3 Things I Learned in 6 Months of Motherhood

My baby just turned six months old yesterday. Six months old. It’s amazing to look back at all the changes we have both made in that short, yet incredibly long amount of time. When my daughter came home from the hospital, she was a tiny premature infant, left alone in the care of a woman who had never once changed a diaper. I poured through books and websites, searching for “how to wash/feed/care for a newborn.” Neither of us had any idea what we were doing.

Photo of 6 month old baby - Mommy Makeover Network

Today, we are pros. In six months, these are the things that I have learned.

1. They Are Just Little Humans

Seriously, relax. When my daughter came home, I was terrified to do anything wrong. Not sure of how much to hold her, I applied the instructions you give a child with a new hamster: “Don’t take them out of the cage too much in the beginning until they are used to their new surroundings.” But really, babies are like really tiny, emotional drunks. They scream and cry about nothing until they drink their bottle and go back to sleep. It’s as simple as that.

2. Nobody Knows Anything

It’s true. There are basic guidelines to caring for a baby, but honestly, nobody really knows what they’re doing. Some babies like to watch tv, some will go to sleep easily, some sleep through the night, while others don’t. It doesn’t matter. So long as your baby is healthy and seems happy, don’t worry about it. I had my “ah-ha” moment about raising kids after talking to my mother about “tummy time.” I was distraught about making sure my daughter was doing enough physical exercises, particularly a concept where you lay the baby on their stomach in order to strengthen their back muscles. I asked my mom how much of this she did with me and my siblings. She responded with a shrug, “I don’t know. You all just crawled eventually, I guess.” I never worried about it again.

3. Relax

It’s ok to be tired. There is a golden zone between the newborn and the infant. Newborn babies never sleep, they always cry, and your hormones are so out of control that it really doesn’t make a difference. Then there is a period of relative calm. Around three months, baby sleeps a good portion of the day, and you are able to have some time to yourself to work or do housework, or even (imagine!) sit down and watch some TV. And then teething happens. Nap time disappears. You feel yourself sliding back into the Twilight Zone of Orajel and Tylenol, gas drops and Gripe Water. But this is your second time into the trenches, so don’t let it get you down. Take some time to relax when you get the chance. Trust me, the laundry will wait.


Your Teen Probably Texts And Drives. Are You The Reason Why?

I read an interesting article the other day. According to a study commissioned by Bridgestone Americas, the majority of parents are in complete denial about the behavior of their teenage children behind the wheel. This survey showed that only “39 percent of parents think their teen driver talks on the phone while driving, yet half of all young drivers admit to doing so.”

The same expectations were true for texting and driving, as well as being distracted by socializing with other passengers in the car. What I really liked about this article, however, is how it went on to suggest that teen drivers may be modeling their driving habits after that of their parents.

For example, the survey showed “nearly all parents claim that participating in distracted behaviors while driving is unacceptable, yet 94 percent of parents admit to driving distracted anyway.” What parents are not driving distracted? How many times have you seen your own mother drive with one knee on the wheel while bent backwards disciplining children, wiping a nose and fixing a binky at the same time? The art of mobile parenting dates back to the invention of the automobile, but maybe it’s time we as parents began to set a better example.

With the invention of smartphones, navigating the roads has become even more perilous than ever. We can’t expect our kids to ignore texts from their friends, or not view that latest Snapchat when they see us checking email and making calls in the car ourselves every day.

So what can we do? Try springing for a bluetooth set, or use the voice activation feature on your phone while on the road. Or if you have a child old enough to work a smartphone, (anyone over the age of 2 seems to understand them better than I do) have them read emails aloud to you or respond to important texts while you keep your hands on the wheel. Setting an example really is an important part of parenting; “Do what I say, not what I do,” isn’t nearly as effective a teaching tool as we might hope.


Top 5 Things Your Hospital Bag Needs

Packing a Hospital Bag

When it comes to packing your birth bag, plan early! Babies never seem to arrive on schedule, and you don’t want to be caught unprepared. While there is no end to the list of possible items you may choose to bring, these are the top 5 survival needs no new mommy can live without.

1. Comfortable clothes

Depending on the circumstances of your child’s birth, and your insurance plan, you may likely remain in the postpartum ward for up to 4 days. During this time, you may not want to rely on someone else to choose your attire.

