My #1 sanity-saver as a new mom

woman-relaxing

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After the twins were born, my husband and I were overwhelmed. Shell-shocked. Exhausted. The days blurred into nights. Our living room became a round-the-clock hub for feedings, diaper changes, naps and occasional contact with the outside world, via visitors who came to see the babies.

I began to forget who I was. What I liked to do before the babies were born. What I found funny. What I was passionate about. I had become a robot with a singular mission: keep these two babies alive. And, as with most new moms, my every thought and move revolved around them.  As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into months, my anxiety began to increase, eventually reaching new heights.

My husband came home from work one night, excited. His colleague had mentioned that he and his wife, shortly after their twins were born, each picked one night per week to be “their” night. On those nights, they did whatever they wanted after work. The only rule was they couldn’t go home, because they’d most likely get sucked into household and parenting duties.

I loved the idea, and we agreed on our designated “free nights.” I had lofty goals for my first night. I’d go to a yoga class and start writing again, and maybe even make progress on that novel I started before the babies were born.

Here’s what really happened: I wandered into Target and, out of habit, made a beeline for the baby section, where I picked out new outfits for the twins. Then I went to Starbucks, where I sipped coffee while checking the nursery camera from my phone every five minutes until it was time to go home.

I had forgotten how to exist without my babies in my sight, and I felt guilty leisurely strolling the aisles of Target or relaxing with a book while they were home, so little and vulnerable, without their mama.

Fast-forward to today, and my free nights look completely different. I fully detach. I write, exercise, shop for myself (not the babies), get a manicure, treat myself to a non-rushed dinner with a friend – whatever my body and mind are begging for.

It took me a while to get here, but I’m so glad I did – with small steps. I moved the icon for the nursery cam to the last screen of my phone (out of sight, out of mind… kind of). I registered and paid for yoga classes in advance so I’d go, or committed to plans with friends. I held myself accountable to others at first, then finally to myself.

After these evenings, I feel refreshed, grateful and ready to throw myself wholeheartedly into parenting again. And when I skip these nights, boy do I feel it. By the weekend, I’m exhausted, anxious and burned out, which is exactly what I don’t want to be around my husband and kids.

To be the best mama I can be, I need to find the time to do what inspires and energizes me. I need to be me.

Mamas and dads, what do you do to stay more balanced? I’d love to hear. 

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The impossibility of having it all

working-mom-and-baby-702x336

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The idea came to me one day while I was driving (as all good ideas do!). My mind, which these days, as a new mom, feels so overloaded and exhausted – somehow pulled together all the thoughts and experiences I’d had over the past eight months into a a cohesive story.

I quickly dictated the ideas into my phone (seriously the best phone function ever!), and worked on it over the next couple of weeks until I felt satisfied with its message. I wrote it partly out of the need to get it out of my head and on paper – writing has always been therapeutic for me – and partly because I know I’m not the only mama out there to experience the extreme anxiety that can take hold after baby is born.

I figured if my story could help one person, the article would have done its job. So I submitted it to ScaryMommy.com, and they decided to publish it: The Impossibility of Having It All (And the Toll It Takes On Our Health When We Try).

Putting something so personal out there, and then sharing it with friends and family, was terrifying, but so rewarding… and so freeing. Both old and new friends have reached out to tell me they experience the same inner conflicts and challenges. A few have also battled anxiety their entire lives.

Some of the people who reached out gave up trying  a while ago, and some are still convincing themselves they need to. But regardless of their progress, there is a community out there, of mamas and non-mamas alike (and a few dads, too), who’ve helped me realize I no longer need to hide my anxiety anymore. There’s no need to be ashamed of it, and I’m not alone in my struggle to try to have it all.

Hi, I’m new here. Kind of.

twins

Sharing photos of your kids becomes a mom reflex.

I have that disoriented feeling I’d get as a kid on the first day of school. After three months of reading, watching TV and enjoying the sunshine, navigating the same halls I’d walked earlier that year, under the humming fluorescent lights, felt…weird. But after a day or two, it was like I’d never left.

Returning to this blog after a two-year hiatus feels the same way. At first, my posts seemed to be written by a stranger. But as I continued to read, it all became familiar again – well, kind of. It’s only been two years, but I’m a completely different person in so many ways.

Right before my last post, my husband and I decided to begin trying for a baby. I knew from friends and family that getting pregnant for the first time didn’t always happen right away (knowing that back in my younger years would have saved me a lot of anxiety, by the way), but we had no idea it would become one of the most physically and emotionally difficult journeys we’d ever taken.

Against all medical odds (my doctor admitted she had no explanation for our success), I got pregnant during my first round of IVF – with twins. My pregnancy was an adventure, to say the least*, as was my life immediately after giving birth** and in the months following***.

