January 26, 2012

on all those emotions...

I've been trying to write this post for a while now, but it just wasn't coming together. I'm usually most comfortable spilling out my thoughts onto paper (or, in this case, my blog)—but, somehow, this has been harder to do. I figured that I should still try, as I always seem to feel a bit lighter after writing.


So, here we are.

When I was at the hospital after having Eisley, I was struggling to get my high blood pressure under control, which led to me staying there for a couple extra days. I remember being so eager to just go home with my husband and daughter, and begin our life as a little family. (I was also eager to get off of the magnesium medication that was turning me into a zombie. I remember feeling so drained that I ate breakfast with my eyes closed one morning, and could hardly lift my arm to hold a spoon. But that's a story for another time.) I voiced my eagerness to get home to one of my nurses, to which she replied, "Oh, believe me. Once you get home you'll be wishing you had more time at the hospital where you had so much extra help!"

Truth be told, once we did finally arrive home, those first days were magic. I found it easier than it was at the hospital—mostly because I wasn't hooked up to a bunch of machines, but also because I finally felt like my life as a mom had truly begun. It was, of course, a lot to handle. Sleepless nights and frustrations with breastfeeding were certainly challenging, but I didn't feel like I was in over my head. I felt okay. Each day brought new confidence and new moments that made my soul dance a little bit. It was good. And it helped that my parents were there to offer encouragement and advice, and Jay was able to take a month away from work to help us settle into our new life.

Even when Jay had to go back to work, I felt okay. A little scared the first couple weeks, but okay.

It wasn't until Eisley was a couple months old that I started feeling a bit more anxious than usual. Eisley was no longer a new-newborn, and that's when I started to put entirely too much pressure on myself. I had taken my homebody-ness to new level, and didn't really go out much. I knew I had to venture out, but it was just…overwhelming. Not normal overwhelming, either. I had this weird social-anxiety, all of a sudden. The very thought of having to go out made me freak out a little bit.

I remember the first time I went to the post office, my heart was racing out of my chest. Eisley was quiet and sweet, and didn't even make a peep, but I could hardly keep it together. Standing in line, I was all, "People can totally hear my heartbeat right now. Fantastic." Having a simple conversation with the friendly postal worker made me feel awkward, and my I'm sure I looked like I'd consumed entirely too much caffeine with the jittery way I was acting.

For the past few months, even simple tasks have seemed ridiculously overwhelming. Emails, phone calls, friendly meet-ups, simple errands, tasks I usually enjoy. Having more than regular day-to-day "mom stuff" on my daily to-do list would make me ridiculously tense, and when I didn't mark everything off at the end of the day I felt like I had to add the uncompleted items to the next day's schedule…and so on, and so forth. I was constantly plagued with thoughts of, "I WILL NEVER BE CAUGHT UP. I AM NOT DOING ENOUGH. I AM FAILING."

I've also struggled a lot with guilt. Unnecessary guilt, but still. It's there, even when I try to fight it. I'm thankful to be able to stay at home with Eisley, and not have to work. This is something that Jay and I agreed upon, but I still feel like I'm not pulling my weight unless I do absolutely everything that I think should be accomplished each day. It's crushing sometimes. There's this mean voice in the back of my head that's saying, "You don't deserve to stay at home. You're not doing enough. Do more, and then you can justify your new way of life."

What's odd is the fact that I fully realize my expectations are way too high, and I can't even really define what "doing it all" would entail. But there is always this lingering thought that I'm not pulling enough weight in order to "deserve" to be a stay at home mom. So, instead of always relishing in these day-to-day moments I share with my daughter, there are times I let that guilt overshadow what should be moments of joy.

And whenever people asked me, "So, how are you doing?" I couldn't really say, "I made frozen fish sticks for dinner last night, so I feel like a failure as a wife. And how are you doing?"

One thing I find rather unfortunate is the lack of addressing this thing called postpartum anxiety. Doctors and baby books have endless information on postpartum depression (as they should), but I hadn't even heard of postpartum anxiety until someone shared this post with me. I've always known what I was feeling wasn't depression. I was incredibly lucky to not experience any typical "baby blues" after the wee one arrived. I was rarely weepy and never felt hopeless; it was more like I was in a constant state of hyperactivity and restlessness. And I knew what I was going through couldn't possibly just all be in my head.

