The Power of Support

Before I had our baby, I really wasn’t aware of the need for mother-based supports. I had no idea there were even such groups! But let me tell you, these last few weeks would have been impossible to get through if it weren’t for the Lactation Connection, the Nurturing Nest, and the support of another local mom.

Thankfully, when our baby was discharged from the NICU, part of the discharge plan included a consultation with the Lactation Connection. The Lactation Connection is run by a group of amazing nurses that specialize in breast feeding. Without them I’m sure I would have either starved my newborn or already given up on breastfeeding.

The nurses not only provide guidance in the consultation but they have mastered the art of following up. I’ve received a number of calls and emails of them just checking in to see how I’m doing, if I have any questions, and most importantly, just to offer encouragement. I mean one nurse emailed me just to say “You did it!” after we went in for a baby-weight check.

As a social worker, I know that follow-up is very important to ensure the success of a client. This is the first time I’ve been the receiver of it.

Other supports that have been an absolute godsend are the Nurturing Nest with their pre-natal/post- par-tum yoga and educational classes (I’ll be attending Cloth Diapering Wisdom soon as we’ve chosen to go that route).

Lastly, while I was pregnant I reconnected with an old friend who was also pregnant (about 6 weeks ahead of me). It’s worked out wonderfully. She let me in on all the things to expect during pregnancy and now with our gorwing baby. Sure we have some different experiences but for the most part, her information has been invaluable. I couldn’t be more thankful.

So if you’re a new mom or going to be a new mom. It’s important to surround yourself with like-minded people. It will make you feel entirely more confident, supported, and connected to others. There is no denying the power of support.  So link up with friends that are mommies, Google search for the nearest Motherhood Wellness Center, and check your local hospital for support groups of any kind. And ATTEND THEM. You won’t be sorry.

Benefits of Being a Working Mom

I’ve only been on maternity leave for 2 weeks. Each day that passes means one step closer to going back to work. Yes, you heard me right. I’ve decided that going back to work not only allows me to stay true to what I value, but it also allows my family to continue to operate in a financially comfortable position. I mean I’m not worrying about paying for my college anymore. I’m worried about paying for the little one now!

I value connection. I also value my profession. What will I be teaching my daughter if I don’t stay true to myself? Although the thought of being the most remarkable Stay at Home mom is still very appealing, I plan to be the most remarkable Working mom. The one that still manages to have a career and be entirely supportive and encouraging of my little girl.

The funny thing is now that I know my way. I am so SCARED. Like mommy scared. You know the typical worry of leaving my baby in the care of someone else. How to choose the right nanny. How many hidden cameras is too many?… kidding… kind of.

Photo Cred: The Stir, Cafe Mom

I believe the fear of trusting the care of my child to someone else during the day is one of the main reasons I considered staying home. Aside from the whole not missing out on anything. In choosing to go back to work I am accepting the fact that I won’t witness the beginning of every milestone. And that’s OKAY. It’s okay because I’ll still see every milestone. When I find myself second guessing this newly made decision, I remind myself that there are many benefits to being a working mom that add up significantly. Such as:

  • Children of working moms are more social (perks of starting childcare soon)
  • I will have a personal life and my own connections
  • I will set a positive example
  • My child will become more independent
  • Working moms are less likely to become depressed (probably because they have an increased sense of purpose)
  • Time with my child will be even more valuable

Ultimately, going back to work is beneficial for my mental health and the development of my baby. Making the decision to stay home or go back to work is still a very difficult one. I’m sure I’ll have days where I wish I would have chosen the latter. Regardless of  which role anyone chooses, either path, is equally as important and inspiring as the other.

The 98-Hour Work Week

Photo Cred: GoodHouseKeeping.com

 

Welch’s Grape Fruit Juice recently conducted a study that surveyed 2,000 women with children between the ages of 5 and 12. The study concluded that moms worked on average 98 hours per week. This includes the hours of a full-time job and the tasks required to keep the household going. NINETY-EIGHT HOURS per week.

Now as much as I love being busy, this sounds like a bit much! Right?! The study’s definition of work hours at home refers to the chores demanded (or assumed) by mothers. The list of tasks includes scheduling appointments, getting the children to various events, laundry, vacuuming, dusting, dishes, cleaning bathrooms, the kitchen and the bedroom, etc.

