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Don’t skimp on the baby wipes…

As I was changing a diaper last night, to my horror, the wipe container was empty. By this time (Liam is now 13 months old) I’ve gotten smart enough to keep new packs right AT the changing table (I know this should be common sense, but let’s not go there right now) so I was able to carry on, but it reminded me of a new-mom-whoops I had when Liam was just an infant.

With their tiny little tummies and tiny little bladders, new babies go through lots of tiny diapers. Sometimes I’d change a diaper and within ten minutes, have to change one again – OR – if I was really lucky, I’d get peed on in the process of changing a diaper. (Love you, Liam).

So, new-mom-genius over here (ahem… ME) came up with a brilliant plan: I would only use baby wipes for #2! If Liam only peed, I’d just whip a new diaper on him super fast and be done with it! This would allow me to significantly lower my chances of being peed on mid-change and save us from using so many baby wipes.

If you’re a parent, you can see where this is going….

It didn’t take very long for my poor baby to develop a red and uncomfortable bottom :(. Poor bubbas! My stupidity had left him with a diaper-burn. I only made this mistake the one time and then felt horrible about it.

To this day, I probably go overboard on the baby wipes just to make sure he is COMPLETELY clean. But there’s probably more to my overuse of wipes… For the past month, our awesome daycare provider has asked the daycare parents to bring in empty toilet paper tubes that the kids are going to use for an art project. The other parents maybe bring one tube per week… I bring like 1-3. As the only girl in our house, I think I have a problem…

Moral of the story: Don’t skimp on the baby wipes! Your baby’s bottom will thank you.

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My 5-Day Induction: Finding ME Again – My Messy, Beautiful Birth Story

March 5, 2014, was my son Liam’s first birthday. We bought him balloons, a cupcake, and had our best friends and their daughter over to celebrate, toast to the birthday boy and to the fact that we all survived our first year of life together. Liam just turned one; and I just stopped being angry.

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He’s been a happy child from the start. He made his way into the world as a solid nine-pounder (9 pounds 6 ounces, to be exact). He nursed like a champ right away and slept through the night at six weeks old (you have full permission to hate me), crawled at seven months and walked at ten. He babbles with intention and is genuinely just a happy little guy. He’s learning to navigate his little world, and I’m learning to let go of part of mine.

Most mothers look to their child’s first birthday with anticipation and excitement, scouring Pinterest for the best party ideas and decorations. Not me.

  1. I’m not that crafty;
  2. I just prefer low-maintenance over elaborate; and
  3. I wasn’t looking forward to my son’s first birthday. I was dreading it – GASP!

What kind of mother am I? Who says that!? Seriously – especially “out loud” on a blog, for all the world to see.

Well, I said it – because it’s true.

I’ll jump to the chase: Liam’s birth sucked. Seriously. It was awful. It was nothing I had wanted and everything I didn’t want, stretched out over a ten-day hospital stay and months of suppressed trauma while I lived in new-mom-zombie-land and did what I had to do to care of my infant and make it through each day. Liam’s birth consisted of:

  • 10 days in the hospital
  • 5 day induction
  • 2 cervidil
  • 3 cytotec
  • 3 full days of pitocin
  • 1 foley bulb
  • An epidural
  • Magnesium
  • 18 hours of labor
  • Back labor
  • 3 hours of pushing
  • A c-section, for which I had to be put under general anethesia
  • Blood transfusion
  • Blood pressure medication for five months postpartum
  • And a bunch of other home medical crap I will neither bore you with nor gross you out with  :)

Liam’s birth sucked. Plain and simple. But what I found to suck more is how going home from the hospital was suddenly supposed to make everything Ok.

At least he’s healthy!”

At least you’re Ok.”

At least you have a baby.”

Well, duh. Of course I’m grateful for these things, but they didn’t make what I lost and the trauma I went through any better. I never knew how good intended rationalizations such as these could sting until I was no longer the one making them in naive attempts to comfort those who felt loss.

A loss? You might be wondering – what on earth did you lose? You gained a baby. That is true – but in the process, I lost all of my best intentions for that baby’s entry into our world; I lost the natural process that I consider birth to be; and for a long time, I lost myself.

My son is the best thing to ever happen to me, and while I spent his first year of life basking in the joy of everything he is, I also spent it suppressing all the feelings I hadn’t let myself feel during the ten days I spent in the hospital and the months of recovery that followed. I had my game face on – I was in “in it to win it.” I didn’t notice how the tears I never let myself release started changing into resentment and anger inside of me.

As my son’s first birthday approached, I found myself becoming enraged at other mother’s innocent comments in the mothering groups I’m a part of on Facebook. Posts about the importance of skin-to-skin contact right after birth; how certain drugs can affect the baby; the benefits of vaginal birth versus c-section; etc. etc. Inside of me my voice raised and I shouted “Fuck you! I know that! Not everyone has these choices!” I felt judged, even though most of these women had never met me and had no idea what my son’s birth was like. I knew their comments were not directed at me, and I knew they meant no harm, but I found myself internalizing them and feeling attacked, jealous, and angry because they were the things about birth that I had wanted so badly, but did not get.

