Why I Have Been Silent…

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 I haven’t blogged in a long time…almost an entire year. I wish I could say it’s for a good reason, but I told myself I wouldn’t write again until I could talk about the real reason I stopped blogging. This last year has been a struggle for me, as I have been digging out from under Postpartum Anxiety/Panic Disorder. As May is Maternal Mental Health Month, I thought it was time to share. I really had reservations about sharing this story with the world, but I realized that by not opening up I am perpetuating the problem. You will see what I mean.

 At the beginning of August last year, I was sitting on the back porch with Papa D and Baby D and enjoying the weather, when I felt a pain in my left shoulder. I tried to ignore it, but something in my mind told me that something was wrong. I started to feel like I was suffocating. I started to panic, and thought I was having a heart attack. I told Papa D that I thought I needed to go to the emergency room, and he told me I was fine, that I should calm down. I walked around the yard and the feeling went away.

 I had only had a panic attack once before in my life, so I had realized that was probably what had happened. It freaked me out and it came out of nowhere. I had felt my anxiety ticking up in the past few months, but I thought it was something I could manage. I chalked it up to the stress of learning to balance my life as a wife and mother. As I know now, with Postpartum Anxiety, it only increases, and it’s something that you shouldn’t ignore.

 I began to fear the physical sensations I was feeling and I started to believe there was something wrong with me. Sometimes, I still do. I ended up in the emergency room twice, insisting that I couldn’t catch my breath and something was wrong with my lungs. Both times they told me: “Anxiety”. I just couldn’t understand how anxiety could feel so physically horrible. I lay awake in bed at night for months, sometimes suffering panic attacks that would wake me out of my sleep, wondering why no one would listen to me. I just knew, in my heart, that something was wrong. I felt that something was slowly killing me and my son would be left without a mother.  When my anxiety got to its worst, I couldn’t sit still at my desk for more than five minutes, and I lost ten pounds in two weeks. I called my OB, who said she wasn’t surprised to hear from me. She said many mothers start to experience postpartum anxiety several months after giving birth and ignore it until it becomes a problem. “Women try to do too much, and try to be too strong”, she said. She referred me to a therapist that specialized in PPA, and I spent a little time talking to her on the phone. She said “yes, this is definitely postpartum related”, but then told me she didn’t take my insurance. She didn’t have anyone else to refer me to. She offered for me to attend a support group, but it was at 9:00 AM on Wednesdays. “I work at that time”, I said. “We don’t currently have a support group for working mothers,” she said. Well guess what. Working moms get Postpartum Anxiety too.

 Feeling hopeless, the next day, I called the Employee Assistance Line offered through my company. The person on the other end was so understanding. She could tell I was overwhelmed, with work, with life, with anxiety, and she referred me to a therapist. It took me two weeks to get an appointment. I saw the therapist for 12 weeks, with little success. She suggested I learn to “be present”, and “meditate”. She did not have the expertise to understand post-partum disorders, and frankly, I don’t think she knew what to do with me. At this point, I’m not sure anyone did, doctors or family included.

 I began to open up to some of my closest friends and co-workers about the struggles I was facing, and most were surprised. Despite the helplessness I felt on the inside, I masqueraded about my life – going through the motions, doing what I needed to do. They didn’t know that every night when I left work, while Papa D worked a late shift, I would sit numb and stare at my son, crying and with a knot in my stomach, while we sat in a bedroom and he played. I wanted to go to sleep as soon as I woke up. I missed out on so much.

 My primary care doctor put me on Wellbutrin, but after five days my panic attacks were un-bearable. I was hyperventilating so badly that I had to have my mom call him for me. His solution was to prescribe me some Xanax and told me to see a psychiatrist. Frustrated, I stopped all medication and flushed it down the toilet. However, taking all advice offered to me, I went to a psychiatrist who told me he should have never put me on that medication, as it was too stimulating for someone with anxiety. “You are not depressed,” she said, “you have Panic Disorder”. She said: “This is genetic, triggered by the birth of your baby”, and wanted to put me on two different medications. I told her I was afraid to take them after what had happened and I asked for other ways to treat it. “You need medication. If you won’t take it, you can keep struggling. Your decision. “ She coldly sent me on my way, upset that I refused the medication.

 Through opening up to my friends (some of which cried with me, shared their own struggles with me, and were there for me unconditionally…you all know who you are) I found that I was not alone. A funny thing happened to me when that psychiatrist told me I would never beat this on my own. I got MAD. If I break a bone, I can get help. If I have strep throat, I can get help. If I suffer from a sometimes debilitating, overwhelming, mental issue, I can’t get help anywhere. We are left to hug each other and cry together about a disease we don’t understand. Ultimately, I felt like if I was to fix this, I would have to fix it myself. There is something severely wrong with this.

