Archive for May, 2009

Round and round it goes

It is very late, although not as late as I have gotten used to going to bed now. The sleep schedule/caffeine schedule is wildly out of sync right now. I have also realized that in this very busy, curious, adventurous time, I am staying up late to get some time to be alone. BabyK has not napped in over 2 days now, and I am very sorely missing that three hours of adult time during the day. Whether we are actually moving to a one nap per day system remains to be seen, but I can not believe that we are moving from a two day nap to a no nap system.

Part of this is attributable to me, of course. When BabyK is particularly tired/hurting, as I am rocking him to sleep he pinches. He pinches the underside of my arm, he pinches my torso, he leaves little purple and green bruises along my chest and neck. Somewhat shamefully,  I hate this. What I hate more is when he is having these issues he often gets very squirmy and can not hold still, and as he is wriggling around and trying to find some place comfortable to be, he often pushes against my throat or lays his arm across my windpipe. While objectively less painful than the pinching, the sensation of being strangled pushes me closer to the edge than I would like to admit. I start to get very angry and I have frequently had to put him in his crib to scream at me while I step away and get my shit together again. As he is a slow teether, we have been working on the top two teeth for over two weeks and are just barely starting to break the surface on one of them. There are other suspicious bumps next to them though, so this may last indefinitely.

I realize that the obvious answer to this problem is some sort of sleep training, and I have been trying out some different tactics as we go. I really truly feel that crying it out is not the best solution for me as a parent or BabyK as a child. Maybe it works for other pairs and that is great for them. On the other hand, this is a baby who definitely has opinions and expresses them loudly, so even when I am standing right over the crib, or even in the damn crib with him, he is screaming his head off because he wants me to rock him to sleep. So there is crying happening one way or another, right?

The other day I let  him cry longer than I ever have before, maybe 10 minutes. I was right there on the stairs and when the crying changed from pissed off to scared I went back in and picked him up, and of course he fell asleep like 2 minutes later, on me. Was that a win? A step in the right direction? I don’t know. He slept for about 90 minutes, when I had to wake him to go to the big doctor’s appointment. At the doctor’s office, Mr. K tried to put him down on the scale to be weighed, which happens a lot so was not a new experience for him. He FREAKED out, to the point where other nurses were coming in to see what was happening in the measuring room. We eventually ended up taring the scale to include my keys and his pacifier, then desperately tried to interest him in both so we could weigh him. We repeated the scenario with the length measuring, although that just involved brute strength. Later that night there was a lot of waking and nursing and clinging, which has remained constant. The past two days he has not taken a nap at all, although I did manage to get maybe 25 minutes this afternoon during which I held him and wrote a Facebook quiz. He would have slept longer, but it was already 5:00 p.m. and the phones were ringing and the dog was scratching to be let in so that was the end of that.

So, did I break him? Is all this extra screaming and clinginess a reaction to the crying in the crib time? He doesn’t do the pinching/strangling with anyone else, just keeps chugging right along until he climbs up to them and literally passes out. We had a good day routine  in place, but it seems to have disintegrated and I keep clutching frantically at it only to watch it crumble again. Today we went nowhere and did nothing, making naps the most important item on our agenda. We tried to take a nap for over 2 hours, in and out of the crib, rocking and not rocking, singing and soothing, leaving him to work it out. I think what is hardest for me is that I struggle so much with my worthiness, and that struggle is even more pronounced now that I am an at-home mom so I have a hard time knowing that I am on the right track and doing the right thing. While it may have taken me 10 or 15 minutes (or maybe 30, on a bad day) to get him to sleep before, at least he did go to sleep and 85% of the time I was able to put him in his crib and have 90 minutes to myself. Now I am getting nothing and it is driving me crazy. Was that the right thing? Or is the sleep training the right thing?

