It wasn't a very satisfying day until i looked back and saw all that I'd accomplished. I'm glad I didn't try to make it something it wasn't going to be. It made the ice cream he got for me at the end all the sweeter.
That wasn't how I would have chosen it to happen, but I had no other wishes than reading for the afternoon anyway. The sun was beautiful after the rain.
linking up with amanda. inspired by habit.
Friday, March 29
read :: flight behavior // poetry: this & this & this
taste :: red lentil soup with lemon (the mr. raved and raved) // avocado-cucumber tartine
see :: first patches of bluebonnets brighten up the sides of the roads
touch :: pain & itch from a bee bite--those little guys aren't kidding around
hear :: of monsters & men // first aid kit // margot & the nuclear so-and-so's
think : about giving this happy drink a try // would this stroller do?
feel :: strong and open in simple standing poses. I can do this thing.
linking up with monica.
Thursday, March 28
|Liz, me, Laura, Kathleen, Kathryn, last year on Mother's Day. Aren't they all so gorgeous?|
These days, late-night conversations tucked in bed with my husband are likely to start like this:
Me: "Tell me it's gonna be okay when we have this baby."
Husband: "Honey, it's gonna be okay."
What's great is he truly, genuinely means it. One of the most amazing things about my husband is his unwavering faith (despite, I would say, plenty of evidence to the contrary) in my abilities as a mother. He is grounded and solid and his confidence in me gives me such strength and comfort.
Last night, he went on to list a few things that would be different this time around from when Silas was a newborn, and topping that list is you didn't have your mama tribe when Silas was born.
|Almost a year ago: Meghan, Aiden, Lucy, Silas, Jonah (omg those thighs!)|
|Silas, Lucy, Meghan, Jonah (Aiden missing from photo) recently at our favorite coffeeshop hangout.|
I had met most of them before. Kathryn and Laura had been Prenatal students of mine around the same time the previous year, while I was in the early months of pregnancy myself. Kathleen was one of my first students once I returned to teaching after Silas' birth, joining us for just a few weeks right at the end of her pregnancy. I met Liz when MDO started. We were all first-time moms, our babes all born within a year of each other. Two of us are grad students and professors; one of us works from home; two of us are full-time moms. Each afternoon we would scoop up our babes just before 3pm and convene to nurse them on the oversize couches in the church's foyer. Not many things will cause women to bond faster than breastfeeding together.
Soon we were meeting for coffees after school, on Friday mornings when there was no MDO. There were some brief, glorious months before the kids were all mobile when we would bring our fellas along and all gather for happy hour on Friday afternoons. We talked about everything. We listened to complaints about nursing and eating and sleeping. We offered support through earaches and toothaches and late-night fevers. Always offering an ear to hear, a shoulder to lean on, an extra pair of arms to hold each other's babies when one of us just had enough. Our kiddos are growing up together, with a tribe of aunties watching over them. We share coffee and beers and donuts and tacos and tears and laughter. And a not-entirely-healthy obsession with purses.
|On the last day of MDO last spring.|
|Partial tribe: me, Kathleen, Kathryn, this past Saturday.|
I don't know what I would do without these women in my life. Their presence is vital to my sanity. And I know that having them around is going to make life with this new baby a whole lot better. Since I am the first one to have a second child, and several of them aren't going to try for more, what I have are four aunties who are very eager to dote on this little one! And don't you know it, they gifted me with my coveted diaper bag, making me feel even more together, ready and excited for this baby to come. (Oh man, this thing is amazing.)
I am lucky that in my work as a Prenatal yoga teacher, I am encountering new moms all the time. I was lucky that circumstances brought the five of us together around MDO. I am pleased beyond measure that a (closed) Facebook group that I started for local mamas, first with mostly just my own students, has bloomed and blossomed over two years to have over 500 members, among which many, many mamas have found their tribe.
Maybe you are lucky, and have established mama friends already who will hold your hand along the way. But maybe you're the first one of your circle to have a baby, or you've recently moved to a new area. Yes, your childless and faraway friends will be of immense value to you in this time of transition. And your husband may be a wonderfully supportive and involved daddy. But still, allow me to strongly recommend you seek out mama friends in your community. There is simply no substitute for a mama tribe you can go out to the coffeeshop or park with. Facebook is a good place to start, to see if there are groups in your community. Your local La Leche League chapter is another excellent way to meet mamas. (And you don't have to wait until your baby is born! In fact, I encourage you to go and bring your questions while you are still pregnant.) And may I recommend you seek out a Prenatal Yoga class in your community? Also, please check out this great post on Happiest Mom about making mom friends. You might have to put yourself out there, to make an effort, to be vulnerable, which, I grant you, is difficult when so much in life with a newborn is new and raw. But your efforts will be rewarded hundredfold once you find those women to support and love you, to let you know that, though you may feel otherwise some days, you are strong and beautiful and a good mama to your children.
