As I look through the comments waiting for moderation, I’m taken aback by the spam that’s been attacking my page of late. I haven’t been around for a while. Being a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom is difficult to coordinate at times, wouldn’t ya know, and writing for myself is always on the absolute back burner. I’ve been toying with the idea of writing my blog about random shit and parenting, instead of just parenting. I believe I will do this. Today, my entry involves parenting and shit, but the shit is not random. It’s totally real, and it’s often swimming in pee.
Sam was just about potty-trained in December, right before the 2.5 years old mark. We had started potty-training in earnest around his second birthday, which I think is a decent time to introduce the potty (but I’ll get around to my potty philosophy later; I’m giving you our potty history right now). He took to it reasonably well, particularly when his butt was completely nude and we were hanging out at home. Round about Christmas, we had our first day with no accidents at all. Yay!
When we moved to Durham in January, potty training went down the toilet. Sam was so startled by his new surroundings that he really needed a diaper, and I was so startled by my new surroundings that I needed him to be in a diaper so that I didn’t have to think about that extra added stress. I didn’t push it for a very long time. I’d have the potty out for an hour or so every day, and he’d use it during nude butt time.
So this is how potty training has gone for us, and this is how totally unstressful it can be. (“Can” is the operative word here — I do think it depends a lot on timing and personality.)
Fast forward to July. Sam’s preschool teacher says she believes he’s ready to wear underpants. I think, “Why the hell not?” And the following week, I pack his Elmo Backpack full of underpants and extra pairs of pants. For the month of July, the Sam Mule has about one accident a day, whether he’s at home or at school. I kid you not. One accident, maybe two. Getting him comfortable pooping on the potty involved minor bribery in the form of chocolate.
Sam has just totally moved on with the whole thing. I care not whether he wears a pull-up at night and during nap forever, so I’m absolutely unstressed about that. Accidents usually only occur now when he’s super concentrated on something — like Angry Birds, for instance — so if he has an accident, I take the toy away that distracted him from paying attention to his body. Also, no big deal.
I read all of the books on potty training, including the one day and three day method. This involves some scolding and a lot of bribery and a potty doll, which all seemed like far too much trouble for me. Even without the accessories, staying at home three days and focusing on the potty just wasn’t right for us. (It is for some, and that’s fine). What ultimately worked was just PUTTING HIM IN UNDERPANTS and saying, “This is it. End of the line for diapers. No more.” At first, we used a timer on our phones to get him to go. Now he knows when to go himself. Now, this method may not have worked at two years old, or even right at two and a half (though I’m betting he was ready long before I took the plunge myself — but who knows?). All I know is that this was way easier than I thought it would be. Isn’t it nice when you can say that?
Now for the right tools and the decidedly wrong tools:
The Baby Bjorn Potty — it’s a godsend, and it’s the king of small potties. Don’t bother with any other potty. We also have the Fisher Price Frog Potty, which is a much more awkward shape and harder to sit down on. Don’t mess with that one.
Many packs of underpants — We have like 30 pairs of underpants for Sam. Do not at all bother with cloth trainers. They don’t hold any pee at all, and Sam just felt like he was wearing a diaper when he had them on. So what did he do? He peed in them. Avoid.
Babyganics Stain Remover! This stuff is very gentle, immediately removes smell, and doesn’t cause fabrics to bleed or warp. I highly recommend it for pee-on-your-carpet moments. Of which there are many in life.
The Potty Book — Sam finds this sweet little book very relatable. He’s asked for it often during the potty training process. He enjoys seeing the progression of the story, and I think it did help him understand what the potty was all about.
Potty Training Boys the Easy Way: Helping Your Son Learn Quickly–Even If He’s a Late Starter was the only book I really loved and took advice from. This was what recommended the slow and steady daily sessions, which really suited our personality as a family.
Pretty groovy stuff right there. Yes, potty training may be something you and your kid can get through, and enjoy.
I have eighteen hours a week to myself. This is when I work on my writing, do laundry, wash dishes, avoid cleaning the house in any meaningful way, shower, watch the occasional television program, cook, and shop for groceries. Among women who are stay at home mothers, I am pretty damn lucky to have those hours. I am also self-employed and working during those hours, so my days are still busy. I don’t really vacuum. Any TV I watch or snacks I devour are done so while writing copy or articles. It’s a good life. A good balance. A balance I’ve finally struck after being in Durham for three months.
I’m as much a stay at home mom as I ever will be, and looking at the above paragraph, I guess that “mom” is the role that occupies a majority of my time. “Wife” (cooker of food and cleaner of laundry, hirer of my amazing cleaning team) is secondary. “Writer-to-make-money” is tertiary; “writer-for-my-soul” is fourth-iary. I think it’s a pretty great balance, but it took some real growing pains to get here. I still don’t have it all figured out, but I might be as close as I am ever going to be.
As a woman with anxiety, I’m going to come out and say that being a stay at home mom is probably one of the hardest things I could have chosen to do. As an intensely independent and strong-willed woman, being a stay at home mom is doubly difficult. I still choose it.
Why is it difficult?
This is my third re-write of the why-is-it-difficult explanation. Ahem. Here it is: being at home with my child challenges me in a way I haven’t been challenged before. I like to be alone. I like to do my own thing. I like to shut myself off from the world and write. I do not like to be tugged on and climbed on when I’m not in a good mood. I don’t particularly like coming up with healthy food options for lunch. Nor do I like playing blocks. Nor do I enjoy finding wholesome and enriching shit to do with my child in lieu of watching television all day. (If I didn’t think it would be crap for his developing brain, I’d have “Toy Story” on a loop all day, followed by “Toy Story 2” the following day, and a topper of “Toy Story 3” every third day.) I am physically lazy, and I don’t really like going places or doing things most of the time. (Don’t I sound charming?)
I also have generalized anxiety disorder, which is a fancy way to say that I worry a lot about nothing in particular. My therapist calls this “free-floating anxiety.” As she puts it, hippie genius that she is, my anxiety floats around and attaches itself to different things day-by-day or week-by-week. That means that I’m really never not worrying about something, which is kind of shitty. It feels like a button is always pressed in my brain. That button makes most everything kind of loud and intense. It makes interactions with people the topic of made-up concerns, or it makes my skincare routine the topic of a whole lot of thinking that might be spent on other things. Or it makes me wake up in the night thinking that someone is breaking in, when the only sound is my dog snoring. The end result is that I am very tired — mentally and emotionally — since a lot of my psychic energy is spent on worrying about inane shit. A lot of my other psychic energy is spent trying to “fix” myself, or as I recently phrased it, “being anxious about having anxiety.” I had to start dealing with my anxiety when it became worse during my postpartum depression, and here I am, dealing with the pieces of it.
