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Ricki Lake’s new documentary, The Mama Sherpas- How collaborative care is giving women back their rights in birth

My first birth was a standard hospital delivery. It was attended by the on-call doctor, a man I’d never met until my baby was practically spilling out of me. While it wasn’t abysmal, it certainly wasn’t what I thought the birth of my first child would be like. I was forced to labor on my back, like a lot of women, which felt unnatural to me and made my labor far more difficult to bear, let alone to be an active participant in. I was given an unnecessary episiotomy, so quickly I couldn’t protest. I was covered in uncomfortable monitors that dug into my contracting belly and had hands shoved inside me during back labor which was by far, the worst pain of my entire life.

Lastly, I didn’t see my real doctor, the woman I’d been meeting with every few weeks for nine months, until days after my baby was born. She stopped by the room for no longer than 60 seconds to press on my belly and tell me I was “good as new” and in a flash, she was gone, off to press on a dozen more bellies and deliver just as many babies before noon- that I understood. But overall, it was a highly impersonal, slightly degrading experience and one I had no plans of repeating in the future.

Unfortunately, this is not unlike a lot of women’s experiences with hospital birth and when I talk to other women about theirs, it seems that I was actually one of the lucky ones. The truth is, we live in a culture where it is not uncommon for women to suffer birth trauma because of how their rights in childbirth were violated or how their bodies were manipulated. Rates of unnecessary interventions are sky high, as are the rates of women reporting feeling largely dissatisfied with their level of care during birth. Some say they were seriously wronged during labor or perhaps that they didn’t feel cared for or even safe. Some women are even taking legal action after the events surrounding the birth of their babies.

After working hard to educate myself after what happened during my first birth, when I became pregnant with my second child, I sought out a drastically different option- a home birth attended by midwives. At the time, home birth wasn’t exactly legal in my home state of Maryland (though legislation has recently passed to change that), but I felt it was my best and safest option. The closest birth center was about an hour away and given this was my second birth, I figured it might move more quickly and I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of laboring in a car. I knew without question that I didn’t want to be back in a hospital, forced to labor in a way that my body objected to and be in a situation where I was at a huge risk of having major abdominal surgery (about 1 in 3 hospital births result in c-section, high above the recommended ranges).

After researching home birth success rates, I felt safe and informed in my decision. Still, I knew having my baby at home would give me some extra hoops to jump through, like having to fight to get my baby’s birth certificate (after about 17 phone calls and two home visits from a social worker and we were good to go), not to mention the social stigma of having your baby at home and finding a pediatrician who didn’t treat me like a negligent mother. But I was confident home birth was the right option for me. I’m glad to say that it turned out to be a wonderful experience and one I would do over in a heartbeat, mainly because the midwife care I received was so personal, nurturing and took my feelings about birth into consideration.

It goes without saying that my two birth experiences were drastically different and while I was thrilled with the outcome of my second birth, many women don’t get to experience that kind of liberation with subsequent births. This is especially true for women who have had a cesarean and are hoping to have a vaginal birth with subsequent deliveries (VBAC).  In many states, women seeking a VBAC currently have very few options. Some birth centers refuse them and many doctors will tell them they can “try”, but do little to support their choice. I know many women who have sought out a home birth simply because they couldn’t find a doctor or a practice that was supportive of helping them achieve a VBAC.

Every year, more women are choosing out of hospital birth because of the high rates of unnecessary surgery and interventions taking place in hospitals. In fact, even obstetricians themselves are choosing home birth, as is demonstrated in the documentary entitled Why Not Home? While I’m a huge advocate of birthing at home, I don’t believe this is the right choice for every woman. Simply put, women need more options when it comes to how and where to birth their babies. Some women have high risk pregnancies and other women simply wouldn’t feel safe giving birth outside of a hospital environment. It seems there needs to be a form of care that can support women who want a happy medium- care that is personal, evidence based and overseen by qualified professionals, whether that be a doctor, a midwife or both.

Fortunately, in some practices, this kind of care is now taking shape. In the new film, The Mama Sherpas, created by executive producers Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein (The Business of Being Born) and DC-based director, Brigid Maher, we are introduced to the idea of “collaborative care” which is where doctors and midwives work together to manage women’s health during pregnancy and delivery. In a country where these two professionals are often on opposite ends of the spectrum in regard to practices and policies surrounding delivery, this idea is pretty empowering.

