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Motherhood

Motherhood

You’re Not A Bad Mom Because You Didn’t Enjoy Pregnancy

February 15, 2018
Didn't Enjoy Pregnancy

The below photo is from one of several hospital visits for dehydration early in my pregnancy. Eventually the nurses started doing home visits to administer IV fluids so I could avoid the hospital.

Pregnancy isn’t easy. For some it might be, but, for many, it’s not.

Don’t get me wrong—pregnancy is beautiful, wondrous, and miraculous. Before I became a mother, I used to think someone really had to struggle for a baby for it to be considered a “miracle.”

But once I became a mom myself, I realized that every single human life is nothing short of miraculous.

It is a wonder to build a human life from scratch. It is powerful and transformative.

But, that doesn’t mean it’s enjoyable.

Didn't Enjoy Your Pregnancy

And before you say it, I will: Pregnancy doesn’t have to be enjoyable. It’s a necessary sacrifice you undertake if you want to give birth to a child.

But, it’s still OK to admit that you don’t enjoy it if you don’t, and that doesn’t mean you love your children or value your pregnancy any less.

You wouldn’t always know that from some of the conversations mothers have with each other though—particularly on the Internet.

A lot of times, if a woman complains that she didn’t enjoy/doesn’t enjoy pregnancy, she’ll receive responses telling her to get over it, or reminding her how many women would kill to be in her shoes.

Or, someone will respond gushing over how much they enjoyed their own pregnancy—how wonderful it was and how they would do it all over again in a heartbeat, so clearly there must be something wrong with her if she’s not loving it.

None of this is helpful.

Didn't Enjoy Pregnancy

I respect and empathize with those who struggle to conceive. I couldn’t imagine the struggle, the sacrifice, and the pain. But one woman’s struggle doesn’t negate another woman’s struggle, and it’s time we stop this harmful game of comparison.

There are many reasons a woman might not love pregnancy.

Maybe she did struggle to get pregnant or has a history of loss, and never felt fully safe and at ease during her pregnancy.

Maybe she has a medical condition that makes pregnancy more difficult and anxiety-provoking.

Maybe, like me, she suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum and required IV meds and fluids just to survive.

Maybe the general anxieties and discomforts of pregnancy left her feeling completely unlike herself.

Or, maybe the problem is something else entirely. The physical, mental, and emotional strain of pregnancy can be difficult even under the best of circumstances.

A woman’s reasons for not enjoying pregnancy are personal and shouldn’t be fodder for someone else’s judgment.

So, if you didn’t love being pregnant, or are currently pregnant and struggling to enjoy it, don’t feel guilty.

You still are and will be an amazing mother. Your sacrifice is appreciated. Your struggle is seen. It’s not easy, but you’re doing it. You are doing a great job—and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

This post originally appeared on The Mom at Law on Facebook.

Motherhood Self-Care

11 Things Every Woman Should Do Before Having A Baby

February 8, 2018
having a baby

Welcoming a baby is a joyous occasion, but it can be a stressful time as well.

Between the demands of pregnancy, the unpredictable nature of labor and delivery, and the haze of the early newborn days, it’s easy to lose sight of your own needs.

The nine months of pregnancy aren’t just a gestation period; they’re a countdown to the expiration of a previous life. That might sound a little dramatic, but it’s true.

Have a baby and your life will be forever changed. There are few things in life with such sudden and permanent consequences.

I’m a firm believer in the importance of self-care–particularly during pregnancy and postpartum. I also believe there are some things that every woman should do before having a baby.

I’m not talking about things like traveling the world, saving a certain amount of money, or going to graduate school. Those choices are personal and the pieces that shape our lives will look different depending on who we are, our background, and our interests.

What I am referring to are small acts of self-care you can perform for yourself during pregnancy in preparation for the big life changes that await you.

Whether you are a first time mom or beyond, here are the 11 things you should do before having a baby.

Having a Baby

1. Get a massage.

Go for a prenatal massage. If you have the time and disposable income, go for more than one.

What our bodies go through during pregnancy is insane when you think about it. You deserve (more than) a little pampering.

A maternity massage isn’t just a relaxing indulgence–it can also be a way to keep your body from completely falling apart. Go.

2. Buy yourself a present.

During your pregnancy, think ahead to post-partum you.

The you who might struggle to find time to shower. The you who won’t fit into any of her old clothes. The you whose eyes will burn from sleep deprivation.

