Thursday, January 5, 2017

My First Trimester Love Affair

This post was written in the early Fall but I was too nauseous to sit down and publish it so here we are. Nausea is gone and I can't stop eating but that's for another post....

It's ready, they're calling my name. My only way to sneak in vegetables these days, a cheddar-dripping bagel hiding very small pieces of broccoli. I lied. Sometimes I can eat my one-of-a-kind salad that might make you vomit (and in other circumstance me too) so maybe skip the next line. Mesclun greens, chopped tomatoes, olives, ketchup, cottage cheese and sauerkraut.

Lulu calls it "Funny Salad"
(Confession: Sometimes it's the only dinner I can make us).
Don't try this at home!
I'm walking to the pier. First time I recognize that Fall is here. The breeze is now officially wind but I must sit down now and consume this bagel within 30-45 seconds or so. Wait this is NOT cheddar! In one breath I move from wanting to kill whoever messed up my order to inhaling the whole bagel with gusto. Done. No aversion detected and I should thank my lucky stars since I have aversions to most things these days. Not to bagels though. Or any kind of cheese (though the saltier the better). That's it, pretty much. I can't eat, smell, see or even think about most types of food, especially those that I'm normally obsessed with. That's why I can't type up what I'm talking about but believe me, my normal-days diet consists of the most nutrient-dense super foods...until week 6, when I woke up and couldn't bear the idea of coffee (oops why did I type the word?! Bagel starting to come up. Please go back down). 

Back to ingested bagel. After heightened sensations of pleasure reverberating through my body while consuming it, I am nauseous, again. 

In all its glory, top pleasure of my first trimester

At night my nausea hits the gas pedal and I find myself stuck in those 5 seconds between feeling so nauseous I could throw up and actually throwing up.  You know what I'm talking about. It's like purgatory. No way out. Just embrace the sensation. Trust me I have taken the vomiting route a few times under the delusion that relief is on the way but nope better be stuck in purgatory.  I spend a few hours in those 5 seconds, waiting for relief so I can go to sleep or I end up sucking the life out of another lemon which is a hit or miss. When it's a hit I run to bed before the effect runs out.  

And then....

Week 12 I wake up wanting, no- needing coffee. Skeptically I sleepwalk into the kitchen, fantasies sprinkling my brain about the possibility of no longer sleepwalking half the day thanks my drug-of-choice making a glorious comeback. As the grinder spreads aroma that used to bring me to ecstasy, my stomach only half-turns, which is my signal to proceed. 
I take a deep breath as I sit down and suspiciously dunk my morning biscotti until it's heavily soaked in my coffee. Entry granted. Then a full sip and another bigger sip tell me that we are in the clear! Ban has been lifted! Coffee is BACK!

I mistakenly decide to test other aversions throughout the day. Don't try this at home. Let it come to you. Aversions make a lot of noise as they leave the building. They signal clearly that you are in the clear and by week 14 (any day now!) most of them are replaced with insatiable passion for food. And cravings? I can't wait to find out if my cheddar-grilled- cheese-bagel will continue to be my master. I hope not. My bread-and-cheese filled body needs its superfoods back! 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Body Lotion on My Boobs: A Wean-Wean Situation

 Tips for Gently Weaning Your Toddler and a Whole Lot of Breastfeeding Photos from a Fervently Sentimental Mama


I think we weaned today. It's only been a few days since I introduced the idea of weaning to Lulu (with very mixed emotions,) and this morning she surprised me by being open to an alternative to my milk, aka hemp-coconut. When it was time to nurse she was happy with the cup of milk as a substitute for my boob. I watched her walking around, smirking and saying "milk" with pride and even raising the cup, declaring "boob," as in-- this is my boob replacement and I'm totally cool with that. She even asked for more! Lulu approves of this new taste and she's pumped (pun times) to drink milk from a cup rather than from a boob. Done. It means that last night was our last nursing session (!!!! ???) and now I am watching my baby while sobbing internally in perplexed, emotional disbelief. Is this really it?? 
No, it wasn't it. I started that post two months ago, almost a whole month before we actually weaned, but you see I didn't know it yet and so the highlights of date night that evening were Goog trying to comfort me and sushi that tasted like tears. Oh, how naive I was. 

That goes to show you that you can't wean cold turkey. I mean you probably can, but you shouldn't. The longer you've nursed the longer you should take to wean. I mean there's always the option of 100% self-weaning, which is what I had initially set out to do. Well, not initially (Hello I'm Liat and I'm a sidetracker.) At birth I didn't know much about nursing except for the fact that I wanted to do it but had no idea for how long (Note: Don't ever ask a mom how long she plans to breastfeed. We don't know exactly how long and it's annoying and smells like judgment.) 

