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!


Short Stories From the Past 24 Hours

First Trip to the Zoo

Yesterday Maisy and I went to the zoo with some of the in-laws for my nephew’s second birthday.  We walked through all the exhibits, rode the train, and rode the merry go round.  While I was busy enjoying the animals and telling my niece all sorts of fun facts about each one, Maisy was busy enjoying watching the kids.  At least one of us actually observed the animal part of the zoo.

Confession From Your Average Mother

Yesterday evening I resolved to take Maisy to the park for a ride on the swing.  When this stubborn Swede resolves to do something you better believe it’s going to get done, even if it’s by tooth and nail.  So, when we show up to a partially busted baby swing I plop Maisy in anyway.  My strong 10-month-old latches her killer grip onto the chains and off she goes smiling and laughing successfully for several minutes.  Now, this next moment I’ve played over and over again in my head and I still can’t figure out how it happened, but suddenly my secure little girl has flipped over the front of the swing, done a front flip, and landed flat on her belly.  I’m frozen like a deer in headlights for a split second waiting for her to scream.  She doesn’t make a sound.  I pick up my baby girl to find her working on a mouthful of sand.  She doesn’t even look upset, just perplexed at this new in-mouth phenomenon.  As I’m cleaning her off and trying to help get the sand out of her mouth I realize she’s getting mad that I’m trying to help.  So I let her eat the sand, she deserves to eat sand if she wants after tumbling off a swing.

Mama Bear to the Rescue

Last night I’m hanging clothes on the line (yeah I forgot to do the load when I could benefit from faster drying by the sun shine) when I spot Sam in the garden.  Now that it’s warm out one of my goals is to train the dogs to stay out of the garden, so I start commanding him to get out.  Instead, he does this dance.  I command again as I start walking towards him, getting more furious by the second.  He does his dance again.  I command him yet again though I’m slowly realizing something else is going on.  He does a dance again.  Then I’m upon him, I scoop him up and plop him out of the raised bed.  My eyes settle on a patch of downy fur.  Sure enough, the dance that signals Sam has happened upon an unknown source of movement was legitimate.  I see the area surrounding the fur rustle.  Once.  Twice.  Three times.  I’m trying to glimpse what I have here thinking that some of the rustling will reveal a little more.  No luck, so I grab a nearby small planter to act as a shovel to help me investigate – don’t want my fingers nipped by whatever is in there nor do I want to get diseased bird germs all over my hands.  I’m ruffling through the leaf and fur debris expecting to happen upon a wounded bird.  Instead, I uncover a whole pile of baby bunnies.  These cute little buggers are nestled right next to the row of carrots I just planted.  Of course.  If only Maisy were old enough to at least enjoy these cute little pests.  Instead, the animal enthusiast and mama bear that I am, I am standing guard over these little babes every time I have to let Sam out to pee.  Please grow up fast little bunnies.

Confession of a Sleep Deprived Mother

Just before dawn Maisy wakes to nurse yet again.  I doze off as soon as she gets to work only to wake moments later to an odd warm sensation on my leg.  In my half dream state my mind bounces through the possibilities.  Did I wet myself?  No, that’s not possible from the outer side of my leg.  Did my water break?  No, I don’t have one of those.  Is a really hot Maisy leg touching me?  No.  Did she throw up.  No.  Is my breastmilk leaking all over?  No, my breasts are too far away from my thigh (at least for now, talk to me after more babies and maybe I’ll be whistling a different tune).  Did Maisy pee?  Did her diaper fall off?  That’s an awful lot of pee to be coming from her.

I root around in the dark.  Maisy feels bone dry.  And then I feel just under the side of her rump that’s nestled in closest to me.  Soaking wet.  I have two choices:  one, wake my now sleeping baby and change everything from her diaper to her sleep sack to my clothes to the sheets; two, embrace the warmth and go to sleep.  I chose the latter.

