Growing Pains

I was talking to an old college friend, Dala, after Halloween this year about how this was Esmé’s first year Trick-or-Treating and how she brought in quite the haul.

IMG_5481

I sent her a picture of all of the candy she got, with it all organized into groups of what they were, and all the labels facing up. I mean, isn’t that what everyone does after they go trick-or-treating? Organize their candy so they know what they have?? No?

Before I go on, I have to give you a little backstory… Last month, we went to Arizona so I could visit with my family and friends, and so Esmé could meet several people that she had never met before. While we were there, we stayed with the afore mentioned friend of mine, who happens to be an amazing Interior Designer. As such, her house is spectacular. If West Elm and Restoration Hardware had a baby, it would look like her house.

While Dala showed me her lovely new fridge, she made the mistake of pointing out how every bottle, carton, and container was arranged with labels facing out. I told her ‘OOoooooo! So pretty and organized!!’ but in my head I knew that I now had a secret mission to rearrange them while I was there. And so, while she was doing something on her laptop when Esmé was down for her nap, I turned every single container (yes even the ones in the doors) backwards.

I’m literally shaking with silent (Esmé is sleeping) laughter as I write this, because I still think it’s hilarious. (Sorry not sorry Dali!)

Anyway, it took a long time for her to notice. I actually thought I was going to miss seeing her reaction, but finally I heard an ‘Oh. My. God.’

Ahahahaha!!! I started laughing out loud as she said to me ‘Did you really turn all of these around??!’ She shook her head and repeatedly said ‘That is messed up. That is just so messed up.’ while putting them back in place.

Once she was reminded of the mischievous, conniving person I am, she gave me explicit instructions not to touch her very nice, glass ingredient containers that were all arranged (of course) face forward on her open shelves. Being the good friend that I am, I listened. Then I turned all her spice jars around before we headed down to Tucson.

-End of backstory-

When I sent her a picture of Esmé’s perfectly arranged candy, she responded ‘How would you like it if I came over and mixed it all up, then turned them label faced-down.’ I laughed heartily for two reasons. The first, obviously, because I got to relive my hilarious pranks. The second was that even if she were here to try and get me back for my shenanigans, she needn’t lift a finger. I have a small tornado living with me who does that to me every. single. day.

Esmé actually spent the entirety of last week putting me through the paces, and I failed miserably. She was crankier and needier than usual. I was short on patience and empathy, and we both were missing Daddy, who was out of town.

I screamed and yelled and she gave it right back. I was tired, fighting through a migraine, and frustrated to have such a willful child who wouldn’t listen. Talking to the wall would have yielded better results than I had with her. There were so many times when I wished I could just disappear and have someone else do my job.

I was angry, and frustrated. I felt isolated to be spending the entire week alone with this tiny tyrant. I felt like a failure for not being able to finish anything on my to-do list, and I felt guilty for losing my sh*t for the umpteenth time with my toddler. I thought to myself parenting is ridiculously hard, and I don’t know how I’m going to do this.

It was during this wallowing in misery of the hardship of being a parent that I remembered my talk with Dala. Just a week earlier, I explained to her why it wouldn’t matter to me in the slightest if she came over and messed up our candy. I told her because becoming a parent changes you, and changes your priorities.

It means letting go of so many things that you are OCD about…

IMG_5534

like clean houses, tables, and chairs, because children have to learn how to do things for themselves, and it’s going to be messy. If you don’t, you end up yelling a lot, and then hating yourself afterwards. I told her that it’s the hardest thing in the world, but it makes you the best version of yourself that you never thought you could be.

Parenting is hard work. It is character building, and that comes with growing pains. Literally. You have to think about the kind of person you want your child to be, and try your best to act that way, even when they’re crying/screaming/ whining at you, so they learn from you. You have to be bigger and better than your character flaws. You have to be a grown up, but maintain a sense of humor, and try to see things from a child’s point of view.

When all of that threatens to overwhelm you when you are feeling lowest of the low, remember your own advice and just let it go. Remember that tomorrow is a new day, with a fresh start to do better.

Remember that it’s worth it. For every ‘no’ and/or swath of smeared food on your table, there is a big wet kiss and/or monster hug that will make your heart feel like it can’t possibly fit inside your chest.

Most importantly, remember to be careful showing off carefully organized things if I happen to be your house guest.

A New Mom Story

There is nothing anyone can tell you to prepare you for what the first few months with a newborn are like. There is no amount of reading/ class taking that will help you to be more prepared. All the advice that people will give you when you first start out, though it is true, will not help you. It may actually make you feel worse, or like you suddenly need to punch them in the face.

