If you've ever found yourself sweating and on the brink of tears in the back of your car trying to shove your child as gently as possible into their car seat after 30 minutes of struggle and hysteria in 90 degree weather, you're not alone.
I've been there more times than I care to admit.
Then I read the book Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen. I tried a few of his suggestions. Within a few days, it got easier. He didn't struggle as much. It didn't take as long. I wasn't crying. It was like magic.
Cohen is both a play therapist and a dad. I appreciated his perspective as a professional mixed with his personal experiences at home with his own daughter. (more…)
After becoming a mother you're rarely alone. My son's favorite place has always been pressed against me at all times.
(I'm not sure how dads get a free solo pass to the bathroom but there has to be some mystery left in the universe.)
Yet, at the same time, motherhood can be extremely isolating.
We no longer live in village communities where extended multi-generational families care for each other. I'm not romanticizing this idea, but as someone whose immediate family lives thousands of miles away, there is a certain appeal.
We feel pressure to bounce back, whether it's into our pre-baby jeans, fitness routine, work schedule, or other obligations.
Yet we have no idea how motherhood will change us. No matter when (or if) we fit back into those jeans, a different person is putting them on. Our lives revolve around different needs and priorities, few of which are our own.
I have over 1,000 friends on Facebook, yet do I really know what's going on in their lives? I talked to a friend recently on Skype and said, "I know all about your kids' sleep schedules, but how are YOU?"
I love all the connections I have on social media to share experiences, yet how deep do those connections go? And what experiences do we actually share?
I'm guilty of this myself.
Every night I post three "daily positives" on my Facebook wall. They range from moments of gratitude to fun things we did or silver linings I experienced that day. Some days I truly have to dig deep.
Those posts are for ME.
But when other people look at them, they may think everything over here is sunshine and roses all the time.
I don't post about the breakfast my son threw on the floor that I had to clean up, or the potty accident he had, or how he ran out the back door naked while I was trying to clean up the afore(not)mentioned messes. I don't want to dwell on those moments in my own life.
I don't want to constantly read about those moments from others, either, to be honest.
Like I mentioned to a friend, people don't get dogs so they can pick up poop, but that's also part of the deal.
But I know that my posts play into the idea that everything is going well all the time. And that's not true.
After this topic came up multiple times in a week, I organized my first mama circle here in San Diego. I have never led anything like this before and wanted to make sure it worked like I thought it would. It ended with everyone in tears and a group hug. It was amazing.
The most voiced comment? "I thought I was the only one."
You're not the only one.
It's hard to be vulnerable at all, let alone when we're chasing our kids at the park or trying to stop our toddlers from eating food they found on the ground or changing a diaper. It's hard to maintain a complete train of thought when we're parenting, let alone finish a sentence - or truly listen to one. It's hard to truly connect.
Humans are social animals. Even introverts need to be heard and understood.
Mothers Circle is held the second Friday of the month in San Diego. To hear about upcoming circles, or upcoming training to hold your own circles, get updates by email.
I just thought all babies were like that because he was the only one I had.
Other moms' mentioned their high-needs babies and I thought about how terrible that sounded - my son wouldn't sleep longer than 37 minutes, had to be constantly held, and went from 0-to-hysterical in 3 seconds flat. And they had it worse?
Apparently not. Whew.
(Looking back I have no idea how I survived those first two years with my sanity relatively intact, though that's up for debate.)
Entering my third trimester of pregnancy with my second child I vacillate between peace and panic. On one hand, at least I have some idea of what to expect.
On the other hand, I have some idea of what to expect -- plus a 3-year-old. Hold me.
With my first I felt intense pressure to "do it right." I wanted to read all the books and articles and expert opinions.
Then I learned that anyone who tells you there is one way to do anything is selling you their book.
Do I give weight in to experienced professionals say and what studies can show us? Yes. But the most important thing is doing what works for me and my family. I am the expert at my children.
So I'll stock up on strategies for smooth transitions for siblings, but this time I will have fewer expectations of myself. Because I don't know much about THIS baby yet.
In a class with Pam England (author of Birthing From Within) she explained her philosophy of "B+ Parenting."
She said that none of us can ever be a perfect parent. When we think we can, we set ourselves up for failure. Instead, she says, aim to be a B+ parent. Better than average, but without the pressure of never screwing anything up.
We will inevitably screw up.
That's what parenting is about. It's picking our battles and trying not to screw up too bad while loving the crap out of these little imperfect humans. We're learning along with them.
