Motherhood & Friendship: It's Harder Than it Looks

Motherhood & Friendship: It's Harder Than It Looks | Writing Between Pauses

When I was a freshman in college, my best friend from high school got pregnant. We were very, very close the summer between senior year in high school and freshman year in college--and throughout our first year at college, we wrote each other letters, sent each other silly emails, text messages, and Facebook wall posts. (Remember Facebook wall posts!?) We were each others rock when we didn't really have a lot of other people who understood our background: we were perfectionist girls from small towns outside of a major metro, who went to a Catholic school where everyone was just a little wealthier than we were. We worked hard, took AP classes, played sports, and got good scholarships. 

I wish I could tell you that our friendship survived her pregnancy, that her becoming a mother and having to quit school, because you can't keep a soccer scholarship that covers most of your tuition when you're pregnant. I wish I could tell you that I had been there for her. And truly, I did try: I was 19 years old, however, and while that's no excuse, I didn't really have all the tools necessary to deal with her circumstances.

We fell apart for several years. My best friend disappeared into the background of my life; I remembered her fondly, but I wasn't sure exactly how to reconnect with her. But a year before my wedding, as I was trying on wedding dresses, I spotted her: she was trying on wedding dresses too. We hugged each other, we swore to get together... and we never did. I've chatted with her a few times since: we've met up for dinner once, she gave me the last of her breastmilk when Forrest was in the hospital just after his birth (a favor that is truly one of the greatest kindnesses anyone has ever done for me), and we talk occasionally on Facebook. But the spark of our friendship--that exciting feeling to have someone who just knew me, who understood all my quirks, who laughed at the same jokes as me, who sent me goofy cards she found in the grocery store just because--it's gone and it doesn't really come back. 

Recently, I was reading Jimsy Jampots, a newsletter by Amy that I really love, and she talked about friendship, about how some people seem to have a friend group that survives just about everything and others, well, just don't. I'll be the first to tell you I've never been great at making friends; I'm introverted and shy, with a heaping dose of social anxiety. I'm eternally self-conscious, always convinced I'll say exactly the wrong thing. It's like I never learned how to have a conversation, sometimes. But when people get to know me, I really do think I'm quite funny. But friends? Lasting friendships? That's something I really struggle with. 

In Amy's newsletter, she included a link to an article on the Pool about friendship and motherhood, and about how friendships shift and alter throughout our lives, but especially when we have kids... or don't have kids. You can read that article here. It got me thinking about my friend and how our friendship really dissolved once she was pregnant and especially after she had a baby. I was still in college, living a completely different life from her. 

Similarly, almost 3 years ago, I was having a baby when almost none of my friends were. I've written before that I found pregnancy a really fun experience (despite learning later on that I actually had a quite difficult pregnancy), but that I found the first three months of motherhood absolutely brutal. Postpartum life is isolating, exhausting, and, truly, just not very fun. Some people adjust really well and some people just don't. 

One line stuck out from that article by Robyn Wilder in particular: 

Recently, the Daily Mail zeroed in on a “controversial” blog post by Australian writer Nadia Bokody, in which she claimed that “I can’t be your friend anymore now you’re a mother”. And in reply I’d like to say this: “Well, of course you fucking can’t.”

I’m not the same as I was before kids. I’m a mother now. I have a pram the size of an SUV that I don’t know how to collapse. I have to watch a YouTube tutorial every time I want to get it on a bus. So, no, I cannot meet you for cocktails in a trendy Brixton bar that you can only access via a broken fridge door in a back alley.

It's very difficult to explain to people that it's not that I don't want to go to a trendy bar, or, god, even sit on a park bench and eat a sandwich and chat for hours. It's that I literally, physically cannot. I might be able to beg my child off on a babysitter for an hour, but that's just an hour. Or I can bring him along, spend all the time not really listening to someone talk, try to entertain him, annoy everyone else in the coffee shop, bar, or park, and then have to leave early because he didn't get a good nap, or he needs to eat lunch, or some other reason. (And truly, the stroller situation is out of control. Why don't they fold up easily!?) 

