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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

getting back to myself

Today I planted a flower garden in my yard for the first time.
I got messy, with shovels and rakes and even cow manure.
I played in the dirt.
It was so much fun!

While planting flowers alongside my good friend I started talking about how long I've wanted to do this, plant flowers outside our new home. We have lived here almost two years and finally I've planted flowers! It was exciting for me.

It made me realize how great it's been since Owen turned a year old. I told my friend, "I feel like since the day he turned 12 months old I have really gotten back to being myself again, not just being Mommy, but being Angela."

It's so true. I feel like for a while there I lost a little of who I was because I was so wrapped up in being Mom. I think that's the nature of becoming a new parent and taking care of an infant. They need you so much more when they are small that it's difficult to have any hobbies or time to yourself. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, I kind of miss Owen needing me so much. It made me a little sad when he gave up his bottle and cuddle time, no longer needing me to hold him every couple of hours for his bottle and instead now he holds his own sippy cup and pushes my hand away when I try to spoon feed him his yogurt. It's nice to be needed, so yes, a part of me misses that.

Still, it's really nice to be me again. It's nice to have things to do that help me relax, feel confident and like I'm using my brain (mostly mush now due to the Mommy Brain Syndrome).

You will find that some of the first year is a hazy fog at times. There will be chunks of it you cannot remember. You will flip back through the baby's book and think, "Huh, I don't even remember when he first rolled over, so glad I wrote it down!" When my nephew was born a mere 7 months after Owen and the few months after when she would ask me how much Owen weighed at a certain point or when he started crawling I would answer, "Like I know! I can't remember. Check my baby book." She would laugh, saying that it wasn't like it was years ago, but rather just a few months, why could I not remember? I guess that's how it goes when you are so busy with the day-to-day business of being a parent.

There will be times that are overwhelming to you in this first year. You may want to cry or feel defeated by exhaustion. You may feel like you aren't a good enough parent, like you aren't doing it right or you don't have a clue. You may get into stupid arguments with your husband, over absolutely nothing, and strictly because you are just so damn tired with a capital T. You may decline any dinner invites or outings because you find it easier to not have to pack the diaper bag full of clothes in case the baby poops while out. It's all normal, and it all passes.

It's OK to be overwhelmed and to take on this new all-consuming identity of MOM. It's what you are meant to do and you will be happy to do it every step of the way. I write this post not to be negative or to scare you, but rather to tell you the truth - that it's hard and it will change you the second that baby is on the outside of your womb. I also write this post to remind you that yes, while you will change a bit, you will definitely return to being YOU. In fact, you will come out on the other side of this first year of being a first-time mom a much stronger, confident, positive, healthier and happier YOU than even when you started.

Don't worry, I promise you, too, may plant flowers in the near future. Well, at least after you can see your feet again!

Monday, May 30, 2011

pregnancy package!

I sent Jess a whole box of baby girl clothes when she found out what she was having. It was so much fun picking out PINK items! She sent me an adorable rattle for Owen when she found out I was pregnant.

I am sending Heather a pregnancy package that I've been working on for two weeks now, ever since I found out she was pregnant!

I originally wanted to send all of the items I included in my sister's pregnancy package last year; things I thought every mom-to-be could not live without. Those things would include:
-ginger ale
-saltine crackers
-ginger from the health food store
-bagels (because they are all that made me feel better the first month of pregnancy)
-really comfy sweatpants and a sweatshirt
-adorable maternity clothes just for fun
-pregnancy and parent magazines
-Tums for heartburn
-stretch mark cream for the preggo belly
-and something little for baby

I could not send some of these items in the mail, so I opted for the things seen below:

Heather, I'm hoping that when you get this package in the mail you realize a few things:
-I am here for you, even if so far away.
-I am sooo happy and excited for you about to become a mom.
-I know what you are going through, so ask me anything!

It has been so much fun buying baby things again. It's totally making me want another one! They grow so fast. It seems so long ago that I was in this pregnancy stage. I know pregnancy is really tough, but try to enjoy it because honestly it'll be over before you know it. It really is an incredible thing to go through. Hang in there!

sites I like

A few Web sites I've found to be helpful:
Diary of New Mom
Annie's Eats - GREAT food recipes Web site! She's also a mom of two, so she blogs about her kids sometimes. Cool party ideas on here, too.
Rookie Moms
Wholesome Baby Food - GREAT resource on making your own baby food.
Baby Center - TONS of info on here about almost any topic you could imagine.
And they have a new blog-
Lots of good info here and discussion boards, loved those!

I am sure I'll find more as I keep researching for answers to my own questions, so I'll post them on here when I find them! Let me know of others you have found.

star advice for a new mom

I found these quotes in the May issue of Parent magazine, advice from super stars on being a new mom, and below are my comments about them:

"Your children are basically on loan to you. By the time they become young adults, they grow their wings and fly. You should treasure every moment." - Sharon Osbourne
I totally agree with this one! I was sitting at a wedding yesterday and the father of the bride gave a toast to the happy couple. In it, he described how it feels like just yesterday his little girl was riding her bike for the first time, taking her first steps, saying "da da" and going off to college. Yet here they were at her wedding day. He said, "Where did the time go?" with such genuine curiosity and disbelief that it brought a tear to my eye. I feel that way every single day with my son. The time flies by. It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day to-do list of things going on. It's so important to stop and take the pictures and to cherish each moment, to really be in each moment as it's happening with your child. Soon your baby will be moving and making words from her mouth and saying "ma ma" and you won't even believe it.

