Miracle baby turned TWO

How is it possible that this sweet little guy is TWO already?!

To celebrate, he enjoyed popsicles at daycare, toy airplanes with daddy, and birthday brownies at the lake with Mimi and Poppa.

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learning a new skill: blowing out the birthday candles

I actually have TWO miracle babies. And if it wasn’t for Miracle Baby #1, there’d be no Miracle Baby #2.

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This is my story. My struggle with infertility. (And sleep deprivation.)

I share it because I’m sure many of you can relate.

Infertility used to be this thing of shame. Just read the Old Testament where all the women weep because they’re barren. A vessel unfilled. It is their identity.

Today, we can label ourselves other things: career professional, aunt, leader, lover of dogs, sister, writer, musician, artist, biker babe. WE ARE NOT BARREN.

Still, even today, women whisper the word: infertility. As if saying the word gently will turn it into a prayer. Or make the heartache go away.

Say the word out loud now. Do you notice it’s full of assonance? Softness? In…fer…tility The harsh “t” sounds don’t come til the end. Like you can hold the pain at bay.

Say the word out loud again. Linger over the word. Dwell on it. NORMALIZE IT.

Let’s support one another. Let’s give hugs and hold hands. Let’s cry over it together. Giant tears that actually acknowledge the heartbreak. Of unrequited wanting.

In my story, we tried for six years. The doctors called it “unexplained infertility.” They told us I might be allergic to my husband’s sperm. They told us we might be incompatible.

Other people called us “those people who just want to have dogs” or “those people who don’t really like kids.” We didn’t want to talk about the wanting, so we let them label us.

We tried lots of things.

Charting. We filled calendars with random notations for months. (At least I didn’t have to spend money on birth control any more.)

HSG Dye Test. To see if I had endometriosis. Perhaps a smidgen. Otherwise, all clear! (My doctor was impressive. It didn’t hurt. I took ibuprofen beforehand.)

Clomid. Apparently, it thins the lining of the uterus so the fertilized egg can implant. Mine was already thin, so there was definitely no need for more thinning.

Intrauterine Insemination. I lost count after the fourth IUI. It was Russian roulette where the doctor tells you how many eggs are available that month so you can HAVE TRIPLETS MAYBE. And then you stab yourself in the stomach with a really long needle because you are willing to HAVE TRIPLETS MAYBE.

I once shot up behind Walgreens. Another time in the middle of nowhere eastern North Carolina behind a tractor supply store in route to visit my best friend (and her brood of 3 lovely, non-triplet children.)

And finally, In Vitro Fertilization. Our saving grace. Truly, a joy unbounding.

We put the truck up for collateral and took out a loan at the bank to pay for our dreams. And, all praise Jesus, IVF worked. I can’t even describe what it was like when we saw that heartbeat on the ultrasound at 6 weeks. It was miraculous.

We got lucky. We only went through one round of IVF.

And by lucky, I mean: The doctors harvested 19 eggs. Then only 11 fertilized. Then only 5 embryos made it to the day of truth, Day 5. Then only 2 seemed suitable for transfer. Then of the 3 still under watch, none made it past Day 6 to freeze “for next time.”

Of the two suitable embryos, the doctor pointed at a picture of one of them, saying, “If you get pregnant with a ‘singleton,’ this is the embryo to thank.” We were looking at the very beginning of our son. He was perfection.

We got lucky. The transfer and implantation were successful (perhaps thanks to progesterone suppositories). And at 8 weeks, the reproductive medical team released me back to my regular OB. This was thrilling and surreal.

We got lucky. Pregnancy was a breeze. Yet also terrifying: I faced complete placenta previa. Which meant I could bleed to death if I went into labor prematurely. This also guaranteed a c-section, which my incredibly careful OB waited until 38.5 weeks to perform (vs. the typical hospital protocol of delivery at 36 weeks.)

Our minister likes to say that the church congregation breathed a collective sigh of relief when our sweet boy was born. The prayers of the people were with us that day. I lost a full liter of blood. But sweet boy was perfect.

Fast-forward 20 months when Miracle Baby #2 arrived.

No, wait, let’s back up a bit.

I always imagined a house with two kids. I don’t know why. I’m the oldest of 3. My husband is the youngest of 6. But when I dreamed of the future, two small blurs filled my visions.

But motherhood is hard. Especially when you have to recover from a c-section. Especially when you’ve lost a liter of blood during delivery. Especially when you can’t figure out how to nurse and the baby can’t either. Especially when you aren’t allowed to sleep because you have to feed the baby every 2-3 hours. Especially when you aren’t allowed to sleep.

I went from the highest joy to the deepest pit of rage. All because of sleep deprivation. But I didn’t know to call it that at the time. I just knew I was suddenly Mommy Dearest. How cruel that this miracle I had begged for for so long could take me to such a shocking place. All because of sleep deprivation.

I set aside dreams of a household of four. And worked to find myself again. Reading all those books on the Resources page of this blog. And leaning on (raging on) my husband to pull me back to myself.

My OB told us if we wanted another baby – I was old – to wean sweet boy at 3 months and to skip the birth control. But to not get our hopes up. That IVF would probably be the only option. IVF – which we’d have to start from scratch again. Because there were no frozen embryos.

