4 Parenting Things I Swore I Would Never Do Before I Became a Mom

I’m only nine months into this whole parenting thing, and I’ve found myself doing things I said I would never do. Turns out, it’s a helluva lot easier to have opinions from the outside looking in, but when you’re here, in the trenches of motherhood, you do what you gotta do.

 1.  Co-sleep

“We should just put the crib in our room,” my husband said. “He’ll be in here most of his first year anyway.”

“No way,” I said firmly. “I will not be one of those moms that lets her baby sleep in her bed.” My sister was one of “those moms,” and I vowed to be different. We would sleep train our baby as early as possible, and we wouldn’t give in and pick him up when he cried.

Fast forward to now. Baby A is almost nine months old and still sleeping in our bed.

And do you want to know something? I freaking love it. Sure, some nights are difficult, and sometimes I want to punch the moms that post a photo of their 6-week-old baby on Instagram with the hashtag “12hoursandstillsleeping.” But every morning when Baby A wakes up between RM and me, happily babbling and smiling, we soak it in. We stay in bed just the three of us for an extra 15-20 minutes and sometimes longer on the weekend. It’s our favorite time of day.

This is what works for us. Turns out there are some benefits to it as well. It’s taken me a while to feel comfortable saying that without feeling anxious that I need to sleep train him soon or his sleep will be ruined forever or God forbid be pegged by moms in the Cry It Out Camp as being weaker. How about none of us judge each other and we accept that we all do what we need to do to get through these early years.

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Crazy hair after coming out from under the breastfeeding cover at Anthony’s restaurant

2.  Breastfeed in public

Early on in our relationship, RM and I were on a double date at Olive Garden (hey, I know it’s not real Italian food, but those breadsticks! Am I right?!) with a guy from work and his wife. Midway through dinner, she began nursing her newborn under a cover at the table.

“You guys don’t mind, right?” Our friend asked.

“Of course not,” RM quickly replied.

I bit my tongue. Afterward, I told RM how uncomfortable I was when she nursed her baby as she talked to me. Couldn’t she feed her in the privacy of her home before dinner so she wouldn’t be hungry when we were out?

RM simply said, “You’ll feel differently some day when we have a baby.”

Another point for RM. Again, I realize how judgy and naïve I was pre-baby.

First of all, I had no idea that newborns literally eat ALL THE FLIPPING TIME. I remember feeling like all I was doing those first several weeks was nursing Baby A. The only way to avoid having to nurse in public would be to never leave my house! And that obviously wasn’t an option if I wanted to keep my sanity.

The more I nursed Baby A the more my breasts felt utilitarian and functional—not sexual or inappropriate at all. I will never stop being amazed at the human body and what it can do—growing a baby and then providing nourishment and strength through breast milk. Incredible!

I’m happy to say Baby A enjoys nursing wherever we happen to be when he’s hungry while enjoy a slice of humble pie.

3.  Make my own baby food

This sounded way too crunchy and hippy to me. I planned to buy the pouches. When would I find the time to make baby food anyway? Fast-forward a few months to when I became a Stay At Home Mom and realized A. those pouches are pricey and B. I actually have time to make baby food.

So I dusted off RM’s food processor and started pureeing away! It’s been fun to try various combinations and watch Baby A experience new foods. We still buy pouches to grab and go—and because sometimes I don’t feel like making food even when I’m home—but I try to occasionally make our own purees to save money and do our part to help the environment. As it turns out those pouches may be organic, but they’re not so eco-friendly, according to this Huffington Post article.

I learned that making your own food isn’t crunchy and hippy at all—it’s just sensible.

4.  Take my baby to a restaurant

How rude of people to take babies to restaurants. Can’t they get a sitter? So disruptive! Why are they even going out to eat? Stay at home with your baby.

Man, I was a B.

As it turns out, when you have a baby, you still like to eat at restaurants. When your baby is tiny and needs to eat every few hours, it makes the most sense to just bring the baby with you. He’ll probably sleep most of the time anyway!

When Baby A was only a few months old, we took him to several nice restaurants. I was always a bit nervous going because I was afraid of getting the stink eye from strangers if he disturbed them—you know, people like me who thought there was no place for babies in restaurants.

