What I Wish I Knew as a First Time Mom

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I was one of the first people in my peer group to have a child, which meant that when friends became mothers, they often came to me. I found myself walking a tight-rope between too much info (intimidating them or scaring them) or too little info (not adequately preparing them as a confidant would). Handing out advice can be tricky and when you are pregnant you scour the internet for advice and ideas of what your version of motherhood might look like. There is never any pregnancy, experience or child that is the same but there are some tidbits of advice that do tend to stick true. These are the ones I’ve found that I wish I knew the first time around:

1. You will do things you promised yourself you never would, it’s fine. We all do it, and while we remember you saying “I’ll never cosleep when I have kids” we aren’t judging you when it happens because we did the exact same thing. My most memorable one was saying that I’d never wear pregnancy jeans- I LOVED my pregnancy jeans! Give me all the comfort and stretch, just not the full-panel, I don’t care what pre-mom me said, she had NO idea.
2. Get comfortable calling your pediatricians nurse or the on-call nurse. You don’t need (or want) to take your baby in for every cough or sniffle, talking to a medical professional will help calm your nerves and you can do it without putting shoes on. The sooner you get used to calling them (for anything!) the better because you’ll have YEARS of “is this an emergency?” or “how many days do they actually have to stay home from school for?” questions for them. They will give you advice, putting you at ease and keeping your co-pay in your wallet. If your concern does warrant a visit, you feel reassured knowing it’s not an overreaction.
3. Stay away from your pre-pregnancy pants for at least 6 months!!! Unless you love torture.  If they never fit again, who cares?! Even if the weight falls off like it was never there, your hips will not magically go back to what they were 9 months ago. You now have baby-carrying hips, love them, use them as a shelf to continue carrying your baby (or laundry). And if those pants never fit again, embrace it. Mom jeans are in style for a reason, be comfortable and be confident in your mom-bod. Being slender doesn’t always equal being confident but being confident can stretch out to all aspects of your life, making a happier you and baby.
4. Let go of perfection. Your house will never be perfectly clean again, your car will never be free of crumbs, your hair will never be brushed. None of us have it all together, we just don’t like admitting it to Instagram. Ask anyone. Let go of the perfectly clean counters and get down on the floor and talk and play with your baby.
5. When frustration hits remember, we’ve all been there. For me, when the point of understanding why people shake babies hit me (this sounds harsh but you will understand at some point in parenthood the utter frustration that babies create, I promise), I would return to the thought that, this too, will pass. These babies are only babies for a very brief period. I learned to embrace the period in all the mess, tears and blowouts and knew that one day I would miss how small they were and how much they needed me. And if you find yourself struggling often, get yourself a sponsor. Like in AA, BA is a rough road and we all need a cheerleader, and a coach that has been down that bumpy road before.
6. Don’t stress the breast. People FREAKED me out about breastfeeding. Everything I read online was warning me and prepping me for the big battle of the boob. When it came down to it all that pomp was for nothing and my kids ate like it was the most natural process there ever was. I get that it’s not that way for everyone, I ended up doing it because it was easy (and free). So if formula is easy for you than do it. Don’t feel guilty. Keeping baby and mom both alive, happy and fed is what matters. No one goes to kindergarten or college comparing if they had the breast or bottle.
7. You do you. Get off the internet. Figure out your groove with your baby and come back only when you need help getting them to sleep through the night. Just don’t look at me for that advice.

 

Photo by: Heritage Photography

Motherhood Problem #1: Sleep

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I had a friend send me a meme/message today about the “sleep when baby sleeps” saying that you get fed as a new parent. I responded with the question of “what do I do if the baby is sleeping and I want to sleep but the preschooler is still awake and crazy?” Because that was my real life situation.

Truth is sleep is the holy grail of parenting, the key to happiness and success often teeters on the scale of how rested you are. The more kids you have the more you adapt to interrupted and fewer overall hours of your eyes being closed.

Not going to lie, some days I roll my eyes at this whole scene about becoming parents and losing sleep but is it because I was lazy or I’m now just so used to it that, as long as someone isn’t sick throughout the night, I actually think that I am sleeping like a normal human being?!

