Mom Guilt, Let it Go

Becoming a mom has been the most rewarding, challenging and changing thing I have ever done. But, it’s also unleashed a whole new meaning for “guilt.” Anyone else struggle with #MomGuilt?

Yesterday marked my third official Mother’s Day and my first as a mama trying to balance and juggle two little ones. In a week, I’ll be adding my job back into the mix. With this, double the working mom guilt.

The guilt that comes with the feeling of dread every time the phone rings during your work day, and the immediate feeling that follows that dread. You know, the guilty feeling because you dreaded your babies needing you in the middle of a work day. This guilt is then followed by more guilt as you hang your head and sulk into your boss’s office to tell them you need to leave. The guilt and anger you feel as you sit in your annual review and your boss tells you that your sick kid is a problem and suggests you find someone else to care for him when he’s sick (yes, this actually happened). Or worse, the guilt you feel as you call your husband because your workday won’t permit you time away.

Then there’s the guilt you feel at home. The guilt when you’re so tired and just want a moment without being needed or touched, but that is all your child wants. The guilt as you try to use the bathroom in peace and your toddler beats on the locked door because the miss you. The guilt when you lose your shit because literally nothing is going your way. The guilt when you say something out of frustration that you didn’t mean to say. The guilt when you miss the time you used to have to yourself.

I could go on for days listing out everything I’ve done as a mother that’s filled me with guilt. Every day seems to present a new opportunity for guilt. 

This Mother’s Day give yourself the gift of acceptance and forgiveness. And, if you’re not a mother, let one you know, love or work with that you’ve got her back. Support mothers whether they work in or out of the home.

Hair, hair and more … or less … hair

My hair through the years (I <3 a good car selfie).

 

Ok time for some really honest talk – post baby hair. It sucks. Postpartum hair loss is real. Hair loss  after weaning from breastfeeding is real (no one told me that). You know what else is real that no one tells you about? Sometimes your hair never recovers. Sometimes it stays thin and weak and grows at a snail’s pace.

Some mamas get lucky and have amazing hair growth during pregnancy … I am not one of those mamas.  My hair stayed the same during my first pregnancy and then about three months postpartum, it started falling out. Then I cut it and changed dry shampoo brands. My hair got fried and I had to cut it shorter. This was almost two years ago and I’m still trying to grow it back out.

I’ve  tried supplements. I’ve tried to love short hair. Neither worked. Then I dyed it pink and then darker ombré and then back to platinum. It got more damaged. It’s been three months since I’ve touched my hair with bleach or scissors and it’s barely grown an inch.

So, I bought a weave. No shame. Zero. I miss my long, healthy hair. I miss feeling confident in my hair.

Rachel, my stylist and owner of Parlor 13 in Mt. Juliet, suggested I look into the halo style extensions and recommended the Sonos Solo by Donna Bella. I mulled it over for a few weeks and finally pulled the trigger. My hair is platinum, so we ordered the 16” deluxe in #60. Rachel toned it to match my shade of platinum and then cut several inches off and layered it to better blend with my hair.

Donna Bella Sonos Solo Halo before and after being toned and layered.

It still feels weird, but the hair blends beautifully with my natural hair and the best part? I can decide when to wear it and when to not. It’s going to take a few days to get used to wearing it, but it’s easy to put on and remove.

Hair before and after Sono Solo Halo (Donna Bella).

 

 

 

 

Mommy Can’t

For the past few weeks it seems every sentence I speak to my son starts with “I’m sorry, Mommy can’t.” Mommy can’t lay down with you because I have to feed your sister. Mommy can’t play right now because your sister needs me. Mommy can’t read to you because you sister … you get the idea. My husband has uttered this phrase more times than I can count as well.

But, this weekend I decided to banish that phrase. Why? Because it devalues my son’s needs and makes him feel second best, which he is not. His behavior shift has told me what his words cannot, that he is feeling left out and is missing some attention and affection. Well, that and we are on the verge of the threenagers.

Yes, there are times AB needs me and I cannot be with him, but I have to find a better way to express this to my almost three year old son. A way that reminds him that he is important and loved. More importantly, in a way that reassures him that I am still his mommy and he is still my child.

