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!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Weaning Struggle

This weekend is dedicated to weaning our 2.5 month old daughter from breastfeeding. She is not a huge fan of me right now, and my heart is more than a little broken. So far, she will only take a bottle from Daddy. The same bottle she started taking at 4 weeks old. Not any of the other 6 types of bottles we tried, naively assuming the bottle was the issue.

We started mixing pumped breastmilk with formula in a 3 to 1 ratio to get her to take it because she would not take the formula alone. There has been lots of tears and screaming (on her part and mine), but she successfully took 4 bottles total today. And to my surprise, she didn't choke on the milk from the bottle. She spit up much less than usual. And she had significantly less gas. Logically, I know that means we made the right decision to wean. But my heart still needs convincing.

I attempted to feed her with the bottle multiple times only to be screamed at and given a look of betrayal (or maybe I just imagined the look). Instead, Maya found comfort in her Daddy. Don't get me wrong. I'm incredibly grateful that my husband is helping with the weaning process. And I'm glad that he has this chance to bond with his daughter. But it hurts not to be the one soothing her when she cries.

With breastfeeding, I often didn't have to know what was bothering Maya in order to soothe her. She would take a boob and magically fall asleep with little effort. However, it was short-lived, as she would inevitably wake up with gas pains and projectile vomiting.

I realize I probably sound like a crazy person who is clearly ignoring reason. But my motherly instinct is the part that is messing with me. That hormone released at the sound of my baby crying, making me physically uncomfortable, is screaming that I made the wrong decision. How could I simply let my little girl cry when I could fix it just by breastfeeding? Although, breastfeeding wouldn't really be fixing anything, would it?

So we press on, despite all of the physical discomfort and unsettling emotions. Because in the end, I know this will be for Maya's benefit. And that is what being a mom is all about.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Bottle Hunt

Today we played the bottle game.

I cleaned and sterilized every bottle I tried with my son so that I can try them with my daughter. Because, now that we are trying to wean her, little miss decided she no longer wants to take the bottle she has been taking consistently for weeks. Breastmilk or formula, she does not want the damn bottle. She uses her tongue to push the nipple right out of her mouth.

We introduced the bottle to Maya at 4 weeks old. Once a day, we would give her a bottle of breastmilk so that she would be used to taking a bottle when I returned to work. We were shocked when she took the bottle without a problem from anyone willing to give it to her. But over the last week or two, Maya decided she doesn't want the bottle. Only Mommy will do.

Which makes this weaning process all the more difficult. If we can't get her to take a bottle, then we can't start testing out formulas to see what works for her. Meanwhile, time is running out on my maternity leave and Maya will be starting daycare. All I can picture is Maya screaming for hours on end until I get home from work to feed her.

Having been through this with my son, I know it will eventually work out. But I absolutely despise the process. Maya was supposed to be my 'easy baby.' But really she just waited a little longer to start the drama.

So this weekend will be dedicated to finding a bottle that works for this picky little girl. I can already see myself drowning in various bottles and nipples with ear plugs in to block out the crying. Let the bottle hunt begin!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

An End to Breastfeeding

I have written, deleted, and re-written this post several times because I cannot seem to find the right words. So, this time, I'm just going to let the words pour out of me without worrying about the outcome. Because anything is better than letting them swirl around in my head, making me more anxious by the second.

I'm throwing in the towel. I have finally come to the realization that breastfeeding just isn't going to work for my daughter and I.

Having breastfed my son until he was 17 months old, I was truly hoping I could have that bond with my daughter also. But that's just not the case. Maya is miserable, despite all my best efforts.

I met with a lactation consultant, and tried everything she recommended. I eliminated dairy from my diet. I used one breast for each feeding rather than offering both to try to prevent Maya from over-eating. I kept her upright after feedings, and elevated her bassinet mattress so she wouldn't have to lay flat. I pumped my breastmilk and offered it to her by bottle. I worked with my pediatrician to treat Maya for suspected reflux. I TRIED EVERYTHING. And nothing helped. Every day I watch my daughter struggle with frequent hiccups, projectile vomiting, and gas pains.

And then there's the toll it has taken on my family. This breastfeeding battle has taken up nearly all of my energy and patience, leaving very little for my son or my husband. My 2 year old is acting out, desperately trying to get my attention. And my husband gets the brunt of my angry outbursts at the end of the day.

I finally had to ask myself, is it really worth it? And the answer is NO. Breastfeeding is certainly not easy, but it is not supposed to be this hard. And if it's not even helping my daughter, what's the point?

So, reluctantly and with great sadness, I will be weaning my 10 week old daughter from breastfeeding. I'm sure it will not solve all of our issues, but we have to start somewhere.

