Pink or Blue: Does it matter to you?


[I wrote this piece a few years ago and found it and have reread it and wanted to post.  I love it because I’ve been able to see how I’ve experienced more and grown as a parent.  My son is certainly “all boy,” as they say but he also loves to wear bows in his hair because that is what his sister does.  He’s tried on my bra because it looks interesting.  He picks out kitty cat valentines instead of Ninja Turtles. Guess what? I love every single bit of it.  He is amazing to me.  He is creative, accepting and loving.  Lets encourage our kids to be exactly who they are– because they’re beautiful!]

When you find out you’re expecting it is such an exciting time.  Your mind is clouded with a million thoughts at once.  When I found out I was expecting I could almost feel the thoughts surging through my body… physically.  It was so much at once.  It was fear.  It was excitement.  It was overwhelming!  When the news settled with me, the fear and excitement  turned to complete curiosity!  This little baby inside of me… was it a boy or a girl?

I imagined a pink room with big monograms and pearls and butterflies and sweet sayings.  I imagined a room with dinosaurs and trucks and dark blue hues.  I wondered if I was carrying a boy or a girl.  I wondered if a boy would like dinosaurs or sailboats… or if a girl might love princesses or kittens!  All I knew was, I couldn’t wait to find out the gender so I could decorate “accordingly.”

In the news lately it seems that there is a lot of praise for “gender neutral.”  I certainly understand what the fuss is all about.  Recently someone tweeted that Target had signage that indicated there were building sets and “girls’ building sets.”  I assume that means there are building sets, and then there are pink building sets.  I understand that Target was just distinguishing between the two.  However, I also get that someone could take offense to this verbiage.  I have found myself in the toy aisle lamenting about how all the kitten toys have pink bows!  Why can’t cats be for boys?  We love cats in this house and I would love to find a “boy” kitty toy.

With this being a hot topic in the news, I’ve wondered recently… am I wrong to want to decorate a daughters room with pink and pearls?  Am I wrong to assume that my son wants dinosaur sheets and a train bed?  Am I wrong to wish that they had “boy” plush kitty toys?

Yes, and no.

I believe that once a child is old enough to tell you what they want and what they prefer, then by all means, indulge them! (within reason of course).  If my son tells me he wants the kitty with the pink bow and the diamond collar that is typically marketed for girls– he will get the kitty!  Even if I was secretly wishing there was a more masculine kitty option, I didn’t hesitate at all because underneath it all, it is a toy cat!  Whether it is a boy cat or a girl cat– it is a cat that makes my son happy and that is ALL that matters.  If my daughter told me that she wanted a train set with little boys playing on the cover of the box– give her the train set! This does not bother me.  I would buy them what they desired and would not make them feel ashamed for it or embarrassed by it.  There is nothing embarrassing about wanting these things.  A child’s interests should be encouraged.

With that being said, what I do have a problem with is the people that “hate” on those that hear they’re having a boy or a girl and decorate the nursery traditionally.  By traditionally I mean, a blue room for boys and a pink room for girls.  They are babies.  They can’t talk yet, they can’t tell you that they hate pink or that they love blue!  They are your sweet bundle of joy and you want the absolute best for them.  You want a room that you believe makes them happy and makes you happy.  If you have a beautiful little girl and you want to paint the entire room with Disney princesses, I think that should be encouraged and not looked down on.  You are not limiting this child and restricting what they are allowed to love.  You are painting a picture of what you think is fun/fitting for your child and what you think they would enjoy (and what you enjoy!).  You care enough to give them a festive room that they may grow up to love and they may not.  But for now, embrace this time.  Decorate, celebrate and love.  They are only babies for such a small amount of time.  Try not to overthink things.

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Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER): My experience.

Tonight I’ve decided to sit down and write about an uncomfortable experience.  Breastfeeding.  I know…I sound awful right?  How can I be a mom knowing good and well that “breast is best” and be uncomfortable by the process?  This is how.  It is called D-MER. Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex.  With both of my children I suffered from this awful condition.