May I propose a toast? To all of you beautiful, strong, competent mamas out there. But, most especially, to my very own mama tribe. I love you and I would be lost without you.
Thursday, March 21
:: As I am readying my heart and my home to welcome our second son, I thought I would write a series of posts reflecting my preparations, in the hope that it can be of benefit to other new or soon-to-be mamas out there. This is the first post in the series Preparing for Baby. Watch for more posts about baby gear, creating space, and important lessons in the coming weeks. ::
|In my dreams, this is where I shower.|
A great many of the things I had been told and didn’t want to believe about becoming a mother have turned out to be true, but not this one: that I would never have time to take a shower. The only time I have wanted to take a shower and been unable to was the day my son was born, when I was still hooked up to monitors and drips and catheters. (I will always remember that first shower at the hospital, how blissful it felt… until I made the gruesome discovery of my elephantine, swollen ankles and feet.) In fact, in Silas’ early weeks, more often than not I would take two showers a day.
Showers are wonderfully restorative to me. Not because I have an especially dreamy shower, because I don’t. Trust me. But standing in the hot pounding water, lights off (I usually shower at night, in the dark), with the soothing scents of lavender, rose, citrus and mint from the various products I use, is both calming and reviving to my senses and nervous system. In fact, I am composing this post after such a shower, and I feel amazing. I was bound and determined that a small bundle of baby wouldn’t come between me and my showers. He never did, and I am glad I made the practice of showering a priority.
My midwife recently paid me the greatest compliment. We were talking about my prenatal yoga classes, and she told me how I was doing a great job of modeling self-care to my students. She said that, of all her clients, I was one of the few who really put a lot of effort in figuring out what I needed, and getting after it.
My own mother didn’t have the luxury of learning self-care until she was well into middle-age, and watching her struggle to do so really struck a deep chord in me. I’ll always remember something she said to me years ago, when she came for a visit after I moved away from home and across the country. She told me how struck she’d been by the safety announcements before her flight took off: being told to put on your own oxygen mask before helping someone else. This is a concept that would’ve been foreign to her youthful self—indeed, it sounds counterintuitive to a lot of us, especially mothers. Our impulse would be to put on our child’s mask before our own. But here’s the thing: if you can’t breathe you aren’t going to be able to do shit for anyone else.
This is the deep, important lesson: in order to take care of others, you need to first take care of yourself. You can’t quench anyone’s thirst out of an empty well. But don’t wait until you run dry. Make it a priority to refill the well on a daily basis. Almost everything, when it comes to caring for your baby and your home, with the exception of nursing, can be done by someone else. Oh sure, as mamas we feel that no one can do it quite as well as we can, but babies can be held and soothed, dishes can be washed, laundry can be folded by husbands, family members, well-meaning friends. Let them help. Because no one can refill your well for you. No one can take a shower, take a nap, take a breath on your behalf. True, you may need to ask for extra help in order for these things to happen. I had to when I had a tiny infant and took two showers a day. But ask I did because I was determined to make self-care a priority.
I will concede that there are circumstances, such as times of illness, when self-care must go by the wayside for a period of time. But I believe that, in the ordinary reality of day-to-day living, moms who have gone days without a shower have chosen the maintenance of those around them over their own.* At the outset, maybe that choice makes sense. The baby needs clean diapers. You need clean plates off of which to eat. Your baby will be crawling soon and god forbid it be on such a messy floor. These things are all true. Here’s another, perhaps deeper truth: nothing is as important to the health and well-being of your family and home as having a sane, relatively happy mother. You’ve heard the saying: if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. And if mama ain’t had a shower in days, is frazzled and disheveled and hasn’t had a moment to herself, ain’t nobody gonna care about the clean dishes and floors.
For me, it’s showers, and hot coffee, and writing in my journal, and sitting meditation practice. For you it might be something else altogether. I encourage you to think deeply about what feeds and nourishes you, about what replenishes your strength and energy, and commit to honoring these small commitments to yourself each and every day, to the best of your ability. Discuss these small gestures with the people close to you, and invite them to help you keep these commitments to yourself. Tell them that you are doing this for your own health and well-being, yes, but also with them in mind. Explain how your whole family will benefit from having a calmer, more balanced mother. Post this quote somewhere prominent, where you can see it every day:
“Self-care isn’t an act of selfishness, it’s an act of self-preservation.” -Audre Lorde
Learn what it is that you need, then get after it. You, your child, your family, your home, your world will all be the better for it. I'd love to hear about your self-care practice, won't you share in the comments?
