The Mama I was Searchin’ For

Babies aren’t born with an instruction manual. They come fully assembled, sure, but other than that you pretty much get a pat on the back, a congrats and diapers (for you and your baby) and off you go to raise the future generation. No pressure.

“Do your research” they say. “Make informed parenting decisions” they say.

And I obliged. Like really obliged.

I was almost as obsessed with being the PERFECT parent as I was with my sweet little baby. I needed to be a perfect mom. I just knew I would be. I would be that mom. You know the one.

And I’m not talking “sit com mom”, who is always in the kitchen with an apron and a smile handing out packed lunches to polite children, cliche perfect.

I’m talking about the mom who organizes toys in a way that maximizes creativity and development. Ya know, primary colors-no flashing lights and sound- organized at eye level for easy access. I’m talking about the mom whose child eats chicken nuggets, but only home made chicken liver nuggets that are gluten free. Her children can read on a 5th grade level by kindergarten and have a gut microbiome so robust scientist are asking her for their stool samples, perfect.

And parts of me are still with that mom (really, please feed your kids gut flora) BUT I am so far from being THAT mom.

And I fell so far down the rabbit hole of the world wide web searching how to be her that I lost moments that could have been spent finding the mom that I already am.

I searched through articles, Pinterest, mom groups, Montessori and parenting books because I was going to succeed. I was going to be that mom. But in the moments I spent, face illuminated by my phone screen, searching for how to be just that, I missed out on the smallest moments that were already shaping my daughter.

All she saw was her mom playing with something that she couldn’t play with. She has to play with primary colored blocks by herself. What kinda scam was this???

So.

I gave up on the organized shelving in favor of baskets, but my daughters know how to put her toys in them.

Her favorite toy is a barn that makes noises and sounds and all that other hooblah that’s no good, but she knows the names and sounds of all her farm “aminals”.

She loves watching “tartoons” almost as much as she loves being read to, and reading books herself.

And, despite many saved Pinterest recipes, I still haven’t broken down and cooked a grass fed, pasture raised liver to this day. Maybe in the future I will have a taste for offal, but right now it’s just awful.

I’m not giving up on being the best mom, I’m simply being the best one I can be. I will never stop educating myself to make the best choice, but I will stop obsessing over the best choice.

I will never stop striving to give my children the best, and maybe some day that will include gluten free chicken liver nuggets. But in the meantime-no more searching, I’m found.

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Guess Who’s Back

Hello and welcome back after my (almost) 6 month hiatus! I’ve had to spend my time wisely these past few months, and I never wanted to do a post just to do it. I always wait till I have something on my heart and hear that “Speak on it sis” tug. So, the blog has been on the back burner, but in the mean time I have successfully completed sonography school, became a RDMS, and working big girl jobs. Yes I said jobs. Plural. Which is the sole inspo for my breaking of the silence this week.

Working. Mom. Guilt.

I’ll start by saying I haven’t been working the whole time I’ve been absent, only for about 2 months now. And in those 2 months I’ve been more emotional than I was in the first few days after I brought my daughter home. Maybe. My husband would probably protest that one.

When I got my job offer I was more than thrilled. Ecstatic, exuberant, euphoric. You get it. I wanted to get back into the work force but also needed it-financially and mentally. So you can imagine my shock when I cried all the way to my first day because I had to leave my baby.

Side note-I say “you can imagine my shock” on this blog more times than not because motherhood is rather shocking. It’s *john travolta* electrifying. Yes I’m really that lame if you’re new here.

Back to business. I was venting to my sister-a bad ass, seasoned working mom of 3-about missing my baby while I was at work. And she said, “Well don’t beat yourself over what you’re missing, be thankful for what you’re able to do”.

The accuracy.

I don’t get the 8 o clock cartoons, afternoon nap snuggles, or lunch time (cooked by her on her play kitchen of course). But I do get the early evenings playing outside and stroller walks, dinner, bubble baths, and bed time snuggles. I get the weekends-whether they be spent on the beach, on the couch, or in the pool. I get the lazy Sundays and pancakes. And don’t even get me started on the loud “MOMMY!” I get when I walk through the door. Heart melting.

I need to work for my sanity and for financial freedom and I’m okay with that. I’m choosing to focus on what I get, and what I can give in return. No longer will I dwell on what I don’t get, what I miss, and how long I’m gone. My baby may wonder why I’m at work some days, but she will never have to wonder if she is loved more than the moon and stars. And I will fill her cup, just as I fill mine.