At some point, probably a few months in, I couldn't imagine myself not nursing. My love for breastfeeding increased hand-in-hand with my love for Lulu. As we reached toddlerhood, we discovered a whole new set of benefits to breastfeeding in addition to the obvious. At 18 months we moved to two nursing sessions a day (unless immediate comfort was needed, which made nursing even more sensible to continue.) 

My mind was set: I would do that tandem nursing thing! Totally! Visions and fantasies kept pouring in- it would solve so many problems! I would nurse for years, kid after kid. It would make pregnancy with a toddler easier, the milk would already be flowing so no issues with first days supply and such. And of course, if Lulu ever got jealous, then the boob would still be available to her. Unless, of course, she self-weaned any time before she had a sibling. It was going to be 100% self weaning.
But once again, I was naive and ignored my needs. Sounds familiar?

As Lulu reached the age of two, I reached the We-Must-Wean phase. Breastfeeding affects each woman differently, and after two years I dared to admit to myself that I wanted my body back all to myself. I wanted my boobs to not only feel like food. Most importantly, I realized I didn't want to embark on another pregnancy before I had all of me to myself, before I found the hormonal balance I was missing, before I could spend time getting to know clean-slate me. I wanted to be the best mama I could be and I knew I needed to recharge and reconnect with myself in order to be prepared for my new phase of motherhood. Needless to say, I also felt painfully guilty and selfish because clearly Lulu had other plans for us. She did not share the same views and it turned out she was not self-weaning material. 
Sorry, not self-weaning material

I was stuck and Google was disappointing so I started reaching out to mamas who knew exactly what I was dealing with. I was afraid to be judged, even though I was only I who was judging me. They reminded me that two years is a remarkable achievement and how hard on myself I can be. Feeling less and less guilty led the way to finding the gentlest, most loving and respectful ways I could find to slowly but surely wean. I also learned from the most supportive mama that it's a "beautiful dance" and so it was. A process. There was no science to guide me through the process, just strong instincts. 

Friends have been asking me for tips since Lulu and I completed our long weaning process and I finally sat down and compiled the following guide. By no means do I pretend to present a step-by-step guide and personally I wouldn't have been satisfied following one myself. I highly recommend discovering your own weaning journey and letting the process lead you as organically as can be.

Here is a group of ideas that worked for us, which I hope can help you feel less lost and more secure, confident and empowered on your path to weaning.

How to Gently Wean Your Toddler

1. Get in the Instincts Zone

Now stay there! Don't desert it for Google or any forum de jour. Simple idea but without a doubt the most important thing I will say to you here. Let your mama instincts guide you and, just as significantly, TRUST that they will. Just knowing they are at your disposal can lighten your load. You will be impressed with the creative ideas they will come up with. They know your child and you better than any expert/doctor/guru/fellow mom. The Instincts Zone works best in the moment, when you need an immediate answer. When I was trying to move from short to even shorter sessions, a fun song of counting came to me. We would count together so Lulu had a light framework for how much time she had with my boob. It turned into more of a game and less of a way to get Lulu off the boob. 

2. Map Out Specific Steps You Wish to Take But Be Open to Shifts and Avoid Stopwatching

Don't be discouraged if you have to take a step back after moving forward. Trust me, you are still moving in the right direction, even if it's a lot slower than you expected.
Don't be discouraged. You'll get there.

 - We started out our weaning with two nursing sessions a day. You might be starting with four or even five, so be patient with your journey and remember that the more daily sessions the longer the process should be. Take it step by step, unless your child demonstrates readiness for rapid progression.

- I didn't decide which nursing session of the day will be the last to go even though I was told it was always the morning one. We experimented with both to find the best option for us. You will know when you get there.

- I slooooowly started shortening our two sessions a day (before bed needed more work as we started out with 15-20 minutes (very long, I know) until they became very, very short. It took weeks (and sometimes we moved backwards) but this was the most organic, almost unnoticeable way to approach a relatively painless weaning process.

- A smart mama shared with me her brilliant evening ritual while she was weaning. We changed the order and started nursing before bath time, right after dinner. I highly doubted it would go smoothly because our right-before-bed nursing session felt like something that could never change except for shortening it a drop. You can imagine how shocked I was when Lulu happily adapted. It
 broke the link between boobs and sleep, which was a pivotal step on the road to full weaning. 

