One is the Loneliest Number

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ONE OF THE MANY SELFIES OF H AND I THAT I TOOK WHILE HOME ON MAT LEAVE, JUST THE TWO OF US.

There is a loneliness that comes with motherhood. Predominantly in the beginning, but even as time goes on… Before I had my son, everyone warned me of the pain that comes with C-Section recovery, the challenges of breastfeeding, how tired I would be, and how my hormones would affect my emotional/mental state, but nobody told me about the loneliness.

I recently visited a friend who just gave birth to her first child. The baby was beautiful and healthy, her recovery was better than normal, she looked amazing, and she was a natural in the mom dept., but when I asked her how she was feeling, she responded without hesitation, “I feel so alone.” And without even thinking, I just said, “I know.”

I did know exactly what she meant, precisely how she was feeling. Her sentiment instantly took me back to the second week I was home with my son, H. I was trying to feed him unsuccessfully, and had nobody there anymore to help me. Nobody to converse with; nobody to turn to. (Momsoncall.com became my life line!) There is so much attention on you when you’re pregnant – especially the first time. There’s 10 whole months of being fawned over and coddled and protected and celebrated, and then you have the baby and there are the days that follow when everyone visits, and there is still so much joy and excitement. But then, there is that first day when everyone, including your partner, is back to work, back to their daily lives, caught up in the grind, and there you are sitting alone with this little human who is solely depending on you for his/her survival. In that moment, you miss the commotion and the help and the attention and the company, and realize that not only are you alone, just the two of you, but you are kind of lonely.

For those new moms who might be feeling this way in this very moment, know that you actually are not alone in this feeling. It is so common, so don’t be scared of it. The loneliness sometimes brings on sadness – not to be confused with other signs of postpartum depression – and it passes. Quite frankly, you’re too busy and tired to let it consume you or wallow in it for too long, but it is very real and kind of sucks. All of your friends are at work, nobody can chat on the phone or just meet for coffee, and the only conversation you’re having is in high decibels with someone who doesn’t quite understand.

In time, I came to love the time alone. The loneliness turned into appreciation for the precious time I had to spend with my son. H became my best bud, and as a result of long days together, I was so in tune with what he wanted and needed. I realized that I needed this time – it made for a stronger bond between us. It made me a better mother. It also forced me to get out there and find other mothers with newborns to connect with. Through these connections, I learned that we all have similar experiences. Motherhood can indeed be lonely at times, but it’s a badge of honor that connects us in ways one cannot imagine. There is a mom tribe and a mom code. There is a language only we speak and things only we understand. The truth is, we actually are never alone… (Quite literally.)

 

 

What 2016 Taught Me

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As 2017 is upon us, I couldn’t help but reflect on the past 365 days and what they have taught me. It’s been an incredibly emotional year at large – highs and lows. Personally, it was one of the best years of my life because my daughter was born, but also a very challenging one for reasons I won’t get into. My heart also broke over and over again witnessing all of the violence and injustices in the world – thinking of all of the families who lost loved ones. It was a year of many tears – some of laughter and some of sorrow. For me, it was a year of true self-reflection, a humbling year during which I learned a lot and was also reminded of things I’ve always known, but simply forgot that I want to share here…

Don’t make assumptions. I think the election really reinforced this for me. I assumed so many things during #Election2016, and I was proven wrong time and time again. I thought for sure it would go a certain way, and it didn’t. So, that saying about assuming… yeah, I was definitely the ass one too many times this year.

Never say never. All the things I swore I’d never do, I did. I let the TV babysit my kids. I let them stay up way past their bedtimes. I gave them sugar. I got my tattoo removed. I started my own business. I’m moving to the burbs. So, I was checked a lot this year. Life has a funny way of making plans for you that you otherwise never would have planned on your own.

Children make you a better person if you let them. As a mother, I have been tested. In fact, I am constantly being tested… my patience, my strength, my problem solving skills, my ability to multi-task, my values, my sense of humor… Everything about my character is spotlighted as a mom. Your children eventually become mirror images of you, which provides you the opportunity to become the best version of yourself by learning how to pass those daily tests.

