Sunday, August 21, 2016

Newborn life: what I'm doing differently for round 2

I actually started this post when Royce was 3 weeks old (and uploaded pictures from back then OMG so tiny) because I had been noticing some differences in being a second time mom vs. a first time mom. I forgot about it but it kind of works out because I have more to add now. I'm clearly still very, very early on in my parenting journey, but I think enough time has passed for me to be able to speak on the transition from 0-1 kids vs 1-2 kids. People generally have strong opinions on which one of these transitions is the hardest. Without a moment's hesitation, I can say that for me 0-1 was significantly more difficult than 1-2.

Two kids is a breeze! Or something.

I mentioned struggling when Dalton was a newborn on the blog, although I kept a lot of things private and, as most struggles do, it went a little deeper than I was comfortable publicly sharing. Now that I have a little more perspective, I realize that I didn't recognize how much of an adjustment it was in the moment. When we attended childbirth classes, the nurses went over the signs for PPD and we paid close attention. They described very specific scenarios, which centered on the new mother crying a lot, not wanting to take care of her newborn, wanting to escape, and things like that. I'm sure many women do feel like that. But I didn't. Except, I was crying a lot. Partially because I never wanted to be away from him even for a moment, partially because I was terrified at the finality and responsibility of being his mother, and often for reasons that weren't remotely clear to me. It wasn't anything like what the nurses described. I was never ever unhappy being around my baby, and I never wanted a break from him. In retrospect, I think that since I was so happy being with him, I didn't allow myself to process that it still was a huge shift in my identity and lifestyle. Even though it was a wonderful transition, it was still a momentous upheaval, one that caused me a lot of anxiety and fear.

I felt this picture showed anxiety and fear.

Going from 1-2 was naturally a change in my day to day life, but I'd already undergone the enormous change in identity that motherhood brought. Having a newborn and toddler has been busy, but not scary, at least not beyond the normal levels of parenthood. I have confidence in myself, which is not to be confused with actually knowing what I'm doing, but I feel better about making it up as I go along. I also have a lot more perspective. With Dalton, I would agonize over every minute decision like it would make or break his entire life's success. Is he hungry or sleepy? Should I put him in the crib or keep him in the rock and play? Did I overstimulate him by reading him that book too energetically? Seriously, I was a psychopath. With Royce, I just do the best I can in the moment and as long as he's healthy, fed and dry I consider everything fine.

Clearly nailing parenting.

So with all that knowledge and experience under my belt (ha, my whole 22 months of parenting), here's a few differences in how I approached the newborn stage, round 2 vs round 1.

Not clock watching: Sometimes you hear things like newborns should eat every 2-3 hours. With Dalton, I used an app to track when he ate, especially since in the beginning we were told we had to wake him to make sure he ate every two hours. I wasn't too obsessive about it and thought I was going by hunger cues, but now I wonder if I did keep an eye on the clock too much. With Royce, I completely threw all that out the window. I remember joking to someone that I knew nothing anymore when he was about two weeks old and she said "I bet you know how long ago your baby ate and when he needs to eat again!". And I was like nope, actually I don't even know that, but he'll tell me. People would constantly ask how often he ate, how long he slept, how many times he was up at night, etc, etc, and I would be like I DON'T KNOW. To me, taking care of a newborn was a bit easier without also trying to do math. Baby cries, give him the boob, change the diaper, repeat. Simple.

Cosleeping: With Dalton, I thought I would want him in our room forever. I had no idea how loud newborns were. I'm an extremely light sleeper to begin with, and every tiny little noise he made had me waking in a panic thinking something was wrong. He was in our room for one whole week. Then he moved out to the living room with Eric. He started sleeping in his own room in the rock and play at about 7 weeks. Prior to that, he pretty much would only sleep on our chests. People can talk about sleep training all they want, but if you've had a kid who will only sleep with you, then you KNOW, amiright? We transitioned him to the crib at 9 weeks, which was fine, he slept crappy in the rock and play and continued to do so in the crib and generally continued to end up on one of us at some point in the night from birth to age one. However, my point was, he was almost never in the bedroom with me until he was old enough to fight back if I accidentally rolled over and crushed him, which was pretty unlikely considered I woke up every time he took an extra deep breath.

