I’m incredibly proud to be a contributor for the new Idaho Falls Mom’s Blog, which launched today! I’m hopeful it will be a great motivator for my writing, but also a way to meet local moms. I’m useless at meeting new people and this group should force me to be social – it already has once when we took our headshots (which look amazing, btw). Writing a post or two each month for the mom’s blog means I will definitely be neglecting this site – so check out my posts over there. I plan to write about ARTitorium stuff, crafting with a toddler, and general parenting topics (next post – potty training!).
My husband recently got a new hobby. It takes him away from the house for a few hours one weekend morning almost every week. It’s making him very happy and doesn’t seem to cost too much, so I should be thrilled, but it’s pissing me off. Why? I’m not entirely sure. It could be because it means after an exhausting week of working and dealing with the kids every morning and evening, I’m left alone with them for a few hours when I could really use some back-up. Maybe it’s because I don’t feel like I get to have a hobby of my own right now. Or it’s because I’m so, so, tired and would like to take an undisturbed nap. Or have a lie-in. Or just sit in peace and quiet for 20 minutes.
Everything I do revolves around the kids: their interests, needs, attention spans, and schedules. I don’t really mind this, I even enjoy it most of the time. I’m stuck in this weird place where I’m sad that I don’t really have any friends to hang out with, but if given the choice – I’d choose to go home and hang out with my family over any kind of social event with other women/mums. And none of this is my husband’s fault – I know that he would support me going out to do something on my own. But that’s not what I want. So why am I pissed off? I think it’s because this lack of desire to do anything for myself demonstrates that I have given over my identity to that of simply “mum.” I have a job that I love, but I leave it in a heartbeat if a kid needs me for something (usually another trip to the doctor). I have Mondays off and sometimes I take the kids to daycare to have some time to myself, but as soon as I am alone I very quickly run out of things to do that aren’t housework. Who am I? What do I like to do? I have no idea any more. I don’t know how to fill my time if my kids aren’t in it. I’ve lost myself. I think I would be able to accept this if my husband didn’t present a daily reminder that he is still very much himself. With hobbies and friends and alone time. Which I know I could have but I don’t want but I’m annoyed that I don’t have. So I’m confused and irrationally irritated. Welcome to Motherhood.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Ophelia arrived and we thought she was an easy baby. Easier than Declan, for sure! Then her two month appointment came around and we found out that she wasn’t gaining enough weight. In the two months since then, we’ve been back at the doctor’s at least every two weeks (and sometimes more) for weight checks. We’ve tried different formulas, different bottles, different nipples, and different positions. We’ve given her two different reflux medicines and probiotic drops. We’re working with an Occupational Therapist and talking about whether we need to see a GI specialist. We’ve tried fortifying the formula. We started solids early. The doctors are flummoxed and I am frustrated. The girl just does not want to eat. Every time we seem to be doing better and I start to feel hopeful, she plummets again. A slight fever or shots or congestion or a new person can send her spiraling downward and my mood right alongside. I was so excited to get through those first few weeks of baby blues without signs of the depression that I experienced with Declan, but it seems it was just waiting in the wings. Ugh.
Since I have not been able to persuade my sister (who has a 1-year-old and another one on the way) to travel 4,500 miles on 3 planes to come and save me from myself like she did the last time, I have started seeing a counselor for the first time ever. In our first visit it was just good to talk to someone who is being paid to listen. She gave me some tools and tips to try the next time I felt the darkness descending. While I am struggling to actually apply these while I am feeling sad, I think we’re off to a good start:
- My biggest problem is dwelling on the negative. When Ophelia has a bad feed I immediately imagine all the worst possible scenarios. I focus on the unfairness of the situation and find myself dealing in absolutes – she’s never going to eat well again, we’re never going to get past this, I’m never going to be able to feed her in public or leave her with a babysitter (or even my husband, since she won’t eat for him!). One action to counter this is to focus on every positive thing that happens, no matter how small. I’ve been writing them down as they happen so that during a sad moment I can look back and hopefully recognize that things aren’t all bad. These can be directly about the issue at hand (Ophelia is hitting all of her developmental milestones and is a pretty happy baby; she loves solids so far and is really good at eating them for how young she is; she’s staying hydrated; she gained some weight), or can be about anything good at all (Declan pooped in the potty; we had a lovely Christmas as a family; I have super supportive colleagues).
