I See You, Mama

I see you, mama. The young woman struggling with unexplained infertility. The woman who’s suffered years of unwanted childlessness. The woman who for years prevented pregnancy but, now, cannot conceive. The woman who always dreamed of being a mother but whose dreams may never be. The woman whose friends and relatives are popping out babies, both planned and not. The woman who must hide her struggle from the world, undergo invasive and humiliating tests. The woman who is told, “Just stop caring about it and you’ll get pregnant.” The woman others ask, “When will you have a baby?” Or say, “You could just adopt.” The woman who feels broken and betrayed by her own body. The woman who must smile through it all and pretend everything is ok… even though it’s not. I see you.

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I see you, mama. The expectant first-time mom both giddy and terrified, overwhelmed with tsunamis of unsolicited advice and the crushing weight of all you don’t and can’t yet know. The pregnant woman whose body and life and needs and hormones are changing moment by moment and nothing feels like her own. The rounding mama would is exhausted and puffy, sick and unable to even look at toast, contracting and sleepless, leaking and flatulant. The woman who is told she cannot complain or grimace despite her daily discomforts, because she is fortunate to be pregnant. The woman who others openly judge for everything from drinking coffee to wearing high heels, dying her hair to sporting a bikini. The mother-to-be who looks ahead at the impending birth with determined eyes and a game plan, tearful worry and pure hope, rattling prayer beads and terror. I see you.

I see you, mama. The new mom who is more exhausted than she ever knew possible, leaking from places she didn’t know she could, losing herself to the 24-hour beautiful struggle of new motherhood. The woman who looks in the mirror — thinning hair tied up in a nest, dark wrinkling bags beneath vacant bloodshot eyes, breastmilk stains over each swollen breast, belly puffed in a postpartum paunch, baby spit-up speckling her shirt — and wonders where she went. The mother who cries as her baby wails, not knowing how to console her child, doubting her own abilities, wondering if she made a huge mistake. The woman who looks at her partner and feels distain, for hormones and exhaustion, and stress, and self-crticism, and loss of self have clouded her love. The mother who coos over her beautiful child, takes all the photos, fills the baby book, hoards memories and mental images in her mind’s eye. The woman who struggles to nurse, cannot nurse, will not nurse, who drowns in the pain of overproduction. The mother who is addicted to the hormone high of her baby asleep on her chest. The mother who wishes she could love but cannot. The mother who is counting the days until she can return to work. The woman who sobs with each passing week, clawing to slow down time. I see you.

I see you, mama. The woman who knows her child is facing a struggle perhaps unseen. Who feels in her bones that something is not right. The mother who spends more time in hospitals than her home, more time pumping than holding her child, more time worrying than living, more time battling with insurance than talking with her partner. The woman who sees others’ children happy and healthy, growing and developing, connecting and learning. The mother who looks ahead and cries. The mother who worries. The mother who savors the small accomplishments with the delight of world-changing victories. The mother who feels alone in her struggle and wonders, “Why me?” The woman who finds a strength and ferocity within herself that she never knew possible. The mother who discovers a love stronger and more overwhelming than she ever knew possible. The mother who must plan and apologize, fight and cheer, hide tears and fake smiles, overcome and crumble under more than anyone she knows. The woman who never saw this coming. I see you.

I see you, mama. The mother of multiple children struggling with it all. Balancing and savoring, struggling and laughing. The woman who must do and be it all, all day everyday for everyone. The woman who is expected to give everything but give herself a break. The woman who is expected to know what she’s doing but still feels like she knows nothing. The mother who looks back at old pre-children photos and cannot recognize the person in the picture. The woman who wouldn’t trade her life for anything in the world, but would give anything for a vacation… and a solo trip to the bathroom. The mother who can (and does) discuss poop over lunch, who can dislodge a nasal-dwelling Cheerio in a single nostril squeeze, who plans everyone else’s birthday but forgets her own, who counts down the minutes to an evening out then misses her children as soon as she sees empty car seats in her rearview mirror. The woman who struggles to feel sexy, who identifies more as “mom” than her own name, who wonders if she’s doing any of this right. I see you.

I see you mama. The mother who lost a child in-utero, infancy, childhood, adulthood. The woman who doesn’t know how to answer, “How many children do you have?” The mother who aches with a hollowness in her heart, who struggles to find happiness, who strives to be whole… herself again. The mother who wonders what might have been. The woman who wonders, “Why me?” The mother who counts her blessings and her losses, who pushes forward while glancing back, whose heart will forever be partially broken no matter how full life makes it. I see you.

