Selfcare PSA for Moms

16 Aug

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Warning, this is a #self care PSA. So far this week, I’ve been diagnosed with a sinus infection for the third time this year and bonus – a STAPH infection. Oh, and both kids have runny noses and are transitioning their naps for one fewer than they’d been doing. For the love of sweet baby Jesus, can we just be done already with all the sickness? It’s almost mid-August and I want to start thinking about fall decor and pumpkin spice lattes as we enjoy these last weeks of official summer. I don’t want to be mired in sickness. I can be sick in the winter when being relegated inside is part of the “being a New England resident” bylaws.

PLEASE do me a solid and just take a second to GOOGLE “staph infection” and educate yourself because I wrongly always assumed this was only something you got accidentally after being in a hospital and not scrubbing your hands. 

I’ve been so fortunately healthy for so many years of my life that this endless sickness since we had kids is totally new territory. Growing up and even into my twenties, a salt water gargle for the occasional canker or sore throat was the extent of my woes. Maybe throw some homemade chicken stock soup at a cold if one cropped up. The end. I only started getting a flu shot with my second baby!

But back to the staph infection. I thought I just had a bunch of very itchy mosquito bites from being out in the garden so much. They may have started out that way, but thanks to a lot of time at the local pool and a lot of humid walks with the kids, those bites got irritated and itched to death and apparently became infected. I’m just grateful I blurted it out to my doctor as the door almost hit him on the ass after he handed me my prescription when I went in about my sinus issue because I’d thought absolutely nothing of the non-stop itchiness for weeks; meanwhile, I’d actually caused an infection on my own body without realizing.

I know self-care is an eye-rolling-worthy buzzword lately, but really, I’ve started to feel like I’m completely falling apart healthwise. Please take the time to check some doctors appointments off your list and stop delaying all the proactive measures you know you should be taking in order to stay healthy that have fallen to the wayside. You can’t take your health for granted; don’t make my mistake and only appreciate it once it takes a leave of absence.

And the sinus infection thing… well. For years, I rolled my eyes too anytime someone used the word sinus infection. Like, GET OVER YOURSELF. Your nose is congested. Then after I had kids, my body just wasn’t as cared for and attended to as it once was. I used to eat vegetables. I used to go to yoga and manage my stress levels. I USED TO SLEEP! That sort of thing.

But honestly, after kids, I suddenly became severely affected by seasonal allergies and what I’ve now come to realize is that my intense denial that my health isn’t as steady and reliable as I’d once enjoyed has resulted in some INTENSE suffering.

It is my personal understanding that a sinus infection is basically a head cold that was never dealt with that goes on to infect your whole face, centralizing around your T-Zone. Imagine a circle right through your eyes with your nose as the central point. A sinus “infection” centralizes right there and feels like the most impossible pressure and pain. The only relief I feel is when I pinch my nose and blow out, popping my ears the way you might on an airplane when the pressure became too much. Or by standing in the shower inhaling steam. Or sipping tea. All things you just don’t have the luxury of doing when you’re a busy parent. I find that I toss and turn all night trying to find a comfortable position to sleep and only alight on it as the sun rises. Then, I begin to settle in, finally comfortable. Then the kids wake!

Based on my experience, attention, and research, I’ve realized that a sinus infection is the price I end up paying when I don’t correctly deal with my allergies (or a simple cold) when they first hit. I drag my feet and claim I just have a touch of a cold because I’m a MOM. I can’t lounge in bed and recover with sleep and soup. I have a non-stop, starring roll to play in the lives of a one and three year old, from the moment my husband leaves for work at 7:30 each morning, until the kids heads hit their pillows each night, usually by 8:30 PM. The days are L-O-N-G.

But now? I have a neti pot. And this spectacularly gross/amazing YouTube video of a father helping his daughter neti pot a sinus infection out. SO GROSS BUT I CAN’T LOOK AWAY. It also just might perfectly demonstrate exactly what being a parent is all about.  I have a stockpile of distilled water and eucalyptus essential oil at the ready for my humidifier which I regularly douse with vinegar to keep mold and germ at bay. I have an air purifier that travels with me through the house and will slowly add to our collection until we have them throughout the house. (*I’ll share details below – I LOVE ours.) I also will take the time to keep chicken stock at the ready in the freezer so making soup isn’t an impossible feat and I have it when sickness strikes. And finally, I will keep regular appointments with my primary care doctor and work on being more proactive about my health, instead of waiting for disaster to strike and then just trying to keep my little ship from capsizing.

Encouraging moms everywhere to do the same and prioritize just this one thing. It doesn’t have to be a grand sweeping thing, just take small steps.

*We have the Honeywell AirGenius 5 Air Purifier/Odor Reducer and I absolutely LOVE it. I wanted something with a reusable (easy to clean) filter. It’s quiet and the air feels so crisp and clean now when I run it regularly. If I could do the Oprah “gifts” thing, I would give every person in my life one of these things because they are fantastic. Seriously. Get one. You’ll become obsessed with clean air in your home.

