Comparison Is The Main Ingredient to Your Unhappiness

When I was younger, someone very important to me said something I don’t think I will ever forget. They said to me; “The man who always looks to his neighbours plate, will always be hungry.” Honestly, no truer words have been spoken and I think it’s so important for all of us to keep these words at the forefront of your mind. 

Those words, as wise as they are, weren’t words I really paid much attention to until the other day. 

As a new mom, I am looking to a lot of parenting forums, apps, and articles for information. My life is changing, I am a mother suddenly responsible of keeping this adorable little girl alive, and although 11 weeks have past and I am getting the hang of things, I still don’t know what is best for my daughter and how to get her on the right track developmentally. So for a lot of the answers I need, I look to others for guidance. 

This is really a double edged sword. Someone will tell you that at 2 months, your baby should be loving tummy time. They should be reaching for things and copying little noises you make. That will make you as a new parent sit back and think, Is my baby doing all that? If the answer is no, it is going to make you wonder about your child’s development. Are you not doing enough? Should you have done more earlier? Why is that baby already supporting itself on it’s front arms at 3 months? Will my daughter be doing that in just 2 more weeks?

As I sat there on the floor beside the mat my daughter was lying on and watched her angrily yelp and squeal (she absolutely hates tummy time), I wondered why she seemed to hate it when all the other parents told me that every baby loves tummy time. What’s going on with my Sunshine that she acts as though its some kind of torture?

I found myself comparing my situation, my parenting, and my daughter to other parents and babies. Let me tell you, this is a slippery slope. 

What started off as a routine exercise for my daughter that usually ended up in her giving me the stink face for several minutes afterwards, turned into me wondering whether or not she was where she was supposed to be. 

If I was baking a cake of unhappiness, I had already put in the most important ingredient: comparison. 

Any time in your life when you compare yourself to anyone else, you are asking for trouble. Yet, it something so many of us struggle with. I am a confident person in certain ways. I won’t change who I am as a person for anyone, I don’t care about people’s opinions about me, and I will always stand beside someone who I care about. That being said, I am not always the most confident when it comes to my looks and I feel like those waves of low self-esteem seem to hit me when I compare myself to someone else. 

Today, it’s impossible not to. Everywhere you turn there are images of beautiful, fit women who everyone tells you are perfection. It’s hard not to look at them and ask yourself what is different about you, what elements of yourself are keeping you from being seen like people see them? 

As a new parent, you are so vulnerable. Being a new parent, in my opinion, is isolating and in a way lonely. Even when you have an amazing support team, it’s hard not to be lonely. Sometimes it feel like you are losing the person you were and you experience that loss all on your own, no one else can share in that with you. As strong as you are for your new baby, you are vulnerable to the world and I feel like this is when you will most compare yourself with other people. 

You compare your delivery, you compare your bodies with other women who have just become mommies. You compare you weight loss, your stretch marks, your sleep, your feeding routines. It’s like there are just columns and columns of other women and every day you see if you can add a check next to something they too are doing. It’s tiring, it’s difficult, and at the end of the day, it’s just throwing more and more ingredients into that cake of your unhappiness. 

So, what can we do?

It’s not easy to just undo years of subconsciously comparing ourselves and our accomplishments to the people around us. It’s like our lives are a competition or a game, and everyone is working to get the high score. We can’t just turn it off, can we?

No. We are creatures of habit and once those habits have etched themselves into our character, they are hard as hell to get rid of. Trust me, I’ve tried. 

I do think that being aware of it is so important though. These past few days I have been aware of it more than ever. That first night I compared my daughter to other children her age, I was miserable. I reduced my daughter to this nameless faceless thing that was nothing more than her age and accomplishments. I have to admit I went to bed feeling extremely shitty. 

My daughter is the greatest gift I have ever received in my whole life. She is wonderful, silly, stinky at times, and I wouldn’t change her for anything or anyone else. So why the hell does it matter to me what other babies her age are doing?

You know what? It doesn’t! It honestly and truly doesn’t now that I realize that I was comparing her to other babies, I could care less if she is copying noises I make, or whether or not she loves the dreaded tummy time all other mothers swear their babies loved. 

We do not have cookie-cutter babies. They are not all the same. Some are late-bloomers. Some are creative things that want to imagine what they are doing instead of practicing to do it. Others are athletic, others are terrors, others are calm and content. There are no two babies that are exactly alike. Every baby is different, so why even bother comparing them?

