New Tools in My Toolbox

These Are the Best Things I’ve Discovered to Help Me Live with More Intention, Precision and Vision in 2020.

Grandfather's Tools

 

It’s only February and I’m already exhausted in 2020.

I want more naps.  I need to cut back on my caffeine dependency.  And I needed to hire a life coach who works specifically with new moms to hep me get my life back on track after my first year in a postpartum fog.

There are certain things missing from my life that once gave me endless energy and laser sharp focus before baby.  I exercised a lot.  I was a runner, hiker, golfer, tennis player, and occasional yoga student.

Now-a-days, to maintain energy, I drink a lot of water and take supplements.  I chase after a toddler.  I consider the steps I take when grocery shopping to be an equivalent to the first mile a marathoner runs.  I take it one step at a time.  And I often break off a small piece of a 75+% dark chocolate bar stashed in my tea cup cabinet, an indulgence and medicine all wrapped into one bittersweet energy boost.

I found my life coach on one of my favorite sites – Motherly.  Her business is called Mother Nurture.   My intuition pushed me to write to MN owner, Katelyn Denning.  We each have a son born a couple weeks apart (January babes) and I just felt like this woman had the tools I needed to help me get my energy back, to help me focus and to help me get things done.

After just one session with Katelyn I already feel better!  I have hope.  I have vision.  And possibly a renewed sense of self appreciation needed to actually put my vision into action and fruition.

I’m learning all kinds of new things from a new mom lens.  I think [hope] it’s making me a better person.  I have found some short cuts and detours and little breaks of inspiration that keep me going and help me to stay focused and energized – tools that I either didn’t have or didn’t use in my toolbox until now.

I’m happy to share them here.

TIME TO USE A TIMER.
What a revelation!  My life coach gave me a few assignments to work on with the instruction to use a timer to keep me on track [and also to prevent me from not using my time wisely – getting distracted or lost in thought].  Having a timer made me accountable for my time!  Imagine that!  I now use a timer on my phone for all kinds of projects and assignments I’m working on, as well as other activities that can suck up time like using social media.  I’m saving time, reclaiming time and owning my time!

MAKE TIME FOR MEDITATION WHENEVER/WHEREVER YOU CAN.
Mindfulness, mindfulness, mindfulness.  It’s been one of the top buzz words for over a decade.  It’s been named “word of the year” off and on since 2014.  It’s even been considered by the New York Times as having a “muddied meaning” (April 2015).  Still you find mindfulness everywhere – on coffee mugs, water bottles, probably even on shampoo bottles.  There is something to the concept of quieting the mind in this day and age of mental noise and mindlessness.  Gurus lecture about it on podcasts and Tedtalks.  It promises something healing, revitalizing, and grounding.  Personally, I have never had much success at quieting the neurotic voice in my head!  In yoga classes I would be anxiously sorting through too many to do lists, re-hashing conversations, and trying not to forget things that aren’t on my to do lists.  I would try to meditate at home but then the cat would sit on me or I’d get the giggles.  Since I now have a baby in my home, I have found myself in these woozy, subconscious, thoughtless moments that I have come to love.  I’m talking about the quiet time when I’m nursing my son.  He often dozes off and I often space out.  I think of nothing.  I’m not asleep, but I’m not awake either.  I just am.  I am quiet and happy and at peace with this sweet babe nestled into me.  I never contemplated the quieted mind that came about with nursing as anything other than checking out from sleep deprivation and new-momness.  I allowed myself to be tired and to relax into this time.  There was nothing else to be done while I was nursing.  The function of feeding my child took over.  It’s a gift.  It is the consummate lesson of letting go and being present.  Nursing, for me, is meditation.  And in emptying my mind in these moments, I am able to be more mindful when I need to come back to whatever else is going on.

FINDING EXERCISE IN THE MOST UNCOMMON PLACES.
This kind of feels like cheating, but it’s not!  I have found ways to be present with my son while simultaneously exercising some much needed self-care.   I used to work out a lot.  I don’t work out at all anymore.  I know this is just part of my transition from pre-baby self to mama self.  So I’m being gentle and kind with myself.  Instead of running, I move around the house like a rabid racoon putting stuff away, cleaning up after my toddler eats, running up and down the basement stairs to do laundry, etc.  One of my favorite new mom exercises is setting myself into yoga positions while my son plays with his favorite non-plastic toys (shout out to Melissa & Doug and Hape!).  But, yeah, he has some classic plastic ones, too.  Anyway.  Back to me.  My favorite yoga position while also playing with my lil boy is… shavasana, or corpse pose.  Yup.  It still counts.