Reading about postpartum anxiety made it a lot more clear. Racing thoughts (um, hello, this is my life), inability to just stop moving and relax (Jay is always like, "Why can't you just watch this movie without getting up and doing a hundred other things?!"), constant worry (constant, yo), sleeplessness (due to those good ol' racing thoughts), irrational fear of awful things happening to your baby (things that couldn't even possibly happen, like her falling out of the car on the freeway). It felt good to just…know that it was something. It wasn't just me. If that makes any sense.

Most of this is written in past tense, because in the past couple weeks I've felt like my head is much more clear. I never went to the doctor, never took medication, was never diagnosed with anything…but I feel confident in saying that I struggled with postpartum anxiety on some level. I still slip into guilt-mode more than I'd like to admit, and most days I feel at least a little overwhelmed by all I want/need to accomplish. But it's not consuming, like it was before.

At this point, I just want to feel like I'm completely and entirely living, and enjoying where my life has taken me. Not dreading and worrying and comparing and feeling needlessly frustrated with anything and everything. I feel good knowing that many of the things I struggled with are starting to fade.

I'm realizing that baby steps are still steps, and they definitely count. I'm embracing imperfection. I'm learning to give myself a lot more credit.

And also allowing myself to just be still. Because that's just as important as anything else.

65 comments :

  1. it is hard to just be. expectations for yourself will be higher than from anyone else could possibly set for you. i understand, i feel the same way sometimes, never feel like what I am doing is quite good enough... for me. You have a beautiful family and are incredibly lucky to be in the position you are. I hope you master the art of "just being" and enjoying every detail of your life :)

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    1. Thank you for the incredibly sweet feedback. :) It feels good to know there are other people out there who completely understand. Hugs, m'dear!

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  2. I don't have kids yet, but someday hope to:) Even without kids there are days when I feel like I could do more or that I haven't accomplished enough. I appreciate your honesty and openness on this subject. People always talk about their pregnancy stories, but rarely do I hear about what happens when the baby comes home. Glad to hear you are doing better and best of luck being still and living and enjoying your life where it is at right now.

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    1. I appreciate your thoughtful comment, Nicole! I've learned that the after-baby emotions aren't talked about enough (for many reasons, I suppose), so it feels good to just let-it-all-out, so to speak. ;) Thank you for your encouragement and sweet words!

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  3. Simply being a mom is a full time job! I think you know that you have no reason to feel the way you feel, but I can see how someone - who was working and always doing stuff before, might feel like you're not getting anything done. But you're raisIng a child, Kerri! That is a lot of work!

    I'm glad you were able to somehow fInd a label for how you were feeling because that usually helps to feel calmer already! You're doing a terrific job, as far as I can tell!

    HUGS.

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    1. "Simply being a mom is a full time job!" Oh, San—you have no idea how much that simple sentence brightened my day. Thank you so much for being such a sweet friend, and for your encouraging words. You are a gem.

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  4. I was just about to write a very similar post. I have been struggling with the anxiety, which I too thought "well it's not depression so I'm ok." And the guilt..oh my. He's getting one bottle of formula because I can't keep up with pumping and the guilt eats me alive. I'm learning to pick my supermom battles. And let myself "fail" my own expectations. But man, it's hard.

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    1. Oh, exactly! That's why I wish more people were aware of PPA. So many times you tell yourself, "Well, I don't want to cry all day or run away from home, so...maybe it's all in my head." We need to band together and work towards healing those crushing emotions.

      And I know many moms who have had the guilt of breastfeeding issues just eat them up inside! In my mind, if you are doing as much as you can for your little one, you are doing BETTER than fine. Any breastmilk your baby receives is good for their little bodies, but formula was created for a reason...to nourish your baby when your body is unable to keep up.

      Hugs, Sarah! If you ever need to vent or need some online "hugs", I'm here. :)

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  5. When you have a baby, everyone wants to know how the baby is doing! After you've answered a thousand questions about feeding, sleeping and poop, there is a perfunctory "oh, and how are you doing?"

    Now that I am a mom myself I try to check in about the mom. It doesn't solve all the issues she is having, but at least it is an opening for us women to share how we are feeling.

    Motherhood is transformative. Although we have 40 weeks to prepare for a baby, being a mother happens in a moment... it doesn't matter how many books we've read, there is little that prepares us for it.