"Follow your heart when in doubt about what to do with all the decisions you have to make in that first year." - Leah Remini
So true. The best advice to take is the one from your husband or your own mind. There are so many decisions to make - cloth or disposable diapers, breastmilk or formula, immunization shots or none, daycare or stay at home, etc. It can be overwhelming. In times like that, you need to just step back, take a deep breath, close the door and just look at your baby and husband and say, "What is right for US here? What will make us happier, stronger?" Then follow your gut.

"You will never feel like you're doing enough for your kids. The feeling comes with the job. Give yourself a break." - Sara Gilbert
Yup, pretty much. You are always going to wish you had more time and money to spoil your little one. It's just not reality, and that is OK. I always reminded myself when I felt bad that I could not take off more time for maternity leave, on the nights that I could not put my baby to sleep because I had to work a second job to make extra money, and on the days that I snapped at my toddler out of frustration and exhaustion, I reminded myself that many other babies have far worse situations than my son does. I reminded myself that Owen is a very happy boy and that despite some of my flaws, he's surviving and thriving just fine. Your baby will, too.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

never say never

Sometimes the best plans are the ones you didn't make.
I feel like someone said that quote, but right now I can't recall (mommy brain, you'll know about that soon if you don't already).

Seriously though, I am sure you have all kinds of ideas, plans, tasks you think you will definitely do or not do when your baby is here. Things like swearing by not using a certain item or never having your baby in dirty clothes or leaving a baby in a diaper a little too long. Things like getting yourself out of maternity clothes within a couple of weeks of delivery, and like keeping up with the laundry. It is wonderful to have goals, plans. I'm glad you are reading up on what it's going to be like to be a mom. However, don't read or plan too much. You never know how your baby is going to be or what will change your mind once you see how tired you will be and reality sets in.

A few things I said I'd never do or planned to do that did not work out as I imagined:

1. Nursing-
I planned to breastfeed my son, hands down, no matter what. I read 3 books on the subject, researched every Web site I could find, talked to other moms, registered for every Lansinoh and Medela nursing item at Babies-R-Us, and even took a Breastfeeding 101 class (with Jared! Oh my, he was nervous. When we walked in and he was the only guy there he whispered to me, "If I'm the only guy when this thing starts, I'm outta here!").
However, it didn't work as planned for me. For three days I tried and tried to nurse, every hour in the hospital. Owen did not latch correctly due to a shortened tongue, a term they called tongue tied. It was very painful for me and even more so for my husband to watch our newborn baby cry so much because he was so hungry. We had to supplement with formula. They have all kinds of tricks to try to do that (straws, droppers, tubes, spoons, etc.). It was crazy, and totally against what I set out to do. I felt defeated, like I'd failed. I'll write another post about my breastfeeding story later, so I won't go into details here. The bottom line is that I planned to do one thing - nurse - and it just didn't turn out that way. It was a lot harder than I ever imagined or than anyone had told me it would be.
So I supplemented with formula for about two weeks while I pumped breastmilk. Eventually I was only providing breastmilk, just not feeding straight from the source but instead from a bottle.
This is one topic I feel so passionately about. If you want to nurse, great for you and I truly hope it works as you plan. If you aren't interested in nursing, I totally understand that, too, and formula is NOT a bad thing. My son supplemented with formula at the start and end of his first year and he's doing great! We grew up on formula, so I'm sure it's not that bad for us!

2. Using a pacifier- I swore I did not want my kid using a pacifier. I thought it would hurt his speech someday. I thought he'd become so used to it that we'd never be able to take it away and he'd be that 4 year old still not talking much due to always sucking on the binky.
Then my 3 day old son had a circumcision. And according to my husband who accompanied him on this procedure, it appeared to hurt so the doctor gave Owen a Soothie pacifier to help and we were told to allow him to have it that first day of the circumcision, for comfort. The rest is history, as they say. I could not fight my husband on this one. It was his first big Dad decision and he felt strongly that Owen needed it after "what he went through."
My son also came out of me sucking his thumb. I have a picture of him in my arms, an hour old, sucking the same thumb he still sucks now. The doctor said he must have done it in my stomach while pregnant. So, my son likes to suck. It's a soothing, comforting feeling to him. How could we deny him of that?
So yes, we allowed a pacifier. In the beginning it was as much as he wanted it. Then as he was getting to be a few months old we tried to limit it to in the car and for naps.
By the time my son was six months old, which is when doctors suggest you give up the habit of the pacifier, Owen was no longer using it. We slowly took it away and replaced it with his Sophie the Giraffe to suck on, his thumb to suck on, and his blanket in the crib. It was about 3 days of a little sadness on his part, but then he was completely fine without it.
I 100 percent believe Owen was a better baby, happier, less crying, better at riding in the car, a better sleeper due to having that small bit of comfort whenever he needed it as an infant. I did not at all predict thinking this way before I had him. I swore we'd never use a pacifier, and now I think it's one of the contributing factors to my son's - and his parent's! - happiness those first few difficult months.
It's all up to you and your child. Now when I see a 3 year old still sucking on a pacifier I think differently. I don't judge. I think, "Well, that little guy must really need this comfort for some reason, so be it." Each baby is different, as are each of their parents. We must respect that.

