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Sunday, June 30, 2013

summer fun in June!

So much to do in the summers! 
I work in a school so have most of the summer off to spend with my two little ones. Last summer was mostly spent inside with a newborn and toddler, which was not as fun as you may imagine. So as soon as school let out this June I was determined to get OUT there and enjoy some fun in our wonderful seacoast area. Here are a few things we've been up to... sharing in hopes of giving you some easy, simple ideas for fun.


We put ours on the deck and hang out in the shade on HOT afternoons. We also have a water table. That is a MUST for children over the age of 1, a must. My daughter loves it, and so does my son, a few years older. We put cooking utensils, shovels, bath toys, etc. in it and they love splashing around. This is an easy thing to do when you're all sweating and need a distraction from crabby hot summer afternoons.

Early in June, perhaps even the end of May, we had a great start of summer evening. It was hot all day and we'd been at work/school, could not wait to play. So we packed up towels and beach toys, my husband picked up pizza and chips and we headed to the beach for a dinner picnic. Our kids loved it! This is a great idea for after you've been working all day but are too hot and tired for making dinner. Pick up takeout or even head to the grocery store for pasta salad, fruit, etc. and eat on a blanket in the sand.

Make sure to get good Mom in the Pictures this summer, too! 

The York's Wild Kingdom is an awesome place to take the kids for a morning of animal fun. We had free tickets to go, which made it even more awesome. We always go first thing in the morning when they open at 10, take our wagon so the kids can get in and out easily to see animals, and pack snacks and a lunch. They do have food and ice cream there, but it's cheaper to pack a lunch. We always make sure we bring quarters, too, so you can feed the ducks, goats and deer in the park. They have another side to the park of amusement rides, so much fun. My son is 3 years old and he could go on at least 5 rides this year.

There are typically coupons for save a dollar each person or things like that in those coupon mailings we typically get in the mail, so check that out before you go. Also, for kids 3 and younger they can get a bracelet to ride all the rides as many times as they want for about $5 I want to say, I can't recall exactly how much but it was around there. My son and his cousins loved it!

This is definitely the best part... feeding deer this close up to you, right out of your hand.

On our first day of summer vacation together we set out and found a new spot to have a picnic. Yes, it was in a cemetery, but whatever! We packed a lunch - cheese and crackers, drinks, raisins, granola bars, something easy! - and sat out on a (Christmas!) blanket we had in the car. They loved it. So find a new place in the area, something easy to get to and just have fun and relax. I find my son gets SO excited when we change things up. We eat lunch every day, but on a random day when I say let's have a picnic he gets SO excited! It's something different to smile about.

Today we had a picnic in our living room. He "sets the blanket" with napkins, forks, our drinks in water bottles, a blanket to sit on etc. We talk and read stories while we eat. When you're home all day, changing the pace of things is necessary and makes it more fun for all.

We totally missed out on this last summer so it was on the top of my list of things to do. I was a little nervous going out alone with the two kids, worried I would not be able to contain them, but I brought the stroller for my youngest and it was great. It was super cheap, too. I didn't realize it would be. We got two cartons of strawberries for $4! My son had a blast trying to find the ripe ones and learning about why the green ones were not ready to be picked. I can't wait for blueberry picking!

SO much fun! We went to Bangor for a road trip to a wedding, and of course had to make a stop at the Discovery Museum there. It was random actually. The kids were "supposed" to nap in the car while we waited to meet up with someone... but of course they wouldn't, so I took a gamble and went into the children's museum instead. We had a blast! I was nervous there would not be enough to do for my one-year-old, but she had a blast just crawling around (which yes, I realize the germs she may have caught by doing that... but after being in a car for hours it was what we did, all good!).

I can't wait to visit the Dover, NH and Portland, ME childrens' museums also. So much to do, my son lit up in Bangor.

My favorite part of this museum is the story book rooms. They have a Charlotte's Web one and Old Man in the Sea. This one was our all-time favorite: Goodnight Moon, my son's favorite book! Love it :)

I texted a picture of this to my husband, stating we needed this weird tube construction site thing in our house ASAP. My kids could have played with this for hours!

Digging for fossils.

We also went to the library for a puppet show. We signed up for their summer reading program, which starts at age 3 (score for my son!). For every 2 hours we read together he can go to the library to get a prize. It's been fun picking up new books. I'm going to do a post soon of some new childrens' books we've found that we like. We also go to weekly library story hour and sing-a-long. My son adores it, and my daughter claps along. It's 20-30 minutes of short fun. Check your local library calendar, they always have fun things to do in the summer.

Last week we randomly found Vacation Bible School summer program offered for all ages, including infants, in South Berwick, ME. It was perfect! My son had a blast and my daughter was having fun, too. It was 9-12 Mon-Thurs (we only went two days). They provided lunch and snacks, music, reading, etc. The whole theme was traveling to outer space, comets, rocket ships, etc. My son loved that part for sure. It was about 45 minutes of religious talk and the rest plain old kids' fun. We are religious so we went there for that purpose, but in case you aren't very religious you would still love it. I highly recommend it. Tons of crafts, dancing, singing, toys and new friendships. Again, check local church calendars for upcoming events.


We're off to a great start! 
We made a list at the beginning of June of fun things we want to do this summer. So stay tuned for more throughout the summer. Hope you are having a fun summer also. Make sure you pack sunscreen, water bottles, snacks (no matter what time of day, always have snacks while out and about in the summer!), change of clothes in the car (getting wet is part of the deal in the summer!).