The other day I read an article on the Huffington Post about a woman’s experience with her newborn. She wrote how in spite of exhaustion, she found waking up in the middle of the night to care for her newborn the most rewarding experience. She enjoyed sitting in the quiet with her daughter at 4am, and cried tears of joy because she was so happy. When she went out for some time for herself, she cried because she missed her baby so much.

The mama in me is happy that she enjoyed that special time with her new baby. Everyone does tell you to enjoy it because time passes so quickly. But honestly, my first reaction to reading that article was, are you kidding me??? I mean crying tears of joy to be awake in the middle of the night? Come on. The first time I left the house by myself I was deliriously giddy with happiness. I didn’t shed a single tear.

I debated whether or not to write this story for a long time because it is not a happy/lovey story like the one I read, and it’s still uncomfortable for me to think about. My heart could very well burst from the love and joy I now feel for my baby, so it also feels a little wrong to go back to a time when I felt more frustration than joy. Then, I remember how alone I felt during those first few months. I was overwhelmed by the amount of new mom photos on Instagram declaring, ‘She brings us so much joy!’ and ‘Best job I ever had!’ and ‘Loving every minute!’

I did not like our daughter when we first took her home. I loved her, but I was completely blindsided by how physically and emotionally draining a newborn can be, and on how little sleep you have to survive. I know that there are so many mothers out there who instantly bond with their children, and cherish everything about their new life together, but I was not one of those women. I’m sure it wasn’t the author’s intention, but this article brought me right back to being a new mom, and feeling like I was the worst mom ever for not loving every minute of my life as a new mother.

When I reached out to my mama friends, I found that they were going through some of the same things that I was. One of them said that she didn’t think enough women were honest about what it’s really like. People only post pretty, filtered, or professional photos. I myself am guilty of this, but it’s a damaging habit. When you are a new mom covered in spit-up/pee/poo, and you’re scrolling through your Instagram feed at 12am, 2am, and 4am, and you see all these perfect pictures, it starts to make you feel like there is something wrong with you. If my not-so-happy, messy, true story can make just one new mama feel even slightly better about herself, I feel I owe it to her.

The first few days in the hospital were wonderful. There was room service where I could order as much food as I wanted for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Pretty sure I ordered two desserts every time. There were doctors and nurses who were always checking on us to see if we had questions or concerns. You sleep on a bed that periodically inflates and deflates to make sure your post-pregnancy body is getting appropriate circulation. There are lactation specialists who answer your every question, give you free nipple shields, and coach you through the pain and frustrations of breastfeeding for the first time. Your baby sleeps in a clear little box right next to you so you can see everything that’s going on. Life is perfect.

Then they make you leave, or rather, insurance carriers do not allow you to stay for the duration of your babies first year. The following are some highlights of our first few months together:

Sleep Loss-

Esmé required feeding every two hours. It took her 45 minutes- 1 hour to feed. I was so frazzled and stressed that she would start crying again, that it generally took me about 30 minutes, at least, to fall asleep. You do the math.

Post-Partum Healing-

I had some tearing from giving birth to Esmé, so things were very, very sore down there. I was fortunate not to get any hemorrhoids, but sitting down was painful. I had to sit for about an hour, every two hours. It wasn’t fun.

Feeding-

This did not come naturally to either myself or Esmé. It was extremely painful for me in the beginning, and she also fought me during feeding. I wasn’t aware of it for at least a month, because I didn’t know that what she was doing wasn’t normal. My husband actually woke up some nights, not because the baby was crying, but because he heard me sobbing uncontrollably. I was past my wits end trying to figure out why my baby was crying, and how to make it stop.

Food Allergies-

We actually discovered this because our baby started pooping blood. We took her to the pediatrician who then asked what she did when she was breastfeeding. When I told her she said, ‘Ahh, yes. That would be a dairy allergy.’ I was instructed to cut out dairy from my diet until she was 3 months of age. I was told her diapers may get worse in the following week, but should start to get better after that.

I cut out dairy and Esmé improved dramatically! We were thrilled that feeding sessions were no longer a battle.

About a week after improved feedings, she started fighting me again, crying and fussing a lot, and she started pooping blood again. Back to the pediatrician we went. We were told that she also had sensitivity to soy, so that had to go too.

I would just like to point out that breastfeeding makes you just as crazy-ravenous as a pregnant lady. When you can not have anything containing dairy or soy, your options for food are limited. Like not eating out anywhere, not eating any take-out, shopping at only Whole Foods limited. It was a very trying time for this foodie.

After 3 months without soy, 6 months without dairy, and a consultation with a lactation specialist, we were back on track with no food limitations. YAY!!

