Wednesday, March 19, 2014

prone to wander


sam and i stopped going to church awhile ago.

we had been going to the same church for about two years, but we left around the time ellery was born for reasons i won't go into on this blog.  we were both really excited to find a new church where we could connect and get involved and find community.

we visited one church twice, and though it was great, we wanted to try other churches in town before committing to this one.

then life happened.

ellery struggled with sleeping at night, and often slept until about ten in the morning.  this meant we missed any 9 o'clock services and struggled to get ourselves, and the baby, ready for an eleven o'clock service.  additionally, sam was working ridiculous hours.  (and by was, i mean he still is.  poor, hard-working husband.)  he usually worked saturday mornings, and often went in on sunday afternoons.  so to be honest, with a baby who didn't sleep well and a husband who worked seven days a week, sunday mornings became one thing for us: a time to rest.  i saw how exhausted sam was, and didn't want to push him to wake up early and get ready to go visit a new church every week.  i tried to let him sleep in.  he didn't get to see ellery often, so sundays also became a sweet day when he actually got to spend time with us.

sam saw how overwhelmed i was with a baby who was waking every two hours, and who cried hysterically whenever we left her in the nursery.  he didn't want to push me to leave ellery in a nursery at a new church every week, with people i didn't know, especially when she seemed to hate it so much.

so...we didn't really go to church for eight months.  and do you know what i realized?  it's easy to stop going to church.

when you have a baby, or when you get married, or when you move, or start a new job with crazy hours, or when life happens, it's easy to stop going to church.  and this is coming from two church-goers, people who were raised in church, whose fathers are pastors, who have both been involved in the ministry at every church we've attended.  we're not "sit-in-the-pew" church people.  we've both helped lead the music at church, and been involved in various other ministries.  even when i was attending a mega-church in college, i volunteered in the hospitality department.  we've both worked in church camp ministry.  we're church people.

and we stopped going to church.

it made me realize how easy it must be for anyone to stop going to church, especially those who aren't so inclined to go to church anyway.  it's easier to stay home and sleep.  it's easier to go to brunch instead.  even if you go to church, it's easier not to talk to anyone, not to get involved, and simply be a consumer.

sam and i finally had an honest conversation about how much we needed and wanted to get involved in church again.  we've started the process of trying out some new places and are excited about where we've visited so far.  i've cried at every service since we started going back, because my soul could finally breathe again.  yes, this is what i've been missing.  this is what i've needed and i didn't even realize how much i needed it.

CS Lewis puts it this way:

"Enemy-occupied territory - that is what this world is.  Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.  When you go to church you are really listening in to the secret wireless from our friends: this is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going.  He does it by playing on our conceit and laziness and intellectual snobbery"  (Mere Christianity).

have you stopped going to church?  i'm sure you have good reasons.  i felt like we had good reasons; great reasons, in fact, and perfectly logical arguments as to why we had stopped going.  and that's exactly what Lewis is referring to here.  "the enemy" knows our weaknesses and will play to those so that we think it's a good idea we're abstaining from church, and that we'll get back to it eventually.  then eight months pass and we still haven't been to church.

"Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for thy courts above."

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

dear ellery

sweet child,

there are so many things i want for you.  there are so many things i pray for you.  as your mother, i want to protect you from every hurtful thing, and i want to give you every wonderful thing.  sometimes i hope you like dance, because i intend to enroll you in dance classes at the soonest possible moment.  but then i remind myself that i must accept that you will be who you were created to be, and that may involve interests that are completely different from my own.  my job is to help you become the unique person God created you to be, and i pray daily that i can stay out of God's way and never inhibit your growth.

but sweet daughter, there is one thing i pray so much.  i pray you are kind.  there are so many lonely people in the world, and i want you to be the one to open your arms to them and welcome them.  i want you to sit by the person in your class who smells a little funny, or to be the one to stand up to the mean girls who pick on another little girl because her clothes aren't as nice.  i'm afraid i wasn't very good at that when i was growing up, and i am not very good at it now.  i'm sure if i analyze myself enough, i'll discover that my strong desire for you to be kind is linked to my guilt that perhaps i am not kind enough, so i feel i can make restitution for that by raising you to be extra nice.  i know my example to you is huge, so i promise to start practicing more kindness now, so that, for you, it becomes second nature.

