Cecilia’s birth: the events

At 38 weeks along, I had an ob appointment with an ultrasound to check on the baby’s weight and fluid. It had been a long time getting to this point, and I was half praying she looked perfect, half praying they felt the need to induce me. I just wanted her here ASAP, but didn’t want any medical interventions like being induced, and also wanted to have everything perfectly prepared even though I had not started preparing at all. Normal pregnant lady stuff.

She was looking perfect, wiggling on the screen, measuring right on track and an estimated 6 pounds 12 ounces. I was already 3-4 centimeters. I asked my doctor to strip my membranes, which she was like “I can do that, there’s a 50/50 shot it will work but I don’t really think it’s going to do anything for you.” Jason was more than happy to hear this because I think he was still living in denial that a third person was going to exit my body and we would then have another baby to care for.

The following morning, Wednesday, I was having some spotting and discomfort, but chalked it up to my check the day before. I had my iron transfusion that day, which the nurse told me could make the baby super active, and I joked about her ninja kicking her way on out.

That night, Jason was cooking steaks on the stove, and set the smoke detectors off. I jumped up and started fanning the front door while having a mini panic attack at the thought of setting off the sprinklers in the whole apartment complex and having to face the fire department and our neighbors. Those 3 minutes felt like 3 hours, but the alarm finally shut off. I still got to eat my steak and it was actually pretty good. I went back to the bathroom to change and that’s when my water broke! The only time it’s ever broken on its own, and I’m glad it was at home.

Excitedly, I called out to Jason and he said something along the lines of “oh shit” but not in an excited way. He swears he put me in to labor by causing a “natural disaster” and despite how many times I have tried to help him understand the definition of “natural disaster”, he still maintains that he caused it. I actually think he’s kind of proud of it because it was the one useful thing he did while I was in labor (kidding, love ya nurse doula Jason).

We called my mom to come over and stay the night with the boys. I frantically packed my hospital bag aka threw whatever laundry (probably dirty) from the floor in to a bag, and tried to clean up the house while we waited.

Once my mom arrived, it was time to head in to the hospital. Jason drove while I looked up celebrity birthdays on Wikipedia. Everyone born on January 16th was a dud, but the 17th looked promising. We decided right after midnight would be a good time for her to come. I got checked in, and it was confirmed that my water broke. I was still only 3-4 cm at this point around 11pm without any real contractions.

Here is where I should tell you my goal was to have an unmedicated delivery and I had been preparing for that. I would fully recommend you commit to preparing your mind if that is a route you’re interested in! My nurse suggested I lay down and rest for a little while. The doctor was going to come back and check me at 1am and potentially start pitocin if I wasn’t progressing. Either way, she said I would need some strength. So I laid down, still not really having any consistent contractions, and put on a playlist of some gentle music that I had wanted to labor to. I brought some oils with me, and being monitored and under the care of my team, I felt comfortable to use clary sage oil which is supposed to help induce contractions. I rolled some on the insides of my ankles and tried to rest.

By midnight, I was having some stronger contractions but nothing that felt super consistent. Jason had taken the nap advice to heart and was passed out on the couch. My nurse encouraged me to get up and start trying to get more regular contractions going, so I started walking the halls while Jason slept. As I was walking, the contractions started coming stronger and harder. I decided to return to my room because I wanted a bit more privacy. I’m honestly not sure of the time but it was sometime before 1am.

I woke Jason up and asked him for help. He used some peppermint oil on my back with warm washcloths to help with contractions. I’m actually not sure how he felt about it because I would kind of just smack his hand away when I didn’t want him to do it anymore, and I would throw the washcloth at him when I wanted it hot again. I’m sure I was in full cave woman mode. I found the most comfort in standing by the bed with my head and arms resting on the bed while it was raised. At this point the contractions felt so strong. I felt like there was little relief between them. My nurse came back at 1 and decided to wait until 1:30 to check me because she wanted to be sure I was progressing.

It couldn’t have been 5 or 10 minutes later that I called out because I was feeling so much pressure with each contraction. She came in to check me and told me I was 7 cm. And in my head I thought “how the hell can I go another 3 cm??!”

Somehow I crawled on to the bed. My nurse was there, and I remember laying on my side gripping the hand rail of the bed through contractions. I’m fairly sure I ripped my gown off at one point? One more contraction and I said “I can’t do this, get her out of me.” My nurse helped me snap out of it and reminded me that when you feel like you can’t do it, that’s the time when you’re almost there. Other nurses were coming in, they were preparing me for delivery, but it just happened so fast.

