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

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!

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.

Valentine’s Day!

It’s Will’s first Valentines Day. We aren’t doing much to celebrate, but I snapped these pics when I was decorating our mantle. The days of getting Will to sit still for pictures are lonnng gone. In exchange for sitting still William this week decided he can give kisses, clap & wave. This morning he woke up and waved to his fur-sisters. Getting a kiss from this boy is the best Valentine’s gift ever!! Also, I tried to give him a tiny bouquet of carnations thinking it would make for cute pictures, but he only wanted to eat it…

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Rainy Wonders

On Sunday we took William to the Academy of Sciences. He had been there once before a few months back, but slept the entire time. This time we went right after he woke up from his afternoon nap so he was able take it all in! Earlier this year we decided to get a membership since we live less than 10 blocks from the museum. Even though it was a rainy Sunday, because we went at the end of the day, most people had already left the museum or had already been to some of the bigger exhibits like the rain forest portion so it was surprisingly empty! As I anticipated William LOVED it! It was so cool watching him look at the butterflies in the rain forest, & try to touch all the fish at the aquarium! We only spent a little over an hour but honestly I think that’s the best part about getting a membership, since we live so close, it’s easy just to go for an hour or two & then leave & not feel bad or feel like you wasted paying for admission. After going on Sunday I can’t wait to keep taking him back there & watching him take in more and more each time! We are heading to my parents to spend the weekend & Christmas & I’m so excited for his first Christmas.

I said I’d never; but I already have…

As a new mom this phrase, I said I’d never but, I already have, speaks to me. I’ve just barely dipped my toes in this motherhood journey & I’ve already quickly realized that you can have all these grandiose ideas about parenthood & how you plan to raise your babies & sometimes you have to throw things out the window.

“I said I’d never but I already have” pretty much encompasses how our first week of parenting went. We never planned to formula feed. We had mixed feelings on introducing pacifiers, we certainly never anticipated spending time in the NICU . In some ways I’m thankful that our journey forced us to toss our plans out the window & just move forward.

One of my biggest I said I never woulds – the Google machine. As an ER nurse I know googling random medical questions is a cardinal NO NO. In fact it’s one of the fastest ways to get an eyeroll in an emergency room. As a new mom I found myself struggling to fall back asleep after Will’s 5am feeding, knowing he’d be awake again in 90 minutes. So, I unhealthily spent most of that early morning time on Google: wondering if his baby acne was something more, if his head looked too flat, if I should worry that he favors looking to one side and on and on. Every nurse bone in my body would yell at me to stop! Usually by day break I would have talked myself down… Once William started sleeping through the night I found myself not doing it quite as much but every once and awhile I’ll find myself scrolling through a mom forum discussing things that I know I don’t need to worry about it typing something absurd into Google!

I think motherhood is all about walking this line of sticking to your guns but also making concessions on things when it’s what is needed. We weren’t super into the idea of pacifiers, but in the NICU they use them all the time for the babies, especially during procedures. I wasn’t about to sent him some of that comfort because of what I’d been told in a breastfeeding class. So our “no pacifiers” went straight out the window. And guess what? Life moved on. He continued to breastfeed without issue despite what lactation consultants would tell us and ironically at nearly 7 months William has little to no interest in pacifiers

What are some concessions you had made early on in motherhood? What are other things that you don’t budge on?

I know there will be more. Probably today. We’re leaving this morning for Miami & then tomorrow we’re heading to the Caribbean for a week. Wish us luck.

Perfect Fall Afternoons

This weekend we were home in San Francisco & got to enjoy the fall weather in Golden Gate Park. The weather was perfect & all the leaves are changing. Plus it is so fun to see William outside. He loves touching & pulling the grass, and watching Juno run after the ball or frisbee. Besides hanging out in the park, we had a fairly low key weekend. I worked a shift at the hospital on Saturday evening & Sunday we just hung out & got ready for the busy week ahead. This week I’m working a few shifts, getting organized for our trip next week & William has two separate appointments for vaccines (bleh!)

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Pumpkin patch fun

We took William to the pumpkin patch last week! He loved it!! There was so much for him to take in & he loved touching all the different textures of the pumpkins. Will is turning 6 months old next week, it’s so crazy to think he’s half a year old! He’s just getting more and more fun each day!!

5 months

Time is flying! I feel like I blinked and it’s October. This month William went on his first plane ride, discovered the possibilities of rolling over & sleeping on his tummy. He continues to babble & learned how to blow spit bubbles. His budding friendship with his fur sisters is just about the cutest thing I’ve seen. I can’t get enough of his tender curiousty with the world around him.

Labor Day Weekend

For Labor Day we drove up to my parents house & spent two nights there. Aside from enjoying the warm weather we got to spend lots of time with family. Saturday we had a nice BBQ & got some good cousin love in!! Then on the drive home we stopped by & visited one of my dear friends, my freshmen college roommate, who’s second daughter is just a month older than William! Babies meeting babies is probably just the cutest thing in the WORLD. It was exactly a decade ago I met Alexa & we were sharing a little college dorm, being one anothers only friend, eating pints of Ben&Jerry’s for dinner. Talk about a crazy decade, we both became nurses, got married & now have babies!!

It’s hard to believe summer is winding down, it feels like I blinked & my maternity leave is over. But I’m SO excited for fall & for William to get to experience autumn, halloween, christmas etc! I can’t wait!!