 It is absolutely imperative that we learn to talk to each other about these things. We need better education, resources, support groups. I was fully prepared to watch for Postpartum Depression. No one warned me about Postpartum Anxiety, OCD, Panic, etc. and yet, over 10% of women experience these mood disorders. Funny enough, I wrote a PSA on this very blog a few months prior to all this about anxious thoughts. Believe me when I say that I never saw this coming. I am not ashamed to admit this as I didn’t do anything to deserve it. It’s a part of my journey in motherhood, and I am finally at the point where I feel like I am coming out the other side.

 I started taking vitamins, eating better,  bought myself a treadmill, and am trying to find things that interest me again. I read as much as I could about my anxiety, I tried desperately to understand the physical sensations I experienced. I started to learn it’s patterns, and how stress affects me. I let the time pass, and started to take things one day at a time. I also could not have dug myself out without fully and completely sharing my true struggle with my husband. I can credit him for most, if not all, of the progress I have made. He can see my anxiety coming now, and can look at me and say “calm down, there is nothing wrong with you”, before I even have to say a word.

 I am not cured. I’m honestly not sure I ever will be. Even though my anxiety is now a part of my life, I am working hard to make sure it never consumes me again. I truly hope that if any of you reading are experiencing anything like this, that you find support, because you are really, really, not alone.

www.postpartumprogress.com

A New Standard for Working Moms?

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“My maternity leave will be a few weeks long and I’ll work throughout.” – Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer

I’m no Marissa Mayer. I was not wooed from my job as the CEO at Google to become the CEO of Yahoo when I was 6 months pregnant. She is 37, I am 28. We are of very different worlds. Where we are the same, is I had a son in October last year, and Marissa will have a son this October. We both are from Wisconsin. We both work full time (her, admittedly much more than I). But I am now a mom, and she is not a mom, yet. This is why I worry about her very public statement to work through her first few weeks of maternity leave.

I love seeing a female in a traditionally male-dominated profession. I believe women like Marissa are trailblazers, and proof that women can do whatever it is in life they choose, whether they desire to be a stay at home mom, work part-time, full-time, or become CEO of a Fortune 500 company. I am in awe of her drive and success, and the fact she seems to still look her age. I have been told in my own life that “you cannot have it all”, being an employee, a wife, a mother – that something will inevitably have to give or you must give something up. I believe that women like Marissa have the opportunity to set a precedent for the rest of us working moms, that you can be strong and powerful at work, and soft and nurturing at home. That the two worlds may blend but your work will not suffer, and giving birth does not equate to losing brain cells.

That’s why I truly hate that I disagree with her right now. Because believe me, if a male CEO switched jobs when his wife was 6 months pregnant, no one would bat an eyelash and it certainly would not be news. However, I think Marissa Mayer is totally, ridiculously, seriously, mistaken. Facing the birth of my son and maternity leave, I remember thinking that I wanted to take advantage of all of the time we had together, but I remember thinking that I would be bored. I had a glossy expectation of what my life would look like, and I figured that if I was home all day with him, it couldn’t be too hard. But then there was the complicated delivery, hormones, feeding issues, lack of sleep, hormones, confusion, recovery, and oh…did I mention hormones? What if she develops Post Partum Depression?

Granted, she could have the perfect delivery, perfect time breast/bottle feeding, and a nanny to help with cooking and sleeping. However, not even the CEO of Yahoo can escape the hormones. Sorry Marissa Mayer, but although you are an extraordinary woman, you are still a woman. Please, please, please, give yourself time to be one. Meet the little man who will steal your heart, and give him those first precious weeks. I can only imagine the pressure she feels to get back to work, especially in her industry, but honestly, working through a maternity leave that is only three weeks long, makes me terrified for her.

Aside from the fact that I fear she does not realize the impact of childbirth (nor did I), I am worried about the “example” she is setting for the rest of us non-CEO’s. In a country where Maternity leave is already extremely short, typically unpaid or only partially paid, what does this message mean for a mom-to-be working in the lower ranks at Yahoo? That if the CEO can work through her 3 week long maternity leave, you should too? I am aware that Marissa Mayer has a support team that none of us can probably compare to, but I worry about her very public statement. She will have better flexibility than most working mothers now that she is at the top when she returns to work. But I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about those long, exhausting, crucial, first 12 weeks.