I set aside dreams of a household of four. If motherhood was this hard, how could I handle two children? If infertility still lurked around the corner, if baby #2 wasn’t guaranteed anyway (what if IVF didn’t work this time?), no way was I going to wean baby #1, to drop that bond, at 3 months. I would savor every ounce possible of my sweet new son, despite myself and the sleep deprived rage.

But we skipped the birth control.

Sweet boy grew and slept more and smiled and laughed more. Sleep deprivation began to loosen its grip. And when baby turned 1, motherhood seemed to make a lot more sense.

And then my clothes wouldn’t fit. And I started craving every sugary thing I could find. It was basically a joke at work: “Here, you probably want a donut, right? Would you like 3?”

It seemed beyond ridiculous to think I was pregnant. Me, this body that can’t get pregnant. Me, this body that endured pokes and prods for 6 years.

I told myself I was going through hormonal changes because I was beginning to wean the baby.

Then I wanted to vomit when I washed the garlic press. And I noticed pregnant women everywhere. And I noticed my silhouette in a store window – I looked just like them.

My husband thought I was crazy. And even crazier to get my hopes up. We’d agreed we were content with a family of three. And now here I was with this insane dream again of a family of four.

Three positive pregnancy tests later, he still didn’t believe me.

I was ecstatic and scared to death. Would I survive the rage of sleep deprivation a second time? (Would our marriage survive it?) How could we possibly handle two small children so close in age?

At least they’d be 2 years apart.

More like 20 months.

When I finally got to the OB, the ultrasound tech informed us I was already 16 weeks pregnant… (Yes, I have an MBA. No, I have no idea how babies are born. See IVF above.) And, oh, would we like to come back next week to learn the baby’s sex?

So, yes, it’s possible to go through IVF and conceive naturally the second time around. And actually, my body needed IVF to teach it how to create life. Without IVF, there’d be no Miracle Baby #1. Without Miracle Baby #1, there’d be no Miracle Baby #2.

And what a thing of love we’d miss. These two.

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miracle boys – and best friends

And the second time around, I dared sleep deprivation to take me down. I clung to my maternity leave manifesto and I started this blog. (In my last post, I asked you to ponder how you’d like to contribute to the world. This is it for me. To tell you sleep-deprived mommas it’s all going to be okay.)

Now it’s your turn. To tell your story. Out loud.

Give someone else hope. Or a hug. Or a chance to reimagine life and find joy outside the dream of parenthood if life doesn’t bring it their way.

Because families are created through biology, technology, and official and unofficial adoption. Especially the unofficial kind where we can simply (and majestically) choose to embrace and love our neighbors. Who is your neighbor? Walk outside and see.

Three important questions

Stephen Covey talks about focusing on four quadrants to help you reach your best self: spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional health.

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Stephen Covey’s 7th habit is all about balance and personal growth

You can read his thoughts on this. Or just check out the video below that a friend recently shared with me. It’s been a while since we talked about rediscovering joy in the midst of parenting crazy. So this video may be timely for you.

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And it really gets at Covey’s four quadrants through what it calls: the 3 most important questions. Plus, it’s only 7 minutes long.

I like watching the video through the lens of creating a vision for your life as a mom, daughter, partner, friend, colleague. Or, perhaps, are you following your soul’s yearning or just buying into society’s definition of success?

And if you don’t have 7 minutes, here are the questions. Vishen Lakhiani, the video guy, suggests spending 19 seconds pondering each one:

1. What do you want to experience if time and money are no object?

2. How do you want to grow and be a more creative human being?

3. How do you want to contribute to the world?

Let me know if you tried this exercise. What did you learn? What did you gain? Comment below or on Facebook at MothersRest.

You might be a #BoyMom if

Ok, I get it, there are tons of posts out there about the delights of raising boys. But I think we need to expand the canon to embrace the new age of androgyny in which we live. Plus, my dad is old school and doesn’t think little boys should have GIRL HAIR.

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You might be a #BoyMom if…

10. Little man likes to cook like Da-da.

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9. A tanker truck goes by and the appropriate response is, “Pass gas!” (Because some things never change.)

8. The kiddo is really into firemen, policemen and floral arranging.

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7. You constantly chastise him for trying to be a tough guy. (Because some things never change.)

      B: Mommy, I’m going to shoot you.

      Me: We don’t shoot people. And we don’t say that.

      B: Rockets shoot into the sky.

      Me: You make a good point.

6. Sweet boy loves purple and pink balls.

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5. Tea parties involve Jedi mind tricks.

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4. Your world is full of wrestlemania. Plus monster and duck capes. All the time. (Because some things never change.)

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3. Princess dresses make everyone happy.

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I don’t know, maybe he’s actually a king

2. Your parenting title has evolved to Poopy Doopy Mommy Moopy. (Because some things never change.)

1. The penis isn’t just for boys.

      B: Mommy, where’s your penis?

      Me: I don’t have one. I’m a girl.

      B: Ellie’s a girl and she has one.

      Me: Her momma must be so proud. Hashtag RepealHB2.

What’s on your #BoyMom list? Comment below or share on Facebook at MothersRest.

Car tripping with toddlers

Since I’ve gotten a ton of love from you guys for the post on how to survive the 6-hour car trip with baby, it seems only fitting to give you an updated version for the toddler set. Besides, that’s where my life’s at these days.

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Many of the tips from the baby edition still apply, so definitely check out that post if you haven’t already.

Also, I like to make life difficult for myself and travel without electronics (because I’m an anti-TV luddite). But everyone I know swears you need a DVD player or iPad for each kid – totally your choice.

