Thursday, December 08, 2016

Self Care (in La Paz, Mexico!)

I remember after we had Claire, feeling very much like I should not ask ANYONE for help.  I wanted people to know that I could handle two kids, and to me, at that time, asking for assistance with day-to-day tasks (beyond asking Scott) felt like I was showing weakness.  I chose to have another baby, and by God, I was gonna take care of that baby on my own no matter what!  Plus, I just wanted to.  And in my warped, postpartum mind, no one was gonna do it as well as I could.  And I was breastfeeding.  And taking care of a 2.5 year old.  Yet still, I rarely asked for help.

Then Lola came along about 5 years later.  She required a little -- wait, who am I kidding?!?!? -- A LOT more of my time.  Not saying she was a diva, but she was toooooootally a diva.  Lola also breastfed, and in order for me to keep this going, I had to use the breast pump after each feeding or my supply would have decreased significantly.  It was a big ordeal & basically meant my boobs were out like 18 hours daily and Scott was not complaining. So, like eleventy seven times a day, I would hook up my Medela SNS feeder, strap it on (get your minds out of the gutters, ya' pervs!), feed Lola, burp Lola, hold/position/keep her upright for 30-45 minutes, pump for 5-10 minutes, save the collected "Liquid Gold" in bags & freeze them, and then I'd have like 26 minutes before I had to start the whole process again. I followed this schedule daily.  For two whole years.  So asking for help during this time was essentially not an option. Aside from a boob transplant, there was really no way to help me except to maybe burp Lola/freeze the breast milk/clean breast pump/hold Lola upright for 45 minutes/take a nap for me/do laundry/change my sheets which probably had been on my bed for a month/vacuum/pour me a glass of non-alcoholic wine/fill the dogs' food bowl/pray for me/possibly shower for me. Nothing major.

So, by the time Lola was maybe 3-4 years, suffice it to say that I felt like I was losing my damn mind.  It truly felt like all I did daily was give-give give.  And I LOVED GIVING (and I STILL DO!), don't get me wrong... but it was too much.  I rarely had time for myself, aside from a random date night here or there.  I LIKED that I was there for my kids.  It felt good to be the one to raise them & stay home with them.  I was grateful beyond belief to Scott for helping make that work.  How on earth would I EVER find a daycare anyway that would provide 1:1 care for BOTH GIRLS as good as I would?!  The answer was simple.  I COULDN'T.  It made more sense for me to be home, and I still look back with gratitude for having those days at home with all three of my kids, no matter how taxing it was on ME.

I remember being terrified to find a babysitter.  Would they EVER be good enough?!  Would they love my yayhoos as much as me?  NO WAY, I thought.  I remember hearing about a few babysitters through my girls' PT -- one was a nurse & one was a teacher in a special education classroom.  I also found a friend of mine who taught Yoga for the Special Child to help me out, each of them providing 3-4 hours a week of babysitting.  I remember thinking 11 hours a week out of the house felt like I was being a horrible mother.  Like, WHY did I need to "GET AWAY" so bad?! What was I running from?  I usually went grocery shopping or ran errands.  On rare occasions, Scott & I would do a date night or go with just Cal to one of his basketball games. It felt SO WEIRD (and still does) being out & about WITHOUT THE GIRLS.  It always makes me feel guilty.  And like part of me -- part of US -- is missing.

But oh how Jan, Patti & Jana loved our girls... like they were their own.  They formed connections with our girls beyond my wildest hopes & dreams.  They also bonded with Cal.  And our kids bonded with THEM.  And I was happy.  Because to me, it felt like there were just more people loving my kids, & how on EARTH could that EVER be a bad thing?!?!?  I got over my guilt pretty quickly.  And I looked forward to those 3 afternoons/evenings a week where I had some "me-time." And then I felt guilty I looked forward to them because did that mean I didn't always want to be with them?  Geez, this mommy guilt is a dirty little bitch!

Those three babysitters stayed with us for many years, and we also had others along the way... Charcie, Jenny, Kristin, Tracey, Rachel, Hannah, Kelsey... not to mention others that weren't able to stay quite as long.  And they all shared one thing in common -- they all became FAMILY.  All of them loved our kids fiercely. And I think the reason that they became family is because they got to experience & feel firsthand what our life is like -- all the intense joy/fear/sadness/hope/love that comes with knowing & loving our unique, perfect girls.  They each were a fill-in Mommy to my 3 kids, and I love them dearly for loving my kids as their own, because that is not the easiest thing to do. On top of that, our lives are laced with so many highs and lows, sometimes I worried (and still do) that it might just be wayyyyyy too much for others to take on.