LIGHT CANDLES.
I was never really all that into candles in my pre-baby life.  But now I light up for all kinds of mom-sense nonsense.  Doesn’t matter.  It makes me feel better.  It even helps to energize me.  I love clean, sustainable, aromatherapy candles that smell like real things – not artificial chemical toxins.  Wellness candles are my jam.  I already wrote about my “Grounded” candle a couple posts back.  I light it up every time I need to feel my feet on the ground, to feel like I am still able to walk about without falling off the face of the earth – because, let me tell you, sometimes as a new mom I feel like I could fall off at any moment and drift off into a black hole.  So burning a fresh, clean candle that has grounding properties within it really, really helps.

PODCASTS & PLAYLISTS & BLOGS, OH MY!
Okay, it’s not water, or exercise or crack cocaine.  But I really do get energized by certain media material.  I’m a non-news junkie!  I love new mom and parenting podcasts.  Right now I’m listening to Mom and Dad Are Fighting on Slate.  I listen to a lot of moms talk about mom stuff on TED Talks.  I really like the suggested list of best TED Talks for mothers on fatherly.com.  Reading various parenting blogs has been a life saver – Scary Mommy is saved as one of my top favorites.  And I listen to a bunch of different playlists on YouTube.  I just got bored with Pandora.  Right now I’m listening to a Girl Power playlist with the likes of Katy Perry, Alicia Keys, Lizzo, Lady Gaga.  You know the songs.  This Girl is a Firecracker on Fire, Good as Hell, and She was Born This Way!   Whatever.  This playlist gets me fired up.

BE BOLD & LEARN NEW TRICKS.
I’m not the most tech savvy person.  But I really want to learn how to do certain things.  Sometimes I can teach myself how to use a new app and I’m stunned at the results.  Proud of myself!  I wouldn’t say I have mastered Canva – but I make some pretty cool marketing posts for Instagram, in particular, using this creative app.  I love it.  I have a TikTok account but I still don’t get it.  I set up an app to manage my nanny’s payroll – Nanny Pay Advisor – and I feel like a real boss!  I discovered Otter and now record interviews and conversations I want to save and even transcribe!  This has been a revelation!  I will showcase my Otter skills in an upcoming post about breastfeeding after six months – so stay tuned!

This is just the beginning.  I’m learning how to be a better version of me, the new me, the new mom me.  And I’m starting to feel pretty good about myself again – more energized, more clear!

I’d love to hear how other moms are getting their groove back, evolving and getting re-energized!

 

 

The New Mama Re-Set: Managing the major life transition after baby

Tired woman sleeping on the table in the kitchen at breakfast. Trying to drink morning coffee

My therapist once told me there’s a difference between failure and fear of failure.

Before baby my professional life was challenging, yet rewarding.  But now with baby in tow, being a mompreneur of a wine brand feels like I’m a failure with a capital F.  I dropped the ball on my business for the entire first half of last year.   I just couldn’t…

By the fourth quarter  I was barely getting through my company’s wine grape harvest, let alone running the business operations.  It didn’t seem right bringing a baby to a wine production facility with busy forklifts, loud machinery,  CO2 and SO2 in the mix.  It was crazy difficult for me each day I arrived at the winery with my baby.  Even with my entourage of nanny, mother, and trusty hired cellar hand I was overwhelmed and anxious.

My anxiety ran the gamut from caring for my baby; [not] caring for myself; failing my child; failing by business; experiencing an identity crisis; not caring about my work anymore; contemplating a business shut down; and feeling exhausted, depleted and incapable of the work I accomplished before I was a mother.

I knew I needed to address these feelings.  I wanted to feel like I was in control again.  I wanted to feel like I got this!  I wanted to feel motivated, inspired and excited by my
work again.  I just didn’t know how to be me anymore.