I still chose to continue "doing" bedtime every night by maintaining all of our other routines (singing our lullabies, going over everything we have done that day, sharing my blessings for a peaceful night's sleep, our special kisses and hugs etc.) so Lulu would not  feel like "everything" was being taken away from her. Yes, at first the voices in my head yelled something like hello?! What the hell are you doing?! Go somewhere! Do something! But it was worth it. The truth is, I didn't and still don't mind our bedtime routine. I enjoy it even after we weaned and prefer to be there as much as I can.

- I made a choice to replace our boob milk with non-dairy milk and we experimented with hemp-coconut (which Lulu claimed tasted closest to my milk,) unsweetened vanilla almond and unsweetened cashew. Even though she asks for it occasionally and goes through periods of milk every morning, Lulu seems disinterested in replacement milk as a daily habit and I have released the milk idea, knowing that she gets all essential nutrients from food. I still can't help but offer it every morning as I pour my non-dairy choice into my coffee...

3. Talk Talk Talk

The more prepared your toddler is the easier it will be for both of you. 
Give their listening comprehension the credit it deserves- they do understand! First, I planted the seed by talking to Lulu a lot about it before we actually changed our nursing routine. Even though her response was always "no" (with the subtext of "Do me a favor, let's change the subject",) she understood that sometime in the future milk would no longer reside in my boobs but there would be replacements and she would still, for instance, be able to hug the boobs for comfort if she wanted to. Whatever you choose to say, remain respectful and make sure your child does not feel shame in the fact that they want to nurse. 

Once we were left with one nursing session a day and my supply was far from something to write home about, I tasted my milk and it was salty. Ladies, weaning milk is salty! I decided to recruit the new fact, so every time we nursed I would gently remind Lulu that the little milk that was left was salty and maybe not so yummy anymore. It still didn't stop her but this is when our nursing sessions dramatically shortened into seconds (as in let's count to ten, maybe fifteen.) And yet we continued to nurse, holding on to that special hard-to-describe bond while I was flooded with mixed feelings and sadness over the nearing end of an era. My "salty" statement eventually worked way too well, as Lulu mocked my boobs calling them  "yucky" for weeks after we weaned. She made sure that everyone around knew that "the boobs are broken."  

4. New Rituals

Once you've started your weaning journey, invite other rituals that keep the two of you close. Don't force anything, be in the moment, let your child lead and only introduce rituals that feel right to both of you. Dancing, cuddling, getting your nails done, anything imaginable that makes your child feels like she has you all to herself.

The last couple of weeks of weaning were the toughest on Lulu. We were left with only a few seconds in the morning and as she began longing for more exclusive mommy time, Lulu asked to revisit our good old Ergo and before I knew it, we started taking early, tender morning walks, the only thing that truly calmed her and set a peaceful tone for the day. She would hold on tight and we would sing and talk or just hold hands quietly. It was our unbreakable, uninterrupted bonding time together, almost like nursing.

For a few weeks she also asked to get in the Ergo with a pacifier at least once a day, not for walking outside but just to be close. Even though we only use a pacifier for sleep, I embraced it as a worthy replacement ritual.
Weaning Ergo trips

One of Ergo's first days on the job

 At this point she no longer asks for the carrier but does ask to relax on Goog and me with her pacifier and we follow our gentle approach by allowing short spurts. Her new world does not include the remarkable closeness provided by nursing and we find it important to remain flexible, loving and attentive.  

5. Stay Around 

This may sound a little radical but try to stay around throughout the weaning process. Weaning while you're absent is popular for a reason. It certainly makes it emotionally easier on you and the weaning process can be potentially complete in one weekend, which made me consider the option, but once theory entered reality, I just knew that I needed to be there to provide all of our other comforting routines. 
Staying around

I should confess that the first night when I decidedly did not nurse felt like entering the lion's den. I mean what was I thinking?! She would just let me gingerly skip her most sacred evening ritual?! Just like that??
Well she actually did! I believe the only reason it went smoothly was because, in addition to it being a process rather than abrupt withdrawal, I was still offering the security and comfort of our whole evening routine (minus the boob.) 

6. As Gentle as Can Be, There Will Still Be Tears

It will be a slow, gentle, intentional, mindful, loving, respectful process but you should have realistic expectations: You will both shed tears and it will be painful to some degree. Sometimes very painful.
Take daily pictures

For me the most dramatic emotions erupted in the beginning of our journey. I was already imagining us fully weaned and I remember asking Goog to take daily pictures for fear that "today might be the last nursing session." (I said naive, didn't I?) The last day of weaning went almost unnoticed as I was preparing for so long.

Saying goodbye to breastfeeding your child is a monumental event and it's impossible to escape the emotional impact, even if you can't wait to wean. Not to mention there are hormones involved, and I don't need to tell you about the lovely hormones, do I?..

