Why I Gave Up On ‘Blessing Sandwiches’

Soon after our son was born, I developed a somewhat standard response to check-in questions: “Hard and best.” That’s how I described my transition into motherhood. Because it felt impossible to mention one without the other. The sleep deprivation without the joy, the loneliness without the fulfillment, the loss of one identity without the discovery of another.

Eventually, I graduated to the blessing sandwich.

You know, the “I’m grateful I get to stay home with him. Sure, sometimes it’s isolating. But I feel really fortunate to have this time together.” Or the, “He’s a really happy baby. Still not sleeping through the night. But all the smiles during the day make up for it.”

One good thing. One hard thing. One good thing again.

Just to prove that this journey is in fact better than it is difficult. That I love it more than I struggle through it. That for every moment I’m on the verge of impatient tears, there are two more that I’m grinning and grateful. That if motherhood was a contest, and you could love your way to a victory, I would win.

And then, somewhere in the midst of all the thanksgiving, with noticeable shame rising within me, I sheepishly admit the rest.

I share the way I struggle as my mom brain fails to produce a big words or deep thoughts. How I sometimes feel like I live in a continuous loop of “when’s the last time you pooped?” and mindless errands. That it’s tough to silence the comparisons, resentments, and insecurities of my mind. How I grapple with the question of where I measure, what I’m bringing to the table, and whether or not I’m doing enough.

When I see other women who appear to be seamlessly juggling their careers and their families, I find myself thinking, “I’m just a mom.” Or when my husband tells me about his day at work, and I report back that we read books, played with blocks on the floor, and took a walk around the neighborhood, I leave out the part about feeling lonely when I saw other women talking between their yards. Or when the cashier at Target asks me if I did anything exciting over the weekend and it suddenly seems a little lame to admit that shopping at Target was the cool thing we did.

At the end of the day, I let it be known that even in the midst of tough moments, I’d never trade the life I have. I carry on about how I can hardly remember my life without our son in it. I express all the joy, pride, and appreciation I feel. I speak aloud my gratitude for the family we’ve created, for the home we’ve settled into, for the experiences we’ve had that have led us to where we are.

But somewhere along the way, I discovered that what I need more than this curated blend and imagined balance of blessing sandwiches is grace.

Grace to stop conflating the way that I feel with the love that I have.

Grace to allow the complexity and contradiction of the messy and beautiful, empty and full, doubting and trusting, and hard and good of this season, without explanation.

Grace to get through the worst, to cherish the best, and to live within the ebb and flow of the two.

Grace to know that having bad days doesn’t make me a bad mom and that having the best days doesn’t mean I’ve perfected the gig. It simply grants me space to feel both, at once or neither.

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How To Cope With D-MER, From A Mom Who’s Been There

When I gave birth to my son, things were perfect. My labor was short. My contractions were straightforward. My abdomen compressed regularly, and rhythmically. 90 seconds on. 60 seconds off. And he was healthy. Clear skin. Clear lungs. Strong heart. I couldn’t have asked for a better birth experience. The doctors were patient and supportive. My wishes were seen and heard.

I also had one hell of an epidural. My body was numb from the waist down.

But the best part was my son’s demeanor. He was a happy baby. A calm baby. An easy baby, which is to say he slept well and nursed often. He latched moments after I placed him on my chest and bare breast. And it seemed breastfeeding him would be a breeze. But after a few weeks, things changed. My relationship with him and breastfeeding changed, and I became anxious.

I didn’t know who was more upset: me or the red-faced baby in my arms.

Now I know what you’re thinking: It is normal to be overwhelmed. Parenthood is hard, breastfeeding is hard, and sleep deprivation is brutal. The first few weeks are particularly trying. But there was more to my emotional instability than exhaustion. I was suffering from something called D-MER, or dysphoric milk ejection reflex.

Of course, many people do not know what D-MER is. In fact, the term is rarely used — and the condition is misunderstood. However, according to D-MER.org, an awareness-based website managed by mom and lactation consultant Alia Macrina Heise, dysphoric milk ejection reflex is “a condition affecting lactating women that is characterized by an abrupt dysphoria, or negative emotions, that occur just before milk release and continuing not more than a few minutes.”

To put it another way, D-MER is a negative emotional response to the physical act of your milk letting down.

“D-MER presents itself with slight variations depending on the mother experiencing it,” Heise writes, “but it has one common characteristic — a wave of negative or even devastating emotions just prior to letdown.” And that was the case with me.

My stomach hardened and sank. I could feel the milk rushing forward, and the bile rushing up. An acute wave of depression took control of my body. I felt distant, absent. My face flushed with warmth and tears, and I became afraid of a monster I could not see, of a threat which did not exist.

Mother suffering while breastfeeding
Peter Dazeley/Getty

The good news is the anxiety and sadness only lasted a few moments. The feelings disappeared as abruptly as they come on. But for two or three minutes, I felt lost in my own body. My legs shook. My arms felt leaden, not solid but heavy. Like molten metal, they lacked stability and support. And I felt nauseous. I wanted to run. I was scared.