:: :; ::
A few more thoughts...
* I will also concede that your own experience may be vastly different. If you have not been able to make self-care a priority, and you feel there is a genuine reason for that, I would love to hear from you, either in a comment or private email. I am deeply fascinated by this subject and would love to have a conversation with you about it.
Friday, March 15
This week has been a real roller coaster. Broadsided by the double whammy of Daylight Savings Time and Spring Break, Silas' sleep was one aberration after the other: sleeping in until 8:30 and napping for three and a half hours one day, and up partying at 4am and no nap the next. It wore this mama right out. But we managed to end the week on a sweet note: tacos at the park with friends, good naps, walks outside and smiles. Looking forward to lingering over coffee and hitting the farmer's market this weekend.
read :: beautiful ruins // frances & bernard
taste :: avo & egg tostada
see :: pretty in pink // homeland
touch :: cuddles in bed with the bear during our morning game of cache-cache
hear :: dried oak leaves hitting the tin porch roof in the high spring winds
think : obsessing over this bag // am I eating too many of these?
feel :: supple and whole and home, getting back to the mat and walking again
Tuesday, March 12
|Scrambled eggs and coloring. Scary messy.|
One morning last week, I lost it.
I'd been battling allergies and insomnia, as well as coping as best I could, in my 6-months pregnant state, with some family drama, and although I slept much, much better the previous night, still on that morning I felt like a wreck. My emotional and sensory circuits were overloaded. As I was shakily making coffee, Silas was busy nearby watching PBS videos on my phone, and he asked me for something, I have no idea what, and the breaker blew. I snapped, yelled as loud as I could for him to shut up already.
He cried. I cried. I went over to him to console him and tell him that mama was sorry. He went right on watching Super Why. It was over for him.
But not for me. As I carried on pouring the water over the grounds, heating and frothing the milk, I erupted in big gasping sobs. So much so that every few minutes Silas would toddle over and offer me a hug. My sweet little brown bear.
It's okay, I said. Mama is sad. It's okay to be sad.
Along with the taste of tears, in the back of my throat rose something else. The taste of fear.
This was all too familiar. While I've been much, much more even keeled recently, even through some trying circumstances, I spent the better part of Silas' first two years in this state of near-constant overwhelm, the breaker about to blow at any second. And blew it did. I broke stuff. I hurled myself at the wall. I screamed myself hoarse. I knew enough, especially if I was alone with him and felt the wave of overwhelm rising, to put Silas in his crib and walk away, to take many many breaths until I calmed down. Even though I never came close, even though my husband assured me he wasn't scared, I lived in fear of being a ticking time bomb so near my sweet, defenseless baby. I was terrified of what could happen.
I had no name, no explanation for what was happening to me. I'd wanted to be a mother all my life, had deeply desired this sweet child. I had a wonderfully supportive husband, family and friends, and a solid mindfulness practice that I kept up as best I could under the constraints of new motherhood. None of that losing it and freaking out should be happening, I reasoned. Something must have been wrong with me. I didn't know what.
I have a name for all of that now. It's called HSP, or being a highly-sensitive person or parent. It means that my nervous system is more finely tuned than most, and that stimuli like noise, lights, scents, visual disorder, and touch I feel much more vividly, and it has the potential to overwhelm me, a state with which it is very difficult for me to cope. My circuits overload, and the breaker blows.
You know what's very challenging to the nervous system? Life with a newborn. They are a freaking onslaught to the senses. Toddlers are too, for that matter, but blessedly with toddlerhood came full nights of sleep for us all, which helps a whole lot. So I'm generally coping much, much better with overwhelm these days. My fuse is a little longer, I know better when to walk away, put myself in a time out, take deep breaths. I don't freak out nearly so often as I did, and when I do, I have a name for what's happening, instead of just thinking I'm a terrible person, a bad mother.
I came upon this illuminating, sanity-saving article last summer. It's helped me so much to understand myself. It freed me from thinking or fearing the worst about myself. I'd always wanted more than one child, but it was such a tough road with baby Silas, I was afraid I couldn't handle more than one. As it happens, right when I started to feel that maybe it would be okay to have another one, I became pregnant. And, mostly, I've been optimistic about my ability to cope with life as a mama of two with a relative measure of ease.
