Being a parent is hard. Being a new parent is even harder. You're subject to everyone's advice, opinions, and words of wisdom. You're confused. You're exhausted. You're trying to figure out feedings and get whatever sleep you can while there is this tiny, fragile human constantly crying and needing you. You don't leave the house for days at a time, your body doesn't feel like your own. It is hard. And one day, you think you can't do it anymore.
For me, that day came about 2 weeks after Caleb was born. My hormones were still going nuts, we were still feeding about every 2.5 hours, and there was this constant noise all around me. I was so overwhelmed. Everyone around me had nothing but the best of intentions, but it was making me crazy, because I couldn't just BE. Honestly, as helpful as it was having people come over and bring us food, I almost would have preferred a couple days where we could just adjust to life with this new tiny creature in our lives. We came home from the hospital to my parents cooking for us in our kitchen and having organized things for us (our kitchen cabinets were being installed while I was in labor so everything was out of place). My parents are do-ers. Big time. But as soon as I walked in the door, the questions started. "Where do you want this? What do you want to do with that? How are you going to display these?" I really appreciate everything they did for us and everything they continue to do, but that day, all I wanted was to snuggle my baby boy and lie down on my couch with my husband.
The next evening, we had about 10 or 12 people in our house. Eddie had gone back to work that morning. With 12 people in my house, and everyone wanting to hold the baby, I was completely frazzled. Then my milk came in. More on that another time, but if you've had a baby, you know what this feels like and you know it is not fun.
Anyway, I managed to truck through it. The following week was a blur, with constant visitors and people with the best of possible intentions wanting to help. Eventually I was honest with my mom and let her know that everything didn't need to be perfect and that what I really needed was rest. That made a huge difference and I truly wish I would have said something sooner. Everyone was excited to help, and I know that deep within my heart they were doing what they thought I wanted done. But at the end of the day, you need to be honest and direct and just tell people exactly what you need. My needs always have been, and always will be, very different from my mom's, my dad's, and even my husband's. So when I gave them an expectation, it made it a lot easier for them than just letting them try to read my mind (which we know never goes over well).
I also stopped feeling bad when people were over and would just excuse myself whenever I needed to feed him or just have a minute to breathe.
However, a few times, I would leave to nurse Caleb, and people would follow. I started to shut the door, and people would knock and come in anyway. I was struggling with nursing and I was overwhelmed and felt awkward. I wanted to be able to sit there and look at my baby or close my eyes without having to worry that someone was looking at my nipple (I eventually got over that). The anxiety would make me tense up and to this day, I don't understand how people didn't sense my discomfort. I finally told Eddie, "When I leave to nurse Caleb, if anyone gets up to follow me, you need to be the bad guy. I'm overwhelmed here and I can't get comfortable if someone is in the room with me." So he started doing that and it helped. So much.
But the following week it happened again. And the next day I lost it. A few small things had happened during the birth that I wasn't really happy with, and it honestly hadn't been what I had imagined it to be in my head. Two weeks later it all hit me like a ton of bricks and I fell apart. I spent a straight 2 hours crying, and being weepy the entire rest of the day. I would cry for any little thing. When Eddie called me, I said "I don't know what's wrong with me." I talked to a friend and she assured me that what I was feeling was very normal.
Looking back, I think any sane person would have broken down. I was at the most vulnerable point in my life, and I had zero privacy, my every move was being questioned, and I was tired. But once I broke down, and I shared my frustrations with a couple of people, things started to improve. And from then on, I became a lot more sure of myself when it came to Caleb.
So I needed that - I needed to let go of all the emotion that I had bottled up inside. I needed a good cry. And I should never have been surprised by that, because I am the kind of person who, every once in a while, needs a good cry.
It's hard to be honest with those around you. But you know what? It's even harder to try and be tough and keep everything bottled up inside. So if you're there, if you're at the point of breaking down? Let it out momma. I promise, you'll be all the better for it.
I have this devotional that I try to read daily. I've been working on making this a habit for the last few months. I bought it on a whim a couple of months ago, because I felt like my soul needed some serious nourishing. After a lifetime (literally) in Catholic schools, just attending weekly mass wasn't really feeding my soul the way I needed it to.
Anyway, yesterday's verse was Psalm 46:10 "Be still, and know that I am God."
