Thursday, April 25, 2013

Mummy Lunches

Now that I'm a new(ish) mum and I hang out with other new mums, a disturbing phenomenon has come to my attention.  This is worse than all of the mom-comparing and sleep deprivation I've talked about in previous posts.  Worse even than all of my feeding drama.  There is something awful going on here and I'm going to expose it!

New mums are VERY bad at eating lunch.

There you have it, the disturbing and hidden truth.  In a random sampling of new mums (okay, not so random, they might all be my friends), I found the following lunch fare to be common:

  • Nothing at all (by far, the most common)
  • Half a bag of pretzels (I might be guilty of this one)
  • Vegan muffin from JJ Bean ("It's healthy if it's vegan, right?")
  • An Apple (okay that's not so bad...but still not a whole lunch)
  • Cookies ("I didn't sleep last night; fuck off.")
  • The rest of their toddler's lunches ("They weren't gonna eat it!  And I cooked it, damnit!")
  • Coffee (repeat: "I didn't sleep last night; fuck off.")
Mmmm a complete and balanced meal!!
photo credit

But do not fear, fellow bad-lunching mummies.  For I am going to give a whole host of solutions.  Now, you're probably wondering, "What makes you qualified to suggest healthy lunch options to me??"  And the answer to that is, nothing.  I'm actually a terrible cook, AND I did just admit above to the exclusively pretzel lunch.  So you can choose to read on for a bunch of easy and relatively edible ideas for how mums can get a lunch in or you can just say "I didn't sleep last night; fuck off," and close the browser window. :)  I know which I'd do!

Anyway, let's get started.

1) Leftovers!  This is by far the best way to get a good lunch.  Yesterday I had leftovers that didn't even need to be heated up!  It took me 5 minutes flat to prepare and eat this lunch (and I am a VERY slow eater), so it can easily be done during naps or even play time.

Some good ideas for leftovers include:

  • bean salads (no need to warm them!  You can even eat them in the park while your baby slumbers in the stroller!)
  • pizza (who doesn't love leftover pizza???  And, come on, admit it, after a particularly rough day, you've totally splurged for a pizza dinner at least once.)
  • pasta (bowties or fusili are the easiest to eat 1 handed while jiggling a baby in your other arm.  Opt for a drier pasta dish, rather than a saucier kind.  Oil and parmesan is a nice option!)
2) Pre-prepared foods  I don't know about you guys, but part of my problem with lunches (and dinner, actually :) ) is that when I'm ready to eat lunch, there's no time to make it!  It seems like lunchtime and dinner time are high-needs for baby time too.  It's like she knows!  So, a solution to that would be to take the time you've got.  If baby sleeps from 8-9 am, obviously you aren't going to eat lunch then, but you can certainly whip up a sandwich to keep in the fridge or chop up some veggies to go with hummus.  Okay, that last one actually sounds more time intensive than I'd go for.  Anything with the word "chop" in it doesn't really work for me, but, hey, it might for you!! ;)

You can also pre-prepare things way in advance.  Like, on Sunday when you might have your partner or someone else around to entertain baby, you can make a few cheese and coldcut wraps to stick in the fridge.  Then, at lunchtime, all you have to do is heat them up (or just eat them cold!) and manga manga.

3) Get help (and I don't mean the mental kind)  I feel a little sheepish doing this these days, since Ebba is so old, but in the early days, I certainly had no shame in asking friends to bring over lunch!  "You wanna see my bebe?  Great!  Bring over some food and I'll let you in the house!"  It helps if you have friends who are good cooks! :)

4) Don't be afraid to outsource  I have a mental list of a few nearby restaurants that are baby-cry friendly and have delicious food.  For you local folk, Cafe Deux Soleils and Deserts Cafe on Commercial Drive both have really yummy veggie lunch food, and are relatively low-key so if baby throws a hissy fit, it's no big deal.  (Actually, Ebba sleeps through my lunches at both of these places 9 times out of 10!)  The best thing about getting out and having a professional cook your meal (apart from knowing it will taste good) is that you can meet up with friends and get some much-needed out-of-the-house time with your baby.

5) When All Else Fails...  Sometimes, there is no avoiding the pretzel lunch.  But when you must do the inevitable, it's nice to still think about the food groups.  Add some peanut butter for protein (and YUM factor!) and eat it with a few baby carrots so you can tell your mum, "Yes, I'm still eating my vegetables," without actually lying.  

And, since she's a mum too, you can add, "What did you have for lunch today?"  Hopefully the answer won't be nothing!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Mompetition and Momparison Game

As anyone who has read this blog knows, I have spent the last three and a half months agonizing and probably (definitely) overreacting over my feeding issues with Ebba.  A lot of the overreaction probably had to do with hormones and my possible PPD, but some of it does stem from all the messages out there about how if you don't breastfeed, you aren't doing enough for your baby.  

