Please. Do not tell me what self-care is and what it is not.

There are a few posts going around that have inevitably infiltrated my social media newsfeed, seemingly dozens of times over. They all talk about how going to the grocery store or target, by yourself doesn’t count as “Self-Care.”And I tried to get on board with it. I did. But something just didn’t sit right with me.

And I figured out why…Because it does count. If you want it to, it does. If it makes you feel good and rejuvenated….It does. Stop telling me it doesn’t. Stop forcing the idea that it isn’t enough. Stop telling me that I’m not doing “self-care” right.

With that being said, I’m not you. Everyone is different. Everyone has different needs to be fulfilled. None more or less valid than the other. So, if it doesn’t do it for you; bring you peace contentment..than by all means, pursue other endeavors. No judgement. You do you. But leave me out of it.

Now, the basis of the posts I’ve read is that these tasks are chores. And performing a chore for your family doesn’t count. And if you do take time for yourself you feel guilty for leaving your family.

I feel guilt for everything. I say “I’m sorry” more often than your average Canadian. And I’ve closely, introspectively thought about this for days. And when I think of the “guilt” they are referencing, in context, to me, it more closely resembles empathy. It is a weird, cross-breed of two traits that humans can possess. And it deserves a word in and of itself. We’ll it guiltathy.

I don’t feel guilt for leaving my children to be by myself for a little while, necessarily. I more so feel empathy for the person watching my children. Not that they are a couple of heathens, but watching children is hard. Two kids, ages 2 and 5 months is tricky. I know! I’ve been there. Every day. And that’s where the empathy comes from, right? You pray that they are good. You hope that they take their naps. And use their nice words and listening ears. You will them to be the little angels you know they are when you’re not around. Because you know how hard it is when they aren’t.

The other day, both kids went to daycare for the first time. We just started sending our 5 month old a couple of days a week. After dropping them off I came home sat down, enjoyed a cup of coffee and watched the Today show. I then had the most leisurely shower I have taken in, perhaps a year. And it was incredible. I came out feeling like a new woman. It may have been the fact that I shaved my legs unhurriedly and didn’t miss nearly as many spots as I normally do. It may have been the fact that I was able to think up some creative writing things that had been floating around my head. It may have been the loud signing echoing through the upstairs. It was me.. I was signing… It doesn’t matter what it was, all that matters is that it was enough. For me.

And perhaps tomorrow it won’t be. And I’ll have to find something new. Maybe I’ll come back to those posts and try and get some ideas. Regardless of how this parenting/self-care thing pans out, I don’t think mothers should be told “you’re doing it wrong” right now. We’re all trying our damnedest here.

Pregnancy and a Pandemic

We had a bit of a scare last week. Aside from the pandemic itself. At 34 weeks pregnant I started having contractions. Which coincided with some other preterm labor symptoms. I shall spare you all the specifics of my cervix. But thankfully, things have settled down a little bit.

When I got pregnant, I was faced with an ominous feeling that I hadn’t really prepared for. My first son was born at 35 weeks 0 days. And because of that had a required stay in the NICU. That turned out to be an incredibly traumatic experience. I hesitate to use the term “PTSD” simply because I think that it is perhaps a bit too dramatic for what I’m experiencing. But it may be close. In a previous post I wrote about the hysterical crying I experienced throughout my first and second trimester. Every time I thought about going back to that hospital, about delivering my baby, about what “could be” it sent me into a spiral of fear and dread the likes of which I’ve never felt. And while I’ve stopped crying because of those fears, some new ones have taken their place.

As the news spreads and the cases in the US grow, the Covid-19 pandemic has started to takes its toll on my psyche. The past couple of weeks have been worry on top of worry. It has been formidable. It’s such a futile thing, isn’t it? Worry. But, we can’t help it. I think some of us are more susceptible to it than others. Predisposed perhaps. Whether by upbringing, or anxiety disorders. Whatever the case may be, it doesn’t really make a difference. It is just as futile.

So, the catch 22 here is..

We needed to get to 35 weeks and 1 day. That has been the goal for a long time. About 9 months to be exact. 35 weeks and 1 day is the cut off for a mandatory NICU stay. Wednesday, April 1st was that precipose. I even had a premonition that the baby would be born on that day. Last week when the contractions and other things started, I tried to will it to not happen. I needed more time. I needed April 1st. I know that I can’t control things with my mind, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. “If I don’t pack my hospital bag, he won’t come.” It sounded logical, and so it became a theory I put into practice. Needless to say, it worked. Coincidentally….

