On breathing the good stuff…

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I feel like there’s this modern mom thing where we bitch incessantly about our children and our lives…especially those of us that are stay-at-home moms. It’s weird. It feels really freeing sometimes. I love that I have a huge network of friends that I can commiserate with on this motherhood journey. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in the oft-aggravating daily things that come with being a mom…the whining, the complaining, the missed showers, the leggings and pajamas, the fights over meals, the screen time guilt, all the things! 

I often wonder if my own mother bitched about motherhood in this same way? Were the 80s as accepting of it as the 2010s have been? Or were the 80s just not as fraught with “mommy wars” so there wasn’t as much to bitch about? Or did all our mothers just keep quiet and suffer through? To be honest, I wonder a LOT: how many of our own mothers were suffering from PPD/PPA and it just wasn’t something that was as widely discussed or treated as it is today? I mean, I could talk a person’s ear off about my PPD struggles and I just don’t give a shit what he or she thinks. Mental illness is a very real thing and something that deserves a lot more attention than it gets, even now.

Anyway, it really just makes me wonder. I’ve had several weeks in a row of incredibly awful days with the toddler. Being one thousand weeks pregnant doesn’t at all help the situation. But Godzilla has been absolutely on fire recently and last week, we didn’t have a single good day. It was a garbage week and there is no getting around that. I did so much bitching to and with my mom friends last week. None of us had great weeks. It was one hit after the next. Small things that normally wouldn’t seem so horrible just set us off in all the wrong ways (like when Godzilla tried to bring me my 32oz water bottle only to dump it all over herself, the couch, and the floor).

So when I woke up (way too early) this past Monday, I decided to employ “the secret” (you know, that book from a few years ago that tells us that what we say and think is what we bring upon ourselves blah blah blah). I kept repeating over and over, “Today is a good day. I have a happy toddler. I am a great mom.” And you know what? Every day this week (and yeah, it’s only Wednesday), we’ve had surprisingly good days. Godzilla hasn’t been a complete jerk upon waking up,  she has fought me about getting in her stupid car seat, she’s been pleasant to everyone she sees, meals haven’t been quite as challenging (she still eats like a crazy person, but she’s at least trying a few new things, like the awesome red wine braised shor rib stew I made last night).

The point is, I think we tend to spend a lot more time focusing on and bitching about the awfulness that is motherhood. To be clear, it does have it’s horrifying moments. There are days, weeks, months that make it seem like everything is awful and nothing is ever going to get better. But I wonder if that’s partly our own fault. Are we creating self-fulfilling prophecies by constantly bitching?

For several years, I’ve been a proponent of “positive self talk.” Before I married a sailor and had children, I worked in a pretty high stress job (which is just a strange thing to say because I sold cheese and worked with some of the greatest people on the planet). At the same time, I was going through some incredibly stressful and overwhelming things in my personal life. But every day, I tried to wake up and just decide I was going to have a good day. And on the days I actually remembered to do this? Those were the best days. Sometimes, they were also the most stressful, but I managed my desk and my head with such ease that I ended up falling in love with my job even more, sometimes hoping for a new, insane, cheesy challenge to come across my desk just so I could kick its ass one more time.

But somewhere along the line, probably when I stopped working and naively thought I wouldn’t be stressed anymore, I stopped remembering my positive self talk morning ritual. My life is currently far more stressful than I could have imagined it would be. So I think it’s time I re-introduce my old routine into my new life. It’s time for me to focus more on the good, great, and wonderful things that motherhood has to offer.

 

On the songs of my baby…

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Photo Credit: QuoteFancy.com 

I’m roughly six weeks out from the impending delivery of my second baby. Technically speaking, I’m eight weeks out, but my midwife is fairly confident this one will come early since the last one did. I’m also hopeful she’ll come early…it will give me substantially more time to recover before moving across the country and the world. So there will be much red raspberry leaf consumed by moi in the coming weeks.

At any rate, I’ve been working on my labor and delivery playlist for several months. This is something that, even with my first, I just knew I wanted – music that calmed me or energized me or made me think of how much I already knew I loved this tiny human. With Godzilla, I pulled together my playlist kind of last minute, but it was also rather easy. She was born during the Christmas season and since I love love love Christmas music, I just grabbed 200+ songs from my very extensive collection, added in some Britney and Taylor and called it good. It was perfect.

