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.


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.


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.


Motherhood: This Is Harder Than I Thought

This is basically a before and after photo.

I have always been a dog person.

Like dog people, there are also “cat people,” “baby people,” etc. I was never a baby person; babies cried all the time, they were ticking puke bombs, and the fresh ones kind of looked like dehydrated rats. Ok, I wasn’t quite that cynical, but I was just fine looking at your adorable bundle from a safe distance.

And then I got pregnant.

Bringing home my new baby was like the first day of high school, defending a dissertation, and starting a new job, all rolled into one. “Can I handle it?” “Have I done the research?” “Will the baby even like me?”

During my pregnancy, I never had time to take birthing or child care classes, and honestly, I really had no particular desire to do so. Up until B-Day, I worked six days a week at two jobs. Believe me, by the time my cherished day off rolled around, the last thing I wanted to do was sit on a birthing ball and watch three hours of ancient Lamaze videos. (Also, ew. The 70s were not kind.)

Pictured: Women Not Working Two Jobs

So when my water broke just before a shift one night, I calmly excused myself to the manager, saying, “I am so sorry, but I think I’m about to go into labor. I should probably leave for the hospital now.” And off I was on my journey to motherhood.

Therefore, all of my knowledge and observations are from on-the-job experience.

What I’ve learned is this: Being a mom is hard. Being a mom is gross. Being a mom can produce some of the most rewarding and emotional moments you will ever experience in a lifetime. But most of all, being a mom takes a sense of humor. This series is a look into my life as a new mommy, and a collection of the things I’ve learned on my ongoing odyssey of parenthood.

 

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


3 Questions You Should Never Ask A New Mom

Lioness and Cub

Lioness not eating her cub....yet.

Being a new mom is one of the toughest jobs around. Sleepless nights, crashing hormones, and frayed nerves can quickly take their toll on even the hardiest of women. Unfortunately, when it comes to motherhood, everyone has their own opinion as to how it should be going, and they are never afraid to share it. Here is a list of the top three questions to avoid when talking to a new mom.

1. Are you breastfeeding?

Just the word “breastfeeding” can quickly become a source of stress or embarrassment to a new mother. We all know the adage, “Breast is Best,” but how a woman decides to feed her child is a personal choice, and one in which she sometimes has no control. Some women struggle with breastfeeding, so making remarks such as, “If you love your baby you will breastfeed her,” “Breastfed babies are smarter,” and “If you feed your baby formula, she will be fat later in life,” will only add to the anxiety. After all, it really is none of your business anyway.

2. When are you going back to work?

In the first few weeks of motherhood, a mom is only concerned about when her next meal/shower/nap will be. The last thing she wants to do is think ahead to a prospect of juggling even more stress into her already overwhelming life. So give these ladies a break, and let them enjoy a little time off. And be grateful you aren’t the one up at 3 a.m. changing diapers or soothing a screaming infant.

3. Are you enjoying being a mom?

Questions like this amaze me. One that often goes along with this is, “Are your mothering instincts coming in yet?” I’m not sure what the expected answer is: “No, it’s miserable, I wish I could just eat my infant like a lion and be done with it.” Of course, I enjoy it! Of course, it’s also miserable! No matter how much you love your child, no first-time mom can ever be prepared for the challenges or the emotional rollercoaster bringing your baby home will invoke. So a simple, “How are you?” will do just fine, especially if you are just a casual acquaintance. After all, you might not like what you hear if you ask a sleep-deprived, stressed-out mother an intimate question.


Exercising During Pregnancy

Mom Exercising During PregnancyMost healthy women greatly benefit from continuing their usual activities or starting new, low-impact exercises during pregnancy. It is important to review any physical activity regimen with your doctor, but in general, both you and your baby will be healthier if you remain active during this time. Many moms-to-be participate in swimming, walking, yoga, biking, or pilates for almost the full duration of their pregnancy.

1) In the first trimester, many women are exhausted and nauseated. Generally, these feelings don’t make anyone feel like setting foot on a treadmill or heading to yoga class, but keeping active can actually help reduce these common early pregnancy symptoms. Exercise can increase your energy levels and the natural endorphins may also reduce nausea.

2) In the second trimester, a lot of pregnant women feel incredible. Hormones are starting to level out and energy levels are going through the roof. During this period, your doctor may advise you not to overdo it on physical activity. Low-impact aerobic activity is typically safe and enjoyable at this point. It is best to avoid bouncing or jarring movement.

3) In the third trimester, pregnancy starts to get tough again. Backaches set in, joints may become very sore, and sleep may start to elude you. If you have exercised up to this point, improved tone in your back and legs can help with posture problems and pain. It is important to continue to avoid jarring exercises, as your joints could be easily injured.

Strong muscles and a healthy heart can help you prepare for childbirth. Often, women who are active during their pregnancy also enjoy the benefit of returning to their pre-pregnancy weight faster. Of course, you should always have a discussion with your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine. He or she will be able to help you devise an exercise plan that helps you feel great, look your best, and promote the health of your unborn baby.

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