And here we are on the other side of it by 2 days. Now, I found myself, not necessarily hoping I’ll go into labor, but kind of. The cases of Covid -19 in the state of Maine are growing steadily. There was a large spike today. I live in the most populated county, with the most cases, and will be delivering at the biggest hospital in the state. I’ve been going to the doctor at least once or twice a week, each time asking for status updates on the hospital. The most unsettling thing I think is hearing the answer ” I don’t know” when asking a seemingly easy questions. And it being followed by “it changes every day” as to a policy or procedure.

My worries are that my husband won’t be allowed in. That if we wait too long, that I’ll have to deliver this baby alone. Obviously doctors will be there, but… You know what I mean. The thought of that is hard enough. But if push came to shove (hah!), I’d manage it. The real worry; the deep down, bowl me over fear I have is everything after delivery. What if the baby has to go to the NICU? Will my husband and I be able to see him together? Will only one of us be able to? Can we take turns or is it only one of us for his entire stay? Or better yet – Will we be able to see him at all? Several people in my office building have confirmed cases. The two week self-quarantine period we were on has passed, but is that up to their ever changing standards? What will happen between now and whenever this baby comes that could change the policies of Maine Medical Center and stop us from seeing our baby. And there are so, so many other questions… See? Futile.

So, This is where I’m at. These are the things thoughts that have kept me restless lately. We’re all going to come out of this with our own Pandemic story. And I think mine will be a lot like many others. There’s nothing extraordinary about it. But I find it helpful to write it down.

I’m going to go pack my hospital bag.

Toddlers are the ultimate influencers

While their audience is small it is a captivated one. Parents, day care providers, immediate family. “He loves trucks” I’ll say, and without hesitation, a new truck will promptly find its way into our home.

We are left hanging on their every like and more often than not, dislike. Their trends tend to be fleeting and impulsive. Sometimes lasting no more than a week. We are held captive by their giggles of delight or their screams of displeasure.

My husband and I are lucky though. We have yet to hit the stage where a trip to the store results in a meltdown over an unpurchased toy. Currently his most passionate trends tend to be of the edible nature. He is food motivated. Consistently in the 97th percentile for height and weight. He just wants a banana when we go to the grocery store. But we know it’s coming. We catch glimpses of it from time to time. Usually when a nap is missed.

Its inevitable. The LEGO trend, or Minecraft, or whatever the commercials are hocking. Whatever the other kids have (see? Influencers…) We’ll cross that miserable bridge when we get to it. Like so many before us. And with just as much grace. Absolutely none.

Anticipation.

What an odd thing, antipacation. It has so many different connotations. The anticipation of Christmas morning as a kid, and even now as a parent. It evokes a sense of excitement, something magical. But anticipating news from a doctor’s office comes with a certain sense of dread. It can be good or bad, and either way it feels just about the same physically. But no matter what, I can’t say the word without hearing Carly Simon’s voice. Antici -pay -ay -tion.

My husband and I are expecting our second child in May. Our first son, Nikola, was 5 weeks early. And because he was so early he had a mandatory stay in the NICU. Couple that experience with a tough couple of days in the maternity unit and it has led to an unexpected reaction on my part.

This second pregnancy wasn’t planned necessarily. While my husband and I wanted a second child, this one came a bit sooner than we had discussed. And at the first hint of those telling symptoms, I started to feel something emotionally that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. At first, I was in denial. I didn’t take a pregnancy test for days even though it was clear I was expecting. That should’ve been my first clue that something was up. Eventually I did, and while there was certainly excitement, it came with an overwhelming sense of trepidation.

Every mother has a birth story. And most love to tell theirs. I do not. If I try, I leave parts out. Either because of modesty, or because I’m already crying too hard. At our first doctors appointment, I cried hysterically. And then at our second, and third. I tried so hard to communicate to my doctor what I was feeling. He would try to assure me that it wouldn’t be the same this time. But to no avail. My crying continued far beyond the doctors appointment. It was every night, and throughout most days. People would want to talk about the baby, and I’d stop them. Just the thought of going through what we did last time overwhelmed me more than I could have ever fathomed. The anticipation of it all….