The day after giving birth, I asked my husband to bring me some comfortable clothes to wear around the hospital, grateful to no longer wander the Arctic halls like a nudist in a smock. He returned with a pair of oversized sweatpants and a knee-length Corona Extra t-shirt we had drunkenly purchased from a homeless man years ago. I still have no idea where he even found that shirt, bypassing dozens of cute and appropriate pajama options to leave me greeting friends and relatives dressed like a hungover fraternity boy spring breaking in Cabo.

2. Shampoo/Razors/Toothbrush/Toothpaste

After days of being chained to IVs and monitors, I literally begged the nurses to let me take a shower, just so I could shave my legs. Nothing makes you feel human again faster than a hot shower, so be sure and pack all the items you need to feel clean and refreshed.

3. Heavy flow pads and comfortable underwear

If I was in charge of postpartum care in hospitals, I would supply each room with a pack of Depends. The fact is, the mesh underwear and dish cloth sized maxi pads you’re given to work with only make a bad situation worse. Tampons are not allowed for at least a month after giving birth, so plan ahead and pack a box of your favorite brand of feminine pads and plenty of changes of underwear.

4. Phone charger

Nothing is worse than being out of communication with friends and family, especially during a stay in the hospital, so keeping your phone charged is a must.

5. Extra blankets/pillows

Hospitals are freezing, and the wafer of a pillow they give you is hardly enough to get comfortable on a rock-hard gurney/bed. My husband and I were absolutely miserable until I sent him home to bring back as many pillows and blankets as he could carry. Also, keep in mind that hospital beds are not meant to sleep two comfortably, so have your partner plan ahead to be spending the night in a recliner or cot.

 


This is Harder Than I Thought: Neck Rolls and Armpit Crud

My husband once told me a story about a woman who had become so obese, that it was impossible for her to clean her own body. One day the woman got extremely sick, but the doctors were at a loss as to what was the issue. After countless tests and examinations, the culprit was found: part of a roasted chicken had become lodged underneath one of the woman’s fat rolls, and had begun to decompose into her skin.

Babies are like obese people.

Dirty Baby Arm Rolls - Mommy Makeover Network

 

Even a relatively slender baby has a ridiculous amount of skin rolls, which are constantly accumulating some seriously disgusting muck. It took me awhile to realize the main culprit in the problem: new babies have no neck. Because their heads basically sit directly on their shoulders, excess drool, milk, and spit up becomes trapped deep within the folds. I used to think a simple wipe down after feeding was enough to talk care of the issue—wrong! There is nothing so horrifying as having your baby tilt his or her head back far enough to stretch the skin tight, revealing a bathtub ring of encrusted crud. It’s really gross and often wraps all the way around to the back of the neck.

The same is true with armpits, fingers, and toes. Imagine the worst bellybutton lint your husband has ever had. Now imagine that snaking in between your baby’s fingers. Combine it with a little sweat and body grime underneath her tiny armpits, and you have a recipe that will undoubtedly make you feel like the world’s worst mother.

But don’t be too hard on yourself. The fact is, even with frequent bathing, babies are simply adorable little grime monsters! All you can do is be aware of the “high traffic” areas and check frequently for build up. Thankfully, wipes are always on hand for little spot checks and sponge baths between major cleanings to keep your secret safe. No one will ever know that your little angel is really a moss-covered swamp monster from the mouth of the Mississippi.

 

 

This is the sixth in a series of posts offering a candid first-person depiction of motherhood in all its wonderful/horrible glory. Check out the introduction to the “Harder Than I Thought” series and browse the archives for previous posts.


This is Harder Than I Thought: I Just Want to Sleep at Night

Have you ever wondered what causes zombie mommies? The answer is simple: reverse cycling.

This phenomenon causes your baby to become nocturnal, sleeping through the day and staying up at night. At first, this diurnal rest seems lovely—you are free to cook, clean, and have uninterrupted time to work. And then you realize, you are never going to sleep again. Before the baby, I maintained a hectic work schedule, often averaging upwards of 80 hours a week. I can handle minimal sleep, I told myself, this isn’t so bad. However, I quickly realized the main difference; with a baby, you have to be actually nice ALL THE TIME.

