It’s OK to Help Yourself, First.

I just got back from a 5 day all inclusive vacation to Mexico.

Sounds amazing right? Sure. For the most part.

For me though, traveling is a much needed time for introspection. I take the time away from my day to day life to really look at my life from all angles, with no distractions or influences from anyone around me. I’ve recently realized without it I actually become an emotional lunatic.

While I was sitting on the plane waiting for take off, I was absent-mindedly listening to the flight attendant go through their speech about how to survive a crash. They got to the part about putting on your oxygen mask first, before helping your children or others. This got my attention. I’ve listened to this speech several times on flights across the world. But never before had I traveled, as a mother. My daughter wasn’t with me, mind you. But she was safely at home with my parents and as always, thoughts of her were in the back of my mind. This was, in fact, my first trip away from her for any length of time. Why in the world would I not help her first? Why would I waste time on myself, when she needed my help?

Because I can’t save her, if I’m not breathing.

oxygen-mask

A bit of an extreme hypothetical… but an accurate one. As mothers, as women, and as humans, we give of ourselves first. We give and give and rarely replenish ourselves.

There is a saying that goes “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” You might think you’re doing fine. You might think you can continue to give. But much like my 18 month old with her tea set, you’re just pretending to pour. There’s nothing in your cup. You’re empty. You have nothing left to give.

The beauty of an empty vessle though, is that it now has the great potential, to be filled up.

How do you refill yourself though? How do you find the energy to keep giving of yourself to others who need you?

Self Care.

Whatever that means to you.

Don’t forget about who you were before you were a mother. What did you do to make yourself feel good before you had your army of minions?

Find the time. Stop making excuses. You have the time. All you need is an hour or so every day. Or a couple hours once or twice a month. Or perhaps, what you need, you can do everyday, all day.

Here’s a list of things I do, to recharge and replenish my soul.

Travel- This isn’t something everyone can do to it’s full capacity. It takes time, and money, to travel long distances. A road trip to the beach though, is probably within reach. Bring the kids. Give hubby and the kids a bucket and a shovel and send them on their way and just bask in the sound of the waves and the feel of the sun on your skin.  However, if you have the means to see how another culture lives… do it. It’s extremely eye opening.

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Read– We make our kids read. In school they forced us to read at least 20 minutes during English class. Why? Because it’s good for us. Whether you’re reading non-fiction to learn something, or fiction to escape, reading is good for our minds and can fill our souls with knowledge and wonder.

Bubble Baths– Spending an hour alone, immersed in fragrant bubbles and hot water is relaxing and rejuvenating. I also get the chance to scroll through Facebook uninterrupted, shave my legs, or as above, read.

Splurge– On myself. Every so often I spend a little time, and money, on myself. It seems selfish and I struggle with a bit of mom guilt every time I spend a day getting a tattoo, or doing a photoshoot. Sometimes all it takes is buying myself new underwear. I am a woman, and a human, and I deserve to feel good about myself.

Date Night- It took two people to create the tiny human currently sucking the energy out of you.  Those two people need to remember why that little love child was created. Fall back in love with your partner and you’ll feel lighter than ever. 

Laugh- I try not to take parenting, or life, too seriously. The only way I get through a lot of situations is to laugh about it. Cracking a joke and making people laugh makes me feel good. This is something I can keep with me every day, all day. 

Yoga- It started as a way to help with post partum back pain and turned into an hour and a half, once a week, to truly relax and do something healthy for myself. I felt like I was really accomplishing something. I’m considering switching to kick-boxing to help with energy and weight loss. But whatever you’re interested in, take a class or make the time and just do it. 

It’s taken me well over a month to finish this entry from beginning to end. Simply because I didn’t take the time. I actually had to stop and think about what I do for myself. It’s really hard to take care of ourselves when others need us so badly. But we need to try.

I’m totally ok with being a work-in-progress. 

 

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It’s Been Awhile…


I seem to have forgotten to make time for writing. I have time to write. I’ve just chosen to blissfully enjoy the silence and solitude that is nap time. 

You see, I have a toddler now. 

Drinking a hot cup of coffee, uninterrupted, is rarer now than it ever was with a squishy newborn.

All of a sudden I’m the mom of a walking, sort of talking, getting into all the things, toddler. 16 months and counting. Her first birthday came and went like a whirlwind. We had a great big party, which we won’t be repeating until she’s of school age. I’m fairly certain I put more effort into it than I did my own wedding. It was a really great day. But what’s been more great, is every single day since

It’s like every day since that big O.N.E, has been a day of growth, and magic. The year of firsts like “first food” and “first step” is fun and exciting, but the second year of firsts? Absolute wonderment. 

