Month: May 2016

How To Survive Your First Month Of Parenthood

Congratulations! Baby is here, and you’re back home. If you’re anything like me, upon arriving home and sitting your bruised and battered behind down oh-so-delicately on your couch, you gaze upon your snoozing infant with pride, and then promptly wig the fandango out because ohmygodwhatdowedonow?!

Having now survived the first month of parenthood, twice (**enthusiastically pats self on back**), I’ve gleaned a few tips I’d like to share to help you get through this raucous rodeo with as much zen as possible.

Wear comfy clothes: Your body has taken a lickin’. Do it a favor and don’t squeeze it, cram it, squish it or otherwise mess with it by attempting to stuff it into pre-pregnancy clothes. Get a bra that fits. Wear pants that feel like love. One surefire way to add unnecessary stress to your day is by making yourself physically uncomfortable in an attempt to be cute. Screw cute. Do comfy.

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Eat: This one is easier said than done, as more often than not any time you go to feed yourself, someone else requests food. Loudly. And as they say, the screaming, frothing at the mouth, purple-faced wheel gets the grease (or the milkshake). But nine times out of ten, if I find myself getting all ragey, it’s because I’m ravenously hungry. So eat. And drink water while you’re at it, too.

Invest in a baby carrier of some sort: Babies like to be held, but even eight pounds gets heavy after hour 1,734. A Moby or Ergo (or whatever you fancy) that turns you into a human marsupial can be a real lifesaver. Or at least a hand and arm free-er-up-er.

Wash yo’ face: I had no idea how hard it would be to find time to shower with two kids, but at the very least, washing my face with hot water makes me feel better. Also, I may or may not use baby wipes on my armpits occasionally. And by occasionally I mean daily.

Make it easy: Give yourself some leeway as you learn the ropes. Now is the time to try out that grocery delivery service, or order something off Amazon you’d normally get at the store. Take any extra pressure off yourself until you find your feet.

Say no: Don’t want to do something? Say no. Don’t want someone to come over and meet the baby for whatever reason you have (and it doesn’t have to be a good one)? Say no. Or have your partner do it for you. You’re the master of this ship. You call the shots.

Say yes: Is someone offering to bring you food? Always say yes. Take up your pal who wants to bring your older kid to the park, or walk your dog, or water your garden. Say yes to things that will reduce your stress by even one iota.

Indulge: There is nothing easy about this time, and finding parts that are enjoyable can be hard. If there is something that brings a smile to your face, do it. Ice cream after dinner (or whenever, for that matter), binging on a shameless reality tv show while you nurse, a couple sleeve of girl scout cookies -whatever floats your boat- do it. Indulge a little because you need all the help you can get.

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This, times about 32 other cookies…

Sleep: Get sleep. Get it however you can. Go to bed at 7pm. Take a nap at 7am. However you can squeeze some sleep into your life, do it. Sleep may not beget sleep, but it does add back a few precious drops of patience to that oft-used well.

Get outside: Feeling punchy? Get outside. Put kiddo in a pack, and walk around the block. Hear the birds. Feel the wind on your face. Almost get run over by a 90-something year-old man who ran a red light, and then realize how much you appreciate your life, even if it sucks a little right now.

Put on some tunes: One of the hardest parts about new parenthood (or just having a new baby in the house) is how isolating it can be. It takes a while to find your groove, so days will go by where socialization doesn’t happen. Turning on the radio, or jamming out to a favorite album can help remind you there is life outside your door, and even if it feels like it, you’re not alone.

Call your doctor if you feel weird: This one is super freaking important. Bringing home a baby is hard. The trifecta of sleep deprivation, hormones, and pain can make it difficult to find your feet. Add to that being solely responsible for someone else’s needs, who, as luck would have it, is incapable of voicing what they want, and you have a recipe for one hell of a headache (at best). While a certain amount of irritability, anxiousness, moodiness and exhaustion are normal, sometimes what you are going through is more serious. A quick call to your doctor or midwife can help you determine how best to proceed, and can give you resources to make your transition into parenthood easier.

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Image credits: Cookie monster, The first 40 years, memes belong to HMDHM

 

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(Don’t) Give Me All The Drugs: Part 2.0

For those of you who have been following me for a while (hi, mom), you may know that I wrote about the birth of my first kid. If you didn’t read that post, let me sum it up for you: I went into labor and 41 hours, a bunch of drugs, and a few pushes later, our daughter arrived.

In 41 hours, someone could fly from LA to Nairobi, a whopping 9,653 miles. It’s a stupidly long time to be miserable.

But it wasn’t all bad, because drugs. Never having been a doer of drugs, my experiences with them were next to zero, so little did I know what magical effects they can have until 30 hours into my ordeal, when I got my first dose of morphine, and then an epidural. I ate the most delicious pudding I’ve ever had, took a nap, and woke up and had a baby. It was nothing short of amazing.

This positive drug experience gave me a sense of confidence about the birth of Baby 2.0, because I knew what the drugs were like, and I wasn’t afraid to use them.

Fast-forward to a Saturday morning in February.

The night before I had felt a little funny, but woke up on Saturday still pregnant. It was mid-way through my pre-natal yoga class -somewhere between Warrior pose and the push-ups- that I started to notice I was having regular contractions. I finished my class, drove home, and called the grandparents to let them know they needed to come pick up our daughter.

In the hour between establishing I was in labor, to when they arrived to pick her up, my contractions went from once every 15 minutes, to once every 6 minutes. Things were going fast, and as soon as they got to the house, we raced out the door to the hospital.