Even if she changes her mind after he arrives, it may be too late. I can imagine that if she wants to take a longer leave, competitors, investors, etc. may find her to be weak/softening/losing her drive, etc. when really she just may have realized what it is to be a mother. I wish she had taken to opportunity to stand up for the rest of the population of working women and say “Maternity leave does not make me weak, dumb, less of a CEO or a woman. Maternity leave is my right to have time to spend with the newest, most important person in my life, and I will take every day possible to recover, bond, and get to know my son. Then, when I return, I will kick ass and take names.”     

My time was not enough, and it would never have been enough, but I am truly grateful for a flexible, family centered company, that allowed me the time off I needed so I could be comfortable with coming back. I have never felt an ounce of guilt for the weeks of work that I missed while on leave. I know I would have regretted missing a minute of my son’s life that I could have chose to have seen. I wish that someday a longer, paid, maternity leave is right that all women can have and choose to utilize. Even the CEO.

6 Months

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When I was pregnant, people always told me I’d love you more than life itself, but I didn’t understand. Up until the day you were born, I was stuck in only one emotion, fear. I practiced putting a diaper on a teddy bear and put it on backwards. I had a dream when I was pregnant that I went to pick you up in your crib and you were a grey kitten. I washed and folded your clothes, that admittedly were a size too big. I’ve never thought that I would be a perfect mom and I still don’t intend to be. I know you will love me, flaws and all. Which is how I’ll love you, too, because now I get it.

The day before you were born I had finally decided to embrace my pregnancy, two days past my due date. I got up and put on the most normal-looking outfit that I could muster, also makeup, and set out to spend the last day your papa and I would have as a family of two – although we didn’t know it yet. True to our own style, we bought you a pacifier that said “No Hablo”, and laughed about the pictures we’d take of you. The girl behind the counter looked at me and said “You’re adorable”, which was the first comment I’d heard in weeks that didn’t involve the size or shape of my belly. We apologized to you in advance for being raised by us – two people with no clue how to raise a baby.  You didn’t mind, and you must have known we were finally ready for you, because I was admitted to the hospital that night around midnight. Remind me to tell you when you’re older why I had to drive myself to the hospital. I have a feeling you will laugh.

You were born during the third quarter of the Packer game, in a delivery that leaves me referring to you as “Hurricane J.J.”. However, when I thought I might lose you, I would have done anything in the world asked of me to make sure you were safe.  That’s when I first felt like a mother. I saw your face for the first time on the screen of our camera, as they worked hard to make sure you were okay. They yelled out “9-10” and I said, “a 10 pound baby, are you kidding me?” but it was actually the time you were born. You turned out to be a perfectly healthy, almost 8 pound baby.  You made quite the entrance and were already causing trouble, making us worry about you. I can see that probably won’t change, and that’s okay because I love that about you. The nurse told me your body temperature was a little low, so they tucked you inside my shirt and you instantly melted into my arms and fell asleep. I’m glad your daddy took a picture, because that’s the moment I realized you knew I was your mother. The rest is all a blur.

The first night home, I stayed on the couch with your bassinet next to me. I hardly slept because I stared at you all night. I couldn’t believe how flawless you were. It’s funny though, because looking back at your pictures, you had one eye swollen shut, marks on your face, and a cone head. I saw none of it. I didn’t want to sleep or miss a moment. I was never scared to hold you. To my surprise, I loved you immediately, which I swore up and down would probably not happen. I was a skeptic, and you changed me. That was only the first of a million ways you’ve changed me.

The next ten weeks were likely the only time in my life I would or ever will be a stay-at-home mom to you. We celebrated by watching “Let’s Make a Deal” everyday in our pajamas. I heard the song “Heart of the City” over ten times a day on the Chrysler commercial that seemed to play on a loop, and that song now reminds me of you. You humored me while I healed, like you knew I needed you to take it easy on me. You’re so sweet, and laid back – you must get that from your mama. :)  That’s not to say that I still didn’t end up throwing a tantrum on your nursery floor at 3:00 AM when you were three weeks old. “It gets better, right?” I asked through my tears to your daddy. He said yes, of course, as I watched him rock you, hold you, and feed you. I knew then that you have an amazing daddy. You know it too.

I’ve been in awe of every smile, syllable, sound, giggle, cry, and I hang on to every second we have together. It’s not always easy, but it’s all been worth it, just like everyone said it would be. Daddy and I talk sometimes about how we’re not really sure what we were doing with our life before you came along. I wonder how I ever struggled to get something done around the house. I also wonder why I wasn’t taking naps every weekend, because I’d sure love one of those right now. You and I cook dinner together every night, and you flap your arms and smile when daddy comes home. You still bury your head on my chest, except now it’s when you’re playing peek-a-boo. You’re turning into a little man, that is outgrowing his baby bathtub and eats sweet potatoes. Sometimes it’s hard for me to grasp, and daddy gets sad when we pack up another size of your clothes.