The Tale of the Pregnant Lady Going “Thump” in the Night

I expected to get uncomfortable in the last trimester of pregnancy.  Instead, I’m feeling better!  This baby belly dropped several weeks ago and I finally could breath and bend over again!  I also finally fell in love with the pregnancy look and clothes were easier to navigate with the dawn of warm weather gifting me racks of maxi dresses at any given store.  Today is my due date so perhaps I will start feeling uncomfortable if I go much longer but for now I’m loving this!  I even still love to walk my dogs at the dog park and spoon my husband (though my big belly prevents any real proximity so all I can manage is a mimicked “spooning” shape behind his curled form with one arm barely dangling over his waist and both legs fighting to reach the beginning of his).

The one downside: frequent urination.

Sometimes I find this comical.  At night, especially if I’m sleeping well, I find it painful.  For the first week or so after I “dropped” I experienced almost hourly trips to the toilet.  Then I started sleeping through the first inklings of a tinkle need and, instead, would awake 2-4 hours later with a painfully urgent need to pee.  I now awkwardly roll my heavy body off the bed and experience a sort of thunk as the baby descends onto my bladder that is followed immediately by a pinching sensation that is my potty muscles fighting to keep the urine back.  I kind of laugh at the hilarity of my urgency as I awkwardly crash into the end of the bed and the bedroom door and various walls as I limp/waddle my way to the bathroom with hands outstretched and gripping anything that will help hold me up and get me safely through the darkness.  I’m usually thinking, “oh if anyone could see this they would pee themselves at the look of me.”  And then I think, “oh my goodness, if I don’t waddle faster I am going to pee myself.”  And then I remember that the heavy weight on my bladder and needed clenching actually hurt fiercely.  By the time I reach the toilet I am of sober mind and desperate intentions.  My reward is only sometimes a significant gush once I reach the porcelain throne; instead I, more often than not, experience a pathetic trickle of urine that hardly merits the treacherous journey to the toilet and the pain endured in transit.  In those lack luster tinkle experiences I sink crestfallen on the toilet, defeated by my need for relief and disappointed in the fruits of my labor.

Needless to say, though I love my pregnant belly, I am stoked to be getting rid of these nightly episodes of desperate urination soon!

Memoirs of a Sweatshirt

Josh got a Calhoun Creek sweatshirt from a high school best bud.  It was his favorite sweatshirt.  But, as fate would have it, the day he broke up with the last girlfriend before me she was wearing this favorite sweatshirt.  A few years later, with my encouragement, he finally inquired about getting the sweatshirt back.  Said ex-girlfriend replied harshly that she ditched the thing almost immediately after the break up.  Josh was heart broken twofold:  the nasty message rattled him and his favorite sweatshirt was lost.

I resolved to recover his sweatshirt.  For over a year I periodically scoured the internet for a “Calhoun Creek Abercrombie hoodie.”  One time I found one that had just sold on Ebay.  My hope was renewed but to no avail, after that point the best I could find was a tiny thumbnail image of the sweatshirt on Google images.

My last-ditch effort was a call to Abercrombie itself.  I hoped beyond hope that somehow there was a backlog of old merchandise buried somewhere in their storehouse.  I called customer service and talked with the sweetest black lady.  When she answered the other line I dished out my tale of trying to locate my husband’s favorite sweatshirt.  She replied that they don’t keep old merchandise anywhere but was desperate to help my cause.  After a little brainstorming we proceeded to sift through all their current merchandise over the phone together. Our new goal was to help me find the next best thing:  a plain sweatshirt I could transform into the Calhoun Creek sweatshirt.

Step 1:  buy a plain Abercrombie sweatshirt.

There is nothing quite like an Abercrombie sweatshirt.  I used to hate the company for their constant play at sex, but this project made me discover just how great their clothes are.  Their sweatshirts are impossibly soft and warm.  So, if I was going to recreate one of their sweatshirt designs I was going to have to start with one of their sweatshirts.

When I was on the phone with my Abercrombie friend we located the closest thing in color and concept to what the original Calhoun Creek sweatshirt was.  I purchased a navy blue hoodie with next to no insignia on it (friends, Abercrombie loves insignia so this was a feat in and of itself.)

Step 2:  recreate the Calhoun Creek insignia.