As for Lulu, it took a whole month of not nursing for her to release the last trace of frustration and anger. Even though she was absolutely content without boob milk, she was still reminded of the ritualistic aspect and it took a long time till she could come into our bed in the morning without being sort of pissed at me for a moment. You can't blame her for missing what we used to do together every morning for over 25 months.
I miss those calm, snugly moments too! But during those first post-weaning weeks we had no morning huggies.

Bye bye, morning huggies

She would tell Goog with the utmost urgency that they needed to go into the kitchen together and make the coffee. Their bond, while we are at it, has been growing so beautifully ever since we weaned that sometimes (and sometimes more than sometimes) I'm no longer her go-to person (Yay! But also...pinch at the heart....but yay....pinch...yay...)

Still buddies

Yes, it took us weeks, but I'm proud to share that Lulu and I now enjoy affectionately reminiscing about the days we used to nurse and she loves to demonstrate how there's no more milk left in my boobs. She's actually become extra cuddly with me.

A few days ago I was struck  by the realization that I was still avoiding the boob area whenever I rubbed body lotion. Can anyone relate? So there I was--post-shower--and just went for it! Whoa! BODY LOTION ON MY BOOBS! I can't say it's back to feeling as natural as it used to but body lotion is for the whole body and it's time for me to reconnect all of my dots and include my boobs in my me rituals.

Just one more for the road 

Friday, May 29, 2015

I Found My Light Switch

It has taken me too long to select the New Post option and I am not entirely sure why. After all, I will soon be celebrating three whole months of glorious Morning Pages, my good old ritual that hit full stop as soon as Lulu was born. Clearly, my writing muscle has been practiced, even though my muse tends to be the two-year-old on my lap who devours unreasonable amounts of berries while filling up my pages with her own writing style. Maybe it's the difference between writing to myself (more accurately my diary, "who" has a very distinct persona that took life in GUTS) and writing publicly? Or maybe I have just been too preoccupied with being preoccupied with the fact that I haven't been producing blogs? Bottom line is that celebrating my birthday a few days ago sent me back to last year's birthday post, which resulted in whetting my public writing appetite. 
Liat Bulb
Reading the post made it easy to reflect on my last birthday and I was pleased to count the ways I have grown since. But to my surprise, I was also pleased to realize how I am still challenged, a year later. See, I have unearthed the old me in the last few weeks, and for the first time since Lulu was born, I feel truly open to releasing knots, letting go and rediscovering myself. Any goal appears more accessible these days. 

You don't have to believe me. You probably shouldn't. Reading old blogs will prove why. Not too proud to admit, but I have befriended that "I'm back" phase before, in fact right here...Remember the March 2014 post Setting Up a New Stage- My Old Me is Reborn?? I was so elated to come up with my In Your Face Mama which I was about to turn into a video series. Series my ass. Ideas kept vanishing before I even wrote them down, let alone materialized them and then they stopped coming all together. Then the next cycle surfaced, giddy and all, and this time I may have or may have not written ideas down. On occasion, I actually started something, but then my creativity entered another hibernation phase (in my defense, we did have an abusive winter.) Where did my famous integrity go? (Motherhood undermines your "anything-else" integrity . Discuss.) It was replaced by shameless, baseless declarations of crippled wishful thinking combined with digging even deeper into the swamp of my safe, familiar all-inclusive mothering.
But just like the warm sun we woke up to one day this spring, assuring us that awful winter is done with, my integrity is shining again. I promise!
Warm spring sun
I really am back, as much back as I can imagine a new mama being back.

You see, I reached a major breakthrough about two months ago: I went to visit my Abba for the first time on the last day of our Israel trip. Even though I blogged last year about stepping ahead in my grieving process, while acknowledging two years to losing him, it was a mere delusion, one of many I have maintained so craftily in the last two and a half years. I had been carrying the heaviest load for so long and denial was no longer serving me (believe me it served me in new motherhood.) 
Of course I had to be forced. My mom told me I would not leave Israel before I went to the cemetery, a word I couldn't even think of, not to mention say out loud. I am so thankful for her ultimatum because after the breakdown and the uncontrolled tears at the cemetery, I reached a calm place that surprised me tremendously.

I found myself asking my mom to leave me alone with him. For the first time since he left us I talked to him. I talked a lot. First with a trembling voice, then with much clearer words. I leaned on the cold stone and it comforted me, almost as if I was hugging him. I couldn't stop talking and I didn't want to leave. I finally opened my heart to acceptance of this cruel reality, and even though it hurts so much, it's accompanied by a new sense of peace and strength I hadn't been able to feel while the pain was eating me inside. And ever since that day my smiles seem fuller, my laughs are back to being annoyingly loud and my insomnia has practically disappeared. 
Fuller smiles. Birthday '15
I enjoy things more wholeheartedly. It is the equivalent of recovering from depression. It probably IS recovering from depression. I have been depressed and did not want to know it. 

