Thursday, August 17, 2017

Fostering Love... The Turtle Versus the Hare.

From my perspective there are two types of parents in the world (Disclaimer: this is not a fact, this is my opinion): The Turtle and the Hare. Some parents love immediately: They fall in love with this little being that they gave birth to, adopted, a spouse gave birth to, they co-parent with... you get the picture (I'm trying to be inclusive here). These parents feel a connection right away. Their life changes in that moment and that is a beautiful thing. But what if you're not a Hare? 

Let's talk about the Turtles. These parents are slower to adjust, slower to fall completely. Whether it's self protection, walls built though the years, personality traits... Whatever the reason, these types of parents don't feel all the gushy, in-love feelings that some parents feel, and perhaps post about on social media. I am in NO way judging or mocking the Hares.. I WISH I was a Hare parent, I really do. But if you're not made that way, you see these posts and feel inadequate. 
(I don't differentiate between moms and dads in this next sentence, or post, because both parents have feelings, you know).. So, you see these posts and you feel inadequate; at least I did, and I'll speak for my wife too... Neither of us fell in love with our first son immediately... There was no rush of the heart or life altering epiphanies. He arrived, we loved him, we kissed him, we were so happy he was healthy, and then we proceeded to survive, adjust, and keep him alive. That's how it went for both of us. One that birthed him and shares DNA and the other parent (me). I am so grateful that we had the same experience or I would have felt like an evil cold-hearted person. I didn't cry when he was born, although, when they pulled him out of Jen's belly I did squeal with excitement (I'm not a robot y'all). Maybe because I became a mom, maybe because they said he had red hair... We'll never know!  ;)

We felt that way for quite a while.. Like about 6 months or so, and then that lack of feely feels gradually dissipated. Now, you may be thinking, "OMG, I can't believe they didn't love their baby for the first 6 months."
>Can you see my eyes rolling?<

In that 6 months we both independently, and together, went to therapy. We thought for sure we were the worst parents on the planet. We loved and cared for him, but we didn't feel like what we thought we were supposed to feel. TAKE THAT AND REWIND IT BACK (if you get that reference, I love you)... 
THOUGHT we were supposed to feel. How stupid is that?! In any other circumstance you don't expect yourself to feel what everyone else feels. When I go to the DMV I don't expect to feel pissed off just because other people hate it there. I don't exercise every day and expect to get some fucking runner's high (umm, no).  Ya dig?! I'm not other people, I'm me. Jen is Jen. So why would we ever think that we would react like anyone else in any situation? Well I'll tell you one reason: it's a PERSON we're talking about. I guess we all assume that when you're told and shown all your life that parenting is what you do, and when you do it it goes like this.... So no one talks much about the reality, or how people feel differently and in their own way. Let me clarify too that neither of us had post-partum depression. You can guess why I didn't (hehe).

Here's the thing... The nurse hands you this baby.. just flops him or her onto your chest (or however you get the kid - social worker drops them, yada yada) and everyone thinks your mind has a button. Like an EASY button... BAM - you're a parent now, so go ahead and forget that just a few days ago you were eating an amazing Italian dinner with your wife, drinking wine, and leisurely walking around town, waiting for your little bundle of 'joy', not a care in the world! Your life will never be the same again. 

How is someone just supposed to adjust to that right away? I'll admit we were in it for the first couple of days at the hospital until we got home and got into routine. The it hit us, mainly when we went back to work.. This is IT!!! We are no longer responsible for just ourselves. We cannot go on vacation as we please. We can't go to the store and stroll calmly down the aisles browsing for snacks. We can't go to dinner and have a continuous conversation. I'm not bitching, please keep reminding yourself of that as you read, or you may start to inappropriately judge us. Do you know what this is you guys?! It's called mourning!! As happy as we were to FINALLY after this little dude after the infertility and such, we were beginning to mourn our old life. 

Now, maybe the Hares don't go through this, maybe they do... But what I want you all to know is that either way, no matter your reaction to this new life, YOU'RE RIGHT. It's the right way for you. I think anyone on our IG or Facebook can see that we adore Atticus and love him more than our minds even comprehend. But it did not happen overnight. And after all these years, I do not feel one ounce of guilt for how we felt in the beginning, and how perhaps, just a tad, we still mourn our old life of vacations, one-on-one time, and sleeping in.  AND that is OKAY!! News flash: That in no way means you don't love your kids.

