Reflections From a New Mom: Prayers For My African American Son

I. Am. Exhausted.

During the past few weeks I have spent a lot of time in my head processing my thoughts. Sometimes I am silent because my mind is racing, there are so many thoughts that I often don’t know where to start when I want to express them. I try to make sense of them all, but that just leads to me feeling tired. So overall, I am exhausted.

Photo by Josh Hild on Pexels.com

I am angry, sad, fearful, devastated, frustrated, hurt, heart broken, numb, and void of emotion all in one. I remember one day last week I was sitting with my thoughts and I just wanted to cry. Suddenly, I just felt like crying. I did not know why, no tears fell, but a sweeping feeling of all the emotions overcame me, and I just knew that it was time to cry. Black Americans are hurting, so I am hurting.

Black Americans are hurting for justice and equality in our nation. In 2020, we are still fighting the same fights of our ancestors. In 2020 we are fighting for the right to live in peace, to not die at the hands of racist on the streets, for and end to police brutality, and to have equality in our justice system. IT. IS. 2020. As I watched the many protests around the country and the world, I was delighted to see that all people, not just Black people joined in the fight. Finally our voices are being heard, there is diversity in our cause. We are starting to matter. But again, it is the year 2020, why should we have to march and sing “We Shall Overcome” like our ancestors did in the 1960’s. Has America not made significant progress since the death of Martin Luther King Jr.? Why are we still fighting to live his dream? When will America finally stand for the words “Liberty and Justice for all”?

Photo by Kelly Lacy on Pexels.com

The overwhelm of emotions hits me every time I hear about the death of every unarmed Black American. Sadness, anger, and overwhelm were in full force when I watched the video of the murder of Amahd Aubery and, how there was not even an arrest made over two months later! Then we heard about Breonna Taylor, again no arrest, then we watched the death of George Floyd. After a 5 days and filling the streets with protesters demanding justice, finally there was an arrest. Who is next? This is too much for the year 2020. When does it end?

We have been watching videos of the murder of Black kids and adults for years. Before the videos they were killing us, there was just no one filming it. So the concept of murder and injustice toward Black Americans did not start in 2020.

However, today my life is different, therefore, my emotions are different. The hurt feels different, it is real. Today I am a wife to Black man, and a mother to a little Black boy, this feeling is hitting a little bit differently. That is the feeling I am constantly processing.

Today my life is no longer just me taking care of me in the world. I have a husband and a son who I don’t want to be added to the names of unarmed black men who were killed, while their murderer just walks away and eats a sandwich. It is an unexplainable worry that I try not to spend too much time on because life’s moments are precious and I want to enjoy every moment. Life is meant to be lived with joy. Yet, sometimes the feeling of worry overshadows that joy and there is a moment of wanting to cry because you feel the pain of every wife, and mother who has unjustly lost her husband or son and you want to go around and give them all a big hug. So I just pray. I ask God to protect my boys, because that is all that is left to do.

Photo by Shamia Casiano on Pexels.com

This evening Nico and I went on a walk. He just sits in his stroller quietly looking around, listening to the birds, staring at the trees, the cars, and the people, and taking it all in. He feels safe, he is not worried about anything. He does not know about racism, or that one day some people will fear him because of the color of his skin. He knows he is with mommy, and with mommy he is protected. The world is safe with mommy, no danger allowed. I thought, now if only I could keep him this small forever. At 8 months I can protect him from harm, but what about when he is 13 or 18, will the world be kind to him? Will he still feel safe?

Again, I am left with saying a special prayer for his safety.

Yet, during moments like this my mind always goes back to the death of Tamir Rice. I didn’t have kids at the time of his death, but for some reason his death hits me especially hard. I was in pure shock and disbelief when I heard of the cops who pulled up and shooting at a 12 year old boy in a matter of seconds. For a very long time I refused to watch that video, I refused to watch the murder of a baby at the hands of the police. He was a baby! Eventually I watched the video, it was worse than I ever imagined. They said they thought he was an adult. He was a 12 year old black boy. He should have had the chance to grow into an adult. The men who killed him are now free. Where is justice?

I know I have only been a mother for a few months, but I feel like my number one goal is to keep my baby safe. I feel like God has given us our biggest life challenge yet. God said now I give you the job of being parents, and now is the time to raise a strong Black man in America. Keep him safe, let him grow, and know he will be a force that changes the world. Since God never gives us more than we can bear, we have accepted the challenge with full gratitude. But, for real it is scary sometimes. When Nico is 5 he will be my baby. When he is 12 he will still be my baby. When he is 18 he will still be my baby. Heck, when he is 45 he will be my baby. I just pray that the world will see him for the boy, and man that he will be and give him an opportunity to grow and change the world.