So how did I cope? How can you cope?

Here’s the best way to manage D-MER if you want to keep breastfeeding.

Acknowledge your feelings, don’t avoid them.

The first and most important step toward managing D-MER is to understand it. After all, once you recognize there is a correlation between your physical being and your emotional one, you will know what to expect. My son fed every two hours and when I felt “on edge,” I looked at the clock. Realizing I was about to let down was very helpful. I also knew I could count through it. Before I got to 200, the feelings would likely pass. That said, 200 seconds can feel like an eternity when your body is restless and your mind is depressed. As such, it is imperative you implement coping strategies like…

Busying yourself or your hands, with exercise, food, and/or fidget devices.

While snacking may sound silly, food can help you focus on something outside of yourself. It is also easy to do while feeding your babe. Not on the couch yet? Get up and move. Running in place can (and will) burn off nervous energy.

Practice relaxation techniques, like meditation and deep breathing.

I’ve never been very good at meditating, but many people are. They find the practice centers them — and grounds them. As such, you may want to have a guided meditation at the ready, like those on Calm, Headspace, and 10% Happier.

Use the ABCs to control anxiety.

Pick a broad category of things and/or objects — like colors, desserts, or cars — and make an alphabetical list in your head. Colors, for example, would look something like this: amber, blue, cobalt, etc. If your anxiety is still elevated when you get to “z,” pick a new category and start again. The point isn’t what you pick (or how far you get), it’s that you distract your mind long enough to work through any uncomfortable or dysphoric feelings.

Text a friend or make a phone call.

Connecting with another person won’t just help your D-MER, it will help you feel less isolated and alone (which, as any new parent can tell you, is super important).

Recognize it can and will get better.

You’ve been here before — and worked through these feelings before — and you can do it again. Take it one minute and second at a time.

That said, if you are overwhelmed by D-MER and/or if these thoughts do not dissipate, you should speak to your OBGYN or another trained professional, as these feelings can also be symptoms of perinatal mood disorders.

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Babies Wreak Havoc On A Marriage, And It’s Time To Start Talking About It

I sat up in the middle of the night for what felt like the millionth time. My eyes were red and sore from the excessive tears streaming down my tired face. There I was, alone in the dark with one of my boobs jammed in my newborn’s mouth as she happily nursed away. Meanwhile, my husband was lying next to me with his limbs sprawled out like a hibernating bear in the dead of winter.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

If you asked me what emotions were running through me that night, I’d say a new breed of angry sad. Because yet again, my hubby Matt had miraculously slept through our daughter’s scream crying. And yet again, I wanted to beg him to get the fuck up and talk to me about anything.

Literally anything.

Prior to meeting Matt, I carried with me the burden of being a lifelong people pleaser and didn’t speak up often about my needs in past relationships. But having a child knocks that protective coping mechanism right on out of you. I was just too exhausted, too uncomfortable, and way too hormonal not to lament loudly about what I felt Matt should – and shouldn’t – be doing. The sheer resentment I felt when he wouldn’t wake up with me (or instead of me, goddammit!) resulted in a ton of hysterics to forcibly make him a part of the nighttime routine.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

Oh, and did I mention that my adorable pint-sized ball of wonder wouldn’t take a bottle ever? So when I tearfully yelled at my hubby to wake the eff up, it was solely for the emotional comfort and a feeling of sharing equally in our new duties together. Even if Matt couldn’t feed his baby yet, I needed him to be there for his unbearably vulnerable wife. But the way I communicated with him usually left something to be desired, causing my grumpy ass husband to get pissy with me at the most inconvenient times in the night.

This challenge, along with a shit ton of others, led to more fights between us in that first year than I’d like to admit. Let’s just say we fought a lot. The ongoing conflict made me feel like an asshole so much of the time. It left me wondering if we just weren’t mean to be parents together. And even though Matt and I genuinely loved each other, the “D” word was definitely put on the table in the darkest of moments. Despite desperately wanting to know, I didn’t feel comfortable to ask other moms if they too were ugly sparring with their partners-in-crime.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

I realize now that they were probably feeling way too uncomfortable to ask me either.

As new parents, no one wants to openly admit that a tiny human has the potential to destroy the status quo of a loving relationship – or break down an already faulty one. We’re taught to “soak up every moment” with our babies because “it goes by way too fast.” But how can we enjoy that first year if we spend most of it arguing with our spouses in shame-induced secrecy?

It’s time to go public about a very private issue so many of us deal with but no one seems chomping at the bit to start talking about. Babies have the very real ability to wreak havoc on a marriage, and we need to widen our judgment-free zones to safely start opening up about it.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

Thankfully, quite a few couples have recently done just that. Because someone got the genius idea to tally up just how many arguments new parents have. And I’m going to warn you, the number is staggering.

The folks at ChannelMum.com and The Baby Show decided to ask OnePoll to conduct a survey on babies and marital strife. Their results found that in the first year of parenthood, couples can get into an average of 2,500 fights with each other.

I’m going to repeat that a little louder, for the parents in the back.

The average married couple can have up to 2,500 arguments in the first year of their kid’s life.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

Let that reality sink in for a minute.

