Toddler Survival: Book Recommendation

We turned the corner into total threenager territory this past weekend. Mae has been rebellious and a bit rude. So I picked back up How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen, and while we are still in a challenging phase, this book is giving me tools to help decrease the level of emotional outbursts we have.

The book gives a lot of helpful, practical tips to incorporate into your everyday life with a toddler, but here are the two that I have been able to really implement over the last few days:

  1. Just give information, instead of an accusation. This is SO simple, yet I wasn’t doing it and it seems to really work. For example, instead of saying “Can you put your shoes away?” I say “I see shoes on the floor.” When I just convey the information to Mae, she just does the task (80% of the time)!

2. Instead of telling her what to do, I ask her how she’d like to do it (problem solving). For instance, I usually would have asked “What do you want for breakfast?” This almost always turns into me asking a half dozen times and her flip flopping between different ideas and driving me crazy. This morning, I said “We need to figure out breakfast.” I invited her to problem solve with me. She immediately got excited about making a smoothie! We haven’t made one in months, and I would have never thought to suggest it, but she did, and it was a healthy choice!

 

As a college professor, I see such a lack of critical thinking abilities in my students. They are told what to do and what to memorize in school. I just read my students’ midterm self-assessments and 75% of them said they wished high school had better prepared them.

So, I like how this parenting style invites your child to problem solve and recognize what needs to be done. It both makes life easier in the moment and encourages them to think for themselves in the future.

 

 

I Went to See a Psychiatrist: it was awesome 

Y’all, I’m proud.

I did it. I went to see a psychiatrist.

I’ve been talking openly with my OBGYN about my concerns and likelihood of a second bout with postpartum anxiety after this pregnancy, and I’ve been making a plan, but I still just felt worried. I know from working with so many other moms that I was really lucky that a simple Zoloft script from my doctor did the trick last time. What if it doesn’t this time? What if I could do better? Care for myself better? Then yes, obviously I should go see a psychiatrist who specializes in Postpartum/Perinatal mental health, BUT…..then the voices come in:

You’re fine. Don’t be weak. You said you’d make it to 36 weeks before taking medication.

You’re doing enough already. You don’t need all that. You aren’t crazy.

Why can’t you just be like normal women? Everyone else is fine.

Y’all, I know these voices are bullshit, but here they were. 

But I made the appointment and when I voiced my disappointment in myself, my partner said, without hesitation, “You’re taking care of yourself, which means you’re taking care of baby James.” Damn. That’s right. Isn’t that what I would say to any other mom but myself?

So I went today. And I was a little panicky in the waiting room, and I was letting myself feel ashamed for being there. 

I reminded myself how many times I’d wished this for friends and family, that they’d seek the care they needed, and I was no different. But it was scary. 

And it was all worth it. When you go see an expert, they can actually give you expert advice. Surprise! I felt so much safer and protected just from talking with the doctor. I realized that the OBGYN has been great and open to my concerns, but this is a doctor who is looking out for me, especially my mental health. I finally felt like my mental health was the priority and that made me feel so reassured about the future and the next year ahead of me. I’d never even thought that one had to consider blood volume and metabolism and pregnancy and how complicated medication can get then.

We talked about medicine but also about protecting my sleep. She gave me permission to advocate for myself in ways I wouldn’t have thought of. 

So, I took care of me. And I’m taking care of baby. And I have a safety net. I recommend any mom who is thinking of taking this next step in care to do it. Let me know if you have questions! 

The Doers

(a flash (short) non-fiction piece)

The Doers

The best advice isn’t advice. The most helpful women come to your house and act. They don’t give advice. They come to your home and quietly without ceremony make your bed. They wipe down your counters. They hold your baby so you can use the bathroom or answer the phone. They bring you a burger when that’s all you can think about.

They don’t lecture on the benefits of breastfeeding, but they guide your baby’s mouth to your nipple and show him how to latch.

They don’t tell you the secrets to comforting a baby, because there are none, but you watch them do deep squats and the baby begins to calm, and you begin to accept the physical strength it will take to be a mother. You notice no matter their size, they all have muscular arms.

They tell you it is okay to put the inconsolable baby down. Walk away. Every mother has to save herself sometimes.

They don’t come to your house to hold the baby. They came to hold you. And to do your laundry.

There are mothers who only care for children, and then there are mothers who care for women and children—these are the ones you must find. They are the doers, not the talkers. They will save your sanity or bring you back from insanity.

