As I wrap up my year-long maternity leave, I am working very hard not to count down the days until my return to work. It will come soon enough and when it does, I know I will yearn for my relatively relaxed, pajama-clad mornings (and early afternoons). While I have enjoyed the vast majority of my time with my daughter, there have been moments (and days) when I have yearned for the freedom of my pre-parent, working, and somewhat carefree days. Not simply because it was easier to get out of the house, exercise, eat, go to the bathroom, connect with friends, think, etc., but because I had a fairly clear understanding of who I was.
Since becoming a mother, I have gained a new self, one that is regularly at odds with my former free, fiercely independent, career driven, funny, daring, adventurous, high strung, active, and focused self. This self is now playing second fiddle to a new one – a person I don’t know much about and, at times, don’t particularly like. This new self is chronically tired, unmotivated to exercise, unable to complete tasks in a timely or effective manner, unable to attend professional or personal events with any regularity, has little patience or compassion for the man I care most about, has limited attention span or ability to think critically, is physically limited (well, when I had mastitis and appendicitis) and often housebound to accommodate the infamous nap schedule.
It’s not all bad. My new self comes with a few positive attributes: greater patience (it’s still low, but a lot more than I used to have), new and wonderful friends, a more playful attitude, and more time to spend in pajamas. The greatest and most profound change, however, is the intensity of my love for my little girl. It’s something I could never have fathomed until having a baby. It’s magical. And a little scary.
The good news is the internal war is quieting. With less than a month left of my maternity leave, a peace treaty between my two selves is underway. I feel the clutches of time urging me to live it up, not to wallow in my lack of sleep, and to “get stuck in”, as my Dad would say. Don’t get me wrong, I have been “stuck in” (that sounds somewhat offensive) for the majority of my leave, but I have likely let too many moments and days pass without much ado.
In the time I have, I will savour the moments with my daughter and look for unique ways to enjoy our days together – visit the science centre, zoo (weather permitting) and walk in the mountains. I will schedule time for me – to be with friends, to exercise, to get pampered. And throughout, I will patiently wait to witness the merging of my two independent and inextricably linked selves – the fiercely driven, career-focused woman and the incredibly besotted and ever-vulnerable mother.
I think this new self is going to be pretty incredible when all is said and done. I know my new self will go through more iterations with life experience and change, and again, I will wait patiently to witness the emergence of a new and more powerful self.
To all the moms and dads who are also waging an internal war right now, please give yourself the space and time needed to allow a new and unified self to evolve and emerge. It will feel psychologically and physically painful at times, but it will happen and when it does, damn, it’s going to be awesome.
Before you even think it, I am going to acknowledge the fact this blog has taken a massive step away from being a health blog. I hear you. More specifically, I hear your thoughts. If you’re a loyal follower (of which there are many…) who only wants to read about health related topics, I permit you to unfollow me (yes, you needed my permission). I get that hearing about the trials and tribulations of parenting may not be your schtick (it wasn’t mine prior to having one), so feel free to ignore said posts or leave altogether. I may, someday, return to health blogging.
On to sharing my parenting win: swearing in public.
I’ve now had two very public and very loud swearing outbursts with my beautiful daughter in tow. Yes, I am nailing it as a parent. Absolutely nailing it.
Both of these moments make me laugh. Not in the moment, but immediately after and in random moments when I’m allowed the time to reflect at my parenting mishaps and mistakes. I share this because I want everyone to feel better about themselves as a parent and a person; to know that it’s okay to look really bad in public and still be an awesome parent and person in private (and most times in public). And you’re still not a bad parent even when you let your daughter watch The Good Wife with you while you eat cheese and she eats your phone (you caught me, I’m confessing hoping that someone will also agree and make me feel better about my parenting choices).
The first expletive explosion was on a flight back from Ontario to Calgary. I was solo parenting which is always a dream, especially on a plane (single parents, you are angels of music – I don’t know how do it). Between nursing, my daughter removing the nursing cover and exposing my breasts to our flightmates, trying to eat, her kicking my food and associated food garbage to the ground, getting up to change her diaper 3 times in the incredibly spacious airplane bathroom, I was perhaps a little bit tired by the end of it. Oh, and my water bottle exploded on me three times. It’s one of those bottles where the spout pops open, which is relevant because as you ascend and the air pressure changes, the water really wants to escape. More specifically, it wants to escape out the spout onto your nursing cover and neighbour – a perfect water projectile. How could I do this three times? Because on the ascent (when the air pressure is constantly changing), I would pop open the spout, experience the water shower, swear (under my breath), wipe the water from my daughter’s face, close the spout, forget and do it again. Next Einstein over here.
