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Sunday, October 8, 2017

the first year: weeping and jumping for joy

The first year as a new mother is the most challenging and gratifying thing I've ever gone through. I've now officially done it three times, so I'm feeling all the bittersweet feelings these days. I'm so proud of what we've accomplished- keeping a little teeny tiny being alive and well and happy.With every smile he shows me, I know I'm doing something right. Every time we got to the doctor's and his weight is up, I know it's from me, because of me, and I'm accomplished in ways I cannot describe even having received college degrees. It's different than studying for exams or passing a test or turning in that huge paper. This is raising a living being. It's monumental.

I'm happy. I can't wait to see where this little one is headed. I know there are many adventures ahead of us. I know there is running up ahead, jumping and skipping into preschool is down the road. I know that there will be terrible twos and potty training- things I dread the most, admittedly. But I know there are so many moments of laughter to look forward to so I'm trying to keep a smile on my face and realize how great this stage is, too. The baby stage is wonderful for many reasons, but the growing stage- there's nothing in comparison.

I'm proud that we kept this little one thriving and growing.
That we knew what to do, again. That we remembered all the things.
I'm proud that he seems happy go lucky, that we must be doing something to help that along.
I'm pleased to see him loving on other people and feeling like he's connected to his siblings.
It lights me up when I see him light up a room for others. They smile because of him and he is ours... it's incredible.

We've washed bottles every day and prepared breastmilk to the right temperature.
There's been pumping and pumping and pumping.
There have been moments of doubt, worries and fear.
We've second guessed ourselves.
I've wondered how I would possibly get through this or that phase.
We've been up all night. We've napped a lot during the days.
There have been diaper blow outs and car seat adjustments.
Baby bibs for drool, then big plastic bibs to catch the food dropping.

2 ounces of milk and then 4 ounces and then sippy cups of water to go along with pureed homemade baby food.
Then there were jars of food for on the go and just because we looked for something to be easier.
There are ziplock bags of ice cube sweet potatoes and peas and apples in my freezer.
The diaper bag is always fully stocked in the car.
Mum Mums are a staple on the grocery list now.

We have sleep sacks, cases of wipes we keep track of and teething rings.
There are tiny hand prints on our walls.
The Burt's Bees baby soap container is almost empty in the bathroom now. It's the same bottle we used when he came home from the hospital and was teeny tiny and we took all those pictures in the baby bath tub that he outgrew in a few weeks of using it.

There was anticipation, anxiety and stress planning for this third little one, entering the first year with a new baby.
Then there was excitement, joy like we'd never known, blissful state of being.
There was a completion of our family....
Now there is sadness. We are done, the baby-ness is over. It's sad and a relief at the same time. We made it, I want to scream from the rooftops! And, let's do it over... let's go back... I'm not ready... I want to whisper.

And so here we are. The end of the first year with our littlest love. And he's perfect and growing and has the best personality.
We are the luckiest.

To know that we'll never be here again, it's bittersweet.
To reminisce back the last 12 months on all that we've done, seen, grown and become.... it's astonishing, really.
Parenting is a journey. It's an adventure that starts with the beginning through the first year.

So I'll weep tonight, the eve of my son's first birthday. I'll cry because it's over, that first part, those milestones, those firsts, those big moments you look forward to with each little one, seeing who they become.
I'll get back to being excited in the days ahead. I'll smile because the adventures that await are worth growing older for.

But tonight I weep because I don't have a baby anymore, I have a growing big baby turning into a toddler quicker than I'm ready for. I'll be sad because that innocence is gone in a way.

What a year it's been.... I'm so proud of him, of us, of me, this strong Mom that I've become this year. I'm a new person, just as he was a year ago on the day of his birth. We're in this together, all of us... and oh the fun that's ahead. I can't wait... and yet I can, wait. Just wait....maybe a little longer, sweet one, maybe just slow down a little bit...

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

moving houses with kids - oh joy!

Well, here I am again... about 5 months later... eek! I can't believe it's been that long since I last blogged. It's been painful not writing every week like I was used to the last few years. That's what happens when you pack up your busy family of five, with an infant, while working full time, I guess! But here I am, back at blogging again, and I have so much to share with you that I've learned the last few months during my writing hiatus.

Tip #1: moving with kids is NUTS. OK, we did survive and are SO much happier now in our new house. But it was not easy. It was probably one of the hardest things I've done actually, just so much stress, feeling overwhelmed, very very busy, something every minute it seemed. But here we are on the other side of it and I'm so pleased. We did it! You can, too!

I hope this post shares with you some helpful ideas and suggestions for surviving your own big move with your family.

