Friday, May 19, 2017

I Wanna Be A Bad Mom

I'm over it. I'm tired of doing everything for everybody but me and not feeling appreciated. I'm done with the constant chores that never seem to end. And do we really need to eat dinner every night? Cooking is not my strong suit as it is, and I'm running out of creativity.

And don't get me started on the laundry. The kids' clothes, the towels, the sheets, and then finally my clothes when there's time. Thank God my husband does his own laundry.

Then there's grocery shopping. Yes, my husband does help me with the shopping now. But I still have to make the list of everything we need; otherwise, I'm to blame if we don't have it later.

Let's add cleaning the house to the list. Who has time for that? Especially when I work full time. I'm lucky if 2 of the 4 bathrooms are clean at any given moment. And I cannot vacuum when my son is home because he runs away screaming and holding his ears. So the carpet gets covered in a layer of cat hair and crumbs until my OCD finally takes over. Then, I finally decide that vacuuming is more important than avoiding the toddler tantrum.

But wait. There's more. I have to do the finances and sort through the mail. Otherwise, it just piles up on the kitchen table until the cat skates across the papers and they scatter to the floor. My inbox slowly fills with bills that I cannot pay until the first paycheck of the month because we have 2 kids in childcare.

And I am expected to do all of these things while also taking care of the kids. Making bottles, packing lunch, sleep training, playing cars, arranging play dates, coloring with markers (no, he wants crayons today), and making a construction site out of playdough. Teaching my daughter to sit up on her own and crawl. Participating in speech therapy and occupational therapy with my son. Taking the kids to their well visits at the pediatrician. As much as I love it, it is exhausting at times.

To quote the movie Bad Moms, "In this day and age, it's impossible to be a good mom." I am expected to be a full-time mom, housewife, and nurse. There are not enough hours in the day.

I am sure I am coming off as ungrateful. I am aware of all of the blessings in my life. And I am very grateful for all of them. But sometimes...I just need a break!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Momma Bear vs. The Big Bad Doctor

Today, I was not-so-subtly accused of being one of those crazy moms that overreact about everything. Liam finally had an appointment with Kennedy Krieger today. My expectations and hopes were high, which could only lead to my inevitable disappointment.

First, I had to carry my son across the busy streets of Baltimore in the face-numbing wind to 3 different buildings until the security guards finally pointed us in the right direction. An elevator ride and 2 registration desks later, and we finally found the place we were supposed to be. Thank God I left early.

The first exam room was simple enough. A nice nurse. Some vital signs. And a few general questions to prep for the doctor. Then, we were led down a long, winding hallway until we got to the doctor's exam room. At this point, Liam was incredible restless. So, I pulled out my phone to play Liam's favorite YouTube kids channel while we waited.

Within a few moments, the doctor walked in and introduced herself. Then she said, "I'm gonna go get some toys while you wrestle the phone away from him." I gave her an odd look, as I told Liam to say bye-bye to the videos so that he could play. She returned with a dump truck and a few board books. Liam immediately grabbed the dump truck and started driving around the exam room. The doctor looked at me and said, "he can eat and drink, but no electronics," as if it was going to be a problem. I nodded and said "ok," and prepared myself for whatever was next.

After asking me several questions about my concerns with Liam, the doctor started evaluating my son through play. I sat on the sidelines, biting my tongue so that I would not interfere with her assessment.

Once the doctor was finished, she told me that Liam was delayed in expressive and receptive speech. At 30 months old, Liam's language skills were at a 21 month old level. Thankfully, she explained that there were no signs of autism or any other disabilities. The doctor explained that having a speech delay is a risk factor for developing a learning disability later in life, particularly when Liam would start learning to read. However, it was nothing to be concerned about at the moment.

So, what could my husband and I do to help him? Start using more hand gestures or sign language when talking to Liam so that he would not only understand us better, but so that he would also start using gestures himself when he was unable to find the words. Also, use simple phrases when talking to Liam to help him better understand what we expect of him. In other words, when Liam neglects to do something we ask of him, it is possible that he truly does not understand what we are asking.

But here's where things took a turn for the worst. The doctor told us to eliminate all technology from his life, including TV, iPads, phones, and battery-operated toys. These devices are said to discourage language and imagination. The doctor told me we should cut Liam off from technology cold turkey. Was she serious?

