Thursday, October 26, 2017

Go Ahead and Get Your Judging Pants On

Today was my son's 12 month well visit. "Well" in the sense that it was scheduled to check his height (70%) and weight (70%) and all that stuff but also ironic in that we walked out with a script for an ear infection, poor kid.

During this visit, I had what I had anticipated would be an all-out battle of a conversation with his pediatrician regarding shots.

SPOILER: My mom gut freaked out at 6 months and told me in no uncertain terms that Cade was not to have anymore shots.

SPOILER #2: It was a really pleasant, positive conversation that just made me love his doctor.

As a 25-yr militant member of the "VACCINATE EVERYONE FOR EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME" club, this was a shock to my brain and spurred months of research on both sides of the aisle for two reasons.

1) I wanted to pinpoint exactly what my fear was, what I anticipated Cade's issue being, and weight the pros and cons.
2) I wanted to assuage that fear, because VACCINATE EVERYONE.

What I found just made me more and more uneasy, I have an idea of what Cade may have experienced, and my fear was fueled.

So at least for this child of mine, there won't be any.

The doctor asked if I'd like to discuss why I was opting out of future vaccinations, and I laid that previous information down for him followed by, "Trust me, man. It freaks even me out because like I said - I used to be that person who would argue with moms on the internet who chose not to vaccinate their kids, call them stupid, and then walk away feeling morally superior."

"You know there's better ways to feel morally superior, right?" He said.

I realize this was his good-humored attempt at participating in the de-escalation of a potentially scary moment for me as I was asserting my newly-arrived mama bear and I appreciate it.

He continued with, "You know, I'm a huge believer in parent instinct. I've had several experiences where moms have come in demanding that I test for crazy diseases and I've told them they are wrong - only to do the testing and it turns out they were absolutely right. So there's a lot to be said for Mom Gut and I don't question it. I would hate to give him a shot and have him experience something adverse and then go, "Oh, yeah, that's probably why we shouldn't have done that." And I honestly believe you're doing what you think is best for your child, however, in the outbreak of an MMR illness I would strongly recommend that you reconsider that single vaccine."

And that was it.

So, yeah. Judge me, I don't care - I believe that vaccines have saved a lot of lives and work perfectly well for so many people. I also believe that there have been an unrecorded number of vaccine-related life altering changes and illness in kids, and a whole host of things that still need to be tested, and I just CAN'T give my kid vaccines. At least not right now. So judge me on that front, and also feel free to judge my previously judgy nature.

Just kidding. I still judge people. So maybe judge me for that.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What is motherhood, really?

As the first year of my son's life is rapidly turning into the start of his second, I've been reflecting a lot on what it was that I had "thought" motherhood was. When you're waiting to have kids, you feel an intense and all-encompassing yearning for something you haven't experienced but feel so deeply in your bones that you need. How is that possible? How do you "miss" something you haven't had?

I've tried to remember how I used to define motherhood and it blows my own mind how far off I was.

Let me explain.

I think it's something akin to nostalgia- where you can truly only have a hazy, sweet glimpse of something. Of course, I pictured the sweet new baby snuggles, the nighttime waking, the first steps and the adorable mini soccer games. I pictured clapping as he took his first steps, proudly showing him off wherever I went, holidays FINALLY holding some extra excitement again. I pictured family vacations, feeling like I "fit in" at church, identifying so hard as a "mom".

But it's all the things I couldn't possibly have anticipated that is the essence of motherhood.

It's the walking-out-of-the-hospital and climbing into your car with your brand-new baby, all of a sudden panicking that your postpartum nurse Violate is standing at the door waving goodbye and not climbing in the car with you.

It's standing over that same baby watching him breathe for 15 minutes, and then calling your mom to make sure his breath patterns are normal.

It's trying so hard to be brave when you feel anything but, because you need your baby to know it's okay (I'm looking at you, circumcision).

It's so, so, so many more night wakings than you could have counted and being ridiculously desperate for some sleep, but holding on and cuddling a few minutes longer because you can actually see him growing and changing. You can feel more brain cells dying with each moment that you should be sleeping, but those cuddles, man. They're worth more than anything.

