SIP in San Francisco

We’ve only left San Francisco a handful of times since Shelter in Place was implemented in late March, mainly spending our time wandering our neighborhood and finding new routes to Golden Gate Park. Truth be told, we’ve always done a lot of walking since moving to the Inner Richmond because we have a dog and now a baby, but the pace is slower now that we’re five months into SIP. I started really paying attention during our daily walks, and wanted to document the Inner Richmond during this time, from signs thanking essential workers to Black Lives Matter posters, masked Fnnch honey bears encouraging people to wear masks, and empty, closed parks that would typically be full of families.

A Helpful Anxiety Trick

I started having “the visions” as soon as we brought William home from the hospital.

Crossing the street, I picture a car hitting my son, babbling away in his stroller.

Lifting my kicky baby out of the bathtub, I picture his slippery body sliding through my arms and his head meeting the cool, tiled bathroom floor.

Grabbing his chubby, rubber band wrists before he plunges his hands into his (dirty) diaper, I picture him flipping off the changing table.

I mentioned these visions to my therapist and she asked if I’d ever actually dropped my son or lost control of the stroller. The answer was no.

What she said next was really helpful: “This shows how much you love your son – and also reminds you to be present when with him.”

Mutually Exclusive

Photo by Rob and Julia Campbell for Stocksy

Motherhood is full of high highs and low lows, and it seems it’s only socially acceptable to talk about the high highs, or, if you’re confessing to feeling a low, quickly caveat it by saying how lucky you are.

But the thing is, you can feel both the high highs and the low lows at the same time – they aren’t mutually exclusive.

I can be happy to do our sweet bedtime routine and settle in on the couch with the baby monitor in full view, while also mourning the loss of a Saturday night out with friends.

I can be grateful that my body carried my sweet baby boy, while also resenting the loose skin around my middle.

I can hate pumping while still feeling grateful for my ability to breastfeed.

I can feel overwhelmed at the amount of laundry and cleaning while still marveling at his tiny socks and rainbow-colored toys.

I can resent being the one to do the bedtime routine while also savoring the moments alone with my son.

When William was just a few weeks old and was still getting used to his big new world, it was isolating to hear his constant crying and feel like I couldn’t talk about it. Why did I feel like admitting that his wails were wearing on me would somehow take away from my delight at my tiny human? Of course, I love him. Of course, there were amazing moments. But hearing him cry was exhausting and emotional and just hard.

I’m not the mom I thought I’d be

I had an idea of the type of mom I thought I’d be, based on how I am in a work setting and assumptions I made about myself and my baby before he was even born! Turns out, I’m not the mom I thought I’d be. Here’s how:

Our son isn’t on a nap schedule, which surprises me based on how scheduled I tend to be. While we stick to a sweet bedtime routine that has worked for us so far, we generally just wait for signs of tiredness and then put him down for a nap. 

I find some of the gross parts of parenthood hilarious. When our son pooped in the bath for the first time (yes, I said first time as it happens semi-frequently), my husband was horrified. While gross to be sure, I started laughing and so did the baby!  

With cleaning and certain household tasks, I tend to like it done my way – so I assumed I would want things done a certain way when it came to our son. Turns out, I am completely fine if my husband doesn’t button William’s onesie the right way, and haven’t really been concerned with how our daycare does things as long as our son is healthy and happy.

I’m actually a better mom because I’m not the mom I thought I’d be.

Mom Genes Fight PPD

Photo by Alicia Brown via Stocksy

One in seven moms suffer from Postpartum Depression (PPD), and black moms are more likely to experience PPD. Despite the prevalence, there’s been little research done about PPD. For these reasons, I’m proud to be part of an ongoing study to learn more about PPD: Mom Genes.

Mom Genes Fight PPD is a study designed to learn why PPD happens, why some mothers experience it and others don’t. The study is collecting 100,000+ DNA samples via mail-in spit kits from mothers, like myself, who have been affected by PPD. The goal is to have a statistically viable amount of DNA to draw conclusions, enable better treatments to be developed, and hopefully, find a cure one day.

