The Blog You’ll Never Read

In my childless days before Oliver, I felt like I never had enough time to get it all done. Between work, the drudgery and obligations of every day life, and spending time with family and friends, my schedule was always packed. When Oliver was born and I suddenly found myself knee-deep in diaper changes and marathon feeding sessions,  I couldn’t imagine how I ever felt busy before. How much time I must have wasted, I thought. Watching television, spontaneous lunch dates with friends, lounging on the couch all afternoon in my pajamas—those were frivolities I could only dream of. If only I had the luxury of that kind of free-time in my new mother-of-one life.

Then I had another kid.

IMG_1403

If caring for one little being feels like a climbing Mt. Everest kind of feat, imagine strapping a twenty pound weight to each leg and keep going. That is life with two kids. Now I laugh when I think about how busy, how all-consuming caring for one child felt. I marvel at how I could ever feel stressed or pressed for time. This mother-of-two thing, this is hectic. Not only do I have to do so many of the things that made my pre-baby days feel busy, I now have to do it with two kids in tow. It can be overwhelming on a good day, panic-inducing on a bad. Simultaneously nursing a baby, cooking dinner, and reading Spot Goes to the Beach with your toddler—that requires some serious multitasking skills.

When you have two kids finding time to do anything for yourself becomes a challenge. A minute here. A minute there. Seconds carved out between feedings and naps and building Lego towers, all strung together into a few precious hours a week. That time is sacred. It’s essential. It helps to create an identity outside of “mom;” it adds definition and layers to a life that can feel very one-dimensional at times.

Knowing this will help you understand the story I am about to tell. Let’s call it “The Only Time I’ve Been Reduced to Tears Since Having Two Kids.” Or maybe “Sleep Deprivation and Hormones: The Perfect Recipe for Sweating the Small Stuff.”

This story is about a blog—one that you will never read. I wrote it last week, or more accurately, I wrote it over the last eight weeks in one or two sentence increments. Sometimes I wrote at night after both kids were asleep. Other times I wrote while nursing Parker in the carrier while Oliver played in the other room.  On the rare occasion when both Oliver and Parker would nap at the same time I’d tip-toe into the kitchen, open my computer and see how many sentences I could churn out before Parker woke up and decided the only acceptable place to nap is in mommy’s swaying arms.

After eight weeks of mini-writing sessions, I finally finished the blog. “I can have it all!” I chanted enthusiastically as I danced around my kitchen, arms fist pumping into the air. I can balance two kids with all the other responsibilities of a stay at home mom and still find time to pursue my passions. It might not be easy, but it is possible. I closed the computer, planning on doing a final read-through later that night before posting.

But my computer had other plans for that blog.

During a routine, automatic update, the blog disappeared. Poof. Gone. Vanished into thin air. I stared at my blank screen, bleary-eyed and on the verge of post-pregnancy hormonal tears, willing the auto-recovery to work. When it didn’t I called my on-call tech support husband and begged him to work his voodoo computer magic. When that didn’t work I resorted to less rational tactics—relentlessly tapping the keyboard, restarting countless times, blowing into various ports hoping to dislodge some evil, blog erasing dust. Nothing. The blog was simply gone.

I started to cry—big, ugly tears that were equal parts sadness and pity. It’s not a big deal, I told myself. It’s just a blog. You can write another one. But like most people on a downward spiral fueled by hormones and lack of sleep the irrational part of my brain took over. All that hard work for nothing, it screamed. All of your “me time,” wasted on something that won’t amount to anything. It’s not fair! (Note: nothing is ever fair to the irrational part of the brain).

I took a couple big breaths, paced the room and stomped around angrily like a toddler on the verge of a meltdown. I let out a big, loud, guttural groan.

“Mommy, what are you doing?” Oliver asked, looking up from the picture he was painting on the table.

I stopped in my tracks, my cheeks turning pink from embarrassment. In my frustration I forgot Oliver was sitting front row and center to my mini fit. I realized I could either lie or use this as a teaching moment.

“I’m mad right now because my special story I wrote is all gone. Sometimes when I’m mad I scream to let the anger out, then I take a deep breath and talk about it.” I gave myself a congratulatory pat on the back for my imagined parenting win.

Oliver stared blankly—a cricket chirp inducing stare. Chirp. Chirp. Chirp. And back to coloring he went. I moved on to the growing pile of dishes.

Five minutes later, my hands immersed in soapy water, Oliver came up to me wielding a pink sheet of construction paper.

“I write you a story,” he said, proudly presenting his scribbled paper. I took the paper, feeling tears welling behind my eyes again.

“Will you read it to me?” I asked. “What does it say?”

Oliver looked at me contemplatively, smiled really big and yelled, “poop!” He laughed. I laughed. I wiped away a stray tear and gave him a hug, marveling at how far my arms had to stretch to reach around my no longer little baby. It was a very real reminder of just how fleeting this phase of motherhood is—how, by the time I stopped to note how quickly these first two years passed, they were already gone. And it got me thinking.

