Lonely Moms’ Club

Lonely Moms’ Club

Before I gave birth, I envisioned myself having tea and pastries with a group of moms bitching about all the sleepless nights we’ve had while our babies nap.

None of that happened. The sleepless nights—sure, those happened. None of the tea and pastries with the moms though. But that’s my fault, right? I didn’t enroll in a prenatal yoga class, I didn’t join a centering group (mostly because I was too far along when I looked into them), and I didn’t really click with any of the women I was in a class with. So where does that leave me? Alone with my baby after my husband’s paternity leave ended and having to think of ways to entertain myself while my baby naps. 

It can get lonely, and I hope you’re ready for it, Mama. 

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You might think it’s perfect—I’ll catch up on my reading, walk a lot, see that shop I’ve been meaning to visit. Yes, sure, that’s all nice and dandy. But who do you talk to? Who commiserates with you about your anxiety about this person you brought to the world who’s fully dependent on you? Who says “Oh my gosh, yes!” when you talk about how you can’t even go to the bathroom because you’re too scared your kid will stop breathing? I know it sounds extreme, but you will have those moments. And you probably need someone to share them with who knows what you’re going through. If you’re the first in your circle to have a baby, it’s not going to be the same dynamic once you start yammering away about your child’s poop. Yes, your partner will listen to you for sure, but unless they’ve pushed a human out of their body, it is just not the same. 

When you search for “loneliness in pregnancy” online, you’ll find a dearth of scientific articles and plenty of mom blogs that discuss the subject. Why is that? Loneliness is not popularly studied on its own. It is often interspersed with depression or grief. Couple that with the special subset of pregnant women, and you’ll have even less material to choose from.

Harry Stack Sullivan, an American Neo-Freudian psychiatrist, described loneliness as the most painful human experience. He commented on the “driving force” of loneliness—a force great enough, he pointed out, to cause people who were normally painfully shy to aggressively seek social activity. 

So what can we do to alleviate this pervasive feeling? 

Go out at least once a day.
I’ve found that this improved my mood immensely. Start with getting dressed. If you can shower, thank the heavens and jump up and down. If not, just put on clean clothes. Staying in your jammies will not coax you into conquering the day. 

If you wanna take the extra step of doing something repetitive, that’s even better. Whether it’s postpartum yoga or Pilates (makes sure diastasis recti is not a concern), a daily park visit, or dropping by your corner store for a fruit fix, a scheduled activity forces you to get out of the house and do something.  

Go somewhere that will make you happy.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a coffee shop, a bookstore, the supermarket, or the park. The fact that visiting a place makes you happy is already a win. I went to a bistro that had tables outside where I could read a book or solve a crossword puzzle while my baby napped. It was ah-mazing.

Try to meet with people.
I know I said it’s a different dynamic with friends who don’t have kids but it doesn’t mean they don’t want to see you or hear about what you’re going through. They do. They probably don’t wanna hear about your kid’s poop for a straight hour but they want to hear how you’re doing. And if it’s done over delicious brunch or mimosas (virgin or not), muuuuch better. Try to schedule it during nap times so that you focus on your conversation instead of having to divide your attention between your child and your friend.

Talk to people.
Lucky for me, I got to video call my mom and sisters. I know it’s not the same thing. Having someone there physically to hear your trials and tribulations about taking care of a living being who cannot communicate is certainly better, but it got me through some tough moments.

When you go to the places that make you happy, strike up a conversation with someone there. The person behind the counter at a bookstore, the barista at your favorite cafe, and if you’re lucky—that other mom who’s also toting a baby. So many other people want to talk, too. You’ll be surprised how many people would love to strike up a conversation. You just need to start.

Talk to your partner. Even if they don’t understand it fully, they know enough to support you through this tough time. If there is something deeper and stronger that is taking over, they will be the one to get you some help if you’re not doing it already. Even if it’s just talking about the frustration or the boredom during the day, force them to listen if you have to. 

Find some moms. Or not.
There are mom groups everywhere. You don’t have to pay for a class or for membership. Check out resources out there. There are Meetup groups, Facebook groups, and other local maternal resources.

I also started organically talking to some moms in my extended circle. And sometimes the experience of having children magically breaks down some barriers you’ve had before. Someone you thought you never would be friends with all of a sudden has so many things in common with you. 

Because it is very common—these child-rearing ups and downs—everyone has them. EVERYONE. Don’t be scared. Reach out. Chances are those moms know about being lonely. They’ve gone through it, too. You are not alone. 