3. Not being totally stuck to a schedule. - I never understood those parents who left a party early or didn't show at all due to their kid's nap schedule. After only a couple of days of adjusting my son's nap time due to outings I got the picture. It's just not fun for you as the parent or for your child when you mess with the child's routine, schedule and of course naps. Babies are creatures of habit. They like what they like and don't like it being messed with. Owen is definitely on a schedule - and it works for him and for us. So, I no longer judge people who arrange play dates around a nap time. I'm one of those moms now, too. It just works!

4. Not only talking to my friends about my child. - It used to drive me nuts when all my mom friends would talk about was their kids. I used to wonder, "Don't they have anything else going on in their lives that they could talk about?" The answer, now that I have figured it out, is sadly, nope, they don't have anything else going on, at least nothing else as important or time consuming. Kids consume us, in many good ways, it's just how it is. Plus they are challenging and interesting. You are finding your way as a new parent, so you are naturally curious and wondering what others think and experience themselves. So, yes, we moms talk about our kids non-stop. It's OK, and in fact I believe it's probably one of the main things that helps us survive the tough times.

5. Change my profile picture on Facebook to a picture of my son. - HA A big laugh out loud on this one! I used to get silently annoyed when people would change their profile pictures to be pics of their kids. I don't really know why this bugged me, it just did. I think it had something to do with the fact that I was this independent woman who just did not think it was cool to lose my identity just because I became a parent. Or maybe it was my fear that I would become that person who lost her identity because she became a mom. Regardless, it was a matter of weeks before I posted the first picture of my son. It's not a bad thing to do. In fact, it's a gesture of pride and happiness. Why wouldn't you want to show off your little bundle of joy? It's totally OK and now I get why parents do it.

6. Sit in the backseat of the car with the baby on the ride home from the hospital. - I swore by this one to Jared before Owen was born. I told him I did not want this baby changing us or our relationship. I said, "The baby will sleep anyway, he or she won't even know I'm in the car anyway so why do I have to sit in the back?" Jared just nodded and said nothing, probably knowing I'd change my mind once my newborn was strapped into the car seat for the first time. He was right. I did indeed sit in the back seat that first car ride home. It was no question, without hesitation, I practically jumped in despite my C-section incisions. Again, I think this one was out of fear, fear that my relationship was going to drastically change because baby entered into it, right down to it changing my place in the car. However, I did sit back there. I couldn't not sit back there. After carrying this thing for 9 (TEN!) months, I had to be back there with him. I needed to be sure he was OK. I knew my husband was OK, so it just felt right to sit back there with the baby. It's silly to talk it out this way, but for me it was another one of those things I swore I would not do that I ended up doing and now believe is totally normal either way.

7. Won't put Crocs on your baby's feet, ever. - This one just came up for me. Owen's feet are large on the tops of his feet. Most shoes don't fit him well. Now that it's summer it's time for shoes that can get dirty and wet and that can easily slip on and off. So, Crocs it is! I swore when they came out that I'd never buy a pair myself or put them on any kid I had in the future. And now here we are and my son has two pairs - that we LOVE! They just make our life easier, simpler, less crazy. So the question is why not? And sorry to admit, they are kinda cute on my son. So there. We are a Croc-wearing family. Actually, no, I take that back. I am not a Croc-wearing person, just my toddler is!

8. Be so distracted when talking to people while my child was around. - Ever talk to a friend who is a mom and whose baby is crawling or walking around near you while you talk? It's pretty much pointless. Moms are SO distracted by their children. It's a fact of life. I used to get a little annoyed around my mom friends because I felt like they were never listening or we weren't really ever having a good conversation together like we used to. Now that I'm a mom I understand this completely. I think I got it before I became a mom, I didn't judge them because of it, but now I REALLY get it. It's so hard to focus when you're a mom and your kid is around. You are responsible for this being. So that fact is of course paramount to whatever your friend is talking about. It's just how it is. I pray that my friends cut me a little slack for having to cut them off mid-sentence by saying, "No, Owen, put that down, come over here, Owen, hold on a second he needs a diaper change..."

There are probably more things I swore by before I became a mom that now I've changed after being hit with reality. One thing I know for sure is that parenting is difficult as it is, we don't need to be judging one another. So please know that no matter what you decide to do or not do as a parent, I am behind you 100 percent. I support you and admire you and know that you are doing your best. That is the greatest gift we moms can give to one another, unconditional support and encouragement.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

what I know for sure

In the spirit of good old Oprah, here is what I know for sure about being a new mom:

1. It is the greatest, biggest, most important thing you will ever do in your life. There is no greater job or thing a person can do than to bring a life into this world. That is the most amazing thing I can imagine. Each day is a new chance to make it great, to be the best mom you can be, to make a difference. Without you, this baby would not be here. It is a big
responsibility to be a parent. It is such an amazing thing.

2. It changes everything. Every little thing about having a child changes your life. I think you know that it will change your life, but you can't know how much it will until that baby is really home with you. It changes how you sleep, how your brain works and how much or how little you can focus, what you do with your "spare" time, who your close friends are, your marriage, etc. Some of the changes take some getting used to. Most of the changes are incredible and positive.

3. It changes your priorities with everything, most importantly it teaches you to put your family first and work last. One of the most difficult things at first to deal with when I became a mom was how to manage all of my new priorities. It was really tough to go back to work and to learn how to juggle all of my work and parenting responsibilities. After a few months, I figured it out. And now I'm happy to say that I put my son and family first before every single other thing in my life and it comes so naturally.

