I know I promised to write more often, and I have a lot to share and say and all of that good stuff… but just not a ton of time to put it into words. I have a few extra minutes tonight, and wanted to share with you a couple of really great things.
1) This post from Gabrielle on takesavillage.net. Read it. Look through the pics (you might even see a familiar face or two) and share it. It’s a great piece about motherhood, beauty, and more. Plus, it gave rise to…
2) #momsbeauty. I love this idea. So often mamas, new and seasoned, don’t feel nearly as beautiful as they should. Hopefully this campaign will help to change that. Check out the Facebook page and follow the blog at: momsbeauty.net. I know there will be lots of great things to come!
That’s all for tonight. Now, to get some serious writing in before some serious sleep…
OK, it’s been a while since I’ve shared a recipe so here is a SUPER INCREDIBLY EASY recipe for crockpot lasagna.
Our oven was on the fritz and we had people to feed! In a pinch, I threw together some ingredients we had on hand for a crockpot lasagna and it came out SUPER AWESOME. It was like magic, and did I mention this is an easy recipe? Perfect for a weeknight, and yummy leftovers to boot. Enjoy!
Serve with garlic bread and a side salad. BAM. Meal complete!
More on this later, because I want to write an entire post about the fabulous mama community I’ve been a part of… but in the meanwhile, check out a guest post I wrote about baby products for The Lil’ Mamas blog: THE LIL’ MAMAS DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO ALL THE SHIT NO ONE TELLS YOU TO PUT ON YOUR REGISTRY.
To cover or not?
I was on the plane after spending a few days in Arizona, dreading the return flight to New York. Our trip to Phoenix was one for the record books (read all the gory, puke-covered details here) and while I had done a ton of laundry once I got there, I failed to wash my nursing cover. A beautiful hand-made, hand-dyed nursing cover that I simply didn’t have time to hand-wash (weird, right?…. no time to wash something by hand with a baby around?).
Anyway, the cover reeked like it had been sitting in puke for four days so I didn’t even bother to bring it in my carry-on – I figured I would just use a blanket to cover up and make do. As the baby started getting hungry, I started setting up logistics in my head – I had to juggle a nursing pillow, blanket/cover, baby, and myself in the cramped airplane seat. It was already uncomfortable enough, and with the Arizona heat and poorly circulated airplane air, I was sweating and not looking forward to layering up just to feed the baby.
My thoughts turned to a few days prior at JFK when I saw a woman nursing her baby, sans cover, in the middle of the airport. If I was just a passer-by, I would never have even noticed. But I knew what she was doing, and I knew she was my people – a nursing, traveling mother who just wanted to get to her destination without anyone losing their shit. I thought if she could do it, why couldn’t I?
Want to know why nursing in public is such a big step for moms to take in our fair country? Because people react like total assholes, and the last thing a tired mom wants to do is deal with someone outside of her family giving her a hard time (is it not enough that she deals with pint-sized tyrants at home – must she deal with adult-sized idiots in public?). Look at the search results for “breastfeeding discrimination” or see how many women have “nurse-in protests” for stupid shit like someone being asked to stop breastfeeding because she was “scaring children.” These were news stories I never really paid attention to until they pertained to me directly – I began to wonder, as a breastfeeding mother, when I might be impacted by this type of discrimination – not if. It seems inevitable.
My rant beings
For whatever reason, we’ve gotten away from breastfeeding being the norm and it’s seen as the exception to the rule or something people do “in private.” It offends people, it makes people uncomfortable, boobs are “private” parts, the library is no places for nipples… and so on. But really, how could you justify taking offense at a mother feeding her child? It’s like, one of the most harmless, selfless acts EVER to share your nourishment with a baby. Amiright… or amiright?
How often do people excuse themselves from an activity to go eat “in private”? Do they put blankets over their heads to eat a sandwich simply because it’s lunchtime? No, and no. So why would we expect these beautiful, tiny babies and their lactating mothers (who, quite honestly, have enough to worry about) to hightail it out of the room/restaurant/wherever when hunger strikes or literally take cover? (And before anyone jumps down my throat – I recognize that there are cultural/religious/personal views that require covering up in public. This post isn’t about that.)