But I’m grateful and happy to say things have settled down, and we have a beautiful 10-month-old boy and girl. J is a sweet, cuddly, laid-back and oh-so-happy little man. L came into this world making her presence known, and she hasn’t stopped. She is sassy, curious and has no problem recognizing what she wants and making it known – but also a total sweetheart.

While this blog’s focus won’t change (after all, the balancing act becomes even more challenging in motherhood), I do plan to use this space to share some of my pregnancy and new-mom experiences because I learned so much, beyond parenting skills, from each of them. I learned about myself, my needs and what’s truly important. And I’m hoping I can help others by passing on those stories.

More to come. For now, I’m off to feed some babies, then crash. At 8:30 p.m. (key learning #1: sleep when you can).

 

*More on that in a later post, but pregnancy rash is seriously the worst.
**More coming on that, too
***Read more on that here.

9 things I’d tell my 13-year-old self

Photo by Andy Teo

Photo by Andy Teo

During a recent dinner with friends, one casually posed the question, “What would you tell your 13-year-old self?” I’d heard this question before, and typically dismissed it with a silly or smart-ass response (“Spiral perms are never a good idea!”), but this time I took a minute to think about it. And a bunch of ideas flooded my mind – all serious advice that I wish someone had given me when I was a scared, newbie teen who was anxious about everything and struggling with an eating disorder.

So I decided to share, in the hopes you’ll show it to a teen in need of some advice from the future – or that something will resonate with you.

  1. Don’t be afraid. It will all work out.
  2. Be who you are. Make yourself happy first.
  3. Everyone else is insecure about something, too.
  4. Be a child as long as possible. Your dreams will come true. But enjoy today first.
  5. You’re not dying. It’s an anxiety attack.
  6. Don’t do things hoping you will be rewarded with love or acceptance. The right people will love you for who you are, not what you look like, wear or accomplish.
  7. If you need help, there are places you can go and people to talk to. Get the help – demand it – now.
  8. Know your worth. You deserve happiness. You are perfect as you are, but…
  9. Remember that there’s no such thing as perfect.

So what am I missing? What do you wish you’d known all along? Add to the list by posting a comment below.

What I’m loving this fall

Mother Nature, when did you become such a pushover to that bully Father Winter? He gets to show off for three – if not more – long, gray, bone-chilling months. It’s time to put your foot down, and demand he let us enjoy the three months of autumn sunshine and crisp temperatures that we are entitled to.

In the meantime, I will be thankful for the following, which make the plummeting temperatures here in Charlotte much more bearable.

logo“Serial” podcast
Oh. My. God. Stop what you’re doing, go to serialpodcast.org, and start listening now! Produced by WBEZ Chicago, this weekly podcast is hosted by Sarah Koenig, who first learned of a 1999 case involving a murdered high school senior over a year ago and is looking for answers. The case had a lot of holes and a lot of unanswered questions. And Koenig isn’t as certain as the jury was that the victim’s ex-boyfriend killed her.

In each episode, Koenig reveals her discoveries to listeners and guides them through her meticulous steps to learn the truth. We hear from friends, family and acquaintances of the accused and witnesses. We hear intimate details of the victim and accused’s life – their family struggles, relationship issues.

With tension, gossip, he said-she said and a colorful cast of characters, it’s storytelling at its best. And as a former Nancy Drew fan who regularly prayed for a bona fide mystery to land in my neighborhood so I could demonstrate my sleuthing skills, I’m loving the puzzle this podcast presents.

Photo: Amazon.com

Photo: Amazon.com

This scarf/blanket/shawl
At nearly five feet long and wide, this scarf is basically a wearable blanket. It’s thick, soft and a gorgeous neutral plaid that works with just about any color. The tag on the scarf says Zara, but the shipper is a third-party retailer through Amazon. Either way, this will be my go-to cold-weather accessory.

Photo: BurtsBees.com

Photo: BurtsBees.com

Burt’s Bees Almond Milk Beeswax Hand Cream
As soon as the first cold day arrives, my nails grow brittle, and my hands become itchy, scaly appendages. This is the first hand cream to make a difference. If I remember to use it each night, my hands stay soft, my nails remain strong, and my cuticles don’t get scraggly. I also love that it’s not greasy and smells amazing.

All right, spill it. What are you loving right now?

Victory Rituals and the life-changing list

Photo: TASTEdaily.com

Photo: TASTEdaily.com

I’m blessed and cursed to have my brain. I learn quickly, so I get bored very easily. I’m a skilled organizer and rarely lose anything, but I break out in hives around clutter. I’m an over-achiever, so I always have a running list of no less than 20 goals I want to accomplish. All good, but all very exhausting.