    I am sorry that you had postpartum anxiety, but I am glad that you are working through it and that you are sharing how YOU are doing. I hope that you continue to care for yourself as well as you care for your beautiful little girl!

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    1. Hahaha...the first part of your comment made me laugh because it's SO TRUE. The only thing most people ask me is, "Are you getting much sleep?" I'm always like, "DON'T REMIND ME, NANCY." ;) Well, I don't say it out loud, but you know...

      I think it's so important for every mom to be encouraged (even if they "seem" to be doing fine). Just one extra hug or word of understanding means more than anyone could imagine.

      Thank you for the sweet comment!

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  6. Thank you for this post. I have come to realize after having my baby, that a lot of moms forget all of these emotions they had in the beginning and don't share them with you until you open up to them. There are so many overwhelming emotions whether it be right when you get home with the baby, a few days later or a few months later. You're doing a great job, you have a beautiful baby and it's ok to feel crazy sometimes! :)

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    1. Thank you for your encouraging comment. :) It feels good to know that I'm one of so many mamas who feel this way!

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  7. I hope getting this all down and putting it out here felt good. It's certainly a wonderful thing for others to read and sympathize with, I'm sure. I mean, I don't even have a baby, and I SO know those "I don't deserve to stay home" feelings. (Maybe *because* I don't have a baby? I quit my job to write my book.)

    Anyway. I'm so happy for you that you can look at this from the other side, and I think it will inspire lots of other women who are probably feeling similar things.

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    1. Thank you for your thoughtful feedback, as always!

      I think that there is a lot of pressure in our culture to do it all. That's why I can understand your having these same emotions of guilt. Whether it's writing, mama-ing, or otherwise, it's like, "What, you think you're important enough to stay at home and live out your dream? You should be like the rest of us and have to work yourself to a pulp and then pursue everything else with whatever you have left!" When, in reality, if you're able to work hard to make it work, then you should be proud of that. And realize that is enough.

      Hugs, lady! And I'm proud of you for doing all you do. :)

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  8. Thank you for sharing this. Motherhood is EMOTIONAL! Even our dear husbands, our partners in parenting, will never fully understand what it feels like to be a mom.

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    1. Amen, sister! I've tried to explain these things to my husband, but he doesn't seem to really get it. (Not that I blame him.) So, it feels good to have all this feedback from people who are like, "Yeah. That."

      :)

      Thanks for the sweet comment, Kellie!

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  9. I love you for writing this post. Anxiety is so common and yet not discussed often enough (in my opinion). I am glad things are feeling better. Jay and Eisley are so lucky to have you. xoxo

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    1. As always, you make my soul happy. Thank you for the sweet words. Can't wait for you to meet the little nugget...so soon! :)

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  10. thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for writing this. I have an almost 6 month old now and I have been struggling lately and feeling so anxious and like something just isn't right...But I was convinced it couldn't have anything to do with being postpartum because i was fine after my baby was first born and for many of the weeks and even months that followed...never had any baby blues, never any depression...and i still don't feel depressed, just so.much.anxiety.all.the.time. Over EVERYTHING, and over NOTHING. I would say probably since around my little one turned 3 months old...which I am just now realizing is exactly when i went back to work. So, huh, look at that...I feel better already just knowing that i'm not crazy.

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    1. I only recently discovered that PPD and PPA can start MONTHS after you have the baby. Again, why does nobody tell you these things?! It makes us all think we're going crazy, especially when at the beginning (when things are supposed to be the hardest) we are hanging in there just fine.

      Hugs, Miranda! Thank you so much for your feedback on this post. :)

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  11. I experienced some of this too, recently. Especially the irrational fears of something bad happening to the baby. I would picture, vividly, horrible things happening to her and how I would feel afterward. It was AWFUL. I'm so glad I've learned somewhat how to train my thoughts away from that, and also to avoid things (like certain movies, books, conversations) that will trigger my anxiety.

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    1. I'm definitely trying to avoid my triggers, too! It's weird how those thoughts come out of nowhere, though. Like, she'll be on the bed and all of a sudden I'm like, "What if she falls off and gets wedged in-between the nightstand and the bed and is screaming and I can't get her out and ahhhhhhhh!" It's like I have to physically shake those thoughts out of my head. Ridiculous.

