We Are the Face of Motherhood: a Series on Postpartum Depression

I have to admit that I have been putting this off for some time.  I first heard about this endeavor in late 2016 and wanted to share and be part of this movement. But, figuring how and what to share has been difficult.

I had another post written. I detailed those first few days and weeks after the birth of my first son and explained to all you beautiful, wonderful people how much I was going through. I expressed in my best words how it felt, why it was happening, and all the things that were working against me.

And then I stopped.

If we are going to end the stigma, we must begin by ending the thought process that our feelings need to be justified or validated by others.

I stopped because I was justifying my feelings. I was trying to justify the fact that I struggled for months with undiagnosed postpartum depression. I explained everything that was going on because I didn’t want you to think I am weak.  I so want you to understand my deep struggle and the visceral heartache that still plagues me that I wrote a very meaningful piece that did nothing.  I think it would have been fine, or even good, to share all of those things for the simple fact that I know other moms feel the exact same way right now [and dare I say that moms well beyond those newborn days feel the same? Moms of toddlers, elementary school kids, preteens, teens, and beyond? Moms who have lost children, moms who never got to meet their babies, moms who adopt, moms who perhaps never got to have children at all?].  My post was true and deep and meaningful and difficult, but I do not believe it was the right post for this cause.

This cause is about ending the stigma of postpartum depression – PPD – and postpartum anxiety – PPA.  If we are going to end the stigma, we must begin by ending the thought process that our feelings need to be justified or validated by others.  It certainly feels good when we someone else understands the way we feel and why we feel it, but even if no one else ever understands the way you are feeling, you are still dealing with depression, and that’s okay.

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This is after we got to our recovery room. I had been awake for about 36 hours at this point and just had a C-section. 

I want you to know that it is okay to deal with depression even if you had a beautiful birth, just the way you wanted.  It is okay to deal with depression even if you have a beautiful baby that you cherish, love, and adore. It is okay if you have depression even though breastfeeding went well for you.  It is okay to have depression even if your baby sleeps through the night.  It is okay to deal with depression whether you prayed for your child for years or you had no idea motherhood was before you. It is okay.

Our first picture as a family of 3

There is no qualifying list, no one way depression manifests itself.  In the midst of postpartum hormones and sleep deprivation, depression can seem like it will take care of itself if you can just sleep, just relax, just get away, just have one minute to yourself.  And sometimes it does, but other times, in darker times, it sticks around.  It follows you like a lurking shadow.  No matter how bright the lights are, the shadow is still there, attached to your every move.  The shadow is not nimble, it is cumbersome, it is exhausting.  Your shadow is a physical weight that you carry on a daily basis, an emotional sink that you keep pouring into, but never fills up.  The shadow clouds your judgement, you ability to think and concentrate, your patience and ability to deal with your ever-changing emotions.

One of my favorite pictures, but one that I forced myself to take because I knew, someday, that I would want to see pictures of his little face.

There are signs of PPD/PPA, certainly, and I had many of them.  I felt disconnected and numb. I told myself I HAD to take pictures and I HAD to tell Vincent that I loved him everyday because I didn’t feel like doing either of those things. I wanted to get away from the baby, but as soon as I was away I dealt with anxiety that something terrible would happen while I was gone.  I was irritable and impatient with the baby, but as soon as I felt myself snap I would melt into a big ball of tears. But the fact of the matter is, you can hide these things if you really want to.  The shadow can continue to follow you if you let it, and many times, no one else realizes it’s there except for you.

We must act. We must speak out. We must advocate for each other. And in order for women to seek the help they need, we must end the stigma.

You can read more about my newborn experience here.  I won’t detail it in this post, but I will tell you that I was struggling and I didn’t know how to tell people I was struggling. How do you verbalize a change that happened so quickly you don’t have time to process it? It’s more than, “I’m having a hard time.” I wish I would have said something. I wish I would have had help. I wish I would have known how to do more than take the 2 minute survey at the doctor and be told my feelings were normal.  [and yes they are normal, but there was MORE going on and I wanted SOMEONE to see it and identify it FOR me, I just wasn’t able to do it myself]

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So what I want to share is this: it’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to struggle. And it’s okay to ask for help, even if you don’t know what you need or what help looks like. If you start to ask for help you will find relief and reprieve, you will find healing. The road will not be easy, but it will be worth it.