And don’t worry—you only need one or two of these women to make a tribe. They are villages and libraries of knowledge unto themselves.

The best advice isn’t advice. The most helpful women show up, even when it’s not convenient or they are not ready. They show up and wash the bottles. They notice you haven’t showered lately and draw you a warm lavender bath. And when you emerged from the steamy bathroom, they are cooing with your baby who they swear looks just like you.

 

Three More Months and Almost Three Years Old

Technically, I have three more months left of this pregnancy. If you saw my belly, I’m afraid you’d think I was due in a few weeks. I’m huge compared to my first pregnancy with Mae. Mae was born on February 15th. This baby is due around April 6th. I was looking at pictures from the Christmas I was pregnant with Mae, and I am the same size now!

How in the world can this baby grow for three more months? It’s a bit scary to think how big my belly will get.

Between now and the baby’s due date, Mae will turn 3. She is a delight in so many ways. She has a real sense of humor, and she makes me slow down and notice all kinds of things throughout the day. However, we have also been having what I call “Level 10 Meltdowns.” Mae does get angry, but her meltdowns mostly consist of getting UPSET, to the point that she can barely talk and calming down is a long process. Her meltdowns definitely stem from wanting control and feeling a lack of control. And, boy, do I understand that feeling. I like control too, and she has so little of it in her world. Yesterday’s meltdown came when trying to get dressed. Getting dressed, eating meals, and using the bathroom are the three areas she can try to control, so she does. Getting dressed is a major culprit though. Some kids her age don’t have a lot of opinions on what they wear. Mae has all the opinions. And I don’t really care what she wears, but she can’t wear a tank top in January. But yesterday’s fit was under the guise of not being able to pick out panties. She wanted the pony panties. Wait, no they are too big. She doesn’t want panties at all. She now wants the green panties. And on and on and on. I finally asked her “Are you just taking a long time because you don’t want Mommy to go back to work?”

“Uh-huh,” she got out through her tears.

I don’t blame her. I don’t want to go back to work either.

So it took 50 minutes to get dressed. I didn’t yell. I stayed patient. They should give out awards for this kind of thing.

I can see that 3 will be a challenge, and we have a new baby coming during this year. My word for the year is ENOUGH. I am focusing on accepting that I am enough and I have enough. I am a good mother just as I am. But maybe my word should have been PATIENCE. This year I will need a lot of that.

Christmas as a Parent or Thank You, Mom

If you still believe in Santa Claus, stop reading this right now. 😉

Since I’ve become a parent, from day one, the depth of my love and appreciation of my own mother grew by leaps and bounds. I began to understand all that she sacrificed and did for us on a daily basis. All the little things: putting shoes on thirty times a day; washing all the loads of laundry; making our Halloween costumes from scratch each year.

And now that I am Santa, along with my husband, I appreciate my mom on Christmas more than ever. Every year, she wrapped every single present for my two sisters and me. (I’m sorry, but I don’t believe in the whole Santa’s gifts are left out unwrapped. That just feels so WRONG.) She put thought into each gift, even the small ones in our stockings. One of my favorite Christmases was a white Christmas. I was probably around seven. It was the year I got both Dorothy’s ruby red slippers and a trick bike. These two gifts show that my mom was paying attention to me. I was a little bit girly, a little bit tomboy. I felt like Santa (my mom) really knew me.

She made a special breakfast each Christmas morning.

She hid a piece of special jewelry inside an ornament that we had to find.

But most of all, she believed. She really believed in the magic of Christmas and the spirit of giving.

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Here is Mom (Tutu) making Santa beards with Mae last Christmas. 

Now I know how late she must have stayed up some of those Christmas nights (because while my father was there, she did it all). She probably barely got any sleep. And I never knew it.

I think there are so many rules for parents, especially mothers, these days. So many expectations. I guess I’m thankful to know how to do Christmas. She taught me so well. Christmas is magic and love and giving (and some chaos in between).

Thanks for all those late nights and early mornings, Mom. I remember them. I hope I can do as good a job as you did.

23-24 Weeks Pregnant

Because with the second pregnancy, you’re never really sure how many weeks pregnant you are. I’m around 6 months pregnant is all I can tell you. Don’t make me do the math. The baby’s due date is April 13th; the planned c-section should be around April 6th, and Mae came two weeks early, so it could happen in late March.