It's realizing how self-righteous and just plain WRONG you were about everything you thought you'd never do before having kids.

It's making naptime a sacred event, one that if interrupted, sends you into a genuine rage at the offending party.

It's the unexpected mama bear that comes roaring out of your mouth when someone commits a seemingly innocuous offense, such as not using hand sanitizer before holding your baby. Like you will really wonder where that has been hiding all your life.

It's feeling around behind you while driving down the road, to make sure your baby's head hasn't flopped forward in the carseat.

It's being incredibly proud and profoundly heartbroken with each milestone and achievement - holding his head up on his own, shaking a rattle, sitting up, shutting that door that pops open on his toy.

It's laundry. So much laundry.

It's questioning every parenting decision you ever make and constantly wondering if it was the right one.

It's never wanting to leave that baby with ANYONE because nobody could possibly love him and care for him and understand him like you - and feeling terrible when you do.

It's setting up a sleepover in the living room because your baby is sick, and he needs you, and you don't know what else to do.

It's doing more during a 1.5 hour period of sleeping child than almost seems humanly possible.

It's making silly noises and dancing like an idiot JUST to get a laugh and a smile.

It's looking inside yourself and trying to figure out what YOU need to improve so that your child can be a better person than you.

It's begging for the rarest and sloppiest open-mouth kiss in the world.

It's the anxiety for somebody else's well being that can send you in to a full-on panic attack.

It's getting in bed at the end of the day, and then getting out of bed 5 more times to make sure he's warm and okay in his crib. And then maybe you'll do it a few more times just for good measure.

This is motherhood. This beautiful, messy, scary, incredible thing.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Efficiency and How I Use It

I don't want to hear anything along the lines of, "Girl, if you think life is hard now just wait til ______." Seriously. I don't.

Moving on.

I have felt like a pretty hollow shell of my former self since Cade stopped sleeping through the night at 6 months and the past few weeks I have been pretty desperate to climb out of survival mode and feel like I'm doing well at wearing my different hats. I've done my best to make adjustments where possible to maximize my time and impact with each and yet most days I just don't feel like it's enough.

To mitigate this, I've gone on an all-out quest to find ways to make life simpler and make the absolute most of each minute. The best way I can explain how my head works is that it's a very busy place - I'm ALWAYS thinking about what I need to be doing, what comes next, what I could have done better on what I was doing 5 minutes ago. I swear I spend more time analyzing than doing and that's something I'm trying to change.


Here's a few things I've found that have helped me feel a little better about momming and wifeing and working and schooling(sometimes) and churching. And I hope it's helpful to someone else- and if you have judgement-free tips, please send them my way.

1) Never leave a room empty handed. When there's a kid crying, it's almost like nothing else exists and I stop what I'm doing and run right to Cade. I've learned that he can wait a sec- and I can finish what I'm doing. If I'm downstairs and he wakes up from his nap, on my way up to get him I'll grab a pile of folded laundry and bring it up with me. If it's time to make lunch, I'll grab Cade, the dirty clothes hamper or soap to refill the pump and head downstairs. For some reason, getting rid of extra trips to different levels of the house has been crazy helpful.

2) Clean while he eats. Each morning, I make/give Cade breakfast - which he probably won't eat - and do the dishes and fold laundry while he's keeping himself busy feeding the dog (just keeping it real). This way, I start the day with a clean main level and the whole house feels so much better.

3) Shower at night - I'm iffy on this one, because I prefer to start the day with a shower, but it really makes a difference on hairwash days - this way I can just curl or whatever in the morning rather than spend a half hour blow-drying (which I won't do, again, just being real).

4) Dry shampoo - I was frumpy - and still am sometimes - simply due to the fact that I have an actual crapton of hair and it takes FOREVER to curl or straighten it. So I invested in dry shampoo and now regularly go 3-4 days between washes and the result has been that I don't look like an old hag 7 days a week.