I think one of the things I have gotten out of welcoming help into my home is that I overlooked that basic human need -- self care -- for way too many years.  I am almost always "on."  Whether I have help at home or not, I'm basically on call, I'm just in the other room, I'm constantly listening & responding to so many different "calls" literally 24/7.  Just since I've been writing this, I have had to reposition Lola in a cushy chair next to Romeo in the office 3 ft. away from me no less than 6 times in the last 13 minutes, I had to get Claire out of her chair & put her on her tummy in the beanbag, I had to change her diaper, and I had to check Lola's diaper, get Lola's hair out of her face twice, locate lost Bok and get him into position, pull the blanket off Lola's face (which happened because she wants to be held & is arching her back & burying her head on purpose so I'll do just that!), go try to stop a seizure with some Clary Sage oil, and Lola is now ready to eat & I wish I could just stay put & bang out my thoughts here real quick, but I know I need to feed her THIS INSTANT, so I'll be right back... (And yes, THIS RIGHT HERE is why I can barely find time to blog these days even though I SOOOOOO want to!!!!!!!! It has taken me 3 weeks just to finish the writing on this post!)

Pretty sure this was Row Pi (π?!) on the plane, right in front of the shitter,
but we didn't care because we were off to MEXICOOOOOO!

Back in 2013, I looked at Scott & said, "This year, we're taking a trip -- just you and me.  We're going somewhere quiet & tropical & off the beaten path & we are going to think about our relationship & focus on the two of us & knock some boots & find ourselves & be "off" for more than a few hours in a row.  It is crucial for us -- for our marriage, for our sanity, for our kids.  We NEED a break.  We are TAKING THAT BREAK this year." We visited the U.S. Virgin Islands/British Virgin Islands that year for 6 nights.  It was glorious.  Our babysitters all chipped in and covered the days, while our night nurses covered the nights (we finally had some by this point, due to Lola's desire to torture us not sleep like freakin' EVER -- Thank you, Lucille & Becca!!!).  It took many months of planning to pull it all together, and it was soooo worth it.  If you look back on my blog, you'll notice that I didn't post a damn thing about it back in November of 2013.  I only posted two lone, vague pics on my Instagram that trip (@gwennieh -- and yes, that was a shameless plug! #instaDAMN!).  It wasn't until our now-annual trip of 2014 that I got the balls to blog about it because I was borderline ashamed & felt guilty AF for even leaving them for 10 whole days. CLICK HERE to read about me bitching about traveling to straight-up paradise in November of 2014 and please don't punch me in the cooter next time you see me after reading what I said. HA!  I also refused to post about our clusterfuck of a trip that we took in 2015 where Lola got so sick she was on oxygen day 4 of our 10 day trip, and I damn near cashed in my trip insurance (which cost hundreds of extra dollars but we felt we HAD to add) to fly home to my baby.  My "team" at home assured me they had it under control, and so we stayed... and cried in beach bars... and questioned if we were the worst parents on the planet... and barely enjoyed that faraway beach the next 6 days since we just wanted to be home & fix our baby.

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

We contemplated not even taking a trip this year, as last time we did so, it was a complete disaster.  We opted for a shorter trip, and we headed out to a new destination this year -- Baja California Sur, Mexico. We flew in to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, rented a car, and drove 2-3 hours north to the quaint town of La Paz, Mexico.  I found out about the opportunity to swim with whale sharks there somehow on Instagram.  The more I started researching this area, I found out that you could also swim with sea lions there if you ventured out to an island off the coast of La Paz called Isla Espiritu Santo.  This island is connected to another island called Isla Partida.  Off the tip of Isla Partida is a sea lion colony/rookery called Los Islotes. I wanted to stay on Espiritu Santo, but I read online that both islands were uninhabited due to the fact they were part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. One of the beaches there has been named a top beach in the world, so I knew it would be gorgeous.  I liked the fact that it was quiet & less travelled.  Our daily lives back home are busy enough -- we prefer traveling to "off the beaten path" locations that take us back into nature where we can really just BE. We opted for a different type of trip... instead of our usual VRBO.com homes or a fancy resort on the beach, we decided to circumnavigate part of the islands by kayak & camp out in tents on the beach for 3 nights/4 days (sort of a trip-within-a-trip, if you will!) with BOA (Baja Outdoor Activities).  No permanent structures can be built on these islands, but camping IS permitted. We felt unsure about this excursion for several reasons.  First, we kind of like to relax & be pampered on our yearly vacations.  Second, we knew we'd have little to no cell phone reception while out there.  Lastly, we weren't sure if we'd like being part of a more organized trip vs. just winging it as we usually do. BOA worked out an arrangement so we were able to check in by phone with our family back home daily, and our fears quickly dissipated. The island was BREATHTAKING. Kayaking was such an awesome way to explore this island, and the trip didn't feel rigid or "planned out" at all.  We all worked together to ensure it was exactly what we hoped it would be, and we still had plenty of downtime to explore the island as we all chose. Words cannot express how unbelievable this entire experience was. This isn't a sponsored post, but I have to give a shout out to Chino, our guide with BOA, for helping make this trip so unforgettable.  xo

