One More Book

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It starts with one story read each night when you aren’t old enough to read. You listen to the words daddy reads to you, taking it all in, holding onto each word of his deep voice—wanting him to read one more, just one more—because you know that means more time with him. You look at the pictures and you help turn the pages. You cuddle up in the warmth of each other’s bodies.

You don’t see daddy all day, so if he’s home to tuck you in—I know I will see that jack-o’-lantern-light-up-the-room smile form between your cherub cheeks.

“Pumpkin face, it’s time for bed.” I say, picking up some toys off the floor.

“No way!” You demur.

“Look it’s Daddy, and he is going to read you stories.” Then Daddy appears into the room in his work clothes, fresh from rush hour traffic and a stressful day–ready to put on his daddy cape and save the day. He is your superhero.

“Dad-eee!” You screech with glee. Then like you just gave him a secret hand shake or a double thumbs up only you two can see, you walk past me grabbing daddy’s hand to go to your room.  He tells you to pick two books and you do. Then you lay on your big girl bed in daddy’s arms.

Him reading, you listening.

You start getting antsy when you see the last book coming to an end.

“Book, peas,” you say wanting one more, sensing your time together is about to end.

“Okay, just one more,” he answers your raspy plea. You pick one more– and you both dig in.

You like to hear the stories but what you really love is your time with him. You, laying peacefully on his chest. Him, reading to you and making silly voices for different characters. The two of you—laughing, smiling, eyes twinkling at each other.

One day you will get older, and you won’t want to read with daddy. He will be there for other things like life advice, homework help, and to grab you and your friend’s bagels after a sleep over party.

You talking, him listening and vice versa.

When you are sad, he will let you lay peacefully on his chest—and try to make things all better– taking you back to the times when he read to his little girl during story time. When you are happy, he will celebrate you, because your victories will be his. He will always have that twinkle in his eye for you, his little girl. When it comes to you, he will want one more book, one more moment. Always.

Gosh, I will miss that gummy smile

 

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I wake up because I hear your little babbles next to my ear from the bassinet you sleep in at my bedside.  “Bah Bah Bah” your babbles slowly get louder and louder– I hope it’s because you are counting sheep back to bed (hence the Bah), but it’s highly unlikely. You are having a late-night conversation with me. My everything is too tired to participate though my heart knows it’s time for me to check out why you awoke, willing my sleep-ridden body out of bed.

My husband lays to my side. He doesn’t move or notice your loud babbles. Oh, some men. I laugh at the way he plays dead.  I look at my iPhone that flickers 2 AM. “You have to be kidding me” I say mid yawn, I just dream fed you at 11 PM. How could your seven-month-old body still be hungry? Growth spurt?  Or is it your teeth trying to break through your soft gums? Torturing both of us, because I hate to see you in pain even more than the tiredness that comes from these wakeful nights. And gosh I will miss that gummy smile if your teeth are the culprit.

Your babbles get even louder “BAH BAH BAH.” Those sheep must be having a full-on ragger!

I get up and look into your sweet baby browns.

“What’s going on sweet girl?” I say and you smile at me so big and bright, you have a magical twinkle in your eye. I can’t help but smile back at your happiness.

I lift you, taking you down the hall to the playroom where I feed you daily. I marvel at how I can hold you on my left hip. We bounce down the hall in the dark–silence and the beat of the heater fill our house. You feel so good on my side– you are no longer delicate and dainty.

I feed you your bottle and listen to your feeding noises, little gulps and grunts, while staring into your eyes.

As much as I hate these hour and half wake ups that have been going on these past couple of weeks, it is our time. It’s the only alone time we get. As exhausted as I am because we are up early with your big sister—I will always treasure this time. This time, just you and me.

Your sister is demanding with my attention. She is the spicy to your sweet and sugary. She demands the spotlight—a lot of the time taking it from you without even meaning to. Most of the time she does mean to, she’s still a little jealous of you. So baby girl, this is my way of apologizing on her behalf.