With Royce, I've turned into the mother I expected to be with Dalton, meaning that he sleeps in our room and I'm only 50% convinced that I can let him sleep on his own in time for college.

Because he's SO CUTE when he sleeps, and also when he's awake.

I'm not sure if he's quieter or I'm just less anxious, but I love having him next to me and it works out just fine. The first few nights home from the hospital, I tried to get him to sleep in the cosleeper, but he just wanted to nurse all night so he pretty much just stayed in bed next to me (following safe bed sharing practices). After that, we experienced the rock and play being the miracle baby tool that everyone touts it as (we did not experience this with Dalton) and at 3.5 months, he's snoozing there next to me right now and we have a "if it ain't broke don't fix it" situation.

Nursing in public: I have a distinct memory of attempting to nurse Dalton under the cover at some Christmas event. There was snow on the ground, and I was pouring sweat attempting to help him stay latched while he tried to rip the cover off, probably because it was hot and annoying. I didn't even bother to throw it in the diaper bag this time. If I was sweating in December, there's just no way I'm doing that in summer when the temperatures have often been in triple digits. There's certain situations I'll use it in, or times I'll go someplace private to make sure everyone is comfortable but I've had two labors and two c-sections at this point, I'm just not modest anymore.

Products: During my first pregnancy, I stocked up on lotions, creams, and baby products of all kinds. Now, if breast milk and/or coconut oil can't fix it, it's probably time to hit the ER. I have a whole drawer of useless store bought diaper rash "fixers". FYI, butt paste smells terrible and doesn't work in my experience.

Questions for the doctor: With Dalton, first my OB and then our pediatrician would take a seat and get comfortable after the examination portion of each appointment and patiently let me go through the long, written out list I dutifully brought each time. With Royce, I find myself rarely being able to think of even a single question. 

That's all I've got, let's conclude with these pictures of the boys holding hands in the double stroller and my heart completely exploding. 


Just all casual, holding his baby brother's hand like the sweetest little boy in the world that he is. 

I would love to hear thoughts on other people's experiences on their transitions in number of kids! 0-1 vs 1-2 or 1-3 or 2-3 or anything!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

#twoundertwo - when the working mom struggle is real

Just when I was cautiously, and foolishly, thinking maaaaaybe I had this transition from 1-2 kids thing sort of under control...I went back to work. And any illusion of having things together or being somewhat of a normal, non crazy person went straight to hell. I have a long documented (on the blog) history of attachment issues to my kids. This does not help. In fact, maybe it's best that I'm forced to separate from them 40-50 hours a week in order to make a living. But I still retain my right to hate it.

But on the bright side, the Instant Pot went on sale. 
I know it's confusing, since I did a whole post about going back to work last week. First of all, our school year began yesterday, on a Wednesday. Yesterday morning, every teacher in our district was on duty, and school opens to the students on the following Wednesday. The work I previously mentioned was optional for both teachers and students, and it was a sixth grade orientation of sorts for 7 days (M-F and then Monday and Tuesday of this week). It was also only 6 hours per day.

The real reason I was basically fine last week was that the kids were with Eric. Let's pause for a warning: my hormones are out of control right now because leaving my 3 month old baby makes me sick to my stomach and causes me to not think rationally. In this post, I will be sharing these irrational thoughts. I realize they are irrational, but I can't stop thinking them.

In my opinion/experience, you can't love anyone as much as you love your own children. You just can't. Or at least, I can't. The extension of that rule is that no one can love your children as much as you do. Therefore, while I was sad to leave them, I was leaving them with the one person who loves them as much as I do, my baby daddy. If there was some sort of horrific zombie apocalypse or something, I would rest assured that he would do anything and everything to keep them safe beyond what anyone else on the planet would do. He has those intense extra reserves of patience that you can only have for your own children.

This week, they went to daycare. Now, I've said before, we are 150% happy and thankful for our sitter. We couldn't ask for anything better, evidenced by the fact that Dalton is crazy about her. But she's not their parent. It's just different. Also, it can be challenging enough to co-parent with your spouse, the person you swore to love forever and had an equal part in bringing these children into your home. Introducing a third person into that mix is just confusing.