Two more contractions and I had to push. My doctor wasn’t in the room (same doctor would said the membrane stripping wouldn’t work, HA!), but I just had to. I remember using some special four letter words probably like “oh f*ck” and I think I said “this f*cking hurts*. Im a classy lady, what can I say? I only remember pushing twice and I literally mean I could not stop. I remember them telling me to focus and not push but it was just an instinct to relieve the pressure. I don’t even think it was a conscious decision-my body was doing the work. First a head, and then everything else, and then immediately up to my chest. I cried and said “holy shit I can’t believe I just did that”, to which Jason agreed-he couldn’t believe it.

So on January 17 at 1:20 am, sharing a birthday with Betty White, our Cecilia made her debut.

Jason and I spent the next hour or so mostly saying back and forth “I can’t believe that just happened.” I also made him tell me repeatedly how bad ass I was and that I was the strongest woman alive (this is not exaggeration, he can attest to this, I actually remind him of it at least weekly).

All of my births were so different. And while I prepared and hoped for an unmedicated delivery, it wasn’t quite the one I imagined. I thought I would be a stoic and graceful birthing goddess, but I for sure was not. In the end, it was a beautiful surrender to what my body wanted to do. Letting labor take over and not fight against it is very freeing in its own way and it is a powerful reminder of all the work our bodies are capable of. I will never forget the total feeling of badassness I felt after this delivery. Carrying and delivering three children has tapped in to a deeper strength than I knew even existed and I am forever grateful.

Baby must haves: infant bather

Today, I’m sharing with you my favorite baby bather that I have found! Only took me three tries, but I finally got it right for the last kid.

I never invested in a baby tub because I thought it was a waste of time.  For my first baby, I bought one of those sponges that they lay on.  Which worked fine, but wasn’t ideal when they started wanting to sit up a little more.  On top of that, even when I would wring it out, it still took forever to dry, and I never found a good spot to put it while drying out.  Then for my second baby, we got a seat that they could sit up in that had different recline options.  I felt like it always sat too upright, and there wasn’t anything to keep him from sliding right down.  So every couple of minutes, I would slide him back up, and he would slowly slide back down.  Sometimes, I didn’t want to bend over in the bathtub, but it also made counter top baths really challenging because there was nothing to catch the water and it just made a huge mess.  This clean rinse baby bather solved all these problems and I am here for it.  Anything that makes mama’s life easier, makes everyone’s lives easier, amiright?

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The design allows water to drain throughout the bath, which makes it perfect for the counter, bathtub or sink. Because the material is quick drying, I don’t have to leave it out forever waiting for it to dry, worrying about mold (because that’s pretty much all I think about every time I see a bath toy).  Once I’m done cleaning baby girl up and getting her settled, I come back and the tub itself is nearly dry already.  A quick wipe with a towel and it is good to be put away for the next use.  It also has three recline positions, and folds up flat so it makes it easy to store.

The three recline positions support her as she gets closer and closer to sitting up on her own.  The little notch at the bottom keeps her legs and body from sliding down so I don’t have to constantly reposition her.  Plus the material in the middle is kind of like a silicone, not a hard plastic, so it’s not really slippery, but also not super sticky.  It is perfect to keep her from sliding around.

It’s made bath time around here a breeze! I can bathe her at the bathroom sink while the boys play in the tub, knocking out three baths at once. Which means I’m spending less time on bedtime routines and more time with them actually in bed, which is a win for moms everywhere.

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Another letter to my second born

Just over a year ago, we were still adjusting to life with you.  You were not even 3 months old when I wrote you your first love letter.  Now a year later, about to welcome your baby sister, I have so much more to say to you.

“Middle child syndrome” is something I’ve heard a lot. And to be honest, I thought it was a bunch of bs whenever anyone said anything about it. But now that I’ll have a “middle child” of my own, it crosses my mind quite often

You never got the same attention as your brother. He drains me constantly, and I feel bad that there’s so little of me left over for you. No bedtime snuggles, no stories before we put you down. I’m usually just so exhausted and ready to only deal with one child that you get a quick hug and kiss and to bed you go.

You never got homemade fruit squeezes or a consistent breakfast/lunch/dinner. Most days it’s whatever we can get your picky brother to eat, or sometimes what we’re eating if I happen to have dinner ready before you go to bed. Some nights it’s a nutrigrain bar and yogurt, and I just pray that one day I will have my life together enough to provide you with a proper meal.