So I leaned into a bunch of books and resources.  I literally had an Amazon Prime binge and Google overdose.  But here’s what I initially found in my search for the answers to my new mama problems:

Breathe Mama Breathe:  5 Minute Mindfulness for Busy Moms by Shonda Moralis, MSW, LCSW

The Empowered Mama:  How to Reclaim Your Time and Yourself While Raising a Happy, Healthy Family by Lisa Druxman, Founder of Fit4Mom

Self-Care for Moms:  150+ Real Ways to Care for Yourself While Caring for Everyone Else by Sara Robinson, MA

Warrior Goddess Training:  Become the Woman You Are Meant to Be  by Heatherash Amara

Motherly.com

Parents Magazine, especially the Special Edition “Balancing Your Life:  Family. Career. Love. You.”

It seemed like a good start.  I pride myself in being able to reframe relatively easily.  And yet I wasn’t able to shake these feelings of inadequacy, exhaustion and anxiety.  I didn’t recognize my old badass self.  She was left behind in the delivery room – hiding from a traumatic birth.  The new me was barely getting by – a doe in headlights.

Everything I learned from my research to understand my new mama self came to the conclusion that I’m a different person now.  So, now what?

On one particularly dark wintry Pacific Northwest afternoon, just after my January birthday, I ran another Google Search about finding a life coach for new moms who work.  I came across a Motherly article entitled “If I had my way, every working mom would have a life coach” by Katelyn Denning, a regular contributor.

I cried my way through the article and followed a link to Katelyn’s website:  Mother Nurture.

“Don’t just survive motherhood.  Thrive.”

I decided it was time to commit to something bigger than a mini library of self help books for new mamas.  While I appreciated the books I selected and read – and they all helped me in some way or another – I just felt that I still couldn’t…

Until I picked up the phone with a professional.

After my initial phone consultation with Katelyn I knew that I had a real support person available to me who I would pay for three months to see me through this challenge.  This meant I would be accountable for doing the work my coach assigned.

It was time to shift from this major upset to a RESET.

I agree with Katelyn.  If I had my way, every working mom would have a life coach.

 

 

 

Not Another Mommy Blog

 

black hole with gravitational lens effect in front of bright stars  (3d illustration, Elements of this image are furnished by NASA)

This gets sorta sciency…

When I first decided to get back into blogging my intention was simple:  stoke some creative fires and recommit to a writing practice.

I never intended on writing a blog about a specific subject.  In retrospect, perhaps I should have had the discipline to be more focused with intention to draw in a larger and more dedicated audience.

Instead, my heart was elsewhere.  I wanted to cast a wider net to tackle topics that came to me at any given moment, topics I felt passionate about exploring and sharing, topics that spanned the vast range of my personal interests – art, travel, books, opera, microbiology, quantum physics and more!

I’m not a business-minded writer.  I’m not strategic about growing an audience or even getting paid via advertising – all which I am open to implementing in this, here, lil bloglet.  All in due time, I suppose.  But I wish I had more energy to run my blog like a business.  I wish I had more stamina to write!

I mean, I initially set out to write a few times a week.  It seemed like a good plan without over-committing myself to another responsibility alongside running my business, serving on a non-profit board, and being a new wife.

Then the baby arrived.

Days turned into a few weeks.  Weeks turned into a few months.  I have barely written a word.  My wide net of interesting things to write about quickly shrunk to one thing – being a new mom.

Lately I’ve been in deep with things I had never really thought about before giving birth, or, in some cases I never even knew existed.

The list includes:  the fourth trimester, placenta encapsulation, c-section recovery, diastasis, hip injury during labor, pelvic floor restoration, Mayan abdominal massage, postpartum depression, postpartum hair loss, postpartum pain, postpartum anemia, sleep deprivation, thrush, vasospasms, breast engorgement, breastfeeding pain, baby’s four month sleep regression, sleep training, teething, cradle cap, baby eczema, baby’s growth phases, and so on.  Yes.  There really is more.  A lot more.  No.  I’m not joking.

So it seems I’m writing a “mommy blog”.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  I read many of them!  But it’s not like I’m doing independent research, offering product ratings or creating any new material that hasn’t already been perfectly explored and shared online.  The mommy blogosphere does not need my additional three cents worth.

