10 Ways To Feel Like Yourself Again After Baby

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When you’re expecting it’s all about the baby! You’ve spent the last 9 months preparing for and thinking about this huge life change. Now that your little one has made the transition to your arms they are your first priority.

Welcoming a new baby changes everything and the first few months can be brutal. Between sleepless nights and painful nursing its easy to fade into the shuffle of meeting your newborn’s needs. But, if you want to care for them well it helps to care for you, too! Here are a few things that can help you feel more like yourself again as you adjust to your new normal.

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My Team Green Experience

I was checking out at the convenience store I stop in for gas and snacks for the kids a few times a week. The cashier, a kind older woman smiled down at my rotund middle and asked how far along I was. “32 weeks!” I said with joyful exasperation. “What are you having?” she asked. […]

I was checking out at the convenience store I stop in for gas and snacks for the kids a few times a week. The cashier, a kind older woman smiled down at my rotund middle and asked how far along I was. “32 weeks!” I said with joyful exasperation. “What are you having?” she asked. “I’m not sure actually, we decided not to find out!” I replied. “Oh my goodness!” she exclaimed with a puzzled look, “That’s crazy! How will you know what color to paint the nursery?” I grabbed my items and smiled “We’ll find out soon enough!”

Continue reading “My Team Green Experience”

A Blackout and a Shadowban

The Blackout

Waves crash against a seawall near the Scituate Lighthouse, Friday, March 2, 2018, in Scituate, Mass. A major nor'easter pounded the East Coast on Friday, packing heavy rain and strong winds as residents from the mid-Atlantic to Maine braced for coastal flooding.

Photo via AP/Steven Senne-bostonmagazine.com

Growing up in Massachusetts, inclement weather is just a part of life. The winters are freezing, the summers are humid, and in between we have hurricanes. This past weekend we experienced a beast of a Nor’easter that produced damaging winds and flooding, knocked out power to thousands of homes, uprooted trees and trampolines, and sent branches flying into anything in their path.

Lucky for us we did not experience any damage to our home, just lost electricity for a few days. Nothing brings you back to basics like lack of light and water. Taking something so average as flicking a switch or flushing the toilet for granted is natural to those of us in developed countries. To me this blackout served a greater purpose and put some of my seemingly huge problems into perspective. The lesson hit home to me all the more because of the fact that for lent I have been giving up what I call my “luxurious baths” to acknowledge how lucky I am to have access to water at the turn of a knob. For many others around the globe obtaining clean water is a daily struggle, and often one of life and death.

Now onto my seemingly huge problem. If you are not interested in Instagram you might want to stop reading here! There is a lot of information forthcoming!

The Shadowban

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Anyone who is a blogger knows the value of social media. It is a great way to get your blog or brand out there and take advantage of free advertising, find readers and other writers in your niche, and give people a better idea of the person behind your posts. Everyone has a favorite and Instagram is mine! I used it often to engage in the poetry community there and am comfortable using it as a result. When I switched my focus to blogging it felt like a natural place to start.

I was just beginning to build good relationships and garner humble numbers that I was happy with when I saw a drastic drop in engagement. I noticed that my posts, which would typically get about 50-80 likes were getting more like 10-15. Where before the hearts would pop up immediately after I posted, it was taking much longer to receive that first like. The likes I did get were only coming from the people who were following me already and even they were sparse. Something wasn’t right.

I am no social media expert or major influencer and hadn’t truly tried to build any sort of following before so I researched reasons why this might be happening and came upon the term “Shadowban”. Well, my account had all of the telltale symptoms and it seems that my page has succumbed to the open secret that is the dreaded Instagram Shadowban. Never heard of it? Here’s everything I have found out about it during my extensive research.

What is it?

A shadowban is Instagram’s way to crack down on people going against their community guidelines by spamming, using 3rd party apps to like and follow/unfollow other accounts, abusing hashtags, and buying followers. This can also happen if you post offensive content or get reported by other users. Your posts don’t show up under the used hashtags to people who do not already follow you which seriously limits your reach and growth potential. Even the people who already follow you will be less likely to see your posts as they are pushed further down their news-feeds. You receive no official notice from Instagram or explanation as to why this has occurred. They have not acknowledged a shadowban directly, instead claiming a glitch in hashtags and some believe it is a myth and doesn’t even exist!

