5 Confessions Of A Chronically-Ill New Mom

With the past few blog posts dealing with heavy topics such as inability to breastfeed and body image issues, I figured we could do with something a little lighter.  So here are some of my embarrassing, honest, awkward, and funny confessions as a new mom dealing with chronic illnesses!

1. Eau de What??

Some of you may know this about me, but I can’t smell (thanks, seizures!).  This has its pros and cons.  Pro: I can walk by a horrifically awful dumpster and not have any reaction.  Con: I can walk around for the better part of a day with baby puke on the back of my shirt and not realize it.  And if you’re thinking that example sounds oddly detailed, you’re right, because it actually happened.  Unfortunately I can’t always blame my inability to smell.  Sometimes I am fully aware of the pureed sweet potato on the front of my shirt, but I am just too darned busy to change.

Confession: Some days I may smell like a combination of spit up, poop, and old food. I don’t care. It happens.

I'm insecure, so this is what I imagine people are thinking when they're around me

I’m insecure, so this is what I imagine people are thinking when they’re around me

2. Nature’s Napkin

You remember when you were a mom-to-be and you could spend hours on Pintrest looking up cute little DIY projects and clever hacks for life with baby?  Oh, it all seemed so possible and so adorable!  Those were the days.  And then your baby sneezes with reckless abandon directly into your mouth.  Snot happens.  As was mentioned in the above confession, I am often covered in so many fluids, I would make a hotel room on CSI look clean.

Confession: When my son is sick, and he thinks my shirt is a tissue, I oblige because I’ll do anything to make him feel better.

Sneeze away, baby

Sneeze away, baby

3. Back Burner Syndrome

Let’s face it.  When you’re a new mom, you’ve got your hands full.  Slowly but surely, more and more things start to be placed on the back burner.  It starts with not sorting the mail on a daily basis, then leaving clean laundry in the dryer, and finally you’re just lucky if you can remember where you put something.  Some of that I can blame on the “Lupus Fog” or  my memory issues (thanks again, seizures!), and sometimes I’m just prioritizing.  Surprisingly, my house actually stays pretty clean, but I guess I just feel guilty about not being able to “do it all.”

Confession: Laundry and dishes can wait.  My baby’s needs cannot.

Dust it off, boo

Dust it off, boo

2. I’ll Tell You What I Want, What I Really Really Want!

While the Spice Girls may have had more R-rated things in mind, what I really really want is much more G-rated.  I just want to be able to go to the friggin’ bathroom for like more than five seconds.  And I know I am not alone in this, so don’t even try to play like you wouldn’t ugly-cry tears of joy if someone said you could have a luxuriously uninterrupted, hot shower.

Confession: I love every second I get to spend with my baby, but there is only so much my bladder can hold.

How I feel when I finally et to go to the bathroom

How I feel when I finally get to go to the bathroom

1. Silver Lining

Oh you know me, always looking for the silver lining.  This time I really have found one!  I used to get bummed (and borderline offended) when people would assume that because I don’t look my age and have crazy hair that I must be a teen mom.  I even had one older lady behind me in the check-out line make a snide remark to her friend, “It looks like babies having babies.”  To which her friend replied, “I’ll bet you it wasn’t even planned.”  Perhaps their hearing aids weren’t properly adjusted and they thought they were being quiet?  But then I realized, I hadn’t been a teen in almost a decade!  Those crones’ comments were more of a self-esteem boost than getting carded at a restaurant 😉

Confession: When rude people think I’m a “teen mom” they’re actually just telling me I look great for my age!  Thanks, haters!

AND I'M OUT!!!

AND I’M OUT!!!

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Why I’m Not A Mom (and neither are you)

No, no, no.  Calm down.  No one needs to call Social Services or anything, my son is very well fed (as is evidenced by his Michelin man legs).  I’m just on my  soapbox  again.  I don’t like the label “mom,” never have.  Mom is a palindrome; it’s written the same forwards and backwards.  I also have an irrational fear of palindromes, in case you didn’t know.  The “M”s on either side of the “O” are like little bookends.  They’re little, mean bookends confining the “O” in the middle.  The word is stuck as it is and can be nothing else.  Yes, I’m writing this on very little sleep.  So allow me to explain, since my previous sentences sound like the ravings of a madwoman.

Ooooh watch out!

Ooooh watch out!

Seemingly, when you become a mother and other people begin to refer to you as a “mom,” the world around you gets a little smaller.  You’re now “just a mom.”  The media isn’t interested in you as a “woman” anymore.  Magazine articles either cater to alluring, interesting young women or to “moms” and their quilting and hors d’oeuvre making.  You find yourself wondering if you should just resign to wearing sweats and always smelling just a bit like baby spit up.  The suggested ads in your Facebook are suddenly about minivans, artichoke dip recipes, and losing weight.