I wish I knew what about breastfeeding makes normal people turn into awkward, bumbling fools because their totally unsupportive (and dare I say… selfish?) reactions to maybe seeing a nipple for 3 seconds can send a shy nursing mom into corners, under covers, and into closets. There are so many double standards going on it makes me sick. When someone gets all weird the second they see a mom expose 3 square inches of flesh to feed their baby, I hope they don’t think they’re fooling anyone into thinking they’re modest and really truly offended because in today’s day and age, I seriously doubt that they offered a blanket to cover up the scantily clad woman walking down the street, someone wearing a string bikini at the beach, the man without a shirt on playing basketball at the park, or had a hissy fit when an ad for Victoria’s Secret comes on during the commercial break of their favorite television show.
Guess what people? It’s a boob and there is nothing “scary” going on. It’s nothing sexual, or “adult,” or XXX happening. The 3-second flash of a nipple you might see if you’re looking close enough while baby latches is not going to blind you or cause any lasting damage. In fact, it’s probably going to calm the fussy, hungry baby and allow everyone to get on with whatever they were doing in the first place – shopping, taking public transportation, or enjoying the park.
But if this all isn’t sad enough, it breaks my heart that our society is so ass backward that we had to go and pass laws protecting nursing mothers – stating that they have the right to nurse their child in a place where they have the right to be. While I’m glad the laws are there – because people harass nursing mothers kind of a lot – I can’t help but think it’s pretty pathetic that breastfeeding is such a hot button issue that we spent money passing legislation to protect something that mammals have been doing since the dawn of time. Breastfeeding isn’t new. It’s not deviant. It’s not harmful. In fact, it’s healthy, normal, and natural.
How can we fix this? Do better next time!
OK, I’m done ranting. It’s time to figure out where we go from here. Maybe you’ve been a total ass to someone without even realizing it – whether it be gawking, offering a cover, leaving the room/business, or otherwise being a totally unsupportive human being/family member/friend. Maybe you thought you were making mom more comfortable by offering a cover – or whatever you did – but probably not. It’s time to do better next time.
Try this: act normal. Be yourself. Don’t turn into a bumbling idiot because ohmigod there’s a nip. Smile, make eye contact, continue your conversation, and for pete’s sake… don’t gawk. Bring that mom a glass of water or maybe a little snack because nursing is exhausting, and dehydrating, and literally sucks the nutrition out of her body for another human being (I told you it was selfless). At the same time, it’s also breathtaking, and beautiful, and amazing so let her know that, and let her know what a damn good job she is doing. Take the opportunity to teach your children, your husband, your friends that breastfeeding is how babies eat – just like kittens, puppies, and baby mammals of all kinds - and there’s really nothing offensive or scary about a lactating human.
Basically, if I had to sum it up in a nutshell, I’d say: OFFER SUPPORT AND DON’T ACT LIKE AN ASSHOLE. It’s that easy, folks.
A Phoenix returns (oh please, I couldn’t help myself)
So I went for it on the plane – coverless. I popped my boob out of my shirt, latched the baby on, and much to my surprise, no one had a hissy fit or called the authorities (but I was ready to go all mama bear on them if I had to). It was pretty much a non-event; I switched sides, put myself back together, and the baby went right to sleep for during the red-eye back to JFK. And you know what? It felt AWESOME. I didn’t have to mess with the cover, neither of us started to overheat, and I didn’t feel like I was very publicly hiding something that I wasn’t ashamed of to begin with. We were both happier, and so were all of our seatmates on the plane. Since that moment, I’ve never looked back and nurse freely all over the place – restaurants, airports, parks, parties, while I’m walking the dog around the neighborhood, wherever. I can only hope that another mom will see me and think, “I can do that too.”
Because she can, and dammit, she should.
It was never a question of if I would return to work after having a baby – it was a fact. Like many working mothers before me, I would return to work. I would take the U.S. standard of 12 weeks postpartum before jumping back into my day job and resuming the new normal of life as a family of three (well, four if you count the dog). Before going out on leave, 12 weeks sounded like forever. Looking back, it went by in the blink of an eye (and it’s not nearly enough time… but that’s something I can tackle in another post).
