Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Thing About Girlfriends...

Relationships makes the world go ‘round. Take away all the materialistic items in your life and all you have left are the relationships you have cultivated with others. Besides my family and husband, my favorite people in my life are my girlfriends. When we get together, the stresses of my life seem to melt away. It’s an amazing and beautiful thing to be friends with women who you have gone through some of the most memorable moments of your life. When you have found a true friend- time will only make things better between you. Just as I have matured, grown, and changed, so have my girlfriends and so has our friendship. And even though I still feel like a teenager when I am with them, there are still  some major ways our interactions have changed (for the better) over the years:

We used to….
Now we….
Call each other to talk about a crazy sleepless night at a club and ask advice about boys
Call each other to talk about a crazy sleepless night with a newborn and ask advice about sleep training
Discuss the pros and cons of  “bad boys”
Discuss the pros and cons of investment property
Shop for club tops, dresses, and heels that made us feel sexy
Shop for suit jackets and shoes with a reasonable heel that make us feel responsible
Celebrate good grades, college acceptances, and scholarships
Celebrate new jobs, promotions, and degrees
Ask for help with math homework, projects, and essays
Ask for help with taxes, resumes, and 401K’s
Help each other meet cute guys who would eventually break our hearts
Help each other network with people who can take us forward in our careers
Pose for pictures at prom
Pose for pictures at weddings
Get together to play with a new puppy
Get together to welcome a new baby
Plan sleepovers and house parties
Plan bachelorette parties and baby showers
Pregame with shots while getting ready together and go out to a club around 11pm
Finish a bottle or two of wine while talking and catching up and head home around 11 pm

These are just a few of the ways my relationships with my girlfriends have evolved over the years. Still,  there is one thing that has always remained the same, and that is our support for one another. Even as teenagers, we didn’t spend a lot of our time hating on each other. Our goal was to have fun together and enjoy each others' company, and as we got older that goal changed to raising each other up and being supportive of each others' goals and dreams. Today, my girlfriends are the first people I deliver good news to after family, because they know everything I’ve gone through and how far I have come. We are proud of accomplishments and continue to push and encourage each other to go further than we ever thought we could. Being in committed friendships for over a decade takes work, and the relationships we have forged over the years are definitely not perfect. We still argue and get mad with each other. We may go long periods of time without seeing each other or communicating, but when we come back together we pick up where we left off, as if no time has passed at all.

So, if I can offer a piece of advice, it’s this: when looking back at your friendships, any woman that you’re still friends with should be someone who has continually lifted your spirits, not brought you down. She should be someone who has always been excited about your success. There is no room for jealousy in a lasting friendship. My girlfriends and I are all at different points in our life; some of us are married, some still single, some in long term relationships. Some of us have kids, some don’t. Some of us have college and graduate degrees. You can make a long list of how we all have grown in different directions from where we started as teenagers, but one thing we all have in common is each other.

You see, the thing about girlfriends is- even though time will change your relationship by leaps and bounds, if you continually celebrate each other and support one another, you will always have a friendship worth working for.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Haiku of Motherhood Series: Breastfeeding

The first major challenge I experienced as a new mother was learning the ropes of breastfeeding. My daughter was born 3 weeks early and was not a very strong nurser. She also has a tongue and lip tie which made it hard for her to get a good latch. Luckily I had a good supply from the beginning and between her nursing and supplemental bottles of breast milk, I have been able to avoid giving my daughter formula, which has been a major personal goal of mine.

Eventually, the nursing sessions happened less and less and she was given more bottles of breast milk. This really upset me at first, because I wanted to have an exclusive nursing relationship, but she just couldn’t enough milk while nursing, and the daily struggle was taking a toll on my mental and emotional health. Bottle feeding my daughter for the majority of the day proved to be the best move for our family and made for a much happier baby.

The following Haiku are based on my experiences throughout my breastfeeding journey. My daughter is currently 5 ½ months and I know I still have a whole half-year to get through, but writing these Haiku have been a sort of therapy for me, and I am now excited to continue breastfeeding. I know my goal of a year is possible!

I hope those reading this who breastfeed their babies will be able to relate to the moments-good and bad-mentioned in these poems.

What are some breastfeeding topics you would add to the list?

Breastfeeding is hard
But it is the best for her
So I will nurse on!

Nipple pain for days
Baby has a shallow latch
How will I survive?

"You smell good," I'm told
"It's Eau de Breast milk..." I say
"...would you like a spritz?"

Two o’clock-am
Baby cries for Mama's milk
I stumble from bed

When she falls asleep
After a nursing session
I feel complete
Made it three whole months
Now onto my goal of six
After that, a year!