In my opinion, this study is very biased. Not all households have the same assumed roles. I can tell you that my significant other is extremely helpful when it comes to housework. Many of the roles that are assumed to be assigned to the mothers are, in fact, many of the tasks that my fiancé completes on a daily or weekly basis. I’ll pull from a pile of clean clothes for days before I’ll hang and fold it, whereas, he folds each item neatly and directly out of the dryer. On the other hand, I still have no idea how I constantly find his dirty socks in every single room! But that’s for another day.

4 out of 10 participants in the Welch’s study reported that they felt their life was a “never-ending series of tasks”. I believe that studies like these show us the importance of knowing what works for our own family. Outsourcing or delegating tasks to your spouse is not out of the question and should be considered often! The study does show that moms just plain make it happen. Regardless of working full-time. I’m sure a little wine now and then doesn’t hurt either!

Getting a Master’s and having a Baby?!

When I had applied to graduate school two years ago, I never would have thought I’d be doing the second year pregnant and the last few weeks with an infant. The exhaustion is real! But worth it. Graduate school is challenging. It’s even more challenging when you are established in a career and working a salary position that demands at least 50 to 60 hours of your time each week. It’s dang near impossible when you through pregnancy on top of that.

Dang near impossible, with an emphasis on the near impossible. However, I did it! So can you. If you’re in graduate school and thinking of starting a family but are concerned if you can handle the pressures of both, you should consider the pro’s and con’s. Everyone is different in the amount and type of workload they can handle. But I’m here to contest that it can be done! With some organization, flexibility, and motivation, it’s all possible.

If you’re considering balancing school and work, with a baby in the mix, here are a few pros and cons:

Pro’s

  • You get a freaking Master’s Degree!
  • You’re professional life will improve.
  • You will make more friends and increase your network
  • You’ll learn strengths about yourself you never thought you had.
  • Time management will only get better.

Con’s

  • The juggling game is really tough.
  • You must sacrifice attention to one aspect of your life for the other
  • Time
    • There’s not much socialization outside of building your network in school.
    • You will have less time with your spouse.
    • Give yourself more time to learn the content, as you have a lot going on and it won’t soak in as fast as in your undergrad.
  • It can get overwhelming, so plan, organize, and stick to it.

Ultimately, you’ll follow your instincts. But just know that if it’s something your soul begs for, jump for it! Don’t let others tell you that it’s not the best idea or that you’ll regret not spending that time with your loved ones. There’s always room for a happy balance.

Vulnerability Makes You Stronger

Now that the uncertainty of the last few weeks has played out; I realize that I was a nervous wreck with all the anticipation. My need for control was quickly confronted with the harsh reality that I do not control everything! Imagine that. In retrospect, I was terrified of the events (birth, becoming a parent, leaving work) that were unfolding. The fear of losing control over all the fine details put me in a very vulnerable place. Brené Brown says “vulnerability is the center of difficult emotion”.

She states that vulnerability is also the birthplace of every positive emotion that we need in our lives: Love, Belonging, Joy, and Empathy. Our present-day culture shames vulnerability. It labels it as a weakness when in fact it’s the pivotal point of all strength. Isn’t that interesting?

In the theme of birthing, since that’s been the center point of my life lately, I thought this was a great concept. Ms. Brown further supports that innovation and creativity are also born through vulnerability. Be prepared for something big because these last few weeks have been a hell of a vulnerability ride! But seriously.

Brené Brown’s TedTalk is inspiring and influential. She holds a doctorate degree in Social Work. Her vulnerability talk verifies why I wanted to merge my undergraduate degree of Social Work with a graduate degree in Business Administration.

Entering into motherhood and being faced with a possible transition in my career has left me feeling the utmost vulnerable. However, it’s the beginning of a new era. Long story short, embrace the challenge. Allow yourself to feel vulnerable. The vulnerability will soon transform into strength.

Take a look at a tidbit of Brené Brown’s TedTalk below. Hopefully it will shed a new light on the topic for you as well!

Self- Advocacy

As a Social Worker, advocating for others is standard practice. It comes naturally to most in the profession because they believe in their cause. The most passive person can become assertive when it comes to speaking up for a person or at-risk population. Believing in something is empowering. So how is it possible that seasoned professionals can struggle with self-advocacy? Why is it easier to stick up for others than it is to stick up for yourself? This last week, when my new baby was placed in the NICU, I realized that I am a terrible self-advocate!