      Thank you for being so understanding, Kathleen! This mommyhood thing is full of ups and downs (but mostly ups, which makes is all worthwhile). ;) Hugs!

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  12. I'm not a mom yet and so I look to you and other young moms so that one day I'll know what to expect. The good and the bad. You are so strong Kerri. Your sweet family is truly blessed to have you.

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    1. Thank you so much for the sweet comment, Crystal! You are a gem.

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  13. I am one of those "lurkers" who enjoy your blog tremendously but never comment. THANK YOU for being so honest and open on your blog today. We all experience things similar to what you're going through I think (or a lot of us do!) but we do not have the courage to talk about it. So a big hug to you and Eisley and lots of hope that you keep feeling better! Being a mom IS a full time job and I'm sure Jay realizes that.

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    1. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to leave such a sweet comment, Henley! I appreciate you reading my blog and for being so understanding. :) And thank you for choosing this post to de-lurkify yourself! Heehee.

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  14. great post! i'm a new reader to your blog, had a baby girl right around the same time... it's fun to follow along and see someone else experiencing the same things! this post really made me think and introspect more. thank you for writing.

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  15. You are strong, Kerri.

    Thanks for sharing.

    I can't say I experienced this (I mean, on a small scale - I had and have irrational fears about Gabe dying, but not debilitating in anyway), but I do appreciate you being a voice so others can understand.

    On the mommy guilt, have you seen this? Not so much for the 'wars' part, but for the guilt narrative I think we all know!

    I never, ever, EVER get it all done. And most days, I am fine with that. But every few days, I completely freak out and whine to Mike about being overwhelmed and behind and how all my clients are going to hate me.

    But that's typical of me, even pre-Gabe. ;)

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    1. Oh, my gosh. That post you linked to is FANTASTIC. Definitely something I needed to read. It's interesting about how whether you work outside the home full-time, part-time, or not at all, almost every mom (if not ALL) struggles with the same emotions. We all think we should be doing more than we do on some level...which isn't fair to ourselves.

      I suppose we all deserve a bit more credit, eh? :)

      Thanks for the encouraging comment, as always!

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  16. Thank you for being brave and writing this very honest, transparent post! I'm not a mommy yet but perhaps I will experience this once I have my first child some day... I won't have to wonder if something like 'Postpartum anxiety" exists I will just know how to address it immediately. Thank for being so transparent and honest!

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    1. Thank you for the sweet feedback, Leslie! I appreciate you taking the time to read about these mommy shenanigans, even though you are not yet a mama yourself. ;) I'm thankful for your encouragement and kind words!

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  17. Reading this post, I kept thinking, "this sounds so much like me!" The first few days home from the hospital with Eli were a cakewalk. I was eating meals, showering, sweeping the floor and all the other things people had told me I wouldn't be able to do for months. I felt like I had motherhood in the bag. But over the past few weeks I've been feeling super discontent and antsy. Like you, I've worried about horrible things happening to my baby. I've panicked over not getting enough done and cried over the state of the laundry pile or the windows. Guilt is definitely the biggest thing for me...guilt over being a bad mother if Eli cries or spits up or just about anything else, you name it. I've also been panicked over getting out of the house with him and have been avoiding seeing friends which is not like me at all. The whole time we run errands, I'm holding my breath and can't wait to get home, then when I'm home, I feel like I'm a prisoner. I know I'm not depressed but I just haven't felt like myself. Now I know postpartum anxiety exists, and while that knowledge doesn't take my feelings away, it's nice to know others feel the same and that it's normal. Thank you so much for sharing your experience!

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    1. Hugs, hugs, hugs! I seriously wish we lived next to each other so we could just have a cup of coffee while our little ones hung out (crying, urping, or whatnot) and just chat about things.

      It feels good to realize that none of us are alone in our thoughts and feelings. And the fact that the "hardest" first days home with a newborn were almost easier than mommyhood now is puzzling, but sometimes true!

      Thank you for being such a sweet bloggy friend. :)

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  18. I didn't want to just be one of those people that reads and doesn't post a comment because I can only imagine the courage it takes to actually get it all out in words that make sense.
    I suffered from PPD and PPA and it has literally changed my life.
    My youngest is almost 6 and I still struggle with the effects of what that did to me.
    You're an amazing mother who, like all of us, expects the very best for our little people and for our family.
    I am so glad that you are feeling much better!!
    Hang in there... it's little steps and you're doing an amazing job!

