Sometimes It Ain't Pretty....

It’s 11am and I’ve officially cried all of my make up off. It’s just one of those days. I guess I had them before I became a parent, but somehow they didn’t feel this bad. Nothing is that bad when no one is looking, right? These days, there is always someone looking. She’s little now, but she sees me nonetheless and sometimes I am painfully aware of it.

Maybe it’s a mixture of breastfeeding hormones, the bad night’s sleep I had, or the fact that some days I wake up and I just don’t feel like it. And how can I explain it… not to you, dear reader, but to my husband who has, this entire last year and a half, not experienced a hormonal roller coaster of epic proportions? He, who gets trot off to whatever normalcy sustains him. Away from me who sometimes feels resentful.

It’s not that I’m complaining. Sometimes it comes off as complaining when I just have to cry. And I don’t know why. I’m overwhelmed at times. It’s not my kid, really. I love her so much and in so many ways she’s a breeze. Being a mother is just… So. Emotional. And apparently, emotion doesn’t come as easy to me as I would have hoped. Over the years of my adulthood, I learned to keep things light and pleasant—this doesn’t serve me as a postpartum parent.

I never realized that, at times, it would seem as though everyone (including the dogs) wants a piece of me. I never thought I would wonder who was there to take care of me; certainly it can’t be ME when I’m clearly so busy taking care of everyone else! I never thought it would be easy. I wasn’t under any illusions when people gave me their dreamy versions of what parenthood was like for them…

I cry while I unload the dishwasher, while I put dinner in the crockpot, and while my child naps (strapped to my chest in her baby carrier.) I don’t know why I cry, exactly. When my husband asks me, I tell him I’m frustrated. I give the usual list of reasons, and we fight and I continue to cry. It’s not pretty, but sometimes this is parenthood. We make up, sort of. Tonight we’ll put it all away and tomorrow we’ll start anew.

God save you if you are a non parent reading this. It’s nothing that would scare or even phase a mom. Not that we’re so different, mind you. In fact, us moms are just like you gals who haven’t had kids except that now our emotions are severely heightened and our kids are constantly watching us. If you’re a dad, I am sure you are nodding your head and thinking back on the time your wife told you that you weren’t present enough, or that she needed a break through tears that just would not stop coming.

This is my experience: being a parent is the vacillation between sheer joy and terror. There is rarely an in between moment where you think, “eh, this is just neutral.” Neutrality is for Sweden; parents have no such luxury. In today’s world of the Internet, it’s easy to look at Facebook or Instagram (or even someone’s blog) and see all the beauty. Of course, it’s  easier to share your happiness than it is to admit to the world that you’ve cried off all your make up before 11:00am. But it also isn’t real.

Sometimes life is fucking rough. Or emotional. And I want you to know that I know that. So I wrote this post as an offering because sometimes we all need one. Has parenting been pretty easy for me? Yes, for the most part it has been. Even still, there are days when I don’t even recognize myself. Tomorrow might be different (in fact, sometimes I count on it), but there is no shame in admitting that the truth is imperfect, and that’s okay too. 

We Need To Talk: Breastmilk Donation

I walk a fine line under normal circumstances when it comes to food preservation and hoarding....so why would it be any different when it came to my breastmilk? In the beginning, I was practically tethered to my breast pump. I guess I thought that I would be prepared for going back to work. So I pumped. And pumped. And pumped.

I pumped until I was so tired of the breast pump I had to take over a month long break from pumping. But by that time, I had pumped out an astounding 59 bags of milk! There was just one problem: along the way, I discovered that my Ruby couldn't tolerate dairy in my diet. All that wonderful milk I had pumped was chocked full of dairy! So, I just put in the deep freeze to preserve it thinking maybe one day she will be able to make use of it. 

Fast forward to month five and I'm going back to work as a personal chef. That was about the time I discovered that my daughter would rather go on hunger strike than eat from a bottle, or a sippy cup despite her capability to do so. Not that she could tolerate the milk with dairy....and anyway I had a new stockpile of "non dairy" milk by then. So, what to do with all that milk? 

