The last can of formula (and some emotional purging).

I’m really good at sharing cute pictures of my daughter and laughing as I look back at tough times. I can write about the hardest days and eloquently embrace the lesson or the good parts. But some hard times are particularly rough; less fun to write about and remember. Not everyone is going to agree with my thoughts and decisions, I don’t expect or ask you to. But I do hope if there’s someone out there who needs to hear this, it comes at the right time. I’ve debated sharing this for a year, but for some reason I’m compelled to share this now. 

Tonight we threw out our last can of formula. Lila is on whole milk now and we finally used up our stores. It felt symbolic. 

Instead of the guilt and shame I associated with feeding formula for months, tonight I felt gratitude. That this wonderful alternative existed and was available when I needed it, to ensure my baby was happy and healthy. I felt pride. That I made a hard decision in a dark time and can now recognize that it was the right decision.

When I was about three weeks post partum, the “baby blues,” as they’re so often called, weren’t lifting. In fact, they were getting worse. You know the little black rain cloud that follows Eeyore around? Mine was a little black tsunami. 

I was fortunate to be surrounded with support, but unless you’re the one going through it, it’s hard to know exactly how to help. I don’t know that I can share it all in detail in this kind of forum, as much as I love truth telling, but if you’re experiencing anything you think goes beyond typical new-mom exhaustion and stress, I urge you to be brave enough to ask for help. There is nothing wrong with you. No one will judge you. 

Throughout this early period, nursing was – for the most part – going really well. I was fortunate that we didn’t experience any of the dozens of challenges so many women and babies experience. I produced enough, she latched. Just the usual learning curve. But as the tsunami darkened, I started to resent this attachment I was told I should be embracing.

One day it came to a head. I completely freaked out one of my best friends the night prior when she came over with food, and I couldn’t compose myself the whole time. I was shaky, unable to eat or sleep, and saw no light at the end of the current tunnel. I saw my doctor around this time, desperate for anything that could make me feel better. And fortunately, her office was nothing but supportive and attentive as I sobbed in a crumpled heap, communicating more through nose blowing and sign language than actual English. 

There was no condescending, “All moms go through this,” or “Hang in there, it gets better.” They identified what I was feeling and knew that I wasn’t positioned to be the best mom I could be. It was at this time they asked if I would consider not nursing.
Sound the alarm bells. Were these people…these medically trained experts, who dedicated their careers to  bringing babies into the world safely…actually suggesting I stop doing the one thing I was convinced I had to?

I was indignant. No, I would not consider stopping. I’d never heard anything but praise for nursing mothers, and had been subtly convinced through the mommysphere that formula was akin to lead paint. Why would I give that to this perfect human? I was disgusted.

My doctor’s office was respectful, but did their part to educate me that making a decision that could help me and my baby feel better, and bond better, was not “giving up.” It was not failing. 

They simply wanted me to see that if I stopped, my body had a much better chance of feeling better faster. And that would allow me to enjoy motherhood. 

Without giving you a biology lesson, there is significant regulation of hormones when you stop nursing, more options for medication, and access to better sleep. Things that help in tsunami abatement.

Flustered, I left. Then a day or two later I called my best friend, crying outside a smoothie shop, sweating my face off in the Arizona summer. I laid it all out: I felt weak giving up, like I wasn’t enduring this essential rite of passage that unites good moms. I felt lazy. I felt worried I would change my mind. But I also felt desperate. 

I talked to my mom and my mentor and lots of friends – and was touched and surprised that those who’d been the most committed to nursing themselves, were the most supportive that I stop . I think these mommas, being ahead of me in this journey, had the wisdom to know how hard everything is as a new mom, and that you need to do Whatever It Takes to be the best mom you can be.

So I stopped. I switched to formula. For 11 months.

And I’m blessed beyond belief with a happy, healthy and spitfire little girl. 

They told me she’d be a picky eater. She’s not. They told me she’d gain too much weight. She didn’t. They told me we wouldn’t bond the same way. We did.

So without dipping my toes into the madness that is mommy wars, I want to share that it took a long time to get here, but I am ok with this decision. Better than ok – I’m proud of it.

And while sure, I sometimes have pangs or moments of questioning and wondering, “what if…” I have those in every area of my life (don’t even get me started on my college major), and I’m sure there will be hundreds more of these feelings on the parenthood path. 

I think this whole story supports the notion that when you make the best decision for you, OWN IT. You don’t have to rationalize or explain it, it’s yours and yours alone. 

And moms, we’ve heard it before, but my hope is we can all be respectful of whatever feeding choices we make. And acknowledge that there is no “best,” there only the best for each family. Breast, bottle, SNS or feeding tube. If you’re feeding you baby, you’re winning.  

   

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I was a square peg, repeatedly dive bombing into the round hole of motherhood.

