Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Makings of a Mama

Before becoming a mother I never thought of myself as a "baby person." I had never changed a diaper. I had never nannied. I'd never felt my only life's purpose and goal was to be a mommy. I'm a night owl and relied on sleep in the mornings since I rarely go to sleep before 1AM.  I loved my alone time. I'm an artist after all, and artists need solitude in order to produce work. I always knew I wanted kids but I was scared of how drastically my fabulous life would change. I didn't believe all those crazy mommies at parties who always laid it on thick about how amazing motherhood was. Little did I know, they were indeed telling the truth!!  Motherhood has changed me in ways that I cannot describe.

My Mom always said, "when you have your own child, you will know a love that you've never known before." She was right, which is no surprise because she's right most of the time. :) When my son was born a part of me was born that I never knew existed. I became the woman I was always meant to be. Nothing else mattered any longer besides this sweet baby who lived and breathed around my very existence. As a newborn, nursing and soothing him whenever he needed and wanted became my only purpose. Sleep was non-existent. My own needs meant nothing. 

The perfect size zero body which once had belonged to me and that I'd taken great pains to maintain now had only one purpose; nurturing and feeding my child. Fat rolls and thick thighs had replaced my hard abs and model skinny legs. I donned pajamas, robes, sweat pants and tee shirts all day instead of designer dresses, skinny jeans and beautiful blouses. I wore slippers instead of four inch heels. Showering every few days became my new norm and I no longer had the time or energy to bother with perfume or makeup. My baby needed me every second and for the short periods that he'd sleep I became consumed with doing research in order to voraciously soak up every single piece of information I could find on babies, breastfeeding, mothering, parenting and the like. 

There is nothing I can compare to mothering my baby. Nothing in life has been as astoundingly meaningful for me. Nothing else I've experienced in life has caused me to shed so many tears of pure, utter exasperating joy. Every sweet breathe Xander softly breathed while sleeping on me or next to me when he was a little baby (and wouldn't sleep anywhere but on my chest) was like a kiss from God. It was as if God was whispering through my baby's breathe "this is the miracle of life, let us relish in our creation." 

I became a babywearing, co-sleeping, breastfeeding mama overnight. Being a Mommy just felt SO NATURAL to me. When Xander was born I felt completed. Every day I live with him, every poopy diaper I change, every cry I soothe, every hunger pain I satiate, every smile we share, every laugh in which we relish, every glance we all knowingly communicate through, every feeling we acknowledge through looks, smiles and baby talk and every kiss we savor has become the highlight of my life. I love him more, and more, and more with each bright day. 

Thus began my love affair with my sweet baby. After the past eleven months it seems as though Xander, Kyri and I have been together forever. We have become a perfect family unit. I couldn't imagine life without my sweet angel and am very lucky to have a husband who is such an amazing and loving daddy. Life before Xander seems almost a moot point. The past eleven and half months have gone by faster than any year in my life. I cannot believe my baby will be one in three weeks. Breastfeeding him for almost a year (and going strong) has been the greatest joy, accomplishment, commitment and bonding experience of my life. 

The most amazing part though, is that I know this is how every mother feels. It is the most universally astounding thing we all share. Rich/poor, thin/fat, country/city, red state/blue state, creative/corporate or...from Beverly Hills. :) It doesn't matter. We all love unconditionally. We all give endlessly. We are mothers. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Just say YES to Breastfeeding!!!

My breastfeeding do’s and don’ts:
                Whatever you do, DO NOT…I repeat DO NOT listen to the nurses at the hospital who try to push formula while your milk comes in. Colostrum is THE BEST thing for your baby and though it will be painful, difficult, exhausting & very challenging let your baby suckle all day and night if need be to stimulate your milk.
                Colostrum is ALL your baby needs until your milk “comes in,” so please be patient and work though the initial pain and frustration. It WILL get easier…I PROMISE!
                Caving in and giving formula in the hospital before your milk even has a chance to come in, is setting yourself up for failure.
                Tell the nurses ‘Thank you very much,’ but you’re sticking it out and that you’re 1000% committed to breastfeeding. Give it a chance before jumping to formula! ;-)
                Ask to see a lactation consultant in the hospital twice a day if you need to. Tell them you want to use the hospital grade pump to further stimulate your milk.
                Either rent a hospital grade pump to take home with you or buy a very high quality double electric pump. (I had great success with ‘Medela pumps.’)
                Once you’re home, if your milk supply is low, pump after each nursing session to increase your milk supply.
                Don’t forget that the first month or so is THE most important, as that’s when your milk supply is being established. So this is the time to hunker down and NURSE, NURSE, NURSE.