Motherhood changes everything in your life. In one monumental way (you have a human life that is dependent on you for basically everything) and in many small, insignificant ways that sometimes feel glaringly painful. They are little paper cuts, reminders that your life is somehow much better, but also much harder, than it was a year ago, or two years ago, or whatever. It's like someone has come into the apartment of your life and just changed the furniture a little bit. Your body doesn't work quite the same anymore and neither does your brain, really; you don't have as much time as you once did to lounge on the couch, or binge watch TV shows, or chat with your friends. Your car has gotten bigger, bulkier, and harder to maneuver and the backseat is basically a non-space, taken up entirely by a plastic potty that you have to carry everywhere, a bag full of extra clothes just in case, snacks, and the carseat that cost about the same as a house payment. You find yourself doing things your parents used to do: folding money into parchment paper and saving in the freezer with peppercorns inside, carefully wiping tennis shoes with wet paper towels to clean the mud off, creating travel books out of old binders and hole punched activity sheets you photocopied from your sister's old books, counting coins out for allowance, creating a chore chart. 

And there are people in my life who don't understand any of these things. They might even have kids themselves, who are older, or who are younger, or maybe they just adjusted to motherhood better than me and don't have to check the stove 3 times before they can get in the car. It makes friendship difficult. It makes it easy to go a week without talking, then two weeks, then somehow it's been two years and you're not even sure how to start the conversation anymore. 

Parenting is hard. It's not the hardest thing in the world and ultimately, it's a choice--but it's still really challenging. And it's hard to juggle parenting and socializing, especially if you, like me, aren't great at socializing to begin with. I've been on both sides of the coin: I've been the one moving on while a friend becomes a parent and I've been the one left in the dust, looking around and wondering when the last time I spoke to so-and-so was. And it's ok. At the end of the day, it's ok for friendships to fade. 

Because, in the meantime, you can find new friendships. Mom groups have bred some of the best friendships I've ever had--people who totally get me, who understand me and my difficulty with parenting, who laugh when I joke about starting a revolution, who understand when I say I don't really know if I want a second baby because I really, really like my first baby. People drift apart and it's hard to make time in the quagmire of our lives, but if you meet someone who is also fighting a two-year-old 13 hours a day, you'll be surprised as how well you can talk over screaming,. 

3 Ways Pregnancy Changes Your Body

I had heard the horror stories, trust me. I knew what pregnancy would do to my body. It’s impossible to go through a nearly 40 week process where one of your organs multiplies to 500 times its normal size (and effectively moves everything in your body to a new position), where you grow an entirely new organ as well as a very small human being, brain and all, without feeling some shock waves. 

But I was not entirely prepared for the scope and breadth of just how my body would change. What am I talking about? Well, let’s address 3 major changes that literally no one told me about. 

1. I became allergic to contacts. 

At a certain point in pregnancy, you have so much extra fluid that your vision can become blurry. It’s incredibly common. What else is common? Becoming allergic to contacts after you give birth. Thanks, Forrest! 

I’ve worn contacts since I was 14. I almost never wore my glasses out in public. And yet, after I had Forrest, every time I put in my contacts, my eyes burned, my vision blurred, and I felt generally miserable. After a few eye doctor visits, I found out the truth: my eyes were rejecting contacts. It’s all glasses all the time for me now. 

2. Some pregnancy symptoms become semi-permanent.

I developed really severe carpal tunnel when I was pregnant. This is because, again, you have so much extra fluid in your body that it puts pressure on all of your joints (this is also why your ankles and knees and hips and just about everything else hurts). My carpal tunnel was so bad towards the end of my pregnancy that my hands would go numb and I wouldn’t be able to move them until I held them up for several minutes. Cool!

For about 8 months after I had Forrest, I had pretty several wrist pain. I couldn’t pick up anything heavy with my left hand or put any pressure on that wrist. It was the worst when it came to my carpal tunnel, so it made sense. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I realized I also now have a gigantic bone spur on my left wrist; it is so sharp you can see it through the skin. Cool! I also have near permanent carpal tunnel; some mornings, my left hand is still numb. 

