Motherhood: The struggle is real

By December 30, 2016 #BabyFox, Musings

It’s 2 a.m. and, for the last hour, I’ve been trying to settle a one-month-old who can’t seem to get comfortable. He’s scrunching and stretching, his face is turning a bright red, he’s crying and rooting and can’t stop fidgeting. He won’t take a bottle, he doesn’t need his diaper changed, he’s downright revolting. I haven’t slept — literally — in days. I haven’t left the house in a week. I can’t remember what the sun feels like.

Welcome to the rude awakening that’s called motherhood.

This is the part no one tells you about. How you’ll never have time for a shower. How you’ll walk around like a zombie for a month because you’re feeding a baby every two hours. How your refrigerator will only have condiments and beer — not the fresh veggies and pre-made meals you thought you’d be eating. How your body will hurt in places you never thought possible — like your nipples.

I knew that being a parent wasn’t going to be easy. And, despite the warnings from been-there-done-that friends, nothing could have prepared me for what I’m going through right now. My fantasies of peaceful, early-morning feedings where we’d listen to classical music — great for the baby’s brain! — and strengthen our bond while breastfeeding were quickly replaced by the reality of an inconsolable baby painfully clamping onto my raw boob while I struggle to comprehend whatever informercial is on TV. It’s not pretty.

Every day I feel like a total failure at this. Whenever the baby cries, whenever I open the fridge and see nothing to eat, whenever I look in the mirror and see a bleary-eyed, pasty-skinned, brain-dead version of myself. All that circulates in my head is, How do women do this? And more than once?

I’m no schlep. I can usually deal with high levels of stress, juggling multiple tasks while making sure the house is clean, there’s food on the table, the bills are paid and the dogs are walked. I do that and still manage to read books and get eight hours of sleep!

I figured adding a newborn to the mix would just be another thing to juggle.

That was my first mistake.

First of all, you can’t juggle a baby (figuratively or literally). The baby takes over everything. All those other things you juggled — work, laundry, Pilates, hanging out with friends — no longer exist. This newborn assumes every aspect of your life. You won’t leave your living room, dirty clothes will pile up, you may not shower for days. Your life will revolve around dirty diapers, sterilizing bottles and pumping breast milk. You’ll never be more interested in the color of poop and the conversion from milliliters to ounces in your life.

As much as I’ve been through — from working in stressful newsrooms to enduring a difficult pregnancy that had me sidelined for months — I never felt as defeated as I have in the past month. I can’t understand why it’s so hard for me, why other women seem to have no problem raising a newborn (so much so they have MORE), why I can’t seem to get a handle on this. What’s wrong with me? I’ve always been able to manage so much — multiple jobs, workouts, lunches with girlfriends, birthdays, family dinners, cooking, cleaning, blogging, volunteering — why was this so hard?

My body isn’t producing the amount of breast milk my friends did. (I have two girlfriends who had to buy refrigerators just to store their extra milk.) Because of my baby’s sensitivity to lactose, I’ve had to supplement with formula, a practice that has been wrongfully shamed in the past few decades, making me feel even more like a failure. I’m still recovering from a C-section and can’t hit the surf or gym like many moms can. And forget trying to scrapbook the experience; I’m lucky I brush my teeth!

I kept wondering if it’s just me. I desperately search online for confirmation of the opposite, hoping to commiserate with the frustration of other women who feel like they’re failing at this. I can’t be alone.

And — thankfully — I’m not.

While it seems like raising a newborn is some kind of ethereal, magical experience — especially on Instagram, which I had been trying to avoid — I’m here to say it’s not. It’s full of spit-up and poop-splosions. It’s the only thing in my life that has literally brought me to my knees in tears. It’s beyond humbling; it straight-up destroys you.

I feel so defeated, so hopeless, as I struggle to comfort this clearly uncomfortable baby. I can’t imagine ever getting through this stage, though I know — people keep telling me — that it gets better, it gets easier, I’ll actually sleep again. I just can’t fathom it.

But when he does finally fall asleep, cradled in my arms, and the house is quiet and the dogs are curled up on the couch with me, there is a kind of peace that washes over me, a feeling that it’s possible I’ll get through this.

But do this all over again with another baby? Ask me when I get four hours of sleep.

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‘You’ll forget the pain’

By December 5, 2016 #BabyFox, Musings, The Daily Dish

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The other day, my mom asked me what she called the million-dollar question: After everything I had been through — really rough pregnancy, a dog attack that sent me to the hospital, and an insanely hard labor and delivery where even the epidural failed to relieve my pain — was it all worth it?

I think the real question is: Would I do this again?

