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I Didn’t Sleep Train But I Get Why You Did

We didn’t sleep train. But I get why you did.

Maybe you were at your wits end. You didn’t think you could go on anymore. You didn’t know what else to do.

You are doing what is best for your child and your family, just like those of us who co-sleep. And certainly the science in the area is debated. There doesn’t seem to be a clear-cut answer. And certainly one would hope it allows you to get the rest you need.

It doesn’t really matter why you did – you’re a mom, you love your kid, and you’re trying your best just like we all are.

Sleep deprivation affects us all in so many ways – physically, emotionally, and professionally.

Some of us cope with the lack of sleep better than others. And every child is so different. We’re all trying the best we can, and it’s so hard to know what another person has gone through or considered when they’ve come to a decision we may not understand.

All of a sudden we’re inundated with these seemingly huge decisions that impact not just us but our baby. It’s overwhelming.

Am I trying the best I can?

Am I listening to my instincts as a mom?

Am I making an informed choice?

Am I doing what is best for me and my family?

The village is about acceptance and compassion. Even if you sleep-trained – you and me – we’re still the same.

When Being a Mom Feels Like Being in Prison

 

There have been a few times in my motherhood journey that I’ve actually wondered if it wouldn’t be more peaceful in prison.  I could read books uninterrupted.  Write letters.  Sure, I wouldn’t have my freedom but I don’t really have it now and I’m fairly certain that in prison there is nobody constantly yelling demands at you while you tirelessly and breathlessly work towards fulfilling the demand before that one.  Plus, the sleep deprivation.

Ok, I know that sounds terrible.  But have you ever hit that point?  That point where you literally feel like you are being driven mad?

When tantrums drive you over the edge
In one famous incident, my kid screamed for almost half an hour because I wouldn’t let him have chocolate bars for lunch.  Yes, I told him we could have some for dessert.  Yes, I offered a small piece as a compromise.  Yes, I empathized with him.  I stayed close, hugged him, picked him up…. until his repeated screaming of “I WANT CHOCOLATE I WANT CHOCOLATE” began to cause me to start half-laughing and half-crying, because I just didn’t know what to do.  I put him down and he started to scream that I pick him up.  Then, I tried to walk away to take a breath and he took hold of my leg and wouldn’t let go.
He did eventually calm down.  But I’ll remember that one for a long time… maybe forever?
When going to sleep feels like work… you hate
For the first year and a half of my sons life I dreaded every single night like a job I hated.  This was mainly because I knew I wouldn’t sleep well and that there was a good chance I could wake up in the morning and sob from the frustration of not being able to connect more than 25 minutes of sleep.  The days would drag on, and I was not a very fun mommy because I was constantly so tired.
A year on, I still somewhat dread it on the days I’m tired but it’s not as bad, and now daddy can finally sleep with him some nights and I get a break.  I actually look forward to sleeping again sometimes!
The understanding created by adversity
It’s after tough moments I have come to understand how can be that some mothers or caregivers have done some pretty awful things when under the stress of caring for little ones.  I get it.  It can feel like your life has become your own personal prison cell with no escape.

As a fairly well-supported mom, my difficult moments make me grateful (well after, obviously not during).   These moments also illuminate the difficulty that so many others must face, particularly those with less support – either in the form of family, friends, or spouse.

When motherhood starts to feel like a burden, that’s when support is most crucial.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The village is crucial.  We weren’t meant to do this alone.

And if you’re feeling overwhelmed on a more constant basis, it might be time to visit the doc.  They might be able to refer you to some support groups near you.  And always remember: it does get easier.  We’re all in this together.

Please, please mama… how can we help you?

Oh boy.  So I just read this article by The Milk Meg entitled ” Please, please mama… pick up your crying baby.”  Meg, by the way, is an amazing breastfeeding supporter and I generally love all her articles.  She’s blunt, well-spoken and evidence-based.