Two weeks before he passed away, my Abba asked me at his hospital bed to continue to live fully and happily. I was upset that he dared to utter these words, as I expected him to make a full recovery and live to enjoy the granddaughter who was growing inside me at the time. I expected him to share with me many years of happiness, hugs, kisses and our secret language. I did not prepare myself for what happened ten days after we landed in New York. When we received the news I refused to mentally "go there" and for hours I repeated the word NO. The word NO became my go-to for many months whenever I started sinking into the pain of missing my Abba. NO, it didn't really happen. NO, I'm not saying goodbye. NO!

The powerful release at the cemetery enabled me to come to terms with life without his physical presence. It opened me up to connecting with and even deriving strength from his non-physical presence in our lives, including our Lulu who now has access to her remarkable Sabba. No longer hiding photos, I was looking at him recently with her, finding myself teaching her his name (Sabba Itzik) and tearfully sharing funny stories. A victorious moment. 
No more hiding photos

Acceptance set me free. Life has become easier to manage, lighter if you will, and my optimistic disposition has finally resurfaced. I can now redirect the enormous energy it took me to hold on to denial. I can now experience uninhibited pleasure outside the safe cocoon of my motherhood and relationship with Goog. I am one step closer to what my Abba wanted me to do. 

Another completely different game changer is that at 25 months, Lulu has weaned from breastfeeding, but this post is now at risk of becoming impossibly lengthy. Let's leave that topic for another time. (There we go, I can undoubtedly return to blogging because whether I make sense or not, there is no lack of topics over here.) I'm trying to make a point here. My new-found liberated state of mind, heart and soul is making any goal more attainable. My original intention here was to see whether I have met any of the goals I set out for myself on my last birthday, but as someone who doesn't believe in resolutions I find myself smiling while revisiting the short list, knowing I have met one sweeping, momentous accomplishment that makes everything else at least appear more feasible.
Practicing momentum

If you read all the way here, I salute you. Thank you for sticking around while I turn the lights back on in my mental blogging space (and open the windows. Phew. Must air out this joint.) And you know how I said before that you shouldn't believe me? I have officially decided: Maybe this time you actually should. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Two Years of Missing My Dad, The Grandpa She Only Met In Utero

Abba. 2 years. At exactly 7 AM this morning we heard your granddaughter calling Abba incessantly. Even though I have been running away from the truth, I know that no matter how many times I would call for YOU, Abba, you will not answer me. Ever. (Maybe you can give me signs?) But Lulu's Abba (and Ima) came to her of course to start the day with our sunny Good Morning song. We were greeted by heart-melting smiles and cheers. I did soak up the moment, the love, our morning hugs and kisses and the sweet, palpable blessings in my life, but I can't help it, Abba. A part of my heart is gone without you, and there's nothing I can do about it. I have tried to deny, I have refused to accept, but this morning, after we lit your memorial candles, I sat at my laptop and looked at your pictures for the first time in 2 years. And for the first time, Abba, I put Lulu on my lap and taught her the word Sabba. Her only encounter with you were all the times you rubbed my belly on your hospital bed when I was 5 months pregnant, 2 weeks before you left us, and now, on my lap, she kept pointing at your pictures whispering Sabba. Her voice then turned into repeated exclamation-pointed Sabba accompanied by her  signature hand-waving and her warm Hiiii, while I was working hard at holding back my tears (which I have become an expert at). She said Bye to the picture and got off my lap, but a moment later she asked to get back to look at Sabba again. I guess I'm not the only one refusing to say goodbye. 

I'm well aware that looking at your pictures is a first healthy step, but it scares the hell out of me, just as I'm scared of Lulu starting to ask about Sabba, forcing me to pick at my scab.
 I have been suppressing those agonizing days in the hospital but the painful memories find a way to resurface. Remember how you helped us choose her name? I wanted to tell you that we chose the name you liked most. I wish I could know that you can see her from above. I am longing for unwavering evidence that you are watching over us.
One thing I do know, Abba, is that you blessed her when you were rubbing my belly, because how else would she become such a remarkably happy baby, despite her Ima's trauma of losing you while pregnant. She is our smiling, laughing, silly, funny, jolly, healing light. Thank you, Abba! And thank you for the years you have given me as my Abba. 
 Apparently I took a step forward in my grieving process today but I don't exactly know what it means. I only know that my heart cannot contain how much I miss you and everything about you and our special connection. I love you, Abba! 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Liberation Movement