My life right now is complex. I am happy as a new mother, but that doesn’t mean I am not struggling. Most days the only people I physically talk to are my 11 week old daughter, my 8 year old dog, and my husband for about 2 or 3 hours before bed. This often leaves me feeling like I am on this new Mommy Island that not a lot of people can get to, and that I can’t leave. 

It’s lonely and time does this weird thing of passing both slowly and all too quickly. I never get to really sleep, and most days I am just a cow for my daughter to constantly feed off of. 

Mentally, every day is a rollercoaster ride that I can’t get off of and I have a feeling I won’t get the chance to get off any time soon. 

But, we all have to celebrate small victories. 

I have stopped comparing my daughter to other babies and that has eliminate a lot of the stress and worry that had weaved itself into my every day life. She will love things and hate things at her own pace. She is her own little person that is growing and learning every single day, and I am so excited to see what and who she will grow into. 

The oven is off, the mixing bowl is in the sink, and I have thrown the main ingredient to my unhappiness in the trash. No more comparisons for me. 

I can breathe a little better knowing that… 

Everyone else out there that has been subconsciously baking a cake of their unhappiness that they will undoubtedly end up eating through thick tears while they struggle to breathe through heavy sobs in the dark, I hope you’ll join me in throwing it all away. We are all struggling through different things, there is no point in comparing lives, bodies, or anything else. 

Just live your best life, the best you can. 

Happiness will come. 

Winter Weather Blues

New parents have a lot on their plates. When you have made the decision to stay home with your new little one for the first year or so, a lot of people think that is a blessing. You get to stay in your PJs, you get to binge-watch your favourite shows, you get to avoid the bad weather if you have your baby right before the winter. 

I will admit, those are big pluses. 

On the other hand, when your partner is back at work, or you are doing it alone, staying at home with your baby can be isolating. With the temperature dropping outside, the sky remaining that bleak grey, and they fear of your little one contracting something during the flu season, you are more likely to stay inside. 

It’s easy to fall into a routine of nothingness. You wake up, spend most of your day in the same clothes, feeding your baby, entertaining her and changing her. The small naps she takes you tell yourself you will use to get things done, but chances are you use that time to catch up on some of the rest you went without the night before. 

Days of the week start to all blend together, and without people coming in and out for visits, they don’t really matter. 

It’s really hard to get motivated. I am trying to add working out at home to my daily routine to at least do a little something for myself, but it is hard not to fall into winter weather blues. 

My husband is at work typically all day. He has an unusual work schedule so I typically see him for an hour or so in the mornings and then not until after 11:00pm. That means that most of my day is spent with my beautiful daughter and our fur baby, but neither provide me with the stimulating conversation I crave. 

With us being a one vehicle family, spur of the moment outings are off the table because my husband typically takes the car to work unless I tell him I would like it for the day, which usually, I have no plans. 

So what can you do? 

Besides texting out constant SOS messages to anyone who will answer, I think it’s important, even in bad weather (so long as there isn’t a blizzard taking place outside) to go out and get some fresh air each day. For me, it’s easy because I have to go out to walk my dog anyway. I have to kick myself in the butt lately to actually go for long walks as opposed to just taking him out to do his business and retreating back into the warmth of our apartment. 

We have the Bugaboo stroller which has the large bicycle tires on the back to make it easy to get out in any weather. If you live somewhere with all four seasons, like me here in Canada, I would definitely invest in a stroller with big, capable tires. 

It’s also important to make plans to incorporate different people in your days each week. Seeing the same three faces, although you love your little family, every day can leave you feeling like a bit of a hermit. I try and see my mother, sister, brothers and nephew at least once a week. Usually we do Sunday dinners, but I also try and get together with my sister when I can. 

Do something every day just for you. 

Don’t set big unattainable goals that will depress you when you don’t complete them. Keep them simple. Maybe something as simple as getting up, putting make-up on and getting dressed every day. The routine can make you feel like your old self. 

I have been going without make-up since I started staying home from work in August. Without that routine I had before working in the morning, it is really hard to get myself going. I used to get up, make a cup a coffee (decaf unfortunately) bring that into the bathroom with me while I put make-up on and did my hair for work. Then I would get dressed and be ready to start my day. 