3. Everything you thought you knew about your cycle is now wrong. 

So, I bet you thought that once you were 28 and a mom, you’d have the whole menstrual cycle thing down pat. Well, guess what? WRONG. Pregnancy does this super fun thing to your body where it basically changes everything you ever thought you knew about your cycle. Never used to get cramps? Surprise! Cramp town! Used to be incredibly regular? Psych! Never had cravings? Boom, welcome to chocolate-covered-pretzel-town! You’ll look back in fondness at those pre-pregnancy days of having at least a moderate understanding of your cycle. For the lucky few, maybe things haven’t changed that much. For the rest of us, wave goodbye. 

Hey! This isn’t to say that everything about pregnancy is bad. All these things happen—the terrible skin, the cowboy walk (yikes), the saggy boobs—but you also get a baby. And that’s pretty great.

5 Apps that Every New Mom Needs

In the weeks after I had Forrest, my life would have fallen apart if I didn't use apps to help me remember things, get Forrest to sleep, or generally pull my life back together into some semblance of normalcy. I went through my phone and picked out the apps I used the most in the first 6 months of Forrest's life. These apps saved my sanity, helped me remember details that otherwise would have just... slipped away, and ultimately, kept me company on those long, lonely days spent holding Forrest as he napped. 

1. SoundSleeper

SoundSleeper is a white noise app. That's it. That's all it does. And it is invaluable. I would pay for this app, except I didn't have to, because these wonderful people give it to you FREE. There are about 10 different noises to choose from (Forrest's favorite is Mountain Stream, it still knocks him out within 5-10 minutes). They play for 30 minutes and then fade out, but you can always extend the time back to 30 minutes near the end. I have played the Mountain Stream noise at least 900 times since Forrest was born. That's like 450 hours of white noise. 

2. The Wonder Weeks App

This is an app that actually has no real use except to read and go, "oh my god, ok, it's normal, he's fine." I actually forget it exists until Forrest starts turning into the meanest little gremlin on the planet. Wonder Weeks are proposed weeks (they're actually groups of weeks, like 4-5 at a time) that coincide with major periods of neurodevelopment. Recently, Forrest started throwing temper tantrums, only wanting to eat certain foods, and generally being a MAJOR hand full. I opened up the Wonder Weeks App and realized, oh, he's smack dab in the middle of a wonder week--which is why he is so cranky. This app is great for reminding yourself that the fussiness will go away. Eventually. 

3. Sprout Baby

Because of Forrest's preterm birth, I had to keep meticulous track of his feeding and pooping. Really. At first I used a notebook, but that required a lot of energy. Eventually, I downloaded Sprout Baby and, yes, I ended up paying the $4.99 upgrade on it. You can use Sprout Baby to keep track of bottle feeding (ounces, when, and what was fed, formula or breastmilk), to keep track of breast feeding (which side, how long), and to keep track of diapers. It sounds dumb now, but these are questions that pediatricians expect you to answer and keeping track of diaper output is incredibly important in the first six months. Sprout Baby was the easiest to use app of all the ones I tried (and yes, I tried a ton). It also had a pump log, which, if you end up pumping, saves you a massive headache because you can see your output for each day in a handy-dandy graph. 

4. Waterlogged

The number one rule of breastfeeding and/or pumping is that you have to stay hydrated. When you start getting even a little dehydrated, your supply goes way down. Waterlogged sends reminders of when you should drink some good ol' H20 and allows you to set a goal. (As a heads up, nursing mothers need 140+ ounces of water a day. Really.) 

5. Cartwheel

If you're a mom in the United States, you probably go to Target at least once a week. In the early days, we always needed something: more bottles, more pacifiers, diapers, wipes, a hat... Cartwheel saved us tons of money each trip because we could scan everything we were buying and see if there was a coupon for it. It's super easy to use and saves you money--what's not to love? 