So I was tired. I was ready to be off the plane. We landed. I rejoiced. I placed my daughter on the floor (calm down, the nursing cover was between her and the airplane carpet) in order to put on the Bjorn. Forgetting where I was – a small metal tube that is not meant for taller than average people – I stood up quickly from placing my daughter on the ground. Way too quickly. You know what happened: my head cracked the luggage compartment. I yelled F*** at the top of my lungs, as you do. Every passenger, also ready to disembark, standing, waiting, watching, heard the delightful sound leave my lips. Then I opened the luggage compartment and the contents of my diaper bag fell on me. I was thrilled.
The most recent public display was at Starbucks and it involved the Bjorn and a wasp. Standing casually, chatting, enjoying the final sun rays of the year (this happens in October in Calgary), my friend tells me there is a wasp on my daughter’s hat. Instead of swatting the wasp away from my body, I swatted it towards me, as you do. It went from her hat to my chest. Yes, right between my daughter’s face and her favourite place on earth, my breasts. I blacked out. And in that moment, while trying to undo the Bjorn (ineffectively), I yelled “Sh**! F***! Sh**!”. I have no doubt the customers outside were delighted and encouraged by my expert parenting maneuvers. After all of this, I did manage to remove the wasp from the vicinity of my child and my important body parts.
I share this because I want to make you laugh. And, as I said above, to make you feel better when you swear in public, or drop you child (I honestly haven’t done this…yet), or accidentally let them eat stones (this has almost happened), or lick all the toys at the library (this has happened). We have winning and losing moments. We often rock it, but we also often knock it (go with it).
Happy parenting and, more importantly, happy swearing when the mood strikes.
So I’m 7 months in. I’m out of the blackhole that is the first 2 months. I am not really sleeping solidly through the night, but we’ll get there, maybe in ten years. Regardless of sleep or lack thereof, I thought it important to clarify any misconceptions you may have from my previous posts as most have focused on the hilarity or challenges of parenting. While there continues to be many moments of hilarity and challenge, it’s not all bad (I swear). If it was, why would people keep having kids? Well, I guess because people won’t ever stop having sex. Moving on…
So what’s so good about it? Apart from spending long mornings in your pyjamas and “sexy” robe? Well, let me tell you:
- Spending long mornings in your pyjamas and sexy lumberjack robe. That is a major perk of being on mat leave, but it’s also a necessity when sleep continues to be the elusive beast that it is. I’m sure the tow truck man (our car decided not to start) really enjoyed my morning ensemble yesterday…perhaps the breast milk stain really got him going, I’ll never know.
- Not bathing. What a perk. You are no longer required to shower on a daily basis (even though you should because you are regularly barfed and pooped on), put on makeup, do your hair (not that I did this before), or put on clothes other than your sexy robe.
- Hearing your baby giggle. It trumps everything. It makes the world freeze and your soul sing. And you’ll do anything, anything to get them to giggle again. Whether doing jump squats to “scare” your baby on the change table or chanting “kwazzzzzzy cupcakes” (I was watching Brooklyn 99 at the time. Stop. Turn on Netflix. Watch it now) over and over, you’ll do it.
- Eating just about anything your heart desires. Breastfeeding, while sometimes inconvenient and uncomfortable (especially in those early days), is a great calorie burner. No, you are no longer required to shed those pesky lbs. by eating a balanced diet or hitting the gym, you can simply eat carbs and, more carbs. Should you? Maybe not. Will you? Yes. Oh yes.
- You have a hiatus from your monthly friend. But, to all the ladies out there, do not misconstrue this to mean you cannot conceive. If you want to avoid the dreaded Irish twins, ensure you’re being safe and adhering to the ever-appreciated advice of your high school phys-ed teacher. Abstinence. Or condoms work too.
- Your baby’s smile when they see you in the morning. It may have been a night from the depths of hell, and you may not really like your baby at the moment, but the smile that alights their face upon seeing you in the morning is a serious heart-melter.