Moving with Kids:
  • Start packing sooner than later. We agreed to put our house up for sale on a Sunday. Monday and Tuesday there were snow storms, but by Wednesday we'd had four showings and the house was sold that evening, full asking price. What?! I was shocked. In fact, the only reason I'd agreed to put the house up for sale at that crazy time in our lives (I'd just gone back to work after 3 months maternity leave, had a 3 month old, juggling three kids and working again, etc. Not ideal time to add another stressor to the mix!), was because I thought we'd have time, months worth of time to adjust. But when you get an offer, a full price offer, you cannot refuse. Thus, we packed right away. I tell you to start packing right away because 1) your house could sell that quickly, too, but more importantly 2) you NEED all the time you can get when you're packing up a house full of kids and their stuff. It takes so much longer than packing without a family. 
  • Break it down. Do one room at a time. Pack one box every single night before bed. Make lists, timelines, put ideas in your phone's calendar. But work on it, consistently. Make it more manageable with small goals: This weekend we'll focus on the basement, or the kitchen cabinets. Tonight I'll pack just the kids' bookshelf. It can get overwhelming pretty quickly. Break it down as much as you can. I know you're tired, but try to do something when the kids go to bed. It's so much easier to work when little ones aren't underfoot. 
  • Label the boxes. Listen, I get it, you have half a brain cell left post-kids, but you need to focus on this one thing when moving: Label your boxes! I know you get going, swiftly moving room to room filling things up, and that's great, but don't get carried away. Write down on a piece of tape or something whatever is in the box - even if all you say is "kids crap," write it down. It makes the unpacking process soooo much easier. 
  • Get more boxes than you think you need. You will go through way more boxes than you did the first time you moved into this place without kids. Believe me, you will. So get tons. Home Depot boxes are awesome. Tupperware plastic tubs are even better and great to re-use later for kids outdoor toys or clothing storage. 
  • Toss it now. Do you really want this item in your new house? Does it work well, look presentable, make you happy? Do you even use it now? If the answer is no, get it out of here! Someone else will love it, so donate it. You don't want to get carried away getting rid of everything, because that leads to a bigger headache down the road to having to spend money to purchase new things again. But get rid of things you aren't using, don't need, or just clutter up your life. You don't need to move more than you have to. We donated at least 5 carloads of stuff to Goodwill. I'm a big consignor, always taking kids' clothing and toys to consignment shops. I didn't have time to do that with the move, so instead dropped it all at Goodwill, and told myself I was helping lots of people in the midst of downsizing our stuff. It is a win-win. 
  • Ask for help. We just rolled with it and did 98% of packing ourselves. It was quite the process. But, if you have people around you, ask for help. For us, what we needed help with was our kids. The packing and moving was fine, but we needed people to feed the baby or distract the big kids so we could get things done faster. So call a grandma to take the kids to the movies or out to breakfast, or ask a neighbor's kid to play outside on the swingset with them while you clean out the garage. 
Looking for a house... what a process.
  • Eat whatever you can. I know we're supposed to be all healthy, and that's great but when you're selling a house, packing every chance you're not at work, moving boxes, loading up trailers and PODS and storage units, going to house showings every few nights, ETC. YOU HAVE ZERO TIME. And that's OK. It's temporary. Remind yourself of this often. So buy frozen meals. Eat peanut butter sandwiches. Eat pancakes for dinner. Go to McDonald's (we did this far too much and I hate that, but it is what it is). Just get through. When you get out of work and pick up kids at 3 stops and it's now 5:15 p.m. and the realtor says they have a great house to go look at, you have to drop what you're doing and go. So it's oftentimes fast food so the kids cooperate when you are at said house. It's short term. Just get by, it's OK! 
  • Get help during house showings. If someone can sit in the car and entertain your kids for you while you go to a house to look through it, AWESOME. This is a major decision. Take the time you need, without kids stressing you out. 
  • Pack ahead. I kept a fully stocked diaper bag, extra big kid snacks and water bottles, ETC. in my car at all times during the house process where we would be going to a house viewing every few days, as things would come on the market during the day, the realtor would text us in the afternoon and we'd have to go right after work. It was busy and stressful, but made it much easier when I had prepared ahead of time just in case. iPads and movies and books help during this time, too, for when you have to bring kids into the new house. 
Remember the Kiddos:
  • Don't talk about it alllll the time. Kids need a break from the stress and change happening around them with a new house. I know it's all that you think about, it consumes you... but remember they are little and don't quite understand what mortgages and inspections and 45-day closings are all about, nor should they have to understand it. So do your best to run your family as normal as possible during the move. Keep routines as normal as possible like dinner time or talking about your days. Talk about how exciting it is to move, but don't talk about all the little details of how you'll get there. 
  • Give them some control. Do you want to pack up your stuffies or your books first? Do you want to donate this toy that you don't need, or do you have another toy you can give away instead? Do you think your bed should be packed up now or should we wait until next weekend to pack up the bedframe? It's scary feeling some changes sometimes, so giving them choices and control helps give them back some of that safety feeling. 
  • Let them pack, too. I gave both my kids their big LL Bean tote bag to pack whatever was most special to them, things they wanted to take with us when we moved into a temporary location between our house selling and buying a new house. We did this first, before packing anything else in their room. They put the most random things into those bags, things I would not have considered, but they said they "needed" with them. I supported every item, letting it be their thing. Then my son got very into packing boxes, taping them up, writing his name on them so we knew those are his toys, so they don't get lost, etc. It was cute. It took longer packing this way, but it's important to include your kids in this process, especially if they are of the ages my kids were - 5 and 7- where they really get it. 
  • Read books about moving. Make it interesting, fun, and spark their curiosity. Taking a trip to the library during the moving stage to find books about moving might be a nice break for everyone. 
  • Get them excited. Talk about all the cool things the new house may have. Ask their ideas- should we have 2 bedrooms or 3? Should we get a white house or blue? Do we want to get a swingset at our new house, one with a slide? Point out houses when driving and ask what kids think about them. 
  • Take their opinion into consideration. Our kids were 5 and 7 when we bought our new house. We knew we'd buy it, it was perfect. But when we visited it, we asked the kids their opinion, what they liked or didn't like. Could they see us living there? We "voted" by asking who wanted to buy this house, once me and my husband agreed to it. The kids were in favor. Had they not been, we'd have toured it again and done more talking. It's important to hear them out, making them feel like this is something they are a part of, not some big change being done to them without their say. 
  • Embrace their phases. My daughter went through a sort of "hoarding" phase during our move, where she collected treasures. These could be things that she found outside -rocks, shells, flowers, rubber bands, etc. Or they were things that did not belong to her- things at the temporary housing place we stayed at like jewelry or blocks or books, and things that were clearly not hers like my earrings and her dad's papers. It was challenging, it didn't make sense at the time, but once we moved into our forever home these behaviors stopped completely. It makes sense to me now: she was confused with everything being packed away, not having access to her special things at all times, and so she collected things that mattered to her to keep them safe, to make herself feel better, perhaps. Our son had a hard time sleeping in the temporary place because he now was sharing a room with his chatty sister. This made him full of attitude because of being so exhausted. They both needed more love and patience than typical, at a time when our patience was running low. Just remember this: it's hard for kids to go through change. They certainly adjust and survive just fine, it's not a bad thing, but have patience with whatever phases they exhibit. 
Moving to a temporary location:
  • Set up the kids' space first. Make their beds, including their stuffies, just like they like it. Ask their opinion on which bed they want, where they want their pillow to lie, etc. Set up the bathroom the way you had it, their stool and toothbrush in place if you can. 
  • Packing for two moves. It was hard to have a set of items we needed short term until we found a new house, after moving out of our first house. I had to predict 3-6 months of not being in a new house yet, which meant keeping out snow boots and getting out the summer attire in the middle of winter, just being unsure where we'd be and what we'd need with several kids. I over packed for sure, but I was not positive what we'd need so it worked out ok. 
  • Keep routines in place. Even though it's a new table, make sure you sit similarly to where you used to sit at your own house. Even thought it's a different place, possibly with new people living with you like family members, etc. try to keep up the same routine of brushing teeth right after dinner or stories before bed, etc. Routines help kids feel safe in the face of changes. It helps them cooperate more, too. 
  • Establish rules. It's like a brand new playground in a new setting! Kids running and jumping, things they'd never do at your old house. They just need the boundaries and structure set up for them. So lay it out. Talk about the new rules here, letting them create rules themselves. Write them down even. Plan to repeat yourself a lot in the first few weeks of living in this temporary place. 
  • Take the time you need to set it up. I had to take a day off from work, one single day in this entire process, which was super hard after returning from maternity leave. But I did it. I needed a single day to myself to establish routines, processes, and set things up that we needed to function every day. So if you need to call out sick one day or send the kids and husband away for an afternoon movie so you can really focus and get settled, do it! It'll be so worth it in the long run. 
Moving into your new house!
  • Set up the kids' rooms first. Get their input. Get new sheets or bedding if it makes them feel better. Ask where they want their bed facing, etc. 
  • Set up the main areas second. Bathrooms, kitchens, TV, etc. Get these areas functioning, and then go back and organize other areas later. 
  • Start getting into your routine, find your new normal. This is so important with kids. Our routines change when we move into a new setting, so start figuring out what's going to work in this new space, and make it consistently something your kids can start getting used to. It helps them with the transition. 
  • Ask their opinions. Do they think the cups should go in this drawer or that one? Should the pillows go here or there? It helps them to have a say in what's changing. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