And so that’s where I’ve been mentally. Trying to turn the anticipation of this momentous event that will forever change and shape our lives, from bad to good. It’s been a long road, 6 months to be exact, but I think I am almost there. And because of that, the fog I’ve been walking in has seemingly cleared, and I was able to do this post. It’s incredible how much weight an emotion like that can carry. And you only truly realize it once its lifted.

Grieving For Two

When you have a child, you think about all the little things that will change. You try and mentally prepare yourself for different situations. Think about how you might handle them. But there are so many to prepare for. You can’t possibly think of them all. And you only realize it when you find yourself faced with one.

We lost a family member yesterday. My step-father. He fought a battle that not many could have endured. But somehow, he did. His desire to keep going was always because of his grandchildren. He had big plans for them. He was going to take them places, or plant a garden, or start an orchard. Something. But thats, without a doubt, why he persevered the way that he did. For as long as he did. He didn’t want to miss an opportunity with any of them. And maybe it’s just me, but he seemed to have a special bond with my son. His pal.

I think that’s why his death is so hard. You never want your loved ones to suffer. You never want them to live a life less than. And as his health declined rapidly over the last few weeks, those around him started the grieving process. But, for me, it was different this time.

Not only am I grieving for myself. For the man I had known all my life. A man who was kind, generous, and a constant dreamer. But I grieving for my son.

Nikola loved his Pa. He loved him so so much. I have never known a baby to sit so contently for hours on someone’s lap, but he did. He loved it. Nikola would sit an listen to his Pa talk about all the adventures they were going to go on since he was born. He would look up at him, eyes wide, and just take it all in. Never wiggling, never crying. Just sitting and watching.

I think that what’s making this so hard. Knowing how much Nikola loved him. And while he is just a baby.- Only 14 months, I know that he knows something is different. We were at my mom’s on Sunday, Barry was already in hospice, and Nikola looked at her and said “Papa.” And he said it again this morning when he was playing with a toy Barry had gotten him. He’s a smart little boy.

And so, this is one of the things. One of the things that is different now. I didn’t see it coming, I didn’t think about it. But, here we are. Barry didn’t want people to be sad. He said many times in the last couple weeks that he had lived an incredible life and did all the things he wanted to do. And I think we can find comfort in that.

Extra-Ordinary Love, part 2

Nikola has always been an affectionate baby but lately he seems to have an agenda when dolling out kisses. He has learned that if he gives you a kiss and then asks or points to something, he’s more apt to get it. Whether it be a set of keys you’re fairly certain he’ll lose or if he wants you to play Baby Shark for the umteenth time. With his chubby little hands, knuckle dimples and all, he’ll grab either side of your face and pull you towards his. His mouth open as wide as a largemouth bass. And then, there it is. The kiss that makes you melt, over and over again.

He knows exactly how to manipulate your heart strings. He is smart and perfectly mischievous in the most adorable way. And it’s one of the things I love most about him.

The most masterful linguist, the most articulate wordsmith, wouldn’t be able to scratch the surface of the feeling that is loving your child. It is indescribable in every way. What it means. How it feels. It’s depth, It’s reach. It’s pull. All of it. It is entirely different from every other kind of love that exists. And I understand how incredibly lucky I am to feel it all day, every day.

You don’t know what unconditional love is. You may say you do, but if you don’t have a child, you don’t know what that is. But when you experience it, it is the most fulfilling ever. ”    Regina King

Time Management for Mothers: How to include time for Self-Care?

To be very clear, this is not your traditional “how-to” post. I am looking for an answer, not providing one. This is a question that I am sending out into the void hoping for some insight. This concept is something I’m having a hard time getting my head around. I’m not trying to be a martyr. I’m not trying to convince myself or others of what a selfless mother I am. I simply can not figure out what it means and how to do it.

Is getting a haircut self-care? I think it might be. I haven’t one in almost a year. And I DESPERATELY need one. And when I go over the excuses in my head as to why, it really boils down to time. And perhaps a smidge of laziness.