Missed naps, and what’s routine? I can’t stand to be cooped up in the house with your brother bouncing off the walls, so a 90 minute morning nap that you need becomes a 20 minute car nap. I feel like all your activities revolve around what your brother needs, because he’s more vocal and I guess the squeaky wheel gets the oil.

It’s a balance I haven’t mastered. I feel like you’ve gotten the short end of the stick your whole life. And now you have to share me again, this time with a baby. Sometimes I feel guilty and sad, thinking you’ll feel you’ve been ignored your whole life.

But let me tell you. You are the sweetest soul. You share openly with your brother and strangers alike. Even when Everett gets in time out for hitting you, you immediately try to get to his side to comfort him. If he snatches a toy from you and we take it to give back to you, you hand it right back to your brother. You roll with the punches, and don’t care about dinner because you love nutrigrain bars anyway.

You’ll never be a “middle child” to me. You’ll always be my mama’s boy. My youngest son who showed me true joy in motherhood again. My boy with the sweetest dimple, and a smile that melts my heart. You remind me to forgive quickly and that siblinghood is a gift. I know you’ll be the best big brother to your little sister. And you will always have your own special spot in our family and in my heart.

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through fear and faith

It is hard to talk about something as an experience when the outcome is what you wanted. Like sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t talk about my struggle to get pregnant, because here we are-2 and a half kids later. Or with this pregnancy, I shouldn’t talk about our medical concerns because they seem to have resolved. But I have learned that the experience is in the journey, not just the outcome. So while the outcome may be exactly the opposite of the struggle, there are still lessons learned and perspectives to share with others.

I have shared openly about this pregnancy, and the second trimester was really a difficult one for us. I didn’t spend that time enjoying my other two kids, or joyfully picking sweet baby girl things, dreaming about her. All I can remember about it was the worry and fear we felt.

My first trimester was pretty par for the course.  Exhausted, nauseous, terrible skin and all.  What I didn’t share was that I was bleeding through the first part of my pregnancy.  I remember asking my sister to take a picture around 8 weeks because I thought it might be the only picture I would have with me and all three of my babies.  Just writing that brings me to tears, and my heart truly goes out to anyone who has experienced a miscarriage.  Luckily, my bleeding subsided, and my doctors determined I had a hemorrhage and a low lying placenta.  Things to watch, but they reassured me it was very common and nothing to “worry” about.

Things moved along, and suddenly I was 16 weeks.  We had already found out it was a girl, and the drive I felt to protect her, to keep her safe, to finally bring a girl to a family overwhelmed with little boys-it felt like a huge responsibility.  When they couldn’t find her heartbeat via doppler, I had to have another ultrasound to confirm.  I had just felt her move that morning.  She had to be there.  And thank God, another narrow miss, a heart still beating.

When 20 weeks rolled around, I had my routine ultrasound, and the doctor was concerned about an echogenic bowel.  She made it seem like no big deal, but of course I was still concerned.  Echogenic bowel can be nothing, just a random finding.  It is also associated with Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, possible perinatal infection, or maybe just the baby swallowed some blood. I chose to put my hopes on the latter, knowing that I had some early bleeding in pregnancy and hoping that was the likely explanation.  However the concern was always there, that it could be something more.

My babies knew I needed a little extra love

At my 24 week appointment and follow up ultrasound, my world turned upside down. I knew during my scan that something was wrong because she spent a lot of time looking at the baby’s brain.  I even said to Jason while waiting to see the doctor that I felt like they looked at her head a lot.  And there it was.  The echogenic bowel was still there, but there was also a mass on her brain, she was measuring small, and a possible clubfoot.  I burst in to tears as soon as she said it, confessing my worst fears, that I had this gut feeling through my whole pregnancy that something was wrong.  God had been sending me signs, preparing my faith to be tested.  Immediately, I started thinking of every syndrome possible.  A healthy baby might have one of these things, but four.  All four? I couldn’t bear the thought, and felt like this would have a significant outcome on her health and my pregnancy.

I was referred to a high risk specialist, and thankfully only had to wait about 10 days to see someone.  At our ultrasound, they looked at everything my other doctors had been concerned about.  It is standard to see a genetic specialist, but hearing “wait here while I go get the genetic specialist” doesn’t exactly calm your nerves.  When she came in, she gave us the best news possible.  No mass on her brain, no concerns about her growth, her feet looked perfectly normal, and the echogenic bowel was basically not significant enough to even really be considered echogenic.  I couldn’t believe it.  I wasn’t even praying for complete healing, but rather had been praying for acceptance of God’s will for whatever little girl we might have.