- Everyday is Friday. This means you can go out mid-week for dinner with friends and drink like a fish. Well, not a fish seeing as you may have to breastfeed later on, but you can definitely imbibe a wee bit more than you normally would on a weeknight. Yeehaw. This wild night, however, will promptly end at 9 PM when you need to come home and sleep immediately. You never know when the baby beast will awaken. And you need your sleep. You need it so bad.
- You’re raising a human and it feels awesome. It’s pretty rad to have incubated, birthed, and to now be raising a tiny human; a human who will one day think independently, drive, vote, and love (among many other things). It’s also freaking scary, but this is a positive themed post so we will ignore this thought.
- People will love and spoil you (as they should). Never have I experienced the generosity, love, care and concern that I have experienced since having a child. My family, old friends, and new momma friends have all helped me to adjust to maternity leave in such a beautiful and honest way and have undoubtedly helped me to maintain sanity (questionable). Seriously, people are awesome.
- My daughter’s love for me is out of this world. It’s big sloppy chin sucks, hair pulls, laughs, smiles from across the room, snuggles in the morning, farts on my leg, loving glances, and so much more. And I wouldn’t trade it for all the sleep in the world.
There are many more positives, but the list is long enough and you get the picture. Babies are hard. Like, the hardest thing ever. They cry (so much), whine, spit up, hit, pull hair, bite, get hurt, poop, adult-style vomit, ruin clothes, furniture and basically your entire house. But they are also magic. They smile (so much), giggle, belly-laugh, roll, play with toys and you, talk, coo, gurgle, eat new things, laugh again, snuggle, hug, kiss, and love.
Seriously, it’s not all bad.
When I started reading In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, by Canadian physician, Dr. Gabor Maté, I was not expecting to learn an incredibly important lesson in parenting. Instead, I thought I was going to learn about the trials and tribulations of addiction. Yet, in this captivating read, Dr. Maté elucidates a powerful connection between our early infant-parent / caregiver interactions and the propensity to turn to substances later in life.
It’s important, before getting too far into the meat, to touch on the important subject of blame. The research Dr. Maté shares and thus, the research I will write about in this post, showcase the paramount importance of early interactions between parent and child as the foundation for long-term emotional health and addiction-free functioning. This is, without question, an incredibly sensitive subject. Firstly, it challenges our heavy reliance on genes as an explanation for “bad” behaviour. Secondly, it challenges the assumption that only situations of abuse, neglect or trauma can trigger addictive behaviour. But most importantly, it places an incredible onus on the caregiver to ensure they aren’t wiring their child’s brain for addiction. This is where the blame game can come into play; however, that’s not Maté’s intention, nor is it mine. It’s simply to help us better understand this incredibly powerful process and how we influence it.
While genes play a role in the development of our stress apparatus and response, research demonstrates exposure to cortisol in utero can increase the release of cortisol in infants one year postpartum. Pregnant women who witnessed 9/11 were more likely to have infants with higher than normal levels of cortisol. Cortisol levels varied depending on the stage of pregnancy the woman was at; babies exposed in the third trimester had higher cortisol secretion than babies exposed in the first or second trimester. This highlights the role and power of the environment as opposed to a genetic transmission from mom to baby. Right from the get go, new parents need to be aware of how powerful their stress levels can impact their growing little one.
Yet, Dr. Mate spends most of his time discussing the importance of the caregiver- infant interaction and its association with addictive behaviour later in life.
“Infants have no ability to manage their own stress apparatus…they are completely dependent on the relationship with his or her parent,” writes Maté. Regular, predictable and stable contact is essential for the development of important brain circuitry, specifically our dopamine (reward) receptors and the growth of nerve endings that release dopamine. And it’s not simply physical contact and presence, it’s emotional presence as well. Specifically, whether or not we are attuned to our children.
What is attunement? As Dr. Mate describes it, “…it is literally being “in tune” with someone else’s emotional states.” To be clear, it is not about parental love. You can love your child deeply, but still not be attuned to them. It is about the “parents ability to be present emotionally in such a way that the infant or child feels understood, accepted and mirrored.” Sounds incredibly easy, yes? Me thinks not.
“Poorly attuned relationships provide an inadequate template for the development of a child’s neurological and psychological self-regulation systems,” writes Maté. When we do not feel as though we are understood and accepted as infants, the circuitry needed for stress management and self-regulation does not adequately develop. We become less able to handle what life has to throw at us – we don’t do well with change, rejection, loss, disappointment. We may turn to external events, people, and in some cases, substances to help us regulate the turmoil we feel inside. More specifically, when we lack dopamine receptors and nerve endings that secrete dopamine, we need to find a way to increase the release of this potent neurotransmitter. And there’s no more effective way than drugs, alcohol or a highly rewarding experience such as sex, eating, or being wanted.