Then I decided to stop caring. I needed to get out. If for some reason he was extra fussy, I would take him out of the restaurant. Thankfully, he always quietly slept or nursed.

Now that he’s a bit older and louder, we probably won’t take him to quiet dinners at fancy restaurants as frequently, but you can bet your ass we’ll still be going out to dinner. Instead, you’ll find us enjoying a basket of bottomless fries at Red Robin.

Finding My Fit at Stroller Strides

 

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We are strong mamas, strong strong fit mamas! #fit4mom #strengthinmotherhood #strollerstrides

“I’m gonna be fit after I have the baby,” I said to my husband RM. “I’m going to work out every day.”

I only half-believed the words as they came out of my mouth. It was the 38th week of my pregnancy, and we were walking along the river near our house. I was willing to do anything to get this baby out, and walking was as close as I was going to get to exercise at this point in my pregnancy. Admittedly, I had a fairly easy go of it, apart from the tailbone pain I had during my final month. I was worried about how I would get the extra weight off postpartum though, and the nurse at my regular OB visits never failed to remind me that I had gained much more than the doctor had recommended.

“Say it into the camera,” RM teased, holding his cell phone camera up to my face.

“I’m going to work out every day. Well, maybe not every day… maybe three days a week… or a few times a week,” I back-peddled. “Delete this video!”

“It will be your motivation,” he said.

If you had told me then that eight months later, I would have all of my pregnancy weight (and then some) off and would be a fitness instructor, I would have laughed and said you’re joking. Let’s be honest, I’ve never been athletic or strong. I was the kid who feigned a headache to get out of kickball in grade school gym class. Sure, I played varsity basketball as a freshman in high school. The detail I usually left out when sharing this with people was that it was a tiny all-girls school, and there weren’t enough players. I also played junior varsity. We also lost every. single. game.

Yet here I am, a certified fitness instructor for Fit4Mom Stroller Strides.

How did I get here?

Well, let me start by saying, I was an amazing mom before I became a mom. I had a lot of opinions on how moms should and shouldn’t do things and especially on how I would parent our baby.

“We should just put his crib in our room,” my husband said early on in my pregnancy.

“He’ll be in here most of his first year anyway.”

“No way! I will not be one of those moms who co-sleeps. He is going to sleep in his crib in his room. That’s that.” I said firmly.

RM had this way of doing what he calls “letting things float,” which is exactly what he did at this moment. Having already been through the baby years with his three kids, he knew I would probably change my tune after Baby A was born.

And he was right—I did change my tune, but not for the reasons he or I would have expected. From the second we came home from the hospital, I felt overwhelmed with anxiety. I had a fair amount of it while driving during my pregnancy, but I chalked that up to having been rear-ended on the interstate twice during my first trimester. In hindsight, I realize that was likely a warning sign of what I may be dealing with postpartum.

I found myself overcome with an intense desire to protect Baby A, which translated into my not wanting anyone to hold him except Ryan or me. That’s difficult when you have three stepchildren who have been looking forward to meeting their baby brother for nine months—an eternity for kids! I felt like an extension of my body had just been cut off, and I couldn’t bear the thought of Baby A not being close to me.

I also obsessively checked Baby A’s breathing while he slept. I kept him nearby either in my arms or in the bassinet next to our bed. Even then, the only way I was able to rest was after purchasing a foot monitor that promised to alert me if he stopped breathing.

The first time Baby A slept 12 hours—and one of the only times, I might add—I was a nervous wreck. I checked the monitor app on my phone every few minutes to see his pulse rate and oxygen levels.

In addition to the anxiety, I remember just plain not feeling like myself. The exhaustion alone was worse than anything I had expected. I remember several nights in the first few weeks when I cried and told Ryan that I was just so tired; no one had told me it would be this difficult.

“You wouldn’t have believed them if they did tell you,” he said.

“True,” I relented.

During that first month when I was awake nursing most hours of the night, I found myself spending way too much time on Google and various form of social media. I stumbled across a Facebook page for Fit4Mom, which had an exercise class for moms with their strollers nearby. I vowed to go as soon as I hit six weeks postpartum.

It was difficult to get out of the house when Baby A was that small. Some days it felt like we didn’t even start sleeping until 9:00 AM, and we needed to leave by 9:20 AM to make it to class.