why I'm embracing maternity pants post-partum

I had my baby 4 months ago, and I went shopping for maternity pants this weekend. 
Yup, it's true, and I'm not ashamed in any way.

I don't fit into my pre-pregnancy pants yet. Not by a long shot. They are way too tight to wear normally and comfortably.

I have had some health issues in the months after my c-section so I've just started walking lately as far as exercise goes, no where near the running 7 days a week I was doing pre-pregnancy.
I also have a fibroid, which enlarges my uterus to the size of a 5-month pregnancy at least.
So, yeah, I'm not back into those pants I used to wear. Instead I'm rocking some maternity pants.
And here's the thing, I'm realizing this is A-OK.

And quite honestly, no "excuses" or reasoning is necessary.
I had a baby. I gained weight from having that baby. Then I took care of that baby and healed my body post-c-section major surgery. And I'm not in my pre-baby-took-over-my-body pants. So be it. It's OK.

The first two months I gave myself a pass, wearing maternity felt totally fine because the bigger belly was still kinda there. And with a c-section incision, it was easier to wear elastic waists versus zippers on jeans. And who the heck had time with a newborn around to find my pre-pregnancy pants anyway.

Then the third month came along, nearing the end of maternity leave, and I was wearing mostly black stretch pants every day but trying to wear "normal" outfits on weekends and preparing to return to work and wear regular professional attire every day. I felt pressure to get into some type of pants, not my pre-pregnancy ones per se but I tried a few on wondering if I could squeeze into them. No go. So before I went back to work I tossed out all the really obvious maternity pants like with the huge belly wrap thing that drove me nuts even when pregnant. But I kept the tiny low rise type panel maternity pants, just two pairs, I told myself, it was cool, until I adjusted.

