a genuinely good effort considering all of the health benefits but legally forcing them might be a step over that line. And that it allows men to sue their wives if they don’t is just beyond absurd. What, I wonder, would or can they legally require men to do to contribute to the health of their children and families that a woman could sue for? If he doesn’t provide adequate financial support? If he’s abusive to them is that not equivalent/worse than harming a baby’s health potential with formula (in THEIR eyes, while breastfeeding undoubtedly increases the quality of baby’s health, I in no way think that formula hurts them)?

Things to think about….

Intro

Life isn’t always what you think it will be. Or at least MY life isn’t. It’s better and different and everything in between. I guess I should start with the basics- I’m a new mommy to Sara, a beautiful and spunky (within 10 minutes of birth nurses had described her as “feisty”, “strong willed”, and stubborn” and if my pregnancy was any indication they hit the nail on the head) little girl who was born in August 2013. Everyone tells you a baby changes things, that your life will never be the same and you know it- when you’re carrying that basketball on your hips you know everything will change, but you can’t really comprehend it til they’re here, I’d even argue a few days after they are born. The hospital was rosy, beautiful, and peaceful. The nurses took her at night (only waking me/her to breastfeed), she was angelic. Then we got home at the end of the second day and almost went back later that night because we were sure they gave us the wrong baby- the screaming, hysterical, very unhappy little girl we brought home was not the angel all our friends and family had witnessed in the hospital.

Like many new moms, I had a strong desire to breastfeed. Not just for the normal mommy reasons but because my husband is a hot mess. Walking into the lactation consultant’s office a few days after Sara was born was a sort of confirmation for us- that big plaque they have above their desks front and center with all the horrid things you can avoid by breastfeeding (eczema, stomach problems, allergies, SIDS, etc) – yeah, he had an overwhelming majority of them. And he was NOT breastfed (different time, no knock on my dear mother-in-law!). And he’s a hot mess, I mentioned that right? So, of course that just affirmed our decision to nurse her. What I wasn’t prepared for was how hard it is. It’s really. freaking. hard. She didn’t latch well 2 min after being born (I mean, give her a break, right? She’s had a pretty tough day so far!) so they gave me a shield so she could latch. It was also much more comfortable to nurse her with it. Fast forward a few days later and she’s not gaining weight because babies can’t get as much milk with the shield. Awesome. So we weaned her off the shield and she still wasn’t happy- she had a great, strong latch but kept getting fussy and frustrated a few minutes in, and while I could coax her to keep going it wasn’t very productive. Enter Lorna. The lactation consultant from heaven. After checking us out she recommended pumping for a little while to get my supply up, help her gain weight, and so I could heal a little (you don’t want to know). A week later we were in great shape- except she didn’t want to direct nurse. Sure, she’d latch on strong and blind me, but it wasn’t very productive. And all the research I did did not help me- discussion boards and blogs full of mommies who raved about breastfeeding, how natural it feels, how wonderful it is, how close they feel to their baby while they’re nursing, the relationship that it creates, the bonds that I couldn’t find. Depressing.Disheartening. After some more help (thanks Lorna!) I resolved to pump exclusively, making sure that Sara got what she needed even if it wasn’t the way I desired.

And can I just say how much it sucks to attach your girls to a modern rendition of a medieval torture device for 20 minutes (minimum!) every 3 hours? Sara slept 12 hrs a night starting at about 6-7 weeks, but me? Nope- 3, 5, 8, & 11 (am and pm) I was pumping. Badooh, badooh, badooh….soundtrack of our lives right now, let me tell you. And then there’s the supply issues. Dear lord. I take fenugreek, shatavari, blessed thistle, and domperidone. Domperidone is a drug that increases prolactin- i.e. it increases your milk supply- it’s other use is for anti-nausea. As a side note/rant this drug (very mild and 100% safe for baby) is available OTC most places, but NOT in the United States, but that’s a pharmaceutical rant for another day. So, life is not what you think it will be. You can plan and prepare but then you get the curveball. And it’s fine, it works out. And you should still plan, and still prepare but don’t expect it to work out so neatly that you happen to have all the answers in your back pocket for the exact problem you walked into. It rarely (if ever) happens.