Maternity leave was tough – after 10 months fraught with physical changes, crazy hormones, emotional challenges and more – she was finally here. And it’s different for everyone, but I had kind of a rough time postpartum. Between our breastfeeding challenges, PUPPP, and taking care of a newborn, I felt a little bit crazy. Add to all of those things normal, every day necessities like eating a meal, taking a shower, or finding time to pay bills and I felt mentally maxed out. It was easy to think, “Nursing will get better once she can hold her head up,” or “When I’m not itching myself until I bleed I will enjoy the weather more,” but I promised myself I wouldn’t wish it all away because all those people who’ve said, “It goes by fast,” when they talk about their children growing up are right. Time moves differently when you’re a parent, quicker than you can ever imagine and in a way you don’t understand until you actually are a parent.
Going from having a pretty normal everyday routine – work, gym, family time – to having a completely open and unpredictable schedule was jarring. There were times when I literally did not know if it was day or night. Some days I stayed in bed with the baby nursing for what seemed like the entire day, only to climb in to “sleep” at night which was more like a series of catnaps with hour-long nursing sessions in between. It was a total haze but looking back, it was the routine things that helped anchor me when I was feeling really turned around. Brushing my teeth twice a day reminded me that there was a morning and night, eating regular meals reminded me that yes, my body needed nutrition and paying bills reminded me what day of the month it was.
I think It was the latter that stressed me out the most – my leave was comprised of short-term disability, paid time off, and unpaid leave – meaning that my usual income took a decent hit over those three months. I planned as much as I could, and had plenty to bridge the gap between paychecks, but I constantly worried, “What if?” Looking back, I wish I would have started to plan even sooner. So soon-to-be mamas take heed and plan as much as you can! Here’s a link to some good tips about preparing financially for maternity leave.
But by far the biggest challenge about maternity leave was its inevitable end – I felt like the minute our daughter was born, the countdown to my return was on. Throughout my leave I vacillated back and forth between wanting to spend every waking minute of every single day with our daughter and really missing, and craving, the challenge that comes with pursuing a career and getting some mileage out of my degrees. There were days when I said to my husband, “I could never stay home full-time. That’s just not me.” There were other days when I simply couldn’t imagine dropping her off at daycare and returning to work, days I thought I would chain myself to the bassinet and refuse to budge.
It feels like as soon as leave began, it was over. My first day back at work came and went and I’ve been back for about two months that have completely flown by. I jumped right back in and picked up projects, started new ones, and caught up on what I’d missed. I’m still adjusting, for sure, but now I look forward to my days at work. On top of giving me an outlet to channel my professional energy, being back at work also allows me to eat at least one meal a day with both hands, put on grown-up clothes on a regular basis, and shower much more frequently. And let’s be honest here – at this point, those are all pretty major accomplishments.
I dutifully go to work now with new goals on top of my general career aspirations. Working means I can provide my daughter with the best and most amazing opportunities that i can. Whether it’s swim lessons or music class or traveling or saving for college – she’s my new motivation to work hard every single day.
Every minute I’m not working is devoted to our family – fun-filled weekends and evenings, special snuggle time in the mornings before the day gets going. We laugh, walk, play, go for walks and more. Of course we miss each other a lot during the day, but it makes the time we do spend together that much more precious. Quality over quantity never rang more true. In a way, maternity leave was never something with a set end – it was really just training for my new full-time gig: being a mom.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted (and I think that phrase is on repeat on this blog). Sure, I have been a bit of a crazy person since I went back to work but also I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this blog and where I want to go with it. I started to wonder if I had strayed too far from my original intent with the mommy and parenting posts as of late. It got me thinking – should I start a new blog? have two blogs? retire this blog all together? I was at my writer’s block blogging crossroads when I saw this post from Muskoka Baby. Not only were Annie’s words incredibly flattering, but it really renewed my energy for sharing my experiences as a mom as honestly as I can.