How to avoid it

Don’t use the maximum number of hashtags allowed (30). Make sure the hashtags you are using aren’t “broken”. If they are then the page will only show top posts, not most recent show an error message, or say that there are no posts to show. Don’t use the same hashtags over and over again, try to switch them up. Don’t copy/pate hashtags into your post. Avoid putting hashtags in the comments.

Did you know Instagram has limits for certain actions? If you exceed them the app may think that you are a bot. It is suggested not to like more than 150 photos an hour and not to follow or unfollow more than 60 accounts in an hour (some recommend these as daily limits). Don’t use 3rd party applications for growth or buy followers, if you are guilty of this stop and revoke access now! Leave meaningful comments, not just one word or emojis. Just engage in a genuine way and you should be okay (though I do and wasn’t that lucky).

Shadowban check website

there is a website that claims to be able to tell you if your account or certain photos have been shadowbanned or not but the general consensus is that it isn’t reliable. It did not work for me and told me I was not banned even though I clearly am. I won’t leave the link as I don’t trust the site.

How to really check

Use one of your other accounts or ask some friends who do not follow the account in question to check if your recent photo is showing up under the hashtags you used. If they are not you might be shadowbanned.

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How to fix it

My issues seemed to only resolve with time (the largely reported 14 day time frame) so I am not 100% sure if any of these things actually worked but I think they are worth a try! Some claim that there is no way to fix it and you just have to wait it out. Users have reported the ban lasting anywhere from 24 hours to 3 weeks or more. The most common time frame I have read is around 2 weeks or 14 days. Some give up and start new accounts.

If you use any questionable 3rd party applications, log into Instagram on a desktop computer, and revoke access (you can find the step by step process here.) Another suggestion is to delete broken or banned hashtags or just remove all hashtags from your recent posts. Next, report the problem to Instagram (step by step process here.), when you report don’t say you are shadowbanned, rather that your hashtags are not working and assure them you are a real person. Switching from a business account to a personal one may also help as many users reported the ban starting not long after enabling business tools.

After that it is suggested that you take some time off of Instagram. That means no posting for 2-4 days. Some people go so far as to suspend their accounts and/or delete the app from their phones altogether and reinstall with an updated version when they are ready to test it. This apparently gives time for the algorithm to ‘reset’. Once your hiatus is over interact and post like a normal user. Avoid any spam like activities and follow the rules.

This just may be the new normal

Some believe that this is just the direction Instagram is going. That they have left a lot of money on the table in the past and are trying to take it back by making people pay for sponsored posts to reach their target audiences, much like Facebook. Facebook owns Instagram so it makes sense that they might go in this direction and become a more lucrative and monetized platform.

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Why I think it happened to me

When I started to take my blogging and freelance aspirations more seriously, just a few months ago now, I looked into how to improve my Instagram account. I invested in a camera for better photos, researched relevant hashtags, and prepped my posts to be engaging and of high quality. As you can tell I put a lot of thought and work into my posts, often writing them out in my phone’s notepad including hashtags. I used as many tags as are allowed (including an original hashtag I created and used every time) and copied and pasted them into my posts. I noticed others on the platform placing their hashtags into the comment section of their posts instead of the body under the photo and innocently thought, “Gee, that looks nice!” and I tried it for myself.

I think that is what triggered the ban. I suppose Instagram thought it looked “spammy”. It is frustrating to me because I am truly trying to grow a following organically. I have never considered using growth applications or buying followers. I never had a business account and am not trying to push a product, just wanted to let people know if there was something new on my blog! I would rather have 100 people that actually are interested in my content and writing than 1,000 fake accounts following me. Sadly I never had that many to begin with. I only ever had a little over 650 followers at most and since I can’t be found by anyone not following me in the hashtags I am sure that little number will dwindle until the issue is resolved. I know there are other accounts that have liked and follow/unfollowed me clearly using bots and they have thousands and thousands of followers so it is pretty annoying to feel targeted when my account is more modest .