In order to be successful at the life I lovingly crafted for myself and my kid, I have to be patient, caring, creative, and active. The anxiety sucks a lot out of the “patient” and “active” centers of my brain, which leaves me at a deficit. More of a deficit than some other stay at home parents, I’m betting. It’s a hard job no matter how you look at it, and on the best days with all resources available, it can tire out and irritate and drain even the most well-rested, energetic, and patient parent around. I’m coming to work with one hand tied behind my back, kinda.
How do I manage?
I have this amazingly excellent day care where my kid goes three days a week for six hours a day. That’s essential, since it gives me time to do what I love to do, something that is very much part of who I am. (That’s writing, if you hadn’t gotten the clue.)
After that, I pull a lot on those caring and creative aspects of my personality. When I’m feeling annoyed, I give kisses and hugs. When I’m feeling at the end of my rope with that anxious rage creeping in, I remind myself that my son is only two and some, and sometimes being obnoxious is the only way he knows how to communicate. That’s pretty simple, but it’s hard sometimes. As all parents know. I try also to extend that caring to myself. I even remind myself that I’m a good parent, I love my kid, and my kid loves me.
As for the creative bit, I keep a variety of low-stress-for-me but fun-for-toddlers activities around the house. I have paints, tape, Play-Doh, hidden caches of unused or older toys, and recipes we can make together. I also have a library card, a garden outside, a membership to the science museum, and a ten-visit pass to the Stay and Play Cafe in Durham. When I know I will opt for sitting on my butt and lackadaisically watching my kid with his HotWheels cars, I take him somewhere. Not because I particularly want to, but because I know I’ll be a better parent if we go somewhere vaguely enriching. And he’ll have fun.
What happens that is pretty awesome — it happened today — is that sometimes, everything falls into place, and a day is lovely and magical. Sam is such a little weirdo with such an awesome sense of humor and a fantastically kind and gentle soul. I come to a place — just about every day that I am with him — where there is this incredible moment that is just pure joy. And it’s okay if everything else sucks. And it’s okay if I’m chronically worried and tired, and if he doesn’t nap and everyone is tired and eats chips for dinner.
And specifically for the anxiety piece, I deal with that as best I can. I don’t sweep it under the rug, and I don’t pretend it’s not there. I see a therapist, and I readily admit that to anyone ever, because there’s no shame in it. I work on meditating, exercising, eating healthy, and all of that irritatingly simple crap that actually makes anxiety worlds and worlds better. I’m also vocal and let my husband and the other members of my support system — my parents and friends — when I’m having a hard time. Most of all, I try very hard not to feel ashamed, which is something that anxiety has always made me feel. I also try to feel okay that this is hard on some days. And okay that other people have it much, much harder, but it’s still hard on some days for me.
Also, I don’t have a no-TV rule. We really like movies.
Why do I keep choosing this path?
As I said before, I keep choosing this job (part-time writer/part-time SAHM) not because it is easy (writing for cash ain’t easy either, but that’s another post) but because it is right for me and my child right now. “For me” and “right now” are the keys in that post, because this is not what is right for every family, nor is this always going to be my choice. In four years time, I’ll be quite ready to choose an awesome kindergarten. I don’t know what will happen in the in-between years, either.
For right now, I take this challenge as part of my growth as a person and as a parent.
Full-on extreme disclaimer: I’m aware that there are a lot of women (and some dudes too, lest I be sexist) out there who are home forty hours or more a week at home alone with their child — or children! MY HAT IS OFF TO YOU, GOOD PEOPLE. I don’t think my situation is unusually difficult or whatever, but I’m writing about it because it is a thing in my life that I want to write about.
At two years old, he can sing the “Super Readers” song, and say “To the book club!” It doesn’t quite sound like that though. (It sounds more like “butt plug.” But we try not to point that out to him. As much as we want to.)
At two years old, he can give bear hugs, pee pee in the potty (sometimes), and make a joke with Grandaddy.
At two years old, his highs are high and his lows are the lowest of the low. Sometimes only a song can help. Or Grover.
At two years old, he says, “Thank you, Mama,” and “Thank you, Daddy,” sometimes out of nowhere. Maybe he’s thanking us for being awesome parents, or for making him feel safe, or for all the kisses and hugs. Or the gummy vitamins.
At two years old, he’s smart, and funny, and kind, and charming. He’s big and tall, and he’s not a baby anymore. I get emails no longer about “your toddler,” but about “your preschooler.” (I didn’t know that they became that until they were three, but there you have it.) At two years old, he asks, “What’s dat?” and “Who’s dat?” and “Where Daddy go?” and “What Weeda doing?” He knows what he wants, and what he doesn’t want, and when he wants it or doesn’t want it. Tonight, he just ate a roll for dinner. He was offered kale, sausage, grapes, pasta. Nope, just bread, and apple juice.
At two years old, he knows three verbe tenses: fart, farted, and farting. At two years old, he knows comparisons: turd, big turd, and bigger turd. (We should work on appropriate alternatives, but we love his foul little mouth.)
He asks for kisses on his scrapes (over and over), and he sometimes licks my face instead of kissing it. It’s gross.
How you love an infant is so different from how you love a little boy. When they’re so small, you can’t do anything but hold them and stroke their little cheek to make them feel better. And then they grow — into a person with needs, wants, desires, passions, and personality. The love develops, grows, and changes into something fuller and more whole. I now understand what my mother means when she says that her love for me grows and changes all the time. When you come to know someone fully, you fall harder and more completely.
How blessed I am to bear witness.