Maté highlights the importance of consistency and connectedness via a study that investigated the parent-infant interaction among primates using three different foraging conditions. The first group had easy access to food; the second group had to work hard to find their food; and the third group sometimes found food easily, sometimes with more difficulty. The infants in the always easy or always hard group were well-adjusted; the parent-infant interactions were consistent, just as the foraging conditions had been. It was the infants in the third group, where foraging conditions were inconsistent, who did not become well-adjusted adults. The stress of not knowing, was enough to put these mothers on edge, to be more erratic and sometimes dismissive. These infants grew into “anxious adults, less social and highly reactive – traits known to increase addiction risk.” Our environments shape our interactions; our interactions shape our brain.
As a new parent, this sounds incredibly daunting. How can I always be attuned to my daughter? The intensity of my love, as Maté writes, does not necessarily ensure successful brain circuity development, nor protect her from addiction later in life. It is more than my love I must give to her; I must strive to mirror and connect with her emotional states in a way that she feels understood and genuinely cared for. And that, well, that’s big. It means I cannot explain away her bad behaviour based on her genetic code (which would also be partly my fault, and my parents and their parents fault too, right?). It means I must take responsibility now for her future actions and emotional well-being and strive to provide as stable, consistent and predictable an environment as I am able to. No small feat.
So what’s the overarching lesson (for me, at least)? Love isn’t always enough.
P.S. Go and read the book.
Maté, Gabor. In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts. 2008.
Before I begin, I realize this post is going to appeal to very specific demographic; however, I assume the majority of my readers are my female friends…and my dad. Yet, I also appreciate that not all of my female friends are interested / want to / are able to have babies. Thus, whittling my group of readers even more. Nevertheless, I think this information may be helpful (I am, of course, biased). And to my male readers, I know you can handle it, but be warned this post refers to my pelvic floor…a lot (so, my vagina).
My prenatal doctor talked to me somewhat incessantly about my pelvic floor muscles. She did this because I continued to run during my pregnancy. At around six months I had to call it quits; the human sloshing around in my uterus felt weird, to say the least. So I basically ignored my doctor’s advice up until month six. Typical. I, of course, knew better.
After having my sweet baby girl (vaginally…I warned you), I ran at three weeks, did weights at four weeks, and started postpartum yoga at five weeks. Seriously, what was I thinking? I wasn’t. While I had a very smooth labour and delivery, my body was not ready for this level of activity (please read between the lines, ladies…and dad).
Yet, if I hadn’t attended postpartum yoga, I would never have learned about my potential (now confirmed) pelvic floor issues. I mentioned a slight tightness in my inner thigh and the yoga instructor immediately encouraged me to see a pelvic floor physiotherapist. So, I did. And she confirmed the tightness was likely due to some mild pelvic floor issues / ligament looseness I incurred during pregnancy and labour. She also warned me that even with few issues right now (no incontinence, prolapse, pain, etc.), I could suffer a prolapsed uterus down the road, especially if I continue to run and have more children (both of which I plan to do).
As you can imagine, when someone threatens a prolapsed uterus, you: a) gasp, b) gasp again, and c) start listening. It’s a somewhat unpleasant thought. At lunch today, I mentioned this to another active momma and her eyes just about bulged out of her head.
I’m not sure many women know this is an important postpartum step, with our without obvious issues. I didn’t. Oh and you’re definitely not supposed to do abdominal work until six months postpartum; yes, you can split your abs. Fortunately, I avoided that issue (even though I did abdominal exercises at four weeks).
So to the mommas (current, soon-to-be), friends of mommas, and partners of mommas, please spread the word. No one wants their vagina falling out. Seriously.
I apologize for the somewhat graphic nature of this post (sorry, not sorry).
Happy exercising (in a safe and cautious manner) postpartum.
Standing in my underwear, waiting for my massage therapist to knock on the door to ask if I was ready, I tried to explain to my father, over the phone (thankfully he wasn’t also there for a massage…weird), how to open my daughter’s stroller and connect the car seat; an almost impossible task. You’d think stroller designers would create something intuitive, but they haven’t. Both strollers and their designers are bitches (if your stroller is intuitive, don’t say anything. Let me rant).