5) Making extra or making ahead. I have been doing some research lately about additives, preservatives, and other chemicals in our food and it has made me ridiculously skeptical about everything we eat. At the very least, I try to buy non-gmo (WHICH I KNOW DOESN'T TAKE CARE OF EVERYTHING) and buy organic when it makes the most sense. I also try to make from scratch everything that isn't a vegetable or meat - so sauces, breads, buns, desserts, etc to keep those things at a minimum. I've started doubling batches of things - rolls, hoagie buns, tortillas, etc - and freezing so that the next time I need them I can just pull a bag out of the freezer. Today, while Cade was playing in the kitchen and feeding the dog grilled cheese, I prepped/cooked 4 different meals so that the rest of the week isn't so hectic.

6) Multi-task in weird ways. I have a leg/butt routine that I do when I'm putting on my makeup, brushing my teeth, or cooking. Mostly squats, leg lifts, calf raises, and a few barre exercises. It's obviously not a high-impact workout, but it's something, and it helps me feel a little better about myself. I don't fit back into my pre-preg pants or anything, but my legs are somewhat toned.

7) Work on my own hours. I do try really hard to make myself available during bankers hours, but the reality is that Cade is almost always awake, he is my first priority, and does require a lot of attention right now. If he naps, I'll work, but other than that, I get my very best and most thorough work done between the hours of 7:30 and 10 at night when Jeff is here to keep him busy.

8) Make naptime sacred. I do whatever I need to do to get Cade down for a nap - we usually try to get out of the house and go to the park in the mornings, or run errands to keep him stimulated. We play, play, play, and then by naptime, he's pretty tuckered. If he's not going down easy, I will absolutely put him in the car and go for a 15 minute drive and hope for a successful car-to-crib transfer. These usually result in his best and longest naps. So, DO WHAT YOU GOTTA FOR NAPTIME

Thursday, September 21, 2017

On Baby Number 2

Pretty much since before we even physically had Cade, we had been discussing how/when we will pursue having a second child. Our plan had been all over the place - before he was born, we would go back in January of 2018, then up until he was 10 months old we planned to go back in October 2017, and we began financially preparing from the moment we had Cade. As with all plans, they change. One day, on the way home from family dinner, we had a pretty deep discussion. I had planned to have Cade weaned by his 1 year birthday so that my body could get back to baseline, what I feel is best when having an embryo transfer. I began that process at 9 months only to find that once he began cutting his top teeth, he completely reversed his previous enthusiasm for solid food and went back to almost exclusively breastfeeding.

Well, that wouldn't work.

The doctor says that by 12 months he should be getting almost all of his nutrition from solids, but as with sleep training, the modern philosophies have proven contrary to everything my mother heart believes and hasn't at all been the case for Cade. I can put anything in front of him, and he'll take a couple bites and then refuse. Except for raspberries - and he could eat a whole case in a single sitting. Because of this, he still nurses every 2-4 hours and usually twice at night. He's still fat and happy and almost always game to try one bite of anything, but I can clearly see that he's getting most of his nutrition from me.

So we had this discussion and found that we both were completely on the same page. We don't feel that it would be fair to Cade to force him to stop when he's clearly not ready and depends on nursing for so much of his nutrition. It's also a comfort thing for him. We decided to re-evaluate at the beginning of next year and see a) how Cade is doing, b) how we feel about it, and c) maybe hope that it's happened naturally. I don't want to look back in 10 years and regret that I pushed my first baby to grow up just so that I could have another.

Baby Number 2 is still very much on our minds, and I feel like there's a little girl who wants to come down to be with us. Hopefully we'll get to meet her next year. For now, we're focusing on loving this sweet little boy of ours and help him transition at his own pace from infant to toddler.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Renegade the Labraheeler: 8/15/2013- 9/7/2017

This post is mostly for therapy. Anyone who knows me well knows that Renegade drove me to the absolute edge of insanity 50% of the time. He had the weirdest habits including but not limited to: staring at spots of light on the wall for hours at a time, chasing his tail, not eating until he was vomiting bile, barking incessantly at ANYTHING that moved, stealing defrosting meat off the counter at any opportunity, eating garbage, and falling asleep in places such as closet shelves, behind the couch, and on our shoes in the closet. In the summer, he would be so busy being excited about life that he would lose 5-7 lbs and be skin and bones because he was just TOO busy to take a break and eat.