Some great ideas for local (Maine/NH) fun: -- find things like this Seacoast Kids Calendar to find cool upcoming events and ideas in the area.

Last summer we went on some ride-on toys outside the Kittery Outlets. It was fun for a rainy day! Same for local malls, check out the carousel in the Portland Maine Mall.

Go visit LL Bean factory store in Freeport, tons of things to look at there.

Smitty's Movie Cinema gives $5 gift card to kids who show a report card of As and Bs.

Regal Cinemas in NH offer $1 movies on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10 a.m. Perfect time for little ones. I'm planning to take my son to his first movie, that way we won't waste the money on a regular movie in case he won't want to sit through it.

Some other ideas we have:
blueberry picking
trolley ride
Old Orchard Beach carousel
library book fairs
lakes, pools, beaches galore
Gray Animal Park - Gray
Smiling Hill Farm - Westbrook
drive in movies in Saco
Story Land, NH
pictures in a field
ice cream cone for the one-year-old... messy fun!


Thursday, June 27, 2013

a mommy's story - Sarah Stearns - worrying

Another installment of the Confessions of Mama Guilt series. This is one mom who I totally want to hang out with and chat over Mexican food and drinks about all mom concerns, questions and issues. Seriously, she seems super fun and of course I love honesty in a mom friend. Thanks, Sarah, for sharing your guilt, worries and advice. I am confident people could relate to these stories!

 If that's not the most perfect picture of pure joy and relief I've ever seen ... 

(All photos from Sarah Stearns) 

When is the first time you recall feeling this Mama Guilt of feeling like you failed, did not do something right, or like others were judging you?

I had major mama guilt about breastfeeding. It started off really smoothly, and I was so grateful! But when Graham was 3 weeks old, I got thrush.  It took 6 weeks to clear up, and it made breastfeeding painful (again).  And all of the crazy stuff I did to get rid of it! It was exhausting, and took all the joy out of it for me permanently.  

I wanted to keep breastfeeding, but it was so miserable and I felt so guilty for wanting to quit all of the time - but I kept battling.  When I went back to work, pumping didn't go smoothly for me at all.  I was so emotional about being back at work, so I spent many pumping sessions crying by myself in my office! 

When I talked to Graham's doctor about how much I was struggling to keep up, she was very judgmental.  She told me not to buy formula because I'd be tempted to use it.  She said that Graham wouldn't starve if I couldn't produce enough from pumping. 

I was so vulnerable during those weeks that I took what she said to heart and felt like the biggest failure because I couldn't keep up with pumping.  

2 weeks after I went back to work, we literally had nothing to give him at daycare, and when we gave him formula for the first time, I cried...and then everything was fine.  

Graham sucked it right up and from then on, we gave him both breastmilk and formula, and everyone was happier and healthier.  I felt like a failure for a while, but switched doctors and realized that I was just doing the best that I could and that was okay.  

It really taught me a lot about making choices that work best for my family, and not being impacted by all of the outside opinions.  

I had no idea how contentious the breastfeeding/formula debate could be until I was in the middle of it.  It was a difficult first test in parenting, but it definitely made me tougher.

Before you became a mom, what type of mom did you think you'd be?

I was really nervous about being a mom.  I never felt a "maternal instinct" the way other women had described it, and I wondered if it would kick in when I had a baby.  Would I love my baby instantly? Would I find the little things fun? Would I get bored on maternity leave? I was most nervous that I'd be nervous all the time! How ironic :) I am a worrier by nature, and I thought I'd never be able to stop worrying.

I'm still new at this (14 months), but I have surprised myself with my patience, appreciation, and love I feel for my son.  I didn't know if the maternal instinct was in there, but it turned on the second I met Graham.  I think because I work full-time, I appreciate every single second I have with him, and the JOY I feel by being his mom is more than I imagined.  I am still a worrier, and I can't seem to shut that off.  I work hard to not let it rub off on him, but I do worry about him constantly.

With worrying often, why do you think you worry so much? What contributes to it? What helps you get through it?  
I think the really simple answer as to why I worry so much is that I feel like I have so much to lose. I feel like I'm so lucky with my family, and the thought of losing them is what gives me the most anxiety. 

I have dealt with anxiety for a long time, and I was SO scared that I would be too scared as a parent. I have had some paralyzing moments (especially in those first few weeks), but I feel like I have found some ways to deal with it.

The things that help me are: therapy, yoga, writing and talking about my fears with my husband. He knows me and is so much more level headed than me, so he can say, "That's not going to happen" and I believe him. I also try to be kind to myself. I know that I worry because I love Graham, and I want him to be safe and happy and healthy. 

A part of it is just protective instinct, so when I feel some of that anxiety coming in, I talk to myself kindly. I just say, "You love Graham so that's why you're worrying. you're not worrying because something is actually wrong." It sounds so silly, but it works!

How do you know you are a good mom? If you don't feel like you are one now, when will you know you are? What needs to happen to make you feel like a good mom?

This is such a tough one! I think I am a good mom because I love my little boy and try my hardest to do what's best for him all the time.  I just love him.  I cherish him and hope to make his life as fun, safe and silly as possible.  

I think loving my husband in a kind, respectful way, and showing Graham what a strong, healthy relationship looks like also makes me a good mom.  We are better parents when we are good to each other.

What is your advice to another mom who experiences this mama guilt over breastfeeding, a birth experience that did not go as planned, worrying about a sick baby, etc.? What would you have wanted someone to say to you back during that difficult time?

I had an unplanned C-section that took me a long time to recover both physically and emotionally from - it really shook me.  