I see you mama. The mother who is unwell. Suffering emotional or physical pain, trying to be the mother she so deeply wants to be. The woman with unending guilt for her inabilities, her shortcomings. The mother who pushes herself too hard and puts herself last. The woman who pretends it’s all ok. The mother who feels alone in her struggles, who feels frustrated by her children, who is burdened with guilt for not being the mother she thinks her children deserve. The woman who wants the world for her children but can barely pour them a bowl of cereal. The mother who struggles, who tries, who sometimes loses. The mother who loves but feels love is not enough. The mother who cannot see or feel her own worth. I see you.

I see you, mama. The shy mother who craves a village. The woman who feels isolated. Who wonders how others learned to make friends but she has no idea how. The mother who sees mom cliques on the playground and wishes she could join one. The woman whose belly jitters with anxiety and mind rattles with insecurity when approached by a fellow mom. The mother who has to gather her wits to arrange a playdate for her child, who wishes birthday parties were not a thing. The mother who wants just one good friend with whom she could truly be herself. Who hopes her child does not struggle as she has. The mother standing alone. I see you.

I see you, mama. The fit mom, the styled mom, the mom who everyone thinks is perfect. The one with the handsome husband, lovely home, beautiful children, and hoards of friends and followers. The mother whose family is always pristinely dressed. The one who pushes herself to do it all… lead the P.T.A., be classroom mom, make all of the Pinterest crafts, be Instagram perfection, look the part always, be her best. The woman who cringes at the thought of posting a non-smiling photo or sharing anything but the glory reel of life. The overachieving woman who never feels adequate. Who constantly feels exhausted but cannot let on, who hides life’s realities for fear of judgment (her own and others’), who creates a facade to tell herself she’s happy. The “perfect” woman who tries and gives and does but does not feel it is ever enough. I see you.

I see you, mama. The mom who pushes through every day giving and doing, comforting and disciplining, planning and playing. The woman who smiles wide, laughs hard, loves deep, and hugs warm. The mother who tucks her children into bed at night and lies awake exhausted, mentally replaying her day, battering herself with mom guilt. “Why did I yell so much?” “Why didn’t I do that with the kids?” “They had too much screen time.” “Am I consistent enough?” “Are they eating enough vegetables?” “Why didn’t I do better?” “Am I doing anything right?”  The mother who loves so much it hurts. The woman who gives until she breaks. The mother who will do it all again tomorrow. I see you.

I see you, mama. The career-driven mom, the reluctant working-mom, the stay-at-home mom, the mom who wants to work, the single mom, I see you. The breastfeeding mom, the formula-feeding mom, the donor milk recipient mom, the struggling mom, I see you. The lonely mom, the grateful mom, the aspiring mom, the passionate mom, the fun mom, the peaceful mom, the mom who’s trying, I see you. The tired mom, the energetic mom, the young mom, the “old” mom, the experienced mom, the first-time mom, the mom who knows all, the mom who wishes she knew, I see you.

I see you, mama. You’re not alone. My love to you.

Better Than Therapy Yin Yoga: Boho Beautiful

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got stuff to let go. I woke up yesterday morning tired and tense, just aching for 15 more minutes to snooze. But something within me told me to get up and do my yoga. I knew I’d be grateful for my persistence, despite what my inner sloth said.

5:45am, I padded downstairs, brewed my green tea, and set out kids’ breakfasts. All the while, an internal negative churn brewed unmistakably beneath the surface positivity. The best way I can describe it is digestive upset — bubbling, squeaking, cramping, and impending doom — but of my emotions instead of my gut. I couldn’t pinpoint the precise cause though.

So, I headed outside to do my yoga. I unfurled my yoga mat on the deck and scrolled through my favorite yoga YouTube Channel, Boho Beautiful. For months I have been doing Boho Beautiful yoga and yoga workout videos at least twice a day (they range from 5-30 minutes in length, which is perfect for a busy mom with an ever-changing list of demands) to help me feel not just healthy and strong, but centered.

I scrolled through the videos in search of an appropriate selection for my morning practice. I clicked on the Boho Beautiful Yin Yoga video.

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The practice started as any other. Juliana, the instructor, coached me through breathing and reminded me to use this practice to release any negative manifestations. Any people, situations, or memories bringing me down were to be recalled, acknowledged, and released. Fair enough!

I figured I’d be feeling mom guilt or stress from eventual career uncertainty. Nope.

I folded myself into pigeon pose and just as Juliana cued me to pay attention to any emotions or thoughts that presented and to allow myself to experience and release them, I began crying. Ugly crying — snot pouring, shoulders pulsing, fat tears dripping into puddles on my yoga mat — as I laid in pigeon pose. A mental slideshow of my eldest’s first year flipped through at a rapid, heart-wrenching pace. This child we’d dreamed of, struggled for, thought we’d never have, then thought we’d lose just as soon as she’d arrived, was speeding through her beautiful childhood faster than I could capture memories.