Self- advocacy comes from believing in yourself. It comes from having the ability to take a step back or push the “pause” button on a situation to reflect on your own wants and needs. It’s much easier to be consistently aware of what a client or family member wants and needs. The challenge starts with being ACTIVELY mindful of your expectations.

The situations and events where self-advocacy becomes important are endless. Health (both mental and physical), wealth (financial stability), socialization, and obtaining goals all require a certain level of self-advocacy. Are you aware of your wants and needs when it comes to these areas? Do you melt into a puddle when a medical or financial professional suggests something different than what you had envisioned? I know I can’t be the only one. If you’re anything like me, you prefer to sacrifice yourself to avoid conflict.

Let’s stop that nasty habit, yeah? Here’s a plan for a new approach. Something that will help you gain confidence in advocating for the most important person in any equation… YOU.

STEP 1- HAVE A CLEAR VISION. When it comes to making decisions for something you want to happen, it’s important to have a clear vision of what that is. You might even want to make yourself a list of what you expect to take away from a particular event. So you’ll have a nice outline.

STEP 2- BELIEVE YOURSELF. It’s easy to become passive when a professional in the area you’re seeking help in makes recommendations. They’ve been extensively educated in this area, right? Yes, but that doesn’t mean you are required to accept their recommendations. Bottom line, you need to trust your instincts.

STEP 3- EMBRACE THAT UNCOMFOTABLE MOMENT. Have that conversation with the professional. Start it off with something like, “I am hearing your recommendations but I really don’t know if that treatment or plan is right for me”, or, “My gut is telling me I need to wait and think about it”. Unless it’s a medical emergency, you have permission to take time.  It may feel weird telling the expert to hold on or no. But you need to honor you, not them.

I’m sure you can look back at a handful of situations where you should have stuck up for yourself. It’s going to feel awkward to shift that pattern but your confidence will improve each time you do.

What do you mean I can’t hold my baby?

What do you mean I can’t hold my baby? That’s what I keep asking in my head.

Baby C made her debut into the world on July 20, 2017. Birth is not at all what the rolling tape in my head kept playing.

I’m still trying to process that we are now parents. Even more so that our baby is sitting in the NICU… without us. Naïvely, I would always shutter when I heard stories of babies going to the intensive care unit. I’d always say things like, “I couldn’t imagine having to watch my baby in pain and not be able to do a thing about it”. Well now there’s no lack of imagination. It’s awful. As baby C sits their wrapped in cords and IV’s, I’m constantly trying to find strength to not just pick her up and run.

We are thankful that her condition isn’t something uncommon. Staring at the little footprint ink cards around the West Wing, there’s a lot of babies that have been given a heftier challenge at starting their life. They are all so beautiful and strong. Some of these footprints aren’t any larger than half my thumb.

Our little one has something called transient tachypnea. It’s a pretty common condition for full term babies. It means the fluid that the lungs kept while inside the womb, didn’t completely make its way out when baby took her first breath.

The worst part is when she cries. I can’t pick her up when she cries. A nurse tried scolding my when I bent down and placed my hand on her sides to comfort her. Don’t worry. That nurse received a very well thought-out, empathetic, social worker response to her scolding.

Playing on repeat my silent voice says, “what do you mean I can’t hold my baby?” She’s mine. I should be able to pick her up AS I PLEASE. Reality is, it’s too much for her little lungs at the moment. Social workers learn very early how to compartmentalize their feelings, especially during trauma. It’s a coping skill you learn in order to handle the job. The way we sort our feelings is kind of how shipping containers are placed on a ship. Stacked neatly and systematically. The last few days my emotional compartmentalization has gotten seriously messed up. The oddest thing… what should be tipping me over the edge, is tucked neatly away in it’s proper order. The rest is just a pile of discarded materials strung all over. I cry-yelled (this ugly maneuver that looks like a red-faced sobbing grown women, screeching a shrill, shrill cry of anger) at a nurse today because I lost my prescription to stool softener. It was important and don’t freaking tell me to buy it over the counter.

As a first-time mother, it’s still incredibly traumatic to only hold your baby for 10 minutes before she’s ripped out of your arms (The nurses are wonderful and didn’t actually rip her out of anywhere. I’m just allowed to be dramatic here).

2 and a half days of the neonatal intensive care unit has seemed like 2 and a half years. Some of the angels in here have been here for weeks (years in worried parents land). As our strong little girl progresses by the hour, we constantly thank the universe for giving her strength.  She’s going to be just fine…and home where she belongs, in just a few days.