I took to the internet to look into milk banks. Wow. What a lot of information that lead me to. These milk banks, on the surface, seemed like a great idea. Yes, they made you take a blood test. Yes, you had to submit a DNA sample...and that seemed a little invasive, but I understood that they had to check and make sure that the milk was, in fact, coming from the person who giving it. But then came the kicker: after those things, they take your milk and they pasteurize it! WTF!?!?!?! 

Maybe I have missed something here, but if they take your milk and pasteurize it, doesn't it sort lose all that mom's milk goodness that breastmilk is famous for? I just couldn't do it. So, back to the internet I went, this time to Facebook and a friend of mine who is well connected with other moms...maybe someone out there was in need of my milk, I thought. Turned out, there was. 

I was able to donate directly to someone who needed breastmilk for their baby who couldn't tolerate formula. She came, took all my bags of frozen milk, and then she told me something that really upset me. She said those milk banks you donate your milk to (the same ones that pasteurize the goodness from the milk) then turn around and try to sell the milk to people like her for $5 per ounce! 

I don't want to discourage anyone from donating....that's not what this is about, really. In fact, if you are producing milk and storing it away, I hope that you will consider donating to someone in need because as mother's we have to be able to lean on one another. It's about doing your homework before you do. If at all possible, try and give to someone in need in your own community. Because companies can be a-holes who turn your good intention (not to mention all that hard work spending pumping) into profit. And that's bull. 

That's not to say that there aren't good places to donate to; I'm sure there are. But in a more rural area like where I live, I wasn't able to find any local programs. Even if I had, the thought of having my milk pasteurized was a little more than I could handle. That, and, there are local people in need who don't have the $5 an ounce to spare. 

So tell me, have you donated milk? Have you been in need of milk donation? If you know of a good milk donation source where you personally had a good experience, please leave it for me in the comments section below! 

Mock N' Cheese Recipe [Dairy Free Mac n' Cheese]

I miss CHEEEEEEEESE! Or, at least, I thought I missed cheese. I had a hankering. Mac n' cheese is one of my very, very favorite things to eat. And maybe by now my daughter's system is more mature and can handle dairy, but it just wasn't a risk I was willing to take. I guess I just do things the hard way. But at least I knew there was a way, and that way was in the kitchen!!! 

I had to make a dairy free version of mac n' cheese. And it's almost [inadvertently] vegan but for two egg yolks...which you could totally omit. And I know that I fell down on the picture taking (once again), and I'm sorry for that. It's just that I am busy eating and then I plum forget. *Sigh* It's beautiful, I promise. 

I wasn't even going to try this one on my husband because I figured, "Yea, that'll go over like a lead balloon." But after my girlfriend told me about how awesome it was, I was feeling really confident. What do you know--my husband loved it! Go figure! So, don't take my word for it, take my husband's: this is one good dairy free imitation. 

The more I get into this dairy free lifestyle stuff, the more I realize it just isn't that bad. This dish proves that. It's also just something different than your usual. So dairy free or not, I suggest you get in that kitchen and give it a whirl...because it's pumpkin season! (Don't make me put on my yoga pants and Uggs, and pumpkin latte in hand, tell you again!!!)

Billie's Mock N' Cheese 

Time: About an hour | Serves 6 | Difficulty: Eeeeeaaaassssy 


You will need

1 pound of elbow macaroni 
1 30 ounce can of pure pumpkin 
1 15 ounce can coconut milk 
1 cup almond milk 
2 egg yolks
3 garlic cloves, minced 
4-5 dashes cayenne pepper 
salt and pepper, to taste 
extra virgin olive oil 
Breadcrumbs

Method:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a large casserole dish (butter is fine if you're eating the dairy, otherwise, coconut oil is terrific as well), and set aside.

Make elbow macaroni according to manufacturer's directions. When done, drain and set aside. What I did was make my pasta and then I used the same pot for the next step. This was mostly because I only wanted to use one pot. Call me lazy.

In a big pot,  heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add your garlic and cook a couple minutes. Add the pumpkin, coconut milk and almond milk to the pot and bring to a bubble. Add the tofutti, cayenne, salt and pepper. Cook and stir until the tofutti has fully incorporated.