My heart hurts for Tamir Rice, Jordan Davis, Trayvon Martin, Amahad Aubery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Sean Bell and every other black life that was lost due to police violence or racist violence because they felt that these lives did not matter. BLACK LIVES MATTER

This list was posted on BabyNames.com on June 10, 2020.

This black box sits on the top of the BabyNames.com homepage.

Parenting Lessons: I just realized this when I became a parent

My little screamer

There are so many things about being a parent that I never realized until I actually became one. First, this is a real tough job. Ummm, why did’t someone tell me this. Ok, maybe my own mother may have told me how hard it was a time or two, but I was never listening. I didn’t believe her. I figured I was pretty easy, and my siblings looked like they were pretty easy. So being a parent must be a walk in the park. No this is really hard work.

The things you don’t realize or even think about until you have a child are the ones that are the most shocking. Who knew that within a year our lives would be so different. I know there is so much more that we need to realize because we are just starting, but here is my list of shell shocking factors that only parents actually pay attention to:

Child Care

Why does it cost so much? Monthly day care for you child should not be the equivalent of a mortgage payment. AND, was I supposed to know that you are supposed to be looking for a daycare before you are even pregnant? When I became pregnant the hubby and I started searching for child care since we knew I would be a working and he would be working. Well most places for infants the wait list was over a year out, like 18 months out. Are you kidding me? It takes 9 months for a baby to develop, who is putting their child on a wait list before the child is conceived! I guess it’s a thing. Now I know in case we have baby number 2.

Diapers and wipes disappear quick

We use a lot of diapers and wipes, every time I turn around they are gone. I would use cloth diapers, but that seems like a lot of work.

I missed good opportunities to sleep

Why do people say sleep when the baby sleeps? That does not work at all. When my baby is sleep I am usually driving the car. So unless I am pulling over to the side of the road and taking a nap on the shoulder, I am not sleeping when Nico sleeps. You know when I should have slept? Before the baby was born! I wish out bodies came with a build in sleep reserve so I could store sleep. I really miss those days of having uninterrupted sleep. Will those days ever return?

As working parents, time is limited with baby

Tonight after Nico had his bath and was getting ready for bed, I looked at him and thought, wow he looks so much older. I think he grew up over the course of a day. Between work and commuting I am away from him for 10 hours out of the day. He really does spend most of his day at day care with the kids and teachers. When we get home we eat, bath time, story time, then bed time. I see my kid for two hours of awake time, and even then he is falling asleep. Time is precious, it goes by fast, I wish I could hit the pause button.

Kids have a lot of stuff

I am getting used to the fact that it takes twice as long to leave the house, and I have twice as much stuff. For being such a little guy he always has a lot of stuff that we have to take when we leave the house. A whole book bag with stuff. I have to do a mental check list to make sure that I have everything, and most times I always remember, but I really can’t wait until he gets to the age when he can carry his own stuff. Mama is tired.

Everyday as a mom is an adventure, one that is filled with joy, laughter, and lessons learned. It’s crazy that I am learning to parent while on the job, but when I mess it up, Nico just smiles and we keep it moving. Life is good, I could get used to this.

Remember everyday is a new day, stay positive and enjoy the ride

Body Positive: Postpartum Edition

Love yourself first, you deserve it

I never anticipated how much pregnancy and postpartum life would mess with me physically and mentally. The struggle toward my own postpartum body acceptance has been very real. Now add to that uncontrollable hormonal changes, and some days I have been a walking crazy person.

A few weeks after giving birth, I needed to leave the house. So I packed up baby and we went to the mall. While I the mall I walked into Victoria’s Secret, I usually love going shopping at Victoria’s Secret. As I walked in the sales guy asked if I needed help, and then said,”I see you just had a baby, the girls in dressing room can measure your bra size and help you out.” It was a harmless statement and he was just being helpful. Yet, that harmless statement brought me close to the point of a panic attack.

Of course I knew I just had a baby, but the reality hit that my body is now different. I didn’t even know my own body anymore, I was a whole new bra size. Of course my bra size was different, my boobs were now ginormous and filled with milk. I didn’t think about. Everything that I had known about my body had changed. As I walked though Victoria’s Secret I did not feel sexy.

