Just Relax!

I now have to go to physical therapy after that car struck me on Monday, November 4th. It is a whole new world for me. Physical therapists and chiropractors may have two of the most directly rewarding jobs. Healing people with focused, physical touch. Connecting with them as they help restore. Teaching them how to use their bodies. So much better than being chained to a cubicle.

One of my physical therapists told me to lie down and let my neck fall into his hands.

“Relax. Let go.”

“I’m still resisting? Am I holding my neck up on my own?”

“Yes, you’re not letting your neck fall all the way. You’re using your own strength.”

I’ve been wanting to write about the effects of remaining in a state of perpetual UNrest and boom, the perfect metaphor falls into my, er, neck. I haven’t been able to fully exhale for what feels like all of 2013, though I’m sure I’ve stolen moments, even half-days, here and there. But now, there is such a deficit that even when I score me some time thanks to my co-parent, it doesn’t feel like enough. Just a drop in the bucket.

I’m sure there is a cost to not relaxing.

When I was pregnant with my first, I was given a heads up only about the newborn stage: the sleep deprivation, the poop, and the nursing. Countless “your life will never be the same’s,” but very few details from the trenches. Perhaps it didn’t make sense to warn about stages to come because it would be too premature (and too scary) when I hadn’t popped the baby out yet. So subconsciously, I may have thought that after a steep learning curve IN THE BEGINNING, order would be restored once they were out of the new puppy stage.

In some ways, it’s true. I feel like a pro raising my second baby boy into toddlerhood. I feel an out-of-body experience when I watch and hear myself share my experiences with pregnant women who ask me what it’s all like. I’m able to drop a deuce while the nearly-three-year-old and one year old watch “Little Einsteins” in harmony.

But I’m also finding that each stage gives way to a different set of needs. You can’t be on cruise control just because you’re out of the urgent newborn stage.

Preparing pureed baby food is replaced with disciplining and learning what triggers tantrums.

Packing the diaper bag with extra diapers and emergency outfits is replaced with repeatedly reassuring toddler that there is nothing scary about pooping in the potty and begging him to let Mommy/Daddy pick out his outfits without passionate protest.

Changing diapers ’round the clock soon evolves into changing diapers every now and then but replaced with vigilantly watching to make sure little dude doesn’t climb the lamp and daredevil himself off the desk.

Baby gets old enough to sit in a highchair at a restaurant but also gets nimble enough to Houdini off the tablecloth right from under the plates and table settings.

I am so tired. That is why I am so in awe of single parents and families of five or more. Not ALL large families, mind you, but large families who do it well, maintaining a solid marriage and mental/emotional health. Mommies who are able to care for their families while still keeping their own dreams alive.

I had another first after my first experience with physical therapy.

Ellis cried awake next to me in his crib at 6 am. I brought him into our bed and allowed him to nurse while I tried to sleep a little bit more. We are in the process of weaning but due to his getting sick and my craving rest, I allow him to nurse whenever, though it is turning out to be mostly mornings and ungodly hours. No rush to wean at all.

Kevin had already been summoned onto the wooden floor of Micah’s tiny closet-room earlier when he screamed awake, calling for Daddy in the middle of the night (a habit we are too tired to break since he started doing this scream-wake in August).

Thunderous crash. A baby wailing.

Where am I? Who am I? Omigod, I had drifted. Reality check: I’m not only in my 30s but creeping towards the big 4-0 (GASP!) and that baby is MY baby crying!

Ellis had crashed headfirst onto our wooden floor after doing his bed acrobatics. Before this, I had always been able “sleep” with one eye sensing my child, like a ninja, sleeping a light, nasty, unrestful sleep while catching baby by the ankle whenever he tried to be a daredevil.

Today, my baby fell off the bed because I had relaxed into a real slumber for a few minutes, even dreaming that I was meeting my friend’s boyfriend while we were in our 20s (both of us married with a kid or two in real life).

This has NEVER happened before.

Reminds me of how people talk about self-care and how the Earth won’t stop rotating just because you relax and take pause. (What is that actual phrase? Anyone?)

The Earth will continue to go about its business but your baby will come crashing down onto the floor.

I Miss You, Me

The guy next to me at the smoovie store at my gym is supposedly 7’3″ but he seems more like 8 feet tall because I looked like a toddler by his side at the cash register. So, that sentence was my way of casually sliding in the fact that I finally went to the gym today after a long hiatus. So long that it was mimicking a retirement. I haven’t been since…well, the point is I went tonight.

I had even purposely let the membership expire because I didn’t want to pay up if I wasn’t going to go regularly during my second pregnancy. But I just HAD to go tonight to check in. To see wassup out in the world away from my living room, away from my double stroller. I had fire in my eyes so I knew I was gonna go no matter what. Usually, to just get out the door, into the building’s hallway, past our doorman and neighbors coming home from work, through the other side of Queens Blvd just a handful of blocks away, especially in the winter, triggers all kinds of psychological obstacles but there was no stopping me tonight.