 The past 6 months have been the most fulfilling, yet fastest months of my entire life, and I think your daddy would say the same. Thanks to DVR, we still get to watch “Let’s Make a Deal” at night. I fast foward through the commercials, and can honestly say that’s the only thing in my life that I want to go fast. I listen to “Heart of the City” everyday, over and over,  when I’m at work.

I have a feeling I always will.

A Very Serious “New Mama” PSA

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http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/03/21/new-mom-alert-how-to-cope-with-your-anxious-thoughts/

I read this a few weeks ago, and after talking to a few other friends who experienced the same thing I did, I decided to post a link to this article. These thoughts completely caught me off guard, but luckily, only lasted the first few weeks after Baby D was born. I never had visions of me harming him, but had thoughts of things happening to him that were out of my control. For example, if I was taking a bath, I had visions that he’d somehow end up in the bathtub and drown. If I was making dinner, I had thoughts that the knife would fall on him and hurt him, even thought it was five feet away. They scared the living crap out of me, but luckily, I was able to identify that they were unintentional and intrusive.  I honestly just thought it was me adjusting to the responsibility of being a new mom and being afraid of anything happening to him. Luckily, I was able to ignore them, and they went away shortly after that. I didn’t even mention them to Papa D until after I read this article, out of fear that he would think I couldn’t be trusted with the baby, or that I was crazy. Of course, he didn’t – and looking back, I should have told someone about it in the event that it progressed into full-blown Post Partum Depression.  A friend of mine blogged about the same thing, recently, which made me realize that it’s more common than is discussed, and it’s a very serious thing that should be talked about more. 

I have a lot of friends that are about to be new mamas very soon, so I thought I would pass it along. I think it’s something to be aware of, as according to the article, it happens to over half of new moms. It wasn’t mentioned in my maternity class, my OB never said anything, and no one in the hospital mentioned this either. So, here’s my PSA for the day – hope all of my new mama friends are feeling happy and healthy, and if you’re not, please have the courage to talk to your doctor, or anyone, about it.

Love, Mama D

Nostalgia

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“We like to think we’re so smart. And we have all the answers. And we want to pass all of it on to our children. But if you scratch beneath the surface, you don’t have to dig very deep to find the kid you were. Which is why it’s kind of crazy that now we’re raising kids of our own. I guess that’s the real circle of life. Your parents faked their way through it; you fake your way through it. And hopefully you don’t raise a serial killer.” 

                                              – Phil Dunphy, Modern Family

 

Aside from the fact that Modern Family is genius, Phil‘s got this exactly right.

Papa D. and I struggled for a long time in our decision to have a child. There were times we said we wouldn’t. We always told our family we wouldn’t, even when we had decided we would. In reality, we had been taking steps towards having a child for a long time. When we bought our house, we painted the smallest bedroom sage green. We traded in one of our cars for an SUV and blamed it on the dog (who fit just fine in the car). We went to a free day at the zoo, and loved it. Papa D. ran like a child to any display in any store that had “Cars” merchandise on it.  He bought a kickball at the grocery store, and still hasn’t used it. But I know now that he will.

When I was pregnant, I started getting really nostalgic….mostly with food (shocking, right?). I had a stash of Throwback Pepsi that you could practically climb (Reason #1,312 that I LOVE Costco!). Toward the end, I couldn’t keep Cinnamon Toast Crunch in the house for fear of eating the whole box. I craved spaghettios. I made grilled cheese sandwiches with Kraft Singles. I even bought a bag of Salsa Rio Doritos that the people at Frito-Lay resurrected, as it felt, just for me.  I stopped myself short picking up a Happy Meal with nuggets and hot mustard (Okay…so maybe I didn’t).  I’m not a huge junk food eater, and the majority of the time we did NOT eat these things when I was little. So what was the deal?

I realized that these foods all represented memories for me.  When I was little, Pepsi (with the real sugar) was the only soda we had in the house.  It reminds me of my Dad. Cinnamon toast crunch was an occasional breakfast treat. I ate Spaghettios from the can at my Grandma’s house and after races at my swim meets. Grilled Cheese was the first thing I learned to cook on my own, and my mom would “request” it from me. Salsa-Rio Doritos were present at sleepovers with my best friend when I lived in Milwaukee..along with Green River soda and Girl Talk. A Chicken Nugget Happy-Meal was the treat I got on our road trips “Up North” to visit my Busia and Dzia-Dzia (For the Non-Polish, my Grandparents).

Meanwhile, Papa D. bought a “Cars” sticker book at the store, to which this conversation ensued:

Papa D:     “It’s for the baby.” pointing to my 5-month-along belly.

Cashier:     “Sure…I’m sure it is.”