My son was born by cesarean section while I was out under general anesthesia. After the five-day induction, 18-hour labor, and three hours of pushing – Liam just wouldn’t descend and I did not react to medication. It was not an emergency situation, for which I am very grateful, but it robbed me of those first moments with my Liam.

My husband describes how he felt the first time he saw Liam – how his heart jumped outside his body and returned with so much love he never knew he had. I met Liam at midnight, the day after his birth. My heart felt heavy; it never lept. My body was broken.

After release from the hospital, “the new normal” of life took over and along the way I tried to find myself again. I love to exercise – but I was restricted for five months postpartum. I love being with friends – but I wasn’t able to bring myself to even speak to, let alone see my best friend for over a month after Liam’s birth. I knew the moment I saw her or heard her voice I would break down, and I just couldn’t let myself do that – to relive my birth experience. I needed to stay strong and care for my baby.

So I relived my birth trauma alone – for one whole year – through random memories and flashbacks that would leave me fighting tears at work or in the grocery store. I tried meeting with a therapist and it was a disaster. She kept asking if I felt depressed and she wanted to medicate me. NO! I was NOT depressed! I just had a lot of emotions about my birth experience and needed to let them out!

I finally found solace in a local group I helped start: a Traumatic Birth Support Group. Being around other women who felt traumatized by some aspect or all of their birth experience really helped me – we all “got it” – that it’s Ok to be upset about your birth experience. Being upset about mine and wishing it had gone differently is not something to feel guilty about. A loss is a loss – and we have to process the loss before we can move on.

So in the days that proceeded my son’s first birthday, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. In some ways, I felt like the mounting tension inside me was going to explode and I’d be this giant mess of tears and emotion. Luckily, it went like this: Liam downed his cupcake the fastest I’ve ever seen anyone eat anything, we toasted with our friends and had a pleasant evening. I woke up the next day feeling like me again. It’s strange, really, but I feel like I needed to get past his birthday – that painful milestone, which for most people is so joyous – to feel like it’s over; to get closure.

This past year I hesitated sharing my story and my crushed dreams with others because I knew how I sounded: selfish. Now that I have shared, I hope my honesty brings other mothers comfort and assurance that it’s Ok to be upset about your child’s birth, and it’s Ok to take time to heal — physically and emotionally — because let’s get real here, the standard six weeks of “maternity leave” is a joke – that’s not nearly long enough.

I used to be afraid to touch my c-section scar. Avoiding it at all cost, I’d cringe when I bumped my abdomen into something and felt that “numb” sensation. A year later, it is no longer red. It is barely visible, but I still don’t look.

Liam is my first child, and for the first year of his life, I thought he might be my last. But I am no longer afraid. My journey to motherhood and to finding myself again is more than just messy: it is beautiful, it is sad, it is traumatic, but it is ME. I am a warrior – and I will carry on.

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This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

 

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Unconventional play things

Liam has lots of toys. Lots and LOTS of toys. Almost all were given to us by generous friends and family (thank you!) and we bought a few at this awesome, huge, city-wide baby-item garage sale that happens twice a year. But you know what I’ve realized? About 75% of the time, Liam could give two shits about his toys. He prefers to play with weird stuff. Some of his favorite weird stuff includes:

  • Kitchen spatulas. Anything from the kitchen, really. And I know most babies love kitchen stuff, so my kid’s not that weird, I guess. Moving on…
  • An old spice container that my husband put a quarter in. It’s genius, really. Liam shakes that shit, throws it, kicks it and is pretty much obsessed with it because it makes noise. Boom. #Winning.
  • Small cardboard boxes, i.e. the box to baby Tylenol, etc. I started giving them to him as a distraction during diaper changes so he wouldn’t contort in strange positions and try to sky-dive off the changing table, thus causing me to become poo-covered by literally savings his ass, and not just wiping it. Now he likes ANY box.
  • Our socks. He likes to wave them and shake them. Sometimes he tastes them. Depending on the state of the socks (i.e. did they just come off my husband’s feet?) he often greatly regrets that experiment.
  • Toilet paper, Kleenexes, napkins… any type of soft paper – he will just TEAR. THAT. SHIT. UP.
  • The air vent in his bedroom. Liam will stand over it, run over it, pound on it… fooorrrreeevvveeerrrr! Here he is just chillin’ in his jammies with his paci, “wind” blowing through his hair, hairbrush in tow. My kid is the coolest.

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Recently, my husband gave Liam the best “toy” ever – straight from the trash. Brady had gotten a package in the mail and of course it was stuffed with a bunch of filler-paper. OMG – LIAM IS OBSESSED WITH THE FILLER. The photos below are a small sampling of what would have gone on for hours if we hadn’t made him stop and go to bed.

