The (not so) magic of babies

I was at a client meeting today and overheard a conversation between a mom that just returned from maternity leave and an expecting father.

“Oh, it’s just magical.  You’re going to love it,” she raved.

Being the nosy nancy I am, I of course butted in.  “Are you referring to having a newborn?” I asked her.

“Yes, it’s just so wonderful,” she gushed, smiling radiantly. Say what?

Listen, I had postpartum depression with Julia, and that’s not everyone’s experience so yeah, I am a bit jaded.  Having Luca was a fabulous course correction, and I genuinely enjoyed a lot of my time with him, but let’s be real here.

Being a first time mom to a newborn is an experience that can be described as magical.  But not without also caveating that it’s also many other things like terrifying and exhausting.

Moms (and dads): If you are selling the lie, you’re not just lying to yourself, you are setting our parenting culture up for failure.  Dramatic of me to say? Maybe.  But I literally can not count on two hands the number of women who told me that I was one of the ONLY people that warned them that those early weeks were going to at times, between gazes of love and wonder and unicorns prancing also be demoralizing, mournful, emotional, foggy, bloody (yes, bloody) and confusing.

People will make comments about how you won’t get sleep.  They’ll make jokes about it.  But they won’t tell you that the sleeplessness will often be accompanied by unending screams that simultaneously break your heart, hurt your ears, and feel like a condemnation of you and your failure to parent correctly.  Because surely other moms can make their babies stop crying (spoiler alert: bag of nopes there).

You might hear in passing about colic.  But you won’t be given the details about how colic is defined by multiple days of THREE PLUS HOURS IN A ROW of crying.  That shit is hard.  I did not have a colicky baby, but I remember even just average crying with my daughter and how hard it was.

Maybe, thanks to a few parenting memes going around FB, you have somehow heard about the hospital underpants.  It is essentially an underwear sized maxi pad.  Because if you have a vaginal birth you will BLEED.  I was sent home from the hospital told not to be worried about clots unless they were LARGER THAN A TENNIS BALL.  I’m not sure I’d even be able to worry at that point because I would have passed out from fright.

Let’s just take a moment to talk about breast pumps.  Do you know I did it for three months before I found out about hands free pumping bras?  I held those damn flange things against my boobs multiple times a day when I could have just been hanging out, still a cow but with hands free.  And surely no one told you that you actually have to get the right sized flanges for your nipples.  It’s not a one size fits all situation.  And how weird it is to be LITERALLY milked.  I never even made enough milk with Julia without supplementing with formula.  For the first month, my doctor had me nurse Julia, then pump right after – including middle of the night feedings.  Do you know how much it sucked to not only nurse, then pump, but then have to wash fucking pump parts in the middle of the night.  I remember more than once crying in the bathroom at three in the morning as I washed and sanitized pumping supplies thinking that this will never end.  Magical I tell you.  Like prancing unicorns of joy.

I could make you a list more numerous than the number of pee and poop diapers you will change in those early months of other “magical” moments.  Projectile poos, the fear of touching your baby’s umbilical cord before it falls off, the porn star rocks that your boobs will be when your milk comes in, reflux, baby acne, meconium. Trimming miniscule baby fingernails (without making them bleed) so they don’t scratch themselves up like Edward Scissorhands.

I named this blog Truth in Parenting for a reason ya’all.  Only in sharing the truth with each other will we be able to know that parenting is two sides of a coin.  In truth, we don’t have to feel shame or disappointment that our experience isn’t like others, because there’s a really good chance that it is – both good and bad.

 

 

When life gets in the way

Here it is, the cliche blog post about how I’ve been too busy to write a blog post.  That’s not entirely true.  A person can always find time for anything that is a priority for them.  That’s why I have dramatically increased my time spent reading this year, and have gotten like three massages, yet I haven’t been able to “find time” for exercise since I was pregnant with Luca, ha.

One of the things I’ve been busy doing is parenting related, tangentially I suppose. I’ve written a children’s book.  It feels funny to write that down as it makes it seem more real.  But it’s pretty real at this point. I have written a kid’s book and am in the final process of editing it (I’m on draft 24 already) and am almost ready to start the query process to submit it to agents.

