The Importance of Presence

I have been thinking a lot lately on presence.  Defined as, the state or fact of EXISTING, occurring, or being present in a place or thing. If I could pick one major value I have as a parent and as a person in general, presence is it.

I believe that if we could simply become more present, intentional and authentic with our lives- we would encounter so much less stress, anxiety and pain. I could write for days on all three of those, but today is about  presence.

I have been thinking about this often because the more present I work to become (and believe  me, I do have to work at it), the more I notice the lack of awareness surrounding me. We tend to think we are experiencing moments by taking photos, posting, sharing etc.  And don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy those things, but there is a line that dances with the devil.

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Immediately following the horrific shooting at Parkland High school, I was working in a coffee shop as I often do, and that particular day I was feeling pretty heartbroken, helpless and really just lost. As I was working, I was observing families and people coming in and out whether sitting down with a friend or grabbing breakfast or lunch with their kids. And something continued to happen that literally made me so upset that I ended up just needing to leave because it was shaking me to my core.

I was at that coffee shop for 5 HOURS and every single family that came in that day, was not present with the people they were with.  Not ONE. I am not exaggerating. This is a problem.  This is an epidemic.

There were friends that sat down for coffee and would chat for a few minutes, not really listen to the other person, interject or interrupt with their own thoughts before the other one finished and then check their phone- repeat.

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The parents that came with their children, all different ages from toddlers to teenagers would sit and eat their food and scroll on their phone.  Muttering a few words here and there but then right back to their screens.  Probably checking an email they thought was important.  Probably scrolling on Facebook.  Probably shopping online.  Or maybe taking a photo to post on social media about how much they love spending time with their kids…yet THEY ARE NOT EVEN THERE.  And several times, if a child got fussy and anxious, as children do, a phone was shoved into their face.  What in the actual hell is happening here.

I notice these things all the time.  I fight the urge myself.  But this particular day, it really got to me.  Just the day before, 17 families lost the ability to ever have a meal with their child/friend/parent ever again.  Yet here we sit, hours after knowing that, and we cannot even look our own loved ones in the face and enjoy them?  We are severely lacking presence, which leads to lacking awareness, which also leads to lacking the ability to sense if something is wrong around us, whether that be within our own hearts, within our families or others who need us. Even if those ‘others’ are strangers.

A similar situation struck me when I was in an airport recently.  I was standing in line approaching security and there was an abrupt announcement made saying that they were going to bring dogs in as a security measure and “please do not acknowledge them or pet them, let them sniff you if need be”.  Okay no big deal, this happens all the time.

There was a family in front of me that had three kids, two older possibly in high school, one boy in middle school, maybe younger.  I noticed right away that the younger boy became visibly anxious at this announcement.  He looked up to his parents or siblings for re-assurance but they were all…you guessed it…looking at their phones.  As the dogs continued to walk around near us, I kept seeing the boy get more anxious and continuously look up at his parents to no avail.  This only went on for about 5-7 minutes but my GOD I could feel his pain and it felt like an eternity, I so wanted to help him, to just give him a hug. I kept watching him, desperately hoping he would look at me and make eye contact so I could assure him, “it’s all good buddy, this happens all the time, nothing to be scared of!”  I still regret not being more assertive and telling him that.

How many of those small moments are we missing?  Those moments when somebody really needs us, is going through something, but we miss it entirely. I can tell you one thing, we are missing a lot with our kids.  I can see it happening every where I go.  I know we cannot possibly catch everything, but I think we are missing more than we are catching and our kids our suffering because of it.

Guys, I’ve been there.  On long days at work or with my kiddos, I will check my Instagram feed to see what everybody else is doing as a way to “decompress” (which is a joke because it does the exact opposite for your brain).  I will respond to a text message that really does NOT need to be responded to immediately.  Or the most often for me, I am having a moment with my girls that I truly am enjoying and then I feel the need to take a picture and share it.  I am NOT innocent and I have to constantly fight the urge to look at my phone, I have taken Facebook and Email off it a long time ago to better work on my presence. But we all have to fight harder I think.  There are people that need us and we literally cannot see it because we are too busy, too clouded and too focused on ourselves and our screens.  We are all hurting and we all need connection, real connection.

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The question I have been asking myself a lot  lately is “How can I make this world better?  What can I do to help?”  The answer tends to ring back pretty loudly: love your kids, love your family, love your neighbors, love your community and BE the change.

If we all did that in our small corner of the world, I really do think we could change our trajectory, but we have to first work on being present.  Did you read this on your phone?  Great, now put it down, Look around, listen to the rain, take a few deep breaths and let your thoughts sink in,  it might be uncomfortable, but let yourself BE.  This is where the work begins.

Happy 6 Year Anniversary, Crossfit Oswego!

