Sunday Fun- 10.30.16

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Sunday is Friday in the theatre world. I try and catch up on links I’ve saved throughout the week and treat this reading time as my version of the paper and coffee on a Sunday morning.

Here are some of my favorite things from the week:

I am so fucking excited about the Gilmore Girls mini-season coming out November 25th on Netflix. The show’s last 2 seasons were shit, so maybe with Amy Sherman-Palladino in the writer’s room again, we’ll get some the sparkle the show started with. I’d like one of these to show my fangirl status. 

I like reading my horoscope every week and think I embody a lot what is typical of being a Virgo. So I’m a sucker for anything divided by astrological sign and now want to check out Pilates as a result of this.

As an activist of body positivity and health at every size, I loved the description of true body love Isabel Foxen Duke describes here.

Sara Barielles + Leslie Odom Jr. + This American Life + President Obama = Huge tears and a song that hasn’t left my head since I first heard it.

Bahahaha. Hocus Pocus 4Eva. I tried to recreate Alison’s slouchy sweater look for YEARS. No success.

I will be doing this. Seems like the most flexible task management/calendar system I’ve seen in a while.

 

Photo credit

Failing Baby Calculus?

I met with my doula today for a book return and quick check in.

Kim came into our lives quickly and fortuitously after we learned that my pregnancy had gone from low to high risk. I was going to be induced early due to gestational hypertension and we knew we would want someone to help us navigate the new world of medical interventions and all the new decisions we would have to make.

We hired her mid-June, went on a babymoon, and returned to an immediate hospitalization and subsequent delivery. It was almost divine in the timing. Initially we weren’t going to hire a doula, but with all the new problems we were encountering, having someone act as a sounding board and medical advocate became vitally important to us.

Kim asks incredible questions and has a whole demeanor that allows for immediate, open conversation. 5 minutes into our conversation I dove deeply into the world of my new paradigm as a parent and explained to her the difficulty of managing the new level of fatigue.

Fatigue isn’t just coming from the obvious source of a lack of sleep. What we don’t really talk about is the fact that our brain is rewiring as parents. Kim constantly reminded me of this in the early days with Ronan and it’s a piece of information I pass on to other new moms. In my work in organizational change management, brain rewiring, both on the personal and organizational level, is the centerpiece of what I am trying to do. In order to successfully rewire brains there needs to be a constant source of energy (glucose), a regular cycle of stress (the change we’re making), and rest.

In parenting, there are several barriers to quick rewiring. First, there is the obvious lack of sleep and downtime to facilitate rest. I type this as my son is napping, but if I weren’t I’d likely be doing dishes, laundry, responding to emails, or planning any of the 10,000 things that go into running a household and business. Even this is not rest. Rest involves a lack of stimulus like sleeping or meditating. Even watching TV or reading, activities commonly associated with relaxing, involve external stimulus that keeps our brains from truly resting.

When we rewire the human brain we need LOTS of rest. Children are the most concrete example of brain rewiring. Part of the reason why they sleep so much is because of all the new neural connections being built and reinforced through reviewing memories.

Though we new parents are doing some serious rewiring, the main source of fatigue comes from what I call Baby Calculus. This is the constant flow of tiny decisions parents have to make every day. There is well-documented evidence of decision fatigue, which is the feeling of exhaustion we get from making many small decisions during the day. Decisions in non-parental life can start first thing in the morning with what to wear. President Obama famously reduces his chance for decision fatigue by only wearing blue or gray suits. As the day goes on, we draw on more and more glucose stores in our brain as we decide how to respond to texts or emails, whether or not to go to the gym, what to have for lunch, to get water now or after the meeting, how to order our coffee today, etc.

For parents, not only do we make these decisions for ourselves, but we also make them for our tiny human. My most vivid example was just after Andy had gone back to work and I was trying to get Ronan down for a nap. We had just gotten a swing from a friend and we were heavily relying on it to soothe him during the day. But we discovered that sometimes if we left the swing on after he had fallen asleep, the movement would actually wake him up. So we had taken to turning it off after 10 minutes. But then in the last day, the lack of movement was causing him to wake up. So you can see the dilemma. Do I turn off the swing or leave it on? My baby needs a nap, but there’s a 50/50 chance that whatever I do will wake him up and could have to start the process of soothing him to sleep all over again.

This is just one of many, many decisions that get made in the course of caring for a newborn. Do I go on a walk while he’s awake or asleep? Should I put him down for a nap now or later? In 3 minutes? 5 minutes? Will this catnap affect his night sleep? Should I let him try and soothe himself back to sleep or go in and offer a bottle or paci? Was that a cry that needs immediate attention or his just making noise in his sleep like babies do?

Add to that all the decisions I have to make for myself during the day and no wonder new parents rely on food that’s easy to make and skip the gym.

Ronan is 3 1/2 months old now and just starting to show some regularity in his routine. This is akin to finding a way to automate email responses or meal planning. As his routine and needs become more regular and recognizable, the number of decisions I have to make in a day will start to decrease and hopefully give me some brain space back for eating a salad and returning to the consulting work I love so much.

Though it’s more likely that, because he’s a human, he’ll start to shift the minute I find some regularity. It’s ok, though, because my brain is rewiring, too, and starting to get better and figuring out what my tiny human needs.

Our Harry Potter meets his Sirius Black

This weekend my best friend, Mike, came to visit Seattle. Mike has been my super bestie in the whole wide world since college and, naturally, is Ronan’s godfather.