The only other time in your life we were alone was hard. You were born a month early and found yourself in the NICU for the first two weeks of your life. It was a tough time. It broke my heart to leave the hospital without you. I never was without your sister for a night until I gave birth to you—but those two weeks I had to leave you in other hands—great ones—but they weren’t my own hands. My hands that love you more than anything on this earth. I don’t think anyone else in this world besides your father can say that.

Now here we are, me and you, alone again. You, still in my hands, but now much bigger. You are not the delicate little baby I held—swaddled up to keep your little body warm. You keep getting bigger and bigger and soon bottles will be replaced by real food and you will want to be more independent, like your sister. So I will embrace these wakeups because they are so short-lived, days go by fast and furious, and I will miss this one day too soon.

After you are done with your bottle, I give you some Tylenol for your maybe-teeth and you talk to me while I pump—making your yummy breakfast.

Then around 3:30 AM we head back to bed. You and me, us–together.

I tuck you in and you smile at me one last time before we close our eyes for the final stretch of the night. Gosh, I will miss that gummy smile.

First Born I See You Completely Always

IMG_2940             I see my daughter entertaining herself, playing with a plastic car—up and down a toy ramp. Then she purposely knocks the ramp on the floor taking out two puzzle sets with it…BOOM. The baby startles herself out of her milk coma, eyes so wide she resembles a pop eyes out squeeze toy mid squeeze.

“Viv, please don’t throw your toys on the floor!” I sigh with frustration, looking at the mess she made on the floor.

She then hands me her sticker book and I am struggling with one hand to pull the sticker off while feeding the baby with the other–my four month olds body cradled into my chest. My toddler gets frustrated and says, “st-i-i-i-cker, st-i-i-i-cker,” not understanding I am trying my very best to get said “st-i-i-i-cker”. I finally get it off. Before I can pat myself on the back—that is, if I had hands to– she wants another. Crap.

I see my daughter trying to get my attention while I am pumping. She holds onto my back hugging it tightly and chanting, “boobies, boobies, boobies.”

I see her during music class wanting to get thrown around while we dance like we used to— she likes to rough house– but I can only pick her up and rock her back and fourth on my hip because I have the baby on my chest.

This is why when we are alone I soak up every second.

I leave my phone in the car and give her my 100 percent attention. She has rarely gotten it since the day her little sister was born. We went from a duo to a trio. She became a reluctant third musketeer—she didn’t ask for this new squad we became.

So I am the mom playing in the balls with her, her little playmate. We go down the slides together, side-by-side, holding hands into the multicolored ball pit. “Red, yellow, green-e, blue,” my daughter goes through her repertoire like it’s Joseph’s Technicolor dream coat—full of so many colors, and it is—it’s her dream coat because she has mommy’s full attention in that colorful ball pit.

I am the mom that crawls into the tunnel when my daughter bossily points to it saying “do it, do it,” because there are so many things I can’t do with her when I am taking care of her sister at the same time. I reluctantly army crawl in as my daughter laughs on–my body flat like a pancake while my arms and legs struggle to propel myself forward. When I get through I am out of breath and then I hear my daughter’s loud cackle while giving me a hug—“momm-eee hug-eee”—It was worth it.

I am the mom that chases my daughter around when she says “catch you” which sounds a lot like cashew, but that’s besides the point. I know she wants me to chase her around saying “I am going to catch you.” I do and when I catch her, I flip her upside down and tickle her little tummy, as she lets out the cutest belly laugh.

As much as I love our family of four and plan to have more, there is something sad about not having as much one-on-one time with my first-born.

So oldest daughter please know I see you and I love you. You will always be my first and for that I am grateful. You taught me how special motherhood can be, because you are so special. You taught me how much I could love another human being. You made me want to have more like you because I love you that much. And just because you think I am not paying 100 percent attention, know that I am. I see you completely–always.

 

 

Why It Is Hard For Me To Accept Help Even While Being In Third Trimester Of Pregnancy

“Let me give you a hand with Vivienne (my 18-month old) so you can go get something to eat or sit down?”

“It’s okay, I got it.” I politely smile back.

“Want some water, I will go get you a glass?”

“I am fine, but thanks.”