You're doing the best you can with what you have available at the moment. That's enough.
Not feeling like it lately? Motherhood can be an overwhelming hamster wheel of laundry and trying to remember what else you need to do.
If you're feeling stuck and don't even know where to start, you're not alone. If you need a hand to make the leap, I'd love to offer mine.
Want to stay in the loop?
Let's be honest - you'll forget to check back.Because mom brain is real.
You can't MAKE your baby sleep and that's OK. You can HELP and support, but that's it.
Babies can't read and don't know they are "supposed" to be sleeping at/for a given time. Books give averages, but there is a wide range of normal.
It's NORMAL for babies to wake up a lot, and actually reduces SIDS risk in infants.
The books I read scared me into thinking that my child needed more sleep than he was getting because he needed to process new information. Some kids need less sleep than others, so as long as your child is happy, they're probably just fine.
Things that interrupt sleep: teething, illness, developmental and mobility milestones (especially crawling and walking), full moons (wish I was kidding).
Co-sleeping, bed-sharing, and nursing side-lying were the only way I got any sleep. My son happily moved into his own room at 20 months and is still nursing.
Starting my night in the guest room and having my husband help the baby back to sleep, or having my husband give him a bottle of pumped milk after 3am also helped me catch up on sleep.
Seriously, take a nap with the baby, or have a friend come play with the baby for an hour or two while you sleep. People want to help you.
Wear your baby so they can nap on the go, or at least you have two hands to get things done.
Change your mindset from "My child SHOULD be sleeping right now" to asking if your child NEEDS to be sleeping right now. They need to build up enough sleep pressure to help them stay asleep.
My son dropped to 1 nap by his 1st birthday, and stopped napping around his 2nd. He still naps occasionally during growth spurts and developmental leaps, but he sleeps WORSE at night if he has a nap.
As an information hoarder, I love to read and research new topics. Pregnancy was no different. I polled some friends, filled up my Amazon cart, and cracked the books.
Quick note! These are generally aimed at "natural" childbirth. If you plan to have an epidural or pain management, or end up with a medically necessary Cesarean, that's totally fine! I still think it's good information to have and they address those, as well. I don't have time to judge you, I have to go figure out what my toddler just ate off the floor. Peace.
Here are the books I personally found most helpful:
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth is hard to beat. Ina May Gaskin is largely credited with the resurgence of midwifery in the United States and runs a birth center at the Farm commune in Tennessee. Skeptical of a commune resident in prairie skirts telling you about a process that will most likely take place in a hospital? She has authored many papers about childbirth and even has a delivery maneuver named after her. The first half is birth stories which show the wide range of "normal" birth experiences.
The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer was really helpful to me. The author starts out stating that she clearly has a bias, but her bias is based on the conclusions drawn from all the research she did. That's what she covers in the book. It's not about telling you what to do, but offers the studies and statistics that help you make an informed decision about your care.
The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby's First Year isn't written by well-known parenting experts, but it's not far off from the book I would want to write. Two attachment parenting moms offer an easy-to-read guide that validates following your instincts and back it up with science. It's not perfect, but I found it helpful.
Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation by Pam England is the most "woo woo" of these, but I found it fascinating. There are also Birthing From Within childbirth prep classes available. She studies the circumstances which cause traumatic birth experiences and works backwards to help you prevent them by unpacking your fears around childbirth. I often suggest getting this from the library first in case it's too much.
Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck was an interesting read. Though the author is a follower of the Weston A. Price Foundation ("the raw milk people") who insist no vegetarian diet (mine) can possibly be healthy, I enjoyed Planck's grounded view of eating well during pregnancy to nourish you and your baby. She advocates a whole food diet without being overbearing and adds in her own pregnancy experiences for dimension.
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International is the go-to recommendation for nursing moms. I have not yet read it, but breastfeeding isn't completely instinctive or easy. If you plan to nurse, more support is always better!
No time (or attention span) for books? Here are some websites that offer great information:
Birth Without Fear posts a beautiful array of birth stories, and show that there isn't a right or a wrong way to meet your baby.
Evidence Based Birth offers information related to popular questions about pregnancy and childbirth with studies and citations to back it up.
KellyMom is an amazing breastfeeding resource which covers a number of topics and has plenty of outside links as well.
Pregnant Chicken, in addition to being pee-your-pants hilarious, also gave me some of the best advice I read during my pregnancy.