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Women can now reap the benefits of what both professionals offer throughout pregnancy, labor and delivery. The result, as we see in the film, is care that is evidence-based with lower rates of interventions (such as cesareans) and maybe most importantly, women feeling respected and supported during such an important time in their lives. With women experiencing “traumatic births” or even suffering PTSD for years to come as a result of their delivery, I’d say it’s about time for this model of care to come to the forefront of the birthing business.

The film looks at one practice in Washington DC, GW Midwifery, which is embracing this model of care and working hard to support VBAC women. The film opens with the delivery of the thousandth GW Midwifery baby (though that number has now doubled), a milestone which the practice is shown celebrating. You can quickly see the outpouring of emotions as one mother thanks the midwives “on behalf of VBAC mamas” and for giving her “a real shot” at having her baby the way she felt safest. With a 93% VBAC success rate, it’s shocking more hospitals aren’t already embracing this model of care, but hopefully, practices like this one will soon be an inspiration to many.

The flimmaker, Brigid Maher, also had a VBAC in a hospital with midwives when she gave birth to her daughter, Josie. Maher claims the experience of achieving the birth, a birth which so few women are given the opportunity, was so inspirational to her she says (in the film) “about ten minutes after her birth, I blurted out that I had to make a documentary about nurse midwives.” Maher says she “couldn’t imagine” trying to take care of a newborn and her older child during what she expected would be another rough recovery if she were to go under the knife again.

In many hospitals, women still feel that their care is limiting, impersonal and lacking evidence-based policies. While the risk for VBACs and the risk for having multiple cesareans is about the same, women are often railroaded into having multiple c-sections without cause. For lack of better options, as a culture, we’ve come to accept the care we’ve been given. With this form of collaborative care now in the works, hopefully, a new trend is on it’s way in.

Midwives and doctors working together seems like a welcomed change that will greatly help to support families in pregnancy and birth. And on a personal note, as someone who experienced two very different models of care during my births, I got chills watching the doctors and midwives collaborate to give moms the best of both worlds. Collaborative care could be the future of childbirth and if so, it’s a great future for mothers and babies.

Watch the full film here or keep up the The Mama Sherpas on Facebook.

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Needing more than to be needed

As a mother who stays at home, works at home, wipes snotty faces and does everything else at home, on any given day, finding time to shower or go to the bathroom is a struggle. When I do, it’s hurried or a spectator sport at best, a crying, massive, ridiculous meltdown in the making at worst. One baby screaming in his crib and flailing his body against the rails while his sister throws things at him or down the stairs or tries to make him dance while he protests and cries harder. Who knew peeing (or God forbid, pooping) could cause such utter chaos? People with bladder control problems and mothers (so basically, just mothers)- that’s who.

The time I have away from my children at this point in my life is very limited. It is almost nonexistent. My husband travels for his job about half the month and during that time, I am holding down the fort and sometimes unraveling, briefly, then putting myself back together before too much damage has been caused. I am always hopeful that by the end of the day, tired children will go to bed easily, sleep well and there will be a few moments in the day for me. That I will end the day on a high note, feeling like I did the best I can do and once they are tucked in my good karma will kick in and I can put my feet up. Usually, that doesn’t happen, but I remain hopeful with each passing day that soon it will.

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Instead what almost always happens is some variation of the following. My daughter gets excited because she has me all to herself. There is no other adult in the kitchen to talk to and sneak glances to or to help me make dinner. Just a baby who doesn’t talk and a 5-year-old who never stops talking. If my mind drifts for a moment my silence is met with “mama!… mama!” I love her adoration of me, but sometimes, it is suffocating and it is overwhelming, especially now that there is another tiny person to feed, clothe, bathe and put to bed, too.

She is in my lap, she is pawing at my hair, she is covering me in garments. Her tiny hands are all over my body. They are on my bare breasts, cozying up to me while the baby nurses. On my face and neck and belly. They are everywhere. They are hands that I love more than anything, but they are playing a very intrinsic part in my combustion. I grit my teeth and take deep breaths and sometimes I say “mommy, needs some space,” but more often than not those words are lost on her.