Here's to hoping we will be moving in the right direction!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Mom Bod

As my maternity leave is coming to a close, I realize that I am going to be seeing a lot of people that I haven't seen since I delivered our daughter Maya. And I would just like you put it out there:

I have NOT lost all of my pregnancy weight! My hips are still wide. There is a little extra 'junk in the trunk.' My milk-filled breasts often spill over my bra. And my tummy has a little more wiggle than I would like.

I know what it's like when someone returns to work from maternity leave because I used to be on the other side of it. You wait to see if the new mom is back to her once slim self. Part of you hopes she is still a little plump because it gives you something to talk about. Also, it gives you a little bit of satisfaction knowing they are not as superhuman as you thought they were. The other part of you wants the new momma to be back to her old sexy self because you think, "if she can do it, I can too!"

After my first pregnancy, I lost the baby weight with minimal effort. (Then again, I also had postpartum depression. So my appetite was pretty nonexistent. But that discussion is for another day.) I returned to work after 12 weeks looking pretty much the same as I did before I got pregnant.

Not this time. I will be returning to work with a little extra cushion. So let me just save everyone the gossip because I am completely aware. This weight is sticking to me like butter.

I've done everything the same as I did after my first pregnancy. I'm breastfeeding. I work out 4-5 times a week. And I eat healthy. My body is slowly getting back to where I would like it to be. But I'm not quite there yet.

The funny part doesn't really bother me as much as I thought it would. I spend my days chasing a toddler and cuddling with my baby rather than obsessing over my body. Yes, there are days when it really bothers me that I can't squeeze into my skinny jeans. But most of the time, I'm perfectly fine running around in my yoga pants.

So for those of you waiting to see what I look like after baby #2, let me save you the surprise. I'm a curvy little momma!

P.S. I realize that I am most likely putting more emphasis on my post pregnancy body than others will. Maybe it's because I'm self-conscious. Maybe I pay a little too much attention to the media, making negative comments about every female celebrity mom. But the pressure on women to return to their slim selves post pregnancy is very real.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Breastfeeding Battle

Breastfeeding is going to be the death of me.

There is such a push for mothers to breastfeed these days. Go to any reputable site, and it will tell you that mother's milk is best. These sites use biased language when discussing formula feeding, making mothers feel as though they are selfish for choosing anything other than breast milk.

I know all of the benefits of breastfeeding. In fact, I breastfed my son Liam until he was 17 months old. But there were extenuating circumstances that led to this. Liam had gastroesophageal reflux and feeding issues that resulted in slow weight gain. Now 2 years old, Liam has been in the <10th percentile for weight since he was an infant. I was terrified to stop breastfeeding him because I did not want him to lose weight. Thankfully, he was able to maintain his weight through the weaning process. But as a first time mom, I was scared to make the change.

Now with my 2 month old daughter Maya, I find myself questioning my decision to breastfeed. She was also diagnosed with reflux and started on medication. Having been through this with my son, my husband and I recognized the symptoms right away. Projectile vomiting, discomfort when lying flat, fussy feeding sessions...we couldn't believe we would have 2 children with reflux. At least this time, we knew what we were dealing with.

Maya had issues with breastfeeding from the beginning. Her latch was poor, making breastfeeding incredibly painful. And as my milk came in, we discovered that I have an oversupply and a forceful letdown. Every feeding session is a battle because Maya ends up choking on my milk. And once Maya is done feeding, we have to keep her upright for at least 30 minutes to prevent projectile vomiting. But it doesn't seem to matter how long we keep her upright. The minute Maya is lying flat, she is screaming in pain and spitting up all of the milk that is supposed to be nourishing her.

Is it possible that Maya has a milk protein allergy (as one lactation consultant suggested) that is causing all of these issues? If that's the case, could I really cut all dairy out of my diet and still keep my sanity? That would mean not only avoiding the obvious sources of milk, but also reading every food label for hidden milk in processed foods. And with 2 children, do I really have time for this?

Would Maya do better on formula? Or is that just taking the easy way out? I'm not sure that I could live with the guilt of not breastfeeding my daughter as long as I breastfed my son. But it literally pains me to see Maya struggle with every feeding. What if there is a better way, and I am just too scared to try?

I wish there was more of a push for mothers to simply make the best decisions they can make for their children. Breast milk or formula, as long as the child is happy and fed, what difference does it really make? Yes, I recognize that mother's milk is best, but there are also other circumstances to consider when making the decision of how to feed your child. Maybe we should spend more time encouraging mothers to do what is best for their family rather than passing judgment without knowing all of the facts.

I'm not sure whether I will continue breastfeeding or switch to formula. I'm hoping to make that decision when I have more than 4 hours of sleep. But no matter what I decide, it will be with the best intentions for my daughter and the rest of the family.