After college, I had started running marathons & triathlons to keep myself active and stay in shape.  Yet, I still had such a yearning for something MORE when it came to my workouts.  Nothing had quite yet gave me the satisfaction, sense of community and challenge that being an athlete did. Enter Crossfit Oswego.

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I remember pulling up into the parking lot on my first class and I was a few minutes early.  Once I parked, I noticed there were some of the coaches doing a workout that involved lots of running, some rope climbing and throwing around heavy looking stuff.  Maybe nobody saw me and I can just turn right back around and leave? Who am I kidding with this!? This is so not my level, I should just stick to running.

Somehow, another thought followed… OMG THIS LOOKS AMAZING!  Obviously, I listened to the second thought, thank goodness.

I was scared, because as corny as it sounds, I knew this place was the answer I was looking for.  The place that was going to push me out of my comfort zone, and it has continued to be that place for 6 years, my third place. The place away from home & work where you can let the barriers fall, relax and just be you. The place where life, responsibility, stress, whatever it is you are going through, just gets put on hold for one hour. The magic hour.

Because of the coaches and the people, I gained an outlet I didn’t know I needed.  And I gained confidence and strength I never knew I had. The picture below is during my first class, when I could not do a single pull-up and needed the assistance of a band.

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For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be “that” girl.  The girl with the kind of strength that people notice. The girl who can do a pull-up, or heck, SEVERAL. The girl that may look small, but is mighty.  Crossfit has helped me be that girl I have always wanted to be, but never thought was possible.

Through more marathons, two pregnancies, and all the ups and downs that life has had to throw at me…Crossfit Oswego has remained my constant. There are some seasons of life I feel like I am killing it in that gym, and others I feel like a total wuss (coming back after  babies, oof). But, I keep showing up because for whatever reason, at CFO I am the best version of myself no matter where I am in life or in my fitness journey.  I am positive, I am strong, I am capable.

This place has no doubt changed me physically, but the mental aspect is what has truly been so profound, it is hard to even put into words.  My inner voice is not as negative as it used to be and I go after things that used to terrify me.  I am so thankful to these coaches and to this community for continuously changing and pushing me for the better. Happy Anniversary, Crossfit Oswego!

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As a Mom…it is important to leave sometimes.

At the time I am starting to write this post, it is 6pm on a Tuesday and I am on a work trip.  I am in my hotel room, in my pajamas. I just went for a run in the mountains then took a 25 minute hot shower. I am eating dinner in bed while watching a marathon of Fixer Upper. I have nothing to clean, no bottles or food to set up for the next day and nobody to take care of. I will probably fall asleep by 7.  I will sleep all night without any interruptions and I will wake up when my body decides it is rested. I will sip on some coffee slowly and then maybe even hit the gym before work. Does any of this sound like an absolute DREAM to you?  Then you are probably a Mom too.

I am so VERY fortunate to have a job that allows me to work from home most of the year in a field I love, college admission.  This means I can have a pretty consistent presence with my girls, keep up on things around the house in between work tasks, and not have to rush out the door in the morning. This is a blessing in so many ways, but also can be a curse as I don’t get out as much as I should.  I do however get to go to Colorado a few times a year to visit the campus I work for. I will be honest, when gearing up for those trips, I am equally excited as I am a hot mess.  It is so hard to leave.

If it were not for work, I probably would never willingly leave my girls, especially not for a whole week. BUT, I consider myself lucky because it has taught me how important it is to leave sometimes.

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Being a mom is exhausting, this is not news. I don’t care if you are working mom, stay at home mom, if you have one kid or five, whatever, it is exhausting.  My two year old is in a rough sleep/emotional phase right now, so there are some nights we don’t get a ton of sleep, and some days where she is on emotional roller coaster of crying and tantrums all day long.  It is hard stuff. Since having our second little girl, Maeve, my husband has had to travel a lot for work, so there are many weeks that aside from my mom watching the girls during the day while I am working, that I am alone.  This has taken a toll on my emotional health a bit.

I have dealt with depression much of my life, BUT I am also proud to say that I have mastered how to keep it at bay and stay on top of my emotional health..until recently. Postpartum depression has hit me pretty hard since having our second baby and am still trying to wrangle it. Some days I wake up anxious, sad, angry… and I go to bed, anxious, sad and angry.  It doesn’t matter if it has been a perfect day, I am constantly fighting off tears and anger all at the same time. These feelings are so overwhelming they make it hard to breathe some days.

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I AM a happy person, I do love life and I LOVE being a mom. Yet, the internal struggle I have can still get the best of me. Being on this work trip has reminded me how important it is to step away.