- I need to notice when I am placing expectations on Ophelia that result in disappointment when she fails to meet them. Instead of being upset and frustrated because she should have eaten 3oz but only ate 1, I need to change my language to “it would have been nice if she ate 3oz, but it’s okay that she didn’t.” This is a particularly hard one. Rational me knows that it’s absolutely fine if she has one bad feed, but irrational PPD me is angry that she isn’t eating as much as I want her to.
- Related to that, I also need to stop making assumptions when I don’t have all the facts. One bad feed does not necessarily mean that the entire day will be bad. One bad day does not mean that she’ll never eat again. (Repeat and repeat again until I believe it.)
- With all of these, I have found that it helps to have an external voice reinforce all of it since sad me does not listen to rational me. My husband struggles to deal with me on bad days and doesn’t know what to do, so recruiting him to be my voice of reassurance helps us both! He just repeats the same points – we’re focusing on wet diapers, she’s developing normally, she loves solids, etc., etc., – but it really helps to hear it spoken out loud by someone else.
- The counselor also gave me some exercises to try when I feel overwhelmed – all designed to help me focus on physical sensations as a distraction from my emotions. These help if I can persuade myself to actually do them when needed!
Postpartum depression sucks. Or any kind of depression for that matter. If you haven’t suffered it then it is impossible to understand what someone is going through when they are in the midst of an attack. It’s not just about feeling sad. It’s about feeling so overwhelmed by sadness or anxiety or even anger that nothing else matters. It’s about knowing deep inside yourself that you are being completely irrational but being unable to stop. It’s imagining every possible worst case scenario and being absolutely convinced that they will all come true. It’s seeing yourself be horrible to those around you and being unable to stop. It’s not being able to see an end to the sadness and lacking the motivation to do anything that might help. It’s feeling overwhelmed, out of control, lost, alone.
I don’t really have a point to this post except that writing and sharing helps.
Here’s Ophelia happily eating solids to cheer us all up. Thanks for listening!
- Mornings. It took me months to get into a good morning routine with Declan. Once we did, it was awesome. I would get up around 6, get ready, have my all-important cup of tea, then go get Declan up sometime around 7-7.30 and get him ready before we both left shortly after 8. My 30-40 minutes of peace every day was heaven. My chance to sit still, read a book, and drink my tea in silence. Now there’s a BABY to fit in. A baby who is sorta on a schedule but not completely. A baby who can’t hold her own bottle yet. A baby who can’t be put down for very long. Argh. I miss my quiet cup of tea SO MUCH. But on days that I get everyone up, fed, dressed and out of the house before 9 I feel so FREAKIN’ ACCOMPLISHED. Almost more accomplished than anything I’ve ever done in my career. It’s absurd.
- Sleep. Declan has only had one bad night so far since Ophelia arrived, but ohmygoodness was it bad. It was in the early days so O was still waking every 2-3 hours. Declan had night terrors around 10.30pm and would not go back to sleep. I ended up bringing him into our bed for the first time ever, where he woke crying every hour or so. Combine that with feeding Ophelia and trying to get her back to sleep each time and I was a giant mess in the morning.
- Quality time. The arrival of Ophelia means Declan and I don’t get to spend so much time together. I don’t get to put him to bed as often, and I miss the silly fun we would have. He’s been going to daycare on Mondays, which was always our day out together since it was my day off. We spend less time doing creative stuff and a lot more time watching TV. I know that as Ophelia grows I will be able to hang out with Declan again, but it will never be quite the same. Seeing him with her is amazing though. He sings her songs when she cries, strokes her head, gives her many kisses, and is fascinated by everything she does. I wanted him to have a sibling so much, it will be worth the disruption.