This brings me to the point of this post: things I would like created or altered to improve the parenting experience.
Here is my list so far:
- Soothers that stay in the baby’s mouth. Seriously, if your baby likes the soother, it’s a life saver. I don’t care about bad habits, it calms my child (so hush, soother haters). And if you can’t design a soother that sticks, a humane face mask contraption that is both visually appealing and able to keep the soother dans la bouche would be appreciated.
- A laundry leprechaun. My daughter has blowouts about 2x per day (see next point). While the thought of a little green man (or woman) living in my laundry room is somewhat upsetting, the thought of having a laundry assistant is incredibly appealing. Extra bonus: an endless supply of Lucky Charms. Oh boy.
- Diapers that actually hold in the poop. What’s the deal Huggies? Have anything to say Pampers? No, that’s right, you just use images of cute, smiling babies and happy parents to sell your “absorbent” and environmentally unfriendly poop sacks. You trick us. You trick us, the unassuming (and sometimes stupid) new parent into thinking that your butt bags will be the be all and catch-all (pun intended). After three blowouts on the comforter, breast-feeding pillow and my pyjama pants (just this week) I now know that diapers rarely do what they purport to do. So please, diaper makers, make something that actually holds the poo in (and yes, she is wearing the right size for her age and yes, I know that reusable diapers hold the poo in better and that I have the power of choice…hush now, let me complain).
- Appropriately sized Diaper Genies. Honestly, changing that slim jim bag on an almost daily basis is a real drag (hush environmentalists, I know what you’re thinking; sorry, not sorry).
- A bath hammock. My child does not enjoy solo bathing so I hop into the tub with her. While this is a wonderful experience, my back is usually on the verge of splitting by the end of the 5 minute cleaning session (I have to hunch over to keep her at an appropriate level in the water in front of me). As I write this, I am realizing this probably exists and I just need to look on Amazon. And if it doesn’t exist, get on it baby supply people.
- An in-house baby esthetician leprechaun. Honestly clipping my daughter’s talons has to be one of the most stressful experiences since becoming a parent. Babies do not understand the importance of keeping their hands still and thus, the risk of clipping to close to the quick (how weird is it that this part of anatomy is informally called “the quick”?) is high. It seems I shall have a house of leprechauns. How wonderful.
- Crib sheets that aren’t a total witch’s you-know-what to put on. Changing the sheets on my daughter’s bed may be one of my least favourite tasks. You have to pick up the entire mattress, strain your back (the struggle is real), and sacrifice the skin on most of your fingers to accomplish the task. It’s the worst.
- A self-cleaning breast pump. Just like a self-cleaning stove, I would like a self-cleaning option on my milker. This is genius, feel free to steal this gem, breast-pump makers.
- Swing and chairs that do NOT require D batteries. Before you purchase a vibrating chair or swing (you will need this), check it has a plug-in option or ensure you have a healthy supply of large ass batteries.
What do you wish for? Share away.
I’m a month into this parenting business. I’m now an expert on all things baby.
Don’t worry, I’m joking. I’m so far from being an expert, I’m basically in Antarctica (if you’re an expert you’re in the Arctic; I don’t understand this analogy either; I’m not even sure it’s an analogy; I’m too tired to think more about it and would like to end this bracket and stop using semi colons incorrectly).
Given the response to last week’s post, I thought I would add a few more things I’ve learned as a new (and young?) mother. Also, I’m so glad my comment re: breastfeeding resonated with so many women. Being honest about how hard this life-altering change can be is critical to ensuring sustained mental health, at least in my humble opinion.
Okay, so here are a few other gems I’ve learned in the last week that no one mentioned to me (if you did, I apologize for my subpar memory; please take credit where credit is due):
- Your house will become a gallery of sorts. No, not the gallery you were hoping for with beautiful modern or classical art and sculpture, but a gallery or perhaps, homage to all things baby. Everywhere the eye can see will be something related to child care: a bassinet, a vibrating chair (yes, very exciting for baby), a breastfeeding pillow, a stained burp cloth (how modern art, I know), 60 blankets (slight exaggeration), a car seat, another blanket, and random toys that your baby is not remotely interested in yet. There is no method to the madness, only madness in the placement of said items around your house. When guests come over you will try to give the illusion of being tidy, but it will become more and more impossible as the modern art only continues to accumulate (the amount of s*** you buy is ridiculous and never-ending).