Yes, FB, this is totally accurate

Yes, FB, this is totally accurate

What happened to everything else I am?  I love to travel, discuss religion and politics, sketch, and watch an ungodly amount of BBC America.  I’m still an activist for animal rights, environmental issues, gay rights, and raise awareness for invisible illnesses.  I still shop at H&M, Urban Decay, and (embarrassing as it may be) Forever 21.  Why does becoming a “mom” mean to many that I am no longer that person to so many people I’ve encountered?

I FINALLY GET TO USE THIS GIF!

I FINALLY GET TO USE THIS GIF!

I am so proud to be a mother and so humbly grateful to have received a gift that many women desperately want.  Through all the ups and downs, I would still do it again for my sweet son.  I am responsible for him and to him now.  But I’m also obligated to show him what a strong woman looks like.  What disservice would I be doing to him if I sent the message that once a woman has a child she ceases to have any other identity except that of a mother?  Or what would it imply about women who are unable or choose not to have children?  Are they less of a woman or somehow less caring?   How would he then treat women?  I hope to show him that women can be nurturing yet independent, kind yet bold, and yes girls can like mud and science and Tonka trucks, too.  I hope he will in turn exhibit respect and empathy towards others and strive to be aware of his impact as well.

because babies holding hands is adorable

because babies holding hands is adorable

So that’s why I’m not a mom and neither are you.  We’re mothers, partners, artists, goofballs, chefs, secret-keepers, dancers, nerds, and everything in between.  We owe it to ourselves and our children to be a full person, flaws and all.  Children learn so much about the world by watching what we do, how we act, what we say.  Show them, tell them that you are, not were, an artist or a nerd or a thrill-seeker or a musician.  Let them see all that you are so that they might know who they can be.

They'll grow into those shoes quickly, trust me

They’ll grow into those shoes quickly, trust me

What The First Week Is Like With A Newborn

Even though it was almost seven months ago, I can vividly remember what the first week was like with our new baby.  It was exciting, scary, emotional, and – oh yeah – exhausting!  I’m sure you probably could have guessed that having a newborn while living with a chronic illness wouldn’t be easy, but there’s something different about once you’re actually living it.

Too bad this isn't a real card

Too bad this isn’t a real card

This isn’t meant to scare you, of course.  I just want to give you a little heads up (no pun intended) on what your first week might be like.  Here are five things you can expect:

5. No Wonder Sleep Deprivation is Used as a Torture Method

Apparently your newborn has not yet heard of the Geneva Conventions.  If he or she had, then they’d know that sleep deprivation is listed as one of the forbidden methods of torture.  Yes, you read that right, torture.  And that’s just what it can feel like in the first few weeks when you are still adjusting.  Sleep deprivation can cause memory lapses, hallucination, confusion, irritability, headaches, and an overall case of the yuckies (not a scientific term).  So it’s no wonder that getting up to feed your baby every 2 hours, be coordinated enough to change diapers, and calmly console your baby takes a toll on your mind and body.

 

No joke I could fall asleep in 5 seconds

No joke I could fall asleep in 5 seconds

4. Sometimes Babies Just Cry

There really is no nice or easy way to say it, but there will be times that your baby just cries.  You go through the checklist in your head – Okay, the baby isn’t hungry, wet, too cold or too hot, doesn’t have a fever  – but still your little one is crying.  Like any new parent, I probably made unnecessary calls to the pediatrician wondering if there was something wrong that was making my baby cry.  After all, newborns can’t talk yet, so how would I know if my baby’s appendix was bursting or something?!  (Which is actually a real concern I had)  And just like every nurse, mother, and grandmother told me, sometimes they just cry.  Don’t ignore your instincts, though.  If you really think something is wrong, then please call your doctor.  But do know, that even if you’ve tried everything and your baby is still crying, it’s okay.

Foolproof method

Foolproof method

3. Now is The Time to be Selfish

As I’ve said in posts before, my tendency to be stubborn and even a tad prideful when it comes to dealing with Lupus and a connective tissue disorder has never had a good outcome.  Sometimes if I bend over, my hip dislocates.  Sometimes during a flare-up, my joints are so stiff it hurts to sit in one position for too long.  And as I’ve also said in previous posts, once a baby enters the picture, don’t turn down help.  So with a new baby in the picture, now more than ever is the time to accept any and every offer you get.  Whether someone offers to come over and watch the baby for an hour so you can sleep or someone wants to bring you dinner, SAY YES!  You won’t regret it.