- And finally, dinner time. Sitting down to eat dinner together is definitely something I took for granted before. Now we have to work around Ophelia’s schedule and only occasionally will she let me put her down long enough for me to finish my dinner and tidy up afterwards. I get frustrated far more quickly when Declan is taking forEVER to eat, since I’m constantly aware that the baby might start fussing at any moment.
Ophelia is a million times easier than Declan ever was, but I’m still finding it hard. Breastfeeding only lasted a month. I’ve had days full of tears-for-no-reason. I dread putting her down for the night because it can take forever. I simultaneously can’t wait for the newborn days to be behind us, while realizing that once they’re gone they’ll be gone forever (we are two and DONE). I also do not want to hasten Declan’s growth even a little bit since it’s already moving too quickly and he’s so much fun right now. I wish I could freeze him at this age until Ophelia is a year old, then move things forward again. :)
Some things are definitely easier the second time around. I used to obsess about Declan’s naps – I don’t worry at all about Ophelia’s. When the darkness does hit me, it’s not quite so dark because I have Declan as a permanent reminder that this too shall pass. I’m less worried when Ophelia fusses (though admittedly she fusses a LOT less often than Declan did so this isn’t difficult). I’m not concerned about her starting daycare. I know that she WILL eventually sleep through the night. Christian and I WILL get some of our evening time back. We WILL be able to go out as a family again without an excess of planning and hassle. Is it easier to the point that we would ever consider another? Nope nope and nope. I’m 38 forgoodnesssake.
Ophelia Rose arrived at 1.43pm on August 23 weighing 7lb 2oz! Her birth story could not be more different than Declan’s. At exactly 39 weeks, my alarm woke me for work at 6.15am. I hit the snooze. When it went again at 6.24am, I hit the snooze, rolled over, and felt my water break. I hadn’t felt a single contraction, so it was completely surreal to be telling Christian that I was in labor. I popped downstairs to tell my visiting parents that we were off to the hospital so they could get Declan up and get him to school, and we headed out. At the hospital, they confirmed I had indeed “grossly ruptured” and put me on a pitocin drip since I hadn’t yet felt a contraction. I was undecided about an epidural this time, since part of me feared that the epidural was to blame for Declan’s long delivery and the fluid in his lungs that sent him to the NICU. By 5cm, however, I was at an 8 on the pain scale and all doubts went out the window – the epidural man was called. After that took effect, we waited for me to start “feeling pressure” which didn’t take long. The delivery cart arrived, the doctor was called, and I started getting extremely nervous. I started pushing and … seven minutes and three contractions later … she popped out! It was ridiculous! What was even more ridiculous is that they placed her on my chest and within minutes, I had her latched and breastfeeding! After the trauma (there really isn’t any better word for it) of Declan’s arrival and our major struggles with breastfeeding, it was a miracle.
Two days later I’m sat in the hospital room, eating a brownie while Ophelia sleeps, and waiting for Christian to arrive so we can be discharged. The first night was simply awful. She fed and cried nonstop from 10.45pm until 4.30am. I finally called a nurse in tears after the bazillionth feeding to have them take her to the nursery so I could pass out for a couple of hours. The next day and night were much better. Nurses gave me tips to help make sure she has enough at each feed so that she shouldn’t want another one immediately. The lactation lady helped make sure we were getting the right latch. I took full advantage of the nursery overnight and got quite a bit of sleep. I know damn well there are many sleepless nights, zombie days, and emotional breakdowns to come in the weeks (months, years!) ahead of me, but goodness. I could not be more thankful for a quick delivery, NO NICU (yayyyyyy!), and the ability to breastfeed. Here’s to home, Netflix, and a proper cup of tea. Welcome to our crazy family, Ophelia!
