The Lies I Tell

My kids love hearing all about how “when they were babies”.  They often ask at bedtime for me to tell them the story of the day they were born. I snuggle up next to them and tell them each a beautiful story of how one day, after being in my tummy for a long time, they said “It’s time to come out!” and started kicking my belly.  Mommy & daddy headed to the hospital and the doctor took them out and we all were so happy! They both were pink round chunky little turkeys and they giggled as soon as we saw them.  Then, they cuddled up next to us for the rest of the day and cooed and smiled as all of our family came to meet them for the first time.   They were perfect and the cutest little things I had ever seen.  I tell them both that each day they were brought into this world were both the best day of my life.  The thing is, the only good thing that actually happened on either of those days for me was that we added them to our family. Each time I tell this story, I’m telling them a long, concocted LIE.  Truth be told, I love the fact that they were born, but I hate both of the days that they entered this world.

My youngest child turned three this week. At thirteen months apart, I’m now living with a full fledged three and four year old. They aren’t toddlers anymore, they aren’t babies. They’re preschoolers. I’m not sure how I feel about this.

Their birthdays are always a mix of emotions for me; happy to celebrate a milestone for them and yet both their births were both such terrifying experiences  for me that I actually ended up having a panic attack the morning of my now three year old’s birthday. I started thinking what exactly was going on at this moment three years ago and as I then thought about my experience giving birth to my four year old (which was equally as chilling). I could feel my chest start to constrict and my body become clammy.  My breathing became short little breaths and my eyes were getting blurry. Sobbing, I called my mother, who helped me calm down.

I’ve written about this before, but the long and short of it is that  my first child was two weeks late.  After 31 hours of labor, I ended up with a horrendous emergency c-section.  My first act towards my sweet newborn baby was to push him away my because I was in the midst of the mother load of all panic attacks imaginable on the operating table. Instead of giving him a kiss, I literally pushed him away.  My experience resulted in me being drugged up for the entire first day he was born. He ended up in the NICU 24 hours later, due to irregular breathing.  In retrospect, I was so drugged up that first day that I realized I didn’t even attempt to feed him.  I had no maternal instincts. I didn’t even want to hold him, out of fear I’d drop him.  This fat 10 pound baby was probably starving, which caused him to hyperventilate. I failed him.  I waived my right as a post- op patient and joined my first baby in the NICU; sleeping in a chair in his room while recovering from major surgery and an exhausting and harrowing few days.

My husband and I were inexperienced and it’s so easy now to say what we should have done. We should have asked the nurses to feed him some formula, we should have had me transported separately to the hospital where the NICU was so that I was being taken care of as well as he. We should have never let this happen.  Hindsight is always 20/20.

With my second, the delivery went surprisingly well, but what followed did not. I couldn’t see over the sheet they put between mother and baby, but I could see my husband’s ashen face. My child was blue, the color of the summer sky before a torrential rainstorm begins. He was not healthy and he wasn’t crying. He wasn’t a chunky, pink fat baby. He was struggling to stay alive.  Something was very, very wrong.

brewingStormIceland

He was later diagnosed with a genetic issue: Respiratory Distress Disorder. Simply, if you can imagine blowing up a balloon, it’s tough at first, but then gets easier the bigger the balloon gets. He was born without the hormone that covers the lungs to help them expand. He was fighting to breathe, and we are lucky he didn’t end up with brain damage due to lack of oxygen. He was whisked out of the operating room before I could see him.  Meanwhile, I was in the midst of massive hemorrhaging. I had five nurses attending to me in recovery and I didn’t care… all I could think about was my baby who I couldn’t see or even help.

I was questioned humiliating questions by the NICU rep for the hospital in front of my husband, mother and mother in law ( while still hemorrhaging and basically spread eagle in my hospital bed.

  • Did I engage in illicit drugs during my pregnancy?
  • Did I smoke cigarettes while pregnant?
  • Did I drink alcohol while pregnant?

The answers were all  NO, but I could read between the lines : What did I do to cause this?  The weight of the guilt I felt was like holding up a 1,000lb rock above my head.  I couldn’t help it.   The first time I saw my sweet little baby, he was in a contraption that looked like a glass coffin to transfer him to the NICU.  He was sedated and all I could do was reach my hand into a little hole in this glass coffin and tell him I loved him.  It was four days before I was able to hold that precious peanut. These four days felt like four lifetimes.

Life is crazy. Life is hard. I am so thankful that they are both thriving, healthy children now, and I know that I am one of the lucky ones. I know people that may have had the perfect delivery but ended up with a child much more seriously sick than mine. I know people who have watched a child of theirs go through pediatric cancer treatments. In no way am I comparing my experience to anyone else’s, but mine is all I know. My story is all I can tell.

I selfishly can’t help but feel like I got handed the short stick both times. I was robbed of the first few weeks of my child’s life. I have no pictures of their first few moments. I have no happy pictures of us as a family on either day.  I have very few happy memories of their birthdays.  I wasn’t given the opportunity to create an immediate bond and connection with either child, and both experiences were so intense that four years later, I’m still suffering from PTSD.  I’m angry because this has partly effected our plans for any future children. I’m angry that I missed out on so much.  I’m angry that things were so much harder than I had ever planned on them being.  I’m angry over the amount of helplessness I felt in both situations. I’m angry with myself for feeling any of this at all.