Yes, motherhood is stressful, hectic, and overwhelming, especially with two. At times it truly does feel like I can’t possibly handle anymore, like “me time” is my one life-line to sanity in a never-ending cycle of diaper changes and crying spells and sleepless nights. For most parents who are lost in the haze of the baby stage it feels like it will never end. But it does, often without us noticing. Oliver is proof enough of that. One day all too soon that completely dependent baby will turn into a toddler who is capable of independent play, a toddler who can feed himself, walk on his own two feet, a toddler who needs his mommy just a little bit less than he did before. Life will once again settle into a predictable pattern and from that pattern, free-time will emerge. Maybe it’s not as abundant as before, but it’s there, a few hours of calm in the midst of the chaos.

Yes, losing my blog was unfortunate, but it’s not as tragic as it initially felt; it’s not a moment really worth my tears. There will be time for writing in the not so distant future, in a time when both my babies don’t need me as intensely as they do now. And it’s in that moment, when I’m alone with my computer and the thoughts in my head that I’ll finally understand that the moments really worth crying over are the ones lost because I didn’t realize how precious they were until they’re gone.

DSCN5837

7 Tips For Coping With Colic

DSCN3479

By now you have spent hours scouring the Internet for advice on how to calm a crying baby. You have read every article about reducing colic and repeatedly attempted the magic five S’s (swaddling, side position, swinging, shushing and sucking) like there was no tomorrow. Yet still, at this very moment, your little devil…I mean angel is screaming his head off. Happiest baby on the block my ass. What’s a sleep-deprived, going insane, ready to chuck the baby out the window mother to do?

Besides curling up in a ball only to emerge when your little one blows out that first Birthday candle, there are some practical things you can do to make dealing with a colicky or fussy baby more bearable. These won’t soothe your baby one bit, but they will help you keep your sanity and live to see another day.

1. Invest in a pair of earphones and some sort of MP3 player and listen to music or an audio book while you are trying to calm your baby. I had ear indentations from my I-pod shuffle for the first couple months of Oliver’s life because I used them so much. My reasoning—I could walk around the apartment bouncing a crying baby and slowly lose my patience from endless wailing, or I could rock out to my Disney tunes (You’ll Be In My Heart from Tarzan is a tear jerker for new moms) and remain calm until Oliver finally conked out.

2. Elicit support from anyone and everyone so that you can get a break from the baby. Okay, so it might be a bad idea to leave your newborn with the 8-year-old neighbor whose only babysitting experience is with her American Girl doll, but once that kid hits nine, it’s on. If you’re like me, it’s hard accepting help from others, but learning to say “yes” when someone extends a hand has been a lifesaver.

3. Get out of the house. Take your screaming baby and go for a walk in the park or do a few laps around the mall. Dare those strangers to glare at you with disapproving looks. I was terrified to take Oliver out in public at first because I didn’t want to risk a meltdown in front of people….because you know, babies are never supposed to cry and if they do it’s because you’re terrible mom. After finally mustering up the courage to get out, Oliver decided to start up his ear-splitting scream while I was waiting in line at Starbucks. (I personally like to think he was pissed that a coffee cost $5. “That’s my diaper money mom,” I imagined him crying.) Instead of ditching the line and retreating to my car, I waited and ordered. People may have been staring, but the only thing I saw on their faces was understanding and a bit of pity. The woman in line behind me leaned in and looked at Oliver’s crunched up, beat-red face and commented, “oh he’s so darling; it’s gets better, I promise.”

4. Stop comparing your baby to other people’s babies. This is the habit that caused me the most grief the first few months. I kid you not; EVERY baby I saw while out and about with my fussy little guy seemed like a perfect angel in comparison. I would longingly look at the baby hanging out quietly in his car seat while mom and dad enjoyed a dinner out or the baby contently laying on the grass at the park while mom read a book and think, “why can’t my baby be like that.” I had to remind myself that Oliver was a unique baby with his own personality, and one day very soon I would be celebrating his differences, happy that he isn’t like every other baby.

5. Connect with other moms who have gone through or are going through a similar situation. Whether it’s on the Internet or at a local mom’s group, finding another person to share in your struggles is a great emotional crutch. Swap phone numbers or get together for a play date so you can vent in to someone else who understands. Just be careful not to spend too much time dwelling on the negativity, as the more you focus on how difficult things are the harder it becomes to appreciate the fleeting blissful moments.

6. Give yourself permission to feel “negative” emotions. Are you frustrated? Angry? Annoyed? Ready to cry right along with your baby? It’s okay. You don’t have to be the mom that professes to always love motherhood. You can have bad days and feel “negative” emotions and still be a good parent. Taking care of a baby is a marathon feat. Taking care of a colicky baby is an ultra-marathon through Death Valley in the summer kind of feat. You’ll survive, but it doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy every moment.

7. Wine…lots and lots of wine (I’m only slightly kidding)

For another great resource check out the fussy baby site.

9 Months: Growing Up and Growing Out

DSCN3038

Don’t let the smile plastered across my puffy, pregnant face fool you, being pregnant was not fun! And to anyone who says otherwise, please keep it to yourself; you’re making the rest of us look like whiney, complaining weaklings.

