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.