Healing takes time. I had a baby this year – my second via a VBAC. I assumed (ahem) the healing would be far better than my previous C-Section, but it was equally as tough. Three months later, I underwent a major surgery. I was told I would feel like myself in 8-10 weeks. Four months later, I’m still in pain. It’s hard as a full time working mom of two to rest and take care of myself, but I realized that if I don’t, those who need me will suffer more in the long run. So, if I need a minute to rest, I owe it to myself to take it.

As your kids grow up, it gets easier AND harder. I thought year one was so hard. Raising an infant was really challenging the first time and even harder for me the second time. And just when I thought the hardest days were behind me, my son turned 2. In so many ways, he challenges me and pushes my buttons more than my 8-month-old daughter. You know, the tests I referenced earlier… My daughter, who was killing me softly, is now a breeze. 2 is tough. Amazing, but also torture.

Live in the moment. As in put the phone down. My son actually asked me to put my phone away once. That was the last time. Unless I am snapping a photo of the kids or have a deadline to meet, I try to be present with them. For this moment will only happen once.

Everyone needs a good therapist. Therapy is not only for the mentally ill or severely depressed. In fact, I think your mental health only improves. Tools to help you better communicate or process situations or better yourself will only lead to a happier and healthier state of mind. And if you’re a mom, it’s kid-free time!

“Me time” makes for a happier, healthier me. It is so important to not forget about yourself and your needs, no matter how full your plate is. Happy mom, happy wife, happy you = happy life. Don’t feel guilty doing things for yourself. Nobody else will look out for you but you…

Nobody will look out for you but you. It was worth repeating. I learned this the hard way a few times, especially professionally. Most people are looking out for themselves, so do what you need to do for you. Speak up. Ask for what you want. Make shit happen. You’re the only one who will do things in your best interest.

Help is not overrated. It takes a village is a common saying for a reason. It is true. It literally took an entire village/community to raise families back in the day. It is still common practice in many cultures and countries, and I never appreciated the idea of this type of support until I had kids. I needed a lot of help this year and felt so guilty asking for it, but as the year progressed and I had no choice, I started asking, and realized that people were happy to help. A girlfriend of mine actually asked me why I didn’t ask her more often. So, I decided that from now on, when I need a helping hand, I am going to ask for one…proudly.

One good friend is all you need. My mom always said one great friend is better than many okay “friends”. Once again, she was right. I also learned that you win some, and you lose some. There are friends in your life for certain moments in time, and some who stick around. I have grown apart from some, and grown closer to others. I now know what makes a great friend, and I try to be one for those who are great friends to me, and luckily, I have more than one.

Change is scary, but necessary. There is something so comforting about routine, which makes change unsettling. It’s why we stay in relationships, jobs and homes we’ve outgrown… This year, I decided to take some major risks that I said I’d never take. I decided to chase down some dreams and be more present for my kids, so I left a job I have loved for seven years. I also decided that major life decisions had to be made in the best interest of my family at large, so as much as I identify with NYC, my family and I decided to leave in the New Year for a house in the burbs. I’m scared out of my mind; nervous and anxious about the unknown. Yet, I’m excited for all of the possibilities and opportunities that we now have that we didn’t have before. Change is scary, but I know the risk will be worth the reward.

So, on that note, I look forward to all that 2017 has to bring, and the lessons I will learn over the next 365 days… Happy New Year to all!