The 2,000 parents who were surveyed shared a bunch of obstacles that placed a heavy strain on their transformed relationships. The most common fights centered around who wasn’t pulling their weight with the new responsibilities, competing for the “most tired” award, and sex not happening anymore. Nighttime parenting duties were argued about as well, along with stress around finances.

And not only were most parents feeling a lack of romantic connection, but a third of the couples admitted to going up to five days without talking to their partner.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

Here’s where it gets painfully real. For every ten parents surveyed, at least six brave souls confessed that they were completely unprepared for how much a new baby would change their lives. I’m going to guess that this number would be much higher if the rest of the parents had to take a lie detector test. Because no matter how ready you think you are for a baby, you are never ever ready enough. In fact, the unexpected challenges surrounding the first year of parenthood led a fifth of the surveyed couples to break up for good.

I don’t know about you, but that last sentence in particular is one giant bummer. But hang in there, folks. There’s an upside to all of this.

First of all, no amount of skills in the marriage department left the interviewed couples unscathed from verbal battles. Which at the very least, can provide some comfort to those of us (i.e. me) who feel like we suck at being married. For the seasoned veterans, remembering how very human you are has the potential to help ease the blows when emotions are running high.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

“Even those couples who usually communicate brilliantly can find the first few months of having a baby tough, and arguments are a really normal part of the adjustment process,” says ChannelMum.com founder Siobhan Freegard in a public release of the study. “Lack of sleep during the early months and getting used to the new-found responsibilities can pile pressure on new parents and contribute to arguments,” she explains.

In terms of what helped the couples through this rough ass time, 23% of parents polled sought out a support system of friends and credit that with easing their parenting burdens. Others said that sharing in overnight duties, having sex regularly, and enjoying some semblance of a social life helped them cope with the extraordinary changes parenthood brings with it. “Making time for each other can be just as important as learning how to look after the baby, as happy parents will naturally result in a happy child,” Freegard says.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

In the age of Google, we now assuredly know that information can be so powerful. Arming ourselves with the honest-to-goodness knowledge about the entire first year of parenting can help us come up with real solutions when the natural and inevitable marital conflicts arise. And more importantly, realizing we are all basically fighting the same battle here can allow us to feel seen, heard, and supported. Because let’s face it — learning how to become a parent alongside someone you love is a shit show, plain and simple.

I’ve discovered a whole lot through two brutal rounds of new parenting. There is no damn shame in having messy moments in a relationship, especially when it involves caring for a small baby. You are not broken if you feel like you can’t be yourself with your partner after you’ve birthed a child. It’s okay to speak up if you’re overextending yourself as a new parent. And good lord, give yourself a friggin’ break if you’ve lost your temper hundreds of times in the most sleep deprived state you will ever experience.

Many of the reasons Matt and I argued that first year were easily justifiable. But I’m still cringing and laughing when I think back to how ridiculous it was to fight at a time when so much was already up against the both of us. Now, I at least understand why we argued so much — and why it is so totally okay to talk about it.

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Beware: Knock-Off Car Seats That Don’t Meet Safety Standards Are On The Rise

It’s a sobering fact that car accidents are a leading cause of death among children under the age of 12. At the same time, we have an amazing way to reduce and prevent these deaths: car seats.

The thing is, car seats don’t work unless they are installed and used properly. It can be confusing to make sure your seat is the right size and fit for your child, that it’s installed correctly in your car, and that your child is strapped into it appropriately.

But parents do what we need to do to get it right—including seeking  help from child passenger safety technicians (CPST) if needed—because car seat safety is that important.

As if all of that weren’t time-consuming and nerve-wracking enough, now parents have another car seat related stress to contend with: knock-off car seats.

Of course, not all affordable (read: cheaper) car seats are fake knock-offs, but apparently some folks out there have decided to make a pretty penny off of parents who are looking for a discounted seat by passing off fake ones as the real deal.

As The Washington Post reports, knock-off car seats are saturating the online marketplace. Companies selling unregulated products are touting their wares on massively popular sites like Amazon and Walmart, and parents are attracted to the seats because they are sold for less than market value.

Important note: It is possible to purchase discounted car seats that ARE safe. Check out this post for some ideas.

The Post reports that upon contacting Walmart and Amazon, most of the knock-off seats were removed, but sites like Ebay and AliExpress still contain a ton of listings for knock-off seats.

d3sign/Getty

As you can imagine, these seats are not safe. In order for a car seat to be legitimately sold in America, it must meet federally set safety standards and pass several crash tests. These seats have not, and will not, keep your child safe in the event of an accident.

Laurel Schamber, a certified child-passenger safety technician based in California, described to The Post one knock-off seat she saw a grandmother bring in a few months ago for inspection.

“It looked like a deconstructed backpack,” Schamber said. “It’s made of backpack material, no manufacturer name, no labeling, nothing.”

In addition, she said, there was no chest clip, which meant that if there was a crash, a child could potentially be tossed right out of the seat. Even the smallest crash could cause that to happen, Schamber warned.