Sure, getting off a 17-hour shift sucks. You are tired, cranky, and just want to go home, open up your favorite bottle and sip yourself into a blissful few hours sleep. If some jerk decides to wake you up screaming about some bullshit at 4 a.m., you could, in good conscious, punch them in the face and go back to bed. Unfortunately, with a baby, it’s always bullshit, and you’re never allowed punch them.

Reality and hallucination begin to meld together; one night I woke to my baby’s cries, pulled back the blanket and was completely sure she had removed her diaper and was lying half naked in her bed. “She got out the diaper!” I shrieked to no one in particular. “My god, I bet she’s peed everywhere!” Frantically grabbing a diaper to salvage the situation, I looked back to find her completely clothed, diaper fully intact.

Sleep deprivation is definitely one of the worst tortures, but still one that mothers everywhere suffer silently in commiseration. If you can awake from a 20 minute nap at 2 a.m. to a wriggling 10 lb human waist deep in poo, and address the situation with a smile, congratulations, you might be a supermom. My hat’s off to you all, ladies.

 

 

This is the fifth in a series of posts offering a candid first-person depiction of motherhood in all its wonderful/horrible glory. Check out the introduction to the “Harder Than I Thought” series and browse the archives for previous posts.


This is Harder Than I Thought: How Motherhood Turned Me into Hunter S. Thompson

I am Hunter S. Thompson - Mommy Makeover Network Mommy BlogPerusing my Netflix options the other night, I came across a cult classic, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I’ve always loved this movie, and all of Hunter S. Thompson’s works for that matter. In fact, it was stories like his that peaked my interest in the “glamorous” journalist’s lifestyle in the first place.

As a budding college journalist, I imagined my life at this point would involve exotic assignments, wild nights, and adventure. Now a new mom struggling with the reality of working from home and caring for an infant, I started getting a little bit sad that this life would probably never happen for me. I worried about making it all work, afraid that I would never be able to turn in assignments now that I’m hindered by so many distractions. Was my career over before it began?

The movie began to wind down as thoughts like these swirled around my head, leaving me a little disheartened about the future. Suddenly, the camera panned backwards. The screen showed Johnny Depp, lounging in his flooded hotel room surrounded by the aftermath of drug-induced ravings. Then, as if by some miracle, he got up, sat down in front of his typewriter, and began to write. It didn’t matter that he was ankle deep in the flooded mess of a ransacked hotel room. He was not distracted by his thigh-high waders and rubber dinosaur tail. He ignored the human excrement and crusted like mustard on the wall. He simply lit his perpetual cigarette and began to compose those enduring words that would be read by millions.

“I can do this,” I thought.

Then a greater realization dawned on me, I AM Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing. There was no need for psychoactive drugs and seedy Vegas hotels; living with an infant was like a mainstream induction into the drug culture itself. I realized that my life is really not so different after all, and I was, in fact, living in some parallel reality. Let Johnny and Benicio show you what I mean (warning: videos NSFW):

1. My house on most mornings looks pretty similar to Thompson’s hotel room.

2. The experience of interacting at obligatory children’s parties isn’t completely unlike this.

3. It seems like puke and car rides always go hand and hand.

4. And finally, anyone who has attempted to wash a screaming two-month-old has no fear of a raving Benicio Del Toro in a bathtub.

 

 

This is the fourth in a series of posts offering a candid first-person depiction of motherhood in all its wonderful/horrible glory. Check out the introduction to the “Harder Than I Thought” series and browse the archives for previous posts.


Fave Beauty Products to Help Moms ‘Make It Work’

If you have ever seen an episode of Bravo’s “Project Runway,” (oh, like you haven’t), you know the famous saying of fashion guru, Tim Gunn — Make it work!

Becoming a new mom is a lot like being one of those designers; suddenly out of your element, a different set of challenges each week, and only a limited amount of time to make an outcome worthy of Heidi Klum. Ok, maybe it’s just so you don’t feel embarrassed at the pharmacy or to keep from feeling judged by the lady in the pick-up window at McDonalds, but a level of hygiene, and yes, beauty, can be maintained by even the most harried mom. With these few simple products, you too can “make it work!”