I would also add that as a culture, WE MUST SLOW DOWN.  If you know a new mom, slow down enough to look her in the eye and say, “How are you doing, really?” And when she says, “Oh I’m fine, just tired,” look her in the eye again and repeat, “Really?” I fear that our culture has become so fast, so focused on posting the perfect Instagram picture, so busy, that we won’t slow down enough to see people who are hurting, struggling, and in need of a friend.  New moms especially fit into the category. Your ENTIRE world was just changed and now you have the responsibility of raising a tiny human. The pressure, the loss of independence, the sleepless nights, the physical recovery that has to happen all while caring for a newborn is more than anyone has ever dealt with before and it is okay to not be okay.

I give you permission to not be okay.

So, mama, I give you permission to struggle and need help. I want you to know that people see you and hear you.  We know the heartache and we are here for you. We want you to feel free to share what is going on so that we can better help you.  We are here, and we are here to stay.  It’s okay to not be okay.

{Think you or someone you know may be struggling with postpartum depression, anxiety, or another mental health disorder? Please contact your health provider including your OBGYN or family doctor. Need more information? Visit Postpartum Support International for great information on maternal mental health disorders and more. If you fear you or someone you love may be contemplating suicide or facing a mental health emergency, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline and get to your nearest emergency room.}

 

Successfully Pumping At Work

What is in my Pump Bag

that makes being half naked at work slightly easier.

A friend recently asked me what she needs to bring to work to successfully pump. Just a pump and a bottle right? Oh, friend, if only it were that simple. Instead, I have compiled a bag full of stuff that makes the experience a little bit easier.  Because, let’s be honest, it’s super uncomfortable to be half naked at work no matter how prepared you are.

I will say that it has been easier the second time around. My milk lets down easier and I have learned to advocate for myself, so I make sure that I am regularly pumping every 2.5 to 3 hours.  I also just stopped caring if my pumping makes people uncomfortable. I was very fortunate the first time around that my manager was a working mom who did the baby thing. She was extremely supportive and I was able to be open about what I needed. I am thankful for that because I now report to a male, who is still very supportive, but can’t relate. So, it would be easier to try and tip toe around what I am doing, but it’s not worth my time. My first piece of advice is just own it. Own what you are doing because it is an incredible gift to your child and it’s not worth your mental energy to try and figure out how to say “I need to pump” in a not awkward way.  If it makes someone feel awkward, that’s their thing, they can deal. Do what you need to do to be comfortable (both physically comfortable and mentally/emotionally comfortable) with your pumping journey.

What is actually in my bag? Here is a comprehensive list of items that has grown and changed with my year + of experience.

Pump – Obviously.  I have been using the Medela Freestyle Pump with babe #2 and I really like it.  I love that I don’t need to be next to an outlet, tied to a wall. The rechargeable battery has great life and the suction is actually pretty impressive! It works well for me and I especially like it because it means I can pump in the car if needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pumping Bra – Let’s be honest, no one wants to spend more time than necessary stripped down to their skivvies in the office. (Or, if you do, then you live a very different life than I) The pumping bra is essential for double pumping and wrapping up this whole weird ordeal. I bought this one off Amazon for about $30 and it has worked for both boys so far. I know you can also cut holes in a sports bra, but this just didn’t work for me. I prefer this bra, but either way, this needs to be in the bag.ALL YOUR PUMP PARTS, there is nothing more frustrating than forgetting one little pump part and your whole pump is useless. I always pack my pieces the night before so I am not trying to do it in a rush in the morning. I also keep a spare set of parts at the office at all times.  I started doing this after I forgot my parts one day and was MISERABLE.  They aren’t expensive, so do yourself a favor and just buy a second set to keep in your desk drawer.

Burp Cloth – So it really stinks when you are all done, you are removing the breast shields, and you spill extra milk all over your dry-clean-only work pants. Instead, make sure you grab a burp rag and drape it over your lap while pumping. It comes in super useful when cleaning up before getting dressed and protecting clothes from tiny milk drops.

Gallon sized zip lock bag – This is to stick all the pieces in between pumping sessions. It saves so much time rather than having to clean each piece 3+ times per day. Sometimes it only takes me 12 minutes to walk, set up, pump, and be done. That’s huge for your busy work day!

Cloth bag to put the zip lock bag in – This isn’t essential, but it makes me feel better about the walk from the communal fridge back to my pumping room. It’s actually a bag I received when we were in the NICU and it has come in very handy! I just put the Ziplock inside and then throw that in the fridge and walk to my room with it. I like having a little privacy and I like that people aren’t staring at my pumping bottles when they are looking for a mid day snack.

