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Dear New Mama

I’m a year into motherhood. One full year. And while I spend the majority of my days still feeling like I have no clue what I am doing, there are a few lessons I’ve learned in these 365 days that I wish I could go back and tell myself, or at least share with the soon-to-be mamas in my life. Because dear new mom, you need to know…

It’s not your fault. Doesn’t even matter what you are asking yourself about. Nine times out of ten, the answer is, it’s not your fault. Trouble nursing? Not your fault. Baby won’t sleep? Not your fault. Kinda hate your husband? Not your fault. Don’t want to leave the baby? Not your fault. Can’t wait to leave the baby? Not your fault.

The way your baby came into the world will never matter again once you are home. Whether you had a cozy home birth or a traumatic hospital stay or anything in between. Be thankful for what went right, mourn the way things went wrong, then work on slowly letting it go. Don’t let the way you delivered dictate the way you parent. There’s no time for pride, fear, or regret now that there’s a baby who needs you.

Breastfeeding is hard. And that’s okay. Then one day, it magically isn’t. And that’s awesome. But then it’s hard again. Basically it’s a long journey, full of snuggles and clogged ducts along the way. If possible, please get professional lactation help. And surround yourself with cheerleaders who will root you on when you need the encouragement.

Invest in the expensive nursery chair. You know the big, cushy, rocker/glider combo with the high back that takes up way too much room that you can drift off to sleep in? That one. Get it if you haven’t already because you will spend more hours in it than you can imagine. And it’s still less pricey than multiple chiropractor bills.

Maternity clothes aren’t just for pregnancy, so don’t pack them away just yet. It’s totally fine to wear those stretchy waisted pants and flowy tops for a while after the baby has made it’s debut. Most of us do. And do not even THINK of weighing yourself until at least 6 weeks have passed. This is the time to lay low, eat well, and be kind to your body that just made another human from scratch!

Get out of the house. I know you haven’t showered and the baby is cranky and the dishes are piling up, but get out of the house. Fresh air puts things into perspective. Bonus if you can get to a place where you will actually get to talk with another adult. Often they will remind you of two important things you need reminding of: 1. You are a fully functioning grown-up in the world. 2. Your little bundle is actually really super cute when it’s not 2am.

Take a moment for yourself. Take a few. Take the time you need and you’ll be a better mother. Maybe you need a shower in peace, a sweaty yoga class, or a girls night out with wine. I know it doesn’t feel possible, but the baby will be okay without you. If there is someone who can help you, let them. Adults are often much more generous, and babies much more adaptable, than we give them credit for.

(originally posted on Mahmee.com. Photo credit: Lauren Guilford)

Don’t Ask Me About Motherhood

People keep asking me how much I love motherhood. As if motherhood brings with it a revelatory joy that’s kept hidden from all the other, non-mothers out there. People talk like I’ve finally gotten into some secret society I was longing to be a part of.

People keep asking how much I love motherhood and the answer is, well, I don’t.

Motherhood is braving one hell of a long hazing process. It’s worrying every minute if you’re doing enough and if you’re doing it right. It’s feeling completely inadequate because you can’t get up the nerve to cut such tiny fingernails.

Motherhood is that tinge of jealousy when you hear about your single friend’s freedom. It’s canceling date night because someone is teething and needs your shoulder to gnaw on, and no one else’s shoulder tastes quite the same.

Motherhood is waking up every other hour through the night because you are desperately needed, but feeling altogether useless. It’s mashing organic sweet potatoes and freezing them into ice cube trays while you forget to make dinner for yourself. It’s never being alone, yet feeling so very lonely.

Don’t ask me about motherhood. You know what it entails.

But if you want to know how much I love being a mom, I’ll ask you, how much time do you have?

Being a mom is sneaking in another sniff of her skin while drying her off after the bath. It’s wondering how long she’ll trust me this fully as I feel the weight of her in my arms. It’s holding my breath in awe as she drifts off to sleep because I’ve never seen something so beautiful.

Being a mom is counting the minutes until I can get home to see her nose scrunch and gummy smile after I’ve had a bad day. It’s living on the verge of tears because my heart is overflowing in my chest, ready to pour out my eyes at any inopportune moment. It’s the way she makes strangers on the street feel like my oldest friends with one giggle or wave.

Being a mom is cheering harder than I ever have at any sports game as she tries with all her might to put one chubby leg in front of the other. It’s remembering that a smashed avocado is heavenly, a half empty water bottle is a thing of mystery and a ceiling fan is straight up miraculous.

(originally posted on Mahmee.com)

Disobedience

Parents are always talking about getting kids to be more obedient. But I can’t stop thinking that the handful of successes and adventures I’ve had only happened when I stopped listening. It was when I stopped worrying about being wrong, that I started finally doing something right.

So I hope you do test my limits, challenge your teachers and know when to tell someone above you to back down. Because there will be plenty of times you shouldn’t listen.

