Katie Feavel

Love yourself... and do all the hard things April 30, 2016 13:38 4 Comments

Alright guys, Saturday morning sappy post to all my mamas...

being mom is hard.

We know this, nothing novel here. 

Seeing your body do the miraculous accordion effect that happens with having babies... is absolutely beautiful.. but hard.

And it isn't like we're playing with a full deck here either.

Post partum depression hit me like a ton of bricks after having Mags. 

Her early hospitalization, on top of the "normal" sleep deprivation, re-balancing hormones, adjusting to a whole new balance of day-to-day crazy... all road blocks to feeling like a somewhat well-adjusted human being. And I hit a really dark, yucky, non-functioning place.

Now, feeling like I don't recognize the woman in the mirror?

That's the one I still battle with the most. 

But, I have a daughter now...

And she's lit a fire under my butt to figure out this whole self-esteem thing.

Cause I'll be damned if my daughter grows up with anything less than a strong, confident, healthy woman as an example. 

So here's my two cents on rebuilding that confidence and reacquainting yourself with your post-baby mind and body, for what it's worth:

You're going to get a lot of advice; take it all with a grain of salt. Just like when you were pregnant, lots of people will weigh in. You'll hear everything from "You'll lose the weight if you breastfeed" to "it's not safe to lose weight while breastfeeding." Yeah, not that simple on either end. Just smile, nod and keep on truckin'.

Babies are not an excuse to be unhealthy. Guys, I don't mean that having babies should in no way influence your capacity for some elusive, diligent exercise and meal planning. Let's be real here. But being pregnant and/or having little ones is NOT an excuse to shrug off self-care and trying to live a healthy lifestyle. These babies need you at your best, healthiest and most energized. If it isn't motivation enough to do it for yourself right now, remember they're watching and absorbing. 

Be your best example. Society, in some ways, tells us our job as parents is to make sure kids have unforgettable, magical childhoods. I'd argue that my main purpose as a parent is to help shape my children into compassionate, healthy, hard-working, well-adjusted adults... and that starts with me learning to be a more compassionate, healthy, hard-working, and well-adjusted adult. This will look different for each of us. It will be far from a perfect picture. It may even seem exhausting and burdensome sometimes, but this is your role as a parent, so ya know... put on your big girl panties and suck it up buttercup.  

Be self-protective, but not selfish. I think our generation spends a little too much time thinking about how to preserve their cozy self-bubble rather than enveloping those they love into it. This stage of life is fleeting. Don't lose yourself in it and do the things you need to keep yourself centered, but learn to find joy and fulfillment in becoming a little more selfless as a parent. 

Find YOUR balance. My nature is the complete opposite of balanced. I like to work at all hours of the night, I obsess over projects and ideas until I have them perfectly how I'd like, and I am really, really hard on myself. But I'm slowly developing more balanced routines... because it's important. Consistency, balance, dependability are crucial to relationships. If you're like me and absolutely suck at those things? Work a little harder at them. 

Love yourself. No matter your motivation to improve or continue a healthy lifestyle, there are things about yourself that just aren't the same after kids. No matter how fit I was after my son, the constant swelling in my ankles hung around and only worsened after my daughter. Things will change, embrace it, own it, rock it. But don't let it deter you from influencing what you can control.  

Be your own best coach. All those road blocks I talked about at the beginning of this post can make it really difficult to do all the other things we're talking about here. I'm not discounting that. Nor have I mastered any kind of easy solution. Overcoming PPD/Anxiety means finding a way to break a vicious cycle of physical and emotional depression. That's gonna be a little different for everybody. 

For me, I realized that it wasn't going to get any easier. I had to convince myself to just do it anyway, to start anyway, in spite of how hard it was. The cool thing? I realized I was a hell of a lot stronger than I knew. 

Getting to the gym with a baby is hard. Don't wait for it to be easy. You can do hard things.

Getting to the gym with two babies... is hard. Don't wait for it to be easy. You can do hard things.

Making good choices about food... is hard. Don't wait for it to be easy. You can do hard things.

