Reflections of a New Mother


Six weeks ago today baby Rachel entered this world!  So much has happened in those six weeks, so in a way it seems like a long time, yet in another way it seems like no time at all.  I know all new parents say this but it really is hard to imagine my life without Rachel now that she is here.

The last two days have been pretty rough (although the past two nights have been great), so I thought it would be therapeutic to share some of my reflections on motherhood thus far.me-and-rachel-penguin

  1. Being a mom is incredibly hard.  I always knew it would be; I was never naive enough to think this would be a walk in the park or all fun & joy.  Of course not.  But you just can’t understand how truly difficult it is until you do it.
  2. Motherhood is full of extreme emotions.  On any given day I cycle between extreme love, joy, devotion, fear, anxiety, frustration, & a whole gamut of other emotions.  This is all totally normal of course but it is exhausting at times to feel like an emotional yo-yo.
  3. That being said, the extreme joy & love truly do make up for all the more “negative” emotions.  I always worried that moms said that just because they felt they had to but it really is true.  Trust me, I’ve had moments when I’ve wondered if I made a mistake in becoming a mom.  And I’m sure I’ll have more of those moments for the rest of my life.  But the point is those are just moments.  They don’t last forever.  me-and-rachel-fire
  4. Taking care of yourself is absolutely imperative to surviving motherhood.  This is just one of many reasons that being a single mom (or dad) is clearly not how parenthood was designed.  I’ve quickly learned that it’s essential that I eat a reasonably healthy diet, drink plenty of water, spend some time outside, listen to music, take a shower, read a little here & there, & generally do all the things that help keep me sane.  My mantra these days is “You cannot pour from an empty cup.”  In other words, Rachel needs a healthy, sane mommy & that means I need to take care of myself every bit as much as I’m taking care of her.  Which feeds right into my next point.
  5. Being able to take care of myself is largely dependent on my husband’s support.  I know every mom says this but once again it is so true: I’ve never loved my husband more than when I see him with our daughter.  When he changes her diapers, pushes her stroller, wears her in the baby carrier on his chest, & cuddles & kisses her my heart truly melts.  Furthermore, when he does the dishes or the laundry or cooks me dinner I want to kiss his feet.  Parenthood is definitely meant to be a two person job.  I never doubted that but now that I’m living it I can attest that it is 100% true.daughter quote
  6. Moms are the most giving people in the world.  I can’t say thank you enough to all the wonderful ladies who have reached out to me for encouragement & support over the past six weeks.  Y’all know who you are & you’re all amazing.  I hope someday I can encourage other new moms the way so many of you have done for me.  Seriously, THANK YOU!
  7. Breastfeeding is hard.  Like woahhhh.  To be honest, it’s actually not been physically painful the way I feared it would be.  However, it is still very demanding, both mentally & physically.  While I was pregnant I set two breastfeeding goals.  My ultimate goal was/is to make it a full year, but I will be perfectly satisfied if I make it to six months.  My minimum goal was to make it to six weeks, & I’m happy to say that as of today I’ve fulfilled that goal.  Woohoo!  I haven’t made it this far without a TON of support & encouragement though.  It’s truly been a team effort in so many ways!  There have been so many days when I’ve wanted to throw in the towel & I’m sure there will be more of them, but knowing I’ve already made it this far will hopefully continue to encourage me on the difficult days.breastfeeding-cartoon
  8. Being a mom with anxiety & OCD tendencies is hard.  Thank goodness for a fantastic husband, a great mom, some dear friends, a wonderful therapist, & Zoloft.  And music.  (I switched from Prozac to Zoloft about 3 weeks ago at the suggestion of Rachel’s pediatrician because Zoloft is considered better for breastfeeding.)  Even if you don’t have a history of anxiety or depression or any other mental health issue, don’t be afraid to seek help as a new mom.  I think EVERYONE could benefit from a few sessions with a good therapist & no one more so than us frazzled, sleep-deprived new mommies.
  9. As much as I love Rachel now & am enjoying many things about the newborn/baby stage, I still very much look forward to her being a little older.  I know most moms say they miss the baby stage & often yearn for those days, but I seriously doubt that will ever be me (at least not often).  I’ve always said I prefer older kids & teens, & I still think that is true for me.  Trust me, I am not rushing anything.  I am enjoying (most) of where we are right now.  But there is a part of me that still can’t wait for the day when I can have real conversations with her, even about the hard stuff like death, sex, war, etc.  Yes, I’m crazy, I know, but I really do look forward to that day.  I also can’t wait to take her on hikes & to concerts & share the joy of all of those things with her.  It might make me weird, but I don’t think it makes me a bad mom to say that I will probably love being a mom even more as she gets older.motherhood-quote
  10. There is absolutely no room for comparison in motherhood.  I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again: motherhood is not a competition.  Some moms breastfeed, some use formula, some do both.  Some moms make beautiful baby books, some don’t.  Some moms decorate a perfect nursery, some don’t.  Some moms co-sleep, some don’t.  Some moms wear their babies, some don’t.  And some babies will sleep through the night or learn to walk/talk faster than others.  The point is none of these things makes one mom better than another.  We are not competing against anyone.  Some moms seem like they have it all together while others of us are just happy we took a shower & did a load of laundry today.  As for me, I’m never going to be the mom who pretends she has it all figured out.  I think the world could benefit from more candidness.  The truth is my house is frequently a little messy (& it was like that long before I became a mom; I just have a better excuse now), I’ve shaved my legs a grand total of twice since I gave birth, & sometimes I hate breastfeeding.  I’m not “perfect” but I’m doing the best I can, & that’s all any of us can do.  At the end of the day if mom & baby are healthy & happy that’s all that matters.  Everything else is just details.
  11. Being a mom really is the best thing I’ve ever done.  End of story.  🙂