So right then and there I decided to carry on with this blog. To help ground my thoughts, I looked back at my very first post:
I am determined to lead a better balanced life. I want it all (or at least, as much of it all as I can get): a successful marriage and (at some point soon) children, a satisfying career, a healthy & fit lifestyle, fantastic relationships with my family and friends, a full night’s sleep, and more… not in any particular order. I’ve been learning the hard way that as lovely as it sounds, your life won’t just “fall into place” without a lot of hard work.
As it turns out, I’m not so far from my original intent. I’m still determined to have a better balanced life it’s just that all of the things I’m balancing have shifted around. Now that I’m a mom, I feel like a different (better) version of myself. Everything has changed – from the intangibles like my attitude, perceptions, and judgements to the physical like my body and disposition. Yet, in all that change, I’m still the same person. It reminds me of that quote, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” – which translates to “the more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.” Well Monsieur Karr – you were damn right.
There is so much balancing going on in my life right now that I would be a fool not to write about it. So here we go: Better Balanced Life 2.0 – stick with me as I navigate the territory of balancing all of the things I was trying to balance before just with the most wonderful addition in the world: our new baby girl. Stay tuned for stories of the good, the bad, and the ugly – coming soon…
Happy World Breastfeeding Week! In honor of this week, I wanted to share our own somewhat tumultuous journey over the past couple of months. It has a very happy ending, so if you’re facing challenges breastfeeding, stick with it. It’s worth it!
Three days after Elizabeth was born, my milk “came in.” Right on cue. But wait, I was in serious pain when she latched (or tried to latch) and things didn’t feel right. I knew she needed to eat, I could tell by her wails, and I needed to get my milk out somehow. I figured I could pump and we could give her bottles until we could see an LC (it was Memorial Day), so I opened up my breast pump and for some reason (ahem… pregnancy hormones… ahem) I was completely overwhelmed. Between all of the fun post-partum stuff happening, plus the pain and lack of sleep… I didn’t have the brain capacity to clean the parts, put them together, and read the damn manual. So I did the next best thing: hand expressed milk into a Pyrex bowl while sitting on the side of our bed and then gave it to Elizabeth with a spoon (it made sense at the time and got the job done!). I was still in a lot of pain, and at one point saw blood-tinged milk come out of my breast. Crying baby, crying mom. YIKES!
This wasn’t exactly the peaceful, angelic picture of breastfeeding I had envisioned. While I was hand expressing like a boss, I couldn’t help but think back to one of my early prenatal visits when my midwife asked me if I planned to breastfeed. The obvious answer, to me, was “Yes! Of course!” She then threw me a curveball and asked, “Do you feel like you have the support you need to breastfeed?” I asked her what she meant by that – support? I was just going to breastfeed, simple as that. I even thought (which now seems ironic), “How hard could it be?”
Anyway, I needed support that morning, and I needed it immediately. I reached out to a local La Leche League Leader and she helped me wrap my head around what to do next, including how to get through the next couple of days until we could see a lactation consultant. She was a lifesaver and talked me off a ledge that morning but I got really sad thinking that maybe there was something wrong with me, that I couldn’t provide for my daughter, and felt like I was headings towards failure – my goal had been to breastfeed for a year and here I was, a few days in, and having doubts.
To cut to the chase, it turned out I had a nipple infection (yes, OUCH!) because Elizabeth had a posterior tongue-tie and was basically using her gums to breastfeed. It prevented her from latching properly (read: chomp chomp!) and was a relatively easy fix once our LC figured out what was going on. We saw a specialist, Dr. Dahl in New York City, who was great – she clipped the tie for us in mere seconds and had me feed Elizabeth right in her office, moments after the procedure. It took us longer to get off the FDR and across town than it did for us to have the entire office visit. It felt immediately better, and it was there that I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
It took about six (long) weeks, multiple sessions with the LC, and lots of time dedicated to nursing until we hit our stride. I’ve nursed her everywhere – from restaurants to the car to airplanes – and every way – standing, in the baby carrier, lying down, sitting. It’s pretty cool now! But back to that “support” my midwife asked me about… having the support of the LLL, lactation consultant, and midwives was indispensable but what really meant the most to me was having support from my husband. Not once did he tell me to give up, suggest we switch to formula, or say he didn’t think we could get through it. Instead, he was right next to me as I spoke to the LLL leader, sat for hours in our lactation consultant appointments remembering everything the LC said so that I didn’t have to, drove the family down to Dr. Dahl’s office in NYC, reminded me to treat the infection in my breasts, cooked for me, brought me glass after glass of water, made sure I was taking care of myself so I could take care of the baby, and held my hand when I cried out of frustration, pain, hormonal mood swings, and finally out of pure joy once things started to get better.