5 weeks with baby Nico

The female body is amazing. Growing a human for nine months, and being able to supply it daily with nutrients from your own body is quite a process. My husband always reminds me of how wonderful and amazing I am. I appreciate that. However, while growing that human for nine months, and even when that human is living outside of the body, there is so many changes that women experience. Nothing really prepared me for that. In my mind I would have a baby and then go back to normal. You know the weight would drop, I would go right back into crossfit, I would run with no problem and I would be able to go full beast mode within 6 weeks. Yeah no, that did not happen. Sure my doctor cleared me to return to all my physical activity at my 6 week appointment, yet I was and still am no where near ready to go all full on beast mode. That reality was a reality that I was not ready for. I had take like 100 steps back, and retrain my body.

For me, the struggle is real when comes to accepting my postpartum self. Everything I once knew about my body is different. And it will always be different because I gave birth to a human. It was the first time my body did that, and my body will forever be changed by that experience. Different is not a bad thing, it’s a good different, but with different comes the task of redefining my body, and my own sense of sexy.

Prior to pregnancy I would workout twice a day most days, my weight and muscle mass were at a place that I really loved. I had worked hard for years to get it there. During pregnancy I gained about 46 pounds, but that was fine for me because baby and I were both healthy.

While I was pregnant, lots of moms would ask if I was planning on breast feeding. I would say yes. They would then say good that’s how you lose all the baby weight and you will “snap back”. Well as it turns out, I did not magically lose all this baby weight while breast feeding, and there is no quick “snap back”. I wish our culture would stop using the term snap back. It puts unnecessary pressure on postpartum women. Your body moved everything around and gave birth to another person, it doesn’t just snap back. Your body is not a rubber band.

Since giving birth I have lost about 20 pounds, so I still have close to 30 pounds to lose to get back to my pre-preganancy weight. I used to get frustrated with myself because my body was not “snapping back” quick enough. I breast feed, they told me if I breast feed the weight would fall right off. Yeah, that didn’t happen. But you know what, I’m fine with that. I realize my body is doing what it needs to do to keep myself and Nico happy and healthy.

10th day as a mom

My next goal for 2020 is to trust the process. That’s what all my coaches and my chiropractor say, so I guess I will listen. I will trust that I will have a healthy postpartum body. I can get back to my pre-pregnancy self again and be even stronger, faster, and leaner. But I don’t have to rush. I used to compare myself to Beyonce and Serena Williams (yeah that was dumb), who were crazy bad ass postpartum. Also, Allison Felix was breaking records 10 months after giving birth. That’s amazing. But then I read somewhere that Serena said that she would never go right to training like she did right after having a baby. I’m also not getting paid millions of dollars to get my body into a certain shape for work, so I guess I can take it easy. I can allow myself to enjoy my postpartum self and feel sexy. I will love who I am because my body did the ultimate, most amazing job of creating a human. My body is different, I am different, and I can love this version of different.

I am running my first half marathon of the year in May, I had signed up last year but deferred. I do want to be in shape to run and need to start training. My current crossfit workouts are helping me build endurance and muscle and soon I will start running. For some reason I am having anxiety about running again. I need to just do it. With the right amount of training and nutrition I can do this race with no problem.

Staying positive about myself, my body, and all of life’s changes are part of the process. I can’t rush the process, I just have to live it. One day at a time, one step at a time, and I will give myself permission to fully love me.

Postpartum Anxiety: It Does Exist

According to Postpartum Support International about “6% of pregnant women and 10% of postpartum women develop anxiety.” However, I think those numbers are substantially under reported.

During and after pregnancy people would frequently talk about Postpartum Depression (PPD). I also read up on it just so I would be aware of what to look out for in myself. My doctor and the nurses at the hospital all gave me t pamphlets on PPD so I would know what to look out for and who to call. After I gave birth people called to check in on me to make sure I was doing okay. I appreciate all of that. I didn’t have postpartum depression. With the help of my hubby and other family members, I was doing pretty good.

However I did have anxiety. A lot of anxiety. Since sometimes I like to go into my self diagnosis mode, I would diagnose myself with postpartum anxiety, mild, without panic attacks. Wait, that’s not even a thing. The DSM-5, the handbook of psychiatric disorders that is used by Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Social Workers, and Counselors, in the United States, does not recognize Postpartum anxiety as mental health diagnosis. Why is that?