 

 

 

…But I Miss Them

I spent this past holiday with my family in Florida… 5 adults, 5 children for 5 days. On Christmas Day, there were about 17 of us. Needless to say it was mayhem, and when we were in the thick of it, I found myself enjoying it of course, but also really tired. The thought of nap time and bedtime excited me because it meant a break. It never ended, really… there was always a child who needed to eat, nap, be changed, or bathed, and all on different schedules! My sister and I escaped once for a trip to Target at 9pm and it felt like vacation! We were free, contemplating a Thelma and Louise moment of no return… but during the beautifully silent, child-free car ride home, we both looked at each other and knew what the other was thinking. We missed them. Our crazy little lunatics who destroyed the house like category 5 hurricanes and dropped food all over the floor and threw toys and fought with each other and had crazy dance parties and colored the walls/floors and pulled ornaments off the tree and rode scooters around the house and ultimately just made us consume a lot more alcohol than we thought we would were our everything. They make our worlds turn and our hearts melt. As insane as the days were, I realized that the moments are fleeting. They won’t be this age for long. I will miss hearing them yell for me or ask me to help them with everything or need me to pick them up or make them food or give them baths. My son already wants to do things by himself and I find myself saddened when he won’t let me help him get dressed or brush his teeth. I know that as they grow older, they’ll need me less and less. So, during the crazy moments when you want to cry or lose your mind or just walk out, remember that these moments will be gone before you know it, and you’ll likely really miss them. At least I will.

Sleep No More

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Dear Sleep,

I simply cannot put into words how much I miss you. Mostly because sleep deprivation has resulted in the inability to form full sentences. I cannot wait for the day that you come back into my life for the full 8+ hours we used to share back in the day. Remember the days when we would hang out past 10am or even meet up sometimes in the afternoon?! Oh, those were the good ol’ days… Yes, you and I do meet at night for a few hours, but the intimate relationship we once had changed about three years ago, and it hasn’t quite been the same since. While I was pregnant, a full bladder or the discomfort of a huge belly interrupted us many times during the night. Then the baby came and, well, that was the end of our beautiful relationship.

Sleep when the baby sleeps is all anyone ever told me. Anyone without a baby! I mean, who were they kidding?! When the baby slept, that’s when I pumped, washed bottles, did laundry, hand washed dirty bibs and onesies… and if I was really lucky, ate something and showered. Sometimes I had to choose between you and food, or you and washing my hair—very difficult decisions. You often won, but as soon as the tip of a strand of my hair grazed my pillow, the baby cried.

This happened for months, and truth be told, the baby’s relationship with you became my #1 priority. If he could learn to sleep for more than 2-3 hour intervals, the sooner you and I would reunite—or at least I thought. Yes, 3 hours turned into 5, which turned into 8, and eventually 10-12. It wasn’t easy, and even when he did sleep all night, I did not. I had a physical reaction to every breath, cough, sneeze, and coo. I’d be up checking to see if he was breathing, too hot, too cold, still on his back, and a myriad of other things that keeps a mom awake at night. So, even when we could technically rendezvous again, I just couldn’t.

Cut to when H was about 18 months. We started seeing each other again, and life was good. I was early to rise, but it was okay because I was early to bed. We were finding our groove again, and the 8 hours I never thought I’d have the pleasure of getting became, quite literally, my dream come true. The days of feeling jet lagged and dizzy and uber emotional and super irritable and just utterly fucking exhausted were over. H was a great sleeper and our lives were back to normal.

My friends said I would sleep again and they were right. I even took naps when the baby napped! Life was golden, and I realized that you don’t really know what you have until you’ve lost it. I now know that you complete me. I cannot live my life without you. It’s just not possible. You make me a better person, a happier person. And a better mother for sure.

We had a good run. Then baby #2 came. So, it was great while it lasted. I hope that one day soon, we will find each other again and never let go. I can’t bear to even think about any more nights without you. I know we will meet again, in about a year or so. For now, I will just have to accept that I sleep no more…

Yours truly (as in truly exhausted),

Alexis

You Are Not a Bad Mom

Don’t be so hard on yourself. I hear it all the time. I also say it to myself during those moments when I am most likely holding myself up to some ridiculous, unrealistic standard, aka a mom guilt moment. Truth is, all of the mothers I know are hard on themselves. I’m not sure when the motherhood bar was repositioned so high you can barely pole vault over it, but it was, and we hold ourselves to it. Maybe it’s because our parenting is out there for the whole world to see, so we want to appear to be doing the best job possible. Maybe it’s because we live in an uber competitive society. Maybe it’s because there’s so much more literature on parenting that we have access to that applies pressure to how we raise our kids. Maybe it’s because we are doing so much more as mothers now, juggling home life, careers, relationships, social lives, and taking care of ourselves too (ha!) that we feel like we have to overcompensate for not being at home with our kids. Whatever the reason, I often feel like I am killing myself and have decided to live vicariously through Elsa and just LET IT GO.