My first, gut response is no. Hell no. There’s no way I’d relive all that pain and suffering.

But now, looking at this little baby, he somehow makes me feel like I’d do it all over again if I knew this was going to happen.

Women have told me throughout my pregnancy — even my mom — that I’ll forget the pain. I won’t remember having two catheters in me at once. I wouldn’t remember the intense pain of contractions that I felt for two straight weeks. I wouldn’t remember the feeling of being in active labor when the epidural stopped working. (Yeah, that was fun.) I wouldn’t remember going through all of that — the internal monitor in my uterus, the infection I got while in the hospital, the feeling that you’re being stabbed from the inside the uterus as it contracts — and then having a C-section. I wouldn’t remember how it felt to get the urinary catheter removed the next morning and having to walk, slowly and unsurely, to the bathroom on my own, hooked up to an IV and trying to nurse a newborn.

All that, yeah, I’d forget it once I was holding the baby in my arms.

This entire pregnancy was nothing how I had imagined. I saw women competing in triathlons in their third trimester, surfing well into their second, and sporting cute maternity clothing. I was lucky I took a shower during my pregnancy.

I really thought I was going to be that on-it mother, hiking and taking weekly Pilates classes, eating a schedule of healthy foods that would benefit the baby’s development, reading to him in the womb. Instead, I was puking in the office bathroom, surviving on cereal and Slurpees and taking a Unisom before I went to bed every night.

Women who saw me struggle through the pregnancy would often tell me, “Don’t worry. Hard pregnancy, easy delivery.”

Ask any of the nurses who saw me over the past two weeks and they’d tell you my labor and delivery was pretty bad.

I likely won’t forget the pain, not just because I’ve documented it in a journal that I’m going to give my son when he can read (just kidding), and, to be honest, I don’t want to.

The pain and suffering were part of this whole experience that resulted in a healthy, adorable (I’m biased) baby boy, and I couldn’t have wanted anything more.

So was it worth it? Of course.

Would I do it again? Ask me in a month.

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After the dog bite: What really happened

By November 21, 2016 #BabyFox, Musings, The Daily Dish

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This hasn’t been an easy pregnancy to begin with.

I’ve dealt with infertility, nausea and vomiting that lasted for six months, acid reflux, sleepless nights, anxiety and leg cramps that would wake me up in the middle of the night.

My activities were already restricted; no hiking, surfing, traveling.

And then, on Tuesday, I get attacked by a neighbor’s dog.

I posted my injuries on social media right after the incident and was immediately inundated with well wishes, advice and offers to, ahem, talk with my neighbors.

But the experience was far worse than the two puncture wounds I suffered on my upper left arm.

So here’s what happened: I took my three dogs — Opae, Sunny and Indy — on our morning walk, alone, something I’ve done for years and throughout this pregnancy. There are a few routes we walk in our neighborhood, and this one happens to pass a house with an aggressive dog. I say that because twice before, this dog, who is let out of the house without a leash to pee and poop in the front yard on the main road, and had attacked my dogs. Once, she ran across the street after us. This dog should never be allowed off-leash.

This morning, however, I was walking toward this house and saw the dog peer out of the garage. I stopped and held my dogs — who are always leashed, by the way — back. I called out to the owner, who was in the garage, too, and said, “Hey, your dog is loose! Grab your dog!”

Too late.

The dog came charging and I, despite being well into my third trimester, went into protective dog-owner mode. It was a blur, me trying to keep my dogs away while fending off this dog, who’s more than twice the size of mine. In the scuffle, I got bit and fell. At one point, I lost hold of Opae’s leash and, to my horror, she ran into the street. I managed to pull my dogs away, get up from the ground, grab Opae and scramble across the street to relative safety.

The owner stood in the garage and did nothing. She apologized, said the dog just ran out of the house, and hurried inside. That’s it.

I’m clearly pregnant. I have clearly sustained injuries. And not a single person — not the owner, no neighbors, not even the construction workers who had been working on houses along the road — despite my cries for help, came to my aid or to even check if I was OK.

That was utterly disappointing.

I walked home, cleaned my wound, and made sure the dogs were OK. (Indy had cuts on his neck and back leg, but the other two seemed OK.) And then I called the police.

My intention wasn’t to press charges; it was to let my neighbors know the severity of what happened. This dog could have seriously hurt me, or a child, or another dog. This isn’t something to shrug off.

I filed a police report and asked the officers to go over and talk with them. But my neighbors wouldn’t answer the door. Maybe they were too embarrassed. Still, that’s no excuse.

It didn’t take long for me to start to feeling the physical affects of the attack. My pubic bone started aching first. And since I fell, I knew I had to call my doctor. (Let’s just say falling isn’t recommended during pregnancy.) She told me to go directly to the hospital to get checked out.