I still Care

I’m hoping that one of these days, I’ll have told them each my fake version of the day they were born so many times that it will start to slowly sink into my brain; memories of the truth washed away, only to be replaced with my fairy tale that I have made up.  I lie and tell myself time heals all wounds, and one day, this will all be a distant memory.  I can only hope that this is true.

stronger

Shame On Us: The Impossible Journey of a Working Mother

Let me tell you a story. A story that has me so angry on so many levels that I am not sure I’m going to be able to get this out without writing expletives on every other line, but I’ll try.

Meet Julia. Julia worked her ass off to put herself through business school. She took out a massive amount of student loans and commuted to Boston from her home, 60 miles south, in Rhode Island, every day for her first job.

Her first job was tough. She worked for a Hedge Fund company and the hours were long and the work was intense. She worked harder than she ever had before to prove herself and gave them her all. Her entire first year out of school was spent schlepping around the country for work. Practically living in airports, she was lucky she was dating a nice guy who understood her insane hours. Julia and Tom eventually got married and it took her two years before she realized that her current place of employment wasn’t jiving with her family plans. 

“You Can’t Have a Family” was practically written in their company handbook. Maybe not in ink, but it was made pretty clear by their expectations and the hours she was required to work. As she took a quick look around at the perpetually single and happily married but child-less co-workers who surrounded her, she knew that if she wanted to have children, she would need to change firms.

Julia moved onto greener pastures and found the perfect fit- a firm that was comprised of all women. It was everything she had been looking for: a place filled with strong working women, moms and wives who understood the daily struggle it is to be a woman in a man’s world. When she got pregnant shortly after starting there, they congratulated her and threw her an office baby shower. As her pregnancy progressed and her doctor appointments became more frequent, they understood; they too had been there at one time. She managed to fit her appointments in and made it through the calendar year without one sick day. Julia felt lucky to work in such a great working environment. She continued to pull her weight as a productive member of the team and earned the highest bonus in the company, while simultaneously preparing her home to welcome her much anticipated little bundle of joy. 

 She never slowed down and continued to work hard, even raking in one of the company’s biggest clients the week prior to her due date. Julia fully recognized that she was one of the lucky ones when she began her twelve week paid maternity leave when baby boy  arrived two days early.

Dylan was beautiful, even more perfect than Julia had imagined him being. Julia and Tom spent her maternity leave soaking up squishy baby cuddles and visiting local daycares. They enrolled Dylan in one of the top daycares in their area and Julia prepared to return to work. Twelve weeks flew by in a blink of an eye.

Julia had been back at work for two weeks before she had found herself in the same shoes as many other parents: exhausted from going back to work, continuously pumping and getting little to no sleep. Her immune system was down and she had caught a cold. She shipped Dylan off to her parents and told her boss that she would work from home. By Tuesday afternoon, she had spiked 102 fever and was diagnosed with strep throat and an upper respiratory infection. Julia was forced to take another sick day on Wednesday. She had been back at work for three weeks and had taken 2 sick days back to back , with one day working from home. 

Julia often worked from home prior to having the baby, but somehow, this time was different. Her phone didn’t ring once. No one from her office emailed her. Communication went dead. They were icing her out. Still sick as a dog Thursday morning, she knew something was up and she was going to have to go in to the office.

“We see that you are struggling Julia, and we want to help you out. We love you and we want to make you shine, but you are having a hard time and you are making yourself sick.” Julia’s boss explained, feigning a concerned tone. “We would like you to move to working as a consultant per diem. We have certain expectations of you now that you are mom, and simply put, you aren’t meeting them.”

“I wish someone did this for me, its sooo hard being a working mom. You know how much we love you, and we are doing this for you.” Some bitch, (obviously meant to be in the meeting as a witness) chirped. No one mentioned the fact that they had hired someone else while Julia was on maternity leave. “You will see this move as a gift, not as a punishment.”

“Yes,” Her boss interrupted, “I know this will be a big pay cut, but since you earned such a big raise last year, going per diem shouldn’t effect you so much. Think of all the money you will be saving on daycare now, too! We are doing you a favor.”

For Fuck’s Sake. Were these women for real? Had Julia had a streak of bad luck? Yes. She most certainly had, but she hadn’t even been back at work for 3 full weeks! Not only were they demoting her, but they were selling it to her like they were doing her a fucking favor. Shame on them. Julia sat there in silence, with a pounding headache and a sore throat, as she listened to these women feed her line after line of bullshit. 

Julia had a perfect record working in this company up until this point, and the fact that they escalated things so quickly after her coming back seems a little more than unfair. I have more issue with the fact that they pretended this was in her best interest than the actual fact that they demoted her. They planted the seed in her head that not only was she failing as a new mother, but also as a working mother. If she wasn’t able to handle one baby and work, how was she ever going to think about adding any additional children to her family? Her confidence immediately  plummeted the more they continued to talk. She left the meeting feeling emotionally exhausted, defeated, and like a piece of shit. Her self worth, both as a mother and a working woman had been attacked, and her psyche had been severely screwed with.

I’m all for gender equality, and I am all for having a solid work ethic and what is expected from employees in a professional setting.  All that being said, I question if this conversation would have occurred at all if Julia was a man. I severely doubt it. I have heard story after story of working women being considered a sub-par employee once they have children. I have seen it and lived it. I’ll admit it; It’s almost impossible to give 100% at work and at home. I spend the most time I can during work hours with clients, only to race to pick up my children from pre-school and daycare, make dinner, give baths, read books, cuddle and put them to bed.  Once I pickup the house after everyone has gone to bed, I pull out my lap top and get BACK to work. Ask any of my clients or co-workers. They’ve received an email or finalized documents at 12:35am in the morning from me.