Watching my little girl experience a thunder storm and watch it out the window like it’s the most interesting thing she’s ever seen fills my heart with so much joy. 

She knows which songs are her favourite on the radio (Justin Timberlake is her jam). She eats black beans and rice like it’s going out of style. She can now climb onto the couch and will quietly sit and peruse one of her many books (when she’s not jumping on the couch playing with the cats).

We went to the library for the first time recently. It will absolutely be a reoccurring excursion.  She loved every minute of it. And I love every minute of watching her become this little human being. I get to watch this tiny soul bloom inside this minature version of myself (she’s a book worm like mommy). 

There’s so much I have no control over. It’s like she was just born to be this certain person. I can teach her what I know, but even at just 16 months I can already see she will do with that information as she pleases. 

Every day is a new discovery. A new milestone. Whether it’s a new word, or new comprehension or a new experience, it’s my favourite part of being a mom so far. 

I often get asked when I’ll have another. I’m done. For many reasons, I’m done. But that just means I get to really immerse myself in the experience that is being Ruby’s Mommy. She is everything that is good in this world and my only hope is that we can continue on this journey of discovery, and she never loses that sense of curiosity and wonder. 

Tonight I Cried.

Every once in awhile, motherhood hits you right in the heart. It’s arrows pierce what you always thought was so tough inside you and you suddenly feel full and overwhelmed.

It’s not the same kind of overwhelmed that you felt going into your first exams as a teenager, or when you put on your first family Thanksgiving. It’s like the overwhelming joy you feel the first time you see the fireworks at DisneyWorld. It’s the overwhelming sense of relief you felt the first time someone looked into your eyes and told you that you were beautiful and you knew they meant it. It’s tasting cheesecake for the first time. It’s taking that first sip of alcohol, underage, and knowing it was both delicious and terrifying. It’s getting into an airplane for the very first time and just trusting that you’ll make it to your destination. It’s all these overwhelming feelings, and more. So much more.

Tonight, I laid my daughter down to bed. She was fast  asleep in my arms. Heavy and warm. As I laid her down though, she stirred and woke. She knew I wasn’t holding her anymore. I let her fuss for a moment, hoping she would settle herself as she usually does. Not tonight. Tonight she cried. So I went to her rescue, as any good parent would do. She reached up for me, and I gave her exactly what she wanted, my arms.

She’s crawling now, so she very rarely wants to be held. She’s been independent since day one, more so now that she has the big wide world of our house to explore. Who wants to be held by their mother when there’s cats to chase and windows to look out and shoes to chew? Obviously she hangs out with the dog too much. But I digress. Cuddles are a sweet thing to savour now. So savour I did.

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(The day she found the front window.)

I picked her up and held her close to me. She nestled her head into that perfect spot on my shoulder, where she could sleep and I could still see her sweet little face. I rubbed her back gently and the culprit of discomfort came bubbling up; a stray gas bubble. “Ah,” I whispered. “That’s what was wrong! Mommy is sorry she missed that one. It’s ok now. You can go to sleep.” And I began to sway.

You know the Mom Sway? The side to side motion that moms will do without even thinking about it. You can spot a mom in the line at the grocery store by the subconscious swaying she begins while standing there. Moms are never truly still again after they have a child. Hyper-vigilance keeps us on our toes. We are ready to rescue, always.

Tonight’s mom sway was different though. It started as the standard side to side. However, I noticed I had fallen back into the sway that worked like magic to put my newborn baby to sleep at 3 o’clock in the morning. I found myself doing a familiar figure eight with my hips. Slowly swaying an infinity sign. Perhaps I was subconsciously letting her know our love was forever. That’s when I flashed back to over 10 months ago.

I watched myself in my mind. I saw myself holding a tiny, swaddled baby, while doing this silly figure eight sway. Like a slow motion hula dancer without a grass skirt. The only lights on were those of the Christmas tree. There was no snow that year, but there’s still something magically still about a December night. I wasn’t still though. I was putting my new baby back to sleep, and tonight, while I put my growing girl back to sleep, I cried.

