I Thought I’d Never Have Fridge Art

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FOOT TULIPS.  I mean.  Come On. ❤

I thought I’d never:

  • Get a Mother’s Day card
  • Get a shitty breakfast in bed
  • Wish for a “day off” to not have to do anything
  • Be so exhausted I thought I couldn’t go on
  • Get peed on
  • Get pooped on
  • Get puked on
  • Hear the glorious sound of baby giggles from the next room
  • Rock a baby to sleep by singing I Want It That Way (in case we weren’t sure he was mine)
  • Pump my life away for 9 months
  • Order $18384829239057 worth of baby supplies from Amazon between 1 and 4am
  • Or, an endless list of other mom things

I know this day sucks. A lot. For many. I am accutely aware of how hard, not only this day but the lead up to this day can be. Because I thought I’d never get to celebrate it.  I thought it would always be a sad day.  A reminder of the thing I wasn’t.  Of the title I didn’t have.  For 2 and a half long years the whole month of May was pretty rough and emotional.  It has forever changed the way I look at this “holiday”.

For years I dreaded all the commercials, ads, pictures of families. And to be honest, I am still very uneasy about it all.  The same way I debated putting up a baby announcement when we realized our miracle was real, I feel the same about mother’s day posts.

There have been many amazing articles and posts that have been shared widely this week and this surely won’t do those any justice but I just want to highlight a few themes of what I’ve been thinking:

  • This day (and the lead up) is REALLY hard for some people.  Certainly what comes to mind most for me are the people who so desperately want a child or children or those who have gone through the loss of a child or pregnancy loss. I have been so lucky to have been granted this dream of motherhood after years of heartache by some insane luck/alignment of stars/timing/guardian angel/universe/womb potion (yes a friend really gave me this and I can’t say it didn’t work because well…).  I spent multiple years avoiding social media on this day because it was just too painful.  As much as I was happy for my mommy family and friends, seeing all the posts were just like one gut punch after the next. So, to all my TTC (trying to conceive) community or the MC (miscarriage) community if you want to go into full media lockdown today. I get it. I hear you. Do what you need to do to preserve your sanity and wellbeing.  If you don’t “like” 105 family photos today, everyone else will live. Yvonne Abraham did a beautiful job describing basically every feeling I have had, and have, about Mother’s Day for the Boston Globe.
  • It can also be hard for those who are estranged from their families, didn’t grow up with a mom, lost their mom, or a whole host of other reasons.  Just keep in mind this day is weird and not awesome for many, so don’t make assumptions.
  • That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate moms! Because, for real, MOMS ARE THE TRUTH. Women are magic and moms are goddamn super heroes.  And we shouldn’t just celebrate them on one day we should celebrate them every damn day.  And we shouldn’t just do them some sort of fake favor by actually helping out around the house for once or fake acknowledging everything they do on one random Sunday and then go back to letting them do an unfair share of the work (just saying).  The invisible labor of moms is real. Please take a moment to read (1) what this day was actually supposed to be about until it was commercialized into cards, flowers, brunch day aka activism and better care for mom and baby after birth. Shout out to Katherine Goldstein and Amy Westervelt for writing this piece for Medium showing the revolutionary roots of Mother’s Day and how to calculate the invisible labor ($26k from me!) many mothers are doing to keep households afloat. Also, (2) how we are incredibly NOT taking care of mothers after they give birth. At all.  Our maternal mortality rate is INCREASING.  Its 2019.  What the actual EFF. Samantha Pearson wrote an amazing and horrifying article for HuffPost. We don’t take care of moms in this country and the results are staggering.

So, to all my fertility warriors out there, take it easy today.  I know it’s not easy. To all my moms out there, enjoy it in whatever way feels good. I’m in a FB group where some moms plan their own day and buy their own gift so they get to do what they want and I say DO YOU GIRL.  Whatever feels right on this day do it.  Whether it is a black hole of binge watching Netflix, sleeping/hiding until Tuesday, reminiscing, fancy brunch, breakfast in bed, or staring at fridge art just know it’s all the right way to get through the day.

PS: instead of all the gifts, cards and nonsense can we just pay women what they’re worth and give them a real freaking maternity leave? Just a thought.

PPS: Please follow me on Instagram @notquiteknockedup and check me out on the Ali on the Run Podcast as part of her (Bomb Ass) Motherhood Series.  I’m terrified and excited to be on and probably won’t listen for fear of what my voice sounds like. 🙂

 

ABC-PPD

If you didn’t sing this title to the tune of Motown Philly, please stop reading now and lose the link to this website.

Just kidding, please keep reading because I need readers and followers. ❤ But also get up on your Boyz II Men lyrics. Thanks.

Motown

I actually don’t have as many straight facts for this post as I was hoping, but I am going to share a little bit about how I “self-diagnosed” post-partum depression, how I worked up the nerve to go to my OBGYN and ask for a referral, how I got a TRASH therapist at first and just got referred to another, and some of the things I realized not thanks to the trash therapist but just through my own reflection.

I really struggled in the first several weeks after Liam was born.  There are “baby blues” brought on by the enormous change in hormones post-birth (and after delivering the placenta which is chock full of all the ‘mones).  It’s a BUNCH of crying, but that usually only lasts a few days though.  Then there is post-partum depression (PPD).  There is also post-partum anxiety, which to be honest I never heard of until I started looking up PPD, but it makes sense that it would exist.

PPD is like gestational diabetes or preeclampsia. It is something that some women just get related to pregnancy and childbirth.  There may be risk factors, some may be more prone.  Just like any other health condition, it is a diagnosis that is not something you brought on yourself. Unfortunately mental health conditions are not looked at the same way other health conditions are.  To me, this was the hardest part to swallow.  The same way I felt about recurrent pregnancy loss and infertility, I felt about wondering if I had PPD: How did I do this, cause this, create this.  According to the Mayo Clinic “Postpartum depression isn’t a character flaw or a weakness. Sometimes it’s simply a complication of giving birth.”

I referenced the symptoms of PPD before, but just to refresh people’s memories:

  • Depressed mood or severe mood swings
  • Excessive crying
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
  • Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
  • Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
  • Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Fear that you’re not a good mother
  • Hopelessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy (!!!!!!!!!!!!)
  • Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
  • Restlessness
  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

I have a pretty good gut/intuition and I felt like I might be dealing with PPD from very early on.  But it is hard to tell when you gave birth 6 hours away from home, 6 weeks early and spent the first 10 days of your baby’s life in the NICU for 12 hours a day and covered in a full body rash (look up PUPP if you don’t know it, or forgot.  Or don’t because it’s gross).  Who wouldn’t feel tired, stressed, guilty, irritable, have mood swings or cry if that was the first couple weeks of motherhood? But a lot of those feelings persisted, and were often tied directly into my inability to breastfeed.

I thought I had a pretty good head on my shoulders about breastfeeding and was not putting undue pressure on myself; I wanted to breastfeed if I could, but I also knew there were many reasonable alternatives and lots of healthy babies and adults from both of them. The labor and delivery floor tried to help us, the NICU tried to help, 4 lactation appointments at home. But, when it actually came down to it, and it was just the two of us at home-it just wasn’t working.  I felt like, yet again, my body failed at doing the thing it was meant to do. It honestly felt like another loss.  And even though, via pumping 8-10 times a day for months, and eating a million things with oats-barley-and whatever other milk generating nonsense, and just luck I guess, I was able to create enough milk to sustain him thus far (8.5 months) I still felt like I failed.  To me, failure is a big part of the root of a lot of feelings that I believe, in my farthest from an expert view, led to PPD.

Most of what we hear about PPD has to do with the last two bullet points on that list of symptoms.  They are often sensationalized stories of mothers “pushed to the brink” and harming themselves and/or their children.  So, naturally, that is what I originally thought of and brushed it off.  But when I was honest with myself and looked deeper into the symptons, I realized I connected with a lot more of them than I thought.  The ones in bold are the ones I related to.  Especially: Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy.

Once I was honest with myself I knew I needed to talk to my doctor.  I also knew I really enjoyed therapy before.  I had a therapist when I lived in Rhode Island, not for anything specific but to just talk through life happenings.  I highly recommend that btw.  I also, luckily, had one that was housed within my fertility specialist’s office who was very helpful throughout my fertility treatment cycles.  Of course, as it happens, my OBGYN left the practice right before I wanted to be seen so I had a brand new doctor.  My biggest fear was that I would be judged, by her and others, and that she might think I was “crazy” or unfit.  Especially since she had never met me before. I think it was scary for me to admit I was struggling with motherhood in some capacity while worrying the doctor would just go through the checklist and say yup PPD, concerned for safety, here’s some medication and DCF.  This isn’t funny, but it was a real fear.  The medical industry-and the thing is it is definitely an industry ($$$$$$$$)-there are checklists, and diagnosis codes, it often feels very cold and not human. Luckily, this doctor was very good, listened and thought I could benefit from therapy but didn’t think I needed medication at this point.  I was glad she was honest about medication; didn’t want to jump to that right away but also set the expectation that it might be useful or necessary eventually.

But, here is the thing about therapy/counselors…there aren’t enough and they triage.  So, I was referred to the Behavioral Department within my overarching practice.  My OBGYN, Fertility, PCP and Pediatrician are all under the same umbrella which is cool.  They also have a lab, radiology and pharmacy in-house which I love.  Anyway, in January the Behavioral Health department was booking out until SUMMER.  All I thought was what if I was having an actual mental health emergency? But, maybe they would have found time for that? Anyway, they referred me out to a “partner” office.  Then they called me, and asked a few questions about what I was dealing with and looking for.  And then I heard from, we’ll call her Dr. B.

She called while I was in Vegas, and if I LISTENED TO MYSELF, I would have known she was not the right fit from the very first call.  I could just tell.  TBH, I didn’t like the way she talked-I knew it would bother me and I would be distracted.  Maybe that is mean, I don’t know, but even though it is true and I was right it was far from the biggest problem.  I was away when she called so we played phone tag for a while and finally got an appointment.

The first one wasn’t bad, but wasn’t great.  Even though it SEEMS obvious, she did point out that my feelings are probably pretty closely tied to the grief from my dad’s sudden passing as well.  I was aware of this dichotomy of feelings when I was pregnant, since I found out about the pregnancy the day after my dad died.  So, the entire thing was a whirlwind of sadness, terror, excitement, hope, fear and worry.  I never really, truly got to process and grieve.  I felt like I shouldn’t be sad when I was so excited about this *seemingly healthy*, surprise pregnancy.  Even though I am not a religious person, I felt like the timing was wild and it was hard to believe the two happenings weren’t connected in some strange “bigger than us” way.  I am also the planner and caretaker in my immediate and extended family, so I was doing a lot of the management of plans, paperwork, other people’s emotions, etc.  While it was a good that thing was a distraction from the other in a way, it definitely prevented me from sitting with the grief of the loss of my father which I still don’t think I have fully processed.  This realization is probably the only good or helpful thing that came from this therapist.

I went to see her two more times. Somewhat out of hope that maybe it would work out. Partially out of exhaustion and not wanting to go through the doctor-referral-scheduling thing again.  And partially out of guilt because she was an older, arguably pitiful woman, and I basically felt bad telling her it wasn’t going to work out. LORDY COLLEEN what in the hell.  I didn’t want to be judgy and dismiss her right away.  But the phrase used most often in my first appointment was “that’s cool”. I don’t know why it bothered me so much, mostly I think it was unintelligent and unhelpful. When I am talking about how difficult it has been for me to go back to work and feel like I am failing both in work and at home, and your response is your job sounds cool??  I meeeeeeeeeaaaannnn…

The second appointment was more of the same.  I left there feeling more stressed, annoyed, and like I wasted PRECIOUS time driving there and back.  I decided to give it one more appointment (which was a mistake). In appointment #3 I got a lot more of that’s cool-WHAT IS THIS COMMENT?  I also felt like I was counseling her at some points.  Some of you who follow me on Instagram recall me sharing on my story some of the comments she made like asking if someone I was referencing was African because she had a boss once who was African and who looked down upon women…I am sorry WHAT. And that she is a massage therapist and worked for a bunch of super rich people from India (she guessed because “they’re all rich”) who paid her double her rate just because they could.  This was in reference to her asking me if the “college admissions scandal” was all the talk at work since I work at a college.  And then said she felt bad for Robert Kraft and that they should “let that poor man just be” and that he probably didn’t do what they said because why would he.

Besides that so much of this is so problematic in so many ways…WHY ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT ANY OF THIS IN MY COUNSELING APPOINTMENT? Anyway, when she asked when I wanted to meet again I gave her the let me check my schedule because April is really busy and then ghosted her harder than anyone else in my life.  Such a waste of time, money, energy and actually left me more frustrated and exhausted emotionally.

But…I did not give up!  I reached back out to my OB, asked for another referral, did a phone triage with the office in that practice and then was referred out to the same company as useless Dr B again. Ugh.  BUT I got connected with a different person who I saw tonight.  She was kind of a spaz, but gave me a book and an app recommendation so I already got more out of one appointment than 3 with B.  So, we’ll see, but progress.