Or you can also choose not to seek out other moms. I had some occasional visits with mom friends but no regular meetings that I would go to. That worked for me, coupled with regular friends, and that could work for you as well.

You’ll get your own rhythm and system. It takes time for this to happen but it’s good to know all the things that you can do.

Get some help.
I mean this in the broadest sense. If you’re getting overwhelmed with taking care of your little one such that you aren’t able to take care of yourself, get some help. Or even when you just need time to do other things that aren’t home-related or child-related. Whether it’s a night time doula, a house cleaner, a Postmate to deliver you food or get you some supplies—it’s worth it if it saves your sanity.

When your loneliness is getting the better of you, call your doctor—whether it’s your obstetrician or your family doctor, they can refer you to someone you can speak to about dealing with it. Postpartum depression occurs in 1 out of 9 women, according to a CDC study.

We should not feel embarrassed or ashamed about getting help. We’ve gone through an upheaval, not to mention the hormones that are out of whack. It is perfectly fine to seek help.

Let’s make this the new normal.

The Pregnancy Mask

The Pregnancy Mask

Dealing with skin issues is a common occurrence during pregnancy. As your body’s hormone levels skyrocket, your skin can be one of the first places you notice the change.

During each of my pregnancies, I noticed a darker patch of skin on my cheek. With each consecutive pregnancy, it became darker and would fade noticeably between pregnancies. When I asked my doctor about it, he said it was chloasma or the pregnancy mask.

WHAT IS THE PREGNANCY MASK?
Chloasma is a change in skin pigmentation brought on by the hormones of pregnancy. These darker patches commonly appear on the face, especially the forehead, cheeks, and mouth; hence the name pregnancy mask.

WHO DOES IT AFFECT?
Women with darker pigmentations are more prone to chloasma and you’re more likely to have it if it runs in your family, like it does mine. The dark patches can also become more prominent with each pregnancy.

WHERE IS IT FOUND?
I developed a couple of other patches on my upper arms as well. These could have been caused by sun exposure. Staying out of the sun or wearing protective clothing can help prevent these patches and always apply an SPF 30 or higher while pregnant. I also notice a dark line running down my belly. My doctor said this was the linea nigra, similar to  chloasma and nothing to be concerned about.

WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?
I definitely began to wonder if there were any treatment options for the pregnancy mask. In my research, I discovered that there are some natural and easy ways to lighten the dark patches right away. Mix 1/2 lemon juice and 1/2 hydrogen peroxide and apply to patches to lighten them. The same is true with a half-apple-cider-vinegar/half-water mixture, too. Turmeric milk and milk of magnesia can also help. Dermatologists can prescribe skin bleaching creams and even laser surgery if the patches really bother you. In the meantime, you can simply use a concealer. Personally, I didn’t think about it too much. I wanted to know if it was dangerous and my doctor assured me it was normal. As the weeks went on, the patches would fade and they are easily covered with a basic foundation now.

HOW DO I PREVENT IT?
There are ways to lessen your likelihood of dealing with chloasma. Balancing your hormones before pregnancy is a great start. A healthy diet with lots of omega 3’s and 6’s will keep your skin in top condition. Omega’s help balance hormones. I always found flax seeds and oil and salmon to improve my skin. Oral contraceptives containing estrogen, like the Pill, can contribute to chloasma in some women so you might consider another option. Protect your skin from UV rays before and during pregnancy. Apply a moisturizer with SPF daily.

WHEN TO BE CONCERNED
If you ever have a skin discoloration that is associated with pain, redness, or bleeding, or if you see any changes in the color, shape, or size of a mole, call your doctor. These can all be signs of skin cancer.

KNOW THAT YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL NO MATTER WHAT
Changes in your skin are just another normal symptom of pregnancy that we women have to deal with. Be patient. This too shall pass and in the meantime know this: No matter what, you are beautiful!

Tinkle, tinkle when I sneeze, how I wonder why that is

Tinkle, tinkle when I sneeze, how I wonder why that is

I have found out that there are a lot of issues that women deal with postpartum that are rarely talked about. This is sad because it leaves so many uneducated and feeling alone in dealing with problems.

Postpartum incontinence is one of those issues. 

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WHAT IS POSTPARTUM URINARY LEAKAGE
If you’ve never heard of it, postpartum incontinence involves feeling like you need to urinate often and not being able to make it to the bathroom. It also involves not being able to empty your bladder fully which results in leakage later. This problem affects thousands of women. It happens when the pelvic floor muscles and the ligaments that work with them are weakened.

