The happiness hangover.

Sometimes my heart gets so full that I can’t help but mope when it inevitably empties a bit. It’s the crappy feeling that shows up after a surplus of joy — a happiness hangover.

It’s what happens all to often on Sunday nights, when angst about the work week sets in. You hold off letting those thoughts in but they always resurface to put a damper on things. In college we called it “Sunday Syndrome” — something we’d lament weekly while heaped together watching Grey’s Anatomy, dreading the week’s classes and homework.

The past week was full of so many special moments for me with my family. I feel so full from our time together, and so empty with them gone.

It hit me last night while we sat around a fire in the backyard after dinner, drinking wine and making s’mores…I took it all in…the baby asleep on my chest, perfect fall weather and a gorgeous moon. I had a momentary panic when I realized how perfect a moment I was in, and that it couldn’t last forever.

Silly to worry so preemptively when I should’ve focused on the present.

I think my current happiness hangover is compounded by the fact that maternity leave has come to an end. There are lots of fears and feelings that accompany this transition. It overwhelms me. The logical part of me knows things will all adjust and be fine, but the paranoid voice in my head is fixating on so many unknowns.

I’m returning to a familiar environment but I feel like a completely different person. Like I should be wearing a sign that lets everyone know, “PS you guys, I may look like the same girl, but I’m not! My whole life has changed!”

It’s hard to grasp the most difficult parts of this situation, because there are so many factors. Perhaps the worst part has been the anticipation?

I’ve spent all day, every day, with my daughter for nearly three months, and it’s been the hardest, most wonderful experience of my life. There were lots of days when every single minute was a struggle, and my only goal was survival. There were also moments so magically poignant and magnificent that my heart could explode with elation. I feel so fortunate to have had this time with her; it allowed us to form a remarkable connection. I’ll worry about her constantly and miss her like crazy–she seems too little to entrust to anyone else–but it’s going to be ok.

It’s time for me to revive parts of the old me and introduce them to the new me. Hopefully they get along. It’s a big leap of faith into a new chapter, and I’m ready.

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Late-Night Feedings Taught me Ninja Skills

I knew there’d be plenty of surprises that accompanied becoming a mom. Everyone tried to prepare me for how hard things would be as I adjusted, particularly given the fact that I wouldn’t be sleeping. Yet I had NO IDEA what to expect in terms of fatigue. I guess it’s hard to truly process what it means to stop sleeping until you experience it firsthand. But it turns out babies like to eat, a lot, and with zero regard for what time it is or if their parents are becoming blurry-eyed, emotional lunatics.

In the 12 weeks since our daughter was born, I’ve spent more time awake at odd hours of the night than I ever imagined possible. I’ve become an expert at navigating my house in a half-conscious stupor, preparing bottles with one hand and deftly swaddling in the dark. I’ve learned to function on so little sleep I sometimes wonder if I’ve morphed into some kind of insomniac superhuman.

Along the way, amid the utter mayhem of not sleeping, I’ve gained a few essential parenting ninja skills:

1. Night vision: I can now successfully travel across my house without opening my eyes. I’m like a Roomba, gently knocking into walls and furniture as I find my way to the nursery. I’m sometimes startled to wake up during daylight hours because I’ve grown so accustomed to functioning in darkness.

2. Acrobatic foot dexterity: Having a baby means your hands are always full. To compensate, I’ve become an ape-like master of foot control. I can pick up small items, open drawers and turn on the night light with my toes. I’ve tossed laundry into a hamper and even spread a blanket out with my feet. Could this become an Olympic event? Likely not, but it’s wildly entertaining and helpful.

3. Bionic arm strength: If someone challenged me to hold a 12-pound dumb bell in a static bicep curl for 15 hours a day, I’d laugh rudely. But then I had a baby who didn’t like to be put down, and so I held her. All day. Every day. And for a while I was physically unable to straighten my arms. Now that she’s adjusted a bit, it’s become an amazing way to work out without actually having to workout.

4. Bouncy wobble walking: I don’t want to brag, but I’ve developed a pretty unique wobble walk that lulls even the most fussy of babies into a peaceful slumber. I may look like I belong on a middle school dance floor, swaying awkwardly to the melodies of Boyz II Men and K-Ci and JoJo, but believe you me this is one magic saunter. This is an especially breathtaking maneuver when partnered with # 2 (think: Elaine Benes at a company party).

5. Ruthless adaptability (also known as shameless lack of dignity): Sleep on the floor using your baby’s hooded towel as a blanket? Sure. Trudge back to bed at 4 a.m. covered in spit up? It’s ok. Forget the last time you flossed? It happens. These seemingly disgraceful transgressions are totally acceptable — heck, they’re encouraged — while parenting an infant. Just use caution when sharing these achievements with non-parents, as the reactions are somewhat offensive.