4. It helps you be a kid again, laugh more, and appreciate the little things by seeing life through your baby's eyes. Seeing my son get so excited about balloons outside a store or about bananas in the grocery store makes me stop and realize all of the sweet things that could make me smile if only I'd take a moment to see them like a one-year-old does.

5. It makes you put yourself last.
This is not always a good thing, but doing it especially in the beginning of your baby's life is really important. It makes you feel proud, after seeing all you did for your baby.

6. It makes you want to be a better person, be healthier, do things right so you are a good role model.
I watch what I say now because I know my son is picking up on my every word. I have more patience than I ever imagined I would, because I know he's learning from me and needs my respect in the process. I take time to do it right the first time, instead of rush through this parenting gig because I know I don't get a second chance at it.

7. It makes you appreciate your own mother more than you ever have before. The first Mother's Day I had after being a new mom I wrote my mother a really long letter thanking her for everything I'd never thanked her for before. I thanked her for getting up with me in the middle of the night; for feeding me good foods; for teaching me things; for instilling values and morals in me; for making me pray; for giving me clothes and a roof over my head; for giving me a band-aid when I fell and scraped my knees; for having me at such a young age and helping me turn out OK. When you go through it yourself, you realize how big of a job it is, and so even 20+ years later, you realize it's important to thank your mom for all she's done over the years.

8. It's really hard work. I know this sounds negative, it's not mean to. But it's the truth, and I believe in speaking the truth. Being a mom is really hard work. It's tough, challenging, stressful and just HUGE. The changes, the lack of sleep, the new-ness of it all... it makes it really hard work. It is of course all worth every second of hard work and struggle, but still it's OK to acknowledge that it's difficult.

9. It makes your relationship with your husband stronger.
If you thought you loved your husband on the day you were married, just wait until the day you give birth to your child. You will appreciate and love your partner more than ever when you hold a baby that you created together. It's an amazing feeling. When Owen was about a week old I came into the living room after having taken a shower. Jared was sitting on the couch, holding Owen in his arms, up to his chest, and he was crying. I had only seen Jared cry maybe twice before in 10 years of being together. I went to him and said, "Oh, honey. You love him, don't you?" He just nodded his head and kissed Owen's forehead. He explained later that he just didn't expect to feel so much for such a little creature. It just hits you like that. Those sweet moments you don't expect make you adore your husband even more. Also, the fact that you're in this together, even through the stressful moments, it helps you appreciate the other person even more.

10. It takes strength, patience, courage, perseverance, a sense of humor, and the ability to admit that you are wrong sometimes. It takes a lot of inner strength to be a good mom. I know you have what it takes. You just need to remind yourself that you have what it takes, even on those tough days when the baby won't sleep and you are exhausted. You can do this. THAT I know for sure.

advice, advice, advice

The only way to survive all of those people giving you advice, making suggestions on how you should do things with your baby is to ask questions as you need to, listen as though you really appreciate what they are saying, and then vow to make up your own mind with you alone and your husband.

People offer you advice constantly as you become a parent. I mean, look at me, I made a blog full of ideas and advice for goodness sake! It's natural for people who love you to want to offer help, especially if they have been there before. It's scary becoming a parent for the first time. You will appreciate much of the advice you get.

My one caution is that you stick together as a couple before taking anyone's advice. Check in with each other. Is this really what you believe, or are you believing it because your friend or mom or sister-in-law told you this is how it should be?

You have to do what works for you. End of story. The reason for that is because your baby is different from every other baby on the planet, and you as parents together are different than any other couple out there working as mom or dad.

Whether you nurse one day or for a year, or don't even want to try it out because it's not for you - that is OK, your baby will be just fine and so will you. You should not compare yourself to another mother. It's not worth it. You need to be confident that you can trust your instincts, listen to your husband and pediatrician, and read up on what you are confused about. Yes, it's wonderful to have friends who are there for you and mothers who are there to tell you what it was like for them. Talking to my mom friends helps me get by some days, but at the end of the day you truly need to trust yourself and do what works for you.

how to survive the first week with baby

The first week is pretty crazy, I'm not going to lie. It's exhausting with all the visitors and all of the new things you are learning as first-time parents. It's important that you take a step back to realize that it may be difficult and amazing at the same time. Hope these tips help a bit!

Sleep when baby sleeps - seriously. I did not do this, sadly to say, as much as I should have. It is the single most important thing I regret. Next time around I fully intend to try to do this more.

Write everything down-
who gave you a gift, who called and you need to call back, what time the baby peed and pooped and ate, which side you need to nurse next, when the next doctors appointment was, all the cute things your baby is doing, etc.

Don't care about laundry, dishes, the floors, the bed being made, or even if you have showered or not. Just BE in the moment. You won't get this time back. Plus, your body needs to rest, and you'll be too busy taking care of this new life to worry about those things.

Go with the flow of your emotions.
If you are sad, be sad and cry. If you are happy, just smile and overflow with joy. Just go with it, you can't control it anyway.

Put ice on your chest girls. It does help with swelling, I promise, and they will go back to normal size soon.

Eat whenever and whatever you need to. Yes, I'm sure you are eager to get back to your pre-pregnancy body size, but now is not the time to worry about that. Exhaustion and the energy your body needs to heal itself from the trauma that it just went through with labor require you to FEED your body and nourish yourself. So whatever people drop off to your house - be it chocolate donuts, brownies, apple muffins, or baked ziti - just eat it. One thing I lived on those first few weeks was Stonyfield Smoothies. Those hit the spot in the middle of the night or morning when I was hungry but didn't want to eat something heavy so I could actually go back to sleep for an hour.

