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!

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.

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!

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.

Catching up & slowing down

It may have been unusually quiet over here on the blog but it’s been rather turbulent offline.

About a month ago Chris started telling me he was getting “floaters” in his vision & some occasional numbness in his hands & feet. The ER nurse in me wasn’t all that concerned given how much stress he’s under & how much time he’s at a computer. The symptoms would come & go as would my level of concern. He went & got checked out one day after work, blood work & head CT later the ER chalked it up to dehydration and anxiety. Well unbeknownst to anyone he was developing viral encephalitis.

About week later he woke me up early in the morning to tell me his headache was back. A few hours later I found myself in the ER I’ve spent the last seven years working in. I held our nearly one year old & watched as my coworkers rapidly called a stroke alert on my husband who at this point could no longer identify me. An hour later he was intubated. I waited for the battery of tests to start resulting. Finally after masses & brain bleeds & thyroid storms were ruled out, they tested his spinal fluid, which finally provided answers as to what made my healthy, young husband literally lose his mind. Viral Encephalitis / aseptic menegitis. I couldn’t believe it. And honestly I still can’t.

We spent 3 days in the ICU. Looking back it all blurs together. I think I got maybe an hour of sleep the first night, carefully watching as the nurses titrated his drips, making sure his antivirals were being administered at the right times. I felt like I was tightrope walking this line of advocating for Chris while not micromanaging my colleagues. Being in the medical field, especially critical care, you find yourself wielding a double edged sword of knowledge & knowing too much. I knew they needed to intubate him because of how altered he was, but I also knew all that comes along with it. Having spent my entire nursing career in the ER & taking care of my fair share of intubated patients, I know that everyone’s sedation needs are unique. And at the end of the day you want your patients to be as calm as possible & quite frankly knocked out! There’s an arsenal of sedation & pain medication combinations available to patients so if one isn’t working it’s the nurse’s obligation to advocate for something else. Chris is a big guy & was requiring a lot of sedation to keep him comfortable, I was so thankful that I got to stay at his bedside & advocate for him when I thought he was being undermedicated.  I was terrified of how much of this experience he would remember, & mostly what he’d be like once they extubated him. The prognosis for viral encephalitis is variable. People make full recoveries, others require occupational and physical therapy to regain balance & motor skills. When we went to the ER he had already been exhibiting motor weakness, memory loss, & difficulty speaking, so needless to say I was terrified I would get a partial version of my husband back.

Chris spent about 3 weeks at home, recovering. We are extraordinarily lucky he was diagnosed so quickly & began receiving antiviral drugs rapidly because that is likely what has effected his outcome.

The last seven years in the ER have shown me shit happens. Aneurysms burst, cancers invade, hearts fail & no one gets out alive. Life is fragile, you never know when your world will be turned upside down. For me it was a typical Monday morning. I can’t help but think that life gives us certain situations to change us & challenge us. I’m enveloped with gratitude after this experience. Unmeasurable gratitude that my husband is laying in bed beside me as I type this,a new found appreciation for the medications that allowed Chris to remember very little of this whole ordeal, and the antiviral medication that allowed Chris to make a remarkable recovery. I’m eternally grateful for my out of this world co-workers who not only took exceptional care of my husband but lifted me up, caffeinated me, fed me & kept me company at all hours. They were there for me more than I could have ever imagined.  When I left the house that morning I had no idea I’d be calling Chris’ mom telling her she needed to get on a flight asap. I had no idea the first night I’d ever spend away from my son would be because my husband was intubated & in the ICU. Sometimes situations can seem so dark, but the dawn always comes.

Needless to say the last month, we’ve laid pretty low, enjoyed time together as a family. Things are slowly getting back to normal, and we have some fun things coming up in the next few months that I’m excited to post about. Tomorrow we are headed to a wedding in the city & Sunday is Easter! I can’t believe next weekend we’ll be celebrating William’s first birthday!

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!

8 Months & Christmas Magic

I figured it’s about time to post Will’s eight month photos, before he hits nine months. oops!

I can’t believe our first Christmas has come & gone. We spent Christmas in California & went up to the foothills to visit my family. It was so nice to spend more than just our usual Friday – Sunday quick trips. It felt like we really got some down time. William got to spend time with his two cousins & his highlights were sitting in his high chair watching his cousins open all their presents & sitting on my parents deck watching Juno chase a ball around the back yard. I can’t believe January is halfway over! I feel like I’m going to blink & William is going to be one! I

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.