Instead of telling him “I can’t,” I have started to ask if I can do whatever in a few minutes. Or I ask him if he wants to help Mommy. I’ve also started making sure I make and actually take the time to spend with him. Now, Daddy helps him get ready for bed while I feed his sister and get her ready for bed. Then, we switch and I go in and read to him and lay with him while he falls asleep. If he wants to play while I am feeding his sister, I suggest activities that allow me to multitask – Play-Doh or coloring at the table so I can still nurse AB while J and I play.

It’s not perfect and neither am I, but we are still learning how to be a family of four and he is still learning how to share his mommy and daddy. We’ll never get it right 100% of the time, but I am working to be more aware of the times we get it wrong so we can adjust. Up next? Learning how to put my phone down.

Baby Girl’s Arrival

Stubborn. Unpredictable. These two words describe AB (Baby Girl) to a T. They also perfectly describe her birth.

At our 35 week appointment, AB was head down and in the ideal birth position. A week later, she flipped breech. The ultrasound tech casually asked if we were having a c-section and I felt my heart sink. A c-section? No, we weren’t having a c-section and we hadn’t even talked about one. After my son’s birth, I’d just assumed that we’d be having another vaginal birth. My only hope was that she baked a bit longer … and to avoid pitocin. Now those seemed like minor requests.

We started talking to our doctor about what options we had and we all agreed to try for an external cephalic version, ECV, to try and flip her. We scheduled it for the Saturday I hit 37 weeks. Then my son got the flu and strep and we rescheduled for the next Saturday. If you aren’t familiar with an ECV, it is a procedure where the OB attempts to manually flip the baby head down by pressing on mama’s belly. The risks to mama and baby are low, but include inducing labor, rupturing waters, placenta abruption and stress for baby. All of these risks are very, very low, so for us, it was worth a shot.

Unfortunately, after twelve hours in the hospital, a failed ECV attempt and a few hours of intense contractions later, we left with AB still breech and a c-section scheduled for the next Monday, when I’d have been 39+2. I started researching everything I could on c-sections – the procedure, recovery, possible complications, etc. I also began researching tubal ligations. We’ve always known we were done at two and if we wanted another, we’d consider adoption. Since I was going in for a c-section and they’d be there anyway, this was the best birth control option for us … nothing quite like being told you are getting too old for the pill and were at a great risk of clots and other negative side effects.

So, we made arrangements for my mother to come up on Sunday and be with the soon-to-be big brother while Dad and I headed in to welcome his baby sister.

Then little miss unpredictable decided to take our predictable, planned c-section and flip it on its head (ironically, she still refused to flip on her head). At our 38 week appointment on Wednesday, February 21, we had a biophysical profile (BPP) scheduled (another perk of being advanced maternal age). That morning, she’d been a little more subdued than normal and didn’t dance around after my morning latte as normal. This wasn’t completely out of the ordinary at this stage, she was running out of room.

During a BPP, they watch for baby to show signs of practice breathing and baby has to move three times during the 30 minute scan. In our prior BPPs, she’d waited until the last minute to start moving, so we were expecting a similar result during this scan. But, she didn’t. Her practice breathing was great, but her movements were not and she failed with a 4/8. At this point, I asked if we’d be heading for a non-stress test.

The tech didn’t even look up from the screen when she said, “No, delivery.” I blinked. Excuse me? No, we have this scheduled for Monday – today was Wednesday. Our son was at daycare and I’d literally just text my mother that my cervix was still cooperating and not progressing. “Looks like we are set for Monday!” I’d said.

The tech left the room and five very long minutes later the OB on call came in and told us to head to the hospital – either my husband was taking me or they were calling an ambulance. My brain tried to process this news while also trying to problem solve what we were going to do to get my mother here, get her my car (she drives a Miata, not exactly carseat friendly) and get my son from daycare. My poor husband is just staring at me in disbelief as I am asking the OB if we have time to take my car home. No, she said, you have to leave now.

Now. Ok. Shit was getting real at this point and I knew we’d be welcoming baby soon.

We got to the hospital a bit before 10am and scheduled the c-section for 3:30 that afternoon – 8 hours after my latte (I guess the nonfat milk counts as food). We’d hoped to have a family-centered c-section that would allow us to have immediate skin-to-skin with the baby, delayed cord clamping and a few other benefits that are standard during a vaginal delivery. Unfortunately, the nurse that does the family-centered c-sections ended her shift at 3pm, so we just missed the window. Damn latte. (I still love you Starbucks.)

