You’re exhausted, your body is in a unique state of transition (to put it nicely) and you have a perfect, tiny human needing your care and attention 24/7. Husband? What husband?
In the busyness of the first six weeks home, medical professionals do mothers a favor by banning intercourse. Upon the postpartum run down, my doctor explicitly pointed this out to my husband with the tone and eye gaze of a high school principal. After my first son was born my husband and I walked around like zombies cycling through anxiety, sleep deprivation, baby joy and back to anxiety. We lost touch with our relationship because we had renamed our relationship, converting our label from “married” to “parents”; thereby, replacing all the marriage romance with the overwhelming responsibility of parents. This Thursday will be the six week postpartum anniversary for our second child and we have exercised a completely different balance in marriage and parenting this go-around, allowing ourselves to juggle these labels with much more grace. Here are 7 things we did differently.
1. Nest Cam Debauchery
I'm writing this first because it is the most fun. Of course, the Nest Cam is not completely necessary, you can use any baby camera devise, but the Nest Cam is especially lust-friendly because your husband can sneak a peek at work or wherever he is. Some examples include: G- rated strip tease (while baby is sleeping) or intercom stating “great job, sexy mama!”
2. Everything But...
Yes, 6 weeks, or longer if prescribed, is a long time to wait to have intercourse again but there are lots of other fun things to do with your spouse in the bedroom, and if your co-sleeping, on the couch, and if your in-laws are staying for a month, the car or bathroom. Now is the time to reflect on your high school days! Start with good ‘ol fashion make out sesh and see where it leads.
3. Nap Time is You Time
Don't you dare fold the laundry while your baby is sleeping! Nap time is the most sacred time for you and your husband. Take this time to nap together, snuggle, have a non-baby related conversation, or cook together (which I've read is an aphrodisiac possibly leading to ideas discussed in #2). Whatever you do, do it together. You'll be happier, more connected parents when the baby wakes.
4. Sexy Sitting
Between feeding, facilitating optimal sleep positioning, and skin-to-skin time, get your ass ready-Girl, you're gonna be sitting A LOT. Why not make some of your sitting time a little sexier? You can watch a sexy show, we became addicted to Californication- good grief David Duchovony is delicious, and looks like my husband a bit, Ha-back to #2 :) You could also read a love scene abundant book or Cosmo magazine always has spicy articles. The point here is to remind yourself that you can still be beautiful, strong and sexy as a new mom.
5.Hot Dad Alert!
Bringing your adorable baby home is one of the most incredible times in a woman's life. It is also the most terrifying time in a man's life. It's hard for guys. They don't know what to do and they have moved down a rung, or two, on the priorities poll. If you see your partner trying to making an effort to help out, PRAISE him with "thanks, babe", "you're a great dad" or "you look so hot wearing the baby carrier". This is mutually beneficial; he feels good, you feel good, and it is likely to happen again. In my opinion, positive praise is vital to a high-functioning parenting partnership. And when you are both happy working together to take care of the new babe it contributes to your marriage.
Good luck out there new mamas! Take care of yourself, your baby and don't forget about your marriage.
He listened to Jock Jams Volume 3 through his headphones while the nurse inserted the speculum in my vagina. I peered over to see the start of a smile spread across his lips and his head gently bobbing. Outside the jovial noise in his earphones:
“Can we ask a doctor to check?”
“CAN YOU CHECK AGAIN?!?”
Rage began to build. I wanted to scream at her face dabbled with pity and kick the monitor with my socked foot, but I had to keep it together; I didn’t want to interrupt his favorite part, Dick Vitale shouting “Oh! America, are you serious!”
I laid and felt tone deaf as she explained my options. Something about a blood test and potential bleeding seemed to float out of her mouth and evaporate among the sterile white walls. My hand, which was resting on my chest, the place where it lands when I’m feeling worried, found the golden necklace I had bought at a boutique shop a few days before. My fingers skimmed the ridges of the three elephants, one mama followed by two babies. One for my son, who contently sat in a chair beside the head of the bed, and one for the babe, growing. I was so excited to wear the necklace and had saved it for the doctor's visit and planned to covet it in a drawer waiting to be added to the hospital bag. I just couldn’t wait to put it on. That morning as a I clasped the ends, dreams of two children filled me with Christmas morning excitement and I felt it warming the charms of the necklace. Laying on the cold, paper covered bed, the necklace chilled.