You are talking to a mama who has just gotten her iPhone back after 8 days of a semi-forced break. Why semi? One day into it, my experience began to transition from stressed, anxious, frustrated, scared (that I had lost all of my un-backed-up data) and heavily guilt-ridden (for having disrespected phone by "accidentally" dropping it many times and showering it with water, coffee and melted ice cubes. I have a theory I had wanted it to go away, but that's for a therapy session) to liberated, more relaxed, present, in the moment, able to watch where I was walking and dabbled in more spontaneity. Generally my experience resembled walking around on a hot day wearing a dress and no underwear.
In the Moment. Just BE.

The experience morphed into an experiment. Maybe it was the new found clarity, but I found myself observing my feelings and behavior with a magnifying glass. A day or two into the experiment I unexpectedly lost the urgency to fix/replace it. How did that happen? Well, first step was the relief of finding out I hadn't lost my precious data. Next step entered as I stopped worrying that I would not be able to communicate with anyone, let alone make any plans (Surprise! It's possible!). Next was learning to not freak out about not being able to take nonstop pictures and videos of Lulu.

And then came the "I'm actually okay without a phone" phase. No celebratory dance, just feeling "okay" and surviving just fine.

On day 3 the "okay" turned into more palpable sensations. Being In the Moment became my reality most of the time in the last few days. Yes, I do normally strive to get there but who am I kidding? The notion of being "in-the-moment" has been morbidly warped ever since we've all become phone addicts, around the time smart phones came to be so irresistibly alluring, complex and friendly.
I'm thinking of the camera my phone has become since I turned into a mama. Almost every discovery and exciting moment is filmed. It's so quick and easy and tempting. How can you not reach for your phone when your baby has just given you the cutest giggle or dance or song or messy eating sequence? You are mindful that you are overdoing it and even promise to yourself to stop and just experience the moment sans visual documentation but...but...the phone is right there....and you only have to press a button...and you will make the whole family so happy when they get the email...and you can watch it again and again tonight when you are relaxing after a long day but somehow missing your baby. No, I'm not addicted at all...I can stop anytime...Really?!

Well, the idea is actually not to stop, it's just about moderation. But moderation is not so popular these days when it comes to our sacred phones. Goog asked me yesterday what we will do many years from now with all these photos and videos? How often are we realistically going to look at all of them? Do we really need that many? Food for thought.

It turned out that being phone-free forced such a delicious kind of in the moment on me that I almost got addicted to that as well (another topic for a therapy session, which reminds me that I haven't found "time" for therapy since I had a baby- wrong move!). I was able to just be, which includes really BE with Lulu when I was with her. I didn't have to reply to emails, texts, phone calls, Facebook messages, comments. I didn't have to Like any status, post anything, document anything (though I did miss taking notes), "check" anything, virtually search anything, read anything or have immediate responses to ANYTHING but what was happening right there in front of me. So simple. Naturally there was less stress and it made me miss the simplicity of life before our phones became really smart (and they just keep getting smarter!). I had actually resisted a smart phone for the longest time, now that I think of it. I remember I didn't want to be so available all the time. I liked that I was only immediately reachable via text and a phone call.

Simple times. Quiet times. A big part of me started not missing my phone and I was okay postponing my Apple appointment to replace it. When I finally got my new phone, I wasn't ecstatic and so I vowed to not have a phone at least one day a week. Too many realizations arrived when my phone was away for me to not make a change. One day. Maybe more than one. I will also continue my tradition of turning off my phone at least 2 hours before bedtime (it's gotten harder since new mama here more often than not falls asleep at 9:30 but the idea is to wind down phone-free every night).

New shiny phone. Back to one-hand-on-stroller-other-hand-on-phone (you know what I'm talking about!), back to reading all my Huffington Post on our walks (Did I tell you that I do my best reading while I'm walking?...), back to multiple daily impromptu photo shoots, back to holding the device more than I should (What a strange habit. Why do we do that?). But this time it is different because my relationship with my iPhone has evolved. We are probably still too attached but I now know how good it can feel to take a break.
And on that note, I'm taking a break.

Confession. This post has been sitting on my laptop a whole week, waiting to be released. Maybe I needed to test out my above vow...Bottom line: I am yet to take a full day break from my phone. My technology mindfulness level remains high but my phone and I have not taken the next, healthy step in our relationship. Case in point, we are starting this weekend. Free weekend day is a more realistic goal because Goog's phone is there if I really need it. Once we conquer weekend, we can climb higher.  I know we can. Clearly we are moving in the right direction. Faith.