I was on birth control for ten years. I got on it to regulate pain during my menstrual cycle when I was eighteen. I went to Student Health at the University of Virginia early one morning, in total agony from my period. I was doubled over in pain. The doctor — likely a resident — was nice, and he was a little freaked out. He said that I might have endometriosis. I didn’t really know what that was, except that I knew a girl who had it and was addicted to painkillers. I didn’t think I had something like that. The doctor prescribed Ortho-Cyclen to regulate my cycle and hopefully prevent pain. It did the trick, and my cycles were easy, predictable, and short — for ten solid years. Damn, I can’t believe I was on the pill for that long. Anyway, apparently that little box of push-through pills works quite well to prevent endometriosis. That agony did not crop up again until last year, when I chose to get a copper IUD instead of using hormonal birth control.
Hold up — before I get into all of that story — let me tell you what endometriosis is. It is some gnarly shit. The endometrium is the lining of the uterus. For some women, the endometrium decides to go all out of whack and grow outside of your uterus. According to the NIH, when endometrial cells “…implant and grow outside the uterus, endometriosis results. The growths are called endometrial tissue implants. Women with endometriosis typically have tissue implants on the ovaries, bowel, rectum, bladder, and on the lining of the pelvic area. They can occur in other areas of the body, too.” These tissue implants get especially angry when during menstruation, since the muscles in that region of the body are all contracting, and your hormones and uterus are trying to expel extraneous endometrial tissue. When that junk is outside of your uterus, it can’t be expelled. It sticks with you, and sometimes, it grows. This doesn’t only cause painful periods (and the pain is like WHOA), it causes intestinal cramps, constipation, painful bowel movements, pain during sex, back pain, and even pain during ovulation. I won’t go into incredibly graphic detail, but I’ll just sum it up — it feels as if a knife is twisting around in there. Endometriosis, particularly on the ovaries, can also cause infertility.
So back to the story. After the birth of Sam the Mule, my cycle returned without much occasion (except for an unexplained bout of frantic crying right beforehand, which was then quite well explained). I had already gotten my Paragard, the delightfully non-hormonal IUD that would prevent me from having a baby when Sam was 10 months old. After a couple of months, my period became something I dreaded. I had pain — but not normal pain — curl up in a ball type of pain, can’t sleep type of pain. I chalked it up to my body getting used to the IUD, or perhaps a bit of hormonal stuff that needed to work itself out over time. I decided in August of 2011 to have the IUD taken out, partly because I thought it must be causing the pain, and partly because we wanted to get pregnant again. Unfortunately, my periods continued to be horrible, sometimes even worse than before. I was prescribed mefenamic acid, a strong non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (like Advil, but stronger, and works kinda differently). I was also prescribed some medicine that you snort. I think it dulls your pain receptors. Anyway, I never got that, because my insurance didn’t cover it, and it costed something like $200. My nurse practitioner, probably correctly, hesitated to prescribe any opiate — the only drugs that could have touched that pain.
Finally, I met with my OB in the same practice and told him that something was wrong. It was January of 2012, and we’d been trying (not too terribly hard, but still, trying) to conceive since August of 2011. And each period I had felt like a mini-version of labor. I had also started to have pain during ovulation and during the week before my cycle began. My doctor sent me for a pelvic ultrasound, which freaked me out a bit, but he assured me it was standard procedure. When I went to have my ultrasound (which is a highly unpleasant experience, if you haven’t had the experience of having one), the lady with the magic ultrasound wand kept saying, “Hm,” and taking pictures. I asked her if she had seen anything that wasn’t supposed to be there, and she said she couldn’t say — the doctor would have to evaluate the results. (How reassuring!) I asked her if there were fibroids, and she, kindly, said no.
I brought my CD of the inside of my pelvis, provided by Virginia Hospital Center, to my OB. I had a dermoid tumor (totally harmless) on my left ovary (which I actually knew about through my ultrasounds with the Sam inside), but it had grown to twice its size (not huge, but a few inches of weirdness). My right ovary and parts of my uterus showed calcifications, one of the indicators of endometrial growth. The doctor said he’d schedule me for surgery whenever I wanted. Laparoscopic surgery. Didn’t sound too bad.
I asked my doctor what the recovery time would be, and in his typically positive and unassuming manner, he said, “Oh, no more than one day, my lady. You can return to work the next day if you want.”
I should say this in bold: if your doctor every tells you this about abdominal laparoscopic surgery, he is wrong. It’s not as major as other abdominal surgery — like a c-section — since the openings are tiny, and the surgery is done with a small scope. However, the surgeon fills you up with dry air and pokes around in your innards. The air does something to your diaphragm muscles, and it fills you with pain and rage. According to an article on pelvic laparoscopy, “Some people feel neck and shoulder pain for several days after a laparoscopy as the carbon dioxide gas irritates the diaphragm, a pain which is felt in the shoulder.” Gee, you can say that again.
I scheduled surgery in February, shortly after my thirtieth birthday. I was a little scared going in. But it was okay. Eric was with me when I wore my weird little robe and starved all day waiting for the doctor to get done with his other patients. When they finally wheeled me away and put the ice cold, make-you-forget-and-totally-high medication in my arm, I was ready to be done with all of the crap mentioned above. I was happy. I remember saying to the doctor and the residents looking over me, “Gee, this must be a weird job. You guys come and do surgery on people every day, huh? That’s weird.” I remember them being nice about my random commentary, but I don’t remember what they said.
When I woke up, I puked. My whole body felt like it had been run over by a truck while being stabbed. They immediately gave me two Percocet, which probably made me puke again when I went to the recovery room, and chuck again when we arrived home. Exhausted, I ate a chocolate chip cookie, and I went to bed. The next few days were filled with Law and Order: SVU and a Percocet haze. That would have been fine and dandy except for the pain and swelling that plagued me. Right before I was to return to work, my internal sutures popped, putting me back to that painful place I’d almost escaped.
Little by little, I healed — but not without feeling that there was something broken in my body. I can’t be sure, but I suspect the endometriosis found on my right ovary, and the tumor on my left, were causing me not to ovulate quite properly. I checked for ovulation with Wondfo One Step Ovulation (LH) Test Strips, 50-Count, so I know for sure that an egg was being released each month — I’m just not sure it made it where it was supposed to go, or if the environment of my uterus was just hostile. Now, many women with endo get pregnant just fine, but I’ll always have to know that it might be harder for me. After surgery, I was put on birth control again to let my ovaries heal. I still feel twinges of pain in each ovary at random times, and I just don’t know what it means.
