Sensory Overload In Motherhood

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. 

  1. 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”.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 
  5. 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. 
  6. 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.

Sensory Overload In Motherhood

Johnathan’s 1 Month Photos

Can’t believe it’s been a whole month with this guy and in true second child fashion this post is going up 2 weeks after these photos were taken. This first month has been wonderful, Johnathan got to meet both sets of grandparents & William has fully embraced big brother duties. Johnathan also moved out of our room & into his own, but he’s still snoozing in his bassinet. Per usual time is flyyyying by, but we’re over the moon with our littlest man.

Postpartum Must Haves

Postpartum can be a roller coaster & anything you can do to make life a little easier or comfier is a no brainer. Below are 10 of my postpartum must haves this time around!

  1. After Ease drops – this tincture helps with afterbirth contractions that typically become more painful with each consecutive pregnancy. I added a few drops to my water before breastfeeding & I noticed a big difference when I used it versus when I forgot.
  2. Frida Mom Ice Maxi Pads – These are AWESOME. I know at the hospital they give you ice packs but i found these to work SO much better, colder, lasted longer – highly recommend.
  3. Cute Button Down Pajamas – It’s easy to feel really frumpy & gross postpartum, none of your clothes fit, you want to wear something comfy & easy to breastfeed in. Treat Yo Self & get yourself some cute soft pajamas, you won’t regret it.
  4. Heating Pad – I tucked this into my hospital bag. Depending on your labor you can definitely feel like you got hit by a train. Although my labor was significantly quicker & less dramatic this time around, once my epidural wore off my back was SO sore. I don’t know if it was from the epidural itself, or if it was from a way I was laying, either way a heating pad can offer relief if the advil just isn’t cutting it!
  5. Placenta Capsules – this is by far my top postpartum must have! I encapsulated my placenta my first pregnancy & did it again this time around. Although still not widely practiced here in the US, placenta encapsulation is extremely popular in Eastern Medicine – benefits include: replenishing Iron stores in your body, decreased postpartum depression, decreased anxiety, increased energy, increased milk supply. Last pregnancy I wasn’t certain that the pills helped, I felt good but I didn’t know if the pills were part of that. This time it was our second day home & I remember this feeling coming over me of just wanting to bawl. And I hadn’t taken any of my pills yet, Chris suggested I take one & see. Within two hours I felt SO much better. I felt like myself. Now I take 2-3 daily. I notice a boost in energy & mood when I take them. If you’re interested in encapsulating your placenta but don’t know where to start, I have found that often times doulas will offer encapsulation services!
  6. Nursing Tanks – I like these from H&M they come in a lot of colors / prints & are fairly affordable.
  7. A good water bottle – I personally couldn’t live without my hydroflask, I love ICE cold water so this bad boy serves me well. I’m never without it. When I’m breastfeeding I’m incredibly thirsty & it’s one of the best ways to keep your milk supply up.
  8. Nipple Cream – I used this nipple cream when I was breastfed William. A little 1oz jar will last you for so long.
  9. Hakka Pump – Breast pumps can be SO pricey – this little silicone pump from amazon is a great snag. It’ll run you under $15 & just put it on the opposite breast while feeding & it’ll catch the let down. However it’s not great if you have an oversupply of milk as it can cause your oversupply to be worse.
  10. Tap Light – this little light is one of my absolute favorites. In fact I often gift it to new mamas. It is super light weight, cordless, and can be dimmed & changed from warm to cool lighting. I packed it in my hospital bag this time & I loved having instead of having to turn on the aggressive hospital lighting. Once we’re home I keep it on my bedside table for middle of the night feeds & in fact we still use the one we got for William two years ago!

Johnathan Wade’s Newborn Photos & Tips for Taking Your Own!

Yesterday my bestfriend came over & we shot Johnathan’s newborn photos. We did this when William was a newborn too. Newborn photography can be costly & intimidating but they don’t have to be! These photos took about an hour all in all to shoot. Ideally you want to take photos in the first week or two when babies are the squishiest & easiest to pose & they tend to stay asleep through different positions. Below I’ll share tips for taking your own photos & the set up we used.

The Set Up

  • Boppy Pillow
  • Heating Pad – Be VERY careful with a heating pad. I placed it under a thick plush blanket & set it on the lowest setting, checking frequently to make sure it wasn’t too hot, I ended up turning it off completely.
  • Plush Blanket – something with texture is nice
  • Somewhere near a window with lots of light!

I put the heating pad over the boppy pillow, followed by the plush blanket I wanted to use. This blanket is extra special because my late aunt sent it to us shortly before she lost her battle to cancer one day after our son was born.

I positioned the boppy / blanket set up on our bed near a window that got plenty of afternoon light. But when I took William’s newborn photos the set up was on his rocking chair, near a window. The key is finding an area of your home that gets good natural light.