Accept help. So many people will be offering you their services - to cook for you, to clean up after they bring supper over, to change a diaper, to swap the laundry loads or fold a basket of clothes, to pick up milk at the store, etc. ALLOW IT. You need the help and people love to offer it to new parents.

Take more pictures than you even think I would take! You will soon see that your baby is bigger by the 5th day than she was at the 4th day, and by the second week than she was at the first week. You won't get these days back, so capture every moment!

Friday, May 27, 2011

remember YOU sometimes

It's so amazing and admirable that you intend to put yourself last in order to be the best mom you can be, helping your child with everything, doing all the little things that you think matter in the moment so that someday on Mother's Day you receive a card from your little one about how you were always there and baking cookies and volunteering your time and not resting while the baby rested so you could DO IT ALL... Yes, wonderful. However, it's not reality.

It's just like that old airplane reminder of putting on your own air mask before putting on other people's. You cannot help anyone or be a great person or mother to your kids if you aren't first taking care of yourself.

You are going to see that in the first year of your baby's life it's all up to you to do everything, to feed them, clothe them, clean up after them. They rely on you significantly. And because you are MOM they rely on you even more so than they rely on dad. It's just how it goes. And you are willing to do those things to be a great mom, which is awesome.

My caution to you is to not get so involved in being a good mom that you totally forget about who you are. It took me a year to learn this lesson. After my son turned one is when I realized, "Hey, wait a minute! I still exist here, outside of my role as MOM! What about me?!" I started running and getting myself back in shape. I started going to the library to get books for me to listen to while I drove in the car instead of listening to baby music. I decided that it was ok for me to get a babysitter for a few hours so I could go get a hair cut for the first time in a year.

When your baby comes home from the hospital is definitely not the time to read this post. You are going to want to protect that baby from everything and you will be so in awe that you made this creature that you will want to be near her or him every waking moment. That's ok. I just hope that you reach a point some time in that first year where you stop and realize you can't do it all very well if you don't first take care of yourself. Your baby will be just fine without you for a little bit here and there. I promise!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

it's all OK

Being a new mom is many things. One thing it was for me at least a few times in the beginning was overwhelming. (Don't I just look deliriously happy and overwhelmed with exhaustion at the same time in this picture taken of Owen when he was just 3 or 4 weeks old?!)

One story that I will share from those first couple of weeks having Owen home that depicts the overwhelming feeling I had is from a weekend day when we'd already had several visitors and one more was on their way. It was 2 in the afternoon when the second visitors left. I still had not showered, needed to pump again, Owen was crying for milk, and the house was a disaster. I was starving for lunch and began making pasta on the stove.

All of a sudden it was just too much. I spilled something on the stove, Owen started crying so I picked him up, I probably was leaking myself, and it was just too damn overwhelming. I started to cry along with my newborn son. Jared came over and asked what was wrong. I said I didn't know, I just was tired and wanted lunch. I finally said it out loud, "I'm so overwhelmed!" He took Owen from me, smiled and then proceeded to put Owen on my head and make his tiny feet dance.

For some reason it worked. We both were laughing hysterically at that point. He was making Owen talk saying, "It's OK, Mommy. I'm OK. It's OK." He told me to go take a shower and he'd finish lunch before the next visitors arrived. Seeing Owen's big blue eyes stare up at me as if saying, "Mom, what's the big deal? I'm just a little guy who needs you from time to time," it just made me put it all in perspective again.

I was OK. We were OK. It would all get better soon. Literally a week later Owen started sleeping better at night. I think he was giving me a signal that we could do this.

That's what it is like. The first few weeks are tiring and overwhelming. It's all so new and the baby needs you so much that it is tough to figure it all out. The best medicine for this is to laugh it off, and to realize you're in this together as a couple and a new family. Nobody ever died becoming a new parent. You will do this. I swear. You may not shower every day or eat lunch at a reasonable hour, but you will survive and be a great parent.

prepare for exhaustion

I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news (as if you don't know this anyway), but you will never ever sleep as wonderfully as you did pre-pregnancy and certainly not pre-baby. It's just the sad truth of having a wonderful baby around the house.

"Sleeping through the night" is going to take on a whole new meaning. I recall when Owen first slept four straight hours. We called that the new "sleeping through the night." It was wonderful, amazing, incredible.

I just recall being totally unprepared for how much lack of sleep would affect me. I know it was Mother Nature's way of preparing me slightly for the lack of sleep when in the third trimester of pregnancy I no longer could sleep well. Still, nothing will truly prepare you for what it's like to be living on such little sleep.

Some tips for surviving it:
1. Sleep when baby sleeps. Seriously. This is the best advice I never took! It is the one thing I definitely regret about having a newborn. I took advantage of those times when Owen would sleep as times for me to take a shower, clean up the kitchen, fold laundry, write thank you notes or in the baby book, check Facebook, upload pictures, etc. All things that could have waited. I wish I had lie down for even short naps while he slept. You need that time to recover and rest.

2. Get into a system with your husband of who will wake up at certain times and make sure you plan out that on maybe Saturday you get to "sleep in" (another term that will take on new meaning after baby arrives)and then the other person sleeps later on Sunday. Take turns!