I’ve come to peace with my body. I was angry at it for a long time. Just before I was diagnosed with endo, I had shingles, another blow to the old immune system. I had a bad attitude about my body, and I was pretty disgusted with it. I struggled for months with hating the vessel that failed me and hurt me. It took my brain a lot of persuasion, but I am again at peace. I know it’s what I’ve got, and it gave me a damn beautiful son. Sometimes, when I am driving in my car or sitting by myself somewhere, I thank my body and the universe for blessing me so fully. Damn the endometriosis — I’m a woman who has it all.
I take a regimen of evening primrose oil, 1300Mg and borage oil 1300mg, 60 Softgels to give my body GLA, a fatty acid that can block cramp-causing prostaglandins and reduce inflammation. I also take a high quality fish oil pill, which can also help the inflammatory cells that can make endometriosis flair up. In the week before my cycle, I drink Yogi Woman’s Moon Cycle Tea. I’m not sure if any of it is helping, since birth control fools my body into not producing extra endometria and depositing it on my ovaries. (Since it reduces flow in general, it helps the growth not get out of control.)
I don’t know what happens from here. I know for sure that I will always have endometriosis. It doesn’t just stop, and some women have to have multiple surgeries. Is it life-threatening? No, but it can be debilitating if left untreated, and it can cause infertility. Like many other issues that women have with their reproductive systems, endometriosis is left untouched and largely unexplored by the medical community. When you look up endo in the internets, you’ll find over and over that no one knows why it is caused, and there are few cures, besides endometrial ablation or hysterectomy. Often, endometriosis is left undiagnosed and unaddressed, leaving its victims to suffer in silence. I urge you — if you read this and see symptoms here that reflect what happens to you — see a doctor, and check out what can be done. The surgery sucks, y’all, but it doesn’t suck as much as endometriosis. Get it tended to. It’s the best thing you can do for your own, very beautiful body.
Sam happened magically. Or naturally. It just seems like magically when I think about it. Around the time the boy turned one, we started trying to have another little person. It just didn’t happen. We were not trying long enough to declare secondary infertility or get depressed about the absence of a second pregnancy. I did get checked out, and there were some completely whacked out things about my system. I got surgery (that’s a whole ‘nother post), got on medicine, and since then, we’ve been taking an extended break from trying. We’ve just been focused on Sam the Mule, which is really a pretty wonderful thing. He’s a spirited child (again, a whole ‘nother post), so it’s been pretty great for the whole family that he’s had the lime light only on him for the past two years. Having gotten to know the boy better, I can say with some certainty that he would have clocked a newborn at my breast right on the head. Alternatively, he might have tried to bite an arm or toe off. Depending on his mood, he may have smothered a new little being with too much love. We’re comfortable with our family unit as it is, and we’re very comfortable with Sam being an older Older Sibling.
Along the way, though, I picked up some knowledge. For those of you who know me well, you may remember that I am an obsessive researcher. Obsession and memorization are among my most notable personality traits. I also like to be a know-it-all and proselytize about all of my amazing knowledge. This is clearly the main reason I have a blog.
During the months we were trying for another pregnancy, I did some pretty helpful field research about naturally increasing fertility. I had a whole regimen of supplements in a nice little pill box, and some of them did assist me. Some of them were a bit questionable, but harmless. Some were delicious, if you like celery. Herein, I shall report my findings for your pleasure and perhaps your use.
First, it’s necessary to figure out why you’re having a bit of difficulty getting a bun in the oven. This is worth a trip to a good OBGYN. He or she may be able to diagnose you with some of the more common causes of infertility: PCOS, endometriosis, dermoid cysts, ovarian cysts, anovulatory cycles, short luteal phase, or some other such mumbo jumbo going on with your body that causes you to get antsy and angry at your uterus. Don’t try to guess what is wrong — just go. Keep in mind that it’s quite normal for folks to try for six months or so, or even a year or so if you are over 30. That can cause major unhappiness, but still, it’s normal.
Here are the overall bits of advice that any doctor, midwife, nurse practitioner, chiropractor, or nutritionist will agree on:
1. Eat healthy. Michael Pollan says, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” For those of you who know me well, you may wonder if I’m practicing what I’m preaching. I eat a lot of pasta and bread, and I cover it in cheese. This is likely not the best fertility diet. For your ute to work well, you have to have your body the best condition possible. So, the incorporation of lots of green things, lots of unprocessed and delightfully fresh foods, and yummy seasonal and local treats is important. Is it proven that eating broccoli and grapes will get you pregnant? Findings are mixed. However, it won’t hurt you, and it will quite likely help you, your mood, and your belly.
2. Exercise. Duh. It will help, it won’t hurt. If we can readapt Pollan’s motto on food, here it is: “Exercise. Not too much. But just enough.” If you are too too skinny and exercising too too much, you may have anovulatory cycles. Your body may think you are starving, and so it won’t produce eggs. When it does produce eggs, they might not be so healthy. So exercise moderately, eat healthy fats, and don’t stray towards the bottom of your BMI range.
3. If you are overweight, lose weight. I like my women curvy. Too curvy can unfortunately make you have anovulatory cycles. Losing 10-15 pounds can change this almost overnight. I can’t find the exact source but if you google, “Lose weight to increase fertility,” you’ll see that over 3 million results appear. Google is never wrong.
4. Be happy. Stress can cause all manner of ills in your body. It follows that you may not be able to get knocked up if you are completely overworked, overwrought, or totally stressed out all the time. Figure out what you need, and go get it. I recommend keeping a journal, taking a walk, or sleeping in. You may opt for talking to a therapist if stress is completely overwhelming you. It can’t hurt.
As for supplements, it’s pretty clear that some things can help. There is a lot of crazy crap on the internet, so don’t believe everything you read. That means that if you are interested in taking a supplement, research it well, look at medical studies, and figure out when and how you should take it. For instance, some supplements should only be taken in the two weeks before ovulation, and not after. This is because they may cause cramping or uterine spasms, increasing the likelihood of a miscarriage. (Red raspberry leaf and evening primrose oil fall into this category).
First — and I must repeat this — go to your doctor, figure out if you are having an issue with fertility, and what that issue might be. A lot of these supplements are harmless, but some could mess with your hormones in a way you don’t like. So read my snippets of advice, then do some research for yourself, and for heaven’s sake, go to the doc! I didn’t include everything here, but these are some popular supplements you might want to look into.