The chips are stacked against us women. I’m not a man-hater, I’m just stating the facts. If Julia was a man, she wouldn’t have been on maternity leave in the first place. This is something that no one can control. Men are simply not equipped by nature to give birth, and therefore, this honor falls on our shoulders. 

 If Julia was a man, she would have not only been the target of such an attack, but I also firmly believe that if the bosses in this scenario were men, such personal issues wouldn’t have been brought into what should have been a business conversation in the first place. 

Fine, you don’t think I’m doing the job I should be? Demote me. Fire me, even. That’s fair. Don’t insult me by telling me you care about me and are doing me a favor. Why do women always feel the need to bring personal issues into business related material?

So, on some level, this story is made worse for me because her bosses are fucking women. They should know better. They should know that it takes some time for adjustment going back to work after having a baby, and getting sick is especially something that you cannot control. 

Julia is a perfect example of all that is wrong with the way the United States views new mothers and maternity leave. I have discussed the Glass Ceiling in previous posts, and this is a prime example of why it is virtually impossible for mothers to excel in the workplace. Working and managing a family, especially living with a newborn is not easy. Julia was set up to fail from the moment her FLMA leave time expired. 12 weeks is not enough time to spend at home with your new baby and adjust to your new “normal”. At 12 weeks old, Dylan had just started to wake up from his “newborn slumber” and was starting to become pretty fun as he became aware of the world around him. He was beginning to respond to Julia and Tom and his social smiles were more frequent now. Parenting had just begun to become more rewarding, and Julia watched as Dylan grew leaps and bounds both mentally and physically as each day went by.  Despite this exciting time, Julia was still exhausted; she was breast feeding and pumping every four hours and Dylan was still waking up three to four times a night. She hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in months. 

 At 12 weeks, your baby still needs you just as much as the day it was born and yet, some political genius out there thought that 12 short weeks all the time you needed to bond with your child before shipping them off into someone else’s care and heading back to the work force- not to mention that it’s not mandatory for your employer to pay you while you’re on maternity leave. I took the maximum 16 weeks I could when my second baby was born sick. I lost out on a quarter of my salary that year, not to mention the potential commission I lost because I work in sales and missed meeting with clients.

Unless you are blessed with available family, your child will spend their time with a stranger at a daycare, as you get a collective four hours of (non-consecutive) sleep a night and are expected to function like normal human being at work.

Shame on these women, shame on this broken system, and shame on us for allowing this sort of thing to continue in the United States. Turn the news on and all you will hear are politicians preaching about job reform, employment rates, and making sure that our economy grows. It’s never going to happen if we can’t address this glaring issue within our society. THINGS NEED TO CHANGE. We are living in 2017, not 1955. We are drastically behind on the times, and it’s embarrassing. Don’t kid yourself, this issue does not just effect women, it’s effecting everyone. 

Like mine, Julia’s  entire family’s income changed overnight, adding stress to her and her husband, and with the increased costs a child presents to their family, you can bet your bottom dollar they are going to be contributing less to the economy. The single guy working at the local restaurant that Julia and Tom frequent is now going to be out a few extra dollars since they won’t be in as often. The owner of that restaurant has lost two customers for the time being, and the person who supplies that restaurant’s produce has just received a slightly smaller order for this week. You may not think that this effects you, but it does. It trickles down to everyone. For being the most “powerful country in the world”, it’s deplorable that we haven’t figured out a better way to handle maternity leave and working mothers in a better way.

Let’s do something to change this. Start with Julia’s story and be inspired. Don’t let this happen to your family or someone you know, but the sad reality is that it probably already has.

And simply because I didn’t get to use enough profanity as I had hoped to in this point, let me close with offering those two ladies a big FUCK YOU on behalf of Julia and all the other working mothers and families out there.

Throwing Modesty Out the Window: Things No One Tells You Before and After You Give Birth

Congratulations! You’re pregnant? 

SAY GOODBYE TO ANY SHRED OF MODESTY YOU HAD.

I was two weeks overdue with my first child and took a week off prior to my due date (in case he was early) and ended up sitting around for three weeks as a hormonal mess. 

I kept wondering if this baby was ever going to come out of me. Finally, the day before I was about to be induced, I went into labor. I waited nine hours before actually going to the hospital. 

One of the fun parts of labor they don’t tell you about is that your stomach muscles are contracting so much, you’ll probably end up shitting yourself at some point. Everyone is so worried about doing it while pushing the baby out, no one thinks to worry about what happens before the baby comes out. As soon as I arrived, the nurse gave me a hospital gown to change into and I headed to the bathroom. The toilet seat was obviously made for a NBA basketball player and was way too high. I hoisted myself up onto the seat and was sitting there, buck naked, 8,000 months pregnant, feet dangling 5 inches from the floor, literally going to the bathroom when the nurse casually came in to have a little “chat” with me. It was as if this was completely normal. I was a gigantic  naked, fat whale, having a complete coversation with a stranger while I was actually pooping at the same time. There were literally audible sounds coming from the bathroom that neither came from her or my mouth. She didn’t seem the least bit phased, and as I sat there in all my beluga whale glory, I answered her questions . I walked out of that bathroom in my cotton hospital gown and knew in that instant that any privacy I was used to was soon to change, very quickly. 