At 4:24pm AB was born via a mostly planned c-section and she was a sturdy 7 pounds 4 ounces and 19.5 inches. The moment they held her up in the little viewing window was a moment I will never forget. It wasn’t the same as the moment they laid my son on my chest, but the heart-stopping, life-changing moment was just as powerful and overwhelming. It took a few minutes to get her color to maintain, but when I finally felt the weight of her in my arms, how she was welcomed into the world no longer mattered.

As much as I’d dreaded the c-section, it wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t the birth I’d hoped for. Going into this pregnancy, my birth plan consisted of the following and having a c-section allowed me to achieve each goal:

  • Avoid pitocin
  • Don’t be a bitch to the nurses
  • Get an epidural

Recovery from the c-section was dramatically different from my vaginal delivery with my son. It’s been difficult to not be able to pick up my son or drive or get out of bed. But, two weeks post delivery, I am slowly getting back to normal.

Big brother is over the moon and is loving having a baby sister, but he refuses to hold her. Every day he comes home from daycare he asks where she is and then gives her a kiss on her head. It’s been amazing to finally have AB here and to see our toddler embrace his role as Big Brother. He’s also been very patient and sweet as I have recovered. He is intrigued by breastfeeding and how his sister is “eating you Mama” or how the breast pump works, “you have milk like a cow?”

Our little family feels complete and while we’re missing those precious hours of sleep.

We Own Our Own Consent

Consent.
noun
1.permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.
“no change may be made without the consent of all the partners”

verb
1.give permission for something to happen.
“he consented to a search by a detective”

It is a simple word with a seemingly simple definition. Or, at least it is at first glance. Perhaps I should say by definition the word and it’s meaning are pretty basic and should be easy to comprehend. However, in practice, this word is quite confusing and difficult to comprehend. Why? I am sure there are many reasons and depending on the situation in which consent is required, different interpretations of “yes” or “no” allow for some confusion – especially when no verbal answer is given.

This is often the case when it comes to sex. The heat of the moment doesn’t always give way to the simple question of “do you want to have sex?” Our senses are jumbled and our actions often take control and we don’t get the words out. In other words, we rely on nonverbal communication to convey consent. The problem with this? Not every one interprets nonverbal communication or cues the same way.

Another reason? Perhaps this is where I will lose some of you. When it comes to sex and relationships and especially sexual desires, women have often been taught to let the man lead. Let him call you first. Let him ask you out. Let him plan the date. Let him pay. Let him make the first move. Don’t be the one to initiate. Don’t speak up about your sexuality. Don’t embrace your desires and wants. Be ashamed of wanting sex. Be timid. Let him take charge. Don’t be a slut. Ugh. Just typing that gives me the heebie jeebies.

This is damaging in so many ways, but I am going to focus on the question and issue of consent.

It is so important that we shift this way of thinking and encourage women and girls to embrace their sexuality and to not be afraid to speak up when it comes to their needs and wants. We’ve been silent for far too long. And, I may be wrong here, but I believe that most men want us to speak up. They don’t want to be the reason we have bad sex or bad dates. Contrary to what society wants us to believe, most men want their partners to enjoy sex and intimacy. They want to know when their moves aren’t working or their kisses are sloppy or when their partner doesn’t want any of that. (Unrelated to the topic of consent … for the love of all women, please stop  faking orgasms, women).

We, as women, are responsible for our own consent. We own that communication – no one else can or should. We cannot hide behind centuries of relationship “rules” or norms. Men aren’t the sold owners of sexuality. They also aren’t mind readers. They, like us, get caught up in the heat of the moment and they often don’t speak the same nonverbal language we do. Expecting them to only blurs the lines of consent even further.

I want both my daughter and my son, to be proud of who they are and I want them both to be empowered to speak up with it comes to their bodies. While it is often uncomfortable to even think about my children in their future relationships, I hope that I can instill in them the confidence to speak for themselves and to express their desires and needs.

Over the last week, I have had this conversation more times than I would like to … I am not going to mention the story that has sparked these conversations because, while it inspired the dialogue, it is not productive to link it to this particular conversation. Yes her story is important and yes her voice matters, but we need to have this dialogue without the potential implications of victim blaming or shaming (neither of which is my intent).

