Category Archives: motherhood

A Mother’s Rights #5: You have the right to shower every day.

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This one seems like it shouldn’t be hard to accomplish and sometimes it might even seem like not that big of a deal. But I propose that taking a shower can sometimes be the only 10 minutes of truly alone time you may get. It may not be enough, but it can be a few minutes of heaven that you truly need in order to recharge.

It also is one of the only places where the sound you are surrounded by may actually be louder than the sounds of your children. Which means your ears and brain get a small break from the hard work of filtering demands, requests, arguing, outbursts, sharing, questions, wailing, and insistences that they are still hungry even though you JUST FED THEM DINNER.

I recommend carving this time for yourself, even if it means setting your little one in a pack and play with a soft toy, or setting your child in front of PBS Kids in a child-safe room with a bowl of Goldfish crackers. And…this is important-

put your child in a room other than the bathroom you are showering in

It doesn’t count if they are just on the other side of the shower curtain! For toddlers, you know they’re just going to peek their head in at you and ask: “What is that? Ewww” while they point to your pubic hair.  And for older kids, there’s no reason they need to be in there.

Once your kids are settled, spend a second just appreciating your naked bod. You are amazing. Then pretend there is a personal assistant speaking in a sexy Australian accent with a tray holding your favorite cocktail and a CBD joint saying,

“How do you stay so beautiful when you work so hard? Now, I’ve already prepared your gourmet meals for the week. Why don’t you just take your time in the shower and I’ll be right outside the door waiting to give you your foot massage when you’re done. No rush.”

While you’re at it, splurge on some body nourishing and activating items. Sugar, coffee, and dead sea salt are all super cheap, probably already in your cupboard and make really easy feel-amazing scrubs.

You deserve 10 minutes of hot water on your back !! Take a shower already.

A Mother’s Rights #4: You have the right to revise your sex life as needed.

We are four posts into the 15 Mother’s Rights.  Ready for #4?

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When I interviewed my mom for my podcast. one of the things she said she wished had happened differently through her early parenting years was that there was more education about what happens to your pelvic floor and your sex life after giving birth.

These stories are different for every woman, but over the course of partnership, pregnancy, nursing, and parenting, our relationships to our bodies change.

Maybe we used to be kind of into our boobs, they used to feel sexy and now they feel like milk dispensers and you don’t want your partner anywhere near them.

Maybe our pelvic floor is like a loose stretched out rubber band and when we have sex, we’re so afraid pee will come out, we refuse to orgasm.

Maybe postpartum anxiety leaves us so stressed that the idea of getting intimate with someone is overwhelming and you’d rather read a book and take a bath.

Maybe you have weight that just won’t come off and you don’t feel like yourself, so how could you possibly want to share your body with someone else?

We have so many insecurities and expectations for ourselves. Adding an expectation that there is a minimum amount of sex we are required to have in order to fulfill our duty is an outdated notion. You do not need to meet a quota. Your sex life is YOUR sex life. If your libido is down and things have changed for you, talk to your partner and make some adjustments. Or get thee to a therapist and talk some more.

It doesn’t have to be a certain way. It is the way it is. Your relationship to your body and your sex life can change and grow. It’s ok.

A Mother’s Rights #3: You have the right to wear clothes that fit.

A few days ago, I started a feature: 15 Mother’s Rights. It started with a Mother’s Rights #1: You have the right to get 8 hours of sleep every 24 hours. Number 2 on the list was about taking time to eat.

Here comes number 3:

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So I am going to admit that I wore the same pregnancy yoga pants and shirts for way too long, beyond postpartum, particularly when my baby weight stayed past its welcome like an unwanted house guest.

What I did not do was shop for clothes that actually fit.

For a period of about 2 years, I vacillated between 3 sizes, not just in pants and shirts, but my shoe size changed too. I tried desperately to work myself into that one size- the size I was before pregnancy- but that shit was not happening.

My metabolism slowed to a crawl after my third baby and I reaaaaaally like red wine and dark chocolate. And grains of any kind. And a good cheeseburger. And cheeeeeese.