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Getting My Mama Playwright On

28 Jul

2018 Twitter Image_Work of ChildrenI didn’t exactly kickline into my role as a stay-at-home mom of two. I’d always dreamed of being a mom in the same way other little kids exclaim they want to be a MOVIE STAR!!! or a FIREFIGHTER!!! when they grow up, but where a career or self-fulfillment fell in all this, I never daydreamed about; I just knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a mother. Still, when my first daughter was born, I was very fortunate to work largely from home with fairly flexible hours thanks to an exorbitant amount of help from my mother who babysat when I needed to be in the office or at a client meeting. But with my second — it was dark days at home, less my income.

It was a total slap in the face and I felt completely blindsided.

The irony wasn’t lost on me, with my lists upon lists of projects I wanted to pursue, do, photograph, explore and write. As soon as I started to freelance from home during the daylight hours instead of being confined to a desk working my 9-5, I had a baby. And then bam, a second.

I careened into a dark place.

Married With Style

Any mother of two knows what I’m talking about. When you bring the first one home, you walk on eggshells and read everything. SO MUCH HELP is offered, almost forced. There are meal trains, visitors, babysitters, and check-ins. With two? Shortly after Caroline arrived, I overheard some family talking and one older, very experienced mom quipped: Well, they knew what they were getting themselves into. They know what happens when you have sex!

After Caroline, when people asked how life with two was going, I would joke that it was touch and go for a while, but that eventually they break you. And then suddenly, once you’ve stop fighting it, you can almost, just barely function again. Ta dah: you’ve figured out life with two. Barely functional. That is your new normal. That’s your operational “Go” zone.

I mean… it’s no wonder people stopped visiting.

[In all of this, I do want to be very clear — I LOVE being a mother and I love MOST of the time I get to be home with my children. I feel beyond blessed and grateful that my husband and I have prioritized giving our children at least one parent home, recognizing the monetary sacrifices we make as a family in order to make it possible. But that’s not to say that even that works out “equally.” Enter: the rage.]

It was more than just Postpartum Depression. It was more than “the mental load,” although that was certainly a huge part. It was even more than just the utter shock of how much more work just one more kid is and the indignation and betrayal of other mothers not going around waving their arms at the singleton moms, screaming: LISTEN!! YOU NEED TO KNOW!!! YOU NEED TO KNOW WHAT YOU’RE IN FOR. NO, YOU REALLY DON’T UNDERSTAND.

If I had to put my finger on it, my mental state is where it is today because of the huge injustice of this unpaid, undervalued, highly invisible yet “oh so important” WORK of raising children. 

The monotonous exhaustion of bathing, feeding, teaching, entertaining, dressing and just keeping alive, two little human beings, paired with all the pressure that US MOMS (my fellow women at arms! my ladies!) are all putting on one another, jabbing at each other to be acknowledged that we are, in fact, getting it right; that we’re succeeding in our efforts to guide these little beings, be it with breast milk or formula or soy or nut free, or whatever the fuck we are using because we must; all this heroic effort and warring is absolutely blasted apart when asked “So are you working?” shortly after the birth of my second.

EVERY GODDAMN SECOND OF EVERY DAY, lady.

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I’ve felt a lot of rage since about January, but it wasn’t until the spring when I finally pinpointed where it was coming from and began to devise an outlet. I’d put it in a play.

I’ve always loved film and music, but specifically, musicals. The Les Mis original Broadway cast recording left such an impression on me as a kid, that even today, I gravitate toward soundtracks in most of my music collection. [Also, strong female vocalists.] So when I said play, what I really meant was a musical. Are you still reading? OK good.

I’m envisioning a Rent-type ensemble vibe with multiple storylines. I want to cover ALL of the experiences moms are having. Or as many as possible. The guilt if you’re working. The pressure if you’re not. The obnoxious comments at the playground about attachment parenting or babywearing, or sleep training and co-sleeping. I’ll never forget being told that “breastfeeding past four months is for the mother” by a more senior mother who’d bottle-fed back in her day, just after mentioning I was still exclusively nursing my barely five month old. But I also want to talk about how lauded we are for all this important work we’re doing (oh hang on, not really!) and how rewarded we are with leave time and support (again, nope! just kidding). It’s not right and it’s not OK.

Really, what I want is to shine a big, fat, spectacular Broadway spotlight on what is going on RIGHT NOW in the mothering world, because Tina Fey may have covered the Mean Girls of high school, but sometimes I feel like some of my mom friends and I are just the mean girls who grew up and had babies. And what about the wanna-be-mothers out there who don’t have babies (or even boyfriends — or girlfriends!) — yet. My neighbor Alyce was as much a mother as anyone who carried her own babies, but she was never blessed with her own children. Or who lost babies. Or those trying to conceive. Or the happily childless, sick of being asked when they’re having kids. What about “mothers” who are actually fathers?

An infusion of Mr. Roger’s humanity and kindness and love is missing among all of us and I feel like a hard look at what we all go through to shepherd our babies through infancy and into childhood, and hopefully, adulthood, through the lens of a play, with hilarious music and lyrics is something that will speak to a lot of us. Because it takes a village.

