Why I chose to formula feed

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I recently read a story about a mother who lost her battle with postpartum depression. In the article her husband mentions the intense pressure she felt to breastfeed. My reaction to this was a mix of sadness and anger. This should be a wake up call to all of us about the amount of pressure placed on new mothers. We need to do better.

During my pregnancy with my daughter, I experienced crippling prenatal depression and anxiety. This was not out of the blue considering I have dealt with depression and anxiety in waves throughout my life. I decided to go off all medication before getting pregnant to avoid exposing my baby. I THOUGHT I had everything under control; and then the hormones came in full force. I spent nine months feeling claustrophobic in my own skin.

Throughout my pregnancy, my doctors, husband, and family all agreed that it was important for me to be proactive when it came to postpartum depression. Instead of a birth plan, I created an “after birth” plan. One of the biggest decisions I made was to forego breast feeding. This was a difficult decision for me. Like every pregnant woman in today’s society I read dozens of books, articles, and blogs about parenting. Although I knew formula feeding was the best option for my family, I was worried about not bonding with my daughter and denying her the nutritional benefits of breast milk. What if I regretted my decision? What if the hospital staff pressured me to breast feed? What if people judged me on this decision?

This is where the disconnect lies for mothers and maternal mental health. While dealing with severe depression I was stressing over how I would justify my feeding choice to those around me. At the time of my daughter’s birth our hospital was working to become “baby friendly”. I was warned by well-meaning friends that the hospital staff would pressure me; that they would send in a lactation consultant even if I declined their services. The problem with the baby friendly initiative is that it leaves out a crucial part of the baby’s wellbeing; maternal mental health. I truly believe that a healthy, happy mother is one of the most important factors for infant health.

For many women my feelings and viewpoints may be difficult to understand. AND THAT IS OKAY. We can have differing opinions and still respect one another. Although I have not had the experience of breastfeeding, I have tried to educate myself so that I can support my friends that do choose to breastfeed. I do my best to cheer them on and celebrate their successes with them. I do this because if it is important to them, it is important to me. In addition, I also have friends who chose to formula feed simply because they did not want to breastfeed. ALL mothers deserve support. It takes a village to raise a child but it also takes a village to support a mother.

I do want to state that the benefits of breastfeeding cannot be denied. However, there are many other factors that contribute to a child’s emotional and physical wellbeing. A mother making a decision for the health and wellbeing of their family should not be judged or shamed. I would also like to add that while I have been vocal about my journey with mental health, many women are not. It is a good reminder to us all to treat everyone with kindness; we don’t know what battles they may be facing.

**Although I chose to forego medication while pregnant with my daughter, that is not the answer for everyone. If you are dealing with depression during pregnancy it is important to be honest with your medical provider. And always remember, you are not alone.

The Last First

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In a little over a week it will be one year since the sudden death of my father. Halloween marked the last of the major “firsts” without my dad. Somehow we’ve made it through a year of holidays, birthdays, vacations, family traditions, and milestones without him. Things that seemed impossible to even comprehend just 365 days ago. When we first lost him I almost wanted to fast forward my life to this point. I didn’t want to have to go through all the “firsts”. It was just too painful to even think about. My father was a man of deep tradition and nearly everything we do is somehow rooted in him. Mix-tapes of summer songs for vacations down the shore, an elaborate train display at Christmas, the Beatles, the Mummers parade- my Dad is everywhere.

As we began to creep closer to the one year anniversary of his death, I expected to feel some sort of relief that the “firsts” were over. Unfortunately I have found it to be quite the opposite. One thing that is more painful than experiencing these holidays and traditions without a loved one is the knowledge that we are now forming memories without them. The painful truth that my father will not be a part of future milestones and events in my life.

I am now in a place where grief undergoes a transformation. Instead of a sharp, take-your-breath-away pain, it becomes a dull ache. It is not as gaping and obvious but the ache is always there. It flares up when you least expect it. It could be a song, a dream, a smell, a memory and it all comes rushing back.