Even though Dr. B was a trash therapist, and perhaps a trash human, here are a few of the things I learned through my own self-reflection:

  1. I cannot separate myself as a mother from myself as a person trying to have a baby.  These people are not separate.  Having a baby does not erase the trauma I went through trying to conceive, having 5 miscarriages and two failed IVF cycles and thinking having a baby may not be possible.  I carry all of those things with me everyday as a mom now.  And even though I am more grateful and feel luckier than I could imagine that something I thought was not possible did happen, the trauma and grief does not disappear and does infultrate my thoughts, actions and mental health now. Being grateful for what I have doesn’t make the pain disappear.  “Getting what I wanted” doesn’t mean that there are no challenges or that sleep deprivation isn’t real.  I can both relish in the fact that his human exists and that I have this title I thought I may never have annnnnnnnnnnd be scared and on edge and question myself at the same time.  I remember not being able to understand people who struggled or had PPD after going through fertility treatments. How could you be having a hard time when you FINALLY got what you wanted? Welp, now I get it.
  2. We can’t pretend that the pressure (and judgment) put on moms about working…and not going to work…isn’t a factor in PPD and PPA.  While I struggled in the first several weeks, especially with breastfeeding, I really struggled once I was back to work.  This unrealistic set of expectations explained in this quote that is published often and widely “we expect working mothers to work as if they don’t have kids and parent as if they don’t work” resonates with me on a spiritual level.  The attempts I have made to accomplish that feat have left me completely depleted physically and mentally.  If you’ve ever taken anything like StrengthsQuest (shout out to my higher ed peeps) I score highly on Achiever.  I rely on my ability to succeed as validation of my worth. And being an achiever is part of my identity at work and in my personal life. Who am I if I am not achieving at a high level? I actually don’t know.  This applied during my fertility struggle as well, in not “achieving” a healthy pregnancy, and applies now even more so.  Who am I letting down if I can’t achieve the unachievable BALANCE (vom) between work and life (as if they are separate when most people spend more of their time at work than at home)? In essence, everyone.  Please read this BOMB ASS ACCURATE AF post by Sarah Buckley Friedberg that went viral recently for a better description of what women are essentially told to do after having a baby. I was yelling AMEN while reading it, and I am sure many can relate.

Society to working moms:

-Go back to work 6-8 weeks after having the baby. The baby that you spent 9-10 months growing inside of your body. Go back to work before you have finished healing or have had time to bond with your baby. Keep your mind on work, and not your tiny helpless baby that is being watched and cared for by someone other than you. Make sure to break the glass ceiling and excel at your job- you can do anything a man can do! It is your job to show society this! Show the world that women can do it all. Rise to the top of your career.
-Also breastfeed for at least a year. So take 2-3 pumping breaks a day at work, but don’t let it throw you off your game or let you lose your focus.
-Also, lose that baby weight and get back in shape, as quickly and as gracefully as possible. Make sure to get 8 hours of sleep a night so you can work out, work, and care for your family. But also get up at 5 am to workout, unless you want to do it after your kids go to bed when you also need to clean the house and get life ready for the next day and you know, sleep.
-Maintain a clean, pinterest worthy house. Take the Christmas lights down. Recycle. Be Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the birthday planner, the poop doula (seriously when will this end), the finder of lost things, the moderator of fights. Be fun. Be firm. Read books. Have dance parties.
-Maintain the schedule for the entire family. Birthday parties coming up? Make sure to have presents! Ensure the kids are learning to swim, play an instrument, read, ride a bike, be a good human being, eat vegetables, wear sunscreen, drink enough water, say please and thank you. Don’t forget they need to dress as their favorite book character on Monday, and wear something yellow on Thursday. Oh it’s totally your call but most parents come in on their birthday and read to the entire class. In case nobody told you, if you have more than one kid you will need to buy new shoes approximately every other day. See also: winter coats, shorts, pants that aren’t 4 inches too short. There will never be matching socks or gloves for any member of the family, ever again.
-Remember the dog you got before you had kids? Shes getting old now and needs expensive surgery. She also need walking, a new bed, and she smells pretty bad.
-Hey! Kids need lots of doctor appointments. Monthly as babies. Every time they are sick. Specialist appointments, especially if any of them have extra needs. At least two school conferences a year. IEP meetings, if applicable. Parents night. Back to school night. Get to know your school night (what IS this). Most parents are volunteering at least once during the year, would you like to come make a craft with the kids? It will only be an hour or two of your time.
-Sorry, you are now out of vacation time because you used it all for time taking your kids to appointments or when your childcare is unavailable. You should go on vacations though. It’s good to relax and unwind from work. Makes you a better employee.
-Don’t forget the kids need healthy meals (and so do you! you are trying to lose that last 20 lbs before swim season right). That requires meal planning, grocery shopping, and meal prep on the weekend. But also hang out with your kids on the weekend since during the week you only get to hang out with them when they are exhausted and angry that you made the wrong kind of spaghetti for dinner.
-Date your spouse! It’s important to keep your relationship alive and fresh. Try to go out 1-2 times a month. Good, kid free time. Hire a babysitter, they charge 22+ dollars an hour in your area so make sure to take out an extra mortgage and/or work another job to be able to afford this.
-Oh hey you should have a hobby too. It’s important to have “you time”. Also be well read, keep up with the latest pop culture and tv shows, and keep an eye on politics and be able to discuss at least one of the above on the small chance you are out in public and encounter another adult necessitating small talk.
-Make sure to have friends. Social time is SO important. Surely there is an hour or two left in the week after all of the working, appointments, exercising, cooking, scheduling, cleaning, imparting lifelong morals and learning on the kids, the usual. Maybe go out after the kids are down for a glass of wine and a bite to eat. Make it a healthy bite though. And you may regret that wine at your 530 am spin class.
-Self care though. SO important. See also: getting in shape. See the general doctor, the dentist (TWICE), the lady doctor. Prob need to get your eyes checked. Full body skin checks 2+ times a year (just me? okay well). Mental health too. Postpartum anxiety? But you look fine and your kids are so cute. Everyone should have a therapist. Good luck finding one that takes your insurance and has hours outside of your normal working time (out of vacation time, remember?). That leaves evening time when you want to hang out with your kids. But it’s important, so make time for it.
-Don’t wear yoga pants and a mom bun or society is going to mock you in numerous witty blog posts. Never mind that nothing fits. Going to have to get up even earlier so you have time to style your hair, wing your eye liner and search for a pair of pants that fits your new post baby (or multiple baby) shape.
-Get off your phone, turn off the TV, and enjoy your life. Enjoy your kids. THESE ARE THE GOOD TIMES make sure to love every minute of life because before you know it all of this will be in the past.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to lean OUT. Thanks for coming to my Ted talk.

3. Failure.  It is connected to #2 but so many parts of parenthood are listed in terms of failure. Ooooooooh you’re not breastfeeding? Oooooooooh the baby isn’t sleeping through the night? Are they a “good” baby? Your baby isn’t rolling yet? Crawling yet? Standing yet? Eating yet? (First of all, don’t ask the good baby question, that’s a ridiculous question straight up). My friend, and fellow new mom, posted an article from Raisedgood.com the other day that hit me so hard. It is specifically about baby sleep;  people give/receive a lot of judgment about their parenting based on how well or how long their baby sleeps for (and how soon). Listen, I’ve wanted to sleep for more than 90 consecutive minutes as much as the next girl, I wondered if I would ever sleep to a point of feeling rested ever again. And I did feel heaps of inadequacy when friends and acquaintances were sharing (or bragging) about their “great sleeper” and the 7-7 sleep schedule they were enjoying. I bought every sleep device on the market. I felt three things at once: (1) complete and utter exhaustion and wistfully hoping that one day I would ever sleep again, (2) jealousy and inadequacy that these other parents somehow got their babies to sleep for long stretches and (3) deep down I also knew that my baby’s sleep was totally normal and that he was doing just fine.  But this article highlights a lot of the problematic “facts” and “advice” that is passed along-almost always unsolicited-that make moms feel like they’re failing, or question themselves and their instincts. A couple of my favorite excerpts:

SleepQuote1

EVEN AND ESPECIALLY IF YOU HEARD THESE AS A NEW MOTHER.  Break the cycle of spouting off randomness that is not researched, generalized, passed down without investigation and harmful! Please and thank you!

SleepQuote2

Human mothers are among the most needed, hardworking and exhausted mothers on the planet.

In honor of Maternal Health Awareness Month, I felt like I wanted to dive a little deeper into my experience with PPD symptoms, my effort to seek therapy to understand and grow, and some of the pressures and expectations put on new moms in particular that I think contribute to an environment that can lead to those feelings. I say PPD symptoms in particular because I have not received this as a specific diagnosis yet.  My second non-trash therapist actually thought I may have PTSD from my fertility struggles and recurrent pregnancy loss. So, diagnosis TBD but as important as it has been to me to bring awareness to infertility, I feel the same now about Maternal Health Awareness. While the challenges are different and certainly many women deal with PPD and PPA who never had a fertility issue, for me the 2.5 years of trauma and grief related to these struggles are intrinsically connected to my mental state now.

Not Quite Knocked Up turned into Not Quite Knowing What I’m Doing as a Mom. And I think I am becoming more ok with that.

Another Opening, Another Show

My body hasn’t been my own since November 2015. Honestly, I’ve been so detatched that I just realized this recently.

I’ve had a pretty complicated relationship with my body since pretty much middle school, not super atypical from a lot of women who are taught to hate their bodies pretty young. I was a pretty small child, super active with dance, gymnastics-and a variety of other sports at which I was pretty consistently terrible.  After taking a year off of gymnastics in 8th grade, I grew 6 inches (4’11” to 5’5”) over freshman year in High School. Also, got my period, grew boobs, and gained a lot of “squish” in a variety of places I never had it before.  It was kind of a brutal year going from scrawny body to lady body. #pubertycomeslateforgymnasts

I always had a HUGE appetite, regardless of size.  I was famous (or infamous) for eating 8 or more hot dogs at the Irish American Club St Patrick’s Day Parade after party when I was like 7 years old.  Like, without a problem. Just put down a pack of hot dogs. In between singing Green Alligator and Long Necked Geese (if you know, you know). The only thing that saved me was being very active. I remember people always saying only to eat until you’re no longer hungry when I was little, and I was like got it, 10-4. The problem was I was never not hungry! I was only ever really full on Thanksgiving. Legit once a year. I blame my Grannie.  I got a lot of qualities from her, and my appetite was definitely one of them. Grrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaat. I never had any body feelings as a little kid, mostly people thought my appetite was funny since I was pretty small. But after my 8th-9th grade growth spurt I was uncomfortable with my body ever since.

It was love-hate. Coming from a family whose members refer to themselves as “strong” as a loving way to describe overweight, I was pretty much considered on the more fit end of the spectrum. But my weight, and subsequently my feelings about my body, have fluctuated often over the course of time. It hit an all time low (or high depending on how you look at it) in 2012 when I moved to Brideport, CT.  My new job responsibilites, lack of work-life balance, and difficulty managing on a small paycheck in an expensive area resulted in the peak of bad habits.  Luckily, I woke up one morning and was like “girl, you better get it together.  With all these health issues in your family history, it’s now or never.”  So, I started making healthier choices in the kitchen and the gym and lost about 40 lbs.  I maintained it, and more, as it got closer to the wedding in 2015.  If I am being honest though, I took the “bride diet” to the extreme in the last few months pre-wedding getting up at the crack of dawn to workout hard before work and sticking to an unreasonably strict diet. But I had hated so many pictures of myself before, I was determined not to hate them on my wedding day.  And I didn’t, I felt great.

Evidence:

Wedding

Despite the diet being kind of intense, and something I did not plan on maintaining long term for my sanity, I realized for the first time during that period that it was more about what I was doing FOR myself that made me happier ABOUT myself than the weight/measurements exactly. Knowing I was doing good things for me made me see myself differently in the mirror.

On our honeymoon we let loose, and I mean really loose. Champagne All DAMN DAY.  It was glorious. But when I got home I self-regulated and got back to a relatively healthy lifestyle.  2012-2015 had some fluctuations but for the most part it taught me a lot about what workouts I enjoyed, what delivered results and what nutrition was both filling and effective.  As opposed to the baked cheetos and crystal lite with vodka diet I developed in college when trying to drop a few LBs lol. Ahh, memories.

Then came December 2015.  When we decided we were going to start “trying” or stop trying not to get pregnant. It was weird to all of a sudden be like ok, welp, here goes nothing.  But, if you’ve read my original posts you know that the first time we didn’t prevent pregnancy resulted in a chemical pregnancy and my first subsequent loss in January 2016. After that came a heavy dose of emotional eating…and that was before I had any idea what was to come.