Other outlets, such as KMOV, St. Louis’ local news channel, have also warned of knock-off seats that have been spotted in their communities. These seats share many of the same traits that Schamber mentioned.

 

And it’s not just infant car seats that are in play here. There are several copy-cat booster seats being sold as well, such as knock-off MiFolds. These seats, which can be folded up small enough to fit in a backpack, are easy to replicate, and it’s not always easy for parents to tell the difference between a real MiFold and a fake.

“Parents and caregivers can’t be expected to know by looking at the product whether it’s good enough,” Jon Sumroy, MiFold’s chief executive, tells The Post. “You can buy the MiFold at Walmart or Target or Buy Buy Baby in the United States.”

Sumroy explained that in order to get his products sold in these stores, he had to show they they met safety standards. But he says that sites like eBay don’t check to see whether the seats are safe.

The truth is, when you buy products anywhere on the internet, you really don’t know what you are getting. And with so many of us looking for the latest deal online, it’s easy to see how parents could fall for these knock-off brands and not even realize it.

Karl Tapales/Getty

However, just because these seats exist, it doesn’t mean you have to fall victim to one of these scams – scams that could very well put your child at risk. There are a couple of simple, key questions to ask yourself when you are purchasing a car seat:

– Is your seat properly labeled? All car seats are required to have this printed on their labels: “The child restraint system conforms to all applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards.”

– Does your seat have a recognizable product brand label on it?

– Can you find your car seat brand listed on a reputable car seat website?

– Does your car seat have a model number and manufacture date?

– Does it have an instruction manual and a product recall registration card?

– Is your seat listed on the Academy of Pediatrics approved list of seats?

You can also check the seat for “red flags” that many knock-off seats share: no chest clips, made of low-quality plastic material (including buckles), insecure fit in car, and just generally made of flimsy material that looks like it would easily break.

Finally – and maybe most importantly – if the deal you are getting on your seat seems too good to be true, it probably is. Listen, raising kids can be seriously expensive. But car seat safety is something that none of us should skimp on, ever (and again, buying a good quality seat doesn’t have to break the bank). The lives of our precious kids are too important.

For more information about car seat safety, check out this post written by Alisa Baer, MD & CPSTI (i.e., The Car Seat Lady) as well as our interview with her here.

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Why Childcare Is So Important To Me Even Though My Kids Are Teens

Here is the deal: my kids are both in high school. I can feel the ache and hope that is coming: the graduations, my empty arms, home, washer, refrigerator. My empty nest.

I am a long, long way from that wild time of searching for childcare when they were age zero to 5 — heck, conception to kindergarten might be more apropos. But even now, despite having nearly-grown sons, my 2020 vote will go to the candidate with the best plan to fix America’s broken child care system.

I’m not really a single-issue voter. Not at all. In fact, I care deeply about lots of issues: suicide rates, mental health, toxic masculinity, #metoo, common sense gun laws, mass incarceration, college costs, equality, health care, and general policies that create a society full of good people living good lives. Yet all of my issues, there’s one that I would wager would produce positive outcomes across the board and impact all of our issues — if only America would invest in positive, healthy, loving, and intentional early childhood development.

When my kids were little, we patchworked childcare together each week (and sometimes every day!) with a combination of trade-offs, shuffles, favors, and paid help. We couldn’t afford the well known, magical in-home daycare where the kids made organic food with the loving couple who ran the program. My mom moved in with us after her divorce and we all banded together to figure out childcare each day. Sometimes, that meant relying on Sesame Street’s blend of entertainment, education, and engagement. Thank God for Sesame Street. I would vote Sesame Street 2020 if I could. And Mr. Rogers as VP for sure.

As parents, we did our best. So do most people. But the system is broken, and not just for lower-income folks like we were at the time. The cost is enormous, and it’s risen more than 70% since the 1980s, more than college tuition in a majority of states. Availability is often nil — parents are regularly told they should have gotten on a waitlist before conception. Educators are burning out, with the average program lasting just three to five years and average childcare workers earning $11.50 an hour.

This leads to compromises. One parent quits his (or more often her) job because the return on investment isn’t there. Staying home to care for kids is cheaper. Or both parents have to work, but can’t afford or access quality care, so they compromise and accept an unlicensed program. Add in the chaos of having a sick kiddo, and the house of cards that is America’s childcare system crumbles. It is an impossible equation where no one wins. Not parents. Not educators. And certainly not, our kids.

Society at large isn’t winning either.

A child’s brain is most impressionable during the first three years of life, forming more than 1 million new neural connections every second. This has huge implications on everything from rates of incarceration and suicide to high school graduations. It’s also a major workforce issue, with U.S. businesses losing $3 billion annually due to employee absenteeism that is the result of childcare breakdowns.

A comprehensive early childcare solution is the biggest lever to pull to effect change, at all levels, for all parties. All Americans need to understand that this problem isn’t one that can wait until you have your own kids, or forget about once your kids are grown up. We are far beyond that.