I have been feeling down lately. To be more accurate, both up and down, then down and up. Probably exacerbated by postpartum hormones but also the very natural ebb-and-flow as an at-home mama.

Moments of, “I am the most fulfilled, blessed woman on the planet as I now have TWO morsels to nibble on. This is better than ANY meaningless office job as a lawyer that I had to struggle through each day. Thank you Jesus,” but interspersed with, “I feel like crap. Who am I other than mamamamamama? I am an all-you-can-eat-buffet for my new bundle of joy when not engaging my toddler. Even during my ‘down’ time at night when the kiddies are sleep, it’s more mama duty follow-up on the laptop like arranging playdates, researching stepstools and preschools, or email-consulting with my fashion-forward girlfriends back home about different shades of red for a perfect winter jacket for my Micah.”

Though it is natural to feel like all I am is mama especially as I am currently in the thick of it all (newborn plus toddler plus winter gloom plus hating on my post-baby body), I wanted to do something about feeling cranky and lost at times. Though I am FAR from being a Martha Stewart mama, I am still so SPENT from doing only mama duties. Started feeling really imbalanced as a human being. Craved using the other side of my brain. Everything I lived and breathed was mama-related. Of course when I mention that to my own mama from another generation and culture, she be like, “AND? Of course, you are mama, mama, mama. As you should be. You blessed.”

In some ways, I can’t help but agree with her as I am old school in many ways, but I don’t want to feel guilty about admitting that while mamahood is beyond amazing and rewarding, I just want to carve out a little nugget for myself. To recharge and regroup. I may not be able to figure out a five-year plan or ten-year plan for incorporating a livelihood into my full-time mama life but I can carve out more me time, to invest that into being a better mama and wifey at home.

So after a Monday full of:

fingerpainting (to curb his requests for tv and computer),

battling Micah to please wash his hands after fingerpainting,

battling him once again as he ran away smirking with his diaper full of grown-man poo,

feeding Ellis any time he fussed,

finally getting to eat my breakfast for lunch while wearing Ellis in an Ergo because he realized that being stuck on mama was the way to go at ten weeks old,

vacuuming Micah’s tiny Play-Doh and lunch crumbs scattered about the playmats,

picking up after toys strewn all over the living room so that I won’t trip over them as I walked around with Ellis still stuck on my now sweaty chest,

enjoying a playdate full of toddler noises (x 3) when our beloved little twin friends came over to help our afternoon go by faster…

I sat on the couch to nurse once again. I started caressing Ellis’ explosively fat cheeks when Micah came to join us, snuggling on my right side. A picture of love and tranquility…

until my usually too-gentle-with-his-friends little rascal started to pull out my hair from my half-ponytail. Pulling it HARD, strand after strand, while beaming at me and beaming even brighter when I pleaded with him to stop. He thought it was hilarious. Then Ellis started strumming my tri-rolls, the fatty fats on my torso as he nursed, like he was saying, “Oh, mama! We have the same body! Tri-rolls rule! I love you, you squishy thang!”

Once Kevin walked in the door, I was ready to bounce in my fingerpainted pajama/lounging/workout/going out elastic-waisted pants and a very unforgiving t-shirt perfect for showcasing my tri-rolls.

Sure, when I got to the gym, I realized I was too hungry after nursing to do a full workout, but at least I got there. I read my US Weekly on the elliptical machine and only 20 minutes later, I was in line buying a chocolate shake for dinner. I belatedly realized that “Performance Shake” was probably meant for bodybuilders who wanted to gain mass (doh!) but some natural peanut butter and whey protein wasn’t gonna kill me. And so what if I got hungry after my meal REPLACEMENT drink and had to eat a gang of cheese on Fire-Roasted Tomato Triscuits?

What I’m gonna take with me tonight is that instead of giving into the nightly temptation to NOT step away and do something, anything, just for me, myself and I, even if it means walking around the block to talk to a girlfriend on the phone or going across the street to CVS to look at nail polish colors or Christmas wreaths or fill an overpriced antibiotics prescription, the key is to be ALL BY MYSELF. To step away. To unwind. To exhale the stale living room air and inhale some wintermint air. To remember that the world does not stop just because mama duties call, that this is just a season in my life.

Once these seasons pass, it would be beneficial to remember who I am since the boys won’t need me as much (sniff, sniff) and I can’t hover over them forever. I need these little “me” moments to balance me out and even revamp myself once the time comes.

If I do step away just a little bit, say every other day once Kevin walks through the door, I think I’d have more energy and peace for my daily duties. For playing hide-and-go-seek 11 times in a row with a toddler who never even bothers to hide and refuses to let me use the computer during the day. For switching sides every few hours as I sleep for a newborn who has started snacking on me throughout the night.

Champagne wishes and caviar dreams have been replaced with longing to go buy milk and grapes all by myself please.