What that process taught me, and what I never really knew about myself, was that I am capable of love. And I don't mean loving a girlfriend or spouse (I did and do, duh)... but I mean that unconditional, jump in front of a train, sick to your stomach if you even think about never seeing them again sort of love. I really didn't think I had it in me. I was especially concerned because Atticus has no biological relation to me. I tried to get pregnant; it wasn't in the cards for me. Could I love a baby that was not related to me??  I mean, like, REALLY love it as if I gave birth to it. Welp, HELL YEAH! Now I know, but it was risky for a while you guys. I was nervous. I talked to my therapist constantly (even before he was born) in hopes that I could will myself to feel more than I did at first. I was so scared that Jen would be madly in love with him right away and I would just be sitting there, reacting all typical Meghan and she'd hate me. I don't always think realistically...

SPOILER ALERT: They BOTH, the Turtle and the Hare, finish the race. 
No matter how you receive a child, no matter what the process of getting and loving looks like, you get there. You're a parent and you love your kids and make mistakes and the best decisions you know how to make.. So if you ever stumble across a mom or dad posting about how wonderful parenting is how their kids puke rainbows, well, slap the shit out of yourself, go get another coffee, and carry the fuck on!!! You are just the perfect parent for your kid and you love them just the way you were meant to. 

This brings me to the point of this post, albeit the semi shorter portion... What do you think happened when we were given a foster baby? Mhm, ding ding...I knew you were bright! 

It's a challenge. Not only are you given a baby that is not related to you, you are then bombarded with paperwork, birth parents visits and drama, home inspections, social workers visits, training hours, and don't you dare leave knives or tylenol on the kitchen counter or go out of town without the state of California's permission! .. Oh, and the potential that you could love this baby and then he gets taken away.. 

Mix that shit together in your fancy Ninja blender and WHAM - potential disaster.. Did I mention a baby that was exposed to drugs, which may or may not be the cause of sporadic sleeping the first six months and who the hell knows what other issues may arise?? 
Aye Yi Yi.
I am NOT advocating for people NOT to foster or foster-to-adopt... DO IT!! PLEASE! The system needs loving parents... But I am just warning you that if you are, or think you are a Turtle, then proceed with caution and an open mind and heart! This is a tricky system to navigate even if you are smart, hare-like, patient, loving, and non-judgmental.  IF you're missing any of those pieces it could get rocky. It certainly has for us. We are always honest when people ask us about parenting and/or fostering... I'm sure some parents think we are heartless, but 1.) I don't give rat's ass, and 2.) That's not accurate.

Also, Aero is becoming part of our family. There will always be this mini wall in our hearts until we can officially adopt him. We cannot love him fully yet... We cannot handle the potential heartbreak. More importantly we can't handle it for our first son.. You know, the one that we now cannot face life without... 
We can't watch his heart break into a million little kiddo pieces. So we tread lightly and we love slowly, and that's ok. We adore him, we get pissed when he doesn't sleep, we kiss him endlessly, and we provide the best life we can... and then we get annoyed again. So what I'm saying is we are the same parents and people that we've always been... just trying to make better decisions and take things one day at a time in life and with parenting. 

See the end of this post for the actual definition and synonyms, but here is what fostering means... By the way, you are fostering as a parent.. no matter what. You are fostering love. You are fostering self-love. You are fostering intelligence. You are fostering stability. You are fostering positive decision making. You are FOSTERING all that it takes to CREATE a happy healthy person. Isn't that fucking HEAVY?!?!? So cut yourself some slack! 

Here's something real for you to maybe help you sleep at night and know you're never alone in this parenting game: There have been moments with Atticus when we thought we made a mistake having a kid. There are moments with Aero that we thought we made a mistake in fostering a child. You may not feel that way EVER, or you maybe you have or will.  All I'm saying is, it doesn't mean you are a soulless piece of shit. Because I feel that's how parents are conditioned to think when we don't all feel the same way.. That's all!!  

gerund or present participle: fostering

encourage or promote the development of (something, typically something regarded as good).

encourage, promote, further, stimulate, advance, forward, cultivate,
nurture, strengthen, enrich



Saturday, May 20, 2017

Foster Care. Babies. Fertility. . and Feeling All the Feels.

We have people ask all the time about our journey through fostering. How did we start, what's the process like, do you deal with the birth mom, so you get to adopt for sure?  Those are a few of the ongoing questions. If you know Jen and I well, you know that we are both blunt and honest. I suppose that's good, but some people like things sugar coated... Well, there ain't no sugar in our stories!

I decided, for my mental health, and for all those that are interested, that I wanted to finally write about it all, even though it's an unfinished story... But I can't write about our Foster Care story without starting at the beginning. So here it goes... I hope you're on your lunch break or need a novel to read because this is a lengthy one. It's about healing, and letting go, and being able to lose your shit and come out on the other side smiling.