people comment all the time on how friendly you are.  in restaurants, at the grocery store, at church, you smile at everyone you see.  don't lose that, ellery.  keep smiling at everyone.  never stop smiling at people just because they have different color skin than you.  keep smiling at everyone, regardless of how well-off they appear to be.  smile at those who look grumpy, because they probably need your smiles the most.

and be everyone's friend.  don't seek out the ones who can offer you the most from friendship, but seek out those who need a friend.  ultimately, our aim in this life is to become more like jesus, and jesus wasn't impressed by the popular people of his time.  he sought out those whom society rejected.  that's what i want to teach you to do as well.

i don't care if you're the prettiest, or the smartest, or if you're the best dancer in your ballet class.  but i do hope you're the kindest.  and i hope your sweet spirit inspires others to be kind, too.

and on an unrelated note, this is why we got a costco membership - to be able to purchase a huge stuffed chicken for our daughter.  she loves this thing, and cuddles it constantly.




Wednesday, February 12, 2014

on parenting and being a little pissed off

there's an article floating around the interwebs right now written by a mom who blames herself for her son's autism.  she lists all the things she did wrong that she believed contributed to his diagnosis, and says she'll never forgive herself for what she's done to her kid.

the article makes me angry.  i'm not even going to link to it here because i don't want any of my young mama friends or soon-to-be mama friends to read it.  if you run across it, i advise against reading it, especially if you are in either of those two categories.

i understand the reason she wrote the article.  she believes she's educating people, or perhaps that by sharing her story, she will prevent another mom from making those mistakes and possibly save future kids from having autism.  i think she wrote it out of guilt, and a little bit out of self-pity.  i totally get that.  and i think educating others is a really great thing to do.  but the article doesn't promote education.  it promotes fear and guilt.  and fear and guilt are the last thing pregnant women and moms need in their lives.

because i remember being pregnant.  it was terrifying.  the moment i found out i was carrying a child, i was in a hot bath, which isn't surprising, considering i spend any free time i have soaking in a hot bath.  i immediately jumped out of the tub for fear that the hot water was cooking my baby.  i began to agonize over the one margarita i had a few days before while celebrating a friend's birthday on a houseboat on lake shasta.  had i given my baby permanent brain damage from that one glass of alcohol?  once i had a salad with blue cheese dressing and called my midwife in a panic, certain that the single salad would result in a miscarriage or stillbirth.  and let's not talk about the devastation i felt when i discovered i had gestational diabetes.  because of my stupid genetics, if my baby even survived the pregnancy, she'd probably develop diabetes or become obese later in life.  and it was all my fault.

if you're a mom and you have a pulse, you've probably experienced some sort of anxiety, either during pregnancy or after your baby was born.  you've probably also experienced some form of guilt or fear that you aren't doing everything completely right for your child.  being given the responsibility of another life is overwhelming.  i know that i have to be my daughter's advocate when it comes to her well-being and medical care because she's too little to do it herself.

so i tried to stay active during pregnancy.  i was forced to eat right.  i did all i could to keep my blood sugar under control.  and then i was induced for two days before finally having a c-section. (by the way, the article points out pitocin and c-sections as major causes for autism, which also infuriated me.)  i mentioned in ellery's birth story, here and here, that i wanted a drug-free, natural birth, but  because of my diabetes, i ended up having a c-section.  and i'm sorry to disappoint all of you who believe doctors are evil and try to make people have c-sections, but my doctor actually tried to avoid it.  when sam and i approached her about it, she wanted to try one more day of pitocin and give my body one more chance to respond and go into labor.  she only agreed to it because of my diabetes, and the fact that the longer ellery was in the womb, the more dangerous it was for her.  once ellery was out and it was revealed how huge she was, my doctor and midwife and all the nurses agreed that the c-section was the right choice.  she was literally too big to drop into the birth canal, which was why my body didn't know it was supposed to go into labor.  if i'd tried it naturally, it would've either resulted in an emergency c-section, or worse.  this is also why i believe God had His hand on the entire situation.  he softened my heart toward having the surgery and allowed sam to be my advocate and fight for it, because that's what needed to happen.

here's what i've realized: people want to blame modern medicine.  and i get that.  the article mentions things like immunizations and antibiotics and acetaminophen being the cause of autism, and though these things can be potentially harmful, they have also been very beneficial.  we have to take the good along with the bad.  maybe our modern medicine is causing certain problems and conditions, but it has also saved lots of lives.  the rates of mortality for infants and laboring mothers have gone way down since 1950, as have diseases such as polio and smallpox.  i sincerely believe my c-section saved me and ellery from danger and possibly death.