6. Emotional Ambivalence: I think that when you become a parent you become a bit of a crazy person. This is best demonstrated by a newfound ability to use laughing and crying interchangeably. There are actually a surprising number of situations where laughing and/or crying hysterically can be appropriate responses, like waiting in line at the post office with a crying infant, or trying to cook dinner while wearing your baby. I’m going to have to monitor this one closely as I return to work because it won’t translate well on conference calls.

I’m eager to see what additional powers I’ll acquire on this crazy road called motherhood. I wouldn’t mind returning to a normal sleep schedule one day, but until then, I’m opting to push through the haze and embrace these moments. It’s not so much looking at things through rose-colored glasses as it is genuinely special to share every possible minute with my baby. Even if it’s at 3 a.m., and even when I’m covered in baby puke.

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It’s strange, isn’t it

“It’s strange, isn’t it, how you never know you’re living the best time of your life at the moment you’re living it? If you could appreciate, at that instant, that this is it, maybe you’d make certain your mind imprinted every detail of the sights, smells, sounds and sensations. Then again, maybe knowing that life will only get duller, sadder, less hopeful afterward would inject melancholy into that moment. You’d miss life’s peak experience by mourning it before it passes. So perhaps, it’s best not to know.” -Anita Bartholomew

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That Time I was Blissfully Ignorant about Maternity Leave

I don’t know that I’ve ever been more wrong about anything. Let’s laugh and sob as we review my naïveté:

1. It will be a nice break from work. I mean yeah, I don’t miss conference calls, commuting or having to dress up everyday, but this isn’t quite the vacation I imagined. Because now I work 20 hours a day, without pay, while being covered in vomit and poop.

2. It’ll be easy to get out with the baby. Except that it first involves packing for approximately two hours, changing the baby five times (who undoubtedly will throw up on herself while being changed), folding up the stroller using magic origami and using ninja skills to get it in the car, all while attempting to not get covered in baby puke as you execute prior steps.

3. I won’t need that much help. Unless you count always and all the time. I want help 24 hours a day. I want help for my help. I want constant assistance in all things.

4. I’ll fall in love with the baby immediately. I mean yes, there is an instant and inexplicable bond, and an awe-inspiring sense of wonder, but I think the real love comes a bit more gradually, as the terror subsides and you get to know the baby. It’s in full force now, and grows every hour, but the first few days and weeks were so ridiculously hard, that I think I felt the full spectrum of every emotion from love to hate to insanity.

5. Post-partum depression and emotions won’t be a big deal. Unless you consider debilitating sadness and despair easy to handle on no sleep.

6. The fatigue isn’t as bad as people say. No, it’s WORSE. As my brother reminds me, sleep deprivation is a form of torture for suspected terrorists. So, no biggie. You’ll just LOSE YOUR MIND.

7. I’ll be ready to go back to work. See #s 5 and 6.

8. It’ll be easy to get back in shape since I’m not working. Not only is there no time, there’s no energy or desire. I’ve been a fitness addict most of my adult life, which makes it even more alarming that I could not care less about it right now. I have zero desire to exercise, and if I did, I wouldn’t have the time or energy to do so.

9. I won’t be influenced by things I read online. This one might have stood a chance if there weren’t 20 hours a day spent feeding a baby where your smartphone is your only outlet to the world. Enter Google madness.

10. I will naturally be good at being a mom. Maybe on some levels I am, in that the baby is healthy and thriving (hooray!), but I doubt myself constantly and generally feel like a total mess.

11. Nursing will be magical. It was, and then it wasn’t. And ultimately it wasn’t the best choice for us. And that was a tough pill to swallow, since society kind of shuns formula. I was amazed at how supportive momma friends were about this though, and grateful for that.

12. I won’t rely on other moms for advice because I’ll pave my own way. Let me say this: I wouldn’t have made it without the love, guidance and advice of my friends and family. I mean that wholeheartedly. I am so, SO blessed to have a huge network of helpful moms and dads in my life, who have become the village I so desperately need to raise my daughter. They understand exactly what I’m feeling and fearing at any given time and are constantly offering reassurance. We all wear the same badge of honor and battle scars, forming a critical bond. I’ve also had amazing support from friends who aren’t parents, but still know just the right things to say and the best ways to help me feel better in the toughest moments.

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Getting my learn on.

If you’re getting sick of motherhood posts, you might want to unfollow this blog.

I can’t stop. I won’t stop.

It’s been a huge life change and it’s different every single day. It consumes just about every waking moment in ways that are equal parts fascinating and frustrating. There’s so much I want to remember and reflect on — if only there was time to record it all.

1. Moving into a dorm was tough…getting married was an adjustment…but parenting is the hardest thing ever. I have a newfound respect for everyone I know with children. Add another boatload of credit to anyone with more than one child, a child with special needs or single parents. You are heroes.

2. Babies make marriage different –but not worse. Having a child has given me — no exaggeration — a thousand new ways to love, appreciate and respect my husband, and it’s shown us lots of new ways to work together as a team. This includes everything from tag-team diaper changes and baths to knowing when the other person has hit a wall and stepping in before disaster strikes.