That, combined with his penchant for attacking the TV everytime there was an animal, roughousing with Nala every evening, and a primal urge to attack and destroy every other 4-legged creature we saw outside the house made him a challenge.

Last Thursday, though, he went a little too far. He's gotten aggressive when we've had to take things away before (see defrosting meat in previous paragraph) and snapped or growled. This time, after killing the neighbor's pet duck, Jeff went to take it away and Renegade had a fit. Growling, barking, lunging, and snapping at Jeff until Jeff kicked his side. That was it. I heard it and ran out because I was worried he was attacking our other dog - but no, it was Jeff. I knew we had to get him out of the house and immediately began researching some shelters. He's a challenge, for sure - but I wanted him to have the best chance at a good life with someone who had knowledge and resources we did not. We had tried everything we could think of to curb those behaviors and establish an alpha - dominating, removing privileges, timeouts, you name it. Nothing had helped and some of those issues had been getting markedly worse over the last couple years.

To my dismay, none of the shelters I could find were excited about receiving an aggressive dog with known biting issues and the ones I did find would likely put him down.

It hit me like a ton of bricks that we had to put him down. I couldn't rehome him - because if I was afraid of him hurting my son, I couldn't live with myself if he hurt somebody else's babies.

I called the vet and made the appointment and after a text conversation with Jeff (who was at work), I told him, "He has an appointment to go to sleep at 3. If you don't tell me otherwise, I will go be with him."

He said, "Ok."

It was the longest day of my life and I ugly cried through most of it. Why, if he was so annoying and difficult, was I so sad? I'm sure that's something most of my family and friends have wondered.

It's because I picked him out of hundreds of craigslist ads from a lonely hotel room in San Antonio after moving a thousand miles away from home and trying for a baby for several months. I had started to figure out that having kids was going to take longer than we thought, I didn't have a job, friends, or family to occupy myself with, and I needed something to nurture and have with me in my new home.

When I saw his picture, I fell in love. He had a spunky little expression and was this tiny, skinny, spotted puppy sitting on a couch. Done. I had to have him. After a little finagling, I went to get him and spent his first two days in a hotel room. He became the baby I so badly wanted (no, I'm not equating having dogs with kids but a dog was the very closest approximation I could reach at the time) and I took him on walks, and runs, and got up with him several times a night, cooked him meals when his poor little digestive system couldn't handle dog food for the first month and loved him. He was my baby and for the first three years of his life, went on runs, car rides, store trips, road trips, and family vacations us. He had an enthusiasm for life that I've not seen matched by any other person or animal and an almost tangible appreciation for simple things - a blanket, a nap on the porch on the first warm days in spring, a car ride sitting in the front seat.

When I was pregnant, he assumed the role of guard dog and followed me around everywhere. Anyone, even my mom who he loved, got a friendly warning if he felt they got too close to me. He protected our home and family like his life depended on it from anything - even garbage trucks.

All that said, the hours leading up to his appointment were the longest and most awful and I don't say that to be dramatic. I knew full well I was going to end a young, healthy life for a reason that might not exist if I had been better trained at handling dogs, or if someone else had taken him home that day. I knew that by having a human baby, I had forever altered his place in our family and would never not put my child ahead of the dog that carried me through those years of heartache and loneliness. I felt like I was taking the easy way out and discarding him. And that felt terrible.

I don't want to talk about the actual event because it was traumatic but I will just say that he knew what was happening and he fought with everything he had. That was the worst thing ever and holding him down and crying into his neck were among the most painful moments of my life.

I prayed to know if I was doing the right thing and seemingly didn't have an answer right up until 20 minutes before the appointment. I had been trying to figure out how to take Cade with me and also give Renegade my attention and love and was stressing out until my sister - who left work and showed up unexpectedly rang my door bell. A few minutes behind her, my mother-in-law had dropped everything and made it to my house in record time when hearing that Jeff was at work and couldn't be with us. I had someone to watch Cade, and someone to be with me and that was the confirmation that I needed. I prayed that Renegade would go quickly and be greeted on the other side with a life that he deserved and off we went.