In these conversations, some have felt that the burden of consent and interpretation of said consent rests on the shoulders of the man involved. This is not even remotely true. As I said above, women own their own consent – allowing a man to own this doesn’t change our norms or attitudes and it opens the door for even further exploitation of women. If we continue to encourage women to be timid about sex, we cannot change the norms or the conversation and we don’t make progress.

Do men play a role in consent? Absolutely. It is their responsibility to receive and appropriately respond to their partner when consent is given or not given. But, if our partners are not responding to our consent, or lack thereof, the way we need them to, it is our responsibility to reassert our position and speak up. Men should also play an active role in the two-way communication of consent. If you, as a man, are confused by a nonverbal cue, ask for direct consent or clarification. Stop what you are doing and ask. Engage in conversations about consent and listen. Actually, just listening is a great first step. Take the time to listen to the women in your life, especially your partner(s). Pay attention.

Feminism is not about women overpowering men or taking revenge on all men for the shit and sins of the past. Feminism is about equality and equal access and ensuring all women have the same opportunities, access and treatment as their male counterparts. We cannot use feminism to blame men for our own mistakes and it goes against every fiber of feminism to expect men to take control of the conversation around our consent. This is a conversation that we must own and lead and initiate.

We own our own consent. Period.

A few friendly reminders about the basics of consent – I don’t speak for all women, just myself, but there are some basic norms that cannot be shouted loud enough.

When it comes to sex, consent is not given when:

  • We wear a revealing outfit
  • We accept an invitation to your home
  • We drink too much
  • We wear makeup
  • We shave our legs
  • We let you pay for dinner
  • We say yes to a date

 

Here we are Again

This morning as I felt Baby Girl squirming & kicking in my belly, I fought back tears for the mothers who lost their babies yesterday. 20 children were murdered at Sandy Hook and we did nothing. How many were murdered yesterday? Will we continue to do nothing? Will this, yet another mass shooting at a house of worship, finally be the straw that breaks our back? Will we fight for change?

Or will we continue to bow to the almighty NRA and allow gun manufacturers and sellers to dictate where our children are safe. Which, apparently, is nowhere.

There will be far too many funerals, again.
Thoughts and prayers, again.
Then what? What comes next?

Do we continue to blame mental illness while stripping away healthcare for mental illness? Do we ignore the fact that another AR-15 was used (again). Do we sit back and continue to wonder how a person convicted of domestic violence was able to legally purchase a gun? Do we dissect his life inch by inch looking for a motive or trigger? Or do we finally pull the trigger and realize that we cannot continue to allow single gunmen armed with assault riffles, bullets and the Second Amendment to steal lives?

We’ve been idle and complacent for too long. This cannot continue. We will close borders over a terrorist attack. We build barriers after a pickup runs down bicyclists. We take our shoes off after a lone shoe bombing attempt. We limit cold medicine after a meth epidemic.

But, 377 mass shootings in less than a year and the GOP and NRA hide behind money and the Second Amendment, so we throw our hands up. And mothers continue burying their babies. Husbands say goodbye to wives. Communities lose members. Churches, concerts, movie theaters, schools, malls, Walmarts all become graveyards of our incompetency.

Enough is enough. It’s time to do something. If we fail to act THIS TIME we fail our country and our citizens. We fail our children. We fail. We lose. Is that enough motivation for your ego, Trump? We are losers if we fail to do something to stop this. We cannot and will it continue as a nation if it is acceptable to murder children and families.

By refusing to act, we are saying this is acceptable. It’s that simple. If we do nothing, we, yet again, confirm that no human life matters. We once again put metal and bullets above the sanctity of human life. Is that who we are, America?

The Price of Being Female

You can’t be outraged by Harvey Weinstein and then be totally okay with Donald Trump. Or vice versa. Either you’re pissed or you’re complicit. End of story.

Was that clear enough? I am disgusted by both and I could not care less which party is involved or whose narrative is validated by either man. Both are trolls. Sexual assault and sexual harassment are wrong and it does not matter who committed the acts. Does it suck when it is someone you once admired, yes. Does that change or somehow validate what they did, no.