and i'm speaking as someone who leans toward alternative medicine.  i go to a doctor's office that practices holistic, naturopathic medicine and acupuncture.  i use essential oils in place of medicine to cure ellery's issues.  i went to an office of midwives when i was pregnant, who only offer a single ultrasound during pregnancy, which is done no earlier than twenty weeks to check healthy anatomy.  (and yes, i tried to get it done before twenty weeks so we'd know the sex before christmas, but they were adamant about it being twenty weeks or later.)

i'm doing everything in my power to do what i believe is best for my daughter.  but guess what?  she might still get sick.  or she might get into a horrible accident.  there is only so much i can do to protect her, and i have to accept that.  i can make all the right decisions, which, according to the article includes avoiding modern medicine, and still, it may not be enough.  but that's because i'm human and imperfect and ellery isn't really mine anyway.  she's God's child, and i've simply been entrusted with her care.  God gave her to me and sam because He believed we would make the best parents for her.  it means i have to let go of that control, since i don't really have it anyway, and simply pray and pray and pray over my daughter.  it means i can slather sunscreen on her every moment of every day, and she may get skin cancer anyway, while girls who go to tanning booths every day remain cancer free.  and God may decide he wants her home sooner than i'm ready for.  though i pray that doesn't happen, and it's a fear i carry with me every day, i would simply go mad if i allowed articles like this one about autism to make me feel more scared or guilty than i already do.

so moms - keep doing what you're doing.  just do your best.  if you're the praying type (which i highly recommend being), pray over every decision you make regarding your child's care.  if you're pregnant, praise God for the life growing inside you.  praise Him for the miracle of conception, of birth, and that you're lucky enough to be a woman able to carry a child.  do not let fear or guilt spoil this special time, and recognize that God is the one in control anyway - not you.  and everyone, avoid passing judgment on parents who choose to do things differently than you.  perhaps that child is getting immunized because she will be traveling internationally, and it's the safest choice.  perhaps that other child is not getting immunized because he already has a weak immune system and the shots would be more of a risk than a benefit.  perhaps that mom did everything she could to breastfeed and it just didn't work.  perhaps that other mom is breastfeeding her two year-old because it's what that child needs.

and if you are a parent of a child with autism, i am in awe of you.  i had the wonderful opportunity to work with children with severe autism, and it remains one of the favorite jobs i've had.  those children were so special, so fun, and involved so much care.  i only spent part of my day with them, and i know it can be exhausting and overwhelming if your child has special needs of any kind.  do not feel guilty, or feel that you are to blame for your child's condition.  you are doing your best, as we all are.

*disclaimer: i think it's very important to educate yourself on the care of your child, especially involving big decisions that can affect his or her health.  what i dislike are sensational articles based mostly on a few studies, and not based on actual scientific fact.  we know for a fact that lots of exposure to the sun can lead to skin cancer.  we don't know for a fact that getting an ultrasound can lead to autism.

end rant.

Monday, February 10, 2014

two days, juxtaposed

yesterday was the type of day that needs to be documented.

ellery woke around 6:30, so i went into her room to nurse her.  she nearly fell back to sleep, clutching my shirt, and i knew she wasn't quite ready to be awake for the day.  so we sat in the dark room, her noise machine still humming softly, and she jabbered at me a bit.  her sweet head kept falling against my shoulder, and she would re-position herself, turning her head from left to right, until finally her breathing became even and deep.  she snuggled in and slept, and i snagged a fleece blanket from next to her crib and draped it over both of us.  and i was in heaven.  parents, is there anything better than when your baby falls asleep on you?  it happens so rarely these days that when it does, i simply enjoy it.

i couldn't fall back to sleep myself, even though our glider is ridiculously comfortable, so my mind wandered, and i prayed for the sleeping child, and for any future children we may one day have, and for our families.  and that quiet, simple time was easily the best way i could have started my day.

ellery's hair is getting thicker, but is still baby soft, and it's started to curl a bit when it's damp.  she's getting longer, and though she still fit on my lap, she felt more like a toddler draped across me than a newborn, which is so bizarre.  she slept with her hands clenched in little fists, and at one point she woke up, grabbed the blanket and pulled it over her shoulders, and snuggled back against me to sleep.  i couldn't help but think it was such a big girl thing to do, such a non-baby thing, and that made me want to pause this time and remember it forever.  it just keeps getting more and more rich, being a parent, and i refuse to believe that it won't keep getting better and better.  i know there will be hard times, but i want to look on the bright side and be grateful for the gift of each day being a mother.

