Strong Like a Mother

Nights are always the hardest.

It’s been a long day. You wake up before the sun does with tired eyes. You change your crying baby and put her to your breast, looking at her with eyes full of wonder and a heart full of love.

You put her back down and you make a choice: Do I start my day or get more sleep? Sometimes you choose sleep. Some days, you get up and make a cup of coffee and read in silence. Or you hop on the treadmill or Peloton and start your day off on “the right foot.” Most days, you choose sleep, because you can always exercise later. You can get that quiet time to yourself later. You are exhausted.

You are exhausted because even when you are sleeping, you are not sleeping. Your ears are always listening to the baby sleeping beside you. Is she breathing? Is she crying? Is she hungry? Does she need me? Or your mind races. Is my baby going to die? Am I going to die? What if I died? She wouldn’t remember me. I’d be nothing to her. Toss. Turn. Toss. Turn.

If you choose sleep, you wake up 30-45 minutes later and get dressed. You feed the cats, make coffee, and head back upstairs to log on for work. Throughout the day, you answer to many people: boss, friends, family, husband, nanny, baby. You put their needs first. You forget to drink water. You forget to eat. Luckily you have a husband to remind you to do those things and who brings you food. You breastfeed your baby in-between meetings and tasks. You are exhausted.

When work is over, you head downstairs and take care of your baby. You laugh at her giggles and smile big at her smiles. You make dinner and clean up after. You change that load of laundry you forgot you put in the washer 12 hours before. You wipe down the counters and the knobs and every surface, because your 4-month-old baby has already been sick three times, and you’re afraid. You pick up around the house, after the cats, after your husband, after yourself. You and your husband are such a good team but you often feel alone.

It is early evening, and your baby is fussy. It is too early for bedtime, so you do what you can to calm her down. You play, you read, you rock, you walk, you sing. You are exhausted.

You bring your baby upstairs for a bath. You scrub your baby and watch her kick and squeal because she loves the bath. You splash, you sing, you smile, you dance. You are exhausted.

But you still take care of her. You put her pajamas on, bring her into her nursery, and give her a bottle. When she’s done, you sing a little as you put her down to sleep.

You put her down and you make a choice: Do I have some time to myself or do I go to sleep? Sometimes you choose to shower and go to sleep. Some days you change into your workout clothes at 8:30 p.m. and go for a run on the treadmill because it’s the only time you have to do this. Your body is tired, but you are tired of hating your body. You are exhausted.

Some nights you choose to sit on the couch. And that’s OK. But sometimes, it’s hard to tell yourself that. Sometimes, the dark thoughts creep in and you cannot stop them. You are a failure. You are nothing. You are fat. You are ugly. You are incompetent. You cannot do this.

Nights are always the hardest.

Motherhood is hard. You know you made this choice. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be tired. That you can’t complain. Society makes you feel that way. Makes you feel guilty. You just have to remind yourself that you are strong. Strong like a mother.

Let’s Talk Postpartum Bodies

Let’s talk #postpartumbodies 👏🏻👇🏻

For nine months, my body created life. As I watched my body grow, I remember feeling proud. I would go to the doctor and not care about the number on the scale because I knew it was all to build and maintain a safe home for my baby.

Once I hit the 40+ pound mark, I asked my doctor if I should be concerned. I wasn’t overeating. I was trying to stay as active as possible. He reassured me that this was normal, and to just let my body do its thing. When I asked some mama friends, they reassured me that “the weight would fall right off” once I started breastfeeding. (That didn’t happen to me.)

Right before I gave birth to Nora, I had gained 50+ pounds. I put it out of my mind because … well … I was giving birth to Nora! I was a little busy. But as the months have gone by, I’ve battled with “bounce back culture”. I’ve had to buy all new clothes. I’ve spent hours on my phone comparing myself to other postpartum moms, wondering why I can’t fit into my “old, normal” jeans. I would look at myself in the mirror and cry and hate what I saw. I struggled with the fact that I would never return to my “regular” body.

One day (very recently), I decided that enough was enough. I looked at my daughter and thought, “what would I say to her if she talked about her body the way I do?” I would be so sad. It would be heartbreaking to hear her say she hated herself. That she was ugly. That she was afraid to go out in public. So I just said, f* it. F* what it says on that scale. I started exercising and practicing mindfulness. I stopped weighing myself every morning and night.

I weighed myself recently and saw that I’m down 15 pounds, but I’m not even paying attention to that anymore. Now, I’m focusing on strength. On control. I’m slowly starting to look at my body as a marvel rather than a hinderance. This body created life. This body continues to sustain life while sustaining my own. That is pretty fricken amazing.

I see you, postpartum parents. And you are beautiful.

Checking in: Books and TV Shows

Hello, friends. It has been some time since I checked in on here. Our daughter, Nora, joined us on February 3, and since then, life has been what I like to call “survival mode.” They say “the days are long but the years are short,” and they (whoever “they” are) are not kidding. Most days early postpartum I sat on the couch, holding my baby in-between feeds and watched a lot of television. A lot of television. I am now close to entering month 3 of my 4-month maternity leave and I am wondering where all the time has gone.

Nora is an extremely easy baby. She’s a great eater and sleeper. When she was born, however, I expectedly got diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety. I immediately began treatment, but it has still been a harrowing journey. I plan to write more about my experience with PPA/PPD, but for now, I wanted to share what I have been reading and watching since I last posted!