Some Perspective

It can feel devastating when all of the hard work you put into your Instagram is threatened. Many make money off of their profiles and it is an essential part of their businesses and livelihoods. The truth is that you don’t own your Instagram and there is no telling if it will one day be as passé as Vine. The algorithms change often and they can delete or suspend your account at any moment. Use it as the tool it should be and not the end all be all of your craft or brand. There is more to life than social media!

Do you have any experience with the shadowban? Did I miss any vital information or solutions that you can think of? Comment below and let me know!

❤ Cait

Managing Stress and Anxiety During Pregnancy

Expecting a bundle of joy is one of the most exciting times of your life but all of this change can also bring with it unwanted stress and anxiety. It is very important to keep stress and anxiety in check when you are pregnant because you don’t want your little one to be negatively impacted in any way.

If you suffer with anxiety prior to pregnancy like I did you may find that some of your coping mechanisms such as certain medications are no longer an option. So what’s the good news?

There are many ways to manage stress and anxiety naturally that in my experience work much better than medication long term and can continue to be useful tools postpartum and long after as well.

One of the best things you can do to manage stress and anxiety is to have a self care plan. The things listed in this article are part of mine and I hope they help you form one of your own!

Know Your Triggers.

The first step is to try to recognize what your triggers are. What were you eating, doing, watching or who were you talking to when your stress or anxiety came on? Take note of what brought the feelings on and plan accordingly. Learn to reduce and avoid triggers when possible. We all know that avoiding triggers isn’t always an option but, knowing and preparing yourself to face them can help.

Know Your Comforts.

Learn what soothes you. Everyone has a happy place! Is yours a book? A warm (not hot) bath? A back rub from your babe? Soothing music? Find what you like and do it regularly. Daily even! It’s not selfish! Caring for yourself is part of caring for others and having a healthy pregnancy.

Exercise.*

You don’t need to pump iron or run a marathon to reap the benefits of exercise for both body and mind while pregnant! A short walk or gentle yoga flow can regulate your blood pressure, release serotonin, keeps your expanding body loose, and does wonders to clear your mind.

Pets.

There is a reason the lady on the last flight you took had an “emotional support animal”. Though they can’t verbally  communicate animals provide companionship when you may be home alone or on bed rest, relieve stress through petting and snuggling, and can be used to ground you when your anxiety starts to take over (more on that below). Read our adoption story and how my dog helped me through my last pregnancy here.

Vitamin D.*

So many of us suffer from vitamin D deficiency and don’t even know it! An estimated 40%-60% of the entire U.S. population is deficient! Especially in the winter and colder climates with less sunshine. Vitamin D cannot only support your mood but is also important for healthy bone development in your baby. There are few foods that contain vitamin D in comparison to other vitamins. The average prenatal vitamin oftentimes doesn’t provide enough so talk to your doctor about supplementation.

Diet.

We all know a healthy diet is best but, sometimes food can become an unhealthy coping mechanism (Hi! Stress eater over here!). We can reach for sugar when we feel stressed for that serotonin release. I wouldn’t dream of denying a pregnant woman a cookie but make sure your snacking comes from hunger and isn’t being used as an emotional crutch. If you feel yourself bingeing stop and assess how you are feeling. The sugar rush might help at the moment but, it won’t solve any emotional issues you may be having.

Talk to your partner.

You’re in this together! Tell him how you feel and let him be the glue to hold you together. I know my husband is #1 on my list when I need to vent. There will be many challenges to face throughout life and parenthood and knowing you have him to lean on can be the reassurance you need to keep moving forward.

Talk to your Doctor or Midwife.

If your stress and anxiety is becoming overwhelming there is no shame in counseling. Having someone to talk to can be helpful and a professional with an unbiased, outsider’s point of view can give you a hand in recognizing the reasons for your stress and anxiety, provide you with healthy coping mechanisms and can create a self care plan tailor made for you!

Say No!

Growing a baby is a 24 hour 7 day a week process but unless you are very lucky it probably isn’t all you have to do! Just say no to the extra chores, extra commitments, and extra activities that you don’t have the energy for. Take time off of work if you need it. Ask your friends to excuse your absence and ask your family to pick up your slack!  You can resume your Super Woman ways in a few months.

Sleep.

