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Sunday
Feb212016

Having it all: I think I'm doing it wrong

I have much respect for stay at home moms. Truly, it is not something I'm programmed to do well. Even if I had the option to not work, I think I still would in some capacity because I'm not good at caring for and entertaining kids all day every day. When I was home with Drum on maternity leave, it was hard! It was exhausting and even soul sucking some days. I felt inadequate for the job, and I hardly ever found the energy to even get out of yoga pants. I started to think that going back to work would actually make life easier because at least I'm good at my job! But I had forgotten just how hard it is to be a working mom.

Now don't misunderstand me. Being a stay at home parent is a full-time job. It's meaningful, it's fulfilling, it's a great job for anyone who chooses it, and damn is it hard. But here's the thing. I think being a working mom is harder. At least for me. Apparently there are people who work and parent and do both stunningly well while also balancing everything else life requires with aplomb. That is not me.

And no, I'm not quitting my job to stay home with my kids. But I am really struggling with how to have it all. There have been a lot of articles floating around facebook lately about how having it all is not really a thing, and they couldn't be more timely for me. One piece I read (and now cannot locate) said that the feminist movement didn't intend for women to do everything without proper policies, legislation, and supports in place to allow them to do so sanely. Women wanted choices, but I don't think most women wanted to do all the things they weren't able to do while still doing all the things they already did.

The opportunity to take 12 weeks off was helpful, but it was not enough time, it was mostly unpaid, I came back to work with zero PTO, and many women don't even get those luxuries. Being lawfully able to take time to pump during the work day helps, but with no change in my workload, finding time to pump just means working harder and longer to get everything done. Daycare is a positive things for my kids, but it basically breaks the bank every single month, yet we don't make enough for one of us to stay home, save on daycare, and still pay all our other expenses. So while it's wonderful that women now have a legitimate place in the workforce, it's not great that having a family is not actually very compatible with having a job. For men or women.

Here's why I think being a working mom is harder than being a full-time mom (for me, not necessarily for everyone): 

1. I give so much of myself during the day at work, and then I have to pull from the reserves to give my kids what they deserve when I get home. My job involves an interesting combination of program management, people management, and counseling. I spend a lot of time caring about other people's problems and it's exhausting. Sometimes all I want to do is veg out in front of the TV or take a nap, but here come my kids and I haven't seen them all day and I want to squeeze every ounce of quality out of the time we have before bedtime. There is not enough of me to go around. After being an employee and a mother, there is nothing left to be a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend.

2. Relatedly, I have no time or energy for a social life. You may have heard the adage "Family, Friends, Career: Choose Two." I've chosen family and career, and I can count my friends on one hand. I've often considered getting off Facebook, but that is the only way I stay connected with people I once hung out with. It's one of few social interactions I have, so as much as I hate it sometimes, I'm still there. The truth is, I don't even want to be social. I'm stretched so thing that it usually doesn't sound appealing. I have a dear friend who stays home with her kids (and she works damn hard at it, trust me), and occasionally she's able to sneak out in the evening to get a break. I used to consider joining her, but then I realized that I'm so spent by the evening that I can't wait to watch 30 minutes of mindless TV and fall into bed. Said friend and I do hang out with our families now and then, which helps. It's easier to be friends with people when you can combine friends and family time.

3. Working all day and spending quality time with the kids all evening doesn't leave much time for everything else. Because even after all that, there is still a lot of "life" to do. Bills to pay, calls to make, doctor's appointments to schedule and attend, houses (OK house) to clean, clothes to launder, oil changes to get, leaves to rake, groceries to buy, leaky faucets to fix. You get the idea. I don't think that those who don't work have all the time in the world to do these things. I mean, who can fix a leaky faucet when your children are asking for snacks all day and then crying because they suddenly hate the grapes they asked for? But even though it was close to impossible to get anything done when I was home with Drum, I did have the ability to squeeze something in when a free moment appeared during the day. Free moments at work are hard to come by, so all those little things that keep a household functioning have to compete with my job and my kids and my sleep. 