Add the cooked (and drained) pasta to the pot, along with the egg yolks and stir to combine. Once combined, pour into your prepared casserole dish. Top generously with the breadcrumbs.

Cook the whole thing in the oven for 35-45 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are golden and crispy and the sauce is bubbling well in the pan!

Enjoy with a person you love. 

Tips For Natural Childbirth

I have seen a lot of lists (while I was pregnant and after) about ways to have a natural childbirth. I think there is an inclination to move toward natural childbirth these days, and I am really happy to see this. Women's bodies are amazing, and natural childbirth is just one of those many wonders. I wanted to share some of my own tips for natural childbirth because the experience, for me, was profound. I hope that this helps other women to reach their childbirth goals.

Of course, I also feel compelled to say that no matter how you choose to deliver your baby, it's a beautiful event that will change your life! 

Bottom line is that you need to know the process if you expect to get through it. And a hospital class is not going to cut it. My Lamaze teacher was instrumental in teaching my husband how to support me during childbirth, but also in educating me about the process of birth. She instilled in me a confidence and by the end of the class, I knew I could do it! 

Ditch the complicated birth plan
Every single midwife I talked to told me to do away with a birth plan. Their reasoning was that it was a sure-fire way to be disappointed. Hard as it was, I listened to them, and I was happy I did. My birth plan simply read: NO INTERVENTIONS. 

What I did have was an "after birth plan," and I also had a c-section plan. 

Have a plan for a c-section 
I know this seems counterintuitive, but I really believe it's important. I have these friends, and they call this technique "the reverse black cat." Basically, it's preparing for the worse and hoping for the best. If you have a plan, then you won't be caught off guard. In the middle of my natural birthing experience, they thought I needed a c-section, and because I had a plan, the stress was greatly reduced. I was lucky that it was a false alarm, but having a plan helped me keep my cool while we sorted things out. 

Stay Positive 
People can be real jerks to pregnant women, and I speak from experience. It almost never failed: when I said, "I'm having natural childbirth," people practically burst into laughter. Most often they said, "yeah right, you'll want that epidural!!!" You have to --HAVE TO-- stay above the fray because people are only trying to be helpful (but instead they are being jerks.)

I had a mantra. I kid you not. Every day I would say to myself, "I am so happy and thankful for my safe and natural childbirth." Believe in yourself, and STAY POSITIVE.

Put together a supportive birthing team
My birthing team of my husband, my mother, my mother-in-law, and my best friend Jenn was instrumental in getting me all the way there when I was in labor. Did I have a ton of people in the room? Yes, I did. Will that be for everyone? No. But no matter who you have in the room, you have to be sure that they are there to support you in your desire to have natural childbirth. 

When I professed "I can't do it!" They helped me and when it got real bad, they asked me to wait a half hour. That half hour turned into pushing and then, the next thing we knew, we had a baby! 

Familiarize yourself with the hospital's practices 
Not everyone can get to a birthing center, or deliver at home (which are the ideal settings for natural childbirth). If you plan on delivering naturally in the hospital setting, you should be familiar with the hospital's regular procedures. Take a tour, talk with the nursing staff, and be prepared to deal with hospital dynamics. I also suggest a nurses' gift basket if you're gonna be in the hospital--trust me on this one!

Have a mantra 
Did negative thoughts about c-sections and fears of my baby being breech creep up on me? Yes, yes they did. When you are pregnant and birth is on your mind, it's just gonna happen. Not to mention there will be a lot of fools who are needlessly making you scared when you should be instead boosting your confidence level. So, the way to combat it? A mantra, of course!

My mantra was "I'm so happy and thankful for my safe, natural birth." Every time a negative thought would come upon me, I would change it to my mantra. It takes some active thought, but in the end, I think it really helped me. 

Kim Kardashian's Shiny Ass

Okay, alright....twist my arm...I'll talk about Kim Kardashian's new shiny ass picture on the cover of Paper Magazine. I mean, it seems like everyone else is talking about it, for better or for worse, so why not weigh in? Sometimes I have to take a break from nap time, nursing, and my other wife and mommy duties to talk about some good old fashioned celebrity culture.