Why, yes, I will take that sandwich

Why, yes, I will take that sandwich

2. Play Nice

With hormones and tensions running high, your filter may be a little more lax than usual.  You might find yourself snapping and speaking more harshly than usual.  And the little things that were once just mildly irritating are now cause for WWIII.  If you have a partner, the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to try and speak sweetly to them during this very crazy time.  Studies show that the first year of having baby is one of the toughest for married couples.  So while it’s completely understandable to worry about finances or to be grumpy about whose turn it is to change the diaper, remember that a little bit of kindness can go a long way.

cam feel to much

Let it out, honey

1. Routine is Your Friend

All the adorable Pinterest boards and all the articles with perfectly-styled nurseries left out one little detail: it’s just not realistic.  When it’s two in the morning and you need to change and feed the baby, you won’t be thinking about how cute your changing station set-up is.  In reality, the most convenient set up in the first few weeks for me was having the bassinet in the living room where I could crash on the couch.  The living room was right next to the kitchen, where I set up bottles with pre-measured water in them.  It may not seem classy, but having some semblance of a routine – something easy that didn’t require much effort – made a world of difference for me and my sanity.  I’m not saying my way is right, but just find something that works for you.  You don’t need to make things harder and you certainly don’t need to worry about appearances.  Do whatever fits you and your baby’s needs and I promise it will make things just a little smoother.  And if all else fails, just relax and think of this adorable kitten massaging a little pug dog.

kitty massage

The Dirty Truth About Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding – whether you’re a fan or not, one thing is for sure: everyone seems to be talking about it. For many mothers around the globe, this is a wonderful celebration of the emotional and physical bond shared with their child. Breastfeeding pride is everywhere you look these days. From Instagram protests to celebrity magazine spreads, this topic has caught some media attention, as well. Olivia Wilde’s photo shoot in a diner seems appropriate since that’s the purpose of breastfeeding: nourishment.

via Glamour

via Glamour

But here’s the dirty truth about breastfeeding: not all women are able to do it. I’m sure breastfeeding is an amazing experience between a mother and her baby. And I think I may have even had a small glimpse of it. But that’s all it was for me, a brief glimpse. I cradled my son, tears streaming down my face, asking the heavens for a miracle while he cried, hungry and unable to receive any life-sustaining milk from the very body that unceasingly nourished him for nine months.

But the milk never came.

Don’t get me wrong, I am in total support of breastfeeding and completely aware of all the benefits. I could even cite you ten statistics off the top of my head about how awesome breastfeeding is. I am full of this knowledge for two very important reasons: first from the overwhelming amount of pressure and opinions from doctors, nurses, lactation consultants, other moms, friends, family, strangers, etc., and then from the debilitating guilt that followed and had me desperately searching the internet for answers.

Bottom line, I cannot breastfeed. My heart breaks a little more every time I admit it out loud. But my shame diminishes just a little, too. You are not a whole woman; you’re not even a real mother.” Those thoughts still poke their way into my mind every so often and it’s difficult to ignore when tags like #FreeTheNipple started trending on Twitter and famous celebs started posting breastfeeding pictures on social media. All this pride, all this “I am woman, hear me roar” type empowerment can be both intoxicating and poisonous at the same time. I could scroll through beautiful photos of women breastfeeding their children for hours, envying them and hating myself at the same time.

The dried up desert aka my mammary glands

Dried up desert lake beds aka my mammary glands

If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: you are not in control of your body when you have a chronic illness. I know this, but I am stubborn. And bitter. And I think all of us with a chronic illness are better off for being so insanely optimistic even if we never get the results we want. I wanted so badly to breastfeed. I wanted it so much it made my insides hurt (or maybe that was just the c-section). Three intimidating lactation consultants, some very caring friends, a connective tissue disorder, multiple breakdowns, a gazillion hippy-dippy remedies, and one empathetic mother later, I came to the conclusion it just wasn’t in the cards.

Shut up, tarot card!

Shut up, tarot card

The moment I finally resigned myself to my milk-less fate, I felt like an udder failure. Get the pun?  Eh, this blog post needed a lame joke, but I digress. It took my very kind OB-GYN and my own mother to pull me out of my pit of despair. My doctor told me that many women are unable to breastfeed and that it’s common for women with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome to have issues with breastfeeding. The connective tissue disorder can make it difficult, if not impossible, for the mammary glands (which are made up of connective tissue) to produce and maintain a milk supply. So that helped on the factual, medical side, but my hormonal, emotional side still needed consoling.* Thankfully my mother was there for that. Though her story is not mine to tell, I can say that I trust her completely when she said there was nothing more I could have done and it makes me no less of a “real” mother for it. So let me tell you, if you haven’t been told already, you are a real woman, a true mother. Being able or unable to breastfeed does not make you any more or any less of a mother. Shame on anyone who would try to tell you otherwise. While I still openly support breastfeeding, I wish there was someone like me on the cover of a magazine. I wish I could see a woman – flawed, chronically ill, unable to breastfeed, tired, and with loose skin where a tight stomach once was – in the spotlight, praised by the media and told how beautiful she is. Until that happens, you have me, telling you the dirty truth and reminding you that you are beautiful. 