And then, I asked what she thought of my concerns with Liam's feeding issues. She said, "that's just normal toddler behavior." I was shocked and angered all at the same time. I would not have made this appointment for my child if I thought there was a chance of this being "normal." I proceeded to describe some of Liam's behaviors so that she would understand my concerns.

After only half-listening to what I was saying, the doctor said, "okay, well Liam might be a little outside of the normal spectrum for feeding then." She said she would write a referral for Liam to be evaluated by the feeding clinic. Are you kidding?! I thought that was part of the reason we were here in the first place! Now we would have to make a separate appointment altogether for Liam's feeding issues?

At this point, I was so angry and disappointed that my ears started ringing and my cheeks grew flush. I did my best to keep my smile glued to my face so that my son would not detect my sour mood. The entire way out of the office and to the car, I fought tears. The whole way home, I focused only on the GPS to avoid my thoughts.

I was so hopeful that someone would finally be able to help us with Liam. But here we were again...with another person letting us down.

Do we follow through with the feeding clinic referral? Or do we let it go, chalking it all up to "normal" behavior? Nevermind the fact that my child had lost 2 pounds in a week or that his ribcage was showing. Forget that my son has a meltdown in the middle of the night because he has hunger pains but still refuses to eat. That must just be "normal."

Thursday, March 16, 2017

This Mom Sh*t is Hard

It's time to get honest. Really, truly honest.

My kids have issues. And yes, I know every kid has issues to some extent. I also know that "it could always be worse." But when it is your kids who are suffering, it hurts your heart in a way that stops your  world from spinning. It consumes your mind and prevents you from focusing on any individual task. Forget doing anything thay requires brain power because your children now occupy every available head space.

Let's start with Maya, my beautiful, smiling 4 month old girl. We have tried 4 different kinds of formula, including the very costly Nutramigen, in an effort to relieve her gastrointestinal symptoms. She spits up after every feed. Sometimes it dribbles out of her mouth while she giggles. Other times, she cries in pain until she projectile vomits, and then breathes a sigh of relief. We've tried Zantac for possible reflux, but saw no relief. And because her symptoms didn't really seem to match up with reflux (aside from the projectile vomiting), the pediatrician basically ruled it out.

Beginning around 6pm every night, she cries and draws up her little legs with abdominal cramping and gas pain. We've tried gas drops, gripe water, and probiotics. All of which only provide temporary relief.

And as for the diarrhea, I will spare you the details. But let me tell you, my husband and I never expected to have so many discussions about the color and consistency of poo.

Aside from all of the GI upset, Maya is a happy, easy-going little girl. All the more reason I feel bad for her. This week, we will be seeing a pediatric GI doctor at Hopkins. I pray she is able to offer us some insight into Maya's tummy problems so this poor girl can finally get some relief.

And then there is my 2 and a half year old boy, Liam. He has had so many struggles in his short little life. He was diagnosed with reflux as a baby and has been on Zantac ever since. We've tried to wean him off several times, but have been very unsuccessful. His symptoms returned within weeks every time.

Liam has always been in the <10th percentile for weight. And we've struggled to get him to eat since he started solids. To rule out anything physical, he had a GI workup at Hopkins, including an EGD and sigmoidoscopy, shortly after turning 18 months old. Everything came back normal, which is a blessing and a curse. Of course we are grateful there is nothing physically wrong. But that leaves us with the harsh reality that his refusal of food is behavioral.

The GI doctor explained that he likely developed a negative association with food due to the pain caused by reflux. Plan of action: add Carnation Instant Breakfast to his bottles to keep his weight up and maximize his calorie intake by adding fats (ex. butter, peanut butter, Nutella) to the foods he will eat. All of which sounded great in addressing his physical needs. But no one bothered to tell us how to address his negative association with food.

As Liam approached his 2nd birthday, my husband and I noticed a whole new issue. Liam had developed his own toddler language, which sounded like a combination of Russian and jibberish. He would carry conversations without anyone knowing what he was saying, and then get frustrated when people didn't understand him.

Our pediatrician acknowledged that Liam's speech was delayed, but assured us that all kids develop language at a different pace. But the more people didn't understand him, the more he started acting out. He started biting, hitting, and throwing tantrums. He would cry because we never knew what was wrong, even though he was trying desperately to tell us.