For these reasons, I lost my mind. I'm exhausted. Because of my infant? No. Because of my toddler? No. Because I was up too late Monday night crying about having to leave Royce again the following day (and, you know, every day now). I realize that sounds callous towards my first born. I certainly miss him too, and I've certainly shed plenty of tears over it. But the fact is it's just easier to leave a toddler. It sucks, because he's hilarious and adorable and his little personality is so strong now and he's at the age where we can interact and play together and it's so much fun. However, I've been working full time since before he was 3 months old. I'm used to leaving him, which is sad but true. He's also used to daycare, and loves it there, which of course helps immensely.

I just want to look at these faces all day long.

Royce has not had the best adjustment. Which is maybe to be expected, because all transitions are hard, but when it's your 3 month old having the hard time, it's impossible not to be consumed with guilt and devastation. Our sitter and Eric generally try to sugarcoat things for me (probably because they have picked up on the fact that I'm barely hanging on by a hormone laced thread). On Monday, I ended up racing over there to nurse because there was a miscommunication with the milk, we forgot the swaddle, basically everything had gone straight to hell. In addition to my kids, there was a 7 year old boy there, really sweet kid, who immediately started telling me how Royce had cried all day. Which led my late night cry fest. Kids don't sugarcoat.

For better or worse, we never did a trial run at daycare, or with any sitter, even family before I started work either time. To me, that would be like doing a trial run for labor by simulating contractions. "Allow me to prepare for this unpleasant thing by doing more of this unpleasant thing." No. I didn't want to leave them at all because I wanted to be with them at all times. I didn't really see how leaving them for a few hours would help that, since it certainly wasn't like they would remember things. Of course, now my adjustment is going horribly, so maybe there's something to it, but what's done is done.

I was also consumed with guilt (sensing a theme here?) because when Eric dropped them off, Royce was sleeping. Oh, also Eric drops them off even though we now work together at the same school, which I'm not sure I've mentioned. Because I CAN'T HANDLE IT. So we drive separately. Anyway, I was imagining Royce waking up and being totally confused about why everyone he knew in the world was gone. I'm not exactly sure what the alternative was, did I want Eric to wake him up and explain things to him? That certainly is a logical idea. But Eric reminded me that Dalton was with him, and that made me feel so much better. It really makes me happy that since we use an in home daycare, the boys get to be together all day.

To counteract this extremely negative blog post, I would like to share that on Tuesday, before the school year officially began, I made shawarma for the first time. Make this immediately and thank me later. I made it while both boys napped (Royce on my chest in the ergo), watching Battle of the Blackwater (because Game of Thrones puts my "problems" in perspective and I just never get sick of that episode).

I also just need to say that I'm so, so grateful to all my family, friends, and coworkers who let me vent and cry, listened to me complain, talked to me on the phone making me laugh until I cried, and let us hang out at their house when I locked myself and the kids out yesterday on a 100 degree day right after I bought ice cream and had all my pumped milk, yes, this happened, and I didn't even reach my 10k steps because of it. I'm now losing this week's FitBit competition. 

Today I have a training at a school with air conditioning (yay!) that's also near daycare (yay!) so I'm going to drop them off (nooooooooooooooooo). I've been debating if I should try to go at lunch and nurse, or if that would upset Dalton too much, with the kind of time and attention that is usually reserved for Supreme Court justices in murder cases. Opinions welcome. 

What's your go to feel good TV? My friend also got me back on The Office, and I've just been randomly watching early episodes on Netflix and cracking up. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

#twoundertwo - working mom

Spoiler alert: not nailing it.

This week, I sort of went back to work. I say sort of because it's been so much easier than should be legal, and it's not the real world. I'm only working 8-2, which I'm a big fan of and would love to continue this schedule until retirement (with my full salary, of course). I also have a stay at home parent (Eric), which turns out to be pretty awesome. I only have myself to get ready in the morning. In fact, Eric can even help me, because he doesn't have to get out the door himself. It's amazing. Even being at the whims of a 3 month old, it's so much easier than trying to get everyone up and ready for the day. Lastly, Eric has been bringing Royce to school when the kids leave at noon. Clearly, this is wonderful because I get to see him, and also it means I only have to pump once at work, and then I can just nurse. For those that haven't experienced this, comparing pumping to nursing is approximately equivalent to comparing getting a root canal to taking a Caribbean cruise.