This feeling rises up in me that I can usually push away. It’s just me. And it will just be me at 3 AM and first thing in the morning and when I’m at my breaking point. Even my breaking point doesn’t matter. There is no getaway, minus when my heart-of-gold neighbor with her own small child offers to take the crying baby so I can jog out my stresses before he implodes from separation anxiety or hunger or angry-baby-itis. Or when my mother watches him while I go to a long overdue dentist appointment, settle into the chair to watch Regis and Kelly and feel like I’m on vacation. That is, until they tell me how pregnancy and hormones have done a number on my gums and holy hell, that hurts and why didn’t I find time to come to the dentist in the last four years?

More often than not, at some point in the day that I start out having the highest hopes for, I feel completely defeated. And I ask myself “why is this so hard?”

On my husband’s most recent trip, my daughter stayed home from her morning preschool due to a mild fever the night before. She’d been running circles around me all day while I tried to not picture the entire lonely week ahead of me.  After hours of making dinner, begging people to eat dinner, cleaning it up, tantrums, baths, nursing, more tantrums, a teething baby who can’t sleep and big kid who was enraged about it, I lost it. I yelled. I sobbed. And then my “me time” that I’d been looking forward to, instead of spending it putting up my feet, watching The Mindy Project, I spent feeling the pangs of horrible, devastating guilt and wondering “how did I become this angry, tired, overwhelmed mom who yells? This isn’t who I wanted to be. This isn’t how it was supposed to be. In fact, it’s the opposite of everything I wanted to be. This isn’t what my motherhood was supposed to look and feel like. This is not my motherhood.”

I spend almost all of my time and energy loving the shit out of my kids. Finding these little magic moments in ordinary days. Kissing dirty faces and being easy going and making sure everyone has gotten enough enough hugs, kind words and discipline. And then I spend just a little bit of time wanting terribly to get away from them. Needing to get away from them. And it’s not because I’m a horrible person or because I’m not enjoying motherhood as much as I should be. It’s not because I’m emotionally unbalanced (well, maybe, a little). Mostly, it’s because “away” doesn’t exist. Breathing easy, being alone, working, writing uninterrupted by a poopy diaper, a spilled drink, or getting hit in the head with a sock monkey, it’s just not a part of my life. Or it’s so fleeting, it’s over before it started.

Even on my best day, when I’m calm, cool and collected, or do a good enough job pretending I am, by 10 PM, sometimes earlier, I just want to curl up in bed and not be needed. I want to do a good job, not a mediocre one, on something I get paid for. I want to prioritize something thats mine, instead of always letting my work, my ambitions, my “chances” slide because there is too much else that’s important. And I let that thought come in, that sounds something like “I can’t see them anymore today. Not right now. Please, stay in bed. Please.” And I let it wash over me and feel the enormity of the guilt that comes with it. Every ounce.

My motherhood experience is not all roses and I don’t need it to be. I don’t need to be told how much I will miss these times because I already know how true that is. The other day I was driving home and I started thinking about when my daughter was two with her white tuft of hair and her long eyelashes and her fearlessness. I got a tear in my eye but I couldn’t finish the thought because she yelled “mama!… answer me!” from the backseat and then it was gone. The opportunity to reminisce, to miss something, evaporated.

The fleetingness of motherhood is with me, always. But so is knowing that I need more than simply to be needed. Part of my motherhood experience is remembering me- the mother. And finding her and telling her she’s important, too. I love my children all the time, but sometimes, I just want to miss them. I want to know what it’s like to come up for air. And I want to know that that’s okay.

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Why I love honest moms

I have a high-needs baby. There is no way around it. He is the apple of my eye, as is his five-year-old mile-a-minute sister. But this kid is far from easy-going. He doesn’t like many people besides me. He doesn’t like getting his diaper changed and he hates bottles. But on the list of things he doesn’t like, sleep is number one.

My not-so-newborn absolutely hates sleep and will fight it at all costs, until I’m crying in the basement, letting him scream for just a few minutes so I can do the same in private. At seven months, he is now in the throes of separation anxiety and I, a not-religious-in-the-slightest person, am finding myself talking to God on the regular, hoping He will send me a lifeline.

