How to Survive a Four Hour Drive with a Toddler

Prior to becoming a mother, I told myself I wouldn’t be caught dead driving long distances with a child. I figured I could put off accepting any kind of out-of-town social event until the kid was say, oh I don’t know – how old are they when they stop misbehaving? Oh right. Never. My genius pre-motherhood plan lasted less than two years. Last week my husband, eighteen month old son, and I set off on a cross-state drive for a wedding and I’ve lived to tell about it!

If you want to survive a long, family car ride without needing to call someone for bail money (presumably for assaulting whoever woke your sleeping child), then read on:

1. Expect the Unexpected

Before our trip could even get off to a proper start, I somehow managed to dislodge the right side of my front bumper. I’m talented like that. I’m like ninety percent sure it wasn’t my fault, but let’s not squabble over details. There we were: in the predawn hours, dragging rubber and plastic down the highway, praying to the travel gods the baby would stay asleep while anxiously looking for a safe place to pull off .

This looks safe, right, Honey?

“This looks safe, right, Honey?”

Despite neatly packing snacks, quietly transferring my sleeping son from the crib to the car, and carefully hanging fancy clothes without wrinkling them, I was not prepared for this. So what do you do when the proverbial fecal matter hits the fan? Aside from performing a ritual goat sacrifice, I strongly suggest you embrace the chaos. The more you try to fight against the craziness, the less calm you (and everyone around you) will be. Just try to roll with it – even if you’re screaming internally.

Just breathe in and out.

Just breathe in and out.

2. Breaks. SO. MANY. BREAKS.

Keeping in theme with the previous rule, you’ll need to adopt the mantra “F*** The Schedule!” When the mini vehicular catastrophe was finally remedied (thank you, zip ties!), we were a solid two hours behind schedule. I thought to myself, “That’s okay. We factored in a bonus hour for breaks, so we’re really only one hour behind. I can make that up with clever driving and no breaks. It’ll be fine!” Oh how innocent I was.

So young, so full of hope I was.

So young, so full of hope I was.

A funny thing happens when you try to drive long stretches without a break. Perhaps “funny” isn’t the right word. Pee. Yup that’s the word: PEE. Pee happens when you don’t take breaks and you have a toddler with the bladder the size of a thimble. Unfortunately my seizures left me with the inability to smell (True story! Ask me about it some time) which meant I was blissfully unaware of the urine soaked car seat and horrifyingly wet toddler until it was too late. Do yourself (and your upholstery) a favor, and take as many breaks as necessary. Those with functioning olfactory receptors will thank you.

WHY, GOD? WHY?!?!

WHY, GOD? WHY?!?!

 3. Baby = “Get Out of Jail Free” Card

Okay, this one may sound like I’m a horrible person – and maybe I am, who cares? – but one of the perks to having a baby is that it is the best excuse you’ll ever have! I’m not recommending you lie and say your baby is sick to get out of a party because, ya know, karma. But if you have a legit situation which has created some negative outcome, don’t be afraid to blame your exit strategy on the baby. Just don’t get drunk with power.

drunk with power highlander

It’s deceptively easy to use the excuse too much.

The final key to being able to survive a long drive with your toddler is to not worry about what others may think. Merely showing up in one piece should be accomplishment enough, in my opinion. Yeah, we were late and probably smelled of baby pee, but we MADE IT! The ride back? Now that’s an entirely different story…

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Why It’s Okay to Complain

Maybe it’s because I’ve lived with health issues my whole life. Maybe it’s because I’m a new mom. Maybe it’s just me. Or maybe it’s not. But I’ve long felt the necessity to stay strong and never complain. Perhaps I felt as if I were betraying all the strong, fierce feminists that came before me. I’ve always thought that if I complained, asked for help, or took a break that it somehow meant I was giving in and letting my struggles get the best of me. Thankfully, I’m here to tell you that that’s just not true. It really is okay to complain sometimes.

It wasn’t easy to allow myself the freedom to complain. Honestly, it still isn’t easy even now. I still hesitate sometimes when asking for help. And when I do ask for help, I’m convinced that the other person is secretly mad that I bothered them. Again, this could just be me dealing with my own issues, but from the other moms and women with chronic illnesses I’ve talked to, it doesn’t seem like I’m the only one. So here are five reasons why it’s not only okay to complain, but it may just be the best thing you could do for yourself.

5. It Puts Your Pain into Words

So often, when I’m having a health issue or beyond exhausted, pain just becomes a part of this unspoken routine. Even before I had a child, I still couldn’t just take a day off whenever I was in pain or sick. If that was the case, I would have been home more days than I worked. So, you learn to just “deal.” But I did eventually get to my breaking point, as we all do. So I complained. And it was awesome! I got to put into words exactly what I was feeling which did two things: 1) it helped me articulate just how debilitating my health issues can be, emotionally and physically, and 2) it gave everyone around me a better picture of what I was going through and how to help. Contrary to popular belief, glaring at someone does not actually tell them what’s wrong.