Well then a few weeks into working I realized I had nothing to wear. So I went out and bought two pairs of professional maternity pants with the tiny elastic waist band, not really maternity right? It was like the pants I'd wear at the start of pregnancy, when you are wishing the belly will grow just so you can wear some cute new maternity pants. That was cool for a few weeks until I realized I was so uncomfortable, needing to wash the pants over and over, and just again uncomfortable.

So this weekend I went shopping with my mom. I found some bigger shirts that make me feel better with all the nursing changes that have occurred on the top half. They aren't my typical size medium, but who cares?! And I stumbled into the maternity pants aisle. And I bought two pairs, again with that low panel thing around the belly.

And guess what?! They fit awesome on my legs and my waist feels snug and comfy, instead of pinched and ridiculous. And nobody can tell. I could care less if they could tell at this point. I don't wear maternity clothes daily. I have some standbys from pre-pregnancy I fit in. But hey, whatever works.

I'm in transition. I'm morphing from pre-pregnancy body to post-pregnancy body. And I've been stretched and altered. It was for a fantastic reason. 

I didn't just eat chips and chocolate all day (OK I did eat chocolate most days...). I didn't just ignore being healthy. I ate veggies and fruits, and I was physically active for most of those days. But I have bigger things to worry about right now than fitting into some mold I'm "supposed" to get back to.

I had three kids in this old body. I carried them, grew with them, delivered them via major surgeries. And I have some health issues as a result, but more importantly I have a stronger than strong body that I'm proud of. It's not the size, shape or weight I'd like. But I'm embracing it right now.

I've felt SO down the last few weeks, not having energy or time to workout how I wish I could and how I've done before. Not fitting into anything. Feeling like I'm in this awkward in between body stage. It's temporary, but not temporary enough it feels like.

Until I realized recently, IT'S OK. 
I'm OK.
The body is OK. 
I just need to embrace where I'm at right now and make small changes every day to get back to feeling comfortable in my skin.

Part of that feeling comfortable part is walking more during my day and drinking more water, but also part of it includes buying maternity pants that look awesome and fit nicely.

And I'm OK with this.

To all the moms who are trying to diet and exercise within hours or weeks of delivering a watermelon size child... give yourself a break. Be patient with the process. I know for sure you know how to be patient, even if you aren't feeling it right now. Because you delivered that baby. You grew that baby first, and it took SO long to grow and morph and change. You were patient with that process because it's all you had, you had to be patient and wait it out. You knew it was temporary.

So treat your post-pregnancy body the same. Be patient with it. Do your best to be healthy and make good choices. But know that it won't all happen overnight, and it's not supposed to. You've heard it said before and now need to believe it: it took 9 months to put on that weight and change your body to have a baby, it's going to take at least 9 months to take it off. 

So find things that make you feel more comfortable in this transition time. My good friend sent me a longer necklace that makes me feel pretty and more comfortable with the larger chest area. My sister reminds me to wear cute scarves, which I wasn't really into pre-nursing body, but they work great now. My sister also told me to wear longer tunic shirts or dresses with certain pants. There are lots of cool things at Old Navy right now, she suggested.

Work with what you have. Go shopping for some temporary clothes. I know you don't want to spend time / money on things when it's short term. But here's the thing, when you squeeze into clothes that barely fit or hang on to the idea of being in them "soon," you put pressure on yourself that's unnecessary. It's OK however long this process takes. So go to a great consignment store and get cheap items for this transition. Feel good about yourself, or at least try to. Your body just did this HUGE thing having a baby. And it doesn't matter if it's been days, weeks or like 7 months since you had that baby, you "just" had a baby and it's all good to be in this transition phase for a while.

I'm all for exercising, finding your balance of healthy and relaxing, and eating right. I'm all for that. In fact, I feel my BEST when I'm running 7 days a week. So I get it. BUT... when you go through a pregnancy, delivery and then newborn phase and caring for an infant under a year old... your life changes drastically. Other things like how many ounces you're pumping and the baby's shot reactions and researching teething supports become WAY more important than balancing your carbs and veggie intake. Be OK with this for a while.

You're beautiful and strong.
Start acting like you feel that way at least part of the time.
And on the bad days... do something healthy to make yourself feel better: dance party in the living room or while doing dishes, workout video, walk up and down your stairs a few times, crunches with baby on your legs, Vitamin Water, dark chocolate, whatever works!

It's not easy. I get it. I'm right there with you.
But we are worth feeling better about ourselves and the huge jobs our bodies just did having babies. 
So rock those maternity pants or yoga pants or whatever you're wearing. It's ALL OK. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

returning to work after maternity leave: tips to survive

I've been back to work for one month now after the birth of my third child and after 14 weeks off for maternity leave. To say it's been challenging is an understatement. Three kids means we're always busy, our weekends are not just for relaxing. We are playing catch up all weekend from running around to dance and basketball, doctors appointments, and just from being tired working all day. It's a bit chaotic. And the process of actually leaving maternity leave behind... that's the hardest part, leaving your baby for the first time. The whole thing is really some type of adjustment for mothers.

Each time I've done this it's been slightly different. It's one thing to leave one baby behind, sad but not as chaotic as it is now with leaving three children behind. So, for whichever stage you are in with leaving the baby to head back to work, know that it's going to be slightly different for you and your experience is only yours. Some of these ideas may not work for you, but I hope at least you find you aren't alone in the struggle.