Is going to the doctor considered self-care? Perhaps. If so, I have indulged in that twice this week. I put it off last week and my illness got worse. Why didn’t I go when I first started feeling under the weather? Nikola had been sick and it was inevitable that I was going to get it. As a mom, I think it may just be commonplace that your primary focus is “I’ll be fine. Let’s get baby healthy.” And now, here I am. sick with a virus that has wreaked havoc on my respiratory and digestive system the likes of which I have never seen or experienced. And due to the contagiousness of the virus my mother had to come and pick up Nikola and take him to her house for a couple of days. This is the first time I haven’t been with him overnight and it has been hard. Is having a “night off” from your baby in order to recuperate self-care?

A few months ago, I posted about some terrible migraines I was having. I received messages from friends with helpful tips and one in particular from an accomplished Yoga Therapist with an offer to come in for an appointment. It was so kind and generous of her to reach out. And I wanted to go. I wanted to make an appointment so badly. But I just couldn’t figure out how to move that appointment to the top of my priority list. For whatever reason.

Time management as a mother has got to be one of trickiest parts of the title. Am I willing to sacrifice time with my son on Saturday to go get a haircut, or to go get a massage, maybe go to the movies? There has been this meme floating around that says something like “Society expects women to mother like they don’t work and work like they’re not a mother.” I have a full-time job that I love. By the time I pick up Nikola at daycare and get home its 5:30pm. Nikola has imposed on himself a strict bedtime of 7:00pm. He just passes out, every night, at that time. So Monday through Friday, I get one and half hours with him. That ain’t a lot. I miss him all day long, and then I miss him when he goes to bed. So, when Saturday and Sunday come along, I just don’t want to NOT be with him. There have been so so many weeks where I’ve said “I’m going to go to the movies this weekend. Have some alone time.” but when the weekend rolls around, those plans have gone out the window. I no longer want to go.

Today, there is such an emphasis on self-care. The importance of it, and I believe it is important. This blog is my main source of it. And even then, I can’t find the time or energy to write a post. While I have 23 posts saved to my “draft” folder. The time and energy it takes to complete, edit and post seems daunting. Even impossible. So, how do you all do it? How do you make time for yourself? What kind of priority do you put on your own self-care? I’m looking forward to reading your comments.

Premonition or Déjà Vu?

Get out your wellies boys and girls.  This one is gonna get a little deep. 

I believe that most everything happens for a reason.  I think that we are all heading towards a sort of incredibly vague predetermined destiny.  Some people may find that comforting, others perhaps not.  I’m indifferent.  But it does play into this theory of mine quite nicely.

Most people have experienced Deja Vu at some point in their lives.  It’s a fairly common phenomenon. But I seem to have it regularly.  Maybe once or twice every couple of weeks.  Only, I’m not certain that’s what I’d consider it really.  When this experience occurs I dont have the feeling that I have been in that exact space before.  It’s not about space for me.  It is about the lighting, the smells, the sounds, the people, the entire experience in that split second. It’s not something happening “again”. Instead it’s something I had, at some point, dreamt of happening. A premonition. 

When these moments happen, I relish them. I close my eyes and will it to last longer.  This sudden and fleeting sense is what I like to think of as a “checkpoint”.  It’s a little blip in time that confirms I’ve made the right choices.  I’m on the right path. That all my stars are aligning just so. And I find that astoundingly comforting.

I had a “checkpoint” moment yesterday.  I had just gotten home from work.  My baby was in his walker and we were in the kitchen.  He and I have been in those exact spots countless times. But yesterday was different.  The familiar and exciting feeling came over me like a wave. I closed my eyes for a moment. Then looked at my son and smiled.  Believing that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be is one the most gratifying sensations there is.

I Don’t Like Having My Picture Taken.

This came up in my newsfeed a while back.  I read all 312 comments.  There were some common themes.

To grandmother – “See mom, this is why I want to take pictures of you”

To spouse – “Honey, please take more photos of me and the kids”

and most poignantly:

“I need to work on this.”

I do need to work on this. And I think I’ve made the first steps. This blog post is, by far, the most personal I’ve ever written. I’ve never shared these photos. Nobody has ever seen the selfie, not even my husband. Up until 2 weeks ago, we didn’t have a single photo of my husband and I with our baby. He will be 8 months old on the 13th of this month.

When my husband proposed, I immediately started planning our wedding. I had worked in the industry and knew the vendors I wanted to use. We had a budget and when we were going over everything, the idea of a photographer was mentioned. I hadn’t planned on having one. This hurt my husband’s feelings so badly. So much so in fact, that he said “why have a wedding?” Seeing how strongly he felt, I actually saw a therapist to help get over the extreme anxiety of having my photo taken.