While I was pregnant I read everything, book after book, study after study, discussion board after…you get the point. I thought I was so well equipped for this. Breastfeeding and parenthood in general. I’ve taken care of children for most of my life- love children. One way or another I’ve cared for kids since I was 13- before that if you count siblings. I now understand how unprepared you are- how prepared you can’t be for motherhood. As I tearily walked into my pediatrician’s office one day the dear nurse reminded me, “when a baby is born so is a mommy”- so true. No one has a baby like yours- no one will have the same set of challenges in the same order with the same backstory and side story that you do. They just won’t. No matter what you read, what you’ve experienced to this point, what others tell you, your experience is 100% your own. Others share in some of the experiences (I know I’m not the first mom who wanted to nurse and had to settle with pumping), but no baby is like yours and no mother is like you. I thought I was ready for the challenge but thank god we get help in life. My husband is incredible- a devoted, loving partner and father, and a genuinely decent human being. There’s only so much he can do, but he did it. And that lactation consultant- seriously, she’s an angel. I wouldn’t have made it over my hurdles without her. And friends, of course- to bring you a bottle of wine to the hospital, or dinner when you get home. To drop off groceries, or come and hold the baby for 10 min so you can just take a breath. My advice to all new moms and mommies to be- Take The Help. Don’t be a martyr- say thank you and take it.

Two weeks after Sara was born I went back to school- UConn studying PoliSci- and it was tough. Leaving your beautiful, fragile, needy little angel may be the hardest thing you’ll do. Because just when you start to think, oh maybe this isn’t so bad, then you feel this tremendous guilt for maybe being happy about some time away from the screaming hysterical bundle of joy. And then you convince yourself that she’s screaming because you’re failing her somehow. She screams when you put her down because she feels lonely and abandoned. And she’s only 8 pounds of innocence and you’re putting her down and making her feel all alone in this big, huge, overwhelming world. How much more terrible can you get in life than making a sweet, beautiful little angel feel so scared and alone? Well, as it turned out it wasn’t that Sara felt alone it was that she felt pain because she has a digestion issue with cow’s milk protein. Enter another hurdle. I cut dairy out of my diet and was handed back that beautiful, sweet, happy baby from the first two days in the hospital. Miraculous the difference. Then there’s more guilt, the “Oh-my-god-she-was-in-sooo-much-pain-because-I-wanted-cheese-and-I-am-her-mother-I-should-have-known-but-didn’t-I’m-the-worst-mother-ever” thought process. Keep in mind, I’m hysterical at this point. Sara’s sleeping hours on end like an angel and I’m up every 3 hours for 30-45 min each plus when she’s awake and up I’m playing the role of “entertainer” to my very active and engaged little infant. The doctor said it was normal to have a dairy issue, most babies grow out of it around 4 months he said, almost all by 5 months, he said. So, every few weeks I’ll have a little cheese (postpartum lasagna cravings like no other) and cue the screeching, back arching, demon baby whom I’ve possessed with the power of cow’s milk. She’s going to be the 1% of dairy issue babies who suffers through the full first year, I know it. Just like I knew when I started having pains at 11pm on Saturday, August 10 and called my OBGYN’s office that the ONE doctor I despised, who made me cry and feel like a terrible mom already at 5 months pregnant, was on call and that this was no Braxton Hicks. OF COURSE he was on call, of course. Like I said, you plan and prepare and research and think you know what you’re doing… curveball.

I’m now 5 months in to the journey of motherhood. I’m down to 4 pumps a day (almost 2 hrs a day of my life consumed by the badooh, badoooh, badoooh) and still on all of those fun supplements. And we’re thinking about the next addition to our family- and no, it’s not the puppy I pushed for. People tell you the pain fades, the hard times when you first bring baby home- it becomes a distant memory. Lies, Lies, and more damn lies. I remember. I remember the back labor that set in right before I begged for my epidural (that it took 4 HOURS to get). I remember how hard it was. I know how hard it is. Can I just tell you what I’d rather be doing with 2 free hours a day NOT spent pumping? And yes, it’s true the cliche they remind you of “Oh, but it’s so worth it”; yes, it’s worth it. Every laugh out of that cute little pursed smile, every smile that breaks from a frown, every moment she puts her head on my chest  because her eyes are just too heavy to keep open- it’s all worth it and we’ll do it again (the number of times to be determined) but it’s hard. And I know that the next baby will be flanked by his/her own curveballs. And that’ll be worth it, too. But it’s a journey. Having a baby isn’t a goal, isn’t a result, isn’t a destination- it’s a journey and pregnancy is just prep. Your journey will be different, but this is mine. May some of my steps mirror yours, may my road intersect yours, may my experience lighten your burden and soothe (some of) your anxiety.

Love & Sleep-

Jen

First day of life
First day of life