Nursing on the couch
She pauses and looks at me
A treasured moment

Seedy breast milk poop
Exploding up baby’s back
Third outfit today

Nursing in public
Suddenly all eyes on me
They don’t understand

Pump at 3 am
Must maintain my milk supply
Even though she sleeps

Nursing cravings ruin
My plans to lose baby weight
More of me to love

Engorged and in pain
Looking for a place to nurse
I may spring a leak!

Pumping while at work
Not as easy as it sounds
I can do it all

8 ounces of milk
Spilled on the kitchen counter
Waste of liquid gold

An exclusively
Breastfed baby doesn’t mean
I can’t use bottles

When I want to quit
I look at my little girl
She deserves the best

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Breaking the Silence: My Struggle With Postpartum Anxiety

Postpartum mood disorders are more common than people think, yet it is something that isn’t openly talked about. I myself have been battling with postpartum anxiety since my daughter’s birth in September, and it has taken me since then to feel strong enough to talk about it.

I know many of you are thinking, “You’re a new mom, you’re going to feel anxious! That’s just a part of being a parent.” Postpartum anxiety is not your run-of-the-mill, new mom anxiety. It’s a whole different kind of monster. It's a kind of anxiety that keeps you from being able to sleep even when you're the most tired you've ever been in your life. It’s a moment of sheer panic that will bring you out of your deepest REM cycle, leaving you shaking and breathless. It's a non-stop scrolling of upsetting thoughts, images, and worst case scenario "what ifs." It's a rock in the bottom of your stomach that just won't go away. It's the bitter taste of irrational anger that turns into mean comments directed towards the ones you love. It’s a vice that holds you in a place of fear, making it nearly impossible to leave your home. It’s a shiver that runs up and down your spine, and an ache that sits on your chest. It is one of these things alone and all of these things at the same time, and even in the joyful moments, it is always present. Although you are smiling and laughing with family and friends, it’s a cold hand around your throat, reminding you that this is a monster you cannot escape.

The worst part about it is, you begin to believe this is just your new normal. You begin to convince yourself that you must be a terrible parent, a weak woman, a bad person, because no one ever talked about a fear that  would be so overwhelming and unexplainable it would leave you sobbing over the kitchen sink. Obviously you were just not made to be a mother.

Then one day, in a moment of utter hopelessness, you decide to talk about it. You call a friend, or text your brother, or sob to your husband, and they all tell you that it’s not normal to be feeling this way. They suggest you see a doctor. But most importantly, they assure you that everything will be okay, and for a moment the weight of the monster doesn’t feel as heavy, because now other people are carrying it with you.

This has been my experience with PPA, and I know it is not an experience I alone have faced. After speaking with my obstetrician, seeing a psychologist, and going on a low dose of (breastfeeding safe) medicine I have begun to feel a huge difference. I still struggle daily with anxiety, and I know I will for a while, but I have the tools and resources now to help myself. I am beginning to feel like myself again and have been able to develop some coping skills for when things get particularly difficult.

Even though I know what I have experienced is not my fault, I can’t help but struggle with feelings of shame and guilt. I recognize that this is something in my life that I should not be ashamed of, and I continue to work on re-mediating those feelings by talking about it to my doctor. For this reason especially, I have decided to share my story so it no longer is a secret I must bear. I hope women who are reading this, and may be experiencing the same thing understand:
1.  Anything you may be feeling is an emotion that is yours and yours alone, no one can tell you to stop feeling that way or “snap out of it.”
2. This is not your fault and you could not have done anything differently to avoid it!
3. This is not forever, get the help you need- and soon you will be able to look back on this time as a rough patch in your postpartum journey.

Most importantly, I am breaking my silence for my daughter, who one day may be a mother too. I want her to grow into motherhood in a world where mothers are supported and not shamed for struggling with postpartum life. It is not a change that will happen overnight, but maybe if more women begin to share their stories of the struggles and

strife of womanhood- they will no longer be seen as experiences of “the other,” rather the moments that many, if not all women, will go through at some point in their lives. Maybe in time the shame, guilt, and secrecy will be no more.

If you or someone you know is struggling with postpartum mood disorders, or if you want to know more information, feel free to visit some of the following websites that I have found particularly helpful:

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Bring Trump to Chicago

I am a South side-Chicago-City Girl through and through. I was raised in Chicago proper and I currently reside in a south side neighborhood, just minutes from where I grew up. I take great pride in my city.  We are a people who will stand up in the face of a misguided mayor and demand for something better. We have culture dripping from out city streets. Every few blocks you will come across a neighborhood that is different from the one you just passed. We fight for student and teacher rights, and will literally stop traffic to make sure our voices are heard. We are not a fearful people.