So I was disappointed to read this article, where in her opening Meg writes:

“I have written this blog post to all of the women out there who have crying babies in their prams, those who are so exhausted and feel as though they cannot possible hold them again that day…”

And she goes on to make plea after plea for every mama to pick up her baby, no matter what that mama is going through.  For example:

“If you have had no help today, no break to pee, shower or eat without sitting down…

Please, please mama… still pick up your crying baby.”

CRINGE.  I understand that Meg is trying to inspire these tired moms to pick up their babies.  She has 3 kids of her own – she knows what exhaustion looks like I’m sure.  I just find this post a bit troubling and sad for a few reasons:

1) It judges and shames moms by saying that moms can overcome whatever aspect of motherhood to just “pick up their baby”

We can’t know why any particular mother doesn’t feel the need to pick up her baby when they cry.  It’s possible mama has back spasms and literally cannot pick up her kid.  Maybe she hasn’t read the recent research on secure attachment and responding to your baby.  Maybe she is in a compromised state i.e. totally exhausted or has postpartum depression.

Meg says she knows what it’s like… but can she really know what it’s like for every mom?  Some of us have a harder time with school and some of us have a harder time managing our weight… do we go up to people who weigh more than we do and say “if I can do it so can you!”  Well, maybe some people do.  But the research on obesity is increasingly showing that it’s harder for some to lose weight than others.  I don’t think I need a source for the fact that parenting is harder on some of us than others.

There is an unfortunate effect of pleading for moms to do something in the face of an adversity you think you understand; you are making them feel bad for being unable to do what you could push through and accomplish.  It could be viewed as privileged and arrogant, really.

 

 

2) It simply isn’t an effective way to address the issue of mothers not picking up their crying babies

I suppose some moms could be motivated to pick up that baby by reading that “I get it, it’s tough… BUT JUST DO IT.”  Nike styles.  But the problem here is that the root cause of the problem – why the mom isn’t picking up the baby – is completely ignored.  So often we focus on how mothers are treating their babies… but it is how mommy is doing that determines how baby is doing.

A better method of inspiring mothers is showing them that you understand why they can’t pick up their babies and offer some actual suggestions to help them or dig deeper into the root causes of this issue.  Telling moms who are already low that they need to place their own needs after baby’s isn’t just unhelpful and illogical… it’s downright hurtful.

They say you need to fill your own cup first.  Nowhere is this more true than in parenting.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that if your baby crying isn’t motivating you, Meg’s post really is just going to piss you off and/or make you feel bad about yourself.  The commenters rant about how hard it is to hear other peoples’ crying baby and how amazing it feels to follow their instincts.  Ugh.

And it’s great that Meg doesn’t intend to judge you or shame you, but why does that matter if that’s how you feel?

Perception and how writing is perceived is just as important, if not more important, than your intentions.

And no, I’m not trying to say that Meg is being judgmental to silence her

One individual alluded to this article that discusses how contradictory opinions in parenting are not judgment.  I agree.  Crying “judgment” can for sure be used as a way to try and silence the side you don’t agree with.  But this article isn’t a contradictory opinion.  To me it reads as a backwards plea to exhausted mothers to please pick up their crying baby.  At best, it is meant to help you pick up your baby… but it inherently disparages any mom that doesn’t pick up that baby.  You’re disappointing that poor helpless baby.  That’s a bit judgy I say.

And so yes, I think I can say this writing has the potential to offend and effectively “judge” some mothers and make them feel even worse than they already do.

How about we focus on helping moms who don’t pick up their crying kid by focusing on the moms.  I think they could use a bit a bit more focus on themselves.

Here’s a re-write of Meg’s plea.  When she writes:

“If you are a single mother or your partner has been away, you feel as though you have no strength left to mother and parent on your own…”

I say:  Please, please mama… You’re doing the best you can so don’t be hard on yourself.  Let’s try and get you some help.  Is there some family you can call?  Friends in the community you can reach out to?  How can we build your support network?