The heating pad helps keep baby nice & cozy & asleep. I use it when I’m taking photos when baby isn’t wearing anything but a diaper. As I mentioned previously, exercise extreme caution when use the heating pad, don’t use it above the first setting and check frequently the temperature!

Next up: Angles! I go by one simple rule: if you can see up the baby’s nostrils it’s not the best angle. You want to shoot the opposite way. Granted you’ll notice not all of the photos live by that rule but it’s a good thing to keep in mind while you’re taking photos.

Editing: Most photo editing apps have a lot of free features you can adjust. For newborn photos I usually follow these basic steps: Straighten the photo, increase exposure, decrease shadows, decrease texture & clarity. I use light room to edit all my photos so I’m also able to fiddle if I want to decrease any hues of certain colors. You’d be amazed at how much better a photo can look just by simply straightening it & adjusting the exposure.

If you’re on a budget, don’t want strangers in your home taking photos during a pandemic or are like me and can’t stomach paying hundreds of dollars for photos you can take yourself try out these tips!

Sunday Sunsets

Last night we spontaneously decided to head over to Baker Beach for the sunset and it ended up being one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve probably ever seen. This past week was so busy, Chris was gone Monday through Thursday for work, I worked 3 shifts including Saturday night. I celebrated a friends birthday & Sunday we went to Dim Sum for a red egg & ginger party. So Sunday was the first day Chris, William & I were all together for a whole day in a week!

Before having Will I used to take Juno to the beach weekly. It’s truly her heaven on earth but now days it’s a two person job. One to wrangle the dog and one to wrangle the toddler. I’m acutely award that we won’t live 10 minutes from the beach forever so I’m trying soak up all the beach days I can & even though it can be hectic I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Chasing Fireflies & other sweet things in the South pt. 2

Part 2 of our trip to Tennessee & Georgia! These photos are from the wedding we attended in Bell Buckle Tennessee. As you can tell by most* of the photos William had a blast. We got to spend some great time with family, we all stayed at a B&B together & were just a few blocks from the rehearsal & wedding.

5 Ways to Beat the Heat with a Toddler

It’s officially summer & San Francisco already had it’s first heat wave of the year. Temperatures got up into the 90’s which is about 30 degrees higher than our usual summer temps! Keeping a toddler entertained as well as trying to get them to sleep when it’s 90 degrees in your apartment is no joke. So in the spirit of summer I thought I’d share some ways to beat the heat with a toddler & share some photos from the heat wave & the weekend we spent enjoying the heat at my brother’s house.

  1. Water tables – these are an awesome investment! We got this one for William’s birthday. And it was a serious lifesaver during the heat wave. I highly recommend water tables – they are fairly affordable & provide so much entertainment for toddlers. Even when it’s a little too chilly to be playing in the water William has a great time playing with the table without the water. He loves putting the balls down the track & finding things in the yard that can go in the water table. If you live somewhere remotely warm I’d totally invest in a water table.
  2. Popsicles – pair a Popsicle with a water table and you’ve got yourself one happy toddler, enough said!
  3. Baby wipes in the fridge – talk about a quick & inexpensive way to cool off. This is such an easy trick to make your baby or toddler or even yourself just slightly more comfortable in the heat.
  4. Stroller fan – this is a good gadget to have if you live somewhere that experiences a fair amount of heat. This is perfect for car rides where kiddos don’t always get the best airflow in those hot car seats especially facing backward. You can also clip it onto a stroller.
  5. My final tip for beating the heat is to seek out AC wherever possible. Libraries are a great free place to take a toddler to try to get some reprieve from the heat. Even just an hour wandering around the grocery store or target was a great way to get out of our stifling apartment. So if you have a membership to a museum, a local library you’ve been wanting to check out or if your kids are old enough a movie theater these are all great places to try and escape the summer heat, especially if you’re living somewhere without AC like we are!
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Mommy Mondays

Mondays always feel like a fresh start, there are certain things I try to do on Mondays, I try to always work out (usually bbg legs), I try to start the week with a tidy house, & I also like to reflect back on the weekend & previous week. I thought I’d start trying to consistently post on Mondays. Today I’m sharing some favorite moments & some favorite things from this week.

Our week started with an Auntie Date at the science museum. William absolutely loved being able to run around the exhibits on his own. We bought a family membership to the Cal Academy when he was 4 months old. It’s remarkable to watch his brain just take in more and more everytime we go. This time he loved the aquarium & was trying to kiss the fishes, & he loved walking around the rainforest. However the museum is likely where he got his first cold ever that later caught up to us 36-48hrs later. The second half of the week was gray & rainy, perfect for getting over a cold.

