We did it! We made it through our first year as new parents. Jillian turned the big ONE on Thanksgiving and Brent and I are still marveling at all that has changed since the day we brought her home from the hospital. Parenting hasn’t gotten easier, but it has gotten better. We don’t claim to be parenting experts, but we at least feel confident that we can generally figure out what’s wrong, how to soothe, entertain, teach, and entertain her. It should come as no surprise that Jillian is developing quite an extroverted and “spicy” personality. For every sweet and tender moment, we see a sassy one too! Gee, wonder where she gets it from? 🙂
What’s the secret? I’d love to say there’s a magic potion for sleep, taking care of yourself and baby, keeping the connection alive and well with your spouse, but there isn’t. Honestly, something that will help you along your journey is vulnerability. You have to put yourself out there, ask for help, be open to advice, follow your gut, and create your trustworthy village to make it and enjoy it. Even the most confident of people will find themselves in a situation they know nothing about and need to ask for help.
It’s humbling and sometimes depressing not to know the answers or feel like you can’t take care of the person you are charged with loving and protecting above all else. My advice? Let go of your insecurities and let people help you along this journey. It’s an amazing one for sure, but one fraught with the highest highs and lowest lows.
So, with all this said, I wanted to pass along some of my musings to all of you from Year 1. This is really Part II of the series as Part I can be found on the amazing Homegrown Houston blog by new mom and longtime friend, Sabrina. Yes, this is the same author of the awesome non-maternity maternity fashion post from a few months ago!
I Dream of Pretty Things
Musings From a New Mom: Part II
- You’re Not Crazy If You Aren’t “Enjoying” the Newborn Stage
Okay, I think this is really important to share with all you expectant parents or parents of newborns. I just want you to know that it’s okay if you’re one of those parents who just “isn’t a newborn person.” There’s nothing wrong with you!
Sure, there’s so much to love about a newborn. The new baby smell, ultra-soft skin, the perfect little nose and feet…I could go on forever. But, the newborn period is also extremely difficult and taxing, and anyone who tells you different is LYING or a freak of nature. The one-way communication and interaction, the struggles with feeding, the abrupt adjustment to no sleep, the postpartum hormones, your own physical healing, balancing your job, redefining your role as a spouse, and the feeling of knowing your life as you know if has forever changed, is a lot to ponder and adjust to in such a short time.
Some parents I know will tell you that they hated the infant stage all together, but love having toddlers (or vice versa). Parenting is such an individualized journey and there will always be periods of your child’s development where you will really enjoy it and other parts that you’ll hope pass quickly. If you love the newborn period, good for you! If you don’t, this too, shall pass. It doesn’t get easier, but it will get better.
- Breastfeeding vs. Formula (Just feed your baby!)
Like vaccinations, how you feed your child is another hot button issue. Depending on your upbringing, family and friends, your OBGYN, or the hospital classes you take as you prepare for baby, you may develop a strong opinion on how you want to feed your child. Or perhaps you’re keeping an open mind, but you are surrounded by others with strong opinions.
There’s no question that, in today’s society, breastfeeding your child has become THE recommended way to feed your baby. After all, breast milk is natural, nutritious, free, and convenient. Slogans like “Breast is best,” research study after research study showing that breast fed babies are smarter, etc. pop up all the time on the internet, and advocacy groups like the La Leche League have some very vocal spokeswomen.
But what if I told you that ‘Breast is only best when it’s best for the family!”? Would that shock you? Do you disagree? As a mom who has nursed, pumped and supplemented with formula, I can tell you with absolute certainty that it’s going to be okay as long as you just FEED your child. The truth is, every family is different and things that work well for one may not be the best approach for another.
If you choose to breastfeed, I applaud you! If for some reason you can’t or don’t want to, I applaud you for feeding your child with nutritious formula. The fact is, there are many reasons why formula may be the answer for your family (your health/medications you may be taking, milk protein allergies for baby, supply issues, etc.). As my pediatrician says, we are very lucky to live in a time where safe formula is an option.
I personally started my pregnancy journey just knowing that I would breastfeed. I took all the classes, had a lactation consultant picked out, refused formula in the NICU and instead opted for donor milk, power pumped, syringe fed, etc. Long story short, breastfeeding turned out to be one of the the most difficult and complicated journeys I’ve ever experienced. We struggled for several months, saw multiple lactation consultants, bought every product on the market, and really gave it 100% effort. It just didn’t work for me and we supplemented with formula. I won’t lie to you. The Type A, prepared person that I was felt like a failure. This beautiful peaceful image I had of myself quietly nursing a contented baby wasn’t at all what my experience was like.