Now, as a new mom, that routine is almost impossible to stick to. Your baby wants your love and attention, so spending thirty-minutes in the bathroom by yourself is a no-go. 

I’ve changed this routine a little bit to include her. Now, I put some music on and put my daughter in her carrier on my chest. I have her with me in the bathroom as I dance around, wash my face, brush my hair… just make myself look a little less like a sleepless cave-woman and more like myself. I find the music keeps my daughter in a good mood while I do things like pluck my unruly eyebrows or moisturize. 

When I leave the bathroom, I feel more refreshed and less like I am a zombie just stumbling through the day. 

Despite my lack of appetite in the morning, I still get myself a bowl of cereal and eat it while I breastfeed. It’s like I am not eating alone and makes me feel great. 

Normally after breakfast my daughter will doze for a bit. This is the perfect time to put her in her swing while I do a 7 minute workout using my 7 minute women’s workout app on my phone. (I love this app!) 

Lately I have been using it just to guide me through stretches and easier workouts. Nothing overly taxing as I can’t necessarily wind down afterwards depending on my daughter’s mood. 

Reading this you may be thinking that none of this will work for you. That’s fine, we are all different. The point is, because the weather restricts what you can do outside of your house, it’s important to make your home comforting to you. A place that doesn’t feel like a binding prison but like it’s full of opportunities for you throughout the day. 

Maybe it’s reading a book. Maybe it’s taking time to do some journalling. Find what makes you feel good and do it every day to help you keep your winter weather blues at bay. 

Your mental health is as important as your physical health, especially as a new parent!

Toxic Relationships and How To Improve Or Move On From Them.

A few years ago, I went through a mental spring cleaning, so to speak. My mind was full, it was clouded and I found myself slipping into negativity. I would often pause and think back to the person I was just a few years earlier. I was someone who smiled often, fell back on being silly and carefree, and had this whole ‘Glass Half Full’ outlook on life. 

I sat back and reflected on a bunch of things going on in my life. 

After a lot of reflection, I realized it was some of the friendships in my life that were altering how I viewed the world and myself. Some of my friends had this way of changing my whole mood, which changed how I viewed things and how I thought about things. 

It’s important for a lot of people to realize that you personally define what is toxic to your mental state. I think when a lot of people think of a toxic relationship, they think about abuse or neglect. There are so many other little things you may not realize are sinking the ship of your happiness. 

I realized a lot of the friends in my life are overly dependant on me. There is nothing wrong with that, everyone needs a shoulder to cry on or someone to lean into when times are tough. Yet, when I thought about it, for so many of my friends, times were always tough. No matter how well things were going in their lives, they always latched on to that one thing that was going poorly and looked to me to encourage them and lift them up. 

There is nothing wrong with being someone’s moral support. This can be as beneficial to you at times as it is to them, but if you look back on your relationship and realize the only time they reach out to you is when they need you to lift them out of the emotional hole they had dug themselves into, it’s important to note that maybe they view you more as a therapist than as an actual friend. 

Relationships like this can be taxing and can leave you feeling worn and used which is not good for you. 

A lot of my relationships were like this, and all I did to clear the space in my mind and my life was stop reaching out to them first to see if they really valued me as a friend or thought of me outside of their problems. Another thing I did was took a day or two off from responding to their SOS text messages. If they messaged me when their crisis was over, then I knew they were friendships worth holding onto. 

When I was pregnant, I was emotional and a lot of those sad days were brought on by the thought that I didn’t have a friendship circle. I have one real and true friend. That’s it. 

I have a few other friendships that I would consider more of an aquaintanceship. They are there, and I reach out to them on occasion, but days, weeks, or even months could pass without speaking and neither one of us really has a problem with that. 

When you become a parent you think about whether or not these types of relationships are worth it, or whether it is just better to move on and make new friends. People grow, and because of that, it’s not uncommon for people to grow apart. 

Any relationship that weighs down on you, makes you feel negative or used, or holds you back from things you hope and dream for would be a toxic relationship. 

If you are hoping to hold onto these people and continue to have them in your life, the best thing to do is to speak to them. Let them know how your relationship makes you feel and that they are important to you, but that you can’t continue on in this relationship the way it is. You need a change, and don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about wanting to free up some mental space and improve your mental health. 

