Monday, August 27, 2012

Manic Monday - Cloth Diapers, Professional Pics, and Crunchy Mommies, oh MY!

Welcome to Manic Monday! I'm thinking of making this a link-up - would anyone be interested in the future?

  • I bought 6 cloth diapers (pocket style) to see if using cloth is a viable option for us. Here's the beginning of our stash, below. They're KaWaii brand, each with two microfibre inserts. I also bought two hemp inserts to try night-time. I just prepped them this afternoon so tomorrow will be our first try. I know, I must be crazy, right? Washing poop in my washing machine? But this particular brand is super cheap so if it doesn't work out, I won't have lost much money. If it does, my stash will cost about $200 to start cloth diapering full-time.
  • I'm turning into a far crunchier mama than I ever expected to me. Frankly, I never in a million years thought I would breastfeed, and especially not past 3 months willingly. I also turned my nose up, way up, at cloth diapering. Attachment parenting? I thought it was weak. Turns out I am attachment parenting without even knowing it.
  • We got professional Baby Bird photos back! I will post one of the ten, only because some of them will likely become Christmas gifts for family so I don't want to spoil the surprise. Avery was about four months old in this photo.
Photo by Amy's Images (Dartmouth, NS)
  • I'm beginning to wonder if I should remove my nose piercing and try again in a few months or years. I absolutely love it, but it's been nothing but trouble for me. I got the dreaded bump beside it (from a fledgeling infection or the piercing moving around too much), which took forever to get rid of. And now Baby Bird is in the face-grabbing stage, so I'm always terrified he's going to end up ripping it out. 
  • I'm really addicted to this cajun spice I bought last week. I've been making oven spicy fries like they're going out of style. So tasty!
  • I discovered that my new college hoodie has a phone/wallet pocket that velcros INSIDE the typical kangaroo-style pocket. No more phone going sliding out of one end!
What random things are you excited about/up to?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Baby Bird Sleeps

It's 3:24pm. I'm standing in my son's darkened bedroom, with only a ribbon of brilliant sun light streaming in between curtains drawn. This tiny five-month old child rests on my shoulder, asleep, as I bury my nose in his sweet, natural, baby-scented shoulder. I'm close to tears, moved by the knowledge that these moments are numbered, and one day he will be a Big Kid who doesn't want to spend time in Mama's arms.

A month ago, I fought every nap time and bedtime mentally. I dreaded the chore of putting Baby Bird to sleep. He fought, and fought, and fought against sleep. I couldn't understand it; his eyes would be drooping and he was clearly so exhausted. Then, K. would come along and next thing I knew, Baby Bird would be fast asleep. Worst of all, with the horrendous combination of post-partum depression and anxiety I was battling at its peak, I let myself believe it made me less of a mother.

At some point in the last month, I talked myself into relaxing. I decided that even on the worst days, I would just go with the flow and know in my heart that it would not last forever. That mindset has changed my world. Not every day is awesome and smiles, but every day is manageable and comes equipped with its very own end. Happily, this has translated to nap time. I've truly come to (mostly) love the quiet moments where I sing softly to Baby Bird as he drifts off on my shoulder. His tiny body relaxes into mine as we sway gently back and forth, and I am left to my thoughts about how wonderful my life has truly become since he arrived in it. Because I am relaxed, he can relax.  On the odd occasion where he still fights the sleep, I don't sweat it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

News! Good News!

You guys, I've been dying to put this very good, awesome, amazing news on blast for so long now! But, it wasn't really my news to tell so I had to wait like the patient girl that I am pretend to be.

My sister-in-law and her husband are expecting their first baby in February!  I'm going to be an auntie! We are ridiculously super-duper excited.