Despite the fact that I just said everything is much easier - that's a relative term. Getting ready in the morning - the struggle was real, even just getting myself ready. I have two versions of "getting ready". One is the first day of school/observation/doing something special after work version. This entails washing my hair, putting on makeup, and wearing of my fancier outfits (but still from Target or Old Navy). Then I have the much more common version of messy bun, no makeup, and crap clothes. In my mind, that version is the cute casual one, but I realized this week that it may have been so in my 20s, but when you roll up in a minivan filled with car seats and goldfish, it's just frumpy mom.

Anyway, obviously with Monday being day 1, it was fancy time. I did the whole count back from the absolute last second you need to be out of the house plan to figure out when I needed to get up, shower, etc. I came up with a plan.

Someone else was not on board with this plan.

He woke up when I planned to get in the shower, nursed way longer than usual, and then unexpectedly decided he was up for the day. When I went to hand him off to Eric, he was rocking Dalton to sleep after he'd apparently woken up crying. Luckily, Royce was pretty receptive to just hanging out watching me get ready, because he's just wonderful like that. He was even kind enough to spit up on me before I got in the shower. I doubt many babies are that considerate.

So things were going well. 

After many setbacks, I managed to get out the door, albeit much later than planned. Forseeing this, I had padded the morning with excessive extra time, so I was still at work early. This gets significantly more difficult to accomplish every day.

This is his favorite spot to sleep. He is his father's son. 
Another problem I'm facing is baby weight. Sure, it's only been 3 months, and I know the whole 9 on, 9 off idea, I know there's way too much pressure on women to lose the weight right away, and I agree with all that wholeheartedly. Except I live in America, land of "here's your free breast pump now get your fat ass back to work". I'm pretty sure my postpartum wardrobe of elastic waistbands and nursing tanks isn't considered "professional". So while I'm ok-ish with not fitting in to most of my clothes yet, I need something to wear to work. I could go shopping, but I don't want to for reasons included but not limited to:

  • I'm tired.
  • It's hot.
  • I'm (delusionally?) hopeful I'll lose more weight.
  • Paying for daycare for two kids is about to happen.

I have plenty of flowy dresses. While they are quite effective at hiding all the problem areas and still fitting me at various sizes, they don't work when you have to pump 3 times a day. I've heard many workplaces have nice lactation suites, designed to give nursing mothers privacy and comfort. Public schools are not such workplaces. And hey, I get it. My sons will be going through the public school system, and I expect my taxpayer dollars to go towards their education, not towards special milking rooms for teachers. However, in the meantime, that leaves me pumping in closets or empty classrooms, which may or may not have locks, so I'm not trying to completely strip down. Long story short, dresses are off the table.

I've written a lot about some real mundane nonsense. It's obviously not life or death, or anything close, but it's seriously stressful starting a new job and trying to maintain some sense of professionalism when you have like 2 things that fit and you also have to come prepared to essentially be a dairy cow. Not to mention that on top of this, I actually need to do my job and care for my children and maintain a household and all.

I think these faces pretty much sum up my thoughts.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Maternity leave - it always has to end

It's the end of an era. Not the two under two hashtag era. Don't worry, I have 6 or 7 weeks more to use that. But tomorrow will be the last day of my maternity leave. To go along with that, Royce turns 3 months old on Saturday. 3 months has just seemed like a big shift for me both times - when they change from a newborn to a baby. They're officially out of the fourth trimester, for all you Dr. Karp fans (and if you're a parent and don't know who that is, HOW did you survive?).

Royce is no longer a brand new teeny tiny nugget.

Snoozing away on his first day outside the womb

He holds his head up, breaks into a huge grin when he sees me (tooting my own horn, don't care), and even rolled over from tummy to back yesterday!

He is just perfection.