Hormones-

I really was not an emotional pregnant lady. Heart-warming commercials, looking at baby clothes, listening to lullabies… none of that really got me misty-eyed. When I came home from the hospital? I cried all. the. time.

I cried because my husband only took one week for paternity leave, and I didn’t know what I was supposed to do by myself with a newborn when he went back to work.

I cried when we sat down to watch the news together because I felt like I never got to see him anymore.

I couldn’t sing lullabies to my child because I always got choked up and started crying halfway through.

I cried when I couldn’t fall asleep because I was terrified that the baby would start screaming the second I closed my eyes.

I cried at 2am because I had never felt so isolated and alone.

I cried at 2am because everyone else in the world was sleeping, but me.

I cried because I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life in an uncomfortable glider chair, in a dark nursery.

I cried because my baby cried a lot, and I didn’t know why.

All these things said, we did have our idyllic moments as a new family. She loved snoozing on her Daddy’s chest, and would often fall asleep on me when nursing. She was also such a little squish for awhile, preferring to have her legs tucked under her. It wasn’t all terrible, but the moments of pure joy and happiness were very few and far between. They really didn’t become a regular thing until about 2.5-3 months, when we got her upset tummy under control. Once we did that, she was happier. She slept more, so mommy and daddy were happier.

I’m not trying to scare any future new mamas out there, or discredit anyone who had an enjoyable first few months. I just want you to know that you are not a bad mother for not liking your baby sometimes. You are not a bad mother for letting your baby cry while you give your ears a break for 20 minutes in the other room. You do not win worst-mother-of-all-time award for shouting at your baby, ‘What is wrong with you???!!! Why won’t you stop crying??!!’ But most importantly, you are not alone. There are many other mother’s who are going through the same thing, even if they look pulled together on the outside.

 

Esmé’s birth story

IMG_1166

photo cred: Alma Alvarado

I was terrified of giving birth. I prepared myself as best as I knew how: I read lots of books and blogs. You would think that the more you read during pregnancy, the more knowledgeable you become. False. You only become more acutely aware of all the things you are doing wrong and how behind you are in preparation for you child’s arrival.

My husband found me in tears, or close to tears at least once a month. ‘I can’t do this!’ I wailed. I would then bring to his attention whatever my latest discovery was: ‘We’re supposed to have a midwife! We need to sign up for Lamaze classes! The books say having an epidural or getting drugs is bad for the baby! I want to try hypnobirthing!’

Something of note, for anyone choosing the whole hypnobirthing thing: do NOT start during your third trimester. I was future-mommy guilted into buying the book by a blog that I read. This person had been seeing a chiropractor, a masseuse, going to hypnobirthing classes, had a midwife, and was doing pre-natal yoga all throughout her pregnancy and I felt like I was doing my baby a disservice by not being as natural/organic/ awesome preggo as she was. I convinced my husband that we needed to buy the book and look into it. I bought the book, finished it, and tried to get my husband to read the relaxation scripts to me so we could practice it. He just about fell off the bed laughing every single time. Our baby arrived one week later. So really, any method of birthing you want to try, start reading up/ taking classes in your first or second trimester.

In an effort to ease my mind about labor and delivery, we did go to a ‘Preparing for Childbirth’ class offered by the hospital we delivered at. My husband actually learned a lot, because he hadn’t been reading all the books I had, so he found them quite helpful. Plus he got to learn fun phrases like ‘relax your perineum,’ that he would recite to me at random because they made him laugh. The class also did a lot to ease my mind about the whole birthing process.

You would think going into labor is an obvious thing, right? Well not in my case, at least not in the beginning. Very early in the morning April 28th, (when I was 36 weeks pregnant), I struggled to get comfortable in bed. This was really not anything new, so I didn’t think anything of it. I did seem to be having some sort of fluid down there, but all the books I had read said this was your bodies way of preparing for childbirth. They said it’s normal and just put on a pad. So that’s what I did. My back was killing me, so I got up, told the husband I was going to sit downstairs with a hot water bottle. I fell asleep in the chair for an hour and then tried to lie down on the couch, but my back felt worse when I did that. That was when I thought to myself perhaps something is going on. I got out my ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ book and looked at the signs of labor page. Much to my utter shock and disbelief they were telling me that the period-like symptoms I was experiencing were indeed signs of early labor and my water quite possibly was broken!