Papa D:      “No, really it is.”

Me:             “Which is why it says ages 3 years and older on it, right?”

 

There’s something about a baby that really makes you start to find yourself, the child version of you, again. Something that makes you want to get down on the floor and play.  Or examine the blades of grass and the clouds in the sky like it’s the first time you’ve seen them. It makes you want to remember everything that you are now truly thankful for having as memories.

Now, we can’t get through a trip to Target without one of us (I bet you can guess which one) running through the toy aisle saying “Ahhh!! Look at this!!”. We talk about trips to the zoo, the aquarium, and sneaking Baby D. out of school to take him to a Brewers game – just like someone in our lives did for us. We fight about who will build a better fort out of couch cushions and blankets. We laugh when we talk about playing “Ghosts in the Graveyard”.  In all cases, we imagine his face lighting up, because we have old pictures of our own faces doing the same.  I so badly want him to have those memories too.  Being able to give him those memories means digging deep to set aside the work-mama, the cleaning-cooking-maintaining house mama, and remembering to slow down.  And I will, because it is so unbelievably, truly, important to me. It’s been my favorite part of this journey so far, and I can’t wait to find out what other memories come flooding back as he grows.

What kind of nostalgia have your babies (or the babies you know) brought back to you?

Let it be

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I need to get this off of my chest (no pun intended). If I sound mad, it’s because I am. However, I will do this once and only once, and then I’m done, I promise. I just need to get this out.

Something that has just blown my mind since day 1 of getting pregnant, is the debate between breastfeeding or formula feeding your baby. Suddenly, everyone I know was asking if I was going to breastfeed, and initially, my answer was no. I was formula fed, as I mentioned before, and, knew nothing of babies or the world accompanying them. To me, formula was an acceptable choice, and I didn’t see what the big deal was. After all, it was my boobs, my baby, and our family we were talking about, it should be my decision, right?

Wrong. I was barraged. By nurses, well-meaning friends, strangers, articles, bus advertisements, everything right on down to the formula samples I got in the mail said “Breast is Best!”. People said “just try it”, and “your baby deserves the best”. Not wanting to let the world or my baby down, I decided to hold off and make my decision when he was born – and when he was born, I decided to breastfeed. I did my research. I understand there are numerous benefits to breastfeeding and breastmilk. I also support anyone I know that breastfeeds. I believe it’s a great thing, if it’s something that works for your family and you desire to do so.

But mama….is it really THAT big of an argument? Read the following article to see how out of hand this has gotten. Unless I’m missing something and men generally lactate, I find this totally and utterly ridiculous:

http://moms.today.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/02/28/10520642-sweet-photo-of-dad-feeding-baby-turns-controversial

I admit, everything went well, so I thought, for a short while. This is where I stop my story, though, because I’ve made a vow to myself to stop feeling like I need to rationalize the decision I made. Every time someone asks me if I nursed Baby D I spill into this ramble about our story and my thought process and why I stopped. I was usually met with a  “well did you try this?” or “could you have done this?” I finally realized – I don’t owe an explanation to anyone. It didn’t work for our family, and as a family, it’s a decision that WE made. Explaining my circumstances would never lead anyone to feel what I felt or what we dealt with as a family behind closed doors. Frankly, I’m not even sure it’s anyone’s business.

That being said, since we’ve been on formula, I have heard some pretty shitty things in likely and unlikely places, and for the most part I’ve learned to let it roll off of my back. But the sanctimonious one-upping really pisses me off, especially when it implies that I am harming my child or re-writing the course of his life by using formula. Which is too bad, you know, because Baby D could have been president, but he’ll likely fail out of college and end up taking orders at McDonalds because I couldn’t hack the boob thing.

In that case, do you think that the next time I screw up at my job I could just tell my boss that I’m formula fed, and that if only I had been breastfed my IQ would be a little higher?

No. Because it’s totally stupid and ridiculous. I am absolutely sickened by the time I’ve wasted on the guilt I’ve had and hearing about the guilt placed on other new mothers that are just trying to do what they can, the best they know how. I sometimes feel as though I am wearing a “Scarlet F” – or that I don’t belong to the good mama club. You know, supporting breastfeeding does not need to equal bashing formula feeding. Just as supporting formula feeding does not mean you need to bash breastfeeding. The two are not mutually exclusive, and in my opinion, it all does more harm than good. Support does not need to always come in the form of influence. Support should be positive, factual, helpful.

That being said, I know where the guilt comes from, and it’s fueled in part by comments such as those you can read below (which are all things I have heard/read/or both…..seriously).

 

  • Giving a baby formula is like letting them ride in the car without a car seat.
    • No, it’s not. Because feeding my baby formula won’t send him flying through a windshield. Next?