- You will hate everyone (not everyone, but pretty close). You will especially hate other drivers and people at the grocery store who amble (I’ve always hated amblers, but I hate them more now). Seriously, don’t they know you have a three hour window between feeds and that you have 30 minutes until go time? DON’T THEY KNOW THIS? No, they don’t as the world does not revolve around you. If only…
- Your husband is going to say weird ass stuff to you in the middle of the night. Last week, during one of my 3 AM parties with Arwen (boob party, that is), my husband groggily looked up at me from the bed and asked, “are you pointing a laser at me?” While I wish I had been pointing a laser at him (how entertaining), I sadly was not. I am now looking into laser pointers on Amazon.
- There is some serious comedy involved in child-rearing. The same night I was asked about the laser pointer, Arwen decided to explosively poop all over me and the floor. I was so startled, I screamed (a blood curdling scream, I assure you). This caused my husband to leap from the bed, completely and utterly startled as he thought I had dropped our baby. Of course, being the sympathetic person I am, I laughed and shared the HILARIOUS story with him. He, surprisingly, did not find it quite as amusing.
- Your attention to detail and memory will continue to fail you. You will put on your running shoe for the fourth day in a row, do it up and start walking only to realize you have once again forgotten to take out the pesky pebble that has been annoying you for days. You swear an oath to remove it once you’re home (doing so while walking with a sleeping infant is not possible and would result in complete and utter destruction). You think about naming the pebble. You don’t. You place the shoe on the next day; you swear at your stupid oath and memory; you never remove said pebble. And you never get around to naming it.
- You will become skilled at using your feet as hands. You may learn to hook your toe into your water bottle handle (thankfully mine has a handle), at shifting your cell phone just a little bit closer to your grasping hand (usually still not enough to get it without smothering your breastfeeding child), at moving the blanket from the bed to cover your toes while seated and breastfeeding, of course, on the rocking chair. I am currently working on dinner preparation and typing with my feet hands.
- You will regularly worry that you’re going to kill your child. I used an infant carrier / baby wearing contraption for the first time last week. It took me approximately 5 hours to get it on (slight exaggeration) and I was a sweaty mess by the time my baby was securely fastened in (not an exaggeration). I then realized I had forgotten to put on my shoes (how wonderful). I managed to get my shoes on using some sweet contortionist moves (yes, think cirque de soleil style) and thankfully, my baby stayed passed out for the entire process. Okay, back to worrying about killing your child. Once I was successfully outside and walking, I stopped about every 2 minutes to look for signs of life. This would involve watching the life form closely (not really safe while walking), removing the hood to see her face (she did not appreciate), and leaning forward at an awkward angle so her nose / face did not rest too close to my coat. The lean continued for the majority of the walk which somewhat defeats the purpose of an ergonomic baby carrier. I can only imagine what I looked like to other pedestrians or people looking from their windows.
- You will rotate between two very sexy outfits (in my previous post I mentioned how sexy you will feel as a new mom). Both will provide easy breast access and withstand being washed 10-20x per week. Well, we shall see about the withstanding multiple washes. I could be wearing threads in short order.
Okay, I think that’s just about enough for one post.
Please share your funny stories via the comments or send me an email. Since sharing the laser story, I have heard some fantastic middle-of-the-night-husband moments from fellow breastfeeding friends.
I’m a relatively new player in the world / game / realm of motherhood (I’m not sure this is really a game, but you get the picture) and it’s tough. I’m currently writing this post hoping the sound of the keyboard will not wake up my three week old in a completely separate room (it won’t).
Okay, I know this post (and likely many more to follow) is a a stretch from the essence of this blog, but I will do my best to keep the health and wellness theme alive. I promise, I will try. If anything, writing about motherhood will help to ensure my own personal wellness…aka stave off the “stir crazies” and hopefully provide readers with a few laughs.
Today, I wanted to write about a few things people don’t and / or forget to tell you about having a baby:
- People / books / nurses do a good job talking about the baby blues and postpartum depression, but people forget to, or simply don’t talk about the massive psychological shift that is required once you start caring for a very small, needy, fragile human being. You’re it for this little peanut – well, your boobs are. You are essential to ensuring the survival of this little being which means you’re on call 24/7. Your body is no longer your own. As my father-in-law puts it, I’m the Dairy Queen and my drive thru window is always open. If you’re used to incredible personal freedom, like I am, being on demand may feel akin to being trapped. And feeling this way, in my humble opinion, is not indicative of postpartum depression, but is simply a natural and honest response to the most monumental life change one can likely experience. It’s a big deal.