And I never used it. Not even once during my nine hours of labor did I want to hear music. I thought about it once, in the middle of a particularly awful contraction (aren’t they all kind of awful?) and just the thought of music made me angry. So that was a hard pass on music.

With Mothra’s playlist, I’ve found myself carefully curating songs over the last seven months. There are currently only 36 songs on the playlist, running about two and a half hours. It’s a pretty schizophrenic list, but then, so is my general taste in music. It contains pop, hymns, bluegrass, the 80s, rock, miscellaneous covers…it’s one of my favorite playlists I’ve ever created.

But there are two songs in particular that hit me hard every time I listen to them…for vastly different reasons.

“Love Me Like You Do” by Ellie Goulding.
For a lot of people, this song is associated with one of the most poorly written and ill-conceived books ever released. I’ve never read the book (just selected passages. It’s terrible) or seen the movie. I just love this song. The first time this hit me as a birthing song was over the summer, while I was walking with Godzilla in her stroller. Almost every line of the song can very easily be translated into labor and delivery:

“You’re the light, you’re the night, you’re the color of my blood…” – Yep. She’s going to come at whatever time of day or night she chooses and no matter how she makes her way in the the world, she and I will be the same color, covered in the same blood, even if for just a few minutes.

“You’re the cure, you’re the pain, you’re the only thing I want to touch..” – Delivering a baby, especially in the, um, very traditional sense, is everything at once. It hurts like hell, but the moment she arrives, all the pain is gone. It’s like I’ve been waiting my whole life to touch this tiny creature.

“Fading in, fading out, on the edge of paradise. Every inch of your skin is the holy grail I’ve got to find.” – Every contraction can feel like you’re about to pass out. It’s 30-120 seconds of agony followed by maybe two minutes of sweet relief….until it all happens again. Over and over for hours on end. But every moment brings me closer to the absolute ecstasy of holding my baby for the first time, pressing her sweet, sticky skin against my chest and hearing her cry for the first time.

“Yeah, I’ll let you set the pace cuz I’m not thinking straight. My head’s spinning around. I can’t think clear no more. What are you waiting for?” – This is the first line that made me think of labor and delivery. It reduced me to tears on that walk. There is no way to tell a baby when it should or shouldn’t come into the world. It’s all up to her. She decides everything. And she will decide everything from the moment I go into labor until years later. I have to let her set the pace. I have to let go of the control I want to have and just wait…sometimes calmly (as in the first several months of pregnancy), sometimes impatiently and agrily (like during active, awful, bone-crushing labor).

“human” by Christina Perri
This one hit me harder and in a much more painful way. It made me immediately think of breastfeeding, which, frankly, was not a great experience with my first baby. I’m cautiously hopeful that it will go better this time around, but I have pretty intense memories of the first time. So when I hear lines like:

“I can hold my breath. I can bite my tongue.” – I remember how painful it was. The searing pain that shot through every fiber of my body as she latched for the first time…and for 13 months worth of times after that.

“I can stay awake for days if that’s what you want. Be your number one…Give you all I am” – I am not looking forward to another year or more of restless, sleepless nights. But I am what keeps her alive. My body nourishes her so I wake up with her and I suffer through it. Because it’s not all suffering. She will smile, she will laugh, and – mercifully – she will sleep.

“But I’m only  human. And I bleed when I fall down. I’m only human. And I crash and I break down. [The] words in my head, knives in my heart, [they] build me up and then I fall apart, cuz I’m only human.” – I was diagnosed with post-partum depression when Godzilla was around five or six months old. It was a simultaneously freeing and brutal thing to grapple with. Finally, I had answer to some of what I was feeling. Finally, I had a way to cope with all of it. Finally…I felt a little bit of fear and failure. Nothing was going right. I couldn’t feed my child enough. I couldn’t love my husband the way he deserved. I didn’t want to be a mother. Everything I had ever thought I wanted, I finally had and I couldn’t deal with it. The words in my head crushed me.