 

  • If you can’t sacrifice your body for another year for your baby’s sake, you don’t deserve to be a mother.
    • I sacrificed for him for 9+ months so he could grow into the cute little guy he is now, and am still sacrificing after delivery in ways that will make you cringe. Breastfeeding for the purpose of being able to tell everyone how much pain and stress I have endured on account of my baby would not make me a better mother it would only make me sound like a bitch. Want to know how bad of a mom I am?? I got an epidural to AVOID the pain…to which I can guarantee my son will not give a shit.

 

  • You can’t bond with your baby when you’re not breastfeeding.
    • Tell that to my mother and father that adopted me at the age of 3 months -  after I had been fed formula by hospital staff, foster parents, and God knows who else for the first formative months of my existence. I dare you. Every time I feed Baby D and he stares into my (or Papa D’s) eyes smiling until the bottle falls out of his mouth, I know whole heartedly that this argument is a total load of bullshit.

 

  • You just didn’t try hard enough to breastfeed. You could have done x, y, z…..
    • What is exactly does trying hard enough look like? How much stress should you endure before you realize that you are sabotaging your relationship with your baby? Where exactly is this proverbial line, and is it honestly the same for everyone? No one can answer this for me.

 

  • Formula is a public health issue. It shouldn’t be a choice, and it should require a prescription. Breastfeeding saves 900 babies each year.
    • I have read the report and having done quite a bit of research in my own life, I have serious concerns with the methodology that provided that statistic. But if you must have something to fight for, do you know what would save a lot more lives? Teaching our kids to eat food that doesn’t come from a box or a drive thru for the other potential 80+ years they will be alive. That smoking is horrendous for your health and the health of those around you. That when you get in a car, you put your seatbelt on. But you want to know what really concerns me most of all? In 2005, 899,000 children were victims of abuse and neglect…to which 2000 of them died. Actually died. I would think that I, as a real-food making, non-smoking, seatbelt wearing, LOVING MOTHER….should be OFF of the “concern” radar.

 

  • If you aren’t going to breastfeed, you should use donor milk.
    • No, I shouldn’t. Because although human milk is nature’s most perfect food for babies (see, I can read…which is surprising, being that I was formula fed and all), it requires you to trust other humans in regard to things such as reporting infectious diseases, using prescription and non-prescription drugs, properly handling and storing milk, and being cautious of chemical contaminants. Trusting other people is difficult though, when they do things like this: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29498350/ns/us_news-weird_news/t/woman-has-meltdown-over-mcnuggets/

 

  • Don’t you want the best for your baby?
    • Are you serious?! Of course I do. I want beyond the best for my baby and I want him to be happy. Part of what I feel is the absolute best for my baby, is a happy mama. A happy mama, and happy baby, is not what we had.

 

Lastly, I think the reason the one-upping really bothers me is because I don’t care what method anyone uses to feed their babies. I just don’t. You know why? I have seen thousands of pictures of beautiful, healthy, well-fed babies on your Facebook pages and on the Christmas cards I get in the mail in December. To me, it looks like you’re all doing a ridiculously great job raising them. I fully trust that you all are making the decisions that are right for your families and specifically your babies, regardless of what those decisions are. And if you need a little support, breast or bottle feeding, I am here for you.

 

To all of you that are reading,

 You are a great mama, the best your baby will ever know. You are doing an amazing job. You are doing what is right for your family, or you wouldn’t be doing it. Even if it’s not what’s right for my family, I understand, and I support you.

Love,

Mama D

The Economics of Motherhood

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Before we get too far here, there’s something you must know about me (if you don’t already). I’m a total nerd. I graduated with a Bachelors in Economics and I wrote my Grad School thesis on Securities Fraud. I work in the compliance department….at a life insurance company. I look forward to my morning Ignites e-mail. Nerd, Nerd, NERD.

Okay, now that we’ve got that straight, it’ll make more sense that I want to talk Economics. Specifically, “The Law of Diminishing Returns”.  Basically, it means that at a certain point, if you keep doing more and more of one thing, what you actually get back in return will decrease and have less, if no benefit at all. One thing my nerd-self loves is that economics can be applied to almost all real-life examples:

  • In college, the last drink of the night that you open and don’t really need(…or in rare moments when you’re in your upper 20’s and you for a night ACT like you’re in college, not that I would know…).
  • The second piece of cheesecake.
  • Listening to so many other people’s opinions that you begin to forget you have your own brain.
  • Taking care of others first to the point that you forget to care about yourself.

I’m going to focus on the last point (although if any of you want to come hang out and try #2 with me, I’m game).