CostaBaja Resort in La Paz, Mexico ~ Right on the Sea of Cortez 

We ended up kayaking around 3-4 hours daily, floating above the most pristine, clear, turquoise water you can even imagine.  We saw fish & turtles swimming under our kayaks.  We watched unique, regional birds fly above us.  We were able to stop on deserted beaches that looked like they should be on a postcard.  We met people from all over the US/Canada/Mexico who became close friends in a matter of hours. We ate fresh-caught seafood daily, watched the sun rise and set, and stared at the stars until we became sleepy, watching for meteors. We talked & laughed & enjoyed Happy Hour & laughed & snorkeled & swam & laughed & hiked in our "free time." We crowded around an old transistor radio on Election Night, seeking out the only American radio station we could find to listen to the results. I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else in the world but there --  in that moment -- with those exact people -- that night. Unlike the Virgin Islands, it wasn't lush and green on Espiritu Santo -- it was a desert, complete with cacti, jackrabbits, scrub brush, and gorgeous pink mesas & cliffs. The water was turquoise and surreal, almost looking more like a swimming pool than the ocean.  If you've never experienced the Sea of Cortez before, I'd highly recommend it. Surrounding the islands are many coral reefs, and it's even been referred to as "The World's Aquarium" by Jacques Cousteau.  We can definitely vouch for that. The snorkeling was incredible -- definitely an amazing, life-changing experience!

The gang!  WE LOVE YOU GUYS!!!  And when are we doing this again?!?!?

Not only were we able to swim up close & personal with sea lions in their own environment, but we were also able to swim in the wild with dolphins and whale sharks.  I am still in shock about this, as what we saw almost doesn't even feel REAL to this day.  To be 1-2 feet away from whale sharks that are 25+ feet long and as big around as a school bus while they filter feed/gulp water in a vertical position had us in awe. From the side and back, they truly looked like a black shark with white polka dots.  They had the gills and the tail that was very "sharky."  But when you looked at them head-on, they looked like a whale or a really big catfish almost! They were so gentle & surrounded by a little fish posse who must have been mooching off of them for food. We were so grateful to Yosef at Baja Desconocida for taking us out to swim with the whale sharks and also to give us the opportunity to swim with wild dolphins while out in La Paz Bay!  We didn't expect to get to swim with dolphins at all (we simply hoped we would see a few!), but on the way to swim with the whale sharks, we saw many dolphins, and they wanted to interact with us. We slipped into the water, and they would zoom past us, usually in pairs!  They made a very high pitch squeal underwater that was instantly recognizable, so you could tell when they were getting close.  They really had no reason to be near us that day, except that they simply wanted to play. We would dive down & twirl around, and they'd follow. One swam past me about 2 feet away with a smile on its face!  They had such immense power balanced with such gentle grace. We also had the privilege of being just a foot or so away from dozens of sea lions (who we couldn't touch, but they could & did touch us!).  They would mimic our every move & swim up to our masks as if to say "hello!" They played with us like sea dogs!  They were so inquisitive & couldn't figure out what our GoPro camera was, so they just kept swimming up to it and staring directly into it.  This was absolutely one of the coolest experiences OF MY LIFE!!!!!  I simply have no words. It was so much more than I ever could have ever expected or hoped for.  All 3 experiences were definitely Bucket List items for us!
A close-up of one of the dolphins we swam with!

Whale Shark Selfie!

I am so very grateful for this trip to Baja, for meeting new, lifelong friends, for time away with Scott, for people holding down the fort at home like bosses (!), for being able to witness heaven on earth in Mexico, and for finally recognizing the absolute critical importance of self care. I leave you with a few pictures & videos from our trip...


The first beach we were dropped off at... I felt like I was dreaming!

The water here was seriously that ridiculously pretty.  NO FILTER!

We could see coral, fish, sea turtles and more beneath our paddles all day long.  STUNNING!


We snorkeled around those rocks for a few hours and saw two octopuses (octopi?!) up close!  One hid quite a bit, but the other one was literally "running" along the bottom of the ocean a few feet beneath us, changing colors instantaneously.  It was UNREAL.  As he zoomed from one place to another, he was light blue, then would land next to a dark brown rock with white streaks and he would instantly look that same color.  I have never seen anything like it!  We watched him for a good 20 minutes and seriously could have watched even longer.  AMAZING!  


Perv.  HAHA!





Our tent was just steps from the water.  We worried we wouldn't be able to sleep without our white noise, but the waves subbed in quite nicely.  Heaven on earth.

SO hard saying goodbye to our camp, our friends, this water, this entire experience, this island... we can only hope that someday we will be able to return for Round Two!









SO glad to get back home to the kids though!  YOU 3 ARE MY EVERYTHING!!!

xo

4 comments:

Kathy Schultz said...

So happy for you with your time together! Keep on loving!

MamaV said...

Yay! You give me hope that someday I will be able to get away with my husband...

entryleveljobscam said...

Good post.

John Smith said...

Thank you, appreciate your sharing.
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