Finally breathing a sigh of relief after seeing her sweet face

I think even my doctor didn’t believe it because they asked to do another ultrasound at 28 weeks because they had all reviewed the 24 week scans and definitely felt there was a significant brain mass.  The 28 week scan again came back all clear, and I just couldn’t believe it.

I felt fear and stress every moment of my second trimester.  I felt angry and robbed of the joy of this, my last pregnancy.  I still feel a bit resentful and bitter that so much of my energy was spent worrying and mourning. I felt a lot of “why me”.  How could I raise a child with special needs? How could I add this to my plate, when I already felt so overwhelmed?  But I also felt a lot of closeness to God.  I connected with other moms who are going through a high risk or uncertain part of their pregnancy.  I found comfort in moms going through difficult circumstances with grace and faith.  I felt a voice in the back of my mind reminding me of the immense responsibility and reminding me of the child God created her to be.

I also learned a lot about my husband and who he is and about our relationship. Just like when we went through such a long period of trying to get pregnant with Everett, it strengthened our relationship and helped clarify our priorities and roles. We don’t process things the same, we don’t communicate about things the same, and we don’t always think about things the same. But we are a safe place for each other. To find space or closeness. To talk about our deepest fears and feelings without judgment. It changed the way we think about our kids and our roles as their parents, and helped us realize that nothing in our family is possible without our relationship being the foundation to build on.

We still have no guarantee she will be completely healthy.  That is just life.  We are so thankful for the miracle of modern medicine and the ability to check on her, but we also know that she is who she is, created by God, and we do not have control of that.  This has been my most difficult and scary pregnancy by far.  We still have 12ish weeks to go, but I am thankful for a few months with no ultrasounds, without the worry that there is something to watch, and without the stress of what we will do when she is born.

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life as a working mom

This should really be titled “I feel guilty” but I don’t want to focus just on that.  My life as a working mom is different than most because I’m a nurse.  So working 12 hour shifts is a totally different ball game and while it’s “only three days a week” (insert eye roll), it is 14 hour days of emotionally and physically taxing work.  But does it really matter? It doesn’t matter if you work a 9-5, 5 days a week or a 7-7, 3 days a week. It doesn’t matter if you work from home or have to commute.  We are all in it together.  The guilt, the pride, the choices, the struggle-it’s all the same.

When I had Everett, I decided to go part time.  I had wanted to cut back, and thought it would be a good time.  Of course the transition back was difficult, but we had family to watch him and it gave me a chance to still get out of the house and have adult responsibilities.  Shortly after that, I picked up a new job title that was still part time, but included office and management responsibilities.  This included additional meetings outside of my work hours, a week of 24/7 on-call time once a month, and increased responsibilities in managing staff.  I missed the first time Everett rolled over when I was at work. I also missed his first day of preschool because I got called in.  There were times I didn’t see Julian for 3 days straight because of my schedule.  Countless moments that I could beat myself up over.

I have felt sad for myself and the moments I’ve missed, stupidly wondering if they somehow “knew” I wasn’t there and felt abandoned by me.  I have felt torn between going to work and staying with my kids, and hoping they know how much I love them even though I go to work.  More than anything I have felt guilty.  I have felt so guilty leaving the kids in the care of someone else.  I wondered if they would resent me, feel like I wasn’t giving them enough.  And then the times that I am at home, there are other things that need to get done.  Laundry, dishes, cleaning still needs tending to.  Which means more time “away” from them where my attention has to be somewhere else.  And then they start whining, or throwing fits, or acting like CHILDREN, and I feel guilty again for losing my cool because our time together is limited and should only be happy and joyful, right?? It just doesn’t work that way.

But what have I gained? Neither of my kids have ever gone through serious separation anxiety.  They are adaptable and flexible because they have had to be.  From an early age, they were shuffled to different relatives houses, dropped off by me, picked up by my husband.  Or maybe they didn’t see me at all that day, but life went on.  As they get older, I can teach them about what I do.  That I am skilled at listening to and examining newborns and making sure babies are born healthy.  That I am trained to watch new moms closely, so they don’t become a statistic and leave the hospital as healthy as they were when they came in.  I can help my kids understand the value and importance of hard work.  And hopefully I can teach them that they can have a career and still be a great parent.