I’m not sure this song totally fits with the post but I discovered it last week & I’m in love with everything about it so I’m going to share it anyway.  (Yes, I’m still listening to “heavy” music.  Thankfully Rachel seems to like it!)  Check out the lyrics below:

I’ve always been a fan of the night life
‘Cause it’s the only life I had
Expressing my mind with paper & a pen playing my guitar
‘Till my fingers bled on the carpet
Maybe I wasn’t like all the normal kids
I was born just a little bit different
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it
You say I’m just a loser in the background
I can never seem to get it right
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
You told me I would back out, I would break down
I’m not even putting up a fight
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
It wasn’t easy being rejected by the thing I wanted so bad
To be accepted, to be wanted
To wake up & say this is gonna be a good day
Maybe I wasn’t like all the normal kids
I was born just a little bit different
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it
You say I’m just a loser in the background
I can never seem to get it right
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
You told me I would back out, I would break down
I’m not even putting up a fight
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
More than your word
I was born a little bit different
I was born a little bit different
I was born just a little bit different
I was born a little bit different
I was born a little bit different
You say I’m just a loser in the background
I can never seem to get it right
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
You say I’m just a loser in the background
I can never seem to get it right
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
You told me I would back out, I would break down
I’m not even putting up a fight
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
I got sick of it
I got sick of it
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it

Happy Blogiversary/My Pregnancy Journey (So Far)


I was just sitting down to compose a blog post about my pregnancy journey to date when WordPress so kindly sent me a notification that today is the three year anniversary of my blog . . . or my blogiversary as I’m choosing to call it.  (Did I make up that word?  I doubt it but I’m not sure it’s a “real” word either.  Whatever, it works.)  So I’ll begin this post by congratulating myself on three years of blogging!  As I’ve written many times before, this blog, more than anything else, is an outlet for me to make sense of my own life & to mitigate my own anxiety issues.  As it turns out, I’m very pleased to report that I’ve received quite a few messages/comments over the past few years from friends & strangers alike telling me how much my blog posts have helped & encouraged them.  That is a truly unique feeling that reminds me over & over again that even my most difficult posts are worth sharing because I never know who else they might help.blogiversary

