Flashback Friday: Confessions of a Chronically Ill New Mom

I can hardly believe it’s been almost two years since I became a mom. Although I still haven’t perfected the art of motherhood, it’s crazy to think back to a time when everything was still so new and unfamiliar. So here’s a Flashback Friday (is that what the kids call it?) fun post about all my secret confessions as a new mom.

Have any of these happened to you?

5. 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

4. 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!!!

Do You Have A Love/Hate Relationship With Swimsuit Season?

Beach weather is just around the corner and you know what that means, right? Swimsuits. If you’re like me, you love to spend time with your little one splashing around in the pool, but dread facing the mirror or (worse) looking at yourself in photos. One-piece, bikini, or full cover-up, we still have to deal with what our bodies our like now that they’ve popped out a tiny human.

So I’m super excited that Ten to Twenty is featuring my post on the topic of post-baby body issues! I love learning from the other mothers on their site about everything from yummy recipes to honest yet humorous personal essays. I can only hope to do half as well as my fellow mom bloggers! Go on over and check it out and let me know how you’re feeling about the upcoming swimsuit season!

http://tentotwenty.com/goodbye-and-hello-a-tummy-timeline/

5 Things Never To Say To A Chronically Ill Parent

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just write a letter to the world, expressing everything we’re too polite to say, and that could just be the end of all our awkward encounters? Well a gal can dream, right? Yet things aren’t usually so simple in real life. Actually, things tend to get quite messy when you’re a parent with a chronic illness (or two, if you’re like me). We chronically ill folks have years of experience dealing with unknowingly rude comments. But something changes when you become a parent. All of a sudden the harmless jokes and insensitive remarks hit us harder and deeper because we are already painfully aware of our limitations and what we can and can’t do with our children. So to all the well-meaning friends and family, here’s a list of the top five things you should probably not say to a parent with a chronic illness:

“But You Look Fine!”

Unless you want to receive a death stare that could burn a hold through even the thickest slab of marble, keep this one to yourself. While you may mean this as a compliment, saying that they look good, it actually invalidates them. You’re basically implying that because they don’t physically look sick that they must be fine. For most people with a chronic illness, this is usually far from the truth.

How I feel when you tell me I don't look sick

How I feel when you tell me I don’t look sick

“It Could Be Worse.”

Sure it could be worse. A meteor could crash through the roof while we’re talking. Wait, no, maybe that’s a good thing. Regardless of how you “meant it,” this one again comes off as rude and minimize the chronically ill person’s situation. A good rule of thumb is to put yourself in their shoes. If you just told someone about a bad or difficult experience and that person responded with, “It could be worse,” wouldn’t you feel hurt by that?

It could be worse; I could be on Wipeout

It could be worse; I could be on Wipeout

“Do You Ever Regret/Wish…?”

Sadly this is something that has been said to me more times than I can count – which is crazy when you consider that one time is too many. Even if you genuinely think that not having a child would make things easier for this person, don’t say it. Sure, if I’m being embarrassingly honest, there are times when I daydream that I’m on an island somewhere, relaxing pain-free, with an unlimited lives on Candy Crush. But I don’t for a second wish I wasn’t a parent. Although not being vaguely sticky 24/7 would be nice.

These are real questions, people

These are real questions, people

“Have You Tried…?”

Yes. Whatever it is you’re about to name, yes. We’ve tried it and a hundred other things and nothing has worked. Whether it’s trying to find an easier way to be physically active with our kids or endless amounts of Google searches for cures to whatever ails us, chances are we’ve been there and done that. While you may be trying to help us brainstorm the perfect solution, here’s a little something that may blow your mind: even healthy, average parents with healthy, average children run into challenges with no clear, easy solution.

Even the best parents have cake-related inuries

Even the best parents have cake-related inuries

“What Can I Do To Help?”

