At the time I turned twenty-four, the only thing I was nursing was a half a dozen vodka martinis and inevitably, a hangover. But by the end of the year, I had a full-time milk guzzler attached to my ever-expanding chest. This had not been in my plans for the year, but then, I was never much for plans.
I’ve always been a person who does things in extremes. I partied hard. I enjoyed the high highs of life which meant that sometimes I had to dig my way up from the low lows. So, it would only be fitting that when it came time for me to get knocked up, I’d be unmarried, underemployed, and under the influence. Motherhood would knock me off any high horse I’d ever ridden on. But for me, the work of it came early and it stayed late, like I always had.
It is for this reason that getting pregnant was the best and worst thing to ever happen to me. It was the worst because it altered everything I thought I wanted for my life—freedom, excitement, and spontaneity. It was the best because I eventually found out I didn’t need those things. But the road to get there was hard, harder than I had thought it would be.
Just a week after taking the test (the test which seems to have only one question but really has hundreds: Where we will live?, Can I handle this?, Will we be okay?, Will I make a good mother?), I was hit with the most attention-demanding nausea of my life. Every day was a battle. Getting out of bed was pure pain. No matter what I’d do to stave off morning sickness, I’d always end up on the bathroom floor for hours upon hours. Finally, I’d move to the couch, I’d bring a bowl, and there I’d stay.
Everything in my life shut down. It was as if someone was trying to tell me to make a clean break. “Leave the rest behind. There’s no room for it now. This motherhood thing is gonna get ya.” That god-awful nausea, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. But maybe in some ways throwing up my stomach lining for the better part of a year needed to happen to me. Maybe it made my first year as a mother less gut-wrenching because I’d already purged up so much of my past life. Maybe it was my detox, my saving grace. Maybe at the time I delivered, most of me was already gone.
For me, pregnancy was hard and terrifying. I’m not sure if it’s like this for most people, but it was for me. I didn’t eat pickles and ice cream. I ate toast and peanut butter, maybe mashed potatoes, or something that might, hopefully, maybe stick to my stomach. I didn’t take the classes or read the baby books. I figured everything would turn out the way it was supposed to (again, not big on the planning).
As my hips grew wider and I peed a little more every time I sneezed, I started to wonder what pregnancy was like for people who actually did plan to be parents and who mapped out every step of the way once they saw that pink plus sign. I’d never so much as thought about being a mother or really knew if I wanted to be one. I wondered how much easier the people who’d desired motherhood for years and years might have it than me, how much more graceful their transitions to being a parent would be than my own.
Excerpt from It’s Really 10 Months- Special Delivery
A new post called “The New Face of Motherhood: Young, Cool Moms Who Are Totally Killing it” recently caught my attention. While the title on it’s own is enough cause for concern, the meat of the article is a bunch of superficial ways in which young mothers are… looking cool while mothering? I guess? If I’m being honest, I’m still kind of unclear on what the author means by “killing it.”
Sheesh. It’s a tough read by anyone’s standards.
First off, …WHAT.THE.MOTHER.FUCK? Since when do moms have to be young OR cool to be “killing it”? Apparently, these moms are “totally owning the parenting game,” though. I almost threw up in my mouth when I typed that, just in case you were wondering.
Though we learn little about the actual women in the photos, we are led to believe that appearances really are everything. The writer shows us a bunch of images of moms taking cute pregnancy shots, feeding their kids all organic or home-made baby food and of course, being uber-stylish while the do it all. Style is, of course, the most important aspect of parenting. DIDN’T YOU KNOW????!!!! Sorry to be the one to break it to you. As I sit here in the same yoga pants I’ve had on for three days in a row, I’m more confident than ever that I am totally failing motherhood.
If looking cute and teaching my kids to use an iPhone are what’s “killing it” in regard to motherhood, that’s pretty fucking sad. And disappointing. Thank goodness the author of this piece is completely confused. I think we’re all really confused after reading that piece of internet garbage. #sorrynotsorry
I thought motherhood was about hard work, dedication, or maybe a love for our kids. How about triumph over difficulties? Hello, single motherhood or moms who freaking work three jobs to keep a roof over their kids heads? No where in this piece are these moms, ya know, the ones who are actually “killing it” represented.
Perhaps, it’s just about selfies and matching bathing suits, though… yeah. That must be it.