Turns out, falling is one of the ways you can suffer a placental abruption, an uncommon yet very serious complication where the placenta separates from the inner wall of the uterus before delivery. This deprives the baby from oxygen and nutrients and can, if left untreated, lead to death.

It’s rare, but a fall will do it.

By the afternoon, I started having major contractions and that concerned the doctor, who ordered antenatal steroid treatment — two injections right in my ass — to speed up the development of the baby’s lungs in case I was going to give birth prior to reaching full term.

I was on 24-hour fetal monitoring — which meant I couldn’t leave my bed unless I had to pee — and was constantly supervised. The doctors and nurses in the labor and delivery ward were incredible, too, keeping me informed and, maybe more importantly, keeping my spirits up.

I was in the hospital for four days, always worrying about the health of this baby that has really been a miracle for us. But apparently, he’s a tough little guy. His heart rate is strong, he moves around a lot, and he didn’t seem to be affected at all by the dog attack.

Instead, I was the one the medical team was worried about. And I was the one dealing with the emotional scars.

I spent a lot of time in the hospital — well, besides watching the Food Network — thinking about what happened. Why didn’t anyone help? Why do my neighbors insist on letting their dog off-leash when she’s attacked before? What do I do now?

I just hope there’s a lesson to be learned here. Aside from the fact that I’m now not allowed to walk the dogs alone — or near that house — I hope people remember that we should be good human beings first. I wouldn’t have been so upset had the owner come to my aid, asked how I was, just helped me up from the sidewalk. But to run away? That just seemed so wrong and cowardly and, frankly, unneighborly.

So thanks to everyone who’s texted, emailed, sent messages on social media, posted comments, shared personal stories and ranted on my behalf. It’s nice to know I’m still surrounded by people who care.

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Like it or not, life is going to change

By August 22, 2016 #BabyFox, Musings, The Daily Dish

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Ever since finding out I was pregnant back in April, I’ve been consumed with worry.

Am I going to miscarry again? Is this really happening? What am I supposed to do?

These days, though, I’m obsessed with something else.

Change.

I mean, major change. Like, my-whole-life-will-never-be-the-same change.

And it’s scary.

I find myself daydreaming about my former life, before dogs, between boyfriends, when I didn’t have to compromise on Netflix movies, when I could surf whenever I wanted, when I could plan a last-minute trip to Nepal if I found cheap tickets online.

Now, I have three dogs that need to be walked twice a day, a husband whose schedule I need to respect, a paycheck I can’t just squander, a yard that needs weeding, a fridge that needs filling and now a baby that’s coming whether I’m ready for it or not.

I’m sure my anxiety is normal. Every first-time expectant mom worries about this. No pre-sunrise, 12-mile hikes on the weekends. No more napping in the middle of the day. No more sleeping, period. My life will revolve around pumping and feeding and burping and bathing. There won’t be time — and money — for pedicures or massages or yoga retreats. No more spontaneous trips to third-world countries. And Champagne for dinner will be a painfully sad memory.

I worry about my own goals, even the small ones (like picking up my guitar more than once a week), that they’ll all be put on hold as my priorities inevitable shift. Will I miss them? Will I be resentful? Will I have to give all that up?

One of my girlfriends gave birth this weekend to her second child, a miracle baby. She’s a year older than me and had pretty much given up on getting pregnant again.

I asked her how much her life has changed and she agreed it had changed a lot. “But,” she said, “it’s better. Life is way better. I don’t know what [my husband] and I did together by ourselves.”

When I was younger, I figured I’d have kids. It was just something I thought I would do, along with securing a full-time job with benefits and owning a home.

But as I got older, I realized those goals aren’t as easy or as practical as they may have sounded. There’s really no perfect job and I didn’t major in anything that would get me the kind of salary where I could actually afford to own a home in Hawai‘i. (God, I wish I loved accounting.)

So there. Life didn’t work out the way I had planned.

And having a baby? Also not as easy as it sounded.

There was a time, maybe about 10 years ago, that I had stopped thinking about having kids. I was dating someone who didn’t want children, then single and worried I’d never find anyone, then single with a dog and loving the freedom. I saw less of my friends who were starting families and wondered what would happen when everyone abandoned me for a life with kids and trips to Disneyland. I would be alone, with my dog and surfboard collection, and I guess that would be OK.

But then I met my current husband, who was eager to start a family, and suddenly, there I was, weeping at inspiring stories about women in their 40s getting pregnant and stocking up on ovulation kits and pregnancy tests.

Everything changed.