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(Ruby’s First Christmas)

I cried because I got hit in the heart by motherhood. I mourn that December. I do not wish to repeat the newborn phase, but I miss those quiet nights alone with my daughter by the light of the Christmas tree. I always hated cliches, but sometimes they are too true. They really do grow up too fast. So I held on a few extra moments just so I could feel her warm, heavy body in my arms and listen to her breathe and remember the Christmas lights. I will have more December nights with my curious, adventurous, brilliant girl. I expect they won’t be nearly as silent…but they will be just as special.

How Social Media Actually Helps Parents

So you finally get the baby down for a nap. You’ve got spit up on your shirt and you smell a little like rotten milk but you’ve been fantasizing about that warm cup of Hazelnut coffee you’ve wanted to make yourself since 7:30 this morning; you’ll sacrifice your scent for that delicious mug of happiness. 

All you want to do is drink that coffee, in silence, and scroll through social media, guilt free. 

This is what nap time is for after all! The housework can wait! The internet NEEDS me! 

Despite all the condemnation and judgements that can happen when people have the shield of anonymity to safely hide behind online, the internet can be a wealth of knowledge and support for parents. 

We all know about the Facebook groups. There’s a Facebook group or page for every kind of parent. Every parent from free-range-anti-vax-crunchy-hippy moms to religious-zealot-bubble-wrap-sanctimommies, right through to I’m-just-trying-to-not-lose-my-mind parents. There’s a place on Facebook for us all. We can find kindred parents and remind ourselves we are not alone. If we can’t find a group that fits us, we’ll just make one. It’s that easy. 

Outside the high walls of Facebook though, is a big world wide Web just waiting for us to delve deeper into it.  

I’ve found myself enjoying Instagram for more than just posting pictures of my food. Since having my daughter I’ve taken up insta-photography. I’m pro with a filter and a collage app. The plethora of hashtags have led me to some amazing Canadian home businesses like Wisemom, a home based business from Alberta specializing in the greatest teethers my daughter has ever used. Not only did I find a cool product, but another Canadian mom just doing her thing. 

I also stumbled across a few formula feeding mommies. Moms, who like me, had to formula feed for one reason or another and think that #fedisbest and we should #dontjudgejustfeed . We don’t care how you feed your baby, as long as you do. It’s wonderful to scroll through my instagram feed and see happy moms and babies in the same boat as my baby and I. It’s a nice sense of community. 

Sometimes though, I need to escape the warm fuzzy feels of Instagram and Facebook. For this, I found Twitter.  Twitter parents are about as real as it gets. We make quick jokes about the real craziness parents go through and continue on with our days. I’ve never encountered Twitter drama. 

There are most certainly days I would just fall to pieces if it wasn’t for the quick witted parents of Twitter reminding me that poop is funny and kids say the darndest things. Trending hashtags like #momlife, #momblogger and #momcult have lead me to some really funny, smart and awesome parents. Even a few funny as hell dads happen across my feed now and again. Twitter keeps me inspired and constantly reminds me that parenting without a sense of humour is like riding the Titanic without a lifeboat. You’ll just sink.

I’ve found blogs and pinterest boards, message boards and forums. The internet is often dark and full of spoilers, but the one thing it never lacks is information. In a world where doctors even suggest you try “Googling it,” the internet is where we all come back to. Most of us keep it in our pockets. A little free WiFi or a good data plan and information and support is right at our finger tips.

 Like any tools, the internet is only as good as it’s user. So spread your virtual wings a little. Step away from Facebook, and see what else is out there for you! You might be surprised what kind of solidarity you may find. 

The Perfect Baby Shower Gift

I was lucky enough to have two baby showers for our daughter. 

The first one was hosted by my dad’s cousin and consisted of visits with all the ladies on my dad’s side of the family. It was quaint and low key. We played a few games. I opened some gifts. We ate food. Everyone commented on how happy they were for us. 

Gift wise I got a lot of gender neutral clothes because we kept that a surprise, a few basics and a noteworthy handmade blanket by my grandma that is currently in my daughter’s crib right now. 

My second shower was held after my daughter was born and was hosted by my mom and my sister.  This was the meet and greet and it was co-ed. So no games, awesome food and a few more gender specific clothes. Several bigger items from my aunts and cousins like a baby bathtub shaped like a whale.  The star of the day was my daughter because it wasn’t so much to celebrate me being pregnant, but more so everyone could meet my new, tiny human. 

My husband’s family didn’t have a shower for us. We got given money and told to buy what we needed because we wouldn’t be getting a shower. So of course random family members I don’t know wanted to bestow their congratulations with gifts. These gifts were 90% clothes and trickled in over the course of 3 months or so. Honestly, it was super annoying. 