My life will forever be defined as before losing my dad and after losing my dad. I’ve learned that this is okay. Significant deaths force us to find a new “normal”. It takes time and it hurts but it’s also necessary. Grief is an indefinite journey; one that does not have a destination. Sometimes we travel alone and sometimes we meet up with others along the way. We fall down and we rely on others to help us back up. At times we will gather with new travelers to share with them our love and light; and help them in their first leg of this lifelong excursion.

In the grand scheme this is all relatively new to me and I’m learning more about the grief process everyday. I have learned one important lesson; the only thing that matters on this journey is that we keep going.

We Can Do Better

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My heart is breaking. My heart is breaking for the families of the Dallas officers, for the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, for my friends raising black children in these scary times, for the officers that say goodbye to their families not knowing if they will return, for my daughter who will one day lose the innocence of believing that the world is always beautiful and magical. My heart is breaking for the country that I love but is so badly broken. 

I am fortunate to have a job that allows me to work with people of all races, ages, religions, and sexual orientation. Because of this I can tell you that #blacklivesmatter is necessary. Living only surrounded by white privilege (not talking about the type of privilege afforded by wealth) it can be hard to truly understand the meaning of this movement. Yes, of course all lives matter. That is a no-brainer. However there is still an unacceptable amount of disparity and profiling towards black people. I have had the experience of being the only person of my race at events and gatherings. I have felt what it’s like to wonder if someone is making an assumption about me based on my race and not for who I am. I have felt this way a handful of times, however I have black friends and colleagues that have felt this way on a regular basis.  
I have family and friends in law enforcement. I cannot imagine the burden that is on their shoulders day to day. I am so incredibly thankful that there are people willing to put their lives on the line for our safety. I see cops policing the city of Wilmington all the time. The child care providers that I work with in some of the toughest neighborhoods of the city are grateful for the police presence and many of them have wonderful relationships with them. They are working hard to keep the people of this city safe and as someone who works in these neighborhoods I am also grateful.
We do not live in a world that is colorblind; nor should we want to. We need to talk about our differences. We need to have conversations about race. This is the ONLY way we will understand each other. Standing up for our brothers and sisters of color and standing behind the law enforcement that protects and serves us does not have to be mutually exclusive. We can do better…we HAVE to.

A Letter to the Father of Brock Turner

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Mr. Dan A. Turner, While we know very little about you, we all know of your son and the vile crime he committed in January 2015. You may not have been present at the crime scene but, as indicated by your statement in court, you have contributed to your son’s actions. Truthfully I do not how you sleep at night; but there are a few things that I do know.

Women are strong. Your son’s victim will move on from this awful crime. However, your son will not. He will be forever labeled as a cowardly man who refused to take responsibility for his disgusting actions. He has failed his victim once again and you sir have failed your son. As parents it is our job to hold our children accountable. We have to teach them that there are consequences to our actions. You have taught your son that armed with enough money and privilege, you can get away with anything. You have ripped open the wounds of victims of sexual abuse around the world.
Throughout the past few days I have had snapshots in my mind about the things many women have experienced throughout the course of their lives that you could not possibly understand. 
And so Mr. Turner, If you have a daughter… I hope she never has to come to you for support and shelter from domestic violence.
If you have a wife…I hope she never looks to you for advice for how to shatter that glass ceiling that has been holding back so many women from fulfilling their dreams.

If you have a woman employee…I hope she never has to look to you for sympathy while dealing with postpartum depression from having to leave her baby and return to work too soon. 