And I encourage you, fellow mamas who have to leave your children to do whatever it may be-work, play, school, fun, etc etc etc, to do the same.

Power of Positivity Series PT 1

Giving Advice to First Time Moms: the right and wrong way

Our words hold so much power.

The tone we speak in is equally as powerful as the words themselves.

Positive or negative.

And how we speak about a subject greatly impacts how we feel, our own and others’ success, and overall outcomes.

For example: If you’re going to a job interview and continuously talk whine about how you’re under qualified for the position and how you bombed your interview, you likely won’t be getting that call back. But if you focus on the qualifications you do meet, and that part in the interview where you made your potential new boss laugh out loud at one of your witty jokes, well that attitude might just get you the golden ticket aka pay raise. Thank u, next.

I wanted to kick my 2019 off with nothing but positivity. Or “good vibes only”, as you cool kids say. Which brings me to part 1. First time moms.

One of the most precious times in a woman’s life is during her first pregnancy. She’s learning, she’s excited, she’s preparing to bring a baby into this world and likely a little nervous wondering how the hell she’s going to do it.

So the last thing she needs is your negative energy, Margaret.

(Sorry if your name is Margaret and you’re really positive, but we all know a “Margaret” let’s be real)

Stop using your own struggles as a threat. Moms need positivity, not scare tactics. And chances are, she probably already knows what’s to come.

Below I’ll list some common phrases a mom may hear when she announces she’s pregnant vs what she should be hearing. And let’s all agree to do better. And spread more positivity. Or vibes. Or energy. Whatever suits you.

Breastfeeding is miserable, it’s hurts and takes way too much time and effort

Breastfeeding can cause some discomfort at first but should never be painful. If you’re miserable, seek some advice from an IBCLC. Time with your nursling is fleeting, when it seems like your babe may be nursing forever just put your feet up and enjoy that time. Take in all those tiny details, Mama. And bonus: Breastfeeding has almost as many benefits for you as it does baby. Did you know that breastfeeding is associated with lower risks of breast and ovarian cancers?

Well you better get ready because labor is the worst!

Labor is painful, that’s a given, but it’s also empowering and amazing. You were literally made to give birth so obviously you will rock it.

Better sleep now because you’ll never sleep again.

Get as much rest as you can because you are growing a human and your body is working overtime.

Enjoy eating a hot meal in peace while you can because you’ll be eating dinner cold in 3 minutes for the rest of forever

Make sure you’re eating protein, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables. You and baby both need it! Don’t worry about how much or when you’re eating, just listen to your body and baby.

Your body will never be the same!

Your body will never be the same, because

it will be so much better. It will be the body that made your special little person, and that’s a miracle that outshines your physical appearance any day.

Being a mom is SO hard. It’s exhausting, mentally and physically so be prepared.

Being a parent has its challenges and there will be days that require a glass of wine, heavy pour, but the best things in life require effort. There is more beauty and happiness in being a mama than you can fathom.

Speaking about motherhood in a positive tone is far more beneficial to a new mom than “preparing” her for motherhood. Ain’t no hood like motherhood, we know. We just need to hear more of what we’re gaining rather than what we’re losing.

Mama Knows Best

Whether you grew one and birthed it, adopted one, acquired one, or found one floating down the river in a basket you have been blessed enough to be that one’s “Mama”.

And all too often I see Mamas who have forgotten the importance of their place, their role in shaping the future via tiny humans. And Mamas who let their voice be silenced. But that voice serves a purpose and that baby is yours for a reason. Whether you believe it or not, you specifically were chosen for them.

You. Specifically.

I’m here to tell you Mamas, you need to look inside yourself and find your Mama pride. Because those babies are yours. And its exhausting to constantly see mamas being bullied, and their authority stripped because they are young, or a first time mom, or single, or holistic or whatever else society deems unacceptable.

I don’t care if its a family member, a friend, a doctor, someone who has had multiple children and “been there done that”, I don’t care if its Michelle Duggar herself. No one knows a baby better than it’s Mama, and for that reason her wishes have to be respected. Its for the greater good, really.

A Mama’s decisions, whether they be based on her own research, lessons learned or strictly mother’s intuition, are made with careful consideration and love for her child. And wanting her child to thrive. Thriving and surviving are different, contrary to popular belief. We know you survived, but that’s not our only goal anymore.