I’m feeling really good. After the thyroid trouble in my first trimester, when I felt like I was walking through cement every day, the second trimester is glorious. I’d say the main difference in this second trimester compared to with Mae is that over night I went from barely pregnant to about the size I was in my third trimester. I was silently smug about how I didn’t get super big with Mae, and I think this baby is going to give me payback on those feelings. I think he is going to be pretty BIG. Jimmy, my husband, was almost ten pounds. Mae was only seven pounds. We shall see what this baby boy brings.

I am really at peace with my decision for a planned C-section. I’m not looking forward to the recovery phase, but I knowing how this baby will arrive into the world ( at least somewhat). I also learned from the OBGYN practice that I switched to this time that I have a slightly rare pelvic shape that is super flat, so barely any curve for the baby to get under. This has made Mae’s birth make so much sense! It also confirms my switch to this practice. I think, too, with Mae I thought a vaginal birth was some rite of passage into motherhood. Now I know that’s not the case at all.

I might also be feeling wonderful about this pregnancy because we just found out that Jimmy is getting 6 WEEKS of paternity leave! His work is changing its policy as of January 1st. When he called to tell me the news, I had to sit down on the floor. I was so overwhelmed with relief that I just started to weep. I can’t explain how good it felt. I didn’t even realize how much worry I was carrying about him having so little time off since he is in a new job. Every woman deserves to feel this reassurance. And every partner deserves to bond with their child in those first weeks. We are beyond grateful. I want to know who to thank and who to kiss and who send a letter to.

I think the second trimester has also triggered my bittersweet feelings about Mae no longer having her spot as an only child. We are cherishing this last Christmas with just her, and just the ease that we get around with as a family of only three. We are also excited that next Christmas we will have an 8-month old chunky boy. It’s hard to imagine!

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Mae playing with the same stuffed Santa and reindeer that I played with as a child. The year on the reindeer tags is 1977. 

I snuck her into our bed the other night (something I never do). She’ll be three in February, but she is and always will be my baby. Everyone says that your love just multiplies, so we will be bursting at the seams because I love this little girl so very much. And I’m holding tight to these last few months when my lap is only for her.

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Oh, and we’ve picked out a name for baby boy! But I’ll leave you in a bit of suspense on that one. 😉

 

Reactions to Pregnancy After PPDA

I’m lucky to have amazing friends and family, people who do not accept the stigma of mental illness. And I haven’t had anyone question my choice to get pregnant again after my frightening postpartum period last time. I’ve received mainly two reactions to this pregnancy from friends and family, and while I understand both reactions, I want to push my friends and family to fall into Option 2.

  1. Some friends and family completely ignore my past experience and assume this postpartum period will go just fine. I think they assume this because  I am aware of the issue and knowledgeable, I can stop it from happening. I hear comments like “It will be so different this time!” Yes, I hope it will be, but we can’t know that. I’m an advocate for women, so I should have all the tools, right? If you’ve gone through a postpartum mood disorder, at least in my experience, you felt completely out of control. There was little you could do. I know this feeling, and I know I will do all that I can to prevent it, but I also know women with the best of circumstances (money, support, “good” babies), and they still experience a postpartum mood disorder. Biology is a strong factor. I often make the comparison of if I’d had a debilitating heart issue after giving birth, wouldn’t most of my friends and family be concerned about my health? Wouldn’t they assume that it could happen again even if we take all the necessary precautions? I think it’s a fine line and people aren’t sure how much is too much in terms of their involvement. I understand that we still don’t know how to talk about mental health. But when people try to ignore my past experience or brush it off, it frustrates me and makes me feel alone in my current experience. I want people to ask me how they can help. I want people to ask me how I am feeling. #askher I’m open about my postpartum anxiety, and I give my friends and family permission to be the same way.
  2. Others have definitely stepped up in terms of asking how they can be part of our postpartum plan and helping us out more. I have a co-worker who I am close with and I know experiences his own anxiety. He asked outright and with concern, “How is your anxiety?” He asked me the same way you would ask “How is your knee?” if you had an injury. I appreciate this concern and honesty. I think the response I’m looking for is someone to acknowledge that I was taken to the edge of insanity last time, and that we can’t ignore that this time, so we might as well talk about it. And we must accept what we can control and what we can’t. I think if anyone knows me well, they know I value authenticity and honesty. I think that’s what I want in people’s responses to this pregnancy and postpartum period.