The older I get, the more I realize my kids don’t care.  Maybe one day they will, but right now they don’t.  They’re blissfully unaware of the struggle I feel to make them feel loved while not being with them as much as I can.  They don’t know that I’m missing Christmas, or working through the night, or can’t pick them up from school today.  All they want is ME. When I get home, Everett says “Mommy!! I missed you Mommy!” and Julian gives me the best hugs.  No one is mad at me.  No one is crying that I wasn’t with them.  They just want me when I’m there.

Right now, I’ve cut my hours back more.  I work one shift a week, and I wasn’t intending to cut back this much, but it’s actually been a huge relief with everything we’ve had going on, and especially with this pregnancy.  I work night shifts 7pm-7am, which is how I started my nursing career so I feel like I’ve come full circle.  It’s not exactly the hours I would want to work if it were just about me, but it’s the schedule that works best for our family, so it’s just a sacrifice we make.  I don’t focus on it too much.  Instead, I focus on the time I get with my kids. You may not be able to control your work hours or if you even have to work at all. But you can control your attitude and mindset. You can remind yourself of being a positive role model for your children. And you can definitely make the most of every moment you get.

PPD triggers and how to overcome them

First, thank you so much for the response on my last post about my experience with PPD! So many of you reached out to offer support or identified with the purpose, and it really means so much to me!  I wanted to offer a little more insight into triggers and risk factors, as well as touch on some “plans” you can make with your support system to help overcome these triggers.  Some of you may think it will be difficult to involve your partner, or maybe you and your partner are at odds with the adjustment into parenthood and you think they don’t “get it”.  Let me say, usually, by the time you realize you are struggling, your partner and support system have already seen it.  They see you struggling, they realize you don’t seem the same, they are hurting for you and they want to see you back to the YOU you used to be.  So let’s just jump in!

One of the biggest risk factors or triggers centers on feeding your baby.  I will always support fed is best! I think any mother who has struggled to get their kid to eat in any way would agree intellectually, but emotionally that thought can be very difficult.  Listen up y’all, breastfeeding is HARD.  If it came easy to you that your baby latched and your milk came in and you never had an issue, then count your lucky stars, because you are the exception, not the rule.  The rule is that breast feeding is a pain in the ass.  Latch issues, a starving baby, flat nipples, a tongue tie, low milk supply, high lipase milk, milk allergies.  Or maybe you decided to bottle feed, but you still have lingering feelings of guilt and doubt, or experience disapproval from others.  These are just a few of the issues many moms face, and often they face more than one of these things! I imagine if you’re reading this, you’ve been there, so I don’t need to keep going, but yes, feeding your baby is a huge risk factor for postpartum depression.  So what do you do? You’ve seen every lactation specialist, read every message board, asked all your friends, googled the shit out of feeding habits, and you are still struggling.

  • You aren’t alone. Joining a support group or breast feeding support group may give you tremendous satisfaction just to hear that others are struggling.  It is always nice to know others have experienced what  you’re experiencing, especially as a mom.
  • Be honest and transparent with your partner.  My husband used to say “let’s just give him formula”, like oh its that simple.  In reality, it really is that simple, but he could not comprehend the layers of emotions I was feeling associated with that simple decision. You can say “I feel guilty that I (cannot make milk, cannot get baby to latch, etc).  I want to breast feed and I feel like I am a failure to our baby.  I worry I won’t bond as well with the baby if he cannot rely on me for food.” Whatever your reality is, try to make your partner understand.  It is okay to say “I don’t know why I feel this way, but these are my feelings, and I am really struggling.”
  • Tell your partner they can help you by saying things such as “You are doing/have done such a great job feeding our baby.  I see how hard you are working to be able to breast feed and I appreciate how dedicated you are.” Or if you’re bottle feeding, they can support your decision by saying “Thank you for giving me the chance to feed our baby.  It really helps me understand how much thought you’ve put in to feeding our baby and I appreciate you.”
  • Most importantly, give yourself grace and positive affirmations.  Tell yourself “I love my baby.  I am choosing this because it is the best for my baby. I am a good mom.” Whatever your mantra is, tell your partner and practice saying it with each feeding until you’re believing “YEAH I’M A BADASS!”

Another trigger for PPD is lack of sleep.  I worked as a night shift nurse for several years before having kids, so my sleep schedule was already whack.  But for many people who are used to sleeping normal hours at night, the adjustment into broken sleep and/or a significant decrease in sleep hours can really mess with your body’s ability to cope with the many aspects of new parenthood you are now having to adjust to.  If your baby immediately gained weight, had no other underlying issues, and started sleeping through the night instantly, you are the exception, not the rule (and I think I speak for everyone when I say please shut up about how good your baby is sleeping.  Like I’m happy for you but also sleep deprived and dangerous).  So talk to your partner and make a sleep plan. It’s not always going to be an equal division, but sharing in the responsibilities is important, and giving your partner a chance to experience things as you do and vice versa is crucial.