Most importantly, let me fast forward to the end of this first month of returning to work after maternity leave: YOU CAN DO IT. It DOES get better. I swear. You don't feel that way on day or week one. But it does. Every single day gets better than the last. It's still hard now, a month later. I still don't want to leave the baby on Monday mornings when I go back for another work week. I'm still super tired! I don't exactly have my routine down 100%, BUT it's so much better at week four than week one. I promise you can do it.

Here are some ideas to help you with PREPARING to return to work after maternity leave:
  • Prepare baby ahead of time. This means weeks, even a month or six weeks before returning to work, you start preparing your baby for that transition. DON'T wait. I know way too many moms who wait until a few days before the big first day of daycare to prepare baby. That's way too late, going to cause stress for you and issues for your baby adjusting. Preparing ahead of time, by at least a month, will make things MUCH easier on you in the long run, and of course on your baby. So this means making sure your baby is able to transition to daycare or a sitter's care. If they don't use a swing for naps (which many daycare providers are not permitted by the state) then stop putting baby in the swing for nap at home every time. If they aren't going to hold baby every nap time, then you should give up at least one nap during the day where you aren't holding baby, so he can adjust to laying flat in his crib. Bottles are a big thing. Make sure you prepare baby WAY in advance with bottles. Personally, we use bottles week one home from the hospital and never had nursing confusion, but if you wait to use bottles that is fine, just don't wait until the week before your baby goes to daycare. It's too late. I've heard of way too many moms so upset as they go back to work and their baby is not eating all day long. That is going to make returning to work and adjusting to a new daycare much harder. 
  • Visit the daycare or have the caregiver come over for a few hours. Visit at least twice - for you and your baby's sake. It gives you a chance to warm up to one another. It helps ease some of your worries. It helps baby realize it's ok to go with this new person. Visit the first time where you stay there and talk, hold baby, then have them hold baby in front of you, etc. It's helpful if you've written down what your typical feeding and sleeping routine is with baby before that, so keep track on your phone for about a week to make sure you know what baby is doing so it's easy for caregiver to replicate that, which means a happy baby. A second time drop baby off. It helps to drop baby off for an hour or two first, before having to leave baby for an entire day. Put the babysitter's phone number in your phone, tell your partner to do the same and any emergency backup people, so that if they ever call you recognize the number to answer.
  • Pack the baby's bag. Get out an extra diaper bag to leave at daycare. It makes it much easier on you not having that extra bag to carry daily. Put in at least 4 onesies, 2-4 shirts and pants, a couple of pairs of socks, lots of bibs, a sleep sack, extra bottle and pacifier to keep on hand just in case, diaper rash cream, extra wipes and diapers, etc. Having this done ahead of time is easy to check off the list and a good transition for mom to prepare for leaving baby.
  • Prepare mom ahead of time. Get out the pump. Make sure you have enough bottles to take with you and a storage cooler and ice pack for pumping at work. Imagine leaving your house and what time you estimate you'd need to leave to get to work on time, even try a dry run driving it especially if you commute. Try on work clothes or go purchase maternity pants that are comfy for you to wear in the beginning. Having a few outfits that are go-tos during this busy month are helpful, including some scarves or necklaces for moms breastfeeding as it helps you feel more put together and comfortable. I ordered new nursing bras, things like that you won't be thinking of but are important, so try doing these things ahead of time. Vision going back to work and what you'd need. I had to pack my work bag even, tossing out old papers, getting out my calendar, etc. Buy special snacks that you enjoy at work. All of these little things you can do will help you feel better when it's time to head out the door.
  • Prepare your house. This is good for anyone returning back to work, but mostly for those with multiple kids. This time around I had to make sure we all were ready for mom to not be home every day. This meant making freezer meals, because there's no way I had energy or time to make meals on weeknights. All I wanted to do was snuggle the baby and talk with the big kids. I made a goal of two freezer meals a week, we ate simple meals and leftovers the other nights the first month. I got out my big kids' clothes for the week every Sunday, including pajamas. That way each morning that was one more thing off the list, easy to do, no stress. I went on a big grocery and Target run before maternity leave ended so we had plenty of snacks, things for me to pack for lunch at work, extra bottles of the kids vitamins and my multivitamin, things that would be annoying and extra work to have to go pick up during already busy weeks returning to work. I bought paper plates and cups, plastic utensils for when I returned to work. I am typically not a fan of all that waste, but things need to be simple and easy when you go back to work, so short term it's good to have on hand.
  • Pack mom's work bags. You will need a large water bottle, especially if pumping, so treat yourself to a new cool one that you'll actually fill up. Get your favorite snacks, and I drank a lot of Vitamin Water in the beginning to keep my nursing supply up through the stress of returning to work. Update your calendar. Go through your work email so you're familiar with what's happening there. Figure out your pump routine - cooler bag, ice packs, extra bottles and caps that stay in the pump just in case, etc. So many bags! Get a new lunch bag if that makes you happy. Anything little like that will make this hard transition easier. Make sure you have pics of your baby if you intend to nurse at work. I'm sure your phone is full of pics, but just make sure you have good ones to look at :) You could even get a frame and print one out for your desk at this time of preparation. I was given a second pump to use, and it's been life changing at work being able to leave it there instead of transporting it back and forth daily. So if you can get a second one, do it!
  • Talk about it: it's OK however you feel. Process out loud with friends, your husband or partner, coworkers, etc. Talk about what you need, what's bothering you, what is stressful or sad about this right now. Don't keep it in. It's going to burst out... and you don't want that happening at work someday, so just talk through it. Know that it's OK to feel relieved to return to work- being in regular clothes, having a routine again, seeing friends at work, eating a hot lunch, etc. And it's OK to be totally devastated, sad, depressed even, worrying, anxious, etc. However you're feeling, embrace it. Know that it'll pass. It will get better. You and baby will adjust. 
Here are a few ideas of things to do while you are BACK TO WORK:
  • Call the babysitter. It's your child. You have every right to check in as much as you need or want during those first few days and weeks. Sitters are good if they expect you to call. Make a call mid-day to see how they are doing. It's OK to do this! 
  • Plan lunch dates. Don't just stare at your phone wondering how baby is doing or sit in your office solo eating lunch sappy crying. Get out, connect with your former friends and colleagues who make you laugh. Surround yourself with people, it may make the day go by faster. Schedule these out, reach out to people for the first few weeks. 
  • Drink more. Pack Vitamin Water for the first few weeks to help you with nursing supply if you are pumping. Get a larger water bottle to keep on hand. Remind yourself to drink more. It's harder to do when at work with being so busy. 
  • Remind yourself it takes time. Getting into a routine, how, when etc. to pump in your work day, how to get there on time in the morning, when to leave in the afternoon to pick up kids, etc., as well as remembering how you did all the work stuff before mom brain hit - it all takes time adjusting. Be patient with yourself. 
  • Pack extra snacks. You may be interested in dieting or losing weight and returning to your former pre-baby work day snacking or lunch of just salads... sounds great, but you are postpartum, which means despite how you may feel fine physically your body probably is still healing on the inside, you're tired and in need of food energy, as well as if you are nursing/pumping you'll need EXTRA calories. So don't diet! Pack healthy snacks, and lots of them! This also helps you avoid the donuts at work sometimes!
  • Your supply WILL be fine. If you are nursing/pumping you should expect a dip decrease in your supply the first few weeks to a month. It's very normal. You are not physically connected to baby one-on-one nursing which raises supply when you do that. You are tired, not sleeping well, running around all day physically and mentally exhausted. You probably aren't eating and drinking like you need to or were at home. You are stressed, trying to balance everything. You aren't resting during the day like napping with baby on maternity leave. It's a huge change to your system. So... be patient and do little things to raise your supply daily like eating almonds, adding flax seed to cereal, drinking way more water including Gatorade or something like that to increase supply, make lactation cookies, etc. Don't panic or stress about the decrease in supply, or that messes your supply up even more. It will adjust. 
  • When at work, be at work. Do your very best to focus and really be present when at work. This has always been what worked for me to get me through my days returning to work after maternity leave. I do as much as I can, as fast as I can within reason of being productive and successful, in order to make the days go by fast. Remind yourself also that you were gone for 3 months or so, that's a lot of time of things you missed at work that people cannot possibly catch you up on. So it's OK to ask questions, seek ideas and help in the beginning. Coworkers will expect that. 
  • Let it go when you're home. At least the first few weeks, let the laundry pile up, ignore the dishes, ask for more help from your husband, and just BE with baby when you get home. Snuggle, cry, fall asleep early on the couch, etc. Just be. You'll get through it!
  • Use weekends to catch up on household chores and rest. Take naps, you need to recharge somehow from the busy weeks! Take hot showers or baths. Watch TV. Catch up on your rest! But also find a little time to organize the house to make it easier for you to get out the door on weekday mornings. You can't do it all. Just prioritize. 
You will get there!!!!! 
Returning to work after maternity leave is one of the hardest things you'll have to do, emotionally, mentally and physically. Have patience with your up and down mood swings, and ask for patience from your partner also! You will get back into the swing of things eventually, it's a short-term difficult phase. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Mom of the Month - Irish Taylor Nason