4. Better Out Than In!

That saying has stuck around for a reason. It really is better to let it out than to keep it all in. When you keep things in – health issues, relationship problems, anger, sadness, etc. – it becomes toxic. And what’s even scarier is, if you hold on to the problem long enough, it becomes a part of you. One day, I caught myself in the mirror and realized I looked miserable. Not sad, not unhappy, not even angry, just plain miserable. I was holding in all this frustration that it was physically manifesting on my face and it wasn’t cute. So I wrote down a list of all the things that were causing me stress or pain. Then I showed it to my husband when he got home. The conversation that followed wasn’t exactly cute either, but I caught myself smiling for no reason the next day 🙂

3. Perspective

Not all the things I put on that list were really stress-worthy. Sure, some issues on the list were serious (like finances and health), but some were downright silly. I wrote “all out of Baked Lays.” It’s funny now, but at the time I’m sure it was a very legitimate thing to be stressed out about in my life. But reading it on that list not only let me see how small and easily fixable some of my problems were, but it also showed me (and my partner) that if you let things build up, it only takes one little thing to push it over the tipping point. That saying “the straw that broke the camel’s back” definitely fits here. And not to worry, I finally got my Baked Lays and all was right in the world again.

2. Healthy Alternative

I’m not suggesting everyone who bottles up their issues immediately becomes destructive, but I have seen firsthand the negative consequences that can come of it. One of the most important things I should point out first, is that this can happen to women and men. I’ve seen both mothers and fathers who never complain, yet they are visibly unhappy and some are even resentful or bitter. I’ve also seen pain eat away at someone until they’re just a shell of who they used to be. Partly because of what I had seen, I knew it was important to me, my partner, and my son that I never let myself become overwhelmed under the weight of chronic illness and motherhood. So if a little venting from time to time prevents you from a life of resentment or unhappiness, then I say it’s worth it.

1. Forming Bonds Stronger than Denture Cream

Believe it or not, giving myself permission to complain didn’t help just me. It was like a magic wand had been waved! Out of nowhere, all these friends and mothers were released from their guilt-ridden spell of silence. Suddenly I was getting texts and calls and Facebook comments and messages from both friends I’d known forever and people I’d just met saying things like, “Oh my God! I thought I was the only one!” or “Finally, someone is talking about it!” I began to forge new friendships and strengthen existing ones by simply “complaining” on social media about how real the struggle of balancing motherhood with chronic illness can be. So if you haven’t already, be the first person to break the “Guilt and Silence Spell” and enjoy the deep sense of camaraderie that you will find among friends new and old.

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.

HOLY GUACAMOLE – and other musings

Has it really been six months since my last blog post?  I wonder why tha – oh wait, I know.  As a matter of fact, just as I sat down to write this, my little monster blessing decided it was the perfect time for a meltdown.  But we’ll get to the joys of parenting a little later.  Well, actually that ties directly in to what this post is about.  I mean this in the least hippie-ish way possible, but it’s all about acceptance.

Okay, so maybe it IS a little hippie-ish

Okay, so maybe it IS a little hippie-ish

 

Point being, no amount of preparation can adequately compare to the reality of having a little human who needs you for everything and relies on you 24/7.  They should have called the book (and subsequent movie) “When you’re Expecting, Expect to Have your Expectations Obliterated.”  Perhaps I shall copyright that and become a millionaire.  Or, more likely, it will take me eight hours to finish this post because of feedings, diaper changing, consoling, pulling out of hair, and teething meltdowns.  And you know what’s the most insane part about all of that?  I actually don’t mind it.  I even think I – dare I say? – like it!  That is possibly the best expectation to have blown out of the water.  You love this mini monster so darn much that no amount of Gitmo-level torture can make you bitter about the situation.  You may, however, be so sleep deprived that your happiness frightens others.

 

face-off1

I’M JUST SO HAPPY

 

So yeah, a little acceptance, a lot of self-forgiveness, and a healthy understanding that crazy is the new normal will help you make it through the first few weeks.  And let’s be honest.  The first few days will feel like weeks and when the doctor discharges you, you will expect to exit the hospital and see flying cars and robot people since surely eons have gone by whilst you were in there.  Because, besides the fact that you’ve just had a small human taken out of your body, you are awakened every one to two hours for days on end and your sense of space and time is just not what it used to be.