she finally woke around 9, so we went back into my room.  ellery got excited when she saw sam, and crawled over to him and gently patted his arm.  he woke and smiled at her, and we three lounged and talked and laughed for a little while before i asked sam to take us to breakfast.  there is still a thick layer of white snow covering our town, and for some reason, brunch seemed like the right idea.

we drove past a few restaurants before finally finding one that was open - the sassy onion.  and let me tell you, the sassy onion has a new fan for life.  first because they were open on a snow day, when every other restaurant was closed, and second because they have a full gluten-free menu.  i happily noshed on gluten-free pancakes, bacon, and eggs.  the waitress asked if we could leave ellery with her, because she seemed to be such a happy baby.  and yes, she is definitely a happy baby.  she doesn't like being tired, or hungry, but otherwise she's very happy and friendly.

we came home and ellery took a nearly three-hour nap.  after two hours, i began growing concerned, but i kept checking the monitor and she was sleeping peacefully.  sam and i were able to relax and just enjoy each other's company, which doesn't happen often since he has been working so much.  then the baby woke and sam watched her while i baked cookies.

we took the still-warm cookies over to kari's house, where we meet with our old community group on sunday nights.  i say old community group because it was the group from the church that we all used to attend, but really, it's still a community group.  we're no longer affiliated with a church, but we are definitely a community, in the best sense of the word.  some day i'll write more about this special group and how grateful we are for them.  we enjoyed pot roast and laughed and watched the olympics.

and then we came home to put ellery to bed and i developed a migraine, because of course, no day is perfect.

it felt like a real gift, yesterday, like God was blessing us with this small moment in time.  i want to hold on to it and i don't want to forget it.  i felt like it was particularly important to write it down today, because today is sort of the opposite.

sam left for work around 5 am and has had a hellish day at work.  snow is fun for lots of people, but lots of other people get into accidents because salem isn't prepared for this much snow and the roads haven't been plowed.  naturally, it makes for a very hectic day for my sweet husband, who manages a car rental office, and many more people than usual need cars.  and today ellery has had such a hard time napping, and getting her to sleep has been more difficult than it has been in over two months.  and our house is a complete disaster, because being snowed in apparently means i no longer need to keep up with dishes or laundry or vacuuming.  and the snow is melting, and turning into that disgusting, brown slush that everyone who likes snow seems to forget about.  (i think the brown slush is perhaps the main reason i dislike snow.)

so today, when i'm drowning in housework, i'll remember our time with friends last night.  and when ellery screams at me and throws her paci across the room in defiance, i'll remember the way her soft head felt nestled against my neck, and the hilarious bedhead she had when she woke.  and tonight when sam gets home from work, i'll thank him for how hard he works to provide for us, and for taking us to breakfast yesterday, and i'll remember how cute it was when he was helping ellery take a drink of water.  because i think God gives us nearly-perfect days so that we can recall them when life is not so perfect.  and the memories we made can be savored until the next really sweet day comes along.



Wednesday, January 29, 2014

eight


eight months.  easily my favorite age so far.  she just keeps getting more and more fun, and each day is something new to look forward to.  she's suddenly blossomed into a little girl.  her brain must be working a mile a minute right now, because each day she surprises me with something new she's learned.

i love when she wakes from her nap and i can hear her babbling to herself in her crib.  i miss her when she gets a good, long nap, so when she finally wakes, i restrain myself from going into her room and interrupting her playtime in her crib.  when i finally walk in, i see her little round head just over the top of the crib, and her two little eyes light up when she sees me.  and then she claps her hands and i tell her to stop being so cute, because it isn't fair to me, because i can't keep loving her so much or i'll explode.  and then i pick her up and she squeals and immediately turns to look for the cats.



and in the morning, she has started to wake too early.  little miss is not a morning person, so she's ready for her first nap after being awake for less than an hour.  i tell her she should have just slept a little longer.  so we read books in my bed, and stay calm, and she snuggles up next to me and stares at each picture with the happiest little eyes.  and my favorite is that she pulls up the blanket next to her chest and clutches it with her tiny, chubby hands.  her little piece of comfort, playing with her blanket.

she is constantly moving her feet, when she's laying down, and when she's eating, and it's just like me and just like my grandma wuth, and i love seeing those little similarities.

oh, and boundaries.  she's starting to test them.  she knows she's not allowed to play on the bricks near the wood stove, but she always goes there anyway, and when i sharply say her name and raise my eyebrows in warning, she turns and gives me this smile.