Congrats to our January (belated!) Mom of the Month Irish Taylor Nason! She has the most handsome boys and some straight forward truths about being a busy mother. Thanks, Irish!

Images shared from Irish Taylor Nason

1. Describe your children in 3-5 words. How did you choose their names? 
my boys are brave, strong, funny!!
Cameron Brady Nason was chosen after a month of suggestions back and forth between my husband and I....I called him one day and said "I've got it...." he said "that's the one!"
Landon Joseph Nason was chosen from me loving the name Landon and the middle name's after his handsome dad!!

2. How old are your children? How did you tell people you were expecting a baby?

my boys are 7 and 12. I was excited to tell everyone...each and every friend was called or told in person!

3. How would you describe your pregnancies? How was delivery, birth and labor for you? 

other than feeling like I was never going to not be pregnant again my pregnancies were text book perfect! Of course I always make jokes that if not for being induced I'd still be pregnant to this day! 😂😂

4. Describe yourself as a mom in 3-5 words. 

describe who I am as a mom, I'd say, loving, no bullshit, protective!

5. What type of mom do you hope your children think you were someday when they're old enough to tell you? 

I just hope they always felt loved

6. What things have you done as a mom that you're most proud of?
never sheltered or sugar coated anything for them. They are going to be great adults because I treat them like they are. I've always given them responsibility...

7. What have been the most difficult parts to being a mom? 

The most difficult part of being a mother is worrying about them all the time. Every mom worries.