I made protein muffins because I knew my sick guy would eat these. They’re made from Kodiac Cakes – I use the recipe on the box for muffins but I add 1.5 tsp of cinnamon, 1/4 tsp of nutmeg & 1/2 cup blueberries. I also got these silicone baking cups & have used them a handful of times. I can’t believe it took me so long to get these, they’re a new found favorite!

This Spray! Seven Generation disinfectant spray. Will caught his first cold ever these week, poor guy (definitely not a favorite). So I’ve been using this to disinfect his toys, and pretty much anything his little hands are touching. I love that it’s no rinse required and there’s no alcohol whatsoever in this, plus it smells heavenly. I can’t recommend this spray enough, it’s so mild.

This new neighborhood art is a favorite from this wee! These flamingos are just a couple blocks from our apartment & are on a route I take when I walk Juno & Will. This bright statement on Cabrillo makes the neighborhood look so nice & bright & I love it, I think it’s so fun plus they’re sidewalk garden is total urban garden goals & they also added cool seating.

Another favorite I have is a hack for getting stains out of baby clothes!! It’s so simple. All you have to do is put the clothing item in a large glass bowl & pour boiling or near boiling water on top. I just heat up water in our tea kettle. This trick seriously works like a dream. William spit out some Tylenol I was giving him on his shirt and there was a huge cherry red stain across his chest. This trick works best the sooner you can do it after the stain happens but it’s so easy that even if it’s been a minute it’s totally worth trying. Let me know if you try this & it works!

Below are some favorite snaps from the week & weekend.

Hope everyone has a great week!

William Hayes Birth Story

I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since I gave birth to my son. Parts of my birth experience still feel so incredibly fresh in my mind.

I was 40 weeks & 3 days when I went in for my non stress test. The two weeks leading up, I was trying my best to induce labor, walking flights of stairs, eating spicy foods, getting acupuncture 3x a week. After one of my accupuncture appointments I walked a mile to an apothecary store in the Mission in SF to get a special tincture that was supposed to induce labor. I tried it all. So when the nurse told us my amniotic fluid was 25% lower than what they expected I realized this was the start of my birth story. Right after our NST we went to my OB’s, I already had an appointment scheduled & we were supposed to be picking a back up induction day. “Good news, I have your induction day, today!” that was what my doctor told us. We were scheduled for 4pm, she encouraged us to go out to a nice lunch & then head back to the hospital. I went in for one last accupuncture appointment in hopes to make my induction as smooth as possible, then we went out for brunch. We ended up being an hour late to our induction, it was so hard to leave our apartment. It was such a surreal feeling of knowing we were leaving & we would come back & our house would never be the same.

We checked into L&D, I was having contractions but they weren’t regular. They gave my misoprostol & I went to bed. Ironically my nightshift nurse was someone I went to nursing school with. (what are the chances!?!) I got started on pitocin that night & I was able to sleep a little bit. Early in the morning my nurse told it me looked like baby wasn’t tolerating the pitocin the way they hoped so they were shutting it off. I remember feeling so defeated. We thought, well our doctor is going to come in & tell us we’ll be having a c-section.

My dayshift nurse the following day was an older woman who was such a badass, you could tell she was a nurse who had seen it all. She was so reassuring that we still didn’t know exactly what my doctors plan was but that there were lots of options & sure enough my doctor wanted to try a balloon that would help get me to 5cm. (I was only at 1cm at this point). So mid morning they put the balloon in. A few hours later it was definitely working, I was starting to really feel my contractions. I had gotten up to to pee, but I couldn’t & was coming back to bed & chris was helping reconnect me to the TOCO monitor & we couldn’t seem to get the monitor on. My nurse came in and baby’s heart rate was low. First she thought the monitor was possibly just picking up my heart beat, she had me lay on my left side, still low. At this point the charge nurse came into the room, I can still hear the TOCO slowing, 90, 80, 70. More nurses coming into the room. As a nurse myself I knew this wasn’t good, even though I was terrifed, I knew I was safe with Margret, she kept reassuring me they were going to take care of us. She had me get on my hands & knees, (the best way to get pressure off the baby, especially if the umbilical cord is being compressed) while they were calling my doctor & preparing for a crash c-section. Within a few seconds of being on my hands & knees baby started responding really well & the heartbeat recovered. Crash C-section avoided. My doctor came by later to check on me, she was reassured that baby recovered quickly.