Whenever I hear of any woman going through that, my heart breaks for them and I want to find them and hug them and tell them that it will be okay.  

I want to tell them that they will feel like themselves again, and it will just take longer than they thought.  

I would tell them to accept help.  I would also tell them that it's okay to grieve and feel sad about what they went through.  Kind moms said these things to me and they helped me so much -- but in the end, the only thing that really helped was just some time and being kind to myself.

The only thing I would add is that one of the biggest things I've had mama guilt about is being a working mom.  I bring Graham to an in-home daycare with a stay-at-home mom who I love - but it's hard not to feel badly some days because another mom is taking care of my son more hours in the day than I do.  

I really wrestle with this a lot, although it has gotten easier.  I work out of financial necessity, but also because I love my job and am proud of the work that I do.  But I have many, many days where I feel guilty that another woman is holding him, feeding him, playing with him.  I am lucky to have found someone that I trust completely to do all those things...but it still stings sometimes.


Thank you, Sarah, for such great responses. You seem like a devoted, dedicated and super fun mom. Just seeing these pictures I can tell Graham is your whole world!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

helping out a new mama

Having a newborn around is exhausting. 
Moms get the least sleep, are physically without energy from going through labor, trying to recover. 
Moms need all the help they can get after they bring home a new baby. 

So I like to provide food. Yumminess. Yummo, in the words of Rachael Ray. 
Who doesn't like or couldn't use extra food around when a baby is making them tired, 
up all night, unable to cook for themselves? 
People who brought food to us when our children were born were heroes in our book. 

One of the best gift baskets I received when our son was born was a basket full of snacks. Instead of a dinner or casserole, my friend made us cookies, muffins, and trail mix. She said she knows many people will bring lasagna, but that we also would need something at 2 a.m. to keep us from starving to death and make us happy. It was awesome! She put the trail mix in a Mason Jar, totally cute. I wasn't that fancy in this picture below, but you get the idea.

I've also made this trail mix and shipped it to a new mom friend who lived in another state. She said it made it there just fine!

For 2 A.M. Trail Mix here are some things I use.
I always make it differently, so you can use as much or as little of these ingredients below as you want. Just mix it up well together, put in a ziplock bag and you're done.

M&Ms, any kind, but especially the pretzel ones to change it up
dried apples
banana chips
chocolate chips, or white chocolate chips
yogurt covered raisins
Cheerios or Chex cereal
sunflower seeds
ETC. the sky is the limit! :) 

 I also make muffins because they are super easy to store, freeze, or just eat any time of day. I also find they are great for people who have just had a second or third newborn, who have older kids around and will need something yummy, healthy to snack on.

I won't lie, I'm pretty laid back when it comes to making muffins, no Martha Stewart here, folks. I buy Jif or other Betty Crocker type bag mixes. They taste delicious and are easy for me to make a big batch at once. I never have complaints from the people I give them to and I often make them for my own kids. Very easy to do. I usually try to make a couple of different flavors.

A few other staple meals I've made for new parents include:

*Baked Ziti - pasta, mixed with tomato sauce, put into a casserole dish (ALWAYS use a throw-away dish so they don't have to return the dish to you later, no new mom has a brain for that kind of thing!), and top with mozzarella cheese. So easy to make, inexpensive ingredients, and something most love to eat, a sure bet.

*Brownies - Hello?! Easy and yummy. Every new mom needs a pick-me-up.

*Ice cream - a nice treat for the freezer and late nights waiting to put baby to bed.

*Yogurts, smoothie drinks, etc. I was hooked on Stonyfield Smoothies when I had my first. They were such a good nutritious snack for the middle of the night.

*Basket of favorites - My good friend and co-worker did this for me last year, she put together a basket of all of my favorite foods - carrots and hummus, cheese sticks, apples, Wheat Thin crackers, trail mix, etc. It was perfect!

*Pizza  Delivery - Grab them a quick takeout meal. You don't always have to make the food yourself for it to be appreciated by a new parent. Pick them up some pizza, fries, salad, etc. or even Chinese food or some subs. They'll love not having to cook.

*Breakfast - Oftentimes people make meals, dinners for new families. Instead, try taking over a basket of bread, muffins, bagels and cream cheese, or quiche and fruit salad.

*Quick Meals - A cousin of ours made us a great care package for dinner when we had our son. Instead of making the food she brought us two packages of those yummy raviolis you find near the deli in the grocery store, some fancy tomato sauce and fancier than normal grated cheese, plus garlic bread and salad. It was awesome. We had to do a little cooking, but nothing terrible. It must have been pretty easy for this mom to put together, too, so a win-win. Package up taco ingredients or macaroni and cheese ideas for an easy dinner the family can make.

A few ideas for helping out new moms, in addition to feeding them:

*Keep the visit short.

*Offer to fold laundry, sweep the floor and do the dishes. The mom will say no thanks, but do it anyway.

*Pick up the toys after you leave if your kids took some out.

*If possible, don't take your kids over unless the mom wants your kids there to play with her older kids.

*Bring over a magazine to read while nursing or some nail polish or new shampoo so mom can feel her best. Tell her to go shower while you're there holding the baby.

*Encourage mom to take a nap while you are visiting. Tell her it's OK to catch up talking later.

*Don't expect to hold the baby. If mom is busy nursing and keeping to the baby's needs in those first few weeks, let it be. Don't hold baby too long just in case the mother is hesitant to ask for baby back to feed.

*If you are eating over too, bring paper plates and drinks to toss out so there is little dish-washing to do.