We didn’t have any diagnosis or treatment for several months. But, starting December 2015 I gave up my body to the process of trying to be a mother.  I peed on endless ovulation kits, I read about what to eat (or avoid) to “boost fertility”, I did acupuncture.  I reduced my level of activity, at my acupuncturist’s recommendation because too much exercise ‘could affect my fertility level negatively’. It was annoying because I was kind of like, doubtful lady, but it was honestly a good reason for me to tell myself about not wanting to workout so I went with it.  I was either trying to get pregnant at home, shooting myself twice a day with drugs, taking progesterone up the hoo ha, trying to stay pregnant, miscarrying, having blood drawn, having ultrasounds, having surgery or recovering for the better part of two years. My body was basically a science experiment. Throughout a lot of this time I was on pelvic rest, aka walking only.  I was also on weird diets for several periods of weeks in a row related to medication I had to take for ectopic pregnancy (they make you avoid anything with folic acid while on methotrexate to remove an ectopic pregnancy.  Basically anything they tell you TO eat when you’re pregnant, they tell you not to eat when on those meds).

And then in the most unpredictable turn of events in January 2018 I got pregnant for the 6th time.  Expecting it would end like all the others before, and it didn’t. Thank God.  But, I was on pelvic rest and progesterone twice a day for 13 weeks as a precaution. Then I was into my second trimester and hadn’t been allowed to exercise for months. Also, grieving the loss of my dad throughout this same period.  I was so scared I was going to “do something” to put this pregnancy at risk.  I stuck to the strictest of strict versions of the what you’re allowed to eat while pregnant.  Keep in mind, I felt like drinking a hibiscus iced tea from Starbucks while avoiding coffee during one of my earlier pregnancies is what caused that loss. So, I was not willing to take any risks within my control, it just wasn’t worth it. There was enough out of my control that was scary and mysterious, I was definitely skipping the deli meat.  I basically sustained myself on sesame bagels with butter for weeks. Carbs were safe, and yummy. But the stress of what I could or could not put in my body was exhausting.

Then, here he came, bursting through the door 6 weeks early and 4 hours away from home. Spent 2 weeks eating out of hospital cafeterias and local takeout, only sleeping 90 minutes at a time in between pumps. THEN you come home and have the whirlwind of trying to keep this tiny creature (and yourself) alive, and put together the nursery you never got to set up in your free time.

Many women talk about how their bodies change during pregnancy and after, and how it’s hard to feel like yourself again.

orangutan

This is more closely a representation of my current chestal situation than I’d like to admit.

You had a creature growing inside you for 40 weeks (or 34) stretching out all your stuff, moving things around, making you puke or gag or cry or pee or basically anything else without warning. Then they come out, and sometimes you need stitches-regardless of their exit strategy.  You may try breastfeeding, or nah.  And if you do, you may continue this for a year or more, or less. Or if you’re me, you will have tried and tried and tried and failed, and ended up pumping somewhere between 5 and 10 times a day for 8 months (so far).

So, for a year your body has been taken over by an adorable alien.  And before that you spent two years being poked and prodded trying to create said alien. And after that you spent 8 months trying to feed said adorable alien.  I have literally no idea what my body “normally” feels like.  No idea. I don’t know what my normal SELF feels like at all.  I get that this whole mothehood thing creates a new normal, but what if you don’t even recall an old normal. How do you even spell normal???

When we moved back to Massachusetts, a friend of my cousin told me about a dance studio in the area that was all adults.  No offense to any of the studios geared towards kids that offer adult classes.  I’ve taken a lot of those. But sometimes they’re older ladies learning “hip hop” to Bruno Mars.

The_Worst_Hip_Hop_Class_Ever

Not really my style. This place sounded up my alley: a bunch of people who used to be dancers and wanted to still do it.  They had drop in classes, or you could audition to be part of the company that performs twice a year.  I took a bunch of classes and liked them, was rusty AF, but it was fun.  It was kind of a hike to get there and kept getting interrupted by pregnancies, or treatments, or losses so it was inconsistent but I always liked going.  I wanted to try my luck at auditioning.  The dates just never lined up to when we were taking a break from trying or with my work commitments.  So, I never got to do it.

This is probably the least sensical time in my life to do it.  I feel like I am drowning.  I have no time and feel like I am running 100 miles an hour from home to daycare to work to daycare to home to bed. Rinse. Repeat.  There’s no time for playing or cooking or cleaning or shopping or anything. But I got an email with a reminder about auditions, looked at the dates required and realized somehow I didn’t have any conflicts.  I thought it was wild, but I sent Kenny an email saying “Is this crazy or should I tryout?”.  He was like DO IT.  So, I signed up.  For hip hop, tap and jazz.  Haven’t done the latter two in approx a decade?  Went to a hip hop class the week before auditions and I was LITERAL TRASH.  I didn’t have high expectations, but it was bad. Painful.

While I knew I was rusty, out of shape and out of it entirely, I also used to be good. Like, actually pretty good. So, it was hard to see how far I’d fallen.  Also, I am old and I don’t get how the kids move these days. But I went. And on the morning of the auditions, Kenny and Liam were sick, I told him I should probably stay home and take care of them and he basically through me out of the house while wearing a medical mask (thankfully).  I borrowed his Alife sweatshirt so I could feel cool, curled my hair and hit the road.

The audition choreography wasn’t as hard as the class, thank God.  But, I still struggled to the utmost degree remembering the choreography.  I don’t know if it was just being out of practice, or mom brain, or combination.  But, nonetheless.  I couldn’t remember 8 counts for shit. But, I did three auditions, and didn’t feel HORRIBLE afterwards.

Dance2

I was prepared not to make it at all. But got an email that week that I made it in at least one category and I got invited to the showcase to see the dances for the shows and select which one(s) I wanted to be in.  I made level 1 Hip Hop, which is the lowest level, I’m cool with that!  Gotta work my way back into the fold.

Rehearsals started last week and the show is in June.  I know I could’ve just taken classes randomly, but I also knew those would be very easy to talk myself out of.  If we were too busy, if something came up, if money was tight.  But in this case I am committed. I am not going to let the group or company down by blowing it off, therefore I can’t let myself down by blowing it off either.

The first rehearsal was so fun and I didn’t completely suck! There are 15 women; all different levels, ages and years of experience. It feels great to be back doing something I have always loved.  I’m mad awkward because I don’t know these people, but the dance studio was always a reprieve for me and it is again.  It is nice to be working towards something, have something to rehearse, and look forward to the performance.  And, as often happens, making one good decision results in other good ones.  So, I’ve been finding time to squeeze in some short workouts every day this week (#thanksonlinecontent). I realized that I am perpetually tired, so getting up a half an hour earlier doesn’t really change that.

Not going to lie, it is hard to be away from the baby for a couple hours each Sunday given how little time I get to spend with him already.  But it feels like a good thing, and the right thing, to be doing for me and for him.  It feels like therapy. And, speaking of therapy…

Next blog post about Post Partum Depression, actual non-dance therapy, and how my therapist was horrendous (but don’t worry I am finding a new one).

Another Opening, Another Show. My mom would always sing that as I was prepping for my recitals each year. So, here goes nothing. Catch me on a stage June 15th!

Dance 1

Good Grief

Good grief is this saying my mom often uses.  I don’t really get it.  But she says a lot of weird shit, to be honest. Most of them I can make some sense of even though they’re not words.  For example, Gazinta.

Gazinta
/guz-in-tah/

noun

Something that goes into something else.

Ex.

“Did someone get the bill from the server? We need to do the gazintas to see what everyone owes.” (How many times does 5 gazinta 20?)

“Where’s the gazinta for the phone.  I need to plug it in.” (That charger gazinta the plug.)

This is just one of many.  My mom has so many non-words that my husband created a dictionary in his phone when he first started hanging out around my family to keep track of them. They’re epic.

Good grief is one I know is used by others but I have really only heard my mom use it regularly.  I looked it up and it is described as “an exclamation of surprise, alarm, dismay or some other usually negative emotion. For example Good Grief, he dropped the cake.” For some reason, this past month I’ve been mulling over this term because as a phrase it has taken on a certain meaning, that I understand.  Good grief, I’m going to be late again.  Good grief, he won’t stop talking.  But when you break down the words it got me thinking, what is good about grief?  When is grief actually good? Who decided this was going to be a phrase we use.

It’s hard to believe that just over 2 weeks ago we had the one year anniversary of my dad’s passing.  Not that this is a particularly fun read, but if you want the context of it when it happened check out this post from last spring. I actually just re-read it myself and cried, and laughed a littleso I guess that’s good.

As anniversaries often do, they cause you to reflect.  To look back on a period of time in a large scope, as a culmination, and think about the whole period of time.  On the one hand, I couldn’t believe a year had passed.  How had it been a WHOLE year since my dad died?  How did I have no dad for an entire year?  How did we all survive? The morning of the anniversary all the emotions came up again and it felt like it just happened.  And that is was so long ago.  SO MUCH HAS HAPPENED since then.

I had a positive pregnancy test the next day.  All of the details about those first few weeks have been shared already so I will spare you. But what a wild ride.  One that should be filled with joy, and probably some healthy level of anxiety. But what felt more like shock and terror. I had a baby.  6 weeks early.  In New York. I missed 3 baby showers. The Red Sox won the World Series and the Patriots were in the playoffs on their way to another Super Bowl. My mom moved into our house. My brother got engaged. So many things that my dad wasn’t here for.

So much happened. So much that I feel like I didn’t even have a second to breathe let alone grieve the loss of my dad. My dad was my homie. I would call him often on my drives home from work and just chit chat about sports and food and random crap. I went grocery shopping for him or with him often since grocery stores are the bain of my mother’s existence. My dad loved the grocery store, but it had become difficult to navigate with his constant foot/leg injuries and ultimate amputation.  He still liked going though, getting out of the house and eating grapes out of the bag while driving around like a mad man in his motorized cart.  Which was always super embarassing because YOU PAY FOR THOSE BY WEIGHT, DAD, SO YOU’RE BAAAAAAAASICALLY STEALING THEM. Whenever some wild stuff went down in the sports world, I would call to get his take…because, don’t worry, he always had a take.  He hated everyone who he considered a “punk”, which is basically everyone.  He hated the Boston haters.  But also hated the Boston homers who were obsessed with our teams and had no ability not to be biased. He definitely hated everyrandom dude who called into the sports radio stations thinking he knew something more than anyone else and his opinion was special.  But then essentially did the same thing in a non-radio setting. LOL

On the anniversary of his death, we went to Maine, everyone’s collective favorite place.  He always said he wanted his ashes spread at Nubble Lighthouse.  Which, fun fact, is illegal I guess?  But we’re “rule breakers” so we headed up there anyway, and definitely created a bunch of sneaky ways to spread them so that we didn’t get caught.  Mom always says she would never make a good criminal.  It was a chilly, beautiful, bright blue-sky day which was nice.  We drove up there, climbed down the rocks, gave a little toast and then laid dad to rest per his wishes.  We blared the Elvis version of “How Great Thou Art” from my car which was his JAM.  No one loved funeral music more than the Big Cat. Side note, who loves funeral music?

We decided to bring a little “cat” to Long Sands as well.  And made a little visit to the cottage itself to bring stuff to the tree we planted there-thanks for the generosity of some coworkers. Then we went to the restaurant we had gone to after my wedding to hash out all the fun details of the soiree.  At that restaurant, after ordering a HUGE spread of appetizers, my dad casually suggested we “get another round”…

You want another ROUND of appetizers, Dad?  Who does that?  We nixed that because that is NUTS.  But we went there and had a delish lunch and cocktail in honor of the big guy.  Mom described the spicy sauce that she wanted on the side as SIRASO ALLEY-OLI…known to most other people siracha aioli.  We all had a really good, and needed, laugh.  A bunch of them actually.  We decided Dad would have really enjoyed that day. It was a good day.

Grief is weird.  Everyone deals with it so differently.  I’ve done my fair share of denial and ignoring.  Pretending and distracting.  Certainly the big days make it hard to fake it.  You notice his presence missing on the holidays and birthdays and big happenings for sure.  But the things that really bring out the grief for me are the mundane things.  Grocery shopping.  I’ll never do it again without thinking of him.  And I definitely “test” a few grapes each time in his honor. Produce in general makes me think of him. A deliciously ripe canteloupe will always bring up memories of big cat. No one could appreciate a ripe melon like him. Corn.  He was the most excited, grossest eater of corn on the cob there ever was.  Him eating corn would clear off the deck in Maine. When I drive home from work, particularly after something notable in sports, I often reach for my phone looking to hash out the details. When I try to remember how long to roast a chicken or how long I can keep a random item in the fridge before it spoils.  Whenever I hear Motown, any soul music in general really, or Randy Travis (random I know).

People don’t know how to handle others’ grief.  I know I didn’t, still don’t most times, if I am being honest.  You want to say something or do something, but you don’t know what to say or do.  Sometimes what comes out of your mouth could end up being hurtful or insensitive when it’s not your intent.  Particularly if you haven’t lost someone super close to you, it is hard to relate. I know I have felt this way.

A friend of mine posted this graphic on Facebook.  It was perfect timing because I was working on this post and trying to figure out the best I guess, advice, to give. I think this is pretty on point.  Everyone grieves differently and needs different things at different times, so it is definitely not a one size fits all checklist. But I think this graphic definitely illustrates some things you can do when a person in your life is grieving.