Though it can be kind of fun to shop for maternity clothes, it’s not as much fun shopping after the baby arrives, carrying 20 extra pounds, admitting your postpartum body does not fit into pre-pregnancy sized-jeans.

It’s tempting to do nothing and just put up with feeling uncomfortable and unpolished for months and months. Like I did. Not proud. I encourage you to choose something different.

After-baby weight can last for months or for years. After-baby weight can just become, well, your weight. So embrace it, love it, and buy some clothes that fit your beautiful new body.

Old Navy, thrift stores, Target, and amazon all have options now for inexpensive clothing that can help you adjust to your new body. I particularly like Mod Cloth and Athleta if you want a spend a little more. Love your amazing bod however long it maintains its current shape and size, whether it be 2 months or 20 years.

And get some duds that you feel comfortable and confident in. You deserve it.

A Mother’s Rights #2: You have the right to eat a meal sitting down.

Yesterday I kicked off the first post here featuring the 15 Mother’s Rights. It started with a Mother’s Rights #1: You have the right to get 8 hours of sleep every 24 hours.Here comes #2…

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Why is this a thing? Of all the possible ways we neglect ourselves in motherhood, why does eating at a table make the list of rights?

Here’s why.  Food restores our health. It is not only fuel, but also comfort and nourishment. I am not going to tell you to go out and buy an organic veggie box and only eat the bone marrow of grass fed cows, but I will say that most traditions encourage taking a bit of time to eat so the magic alchemy that happens when food is broken down in the digestive system can take its full effect.

The above Right is something I stand by. Having a meal every day where while you are not also changing a diaper or emptying the dishwasher feels like an extravagant luxury and maybe even out of reach for a lot of us.

Like most things that seem out of reach, taking microsteps will eventually get you there. I recommend setting this Right as a goal for at least one meal a day. And if you can’t find a way to make it happen, it’s ok. Try for once a week. And see if you can be mindful of any of the options below.

7 Tips for mindful eating:

  1. Eat hot food while it is still hot. In Eastern and Ayurvedic nutritional practice, eating warmed food is nourishing to the system. Warm food stimulates digestion and can help restore some of the energy spent in our busy days, especially if you are recovering from birth. (See The First Forty Days by Heng Ou)
  2. Chew thoroughly. Your stomach has no teeth. Let’s imagine that food is filled with all kinds of tiny nutrients and minerals that are wanting to be absorbed by your your body as it digests. Chewing slows down your eating and makes digestion a little easier on your body. It’s a way of being good to yourself.
  3. Smell, taste, and appreciate your food. Whether it is a Hostess cupcakes (that’s right, I just linked to Hostess cupcakes, bitches) or an organic sweet potato, savoring and actually experiencing what you are eating is a way to bring yourself into the present moment. This kind of mindfulness is good for for every system of your body.
  4. Eat without interruption. Ok, this seems like a high bar, I know. Our best hope is to realize it’s important to not be startled while you’re eating. Rest and digest. If one meal a day uninterrupted is too tall an order, start with one meal a week. Why do this? Because being interrupted adds stress and stress impairs digestion.
  5. When eating food, remember its source. The original saying goes, “When you drink water, remember its source.” But the benefits hold true for food, particularly food that comes from the earth. Following this tip slows your eating down and allows nourishing yourself with food to be a whole body and mind experience. It also enhances the connection between you and the fuel that runs your body, and the earth that creates that fuel.
  6. Give gratitude for the nourishment. Gratitude is never a bad idea. But when it comes to food, it is an essential. Food keeps your body alive…so mustering up some thanks for that is pretty easy. On top of that, giving thanks for how your food came to be on your plate is kind. How tired would we be if we had to harvest and hunt all our own food? Giving a little thanks for the efforts of others that go into allowing us to easily access grub…it’s a no-brainer
  7. Eat sitting down. Don’t even ask me how many times I have eaten in nibbles while making dinner for others. Or hunched over with a slice of pizza over the sink while doing dishes. Even if you know you can’t avoid getting interrupted, sitting and eating is so much more beneficial than eating on the run. It is better for digestion, better for your body, better for you. And you deserve good things.