- You’re going to feel guilty. A lot. I feel guilty for writing the above simply because I shared the fact I sometimes feel trapped.
- You’re going to feel ridiculous most of the time. Last night, as I was feeding my sweet baby girl at 3 AM, I was delighted by the resonance of my husband’s nostrils. He finally awoke, startled, after the third or fourth gentle yell of his name. No, I don’t like waking my husband up. Especially when he has to work the next day, but I have a weakness when it comes to snoring. I asked him to find my headphones so I could listen to music and block out his not-so-melodious tunes. He couldn’t find my earbuds, but returned with his massive noise cancelling headphones, placing them gently on my head before falling back into blissful slumber (not sure it’s really all that blissful with baby phlegm noises and my “SHHHH SHHHH SHHHH” soothing noises). I sat there, rocking (it is a rocking chair, I haven’t completely lost it…yet), listening to music with these massive headphones, watching my infant pendulum back and forth across my nipple, coating her face in milk as she searched for my hardy nipple, and started to laugh at the picture painted in my mind’s eye. Oh, and to top it off, I also had my incredibly sexy mouthgaurd in (I am way too lazy to take it out every feed). Yes, you’re going to feel ridiculous most of the time. And very sexy.
- You’re going to get really skilled at ripping fast showers. I had my first experience this morning (I have been spoiled with help for the last three weeks) and it was far from relaxing. I tried to shower with the shower door open, but my carpeted bathroom floor was becoming saturated (yes, you read that correctly, it’s carpeted. I thank the 1950s for this delightful trend. We are going to renovate, don’t worry) and I weighed the pros and cons of a rotten bathroom floor vs. an unhappy baby for 3 minutes. The former won.
- Your nipples are going to kill. Thankfully, this didn’t last too long, but man oh man did it rock my world (in a bad way) for the first five days. I cannot recall ANYONE warning me of this, but everyone did commiserate once I shared my plight. I have never received so much nipple butter (it means more than you will ever know).
I have a suspicion this list will evolve and grow over the next year (or 18) as I discover new and wonderful things about being a mother. All joking aside, it is pretty rad. Especially when your baby smiles at you(even if it is spontaneous and not remotely connected to anything you just did / said).
Until next time…
Some people do not like the idea of competition, especially when it comes to exercise. While I find this very difficult to digest as competition is a major part of my DNA, I understand that many hate being around the ultra-competitive such as myself. We tend to be annoying, overly-confident, and aggressive (you know who you are).
Working in health promotion, I find we health promotors tend to focus on the challenge to get people motivated. Most of our recent programs and initiatives at work have revolved around the concept of competition and while we get a number of people signed up and interested, it tends to be the same people over and over (yes, these are my people and I love them, but we need to reach a wider audience if we wish to be successful).
So what can we do? How can we make any health-related activity appealing to the non-competitive and ultra-cool? This is not rhetorical, I’m looking for an answer…please.
While you write my your answers, I shall share my thoughts on a possible approach. I think we need to return to the basics, to reconsider and refocus on the feeling of exercise (or any health-related change) and what it provides us. For many, the benefit is not in the winning or accomplishing or smashing a personal best, it is the simple act of doing and enjoying. And those who are successful with sustaining a health-related goal are the individuals that focus on feeling, not extrinsic reward such as money, free gym membership, weight loss, or winning (sorry folks, the joy and chemicals associated with winning leave your body as quickly as they entered).
Sometimes competition or challenge helps us to find the feel good. In the process of doing, we figure out this s*%^ is awesome. But we lose many people when we focus solely on the aspect of competition, and therefore, many won’t get to the feel good.
So let’s get back to the feel good. Let’s promote the emotional benefits of exercise more powerfully and prominently. Let’s take a step back from our comfort zone of competition and appreciate that we need to appeal to many audiences – that we need to create inviting health promotion initiatives that speak to the competitive and the non-competitive. Let’s move away from the extreme (tough mudder, commonly known as the electic-shock-therapy-running-challenge-thing) and get back to the beauty of health and well-being.
p.s. send me your answers immediately.