Whether this is someone you are in a romantic relationship, a platonic relationship, or even if you are related, you have every right to want something more out of your relationship, especially if it makes you feel bad. 

Although people do grow, it is difficult for them to change. Some people may hear what you are saying but revert back to how they were after a few weeks. Don’t be afraid to pull away if that is what you need. 

Toxic relationships can really change the way you live your life, but it is still your life. Surround yourself with people that enhance your life and the way you live it. 

After Pregnancy Woes

If all goes well with the remaining time of my pregnancy and I deliver on time, I will have my precious little Kiwi in my arms in 58 days. That is in less than two months time.

Knowing that fills me with an excitement I don’t quite know what to do with. I have butterflies, I am antsy, I just keep thinking that I am so close to the finish line and can’t wait to reap the rewards of this pregnancy. I keep picturing what our baby will be like, marvelling in the moments when I get to touch our baby’s little hands and feet, and inhale that sweet new baby smell.

I am over the moon excited.

However, that in no way means that I am ready. In the past couple weeks, I have been on a hunt for my car seat, something you need in order to take your baby home from the hospital.

I had found a second-hand Bugaboo Frog stroller and bought it for $100. It was barely used as the couple who had purchased it got a Chameleon a few months in and used that one through the duration of their babies use of strollers. What I like about the Bugaboo is that it is convertible. You can use the frame with a car seat, the bassinet, or the seat. The handles go both ways so you can have the baby facing you or facing away, and all the replacement pieces were relatively cheap. This was important to me because in Toronto, with how much salt is used in the winter and the changes in the weather, tires get worn and I don’t want to have to replace my whole stroller. Having a baby is expensive enough with having to replace things you’ve already bought.

Another great thing about the Bugaboo line is you can buy pretty much any car seat and they will sell an adapter so that seat can fit on. Now, my problem with my search has been that not a lot of stores have a large selection of infant car seats on display for you to actually look at and see. Why is this a big deal? Well, because if I end up ordering one through the store and online and I don’t like it, that means I can’t go into the store and just pick up another one and go. I would need to wait for the replacement.

It isn’t a huge deal, but I find things like this tend to pick away at me in a way that things didn’t before. I find myself hypersensitive to everything. Something like a store discounting my crib and me having to look elsewhere for other options, or not being able to physically see the car seat in the colour and options I want seemed to send me down the rabbit hole of emotions. Once I start falling, I find it impossible to figure out which way is up, to see how far I’ve fallen or even think of finding my way out.

This worries me because I find myself stressing about how I will cope when I do have my baby. Will this whirlwind of emotions calm once pregnancy is over, or will they intensify? I already find myself feeling overwhelmed in my pregnancy and all I have to do is be pregnant. How overwhelmed will I feel when I have not only myself to care for, but another person?

I am a mentally strong person. I don’t let things burrow under my skin, I don’t over think things I know I can’t change, I don’t wallow in mistakes. I can brush things off that other people tend to carry with them, and the opinions of others has never been enough to darken any of my clouds overhead.

A few years ago I was hit by a car while crossing the street and I felt a change in who I was mentally as much as physically. Suddenly there was a little more weight on my shoulders. I would play and re-play scenarios in my head… for the first time in my life I felt myself dealing with things like anxiety and depression. It was odd, it was like I was slowly drowning, losing the breath of who I was.

It was a lot for me to process.

It was scary, changing so drastically over such a short amount of time. I had been shaken, down to my very core and I guess in the process, all these cracks seemed to form in my psyche. Those cracks allowed things to creep in that hadn’t been able to before.

Three years have passed since my accident, and for the most part I have done my best to repair those cracks. As my pregnancy comes closer and closer to the end and I get closer and closer to my delivery, I can’t help but worry about the state of those cracks.

Most people are worried about more superficial things. Will those stretch marks fade? Will I be able to lose all the weight I have gained during my pregnancy? Will my acne calm? Will my hair go back to its thickness, or regain it’s luster?  Those thoughts are ones that don’t cloud my mind too much. To be honest, I don’t much care about those things. I am more worried about if I will return to the person I was before my pregnancy. If I will regain the creativity that I seem to have lost since my mind became so fogged and fatigued. I wonder if I will regain some of my ambition, if I will continue my writing, if I will finally be successful at it. I wonder if I will get back the smile I had, the one that stretched across my face and made me forget that my teeth aren’t as straight as I want them to be, or that I always seem to laugh a little too loud.