Do you have any apps that new moms need to try? Share with me on Twitter

I Have Postpartum Depression

Let's set the scene. 3 weeks after Forrest was born. I sat in the reclining chair in my living room, holding this bundle of blanket and very small human. There were nipple pads shoved into my bra. My back hurt. I'd been up all night, pumping and feeding. Forrest cried, and cried, and cried. I sang to him. I sang every song I could think of. I hadn't left the house in over a week. Most days, the only time I moved was to get more coffee, grab a snack, or pump--otherwise, I sat on the couch, or in the chair, with Forrest. I started to cry and I couldn't stop. I wanted to be anywhere but there.

I loved Forrest with an intensity that bordered on obsessive: I worried about every little thing and recorded it, carefully, in an app that cost $5. But that love wasn't enough. The depths of my misery reached further into me. I wanted to both take care of him 24/7 and have someone else just offer to help me. I wasn't sleeping, period; at my 4 week appointment, my doctor would go through the calendar with me and count hours I had slept since the day I was induced. The number would be staggeringly low. So low, that when people tell me about "not sleeping" now, I want to dare them to wander into the danger zone of "so little sleep, you may actually die." 

Here's the lucky part of the story: because of Forrest's low birth weight and my preeclampsia, we went to the doctor near constantly. Forrest's pediatrician gave me these tests called "Edinburgh tests" that measured my likelihood of postpartum depression. My own OB was also monitoring me for PPD: women who give birth early, are unable to breastfeed, and have low birthweight babies are more likely, than other group, to develop PPD due to both hormonal and environmental factors. 

By our appointments at 4 weeks, I was diagnosed with PPD and started treatment. 

It's hard to describe now, because I feel like a completely different person. The circumstances around Forrest's birth, my sadness at not being able to breastfeed him, my severe sleep deprivation... it all added up to PPD.

I want to say that the minute I started treatment, I was a different person. But that's just not true. It took a lot of things to get me "feeling normal" again. It took treatment, which was hard and expensive and in many ways, unpleasant; it took letting go of breastfeeding and supplementing with formula, because it was the best thing for my mental health; it took going back to work, giving myself time away from Forrest and not feeling guilty about it. 

I started to feel better, more like my pre-labor & delivery self around 8 months postpartum. 8 months. It took almost 7 months of treatment and self-care to start feeling better, to stop snapping at Danny, to start cleaning my house again.

Sometimes, I will wander across an article about the rates of postpartum depression: who gets it and who doesn't. Sometimes, the comments, and the mom groups that post such articles, like to draw lines: bad moms get PPD and good moms don't. But postpartum depression doesn't pick sides in the mommy wars. 

One statistic that always sticks out to me is that moms who formula feed are at a higher risk of PPD. Horrible, judgmental women use this as evidence that "choosing to formula feed" means that you develop less of a connection to your baby and therefore, are a "bad mom." The truth is, a significant number of women who formula feed do so because they are unable to breastfeed--and being unable to breastfeed, or having to exclusively pump, increases your chances of PPD by almost 70%. (Another statistic that's often thrown around by breastfeeding activists is that "only 5% of women truly don't make enough milk," but 5% of the number of women who give birth is still a significant number. That's still thousands of women.) 

When I talk about PPD, it always goes back to my failure to breastfeed. And despite how PPD makes me feel, I logically know that I didn't do anything "bad" to "deserve" not being able to breastfeed or develop PPD--and that those two facts are related when it comes to my improving. 

If anyone reading this is struggling with postpartum depression, or suspects they may have postpartum depression, this is all I can say: it is ok to reach out for help (from your baby's pediatrician, from your doctor, from anyone); it does not make you a bad mom to admit you are depressed; and it does get better, things can improve, you don't have to feel like this. 

An Ode to Working Moms

If you'd told me, 10 years ago, that when I had a baby there would be something called "mommy wars" on the internet, I would have said two things: 1) you're a liar because I'm not going to have kids, duh and 2) that sounds seriously stupid

Well, surprise 17-year-old Michelle, both those things are real.  

One of the many, many mommy wars (ugh) is the working moms and the stay at home moms. Those who participate in the (totally ridiculous) battles believe that, ultimately, they have it the hardest. The truth is, both working moms and stay at home moms struggle, just in different ways. 