For the last nine months, as my belly grew,  I had been having external and internal exams by my OBGYN.  It’s like your yearly OB exam on crack- a super pleasant experience where as a bonus you get to weigh in every.single.time– reminding you that size 4 dress in your closet will forever haunt you as what could be considered “your former self, before children.”  You might as well use that tiny piece of fabric as a burp cloth, because your fat ass isn’t going to fit into it again for a loooooong time; if ever.

During the holiday season while I was out shopping, I was asked by no fewer than five strangers if I was “due any day now” or “carrying twins.” I was 3 months away from my due date at that point and my only answer was that I was carrying an enormous beast in my belly- but thanks for asking anyway.

I had come to the point where I just wanted to wear a tee shirt that said: 

“Yes, I am pregnant. No, I’m not having twins. It is a boy. We do not have a name picked out and if you even try to go near my belly with your grubby hand I will back hand you… have a great day!”

I started growing out of my maternity clothes and refused to buy new ones because I was just so sick of wearing them in the first place. I’d sit in weekly board meetings with my staff, 2 inches of my bare belly hanging out of my shirt, in spandex and wearing slippers because my feet were so swollen. I had given up. 

In this world, there are “hot” pregnant ladies and then there are…. the rest of us. My wedding photographer begged me to take maternity pictures to commemorate this time. I should have done it at 3 months along- because that was pretty much the only time I looked like a “hot pregnant lady”

By the time my first child decided to make an entrance into this word, I had been in labor for 31 hours and my 10lb pork roll child was born via emergency c-section because his fat head couldn’t fit for a regular vaginal delivery. My delivery was documented in a previous post so I won’t go over that again, but this was the first time I really valued how incredible modern medicine is. I counted my blessings because if this had been 100+ years ago, I probably wouldn’t have lived through that delivery, and neither would my child. Without that c-section, he was not coming out.

There were quite a few post-partum moments that my modesty just flew out the window again. The first time my nurse took out my catheter so I could pee normally, she insisted it was her job to  “monitor me”. At this point I couldn’t give two shits about what was happening, so I sat on the toilet, I watched her squat down in front of me and spray warm water onto my nether regions. I swear, if I could have kissed this lady, I would have. Nurses deserve a lot more credit for what they do. After carrying a gigantic human inside of me, EVERYTHING was swollen. As this nurse helped me out, I almost cried because it felt so good. There needs to be a tip jar in your hospital room. 

Four glorious months later of living with a colicky, screaming baby, I found myself miraculously pregnant again. We had talked about having more children, but certainly not this soon. I always joke that I got pregnant with my second baby alone. My husband had gone out for the night with friends and I decided to drink and entire bottle of wine alone to celebrate my child  finally sleeping through the night. My husband came home as I was throwing the bottle in the recycling bin, and the rest is history. 

I ended up having two c-sections,13 months apart. My second c-section was planned. For months, I hadn’t been able to see my feet, never mind anything else below my gigantic belly.  I had an infant to take care of, while waddling around pregnant with my second child and maintaining my lady parts was last on my list of priorities. As I was being prepped for surgery, the nurse asked if a student doctor could shave the area of the surgery site. I was in a good mood and replied “Sure, as long as she brought a weed whacker with her. ” My husband almost fell off the chair in embarrassment. I was a million months pregnant at this point and was happy at least someone was taking care of what I had been neglecting down there for so long.

I started some new medication earlier this summer and one of the side effects is weight gain. It had been 2.5 years since having my last baby and I remember wailing to my doctor “but I just lost all my baby weight!!!!” 

He assured me this medication caused the least amount of weight gain… and to some extent he was right- my ass stayed the same, my face stayed the same and my legs and arms look fine. Those lovely  extra few pounds have taken up shop in my gut and I look essentially early first trimester pregnant. I’ve been asked 4 times over the past 2 months if I’m expecting baby #3, resulting in a meltdown in my office one day that startled every one of my co-workers, including the Vice President of my company, who just stood there, wide eyed.  Like a crazy lady, I randomly screamed  “Attention! I have an important message for you all!  In case you’re wondering- I AM NOT PREGANT- THERE IS NO BABY IN HERE, just FAT, most likely caused by wine and hard ciders that I use to nurse myself to sleep each night, so spread the news, THERE IS NO FREAKING BABY IN THERE, suckers!” 

Once you’ve had kids, apparently these are the things you have to yell in your office to get the point across. I’m pretty sure no one talked to me for the rest of the day in fear I may bite their heads off.

Bottom line. Prepare for the unexpected. Prepare to be embarrassed, but know that no one else is. They’re professionals and see this stuff all the time. Having a baby changes things; I’m just glad I was married before going through all of this, because I knew my husband was bound to me, even after seeing what he saw, he legally couldn’t run away.

Prepare yourself to feel your heart burst with something that is unexplainable; a love that you never knew existed until you see those little eyes looking up at you and you realize you made this tiny human.

Once you get over the initial endorphin high, If you want to talk REAL FUN, we can discuss post-partum adult diapers and the dreaded first post partum poop sometime. I’ve got some great stories.

Until next time,

Coastal Mama 😘

Do Me A Favor

I just had a baby.  Well, I actually didn’t just have a baby, but for the purposes of this post, let’s pretend.  You just got word that I’ve finally had the baby, and before you jump in your car and rush over, there are few things that I need from you.