A Mother’s Rights #1: You have the right to 8 hours of sleep every 24 hours.

Several years ago I wrote about a Mother’s Rights, the first of which is:

8hours

Ladies. Please don’t do what I did and think that you will catch up on sleep when your child is done night nursing or done co-sleeping or done teething or through this growth spurt or entering middle school.

Good sleep is necessary for good health. It just is. Everything from skin to metabolism to immune system to mood to heart health, blood pressure, learning and memory, and pretty much every aspect of how we operate in the world.

Ideally, when expecting a child and creating your birth plan, you are also creating your sleep plan and how you plan to get sleep after your baby arrives. Err on the side of caution and assume your babies will be like mine where they wouldn’t sleep without nursing, being held, or being rocked for the first several MONTHS. Followed by night nursing that continued for several years and then a second child who had major sleep problems due to sensory issues.

It is likely you will need support. You will need to nap. You will need to laugh. You will need to line up some local resources and look into what night services are available in your area and which relatives and friends are willing to help out.

I loved the advice of my lactation consultant who said this:

After you give birth, for the first few weeks, do not change out of your pajamas until after you have gotten 8 hours of sleep. The day looks like this: baby nurses, mama eats, everybody sleeps. Repeat.

Please know that in the coming months if you are planning to sleep train your baby, it sometimes does not work out and:

It is not your fault. And it is not your baby’s fault.

I know of some babies who, while attempting to sleep train, would cry until they threw up. Or who would cry for two hours or more night after night after night. Babies are people and need different things. Likewise, you may end up needing something different than what you can predict. But one things you will need, without any doubt, is a reasonable amount of sleep.

During our efforts for achieving solid sleep, my partner and I found some tools quite useful into the toddler years. Things like blackout curtains and sound machines.

For a short time, things like baby swings and co-sleepers were helpful too. Though baby sleep books were not helpful for us, a lot of my friends found them extremely helpful, as well as consulting with local sleep consultants.

Getting a decent amount of sleep- 8 hours a night- is a basic human need that does not disappear simply because you have a new life to care for. Work with your partner, take time off work or shorten your days so you can nap if you need to. I’ll explore other options for getting sleep in a future post, but for now, know that sleep is your right to claim…so claim it.

50% Princess!! 50% Unikitty!!

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Tonight I went down the wormhole of online toddler clothes shopping. My toddler is abnormally large which, if one follows the sizing of standard American clothing, all of my children have been.

My first born- the one I decided not to have an epidural with- a decision I reconsidered during transition when my teeth were burrowing into my husband’s shoulder- was 9 lbs 10oz. Which is 1 lb 10oz bigger than the bowling ball I select when I go to the bowling alley. We had brought to the hospital some itty bitty wittle newborn onesies that would fit a newborn kitten…which when my son was born may have fit his left thigh…and he went home from the hospital in a newly purchased size 6 month onesie.

Today as my 2 year old (size 4T) was red-faced, throwing her lunch plate across the room and screaming at me that I had given her the wrong plate (NOT MY PWATE! BOO MOMMY!) That’s right. She boos me. I noticed that her pants were a bit too snug, her sleeves a bit too tight. Though anger is generally my first reaction when plates are being thrown at me, I managed to steer myself in another direction…the ancient primal instinct to hunt and gather. I knew at that moment I’d be online shopping later.

Hunting and gathering clothes is not something I’m proud of in a global sense, but it is one of the most relaxing parts of being a parent. I do it after the kids are asleep, and it usually involves wine or whiskey. While hunting and gathering toddler clothes, I can finally relax after a long day as I venture off into feelings other than helplessness, mostly in response to graphic tees where I am either annoyed or delighted- with both being equally enjoyable.

Ideally, my kids would all be dressed in sustainable organic clothing, gender-neutral and without bold statements of political affiliations, quirky hipness, career aspirations, or who they’re most loving and loyal to.  But…America.