Being away from my family is hard, but it also reminds me who I am.  I can just be Jill. I can breathe. I have so much more space in my brain to think and reflect.  I am not bouncing from one thing to the next and collapsing at the end of the day.  As Moms, it seems selfish to leave, but when you think about it, it can be selfish to NOT to leave.  My children and husband do not benefit from my presence if I am tired, emotional and angry.  They benefit from me being positive, energetic and present with them, which is who I TRULY am. And I cannot be that person if I don’t give myself a break sometimes.

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Maybe you feel the same way I do but still can’t bring yourself to leave. But know that It does not have to be an overnight trip, just taking any time for yourself is crucial. I am not talking sitting in the bathroom on your phone while your toddler bangs down the door (what- that doesn’t happen to you?).  I am talking about taking time to do things that bring you joy, taking time to breathe in nature, to dis-connect, sip coffee or eat slowly, and taking time to just let your mind wander.  I believe the single most important thing you can do as a parent is take care of yourself physically and mentally.  I know it is hard, but again, your family does not benefit from you being a martyr and doing it all, they benefit from you being the best you. So if you have lost yourself a little like I have, take some time to do that.  You won’t regret it.

I finish this post as I am waiting in the airport for my flight home.  On the way here I was so excited to just be able to sleep all night, now as I begin my journey home, I literally am hoping one of my girls wakes up in the middle of the night so I can snuggle them.  Motherhood man, it is so bizarre isn’t it? No wonder husbands think we are crazy 😉

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Confessions from the first month with two littles…

We have officially reached the one month mark in this house with two littles and it has been nothing short of interesting. After what seemed like a ridiculously long pregnancy and a million false alarms, we welcomed baby Maeve into our family on Friday morning August 4th.  I am a little bias, but isn’t she gorgeous?! I was positive I had to be hallucinating when I saw that hair.

     I will be honest, I did not have a hard time transitioning into parenthood with our first babe.  Sure, I had the typical first time worry and nervousness, but overall I felt so confident and happy those first few weeks.  Going from 1 to 2 children has been a different story.

Shain did not have much time at home this go around and he had to leave for a work trip when Maeve was just a week old. This left me feeling really overwhelmed and pretty isolated as I tried to figure out how to manage a suddenly emotional toddler and a newborn on my own…not to mention I did not feel emotionally stable either. I actually think my 1.5 year old and I were on the same emotional plane for a bit, you know the one where you are crying about absolutely nothing?  Yeah, that one.

I do want to share a few moments from the first two weeks, just because it was so ridiculous/hilarious/stressful/awesome.

Day 1:

Shain brought big sister Rocklyn to the hospital to meet Maeve.  She immediately wanted to touch her nose, eyes, talk to her, even gave her a kiss on the forehead unprompted. However, that sweet moment quickly vanished as she then became very emotional, throwing a tantrum in the hospital room and wanted to leave, repeating “no like it, no like it!”.  Our family laughed that she was referring to her new sister, but I think she was just a little overwhelmed by the environment of the hospital.  Even though it was a funny moment, part of me felt really heartbroken that Rocklyn might have some trouble adjusting to this change.  Insert mom guilt.  People warned me about that.

Day 2:

We got to go home, hooray!  Here is our less than perfect (yet perfect)  family of four picture leaving the hospital with yet again, the emotional roller coaster that is a 1.5 year old.  In this particular picture, she was upset that she could not run up and down the halls. Typical.

On the drive home, Rocklyn kept talking to Maeve and looking at her saying, “Hi baby, your’e OK.  What doing?”  Ahh, there is my sweet girl.  She will come and go a bit as it turns out the next few weeks…and maybe until she is in college.

Day 4:

Up until this day, Maeve had not made much of a peep or cry so we were all like, “sweet, another chill baby! Lucky us!”.  Then I took her to her follow up doctor appointment and she WAILED the whole drive there, apparently both my kids hate the car, thumbs up.  I am certain this is also the day she learned what crying was, and let’s just say has put it to very good practice since.  This girl can really belt it out, let me tell you. There are times I am certain she is damaging her vocal cords.

Day 6:  

Shain went back to work and all the emotions set in. Can I handle two kiddos?  Of course I can. My body was not feeling very recovered yet, so chasing around Rocklyn was not the easiest.  I was feeling really sad/overwhelmed/anxious about him going back to work already and even more so anticipating him leaving for his work trip that next week.

What did not help was that this particular day, every time I nursed, Rocklyn would have a meltdown.  Which was a lot, because Maeve was nursing constantly at this point. One moment, she even cried so hard she made herself puke, which was a first.  So that was awesome. That has since gotten better, thankfully. Otherwise Rocklyn is very much obsessed with Maeve and loves to constantly be around her…and also loves to wake her up from her slumber by shouting, “HI BABY!!!!!”, inches away from her face.  Sigh.