I'm doing my best to keep my "When I was pregnant" and "When Baby Bird was born" stories to myself (for the most part), and trying to keep a handle on the unsolicited advice for pregnancy and new babies, as well. I now *get* where it all comes from, though - there is an honest and real need to offer any and all advice that could potentially make another new parent's life easier. This is especially the case since my sister-in-law has similar beliefs about baby-raisin'.  However, if you're a parent, you know this in your heart - there is no amount of experience or advice you can share with a new parent to make their life easier. Every new parent needs to figure it out on their own, and they'll do things their own way. And since G. (my sister in law) is the kind of person who was born to be a mother, she'll figure out the whole mommy-gut thing quickly.

So anyway, that's the news for Tuesday!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Manic Monday: Small Victories

The Bird's Nest hasn't been very uplifting lately. We've dealt with some heavy subjects, including post-partum depression. I haven't been feeling witty or light-hearted in my writing. You've probably felt the heaviness in my heart over the past few posts.

Post-partum depression can seep into your life in the most insidious of ways. You may not feel like you're any more 'depressed' than any other new mother, until BAM! you can hardly wash your hair that day. You just. can't. do. things.

In the interest of celebrating small victories, I wanted to write about things I managed to do - productive things, or things just for me that I enjoyed.  I'll admit, I'm writing this more for my own good than yours.  But if nothing else, maybe you'll see that sometimes it's okay to be proud of seemingly normal or little everyday items.

  • I have been out for short walks a few times over the past week. This is a big improvement over a few weeks ago. The only reason it wasn't longer/more frequent is the darned humidity.
  • I have cleaned my house twice in the past week and a half.
  • My car got washed today. I'm lazy with washing my car at the best of times, so this was a major victory. And I had fun doing it - it was moderately active alone time.
  • I went to bed early when I needed to.
  • I'm here, blogging, again! 
  • I've been taking my vitamin D. I suspect a large part of my depression was due to not getting enough sunlight and therefore not enough vitamin D.
  • I ordered my text books, straightened away some other return-to-school business.
  • Perhaps my largest victory this week was learning to stop fighting against the flow. For instance, there would be times that Baby Bird was playing by himself, and I would be posting to my online mommy group when he'd start to fuss. I used to find this incredibly frustrating, but then I realized, why bother getting frustrated? Once I started going with the flow, both Baby Bird and I were a lot happier minute-to-minute.
  • I enjoyed 90% of my past week. There was one bad day, but it wasn't entirely bad, even.

Random Other Manic Monday Stuff:
  • Part of the reason I haven't been blogging much these last weeks is because I went on vacation with my family, had a great visit from my in-laws last week, and have my grandparents in town this week. Life has been truly busy.
  • My college hoodie and textbooks have arrived and I geeked out skimming my texts. Unfortunately, it's roughly a bagillion degrees here so no hoodie wearage yet.  I long for fall.
  • I look and feel a lot better since eliminating dairy from my diet. The huge dark circles under my eyes are gone, and I'm certainly no more rested so I attribute it to dairy.
  • I have a whole bunch of posts in draft form - promise to get'em up soon.
Have a great Monday, everyone! Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Five Months

Baby Bird is five months old today. He is happy as can be; I'm teetering between ecstatic and devastated that the time is passing so quickly.

Raising a baby is a roller coaster. The days, weeks, and months that make up the first year are rife with phases - some good, some challenging.

Here is what I've learned about Baby Bird this month:

  • Baby Bird has a high need for stimulation. He is never happier than in public with lots to see and hear, or in a room full of people doting over him. At home on quiet days, I struggle to keep him entertained and happy.
  • His pain tolerance is not so great, as discovered at the doctor for his latest vaccinations. I was worried sick over the 4 month appointment (to the point that it was closer to five months) because his two-month vaccinations resulted in two weeks of screaming, crying, no smiling, and no sleeping. I was terrified he was allergic or susceptible to autism as per the experience of thousands of other parents. Anyway, he was fine after the first day or two - normal - but I have never heard him scream like he did while getting jabbed. I tried to nurse him through the shots, and after the shots, and it just wasn't happening.
  • He has learned about cause and effect. He knows how to make his toys work, and he knows the difference between me pushing a button and him pushing a button. 
  • He has learned to "yell" at me to switch sides while nursing - this one cracked me up. He gave me angry eyes and yelled, "Ah-mummumm!" at me.
  • He is sitting up with assistance and has sat up unassisted once.
  • He wants to be mobile. It frustrates him when he spots something out of his reach and can't get there. He has the upper body and lower body components of crawling down but hasn't managed to put them together yet.
  • He smiles when a parent enters the room.
  • He has learned to transfer things from hand to hand.
  • The way he holds his hands tells me he is about to start working on his pincer grip.
Finally, I have learned that my heart truly lives outside of my body. There is no love like this. It is all-consuming. I have become the mother who incessantly posts about her child on facebook and twitter and frankly, I don't care if anyone is bothered by this. Infancy is so fleeting, and raising Baby Bird is my entire job during his infancy. It's my whole entire world.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Why I'm a Good Mother

In following my post partum depression post, I wanted to thank you for your amazing feedback and encouragement. It's clear from the comments that post partum depression happens to far more of us than society would have us believe. It's sad, but also a great comfort, to know I'm not alone in my experience.

I have been doing well lately. Baby Bird is having more good days than bad with regard to his reflux, and I'm having more good days than bad as well. Today was a bit of an "off" day, so I decided to refocus my energy on something positive.

Without further ado, I give you the reasons why I am a good mother.

  • First and foremost, I love my son beyond what words could express. 
  • When Baby Bird goes to bed, despite knowing I will be up with him far too soon, I can't help but miss him. I pour over all his photos and videos while he sleeps peacefully. My arms and my heart ache for him.
  • I have fought through the challenges of early breastfeeding, and recently I gave up all dairy products in an effort to solve Baby Bird's woes. I'm now an advocate for breastfeeding and feel strongly about making it work (in my life).
  • I would do anything, absolutely anything, to protect him from harm. Do not mess with my child.
  • I never give up, even when I am exhausted and run down. I make every effort to put my woes aside and be a happy positive mother. There have been days I've been barely able to wash my hair, but I can still be what he needs.
  • I am seeking help for my PPD, and trying my best to practice good self-care. I'm doing it equally for myself and for Baby Bird - I'll be a better mother when I am happy.
  • I turn into a Mama Bear when I feel I need to protect my son (typically, this is from pushy advice that I know isn't right for our family). I never in my life display a temper toward others, except when I am acting as a mother.
  • My baby smiles at me whenever I walk into the room. He reaches for me when he is tired or sad or hungry. He stares at me when others hold him.
What are the things that remind you that you're a good parent? And when have you had to make an effort to remember that you're a good parent?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Postpartum Depression

Some might say I'm making a huge mistake by writing this post and putting it out on the internet for the world to see. What if employers see this and it limits my career opportunities, they might say. I don't want any part of an employer who would hold this against me - and working in the HR industry, I certainly know it can happen.

I have post-partum depression. There. I said it. I've read that as many as 1 in 8 new mothers experiences a post partum mood disorder, so why do so many still live in darkness, afraid to get the help they need?

I knew PPD was a real risk for me going into pregnancy, as there is one particular risk factor I had to tick off. After fighting off the normal baby blues a few weeks after giving birth, I made my way across the amazing and occasionally rocky shores of motherhood fairly easily. Sure, it wasn't always easy, and not every day was good, but I was by no means experiencing any depression or mood disorder.  None the less, I continued to evaluate myself regularly and have K. keep a watchful eye out for the signs.