I talked about this a bit before, but it has come up again after a conversation I had with a close friend of mine.  I had read an article in Mothering Magazine about cosleeping (I would link, but it's from a 2009 edition from a stack someone gave me when E. was born. :) ).  The first line of the article was, 

"Although every human female is different, there is no doubt that her body is endowed with a unique capacity to breastfeed, should she choose to do so."
I was a bit miffed over this, because I was expecting an article about sleep!  I was reading and relaxing to get my mind off of the whole feeding kerfuffle, and here it was thrown back in my face.  I skimmed through a few other articles, all with a similar message, whether the article was meant to be about feeding or not.

Anyway, I brought up this quote with said friend, who responded:

"[All this bombardment about the benefits of breastfeeding] isn't to make women like you, women who have struggled, and fought, and sacrificed, and, unfortunately, been unable to breastfeed feel bad.  It is dual purpose, I think.  First, to encourage and educate women about breastfeeding, because, as we know, there are women out there who do not want to breastfeed, or choose not to [...]due to lack of knowledge or confidence etc.  And, the second purpose is to make those women, like me, who have been blessed and lucky enough to successfully breastfeed, feel good about it...  Basically, so we can toot our horns, and feel good.   Unfortunately, that makes women who cannot, feel like shit. :("

The last two lines resonated with me.  Not just about the breastfeeding issue, but about all things surrounding pregnancy and birth and parenthood.  It seems we're all ticking boxes: blissful pregnancy? Check.  Natural labour?  Check.  Breastfeeding?  Check.  Cloth diapers?  Check.  Baby yoga?  Check.  Infant massage?  Check.  Babywearing?  Check.  All organic?  Check.  Etc, etc.

What my friend said made me think back to my own birth, which I still think was fantastic and totally what I wanted, but that isn't why I'm proud of it.  I'm proud of it because I carried and grew a child for 9+ months and then brought her into the world.  It was icing on the cake that it was a natural and fairly peaceful birth at home.  But the real reason I'm happy it was natural and at home was because I'm a coward!  I'm terrified of hospitals and the thought of a needle in my back (as for an epidural) just makes my skin crawl.  If I had had to do my birth differently, I'm not sure I would have made it.

And, that's why I am becoming so impressed by women who do go a different.  Women who have had to be induced and endure long and painful contractions; women who have been in labor for over a day, or two or three!  Women who have had to have their babies surgically removed from them because of complications.  Those women are strong.  They have encountered the unthinkable and the certainly unexpected and have survived and even thrived.  They are just as much birthing heroes as the women who birth naturally.

All of these ticked boxes above are awesome, but not ticking one of these boxes doesn't make anyone a bad mum!  There are many reasons for some of those boxes to be unchecked.  Some are good reasons and some are not so good.  But as long as a woman is educated and supported, she has the right to make whatever choice she wants, and we all should be pretty okay with that.  And, if she's educated and supported and she is still unable to make the choice that she wants (as in my case with breastfeeding, or in the case of someone needing an emergency C-section, for example), then we should be more than okay with that.  We should look at that mum and say, "Wow, you must be so strong."  Because, getting what you want and what you planned for doesn't make you strong.  Not getting those things and still moving forward is what takes the real strength, as I am learning.

So, let me try and get back to my point.  What was the point of this post again?  Sorry, it's after 9 pm so my brain has gone to sleep.

Oh!  Right.  My point (which I've said before, so sorry for the redundant post) is that all this mummy comparing and mummy competition isn't helpful for anyone.  We shouldn't be putting other mums down because it makes us feel better and more secure in our own choices.  We should support each other no matter what.  And we should feel strong enough in our own role as a mum that we don't count ticked boxes to make sure we're doing things right.

I'm not trying to be all high and mighty.  I'm a ticked-box counter too!  Truth be told, that's why I started reading that article about cosleeping -- I thought to myself, "Well, I might not be breastfeeding exclusively, but I do cosleep, so that means I'm still an okay mum, right?  Surely better than all those people who don't cosleep."  But that first line snapped me right out of my box-ticking ways.

My mum chose to stop breastfeeding me before 4 months.  She couldn't wait.  My husband's mum didn't cosleep with any of her children.  My best friend was born by C-section.  As far as I can tell, we've all turned out okay.  So, while on a large scale I'm sure a lot of these things matter, on a small scale, what really matters is just relaxing into motherhood and loving your kids.  So, let's stop competing and comparing with each other and just give each other and ourselves hugs for taking on parenthood and succeeding.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Bliss and Blues

It's been awhile since I've written in the blog.

Thank you, Captain Obvious!  Any other enlightening tidbits for us?

Well, yes.  How about some brutal honesty?  Here goes.  I had every intention of making my blog a mix of humour and information, steering clear of the journal-like 'woe-is-me'-isms that probably have no business in a public forum.  But, the truth is, I haven't felt particularly humorous or informative recently.  I have, however, felt pretty full of 'woe-is-me.'  So rather than let my blog suffer any more neglect waiting for something funny to pop into my head, I figured I might as well just write about what's in my head now.  And, hey, maybe it will be informative for someone.  I don't know.

