I wanted to share a motherhood update with you guys today. It’s seeming like it works well for me to have a blog post up by Wednesday each week, so, just so you know, I’ll have a new post every Wednesday for the foreseeable future.
Here are some motherhood related things I’ve been thinking about as I try to make sense of the wonder, mess, and boredom that is motherhood. I hope some of it will resonate with you and that you can give me your experience too!
I’m the only one who can give my girls a happy mom.
Most of the time I like the mom I am. There are many times when I’m mothering and I’m like, “I thought I was going to enjoy this more.” Children just have so much energy and noise all the time and it’s wonderful and really hard. Something I’ve been thinking about lately is how I’m the only one who can give my girls a happy mom. Being a joyful mom who takes pleasure in time with her family, who can see the good in things, can approach life with curiosity, and doesn’t live with a cloud of dread is important to me, so doing what I need to do to head in that direction (medication, date nights, therapy prn, working more, working less, quiet) are all things that are regularly rolling around in my head.
I was journaling the other day on how I thought I’d be wiser by now. More well read and calm and patient. One thing that brings me peace when I’m getting down on myself about something is taking a deep breath and then as I’m slowly exhaling repeating, “you are trying.you are trying.you are trying.” Thinking too highly or too lowly of yourself can be problematic. I trend towards the latter, so “you are trying” is a good reminder to help me acknowledge that I’m making an effort to do whatever I’m doing well, but sometimes things don’t work out as anticipated or my expectations weren’t ever in line with our family’s values (actually I don’t think Andrew and I have ever thought about our family’s values…I feel a joint journaling session coming on. Andrew will be thrilled lol).
As far as being wiser, sometimes (for me) I feel like this all boils down to being aware of when there’s a choice to be made (not being blind to what moves you) and not making the immature decision. This could be in regards to how I act or what I say in arguments with Andrew, how I’m caring for my body, how I respond to Jo’s tantrums, or even scrolling on my phone to help me fall asleep when I know what’ll bring me more comfort is meditating on scripture/a prayer. Below is a prayer I wrote down last Sunday based on the sermon and want to repeat to myself as I’m falling asleep rather than being on my phone googling random pieces of furniture that maybe one day we’ll buy for our home in order to distract myself from something that feels bad. Tolerating the discomfort of your thoughts is hard.
As I sit here and type this post out in a calm and quiet kid free moment, I feel wise and like i’m the proper amount of reflective, a standard set by what I think it takes to be an interesting person (<–something i’ve realized is more important to me than it should be and is something I likely idolize), but most of life with kids feels like a mess and I’m just trying to get through the day and it’s hard to be a proactive parent when life is taxing and I end up being more reactive and I feel like I’m trying to climb out of a hole I can never quite get to the top of. Phew. And then the girls go to sleep and Andrew and I look at pictures of them and ooh and ahh about the cute things they did that day and I can’t wait until they wake up tomorrow and I get to see them. What a jumble of emotions.
Breastfeeding this time around
For Jojo’s first several months of life I was terrified of putting anything in her body that wasn’t breastmilk. Even giving her vitamin D really upped my anxiety so much that I couldn’t do it. With Ella I’m able to be a lot more calm and logical. A priority with Ella was having her take the bottle early and often, because Jo wouldn’t take the bottle and it was a huge stressor.
As far as breastmilk vs. formula, I feel whatever breastmilk a baby gets is great. Breastmilk is a really cool food. Probably the coolest food. The more I learn about it, the more it blows my mind. And formula is great and it’s been so nice to utilize that option more this time around. We nurse, give breastmilk in the bottle, give formula in the bottle and it’s been a lower stress (yet not stress free) experience.
Right now my tentative plan is to nurse until after our yearly California trip in March, but it wouldn’t surprised me if I stopped nursing before that or continued nursing after that. Andrew and I have a vacation we’re taking just the two of us (going to Sonoma! + Northern California coast) in May, so I will 100% be done nursing by then because I’m not bringing a pump with me. I told Andrew I wanted to talk through nursing and how I’m feeling about it, so we did this evening and I decided I’m going to wean to a morning nursing and a before bed nursing and all other bottles given will be formula or breastmilk I happen to pump. I’m feeling good about that change. Stopping breastfeeding tends to be a pretty joyful thing for me. It’s so much work!