*Text, email, FB message at least once every few days to just check in and offer an ear if needed. Moms can feel totally alone in those first few weeks, exhaustion and PPD can set in. So be there. Make a point to stay focused on your friend, don't let your life get in the way as busy as you are. Remember what it was like when you were a new mother.

*Don't look like a million bucks when you visit a mother who has just given birth. Seriously, do I need to explain this one?! I mean, you are permitted to shower, but don't go over all "I just got my hair done up and a manicure, don't you love my new skinny jeans?" Sweatpants are acceptable attire for visiting a new mother. :)

*Let her do most of the talking. Don't tell her how to do everything or how you did it when your kids were born. It's great to share some stories so she knows she isn't alone, but don't do more talking than she does.

*Reassure your friend. Let her know she's not alone. She'll get through this tough time and that whatever it is, it's normal!

Monday, June 24, 2013

a mommy's story - Shelby Davis - no nursing and delivery hell

Thank you to Shelby for answering these questions so honestly. 
This is another Honesty 101 account from a super strong mother, from our June Confessions of Mama Guilt series. The hope is twofold: 1) The moms writing these posts get to become a little freer of the guilt they've carried by sharing their experiences, and 2) The moms reading it can know they aren't alone.

(all photos by Shelby Davis)

1. When is the first time you recall feeling this Mama Guilt of feeling like you failed, did not do something right, or like others were judging you?
From the time he was born, I have felt guilty. First, because I had to have a c-section. But since then, I feel judged for not breastfeeding first and foremost.  I couldn’t.  I tried and it didn’t work and I am SO SICK AND TIRED of the breastfeeding nazis and all their crap.  My kid is alive, healthy and thriving. And I’ve given him everything I have since the day he was born. So shut up already. 

I’m actually over that guilt. It was paralyzing for months after my son’s birth, but then – I decided I was glad I wasn’t a human cow and everything happens for a reason. There was a reason I couldn’t do it, and I think our family actually benefitted from me NOT being able to do it.   

Since then, I feel guilty for any reason at all.  Any time I don’t make him his meals from scratch (if I give him mac and cheese for dinner or give him a nutri grain bar for breakfast), if we put him to bed later than his 7:15 bedtime, if we’re too busy and miss a nap, when we’re running errands and I feel we should be’s never ending guilt. But I’m slowly getting over it.

2. Before you became a mom, what type of mom did you think you'd be? Give at least 5 words to describe the mom you imagined yourself being.
Before having my son, I thought I’d be a great mom because of my experience with my niece and nephew. I waited til my early 30s to have my first baby on purpose. Because I wanted to be 100% ready to do it and know what I was doing.  I wanted to do the very best for him that I could. I would be loving, understanding, fun, goofy, protective, patient and supportive. I would feed him the best foods, read him books, sing him songs, take him to new places all the time. We would go sledding, to the beach, play with friends, do art projects, dance together, not ever watch TV.  I would be super mom!

3. Look at the words you mentioned in #2... are you those words now? Would you call yourself those words now in describing how you are as a mom? Would others use those words to describe you?

I am very, very close to the mom I thought I would be, possibly even better than I thought I would be.

Besides the occasional frustrating moment, I’ve followed through with everything I said I would do.   My biggest challenge that I’ve remained consistent on, has been to remain calm whenever he’s freaking out, testing me, or having a tantrum.  As I said to my mother earlier today “If you could only communicate with babbles, laughs, cries or tantrums, wouldn’t you have your bad moments, too?”  So I try very hard to work through his moments with him and I think we’re both better for it.  It’s important to me that my mom thinks that I’m a good mom.  And I know she really does, she’s not just saying so.  I’ve overheard her before telling people how attentive and wonderful I am with Nolan and how he is so lucky that I’m his mom, and she really didn’t know I could hear her.

4. If breastfeeding didn't work -- What happened ? What did you try to make it work? Why didn't it work, what got in the way? Why did you want it to work so badly? Who or what was in your head when you were trying to nurse? How did it feel when the breastfeeding didn't work? You mentioned you have come to peace with this now... how did you reach that point of being OK with breastfeeding not working out for you?
My milk never came in.  I tried and tried in the hospital, and again when we got home. He was latching fine, but I wasn’t producing. I was pumping as well, trying to make something (anything!) happen. I was working with the lactation consultants and we had a plan for what I was going to do when we went home.  We were supplementing with formula through a small tube as he was nursing to “trick” him so he wouldn’t stop nursing and want a bottle. 

My husband was super supportive and very helpful to me.  Right before being discharged from the hospital a nurse fed him a formula bottle WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. I completely lost it, I called my sister in law and was crying so hard she couldn’t even understand me. I made a complaint to the head nurse. I was so upset.  Here I was killing myself, TRYING to feed my son, and she just popped a bottle in his mouth without discussing it with me. Had she talked to me about it, we could have come to some sort of agreement on what to do. Maybe more syringe feeding before we left.   But I was furious with her for not talking to us and not letting me or my husband give it to him!  

When I got home I felt discouraged, defeated, angry, sad. 

My husband and I got into a HUGE yelling fight about breastfeeding vs formula feeding in front of my entire family about an hour after we got home.  We both had the same common goal – to feed our baby – but were both so spent, we just couldn’t even communicate any longer.  

Right at that moment I decided I hated everything about breastfeeding and what it represented. All these people who promote it and make it the most beautiful bonding experience.  

Well guess what?  It was HELL for me and my baby lost so much weight after being born that I had to fight to bring him home, against the doctor’s recommendations. 