 

Mommyfriend – You Saved This New Mom

Dear Mommyfriend,

Have I told you recently how great you are?  I don’t know what I would do without you.  On many occasions, you have pretty much saved my life (and sanity).

Being a new mom has made me doubt my ability to do so much.

Why is he spitting up so much?  It must be something in my breast milk.
Why is he CRYING so much?  I am not good at this.
Why am I so much less productive than I used to be? I’m just not managing this mom thing as well as everyone else.
WHY OH WHY won’t he sleep?  It’s something I’m doing wrong.

You remind me not to doubt myself.  

You know that I’m being too hard on myself.  You listen.  Let me get it off my chest.  You remind me that sometimes, it’s the kid, and no matter what we do,  it just takes time to pass.  Other times, you encourage me and tell me about what helped you.  I love that I can help you through this too; isn’t it amazing how our perspective changes looking from the outside of a situation?

You give me amazingly helpful information.

I pretty much would have missed the local daycare list without your mommy advice.  You told me which classes in our area were actually legit.  I bought like 5 sippy cups before finding one I could actually assemble without wanting to whip it across the room because all I can hear is “MUMMY I’M THIRSTY.  WANT DRINK.  WANT DRINK.”  And then you gave me like 3 extra cups that you didn’t use.

We share laughter and treats.  

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Like these.  Mmm.  

Maybe it’s the lack of sleep, but we often laugh when we’re together.  I love hearing your stories and love that you adore my cute-kid story as much as I do yours.  Plus, I need to tell SOMEONE about my embarrassing stories (too awful for the blog).

On other days, we can sit in silence and just chill out while our kids tear apart the park/library/whomever’s house it was we decided to go to that day.

Most importantly though – we’re always there for each other, even if it can’t be immediately.  Sometimes it’s just a quick text of support and that’s enough.  Both of us understand this hectic life with little ones.  Time apart doesn’t affect our bond.  But it sure is nice when you are around.

Thank you Mommyfriend.

Congratulations to Winners of Our Sweet Stuff Giveaway!

Below please find a list of our winners.  Congratulations to the winners!

1.  Diono Radian RXT Car Seat in Colour of Choice – Nicole Barker

2.  SmartKlean Kit – Melody Poirier

3.  $100 BeGift Gift Card – Carey Hurst

4.   A Luved Sweater of Your Choice – Stephanie Fiorini-Senderovich

5.   A Pretty Organic Cosmetics Gift Set – Livy Jacobs

6.   Oemi Baby Bag – Sherrie Drepaul

7.   Ddrops Prize Pack – Heather de Gonzague

 

Thanks for entering everyone! Until our next giveaway 🙂

6 Ways My Standards Have Fallen Since Becoming a Mom

  1. Appearance

The days of curating an outfit, doing my hair, or putting on make-up are long gone.  In fact, on days alone with my child, I completely forget to address my appearance at all.  Like that time I went to the grocery store with nutella mouth.  Or when I answered the door nipple-first.

Every morning in selecting a shirt I ask the ultimate question “how fast can I whip my boob out of this?”  It’s like the WIld West, for boobs.  This instantly disqualifies about 60% of my shirts, and the other 40% my boobs are too big for.  And yes, that IS a problem because once you are too busty for a shirt it pulls in the armpits and who needs to be uncomfortable in addition to sleep deprived and generally frazzled.  Ideal clothing is clothing I can’t feel I’m wearing.  Like a Muumuu.  Every evening I look forward to putting on my nightgown.  It’s like being naked, but warmer.

Shaving/waxing any area of my body is so low on my list of priorities that I’m praying for au naturele to be back in style.  I find the concept of removing my hair for my own or any other peoples’ benefit laughably ridiculous.

Some good news: not washing your hair is just fabulous for it. My fat ass makes sitting on chairs comfier than ever and being soft means I’m a great pillow.

2.  General Regard for Cleanliness

standards down

It used to drive me nuts when my husband forgot to wash the back of dishes.  And now? COULDN’T. CARE. LESS.