(and notice her utter disrespect for the protective cushion we've wrapped around the bricks?  she pulls it off.)

i know she's trying to use her cuteness to get her way, and i know this because it's what i do with her dad, and it makes me think sam and i are really in trouble.  because she is cute - crazy cute - and if i'm not careful i'll be a bad parent and never say no to her, because how do you say no to such a sweetheart?  but i will, and it will be hard.  i'm not just her playmate and caretaker anymore, and it's no longer my job to find out what she wants and give it to her right away.  now i have to start teaching her, setting limits, and saying no when she tries to play with the remote or my phone or sam's tennis shoe.

she has started to wail, "mama" and "da-ee" when she cries.  i don't think she knows what she's saying, but we must subconsciously respond a little more quickly when she does it, because she seems to understand that it gets our attention.  she's standing up all over the house, which means she's getting more bumps and bruises.  i must restrain myself from keeping her from falling, and remind myself that it's good for her to practice, and fall, and that a little bump is okay.  but it just reminds me that she's getting bigger, and that i'm already starting to train her not to need me.  isn't that the hardest thing about being a parent?  that, if you do your job right, your child will become independent and self-sufficient?  maybe it means i have my own issues of needing to be needed, but it breaks my heart to think that i'm beginning to teach her not to need me anymore.  already she's eating more real food, which means she doesn't need to nurse as much, and it's hard for me to admit that.  maybe it's normal, and maybe it's just because she's my first little one.  but i hope i can remember that it's a good thing for her to learn and grow and become confident in herself and her own competence.

she plays well on her own, especially at her little activity table.  but she turns every so often to make sure i'm still there, and sometimes wants me to stand next to her so she can stop and give me little hugs.  and that's my favorite.  and maybe that's what i hope for - that she becomes her own person, able to stand on her own, and sure of herself.  but every now and then, she'll still need her mama, even if it's just for a reassuring hug.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

in which i do something i haven't done in 10 years

look.  i'm a coward.

but two days ago i learned the local theater was performing Les Mis, the musical i've obsessed over for twenty years.  and i've been saying i want to do another show.  and i have this small window in which i only have one kid and i'm not pregnant, and could possibly do a show.  and hello.  it's Les Mis.  so i had no excuses, other than that i was terrified and didn't want to do it.

i wanted to do it, but i only wanted to do it if i knew i could do it well and get a part.  and how could i prepare for an audition in two days?  most people had known for two months!  i thought of lots of reasons why i shouldn't do it, but they mostly involved fear.  and the reasons i should do it involved knowing that i'd regret it if i didn't, and wanting to be an example for ellery.  also, i kept thinking of sara.  she would've wanted me to do it.  she would've auditioned with me.

so i found a song to sing and i sang.  lucky i married a fellow theater kid/choir nerd, because sam was ever the helpful critic, coaching me on vibrato, where to pause, where to crescendo.  and do you know what?  i wish i would've learned about this two months ago.  because maybe instead of singing for 12 hours straight, i would've prepared a song and then given my voice a rest before the audition.  as it happened, i probably way overused my voice (which hasn't really been used in the theater way in a long time), and by this afternoon i was hoping i would still have a voice.

i still had a voice.

i nailed my song.

what is it about performance time that makes it all come together?  i hadn't had one solid practice run, but throw me in front of a couple directors and the nervous energy turns into adrenaline that catapults me through.  i always did better when i was actually performing for an audience, rather than just rehearsing.  and oh my gosh.  i missed that anxious, excited, i'm-going-to-throw-up feeling you get right before a performance.

so i auditioned.  and can we talk about how many others showed up to try out?  at least 150 people - all ages, from all over the area.  i overheard two girls from tualatin, a couple from albany.  apparently everyone wanted to be part of this show.  my favorite was seeing the children - hopeful, ballsy kids who sang their hearts out.  i sang right after an adorable eight year-old boy who whispered to me just before he went on, "i'm nervous."  i whispered back, "we all are, dude!"  right?  we're all nervous.