I think the ‘right thing’ that I think I failed to facilitate would have been if he had started sleeping through the night in his cosleeper at six or twelve weeks old and moved into his own bedroom a few months later, sleeping 12 hours at a stretch. But he wasn’t that baby and I wasn’t that mom, and holding him upright all night so we could grab our two hour stretches of sleep was the best I could do. Having him sleep next to me so I could roll over to nurse him three to six times a night was the best I could do. Falling asleep without being able to put my hand on him was virtually impossible for me, sleep deprived as I was (am?). Knowing that he is ‘failure to thrive’ and not gaining weight (and going to be retarded and picked on and psychopathic because he isn’t on the growth chart) should I now be looking back and saying, co-sleeping and nursing all night were the right thing? If I have to be hell-bent on shoving calories down his throat all day, aren’t those extra night feedings worth it? (Apparently not, since my nursing doesn’t seem to count in his food intake. They want him to have formula and pediasure so he is getting calories and nutrients.)

So now he has  nursed again and is asleep between me and my laptop, after I had to go upstairs and rescue Mr. K when he started screaming. I generally feel that Mr. K is a very competent parent, and I honor him with his share of the parenting as much as I can. But on this issue I feel very much alone, since Mr. K is at work all day and has very very rarely done any night-time parenting. If he doesn’t sleep he doesn’t function, and I knew that before we had a baby, so there were only a few nights when BabyK was really little that he would sleep next to him and try to help out (mostly changing diapers and then passing him off to me). He can’t really take a block of time off work right now to help out with a sleep training plan, and with the calories and the teething I don’t even think it would be a good time to do it anyway.

So I guess that is that, then. Right? He needs calories, he’d rather not nap at all than fall asleep on his own (at least for me), and we can’t afford the cost of crying it out in terms of sleep or tolerance or calories. So the most accessible option I have is to make peace with not accomplishing anything right now, not expecting anything to change overnight (ha!) and just doing my best to get through to the other side, because, like most parenting issues, this too shall pass.



Who knows.


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Today, I am:

Trusting: that I do know what is best for my child, and that he really is getting what he needs from me. And if that changes, then I can change too.

Grateful: both to and for my husband who

  • looked at my fall class schedule and said, “are you going to be okay with leaving him for that long?”
  • told me that I looked good in my jeans (and then asked if they were new… uh, no. But thanks for playing!)
  • is so so beautiful when he is laughing and playing with his little man, who resembles him more all the time

Inspired: there’s a little jobby-job that I found on the internets that might possibly fit into my mom-school lifestyle and be a good starting place for this new career I’m embarking on… we shall see what we shall see, I guess.

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Hey there, internets!

Did you miss me? I certainly missed you!

Things here have been as crazy as always: finals week, houseguests, teething, etc. What uproarious fun, I know you are thinking! What has made it all so very fun is that I have been strangely exhausted, even though BabyK is now sleeping 8 hours a night at least 60% of the time. I’ve been laying down around dinner and passing out for an hour or two, super grumpy and overwhelmed, and just plain worn out. It hasn’t been fun.

So last Friday I unceremoniously saddled my houseguest with my infant and ran away to the doctor’s office, where I made a donation of blood. Anemia seemed very likely, given my inability to reconcile BabyK and eating beef, broccoli and chocolate. Thyroid issues were also very plausible. I was so relieved to think that there might be a simple explanation for how I am feeling and that it might be easily resolved with a supplement or medication. Ha! That should have been my first clue.

Yesterday they called and all of my labs are normal. All of them. Nothing to indicate anything out of the ordinary. Which would seem like good news but felt like bad. So now something is off and strange and weird and I have no idea why (and NO I am not pregnant and YES I am very sure about that). So I googled the medications I’m taking to try to increase/preserve my milk supply, treat my PCOS and keep me from itching all day long. Seems like either of them could be the cause, but then again, who knows? Is it worth endangering my milk supply to find out? Even if one of them is causing it, is it worth stopping?

So, here I am. I can make another appointment with the doctor and follow up, but I hate going to those appointments. Well, your bloodwork is normal. You should feel fine. If you don’t, it’s probably all in your head. Or even better, having small children is hard. It’s common to feel tired with a toddler at home. Can you get some help? Try some organizational tips? In the back of my head I hear my friend repeating (but not endorsing) her mother-in-law’s catchphrase: the world is run by tired people!

Whee! Sign me up.