Flecks of food still on the plate?  Eh, nothing a quick wipe of a towel can’t fix.

Food on the floor?  5,10, 20 second rule!

Is this stew from last week still good?  Let’s play leftover roulette!

One of my son’s first words was “dirt” and we’ve successfully taught him to take our sizable dust-bunnies to the garbage can. When life gives you lemons.

Dirty bathroom?  Nothing a verbal disclaimer to the guests can’t fix!  If a guest complains, write them off IMMEDIATELY.

Man, if my pre-baby self could see this house now.  Oh well – a dirty house is a house full of love.  Or something.

3.  Sex

starfishYEP

Not only in frequency, but within the act itself.  Good ol’ vanilla.  Try something new? Yeah right, I’m just going to lie here.  Taking my clothes off was effort enough.

I believe the term is “starfish.”

And let’s just say the baby wrist doesn’t help.

4.  How Children Behave

“Gawd, can you believe [friend’s] crazy kids?  That would never fly with me.”

The moment those words come out of your mouth, God notes you down in the list “Moms who Deserve Brats.”

Honestly, as long as my kid doesn’t bite someone, or make them cry more than once, it’s considered a playdate “win.”

My less than 2 year old walked into the kitchen the other day yelling “fucking dishwasher!” while my most pious friend was over, no less.

Judge me. I dare you.

5.  Screen Time

As an ignorant pregnant lady, I smugly knew that I would never let my unborn snowflake watch tv or ipad because all the studies say how detrimental it is to… something.

Now, I beg that snowflake to watch a video if it means 5 minutes of me getting to form a coherent thought.

6.  Social Life

Remember weekly or bi-weekly brunches with your buds?  Well unless they have kids too and/or you are all total masochists who like to bring babies to brunch, FORGET IT.  Your friends who don’t have kids yet just don’t get it.

My goal for Friday night is 2 hours of peace while I watch Pretty Little Liars, cuz that’s all my brain can handle.

In Summary

Yeah, my standards have gone down, but it’s just because I understand what’s important now.  That’s what I keep telling myself, so it must be true.

In a way, you gotta admit – it’s redeeming. Mama’s tough, and just like honeybadger, knows what she wants.

Now go sign up at www.villagemommy.com to meet moms near you with similarly aged kiddos and more.  Cuz we all need someone to talk to about all the ways our standards fall.  And yes, I’m biased.

Check Out our VillageMommy Sweet Stuff Giveaway Prizes

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited about our upcoming giveaway.  We have almost $1000 worth of prizes and 8 chances to win. Stay tuned for ways to enter.

1.  Diono Radian RXT

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The Diono Radian RXT is the only convertible+booster seat with a full steel frame for unmatched safety. Fits 3 across and folds flat for travel.  Prize value – $379.99

2. Oemi Baby Bag

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These baby bags, made of distressed aniline leather, are gorgeous. The only person who will know it is a baby bag… is you.  Prize value – $295.

3.  Sweater of Your Choice by Luved Clothing

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So I love these and own two.  Super comfy and easy for nursing/being preggo.  You get to choose the style you like best over at Luved Clothing (stock-dependent).  Prize value – $59 to $130.

4.  $100 Towards Begift Services

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BeGift offers curated local services, custom goods and classes that you can gift or use yourself.  Please check out their full selection over at BeGift.com.

5. Ddrops Gift Basket

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The basket includes the family of Ddrops products (baby, kids, booster, adult), a cloth bag, a Dhook stroller helper, a collapsible water bottle, a baby on Dtour car sign and of course – a pen!  Prize value – $100.

6. SmartKlean Kit

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SmartKlean laundry balls clean clothes without detergent.  The full kit (not pictured) includes 1 Laundry Ball, 1 Stain Remover Stick, a dryer bag and 1 wash tracker with dry erase pen. Prize value – $75.