I have two distinct versions of myself lately. There’s the version that exists in my head –  the me that walks out the door and heads to work, dressed nice, sipping coffee, breezily heading to my cubicle and putting in a solid day’s work. I return home to my clean house, with my smiling baby, and with him in one arm, cook a delicious meal that magically appears on the table as Papa D walks in the door at night.

Then, I catch a glimpse of my real self in the mirror, and notice I forgot to put on mascara, I thought I was wearing black pants but they’re brown, and subsequently my black shoes look ridiculous. There are circles under my eyes and a stray gray hair that has found its way out of my dark brown hair…looking somewhat like a big ol’ middle finger to my rapidly diminishing youth.

I head back to work and find myself wanting to bang my head on my desk out of sheer exhaustion with the structure, schedule, getting a case off of my desk only to find 2 new ones waiting for me. I get up in the middle of the night to take chicken out of the freezer because I forgot to do it the night before, and I want to make dinner the next day that’s not frozen in the center. I go back to bed only to realize that I forgot to make Baby D’s bottles for the next day, so I get up again. By the time I lay back down, I fall asleep long enough to dream that it’s the weekend, and my alarm clock quickly makes me realize it’s not. Interestingly enough, the “law of diminishing returns” is also referred to as “arrested progress”. Imagine that.

Question: How do you learn to love and not lose yourself?

Answer: I don’t know. At least not yet. But, in true nerd fashion, I have been trying to think in terms of my other favorite economic principal – opportunity cost.

  • Is it worth it for me to forego an extra half hour of sleep at night to sit up and have a glass of wine with my husband? Yes.
  • Is it worth it for me to let the laundry go for another day so I can spend time snuggling with my little baby? Absolutely.
  • Is it worth it for me to take some time away and spend money to go get my hair done? No. It should be….but I’m a work in progress.

I know that the measure of a woman is not what she wears, how she looks, how clean her house is, or how much shit she can clear off of her to-do list. But honestly, I’m struggling with the fact that for once I have no answers – that this is something that can’t be found by using equations or graphs.

So mamas, how do you do it? How do you find your equilibrium?

Rabenmutter

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I read an interesting article the other day (it’s posted below, in case you’re looking for a good read). Basically, it’s an interview with a 67 year old woman, Elisabeth Badinter – one of the richest women in France. She’s the author of a book called Le Conflit: La Femme et La Mère (in English, The Conflict: The Woman and the Mother).  In the book, she talks about the constant state of guilt that modern mothers are in, all over the world. “Guilt about breastfeeding, about smoking, drinking, working, child care; about not doing ‘the best for your child’.”

Her thoughts are nothing that we don’t already know. That the world today is not conducive to becoming your own kind of mother. That ideally, you should be a perfect mother, or not be a mother at all. One thing that stood out to me in her article, though, is her discussion about working moms. In Germany, they actually use the term  “Rabenmutter”, translated to “Raven Mother”, implying a working woman is like a raven, a bird that doesn’t care for her babies.

I flew the nest yesterday.

Baby D woke up for his middle of the night feeding and was stuffed up and coughing. He was acting fine, smiling, eating, and not feverish, but that little cough sent pangs through my heart. I knew that he was okay, but what if he got worse? We are extremely fortunate to have him at someone’s home all day, with someone we consider an extension of our family. I knew he’d be in good hands, and I knew she’d call me if he was really sick, but why did I feel so terrible all of a sudden? I put him back down to sleep and laid back down in bed staring at the monitor. I could hear him sniffling and snorting. The alarm went off 5 minutes later, and I got out of bed, turned on the coffee, and started the shower. But I couldn’t get in. I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “You’re a Rabenmutter. Sure, he’s ‘fine’, but he needs nose drops, boogie vacuums, and extra cuddles today. And that’s YOUR job. You’re his mother. You should be here for him”.  Then another voice chimed in. “You can’t stay home, you have a big meeting today. There are people counting on you. If you stay home, will they think less of you as an employee? You need your job, you know. You only have 10 unscheduled days left for the year. Is he sick enough for you to use one?”

And at that time, the answer was no. No, he wasn’t sick enough for me to use one. But I wanted to. I suddenly wanted to have an unlimited amount of days to use for sniffles. I grudgingly put on my work clothes and makeup, grabbed my coat, and threw my heels and (closed, or so I thought) coffee mug in my bag.  Then, I left him with Papa D – my little sniffley man still sleeping in his crib. I cried the first 5 minutes of the drive to work. Not because I couldn’t stay home today, but because it suddenly hit me that this is my life now. I  already missed him roll over, there will never be enough cuddles, and sometimes I won’t be there to suck out his boogies. I might even miss his first word or steps.  That Elisabeth was right – I will live in a state of constant conflict as a woman, as a mother.  A woman, who used to only cry at weddings or funerals (okay, and Forrest Gump), is a blubbering mess because of….the sniffles?