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New mom takeaway? Anything can be a toy. So if you’re cheap like me, dumpster-drive, baby, and get creative. :)

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Spring is finally here! And as the weather warms up, Liam is outside much more both at home and at daycare. The territory of his explorations has been vastly expanded, and my little trail blazer is doing everything he can to learn about the world around him. And by “everything he can” I mean he is attempting to eat everything he can… most of which is not food. And thus, I bring you:

Things my son has tried to eat this week

  1. A rock. Actually many rocks. Upon hearing “no” at his first attempt, he now enjoys racing to the next rock within his site and looking me right in the eye as he shoves it in his mouth. Little. Stinker.
  2. Pine cones. This one actually cracks me up. He tests our awesome daycare provider with pine cone shenanigans and apparently has not yet learned his lesson and daily has pieces of bark picked out of his mouth.
  3. More rocks.
  4. Sticks. Same results as pinecones, only he learned on the first try with this one.
  5. And finally: the ONE thing my son has successfully eaten this week that he should not have eaten… the sticker from an apple. Baaahah! He is quick and must have grabbed it while the fruit was being cut for him. I didn’t even know he had eaten it until it showed up in his diaper! Gah! Sooo gross but sooo funny at the same time.

I hope I’m not the only one whose kid has eaten or tried to eat weird stuff. I’ve been told that this summer he will most likely eat bugs. I understand my little explorer is conducting “experiments” on the world around him, but if he’s going to eat live bugs, I’d rather just not know about it. :)

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For the seniors

First-time-blogger confession:
Writing is the most pure interpretation of ourselves. It is the entrance to who we really are. By blogging, I’ve invited you in – for better, for worse, for whatever you want to take me as: I am here. And I am real. This is me.

 

Recently, I had the pleasure of reading “The Lovely Bones” along with my old high school English teacher’s three senior English classes, while in turn, the students had to read my blog (baaahaha – poor senior boys). After reading the book, I used Skype to video conference with each class. They asked me questions about the book, my take on the characters (especially the mother, who leaves her family for an extended period of time to rediscover herself), and writing. It was an amazing experience, and it all stemmed out of my published byline on CNN.com.

These experiences tied together made me realize something about writing; about being a writer; about myself. Read on.

Of all the questions I was asked by the high school English students, only two left me speechless – without an instant answer.

The first: What do you want your legacy to be?

This caught me off-guard. I’ve never really thought about myself as leaving a legacy. I’m proud of who I am, the things I’ve done, and the things in my life that are yet to come – but a legacy? It’s not like I’m Oprah, here (I almost said Li-Lo, but that would have been oh-so wrong). My answer? I want to be remembered as a nice person. That’s it. That is all. Someone who formed friendships with many different types of people and who listened and learned with an unbiased ear.

MAN – high school students ask good questions. Stop being so deep, seniors! ;)

The second question, posed by a student who obviously was not in love with English class (which is completely Ok – we can’t all be English nerds). His question: I blog because Dr. Nygaard makes me blog. Why do you blog? And how do you come up with your post ideas?

I really didn’t have a good answer to this question even though it seems like it should have be easy. I think I stumbled through some generic response – so generic that I don’t even remember it. But that answer, whatever it was, did not do this question justice. So, to the gentleman who asked me this question, here is a proper answer:

I blog because I love writing, my son, and being a mother. I don’t brainstorm topics. I don’t sit and work through writer’s block. I post when I’m inspired and the writing just comes.

Of course when I was a student (both in high school and college) I struggled through my fair share of class essays that I had absolutely no interest in writing. I was assigned a topic and told to write. Blah.That’s what makes blogging different for me and why I think personal writing is so special. I don’t write because I have to, I write because I want to. The topic has not been assigned to me – being a mother to my son is such a special part of who I am and I am so passionate about it that often my fingers cannot keep up with the words streaming in my brain. Is it scary sometimes? To stream my personal thoughts and consciousness onto the Internet? Of course. It was especially terrifying publishing my writing on CNN for all the world to see. But it was also invigorating. That slight inkling of fear mixed with excitement is how I know I’m writing about what matters to me the most.

Writing is the truest form of who we are – it takes guts and courage and an invisible army of a thousand men to put your thoughts in their purest form out there for others to read. But I think that’s how we know we are winning – when we can do that and not back down.

My writing is who I am – not everyone is going to like it, not everyone is going to agree with it – but it is my own and it is real. If it can entertain and inspire others, then that’s just a bonus.

So seniors – even though you are being “forced” to write a senior blog, I encourage you to not think of it that way. Take a risk and write about what really matters to you.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
- Mary Angelou

Tell your story, and be proud.

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Yum-yum

Yesterday at daycare, Liam tried to eat a pine cone. It didn’t work out very well for him and my awesome daycare provider had to help him get bits of bark out of his mouth. Yum.

Today a friend of mine told me about how her son (three months younger than Liam) tried to eat a band-aid at the doctor’s office – and she didn’t even notice until a nurse rushed over to catch what she thought was going to be vomit… Nope. Just a chewed up band-aid. Double yum.

My friend wins this one. But we are both awesome first-time moms.

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Sticky mommy

First-time mom confession: I stick things to my child in the bathtub because it’s funny. :)

Foam bath pic

We have these foam letters and numbers Liam likes to play with in the tub. I am sneaky and stick them to him when he’s not looking. Sometimes he tries to pull them off; other times they fall off on their own and he laughs and laughs. Still other times he doesn’t even notice they are there so I see how many foam objects I can get to stick to him at one time.

I’m awesome and I know it.