We started the fertility process, with my uterus, over 6 years ago, maybe longer. I think I blocked out some of it. We tried, with many different donors, and lots of injectable medications, for me to get pregnant.  I had PERFECT cycles, everything was spot on, numerous follicles, etc. I'll spare you all the lingo that I memorized. But I should have gotten pregnant. I thought for sure I would, because I wanted to, and so did Jen. Spoiler alert; it didn't work.

What many people fail to do in this sort of high stress and traumatic situation, which infertility is, is people shut down. Not everyone, mind you, but many... They don't FEEL all the FEELS. They don't talk. They don't cry. They move forward - to another process, bad habits, more options, new plans; they keep thinking about other ways or other things. Again, they do not FEEL all the FEELS. Get where I'm going with this? That was me. And I didn't even know it back then. I thought I was good. I thought I was 'past all that'. My way of not thinking about it or breaking down was easy... We tried Jen. She reluctantly stepped up. I say that, not because she didn't really want to get pregnant (although she was not thrilled), but she was always told she could not get pregnant (damn PCOS). So she spent her life believing that. We tried anyway, and our fertility doctor said, "no problem!" Sure enough, obviously, Jen got pregnant! And on the SECOND try. If you know the fertility process, you know that's very fast and super awesome! And if you don't know this process, I'm telling you, that is fast.

So what did I do? I was elated! and then I was sad, for like two seconds (note: his is where I blocked the feels)... and then I was happy! So happy that we were having a baby... and then a baby boy!! Which is exactly what we wanted. Healthy baby, for sure, as long as it was a boy. 😉  Sue us, we aren't girl-raising people.

So then our baby was born. So I got caught up in loving him, as I should, and learning to be a mom and living this new life.  I still wasn't feeling... I wasn't feeling anything about not getting pregnant.. Life was good, often stressful as new parenting can be, but things were good. We decided we weren't having any other kids; one was enough. We felt firm, Jen maybe a little more, but we were all set. So we carried on with life, parenting, working, and trying to sleep as much as possible. AND THEN...

I started thinking about how great a sibling would be for Atticus, and I always thought about fostering to adopt. Of course, during that time of thinking, my dad passed away. A dad I had not spoken to in over 11 years. A dad that was in foster care a long time ago, and although I was not told specifics, it was not a good experience. So fostering became more of a thought at that moment.

Well, so we talked about it... went back and forth... and back...and forth. We decided to get certified! What the hell. It wasn't how we planned on a second one, but shit, we didn't plan it at all! Jen even tossed most of our baby stuff randomly when I was at work.  ; ) She's kicking herself now... a gentle kick, but still. So we did our classes, and home study, and CPR, and everything we were supposed to do. We were ALMOST certified. .. and then it hit me. I'll never have a biological kid.

It was always in the back of mind that we still had vials of sperm, for the same donor we used with Atticus. I wanted to get rid of it; I needed closure. So we did. We notarized a letter to the sperm bank telling them to destroy it. DONE.

So I went back to thinking about my dad...  There's are too many thoughts around that, but mostly I felt if I had a biological child, being the last Reese in the family, maybe I could raise this kid the way my dad and his dad should have been raised. Maybe I could change the cycle of trauma. I had big dreams with that phantom baby...

So Jen actually brought it up to me, that this foster thing seem so hard and what if I regret not getting pregnant and I'm resentful or sad for the rest of my life... Well I got to thinking. She was right. I would always wonder... what if we tried again. What if it works and this was all meant to be? But we got rid of the sperm so we would have to use a different donor. I had a weird feeling, so I called the sperm bank... Before I did though, I told myself that if by some miracle they still have it, many months later, then it's a sign. Guess what.. They had it! The paperwork was misplaced to destroy it and so they still had it in the lab! I called Jen with the news! That meant we had to try, and we both had reservations for many reasons. So we stopped the foster process and said we were done, it wasn't for us.

From this step forward we didn't tell anyone what we were up to, not even my mom. Jen finally convinced me to tell her, but I wasn't happy about it... I did not want to tell ANYONE. I needed to handle it alone. I finally told a couple close friends at the end of the process. It did explain my odd behavior.

We went to a consult with the fertility doctor and I set my guidelines. I would only try 2-3 times and I would not use the injectable meds again.. I gained weight, my hair fell out, I felt like ass all the time, and they were about $1500 PER try! So no more.  She agreed and the plan was to just take Clomid. Easy peasy. I went to therapy, talked about it, all good, and we began...

Clomid made me a FUCKING NUT job. Mhm, ask Jen. I am usually not that hormonal or crazy, but I was in rare form and each month got worse. I guess it's dawned on you by now that I didn't get pregnant.. Right you are! The third great cycle and nothing... NOTHING. Except my period was late and I was so bitchy. I thought there was a chance. Nope, Clomid makes your period late. Son-of-a...