Postpartum depression is recognized widely by the mental health world, and has a diagnosis code. There are even special treatment groups that focus solely on PPD. Yet, postpartum anxiety falls under the umbrella of just another anxiety disorder, it just gets thrown in the with likes of Adjustment disorder with anxiety, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or Obessive Compulsive Disorder. However, according to the published article Postpartum anxiety: More common than you think, by Dr’s Jordan and Minikel (2019), research studies suggest that perinatal anxiety is more prevalent than depression. Also, studies have suggested that more women experience symptoms and have significant levels of anxiety during the post natal period, however they do not fully meet the criteria to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Therefore, the true numbers of anxiety in women during the postnatal period go under reported. Even though more women may experience postpartum anxiety, these women are not necessarily getting any type of treatment.

After giving birth to Nico, I experienced many symptoms related to anxiety. Typically, my amount of worry increased. I know had a little human to take care of, a human that was in no way able to take care of himself. I still worry. SIDS is a real fear. I find myself waking up at night to check on him, to make sure he is still breathing. I remember one night he actually slept for a few hours at a time, more than his regular 2 or 3 hours, I of course woke up to check on him. Yup, he was sound asleep.

I worry when he gets sick. I worry when he goes to day care if he will be okay. I worry if he is eating enough. And since I am a therapist, I worry if he is adjusting well so he doesn’t have a childhood anxiety disorder. I guess I have regular mommy worries. Everyone asked me if I was okay on his first day of day care, I had some worry, but I actually felt fine overall. I kinda just knew he would be fine. That was me managing my anxiety. I am able to put my irrational thinking patterns into focused rational thoughts.

I used to stay up all night because I knew he would wake up to eat. I already had trouble sleeping way before the thought of baby. Now I was being woken up from my sleep every 2-3 hours, it made it so much harder to sleep. So I did’t sleep. One night I think I stayed up until 6 am, and then I was finally able to go to sleep. The anxiety is real. If I was ever going to sleep again, I had to learn to be fine with baby sleeping in peace. I had to stop fearing those middle of the night wake ups and allow myself to just breathe and relax in the moment.

The symptoms of my anxiety would never be enough for a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder, I know that. My anxiety was triggered by being a new mom, and the constant worry of having to take care of another human when I was previously only taking care of myself. Being a mom comes with more responsibility. That responsibility causes me to have a running list of tasks in my brain that cause anxiety. The anxiety is real, but lucky for me it is also manageable.

I know I am not the only mom who has experienced symptoms of postpartum anxiety. So if you are a new mom, or a seasoned mom, and just can’t shake those anxious thoughts, take a step back and just breathe, stop and think about the rational thoughts. Close the door for irrational thinking patterns, think about realistic scenarios, and always remember to take time for self care. As a mom you are the world to your child, take care of yourself and remember that self care is not selfish.

One day I will sleep again…hopefully

And finally it’s Friday! The first full week of the year complete. It also felt like the longest week ever. Nico completed his first full week of day care, and I have probably consumed the most coffee that I have ever drank since finals week in college. Over the past 5 days my body has become tolerant to coffee, I no longer think it is effective. I will return to drinking my triple shot of espresso at least once a day. I really need a Nespresso machine. But hey, at least now I am remembering to drink my coffee right?

My sleepy baby. I think he missed me all day, or he just hates me

Tonight my husband, Nico, and I sat on the couch looking at each other. We were all exhausted. Nico is lucky he can sleep wherever he wants, whenever he wants, he just doesn’t take advantage of those endless sleep opportunities. He will regret that one day, just like I am regretting my missed opportunities to sleep when I was a baby today.

This week was defiantly an adjustment for the whole family. We will get it together soon. The hubs and I just have to get used to waking up a little bit earlier, getting a little person ready, and grabbing ALL of his stuff before we leave the house. Why do little people have so much stuff?

Life is different. Our morning routine is different, dinner time is different, vacation planning will be different, and heck, our sex life is even different. There is a whole new person who has changed our lives from here on out. Even though it is a happy, enjoyable, priceless change, it is still a change.

This is us before we became eternally sleepy

As new parents, we learn to appreciate the small pleasures in life. I have learned to appreciate moments of quiet, breathing, and meditation. Everyday Nico appears to be a little bit older, he is always doing something different, he is learning so much. Sometimes I just want to hit the pause button on time, and replay those moments again and again. Time is racing. I am appreciating each moment.

In Maryland it’s cold. I’ll be honest, I really don’t like living in Maryland that much and I figure one day we will eventually move to a new state. Maybe one that is warm. I think back on my January days in Hawaii, those moments when I spent Christmas and New Year’s day on the beach. I wish I could be there today. Those were moments of calm, of peace.