Now on to the original purpose of the post.  Today marks 20 weeks of my pregnancy which means I’ve officially hit the halfway mark!  Thus I figured this would be a good time to share my pregnancy journey so far, mostly for my own sake since I know I’ll never have time to do this once the baby is born.  But I also figured it would be fun to share with other moms & pregnant ladies (or those who hope to be pregnant soon) who can then share their own stories.  pregnancy superpower

If you don’t know me personally, let me preface this by saying that for years I said I was never having kids, & at the time I really, really meant it.  I was just never one of those women who imagined herself as a mom.  I’ve never spent a lot of time with young children or babies, & frankly I never much cared to.  In the back of my mind I knew I’d probably change my mind some day (as my husband frequently told me I would), but I was so focused on school & my nursing career & just enjoying being a young 20-something that for years I couldn’t imagine ever wanting a child.

childless-by-choice-260x182

I felt this way for a long time & I still think it’s perfectly ok to feel this way.  Not everyone HAS to be a parent.

Well, over the past two years things changed, & by last summer I knew I was ready to start trying for a baby sooner rather than later.  I ended up having my IUD removed at the end of January of this year.  Yes, I became one of those annoying women who takes a pregnancy test every single week, sometimes more than once, because over & over again I was sure I might be pregnant only to find out I wasn’t.  I NEVER thought I’d cry over a negative pregnancy test, but I did (more than once).  By the end of March I forced myself to take only one a week to avoid further disappointment.  Logically I knew it wasn’t realistic to expect it to happen so quickly, but hormones don’t always listen to logic (ha!!).  pregnancy hormones cartoon

Anyway, I got the positive test on Sunday morning, April 10 after I came home from work.  Fortunately I was able to get into the midwife’s office the very next day to have the pregnancy confirmed.  I was so excited to call my parents & to tell my closest friends!  I know a lot of people wait several more weeks “to be sure,” but I was way too excited to keep it a secret from my closest friends & family.  I had my first ultrasound on May 6 & afterward we immediately drove to VA to share the news with our entire families.  Hearing the heartbeat for the first time was truly an incredible experience.  What amazed me even more was that we could actually SEE the heart beating.  I didn’t realize you could do that so early in the pregnancy.  The ultrasound finally gave us a due date (Dec 13), which meant I was 8.5 weeks at that time.  I know that is pretty early to share the news, but the way I saw it was if I did have a miscarriage I’d rather people knew about it so they could grieve with me rather than having to grieve on my own with people wondering why the heck I was such an emotional disaster.  Plus statistically speaking the odds of miscarriage once you’ve had a normal ultrasound at 8 weeks are actually very low.pregnancy boob cartoon

As far as pregnancy signs & symptoms, the very first thing I noticed, before I even had the positive pregnancy test, was waking up hot in the middle of the night.  I wasn’t actually soaked in sweat but I was hot enough that I’d throw off the covers & lay there wondering what was wrong with me.  Soon thereafter I started noticing breast tenderness (woohoo!).  Around 8 weeks is when the nausea (& fatigue) started kicking in, which was when I found out that morning sickness is a huge misnomer.  Compared to a lot of women I probably had it easy because I only actually got sick a few times.  But I had such high hopes that I’d miss out on that lovely “side effect” of pregnancy because my mom swears she never felt sick with me or my sister, so I was really disappointed when I turned out not to be so lucky.  Over the weeks I learned how to handle it better though.  The biggest thing that helped me (which was often hard to do at work) was eating frequent small meals/snacks, even if it was something as simple as a few saltines or some applesauce.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t eat any meat or good protein for a solid month, which I hated, but bland carbs were about all I could tolerate most days.  I also learned that water with lime or lemon juice in it is very helpful, as are Preggie Pop Drops & Gin-Gins (both hard candies).  The latter were both great options for driving or for work (where I tend to encounter some not so pleasant body odors).  pregnancy cartoon