My husband and I have thrown our hands up and given each other blank stares, not having any idea what else to do. I have swaddled, nursed on demand, laid on my bed for two hours (or more) not moving a muscle while he napped. I’ve begged my daughter to please play quietly. I’ve made her cry by snapping at her. I’ve let the baby scream so I could give her a much needed hug. I’ve also felt worse about myself as a mother and a person than I ever thought possible.

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Continue reading at Mommy Nearest… 

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5 Qualifications you should have to become a parent

Dear Applicant,

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.

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Continue reading @ Mommy Nearest… 

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Review: Well-Rested Family

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.

Dawn Braun, "Well-Rested Family" with her well-rested family... don't they look rested?
Dawn Braun, “Well-Rested Family” with her well-rested family… don’t they look rested?

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.

Good night, sleep tight.

Find Dawn’s page at www.wellrestedfamily.com or on Facebook.

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.bregel@gmail.com. 

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The Fifty Stages of Sleep Deprivation

While my pregnant self had entertained the thought that baby number two would be my “easy” baby, my “sleeper” baby, I regret to say, I was wrong. “I know how to swaddle!” I thought. “I know The Happiest Baby techniques!” “I know about white noise and overstimulation. We’ve totally got this!” BAH… HA. The only thing I’ve got is an eight month old kid who never sleeps. Not swaddled or wrapped, not in his “last resort” car seat or even in a stroller. I have the kid who watches absolutely everything and lifts his head up to look around when a floorboard creaks, even if he’s been up for hours on end. I’ve got the kid who can fight sleep like no one I’ve ever met in my entire life, conk out for ten minutes, then party all night. I’ve got the kid who wakes up screaming the second a nip slips out of his mouth or his body touches something that lacks a pulse. Having gone through an intense period of sleep deprivation with this child, I now know how important sleep is. Sleep can seriously make or break you. Not sleeping for months on end can tear your life apart and leave it like that crap in the bottom of a hamster’s cage- shredded.

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Here are the fifty stages of sleep deprivation as I know them:

 

