Musings from the 4th Trimester: The Message in the Mess

AlexiaFamily, Happiness, Personal Development

It’s good to temporarily interrupt my newsletter/blog leave of absence to offer you fresh content this week. Wow, has 2014 given me a lot—the greatest joy I have ever experienced in the form of my daughter, Kaia, and…a big kick in the tuchus (as my dad would say).

I wish I could report that my first weeks as a mom have gone exactly, or even remotely, as planned. After all, I had one of the most idyllic pregnancies. Sure, there were some minor speed bumps—an unexplained fully body rash in my second trimester, a week of sciatica shortly after, and some discomfort in previously mentioned tuchus in the third trimester (I promise to be light on details and allow you to visualize whatever you choose to or choose not to see.) The point is, all in all, I felt great.

Moxie Maven Alexia Vernon Prenatal Yoga

As this picture taken just a month before I delivered suggests, I was (for the most part) active, glowing, and ready to be that mom whose picture makes other aspiring moms think, “Okay, I can be a mom and a moxie maven.”

Now, I want to smack that mom and, honestly, anyone who paints a picture of her or his life as so perfect it saddens or outright shames others who are comparing themselves against that unattainable ideal.

In the last 24-hours preceding Kaia’s birth it became very clear that the so-called plan—from labor on—wasn’t going to happen. My fantasy of a non-medicated, hypnobirth followed by a happy, breastfeeding baby was as much an illusion as the pictures of celebrity moms on the covers of magazines I’d idealized and internalized.

At 40.5 weeks, after various medical professionals I trust swore that my amniotic fluid was low despite how it was measuring and strained their faces with worry after noticing fetal distress on my electronic monitoring tests, the choice was made to induce. Within 24-hours of having just about every medicine or procedure I specified in my birth plan I didn’t want administered, I delivered my 7 pound kiddo, complete with a head of hair that would make most older adults seethe with envy. During the first hours as she lay on my chest flickering her baby blues up at mine I thought, ever the optimist and positive protagonist in her own story, the mess is over. I’m in love with this heavenly creature I somehow created, and it will be smooth sailing from here. Time to put Kaia in the Ergobaby, head to mommy and me yoga, and grab a green juice on the way home.

Kaia's Baby Blues - Reduced

Silly, silly me. While my daughter was essentially healthy, thank goodness, the next 48-hours would bring what felt like a constant succession of sucker punches to my very fragile body. From learning I had almost no milk supply, to discovering my girl inherited the posterior tongue tie/tongue thrust I’ve made a staple of so many of my presentations, to the first love of my life—my cat Plato, passing, to an emergency visit to the pediatrician over precious Kaia not passing any urine, the blows just kept on coming.  I would go on to spend the majority of my first month hooked up to a breast pump, battling a variety of different infections in my various female parts (again, I’ll spare you the details), and pushing through postpartum depression and extreme anxiety.

I know the so-called blows will keep coming. I’m the mother of a newborn. And a human being designed to encounter setbacks. As I write to you today (several weeks before you are reading this), I have a mask on my face. For despite holing myself up in my home most days and using obscene amounts of hot water and soap on my hands, I somehow managed to come down with a cold and I’m desperately trying to protect Kaia from it.

What I’m getting pretty clear on, and what I think matters about my messes for you, is as follows:

1. Plans are important. As is knowing when it’s time to toss them. While I really really, make that really really really really wanted a natural childbirth, and spent hours concocting a birth plan and making enough copies for everyone who might possibly come into contact with me in the hospital to know what that birth plan was, I knew when it was time to take it off the wall and file it in my new mommy memory book. Same thing with so many of my other “this is how I intend to mother” plans. I don’t, however, regret making any of my plans—although I wish I hadn’t made so many of them so black and white. Or, I hate to admit, quietly judged other women who made choices counter to mine. Tremendous growth happens when we have a strong intention, we use our personal power to try to actualize it, and it doesn’t happen. Even greater growth and heaps of humility happen when we find ourselves living plans we had previously judged others for making.

2. You can ALWAYS find moments of silence. While infants may sleep 16-18 hours per day, the truth is that most of that time this mom is running around cleaning bottles, doing laundry, prepping meals, or planning for my Influencer Academy sessions. And when my little dumpling is awake and not crying, she needs me for food, to change a diaper, to soothe her, to entertain her…sometimes it feels like all of the above simultaneously. Yet on most days, we still manage to meditate together. I hold her on my chest, play a guided meditation, and we breathe together. Sure, I’m not in perfect posture. Sometimes I’m having to do a lot of shushing throughout. Yet whether we make it through 2 minutes or 10 minutes, both of us emerge more present and still as a result. I need that time. And you need that time. Make it happen no matter what your circumstances are.

3. You have to feel what you are feeling—and tell the truth about it. The baby blues hit many women, yours truly included. And when they hit on top of you grieving the loss of a loved one, as mine did, they can be ugly. The problem for me was that I spent my first 3 weeks pretending I was fine. Tired, but fine. And then I came home a few weeks back after a pitch perfect Influencer Academy session and sobbed secretly in my bathroom like I’d never sobbed before. And unfortunately that sob gave way to a lot of crying and at times dry heaving over the next week. (Oh, the poor cashier at Target who asked how my day was and didn’t know what to do when I started a round of tears at her register.) I wish I hadn’t waited to feel what I needed to feel. Perhaps my milk supply might have come in on schedule, I wouldn’t have gotten sick, I may have been able to sleep when Kaia did, and most importantly, I would have healed a lot faster. Physically and emotionally. You can’t suppress emotions. You can keep them in a bottle but eventually the pressure will pop the lid off and then you have a real mess to clean up.

And while you are feeling all that it is you are feeling, or at least shortly after when you have your stamina back, be honest about it. That has been my saving grace. I’ve spoken to my family, my closest friends, my Influencer Academy women, and now several thousand of you about the reality of my first weeks as a new mom. When we pretend that everything is fine or even worse, make it sound perfect, we miss an opportunity to show others that it’s normal and okay to experience rough times. And so much of my pain, and I believe others’ pain, is wrapped up in thinking that other people are thriving in the same situations we feel like we are sinking in. We need to hear more stories of people struggling in their careers and lives AND how they are bulldozing through.

4. Sometimes the only thing that you can intuit is that you are in way over your head. When that happens, ask for help. While I spent a lot of hours of my pregnancy in birthing classes, decorating my home, and doing a lot of other relatively fun but in the grand scheme of things useless activities waiting for Kaia to move from womb to world, I did not spend any time mastering what I really needed to know as a new mom—like how to change a diaper, swaddle a baby, or even get a car seat in and out of the car. The best thing I did in my initial postpartum days was plead with my husband to extend his leave of absence from work and encourage my mom to live with us until I got up to speed. It’s great to build a strong team to support us in advance, but sometimes we don’t know the people we need on a team or the roles we need them to play until a crisis feels imminent or is actually unfolding. In these situations it’s vital to use our most direct communication with the people we have around us and say, without mincing words, “I need your help.”

I’ve thrown a lot at you in this blog post/newsletter. My hope is that whether you can relate to some of the messes I’ve described or not that you recognize that your messes are here to teach you.

To strengthen you.

To show you the complicated, vulnerable parts of yourself you likely strive never to put on display or even have to look at in the privacy of your own home.

Within each and every mess there is a message for you about how to get through. And more importantly, how to evolve as you figure out how to make your next move.

I hope you accept the invitation.

And when you feel ready, speak the truth about what you are living and overcoming to the people who’ve earned the right to hear it.

The world needs heroes who are honest about the journeys they have been on and are going through.