Mom Life

Forget FOMO, I’ve got FOLM. Thanks Obama–I mean Facebook

I am a crazy perfectionist.

Which may sound strange if you know me in person, because I’m also a mess.  My desk at school is currently a raging dumpster fire of papers, my car looks like I live in it, and let’s not even get started on my closet. But I’m an organized mess.  I know where everything is at all times and I don’t let my mess get in the way of my quest for perfection.

hot mess

I’m also insanely competitive, which, if you’ve spoken to me for even three seconds, you already know.  I’ve joked before that that’s why I like eBay–not only do you get to shop, it tells you you win when you buy something.  And I love winning.

Combining being a perfectionist with my competitive nature, however, has been a disaster in motherhood, especially once we hit the torticollis and helmet bumps in the road. Because that helmet feels like a giant neon sign saying that my baby isn’t perfect, and as he is an extension of me, it feels like it’s screaming to the whole world about one of my flaws.

not competitive as long as i'm winning

Yes, I know I’m ridiculous.  But it’s still how it feels.

And it all ties in to the latest feeling of failure, which I’m calling FOLM–Fear of Late Milestones.

Much like FOMO or Fear of Missing Out, FOLM has always existed, but is exacerbated by the social media era.  I’m sure that moms hundreds of years ago worried when they went to the park, or factory, or public execution (hey, hundreds of years ago, people had pretty sick forms of entertainment) and saw that other babies who were the same age as their babies were walking already and freaked out that there was something wrong with their baby. But it’s worse now that it’s all broadcast on social media.

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Last weekend, I saw videos from two different friends, whose babies are within a couple of weeks of Jacob’s age, and their babies were crawling all over the place.

Jacob is not crawling.  Nor does he seem anywhere close to it.

I cried. I Googled. I cried some more.

The reality is that babies are expected to start crawling between six and ten months, and Jacob is eight months old.  So it doesn’t mean he’s behind.  According to our physical therapist, part of that is disposition; Jacob is the most chill baby ever (which he certainly did not get from me, the anxiety queen), so he’s content to sit and watch the world.  He’s also huge, weighing in at over 21 pounds at eight months, and bigger babies tend to reach some of the gross motor skills milestones later, as they have more weight to lug around with them.

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He also seems to have no desire to crawl yet, which may be my fault.  He’ll reach his hand out for something (which really looks like he’s using the Force.  Mama’s inner Star Wars nerd is so proud of her little Jedi!), and one of us usually gives it to him.  Who needs to crawl when you have a mommy slave?

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But I crawled at six months, walked at nine months, identified letters on the fridge at 18 months, and wrote my first novel at 22 months.  

Okay, that last one was more like at 25 years.  But still. I was exceptionally precocious with all developmental milestones.  

And Jacob was supposed to be even better than me with all of that.

I’m fully aware that my competitive nature has not won me any friends.  In fact, it’s cost me a lot.  Because not only do I try to be the best at everything, I succeed just enough to be insanely annoying.  My mom was only in labor with me for eight hours (which is considered supersonic speed for a first baby).  I told her I’d beat that, and I did, giving birth to Jacob six hours and one minute after my water broke.  She lost eight pounds off her pre-pregnancy weight with me.  I lost nine after Jacob was born.  Etc.

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Do you hate me yet?  I kinda hate myself reading that.  (And I bet I hate me more than you hate me!  Okay, okay, I’ll stop…)

So watching Jacob not be the first to do everything is difficult, because there’s nothing that I can do (besides continuing his physical therapy and doing as many of his exercises with him as I can) to catch him up.

And even more upsetting, our physical therapist showed us a scale of things he should be able to do, and he’s definitely behind in a few areas.  Even though the tilt from the torticollis is gone now, he still has residual shoulder strength issues.  She said it’s really the chicken or the egg here–did his weak shoulder strength cause the torticollis, or did torticollis cause shoulder weakness.  

She did assure us that there was nothing we could have done to prevent it either way, but I still feel like it’s my fault.  Torticollis CAN be caused by low amniotic fluid, which I had.  Yes, I know that wasn’t my fault on the logical level, but if it’s possible that my body did this to Jacob, I still feel like I did this.

