“Before and After” Bull: Set Off by Weightloss Schemes

“Drink this to lose weight!” “Eat this to get lean!” “Take this to be bikini ready!” Those taglines are irksome enough for someone who believes in body acceptance, especially postpartum. Then the kicker: “before and after” photos featuring a very recently postpartum mom (or worse yet, pregnant woman) in contrast with a months later svelte version of that same participant. Good for her for finding self-confidence but, I’m sorry, holy unethical advertising!

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I wasn’t a “before”… I was PREGNANT!

I’m all for moms finding career success. I love when moms help one another. I adore that getting fit and strong is a war-cry for some: “I am more than just a uterus!” I appreciate that some of those same fitness-loving moms want to help others find that same empowerment. Yes, do that! Let’s be cautious not to cannibalize one another for the sake of a buck, though.

OF COURSE the weightloss results are going to be most drastic at the markedly transitional postpartum point. That “before” model just created, grew, and expelled a human from her body. She may even be trying to nourish that same human by way of her body. So why imply her — or any other woman’s — primary agenda should be muscle gain and fat loss? Can’t she just be without being a “before”?

How can you truthfully even slightly imply in good conscience that the results experienced by a woman who is days pre- or post-delivery will be accessible to others? She will lose at least 10lb of fluid and blood right off the bat postpartum. That’s a ludicrous comparison to those not at the same life stage. And if a product does do that, steer clear!

Get fit if you’d like, or don’t if it’s not the right time for you. But certainly don’t categorize a pregnant or immediately postpartum woman as a “before”. Doing so reinforces the ridiculous pressure on moms to bounce back immediately postpartum. It feigns that pregnancy and childbirth are easy and glamorous. It indicates we moms are not enough — that we are “befores” to be improved upon — if we are not lean and trim. Don’t get sucked in.

Get healthy. Eat a cupcake. Drink the shake. Do that cleanse. Or don’t. Workout. Take naps. Do yoga. Do CrossFit. Do brunch. Do what works for you.

Don’t let scheming advertisers make you think less of yourself because you didn’t or don’t want to down their secret potion, wrap yourself in their human shrink wrap, or take their mystical pill to make you a leaner version of the already amazing you. Remember: they don’t care about YOU… they care about profits.

You’re worth more than that. You’re gorgeous. Do you.

A World without Joy: Reflecting on Murder

11 years ago today my cousin, Joy, was murdered by her on-again-off-again fiancée (story detailed here.) Today, 11 years older and 1 husband and 3 kids richer, I am the same age she was when she was killed.

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Joy Buttrey, killed May 7, 2006

Fresh out of college, just beginning my career, not yet engaged to my now-husband, I was a very different person then. I was naive, shy, selfish, guarded, self-conscious, anxious, hopeful, lost. I looked at my three close-in-age older cousins as being notably more adult than I was. They were always bigger, more mature, more worldly than I. 34 seemed so far away.

Because of the decade+ age gap — and my own immaturity — between us, it was hard for me to comprehend just how much life my 34-year-old cousin had before her, just how much she would miss, just how young she really was. When I initially mourned her death, I felt the pain of her loss. I knew the act that took her was nonsensical, brutal, and callous. I knew she had been robbed from us — from the hoards of friends, colleagues, neighbors, acquaintances, and family who loved her — but my 23-year-old self didn’t yet compute all that had been robbed from her.

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At 34, I have three young children — aged 5, 4, and nearly 2 — who need me deeply every day. I have a loving husband and dear friends. I have close family and cherished dreams. I have hopes for the future decades ahead. I have much left to live.

Knowing how much my cousin loved life, treasured friends, adored family, and aspired to accomplish, I know that she had an array of hopes for her future. She had expended great effort and love to help her fiancée’s young daughter settle into a stable life with the possibility of a positive future. To see her flourish and rise was Joy’s ultimate goal; she wished great things for the young girl. She wished great things for herself, as well. Decades of dreams were shattered by a single bullet.

Today, I feel a coldness within me, the shadowy chill of overdue realization. I am able to empathize with my murdered cousin better than I ever could before. My eyes have finally opened to her loss, not my own.

If I were to have all of my future dashed today, all of my loved ones ripped from my grasp, all of my hopes obliterated, the personal loss would be tragic. I would miss so much!