Nearly 5 years ago when I found out I was pregnant with my son I knew I would breastfeed.  I knew nothing about it but knew I would do it because it was supposed to be the best thing for my baby.   At 41 weeks my sweet boy was born and took quite well to the breast.  I felt so happy and accomplished that we both knew exactly what to do.  It felt so natural.  It also felt… terrible.  I was a new mother so I didn’t know what to expect.  I just know that before my milk let down, I felt inconsolable sadness.  I felt such debilitating depression.  It came and went in less than a minute, but the feeling was so intense.  It lingered with me because the sadness felt physical.  The depression physically hurt.  I’d never been so overcome with intense grief and emotion that I felt like I would vomit.   Yet, every time the milk came down… there was the feeling again.  I didn’t say anything at first because I thought maybe I was just adjusting.  I didn’t want to admit that I hated the feeling.  No one had ever told me this happens… so everyone must be able to deal with it.  Admitting it would have made me a bad mother.  I told myself all of those things.  Finally, I mentioned it briefly to the lactation consultant at my hospital.  She thought it was interesting but didn’t have any idea what was going on.  She kind of blew it off and said, “well, if you know it passes you can just tell yourself that and get through the moment.”  This was true, but it was still upsetting.  I began to dread breastfeeding.

I shared my story with fellow moms and no one knew what I was talking about.  This apparently did not happen to all of my friends.  This hadn’t happened to my mother.  I was depressed, but determined to figure out what was going on.  I googled frantically and finally stumbled upon some information about D-MER.  It was EXACTLY what was happening to me!  Finally!  I had some answers!  Just seeing that there were others out there with this same condition comforted me immensely.  Unfortunately, there is still not much known about this condition.

I made it 6 months breastfeeding my son.  I had some postpartum issues in addition to the D-MER that stood in the way of breastfeeding for me.  My son also seemed to nurse constantly.  Stopping breastfeeding was a very sad decision to make and I had several moments of feeling like a failure, but ultimately it felt like the best decision at the time.

Last year I had my second child.  An 8 lb 10 oz baby girl.  She also took to the breast extremely well and I felt that joy and accomplishment again.  Unfortunately, like last time, the D-MER was back.  My daughter nursed around the clock and the let down of my milk was so intense.  I suffered from awful postpartum anxiety/OCD after the birth of my daughter, which seemed to make the intense emotions with breastfeeding much worse.  A few weeks postpartum I suffered a minor infection and had to go on medication.  I had to stop breastfeeding for 10 days or so.  I tried to keep up with pumping but with a 2.5 year old and a newborn… it was all too much.  I was overwhelmed with day to day life and D-MER didn’t make things ANY easier.  I made it a few months and then switched to formula at the suggestion of several doctors.  It is not the decision everyone would have made, or the decision I thought I would choose, but it was the best decision at the time for myself and our family.

Breastfeeding is a huge topic in the new mommy world.  There is almost a shame attached to not breastfeeding.  Because of this, mothers with any sort of issue feel guilty, embarrassed, less than, ashamed.   I can’t honestly put into words the hurt I felt/feel knowing that both of my children were excellent eaters that took extremely well to the breast and I was the reason they weren’t breastfed for an extended period.  I can’t go back to that place.  It was something that contributed to my extreme postpartum depression.  The guilt was unprecedented.  But because of this, I ask the mom community to come together for other moms, ALL moms.  You never know another person’s story.  You may not even know that conditions like D-MER exist.  Your experience is your own.  What a new mommy needs most is love.

I’ve linked to a few articles about Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex in this post and I encourage new mothers (or anyone) to check them out.  More research is needed for this condition as well as knowledge and support.  If you think you may be suffering from D-MER please see your doctor, and for now take comfort in the fact that I know what you’re going through, as well as many other moms.  It is TOUGH, but you will get through it.

Parenting with an anxiety disorder

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[Another cross-post from my other blog.  In previous posts I’ve linked to this blog but feel I’d rather keep it more private.  I decided to post this as I am going through a lot of anxiety issues with my son at the moment and with myself.  I have suffered with anxiety for a long time and felt it more intensely when pregnant and in the postpartum months.  More specific content to Mommy Is Exhausted coming soon.  In the meantime– here is a post I wrote in 2015.  A snapshot of my pregnancy with my second child.  This post was also featured on The Mighty.

I tucked my 2.5 year old into bed last night, I softly sung the words of rock and bye baby to him while cuddled up to him so tight.  I rubbed his hair… I kissed his rosy cheeks.  After some pillow talk he fell asleep.  I held him closer.  I looked at him.  So innocent, so sweet.  Listening to him breathe in an out, I whispered into his ear… “I’m so sorry for being me.”