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On the plus side, our physical therapist assured us that he’s making progress, that we’ll keep working, that we’ll get him to where he needs to be, and that the age that babies walk and crawl at has no correlation whatsoever to the age that they hit any other developmental milestones at.

She also recommended I get serious professional help because I’m actually competing with myself for what age Jacob does things at.

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Not really.

But that’s another one of those hard first-time parenting things, because what my brother and I did is my only real basis of comparison for what Jacob should be doing. And I hate worrying that he’s not exactly where a chart says that he should be.

Until then, feel free to keep reminding me that just because he’s not the first one to do something doesn’t mean he’s actually late. It does take both early and later babies to make up those average age ranges after all.

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Happy holidays, folks!  I’ll see you in the new year!

Mom Life

Who fat shames a pregnant woman? The same people who use the word “moist” (gross!!!!)

It’s amazing how boundaries disappear as soon as people realize there’s a tiny person growing inside of you.  Is it because they feel like the announcement that you’re pregnant is also an admission of “Hey! I had sex!” so they think you’re open to talking about ridiculously private things?

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I honestly don’t know why it happens, but I do know that as soon as the placenta forms, people lose any semblance of a filter.

Now with my students, I get it.  They’re excited and curious and want to learn.  It’s still creepy when your high school students come up and rub your belly.  Especially the boys.  I had a kid who would literally get up, and I’d think he’d be going to sharpen his pencil.  Oh no.  He would just walk up and rub my stomach.  While I was teaching.  We had to have a boundary talk.  Multiple times.  But kids are excited and curious once they find out that you’re pregnant.

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It starts immediately though, like well before you’re showing.  I did my cutesy Facebook pregnancy announcement at the start of the second trimester (I’m such a rule follower.  God, I kind of want to slap myself right now), and all of a sudden people were ridiculous.  

Our super cutesy pregnancy announcement

I ate two donut holes one day–not donuts, donut HOLES.  Munchkins, if you will–from the English department office and another teacher said, “Guess you can let yourself go now that you’re pregnant, huh?”  Another teacher called me “wide load” that week and several coworkers rubbed my COMPLETELY FLAT belly.

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Nope.

Then came the fat shaming.

Yes, I got fat shamed while pregnant.  

People started asking me how much weight I’d gained so far.  The answer I SHOULD have given?  “None… of your business!”

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Instead, because I never come up with a snappy comeback on site (and I’m honestly not nearly as snarky in real life as I am in my blog.  Believe it or not, I live in genuine fear of actually offending anyone.  If I say something too mean in real life, odds are pretty high that I’ll apologize and cry), I tended to stammer out the correct amount.

Before I go further, let me explain–I’m a gym rat.  Or at least I was, pre-baby, when I had time to go to the gym.  But I’m still an exercise junkie, I just do it at home or while pushing a stroller right now.  So I worked out until three days before I gave birth (and only stopped that early because I was in the hospital for two days before Jacob was born), and gained exactly 25 pounds (my doctor recommended I gain 25-35 pounds, so the bare minimum of the healthy range).

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“Wow, that’s a lot!” was a frequent response.

“Really?” a few said.  “I only gained three pounds when I was pregnant.  You’re already higher than that!”  (These people are liars, btw.  I remember their pregnancies.  They gained more than three pounds. They looked like manatees toward the end, just like every other pregnant woman does.)

Or, my personal favorite, “Oh, that’s not so much.  It just looks like more on you.”

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If every woman is hearing this kind of thing, I’m shocked that there aren’t more murders committed by pregnant women.

But to be honest, I would take the fat shaming ANY day over the awkward questions you get after the baby is born.

Those tend to fall into two categories (other than the ones from students, who have no shame asking about ALLLLL the gory details and who all think that since Kim Kardashian ate her placenta that that’s like a thing that all mothers do.  Um. No.). The “Are you breastfeeding?” and the “Was it a vaginal delivery?” questions.

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To be fair, I don’t think there’s anyone who can appropriately ask you those questions.  Like I guess my mom can get away with it, and I wouldn’t actually care if my friends asked.  But they don’t ask those questions.  And there are zero non-doctors who can say the word “vaginal” without making me cringe.  But the people who choose to ask those questions are so grossly inappropriate that it’s horrifying.