In my mind, there are a few major things to consider:

  1. Grief doesn’t have an end date. I had a friend reach out a few weeks after my dad passed and checked in and said something along the lines of wanting to touch base but didn’t want to bother me. And I totally get that.  In fact I am pretty sure I have said that.  But, in my opinion. it is never bothersome to check in.  Even when I couldn’t respond or didn’t respond right away.  Or just said thanks or sent a heart emoji.  I still appreciated people checking in.  It never felt like a bother.  I think people feel this often though and it prevents them from reaching out.  The hardest thing for me was when it felt like people moved on living their lives and I was just going through the motions wondering how I would go on.  As the days went on the texts were fewer, the phone calls even less, the cards/notes/flowers non-existent. You realize, not that everyone has forgotten about you, but that their lives have gone on. Not that they don’t also miss your dad, but that he wasn’t their dad. Not that they don’t want to support you, but that they have other things to do, too. We can’t all be sad everyday. But your life will never be the same.  You can’t just go on doing the normal day-to-day things, because canteloupe makes you think of your dad. So, my advice: call, text, send cards.  On random days.  Check in two weeks later, 2 month later, 2 years later. On a random Tuesday. The first few days/week are a total blur.  The real smack in the face happens later.
  2. Don’t ask “Is there anything I can do?” or “Let me know if I can do anything”.  The answer is yes, and you can do something.  But, the idea of the grieving person having to decide what it is you can do, or ask for something or remember to let you know takes away the helping portion.  Like the graphic mentions below, being specific is amazing.  If you care about this person, it is likely you know them decently well.  Do something you know they’d like.  Also, for the record just a visit, a favor, something off of their plate would be appreciated-doesn’t need to be costly or grand. People in my life were kind of enough to send a text saying “two bags of groceries are on your back porch” or mail a gift card to our favorite restaurant.  Self care things like nails or hair or spa would be great. You know what’s not fun? Paying for a manicure for your dad’s funeral. Luckily, I had friends call ahead and take care of that for me and my mom. Dog walking. House Clearning.  I’m a big fan of grocery delivery gift cards and things that can be used later on too. Of course the food right away is great as well, but sometimes you get so much and there is only so much room in the freezer! Any of these kinds of things (or whatever that person likes) are helpful, thoughtful and appreciated. Just the idea that you do something instead of ask.  Or maybe give a list of three options.  I’d like to do something, which one of these is best…From personal experience when given the option I will usually say thank you, but we’re good. It’s a lot harder to turn down help when it isn’t optional!
  3. The parallel play one is so on point. Do you ever just not want to be alone but also not want to talk? Offering that is an amazing show of support and also understanding.  Reliving the trauma that led to the grief is exhausting, physically and emotionally. But being alone in it is also scary. Coming over to watch movies or netflix or garden (not for me lol) or whatever and not asking questions is an awesome idea.
  4. My experience is that when people are afraid they are going to say the wrong thing, they say nothing.  Guilty as charged, by the way.  But, don’t do that. Even if what you say is “I don’t know what to say” the person knows you’re thinking about them and that is definitely appreciated.

Grief

On the outside, this post has nothing to do with fertility or motherhood, or the purpose of this blog. But it does.  The thing about my dad’s passing was that it was in the public.  People expect you to be a disaster.  People know about it right away. They try and help you even when they don’t know what to do.  They give you things, send you things.  They understand when you’re not yourself. They don’t expect you to be OK.  Right away, or at all.

But the grief of losing a pregnancy, especially, early is a very lonely place.  The grief is still there, and all those after-effects are too.  The only difference is no one knows what you’re going through.  No one knows you’re not ok. No one tries to help you.  You suffer this grief alone.  Often more than once.

You know why women typically don’t share pregnancy news until after 12 weeks?  Because, statistically that’s the highest likelihood of something going wrong with the pregnancy. And it happens A LOT. The logic behind this is so faulty. There is a chance you will go through this horrible trauma, so you should definitely suffer in silence?  I understand a person choosing to do this for their own self-preservation (especially in the age of publishing pregnancy announcements via social media in grandiose sometimes obnoxious ways #alsoguiltyAF). But, if you really think about it; the sort of assumption/pressure/feeling is that you shouldn’t tell people because people shouldn’t know if this happens to you just adds to the shame and loneliness. Because it is something to hide. Like you did this.  Telling people your dad died is equally as expected as NOT telling something you lost a pregnancy. It’s weird.

This is the whole reason I wrote the blog.  I needed to put this out there so people knew I wasn’t ok.  I couldn’t pretend anymore.  I couldn’t pretend I wasn’t grieving.  I didn’t have to pretend I wasn’t grieving the loss of my father, so why should I have to act like my life is fine while grieving these other losses and going through immense pain internally? I hoped that putting this stuff out there would bring some sense of normalcy to it. Help people know they are not alone, even if they didn’t want to share publicly themselves.

Maybe people won’t want to tell the world about their pregnancies super early, and you should do and tell whoever you want about whatever you want!  But I do know that once people knew my story, they did want to talk about their losses and grief with someone who understood.  So, maybe the more we are open about these experiences, the more people won’t feel like they’re supposed to suffer in silence. And that they’re allowed to grieve these losses. And maybe we can get them a casserole or walk their dogs, because they need that too.

Good Grief.

All I Want for Christmas Is You…(and to not feel like a failure)

As you can tell by the title…this post has been in progress for a few weeks.  And I guess the fact that this is coming out so late is testament to the subheading of the post itself.

The holidays came in with a fury this year. All of a sudden it was December and I was like “HUH?” *Cue feverishly ordering mediocre gifts from a variety of online sources*

As Christmas was approaching all I could think about was last year and how I could have never envisioned the situation I would be in this year.  In November 2017 we had a surprise pregnancy that was our 5th total loss.  It took us by surprise and was very sad, of course, but I was also so numb from that particular type of pain that I was pretty stoic and emotionless about the whole thing.  The part that stood out, though, was seeing the picture on the ultrasound.  This was the first of the 5 pregnancies that we could actually SEE.  Even though what we saw showed us it was not viable, it was somewhat jarring to actually see something nonetheless.

After that, we decided to take some award money I won to book a trip to Paris. Something to look forward to and take our minds off the craziness.  You can read about all this in more detail in previous posts!  Another tactic I used to pretend this wasn’t sad was to buy my feelings in way too many Christmas decorations.  The justification: We have an adorable new house that we are hosting Christmas in, and we can’t just use my old, beat up decorations, right? I very much enjoyed my time in Target, Home Goods and Christmas Tree Shop buying adorable Christmas things that we probably couldn’t afford.

Of course the house looked cute AF when we hosted Christmas that year.  We had a great time having family over that day, but there was this pang of sadness, as there had been two Christmases prior, realizing I did not have the tiny person I hoped and prayed to buy useless gifts they wouldn’t care about for.

I could have never predicted what would happen less than a month later. And I also could not have predicted what would happen 8 months later. When I sat in my living room in a fog of exhaustion in early December I reflected on WHAT A FRIGGIN YEAR it has been and how my December 2017 self had no idea what I was in for-good or bad.

I think the holidays can come with mixed emotions in general.  Unreasonably high expectations, over-spending, over-extending, and all of that can lead to a tornado of emotions, for those who do celebrate.  For me, added to this, was the stomach bug.  Which Liam got the Friday before Christmas and caused fear and worry to rise up to 1000.  What if he is dehydrated? How many times is normal to take his temperature? What to feed him and when? And…what if/when am I getting this?  Welp, the answer was 10pm on December 23rd when I woke up to THAT feeling that said…oh yes, ma’am, make yourself at home in the bathroom.

I spent all night the 23rd and most of the day the 24th getting sick in the loveliest of ways but also adding on to that the newfound joys of parenthood whilst sick aka pumping with my head hanging over a bucket. Which, ironically, when you’d think that you wouldn’t want to give that milk to the baby you definitely DO because of all the antibodies your body is making fighthing that gross bug. Weird and cool, nature, well done.

Kenny spent all day the 24th cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting the house because we were hosting Christmas dinner with some family members and didn’t want anyone to enter the Vom dungeon and catch this nonsense.  Kenny, with his medical knowledge, let me know unless they actually touched said gross bodily fluids-me and Liam weren’t contagious. The only people who would be contagious were ones not yet showing symptoms, but Kenny and my mom seemed to be in the clear. Untilllllllllllllllllll December 26th when my mom came running into the house after an errand and another one bit the dust.  Then 4 more family members on the 27th, including my brother and his newly-proposed-to-fiance.  And basically Liam was patient 0 and my mom was walking around feeling fine but apparently “spreading the love” unknowingly.  ROUGH.

Needless to say, I had those high expectations of this adorable Christmas, with matching PJs and cute pictures and memories (for us because I know Liam has no idea what was going on). But, it just wasn’t quite what I envisioned.  I was stressed and weak from not eating for 24 hours and not prepared to host the group I was so excited to host earlier in the month.

On the whole, this holiday, and everyday really, was covered with this grey cloud of emotions I didn’t understand.  I had a happy, healthy (minus the short lived puke party) baby boy.  A baby I wanted my entire life.  A baby that took us three years, many heartbreaks, waves of hopelessness, periods of resilience, and an insane miracle to get. A baby who makes my heart explode every time he smiles, who has a devlish smirk that is definitely going to be a problem in his teenage years, who loves to cuddle and coo and kick and squirm. And yet, I just couldn’t shake this feeling.

When I thought about it, the three things I felt most besides the joy and love described above since his surprise arrival have been: Guilt, Shame, and Inadequacy. In basically every facet of life, I have been feeling like a failure. The idea that I FINALLY had what I always wanted, what I hoped, begged, wished and prayed for (even though I don’t really pray). What I stabbed myself in the stomach for, for weeks on end-twice.  What I truly thought, at many points in time, was not possible.  Here it was. Sliming on my shoulder, peeing on my hand, snuggling on my lap and smiling at my voice.  So, why was I not feeling only pure joy and elation?  Why did I feel like I sucked, at more or less everything? How dare I not ONLY relish in the fact that this happened for me.  And that others were still waiting for their miracle.

5 months into motherhood and I’ve felt more joy than I could imagine.  But I’ve also felt more guilt, more shame and more inadequacy.  This is quite hard to share.  More than some of the other posts, even the TMI ones.  Because I feel like if I was me, reading this a year and a half ago, I would want to punch myself in the face. I can hear myself thinking, “OK please complain about this perfect baby you have and how tired you are and how stressed you are making it all work when that is the only thing I want”.  I am POSITIVE I’ve said that or thought that a million times.

But, this is the truth.  I feel like shit. Most days, I feel like a bad mom.  Like everything that came natural to me as a kid and teenager when babysitting and playing with cousins, no longer applies. That I feel a little scared when I pick up the baby, realize Kenny and mom aren’t home and I am returning to an empty house because I am just not sure I can handle all the tasks that need to be done by myself.  I feel guilty when I realize how much Kenny does on a daily basis, but that I still feel overwhelmed nonetheless.  Or that my mom lives with us now and provides endless snuggles and kicking around an orange like a soccer ball on the kitchen counter that Liam loves. And that she holds him in the morning when he inevitably wakes up at 5am so I can sleep an extra hour since I’ve been up forever. That I have 2 grown adults, who both are or seem, more capable of taking care of my baby than I feel, and I STILL feel overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done. I feel guilty and inadequate when everyone on the planet asks how Liam is sleeping or whether he is sleeping through the night and I laugh and say no! And then they immediately respond with their tips and tricks and things they read and what worked for them so I feel like I am not doing it right or not doing enough. Or when I see people post on social media about their magical sleeping babies who automatically slept for 8 or 10 hours. Or when I am annoyed we gave him a pacifier, when I originally didn’t want to because I knew it would be a pain down the line or he would get attached to it…but then he started sucking his thumb and we didn’t want that either. Or when the only time I can really snuggle with him is between 2 and 5am, since I am only home with him for maybe an hour or two a day when he is awake during the week, so when he cries or fusses I pick him up and we both fall asleep on the glider. Or when Kenny cuts his nails better than I do. Or gets him to settle faster than I do. Or I see videos of babies younger than him giggling when he hasn’t had that belly laugh yet, and wondering if we aren’t doing enough for his development.  I didn’t make him do tummy time enough. We didn’t set up some of his play gyms or bouncy toys fast enough. When Kenny grants me my “sleeping night” once a week on a weekend where I sleep for 8 actual hours (minus one pump session) even though he is also exhausted and doing an even longer commute each day, but that I don’t think I can do the same for him. My baby is happy, healthy, fed well, loved and cared for…and yet, I feel everyday that I am not doing a good job. Not living up to my, or others’, expectations.

I have similar feelings about the rest of my life as well.  I feel guilty at work when I have to pump three times a day, run out of meetings, duck out of retreats, rearrange schedules. Even though I am lucky to have a private office and access to a whole kitchen in my suite which I am super grateful for, and even though I am productive in the office with the door closed for a few minutes three times a day.  I still feel guilty and like I am not doing enough.  I feel guilty when I run out the door at 4:29 and 58 seconds because it takes me 10 minutes to get across campus to my car and then if I drive 5-10 mph over the speed limit and hit no traffic, I get to daycare 5 minutes before they close.  I feel guilty that I am not excited when I have to work night or weekend events, even if they are a thing that I actually like doing, because it’s more time away from the baby and I feel like I hardly see him as it is.  And I feel guilty when I do work those events, and have fun, but realize the baby has been without me for a long time.