First of all, my thoughts immediately go to "DAMN." The woman looks amazing. She's had a baby, and still, she's looking every bit of DAMN. And yet, to accidentally (now) quote Taylor Swift, "haters gonna hate."

I have seen everything from "she's a disgusting human being," to "is this empowering for all women?" So I guess one could say that reactions are running the gamut over the world wide web. I think it's positively amazing that a woman's bulbous ass, which is pristinely oiled might I add, can cause such a stir that leads to such polarization. After all, this isn't exactly the first time we've seen the backside of Ms. Kardashian. Apparently, it never gets old.

Love or hate Kim K, you aren't likely to fall in the grey area. Everyone has an opinion.

For me, I have to say that I am a Kim Kardashian fan. I know that this may surprise some, but I a complete (unashamed) reality television fan. I don't find her vile, or stupid. I find her funny and quirky. I enjoy the Kardashian clan's antics and tom foolery; seriously, it's great TV. And honestly, if it were me, I would probably be oiling up my buns for the camera too. An ass that glorious needs to be shared with the world.

As for the question of whether or not a photo of this nature is "empowering" for all women, well, I'm not sure. I mean, I don't think it moves back in the fight for equality. It's probably very personally empowering...looking great naked, I mean on the real, how can that NOT be empowering on the personal level?! But as for women as a whole? I'm just sure that it's relevant or matters all that much. More than anything, I think this falls into the "give the people what they want" category. But that's just me.

What do you think? 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

These cookies....ERMAGERD. I have to apologize because I didn't snap a picture of them. So I guess you'll have to use your imagination on that. OOPS.

I wanted cookies one day and I had a real hankering for peanut butter. But I also had a need to use up two bananas that had seen better days. So what did I do? I took it to Pinterest, where you can find practically anything you ever wanted to know about cooking. I am so in love with Pinterest.

And there, after much searching, I found these amazing [vegan] cookies. You know what's funny about being dairy free? You find a lot of vegan recipes. But who cares, right? Good is good and these cookies looked good. They didn't have chocolate though. Chocolate was my husband's request. When I said "peanut butter" he said, "with chocolate?" And I said "YES!"

Cocoa powder and I are good friends these days. But I am wondering if maybe I should be going for the raw cocoa instead...any opinions on that? I would love to know what people really think. Leave it for me in the comments sections if you're feeling frisky.

So, I tweaked the recipe and what I got were they cakey yummy cookies with bananas, peanut butter, and chocolate. I feel like I should call them "monkey cookies" because I think some tree swinging monkeys would eat these up.

Can I share something with you? (It was more of a rhetorical question.) Vegan cookie batter is, in fact, the holiest of cookie batters. Know why? (Again, rhetorical.) You can totally eat all the leftover batter, and lick the spoon, and the bowl because there is no egg. Not that I have ever let a little egg stop me...but seriously. I licked it. And I made funny faces at my five month old and she laughed, and a good time was had by all.

And then I baked these suckers and they were ready and I ate them. Muahahahhaha.

Whether you are vegan or not vegan, you should be a fan of these cookies. Because awesome is awesome and that's all there is to it.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies 

Time: Prep- 10 min. Bake- 10ish mins. | Makes about 15 cookies, depending  | Difficulty: Easy

You will need: 

2 veeeerrrry ripe bananas 
1/2  cup peanut butter 
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1  cup all purpose flour 
1/3 cup cocoa powder 
pinch of salt 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Peel those 'nanners. In a bowl, mash bananas. Add sugar and peanut butter and mix well. 

Add flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda. 

Spoon your dough onto a cookie sheet (greased or lined in parchment paper.) I did heaping globs but you can do whatever you like...if you like smaller cookies, more power to you! 

Bake in the oven about 10-12 minutes. Or until they are looking good and baked. 

Remove from oven and allow them to cool on a wire rack. 

Once totally cool, I stored mine in the fridge because they were super moist.  

We Need To Talk: Postpartum Anxiety

I have had anxiety issues for about six years now...or maybe I always had them, but they got bad enough to force me to deal with them six years ago. So going into my pregnancy, I was prepared to deal with anxiety. Well, I guess I should rephrase and say I was ready to be proactive and cross my fingers and hope that I wouldn't get anxiety.