As I reflected on that, I thought about how busy we always are - or make ourselves. It seems our generation is in the business of busy-ness. We schedule ourselves to within an inch of our lives, and that makes it very difficult to just be still. Between work, appointments, playdates, lunch dates, birthdays, family dinners, and on and on and on, we never have time to just stop and think.
The last few weeks have been brutal for me. I have had photo sessions, trips (more than one), mommy and me, runs, playdates, and I've been trying to squeeze the most out of every moment. I took a trip to Disney with my little guy, a girlfriend, and her daughter and we returned on Thursday afternoon. Friday morning I woke up with a stomach virus. Friday afternoon I get a call that my grandmother, who is 99 and lives with my aunt in Orlando, is in the hospital and isn't doing too hot. So Eddie and I made the decision to pack up and take off first thing Saturday morning. Still reeling from a stomach virus, that drive was probably the worst I have ever suffered (including the return trip from my bachelorette party, hungover and miserable). I had a party I was supposed to shoot and I had to find a replacement photographer for, we missed Caleb's first swim class, and we had to cancel on dinner plans we had made. To add insult to injury, Eddie caught the same bug while we were up there. Needless to say, it has not been the most pleasant few days for us. And because I felt like I was burned out, I was snappy, cranky, and pretty downright bitchy.
Yesterday, I was still feeling pretty crummy, so I decided to take it easy. Our garage is being worked on, so even doing laundry was out of the question. And for a little while yesterday morning, I just sat in bed and played with Caleb. It was the best I had felt in a long time (mentally, anyway). I wasn't thinking about all the things I had to do or all the tasks I had to accomplish. I knew there would be plenty of time for that. And after reading that passage in my devotional yesterday, I knew that I had given my mind and my body exactly the break they needed. And after reading it last night, I jotted a few notes for today's post, turned off the light, and snuggled up against Eddie. We were still, and it was so peaceful (until my arm fell asleep under me).
Next time you feel like you are burning out, you probably are. Just take a moment and be still. I promise, you'll be a lot better for it.
P.S. My grandma is doing better - she was moved to a rehab hospital yesterday, so if you could just send a prayer or two her way this week, I would really appreciate it.
And if you're wondering which devotional I'm using, you can find it here.
As a mom, I find myself caught between making a lot of decisions every day. Most of them aren't very large, and many of them aren't that important, in and of themselves. But when you add up making all those decisions, and what the outcomes could be, and the amount of time that gets poured into every single thing I do, it doesn't always leave time for everything on my list.
Let me give you an example. Laundry. It has to get done, and it piles up rather quickly. It also needs to be folded, and then put away. Dishes - also must get done, otherwise you will have a gross mess on your hands. Children - need feeding (and so do you). The house - needs to be tidied.
On any given day, those are four of the daunting tasks that are staring me in the face. Let's not forget that I also have photos to edit and client e-mails to return, I need to exercise, bathe, and spend a reasonable amount of time playing with Caleb.
I've developed a non-methodical way of doing everything. It's called "do as much as you can while still keeping your sanity." And yes, it works for me. It might not work for everyone, but it works for me. In this non-methodical way of thinking, I tackle the most crucial tasks first (hello, let's have coffee and eat), and then go about my day tackling things in whatever way I can. Shortcuts abound where possible. And sometimes, the folded laundry sits on the recliner in our bedroom for a week or two before it gets put away. It's called balance.
When Caleb first started on solids, I was determined that he was only going to eat food that I had made for him. And you know what? For a while, I was able to do it. Because it was so simple then! A couple of pieces of baked vegetables, and purees that I could whip up in batches that would last me 2-3 weeks. But after a while, he started eating a lot more, and wanted more variety, and I couldn't keep up. Then December rolled around, and boy was it busy. And guess what? He ate A LOT of store bought food. AND SURVIVED. Since then, we use store bought pouches almost daily - maybe not for full meals all the time, but certainly when it saves my sanity.
Some days, he is perfectly content to be at home, inside, playing in his playroom and running around the house with my socks or dad's underwear or whatever strikes his fancy. Other days, he is wailing for every little thing and making me miserable. And on those days, when he is inconsolable, I CHOOSE MY SANITY. I cast away all the items on the to-do list (unless that includes Publix, bc homeboy loves himself some Publix), and I get out. We walk to the park, we go to the mall, we go to mommy-and-me or story time at the library. But we DO NOT stay home if we do not have to.