I have no doubt that some of the moms in these pictures ARE actually killing it. In fact, I’m a fan or more than one of these adorable women. I am not knocking moms that look cute when doing motherhood! NO. NO. NO. Saying these moms are better or worse than any other mother is exactly what’s wrong with pieces like this. They tell us what motherhood should look like and what is important about it, and likewise, what isn’t.
The reasons the author chose these moms has little to do with their dedication to motherhood, work, or what amazing and inspiring women they actually are. It’s all 100% superficial and it just makes me want to yell “PLEASE, STOP TELLING MOTHERS WHAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO LOOK LIKE AND CARE ABOUT IN ORDER TO BE GOOD MOMS. WHY! GOD! WHY!????” I seriously can’t take it. It is so bad for women.
Crap like this makes moms think they have to do all those things to be relevant but guess what moms, you are so important when you are at your sweatiest, grossest, most stressed! That is when you’re in the thick of motherhood. When you overcome all the crap that motherhood throws your way, have to miss your workout for the zillionth time because somebody woke up early from their nap or puked in your hand and you didn’t flip out or cuss everyone out or threaten to run away. That’s when you’re killing it and that’s what we should support and encourage and post pictures of and talk about how awesome those moms are. The struggling, sweaty, real motherhood. Both motherhoods are beautiful. Not just the superficial matchy-matchy pictures or pinteresty party moms. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME??? THAT’S JUST ONE TEENY TINY ASPECT OF THAT PERSON’S MOTHERHOOD EXPERIENCE. IT IS NOT THEIR MOTHERHOOD. OMG.
Let me tell you about the times I feel like I’m “killing it” as a mom. They are absolutely not when I’m snapping selfies, wearing a bathing suit that matches my daughters or making sure she’s tech savvy. I was killing it when…
1) My infant son puked every day, 15 times a day and couldn’t be put down for a solid week and we got through it.
2) When my daughter lost her shit for about 6 months and resented the hell out of me and my husband after our second baby was born and we gave her everything we had and could to help her through.
3) When my daughter came down with a rare and terrifying illness when she was 8 weeks old and I pumped every day, all day, like it was my full time job in hopes of continuing breastfeeding after a 2 week hospital stay.
4) When I overcame postpartum anxiety/depression.
5) When I didn’t sleep for about 10 months of my life.
6) Three words: Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Twice.
7) Um… childbirth, anyone????
8) Absolutely any time when I want to scream or yell or cry and instead I am kind when I really don’t want to be.
9) When I sacrifice my time, my body, my work because my kids need me.
10) When I feel good about myself no matter what I look like or what anyone else thinks about me and my motherhood.
Thank you for expressing such an interest in this position! It is truly the opportunity of a lifetime and your enthusiasm will surely be of the utmost importance when venturing down this new path. Below is a list of the five most important qualifications your future client/s will require on a near constant basis for the next 18 years or more. Probably more. We should also mention this is really a job that never ends. But don’t worry, it has many wonderful benefits, as you’ll soon find out.
1. A go-getter attitude is key
You must be willing to stop what you are doing and go get things approximately 180 times a day, including but not limited to: books, dolls, dresses, snacks, paper towels, baby wipes, diapers, bottles, pacifiers, crayons, paper, cups of water, more snacks, clean undies, wash cloths, stickers, blankets, hair brushes, lost socks, lost shoes, band-aids, tissues and much more. Note: A gym membership doesn’t come with this position, but it is unlikely that you will have time to exercise with any consistency anyway. This level of activity, though, will help you to feel energized which this position demands at all times.
My son, Tener, who is now nearly nine months old was never a fan of sleeping without a nipple in his mouth. (Note: Please resist the urge to say “well what man wouldn’t love that?!” This joke has been told again and again. Somewhere around my 95,387 straight day/night awake it lost it’s hilarity.)This baby was/is very latched on in every possible way and even though I consider myself to be a pretty hands-on, attachment parent-ish type of person, this level of latched on was getting… pretty rough.
Not only did my son want to sleep with a boob in his mouth and only with a boob in his mouth, he needed complete and utter silence to sleep for more than like seven(?) seconds. No distractions whatsoever. Let me be clear- COMPLETE AND UTTER SILENCE AND ZERO DISTRACTIONS IS A JOKE WHEN YOU ALSO HAVE A 4-5 YEAR OLD SPECIES FLINGING HER BODY AT YOU EVERY TIME YOU ASK FOR QUIET OR SIT DOWN.