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Today I mourn not my loss or the world’s, but Joy’s. I mourn her dreamed daughter, Maeve, who will never be. I mourn the experiences, the achievements, the trips, the love, the laughs, the tears, the sunny days and stormy nights, the future friends, and all that could’ve been but will never be.

The world is not the same without her. Her loss is still acutely felt 11 years later. The nature of her death haunts the recesses of my mind. But her laugh still rings true in my heart. Tales of her foibles still echo amidst guffaws at family gatherings, her name is spoken often with a broad smile and glittering eyes, her memory is still strong… alive. Her earthly presence may be 11 years gone but her spirit lives on, in this world without Joy.

 

What I Look for in Mom Friends

For as long as I can remember, I have chosen quality over quantity when it comes to friends. I categorized people as “acquaintance” with much greater frequency than “friend.” I could be an acquaintance with most anyone, but a friend was a rare treasure.

As a mom — especially as a stay-at-home mom — of three young children, I have learned the value of mom friends. Not only are they your kid activities advisors, your mystery rash gurus, your go-to for recommendations from gynos to plumbers, and your how-do-I-survive-this-stage parenting counselors, but they’re your sanity savers.

On the days when you think your kids are plotting a coup, on the mornings you are tempted to shove your husband’s yet-again haphazardly flung jacket down the garbage disposal, on the nights when you’re drowning in a tsunami of mom guilt, on the afternoons when you found yet another dehydrated kid poop in the dryer and you just have to laugh-vent to someone who will double over in giggles instead of vomit in her own mouth, you turn to your mom friends. Because, as much as you love your kid-free friends, there are some things only fellow moms really understand.

So, what do I look for in mom friends? These are my basic top 5 must-have qualities:

1) Non-asshole. I mean, sometimes we’re all assholes, that’s just reality. I’m talking general life approach here though. I look for someone who doesn’t litter, doesn’t intentionally park or drive like a self-centered jackass, doesn’t treat waitstaff or nail technicians like peasants, isn’t homophobic/xenophobic/racist… you know, someone who acts like a decent human. Someone I would be happy to have around my kids.

2) Trustworthy. If someone gossips to me about someone we both know, I could only expect that person to gossip about me to someone else. I understand venting — that’s reasonable, and as much as I’d like to think everyone is completely happy with me at all times, I know that’s absolutely not the case — but intentionally bashing, demeaning, or spreading rumors is inexcusable. We’re not just adults but MOMS for goodness sakes. I don’t need or want the negativity and duplicity of gossip in my life. Some people enjoy it; I don’t. I need to trust my friends.

3) Genuine. Just as I trust my friends to act like decent humans who won’t gossip about or to me, I need to trust that they are who they say they are. No facades, no weak egos hiding behind bravado, no lying by intention or omission, no befriending me as a means to an end, no competitive drama, no judging. Cop to your bad days, your flaws, your struggles. Life is beautiful but it isn’t perfect and sunny all the time, so own that. Just be you… the real you.

4) Amiable. The ability to laugh at life and yourself is huge! Sure, sometimes things go wrong and we cry, but choosing to laugh more often than mourn is awesome. Because, why not laugh? Laughing is more fun than crying anyway, right? The heartier the laugh, the more I like you. ‘Cause what’s the point of a good belly laugh if you’re stifling it into a demure giggle? Let it out and laugh proud. I’ll snort and cackle right along with you.

5) Inspirational. I admire something about all of my friends. Whether it’s pursuing a dream, parenting a rugged crew with overflowing love, having a wicked sense of humor, overcoming life struggles without becoming bitter, being a beacon of zen tranquility, honing a talent, or being the most honest, true, and best version of herself possible, each of my mom friends has a facet that I honor. Surrounding myself with people who inspire me to do and be better, I am enriching my own life and those of my children.

I carefully select my true mom friends. My life is better and more fun because of them. We all deserve to choose friends who better us, who sync with our worldview, our values, and our lifestyle. I wish you the fortune and self-confidence to find a mom friend perfectly suited to you.

What do you look for in mom friends?

