Why doesn’t anyone warn you about sensory overload as a mother. I feel like we hear about moms being “touched out” but it’s not just being touched. It’s the dog barking, it’s the wooden hammer on the cabinet, it’s the doorbell ringing, it’s the repetitive phrase your toddler has chosen to say louder and louder, it’s that toy with the annoying song that someone left on.
I struggle with overstimulation big time. I first started really noticing it a few months into breastfeeding J. Combining feeding a distractible infant while cross monitoring what a busy two year old is getting into had me almost always in this fight or flight mode. It was not the peaceful breastfeeding experience I had with Will. After stopping nursing I realized another rapid fire way for me to get sent into sensory overload was when we would roughhouse. It would only take getting hit in the face a few times for me to suddenly feel like my walls were closing in, my skin would start crawling, I’d immediately want no one to touch me.
It is easy to question yourself, to feel alone. Why is the dog barking or my kid wanting to “wrestle” me causing me to feel SO uncomfortable. My heart beats faster, I feel annoyed, angry at seemingly insignificant things. Each noise feeling like an interruption into the single thought I’m trying to complete. I found myself deeply craving silence. In the moment feeling like I want to retreat into darkness.
Before we had kids I would occasionally feel this way after a busy shift. Chris would play music in the mornings and I remember this same feeling, the music was too much, it felt like my brain was still too close to that fight or flight mode. Even if I slept it still felt like all the alarms, ringing phones, or screaming patients were still right there. All it took was turning the music down and it’d go away quickly. Well with kids you can’t just turn down the volume and often times the volume feels like it’s just increasing.
If you feel this way too, you’re not alone. It is totally normal to get sensory overloaded and you are not selfish or a bad mom for wanting silence. Letting our brains decompress from the stimulus of motherhood is absolutely necessary in order for us not just to survive but thrive in motherhood. We all have difference tolerances and triggers when it comes to stimulus but there all ways to help both prevent and rescue yourself from fight or flight.
Know your triggers & set boundaries around them. Find out the sounds or types of stimulus that push you quickly into that mode If that toy remote your kid has plays a song that makes you want to tear your hair out – take the batteries out! Make certain toys for outside play only. I personally stopped buying dog toys with squeakers, instituted a drumming outside only rule, and encourage loud play to be done in bedrooms instead of common areas. I also know to put my hair up so it doesn’t get accidentally snagged by a toddler, and to set clear boundaries when we roughhouse I usually say something like “If I get hit in the face again, I will need to take a break from the game”. It sounds silly but the boundary setting works & is another valuable skill to teach your kids. When it comes to your body setting clear boundaries that you hold in turn teaches your kids that it is okay and they can set boundaries with their bodies too! Tickling is the prime example. Whenever my boys say stop to tickling we ALWAYS stop. Continuing to tickle your kids when they say stop is saying “it’s okay to ignore people’s boundaries”.
Practice LOUD & soft – when your kids are already screaming is not the time to try to teach them how to whisper. Instead turn it into a game at a time when they are fairly calm. We play this at the dinner table. We can’t expect our kids to know things we haven’t bothered to teach them, teaching them how to control their volume is an important life skill and future teachers will thank you!
Breathe mama breathe – When you are seeing white & are in that mode. Literally stop moving, and start breathing. Take a slow deep breathe, hold for 4 seconds, exhale. repeat. Closing your eyes helps too. This physiologically will help bring your body and your nervous system out of fight or flight.
Carve out quiet. I personally get up 1-2 hours before my kids now that they both sleep through the night. I use this time to meditate, journal, read, workout, get breakfast ready. I know this is not for everyone. At the very minimum I get up 10 minutes before them. Enough time to sit in silence and stillness. Creating a quiet morning ritual will give you a sense of control over your day. You are not immediately thrown into a reactive state. This has probably been the thing that helps me the most. Sitting in stillness feels like the most luxurious thing once you have kids and meditation has helped me actualize this concept that peace is within us and are able to find it whenever we like.
Use a screen, recompose, and don’t feel guilty. You will be more present and a better parent. When I had peaceful nursing sessions it was either in the middle of the night, while Will was sleeping or when will was watching Mickey Mouse. Looking back I’m thankful I did that and wish I had recognized this sooner and found more ways to make more peaceful nursing sessions.
Speak Up. Do not suffer in silence. Name what you’re feeling. Is the clutter overwhelming you, is the music too loud, is toddler hanging from your leg pushing you into a reactive hyperstimulated state? Name it. Talk about it. If you are lucky to have a partner or support system talk to them, and try to find ways to release. Some days when my husbands comes in from work (he works in a detached office in our yard) I will tell him I need to go sit in the office for a few minutes of silence.
This month we celebrated Jman with a Wild One themed birthday party! He is our sweetest surprise & our pandemic baby. Born in July, his birth month flower is a lotus. Which grows in mud, retreating each night back into the mud only to bloom clean the next day. Lotus flowers symbolize spiritual awakening and rebirth. My eyes filled with tears when I read the description of this. Johnathan was our sweetest surprise, little did we know he would enter our lives when we needed him most, in the thick of the pandemic he would be the brightest light. His birth would remind us of the circle of life as we went on to lose my aunt a few days after his birth. I couldn’t think of a more beautiful symbol for his birth month.