In essence, my son was almost never sleeping, not during the day or the night and it was bad. Real bad. No, he wouldn’t sleep in the car either or wrapped in his ergo/moby wrap/any variation of baby-wearing devices. Yes, I tried them all. Tenny said, via hysterical sobs, “GIVE UP AND GIVE ME YOUR BOOB.” And for lack of a better option, I gave up trying any other means again and again. But then co-sleeping became an endless game of nursing non-stop all night and flailing and rolling and nursing and waking cranky and with red, pathetic eyes every damn day (the baby, not me!… well, yeah, me too). And all hell broke loose. After about 4.5 months of age, this kid wanted to see and do everything regardless of his exhaustion. Some babies people were just built that way. Wouldn’t you know it, I’d birth that kind of human. I’ve always liked to do things the hard way, I guess (damn, stubborn Aries trait!).
Enter: Dawn Braun, gentle sleep-coach extraordinaire and the well-rested voice behind “Well Rested Family” of the Annapolis, Maryland (and surrounding) area. I contacted Dawn who uses the techniques based on the book “Good Night, Sleep Tight” by Kim West, aka, The Sleep Lady when I was absolutely on my last leg, my last bit of patience, energy and had cried all my tears. Tenny was about 7 months at the time and I’d been awake consistently for about three months. I was admittedly, nervous and unsure about any type of sleep-training, even something with the word “gentle” in it. To me, sleep-training seemed unnatural. Babies weren’t meant to be good sleepers. They were supposed to be close to mom all night. They weren’t supposed to be easy. It was an is my feeling that babies need comfort from their parents when they are brand new into this would the same way that they need food. It is as basic a need as any. Sleep training of any kind didn’t really seem natural, but I knew something had to give. Nothing that was going on with my son’s sleep really seemed all that natural, either. He was waking constantly, never sleeping for more than 10-15 minutes and I was losing hope and getting seriously overwhelmed.
After talking to Dawn during our consultation, I started to think of sleeping as a skill and one that I would help him learn to embrace and hopefully be able to use for a lifetime. Some of us come by this skill easily, some of us don’t. One good thing about Dawn, that makes her an excellent sleep coach, is that she was willing to work with what I was comfortable with. I credit most of our success to this fact. If Dawn had tried to push me to let my baby cry too long or had given us other techniques I didn’t feel comfortable with, I probably would’ve quit before we started. But I never felt I was doing anything to scar my baby during the course of our training and I never felt pushed, either.
The process was pretty simple. Because Tener wasn’t really comforted by anything other than nursing and we had no real way to get him to sleep and stay asleep, we had to get over this hump to start. We were allowed to hold him, rock him, comfort him in any way we could (which my husband was much better at given his non-functional nipples) but he had to find sleep on his own so that he would learn how. I began nursing him downstairs rather than in his room, then Marshall would take him upstairs and begin a bedtime routine. It only took a couple of nights before Tener caught on that he wasn’t going to be nursed or rocked completely to sleep and he started sleeping better almost immediately. After the first night, it got better and better but I was nervous for when it would be my turn to put him down. I kept a sleep log and checked in with Dawn via phone/text/email so she could help us navigate the days/nights.
Turns out, once the system was in place- nursing downstairs, then going up to start our routine, he didn’t resist me as much as I expected. While we would definitely go back in to re-rock and soothe, we started to have confidence that he was going to get to sleep and it started happening easier and quicker. Full-disclosure- my baby still wakes up in the night and when he does I nurse him back down. I actually really like this because I’m allowed to nurse him to sleep in the night and I get my fix. We also still rock him before bed and comfort him as needed. This program has varying degrees and admittedly, I didn’t want to tackle the full-scale “sleep-training” program but you totally could and should, if you want to!
With Dawn’s help, we did what we felt comfortable with and we have a pretty damn good sleeper to show for it. He still doesn’t sleep on the go, wrapped or in the car or whatever, but he sleeps. And that is an amazing gift. He currently takes two good naps a day and wakes (on average) twice a night. We had regressions (which scared the crap out of me because I thought we were back where we started) but Dawn assured me that these can happen, especially on the verge of developmental milestones (like crawling). But with each regression, we got back to our routine a little easier and a little faster.
