Postpartum Surprises

-written January 28, 2015

So here’s the thing, I am wholeheartedly convinced that only other moms will actually understand what I am describing below.  This is because only a mere 7 months ago I would come across descriptions of motherhood like I’ve laid out below and think I totally understood what that was like, or what that felt like, but, as it turns out, I had not even a speck of an idea what actually went down.  I could, and possibly should, just skip attempting to adequately describe indescribable states of being and feeling as I have experienced since I gave birth but I simply can’t help it.  To me, these things are incredible!  Despite the way they come across I am actually attempting to describe the wonder I have experienced in these things.  Not the pain, not the sleep deprivation, not the discomfort.  No, the wonder.  I find all of this, even the blood and guts, supremely fascinating.  Call me crazy but I guess it’s a little of my dad, the science teacher, coming out in me.  The things a human body can, and will, do to survive and, more importantly, preserve the life of one’s offspring is astounding.  I absolutely love that I have gotten to be present in such a primal state of human nature as this!  Here are some of the wonders I’ve experienced as a new mom in a sort of segmented bullet form, without the bullet, format.

Immediately post birth it feels like someone popped a balloon in your stomach.  Baby and guts come out and suddenly your body does not know how to stand up straight unsupported by that beach ball of a belly and in that moment you realize that somewhere along the way your body started supporting itself on that huge mass that was your belly. I felt deflated, like a wilted flower.

New mom = waterworks.  If you, fellow mom, did not experience the need to cry at everything, or nothing at all, please do share.  Please note, I was formerly a prideful tearless wonder and in the months immediately following birth Maisy would simply look at me and I would cry.

Postpartum lady bits are no better than bloated road kill.  Seriously did not know what was what downstairs for many many weeks.  Sorry dudes.  TMI I know, but I have to share because I was mostly aghast at the state of those things (and, of course sore, but that goes without saying.)

A feeling of cleanliness lasts minutes.  Showers have never been so glorious.  Especially the uninterrupted variety when I have a husband at home and awake to be on Maisy duty while I get to bask in the refreshment of hot water droplets streaming across my perpetually stinky body.  If it’s not spit up, blood and gore, or your average daily stink, it is the excitable milk production unceasingly leaking onto your clothes for what seems like forever.  I also had an oversupply so my body took something like 5-6 months to finally stop leaking through breast pads within the hour and onto my clothing.  I woke up every morning in a puddle of my own milk.  Talk about a glowing mom right?  Oh wait, that’s not a thing.  You can only glow when you’re pregnant.  Isn’t that just the darnedest?

The haze.  I didn’t know I’d entered a haze until I came out of it.  They aren’t kidding when they say there is a state the female human goes to when in labor and then, apparently, afterwards to care for their new little human.  I thought I was enjoying new motherhood but it wasn’t until I healed up enough to feel like my innards weren’t going to fall out through my vagina that my brains finally started to come back.  And then, about a couple months later, I pulled the rest of the way out of the haze.  I remember the moment I realized I was in a haze.  I was on my way to my second wedding photography gig after Maisy’s birth.  I was trying to pay attention to my directions and drive like a normal person.  I had a glaring moment of clarity what it must feel like to be an old person as I was overwhelmed, to say the least, by the whole world of things one has to pay attention to while driving.  There are other cars in front of you, behind you, to the sides of you… I had this unsettling worry that no matter how carefully I thought I looked every which way that I would still get sideswiped by some car that came out of the blindspot of my sleep deprived mommy brain.  Every time I turned, or moved really, I was uttering quick prayers of protection and wishing on a star that I didn’t overlook some other raging machine.  That day, I got pulled over and was given a hefty ticket of something like $200 (I blocked the number out for self preservation purposes) for “inattentive driving” because, despite my most earnest attempts to explain my brain to the officer, he obviously felt no compassion towards delirious and emotionally insane (yes, I was a blubbering fool) new mom.  The worst of it was I still had to go and photograph this wedding.  Hardest professional moment of my life.  Despite vehement attempts at pep talking myself out of feelings and “boxing” up my whole morning into the “do not disturb” part of my brain, my mommy brain and wildly imbalanced emotions had me sobbing all the way to the getting ready spot, through the halls, into the elevator, down the hall, right in front of the bride’s hotel room, then back down the hall (because I clearly wasn’t ready yet), and finally back in front of the door as pulled together as I was going to manage.  Later on I blamed my red eyes on allergies for the bride.  Probably the only moment in my whole life I’ve been thankful for a bad few days with some allergies.