 

*If you feel you are unable to cope or are having serious concerns after having your baby, you may have postpartum depression. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Click this link for resources and support.

Goodbye / Hello – A Tummy Timeline

Warning:  This post contains a large dose of whining, a pinch of self-loathing, and a heaping spoonful of hormones.  Read at your own risk.  

Today’s post is in honor of National Love Your Belly Day! Actually I have no idea if that’s a real “day” or not, but it sounded good, right?  Fake day aside, I was feeling a bit down in the dumps about my lovely lady lump-iness (aka my post-baby body) when I went swimsuit shopping recently. You see, having a chronic illness had already prepared me for what it feels like to be a captive in my own body.  When you live with an illness you feel neither in control nor certain. Yet one thing was always for sure, though: when I went shopping, I never had to try anything on. I was always a small.  Pregnancy changed that.

Not that I would ever be bold enough to step outside of the dressing room

Not that I would ever be bold enough to step outside of the dressing room

But let’s take it back a little. Because you didn’t just wake up with this body one day. It took nine months to expand and seemingly a lifetime to learn how to deal with it after. Remember a time, before the embarrassing dressing room meltdowns, to the time right when your body was beginning to change? I call it the ‘it’s not a food baby’ stage. This is probably just me, but I found myself to be incredibly weirded out by my no-longer flat stomach. I was so unfamiliar with this that I felt the desperate need to constantly tell people that it was a human baby, not a food baby. People would laugh it off or say I was silly, but I saw their judgmental eyes looking at my poochy tummy.

The subtle art of the "side eye"

The subtle art of the “side eye”

Then FINALLY my stomach went from being a behind-your-back conversation starter (is she pregnant?) to being a legitimate baby bump! It was just so cute and I loved showing it off all the time. “Oh this?  Yeah, it’s my super adorable baby bump. No big deal.” And as my baby bump grew, so did my confidence. Aside from the unending nausea and chronic aches and pains, there were distinct moments of that pregnancy glow I’d heard so much about!  Or maybe I was just shiny and sweaty from all that puking. But still! This was a good time for my baby bump and me!

YAAAASSS

YAAAASSS

Just as I started to hit my peak of awesomeness, a beached whale began replacing me in the mirror. My bump wasn’t a bump anymore; it was a mountain. And then there were all the lovely things that came with my growing stomach: swollen ankles, puffy feet, and cottage cheese (aka cellulite) started showing up in unexpected places. I even swore my armpits got fatter.  I have no scientific proof of this, but since it was the one place I could still shave without pulling a muscle, I became quite familiar with it. And let me just say, the shaves got trickier because my arm”pits” were more like arm”lumpy-waterbeds.” Maybe that was TMI, but you can’t honestly tell me that as you entered those final weeks of pregnancy you didn’t become crazy analytical of your body. With it being a high risk pregnancy, I was practically helping the doctor by being so focused on my ever-changing shape – even if it meant I was constantly breaking myself down in the process.

Mirror Meltdown Amnesia is quite normal

“Mirror Meltdown Amnesia” is quite normal

I remember thinking to myself that things would start to go back to “normal” once the baby was born. I’d be able to sleep on my stomach again (ha, sleep, how naive I was) and wear things besides flowing dresses and stretchy leggings. I also remember looking down immediately after being cleared to leave recovery, seeing a mushy blob of a stomach, and crying. Logically I knew that my stomach wasn’t going to be firm and flat. Reason told me that no one would judge me for still wearing maternity pants. But logic and reason mean nothing to the hormonal brain of a woman with low self-esteem. Everyone even told me that I looked good for just having had a baby. They’re just being polite, I told myself. Only I knew the real truth. Only I knew what my stomach really felt like. My body was “home” and my stomach was an uninvited stranger. How was I back to my pre-pregnancy weight, yet the muscles felt like they had been spread apart? My skin now felt uncomfortably soft and malleable.

Pity Town population me

Pity Town population: me

Want to know the shocking twist ending to this blog post?  I’m not going to say that one day I woke up and there were rainbows and sunshine everywhere. I won’t say that I walked out of the store with a brand new, super cute bikini. I won’t lie to you or myself and say I am in love with and proud of my body. It’s a work in progress. I remind myself that my body, my “home,” also became the nurturing home to my son. I also remind myself that things could have been so much worse during the pregnancy and even afterwards. I feel shame, sometimes, for being so superficial. Yet I feel comforted when I open up, like I am now, and find that other mothers – women I deemed flawless – have the same struggles. So let’s get back out on the beach and start taking full-length selfies again. We should share our battle scars, talk about the Play-Doh tummies we have, and make a safe neighborhood for our “homes.”