 

Obligatory DW gif

Obligatory DW gif, sorry

 

I’d apologize for the lateness, the lack of clarity, and the shortness of this blog post, but apologizing is just no longer the biggest nor the best tool in my skill set anymore.  Apologizing really shouldn’t be in yours either with the small exception of explosive diarrhea in a public place.  And that’s totally a random example, not like anything close to that has ever actually happened… ahem.  Anyways, I really will get back into the swing of things with better posts and (hopefully) better time management, but I’m a mom now and things are just a little more timey-wimey and wibbly-wobbly these days 😉  So accept the crazy.  Accept that leaving in ten minutes really means getting on the road in twenty.  Accept that some people won’t be able to keep up with the new mommy you.  Accept that you’re a new mommy.  Accept that there will be more bodily fluids on you then a hotel scene in an episode of CSI.  Thank you to anyone who has kept up or stayed with this blog, it truly means the world to me ❤

5 Stages of The Countdown

We’ve all heard of the 5 stages of grief, and for many high-risk mamas out there, the countdown to your little one’s birth can feel very similar.  You’re excited but terrified, ready for this pregnancy to be over but not sure what will happen when it ends, and the ever-present hormones are wreaking havoc on your sanity.  With less than a week to go until the “Big Day,” here are some of the roller coaster emotions I’ve been going through.

1. Denial

Maybe if I just don’t think about it, I can delay labor indefinitely?  I mean, that sounds pretty logical, right?  It seems like the closer I get to the big day, the more people want to tell me about all the scary aspects of labor, delivery, and the first few weeks home with a newborn.  Apparently it’s considered rude to just plug my ears and run away?

My usual response these days

My usual response these days

So I’ve buried my head in the sand.  Sand takes many forms, though.  It can take the form of binge-watching my favorite shows on Netflix, spending (too much) time on Etsy/Pinterest, or starting laborious arts and crafts projects.  All of which seem completely acceptable.  And worst comes to worst, I’ll just cross my legs really hard and keep the little bugger in there until I’m really ready.

2. ANGERRR!

WHAT?  You mean I can’t just cross my legs and will the baby to stay inside until I’m ready???  Preposterous!  Facing the inevitability of the situation can drive anyone to anger.  I thought I was already used to the whole “lack of control” thing when it came to my health and this pregnancy, but with time slipping through my fingers, I just wanted to yell and yell until something happened.

Yup, this is happening

Yup, this is happening

Maybe it’s because I’m pregnant, but nothing feels as good as “Angreating.”  Yes I made this word up.  It’s a combo of angry and eating, and it means exactly what you think it does.  You’re mad, feel like you’re out of options, so you pick up that tray of Oreos and just start shoving ’em in.  So feel free to shout “I’M ANGREATING!” when your significant other fearfully asks what you’re doing surrounded by Dove chocolate wrappers.

3. Bargaining

Okay, okay, you’re right.  I went a little overboard there, covered in Doritos dust and shame.  So if I start reigning in my crazy just a tad, perhaps the Universe can do me one teensy tiny little solid with this whole labor and delivery thing?  Shall I resort to yelling again until I can convince the world to cut me some slack?

This is my mantra as of late

This is my mantra as of late

I’m sure there has been some point in the middle of the night when you can’t find a comfy position, your hips are about to disintegrate, your mind is racing with WebMD photos of c-sections, and now you have to pee, that you have called out to a Higher Power for some kind of relief.  Don’t feel embarrassed, we’ve all been there, desperately offering up whatever we can think of in exchange for a shred of sanity.

4. Depression

Clearly bargaining doesn’t work, you’ve eaten all the cookies, and there is no sand left in which to bury your burdened little head.  Oh don’t mind me, I’m just going to spend the rest of my days in bed, staring at the wall, wondering where it all went wrong.  Sigh.

This is my life now

This is my life now

And according to all the forums on baby/pregnancy websites, I’m undoubtedly going to be the worst mother ever.  Perfect.  With only a handful of days until my baby is here, the reality of the situation has moved to the unbearable stage.  In less than a week, a tiny human is going to be completely dependent on me for survival, and I can’t even manage to work up the necessary energy to put on pants.

5. Acceptance

If I’m being completely honest, I haven’t fully embraced this stage yet.  I am optimistic, though.  What I’ve realized is that, whether I cross my legs or not, this baby is coming.  While it may be easy to just sit around (pantless) and eat my feelings, that’s not going to change the situation.

It sure is!

It sure is!

Alright ladies, the big day is indeed approaching!  So let’s try to put all the unsettling thoughts and unwelcome advice on the back burner and focus on really taking advantage of every moment leading up to the minute you get to meet your baby!  Get your partner or family or friends to help you with any last minute errands, treat yourself to something you’ve been putting off, and rest up mama!  GET READY FOR LIFE!!!