3. Say no - Do whatever it is that makes you feel OK at a certain time. If you wake up on Sunday morning and just cannot imagine getting out the door in time for church, so be it, you'll go when baby gets bigger and isn't making you up all night. If you're invited to a party that interferes with the only nap time your kid is routinely taking and therefore your only time to rest as well, decline the invitation politely and rest up. It's OK to bend the rules a bit when things are so hectic.

4. Stay nourished - Eat frequently and whatever it is that makes you feel good. Yes, it'd be great to get in some fruits and veggies, and definitely protein to stick with you longer. However, during those first two months of sleepless nights it's best to just indulge in whatever it is that will make you feel taken care of and nourished. Keep healthy snacks around for those hunger pangs that hit you randomly. Something that I read about this that made me feel less guilty eating at 3 in the morning was that being awake more hours means your body needs more calories and nutrients to keep it going, therefore you must eat more than you would if you were asleep. EAT. It's OK. Really.

5. Stay hydrated - Drink tons of water. It helps with everything - the way your skin looks despite the bags under your eyes, how refreshed you feel, your ability to fight off colds despite being run down, etc. If you are nursing you'll need to drink tons of water anyway, so it's just a good idea.

6. Ask someone to come over and watch baby while you nap. I never did this but totally should have. With your first baby you feel overwhelmingly at times that it's all on your shoulders, that you have to and want to be there for every single moment. And yet baby sleeps a lot, too. So if you can, ask someone to come over and watch baby while s/he sleeps so you can truly rest. Even a half hour will help.

7. Keep to a routine - Once you get past the first few months of baby being on the every two hour schedule that is natural for her body, try to get her on a schedule that is routine and something you both can expect. This happened for Owen around 3 months old and has stuck and worked perfectly. It wasn't anything we did really, just what his natural rhythyms asked for. However, we made sure nothing interfered with it so that it became routine and something that worked for everyone.

The last thing I want to say is that I know for sure you WILL survive the sleepless nights. I promise you it gets better eventually. I know there will be moments, especailly as you return to work, that you question if you can go on one more day with being woken up in the night so frequently. The answer is yes, of course you'll go on and be great. It's just a developmental stage your baby is going through. All parents remember it and get through it just fine. You will, too.

enjoy being 2

So far it is has been you and your husband for quite some time now. Soon baby will make 3. And that will be amazing, no doubt. However, it will totally change your marriage and relationship, in many good ways, still it will be an adjustment from how things are now. You will not get this time back, the time where you can just sit and talk about your days for hours without interruptions. This time where you can go out on real dates without worrying about a babysitter.

A baby is going to drastically change your life - in all wonderful ways. Still, there will be small things you will miss in your new life after baby from time to time. One of those things will be the time you shared as a couple, just hanging out, taking a drive, getting ice cream, watching a movie, etc. Spend time together now. Enjoy being able to just be together.


BIRTH day. What an incredible experience.
Here it is, the day you have been waiting for. The day you get to see if you are having a boy or a girl, or if you already know what you are having the day you get to finally meet her.
It's going to be one of the most incredible days of your entire life.

Here we are just moments before rolling in for my scheduled c-section. I was so nervous!

Here is my little man's first photo in the world. He was minutes old! So perfect.

And here is the first time I saw my precious boy. It was a moment I'll never forget. I just cried and said, "He's here, he's so beautiful. He's so beautiful. Look, Jared, our son. He's perfect."

And we were now three... our first family photo.

It's a moment you cannot describe accurately. It's life-changing, amazing, incredible. It's like the moment you walk down the aisle to get married. You're nervous and don't know what to expect and so utterly happy you can't contain it inside. It's like nothing else exists or matters at that moment. It's your heart about to burst inside your chest due to how much you instantly feel for this little life you created and carried for all those months. It's indescribable, it really is. It is the best thing I've ever felt.

The only thing you can do to prepare for such a moment is to open your heart, ears and eyes wide. Be open to whatever is happening. Be totally in the moment and enjoy every second. You won't ever get it back and you will want each piece of that moment to be ingrained in your mind forever.

It's amazing.

(I'll post my birth story later. I don't want to add it in here with this blissful description of birth. I'll put in the nitty gritty of birthing later. Enjoy this one for now, momma!)

preparing for the hospital

Jess, you are probably ready to pack now, with only about a month before your due date. Heather, I'm sure you aren't even thinking of this yet, at least I hope not! However, it's something you both will need to consider, so I'm including it on this blog.

Some tips for what to pack for your hospital stay:

1. Snacks and cash for the middle of the night when the cafe is not open, and of course for Dad. To our dismay, the hospital only gave Jared one meal the first day... so the rest of the time he needed cash to buy his own food. One friend brought us a box of Cheez-its the third day we were in the hospital. What a lifesaver! Pack some of your own.

2. A newborn size small outfit for the baby, and then one a tiny bit bigger. You don't know what size s/he will be, so pack a couple of things.

3. The car seat with a blanket. (But you can leave this in the car and send Dad out to get it the day you are ready to leave.)

4. Your cell phone chargers.

5. Camera, and if you want to post some photos then bring your lap top and the cord from the camera to the computer.

6. A pad of paper and pen (to write down all of those great gifts you will receive in the hospital and who they are from so you can later send thank you notes).