For her first year, I provided my daughter with breast milk AND formula. To this day, I have flashes of guilt and disappointment that my breastfeeding journey did not end up to be what I had imagined. But, to this day, I am so proud of myself and how far we’ve come as a family. Twelve months later, with experience under my belt and a little more sleep and rest, I realize that using formula is not a failure, nor is it going to be a determining factor of my little girl’s success in the world. There are millions of ways to bond, connect, educate, and love your child, and if you think breastfeeding is the only way that happens, then you’re doing it wrong!
If breastfeeding is part of your plan, I highly recommend you research and ask around for recommendations of reputable and certified lactation consultants in your area before baby arrives. Not only that, ask your physician and hospital for recommendations of support groups for nursing mothers, hotlines, etc. so that you have access to help and care when you need it after you leave the hospital. Many lactation consultants will do in-home consultations which can be crucial in establishing good practices in the beginning. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and speak up. It’s not supposed to hurt! Also, if you have health insurance, remember to order your free breast pump!
If you’re in the Houston area, I highly recommend the following resources:
If formula feeding is part of your plan, you will need to speak up at the hospital. Many hospitals no longer offer formula to new mothers in the mother and baby unit unless it is requested. Don’t stock up on tons of one kind of formula beforehand as you never know what kind or brand you will ultimately settle on in the long run. Your pediatrician’s office will have tons of samples as well.
- Get Your Life Together Before Baby Arrives
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that having a baby “changes your life.” Everyone you know has told you this the minute you told them you were expecting. It’s true. Simple tasks like going to the grocery store or getting gas suddenly becomes a strategic decision as you plan trips between naps and feedings.
You may be Superwoman or Superman, but multitasking will never look the same for you again once you have children (unless you have a fleet of nannies). Do yourself a favor and take care of all of those important maintenance items in your life before baby arrives. I’m not talking about just things for baby (laundry, frozen meal prep, etc.). I’m talking car registration/inspection, tire rotation, getting the house painted, organizing your closet, purging, last pre-baby haircut, etc. Even if you have the energy for it after baby arrives, you may not have the time. If someone offers you help, take it!
- Car Seat Safety
Car seat safety has come a LONG way since I was a baby and thank goodness for that! Like most things with baby, something that looks relatively easy can actually be quite complicated. Proper car seat installation is extremely important and can be more confusing than you think. It’s always a good idea to get a professional to examine your installation (or install it for you) and walk you through all of the safety features and guidelines.
In the Houston area, I highly recommend Safe Kids Greater Houston. If you can’t find one in your area, ask your obgyn’s or pediatrician’s office.
- Flexibility and Your Birth Plan
It’s always a good idea to sit down and create a birth plan a few weeks before your due date. What is a birth plan? Simply put, it is a document that lets your medical team know your preferences for things like how to manage labor pain during labor and delivery. Whether you’re planning a home birth in the tub or a hospital birth with #allthedrugs, I implore you to be informed and make a birth plan, but to remain flexible! The photos here are just an example of a visual birth plan that is easy, succinct and clear.
DO your research on the kinds of interventions that are commonly used in labor and delivery (e.g. pain management) and/or take a birth class to familiarize yourself with what you can expect of your hospital and your medical professionals.
DO review your birth plan with your doctor or midwife, ask questions and make sure you are on the same page in regards to your expectations and reality.
DON’T have a 10 page birth plan. The reality is, the longer the birth plan, the more “stuff” your care team must review, and in the heat of the moment, less is more. Keep it simple and keep it to one page. This will make it easier on everyone and easier for you and your spouse to advocate for the things that really matter to you.
DO remember that “healthy mom and healthy baby” is the name of the game. Understand that things can change in an instant and that you may have to make decisions and choices that aren’t what you hoped for at all. If you have apprehensions, fears, and doubts, make sure you ask your nurses and doctors to explain what is going on and the choices you may have. In most cases, there could be time for them to give you advanced notice of possible changes (e.g. need for c-section). In other cases, you aren’t going to have time to mull it over. Trust your medical professionals.
DO choose someone you trust to be your advocate at the hospital. You aren’t going to be in your right mind when you have a baby to push out of your body. You just aren’t. Appoint someone like your mom, spouse, a doula, etc. to be your advocate with nurses, doctors and other medical professionals. They can help advocate for your needs with staff, manage guests and visitors on your behalf, and be the point person who keeps your close family and friends updated on your condition and the baby’s arrival.
- Lifesaving Skills: Infant CPR and Choking Education
Sure, you may have been a lifeguard back in high school, or maybe you had CPR training a few weeks ago on the job. Still, it’s always a good idea to refresh yourself and enroll in an Infant CPR class. Similarly, if you have a close family member or friend who will be babysitting or caring for your child in an ongoing capacity, they should also take the course.
Brent and I took a great CPR and infant safety class at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women. The Junior League of Houston also offers free CPR classes. Call ahead to ensure that infant CPR will be covered as the main focus is adult CPR.
New and experienced moms or dads: what are your most important lessons learned from the first year? Please share them in the comments section!
Until next time,