These are real, unjust issues. The consequences of your son’s actions are just that; they are not harsh and unfair. He has to register as a sex offender because he IS a sex offender. And although you were not on trial, you are guilty as well; guilty of perpetuating the status of rape culture in our society. 
Given the circumstances and your son’s lenient sentence you may think yourself victorious. This could not be farther from the truth. You see Mr. Turner, even with your money, lies, and twisted morals you have not won. You have done the opposite of what you set out to do. You have proven that yes, 20 minutes can define a person’s life. 
Sincerely,

Women 

Parenting Through…

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“Mommy come too?” It’s a phrase I hear many, many times a day.  My 2 year old wants me with her constantly.  And truthfully I love it. I love that I am her “person”.  Nothing in this world makes me happier than being her mother.  But sometimes it can be stressful.  Especially on days when I’m exhausted and burnt out from..well, life. There are times when motherhood is trying.  Sometimes it is a difficult day with the child (wrangling toddlers is not for the faint of heart) but many other times it’s due to outside factors.  Life’s trials and tribulations do not stop when a woman becomes a mother.  Sometimes it may feel like there is a bubble surrounding parenthood.  We tend to lose track of time, current events, and pop culture at times.  But eventually life creeps in.

Tragedy, loss, heartache, and disappointment are part of life.  When a parent finds themselves in one of these dark times it can feel twice as difficult.  Not only are we faced with the trying situation, but we must also consider how to navigate parenting through the darkness.

Unfortunately this is my current reality.  The recent, unexpected death of my father has left me broken, angry, and emotionally exhausted.  There are mornings when getting out of bed seems too daunting, let alone going to work and functioning as a parent.  Grief is heavy and exhausting.  While in the thick of the grieving process, there is little energy left for anything else. So what is a parent to do?

Guys, we have to “parent through”.  Our lives go through so many different seasons and parenting does not come with a pause button (unless I’m missing something, if so, please clue me in).  I have always tried to bring out my fun, energetic side while with my daughter.  I want to teach her about love, kindness, and finding joy in everyday life.  However, I would be doing her a disservice if I did not teach her about the REAL.  So I do my best to function these days. Somedays I feel like myself and other days my sadness gets the best of me.  This is what is real right now.  My daughter has seen me cry more than I would like to admit over these past 2 months but it becomes a teachable moment.  We talk about sadness.  We talk about her Pop-pop and how much we miss him.  And she has learned a great deal about empathy.  When she notices that I am sad she hugs me and rubs my back saying, “I make you feel better Mommy!”.

On the days when I feel like I am failing at everything, I try to remember these inadvertent lessons.  My hope is that as my daughter grows older I can show her strength in adversity but at the same time let her know that it is okay to be sad sometimes.

So when you find yourself journeying through the dark side of life, be kind to yourself.  Recognize that you are doing your best.  And as for your little ones, teach them life. Teach them REAL. Because fortunately and unfortunately, life goes on….and we must parent through.

Grief is..

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I wrote this piece as way to process the recent, sudden death of my father.  To say that this is a difficult time would be an understatement.  However, my family is strong and we are navigating this journey together. My hope is that these words will find their way to someone who needs them.
Grief is powerful.

It can darken the most beautiful days.

Grief can be ugly.

Taking the form of dark circles and bloodshot eyes.

 

Grief is physical.

It HURTS.

Grief is the pounding in your head and the pit in your stomach.

It can make the most mundane task seem impossible.

 

Grief is unpredictable.

It comes in waves throughout the days, weeks, and years.

Grief is a shapeshifter of emotions, masquerading as anger, hopelessness, and denial.

It rears its ugly head in the most unassuming places.
Grief is relentless

It surrounds us.

Grief’s presence can be felt everywhere and at any time.

It steals sleep and replaces it with endless stretches of what could have been.

 

Grief is necessary.

It is a process.

Grief is healing cloaked in sorrow.

It tests our strength and forces us on.

 

But somewhere there is light.

A light that shines on us and through us.

The source of which is our lost loved ones.

And we have to find the light, cling to the light, embrace the light.

 

Take the light.

Share it with others.

Shine it on those wandering in the darkness.

BE the light.

 

Rainy day, stuck-in-the-house activities

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Since most of us on the east coast have spent the weekend indoors due to storms, I thought I would post some ideas to keep the little ones entertained. I am constantly searching for new ways to keep my (almost) 2 year old entertained and attempt to keep Mommy’s sanity somewhat in tact. Most of these activites can be done with materials from around the house or with a quick trip to the dollar store!