 

Day 7: 

My mom came over to help, thank GOD.  I took Rocklyn to the park that morning for an hour, just her and I.  This seemed to help her mood be a little more stable the rest of the day, so I made a note that I need to be sure to do that more often to fill up her emotional bucket.  Things were going smoothly until one moment I was tending to Maeve and Rocklyn managed to have her first ever pooplosion that required a mop to clean up off the floor, an immediate bath, and a disposal of the clothes she was wearing. Another first, awesome.

Day 10:

Shain left for his work trip.  Here we go. I cried a lot and felt way too sorry for myself. I also realized at about 9pm once I made it through bath/bedtime/newborn witching hour on my own (which of course all happen at the same time you know) that all I had to eat that day was a half eaten chicken nugget, coffee, and a granola bar. Yikes.

Day 13:

I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror this day and could not help but laugh.  I also realized in this moment I had not actually LOOKED in the mirror at myself for maybe a whole week- WOOF.  Hot mess express.  I ALSO accidentally put body wash in my hair instead of shampoo for the THIRD time. Officially losing it.  But hey at least I have been getting in the shower!  Maeve loves the sound of running water it turns out, which is good motivation to put her in her bouncy chair in the bathroom while I spend a few minutes feeling like a real human.

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I am happy to report, things have not been AS crazy as they were those first few weeks. I am finding my groove and gaining more confidence day by day on managing this chaos.  Unfortunately, we are gearing up for Shain to be gone again for a few weeks so I am starting to feel a little more anxious/sad again, but thankfully I have started the process of getting Maeve on a routine and figuring out her patterns.  This is making her a happier baby and me a happier mama. I love me a good routine.  We are getting there! Truly blessed in the mess over here 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Change is Hard, Change is Good.

One year ago, I took a bit of a leap of faith.  Not a huge one, people change jobs all the time after all, but it can be a scary change none the less. I left a place where I started my career in higher education fresh out of college, a place that taught me so much as a professional and that truly felt like home for the 8 years I spent there. Although about 6.5 years in, I started to feel a bit restless and in need of a change. I ignored those feelings for quite some time because of my love for the institution I worked for and because of the staff I was blessed to work with. I had opportunities for growth coming my way, I had a solid salary, great benefits, a good relationship with my boss, close proximity to home…I would be crazy to leave that, right?

Fast forward to December 2015 when I had my first child and like most children do…she changed everything. When I went back to work after 3 months of maternity leave, I struggled HARD. I struggled to be the employee I wanted to be and that my school deserved/needed… and being the Mom I wanted to be and that my daughter deserved/needed. So on top of the restless feelings I had been having for some time professionally, there was now mom guilt, total exhaustion, and the constant in-ability to balance the two worlds of work and parenthood successfully.  There were lots of tears and breakdowns, let me tell you.

I was very open about this struggle with my boss and he immediately assured me that I was still very much valued and he also offered me flexibility in my hours, which I was so incredibly thankful for.  However, it just brought more guilt.  I didn’t want to take advantage of our office or of other employees as I worked through this new transition as a working mom.  I didn’t feel that it was right or fair to my colleagues who also perhaps were having the same balancing struggles as I was.  What I  DID feel was right was a change, it was time.  I knew there had to be an alternative to allow me to continue my career in higher education/college admission, but have a better balance at home.  So I began my search.

I was lucky enough to have a few offers in this process and landed my current role as the Assistant Director of Admission for University of Colorado Boulder.  A role in which I am still in the same field, but work fully from home.

As I look back on this past year and reflect, I am so thankful I made this decision.  It was so terrifying at first and I was certainly met with some challenges and uncertainty in the process, but it has given me exactly what I need at this time in my life.  A new challenge professionally and more of a presence at home.  Don’t be fooled, I still work just as many hours as I did in my office job, sometimes even more, but there are little things that make it more manageable.  I can throw a load of laundry in anytime through the day, walk up from my home office in the basement and steal some kisses/snuggles or eat lunch with my daughter and I don’t have to account for commute time in my day very often.  For the majority of the year, I do not have to rush out of the house to get ready and coordinate drop offs or pick ups, which allow for relaxed mornings with my girl. It is still very much a juggling act to be a working mom, especially during the recruiting seasons of fall and spring, but overall I feel much more balanced. Overall, I feel I am able to be both a productive and valuable employee and a present Mom. This to me, is clutch.

There have most certainly been challenges with this new role, most of which I expected.  For one, working from home can be really lonely and isolating, which has been hard mentally/emotionally as I am by nature a social person.  So I do need to be better about getting out a little more.  Also, the boundary of work-life is kind of non-existent now that I work from home because I am able to constantly jump back and forth easily to each one.  Once Rocklyn is down for bed at night or if I am up extra early, I still tend to check in to emails and work on some things.  To be honest though, that in particular doesn’t really bother me because I actually like being able to have the flexibility to do that, but it DOES make it hard to “shut it off” and enjoy “home” fully at times.