Now, despite all that I've said, I plan to continue to be a working mother. Frankly I have no choice right now, but also, I do get something out of working that I wouldn't get if I didn't work. (I'm not talking about money, but that, too.) The point is not that I wish I didn't have to work. The point is that I wish there were supports in place that would make it a little easier to simultaneously have a career and be a mother and be a functioning human being. 

Working mothers (or fathers): what say you? I can't be the only one feeling this way.

Tuesday
Feb162016

Comparing my two postpartum experiences

My postpartum experience with Drum was very different from that with Mo, mostly in good ways. 

Positive Differences:

1. I got 12 weeks off instead of 6 weeks. Actually I went back part-time at 10 weeks and did that for a month before diving in full-time. The extra time made a world of difference. I think it's always hard to go back after a maternity leave, but when I went back 6 weeks after having Mo, I was not ready in any way. In fact, I think it was insane that I went back when I did, maybe even dangerous to my physical and mental health. The extra time with Drum, while still not enough, allowed me to get through the worst of things before piling on work.

2. I didn't have postpartum depression. I did have some anxiety early on this time - as soon as the sun would set each evening, I would start to panic (and I had a November baby, so the sun set VERY early!). Night time with Mo was really hard too, it's very isolating and lonely when you're awake and struggling with a baby. But with Mo I also had some depression that made it hard to function at all. With Drum, there were hormones and emotions and some crying, but it was the "baby blues," as they say, not depression, and it made a big difference.

3. I didn't get sick. When Mo was born, I got some viral infection that broke me down. I couldn't even move. Literally, it was a struggle to get out of a chair by myself. I had the normal amount of fatigue and weariness with Drum, but no virus that took me out completely. 

4. Breastfeeding was so much easier. SO. MUCH. EASIER! I think I'm still a little scarred by how difficult breastfeeding was in the beginning with Mo. But while breastfeeding was a little tricky the first few days with Drum, he got the hang of it very quickly and it made more of a difference than I could have imagined. I got to just feed my baby when he was hungry. It's so simple, yet so amazing. 

5. Drum was a better night sleeper sooner. The first month or so was difficult at night, but he started sleeping 4-6 hours at a time soon after that. I was only getting up once a night well before I had to go back to work. With Mo, she woke up a lot at night and was a noisy sleeper, so I was getting no sleep myself. At around 11 weeks though, she started sleeping 8-9 hours pretty consistently while Drum is still waking up at least once, but getting more sleep early on was so helpful.

So after Mo, I was deeply sleep deprived, sick to the point of immobility, and depressed. Feeding my baby was a heartbreaking ordeal every time. And then I had to go back to work before any of these things were really resolved. It was absurd. With Drum I was tired, a little emotional, and often frustrated, but I was functioning. Feeding my baby was as simple as feeding my baby. And I had more time to mentally, physically and emotionally prepare to return to work. It was still hard, having a baby is hard, but I had the perspective of my experience with Mo. In the weeks after having Drum I remember thinking, oh this is how it can be. I had no idea.

But there were a few things that made Drum a little more difficult than Mo.

Negative Differences:

1. Napping. I know Mo wasn't a great napper and she didn't nap independently for 2-3 months, but I don't remember this being a major issue. Drum, however, really makes us work for it. For the first 9 weeks I dreaded nap time. I would have to bounce him on the exercise ball the whole time. I would spend 45 minutes getting him to fall asleep, and the second I stopped bouncing, he'd wake up and we'd start all over. It was so draining. We still hold him for all of his naps, but now he falls asleep and stays asleep a lot more easily.

Our daycare hates that we held and still hold him for naps though. One of them even said to me, "If you make them nap independently from birth, they'll always do it." I basically told her she was nuts because how do you not hold a sleeping newborn? A sweet-smelling newborn asleep on your chest is one of life's greatest gifts. And besides, Drum did not want to nap by himself, and who could blame him? So even though his naps were a lot of work, I decided holding him was far more important than establishing good habits.