7. Pretty Organic Cosmetics Mommy Gift Bag

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Pretty Cosmetics are pure, clean and simple.  Prize includes a Rainwater Baby Bar, Skin Repair Cream, Soothing Nipple Butter, and a Neem & Coconut Laundry Bar.  Prize value – $60.

8.  Baby Shampoo and Diaper Cream by Eco Chic Movement

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Eco Chic Movement products are 100% chemical-free.  Prize value – $24.

We’re finalizing the contest this week and the entries will be open soon.

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The Inflamed Mommy – Managing Arthritis with Mommyhood

The doctors always warned me that inflammatory arthritis tends to act up after the birth of a child. Yet I was optimistic – it hadn’t bothered me since my first trimester, and had completely dissipated for the rest of my pregnancy.  Then, it happened.  I was in the throes of new motherhood with my chubby thriving 4 month old, and my ankle began to swell.  It ultimately reached about twice its size by the time he was 8 months old.  I was in constant pain and even sitting on the floor with him was out of the question due to the angle of my ankle.  I was miserable and yet terrified to medicate with anything other than Advil for fear that I would need to stop nursing him.

I had to wait 4 months to see a rheumatologist due to their backlog and the fact I was outside the 2 year window for re-visiting without a new referral.  I even sat in the emergency department one day (when it was quiet) to try and expedite things; the doctors that day could not confidently advise me on a drug I could use while nursing so I had to wait for the rheumatologist who specialized in postpartum flare-ups.

How it all began

I’ve had arthritis since I was in high school.  At the beginning of grade 9, I was continuing to pursue my competitive figure skating career and was excelling in my grade 9 gym class.  Mid-year, I had terrible pain and back spasms in my sacroiliac joint (base of my spine basically) that made it hard to walk.  Walking to my next class became a challenge that I would dread.  A few years and several inflamed joints later, it turned out I had an auto-immune disease. It’s an area we still don’t know that much about – case in point my diagnosis oscillates between psoriatic arthritis and spondyloarthropathy.  My eyes occasionally get inflamed as well.

It ended pretty much any hope I had ever had for any athletic endeavor.  My new reality was learning to listen to my body and to give it balance, along with the medications I was prescribed… because that’s what survival required.  I was a teenager and this was a tough lesson for someone so young to learn.  Still, to this day, if I overdo it in a workout I know I could be in pain for months.  I have to be a really good listener for this body.

Even arthritis clouds have silver lining

And yet, being an arthritis manager gives me fortitude.  I’m incredibly grateful to be able to walk down my street pain-free and be present enough to notice the movement of the leaves in the Spring breeze.  I’ve watched my brother suffer with the same issues to an extent beyond my own.  It has consistently matured me beyond my years.  My friends always seem to comment on how “healthy” I am and how early I go to bed…. but I’m not sure if they understood until recently that I feel as though I have no choice.  Pain is an effective motivator.

I feel like I missed out on a few months of my son’s life in some ways – living in the moment of pain instead of being present to enjoy his sweet giggles and new discoveries.  Looking back I should have maintained my relationship with my rheumatologist, but hindsight is 20/20.  I’m always hopeful that this is the year it burns out for good.

Where we are now

Soon after I saw the rheumatologist, my flare up went away.  I’m back to being able to do gentle exercise and enjoy my life pretty much pain-free again.  In December I created my startup, Villagemommy.com.  We help new moms find and meet the other moms near them for playdates & friendship.  It’s going well.  I laugh when I hear people say “oh, you can either have your health, your family or your startup.”  That kind of self-sacrifice isn’t available to us all.

I have a nasty varicose vein on my ankle as a result of it being inflamed so long, but it’s a reminder of my triumph over my condition as well as some lessons learned the hard way.  Always address inflammation and have the supports in place to get to it fast.

I know I’m more fortunate than many.  I manage arthritis, not the other way around.  I know there are lots of other mommies out there who manage auto-immune or other conditions along with being a mom.  What are your coping strategies?

Please share in the comments!  Let this start the conversation.