So here goes….

Day-driving is where it’s at.
Dang, y’all, the good ole days of driving through the night with a beautiful, sleeping baby are…GONE.

We figured this out one Christmas night when little brother screamed for 2 hours straight, and big brother refused a trip to snoozeland. (Oh, the drama he would’ve missed!) That settled it. We now plan all trips pre-sundown. Because if the kiddos ain’t gonna sleep in the car at night, we might as well all be in bed when the sun goes down wherever we’re fixin’ to get to.

Nap time is your friend.
I’m a huge fan of the splendid car-nap. (It’s the only way the 3-year-old will nap on the weekend.)

Plan your venture so that nap time hits at the trip mid-point. Then the kiddos will magically (fingers crossed!!) fall asleep just when you think they are about to get bat shit bored. This means pack the car, feed the little ones and plop them into the car an hour or 2 prior to nap time. During the pre-nap phase, otherwise known as the “car trips are fun!” period, they’ll chatter happily (or not), counting fire hydrants, trash cans and big rigs.

Then comes the lovely quiet period of the trip when mommy can enjoy her favorite podcast or some Beastie Boys on low volume, while the tikes doze off to dream big thoughts of the junk food nanny will serve during your visit.

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favorite meme ever

Cherish the sleep aids.
The goal is for the little ones to nap for 1-2 hours. That way you only have a couple hours of trip left to survive. (Hopefully, they’ll tolerate this last period like champs. #WishfulThinking)

Ransack your house for all the special sleep friends you can find and fill the car with them: dolls, blankets, elephant loveys…Believe me, the more the merrier. You don’t want nap time sabotaged because Emmie’s 2-headed dog didn’t make the cut. Or got lost along the way. Or she vomited on it when you went around a curve too fast (true story). Don’t be shy – bring ’em all!

Place the ever-crucial sleep friends within arm’s reach of each kid. I’ve often dreamed of attaching bungy cords to these sleep pals and the kid to prevent the inevitable wailing from when a special friend ends up on the floor.

Prepare to soothe the kiddos with a couple lullabys if that’s your jam. And work a sound machine into the mix, too. (But don’t let it put you to sleep.)

Position the kids strategically.
My kids are now in forward-facing car seats and it’s awesome. Gasp! (Sure, sure, proceed with the hate mail.)

Skip this tip if it offends you. But here’s how we roll: Big brother sits behind the passenger seat and little brother behind the driver seat. This is helpful whenever anyone wants a snack. Without turning around, I manage to go-go-gadget my arms and hand big brother the goodies that he then passes along to little brother. Big brother is really proud of his helper skills.

Speaking of snacks.
Don’t forget the goldfish, cheerios, whatnot. Prepackage them into the appropriate serving sizes pre-trip so you can just dole them out at your leisure (or when the kiddos are out of their gourd hungry). You know, fill up a bunch of those snack trap things.

Bring mom snacks, too: granola bars and dark chocolate anything are my go-tos. And don’t forget water bottles for everyone. (The Thermos ones don’t tend to spill.)

I also recommend SPINACH AVOCADO PANCAKES. Sometimes the 6-hour car trip overlaps with lunch or dinner. Children can only choke down goldfish and cheerios for so long. And I hate herding little cuties into McDonald’s by myself. So we live on these tasty pancakes that can handle zero refrigeration for several hours. I usually stop for a picnic/leg-stretch break and we chow down, but, other than being kinda crumbly/greasy, you can eat them in the car one-handed.

These pancakes sound fancy, right? Easy peasy. Just make regular pancakes, replacing the oil with a mashed up avocado and crumble up raw spinach into the batter. Cook per normal. Throw them into the car. Then update your status on Facebook about how you’re the best veggie-and-fruit sneaky mom ever.

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the boys love a mid-trip pancake and stretch break to watch cars go by

Raid the toy box and library.
You need toys and books. Or things will go sideways.

I have one of those extra large LLBean tote bags that I can’t even lift that’s perfect for the long-ass car trip. Find yourself something similar and cram it full of giant-sized books and giant-er-sized toys. Stow it between the kids’ car seats for easy access. And pray nothing becomes a projectile if your kid is already Olympic-javelin-throwing material.

I fill the very bottom of the tote bag with handy travel supplies, like extra diapers and 10 gazillion changes of clothes for the potty-training-in-progress kid. Then I place the toys on top. That way the kids can reach whatever they want. I also keep a couple things upfront with me in case they get bored of the spoils in the bag.

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big ass tote bag to hold big ass toys

Eventually the boys will be big enough to reach the back of the front seats with something other than their very muddy shoes. At that point, I’ll get these backseat toy organizer hanger bag thingys. My SIL loves them and they make life in the fast lane pretty fabulous for her kiddos.

Wear a fanny pack.
To stash an extra car key and cash. Also, your cell phone. That way when you stop for gas, you don’t lock these crucial elements in the car because your awesome yoga pants don’t have pockets. (I know the name of a great locksmith in Amherst-middle-of-nowhere, Virginia in case you ignored this tip.)

Plan low key potty stops.
For potty training tots, bring a travel potty that fits into a bag, along with extra clothes and wipes. You can park off road for the business. (I really like church parking lots.)

Another option is to stop at a hotel, especially if you need to pee and must cart the whole lot of you into the bathroom. Hotels are fun! They are clean! They sometimes have cookies! And one time, my boys got rubber duckies from the housekeeping staff. Anyway, definitely a better gig than the typical gas station fair (gack!)