Toward the end of my pregnancy, every time someone asked me when I was due, I’d say “soon.” Ah, if only proclaiming that he was coming soon translated into an earlier due date; it was wishful, possibly delusional, thinking at its finest.

While my aches and pains weren’t unique to me, I certainly felt somewhat isolated when I heard how much other women LOVE being pregnant. “I love feeling the baby move, knowing that I’m carrying this life inside me,” I heard many women say. I wanted to counter with, “I love when the baby decides to stop moving for a moment; my internal organs need a break from the constant beating.” Another one I heard a lot is, “I don’t really feel all that different; I’m just so excited to be a mom I guess I don’t mind the minor discomforts.” Don’t get me wrong; I was looking forward to meeting baby Oliver, but at that moment it had as much to do with wanting to get rid of the nausea, fatigue, stomach pain and pressure, back and leg pain, and constant need to pee as it did with holding him in my arms. Does that make me a bad mother? Was I the only one who yearned for her pre-pregnancy body to come back so she could finally feel “normal” again?

Like most trying life situations, at least I can say I walked away from it with some valuable life lessons:

1) My body has limitations

Silly me, I used to think I was invincible. I believed I could do anything if I tried hard enough: overcome any obstacle, become stronger, faster, work harder, push past my limits, because heck, I don’t have limits. I was a walking, talking Nike ad on steroids. But when I traded in my workout attire and running shoes for maternity jeans and nursing bras, it was time for a reality check. Sometimes, despite my wishing and willing my body to do one thing, it had its own agenda for the day and would not cooperate. No amount of mind over matter powered me off the couch and to the gym when sharp pains were shooting down my back and legs. No amount of determination and will power enticed me to do the laundry or clean the apartment after a sleepless night and a mid-morning bought of nausea. Sometimes, I am limited. Sometimes I have to accept that instead of trying to make my body cooperate with me; I need to cooperate with my body. But that doesn’t make me weak.

2) Things don’t always have to go according to plan

When I was younger, I was fairly inflexible. I believed rules were meant to be followed, schedules adhered to, and organizational systems maintained. Tell me something was going to happen, be it a trip to the dentist or a trip to Disney World, and if it didn’t happen, I became distressed. Yes, I was that kid. And that kid’s attitude still has a way of popping up from time to time in this adult’s life. What can I say, I like when plans are made well in advance, I know what to expect, and I can adjust accordingly. Becoming pregnant set my world off balance a little. In my mind I planned to get pregnant in July, not October, and have the baby in March, not July. By the start of the third trimester I’d be an established free-lance writer with a decked out nursery, and all my little baby booties in a row. Upon Oliver’s arrival I did not yet own a single pair of baby booties. Our nursery was still strewn with shower gifts and little outfits waiting to be washed, and my career as a freelance writer is still a wish simmering on the back burner. I’m guessing like his arrival, most things surrounding our son will not happen on a set schedule, and I’m learning that I can adjust.

3) Becoming an adult isn’t about hitting some arbitrary milestone

Growing up I kept waiting for that magical moment when I would transform from a pimple-covered, pigtail wearing, lunch box toting little kid to a sophisticated adult. When I hit a certain age, say 16 with license in hand or 18 when high school ended and college was on the horizon, then certainly I’d be a grown up. Or perhaps when I land that first “big kid” job, buy a house, get married, or, like my mom always told me, become a parent, then I’m an adult. Well at 28 years old with many milestones under my belt, I’ve come to realize becoming an adult has more to do with an attitude than the number of candles on a cake. It comes from the wisdom gained through life experiences and the new perspectives those experiences offer.

4) Putting someone else’s needs ahead of my own does not mean forgetting entirely about my own needs too

Raise your hand if you’ve even been on a plane. Now raise your hand if you actually pay attention to the preflight announcements. Let me refresh your memory. If the plane cabin looses oxygen all adults are instructed to first place the oxygen mask over their own nose and mouth before assisting young children. There is an important life lesson to be learned here. I bet you didn’t realize there was free advice that went along with those peanuts. How many times have you heard a parent say, “I have no time for myself anymore?” What they’re really saying is “I forgot that I am a person too, and I have needs.” When we forget to meet our own need and focus exclusively on our children, it’s all too easy to become drained, and in my experience a drained parent is also a crabby, irritable, impatient, ready to lose her marbles parent. This isn’t in the best interest of either party. One of the best things you can do for your baby is to take some time for yourself so that you have the ability to be the best parent you can be. That is, to meet your child’s needs it is essential to also take into account your own–to put your oxygen mask on first so to speak.

5) Never underestimate the value of a support system

Toward the end of my pregnant, while I was carrying around a bunch of baby weight I relied on my family to carry much of the weight when it came to….well everything else. Their support then was invaluable, and the same holds true in parenthood. I find in trying moments, when I am at my breaking point, my husband will step up and offers the strength and support I cannot muster. When I am in desperate need of some personal time, my dad or mom will show up at my doorstep ready to take over baby duty. They weren’t lying when they said it takes a village to raise a baby. What they need to add to that though is it also takes a very large, very supportive village to keep a new mom sane.

IMG_4569