I’m over unicorns. They’ve worn out their welcome. Same for llamas. And animals wearing glasses, which I never got to begin with. But there’s some great material to be found if you go beyond the doorbusters. Tonight I laughed out loud at a glitter cat in a beret with the caption “meowci.” Hilarious.

Though grimacing a little at the 3 year old girls modeling for a camera, I am delighted by their leggings with rainbow lightening patterns. Shame on everything for selling skin-tight leggings to girls starting from age 0 while boys get joggers and sweats, but look: those suggested leggings have ombre hearts all over them, so it’s ok to go ahead and risk the body image stuff because….so cute!!!!!!!!!

The dark side, where I sip my drink and shake my head and wonder why I never got into the graphic tee biz, involves captions that somehow praise ME. “My mom’s super amazing.” “Mom’s BFF” “Smart like my mom.” I am very uncomfortable with shirts that state my toddler’s love for me. It feels like stealing something from her. Also, why would I dress her in something proclaiming a thought she isn’t aware she’s having or might not be having at all? Seeing “Mom is my Hero” on her shirt would not take the sting out of that plate hitting my shin. Plus, she does not know she’s wearing a shirt that celebrates the very person that, in her world, is a dictator trying to steal joy from her very existence. If my toddler were to design her own graphic tee it would say, “Mom is a dictator! I have no freedom! Please help get me my own place! Give me all your lollipops!”

Many graphic toddler tees have become self-help mantras for the adults that look at them. “Be your best self.” “You got this”. “Invent the future.” Nothing wrong with these words. These are things people need to hear. But why stamp them on a shirt that is only read and understood by the people not wearing the shirts? You may as well add, “Finally make a budget!” and “You’ll regret that midnight bagel!”

What kind of a world would it be if the rules for toddler graphic tees applied to adults? The rules seems to be: Say the thing the person in charge of you wishes you were thinking. Or say something celebratory about magical creatures, fattening food, or displays of affection. Or cats. Anything about cats. Our shirts would say things like: “100% Centaur!” “Cool like my boss.” “The government is my BFF.”  “Frosting on a spoon forever!”

Lately, the themes of exploring the wild and laid back surfer mentality have stumbled into the mix. You’ll see a moose driving a van with a surfboard on top over a mountain (pink shirt for girls, orange for boys) with “Get out There” underneath in really cool font. Two whiskeys in, I’m not really sure what we’re saying here. Are toddlers up for adventure in a way that involves forest creatures?  Why are we wearing surfing shirts in Wisconsin?

It’s a night’s worth of entertainment, for sure. If your kids are grown or if you don’t have kids, I still would recommend browsing the graphic tees of sites that specialize in middle-class price range kids’ clothing. Are we hopeful? Are we believing in the future? Is every big sister really the best in the universe? Do we still think mermaids might exist?  If you believe everything you read on a size 4T graphic tee, the possibilities are endless.

 

 

 

Panic Attacks: Like Children of the Corn, Only Scarier.

Panic attacks are like, so scary. Way scarier than Children of the Corn and that movie was fucking terrifying. I still cannot believe there are parents who chose to name their kid Malachi after having seen that movie. Anxiety attacks are way scarier than that but also way more ridiculous than another horrifying movie from the 80’s: From Beyond, which I remember mostly as some really crazy pineal glands wiggling around like possessed worms and causing havoc.  Panic attacks = 80’s horror movies in every single way because the ridiculousness is matched only by how terrifying they are despite their ridiculousness.

When a panic attack comes, you are completely safe. Safe as can be. Everything’s pretty much alright.  Sure, there’s an extra 10 pounds on your body and you could use a couple hundred thousand dollars. But all told, most things in your immediate reality are not cause for alarm. And even though literally nothing is happening to you: you could be, say,  chewing gum and walking down the sidewalk, your body suddenly is shouting at you, “NO! NOTHING IS EASY! BREATHING IS DANGEROUS! DEATH IS IMMINENT! YOU ARE GOING TO CHOKE ON THAT GUM! ALSO THERE IS TOTALLY A CORNFIELD RIGHT BEHIND YOU WITH SOME REALLY FUCKING SCARY KIDS THAT ARE COMING FOR YOU. ISAAC IS BEHIND YOU. RIGHT NOW MOTHERFUCKER!” And suddenly your lovely, mostly neutrally-existent body goes all-in to convince you of grave danger, just really goes for it to make it real for you. Like it’s auditioning for Hamlet overseas, desperate for a new beginning after a failed movie career.