Quick story: One time I was nursing Ella in the Houston Galleria and I had Jojo strapped into the stroller (why I was there with two children is beyond me) and Jojo kicked a bag and it went flying across the aisle and a man (who I assume was a dad because me nursing didn’t seem to phase him) asked if he could get it for me and when he set the bag down by my feet he quickly and simple said (as I was nursing Ella under a cover), “you’re doing really hard work.” And I was so touched. Such a simple gesture, but it meant a lot to me.
My body size
I still believe everything I’ve ever said about allowing my body to evolve is the healthiest thing for me. Something that brings me peace in this transition of my body going from growing/birthing/feeding a baby to returning to non-pregnant/non-lactating function is that when/if I reach a level of function and fat that feels more familiar to me (I imagine, because this is how it happened with Jo) that I’ll immediately want to be pregnant again. In my experience, (80% of the time) being pregnant is more awesome than any level of function. That right there has helped me to be a lot more relaxed about where my body is at (aka meant to be) right now, since having a longing for a child is so all consuming and exhausting and it makes my heart feel like it’s being suffocated when I think about those who struggle with infertility or a desire for a baby.
Something that is important to me is redefining what postpartum bodies look like. Reframing them from a thing we’re trying to get away from, to a thing that is normal and expected.
To allow the postpartum body to be something I focus on restoring function to and something I care for and think well of regardless of its size. Holding up and encouraging realistic women’s bodies is important to me, which is why I share the photo below (and part of why I love Lizzo! She represents realistic women’s bodies and I hope that my daughters are going to grow up with talented artists who come in a variety of body sizes rather than with the one-sized 90s popstars I grew up with). When I take care of myself, the below is how I end up looking, I imagine because we’re different people you likely look different when you care for yourself.
Now, of course, thinner bodies are realistic bodies for some women, but those bodies are already promoted/encouraged/advertised. That doesn’t mean someone in a thin body can’t struggle with their body image and I’m so grateful to my readers with more fat or less fat and hope both of you can benefit from the content I share.
Last thing on body image, I was talking to (at?; one of those highly-wordy monologues I can give Andrew when we’re laying in bed at night and sometimes he’ll hit me with some truth and other times he falls asleep) Andrew the other night and I was saying it’s crazy how the belly goes from being adored in pregnancy to all the sudden it’s neutral or hated when baby comes out and Andrew goes, but the belly you have is because of a baby, which I thought was a really good reminder. I would argue that this belly size I have now deserves as much respect as a pregnant belly since both are the result of a baby. That realization has helped me to be more appreciative of this belly rather than feeling negative or neutral about it.*
*That isn’t to say if you’ve never had kids your belly shouldn’t be respected. This is just me making sense of my belly size.
Sleep training (the most horrific and joyful thing.)
We moved forward with sleep training Ella at the end of 2019. We used @TakingCaraBabies course and it really answered a lot of questions I was confused about when we sleep trained Jojo. She asks you to write down your “why” at the top of the page and mine was “to reduce spouse resentment.” Random, but did you see this graphic from @Common_Wild? I love it and how it highlights the sacrifice we moms make). Also love the below photo because the looks like my life. A couple of the sentences from the caption that was shared with the below photo said:
“Motherhood is full of seasons of giving and moments of receiving.”
“You give me a new name, Mama, one that you say over and over, a name with so much meaning and worth.”
Cara talks about enduring sleep training for 14 days…and it really is enduring because listening to your baby scream is so hard. Ella cried for 90-120 minutes (not always all at once, but throughout the night) for 3 nights in a row and since then she goes down at 6:30/7:00pm and sleeps 11-12 hours. I’ve now had two weeks of non-interrupted sleep and I’m so glad we’re out of the early newborn days. Every morning for the last two weeks I’ve woken up and said to Andrew, “I’m so grateful for sleep!” Except last night Jojo had croup so I was up with her sitting in a steamy shower, but toddler wake ups I actually find pretty joyful and purpose-filled because *typically* Jo is super comforted by me, while a newborn is just a hot mess of emotion and is so freaking needy for months on end and it’s roughhhh.