  1. You start taking your kid to school without your bra on, regardless of the fact that your breasts are literally everywhere.
  2. Showering becomes either obsolete or the only thing you do in your day that brings you back from the brink. Until everyone starts screaming and you realize it was completely not worth it.
  3. Everything your husband does annoys you.
  4. Everything your husband doesn’t do annoys you.
  5. You begin to understand how horses sleep standing up.
  6. Falling asleep on the toilet seems like a very legitimate option. Until, again, everyone starts screaming at you.
  7. You unload half the dishwasher before realizing your cupboards are filled with gross, dirty dishes.
  8. You have a stack of eighteen sleep books next to your bed.
  9. You’re too tired to read any of them.
  10. You tell yourself that all the Angelina Ballerina your daughter has been watching is educational.
  11. You contemplate hiring a “sleep coach” but hang up when you forgot who you dialed.
  12. Out of desperation you let your baby scream approximately one time while you sob and guzzle half a box of wine.
  13. You become so guilt-ridden at letting your baby cry that you stay up all night anyway thinking about his cortisol levels which are no doubt, off the chart.
  14. You begin texting, emailing and Facebook messaging anyone (even total strangers) who had a similar struggle for encouraging words.
  15. You eliminate “getting dressed” from your daily tasks.
  16. Thirty-two people a day tell you they have a “great sleeper.”
  17. Twenty-eight people a day recommend “wearing your baby” and look at you with crazy eyes when you tell them he doesn’t like to sleep that way since he was four months old.
  18. Twelve people a day tell you to let your baby “cry it out.”
  19. Fifty people a day tell you to “enjoy every minute” even when you can’t quite put your finger on what “minutes” are.
  20. You install The Wonder Weeks App on your phone thinking perhaps it’s just a developmental milestone.
  21. You delete The Wonder Weeks App when you realize it’s not a developmental milestone that’s keeping your baby awake. He’s been awake since birth.
  22. After your fifth hysterical phone call, your sister who has gone back and forth in the past finally decides to never have kids because “hell no, I can’t deal with that.”
  23. You email a “gentle sleep coach” just to see what the deal is.
  24. You tell your husband nothing will ever work and this is all your fault because you were too stressed during pregnancy and also sometimes ate brie.
  25. You give up ever putting your boob away or trying to get the baby to sleep anywhere but on you and recommit to cosleeping completely.
  26. People tell you you’ll never get the baby out of your bed, he’ll be nursing till he’s in middle school and that you’ll get divorced.
  27. You tell your daughter to be quiet 18,564 times a day.
  28. She resents this, starts whining all the time and begins her own personal sleep-regression.
  29. Your entire nights are made up of trying to get people back to sleep only to be so wired from the constant waking that you completely give up on sleeping yourself and begin starting your days at 3 am only to feel like it’s midnight by 7:30 am.
  30. You give up co-sleeping AGAIN when the baby sleeps very poorly this way, literally suckles and bites you all night as you lay awake morphing your body into exceedingly more and more uncomfortable positions.
  31. Feel like you’ve been through the washing machine at six am and want to close your eyes so badly just when you’re supposed to be starting your day.
  32. You fantasize about nothing other than sleep.
  33. People tell you co-sleeping is really the best for the baby and it always worked for them.
  34. You start gathering doctor’s phone numbers so your husband can go ahead with his vasectomy.
  35. Drinking coffee makes you feel like puking.
  36. Not drinking coffee makes you feel like puking.
  37. You start praying on the regular.
  38. You overhear your husband praying also.
  39. You tell yourself “this too shall pass” twenty-five times a day.
  40. You make plans to go to yoga even if you’re tired.
  41. You cancel plans to go to yoga when you’re way beyond tired, bordering on incoherent and no amount of downdogging will get you anywhere close to feeling sort of okay.
  42. You stay over at your mother’s house when your husband goes out of town for work AGAIN, so that you can maybe, possibly avoid calling him in the middle of the night and ugly crying into the phone.
  43. You try to distract yourself from the fact the he’s sleeping soundly in a hotel bed with no one pulling at his teet or yelling in his ear.
  44. Consider taking up day drinking but realize you won’t be a fun drunk like you used to be anyway so what’s the point?
  45. You finally check your email and write back to the “gentle sleep coach” and feel a shred of something that resembles hope.
  46. Have a kind of okay night with the baby and consider cancelling the coaching appointment and saving all that money that you really don’t have in the first place.
  47. Have a horrible night with the baby and shell out the dollars.
  48. Get the baby to sleep and stay asleep for the first time ever and think it was the best money you ever spent.
  49. Celebrate by pouring yourself a huge glass of red wine but fall asleep before you can drink it.
  50. Sleep for three uninterrupted hours and feel as if you can take over the world and wonder how it’s even possible that you weren’t a way more productive person when you were sleeping for an astonishing seven or eight hours A NIGHT on the regular.
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I guess I’ll sleep when I’m dead

MM readers, Apologies for being completely MIA here. Aside from reposting work from other sites on this blog, I haven’t actually written on here in forever. Don’t blame me. Blame THIS GUY. I know he’s cute but he’s trouble.

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This baby is so sweet, guys. I love him to the ends of the earth. But at seven months old he’s still pretty much a nightmare sleeper. He’s up several times a night and usually has a hard time going back to sleep. If he sleeps with me, in my arm pit, he wants to suckle all night and I end up awake for hours. If he sleeps in the crib he’s up several times a night. His sister is usually up at least twice or three times for a potty or a snuggle, too. Being awake every single hour is taking it’s toll on me. I want desperately to nurse him till he’s a year old. I actually can’t imagine stopping now that we are seven months in. I think it would be very emotional. But every time I hear about how great someone’s baby sleeps who downs a big bottle before bed, I want to throw in the towel. However, I know I’m not quite ready.

Every night I hope the tide will turn and so far, it hasn’t. I have been telling myself for months now “this too shall pass.” But lately I feel like I’ve been waiting forever. I’ve been trying to hide my exhaustion. Trying to act normal. But at this point, I can barely even muster up the energy to fake it. For example, I’m still bra-less and it’s 3:30 and I smell like baby poop, not sure how. I’m sure it’s on me somewhere. There’s snow on the ground, but still. I also haven’t been showering… that much. Every time my husband goes on a work trip I completely fall apart. I called him sobbing yesterday. Like, hysterical, incoherent, ugly cry, sobbing into the phone. He’d been gone about five hours.