Pretty sure this is how the great one feels about dry shampoo

1. Dry Shampoo

Before I had even left the hospital, my aunt surprised me a package full of newborn clothes and a bottle of dry shampoo. “You are going to need this,” she said, wisely. Without a doubt, dry shampoo is a new mom’s best friend. Especially if you have particularly oily hair like me, skipping a day of washing is simply not an option. However, brush through a little dry shampoo, and you are ready to face a day of shopping, doctor’s appointments, or even that little visit from your mother-in-law, just to “check up on things.”

Favorite brands:

A) Despite the bottle looking like a bit of an Ed Hardy nightmare, Got2b Rockin’ It 4Ever Stylestay Dry Shampoo is a great product.

B) Rock On by Beyond the Zone (note: I have only been able to find this product at Sally’s Beauty Supply)

 

2. BB Cream

Mommy Makeover

In my opinion, BB creams are some of the best skincare products out there for moms on the go. They block the sun, moisturize your skin, and most of all, hide blemishes and provide a luminous finish. What’s not to love? Although admittedly not as effective as a full face of makeup, applying

a few dabs of cream takes about 2 minutes, and leaves my skin looking fresh and rejuvenated.

Favorite brands:

A.) Dream Fresh BB by Maybelline

B.) Clear Complexion BB by Aveeno

3. Mascara

If there’s only time to choose one makeup product, I choose a few swipes of mascara every time. Especially for women who have more closely set eyes like me, lack of sleep and stress can cause our eyes to look even smaller and more squinted than they actually are. Thankfully, applying a lengthening mascara quickly counteracts this effect, widening your eyes and allowing them to shine more brightly.
Mommy makeover

Favorite brands:

A) High Impact Mascara by Clinque

B) Lashblash Length Mascara by Covergirl


This is Harder Than I Thought: Going Back to Work aka Can a Mommy Get a Break?

Going back to work is one of the most challenging decisions a mom can make, both financially and emotionally.

Pre-baby break from work vs. Post-baby break from work

During the first few weeks alone with my newborn, I longed for the days when I went to work every morning, showered and dressed, and sat at a calm desk surrounded by fellow adults. “Hello, Dave,” I could wave to a friend on the street, smiling over a cup of hot coffee I’d purchased on my break. “Break,” I’d murmur to myself dreamily, huddled in the bathroom at home, the place of sanctuary mothers around the globe cling to for a few moments of peace and quiet. There are no breaks as a new mom; lunch is an afterthought as you use the precious moments your baby sleeps to accomplish some housework or get some sleep of your own.

Thankfully, after a few weeks, things started to get better. The baby started to sleep for longer periods and cry less, leaving more time to relax and get through the day. As the prospect of going back to work began to loom nearer, the reality of becoming a working mom hit me hard. How did I feel about putting my child in daycare? Could I really trust a stranger to care for my child? Could I afford to hire a full-time nanny? Would I be able to handle balancing work and still have the energy to spend with my baby at night?

Every woman’s answers to these questions are different. For me, the allure of the workplace is sweet. What a treat it would be to simply plug into a set of headphones and work interrupted for (gasp) several hours straight. I smile at the thought of having access to a pot of coffee I didn’t make myself and enjoying a full mug while it’s hot, instead of finding several half-sipped cups scattered around the house, forgotten as some other matter was attended to. However, the decision isn’t that simple. I used to think going back to work was a no-brainer. Stay-at-home mom? Pssh, not for me. But with circumstance, thoughts certainly change.

As my last weeks of full-time motherhood draw to a close, I’m still not sure what the right choice for me will be. But when I do finally resume my place in the workforce, like the millions of women before me, I’m sure I will manage to wear both hats with the style and confidence that goes along with the respected title of “working mom.”

This is the third of a series of posts offering a candid first-person depiction of motherhood in all its wonderful/horrible glory. Check out the introduction to the “Harder Than I Thought” series and part two, “This is Harder Than I Thought: Lactation or the Art of Milking One’s Self in Public.” 


This is Harder Than I Thought: Lactation or the Art of Milking One’s Self in Public

 

That Awkward Boobs Moment - Mommy Makeover NetworkLadies, love them or hate them, we all have boobs. For most of your life, these constant companions are merely aesthetic. We strap them down for workouts, we push them up for dates, but mostly we treat them like any other normal body part. Until the baby comes. While pregnancy boobs are delightful—your C cups swell to DDs as your husband looks on in awe and respect—post-baby breasts are the worst. When your milk comes in, I was informed, your breasts will need to be “expressed” every two hours or so to prevent them from becoming “engorged.”