Led by researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and the consortium Postpartum Depression: Action Towards Causes and Treatment, the international study is largest postpartum depression study … ever. 

It was so easy to participate; I downloaded the iPhone app, sent in my saliva via mail, and answered questions from the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale.

Learn more here.

Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is usually spoken about when referencing women in the workplace, and it’s something I’ve personally experienced. I never thought about it in the context of motherhood but, as a byproduct of my postpartum depression or, just slower transition to motherhood, it’s a feeling I’ve become familiar with as a new mom. Whenever my instincts kick in I feel like a “real mom.” That’s a ridiculous thing to even write since I am indeed a mother, but it’s true.

Recently my son spit up and I caught the spit up with my hands without thinking twice. In addition to being gross, it was also a proud moment. I felt like a “real mom.”

There are a lot of these moments now, but they surprise me. When I look into my son’s eyes it’s like we’ve known each other forever, but there are also times when I feel like I’m playing the part of an experienced mom. With work, I’ve come to realize that everyone is just trying to act like they know what they’re doing and I think it’s the same with motherhood.

Here I am (above), wearing my son for a meeting. Pretending like I know what I’m doing!

Raising a (White) Son

When I found out I was pregnant with my son, I started to think about the things I’d have to tell him and teach him that I wouldn’t if I were having a daughter. I thought about gender stereotypes and how we’d eventually need to talk about consent. I thought about a lot of things, but it wasn’t until this past week that it occurred to me that there a lot of things I hadn’t and haven’t thought about telling my son. These are things that hadn’t occurred to me because we are white. The list includes what to say if he were stopped by the police and how to feel when he encounters racism. The thought took my breath away.

Illustration by Na Kim; photograph from EyeEm / Getty via The New Yorker

A good mom

I sway in the shower. When I’m rinsing the shampoo out of my hair I transfer my weight from left foot to right foot and back again.

I sway in line at the grocery store, while balancing a too-crowded basket and mentally running through my list.

Even when I’m not holding or wearing my baby, I sway from side to side like I did constantly when he was a newborn and I couldn’t comfort him.

One day I was apparently swaying in line for coffee, prompting a stranger to say to me, “I can tell you’re a good mom.”

It was the first time I felt I identified as a “good mom” and noticed I was starting to build a muscle memory for motherhood. It felt good.

Image via Farmette.co

Six Months Going on Seven

One
Two
Three
Four
Five
Six

Nothing prepared me for how sweet our son would be. My husband laughs because I’m always asking him, “Can you believe how sweet he is? Can you believe he’s ours?” He is officially seven months old, so here are seven things I don’t want to ever forget about this sweet boy at this moment in time.

1. His eyelashes are a mile long, like my husband’s. When he cries, his tears pool in his lashes, clumping them together.

2. When we lift him out of his crib every morning, he gives us a huge smile before turning his head away in shyness.

3. He has started to do a deep belly laugh. More often than that though, he does a silent, open mouth laugh, throwing his head back.

4. His miniature hands are like perfect starfish, always reaching to hold my hands or memorize the shape of my face with the pads of his fingers.

5. His feet chubby feet resemble a pastry piping bag that’s a little too full of frosting.

6. He loves to “stand” on his changing table and does the sweetest little jig, so proud of himself.

7. When rock him in my arms, telling him that I love him, his dark eyes stare, unblinking, up at me.

The Lasts

People always talk about your baby’s firsts. The first time they giggle (the best sound in the world). The first time they roll over (scary!). The first time they eat solids (avocado was not a hit).

What people don’t tell you about are the lasts. The last time they fit into newborn size diapers. The last time they wear the tiny blue and pink striped cap from the hospital (see right). The last time they sleep in their swaddle, because of said rolling. The last time their cry sounds like a newborn cry.

The firsts are exciting for sure, but the lasts are what make my heart ache.

My son, in his tiny hospital cap, on his birth date