So I made the call to Infants & Toddlers, a state-run program that helped children under the age of 3 who met a certain set of criteria. They would come to the house to assess Liam and determine which (if any) services he qualified for. I was determined to get him the help he needed.

After the initial assessment, Infants & Toddlers determined that Liam qualified for speech therapy (ST). I felt so relieved! But...what about his feeding issues? He did not qualify for occupational therapy (OT) because he met all the necessary milestones in other areas. I expressed my concern, and was told that OT could be added if Liam was not making progress.

A few months into ST, and Liam was making progress...but very slowly. And because we were still having feeding issues, OT was added to his regimen. It wasn't until OT came to work with Liam that he really started making progress.

After working with him for a few weeks, she noticed that Liam had poor motor function in his mouth. We had to work with him on chewing and moving food around in his mouth with his tongue. She also determined that Liam had some motor planning issues (which I, of course, needed to google). In the most simplistic terms, things that are automatic processes to me, are not automatic for Liam. When asked to do something new, Liam has difficulty determining what steps are necessary to get to the end result. I was shocked no one had figured it out before.

Each week, I learned new ways to help Liam. Not only did he progress in speech and feeding, but also his behavior improved. I was so relieved that Liam was picking up words and trying new foods. Day to day things were still very much a struggle, but at least things were better.

And then my world came crashing down on me. Two weeks ago, Liam started refusing to eat again. He would only drink his bottles with Carnation. He began throwing tantrums, and having anxiety attacks. He woke up multiple times a night, climbing into bed with us. When I tried to take him back to his room, he would cry so uncontrollably that he would start dry heaving. When I asked him what was wrong, he couldn't tell me. He started using more jibberish than real words again. Out of seemingly nowhere, he would cry out "owwww" and hold his belly in pain.

In those 2 weeks, Liam lost 2 pounds and showed significant regression. He no longer wanted to walk and run; he wanted to be carried everywhere. When he was hungry, he would ask for his "ba ba." On the rare occasion he actually attempted to eat, he would chew a few times and then spit the food back out. I was completely at a loss as to what could have happened to spark such a change. And every time I tried to talk to Liam about it, he would refuse to talk, cry uncontrollably, or use his own language so I couldn't understand him.

That was the last straw. I called Kennedy Krieger to ask for an evaluation. Something was clearly wrong with my child. And it was beyond simply having ST and OT come to the house to work with him. After faxing over Liam's records and evaluations from Infants & Toddlers, I was able to get him in next week. I pray they are able to give us some answers. But more importantly, I pray they are able to tell us how to help our boy.

These upcoming appointments for my kids are consuming me. Will these professionals be able to help us? If they are able to determine a diagnosis, what will it mean for my kids' futures? And how am I supposed to go about my daily routine, acting as though everything is "normal"?

On work days, I do my best to put my game face on because I have other people who need me. My patients are scared for their own health, and need me to be a source of calm and positivity for them. When I am home with the kids, I put a smile on and play Supermom. I try to soak up every moment with them, knowing full well that it could all change at any moment. It's not until the kids are asleep and my husband and I get to talk that I allow myself to unravel. Because even Supermom can only be strong for so long.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Temporary Mess

Right now, my shirt is soaked with baby spit up, my pants are stained with snot, and my face has a layer of dried drool over my poorly done makeup. There are toys scattered across the living room, matchbox cars in the kitchen, and an Amazon box by the TV that was made into a fort. The laundry baskets are piled on the steps, waiting to be washed. The dishwasher is waiting to be emptied and then reloaded with the pile of dirty dishes in the sink. There is baby gear cluttering every level of our house, and burp clothes stuck between the couch cushions.

Our house is a MESS! And for a type A personality like me, it is so uncomfortable. I'm used to having everything in its place and neatly organized. I have always kept our house very clean and tidy so I wouldn't have to run around like the Tasmanian Devil, straightening things up when friends or family show up at my door.

After Liam was born almost 2 and a half years ago, I learned to tolerate a certain level of mess in our house just to keep my sanity. Liam was not an easy baby, and it left me very little time to do chores. But I still kept the house relatively tidy so that I felt somewhat at ease when people came over to help with the baby.