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to read my post and leave such a sweet comment. It feels good to hear from someone who has been there and has moved forward from it (and lived to tell their tale...heehee). Motherhood is incredible in that you are always feeling something new or discovering something else about yourself. It's been so much more complicated than I expected (which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but is definitely a learning experience).

      In any case, I appreciate your kind words! :)

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  19. I'm so glad you are sharing this with the world. I bet a lot of people have these feelings and feel like there's something "wrong" with them when what they are experiencing is completely normal.

    Great job on making steps towards feeling better! You can do it! We'll all be here to support you!

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  21. You rock, Kerri. Seriously. You are brave and beautiful and such a good mother. I almost wrote a post the other day about my emotional struggles with breastfeeding and the MAJOR guilt I've been dealing with, but chickened out. I probably chickened out because of the guilt, honestly. But thank you, for being vulnerable and for sharing with us. I'm so glad you're starting to feel "normal" again :)
    Also, I saw a new year's resolution earlier this month where a mom said, "I want to feel like being a mom is enough. I don't have to have Etsy shops or meals on the stove or DIY projects going constantly. Screw DIY projects! I'm raising a human being! That is enough."
    It really resounded with me, and I hope it does with you too :)

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    1. Oh, Megan! Please, please, please, know I'm always here if you want to chat with someone about breastfeeding issues. I went through so much frustration in the beginning and it didn't start to feel natural and easy until Eisley was about 3 months. It was like one day it just "clicked" for both Eisley and I. I don't know what I would have done without all the encouragement/advice/what-have-you from all my sweet twitter and bloggy mamas! Don't ever feel alone or afraid to reach out. Odds are, someone is out there going through the same thing...

      And I love that quote you shared. Something I totally need to keep in mind when I'm feeling like I'm just not doing enough.

      Hugs, m'dear! And thank you for always being so sweet.

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  22. I don't have a child, nor am I even expecting one, but I can really relate to this. I recently lost my job due to tough economic times & most often I find that I'm not able to pull my weight around the house, or life in general. Anxiety comes and goes with job searching that (right now) looks bleak - and not feeling like I'm doing enough to find a new one - it goes on and on. I know were not talking about the same subject, but I def. get what you're feeling.

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    1. Oh, Holly—I can only imagine how tough it must be right now! I will be sending all the happy thoughts your way, and do hope that you are able to find work soon. I know that in the meantime it's difficult to just let yourself enjoy time without a timeclock, but I hope you're able to find some time during the day to bask in some guilt-free relaxation. ;)

      Thank you so much for leaving your feedback, and for your kind words! Hugs!

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  23. Thank you for sharing this! You are very brave, and you are shedding light on something that I didn't know existed. I will be sending lots of positive thoughts your way!

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    1. I can't thank you enough for your sweet words. You are a gem! :)

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  24. I have always loved your blog. This post is brave, honest, and full of love. Thank you for sharing yourself with us.

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    1. Thank you so much, Rachel! I appreciate you taking the time to read, and for leaving such a sweet comment. <3

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  25. Thank you for writing this. You're right: postpartum depression gets talked about all the time, but I've never even heard about postpartum anxiety. I have a friend who is pregnant, and I will be sure to give her a head's up about it so that she can watch out for it.

    Also, I don't know if you have already read this, but I think it's written for you.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/glennon-melton/dont-carpe-diem_b_1206346.html

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    1. Thank you *so* much for passing along that post! So, so perfect. And exactly something I needed to read.

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  26. I love your blog and feel as if we are so much alike, even though we are complete strangers. Being vulnerable and honest about our feelings is difficult, but as you can see from the many comments here: YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

    I'm on baby #2 and staying home with them... I always feel like the to-do list is never ending. That if I don't have a gourmet dinner ready at 5 I have nothing to show for my day.... We all struggle. I wrote this post last night as I tried to make peace with all this pressure I put on myself to be perfect mother: www.mariatran.blogspot.com. We are human beings, not human doings, I know try to remember that when I'm racing to check things off my list, but really I should be reading my kids a book or better yet, reading a. Book myself while they nap.