To start, I’m just compiling as many of the “mom” stories I can, so if you have one you’d like to share, please email me!

To start, I’m starting toward my beginning, with my first real lactation consultant visit.

My First Lactation Consultant Experience

Me: [broken down, exhausted, dejected, feeling like I’m failing as a mother because nursing isn’t coming easily; nipples are raw and bloody. Worn out from battling at the hospital where they were pushing formula which I had been persuaded was more or less poison]

Me: “Lactation consultant” is a very medicalized-sounding term for someone who is a mix between a fairy godmother, Mary Poppins, and a lifelong dairy farm hand.

I remember when I met mine for the first time in my home, one day after we brought Emilia home. She radiated wisdom and calm. The LC, not the baby. As if it was a prerequisite of the job, she was buxom and busty, with ruddy cheeks and milk maid coloring. She was the great aunt everyone has who could bake the prizewinning pie and birth a baby in the barn in the same day.

Everything I’d read and thought I knew was wrong, because she knew everything. She was only just a little holier than thou about it. More indignant that the poor baby had to suffer because she wasn’t there yet. But we would all be OK.

My baby was NOT a “lazy nurser with a lazy tongue” as the hospital lactation consultant had declared. She was a BABY.

Oh wise Lactation Consultant, TEACH ME, [I silently begged].

[I’m topless, with a nursing pillow or boppy or whatever the fuck it’s called, strapped around my waist. Oh that’s right, the “My Breast Friend.” Sending a silent fuck you to whoever came up with that product name. May you silently choke to death on the buckle of that wretched product. And it was great, don’t get me wrong, I LOVED that thing. But along with my nursing tops, that was happily tossed into the fire to burn the day my daughter finally weaned at 1 year, 11 months.]

Lactation Consultant: OK, why don’t we start by having you show me where you nurse.

ME: [Settles onto the couch and prop my daughter into the “football hold” as taught in the hospital.] This is the only position I can bear the pain in. [My daugher latches and I wince.]

More to come — would love to hear what you think so far about any of this. 

Also, an older post I wrote about my my impression of Life With Two Kids.

And finally, I just want to send out a special THANK YOU to my friends Staci and Grace who immediately got behind me when I ventured to tell them about this entire endeavor. No snarky laughing or tongue biting; just unabashed enthusiasm and support. It means more to me than you know. I know this is crazy. MWAH! Love you guys.

And finally, to my friend Shawna, for pointing my attention to the original “Mental Load” cartoon and article which was really the impetus for turning the tide of my rage. Without that, which helped me slowly uncover part of what was at the heart of my indignation and frustration, and our texts throughout the winter and spring about a lot of stupidity that surrounds us in our daily “Mom” lives, I would probably have driven my car into a tree by now. Love you!

Digging Lately: Big Dreams, Small Spaces

20 Jun

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Once upon a time, when I was still renting, the extent of the “projects” in my home-owner fantasies were limited to choosing paint colors and plants. Maaaybe what food I’d serve at my fabulous parties. You know, since I’d host tons of them now that I had the house I longed for throughout my twenties when no one had a place cool enough to want to share with people. But now that I’m a REAL home owner? My baseboards are still off-white to the rest of our trim’s blinding white, the undertone of our daughters’ bedroom is totally green, and I don’t have it in me to care. The weather is finally beautiful in New England and until the first December frost, the last place you’ll find me is inside painting.

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Snapped at the Dallas Botanical Garden, May ’18

These days, my attire is usually dirt-stained and muddied. I’m actually embarrassed to wear flip flops because I’m so in need of a pedicure, but I am really digging the early season farmer’s tan I have. Maybe I’m alone here and others aren’t as obsessed with shaping up their yards and gardens, but from the moment we were handed the keys to our place, there has been an ever-growing list of projects that shows no sign of letting up. Moreover, no matter how sleep-deprived or child weary I am at the end of the day, I always make time for some dirt. It’s just relaxing.

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Ep. 6, Big Dreams, Small Spaces

Recently though, I really was exhausted — mentally and physically drained — so in a fit of obsession, I turned to Netflix hoping to get some kind of gardening fix which inspired this week’s “Digging, Lately” post. Shock of all shocks, I was completely thrilled to discover a reality show called  Big Dreams, Small Spaces.

It’s a British show in which amateur gardeners all over the UK are gently but firmly guided to create their own little bit of paradise with the help of Britain’s greatest (gardening) treasure: Monty Don. When I mentioned his name to my mom who I recently started teasingly referring to as “Green Garden Goddess” because she is a bit of a know-it-all (said LOVINGLY) when it comes to all things garden, I was shocked she didn’t know of him. One writer very aptly described it as, like Queer Eye, but with plants. Another great comparison I’d actually already thought of before I also read it in the same article is that it’s like Property Brothers meets The Great British Baking Show, both of which I love. Monty Don is to plants, what Mary Berry is to baked goods! Anyways, new obsession and I really recommend.

In case you’re jonesing for more garden stuff:

updated Garden Projects 2018 page

this post about last summer’s new perennials

Or this post about our garden veggie troubles