Buy that future you a present now–something that won’t require much effort to wear or enjoy during those early days with a new baby.

No, a sunny scarf or simple pair of earrings won’t make the old you come back any faster, but they will be a reminder of that old you and can help you feel put together while you’re living in leggings and t-shirts.

3. Perform acts of micro self-care.

Stretch. Burn scented candles or diffuse lavender. Take long showers.

You know that aisle in Target with the face masks and fancy soaps? You live there now.

Pregnancy can be super uncomfortable. Performing small acts of self-care to combat that discomfort can make you feel human and relaxed.

4. Try not to worry about sleep.

It can be difficult to get a good night sleep during pregnancy, which can be made worse by everyone telling you to “sleep while you can.”

Try to sleep as much as your body and schedule allows, but also don’t worry about “banking” sleep for the future. That’s not a thing, and it’s definitely not something you should stress over. You’ll cross the no sleep bridge when you get there.

5. Stock up on snacks.

Life with a new baby will be hectic. Don’t wait until your new bundle arrives to build your snack stash, which you will definitely need during those rushed early days.

Do it while you’re unencumbered and clearheaded enough to remember that you don’t like raisins.

6. Rest.

Put your feet up and don’t feel guilty about it. Lie on the couch when you need a break. Choose to do nothing instead of doing something.

It will be much easier to follow this advice if you’re a first-time mom, but even if you’re a second-time mom or beyond, try to steal these quiet moments when you can.

It won’t suddenly become easier to do so later, that’s for sure.

7. Feel all the feelings.

Whatever you feel–and you will feel a lot of things–feel it without guilt.

Don’t worry about how you “should” be feeling, or how other people you know allegedly felt.

With surging hormones, mental and physical changes, and a major life transition ahead, it’s completely normal to feel everything from pure joy to abject fear.

Embrace your feelings and work through them. No guilt.

8. Enjoy date nights and family time.

Enjoy those nights with your husband or afternoons out as whatever family size you currently are.

You will eventually adjust to life with your newest family member, but never again will it be just the two of you (or three of you, or four, etc. if you already have kids).

9. Savor a moment.

Piggy-backing off that last tip, be sure to savor a moment from your pregnancy and/or your life during this time.

I’m not going tell you to “enjoy every minute” because that’s an unrealistic expectation for anyone, particularly if you were sick much of your pregnancy or struggled in other ways.

But, at some point, take a mental snapshot of a moment that makes you happy and remember it going forward.

Soon life will change in dramatic fashion, and it’s OK to celebrate the things you’ll miss.

10. Satisfy a pregnancy craving.

I’m not going to tell you how or what to eat. That’s between you, your doctor, and the Taco Bell drive-thru.

Try to eat a healthy and varied diet, of course, but don’t beat yourself up for indulging in less virtuous cravings every now and then.

11. Get in the picture.

No matter how you feel about your appearance during pregnancy, be sure to capture at least some photos of your pregnant self.

Whether it’s a few quick snapshots on your phone, or an elaborate unicorn-themed maternity photo shoot, be sure to leave your pregnancy with at least some photographic evidence that it happened.

Even if you don’t love the pics during pregnancy, you’ll cherish them for the rest of your life thereafter–and your little one will too.

Whatever you do, don’t feel guilty for taking care of yourself.

Humor Motherhood

A First Time Mom’s 4 Best (Technological) Friends

February 1, 2018
First Time Mom

First time moms get a lot of advice about the gadgets and gear they’ll need after their babies are born. This is not that type of list.

Sure, you may be interested in the latest advancements in baby swing technology, but, for at least the first several weeks, your little bundle will likely be more interested in the innovative crook of your arm than whatever new flying saucer 4moms has on the market.

I wouldn’t deny any new parent the latest bouncer, Boppy, or bottle warmer—it is a rite of passage for new parents to fill their abodes with twelve different lounging pillows, forty-five new swaddle blankets, and six variations of what essentially amounts to a basket on wheels before finally realizing their child will sleep in anything and anywhere as long as it is directly on top of them.

That said, brand new moms definitely need help during those early days. Thankfully, technological innovation is a first time mom’s best friend.

God only knows what parents did in the days before pay-at-the pump gas stations and drive-thru Starbucks (no, seriously, what did parents do?).

New parenthood is tiring. It helps to let the machines do the work for you. These are a first time mom’s four best (technological) friends.

First Time Mom

Amazon Prime

First Time Mom

Can you hear it? That’s the sound of a chorus of angels singing.