In week 13 I had the bad luck to catch a GI virus that landed me in the ER getting 2L of IVF & some Phenergan.  That was pretty horrible, especially since I thought I’d gotten to the point when I should have been feeling better.  As it turned out, I hit week 14 & I swear the nausea magically melted away.  People had told me that would happen, but I didn’t believe them.  It just sounded too good to be true.  Not only did my nausea resolve itself, but my energy level returned to (almost) normal).  I could go to the gym more than once a week & not feel like I was dying.  It was AMAZING.  Since then the only annoying symptoms I’ve had to deal with are intermittent acid reflux & occasional low back pain.  Sleeping with my Snoogle has helped immensely with easing (& probably preventing) the back pain.  I’m so thankful a high school friend of mine told me about this pillow.  It is worth every penny, & I’m quite sure I’ll be using “my anaconda pillow” (as my husband calls it) long after I’m pregnant (probably forever).  I do notice that I’m more short of breath with exertion (like going up 2-3 flights of stairs) these days, but I’m still able to work out without any real difficulty.  I take longer breaks between sets at the gym, & I’ve switched from the treadmill to the elliptical since it’s a bit “gentler.”  Whatever I’m doing, I try not to let my heart rate get > 150 so I can ensure the baby is still getting plenty of oxygen.  (No, I do not have a Fitbit so I am definitely that weirdo standing in front of the clock counting my carotid pulse.  Hey, it’s free & it works!)baby banana

Over the past few weeks people have been asking me if I’ve felt the baby move.  I hadn’t felt anything until a few days ago so for a few weeks I was having a lot of anxiety over that.  The midwife reassured me at my appointment last week that it is perfectly normal, especially for a first-time mom, not to feel anything definite till 21 weeks, but naturally I was still worried.  As it turns out, when I was at work on Sunday night around 0300 (so actually Monday morning), the baby “woke up” & suddenly I was sure that what I was feeling was NOT just gas or my stomach gurgling.  It felt like he or she was doing somersaults in there!  I would not call it a fluttering feeling as so many women say it is, but it’s a great feeling nonetheless.  When I got in bed Monday morning I could feel the baby kicking (or doing something) when I put my hand on my abdomen.  SO COOL!  Now I can’t wait for my husband to be able to feel it soon.boy or girl

I’ll have my anatomical ultrasound this coming Monday, so in less than a week we’ll know if we’re having a girl or a boy.  I can’t lie, I am really hoping for a girl.  I know in the end I’ll be pleased no matter what, but there is a part of me that just really wants a daughter.  Maybe it’s partly because I want to be able to prove everyone wrong who’s told me how much harder girls are.  Or maybe it’s because I don’t have a brother so I don’t feel like I have much experience with or understanding of little boys.  I’m certainly not a girly-girl so I don’t want a girl so I can dress her up in frilly dresses (I don’t even like pink & especially not baby pink).  I think it’s more that I have this idea that if I have a daughter she’s more likely to stay close to me as an adult.  I know it’s not always true, but in general I feel like mothers & daughters stay closer over the years (with the exception of adolescence usually) than mothers & sons.  I think perhaps that is the biggest reason I am hoping for a girl.baby names

Well, I think I hit all the highlights.  Pregnancy is definitely an interesting journey with unique highs & lows, but I know it will all be worth it.  Now that I physically feel so much better I do have a bit more anxiety about labor & breastfeeding & just being a mom in general, but I’m trying to take things one day at a time & remind myself that I’ve already accomplished a lot of things in life that I never thought I could do, so I can handle this too.  Plus I have to think that being a night shift nurse who is used to chronic sleep deprivation & generally odd sleeping patterns will help me be slightly more prepared than the average woman.

Ladies, please feel free to comment with your own pregnancy stories!