Actually, just kidding, this would be amazing! You may think we’re invincible superheroes who can do it all, but that’s just a front we put on because if we didn’t we might not want to get out of bed. So even if you think that offering help could be demeaning or intrusive, please do it anyways. And to all the people out there who can see through our hard exteriors, thank you. Thank you for listening and thank you for supporting us.

cas thank you

 

I Needed A Laugh

Do you ever get to that point where you’re so tired and achy that you don’t know whether to cry or to laugh?  Well tonight I’m choosing to laugh!  Sure, it may be 2 in the morning and my laughter might creep out my husband, but gosh darn it I need a good laugh.  Hope you enjoy these little pictures that made me chuckle!

ecard sleepfunny-someecards-mommybaby doesn't carexVF0o1resent-kids-mother-father-mom-ecards-someecardsd7ad73cad729d8ab2a14c467eab324b5baby forevercard3ecard partying

Hope you laughed a little 😉

How Chronic Illness Prepared Me For Motherhood

Math and I aren’t really best friends.  In fact, we’re barely on speaking terms.  There is one thing that Math and I have in common: a love of Venn Diagrams.  Get it?  “Have in common” haha, oh man, puns.  Point being, a light bulb went off for me recently when I was thinking about how my chronic illnesses interact with my new-found motherhood.  I started thinking about what the two things have in common and how having a chronic illness got me ready for the challenges of motherhood.

Thank you, MS Paint

Thank you, MS Paint

5. Just Dealing with It

Not all of us are lucky enough to live life without worrying about finances.  For me, I worked two jobs to put myself through college.  Looking back, I have no idea how I managed to do all of it.  Actually, I have no idea how I manage to accomplish a lot of things.  But, just like many people with a chronic illness, when I am told I can’t do something, I am just that much more determined to do it.  So you learn to deal with it.  Have to pull an all-nighter to cram for finals but you’re in the middle of a flare-up?  Tough cookies.  There are just some things in life that you really can’t bail out on no matter how much your chronic illness sucks.

If only I could fix my scoliosis like this

If only I could fix my scoliosis like this

And learning to just deal with the suckiness of it all turned out to build up this thing I call a “Stamina Callus.”  Just like you need calluses to be an awesome guitarist (I think?  I don’t know I’m not musical), you need to have a certain stamina level to survive motherhood.  So when the baby needs to be fed and I’ve only had 2.7 seconds of sleep, I can just do it.  Thanks Stamina Callus!

4. Compensating

Compensating, to the average person, means to counter-balance something.  To a person with a connective tissue disorder, it means constantly shifting your weight or changing your stance in order to prevent or manage a dislocated joint.  I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos when I was a teenager, but I had been living with it my whole life, obviously.  Even from a young age, I remember wondering how my T-Ball teammates could just jump off the bench and run on the field.  Whereas if I had done that, my hip probably would have given out and I’d just wipeout before even exiting the dugout.

So funny, but so true

So funny, but so painfully accurate

So bending over to pick up a fifteen pound infant a gazillion times a day really didn’t seem so bad after a lifetime of faceplants.  I already had experience balancing, being uncomfortable, and knowing when to ask for help to avoid a really bad spill.  And trust me, once you have such precious cargo in your arms, you become even more aware of the dangerous, slippery world around you.

3. Sleeeeeep

Clearly nothing compares to the lack of sleep you experience once you become a mother.  But I would bet good money (like four bucks, maybe?) that the fatigue associated with Lupus and other autoimmune disorders could be a close second.  Lupus fatigue also comes with a pesky side of anxiety.  It’s like you can feel it coming on, yet you know you have little to no control over it.  Imagine you are driving a semi-truck on an icy road on the side of a mountain and right as you are about to go around a scary curve, this blindfold begins to descend over your eyes and you are defenseless.

Supernatural GIFs are always appropriate

Supernatural GIFs are always appropriate

The fatigue/anxiety combo actually was a pretty accurate test run for being a new mom.  In those first weeks, you’re desperately exhausted, yet every time your head hits the pillow, you immediately panic thinking the baby needs you.  I’m not gonna lie.  That panic is still with me almost eight months later.  I still hear “phantom cries” and get up to check on the baby “just one more time.”

2. Must… Remember…To…?

Have you ever walked into a room and completely forgotten why?  Well, some people with chronic illness experience these “mental fog” states on a fairly regular basis.  With the amount of times I’ve searched for my keys whilst holding them in my hand, you would think I was driving to get the early bird special with my AARP discount.  Not only do we experience lapses in both short and long-term memory, but we can be absent-minded as well – and not in that adorably awkward, professor way.