Making healthy decisions after a week, month, or year of unhealthy ones, is hard.

But really, the hardest part is starting. Don't wait for it to be easy. You can do hard things.

 

Sam & Maggie helping mama lift <3


IF A CHILD IS UNHAPPY, PUT THEM IN WATER March 12, 2015 01:08

A while back I saw a cute little poster that said, "If a child is unhappy, put them in water," with a picture of a happy tot splashing away. I don't know that this is necessarily fool-proof, but it worked for us today. Sam totally woke up on the wrong side of the bed... well technically he woke up in the middle of the bed with his feet in my face, but you know what I mean. Grumpy during breakfast. Even more grumpy when Daddy left for work. Then this happened...

bathtimeBathtimeWhich quickly progressed to this...

DSC_0137DSC_0154He even figured out how to put the rings onto the Nuby Octopus!

BathtimeWhich made him SOOOO proud!

Bathtime

This random middle of the day bath time was the ultimate reset button. Water (and purple octopus) for the WIN!


DEAR TODDLERHOOD January 15, 2015 00:08

Dear toddlerhood, you are far more intense, humbling, beautiful than I could have ever expected.  

You cause my kid to be, in the same moment, heart-meltingly sweet... And hair-pullingly frustrating (I'm making that a phrase, you get what I mean).

Heart melting

He throws himself in a belly-flop on the ground when he doesn't get his way.  

And it takes all my self control not to laugh at the drama.  

He gives the sweetest hugs and kisses... often... and in a way that exudes love from every fiber of his little being.  

He gives me a sly little smirk as he throws food off his tray for the tenth time in a row.  

And I again have to try not to laugh... the level of sass is just too much!  

He has a newfound fascination with pop-up books. And has started pointing at things to hear what they're called.  

He wants up...  

He wants down...  

He wants up...  

He wants down...  

He says "yeah" when I say "no."  

He tells me when he has to go #2 and gets a total kick out of flushing the toilet after.  

He loves food.  

And then he hates food.  

He says "Mmmmmmmm" if I ask him if he wants blueberries.  

Which sounds so simple, but is one of the coolest things to me.  

He'll go hours without being still, then will sit with a single book for 30 minutes examining every image on every page.  

But, oh, the screaming/screeching sounds he's capable of?! I'm pretty sure my child is possessed at times.  

"Dada" is the coolest, but "Mama" gives the best snuggles.  

The "oooo face" is my personal favorite.

ooo face

He is a ball full of silly... singing, dancing and butt wiggles.  

But still needs his mama when things overwhelm him.  

Toddlerhood, I blame you for the 5am wake-up calls.  

And I thank you for the resulting early nap-time snuggles.  

Toddlerhood, I am frustrated by you...  

Yet eternally grateful for you,  

'cause you remind me how we all truly are at our core.  

Beautifully messy, unbalanced and imperfect, loving and adventurous, dependent on one another, and perfectly, wonderfully made.


BABIES ARE NOT EQUAL TO ROBOTS August 7, 2014 01:07

There is one sentence I have said more frequently than any other in parenting conversations. Whether we're talking about my kid or somebody else's kid.

It's something I have to remind myself of and be reminded of by friends and family when I find my own child's inconsistency frustrating.

It rings particularly true in those "it's not you, it's me" parenting moments... It's not your inconsistency that's frustrating me, rather my own lack of realistic expectations.

And that's when I have to realize the truth of my own repeated words... Every single day is DIFFERENT. Different from yesterday, different from last week, different from what tomorrow will bring.

I, as an adult, as a supposed "creature of habit," would never attempt to sleep from exactly 10pm to 5am every singe night, without any room for natural variation in my body's schedule.

If I wasn't asleep by 10:30, I wouldn't begin to think that something was wrong with me or my sleeping arrangement. I wouldn't take drastic steps the next night to be sure that the blip in perfect scheduling didn't happen again.

If I normally eat dinner at 6, but felt hungry around 5... I'd probably just eat at 5! Because my body knows what it needs.