WHO’S AT RISK  
I first experienced postpartum incontinence after the birth of my fourth child. There were several factors that could have contributed to the problem including consecutive pregnancies, genetics, the larger size of this baby, and the fact that they were all vaginal births. It was obvious that my pelvic floor was weakened.

HOW LONG DO THE SYMPTOMS LAST
Many women, like myself, experience this problem for weeks afterward. Others only experience it for days. Still, for many others that I have talked to, it is a lifelong issue that comes and goes.

DEALING WITH THE SYMPTOMS
First, you can deal with the side effects and symptoms. Wear sanitary pads and tighten your stomach muscles or cross your legs when you feel the urge to urinate or need to cough or sneeze. Empty your bladder often even when it’s inconvenient. Carry extra clothing with you just in case and don’t be afraid to speak out to other moms about it. It will help educate them and help you to feel normal.

TREATMENT FOR URINARY INCONTINENCE
Dealing with the root issue of the problem is a must. Since the pelvic floor is weakened, you will need to rebuild and strengthen it. This is where treatment should start. You can begin this by doing regular kegel exercises. Be certain that you are doing them properly. Watch videos or speak with a professional to make sure. When done correctly, kegels can reduce symptoms by up to 70%.

PHYSICAL THERAPY
You can speak with your doctor about seeing a pelvic physical therapist. They can help properly isolate the weakened muscles and begin exercising them the right way. They can also teach you exercises that will help your specific case and tell you whether or not you are doing them right. As a last resort, surgery is an option for some severe cases if other non-invasive treatments don’t work.

LONGTERM PROGNOSIS
Be patient as postpartum incontinence can take time to heal completely. Symptoms usually gradually improve with training even if they never completely go away. Although I still deal with it on occasion, I no longer consider it a problem; just one of those things to laugh at and move on. 

The Postpartum Period: What No One Wants to Talk About

The Postpartum Period: What No One Wants to Talk About

When I was pregnant, I couldn’t wait to get rid of my heavy belly, back-ache, and maternity clothes and to be able to enjoy countless lattes and a glass of full-bodied wine on a Friday night. The only part of pregnancy that I didn’t mind was not having my period every month. Nine months without one were wonderful. But when it did return, things were a little different than before.

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WHEN DOES THE PERIOD RETURN?

The period returns at different times largely dependent on breastfeeding. Breastfeeding produces a hormone that suppresses ovulation and delays periods. Since I was breastfeeding, my period returned a month after I stopped, which seems to be pretty common. Breastfeeding moms tend to get their period back six months after birth or when the baby begins weaning. Non-breastfeeding moms usually get their period 6-8 weeks after birth.

WILL IT BE THE SAME AS BEFORE?

Though I started having my period after I stopped breastfeeding, it wasn’t particularly regular after that. I would have one cycle at 28 days, then one at 35, and then another at 45 days. Though I worried about it at the time, I soon learned that this was not uncommon. My partner and I struggled to conceive and I finally became pregnant through IVF after taking many hormone shots. This treatment made it more difficult for my body to adjust after birth. Taking oral contraceptives before pregnancy can have a similar effect. Breastfeeding also affects the hormones and can make the periods irregular to begin with.

THE FIRST “PERIOD” AFTER BIRTH

I was also bleeding heavily in the first few weeks after childbirth. This bleeding was accompanied with heavy cramping. This was not a regular period, but the process of my uterus returning to its normal size after pregnancy. I found that thin overnight pads worked well for this bleeding given that I was instructed not to use tampons while my vaginal tears were healing and I found other pads to be too bulky and painful against the tears. I was told not to worry about this bleeding as long as I didn’t need to change my pad more often than every hour and I wasn’t passing large clots.

WHEN TO BE CONCERNED

While there is no such thing as a “normal” post-pregnancy period, I learned that there were certain things to watch for:

  • If you have periods lasting longer than seven days or contain clots larger than a quarter.
  • If you miss a period once your periods have become routine.
  • If you experience spotting between periods.
  • If your period has not returned within three months after childbirth (when not breastfeeding) or three months after you stop breastfeeding.

These symptoms can be a sign of more serious complications like anemia, fibroids, or a thyroid problem, so it’s always best to contact a doctor.

LIFE AFTER PREGNANCY

Life after pregnancy will never be the same “normal” as it was before. For the most part, this is fine. This new life will have its challenges and delights. I tried to learn to embrace them both.