On my first day at Stroller Strides, I was immediately welcomed into this tribe of amazing, strong women. They didn’t care if I showed up late or had to step out to nurse my baby, both of which happened regularly. I felt a connection with these women, knowing that many had also experienced what I would consider the most difficult and amazing feat I will ever accomplish in my life—childbirth.

I looked at some of the other mamas with their red strength band in awe as I struggled to do bicep curls with the easier, green band. I could barely hold a plank on my elbows and knees. I worried that if I ran too fast I would wet my pants, which had already happened to me twice at home on the treadmill. I prayed it wouldn’t happen here.

Meanwhile, the instructor was cheering me on, telling me I could do it. Reminding me I had just pushed a HUMAN BEING out of my body. Telling me that we all start somewhere.

This was my workout. Listen to my body. Be kind to my body.

Soon, Baby A and I were in a routine of attending Stroller Strides nearly every day. We formed friendships with other moms, and I found that when I exercised, my anxiety decreased. I was beginning to feel more and more like myself again.

10 weeks later, it was time to return to work from maternity leave. Leaving Baby A at daycare prompted a new round of anxiety that I don’t think I would have ever been able to prepare for, and my demanding career left little time for me to be with Baby A, let alone exercise.

While pumping in the mother’s room three times a day at work, I scrolled through the Fit4Mom posts on Instagram and Facebook, seeing what my new mom friends were doing at that day’s class. I missed Baby A. I missed my life as a Stay at Home Mom. I missed my tribe.

Two months later, I gave my notice at work. I became certified as a Fit4Mom Stroller Strides and Fit4Baby instructor.

And here I am. Happier and stronger than I’ve ever been before.

Using a red band and planking like a BOSS.

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Baby is Coming.

We’re all aware that winter is coming… but did you know that BABY is coming?!

In honor of the upcoming season premiere of Game of Thrones… I present you… our GoT-inspired pregnancy announcement.

We are SO excited to announce the upcoming arrival of our first baby together–a baby boy!

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In Defense of Taylor Swift…

If you’ve read my blog before or know me personally, you know that one of my biggest passions is Africa. In fact, my interest in the continent shaped the trajectory of my adult life. I studied Africa and African languages at university, and following graduation, I went onto have a fulfilling career analyzing African politics. Earlier this year, I moved on to a different line of work, and I would be lying if I said a day had gone by when I didn’t miss my previous job. I often find myself daydreaming of my past travels to East Africa, wondering when—not if—I’ll make it there again.

If you are a reader of my blog, you probably also know that I am a HUGE Taylor Swift fan. I’ve seen her in concert on her last three tours. I blogged about taking my stepdaughters to see her Red Tour. My stepkids even wrote her letters asking her to sing at our wedding. (They were bummed when she didn’t respond, but we forgive you, Tay Tay.) Imagine my surprise when I learned that Taylor Swift’s latest music video for her song Wildest Dreams was set in Africa! Two of my favorite things in one place—fantastic!

Unfortunately, that wasn’t my initial reaction. I first learned of the video when a friend of mine posted this NPR article on Facebook. Admittedly, I sighed and thought, Oh no, Taylor. I hope this isn’t as atrocious as it sounds. I like you so much. How could you have offended something I hold so near and dear to my heart?

I watched the video, and I didn’t have a problem with it. I actually (dare I say?) enjoyed it. The video, shot in a very “Old Hollywood,” style, portrays two 1950s actors having a relationship while filming a movie in Africa. The video has been criticized for romanticizing colonial Africa and not representing a full picture of the continent. While I certainly want to be sensitive to the authors’ backgrounds and perspectives, I think they are taking away from the good intentions Swift had and making the video into something it’s not. Swift happens to be white, and she is portraying an actress in a love story with a white man on the set of a period film. Sure, it would have been nice to see some scenes with Africans, but considering the era in which it is set, they probably wouldn’t have been portrayed in the best light, if they wanted to be historically accurate.

In their NPR article, Rutabingwa and Arinaitwe criticize Swift for focusing on the waterfalls, mountains, and majestic animals rather than the technological and leadership renaissance currently taking place in Africa. Somehow I think a song whose lyrics are about a love story doesn’t really lend itself to a music video depicting the technology boom in Africa, but what do I know? Swift’s use of Africa’s beautiful landscape and wildlife for her background does not take away from all of the other wonderful, positive developments occurring in Africa today.