The busy season of admission, is not just busy…it is total insanity. So, that has not changed. It makes it even harder that these are the same times of year my husband is very busy and traveling. As we approach having baby #2 soon, it will be interesting to see how that juggle continues during those particular seasons.  But for now, looking back, I have no regrets.  Again, not only does it give me the balance I needed but it also has given me strength and courage to know I have control over how I want my life to look like and I do NOT have to settle.  I think we often forget that we have the authority to change our situation when it does not work for us.  I am not saying that changing is easy, it is usually not, but it is always possible.  I hope if you are in a situation or work environment that does not suit you or fulfill you, you take the reigns and change it.  We only get one life, one chance to be with family, to raise our kids, to make our time count.  Do what works for YOU and forget about anybody else.

Stay blessed in the MESS!

 

Bottle to Sippy Cup Transition

I had heard from other mom friends that the transition from bottles to sippy cups could be a tricky one.  So, I tried to get ahead of the game and introduced a sippy cup with a straw to Rocklyn just for water when she was about 6 months old. She barely drank out of it at first but would just gnaw on the straw, play with it, then after about a month she figured out she could get water out of it and actually started using it. Before long she was sucking down water like a champ with her food. I gave my self a high five and thought, “great, when it is time for milk this will be easy peasy!”.  Not exactly.

Admittedly, I had a hard time making the decision to take the bottle away from her.  Mostly because I was being a sap about it. But Alas, I knew after her first birthday we had to get down to business.  So again, I figured I would just put milk into her usual water cup and we would be all good.  However, anytime I would put milk in the cup, she would push it away or throw it.  As if she was like, “um mom, milk doesn’t go in there that is for water only, duh”. I ended up buying a different sippy cup that also had a straw so as to separate the idea of water and milk for her.  So,  the one I ended up committing to for milk was this one:

Philips Avent My Twist N Sip Straw Cup, 12 Ounce, Pink/Purple/Green, Stage 3

At this point, she was only getting milk 2-3 times a day, therefore it was no longer her sole nutrition.  This was a good thing because when we took the bottle out cold turkey, she went from drinking about 15 oz a day to maybe 6oz.  She would take a couple sips and then throw it down.  But I would never swoop in with the bottle, we just kept trying and kept offering it to her.  I would say it took her about a week before she started taking all the milk out of the sippy cup. So, the first few days I was indeed a little panicked, but I was also more sad. I could tell she really wanted her bottle and was getting frustrated and that made me feel so bad.  But again, after a week she seemed to care less, I was just being a sap.

I have learned over the years of watching other people’s kiddos and now raising my own that consistency is key for all ages.  Especially when it is time to change something up or enforce a new behavior.  Giving in can take you a million steps backwards and these little buggers know how to play you!   I am pretty sure no adult has ever brought up in counseling how traumatized they were when their parents took away their bottle or pacifier, yet doesn’t it feel like that is what we are doing to them when we go through a change?  As it turns out, it is harder for us than it is for them, almost always.

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See picture above with my happy child drinking her morning milk out of her sippy cup.  Bottle?  What is a bottle?

My Breastfeeding Journey

Oh, breastfeeding.  The topic that seems to have been quite the “rage” if you have become a mom in recent years. I really do think it is so fantastic that normalizing breastfeeding has become such a big thing after it seemed to take a little bit of a hiatus. However, I also think sometimes it can be a little too much in our face.  One more thing for Moms to feel guilty about or pressured to do, because let’s get real for a minute here..breastfeeding is natural yes, but it is not easy. At least, that was not my journey.

There are three things that as a Mom I am very OCD and particular about.  Sleep training & schedules/routines being two of them…solid nutrition is the other. SO, that being said, breastfeeding was something that I knew I wanted to do if I was able.

I did not have supply issues.  Rocklyn did not have latching issues. It was pretty smooth from the get-go in that regard.  But I DID have weird anxiety issues.  I dreaded every time I had to nurse and to be honest I really could not tell you why.  I did not feel comfortable doing it in public as my milk tended to spray and make a mess everywhere, I would barely even feed in front of my husband at home.  During almost every single feeding I would take my daughter into the nursery to feed in private and I put music on every time to calm my nerves.  I knew that if she felt me being nervous, she would be nervous so I worked very hard to real that in.

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When she was two weeks old, we introduced a bottle at night.  This was my chance to pump a bottle and get to bed early so that my husband could stay up later with her and give her the last feeding.   Once we got in this routine, I always got a head start on sleep which worked out GREAT in those early weeks.  During that week in particular she did have a little confusion between nursing and bottles, but it passed pretty quickly and she was able to bounce back and forth as needed.