I feel bad about my body and the way I look and feel physically.  I’ve struggled with body image and weight issues since puberty basically.  In my early thirties I had several years of a commitment to healthy habits both in fitness and nutrition that had great and longer lasting results than I’ve had in the past. But, the emotional rollercoaster of the fertility journey we were on, and my crutch of emotional eating coupled with long periods of time being put on a ‘no activty’ regiment due to fertility treatments or pregnancy concerns resulted in weight gain and long breaks in those habits.  When I was surprised with this pregnancy last January 18th, I was the heaviest I had been in 8 years. I was sick of feeling like crap, so Kenny and I had been doing 2.5 weeks of clean January and I became a dedicated spinner at my local gym.  But, once that test came back positive, even though I KNEW it would have the same result as all the others (but it didn’t!), I was put on pelvic rest for the remainder of the first trimester (aka no activity besides walking) and the only thing I seemed to be craving to eat was carbs. While I was lucky after the first trimester to have a remarkably pain-free, symptom-free pregnancy, I was always afraid and always more cautious than necessary-resulting in less activity than I wanted and less adventurous eating as well (Read: bagels and grilled cheeses mostly).  In my third trimester I had gained as much weight as they wanted me to gain with about 10 weeks left and was basically yelled at by an old, male doctor I was seeing because mine was out sick, with no compassion, to stop eating all carbs and sugar, drink only water, and eat about half as much as I had been OR ELSE I would have a HUGE baby and it would hurt. A lot. Luckily, I suppose, he came 6 weeks early and was a “comfortable” 4lbs 9oz so Dr Jerkface’s fearmongering was for not. But alas, his comments stuck with me.  And after several failed attempts at breastfeeding, but then some success post the 4th lactation consultant, I have been doing a combo of pumping/nursing 7+ times a day. An activity I was told would help lose weight due to the caloric output, but HA. Not really. In total, I’ve lost about 18 pounds since delivery. Not everything I gained over pregnancy, which was on top of a heavy version of me to begin with. Not to mention some dedicated stretch marks, that despite all the vitamin E and coconut oil and scrubs and cocoa butter, still made their way all over my lower abdomen and seem to be committed to staying for a while. Being a chubby, exhausted, stretch mark covered milk machine is not the sexiest I’ve ever felt.  And this leads me to my next area of inadeqacy.

Despite feeling all heart-eyes-emoji at how adorable Kenny is with Liam and how naturally he has taken to the whole fatherhood thing.  Albeit a little jealous.  There have been very few romantic inklings on my end.

On top of feeling like:

fat bastard

Mixed with:

cow

And also:

tired

You don’t quite feel like:

beyonce gif

And, that makes me feel bad too. Just logistically, we’re like two ships passing in the night. Literally and figuratively. We tag each other into shifts to be “on duty” in the overnight hours so each of us can get a few hours of uninerrupted sleep which is (a) awesome because I know a lot of nursing moms can’t do that and (b) means we’re never in the same place at the same time to even acknowledge each other’s presence nevermind give affection of any kind.  It makes me feel like a bad wife, on top of questioning my mothering abilities.  I am sure things in this arena will shift over time, and I know we won’t feel like our old selves per se, the relationship and family has changed in many good ways that are just different.  But while we won’t feel like our old selves, I am hoping for a day where I feel like some version of myself.

Then there’s just the overall feelings of failing at household and life tasks.  Before Liam, we pretty evenly split up all the household tasks and chores.  Now, almost all of the things that once were mine, fall on Kenny, because I just can’t ever seem to get to most of it.  And, he does all the dishes, laundry and most of the cleaning graciously and without making me feel bad.  But that doesn’t mean I still don’t feel bad.  Even the things I’ve always done, and continue to technically do, like manage the finances (or lack thereof, because daycare AM I RIGHT?) and do the grocery shopping/meal prep have taken a turn for the worse.  We’ve been eating out a lot because where is the time for this stuff.  Eating worse, and spending money we don’t have.  Vicious Cycle like whoa!

Truthfully, I am just struggling. Even with lots of help and support.  Even though my husband is a super involved and helpful dad who has arguably taken to the job better than I have. Even though my work is flexible. I want to be happy.  I want to savor every moment because he’s already growing so fast.  I can’t believe he is 5 months old, and we’ve had to pack away three sizes of clothes already.  I can’t believe he can magically hold his own bottle and sit up in a chair and rolled over the other day. I don’t want to miss anything and I don’t want to regret not enjoying things because I am too busy feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and and just, well, shitty.

While the rest of this post was written over the last few weeks in chunks, this next part was added after listening to a fellow Quinnipiac Alum (Go Bobcats!) podcast, Ali on the Run.  Ali is a writer, blogger and podcaster.  She talks about running, which is not my thing, but she is honest and funny and I love her style.  You should check it out. She recently had a baby, and while our experiences were different, we do have some things in common including issues with breastfeeding and turning to pumping primarily or exclusively and our babies being small and arriving in a flurry.  I love reading her IG posts and following her story because it’s always real and full of humor, but I don’t typically listen to the podcast since it is a lot about running and running is just not my jam.  But, the episode this week was just Ali talking about her experience as a mother the past few months and I found myself nodding a lot and saying ‘omg yes’ a bunch. Not everything is the same, but I felt a lot of solidarity in her comments.

The biggest one being…I have not been to a doctor, yet, but I do think I may have post partum depression.  It’s really hard to admit and even harder to type in a public forum.  I always thought of PPD being women who felt disconnected, hurt their babies, or worse. And I didn’t relate to that at all. But, I’ve had a couple moments of the last few months where I was drawn to look it up on my phone and see if any of the other symptoms resonated. And, many of them did.  www.seeppd.com has a list of symptoms which include: Worrying or feeling overly anxtious, crying more often than usual (which is a lot for me anyway lol), frequent feelings of anger, having trouble concentrating and the two most resonant ones: feeling moody, irritable or restless and presistently doubting your ability to care for your baby.

When I went for my follow up appointments at my OBGYN right after birth (since I gave birth out of state) and 6 weeks after, they had me fill out the generic PPD questionnaires which I answered honestly.  Do you think you will harm your baby? No. Do you cry more than usual? Yes. But nothing on there triggered any concerns from the doctor at the time because they never mentioned the surveys again. Truth is, the biggest hurdle we had while I was on leave was breastfeeding issues.  Once I figured out a system that worked and came to terms with mostly pumping that was ok.  I was exhausted but I was home most of the time and could take naps and get some other things done from time to time.  Going out was a whole thing, but I enjoyed the chance to get out once in a while.

The real struggle came when I went back to work, and that’s when I started to notice the symptoms even more.  The stress has just grown exponentially, and the sleep has been even less because there are no chances during the day to catch up on what you missed overnight. Plus just the logistics of going back to work, child care, etc., have thrown many more things on my plate when my plate already looked something like this:

plate.jpg

I remember reading about Chrissy Tiegen having PPD after her first child because I’ve been mildly obsessed with her since she started dating my first-husband-in-my-head John Legend. (Also, as an aside our babies look remarkably alike so, sorry Kenny, this one might be a Legend!). Knowing she had IVF, thinking how hard it must be to feel that way  going through that when you put yourself through this crazy science experiment for weeks/months because you wanted a baby THAT bad.  But, here I am.  And, now, I can relate.

It’s pretty scary to put this all out there.  But I know hearing from Ali, I felt a little reassured that there are others who are madly in love with their little ones and still struggling more than the regular new mom stress and exhaustion. And I don’t want anyone to be worried about me!  I am always reflecting and working on things and even when I feel like I simply can’t, I somehow do. With a lot of help.  There are also a bunch of things I’ve already started doing:

-I called the doctor to set up an appt and hopefully get referred to a therapist that specializes in new moms so I can work through some things, potentially confirm what I already think, and figure out a plan of action

-I joined Weight Watchers.  I’ve had success with the program before, mostly because I am always more mindful about what I put in my body when I am tracking it and because I need reminders to pay attention to portions.  I have the appetite of an offensive lineman, always have. I typically ate 7 hot dogs as a 7-10 year old on St Patricks Day at the Irish Club like it was nothing.  And was a twig.  So on the WW train for a little while now. So far, so good.  Just want to prioritize treating my body well, which has not always been the case!

-I’ve gotten back to the gym the last couple of weeks, even if it is only a couple of times a week for now, and I feel like I’ve never seen a gym before, it still feels good

-I’ve been doing some guided meditiations for stress relief and anxiety

-And…I’m trying to be nicer to Kenny.  He bares the brunt of my anger and irritability. And, while I find his reactions to my freak outs sometimes, well, irritating, he has constantly supported me, attempted to take things off my plate and tried to reassure me that I am doing a good job even when I am too upset to believe him.  It’s not his fault that I feel like crap and can’t make sense of it.  And, it’s not my fault either.

I love my little family.  I am soaking up all the smiles and all the snuggles (even at 3am) and all the milestones. I’m trying not to compare me or us to others. And trying to enjoy the moment.

But, people should talk about this stuff.  The same way I felt as though I wished I knew before I struggled with fertility about the folks in my circle who had as well.  I feel the same way now.  So, I am hoping someone out there can relate to this, even though this is the scariest thing I’ve put on the internet thus far.

 

Someone’s Praying for Your Chaos

Have you ever heard something, or read something, that just punches you directly in this face?  That was me this morning.  I’ve been reading Girl, Wash Your Face.  And by reading, I mean listening to while pumping/driving/nursing, etc., because God knows I don’t have time to read.  If I am being honest, it is a little Jesusy for me…but there are some gems in there, even if you’re not religious.  I hadn’t listened to it in weeks, but this morning as I was weepily driving to work for the millionth time I started to listed to one of my favorite distraction podcasts: All Fantasy Everything (which if you are looking for a laugh about absolute nonsense I highly recommend), but then I got a weird urge to pick up where I left off on audible and after a few minutes of random “you can do it girl!” advice she said “Just remember, someone is praying for your chaos” and it legit felt like a blow to the face. In a good way.  If that is a thing that exists.

The truth is, to say I have been struggling since going back to work would be the understatement of the century.  I cry literally every day, multiple times a day. I’ve always given parents who work another job (and yes that is how I word it because to say working parents or working moms assumes the parenting part is not also a job) a ton of credit.  Always seemed like so much to manage and juggle on a daily basis.  But I could have never imagined how much, and could have never given as much credit as deserved.

I’ve been told in the past that I seem put together or organized. That I am intimidating, mostly at work. That my house looks perfect.  I’ve never thought any of these things were true, but I guess that has been the perception by some.  Everything I have felt in the past almost 4 months has been the complete antithesis to those descriptions, even if they were ever true.  I am a complete hot mess disaster of a human being who is barely getting up/dressed/eating/talking/thinking. I’ve never been so tired in my entire life.  I’ve never been so overwhelmed. I’ve felt at many moments like I was drowning. I’ve thought to myself: How the fuck has anyone ever done this? I’m not cut out for this. I’m going to disappoint so many people. What am I doing? Who even am I?

I’m the person people go to for help.  I’m the organized one. I am the get shit done person.  I am the over achiever at home and at work.  I am the planner. I am the perfect gifts are perfectly wrapped and coordinated under the tree person. The let me make that call, send that email, take that off your plate person.

Current Situation: Where even are my plates? What is a plate?  What is the meaning of plates? Can we even afford plates?  You don’t need plates if you don’t ever cook right? Person.

I feel completely lost.  The only thing I feel like I have a handle on IS the baby.  Which I guess is a good thing?  I’ve had like 1838492 partial blog posts written in my head in the past few weeks about this, on some version of this, topic and I just couldn’t quite find the time or inspiration to get it started.  Or the cojones to be this open.  I am not on the struggle bus.  I am the CEO and President of the Struggle Bus Corporation.

Kenny and my mom are consistently finding me in some sad ball of tears.  I feel guilty about EVERYTHING.  I feel guilty being at work and being so tired I can’t say words properly.  I feel guilty about running out of the office exactly on time so I can then barely make it “on time” to relieve my baby sitters.  I feel bad when I have to work late and the people watching the baby have to stay at my house for over 12 hours.  I feel guilty that I have missed bath time and bed time (lol as if there is a bed time but you get it) when I have to work late. I feel guilty that my only snuggle time is when I am up with him in the middle of the night and I would rather snuggle than sleep but I am also so tired. I feel guilty that my mom is also overwhelmed with everything going on in her life but is still helping us all the time.  I feel guilty that the baby announcement cards slash thank you card (because when your babe shows up 6 weeks early they become the same thing) are 100 years late and have been sitting on my dining room table waiting to be written and addressed and now they are basically also Christmas Cards.  So, Happy Holidays and Introducing my 4 Month Old and Thanks for your gifts, everyone, you’ll get them…eventually. And the handwriting will be trash, but that’s not because I’m tired or stressed, it’s just because my handwriting is trash.