  • A lot of moms are hesitant to ask their partners for help when it comes to sleep because maybe they’re the one who is “working” while you are at home.  But having a baby is an equal partnership.  You can say “I am really struggling with being up all night and having to keep the house during the day.  I need your help at night (or with household tasks) so that I can get some rest too.”
  • Set an early bed time.  I’m talking even like 7 or 8 o’clock.  If there are household tasks that will help you for the next day, tell your spouse specifically what needs to be done (dishes, a load of laundry, etc.)
  • I’m a night owl and my husband likes to wake up stupid early.  So we kinda set a plan where I stay up later or deal with early night time wakings, while my husband would get a stint of sleep.  Then when the baby would wake up at 5 or 6 to start the day, my husband would get up and take care of him while I slept in.  This allowed us both to get a 6 or 7 hour stretch, just in split shifts.
  • If you are breastfeeding through the night, have your partner do diaper changes and grab you water while you breast feed.  Or even build in a pumping session/supplement so your partner can offer a bottle while you catch even more sleep.
  • Remember this isn’t a forever arrangement! If you or your partner get frustrated you can revisit these “terms”.  These are simply solutions and ideas to get you through the struggling periods as you recover.

Alright well this is already way longer than I intended it to be so I will do one more.  I can’t write a blog and put it on instagram without talking about expectations vs reality, and the detrimental role social media can play in postpartum.  And it starts at the beginning.  You think you’re going to be a glowing goddess during pregnancy…but you’re not.  You see women naturally going in to labor and think you won’t go two weeks overdue…but you do.  You see pictures of moms easily breast feeding or talking about their glorious breast feeding experience, and think it will happen that way for you too…but it doesn’t.  Or maybe it’s not even on social media but it is the collective experience of your friends.  And they all had easy pregnancies and vaginal deliveries and seem so happy.  You were sick the whole time, labored for 24 hours and had an emergency c-section and you feel like motherhood is a mistake.  Your expectations for motherhood can set you up for PPD because it is such a hard adjustment.  Believing that every one else loves motherhood and can balance it all so easily can add to feelings of guilt or inadequacy that you may already be feeling.  There is a lot going around right now about “fake” and “real” social media, and all I will say is that it is everyone’s highlight reel.  It is the best of the best and the moments of their lives that they want to preserve, whether it resonates with you or not. So if you feel like those around you have it all while you are floundering, here are a few things to remember.

  • Unfollow those accounts that stress you the hell out and make you feel like you need to have it all together or stay off social media completely!  If it is causing YOU some anxiety to see those accounts, then you need to distance yourself from them.
  • Again, consider a support group.  Find other moms who are living in your version of motherhood and connect with them.  Break that isolation.
  • And again, be transparent about how you’re feeling with your support system.  It is okay to say “I don’t know why or what is wrong with me, but I am not coping well.”
  • Realize that YOU ARE NOT A BAD MOM.  Your struggle does not make you weak or inadequate or less than.
  • Set small goals instead of big picture ideas so you do not feel let down. Like instead of saying “I’m going to clean the whole house today while the baby naps”, say “I’m going to spend 30 minutes of nap time working on the laundry.” Break the day down into tasks such as a morning goal, an afternoon goal, and an evening goal so that you have a generous and flexible time line. And bonus tip, you can do this with your own self care goals as well so that you find little moments throughout the day to refocus on yourself

Okay, this got a bit wordy, so my bad. Is there anything else you all would be interested to hear about relating to postpartum depression? Hopefully, you’ve found these tips helpful or it has at least gotten you thinking about ways in which you can help yourself. As always, leave a comment/dm me with any questions or thoughts and let’s all help one another!

Postpartum depression

What else could I title this but what it is? My first experience with postpartum depression should have been a no brainer. I’m a postpartum nurse, it’s part of my discharge teaching, I should have recognized the symptoms. But did you know that ppd can occur anytime in your baby’s first year? Did you also know it can happen during pregnancy as well? “Ppd” as we’ll call it, is actually a range of perinatal and postpartum mood disorders including depression, anxiety, ptsd, and others. Symptoms might include extreme irritability, anger, sadness, or worrisome thoughts. It is the number 1 complication of childbirth and as many as 1 in 5 women are suffering.