I got “the text” today. The one you check for obsessively when a friend nears her due date. A chaotic, “water broke-this many centimeters-I’m so tired-yay for epidurals” text.

I read her words and tried to imagine what she was feeling, mentally returning to the day Lila was born, and it’s funny how much time edits history. Given a little distance to recover, I can start to believe the hard parts weren’t that hard, that the icky details were no big deal. I love that about the mind and human spirit.

In those early newborn days, clueless and emotional, I struggled. I wanted clear answers to unclear things, advice that would absolutely work, and sleep—oh, how I wanted sleep. There was once a three-day period where I didn’t sleep for more than a half hour consecutively, and things got downright ugly.

I had a million questions and a million more fears, despite the layers of kindness and support surrounding me. I was a square peg, repeatedly dive bombing into the round hole of motherhood. But, as with most changes, a new normal gradually evolved. What was foreign became routine, and fears grew into confidence. There have been (and still are) many ups and downs, sandwiched between laughter and tears.

Something that helped me when I was struggling the most was consciously accepting that my feelings were allowed, even when they were unpleasant. Not wallowing, but also not judging myself for what I felt. Because, well, it’s hard enough to feel bad; when you don’t feel justified about feeling bad, it’s even worse.

Reassurance and acceptance are empowering, even in the simplest forms. Just to hear, me toothis is normal or, you’ll be ok. Thanks to everyone who has been along for the ride. It’s now my privilege to pay it forward to my friend and her newborn bundle, who arrived safe and sound this afternoon.

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To be thankful

Thanksgiving begs for sappy gratitude posts, and I’m in no position to resist.

Family. We became a family of three this year and it’s been a heck of a ride. My highest highs, my lowest lows and everything in between. Babies bring you such an overwhelming sense of purpose and connection. They make you feel whole, and they make you discover the real meaning of love. I am thankful for the blessing of a happy and healthy baby, for access to top medical care for both of us, for the way the experience has challenged me and for how it has brought me closer to my husband. I’m thankful to have parents who support us and delight in being grandparents. I’m thankful for my brother who is a driving force in my life and sometimes the only person who can get in my head to help me sort things through.

Marriage. We’re past the 3.5 year mark since our wedding and are close to hitting eight years as a couple. We’ve grown up together and continue to grow in ways I appreciate and never anticipated. Jim, you are my better half and my grounding force in life. You are what makes me wake up happy each day and go to sleep feeling safe. I’m thankful for the love and balance you bring to my life, the wonderful father you’ve become and for your never-faltering integrity and kindness. There are lots of ups and downs on this ride but I wouldn’t want it to be with anyone else.

Work. I am thankful to work in a dynamic environment with people who truly have become a second family. It is a rarity to be able to say that, and to have had their support when I became a mom was invaluable. There are lots of frustrating moments and hard weeks, but I’m privileged to learn from all different kinds of people and to be pushed at every turn.

My body. Have you ever pondered how insane the human body is? Straight-up magic. I’ve always marveled at what my body is capable of and love pushing myself physically. The past year this awareness soared as I not only carried a baby (STILL blows my mind that people make other people), but also learned the value of functional fitness and training. I’m thankful for my health and what my body provides.

Friends. Friends are family, no way around it; life would be an incomplete puzzle without them. I’m thankful to have so many incredible, loving, hilarious and inspiring friends who show up when it matters most.

Stillness. It’s fleeting to have moments of stillness and quiet these days, so I’m especially thankful when they occur. Introverts rely on alone time to recharge and I’m no exception.

Dogs. My dogs have taken the inevitable backseat following baby’s arrival, but they’re as loving and loyal as ever. They’re loud and messy and wonderful.

Writing. I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to think and share on this blog, for all the support and encouragement. And for the opportunity to truth-tell and help others feel ok.

I think beyond anything I could list here, I’m just thankful for the life I’ve been given and the places it has taken me. The people I’ve met. The challenges I’ve overcome. The love I’ve experienced and the losses I’ve learned from. I’m thankful for how it all weaves together.

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neighbors without borders

When this happens in your backyard you might consider a few things. Like, how good is my homeowners insurance? Or, how did I not hear this thing fall? Or, how lucky am I that gravity had the tree fall away from the house and not onto it?

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We had a macroburst two weekends ago that involved 100 mile-per-hour winds and torrential rain. The neighborhood looks like a hurricane passed through–I’ve never experienced anything like it.

This is an inconvenience largely because we have dogs and our neighbors have dogs, and because it’s a giant mess. (And it’s a million degrees out, and I’m super pregnant, those conditions heighten any disturbance). But this is a joke compared to problems that exist in other parts of the world–or hell–in other parts of Phoenix. But while incredibly annoying, knocking down walls makes for a great social experiment.

It dawned on me today how different life would be without so many walls. What would it be like if we didn’t live in such modular, segmented ways that separate us–literally and figuratively–from those around us? How exactly did we become so reliant on the idea of privacy?