Who asked me those questions?  Weirdly enough, everyone over the age of 55 that I encountered.  It’s like those were the popular questions to ask people in the 1970s, so they go around doing it now.

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One of my old high school English teachers (a man, no less!) asked me if I was breastfeeding.  A long term sub in my building asked me about the delivery (I can’t keep typing “vaginal” without retching.  It’s worse than the word “moist.”).  A friend’s mother-in-law asked about both at a two-year-old’s birthday party.  And so on.  I’d list more, but I don’t want to call people out if they’re actually reading this.

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And while I wouldn’t feel comfortable with someone asking me about such personal bodily functions under any circumstances, the fact that I struggled so much with breastfeeding made these questions painful.  I didn’t want to explain to people that I wasn’t the world’s greatest breastfeeder because everyone made me feel like I should be.  Being asked that was like being asked, “So are you succeeding as a mother?” And if I gave an honest answer, I felt like the people asking were going to think that I wasn’t.

I do know that no one asked awkward questions or made me feel bad about my weight with bad intentions.  But if you’re one of the people who asks new or expecting mothers those questions, it’s worth remembering that some people are struggling with breastfeeding and don’t want to talk about it (and the others are probably the ones whipping their boobs out constantly, so you don’t need to ask that question). Some people had emergency C-sections that completely went against their birthing plans and don’t want to talk about it.  And some people have struggled with eating disorders and body image and are having a hard time with gaining pregnancy weight.

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Also, all of that is rude.  It’s not your business what my child is eating, what part of my body he came out of, or how much weight I’m gaining.  #sorrynotsorry

answer question with middle finger

Mom Life

Uh oh, plagio: the flat head diagnosis

I know I’m jumping around a bit with this post, but it’s what’s happening now, and finding other blogs on this topic helped me.  So if I can pay some of that forward, it’s worth sharing.

Jacob’s pediatrician pointed out that he had developed a flat spot on the back right side of his head at his four-month checkup.  Hubby and I then descended into a shame spiral of shock and embarrassment that we missed it, panic that it was there in the first place, fear that we caused it, etc.  Seriously.  We turned into the seven dwarfs of parenting guilt.

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https://sweettmakesthree.com/mom-guilt-bingo/

“Just try to keep him off of it for a couple of months,” the pediatrician advised.  “You can keep a wedge under that side of his mattress so it’s easier for him to turn his head the other way, and do a lot more tummy time.  If that doesn’t fix it, you can always get a helmet.”

Sara the Hysterical Google Queen took over.  

So I learned ALLLLLLL about plagiocephaly (flat head on one side), brachycephaly (flat back of the head, which I didn’t think was a concern, based on the pictures I found online and then compared frantically to Jacob’s head), and every other kind of cephaly there is (I was already a microcephaly expert from the single, non-Zika-infected mosquito bite I got while pregnant.  Have I mentioned that I’m a hypochondriac?).

What did I learn?  That repositioning could help and that this probably happened because he was such a great sleeper–which he did NOT inherit from me, the worst insomniac in the world.  So because my perfect baby started sleeping through the night at two months old (don’t hate me), his little head grew crooked.  

sleeping through the night

And a lot of nasty people on the internet said it only happens to parents who didn’t hold their babies enough. Guess what?  I hold my baby all the freaking time.  And this still happened.

But I’m Super Mom!  I could fix this!  I can fix anything if I try hard enough!

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I repositioned like it was my job.  For two months I barely slept, but not because Jacob, the most perfect baby in the world, was waking me up.  No.  I barely slept because I woke up every three minutes to make sure he wasn’t sleeping on his flat spot.  I became an expert at flipping him over without waking him up.  I joked I was going to patent a baby spatula for perfectly turned babies.  

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http://quoteaddicts.com/author/kelly-ripa

I bought seven, count them, SEVEN different types of flat head pillows, ranging from $15 to $110 each (I only bought one of the expensive ones).  I sent him to daycare with one.  I put one in his stroller.  I put one on his changing table.  I put one on his floor gym.  But I only let him sleep on them for supervised naps while I stared at him the entire time to make sure he wouldn’t magically flip onto his belly (which he wasn’t doing yet) and suffocate.