My sons are 17 and 14. My oldest will be voting in the next presidential election, and guess what — the issues that matter to him are also directly impacted by the outcomes driven by high-quality early childcare solutions. My son and I are about equidistant from worrying about daycare, and yet here we are, staring down the ballot box at the same issues Washington should have addressed decades ago.

I am not (fingers crossed) a grandmother yet. But I embody many other great roles — a mom, wife, an entrepreneur, a friend, daughter. There’s not one hat I would take off. And that’s why I can’t give up. Every role carries a certain responsibility and weight, and sometimes it is all very, very heavy. I am often overwhelmed with the needs around me. There is so much to build. I want to fix too many things, right now, the broken hearts in Dayton and El Paso, and all around our country.

For each problem I long to fix, there are a lot of things I would love to break. To maximize and balance my building, fixing and breaking urges, I need to find the most elegant, effective and empowering place to put my energy. I need one thing to dig into that affects each of my (often contradictory) roles. It is a bit like a magic trick. America, we have one hat, and many rabbits need pulling out of it. One solid plan could solve so many issues.

So woo me, candidates. Show me your plans. Show me you care. Show my son. Show me that you understand the foundational work that needs to be done. If we want to talk about infrastructure, start here. Our future is crumbling. Fix it.

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You Have A Baby, Don’t Feel Obligated To Do Anything Else

Mamas, listen up: You brought a baby into this world and do not need to feel obligated to do anything other than bond with that baby. Don’t feel compelled to clean your house. Or to meet your aunt for brunch. Or to even take a shower ⏤ although when someone comes to babysit, you might want to make that a priority, because it’s been a hot minute since you’ve had one. #HuggOn

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10 New Mom Fears We’ve All Had But Eventually Got Over

jogging stroller

Being a new mom can be a frightening experience. Before you had a baby, all you had to do was worry about yourself. That was hard enough. Now you have to worry about someone else, and they don’t even send you home with a manual? What are they even thinking? If you’ve said to yourself, “Who thought sending me home with this baby was a good idea? I have no idea what I’m doing!” — you’re not alone.

Here are some fears we’ve all had that we eventually got over. Well, mostly.

1. Cat vs. Dog

People love to ask the timeless questions: Are you a cat person or a dog person? I like to ask: Which are you more scared of when holding a baby? I used to love cats until I had my baby. You don’t have to walk them, and they’re quiet. Too quiet. So quiet that you don’t hear them coming right up onto your legs playing a game of Crazy Eights. Having a cat in the house is like trying to jump through tires while balancing a baby in your arms. Step aside cat — I’M WALKIN’ HERE! To answer your question: Dogs.

2. Fingernail Phobia

They are minuscule yet razor sharp. Leave ‘em be, and they can draw blood when their incoherent baby arms start to flail uncontrollably. Try to cut ‘em, and suddenly your pits are in a hot sweat and you have double vision trying not to inflict harm on a tiny finger.

3. The Public Diaper Change

At home, I’m good. But what happens if you have to change the baby in public? On the bus? At a cafe? I’m not qualified to handle this without a changing table. What did people do before those fold-down wall things were invented? Seriously. Thankfully her Huggies Little Snugglers fit like a hug.

4. Supporting the Head

It’s flopping like a rag doll, and well OK, once I maybe didn’t have my hand on it at all times. Can you permanently ruin a neck? Is that a thing? Also, there are way too many soft spots involved in this tiny melon. Please let the head plates join and de-floppify ASAP because it’s too much pressure.

5. A Wet Baby

I barely remember how to bathe myself let alone figure out how to bathe a baby. There’s way too much stuff to remember…like the binky that may be under the couch and the only toy that she likes that’s somewhere in the back seat of the car. Don’t even get me started on the slip-sliding baby body that needs to be double-teamed in order to keep it in an upright position. I cannot bathe a baby alone! Is there something wrong with me? Also, pass the Huggies Natural Care Wipes because she just peed, and we are NOT doing this bath over.

6. Spit Up and the City

There are burp cloths for a reason, but at exactly what point do we go from spit up land to full-on barfing? Seems like I should know this, but my baby is borderline at all times and I can’t tell. Also, her neck rolls usually have a little cottage cheese brewing in them, but I swear I’m getting better at wiping the spit before it gets to this stage.

7. Germs From Other People

“STOP TOUCHING MY BABY’S FACE!” I shout this in my mind to Uncle Carl, but in person, I smile as every fiber in my being cringes at the sight of his giant, unsanitized hand stroking my baby’s cheek. I’ve got to escape. There is no way out. Mom’s work friend Janine is in the next room, and she’s coughing up a lung. I’VE GOT TO GET OUT!

8. Tummy Time Fails

I always remember to do tummy time at the worst time. See No. 6 on barfing. This baby is face planting, crying, and not liking anything to do with her tummy and time. Does the head look flatter than yesterday? Did she lay on her back in the bassinet too long? Why is she a crying, soggy, beached whale and not an over-easy cherub, happily rocking 360 moves?

9. Google

I told myself I wouldn’t search for weird symptoms, but oh yes, I did search for weird symptoms and now can’t un-see them. There is literally a picture of everything that could go wrong in life with a baby ever. I may need to cut off Wi-Fi for the next six to ten years if I ever want to sleep again.