Painting
One of my favorite activities do do with my toddler is painting. Most of you are probably thinking I’m crazy but it really is an excellent, developmentally appropriate activity. Yes, it gets messy but mamas need to embrace the mess every now and again! Painting can get a little monotonous if your child paints often so get creative! Painting doesn’t have to be done with brushes, you can paint with just about anything. Here are a few of our favorites.

Cotton swabs or Q-tips

Paper towel rolls

Bath loofas or sponges

Sensory Play 

Another fun activity for toddlers is sensory play! It’s so simple to put together a sensory bin and kids LOVE it. This activity is best done in the kitchen or on an easy-to-clean floor. Here are 2 ideas.

Rice or oats

I added some plastic spoons and cups. I also hid some foam letters and my daughter had to dig through and find them. We started out with the letters in her name.

Cloud Dough

(8 cups of flour and 1 cup of baby oil or vegetable oil)


This one tends to be a bit messier. As you can see my little one decided to put her feet in!

Fine Motor Activity

This was a life saver while we were getting our taxes done. All you need is some craft sticks (Popsicle sticks) and an empty water bottle.


Sticky Art

All you need is contact paper and anything that will stick to it. Tape the contact paper to the wall sticky side up (I use painter’s tape). Let your child create a picture with tissue paper and other items.


Tape Creations

This activity happened by accident. I was taping her paper down for another activity and she decided she wanted to play with the tape. I ripped the tape into smaller pieces and she went to town!


Enjoy these activities and send me some feedback! Hopefully these will make the rainy days a little less daunting….if not, there’s always wine.

 

Don’t forget to embrace the mess!

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What No One Expects When They’re Expecting

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This is likely to be my most personal and emotional post. I am telling my story in hopes that it will help other women in similar situations. My goal is to create something positive out of a difficult time in my life. I am asking that readers proceed with kindness.
Prenatal depression. Yes, this is a thing. Most people have heard personal accounts and information on postpartum depression but prenatal depression is rarely, if ever, talked about. This post chronicles my experience.

Here is a bit of back story. I have dealt with anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember. It began to spiral out of control in my early 20s. I started having panic attacks and the periods of sadness were more frequent. I was 26 when I sought professional help and began taking medication.When my husband and I decided we wanted to start a family I was determined to have a med-free pregnancy. I became pregnant about 2 months after I stopped my medication. I felt good for the first month that I was off the meds. I was surprised but extremely encouraged. Unfortunately, my anxiety returned shortly after I found out that I was expecting. Even though I wanted a child more than anything I did not feel joy, only fear.

Right from the beginning I began to obsess over childbirth. Along with the anxiety that I was feeling, I was convinced that my body was not capable of birthing my baby. These thoughts consumed the 9 months of my pregnancy. During my first prenatal appointment it was suggested that I resume my medication. I refused. Looking back I probably should have considered this option but I did what I felt was right at the time.

My first trimester is a blur. I was living in a haze of depression. Thankfully I recognized that I needed help. Around 13 weeks, at the suggestion of my doctor, I began seeing a therapist specializing in expectant and postpartum mothers experiencing anxiety and depression. I have to admit that it was helpful to have someone that I could be totally honest with; a neutral party that was not emotionally invested in my situation. I also took prenatal yoga classes and did simple workouts which gave me time to focus on myself. I was desperate to find something that would help me. These things helped in the moment but I still could not calm myself when panic would set in.

As my pregnancy went on I began to feel more and more isolated. I felt like no one understood what I was going through. I had never met anyone that had admitted to feeling this way during pregnancy.  People began asking my husband what was wrong with me; “But this is what she wanted” or “I thought she would be happier”. I hated going to parties or gatherings because I was afraid of saying or doing the wrong things. It is only now looking back that I realize that I did not give most people a chance to understand what I was going through. There were so many times that I wanted to make the people in my life understand how sick I was, but it was just too hard. It was all too hard.