However,  when she was around 8 weeks old, we accidentally used a fast flow nipple on one of her bottles for a few days instead of the natural flow we had been using.  That week she fought me HARD for the first time when nursing and wanted nothing to do with me.  My assumption is that she got a little spoiled with the fast flow milk and did not like the slower pace of the milk coming from me.  So, at this point, I talked to a lactation consultant who recommended doing no bottle for 3 days to get her back on track. However, after really thinking about it, I decided to use this as my out and switched to exclusively pumping. Meaning, she would still be getting 100% breast milk, but it would be all through bottles and no nursing.  I won’t lie, this was actually a huge relief for me as I mentioned, I just did not like nursing.  I was a little sad when I nursed her the last time, knowing we would make the switch, but most of me was really relieved.  The first few weeks of pumping exclusively was great, it took a little juggling but I really felt so much better and less stressed  and anxious.  Then I went back to work.  OOOF.

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Once I went back to work, it took much longer for me to pump my milk since I was away from her all day, this is apparently normal.  When at home, I would pump 15-20 minutes and get 8-12 oz at a time.  Once I went back to work, it took me 45-60 minutes to pump the same amount. I rarely would take a lunch because of all the time I had to pump, and it was really stressful to find a place to go at work not to mention trying to fit it in between meetings.  My boss and other co-workers were very supportive, but it still stressed me out.  I also pumped on my drive to work and on the way home every day to free up time, which was a lifesaver.  In the morning since I would still workout at 5am, I would get up at 3:30am to get my hour long pump in BEFORE the gym, otherwise I would be too uncomfortable. It was so much work and I felt like a slave to that machine. It truly owned me. I tried to be as positive as I could while pumping and use the time to read, journal, etc. But man, spending 5 hours a day attached to a milk machine, just drives you insane sometimes. I had to miss out on a lot of things because of my pump schedule, and it certainly made doing fun things on the weekend difficult too.

I really wanted to have Rocklyn get breast milk for a full year, it was really important to me.  Luckily, I did have good enough supply to create a little stash but around the 8 month mark, I just had had it.  I wanted my life back.  When I did the math, I had about 3 months of milk stored in our freezer for her, which meant that she would need to switch to regular milk earlier or get formula during her 11th month.  I decided it was worth it and pulled the plug…literally.

My husband would tell you that the week I stopped pumping was the week I went back to my “normal self” again. I was less stressed, less irritated by him (I held some resentment issues for having to be the one to do all this at times) more rested and just had so much more freedom. It was awesome.  However, I did of course still have guilt for quitting early. I really was hard on myself for  not trying to push another month.  Especially because Rocklyn only ended up needing formula for 2 weeks before we switched to regular milk.  Really Jill, you couldn’t have done TWO MORE weeks of pumping after doing it for 8 months?  But to be honest, I really don’t think I could have!  The day I decided I was done, I was really at my limit.

There are very few things I am nervous about with bringing baby number #2 into our house but entering into this journey again is one of them.  Maybe I can try to enjoy it a little more this time around and nurse longer, the fact that I work from home now will certainly make things a little easier, but it will still  be a bit of a juggling act with a toddler running around.   We will see how it goes, send me your good vibes 😉

Image result for breastfeeding quotes

 

 

Baby Schedules & Sleeping

Call me crazy, but I value sleep.  I also value routines, they make me happy, they make me feel secure and in control.  So when having my first baby, I knew that this was something that was going to be really important for me as a parent. I ALSO knew that the routines I hoped for might not work out, so I did have an open mind… but I was sure as heck going to try 🙂

People often say to me things like “Oh you are so lucky you have a good sleeper!” and although I know I am lucky because yes, Rocklyn IS a good sleeper, there was also a TON of work that went into getting her that way. It did not happen the night she came home and it certainly didn’t happen without a little persistence, consistency and gentle nudging.  There were a few tricks/things I did over the first 10 weeks of her life that I feel really helped.  The real proof will be if this all works for baby #2,  who I am sure will be her own kind of special.

  • Write it down:  I really did make it a mental point to hold zero expectations the first few weeks she was here and just had one goal of getting to know my new baby girl and learning motherhood.  However, I DID write down everything she did.  The times she nursed and for how long, the times she slept and for how long, etc.  This might seem crazy, but it was SUPER helpful for me to understand her patterns.  This is also something I still do when I notice she might be going through a change or regression. I am very visual, so it helps me to really see the big picture of what is going on and maybe how things can be adjusted.
  • Baby led schedule, not yours:  When I would mention that I started putting my newborn on a schedule, I got a lot of funny looks.  BUT to be clear I didn’t put her on MY schedule. I didn’t force anything.  I simply followed her natural patterns that I had taken note of and tried to make them more consistent over weeks and months.  When I noticed the magic time she wanted to eat was every 3.5 hours, I decided on set times every day to feed her. When I noticed she would fall asleep around the same times every day, I would put her down right before she was actually asleep and let her practice falling asleep on her own and created those as consistent nap times.  This of course did not always go smooth, but I was pretty dedicated on doing the same things at the same time every day, it helped me with being confident l really think it helped her become comfortable quickly in her new world and new routine because her day was very predictable.  I am a big believer in sticking to routines with kids, I think it helps them really thrive…and gives Mama some sanity 😉  No joke, Rocklyn has followed roughly the same routine with some tweaks here and there through 16 months old.