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I studied that head from every angle, trying to convince myself that I was seeing improvement.  I wasn’t, but it also wasn’t getting worse.  I will say that.  The pillows do prevent it from getting worse.

And I kept Googling.  But as we got closer to his six-month checkup and his flat spot hadn’t improved, I started worrying more.  My baby was going to need a helmet.  I could feel it.  

One day, I took him for a long walk when his dad went out of town, and I took some pictures because he was so cute.  And when I looked at the pictures, one eye looked bigger than the other.  Cue the panic.  I had read, in my frantic Googling, that plagiocephaly could cause facial asymmetry. (Note: we later learned he has no facial asymmetry.  Literally, they measured digitally and there’s none at all.  I am a crazy person.  But in this case, the craziness was a good thing.)

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Once I Googled the facial asymmetry with plagiocephaly though, I started finding another word a lot, which I had mostly ignored because I didn’t think it was an issue: torticollis.

Symptoms: head tilted in one direction with chin pointed toward another.  Often causes difficulty breastfeeding on one side and difficulty looking in the direction of the head tilt. Rolling to one side only.  A flat spot.

It was like one of those scenes in a movie where the protagonist figures out who the killer is.  He hated breastfeeding on the right side, where he’d have to turn his head to the left.  He only rolled to one side.  And as I began scrolling through pictures in my phone, he was facing the same way in every one.  Jacob had torticollis.

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We took him to the pediatrician immediately, who wasn’t nearly as convinced as I was, but she did say it was time to visit the helmet place for an evaluation.

She wanted us to wait to see what the helmet people said about starting physical therapy, which I wasn’t comfortable with. Knowing that I’m my baby’s best advocate, I reached out to my network of moms and got a recommendation from a family friend to a WONDERFUL physical therapist who deals in infant torticollis.

Long story short, I think our pediatrician should have caught the torticollis (or at least mentioned it to us when she noticed the flat spot, because had I looked for that in pictures sooner, I would have spotted it. And I think dealing with the torticollis at four months would have helped the flat spot enough to potentially avoid the helmet), but it’s too late for that now.life is tough

I’ll do another post about the helmet situation (we’re in it now.  It sucks, but we’ll deal), but trust your gut, mamas!  If you think something is wrong, say something to your pediatrician.  And if they won’t hear you out, go to a specialist.  Jacob is doing AMAZING in physical therapy.  The torticollis is now gone, we’re just working on some residual muscle strength issues in his shoulder, and in another few weeks, all of that should be absolutely perfect.

And if you want to learn from my experience, make sure you’re changing the direction that your baby sleeps in frequently starting at birth and doing lots of tummy time even if your baby hates it (and they ALL hate it!).  And if you have to get a helmet, I promise, it’s not the end of the world.

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Mom Life

Breastfeeding may be natural, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy

Breastfeeding is hard.

There.  I said it.

You know what?  I’m gonna say it again.  Breastfeeding is REALLY freaking hard.  In fact, it deserves the other f word because it’s so hard, but I like having my teaching job so that I can afford all the cute baby stuff that Jacob needs, so you’ll have to settle for freaking.

Everyone out there makes you think breastfeeding is the easiest, most natural thing in the world.  It may be natural, and I’m sure for some women it’s easy, but going around preaching that it’s the simplest act on the planet is a recipe for disaster for other women.

I was never worried about breastfeeding.  My mother always talked about how great she was at it (no, mom, that wasn’t remotely traumatizing as a kid to hear about that constantly.  Not at all.), and as I take after her in all regards (seriously, we’re the same person, it’s freaky), I figured it would be a piece of cake.

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The hubby and I took a breastfeeding class and were the least concerned people there. (Partially because hubby finds everything hilarious.  The teacher mentioned milk ducts at one point and he drew a picture of a duck with boobs labeled “milk duck.”  I married a child.)  Why was everyone else there worried about breastfeeding? It was easy, right? The teacher certainly assured us that it was.

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How hard can it be if even a rubber ducky can do it?

“Every woman has the ability to exclusively breastfeed her baby,” she told us—a line that would come back to haunt me with harrowing feelings of guilt and failure.  She advised us to throw out any free formula that we received ahead of time—the formula companies prey on new mothers, she told us, and mail out formula when you register for gifts, just hoping that you’ll get discouraged and use it instead of breastfeeding.  But EVERYONE can do it, so you’re being lazy if you use formula.