Totally believable

Totally believable

Long before pregnancy or motherhood had me putting dishes in the fridge, I was bringing the remote into the bathroom.  That makes for a really weird sentence, but you get the point.  I guess I just wasn’t as rattled or shocked by memory lapses since that had become the norm long ago.

1. Time for an Epiphany

Once, when I was walking across the stage at my hard-earned college graduation, I suspected it.  Then, again, after fighting through red tape and regaining my license after seizures, I wondered about it again.  But it wasn’t until I held my child in my arms did I realize my suspicions were true: “I AM A FREAKING SUPERHERO!”  And guess what?  You are, too!  Women living with chronic illness and balancing motherhood are amazing.  We are warriors, we produce life, we rise from the ashes again and again.  Can you tell me how that’s not the making of a superhero?  Exactly.  So go find your cape because it’s about time you accepted the truth that you are an amazing forth with which to be reckoned!!!

Whoooo! Go girl!

Whoooo! Go girl!

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.”

10 Things No One Tells You About C-Sections

Ah, the c-section. Whether it’s the iconic film scene of an alien bursting out of some poor chap’s torso or a picture of medieval torture in a history book, the images that come to mind when discussing c-sections are not usually happy ones. Let’s be honest: you’re getting major surgery, taking a tiny human out of a bigger human, and are (most likely) going to be awake for it all. So if anyone tries to dismiss your right to be a little antsy, well I won’t say what to do for legal reasons, but you get the idea. This isn’t meant to scare you, of course. But I always thought that the unknown was the scariest thing. At least if someone had told me what was going to happen during the c-section, I’d know what to expect. So that’s what I’m going to do for you. Here are all the gross, scary, awkward things that will happen before, during, and immediately after your c-section!

 

10. Paperwork & Red Tape

Even if you thought you were super smart and preregistered with your hospital prior to giving birth, there will still be paperwork to fill out and red tape to deal with for a solid twenty minutes. We arrived nice and early to our scheduled c-section, yet when we checked in at the desk (after my impromptu puke session in the parking lot bushes), they didn’t have my name right and had me listed with a different OBGYN. But we perma-sickies are used to knowing more than the hospital staff, aren’t we?

You better listen when I'm talking to you

You better listen when I’m talking to you

9. You Will be All Sorts of Exposed

I knew my c-section wasn’t exactly going to be a fun getaway to Club Med (that’s still a thing, right?), but I didn’t expect to feel so much like a patient and not a person. That’s no reflection on the staff, it’s just the nature of the beast. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity in the lobby, my husband and I were taken back to our room where I was told to change. No undies or socks or jewelry, just a gown and a a gross hair net. Then a nurse came in and shaved my lady area and acted like it was a totally normal thing to do. This was my introduction to how matter of fact the staff would be about all the private and embarrassing aspects of the ordeal. In some ways it was reassuring, but at the end of the day it’s still very awkward when someone is silently shaving you.

Do I make eye contact? Is that rude?

Do I make eye contact? Or is that rude?

8. You Will be Alone… a lot

After the grooming session was over, I was told my husband would have to leave and no one would be allowed back in until the surgery was about to begin. Suddenly I was alone, just waiting for a nurse to come in, and full of time to daydream about all the things that could go wrong. Even after the pre-op stuff started, it’s still just you and a handful of people.  Technically they had more people on staff than usual as a precaution for my high-risk pregnancy risks, but without a loved one there you still feel very alone… and nervous.

becoolbecoolbecoolbecoolbecool

becoolbecoolbecoolbecoolbecool

7. Yak City, Sick, Yak Yak City

Okay, my not-so clever spin on a line from a rap song may not be funny. But you know what is funny? Telling the nurse like nine hundred times that you’re GOING to puke, have them nod but do nothing, and then letting a glorious waterfall of vomit wash over them. It didn’t feel great, but a small part of me thought “maybe next time you’ll listen to me when I say I’m about to upchuck.”