Why do I do it? Because honestly, everything else isn't that important. Eddie might be annoyed when the laundry is still piled high in our bedroom, but at least I won't snap for being miserable because I let my sanity take a backseat. And you know what? There will always be laundry. My baby boy won't be a baby for a whole lot longer, and I'd rather enjoy him (even on the days where he is making me question everything I know) than let him sit there and whine while I pick up some clothes.
So the next time your little one is threatening to make you lose your sh*t... remember my words, and CHOOSE YOUR SANITY. Pick an activity that your little monster loves, and just do it. Everything else can wait. Odds are that little nugget is just looking for your attention anyway. ;)
Keep it sane, mommas.
This post is so super duper long overdue. I kept putting it off because I have so much to say about this. But the more time passes, the more I realize that I don't need to say all that much. I just need to tell my story.
When I pictured having a baby, I always pictured myself nursing my child. I couldn't imagine anything else - my baby's face, what the nursery looked like, anything - but the one thing that I always saw was myself nursing a little bundle. So I set my mind on it. I took a "Breastfeeding 101" class at the hospital, I read up on as many things as I could, and I mentally prepared myself for sore nipples and leaky boobs. A couple hours after giving birth, I latched him on (he needed to go to the nursery immediately after birth so I couldn't nurse right away). Everything seemed fine, he seemed content. Fast forward a week to his one week appointment... all good, he was back up to his birth weight, feeding well, no problem! Fast forward a little more, to his one month appointment, and well, still at birth weight.
I was crushed. I was starving my child. (I wasn't really, and it certainly wasn't on purpose.)
So after being told I needed to supplement, I said okay, I'll do what I need to to get his weight back up but I will nurse him until we are both good and ready to stop - and I'm only supplementing until I absolutely have to.
It took weeks. It wasn't easy. Making milk was my full time job. I read everything I could about increasing production. I spent my extra moments baking lactation cookies, power pumping, and guzzling water like it was nobody's business. Eventually, there came a point where I didn't have to supplement any more. The day he finished nursing and rejected a bottle, I cried. I must have looked insane. But I was so happy. My hard work was paying off. For the next few months I stressed a lot over milk. I ended up going back to work when he was 3 months old and had to pump. I could only just get enough for him most days. But as a teacher, I knew I only had two months to go and then I would be able to continue nursing him through the summer. So I pushed through and I made it - pumping during every break at work, and nursing as much as I could as soon as I walked through the door in the afternoon.
I made it. And a year later, I'm still making it. Granted, I only nurse twice a day now, but after June, I didn't have to supplement once. He stayed exclusively on breast milk until 6 months, at which point we started introducing solids (very slowly).
So how did I do it? There are a few key things I did that really helped me.
Like I said, my body never responded well to the pump, but pumping definitely kept my supply going.
Kellymom.com was my greatest resource, and I got so much help from going there.
If nursing is what you really want to do, don't let anyone tell you you can't do it! A lot of women are told they don't produce enough, but then are not given the tools to help them make what they need! If I could do it, you certainly can, too. And if you have questions, don't hesitate to ask!
This is a tough post to write, because admitting fault is never easy. Especially when we are trying to be "super moms" and give off this air of doing everything above and beyond.
The truth is, I'm not perfect - and neither are you. The sooner we accept that truth, the easier this is to digest. Since my little guy was born, I have been consumed with this idea of being Mom. And that's natural, I think. A switch goes off inside of us and we want to protect, we want to nurture, we want to be everything for this one little person.
At the expense of two others. Yourself and your partner.
I grew up with parents who were very loving towards one another, who flirted like two teenagers, and who made it no secret that they were totally smitten with one another. My brothers and I used to gag when they would start kissing in front of us, but the truth is, that set such a powerful example for us! And it is so important for our son to grow up seeing the same from his parents. He deserves no less.
Eddie and I have always had a solid relationship. We communicate well, we genuinely enjoy one another's company, we make every decision together, and we support each other's decisions and endeavors 100%. Actually, a few months ago, Eddie was the one who suggested I start a blog. But I digress. Since becoming a mom, everything else has kind of taken a backseat.