FEED ON DEMAND! Here’s why:
                Please, whatever you do, DO NOT put your baby on a nursing schedule. Feed ON DEMAND!!!
                Beware of the results; you’ll have a very happy baby and simultaneously boost your milk supply! )
                If your milk supply is on over-drive, no need to pump more than once a day. I always recommend pumping at least once a day in order to start a reserve “freezer stash”.
                Invest in a deep freezer and pump a lot before your baby starts solids
                (the first six months is when you naturally produce the most milk before your baby starts solids)
                Working Moms — In order to build up your freezer stash and have milk for a year to come or if you plan to go back to work, pump, pump, pump!
                Milk can be stored in a regular freezer for 4-5 months and in a deep freezer for up to a year. I use the ‘Medela milk storage bags’ and labeled them with date and ounces.
                Be sure to freeze in varying increments because once you defrost you cannot reuse or reheat. I stored in 2oz, 3 oz, 4oz, 5oz and 6oz increments.
                Be careful of blocked milk ducts if you plan to try to sleep through the night. Xander is 11 months old and I still haven’t night weaned him for a couple of reasons: a) to keep him happy and well fed b) to keep my supply up. He goes to sleep at 6:30pm, I pump at 11pm before bed to add to my freezer stash and then he wakes at about 3am to nurse.

                It’s also a time of bonding for us when I go in and cuddle him in the middle of the night. I love our middle of the night feedings as they are so peaceful and tender and all about cuddling, love and true nurturing.
                Your baby will not want to wake up in the middle of the night forever, so my thought is to enjoy it while it lasts.
                Look at things positively instead of negatively. If you see it as a bonding time instead of a dreadful duty you will wake up happier.
                Please don’t make the mistake of having your hubby do a middle of the night feeding while you sleep. This is a sure fire way to lose your supply and get blocked ducked and/or mastitis.
                This goes for any time of the day your baby gets a bottle. Please have your nanny tell you the exact time she’s giving your baby a bottle and pump at that exact time so you’re on the same cycle. I can not STRESS how important it is to be on the same cycle.
                If you get blocked ducts and engorgement freeze cabbage leaves and put them inside your bra for instant relief. Our freezer was stocked with frozen cabbage for months!!
                Whenever your baby gets a bottle you must pump!
                I still nurse Xander on demand and believe it’s always the best way. At eleven months sometimes he wants to nurse after four hours and sometimes after two, but I always take his lead. It’s far less rigid and more organic and natural to allow your baby to let you know when they’re hungry. I do pretty much always offer him the breast every three hours though and he lets me know whether he wants it.

Co-Sleeping helps build milk supply and is a great bonding experience!
I believe in co-sleeping for the first six months. There are many ways to co-sleep. There are co-sleeping attachments for your bed or co-sleeping bassinets you can put in the middle of your bed. Or you can go the old fashioned route and just have your baby snuggled up against you, with the covers pulled down of course.
                I tried them all and eventually when Xander was 2.5 months old went the route of snuggling. He slept nestled in my breasts for six beautiful months and it was an amazing experience. Sure, I didn’t leave my house at night for that time or have plans with friends or see a movie or do anything but nurse and be with my baby but nothing can ever take that away from us. Hands down I will do it again with our next baby.
                Six months is a perfect time to transition your baby to the crib. By this point, the baby will be on pureed solids and will be able to sleep longer stretches and will not be too overly attached to co-sleeping.
                Yes, of course it will be a slightly difficult transition, but co-sleeping for the first six months is invaluable for your milk supply and for meeting baby’s needs by easily nursing all night long without having to get out of bed. —It’s easier on mom and baby!
                I also use ‘More Milk Plus’ supplements and ‘Fenugreek’ when needed. They can really help to boost your supply but must be taken regularly.
                Of course, eat oatmeal EVERY day and drink a dark beer at night, these are both GREAT for your milk supply. Limit the beer to one though.

And lastly, words of encouragement: DON’T GIVE UP!!
                Breastfeeding is not without challenges but it is SO worth it! I had severe blocked ducts, engorgement & mastitis. I had to go on antibiotics twice.
                I had a lactation consultant come to the house three times to help relieve my engorgement and help educate me on what to do. I did a ton of research. I refused to give up.

I promise there is another side to the madness at the beginning and it does get easy and becomes second nature. It will be something you will always fondly remember and cherish and something no one else can give to your baby. This is what we were meant to do as mothers. There is simply no comparison to a mothers milk. It will make your baby healthier, stronger & smarter. Just say YES to breastfeeding!!!! xoxo 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Here Comes Reality!

I didn't seek this out, it came knocking on my door. I know, it normally doesn't happen like that but it did for me. Last September the producers of Beverly Hills Nannies called to tell me how perfect I'd be for the show.

Right off the bat I told them no...I have a one month old baby, I'm fat, boring, breastfeeding every two hours around the clock, getting three hours of sleep a night and totally, utterly exhausted. How could I possibly do a reality show? I explained I'd gone from a Louboutin loving, size 0, seriously social butterfly to a pajama wearing, slipper slinging, stay at home, breastfeeding mama and that the old Marika they'd known no longer existed. I'm a mommy now, and Xander is my priority and my life. Plus, as the camera puts on 10 lbs clearly I'd be no match for HDTV having gained 65 lbs while prego!