We are visiting the super fancy pediatric gastroenterologist again this afternoon to see if BabyK has attained their mysterious, mythical threshold of weight gain or not. He’s put on more than half a pound so far so I hope that will be enough, but we’ll see. And then I’ll go back to worrying about mundane regular things like trying to maybe find a job and getting my school registration all straightened out and financial aid and why aren’t there cute cheap mom-appropriate swimsuits in a size 6 that accomodate a pair of DDs? Also, do I have skin cancer and will I kill BabyK if I don’t completely cover him in sun screen every day and why can’t I have good skin at nearly 30 and are people really truly unplugging their TVs all the time? Because it’s hard to get to those outlets.

You know. All that other stuff.

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Okay, seriously…

Did you think I could really post that whole big story and not include even *one* tiny, adorable newborn photo?? I would never do that to you, never. 🙂

(Regular sized pacifier, super tiny baby head.)

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How I Didn’t Give Birth

It seems kind of appropriate to post this now, when I am on the verge of celebrating my first Mother’s Day. I still feel very conflicted about this pseudo-holiday for various personal and political reasons. So how better to celebrate confliction than more confliction? Grab a cup of coffee and settle in, because it’s going to take awhile.

I think I might have mentioned before how the birth of BabyK almost went terribly wrong, but I haven’t given any details because I have been processing it. Still. Ten months after the fact. Which isn’t so many, considering it took 26 months to create one tiny human being. Here is a brief rundown of how things transpired:

  • Trying to get pregnant: 2 months
  • Early miscarriage: 1 month
  • More trying, much sadness, acupuncture, not much assistance (medical or personal): 7 months
  • Blood tests every other day, with more invasive and fun testing on top of that: 1 month
  • Lots of fun medications (6 different meds and dosages in the final month) family crisis to end all family crises: 6 months
  • Finally pregnant, more blood tests, paralyzed with anxiety and ‘everything but afternoon’ sickness, five pounds lost and regained, two weekends of bedrest, three days in which I was convinced (!) that the baby was dead and my life was empty, and two glorious, perfectly normal ultrasounds: 12 weeks
  • Perfectly normal, healthy pregnancy, paralyzing anxiety, consistent 12-14 hour work days, one week in Florida, two dance performances (one with actual dancing) and a perfectly lovely, drama free baby shower: 23 weeks
  • Consistent contractions, 10 minutes apart for two hours, hospital visit, normal fetal heart rate and movement, medication, and so much judging condescension about drinking a gallon of water a day (??):  One afternoon
  • Persistent contractions, furious nesting, a little swelling, sleep deprivation, marital disputes, afternoon naps, plenty of tears, an outdoor rock concert, and a lovely, loving baby shower by candlelight: 3 weeks

And then the real fun started.

Thursday afternoon I met with the OB for the first time. My blood pressure was normal and I had actually lost a little weight (3 or 4 pounds) as my swelling had gone down. We spent a lot of time talking at that visit as I had been seeing (and planned to deliver with) the midwife. I measured just a little bit small for the first time, but he was right up under my ribs and there wasn’t anywhere else for him to go. We went home feeling good about our ‘backup’ provider, and Mr. K went out to dinner with the boys. I made myself spaghetti and meatballs and ate dinner in front of the TV. Later that night, I started feeling very nauseated and had what I thought was bad heartburn. I decided that the meatballs were bad, and I had a little food poisoning. My contractions had actually slowed down, and I had told my boss earlier that day that I didn’t believe that the baby was coming on his own. I went to bed and managed to get some sleep.

Friday morning, I woke up and felt terrible. I would have stayed home from work but was thinking that I did not want to go back in next week and wanted to finish writing a grant. So in I went. I could not find a comfortable place to be and kept running to the bathroom, hoping that I could throw up and feel better. No dice. Finished writing the grant, headed home after less than three hours. Got home, was in so much pain that I could not stop moving. Mr. K was working from home and came in to see if I wanted to call the doctor. I said no, I just had food poisoning and needed to lay down.  I managed to sleep for about 90 minutes.  Woke up and felt perfectly fine. Food poisoning was over.