The afternoon came & my nurses changed. This time I had a nurse who was precepting a new hire. Right off the bat I felt a little uneasy with my new nurses. About an hour into their shift I called them in because I was having a lot of trouble trying to pee with the balloon in. I didn’t realize how long had passed, but it had been about 9 hours since I was last able to pee & I felt like a lot of my pain was being caused by my bladder rather than my contractions. I had noticed every time I came back from the bathroom that the baby’s heart rate would dip. So I told my nurses I was certain I needed to have a catheter. My nurse told me I would have to lay flat in order for them to do this, I told my nurse that previously the baby’s heart rate hadn’t tolerated when I laid flat. She was insistent we do it that way, & as soon as they started baby’s heart rate plummeted. The reassurance I felt with Margaret, my previous nurse, was non existent with these two. They began yelling at each other, telling me baby was not doing well. I had to tell them I needed to get on my hands & knees. At this point the same thing happened with nurses flooding the room, they had already called for a crash c-section. & had called my doctor. Baby once again recovered while I was on my hands & knees. I told my nurses I needed them to catheterize me, I was fine in the position i was in, baby was fine so I wanted them to just do it. I was told “that’s really not ideal”. If you’re a nurse you know that there’s more than one position to put a catheter in a woman. The fact these nurses refused was mindblowing to me. The on call doctor came in, responding to the code they had called. I told her i needed the balloon OUT! She took it out, I walked to the bathroom & literally peed over 2 Liters!!!! I was immediately pain free. The doctor checked me & told me I was at a 0. This was a little baffling to me because the balloon had been in for nine hours & I was at a 1 when it was inserted. You don’t go backward. The on call doctor began talking about next steps. I informed her I wanted to wait until my doctor arrived before doing anything else.

4.5cm. That’s what my doctor said I was at when she came & checked herself. We chatted for a little bit about our plan. Although she wasn’t happy with how the baby was behaving as long as baby recovers she was comfortable with continuing on trying to have a vaginal birth. I voiced my concerns that I wasn’t being heard by nurses & was having to advocate for myself far more than a women going through labor should have to. If I hadn’t recognized that I desperately need to empty my bladder to take the pressure off my baby & relieve his distress I would have ended in a crash c-section. My doctor completely validated my concerns about my current nurses & asked the charge nurse for an assignment change. My advice to any patient is to advocate for yourself, if you feel like your concerns are not being heard or you just feel like something is wrong, SPEAK UP. We know our bodies better than anyone else!!

The plan going forward was to restart pitocin & then they put in a catheter that would go into my uterus and give fluid constantly to try to cushion the baby since my amniotic fluid was so low and this way they’d be able to more closely monitor my contractions. This took place around lunch time or so. I labored unmedicated the following 14 hours or so. I think I said maybe three sentences in those 14 hours. I had hastily downloaded a nature relaxation album on spotify that they play at my acupuncturist. Well we listened to that for 15 hours… ten tracks of Tibetan flutes all about 90 seconds long, meaning we listened to the album literally hundreds of times.

Finally after being in transition for about two hours I couldn’t take the unbearable pain & finally asked for an epidural. It was a godsend. They placed the epidural & my nurse said she’d let me rest and come back in to place my catheter. When she came back I had gone from 6cm to 9.5 in an hour. She got us all set up to start pushing, we did one push & baby totally crumped. Next thing I knew the charge nurse was in the room saying there would be no more pushing until my doctor arrived. So we waited for about 30 minutes for my doctor to get to the hospital. When she arrived she went through the possible outcomes that if the baby was not tolerating the pushing or if the pushing was effective there was still a chance I could end up in a c-section, or that they would need to use a vacuum to help assist. After four rounds of intense pushing our son William Hayes Dorsey entered the world at 6:34am. The umbilical cord had been wrapped tightly around his neck, that paired with my extremely low amniotic fluid was causing his distress throughout labor. The NICU was standing by & William did end up needing some initial stimulation to get him to take his first breath. But as anyone who’s gone through labor can tell you, hearing that first cry is unlike anything else in this world.

Birth is just amazing. It’s this terrifying, amazing, miraculous right of passage. And no two births are the same. I love that every experience is so unique & can be vastly different even with the same mom! My birth, although incredibly different than my ideal birth plan, is something I’m incredibly proud of. So no matter if you birthed your babe with an epidural, in a tub, via c-section, with 10 people in the room, with Tibetan Flutes in the background, I hope you feel immense pride about your journey.

Happy Mother’s Day – to all the mama’s out there, the real life superheros who work the toughest job in town.

ONE-derful

Our little boy is ONE! Saturday was his birthday & we celebrated at home. He woke up and got to read new books & play with his birthday balloons. Will’s auntie stopped by to have brunch with us. After Will woke up from his nap he got to play with his water table that Chris & I got him. And he ended the evening doing his cake smash before his bath! It was the perfect low-key day, we decided not to do anything big since there will be plenty of years of birthday parties to come so laying low and enjoying time with just us felt like the best way to celebrate.

The past year has simulatenously felt like a blink of an eye and a lifetime. When I think about all that happened this year it just doesn’t feel possible that it was only 365 days. The past month I feel like William has really transitioned into such a little boy! He can wave & blow kisses & give high fives, say yes & hi & shakes his head no. My sweet little guy loves to give Juno treats and pets Peggy. I can’t wait to see all the leaps he’ll take this next year.