Monday, July 28, 2014

I Finally Have a Babysitter But I'm Still Not Making Cents!!!

I have a confession to make. It has been very difficult for me to leave Lulu. And when I do leave for a few hours, she is with Goog or grandparents....but as I'm typing these words, my 15 month old is alone, for the first time, with a person who is not family. Yes, I took the plunge and hired a babysitter. Just a few hours a week at first, until I slowly step back into my career. I'm taking baby steps to return to acting, and I am not sure when I will be ready for full gear. It's so challenging to redefine myself as an actor who is now also a mother. I have changed and it's taking me a lot of energy and mental resources to surrender to the idea that I will never be the same...

I believe I have new layers and depths to offer as an actor and performer but I'm not willing to do anything to get an acting job. I'm not even willing to take just any role. Nudity used to be the only red line, but now I'm not willing to take on anything that will make me miss Lulu too much...

Selfies are just another
form of digression, mama. Just saying.

Digression alert. All I meant to say was that right now is my first time and surprisingly I'm doing very well and Lulu is doing well and it's only a couple of hours. Phew. The time has come. It was the right thing to do, the healthy thing to do, even though I have been fighting it for a while. The idea of paying someone to spend time with Lulu while I'm not making my own money (yet) took  my mommy guilt to new extreme highs. I have been trying to convince myself that I didn't really need a break ("But I go to the gym! That's my break!") and every time that I did ask for a break, I found a way to sabotage it. But who am I kidding? What am I trying to prove? I need to accept where I am and recognize that there's nothing wrong with it.

I never wanted to predefine how long I would be a Stay-at-Home-Mom, just like I never wanted to predefine how long I would nurse. Or define myself as a parent. I wanted everything to feel organic to our specific journey. And organic it felt. I learnt on the way that we were practicing something close to attachment parenting without knowing anything about it. To this day I haven't read about attachment parenting and I don't feel the need to read parenting books. I just follow my instincts and intuition and it has been working well. We do what makes sense for us, and following what books (who don't know us) say we should do doesn't really make so much sense to us... Although...I obviously can't always trust myself (not surprising, I know), so once in a while I take a break to question, doubt and bash the hell out of my parenting, but I hear that's perfectly "normal"...

I digress again (another new characteristic I have acquired since becoming a mom. Comes with a plethora of other brain dysfunctions). On the nursing front, we are continuing strong and proud, and I think we will wean when Lulu is ready to wean (once again, I never imagined I would find myself so content with extended breastfeeding and even more so- in disagreement with the term- extended breastfeeding). However, the Stay-at-Home-Mom thing...well...that one is more complex. I will not say that "just a mom" is not enough, because, excuse the cliche, it is the most important thing I will ever do. And hardest. And rewarding. And amazing. But (no but) at this point in time, I just need to expand and add more to my world. I have arrived at the place where I acutely need more. It's time to own it. Naturally, the "more" would be my previous-to-Motherhood occupations, right?  Well, as I revisit this old world of mine I am faced, as mentioned above, with some serious resistance. Why is that, I ask myself. I-ask-myself MY ASS!! I ask myself sounds so polite, collected, calm and wise so let's just be honest. No composed energy here. I'm freaking out! I'm screaming-silently, of course- in front of the mirror, staring at my face in hopes to unearth the old me. Nope. I can't find. I can't connect. Shit, it's been three hours on the clock and babysitting session is  almost over and I haven't completed my reconnection process! Time is money, mama! Reconnect already, damn it! Figure yourself out! You have an hour left! What's your problem? You are an artist! You have written and performed a one-woman-show. With belly dance! With multimedia! Your brain did that! Your body! You talent! He-llo! Where ARE you?!

Blame the coffee refill that sent me back to my default button (Facebook, you know it) and now I'm left with 25 minutes to figure this career thing out. Nope. it's not happening today. I should know better (How to Not Force the Force).

Revolution! Walking around aimlessly

Here's a revolutionary idea. Why not just stare into the horizon. Not MY horizon! That's just more stress. THE horizon. Empty my mental space until there's pure, uninterrupted silence. Find the closest thing to neutral, if you may (strong cup of coffee, I got fancy for a second). I may need a few more babysitter visits (shut up, guilt!). That's okay! You want organic? THAT'S organic. Discover and rediscover my passions. I'm going to sit down with myself, or walk around aimlessly, or ride the subway, or stroll in supermarkets by myself (AKA my meditation sessions), until I reach a respectable, substantial clear space. I'm terribly scared of that space, but I will find a way to befriend it. I can fill it with anything I want, under one condition: Authenticity to my present (pun intended). Actually, two conditions: no rushing. I recognize that redefining myself to myself will require some patience and many deep breaths.