10. Being Good Enough

This mom stuff is hard. I had no idea how hard. Will I start to feel less like a leaky zombie and more like the moms on TV (OK, not the ones on cable)? When are we going to be at the coo- and-giggles stage and leaving the farts and weird snorts in the middle-of-the-night stage? Also, I need to Google farts and snorts because that last one didn’t sound normal. See No. 9.

The good news is that I got over every single one of these fears and did make it to the cooing stage! OMG cooing is the best thing ever. The cat is still trying to trip me, but I’m not asking for miracles. Somehow, I figured out how to trust my intuition over my fears, and it sort of works. I’m still googling things, but who’s not? Right? Lisa? Anyone?

This article was sponsored by Huggies®, who believes that the first time you hug your baby, the rest of the world will slowly melt away and your life will be forever changed. At Huggies®, we are inspired by the loving bond between you and your baby and we’ll never stop finding ways to hug more like you. #HuggOn

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How I Survived A Teething Baby And Got Serious About My Kids’ Dental Care

mom with baby and toddler

When I decided to have my kids close in age, I didn’t consider that I would have an infant and a toddler at the same time. I was blinded by the idea of them growing up as best friends, building forts, and keeping each other’s secrets, even when it meant they would both be in trouble as a result. I didn’t consider that they would both be in diapers at the same time, or worse, that they would be tandem-teething, one cutting their first tooth while the other worked on 2-year molars.

Image via Giphy

Where Is the Instruction Manual?

Motherhood is utter chaos on the best day, but I’m going to be honest, I was wildly unprepared for the mayhem that came with teething and teaching my kids appropriate dental hygiene. Did you know your kid will have 20 teeth by the time they turn 3? Or that you’re supposed to take them to the dentist by the time they’re a year old? ‘Cause I didn’t. I had no idea. Baby’s first tooth should really come with an instruction manual. There could be an entire section dedicated to keeping the sink and surrounding counter space toothpaste-free too. Why must children splatter-paint the entire bathroom with toothpaste? And how the heck do you get them to stop doing that?

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But alas, no one told me any of this, so there I was, waist-deep in another chaotic day with a fussy, teething baby and a toddler who had no interest in things that didn’t involve screaming. Like any rational but completely desperate mother, I turned to my social media mommy group for advice. My post may have been a slightly incoherent rant about teething that ended with a desperate plea for help. (I hadn’t slept in like three days. I was a mess!)

I Got 99 Problems But Teething Ain’t One

To my absolute delight, the comments started rolling in. Apparently, I wasn’t the first mom to stumble into a tandem-teething nightmare. Mom after mom recommended Baby Orajel™ Non-Medicated Cooling Gels for both my baby and my toddler. It’s benzocaine-free and made for babies 3 months and older, so it was perfect for my teething 3-month-old and my toddler’s nightmarish 2-year molars. There was only one problem, I didn’t have any on hand, which meant we would have to go out…in public.

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So, there I was, standing in the oral care aisle of my local Walmart, the baby crying in my arms while my toddler threw groceries over the side of the cart. With bloodshot eyes and a messy bun that looked more like an untidy bird’s nest, I was 2 minutes from joining the kids in a total meltdown, when a seasoned mom walked by and handed me the Baby Orajel™ Non-Medicated Cooling Gels I was looking for.

“Been there,” she said with a smile. “Just rub this on his gums.”

Suddenly the wind was back in my sails just knowing I wasn’t alone. I could totally do this!

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The Queen of Dental Hygiene

I turned back to the wall of dental products and grabbed some Orajel Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Fluoride-Free Training Toothpaste. After all, if I was going to be the Queen of Dental Hygiene, I needed all the best stuff! I’d help my toddler learn proper brushing technique (even if he covered my entire bathroom in toothpaste) and get the baby started down the right path with Baby Orajel Tooth & Gum Cleanser. (Yeah, turns out you’re supposed to clean their gums. WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME THIS?!)

I was ready. My dental care game was stronger than ever, and my kids were destined for a lifetime of happy smiles.

We made it back home with a much happier baby thanks to the cooling gel, a toddler who was totally pumped about his new Daniel Tiger training toothbrush, and me — an exhausted mother who looked like a pile of dirty laundry, but felt like a million bucks because Orajel just totally saved my day.

It takes a whole family of products to treat a whole family. Orajel Non-Medicated Cooling Gels are free of benzocaine and will soothe your baby’s teething gums day and night. For more resources on teething and learning to how brush, visit Orajel’s resource center.

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15 Girl Names Inspired By Badass Women In STEM

Unless you’ve been living in a black hole, you’re probably aware that the world has been recently abuzz over the first-ever photograph of one. A black hole, that is.

That’s absolutely amazing, but what makes it even better is that there’s a woman behind it: computer scientist, Dr. Katie Bouman. This is no small feat, especially in a male-dominated field, and we are soooo here for it.

So in the spirit of badass women in STEM, we’ve put together a list of baby girl names inspired by the women — past and present — who have pioneered research and made pivotal discoveries in the fields of science, tech, engineering, and math.