It did help. We hired a photographer. A friend and colleague of my mothers. Oh yeah, did I mention my mother is a photographer? When I got the photos, I cried. Not because of how beautiful they were – but how terrible I thought I looked. I didn’t post them to social media and didn’t share them with anyone.

I have purposefully and conveniently led a life a living in the moment. Truly only because of how self-conscious I am. I would never suggest taking a photo of a friend or an event, an occasion. Anything. Because that would have inevitably led to someone saying “You get it in it too, Darci” . And then where would I be? Uncomfortable, half-heartedly smiling and looking awkward. And dreading the inevitable moment when, after the picture was taken everyone would go and check to see how it came out. I never needed to look. I always knew the answer.

And now, on top of struggling with my own self-conscious; I’m having a hard time remembering to take photos. Even with a camera at my literal fingertips, I forget to take photos. Don’t get me wrong, I have hundreds of my son. But those special moments, whether be a first milestone, or a photo with a family member. Something out of the ordinary that would be truly special – I drop the ball. Can consciously, consistently not doing something become a habit? Has a lifetime of purposefully not taking photos become a habit? I worry that may be the case.

I promise you, this is not me having a pity party, or looking for compliments. I don’t know what to call it or define it as. I really, truly don’t. But the intensity of the feeling demands to be acknowledged. As I said at the beginning: Moving past these feelings is something that I am going to make a conscious effort at. I can’t put into words how hard this blog post has been to write. It has been in my drafts since August. And today, I will finish it. This is the first step. And as I look at the photo below, I can feel my blood pressure rising. The anxiety creeping in. I hate this last photo of me, but love it of my husband and baby. This is the only photo of the 3 of us. We had our baby baptized a couple of weeks ago.

I need to know: Is this common? Do others feel this way? I can only assume by the number of comments on the Facebook post above it is. Give me your feedback. Tell me your experience. Fill me in on the secret of how to overcome it. Please, I’m all ears, err eyes.

THE CRYING HANGOVER

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This is our view from Nikola’s room at The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital.  Our baby was admitted this past Thursday because of a mysterious fever, rash, fussiness combo.  Since becoming a mom I have googled everything under the sun related to babies, but this one was too scary.  Their initial concern was Bacterial Meningitis.  It takes 48 hours for the results from the spinal tap to come back. So while their concern is immediate, the results are not. It has been a long couple of days.  When he was born and in the NICU things were tough.  But at no point was he in pain.  This time, that hasn’t been the case.  So many tests, pokes, and prods.  It took more than six hours for the doctors to collect all of the different fluids they’d need.  Nikola cried most of that time.  And so did we.  The feeling you get when your child is in pain is just as indescribable as the amount of love you have for them. I had to prop myself up against a wall, the crying was uncontrollable. Hence, the crying hangover.  I haven’t had one since I had to leave the hospital without him when he was born.  And before that, it was my brother’s accident.  They are every bit as awful as the ones induced by alcohol.  Just a lot sadder.

But we got some great news a little while ago.  His Doctor came in and said that everything had come back negative.  They don’t know the exact cause of the fever but are considering it a viral infection most likely picked up at daycare.  Effing daycare.  We should be able to go home later today.

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A few people have asked lately if I was still blogging.  During the pregnancy I had terrible pregnancy brain, I could barely form sentences let alone put together a coherent blog post.  And since giving birth, well, I’ve been a little busy.

But more than either of those reasons I worried I didn’t have anything to say.  I thought that my experiences and opinions weren’t of value because I’m so new to the role of Mom.  But all of the research I’ve done for everything from best diaper bags to infant cognitive milestones has largely been based on a matter of opinion.  Even doctors opinions differ.    To our great frustration, I might add.  Just today we’ve been told that he’d be going home at 1 and then were told that it would be 6. An RN just came in 15 minutes ago and mentioned something about tomorrow.  Nothing has changed in Nikolas condition throughout the day, just the doctor at shift change.

So maybe my opinion on Dr. Brown’s bottles would be of value to someone.  Or maybe sharing our experience of having a baby in the NICU or even the experience we’re having now could help someone. Somewhere. At some point.

So, let’s try this again.  Back to Blogging.