So, why are we afraid of a little man called Donald Trump? I know his big mouth and hateful following is something we do not want in our city. But we must not forget, this is OUR city. We are the ones who have the power in this situation. We can welcome Trump into our home and show him with our peaceful protests or through an empty pavilion that we will not stand for what he represents. By signing a petition to cancel his rally we are only stifling ourselves. What is it that you want people to know about Trump? Now is the time to write it on a poster board or blast it from a megaphone.

I would rather see a TV spot about how Trump could not be heard over the cacophony of Chicagoans who showed up to the rally to protest his potential candidacy. Or how he gave a speech to an almost empty pavilion. By canceling the rally we are saying, "Trump is too much for us to handle," we are saying, "We are afraid."

No movement that matters comes without struggle. I for one am in no way an advocate for violence, but I believe that if we uphold ourselves to the standards of the grassroots movements of history that have come before us, we can show Trump and his followers that Chicago will not sit silently in the face of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia. We are the city of strong shoulders, let us not use that strength to push away the challenge of Trump, rather use those shoulders to stand on so everyone across the nation can hear what we think.

Bring Trump to Chicago- show up and protest, or don't show up at all. Either way, we must show him,  his hateful platform has no power in our city.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Haiku of Motherhood Series: Pregnancy

I was very lucky to have a pretty smooth pregnancy. In fact, I quite enjoyed being pregnant; watching my belly grow, feeling the kicks, hearing her heartbeat. For me, it was a pretty magical time, but it wasn’t without its bothersome moments. Although no woman's pregnancy is exactly the same, there is still so many shared experiences among women who have been pregnant. I hope you enjoy the following Haiku. I hope they make you smile, laugh, and (if you are no longer pregnant) remind you of a special time.

The first ultrasound
My most precious grain of rice
A beautiful sight

Someone lied about
Morning sickness because I
Feel sick all day long

Our baby’s heartbeat
We heard over the Doppler
The sweetest music

Not really showing
Yet, my jeans no longer fit
Time for some new clothes

Cravings are no fun
When they hit you all at once
I must eat it all

Swelling all over
Fingers, toes, and baby bump
Stretch marks appearing

Strangers touch my bump
It is not a sign of luck
It is just plain rude

Baby kicks and rolls
Like a little alien

Living inside me

Wherever I go
My baby is always here
Right under my heart

Shopping for a crib,
Changing table, and rocker
All our money gone

Don’t you dare ask me
If I am carrying twins
Unless you want death

Dying to find out
Will I use the name I picked
For a boy or girl?

Lights out for Mama
Means party time for baby
What’s up with that, Kid?

Heartburn has me like
A fire-breathing dragon
Please pass me the tums

Filled with emotions
Waves of joy and bursts of fear-
What a wild ride

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Haiku of Motherhood Series: Babymaking

The first set of Haiku in my series focuses on the excitement and at times heartbreak of trying to have a baby. It did not take my husband and I very long to get pregnant, and for that I am grateful. Still the short amount of time we were trying, I remember the near psychosis I brought myself to, wanting to be pregnant so badly. Once I decided I wanted to have a baby, there was nothing else I could think about.

So, I did what any book worm would do, I read and read and read until I felt like an expert on all things relating to baby making and pregnancy. I drove my husband crazy!  One night after work, in an effort to take my mind off things (and give the hubby a night off of baby-making drama) I went out for drinks with friends. That was the same night I found out I was pregnant! I will never forget that night-the start of the crazy roller coaster of Motherhood, and once I got on, there was no going back.

I hope you enjoy this Haiku series, it reads as a sort of narrative. I know there are many men and women out there who can relate to many of the things I write about. For those of you out there who are in the middle of your own baby making narrative, I pass on good vibes and baby dust!

I woke up one day
With the burning desire
To become a Mom

Deciding to make
A baby is both scary
And so exciting

Read every book
Follow every single blog
Become an expert

Temping everyday
At the crack of dawn to get
Most accurate temp

The body signals
The time when you are fertile
Egg whites is the key

Ovulation time
Let’s do the deed to make a
Mini you or me

Baby clothes in stores
A cruel tease to those of us
With an empty womb

Legs up in the air
Let gravity do its job
Husband laughs at me

Visits from Aunt Flo
Used to bring a great relief
Now it brings me tears

As the month goes by
We play the waiting game of
Baby making chance

This month is the one
He assures me as we lay
I pray he is right

Dollar store pee sticks
Work just as well, so I buy
Every test they have

Testing twice a day
Driving myself so crazy
Imagining lines

Hard apple cider
With friends at happy hour
Trying to relax

The faintest pink line
Appeared one night after work
Can’t believe my eyes!