Unless I’m wrong, and I am never wrong, chewing gum and walking down the sidewalk are pretty safe in the scheme of things. But while you’re walking and looking normal, thinking, “Act normal,” your smiling neighbor walking her dog waves to you. And you smile and wave back, thinking your teeth feel dangerous, trying to ignore your screaming body. Because your body is in a cage match with reality, trying to convince you that spontaneous combustion really could happen at any moment or, alternatively, you could pass out instantly and soil yourself in front of your neighbor and her dog. Every moment and thing in the world is petrifying. Including that blade of grass, definitely that honeybee, the invisible smog in the air, the branch that could fall on your head, your heart beating too fast, and the skin holding your bones in.

It’s amazing how effective your nervous system is at convincing you that you are literally losing your mind. It is so convincing. All of the years of mindfulness practice where you observe your thoughts as they come and go…while hearing Deepak Chopra’s soothing voice in your ear….as soon as a panic attack shows up, it wins over all that. Way to go sympathetic nervous system. It squashes Deepak like a bug. And if your panic attack nervous system really were in a cage match, it would definitely win because it is so fucking committed. Nobody wants it more than your flight or fight response.

Today’s panic attack brought some fairly juicy imaginative thoughts like:

  1. I am literally going insane
  2. I am reliving a traumatic past life where I had a best friend named Trixie
  3. I am being invaded by foreign invisible entities and/or are still carrying invasive beings from years ago but never knew it
  4. I am stuck in a loop of unprocessed emotion that I cannot get out of like an M.C. Escher stairwell
  5. my kidneys are failing right now
  6. The electricity in the room is attacking me
  7. The fly in my wine is a sign of impending evil and/or carries a bacteria that will kill me
  8. I am too dizzy to sit or stand or walk and too nervous to lay down
  9. I’m so scared I cannot journal. Writing words will make feelings bigger
  10. Inhabiting my body inside my skin is too trippy to think about- I might lose my mind if I think about being a sentient being
  11. I immediately need to start walking a long distance but it won’t work to reduce panic unless it’s in the mountains, I must be in the mountains and I’M NOT
  12. Sitting is squishing my cerebral spinal fluid and causing more panic
  13. There’s definitely something really wrong with my cerebral spinal fluid
  14. If I take one step to the left, I’m going the wrong way. (Ditto one step to the right.)
  15. I might need to quit my job immediately. I am too crazy to work.
  16. The metal decor of the room is interfering with my electromagnetic field

What I don’t get is how evolution could do this to us. Good job, evolution. In what sane world do unprocessed emotions cause the same reaction that a tiger charging causes?

That’s really all I wanted to say. Panic attacks are ridiculous and terrifying. And that the sympathetic nervous system would win in a cage match against reality. Also, 80’s horror movies, panic attacks = Same.

Strength vs. Guilt – Battle of the Fourth Trimester

I have a friend who just had a baby and is adapting to her new role as Lord Ruler of All Things Baby-Related. The boundaries she sets for visitors, for instance, are clear.  If you want to interact with her baby, you must be a close family member, your hands need to be washed, and you need to have received a pertussis vaccine. It’s her home, her baby, her rules. She is finding herself surprised at the strength of her desire to protect her family bubble for the first few months. Equally surprising is her guilt for wanting people to stay away unless they are fully on board with her style of parenting. It’s the classic inner battle for women: strength vs. guilt.

When I gave birth to my oldest, it was a surprise to find that I had a Mama Bear instinct. I was floored at how strong it was. I felt, for the first time in my life, that my own intuition and feelings about what I wanted for my family trumped what other people might feel or think about my choices. The most important views about what was best for my baby belonged to me and my husband. I had never felt that important before. Hello, power.