Do it early, often and while you can! Once baby is here you will wish you took advantage of a midday nap when the house was quiet. For me sleep has always been easier said than done. Pregnancy insomnia is as real as any other lovely symptom and can really stress you out. If you feel yourself tossing and turning don’t freak! Do a calming activity like reading or listening to music until your sleepy again. Avoid the blue light of your TV or phone screen as it can be stimulating and can wake you up instead of soothe you back to sleep.

Pray.

This is by far the best tool in my self-care arsenal! Peter 1: 5-7 says Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. God is always there and wants us to come to him with our every need, no prayer is too small! Place it all into his hands! Pray for you and your baby’s health, your baby’s future, your marriage, ask God to bless your delivery and motherhood journey, and medicate on scripture. For me, knowing that I could rely on God and witnessing his faithfulness built my trust in him.  Read my post here about how my faith helped me overcome my anxiety.

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But what if I panic?

Panic attacks are a physical response to stress and anxiety. Your heart starts pounding, your chest gets tight, or your hands could sweat or tingle. Over the years I have been able to feel them coming on and developed some techniques for escaping their grasp.

  1. Sit Down! If you feel light headed, sit down! We don’t want any falls when we’re carrying precious cargo!
  2. Breathe! This is the best way to get your heart rate to return to normal. Take full breaths in and out. Practice rhythmic, calming breathing techniques and use what you learn during attacks.
  3. Ground Yourself! Find a familiar item around you and focus on it. Count the fan blades or floor tiles, go pet your dog or cat, find a family member or call a friend. Distract yourself from your anxiety by occupying your mind with something other than your trigger.
  4. Talk to Yourself! Panic attacks can put you into a spiral of irrational fear. Find a mantra, something as simple as “It’s going to be okay” can help you remember that everything is okay.
  5. Get Help! If you feel out of control do not hesitate to call for help!

Share your self-care plan and some of your techniques for managing stress and anxiety below!

Wishing you health and happiness!

❤ Cait

*This information comes from my own experiences. I am not a medical professional. Please check with your doctor before starting any supplementation or exercise program!

Sources: www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/vitamin-d-and-pregnancy/

Photos by: Jessica Dantowitz

 

My Love-Hate Relationship With Extended Breastfeeding

Anyone who has breastfed knows that it is not always quite as easy or tranquil as it is oftentimes portrayed. I had breastfed my older daughter but like everything else 10 years later it felt like starting over. Similar to how we forget about our labor pains when we have our newborns in our arms, my memories of breastfeeding were blurred by time and nostalgia.

I was surprised with how difficult it was to begin the journey with my new daughter.  I mean, ouch! I lived off Lanolin cream and didn’t wear a top for at least 2 weeks! Though feeding an infant on demand was still a lot of work those tender moments passed and things became more comfortable for both of us. We got into a groove and have been doing well ever since.

The thing they forget to mention about exclusively nursing your baby is that it never really seems to slow down until they are eating solid food. As the baby grows and sleeps less they still require more and more milk to fill their expanding tummies. Even when they are gobbling up peas and sweet potatoes the demand can still be grueling.

Then there comes the unsolicited opinions. Around the time my baby girl approached the milestone of her first birthday the pressure from others to wean her was on. I would get comments from people around me like “You’re still nursing her?” , “Wow isn’t she getting a little old for that?”, “All my babies were weaned by 6 weeks!”, “Does she really need that still?”

To answer some of those questions; Yes, breast milk is still beneficial to baby even after they turn a year old. It still has the same magical abilities of supporting their immune systems, and changing  with their nutritional needs. Not to mention the psychological benefits of comfort, trust and love that all children need. My baby is only 20 months and I don’t feel that it is unreasonable to want that type of comfort!

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No, she is not “too old” to breastfeed. She is no less independent for our decision to continue breastfeeding. We never need to nurse in public anymore as she usually only does it before nap and bed time now. She eats table foods with a fork and spoon, she is transitioning to a toddler bed in her own bedroom, she uses sippy cups with whole milk or diluted juice in it, she recognizes and names her letters and is starting to count and she plays independently and with other kids well. In our culture we tend to wean early but the rest of the world in general weans at much older ages.