One thing that @takingcarababies helped me realize was that I was putting a lot of pressure on the last feed of the day to be perfect. She had a nice analogy about how we don’t have to have ice cream (even though it can be pleasant; obviously if you’re in recovery for an ED you may HAVE to have ice cream every night) to be able to sleep through the night as long as we’ve eaten consistently and adequately throughout the day. Same for babies, they don’t need a perfect last feed to fill them up for the night since they’ve been eating all day.
I didn’t think we’d have to sleep train Ella because she was naturally a good sleeper, but the 4 month sleep regression was bad and it ended up with Ella and I co-sleeping for 2 months and to restore her innate ability to sleep we decided sleep training made a lot of sense. So happy we did it and that we’re on the other side of it now. Sleep training is horrible and magical. Andrew and I are very against children in our bed (occasionally is the sweetest, but overall…no. And, of course, bc I put this in here Jo ended up in our bed last night because she had croup…oooo children, always proving me wrong and humbling me lol), so sleep training makes sense for our family.
Discipline & Food Tantrums
I got an email asking me, “does Jojo have food tantrums?” Like, does she loose her freaking mind when I tell her she can’t have another pack of fruit snacks? Yes.
One thing that has helped me is the recommendation of a friend to set a limit and stick to it. Also, taking a moment before setting the limit to decide if this is a limit that is even important to you (i.e. does it really matter if we don’t wear socks with shoes, etc.). So I’ve been working on that. The same friend also recommended I read No Drama Disciple and it said something I thought was so good, “Engage, don’t enrage.” Attempt to engage the higher brain that we’re trying to help develop (aka part of brain that’ll eventually allow the child to reason), rather than enrage the lower brain (aka very basic reptilian brain that’s all fight or flight). Sometimes I think, oh that went so nice and other times Jojo spits in my face or screams at me, “MOMMY, NO!!!!!!!!”
When Jo cries in response to a limit I make, I try to connect with Jo in some way and then redirect to something else. No-Drama Disciple says the goal of disciple is cooperation and brain building. I have no discipline solutions to give you. Andrew and I are trying things out and seeing how we’d like to approach situations and most of the time I don’t feel very equipped, so I’ve been enjoying reading through that book so I can think through / brainstorm/ experiment with what is right for our family.
For me, the hardest part and what I’m still learning for sure is how to tolerate Jo’s discomfort and frustration (aka her temper tantrums) even though the decision that has been made is for her good. I’m currently reading, Surprised By Motherhood and in it she said the below:
I loved that end part there. “He loves me enough to say no when, as every parent understands, saying yes would have been so much simpler, with less call for temper tantrums.” I’m trying to practice this with Jo…saying no for her good, even though saying yes would cause everyone less in-the-moment distress. No Drama Discipline said something similar with, “if we truly love our kids we need to tolerate the tension and discomfort we and they experience when we set a limit.” It’s hard, guys. Getting screamed at and listening to all the whining wears me down.
Parenting / Marriage
We are so happy Ella is sleeping through the night. It helps reduce the strain on our marriage so much when everyone is getting to sleep. I made a list this past weekend about the things I appreciate about Andrew and then read it to him and everything on the list fell into the category of, “was aware of the needs of our family and did something to address them.” When I’m getting up to feed a baby and I haven’t slept through the night in 6 months and I’m so beyond sleep deprived I’m too pissed off to be appreciative of Andrew. I find that time so frustrating.
I feel like with Ella, Andrew and I have now found a better routine for our family and one part of that is the girls going to preschool an extra 6 hours a week and on that day I work for half that time and have free time for the rest of the time. This has allowed me to consistently have a couple childfree hours every week where I’m not working and that right there is a sanity saver. I have felt way less frazzled since starting that.
I was reading an old blog post on when I was pregnant with Jo and I almost spit out my latte laughing while reading it because it is so different than now lol. Apparently in 2017 when pregnant with Jojo Andrew was giving me foot massages every morning. That’s not our life now, as now our life is a lot louder and chaotic, but still good…even better.
That’s where we’re at. In spite of it all, and I feel insane saying this because it’d been so hard, nothing has been so terrible that it’s made me not want more kids. I’m tired and I adore them and I can’t imagine not creating another life.
Any parts of this ring true for you? Anything in your motherhood journey that’s been helpful for you you think would benefit me? I’m all ears!