And it shouldn't. My relationship with Eddie is just as important as my relationship with our son. It's so important for him to grow up seeing an example of a healthy, loving relationship, where both parties love, support, and admire one another. At the beginning of this year, we decided to start doing date nights. We used to do them all the time before the little guy was born, but honestly, it had taken a backseat. We haven't been super regular about them, but we are seeing that we need to make the time and actually do them. We hire a sitter, I get dolled up for him, and we go out - usually somewhere we haven't been and probably won't make it to with the munchkin tagging along.
I used to make up all kinds of excuses in my head. "I need to put the baby to bed." "I don't want to spend the money." "We shouldn't eat out." Excuses. Excuses. Excuses. So we finally did it. And I realized I missed that time with my husband. It ended up being more important for me to wipe away those excuses and spend a few hours as husband and wife, not as mom and dad. We recharged our batteries a little bit, and got to dote on one another the way we did before this tiny human came barging into our lives.
Fast forward to February - I mention I want to go to DC to see the cherry blossoms. Eddie tells me he would love to take that trip - sans baby. Cue the freak out. I literally flipped. After calming down, I thought about it, and to make a long story short, we ended up going alone. Was it hard? Yes. But it really wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be! FaceTime makes everything better, and the best part about going away was reuniting with that little monster!
But Eddie and I enjoyed the heck out of our trip. We got to reconnect, be silly together, fight over stupid things, and SLEEP! Oh my goodness how we have missed our sleep! hahaha
So if you have been putting off your time as a couple, stop what you're doing, book a sitter, and do it. You don't need to spend a lot of money, you don't need to go far. Just do something you used to love to do together! I promise, you won't regret it, and your whole family will be better for it.
This weekend, I met up with some friends and was introduced to some people I hadn't met before. Everyone was young and single and career-driven. Those are amazing qualities, but just not ones I relate to anymore (well, maybe the young part haha). I was actually never really career-driven in the way that we normally think of that trait. Don't get me wrong - I loved teaching. For ten years, I lived, ate, and breathed teaching. I thought about my students the way that I think about my son now. But advancing my career was never a priority for me. I never had ambitions of becoming a school administrator or anything like that. [nb: Advancing my career and developing my career are two different things... I was always growing as an educator and always wanted to do better as a teacher.]
Anyway, a little bit into the conversation, one of the girls in the group asked me what I "did". For the first time, I hesitated.
"Well, I'm a stay-at-home mom now."
That's not good enough, Jen.
"But I used to teach, and I also am a photographer."
Better, but nobody is impressed.
Nobody had even said anything, and insecurities were popping up in my head. As a matter of fact, the girl who had asked me even went on to say, "Well my mom stayed at home with my sisters and I and I really have no idea how you guys do it. Her schedule was tighter than anyone's I know." So why did I feel inferior?
I think when it comes to women, there is such a push toward this feminist movement and women having equal rights as men. And I am all for that! If that's the kind of woman you are - climb that ladder, lady! But I am way more traditional, and I truly see the value in a woman being at home and raising her children. But society isn't leaning that way right now. Society is asking us to be the "power woman" that they are encouraging little girls to be. And there's nothing wrong with encouraging girls to be whatever they want to be... but it has to be just that. Who says that you have to be a doctor, or an astronaut, or an attorney to be successful? We need to teach little girls (and boys!) the value of every profession, occupation, and lifestyle choice, and allow them to follow their dreams - whether they dream of being a mom who raises her children or an attorney who slays in court.
And for me, the choice has been easy. I wouldn't trade what we are teaching our son for the world. We are teaching him that there is nothing more important in this world than family. Could I teach that if I were a working mom with a 9 to 5? Absolutely! But the fact of the matter is, the choice is mine to make.
And for the rest of you moms out there, struggling to feel like you are "enough" in society, because your worth can't be measured by a paycheck - your worth can't be measured at all. Because your worth, were it to be measured, would be in love, and dedication, and hugs and kisses and lessons your children can learn only from you.
And it is enough. As a matter of fact, it's more than enough.
About this Mom
A Miami wife and mom documenting her days with her toddler and all that comes along with it.