1. Get a damn fine vitamin. My OB always reminds me to take a prenatal vitamin, but I am lazy and cheap, and I don’t like the giant bottle of Costco vitamins I’ve had on my counter for the past year. So I take Sam’s gummy vitamins. Do as I say, readers, not as I do. Buy a high quality prenatal that is easy on the stomach. I used the Rainbow Light Just Once Prenatal One Multivitamin, 150 tablets, and I loved them. They are just once a day, unlike some other high quality vitamins. They are also easy on sensitive stomachs. If you love the idea of whole food vitamins, check out the New Chapter Perfect Prenatal, 192 Count. I’ve always wanted to try them, but they look a bit hurty for the wallet at three times a day.
2. Invest in a high quality fish oil or DHA/EPA pill. Fish oil is important for your heart, your cholesterol, your skin, your hair, and, quite likely, your fertility. According to the Infertility Awareness Association of Canada, “One study on fish oil and other omega-3 fatty acid food sources (pumpkin seeds, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds) showed improved circulation to the uterus and appeared to increase pregnancy rates for women dealing with infertility.” If you are vegetarian or vegan, you will want to stay away from fish oil. So check out Deva Nutrition Deva Vegan DHA-EPA, 90 Count. I eat the fishes, so I go with Costco fish oil pills with the anti-burp enteric coating: Kirkland Signature Enteric Coated Fish Oil Omega 3 1200 MG Fish Oil, 684 MG of Omega 3 Fatty Acids, 180 softgels. When I was pregnant, I went with the super high quality Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Formula, 180-Count. Either way, you want to take one 1000-1200 mg pill twice a day. Again, it can’t hurt. Even if it’s not proven, it can only help.
3. Vitamin B6 is proven to help luteal phase defects. (Having a luteal phase that is too short can result in early miscarriages, as your body starts your menstrual cycle up before the egg has implanted. Totally not cool.) B6 can also increase cervical mucus, which is essential for conception. Get a great B6 supplement, and take it! It cannot hurt you! Source Naturals Vitamin B-6, 50mg, 250 Tablets.
4. Evening primrose oil is another supplement recommended for fertility. Like DHA and EPA, it increases circulation to your uterus. If you have scant cervical mucus, it can also increase your cervical mucus, which is essential for getting pregnant. (It actually does do this! If you have this issue, also drink tons of water.) Only take this supplement during the first 10-14 days of your cycle, as it can cause cramping and delay or interfere with implantation. 2000 mg per day is the recommended dosage of this wonderful oil. Look on Amazon for a high quality evening primrose oil supplement to include in your routine: NOW Foods Evening Primrose Oil 500mg, 100 Softgels,.
5. Vitex is the next big gun in supplements. Vitex is recommended to women who have irregular cycles or issues with ovulation, as it can regulate levels of prolactin and progesterone. It is supposed to regulate cycles, and it can also help women who do not ovulate to ovulate and produce healthy eggs. Studies on Vitex have mostly been inconclusive, but in my trolling of TTC forums, a lot of women who used it ended up ovulating and pregnant within a couple of months of going on Vitex. Check it out here: Nature’s Way – Vitex Fruit, 400 mg, 100 capsules.
6. Red raspberry leaf is frequently recommended to women with all manner of hormonal issues. It is supposed to provide essential nutrients, which are said to increase the health and thickness of your uterine lining. No studies have conclusively proven this effect, but many women swear by it. This supplement is particularly helpful if you have had early losses. Early losses (before 8 weeks or so) can be linked to having insubstantial uterine lining to support implantation. This supplement is also only recommended during the first ten to fourteen days of your cycle. There have not been conclusive studies on red raspberry leaf, but it won’t hurt you. Here is the RRL I was using: Nature’s Way Red Raspberry Leaves , 480 mg, 100 Capsules.
7. Dong quai is a Chinese herb that is related to celery. In tea, it actually does indeed taste very celery-like. Dong quai is reputed to regulate your estrogen production. I drink it in Yogi Woman’s Moon Cycle Tea to … regulate my hormones, I guess? I got it for PMDD symptoms. I have no reports except that it tastes delicious. Here it is in pill form: Nature’s Way Dong Quai Root , 565 mg, 50 Capsules.
8. Maca has not been proven to assist women in getting pregnant, but it’s one of those herbs that, again, many women swear by. Maca is said to regulate hormones in both men and women, which can be beneficial to those who have irregular cycles or for those who have been diagnosed with conditions like endometriosis or PCOS, which upset the natural balance of hormones in the body. A root common to South America, it is gaining popularity in the US as a miracle supplement similar to acai. This supplement is definitely worth a try for those with irregular cycles, as it is unlikely to do any harm to the body. You can get it in powder form (which is not supposed to taste good) or pill form: NOW Foods Maca 500mg, 250 Capsules.
9. Coenzyme-Q10 (CoQ10) is a found in every cell in our bodies, and it is partly responsible for cell regeneration. Studies have found that CoQ10 can assist in rejuvenation of eggs in women who have unhealthy or weak eggs. Since eggs are single cells, I must say this makes sense. Again, this is one that doesn’t hurt to take. It’s supposed to help prevent heart attacks, lower cholesterol, and even increase your lifespan. Recommended! Doctor’s Best High Absorption Coq10 w/ BioPerine (100 mg), 120 Soft gels is available here.
10. Inositol is another supplement that can help restore egg quality. Inositol has also been shown to increase peak progesterone, which is extremely helpful for women with PCOS or low progesterone in general. Low progesterone can result in early losses or prevention of implantation, so this can be a helpful supplement for anyone suffering from those issues. Look for it here: Twinlab Inositol Caps 500mg, 100 Capsules (Pack of 3).
11. Soy-isoflavones is another supplement that is important for the regulation of estrogen. Don’t take this without first having a conversation with your doctor, as you don’t want to mess up your estrogen levels before or during pregnancy. However, this supplement has been shown to assist in implantation. If you have an issue with early losses, ask your doctor if this might be a good supplement for you. Others swear that this is “nature’s Clomid” (Clomid is a drug that helps women ovulate). Check it out here: Spring Valley Dietary Supplement Soy Isoflavones.