I wrote a kid’s book because I love to write, I love kid’s books, and I had something I really wanted to write about.  I have mentioned on this blog openly about having anxiety issues since I was a child.  As an adult, I’ve come to understand that my coping mechanisms for this anxiety were not tied enough to self-soothing, and relied a lot more on other people to fix things for me.  The intention with this book is to help little kids with anxiety think about ways they can help themselves.  The book is currently titled “Lulu Fox and the Fix-It Box” and I am really excited about its potential.

Imagine if Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes (I love all his books!) or The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn had a more kid driven solution than one supplied by a parent or adult. The first day of school can be scary, especially for an anxious kid who’s afraid of everything.  Thankfully Lulu Fox comes up with an idea – she can make a “Fix It” box to lock her fears away. Lulu wears the key to the box as a necklace to help remind her to be brave at school. The reader gets a front row seat as Lulu faces challenges that will test that bravery.

I have done a ton of research on the process of finding an agent, and it is supposed to be quite hard.  Even if you get an agent they then need to try and sell to a publisher.  So while I am hopeful that people will love Lulu as much as I do, it might take quite a bit of time before it sees the light of day as a book.  If I am unable to secure an agent I will go the self-publishing route, but that costs money vs. makes money (at least in the short to medium term) so fingers crossed that I find one!!

I am already working on my second book, this one about a little boy on the autism spectrum who loves music.  I’ve been having early versions read by those with experience with autism (either teachers or parents) to make sure I am capturing things accurately.

If you are interested in being a beta reader of either book, let me know.  Or if you are a fellow writer and looking to trade manuscripts, I’ve been having a lot of fun doing that with people all over the world, so let me know!  And please be patient, I have more mom stories in me to share with this blog, I am just on a slightly diverted path right now.

 

It’s Alright to Cry

The other day I saw this post on a local Mom’s Facebook group I belong to:

“Is crying in your car on the way to work totally normal on days you feel like your failing at mom life, housework life etc? Asking for a friend…….. “

The responses from the group were overwhelming and unilateral: Yes.  Yes, it is normal.  Yes we all have those days.  I am grateful that a site like Facebook gives this woman a safe space to be able to reach out for her “friend” (she later admitted it was for herself, no shocker) and hear from others in her shoes.  Because the thing is all moms have been in those shoes – maybe you’re wearing them right now, sobbing into a glass of wine on your couch or reading this while you’re up late nursing your baby or between screams of a toddler tantrum or…. you get the point.

While I’m glad this mom turned somewhere to ask the question, why didn’t she ask her friends? I am sure this woman has friends.  I took two seconds to check when writing this post and she has over 1,300 friends on Facebook, and I am assuming some of them are real friends, and real moms.  The post on the Facebook group isn’t anonymous and the group has 11,000 members, so she was exposing herself to more people than her friend group by asking it on that page vs. her own Facebook page.  But for many women, for many people, really, its harder to say your truth out loud to people you know vs. people you don’t.

I am an oversharer on my Facebook page about my parenting struggles, which is how this blog came about.   I’ve admitted weakness, anxiety, depression, resentment – all sorts of fun stuff.  I’ve asked questions I thought were fairly benign that based on the answers showed a stunning lack of awareness on my part (trying to force my daughter to brush her teeth with fluoridated toothpaste even though she hated it so much she gagged and ended up vomiting was definitely not my finest hour as a mom).  In other words, I’ve been real.  But a weird part of my defense mechanism as a person is to call out my shortcomings before someone else can. So I share my shame. But I think for a lot of moms the mom shame burns inside of them, and they don’t know who to turn to to confess.

What I want to encourage, what I hope this blog and my Facebook posts encourage, is the idea of being real with the moms in your life when you are having trouble.  I know it’s not in everyone’s nature to share, and it doesn’t need to be done so publicly, but you need to find your support system.  Whether it’s your mom, your sister, your best friend, a new friend, a stranger you meet in a store, you need to tell your stories, good and bad.  You need to ask for advice. You need to cry, and be ok that you cried.  You need to know that you are not alone, that your feelings are not just yours, and that we are always stronger if we do this together.