So after the fight with my husband and ending up in tears and my entire family being afraid I was going to go postal,  I made a bottle and fed my staving baby.  I returned the pump a few days later and never looked back.  And wouldn’t you know it, after all that, my milk never ended up coming in. I have a healthy, well fed 15 month old, who transitioned from formula to milk and from bottle to sippy cup at 11 months old without missing a beat.  He eats anything I put in front of him and is growing perfectly.  He’s perfect.
5. If it was unplanned or didn't go as you expected - What was your birth experience like with your baby? What was the hardest part about that? How did that mama guilt creep up during that experience? Again, who or what voice as in your head as you were going through this? Have you come to peace with this situation, if so, how did you get there?
We had a very laid back birthing plan.  Whatever happened would be fine with me.  I was open to trying everything and anything.  I planned on seeing how long I could go without an epidural, but knew that I’d probably want one at some point.  The only thing on my birth plan was NO C-SECTION.  When my water broke right after lunch at work, I was pumped.  

It was going to be awesome.  Water breaking, contractions, pushing, baby. I wasn’t nervous at all.  Well, my contractions didn’t start.  

I had to be induced. But it was okay.  It hurt, but I got through a lot of the intense contractions by sitting in the jacuzzi. I got the epidural (thank goodness) Finally I got to 10 cm and I was very relaxed and was doing great pushing.  I pushed like I was going for gold in the Olympics.  I pushed as hard as I could for 4 hours. 
Finally – it wasn’t happening and I was told a c-section was the smartest move because they were afraid he’d get stuck.  It went downhill from there.  I called my mom as I was hysterically crying.  My husband felt helpless.  I had a fever and was shaking.  It wasn’t what I wanted.  I had pictured the moment that my wet, slimy, crying, gorgeous baby would be placed on my chest and I was SO PISSED that I wasn’t going to experience that and I felt SO GUILTY that I couldn’t do it.  You’re told time and time again while pregnant “A woman’s body is just made to do this”.  Yeah, well not mine!  The birth was terrible. Besides my fever and my shaking, I was freezing in the OR.  It took them extra time to get him out because he was so far down in the birth canal.  I had internal bleeding.  The cord was wrapped around his neck 3 times. He wasn’t breathing when he was born and had to be resuscitated.  My husband thought he was dead.  Nobody would tell me what was going on.  I was yelling over and over again “What’s wrong? Is he okay? What’s wrong? Tell me what’s going on!” And nobody, not even my husband, would answer me.  

It was the worst moment of my life and all I could think was “I just had the easiest full term pregnancy ever, and have been trying to get this baby out for 44 hours and he’s dead. How can everything be so perfect and end so badly.”  

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, but was realistically under 5 minutes, he was breathing.  He never did cry in the OR.  My husband brought him to me after 10 minutes, all wrapped up and just his sweet little face sticking out.  He was alive and he was okay.  

BUT – I have had horrible guilt ever since that day.  

I feel guilty that I couldn’t do it. I didn’t get the experience that I not only WANTED, but was supposed to be able to do!  I feel guilty that I put my baby through HELL trying to deliver him.  

I feel like I almost killed him. After doing my own research, I feel that any of his gross motor delays are because of his traumatic delivery and that it’s MY FAULT.  

After 5 nights in the hospital, we finally came home.
My c-section recovery was the worst pain ever. I would have rather gone through another labor with no epidural.  I’d get up in the middle of the night with my newborn and sudden pain would just shoot through me without warning.  I couldn’t hold him while this was happening, I’d become almost paralyzed.  Sometimes I yelled for my husband, sometimes I’d quickly set my son down on the rug and got through it on my own, all while telling him “Mommy is so sorry, I know I’m doing a really horrible job at this, I promise I’m going to do better.”  

Aside from the “normal” baby blues, I can’t believe I didn’t have serious PPD because of the hell we went through in those first few weeks.  

I still haven’t gotten over the delivery experience, and I’m not sure I ever will.

I also cannot have a VBAC.  My midwife told me VBAC’s aren’t for people in my situation.  I trust her and will not push for one as much as I really want to. Delivering another healthy baby is more important than getting the experience I want. I would never put a future baby at risk for demanding a VBAC.   I did  talk to her about my feelings at my 1 year annual after my son’s birth.  She did her best to make me feel better.  Not saying it helped, but she tried. 

I am thankful for my healthy son, knowing it could have ended differently, and I do tell myself that quite often. 

It’s not how he got here, it’s that he’s here and thriving. I hope that when we do have baby #2 that my guilt isn’t as strong as it’s been this first time.

6. How do you know you are a good mom? If you don't feel like you are one now, when will you know you are? What needs to happen to make you feel like a good mom?
I am a good mom.  I feel guilty a lot, mostly due to things that aren’t a big deal like him not having enough veggies one day or me skipping his bath before bed another night. I give him my all every day. Some days my all is more than other days.  But I know that my son knows how much I love him. 

The morning smiles when he wakes up, the constant cuddles he gives me without me having to ask, the excitement when I pick him up at daycare, him wanting to show me new things he’s discovered. 

I’m his mom, I’m the person who would do anything for him, who takes the best care of him, and there is no doubt in my mind that he knows that. 

I’m his hero and that makes me a good mom. I don’t really care what anyone else thinks because my son’s opinion is really all that matters.  


