My Naivety During Pregnancy

I am sure that everyone feels similarly during the final weeks of a pregnancy: the excitement of having a baby compounded by the excitement over no longer carrying a living being in one’s stomach.  Naively, I thought I’d get my body back, but no.  I thought the end of pregnancy meant the end of someone else’s limbs digging into my kidney, spleen, and bladder.  But no.

All those images of the peacefully nursing mama and babe?  (See Figure 1).  Misleading.

breastfeeding station
Figure 1:  I am referring to images like this one from Dr. Sear’s The Baby Book (145).

Nobody told me that Levi’s bottom arm — the one I was supposed to wrap around me, while holding him in modified cradle hold — would refuse to straighten, leaving his elbow firmly planted into my ribcage.  Images are just that, of course.  They are still, therefore they cannot portray the kicking legs, the head pulling on and off the breast, the fingernails implanted in the chest.

They cannot capture the mad dash toward any surface one can sit on, while simultaneously trying to wrestle a boob out of bra and up from under shirt, with a screaming, crying baby in one arm.  How did that woman end up in that rocking chair like that exactly?  Breastfeeding station with well-stocked snacks, drink, and phone (Would you look at that phone!?!?) within reach?  It’s more like…:out of reach cell phone

 

 

I remember thinking longingly about the nights I would spend rolling over from side-to-side freely in bed.  Nights that I would flip over without feeling like a beached whale.  I never considered the fact that I there would be no rolling with a little one planted firmly at my side.

I knew that once I got the baby on the outside, I would be tired and challenged like never before, but I thought my body would be comfortable.  I thought that I would reclaim it and feel like my old self.  Not a chance.  So many mornings in the months following Levi’s birth, I would wake in the morning feeling like a broken woman — my body feeling raw, muscles sore, joints stiff — like I had been in a bar fight the night before.

A breastfeeding mama’s body is not her own.  I knew my breasts would not be my own, but I had no idea of the physical rigors of holding the breastfeeding infant once he is no longer a newborn weighing only half dozen or so pounds.  I was not prepared for the jabbing and poking, punching and kicking that come with the child’s increased levels of activity.  Where are those images?  (See Figure 2).

diary of new mom
Figure 2: This is more like it!  From Lucy Scott’s Doodle Diary of a New Mom

 

All of this is not to say that I don’t have plenty of peaceful images of Levi fast asleep at my breast after a lovely nursing/napping session.  I feel like I take at least one of those pictures a day; however, nothing prepared me for the distracted child, the child ready to try new tricks and start to move, the child uninterested in eating at the moment. I wasn’t prepared for the strange contortions of the co-sleeping parent, and the kind of tightness that can create in one’s shoulders, chest, and back.  I wasn’t prepared to feel physically much worse once the baby was out than when he was in.

So maybe all those peaceful, Madonna/child images aren’t completely off the mark, but they are only a slice of the wonderfully challenging world of the breastfeeding/co-sleeping mom.

Managing Mommy Time

It’s difficult to believe (and not difficult to believe all at the same time) that it is going on a month since I have posted here.  As someone who teaches writing for new media, I am well aware of the need to post often (multiple times a day even) — especially as one gets a blog up and running.  I am also aware that as someone who wants to “do it all,” it makes me crazy to have not kept up with this new project.  As someone who is craving a way to make my new mom life more simple, streamlined, and manageable, so as to at least create the feeling for myself that I am actually doing the “it all,” I realize that blogging is an extra item on the never-ending, ever-growing “to do” list.

I compose blog posts in my head as a I run, walk, drive.  I have drafts of many ideas started.  And I hate leaving things unfinished.  Today I feel frustrated — no energy, writer’s block, plugged duct, accomplishing very little….

When I feel stuck in rut, I turn to other mommas who seem to be handling mom life better than I.  Lately, some of these include:

The abundant mama blog:  I especially appreciated these two posts.  The one on being “peacefully productive” — well, she just spoke my magic word — “productive.”  Recently I was chatting online with a mommy friend and she described being “irrationally irritated” when she’s not productive.  I can totally relate.  I feel like in the six months since Levi came along I have gotten better at curbing this irritation, but haven’t been able to fully surrender to all of the days during which I feel I have gotten nothing done.  Instead, I find myself trying to multitask by setting him up to play and then trying to check e-mail, read articles, or check social media.  The problem with this, of course, is that I might miss a milestone while also not being able to pay full attention to what is happening at work. The habit of multitasking, abundant mama reminds us, is the number one cause of parents’ yelling.  While my little one is a bit too young to cause any yelling, there are moments already when I find myself losing patience with his fussing, moaning, etc.  Inevitably, the lost patience occurs when I am trying to get something done (multitasking). What I am not doing in these moments is listening — listening to his needs — and attending to them.  I feel “irrationally irritated” in these moments because my path to productivity seems to be blocked.  So the idea of being both productive AND peaceful obviously holds tremendous allure for me (and for many mamas I am sure).

The “first day of summer break” post where she gives a detailed account of her day is also tremendously appealing, because I am obsessed with schedules — my own and those of other people.  I am always on the hunt for the best schedule, and often dream of shadowing the people whom I deem as most productive in order to uncover their “secrets” to getting so much done. Since becoming a mom I feel like a lot of the books and articles on productivity no longer speak to me.  They are clearly designed for go-getters without kids whose primary concern is advancing their career.  So you can imagine my excitement when I discovered this book:  I Know How She Does It:  How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time.  The author, Laura Vanderkam tracks working women with families, by studying the data (love!) provided by hour-by-hour time logs the women kept.  The book then makes suggestions for using our time more wisely in order to “have it all” (my ultimate goal…).  I have only just begun a sample of the book, so I cannot say much about it yet (stay tuned…), but I have also begun using the app, aTimeLogger, to keep more careful tabs on how I spend my time.  Now admittedly, the description of the book kind of loses me when one of the suggestions for creating a more expansive sense of time is:  “* Take it easy on the housework. You can free up a lot of time by embracing the philosophy of ‘good enough’ and getting help from other members of your household (or a cleaning service).”  As I have made clear previously, I am not good with the “good enough” attitude when it comes to the house, and I cannot afford (nor do I trust) a “cleaning service.”  All the same, I have high hopes that learning some mommy time management from successful career climbers will help me.  Perhaps I will even find my way to becoming “peacefully productive”!