    You are doing great, and I'm so glad things are looking up!
    Hugs.

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    1. Thank you so much for your words of encouragement and understanding! I read one of your recent posts (the comment about the cilantro smoothie totally made me giggle) and the whole time I was nodding in agreement.

      There's something to be said about being honest and putting yourself out there, and I'm thankful for all you've shared, as well. I think that in doing so, we help ourselves, as well as anyone else who is in the same boat. Which is important, because us mamas need to stick together. ;)

      Hugs!

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  27. Girl....I TOO had the high blood pressure thing during labor and was on magnesium (aka the devil). I was so tired by the time they finally brought my baby to me I don't even REMEMBER holding him for the first time. (I had a c-section). So yeah, talk about guilt. I started reading your blog when I had read a few of your posts on baby center. So thankful I found your blog. You are one of the most inspiring, strong, creative, beautiful and just awesome people I have ever had a chance of "meeting". Thank you so much for sharing your struggles. It makes the rest of us moms feel like we are not alone, and THAT makes the biggest difference. Please understand that I think you are the best mom EVER. Eisley is so very lucky to have such a wonderful person as her mother.

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    1. Oh, Bethany! You are the sweetest!

      First of all, isn't the August '11 birth board a little crazypants? Whenever I go onto BabyCenter, I'm always like, "Okay, what shenanigans am I going to run into today?" Hahaha...at least it's entertaining at 3AM while I'm nursing the wee one. ;)

      Second of all, magnesium is totally the devil. The nurse told me I would feel like I had the flu or something, but let's just say that apparently I've never had the flu if THAT'S what it feels like. I swear, my eyes were rolling around in my head...yikes...

      In any case, thank you so much for taking the time to read, and for being so encouraging. Your sweet words mean the world to me. :)

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  28. I love this, mainly because I can relate so, so much. And I don't even HAVE a kid!

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  29. UMM. YES! i have cried over putting in freezer pizzas for dinner and over letting my baby girl watch a show so i could take a shower!

    thanks for sharing about the realities of life! God bless you as you continue on in your mothering and homemaking! :)

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    1. So glad I'm not alone in my freezer meals. Hahahaha...sometimes you do what you have to do, eh? ;) Thanks for the sweet comment!

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  30. Just want to send you a big hug. xoxo

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    1. Thank you so much for the sweet comment, Janet. Your thoughtfulness made me tear up, because I know that you are going through so many emotions yourself—and that you took time to encourage me reminds me of what a true gem you are. Hugs right back to you!

      <3

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  31. I'm sure you're doing a wonderful job at being a Mom! There is no rule book or things you should be doing. Just being around your daughter and having a great time with her is being the best mom ever. And the best wife as well.

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  32. thank you for sharing this! I'm at 4 months post-partum and every time I feel like I have things under control, I'm slapped in the face with something that clearly shows I don't. Whether it's something I missed on the job (I'm a student/Research assistant), a bill I didn't pay or something else... Being a mama is a full-time job. Fish sticks are ok. And we HAVE to forgive ourselves. It's emotional and we have to support each other. I'm glad you're feeling better :)

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  33. Oh that you for your honest post. I think you are doing great! And I know a lot of mums sometimes feel like they are not doing enough but I remember reading an article where the author's husband asked what she had done all day and she said "I've kept a little human alive." That made me laugh because it seems like a 'simple' job when it isn't. I'm not a mum yet and I feel overwhelmed with working and trying to be a good wife.

    So you are doing a fantastic job and I hope your anxiety levels go down (I'm an anxious person in general and I need to learn to just be still).

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  34. This is a very beautiful post. I know nothing about being a mom (clearly) but I think that many women struggle with this, at least I know many women who have/do. You have been so open through your entire pregnancy, before, during and after and I thank you for that courage and strength.
    Sweet lady, you are fantastic. That is all.

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  35. Hi! I never comment, but my Aunt recently posted this article I think might make you happy. Especially the last bit.

    http://www.ncregister.com/blog/to-the-mother-with-only-one-child

    Have a wonderful day :)

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    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read (and comment!), Melinda! The article you linked to is absolutely fantastic and a wonderful read. Thank you for passing it along!

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  36. What a great, honest post. I hope more women are brave enough to share these kind of moments and thoughts.

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