But, occasionally, fear rears its head. Like when I'm feeling poorly and I haven't slept well. Like when there is too much going on, inside and out. Like on that morning last week. And then I think, what if there was also a colicky, screaming baby in a bassinette in the next room? How in the hell would I be able to handle that?
In moments like those, under the tears, is the strained whisper: I am scared.
I'm scared of going back to that place again.
I'm scared of scaring myself, and my children.
I'm scared of not being able to handle it.
I'm scared it will be too much.
I'm scared my children will grow up walking on eggshells, afraid of when mama's going to explode.
I know these anxious thoughts about the future don't serve me very well. I know that life, birth, motherhood are best when encountered breath by breath, for each breath brings us fresh energy to handle what's in front of us, and a fresh opportunity to let go of what we no longer need. But honesty, especially with ourselves, is so very important. So I am trying to hold my fear lightly, to create space around it, to breathe into it. To trust myself to ever be growing in self-knowledge and self-care, to trust my children to know that my love for them is greater than any outburst. To believe in the healing power of forgiveness for all of us.
It's okay. Mama is scared. It's okay to be scared.
Wednesday, March 6
|First things first.|
I had a whole other post slated for today. Half-written, even. But then, I've had to admit defeat, as I am being attacked on two fronts: allergies, and insomnia. Three days running, and I was up for three hours last night. No bueno.
So today seemed like a good day for softened expectations, and for pulling out a practice from back in the tiny infant days: the done list.
You remember those times, or perhaps are deep in the muck and mire of them, when days and nights blur, when you feel like a wrung-out rag, and are barely coordinated enough to make your own coffee in the morning, let alone get anything else done? Yeah, it's been a bit like that.
Under regular circumstances, I love me a good to-do list. Just writing one out gives me a great sense of possibility, like I'm somehow already on top of things just for putting pen to paper. (I like Jamie's thoughts on to-do lists, and Tsh's.) But on days like today, when the kind thing to do is to have little to no expectations about what I can get done beyond the bare essentials, I switch to a done list. I move through my day with gentleness, attending to the necessities and only doing what I feel I can, resting as much as possible. Then, to avoid feeling like the day got the better of me, I list the things I managed to accomplish.
- Changed and clothed and fed a toddler
- Had coffee and wrote morning pages
- Emptied the dishwasher and cleaned the counter
- Folded and put away (bonus points!) a load of laundry
- Took a long nap (thanks to my mother-in-law)
- Made lunch for the boy
- Put the boy down for a nap
- Wrote a blog post. (Bam!)
And it's only two o'clock!
It's not much, but it's a conscious practice that reminds me that I showed up for my own life, that I tended to things that matter, and that our home runs a little smoother now than it did this morning. I also find it affirming, when I do this exercise, to list things I never put on a to-do list, like the care I provide for my son. It's a good reminder that there are a lot of tasks in my day, and while many are small and nagging, they are vital in their importance, and I'm the one (usually) who shows up to attend to them. A good remedy for the old "I-don't-do-anything-valuable-my-life-has-no-meaning" SAHM blues.
And so, with several warm beverages, a nap for me and for my boy, and a done list, the day is somewhat redeemed. But tonight? I'm hitting the Benadryl and hoping to break the cycle. Wish me sleep. And clear sinuses.
What about you? What are some of your coping strategies for less-than-optimal days? I'm heading back into the salt mines of tiny infant sleepless days, and would love to hear your thoughts!
Monday, March 4
this weekend was a deep breath and a long exhale
back to (mostly) our little family of three after having lots and lots of company over
getting to sleep in on Saturday was heavenly
there was lots of happy puttering around the house, being domestic
and fluffing up our love nest
but also a good deal of writing
a late-night picnic of fries and cupcake on the bed for the grown-ups
and starting a new novel
Sunday, up bright and early with the bear
making eggs for my boys before sending them outside
while I lingered over coffee
soon I felt stir-crazy, sought refuge in the Target Starbucks
then to the store for fresh produce for the week
back home to a little one just waking from nap
gathering snacks and supplies
and heading over to the next town to a big park
where Silas got to ride on his very first little train!
(i think we enjoyed it more than he did)
despite being tired, cleaning the kitchen and the fridge
once home, leftovers for dinner
more reading and lights out at nine
it was a sweet one
how about you?
linking up with Amanda.
psst! it'\s not too late to enter the giveaway and read my interview with Erin Goodman! contest closes Wednesday night.