Don’t listen when I say “hold my hand” going up the stairs, when you know you’re strong enough without my help.

Don’t listen when I say “be careful” at the playground, when you have faith in where your feet will carry you and how long your arms will hold you.

Don’t listen when I call out “slow down,” when you know I’ve just forgotten how awesome the wind feels in your hair.

Don’t listen when I say, “you should save for an emergency,” when you already have an itinerary for backpacking around Europe.

Don’t listen when I say to “go over them,” when you are confident you already have the test questions down pat.

Don’t listen when I say, “you’ll make the team next year,” when you’re already plotting how to become the captain by then.

Don’t listen when I say, “that doesn’t match,” when you are purposefully expressing yourself, mixing patterns and making a statement.

Don’t listen to me because I do hope you dirty the legs of your pants hopping in puddles, cut your own hair while playing stylist and paint your bedroom walls orange during an artistic rant.

Don’t listen, speak up. Tell off the class bully and then the boss who wants you to work late for no pay. Tell them that you are worth more and be unapologetic about your immense worth. Go ahead and act out, rebel, talk back, stand up and make a scene, all for what you know is right. Be anything but obedient.

(originally posted on Mahmee.com)

To The Mom I Met at the Park

I wasn’t looking for a new friend, but you decided to chat with me despite my tired eyes and crossed arms. You were relaxed as your kid covered himself in dirt and sand. And when he happily waddled over for a snack, you didn’t bother to disinfect his hands. I waited for the obligatory apology us moms all give when are kids are hot messes, but you didn’t miss a beat in our conversation.

You let our kids work it out on their own when they both wanted the same shovel. And for the first time at the playground, I let out a sigh of relief at not having to try to teach my barely one year old the beauty in sharing. You let your toddler climb up the slide and down the steps without ever hovering or telling him to “be careful.” You didn’t ask me if my baby was walking or talking yet or reaching any particular milestone, you asked me how I felt about having survived a whole year of motherhood. 

You talked about your C-section without regret, but with ease and gratitude for saving you and your baby’s life. You said breastfeeding was one of the hardest things you’ve ever done. You told me about how lonely you felt when your husband worked out of town, and how lonely you sometimes felt even when he was back. You told me the things you missed about your pre-baby life without ever feeling the need to mention how much you do “really love motherhood though.” 

You brought me back a coffee from the cafe even though I didn’t ask for it, and pastries to share without ever mentioning the calorie or fat content. You listened compassionately about my lack of sleep without ever asking me if I tried such and such method or giving me any unsolicited advice. You didn’t bat an eye when my kid had a meltdown leaving the swings, you just carried her diaper bag to the car for me while I held a flailing child in my arms.

Maybe we’ll schedule a playdate, or run into each other again in the neighborhood. Regardless, I’m glad we connected between sippy cup hunts and sunblock applications. And next time I see a tired mom with crossed arms, I’ll consider it my turn to say hi and bring the coffee.

(originally posted on Mahmee.com)

The Only One Awake

I’m sitting here alone at 2:47am. It’s an all too familiar scene, swaying in the dark to the blood-curdling sound of my screaming baby. But for once I’m thinking, what if I’m not the only one awake?

Maybe I’m not the only one awake at 2:47 who feels like a complete failure because she can’t get her own child to sleep. Maybe I’m not the only one with tears streaming down my face thinking, is this lovely little being trying to end me?

Maybe I’m not the only one losing motivation with every pick up and put down. And whose hope things will change is dwindling with each check-in that passes. Or whose resentment is growing with every loving hush and gentle pat.

Maybe I’m not the only one whose dreams of co-sleeping in bohemian bliss were squashed. Not the only who tried all the “gentle” sleep training techniques and failed at Crying It Out. Or who read countless sleep books, only to feel more lost than before.

Maybe I’m not the only one who wants to scream when yet another person says that someday soon I’ll miss these precious moments. Not the only one who cringes every time a well-meaning in-law asks how the baby is sleeping. Or the only one who has considered lying about it.

Maybe I’m not the only one who clenches her jaw when a co-worker says he’s so tired from that 7am Pilates class. Not the only one sick to my stomach with unsolicited advice, talk of “tough love” and articles on “self soothing.”

Maybe I’m not the only one who can’t take another joke about sleep deprivation because my laughter so easily turns into sobs. Not the only one who dreads the sun going down and who gets sweaty, anxious palms every night at 7pm.

What if I’m not the only one who has poured water into her cereal and put trash in the hamper? I’m exhausted and delirious and lonely, but I’ll pry my eyes open for another round of lullabies. Because maybe, just maybe, I’m not the only one awake.

(originally posted on Mahmee.com)

Namaste, Mama

Even the mat feels different beneath my feet. I wiggle my toes, close my tired eyes and try to focus. But I think about whether my husband will remember the swaddle, if I locked my keys in the car rushing here and how uncomfortably tight my tank top is becoming every minute I’m away.