“I can do it. I can do it. I’ll get through it.” – And I did. I did it. I fed Godzilla on a near constant basis. I accepted the magic of formula. My friends and my husband encouraged me and brought me coffee and reminded me that I wasn’t just doing enough for my daughter. I was literally doing everything for her. I may not be the perfect mother (far from it), but I am the perfect mother for her. I was reminded to take time for myself and that asking for help isn’t admitting defeat or weakness, but rather significant strength. To know when I’m about to break and to ask for help is one of the strongest things I can do as a mother. We’re fed line after line that we can have it all, do it all, and be it all, but when we aren’t, it feels like we’ve failed in every  possible way. Whatever happened to “it takes a village”? My tribe has taught me, over the last two years, that asking for help means I’m willing to be vulnerable and that I trust those closest to me. It also means that when one of my tribe starts to falter, I will be there to prop her up with coffee, wine, wisdom, time, a listening ear, whatever she needs. I have learned that “mother’s intuition” extends so far beyond my own child…it weaves its way into the lives of my mama-friends. We start to know exactly when and how to best help each other (like when one of my newest tribe members brought me a chai latte and a surprise cherry danish the other day). We just sense each other. We respect each other. Sometimes, it feels like we are each other.
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So these are the songs that have made the biggest impact on me during my second (and probably final) pregnancy. There is so much left to accomplish in the few remaining weeks before Mothra arrives. At least, it seems that way. But what I know with absolute certainty is that I am ready. I am excited. I am prepared – emotionally and mentally – in ways I just couldn’t have been the first time.

I am patiently and uncomfortably awaiting her arrival.

I am ignoring the thoughts of doubt that seep into my subconcious.

I am ready.

On knowing I have plenty…

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Photo Credit

It’s the new year and I’ve decided to try two new personal projects for 2017:
1. Don’t buy anything that isn’t necessary.
2. Do ten minutes of yoga every day.

Surprisingly (to me), it’s the second one that’s been the most challenging so far. I’ve done yoga once since January 1st. ONCE. I have carved out ten minutes for myself one time in five days. And even then, Godzilla was screaming for me the entire time (Sailor was home and handling it, but it was far from the zen ten I was hoping for).

But the “no spending” thing? That’s been oddly easy. I didn’t buy any car candy or frozen pizza at the grocery on Monday. My Target spree yesterday was actually entirely necessary items (milk, diapers, a birthday card for my dad, etc.).

I think it’s because I’m trying this thing where I really evaluate what I think I need. And what that comes down to is the word ENOUGH.

I have enough. I have plenty. In many ways, I have more than enough (I went through my lingerie drawer last night and found more than a dozen pairs of unworn underwear and at least as many that could be gotten rid of. My bras are another beast entirely…I have probably thirty of varying sizes, but two rounds of pregnancy have taught me that boobs change size on a whim, so I’m keeping all the bras…for now). Clutter generally stresses me out. I like seeing wide, clean spaces (like my countertops). It’s hard to manage this with a toddler. She has SO MUCH STUFF! I don’t want to get rid of her toys just because it stresses me out. But I do wish we had a room that could be devoted just to her things because seeing it all the time makes me crazy. I spend more time picking up after her than anything else. It’s not going to be any easier with an added tiny human. So I do what I can with my own things. I’m trying to be fairly brutal with my closet, but that’s also challenging because I’m pregnant so who knows what I’m going to fit into in a few months? The one thing I know is that I’ll be able to off-load much of the maternity clothing I’ve amassed. That’ll feel good.

But the thing about “enough” that’s proving more difficult is the part where I AM enough. I think a lot of us struggle with that. There’s always some area of life where we feel somehow unfulfilled or underfulfilled.

Recently, that’s been motherhood for me. Two year olds are hard work. That wasn’t a surprise to me. But my ability to manage her has been less-then-stellar. I get angry with her a lot. I yell more than I want to. I ignore her when I just can’t take it anymore. I’m supposed to be one of the only people she knows will love her unconditionally…her attitude and behavior shouldn’t affect the way I treat her. I always want her to know kindness from me.

But ohmigod, she is a real pill sometimes. She gets so worked up that there’s just no reasoning with her. I just have to let her cry her tears and throw her tantrums and generally be insane…and sometimes that lasts for way too long. It’s frankly no different than when she was an infant and would cry up to twenty hours a day. It’s just louder now. Much, much louder.

It causes me to wonder: am I doing enough? Am I challenging her enough? Do we do enough activites? Do I read to her enough? Do I discipline her enough? Do I hold my ground enough?