Now don’t hear me wrong, I’m not discrediting wisdom. I’m discrediting judgement. I encourage you to call your own Mama, or your Grandma, or Aunt, or best friend. Ask for help. Ask for their advice when its needed. Use your Grandma’s special stain removing trick that can tackle even the worst of the worst blow outs, find out what helped your Sister’s teething baby when they were screaming at 3 am, ask your Mama to show you that “sweet spot” that instantly relieves gas pain. By all means, it takes a village. Just know that when it comes to your own tribe, you’re the Queen.

When it comes to when and what your baby eats, when and how they sleep, what goes in and on their bodies, what they watch, how they play, what they learn, who they associate with and every other seemingly minuscule detail of their lives that will shape their future… well Mama that’s for you to decide and enforce. No more a-little-won’t-hurt jabs at your authority.

Straighten your Mama crown, and know you it was given to you with trust, responsibility, and purpose. You are capable and worthy.

Team Soggy Squash

I’m not easily excited. Either I’ve lived too many past lives to be excited over trivial day to day activities or I’m just too “extra” but I don’t get giddy for any ole reason.

In fact, my mom used to get so irritable with me because she would happily exclaim “Oh Jessica did you see that so and so is graduating?! Look at them in their cap and gown! How awesome!”

And I would be like…….

Okay? Don’t we all? Isn’t that what your supposed to do?

I know, I know. It’s not the most polite attitude to have. I’ve tried to find that joy. I’ve tried sharing in other folks excitement and saying well “Good for them!” instead of just an awkward “Okay…”

So you can imagine how surprising it was to myself when I almost came out of my chair (okay, I actually did come out of my chair) over my child feeding herself zucchini. A soggy squash variety had me so giddy I almost peed myself….. or maybe that was the weak pelvic floor accompanied with the jumping out of the chair. Either way.

I was thrilled, exuberant, buoyant, euphoric, “grinnin’ like a possum eatin’ a sweet potato”, and all of the above.

Because my sweet, darling angel was feeding herself for the very first time.

And that’s when I realized that maybe the seemingly trivial, day to day activities are worth being excited over. Because in the grand scheme of life the smallest moments usually make the biggest impact. And maybe cheering on others as they make accomplishments, big or small, isn’t so bad after all. Life lessons via Lively💕

Breastfeeding Checklist

img_7513Breastfeeding should be considered an Olympic sport. Especially in the first 3-4 weeks. You’re trying to ring a small, moving target with the engorged soccer balls on your chest, you have Michael Phelps’ appetite, you could drink enough water to put a small county in a drought, and EVERYONE is crying. You, the baby, your husband, your dog.

Everyone.

But that stage is fleeting and it does get easier. So much so that before you know it you can almost cook a full meal with the little leech, I mean uhh darling baby, latched.

We are well into our breastfeeding journey now, and it’s just normal routine at this point, but those first few weeks home as we were both learning how to get in our groove were exhausting. I would have never made it through without support from my husband, chocolate chip subway cookies, and a Lactation Consultant(more on her later).

To help my breast friends out, I wanted to put together a list of must haves for breastfeeding moms. Including registry ideas, what to bring when visiting a breastfeeding mom, and helpful tools for pumping when returning to work or school.

Happy feeding, Mamas!

Human milk is like ice cream, penicillin, and the drug ecstasy all wrapped up in two pretty packages. -Florence Williams

Pick Me Ups for a New Breastfeeding Mom

If you’re visiting a new mom who is breastfeeding and want to bring something by, Please bring snacks… we’re hungry. Very. A simple meal is always welcome and helps the family out a ton, but a breastfeeding mama needs round the clock nutrition. Try bringing an assortment of cut up fresh fruit (my personal favorite and one of my biggest cravings), ready to go veggies and dip, granola bars, or homemade treats that are easy to grab and eat with one hand. Chocolate is obviously a bonus. FACT: almost all breastfeeding moms report craving chocolate (which is mostly due to stress and lack of vitamins/minerals) but still. Bring us the chocolate, mkay?

We are also thirsty. Breast milk is about 88% water give or take depending on baby’s needs. This “liquid gold” water cup would make the perfect gift to bring when visiting a new breastfeeding mom.

Also, we need coffee. Caffeine AINT going to turn breastmilk toxic, and trust me, we need the caffeine or else we might end up sticking a nipple in their ear or who knows what else. This “breastfeeding is beautiful” coffee mug along with a gourmet coffee blend would be a great pick me up for someone who is, quite literally, tired as a mother.