Friday afternoon, I finished writing more grants. We went to the grocery store, made dinner, took a walk. Popped in a DVD. The pain started coming back and eventually we both decided that the movie was so bad that there wasn’t any point in finishing it. (Punch Drunk Love). Mr. K went to bed around 10. I was feeling so badly that I finally managed to fall asleep around midnight. I woke up at 1:00 a.m. and finally puked. And then said, I don’t think this is food poisoning. I figured I had better call someone, and I still thought they were going to say, “Yeah, welcome to full term pregnancy. Take some tums.” So I called the 24 hour nurse line through Mr. K’s work. Halfway through my conversation with her, I had already decided that I was going to call my midwife whatever she said, but she pretty shortly said, “you need to call them right now.” So I did. I left a message with the answering service, they said to call back if I hadn’t heard from her in 30 minutes. 30 minutes of pacing, breathing, and pain, I called back. They tried again. I think I made it 15 minutes that time. This time they tried the OB, who wasn’t even on call. She called  me back pretty quickly. I told her what was going on and she said I should head to the hospital and get on the monitors, and that she could tell I was in a lot of pain (which surprised me, because I thought I was doing really well – still processing it as ‘uncomfortable’).

So I went upstairs and woke up Mr. K. He was pretty good about it. He said, “I’ll get the diaper bag,” and I told him there was no need for the diaper bag because we weren’t going to have the baby yet. I wasn’t in labor. “I’ll just bring it anyway,” he said. I did stop to print out the birth plan, completely convinced that this would save us time when we went ‘for real’ as then they would already have it on file. So we grabbed the bags I had been packing and repacking, got in the car and headed out. We took my car because it had the car seat in it, and I was having a hard time getting in and out of his lower riding car at that point. He made a full and complete stop at the stop sign, and I thought, of all the times that you could have run right through that stop sign, why not now?? It’s 2:15 a.m. and we’re on our way to the hospital. Geez.

Less than a half block later, we get pulled over. Lights, no sirens. I told Mr. K, “Don’t get out! They’ll shoot you!” The cop took forever to run our plates. Mr. K had his license and registration out of the window before the cop made it to the car.

“We’re on our way to the hospital and we need to go.”

The cop flashes his flashlight on my big pregnant belly. “Did her water break or something?”

“No, she’s having severe abdominal pain and we need to get to the hospital.”

“You guys live on <<Street name>>?”


“You’re just heading to the hospital”


“Well, I’m going to let you guys go. I’m sorry.”

Thanks, officer, for not offering to escort us. Nice job.

I don’t remember anything else until we were at the nurses desk on the family unit. They were expecting us and we walked right across the hall into our room. I got changed, they put us on the monitors and started an IV. They took some blood and sent it to the lab. BabyK’s heartrate was doing fine, I was having the light, irregular contractions that I had been having for weeks. The nurse was very nice but very tired, so she sat to do the charting. I answered some questions. She said that they were probably looking for preeclampsia, and my blood pressure was elevated (but not shockingly so.) She did mention something about a complication of preeclampsia called HELLP syndrome, but usually the pain would be on the right and mine was decidely on the left. There was some blessed, blessed morphine. We went to sleep, me in the bed and Mr. K on the window seat/couch.

Awhile later, the blood tests had come back and I did have preeclampsia/HELLP syndrome. They said, we’re going to have a baby today! I thought, that’s nice. Unreal, but a lovely sentiment just the same. They all said, this is a great time to get preeclampsia because the baby is full term, so we’ll just get the baby out and everyone will be fine. They decided to do an induction and hung the pitocin. I didn’t feel the contractions at all, even though they were regular. The nurses told me that my epidural would be there in half an hour, they were finishing with someone else and would be on their way. I sort of remembered, hey, I was going to do this very differently. I had reserved the birth tub, hired a doula, was going to go all natural. I said, “I can’t feel these contractions at all. Do I have to have the epidural?” The nurse said, “Oh honey, you don’t have a choice anymore. You can’t feel this at all, because we can’t do anything that would raise your blood pressure.” We called our doula and left her a message. We called our friend who was in hospice care and let them know. I think I may have fallen back asleep.

The CRNA came in to do the epidural. He was a very nice man, and had served in multiple branches of the armed forces. He was efficient and friendly and while I seem to remember the procedure as being the most uncomfortable part of the process, all I really remember was his great bedside manner. We got everything in and settled and then fell back asleep.