2. Gas. This kid is one of the gassiest babies I have ever encountered. My friend Robin (hi Robin!) had a gassy baby, and we spent a lot of time together during my leave, and even she was amazed at what came out of my child. It was a real problem for a long time because it caused him so much distress, and he was clearly in pain much of the time. We tried everything - tummy massages, bicycling and lifting his legs, the Windi, gas drops, gripe water, the Happy Tummi, probiotics, laying him on his belly, making sure he ate at the right angle and not too quickly and with a good latch so he wouldn't swallow air. Eventually we got pretty good at relieving the gassiness, but we never found a way to prevent it. The fact is, we need to just wait for his digestive system to mature. I did recently decrease my dairy intake, and it's maybe making a difference, but mostly I think his gut is just working better as he grows. He's still gassy, but less so than he was, and it doesn't upset him as much as it did. 

3. Agitation. The best word we could find to describe Drum as a little baby was discontent. He was not one to just chill - he was always agitated, wiggling around, fussing. He didn't cry much, but he was clearly not enjoying life. We thought it was sad that this tiny baby only knew a life of discomfort. I wouldn't call him colicky because I've heard about colic and this didn't seem quite so extreme. But between the gas and the discontentment and the not napping, it was certainly trying.

4. He has a sister. When Mo was a baby we only had to take care of her, there were no other children to figure into the equation. Having to navigate the whims of a baby plus the craziness of a 3 year old is truly exhausting. It's enough to make me think anyone who has more than 2 kids is downright crazy!

At 3.5 months old now, things have improved. Drum still naps in our arms (and only takes cat naps on his own at daycare), but I know soon enough he'll stop doing that altogether and I'm in no rush. I'll hold my baby as long as I can. He still has digestion issues, but nothing concerning and it's much more manageable. And he's no longer very agitated. I think now that he can control his arms a little better and sit up a bit, he can participate in the world more actively and that makes him happy.

So overall, while each postpartum experience had its challenges, I would take my second experience over my first any day!

Wednesday
Feb102016

My Mo is three years old 

Almost a month ago, Mo turned 3. I just re-read the post I wrote about her turning 2, and I can't believe all that has happened since then. First of all, I had just had a miscarriage and really turned to Mo to mend my heart. And now I have a 3 month old baby and Mo is a big sister! Second, Mo has really transformed from a toddler to a kid in the last year. Three seems so young, I think in my mind I lump that age in with kids still emerging from babyhood. But in reality, three is well past babyhood and on the verge of adolescence! 

So while a year has brought on incredible changes, many things have remained the same because Mo is still the true essence of herself. Her personality developed early on and has changed only in small ways that reflect her age. The things I wrote about her last year are still mostly true. So let's review.

Is Mo still resoundingly happy?
Yes! She has moments where happy is the last word I'd use to describe her, but overall she loves life just as much as she ever did. She's up for anything anytime, and so it's easy to turn the most mundane things into an adventure. "Mo, do you want to go get groceries with me?" "YAAAY!!" "Mo, should we go switch the laundry?" "YES!!" It was actually really sad that when Drum was born, she started to rebel a little. She would actively not listen to us or do the opposite of what we asked, which was a relatively new behavior for her. It was sad because I know it was unnatural to her, and she was only doing it to get some attention from us. She was accustomed to involving us in all her many adventures, and now we were suddenly preoccupied with this needy little creature, and the only way she knew to get us back was to force us to pay attention by running in the other direction when we asked her to come here and get her PJs on! She's mostly grown out of that already, and now she's busy showing her brother how to get the most out of life.

Does Mo still love people?
Absolutely! This is one of my very favorite things about her. I was a painfully shy child, I hate social interaction, and with the perspective of an adult and a mother, I strongly hoped my children wouldn't be cursed in that way. So far, so good. Mo is happy to talk to anyone and everyone - nobody is a stranger. And nothing gives her more joy than to be around her people, the people that love her and that she loves so much. After Drum was born, we had a pretty steady stream of visitors and helpers. Every day when I'd pick her up from daycare, she'd ask "Who's at our house today?" She was in heaven with so much consistent company, and when it started to slow down, she was terribly disappointed. Mo also loves to go to daycare because she basically gets to spend the whole day hanging out with her friends at a big party. For Mo, daycare is such a blessing. There's no way she'd get as much out of her time (both socially and academically) if she had a stay at home parent or a nanny of some sort. 