My ultimate dream for my life had been fulfilled. What a precious blessing! But what now? To peak so young is a catch-22. Why can’t I slow down time??

I breathed out the negativity coursing through my glutes and thighs. I breathed in positivity.

Juliana instructed a position change. A back-lying quad stretch. As abruptly as the tearful siege began, it ended. I was calm, peaceful, positive. When we returned to the opposite leg pigeon pose, the tears returned. Juliana coached me through the emotional onslaught, knowingly providing acknowledgement and release direction.

Then we switched poses and Juliana told viewers to think about what makes us happy and grateful. A series of mental images from family beach trips, outings, and day-to-day mental snapshots poured through my mind. I was inundated with love and gratitude for my children and husband. The rush of positivity filled my inner fibers where the negativity once festered. I released.

I still felt raw throughout the day, but self-aware. Centered. Knowing with certainty why I was emotionally off kilter strengthened me. It allowed me to be kinder to myself because I understood myself.

The yoga was better than therapy.

 

This was in no way a sponsored blog post. I purely and simply wanted to share something positive I have encountered to help me lead a healthier, happier, more balanced life. In addition to the YouTube channel, Boho Beautiful has a webpage, blog, Facebook account, and Instagram feed. Visit and follow along if you desire.

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.

Wracked with Mom Guilt

The house is quiet. I desperately want to be asleep. Instead… mom guilt.

I yelled too much. I didn’t cuddle enough. They’re growing too fast. I should be more Pintrest-y. I don’t give this child enough one-on-one time. I should do more cool things with the other child. Am I teaching the youngest enough? I should make a sensory box. I should savor bedtime instead of surviving it. Should I let my littlest move forward with ridiculously early potty-training even though I really don’t want to do it right now? I’m letting the memories all slip by. I need to exercise more. Why can I not remember when my middle son first stood on his own? I feel like I failed today.

So much guilt. SO much!

So much pointless self-flagellation. If I’m going to berate myself and sacrifice much-needed sleep to do so, I might as well make it worthwhile. But how?

Tomorrow! Tomorrow is a fresh start. A new day. An opportunity to yell less, hug more, be more present and patient, be more creative and encouraging. I will do better tomorrow. At least I’ll try.

I won’t be perfect. I will slip up. I will do my best.

And that’s all we can do. We must accept our faults, learn from our mistakes, actively do better, and forgive ourselves. For what is the point of suffering guilt if not to move ourselves in a positive, remedying direction?

We are human. We are flawed. We are parents. We have tomorrow.

Pressing “Play” Instead of “Fast Forward”

Sleeping through the night, rolling over, sitting up, eating solid foods, crawling, talking, walking, potty-training, riding a bike, tying shoes, starting school… we move through our children’s childhood with eyes forward. Some parents with more vigor and ambitious competitiveness than others. We look ahead to the next stage, achievement, or development. Being forward-thinking is positive except when it causes us to lose sight of the present.

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Yesterday, I sat in my 1.5-year-old’s darkened bedroom rocking and nursing him before his nap, just as I have every day for the last 19 months. In the dark quiet I began lamenting my lack of freedom, my breastmilk tether. To be able to go out to lunch, volunteer at my older children’s schools, exercise, or go to appointments without navigating naptime, which doesn’t exist without a pre-snooze nursing session, seemed lovely. To be able to go out with my husband or friends and not worry about getting home to nurse my littlest before bed seemed refreshing. To not have to remain home after my littlest’s bedtime in case he awakes, as only nursing can return him to slumber, seemed freeing. The longing for freedom was overwhelming. I craved the next stage.

I began contemplating when to wean to a bottle or sippy cup, at least for naptime. It was new territory. I’d worked part-time from 4 months postpartum with my first child until my first trimester with my third child, so my eldest two children learned early on how to find sleep without the breast. My littlest, though, never needed to welcome rest in any other way but in my arms. I chided myself for not introducing a nursing-free naptime sooner. What had I been thinking?

Then, my toddler placed a sweaty, sleepy hand on my cheek. I looked down at his blissful nursing state and realized that soon this season would be over. He will not nurse forever. He will not always need or want me to cuddle him in his dim bedroom each day and night before sleep. He will not always look to me for nourishment and comfort. “You’ll have your whole life to be free,” I thought to myself. “Savor the present.”

Like the tween sneaking into an R-rated movie or the teenager preening to look older, I was wishing away my present. I was being impatient with a fleeting precious stage in the hopes of reaching the next phase sooner. But getting there sooner doesn’t mean a thing since arrival is an eventuality. If anything it cheapens the journey and is fodder for regret.

And so, as I lie here now on the playroom sofa at far-too-early-in-the-morning after 2 hours of sleep and reading many baby storybooks by the light of “Max and Ruby” due to toddler insomnia, I feel his finally-asleep weight on me and I smile. Sure, I’m tired. Sure, I’ll have to dig deep tomorrow to delve into the Monday routine with 3 kids 5 and under, but it’s worth it.