Once I hit the three-month mark, things got a lot easier and I began feeling confident that PPD was not an issue for me. I regret ever letting that thought pass through my mind. Not even two weeks later, Baby Bird began struggling with acid reflux, and K. began working 11-12 hour days, 6 days a week. The poor child screamed and fussed for hours each day. I cried several times a day for two solid weeks.  The entire time, a little flag raised itself in the back of my mind, alerting me that if PPD was going to set in, this would be an opportune time to take advantage of my exhaustion and stress. Then, things got a little better in the final week of K.'s three-week crazy work schedule - Baby Bird was doing better, and I felt much better able to cope once I got a bit of rest - and then they got much worse again.

This past week, I began to realize that even when I wasn't actively feeling sad or depressed (I still feel happy often enough), I am feeling completely overwhelmed by things that just shouldn't be overwhelming. Every little fuss of Baby Bird's would trigger an anxious sinking feeling in my stomach. I wasn't able to enjoy the activities of daily living, and I could never think of anything I might enjoy doing when I got an opportunity for "me-time". I would just go wander around the mall because I didn't know where else to go. I didn't want to go for a walk by myself because I was fairly certain I would end up walking down the sidewalk sobbing. Finally, today I noticed that I was having trouble finding the motivation to pick up the shampoo bottle in my shower and actually go through the motions of washing my hair. Finding something to eat in the kitchen was going to be a big ordeal. I just wanted to sit there and have someone else make all my decisions for me, because even deciding if I wanted toast (Yes or No) was too much to ask.

Not every day feels like that, but having more than one of these days "once in a while" was a big sign to me that I needed some help.  Happily, I recognized the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression well before they escalated to thoughts of harming myself or Baby Bird. I was still able to take care of him safely and well, but I preferred to not have to do it alone, and it took every ounce of energy I had in my body to do so.

My biggest fear was having meds pushed on me. This is completely hypocritical of me - I have a degree in psychology and I have always recognized that mental illness is a biochemical problem that sometimes needs medical intervention. However, I am breastfeeding, and no matter how many studies say certain meds are safe for breastfeeding, I'll never completely buy into it. I'm at my heart a complete naturalist, and I don't want my innocent boy getting any part of an anti-depressant. Long-term studies on the safety of such medications through breast milk have not yet been conducted.

So far, I have received a referral for therapy, which I'll start on August 22nd. The doctor did not want to go the meds route at this point (which is good, because I would have fought him on it until therapy failed, I was screened for other conditions, and a psychiatrist did a complete psych screening).

I really had my reservations about posting all this, however, I want to help overcome the stigma that surrounds mental illness, and I want to raise awareness that this really can (and does) happen to anyone. Do yourself a favour and, if you are expecting, take a close look at the signs/symptoms of PPD and other mood disorders. Tell someone you trust to keep an eye on you after the baby is born. And if you are a new mother thinking that this all sounds a little too familiar, please tell somebody you trust and talk to your doctor. I don't have to feel like this, and neither do you. PPD is temporary and treatable.

Original source: unknown. Here simply because it makes me smile.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

What You Should Know About Mothers Who Breastfeed in Public

Those who were readers of my other blog, Say What?!, may have read this post already. However, my audience is changing and I feel strongly about this subject.

Breastfeeding in public is currently a hot-button topic in the Maritimes after a breastfeeding mother in Moncton was asked to be more discreet in the future. Before I get into the meat-and-potatos of this post, let me be clear: this is NOT a post about whether to breastfeed, whether breastfeeding is best, or any of that. If you do breastfeed, great. If you don't, also great. That topic is not open for discussion here. This post IS about the RIGHT to breastfeed in public for those who do breastfeed their babies.

You may have read the title of this post and thought to yourself, "What's to know? You feed your baby in public and that's fine, as long as you're not flashing your boobs all over the place". I hear that a lot from the population at large. People seem to want breastfeeding mothers to do it in washrooms or dark corners away from the public as much as possible. "Cover up" is the conventional school of thought.