3. Everything changes all at once. Your very existence will be rapidly redefined. I thought nine months of pregnancy prepared me for being a mom but alas, I was blissfully ignorant. Suddenly, none of my decisions can be made independently, and the whole idea of “me time” is redefined as being able to take a shower. And it’s forever.

4. Despite intrinsic tendencies, being a perfectionist is impossible and a waste of time. Same goes for being a control freak. Nothing is ever going to be perfect or under control again, which is surprisingly ok. Rolling with the punches means not batting an eye when your daughter poops in the bathtub for a fourth night in a row, or screams bloody murder at a tailgate party.

5. Thought you already were mature? Oh, no. Babies require you to grow up more and faster than you ever anticipated. For us, this meant big things like buying more life insurance and filing a will, and smaller things like missing a lot of social events and not shopping as often.

6. Friendships change after kids. No way around it. But the strong ones — the ones worth keeping — find a way to adapt and continue, even if it means more time spent texting and less time at happy hours. It’s a sacrifice that’s simultaneously heart breaking and ok.

7. You will question why you did this on a daily basis.

8. You will be humbled and thankful to the point of tears on a daily basis.

9. Small and simple pleasures are increasingly important. Taking a walk, having a glass of wine, vacuuming…everything shifts to keep baby at the center, so that even the smallest things elicit deep gratification.

10. You will have a dumbfounding new respect for your own parents. Oh man. No words.

11. There’s a lot of pressure. Nursing, sleep training, vaccination schedules, milestones. Geesh. Staying true to yourself and knowing your baby are the most important factors, but it’s hard. Outside pressures are intense and all around.

12. Post-partum depression and anxiety are real and they are crippling. I never knew it was possible to feel so horrible. I was terrified and miserable and so fortunate to have had support from my family, friends and doctor. Knowing when to ask for help is the hardest part.

13. Smartphones are life-saving devices. The amount of things I google is absurd. Not to mention I have a way to stay in touch with friends when I’m stuck at home, and can read books or watch tv when I’m being held hostage by a crying baby.

14. Babies are sometimes loud. Really loud. And sometimes they smell and make disturbing noises.

15. Deep breaths and wine are a powerful combination.

16. No one’s ever going to follow your instructions for caring for your baby perfectly. And it will make you batshit crazy. But it will be ok. I think.

17. Everyone will give you advice. Some of it will be really good, life-saving, even. And some of it will make you want to projectile vomit.

18. Speaking of projectile vomit…babies do that. And they poop and pee and drool on you. Best to just get over it and embrace doing laundry as an even greater necessity.

19. Severe fatigue is a funny thing. Your body will astonish you with what it can do on absolutely no sleep, but it will be a painful experience.

20. It’s ok to let people help you and to be bossy about what you need. Ask for food and babysitting and whatever will get you through to the next hour.

21. The connection and support among moms is beautiful. I mean, it takes my breath away when I stop to think of the support and advice I’ve gotten from moms of all ages and walks of life. It’s a silent and unbreakable bond because there’s no stronger connection than the love a parent has for her child.

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Some goodness

So many things are happening that make me want to use exclamation points! I want to remember them all!

1. Arizona now recognizes marriage equality. Finally. My heart is so happy.

2. We got an Honest Company gift certificate from Anna and Josh after her wonderful visit. I’ve always loved this stuff but never wanted to splurge on it. As Anna noted, “Products that are good enough for Jessica Alba are good enough for us.”

3. We survived taking the baby to a brewery event and a tailgate party. Minimal crying. Great teamwork.

4. Ally is about to have a baby! I am WILDLY excited about this!

5. Michelle is coming to visit.

6. Dan is coming to visit.

7. Our new AC was installed and new roof is almost complete after July’s crazy storm damage.

8. Jennelle and I took the kiddos to the zoo. The weather was beautiful and it was an unexpected workout. And we both mastered stroller assembly, so we’re basically certified engineers now.

9. Baby is mostly sleeping through the night. I want to skip through a meadow shouting with glee. Actually sleeping for more than two hours at a time makes me feel like a super hero.

10. I successfully cleaned out the laundry room, which previously looked liked a natural disaster took place within it. It’s much less embarrassing now.

a maternity leave confession

I’ve watched 112 episodes of Parks and Recreation over the past few weeks. That’s six complete seasons. Because maternity leave provides a unique opportunity to binge watch NetFlix, on your iPhone, in a dark nursery, while feeding/changing/rocking/dressing a baby every two or three hours.

This show is like the offspring of 30 Rock and Seinfeld, after being raised in the county government office I worked in after college.

Yes, I worked for the county government after college–it was an absurd interesting career launchpad for a 21 year old.

I feel qualified to confirm that this show portrays EXACTLY what government work is like, only it’s slightly less funny and with fewer hunting trips. And there was no Chris Pratt.

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