 

 

 

 

 

Infertility Awareness Week

I was infertile. My battle (detailed here) was longer than some and shorter than others, but it was no less painful, humbling, terrifying, lonely, and life-changing for me.

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I was immensely fortunate to put the battle behind me. To move forward. To get pregnant. Others are not presented that path. I am immensely grateful for all my struggle taught me, how it shaped me, and that it is over.

If you have faced or are presently fighting infertility, know you are not alone. My heart, my love, and my thoughts are with you.

The Tough Days, The Precious Years

I love the “Memories” portion of Facebook, don’t you? Photos and posts from 1, 2, 3… 5 years ago pop up to remind you where you were — who you were — on that exact day years ago. It really gives you a heightened awareness of your journey. It also highlights just how fast times passes.

Recently, these photos appeared in my Facebook “Memories” feed. At first, I looked at my 3-years-younger children’s cherubic faces, my daughter’s shorter ringlets, my son’s toddler stature. Then, I remembered.

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I remembered this trip vividly. It was my turning point. It was when I finally began to feel my head cresting above water. I was moving beyond survival mode.

The months and long days prior were tough but precious. I remembered them with a visceral clarity. The sleeplessness, the tantrums, the constant needs, the perpetual demands (external and internal), the feeling as if everyone else had their shit together but me.

Prior to that day, I had a constant sense of being overwhelmed, underprepared, inept, but engulfed in love. I adored my children, but I struggled to wrangle my 1-year-old and 2.5-year-old. I strained to work part-time with a hellish commute while simultaneously striving to be the hands-on, involved mother I wanted to be.

I demanded of myself to be everything. To do everything. I refused to admit defeat. Other women could have, do, and be it all, so why couldn’t I? Wait… but could they? Could I?

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As I look back now with 3 years of experience, distance, and perspective, I can appreciate how adorable those little faces were. I can forget the tantrums over the granola bar being broken, the fits over a sippy cup being purple instead of blue, the frenzy over a pink tutu not being pink enough. I can forget the fatigued fog of lacking REM sleep. I can forget feigning that I was a career-minded woman in the office, attempting to hide my tears over missing my children’s first trip to a pumpkin patch or not being the one to kiss their scraped knees because I was managing spreadsheets. I can forget the hazardous work-home-life balancing act that never included myself. I can forget the public meltdowns, the car seat battles, the unexpected toddler bolt in public as I chased behind my pint-sized fugitive maneuvering the Snap-N-Go stroller through crowds.

Now, I can simply remember the good, the precious, the sweet. I hold onto memories of the cuddles, the sticky kisses, the chubby hands and dimpled knees, the adoration and clinging need that accompanies being someone else’s everything. I can mute the struggles and amplify the beauty. I can laugh at where I’ve been, even craving a momentary return to the madness. Those days were tough, the years were precious. The memories are priceless.

Spring Break Snippets

This Spring Break we made a trip to a local beach. I grew up vacationing there, so sharing the experience with my children is priceless. Seeing my kids frolic in the same waves, scamper on the same sand, and skip through the same little town I once did is heartwarming. Hearing them say they have the same warm adoration for that little oasis that I do makes my heart swell.

However, any parent who has traveled with children knows that a vacation is not a “vacation” anymore once there are small children involved. Fun? Memorable? Filled with laughter? Yes! Relaxing? Leisurely? Calm? Hahahaha… no.

That is why grabbing hold of blessed bits of beauty and rare fleeting moments of silence amidst the relocated (and at times amplified) chaos is a practice in gratitude and sanity. Here were some of my precious excerpts.

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Breastfeeding my toddler seaside. A rare sweet nursing moment amidst the gymnurstics stage.

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Two whole minutes of blissful silence. Thanks to two kids on Kindles and one kid taking a brief nap. It was short but delightful.

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The excitement upon cresting the dune onto the beach and seeing a gorgeous day ahead.

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We reconnected with beach friends we’d made years ago. Seeing the kids fall right back into their playful rhythm as we chatted happily was heartwarming. I adored my childhood beach friends. Now my children are beginning to experience that loveliness.

My First (Complicated) C-section

Despite never wanting a surgical birth, I had a medically necessary cesarean section delivery with my second child. Though complicated, in all likelihood, the procedure saved both of our lives.