in fact, i'd never been so nervous for an audition before.  the only other director i've ever worked with is Ms. Hughes, the drama teacher who ignited the flame that is my love for musical theater.  anyone who did drama at pioneer can tell you - she was outta this world incredible.  i did my first show with her when i was ten, and i was only asked to be part of it because i was friends with her son.  he needed a dance partner, and my sisters and brother were in the show, so it worked.  by the time i had to audition for any shows, she already knew what i could do.  there wasn't that pressure to show her everything i was capable of in two short minutes.  i felt that pressure today.

also?  porterville was a little pond.  i was disappointed if i didn't get the lead.  now?  i'll be thrilled to even get a callback.  in my little group of ten that i auditioned with, there were two women about my age with phenomenal vocal talent.  average that out for each group of ten, and that's thirty women who can sing.  and i mean sing.  so if i'm considered at all, i'll be stoked.  if they ask me to be in the chorus?  amazing!  if i'm actually considered for a singing part?  shut up, i'm fainting.

oh also, my favorite part of the day - we'd all been there almost 3 hours and they still had over 100 people to audition.  so the director told us he was going to cut us off once he'd heard enough.  i was holding out a note and frantically trying to remember what the next lyric was.  i started panicking, hoping it would come to me before i finished that note, when he said, "that's enough, thank you!"  and i was saved.  and i should've mentioned that the walls were covered with posters advertising old shows.  at the end of my song, i happened to notice the poster for seussical, performed in march 2009.  sara's show.  she was a bird girl.  and watching her perform, goodness, you knew she was having a blast.  and i almost cried.  because really, i didn't get long enough with her.  none of us did.

okay, that's enough.  except this: sam rewarded me for my bravery with a DQ blizzard.  ice cream is good for vocal chords, yes?  ha.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

to the new moms, and soon-to-be moms

first of all, let me apologize for my singular subject lately - motherhood.  i know that's all i seem to write about these days, but this is the reality of my life right now, so there you go.  feel free to ignore this blog, for those of you who are sick of this subject.

also, if you like reading my blog and normally get to it from facebook, you might want to start following by email, which you can do on the right side of the page over there. --->  i won't be posting the blogs to facebook anymore.

and on to the subject of the blog...

these are some things i've learned in the short time i've been a mama - things that would've been nice to know, things i learned a little too late, things that will (hopefully) be somewhat encouraging.  or at least may you know that you are not alone.  you can read What to Expect the First Year, which is a very helpful book, but there are some things that aren't in there.  my friend marci and i think we could write a book on this subject - and maybe we will!  but for now, a simple blog post.

follow your instincts for your child
different babies need different things.  allow yourself to do what you feel is right for your own child and your lifestyle without feeling any guilt or pressure.  i have one friend who got all the vaccines for her kid, and one who doesn't want to get any.  that's fine.  they are doing what's right for their children.  do what you feel is right for your baby.  you're the only mother he/she has, and your instinct is what is needed.

surround yourself with people who've gone before you
it's such a blessing to have friends and family who have children.  in the beginning, i was constantly calling my sister for advice and help, wondering how i should go about things and if things were normal.  help from others who have done it before is vital.

surround yourself (if you can) with people who are doing it with you
two of my closest friends had babies soon after me - one the next day (and we had the same due date!) and one three weeks later.  as much as i love talking to my mom friends who have toddlers, there is something refreshing about talking to someone who is just as lost as i am.  i'm constantly texting marci and elise, confessing fears and mistakes, and it's just really nice when they admit that they're going through the same thing.  they're having the same arguments with their husbands, they are worried about the same things, and they get it.  sometimes i think moms can forget how hard it is to have your first baby, especially if they have multiple children.  my sister told me that it gets easier every time you have a baby, and admitted that her first baby was the hardest adjustment.  by her third child, she was thinking that the newborn phase was so simple!  (that makes me think i need to have more babies asap, ha.)  so if a friend is on her second or third baby and you're wondering why it seems to be easier for her, relax.  she's done it before.  and she was just as lost as you are when she had her first.