Last year we attempted to go to the local Easter egg hunt. We arrived a few minutes late because we didn’t know any better. The hunt was, of course, over. This year we were determined to do better and arrived 15 minutes before the hunt was due to begin…
Now he was done. He wanted to go home. Kept trying to pull us away from the eggs and towards the car. “Mummy go home! Mummy go home now!” Cried when we told him he just had to wait a few more minutes.
The siren sounded! Declan suddenly did not want to collect any eggs. He cried if we tried to lead him towards them. Absolutely refused to participate.
Most of the eggs had been collected by normal toddlers. We finally persuaded Declan to collect eggs by telling him they had chocolate inside. He collected 3 then stood around playing with a stick and staring at the mayhem.
The hunt was over. All the eggs collected.
Took a photo with the fire engine.
We took Declan to “Blast Off” for his second birthday. This is one of those places with ball pits, tunnels, slides, ropes, and random socks. (I think they call it “soft play” in England, though I don’t know why, because not much of it is soft.)
Declan had a blast, and we had a great time chasing after him and rescuing him from tunnels. It was busy, full of young parents and crazy children. There was a couple there with a toddler and a baby. I was fascinated by them, because she looked at least as old as me (I’m 37). I wanted to go up to her and say, “hey, you’re an old mom! Can we be friends?” But I didn’t, mostly because I was scared she’d tell me she was actually the grandma. I’m not kidding. If we still lived on the east coast, I’m sure I would know many moms as old as me and older, but here? Most moms of toddlers are in their early twenties. That’s around fifteen years younger than me. FIFTEEN. If she was in her forties, she could have absolutely been the grandma.
Being 34/35 when I was pregnant with Declan was scary enough, because 35 is when you hit that awful “advanced maternal age” line and suddenly become high risk for no other reason than your age. Now I’m pregnant again. I’m going to be 38 when this one arrives and all the risk factors get ridiculously scarier. My first trimester screening came back with a very, very low result for my Free Beta HCG hormone. This is a concern, since a low number here has been associated with miscarriage (terrifying), fetal growth restriction (baby stops growing, terrifying), pre-eclampsia (all kinds of terrifying awfulness), and trisomy 13 and 18 (beyond terrifying; do not google). I don’t even know if this result is due to my age, but when combined with my age it just compounds the risk factors for all kinds of complications for me and for baby.
We waited and waited to have kids because a) we weren’t 100% sure if we wanted them and b) we couldn’t figure out how to make it work with our schedule on the east coast (out the door by 5am, home usually after 7pm, four hours of commuting, complete inability to keep fresh food in the house…). Then we moved to Idaho, life was great, and I got pregnant within a few months.
The first few months of Declan were so, so, SO tough that the thought of doing it all again is terrifying (have I used that word enough yet?), but we would like two kids and we didn’t want to wait too long to have the second because I’M JUST GETTING OLDER. I’ve heard people say that it’s good to wait until you are older to have kids. You’re more mature, you’re probably healthier (less binge-drinking, better diet), and you don’t feel like you’re missing out on romantic weekends away, evenings out, or all the other spontaneous fun things that DINKs* get to do, because you’ve been doing all of those for years. All of that is true. But that doesn’t mean I have my sh*t together any more than I did 15 years ago. My house is still a junk-filled disaster, we don’t own any matching mugs or wine glasses, there are tiles falling off in the bathroom, don’t get me started on the state of our yard or basement, and we can only successfully cook dinner three times a week at the most (tbh, that last one actually is a significant improvement from 15 years ago when the average number of home-cooked meals in a week was zero. At least we now own an oven).
Sure, maybe I’m wiser than I was in my early twenties, but I’m also so, so much more bone-achingly tired-er. I was collapsing on the sofa in the evening and heading to bed before 10pm long before a kid arrived on the scene. The seemingly endless energy, ability to party, and nonstop enthusiasm of my twenties is a distant memory. Combine the general exhaustion with the increased risk factors of an “advanced age” pregnancy, and I think it’s safe to say that having kids in your twenties is a good idea if you can swing it.