Don’t stop by the hospital. If this is my first baby, I don’t understand that this is the only time I am going to have round the clock “help” ever again. I am so pumped up on adrenaline that I don’t fully comprehend that I should be using every second I have before I go home to rest. If this isn’t my first rodeo and I’ve given birth before, I understand the fact that I need to chill out and you being there is just pissing me off. Unless you are immediate family, do me a favor and don’t stop by. Send a card, a cute gift, or shoot me a text. Give me a few days to bond with my new baby and new family and visit when things settle down.

Thank you for giving us some breathing room in the hospital. When you do decide to make your way over to our house to visit with our new bundle of joy, I have some requests.

Make an appointment. Do not, under any circumstances, just “pop” over to my house. If you do this, I promise you, I will cut you.  Give me a chance to anticipate your visit.  Give me a chance to brush my hair and brush my teeth.  I would like to look like the best version of the cave woman I have been impersonating that I possibly can.  I have no idea when the baby will be napping, and Lord help you if you come over right as that child falls asleep.  Hell hath no fury like a woman who’s newborn has just been unintentionally woken up.

Wash your hands without me asking you to.  I don’t want to insult you and remind you to wash your hands before touching my brand new baby, but I will if you don’t do it before I ask.  We all know how filthy money, your cell phone, and your steering wheel is. I don’t care if you tell me you bathed in antibacterial soap before coming over. Your first step after saying hello to me is to walk right over to the sink and scrub up.  Make a production about it for good measure… Say something like, “I can’t wait to see that cute new squish! First let me wash my hands, and Ill be right over.”  Spend longer than you think you need to wash you hands. I appreciate it.  I’m not even going to mention the fact that if you even think you may be getting sick that you shouldn’t come by. Just don’t do it.

On the topic of coming over, don’t stay long and don’t expect anything more than small talk from me. Whether I admit it or not, I’m exhausted and overly hormonal. I’m so glad to see a member of the outside world, but I’m too overwhelmed to have a proper conversation.  The likelihood that I took a shower before you came over is slim to none, and you’re lucky if I remembered to put on a bra.  I’m wearing a maxi pad the size of an adult diaper and recovering from birthing a tiny watermelon.  While you discuss the latest work gossip, I may or may not be sitting there, breaking into  a sweat, trying to mentally prepare myself for my first post partum poop, which I now realize I am more scared of than actual childbirth.  Don’t ask me how I’m feeling if you don’t want the truthful answer. I feel like a tractor trailer truck ran me over and then backed up a few times to make sure the job was done. Do me a favor and just tell me I look great. Even if it’s a lie, I need to hear it.

Same thing goes with my baby.  At this point, my child probably looks like a wrinkled up old man, regardless of it’s gender.  You can tell me how cute my baby is, but don’t ask me anything that is going to play into my insecurities. “That weird mark on their head will go away, won’t it?” “Wow, isn’t her nose is an interesting shape.”   I’ve already spent more time freaking out about that weird birthmark and whether or not it will go away.  I haven’t fully come to the conclusion if I think its cute or not, and I’m not sharing that fact with you.  In my delirious hormonal state right now, if you say something even just a little bit off to me, you can be sure I am mentally preparing your funeral in my head. Just shut up, and if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.

Please don’t ask me to make you anything to eat or drink, even if I offer. I’m just being nice. The thought of me playing hostess makes me nauseous right now. I have never felt so needed by someone else so much in my life and I’m still wrapping my head around the amount of responsibility that has just been placed on my shoulders. Help yourself to my coffee machine or grab a cookie from the cupboard yourself- I won’t care, just do it. Do me another favor by putting your cup in the dishwasher before you leave too.  If you want to be really awesome, bring my family an easy meal to heat up.  I can’t remember the last time I turned my stove on to cook something, and a hot meal would definitely make me feel more like a human.

When you hold my child, do not under any circumstances put your finger in their mouth.  I’m not sure why people do this, but it’s disgusting. Do not do it. I don’t do it, and I’m not sure why you think it’s ok to do.  I know where your hands have been.  I don’t care if you washed your hands in bleach, I don’t care if you have been blessed by the Pope, your fingers do not belong in my baby’s mouth.  It’s not cute to have my infant practice sucking on your finger, and its making me physically ill to see you do it.  Thank you.

If you offer to babysit, you better mean it. Every single person who has come to visit me in the past few days has offered to babysit and what I will soon find out is that no one actually follows up on their offer. Help a sister out.  My baby is four days old, I’m not ready for a night out on the town. I could use a nice hot shower and a nap though. So offer to hang with the baby while I do both things.  If I have older children, offer to take them to the playground, the library, out for ice cream, anything. Get them out of the house and give me a break.

I’m so glad that you love me and my family so much.  Thank you for being an awesome person and caring about us. As you read these requests, please remember that I love you, and I can’t wait to get back to re-capping the latest episode of the Bachelor with you, glass of wine in hand.  For the immediate future though, I’m just trying to survive, so please try to understand.

crack

The Secret To Being A Better Mama

It was a grey March morning the first time I ran away. Ben was only 10 days old and my mother in-law was over, helping out. I think I said something like “I gotta get outta here” and was out the door within five minutes of her showing up. I used a nail appointment as my cover, but when I pulled into the parking lot of the nail salon, I found that couldn’t get out of the car.  I sat paralyzed behind the steering wheel and just wept. I picked up the phone and unleashed my crazy post partum hormone amped-up state on my mom “This is too hard!!” I sobbed. “I can’t do this. He won’t stop screaming an I’m loosing it! I hate being a mother.” And I did. I hated it. I felt like a failure, and this child I had just birthed was a nightmare. I didn’t feel a connection to him and he just would not stop crying. None of this was going the way I had planned.