I walk the line between being a stay at home mom and a working mom. When I go to work, I am at work: I have my work hat on, I try to dress in something other than sweatpants (a struggle), and I try not to think or talk about Forrest unless I'm asked.

It's easy to think that working moms just, you know, go back to work. They just get right back on the horse and work and go home and that's it, easy peasy. But it's just not so. Before I was one, I had a hard time conceptualizing why it was hard to be a working mom.

When you're a mom, the work doesn't really stop.

I get up everyday around 5am. I shower. I put on my makeup. I get dressed. By 6am, Forrest is starting to stir in his crib. I get him dressed, feed him a bottle if he hasn't had one for a while. I get him ready for the day before handing him off to Danny (if it's summer) or driving him to my mom's (if it's not). In the time I'm taking care of him, I get my coffee ready, put my breakfast and lunch in my lunch bag, and gather everything I need for the day. I go to work and when I get home, I keep working. I take care of Forrest, cook dinner, and feed him. I change diapers, play, and give him a bath. Once he is in bed, I clean the kitchen and living room and then do any freelance work I need to do. By 7 or 8pm, I might be able to sit down and watch a little TV, but I try to be in bed by 9pm at the latest. 

Spending all day away from your baby is awful.

The first few days I went to work, I cried the entire drive there. Some mornings, I still do. When Forrest has slept good and is in a great mood... I can't help but want to stay home! It's difficult to know that someone else is having fun with your baby while you're working, cuddling them, making sure they eat and sleep. It's hard for me to let go of the responsibility of being the primary caregiver. Since Forrest was born, I did most of the feedings. I got him to sleep for naps. I played with him and took his picture. Stepping away from that, and relinquishing control of his care is difficult for me. But it makes getting home to him even better. 

It's hard to feel like you're doing a good job at either thing. 

I sometimes feel like I rush through my days. I rush through my morning routine to try to get to work earlier. I rush through work to try and get home to Forrest. I rush through the evening to get to cleaning and to have everything ready for the next morning. In the end, I wonder how effective I am at being both a mom and an employee. I think about Forrest when I'm at work and I think about work (and all the things I didn't get to) when I'm with Forrest. It's stressful to try and do everything. 

Being a working mom is hard, it's true. But it can also be really fulfilling. I firmly believe that I need to work to remain happy in my life. I find fulfillment both in being a mom and in my career. I think it is absolutely possible to do both things--it just takes a little bit of sacrifice and finding what works. I'm getting better at balancing my work and my life. I'm getting better at reducing my stress outside (and inside) the office. 

But to all the other working moms out there: you aren't alone. We're all trundling along, doing the best we can. This is for you, you hardworking, professional ladies. 

Stop Telling Me to "Cherish Every Moment": It's Not Your Job to Police My Feelings

Having a baby made me lonely. I don't think I'm alone in this, although it's a fact that very few moms talk about. It is a very lonely and isolating experience. In the early weeks, I spent hours by myself: during the day while Danny was at work, Forrest too fragile and sick (and my pumping schedule too messed up already) to leave the house; during the night when Forrest wouldn't sleep or when he ate every 2 hours. I was desperately, painfully lonely, sad, and sleep deprived. 

Thankfully, technology has blessed us (and potentially cursed us) with the invention of mommy groups on Facebook. I joined all kinds when I was pregnant: due date groups, breastfeeding groups. After Forrest was born, exclusive pumping groups, lactation cookie manufacturer groups. Recently, formula feeding support groups. If nothing else, I had someone to ask questions (when I felt bad texting my mom for the 100th time that day) and people to talk to. It got less lonely. 

However, I've began to notice this tendency, especially in these groups, but occasionally on Facebook as a whole, for people to correct others on both their opinions and feelings. It's not just Sanctimommies telling you how wrong you are about your parenting choices anymore: it's emotion policing. It's complaining about your child waking up every 2 hours during the night and having someone reply, "But it could be so much worse! You are so lucky to have a baby!"

