Mom Jealousy

Oh jealousy, you fickle fiend, always rearing your grumpy green head at the absolute worst moment.  As if I wasn’t stressed enough – planning my son’s first birthday and traveling back and forth between the Florida coasts to visit family – that familiar feeling decided to come creeping up recently.  Logically, I know it’s just my own insecurities making me feel like I’m losing some imaginary mom competition (Mompetition?), but that doesn’t seem to help me shake the feeling.

Just can't shake it!

Just can’t shake it!

I’ll be honest.  I get jealous.  A lot.  I get envious of moms who appear to have it all, moms who seem to be able to do it all, moms who don’t worry, healthy moms, moms who have all the answers.  You name it, I’ve either been jealous of or insecure about it.  But I don’t really linger on the jealousy.  It’s more of a fleeting thought that flickers across my mind when I see a woman at the grocery store, hair perfectly in place, bright eyes, carrying multiple things with ease, that I wonder to myself how I must look in comparison.  Messy ponytail with strands pulled undone by little hands, bleary eyes, struggling to find where I last put my debit card.  How could I not feel a little twinge of envy?

yup

Riiight?!

It’s not all pity party, though.  Sometimes I get these “epiphany moments” where I’m inspired by some random BuzzFeed article, convinced that I’ve found the ultimate life hack to turn me into Super Mom or a Pinterest board with the perfect sensory play project to guarantee my baby will be the next Einstein.  I’m full of optimism that I can finally be the best mother my child deserves and the best me that I deserve.

Such blind optimism

Such blind optimism

Of course things never turn out that way.  Something will inevitably go wrong and then those insecure feelings come back.  It can be a vicious cycle.  And normally, if I find out that I’m not alone in my self-doubt, I’ll start to feel better.  Yet somehow this isn’t one of those times.  I’ve heard every woman I know, chronically ill or not, vent about their issues of Mompetition (I’m trying to make this word happen, if you can’t tell).  And sure, we get together for a GNO and all chime in with our own horror stories and commiserate with each other, but most of the time we still go back home full of angsty sighs that would make a 90s grunge teen look like sunshine.

Angela Chase ain't got nothing on me

Angela Chase ain’t got nothing on me

But you know what snapped me out of my ‘Envy–>Self-Doubt–>Repeat’ cycle?  It may seem totally insignificant, yet it was a game-changer for me.  Not too long ago I was out to lunch with my best friend and my son.  On paper he should have been fine; he had just eaten, napped, and been changed.  Except, right around the time when I was getting ready to eat, he decided to have a meltdown.  So there I was, in a restaurant full of judge-y eyes, feeling the “shame sweat” begin to bead up on my forehead, trying to gently bounce him on my knee and maintain a smile as if he wasn’t letting out a demon-summoning shriek.

...basically

…basically

And you know what happened?  My best friend, God bless her, looked me dead in the eye and said, “Hey, you are doing great right now.  We all need to feel validated and I’m here to tell you that you are doing great.”  At the time, I just shrugged, nervously laughed, and mumbled out an awkward thank you.  But as I drove home, with my untouched lunch in a to-go box and my mini-monster blissfully asleep in the car seat, I let her words really sink in.  She saw, as only another woman can, the exact kind of panic I was in.  And she didn’t try to flatter me with superficial cliches nor did she avert her gaze and pretend not to know me (which I wouldn’t have blamed her for).  Instead, she told me exactly what I needed to hear.  It’s not about comparing yourself to someone else; it’s about being told you’re doing great, warts and all.

Gorgeous

Gorgeous

So to all the women (mothers or not) who have validated me, I sincerely thank you.  And in case no one has told you yet, you are doing great.

Advertisements

How to Survive Baby’s First Holiday

The holiday season is upon us once again!  This time last year I was on bed rest, beyond ready for the baby to come, and feeling like a beached whale.  This year, I’m always on my feet chasing my mini monster, beyond ready for a nap, and… actually I still kind of feel like a beached whale some days.  I guess some things don’t change *wink wink*  Another thing that hasn’t changed is the high level of stress that the holidays can bring.  So here are some tips to help you survive your baby’s first holiday season!

Plan Ahead

Nothing is worse than that ‘trying to keep my head above water’ feeling when it comes to getting overwhelmed by the holidays.  Okay, well maybe a few things are worse than that, like explosive diarrhea in a bathroom with no air conditioning or driving on I-4.  But holiday stress is still pretty gnarly.  One way to try and make the season more manageable?  Plan ahead.  Things become a lot less intimidating once you start breaking them down.

