For my Mom – a soft blog post

One year later and I still feel like I have no clue what I am doing. It is like that thing you lie about on a resume – like yeah, totally proficient in MATLAB and oh also! I am conversational in Spanish, but now it’s more a human life that I am lying about my moderate (on a good day) proficiency in.

I called my mom the other day and the first thing I said when she picked up was “Mom, can you please help me parent?” She laughs, but I was/am dead serious. I had the schedule down, the naps, the sleeping semi-all-the-way-through-the-night and then it just all went to shit. There was one night about a week ago where Zara woke up at 1AM and I tried my normal rock for a few minutes and put her back and this kid just wouldn’t go back to sleep. So I try giving her a little milk, like food coma this baby – didn’t work. Brought her in bed with me because that’s another move I googled once – it didn’t work. And at this point I am panicking because its 2:30AM and I have done everything that I know how to do. Every night when she wakes up I just cross my fingers and hope the list of solutions I found on google works, and it has up until this week for the most part. Now I am back to having just about as much knowledge about taking care of my kid as when I was also 1 year old.

This blog might be a little random because I really don’t have a general theme, but if you have questions ever about motherhood – the real stuff like you know… what happens to your body the day after you have a kid (that’s some real stuff) to what should I buy for my new baby to what if I actually really don’t like or enjoy the baby phase – I probably have experienced it and am happy to write about it in the most light hearted way possible.

Now that I am writing, this post might be a little soft, but it is for a woman who deserves the softest of posts of all time. So, some context – motherhood can get pretty lonely. I have felt probably the loneliest I have felt in my life in the first year of Zara’s life even after living in Finland by myself for a year. I know, I am not married, but this loneliness hits married moms, too – I will speak from my experience, though. Raising Zara, especially this semester when I am like REALLY by myself has been tougher than I expected.

There are times it feels like I am so alone in my anxiety, my doubts, my fears– that even when I am without Zara, my thoughts can still race back and forth thinking about what am I going to make for dinner, if I have enough time to give her a bath, she has had that weird cough – do I think she needs more ibuprofen or is there a home remedy cough syrup I can make, you know the typical mom stuff. I doubt myself and wonder if I am doing the right things – if I let her sleep in my bed are we going to be sleeping together until she goes to college? If I feed her grilled cheese again because I am too tired to cook is she going to have health problems? (I have googled both) There are times in the middle of the night where I just can’t get her back to sleep and I am wondering if I can actually make it to the morning let alone make it through the next day. Parenting some days feels like a total crapshoot.

There are also really amazing times where Zara will do something like say “ba-bai” or blow a kiss to a stranger or say tweet tweet (but really its more like TUT TUT! – she hasn’t figured out the high pitched voice yet) or she looks at me and talks like she really is saying something important and it just sounds like “bitches, bitches!” and I want to share it with someone so desperately because I am so excited about it, someone who loves Zara as much as I do, which is more than life. In the traditional setting, this is the person who helped you create the kid or who is raising the kid with you. In my situation, my wife is my mom. Our relationship is the real life example of “you are never done parenting” (sorry, mom, I was so close to adult independence!).

If you were to find out you were very unexpectedly pregnant – who would you call first? I called my mom. I didn’t even tell her to sit, I just spat it out because I knew that growing up, if we would mess up or did something we shouldn’t have 1) she was going to find out – she always did and 2) it wouldn’t change how much she loved us one bit. Some people get to raise their kid with their significant other and some days I wish I was too, but damn am I lucky that I get to raise Zara with someone who has 1) done this before (lol – veteran moms are like magical genies – they know it all, they don’t panic, they know if a kid falls off a bed, she’s probably fine) and 2) who loves and cares for my daughter’s well-being just as much as she cares about mine.

Mom – after one year of raising a kid, all three of us owe you tenfold. I hope I get to experience a very similar relationship that you and I have with my own daughter. I want to say – you might think you did a lot wrong, but you did so much more right. They (idk who they are – it just sounds official) say that you want to take what your parents did right and continue doing that and take what they didn’t do well to learn and improve as you parent your own kids. The list of things I want to do differently than you is small. It’s so small.

Thank you for being there for me and there with me through my pregnancy which was filled of fear, uncertainty, and a few hormonal calls asking if it was really ok if I ate Chick-fil-a fries again for lunch. Thank you for even driving through Chick-fil-a on the way to the hospital when I was in labor. I know I didn’t get to eat the fries because the nurses were a little (a lot) mean, but know I wanted to. Thanks for staying the first few days after the birth because I didn’t even know you are supposed to burp a baby after you feed them, I didn’t know about all that sitz bath stuff, and the diapers (not for Zara!) – I would have been lost without you. The heart you have for other people who are not yourself combined with the strength to overcome any challenge is something I hope I get to pass onto Zara.

One deep fear I had, which fueled my lack of desire to have kids ever, and also that came up when I found out I was actually pregnant and going to actually have a kid, was a fear that I would have to give up what I had worked for, my goals for my life, what I wanted to accomplish. My mom has gone out of her way to make sure that I get to graduate – it might not be with the same GPA I had before I had Zara or with the involvement in all the clubs and the networking events that I wish I could be involved in, but I get to finish grad school. She has driven weekends here, taken Zara to stay with her while I work – she is a true ride or die.