"Don't you know it could be worse?" they chirp, from their pedestals carved of gold, cherishing every moment.

The posts about "your child only has 900 Saturdays before COLLEGE!" and appreciating every ding-dong little detail abound.

The lines have been drawn: if you complain, someone will tell you to "cheer up!" or "it could be worse!" 

And you know what? That's no one's job and it's completely unnecessary

It's not anyone's job to police my feelings. When I vent about my son not sleeping or my husband forgetting to let me sleep in or my dog puking, I don't need to be told it could be worse. I know. I know it could be worse. But that doesn't stop my feeling right now in this moment and it does not mean that my feelings are not valid.

There will always be things I want to change about my pregnancy: I wish I hadn't gotten preeclampsia; I wish I hadn't had Forrest so early; I wish he had been admitted to the NICU so we could have better cared for him in those early days; I wish I had better educated myself about breastfeeding; I wish, I wish, I wish. Saying these things--and feeling these feelings--does not mean I don't appreciate how healthy Forrest is now. I do. And honestly, the reason he is so healthy now is on me: I did that, no one else did, I sweated and bled and pumped and washed and rocked. I did that; I told myself I would make him better and I did. He is my child and my feelings about his care and life are mine

No one has the right to tell me I can or cannot feel a certain way. It's no one's job to follow me around and say, "Cherish this moment!" when I'm mad or angry or frustrated. It's no one's job to say, "But aren't you sooooo glad he needs you?" when I complain that we are still co-sleeping. It's no one's job; it's honestly no one's business why I feel the way I do or how I raise my child. If anyone thinks differently about the way I feel about something related to my child, they have two options: they can scroll past and say nothing (ideal!) or they can say something like "it could be worse, you know! You should cherish every moment!" and have me reply with, "My feelings are valid and they are none of your business." And if the latter makes them mad, that's not really a me problem. 

That's a them problem. 

I don't need to "cherish these moments"; I already do. And it's okay for me to also say, "Man, today is shitty. I can't wait for my kid to sleep." And it's entirely possible for me to complain about the little things (co-sleeping, diapers, blow outs, laundry, whatever) and still cherish and appreciate them. It's funny how humanity has an array of emotions and I can feel multiple things at once. 

I don't need anyone to butt in and say otherwise.  It's no one's job to tell anyone how to feel, to repeatedly remind them to see the bright side or be more positive. That's not a personality trait; that's not seeing the bright side; that's being annoying, dismissive, and rude. I have the right to be able to express my feelings somewhere. I have to be able to say how I feel. 

No one is perfect. Everyone deserves to have their feelings validated and heard and appreciated. Everyone experiences motherhood differently and invalidating the emotions of other mothers is potentially the lowest form of being a Sanctimommy. 

The "cherish every moment!" slogan of apparently perfect moms everywhere is grating for one reason: it makes mothers feel as if their feelings are bad or as though once you become a mother you are not allowed to feel negative or complain ever (because someone somewhere has it worse than you, apparently). As if feeling guilty or sad or angry or upset or just plain tired are feelings that mothers should never have.

And if there is one thing I know for certain, mothers are too often told how to feel or what not to feel; we're told how to feed our babies and how not too; we are lectured on car seats and cribs and SIDS and hundreds of other things; we are sent home from hospitals blubbering piles of sadness and leakiness and pain and rawness and expected to just morph into happy little Stepford wives overnight. Our opinions and decisions are judged and second-guessed at every turn. Mothers--and women, as an entire group--do not need to be guilted or invalidated for having real human feelings as well. 

Creating a Postpartum Capsule Wardrobe: Let's Talk Skirts

I'm not being dramatic when I say that sometimes I wake up in the morning and panic because I don't know what to wear. Wednesdays are, often, the worst days for this: I am at the end of my (yes, very short) work week, I often need to do laundry, and I am muddling through work commitments and stresses that have to be cleaned up by 12pm. Even worse, my entire family is getting photos taken this summer, which means I have to look presentable one day in the horizon and that thought alone is enough to make me want to cry. 