Or at least that is how it will feel when you’re one week postpartum, haven’t left your house since you returned home from the hospital (there may have been a pediatrician visit or two thrown in there, but that could have been a fever dream), can’t remember your last hot meal, haven’t peeled your baby off of you since the doctor announced “it’s a boy,” just realized your nesting instincts didn’t remind you to buy baby wipes and toothpaste, and you hear the glorious THUD of a Prime package arriving on your porch.

Amazon Prime is a life saver. Can’t find that tube of lip balm you threw into your hospital bag a month ago? Prime it.

Everyone lied and your little one actually does need those newborn size diapers after all? Prime it?

Lost your sanity? Prime it. Err, you get the picture.

You will leave your house eventually after having a baby (promise!), but in the meantime, having the essentials sent to your home at the push of a button will make you feel as though you aren’t a grizzly recluse cast away from society.

Opening a postpartum Prime package is like opening a mystical time capsule from 48 hours ago, only better, because a postpartum Prime package has snacks and fresh t-shirts.

Netflix

First Time Mom

In addition to your friend Amazon Prime, you will get up close and personal with your other best friend, Netflix.

Newborn babies eat and sleep a lot, most of the time while tethered to, or at least very close to, their moms.

There won’t be a whole lot of opportunities for interpretive dance during those early weeks, and regardless of whether your nature is up and at ‘em or couch potato, you will likely spend a lot of time hanging out in bed, on your couch, or on that expensive glider in the nursery while your baby eats…and eats…and eats, and maybe sleeps.

You will, of course, spend hours staring lovingly at your little cherub, and rightfully so.

But, eventually, you will look up, and unless you like staring at the wall, you will likely end up catching a few (hundred) episodes of your favorite show.

Voice Texting

First Time Mom

Do you have three hands? No? Then you may want to consider using voice text if you don’t already.

I had never used my phone’s voice texting feature before I had my son.

What can I say? I’m old fashioned and don’t like to speak into my phone unless it’s directly into someone’s voice mailbox when I call at a time I know they won’t pick up.

You will spend approximately one-hundred-and-seven percent of your day cradling, feeding, or snuggling your baby, which will occupy at least one of your arms.

Your remaining arm will be used to eat or drink, and, of course, hold your phone so you can text friends and gawk/recoil/gaze whimsically at social media.

At some point, you’ll want to type more than a single word to those friends and unless you possess Gumby-like dexterity, texting with one hand will get old.

Your baby will also appreciate you not dropping your phone on their head as you passionately argue on your mommy board about the relative merits of cloth-diapers versus regular and co-sleeping versus never sleeping again.

Smartphones in General

First Time Mom

In addition to kindly storing access to Amazon Prime, Netflix, voice text, and all your friends, smartphones offer several other features helpful to new moms.

Need to check your baby’s weekly milestones? There’s an app for that. Need to track feedings? There’s an app for that, too.

You could buy a sheep-shaped sound machine to play gentle ocean waves so your baby can sleep, or you can download the same thing on your phone and carry it with you all throughout your house, your friends’ houses, your car, and the grocery store.

Don’t want to throw on the lights for a midnight feeding and the nightlight is in the nursery where your baby still doesn’t sleep? Use your phone’s handy dandy flashlight while you stumble around and change diapers.

In sum: your smartphone will save your sanity. So, try to keep it charged.

New moms receive a lot of advice about what to buy before the baby comes.

These four technological innovations are the only thing a mom absolutely needs. Prime will take care of the rest.

Motherhood

To my Firstborn as We Become a Family of Five

January 25, 2018
family of five

It’s been almost three years since we brought you home from the hospital, a tiny bundle of need wrapped in hope and muslin. I still remember your jet-black hair, and your dark, sleepy eyes that looked at me in a way no set of eyes ever had.

When you were born, you made us a family of three. But beyond that, you made us a family, creating roles for your dad and I that we had never before held.

Since that day nearly three years ago, you’ve been our buddy, our constant companion, and our one and only child. You’ve been the center of our universe, the sun by which our days rise and set.

While our love for you will never falter, our lives will soon be changing.

It still sounds strange to say, and even stranger to write, but soon we will begin life as a family of five.

family of five

We always knew we wanted to give you a sibling. We even knew we wanted to give you more than one sibling, eventually. Still, when we learned last summer that we had two babies on the way, it came as a bit of a shock.

You don’t remember, of course, but you were there.