The thing is, people talk a lot about postpartum depression, but not as much about postpartum anxiety. Anxiety is a tricky little sucker, so it's harder to nail down. Inevitably, it gets lumped in with postpartum depression, which I think is a disservice to anyone who suffers with it because they are really very different beasts.

Before I got pregnant I had been anxiety free for about a year. One glorious year where I had that formula down. Most of my issues with anxiety stemmed from the fact that I had been on hormonal birth control, which was causing me to have panic attacks. (Read about that experience by CLICKING HERE.) So, when I got pregnant, guess what? Panic attacks in the first trimester. This was largely because the hormones in the first trimester mimic those in birth control. Thank god that they went away around week 11, and I only had one full blown panic attack in the third trimester (at a concert because I thought I was dehydrated and then got panicked....)

While I was pregnant, I meditated daily and kept my exercise routine. This has been my classic formula for avoiding anxiety and it's served me pretty well. Postpartum I planned to encapsulate my placenta in order to keep a hormonal balance that would hopefully keep me level. (Read about my experience with placenta encapsulation by CLICKING HERE.) For the first six weeks, this worked beautifully.

And then, the moment when my daughter and I were alone for an afternoon and I thought to myself, "I am just gonna cuddle you all afternoon," BOOM. A panic attack came on, and that started the waves of panic that have been pretty enduring. The anxiety I have felt postpartum has been different than other anxiety I have had in the past.

My symptoms have included:
Dizziness
Feeling like I am going to faint
Overwhelmed "hot" feeling
Fear of being alone with my baby
Tingling in my feet and hands

The symptoms were so different than other ones I have experienced in the past that I went to my doctor to be sure that I wasn't deficient in any vitamins. I began having fears that I would faint and drop my baby. So we played a lot on the floor, and I made that doctor's appointment. A blood test and urine sample later, I was normal and guess what? It was just anxiety. Again. It's always the anxiety.

I was struck with an intense anger toward my panic that I have never really had before. Despite the fact that I hopped back on the exercise and meditation bandwagons, there were still days I couldn't seem to stave off the anxiety and it pissed me off big time. It was robbing me of precious moments with my daughter... moments that I would never get back.

I put myself right back in therapy as soon as the panic attacks began. I tried to tell myself to cry it out--maybe all I needed was a release of emotion. That did help to an extent, and I would say that if you are having anxiety, giving yourself permission to cry is important. But beyond meditating everyday, exercising 2-3 times a week, crying, and being easy on myself, I wasn't sure there was much else I could do.

After close consultation with my therapist and doctors, we're pretty sure a lot of the panic is simply hormonal. It's my body's reaction to all the stuff going on... but mostly the breastfeeding hormones. My doctor has suggested that if the anxiety gets to unmanageable levels, I should consider discontinuing breastfeeding. For many people who have really bad anxiety and/or depression, this is probably a good suggestion.

In my own situation, I have decided to keep up the breastfeeding because it's healthy and like the bonding aspect of it. Because I feel my anxiety peaks at the moderate level, I am able to manage it well. After all, I don't have to do it any of this again if I don't want to. My mantra, "I never have to do this again," really helps, and believe it or not, allows me to break away from my anxiety sooner and get back to enjoying my awesome baby.

There were times when the panic has been so bad that I have needed to call a friend or family member to come over and help me until I felt better again. Wow, that was a hard one for me. But the experience of reaching out is one that I find very valuable. I think that if we suffer alone, we suffer more, and so if you are having a lot of panic, I would encourage you to reach out often. If you don't have a strong support network, there are resources online as well as mommy groups.

I still have bad days as the hormones shift and morph and do their funky, rotten, no good hormone thing. I keep in mind that it is temporary and I reach out when I need to. If you are having postpartum panic or anxiety, it's important to know that you are not alone. In fact, my doctor told me recently that most women experience their first episodes with anxiety and depression postpartum. So it's bound to be more common than we think.

Have you had an experience with postpartum anxiety or depression? Please share your experience in the comments section below, and feel free to share what worked for you in recovery as well. Together we can hopefully help other women on their journeys through similar situations.