But, most importantly, he frequently reminds me how cool it is that my body, quite literally, keeps our baby alive and he thanks me for feeding her. In those “thank yous” I know he means much more – thank you for being dedicated to feeding our daughter, for the time you spend nursing, for the time you will spend pumping back at work, and on and on. I never thought he would be anything BUT supportive, but just hearing him say it out loud makes me feel great.
To all the pregnant mamas planning to breastfeed – my best advice is this: have a support system in place before you give birth – talk to your doctor, your pediatrician, go to La Leche League meetings, watch women breastfeed in real life, and learn how to use your breast pump, you know, just in case you need it right away.
Cheers to all you mamas out there who breastfed/feed your babies, and cheers to all the support people who help along the way. It’s a labor of love but hey, I hear that’s what parenting is all about anyway!
Well, it’s been a little while since I posted. And there’s a reason (other than having a newborn). It’s called PUPPP – an acronym I have grown to loathe in epic proportions over the last few weeks – that stands for pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy. Or, hell on earth.
It all started with a little itch on my belly about a week postpartum. Just a little itch. Within minutes I was scratching my belly so hard that the stretch marks that had popped up during pregnancy turned into raised and angry looking welts. I figured it was kind of weird, but I chalked it up to the fact that my skin had gone through a lot of changes. Then my breasts got itchy (not fun when you’re breastfeeding), my legs, and my arms. I broke out into a rash that looked like mutant chicken pox and if that wasn’t enough, it itched to a maddening level. The only thing that made it feel better, temporarily, was itching. The itching, in turn, made it all worse because then it itched MORE. The most vicious of vicious cycles… I quite literally could. not. stop.
My mind started racing (cue freak out). What could it be? Chicken pox? Shingles? Poison ivy? Poison something else? By the time I was able to see my dermatologist, I was covered in this rash. He asked a few questions, took a peek at the damage, and broke the news: it was PUPPP, a condition that most commonly shows up in women while they are still pregnant and it generally resolves at birth. Well… since I was no longer pregnant, I could not count on it going away at any particular point.
As if trying to take care of a newborn, dealing with all of the fun postpartum stuff that happens to your body physically and emotionally, trying to manage the itching was ridiculous. I had a steroid ointment from the dermatologist that I wasn’t crazy about using while breastfeeding, so I used it very sparingly and only when things were so bad that I was driven to tears of frustration, discomfort, and pain. I spent a fortune on lotions and potions and became even more of a regular at our local CVS (I’m really glad that place is open 24 hours).
One of the midwives suggested that this might resolve around the six week postpartum mark and lo and behold… it did! Judging from what I read online about other women’s experiences, this is not always the case. I can only hope it is on its way out and never, ever, returns. The itching started to subside, the welts calmed down, and the areas I had itched until they bled started scabbing over. I still have periods where I am itchy, but nothing like it was during the height of my PUPPP-induced insanity.
I’m writing this post because I hope other women who desperately scour Google for PUPPP information will find this. And if that’s you, there are a few things I want to share with you:
I took everything I found on the web and sifted through to identify products I would be willing to try. Here goes the list, ranked in order of helpfulness – I will add that I’m not a doctor or any sort of medical professional. This is just what I found worked for me:
Elizabeth gave me enough time to write this post, but now she’s crying and hungry so… that’s all folks! Over and out – and good luck with the PUPPP, if that’s why you’re here!