Does Mo still have and love a million stuffed animals?
Yes, but now it's more like 2 million. Everyone has figured out that stuffed animals are Mo's thing, so they keep bringing them into our house. And we don't stop it because Mo loves every single one. While her collection has grown exponentially, she still has two favorites: Pump and White Puppy (often referred to as Pump and Pup or Puppy and Pumpy). This is what I said about them last year in a list of her favorite things: "Pump, the pink blanket she got at birth and took a liking to awhile ago; Foofoo or Puppy, the little scrap of a stuffed animal she got on her first birthday and has loved every since." These two have remained solid for over two years now, and she rotates through other lovies du jour. Currently she's liking the stuffed Care Bear (Cheer Bear because of course) and the My Little Pony (Rainbow Dash) trinkets she got for her birthday. Speaking of My Little Ponies, she's recently obsessed (thanks cousin Scarlet for introducing her) and even though she says Rarity is her favorite, I think Mo is kindred spirits with Pinkie Pie. If you are familiar with MLP, picture Pinkie Pie in human form and you pretty much understand Mo.

Is Mo still pretty affectionate?
Yep. While I was pregnant she become ultra clingy and wanted to be glued to me at all times. It has simmered down a bit, but she still likes to be near me and Mike a lot. The other day Mike laughed and said, "Mo has no sense of personal space." I looked over to find her plastered against him on the couch. She wasn't interacting with him, she was playing a game on the tablet, but she wanted to be as near to him as possible. She has also started this adorable thing where she grabs the sides of my head and pulls me in for a kiss. And she always wants to hold my hand going up and down the stairs even though she doesn't need the support. She's often too busy to be tied down with cuddles, but when she slows down, she wants to be physically touching someone. I think it recharges her battery.

Does Mo still mean the world to you?
I mean, come on... 

A few other things about Mo at age three:

  • She is an incredible conversationalist. Everyone describes her as "chatty" and that's an understatement. She is a non-stop talker, and her vocabulary and ability to articulate her thoughts blows me away.
  • She is learning her letters. I don't know when kids typically start to recognize and identify letters by name, but for a minute I was worried because she didn't seem to get it at all. I worked on the letter M with her for months and it never clicked. Then suddenly it did and now she recognizes M O S E L T Z consistently and several other letters sporadically. She can also spell her name verbally, and she can sort of write MOS. The funny thing is I taught her how to write those letters by explaing it was "up down up down, circle, squiggle." So for a long time she would call M "up down up down," O "circle," and S "wiggle." Sometimes I still have to remind her those aren't the actual names of the letters. Oops!
  • She is fully potty trained and has been since the summer. She still wears pullups when she sleeps but most of the time she wakes up dry. I'm just not interested yet in investing energy into making sure she doesn't drink too much at night, and on the chance she does pee, I don't want to deal with changing her sheets. So, pullup it is!
  • She loves her baby bro. At first she was pretty indifferent, but lately she has taken an interest in him and I think that will only grow as he becomes more and more enthralled with her. Sometimes she'll call him Drummond (or Drum or Baby Drummond), but mostly it's Brother, Baby Brother, Bro or Baby Bro. Yesterday her friend at daycare was admiring Drum when I picked them up, and Mo protectively said "That's not your baby. That's my baby!"
  • She got her first haircut just before she turned 3! It was literally a millimeter off the ends to get rid of some split ends, but it felt momentous.
  • She enjoys books, coloring, painting (loves painting!), puzzles, board games, random shows we find on Netflix, stickers, candy, singing, playing house, eating snow, and generally being a nutball!

Happy third birthday crazy girl!