We had family and a few friends come celebrate with us. I got this “wild one” birthday kit off amazon for $30 and was impressed with how great it turned out. The day of the party ended up being well over 100 degrees, luckily we had a small pool from target set up & the kids loved splashing in it. It was wonderful to celebrate our happy guy and watch him demolish his smash cake! He decided to take his first steps right before turning one and he held out on getting any teeth his first year!
We celebrated Will’s 3rd birthday with a Three Rex theme. This birthday felt so emotional, he just seems so big all of the sudden. He’s going to preschool in the fall, he’s taking swim lessons, he tells funny little stories & is constantly asking “wanna know…” Ex: wanna know what that sound was, wanna know what’s in mama’s mouth, wanna know what Johnathan’s doing and on and on. Will turned two a month into the pandemic. While the world shut down in 2020 Wills world expanded beyond measure. We moved, he became a big brother, he learned to ride his scooter, he got stitches (see previous), he cooked with me a TON and asked Santa for knives. It’s SO fun to watch him become his own person & every birthday is just a little reminder of how quickly time goes! It was so wonderful to have a small party to celebrate our guy and Johnathan got to meet some family he had never met yet so that was extra special.
Party decor was primarily from target. His cake I can proudly say I baked & decorated! It’s a Ghiradelli box cake mix & Betty Crocker chocolate frosting & funfetti vanilla frosting that i just added green food coloring to, for the dirt – crushed up Oreos. I took inspo from a picture on pinterest & I was so happy with how it turned out! My biggest tip is to freeze your cake for 20-30 min before trying to frost it. It seriously makes a HUGE difference!
I decided to compile a list of some of the things I’ve been loving this pregnancy – I would say this second time around I’m way more relaxed & honestly have barely bought or started planning anything (and I’m nearly 30 weeks!). By 30 weeks with Will we already had 80% of the nursery done, I’d had my babyshower & was elbows deep in organizing baby gear. I think this is a rather common phenomenon with non first children!
Care Of Vitamins – you might have seen these being promoted by celebs on Instagram, but I tried them & love them. When you’re pregnant you’re taking your vitamins daily & I love that they come in individual packs which are perfect for travelling. And I like that you can change up what comes in the pack every month. When I had really bad morning sickness I was adding B12’s, and now with all the crazy pandemic stuff I’ve added immune support like elderberry & probiotics. I love that I don’t have bottles of vitamins on my counters or cluttering up my cabinets. & the little packs they come in are compostable!!
THESE Old Navy lounge pants. This pregnancy I’m having a hard time finding things I find to be comfortable. I’ll be wearing leggings & or maternity jeans & out of nowhere I’ll be annoyed with how tight around my belly it is. But these bad boys are SO comfortable & so soft. I honestly wear them 5 nights a week! In fact I have a second pair in an online shopping cart.
My Hydroflask! Something I use every.single.day! I’m so thirsty when I’m pregnant or breastfeeding & I crave ICE cold water. I love the hydroflask because it doesn’t sweat, it keeps water cold for hours on end. I usually fill it up with pebble ice from work before I leave and the ice is still solid when I wake up in the morning! I have a narrow bottle which I prefer because it fits in cup holders. Right off the bat it might seem pricey but it’s literally the only water bottle I use & I take it pretty much everywhere I go!
Belly Band – I never wore one during my first pregnancy, but this time around by lower back kills me by the end of the day. I ended up getting one off of amazon that said it was good for back pain, & oh my goodness does it make a difference! I wear it whenever I’m working out (except yoga) & when I’m doing a lot of walking or standing. I usually end up wearing it in the afternoon when I’m running around chasing Will, & standing to cook dinner. At less than $25 it’s worth it if you’re struggling with lower back pain & still have months till delivery!
Thred Up – this online second hand retailer is awesome in general but it’s for sure a favorite when pregnant. I hate shelling out full price stuff for maternity jeans, shorts, dresses etc. Usually maternity stuff is lightly used & less than half priced – WIN WIN! I also use thred up to clean out my closet. You can order a clean out bag for fee & they’ll send you a bag that’s already had a shipping label on it & you fill it up with your items & ship it back – they’ll pay you for any items they choose to list & donate whatever they don’t want! Talk about easy!
This one you don’t have to be pregnant to enjoy, I recently ordered DAE hair shampoo & conditioner & have been LOVING it. It’s a little on the pricier side but it’s a super clean product – free of sulfates, parabens, formaldehyde, less than 1% synthetic fragrance. I’ve dabbled in pricier hair stuff before & always been left a little unimpressed, but this stuff seriously makes my hair SO soft & way less frizzy when air dries!
I didn’t get around to doing our monthly letterboard photos with William this month & now we’re half way through December… oops. I guess you could say we’ve been busy. Will’s 7th month consisted of his first international trip! We went to Curacao for a friends wedding & extended our trip by a few days to enjoy the beach & warm weather before heading to Texas for Thanksgiving. In case you can’t tell by the photos William was a little unsure about the ocean despite the water being bath temp. He eventually came around & became a little more comfortable, I guess swim lessons will be part of 2019 ha! Along with travelling outside the US this month he also began eating a ton of new foods, learned how to crawl & still has zero teeth! I’m looking forward to Christmas because I feel like he’ll really enjoy the wrapping paper element. Onward & upward to month 8!