So when I read about the opportunity to be part of the Victory Rituals beta group – a program designed to help participants focus on and achieve one of their goals – I eagerly signed up. With so many items on my “to accomplish” list, I was overwhelmed and ineffective. I’d focus on one goal for a week or so, then divert my attention to another, ending up with a bunch of big and small half-baked projects. Not very motivating or fulfilling.

The beta
Led by Nicole D’Alonzo of TASTEdaily (if you haven’t checked out this site, do it. Like now.), the beta has consisted of two 30- to 45-minute video workshops to date. The first focused on optimizing your morning routine so you can practice those Victory Rituals that will get you to your goal(s). Nicole offered up tips on identifying your long-term goal, then establishing your daily trifecta – those three things you want to accomplish for the day.

The second workshop focused on getting enough sleep so you can be truly productive, as well as the benefits of rituals. By becoming habits, rituals open up space in our minds so we can focus on the bigger picture. And as we work toward the big picture, we get that motivation and fulfillment those day-to-day tasks just don’t deliver.

So here’s what I did and didn’t do
I decided to focus in on exercising consistently, preparing healthy meals and fitting in time for relaxation as part of a larger goal to become healthier physically and mentally. The first few days after the workshop #1, I was gung ho, setting and accomplishing my trifecta each day. Then I lost steam. My overachieving side was fighting back.

“What about writing that book? When are you going to that?” It taunted.

“And how are you going to get that Project Management Professional certification if you’re busy exercising and relaxing. Seriously, relaxing? You have too much to accomplish to do that!”

But rather than give in, I got out a sheet of paper and wrote down all the goals whirling around in my head. Then I ordered them, with 1 being the most important. And I made a deal with myself. I wouldn’t even think about #2 until I did something that day to work toward #1. And #3 would be but a shadow in the back of my mind until I did something to get me closer to #2 that day. And so on.

By prioritizing my goals, I gave myself the mental room I needed to work – or not work – toward them each day and make actual headway.

The results: I’m down seven pounds, physically stronger and less anxious, and I can finally prepare a healthy dinner for myself without setting off the fire alarms. Success!

While I’m still not a morning person (sigh), Victory Rituals did set me in the right direction toward achieving my goals.

Interested in creating and working toward your own Victory Rituals? Get on the waitlist for the program’s official launch.

What I’m Loving This Summer

Despite being born and raised in New England, and spending my first 33 years residing in the northeast, I’m a warm-weather girl, through and through. As you can imagine, I’m not happy about the speed with which this summer has passed, or the fact that Labor Day is next weekend.

The silver lining is it stays warm late into the year here in Charlotte. Last year, we were lounging at the pool the first weekend of October, searching for local fall festivals. And these recent (awesome) discoveries will help ease the seasonal transition, too.

Ommwriter
OmmwriterI must thank blogger Jeff Goins for promoting this tool during his webinar earlier this week. This simple software makes writing more fun, offering music and various backgrounds to serve as your inspirational backdrop. My favorite part: the keyboard sound effect options. As I write, I hear the clickety-clack of a typewriter, and the nerd in me is over the moon. If you’re an easy distracted person, this may not be the software for you, but if you can enjoy, then move on from the bells and whistles, I highly recommend Ommwriter. The best part? You choose what you pay for it!

 

Photo: iTunes store

Photo: iTunes store

All the Social Ladies podcast
I recently stumbled upon this podcast, and it’s become my inspirational companion on walks and drives. In each show, host Carrie Kerpen, CEO of Likeable, interviews a woman who is kicking serious social media butt personally and/or professionally. She’s interviewed some major influencers, including Sarah Evans of Sevans Strategy and Nicole D’Alonzo of TASTEdaily. I love the conversational, ladies-over-coffee nature of the roughly 20-minute interviews, and the guests’ energy, positivity and courage inspire me to take risks and generally bring it every day at the office.

 

Photo: Essie.com

Photo: Essie.com

Essie Fall 2014 Collection
I love color on my nails, but working in a corporate environment, I’ve felt pretty limited with my options. With each trip to the nail salon, I gaze longingly at the bright colors, only to select the neutral pale pink… again. But at Ulta last week, I spotted Essie’s fall collection, and my hope returned. The collection consists of simple, yet striking, options like a deep red and inky cobalt blue along with a variety of muted neutrals blended with more daring hues – Take it Outside is a gorgeous taupe with pink undertones, and The Perfect Cover Up is a gray with hints of teal. I can’t wait to try them out and switch up my mani.

So what are you loving during these last days of summer? Share below or DM me @bakinginpumps. I’m always looking for new things to try, and if I love ‘em, too, I’ll share and happily promote your blog or website.