Even now it is difficult to articulate how I felt. I remember the feeling so vividly and I desperately want to put it into words. However, not all feelings can be expressed linguistically, and many times they are not meant to be. The best that I can do is to compare it to claustrophobia, except there was no escape. I felt trapped physically and mentally.

I would have panic attacks that resulted in pure hysteria. I was angry and violent towards my husband. He began to fear for the safety of our baby. It was suggested several more times that I go back on medication but I still refused. I was convinced that it would harm my baby. In hindsight I think the choice of whether or not to take medication was one of the few things that was in my control during a time when I felt incredibly out of control.

This is my first time truly admitting this; there was a point that I was suicidal. I did not think that I would ever feel like myself again. My family urged me to focus on the end result but I could not even picture it. As I stated previously I was convinced that I would not be able to endure child birth. This made it hard for me to see my life with my daughter. I already felt like I had failed at being a mother. I knew my stress levels could not be good for the baby. If I couldn’t keep her safe while she was inside me, how could I ever protect her when she was out in the world? (I now jokingly consider this my per-requisite in “mom guilt”…it’s ok..you can laugh).

As my pregnancy went on my fear of childbirth consumed me. I read articles and books to prepare myself but most of them just added to my anxiety. There is an incredible culture of fear surrounding child birth in our society. I encountered many women that went into great detail about the pain and other not-so-pretty parts of childbirth without considering how they might affect an expecting mother. I do not believe this was done in malice. I truly believe that they just wanted to share their experiences. I do think that women should be free to share their birth stories. Mothers bond over their birth experiences. I just think that we should also be providing encouragement and positivity as well. Yes, childbirth is difficult but when you strip away the pain and exhaustion it is a beautiful, trans-formative experience. Expectant mothers need to hear that. Reassurance is crucial.

By the last month of my pregnancy I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I literally had nothing left. Two days before my daughter was born I spent the day with my mom. I sobbed asking her to take the baby after she was born. I insisted that I was too sick to care for her. I told my mom that I wanted to give her away to another family; to a better mother. I ACTUALLY SAID THOSE WORDS. My baby girl. The baby that I dreamed about for years. Of course I did not really mean it but at the time I thought I did.

My daughter came into this crazy world at 4:02 am on October 17, 2013. I am happy to say that I did not experience any postpartum depression. In fact, it seemed to be the opposite. My maternity leave was the happiest time of my life. I cannot explain the feeling of relief that washed over me. My daughter and I had made it through; together. And she is happy, healthy, incredibly feisty, and full of life. I truly believe that it was her spirit that kept me going and got me through the difficult times. God blessed me with my spirited girl for reason.

I had decided early on in my pregnancy that I would resume my medication after the baby was born. My therapist felt it would be best to be proactive when it came to postpartum depression. I also made the decision to forgo breastfeeding. The reason for this was two-fold. I did not want to expose my daughter to the medication and I also knew that I needed some time to mentally recuperate. This added another layer of guilt but I was fortunate to have support from my family and the medical community. I was encouraged to look at the big picture and to base my decision on what would make me the best mother that I could be (This part of my journey will likely be its own blog post someday).

It has taken me almost 2 years to tell my story in its entirety. Even now, as I type this, I am shaking. There is a part of me that wanted to bury this experience; to keep it hidden in the past. But there is a bigger picture. If I leave this experience behind me than all it becomes is a memory of a difficult time in my life. I have made the choice to share my journey in the hopes that it may help other women. While it likely would not have changed things, it would have been so comforting to know that I was not alone; that there were other women like me. It would not have cured the anxiety but it would have helped with the shame and guilt. One of the many things I love about being a mother is the sisterhood that comes along with the role. We are truly all in this together. I do not have all the answers but my hope is that I can provide support to other women dealing with depression during pregnancy.