Then again I find community and normalcy in reading about different perspectives and experiences – because they (pediatricians, experts, moms, etc.) always say every pregnancy is different, every birth is different, every baby is different, every mother is different.  There are no two exact experiences with having a baby.  There is room for more consideration and contemplation.

So here I am in it.  Really in the trenches of it.  I am in awe and overwhelmed at the same time, all of the time!  I am experiencing the phenomenon called “mommy brain”.  I have a difficult time in conversations – especially when it comes to staying focused and remembering things.  I used to be an eloquent speaker and I took pride in my communication skills, especially regarding my work as a winemaker.

I recently conducted a private consumer tasting with my wines and I felt like a bumbling fool.  It was embarrassing.  I told my husband that was it.  No more pubic speaking for me until I get my brain back.  Then the fear sunk in.  What if I never get my brain back?!?!

I read a lot of blogs about new mothers creating a balanced life – especially those who are working moms.  After reading these blogs I’m typically reduced to tears.  Here’s why…

Something strange happened to me after I had the baby.  I lost all motivation to work.  I realize this is not atypical for a new mom.

I struggled with my relationship with my wine business.  The business became this chasm or void – or, maybe a black hole.  I intuitively dodged the event horizon so as not to get sucked in.  Because once you’re sucked into a black hole – it’s over.  The old theory was that once an object passes through the event horizon, then gravity pulls and stretches the object like a strand of spaghetti until it disintegrates.  Physicists have since revised that theory when they discovered you’ll burn to a crisp just by going through the event horizon.  So never mind gravity’s pull inside of a black hole.  You’re toast just from approaching it.

I no longer had the energy, desire or passion to run my business.  It was like I was a dying star:  my core was running out of hydrogen fuel, contracting under the weight of gravity.  My former business owner self had nearly collapsed.  I had no idea how to save my little star.

It feels horrible to admit this out loud and publicly.  But it’s also a huge relief.

Part of my departure from writing stemmed from the same lack of interest and motivation I had toward my business.  I’m sure part of it was because I was overwhelmed and maybe even a bit depressed.

It feels worse to admit that out loud and publicly.

I thought I was supposed to feel magical and peacefully content as a new mom – like a spritely mother goddess.  At moments, it does feel that way.  But many moments are quite different.

It’s difficult to navigate the new space of motherhood.  It’s difficult when you now orbit a tiny human being.  It’s difficult to recognize yourself or to understand your former self in light of this new space.  It’s difficult to be multi-dimensional – occupying two or more very important and encompassing spaces at the same time.

Time is relative.  And yet it slips away dangerously fast, so fast, in fact, that your ever changing baby makes you sometimes feel like you’re in a different galaxy overseeing a little alien creature that undergoes a swift and constant metamorphosis.  Your life begins to feel like science fiction.

I mean, pregnancy makes you feel like an alien host!  Birth makes you feel like an alien mother.  Postpartum life makes you feel like aliens have sucked out your brain.

So how do you grasp your new place in space, in time, in reality?

With a little light, love and laughter.  Right??

Right after my baby was born I watched and enjoyed a couple of pregnant comedians doing stand-up specials.  Ali Wong and Amy Schumer had me in stitches over pregnancy and new mom subject material – from mom brain and breastfeeding  to baby taking over your life.  If you don’t laugh about it you’ll cry.

If comedians tried to tackle this subject material on stage with fully pregnant bodies ten years ago they would have been shut down.  Today it works.  Women are getting more and more opportunities to speak up.  We’re normalizing the very things that had been open for judgment or shut down for representing the messiness of womanhood – things like menstruation, childbirth, breastfeeding, c-sections, advanced age pregnancy, birth control or postpartum depression.

But you can’t always laugh, or love, or find light in the difficult stuff.  When you are deep in it you do your best to survive – mostly on limited sleep.

Addressing the new mom role is important.  While it is a different experience for every woman it is still full of new feelings, emotions, judgements, ideas and realities.  And a gentle understanding needs to prevail when speaking about postpartum hormones, baby weight and body image, “baby brain”, depression and so on.   Especially when talking to a new mom.  Mommy shaming needs to stop and support needs to prevail.