7. The baby book for people to sign in the hospital (that's what we had people do when they visited, they signed the inside front and back covers of the baby book. We love those notes of "Welcome to the world, baby!"). Also bring the baby book so the doctors can put your baby's foot print into the book.

8. Very comfortable maternity clothes, pants for Mom (sweatpants, drawstring pants, etc.). Also, nursing tank tops (even if you aren't going to nurse, it's not comfortable those first few days to put on a real bra, so get those built-in bra tank tops). Then the most comfy shoes you own and a big sweatshirt. I went home in all maternity stuff. It's the most comfortable to wear those first few weeks afterward.

9. Toiletries (deodorant, face wash, toothbrush and toothpaste, etc.).

10. Any labor assisting devices like iPod for music. I didn't go through labor so not sure what to say on this one. Ask someone who has done it before, but I know I've heard music helps some people!

11. A gift for Daddy. My boss at work told me to do this and so I got Jared a small gift for the hospital to open after our baby was born and we returned to our hospital room. He was so happy I had thought ahead about him. So much of the pregnancy and labor is all about the Mom, rightfully so, it's hard work that we do! However, it's important not to forget the Dad because this is a huge deal to him, too. I gave Jared a baby book of a book he'd given me in high school, a t-shirt that said Super Dad (easy to order online), a sweet card that I wrote in my ninth month of pregnancy and totally sobbed through writing about how grateful I was for him being there for me all those hormonal pregnant months, a couple of snack foods I knew he'd appreciate, and two bibs - one that said "Daddy's girl" and one that said "Daddy's big boy!". I just packed it under all the clothes in the hospital bag. He didn't even know it was there!

12. Your medical insurance card.

13. A sense of humor, patience, courage, strength, and few expectations. Just go with the flow. Walk into the hospital just telling yourself that it will be over before you know it, you can do it, and that it'll be the best thing you have ever worked so hard for in your life. Then laugh at all the crazy moments in between!

homemade baby food

Making homemade baby food was seriously one of the greatest highlights of my first year as a new mom. I know that must sound crazy, but honestly it was a blast and made feeding him his very first foods very meaningful to me.

I decided to make Owen's baby food because I had seen my sister-in-law, Johnna, make it for my niece, Nya. I had babysat Nya the summer that she started eating solid foods, so I really got to see the creativity that went into making homemade foods and also how much healthier it seemed for the baby. I decided, sure, why not, I'll give this a whirl. I certainly did not expect I would make everything Owen ate or even keep up with it. I really just wanted to try it out. Then when my mom and sister Sierra found me a baby food making kit I was very excited to give it a try.

So off to the farm store up the street we went.
Owen loved picking out fresh fruits and vegetables with me.

I used the Fresh Baby So Easy Baby Food Kit. You can find it at Babies-R-Us, Target and Wal-Mart I believe. They also have a great Web site that I followed a lot after I started making the food, as it has recipes on there, too. Check it out at this link:
The kit costs $38 and is totally worth it. It comes with a how-to DVD, a recipe book and two ice cube trays for making the food.

Making the baby food is so easy. All you need is these supplies:
-ice cube trays with covers
-fruits and veggies
-a blender or food processer
-a spoon
-plastic ziplock bags to put the frozen cubes in

It's far cheaper than what you'd pay for baby food jars in the store. It's healthier and a lot more fun.
Honestly, it was not a ton of work. I spent about two hours every couple of weeks making tons of food that lasted for months. We have a large freezer so it was easy storing them. I just set aside one night every few weeks to make a big batch of a few different foods. It was honestly relaxing to do.

After following the recipes for making the pureed foods, I popped the ice cube foods out and into ziplock bags, wrote the date and what type of food it was on the outside of the bag, and tossed into the freezer. Voila, easy!

Owen's first foods were sweet potatoes and apples. He loves them to this day. He also really enjoyed avocado, plums and butternut squash. Just knowing I got these fresh foods at the farm up the street and then made the servings myself was so empowering in a way.

Have I bought baby food jars? Certainly I have. I buy Earth Best jars because I always seem to get a coupon for them in the mail. I started buying those after several months of making my own food and it was time for Owen to try meats. I just could not bring myself to make homemade mushed up meats. My friend said she tried it once and it was just gross to do. So meats from a jar was what Owen got. I then kept a couple on hand when he got older for times when he was refusing all food I'd offer because his teeth hurt and he needed something soft.

I do not judge anyone whatsoever for not wanting to make their own baby food. It is more labor intensive and takes more time than simply purchasing it in the store. We are all busy moms, so if you don't have time to do this, no harm done to your child. It was just one thing I seemed to really get into, and the season worked perfectly for me to do it, as Owen started eating in July so all the fresh foods were ripe and ready at the farms.

Have fun if you do decide to go this route!


A few books I found to be especially helpful:

1. The Milk Memos - How Real Moms Learned to Mix Business with Babies - and How You Can, Too by Cate Colburn-Smith and Andrea Serrette

2. Take the Fight Out of Food - How to Prevent and Solve Your Child's Eating Problems by Donna Fish

3. What to Expect While You're Expecting, the First Year, and the Toddler Years by Heidi Murkof

4. Belly Laughs: The Naked Truth About Pregnancy and Childbirth by Jenny McCarthy

5. Baby Laughs: The Naked Truth About the First Year of Mommyhood by Jenny McCarthy

the day before

This was me the day before the baby was born. I was incredibly swollen, but feeling great about my big belly and the fact that I soon would get to meet my baby and have my body back!