Plot out stretch breaks.
Like at Chick-fil-A where you can get the happy meal with a SHINY NEW BOOK!! Or at an awesome tourist trap like Dinosaurland. Or perhaps at a geyser. Some place where the caged animals you call children can run off the seated-too-long car jitters. Great for momma, too!

Don’t forget the fleece blanket.
I can’t say enough about the humble fleece blanket. It’s quite the lifesaver in so many ways. Like to survive hypothermia in your car (say what?!) So pack 1. Or 6.

And now I’d love to hear your tips for the long-ass car trip with small chillens. Are you pro-DVD player? Do you have a favorite car-friendly food? Share your #TravelTips below or on Facebook at MothersRest.

How to escape swim diaper hell

This post was almost a cry for help. Until another mom took pity on me and showed me the light. (Thanks, Alison!) Now I can do the same for you.

All I can say is that I’m looking forward to next summer when the littlest member of the fam’ is potty trained. Trips involving all things water are sooooo much easier sans diaper. Rather than change a messy kid, I’d prefer taunting him to take a swim potty break. (Trust me, the taunting is necessary. Learn from my poolside potty trials here in this post.)

Maybe I’m the only one in this boat, but I devote my pool time to 3 things: trying to keep little brother from drowning, eating the drippy remains of big brother’s day glo-orange popsicle, and scanning the water for free-floating poop. Because, in my experience, swim diapers suck.

summer should be all fun all the time - without the worry of a swim diaper fail
summer should be all fun all the time – without the worry of a swim diaper fail
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Next summer my little guy will turn 3 and he better be a potty professional by then. If not, he and I are going to have words. Are you listening, kid? Do you like goldfish? Do you like milk? Mommy only guarantees such goodies for potty trained 3-year-olds.

But this summer, we endured the humiliation that is the SWIM DIAPER. By which I mean, there were a couple shut-down-the-baby-pool incidents that I’d love to blame on another child, but you know how it goes.

I’m not exactly sure the purpose of the lowly swim diaper. Except to make pool managers think pool attendees are sanitary members of society. Because these things definitely don’t hold pee. And when water meets poop…Let’s just say it’s an unholy union. Where each party tries to flee from the other one. Usually by running down the leg of the innocent child whose parents have been duped into making him don a swim diaper. (And what, pray tell, are swimpants?)

After two humiliating incidents on the same day, my friend came to the rescue. And loaned me her kid’s Tuga-brand reusable swim diaper.

Editor’s note: This post is not a product push. The manufacturer doesn’t know I exist, so, no, they aren’t paying me to hype this thing. Hashtag I wish.

Since I’m one of those cloth diaper moms, I’ve been down the road of the reusable swim diaper before. From my experience, the only benefit is that you get to keep your hard-earned cash, instead of dolling out precious dollars every other week for another pack of tossable swim nappies. The mess-containment properties are pretty much the same as with the disposable jobbies: na-da. Thus, I was a little skeptical when she suggested I try yet another reusable option.

But I was desperate. And not disappointed. It was, like, praise baby Jesus!

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my little cutie with his cute fluffy bum

That’s why I’m here to tell you to drop everything and find one of these diapers. I don’t actually care if you get this Tuga brand or not, but here’s a link if you’re interested. Hey, maybe you’re lucky and have an Alison in your life who can just loan you one.

Now, as promised, here is my 3-pronged approach to SWIM DIAPER BLISS.

1. Leverage layers.
I use this Tuga thing as a diaper cover. I’m too much of a chicken to let my kid just wear it by itself. Because the humiliating incidents from other swim diapers are still fresh in my mind.

Simply pull the cover up over (CONTAINMENT!!) your swim diaper of choice. Regarding which I vacillate between a disposable one and a regular cloth diaper without inserts. (The inserts water-log and weigh down your little swimmer.) The benefit of the disposable, of course, is you don’t have to cart home a dirty diaper. For extra cuteness, you can cover the cover with your kiddo’s swim suit.

Ladies, the cover idea is BRILLIANT. When you do have to change that mess, you just peel off the cover and change the diaper underneath. You can always rinse the cover with hot water and soap if needed and then get on with the fun.

2. Size up.
My little guy currently wears 2T, yet this loaner model is 4T. This way you can truly use it as a cover (CONTAINMENT!!) per above. Plus, you can get an extra year of wear out of it in case your kid refuses to potty train next summer.

3. Live for elastic.
Check out the picture above again. The key component is ELASTIC EVERYWHERE. Increasing the odds that nothing’s getting past this thing. My kid has “road tested” my cover-over-swim-diaper cocktail 4x now. And I’m pleased to say this combo is where it’s at.

Good luck to you during these final days of summer. And may you experience swim diaper bliss!

Comment below to share your tips for escaping swim diaper hell or on Facebook at MothersRest.

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The secret to date night success

You know how it goes. You haven’t talked to your partner in weeks. Between chores and work and baby stuff and big kid activities and walking the dog and…well, life leaves little room for connection.

Bring on DATE NIGHT.

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anything goes for date night, even some super hot disco

And everyone knows the first rule of date night: Don’t talk about the kids!

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You can talk about the trash truck schedule for the upcoming holiday week. But, under no circumstances, should you mention the (shhhhh) children.