We packed up, checked out, and made our way to the elevator. As the elevator descended to the parking garage, one tear grew to thousands; I tried to keep them sealed within the folds of my eyelids but one escaped and the rest followed. He looked up at me and asked, “What’s wrong, mama?” I collapsed to my knees and held him around the waist, allowing my weight to be held up by his 39 pound frame. I murmured, “I just love you so much.” I cried as we walked to the car, tears pouring as I snapped his car seat, closed his door, dropped into the drivers seat... STOP. We have a play date and a birthday party. You have to get your shit together.
“Nearly one million miscarriages occur in the U.S. a year” (2015, Time). This number doesn’t make the occurrence any easier. As I carried myself through a sea of numb melancholy the following days, I was approached with waves of deep sadness and anger. Haunting whispers came from the dark places of my mind, “You are carrying around a dead baby.” I began to bleed, we went in for the procedure, and I asked the doctor to check one more time. A visualized a perfect movie scene in my mind’s eye:
A heart beat!
There wasn’t a prenatal knight in shining armor….I fearfully stared at the white, surgical masked faces and counted back from one hundred.
I returned to work, packing lunches, washing dishes; I cycled through emotions, spinning around in a washing machine of various colors of depression. Friends and family showered me with stories of hope and gratitude, but I couldn’t take on these stories; I was consumed with my own. Few, who had been through this themselves simply said, “I’m so sorry.” I’ve decided this was the most perfect response. Those three words seem to feel light and send a temporary buoy for my sinking ship. I lived and tried each day to modify my story of sadness into something more hopeful.
The haunting questions: ‘What did I do wrong?’
‘Why didn’t she want to stay with me?’
‘What will I do now?’
‘Why didn’t God support my plan?’
Time moved me. Time moved me. Time moved me.
It has been over a year. The questions faded and I grew brave enough to try again.
I’m holding a baby girl that is the most precious piece of love pie. Her poutty lips and sleepy breath rest on my chest now as I type. It is the most glorious feeling. I had saved the elephant necklace and strung it around my neck the first day I arrived home from the hospital. I wore it for days, refusing to take it off. Then, one day after getting out of the shower, the elephant necklace broke. I realized I had been carrying the fear and worry with it. Despite having a healthy baby girl, the fear still stayed with me. Insecure questions intruded my blissful gratitude interrupting the sacred time with my dear baby girl. With the separation of the chain, I decided to depart from my loss. The experience of losing a baby would always stay with me but I had to allow the goodness of the present moment to override my buried sorrow. I think about the power of the broken necklace and the realization that came of it, I remember the one million women sinking in the same sea of sorrow I found myself in. Let us all see the beauty in the present and allow ourselves to let go of the sadness to allow goodness and joy to find us.
Some days the washing machine of cycling thoughts can be suffocating. Schedules, chores, clothes, playdates, sleeping, eating; ending just to start over again. It’s hard to find time to tap into your heart song. We are all creative people, and getting in touch with your creative medium is soul satisfying for you and beneficial for your children. Creative projects give you ambition, pride and allow your mind and heart to spin together. A creative mama gives her children inspiration and genuine joy. If you are reading this and thinking you’re not a creative person, I call bullshit. Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a book called Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear and she writes that everyone has a gift hidden within them and our purpose is to find it. She writes: “Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.” Could we search for this hidden creativity amidst the piles of laundry and dirty diapers? I believe if we refuse to unearth our creativity it could waste away. What a scary thought. Here are some ways we can integrate more creativity whilst serving our motherly duties.
1. Empty Mind Time
We live in a world of information gluttony. In most conversations we can’t help but to reach for our phone to answer a hypothetical question, and for many, our phone’s information is the first thing we see when we wake and the last thing before we close our eyes. With the influx of information, it’s impossible to allow your mind’s creativity to churn. I propose to find a block of time where you do something semi-monotonous and let your mind run wild. Since being at home with my second child, I go for a jog most days after I take my first to school. She takes a nap in the stroller and I run up and down the same street every day. I allow myself to ask questions, think of ideas and play with their possibilities. It is sacred. I achieve more creativity in 30 minutes than the rest of my entire day. You may find that activities such as folding laundry, gardening, washing dishes or cooking serve as your “empty mind time.” Reflect on your day and question if there is any activity that you do every day which requires little conscious effort to enable your subconscious to thrive.