I think they woke me up maybe four hours later. They told me that the baby’s heartrate was not responding well to the contractions and that they had turned the pitocin off. They checked me and I had not dilated at all – no progress whatsoever. The doctor would be here shortly. The clearest memory I have of that whole decision was the OB standing at my bedside, holding my hand and rubbing my arm. She was very calm and soothing. She said, “okay, you have preeclampsia and that’s okay because the baby is full term. We tried the induction and baby didn’t like it. He just didn’t like it and so we ‘re going to go across the hall and get him out. Having a c-section doesn’t mean you can’t have a natural birth later, we can try it again next time. Do you guys have any questions?” I didn’t. Mr. K asked, how will that affect their breastfeeding relationship? The doc said, it probably won’t. I’ve had 2 c-sections and nursed my kids for 13 months and 2 years, so it will be fine and we’ll make sure you have plenty of help to get it figured out. We said, okay.

They started prepping me. The OB stayed in the room, which I thought was really nice. We took some pictures after they started yet another IV line (I have tiny veins, and apparently the two I already had weren’t big enough?). We called our doula again and our friend in hospice. The doula got our message this time and called us back desperate to come down and be with us. We said to wait until after the surgery and come help when the baby is actually here. Everyone was very relaxed and the OB sat in the rocking chair and read me my lab results. My liver tests were tens of thousands above the ‘high’ value (which was in the high hundreds). Yes, tens of thousands. I asked at my six week follow up to be sure. She said, “I just want you to know what an overachiever you are,” as she read them.  I was laying on my side thinking, “doesn’t she know about me? I always get the highest score”, and feeling rather smug about how high the numbers were. I was on too many meds to process, hey, your liver is shutting down in a totally major way! That sounds dangerous!

We were all ready and wheeled across the hall. The OR was cold, like they always are. The CRNA said, “I can take away all the pain but I can’t take away the pressure. One mom told me that it felt like someone was taking off her jeans.” I could feel the OB doing her pinchy test to see if I was numb and I thought, hey, hey, hey! I felt that! Hold on a second! But she was already off and running. I didn’t feel pain though, just movement. I turned to look at Mr. K and thought, this is it. This is our last moment as just the two of us. This is the moment that is going to change everything from here on out. He of course just stared back at me. I think his thoughts were more of a ‘remaining conscious in sight of any kind of bodily fluid’ nature.

BabyK came out screaming. That was a relief. I couldn’t really see him and they did not stop to show him to me. He was whisked away, and I was trying to comfort him with my voice and all I could say was, Oh baby! It’s okay, we’re right here. I think he was pissed and cold and scared. I felt stupid trying to yell loving thoughts at him. I made Mr. K go be with him. He had the camera with him. I kept yelling, take some pictures! Then when I thought he had taken enough, I yelled, I want to see my baby! Bring me the camera! So that is how I first saw my son. I was frustrated by the tiny viewfinder. Then I sent him back to comfort the baby and take more pictures.

In the meantime, my blood pressure was going up. Who does that? No one. The OB was talking to the nurses and the CRNA and I heard snatches of things like, “I didn’t see any amniotic fluid, did you?” “We used to call that intrauterine growth retardation, but then we had to stop because people thought that their kids were going to be retarded, so now we say restriction. ” Then I started to get the shakes really badly. They told me not to fight them because then I would get sore. So I was trying to be okay with it, but that’s really hard.

Mr. K said he thought he was going to faint and needed to sit down. They had to find him a chair and I guess he was in a little room off the OR where they kept the baby equipment. I really couldn’t see. The OB was talking to the nurses about how we were not going to circumcise the baby. She said, “when people ask me I normally just recommend that they do whatever the dad is, so then they look alike. Can I ask you a personal question, since I have my hands inside you?” “Sure,” I said. “Is your husband circumcised?” I said “yes, we didn’t decide because of what he looked like.” They were curious about why we had come to that decision. I said, “I spent a lot of time and energy growing that part and I don’t see the point in just cutting it off.” The CRNA thought that was funny and the best reason he had heard so far. The whole conversation was very friendly and relaxed, these people were all working on a Saturday and just chatting. If I had thought about it beforehand I would have probably been offended by it, that during the most sacred moment of my family’s life they were just hanging out and shooting the shit, but in the moment I found it wonderfully reassuring and normal. I still hadn’t seen my son, Mr. K I think had just been able to touch him (after I strongly suggested he try to comfort the baby).