Now, with 2 kids, the house went to hell in a handbasket. Every morning, while the kids are still sleeping, I go downstairs and quickly straighten up the house. I simply cannot sit and enjoy my coffee in a messy house. It literally makes my skin crawl. So I rush around, quietly picking up toys, sweeping up crumbs, and washing dishes. But within an hour of both kids waking up, the house is back to being a chaotic mess. Liam has dumped the box of duplo blocks out on the floor. There is maple syrup stuck to our dining room table. And powdered formula scattered across the kitchen counter.

Some day, it makes me want to scream. Who lives like this?!

Parents of young children do. When I am able to take a breath and think more clearly, I realize this is all temporary. The kids will only be this small for a short time.  So, rather than spending my days trying to keep up the house, I play cars with my son and snuggle with my daughter. I build bridges out of leggos with Liam and make funny faces at Maya in the jumperoo. I have a dance party with the kids when the birds sing in the movie Rio, which is Liam's current favorite.

I let the house get messy, and enjoy these moments that will be gone in the blink of an eye. Don't get me wrong. I still wake up early and straighten up the house. And I throw some laundry in and empty the dishwasher while the kids are napping. But I am not going to let my chores take time away from my kiddos. I already have to find a balance between work and home. Why make things more difficult than they need to be?

Right now I am at peace with this temporary chaos. When I look back on this time with the kids, I do not want to wish I had just stopped and spent more time with them. I want to look back and remember the smiles, the giggles, and the fun. And most importantly, I want the kids to remember how crazy fun their mom was when they were little!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Rollercoaster Mind

Well, my first week back to work from maternity leave was full of unexpected ups and downs. Walking into work felt like returning to my second home. I honestly forgot how much I missed being a nurse and working with my amazing co-workers. Once I regained my footing, it felt great to be part of the team again. And it was a relief to have other moms to talk to about all of my parenting woes. I did not realize how much I missed work until I came back.

To my surprise, I found myself feeling lost and overwhelmed on the days I was home with the kiddos. The reality of being a working mom really set in. I discovered that there are not nearly enough hours in the day. In order to spend time having fun with the kids, I had to live with the fact that my house was going to be a mess. The dirty dishes piled up in the sink. The laundry baskets overflowed. And there were toys and baby gear everywhere.

I could not seem to find a balance between my adult responsibilities and my mommy role. I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt because I "should have" wanted to just soak up time with my children.  But the chores hung over my head like a storm cloud.

I also felt like I could not appropriately divide my attention between my children. While baby girl was napping, I would play leggos and cars with Liam. As soon as Maya started crying, I felt guilty for walking away from my son to soothe my daughter. Then, when Liam napped, I would do tummy time with Maya. But when it came time to wake Liam up, Maya was placed in her bouncy seat or swing to entertain herself. By the end of the day, I found myself wanting to go back to work just so I didn't have to feel the mommy guilt.

But there were moments at work that I felt immensely guilty for having my children in daycare. It felt like I was passing them off to someone else to raise them. Logically, I knew this was not true. But logic rarely took the place of my emotional overreactions. I felt like I could not be at peace in either place: at work or at home.

As we venture into the new week, this feeling of unrest still haunts me. Sometimes it is so overwhelming, that I feel like I might crawl out of my skin. But I am hopeful that we will eventually fall into something that resembles a routine. And then maybe I will feel like things are right with my little world again.

So, we press on...because there really is no other option.

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Toddler Kind of Day

Having a toddler is one of the most frustrating experiences of my life. I love my 2 year old son Liam in a way I never thought possible. He is my first born. He is where my journey through motherhood began.

But some days, I want to lock myself in the bathroom and hide from the little guy. He hit the "terrible twos" starting at 12 months. And at almost two and a half, he is worse than he's ever been. He is stubborn, defiant, and destructive. Liam is like a little 3 foot tall teenager, without the curse words and back-talking. (Although, he certainly knows how to use the word "no.")

Here's a little taste of my day. First thing this morning, he kicked and screamed when I changed his diaper, which was exploding with poo. Why he would want to keep his poo diaper on is beyond me, but it seemed very important to him. Then he didn't want to change clothes, which was a necessity at that point. So he screamed and cried through that process. I then had to chase him down the hallway with a toothbrush and hold him down to brush his teeth. He seems to be cutting his molars, which has been going on for at least 2 weeks. So he wants nothing near his sensitive gums. But he also refuses to take Tylenol or Motrin to help with the pain. And when I tried to give it to him, he spit it out all over me, himself, and the carpet. So because it is his body, and he has a right to say no, he goes without medicine and deals with the teething pain.