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My first c-section did not go smoothly. Actually, none of my three deliveries have gone smoothly. I read and hear about women who have these natural, uneventful births and I cannot process how. My personal encounters with labor and delivery have been so far removed from anything remotely serene, I cannot comprehend the reality of “birth = beautiful.” For me, birth = trauma.

If you haven’t read the tale of my first child’s traumatic vaginal birth, I’d advise giving it a once over so you’re aware of the backstory. Once you read that, it’ll be easier to understand how we got to the dreaded first c-section.

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One year to the day after the traumatic delivery of my first child, I conceived my second child. At my first OB appointment, the doctor explained why I would need a c-section for any child 6lb or larger. I remembered my under-7lb daughter’s birth all too well (it haunted me); the logical part of me understood. The illogical, frightened, stubborn part of me did not. “C-section” was not a part of my life plan. Then again, neither was infertility, an episiotomy, vaginal tearing, shoulder dystocia, multiple rounds of resuscitation, and a NICU stay. So, ya know, life plans aren’t exactly dependable.

I came home from the appointment tearful. I laid awake fearing the possible surgery. I decided I’d schedule my next visit with another one of the practice’s OBs and get her opinion. Maybe she’d see things differently!

She didn’t. At all. Instead, she calmly walked me through the risks I’d be taking with not just my own health but with my future child’s. Well, crap. It’s a hell of an argument when you imply not having surgery could kill your baby.

Tearful again. Determined, still. I scheduled the next visit with the third practitioner. Maybe she would have a different perspective!

Nope. She was even more adamant. She held my hands, calmed my nerves, and reassured me that the surgery would be markedly better than the birth I’d previously experienced. She told me in no uncertain terms that my child and I were incredibly lucky to have escaped our ordeal without serious permanent life-altering injury. To risk that again with a potentially larger child would be dangerous for all involved.

And so I had the rest of my pregnancy to dwell on my upcoming surgery, to force myself to swallow my fate. I never did come around emotionally, but I accepted it as my reality.

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After 1.5 trimesters of Braxton-Hicks contractions, vaginal swelling and pain due to my son being head down and ready to go at 21 weeks, a fluid rush scare at 29 weeks, intermittent bouts of bedrest, and gestational hypertension, along came my final OB exam at 37.5 weeks. It was a Friday; the day before my 30th birthday party. I peed in the cup, heaved myself up onto the exam table, rolled up my sleeve for my blood pressure test, and everything spiraled.

My blood pressure was dangerously high. The nurse retested twice. The doctor retested to be sure. There seemed to be protein in my urine. I was promptly sent to Labor and Delivery.

I waddled the half-block from the doctor’s office to the hospital. I checked in, peed in a cup, draped myself in a used and — despite my 40-week large but 37.5-weeks gestation belly — heinously oversized hospital gown, donned an obnoxious fetal monitor belt and blood pressure cuff, was pierced for an IV (I loathe IVs), had vials of blood sent off for testing, and laid in a triage room by myself for four hours. Meanwhile my nervous husband shuffled through our toddler’s evening routine and anxiously awaited my mother’s arrival so that he could join me.

The doctor came in. She wanted me to prep for a c-section. I looked at the nurse with eyes pleading. I looked back at the doctor. I asked if there was any way we could wait. Just a few more days. A week maybe. She was uneasy but relented. “We’ll run your platelets and keep checking your blood pressures. Maybe we can hold off a day,” I sighed in relief.

My husband arrived as evening turned to night. The nurse drew blood. Then they transferred me to a proper delivery room. Things didn’t look great but my blood pressure had steadied at a still-shitty but not as deadly level. The blood work was yet to return. I was hungry and thirsty but the staff wouldn’t let me eat or drink since a trip to the operating room was a clear possibility.

10:00PM. The doctor had the platelet results. She was displeased. I plead for more time. After consulting my primary OB, she offered a deal. I do 24-hour urine collection, stay on bedrest, and return Sunday for blood work and observation. If there’s no protein in my urine, my platelets are the same, and my blood pressure isn’t as bad, I won’t have to deliver. She advised that I fast before coming and bring my hospital bag with me when I return, “just in case.”

11:30PM we were discharged. We drove home in the dark gulping down packages of graham crackers and peanut butter we scrounged from the hospital.