Driving through the hilly city, when we finally got close enough to see the valley where our hospital was located, we were greeted by an arching rainbow that appeared to end on the roof of our destination. It seemed like an omen that things would be okay, and for the most part, they were.

I labored for a while without anything, but then out of nowhere was blindsided by an anxiety attack. I went from breathing through my contractions, to screaming for someone to cut my sports bra off because suddenly I couldn’t breathe. My mind raced, my body shook, and I felt the room closing in on me. I felt completely out of control, and totally lost my confidence. Tears streamed down my face as I begged for something to make it all stop.

After receiving a dose of Fentanyl, I was able to labor a little longer until another round of anxiety hit, and we decided to proceed with the epidural. With my first epidural, I received it, and pretty much immediately fell asleep. With my second, I laid in bed and panicked.

Anxiety absolutely overcame me, and I found myself unable to do anything but worry. The epidural had taken to one side more than the other, making me feel off-balance. More bothersome, I continued to feel as though I couldn’t breathe, but found wearing the oxygen mask to be unbearable because of an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia.

For hours I laid in bed, trying to gather my thoughts as my mind raced. With each visit from the midwife, I became more and more depressed because the baby had turned, and my labor had stalled. I felt incredibly hopeless and helpless, and stupid for being so naive about the downsides to the drugs that had served me so well my first time around.

Things took a turn for the better when my nurse, after listening to me complain about not being able to breathe for hours, finally discovered that my epidural was creeping up, and at that point, was just below (or at) my diaphragm. After it was turned down, things progressed quickly, and the little man made his first appearance shortly after.

I’m sharing this story for two reasons.

First, to reiterate an important point: Every birth is different. From the duration, to the way your body reacts to the drugs, and everything in between, labors can vary wildly. I knew this, in theory, but didn’t grasp the idea fully until laying in bed feeling betrayed by my friend, Drugs. I’m not trying to scare people away from doing them. Given the opportunity, I would probably opt for them again. But this time, I would be mentally prepared to know that my experience with them could be very different.

Second, anxiety during and immediately following labor is pretty common. Since bringing Baby 2.0 home, it’s reared its ugly head a handful of times but thankfully as time goes on (and sleep improves), I’m finding the intensity of the attacks to be lesser and lesser. I mention this only because prior to my own experience, I didn’t know how common something like this is, and as always, just want other people out there to know they aren’t alone, and urge them to tell their doctor if they feel something isn’t right.

ruben

World, meet Baby 2.0

 

On Being (Super) Human

I met someone today, and my initial impression was that she is a goddamn Superhero.

Looking at her, I’d say she is very ordinary. She is of average age to have a kid or two, and wears clothes that would allow her to blend in anywhere from a snazzy cafe lunch with coworkers, to the dish soap isle at Target. She plays happily and freely with her kid, but checks her phone enough for me to know we could be friends.

Admittedly, I’ve seen her a number of times before and never did much more than offer a smile. But for whatever reason today is different, and I finally take the time to say, “Hi.”

Our conversation starts normally, with stats exchanged in moments squeezed between acknowledging, encouraging, and parenting our kids as they ping pong around the room. Ages of children are offered, current employment statuses discussed, and of course comments about the weather are made because this is what adults talk about (right?).

And then a bomb is dropped: Her kid is sick. Like, really sick.

An instant weight falls upon my shoulders as I hear her talk openly about almost losing a child. A tightness in my heart, squeezing, squeezing, as she discusses an unknown future. I stumble with my words, an apology, a well wish, a heavy silence while my brain spins with horrible Hallmark-worthy phrases to offer up.

And all the while, she remains standing. Shoulders back, head up, strong as hell, she talks about what might come, and she remains standing.

Driving home from our brief encounter, I find myself wondering how she can be so strong? How can she wake up every day, look down at the tiny broken body of her child, and wonder if today is the day something changes? How can she stomach the rage, stop the questions, or breathe through the panic? How can she live her life normally when something so abnormal and horrible stands in the way?

My initial answer is that she must be a Superhero, as certainly no human is capable of soldiering on with the heavy burden of knowing at any moment, for reasons entirely out of your control, your kid could die.

But then reality sets in, and a string of painful of memories parade across my eyes. Miscarriages, cancers, suicides, sexual abuse, substance abuse, and more – all of these tragedies suffered by people within my immediate circle of friends.

Yet through all of this death, loss, and pain, through all of this suffering and struggling, perhaps the most important memory of all is the one where I remember that like her, these people remain standing.

Just like the woman I met, these people are living their lives as normally as possible not because they have super human powers, but because they they don’t. They have no other choice but to get up each day, put one foot in front of the other, and get through it. So they do. And yet, by surviving by doing exactly what you and I do every day without remark, they appear remarkable. Extraordinary. Super human, even.

By taking a second and recognizing their humanity, their normalcy, I find myself overcome with emotion. The strength, grace and perseverance they show every single day as they carry around their bleeding hearts and half-healed scars is not only inspiring, but a reminder of a very important lesson for even the most normal of everyday people: We are strong.

I am strong. You are strong. We are so capable, but more often than not we forget that until we are blindsided by tragedy, staggering through the darkness of depression and loss. This woman, this lovely, incredibly normal human woman, jolted me awake with what I wrongly attributed to be Superhero strength, but now recognize as something we all carry around in our core. We are strong. Let this be a reminder for anyone who one day wakes up and finds they need it, that incredible super human strength is in you too.

wondermum_by_andry_shango-d65npre

 

 

(Originally posted on BLUNT Moms, cover image by Andry Shango)