I'm here to tell you, as a breastfeeding mother, I don't ever choose to reveal myself. I don't want to flash you my boob, and I really don't want to flash you my stretched out, marked up, flabby mommy-tummy. If you see me breastfeeding in public, it means there was no comfortable, private place provided for me to feed my baby when he got hungry. And no, I'm not going to stay holed up in my house on the off chance he may need to be fed in public. If you see me breastfeeding in public with my baby draped in a scarf or blanket, I'm doing it equally for my own comfort as for yours. I know zero new mothers who are eager to show off their goods to the world - even those who are very much breastfeeding advocates.

If you see me breastfeeding in public without being covered up, it's because things happened in this order - first, my baby got hungry and upset. I looked for a private place to feed but there was no sanitary option provided (bathrooms are gross, and cars are far too hot in the summer without needless idling for air conditioning). I then attempted to discreetly feed my baby, but he understandably objected to having his head covered to eat. It's dark and hot under that blanket. Trust that I do not want to be sitting out in plain site with the possibility of some stranger seeing my boob. However, even if I skipped the aforementioned steps and just went right to feeding my baby where-ever, that's my call and it's my protected right. I'm definitely not doing it to make you uncomfortable or to show myself off in any way, much less a sexual way.

Here's where you can make a difference. If you see a mother breastfeeding in public, just go on with your day. Don't stare or make rude comments. Certainly do not ask her to cover up or move to a private location - Breastfeeding in public is a protected human right. I understand it may make you uncomfortable - it probably would have made me somewhat uncomfortable pre-motherhood. It's how you handle that discomfort that makes or breaks the situation.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

On Mommy Gut

Emotional, sensitive, empathetic, and intuitive are all words that describe me. I feel everything so deeply. Throughout my life, I've been tempted to think of these qualities as "weak" or "inferior", and even told to toughen up from time to time.  Trouble is, each time I've made decisions while ignoring my heart's song, I've ended up in over my head in bad situations. A prime example was choosing a university program after being pushed into thinking a science degree was the only way to get ahead, and then essentially flunking out after my first year. Over the years that followed, I have learned (slowly, and sometimes painfully) that being emotional and sensitive is not necessarily a weakness. In fact, I would say that my ability to purge my unhappiness frequently by expressing it is healthy - I do not bottle up my feelings, and after a few minutes or even a day of feeling blue, I often bounce back to my better-adjusted self.

I parent by feeling things out in my heart and gut. I read everything I can get my hands on, and I ask for advice, but ultimately my heart and my gut makes the end decisions. I put faith into my mommy-gut that it will guide me to making the decision that is ultimately correct for Baby Bird, K., and I. The only decisions I regret making to-date are the ones where my mind said one thing, my gut said another, and I sided with my mind.

As my mother once said, after we butted heads briefly on differing philosophies, "The only people you need to make happy are [Baby Bird], K., and yourself. Screw what everyone else thinks."

People-pleasing is a tendency of mine which causes me a great deal of anxiety when the action required to please a person would also require me to ignore my intuition. At no point has this been more evident than since I became a parent. Trouble is, some days it seems like everyone tries to tell you how you need to raise your child, and people pleasers can get caught up in that haze of conflicting advice so easily. Still other days, I make assumptions about what others close to me expect of me that aren't even valid - often these people do not truly judge me for my parenting decisions, regardless of whether those decisions are congruent with their own beliefs or not.

I often think about how strong "Mommy Gut", or a mother's intuition, really is. Having been one to follow my gut feelings throughout my life, I am STILL blown away by how clearly a mother's intuition will speak to her. I don't have to sort through a confusing array of thoughts and feelings to find my answer - it is right there telling me in no uncertain terms what to do.

I believe that all we can ever do as parents is trust ourselves to decide what is best for our children. That's not to say there is never a season for asking advice or seeking facts, just that your parental instinct will ultimately guide you to do what is best for you and your child. And if what you feel and ultimately decide is right for your children isn't congruent with popular opinion, or what other people think you should do, screw 'em (to put it somewhat less eloquently than the rest of my post).

Wordless Wednesday