This makes sense. The reason you’re on the date in the first place is because those pesky, lovable little creatures have disrupted quality coupling couple time. You’re out on the town with your beloved to reminisce about the good ole days.

So here’s a fun drinking game for you to play on your next date. Every time someone mentions “Bobby’s” name, you both have to take a shot of tequila. (For legal reasons, I must now state that I only condone such activity if there’s an uber driver involved in your evening festivities or you’re doing one of those staycation date nights where you sneak off to the dining room after the kids go to bed and eat PFChang’s on the wedding china.)

Let’s recap now, shall we?

YOU MUST NOT TALK ABOUT THE KIDS. PRETEND YOU DO NOT HAVE KIDS. ACT LIKE THE KIDS BELONG TO THE NEIGHBOR.

That’s the rule, right?

NOOOOOOOOO, don’t give in to this myth. Go with your heart and TALK ABOUT THE KIDS AS MUCH AS YOU WANT.

What the what?!

I know, I know. Your best friend only offered to babysit for free tonight (bless her) if you promised you’d stick to any topic but (oh, the horror) the children.

Well, here’s the dealio. Assuming your kids are important to you both, let’s all get on with it and stop censoring ourselves. If you want to talk about the kids, then talk about the kids.

In fact, I love this quote from John Gottman, the famous marriage and relationship expert, from his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work:

Many well-meaning experts recommend that you consider marriage and family a balancing act, as if your lives are a seesaw with the baby on one end and your marriage on the other. Couples are counseled to spend some time away from the baby and focus on their marriage and outside interests: talk about your relationship, your job, her job, the weather, anything but the baby at home. But marriage and family are not diametrically opposed. Rather, they are of one cloth.

Yes, the couple should spend time away from the baby occasionally. But if they are making this transition well together, they will find that they can’t stop talking about the baby, nor do they want to. They might not even get through that first meal without calling home – at least twice.

Too often, such couples are made to feel as if they have done something wrong because they have made their own relationship seemingly secondary to their new roles as parents. The result is that they feel all the more stressed and confused. But in fact, they have done something very right. The important thing here is that they are in it together. To the extent that both husband and wife make this philosophical shift, the parent-child relationship and the marriage thrive.

Can’t say it better than that guy.

And now you definitely need to hire an uber driver for your next night of disco fun. Gonna be a whole lot of tequila shots going on. Cheers!

Share your comments below or on Facebook at MothersRest.

Never move a nursing mother

Trigger warning: This post contains sad puppies. And then a happy ending.

The fun story about the boob-turned-squirt-gun nursing mom got me thinking.

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When I was growing up, we were always surrounded by dachshund puppies. As in our house was an upscale puppy mill. Because my dad thought we should experience the miracle of dog birth. Which is, frankly, gross. Puppies are born inside individual sacks which the mother eats. That’s a little much for middle schoolers to swallow. But, y’all, dachshund puppies are the dang cutest ever.

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me (11 months) with Skoshi (4 months) – because having one baby in the house was too easy.

The thing with puppies is that the sole purpose of the momma is to spend the day lying around. So the little sweeties can nurse. Especially because puppies start out with eyes wide shut. They find mom by instinct and while away the hours munching, sleeping, peeing, chewing. You know, pretty much like people babies.

One summer after a litter of cuteness was born, we headed off on our annual trek down I-81 to spend a month at “the lake.” (Sounds fancy, right? Lake vacation…Think more like: double-wide. It was the late 80’s, McMansions hadn’t infiltrated the heartland of Virginia yet.) My parents loaded all of us up, including momma dog, daddy dog and 5 wriggling newborn wieners. By the time we arrived at the lake, all hell had broken loose.

(Activate trigger warning here. But I promise it gets better!!!)

Riding for hours (for FOUR hours to be exact) in the car was not what this nursing dog mom had in mind. My dad, you see, liked to go off-roading through the mountains. That often led to car-vomit sessions among us kids. And it definitely threw momma dog off her game. Her game being to laze around calmly to indulge her wean ones. Unfortunately, she refused to settle. Which meant the puppies couldn’t nurse. Which meant the puppies were, um, starving.

(Here’s the HAPPY part!)

My mom, who solves all things, having been a nursing mom 3x times herself, immediately took action. And hauled the whole kit and caboodle to the emergency vet. Who managed to save the day by educating everyone on how to create the optimal canine nursing environment. This, long story short, revolves around one rule:

NEVER MOVE A NURSING MOTHER.

Now, years later, having myself breastfed two boys for 13 months each, I totally get this rule. It absolutely applies to people moms, too.

Nursing, especially for new mothers, is incredibly stressful. You’re all, like, why won’t this nursing thing work? Why does this nursing thing hurt? What if baby bites me? How do I know baby’s getting enough to eat? How do I deal with cracked nipples? How do I deal with mastitis? What is mastitis?

Nursing people moms, like nursing dog moms, need calm.

Here are my tips for creating your own optimal nursing environment. (Listen up, #RockStarDad!)

1. Never move a nursing mother. Once mom is settled with baby, leave her be. Even if she decides to nurse topless in public where all those peeping tom “distracted husbands” can see her. (Seriously, people, baby’s head is basically the same size as the titillating boob, so how much can you actually see?)

2. Wear a mom diaper. While I have friends who claim to have carried nursing baby suspended upon nursing pillow to the bathroom and peed, this just seems like a recipe for disaster. What if you trip?! And sometimes those nursing sessions are interminable, like 1.5 hours. Baby snacks, baby dozes, mom wakes baby, baby snacks, baby dozes, mom wakes baby. Repeat. Then mom has to pee.