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I dutifully went home and threw out the Enfamil starter pack that had come in the mail. I wasn’t going to be a lazy formula mom.  Uh uh.  Not me.  No way.  Breastmilk all the way. I’d even eat all organic food and nothing processed so my baby would be getting the best quality breastmilk.  He was going to be the next Einstein and it would all come from my boobs.

Fast forward another couple of months.  Jacob was born two weeks early because my fluid levels started dropping in my 36th week.  They hadn’t been super high to begin with, but I drank double my body weight in water daily for the next couple of weeks and figured my levels would be better at my next appointment.  They were not.  In fact, they were so much worse that I was sent to the hospital at just under 38 weeks, kept on IV fluids for two days, and then induced.  I’m only sharing that detail now because I’m 99 percent convinced that the low amniotic fluid levels were related to low milk production later.  I’ve found zero research connecting the two, but I would put money on some doctor finding a correlation someday.  Please comment if you had something similar!

After a fairly uncomplicated birth, we had a beautiful baby.  Granted, his birth weight was probably somewhat inflated after those two days of IV fluids, and all newborns look vaguely like aliens, but he was perfect in every way.

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The lactation consultant came into the delivery room, saw that not only was he already latched (I paid attention in breastfeeding class after all), he was already eating.  She pronounced my latch flawless and was out of there in under two minutes.

Another lactation consultant came in a day or two later (that hospital time is a blur. I think the nurses monitor when you fall asleep and pick that exact moment to come in and wake you up), advised me to keep his head more in the crook of my arm, agreed that I had an impeccable latch, and went on her merry way.

I was an earth goddess, breastfeeding my baby.  All was well.

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Except it wasn’t.  When we went to the pediatrician for our second visit, Jacob was still losing weight.  And when we went back two days later he should have been gaining weight, but he wasn’t.

“I think it’s time to try supplementing with some formula,” our pediatrician said.

I promptly burst into tears.  She comforted me as best as she could, throwing around phrases like “low supply,” “not a big deal,” “happens to so many women,” etc.  But all I could hear was, “You failed your baby and now he has to have formula and won’t be as smart or healthy and it’s all your fault.”

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Much heartbreak, an insane amount of pumping, medication, and the world’s worst lactation consultants ever (I’ll blog about that another day—they literally told us to hire someone to watch the baby so I could spend five-to-six hours a day pumping to increase supply) later, we added in formula supplementation, and Jacob finally started gaining weight.

I continued breastfeeding and supplementing with formula after until just after six months, when he started completely refusing to nurse.  I’m still pumping to get him whatever benefit there is from the tiny amount that I can sneak into his bottle, but I’m fully aware that the pumping is entirely because of mom guilt and to keep my feelings of failure at bay.guilty

Even now, when he’s seven-and-a-half months old, eating solid food and above the 80th percentile for weight, I’m ashamed of the fact that he subsides on mostly formula.  I feel like I failed him.  I’m sitting here, writing this, and a tiny little voice in my head is saying, “Maybe you shouldn’t publish this.  Don’t let people know that you failed.”

Except I didn’t fail.  He’s above the 80th freaking percentile for weight.  I think his thighs are bigger than mine now.  He’s the happiest, healthiest, best baby in the world (as my mother will stop you on the street to tell you. Seriously, if a random woman stops you on the street to tell you that, say hi to my mom). And while there is some ambiguity about whether my low fluid levels caused low milk production or whether it was Jacob’s disorganized suck that tanked production, the reality is that it doesn’t matter.

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That’s the real point to this post: (yes, it took me 1,000 words to get there, and yes, I’m about to get major hate mail from the “Breast is Best”ers, but I don’t care) feed your baby and don’t let anyone (other than yourself) make you feel guilty about how you do it.

I barely left the house for the first three months because I was convinced that if I skipped a breastfeeding session it would cause irreparable damage to my already-low supply. And I wasn’t comfortable breastfeeding in public because Jacob wasn’t good at it, and I’m just not a whip-my-boobs-out-in-public kind of girl.  I was terrified that people were going to judge me if they saw me feeding him formula, so I tried to only feed him in private.  I refused to talk to anyone about what was going on because I thought that they would judge me.  I cried more over breastfeeding than I have over anything else in my life.  And I felt utterly despondent because, as a huge control freak, nothing I did could fix this.