So let's talk about this capsule wardrobe thing. Right now, I rotate through two pairs of jeans, a pair of leggings, and maybe 2 dresses if I feel fancy (both of these dresses are maternity); I pair everything with either my sweatshirt (cool), a sweater (usually a gray wool sweater I got from Stitchfix), or a t-shirt and cardigan. Sometimes, I just wear a t-shirt. I'm committed to a capsule wardrobe, but apart from thinking about it a lot and pinning a lot of stuff on Pinterest... I haven't actually bought a single thing,. 

I've thought about buying things! Really! And then I talk myself out of it. Here's my dilemma: A $40 top costs about the same as a box of formula which will last about 10 days. An $80 dress costs the same as Forrest's diaper shipment each month. I get nervous at the thought of spending money. We aren't exactly in poverty these days, but having a baby certainly makes me stress over each and every cent I spend. And what if I end up not loving the new things I've bought? As much as I hate my wardrobe right now (and hate how it makes me feel and look), I don't want to waste money I could have spent on other things--things that would look cute on Forrest, or food to feed Forrest, or whatever. 

That's my dilemma right now: to buy or not to buy, that is the question. Especially with our sudden expenses lately (a busted outdoor faucet and a busted washing machine), I feel bad spending money on myself. I guess that's the struggle, huh? 

I've been thinking a lot about skirts lately.

Mainly, circle skirts (or A-line skirts, as some people call them). After a lot of thought, I've come to the conclusion that circle skirts are probably the best skirt for me. They're voluminous, which means they camouflage ye olde mom belly; they're high-waisted (if worn that way), which means they make me look taller; they show off a part of me that has stayed thin (ankles, ah yeah); and they can be worn with a variety of tops,, which means I can dress them up or down. 

Yes, all of these skirts are from ModCloth. ModCloth holds a special place in my heart, because I want to be one of those cool, quirky girls (cue Zooey Deschanel reference, ugh) who can wear retro-inspired clothing 100% of the time and look fabulous. But alas, a) I'm not skinny enough or b) I don't have the personality to pull it off. That being said, sometimes ModCloth stuff is totally bonkers, like this basic jersey maxi skirt for thirty-five freaking dollars!! I want to personally call every person who bought one (there's one left in stock!!) and be like, "you know you can buy this same exact skirt at Rue21 for, like, $10, right?" 

That being said, ModCloth is the queen of circle skirts. If you're looking for a knee length skirt in any color, trust me, ModCloth probably has it. Downside, it probably costs like $40 or more. C'est la vie! 

All of the options I'm lusting over have a note of neutrality to them (yes, even the florals, I would argue): they can be paired with a variety of colors and patterns, as well as other textures. I'm especially feeling the Mentor of Attention skirt and the Intern of Fate in Latte skirt, because I think they capture the shape I'm looking for as well as being neutral without being plain black. 

I'm keeping my eyes peeled for affordable circle skirt options as I go about my day-to-day life, but if you spot one, send it to me on Twitter! As always, you can follow my capsule wardrobe and style efforts on Pinterest

Moving On from Pumping

Feeding Forrest ended up being more complicated than I ever thought it would be. In the past 6 months, Forrest has eaten over 5,000 ounces of milk. I have pumped approximately 3,100 ounces. I have pumped for a total of at least 400 hours.

I have washed bottles until the backs of hands are so dry I can't use hand sanitizer or scented lotions, until my knuckles crack and my nails split.

I have sanitized bottles two or three times a day for 6 months. I have gone through 4 bottles of dish soap.

I have read hundreds of articles on how the movement to normalize breastfeeding is both a positive and a negative. I have used the hashtag #fedisbest and been told, repeatedly, that fed is not best by the worst of the breastfeeding advocates.

I have cried more times than I care to admit. I've given up on dreams of nursing, on dreams of exclusively feeding breast milk. I have given up a lot of my expectations and accepted the reality of the baby I have. 

I have pumped until one of my nipples was bruised and the other was bleeding. I have pumped through thrust, mastitis, clogs. I have pumped through an infected Montgomery gland. I have worn terrible, ill-fitting nursing bras for 6 months--even though I don't even nurse. 