So, I encourage all of you to do the same. Don’t sweat the small stuff…and remember:

You are not a bad mom if you don’t puree the baby’s food and feed them jarred baby food or pouches instead.

You are not a bad mom if this one time (okay, maybe a handful of times) they don’t eat organic.

You are not a bad mom if you formula feed.

You are not a bad mom if they go a night without a bath.

You are not a bad mom if you leave your baby in the pack n’ play with some toys in the morning so you can get a few extra minutes of sleep.

You are not a bad mom if you plop your toddler in front of the TV so you can get shit done (or sleep).

You are not a bad mom if plopping them in front of the TV turns into two hours.

You are not a bad mom if you just don’t feel like cooking and make them a PB&J sandwich.

You are not a bad mom if the Halloween costume wasn’t hand made.

You are not a bad mom if you work.

You are not a bad mom if you shut the bathroom door for some privacy… and lock it.

You are not a bad mom if you take time for yourself to go get a mani/pedi, work out, meet up with friends, or go sneak in a movie solo (mostly so you can sleep in peace.)

You are not a bad mom if you accidentally curse in front of the kids.

You are not a bad mom if you give them an iPad when you’re out at dinner so they allow you to eat a meal longer than 5 minutes that isn’t their scraps.

You are not a bad mom if you lose your temper every now and then.

You are not a bad mom if you cry in front of them.

You are not a bad mom if you never book a playdate.

You are not a bad mom if you don’t buy your second child any presents for the holidays because they are so young and will never know and have all of their older siblings toys to play with.

You are not a bad mom if you can’t make the school play/party/activity.

You are not a bad mom if you have to choose work sometimes.

You are not a bad mom if you say NO.

You are not a bad mom if sometimes you reminisce about the days before you were a mom.

You are not a bad mom. Full stop. So, don’t be so hard on yourself. Know that there will be moments that you shine, and moments when you suck. In their eyes, as long as we love them, we’re the best moms ever.

 

 

 

 

Working Mom Guilt

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The Struggle is REAL. This pretty much sums up #momlife. Especially those moms who juggle #worklife with motherhood. Now, let me make a disclaimer: I think moms who stay at home can have a harder job, but because I am not a SAHM, I can only speak for those working moms like myself who I know struggle with a lot of the same issues that I do.

First and foremost is mom guilt. It never goes away. I felt it when I couldn’t breastfeed my son, when I erased Paw Patrol from the DVR and he cried inconsolably, when the kids get shots at the doctor, and especially when I leave for work in the morning. Working mom guilt is some of the worst kind of mom guilt there is. We are split in two: Mom and Career. And we feel like we are doing both half assed. I feel like I’m a shitty mom and shitty employee, although the opposite is true. We also cannot be both or do both at the same time, so we often have to choose… and asking a mother to choose anything over her children is like asking her to cut off her limbs. It’s heartbreaking and gut wrenching oftentimes, and we shed many, many tears.

The thing is, I enjoy working. It’s very much a part of who I am. I have put blood, sweat and tears into building my career, and am proud of the work I do – and I have fun doing it. So, I am lucky that I at least like what I do while away from my kids. I just don’t want to be doing it from 8:30AM-6:30PM every day, never getting to spend QT with my children. That’s just not the kind of mom I ever pictured being. It isn’t a criticism of other mothers—it’s just not what I wanted for my kids or myself. There are so many days I spend sitting at my desk thinking about what they are doing. Is H having fun in his art class? What did he make today? I want to paint with him. Are they at the playground? I wonder if E loves the swing? I wish I could push her in the swing. Did H learn new songs in music class today? Did E love music too? It should be me with them, not the nanny. It’s the inner struggle that I wrestle with daily – the guilt that someone else is raising them. Someone else is enjoying precious moments. Someone else is witnessing the milestones. Someone else gets more hugs and kisses and awake time with them. And I do appreciate our wonderful nanny for loving my kids and caring for them like I would, but she is not me, and therein lies the mom guilt.

