Friday, 26 September 2014

A Good Enough Mom

There are countless blog posts, books, videos about what to expect with a brand new baby, and still somehow when one entered my life and my arms and my brain I felt slighted by all the moms in the world.

"No one told me about the guilt! the postpartum OCD that causes horrible thoughts! the fear that my husband won't bond with the baby because he doesn't have boobs! the weird noises that babies make when they breathe! that I would love my baby more than anything in the world but sometimes wouldn't really like her!"

The truth is that of course I was told about all of these things.* But like every pregnant lady ever, I focused on the trees (birth) instead of the forest (bringing a baby into our life). Like every pregnant lady ever, I blocked out everything beyond my belly. And like every mother ever, I ended up feeling completely blindsided by the complex labyrinth of emotions that make up motherhood.  I've come to realize that it's something of a rite of passage--all pregnant women worry only about birth and nursery palettes, all mothers subsequently get slapped in the face both literally and proverbially by motherhood.

For me, it's been the constant twin drumbeats of guilt and inadequacy that have rung the loudest, as real and as present as my heartbeat. I'm a pretty guilt-ridden person as it is to be honest--one time as a kid I called the operator and hung up, then called back and apologized--but regardless of how glaringly obvious this outcome was, it has become a massive source of frustration and stress-induced teeth-clenching.

I don't know how this played out for parents in pre-Internet times, but the nature of the modern Google-driven parenthood is that as soon as you begin to feel confident as a parent you discover some other way that you are completely failing at it.  I've worried about Amelia's preference for turning her head to the right, about the fact that I have the TV on in the background for large parts of the day, about not stimulating her enough or not reading her enough books, about not giving her enough tummy time. I worry about the times I've lost patience with her and said things like "can you please be happy for like 30 seconds?" I worry about how we'll discipline her one day and about what label our parenting will fall under.

In addition to telling myself I'm failing, I know it'll only get worse as she gets older and can actually tell me how terrible a job I'm doing.

I think one of the hardest things I had to learn about anxiety was that nothing could ever make it go away entirely. There was no magic pill or therapy that would make me suddenly able to avoid dwelling on the negative or how inept I feel. Sure, pills and therapy would dull the noise a bit, but nothing would make it disappear and make me into a completely different person. What I had to learn before Amelia was to try to let the thoughts fade into the background, still present but not distracting. I had to learn to let them buzz and pop and bubble up every now and then, but then to let them pass through as thoughts rather than to internalize them as facts. I've struggled with anxiety for most of my life, and the mom guilt is just a new set of sounds I need to learn to live with.

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That and some other (louder) sounds.

There are days, though, when the cacophony** of sounds gets too much, when Amelia has been screaming for far more hours than she's been smiling, when we didn't get tummy time in and I watched a video of a baby her age holding its head up for what seemed like hours, when Rob comes home and can't comfort the baby like I can, when I haven't showered for days and my roots can be seen for miles, when all I want is an hour or two away from this tiny person I would die a thousand deaths for, I feel completely defeated. A few times I've left Amelia to cry in her crib while I follow suit for a couple of minutes on the stairs.  I feel exhausted and I feel like I'm failing at literally every aspect of my life.

In those times I try to remember that Amelia is first and foremost very much loved. That she has enough food to eat and is growing like a weed. That crying doesn't reflect on me as a parent and that she doesn't have adult motives for doing it. That I dance with her for a good hour at night so she'll sleep well. That losing patience is okay, because emotions aren't a bad thing to have or to show. That part of the reason I do lose patience is that I'm simultaneously trying to get work done to make money and support her.

Amelia may never have a Pinterest-worthy bedroom or birthday party. I probably won't find the time to read to her every day at least until she's a little bit older. I will probably mess up a lot and find myself apologizing even when I don't need to. I may not always find motherhood a completely enjoyable or rewarding task. Just like with my pre-baby anxiety, the sounds will never completely go away.

I am not and will never be accused of being a perfect parent, but my child is loved and supported unconditionally, and in that way, I think I'm good enough.

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*Except the postpartum OCD, but that's for another post.
**Fuck yeah I just used the word "cacophony." How often do you get to use "cacophony" in a sentence? Gotta take advantage of these opportunities.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The Everyday Life Awards

Note: I took this idea from Abby of Abby Has Issues. I just started following her and really enjoy everything she writes, so go check her out.

For those of you who don't know--and I don't know you could not know if you actually read anything I write--I struggle with social anxiety, crippling unjustified guilt, a whopping inferiority complex, a dash of impostor syndrome and maybe a little bit of OCD. A veritable stew of dysfunction.

I also thrive on external validation and words of affirmation. So when I do something that's considered "just part of being an adult" by most people, I find myself looking around expecting someone to reassuringly place their hand on my shoulder and say, "hey, Caitlin, you really did it."

That doesn't ever happen. Since I'm an adult and not 4.

But after reading Abby's post, I felt inspired to give myself some well-deserved awards for all the stupid little things I've accomplished this week.
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Cutting my baby's fingernails with clippers without cutting them too short or cutting her skin.

Scheduling an oil change. 1000 miles over when I was supposed to schedule it.