The day before baby arrives. What a day.
I don't really remember what we did. I think some family brought over some food. I'd planned to have an entire weekend of just me and Jared, because I was fearing we'd never get that again and we'd miss the alone time. However, we ended up with family around, which was just what we really needed.

I do remember though that I had contractions the night before when we were sitting on the couch, watching TV and eating my recent craving of strawberry milkshakes before bed. I remember we sat there staring at my stomach as the baby moved around its whole body right before our eyes. I remember thinking, "Wow, I did this. It's so amazing that I've had this baby in my belly all these months and tomorrow I get to meet him or her. This is incredible." It was different for us, having a planned c-section. We knew our baby was definitely coming. It was the most excited and scared I've ever been in my life.

I was feeling proud of myself. Being pregnant, carrying a baby to term is a difficult thing. I was so proud of what my body did. In fact, I think I thanked my body that night and prayed that it would hang in there with me a little longer, enough to get baby safely on the outside.

I was feeling nervous about what was to come, not sure what to expect with the birth and c-section, or what type of mom I'd be.

I was feeling so excited to meet this little guy or gal. I wanted to know who he looked like, whether it was a he or she, what we would name it, and I desperately wanted to stop calling the baby an "it"!

It's a crazy feeling, really, the day before baby arrives. You go through your whole day (or days for those of you who reach your due date but don't have a scheduled birth like I did) and you think, "Wow, my life is about to change in ways I cannot even imagine." It's wonderful.

And then it's just time. No more waiting. It's time for baby to come! And there's no turning back, and you get butterflies in your stomach from all of the excitement. And you know big things are happening, like when you got married or graduated from college - but even bigger than those events. You know that your life is going to be so different and incredible after tomorrow. And there's nothing left but to say, here we go... with a big smile on your face.

registry must-haves

Shopping is fun right? One of the most fun and overwhelming things I did to prepare for my son's arrival was the start of a baby registry at Babies-R-Us. Love that store, but damn there are a lot of things in that place that I had no idea what they were supposed to be used for!

Suggestions for starting a registry:1. Do it online first! It's so much easier to sit on your couch with snacks next to you and your lap top next to your growing belly, than it is to walk around the store aimlessly and with your feet aching. Then, after you have a lot online, go into the store for the real fun of picking out cute outfits you couldn't see online!

2. Ask your friends who are already mothers what their must-have baby items are. They have experience and can help you figure out which brand car seat is reliable and safe and which brand of diaper rash cream worked best.

3. Put fun things on there, too, like toys and books. People love that stuff!

Some of my top baby must-haves include:
1. Fresh Baby So Easy Baby Food Kit- LOVE THIS! It's so much cheaper and healthier to make your own baby food. It honestly did not take up tons of time. This kit made it easy and fun to do.

2. Several sets of crib sheets. We have 4 sets, which means I always have at least two that are clean and ready to go in case of an accident.

3. Flannel lap pads- These are a number one must-have item! My sister-in-law gave these to me at my shower. I used them everywhere- changing table, car seat, swing, stroller, bouncer chair, etc. They prevent diaper messes from going onto the chair or item.

4. Luvs or Pampers diapers. Huggies did not hold up very well for us. Luvs are cheap and awesome. Babies-R-Us doesn't have Luvs so we used Pampers when Owen was born because that was what we could add to the registry and so what people bought for us.

5. Chicco stroller and car seat combo, and high chair. Love them!

I am sure I'll think of more, but these 5 can get you started!

a gift that keeps on giving

My two really close friends are pregnant. One, my college roommate Jess, (pictured below on her wedding day with me as her matron of honor) is due in another month with a baby girl. Another, Heather, one of my dearest high school friends, (pictured below holding my son, Owen) is in her first trimester and due in December. Both are first-time mommies. Both are two people I adore more than words can explain.

And so I have been thinking of something sweet and thoughtful I could give to them for their baby shower gifts. I always try to do that for gifts for my closest friends, think up something different, unique, not typical or something straight off the registry.

I could make a blanket. Yet then I remember I received way too many - albeit beautiful and greatly appreciated - blankets at my own baby shower more than a year ago. I could make a scrapbook that they can later fill in with pictures, but that just takes a ton of time and space in a house that has a toddler who would probably just eat the stickers and cut outs.

So I decided I would write about what being a mom has taught me, what it was like those first few sleepless months, and what I wish I had known before I became a mom. I thought about putting it into a book of some kind or even just printing off computer Word documents. Then I realized it would be even more fun to give a gift that could keep on giving long past the baby shower. Alas the blog idea was born!

My hope for The Mommy Stories is that two of my closest friends will stop by this site to browse the various topics I intend to post out of sheer excitement and love for them as they embark on this new journey of becoming mothers. My second goal for this blog is that perhaps it can start some discussions among my mommy friends. It seems all we moms talk about anyway is our kids when we get together, so why not have a real site dedicated for that sole purpose?

To my dear friends, Jess and Heather, I hope you enjoy this gift as much as I anticipate enjoying writing it for you. I love you both so much, and truly am very happy you have been blessed with such miracles in your pregnancies. I know you will be amazing mothers. I hope this site also serves as a reminder to you both that despite me being 3 hours or many states apart from you I am always here to answer any questions or offer some support. I'm no expert, but I do know some of what you are going through.

Congrats and best wishes to the mommies-to-be, Jess and Heather!