“Let me hold your diaper bag at least.”

“I. Got. It.” Words tersely spewing out of my mouth through gritted teeth.

When you are thirty-five weeks pregnant like me, and with a toddler in tow, people tend to want to help you out—especially the nicer ones (I mean, I would do the same thing!). It’s a very kind gesture and a lot of people love the help, but news flash: I absolutely loathe it. My immediate reaction is a deep want to Kung Fu the person (sometimes with nunchucks depending how persistent said person is) trying to assist me. Normal? Not really, but I can’t help this visceral reaction.

In fact, when my gynecologist said that I may have to start taking it easier in the third trimester and lift my daughter less, my first reactionary thought was lo siento, no Ingles (meaning, I don’t want to comprehend what you are saying, so I am going to pretend I can’t…). But I nodded, Uh huh, as that suggestion went chugga chugga into one eardrum and choo choo out the other like a runaway train.

So why this sour attitude toward kind Samaritans?

Well for most of my life I associated any form of help with me being incapable. This may be partly because when I was in third grade, I was diagnosed with a processing problem, meaning it takes me a little longer to take in information than most students. My mom made me get a tutor to “help” me, which I translated as, “Dani, you are a idiot.” My being a failure became an internal mantra.

Summer of third grade is also when I was introduced to my close companion, ED (Eating Disorder). The typical internal monologue of someone who takes on ED as a best friend is “I am not enough” “I am a failure” “I don’t deserve pleasure” “I have no worth.” These thoughts only exacerbated and confirmed my internal mantra making it a constant theme song in my life: The Dani Sucks At Everything Show. This could be why, it took me until I was twenty-six and had health complications to finally ask for the help I needed to be-rid myself of ED—the frequent guest host in my life.

I also grew up in an upper middle class town surrounded by a lot of people that were fortunate. Some seemed to take their fortune for granted, which made me as an observer, go the completely other direction—not wanting any handouts. My parents are very successful so it was always assumed everything was taken care of for me and that assumption angered me. At the height of my ED, I became all about being completely independent and taking care of everything myself, not caring if it was hurting me—black and white thinking till the very end.

So Please Have Patience with Me

 “Dani, I wish I could do more to help you out,” my husband says as he lathers Benadryl Itch Stopping Gel on my back, to alleviate my third trimester night itching I have developed.

“I am fine and you are helping me by doing this,” I answer as the cool lotion takes over my itchy skin, calming it down.

“No, you never let anyone do anything. It’s frustrating,” he laments.

This is our nightly routine.

Look, I have come a long way. I am almost five years into recovery (December 3, 2017 is the big day); feel the best I ever have, but go go go is just a huge part of my personality and take it easy is not in my vocabulary. I will at least now accept help at times when I am exhausted or overwhelmed, but I am a work in progress in regards to wanting help at all times or just because. I have found my gray area, but my gray area is still a type-A-personality-who-likes-to-achieve-on-her-own. So as long as the doctor says my baby is doing well, I plan to keep up my current pace. This self-reflection has left me wondering if it’s a me thing or an ED thingDoes any one else who has struggled with ED have this distaste or struggle with help as well?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Applauds To Us Wannabe/Soon-to-be/ Mamas In ED Recovery

The moment I found out I was having my first baby I was beyond happy—my mind was on a cloud dancing, gangnam style, with my friends, the Care Bears. Anybody who longs for a child might feel this, but my joy was infused with such gratitude and relief that it is hard to put into words. I had thought I had completely ruined my body during my two decade long struggle with ED, but once I got my weight back to a healthy BMI and my period became regular, I was able to get pregnant.

“Oh my gosh, we are going to have a baby!” I shrieked, my initial reaction to seeing a positive result. I placed my hands over my mouth in disbelief. I am having a baby!

As excited as I was in that moment, once it sunk in, there was a part of me that was afraid that the weight gain would jeopardize my recovery. I’d finally found balance in my routines and eating and felt strong in my recuperation, and this was a curve ball. So here is some advice for a wannabe-mama/ mama-to-be in recovery who finds herself in a similar position:

1). How do I deal with my body changing?