I asked around to my mom friends to see what it was they wanted as baby shower gifts, but didn’t actually receive.

 I felt that in the excitement of buying adorable tiny outfits a lot of essentials were missed. Things like vasoline, diaper rash cream, bottles, breastfeeding accessories. 

Some of my friends admitted they didn’t even receive a shower. Which is kind of a let down. Parents get so excited because we’re bringing new life into the world. It sucks when other people we care about don’t seem equally excited for us. Not to mention baby stuff is stupidly expensive.

A few friends joked that the best gift they could have received was a nanny or some kind of free child care. Let’s face it… baby’s are a handful. They are wonderful and magical but they are super overwhelming. Especially for first time parents. So the idea of extra hands isn’t such a far fetched gift idea. 

But the number one gift that everyone wished they gotten more of?

Gift Cards. 

This is not because we are greedy or selfish and just want your money. This is literally, like I said earlier, because baby stuff is expensive. Like obscenely over priced considering half of it is meant to catch random bodily fluids.

Unfortunately, I don’t think any of us have the space to stock up on diapers and wipes for a whole 2 years or so. So we have to buy as we go. 

I hosted a diaper party for my husband. All his guy friends came over with a box or bag of diapers.  They ate food, drank beer and watched dumb videos on YouTube. My husband got to feel involved and we got enough diapers to last the first 3-4 months of our baby’s life. 

But not all parents are so lucky, and what about diapers for the rest of the baby’s pre-potty-trained life? Or clothes for when she rapidly outgrows all the 0-3 months clothes she got at her showers? Or the tubs of vasoline I go through protecting my baby’s bum from the dreaded diaper rash? It all costs money. Lots of money.  

Gift Cards are a great way to ensure this new little life will have everything it needs in at least that first year. I managed to ration out the gift cards I got and it took until my daughter was almost 6 months old before I had to spend my own money on her. Every time I checked out at Walmart or Babies R Us I silently thanked whoever gave us that gift card. 

All gifts are appreciated when a new baby is born. All the time you spend with us. All the thought you put into your gifts. Everything is wanted and needed. 

But if you really want to get a new mom the PERFECT Baby Shower Gift?  Give her the opportunity to splurge on baby stuff with no financial guilt riding her conscience. She’ll thank you 3 months from now when she runs out of formula or diapers. Because we always run out of formula or diapers. 

Don’t Ask Me What I Do All Day.

If you’re trying to make small talk with a new mom, or a stay at home mom, please refrain from asking “So what do you do all day?”.

Stop. Think for a second. Then find something else to talk about. Compliment how cute her baby is. Ask her if she’s enjoying the weather we’re having. Ask her what she had for dinner last night, so she can laugh and tell you all about her half a cold toaster pancake and flat coca cola that she poured at noon but didn’t drink til 8pm. ANYTHING but “What do you do all day?”

Similar things to avoid are-

  • So what have you been up to?
  • Are you getting much accomplished?
  • Must be nice to not have to work all day, eh?
  • Basically anything that implies you think she has it easy.

    I won’t lie. As far as babies go, I won the jackpot. My daughter has a happy disposition. She only cries when she’s hungry or tired. She’s been sleeping 10 hrs every night since she was 8 weeks old. At 9 months old we now have a ballin’ schedule that keeps us both happy.

    So yeah, sometimes I do binge watch Netflix, because I can.

    But it hasn’t always been this smooth for me. Not every day is perfect when you’re raising a tiny human. And not every mom has the luxury of a content baby.

    Some days my daughter straight up refuses to nap anywhere but on my chest, under her grandpa’s old afghan while I watch anime and dream about that glass of coke that’s just out of reach. Some days she’s teething and in so much pain she won’t drink her bottle, and getting her to nap is like convincing a cat that it’s a good idea to go to the vet. Just a great big NOPE.
    Some mother’s are dealing with colicky babies or are desperately trying to get breastfeeding to work out for them and spend hours and hours feeding and pumping. Feeding and pumping. Some of us have multiple children and are trying to keep up with them, keep the house clean while they destroy it in our wake, and think up something everyone will eat for dinner. Some of us just want a shower that lasts longer than 3 minutes. A shower long enough that we can shave our legs, or sit down and cry a little…. because hormones.