As for me, I do plan to have more children. I am hopeful that my next pregnancy will be different. I am now more prepared to deal with any feelings of anxiety and depression. I know how important it is to reach out to others for help and support. I know to be proactive and not wait until things get out of control. Despite my experience, I still feel incredibly blessed to have had a physically healthy pregnancy and a thriving baby girl with whom I share an incredible bond. My story is to be continued…

Mental health is an important topic and should be talked about more in our society. If you know someone who seems like they are having a rough time, reach out to them. You could be the only one who does. And in case of an emergency call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-88255.

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Can women have it all?

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Women have come a long way in the last century. Brave women who came before us fought for equal rights and in turn, today we have options that eluded many of our ancesters. Dont get me wrong, there are many areas that can be improved upon. Many women are still experiencing the sting of hitting the glass ceiling or the frustration of male coworkers receiving more adequate compensation for their job. There is also the issue of maternity leave. Currently the U.S. is one of only a few countries that does not offer paid maternity leave. This translates to more women returning to the workforce before they or their newborn child is ready (I could talk for days about this topic so I will just end it here). That being said, we are so fortunate to live in a time in which women have so many options. Many of the stereotypes that clung to previous generations have been disspelled by education and opportunity.

We live in an exciting time for women however there is one thing about this rise of feminism that troubles me.
Feminism has been marketed as strong, educated women who pursue careers and are able to provide for themselves; women who are confident and think for themselves. Little girls are told that they can be anything they want when they grow up. This is a wonderful thing.
Except when society dictates what that “anything” might be.

Societal expectations are deeply routed in culture. It is not a one size fits all model. We all feel pressure in different ways. Part of the problem is our need to feel validated. We are more connected than ever thanks to the internet and social media. This is a wonderful advancement but it also breeds comparison. The bottom line is that we need to band together, EMPOWER each other, and rise above this pressure.

The thing is we CAN be anything we want! For some women that means climbing the corporate ladder or educating the youth of America. For others it means choosing to stay home and raise a family. Some women feel a strong desire to have children and others choose not to become a parent. In my opinion any woman who goes after the life that they desire is exemplifying feminism. And that is just plain awesome.

DISCLAIMER: This is post is not meant to take away from the accomplishments and awesomness of men. Men are cool too. However I am not a male, therefore I cannot speak on this topic for that half of the human race. This girl is not a man-hater…most days 😉

I Need You to Need Me….

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As parents we hear so much talk about how our children need us.  We are their safety net, their home base, the loving arms in which they find great comfort.  There are countless studies on various ideas of what children “need”.  As a society, we have created names for different parenting styles- attachment, helicopter, free range, and many others.  When you break it all down the bottom line is that children need to feel loved and secure.  We work tirelessly to make sure our little ones are happy and healthy.  

However, there is something missing.  I have read dozens of articles about living in the moment and the age old reminder that children are only little for a short period of time.  Essentially pointing out that we, as parents, are only needed for a short time.  In the midst of all these reminders something has been lost. 

Parents need to be needed.

This was one of those raw, emotional moments for me as a mother.  It did not come right away.  After I emerged from the fog of the newborn months (aka the fourth trimester) and adjusted to my working mom role this revelation hit me like a ton of bricks.  

I needed her as much as she needed me.  

This was an all-encompassing feeling.  It came over me as slowly throughout the months of adjusting to new motherhood.  I can remember rocking my sweet baby to sleep and thinking that I needed this time as much as she did.  Yes, our babies need to form a secure attachment to us but mothers crave that attachment as well.  

That attachment is the only thing that lets me walk out the door to work each morning without crumbling into pieces.  That attachment has become such a part of my life that I hardly remember how I lived without it.   

There are already times when, in typical toddler fashion, my little one wriggles her way out of my hugs and kisses.  And that is to be expected.  It is a privilege to be able to watch her discover her place in this big, wonderful world.  But I am also enjoying the fact that, to her, I am the biggest, most important part of that world.

The good news is that our babies will never stop needing us.  The way they need us evolves and changes but the need is always there.  But for tonight I am going to go snuggle my toddler because that is what she needs right now.

And so do I.