Cooler and Freezer Pack – I stick some food in this on my way to work and carry milk in it on the way home. I just keep the whole cooler in the fridge during the day. The ice pack then stays cool for my drive home. While it isn’t a huge deal during the winter months, I would hate for my car to break down in the summer and not be able to get the milk home in time.  The freezer pack gives me an added sense of security that my milk isn’t going to get too warm before I am able to freeze it once I am home for the day.

2 bottles and milk bags – I always pump into bottles and then transfer into milk bags so I can freeze them. I think pumping into bottles is way less stressful than trying to pump directly into bags. I also keep a spare box of milk bags in my pumping bag at all times. As soon as I use one up I put a second box in. Again, there is nothing worse than pumping and realizing you don’t have anywhere to put the milk so you can pump again later. Then you have to go to the store and it’s a whole big thing. Just keep extras in your bag, your working mama self will be thankful.

Pen or marker to record dates and ounces on your bags – this is especially important if you plan to freeze the milk you are pumping. You will want to keep it organized and it is really helpful to your care taker to know how much is in each bag.

Nursing cover – this is another optional item, but I just stuck it in the bag in case I ever felt uncomfortable in the office or I needed to pump in the car. It’s just nice to know I have the security of the cover if I need it. I haven’t actually used it yet, but it’s my security blanket for pumping.

This cover is from MilkSnob.com – I LOVE THEIR COVERS they are Jersey cotton so they are super light weight and soft. They completely cover you and baby can still breathe. I definitely recommend them!

Some other optional items that I know have helped other mamas:

  • Something that smells like your little. I haven’t had a problem with let down this time, but grabbing your baby’s PJ’s from the night before (ya know, as long as there isn’t spit up or pee on them) can help your milk come in.  A picture of your little can also help.
  • Calming music or scenery.  If you work a super stressful job or you have to operate on high octane all the time, allowing yourself to calm down is key.  Having calm music playing or looking at calming pictures like waterfalls (and imagining your milk is like a waterfall) can help your milk come in.
  • Having a mantra that you repeat to yourself. This helped a lot with my first. I had a really hard time relaxing enough for my milk to come in. I was also super anxious that I wouldn’t be able to pump enough to provide for his needs.  Let me tell you, being anxious about not producing enough is a sure fire way to not produce enough milk. Instead, I started having really positive self talk about how wonderful it was that I was working this hard for him and that any amount of milk was important.  Whenever I would start to relax and give myself grace, sure enough, my milk with let down.
  • Snack and water.  Often, I get going too fast to eat or drink.  Pumping is a great opportunity to take a second for yourself and have a snack and drink lots of water. This will help you keep your energy up, allow you to continue to pump later in the day, and also allow you to feel like there is something in it for you instead of just doing all this for the baby.
  • Wipes. Medela sells wipes for your pump for the between times when you can’t wash. It’s a good option for wiping up quickly during your work day.
  • Sterilization bags. Medela makes these, too. You just stick all your pieces in the bag with water and then put it in the microwave. I can’t speak to the safety of these bags as far as the high heat goes, but again, it’s easy for the office.

These are all the things that have helped me. Mamas – what other items did you have in your pumping bag that helped you pump successfully?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eleventy-hundred Reasons I feel Mom Guilt

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Mom Guilt: That feeling you have on the regular that you could be doing more or better. The realization of responsibility and uncertainty that you are fulfilling your child’s needs. The crushing sense of uncertainty with many parenting decisions and then wanting to make a different/better decision the next time around…. The mom guilt definition could go on. Here is an EDITED list of reasons I feel mom guilt on the daily:

  • Not letting my child “settle himself” at 3am and getting up to nurse him because he will go to sleep faster
  • Letting my child cry-it-out so that he learns to settle himself
  • Nursing my baby on a schedule ( You need to feed on demand! )
  • Nursing on demand ( Your baby needs a routine! )
  • Not wanting to nurse at 11pm, 1am, 3am, and 5am ( Nurse your baby whenever he wakes, he needs comfort! )
  • Wanting to sleep (see above timeline )
  • Eating too much chocolate for the nursing baby’s tummy
  • Not getting my child up at 5am when he wakes [ You just let him lay in bed for an hour? ]
  • Not having enough structured play for my 2 yo [He is so smart, you should do more with him! ]
  • Having too much structured play/learning time for my 2yo [Kids learn best by free play!]
  • Not having “self-care” [You need to take care of yourself in order to take care of your kids]
  • Feeling selfish for taking time for “self-care” [ Bottles, pumping, toddler hanging off of you when you leave the house and crying as you go… it’s a lot of work to take time for yourself]
  • Feeding my toddler mac n’cheese for the 4th day in a row [ because, left overs ]
  • Too much fruit and not enough veggies [ but it’s all he will eat ]
  • Telling toddler they cannot have a sugary dessert [ Ice cream mommy! ]
  • Not being flexible enough to allow toddler to have said sugary dessert
  • Being “too strict” with bed time [ between 6:30 and 7 in our house ]
  • Not being strict enough with bed time [ maybe we should be in bed at 6? ]
  • Being a stickler for the 4 month old’s routine and nap schedule [ up for an hour? time to start the nap time routine! ]
  • Worrying about the 4 month old’s naps because he is only 4 months old [ You should go do things while you can! ]
  • Not sticking to the 1 hour rule for the 4 month old and then suffering the consequences [ over tired, very upset baby at nap time ]
  • Not giving the 4 month old solids [ You know you can start him on solids now, right? ]
  • Thinking about starting 4 month old on solids [ You know that he can be exclusively breast-fed until 6 months, right? ]
  • Pushing through and nursing for a full year [ You can always just give him formula and he will sleep more ]
  • Having to supplement formula [ Your body can produce enough milk for your baby! ]
  • Not getting the toddler outside daily
  • Getting toddler outside, but not putting sun screen on [ oops ]
  • The fact that baby cannot nap because toddler needs to get outside [ He does not nap in the stroller anymore – we discovered this while in the stroller ]
  • Not playing with toddler because baby needs to nurse [ Come on Mommy! ]

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  • Sitting the toddler in front of the TV so that I can put the baby down for a nap for the 4th time that day { Daniel Tiger! }
  • Letting toddler continue to watch TV after baby is in bed because I just want to sit on the couch { Annnndddd mommy closes her eyes…just for a minute…}
  • Having a completely “tech free” day, but then realizing that the toddler actually learns something from Sesame Street { 1, 2, 3, 4, 5! Mommy 5! The count, 5! }
  • Not wearing the baby enough (He won’t feel loved and attached!)
  • Baby-wearing too much [He will never be independent! He won’t be able to sleep on his own!)
  • Not using cloth diapers….then reading that cloth diapers use more water so then it’s okay….but then reading that disposable diapers take 20 years to degrade in the land fill….the cycle starts again
  • The toddler only got 9 hours of sleep last night! { shouldn’t it be 12? }
  • Worrying every day about how much sleep each child is getting { just relax! they will be fine! }
  • Not being a “fun mom” and playing games
  • Playing games and having fun when I should be holding the baby or doing laundry
  • Doing laundry and chores instead of playing games
  • Crap, forgot to change the toddler’s diaper before nap time… did I change the baby’s diaper? Wait, when did the baby eat last?…. Now feeling guilty because I can’t keep either child’s schedule straight
  • Going back to work [ I just love being home with my kids! But isn’t that a waste of your Master’s degree? ]
  • Not wanting to stay home with the kids [ Are you just dreading going back to work? Umm… only sometimes. ]
  • Taking time to work out [ I can have it all! ]
  • Not taking time to work out [ Oh M geeeee I just want a nap ]
  • Putting the kids to bed early because I JUST CAN’T anymore

Mamas – why do we put ourselves through this? We are all trying to do our best! This self talk needs to change. We are doing the best and hardest work! We need to give ourselves a break.  As moms, we have the weight of responsibility and it’s easy to let that stress take over and not enjoy the little moments of motherhood.

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I am so thankful that every day is a fresh start. If I don’t like the way something went yesterday, I can change it today. If I tried a new parenting technique and it doesn’t work for our family, I can try something different the next time around. It’s a learning process and we all have the same goals in mind: creating a healthy home environment for our families to thrive in. That looks different for different people, but I think we can all agree that we want the best for our kids. If we all have the same goal, we can focus on supporting each other and not worrying about what we are [ or aren’t ] doing.

Not so Fast [what I learned from my coffee fast]

img_20170114_154728_960.jpgCoffee.

Need I say more? The substance that basically every mom starts her day.  Get on Instagram and I feel like every mom blogger cites “coffee lover” “addicted to coffee” or some other caffeine reference in their bio. We meet for coffee, discuss our love of coffee, and survive because of coffee. I am no different, but about a month ago I was challenge to fast. Having already cut gluten, dairy, sugar, and processed foods out of my diet and being a nursing mom, there wasn’t much more I could fast from except….COFFEE. What?! How could I possibly survive without this magic potion that allows me to be a functioning human after only 3 hours of interrupted sleep? Yet, Jesus commands us to fast and I felt convicted, so my 21 day coffee fast began.

But first….Hot Lemon Water?