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But guess what happened when I finally came clean?  Absolutely no one cared.  Actually, that’s not true.  Once I talked about it, people told me all about how much trouble they’d had too.  The low supply, the clogged ducts, the agonizing over not knowing if the baby was getting enough to eat, the infections, the tears, the guilt.  I wasn’t nearly as alone as I thought I was.

I realized how horrible it is to tell people that “Every woman has the ability to breastfeed her baby,” and that formula is for lazy moms, and I grew increasingly angry at that attitude.  If every woman could do it, wet nurses wouldn’t have existed and no one would have invented formula.  I’m so grateful that I live in an era where all I had to do to feed my son when my body couldn’t was go to the grocery store.   

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Saying that every woman can do it is a blatant lie.  And it’s a harmful lie because in those early months, when sleep is scarce and women feel isolated at home with a newborn, adding in feelings of failure makes everything so much harder than it needs to be.

When eventual baby #2 comes along (don’t get any ideas, it’s not happening yet!), I plan to breastfeed him or her.  But if it isn’t working this time, I’m not going to let the baby’s weight get too low or cry (too much) because I now know that formula isn’t the devil and some things are out of my control.

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If breastfeeding was easy for you, cool.  Congratulations.  If it wasn’t, you’re not alone. And if you need to hear you’re doing a great job when it feels like you aren’t, drop me a line. Because mamas, as long as your baby is eating, you’re doing a great job.

bottle feeding

Mom Life

New name, new baby, new blog, same Sara

Welcome to the new blog!  Life has certainly changed since the Sara*ndipity days, and that felt like it necessitated a new blog.

The biggest change other than my last name?  This little guy.

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Jacob Samuel Confino joined us two weeks early at the beginning of April and then EVERYTHING changed.

Those of you with kids are sitting there saying, “Well, duh.”  I mean, I knew everything would be different, but I don’t think I quite realized the extent to which my life would be consumed by baby everything.

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I also wasn’t prepared for how hard being a new mom is.  Those first few months are intense–I joked that I lived in Room because I felt tethered to the house by breastfeeding issues.  You frequently have no idea if what’s going on is normal or not–should his belly button look like that? WTF is that flakey stuff on his head? Is his poop supposed to look like that? Why is he hiccuping so much? Do I wake him up to feed him or let him sleep? The list is endless.   

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Everyone on social media makes it all look so easy.  (I’m guilty of this too.  Every picture I post of Jacob is smiling and perfect and makes it seem like I’m Super Mom.  I’m not.  I feel like Hot Mess Mom 90 percent of the time and Actually Pretty Decent Mom the rest of the time.)HOTMESS-1

This is where mom guilt comes in.  Because you don’t want to ask anyone for help when they all seem like they have their lives perfectly together.  

I turned to Google.  Which is the norm for me–my mom jokes that she should have named me Google.  (She frequently texts me and asks me to Google things for her.  I point out that she could have typed that same query into Google with even less effort than it took to ask me to do it for her, but she claims I’m better at it than she is.)  And while I found a lot of very helpful information out there (it’s how I accurately diagnosed my baby’s torticollis when my doctor missed it–more about that later), I also frequently fell into the black hole of misinformation that sent me spiraling into panic attacks about things I didn’t need to worry about.

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Which leads me to the point of this blog.  Yes, it’s a mommy blog.  Yes, the mighty have fallen.  Get over it.  (And if you don’t get the title, here’s the reference.  It works because there have already been a million mommy moments where I’ve felt the need to yell “Serenity now!”)

I’m only seven-and-a-half months in, so I’m not going to sit here and pretend I know everything, because I definitely don’t.  But there’s a lot of stuff that I needed to hear and that I wish someone had told me when I was going through it.

So if anyone can learn from my experiences or feel like they’re not alone or just feel a sense of belonging, then cool, I’ve done my job.  Or if you just want to feel some quality schadenfreude by seeing what my life is like behind the social media curtain, you can do that too.

Either way, enjoy!

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