Deal with it

Deal with it

The actual point of this entry is to warn you that you will definitely puke at some point. It may be when they’re poking or prodding or it may be when your internal organs suddenly shift as they finagle a human out of you. Which brings me to my next point…

6. Lines and Wires and Garishness, Oh My!

Second time in a row I’ve tried to be punny, but whatever, it’s who I am! Aaanyways, no one really told me the frequency with which people would simultaneously be both in and making holes in my body. First there was the three-attempt IV in my arm (EDS makes for lousy veins), then there was the two-attempt spinal block (scoliosis doesn’t help much), and then there’s the fact that someone has their hands INSIDE of you. It’s like the dentist, “You won’t feel pain, just pressure.” Yeah, right. I didn’t feel the scalpel but it felt like someone was sitting on my chest AND pushing my stomach and lungs up into my throat.

gross-out-gif

Yup, pretty much

5. So… c-c-cold… might… die

Another one I wasn’t warned about, surprise! Not only will you be freezing due to lack of clothing, but they keep the operating room super sterile and apparently that is synonymous with ARCTIC. Oh, and the spinal block. Unlike a vaginal birth, you have no choice about whether or not to use some kind of anesthesia. And spinal blocks give you this horrible sensation of internal cold and uncontrollable trembling. Super fun symptoms to have when you’re puking while horizontal. But the cold! Maybe it’s just me, but being freezing cold with nothing to do about it was ridiculously aggravating. It helped to imagine this, though:

Oh, Vince, you do go on

Oh, Vince, you do go on

4. Here Comes Baby!

Nothing can really prepare you for the big moment. Most of the things they don’t tell you about c-sections are negative, but this is a rare positive surprise! I cannot put into words the mixture of intense emotions that surged through me when the big moment arrived. I was extremely relieved he was healthy, so excited to meet the little thing that was once smaller than a blueberry inside me, in awe of the fragility of this new life, nervous that I wasn’t going to be a good enough mom, and just blown away that this HUMAN came out of ME!

It really is!

It really is!

3. Alone Again, Naturally

I may be in my late twenties, but I love me some melancholy 70s music. As Gilbert O’Sullivan so poignantly states, “Reality came around.  And without so much as a mere touch, cut me into little pieces.” Except I was cut just once, maybe six inches wide. Boy, did reality come around, though. After the awesome moment that you hear your baby’s first cry (of many), you are on your own again. I wanted to do the “natural” c-section thing, but with my severe shaking and unstoppable, frequent vomiting, they couldn’t bring the baby near me. So off he was carted, my husband went with him, and I was alone on the table getting stitched up. I guess I should have figured this, but the “finishing up” portion of the c-section took about forty-five minutes and was much longer compared to the “pre-baby coming out” part. Emotions were running high, I just wanted to be with my baby, but this is one you just have to endure.

OH THE FEELS

OH THE FEELS

2. EXIT ONLY!

Warning: TMI ahead.

Pee-pee holes, as adults often call them, are meant for one thing and one thing only: to let urine out of your body. In other words, it is an exit only. This is why I hate catheters and do not like when grumpy nurses with cold hands wake me up and fiddle with a tube in my sensitive area.

Excuse me?!

Excuse me?!

Oh you thought the c-section was the end of people all up in your nether regions? Haha, nope! You will be woken up just as much, if not more, by the hospital staff than your own baby to check out your “stuff.” P.S. you don’t get to wear underwear for a while. You’ll lay on a doggy pee-pad while Carrie-sized amounts of blood just pour out for way too long. I thought that since it wasn’t a vaginal birth, it was normal down there. False. You’ve just had a baby taken out of you (a significant trauma) and the blood has to go somewhere. So expect your “exits” to still be examined for a while after the surgery.

1. You Want Me to Do WHA?

Hey you know how you just had a baby and you’re super achy but have somehow managed to muster what little strength you have to care for your baby? Well now they want you to freaking WALK. The audacity! They stress the importance of getting vertical and walking, and I get it, but does it have to be so soon?

Not an option, bro

Not an option, bro

Apparently, yes. You really do need to get up and walk. In the end, walking when I did – and doing it often – significantly helped with the healing process and getting my bowels moving. Trust me, do not underestimate the value of getting your tummy factory up and running again!

 

So there you have it: ten things that you probably didn’t know about the whole c-section process. Some parts of the experience are super unpleasant, some are just awkward, but in the end you get an incredible reward: your very own baby! Its resale value is slightly less now that it’s out of the original packaging, though. (GET IT?) But for real, I’d do it all again (maybe take a few more stool softeners) because nothing compares to the moment when you look into your baby’s eyes for the first time. Oh, geesh, where’s my Kleenex?