Then Mr. K called out that he needed to sit down again, and could someone possibly cover up the placenta? Then there was a bunch of giggling and rustling up of towels. The baby had stopped crying and I think they had let Mr. K hold him. I was closed up and my bp was settling down and they were getting ready to wheel us back over to our room. I think there was some conversation about letting me hold him while we rolled across the hall – maybe I had to lay down to hold him? Or something? I can’t really remember. But they handed him to me at some point. Of all the things that I wish had gone differently, I wish I could remember the first time I saw his face.

They tested his blood sugar and it was low, but his body temperature was holding strong, so they let him stay with us. He nursed beautifully – which was truly a blessing, considering how it might have gone. They did end up giving him some formula to get his blood sugar up. From that point on, everything was really normal or above average. I healed amazingly quickly. The labs they drew while I was on the table were already better than they had been. Nursing went fine. I think I was awake for at least 24 hours after his birth, mostly due to the combination of meds they had me on. After 24 hours I was doing well enough that they turned my IVs off, but they left the lines in for a while just in case. With the exception of the nurse who was there for the delivery and had some rather strong opinions about our first parenting choices, all of the nurses were great. They were really supportive and encouraging and almost every one of them walked into the room saying, “how are you feeling? I read your chart. You were very sick.” So maybe if they had been expecting someone on their death bed I was doing fantastically well. The nurse from the night we were admitted came in to see us a few hours before we left, and she was lovely and kind although I didn’t remember her at all until she told me who she was. She told me that when she had called the OB before starting the induction she told her that she didn’t think the baby was going to tolerate labor and she had better plan to come in to do the c-section. It just smelled bad, she said. I find that comforting somehow – that even when it was the most touch and go and we had no idea what was going on, someone was watching closely and had a hunch. My only hunch, that the baby wasn’t going to come out on his own, was the only thing I got right about my ‘labor’ – no doula (she did come later that day which was a help) no birth tub, no labor at all, no natural anything.

So here I sit on the other side of this experience, and I still have some unresolved things. For instance, I have never said, ‘I gave birth’. I have said, ‘I had a baby’, and even, ‘I could have died having a baby’, but never ‘I gave birth’. It feels like a lie. I never labored (consciously or productively). I didn’t participate in any way. I know that many women make those choices in an otherwise healthy birth and I suspect that they feel like they gave birth. But that phrase means something else to me. My life was in danger, it was saved. My baby was in danger, he was saved. Not much room for birthing and empowerment and the sacred feminine in that story.

Right now, I don’t know that I will ever attempt to give birth again. I was so very, very lucky this time around and it seems like tempting fate to try again, even when I am labeled ‘high risk’ and would be very carefully monitored (not to mention that pesky infertility). I am still in a higher risk group for getting preeclampsia again. I wrote a paper on pre-e/HELLP for my class this semester, and I came very very close to feeling like it wasn’ t my fault for working too hard or not eating right or just defying the laws of nature by finally having become pregnant at all. There were a lot of people judging my doctor afterwards, as pre-e does usually present with symptoms. But in my research (and even on wikipedia) I found that this is not the case. I don’t think they missed anything. I felt fine. I had good prenatal care. I’m just lucky:  0.2-0.6% of all pregnancies develop HELLP. 10-15% of those pregnancies with HELLP don’t have symptoms of pre-e first. (About 1% of moms with HELLP die.) So yeah, that was kind of a unique situation. The people who are so worried about my healthcare would probably not be as familiar with cases like mine.

So there you have it. My ‘birth’ story. All the moms on my message board posted theirs in the weeks after our babies arrived. Could you maybe see why mine took a little longer? I will say this: I am certainly a mother, no matter how I got here. And I would do it all again in a heartbeat for the privilege of raising this child. My child.

Maybe I am looking forward to celebrating a little bit this weekend after all.

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Trusting: Today I am trusting that everything will get done. I have a paper and two finals before Wednesday and a big retreat on Saturday… trying to give myself enough down time to make it through the crippling writers block of yesterday. Sigh.

Grateful: I am grateful to Mr. K for handling all the things that need to be handled, like bills and student loans.

Inspired: Brene Brown and Ayelet Waldman are inspiring me to think differently about myself and my role as a mother. Practicing my critical awareness is helping me see things in a new light.

And mostly, I’m really, really glad it’s Friday. Even if that doesn’t mean much.

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