I miss that dog in the weirdest moments, like vacuuming and realizing I'm only going to be cleaning up half the fur. Coming home from errands and listening to him "talk" to us. Seeing him lean around the corner and bark and run away when he wants to show us something. Him laying by my feet when winding down at night. I just miss him. The house is really quiet now.

Anyways, this is my tribute to the dog that I hope to see again someday. I really hope all dogs go to heaven and I hope I get to have him with us when we get up there.

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Boy Who Was Afraid to Sleep

This post is the product of several months of questioning myself as a mother, but also being deeply resolved in the belief that I know my son's disposition better than anyone else. It's a weird place to be. Also from an experience of loneliness, of sorts, because I couldn't find a single person in real life who was experiencing the same thing we were.

Background, intro, etc: I love Cade to itty, bitty, tiny pieces. He's perfect and I adore him and he makes me happier than I thought possible. There is one thing I've learned about him, and it made me feel like a failure first-timer newb too until this weekend and it is this:

My son is afraid to sleep. Or has some serious FOMO. I'm not sure. In any case, he has struggled with sleep since was a brand new baby. Napping was not his game. Sometimes we have a day or two where he takes REAL GOOD naps and I'm like, aw yes- I've made it. I've taught my child to sleep.

And then the next day hits and I'm like, Okay. Kidding. Nope.

And night time? He was on a pretty consistent wake schedule from a month old. Up every 3 hours, then we'd get a six hour and a four hour stretch, and then by 4 months he was down at 8:30, dream feed at 10, and then would sleep til 6. It was amazing and I felt like the most rockstar parent in the world.

Then 6 months hit and our world turned upside down. Separation anxiety is real. The minute he figured out that we existed and were currently existing somewhere other than right next to him he forgot how to sleep. We average 2-4 night wakings, almost never less but very often in the 5-7 times a night range.

All you moms who are reading this and thinking, "She doesn't know what she's doing. I've taught all of my kids to sleep and if he was mine we'd have nipped that in the bud and have him back to sleeping through in a week" are funny. Maybe you could, I don't know. The list of things I've tried is impressively long.

We have:
- Done controlled crying where I sit next to his crib so he knows he's not alone.
- Done cry-it-out. For a week. For bed time, for night wakings. Let me tell you - my son will cry from the minute the sun goes down til it comes right back up again.
- Tried to bring back the cluster feed (it's not a "he's hungry" issue. Have you seen my boy? He's a chunk).
- Kept a consistent routine. Every night - it's dinner, bath, walk, play, feed, bed. He's able to put himself to sleep between 8-9.
- Fed him closer to bedtime
- Fed him further from bedtime
- Altered the temperature in his room
- Give him a lovey to sleep with
- Try really hard to tire him out during the day
- He decided at 4 months that pacifiers weren't really his thing so no thanks
- Thumbs are not soothing either

It's the most painful thing to listen to your baby inconsolably screaming. After a week of cry-it-out, with him crying longer at the end than at the start, it was pretty clear that this wasn't going to help. Our current routine is to give him a few minutes when he wakes to see if he will work it out (19/20 times this will not happen) and if it escalates to standing up and screaming I'll go get him and hold him for 5-15 minutes til he's calmed down or back to sleep and put him back in bed. I'm not remotely ashamed to admit that on really hard nights I'll take him back to bed with me and let him nurse for comfort for the last hour or two of darkness just to get some shut eye (which is why I'm absolutely terrified of weaning).

This is something I understand and accept about him. He's scared to be alone. He's an extremely light sleeper (got that from his momma) and is a relatively low sleep-need child. I anticipate that once he is able to understand reason we will be able to work through this and hopefully eventually have a sibling he can share a room with so that he doesn't feel so scared when he wakes at night. Until then, we have an abundance of late-night cuddles, I'm SO UNBELIEVABLY GRATEFUL for the blessing of comfort nursing (I don't care that he's 10 months old, you do what you gotta to be able to function during the day and I will continue for as long as he nurses).