Earlier in the day he had jumped into the front seat of my car while I was trying to get him inside from preschool.  He was pretending to drive the car.  I was so stressed.  It was cold, I am so pregnant, I just wanted to get him inside so I could sit down.  I didn’t want to stand in the cold.  He laid on the horn.  I looked around to make sure no one was disturbed by this and I yelled at him.

“Mommy said no!”

“Stop!”

I felt my anger building.  I threw down all of the stuff I had in my hands and I pulled him out of the car.  He threw a fit in the middle of the road.  I hated this moment.  I hated that he wouldn’t listen.  I hated that I couldn’t stand to be out there any longer and I hated mostly that I couldn’t “enjoy the moment.” A moment that he was enjoying so much.

Anxiety robs you of so many precious moments.

So what is there to be anxious about in this moment?  Well, its not necessarily one trigger in one moment… it is the anxiety that builds all day, every single day.

You grow tired.  You physically hurt.  You cry.  You obsess.  You struggle with simple decisions that others wouldn’t think twice about.  You wake up every morning wishing it were bed time.  You count the days until it is the weekend when you can have some help.   You cry because you hate feeling that way.  You feel guilt.  You have a wonderful husband, a beautiful child and one on the way.  You have a steady job, a home.  You live comfortably.  You are blessed.

You are ungrateful? That’s what you will tell yourself.  Reality? You are plagued by your own mind.

Anxiety robs you of peace of mind.

There is never a moment in one day that you feel at ease.  You will check everything 100 times.  You will look for potential dangers and you will fix them.  You will worry about 10 minutes from now and 10 hours from now and 10 years from now in 1 minute.  Your mind will race and you will be completely exhausted.  You are a problem solver in your mind.  If you don’t fix it all RIGHT now, it wont get done and something terrible will happen and it will be your fault.  When someone, anyone, breaks your train of thought… you will lash out at them.  Don’t they see how important it is that you figure EVERYTHING out RIGHT NOW?

Unfortunately it might be that sweet, innocent, rosy cheeked 2 year old asking for more milk, or trying to jump on you for attention.  You love him so much and you’re trying to solve any potential problem… for him.  All he wants is a glass of milk and a hug.

Why is this so hard?

Repost: My postpartum experience

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Stock Photo.  Posed by Model.  Freeimages.com/Anna B.

[This was originally posted on my other blog and was featured on The Mighty .  I decided to share it here to help other mothers in a similar situation.  Postpartum depression, OCD and anxiety are difficult.  You CAN feel better.  I implore you to reach out to a friend, family member or medical professional if you are suffering.  xoxo.]

Night time is here and as I sit here with a soon-to-be 8 month old,  sleeping peacefully in her rocker, I think back on the day’s events.  This is a routine for me.  I get my daughter to sleep, zone out for a bit reading articles/news/social media and before I get started on my work for the night I take a moment to reflect on my day.  Today I got to catch up with an old friend.  We chatted about her work, my work, day to day lives, our husbands and then my kids.  My daughter showed off her new crawling skills and even managed to kick my friend’s coffee cup out of her hand, spilling coffee all over her sweater. (This is why my wardrobe consists of leggings and t-shirts.) I stared at my daughter as I often do, beaming with pride over how fast she’s becoming so mobile, and then thought about how last week she wasn’t crawling at all.  It seemed like yesterday that I was just bringing her home from the hospital.  I shared this with my friend and before I knew it I was telling her all about labor, delivery and the horrible postpartum depression and anxiety I suffered through.  It is not my favorite part of this life I am building with my little one, but it has been an important part.  I’ve learned a lot from my suffering.

I’d been in labor for about 17 hours.  The time was finally here to push and after only two pushes, the doctor was throwing my little girl onto my chest.  I remember feeling the weight of her little body resting on me and being so relieved the pain was finally over.  I kissed my husband, cried, looked at her, cried some more… and then I asked the doctor if I was bleeding too much.  From that moment on, for the next few months — everything would be one giant blur.  The minute my body recognized I was no longer pregnant and the hormones did whatever the hormones do, I was not the same.  I obsessed over my postpartum bleeding.  I convinced myself I was swelling and that my blood pressure would sky rocket.  I called the nurse in every few minutes to examine the swelling in my feet (there was none).  My brain was on a roller coaster that had no end.  I couldn’t stop obsessing.  I couldn’t stop crying.  I didn’t sleep for the next two days at least.