Some babies are just tough. Some babies just fight sleep and will keep fighting sleep because it’s their nature and they won’t do anything else until they learn how. If you’re struggling with sleep, if you’re losing your damn mind, I urge you to get help from a gentle sleep coach. It has changed my life in a very short time and I’m happy to recommend Dawn (isn’t it ironic that that’s her name? The Dawn of a new day? The bright, sunny, well-rested morning?) to anyone and everyone who asks. She will absolutely help you create a program that works for you and doesn’t make you hate yourself. I’m even more a believer that you don’t have to let your baby scream relentlessly now than ever. There is a better way.
Mamas… papas, take care of yourselves, guys. You’re important, too.
This is a sponsored post. I received a discount to Well-Rested Family sleep-counseling in exchange for documenting my experience on this blog. All opinions are 100% my own. If you wish to contact me about a product review or a sponsored post, email Sarah.email@example.com.
Recently, I went from being a mother of one to a mother of two. The first few weeks of having two children had its challenges. Everyone was short on sleep and I was constantly occupied by the newest member of the family—my infant son. But Dad stepped it up, giving big sister a ton of love and attention and I was actually quite satisfied to be clutched by this new baby round the clock. I was happy to spend my days (and nights) getting to know the tiny person who’d already occupied my body for the better part of a year.
While there was undoubtedly more on my to-do list, overall, things didn’t seem that much harder. I even told a friend who inquired about how my life was different that it really wasn’t. While, yes, there was new baby who cried in the evenings, we were still doing the same things we’d always been doing.
Now five months into having two kids, I take it all back. I’m no longer high off birth hormones and newborn fumes. The acid trip has worn off and real life with two kids—one preschooler and one infant—has set in. Though I’m overjoyed to be reveling in what I feel is my “complete family,” I can now say with complete confidence that having two kids is no freaking joke. I’ll be the first one to fully acknowledge that having one child can be tremendously challenging, as well, but here’s how my life has changed since I gained one more.
I don’t like doing most chores. In fact, during my entire freshman year of college, my sheets never made it into a washing machine once. I know, it’s disgusting and totally sickens me now, thinking of how they were a very light shade of beige by the end of the year. At some point in early spring, I almost couldn’t take it anymore and was getting ready to tear them off my bed, but my roommate made a suggestion: “Well, you’ve made it this far, you might as well just keep it going.” I was easily persuaded.
Come summer, I think I just threw them out and vowed I’d do better the following year.
But my while my “better” might have meant a few more trips to the laundromat, my hatred for doing chores, especially dishes and laundry, hasn’t subsided that much since 2003, the year I graduated from high school. I do these things now, and frequently, but I only do it so that my kids aren’t running around in filth. It appears I value their health a bit more than I did my own.
I’ve always suspected that a little too much was done for my sister and me when we were young (and not so young). My room was often cleaned for me. My laundry was washed and folded. On occasion, I rinsed a dish and put it in the dishwasher, but usually, I just put it in the sink and left it there, as if that was half the battle. I really don’t remember doing any chores as a kid… ever. And while I think there is some value in letting kids be kids, I also think doing chores as a child makes adjusting to doing them as an adult much easier.
When a parent becomes a grandparent, a series of chemical reactions take place in the human brain. This release of hormones (endorphins, oxytocin, etc) is known to contribute to what is generally referred to as “The Grandparent Effect” – grandparents doing whatever the hell they want with no regard to consequences all in the name of love.
Obviously, I’m joking, and I fully appreciate the amazing love Grandparents give. But the hormone cocktail would help explain some of the bizarre grandparent behavior I’ve both experienced first-hand and heard about from friends that seems to peak at the holidays. In fact, it’s one of the biggest complaints I hear new parents talking about: “Why do my child’s grandparents think they can do whatever they want with my kid just because it’s Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanza? They should know better!” Or, to quote a friend, “Why are there candy cane flakes in my 8-month-old’s neck rolls?? She doesn’t even have teeth!”
If the grandparents are coming to town this holiday season, you may want to post this list up on your soon-to-be goodie-stuffed fridge. Or better yet, print it out and send it to them anonymously BEFORE all hell breaks loose at the “most wonderful time of the year.” Here’s what I’m telling my kids’ grandparents this winter:
You’re in deep with a colicky baby. It’s been a month since you’ve slept more than twenty minutes straight. You finally understand the expression “bone tired” because you feel as if your body is literally crumbling beneath you. In an effort to be heard, to feel understood, to relate to a fellow mother you express your hardships- that your baby never sleeps, that motherhood is bigger than you thought, that you aren’t sure if you’re cut out for it. It’s so hard to even say the words but you desperately want to know that what you’re feeling is okay.