This kind of thing sounds so obvious when we put it in a context of our adult bodies. Why, then, are we so mistrustful and controlling over the bodies of our babies? Why are we so thrown off by natural variations in their schedules?

Schedules can be really good tools, don't get me wrong. Rhythm is good. Predictability is good. Stability and consistency are GOOD. But being realistic is... healthy. And having realistic expectations about how much is actually within our ability to control with our infants and toddlers... and how much is even healthy for us to try to control.. would save us all a lot of frustration and worry.

Cause sometimes your kid is going to refuse to take a nap all day... and other times he'll manage to pass out on top of the kitchen counter in the time it takes you to fill the sink with water for a quick bath.Sam sleeping  Expect each day to be different, and suddenly flexibility becomes a part of the routine.    


THAT AWESOME MOMENT WHEN REAL COMMUNICATION HAPPENS WITH YOUR YOUNG TODDLER July 31, 2014 01:06

Sam understood me today... In the last few days I thought he might be picking up more of what I say. He seemed to respond more quickly and appropriately to simple things like "look," hug," "wait," "come here," etc.

He even spent half an hour last night searching the house for Daddy, who wasn't home at the usual time because of some work stuff.

He responded appropriately when I asked what he was looking for... "Dada." And when I told him Dada wasn't in whatever area of the house he was indicating/searching, he'd nod or babble in affirmation and look somewhere else. Pretty freakin' adorable!

But today... He most definitely completely understood what I was telling him. I was working on a bib order and he wanted to see the sewing machine. So I put him on my lap and said "You can look, but don't touch." So of course he immediately reached out and tried to touch it. "No, Sam, don't touch." I moved his hand away. He arched his back and started throwing a little stink-fit. I plopped him back down on the floor and said "If you're going to be nasty, you can do it on your own."

He stopped crying instantly (wait, what?!) He got back up and wanted to see the machine again so I set him in my lap... Repeat trying to touch & "don't touch" a few times.... But this time with only mild frustration on his part.

Finally, I said "Okay Sam, this is a needle (pointing to needle)... It can hurt you (signing "hurt"). You can't touch it, but you can stay in my lap if you just watch."

He put his hands in his lap and sat quietly watching the sewing machine for a good five minutes before climbing back down to go do his own thing. I know it won't always be that easy... but that was definitely among some of the cooler parenting moments so far! 

20140716-112637-41197328.jpg


FINDING NORMAL AND MORE "IN THE MOMENT" NONSENSE July 30, 2014 01:07

I talk about being in the moment a lot. I think that's because it's probably the thing I struggle with the most.

One part of "being in the moment" has to do with letting yourself off the hook, right? Realizing that you only have so much to give to any one glimpse of your day... and that has to be good enough... for you and for those around you.

Today has been kinda rough.

My 13-month old is cluster feeding -- meaning nursing almost every hour -- because his mouth hurts and he's trying to find comfort. That's fine, except that he also won't sleep on his own today, so I found myself spending 3 solid hours holding and rocking him while he slept/fussed/nursed in rotation.

But then I really needed food... I could feel my blood sugar tanking. I hadn't eaten in close to 5 hours and had meanwhile been burning a ton of extra calories nursing Sam.

So... I tried setting him down, even though I knew it would wake him up and that he really could have used more sleep. He was awake the second I stood up with him... and man just SO uncomfortable.

I probably could have gone back to rocking and gotten him back to sleep. But I knew in that moment that I needed to be able to help sustain him and in order to do that, I had to make sure my own body had its basic needs met.

So the result was booster seat, The Prince of Egypt on Netflix (which is a phenomenal movie, by the way), and a paci he hardly even takes anymore strapped on with a fuzzy pink paci clip I had in my stash of things to sell...

Teething Sam

Anyway, this allowed me to cook up some food. Both of us got a nice big meal and he seems to be feeling a bit better... playing quietly on his own with toys.

I probably should be trying to make some sense of my currently chaotic house... or doing the dishes... or folding the three loads of clean laundry sitting in a giant pile on our bed.