And now that I’m nearly six-months pregnant, I realize things are about to change again. And soon.

I’ve already stopped surfing. (I can’t paddle on my swollen belly.) And hiking takes way too much time and effort. (I’m literally carrying 15 more pounds of weight — and not in a convenient place!) I sleep longer, I can’t drink wine, and I can barely eat more than carbs. Life has already started to change in ways that are hard to accept.

So what happens in four months when I have a newborn who needs my attention 24-7? Are my dogs going to hate me? Will I have to ditch my dreams of writing a novel or living in Paris or taking a year-long vacation around the world?

Will I care?

I don’t know. And, to be honest, not knowing is a bit of an adventure in itself.

I guess I’ll have to wait and see. Change is happening, and this baby is just going to have to come along for the ride.

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What? My hair is going to fall out?

By August 1, 2016 #BabyFox, Musings, The Daily Dish

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The other day my girlfriend, who has two boys and no plans to ever get pregnant again, told me that my hair was going to fall out.

Really? Seriously? As if I needed anything else weird to happen to me!

I just hit my fifth-month mark and, while we’re elated that this pregnancy has lasted so long, I’ve been weirded out about the strange things happening to my body — and beyond.

Why didn’t anyone tell me that morning sickness could be all-day sickness? Or that I would have strange dreams so vivid, I wake up at 3 a.m. — and after peeing for the third time that night — can’t go back to sleep?

Being pregnant is a strange thing. Your body is changing, your moods are all over the place, you’re craving foods you’ve never liked before.

No one told me that you could be so sick with nausea and vomiting that you could actually lose weight in the first trimester (a condition I now know as hyperemesis gravidarum) and have to get fluid and nutrition through an intravenous line every week.

Or that you would have to take a cocktail of medication to keep the nausea at bay for at least an hour so you could get work done.

Or that the medication may not even work and you’d be sick, anyway.

Or that you could feel the equivalent of motion sickness throughout the day, the worst being at night while you’re lying in bed. Like you’re on a small 18-foot Whaler in the middle of a very angry ocean and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Or that you can’t take any kind of motion sickness medication — or Advil and Pepto-Bismol, for that matter.

Or that you’d want to brush your teeth 17 times a day just to get the taste of whatever you could actually eat out of your mouth because it starts to make you sick. (I did have a stellar dental check-up, though, thanks to all that teeth-brushing. Bonus!)

Or that you’d cringe at eating some of your favorite foods, including pizza, fried chicken and plain white rice. How random.

Or that that only foods you can keep down are breads, crackers, bananas, cereal, milkshakes and Slurpees.

Or that even prenatal vitamins can make you queasy. Even the gummy ones. And you didn’t even know there were such things.

Or that your body gets so hot and sweaty, even on the rainiest, coldest nights, all you want to do is lie in front of a fan, on full blast, totally naked.

Or that, despite eating just carbs all day long, you still can’t fit that pair of jeans you keep around for your bloated days.

Or that feeling bloated is now a way of life.

Or that you forget the names of your pets, your dentist, your cousins, the person you just met.

Or that you pee ALL.THE.TIME.

Or that your husband would suddenly start purging everything in your house, including your bookshelves (with books), clothing, camping gear and your entire dining room table set.

Or that walking up the stairs to your front door would feel like hiking to the top of Kuli‘ou‘ou.

Or that people will want to rub your uterus — and you actually don’t mind it.

Or that you start dreaming about your child wanting to get a tattoo (this happened last night) and you start explaining that he should wait until he’s 30 because if you had gotten a tattoo when you had wanted one, you would still have Fido Dido on your ass with the phrase, “Nobody On Board,” next to it.

Or that you could close your eyes for a second during a commercial break and wake up the next morning. Naked in front of a fan.

Or that people can’t quite tell you’re pregnant yet and assume you’ve just gained a ton of weight.

Or that you find out your friends have kept all of their baby stuff — and their kids are in grade school already — cleaned and in tact, almost as if they were just waiting for you to get pregnant.

Or that cribs and strollers and car seats are expensive and that websites only make you more confused about them.

Or that your boobs are so big, you actually wish they were smaller.

Or that you’ll never sleep on your stomach again.

Or that being pregnant makes other people happy, like they’ve been rooting for you this whole time.

Or that a twinge of pain in your abdomen could actually make your smile.

Or that you realize how awesome your husband is because he suddenly wants to rub your back or fetch you another Slurpee and then he starts talking to your belly and you just die.

Or that your priorities start to suddenly change and things that mattered before don’t matter that much anymore.

Or that life will be different and interesting and better.

I’m just not looking forward to my hair falling out.

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