    If we truly answered your question of “So what do you do all day?” you’d have to excuse yourself from the conversation because you don’t actually have time to listen to us because you need to get to work. We need to get back to work too. Our work is raising the human who will one day take over that job you think means you’re accomplishing something all day.

    Actually, do me a favour and avoid small talk all together. If you’re only talking to me because you feel obligated to do so, just don’t. If you think you’re being polite by asking how things are going, you’re going about it all wrong. Ask new moms, just mothers in general, questions that show us you actually give a shit.

    I’d recommend:

    • Are you and baby getting much sleep?
    • How’s breast feeding going? and/or How’s baby taking to formula?
    • Is baby rolling/crawling/walking yet?
    • How are you and your spouse doing?
    • Is there anything I can do to help?

    The last thing a mom wants to feel is that she’s isn’t doing enough. Our first and most important goal is making sure we’re doing enough for our family. So please, just assume that we’re doing plenty. Because we are.

     

    Getting Over Mom Guilt

    My daughter is almost 9 months old and thankfully, I have yet to experience severe Postpartum Depression.I know there’s still time, but my fingers are crossed.

    I definitely had the baby blues for a little while after my daughter was first born, but I think all moms go through that. Our hormones are running rampant. You’re emotionally, physically and mentally overwhelmed. Even if you already have children, you’ve now brought another new life into the world and the dynamic of your family has changed forever.

    New moms, like me, are overwhelmed entirely. We’ve never been moms before. If we’ve dealt with children before it was on a baby sitting basis at best. Maybe you’re an aunt or a step mom or different kind of caregiver. But when you grow that tiny human inside and put your body, and sometimes life, on the line to bring it into the world it’s very different. It’s different from person to person too. None of us experience pregnancy or birth the same way twice. My birth story is probably very different from yours.

    You would think, that as mothers we would realize that our experiences are all different so therefore our choices will be different. However, there are people out there that think all mothers should do things exactly the same way. We should create exact replicas of our children based on what WHO says. Because WHO pushed my little human from it’s lady bits right? There are standards. Guidelines. But there are no RULES for raising children. And yet, here we all are, feeling guilty about SOMETHING.

    There is almost too much information on the internet. Add a few parenting books and some overly opinionated veteran mothers and new moms can easily be made to feel like we’re doing something terribly, terribly wrong.

    Postpartum Depression is a fine line all moms walk. An ounce too much of mom guilt and we’re a puddle of tears and bad thoughts. We are genetically programmed to protect and nurture our babies and if for even one second we feel like a failure in that regards, it feels like our worlds are ending. Because our children ARE our worlds. Animals in the wild whose babies are sickly or can’t feed, will leave those babies to die. Or worse, they’ll eat them. It’s survival of the fittest in the wild. Thankfully for modern medicine, human mothers don’t have to worry about that. We can battle Postpartum with medication and counseling. When we feel that darkness creeping in we have partners and parents and loved ones to support us and pull us into the light and back to the loving snuggles of our Littles. When sickness or an inability to feed happens, we have so many options available. With humans, if there is a will, there is a way.  I may not have experienced an extreme version of PPD, but I have watched others struggle with it. I encourage anyone feeling like they are in a dark place to seek help. Always seek help. It is there for you.

    This is why after almost 9 months of being a mother I find it very upsetting when people try to tell me my choices for my daughter were wrong.

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    I’m fairly certain formula saved my life. It saved my daughter’s life. But I think it saved me too. I think if I had continued trying to breastfeed, and continued to fail at it, I would have ended up in a very dark place. It was heartbreaking enough to not be able to get my daughter to latch. Devastating as a new mother to know my baby was dehydrating because I couldn’t feed her properly. I hated my breasts. I thought they were obviously deformed if my baby couldn’t latch onto my nipples. It only took four days for me to breakdown. To be worn down. Maybe I was weak. Or maybe I was strong enough to admit defeat.

    I spent the first 4 months of her life in a constant panic if she wouldn’t take her bottle. I thought it would happen again. I had to be constantly reminded that she was healthy and just going through a growth spurt or something. I’m finally in a place where I know I’m doing my best to feed my daughter and sometimes she just doesn’t want to eat and that’s ok, for today. Tomorrow you’re eating though yah little bugger.

    If we let the judgements of others, and the overwhelming amount of information on either side of a debate, constantly get to us, we will feel guilty forever. I think we will always wonder if we’re doing what’s right. The easiest way to know if what you’re doing is right for your family, is to look at your health, and your happiness. If everyone is happy and healthy, then you are doing just fine.