3. Create a luxurious spa-inspired nursing station. Claim a designated area of the house with minimal decor distractions to keep baby focused on getting the job done as soon as possible (see #2 above: because you have to pee.) My first little guy liked to gaze at the quilts my great grandmother made, so all colorful trinkets were, henceforth, banished.

Outfit your cozy nest with lots of supplies.
— Rocking chair with foot rest. You can get one of those fancy rocker glider, matching sets. Or just go with the old school wooden rocker and prop your feet up on a random box.
— Blanket and mom pillow in case you and baby reach that nirvana state of the post-nurse nap.
— Side table stocked with essentials: finger foods, water, books, burp cloths, nursing pillow, 3 or 4 nipple shields (if needed – saving grace in my opinion!)

Other considerations: How much of a tech-addict are you? You might want access to the digital (or non-baby) world via TV, tablet or smartphone. I’m a Luddite and only kept the phone nearby in case of emergency, preferring to sing or chat endlessly (or nap) while baby nursed. Because I was afraid of Wi-Fi signals. (And now you hate me for giving you something else to worry about.)

4. Ban distracting people. If possible, send big brother out of the room to watch cartoons or eat chocolate – whatever enticements you need to keep him away. Or perhaps grandma can entertain him. Because little sis has a hard time choosing boob when her delightful sib is around.

And while you’re at it, keep extraneous adults away, too. If you’ve got amazing friends stopping by to drop off food (amazing friends!!), leave the front door unlocked and text them that your house is now robber-ready. The risk is so worth it because you and baby might actually fall asleep. Gotta guard that with your life.

What are your tips for low-stress #NursingZen? Comment below or share on Facebook at MothersRest.

10 ways to use a fleece blanket

I love me a fleece blanket. Shall I count the ways?

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1. As a blanket (duh).

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this absolutely hideous deer-inspired blanket that the 3-year-old loves will also appeal to his 10-year-old self

2. As your BFF in the middle of the night when dealing with your kid’s wet bed. Throw that baby down on the wet spot and toss the sleepy kid right on top. Wrestle with the sheets in the morning.

3. As a swim suit car-seat saver. Thus solving the old pool trip conundrum: do I change the kid’s clothes at the pool or drive everyone home all wet to deal with when we get home? Just lay the blanket between the kid and car seat. Works for mommas, too.

4. As a picnic blanket.

5. As a changing pad. As in you can change the baby’s diaper in your trunk or on the ground or on a random picnic table or on one of those (gag me) public restroom changing tables.

6. As a crib railing bite-guard. Why pay for a fancy plastic one when you can make your own in 15 minutes? Grab a pair of scissors and prepare to get all Pinterest-y. Check out the pattern below: the length of the finished product should be slightly longer than your crib (probably 54″), with the ties about 6″ across so you can tie it on between each rail.

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basic pattern for your no-sew, fleece bite-guard: be careful not to cut off any of the ties!

7. As a vomit protector. Similar to number 3 above. Kid throws up in car and you still have 3 hours to go (true story). Clean things up as best you can. Buy one of those vanilla car air fresheners. Then place blanket between kid and vomit-ladened car seat and carry on.

8. As a wall hanging. If you like my deer blanket, feel free to get your own and create an outdoorsy theme in your kid’s room. (Or in hubby’s man cave.)

9. As a toy. Drape it across 2 chairs and you’ve got a fort. Throw it over your toddler’s head and you’ve got peek-a-boo. Wave it like a matador at the dog and you’ve got creative play. Pin it to your kid’s shirt and you’ve got a super hero.

10. As a black-out curtain in the car. No sleeping babe’s beauty sleep should be disturbed by pesky lights during your 6-hour night trip. Simply hang the blanket over baby’s car seat by suspending it from one head rest to the other – this will allow air to circulate, while keeping out street lamps and hellishly BRIGHT car lights. Sleeping babe means driving sanity for momma! (Have you noticed a theme here? You should keep a fleece blanket in your car….)

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(the ugly deer head really gets around)

I could go on: fleece as cloth diaper liners, as momma cloth, as tissues, as party tablecloth, as napkins, as actual black-out curtains…

But I’d rather hear from you now.

Comment below with your own #FleeceTips or on Facebook at MothersRest.

FLOTUS for POTUS or, well, anything

Four score and seven years from now may generations of Americans learn this speech by heart.

For this blog post, whether it’s political or not, I bring you Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention.

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I’m raising boys. This may be an easier job than raising girls. So many contradictory messages out there in the ether for girls to absorb. I know because I have fought and wrestled with many of these: Wear this, don’t wear that. Submit to your husband, stand up for yourself. Sex is beautiful, good girls are chaste. Pursue a career, stay home with your kids. Be a leader, don’t be bossy. I could go on.

But I’ll probably discover it’s just as complicated out there for boys.

And so, I bring you the words of Mrs. Obama. Because one day, when my boys are curious about who their mother was, and they stumble upon this blog in some forgotten corner of the Internet, I want them to find this post. And say, “Yes, of course our mother would post that.” My deepest prayer is that my boys grow up to be men of integrity and empathy, with a love of and deep respect for women.