The one thing I know I do enough of is love her. God, I love that little girl. She’s crazy and difficult, but my heart seems to grow bigger every single morning when I get her from her crib and she reaches up with her big, sleepy eyes and says, “Hi mommy!”

Up until very recently, I had legitimate fears that I wouldn’t be able to love both my girls enough once Mothra arrived. Would I love Mothra more? Would I love Godzilla less? How can one person possibly be expected to love more than one person with every fiber of her being?

It turns out, the closer Mothra gets to making her arrival, the more my heart seems to acquire the space.

I don’t know that I’ll ever feel adequately “enough” to manage two little girls. We will fight. We will yell. We will say mean things. I know…I have experience being the daughter of a headstrong mother. I will probably always feel like I haven’t done or given or taught or prepared them enough.

But I know that I will always love them enough. I will love them Beverly Goldberg style. I will love them until it annoys the hell out of them and they push me away and it will hurt me in ways I’ve never been hurt before. But I will love them enough.

And in the meantime, I’ll be making space in my house and getting rid of excess things I have enough of…and try to do some damn yoga.

On losing my luster…

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“If you could say one thing to Hillary Clinton today, what would it be?”

What about all the things I’m going to have to say to my daughters?
– What a time to be alive!
– What a time to be a woman!
– What a time to raise daughters!

None of these things have the excitement and anticipation they had yesterday. My spirit feels utterly crushed. I’m a person that can almost always find the good in a person, in a situation, in a circumstance. I can’t find that today. The weather in my town matches my heart. It’s dreary and cold and sad. My normally optimistic outlook on life…it’s just…gone. I don’t know how I can be expected to be okay with anything right now. My country is the laughing stock of the world (and seriously…we had BREXIT to follow. I don’t think anyone thought we could be that crazy. Joke’s on you, World). I feel like a rotting unicorn. Yesterday, there was an air of hope in me. I was happy and confident and ready for an evening of champagne. Today? I feel crushed and burdened. I don’t know how to sparkle right now. My glitter is just crusty, crappy sand and mud.

But I guess the thing I most want to say to Hillary is THANK YOU.
For being brave.
For being smart.
For being kind.
For persevering.
For trying.
For offering hope.
For humbly accepting defeat.
For taking this seriously.
For giving me someone I can tell my daughters about for decades to come.
For being like me.
For being flawed and damaged.
For owning it.
For not letting that define you.
For not putting up with anyone’s bullshit.
For showing generations of girls they don’t have to either.
For proving yourself a worth contender.
For giving me a candidate I could get completely behind.
For showing me that I, too, could be a brave woman.
For being the kind of woman I can tell my daughters is worthy of emulating.

I knew I would cry today, no matter the outcome. I had hoped I would be crying and dancing with my daughter. But today, I cry and I hold her and I tell her that everything is going to be okay. I don’t know that I believe it, but I need her to. She’s too young to know what’s going on. I’m glad for that, in some ways. I don’t want her to feel the weight and enormity of what’s just happened. I need her to keep smiling and playing and running too fast. I need her to be happy for as long as she can. I need her.

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On living in glitter…

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When my husband and I started thinking about decor and a theme for our first daughter’s nursery/bedroom, we knew we wanted something smart and clever that wasn’t too girly. We came up with books and “girl power” quotes. I scoured the interwebs and Pinterest and queried friends for their favorites. There were a LOT to choose from. I had to narrow down something like 200 quotes to ten. Not an easy task.

Each quote means something special to me. So today I’ll choose just one to talk about.

“She is a dreamer, a doer, a thinker. She sees possibility everywhere.” 

This one means a lot to me. I think it’s because it’s the kind of person I always hope and try to be. I want to see the good in everything. I try to see every silver lining (sometimes it’s hard…those are the ones I call “aluminum linings”. They’re dull and not as fancy as silver, but they still sparkle if you look at them in the right light).

I’ve been accused of living in a Pollyanna world. That doesn’t bother me one little bit. I’ve found it’s a lot easier to look for the good in things, to see the bright side, to hope for the best, than it is to be crabby and whiny and upset. It makes more sense to me to dream, do, and think about how to make the world a better place than it does to bitch and moan and wallow.