But before you even get past “well, I’m pretty tired…” there’s someone there to put you in your place. “Oh, HUNNY. Enjoy it,” she’ll say. “Enjoy every moment.” And just like that, you’ve failed again. Not only did you actually feel those things you felt, but you tried to talk about them, which makes you an even worse mother than you already feared you might be. “Enjoy it…” it echoes in your ears. Enjoy what? You wonder. All of it? Every goddamn hungry cry? Every inconsolable outburst? Every inconveniently timed poop explosion running down your blouse? The one you finally pulled from your closet in an effort to look like a woman, not a milk truck?
“Well, fuck,” you think. “If I’m supposed to be enjoying this then I’m really fucking screwed.” Because even if you enjoy a lot of it, or most of it, apparently that isn’t good enough. You have to “enjoy every moment,” to really be doing it right. Didn’t you know?
It doesn’t stop in infancy. When your toddlers are running a muck, getting into every last cupboard in your house, smashing dishes, coloring on the walls, mark my words- there will be someone offering up the age-old expression “enjoy it.” It may even be followed by the near constant reminder “it doesn’t last forever.” And in that moment you pray to whatever God you believe in that they are right.
Motherhood is the only arena of our lives that we are made to feel we should be enjoying every waking moment of. But underneath it’s obnoxiousness, the sentiment is usually well-intentioned. It almost always comes from a mother who has walked your same path but is too far from it to remember it accurately. She looks back and idealizes every part of motherhood, no matter what her experiences were. Because the truth is, when our kids are grown, we will all wish we enjoyed it a tiny bit more. We will wish for their baby soft skin, their stutters and that intoxicatingly wonderful new baby smell. No matter how hard or exhausting motherhood is, it does not escape me that this will undoubtedly happen.
While “enjoy it” may be good advice in theory, it’s not actually good advice for a struggling mother. The reason being that it doesn’t help her in any way, shape or form. In fact, it hurts her each and every time she hears it. It makes her wonder what is wrong with her when there is nothing wrong with her. No one enjoys all of motherhood and if they do, please point me in their direction so I can find out where I can get some of what they’re drinking. Or smoking. Or snorting. Whatever. If there is some magic potion that can make me want gobble up every minute of being a mom without ever wanting to scream into a pillow then I’m game.
But there isn’t. There is no magic potion, only time. It comes with looking back and sighing, “I sure wish I’d enjoyed it all a little bit more.” No doubt, it will one day come. But that doesn’t mean it’s not okay to struggle, to be human, to be a mother finding her way. You don’t have to enjoy it all to be a good mother. So let’s stop bullshitting each other. I won’t enjoy every moment. And neither did you.
I recently read a post (and a slew of supporting comments) on a popular parenting blog about birth plans and why you shouldn’t have one. Yes, you read that right — why you shouldn’t. I get where the author is coming from. Can birth be unpredictable? Sure. Can having a vision of your ideal birth set you up for disappointment if it doesn’t go exactly as you had planned? Absolutely. The birth of a child is, after all, a day that most of us have thought of and wondered what it would be like since we were children. I know I did.
But you know what is likely even more disappointing than maybe not getting your ideal birth? Getting railroaded into unnecessary interventions during your birth because you didn’t know you could say “no.” Feeling completely and utterly unsupported during your labor and delivery because you unknowingly picked a hospital with an unprecedented 50 percent C-section rate. Suffering birth trauma or postpartum depression or anxiety as a result of what happened to you in the hospital on a day you spent years dreaming about, but no time planning for.
When my daughter, now 4, was an infant, I thought having a baby was the hardest thing in the whole entire world. It was my Everest. Everything about it was hard. The nonstop crying, the constant breastfeeding, the being exhausted and hormonal all the time. There’s a pretty good reason why I thought that: because it is hard. And no matter how many people have said it before me, that doesn’t make it any less true. It is just so damn hard.
But the mistake I made was waiting, hoping, wishing for it to get easier. All this waiting I did for things to get easier and while the postpartum fog did lift at some point, as I slowly came out of the trenches and back into the world where actual human beings lived, it never really did. The demands of parenting never really got easier. They just shifted.