In the early stages when I was trying to get her used to napping in her crib, she would wake up and then fall asleep in my arms minutes later. It was a process before she took a long nap in there.

  •  Nursing to feed, not for comfort:  This is probably kind of controversial, but to be clear I am not against moms who nurse their babies for comfort, truly! You do you! Nursing my baby was very important to me, but I unfortunately had a weird relationship with it and didn’t love it like other women do. It made me pretty anxious actually (which is another post for another day).  I wanted to be able to give her the nutrition she needed, but I also did not feel comfortable becoming a human pacifier.  So, I would only nurse her when I could tell she was actually hungry, otherwise I would give her a pacifier, or find other ways to soothe her. Once she was gaining enough weight and we got the doctor okay to stop nighttime feedings, I held off as long as possible to feed her at night. I would not just immediately stick her on my boob to calm her down if she started fussing.  I would rock her, sing to her, etc. and many many times she would fall right back asleep.  Sometimes I would nurse, but for the most part she kind of picked up quickly that I was not going to nurse her at every cry.   I learned a lot of the time she just needed some skin to skin/mamma love and that didn’t have to mean eating.  At 8 old weeks she was sleeping through the night and pretty much has been since.

 

 

  • Crib Habits: Something else we did once she was in her crib at night/during nap times was soothe her IN her crib. We would do everything except take her out unless absolutely necessary, especially at night. I did not want her to get into a habit of crying just to be picked up, especially when it was time to sleep. Babies are smart little tricksters!  But for us, it helped Rocklyn become a really good self soother and even now when she has her nights of being awake for chunks of time, she typically just talks or sings to herself and doesn’t need us to go in there.  To this day, if she is crying at night or during nap time, it means she really needs something like a diaper change, isn’t feeling good or is just going through a regression/phase that usually passes pretty quickly.  There is a method in the book “The Happy Sleeper” called the sleep wave that talks about this as well.

Up until about a month ago (when she was right around 16.5 months) we have had little to no sleep issues.  However, she just recently started not being super consistent with the length of her naps and having random awake times in the middle of the night pretty often.  Nothing too terrible, but it has definitely been a noticeable shift.  So we are starting a gentle transition from one to two naps right now, which I am totally okay with as it allows her to be able to do fun stuff in the mornings before baby sister is here!

Often times if we needed to go somewhere during nap time, she was so accustomed to sleeping that she would sleep anywhere during that time frame.  Now that she is older, that doesn’t happen too often as she gets too excited.  This picture was on a plane ride right during her usual morning nap time when she was 12 months old. Her sleeping in a new environment at night while on this trip was a whole other experience 😉

The downside to doing all of this was that I didn’t leave my house much during my maternity leave because I was so focused on getting her into a routine, getting her used to her crib etc. and taking trips out of the house tended to mess with that. Granted, she was born in December so it wasn’t hard to stay in BUT by the time I went back to work she was in such a good routine and such a great sleeper that it made it worth it.

 

Random Mom Thoughts

Hi, Friends. It’s been a while. I wrote a majority of this post while on a quick work trip to St. Louis a few months ago.  Ironically, the last time I posted back in August I was also on a work trip. I suppose when I have those rare chunks of time on a weekend where I am sitting in a coffee shop for hours, I have more time to ponder and let words flow.  Now that I am a Mom, I do actually write more than I did before…because there is always so much on my mind to decompress! Most of these things I tend to keep private.  I feel extra vulnerable talking about motherhood for some reason. While I do feel more confident in my role as a Mom than I have in any other role in my life, I am still not immune to second guessing, breakdowns and judgement.

I have had so many thoughts and reflections in these last 18 months (yes, my BABY is 18 months, WHAT?) but I often worry about sharing them, because I never want another mom to think that just because I write about the way I do things or how I feel about certain topics, that means I judge you for doing or feeling something different.  That is NOT my intention.  Not even a little bit.  I believe that whatever you feel is best as a Mom IS the best.  Maybe it is breastfeeding.  Maybe it is formula.  Staying home or going back to work?  Cry it out? Co-sleeping? You do you, Mama.  I think you are awesome no matter what.