Yesterday I was so fed up, so sad, so defeated. I texted my doula (and friend).  I told her I’d been crying all morning. The baby was finally asleep after hours of trying to get him down for a nap. But all I could do was sit and cry. I haven’t wanted to say it out loud, how bad his sleep has been, how hard it’s been on me. I’m so past “mombie.” I’m really feeling the strain of sleeping for less than four hours a night for months (which according to the book my doula/friend brought me, is really, extremely bad for your health). I just wanted to reach out to someone and I’m glad I did. So she came over, tried to help me get the baby to sleep (which of course didn’t work because she’s no longer lactating and the only way Tenny wants to sleep is latched the fuck on). But then she took Piper to play with her girls for the afternoon. I nursed the baby and rested with him. Then eased him into his crib and he stayed there for a short while at least.

Sometimes just having human contact, just having someone say you aren’t crazy, you aren’t doing everything wrong and… I’m sorry you’re going through this just helps so much. I’m also so thankful for the mothers of the world who have bared their souls to me and told me about their struggles, too. When the going gets tough, I need honesty more than anything. Honesty saves me. I think mothers really want honesty. Properly-timed honesty, but still. Thanks to everyone who has given me that over these past seven months. Your struggles don’t make you weak. Your ability to share and be honest and maybe help others makes you brave.

I promise to write more soon. XOXO

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5 Ways Life Has Changed Since Having My Second Kid

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.

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Continue reading on Mommy Nearest… 

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I did all I could today

I am weary, laying in my bed, half-asleep but not quite done for the day. The baby will be awake in an hour, or a half hour, or maybe three minutes. Who knows. Big sister was just up again because she had to potty, then a nightmare. Dad is out of town and there is no one to smack in the belly to tell to rock the baby at least once. That typical feeling that it’s just me is compounded right now.

Today was hard and I didn’t do my best.

I have those seamless days when everything goes off without a hitch. Like Monday when big sister woke, cheery and bright-eyed. At my request she ran into her room and picked out an appropriate outfit and put it on. She ate her breakfast without me having to ask her to stop messing with the baby and sit back in her chair. Well, maybe I asked her a couple of times.

I had gotten a few hours of sleep, at least, between feedings. The baby was bubbly and chirpy. The big girl put on her shoes, even tied them and smiled proudly. I dropped her off at pre-school. A quick kiss and she entered happily and started playing. I drove away feeling good, no guilt about leaving her, no worries about her missing me and her brother when we were gone. We got home and I nursed the baby back to sleep. I tidied, threw some dishes in the dishwasher and a load of diapers in the wash. I sat down and wrote something I felt good about. The baby woke, nursed and didn’t scream his brains out on the way to get big sis from school. The rest of the day went pretty much the same. Good moods and easy going children. If all days were like this, I’d have three more kids and a dog named Tilly. Or Vinny. Or Buck.

But all days can’t be like this. If they were no one would do yoga or cry and drink wine and write blogs about parenting. There would be nothing to cleanse your soul of, no struggles to relate over, no worries to send out into the world and hope you get something back. Some days you just do what you can do and hope it’s enough. Some days are like today.

I’m already awake when it starts because I never really went to sleep. The baby was up all night, and I mean, all night, tossing and turning with a stuffy nose. Every half hour or so, I offered my breast but he turned away, not hungry, just tired and fighting sleep. I rocked him and tried to sooth him but the night was still so damn long. The sun rose and that dreaded feeling came over me- “how will I make it through this day?”

Right away, big sister is being argumentative at best, just downright nasty at worst. She’s rough with the baby, too rough to let slide. She’s into everything, pulling out every toy, book, game. She doesn’t want to get dressed and in a few minutes, I’m down on the floor, shoving books back on the shelf while the baby pulls at my shirt and drools on my shoulder, pleading with her to pick out a sweater. Another fifteen minutes of this and I’m angry, but so is she. And she’s angrier when I sit down to nurse the baby and she has to eat breakfast alone. She’s whining and I’m sad and guilt-ridden and it’s not even 8.

