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Coping Tactics

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

My last post made it clear that we are in the thick of things. Thanks for your comments and private messages of support and commiseration. All very much appreciated.

One of my favorite pearls, from Anti-Jen: “You’re doing a good job. That job is to make sure those kids know you love them. That’s pretty much all there is to it.” A nice way to boil it down. Plus, it makes me feel semi-competent. I may not be able to find the magic solution that immediately cures Roy’s separation anxiety, or gets Vera to sleep through the night, but making sure they know I love them? That I can do.

We are moving in the right direction. The last two days at daycare drop-off, Roy’s clinginess and pleading disintegrated into nervous whimpers, rather than heartbreaking wails. And last night, at one point, Vera slept three whole hours in a row. That’s enough to shove me over the hump and into the “well rested” category.

I’m fine with copping to difficulty. I certainly don’t see much good in perpetuating the myth that parenthood, or life, for that matter, is a breeze. I’m not, however, one to wallow for too long, if I can help it. I feel uncomfortable if I’m not doing something to make things—at the very least, my mindset—better.

Here are a few things I do to get by:

1) Exercise. For me, it’s running. Always has been. On extremely stressful days, my husband will hand me my running shoes and force me out the door because he knows I’ll come back happier. I also appreciate yoga. These days, I’m doing baby yoga, so I can bring Vera with me. I like to multitask my bonding.

2) Drink. Coming off nine months basically alcohol-free, I’m still a lightweight. A little glass of wine or one quality microbrew after the kids are in bed slows my brain down to a better, more manageable speed.

3) Vent. I’m lucky to have some incredible friends. Ones kind enough to ask how things are and then be ready to listen to the honest answer. Sometimes it helps to have a sane second party help you sort through things. They know I’m always willing to reciprocate. As soon as I’m sane enough to do so, that is.

4) Appreciate. Especially when I’m feeling like everything’s too much, I make a point to focus on a few very specific things that make me feel incredibly lucky. An awesome writing assignment. A clear view of the moon. Vera’s roly-poly thighs. Roy’s nonstop hugs. Clint’s mean meat-smoking know-how and Manhattan-making skillz. I’ve no shortage of things to appreciate.

5) Blog. If you’ve been reading Love & Diapers long, you know that I kid. During times of stress, it’s crickets over here. I’d like to be showing up more regularly. I’m going to try. Apparently, it would help. Did you see the recent study that shows the blogging relieves stress in new mothers?

What helps you feel less overwhelmed?

 

Image: Red wine pouring into wine glass via Shutterstock

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Adjustment difficulties

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Life’s moving pretty quickly over here. Vera turned four months old last week. She’s rolling over and holding her head up and filling out six-month clothes quite nicely. Time is moving so quickly that sometimes, it’s hard to catch my breath.

I mean that quite literally. Sometimes, it’s so overwhelming that I have to physically stop and breathe in and out. In and out. Slow my body down, and try to get my mind to do the same. I know. It’s exactly because I feel that I can’t stop that I must. Yes, I must slow down.

Yet one more thing I must do. Just what I need.

Do you know what I mean?

I can’t believe the last time I posted was Vera’s first day of daycare. Honestly? It went pretty awfully. She didn’t sleep and cried a lot. Her mornings usually consist of lots of sleeping and no crying whatsoever.

The bigger, more heartbreaking challenge, however, was Roy. We tried Vera on half days. That first one, Roy was so excited, until I can to pick her up—and not him. I’d told him that would happen, but he’s two. He had no idea how that would feel. Clearly, it felt awful. For both of us.

I thought he’d get used to it. He didn’t.

I ended up taking Vera out of that particular equation. My provider also has a new baby, and another provider is helping her in her home, so there’s a lot of new going on there. Vera’s back to sleeping and smiling. Roy, on the other hand, has decided he doesn’t want to go to daycare anymore.

We’ve never had this problem before. Usually, at drop-off, I can barely coax a good-bye kiss out of the kid, he’s so excited to hang with his friends. Now, it’s all sobs and clinging. Breaks my heart. I have no idea what to do.