While your dad and I stared intently at the grainy ultrasound screen in the doctor’s office, you danced and played, completely oblivious to the changes that were unfolding that very moment.

The news of your twin siblings momentarily shocked me into another galaxy, but I was quickly brought back to earth by the thoughts and sounds of you.

You, in your tiny beige sweater and brown curls.

You, laughing and playing with such glee.

You, who I had doted on so devotedly.

You, my sweet boy who relied on us for everything.

How would this huge change affect you?

family of five

Of course, I celebrated our news with the joy and cautious hope every mother knows.

I’ve prayed and hoped and wished for your unborn siblings the same way I’ve done for you since before you existed.

I look forward to welcoming our new babies into our lives and giving you the gift of a brother and sister.

Still, as I think of the changes ahead, I also reflect on the time we’ve had together the last three years just the three of us.

Everywhere I look, I see reminders of the joy and fun we’ve had. I scroll through old photos and see a mama with eyes only for you, smiles and laughter frozen in time forever.

I was the quintessential new mom, taking you to museums and art galleries starting when you were just a couple of months old.

You’ve had our full attention your entire life. You became our Third Musketeer, joining your dad and I for outlet shopping, blueberry picking, house hunting, road trips, sightseeing, sushi restaurants, plus, of course, the endless activities–story time, soccer, kids gym, zoo classes, fun runs. We did it all.

family of five

I know the pace of our lives will change when your siblings arrive. As your mama, I know that I will handle the changes the way all mamas handle them, molding and crafting new versions of ourselves as if from clay.

I know your dad will adjust as well, and that together we will work to find a new normal for ourselves and our not-so-little family.

I don’t know how you will take to our new lives though, and, of course, I feel the mom guilt creep in sometimes as I think about the ways your life may be impacted.

Already we’ve had to slow down quite a bit the last several months. From dealing with hyperemesis early on to the sheer pain and exhaustion that seems to never go away with a twin pregnancy, I haven’t been the totally fun mama I always had been.

I’ve given you my love and attention, and I’ve tried to keep things as normal as possible, but in my head and heart, I recognize the changes that have already crept in during the past 7 months.

Still, my love for you hasn’t changed, and, from what I can tell, you are just as happy as ever.

You are my firstborn. You are and will always be my first baby, the little boy who made me a mama.  

While I don’t know exactly what our new lives will look like, because of you, I know what it’s like to bravely enter a new world and discover unbridled joy.

Because of you, I know the strength and potential I have as a mother, and as a person.

And because of you, I know the beauty and the potential of the love that grows from hidden places. I’m so happy to take you on this journey with us.

Love always, mom.

Motherhood

How I’m Learning to Say Yes to the Mess as a Mom

January 17, 2018
yes to mess

I took this photo one recent morning while my toddler painted.

yes to mess

Notice the garbage bag I grabbed in a pinch to spare the coffee table from any unruly paint splatter.

I hadn’t even started breakfast yet when the little guy eagerly asked if he could start painting.

To be honest, I would rather he engage in a less messy activity so early in the day, but nevertheless, I helpfully brought out his paints and brushes, along with the handy dandy garbage bag.

I tore a fresh page from his Finding Dory activity book, and watched him immediately get to work, casting broad strokes of blue and green across the page.

When he was finished, he proudly showed me his masterpiece as he always does when he finishes a project.

I placed his artwork on the counter to dry and told him how much I loved it.

And I did. And I was proud of his effort and his enthusiasm, but I was also a little proud of myself.

Remembering to say “yes” as a parent can be difficult.

say yes to mess

I’m not talking about saying yes to the things that warrant a firm “no,” but rather saying yes to the things we generally have no reason to say no to.

For me, the urge to say no usually arises when the activity in question carries the risk of a mess. You know the ones: painting, coloring–basically anything involving arts and crafts.

Plus, there are the kitchen messes, and the laundry messes, and every other mess that results when the little ones want to help with a task.

I’m a bit of a neat freak, so teaching myself to get beyond my fear of the mess has required effort, patience, and even a bit of personal growth.

Sure, there are some times we just don’t have time to break out the painting supplies or to make dinner together, but I’m learning to discern when an activity warrants a no for practical reasons and when I’m tempted to say no out of sheer preference.

Is it always easy? No.

But, it’s becoming easier as I remind myself more and more that my son will grow more from my yeses than my nos–and that I will too.

Are you learning to say yes to something as a mom? Share in the comments or on social media!