I wonder if the silliness that seemed to course through my veins will replace the sudden short fuse, the temper that always seemed to be burning in my belly, the darkness that seems to require more and more light to navigate through.

I wonder if I will see myself again, or if the woman I was before will become more of a distant memory. My hope is that I will see her again, that we will somehow evolve, fix the remaining cracks together and that I will overcome whatever hurdles the hormones in my pregnancy seemed to have put up.

Pregnancy is weird. The transformation we go through, at least the one everyone always talked about was physical. I wasn’t prepared for the mental transformation, or the emotional one. I wasn’t prepared to completely lose myself in it all.

If there is one thing I hope anyone who reads my blog learns, is that it’s okay to feel this way, but it’s important to talk about those changes. To lean on others for support when the weight of it all seems to heavy. It’s okay to say you’re overwhelmed and you need a break.

Man, do I need a break.

Hopefully the break I so desperately need comes when I get to see my little bundle of joy. I will be sure to keep you all posted.

Until then, you know me… I’ll just be here. Pretending I know what I’m doing.

A Sea of Wonder… and Worry

In the beginning of your journey towards becoming a parent, you compartmentalized. At that point, all you can think about is getting pregnant, or getting your baby however you decide to do it.

Everything in your life becomes a routine of temping, logging, scheduling. Maybe it becomes treatments, shots, dietary changes. For some it becomes an endless sea of paperwork and hoping. Maybe getting in touch with your religious side and doing a little praying.

Our journey to become parents is not always the same, but in the beginning our minds become consumed. All we can think about is the possibility of that baby, and hope that possibility will turn into reality sooner rather than later.

And then… it happens.

You are pregnant, or maybe you got accepted to be foster parents, or adoptive parents.

The part of your brain that had been running full steam all around the clock suddenly starts to shut down, and another part of your brain starts working.

You know, that part of your brain that over-thinks everything, the same part of your brain where worry and strife go to breed. Yeah, that part of your brain.

In the beginning of my pregnancy, I cut out everything that I thought was even remotely toxic. If not enough research had been done, it had to go. Why? Because I had finally gotten what I wanted and I would be damned if I screwed it all up because of something so silly as coffee, or deli meats.

The first trimester of pregnancy is stressful for some, it definitely was for me. Why? Because the risks of a miscarriage are high in the first trimester. It’s hard to know what little thing will be the thing that triggers our bodies into deciding now is not the time. Not to mention the first trimester tends to be the most difficult for most women.

Nausea, heartburn, bloating, gas, constipation, dizziness… the list is endless for some and to top it all off, you can add stressing and over thinking.

When you finally cross over the line from your first trimester into your second. You sigh a little sigh of relief. Just a little one. Because although you feel like you can see your way out of the woods, you aren’t quite out yet.

Now you move into making sure your baby is healthy. There are genetic tests, anatomy scans, all these things that have your anxiety kicking into overdrive.

When you first get pregnant, they do a full blood and urine workup. This determines first and foremost that you are pregnant. It also determines you are STD free and tests the levels in your blood for certain things like anemia, your blood type, all this stuff that will help them decide whether you will require further testing.

For the most part, my tests came back good in my first trimester. I was anemic, but that was something I had known for over a decade, so that was nothing new. Aside from that, all was good and I could store my anxiety and worry away until my second trimester.

It seems like the most testing they do is for chromosomal defects. I am sure they test for a lot of other things, but it seemed like whenever I asked, the test or measurements that were being taken were to determine whether my baby would have chromosomal defects. The measurements taken of our babies neck to see if there is increased fluid in that area or if the area is thicker than anticipated, is one way they can determine if your baby will be born with Down Syndrome. The measurements of the nose can also tell them if your baby is high risk to be born with Down Syndrome.

A lot of these tests are to see if your child will be born with Trisomy 18, as opposed to the Trisomy 21 which is the extra chromosome that is found in people with Down Syndrome. Trisomy 18 is scary to think about when you are pregnant because it means that the extra 18 chromosome can disrupt the normal patterns of your baby’s development which can be life threatening.