I appreciate your raw, straight forward truth, Shelby. I know moms can relate to these troubling feelings, unending guilt. Thank you! Such strength came from this challenging experience. I hope you remind yourself of that. It takes a strong woman to get through what you did. And you're right, all that matters is your son. :)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

a mommy's story - Crystal Bourque - breastfeeding "failures"

This is the third post in a series Confessions of Mama Guilt. Thank you to Crystal for sharing her seriously challenging first experience at motherhood. Yet, through reading this and hearing what she's gone through I can tell she's STRONGER because of every hard moment she went through. That's the best we can hope for with all of this guilt and new experiences being mothers... to be able to look back and say, "Yeah that may have sucked and not gone as I planned, but whatever, I'm a GREAT mother!" 

(all images from Crystal Bourque)

Birth Day ... unexpected challenges 
My daughter is now 19 months old. I found out that I had gestational diabetes when I was 28 weeks pregnant, but I had warned my doctor that my mother had GD and 2 c-sections for my sister and I, so I was a bit surprised when he didn't have my glucose tested sooner. I had to have an ultrasound every week, 2-3 non stress tests a week and my usual doctor visits during the last 2 months of my pregnancy -- and I was working full time!
Because of the GD, Jolene was measuring to be about 9 pounds and the doctor didn't want her to get too big for delivery. I was scheduled to be induced on Halloween and I was crossing my fingers for her to be born before midnight, but I was given an Ambien and told to sleep. YEAH RIGHT (haha)! I did not sleep at all. 

In fact, the hospital bed was so uncomfortable to me, that I forced my boyfriend to sleep on it so I could take the recliner (no joke)!
My water broke at 4 am and the contractions hit me like a brick wall. I tried to sleep in between them. Impossible. At about 10 am, I was told that I should think about getting an epidural so they could start me on pitocin. Jolene and I were doing great, but they wanted to move things along. The epidural went well actually.
Two hours later, one of the nurses came in and wanted to try extracting some breast milk, in the event that I could not nurse her right away and if she had a sugar low. Well let me tell you.......I went from being comfortable to full-blown (wanting-to-die) PAIN. My epidural wore off. I am not a baby by any means; I can handle pain, but this was unlike any pain I've ever felt!
The anesthesiologist was called back but he had to drive from his home in Portland. Talk about the longest wait EVER, but he was such a sweetheart and very patient with me while I tried to sit still a second time. It did not last long because of some issue he had with the discs in my back. I was throwing up because of the pain, trying my hardest to breathe so I wouldn't pass boyfriend was absolutely wonderful about keeping me focused.
And during all of this, I would not dilate past 6cm. Talk about frustrating!! The poor anesthesiologist was called a third time because the nurses knew I wouldn't make it without him. He was my best friend when he left the room. After about 4 hours of intense contractions without a pain reliever, I was ready for whatever news came my way. I fully expected the surgeon to come in and tell me I needed an emergency C.
I was right. And to be honest, by 11 pm the day after I was induced (32 hours later)...I was READY to have my baby. 

The funniest part of this story is that my OB doctor had to call in Dr. Cervenka to perform the surgery, whom coincidentally delivered my sister and I both at Elliot Hospital in Manchester, NH! SMALL WORLD.
At 12:08 am on 11/02/2011, Jolene Ann was born. I saw her for a split second before they cleaned her up, my boyfriend cut the umbilical cord and he took pictures for me (the station where they were taking care of Jolene was behind me, so I couldn't see anything). I did not get to experience having her on my chest immediately after birth.

When they were done stitching me up, I had to wait in recovery for an hour. My boyfriend was with me for a little bit before he was ushered upstairs to feed our daughter for the first time. They had to give her formula because she had a little sugar low. I have never been against formula...I know many that were formula-fed babies, including myself. However, I was upset that I had to wait an HOUR before I could hold her for the first time or try to breast feed. When my toes and legs finally regained their senses, I was brought to my room. I could not leave my bed for 24 hours and all I wanted was to take a shower after holding my bundle of joy!
I met my munchkin as soon as I got to my room. 

She latched on almost immediately! I couldn't believe it. I was so relieved...and never felt so powerful in my life, despite my condition.

I successfully breast fed her for the next two days before we went home. The nurses were impressed with me.
(Sorry for the details but: I would rather have another c-section than deal with the constipation I had for a week....OH MY GOD. I lied to the nurses/doctors when they asked if I had passed anything while at the hospital. I just wanted to go home. Looking back, I probably should have been honest because the stool softeners did NOT work. Constipation on top of a new incision...not fun.)
Moving around was hard. Although I could deal with the pain (with the assistance of meds), trying to get comfortable to breast feed, get up every hour in the middle of the night, etc...was so hard on me. My boyfriend was able to take some time off in the beginning, but the feedings on top of the pain I was in was torture. I gave in to formula when Jolene was a week old but still breast fed/pumped as much as I could. I was not producing milk like I thought I would. I tried working with the nurses at the hospital but I was having a really hard time. I was alone when my boyfriend went back to work. I did not ask anyone for help because I didn't want to be a burden or seem like I didn't know what I was doing. But I was a first time mom!! Of course I didn't know it all!
Jolene had lost weight the first week. She was down to 6 pounds. That was my first clue that she wasn't eating enough. After a few trips to the hospital so she could be weighed, she was putting weight back on (but with the help of formula by that point).
Finally, at one month, I had enough with breastfeeding. 
Jolene was happier when she had formula because it filled her more. When she was full, she would sleep longer, which meant I could sleep longer. I didn't realize it at the time, but if we were both happy, it was the right decision. 