I decided to wait an hour until my husband’s alarm went off at 7am to tell him, because I still couldn’t believe I was in labor. I wasn’t experiencing “contractions” like I thought I would. I just felt  like it was during the first two days of my period where my lower back kills me, and had low abdominal cramps.  When I told Emile, he was equally shocked, but didn’t believe that my water had broken. I was scheduled to have my weekly visit with my OB later that afternoon, but we called and asked if they wanted to see us earlier. Come on in, they said, but were also skeptical because I sounded too calm.

Anytime you go to the OB when you’re pregnant, you have to pee in the cup, a task that is trickier and trickier the bigger you get. It was in the bathroom that I noticed I had leaked onto my skirt. I was embarrassed because once I got to the waiting room I saw it was a little bit on the chair. ‘See??’ I told my husband. ‘I think my water is broken!’ He still wasn’t buying it.

The jig was up the second they examined me on the table. Water gushed out all over the table. Sorry, but this is a birth story. The doctor helped me to sit up and asked if we were ready to have a baby. I said ‘I guess so,’ he gave me a funny look, said some other things that I wasn’t paying attention to until my husband and I heard, ‘We have to get you to the hospital!’

‘What?!’ My husband and I said at the same time. We were expecting to go back home, do our laboring there with all our coping methods, finish packing our hospital bag, and then go to the hospital. The doctor made it very clear that I was to proceed to the hospital posthaste, only stopping at home to pick up our bag if it was on the way. They freak out on you if your water has broken and you don’t immediately go to the hospital.

We drove home, I got the hospital bag together while eating PB&J (I knew they weren’t going to feed me once I got to the hospital), and we were off to the hospital. I started texting family and friends that baby was on the way and they all thought I was joking, because it was so early. Ok and maybe I like to mess with them from time to time, so it took some convincing. All the while I was still experiencing my period like cramping and pain, so I was thinking I got this! I can totally be a rockstar mom and not have an epidural! Ha.

We checked into the hospital around 11am and I was around 3cm dilated. Everything was still peachy keen, but as the afternoon wore on the pain got worse and worse. I believe I was chanting something like ‘ow! ow! ow! ow! owwwww!owwwwwwww!!!!! ow! ow! owww!’ every 3-4 minutes because lucky for me, my contractions came at closer intervals than your average lady. They also lasted longer than usual. Double score. This became a problem when I was 5-6cm dilated around 4 or 5pm. The contractions were so painful I had searing pain that started in my low back, wrapped around to my stomach, and shot down the back of my legs. They were so close together that my body wasn’t getting sufficient time to rest and relax in between, so I wasn’t dilating further. Everything they taught us in the classes had already gone out the window. The only thing that helped was sitting in their rocking chair, under blankets, with my hot water bottle on my back. That and squeezing Emile’s hands until they turned purple. Sorry husband.

IMG_1168

So they suggested giving me a drug that would help me to rest and hopefully relax so that I could dilate further. I acquiesced. I was still determined to do what the books told me and not have the epidural. If there were people out there breathing out their babies, then by golly I could do it too.

I hated whatever they gave me. I feel like it was Demerol? But I’m not 100% on that. I just felt like an elephant was sitting on me, and like my body was very, VERY heavy. I couldn’t sleep because my heart was racing, but couldn’t really move much to do anything about it. I was so happy once it started to wear off an hour later. I was back to being in excruciating pain, and was crying and I finally told Emile, ‘I can’t do it! I can’t do this anymore! PLEASE go get the anesthesiologist!’

So at 11pm, after 12 hours of active labor we got the epidural! I slept. It was magical. I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner. I was fully dilated by about 3am on the 29th of April. Unfortunately they dial back the epidural when it’s time to push. Booooo. On the plus side, because I had waited so long to get my epidural, the pushing part was very short, only 45 minutes.

At 4:16am on April 29th, 2014, Esmé Valentine van Rensburg was born.

IMG_1170

Would I do it all over again? Yes. Was it the hardest thing I have ever done? No. That would be the first 3 months with a newborn. But that is another post for another time :). If I could go back and give myself some pointers before hand they would have been:

-Don’t be afraid!

-You won’t even be close to feeling alone. Your husband will rock your world with how supportive he is, and he won’t leave your side. Unless you demand more popsicles. Then he will be gone for 0.2 seconds, but he will return with the best popsicle you’ve ever had in your life. So it’s ok.

IMG_1169

-The nursing staff is not going to scoff, judge, or try to convince you to do anything you don’t want to do.They are behind you 100%. If you want an epidural, they will get you one. If you want to do it without an epidural, they are there for you. You have only to ask.

-Listen to your husband/mother/friend when they tell you that you are going to be just fine. They are not being insensitive to the task ahead of you. It’s not because they don’t understand where you’re coming from. They are just expressing their faith in you. Because they know that you are going to rock it!

IMG_1171