I had some initial struggles with my rapid body changes: sudden huge boobs and out-of-control evolutions I had never experienced and could do nothing to affect. This is how I dealt with it. For starters, there were my half an hour workouts each day that helped keep me in shape and fueled me with “feel good” endorphins. Then there was another part of me, a much more rational and greater part that wanted a baby more than anything and knew, no matter what, I would be okay. I would make sure of it because my baby would need me to be. So if you find yourself struggling, remind yourself what is in your stomach-and why you are gaining weight in the first place–your incredible baby!

2). How do I cope with seeing the numbers go up on the scale?

Easy: Don’t look!

            When you are pregnant you are expected to gain a certain amount of weight. Every time you are at the OB’s office you will be weighed to make sure you are on track. I would advise that you stand backwards on the scale and let the professionals track your weight without you knowing. As long as you are on track, that’s all that matters. I know people without eating disorders who do this. I know that weighing myself is a trigger and I take no chances with triggers when I take into account the health of my child. That is why standing backwards and not knowing my number is a good solution for me.

It is very important to be upfront with your gynecologist about your eating disorder history and past. This may seem trivial, but with my first child, I received a document from my gynecologist with great news, but it had my weight on it, a trigger. I hadn’t seen a number in three years and I hate to admit it but that number haunted me. I couldn’t stop staring at it as the doctor was talking to me. To resolve this, I emailed my OB reminding her of my history/it would be better to not know the number as long as I am gaining healthily and the baby is doing great. She said no problem and that was that.

3). What helps you feel comfortable with your growing belly? 

The other issue I struggled with sometimes was my actual bump size/physical weight gain, not surprisingly. Sometimes I thought it looked cute, and other times I thought I looked chubby or like a “beluga whale”—more the latter honestly, which I am not proud of. I was carrying very side to side, so I just started looking pregnant around 28 weeks. I was waiting for “the bump” for so long, and once it came I was actually not that confident in it.

What helped a lot was that I had gotten a great maternity wardrobe that I felt comfortable and confident in. I would suggest everyone get clothes that fit and feel good, especially toward the end of pregnancy! It was helpful to invest in a maternity wardrobe, and it’s not a waste of money; I still wear the clothing postpartum. I also plan to have more kids, so they can definitely be recycled. It’s better to avoid all of your old clothes during this time. It can be a sting to your ego when your clothing starts to get tight and remind you that you are packing on the pounds.

4). Will I have some down days? What should I do?

Of course you will! Duh, you are human. On days when I did feel insecure about my bump, I felt guilty talking about it. If I would complain, “I was feeling huge and bad about myself,” I would be met with “but you are having a baby.” Then I would feel extremely guilty for my feelings, because yes, I was having a baby and I was extremely lucky, but on the other hand, I am allowed to feel not great about myself.

It is ironic that our need to be skinny is dictated by the media and society, but then if we have a fear of getting fat when we are pregnant, it is considered blasphemous and we are thought of as superficial. Addressing any downsides of being pregnant is frowned upon and seen as taboo, but it shouldn’t be. I bet you that most mothers-to-be have insecure days and these so-called “irrational fears.” We have to start supporting, rather than judging, one another so that we can talk about these normal fears and make one another feel better, instead of holding the feelings in.

My number one advice is talk to someone about how you are feeling (a support) and then do something to make you feel good. Go get a pedicure, a manicure, read a good book, exercise—whatever makes you feel like your best self.

 5). Will my Second baby be easier?

Okay, so surprise, I am pregnant again (almost 20 weeks). Meaning after all of these doubts, I did it again. And guess what? This time around has been much easier because I know what to expect. I am finding that the change in my body is also easier because not only have I already been through it, but also I have no time to focus on the changes this time around. I am constantly chasing around my toddler, taking her to classes, feeding her, watching her reach milestones etc. Also, the best thing about this time around is that you really know what you are getting out of it–another little person that you will love more than anything in this entire world. For that deal, I am in, maybe a couple more times (ask me a couple months after this one enters into the world. I may be bluffing…)

6). Will I relapse after baby?