Do I have a clue what I am doing still? Absolutely not. I have realized how much my own mom did for me, not just in how she fed me and rocked me, but how she worried about me, protected me, gave me confidence, encouraged me to be exactly who I was supposed to be without having a clue as to what she was doing – I hope you all know a Karen Erwin in your life.

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Yep, I’m still winging it.

Half. A. Year. I have raised a baby for half a year. Previous to this, I have had no experience nannying, babysitting, and the last time I held a baby was when I was about 18/19 years old. I think a little bit of the inspiration to write this blog throughout Zara’s first months of her life comes from my complete lack of knowledge surrounding motherhood. We constantly see moms in movies or on TV just completely having their shit together. I think of Rachel from Friends who made having and raising a kid look absolutely sexy (maybe it was just Jennifer Aniston, but I digress). There are no portrayals of walking out of the house with a leaky boob, going a day without brushing your teeth or remembering to put deodorant on, or literally never changing out of your pjs for like 5 (ok 7) days. I am even guilty of posting the great times I have with Zara, so just for that I will make this blog’s picture a picture of Zara crying because her teeth hurt, which pretty much sums up months 4 and half of 5.

Months 4 and 5 ALMOST took me. Milestones that happened in months 4 and 5: major growth spurt, teething, I received my hospital bill, I realized that I might not be able to finish my summer classes, and nobody took naps. They say that babies get cranky/frustrated when they are on the verge of figuring a new skill out. LET ME TELL YOU: months 4 and 5 had a lot of frustration and then the last week of month 5 it was like BAM! I can roll on my belly! BAM! I can walk around in my walker and try to touch the outlets! BAM! I can eat! BAM! I have two teeth! Two months of a cranky baby turns into one week of milestone after milestone after milestone.

It is really hard to describe the rollercoaster of emotions that I have faced over the past months, but I’ll try. As a mom, I feel guilt, worry, anger (yes, at my own child), and loneliness usually all in one day. Am I spending enough time with my baby? But also – am I giving my baby enough time by herself to figure out her own problems (right – what problems do you have as a 4 month old who cries and then gets food??), did I let her cry too much today? Did I coddle her too much today? Did I seem too frustrated with her today? AND the one that gets me the most: Man, I counted down the hours to her bedtime STARTING AT 9AM! I must be a bad mom. Some days I wish I had a counterpart who was equally as invested in successfully raising a kid as I am, and some days I love getting into my bed alone. Some days I look back and say damn I mommed really amazingly today, and some days I look back and realize I spent the whole day stressed and tired and angry.

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Real Life

A lot of my friends who don’t have kids (which is a huge chunk of them) have asked me how motherhood is and what having a kid is really like. I almost wrote this yesterday, which would have been a bad idea because yesterday was one of those rare great days where everything goes as scheduled, crying is at a minimum, and napping is at a maximum. You seriously forget anything bad that has happened ever and it probably would have been the most inaccurate blog post I have ever written. This always happens to me at night too – I look at my sleeping baby and all of the screaming crying for absolutely NO reason, the explosions, the leaky boobs, the nap fights that happened that day (or the naps that DIDN’T happen) completely erase from my brain.

I am going to start this post off by saying I love my kid more than life. Seriously. No regrets at all – I still check on her to see if she is breathing, I freak out when she spits up, I mean, this girl is rad, BUT – this shit is HARD. HARD. I was thinking about it the other day as Zara refused to nap (which causes her to spiral into an overtired death eater mood that really can humble a person). In life, there are things you won’t be good at. For me, I can compare this to sports – if I wasn’t good at a skill, I would just work really hard at it. Over and over again – and progress would be made. Parenting is like practicing that skill over and over and over again having great intentions but also no clue what you are doing, and seeing absolutely no progress being made. I wake up in the morning saying OK, today I am going to get Zara to nap – you follow the routines, you feed at a certain time, you try to wear them out, they yawn, but as soon as you put that tiny human in anything that resembles a bed – they wake up all over again but this time a little less happy and a lot more angry. So some days my parenting advice is: just make it to bedtime and then treat yo self. It sounds horrible, but once you have kids there will be days you wait until those crazy babies finally give up and close those teeny eyeballs. Continue reading

Uncensored Motherhood

It has been a very long time since I have sat down to write a blog about my life, and it probably has to do with the fact that I only write (for the most part) when I feel I can put a funny spin on it. To be honest, the past 4 months have made it really hard to find that funny, blog-worthy spin. BUT, a lot has happened – I gave birth, my babe is 2 months old now, and my spring semester started (and is now close to ending). There is a lot of random stuff to cover, so bear with the disorganized structure – which is a great metaphor to how my life feels right now (yeah, I am fancy).