What I read

I am happy to share that although I am still making the time to read when I can. I expected that I would have been reading nonstop once Nora arrived, but the first few weeks were too exhausting to concentrate on books. I simply existed, and that’s it. Once I found a groove, I started to read more while I fed my baby or pumped at night, and I’ve read a few books. Here they are:

The Fourth Trimester: A Postpartum Guide to Healing Your Body, Balancing Your Emotions, and Restoring Your Vitality by Kimberly Ann Johnson

This was an interesting book all about the trimester that no one talks about … the fourth trimester. There were some chapters that I skipped based on personal beliefs, but overall, I enjoyed the main premise and tips on how to take care of myself during one of the most challenging times of my life.

House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City #2) by Sarah J. Maas

Well, it’s safe to say that my time reading books by Sarah J. Maas are at an end. I finished this one extremely disappointed (and not at all “mind-blown” like other fans). Such a bummer.

How Long ’til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin

I was extremely excited when I found out that N.K. Jemisin wrote short stories, so I downloaded this on my Kindle as soon as I could. There were definitely some stories that I liked more than most, and I am glad I read this insightful collection.

The Huntress by Kate Quinn

Kate Quinn has become an auto-buy author of mine, so I went into The Huntress with high hopes. It was … in a word … “okay.” The Huntress wasn’t her best and most interesting book. It was super predictable, and the characters were flat. I do look forward to downloading her new one, The Diamond Eye, once I am done with the Darker Shades of Magic trilogy!

What the Fireflies Knew by Kai Harris

I was really looking forward to this one … but it was too linear and boring. The main character was flat and there weren’t many dimensions to the plot.

The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Soloman

My goodness did I love The Ex Talk! It was funny, quirky, romantic, and not to mention, filled with NPR/public radio nerd references! An easy 5 stars from me!

What am I reading now?

I am currently reading The Circus Train, a novel by Amita Parikh. It is a historical romance, coming-of-age story that was just released the end of March. It is giving me major The Night Circus vibes (not in a good way, seeing as how the titles are so similar), but I really appreciate the novel’s attention to disability. I also just started A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, one of my most anticipated fantasy series. To be continued …

What I watched

While I nursed my baby, burped my baby, and held my baby … and pumped milk for my baby, I watched a LOT of television. I am usually a big habitual television watcher. I will watch the same movies and television shows (lookin’ at you, Gilmore girls) just for comfort. But, since I have 4 months with my baby, I figured I would watch shows that I’ve been meaning to get to, but never had the “time.” So, here’s what I watched since February (in bullet form):

  • Seinfeld (Netflix) – A classic rewatch. I haven’t seen some of the episodes before, so it was nice to have a quick laugh during the darkest days of postpartum.
  • Love is Blind S2 (Netflix) — A hot, hot mess. Loved it.
  • Emily in Paris (Netflix) — Terribly terrible, yet entertaining.
  • Inventing Anna (Netflix) — VERY good.
  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime) — Amazing.
  • The Office (Peacock) — Rewatch!
  • Parks and Recreation (Peacock) — First time ever. I know. But guess what? I already want to watch it again.
  • Ted Lasso (Apple TV) — Really good.
  • The Ultimatum (Netflix) — GAH. Awful. But so good.

What’s Next on TV

  • Once Upon a Time (Disney+)
  • The Mandalorian (Disney+)
  • Downtown Abbey (Netflix)
  • Outlander (Netflix)

Any recommendations? Feel free to share in the comments!

What to pack in your baby hospital bag

I am 4 weeks away from having this sweet baby, so it’s time to pack my overnight hospital bag!

As a first-time mom, I had no idea what to pack, so I reached out to my awesome community on Instagram and received some really great tips. I wanted to share a bulleted list of the top “must-haves” that I received from my pals, and then share what I am packing in my bag!

Here are some of those “must have” baby hospital bag items:

  • Change of clothes: Your comfiest pants (dark pants) and a shirt that is easy for breastfeeding
  • Dark robe and nightgown for post delivery. Basically, just pack as comfy as possible!
  • Slippers (slip-ons) with enough room just in case you have swollen ankles/feet
  • Warm, fuzzy socks
  • Your own pillow for comfort
  • Hair ties
  • Chapstick (didn’t think of this one!)
  • Extra long phone charger(s)
  • Dry shampoo
  • Face wash/face wipes
  • Headphones for Netflix/audio/phone calls
  • Noise cancelling ear plugs
  • Throw-away panties with pads
  • Baby swaddles with velcro
  • Going home outfit(s) for baby
  • SNACKS! This was the biggest one. Everyone said to pack lots of snacks.
  • Water bottle with straw so partner can just hand you the bottle and you can sip.
  • Your own preferred hygiene products (I already put in an order for this)!

AND … for your partner/support person:

  • Phone charger
  • Pillow and blanket
  • Snacks
  • Change of clothes
  • Toiletries

Everyone was so helpful, and I can’t thank them enough for all of their advice.

Here’s what I am packing in my hospital bag:

  • Slippers (with enough room to put my feet in … my ankles are getting swollen!)
  • Flip flops for the shower
  • Black, button up nightgown (long sleeved)
  • Comfy maternity joggers
  • Maternity shirt
  • Maternity bras (2)
  • Fuzzy socks
  • Manual breast pump
  • Toiletries:
    • Inhalers, other medications, night guard (adorable, right?)
    • Face wash
    • Chapstick
    • Lotion
    • Hair ties
    • Frida Postpartum kit
    • Always disposable diapers

Then, for the baby:

  • Name sign
  • Blanket
  • Pacifiers
  • Velcro swaddles
  • Going home outfit
  • Additional going home outfit (just in case)
  • Hat, gloves, and booties (She’s a winter baby in New England!)
  • Car seat and base

My husband’s bag:

  • Change of clothes
  • Pillow/blanket
  • Snacks
  • iPad/charger
  • Toiletries

I can’t believe how real this is getting. Tell me — am I missing anything? Experienced parents: Please share!