Somebody from the outside might wonder why I'm wasting time sitting here writing something that probably only a handful of people will read... and even fewer will find worthwhile.

But sometimes, finding for yourself a moment of normal... whether that's reading, writing, chatting with a friend, pointlessly organizing some area of your house, or taking five minutes to sip on your coffee that you've been reheating for the last 3 hours... finding your normal in the midst of chaos is just as important as the items of productivity that are more easily measured.

Sometimes being in the moment means knowing that whatever you give is good enough. Sometimes it means prioritizing basic needs of yourself and others. And sometimes it means simply doing things that help you feel normal.


LESSONS FROM SAM: #4 July 17, 2014 01:05

I don’t typically sleep well. Never really have, not even as a little kid. I’ve spent way too many countless hours at night thinking/worrying/planning the next day. I make notes in my phone, use the “Tasks” and “Checklist” features, send emails to myself… But, guess what?

Nothing I ever plan ends up the way I plan it… No matter how much I think about the plan, Worry about the plan, Plan about the plan… I’ve never been able to check off that whole To-Do list, or follow the “realistic” schedule I spend an hour setting for myself. My son on the other hand…

 

As long as he’s fed and comfy, he’s out cold in minutes. Then every morning he wakes up with a giant grin on his face, ready for whatever might await him that day.

He starts with a clean slate. Endless possibilities. And he accomplishes more in one day than I do for sure. So today I'm going to try to simplify a bit. I'm going to be more present... more purposeful... and look for small opportunities for productivity in each moment.

And tonight, no matter what I do or do not accomplish during the day, I'm going to snuggle up with my boys and just let it all go... Because life is too precious... and too short... to waste so much time worrying about how I can manage to do it all.

I will never do it all. But I can do whatever I am able... here. Now. In this moment.


LESSONS FROM SAM #3 July 3, 2014 01:05

Sam had some really awesome playtime the other day. He sat in this position in front of his toy basket...20140509-135116.jpg... For 45 solid minutes. Slowly choosing one toy at a time, looking at it, chewing on it, shaking it, moving it from one hand to the other, hitting it against something to see what sound it made... Then throwing it behind him emphatically, like "I'm done with you toy!" Eventually he found a toy that he wanted to hang onto, so he threw himself back and lay there playing calmly for another 10 minutes or so.20140509-135845.jpgThen he put the toy down, crawled to me, pulled himself up rubbing his eyes and asking to nurse (which means he was trying to eat my leg). He fell asleep within 5 minutes of nursing and is now out cold in my lap. It fills my heart with so much joy to see him take on his world in such a healthy, balanced way. He's a daily reminder to me to slow it down, take my time, be purposeful, be in the moment... And be at peace with the world around me.

LESSONS FROM SAM #2 May 22, 2014 01:03

The other day, my son discovered a hanger.

Yep, a simple hanger.

And he was ecstatic. Overjoyed. Amused for at least 5 solid minutes.

He chewed it, flipped it around, banged it on the bed to see what sound it made, rolled on his back and stuck his feet through it. It was quite possibly the greatest moment of his week.

photo (42)

It was kinda like that time with the giraffe…

2014-02-15 07.09.46

But not quite as awesome as that time at the gym…

photo (41)

He found happiness in a hanger…

Yet another reminder to find joy in the little things in life.


TAKE THE "T" OFF THE END OF THAT WORD, PLEASE! April 30, 2014 02:00

Being a parent comes with a lot of "I can't" moments...

"I can't get baby to take regular naps."

"I can't get baby down at night without a huge routine."

"I can't get baby to go for solids." "I can't tell what this baby needs."

It can be frustrating, stressful, disheartening to say the least. These days, I can't get Sam to sleep without some sort of movement and noise combination.

Normally rocking and Mumford and Sons is the magic formula. But I'm not super worried about it... because, there's an "I can" in this situation as well.

can rock this baby boy to sleep. I can love him, sing to him, soothe him... I can sit here and rock back and forth, drinking my coffee and writing. I can enjoy it... And he can too.  