I miss the beach

Since once again my whole life is different, I have to remember to always find time to take in and enjoy those moments of peace. I have to find places that will bring me that sense of calm. Daily meditation is what will continue to make me a great wife and an amazing mamma. The coffee will keep me hyped, and possibly push me through the day, but keeping my mind at peace is the what is will keep my family together. In the midst of change, I will continue to find my own peace.

Life Lessons As Taught By My 3 Month Old Son

Now that I have put the tiny screaming baby to bed, I finally have a chance to write. Yes he screams. He is a baby. He is just so cute, but he never wants to go to bed. I wonder if there is a genetic trait for wanting to stay up all night? If so, I defiantly passed it on to my kiddo.

My little guy is now 3 months old. It is so amazing to watch babies develop and learn everything about the world. When babies see objects for the first time, or look at colors and shapes, they are so fascinated by it. They soak up everything in every moment, and smallest things provide great pleasure. I love babies.

Even though Nico has only been on this Earth for 3 months, I feel that he has taught me so much. As a new mom, I had no idea what to expect. I knew that I would be tired, that’s what everyone said so I believed them. But, I knew nothing else. I expected that baby would constantly be learning from me, and I would be present with him so I could teach him everything he needs to know all the time. He is constantly learning, and I am present, however I was not prepared for the lessons that he would be teaching me.

In the past 3 months I have watched this guy grow from a tiny newborn to an infant with an amazing personality. He loves to smile and just have fun. He has learned to hold his head up, engage in a significant amount of baby talk, and teach his parents, well how to be parents. It is truly a blessing. The lessons that he has taught me so far has made me a better mom and, that is something that can never be taken away.

Here are a few of the lessons taught directly by Nico:

Be Patient

So yes there are times when Nico is very impatient, like when he is hungry or has poop in his diaper. He is a baby. Crying is what babies do. But there are also times when he will sit in an extremely calm manner and wait for me to complete whatever task I am doing so he can eat or play. He will just sit in his swing and watch me cook, or get myself together before it is his time. When I’m ready for him he will give off a big smile that just warms my heart.

I also have learned that you can never rush a baby. Babies are just never in a rush. So I have to be patient with him while he is eating, or taking a bath. I can’t force him to eat faster, and my kid likes to relax at bath time. He is in no rush, so I can’t live my life in a rush. I have to slow down.

Slow down and just enjoy the moments

I feel like the past 3 months flew by. My little guy has grown so much. From even before he was born I was often told to just enjoy him. I understand what that means now. Moments of silence where we just sit together, or when he lays on my chest are priceless. I know they wont last forever so I have learned to take it in. I have learned to slow down and not think about the next task, or hurry up and rush us to the next place. He enjoys his mommy time. I enjoy Nico time. For a child a mother’s love can never be replaced. My husband always reminds me that for a son, his mother is his entire world. He is content with just silence and mommy. I was once a person who hated silence, and could not stay in one place for a very long time. Now, I can sit in silence, enjoy the moments, and enjoy the time with my baby while he is still a baby.

Smile, everyday is a new adventure

Little guy has a shirt that says “everyday is a new adventure”, I know he can’t read it but, he definitely lives his life that way. The best part of my day is waking him up in the morning, watching him open his eyes and give mamma a big smile. It reminds me that every new day is a blessing. Stay grateful. I may think to myself that I am tired, not in the mood to go to work, or wake up angry. Watching Nico up, smiling, and ready to get going reminds me that with each new day, comes a new adventure. So lets throw that negativity away, and be happy that I have a chance to make everyday a great day.

Speak your mind, all the time

One thing I love about working with kids is that they have no filter. When I am in therapy sessions with my younger patients, they give me the unapologetic truth about what is going on in their lives. As parents interfere and attempt to build a filter in children, that unapologetic sense of confidence starts to diminish. Yes, parents have to mold and shape a child’s behavior, but I always love to hear the unfiltered truth. Babies have an unfiltered truth. When Nico does not like something such as the way you are holding him, or the way you are feeding him, he will let you know right away. He has never liked me wearing a breast feeding cover over him while he is eating, he was quick to let me know “I hate this, take it off”. He knows his area of comfort. He knows what he likes, and he needs other humans to know that too. He has no filter. His mind says scream this now, he screams it, and gets the outcome that will make him happy. He is confident. He knows what he needs, he is not afraid to say it, and say it loud. I love that.

I am excited to continue to watch my little guy grow up and became a man. He is smart, funny, and even though I can never understand what he is saying, he has a lot to say. He has a light in him that can never be replaced, and my major task as a mom is to always make sure that light is shining bright. Wish me luck, but I know I got this!