Finally, after a lot more redirecting and pleading, we are off to school. The baby wails and turns purple while big sister covers her ears in the car. She doesn’t want to go. She wants to stay home. I remind her that mommy has to get some work done today and school will be much more fun for her. I drive away defeated with the baby screaming the whole way home. When we get there I nurse him and he falls asleep instantly, but wakes when I put him down. I nurse him again, hold him for fifteen minutes to make sure he’s hit his sleep-cycle. I put him down. He wakes. Finally, I rock him and hold him and just let him sleep on me for an hour while I write emails on my phone, asking editors I’m mildly intimidated by for extensions.

The rest of the day is the same. There are a few good moments mixed in. But overall, I am overwhelmed and exhausted and I know I’m not doing my best. My daughter is talking, talking endlessly and sometimes I go “yeah” or “okay” or pretend to be enthused but really,  I didn’t even hear her. I don’t even know what she asked me and when I realize this, it kills me.

After dinner, baths, snuggles, books, nursing and rocking and more nursing, I pour myself a glass of wine and drink half before dumping the rest back into the bottle when I hear the baby. I will go lay with him and try to get him back to sleep. It’s nearly nine. I’ve had about fifteen minutes to myself and I spent them sitting in a chair with my eyes closed, waiting for the next call of duty I knew was moments away.

Even when they are draining me, I can see how lucky I am for this family of mine. But I can’t always give them everything. They deserve the best of me. They truly do, but since they have all of me, how can I give them my best always? Some days I can’t give it because I don’t have it- it’s not in me. Some days I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel and going through the motions. Some days “good enough” comes in it’s place.

I didn’t do my best today. I did all I could and I tell myself, “it’s enough” because it has to be. Tomorrow is another day and it will be better, brighter, more rested. Tomorrow, there will be more laughter and no matter what I’ll give it all I’ve got.

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16 Things My Husband is Usually Doing Wrong (According to Me)

Like most loving, decent, kind and patient spouses, I don’t like to rag on my husband. I really don’t! But sometimes his actions make me question if he is in fact, watching an episode of The Office in his head instead of being marginally invested in whatever else he is doing. Like having a conversation with his wife or caring for our two tiny humans.

I love my husband dearly. I’d marry him again if I could. Sometimes I wonder how we even found each other in this crazy mixed up world. In fact, I’d make a list of all the things he is doing right, but it would be too long and too gushy and I’d lose my street cred. Even so, I’ve had to practice patience over the last five years of my life as a spouse and a mother because though raising little ones is tough, I think co-parenting (and co-existing under the same roof at all times) might be even tougher.

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Since my partner (for life, ahhh!!… still gets me) also happens to be such a good sport (remind me to add that to the things he’s doing right list)…

Here are 16 things my husband is usually doing wrong (according to me):

1. Not answering questions. I talk. He doesn’t answer. I talk louder. He still doesn’t answer. I talk REALLY loud and he says “geez, why are you screaming?”

2. Not having breasts and therefore not being able to do the midnight feeding, the 2:30 am feeding OR the 5 am feeding.

3. Moving too slowly. This typically pertains to when bedtime is looming, when we have anywhere to be at a specific time or when one of our kids is about 30 seconds away from a huge meltdown. Enter: slow mo.

4. Looking at his phone so much you’d think there was a real life naked woman in there who talks to him and doesn’t leave a trail of breast milk wherever she goes.

5. Coming home with sixty percent of what was on the grocery list and a whole bunch of stuff that wasn’t.

6. Two words. Selective. Hearing.

7. Two more words. Fake. Pooping.

8. Also, getting home from work and immediately excusing himself to poop when I haven’t pooped alone in five years and have been drowning in children all day.

9. Forgetting to flush. If it’s yellow, whatevs, I’m mellow. If it’s brown… PLEASE flush it down. I’ve already seen more poop today than you can possibly imagine.

10. Basically just pooping too much altogether for a thirty year old man.

11. Being able to sleep through crying, whining, and me being body-checked by children.

12. Falling asleep the second his head hits the pillow.

13. Working out twice and losing 8 pounds while I busting my ass at the gym five days a week and still have to wear pants with an elastic waist.

14. Buying so many kinds of good beer that I have no choice but to drink them. Hence #13.

15. Always needing me to find things.

16. Putting clothes on the little people. The tag goes in the back. Always in the back. How he did not think the backwards bathing suit on our four year old looked completely insane is beyond me. We are not raising a mini Christina Aguilera here!