Being a woman means this nonsense is a part of your every day life – a casual comment, an inappropriate glance or gesture, a hug that lingers uncomfortably long, an unwelcome touch. It happens every freaking day and if we bring it up, we are often told “Oh, I am sure it was nothing.” But, it is not nothing. It is never nothing.

What’s worse is almost every woman I know has a story of unwanted sexual advances, contact, harassment or comments. Most of us have several stories.

One that still haunts me happened early in my professional career that I am still not comfortable talking about in detail or at length. I had been at the job less than a year and was on a two-night trip with one of our vice presidents. It was my opportunity to prove that I was capable of doing my job (something he often questioned due to my appearance, age and gender) and at first I was excited at the opportunity. A co-worker told me “he will try to sleep with you” when I mentioned the trip to him, but I blew it off. I shouldn’t have.

There’s a lot of things I should have known in that situation … I should have recognized the danger in accepting a second drink … I should have heard the undertones in his request that we review the following day’s agenda in his hotel room … I should have run when he bragged about his sexual conquests outside of his marriage … I should have known that his position of power over me would give him the advantage. I should have listened to my friend and kept his warning in the back of my mind. But I didn’t do any of these things because I naively trusted him and was eager to prove that I could keep up and that I was worth my weight in my career. I should have seen through the BS and seen the situation for what it was. But, I didn’t. Instead I found myself in a situation where I felt both threatened and trapped and I blamed myself.

This is a position that so many women find themselves in every single day because their superior found them too attractive to maintain control and where they feel entitled to something that was never theirs to begin with. This is the very problem – far too many men feel as though women owe them something. We don’t. We don’t owe you anything – not a response to your text, not a yes to sex after a date. We aren’t yours to own or control or to do with as you please.

Thankfully, I was able to get out of the situation, but our work relationship never recovered and I never spoke up. I should have.

Here’s the thing about harassment in the workplace – women have everything to lose by saying no or by reporting the incident. Men have little to lose and often have the upper hand being in a position of power. Women that come forward are often retaliated against, which discourages other women from coming forward as well. This is why men like Trump and Weinstein are able to maintain decades of harassment and assault. Their positions of power act as a shield and they can silence the voices of women.

One (of the many) thing(s) that blows my mind about this whole Weinstein story is how many people are acting outraged that women did not speak up sooner. Why didn’t they? Their careers and livelihoods were threatened. Their credibility was threatened. They didn’t feel anyone would believe them and yet now everyone is holding them accountable for the acts committed that they “could have stopped.” But, who would have listened to them? How many of them did speak up and lost work because of it or were silenced?

This just one of the prices of being female – having a responsibility of speaking up, even though it can cost us everything and no one is likely to listen or believe us.

Changes & Challenges

My entire career has been spent in restaurant marketing – even during and before college, I worked in restaurants. It is an industry that I know well , am passionate about and also one that I am comfortable in. The experiences I had before college allowed me to accelerate my professional career and catch up to my peers, despite having a 6 year gap between high school and college. In a way, the restaurant industry is home – I am confident in my ability and my knowledge and I have been able to take this into a variety of different marketing roles and restaurant settings – family dining, restaurant and bar, casual dining and fast casual. Although each of these have their unique challenges, I have always been able to transfer my experience in one to the next as I have grown in my career.

More than once I’ve toyed with the idea of leaving the restaurant industry, but my background often made it difficult to get past the gatekeepers of other industries. My resume is pretty set in the restaurant space and I’ve been fortunate to live in a city that serves as home base for multiple restaurant brands. I’ve always known that I wanted more and that I had a strong desire to expand beyond food. I just haven’t found an opportunity that fit what I was looking for and that was open to working with me as I took that big leap.

But, in less than two weeks I am taking all of that experience and background and entering completely new industry, and in some way a new field. I am equal parts excited and terrified.

I am excited to learn and to grow, but also to be able to test my comfort level and jump out of the zone that’s been my bread and butter. The opportunity to meet a completely new group of people that will help mentor and mold my future is also beyond exciting. There is so much to learn and I am looking forward to seeing what I can do and how I can bring my experience and knowledge to a new team.

But, it is terrifying. Can I be successful in an area outside restaurant marketing? Will I be able to transition out of the industry that has been my entire world for so long? Can this old dog learn new tricks? Can I do it?