New baby is a whole thing.  Going back to work is a whole other thing. If anyone were to ask me, I would tell them hold off on the casseroles and meal deliveries, etc., at the beginning-although those are helpful too.  Send food or grocery deliveries or whatever during the first month new parents are back to work.  That’s when you really need it (IMHO).

On top of that, there’s all the other things that just happen in life which somehow seem to all pile on together with us.  Three major life changes at a time is usually how we roll, and not usually on purpose.  My dad’s birthday is in just over a week, and the anniversary of his sudden passing is in a month.  These are our first holidays without him and he LOVED holiday celebrations.  Particularly, the planning and organizing of the food logistics and extreme overuse of tacky decorations. 🙂  So, this season, while filled with joy and excitement with our new bundle, is also filled with loss and grief of not having my dad to experience it all with us.  We are also accidentally house hunting.  We bought our adorable house in June 2016, and love it.  It would be impossible for me to put into words how much I hated the house hunting and house buying process.  It is very competitive where we live, we saw a million houses and lost a million minus 1.  And while I think the one we got was great for us, the process took a toll on me because I get emotionally invested in these things and crushed at every “no” phone call.  And writing bomb ass “please sell us this house” letters is draining AF. I wrote a bunch.

Now, we are in that boat again because we had always envisioned my parents living with us in some capacity in the future: in law suite, two family set up, or side car as my mom calls it.  But, we thought it would be a little more down the road when we would’ve upgraded into a bigger place.  Cut to now, where my dad left us earlier and more suddenly then we could have imagined, and my mom is paying way more than she should for a “luxury apartment” that they only lived in for 4 weeks together and she hates.  We looked into adding on and it just doesn’t make sense financially with our tiny lot size, so here we are in the middle of the holidays, with a newborn and me one month back at work, trampling around open houses all weekend and private showings on weeknights. As if we have time for that.  But once you start getting listings, you can’t help but look! Especially since we now are looking for something pretty specific, with space for mom to deep dive into Animal Planet and Hershey Kisses without being bothered. Of course after one of my MANY emotional breakdowns we decided to take a break from looking until January, but of course fell in love with the last place we saw before said break, offered on it, were told we were the only offer, then lost to another offer that was less money but didn’t need to sell their place. CRUSHED. So, we’re back on a break.  Take me off those goddamn MLS emails, my heart and mind can’t handle it.

In the meantime my little nugget gets super sick.  Coughing, crying, waking himself up because he can’t breath.  Then getting a steroid and having to do the nebulizer every 4 hours so he looks like a tiny, sad darth vader.  It makes your heart ache. I have no PTO time, because I needed to take it all to be paid for the second half of my maternity leave. So that just becomes an additional stressor in a stressful scenario. Despite us trying to protect him as much as possible as a vulnerable preemie in the winter, he’s not in a bubble, still got sick and we’ve all been suffering. No one could have ever prepared me for how gut wrenching it is to watch your infant be sick and not be able to help them.

The emotional rollercoaster of life for me for the past few months has basically been Disney’s Rock n’ Roller Coaster if it didn’t have Aerosmith and didn’t have the fun part but did have the speed and fear and some nausea.

But…

Someone is praying for my chaos.  Actually, I prayed for my chaos.  Not exactly prayed because I am not exactly religious.  But, I wished and hoped and begged for “this chaos”. And this is what punched me in the face this morning.  As I’ve been writing posts since Liam arrived, and even since we found out Liam existed, I’ve had this other post looming in my head titled something like “These posts are a bummer”. I’ve had in my mind all my fertility warriors who read this blog, and those who don’t even know it exists, and how it is probably a lot to read this. I’m sure some people find hope and comfort when those struggling with fertility issues finally get their miracle baby.  But for me, it just hurt.  I didn’t find it comforting.  I found it sad.  People’s success stories didn’t inspire me.  Maybe they should have?  But, they didn’t.  I knew if I was reading my blog before, and then started reading it now, I would be excited for future me, but also just sad.  And jealous. With all that in my head this line from the audio book was a light bulb.  Someone is praying for this chaos.  All of it.  I remember being so annoyed at coworkers or acquaintances complaining about packing lunches or preschool shows or soccer practice or whatever and being like I would KILL to have to do that stuff. And while my blog is supposed to be honest and transparent and vulnerable, but not complaining per se, STILL. Someone is praying for this chaos.  In fact I know some of those someones.

Now, this doesn’t negate the stress, the guilt, the feeling of being completely overwhelmed.  Having perspective doesn’t mean those feelings completely disappear and don’t exist. I am still a disaster.  I am still struggling going back to work. I don’t actually see that change, ever, or anytime soon. But last time I checked, until or unless I magically become independently wealthy (or I am able to turn this blog into a dope ass book…any publishers reading this right now????  Hook me UP), not working is not really an option.  So, I’m going to have to figure this shit out somehow.

But I’ve come to realize that I can be completely and totally grateful, in awe and blessed that we have this adorable, smirky little squish that I never could have imagined.  And comepletely and totally overwhelmed to have to figure out how to manage this new life, and this new self, that I don’t understand at all.  And as my friend Ashley from Feel.Fire.Flow told me (check it out, she’s amazing) said: You can’t give 100% to everything, you only have ONE 100%.  A friend posted this meme the other day and it resonated so much for me:

we-expect-women-to-work-like-they-dont-have-children-38336338

Society puts a lot of pressure on us and we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. But my current goal is to remember: balance isn’t a thingsomeone is praying for my chaos AND I only have one 100%. And whenever a day feels like it is just too much, my baby is cute AF and I can just stare at him if I want. ❤

 

 

 

 

Maternity Leave is Trash

With just a few days left of my leave, I have a lot of feelings. About maternity leave as a concept. About this country’s view on maternity leave. And just the expectations of new mothers in general.  I’ve written a lot in the past year and a half, and been pretty honest.  But, this one will probably be my most honest yet.

***Note: This is not an attack on my employer. I love where I work and I think it has a lot of family-friendly and flexible policies on the whole. It doesn’t have the worst leave benefits I’ve heard of, but it also doesn’t have the best.  I am grateful to have been able to be off for 12 weeks with my little guy. But, this post is more about the way maternity leave is looked at in the big picture, and how it is in fact, trash.

US vs Everybody

If you look at other “wealthy countries”, the U.S. is, by a LONG SHOT, the worst country for maternity leave benefits offering a whopping ZERO weeks of paid leave. Yes, that is a big fat 0. See this chart for comparison:

Maternity Leave chart
Credit: Washington Post

Former President Bill Clinton signed the Family Medical Leave Act which requires employers to protect the jobs of pregnant mothers for 12 weeks.  But, doesn’t require them to pay. It just means you can’t get fired for getting pregnant.  Gee, how generous. Basically, the philosophy from the US is that it should be up to the employer because paying for leave would be a substantial burden especially for small businesses, so each should get to choose how they want to handle it.

When’s the last time you gave businesses in a capitalist society a choice on how they want to handle their money and on a large scale they were like, yeah we should pay people for a substantial period of time while they aren’t working?

I agree that I am sure paying people for leave would be/is a burden, but it also doesn’t mean it isn’t the right thing to do both morally, but also economically.  In the same Washington Post article I referenced above, the author writes Research has shown that paid maternity leave is associated with better job performance and retention among mothers, increased family incomes, and increased economic growth.” So, if we looked at the big picture, I think it would actually be beneficial.

Currently, as I understand it, you are required to be able to take your 12 weeks without being fired.  And, as part of FMLA, you can qualify as “disabled” for either 6 weeks for a vaginal delivery or 8 weeks for a cesarian section delivery.  Since you are “disabled” you can get 60% of your pay for those 6 or 8 weeks. And the rest…well, that depends.  Some employers offer some portion of your salary and for some of the time.  Some give nothing. Some are ‘so kind’ as to let you take your own earned vacation/sick/PTO time so that you can get paid while you’re out.  Others let you take your leave and then let you add on the PTO time afterwards. But those amounts obviously vary and depend on whether you got pregnant in a convenient time of your life after accruing enough time to get paid for most or all of what is left of your unpaid leave.  That sometimes means, for people who are planning or trying to get pregnant, or for people who find out they are pregnant early on, skipping vacations or coming to work while sick in order to save that time to use while they’re on leave.  This seems BANANAS to me. It also leaves mothers returning from leave quite vulnerable because they often have no days they could take in the case of sickness or emergency for them or their child(ren). But alas.

I sit in a privileged place where I knew I had enough PTO time to get paid for most of my leave.  And I knew I could stretch some pennies to be able to deal with the 60% for a couple weeks. I was determined to take as much time off as I could.  But there are many women who get no pay at all.  Or can’t survive with only 60% of their pay for any period of time.  Those women are forced to go back to work a few days after giving birth or cut any leave time very short. And that to me is devastating. As I sit here in my feelings about going back now, I always have that on my mind as well.  At least I got my full 12 weeks, even if it meant saving sheckles for a bit to make it happen.

I also had the monkey wrench of my child showing up 6 weeks early and being hospitalized for the first two weeks of his life.  I reached out to HR asking if there were any accomodations given those circumstances and the response was that the leave is based on the condition of the mother, not the condition of the child.  Again, this is not an employer specific opinion but a philosophical component of parental leave in the US as a whole

If mothers who give birth are considered disabled, and that is how they “earn” a percentage of pay for a percentage of the leave time they’re required to be offered, then they are as I have always suspected superhuman.  Because I have never done more with my body or my mind than I did in those first 6 weeks of my child’s life.

There are so many women who want, and those who need, to be home to care for their new babies and they simply cannot because they cannot survive financially.  My mom wanted to stay home so she did, and worked nights at a restaurant to make ends meet.  Legit.  HOW.  I think about that often now and I have no clue how she did that. When talking about equaltiy in pay for women this is a huge factor. Don’t even get me started on parental leave for partners who didn’t give birth or those who adopted.  That is even more of a joke, most places.  But it is all based on the fact that federally leave is based on the birth mother being disabled.  If we started looking at leave for what it is, caring for young children who need a lot of care and attention, then I think policies would change.  But, then again, it’s all about the dolla dolla billz y’all. Sure there are some progressive companies who offer a much more generous leave than they are required to (High five to those like Google and Apple, and others).  There are few enough of them that can be named in a relatively short list.

Every child is different, but how many parents would say their brain is functioning at top speed when they are three months? How many are getting even close to a normal amount of sleep? Shout out to those babies who do sleep through the night early on though; mine is def NOT one of those. He has reflux, and is uncomfortable and often in pain in his sleep. Sometimes he spits up, shoots milk out of his nose or chokes while sleeping on his back (as medically recommended). So, where does he sleep most soundly and comfortably…with his face smushed into the side of my neck (see exhibit A below). Which definitely results in me getting rejuvenating sleep too. Oh WAIT. Most doctors will say longer sleep periods come after babies reach 10 lbs. For most full term babies this may happen after a month or so.  For early or small ones it takes longer, mine is 11 weeks and just crossing that 10 lb threshold. Yes, this can be common in preemies, but I def didnt opt in to having him make an early appearance. But still, consistent sleep for longer chunks than 4-5 hours takes a while, usually longer than the 12 week leave.

Neck

Me vs. Myself

To say I have enjoyed my maternity leave I think would be a stretch.  That actually pains me to write but in the interest of honesty.  There you go.  The first few weeks were spent in New York, living out of a bag, driving almost an hour each way to a hospital and spending 9 hours a day there.  The next several weeks were spent in pain and tears attempting to breastfeed unsuccessfully.  And all of those weeks were spent somewhat trapped inside my home without visitors since he was on a strict no visitors policy due to his premature age and immune system.  I was lonely and isolated for the first half of leave.  The second half was much better.  We got the hang of breastfeeding (mostly), we (kind of) figured out his cries and sounds and how to sooth him. We also got the OK from the doctor to do some limited errands (with restrictions) and have some healthy adult visitors, occasionally. So, I got out of the house a little and got to have a few family and friends come meet him finally. The first half was particularly rough.  I just wanted to snuggle and love on him, but we had lots of extra doctor’s appointments and our fair share of challenges.

When they say “sleep when the baby sleeps” I want to punch them in the face. Sure, this is great in theory.  But when you are doing the breastfeed-bottle feed-pump trio and hold him up for 30 minutes (see my post called Groundhog Day for a more detailed timeline).  The amount of time one COULD sleep whilst he is sleeping was like 20 minutes.  Not to mention eventually you will run out of bras and bottles and burpcloths, etc.  So, as much as I love the idea of just snuggling and sleeping and feeding…sometimes the house shit does eventually have to get done.  And when your partner is gone 11+ hours out of the day, even though they are INCREDIBLY helpful, you do have to do some of that stuff to keep rolling.