So there I was.. NOT pregnant, AGAIN. Remember those FEELS I blocked, I was still blocking them.. But they came out in anger and binge eating. Fun times. So I went to therapy, again, and she reminded me that I need to be emotional, that I need to feel this or I will never get better and move on.  Yep, I hear ya, thanks... Still nothing. nothing real, just anger geared at people I love. I decided I wanted back in the foster program. I was depriving Atticus of a sibling by not getting pregnant and I felt horrible.

So we completed our certification... but months later, and still no call about a baby.
So we made another decision that no one knows about.. We were going to try for Jen to get pregnant, only twice. That was the deal. What's better than a baby I give birth to?  HERS!! She gave me Atticus, and I like him. So why not have another?!

By the way, I love my son, in case you didn't catch my sarcasm above!

So we did a cycle with Jen and then we decided to stop the foster process for good, since we hadn't received a call, and if Jen wasn't pregnant we would stop trying for a second kid altogether. We decided on a Thursday. We were taking our name off the list.. On Friday morning at 10am Jen got a call about a baby.. because that's how our life works...  and she was in the middle of a fertility cycle, with two weeks remaining before we knew if she was pregnant. It was GO TIME. We had to make a decision. She called me about the baby, thinking for sure I would say no. Because I had my mind made up.

I didn't say no. I said Yes. I had to. Something told me to say yes, as weird as that sounds. His story sounded right for us. It sounded like he was going to need a forever home. We could end up with THREE kids. On the other hand, we could end up with one. I wasn't sure which one I wanted less.

I'm sure Jen will correct all my timing in this story, because I am not good at that.. remembering shit in the right order. But I try.

Let me back up a little, to those feelings I kept mentioning. The ones I suppressed for years.  Well, a few months before we tried Jen, and a few months after I was not pregnant again, it happened. I was in therapy, with my most favorite therapist on Earth, and I lost it. I cried. This was HUGE. Not like sweet little tears running down my face, but like sobbing, with snot and gasps for air between a waterfall of emotions... I have never ever ever cried in therapy, regardless of how terrible or traumatic the issue, since I started going at the age of 21.

I don't think my therapist said one word that session. I suppose I could've saved 100 bucks and broke down in my car and talked to myself! I told her I was exhausted, I didn't like who I became through all of this, that I sucked as a mom, and that I never healed from infertility the first go round. (She gave me the 'I'm not surprised' Therapist look). I held it in for a long time, and I was tired - so tired of keeping it all in and trying to pretend it didn't hurt like hell. That it didn't hurt that Jen got pregnant easily. That it didn't hurt that my friends were having babies. I would never have a biological child. I would never change the Reese legacy and somehow change the past for my dad and papa. I was so tired of pretending, of not feeling. It was not serving me or my family well.

I slowly realized that feeling those things DID NOT mean that I resented Jen getting pregnant. They don't mean that I don't love Atticus. They're feelings. They are NOT FACTS.

So I let it all go. I told her I needed to feel things. I needed to cry and let it all out once and for all. I needed to heal, and in order to do that, I had to really break down...  It would not be pretty, and I'm a gal that likes to seem put together. ALWAYS. I knew it would be worse for awhile. And it was. Jen saw me break down. Like really lose my shit...  But I broke down way more than she knew. I cried on the way to work. I cried at work. I cried when I saw pregnant women. I CRIED. And it sucked. For someone like me, I felt so weak at first. I felt like a real loser. I had to hide and cry in the bathroom when I was alone with Atticus. I felt so weak, like I said, at first... Slowly, slowly, very slowly, I stopped crying daily. Then I cried once a week when I thought about it. It became less and less. SLOWLY.  I started to feel like ME again. I was hurt, and my heart was still cracked, but this was what healing feels like. I was feeling all the feels... every painful one. AND I was still alive. I didn't die. I didn't get divorced. My son still loved me.

I suppose some people will read this and think I'm nuts or a sissy or maybe overly emotional.. The point is I was never emotional enough... Some people may think it's not that big of a deal to not get pregnant. There's more involved than just not birthing a baby. Your body doesn't work as it should. You are not in control. It's in your face all the time.  We are taught that to become a mother you get pregnant and have a baby. Not that there aren't other ways, but it's not how we're taught. And I don't just mean by our parents, I mean society in general. Most of society thinks that moms birth their babies...
What I think of all that? BULLSHIT.

There are so many ways to be a mom. It took me a long time to feel that for myself. I always felt that adopted moms were moms. Step moms were moms. Lesbians moms that didn't give birth were moms. Surrogate moms were moms. Women who lost their babies were still moms. Women who had their kids taken by the system, still moms. But me? I thought I would never feel like a mom unless I gave birth.. And, honestly, it took some time to get my head right.  I'd love to say this all came easy, my wife having our baby. But it just didn't, and to pretend it did is a disservice to other women. Sharing real stories is the only way we heal and support others who may be suffering alone.

