Girl, don’t go crazy. Go outside.

When I was in the height of my postpartum anxiety, I felt claustrophobic. I often felt like the walls were closing in on me and my very little home was getting smaller by the hour.

I was home alone with my new baby most of the time and afraid to do almost anything.

I didn’t even want to tell my husband just how scared of everything I felt in fear he might make some drastic change like quit his job to watch over me or take me to be evaluated where I would reach my inevitable fate in a padded room somewhere.

I wish someone had just told me to go outside.

Everything indoors is lifeless. The furniture, the decor, the pots and pans, the bedding. Nothing has life, it is spiritless.

Stepping outside, no matter where you are, can instantly change your energy.

Look up at the clouds. They’re moving, they’re alive.

Look at the trees. The flowers. A leaf. Watch them as the breeze makes them move.

Close your eyes and listen. There is life all around you, even if it’s just the sound of cars going by in the distance.

When I’m consumed with my own thoughts and fears and caught up in my mind, something as simple as stepping outside reminds me that there is so much going on outside of just me.

There are people all around me, there is life all around me. What is happening in my head is not as big and overwhelming when I breathe in fresh air, unlike the recycled air of our homes.

If someone had told me to just go outside, I might not have been hiding in my bathroom while my baby napped, sobbing to myself in complete fear and confusion.

So I finally did.

I buckled the baby in his car seat and just drove away.

I was so afraid of even just driving with him, for so many reasons, but I knew I needed to get out.

At first I just drove around aimlessly and then headed in the direction of a neighborhood I love. Up and down streets finding new little neighborhoods and beautiful homes.

I saw people out walking their dogs and people with strollers, people driving by me or pulling into markets. People were going about their days. The world seemed ok and it made me feel ok.

Instead of being a paranoid, anxious, inconsolable new mom, I was just another mom with a new baby driving in her car.

I went through the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru and got an iced coffee and just continued going from one area to another. (If anyone is looking for a new home, I can tell you where all the nicest, hidden neighborhoods are and which to avoid.)

The baby slept in his car seat and I listened to Jack Johnson (quietly) and started to breathe normally.

All of a sudden I felt happy!

My irrational thoughts and fears began to subside and new feelings of hope began brewing.

Suddenly I was picturing my life as a new mom with this beautiful new baby boy with actual pride and excitement! Getting to drive around with my iced coffee and baby who wasn’t old enough to ask where we were going suddenly made me happy!

I eventually made my way back home and opened a bunch of windows. Even though it was chilly outside, the fresh air made me feel so much better. So I decided to open them every day, no matter how cold it was, even just to get some fresh air in the house.

Even now, with a toddler and a 9 1/2 month old baby, I get overwhelmed. I lose my patience. I have anxieties. So I always know when I need to just go outside.

The other evening, my son was having a full blown tantrum over the contents of his dinner. He’s in a phase where he’ll eat 3 things: Pizza, French Fries or Pasta. If it’s anything else, he refuses it. Most days I give up and give in, but this day I had had enough and decided it was time to start eating some healthy foods again.

After about 45 minutes of sitting at the table with him (while feeding the baby in her high chair) and trying everything in my power, including patience, bribery and punishment, and being met with tears, whimpers and screams, I decided we all needed a break.

I said “that’s it! We’re going outside!”

I put the baby in her stroller and let my toddler walk next to me (because he refuses to sit in the double stroller and I didn’t need a second meltdown) and just walked through our neighborhood and returned a book to our friend’s mailbox.

We took the long way home and just talked as we walked.

Sometimes you need a change of scenery.

Sometimes you need some fresh air.

Sometimes we all (toddlers and babies included) just need a friggin break.

Girl, don’t go crazy. Go outside.

“Oh what I want to know, where does the time go?”

Is having children in your thirties what makes you nostalgic and wonder what the hell happened to your twenties, which seems like a lifetime ago and just yesterday all at the same time?

Why is it that a simple song can send you back 12 years so much so that you can smell the ocean, hear the waves crash, feel the rocking of the boat and taste the Coors Light in your mouth?