I cried for two weeks because I thought I was being a horrible mother giving her formula exclusively. I didn't want to be judged by other moms because I 'gave up'. Jolene wasn't eating enough, I was sleep deprived, dehydrated, was the right move.
Sorry again for the novel! I honestly haven't shared this story with many because I have scared a couple girls. However, those same girls have gone in to the hospital and give birth within hours...I envy them!!  but at least I know that if we want another baby, we're scheduling the surgery! 

(Oh my word, have you seen such an adorable little gal ?! Just want to squeeze her!)

1. How did you plan your birth experience going? What surprised you? How did the changes make you feel at the time?I didn't really have a birth plan, mostly because I knew I would probably face what my mother went through with me. So, I wanted to see how things progressed before making any real decisions. I had a GREAT pregnancy to be honest (aside from the daily heartburn!)...even with the gestational diabetes. I never felt so healthy in my life. I only gained 18 pounds, surprisingly! So, because of that, I didn't want to stress myself out with a birth plan that wasn't realistic. I am a pretty down to Earth person, so I thought that being relaxed and making the decisions as we needed to was the best option for us. We didn't take any birth classes! I had hoped that my pelvis was wide enough to deliver her, but I'm not built that way (I have never been a 'skinny' person either, so this was a little shocking).

The biggest surprise to me throughout the entire delivery was that I never had to push. I really wanted to and felt like I needed to but obviously I couldn't. Jolene's head was really big and she was facing my back. In fact, the nurses were trying an old method by using a towel to try and 'sway' her into the correct position (I was on all fours and was SO uncomfortable during this!). Nothing worked, even with several efforts. I was never against having pain medication, I always told my doctor that it would be an option for me if necessary. I just didn't think I would need it so soon after my water broke.

Also, I didn't fully prepare myself for what to expect during a c-section...meaning, I didn't know that I would have to wait so long to hold/feed her. Ultimately, I know there was no other way, so I'm OK with it. We don't have any pictures of us in the OR, which I really wanted, but they rushed her out of the room almost as soon as the umbilical cord was cut. If I remember correctly, she was breathing OK, but they wanted to monitor her a little closer, which is why I think they took her out of the room so soon. All in all, she was a healthy 7 lb, 7 oz, 19 inches long little girl. The doctor estimated that she would be about 9 pounds, so that was also a little surprise... but I also know that I had a LOT of amniotic fluid that was probably throwing the numbers off a little. I also thought that my due date was two weeks later than my doctor estimated but he didn't believe me!
2. Looking back now, how do you feel about your baby's birth ? Do you accept it and think positively, like you are strong for going through it, or do you still have guilt about it not going as planned?
I know that the nurses, doctors and I did all what we could. I have absolutely no regrets or guilt about the way everything happened at the hospital. 

I don't think I've heard a story like mine yet (other than my mom's!), so yes, I can most definitely say that I am stronger for going through it! I'm Super Woman! 

It made me feel vulnerable at the time (obviously), but I knew that I had a great team of health professionals and my boyfriend there to help me get through it. My family was there too, but I didn't want them in the room when I was going through all that pain. To make a long story short: I would have done ANYTHING to have my baby. All the pain I went through was a test for me. As corny and unbelievable as this may sound: I forgot all about the pain when I held Jolene for the first time. 
3. What would you say to a mom who has an emergency C-section or a birth that doesn't go as planned?
I would say this: Things don't always go the way you want in life. Unfortunately, delivering your first born may not either. All you can do is hope for the best but plan for the worst so that you're PREPARED. 

So what if you have a scar for the rest of your life. It's a battle scar! it's proof that you went through ALL the motions possible to have your baby. 

Personally, I am a planner but I knew that my baby (and my body) had her own plan for I would suggest having an open mind and take things as they come. Don't get discouraged if not everything goes as planned. As long as you and your baby are healthy and you did everything that you possibly could to stick to your birth plan, you should pat yourself on the back! 

The ultimate goal is to bring your baby into the world - 
even if that means surgery. 

Not all women are able to deliver babies vaginally and/or naturally. We are all built differently and have our own pain tolerances, religious beliefs, etc. Be realistic but don't be too hard on yourself.

4. With breastfeeding, where does that guilt come from, and how did you deal with/ accept it?
I mostly felt guilty because of the pressure to breast feed. Whether it was the nurses, mommy groups, media, etc...I felt that if I didn't, I wasn't giving Jolene everything that I could and that made me a 'bad' mom. I also think that I was dealing with baby blues at the time. Hormones do some crazy things! I was never judged by other moms for not sticking with the breastfeeding but I really did feel like I let Jolene down. My breasts just wouldn't cooperate the way I'd hoped. It just wasn't easy for me like other moms. I finally told myself that if she is gaining weight, happy and sleeping more than 1 hour at a time, it made me happy too. So, if we're both happy, why be upset about the frustrations we had with breastfeeding? Formula was also great because my boyfriend could feed her and it was easier to transition back to work. I honestly pumped as much as I could for a month, so she was still getting some milk at least. If we have another baby, I want to try to breastfeed again! I have heard of other moms having better luck breastfeeding their second baby.

But if I face the same circumstances, I'll transition to formula without the guilt I felt the first time around.


What an incredibly strong mama you are, Crystal, thanks for sharing so honestly! I know even if others birth experience was not as tumultuous, there will be many to relate to your story in various ways. Thanks so much for sharing! You definitely ARE SUPER WOMAN in my book! :)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

a mommy's story : Megan Otash on guilt and the NICU

Another brave, super star strong mother, Megan Otash, has shared with us her experience of surviving the NICU and what guilt it brought to her... and ultimately how she tries to this day to move past the guilt to live happily with her growing family. This is part of our Confessions of Mama Guilt series. 