I am Atticus' mom. I look at him and I forget he doesn't have my DNA, especially when he's being overly dramatic, coercing me to do what he wants, or wanting his nails painted. I'm a mom. It no longer matters how I got here. My path is my path... but the path gives way and you just... You arrive.

As for becoming a mom, again... Well it's been even harder than not getting pregnant. What I tell myself daily, when I feel like we made a mistake, is the timing was perfect. The timing was not at the right time, but the timing was perfect. We got a call for OUR baby when HE needed us, not when we needed him. His birth mom could not and can not care for him, or his 7 older siblings. Is he ours officially? NO. Will he be? Maybe.  Jen and I are black and white people. Is it a Yes or a No?... That's how we live our lives. This process...this fostering cyclone of a process? It's GRAY. All sorts of GRAY. It's foggy, smokey, charcoal, and hazy... And all I want is solid Black or White.

That is not how the system is designed. We just weren't prepared. When I mentioned above that maybe we made a mistake... go ahead, judge us. But it has nothing to do with this sweet baby.  We get to have thoughts, we all do... And ours sometimes drift to that when Atticus is screaming or having a tantrum because he really needs love and attention, and we don't have the capacity. We are stressed and tired and just out of energy some days. And not because of kid number two.. But because of all the other shit, really.  Oh, and two stressful jobs between us. On those days, we think... was this the right move? Raising someone else's baby...  Did we do the right thing? Will the current overwhelming nature of our life pass?

There are weekly visits with the birth mom, the social workers, the doctors, the paperwork, the rules, court dates, the unknown, the term "IT DEPENDS" in reference to anything in the Foster Care System... It makes my head spin. At times it makes me angry at a woman I don't know.  It makes me angry at a woman who used drugs while pregnant with her babies, when all I wanted was to be pregnant.

But wait... Do you guys know why I didn't get pregnant? Because these two boys are my babies. I got my babies. Atticus was meant to be our son, my son. And now Aero... he's our son, my son.

I realized, what does that anger solve? I'm not a hateful person, and I know addiction very well, Jen and I both do. It was in our homes and in our friend groups.. It was all around. And now we have a chance to raise a beautiful baby outside of that world. This is it. This is Motherhood for me. This is motherhood for us. It's not pretty right now. It's work. It's learning patience and acceptance. It's learning that his birth mom gave him life, which gave us a second baby and a chance to change his future. It's about loving where we are and especially those who help us survive. It's about reconnecting in parenting together instead of pushing each other away. It's about priorities. It's about being silly with these kids and not giving a shit if the house is messy.. Well, I take that back, we're getting a mother fucking maid y'all!!

That's our story so far.... It's a long one. It's unfinished. It's ours.

To Be Continued...

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

I Hear Writing is Cathartic...

CAUTION: These are my thoughts in raw form. It's really more for me than you, in the best way possible. But, who knows, maybe some of you can relate, understand, or find comfort in these words.

This posts contains swear words, so if you're a cuss word sissy you better exit now... wink face.

Soooo, here I am. . . after a much needed break from social media, negativity, the news and, honestly, a reprieve from my usual self.

I just attended my first yoga retreat this past weekend, which I signed up for two weeks before Thanksgiving because, well, I needed to go be alone in the woods and meditate.  For those of you that know me well you're probably laughing out loud or you spit out your morning coffee. Hell, I find it weird too. All this yoga, thoughtfulness, and inward reflection is NOT who I've been all my life, or really even a year ago... But I learned a hard lesson this last year, and I'm not speaking solely about the election decision because that is only a teeny tiny piece of this jumbled puzzle. Maybe epiphany is a better word, although, that seems a bit dramatic... But, hey, I think we can all agree I have some dramatic tendencies at times.

There have been some tough personal issues going on lately, actually compounding over the last year, that have given me an abnormally heavy heart; and I realized that I have been reacting the same way to situations for about 37 years now... minus maybe the infant years, but pretty sure I was a hot tempered mess then too! Sorry Mom!
I read a quote recently that really resonated with me... I'll paraphrase because I've seen it written many different ways.

*If you want something you've never had, you have to do something you've never done*

Holy Shit >>>> BAM... It might as well have read, WAKE THE FUCK UP MEGHAN!! For some reason, at the moment I saw this on some random IG account, while involuntarily trolling social media, it hit me... What the hell is it going to take to make a real change? I don't want my old life. I don't want to live half ass. I don't want to recover from the past anymore, and I don't want to continue a cycle of mediocrity and unresolved trauma. My family deserves better. I am not miserable, don't get me wrong, but I am not living up to my potential... as a wife, as a mother, as a worker, as a daughter, as a friend, and just as a human. 