Even living in a completely different place doesn’t matter, all of a sudden you’re there, at the barbecue, the bar, the house party with tan lines, natural (and artificial) highlights in your hair and an underlying shred of unwarranted self-consciousness leftover from one tumultuous relationship or another.

Fun times, right?

Dave Matthews, 50 Cent, Jack Johnson, Jimmy Buffet, it didn’t matter. Thank God for mixed CD’s to keep up with our roller coaster of emotions. “Say Goodbye” transports me back to a specific kitchen and a specific cookout on the Cape. I don’t even know if it was actually playing at the time, but for some reason it fits with the mood of the memory.

There’s just something about the freedom we felt and the carelessness we had that we’ll never get back because we’re moms now!! We have human beings who rely on us to keep them alive and thriving!

We used to wonder if the new perfume we bought would catch a specific guys attention or which sunglasses made us look hot but also that we weren’t trying too hard (I always went with aviators). How many calories were in a bottle of wine versus 5 beers. How long would you have to go nowhere on an elliptical to burn off a bagel.

You know, the important things in life.

On the rare occasion that I’m in the car without either of my children or my husband, I find myself turning the volume up almost as high as it will go and mumble the (incorrect) words to Can I Kick It by Tribe Called Quest and envisioning myself driving to pick up a girlfriend and a couple bottles of Prosecco instead of going through the Starbucks drive-through on our way to the grocery store or OBGYN.

I’ve even called some old girlfriends just to check and see that they d o the same thing. Maybe it’s a different song they choose, but it’s confirmed, nonetheless.

What is it about a few years of marriage and a couple of children that makes you secretly yearn for your previous life of free falling inconsistent blissful chaos? Even if that nostalgia only lasts for the length of that song (because we don’t ACTUALLY want to go back there, that place was a MESS).

Being a mom and a wife has made me uncharacteristically (and shamefully) proud of the fact that I used to torture guys I casually dated just to see how far I could go because I was tortured too, at one point.

I took my anger and broken heart out on innocent bystanders with good intentions.

Maybe I should create my own 12 step program and start an apology tour?

All of the memories in my twenties, the good, the bad, the ugly are crammed up in my subconscious mixed with chardonnay and tequila shots and they rear their (sometimes ugly) heads on solo car rides sending me reeling back only to be rudely awakened by the bright lights of the green and white Starbucks mermaid glaring, reminding me that I’m no longer a 20-something tan, skinny blonde whose only real worry is if 20 minutes on the elliptical was long enough or if I should work a couple extra hours that week to actually fill up my gas tank.

So ok, we’re not 20-something anymore.

Our old worries are replaced with new (much larger) worries and those cut off shorts will have to remain at the bottom of the pile of clothes we’ll never wear again but refuse to throw away.

So, is it weird to miss those days sometimes? Maybe just for solo car rides.

Thank God for Dave Matthews and Tribe.

800 Miles Away

When I was little, my favorite game to play was “House”. Whether I was with friends, cousins, or playing alone, it was my go-to. I would pretend to be a mom, have a couple children and a husband and I would spend my day going on errands and taking care of the babies. I would feed the babies, put them down for naps, make dinner, go to the bank and the grocery store, etc. (I even had a stash of deposit slips from the bank!)

I’ve always wanted to be a mom and have a family. I just never dreamed that one day I would have those things but my family (my parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins) would be nowhere in sight. When I played “House” my family was always a part of it, or at least it was implied in the subconscious of my game.

I originally moved to North Carolina in 2012 with the intention of coming right back home after I was satisfied with my “break from Boston”. Everyone should explore new territory and live out of the familiar comforts of home, at least for a little while. Whether you go off to college in another state or go abroad one semester or take a leap of faith and try a new city for a couple years, I think it’s important for our personal growth to get away from what we know and explore new places.

That being said, I will also say that growing up in a big, loud, Italian family shaped and molded me into the human being I am today and having that family full of cousins, aunts and uncles contributed to my happiest memories growing up.