I catch myself breathing a quick sigh of relief when the teacher keeps the lights dimmed at the start of class. There’s talk of mantras and intentions and I feel a heaviness grow in my chest. Suddenly I’m hyper aware of my own weaknesses, as a person and a parent too. I open my eyes to look around, anything to get outside myself.

Oh, there she is. The perfect yogi at the front of the room. She’s nailing gravity-defying inversions with an extraordinary lack of body fat, all in trendy constellation booty shorts. I pry my eyes away.

It doesn’t matter that I can’t see myself in the mirror. I wouldn’t recognize my outline even if I could. My legs ache and my arms shake, doing poses I’ve done with ease hundreds of times before. The familiar Sanskrit words, the consistent rhythm, and the routine flow give me comfort. Little by little, my breath deepens to fill the postures.

For the first time in a year, I start to feel at home in this very unfamiliar body.

As we bend backwards, the woman stuck in the corner catches my attention. I recognize her from the parking lot. She had three car seats in her minivan. Three. She’s sweaty and unsteady in her faded black stretch pants and I’m thinking she must be superwoman. Namaste, mama. Namaste.

Beat up as I am, I feel a little tinge of motivation deep in the pit of my stomach. This mushy, postpartum body is actually pretty strong. It made my favorite tiny person from scratch. And maybe I’ve got a long way to go, both on and off the mat. But I’m not stopping. I can’t. I have a little yogini at home who doesn’t know better than to think the world of me.

(originally posted on Mahmee.com)

Dear Babysitter

Dear Babysitter

This is our first time away from the baby and though you are totally competent, I mean, overqualified, there are a few things I wanted you to know.

One, please feel free to text us if there’s a problem. Like if she doesn’t take the bottle or seems gassy. Or if she cries. Or doesn’t cry. Maybe just text us regardless. Pictures put our mind at ease. So take photos, lots of photos. And we are always just a Facetime call away if you want to chat. The restaurant we are eating at has great cell service. Trust me, we scouted out the location in advance. So hey, give us a ring at your earliest convenience.

I know you don’t want to bother us while we are out, and you joked that we should talk about non-baby things, but we are just excited to be out of the house together, wearing semi-clean clothes, with other grown-up people. I’m going to ride in the front seat. And wear a shirt I can’t nurse in. Long earrings that no baby will pull. I’m going to drink wine in a goblet glass I won’t have to worry about any little hands knocking over. We might as well be on a five-star Tahitian holiday in paradise, that’s how fancy I felt getting ready.

Never mind the fact that I already cried twice in the bathroom, debating on whether or not we should leave. My husband insists she won’t have abandonment issues from one dinner away. I insist he promise not to order appetizers or dessert. We’ve come to the agreement that we will go. Just come back a bit early. So here’s the money in advance for the three hours we originally said we’d be out, but we’ll see you at 7:45 the latest.

Oh and the number to the pediatrician is on the fridge. You know, just in case of an emergency. But come to think of it, sometimes the doctor talks like we are overreacting, first time parents. So if anything, just call us and 911 directly.

Thanks so much!
This totally chill Mom

You Teach Me

I thought I had an upper hand. I read parenting books about the so-called “fourth trimester” and got the best-rated baby gear.
Instead, all my insight about babies left me clueless about YOU. And getting to know your quirks is still a daily adventure.
You teach me to embrace the unknown.

I thought I’d have a glorious, natural labor at a birth center. I’d seen the documentaries and vowed with a will of steel that I was up for the challenge.
Instead, I was in labor for days before having a C-section. You were stuck and no amount of my stubbornness was budging you.
You teach me that sometimes we have to let go of the best laid plans.

I thought I’d lose the baby weight immediately after delivery. I vowed to never make excuses about why I couldn’t get back to the gym.
Instead, my postpartum diet consisted mostly of frozen burritos eaten one-handed. You demanded to be held 24/7 and my ears and heart were too weary to argue.
You teach me to practice patience, not perfectionism.

I thought I’d be a multitasking mama. One who’d cook a gourmet dinner with you strapped to my chest.
Instead, I catch myself staring at you on the monitor or looking at pictures of you while you nap. It’s hard to be productive when I miss the smell of your perfect head.
You teach me to slow down.

I thought I’d have a laid back baby. One who’d coo at strangers and happily fall asleep in the arms of any babysitter.
Instead, you are a fiery spirit whose cries of protest are matched in passion only by your shouts of joy.
You teach me to let my feelings out, regardless of how the world receives them.

I thought I’d be a working mother who never doubted herself. One who couldn’t wait to get out of the house and back to my list of goals.
Instead, I have to pry myself away from your cuddles to get to work on time. And then I spend the drive debating whether or not I should turn back around.
You teach me to see the bigger picture.

I thought I’d be a pretty good mom.
Instead, you are turning me into a much better person.
You teach me more than I ever thought possible, on much less sleep than I ever imagined.

(originally posted on Mahmee.com)