So to start, my first pregnancy was a dream. We had tried for a while and I was thrilled to finally be pregnant. No morning sickness, barely any nausea, still worked 12 hour shifts, pregnancy was easy. Childbirth was difficult and I had some complications, but I had a lot of family support and we adjusted well. I was a new mom and blissfully exhausted and in love. Fast forward to around 8-9 months postpartum. Everett started to self wean breast feeding and had developed a strong attachment to my husband. To some, this may sound ideal. To me, it was pure rejection. My baby. The one I had grown and birthed and nourished. What purpose did I serve if he didn’t need me for food? He already preferred my husband for holding, changing diapers, carrying around, everything. That was our last attachment and the only thing he needed from me that his dad couldn’t provide. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt angry and hurt. I became detached and irritable. I was short tempered with my son, even worse with my husband, and I felt so lonely. All I wanted was to be a mom, and I couldn’t even do that right. When my husband would try to engage me, I would either ignore him or try to enjoy their company, only to find myself upset and crying. We struggled through it, and slowly I invested my time in to connecting with my son in different ways as he got older and we rebuilt our relationship. It was hard though. And I came out of it, never even realizing I had been in it in the first place.

Then I got pregnant again, and it was so easy and I really loved it. I never even thought I was struggling because I loved being pregnant and always felt so in love with my baby. But I was so short tempered. I was irritable all the time. I would lash out at my husband over the smallest things. I would yell one minute, then act like nothing was wrong the next, then cry when my husband was upset with me. I could run through every emotion known to man in a 5 minute period, and I would do this over and over again. I felt out of control of myself and my feelings, which often just left me feeling sad and alone. But I was pregnant and hormonal and that’s how I was supposed to feel right?

It wasn’t until four months postpartum with my second son, when I went back to work and decided to attend a training for postpartum support groups, that it all came together. Right around that time, I had realized that I was struggling more with anxiety. I felt overwhelmed and would get worked up over little things. I would lash out and get frustrated very easily. And on top of that, I just felt like something bad was always going to happen. I would drive to work, and start crying thinking it was the last time I would see my kids. I would watch Everett jump around the living room and see him hitting his head into our brick fireplace. I would imagine laying Julian down to rest and be constantly thinking he wouldn’t wake up. It was happening multiple times a day, imagining that everything ended in the worst case scenario. I was so filled with fear and always on the verge of tears. It was exhausting and honestly I just didn’t know what was wrong with me or why I felt that way.

It was in that training that I realized what it was. That I had been dealing with it all along. But that’s part of the lie of ppd (and motherhood, really). The lie that you’re alone and no one else has struggled like you. The lie that your feelings are shameful and what would others think of you if they knew how you felt? The lie that you’re just not cut out to be a mom. The lie that you are crazy and you don’t love your baby, because what kind of mother would feel this way. They are all lies.

So right now, we are working through it. I haven’t done anything to treat my anxiety but it has gotten better. When I feel overwhelmed, I have learned to take a pause and think of the root of the issue, rather than lashing out at those around me. I have learned to give myself plenty of time to get things done because when I am rushed, I feel anxious. I have learned to listen to my body and if I get a minute that both kids are napping, then you bet your ass, if I feel like napping, I’m gonna nap. Having a clean (I mean as clean as you can have with two working parents and a toddler and baby..) house helps me feel like I have room to breathe, and is good for my mental state. And most importantly, communicating all of this clearly has helped my husband realize that I need help and that there are very real ways that he can help!

This is the first time that I have put all of my story together for anyone (especially a world full of strangers). I still feel guilty and embarrassed for these times in my life, like I am “less than” or a bad mom, that I somehow have failed my family.. I still can’t put it into words. But what I do know is that I am NOT a bad mom. There is nothing wrong with me. It is okay to not be okay. Motherhood is huge. Like HUGE and life changing and it is OKAY to struggle through it, but you don’t have to struggle alone. There is hope and healing, and you can get through it. Just tell someone. And if that person doesn’t listen, tell someone else. Keep telling them until someone hears you. Get the help you need so you can heal, and with time, you will be well again.

I’m going to try to keep this theme going and write a quick post next week about triggers and risk factors. So mamas who think “why do I feel this way?”, there are things that set you up for postpartum depression and anxiety, other than just having that history. If you feel like it, please share your story with me! Whether you’re a survivor or you’re right in the middle of it, let’s all be an ear for each other.