1. Caroline

Caroline Herschel was born in Hanover, Germany in 1750. Her mother wanted her to learn traditional domestic duties, but her father encouraged her to pursue education in math and other subjects virtually unheard of for women at the time.

Her brother William was an astronomer, and Caroline became interested too. Her significant contributions to astronomy included the discovery of several comets, and she became the first woman to earn a salary as a scientist.

2. Ada 

Ada Byron (whose first name was actually Augusta) was the child of poet Lord Byron — but her talents were in mathematics, not poetry. In the 1840s, she envisioned the potential of a “computing machine” that did more than just general calculation, and wrote what is considered to be the first computer program.

3. Jocelyn

Credited by the BBC with “one of the most significant scientific achievements of the 20th century,” Irish astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell co-discovered the first radio pulsars in 1967, which won the Nobel Prize in Physics. But unlike her male counterparts, and despite her contributions, Jocelyn wasn’t a recipient of the prize winnings.

However, after an illustrious career, she was awarded the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics in 2018 — and donated the entire £2.3 million prize to help women, minorities, and refugee students become physics researchers.

4. Elena

Born in 1646 in Venice, Italy, Elena Piscopia was a prodigy who mastered four languages and four different musical instruments, but also had an aptitude in philosophy, theology, and math.

In 1678, she became the first woman to earn a Ph.D. degree, and after that, became a noted mathematics lecturer at the University of Padua.

5. Hedy

Drop-dead gorgeous Hedy Lamarr (Hedy was actually short for Hedwig) was first known for her acting career — but it was her contributions to technology that left the most lasting legacy. During WWII, she patented a means of changing radio frequencies to keep enemies from decoding messages.

The principles of her work are used in Bluetooth technology today.

6. Jewel

With her team, Jewel Burks Solomon founded Partpic, a startup using groundbreaking technology to streamline the purchase of maintenance and repair parts.

She sold it to Amazon in 2016, and now is an advocate for representation and access in the technology industry, working in her spare time helping startups to get off the ground.

7. Lera

Cognitive scientist Lera Boroditsky is renowned for her research in how language influences our thoughts and actions; in fact, she’s one of the main contributors to the Theory of Linguistic Relativity.

Previously serving on the faculty at MIT and Stanford, she now serves as Associate Professor of Cognitive Science at UCSD, and has garnered a ton of recognition for her achievements: She’s a Searle Scholar, a McDonnell Scholar, recipient of a National Science Foundation Career award, and an American Psychological Association Distinguished Scientist.

8. Tilly

Beatrice “Tilly” Shilling was an aeronautical engineer who, during WWII, designed a critical component of airplane engines that helped protect them from failure during combat. She bristled at any suggestion that as a woman, she might be inferior to men in science and tech fields, and was described by a fellow scientist as “a flaming pathfinder of Women’s Lib.”

She was also an award-winning motorbike racer.

9. Annie

Raised by a single mother in Birmingham, Alabama, Annie Easley was a mathematician, computer scientist, and rocket scientist who worked at NASA — one of the first people of color, let alone female, to do so.

Despite racial discrimination (such as being cut out of published photos of her team, and being denied financial assistance for college courses that her colleagues received easily), she was instrumental in software development, and had a long, accomplished career.

10. Emmy

The daughter of a mathematician, Amalie Emmy Noether has been regarded as the most important woman in the history of mathematics. One of the leading mathematicians of her time (the early 20th century), she made significant contributions to math and physics.

“Noether’s theorem” explains the connection between symmetry and conservation laws, and is considered one of the fundamental principles of modern physics.

11. Mae

Being an engineer, physician, and a NASA astronaut? All in a lifetime of accomplishment for Mae Jemison (oh, and did we mention her stint in the Peace Corps aside from everything else?). She was the first black woman in space, and holds nine honorary doctorates.

After her retirement, she founded The Jemison Group, which researches, develops, and markets advanced technologies.

12. Margaret

Computer scientist, systems engineer, and business owner Margaret Hamilton is credited with coining the term “software engineering.” As the Director of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, she helped create the flight software for the Apollo space program — and for this, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.

13. Tiera

The future of women in STEM, Tiera Guinn Fletcher is a rocket structural analysis engineer for Boeing and NASA — and she isn’t even 25 years old. She is helping to develop NASA’s Space Launch System, which will eventually be used to send people to Mars.

“Many still believe that the female mind is not capable of excelling in the sciences,” she said in a 2018 interview. “With that lingering doubt, some women fall ill to that belief and others simply are not presented with the opportunity.”

Along with her husband, fellow rocket scientist Myron Fletcher, she has plans for a nonprofit organization that will help children of all backgrounds have access to their dreams.

14. Ruth

The New York Times referred to Ruth Rogan Benerito as “the woman who made cotton behave.” When wrinkle-resistant nylon and polyester were invented in the first half of the 20th century, it was great news for women who didn’t like to iron — but bad news for the cotton industry.