Photo by Lea Wolf

Lea Wolf, my doula for my that birth, was essential in helping me understand that the first few weeks after birth are yours, your baby’s, and your partners. They belong to no one else and no one else can claim them, though they may try to. I understood this rationally, but not emotionally, with my first and made some mistakes in not creating a month-long safe space to honor that fourth trimester bond, find a rhythm, and heal from the birth.

It can be hard and foreign to explain our instincts to others in the face of their sometimes different expectations.   We need to start with our instinct as the starting point and create space for it. If we can find the strength to create that space, we are rewarded in so many ways. Because as we maintain our truth, it grows bigger and stronger. Crucial!

Your inner, intuitive voice may ring so loudly and strongly after baby is born, it may take your breath away in how certain and solid it feels.  Following that inner voice is the most blessed actualization of mother’s intuition.  It is as real and valid as your five senses, developed over generations of our ancestors fine tuning their ability to love, guide and protect their children and themselves.

So when an un-nurturing neighbor knocks on the door two days postpartum and wants to see baby, and you hear that inner voice saying “No.” — that “no” is there for a reason. So that the word can find your lips: “No.” It’s not right for you.

Social expectations can push up against this instinct and try and sway you toward a “yes.” You might think “It isn’t polite” or “I want to be nice” or “I don’t want them to think I don’t appreciate them.”  Part of listening to yourself is knowing that when you choose what’s right for you, it is quite likely that you will not please everyone all the time. And as far as I can tell, not pleasing everyone all the time, staying true to yourself, and accepting yourself for it…. is just the beginning of motherhood.

 

 

You are doing a great job.

 

From time to time, I listen to a meditation cd from a local energy healer, Mary Preuss Olson at Magnificent Living Institute.  It’s great for centering, collecting all bits of my thoughts and energy back to where they belong, clearing away what I don’t want, and enhancing my state of being. It feels good to this- I like the whole meditation. But my favorite part of the entire cd is where she says,

You are doing a great job.

It melts into my bones when I hear it.

You are doing a great job.

I know that she means it and I know I deserve to hear it. And so do you. Because it’s true. This is a phrase that mothers (ok, and everyone) need to hear and, most importantly, believe. Knowing this statement to be true calms every fiber in our energy field, especially when we are in a place of really being able to absorb its meaning.

I try not to argue with it, try to burn through the shadowy mental response of “But….” But I didn’t get the dishes put away. But we don’t make enough money. But my kids has peanut butter in his hair. But I don’t make freezer meals. But I never went to grad school. No buts, no coconuts.

You are doing a great job.

You might not hear these words from your kids. They might not know you want to hear it. It’s ok to tell them that it sounds good to your ears, and that you like hearing it. You might not hear it from your partner either, unless you tell them it will make a difference in your life if they say it every now and again (and only when they really mean it.) What matters most is not who says it to you, but that you feel that it’s true in your bones.

You are doing a great job.

It’s true. Know it. Say it to yourself, especially when the wheels have fallen off the bus. There will always be unanswered questions and uncertain choices. There will always be more on the to-do list. Maybe it’s not actually your job to answer every question and be certain about everything. Maybe it’s ok to not know.  What preschool is the best. What size your kids will be in next fall. What toy they’ll take to. Maybe it’s ok not to be certain. I’m not sure if this music class will be worth it. I’m not sure if we’ll be able to pay off our debt this year. This car seat we bought might not be the best choice.  I don’t know.  I don’t know. And not knowing is totally ok. What a relief.

You are doing a great job.

I’m saying this to you now and I mean it. If you are keeping up with things and sometimes not keeping up, if you’re self-loving enough to take a moment to yourself to read a mom-blog, if you keep your kids breathing and fed, if you know how to cook a hot dog, if you notice things your kids might like, if you manage to shower when you need to and maybe even find time to shave your armpits, if you think about things like whether cloth diapers or disposables are more responsible, if you read to your kids, if you kiss them on the forehead before they go to sleep….

You are doing a great job.

(If this is not your child, you are doing a great job.)