Mo bandaid eyes

Monday
Feb012016

Monthly Drum Photo - Three

When I first took Drum's 3 month photo, I wrote his weight and lenth wrong. I switched them so instead of 16 inches and 26 pounds, I wrote 26 pounds and 16 inches. I did the whole "photo shoot" without realizing it, and I died laughing when I realized it hours later. Can you imagine a 26 pound baby that's only 16 inches long? Gross. And then I had to do the whole shoot over again.

So first, the real 3 month photo:

3 months - outtake

And the mishap:

3 months - outtake

This has been a big month for Drummy. He's become so much more aware and interactive. He loves to look at stuffed animals - laugh at them, talk to them, and try to reach for them. He also fell in love with a balloon Mo got for her birthday. If I need to steal 10 minutes to do something, my best bet is to lay him on the floor with that balloon floating above him.

Drum balloon instagram

I think he may be going through a slight sleep regression. We never experienced this with Mo. She was a bad sleeper until around 12 weeks when she started sleeping 8-9 hours pretty consistently and she's been a rock star sleeper ever since. Drum was doing 5-6 hours, sometimes even longer, and now it's not uncommon for him to wake up every 3-4. I hope it's just because he's growing so fast. He's still in a rock 'n play in our room. It's still working well for all of us, so we have no plans to change yet.

His naps have not changed much. We still hold him for all his naps, but we recently started swaddling him and that seems to help him stay asleep longer. For a minute we thought maybe we should try harder to get him out of our arms for naps, but then we thought, "Out of our arms? No!!" That will happen on its own soon enough and we'll be longing for the days he used to snuggle with us. So we ignore the messes and the million things we need to do, and we just hold the kid whenever we can.

Drum sleeping

Sorry for the cleavage. And the dark circles. Geez.

He's now wearing 3-6 month clothes, and in some cases even bigger. Yesterday I put a pair of 12-24 month socks on him and they fit. Today he's wearing 9 month pants. He loves to stare at his hands and balls them into a blob of fingers in front of his face for close examination. When he gets sad, before he cries, his bottom lip sticks out. It's the saddest thing I've ever seen, and the second that lip comes out, I melt in a pile and scoop him up. 

Drum has been very smiley this past month, and his big gummy grin gives us so much joy. He has started to notice Mo more, and she loves to get a smile out of him. I think their relationship is going to blossom as soon as he starts to laugh at her antics. He's just now discovering his laughter. A few days ago he accidentally giggled when I was putting his shirt on, and today I was flowing raspberries on his neck and he laughed over and over. It's the most glorious sound!

Drum smile

So the biggest things this month are daycare and digestion. He started daycare two weeks ago by going two days for 3 hours, just to sort of practice. Those days went great. He even took independent naps, which is to the credit of daycare magic. The next week (last week), he went three full days and it wasn't great. He was suffering from digestion issues, which meant he didn't eat well, didn't sleep well, and didn't feel good. Those things snowballed all day, and by the time I picked him up, he was pretty miserable. Bringing your kid to daycare for the first time is hard enough. Knowing he's miserable and you're not there for him is enough to break your heart. And it did. I hated work last week. Hated it.

Drum daycare

His digestion is something he's struggled with since day one. When we were still in the hospital we noticed he was gassy, and it has only gotten worse. We've tried everything we can think of, and it has never gotten better. The doctor says it sucks but he's fine, and his digestive system will mature eventually and it'll all get better. One day. In the meantime, on top of gas that makes him scream and cry, he isn't pooping. He went from daily poops to once a week for no apparent reason, and even though I know it can be normal for breastfed babies to poop that infrequently, it doesn't seem normal for him to be so clearly miserable. It's a long boring story, but we've tried to get help from his doctor's office and it's been nothing but frustrating so far.

So if you have experience with a gassy baby who really needs to poop, I'd love to hear your suggestions!