Mama guilt: my now 4 year old came at only 28 weeks gestation, her big brother at the time was only 20 months old...Zoey lived in the NICU at Maine Med for 8 weeks, 4 weeks (thankfully) shorter than expected, because she was/is such a fighter! 

Riley, her big brother, was still very needy at this age, I traveled to Maine Med every single day that Zoey was at Maine Med, and stayed at the Ronald McDonald house every weekend in Portland. During this time Riley was miserable. Daddy was back to work full time, I was with Zoey every day. I know he felt shorted of mommy time and I felt like I wasn't giving him all the attention he was craving, so I started giving him everything and anything he wanted so he would feel special and not unforgotten. 

If I wasn't at the NICU I was running my child care center or pumping. I was physically and emotionally drained. 

Now, Riley is 6...he's so used to just getting whatever he wants from being given everything to make him happy that now I'm trying to correct my mistake of giving him everything. I'm teaching him that he can't always get what he wants, but that we love him very much, that he can't yell and scream, unless he's in his bedroom with the door closed, because he isn't getting what he wants. That we love him unconditionally, even when he's upset. That it's not ok to kick and hit when he's upset. I feel like if I had just taught him these fundamentals when he was almost 2, that we wouldn't be struggling with it 4 years later, but I try to remember I was doing the best I could do at that season of our life.

I cannot beat myself up over something that has already happened, but instead I can embrace change, patience, love, and know that we can get through this stage as well, exhausting as it may be!

It was a very draining, traumatic, emotional roller coaster ride, to say the least. It's actually amazing how many people I run into that have had babies that have had to live in the NICU for a period of time.

Now I give my son ample amount of love, attention, and affection, what he was sooo in need of at 20 mos, which sadly I was missing the mark on. I loved him with all my heart, but was not showing or displaying that love for him in a way that he could feel, because I was wrapped up in Zoey's premature birth, the emotions of leaving a hospital 4 days after giving birth and not being able to take your baby home, ppd, I wasn't diagnosed with it, but man I cried A LOT! My little man was sooo confused and I was so devastated, I couldn't control my emotions, never mind ease his.
No, I have not let the guilt go, especially when he throws a fit over something he can't have it reminds me again, I created this. I did this. Have patience with him, this is not his fault, he doesn't know better until I teach him wrong from right. 

I remind myself what a crazy ride we we're on and the toll it put on my mind and body and deep down know I shouldn't feel guilt, that I provided for my son as best I could at that time, and considering what we went through, we all made it out of that nightmare surprisingly well! 

If giving my son everything he wanted was the worst thing I did, well, I guess it could have been a lot worse! I focus on the now and the move forward. I don't dwell on the past or what happened. I constantly tell myself he's almost 6, this is also typical behavior for a boy his age. He is well loved and taken care for. 

I have to remember to pat myself on the back every now and then and say you've done a great job Megan, this mommy thing is not easy, and you've done a great job! 

A mommy of 4 kiddos, managing all of their different personalities, behaviors, likes, dislikes, keeping it all sorted and organized and providing a warm, loving home for all of them, drop the guilt! Us moms are amazing!

the little peanut Zoey not so little anymore - 4 years old! 
I thought Zoey's premature birth was MY fault! When I was 5 months pregnant we purchased a new house and I spent a month painting every single room in the house as well.

As packing up my old house, loading the boxes into my SUV and unloading them at the new house I had a 2" tear in my placenta, I assumed I had torn it during lifting. So naturally I blamed myself when I went into labor. Apologizing to my husband that this was happening...a terrible feeling for sure. 

Well I lived with that guilt for 2 years, then I got pregnant with my 4th. During a prenatal visit they had determined it would be best if I received progesterone shots to decrease my chances of going into premature labor again, and they told me there was an autopsy report in my file on my placenta from Zoey's birth. 

I was thinking seriously?? An autopsy report? What if I never got pregnant again?! I would have never known why I really went into preterm labor. I was so upset that I was never notified of this information after Zoey's birth. Come to find out, it WAS NOT my fault! 

Zoey's umbilical cord had attached itself on the very edge of my placenta, this happens in 1 in a million pregnancies, or something crazy like that, so of course it happened in mine! So as my placenta grew, the umbilical cord was coming detached, tearing from the placenta. As amazing as our bodies are, I went into labor because somehow my body knew my baby was not being fully nourished by the umbilical cord. Had I not gone into labor, Zoey may not have made it, I can't fathom. The meaning of Zoey is little fighter.

Being in a season of my life, a time period that I can reflect on... my advice to all moms, cherish every season you endure with your children. A season may feel like it's never ending, frustrating, exhausting, but it goes by so fast. 

Sit back and just enjoy it because before you know it, it's over and you're moving on. Like infancy, it goes by so fast, embrace those sleepless nights, those snuggles with your 7, 8, 9lb baby boy or girl, because you're going to blink and he/she is going to be running around yelling NO at you! 

Every season of life has its challenges and its rewards, enjoy it all, life's too short to constantly complain or dread. 

Be happy! Your mood reflects your child's mood! We don't want to deal with a cranky baby all day, do you think a toddler wants to deal with a cranky mommy all day?! Nope!


What an incredibly strong mother... Thank you, Megan, for sharing. I know many moms will shed tears and smile imagining what a fighter your little Zoey is. She must have a fighter for a mother! :)