But they kept calling and eventually convinced me to shoot the pilot in November when Xander was three months old. I dusted off my hot rollers and pulled out my makeup and went shopping for some bigger clothes. Sure, I've been known to be funny. I can hang with the best of them. So, why not have some fun with this? I actually didn't even think the pilot would get picked up, but it did (clearly I must have been beyond fab in the pilot and dazzled everyone to the point of no return at Evolution and ABC Family because after all, it's all about me...right?!?). They had to have the show. They had to have me. Rock and roll.

And so began my adventures of shooting a reality TV show. We shot for eleven weeks last Spring and I had a total blast. The producers and crew that were at my house four times a week became like family. Our nannies are amazing and I love them to death (as does Xander). Xander also had an amazing time filming. He LOVES the cameras, a little too much maybe. He's actually kind of obsessed with them. I don't know what this means for his future, but I know he enjoyed the process. He loves people and so do I. He's a ham just like Mommy. 

Now onto phase two...the airing of the show. July 11th, 9/8c ABC Family. Nine weeks of fabulousness. We shall see how I'm edited! I'm so curious to find out who I'll "be", haha! I already know they will take all my funny, dramatic lines and sensationalize them. That's what it's all about it, right?!? This stuff just spews out of my mouth, I swear I have no control of it. :) I know it's going to be a funny, fun show and I'm super excited to see where this wild ride takes me.

To everyone who knows me, you know who I truly am. To everyone who will get to know me on the show and has never met me,'ll either love me or you'll really, really love me. :) I'm as readily available as a stay at home mommy to a ten month old can be, so Tweet or FB me with any questions/comments and I promise to get back to you. I hope you enjoy watching the show as much as I enjoyed filming it. I know everyone on the show has had a blast.


Sun Valley. Gone.

Ever since the first time I came to Sun Valley, Idaho at the age of eight it has held a special place in my heart. Like most who visit this majestic place, I instantly fell in love. Sun Valley has been a second home to me for most of my life. In many ways, I have grown up in Sun Valley just as much as I have in LA.

Having spent over 25 Christmas' in Sun Valley and just as many summer weeks I have experienced many life events in Idaho. As a young girl, Sun Valley was all about skiing in the winter and riding my horses in the summer. One of my show horses had the luck to be able to "retire" in Sun Valley, so I'd spend time with her every summer riding the trails with the gorgeous mountains as our scenic backdrop. What a life. It made me want to retire with her!

During the lazy summers in addition to riding my horse everyday my little brother and I would explore and various rivers, lakes and streams around town every afternoon. We'd wander off having lost track of time as it doesn't get dark until 10pm in the summer. We kayaked, inner tubed down rivers, hiked until we had blisters and ran up hills until we were out of breathe. There is nothing like floating down a river in an inner tube not knowing where it will take you. We took in neighbors dogs and would walk them & feed them and swim with them. We'd make castles out of river rocks. We went river rafting with my family a few times as well. What a rush! Days flowed into night and never seemed to end. Sun Valley was the antithesis to Los Angeles where we could barely play on our block, let alone "explore" around town. Sun Valley is every kids dream, especially in the summers when everything is so relaxed.

In the winter I skied until I was so cold I thought I was going to die of frostbite. Being cold didn't matter for this LA warm blooded skinny girl, it was all about the snow. I wore adorable pink puffer ski outfits in the 70's, shiny fluorescent green and pink ski outfits in the 80's, oversized matte burgundy ski outfits in the 90's, and elegant Bogner white parkas and pants in the new millennium. I got my first pair of custom ski boots, had crushes on my cute ski instructors, showed off in ski school since I was always the fastest skier in class, watched the ball drop every year on TV with friends until I turned 21 then spent the next 15 New Year's at Whiskey Jacques where they had live music, pool tables and skeet hockey. Like I said, the opposite of LA. I snuck into my first bar as an underage teenage, danced with Bruce Willis as an 18 year old, went to house parties, stared at the amazing crystal clear stars until my eyes went blurry, and went cow tipping & swimming in the hot springs at midnight with friends. I went hiking under the bluest of sunny skies through rivers, mountains & trees. I did a series of amazing BodyScape photographs in the winter and the summer, which I'll forever cherish as a part of my history in Sun Valley. I spent countless hours cooking with my Mom in our country kitchen and enjoyed even more hours of stimulating conversation in our hot tub under the stars. I lounged with our dogs by our amazing fireplace and read more books than I'd ever have time to read in LA. It's a place to go to slow down, catch up with family, books and nature. A slower paced life.

For me, Sun Valley is a defining part of my childhood. I always want my children to grow up with a mountain home. Life is just not the same without a mountain home. My parents just sold our family home in Sun Valley last week. So, on the bright side I can say it's a new era. In reality though, I'm really quite depressed about the sale of my childhood mountain home. It's never easy selling a house that's been in your family for 35 years, especially considering I wanted Xander to grow up with the same opportunities I had to wander and be free in Sun Valley. Kyri and I will have to buy our own mountain home for our baby because sadly you can't rely on family homes forever. Especially when your step-father decides he hates the cold, loves the desert, stops skiing and drops out of his mountain golf club. Ce la Vie Sun Valley. You'll forever be a part of me.