Made progress toward buying Amelia a crib (she's still sleeping in a bassinet in our room).

Made a successful grocery store trip with Amelia and bought 3 days' worth of groceries.

Finished several projects for work, both when the baby was awake and during her nap.

Gave Amelia at least one 2-minute tummy time session each day for the last week.

Gave the dog at least one walk most days.

Folded laundry. Minus 10 points for not putting it away after folding it.

Finally bought fall clothes for the baby.

Entered and submitted my timesheet on time.

Washed our sheets after the baby threw up on them. Minus 10 points because Rob actually did this.


Ate real breakfasts and lunches every day.

Successfully maintained a dairy free diet (minus 5 pieces of cheese to determine if it was in fact milk causing Amelia's was) for 3 weeks.


So what do you deserve an award for this week?

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

This Liebster Post Took Me Like 5 Days to Write

First off, I want to thank you all for the supportive comments/validation you gave on my last post. Somehow two plus weeks have passed and I have no clue how that happened, so this is a wee bit late, but seriously thank you. You're all lovely and you are the primary reason why I keep this blog open even when I feel like I have nothing to say.

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Secondly, I've been nominated for the Liebster thing for the gazillionth time by Nova (and just prior to that by Suzy), and since I miraculously have a few minutes until Colic Scream McGee wakes up* AND since I haven't done it in 3 million years I decided to play this time.  I'm going to use Nova's questions since she gave me my most recent nomination, not because she's my favorite although she is super cool (and if you don't read her blog you should, trust me). 

Here are ze rules even though I'm sure you've seen them before:
(1) Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.
(2) Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”.
(3) Answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.
(4) Provide 11 random facts about yourself.
(5) Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 1000 followers.
(6) Create a new list of questions for the blogger to answer.
(7) List these rules in your post.

11 Questions from Nova:

1. What is your morning routine like?
The baby wakes up anywhere from 3:00am to 5:00am lately. I usually nurse her and change her diaper, and if possible crawl back into bed where I may or may not putz around on my phone for a bit or hopefully fall asleep again until about 8. We get up, nurse and diaper again, then come downstairs to start the work day or I carry Amelia around for an hour if she's fussy. Usually morning is her non-cranky time so she spends it on the activity mat batting at things or doing tummy time while I try to get work done.

2. Where do you feel most creative?
I don't really feel like I'm a creative person so I'm not sure I know what it feels like to "feel creative." I usually write blog posts at my desk or on the couch, but that's more dependent on where the baby is and what she's doing.

3. What is a good piece of advice/words of wisdom you'd like to share with your readers?
I've always liked the phrase, "worry gives small things big shadows." Helps remind me that my feelings and fears aren't facts.

4. Describe your blog in ten words or less.
Abandon hope all ye who enter here.  Just kidding. Let's go with "I'm anxious and write about my husband, dog, and kid."

5. What is a controversial opinion you hold?
Though my child is exclusively breastfed, I don't think breastfeeding is any better than formula feeding (and there's science to back me up on that). I also don't think that Amelia and I are any better or worse than anyone else because she drinks milk that comes out of my boobs. You wouldn't think that would be all that controversial but...the internet is a crazy place.

6. If you could learn everything there is to know about one subject what would it be?
Particle physics. Science in general.

7. If reincarnation was the true reality, what would you hope to come back as?
Hmm...I mean aside from another human in some place different? I guess if I had to pick an animal it'd be something that wouldn't have a really hard, scary life like a prey animal. Maybe a sloth? A bird? A dog that's really well cared for?

8. Have you ever played on a sports team? If so, what was the experience like? If not, what is your relationship like with sports?
I was in peewee basketball and I was a manager for the girl's varsity high school team. I don't do sports.

9. Are you addicted to anything? 
Right now, Liz Lovely cookies. I've been buying them online en masse.

10. What are some of your favorite books? (I am always looking for recommendations!) 
Pretty much everything by Tom Robbins, "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn, "Stiff" by Mary Roach are the ones that come to mind. I also really liked "Nicholas and Alexandra" by Robert Massie.

11. How do you feel about getting older?
Pretty good actually. Excited to see what's going to happen and how things will change.

11 Facts About Me:

1. I have to smell my deodorant before I put it on. Every time. I found out somewhat recently that my cousins do this too so maybe it's a family thing.

2. When I was pregnant I consistently threw up steak dinners. It wasn't that the idea of steak made me sick, I just always threw it up once I ate it. Because of that I hadn't eaten a steak in months until the night before Amelia was born.  As labor started and I was in pain (as well as in an Ambien-induced fog...that shit messes you up) I got into the shower and proceeded to throw up my steak dinner all over myself. Classin' it up.

3. Though I married an outdoorsman I consider myself to be solidly an indoor girl. I'd like to say that hiking and outdoors things jazz me up, and I guess they do to some extent in the right conditions, but generally I like indoor activities. And I'm sure I'll be excited to do outdoorsy things with Amelia as I'd like her to be less like me and more like her father in this regard.

