I am {maybe} crying over a carseat

I don’t get overly sentimental when the girls outgrow clothes and toys. There’s a sweet nostalgia in holding up teeny jammies and shoes as you sort them to make room for bigger sizes, but that feeling has never made me sad. I always find it more remarkable; incredulous that they were EVER that size, like it’s some sort of optical illusion.

I’ve found hand-me-downs to be one of the greatest gifts throughout parenthood, and I get overly excited to donate the things we no longer use, like I’m initiating another baby into a bizarre, circle-of-life-type ritual.

But tonight, as I packed up the Graco infant car seat and base to pass along, I felt my guts being ripped out. I carried that awkward, back-cramp-inducing contraption across the house on its final flight for our family and felt a crushing wave of emotion.

It’s not because I want another baby, or hadn’t realized we’re fully past the days of wee, squirmy creatures. I think what I felt was recognition of the journey — both literal and figurative — we’ve been on since we purchased that carseat.

It was the first “big” thing we bought while we were pregnant with Lila. It was a stressful trip to Buy Buy Baby where I had no idea what we needed, or how to put a baby in it, but was adamant it was a gender-neutral color.

We carted it home in a monstrous box where it sat until a few weeks before my due date when I insisted we have it installed and ready to go. Because, you know, “they won’t let you leave the hospital without one.” A final attempt at control before all control was lost.

That carseat safely carried each baby girl home from the hospital, to countless days at daycare, dozens of pediatrician appointments and the occasional trip to urgent care. It lulled them to sleep in the car, endured their screams and witnessed their giggles. It was an 8-pound plastic vessel I cursed on so many occasions because it was difficult to maneuver and a hazard to carry in heels.

A conduit to playdates, parks and museums, it was present for the hardest days of post-partum depression and the most fulfilling early outings. It was where, just one time, I forgot to buckle you before driving partially down the street and pulling over in one of the worst moments of guilt and shame in my life.

It’s a carseat, you know. Not a special blanket or holiday outfit or treasured lovey. But it’s woven into more early parenthood experiences and memories than any other object.

I’m thankful for the memories, grateful for the protection and ready to pass it on. But I still feel like sitting around and crying about it.

Local Phoenix peeps: if you have a carseat you’ve outgrown that has not been in an accident, AZ Helping Hands will gladly take it and pass it on to a foster family, which is what we’ve chosen to do.

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.  

   

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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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.

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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