I worried that I was going to freak out again when I had my next baby. How was I going to deal with two babies under two, when I clearly could barely handle the infant stage the first time? Of course, I couldn’t tell this to anyone, because everyone loves a squishy newborn, don’t they?  They just sleep, and coo, and sleep some more. Not me. I freaking hate newborns.  The older Ben got, and the more expressive he became, and the easier and more fun he was.  I can’t stand that newborns can’t tell you what is wrong.  They cry when they are hungry.  They cry when they are tired.  They cry when they are not feeling well. They seem to cry just for the hell of it, sometimes!  Newborns are not on a schedule for the first few weeks of their lives and my OCD Type-A personality cannot handle this.  I need a routine. I am not a newborn person.  And after my first baby, I am definitely not a newborn person. 

I was a freak with my first baby. Ben had a short weekend length stay in the NICU, where the nurses weighed every diaper, keep a record of what they were, as well as noting when he ate and slept. This intense record keeping played right into my “need for order” and gave me a false sense of routine. I thought by looking at my cheat sheet, I would be able to anticipate Ben’s needs before he actually needed them, and I assumed that I would eventually form a pattern by deciphering when he last needed a diaper.  I would study when he last ate and calculate that he would be hungry again in approximately 2.5 hours. It took me a week after we returned from the hospital for me to realize that I was wasting my time scribbling on a  worthless piece of paper.  Newsflash: New babies do not have a routine.  My plan was foiled, and Ben was quickly becoming an increasingly fussy baby.  I was having a hard time just “going with the flow”. 

I knew Ben was a colicky baby by the time he was a week old. After some research, I had narrowed down his symptoms to be acid reflux. I knew something was wrong, but I put my faith into the fact that Ben’s pediatrician was an experienced doctor and knew it all. In reality, she may have a PhD, but she wasn’t living with a newborn who screamed 23 hours of the day. She talked to us about the “witching hour” and how some babies went a little nuts in the evening hours. He was gaining weight, and she wasn’t concerned because if he had reflux, he wouldn’t be eating as much and would be underweight. She convinced us that his behavior was normal and it would pass. Meanwhile, my husband and I were downright drowning at home. DROWNING. There is only so much crying you can listen to before you start to go crazy. I literally couldn’t leave the house with my baby because he would scream the entire time. He screamed in the car seat on the way, the entire time at our destination, and the entire ride home, and then continued once we got in the house. The only time he was quiet was when he was sleeping.  It took three months of complaining before his pedi wrote a prescription for reflux meds. 

Ben stopped screaming that same day.  

I’ve changed my perspective with this second baby.  After all of that worrying about what would happen when I added another little person to our family,  I have been pleasantly surprised to find that in many ways, I’ve found it easier this second time around.  Yes, adding another person to our family was a huge adjustment, but I’ve been able to relax a little and I’ve come to understand that kids are more resilient than you think.  When we took Jack home from the hospital, I didn’t keep notes on when he ate and when I changed his diaper like a bumbling idiot.  I’ve learned to chill out, and I’ve come into my own as a mother.

I didn’t wait three months to before demanding that Jack be put on reflux meds like I did with Ben. In fact, I didn’t even bring him in. I called the pedi one morning as soon as I started to see him exhibit the same symptoms as Ben was and told her to write the prescription. “Jack has reflux, can you please send in an Rx before your lunch break, I’ll be in town later today and can pick it up.” CLICK. 

I’m not screwing around this time. I don’t have the patience, and I don’t have the time. And I have way more confidence than I did with my first baby. The fact that my children rely on my husband and I to be their sole advocates in this life is much clearer this time around. I certainly knew that with Ben, but I put too much faith into other people who I assumed “knew what they were doing.” the first time around.  I was seeking advice from the wrong people, when I needed to be talking to my fellow new mamas who were experiencing the same things as me, right now, in real time.

The biggest positive  change I’ve made is to talk with other new parents.  In an age where everyone is bombarding your newsfeed with happy, serene pictures of their seemingly perfectly happy children, its easy to feel very much alone when you are sitting home with a screaming baby, hating life. I’ve found that by opening up to other parents, we’ve both benefited immensely, and I’ve become a better mother because of those other moms out there.

I joined an online moms group, all with babies who were born around the same time as Ben.  I can honestly say I have found some serious friends on there.  We ask advice, compare notes, celebrate milestones and complain when we are feeling beaten down. I also started taking it upon myself to reach out to new moms who I may not have been best friends with before in real life.  I contacted a girl I knew who had an emergency C-section and let her know that I understood that the mental and physical toll something like that puts on you through isn’t easy.  I shared that I cried every single day during my first month of motherhood.  She was so grateful to hear from me and let me know that she was relieved to know that she wasn’t alone.  There was an instant bond, and we’ve kept in contact ever since.  