After getting to work and finding out that my important meeting had been cancelled and realizing I flooded my heels with coffee, I thought about the raven. I sat barefoot at my desk and started googling. I wanted to know why they didn’t care for their babies. And then something happened…all the information I found said Ravens are ruthless when defending their young. They’re quite attentive. That they’ve even been observed dropping rocks on potential predators that come too close to their nest. So either there are some twisted ravens in Germany, or maybe terms like “Rabenmutter” are just another source of fueling the mommy-guilt. Or maybe, I really am a Rabenmutter. Because even though I’m not home for every sniffle, tear, or smile, I am still doing what’s best for him and for our family. I’ll still jump out of bed in the middle of the night without flinching when he needs me even though I’m up at the crack of dawn – and you can bet that if any predators get near him, they’ll get worse than falling rocks.

It’s just that sometimes, for some families, really doing “the best for our child” means having to leave the nest.

http://www.essentialbaby.com.au/life-style/nutrition-and-wellbeing/the-child-king-20120130-1qoqf.html?rand=1328051655308

Learning to Fly…

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I meant to do this a long time ago.  You see, when my husband and I decided to have a baby, I had no idea what kind of world I was walking into. A world that on the inside of my home feels warm and wonderful, better than any sun-washed lounger on the beach, more satisfying than any satisfaction I’ve ever had. Outside of our home, this new world is scary, guilt-ridden, intense, and exhausting. It’s like constantly trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, hoping and praying that some day it will just click.

To explain, I need to back up a little. Back up to the very beginning, even. I was adopted at the age of 3 months by two people that deserved to be parents but couldn’t make it happen the “natural” way.  They became parents by the grace of God and a birthmother that could, and did, just too early in life. I had a great only-child-childhood, and despite being labeled by society as supposedly spoiled and lonely, I escaped relatively unaffected. Stereotypes aside, I grew up independent and happy, intelligent and laid-back. I’ve got my faults, like any others, judging by the fact that I’m told I’m “feisty”  by those that love me (or just have to work with me), and “stubborn” by the one man that loves me most and knows me best.

Because of this, I never had the attachment to being pregnant that my friends did. To me, giving birth didn’t automatically make you a mother. Being a mother was something you earned. Being a mother was teaching me to read, making French toast (with extra sugar on it), and putting soap in my mouth when I said the “mother of all curse words” at the bank when the gumball machine was empty.  Being a mother meant sleeping on the couch until I made it home at curfew, watching swim meets and softball games (even ones in different states), and reminding me to take an umbrella because there’s rain in the forecast…even when I’m 28.  

So why, then, when I was fortunate enough to become pregnant, did society pressure me to feel instant love for the tiny baby apple seed growing inside me? I mean after all, I hadn’t really done anything for him or her yet, other than eat pasta with parmesan cheese and lemonade for the first 8 weeks. To be honest, my husband and I called the baby Delroy before we knew the gender, at least when I wasn’t joking about him or her being a parasite…what kind of parents that love their child do that? I had a hard time pretending that I liked being pregnant and was met with many dropped jaws and eye rolls when I said I just wasn’t that in love yet, and pregnancy was creepy. Should I have lied? After all, we were being blessed with a gift that many people try for a long time for, some unsuccessfully. I had my own idea of motherhood, and because it didn’t match everyone elses, was it wrong? Was it wrong that I dragged my feet through all 40 weeks  and 3 days of pregnancy instead of dancing? That I didn’t even envision him to look like me, because no one in my life does? That really, I wanted him to just get here already so I could get on with becoming a mother to him? Would everyone feel differently if they knew my story?

That’s why I’m here. Because I know that somewhere out there, there’s someone else like me. There’s someone that feels pressured to conform to society’s idea of motherhood because it’s the right thing to do, or because it’s easier. It started with pregnancy and it hasn’t ended. My little baby apple seed is now the size of a small dog and starting to roll over, and I swear all I did was blink. Yet somehow, many of the things that resonate with me from these first few months are the digs taken at new mothers, sometimes before their little loves are born, but even after. So if you don’t agree with what I write, that’s okay, because I’m not trying to change your mind. I know that your own journey is just as important and beautiful as mine.

To my sweet baby Delroy, your mama IS feisty, and a little stubborn, but she isn’t afraid to cut through the bullshit to make sure that she does the absolute best she can do for you…..the best she knows how. Because now that we’ve met, I love you a whole lot. So much it makes my heart feel like it might explode.

 But don’t you dare say bullshit, or you’ll get the soap.