I have always wanted to be perfect.. That's really fucking exhausting. Not to mention, what the fuck does that even mean?!? Perfect to whose standards, certainly not my own?? 37 years y'all... of trying to be great at everything and slowly realizing I'm really not that great at everything, or much at all.. because it was contrived, disingenuous really.  Because really, who is great at everything they attempt? No one. and if you're that ONE PERSON that is, I hate you. (JK, kind of)
You have to find the one or two things that make you happy and just do it, screw expectations. Because if you LOVE it, you will excel at it. I now know that, so learn from my mistakes.  All this striving for perfection, or achievements I never really wanted, well I'm over it. I am inching rather close to 40. <<deep breath>> Yowser. So why waste any more time.

So far here's how my life breaks down:
Kid years: I just wanted to play outside and draw... I was super introverted most of the time. 
Teens: Emotional roller coaster on crack. Again, trying to be who I, or others, thought I should be.
20's: HOT MESS. Anxiety attacks daily. You poured it, I drank it. You asked, I probably did it. Regrets, by the boat load.
30's: Life got on the right track, settled down. REALIZATION: That old shit isn't working anymore.

I've been thinking hard about how we repeat patterns... The comfort that exists in always reacting the same way, because it's so scary to do things a new way. How will you know the outcome?! I think we can safely say it's all about control. And when your life was once out of control your brain changes... You are rewired. It's an unnoticeable switch... It's gradual enough to just be normal.. You begin to make decisions that don't need to be made because of fear. You react instead of becoming thoughtful. You plan for the worst case instead of relishing in the possibilities of the best case [which actually sounds so much more amazing, doesn't it?!]. You are conditioned to believe that you are the only person with your best interest at heart so those almost unbreakable walls are gradually built around you. (I don't like ANY walls, clearly)

I am not religious, or spiritual, or anything really.. although, I am working on trusting energy in the universe because you can't dispute that the world is made up of energy no matter what you believe in...  But many, many let downs have taught me that this life is not mine to over control. When I say let downs, by the way, the realistic translation is that I got EVERYTHING I needed in life, but not the way I wanted it or how i had planned it in my head. Oh my gosh you guys, that's a MOFO wake up call!! 

This is what happened to me when I tried to PLAN the SHIT out of everything:
>> I found a great life partner, that I didn't go out seeking or quite frankly would've chosen on my own (I mean that in the most awesome way wife!!)... I got the job I needed to influence my future, that has had many obstacles, and that I did not choose. I got the most amazing child in the world, but not at all the way I wanted or expected, and who is teaching me more than I will ever teach him. We bought our first home that we never thought we would get, the perfect home for us, after numerous failed offers and disgruntled attitudes. I have friends that have been with me through it all, and I am sometimes not sure why they stuck around so long, but they are the ones I needed.
 >>>> After all those instances it still took a LONG ass time for me to get it. I GOT IT ALL!! Everything I wanted... but I was still having a pity party that it did not go the way I planned in my head. I realize now how stupid and childish that is. Not to mention the unnecessary stress!! It worked out, every damn bit of it. The comfort I now feel with that weight being gone is just heavenly (but I am still working on it, because I'm still me). 

I am slowly learning to do things differently. To be grateful. To love just a little more when it feels like it's not possible in the moment. // To ALWAYS take a breath before reacting \\ To do more small things alone, so that when I am with others I am present and not just existing

One lesson I can share, and one I now swear by, is this... YOU ARE ONLY RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN FEELINGS. Let that sink in, because I swear to you, it relieves a shit ton of stress and takes care of the one person that matters most. YOU.  Because you are NO GOOD to anyone else unless you take care of yourself. It may feel hurtful or aggressive to others, but you are not responsible for their perceptions or brain wiring or trauma. This has alienated some friends and family at times, but at my core I know taking care of me makes every other relationship even stronger... I don't mean that you should be rude or hateful [duh]... What I mean is, set out to always have the best intentions, but if others react poorly, rudely, or misinterpret, allow them to work it out on their own. It's not your job to fix someone else. Man, it's amazing how healthy that is, yet how awkward it feels at first. Cuz really people, we aren't taught how to be healthy! We are not taught to set HEALTHY BOUNDARIES. We're taught how to make others happy first,  to sacrifice ourselves, and then get mass amounts of expensive therapy, and then be told to take care of ourselves.. Thanks, thanks for that cruel world (oops, drama flair)!

I'm oversharing today... Pretty much you can think of this as the culmination of all the days I haven't been posting on Facebook. HA. And maybe my next posting will be another blog post instead of spending my days thinking of what I can take a photo of to share on social media. .  