Once dressed and ready, Liam, the baby, and I head to Gram's house to play in his giant playroom (which used to be my room). But Liam is in a rotten mood, so all he wants to do is destroy the train table and throw cars when they don't do what he wants them to do.

And because today is Thursday, Liam has speech therapy at 11am. When his "speech friends" arrive, Liam is initially excited for someone new to play with. But he quickly becomes frustrated when he realizes he has to "use his words" to get what he wants. That results in at least 3 tantrums before he finally gives in and says a few colors just to get stickers.

After speech, we head home for lunch and nap. But Liam is also a selective eater (SE), so even lunch is a struggle. He ends refusing to eat, but does drink a bottle of whole milk mixed with carnation (basically the only way he is able to maintain his weight). Then the naptime struggle begins. Thankfully, he finally falls asleep and naps for 2 hours.

Unfortunately, he wakes up fussy from nap. I try to remain upbeat and concerned, asking him what is bothering him. But he refuses to talk and won't even make eye contact. Seriously?!

The rest of the day feels like a blur. And then suddenly it's time for the bedtime routine. Liam wants to help me give the baby a bath, which sounds adorable in theory. But he spills an entire cup of bath water on himself and the floor. So my husband and I divide and concur. He takes baby to get dressed for bed. I clean up the mess in the bathroom and get Liam changed for bed.

I give Liam a hug and kiss goodnight, and go downstairs with the baby, leaving my husband to finish up storytime and get the boy to bed. On the baby monitor, I hear Liam say "momma momma" as he is falling asleep.

My heart melts. A full day of frustration dealing with this kid, and it all goes away when I hear him ask for me. Being a mom is such a roller coaster of emotion. It's no wonder I'm exhausted at the end of the day.

To all those moms out there dealing with toddlers, may the odds be ever in your favor! (Yes, this post requires The Hunger Games reference.)

Monday, January 16, 2017

Back to Reality

In the midst of all the recent chaos, I completely forgot that my maternity leave ends NEXT WEEK! My (almost) 3 month old daughter starts daycare on Monday, and I am back to work on Wednesday. Having been off work for 12 weeks, it feels surreal to think I actually have a life outside of caring for an infant and toddler.  In my "other" life, I am a nurse who takes care of adult cardiac patients. The dichotomy is enough to make my head spin.

Next week, I'm back to three 12 hour shifts a week (plus on call). Every day that I work, my husband drops off the kids at daycare around 8am and picks them up around 5:30pm. I get home from work around 7:30pm, and it's a marathon until we get my energetic 2 year old son to bed by 8pm (if we're lucky). If my daughter Maya continues on her current trend, she will keep us awake until 10pm or 11pm and hopefully sleep til morning. Although I'm sure this weaning process will throw off her sleep schedule.

Just the thought of returning to work makes me tired. Yes, I have a break from caring for my crazy kiddos while I'm at work. But I'm also on my feet taking care of adults for 12 hours. Not to mention the 30 minute commute back and forth from the hospital. And the entire time I'm away from my children, I will be worrying about them. Will my daughter cry for me the entire day? Will she eat for her daycare providers? Will my son wonder where I am when he gets home from "school"? (We call daycare "school" for my son.) It's a huge adjustment for everyone in the family. And I will be at work, feeling completely out of place.

When I returned to work from maternity after having my son, I cried the entire way to work. I envisioned my 3 month old son crying for me, wondering why I abandoned him. At the time, my mother was watching him while I was at work. So I texted and called her frequently throughout the day to check on him. It was a tough start, with my son initially refusing the bottled breastmilk for my mom, but eventually things fell into place. Just like I know they will with my daughter at daycare. But the uncomfortable feelings in the beginning are tortuous. It's hard for me to fathom things being so different.

But it's time to get over fears and move on with real life. This momma cannot afford to be a stay-at-home mom. And when it comes down to it, I really enjoy being a nurse. I work with an amazing group of people. And frankly, I need the "adult time" to vent with fellow moms, curse a little (or a lot depending on the day), and just be myself without worrying about young impressionable minds. So I venture on into the great unknown, and pray for a very short adjustment period.

Hey, a girl can dream!