Chances are it would be weird if things were different. I mean, I’d definitely have to dress more appropriately when I let the dogs out in the morning, and there’s always the off chance your neighbors are creepers, or have ugly yards you don’t want to stare at, or run a frat house. But it also might be kind of cool to have a more open sense of community. Lots of cultures live more communally than Americans, and I think that’s neat. Although in these cases it’s often families that live interchangeably, not strangers who happened to prefer the same zip code as you.

At any rate, in the week since our wall was demolished, we’ve gotten to know more neighbors than we did over the past year, and it feels nice to get better acquainted with the people that reside 15 feet from you.

All day at work I sit in an enclosed office. My house is (well, was) surrounded by a six-foot wall. I’m an introvert, so this doesn’t displease me, but I also thrive in social settings and often wish I sat in an open bullpen with coworkers instead of in my own stall. And that I had neighbors dropping by to say hello rather than just waving from behind closed car windows.

The wall should be resurrected by the end of the week, but it’s temporary hiatus has had unexpected perks.

Ok, ok, a pregnancy update.

I’m not that into pregnancy blogging, or photos, or obsessing. Lots of friends have been all stars about documenting their experiences, and while I’ve journaled a bit, I’ve preferred processing and learning in my own, more personal ways. It’s funny to see all the ways different people mark the journey though – so now that the clock is ticking I figure I can temporarily jump on the bandwagon with a template I’ve seen online.

How far along: 36 weeks, 1 day

Total weight gain: 22 lbs

Maternity clothes: Yeah, these have been necessary for a while. Although a fair amount of strategically stretchy normal clothes still fit (workout clothes, maxi skirts, dresses).

Sleep: I’ve never been a great sleeper so not much has changed. really hoping the baby inherits Jim’s ability to sleep any time, any place. I’d say I’m averaging about 7.5 hours per night and rarely feel well-rested.

Best moment of this week: Getting a great report after an ultrasound at the doctor’s office, and being told to eat more.

Miss anything: Besides balanced hormones? Being able to decompress through exercise and go for more than three minutes without sweating.

Movement: Mine’s becoming limited, but the baby is an acrobat.

Food cravings: Fruit, baked goods (pie, pastries), cereal.

Anything making you queasy or sick: The thought of having to deliver the baby.

Have you started to show yet: Yes, it looks like I swallowed a watermelon.

Gender: It’s a girl. I have disproven every old wives tale based on symptoms and lack of symptoms.

Labor signs: Mild cramps/contractions.

Belly button in or out: Out. Thank you for asking. All things considered, how would a belly button stay in at this point?

Wedding rings on or off: On. Still look like an honest woman.

Happy or moody most of the time: I don’t know that either seems fully accurate, I think I’m somewhere in the middle. However, moodiness is more likely linked to it being 114 degrees than any part of pregnancy.

Looking forward to: Meeting this baby.

Words of wisdom: I’ve gotten a lot of advice over the past few months, and have grown to appreciate the overflowing and wonderful network of moms in my life. There are, of course, people who overshare, incite panic and retell your their own birth stories 40 times over, BUT — the majority are caring, thoughtful and totally honest when you need it. Some of my favorite advice came when I asked a few friends for advice on packing a hospital bag. I loved the answers I got and learned a lot.

Other news: I’m on a social media cleanse. One week sans Facebook or Instagram. It was needed.

Here are grainy photos (with Bruno photobombs) from 35 and 36 weeks:

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A pregnancy interview with myself.

How are you feeling (23 weeks, 4 days)? Mentally, it’s a consistent blend of the following: good, terrified, excited, happy, emotional, astounded, anxious and hopeful. Physically…I’m feeling pretty good and comfortable most of the time, but definitely get winded more easily and have lots of dizziness. I can still knock out a lot of push-ups which makes me happy.

What makes you happiest these days? Jim, exercise and ice cream, which is fairly consistent with non-pregnancy. I also find great joy in wearing sweatpants and leggings. I’m appreciative of calm, positive and realistic moms as influences.

Anything you miss? Intense workouts and beer.

What’s been the most surprising? How much the baby moves…getting to feel her all the time is amazing, and how many strollers are available at Buy Buy Baby. Oh, and Sophie the Giraffe–people are really into her.

What are you most grateful for? Good health for me and baby and an incredibly supportive husband; having several pregnant friends to share this journey with. The enthusiasm and support of our families.

What’s been the most overwhelming? Knowing that there’s so much I don’t know.

Has anything been annoying? I haven’t been loving the What to Expect series. It kind of makes me feel like a science experiment. Also, has anyone else noticed you can see Heidi Murkoff’s bra in every single video the app posts? I mean, she has millions of dollars, she should hire an honest assistant already.

What’s been the most helpful advice so far? “If the girls on 16 and Pregnant can do it, so can you.”

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