I knew that I shouldn’t have left the hospital without being put on some sort of brain medication but I was so set on breastfeeding.  I had the Solly baby wrap, I had the breast pump.  I had everything I needed to be supermom.  I was going to breastfeed her for a year.  I was going to conquer this crippling anxiety because I had to.  I got home and I collapsed.  I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t eat.  I couldn’t do anything but cry, shake, panic, pace.  I couldn’t see my postpartum bleeding without feeling sick and having a panic attack.  I called the hospital nearly every night after I was discharged.  I called to ask if things I was experiencing were normal.  I called because I had a temperature of 99-something even though the handout I was given said to only call if it was above 100.4 .  I took my temperature exactly 200 times that night.  My husband grew concerned and called my parents.  I was losing my mind.  I was trying so hard to control my thoughts and feelings but they were so far gone at this point.  I was unrecognizable.

Only a week after having my daughter I got a minor infection and had to take antibiotics.  I had to stop nursing temporarily so she wouldn’t be exposed to the medication.  I started my daughter on formula.  This was my breaking point.  I hated myself.  I couldn’t do anything right.  The world was cruel in my eyes.  I’d wanted nothing more than to breastfeed and here I was, only 1 week postpartum and I was already “giving up.”  I told my parents that I was a horrible mother.  I lashed out at my husband…I didn’t want to exist.  I was so ashamed of myself.  I was so sorry for my daughter.  She deserved a mother that was so much better.  She deserved a mother that had her life together.  The hatred for myself surpassed everything.  I couldn’t even look at her.  My husband would take care of her and offer her to me.  I kept telling myself to hold her… take her… cuddle her.  I told myself to like it.  The truth was– she reminded me of what a failure I was.  When I recognized that I “didn’t want to hold her,” I knew something was definitely off.  I needed help.

For 6 straight weeks after delivery I was never alone.  I had an AMAZING support system.  My husband, my family, my friends.  They were all here.  Someone stayed with me constantly.  They helped take care of my babies and they helped take care of me.  My OBGYN called to check on me.  She saw me every time I called my doctor’s office with some new irrational fear.  She talked me through my postpartum depression.  She built me up.  My psychiatrist listened to my fears about medication and relayed to me her own postpartum experiences.  A member of her staff even came to my car to talk to me when I was sobbing too hard to go into the building.  My therapist, a Godsend, has helped me every step of the way.

As I sit here nearly 8 months later I can’t help but feel grateful for my experience.  I know that probably sounds completely crazy– but its true.  I learned from my postpartum depression and anxiety that every mother’s story is different.  This idea of the perfect mother I had in my head was just that, an idea.  It wasn’t reality.  Motherhood is messy.  Life is messy.  It never goes to plan.  I was dealt a hand of crappy cards.  My hormones were out of control.  They were bigger than my obsessive need to control them.  Because I couldn’t do it alone, did not make me a failure.  The important thing was connecting with my daughter.  The important thing was being happy and healthy for myself and for her.  I wasn’t currently the mother she deserved but I could get there.  I worked hard the next few months to get on medication that helped me level out.  I made sure to get some sleep.  I meditated.  I went to therapy.  I prayed.  I survived.

My relationship with my baby is better than I ever could have imagined.  She and her brother are the lights of my life.  They are the joy I feel in my heart every single day.  I am so blessed to be their mother.  All of those days I spent worrying about the bond that would be destroyed between my daughter and I were for nothing.  She loves me.  She smiles when I smile.  She laughs when I laugh… she knows my heart.  She knows I always loved her and will always love her, even when my mental health issues overwhelmed me.  Postpartum depression and anxiety are scary, hard and exhausting.  It is so important to see a doctor, build a support system and ask for help.  They say it “takes a village to raise a child.”  My village saved me.  And because I’ve been through such a dark time, the good times are now just a little bit brighter than they would have been.  I can see how fortunate I am and feel that gratitude on a new level.   I experienced postpartum depression and anxiety.  Something I can now say without shame.  I survived postpartum depression and anxiety.  Something I can now say with pride.