So, tomorrow is my last day at home with my newborn. I hope to do a lot of this.

Because there is actually nothing better than this in the entire world. 

I read a quote on Facebook that said something like "you're expected to work like you don't have kids, and parent like you don't have a job", and that just said it all to me. I've enjoyed my maternity leave for so many reasons (um, no alarm clock?!) but one of the biggest was that I was able to focus on only parenting. I just love waking up in the morning and taking time to make funny faces at Royce and see his reactions, to sit and read a book with both boys in my lap, to cook eggs with Dalton (one of his favorite activities) - basically, the ability to spend time with my children with no other demands. 

One of the difficulties in being a working mom for me is that my mind is always racing to the next step. Instead of those lazy mornings having fun together, it's always a rush to get out the door and I'm always mentally running through my to do list for when I arrive at work. As soon as that last bell rings, I'm trying to figure out how fast I can get to daycare to see Dalton's little face light up (and of course, now Royce too), figuring out what to do for dinner, wondering if I can fit in errands, if we have time to do something fun or if it's just the usual dinner/bath/bed. During bath time, I'm thinking about how as soon as they're in bed it's time to wash up from dinner, pack the bottles, send those work emails, etc, etc. Then once they are in bed, I miss them and want to cry because our time together during the work week is so limited. Clearly it's something I need to work on, but I bet it's a struggle for many parents. 

Maybe if I could just bring them to work with me?
There's a positive section of this blog post though. First of all, while I'm really sad to be leaving my kids, particularly Royce since he's so little and it will be my first time leaving him, my emotional state is so much better than it was last time I had to do this. With Dalton, I was an absolute wreck. Just thinking about leaving him brought tears to my eyes. If I actually had to talk about it (which, um, I did, all the time), I cried. Not dabbing at my eye with a tissue crying, the runny nose, heaving, hysterical crying. I probably did that type of crying more days than not. There would be times I would refuse to look at my phone after someone sent me a text or email that referenced returning to work because it upset me too much. I couldn't sleep at night because I was so anxious that something terrible would happen to him at daycare. It. Was. Bad. 

I'm happy to say that I've dealt with all that, and this time around, it's nothing like that. I'm sad to leave them, sad at how much I know I'll miss them, and nervous about how I'm going to manage a full time job and two kids. But that's it, and those seem like normal emotions for the situation to me. I have absolutely no anxiety about daycare, since obviously this time I'm leaving my baby with someone I know and trust, unlike with Dalton when she was still pretty much a stranger to me. 

No one could ever want to leave these faces, right?

He wanted to wear my headband because he sees me doing it. 

I've been incredibly lucky, and due to the timing of Royce's birth and the school year start, I'll have had a total of 13.5 weeks at home with him. Far from enough, but more than most. 

The other good news about returning to work is that I'm starting a new position! I've taught elementary school in the same school since I graduated from college - a total of eleven years. Starting this month, I'll be moving up to middle school! It's a new building and a completely new environment. I'll be teaching sixth grade language arts. I've gotten some mixed reactions when I've told people I'm teaching middle school, but I'm truly thrilled about it. (for real, not just being politically correct because I'm posting on the internet). My favorite grade to teach in elementary has been fifth, mostly because you can form such closer relationships with the students when they're older. I've heard middle school is even better in that respect.  After 11 years, it was time for a change of pace and I'm really excited for a new challenge.  On Monday, I'll be helping with a 7 day orientation for the sixth graders. It's only 8-2, and the boys will be home with Eric, so it's a perfect way for me to ease back in. As soon as that's over, it's time for teachers to report for duty for the new school year. 

Of course, nothing can ever beat this. 

Snuggly baby and cold brew coffee. 

Splash park!
But love don't pay the bills, and work wise, I couldn't be happier with my situation. Of course, it means I'll be busting the pump back out. Here we go again with that nonsense.

What's the hardest part for you with work/life balance?

Even though I'm teaching language arts you can't judge me for grammar in this blog post because we just returned from a 6 day trip to visit my family, and while seeing them was wonderful, traveling with kids is the worst idea ever and I'm so sleep deprived and mentally deficient.