Most importantly, when visiting a breastfeeding mom, offer your support. Let her know that you are proud of her and that she is “doing amazing, sweetie”. If seeing a mother breastfeeding makes you uncomfortable, then simply leave if she mentions needing to feed the baby. (Do those little suckers ever stop needing to eat during those early days? I don’t think they do)

Must Haves & Registry Ideas

Being prepared (unlike me who had to amazon prime a car seat from my hospital bed while I was in labor) is the key to success! While all the equipment you need is built in, there are a few must haves for mom that make nursing a smoother process.

Nursing night gowns, you can’t have too many. These from Motherhood Maternity are my favorite because they are very supportive, but anything with the clip for easy access will work. I lived in (live) these!

Nursing Bras Pretty self-explanatory. I prefer the soft, yoga material for home and the ones with underwire for going out. Same as above just anything with a clip down for easy access will do.

Haaka milk catcher Just trust me when I say you have to have this. When baby is latched on one side, the other side usually sprays like a hose at a wet T-shirt contest. You can almost hear Kelis “Milkshake” playing but it’s way less glamorous. This little baby suctions on and catches all that liquid gold rather than drenching your clothes, couch, floor, dog etc. and you will freak when you realize how much milk you almost wasted!

Nipple cream I know everyone likes the kind in the purple tube, but I personally preferred The Honest Company nipple balm. I liked the texture better and felt like it had better “stickage”, coverage? I slathered it all over my lips and face too because making liquid gold sucks all your moisture from any and every where.

Nursing pillow Look, I know you’ve probably already heard of the coveted “Boppy” and probably already registered for it, but, in my humble opinion, it’s useless when you’re trying to nurse a Tasmanian devil. They slip right through the crack when they get to wiggling. Personally, a good ole bed pillow worked the best for us but I’ve heard moms rave about My Brest Friend pillow. The Boppy is great for sitting baby up and tummy time, so it’s not a total waste.

Nursing pads You know the wet T-shirt contest from before? Well the baby doesn’t always have to be latched for that to happen. Sometimes the girls want to party even without the guest of honor. My let down reflex regulated after about a month and I didn’t leak anymore but some moms leak the entire time they’re nursing. I liked Bamboobies brand the best. They were the most comfortable, absorbent, and stayed put. If you want a bargain they make washable, reusable sets but I used the disposable because, laundry.

Pumping

Oh pumping, I loathe thee. It’s not that the act of pumping is terrible, it’s just the work of nursing, multiplied. Washing pump parts, washing bottles, siting there looking like Madonna for 20 minutes, emphasizing with a cow being milked. I over pumped because I was terrified of not having a “freezer stash”. I would nurse, pump, nurse, pump repeat x 1000. By the time it was over I would sing “I’m a Slave for You” to my pretty pink Spectra S2. Well I’m here to tell you, having 500 ounces of milk in your freezer is not necessary. You may end up like me and have to donate all of that stored milk if your baby develops food allergies. Bye, bye freezer stash. Tear. If you have an oversupply or plan on exclusively pumping, then by all means fill that freezer, sister. But don’t work yourself crazy over it. If you’re going back to work or school and will be pumping I highly recommend getting a pump carrying bag. I’m posting my dream pump bag and a more affordable option. Both will get the job done. Do you know how tacky I looked carrying my pump in a Walmart bag because I didn’t think of a pump bag? I don’t even want to go back to that dark time. Not to mention how unorganized it was and a hassle, and just don’t be like me. Okay?

Also, don’t be like me and have nothing to clean all those intricate pump parts, get this. It’s perfect for those nooks, crannies and flanges.

And for work/school when you may not have access to wash your parts each pumping you can either get these quick pump wipes or, if you have a decently clean fridge, you can store the parts in there in a pinch to prevent bacteria growth. I eventually invested in enough pump parts to where I could use a fresh set each session and it was so worth it.

Also, a manual pump is helpful when you don’t have access to a plug. This little baby was a life saver on the go. My over pumping led to an over supply issue that left me engorged constantly. I tried a couple different manual pumps, but this was, hands down, the most effective. It has what they call a “massage cushion” that really grips and creates a good seal. May or may not have used this baby driving down the road. A moms gotta do what a moms gotta do.

You’ll need milk storage bags, but that’s nothing special. Just remember to leave enough room in the bag so that you can lay them flat in the the freezer. It makes storage and stacking much easier.