Solitary ice cream:
The road to self discovery?

Time to go back. I'm actually sensing a spark of excitement about discovering myself. Should help me with my guilt trip home.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Real Fakation

I have the perfect idea for you IF you refuse to leave your baby, but still long to go away for a couples vacation and:
1) There's a hotel walking distance from home.
2) There are family members who are able and willing to babysit overnight.

I give you......

(Staycation's Resourceful & Happier Cousin)!!!
It's so easy to forget to nurture the original family unit 
once you have babies. Goog and I had promised ourselves and each other that once we started creating people, we would welcome them into our world and proudly introduce them to our core unit rather than completely transform our relationship into one title: Parents. It takes work, especially during the early, dark, sleep-deprived months of parenthood, but it coincides with the way we want to design our life. Phew.
Enter our fakation. Last weekend we went on the most
romantic, relaxing and rejuvenating fakation. Loved it! Will repeat. Aiming for monthly. It worked for us and I know it can work for other couples as long as you fill it with your own desirable version. Shall I add that, granted you fit the 
above description, it's the most affordable and easiest-to-pull-off romantic getaway you can muster?

Saturday afternoon, we packed very light (refreshing for two people who normally take over-packing to grotesque extremes) and put on our flip flops. You gotta have your flip flops on for such an occasion. As we grabbed each other's hands, walking out at 2:00 pm on our way to check into the hotel room, we immediately became tourists in our own town. The transition was effortlessly instant. Our eyes lit up and everything became a novelty for us. We stopped by the organic market to load up on room snacks and it felt like a sweet foreign store in a small vacation town ...Walking the aisles we frequent daily (sometimes twice a day) was like the first time. We even discovered new snacks together (Yes, we like supermarkets). 
The streets of our own town felt different too, miraculously experienced like never before. 

"It's All Yours!"
The hotel room was quiet, neat, clean and bonus- there were no toys for us to stumble upon on the floor. It was also missing piles of dirty laundry waiting to be served. It said, "Hello, welcome! Come on in! Jump on the bed! Look at the breathtaking view! Breathe! It's all yours!" It was just Goog and me and it felt like we had traveled a thousand miles. When we woke up from the first nap I have taken in months, there was a brand new sense of relaxation in the air. We were so mindful of every moment in this vacation that, even though it was only a total of 27 hours including sleep, naps and 3 Lulu visits, it felt complete and fulfilling as an appropriately deserving couple's getaway should. Also, the way it was designed allowed us to avoid the pain of missing her. It was just right. So yes, knowing that your fakation is so short makes you appreciate every second of it, not to mention that you don't need to deal with the misery of missing your baby, which makes the pleasure even more unobstructedly pure.
Freshly napped

We walked back home for Lulu's bedtime as we finished gulping our beautifully lazy afternoon. After nursing and exchanging our customary million kisses goodnight, I was ready for our night out. I honored my little black dress fetish (the fetish isn't little, I assure you) and put on red lipstick for the first time ever not as part of a costume. Goog put on his sexy version of an LBD and we were off, leaving Lulu for the night with her uber-dedicated Grandma.

Red Lipstick Debut
Our intimate date was followed by a long night's sleep and the highlight: We slept in! I can't remember the last time I slept uninterruptedly till 7:30 and didn't even need to get out of bed. Now, THAT was a novelty (at least in the last year or so)! Our coffee-in-bed tradition made a revival appearance. Pre-parenthood it was a prerequisite. It's the little things...(although coffee in our household is far from a little thing. One of Lulu's first verbal expressions was "a cup of coffee," which sounds like "Ka Ko," but we know what she means.)
At 9:00 we met Lulu and Grandma in the park outside our hotel for some late morning cuddles and mama's milk.
Morning Visit Glory
We then proceeded to more original family unit time, which included a solid fakation breakfast dressed up as a luxurious brunch.
Even though we had to check out at noon, our fakation was not over. We brought our humble luggage back home as Lulu was getting ready for her nap so that we could recharge on some more hugs and kisses. Now, the next fakation activities had been left open to figure out on the spot, and so we ended up with the most romantic Target and Whole Foods visits we have had in a long time. But that's just us. Fakation time can be filled with whatever floats your sexy boat.
Two hours before bedtime was the official ending of our fakation, but since our batteries had been so meticulously recharged, it felt as if it lasted till...the next morning. But I'll tell ya, this fakation was as real as it gets.