12. False unicorn root (mostly I included this one because of the name) is supposed to regulate hormones and increase cervical mucus production. Some reviews say this is true. However, I would recommend taking the tried and true evening primrose oil, and skip this supplement since it’s a repeat of the same shiz that EPO does.
13. Cinnamon is great for lowering insulin resistance, which can be a problem for women with PCOS. It is also likely to prevent extremely heavy periods, which can worsen endometriosis. Check this link out for more information. Look towards buying cinnamon in bulk at Amazon: Nature’s Bounty Cinnamon 1000mg, 100 Capsules (Pack of 3).
14. NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine) has been proven to help women with PCOS or with unexplained infertility. This drug, often used in combination with Clomid, can help women ovulate. Here it is on Amazon: NOW Foods Nac-Acetyl Cysteine 600mg, 100 Vcaps. This is, again, a supplement that should be discussed with a doctor.
15. Royal jelly, or bee pollen, is recommended for egg quality as well. It is supposed to help the body regulate hormones and produce healthy eggs that are ready for implantation. Studies on this supplement are inconclusive, so ask your doctor what he or she thinks. Many acupuncturists recommend this supplement for fertility. If you are interested in checking it out, look here: Durham’s Queen’s Delight (Royal Jelly 1000mg, Propolis 600mg, Beepollen 1500mg) in 3 Daily Capsules.
Just in case you don’t believe me, here is an awesome article that lists some of the studies done on these supplements and herbs.
Let me know if you’ve had any experience with these supplements, or if you know of anything else that can be added to the list!
I’ve been freelancing since July, but I haven’t touched this blog since June. Well, here I am again, a freelance mom.
I write, I write, I write. After that, I go to my job as an adjunct professor at a local community college. I write during my lunch breaks, and I send pitches when I don’t have writing projects to do. I update syllabi after that. When I get home, I snuggle my kid, give him a bath, feed him some food, and I sit down on the couch to watch a bit of TV before I go to bed. While I’m watching TV, I write again. When I get in bed, I read for my classes. I highlight and make notes. On Fridays, I stay home with the boy and try to get him to pee on the potty. Sometimes we watch movies, and sometimes we go to the nature center and look at turtles.
I took a 40% pay cut to go part time. I have one steady freelancing client, with bigger clients in between. I remind myself that I am at the bottom of a very tall mountain, and that being a writer takes time. I am happy, though, and for the first time in my adult working life, I feel like I am headed in a direction that is exactly where I want to go. I work more, and I work harder than I ever have in my life. I am satisfied, and I know I have found work that will sustain my soul and push me to be a better person.
I decided to change my career because I had reached stagnancy at my former job. When I woke up, I waded into murk, and at the end of the day, I waded back home, with bits still stuck to me. I was weighed down, hurt, and tired because of the emotional output that my job demanded of me. I also felt like I had no room to move or grow. I can write about that more sometime, but I’m not able to just yet.
I don’t really know what I’m doing yet, and sometimes that stresses me out, but I’ve pointed myself in the right direction. I know that this is probably one of the most important decisions I have made because I made it with my son in mind. There were a lot of conversations, and there may have been a bit of crying, and there was some downloading of finance apps to see if we could actually pull this change off. My husband supported me, even though he was nervous, and the people I love have all cheered me on.
Sam doesn’t know much difference at this point. Maybe he knows that he’s home with me a little bit more — that change is probably mostly just for me right now, but it could affect him; it’s not apparent. However, I know that the change in me is the important thing, and it will continue to be important as my son grows up. I think there are some people who have assumed I switched to a part time teaching job just so I could stay home more with my child. This is not the case. It is certainly a bonus, and it has made my transition that much sweeter. The true crux of the issue is what I want to teach my son. When I started thinking about leaving my cozy job with its very nice salary and stellar benefits package, I had to ask myself a lot of questions. Did I want my kid to have a mom who trudged to work? No. Did I want my son to see a mother smiling and happy at her job? Certainly, yes. Did I want to set an example of someone who is proactive, adventurous, and positive? Yes, because those are the things I want him to be. Did I want him to see his dreams as something he could definitely accomplish? Why, yes. So, after many job applications, a lot of horrible SEO writing, and some blind pitches to companies and colleges, I made a change. It fell into place, and now it is what I do. I’m still at the bottom of that mountain, but it’s not unscalable. After my leap, it seems that nothing is impossible.
When Sam grows up, I don’t want him to shut his dreams down because they aren’t immediately tangible. I don’t want him to look at his desires and only see impossibility. I want him to see opportunities everywhere he looks, and I want him to see adventure in the choices he makes. Above all, I want him to continue to value fun and pleasure in the passions he has developed. In being a teacher and in being a writer — the two things that I love and am good at — I am setting an example for him that will last for the rest of his life.
In a book I was reading about self-esteem, the first few chapters focus keenly on the way you, the reader, were parented. If your parents were consistent, loving, and positive, then you’re likely to be a stable, self-assured person. I also heard that what you tell your kids when they’re young becomes their inner monologue. It follows that the examples you set about your chosen work will influence how your child thinks about his. When Sam’s inner monologue starts rambling about his major in college, or his decision to go to Barcelona and take photographs for a year, or his yen to travel the world and read stories to children, or his desire to paint, or make music, or do math problems like his dad — I want it to say,”Yes.” That one simple word will make all of the difference in the way he chooses to live his life, and I want it to reverberate through his brain, and his soul, and his body, and his actions. As he grows, I want to see him glow with positivity at the thought of trying something challenging, I want him to reach heights that I cannot, and I want him to be content with whomever he becomes.
I owe a lot to my own parents. They said to me over and over that I could do or be anything I wanted, and overall, they were happy with what they did for a living. This has made it possible for me to make the next leap forward in my own life. This is not a part-time job that I am taking so that I can spend an extra day or two a week with my kid. That’s just the bonus, as I said. This is the tender little beginning to the rest of my life. It is raw and new, and I don’t know what I am doing. I run to work with a smile, though, and I sit and write with satisfaction. I can only hope that Sam will someday know that every bit of my weird little career is completely for him. May you always be happy, my boy.
When I wrote before, I was just beginning to process being a working mom. Now I am the only mother of a young child (under 3) working at my organization. It’s a weird place to be, and often, it’s a source of internal strife.