Enter Ruth, who attached organic chemicals to cotton fibers, making it not only wrinkle-resistant, but flame and stain-resistant as well. She has been credited with saving the cotton industry.

She earned her Masters degree by taking night classes while working as a high school science and math teacher by day, eventually earning a Ph.D. in physical chemistry.

15. Mileva

Because of her considerable aptitude in math and physics, Mileva Marić was allowed to attend an all-boys school as a teenager in the early 1890s. She was subsequently accepted to the Zurich Polytechnic School’s physics-mathematics program with only four other students: one being her future husband, Albert Einstein.

Despite the fact that she earned better grades than he did, only Albert was given a degree. Letters and historical accounts have suggested that they both had equal roles in Einstein’s early groundbreaking discoveries, but sadly, he was the only one given professional credit; at the time, they thought a publication co-written by a woman would lessen its impact.

 

These women have blazed trails in predominantly male industries, facing discrimination and ridicule (just imagine how much mansplaining they’ve all endured!) so that their successors would have a clearer path.

People name their babies after celebrities and their kids, but if you ask us, there are no better, stronger, more inspiring namesakes than these.

 

If you need more baby name inspiration, check out Scary Mommy’s baby name database!

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All Men’s Restrooms Need Changing Tables — And It’s About More Than The Dads

Men change diapers! Yes, they do. And they need a safe and clean place to change those diapers when they are out with their babies. Agreed?! But why is no one talking about how the lack of changing tables in men’s room affects women?

The Friday night my husband and I were out to dinner with both kids and another family and their two kids. With three kids at the table in diapers, it was inevitable that at some point someone would need to be changed. My daughter was first up, and my husband, who was the closest adult to her at the time, was tagged in to change her. He got the diaper bag and headed in the direction of the restroom. It barely seemed like he had left the table when he was on his way back.

This was a visual I was becoming all too familiar with. It is not that my husband is breaking world records for how quickly he can change a diaper. As it happens time and time again, there was no changing table in the men’s room. It was on me to take her to the women’s room to be changed.

On January 1, 2019, a law went into effect in New York City requiring all new and renovated buildings with public men’s restrooms to have a changing table in them. Many other cities and states have either already passed similar laws or are actively working on them. This is amazing (and should have happened long before 2019, but that is a whole separate issue).

After the law was passed in NYC, articles circulated the internet praising this action. These articles all stated that fathers deserve to have a safe and clean place to change their children because dirty diapers are their responsibility too. I could not agree with this more. But while this is absolutely true, this is unfortunately not the only issue. It is not just about men or their needs. It is not even about babies or their needs. It is about women. It is about mothers.

I was shocked that none of the articles focused on the impact not having a changing table in men’s rooms has on women. Women are constantly put in the primary parenting role, whether they want to be or not. Having changing tables solely in women’s restrooms perpetuates this. This sends the message that it is the mothers who need to be responsible for changing their child’s diapers. It is women who are the ones who should leave their friends and family at mealtime to go into a public restroom and change their baby. It is women who need to deal with the wiggling and screaming child who just wants off of that table.

A couple of weeks ago, a photo went viral of a mother separated from her family during a birthday celebration because her baby needed entertaining (as babies often do). According to the onlooker who captured the photo, “No one stepped in to let HER enjoy being part of the group….Either no one noticed the subtle work she was doing, or no one wanted to give up their enjoyment to let her have a taste of it too.” She went on to talk about society’s response to postpartum depression. “We don’t just need better diagnosis and doctors to help new moms – we need our families and friends to notice us, and help bring us back to the table.”

People wonder why mothers struggle with postpartum depression. Why they have a hard time with self-care and reveling in all the joys of motherhood. Perhaps it is because society is telling them that they, as mothers, are the only ones who need to deal with all the shit (pun intended!) involved in parenting.

So while I appreciate that change is happening because men have realized what is required to change a baby in public, I hate that it is once again men’s needs that are driving change. What about women’s needs? What about a mother’s need to be supported? Aren’t these concerns that warrant change?

What about a mother’s need to know that when it feels like too much, someone will (and can) step in? What about a mother’s need for a society that views men and women as equals, especially in their abilities as parents?

We are making great strides at treating postpartum depression, but what about trying to prevent it?  What about trying to work with women to take some of the burden of child care off their shoulders?

When I got home from dinner that night, I wrote an email to the restaurant manager asking if there were plans to install a changing table in the men’s room. I am eagerly awaiting a response. Moving forward, I plan to do this each time this situation comes up. Change happens when we ask for it.  When we realize that the status quo no longer works for us. Men have raised their voice for a change, and it is time that women do it too. And you better believe this mother’s voice will be heard.

 

We are Scary Mommies, millions of unique women, united by motherhood. We are scary, and we are proud. But Scary Mommies are more than “just” mothers; we are partners (and ex-partners,) daughters, sisters, friends… and we need a space to talk about things other than the kids. So check out our Scary Mommy It’s Personal Facebook page. And if your kids are out of diapers and daycare, our Scary Mommy Tweens & Teens Facebook pageis here to help parents survive the tween and teen years (aka, the scariest of them all.)

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