Support

Lastly, but most importantly, make sure you have a great support system. Do not be afraid to ask for help when you feel overwhelmed. It does not, you hear me, does not make you any less of a mother. Your body isn’t failing you if you are having trouble nursing. You are not broken. You are a perfect Milky Goddess, okay? And if breastfeeding doesn’t work out you are still a fabulous Mommin’ Queen who does not listen to the opinion of peasants. I ended up reaching out to an IBCLC and she saved me. IBCLC (international board certified lactation consultants) are different than an LC you will see in the hospital. (Unless your hospital has IBCLCs, props to them). They are specially trained in issues that can cause serious kinks in the nursing process, like ties, overactive let down, food intolerances and more. IBCLC visit costs are reasonable and will usually be reimbursed by your health insurance, depending on your provider. If that’s not an option for you reach out to a friend or family member that has nursed for advice. The book “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” is also a great resource to jump start you. And sometimes, if you need it, just drink a beer and take a breather. Some say a stout wheat beer helps your supply, I can’t say whether or not the science behind that is entirely true but I can say it does wonders for your sanity.

I hope all of this helps you as you embark on this new journey and please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions. And if you just need someone to tell you that you’re milk is magic and the sun shines from your nipples, well I can do that too.

No Mom Shame in My Game

Mom shaming. I feel weird even typing that phrase. I know that a mom shaming post can seem cliche, but it’s necessary. I honestly didn’t think it was a real thing. I thought to myself, Surely, Crazy Susan doesn’t really come up to you when she catches you down the wine aisle in the grocery store and tell you you’re a bad mom. I was right, for the most part. Mom shaming isn’t that. Mom shaming is low key. It’s hidden in memes. In sideways looks. In unsolicited advice. In comments and those emoticon reactions. In the trenches of mom groups, and, let me tell you, no one does passive aggressive like a “mom group warrior”. I’m so guilty of it. Cringe. But we all are. Because it’s easier to herd up with like minds and act like the rest of the pasture has the mad cow disease, than it is to all meet up at the watering hole and be kind to one another despite our differences. 

This will probably come as a shock, considering I have been known to eat an entire Big Mac before I even leave the Golden Arches drive thru and the fact that my husband single handily keeps Fruit Gushers in business, but for the most part I could be labeled as a “crunchy” mom. I’m kind of stale, but for the most part crunchy. 

If it says organic, I’m sold. I buy environmentally friendly household products and aluminum free deodorant. I say heck no to GMOs. I wipe my babies butt with some quilted cashmere, chemical free wipes and wrap it up in 100% organic cotton diapers (unless they’re having a good deal on some Kirkland’s I can’t resist, told y’all I’m stale sometimes). I cosleep. I wash her with the gentlest of soaps handcrafted from our crunchy foremothers’ recipes and moisturize her with ultra pure therapeutic oils squeezed from a fairy’s ass. I breast feed her exclusively and the thought of her eating anything with red dye #40 gives me hives. I could go on and on but I think you get the picture. Just bare with me.

Does any of that make me a better mom? Nope.

Does any of that make me superior? Nope.

Does any of that make my child better than other children? Nope.

Does any of that decrease the odds that she will end up eating boogers and dirt? Nope, probably not.

But it does make me the best mom I can be to her in my eyes. Everything that I do, as ridiculous as it may sound to some, is meaningful to me.

There are moms who do things slightly different than me. There are moms who do things completely opposite of me. There are moms who bypass breastfeeding and go straight to formula. Moms who give their kids nuggets and fries from a box 3 times a week . Moms who use whatever baby soaps and lotions smell the best. There are helicopter moms and free range moms. Moms that never glance at ingredient labels. There are moms who have elective C-sections. Moms who have natural home births. Some moms have strict screen time schedules, some moms restart Moana approximately 32 times per day. Authoritarian moms, and gentle moms. There are moms who sleep train. Heck, there are moms that pallet train.

I know them. I love them. They’re my friends and family. 

And although those moms may do things differently than I do, they still wake up with the same goal in mind as me, which is, “How can I be the best mama to my babies?”

Or maybe during a sleep regression they think “how can I keep these little heathens alive?” Because same. 

None of us, not the Kale Blending Cynthias or the McDonald’s Meagans or the Crazy Susans, make choices intending to harm our children.

And a mama with her babies best interest at heart is not shameful.