My morning alarm clock is the sound of my toddler saying, “Wake up! Wake up! or “Get up!” or simply, “Aaahhhhhhabbbbbaaaaaaaaaaa up down! Airplane!” My limbs are limp from a dose of melatonin. Something clicked all weird in my brain over the past month or so, and I have insomnia. This makes for a slow dragging in the morning, until I’ve made my tea.
If it’s my morning, I go in, milk in hand, lift my child from his crib and into my arms. I sit down in our glider and watch my baby as he gulps, wide eyed and serious. He twirls his hair and makes contented noises as he drinks. This reminds me of when he would nurse late at night and hum, “Um, um um” as he drank. It reminds me that, even at over 30 inches tall and 30 pounds, he is still such a baby. “All done!” he trumpets. He’ll hug me for a moment, maybe let me sing, and then he has to get down quick to find his book, his trains, his elephant and run, quickly, away from me.
I struggle to get him and myself ready in the morning. I never fail to think about being home with him, and how I wouldn’t have to change out of my pajamas or force him out of his before noon. But I carry on. He fights me and sometimes he hits. I look him in the eye and tell him to say he’s sorry. “Sowy,” he says, looking away again. “Kiss?” He kisses me, and grabs for his truck.
After wrangling him into clothes and talking about his shirt — the color, and if there is a snake or a firetruck or a puppy on the front of it — we wrangle shoes on. He spreads his toes, trying to help. It does not help. By this point, I have grabbed something from my floor that looks reasonably professional, and I put it on. My hair looks weird. I never wear make up. I’m not trying to impress anyone, and I figure my husband is probably already impressed. I mean, look at this baby. We did that. That’s impressive.
I coax him out to the car. “Sam,” I say, “Let’s go outside! I bet we can see a school bus! Or the garbage truck!” Sometimes he is fooled. Other times, he remembers we are going to day care. If we are lucky, we see a bus or a dog when we get outside, and outside is exciting. If we are unlucky, the sun is too bright or the rain is too cold, and the indignity of being a toddler is simply too much. I have to hoist him into his car seat, a rabid monkey, red-faced and arching his back, all his tiny muscles straining against me, screams piercing the humid morning air. “Sam!” I say, sweating, my hair even weirder, “Let’s sing! We can listen to music! Florence and the Machine!”
“Machine! Music! Song! Music! Sooonnnggggggg…. MUUUUUSSIIIIICCCCCC!” I hustle to get the car started and I plug in my music. It starts. He goes silent for the rest of the ride, listening. Near day care, he starts to sing. “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Ooooooooooooowwaaaaaa!” He says. Tears may or may not come to my eyes.
Sam may or may not refuse to walk down the stairs to greet the other children at day care. He may or may not wail when I leave. He may or may not hold onto my legs for dear life. Drop off is a crap shoot.
I get in the car and drive to work. “Au revoir,” I call. “Au revoir, Camilla! You see, you can’t hear him crying anymore! He is playing!”
I blast “Shake it Out” on the short drive to work. Traffic is bad. I think to myself that I’m glad I don’t give a shit if the music I listen to is cool. Why did I ever care about that? I sing, badly. It is wonderful.
When I get to work, my advisee comes by my desk. She tells me that it is hard to leave her little girl at day care, and she thinks about her all the time. My advisee is funny and loud. I understand her. I tell her I will bring her extra diapers, when I remember.
When I pick Sam up from day care, he doesn’t want to leave. But in the car, we listen to music, and we sing. He watches Eric play the guitar in wonder when we arrive home. “Ditar!”
We dance in the kitchen while I am making dinner. He throws all of the food I have made from his highchair onto the floor, or feeds it to the dog. He asks for his hand to be wiped. “Hand?” he says.
When we put him to bed, he drinks milk again, contented, hungry, wide-eyed. He asks me to sing to him, Eric to tell him about his fire truck. We read stories. “Bed?” he says. He rolls over and goes to sleep, smiling.
When I’m talking about our favorites, I mean Sam’s and Mom and Dad’s favorites.
1. Favorite skin remedy: CJ’s BUTTer. This has been a staple of ours since Sam’s birth. I got the recommendation for this as a diaper cream, since we started out with cloth diapers. Yes, this is sold as a diaper rash cream. Yes, it is marketed as a natural cream safe for cloth diapers. It meets those qualifications — nothing is better for healing a burn rash after it’s started drying up. This handy cream is also the only thing that works for Sam’s eczema in the winter. Sam’s scaly skin has started to reappear this month, and CJ’s is the only thing that works. I put it on him at night, and in the morning he’s baby smooth again. Like magic! This miracle cream is made only of natural organic oils: shea butter, cocoa butter, lanolin, beeswax, olive oil, coconut oil and vitamin E oil.
2. Favorite book: Busy Doggies! This is a very simple book, with great pictures of real dogs. The words rhyme: “Doggies greeting, doggy eating.” And so forth. I thought it was kind of silly when my mom got it for us, but she said she couldn’t resist, and it’s been in Sam’s pile of books in his play area ever since. About a month or so ago, he started carrying the book around, “reading” it to himself, and bringing it to me and his dad to read from. Sometimes he also barks or howls at the book. He points out the dogs to me, and squeals at the pictures. Completely worth it.
3. Sam’s Favorite Toy/Seat: Radio Flyer Wagon. (Thanks to Nancy, a dear family friend). Sam likes to get in and out of his wagon. He likes to sit in it to watch Sesame Street. He likes to push it around and ride in it in the yard. It’s one of the best gifts we received and will certainly be in use for years to come.
Since it’s my bed time, I’m going to end my post here. I’ll post a few favorites each month, with links and hopefully some more pictures. When I asked my husband to weigh in on Sam’s favorite he said: his wagon, and running around in the yard (he sure does love those leaves).
I’m sitting here in the quiet of our basement, watching old episodes of Law and Order SVU while Eric is working. In general, this is what I do when Sam is napping on Saturdays and Sundays. It gives me a bit of quiet space. Later, we will probably all go to lunch. When Sam is taking his second nap, I will attempt to fold laundry and write a to-do list for my job for this week. After that, we’ll make dinner together and begin the process of putting Sam to bed. Somewhere in there, we’ll go for a walk, or to the park, or just run around in the backyard.