I think to myself a lot that there has got to be another way, and I am figuring out what that means for my family right now. I think a lot of women are. More and more, I hear about moms who refuse to be chained to a desk anymore – who are working out more flexible, and, dare I say, more modern ways to juggle work and mom life. Work/ life balance is nearly impossible for most, but if you can find a way to take that into your own hands to figure out the balance that is right for you, then go for it. We need to tip the scale a bit more in one direction: less mom guilt and more flexibility, which will result in more happiness and fulfillment, however that looks for each of us personally.

Just a final word to all working mothers…You rock. You’re amazing and are doing your best. And you are doing right by your children. Working mothers set a great example for their kids, and sons of mothers who work are more likely to marry strong, independent women who will likely also work. So, your babies are lucky to have you as their Working Moms. I know it’s not easy. In fact, it’s really fucking hard, and it is likely killing you, but you’re killing it.

#MOMLIFE #WORKLIFE

The Bitch that is Breastfeeding

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Pictured above: My son, hours old, and how he felt about breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is a bitch. There, I said it. Obviously, not the case for everyone, but for way more women than I had ever heard about before I had kids. While I was pregnant, I heard every horror story in the book about pregnancy and postpartum, but nobody really warned me about the trials and tribs of breastfeeding. Maybe because the people I was speaking to didn’t want to completely horrify me, or maybe because their breastfeeding experiences were not so bad (although they came out and admitted they were worse than they let on after the fact!) Regardless, this is MY breastfeeding story, and I share it with the hope that it will help other moms who may feel alone, defeated, scared, and/or confused like I did as I tried to navigate through what I thought would come so naturally.

Before I had my son – we will call him H – I swore I’d breastfeed. I went to classes specifically dedicated to breastfeeding – how to hold the baby, how to help baby latch, how to time your feedings, how often to feed baby, and on and on. I read countless books about the benefits of breastfeeding and watched video after video. It’s my personality to try to master something from the get go, and I went into it with an I Got This mindset. I was practically brainwashed on the breast is best approach and made a vow to stop at nothing to breastfeed H. Well, I was in for a rude awakening.

H was born via C-section. Hurdle #1, I soon came to find out. He was almost 10 pounds. Hurdle #2. He was also tongue-tied. Hurdle #3. Then I learned that my nipples are not ideal for feeding. Hurdle #4. And I didn’t start pumping in the hospital until late in day two. Hurdle #5. The thing is, I didn’t know all of the above in the beginning. So, here we are moments after he is born trying to latch and it’s just not happening. It’s super painful and I have nothing coming out and he is frustrated. The amazing nurses at NYU worked tirelessly to help me with positioning, latching techniques, hand expression… you name it, they did it. We tried for a day and a half, but nothing. I barely had colostrum, and H was big, so he needed more than what I was producing. I was exhausted – nipples already cracked and sore – but I was determined. In the wee hours of the morning on day 3 – the day I was leaving – a nurse came into my room to check my vitals and asked me how I was. I started crying, telling her how defeated I was – that no matter what I tried, H would not latch and I had nothing to give him. She picked him up and tried to help me, which is when she noticed his tongue-tie. Then she pointed out that I might want to use nipple shields to help him latch, and also start pumping to start milk flow. I didn’t understand why none of this had been pointed out prior. And how the fuck did the pediatrician miss a tongue-tie! I was so frustrated, but also excited by this breakthrough. We tried the shields. No luck. We started pumping. No luck. At this point, H was starting to fuss a lot, but I didn’t know his cues yet and just thought I’d keep trying.