Stepping into church one Sunday morning I had no idea what we would be challenged to do. Our pastor was speaking on the church’s word of the year, honor, and talked about ways we can honor God in our lives.  We discussed Matthew 6: 16-18:

 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

A few key points that were made about this passage:

  1. The assumption is that fasting WILL take place (“When you fast…”).  I hadn’t really considered this before and had zero experience fasting, so I found it interesting that Jesus assumes that his followers will participate in fasting.
  2. Don’t let others know you are fasting (“…do not look somber as the hypocrites do…”).  I liked this because I wanted to be sure I was fasting for the right reasons and not for praise or attention. So, I was thankful to know that it could be kept between myself and a few key people.
  3. The text says, “…your Father, who sees what is done is secret, WILL reward you” (Emphasis added).  I found this part very compelling and more incentive to try it.

The teaching went on to talk about how we can utilize fasting to reset our relationship with God and seek his guidance in our lives.

Simultaneous to this teaching, I was feeling extreme anxiety about our home search. Many of you know that we are STILL looking for a house. I really thought that we would be settled in our own home by now and every time we see a house that doesn’t work out I get so disappointed.  My anxiety about the house hunt was coming to a head when I heard this sermon and I quickly realized that I was not giving our house hunt over to God.  I was not trusting Him in the process or trusting His timing. All these realizations and points above lead me to desire a fast in order to seek God and reset my heart to be in tune with His direction in my life.

So, Monday the fast began.  I thought about having tea instead of coffee, but it didn’t feel right. Having tea felt like I was only following the fast to the letter of the law and not giving up something I really ENJOY and challenging myself to rely on God instead of a hot beverage.  I replaced coffee with a cup of hot lemon water.

It was not good.

I know some people LOVE their hot lemon water. I am not one of these people. If I never have it again, that’s okay with me. I really missed my daily cup o’joe, and I was pretty cranky about losing it. I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t think it would be THAT hard. I quickly realized how often I was relying on coffee to get me through a tough morning or a sleepless night instead of coming to God and asking for His divine intervention.

I had the opportunity every morning to tell God, I am choosing YOU over coffee right now.

Folks, it was a rough time in our house. Teddy had to be rocked to sleep for every nap (which was 4 or 5 times per day at this point). Vincent was just being his toddler self, but it grated my nerves. Teddy also started waking up more throughout the night so I was tired. But you know what? God provided through it all. I had the opportunity every morning to tell God, I am choosing YOU over coffee right now.

I was really surprised at the strong hold that my routine and coffee had on me. Every morning I was reminded that I was choosing God, but every morning it was a difficult choice. I really did not like how dependent I had become on a substance. Instead, I wanted to be that dependent on God.

I love this quote from John Piper about fasting, “Ultimately we fast simply because we want God more than we want anything this world has to offer us.” I realized that I wanted God to be my center and my contentment more than I wanted coffee. I learned that God can provide everything I need, whether it be patience with my almost 2 year old or energy after a [very] sleepless night. I do not need earthly things like coffee, food, or chocolate in order to function, but I absolutely need the Lord.

As for the reward, we still haven’t found a house, which was what I hoped God would provide after this time. But, I feel like my reward is greater than any possession or material object might be. My reward is a renewed relationship and connection to God. My reward is the knowledge that God can provide for all my needs and learning to trust Him in new ways. My reward is a fresh spirit and being filled with the Spirit. I have come to realize that these are greater gifts than anything I could ask or imagine.

So, friends, I would encourage you to fast. There are many ways to do so! Whether it be from one meal a day or dessert or coffee.  As long as you plan how you will focus your energy while you are fasting, I believe you will see growth and connection with God.

Have any of you ever fasted? What did it look like? What did you learn?

I’m GREAT at Religion [but I’m a struggling Christ follower]

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Here are some facts about me:

I am efficient. I strive to do things better and faster and have no patience for anything else.

I am a rule follower. Give me guidelines and I will operate within them, strictly following each letter of the law.

I am a high achiever. I believe I can always do better, achieve more, and succeed no matter the obstacle in front of me.

I am very independent. If I see something that needs to be done, I do it; I handle it and take responsibility.

These traits naturally lend to being REALLY good at Religion – the rule following especially. Religion, at its very basic level, is a set of rules and guidelines that one must follow in order to go to Heaven. If you follow these rules and do the right things you get to go up when you die. If you don’t, you go down. So, as a rule following, efficient, strive-to-do-your-best, independent person, Religion is my jam.  The 10 Commandments? Yep, I can follow those. Trying to be the best person I can be all the time? I have been trying to do that since I can remember. Doing the right thing because God says I should? I strive to do that too. Tithe 10%? Okay, it’s in the Bible, I can follow that rule. I can see sin in others and I can tell you what the Bible says about it. On and on with the rules. I will try to achieve them all. I will do my best. I will…. I….