I’ll be 40 when Declan heads to elementary school. If you’re a fellow old mom and see me in the playground, please come say hi. 😁
NOTE: this is not a pity post. I’m musing on the way things are, not lamenting. I wouldn’t change how life has unfolded for us. But I wouldn’t say no to a few positive thoughts on my current pregnancy, either, if you wanted to send some my way. ❤️
* DINK = Double Income No Kids
I was complaining to a friend yesterday about Declan refusing to wear a bib. She said “you know you get to win sometimes, right?” That stuck with me. I like to win, but how do you really win with a toddler? Consider the following and tell me which are the winning scenarios…? (Now, if you’re a good parent you will tell me that my relationship with my kid shouldn’t be about winning or losing. Yeah yeah, you don’t know me at all. Everything is about winning or losing.)
One: Declan doesn’t want to wear clothes. I could a) send him to school without a shirt in the middle of Idaho winter or b) force clothes on him which involves screaming, biting, kicking, and punching. Which is the win?
Two: Declan doesn’t want to eat anything other than muffins for any meal ever (except at daycare, where he eats almost anything, which is both reassuring and annoying). Do I a) try to get him to eat something else even though he might then scream and/or whine for at least the next hour (“trying to get him to eat” involves placing the food on his table. I don’t try and force it in his mouth. That doesn’t go well), or b) give him the damn muffin, eat my dinner in relative peace, hope he eats a piece of fruit with it, and then clean up the squashed muffin that ends up EVERYFRICKINWHERE (he won’t wear a bib, remember?)? Neither of these is a win.
Three: Declan refuses to drink his bedtime milk from anything other than a bottle. If I even go near the cupboard with the sippy cups at milk time he has a complete meltdown. I could a) give him milk in a cup, live with the freak out, and not worry about him not getting any milk (remember that he just had a muffin for dinner) or b) give him milk in a bottle and worry about weaning him off it at some undetermined point in the future, maybe when he’s eating more than just muffins. There is no winning here. Both involve ridiculous levels of mum guilt.
Four: Declan needs constant activities and stimulation. He goes stir crazy if he has to spend even one full day in the house without any craft projects or outings. If we are in the house, then one of us needs to be reading to him, playing with him, or otherwise engaging with him if we’re trying to keep the TV off. But I know that I’m supposed to let him ‘be bored,’ and that he’s supposed to learn to entertain himself. Uh huh. Not sure how to win here. Engaging with him, going on outings, doing craft projects – all of these are both fun and exhausting, but the TV always ends up going on when we need a moment of stillness. I think Peppa is the real winner here.
I could go on, but I think you get the point. Life with a toddler is a constant battle between doing what we think we might be possibly maybe supposed to be doing and doing whatever will stop the whining. And we only have one kid. You people with multiple children are my heroes, especially if your kitchen floor is clean.
Hello. It’s your lovely British-American friend here. I never post about politics. I rarely talk about politics (though my husband does – usually enough for both of us and then some). This will probably be my one and only vaguely political post, and hopefully it won’t lose me too many friends.
I voted this morning. It was my first US presidential election, and I think you’ll agree that it was a pretty shitty one. I’m not going to tell you who I voted for. I’m a strong believer in the idea that you never ask anyone about their politics, religion, or salary. If you want to disclose your beliefs that’s absolutely fine with me, but I’m not going to. I am, however, going to provide some general tips about how to behave during election season (which currently seems to last about 400 years):
- If you are passionate about the candidate you will be voting for and feel the need to share, then by all means DO tell me (and the internet) who you voted for and why. I am interested to hear your honest and personal reasons. However,
- DO NOT belittle, ridicule, shame, harass, or otherwise act in a hostile manner to those who are voting for someone different. There are intelligent people whom I respect on all sides of the current political debate – trust me, there are (if you don’t believe that, then you are part of the problem). You will immediately lose my respect if you act like everyone with a different opinion than you is stupid. I am seeing a lot of this on both sides. Stop it.