And while it’s true that Vera is sleeping wonderfully during the day, she’s decided to quit doing so at night. Girlie came out of the womb sleeping for 4-hour stretches and became a regular 9PM-to-5AMer in no time flat. Then, for the first time in her life, she started waking up every couple of hours. Then she went ahead and switched her nursing style, and my nipples hurt like crazy.

So, to recap: I somehow gave my toddler a severe case of separation anxiety, my infant has decided to recapture the newborn state she never had, and I’m having a hard time finding a minute to chill the f out.

Not that I expected life to be easy right now. I didn’t. I really didn’t.

Not that life is without its beautiful moments. It isn’t. It certainly isn’t.

But it’s hard, too.

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

Suggestions welcome.

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Baby’s First Day at Daycare

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

The first time I tried to start my daughter in childcare, she was two months old. I cried just dropping off the check.

But I’m a freelance writer, and Corporation Me has no paid maternity leave. Before I had her, I’d determined that two months was what I could manage. It sounded like plenty.

When that two-month mark arrived, everything was in place. I’d cranked my workload back up to full speed. Roy was back in daycare full time, with a provider I love and trust, where Vera could join him.

But the reality of two months old snuggled in my arms; helpless, adorable little Vera Loraine with the easy smile and the chubby thighs and the excited screeches. If only someone would pay me to cuddle her full time. I’d be awesome at that job.

I brushed my tears off as typical. Reminded myself that some people don’t even get two months and that this was the trade-off for my incredible job flexibility, which allows me to work from home, come and go as I please, and take most Fridays off with the kiddos. “You won’t feel ready no matter when you do it,” my friend Konnie consoled. She was right.

I forged ahead. The night before her first day, as Clint put Roy to bed, Vera and I bustled about the house getting her packed—diapers, bottles, pacifiers, extra little onesies and sleepers. I laid out her first-day outfit, a cute little blue polka-dot swing shirt and stretchy pants with pink cherries embroidered on the chest. I nursed her to sleep, then sat down to write out her schedule and preferred soothing techniques, as my provider requested.

Again, tears. They wouldn’t stop. I just didn’t want to tell someone else how to comfort my two-month old. I wanted to comfort my two-month old.

When Clint came downstairs and saw me he said, “Don’t bring her in. We’ll figure it out.” He was right. The tears were excessive enough that I had to pay attention. We would figure it out.

With Roy, this would’ve been near impossible. The boy only napped twice a day for 45 minutes at a time, if that. Vera, on the other hand, is a champ napper (thank you, universe), sleeping four hours at a time with hour/hour-and-a-half periods of wakefulness in between. I managed to keep up with my full workload during these prolific naps, plus evenings and weekends, gobbling her up like a crazy woman during her brief awake times.

Flash forward a month and a half. The house is a complete and total wreck from top to bottom. Non-essential paperwork is accumulating, and likely becoming essential. We are making it work, but at the expense of things like these, which can only be ignored for so long. We are making it work, but just barely.

A month and a half is a long time to a baby. Vera still sleeps well, though less. She’s wonderfully alert and grows more interactive each day. She’s got cheeks that don’t stop, and at three and a half months old, she’s filling out six-month clothes quite nicely. She’s healthy, happy and strong, and an absolute pleasure to hang out with.

Last night, when I packed her bag, I didn’t cry. I didn’t when I typed up her schedule, either. I did when I dropped her off, of course. Who wouldn’t, handing over those tiny onesies, eensy diapers and wee yellow sunhat? The directions, the bottle of milk and then the little baby chubby cheekers, smiling that wide, toothless grin?

I cried all the way to the gym, where I logged my first 5K since she was born. Running always helps me.

We’re starting with a half day. I’m focusing on how lucky I am that my job’s flexible enough that I can ease us both in like this.

I’ll probably look at that photo above, taken over last week’s trip up north, a hundred times before I pick her up at noon. It makes me smile.

So how did the first drop-off day go for you?

 

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Writing About Motherhood

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Funny thing about motherhood—we’re all having totally unique experiences doing the exact same thing. My post about the Time breastfeeding cover earlier today further highlights that often discordant commonality.

It’s a paradox that, to me, illuminates the compulsion many of us feel to read the experiences of other mothers and to get our own experiences down.