Cut to that evening as H was screaming inconsolably. At that point, I called my sister – a mom herself – and asked her what to do. Two seconds hearing him cry and she said, “Lex, he’s starving. Go get him formula.” And there it was, the dreaded F word! In my mind, it also meant Failure. I couldn’t do right by my baby and give him what he needed from me. If there was anything I should be able to do, it should be feed him. This should have been easy. I was just devastated. But, I sent my husband to CVS regardless for some Similac Sensitive. I cried the whole time he was gone – also because H was screaming – and then pulled it together, got a bottle, and fed him formula. He sucked it down in record time, and I cried again, realizing he’d been starving for three days. As I mentioned, he was a big baby. He needed A LOT of food. I didn’t know that then, but I soon realized it when he just consumed ounces and ounces of formula in a sitting – far more than babies usually ate at his age. I felt terrible for having had him wait so long, and almost selfish for not relenting sooner.

Two days later, I had a lactation consultant come in. Between H’s tongue-tie, my lack of milk production, and my nipple situation, we were set up to fail. She reassured me that there was no way I would have ever been able to breastfeed successfully given all the hurdles we had in our way. Apparently, moms who have C-sections have an even tougher time, as the breast tissue is swollen and makes it hard for milk to pass through. (Or at least that is what my LC said.) So, we had everything working against us.

I brought H home on a Saturday. The LC came over on a Monday, and by Wednesday, we were sitting in Dr. Dahl’s office getting H’s tongue-tie snipped. He latched for two minutes and was over it. That was actually the last time he ever made it to my breast. I went to a lactation group at NYU for some help, and ended up with a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS). It’s a small tube that they tape to your nipple that is attached to a vial of formula that you also tape to your body. Basically an IV of formula. It’s supposed to trick baby to latch on to your nipple and feed, but H wasn’t having it. I remember sitting in that circle of moms just balling, and feeling, again, like such a failure. Boobs were popping out everywhere, milk was flowing, and these moms seemed so happy and carefree. Some were even talking about how they had so much milk that they had to donate it to milk banks. Meanwhile, I’m sitting there with these ridiculous contraptions attached to my body and my child is screaming his head off for a bottle. I fed him in the bathroom at NYU, feeling so embarrassed to bottle feed him formula in front of the other mothers. I now refer to those first few weeks as “the dark days.”

I tried pumping for about 3 weeks or so. I would pump for 45 minutes and get half an ounce of milk. Then I started Fenugreek and drank Mother’s Milk Tea and would only get 1-2 ounces after 45 minutes. H ate 4-6 ounces every three hours! I could not keep up! Nipples were cracked and bleeding and I was in so much pain, but if H wasn’t going to come to me, then I was going to bring me to him. I felt like if I could just give him even a few drops of liquid gold, it was worth it. BUT IT WASN’T. I will never forget the moment I realized I had to stop. I took H to the pediatrician for his 4-week check up. Dr. Horwitz sat me down and said, “H is great. Really healthy and doing amazing. You are not. What’s going on?” Through many tears, I shared with him my breastfeeding challenges, and he told me to stop. He actually said Stop. He said H was thriving, and that formula was at the top of the list of the best things I could ever feed him—that it was only downhill from there with baby food and human food and everything else he will be consuming in his lifetime. (Which I now know to be true!) He reminded me that a happy mom = a happy baby, and that my state of mind was everything. I had to rest and feel good to be able to take great care of my son. So, I went home that day, packed up the pump, stocked up on formula, and called it quits. I was done.

What I learned was that formula was not at all horrible. H has thrived. Anyone who knows him will tell you he is beautiful and healthy and super smart and incredibly verbal. He is fine. I did the right thing by trying, because it is what I needed to do for me, but in the end, I couldn’t have continued to torture myself, and that’s precisely what I was doing. I was miserable in body and mind, and that was no good for anyone around me at the time, especially H.

I just had my daughter 8 months ago – we’ll call her E. I, of course, tried to breastfeed when she was born, too. She didn’t latch, and she was also tongue-tied, so on day two, she went on formula. I knew the road ahead of me, and I was not about to go down that road again. And guess what? She’s just fine…and so am I.

#MOMLIFE