Thank you all. Thank you so much. You know, it’s hard to believe that it has been eight years since I first came to this convention to talk with you about why I thought my husband should be President. Remember how I told you about his character and conviction, his decency and his grace -– the traits that we’ve seen every day that he’s served our country in the White House.

I also told you about our daughters –- how they are the heart of our hearts, the center of our world. And during our time in the White House, we’ve had the joy of watching them grow from bubbly little girls into poised young women -– a journey that started soon after we arrived in Washington, when they set off for their first day at their new school.

I will never forget that winter morning as I watched our girls, just seven and ten years old, pile into those black SUVs with all those big men with guns. And I saw their little faces pressed up against the window, and the only thing I could think was, “What have we done?” See, because at that moment, I realized that our time in the White House would form the foundation for who they would become, and how well we managed this experience could truly make or break them.

That is what Barack and I think about every day as we try to guide and protect our girls through the challenges of this unusual life in the spotlight — how we urge them to ignore those who question their father’s citizenship or faith. How we insist that the hateful language they hear from public figures on TV does not represent the true spirit of this country. How we explain that when someone is cruel, or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level -– no, our motto is, when they go low, we go high.

With every word we utter, with every action we take, we know our kids are watching us. We as parents are their most important role models. And let me tell you, Barack and I take that same approach to our jobs as President and First Lady, because we know that our words and actions matter not just to our girls, but to children across this country –- kids who tell us, “I saw you on TV, I wrote a report on you for school.” Kids like the little black boy who looked up at my husband, his eyes wide with hope, and he wondered, “Is my hair like yours?”

And make no mistake about it, this November, when we go to the polls, that is what we’re deciding -– not Democrat or Republican, not left or right. No, this election, and every election, is about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives. And I am here tonight because in this election, there is only one person who I trust with that responsibility, only one person who I believe is truly qualified to be President of the United States, and that is our friend, Hillary Clinton.

See, I trust Hillary to lead this country because I’ve seen her lifelong devotion to our nation’s children –- not just her own daughter, who she has raised to perfection but every child who needs a champion: Kids who take the long way to school to avoid the gangs. Kids who wonder how they’ll ever afford college. Kids whose parents don’t speak a word of English but dream of a better life. Kids who look to us to determine who and what they can be.

You see, Hillary has spent decades doing the relentless, thankless work to actually make a difference in their lives advocating for kids with disabilities as a young lawyer. Fighting for children’s health care as First Lady and for quality child care in the Senate. And when she didn’t win the nomination eight years ago, she didn’t get angry or disillusioned. Hillary did not pack up and go home. Because as a true public servant, Hillary knows that this is so much bigger than her own desires and disappointments. So she proudly stepped up to serve our country once again as Secretary of State, traveling the globe to keep our kids safe.

And look, there were plenty of moments when Hillary could have decided that this work was too hard, that the price of public service was too high, that she was tired of being picked apart for how she looks or how she talks or even how she laughs. But here’s the thing — what I admire most about Hillary is that she never buckles under pressure. She never takes the easy way out. And Hillary Clinton has never quit on anything in her life.

And when I think about the kind of President that I want for my girls and all our children, that’s what I want. I want someone with the proven strength to persevere. Someone who knows this job and takes it seriously. Someone who understands that the issues a President faces are not black and white and cannot be boiled down to 140 characters. Because when you have the nuclear codes at your fingertips and the military in your command, you can’t make snap decisions. You can’t have a thin skin or a tendency to lash out. You need to be steady, and measured, and well-informed.

I want a President with a record of public service, someone whose life’s work shows our children that we don’t chase fame and fortune for ourselves, we fight to give everyone a chance to succeed and we give back, even when we’re struggling ourselves, because we know that there is always someone worse off, and there but for the grace of God go I.

I want a President who will teach our children that everyone in this country matters –- a President who truly believes in the vision that our founders put forth all those years ago: That we are all created equal, each a beloved part of the great American story. And when crisis hits, we don’t turn against each other -– no, we listen to each other. We lean on each other. Because we are always stronger together.

And I am here tonight because I know that that is the kind of president that Hillary Clinton will be. And that’s why, in this election, I’m with her.

You see, Hillary understands that the President is about one thing and one thing only -– it’s about leaving something better for our kids. That’s how we’ve always moved this country forward –- by all of us coming together on behalf of our children — folks who volunteer to coach that team, to teach that Sunday school class because they know it takes a village. Heroes of every color and creed who wear the uniform and risk their lives to keep passing down those blessings of liberty.

Police officers and protestors in Dallas who all desperately want to keep our children safe. People who lined up in Orlando to donate blood because it could have been their son, their daughter in that club. Leaders like Tim Kaine who show our kids what decency and devotion look like. Leaders like Hillary Clinton, who has the guts and the grace to keep coming back and putting those cracks in that highest and hardest glass ceiling until she finally breaks through, lifting all of us along with her.

That is the story of this country, the story that has brought me to this stage tonight, the story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, but who kept on striving and hoping and doing what needed to be done so that today, I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves and I watch my daughters –- two beautiful, intelligent, black young women –- playing with their dogs on the White House lawn. And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters –- and all our sons and daughters -– now take for granted that a woman can be President of the United States.

So don’t let anyone ever tell you that this country isn’t great, that somehow we need to make it great again. Because this, right now, is the greatest country on earth. And as my daughters prepare to set out into the world, I want a leader who is worthy of that truth, a leader who is worthy of my girls’ promise and all our kids’ promise, a leader who will be guided every day by the love and hope and impossibly big dreams that we all have for our children.

