Mat Leave: Day 30 - My New Strategy
Ok first - thanks EVERYONE who posted comments or messaged me directly about my very honest + frank last post regarding what motherhood + having a newborn is like (fyi: it's awful) I'm really happy to hear that literally everyone who had commented or messaged me directly said that what I was feeling was absolutely normal and they could relate to at least one if not all of the things I wrote about (and there should be no shame in that).
It's been almost 3 weeks since Kensi was born and ever since I had several mental breakdowns as of last week, I've adopted a new strategy moving forward. Since employing the new strategy, I haven't sobbed since - but note I did cry for like 10 minutes today but I think that's pretty damn good (note the benchmark is to NOT be sobbing for hours).
Here's my new strategy:
1) SURVIVAL: focus on the BASICS and leave all the other bullshit aside. That means my only priority I should focus on is feeding Kensi, having her diaper changed (either by myself or Dan), and trying to get her back to sleep (either by myself, Dan or my mom). That's it. Note this cycle happens EVERY 3 hours day in and day out (which is a recipe for insanity but that's a whole other story) - but that's all I should focus on.
I got paranoid last week when I read a stupid article about tummy time and maximizing their awake time by having enriching activities which freaked me out because 2 weeks had passed and I hadn't even thought about any of those things. While bawling to my midwife at my last appointment she effectively said no, don't focus on that other stuff. My only job is to focus on the basics. She also said she didn't do any tummy time with her twins (TWINS she breastfeed ahhh!!!) and one of them is the fastest runner in her class so how useful IS dedicated tummy time.
2) Unapologetically leaning in on my support team: I have a lot of support, I'll admit it. And I won't apologize or continue to feel guilty about it. Because even though I have a lot of support through Dan + my mom who lives with us full time now, it's STILL not enough support to make me feel sane, confident, well slept, etc. It honestly takes a VILLAGE to raise a baby, let alone a newborn baby, and even with the 3 of us it still feels like my head is barely above water. I'm constantly feeling like I'm either drowning or not doing things well.
Note that in other cultures, it's not common for a new mom to be by themselves which I think is the norm in North America. In fact the other day someone told me in Taiwan that it's very popular to have "post partum nursing centres" which are essentially luxury hotels for new moms + their babies to stay in for a month or two after. Nurses there show moms how to do everything (i.e. breastfeed, use a pump, bathe a baby, etc - you know all those things NOBODY really prepares you for) and have meals prepared for the moms 5X a day.
Here are some interesting articles I found that talk more about this industry, but I seriously think this is definitely a gap in the market and common discourse here in North America. New moms should not be left to fend for themselves - we're at our MOST vulnerable and need a whole TEAM to back us up:
http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2099912,00.html (this one talks about the Chinese tradition of 'sitting the month' which essentially has a new mom spend a month after birth staying inside, focusing on being warm + cozy and restoring her energy back)
http://taiwanxifu.com/2013/04/10/a-peek-inside-a-luxury-baby-hotel/ (this article is cool because it talks about the luxury baby hotel industry in Taiwan, if we had this here I totally would have signed up for it!)
http://www.timesofisrael.com/these-upscale-israeli-hotels-are-designed-for-new-moms-and-babies/ (this one is a similar idea, but in Israel)
3) Self care + self preservation: this is key. In the first week and a half, I kept constantly checking in on my mom or Dan asking them if they slept enough. I also wanted to continue to make meals, do some laundry, clean and vacuum, literally just do ANYTHING while the baby was sleeping that would make me feel like a normal human being again. This was all pre breakdown.
Then we deduced that all of those activities to feel "normal" was likely what caused me to be run down and exhausted, which led me to forget to eat or hydrate properly. This is a big no no. Back to the earlier article about the Chinese observing the 'sitting a month' period, that's when I decided to follow suit and adopt a similar approach: focus on being warm, cozy and not doing a lot besides nourishing the baby and restoring my own energy.
So this point circles back to point 1, which is survival and just focusing on the basics. I need to also focus on myself and for me, that's:
Getting enough sleep which personally means min. of 6 hours in a 24 hour period (hence I need to lean in more on Dan and my mom for diaper changes and rocking the baby back to sleep so I can just pass out)
Taking my vitamins + supplements (prenatal vitamin, probiotics, vitamin D, fish oil, encapsulated placenta). Note remembering to do all of this is a feat in itself!
Picking one thing during the day that is just for myself - today that was eating some nacho chips with a 7 layer dip, and then a donut. I did this while fast forwarding through to watch 2 reality shows I had recorded the night before. Yesterday it was taking Frankly out for a walk with Dan. You get the point. But it's just one thing because before I was trying to do everything and anything and I didn't realize it led to just feeling super run down.
4) Stop comparing myself to other people and their babies. This is also tied to trying to ignore social media (which we all know is DECEIVING). Every baby is different, and every parent is different. And I have to work on just letting that go. I can't be jealous of someone who has a baby who sleeps through the night right away because they might have something else going on that I have NO idea about (and vice versa). I also can't be jealous of pics I see on social media where people seem like they have all their shit together with their babies.
This also means suspending any judgement or anxiety about what I'm "supposed" to be doing. Case in point: breastfeeding. Honestly if you have a baby, the most contentious arena that is likely discussed other than maybe vaccines is BREASTFEEDING. Everyone and their neighbor has an opinion about it - we live in a culture that truly puts a huge amount of pressure on a mama to breastfeed, especially exclusively. It's like apparently you're not a good mom if you don't breastfeed, "breast is best" is the slogan you'll constantly hear.
I'm hear to tell you FED IS BEST. Here's an article that someone sent me - the most important line in the article is this: YOUR WORTH IS NOT MEASURED IN OUNCES.
Even though I have been exclusively breastfeeding, I'm toying with the idea of introducing one formula feed at night time to see if that stretches Kensi out in the evening for longer sleeping which in turn allows for myself to have more of a reprieve.
And guess what? Nobody is really allowed to comment on what we choose to do because at the end of the day, it's our family's decision to figure out what works best for US. That's the whole point - every family makes their own decision on what works best for them and their needs - and anyone else who may have a different opinion can - apologies in advance for being rude, but STFU.
Breastfeeding, formula, sleeping arrangements, diet, potty training, parenting, the list goes ON AND ON. Just like before when I made a blog post about pregnancy and I said, my body, my choice, my decisions - the same rings true now since Kensi has been born but now it's our family, our choice, OUR decisions!
5) Stop trying to check work emails. Ugh this one is really tough for me to let go of and I still do it but just not as much, but I am having major FOMO when it comes to work - not the actual work itself haha but just going to work and having that routine and knowing what to expect. It also doesn't help that as soon as I went on mat leave they got a full time barista at work, so now all I see on social media is people's damn art lattes they're getting. BLAH
So far my strategy above has led to a better mental and physical state of mind. I mean I still cried today but it was only for 10 mins, and then I took a nap, and then I ate my nachos and watched some reality TV and now I feel way better. This is what I assume are more natural highs and lows rather than just nonstop lows which would be more concerning.