Don’t poke the bear- the mama bear to be specific.  That’s a phrase I’ve heard before.  I didn’t realize how “mama bear” is precisely the only way to succinctly title the monster that wakens inside of me even at the mere thought of Maisy being in danger’s way.  I actually feel like there’s a bear inside me roaring at any threat that crosses Maisy in my mind.  For example, one day I was driving to yoga class.  It was a drizzly evening and I was driving an unreliable vehicle.  I had a moment when I thought the gas pedal might not stop accelerating.  To be fair, it lasted a millisecond, but in that millisecond my mind jumped wildly through possible means to preserve the life of my child.  The best I came up with was that I was going to have to unhook her carseat, wrap my body around the front of said carseat, and throw the both of us out the car door and cling to that hunk of safety plastic like I was some annoying duct tape residue.  Josh made fun of me later, “did you ever think to just wait until the car ran out of gas?”  My reply, “no, all I was thinking was that I probably would be going 90 some miles an hour and speeding through stop signs and red lights risking collision if I didn’t get us both out of the car when we were going a more reasonable 55 miles an hour.”

Motherhood is a beautiful, crazy thing and I love it.

Ta ta for now!

 

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The Day I Lost My Dog

Once upon a week or so ago I hit the freeway with two dogs, a baby, and all our stuff crammed in to every spare nook of my compact Chevy Cruze.  The day was probably the worst in Maisy’s life (at least that she or I can remember as of now).  Within the span of the 12 something hours of daylight we get these days she got a face full of snow, was a mess of an emotional baby through the entirety of our trip to Minnesota, tipped over in the tub and got a mouth full of water, and hit herself in the face with some keys. In all these moments Maisy was varying degrees of pathetic baby and I felt like the worst mom on the planet.  Feel free to judge me, it’s a sad and constant side effect of the job anyway, but I promise I watch this girl like a hawk!

Well we hit the road and, as always, I had a sense I’d forgotten something.  Not too far into the trip I realized the missing items where the dogs leashes.  Instead of turning around I resolved to simply encourage them to hold it until we got to Minnesota. Worked like a charm actually, the second success of the day (the first being that I installed Maisy’s new car seat super securely). The rest of the trip was a battle though.  Maisy cried the better part of our 6 hour drive.  Do you know what that feels like?  Fellow moms unite!  The rest of you can, at best, sympathize.  To a mother, your baby crying (or sometimes any baby) feels like you are actually on a high speed chase.  Compound that about ten times the duration of the actual duration of the crying and you have a sense for the wreckage this ensures on a mom’s state of emotional, physical, and otherwise wellbeing at the end of it all.  Despite my frequent stopping to nurse and otherwise care for Maisy on our trip she just screamed.  By the time I got to Minnesota it felt like we were traveling for a week, not just half a day, and I was in such a state of brain fog and in such a tortured emotional state after having to listen to my precious baby girl scream for so long that I couldn’t even talk straight – I managed to blindly shovel random portions of food into my mouth and stutter incoherent segments of sentences out.  Yeah, turns out Maisy screamed my brains out… go figure that out.

Oh wait, I got a little ahead of myself.  So, when we arrived I parked the car along the street.  I took a minute to figure out what I should grab to go inside right away – again… brain mush.  Then I walked around to the back door to get Maisy.  Halfway through unbuckling her it occurred to me that Sam was not graciously ducking out of my way in the seat that I have to reach over to get Maisy out (her car seat is secured in the center of the back seat).  I increasingly frantically looked on the seat thinking maybe in addition to my brain being mush that I also went slightly blind and my black dog blended into the black upholstery so thoroughly he disappeared.  Nope not there.  I frantically started saying his name.  I glanced to the floor, in Haley’s seat, in the front of the car… nothing.  I stood their blank faced and helpless.  My mind cycled back to our last stop – some gas station a couple of hours away.  That’s it, I lost our dog and was so busy getting my brains screamed out by my baby that I didn’t even notice he wasn’t in the car with us for the last two hours.  I pictured my fluffy little ragamuffin wandering around the gas station all by himself and then taking off into oblivion to look for us.  I would never find him again.  How would I tell Josh?

Then I heard a big dog territorially barking.  And I heard a little tinkling noise.