I laugh when I think about the list I kept on my phone of all the TV shows I was going to binge watch while on leave.  I watched exactly 0 of them.  That would require having the time or energy to get the Apple TV remote or change the channel on the TV.  Instead I became intimately connected to the people who work at NBC because that was just on 90% of the time.  Don’t get me wrong I did my fair share of staring at my baby’s face in awe wondering how he exists or how any human could be THAT CUTE.  And I did tons of snuggling and bonding and making weird noises and faces. But the fact is, 12 weeks goes by in a FLASH when you’re on 3 hour cycles and I don’t want to speak for all moms, but I wonder how many feel like they really got to cherish that extremely brief time with their new babe. When I ask most of my mom friends how they felt when they went back to work the common descriptions were heartbroken, crushed, and too soon.

That being said, I don’t think the stay at home mom life is for me.  I should say, I don’t think I’d be at my best long term. I also couldn’t afford to do it-despite the outrageous costs of child care.  I think the last 12 weeks have been hard AF.  I believe I will be a better mom while working and being involved in things I am passionate about outside of the house.  I give ALL the credit in the world to moms who stay at home and do the hardest job that exists (in my opinion) 24/7.  But, the bottom line is…I am just not ready. I’m not.  I’ll be at work next week, and I will be professional. I’ll be excited to see my students, reconnect with colleagues and work on projects that have been waiting for me. But, I’m just not ready.

So, there’s my hot take.  I’ve always felt our country’s (and most employer’s) policies on leave were hot garbage.  But obviously finally being in the current position I’m in now, those are certainly exacerbated.

If nothing else, let me appeal to our country’s “we’re the best” sensability: Currently what we offer is the WORST of all other wealthy countries. The actual worst. So, maybe we should look into this? If we were talking football, we would be getting the first round draft pick for going 0 and 16.

So, the question is…is anyone interested in moving to Bulgaria?

***Acknowledgement: Maternity leave is also likely trash for the people left at the office.  Those who don’t have kids (by choice or not) or don’t need medical leaves end up doing a butt load of extra work while those on leave are out.  Totally valid. I just think many countries, and some companies in the US, have figured out a way to balance the two so I believe it is possible!

 

Came Through Drippin’

No one tells you shit about breastfeeding.  It’s all “natural” and you’ll just figure it out, except you just don’t.

You picture this:

feeding

But instead you get this:

IMG_8576 (2)
(I laughed so hard at this gif I cried.  I probably was also just crying at the accuracy. But it’s so damn funny).

I always pictured myself breastfeeding my baby.  Maybe because I was breastfed, not sure really, but it was just what I pictured.  I had this vision that the baby would be born, they’d put them on my chest and voila the baby eats.  I’m sure a tad naiive, but you don’t really hear about people’s trials and tribulations until you’re in the trenches having them yourself.

I also had the added challenge of having a preemie and one that was in the NICU, so that does throw a monkey wrench in things. I am sure I would have learned some of what to expect had I taken a lactation class.  Oh wait, I signed up for one but it ended up being was AFTER the baby was born while we were still in NY.  Not exactly helpful.

Still.  Aside from knowing I needed to get a breast pump through my insurance (which I thought I would only use when I went back to work-HA). That was basically all I knew. I had what they called “meet and greets” in the NICU where Liam would test out breastfeeding for about 5 minutes or so a couple times a day just to kind of get the hang of it.  You had a specialist there helping you position and giving you tips.  But it was more important that he ate so he mostly had expressed breastmilk from a bottle.

When we got home though, I was supposed to work our way up to breastfeeding by adding duration and frequency each day. Well, instead of that, we had mostly episodes of us both sobbing-him in starvation and me in failure and disappointment.  We just couldn’t get it no matter how hard we tried.  But, I didn’t want to give up, I felt that for us, breastmilk would be the best nutrition for him if we could make it work.  Some choose not to breastfeed at all, and luckily there are some great formula alternatives out there.  But I can see why some who do want to breastfeed end up stopping for so many reasons.  It has not been easy for me.  It has not been fun.  It’s not some warm and fuzzy bonding experience for us. It just isnt. Some people do have this magically easy breastfeeding journey.  Baby gets right on there, knows what to do, supply is good and they’re off and running. But, nay, not I.

For those of us who didn’t/don’t have that, here are some of the things I experienced so we know we’re not alone.

  • Supply and Demand
    • After I gave birth, the NICU sent a lactation specialist to my room to explain the pump they were lending me.  They ran through the parts, how to use it, how to clean and sanitize, how often to pump (every 1-3 hours) to get your supply up since I didn’t have the baby with me to creat the supply. When you start breastfeeding with a full term baby or one not in NICU, every time they eat your body makes more milk.  But if you don’t have the baby with you, you have to fake that by using the pump very often.  I was “allowed” one 4 hour break at night (YAAAAY) but otherwise 1-3 hours and I needed to get hooked up to the machine and watch as after 30 minutes only tiny droplets came out. But I still filled out the labels and brought them down the hall because something is better than nothing.  But 30 minutes, 8 times a day for DAYS on end to get drops into a tiny bottle was brutal and felt fruitless.
  • Manual Expression
    • This is when you give yourself a handcramp “massaging” the milk out of your breasts.  In the hospital I had more luck with this than I did with the ginormous pump machine.  When you’re only getting drops, every drop matters, so watching as they painstakingly drip into a mini bottle was exhausting and satisfying at the same time. Plus, bonus, my hands are ripped now.
  • Hospital Grade Pumps
    • Because I was going to have a delay on actual breastfeeding the nurses recommended I get a hospital grade pump so that I could have a stronger machine to get the supply up. But you have to rent them weekly or monthly, they legit are not for sale, it’s so strange.  Felt strange paying $80 a month to rent a pump when I already got one for free.  But, when I returned my NY rental and drove home with my own small pump and had to wait several days to get a MA rental, I learned why.  My supply dipped significantly and it was so frustrating. Pumping the same amount of time for the same number of times a day and getting half as much was so maddening that I actually lost my mind on the phone with a durable medical equipment company who was the 5th from the list I received FROM MY INSURANCE company to tell me they don’t rent those. After many phone calls we finally found one nearby and I (thanks to my mom’s quick thinking) called my cousin who lived around the corner begging her to run over there before they closed at 4:30.  Life. Saver. This thing is a beast but I kind of don’t want to return it so I’m still paying the monthly rental fee. I’m afraid, if I am being honest, that the other one just won’t do the trick.
  • Fenuwhattttt?
    • When you’re trying to breastfeed directly, and your supply isn’t enough to feed your baby, your baby gets very frustrated. On top of any mechanical issues that might be present, a supply problem will leave the baby hungry and frustrated.  The only way to get it up, feed more and pump more.  But sometimes that just doesn’t cut it.  In comes Lactation “treats”: Cookies, bites, smoothies, tea, supplements.  And I’ve tried them all.  The teat tastes like garbage, FYI. Turns out the magic trio is oatmeal, flaxseed and brewer’s yeast.  All of these lactation snacks have the three of these ingredients camouflaged by other things to make them taste good. You can also take herbal supplements like Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle.  What are they you might ask?  I have no freaking idea.  But I am taking 3 of each 3 times a day like a champ anyway. If you want a good cookie recipe tho, hit me up.
  • Lactation Consultants are Angels
    • They are weird experts in breastfeeding that totally deserve the $300+ a pop per visit (most are covered by insurance thank GOD).  I went to three appointments in an office in the first couple weeks we were home.  Problem is, apparently Liam is a performer.  Every time we went he would somehow eat a full feed with basically no issues whatsoever.  The consultant was like, boom, you’re good to go.  Send me home with confidence only to have him snap his jaw down on my nipple like a crocodile or just root around like a weirdo while crying but definitely not eating.  Then I got one to come to my house and thank goodness for her.  Her expectations were realistic and she focused on my comfort first, because if you’re miserable you’re likely not going to want to keep doing it.
  • Nipple Shields
    • These things.  Thank goodness for them.  Some people are anti.  And I can say it is difficult to transition off of them.  But when my in home consultant came over she gave me absolution for trying them and they worked wonders. Especially when you’re in so much pain!
  • PAIN
    • Everything you see or read says breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt if you’re doing it right.  Cool.  But what if it does hurt?  What if you get excited he finally latches, but it hurts so bad you cry, but also don’t want to stop because it took so long to get there. What if you cry in the shower when the water hits you or if you accidentally graze your boob with your elbow.  When I went to my 6 week appointment I pointed out the cracked redness and she said “yeah it kind of just comes with the territory”. GREAT. Highly recommend coconut oil before pumping btw.
  • APNO
    • Luckily the same day as my 6 week appt the lactation consultant came to the house, took one look at my milk devices and said those are infected, you need APNO (All Purpose Nipple Ointment).  I was so annoyed my doctor didn’t pay attention to me, but so grateful she did. You have to get it done at a compounding pharmarcy.  Won’t get into the annoying-ness that is my insurance trying to tell me I had to get it done at a send away pharmacy only to find it wouldn’t be covered regardless.  Luckily I could swing the $44 because it saved me.  Within a few days I learned I could actually not want to chop my nips clear off.  What a novel concept!  APNO 4 LYFE.
  • Flanges
    • What the eff is a flange you ask?  The cone-like things that act as a funnel for your milk and simultaneously make you look like 80s Madonna.  There are different sizes and a super vague description of how to tell if they fit properly. Even if it hurts you do kind of get numb to it, so it was weeks of using the wrong size before I was corrected and given the right ones. Amazing.  If you’re interested, check out Pumpin Pals, they’ve worked much better for me than the ones that come with the pump.
  • Let Down
    • The feeling you get when you try to breastfeed again and it doesn’t work.  Or…when the milk comes down from your glands and gets ready to come out.  I use the former definition more often, but you know, to each their own.
  • Latch
    • Before this when I heard the word latch, I thought of a good jam feat. Sam Smith.  But now the word latch was the bane of my existence.  The consultants have you form your nipple/areola area into a “sandwich” and then super quickly push the baby towards it all while holding the baby horizontally with knee, hip and shoulder in alignment, making sure your hand isn’t too close to their mouth, that their nostrils are exposed (cuz, you know, breathing), that their tongue is down and the nipple is facing towards the roof of their mouth.  And while you’re doing this you should be relaxed and enjoy this 1 on 1 time with your baby.  Wait, where in this itinerary is the relaxation supposed to be?  Picture this line up of tasks for 45 minutes while never latching.  That was the first few weeks of our breastfeeding attempts
  • Leakage
    • You will drip milk all over things.  Also, breastmilk is very fatty aka oily aka it stains things.  Also things that stain, Lanolin (the cream you can put on for comfort post feeding). You should just know this, exhibit A:
    • IMG_8402
  •  Storage
    • Two months into pumping I found out there are storage bags you can pump directly into.  Legit life changing.  I had been washing and sanitizing 16 bottles a day NOT including the ones I was using to feed the baby. Pumping directly into storage bags has honestly improved my quality of life. 10/10 Highly recommend.

This list is kind of all over the place, but it boils down to this: Breastfeeding is nothing like what I pictured.  The nurses in the hospital kept complimenting me for being dedicated to it, but I never felt like I had a choice. If you don’t get your supply up right away, you kind of can’t. So, I guess I was dedicated?

We’re still working very hard at this.  There is nothing that feels natural or relaxed about it, even though we’ve gotten much more of the hang of things, especially as Liam’s gotten older and his muscles are developing.  I envy the women and babies for whom this comes naturally. And I completely understand the women who decide not to keep doing it.  It is a whole damn thing. And people need to know it is not all gumdrops and rainbows.  For me, it was mostly tears and, well, tears.

Also, if you don’t get the title of this blog post, please look up Cardi B.

 

Groundhog Day

Bill Murray

Over the first week or two of being home with the baby all I could think of was the movie Groundhog Day.  Funny enough, several friends later on used the same term to describe the days after bringing baby home.  I’d say it is a pretty on point term, except for the fact that in the movie he sleeps in between reliving the same day over and over.  And in this sequel, sleep is not in the cast. LOL.  Except it’s not funny because you’re too tired to laugh.

I’m not sure anyone can really prepare you for what this is like. I’d want to be mad at my friends for not really prepping me, but I don’t think they could have. Obviously all of these things are specific to baby.  I’m sure some of them sleep more (JEALOUS), plus there are feeding factors (breast, formula, pumping).  But I think many can relate to this groundhog day feeling.

The days just merge and blend together when your baby is eating about every 3 hours.  There is no day or night.  There is no usual “wake up” routine because that would require actually sleeping.  The big question is…if there is no bedtime or morning time, and no meal times but you’re constantly starving then…when do I brush my teeth???  This is a serious question. This has really been stressing me out.