When topics like this start trending, I start to think that we as a society are so busy looking for ways to be offended that we fail to appreciate, or even recognize, the good when it happens. Swift’s video brings attention to the continent and may even attract more tourism—or it could have at least, before it was twisted into something ugly and racist. According to the World Bank, the number of tourists arriving in Sub-Saharan Africa has grown over 300 percent since 1990, and tourism remains one of the largest and fastest growing sectors of the world economy. That tourism often includes safaris as well as various cultural events.

During a time when issues like Cecil the Lion are trending (whether you deem this an issue worth trending or not), a video that shows some of Africa’s beauty with proceeds going to African parks should be welcomed. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t other causes that you may feel are more important. This was Swift’s call, and she chose a cause in which she believes. She didn’t need to choose one at all.

I also realize that animals represent only SOME of the beauty on the continent. However, it’s the amazing, diverse, and loving people with whom I’ve connected that kept me going back to Africa. I hope that Swift was able to meet some of those amazing people while she was there filming.

Toward the end of their article, Rutabingwa and Arinaitwe say Swift “packages our continent as the backdrop for her romantic songs devoid of any African person or storyline, and she sets the video in a time when the people depicted by Swift and her co-stars killed, dehumanized and traumatized millions of Africans. That is beyond problematic.”

Yes, because every white person who went to Africa in the 1950s—especially movie stars that were shooting a film—killed, dehumanized, and traumatized millions of Africans. Way to generalize.

The purpose of Swift’s video was not to give a present day look at the most important issues on the continent nor was it to glamorize the brutal treatment of Africans during colonial rule. It is a period piece about a love story with a beautiful backdrop. Plain and simple.

Moving On

Selfie in my African garb ;)
Selfie in my African garb 😉

Today is a day that I will never forget. I am moving on from a career that has shaped my entire adult life. In some ways, it was a difficult decision to make, but in other ways, it was the easiest decision of my life. As many of you know, RM and I have been living separately since we’ve met and even since we’ve married. We spend a TON of hours on the road—he put 40,000 miles on his car last year alone. Not only have we HATED living apart, our current jobs require frequent relocation, oftentimes overseas. Our time in the Seattle area was set to be up this year.

We’ve decided together that it’s time to put down roots for our family, so today is my last day at my current job. RM also has a new job. No more distance. No more moving.

While I may be closing the door on this career, I’m so excited for the one I am about to begin. I feel incredibly thankful that I’m able to put my family first while also continuing to develop professionally.

I made a video to encapsulate how I’m feeling today. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this journey!  Click here to see the video!

 

Frankly Speaking…

IMG_1634Over the Thanksgiving holiday, RM and I had the opportunity to visit the famous Frank Lloyd Wright house, Fallingwater in Pennsylvania. I’ve wanted to visit Fallingwater for years, but I never made it there—until now.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Fallingwater, Frank designed the home for the Kaufmann family—owners of the department store—in 1935 and finished the home in 1937. It was designated an historic landmark in 1966 and was listed on Smithsonian’s list of 28 places to see before you die in 2008.

The timing of our visit was especially perfect because I recently finished the historical fiction book, Loving Frank, which tells the story of Frank’s love affair with Mamah Borthwick. If you haven’t read the book and you don’t want the ending spoiled, then you shouldn’t read further OR Google anything about Mamah Borthwick. I really do think the book is best experienced if you don’t know how it ends. That’s the spoiler alert, folks. Read on at your own risk!

Loving Frank tells the story of the scandalous love affair between Frank and Mamah Borthwick (Mamah Cheney at the time), the wife of one of Frank’s clients, from 1907-1914. Not much is known about Mamah, so the author hinges the story on a handful factual events and information, largely creating a work of fiction told from Mamah’s point of view. Together, Mamah and Frank leave their spouses and children for Europe but eventually have to come back to reality, only to find that their reputations have been tarnished in Chicago society. Frank returns to his family, mostly due to the fact that his wife Catherine will not grant him a divorce.