I also want to share my experience regarding family and friends who have tried to offer up unsolicited advice – and keep in mind not every woman minds unsolicited advice.  Throw in hormones, sleep deprivation and the struggle to find your own way on your own terms – well, you might experience this differently than prior to baby.

I am not the kind of new mom that does well with others posturing their “expertise” and advice without my asking for it.  Personally, I think it’s important to give a new mom her space to figure out her new role and her child.  Boundaries should always be respected!  This can be especially challenging with parents and in-laws who are excited to be grandparents but might forget that they already had their turn to parent – it’s now the new mom’s turn.

For me, the general rule for my tribe is to wait to be asked for help or advice and to not take things personally.  Friends and family shouldn’t be offended if they’re not asked for help or advice.  Not to be disrespectful, but it’s not about them.  New momma is growing and developing her own way.  Besides, I had already established my personal circle of advisors to help me out – I have an incredible doula who continues to help me beyond my child’s birth, I have an amazing lactation consultant, and my son and I have an amazing team of doctors!  I am in a mom’s group that has given me invaluable support and advice – mothers who are in it with me or have just gone through it.  Their perspective is fresh, current and applicable!  This is just one other area of space that needs to be carefully and thoughtfully established for the postpartum mom.

If we did a better job as a society in talking about the postpartum woman, from healthcare to the workplace, then things would be a lot easier.  The postpartum period is mostly ignored – to the point that follow up doctors appointments are in plenty for your newborn but not for you.  I had just one appointment after six weeks of major surgery to deliver my son.  And my pain was mostly ignored.  It’s no wonder so many new moms feel invisible, broken and, yes, depressed.

Don’t even get me started on maternity leave in this country.

So what do you do with all of this newness?  How do you navigate all of this unchartered territory in your life that now requires you to explore and inhabit it?  I tried reading new mom guide books, articles on parenting, and spiritual books on what it means to be a mother and how to find passion again in your work/career after having a baby.

Then I stopped trying to figure it all out.  I put my energy and focus on my baby.  And I tried to implement some self care via my recovery – thankfully gifted to me in a postpartum healing and wellness package my mother bought for me.  For that, I was lucky.

The wellness treatments included warming acupuncture (with cupping and my favorite – moxibustion – and a heat lamp), postpartum massage, Mayan abdominal massage that really helps with c-section scar tissue, and new mother chiropractic care which addresses the recovery from a pregnant body and all those hours of neck strain from looking downward when nursing.  Restoring your body and being mindful about your postpartum experience is a major step in healing physically and mentally.  This should be available to all women.  Sadly, this practice is non-existent in most places.

As for what I could do for myself?  I gave myself a break.

I decided it’s okay to be lost in space when it comes to my business.  It’s alright to not write blog posts while I’m figuring out feeding and napping schedules and everything else.  It’s just fine to coast along like a satellite floating in one direction – forward.

I still have to run this business.  The wine does not make or sell itself.  I still have to be somewhat present.  I’m open to allowing myself to fall in love with my work all over again – after I spend this special time falling in love with my baby.

In being present with my changing world I’m exploring what it feels like to let go of the notion that my business used to be the most important thing outside of my marriage.  Journaling has helped me in that exploration.

While my business isn’t at the center of my universe, it’s kind of like a really important galaxy with its own solar system.  It still deserves my attention and care.  Learning to ask for more help has been key for me.

There are so many great resources for new moms.  Joining a local new moms group was very important for me.  It gave me a real sense of community and space to rant so that I’m not always dumping things on my husband.  He’s great and is always there for me to dump away.  It’s just nice to have another place to go, too.

My health insurance offers excellent counseling for new moms.  I started to take advantage of that.  Talking to a professional about your feelings helps clear your head of negative thoughts and anxiety, and confronts potential postpartum depression.

Motherhood is a journey.  And it is okay to question who you are as you evolve as a human.  Finding tools that help you navigate your new world is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family.

There are services and groups for all socio-economic backgrounds.  You just have to do some research for what resonates with you and then reach out to the universe for the help you need.

Mommy blogs aim to help other moms in the thick of it.  While I’m not committing to a single subject blog of ongoing mothering topics, I hope this blog entry is helpful.  At minimum, I hope my perspective and experience helps to expand community and foster some normalcy for other new moms.