He's also a really alert, active, happy kid - so I figure he's doing just fine.

My message to ANYONE on the interwebs who is frantically searching for the right answer and the way to turn this around and feeling lonely: I don't have the answer for you - but stop reading the google articles that tell you you're going to cause your child to have x/y/z behavioral issues or stunted intelligence. Some kids need more sleep. Some need less. Some need a little more help at night. If you've got one of those too, we can be virtual besties at 12, 2, 3:15, 4:30, 5:45 and whatever other times our kids wake up.

Deal? Deal.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

My Motherhood

With Mothers Day just around the corner, I can't help but think constantly about this thing called Motherhood.

For three long years - and the three years before that, just waiting for the right time to "pull the goalie", as it were- it felt so far away. Sometimes completely unobtainable. I remember in vivid detail the first Mothers Day after a year of "trying" and a few short weeks after hearing medical confirmation of the issues we were facing coupled with the phrase, "It's likely going to be very difficult for you to get pregnant." Jeff had been asked to speak in church on that day. I was so, so angry - why did it seem like a good idea to ask the childless couple to speak on a day dedicated to parenthood? In truth, they had no idea what we were facing or just how raw and painful the topic of motherhood was at that point in time.

When the day came, I sat in the very back pew by myself because I knew it would be a difficult hour. I made it through the first speaker, and just felt disgruntled. I could do disgruntled.

Then it was Jeff's turn. He wrote a beautiful talk, and spoke a lot about the sanctity of motherhood and shared a lot of wonderful stories of the sacrifices his mom made for him. Slowly but steadily, the loneliness and grief and feelings of inadequacy worked their way to the surface. What kind of woman can't give her husband a kid? Isn't that the whole purpose of life? All I could do was keep my head down and try not to cry. I prayed to be able to keep it together.

I couldn't. By the time the third and final speaker stood up, I was an ugly-crying, sobbing wreck and walked outside. It literally could not be contained. Feelings are not something I deal with often - it's not that I don't have them, they are just secondary to the doing part of life, so when I feel something strong enough to the point of crying, there's no stopping and it certainly isn't for lack of want or trying. I was so embarrassed and even angrier - I couldn't get pregnant, and now I was making an absolute fool of myself. In public. AND Jeff had the car keys so I was stuck. I will never forget the sweet acquaintance - who soon became the best friend I have ever had- who took it upon herself to walk over and just let me be angry and sad and didn't try and tell me it would be okay. Because at that moment, it wasn't. As soon as sacrament meeting was over, I walked in to catch Jeff on his way out of the chapel and asked if we could please go home. There are so many worse trials in life than this and I'm completely aware of how melodramatic this sounds, but the best way I can describe how that day felt was agony.

Fast forward three years later and my train of thought is one of extreme gratitude. The beautiful little boy who has finally physically joined our family is a gorgeous, pure slice of heavenly perfection. The weeks following his birth felt sacred. There is nothing sweeter than welcoming a new, pure little spirit to your home - and the personal transformation that inspired is nothing short of amazing and something I will forever be grateful for. There aren't words to describe strongly enough what it means to me, but the closest I can find are these: This is *everything* to me. Wiping food off a dirty, smiling face. Listening to high-pitched squeals and caveman grunts while he figures out how fingers and toes work. Reaching out and catching a little head as he launches himself backwards when he is tired of sitting, completely trusting that *someone* will be there to break his fall. Sweet snuggles, sometimes at odd hours of the night. A little hand, reaching up to twirl my hair while he is nursing. Teaching him how to do the most basic things - sit, roll over, sip on a straw. Watching and cheering on as he achieves each new milestone, simultaneously so proud I could burst and feeling a little bit of heartbreak as he gets bigger and braver.

I'm not a perfect person - so, so far from perfect. But if anything or anyone could inspire me to try my hardest to be that way someday, it is having a little tiny face looking up at me watching, hearing, learning, absorbing, everything that I do.

So, I'm grateful. Thank you, baby Cade, for coming to our family and giving me a piece of myself that I couldn't find any other way.