No one tells you about the helpless feelings that you’ll experience when you can’t get your new baby to stop crying. You don’t fully understand why they use sleep deprivation as a torture tactic until you haven’t slept in weeks. No one talks about post partum depression. No one talks about how lonely being a new mother can be sometimes, and no one tells you how much you’re marriage is going to instantly change over night. It’s true when they say it takes a village.  I challenge you to reach out and search for your mama village of support.  With experience comes confidence, and it’s important to let our fellow mamas know what they are feeling is normal. Share your story with someone else; you may be surprised to find out they’re feeling the exact same way. Tell them that it’s going to be okay, and tell them that it will get better.   Tell them it’s ok to cry, to feel beat down, and to feel like they’re going crazy.  Tell them that for every difficult moment they’ll encounter that there will be five rewarding moments behind it. Most importantly, remind them that they’re doing a good job. If I had opened up to someone sooner, I may not have run away in the first place. 

Forget the mommy wars. Forget who is breast feeding and who is formula feeding. Ignore who chose to have a natural birth and who begged for drugs 10 minutes after checking into labor & delivery.  Put the vaccine debate on the back burner and be a good mama to other mamas.  Share your story and open up your heart. If you do this, I promise you that you’ll become a better mama at home. Xo



I’m The Sucker

I’ve decided that my kid needs to go to rehab.  He’s completely addicted to his pacifier and needs an intervention.

The freakin’ binky! Or paci, nubby, nuk… whatever you call it in your house- at ours, it’s the binky, bink or bink-bink, and this thing is like pure gold to my toddler.  It’s to the point where I’m almost certain he is going to be the first kid to go to college with a pacifier adhered to his lips. This thing needs.to.go.

Like almost everything with my children, things have pretty much gone completely opposite of whatever I originally thought would happen in every aspect of their lives thus far.  I never planned on using pacifiers, but both kids ended up in the NICU and they each had one in their mouth before I even entered their room to see them for the first time. When you’re looking at your tiny little miracle fighting for their life, the fact that they are sucking on a pacifier quickly becomes the least of your concerns. I gladly let them have it- anything to soothe them and make them feel more comfortable.

When the elevator doors open and you step onto the floor of a NICU, you’ll notice that there is no noise and it’s an odd realization. Beyond the constant beeps from all of the monitors, for a floor the houses 40 new babies, there isn’t any crying. It’s not like the maternity ward where you can hear newborn babies cries coming from every room. In the NICU some of them aren’t even able to- I didn’t hear Jack cry until he was a week and a half old- he had been intubated the entire time up until that point. The other babies on the floor, like Ben, simply just had a binky that was keeping them quiet in addition to round the clock care.

When we got home from the hospital, we realized the binky was a little piece of magic. The baby was fussing? Give him the binky and he calms right down.  Oops! he woke up for a second! Stick the binky back in and he’ll go back to sleep… quick!! It was awesome. The nurses at the hospital may have been the first to introduce my kids to the pacifier, but my husband and I are 100% responsible for fueling their addiction.

We lied to ourselves for a long time- “Our child doesn’t really like the binky, it just helps him sleep”… “Our child will never be that kid with the stupid pacifier in his mouth in pictures.”  Well, here we are- almost two years later and I struggle to get a picture of him without that damn thing in his mouth. Not only does Ben love his binky, he demands it.  My cherub little boy, not even the ripe age of two years old, will morph into a little Tony Soprano and say in a saucy tone  “My binky go?”, which is toddler speak for “Where the hell is my binky?  I better have it in my hands within ten seconds…. or I will cut you.”

So, today, fed up with listening to my child talk with some ugly thing in his mouth, I  took a stand… against all binkies everywhere and for every mom who is sick of their child’s addiction.  Out of the blue, I had had enough and I hastily cut the tip off one of Ben’s  favorite pacifiers when he was eating dinner (the only time I’ve seen it out of his mouth lately) and waited to see what would happen. He actually took it pretty well and very sweetly asked me what was wrong with it when he got it back. I claimed ignorance and said it must be broken.  It wasn’t so much a lie as it was an omission of the truth… the binky was broken… but I didn’t need to tell him that I knew how it got that way.  I tried to act just as surprised as he was when it wasn’t staying in his mouth anymore. He made it the rest of the evening without the binky in his mouth and at one point even threw it across the room, angrily declaring “binky broken!”. Could it be this easy? This is a piece of cake! I should have done this sooner.

binky

It wasn’t until bedtime that I started to panic…how the hell was he supposed to sleep without his binky?!? My heart rate sped up as I started anticipating a long battle going to bed without his beloved binky. He had taken a late nap, causing him to stay up later and it was already an hour past his bedtime. I was tired and we wasn’t up for a huge fight.  As I looked over to him playing quietly with his toys, it hit me… I was hooked on the binky as much as he was. The stupid binky which I despised seeing in my child’s mouth, was also a source of comfort for me… I knew he would sleep through the night with it and the thought of being woken up by him looking for it scared me so much that I caved.

When Ben began to protest bedtime, I bent down to him and quietly whispered, “I think there is a real binky on your pillow in your bed if you go in there.” His eyes lit up and he ran into his bedroom.  As he laid down in his bed, peacefully sucking on his pacifier, I kissed him goodnight and closed my eyes. The epic battle with the binky wasn’t over yet… and I realized that I was battling more than just Ben’s desire for it.  Ben wasn’t the sucker for being dependent on the binky… I was.

Karma’s a Funny Bitch

“Be kind, for everyone is fighting a harder battle”. I chose this quote for my senior picture in my High School year book. I’m sure my parents were stunned when they didn’t find some Kurt Cobain quote under my name, or some proclamation of love for my high school boyfriend. Nope, I chose Plato. And I think of these words often, still today.