This cool cat is taking it one step at a time

This cool cat is taking it one step at a time

If the thought of driving 3 hours with your baby to go see relatives is keeping you up at night, try envisioning the actual situation in your head.  For instance, if you know you will be going somewhere your baby is unfamiliar with, bring a blanket or toy from home to make them feel comforted and safe.  Thinking ahead makes things less scary and helps you figure out what you need to do to be prepared!  Speaking of prepared…

Extra Clothes (for mom AND baby)

You can never have too many back-up outfits when you’re getting ready to take your baby on a trip.  Whether it’s a quick visit with Grandma or an all-day event, always pack extra clothes!  My son has acid reflux issues so he spits up frequently and thus goes through more wardrobe changes than Lady Gaga.  But it wasn’t until one day early on, when I was still a wide-eyed mom full of optimism, that he puked all down the front of my shirt (and missed himself, of course) and things changed.

I call it "The Embarrassment Sweats"

I call it “The Embarrassment Sweats”

 

I had tons of onesies for him in the bag, but nothing for me.  A lesson I only needed to learn once!  So save yourself the embarrassment and subsequent awkward explanations – “Oh this?  Haha yeah, it’s pureed squash and puke. Hashtag ‘mom life,’ riiiight?? Haha okay bye! – and pack a back-up shirt for you and your partner.

Don’t Underestimate People

If you know me or have read any of my previous posts, then you know I’m inclined to convince myself that the worst case scenario will happen.  I also carry a nice British-sized dose of guilt and awkwardness around.  So I tend to get nervous about how people will react when something bad (inevitably) happens.  What if my baby spits up on my in-law’s rug?  What if I have to say no to an event invite altogether?  What if we have to leave a party early because my son is reaching a nuclear reactor level meltdown?

It's about to get real

It’s about to get real

Having actually experienced all of these things, I can tell you firsthand the surprising outcome: everyone was actually super nice and understanding about the situation!  Unless someone is just a major Grinch (get it? Holiday humor!), people are actually fairly accommodating and sympathetic to life’s little mishaps especially when it concerns your health and/or babies. So breathe a sigh of relief and don’t underestimate the kindness of people.

Smile… a lot

This one may sound a little cheesy, but hear me out.  As a mom with multiple chronic illnesses, I’m often in some degree of pain or discomfort.  Don’t go pulling out the violin, I’m just stating fact here and I’m sure all you other moms with similar issues can appreciate my candor when it comes to health.  And since I’m no stranger to feeling uncomfortable, I’ve mastered my “serene” face.  However, upon looking at some photos a few weeks ago, I noticed just how calculated my “serene” face looked.  It was a cross between a mannequin and a the snob who just has to mention that she knows those are last year’s  shoes you’re wearing.

In my head, I thought I looked totally dignified

In my head, I thought I looked totally dignified

Basically, my face didn’t display the kind of mirth and joy one expects to see in family holiday photos.  You may think this sounds a bit superficial, but trust me.  Any other time of year I would say, “Hey, I’m gonna wear sweatpants, I don’t care.  Deal with it, blah blah feminism blah blah.”  But since this is my baby’s first holiday season, I don’t want the pictures of our new little family to remind me of my disease every time I look back at them.  I want the photos to capture all the wonderful emotions my heart feels in spite of my health.  So if that means having to summon the majestic power of a thousand bald eagles to keep a smile on my face for a few minutes, so be it.

Make time and BREATHE

If you remember only one thing from this post, let it be this.  Take a moment during this busy season and just breathe.  Everything will be okay and the world will keep on spinning even if things don’t turn out quite the way you had pictured.  If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, remember that it’s all temporary and things will be calmed down and back to normal soon enough.  Try not to let the little things get you down.

Rise above it!

Rise above it!

And most importantly, take time to just celebrate your wonderful baby and allow yourself to forget about all the hullabaloo for a little bit.  My partner and I always make a point to snag a moment where it’s just us and our baby.  Granted your baby will have no idea what’s going on, but it can be special bonding experience for you and your partner to revel in the awesomeness of parenthood.  Treasure this first holiday season with your little one because it only happens once!

Happy Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Bodhi Day, Pancha Ganapati, Soyal, Yaldā, Yule, and Festivus to you all!!!

(Sorry if I forgot anyone!)

Holiday Hullabaloo

It’s a week til Christmas and the Holiday Hullabaloo is in full swing!  Isn’t hullabaloo such a great word?  Technically it means “a clamorous disturbance.”  So yeah, the holidays are a temperamental blend of being enjoyable yet chaotic.  Add a high-risk pregnancy to the mix, and keeping your sanity can quickly become a real struggle.  Here are some tips on how to gracefully handle survive the season.

Lower Those Expectations

Even in my pre-pregnancy life, I was never one for big, fancy Christmas parties.  The schmoozing, forced mingling, and awkward moments of silence with party goers you don’t know always gave me an uneasy feeling.  I will say this, though, I have perfected the fake laugh for when a saucy uncle or drunk coworker makes a lame or inappropriate joke.