We cancelled my birthday party. I peed in a day-glow orange jug every 30 minutes. I sat on the sofa reading books to my curly-headed toddler and stressed over all I should be doing but couldn’t. There was a knock at the door. One of my friends hadn’t seen the party cancellation notice and arrived ready to celebrate. As she had brought her daughter, who was the same age as my daughter, they played together as we chatted. She in her jeans and top, I in my savagely stretched maternity tank with my massive maternity bra poking out from the edges and my over-belly maternity leggings that now hit mid-belly due to my girth. I was looking wholly unpresentable, but she didn’t flinch.

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It was actually the perfect way to spend our last day as a family of three while I was on bedrest. Sometimes life shapes itself in just the right way despite or in spite of our careful planning.

The next morning I arrived at the hospital with a brimming orange jug of urine, my hospital bag, and an empty stomach. Back into the oversized hospital gown, blood pressure cuff, and fetal monitoring belt I went. Back in with the IV. Off went vials of blood for testing. A couple of hours later the doctor arrived. My platelets hadn’t stayed the same or even dipped… they’d plummeted. My blood pressure was dangerously high. The only positive: my urine was protein-free. Still, it was c-section time.

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An hour later, we were prepping. The Hubs donned blue scrubs, paper shoe covers, and we both sported ever-fashionable paper hair bonnets. We were a beautiful pair.

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The nurses wheeled me from triage to the OR. My mind was racing, my nerves buzzed. I was outwardly calm but inwardly terrified.

We arrived at the OR. I walked into the cold room pulling my IV post, nurses fastidiously toiling about the perimeter. My nurse instructed me to sit on the operating table. She left. There I sat alone in the center of this cold, otherworldly white room. It was as if I was in a dream… invisible.

My nurse returned with the anaesthesiologist who had made a smug introduction in triage. My OB walked in. She and the nurse readied me for my epidural. “Sit up straight. Take a deep breath, let it out. Lean all the way forward. Hold onto me.” Said the nurse. In went the needle then searing pains shot from my spine down my leg. It felt like my limb was on fire from the inside. “Ow!” I yelped, trying not to move.

The nurse told me the anesthesiologist would try again. “Sit up straight. Take a deep breath, let it out. Lean all the way forward. Hold onto me.” Son of a MOTHER!! It felt as if a lightning bolt shot down my spine and through my leg. My OB moved the nurse aside and asked if I was OK. She glared at the anaesthesiologist. “We’re going to try again.” She said, petting my hair as I sat up straight, took and released a deep breath, leaned all the way forward, and held onto her.

PAIN!! He missed a third time. I began to whimper. “How many more times do we have to do this?” I asked. “Is there a limit? Can we do something else?” I implored.  The OB hugged me and cast eye-daggers at the anaesthesiologist, telling us both through clenched teeth that we would try just one more time. I sat up, let out a stilted breath, leaned all the way forward, and clung to my OB. He made it!

The nurses helped me recline on the bed and strapped me down. My anaesthesiologist put on my face mask and told me my spine was at fault. (Interesting, since I had never before and never after experienced any epidural misses, and certainly not three in a row.) I did not trust him one iota, but he was my only hope for surviving this procedure without feeling every cut. I began to cry.

The nurses let my husband into the room. The anaesthesiologist instructed me to breathe in. I did. I grabbed my husband’s hand and looked tearfully into his eyes. He had no idea what had happened. I wanted him to save me from all of this, but he couldn’t. All I could do was survive it. I held onto him tight.

I felt heaviness in my chest. I panicked. I communicated it to the anaesthesiologist, who said, “Remember I told you that can happen?” Yes, I did remember that but I also remembered him saying he was experienced, and I was beginning to doubt that tid-bit.

The staff tested my ability to feel pain. The doctor asked for more anaesthesia. (If you remember from my traumatic vaginal birth story, anaesthesia does not work well on me.) The OB began cutting. I felt pressure. I felt pulling. I felt pain. I told the anaesthesiologist who said that was normal. “OWW!” Whatever I felt was not normal. The OB asked for more anaesthesia. The anaesthesiologist obliged. And that is all I remember.