- DO NOT assume that you know who I am voting for based on external factors (I work in the arts, I am a woman, I am from England, I am a parent, etc., etc.). One of the many reasons I was happy to leave Baltimore/DC is because I was sick of the constant political conversation and especially the arrogant attitude that everyone in the room feels the same way. This is probably my single greatest pet peeve about politics in general. Unless I have told you my opinion about something, do not assume that you know it.
- If you are passionately encouraging others to vote, even to the extent that you are offering to pay to get people to the polls, then DO think carefully about that. Will you still pay that person’s taxi fare to the polling station if they are voting for the other candidate? Will you still yell and scream about how it is my patriotic duty to vote and that I’m truly a horrible person if I decide not to if I am in favor of the other person? Really? If yes, then go you. You’re a pretty awesome person.
- And finally, it would probably be best if you DO NOT write a blog post telling other people how to behave. Oops.
America is awesome. I chose to become an American two years ago and regardless of who wins today, I DO NOT regret that decision. Let’s all just practice a bit more tolerance, respect, and humility.
Take a moment. Breathe.
Declan reached 100 words today. (Realistically, he probably reached this number much sooner, since there are undoubtedly words that he uses at daycare that I haven’t heard yet.) It’s been a fascinating journey to experience. At his 15-month doctor appointment he had maybe five words. Now, at 19 months, he has at least 100. His speech has exploded with new words arriving almost every day. He knows colors, shapes, animals, vehicles… and SpongeBob, embarrassingly. (The full list of his first 100 words is below.)
100 words is a lot, but a long way from being enough for effective communication. This progression, and Declan’s frustration when he cannot make us understand what he wants, has me thinking a lot about language development and about how many words would be enough?
I’ve followed the Nieder family blog/Facebook page for many years now. I discovered them long before I had a kid, long before we even thought that children might be in our future. I don’t remember how I found them and I don’t have any personal connections to their situation, but it’s a fascinating story to follow about a really amazing family. Maya – the daughter – has undiagnosed developmental delays that leave her mostly nonverbal (though her speech continues to increase). She uses an iPad with the app Speak For Yourself to communicate. The Nieder family tried a huge range of options to help her communicate before they discovered and adopted Speak for Yourself – and it’s been quite the battle. Maya doesn’t necessarily perform well during assessments (I can easily imagine this being true of Declan, or of almost any young child) and many professionals insisted that the Speak for Yourself app would be too complicated, too advanced, too many words. They wanted her to start with something simpler. With far, FAR fewer words. Maya’s mom, Dana (the author of the blog), has been a tireless and inspirational advocate for presuming competence and all the words all the time. Maya shouldn’t have to wait until she demonstrates she can use the words to be given access to them. One evaluator wanted to give Maya a device that would allow her to access to 32 words at a time. 32. Each set of 32 words would be themed (lunch, art, zoo, etc.) and would be predetermined by the evaluator. When I first read that post, many years ago, Dana had me convinced that 32 words at a time was unacceptable, but it’s only now – with Declan’s 100 words – that I realize just how unacceptable that would be. Can you imagine giving someone Declan’s 100 words – the words he has demonstrated that he knows – and asking them to communicate? No. That would be crazy. Or imagine that we selected the 32 words for him to access/learn on our recent trip to Yellowstone. We would have included hot spring, geyser, canyon, waterfall, bison, etc. Would we have included gravel, nails in the boardwalk, signpost, ground squirrel, or huge black raven? Almost definitely not, but those were the things he was interested in.
The Speak for Yourself app has grown with Maya. Words are added as needed, as thought of, as they come up, and at Maya’s request. She isn’t limited by a set number of words that are available. It really is an incredible tool – and Maya is an incredible girl. I’m so happy I found them on Facebook and Dana’s posts mean so much more now that I’m a parent, too.
Declan’s first 100 words:
- Thank you
- Bumble bee
- Put back/put it back
- Night night
- Sponge Bob
- Get out
- What is it?