Engorgement is incredibly painful. Your breasts become hard and stiff due to blocked ducts, and shooting pains begin to radiate across your chest. This is the reason milk cows line up to be milked every morning. Every moo is really a cry for help. I know this now. The only way to relieve the pain is to somehow get the trapped milk out and relieve the pressure.

You can do this one of three ways: by nursing, with a pump, or by hand. My first experience with engorgement happened on a city bus. My husband had forgotten to pick me up from an appointment before work, so I was forced to take public transport to get my car. Waiting at the stop in the hot sun, I started to feel an uncomfortable tingling in my chest. Once on the bus, the milk continued to “let down,” and pressure began to build, becoming increasingly painful. Shamelessly, I started to grope myself, ignoring the stares of my fellow passengers in an attempt to massage away the pain.

It didn’t help.

As the pain began to shoot deeper into my chest, my eyes started to water. The injustice of it all crashed down around me. I was a nice girl! I didn’t deserve to be the crazy lady squeezing her own boobs and crying on a public bus! After an eternity elapsed over the next five blocks, I reached my stop, and ran frantically into the bathroom of the restaurant where my husband works. I took a moment to look at my face in the mirror, to contemplate the need for what had to be done. What I saw was that it definitely had to be done. I took off my shirt. I removed my bra. I began to milk myself in the sink of a public restroom. And I was unashamed.

 

This is the second of a series of posts offering a candid first-person depiction of motherhood in all its wonderful/horrible glory. Check out the introduction to the “Harder Than I Thought” series. And keep your eyes peeled for Part 3.


Baby Registry Top 5 Must Haves

There are so many items that you can purchase for your new baby, it is easy to feel like you are drowning in the sea of onesies. But when it’s time to narrow down the choices, here is a list of the top five items I have found most useful in my experience.

1) DIAPERS!

Medically speaking, a healthy baby creates at least 3 dirty diapers a day. And by at least, I mean the amount of waste your infant is about to create will astound, amaze, and appall you. My baby, who came home at a mere 5 lbs., went through an entire pack of diapers in her first week. At 50 diapers in a pack, that is a lot of changing. That’s a lot of poop. No matter how small the budget, friends and family can save the day simply by purchasing a few packs of diapers or wipes.

2) Swaddlers

Many babies are nearly impossible to get to sleep without being swaddled. While a light blanket is the traditional tool for swaddling, this skill can be tricky for many new moms to master, and a particularly active baby can quickly undo even a seasoned veteran’s swaddle. For these situations, swaddling cloths or zip up pods can be a lifesaver. These cloths feature a handy pocket for the baby’s legs, and Velcro or snaps for a secure fit. Even more idiot-proof options (and my personal favorites), are the pods. Simply put your baby inside, and zip to the chin.

3) Glider

Though I was skeptical at first, my baby glider has become my most valued possession. Not surprisingly, doing chores or working from home can be nearly impossible when holding a baby, and it is frustrating and time consuming to have to constantly walk to your baby’s bed to soothe them throughout the day. The glider provides the perfect gap between the two—soft and secure, and yet mobile enough to stay close to you at all times. It also seems like a magical sleeping ride to my little one, who even in the fussiest moods will relax with the gentle rocking motion and soft, cradled bed.

4) Boppy Pillow

Simply put, the Boppy pillow is invaluable to any nursing mother. Even for bottle fed babies, seating them on the Boppy puts the baby in the perfect position for feeding and burping. It even comes with washable covers in a variety of materials and designs, and there’s an optional vibration unit for soothing comfort.

5) Baby Monitor

A baby monitor is a must have for any household. When you inevitably leave your baby’s room, having a monitor will assure you that they are safe, and alert you when your baby is awake or in distress. While monitors range in sophistication and price, a basic audio monitor is fine to cover most needs. However, I decided to splurge on a slightly more expensive camera monitor, and am glad I did. For a small increase in price, you can have the assurance of a clear picture, and night vision monitoring of your little one via a wireless camera. You can even stream the feed on your smartphone via a free app, if that is more convenient to your needs.

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