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I have a snapshot memory of our son being placed on the scale. He was round and pink. Then he was in my husband’s arms.

My memory returns when I have already been transferred to the recovery room. I was shaking and cold. My husband was by my side. I asked after our son. He was fine. He was in the nursery being examined.

Soon I was in my room in the maternity ward. Our son nestled in my arms. My husband uncomfortably perched on a fold-out chair bed.

Our son was a happy, healthy 8lb 1oz bundle of cuddly baby. No NICU. No choking. No health issues of any kind. He latched on beautifully and nursed gloriously from that day until 22 months later.

My first c-section wasn’t smooth, but neither was my vaginal birth or my pregnancies. It was, however, successful. Because of it, my son and I are here to tell about it. And that is what matters.

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** Note: The anaesthesiologist who participated in my c-section was removed from the hospital staff within the year. **

Thank You, Tattooed Motorcycle Mama!

Once upon a time I was a soon-to-be first-time-mom, ginormously expectant, swollen to the brim, wearing a bikini on a crowded beach. I had never been so confident in my belly, as it had never been so taut. Still, I felt imposing.

I lumbered my sweaty, rotund self to the waves so I could bathe my swollen ankles and feet in the cool water. I was round and puffy and o’so pregnant.

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34-weeks pregnant with my first

I stood there, acutely aware of the eyes upon me. Knowing that my pre-pregnancy bikini was ill-fitted now that I was 34-weeks round. I suspected — but couldn’t see for myself — that the suit now cut off my back tattoo at an odd angle. That fitted parts were now loose and forgiving parts were now one with my flesh.

I began to feel self-conscious. Just as I was about to retreat to my lounge chair, a fit bottle-blonde in a brightly hued bikini sidled next to me. Tattooed to the nines and pierced with abandon, her 5’2″ stature could not contain her overt badassery. She smiled and complimented me on wearing a bikini while pregnant. “I love that you’re rocking your bump.” She said, lowering her sunglasses to get a clearer look at the linea-negra-defined belly. There, by the ocean, we chatted about kids (she had two, I was unmistakably expectant with my hard-won first), work (she inspected Harley Davidson motorcycles, I worked in cubicle farm), breastfeeding (she pumped despite working long hours in a male-dominated environment, I was yet to embark upon my journey), and vacations (she traveled to various locales, I predominantly visited the same family beach.)

Despite our differences, we conversed easily. I admired her. She was tough but kind. She had goals and a self-paved path. She emboldened me with her mere presence. With her beside me, I gave no mind to real or perceived eyes upon me. I was simply a woman chatting by the water on a hot day.

Now, any time I hear an expectant mom lament the dilemma of wearing a two-piece or a nursing mom worry about nursing in public, I wish for them a kind but tough inked soul like my Motorcycle Mama. I wish them the self-confidence and bravery to cast off outside glances, to be able to simply be, to do as they see fit without extraneous pressures weakening their resolve.

You have a swimsuit. You have a body. You have a swimsuit body.

Thank you, Tattooed Motorcycle Mama, for showing me the beauty of literally and figuratively standing beside a fellow mom, bolstering her, showing her that she IS that strong. That she is that brave. That she has nothing to fear. That she can.

One Year Anniversary!

It’s been one year — one trip around the sun, 365 days, 52 weeks — of raw, real blogging about parenthood, breast milk donation, dairy-free living, postpartum, infertility and delivery, and life in general. What has changed in that year?

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2016

365 days ago, I had two kids in preschool and a 9-month-old at home. Now I have a kindergartener, a preschooler, and a toddler.  The amount my kids have grown, both physically and developmentally, is astounding. My littlest is highly mobile and increasingly verbal with a penchant for mischief. My cuddly, beautifully unique middle son is speaking clearer and beginning to write his name. My daughter is starting to read, controlling her emotions better, and blossoming into a headstrong, thoughtful, driven individual.

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2017

One year ago I could put down my littlest without him running in the opposite direction to eat, climb, or dismantle something. My middle son loved “Bubble Guppies” and princesses, mermaids and “Paw Patrol”. Not much has changed there, except now he adores “Superhero Girls” too. My daughter had big feelings and not enough self-control to steer herself through emotional storms without pulling us all into the swirl. Now, she’s able to attend full-day kindergarten and do extracurriculars or playdates after her school day, and generally maintains a human — as opposed to demonic — demeanor.