I suppose those are all more self-doubts than fears, but one often seeps into the other. As I head into my final few days in my current position, I am working to silence the fears and the doubts by focusing on the exciting changes that lie ahead. It’s easy to let your fear dominate my inner monologues, but thankfully the excitement of a new challenge is helping to drown out the voices of doubt.

One thing I know for sure is that this opportunity is coming at a major time of transition in my life as our family grows and that is also a little bit scary. But for us and me, the timing is also perfect because I am already in a mindset that is ready to embrace the change and the challenge.

Keep You Safe

Some nights, I feel your tiny 7 ounce body tossing and turning as I toss and turn and try to fall asleep. Your big brother tosses and turns too – and even flips sometimes. Your dad sleeps like a log and doesn’t move (unless he has a dream I am falling off the cliff known as our bed and he must jump at at two am to “save me”).

Often as I lie in the darkness and try to feel every movement, I wonder what you look like or who you’ll be.

This week, I wondered if I could keep you in my womb forever, or at least until the world is a safer and saner place. It seems every time I turn on the news another mother is saying goodbye to her child that was lost in a senseless act of violence. I’ve always known our world and our country can be scary places and that danger exists, but this week that danger seems more real than normal.

Two weeks ago, a gunman opened fire in a church less than two miles from our home. This week, another gunman opened fire on 22,000 people listening to music. I read about these tragedies almost daily, but until recently, I’ve never personally known anyone impacted by them.

Every time I feel you bump around inside my belly, I am reminded that my one job is to protect you and keep you safe. My body nourishes you and helps you grow so that one day soon you’ll be ready to make your grand entrance.

That day terrifies me.
That day I will no longer be the one solely in control on your security.
That day you will become vulnerable to a world that seems to value your life less and less every day.
That day you will begin to see the evil that exists; sure it may be years before you comprehend or understand.
That day I will no longer just have to keep you safe inside the security of my body, but I will have to keep you safe from outside forces too.

I fear that no matter what I do, it will not be enough. The mothers that lost their babies in Las Vegas did everything to keep them safe, but one man took that from them. He stole those lives and gutted families. And he did it in less than the time it takes most of us to get out of bed in the morning.

I so desperately want to shield you and your brother from this and to keep you safe from every evil thought or action. But, the reality is I can’t.

I want to keep you safe and the only way I know how to do that is to continue to love and nourish you as you prepare to make your entrance. Once you are here, my job continues and I will fight with every breath I have to keep you safe.

When is Enough, Enough?

This morning I woke to notifications that friends had marked themselves safe in the “Violent Attack in Las Vegas.” I blinked the sleep away from my eyes and reread the update, then immediately opened Twitter and CNN to find out what had happened.

The first update I saw said two killed. Then twenty. Now more than fifty. Over 200 injured. One lone gunman.

Let that sink in – ONE person stole the lives of more than 50 innocent men, women and children and forever impacted the lives of hundreds more. One man and his gun (or guns) carried out what is now the largest mass shooting in recent history.

The 2016 shooting at Pulse in Orlando previously held this horrific record. Just over a year later, another lone wolf, as the media calls it, changed that statistic.

Twelve people in Aurora. Twenty children and six adults in Sandy Hook. Nine in Charleston. Forty-nine young men and women in Orlando. Today, more than fifty in Las Vegas. All of these lives stolen in places we visit every day and places where we are seeking to learn, escape reality, bond, worship – movie theaters, schools, churches, nightclubs, festivals.

Each of these acts of terror was carried out by one person with a gun. One person. Mass fatalities and injuries.

And yet, what are we talking about after each and every one? The person behind the gun. We focus on what they did and why, which barely a mention of how. Not more than a passing word on just how easy it was for them to carry out such horrific acts.

It’s almost as if we value the metal and gun powder that took these lives than the lives themselves. How could this be true in a country that touts its family values and pro-life movement as hallmarks of its religious and moral obligations?

When do we finally say enough and take action to prevent these tragedies? When do we stand up and say our children’s lives matter more than someone’s right to own a gun and bullets? How many more have to die before we realize we are fighting the wrong fight? Is it when a lone gunman kills 50? 100? 200? Is it when it happens are your church? Your school? Your concert? Your movie?

Enough is enough.