If you’re in the latter camp, do I have the book for you. Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers just came out last week. It’s by Kate Hopper, a writer and writing teacher with an MFA in creative writing, who specializes in helping moms write about motherhood. The book addresses various parts of the writing process (chapters include Getting Started, Using Humor as a Tool and Publishing: From Books to Blogs), with exercises and example essays from seasoned writers including Anne Lamott and Catherine Newman. It’s meant to be explored at your own pace; to be dipped in and out of as inspired. Smart, no?

Full disclosure: I agreed to feature Use Your Words because I love the topic and often get asked about it. After doing so, I happened to run into Kate at an event here in the Twin Cities. Turns out our families are rooted to the same small Minnesota town. We gabbed like long-lost cousins, but I have a feeling that’s just how it happens with Kate. Her writing knowledge and accessible nature mingle comfortably in the book.

Check out this realistic pep talk (excerpted):

“My hope is that you will get started on a number of pieces as you work your way through this book, and that when you finish it, you will have enough momentum to keep going. It’s wonderful if you can write a little bit each week, but I don’t believe you need to write every day to be a writer, and as a mother, I know that writing can be difficult to fit into your day. But as you begin this journey as a mother writer, think about when and where you can squeeze writing into your life. Maybe you have one hour every Friday morning. Maybe you have 20 minutes three times a week as you wait to pick up your children from preschool or soccer practice. If you work outside the home, maybe you can go somewhere quiet on your lunch break and write twice a week. Be realistic about planning your writing time and be flexible. If you miss a day or a week, don’t worry; there’s always tomorrow.”

In other words, you can do it. And Kate can help.

If you’ve ever wanted to write about the mothering experience, or if you already do and crave a little fresh insight to your craft, I highly recommend checking Use Your Words out. Also: I fully intend to post about a writing contest where you can win the book, and possibly a consult with Kate and publication at Literary Mama, but have to get a few things ironed out. Check back if that piques your interest.

Happy Friday, all!

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Time Magazine Breastfeeding Cover: Get Over It.

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Maybe it’s just because I’m currently nursing, but I’m surprised that the Time magazine breastfeeding cover (at right) is causing such a stir. Top Google search? Newspapers across America? Entertainment Tonight? Really? This is the most-talked about topic out there right now?

First off, Time sure knows how to get our attention. I get glances while discreetly nursing my tiny three-month-old under a blanket in public. Throwing a hot young mama up there openly attached to not young child? Yes. People are gonna talk. More than even I expected. All this press, and from what I can tell, the issue hasn’t even hit newsstands yet.

That said, I’m not going to comment on attachment parenting, which is what the cover is actually addressing. (I do have Beyond the Sling, by Mayim Bialik, aka TV’s Blossom, waiting in the reading pile at the moment, so we’ll resurrect that thread when I finish it, hopefully sometime before my kids leave for college, dammit.)

But I can comment on breastfeeding past a certain age. Before I had a child, I’d decided nursing was for babies. Meaning small children with no teeth or verbal skills. It was a knee-jerk opinion based solely on the feeling I got when I saw grown children actually ask for the boob, then climb onto mom’s lap on their own to get at it. If the kid can ask for it, I thought, they shouldn’t be getting it anymore.

I’ve said this before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again: And then I had kids.

I’ve written about my own nursing experience on this blog before, most notably on my post about weaning, but to recap: Before I had my first, I didn’t even want to breastfeed. I told myself I’d give it three weeks, for the health of the baby and whatnot. I ended up nursing Roy until he was a year and a half old. By that time, it was limited to before and after bedtime, but still. You better believe he was able to ask for it.

He wasn’t as old as the kid pictured. But he was a lot older than I ever figured he’d be while still nursing. The experience pushed me into the “To Each Her Own,” breastfeeding camp. I know that’s often the theme of this blog, but it can’t be helped because it’s what I believe. We are different people, raising different kids, and no one has the one-size-fits-all magic formula. We need to quit judging and concentrate on trying to figure out what’s truly best for ourselves and our kids.

Meaning that at this point in my life, when I’ll nurse my child while getting my hair washed at a salon without batting an eye, this cover doesn’t bother me one little bit. You? If it does bother you, especially, I’d love to hear exactly why.

 

 

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