One year ago I was up to my ears in childhood needs, inundated by the monsoon of duties; I had to be everybody’s everything all day, every day… and night. Little sleep, lots of responsibility, even more tests of patience… it was trial by fire. Now, the neediness has lessened a bit and I have adjusted. It is controlled chaos now and I am increasingly at peace with it.

One year ago I was grappling with the decision of whether or not to expand our family. I struggled with the conflicting fears of over-extending myself and The Hubs and of future regret if we did not try for another baby. Now, I am gradually settling into the reality that we will likely stick to our party of five, but I am still wary as numerous mamas around me are popping up with surprise babies.

One year ago The Hubs was adjusting to working from home with constant chaos around him. Our days were split in half: mornings at preschool, afternoons at playdates, with a brief respite in the middle for the boys’ naptime. The Hubs had yet to determine the best way to manage a conference call was to ensure that the children were not at home. He has since learned our routine and schedules accordingly.

One year ago my littlest spent his mornings in the Ergo 360 carrier as I ran errands and occasionally either slept or nursed his way through library story time. Now, my littlest has swim class once a week, nurses and dances at library story time, tantrums in Target, and scampers about from one mischievous scenario to another during playdates. Errands are very different now than they were a year ago, but still calmer than they were two years ago when I was pregnant, thus suffering monstrous Braxton-Hicks contractions, with a 3-year-old and 2-year-old to wrangle while shopping.

A year ago, I was simply dairy-free. Now I’m a transitioning vegan. I used to struggle to find any time to exercise. Now I do yoga daily. I used to pump 20oz of milk per day to donate. Now I’m happy to get 6oz, but I still donate! I used to have to use hair powder to disguise the risidual patchiness from postpartum hair loss. Now my hair is fuller and healthier, especially since adopting the Curly Girl Method. I used to be unable to have “me” time. Now I have a weekly or biweekly mom outing to grab a quick early dinner or a weekend coffee with a friend. What a sanity-saver!

A year ago I lived a beautiful, blessed, chaotic, new, overwhelming, and wholly exhausting life. Now I live a still-beautiful, still-blessed, and still-chaotic life, but it is no longer new or overwhelming and it’s a bit less exhausting.

I am happy. I am finding balance, I laugh every single day, as I always have. I have love — so much love — and even better, I have this blog as my outlet to share my journey and to help others traveling this same winding, bumpy path.

Parenthood is both a challenge and a gift to be survived and savored one day at a time. Thank you for following on this journey! I look forward to seeing what the next year brings. I hope you join me.

When We Need to Parent Ourselves

“I know you’re upset. It’s frustrating when things don’t go as planned, but that’s a part of life. You can feel frustrated but it’s not ok to take it out on those around you.” A talk I have had countless times with my kids. Anyone with a child knows all too well that playdates have about a 50/50 shot of going as planned, especially during cold and flu season or during the early years when fever viruses run rampant. The lesson of adapting to plan changes is a recurrent one.

Though I can parent my children through disappointment and guide them toward seeing the positive, toward accepting that some things are not meant to be, I am far less graceful at ushering myself through similar upheaval. Today I had hoped to volunteer at my daughter’s school. I was excited at the prospect, as a snow storm had cancelled my last volunteer date. Then, life took ahold and changed my plans for me. I would not be volunteering today.

The frustration brewed within me, overflowing in unseemly ways. Lowered patience and a short fuse gave rise to bad mommy moments. What would normally solicit a verbal reminder now quickly escalated to timeout. I was acting like an overgrown grade schooler. Thank goodness I’m not on reality TV!

A few too many minutes in, I realized I needed to parent myself, that I need the lecture. “I know you’re upset. It’s frustrating when things don’t go as planned, but that’s a part of life. You can feel frustrated but it’s not ok to take it out on those around you.” Man, that speech is so much less annoying when it’s directed at someone else! Still, it’s no less correct.

Deep breath. Return to center. Remember that there’s a reason that some things fall apart and other things come together. Smile.

All worked out as it should. I accepted and moved on. I just had to parent myself to get through it.

Sometimes we parents need timeout too.