it's not always cute and sweet
i always thought that babies were supposed to have really soft skin and be completely precious all the time.  not always true.  ellery had a blocked tear duct for the first few weeks, which resulted in a ton of yucky eye goop, sometimes so thick that her eye was sealed shut after a nap.  and that umbilical cord stump? nasty.  i hated that thing.  i couldn't wait for it to fall off, which it did after a week, mercifully.  i called the doctor twice thinking it was infected.  ellery also developed pretty severe baby acne that didn't really go away for six weeks.  her little body was covered with the rash, even underneath her hair.  i looked at pictures of friends' babies with envy, since their kids didn't seem to have this painful-looking rash.  (also, just for your peace of mind, baby acne isn't painful for the baby.  it was more painful for the mama.)  then there's also cradle cap, which can just seem really gross at times if it gets bad.  (but coconut oil worked wonders for E's cradle cap!)  so if your baby seems to have all these weird, gross things going on?  it's normal.  and your baby is still cute and precious.

your baby is developing fine
one reason i wish i hadn't read What to Expect the First Year was that it tells you what milestones your baby should be reaching.  and oh my gosh, if baby isn't reaching the milestones she's supposed to be reaching, this mama freaks out.  in the first few weeks i was so concerned that she was developing at the right pace.  i worried she wasn't getting enough tummy time, and that she'd never be able to crawl with how weak her muscles seemed.  not to mention, if you do have friends who have babies the same age, you'll find yourself wondering why your baby isn't doing the things their baby can do.  but the good news is, they all catch up.  even the babies with the most incapable parents still eventually learn to walk.  and you'll think your baby will never be able to hold herself up on her elbows and one day, out of nowhere, she'll just prop herself up like a big girl.  bottom line: unless your pediatrician is worried, your baby is fine.  

keep track of nursing/sleeping
i didn't start doing this until Elle was about six weeks old, and i wish i'd done it sooner.  my phone has an app on it that allows me to keep track of everything - nursing, naps, diaper changes, milestones.  and it's so much easier to figure out why she's crying when i can look at my phone and see, oh, she's been awake for over an hour, she needs a nap, or she hasn't eaten in three hours, or what have you.  it takes away the guessing game to a certain degree.  plus, you can tell your pediatrician if something seems off, like she hasn't had a dirty diaper in four days, etc.

prepare to eat (some of) your words
before i had a baby, i was certain of the type of mom i'd be.  i'd lean more toward the tough-mom style.  since i was never a big fan of kids before having one, i didn't see why moms babied their kids so much.  but you guys, ellery is such a sweet little innocent lamb, that oh my gosh, i can't help myself.  she's definitely slept in our bed.  i've nursed her to sleep.  i'm way more into the attachment-style than i thought i would be.  plus, i was always so annoyed by people who posted constant pictures of their baby.  but if your family all lives in a different state, you just might post constant pictures of your baby, if only so that you feel like they are part of the baby's life.  and you might swear you'll never be like other moms and cut your hair after having a kid, and then you'll realize that you simply don't have time for long hair and that baby is constantly pulling your hair, so you chop it.  bottom line: it's okay if you're a different mom than you thought you'd be.  (and you'll probably find yourself wishing you could apologize to all the moms you judged before having a kid.)

some things will be easier, some things will be more challenging
ellery was a champ with nursing.  she latched immediately, and all the nurses were so impressed with her ability to eat.  breastfeeding was something that terrified me, so it was a welcome surprise that it came so naturally for both of us.  it's easily one of my favorite things about having a baby, and i never thought i'd be one of those moms.  but she's just not interested in sleeping.  not great at napping or sleeping all night.  so there you go.  your baby may struggle with nursing but be a champion sleeper.  some things will be harder than you expect and other things will be simpler.

there will be good days and bad days
...and good weeks and bad weeks.  some days you'll think you've got this whole motherhood thing in the bag.  the next day the baby won't nap and will be constantly hungry and you'll wonder if you'll ever feel normal again.  elle and i have gone through phases together.  the first two weeks were absolute bliss - i had the perfect baby.  weeks 3-6 were monstrous.  she cried a lot.  weeks 7-12 were fabulous again, but 13-16 were pretty rough.  i think it's pretty important to learn about this pattern now.  i'd like to believe that not a day has gone by when my mom hasn't loved being my mom, but i'm pretty sure she wasn't a fan of the middle school years or my senior year of high school.  (now that i've given her another grand baby i think she loves being my mom again.)  but really, i think it's a good idea to accept that some days it'll be awesome being a mom, and other days it'll feel really hard.

so there you go.  the knowledge i've gained after nearly four months of being a mom.

the end.