So, my weird blurred days included breastmilk (a post specifically about the wild rollercoaster of breastfeeding is coming next). But, since Liam was a NICU baby, he was a little immature to really take to breastfeeding directly which means I was primarily pumping and then feeding it to him via bottle. But, they also wanted me to do some breastfeeding trials at most feedings so he could get “used to it”.  So, this added an additional factor vs those who are exclusively formula feeding or breastfeeding.  But still.  Here is a sample of what a day in the life looked like (slash mostly still looks like now):

5am

  • 5 minute diaper change paying close attention to avoid getting peed on or allowing him to pee on his own face. Only 50% successful on either end of that goal regardless of speed.
  • 10 minutes of attempted breastfeeding which is basically just him crying in frustration and starvation while I cry from feeling bad that it didn’t work.
  • 25 minutes of infant led bottle feeding (aka holding him sideways on my knee and feeding him with the bottle horizontally.  Totally not what I was used to). Meanwhile he aggressively resists burping by screaming like I am throwing him out the window. Don’t you know this will make you feel better, bro!
  • 5 minute diaper change because inevitably he decides to take a giant poop whilst he is eating even though I just changed his diaper. Gotta make room, you know.
  • 30 Minutes of holding him upright because he has reflux and we are trying to avoid choking in combination with milk shooting out of his nose which is VERY unpleasant for all involved.
  • 5 Minutes of swaddling him and putting him down to sleep. This part is actually pretty easy…most of the time.
  • 30 Minutes of pumping since he isn’t breastfeeding successfully I need to make sure I get out as much as possible to stash in the fridge.
  • 15 minutes of cleaning and sanitizing bottles and pump parts to get ready for the next time.
  • 15 minutes collecting diapers, burp cloths, poopy clothes and setting up laundry.
  • 15 minutes of staring at him sleeping in disbelief of his extistence and also putting my hand under his nose to make sure he is still breathing
  • And that leaves 25 minutes to sleep OR shower.

8am

SAME

11am

SAME but also give him his vitamins and iron because #preemielife

2pm

SAME

5pm

SAME

8pm

SAME

11pm

SAME

2am 

SAME

Annnnnnnnnnnnd it’s the next day. My friend and former student who had a baby a few weeks after me posted a collage that pretty accurately depicts the line up I just described and she gave me permission to post it here:

groundhog kelly

How cute is her little nugget?!?! When I saw this on IG I laughed so hard because of the relatability and this post was almost complete so I had to throw it in there.

So, this is not a complaint post, believe it or not.  How can I complain when I’ve been waiting to be in this zombie fog for years?  But this is a level of walking coma I could have never imagined. I don’t know what day it is. I can’t remember whether I changed my clothes today or yesterday. Taking care of this little miracle is the most amazing, insane, exhausting thing I could ever think of. I’m sure many of my mom/parent/caregiver friends can relate to this and replace some of my things with whatever their own cyclical tasks are.

Thank goodness for getting through those first few weeks where it is 97% trial and error.  What is that noise? What does this mean?  Should we try this contraption where we suck snot out of his nose using our mouths? The answer is yes, it is so gross in theory but works wonders. And for me I was starting at week two given his NICU stay delayed our “start time” a bit. We also have made some strides in feedings and streamlined the cleaning process which has helped immensely. But, we didn’t even attempt to get the hang of things until about a month in.  And by get the hang I mean just being cool with being dirty, tired and confused 80% of the time.

sleeping-parenthood-mom-meme

All about milk post coming next!

Adventures in the NICU

I feel weird writing this one, but for anyone who hasn’t had a child in the NICU or a family member, it is really hard to understand that experience. I should also preface that in the general scheme of things we were EXTREMELY lucky.  There were babies in the NICU that were very sick and required a lot more care and intervention than Liam did.  But all the families and parents in there can relate to the overall experience. I think the biggest feeling I experienced in there was that this was just not what I pictured.  I pictured going to the hospital with my hospital bag packed.  I pictured the baby being born and put on my chest for bonding time and having him sleep in my room.  And having visitors to the hospital to meet him bringing balloons or flowers. And leaving the hospital two days later totally not ready to take this show on the road.

I did not picture driving feverishly to the hospital with nothing that I needed, or having him be born only to have the nurse hold him up in front of me and then wisk him away or sleeping (somewhat soundly) in the hospital room with only the sounds of other people’s babies down the hallway to wake me up. Or leaving the hospital in a wheelchair with an “It’s a Boy Balloon” but with no baby in my arms and random people asking me where the baby is…

It’s just not what you imagine and it is so emotionally taxing. Even for those of us lucky enough to have a relatively short stay and relatively few complications.  My friend who had a daughter born with a health condition called CDH and had surgery at just a couple days old, posted this video on Facebook from Motherly Media that shows a little about what it is like to have your babe in the NICU.

I sort of compiled a list of some of the craziness related to having your little one in the NICU.  I’m sure it doesn’t include everything, and I wish I took more pictures, but this was the general gist of our experience for the first 10 days of Li’l LJ’s life.

  • What is That Noise?
    • It is incredibly scary to see your baby hooked up to a million wires.  And like I said, we had a relatively “unplugged” baby compared to a lot of others.  But there are beeps and bells and things going off all the time and his leads kept falling off so all of a sudden it would be like RED ALERT no pulse, no heartbeat and I would panic and then a nurse would come over nonchalantly and just reattach them.  It would happen a couple times per hour at least.  The best is when it would happen when you’re feeding or burping him and you think you blocked the airway or something.  Mildly Terrifying.
First Pic
So many cords.  But look at that little butt chin!
  • Your Phone Is Disgusting
    • The NICU unit was like Fort Knox.  For good reason, but you’d have to buzz yourself in and then sign in and ask if you could see your baby.  You go into a super intense handwashing station, which, not gonna lie, I kind of wanted to buy to have at my house.  And there are signs everywhere telling you that your phone is dirtier than a public toilet-not surprised, but still.  Wipe that Shit Off ( literally).  They’re gross.  When you’re in the hospital you kind of just stroll down the hallway whenever you want, but once you get released you have to get a visitors pass and go through this whole process.  Glad it was secure but also felt like a whole thing to see your own child.  After a few days visiting , they start to recognize you.  You still feel like you’re trying to get into the hottest club and hoping they’ll let you past the velvet rope.HottestClub
  • No, You Can’t Come See the Baby
    • One of the hardest things is being so excited about your new arrival and not being able to share it with people.  The more visitors you have, the higher likelihood of infection so you have to keep it pretty tight.  You want to share this exciting moment with family and friends but you really can’t.  It definitely feels a little lonely and isolating.  You feel like you’re missing out on part of the new baby experience.
  • Bili-What?
    • When Liam was born, he didn’t need CPAP or a feeding tube which was great news.  I expected him to be in an incubator when we went to see him for the first time but he was just out in the open.  It was so exciting.  My mom and brother came down so we were excited to introduce him, but when we got back to the NICU he was in a NICU with a tiny eye mask under these bright blue lights.  It was kind of shocking because he wasn’t originally like that.  We were told his biliruben levels were high and he needed to be “under the lights” to keep the numbers low and prevent liver damage and worse. I was thrown off since he was out and we could hold him and then all of a sudden he’s in this tiny tanning bed sort of locked away from us.  I never even heard of biliruben but a lot of babies need this treatment, even when they’re not early. It was very scary to go from having full access to the baby to having them in glass.
Lights
I just needed a little tan!
  • Tiny Diapers
    • Do you know how small a preemie diaper is?  About the size of a maxi pad.  About half the size of the pad they give you after birth, lol. When the first nurse asked if I wanted to change the diaper, I was like umm sure. Then she just handed it to me.  Now, I’ve changed lots of diapers but none this small and not through two tiny holes in an incubator.  Needless to say, I failed miserably at this task.  I kind of thought she’d give me a lesson, but nay. She did not.  She was like sink or swim mama.  I sank.  But I got the hang of it eventually. Also, yes, boy babies will pee all over an incubator if you don’t go fast enough. Fun fact.
Incubator
Very challengin to change a diaper through this hole!
  • Pump Station
    • When you have a preemie, if you plan to or want to breasfteed, they give you a hospital grade pump while you’re there.  If you have an on time baby, your milk supply is usually created by the demand of the baby itself.  But when the baby is in the NICU, there is no demand to be created so you need to essentially fake it and a regular pump you get through insurance just won’t cut it.  They had a lactation team that would come give you a lesson and it is brutal.  When you first start you are legit getting droplets.  Spending half an hour doing manual compression (yes it’s exactly as fun as you think) then strapping yourself up to the cones and getting hardly anything.  But the nurses want you to deliver it anyway because it’s full of antibodies and good stuff so they feed it to your baby in a syringe until you start making enough for a bottle.  It is emotionally and physically exhausting.  Kenny was doing late night deliveries from labor and delivery of thimble size milk drops.  Luckily the supply came in eventually and we were driving our little cooler of “the goods” to and from the hospital for the next week. The NICU even has a pumping room with little stations since most of the moms there need to pump every 1-3 hours. You’d walk by and hear a symphony of suction every hour of the day.
  • No Food Allowed
    • There was a tiny waiting room for family.  It was surprisingly small to me, but then again we weren’t supposed to have visitors.  But for us who weren’t from there, we basically treated it like a job, it was sort of our home away from home…away from home.  We were there from about 9am until 6pm every day.  That way we could participate in the feedings every three hours, change him, do skin to skin, soak in all the bonding time possible within the rigid schedule they were all on. You weren’t allowed to eat in there.  I was like wait, we are here all day and we can’t even have snacks?  Seemed outrageous to me.  There was a cafeteria and Au Bon Pain in the hospital on a different floor.  But when you’re pumping and cleaning parts and feeding and changing the baby by the time you’re done all that you have like 15 minutes to eat.  We broke the rules a few times.  I know, this is shocking.
  • NICU Nurses are Superheroes
    • Legit.  These nurses are amazing.  They had so many tiny nuggets to take care of with all kinds of issues, tubing, cords, specific needs.  They were throwing around these tiny beings so calmly and confidently, and providing emotional support and coaching to the parents.  They honestly got us through this ordeal. High five a NICU nurse if you know one.  They are the shit.
  • Infant CPR
    • In the waiting room, there were signs for support groups and classes and all kinds of resources.  They offered, sort of required, you to take an infant CPR class before discharge.  I’ve taken CPR a bunch of times for teaching fitness classes, but never with the intent to use on my own child.  I know a lot of people will take this class on their own before they have a baby. But the fact that it was kind of required was a scary wake up call to me.  As was the mom in the waiting room, awaiting discharge of her baby, who told us she took her little one home and then she stopped breathing due to infection and had to be readmitted.  “Good thing I took the class” she said.  Ok, lemme go sign up right now…
  • PUPP
    • The day or two after I got discharged I had this little rash around my waistline.  I thought it was just an irritation from the sexy mesh underwear the hospital gives you but over the next few hours the rash covered my whole body from shoulders down to my knee caps.  It was unbelievably itchy.  We thought it was an allergic reaction maybe but to what?  Everything I’m using is not my normal stuff so who knows.  It was AWFUL.  Sitting in the hospital for 9 hours a day wanting to rip my skin off.  Finally had to go to the doctor and was givin steroids, took 5 days but eventually went away.  I thought it might not ever go away.  Thanks to Kenny’s sleuthing online we ended up figuring out it was this thing called PUPP, a rash that often develops in pregnant women in the third trimester and can last until birth.  But sometimes it develops after birth, lucky me. Picture skin to skin or pumping on top of a full body rash. Hot.  Literally. If you’re feeling brave, look PUPP up on Google Image.
  • Just give it to me straight
    • I like information. I know that medical things change, and not everything can be predicted to the T, but we got all sorts of crazy info in Labor and Delivery and then different information in the NICU.  And then different information every time we got an update.  When you’re more than 4 hours from home, don’t have any of your stuff, dealing with hormones and fear and confusion, you just want to know what you’re in for.  Am I here for a few days? Weeks? Longer?  We were told on Friday, if he passes the carseat test you can probably leave Monday, then we were told mid week, then end of week, then we’ll have to see.  All based on whether or not he was eating enough, what his biliruben levels were, etc.  I know those things can change but the pushing back process was rough for my mental state.  I just wished they told me the longest time possible and then anything sooner would have been great.  I walked in one morning thinking we were leaving in a day or two and the nurse nonchalantly says maybe this weekend and I lost my shit.  Kenny was parking the car so I was alone.  It just through me over the edge to have it pushed back again.  We didn’t have clothes, we had to buy underwear at Target, like what the hell.  Then the nurse told me he can sense that I’m upset.  OK LADY, That is not helping me feel better either! Ugh.  All the staff was great, but I was like don’t tell me a date until it is a HIGH likelihood that is happening.  For the love of God.

Overall, like I said, we were incredibly lucky.  There were moms who went back to work because their babies were in the NICU for so long.  They would come in as we were leaving with their cooler of milk dressed in their work clothes.  There was another baby in our nursery who coded while taking his vitamins. After a couple of minutes of chaos, we hear the nurse say “Well, welcome back sir.”  Terrifying.  Can’t imagine what that mom was going through.  Another baby was readmitted after her and her twin were released, and the parents didn’t listen to the no visitors rule, ended up being treated for meningitis.  All in all our NICU experience was positive and on the low scale of risky.

But for first time parents, especially after everything we had been through to get to this point, that shit was scary as hell anyway.  As was taking him out of the hospital right into a 4+ hour drive back to Massachusetts.  NOT the chillest road trip I’ve ever been on.  But an amazing feeling to be wheeled out of the hospital 10 days later with baby in the baby carrier and headed home.  Who knew when we picked the name Liam, that the meaning Strong Willed Warrior would be so on point!

Up next on the blog, the first few weeks home, or as I like to call it Groundhog Day.