I think what bothered me most about these tests, is that they don’t come out with a clear negative or positive. They give you a percentage, and your doctor uses that percentage to determine whether you are high or low risk. Regardless of whether you are high or low, you can still give birth to a baby with chromosomal abnormalities.

My pregnancy was exciting, I felt like I was standing in a heavy rainstorm of joy and anticipation but suddenly, with all this new information, I could see rain clouds closing in.

I have read all the mom forums, I have read all the comments and questions and fears about pregnant moms who were afraid their children would be born with Trisomy 18 or 21. Surprisingly, a lot of these comments were met with negativity. People said things like “So what?” “There are worse things in the world than having a child with Trisomy 18 or 21.” “Be thankful you are pregnant!

Even though I can understand where these comments are coming from, I don’t think people are really thinking about how stressful it is to be pregnant. You are holding scales up before you and you are trying to balance your worry and your happiness every single day. It doesn’t make you a bad person to worry about these things, just like it doesn’t make you a bad person to want your child to be healthy.

Only 50% of babies with Trisomy 18 will be born alive, and of those 50% only 10% can make it past their first birthdays. I have read that a small amount of that 10% makes it to adulthood… mostly girls. That is a lot of information to take in and to see some moms of healthy babies shame women who are pregnant for fretting and losing sleep over the chances their baby will have Trisomy 18 seems heartless and misplaced.

Trisomy 21 in this day and age shows a great survival rate. I know and have worked with a great deal of Down Syndrome children and teens to know there are different levels of functionality, some of which can live almost independently. However, 1 in every 2 children born with Trisomy 21 will be born with a hole in their heart that will differ in severity. Some will close on their own, but other’s will require surgery to close it. If it heals and is closed correctly, that is wonderful, if not they may have heart problems their whole life.

Now you may be wondering, why is she so stuck on the Trisomy tests? It seems to be something not too many people worry about during pregnancy, what is her hang up?

Well, my sister just gave birth to a beautiful baby boy with Trisomy 21. She had taken all the same tests I did and the doctors had told her she was relatively low risk. Later, they noted an abnormality in his heart, but told her it was something she shouldn’t worry too much about. Fast forward to Mother’s Day, a month before you due date and she had an emergency C-Section.

A C-section alone is a lot to make a lot of moms to be nervous. Especially if they had spent a lot of time on a birth plan that stated natural birth, a month later than the day you are told you will have one. Then they tell her her baby looks as though he may have Trisomy 21 and they will have to run additional tests. Then they tell her he has a hole in his heart that is too large to close on it’s own.

It is a lot to take in during the moments after giving birth.

Up until this moment, I had taken my doctor’s word. She had told me the tests gave me a good percentage which meant I was in the lowest of the low when it came to my baby’s risks for chromosomal abnormalities. Suddenly, my anxiety was in hyper-drive.

Fear ate up a great deal of my mind.

The sea of wonder I had been sailing on became rough. It darkened and became tough to navigate.

Just another part of pregnancy that I don’t think a lot of people talk about enough. On top of all the embarassing symptoms, the constant changes to your body, the mood swings, the emotional rollercoaster that just keeps going around and around, there is also all the risks.

Before my pregancy I was not the type of person that worried about these types of things. I was the kind of person who would wait for ailments to clear on their own, I would shrug off misfortunes, I would just keep powering through life when I stumbled or fell.

In pregnancy, I have never felt more helpless.

Why don’t we talk about the helplessnes?

We live in an age where mental health is becoming less of a stigma. I think it’s also important to talk about the changes in your mental wellbeing while you are pregnant. Sometimes I hear my own thoughts and feel like they are the thoughts of a stranger.

Normally I chalk it all up to the hormones and move on. However there are days where I feel blue and it is overwhelming and all consuming. Untriggered, but ever-growing.

I can’t even pretend to know what is going on with me mentally. What I can say for sure, is the amount of anxiety I feel sometimes in pregnancy is the same kind of anxiety I felt after I got hit by a car three years ago. The way my heart would pound at the very thought of crossing the street was crippling.

Does everyone feel this way during pregnancy? I have looked through the twitter feeds, I have read the forums, I have tried to find a group to see for myself if this is common or not.

We are all on this sea, just trying to navigate towards our happy endings. Trying to sail towards the rainbow that will be our children.

For now, I will just keep sailing and hope to make my way through.