He and our good friend, Adam, came over on Sunday to hang out, eat pizza, and meet the nugget.

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Ronan was actually fussy on an off all day (like a baby), so he was actually happy to meet Mike, even though this picture might suggest otherwise.

Monday we met up to go to the aquarium. Mike got me a membership for my birthday and babies get in for free. We went with Andy and Adam. Ronan started out asleep, but woke up and Andy did a great job showing him all the cool sea life.

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Ro is really into light and movement right now as his eyes start to focus more, so the backlit tanks of water with all the moving fish were right up his alley.

How flipping cute is this?

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That night he was beat from his adventure, so he fell asleep on Mommy. I’m fighting a sore throat so I was all the happy for the reason to stay tethered to the couch.

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Welcome to Stars Hollow

I have spent the last few weeks watching A LOT of Gilmore Girls. It’s a show I’ve watched in the past and with the new nugget at home it’s a great show to have on in the background.

See, a lot of being a new mom has entailed feeling really, really lonely. When my dad was in town he talked about the people he works with who need the TV or radio on in the background. He talked about how he was so happy with himself that he didn’t need the fake company. My dad’s personal psychology aside, the truth is that I need the fake company in the form of TV characters. I spend a lot of my day hoping that my day will come to an end, I can put my son to bed, and get 45 minutes to myself before I must to go bed to be somewhat adequately rested.

Ronan doesn’t yet have enough attention span or energy to fully interact with me for more than a few minutes, and I spend a lot of the day keeping him calm and holding my breath until he wakes up again. My days feel held hostage by my tiny human. I want to get projects done, do some work, write, read, hell even work out, but the capacity and ability to do all of that evaporates because of how unpredictable he is.

These last two weeks were particularly hard. Andy was in tech and he was gone from roughly 8am to midnight every day. I was usually up when he woke up and asleep when he got home. All the hours in between were just me and our son. I didn’t realize just how many decisions I made with Andy until he wasn’t here. It started with the simple choice of whether to leave the swing on or off during Ronan’s nap. Sometimes if I let it continue to swing after he fell asleep, he would wake up. Sometimes if I turned it off, he would wake up. What made the difference only the internal synapses of my son’s brain will know, but I had to play that guessing game every time I put him down for a nap.

And let’s clear  up that phrase “put down for a nap.” This is not actually how this process goes. Usually I would be holding my baby, feeding him, letting him hang out on his Mat of Neglect/Self-Sufficiency, and then he would start crying. I’d realize that he was likely tired so I’d start to rock him, I’d rock him some more, and more, and more. Sometimes for 30 minutes we’d rock. And this rocking didn’t happen in a rocking chair. It happened standing up, baby in arms, swaying back and forth. Do that for 45 minutes and tell me how your body feels afterwards because mine felt exhausted.

If he managed to fall asleep during that time, I’d try to lay him down in his pack ‘n’ play, a portable bassinet/crib, but because the pack ‘n’ play was helpful to Mommy and he had a sixth sense about easing up on Mommy, he would wake up about 10 minutes later and the rocking would start over.

I got desperate at one point and a friend gave me her old swing. Ronan had taken to delightful mid-afternoon screaming fits, likely because he wasn’t actually getting naps that were restorative, and was so distraught that there was very little I could do to help him fall asleep. He would sleep in my arms, making it impossible to do anything. We have all these beautiful romantic notions of motherhood. One of the primary images is a mother with a sleeping baby nestled in her arms with her supremely white couch/sheets/living room behind her. She always looks so peaceful with her sleeping baby next to or on top of her.

For me, I was getting overloaded by the sensation of being touched for so many hours a day that I would hold him and just start to cry to relieve some of the tension and anxiety. I’m sure other moms know the sensation that comes with the phrase “touched out,” but if you haven’t experienced this, it’s the physical equivalent of having to look at strobe lights all day. It’s overwhelming and constant and has very little relief. The only real cure is space from being touched. Which is why the baby who would fall asleep on me or wake up after being put down was so damn problematic.

So the swing saved the day. He would go into it and a within a few minutes be completely relaxed or asleep. These days I have to sometimes add the help of a pacifier, but it is still the magic seat.

But having to make the minor decisions about the swing added to all the other decisions one makes during the course of the day left me overwhelmed and anxious.

We talk about decision fatigue among adults in their working lives. It is well documented that if we don’t automate as much as possible people become overwhelmed and lose more and more capacity to deal with sudden stressors. I was already overwhelmed with decision fatigue before the baby came along, but I was lucky to have my partner to bounce things off of. Then I went from having help half of the time to having help none of the time.

I’ve said many times the last few weeks that nothing could have prepared me for being a parent. There is no amount of research, reading, or talking to other parents that could have helped me have a sense of what this experience would be like. So I can’t adequately explain how overwhelming it is because I don’t have an appropriate frame of reference. I now understand the great divide in our society between parents and non-parents. I don’t have animosity or even feel like I’m better than my friends who are not parents. I truly lack the words to explain the experience of going from managing oneself and all that a singular life brings with it, to managing a whole new being who can’t communicate or make their own choices and is constantly barraged with new experiences. How do you help that new being through all of that whiplash?

As it turns out, I needed Lorelai and Rory in the background to remind me that someday my new being will be grown and may even be able to have coffee and witty conversation with me.