Did you notice how many times “I” came up? I am good at Religion, but I am struggling as a Christian. Why? Because ultimately, I am trying to earn God’s grace and acceptance. Instead of going to God first and seeking His will, His grace, and His mercy, I take control and try to make peace with God. That is Religion, when WE try to make peace with God. I naturally fall into the religion category. In fact, go ahead and call me a Pharisee.

The Pharisees were the religious elite of Jesus’ day. They knew the Old Testament books and teachings inside and out. They knew every. single. thing. they should do and say. They could follow all the rules and they challenged Jesus often based on their understanding of the Old Testament. The Pharisees were supposed to be the example of God’s love and covenant with the Jewish people. They were to help Jewish people perform sacrifices and answer their questions so that everyone could be right with the Lord. However, they soon became a ruling class. A group of people so caught up in the rules and regulations of the law that they missed the whole point of the Scriptures and also missed the fact that Jesus is Messiah.

Lately, I have seen myself fitting more into the Pharisee category than the Jesus category. I want to follow a set of rules. I want to clean myself up before I approach the throne. I want my works and my actions to bring me the peace that God offers. I judge others based on outward decisions. And then I feel like a complete failure when I am not enough and I can’t do enough to be where I want to be with Jesus.

Jesus criticized the Pharisees often. In Matthew 23 verses 3 and 4, Jesus says this, “So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.”  How often I do this to myself and others. Do I practice what I teach? Do I put into action the teachings of the Bible and the words of Christ? Sadly, I often do not.

The truth is friends, I can NEVER do enough to feel at peace with God. The only way to be at peace with God is through relationship with Him. Changing my behavior will only work for so long before I burn out or make a major mistake. Truthfully. the only thing that can bring me the peace I so desire is communion with Jesus. But because of my innate gifts (which by the way God created in me, why couldn’t he have made this easier?) this is very difficult for me to do.

Are you here, too? Maybe you have been trying to be good your whole life and just can’t measure up. Maybe you DO follow all the rules but STILL don’t have peace. Perhaps you are the good religious person, but find you lack grace for others and yourself.

I think most of us have it backwards. Instead of us striving to be right with God, we should be surrendering to God and allowing His peace to wash over us.  Instead of trying to do good works, we should be asking to be filled with the Holy Spirit so we can participate in the larger plan that God has. Instead of worrying about what to do and say, we should look to the example of Jesus and seek to honor him in our thoughts, words, and actions.

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God” (NIV) another translations says “Let go of your concerns! Then you will know that I am God” (GW). Yet another translation says “Cease your striving and know that I am God” (New American Standard).

I want to honor God in all I do, but I need to let go of my need for control and my desire for clearly laid out rules and instead seek to find God first. I need Jesus to be the Lord of my life in order to enjoy the fullness of life that has been offered to me. I am still figuring out how to do this, but I think it all starts with a simple statement:

Cease striving.

6 Pumping Hacks

Ahh the breast pump, the best and worst thing to happen to breastfeeding moms. I am so thankful for my breast pump, it allows me to work and leave the baby and still provide the best nutrition. But also, it’s the worst. All the pieces, trying to get the pumping bra on right, adjusting the settings, realizing you forgot one pivotal piece at home…. it can definitely be a drag. Now, I am no breastfeeding expert or lactation consultant, but I have read a lot on the subject and made enough mistakes to know a thing or two. I want to share a few hacks with you to make pumping easier and hopefully, get you closer to your breastfeeding goal.

Hack #1: The Plastic Bag

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Ladies, this is FOR REAL the best hack I have ever used. I read it in Parenting Magazine with my first, thankfully before I went back to work. After you pump, simply put all the pieces in a sealed plastic bag and place in the fridge! According to the Mayo Clinic, expressed breast milk can be stored in the fridge for up to five days (it is optimal to freeze it within 3 days, you can read more here). So, I simply put all my pumping parts in a bag in the fridge and keep it in the back away from the door. I then clean it once per day instead of after every time I pump. Also, I don’t have time to clean all those pieces with an almost two year old running around so this is a necessity in life.