And let me just warn any not-quite-parents-yet out there that motherhood does start at pregnancy because I remember losing sleep when I was pregnant with Harper and other moms telling me “oh you should sleep now while you can!” What a bunch of shit advice that was. How can anyone forget the immense uncomfortableness of a baby moving inside you, punching your cervix, kicking your ribs, spreading your hips apart mixed in there with the having to pee every 2 hours. From now on I’m just going to tell newlyweds “sleep now while you can because the from the moment you know your pregnant  you’re screwed until they all learn how to get themselves breakfast and turn on netflix themselves.” That’s real advice.

So now to my main point. Sleeping with babies. Everyone has their own journey. With baby 1 we had a crib and bassinet/pack n play combo. I was so paranoid about him breathing I couldn’t put him in another room where the crib was, he hated the bassinet so he slept next to me. Perfectly safely. But then again I never fully slept pretty sure I didn’t enter any form of REM sleep until he was 1. Baby 2, we bought a king size bed because baby 1 kept coming into our bed here and there. It worked alright but now we have 4 people in 1 bed 3 nights a week. Somehow, baby 3 happens and I’m at a loss. I felt that I couldn’t safely sleep with a baby in our bed as long as there was the potential for the other 2 to come in (usually they would sneak in). Also, I was far more sleep deprived now as a mother of 2 already that I didn’t feel my state of sleep was as reliable as it was when 1 was born- basically, I could no longer trust myself to sleep lightly around a newborn.

I started researching (shopping) around for ideas on how to keep this new baby safe and I found the Halo bassinest. Once I found it I felt it was the answers to my prayers from the beginning because it was easy to get baby in and out of, literally could by baby right next to me without them being in the bed and best of all it swiveled so I could get up in the night without scooting down to the edge of my bed. Plus it had a sweet nightlight and vibration and other stuff that I didn’t really use. Overall best baby sleeper ever, I slept thoroughly and safely next to Iver every night, even when he was waking up every 2 hours straight for 3 weeks….we used this until he could sit up on his own, around 5-6 months.

Second purchase I made towards sleep was the dockatot. Originally I made fun of the “baby raft” but in the end it was my best friend and the hardest baby item I’ve ever had to say goodbye to. I’d put Iver in the dockatot and he would put himself to sleep. That baby pillow hugged them just right so they felt safe and secure and I felt safe and secure with him in it because I knew it was snug and it was breathable. Add in the fact that it was his bed when we traveled and it was well worth it’s price tag. I used it all the way until he was 10 months old.

Third thing toward a decent night sleep with baby 3 doesn’t work with all babies but a good swaddle. I was grateful that a friend lent me her Ollie wrap, it was the best swaddle I had ever used because you could really wrap those suckers (babies) in there and it had enough give that they could squirm but it never un-hugged them. Iver was golden in it. We used it until he grew out of it and could wiggle out, probably at around 4 months, which is a pretty long time in the swaddling world.

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the holy trinity of sleeping babies

Ollie wrap+dockatot+bassinest= at least 4 hours of sleep at one time even with a colicky baby that you haven’t figured out is actually dairy sensitive yet.

And now that I no longer have any of these but don’t have to worry as much about anyone rolling onto my baby? I was planning on buying another dockatot (there’s a bigger one) but couldn’t swallow the price on it ($260) so I did a little more research and ended up buying Iver  a sheepskin to sleep on. It is amazing, transfers (what we parents call moving a sleeping baby out of our arms) onto it are very easy and he stays asleep. Though it doesn’t snuggle him as well as the dockatot did it is SO much cheaper and now everyone in my family wants their own because they are so cuddly and comfortable to sit, stand and sleep on.

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dreaming of sheep(skin)

On one final note. I heard the statistic yesterday that the quality and amount of sleep only lessens for women and not for men.  Haven’t these babies heard of feminism?! (as my husband sleeps on the couch just fine right now…. but surrounded by 2 out of 3 children).