So in this election, we cannot sit back and hope that everything works out for the best. We cannot afford to be tired, or frustrated, or cynical. No, hear me — between now and November, we need to do what we did eight years ago and four years ago: We need to knock on every door. We need to get out every vote. We need to pour every last ounce of our passion and our strength and our love for this country into electing Hillary Clinton as President of the United States of America.

Let’s get to work. Thank you all, and God bless.

Feeling like Mommy Dearest: why you need REM sleep

Mommy Dearest needs a little REM. No shiny, happy people here.

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Faye Dunaway in MOMMIE DEAREST, directed by Frank Perry – a movie I’ve never seen and will never see (because the photos online are scary enough)

It took me 8 months to begin to get a grip on the crazy I’d become after baby #1 arrived. I’m not talking postpartum depression. I’m just talking NORMAL, sleep deprived ick that goes way beyond Mommy Brain, the other gift that sleep deprivation brings new moms. (I explain the science behind Mommy Brain in this earlier post.)

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As a first time mom, I experienced a high level of anxiety. Then I wandered into the dark world of Mommy Dearest. Suddenly, I found myself in a place of rage. Too strong a word? Perhaps. How quickly lack of sleep took its toll.

I’m thinking a couple of you out there can relate.

Sleep deprivation. How about a science lesson?

Lack of sleep puts your brain in a state of flight or fight. You constantly scan the horizon for the next threat so you can flee from it or fight it. Mommy Dearest is really good at the fight it part.

You are here to protect baby, and that’s pretty much all you can do when you’re running on, like, 4 hours of sleep. You can’t care for yourself. And you can’t see the beauty around you (beyond the sweet babe on your lap).

In fact, I’m willing to bet your partner has been throwing 50 million amazing gifts your way. But you can’t see them. Your tunnel-vision purpose right now is all about baby. And heading into battle to attack, well, most anything (good or bad) that stands in your way. This may even involve screaming, for no reason, at the kind-hearted #RockStarDad who just made you breakfast in bed for the third time this week.

Mommy Dearest isn’t exactly top of the charts for love songs.

You need a little REM:

Everyone around, love them, love them
Put it in your hands, take it, take it
There’s no time to cry, happy, happy
Put it in your heart where tomorrow shines

I’ll share tips in another post to help you get there.

In the meantime, let me explain what lovely things your sleep-deprived brain is doing. Keep in mind, THIS IS NOT YOU. You, operating under optimal 7-9 hours of sleep, are better than this. You can find YOU again.

Good sleep requires two things: deep sleep (also known as SWS – slow wave sleep) and Rapid Eye Movement (REM).

sleep_architecture_REM

Basically, when you’ve got your sleep groove on: it’s 20-minutes of REM, then 3-4 hours of deep sleep, followed by more REM. Til it’s time to wake up.

So let’s talk REM. Like I mentioned earlier, see Mommy Brain Explained for more on deep sleep (SWS).

You know when you wake up to pee in the middle of the night? (Prego ladies, can I get an amen?) You can thank REM for that – it’s a dream state you wake easily from.

REM is pretty amazing. It makes us creative, problem solvers and helps us CONTROL EMOTIONS.

(Um, ain’t no emotion control where Mommy Dearest reigns. Woke up on the wrong side of the bed like Oscar the Grouch? Batten down the hatches, Mommy Dearest has arrived!)

The major REM sleep starts around 4am-ish. It’s when you dream big. Dreaming is how your brain takes everything you experienced that day and connects it to all the other things you’ve ever done in life. This makes you a kickass member of the creative class: your brain spent the wee hours of the morning making these nice connections so you can see all the POSSIBILITIES! The answer is right at your fingertips. You can solve Euclidean geometry (no, I don’t know what that is. I’m in Marketing.)

Also, this super hero power makes you really happy. You get into a LOOP OF POSITIVITY. You can solve all things = which makes you super awesome happy = and when you’re super awesome happy, you can solve all things.

But lack of REM…not so much. And when baby wakes up to eat at 4am and then again at 5:30am and then again at 6:45am? Well, let’s just say REM canceled their latest concert after you bought a ticket for 100 bucks. Major suck-fest.

So the part of your brain that lives to control emotions and problem-solve shuts down. (The pre-frontal cortex, if you want to Geek out a bit.) When you get less sleep, something’s got to give. And this is it. Suddenly, it’s all about survival, baby. Your brain is now whacked.

GUT REACTION rules the day. As in flight or, more likely, fight. Your brain is primed with adrenaline and stress hormones. You are on HIGH ALERT so you can fight: The dog wants breakfast. Yesterday’s dishes are still in the sink. The laundry pile keeps getting bigger. There’s 3 days worth of junk mail on the counter. Baby daddy comes home from work 5 minutes late (again). It’s all game.

Sure, adrenaline is great if you’re staring down a bear on a hike. Not so good when trying to make a house a home. Mommy Dearest tends to put a little damper on love.

But, ladies, it’s your brain STARVING from sleep deprivation. We should start a campaign: KILL SLEEP DEPRIVATION, NOT YOUR SPOUSE.

I promise I’ll have tips for you soon to get life back under control (as in, under emotion control). Until then, give your loved ones a HUG. Even though you probably don’t want to.

Share your #MommyDearest stories below or on Facebook at MothersRest.