I can fake my way through graphic design.  But for a project like this I new I would be reaching well beyond my scope.  After a short brainstorming session I messaged our friend Josh to enlist his designer skills.  I plead my case, telling the sad tale of the lost sweatshirt once again.  He was immediately on board and excited to help me bring this clothing favorite back to life.  His design was what I hoped for and more!  Not only did he recreate the design beautifully from the saddest scrap of digital data in the history of images (remember that tiny thumbnail I mentioned?) but he added some personal flavor as well.  In the end we had a perfect recreation of the graphics including Josh’s birth year and an icon of Wisconsin (Josh is Wisconsin’s number one fan).

Step 3:  locate a printer.

Citizen Way, the band Josh is a part of, works with a company called FutureShirts for their t-shirt needs.  I know all of Josh’s passwords so I snuck onto his email to glean some contact information.  Soon thereafter I was connected with Jordan.  I told my sweatshirt tale again and asked her if, by chance, FutureShirts would be able and willing to print my design on my Abercrombie sweatshirt.

For those of you who don’t know about printing on shirts, it is easy to do either one of the following:  buy one shirt and iron on a design yourself and buy a one-time design from a company using their line of shirt options.  But to ask a company print your custom graphic on a shirt you’ve already purchased is asking for a miracle.

None-the-less, Jordan was passionate about my project immediately just like everyone else I plead my case to.  She told me she was going to look into it and get back to me.  At the end of the day I received a return phone call, she said she combed through all the logistics and that she could feasibly help me but would be mortified to have to tell me what it would cost me.   I told her I completely understood but wanted to start with them since they already have a relationship with Josh.  She fervently wished me luck and gave me some recommendations for how and where to hunt for a printer to fulfill my needs.

I poured my search efforts into the internet and came up with exactly nothing.  I found some companies that looked like they could hold potential but none that I even felt confident enough about to even start with a phone call.  After exhausting my search efforts I sat, staring blankly at my computer screen for several minutes.  Finally another idea popped into my head and I called the company I use for all my a Sunshine Moment printing needs (Proforma Synergy Graphics in East Dundee, IL).  Turns out, my timing was perfectly wrong; my contact, Kurt, had struck up an illness that had him in and out of the hospital for a week or so.  When he finally was on the road to recovery I received an email with a couple options: a quote on what it would cost for me to run the project through their company and the timeline it would take them and a phone number of another company that could do it quicker and possibly cheaper.  I called the other company in order to better know all my options.  My initial contact was less than promising, the woman on the other line indicated they probably wouldn’t do a project like this but that she would gather the information for me anyway.  She called back and I expected more sour news but in the end her answer was that they could do it and her quote wasn’t too terrible!  Next thing I knew I was sending a check and my sweatshirt to this company.

A week later it came back to me and I excitedly presented my project to Josh for his birthday.  Much to my excitement, he loved it as I hoped he would!

Moral of the story:  you never know what you can achieve until you ask!  I was amazed at the willingness and enthusiasm from friends and strangers alike as I pursued this project.

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The Gift of Silence

Yesterday I completely lost my voice.  I can communicate by whisper only.  I don’t mind.  However, this realization didn’t stop me from trying to sing along to Christmas songs on my 6 hour drive home from Minnesota yesterday.  I would whisper-sing, my voice would occasionally squeak from the effort, and then whisper-laugh at myself.

Actually, I’ve been finding people are better listeners and make better eye contact with me because they have to concentrate on what I’m saying.

I also find it ironic that the day my Haley doesn’t whine during the duration of a car ride is the day I can’t raise my voice at her.  It got me wondering that maybe her crying is partially due to the fact that I am not paying attention to her.  Yesterday, instead of talking to her every time she car surfed on center console (it’s what I call it when either of my dogs balance themselves on the front seat elbow rest and the back seat so they can see out the windshield), I would simply rub and snuggle her.  She didn’t make a peep.  Then this got me thinking that it is all too often we jump to using words when really an action, or simple silence would be best.

I am on day two of my forced silence and am still oddly thankful for the experience.