These little people keep you honest. I know I will be healthy for my daughter so, in a way, she will always be keeping me honest about my recovery. I never want to hear the words “I am fat” out of her mouth. I never want her to emulate unhealthy eating habits from me. I want her to look at her mommy and want to be the confident, smart, kind individual I plan to be for her. I want her to see that intelligence and a kind heart is what real beauty is. Helping people is what beauty is. Being happy and healthy is what beauty is. The rest is bullshit. I want her to know that bodies come in all shapes and sizes and not one is more perfect than the other. I want her to never compare herself to anyone. I will teach her self-acceptance because no one is perfect. It’s the world’s greatest farce.

But always make sure to contact support after the baby if you are finding yourself struggling with your postpartum body. With the stress of having a new baby, it is easy to feel like “I am not doing a good enough job” and everything is completely out of control. These times are when the disordered eating thoughts come back into my head, and I must be vigilant about shutting them down. Wanting a perfect body is hardest to resist when everything around you is so out of control. I had to remember that the size-zero jeans in my closet weren’t the key to my happiness; in fact, they made me the most miserable I had ever been. I stepped back and realized that I was only obsessing about fat because I felt overwhelmed (between balancing working from home and a new baby who needs to eat every two to three hours), and I shut the voices down. This is what you will need to do.

Also, I wasn’t able to diet to lose the weight, because dieting isn’t recommended for recovering anorexics. Doesn’t mean I wasn’t tempted to at times. I am not sure of what my weight was before I became pregnant again, but between breastfeeding (which burns calories and helps shrink your uterus) eating healthy (intuitively), and exercising (chasing a baby is a workout when they get a bit older!) the weight seemed to come off fairly easy. I will never know if I hit my pre-baby magic number, because I didn’t get on a scale, but that’s not important to me. Also, like diets, I don’t believe in scales and obsessing about numbers. I went by how I felt. Most important, my baby was getting proper nutrition from my breast milk and gaining weight and I was strong enough to be the best version of myself for her.

            If you are questioning getting pregnant because of your ED history, know that you will be more than fine; in fact it will be the best decision you ever made. The positives far outweigh the negatives. Just because we had eating disorders doesn’t mean we won’t be amazing mothers. It means we will be strong, sensitive, caring, appreciative, aware mothers to our off spring. And for mamas out there–This mothers day every mama in recovery deserves to be celebrated, because not only are we mamas, which is a hard enough job, we were able to do something our ED told us we couldn’t and produce and care for an amazing human being. Bravo to us!

 

Hatching An Egg The Second Time Around

First of all, if you are pregnant with your second child, props because it’s work to get here! After a long day of having your toddler climbing you like you are human Monkey Bars, the last thing you want to do is be touched in any form, at least on some most days. So yes, getting to this point—high five to you! The first time around, there were countless times I wished I was a chicken and could just hatch an egg. I think we all have these wishbone moments—where we wish when cracking that chicken wishbone for this baby’s healthy eviction another route. But this time, so far being pregnant with child number two has been treating me well–besides the headaches and nausea of first trimester– but I digress to some encouraging facts I have gathered:

1). It goes by fast.

I am already 16 weeks pregnant and I feel like I took the pregnancy test yesterday…maybe I did? (Damn forgetful pregnancy brain and your momnesia ways!). My pregnancy is like the Roadrunner running away from the Tasmanian devil on Looney Tunes-fast AF. I hardly even look at my Ovia app, where last time I obsessed about my baby’s fruit and animal size. It was important when she was an avocado. This time I just think oh that will be a nice food to give my other out-of-womb-child tonight. We haven’t done avocados in a while…

2). You are too busy to think about how exhausted you are, most of the time.

I am taking my fourteen month old to classes, running after her, as she is finding her walking groove–transitioning from her crawl. We are always on the “go, go, go” as she says often, especially when she is using her walker. So yes, I am always exhausted anyway, and don’t have time to feel it until around 7-7:30 PM when my little girl closes her eyes for the night and I can just sit on the couch and veg. But let’s be real, that’s what I did every night before I was pregnant anyway.