Our weekends are mundane, but they are the best weekends of my life. The weekends are also easy on Sam. He sleeps well, gets to come and sit in a lap whenever he needs to, and has the attention of both of his parents.
Tomorrow morning, we will start his week again. He will wake up, hopefully, after 5AM. It’s Eric’s day tomorrow, so he will get up with Sam right away, feed him a bottle and change his diaper. I will sleep in until 6AM, and then get myself ready while watching Sam go in and out of my closet and open and close the door, over and over, while trying to get me to look at him. I will not have time to fix my hair, put on make-up or eat breakfast. I have a timeline of getting Sam to day care right at 7:30AM, and he needs my attention for that hour and a half. I will hurriedly put on clothes, put in contacts, wash my face and brush my teeth. For a few minutes tomorrow morning, I will get to read a book with Sam, or watch an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba, or just watch him get in and out of his wagon. I will feel rushed and anxious, but will try to enjoy my little daily time with my son. He will not get his morning nap, and may not nap at day care. I’ll come home to a very cranky little man instead of the burbling cuddle bug I get on weekends.
I often feel like I am not doing a good job as a mom, even though intellectually, I know I am. On the other end of that, I often don’t feel like I am doing a good job at work either. I get into work at 8:30, usually tired, and I eat breakfast. I leave by 4:30, often with work still left to do at home, so that I can see my child before he goes to bed between 6 and 7PM.
While I’m at work though, I might find out that one of the program’s graduates has gotten a scholarship to college, or a job that pays well and has room for growth. I might get assigned to an incredible project or have the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation with one of my advisees. In bits and pieces, I see that I work at a place that makes a difference in the lives of many young men and women who pass through our doors. I often leave work with a sense of accomplishment and come in the morning with a strong sense of purpose. When I was away on maternity leave, I missed my job, and I missed that part of who I am.
I cannot imagine being a working mom at a job I don’t love, or with coworkers I dislike. To do that would be agonizing — and I feel lucky that I am not one of many, many women who have to go in day after day, missing their little one and not being rewarded by the work that they do. I am also a woman who needs meaningful work — if I were at home, I would be writing, sewing, or cooking in the pockets of time that Sam would allow. My job fills that part of me, keeps my brain working at a different level, and allows me space to collaborate with other adults on work that I enjoy.
To be a mother and work at a wonderful job — it sounds like I am quite lucky in both ways. I remain thankful for these things. Everyday I say thanks for a healthy, thriving child and a good job. However, I feel pulled in both directions, a constant tug. On days I stay home with a sick baby, I know I’m doing the right thing as a mother, but know that I will be scrambling at work the next day. When I return to work, I usually keep thinking to myself that I should be home. That Sam will not be sleeping like he should at day care, and that he’ll be missing me, and he won’t feel well when he gets home. I know I shouldn’t be thinking this last one, but I do — that someone else is raising him for me. (Eric points out that this is partially true, and okay, since we have the very best day care provider in the area. Very few kids these days — or kids in any lifetime — have been raised solely by their parents.)
I am able to talk myself down from a lot of these thoughts. It takes practice to refocus, but I can nowadays, and it is necessary for my well-being at home and at work. It’s still a daily occurrence — that draw towards home and child — and it’s something I know I am not alone in experiencing. I think some of this feeling will always weigh on me, particularly when my child, or children, are young. I have to recognize that there is always a pull in life, and the best I can do is respond rationally, mete out my time and give myself credit for doing the things that I feel are right for my family and for my work.
Today you are one year old. That means that exactly one year ago, I was holding you for the first time, watching you sleep for the first time, nursing you for the first time, and kissing your sweet baby hair on the top of your sweet head for the very first time. Your daddy held you for the first time, and stayed up with you for the very first time. And we changed your tiny diaper together, for the very first time. You were very big, and very healthy, and absolutely perfect in every way. I never had to worry about you being too small, or too frail, or having any condition that caused us worry. Just about every day, I thank my lucky stars that you are here, and you are real, and you are healthy and beautiful.
Ever since I had you, I think a lot about all of the women and men out there in the world who have lost children — before birth or after. I know that it’s a little bit morbid to think this way, but I can’t help it. I think about how dark my world would be without you, now that you have entered it, and I wonder how so many parents who have lost so much can survive. I suppose it is the nature of the human spirit to push forward, but still, I say a prayer for all the children lost, and I try to remember how special and miraculous you are in every moment that I spend with you.
This has been a special year for me and your father. I can say for myself that I now feel like a woman instead of a girl now — marriage, home ownership and a really amazing full time job were important steps along the way — but you make me feel grown. I don’t know how to explain that in concrete terms. After all, I don’t do a lot of adult things — like clean my house or get regular car washes. I certainly struggle with organization day to day, and I sometimes pay bills too late. Those are things my parents never struggled with, and therefore, they are the things that I associate with adulthood. I also still want to play and travel, and watch ridiculous television — my maturity level in those ways has not changed. I guess it is that you make me feel like there is something greater in my life than just me. There is a person that needs me for food and clothing and warmth and love. There is a person who will need me for homework and music lessons and going to the playground. Because of that, I feel more important and meaningful in this world than I ever did before I met you.
People find meaning in life in many different places. For some it is their job. For others, it is their passion for music or art (or accounting? perhaps?). For me, it is you. You inspire me to be more patient with myself, to love myself more, and to be positive even when it feels that I cannot or I should not be. I want to be a role model for you, as you grow up and find out who you want to be.
Today was a sad day in some ways. I cried several times sitting at my desk at work, thinking about how you’re such a little man now. Where did my baby go? He’s walking now, and picking up the remote and talking into it like a phone. Here’s the secret I have to remember; you’ll always be my baby. Sam, even when you’re ten years old and it’s really not cool to have such a sappy mom, you’ll be my fat little baby. You’ll be my baby all the days of your life, my beautiful little baby.
Welcome to the Savvy Mom Space
I’m a liberal feminist that believes that liberal, feminist ideals should gel with embracing your gender and motherhood (if that’s what you feel like doing). I support all kinds of moms and dads and parents. Oh and, although I totally love that natural vibe and not harming the environment, I supplement my organic milk and fresh fruits and veggies with the occasional Twix, the frequent Oreo, and the daily Coke Zero. I’m opinionated, not easily offended, and a loudmouth in person and on the internet. I am what I am. Welcome.