Mamah, on the other hand, is steadfast in her decision to leave her marriage and views it as a form of feminist liberation, convincing herself that she will be happier with Frank, and by extension, her kids will be happier as well. What Mamah finds as she slowly gives up her own intellectual pursuits and becomes more engulfed in her romance with Frank, is that she has sacrificed her relationship with her children, almost to the point that it is irreparable. The author does a fantastic job of painting the picture of a woman who slowly starts to feel the regret of choosing the instant gratification and tempting passion of a love affair over her maternal love for her children.

The Golden Standard
The Golden Standard

In 1914, Mamah finally begins to rebuild her relationship with her children while they are visiting the home Frank built for her in Wisconsin when her and her children are brutally murdered by their cook. A tragic end that I certainly did not see coming!

While I didn’t agree with Mamah’s or Frank’s choice to leave their families, I couldn’t help but feel compassion for them. They found happiness in each other and had a way of making the other come alive. Who doesn’t want to feel that way? Interestingly, I found the ending of this book strikingly different from the story we often read in books today and increasingly in our culture. For example, I would argue that books-turned-movies, Eat Pray Love and Wild, encourage the same type of “feminist liberation,” Mamah was searching for in the early 1900s. Yet in these modern stories, everything magically works out for the better in the end. The women find happiness after leaving their husbands to pursue their own interests. We all applaud and admire them for it. We give them book deals, million dollar movie deals, and Golden Globe nominations for the actresses portraying them. Is it possible that after more than a hundred years women are still searching for the same things, just with a different backdrop? And at what cost? Would we feel the same way if it were men who left their wives in pursuit of liberation and being true to one’s self? Would we applaud them or would we call them jerks?

If Mamah were alive today, would she tell us that she would have chosen differently? Maybe. Maybe not. Part of me hopes she would for the sake of her children and husband, but if I’m honest, the other part of me loves her romance with Frank—eccentric, self-centered, talented Frank. –And we all love a good tragedy, don’t we?

As RM and I walked the grounds of Fallingwater, I imagined Frank walking those grounds, so many years ago.  Did he think of Mamah as he designed the home?  Did he miss her?  Or was Mamah merely a distant memory, as he went on to marry two other women after Catherine finally granted him a divorce in 1922.  At the time of Fallingwater, Frank was married to his third and final wife, with whom he stayed married until he died in 1959.

Have you read Loving Frank? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you think Mamah ultimately regrets her choice to leave her family for Frank? Should she have chosen differently? How do you think women’s approaches to marriage and love affairs have changed (or haven’t changed) over the past 100 years?  Did Mamah and Frank really love each other or was this lust?  How has learning of Frank’s multiple affairs and marriages following Mamah’s death impacted your view of his relationship with and feelings toward Mamah?

The Comeback

Hello. Hi there. It’s me. It’s been a little while, hasn’t it? My apologies! We’ve been a little busy over the past several months. Here’s what you’ve missed…

We bought a house. A real, grown-up house! Can you believe it?

We renovated said house. In THREE weeks. Apart from having lice for several weeks last year, this might have been the most stressful time period we’ve been through as a family! We all spent hours—no, days scraping FIVE layers of wallpaper off the walls before we painted. That’s one layer of wallpaper for each decade, in case you were wondering. The kids worked hard, and we are so proud of them. Don’t worry—we weren’t using them for child labor, not officially anyway 😉 #2 worked so hard that we rewarded him with a trip to iFly to indoor skydive! It was a great way to further enforce with the kids, “when you work hard at things in life, you will be rewarded.”

Moving to the new house meant saying good-bye to friends with whom we had spent the previous year building relationships, which was sad, but it also meant we would say “hello!” to lots of new friends in the Snoqualmie Valley. As a bonus, the “old” friends aren’t that far away, so we can still see them, just not quite as often.

The kids love our new home, and RM and I couldn’t be happier with it as well.  It is the perfect mix of cottage and cabin with a wonderful view of the mountains. It’s been fun to combine all of our things to make a cozy, warm home for our family.  The list of things we still need to finish seems to be never-ending, but I’ve been told that will always be the case.  “Welcome to home ownership,” they say 😉

We’re so excited to spend our first Christmas here! I’ll be updating the blog as we celebrate the holidays. Stay tuned!