Thanks for reading. I hope you all had a wonderful, butter-filled Thanksgiving, as I did! Gobble Gobble

Oh, here are a few photos from my awesome yoga retreat...If you live in Cali and want a great yoga retreat, check out Sagrada in Santa Margarita!! I used to call of this stuff HOKEY... Now I call it survival.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

9 Ways to Survive the First Year as a First Time Parent

You start out as a happy thriving couple. You go to dinner, movies, friends' weddings, parties, you have sex, you make eye contact, you laugh at your spouse's jokes. Life is pretty great. So, why not make the couple into a throuple! 
"Let's have a family together"

This is the greatest thing you will ever accomplish as a team, and a potential reason for the demise of that team. Yes, I may seem like a pessimist, but I promise, I'm a realist. There are many divorces that occur because raising a person tests every amount of patience you have, and depletes your mental sanity on numerous occasions.

Adding a baby to any semi normal couple is still a jaw dropping, eye opening, cry-on-the-phone-with-your-mom kind of event. 
I was very adamant from day one that we remain a couple, and individuals, above all else. I felt that our son would be better off if we were sane, rested, and happy as humans and as a couple. So, being a bit hardcore, I set up rules that we pretty much still follow, in order to have a well rounded adult life as parents. Let me warn you, it's not easy. What is easy, is falling into the lazy, "we are just parents" trap. You are not just parents. Ever. 

1. Date night. This is most effective after the meals stop being delivered, after the parents and in-laws stop cleaning and doing the dishes, and after the initial newness wears off and you are just fucking exhausted already. So, about three weeks! This does not mean a fancy dinner that requires two hours of prep time; it means leaving the house with your spouse to have a meal. You can discuss how exhausted you are, how frustrated you get when your little angel won't sleep at night, or just sit in rare and beautiful silence while being able to eat a full meal, in one sitting.

2. Get referrals for good sitters asap! Like, I mean before your child is even born. Start asking friends for referrals and get to know the sitter. This is really critical if you don't have family nearby! Having a good sitter on standby is like skydiving with a parachute... You actually have to have it.

3. Go away overnight at least once before your child is 6 months old. I feel like this is where I have to resuscitate people. I know it seems overwhelming to some parents, but it probably saved my marriage. We weren't on the verge by any means, but if we went six months with no break... Well, I'd be picking out curtains for my new studio apartment. We went away over night very early. I won't say how early, because people tend to think I have no soul. I will say that my mom stayed with him and it was glorious. And if you don't have a mom/dad or mom/dad-in-law, make a pact with a friend. Two of my best friends watched our son overnight before he was even 6 months old. I'm not saying you need to be as crazy as I am, but you trust your friends... and they don't want to see you in a looney bin just because you don't have grandparents around! Us parents have to stick together! So when when they come knocking on your door raising money for their kid's sports team, DO IT.  Buy the damn candy bar. You owe them.

4. Learn to recognize your spouse's "I wanna go buy diapers and not come home" face. You will see it, I promise. I had that look when AK was about three months old, we were back to our work routine, and we had yet to figure out that he had acid reflux, eczema, and an allergy to dairy and soy. GOOD TIMES. I really thought that moment in time was a permanent condition. I was very close to losing my shit. 
So, if you see that look, tell your spouse to go nap at a quiet friend's house, or get a massage, or, hell, go sleep in the car! They will do the same when you have that look. And you will have it. 

5. Put the baby in his or her own room to sleep at night, and for naps (we waited two weeks, but that may be extreme). AK was a loud ass gremlin baby, so he had to go. Try hard. When a baby becomes comfortable with their own bed, they sleep better, and it becomes habit. So if they sleep in your bed, they will be comfortable, and it will become a habit. I don't think I need to keep going, you get it. I sure hope you do! I mean, you will have a four year old in your bed before you know it. Are you asking for a divorce? Because the small cracks do eventfully cause a rupture. 

6. Routine!!! I have found, with my whopping one kid, that babies and toddlers love routine. There is comfort in stability for them. Once we started our nighttime routine (at 3-4 weeks) of feeding, bath, snuggles, reading a book, and then into the crib, our life became semi manageable. That kiddo went to bed the same time every night since he was about one month old, whether he slept through the night, and with or without a nap. We were so strict that my own momma thought I was a lunatic (yes, she said that). Other than teething and colds, my almost two year old still goes to bed at 6:30 (ish) every single night (and I hate to say it out loud, but he consistently sleeps 12 hours). Now, maybe we got lucky. Or maybe it was the routine. If we wanted to repeat this adventure I'd place my bets on routine (but we don't).