I’m not sure why they choose to circumcise little boys right before they leave the hospital.  The stress of bringing a new human being into your life and and home is obviously not terrifying enough, so having to care for a wound that is attached to an appendage that a mother is completely clueless about is just an extra little bonus that parents of boys who choose to do this get!

First of all, I don’t care if you have one or five children, for new parents, you can’t help but feel shocked when the hospital actually lets you leave with your child – without so much as a manual. Having this much responsibility placed on you at one time, after giving birth, and in my case, spending time in the NICU, can really make your feel a little faint of heart.

We spent two weeks in the NICU with baby #2 and the day the decision was made to release him, I had to go home and pick up my husband. He had been working full time and staying in the NICU at night, while I spent my days there and then returned to my 13month old, trying to feign some sense of normalcy during the evening, while I felt like my world was crumbling around me.  Thus, the day my second boy was circumcised, I was not in the building unfortunately, as  I was on my way back to pick up my husband and arrange child care for my other baby. When we returned, nurse was all smiles when we entered his room after his circumcision. “The doctor who performed the procedure said she knew you! What a coincidence! I guess it really is a small world.”

Wait a second. I knew her? I didn’t know anyone who worked in this hospital. I didn’t give birth there and my son and I were both transported, separately via ambulance to a specialty hospital with a state of the art NICU that my tiny seaside hospital that I gave birth in was unable to provide what he needed. Who was his doctor???

I vividly remember the day he was born. It was my second baby and a scheduled c-section. I had enjoyed an easy pregnancy and was loooking forward to meeting my little man. He was born at 8:25am and I knew the moment that they took him out that something was wrong. He wasn’t crying. I couldn’t see what was going on, but my husband could, and the look on his face made me shutter. After a few terrifying moments, a loud wail engulfed the room and I felt a sigh of relief. The nurse put on a brave face and brought him over to me to see him for a second and it was then that I knew something was really wrong. Instead of a plump pink baby, I was presented with a pale, grey infant, the color of a storm brewing, far in the sky. 

My husband left my side to check on the baby, while I waited anxiously for some answers. No one was giving me answers and I wracked my brain for some sort of question to ask. “What is his APGAR score?!” I yelled out. (From 1-10, 10 is the highest. My first child scored a 10. I had been reading so many baby books that my husband probably didn’t even know what I was talking about but returned to my side reporting that my baby was scoring a 4. My suspicions were confirmed and I knew in my heart- something was wrong with this baby. 

He was whisked away to a special unit where I was unable to visit him. My husband could, but he was under instense respriaatiry distress and they were making arrangements to transport him to another hospital with better facilities to take care of him. I, on the other hand, back in my recovery room, was suffering majoring hemoraging. I had six nurses surrounding me, intensely concerned, and yet, all I could ask about was the baby. My nurse said as long as I didn’t pass a blood clot the size of a grapefruit or bigger, I was going to be ok. A grapefruit?! Are you fucking kidding me??? I never looked down, but if that was coming out of me, I didn’t even want to see.

A doctor arrived from the NICU and peppered me with questions in front of my husband, mother, mother-in-law and nurses. Did I smoke during pregnancy? Drink alcohol? Engage in illicit drugs? The questioning  was necessary, yet mortifying at the same time. No, I hadn’t done any of those things. My entire pregnancy, I was sleep deprived and caring for another newborn at home. I felt dirty and guilty. I must have done SOMETHING TO HAVE CAUSED THIS. May I remind you that while this questioning was going on, I had my legs spread wide open, hemoraging with multiple nurses attending to my vagina. My perfect day was rapidly becoming a nightmare. 

The first time I actually got to see my baby, it was eight hours later. He was intubated and sedated. He was in what I can only describe as a giant glass coffin. It was a special contraption to transport him in the ambulance. I reached my hand into a little hole and touched his lifeless hand and told him I loved him. I couldn’t go with him, because as soon as he was born, we were considered separate patients. Emergency plans were made to pick up my other baby at daycare and I sat and sobbed as he left the room, my husband following in our car to meet him there. 

 I arrived via separate ambulance hours later and it wasn’t until 10pm that evening that I was finally able to see my baby. Surrounded by loud beeping monitors, sedated and intubated, I was informed I wouldn’t be able to hold him until he got a little better- it would be a day, days or weeks. No promises were made. Those two weeks in the NICU were hell. It was four days before I finally was able to actually HOLD my baby. I watched them poke and prod his tiny body with needles, shave parts of his head and as hard as it was to watch, I knew he was receiving the best care possible. I feel guilty because I know people spend much longer in the NICU, but for me, recovering from a c-section, with a baby at home I couldn’t forget, and I couldn’t help but feel helpless. 

When he finally was released, and the circumcision discussion came about I was caught off guard. Who did I know in that hospital that knew me? The nurse explained it was a prior bride I had. 

The moment she said this, my husband’s face went ashen. For the most part, I have a wonderful relationships with my clients, but there are always one or two bridezillas each season that he hears about.

“Please tell me you got along with this bride…” he looked at me with a serious face. I could see him visualizing some unhappy previous bride being in charge of his precious baby boys’ most prized position on his body.

I laughed. She was one of my favorite clients and we had gotten along fantastically. 

My point is that you never really know who is going to end up in your lives- or reappear. Be kind. It costs nothing to be kind. You may end up in a situation where you need to rely on someone from the past to take care of you or your family. I never thought in a million years that a former client would be taking care of my son, but as fate would have it, she did…. and she did a fantastic job.