 3). You already have maternity clothes from the first time around.

In fact, I never stopped wearing them! I am one of those freaks that love maternity clothes. Baby number one is almost fourteen months, and I just never stopped wearing them because they are so damn comfortable. It’s also not because I don’t fit into my other clothes, because I do, it’s just a comfort thing. Why would I want to squeeze into jeans when these are like jumping into butter? Exactly! They are also nice and stretched from pregnancy number one—so they are that perfect consistency of soft comfort. One bonus for working at home and being the primary caretaker for my daughter—I am going to rock my maternity for life and no one can stop me!

4). Your attitude about your body changes.

You already have stretch marks and fun pregnancy battle wounds from the first go, so it’s like bring it on to more. I struggled with eating disorders for years, but pregnancy actually did something wonderful for me. It made me realize how amazing our bodies are as women. Being pregnant actually took me from in recovery to recovered because I really treated my body like I always should have without much second thought, or at least third thought (we all have bad days!). That has continued to this day. So if I get another mark or two, bring it on because pregnancy has brought the best thing in the world into my life—my daughter.

5). You’re not as nervous, because you have already done this whole baby thing before.

You are a pro mama. At least you are no longer a virgin to this whole baby world. Throw up-bring it! More poop diaper—shit, bring that too! Pat yourself on the back mama–you got this. Now that whole multiple baby thing, let’s just not think about that…

6). You are actually looking forward to the birth.

I mean, free childcare and drugs at my disposal—it will be like a full on party!

So far, pregnancy number two has been treating me well. I will keep you posted but no wishbone moments…yet. All you mamas out there try to think of these positives. Oh and remember, in those tough moments, you have another beautiful baby on the way—double high-five to that.

Get Low, Low, Low

It’s called getting low. At least that’s what my hubby and I call it. When you don’t want to do something in parenthood, but you do it because you absolutely have to—that would be the start of getting low’s Wikipedia definition. Then you duck, tuck and get as low as you can and slither out of the room, like what they tell you in Fire education–stop, drop without the roll. But for effect if you want to do the roll, go ahead by all means.

For instance, last night my daughter was wickedly teething. The amount she was teething made me want to be all tough and Bostonian, like a Ben Affleck movie, hence the wicked. Well, she woke up screaming at around 10 pm. After some Tylenol and a pity viewing of Little Einstein’s, her favorite show, which I like to think she enjoys because she is a baby genius, not because of the bright colors and catchy tunes. But I digress.

After twenty-minutes when she seemed a little better I went to put her back into her crib when she started screaming. And when I say screaming I mean-wah, wah wah, getting increasingly louder with each subsequent wah. It’s awful. One thing I can’t take is hearing my baby crying. My heart cramps together in pain and my blood starts boiling like a teapot— it hurts my first-time-mommy soul. So I did the first thing that came to mind. I got low, and slithered out of her nursery, pretending it didn’t happen. Five minutes later, she was back to sleep.

Another instance where this works is when you are putting your baby in the stroller after a class, when she does not want to be in there more than anything. And hell yes, she will let you know it. Oh and also the fifteen other mothers in the class. She screams incessantly and all of the other mothers are looking at you like girl, what’s wrong with your baby? You can’t get her to stop-try a bottle, a WubbaNub, nothing works. So you duck, tuck and get as low as possible and sneak out the door and start hauling ass down the street.

This can really work in any situation. Let’s say you are feeding your baby at a restaurant and she throws up—puke covering her head to toe. Then you take her to the bathroom and realize you forgot her change of clothes. Crap. Well, you put her in the diaper and winter jacket with the 7AM—pay the bill of course, we don’t promote dining and dashing– and then duck, tuck and slither out of the restaurant before anyone can even notice.

So the next time something happens where you want to avoid seeing your baby upset or the judgmental eyes of other mamas; or worse, the judgmental eyes of other people that don’t have babies and don’t understand–do whatever you got to do. But always remember in the back of your head as a rabbit in the hat magic trick of the trade, when all else fails with your baby, duck, tuck and get low low low low low low low low.