7. Go out alone. This was really key for both Jen and I. We both love to be alone. It's almost impossible to work, raise a baby, spend time with your spouse, AND have alone time. But you have to try!! 
Go to Target by yourself. Even if you're buying huge post pregnancy pads, diapers, dog food, a nasal sucker thingy, and frozen pizza, you will feel like a new person! That will be the best 45 minute trip ever. Oh, and buy a candy bar to devour on the way home. Nothing feels better than a secret sugar fix.  *once you have a toddler this means even more to you!! (You'll see)

8. Tell your OCD side to simmer down!! Stop trying to keep a perfectly neat and tidy house 24/7. Just give it up. It will consume you. I'm happy to provide more details, but as I've hinted, I prefer to stay married. 

9. One parent always carries more of the burden (or good times) in some respect. Don't beat yourself up. And it will vary everyday. Atticus sometimes prefers Jen when he's sick. She got up with him more for the first year of his life. (I'm a comatose sleeper). He sometimes prefers playtime with me. I love to chase him, read in weird voices, and throw him in the air.  My point is, you will not be number 1 all the time. Learn to take those hits with ease... so when your 'baby' is 12 you aren't butt hurt when they don't want anything to do with you.

What's most important the first year is survival and adaptation. Just let your new life sink in, mourn your exciting old life, and fall in love with parenting. You can't do that if you tucker yourself out cleaning, feeding, crying, wiping, bathing, arguing, soothing, folding...  Take some time to do nothing, or maybe, just maybe, look at your spouse without wanting to kill them for not hearing the baby last night (personal experience). I'm pretty sure you are both doing your best. But remember, no one is their best ALL the time. So cut yourself, and your better half, some slack! 

These are all just my experiences and advice. What works for my baby may not work for yours. Try it, or don't. 
But do make time for yourself and your spouse, that I can promise you is a MUST! 

Enjoy the ride y'all!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

I Wish I was the Mom I am on Facebook

Don't you? If I only judged parenting based on Facebook or Instagram posts, then life seems dazzling with a toddler. It's easy to get sucked into THAT world. It's very easy to doubt your skills as a mom and compare yourself to the perfect moms of social media: wearing lipstick, matching clean clothes, and perfect beachy waves! Bitches!! But then I think, "oh shit, that may be me." Although, I do hate lipstick. What I mean is, we all post the best photos. So we all pretty much look our best to the outside world.

Social media makes parenting seem like buttah, nice and smooth. Well guess what, it's not. No one posts photos of themselves chugging coffee while trying to eat yogurt and swat at a screaming toddler at 6:30am: A toddler that may be issuing breakfast demands that sound like German! "Uutz Mooof momma!!" Huh?!

No one posts the photos of themselves trying to use the bathroom alone for two seconds of adult peace, while a toddler flings the door open and tries to crawl in your lap (gotta see about that door lock!) Although, maybe they do it and I dodged that photo bullet. 
Even if you post stressful 'real life' parenting photos, they aren't real.  It's just you smiling. Right before you lose your shit.
So let's call it what it is; it's how we all cope and unwind. I see your photos on Facebook, and I know you're home hollering at your spouse, wearing two day old sweats, swearing at the dog, and letting your kid eat crap food. You can pretend they eat gluten free, but I can smell the Doritos through your hashtags!! And that is A-OK. Because bribing kids with junk food works. I'll be damned if I'm gonna ruin 2 minutes of my day, when (on occasion) a bag of fruit snacks will solve it!
Remember the recent photo of the mom breastfeeding on the toilet?! Yeah, it received lots of attention and opinions. My opinion of her choice does not matter, nor do I care... However, I don't look that good on a toilet. So maybe she thought that was a rough photo of parenting in action, but it looked like a model posing with a fake kid. I couldn't reenact it if you paid me.

Of course this shit is hard! We're raising people, not gerbils. So it's not always going to look good, unless you follow us on Instagram! I joke, I joke.
Seriously, we are all human. Parenting is a huge task that no one is prepared for. It's like floating in an amazing pool with endless margaritas, and someone tosses you a bowling ball. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...

Just remember that don't have to get your kid on Ellen, or post a rad You Tube video that goes viral, to be a bomb ass parent!

Keep all this in mind when you see a smiling angel kid on Facebook when yours ripped you to shreds all day. No matter your parenting philosophy or style, we will all have the same meltdowns, milestones, and snuggles. If you aren't a parent yet, and you want to be, don't let the Internet fool you... Shit comes out of babies like hot lava no matter what you feed them, you'll laugh at that crazy alien newborn until you almost pee your pants, and you'll cry at things that make you feel like a complete emotional moron. And I didn't even get the hormones!!
Enjoy the ride, and give yourself a break. Eventually all our kids will know their ABC's, they will talk like everyone else, and they will like one parent more on any given day. So relax and try to enjoy the crazy ride!! (And stay off effin social media on your bad days!)