4. This is going to sound so weird but sometimes when I'm just out and about by myself I'll think of something stupid I said or did, either recently or 10 years ago, and to get it out of my head/drown out the thought I'll vocalize something like "ughh shut up" to myself. Like out loud. So if you see me twitching and muttering in the corner, that's why.

5. I've used this one before because it's easy, but I have some new readers sooo here goes. I only have one kidney! I lost the other to cancer when I was 4 years old. Side note: Rob pointed out the other day how crazy it is that given the right instructions (gametes) my body was able to grow two functioning kidneys (Amelia's) even though I only have one and my body's never made another one. Isn't that weird? Biology, man.

6. This fact is probably TMI. When I was a kid no one explicitly explained to me how to use tampons and I never asked, so the first time I used one (at maybe 12 or 13) I just sort of...inserted it without actually pushing out the tampon part or taking the applicator out. I walked around like that all day and wondered why on earth people used these damn things if (1) they didn't work well at all and (2) they made it hurt like hell when you sat down. I fail(ed) at being a girl in so many ways.

7. I like and am fascinated by really morbid things. I was a big user in the late '90s and like reading stories and watching documentaries about death and dead bodies.

8. When it comes to sweet food I have absolutely no impulse control. I would eat cookies and candy for every meal if I could.

9. I love to swear. It's going to be the hardest habit to break now that I'm a parent.

10. Though Rob and I have always talked about having two kids, now that I've actually had one I could see only having one.  But my heart breaks a little when I think of her growing up without siblings and about never being pregnant again, so I don't know. TICK TOCK.

11. I'm on a dairy-free diet right now since the doctor thinks Amelia has a milk protein allergy and it is the hardest thing I've had to do dietarily speaking. I'm including going gluten-free in that.  I've never wanted an entire glass of milk more in my life.  It's actually making me pretty sad just writing about it.


I nominate Marla, Kim, and Kathy and here are my questions:

1. What's the best piece of criticism you've ever received?
2. Do you rent or own your current domicile?
3. Would you rather spend 2 minutes on the moon or 2 years in Europe, all expenses paid?**
4. What cause or political issue do you feel strongly about?
5. What's the first thing you do to feel better after a shit-tastic day?
6. What meal could you eat every day (or maybe multiple times per week) without getting sick of it?
7. Top 3 favorite blogs, GO.
8. What was your favorite subject in elementary school? High school? College if you attended?
9. Would you rather get a new job or move up in your current one? OR if you aren't working, what is your dream job?
10. What are the first 3 websites you visit when you start your internet day?
11. On cold days, what do you set your thermostat too? (Ours never goes higher than 68, so I'm curious)

*I stole this question from this book. Rob and I think it's a great question for determining which of our friends is the most like us.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Struggles (Not Real Ones)

So there's a reason aside from laziness and baby that I haven't really been writing much of substance here.

The list of things I've thought fleetingly of writing about span from life postpartum, some advice for ladies who will go through this period at some point, how fucking depressing the world is right now, social justice, pumpkin-spiced lattes and caftans.

I only put those last three to sound cool. What are caftans, incidentally?

(Never mind, I just Googled them. Are those a thing, fashion-wise? Because they're awful. Also I did not realize that J. Peterman was a real thing - is that where they got it from in Seinfeld?)

Anyway the point is I've been wanting to write a lot but just as with other areas of my life, I'm paralyzed by insecurity.  Specifically, I'm worried that writing too much about the baby will alienate the friends I've made through my previously-childless blog, and my fear of alienation has translated into...just not writing at all. Which kind of sucks, to be honest. I love the community I've joined through blogging and the friends I've made, both the childfree and the child-ful and I don't want to lose any of you.

I'm sure you could make the case that this insecurity speaks to a deeper fear--the confusion and shift in identity that comes with becoming a parent.  I've known plenty of people who change significantly once they've had kids, and though I always promised myself that I'd become Caitlin With a Kid instead of Kid's Mother, the lines are much more blurred now that the kid is actually here.  I don't feel different, my marriage doesn't feel different, but I also don't know enough about myself from an objective perspective to know if my goal has actually been achieved (or if it will dissipate as we get further entrenched in child-rearing).

Another part of me says "who the fuck actually cares?" either about what people think or about what label to slap on myself as a parent of a barely one-month-old baby. But as someone whose wellbeing has always for better or (more frequently)for worse been inextricably tied to the opinions of others, it's far more easier said than done.

I suppose that what it comes down to is finding myself once again, for a reason so incredibly different than any other I've come across, apologizing for being me, apologizing for not knowing what the right thing to do is. Assuming that everyone else knows what I should do. I'm smack dab in the middle of a time where I think I could find a lot of value in freeing myself to write about this new chapter as I please--the good and the bad--but because of my own insecurities I feel completely paralyzed to actually start doing it.

The bottom line of this meandering post is that parenthood so far is weird and hard and amazing and has managed to make me feel more unsure of myself than I've ever been. I'm still trying to parse out what it means for me, both as a person and as someone who writes in a blog sometimes.

Anyway. I love you all and you're great. I'm not looking for validation, just wanted to check in and say that I hope you'll tolerate me as I stumble through the next months and years.

Happy Monday. <3