I have toted a heavy, stupid pump back and forth to work for three months. 

I have taken supplements that upset my stomach, that taste like actual vomit. I have tried every trick in the book, from massage to cheesecake and everything in between. I have spent an embarrassing amount of money on different shields and supplements and tools. 

I have gone without sleep to pump. I have mentally calculated, over and over, the amount of milk I have in my fridge and freezer. I have stressed over how much to feed Forrest. I have woken at 3am to pump; I've interrupted meetings and doctors appointments and oil changes. I have pumped in my car, in offices, on the floor, in the bathroom. I have pumped in a weigh station on the side of US 20 headed into Ontario. 

I have pumped and pumped and pumped. 

And it's over. It's done. (Well, not totally.) 

The truth is, the Montgomery gland is part of what did me in. I can handle a lot of things--but I can't handle an infected Montgomery gland. (Did you know there was such a thing? I didn't--until one got infected. It's worse than a clogged duct or a dreaded milk bleb, at least in my opinion.) The infected Montgomery gland, the repeated dips in my supply every time my body was under any stress, the constant worrying, the constant need to pump... it was too much. 

I decided to wean one day and I just started--before I could talk myself out of it. Not that I'm really weaning anything. "Weaning," typically, suggests transitioning a baby away from nursing, but that's not the case. Forrest will just, one day, get all formula, instead of half. One day, it will just be gone. No more breast milk! Just typing it makes me sad. 

But the sadness I feel doesn't really overwhelm the feeling of being completely and totally done. The hardest part is knowing that, if things had been different, if Forrest has nursed from the start (if I hadn't gotten preeclampsia, if my milk had come in on time instead of days later, if he hadn't have had jaundice...), this wouldn't be happening. Looking at the "what ifs" and moving on from them is still something I struggle with. 

Watching the amount I pump each day (even though I'm doing it on purpose) is a struggle too: I inherently begin to panic when I think, I won't have enough milk... But that's the point. I won't have enough milk for Forrest--and it's okay. But I have to remind myself that it's okay, or else I'll panic. 

When I look at Forrest, I want to apologize to him: I'm sorry I couldn't give you more of this. I'm sorry we didn't get those quiet, special moments to bond. I'm sorry I'll never know what that's like. I'm sorry I couldn't keep going. I'm sorry. I will always try to give you everything in the world, anything and everything you want--because I couldn't give you this. 

There is a tendency, I think, for mothers to feel they have to martyr themselves. Most mothers (and maybe this is a generalization on my part) would lie down their lives for their children. In many ways, for the last 6 months, I have attempted to martyr myself: I keep pumping, through pain and unhappiness and anxiety and depression, for the simple fact that I felt guilty about it. I felt like I was a bad mother for all the things I couldn't change (the preeclampsia, the jaundice, the rough start)--so I would do the absolute best at the one thing I could do, breast milk. But my body fought me every step of the way. 

At a certain point, I had to accept the truth: I couldn't fight my body, and punish myself, anymore. It was time to move on from being mommy martyr and just be a mom. 

Packing up the little bottles, the tiny colostrum bottles I first pumped into, the SNS I dutifully taped to my boob every night in the hospital, the little Similac bottles we gave Forrest his first 20 ml bottles with, was one of the hardest parts. But I did it: I bagged them up and put them in a box. In a week, I'll probably pack my pump back into the box and store it in the garage.  I will defrost all of the milk I have in my freezer. 

One day, very soon, Forrest will get his last bottle containing any breast milk. There is a part of me that thinks, we can reverse this! We can pump frantically again! But I know it's not worth it, emotionally, for me anymore, as much as it hurts to think of Forrest not getting anymore milk from me. One day, it will just be gone, over, done. And we'll just have to keep going, like we have the last six months.

And the best part is, one day, this won't even matter. One day it won't hurt to think of the "what ifs", the "I could have..." One day, this will just be a memory and I won't have to feel guilt over it anymore.