8. What is your favorite baby/child product(s) that makes your mom job easier? 

what makes my life easier would have to be their bedroom!! Haha!! well I'm out of the baby stage but I'd have to say the swing!

9. What advice about being a mom would you give to a brand new mother? 

never feel like your failing. Your doing the best you can and as long as you show them love and discipline they will be ok. There is no handbook, no right or wrong way.

10. What is a typical day like for you? 

a typical day is breakfast school work get the kids off the bus clean and make dinner! Pretty easy stuff!

11. What 5 things would you like to do with your kids someday, if anything were possible and money no object? 


12. What are five things or moments that make you fall in love with your kids?
when they hug me, out of nowhere😊

13. Tell us a time where you felt like you failed at parenting... but then realized you truly had not failed, things worked out fine. 

bed time. Always a fight until they are at least 5!!

14. What makes you a strong mom? 

admitting when I am wrong, apologies!!

15. Anything else you want to add?

Love your kids. Even when they are bad they just need a hug.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

how I knew I was ready to be done having kids

This questions comes up in the discussion group all the time: how do you know you're ready for another child? How do you know you're done having kids? 

It's a loaded question for sure. So much to consider and process, emotionally and mentally. There is the reality: what can we afford? How will we as parents manage another child? There are the emotions involved and the feelings of having that little newborn in your arms again, going through the baby stage all over again with its ups and downs. There's the future to consider: how will we afford daycare and college bills someday? But how will we be with just the one or two we have, not having another, would we feel complete or missing something? So much to think about. 

Everyone's story is different. Everyone's financial situation is different. Everyone's capacity to handle certain things is different. 

Like I could have not have had another child if my big kids were younger, but some people have kids back to back year after year and it works for them. This type of decision is one that's not made lightly, and it really depends on who you are and what your family structure is like. 

Here is my story, in hopes that it helps you in figuring out if you are done having children. 

When my son turned a year old, we talked about having another baby. I wasn't ready. I'd just stopped pumping and wanted my body back to run for a while. So we waited until he was 18 months old before getting pregnant again. It worked well for us. We knew we wanted at least two children. That was such an easy decision, not much to consider.

When my second, daughter, was a year old I was NO where near ready to think about having a baby. So we said probably when she's two years old. Well two years old came around and I wasn't ready either. Just felt like we were getting into our groove, I was figuring out the two kids thing, couldn't think about adding another one, wasn't sure we could handle that. So we waited longer. 

We reached a point in the next year or two where I questioned if we'd ever have a third child, if we really could handle that in our family, financially and otherwise. The time period came around in the fall when we'd said we'd start trying for a baby and I was really not ready to start trying. It was my decision. I thought our money situation was a mess, trying to pay things off and earn more money. I thought our kids behaviors and ages were chaotic and we were just trying to manage that without getting super stressed. Everything seemed off timing wise to add another into the mix. 

So I started picturing, what if we don't have another one? What if we're a family of four? Can I be happy and content, complete with that? Can I move on from this dream I've had in my head of another child? Do I really want another one, or am I missing the baby stage like so many moms do once their youngest is walking and talking and running into toddlerhood at the speed of light? 

I started picturing not having another one. I became depressed, honestly. I was so sad and moody those few months when I felt not ready to have another, but not sure if we'd be ready some time soon. 

It was then that I realized, yes, I absolutely wanted another child. I was not OK saying no to that dream. And here's the thing, when imagining another child, that's what I imagined: a child, not a baby. Not the newborn phase where they are cute and cuddly and stay in one place. I wanted the child, the person, the sibling for my two big kids. 

I envisioned my children someday, all three of them, standing side by side at a graduation party or taking care of me and my husband when we're older. I envisioned the Christmas pictures every year. But I didn't picture the one where my kids were young and there was a third baby. I pictured the photograph of three kids in elementary school sitting, holding hands, laughing. I pictured the people they'd be, their personalities and the things that made them uniquely ours. 

I wanted more than another baby to cuddle. I wanted more than that feeling of a baby kicking in my belly. I wanted the person, the family member, for a lifetime. I wanted that bigger family. And that's how I knew. 

To me this is a distinct difference from just reminiscing about the past and missing the baby phase. Every mom goes through that. But usually it stops there when they cuddle someone's newborn and then move on, thankful not to be the one getting up in the night. For me though, after a few months of not being ready to start trying and picturing, what if this doesn't happen for us, am I OK with that or no? And then picturing the vision of my three children sitting side by side, I knew. I just knew.

So we planned for our third child and I was so utterly happy. The fog of sadness and confusion, questioning if we would do this, it lifted instantly when I decided that yes, this was what I wanted. We have never been in denial: we knew it'd be chaos and hard at times. You never have the right timing or enough money for these things, that's for sure. But we decided we wanted it for the long term and started preparing. 

My husband got a raise at work, thankfully. We paid off more debt to be more financially stable for a third child. We sold a lot of things in our house, downsized and decluttered, knowing what a third baby would bring into the already tight quarters of our small house. We talked about getting a bigger car that we could afford. We considered the baby stuff we already had saved and anything we thought we'd need to purchase, and how that would fit into our plans. We talked about how this may affect our two big kids. We talked and planned and dreamed. And then made it happen. 