I used to be judgy before I was a mom, and even for a while after I became one.  I won’t say that I’ve gotten over it completely, but what I’ve learned from mom confessional sessions with friends and strangers alike is that we’re all just trying to make it through this.  You want to judge the mom who co-sleeps?  Maybe her child has terrible nightmares that wake her up ten times a night, and mom is a zombie at work if she has to jump up and go into her kid’s room every hour so for now it’s easier to be able to just roll over and hold her tight.  You want to judge the mom who is bringing special food to a birthday party for their kid instead of having them eat pizza and cake?  Maybe their kid have such severe food aversions that the doctor told them that the next step if they can’t put weight on him is a feeding tube, and so they are just trying to keep their kid fed with one of the three foods he likes.   What about the kid you see in the store screaming and hitting his mom? You want to judge her for not having control over her kid?  Well maybe he’s on the spectrum, and he is feel overstimulated by his environment and mom needs to just grab 2 more things on her grocery list before she takes him home otherwise there won’t be anything for dinner tonight.

In other words, we are all struggling, we all have our secrets and we are all just doing what we can to get by.  Even those of you who love being a parent and find the experience to be like riding a magical unicorn through a fairy forest must experience moments of doubt or anxiety or exhaustion.  So tell someone.  Tell me if you want, but tell someone.  There’s a good chance she’ll have advice, support, a similar tale, or a nice glass of wine to take the edge off.

 

Control, the story of Ice Cream

It started with a simple decision: cup or cone.  We were at Sesame Place this past weekend (boy, do I need to write a blog about that), in the water park area, and they had just announced a scheduled break of the splash zone we were in.  Perfect time for ice cream, right?  Julia and I headed over to the nearby ice cream stand where there was a blissfully short line.

Julia begged for a cone.  But these weren’t small servings, these were VERY VERY big servings on top of a pretty big cone.  Of soft serve. On a super hot day.  But it was vacation, and I knew it would make her happy and I am usually very strict and I want to be a cool mom and so I said ok.  I can be flexible right?  I ordered a vanilla cone with sprinkles for Julia, a chocolate cup for Brian and a swirl cup for me.  The woman fills the cups first, and then runs out of vanilla ice cream.  So, I am standing there, eating my ice cream before it melts, watching Brian’s ice cream melt (he’s back at at the splash pad with Luca) and watching Julia slowly start to melt down over waiting for the new vanilla to be mixed so she can get her cone.

Finally we get the glorious, giant cone and Julia is happy as a clam.  But it’s about that time that I basically lose my will to live.  I start to worry that the ice cream is going to melt too fast and fall off the cone.  At which point Julia will inevitably freak out, at which point Brian will probably say she can’t have another cone, at which point she’ll freak out more, and even if I can convince him to let her have another cone, we’ll have to go back to the ice cream stand, and the line might be longer, and I am not even sure I have enough cash because I only took a twenty with us to the water park part and the ice creams are over priced …. and…. and…. What was my point here?  That I’m crazy?  Oh yeah, I am crazy.  Did I ever mention that?  That my anxiety comes with a delicious strain of obsessive thought patterns that often focus on future scenarios, most of which are unlikely to happen, and which I HAVE NO CONTROL OVER ANYWAY?

So she’s eating and all I can do is fixate on the fucking cone.  Julia, lick around the bottom.  Julia, eat some off the top.  Faster Julia.  Brian, can you please eat some of her ice cream to help out?  Julia, hold it upright.  Don’t tilt it Julia.  Meanwhile I am eating my cup of ice cream as fast as I can with the plan to dump her cone into the cup when I am finished.  Except I get brain freeze in the middle of this rapid ice cream consumption.  My nose is actually tingling from eating it so fast.  And what’s the god damn point?  Before I know it, the ice cream is gone, likely hundreds of calories worth of deliciousness and I barely tasted it.  And now she won’t put her cone into my empty cup because there is chocolate residue on the bottom of my cup and she doesn’t want it to taint the vanilla.

And you know what happened?  Nothing.  Nothing happened.  She managed to eat the ice cream cone like a human, nobody died, and the world didn’t come to an end.  And then I felt stupid.  For criticizing her, for worrying so much, for not letting myself just let her enjoy the moment.  For not enjoying these moments myself.  I have a feeling it’s not just moms with anxiety or obsessive thoughts or control issues who struggle with moments of this.  The lack of ability to control situations with kids can bring out staggering emotions in parents.  It’s another one of those things that no one tells you about having kids.  That sometimes, there are these moments where you want to be able to have the power, and you don’t.  Not power over them even, but power over yourself.  To be ok.  To remember that they’re ok.  To take each moment as a moment and not as the moment.  To not freak out.  To let yourself freak out.  To be ok with the outcome, whatever it is.