JUST KEEP ROCKIN' April 9, 2014 02:00

Ever heard of the Wonder Weeks? Yeah they’re not so wonderful. The basic idea is that all babies and toddlers go through major mental growth spurts around the same weeks and tend to be extra fussy leading up to these spurts.

This is not a topic I’ve done my research on, so I’m not necessarily promoting it as solid guidelines, but Sam has seemed to follow these mental leaps pretty closely so far. Read more about the Wonder Weeks here.  

We’re right in the middle of one of these peak fussy times right now. Also, Sam has gone from army crawling to walking laps around the house along all the furniture and walls and testing out standing on his own, all in about a week... AND he’s teething. This is probably the fussiest he has ever been. Life is kinda hard right now for this little guy. 

lifeishard

The last few nights and nap times have been a battle. Normally… Sam sleeps in his crib for naps and goes down in his crib at night. Then we bring him to bed with us when we go. Normally… we nurse and rock to sleep. 

We don’t do this because we couldn’t train him out of it or because it’s the only way to get him to sleep. We do it because we find beautiful and healthy emotional connection in that bonding moment.

Normally… this is a great, relatively quick, low-stress routine for us. We nurse (5-10 min), rock a bit, I sing to him, put him in his crib as he’s groggy or dosing off, put my hand on his back for a second and he falls right to sleep. Perfect.

But this last week or so he just wants to stay latched on… for like 30-45 minutes. Then if I can unlatch him or if he finally unlatches himself, putting him in his crib has been another struggle. He’ll be out cold and the second I set him in the crib, eyes pop open and he either wants to play or go back to nursing. He’s even doing this in the middle of the night.

This morning Sam was exhausted. He badly needed a good nap. We went through our routine. I even rocked him a little longer to get him nice and asleep. Went to set him down, eyes popped open, big grin on his face and he started chatting. Did this two more times. Finally, I thought I would try just walking out of the room. 

Maybe if I’m not there to distract him he’ll just go back to sleep. He is exhausted after all. After a solid 30 minutes talking to himself he decided playing in his crib wasn’t fun anymore and cried for “Maaamaaaa.” He wasn’t just calling for me. And he wasn’t being nasty or throwing a fit.

We’re talking terribly pathetic, heart-broken tears and sobbing… instantly. I don’t believe in crying-it-out. I believe that, while behavioral conditioning does happen with the CIO method, the message that you’re sending… that even if you cry Mom & Dad won’t respond to you… is significantly detrimental to a little’s sense of empowerment and ability to communicate. I believe in responding to your child.

Actually that’s one of the few non-negotiable parenting things for me… respond to your child. Regardless of what it is they think they need or if you agree with them, our children need to know that when they communicate they are taken seriously. That doesn’t mean you have to oblige every whim or diligently attempt to converse with a tantruming toddler. But it does mean acknowledging and legitimizing the attempts your child makes to communicate his/her needs.

So -- as I walked into my son’s room and saw him standing and crying for me in his crib… and found myself asking, in a rather aggravated tone that I’m not super proud of, “What do you need? What else can I do?!” And as I sighed, picked him up  – and he immediately clenched his chubby little arms around my neck for dear life and buried his face into my chest… and breathed a huge sigh of relief – I realized that he has been telling me exactly what he needs. I just haven’t been listening.

He needs me. He needs me differently today than he needed me a week ago. And that’s okay. He needs me to be a little closer to him, to help him get some good sleep while his mind grows at an insanely rapid rate. He needs me to respond to him. He needs me to legitimize his need for his mama, not to dismiss it. He needs me to just be there, just sing to him one more song, just rock him a little longer. He needs mama. So today… mama’s just gonna keep rockin’.


LESSONS FROM SAM #1 April 1, 2014 02:00

This morning during some play time Sam crawled over to his truck…

Pushed it across the room to the mirror,

Pulled himself up,

Leaned over,

And planted a big wet kiss on himself in the mirror.

He then looked back at me smiling

…and so proud of himself.

Sam_Truck_Baby

I need to be more like him…

A little more loving towards myself,

A little more proud of my accomplishments,

And a little less afraid to be me.