Drum eyes instagram

Edited to add this photo of a side by side of Mo and Drum at 3 months:

3 month outtake Drum Mo

 

Thursday
Jan072016

Monthly Drum Photo - Birth, One, Two

I'm woefully behind on uploading photos since Drum's birth. I finally got caught up through his first few weeks, but I still have over 1,000 pictures on my phone and hundreds more on my camera. But I took a little time recently to look through the first three monthly photos I took of him - birth, one month and two months. 

This is my babe a few days after he was born, the day we brought him home (it should be noted that it took me two weeks to find the time, energy and wherewithal to take Mo's first photo, so the fact that I got Drum's done the day we brought him home says a lot about the differences in my post-partum experiences. More on that another day.):

Drum newborn

I can't believe how much he changed between his birth and his first month photo. It was happening before my eyes, but I didn't see how dramatic it was until I compared these photos.

1 month

His face filled out so much! I totally guessed on his weight here though, and in fact we had an unexpected visit to the doctor a couple days later and he was closer to 10.5 pounds. He definitely grew fast, and continues to do so!

At two months, I tried to weigh him with me on my bathroom scale, which often gives strange numbers, but it might be more accurate than the first month. He hasn't had his two month appointment yet, so I don't know for sure. But I think it's clear he's growing rapidly, and that he's big for his age.

2 months

I also think it's fun to compare him to Mo at each stage.

Newborns:

Untitled

Mo was almost a whole pound lighter than Drum, and an inch shorter. She looks a lot darker here, but I think that's a trick of the light. But she really did have more hair than him, which later fell out.

One month olds:

Untitled

Poor Mo, she looks like an old man in a baby's body! Drum grew into his face a lot faster. Mo was still about a pound and an inch behind Drum at one month.

Two month olds:

Untitled

Mo's face started filling out, and she kept more hair than Drum did by now. Overall, I think they look very similar, definitely siblings! According to my measurements, at two months, Drum has 2.5 pounds and 1.5 inches on Mo.

The first 8ish weeks with Drum were tough. He was almost never content and took terrible naps. I would spend 45 minutes getting him to sleep, then he'd wake up after 10 minutes and we'd start all over again. It was physically and mentally exhausting. I told several people that I legitimately thought I was going a little crazy.

Around 7 weeks someone told me that for most babies, the peak of fussiness comes around 7 or 8 weeks, and I held on to that like a life preserver. I needed it to be true! And slowly but surely he has improved. He falls asleep for naps more easily, though I still usually have to hold and rock him the whole time, and he stays asleep longer. Sometimes. Fortunately he's a pretty good night sleeper. Pretty early on, he started sleeping 4-6 hour streches, and recently he gave us a couple 8 hour nights. At this point we can usually count on around 6 hours before he wakes up to eat. Only problem is for a long time he started his nights around 11:30 or 12. We've been trying to shift that earlier in preparation for my return to work, and right now we've got him going to sleep for the night around 10:30. He sleeps in a Rock n Play by our bed. We tried to get him a cosleeper, but he immediately wakes up and fusses if we lay him down anywhere but the RnP. When Mo was this age, she was sleeping in a flat bassinet, and we had just moved the bassinet into her room. But she was a loud sleeper, which meant I never slept if she was in the same room. Drum is more peaceful once he gets to sleep (at night, not for naps), so we'll probably keep him in our room awhile longer. At least until he's truly sleeping through the night.

He also has gas issues. It used to be a really big problem - he'd be inconsolable, and we'd have to spend a great deal of time working out the gas. He still gets gassy, but it's a lot easier to resolve. We recently started him on probiotic drops, and I hope that helps a lot of the problem over time.

During his happy moments, he smiles a lot - big open mouth, crinkly eye smiles. He likes looking at and talking to stuffed animals that we hold up for him, and his favorite person is me. Of course. Followed by Mike. He doesn't pay much attention to Mo because she doesn't pay much attention to him. When people ask how she feels about him, I answer "indifferent." She'll bring him a paci or a blanket once in awhile, but mostly she ignores him. Soon enough he'll notice her and find her hilarious, and she'll eat up every second, and then they'll be best buds.