Started in the crib, now we here

*Leesa® provided a free product for us to review. However, all opinions stated here are my own. Thank you for reading this blog and supporting brands we truly love!

I’ve gotten some questions about how we switched Ev out of his crib into a big kid bed.  He was just over two and had just started climbing out of his crib.  And truthfully, we needed the crib for the baby’s room so we wouldn’t have to buy another one.  He’s been in his new bed for a little over a month and I would say it’s been a success.  We’ve never fought him over bed or nap time, he is happy and sleeps just as well as he did in a crib, and it’s been a fun little project to make the space a little more grown up for him. So I’ll share with you all what worked for us, and hopefully it can help you too.

Before we even switched him, we started talking it up about how babies slept in cribs and how he was going to get his own, special bed.  That alone kept him pretty excited.  The baby was still in our room, so it didn’t feel like we were taking something away from him to give to the baby, but rather giving him his own special thing. We already had a good bedtime routine established, so we kept everything the same there.

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As far as changing the room, we wanted to involve him in the process and give him choices whenever we could.  We picked out the coolest fun house bed  and decided to switch him straight to a twin bed instead of doing the toddler conversion, then having to get another thing down the road.  We let him pick out his own comforter (except for the Spider Man one that I vetoed).

My best tip is to look carefully at mattresses.  We knew Ev wouldn’t be able to understand how to tell us if something was comfortable or not, so it left it all up to us to decide.  So we thought about what we definitely needed in a mattress, because if your kid is sleeping, that means you get to sleep, right?

  • something that would support the weight of an adult and child equally (because we thought we might have to lay in bed with him to help him fall asleep, and we didn’t want to wake him while trying to sneak out)
  • soft, but not too springy (aka fun to jump on), so probably foam
  • movement support without waking him up (because a bigger bed means more space to roll around while you’re sleeping)
  • air flow and cooling (because my kid is sweaty, like a lot)

The Leesa had everything we were looking for, plus it had a 100 night trial, so we knew if it wasn’t working, we could get a different one.  We loved that it was a local company (what up Virginia Beach) and had a mission to give mattresses to homeless and at-risk people across the United States.  Setting it up was the easiest thing ever.  It was delivered straight to our door, and all we had to do was unbox it and put it on the bed frame to air out.

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So what worked?

We let him take a few small toys and books in to bed with him.  We’re not super strict on when/how he falls asleep, but we do make him stay in bed when it’s time to rest.  We allow plenty of time for him to wind down.  Sometimes this means three or four books, sometimes it means letting him roll around and move his stuffed animals around multiple times. We know having more space means him feeling like theres more freedom and we don’t want bed time to feel like a punishment.

Just recently, he learned to open doors, which is both kinda cool and annoying.  He would get up at like 3 am, and open our door and whisper at us.  Talk about creepy.  So we got him this alarm clock that turns green when he is allowed to get up in the mornings.  Don’t ask me why it works to keep him in his bed, but it has definitely helped.  Even if he gets up and comes to our room, we walk him back and tell him it’s not time to get up yet and he says “when the alarm clock turns green.” It has helped us adjust his waking time from 5-5:30 AM to 6:30 AM.

Most importantly, be flexible and understand it may take time for them to adjust.  For the first few nights, he didn’t get out of bed, but he would call out to us a lot.  Then after a few times, he realized he actually could get out of bed, and he would get up and bang on the door.  We would just calmly put him back in bed and lay with him for a few minutes if he wanted us to.  We typically wouldn’t allow him to fall completely asleep with us in the room, because we didn’t want him to get used to it.  Some nights it would be four or five times before he would fall asleep, but most nights it was only once or twice.  After about a week, I would say he was completely adjusted and he would stay in bed when it was bed time.

I hope these tips come in handy for you! If any of you have additional suggestions of what worked for you, leave a comment and let me know.  Happy sleeping to you and your babes!

 

bringing home baby: newborn essentials

I remember going into Babies R Us when I was pregnant with my first son to complete my registry. I didn’t know places like this existed, and I walked in to baby stuff everywhere.  Hormones took over, I had a mini meltdown of “oh my gosh, what is all this stuff”, and ultimately decided to google every baby list there ever was. Now as a second time mom and baby nurse, I like to think I’m a bit smarter in narrowing down what we actually have used in these first few months.  So I’ll break it down by section and share with you what we’ve used and why we love it.

*Some of the items in this post were provided to me for free to facilitate a review. All opinions and statements are mine.  Thank you, Owlet and iBaby Labs, for allowing me to try your products! And thank you all for supporting the brands I love!

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