Jump to 5 1/2 years after leaving Boston, starting a family away from my family has been extremely difficult. Since I first moved to NC, I have gotten engaged, married, had our first child and bought a house. The cost of living and quality of life is incomparable to that in Boston. The appeal of a nice, beautiful home in a gorgeous neighborhood with bills that we can actually pay each month is quite the comfort.

This has been the happiest and loneliest time of my life. I can’t speak for other mothers but I will say that it is crucial for any new mom to have a good support system around her and there’s just something about having your own mom or favorite aunt by your side to help you through.

As a new mother, you have gone through so much! Pregnancy, crazy hormones, your body changing, feeling fat and ugly and then feeling guilty about not cherishing every second, BIRTH, going through labor and actually birthing a human being!! Having a newborn baby who relies on you 100% for literally everything, and don’t even get me STARTED on sleep deprivation! (The wound is still too fresh to talk about).

Going through the millions of ups, downs, and sideways of being a new mom is no joke and we need the love, understanding, and support of our families and friends. Unfortunately, I didn’t have family around during all of those new life changes and I truly felt the effects. New moms need their closest women who are familiar with such matters to help guide them and shower them with affection. Nothing can measure up to a hug from your mom.

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Someone who raised you can look at you and say “You’re doing a good job!” or “You’re such a good mom!” and if you’re living away from your family and trying to raise a family, I don’t have to tell you how imperative those simple words are to hear but the mere absence of them lingers.

We have neighbors who’s daughter lives about an hour and 1/2 away and just recently had a baby. They are always taking turns visiting their new granddaughter and helping their daughter get through the sleepless nights and giving her a break. I knew it would be hard doing this away from our families but I had no clue how hard. I envy our neighbor’s daughter, whom I have never met. The old adage is true: You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

If you’ve moved away from the comforts and familiarity of a particular landmark such as the mountains, I feel you. In my case, I grew up on the ocean. Our beach was literally at the end of our road and my dad’s house was on a bay leading into the ocean.

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My dad always had a boat when I was growing up (as did my step-dad) and when I got a little older, my friends had boats and I’d be out there with them all day. I worked at a sailing camp all summer and lived there during the week. Being on a boat of some kind was pretty normal to me and I was never wealthy. Whether I was fishing, pulling lobster traps or taking advantage of a friend’s invitation for an afternoon outing, I have always loved being out on the water. Taking a morning walk on the beach was always a habit when I lived on Cape Cod. I’d go out there when it was snowing! Something about the waves and the smell of the sea makes me feel like home.

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Whenever we reach the ocean to the point I have it in my vision, I always tell my husband I feel like I can breathe again. I let out a long, deep breath and everything else seems okay. If you grew up on the water, you know what I mean, but this is true for the mountains for some people or even open fields, for others. We have friends here who are from Oklahoma and I know how badly they miss just seeing wide, open land. I can imagine they must feel claustrophobic here.

Some of us just need certain things to feel grounded and for me, that’s the water. I feel like I can’t breathe without it. I tell my husband all the time, “I just need to drive by it! I don’t even need a ‘beach day’ I just want to SEE it when I’m going about my day”.

Things that have helped me deal with not having certain comforts around that might help you are:

-Going online and finding small bodies of water near me. There’s a huge lake about an hour from here, (it doesn’t have much of a beach, but there’s 1 or 2 restaurants on the water to get lunch, which I have), there’s a tiny lake that has a bike path about 7 miles around to go walk, etc. It’s like giving an alcoholic an O’Douls. It’s not going to get you drunk, but it will suffice.

-FaceTime with family members so they can see the baby and posting lots of pictures/videos. They miss us too!

-Planning play groups with other moms who don’t have family around. It’s nice to know you’re not alone!

-Be thankful for all that you have, every single day. I know how blessed I am, beyond measure. Thank God for all that he has given you and all that he has yet to give. Remember this: God did not put something in your heart that you were never meant to have.

Till next time…

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