These hardships, these swift sweet moments, these gems amidst the craggy rocks are what parenthood is all about. If we keep our eyes forward we miss the beautiful details of the present and there’s no getting them back.

We will get to that next stage eventually. No need to rush it. Just enjoy the ride.

Mom Regret

Lately I’ve been stewing. I keep returning to the same pointless, irrational line of thinking: “I wasted 3 years of my life struggling, stressing, and straining to work part-time when all I really wanted was to be a stay-at-home mom.”

I know some people, especially those thoroughly invested in the corporate world, hear my stay-at-home mom career goal and think, “Oh, she’s lazy. She just wants to hang out at home all day.” Let me attempt to stifle my laughter. I’m sorry… I can’t.

Being a stay-at-home parent isn’t glamorous, easy, lucrative, or even widely valued. People assume that there’s endless spare time and immeasurable ass-sitting. They think about their days off and assume that must be the stay-at-home parent’s life. Maybe that’s the case for some mythical stay-at-home parents but I know no such existence.

This week, when the neighbor girl I drive home from school each day asked me how my day went, I said, “It was pretty good. Your standard day of a stay-at-home mom; both shoulders were smeared with someone else’s snot by 9:30am.” And that’s my life. Pick-ups and drop-offs, meal planning and playdate arranging, errand running and snack making, school calendar tending and social calendar pruning. I wipe butts and feed faces. I tame emotional swirls and referee skirmishes. I kiss boo-boos and read books. I balance activity time with learning time, with quality time with quiet time. I’m a chauffeur, hairstylist, counselor, nutritionist, human facial tissue, and 24-hour wet nurse but don’t get paid a dime.

But do you know what? I love it.

Even on my worst days — the ones when my throat is scratchy from yelling, my clothes are a petri dish of bodily fluids, my dark circles have dark circles, my mom guilt is raging — I still love it. “When you do what you love, you never work a day in your life,” they say. I work… I work my ass off, but I cherish the opportunity and would never trade it.

Instead, I look back at the years I worked part-time, out of both financial necessity and fear of change, and I lament the stress, the loss of time, the things — imagined and real — that I missed. Still, not only can I not undo the past, I shouldn’t. My life and myself are the way they are now because of all I learned, did, and experienced then.

I grew from those struggles. I met some wonderful people. I developed a greater appreciation for the ability to be a stay-at-home mom instead of standing with a foot in both the stay-at-home and corporate world, not truly belonging to either.

My children got quality time with their grandparents and great-aunt because I worked part-time and relied on them to care for my children. My husband, who also provided childcare while I worked, became adept at caring for our children on his own and developed a profound awareness of the demands of being a stay-at-home parent.

I wouldn’t trade those things. I wouldn’t change them. So why am I lamenting something I wouldn’t undo?

Because I’m a mom. And that’s what we do. Even when we give all that we can, we strive to give more. So much so that we delve into our past — one thing we can never change — to examine how we could have given more… how we failed. What a waste of energy and mental function!

I need to take a cue from Elsa and “Let it go!”

Mom Guilt

Mom guilt is a beast. It is the ominous haze that lingers in the back of our minds, making us second-guess ourselves, inflating our flaws, and tarnishing our strengths. It feeds on our insecurities and rattles our anxieties. It’s deafening and inescapable. No mom is absolved, but rarely do we discuss the plague.

Sometimes the guilt is predictable, such as five minutes after you’ve sat down in a — FINALLY — quiet home at the end of a year’s-long day rife with tantrums, misbehavior, mean mommy voice, and a drawn-out bedtime. Other times it’s illogical, such as when you lament your inability to express your undying love through butterfly-shaped lunch sculptures, or your failure to mold your trashcan-lickers into geniuses by way of upcycled sensory tables. Then there are the minute perceived failures escalated into life-changing monstrosities, like when you let your littlest eat who-knows-how-old Puffs from carseat crevices, or when your child’s dinner plate resembled less of of a food rainbow and more of a beige paint sample card. Yet still, there are the reasonable triggers that instigate an onslaught of mom guilt because, let’s be honest, we’re humans parenting humans all day, every day — so help us — and that leaves immense room for screw-ups.

So, what do I say to mom guilt? Don’t ignore it, don’t embrace it, just let it keep you humble. Let it fuel your growth towards becoming the kind of parent you strive to be. Let it enhance your self-awareness, not paralyze you with fear of failure or self-doubt. It’s always going to be there because it stems from love. You love your child(ren) so much, you self-flagellate because you believe your offspring deserve the very best.

In the end, do your best, know you’re human, and try again tomorrow. You’ve got this!