2. Creative Accountability Partner
My junior year in high school I joined weight watchers. I was about 15 pounds over my ideal weight and overheard my mom talking about it so I decided to join a meeting at a local community center. I was by far the youngest and thinnest person there. As I sat through the meeting, when my initial embarrassment and insecurities melted away, I noticed the community and accountability surrounding me. Each person hopped on the scale and was greeted with applause at the descent of the scale. I believe accountability is essential in success; cultivating more creativity is no exception. Ask a friend to join you and hold you accountable for your creativity. You don’t necessarily have to embark on an identical creative journey, just connect and talk about it. For example, you might share with a friend that you want to do one creative project per month, then make a date to have coffee and talk about the project. If you’re not feeling ready to embark on a project you could just ask a friend to accompany you to an art museum, craft fair, book signing or yoga class. The most essential part is to add another person to you journey.
3. Write Down your Ideas and Act on Them
To piggy back on my first idea I shall add a caveat. Another theme within Big Magic is movement of ideas. Basically, if we don’t do anything with our creative ideas, they will leave us and find another person who will act on it. This may be an abstract idea and I’m not suggesting that you must buy in to this theory in order to become a creative mama; what I am saying is that you should write down your ideas. I believe once an idea is on paper, tablet, phone or diaper it becomes tangible with potential to grow.
4. Look out for Inspiration
As a mother you are surrounded by the most beautiful creatures, your children; however, it is helpful to widen your scope. It is easy to get wrapped up in the distribution of snacks and the order of a household, but it can totally shift your perspective to stop and absorb your surroundings. Don’t do this in the middle of your play room while shit has hit the fan–that is not inspiration! I mean when you’re at the park and your child is playing take a deep breath and notice the movement of the trees and the scent of the sand. These inspirations may lead you to painting, drawing, music or fashion design. Inspiration speaks to the creativity resting inside and can empower it to rise to your consciousness.
5. Sit With your Kids
Anyone who has ever worked with kids in some capacity knows that you are not the teacher, children teach you. Kids are creative geniuses. They think about things through a raw lens. Asking your children questions, laughing at their antics and soaking up there energy will make you a more creative person. You may allow your children to influence your chosen creative medium. If you find that you feel alive while coloring, ask your kids to color with you outside, maybe even throw down several different kinds of paper, pastels and color pencils allow your creativity to roll together. Or if you find yourself connecting with acro yoga, move around with your children, lift them up and notice how they move and move together. Your creativity can be amplified by opening up to your children and receiving their influence.
When I get together with my mamma-friend Allison, we talk about our mamma-friend Naomi. Not the gossipy kind, we discuss a problem we're having then use one of Naomi's prolific anecdotes to resolve the silly little issue we are babbling about. A few weeks ago, Allison and I talked about working and not working. We've talked about this quite a bit because Allison was a bomb ass saleswoman who stepped away to have a family. She struggled and we have that in common.
We have had several conversations about our feelings of resentment, guilt, self doubt and worry when it comes to staying at home with our children. This time Allison wasn't discussing her experience as a stay-at-home-mom drenched in heavy feelings, rather she was confident and light. She told me that Naomi had mentioned a fleeting phrase that had shifted her perspective on work and being a mom. It was simple: "It's just not my time."
Allison shared this statement with me and I began to see the potential in my future. It was a if I had been standing in a confined cave and this phrase chiseled a long, deep path, well-lit and inviting. I realized that my thoughts had been so close minded that I hadn't allowed myself to think about my capabilities a few years from now. I had been stuck in NOW. My goals had to be accomplished NOW. I had to be the person I dreamed of being NOW. But that isn't true, we have time and growth and development. To be honest, I'm not ready to be everything I want to be right now. I hadn't allowed myself to think of that until I stepped back and saw that I have a long, beautiful journey toward fulfillment.
I believe many mammas get stuck in this pattern. Thoughts like: "If I don't go back to work right now, I'll become irrelevant." "I'll always be a stay-at-home-mom." "I have to choose between work and family and that decision will define me forever." These thoughts are daunting and simply incorrect. The only certainty we have in life is change. As mothers, we know that all to well. Try to put your child on a schedule and they will quickly begin a growth spurt hyjacking the schedule you established (yep, go ahead and take that hand written schedule off the side of the fridge and reorganize your mommy and me calendar). Mamas, we change too.
Yes, we all have big, beautiful dreams. We don't have to throw them away, maybe their just not going to happen right now. We can work toward them, plan, dream and make our dream a part of our current identity. So maybe a PhD program or executive role isn't going to fit your life right now, ok-it's just right now. Let's live right now and continue to dream about what's next.