Really? Did you just say that?

Really? Did you just say that?

So when you’re preparing yourself to either host or attend a holiday party, don’t freak yourself out by anticipating the worst.  Remember that if people know you’re pregnant or have health issues, the only thing that’s expected of you is to answer cliche questions (“So are you excited?”), ignore weird comments (“Enjoy this party, ’cause fun is over after the baby comes!”), and dodge the belly-rubbers.  Don’t hold yourself to unrealistic standards and don’t let anyone give you a hard time about it.  They should just be happy you’re wearing pants.

Let It Go (don’t take it personally)

When people make offensive remarks, treat you differently, or otherwise cause you to feel uncomfortable, try not to let it get under your skin.  The sucky part is, most of the time it’s those closest to us that can say the (unintentionally) worst things.  While your partner, in-laws, and best friend may mean well, a simple “You don’t seem like yourself; you were acting weird at the party,” can cut deep.  Your hormones are at an all-time high, so even the most innocent observation made by a loved one can make you feel like you’re a high-risk pregnancy alien.

Buster knows how I feel

Buster knows how I feel

So while dignity and grace may seem like qualities of the past, a little poise can go a long way.  Sure it’s hard to muster a diplomatic smile when your pelvis feels like it’s slowly being crushed into oblivion, but flipping out on your aunt for saying it looks like you’re smuggling a watermelon isn’t exactly keeping in the holiday spirit.  Trust me, as awkward and weird as you feel about all the changes happening to your body and psyche, those around you are grappling with how to connect with this different and new you, too.  Cut everyone the same slack that you would like them to give to you.

Accept Help & Take Shortcuts

Yes, you are superwoman.  No, you don’t need to prove it.  Put down the casserole dish, slowly back away, and nobody gets hurt.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: bravery and pride are not the same thing.  You may be like me and you don’t want to admit to yourself that you are no longer able to do the things you once did.  Or you may be like thousands of other mothers who have fallen victim to the expectation that pregnant women should be able to “do it all” and better look good while doing it, too.

Thank you, Society.

Thanks a lot, Society.

With so much on your plate already, joyfully accept any and all help offered to you during the holiday season.  And don’t feel bad if this year your pumpkin pie is of the Sara Lee variety.  Be vocally appreciative when someone provides assistance and remember that help comes in many forms.  It can be tangible, like a home-cooked meal, or it can be something meaningful like running an errand for you or just giving you a shoulder to cry on when you realize that cute dress doesn’t fit you anymore.

Comfort is Key

Speaking of clothes that don’t fit anymore, for the love of all that is good and holy, don’t squish yourself into an uncomfortable festive frock for appearances’ sake.  I made the mistake of cramming myself into a pair of stockings for a holiday occasion.  Granted, they were really really cute stockings, but after fifteen minutes of yoga-like positions trying to get them on, the end result was that my pudgy preggo legs looked like they were stuffed into very sad sausage casings.  I also forgot that, as a living human, I would eventually need to eat.  I’m truly surprised my stockings didn’t spontaneously burst.

Sweet potato casserole with marshmallow topping!!!

Sweet potato casserole with marshmallow topping!!!

Needless to say, after I peeled off my stockings, I promised my poor body I would never subject it to such cruel abuse and torture ever again.  Now, a sparkly headband is the extent to which I choose to express my holiday cheer.  Dresses or over-sized tops and sweaters paired with stretchy leggings will be your best friend during this season.  You’re already in enough discomfort with your pregnancy and health issues, so don’t make it harder on yourself by sporting high heels and painfully tight attire.

Emotions… OH GAWD THEY’RE EVERYWHERE!

If you haven’t already, you will at some point inexplicably cry over something that isn’t actually that sad.  The holidays will put your emotions to the test.  Now I’ve never been particularly maternal or girly, so the sensation I felt when watching a Kohl’s holiday commercial where a young couple secretly decorates an elderly widow’s apartment seemed foreign and strange.  “Are my eyes leaking?  What’s happening?!” I thought to myself.  But I soon found out that this was totally normal and even non-pregnant humans tear up when evil marketing execs concoct intentionally sad commercials designed to render you emotionally vulnerable and more inclined to buy their products.  My emotions were all over the place in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Yup, pretty much

Yup, pretty much

So try not to be embarrassed if you find yourself getting weepy at the dinner table when relatives are reminiscing about a loved one.  Or you could even get emotional over something really trivial and that’s normal, too.  I had a minor breakdown when I not only couldn’t get my turtleneck on, but then I got stuck and couldn’t get it off either.  My husband’s laughter only made my rage induced blubbering swell even more.  Try not to get hung up on the negative side of the emotional roller coaster.  Remember that the holidays are a time of love, celebration, and really awesome food.  Enjoy the moment (and take plenty of leftovers).