I wasn’t too strict on weaning until I desired to become pregnant again. After a year I hadn’t yet resumed my cycle and was still nursing quite a bit. I wanted to at least reduce since I didn’t know whether my fertility had returned. Not having your monthly can be a huge benefit. One less inconvenience postpartum. I don’t use contraception and only natural family planning but, be warned- Just because you aren’t menstruating does not mean you aren’t ovulating. I did get pregnant before my cycle returned. What I thought was my period was actually implantation.

While attempting to wean we had some set backs. Each time a new tooth sprouted, when we moved, or if she wasn’t feeling well, she would regress and return to nursing more. At the time I would be frustrated. It felt like losing progress but, she would always go back to nursing less often once things got back to normal.

As you can see, most of my experience with extended breastfeeding has been pretty positive. Where the hate part of it really comes in for me is for myself! Nursing a small, still infant is much different than a heavy, mobile, squirming, pinching, squeezing toddler! And since I’ve gotten pregnant things have become tender and at times caused nursing to become uncomfortable again. As I said in my previous post Pregzilla  pregnancy and breastfeeding can be quite taxing at times.

The truth is the decision to breastfeed your baby or not and when to wean them are personal decisions and though there are many opinions there is no one right answer! You just need to do whats best for you and your baby! It would be great if she were fully weaned before June when the new baby arrives but, if not that’s okay too. I can totally picture myself being a bad-ass tandem nursing mama! I feel lucky to be able to take this journey with her as it comes and I know that one day she will stop completely and the difficulties will be blurred by time and nostalgia again.

What have your breastfeeding experiences been like? Share about your journey in the comments!

❤ Cait

Taking Advice

Just look at these precious children! The other day I had a small break down just thinking about bringing another person into existence and all that it entails. It is up to me to teach, guide, and protect them in a world full of danger, heartbreak, and harsh realities.

I just want to do the best that I can for them and although I’ve been a mother for years at times I still struggle with my confidence.

When I had my oldest daughter I was only 18 and I dealt with a lot of judgement because of that. People looked down their noses at me and doubted my ability to parent well due to my age.

I tried my best to turn that negativity into motivation. Even though writing has always been my passion, I felt I needed to pursue a more serious career (in a way to show people that I could be serious) and start making more money for myself ASAP.

I got myself through Medical Assistant school and kept that career until just a couple of years ago when I left work to stay home with my youngest. I enjoyed helping people and had a strong interest in medicine but I put my true passions on hold because of what other people might have thought.

As much as I tried to spin the judgement and shame and use it to my advantage I was still young and insecure and let it get to me. I became so defensive.

I didn’t want to hear the advice of other people and older mothers because I took it as them doubting my abilities. Even if it was coming from a loving place the advice felt hurtful and backhanded. I took it as an insult.

Just because I was young didn’t mean I didn’t love my daughter! It didn’t mean I couldn’t care for her well! She was all I had at a certain point and my world revolved around her. Just like older mothers everything I did was for her and about her and because of her.

When I was pregnant with my youngest daughter I had people giving me advice who didn’t realize that I had a daughter older than their own children.

Honestly it had been 9 years since I had an infant so of course I could have taken some advice from people who went through that stage with their children more recently! But I was still so damaged from all the scrutiny I dealt with in the past. Stubbornly, I didn’t want to hear what anyone had to say.

As I continue to grow into myself over the years I have become much more confident. I started to realize that myself and the people around me know the truth about what kind of mother I am. Knowing that allows me to care a lot less about what other people may think. I don’t need another’s approval to feel validated.

My defenses have completely dropped. I know that just because someone is older or younger it doesn’t necessarily make them better or worse equipped to be a parent.

I’m now able to take advice from others joyfully knowing that no matter how long someone’s been a parent or how many children they have we all can learn something from each other. Someone else’s motherhood doesn’t take away from my own! It only adds another perspective in our shared experience.

As women we should encourage and lift each other up! This womanhood and parenting stuff is really difficult as is so we don’t need to add any more stress by comparing ourselves! We all have something to learn from each other and at the end of the day we can all use more support!

Did you ever take well meaning advice the wrong way? How did you deal with it?

❤ Cait