I feel that before I embark on my little full disclosure “Motherhood Manual,” I should first put a few things out there.
1. I am a good mom.
2. I love and almost always like my children.
3. My children love and almost always like me.
4. No children (or parents… you’ll see what I’m talking about around chapter 10) were significantly harmed in the making of this family.
5. I (and my children and my spouse) am a work in progress.
6. This one matters a lot- after having children, I had many years (still now?) where the parts of my brain that enabled me to get my master’s degree in neuropsychology were completely missing. I still knew that at one point I had been a bright lady, but that lady had left the building and I was working with only what she had left behind. Soon, my second child (whom I sometimes lovingly referred to as “the parasite” for reasons that are entirely based on the strict dictionary definition and about which you will hear later) would take away more than just my brain.
7. I’m sure I would be a way better mother if I got to start over again now, but my children would also be better if they knew then all they do now. So, since neither of those things are going to happen, they and my husband and I are all serpentining our way along together and… almost always… laughing in the end.
So, please be kind in reading my words and just know that I’m being totally honest and that I don’t really believe in Hallmark cards anymore. On a side note, I overheard a good quote today- we compare our “behind the scenes clips to others’ highlight reels.” … I’m showing the outtakes.
Tea & Beer: or Mother of the Year Award Slips through Fingers
I don’t nap easily in the best of circumstances. I never have. One of my few memories of kindergarten is the teacher coming around to each of us on our little cots at nap time and lifting up each child’s arm to see if it would fall gracefully when released (really?!? who just lets their arm fall?). I could never do it. Each day I would stress out as the teacher made her way to me and I tried to relax.
I’m no better as an adult. My husband can be sitting in the middle of a train yard (well, probably not a train yard because I can’t think of why he’d be there, but you get the idea- somewhere loud) and say, “I’m just going to put my head back for a minute and see if I can sleep.” Then, I kid you not, he is asleep and usually SNORING within 30 seconds. This happens in airports, cars, living rooms, train yards apparently, ANYWHERE. I, on the other hand, need to have everything perfect. The lights out, everything quiet, no distractions, probably someone rubbing my back, nothing I need to be doing, and so on. The problem is, even then, I don’t know how to shut off my mind. It just goes. He says “think of a white room.” I do. Then I start looking closer to see if there’s a door in the room, what the hinges are colored, if the furniture is white, is there furniture… until I’m no longer in the white room and have moved on to “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” or something. It doesn’t work and all the while, one of the voices in my head that isn’t narrating what’s going on, is saying “the white room idea is stupid.”
I tell you all this because it is very important as a new parent, that when the baby sleeps, YOU SLEEP. Like I need more pressure when I’m trying to relax? Plus, I had the added pressure that I knew that when my husband came home he would ask me if I slept. He knows that I am not always delightful when I’m sleep-deprived, so he’s looking out for both himself and me, and possibly our newborn baby. And, he has absolutely no understanding of why I don’t just close my eyes and nap when the baby does.
So, I think we have firmly established that the only sleep I was getting in that first week or so, was the few hours between nursing. Great.
Now, the next thing you need to know, is that if you are a nursing mother, it is important to drink lots of water. That milk doesn’t just make itself. Well, actually, it kind of does, but it does it a lot better if you provide some liquid. And, by some liquid, I mean gallons. I tried. I really did. I felt like I was constantly drinking enough water, but I guess my body just needs A LOT of water. More than I was giving it. So, the end result was that I may have been slightly dehydrated in baby milk making terms.
Also, my firstborn didn’t naturally dive into nursing (maybe it was my fault, who knows; we were all doing the best we could). He knew how to cry and let me know he wanted food, but then couldn’t seem to organize his mouth and tongue to do all of what it needed to do to easily get milk. I think there’s some sort of important algorithmic combination of movements that need to occur beyond just your normal suck out of a straw motion (which he probably couldn’t have done either, but that’s beside the point), and he just wasn’t getting it. Because of that, he was frustrated and hungry and I was frustrated and tired.
On about day three or four (or five maybe?), the breast feeding lady (lactation specialist) did her routine post birth visit and helped out by letting us know that we were both going to be fine and just needed to relax. Sure, no problem. She also may have mentioned (or I may have imagined her mentioning) that probably the best thing for me to do was have some tea (creatively named, “Mother’s Milk Tea”) or a beer… something about the yeast in the beer would help with milk production? Not to mention, it would probably do wonders at helping me not be wound so tightly.
Now, I am completely against drinking (and smoking, and drugs, and…. all those bad things for babies and mommies) when you are nursing. I mean, it’s obvious. Here I am avoiding caffeine and other things I love so as to not pollute this newborn baby, so there was no way I would drink alcohol. The thing is, sleep deprivation, a crying baby, and a need to control it all and make it all better, will do strange things to a mom. My baby was hungry, I was desperate, and I had just been given a plan. I sent my confused (but relieved that a solution was at hand) husband to the store not just for the tea or just for the beer, but for both. I wasn’t taking any chances on it not working.
When my husband returned I, “Mother of the Year,” sat on the couch and nursed my baby… while pounding a beer and waiting for my tea water to come to a boil. I was the picture of perfection when it came to Hallmark cards of mothers and newborns.
I have no idea whether the beer helped, the tea helped, or just the idea that I was able to do something helped, but it was a definite turning point in the breast feeding. I think just the fact that I could relax made a huge difference. My child ate and slept. I slept. And, my husband slept. It was huge.
That was the only time I had a beer while nursing my son (although I did continue with the tea on a regular basis), and I am not suggesting that hospitals should send home new nursing mothers with a six pack. I do not condone drinking and nursing. I am merely relating to you one of many pictures that could have been snapped during my early years as a mother that do not match up with the pictures I’d seen in the brochures. There are many more to come. Until then, here’s what you can take away:
Tip one- sleep when the baby sleeps (Yah, good luck with that one!)
Tip two- drink lots of water and, oh yah, sleep when the baby sleeps
Tip three- don’t drink beer and nurse, unless it’s been recommended by a professional (I am not a professional)… and even then, probably the tea is your best bet
- Hush Little Baby… Before Mommy Dies of Sleep Deprivation (blogher.com)
- The Motherhood Manual- I have all the answers. (twyste.com)
- All The Things About Motherhood That Other Mothers Don’t Tell You Whether Spiteful Or Unintentional When You Tell Them You Are Planning to Start a Family (centraljerseyworkingmoms.com)