Fast forward seven months into pregnancy and my doctor was asking about a long term plan: birth control? tying tubes? Were we done, would we have a fourth? When I was younger, even before having children of my own, I wanted four. My husband wanted four. We both come from families of four siblings. Then we had one child and instantly said, "uh, no we're good with three!" Then we had two kids and thought, "well, maybe just 2 and a half kids..." on the fence, not sure what we could handle as parents. 

When pregnant with our third, the pregnancy was so challenging. Much more tiring, difficult, and more ailments than the first two. It hit me early on, I was done. I was grateful for what we had. We were really complete. It wasn't just a financial decision or a logistical decision based on our small house, though those mental things came first for sure. It was something I actually felt inside, I believed, I was content with: we were done. Our family was complete with three kids.

I never imagined I'd be that woman. The one who actually knows when she's done. They told me, "you'll just know." And I thought to myself, "Not me, I'll be the person who will always want more kids even though we make a mental decision to be realistic and stop at 2 or 3." I didn't know if I'd ever lose that longing feeling to hold a baby in my arms after carrying them in my belly for nine months. I really wasn't sure I'd ever feel that.

But I did and I do. I know for sure that we're complete. It's bittersweet some days. There are moments now where I'm putting away newborn and 0-3 clothing or the infant bouncy seat he is way too long for, where I reminisce about all three babies who wore those clothes or sat in a seat like that and it's sad. But it's not the type of sad that makes you want to do it all over again. It's the "we're content and blessed" type of sad and "we can move on to other fun stages now with our awesome family." 

I'll admit that when it was time to sign the paperwork to tie my tubes at the doctor's office, I cried on the way home. It was just so final. That chapter of my life, the one where it was possible to get pregnant and possible to carry life (still the most amazing thing I think I've ever done or will ever do again) was over. Forever. It was my decision, I was ready to make the decision, and yet it was so sad to do so. I held my growing belly tighter that night and tried so hard to memorize each and every jab and kick from the inside, knowing I'd miss that most of all when it was no longer a possibility. 

I text my husband saying how sad it was, that it was hitting me. He wrote back something so sweet that I'll never forget. He said that yes, it's sad, that part of our life is over, but how amazing it is that now our family is complete and we get to watch them grow and move forward toward all the fun things in store for us and our beautiful children. We get to start really living our life now knowing we're ALL here together now. I love that... it's so simple, but true. 

So to you, if you are wondering if you should have another baby or not... don't just think about finances and don't just imagine what daycare is going to cost or where on earth you'd fit more baby stuff in the house. Those ARE important, I'm not going to deny that. You should consider those things. But they aren't everything. Don't just imagine timing... there's no perfect timing. I had this last baby at the worst possible timing for my job, and it's all working out in the end. It is what it is. You cannot control all of it. 

To those of you who aren't able to make the decision for yourself, because of health issues within your body or health issues within your children, or some other major life experience that means adding another one is too much to bear... my heart breaks for you. It's hard enough to actually make this decision on my own free will, I can't imagine the decision being made for me. Make sure you process this, grieve the loss of the choice to have another child, and talk through it with someone you trust. 

To others, if you can live with picturing NOT having another one for a few weeks, then perhaps you're ready to close that chapter of this long motherhood book you've been writing the last few years. If you are devastated by the thought, actually feeling depressed and with this deep longing inside that you just are not ready to be done, your family is not complete without one more child in it someday... then perhaps you are ready to add another one to your family.

It's not an easy decision either way. Be sure you put time into processing it both on your own and as a family or couple. 

I'll leave you with this, something I tell many moms, something many moms told me and wrote about in blogs and books and discussion groups before I got pregnant for the last time: you'll never ever regret having another child when you lay eyes on that sweet little blessing that you created. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

getting through the tough parts of pregnancy

Pregnancy is a beautiful thing. It's also one of the most difficult things women go through. All pregnancies are different, and yet women can relate to one another when talking about their symptoms. I asked the Mommy Stories Facebook group for some suggestions on how to deal with some tough pregnancy symptoms. Here are some ideas.

Worst symptom and how to deal:
  • heartburn and slept in reclining chair, Tums everywhere in bags etc 
  • charlie horses in calves at night
  • lower back pain- get exercise ball to sit on
  • round ligament pain
  • constipation - miralax helps 
  • sciatica pain - chiropractor, massage, physical therapy
  • varicose veins
  • peeing yourself -pads
  • insomnia - nap if can during day and go to bed early
Morning sickness treatment:
  • ginger snap cookies
  • ginger from health food store
  • ginger ale
  • sipping small drinks throughout day
  • chewing gum
  • eat something first thing before getting out of bed, like crackers
  • saltines 
  • eat small meals all day long
  • carbs - bagels!
  • Zofran
  • peppermint candies
  • sea bands
  • lemon water, lemonade
  • eat small meals 
There are so many various symptoms with pregnancy. Whatever you are experiencing, it's good to contact your doctor. They are there for you, they won't ever want you to hesitate calling. Spotting can be normal, but it can also be worrisome so call if this happens. Don't wait too long to ask for help either. I had sciatic hip pain with my second pregnancy from four months on. I didn't go to physical therapy until about eight months along. I wished I'd gone sooner, as it was SO helpful. I highly recommend physical therapy. I did it with my last two pregnancies and it worked wonders to make me feel better. Whatever is going on, ask for help.

Exercise like walking, yoga and swimming can do wonders to help you feel more like yourself and stay stronger longer into the pregnancy also. 

Take care of that awesome body of yours!