Hack #2: Start an extra pump session in the morning

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You always have the most milk in the morning. I notice, too, that often my baby will only eat on one side at night so there always seems to be excess in the AM. Just start a routine of pumping about 45 minutes to one hour after your baby first eats in the morning. Usually, I feed baby first. Get him changed, make my coffee, get some water, let the dogs out, and then get set up to pump. As long as this is part of a normal routine and done daily you will build up a nice extra supply. I am so thankful for my back up supply. I know that I will have plenty when I go back to work, or if something terrible should happen, I know that I will have a month or so of milk before having to switch to formula.

Hack #3: Use your shield as a funnel

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So I honestly don’t remember where or when I saw this, but when I did it was like the heavens opened. I was always so nervous about spilling milk all over the place! Especially at work because that’s just where something as terrible as spilled breast milk would happen. Simply put your breast shield into the freezer bag and then pour your milk through the shield. Seriously – life saver!

Hack #4: Freeze your milk flat for better storage

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#flatlay (hahaha bfing humor)

Again, you guys probably figured this one out on your own….but I am not that bright. If you freeze your milk laying flat it is much easier to store upright and you can fit a lot more in your deep freeze. This also helps with organizing so that you can easily see dates and how much is in the bag without digging through the deep dark crevices of your freezer. Which brings me to my next hack….

Hack #5: Use boxes to organize your milk

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One thing that I did not do well the first time around was organize my supply. I ended up throwing a lot away because I didn’t use it in time and that is JUST THE WORST. So do yourself a favor and organize your milk so it can  be easily identified and used. My mom had the idea of using shoe boxes, but then we found that cutting our warehouse milk boxes in half was the perfect size for the freezer bags. So I just stick them all in there and then put them in the deep freeze, insta-organize!

Hack #6: Don’t stress

So this isn’t really a hack, but it is really important to remember when you are trying to pump. Being stressed or anxious about how much you are getting or if it will be enough is a sure fire way to limit your pumping. Lots of people recommend looking at pictures of your baby or having something on hand that smells like baby. This never worked for me, but what did work is taking deep breaths and repeating this mantra:

         Whatever I can give my baby will be enough; no matter how much I pump I am helping him               grow; Every single ounce is a blessing

Taking deep breaths and just being thankful for any amount that I was able to pump is how I made it through those sessions at work – which, by the way , is the worst place to try to pump because you have the stress of the job, the stress of someone seeing something you don’t want them to see, the stress of not getting enough milk, etc, etc. Just remember, the important part is that you are trying and that you want to provide ANY amount of breast milk!

These are some of the top things that have made pumping less painful and go more smoothly, what have other mamas done to help with pumping? What is your number one hack for continuing to breastfeed after going back to work?

Motherhood Unedited

 

Things no one ever tells you about being Mamma

Entering motherhood is this mix of mystery, wonder, excitement and fear. You’ve had this thing growing in you for nine months and [if you are anything like me] you are ready to just get that baby out. You know intellectually that it will be difficult, but you’ve read the books and blogs, you’ve talked to other moms, you have done hard things before so you can do this, too. This was my mantra before baby arrived – I have survived life so far, millions of women have done this before me, so I can do this too. I asked advice of my mom friends – and got the advice of plenty of strangers. Many people asked, “Are you ready?” Umm, no I am not ready! Who is ever ready for a complete life change and being responsible for someone else’s life? But I was as prepared as I could be, or so I thought. Once the baby came I realized that there was a lot to motherhood that no one shares with you before the baby arrives. Maybe they don’t want to be a downer or they don’t want to scare this fresh new mom who is just excited to meet her child, but either way I wish someone would have shared more of these truths with me. I am realistic and straightforward. I know not everyone feels the way I do, but were all really difficult parts of motherhood for me.  I hope that talking about these realities will help someone else know they aren’t the only one feeling this way. Here are three things that no one tells you about motherhood:

Motherhood is Lonely

No matter how many of your friends are simultaneously having children at the same time as you, mom groups you join, or how much time your spouse gets off from work, motherhood is ultimately the loneliest I have ever felt.  You are stuck at home a lot figuring out how to be a mom, how to breastfeed, trying desperately to get a nap in while the baby sleeps. When your spouse is home you dump the baby off on them so you can do something normal – like shower because you seriously don’t remember the last time soap touched your body – and you don’t get to connect with them the way you used to. If you are breastfeeding, even social events can mean being by yourself so you can find a quiet spot to try and get your baby to settle into their normal nursing position.  You are the one that hears the cries at night (or those fake cries when they don’t really wake up, just make noise, but you wake up and then listen for 30 minutes to make sure they aren’t REALLY awake, and then once you are done listening and determine that they are still asleep, baby actually wakes up to eat, joj mene [pronounced yoy menna, something my Croatian grandma says when frustrated]) and you are typically the one to get up at 3am to feed your baby while your spouse blissfully sleeps. If all your friends are having kids it is helpful to know you aren’t the only one that is going through the emotions and the feels that come with being a new mom.  Mom groups can help bring people together, too, but here’s the common thread through all these events and isolation – no matter how many wonderful people are around you, no matter how many people volunteer to help, no one can lift the weight of responsibility from a mom’s shoulders. You are suddenly responsible for a human life, and not just protecting it, but also sustaining it. I think the weight of responsibility makes new moms feel lonely – at least this is what I realized I was feeling. I felt isolated because I knew no one could do this job but me. Even when you get a break, your baby is in the back of your mind… when will he need to eat next? Will she just cry the whole time? Should I pump now, or wait because he might need to eat as soon as I get back?  It’s never ending responsibility and it will continue for forever. So it’s okay if you feel lonely, but don’t go it alone. Share your feelings with your spouse, make sure you are plugged into a mom’s group or have friends that you can share your feelings with. Ask for help when you need it. But just know that none of these things will take away the feeling (sometimes the burden) of being a mom and that huge responsibility.

Motherhood is Tedious

Change diaper. Nurse. Burp. Hold baby. Put down for a nap. Repeat.

I hate changing diapers, it is probably my least favorite mom thing to do. Turns out babies – especially newborns – need diaper changes ALL. THE. TIME. It didn’t take long for me to realize that most of being a mom the first 8 weeks is just the same thing over and over again – lots of sitting and nursing and then getting up to change a diaper. And if you are lucky, you also get to change your shirt because the baby spit up on it… and then change their clothes because they leaked out of their diaper.

Being a manager of customer service representatives, I am used to being busy and thinking on my feet. I am used to problem solving and utilizing my skills and brain on a daily basis. Shifting to the mundane tasks of nursing and diaper changing was really difficult for me. I like routine, but I don’t like boredom. I like getting things done, crossing things off a list and I felt like I wasn’t accomplishing anything being a mom. I was just doing the same things over and over without actually moving forward. Eventually I was able to shift my thinking to make my “to do” list things that I could accomplish through the monotony of motherhood. I had things like: – nap, – snuggle baby, and – put clothes in dryer on my “to do” list. I literally made a list and then crossed things off. It gave me the sense of accomplishment through my daily responsibilities and made things that I used to see as time wasters meaningful to my day. It didn’t change the fact that these things were still tedious, but it was at least balanced with the feeling of accomplishment so I felt more positive and could stay motivated to keep going.

Motherhood is Exhausting

Okay, so people tell you this. They joke about not getting sleep and being tired, and it’s true – I have never been so tired as when we brought our first baby home. Those first 8 weeks were the worst, I was like a walking zombie. But the exhaustion of motherhood is more than just a few nights of little sleep. I am talking about complete physical, spiritual, and emotional exhaustion. Even if your little one sleeps, you are still pouring everything you have into this new human, or multiple little humans if if you have older children. More than just being sleepy – you have a child attached to you in one way or another all day long. You no longer get to be alone. Even if your child or children are napping you are on alert, waiting for one child to cry or need you in some way. I knew I would be tired and I figured I could deal with fatigue, but I didn’t realize what complete exhaustion was like. It extends into your other relationships. Even though I felt totally alone (See loneliness above) I was so tired that I couldn’t find the energy to connect with anyone. Also, I didn’t want to be touched – like at all. Bryan would be holding the baby and the dogs would want some attention and I just did NOT want to pet them. I had to remind myself to hug Bryan and hold his hand or sit next to him on the couch. I just didn’t want to be touched because I had another human attached to me all day long.

That is the best way I can explain the exhaustion of motherhood. I think that nothing else is quite like it. And on those days when you are feeling completely spent and useless because you are so exhausted, just know that it will pass. One night you will get 4 or 5 hours of sleep and you will feel like a new person! Or your new baby will FINALLY take a 2 hour nap ON HIS OWN and it will be amazing. Until those days come, it’s okay to feel completely exhausted.

I think the overarching theme of this post is that you can’t do it by yourself. I know single moms who have survived these early weeks and years of parenting and I am just so in awe of what they do. You need a tribe, you need support, you need community, you need help. So ask for it! Surround yourself with people who love and support you. If you live far away from family, find a community through church or another organization. Find a mom group so you have others that are dealing with the same things you are. Join a mom group on Facebook! It’s just another way to get connected.

Moms, what surprised you about parenthood? How did you survive those early days and weeks of motherhood?