I want my daughter’s to live in a near-constant state of wonder. I want their lives to be filled with some kind of magical combination of Disney and Christmas all mashed together. But I can’t do that for them. They’re going to have to figure out how that works for them, how they can find the magic in the everyday. All I can do is show them how I find it.

I find it in things like glitter and cupcakes and sunshine. And when it’s gloomy and grey, I find it in hot tea, a good movie, and a warm blanket. I find magic in singing along like I’m the lead singer in a band and we’re at a sold out concert. It’s in my Colorado green chili and my spaghetti sauce (both of which have brought me to tears because I’m so excited to make and share it). I find it in a turbulence-free flight.

It’s in whatever I choose to find it in. But those are my choices. My daughters are going to have to find their own magic. And I can’t wait to see where they find it.

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On remembering to shower….

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I’ve been spending a lot of time recently thinking about self care. It’s a term that I’ve only really heard of since becoming a mother, which is silly because everyone needs some amount of personal care at all stages of his or her life. I think it’s just that before I was a mother, I never really thought about it because I had (what now seems like) unending time to do whatever I felt like doing, whenever I wanted to do it.

Now it’s becoming a rather critical part of my routine. At least, it should be. This week, I’ve tried to be more intentional with the ways that I care for myself. This week’s challenge has been to shower ever day. I can’t even believe that’s a thing I have to remind myself to do. But it is. I don’t go to an office and I don’t really even see people every day, so there’s sort of no point. And then there’s that pesky toddler that lives with me. She requires so much of my time and attention that it sometimes feels impossible to do things to care for myself. I’m lucky I eat breakfast most days.

So how has it gone so far? Not great. I showered on Monday. It is now Wednesday and I have yet to shower. But I think part of the point of this is that I’m at least aware of what I need to do, what I should do, and what I haven’t done. I’m not yet at the point in my life that I can redefine myself as anything but a mother. I’m still growing human #2 and I have to get her out into the world and a year or two into her life before I can really start he arduous process of redefining who I am. I’m okay with that. I’m comfortable with the fact that – for now – I am simply Mommy. It’s a stage of my life. And like all stages, this one will pass (or wane, really) and my children will start to be far more independent and I’ll have the chance to look at who or what I want to be next.

For right now, I try to remember to shower. I try to drink a cup of hot tea or cider with my husband in the evening. I try to keep the house tidy. These are the ways I care of myself within my current construct. And that feels good.

On not feeling the love…

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One of the most frustrating feelings for a writer is wanting to write, but not knowing what to write about. Even more frustrating is what I’ve been experiencing lately: not caring about what I write about.

All the things on which I’d normally have plenty to say – motherhood, politics, religion – it’s all just gotten too…much for me recently. There are too many opinions and FAR too much judgment. Maybe I’m hyper-sensitive to it these days. I’m just exhausted. I try to invest myself in the things I enjoy or the things I tend to be well-versed in, but I keep finding myself annoyed or iritated every time I do.

I want to engage. I really do. When I see things that are interesting or thought-provoking, I want to share the information. When I see things that are odd or ill-informed, I want to add my two cents. When I see things that are rage-inducing or just plain stupid, I want to call it out.

But I’m tired.

I’m tired of being shamed for the things I do, say, think, enjoy, or believe. I’m tired of the sideways glances when I’m asked my opinion or position. I’m tired of everyone finding something to be pissed off at or offended by.

Sometimes I want to be the person that just says whatever the hell she’s thinking with no regard for anyone else’s feelings. But when it comes to certain topics, that’s just not useful and only leads to more contention and people believing certain stereotypes about “people like me.” I get angry enough that I have to walk away from conversations because I know it’s the most healthy thing to do…for all parties involved.

I’m ready to all but call in quits on the social media front. I get too upset and annoyed far too often. I want to write a huge blog, laying out where I stand on this topic or that and just be done with it.

But, of course, that’s not realistic. Not for me. I could walk away for a while (I do it a couple times a year), but I always come back. It’s where I find new topics or interesting perspectives.

So here’s what I do know: I’m tired of being mom-shamed, politi-shamed, religi-shamed, whatever-shamed. I’m sick to death of having my thunder stolen or having my thoughts and talents ripped out from under me, only to be either lambasted or paraded around like their someone else’s. I’m really tired of feeling like I’m not allowed to be angry about any of that.