A week or so ago, I made the decision to stop trying to breastfeed Ebba.  Granted, I still do sometimes, especially at night or whenever she's willing.  But I'm no longer on a crazy crusade to increase my supply or breastfeed exclusively...because I had to admit to myself that that probably will never happen.

This was a difficult decision for me, but ultimately I had to realize what my crazy obsession was doing to myself, and to my family.  I hardly had time to appreciate the amazingness that is my daughter because I was so filled with self-loathing and stress about "not being able to feed her properly."  I attributed every little problem to our feeding issues.  As I wrote to a family member:

So, here we are, sad about life, with an awesome husband and a beautiful baby in a fabulous city.  I can't really get more irrational than this.  It's like people say, "look on the bright side," and I do...I try to.  But it's like through a cloud.  A cloud of "buts" (no, not butTs! :))  This is what I do: "Ebba is amazing BUT she might be healthier if she were breastfed."  "My life is awesome BUT I'd have more time to spend with my daughter if I weren't always mixing formula."  "Ebba and I totally rock getting out of the house BUT it would be so much easier if I didn't have to lug bottles everywhere I went, or cut outings short because I didn't bring enough food for the baby."  "I checked out all those 'breastfeeding-is-tha-shit' studies and they aren't really all that convincing, BUT when I breastfeed Ebba seems happier and it just FEELS more natural." "David is the best Dad and husband ever, BUT I hardly get to enjoy him because I'm always mixing formula...or crying...or crying while I mix formula."

But, my empty boobs aren't really what I wanted to write about right now.  I wanted to write about what I've found to be the paradox of becoming a new mum, how it's possible to be a blissed out mama-goddess on one hand and a bluesed (sure, that's a word!) out mummy on the other.  I wanted to write about how I probably have postpartum depression, along with about 25% of other mummies.  And I wanted to write that that fact doesn't make me (or any of us) less of a blissed out mamma goddess.  (And that maybe some of those blissed out mamma goddesses that we're sitting here envying also cry several times a week at home with their baby.)

Here's the thing, becoming a new mum (or, I'd imagine, even a second time mum) is not an easy thing.  It's a wonderful thing, but not easy.  There is no real way to prepare completely for it as far as I can tell.  You can nanny, read all the baby books, spend time with your friends' new babies, practice waking up 8 times a night for a few months...bring a stuffed animal and a tape-recording of crying with you to every shower and bathroom know.  But none of this will really prepare you for the love and stress and bliss and terror and excitement and exhaustion that your baby will bring you.  And none of this can prepare you for the crazy flux of hormones that goes on after birth.

You might think I'm about to talk about the crazy flux of hormones now, but I really have no specific idea of what it is and I'm a new mum, so I am not going to research it right now.  But I'm sure a quick google search will enlighten you, should you not be a new mum and actually have the luxury of time for frivolous google searches. :)

Anyway, with this mystery hormone stew, coupled with the radical change in lifestyle, it's no wonder new parents (I say parents because some dads get it as well!) can get the blues.  The thing is, no parent plans to get it, and I think that's what makes it so difficult.  I personally skipped over the postpartum depression chapter in all my baby books because I thought, "Oh I'm having a mamma-goddess natural birth; what could possibly go wrong?"

I'll never know if my feeding troubles are what caused my sadness, or if something else would have triggered it anyway; just as I'll never know if my feeding issues were caused by something I did or didn't do, or if they would have happened anyway.  The only thing I can do is move on and spend my energy on adoring my beautiful daughter, who makes it easier to recover everyday.  If "recover" is even the right word.  See, the thing that I have come to realize is this (as I mentioned above): the baby blues or even postpartum depression doesn't make the bliss of motherhood any less, unless you let it.

I think it is hard for a lot of women to admit, or even realize, that they have PPD because they feel like it makes them less of a mum, or that it takes out the bliss they had envisioned becoming a mum would bring.  I certainly hadn't put that label on my bummed out mama feelings because I unconsciously thought those words, Postpartum depression, would minimize my whole experience.  But, bliss and blues are not mutually exclusive, as far as I can see now.

After I accepted this label, I was still a bit sad.  As I told someone: GI Joe was wrong; knowing is not half the battle.  But, a week later, I realize that knowing (accepting the label) really did help me come to terms with things and deal.  So, I hope by my admitting my own battles with PPD, other mums come out of the dark, look at how they feel, and get help if they need it.

Since then, I have taken E. on her first road trip, gone swimming, gone on picnics, threw our first bash at home, and had a whole week of feedings (boob and bottle) that didn't involve tears.  I have just thoroughly enjoyed my life as a mum and my life with Ebba.

Other new mummies, how did/do you feel?  Bluesy? Blissy?  Both?  How did you deal?