So, instead of sharing the thoughts and experiences I have had thus far one by one, I tucked some of them away in this blog and have them saved under my “Mommyhood” tab in specific categories.  If you want to read them, go for it.  If you don’t, that’s cool too, scroll on.  Writing is how I sort things out.  It also helps me to have something to look back on and remember as I approach having baby #2.  Maybe I will do things the same way, or maybe it will be a whole new experience!

I don’t really know much. I am only experiencing and learning as I go, I think that is what we are all doing.  But I DO know this; Motherhood is an amazing journey, yet it can also be incredibly lonely and isolating.

I also have SUCH a problem with this crazy expectation that we HAVE to be in this overwhelmed exhausted state all the time, it is just the life of a Mom, right?!  NO. I don’t think it has to be. I really don’t.  It just so happens to be an easy thing to succumb to in motherhood. But I really don’t think it has to actually BE that way all ALL the time. That is not the kind of life I want to live and it is certainly not the kind of Mom I want to be. That being said, it is still something that I have to work hard to stay away from.

There are days where I feel like I am the only one that thinks about taking care of everybody and getting everything done, that worries about things I shouldn’t worry about, that has has my heart ache every moment I am away from my baby (yet oddly at the same time still desperately needing away time). The weight of the world seems to be so heavy on my shoulders, but is it because I put it that weight there?  I don’t know.  I am coming off a pretty busy season and not to mention a pregnant hormonal mess, so I think I am feeling a little more vulnerable than usual as I write this.

But I DO believe we have a choice in the kind of life we create for our families. We have a choice in the kind of parents we are and the kind of environment we raise our children in.  I want my girls to absorb my happiness, not my stress. I want them to feel my love, not my exhaustion. I want to be fully PRESENT when I am with them. Which is why I also now as a Mom, say “NO” more than I ever have before in my life.  I no longer feel obligated to do things to make other people outside my family happy or meet others expectations. This has come at a cost of losing some relationships, which I do value and miss, but ultimately having a large social circle and commitments outside of work and family is just not a priority for me right now.

It amazes me sometimes that I have gotten to be this way, considering just a few years ago I was constantly fighting a schedule that was packed to the max and saying yes to everything and everybody. Not to mention falling asleep anytime I sat down because I was always so tired.  But now, aside from my very busy seasons of work, my life is so much more relaxed  and wonderful. I am so much more committed to keeping my time sacred and doing things that bring me joy and doing those things well, because that ultimately brings my family joy and allows me to feel like I have a handle on this life. Finally.

Stay blessed in the mess 🙂

Pumping & Flying Like a BOSS

Pumping is probably the least glamorous thing ever, even more so when you are trying to figure out how to get it done while traveling/flying. But it IS possible! When I was interviewing for new positions after I had my first baby, I took 4 flights in a matter of 10 days.  The nature of the positions I was interviewing for were remote/work from home admission positions for Colleges that were in different states, hence the flights.  So I figured out really quickly how to navigate pumping/traveling with breast milk in airports and flying.  So here are some of my tips!  Keep in mind, this was traveling without baby.

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I bought a little mini canvas cooler on my first flight and quickly realized that a hard plastic cooler is better since mine leaked a little. i stored this cooler in my large over size carry on bag, you will need to take the cooler out and put it on the belt by itself when going through security.  It does not count as an extra carry on, but it does need to be separated just like a laptop would. They will then take it out and check it, run tests on the milk.  Sometimes this takes like 2 minutes, one time I was in TSA for over an hour because I had 100oz of milk and they had to test each individual one.

To Bring:

  • Your pump, obviously and maybe 2-4 bottles to pump into at most, I recommend only using bottles while you are actually pumping and bags for easier storage
  • Mini Cooler (size depends on length of your trip)
  • Ice blocks (these will not be thrown away by TSA and will keep your milk cold of course)
  • Breast milk bags:  this is where I stored all the milk I pumped on the trip too, not bottles, bags pack so much easier in the cooler and you can fit more in.
  • Empty ziploc bags:  Just in case your ice blocks melt or are not as cool, you can get some ice from a restaurant or McDonalds in the airport.
  • Little mini wash clothes just in case of leakage or spill etc.
  • Hand sanitizer and/or wipes
  • Portable charge for your pump in case you are not able to find an actual outlet

Pumping during Interviews at the Airport:

  • Airports usually have Mother’s rooms you can pump in with nice sinks, chairs etc.  However, I have had a situation where there is somebody in there for a while and I had a flight to catch to other option is the family restroom, or if you bring a nursing cover to just do it next to an outlet in public (I could never bring myself to do this, but know lots of people that do!).
  • My interviews were about 2.5-3 hours so I did not have to worry about telling them I needed to pump and just made sure I got one in right before and right after, I did not stress about following my normal pumping schedule.
  • Be up front about your pumping needs if on a work trip or you cannot manage to skip one during an interview.  This is important and people understand far more than you would think

Hope this helps! 🙂