“Sam!” I yelled.

“Sam?”

“Sam! Sam. Sam. Sam!”

And there he was.  Fur raised along his spine like the ridge of scales along a dinosaur’s back, collar tinkling, and whimpering his remarks at the big dog.  With some meandering and more probing on my part he finally started towards me with some reserve – he always knows it’s naughty to run off but does it anyway.

“You little stinker.”  I couldn’t even be mad. I was so relieved that I simply plopped him back into the car – the better to finish getting Maisy out while maintaining his safety from death by car or some other force outside of my control.

The End.

Tales of a Mommy Brain

Hitting Myself in the Face with a Car Door

One day not so long ago I was running some errands.  When I got back to the car I loaded something into the back seat.  I closed the door.  On my face.  I shot the door a look (as if it had voluntarily assaulted me), frowned and felt for the wound then laughed and thought to myself… “thank you mommy brain” and “at least it’s a good story.”

Embarrassing Dog Walk Story

One day not so long ago I was walking the dogs.  I think walking the dogs is one of my most impressive daily mommy feats because I tow along the stoller with Maisy in it and two excitable dogs all around my neighborhood.  Both hands are devoted to the stroller so the dogs are attached to my right wrist and forced to walk peaceably beside said stroller.  Ordinarily, this is a difficult, but manageable task, but throw any minor distraction into the mix and I’m a gonner. On this particular day some other neighborly walkers crossed my path with two dogs of their own.  My mutts immediately began their frantic tugging in their direction as I desperately and unsuccessfully tried, all too late, to cross to the other side of the street – in hopes of avoiding direct contact with the oncoming greeting of course.   The dogs wouldn’t have it and were powerfully steering all of their adrenaline into the stroller in hopes of reaching those dogs which, in turn, threatened to topple the stroller over and spill my tiny beloved across the pavement.  Since that tactic wasn’t producing the desired result they both flipped a 180 on me and bolted backwards then behind and around me.  My arm was ripped over my shoulder. I looked like a freakish ballerina with my body teetering dangerously all to one side; one arm splayed on top and over my head, one leg rooted impossibly to the ground as the other kicked up into the air, with my last limb, my other arm, gripping the stroller.  In short, I looked ridiculous.  These folks immediately saw my struggle, and paused on the sidewalk beckoning something like “it’s ok we’ll let you pass.”  Trouble is, passing wasn’t an option because my two little powerhouses only grow stronger as fellow canines get closer so it was cross the street or set them loose and hope for the best in order to preserve the life of my child.  I mustered any strength in me and somehow managed to messily get us most of the way across the street and past the threat.  When I had the dogs back in line and my breathing normalized I realized I hadn’t spoken a word to those people.  I had plenty of words flying around in my brain.

“Oh no, please don’t stop there that’ll just make it harder for me.”

“Oh my goodness I’m so sorry my dogs are so pysco.”

“I swear I normally have a better handle on these guys.”

“I look ridiculous don’t I?”

“Yeah this is crazy but a girl’s gotta get outside!”

Nope.  Instead I was completely rude and struggled past those nice people without a word. Thank you mommy brain.  I can only hope they mustered up some understanding and thought kind thoughts of this young, and clearly overwhelmed, mom instead of unleashing backstabbing remarks after I was out of ear shot.

Attacked by a 200 Pound Great Dane on a Shoot

I traveled out to a vineyard to photograph a lifestyle segment for BRAVA Magazine.  My editor and editor-to-be (the former was moving away) were both there.  The subject in question was the co-owner of the establishment.  Upon arriving, I parked in her driveway and walked past two giant, angry Great Danes.  I had a flicker of fear pass through me.  This is strange for a dog lover such as myself so I should have known then that something was off.  We started the shoot with some simple portraits of the lady on her porch and then my editor decided it would be cool to incorporate the dogs.  It was a few pictures into the scenes with the dogs that the younger Great Dane growled at me.  I wrote it off as him not being a fan of this mechanical contraption I was using.  Then, as I was flipping through the images on the back of my camera, that younger Great Dane mounted me like an attack bear from behind and started clawing and clubbing the back of my head with his oversized paws.  This was no gentle pat by any means and I had bloody scratches all over my scalp to prove it for weeks to come. My instinct, to shield my cameras from the blows.  Forget self preservation.  I’d call that mixed up priorities!  Thank you mommy brain.