Birth is not like the movies. Not one bit. At least for me. I have learned that everyone’s experience with birth and motherhood is different (parents who say “kids should be sleeping through the night at (blank) months old” probably had a miraculous perfect baby and great for you – everyone is different), so by no means do I speak for all moms, some might have really enjoyed pushing a watermelon out of their canal – and that is really bad ass. I mean, my mom did it 3 times, wow. I went into labor at 4AM on Friday morning, which was actually really anticlimactic. I basically just sat in my bed while timing my contractions and told my mom and then told my sister and we took the day off, stayed in our pjs and basically just sat on the couch as the pain increased (which was at 6PM). No rushing, no frantic screaming, no crazy car ride – I actually drove through Chick-fil-a on my way to the hospital (maybe don’t bring in fast food when you are going to deliver, because you will get judged).

We make it to the hospital, and the main things I remember are: 1) Not being taken seriously at first (I couldn’t possibly know I was in labor without a husband!) until they realized I was 5 cm dilated and were like “oh shit, lets get you to a room.” 2) My sister (who is soft, and gentle, and nice) was the best birthing partner ever. I thought I needed a super intense, in-your-face push-helper, but her gentleness calmed my off the charts high blood pressure. She never once made a face like “OMG Lexi, a human head is emerging from your body and also destroying your lady bits at the same time.” 3) Feeling so relieved to have pushed that baby out, but also so freaked out because of how “not motherly” I felt.

It wasn’t like this “BAM! Baby is out, so now you feel like a parent with this special bond” for me. For me, holding Zara after the birth was kind of amazing yet terrifying, I mean a human (who was very smooshed) was looking at me (more because she was hungry and literally only wanted to eat) – I was probably as clueless as she was. And that is how I felt for the first month of her life- clueless and simply a source of food for her. (But, don’t get me started on breastfeeding – some might think it is gross, or weird to talk about, but it literally is the EXACT nutrients they need – freaking amazing.)

The first month of Zara’s life – A LOT of crying, like A LOT. From Zara, from me, more from Zara. My grandma and I drove to South Carolina to visit my parents and have my dad meet her for the first time and I am not lying when I say she cried the ENTIRE three days. I know for some people this is trivial, because babies can cry up to years in a row. I don’t know how those people do it, so if you ever know of someone going through that, go over and hold their screaming baby so they can grab an Advil.

I didn’t (and some days still don’t) feel like a mom. I felt like a babysitter who was like Pavlov’s dog and every time I heard the cry, I just whipped my boob out and started feeding a baby. Babies have bad eyesight, so it didn’t even really feel like Zara knew who I was or was looking at me. I started going back to classes, slowly falling behind, trying to squeeze in homework between crying and feeding, and most days I would end the day in my bed feeling like I was failing at school, failing at being a mom, and failing at keeping up with everyone/hanging out/actually asking my friends how THEY were doing. A lot of people told me, the mother-child bond is the greatest, and to be honest, I didn’t feel it right away. I don’t want to be a downer to people who want to have kids or are going to have kids, but you lose parts of yourself in the first months. My schedule for a while was wake up, feed Zara, go to class, feed Zara, go to class, feed Zara, rock crying (screaming) Zara until she fell asleep, go to sleep, and then wake up and do it all over again. Weeks go by and you are like “who the hell am I?”

It’s not all bad, it’s hard, but there are definitely silver linings. My grandma got to come stay with me for 3 weeks, and Zara got to know her great-grandma (who does not look as old as great-grandma sounds). My friends got to meet her, even some friends who went to college in Michigan with me. My mom, my dad, and my sisters all have helped me rock her to sleep, hung out with her, tried to stack cookies on her head, volunteered to change an explosive diaper. I have two friends, one who was due a month after me, another due two months after me who have formed a “mom gang” with me. I have called them to ask if they could just hold my kid while I take a shower, and they don’t hesitate to lend a hand.

This past month has been so much better, it takes every mom different times to finally reach a point where they feel like a parent, where they are connected, and although some days I still feel like a babysitter, I have really started to figure things out and feel confident in my abilities as a student, parent, and friend. These past few mornings, I have had to wake Zara up so I can feed her before I go to class. I walk over to her crib and talk to her excitedly and this kid lights up. She smiles and tries to hide it with her hands, but she really can’t contain it (so much so she usually gets gassy!) I have been in love before, but this love is a very different, very insane love. Zara could cry, I could be rocking her wrong, changing her diaper when she clearly doesn’t want me to, but as soon as I calm her down, she just smiles and tries to talk to me like I am the coolest person she has ever met. Zara doesn’t care that I’m barely making it at school or that I haven’t showered in three days or that I lost my patience the day before. The greatest thing about babies is that they don’t care if you are poor, rich, black, white, straight, gay, skinny, thick, what have you – all babies want is for you to show up. They are beautiful in how non-judgmental, trusting, and loving they are of all types of people.

The past 4 months have been anything but easy, but there are so many people in my life who have helped me do the dang thing. My dreams are not crushed and my life is not over. If you are in a similar situation, feel free to call me if you need some talking off a cliff, because I needed/need it daily. I am already blown away by how much love Zara and I have gotten in her mere two months of life on planet Earth. Thank you to all for your support and encouragement, a few lighthearted jokes and words go such a long way.