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.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

it's ok, because babies cry

as sam and i waited to board the plane at the airport, i saw a mother with three little ones, balancing a baby on her lap and asking the two older girls, probably around four and six years old, to help with the luggage.

i smiled.  "how old is she?" nodding to the littlest babe.

"three months, born may 3rd. yours?"

"may 29th.  by the way, you are brave, flying with all three on your own!"  i'd felt a little frazzled that morning, even though i had my very helpful, capable husband with me.

the woman, who had the prettiest sleeve tattoo on her right arm, shrugged.  "you do what you gotta do!"

since we all boarded at the same time (i now know why families with children get to board first!), the woman sat in the row in front of us.  "this way if my baby cries, i can blame it on you guys.  no one will know which baby it is!"  sam and i laughed and agreed.

then i heard one of her daughters ask if her mom thought the baby would cry on the plane.  i loved the mom's response.  "well, we're going to hope she sleeps the whole time, but she may wake up and cry.  but that's okay, because babies cry."

that's when i knew she was the type of mom i wanted to emulate.  i listened as she spoke to her daughters throughout the flight.  she never seemed to get stressed or overwhelmed, and excitedly pointed out buildings growing smaller and smaller as the plane rose into the clouds. and i think i know why she seemed so relaxed about a situation i would have found drenched in anxiety.  she understood and accepted the basic things in life about having kids, and didn't seem to mind about things that were normal, like babies crying.

it's okay, because babies cry.  babies wake up, and they cry.  babies have no other means of communication, so they let us know they are tired, hungry, bored, overwhelmed, etc. by crying.  it's something i'm still learning to be okay with.

i'm okay with it when i'm at home.  ellery cries, and i try to figure out if it's hunger or tiredness, and do what i can to help her stop crying.  it's when we go out into the world that i'm bothered, when i get stares from people who seem to be really irritated by my child communicating her needs with me.  in the grocery store, at the park, at church (don't even get me started on that one), even at friends' homes.  it's what makes me want to be a hermit, staying in my safe house with my precious baby, who can cry whenever she needs without angry stares from others.

she can cry.  maybe she won't be called an "easy baby" by those who hear her scream, but i'm okay with that.  what is that anyway, an easy baby?  i kind of hate that term.  what does it even mean?  a baby who doesn't demand too much of anyone, who doesn't interrupt your life too much?  people have asked me if ellery is an easy baby, and i'm never sure how to respond.  is it harder because i'm not as good of a mother?  is it harder because i choose to be more of a hands-on mom?  is it harder because ellery is sensitive, like her mom, and requires more gentleness and help?  is she "easy" to love? absolutely.  is it "easy" for me to sacrifice showers, sleep, and eating to tend to her needs?  yep.  don't ask me if my baby is an "easy baby".

maybe by the time i've got three little ones, i can be as zen as this mother at the airport was.  maybe with daily reminders to myself, i can slowly let go of worrying that others think my baby cries too much and simply be grateful that i have a healthy, thriving, very happy baby who brings inexpressible joy into my life.

i'll just keep telling myself that it's okay, because babies cry.