Our First Year as Parents

HAVE YOU EVER WANTED SOMETHING SO MUCH that when you finally got it, you can’t imagine your life without it? That’s exactly what has happened to me this past year. My husband and I were blessed with the biggest gift of all. A child. And now, we can’t imagine our life without her. Seriously, we feel like she has always been here. We look at her and fall completely in love. You know that love that just melts you and makes you feel blissful. A love that is so pure that nothing else matters.

We got pregnant after trying for 11 months which seemed like forever, probably because we talked about it for a year+ prior to trying. When we got married in 2010 after 5 years together, we were so excited to start a new life and to build a family together. Basically we wanted it really bad. At least I did. I have always wanted to be a mommy. My husband is so chill, he is such a guy. He’s like baby? Sure, they are cute. No, but in all seriousness we were both ready to take the natural next step in our marriage. I have always played a caregiving role and have always felt at home in the whole nurture department, so I was definitely ready.

So what has life been like this past year? It’s been pretty amazing. It has also been a lot of hard work, sweat and tears. Having a baby, nor matter how much you want it, and nor matter how much you have “prepared” yourself for him/her, it is a lot of hard work. There is no way around that. But yes, amazing. Maybe that’s how I choose to see it, or it really was. I know when people say that you just want to hit them over the head with a hammer and say tell me how it really was, ha ha and that brings me to this little side note I have to add before I go into more details…

Why is it that people bond on negativity and complaining instead of positivity and celebrating? I guess what I am trying to say is that this year has been pretty awesome and it’s been really hard finding people around me whether friends or family to relate to. Everyone just wants me to complain and say something negative. Why are you always so happy? I got that asked of me the other day. Of all people my parents. I told them because it’s a choice. They just rolled their eyes. Maybe because they are always so negative. But anyways, why is it that people turn away when they see their friends happy? This year has been great, but a little lonely. And I only say a little, because whenever I feel like that, I remind myself that it’s normal and I am not the only one. Anyone that has ever moved from home or “grown up” can relate. It’s life. I feel though that once you become a mother you enter this whole knew level of “life” and you look around and don’t see many familiar faces anymore. Way less than before actually. It can be a little lonely. I think when we are younger we imagine that we would be having babies around the same time as our friends and that we would all live on the same block or at least the same city. With the grandparents down the road. You know and some people do, and that is great. Not us. The reality is so different, and then once you are a parent you wish it more upon your friends because it is so amazing, but they have no idea and don’t really care, making it harder to connect and relate.

Anyways, what did 12 months look like? Over all, I feel this raising a baby was a success and pretty smooth. Maybe we got lucky with her, maybe it’s us and our parenting, or all that yoga? No, we got lucky. That has to be the only explanation 😉

Bringing her home was the most challenging part. You can read my birth story here, it was not how I had “planned” or imagined it to be. I guess a lot of it was out of our control, but still it was way more difficult than I had prepared myself for. Maybe that’s why my baby is awesome? It came with a prize? ha! Who really knows.

She was so little 6 lbs 12 oz…

Besides that very difficult and traumatic experience everything else has been for the most part smooth. The bond was instant, she latched great and right away on my right breast. My colostrum started to come in during my second trimester, so we were all ready to go. My left breast was more challenging. She didn’t want to latch. My left nipple can become inverted at times and it made it challenging for her. I had faith though that she would figure it out, and she did after a whole day of support from the very informative lactation consultant. I had her help me for each feeding until we all figured it out. We tried using a nipple shield but she didn’t like that, eventually she did it and was nursing great by the time we left the hospital two days later.

Yes, we were there for 3 days:). I had a long labor and delivery and recovery time. It was nice to have the nurses to take care of us. I did not feel ok down there. I was in so much pain and discomfort. Lets just say it still makes me cry a little if I think about it too much. I should also mention that Penelope is lip and tongue tied, and because she didn’t have a difficult time nursing, we didn’t do anything about it. We just let it be. If she would of had a difficult time nursing and it was a stress on all of us, yes, we would have absolutely gotten her lip and tongue lasered. I met lots of moms the first few months at the breast-feeding support group that I had joined who shared stories of both success and struggle with breast feeding. It was really neat. I learned so much from them!

I would have to give a lot of credit to the breast-feeding class we took at Kaiser for most of the success in breast feeding. From the moment we brought her home until now, our nursing relationship has been smooth. We felt that we had the knowledge on how to use these tools I had my whole life but never had to use until now. We learned the basics from the biology of the breast and nipples to how much your baby needs to eat and when. We learned about growth spurts and how big their stomach is in the beginning and how your milk changes from colostrum when they are infants to full milk and how your milk evolves and changes as your baby gets older. It was so neat! I always imaged milk would shoot out of one little hole but no, your nipple is like a sponge with multiple holes like a shower head. So neat! Did you know that? I though it was neat. Anyway, it wasn’t all perfect because nothing ever is. I had a plugged duct a few times on my left breast (the same one with the inverted nipple) so that sucked. That breast has always given me trouble! It’s the same one where we found a lump a few years ago. It’s a benign fibroadenoma, I guess it’s really common tumor of the breast. Anyway, that’s old news. But that left breast agh…

We are still nursing. We started solids at 6 months and kept nursing as well. At about 10.5 months I begin to wean her off gradually (after our road trip). I started to drop one feeding a week. I gave myself 6 weeks to wean her off days. Some days were harder than others but for the most part the feedings dropped naturally. The first one to go was the mid morning feeding, then the mid-afternnoon feeding, then the lunch mid-day feeding and as of this morning we dropped the first morning feeding that usually occurred around 6am but sometimes as early as 5am. So the only feeding left is the bedtime feeding which I imagine I will keep for a bit longer. We introduced whole milk the week before her birthday and starting giving it to her with her meals. Just because you drop feedings it doesn’t mean you don’t feed your baby, you substitute it for more solid foods. Once the whole milk came into the picture (she took it no problem thank God), it all just kind of fell together. She seems like such a big kid now. I have to give her a lot of credit too. She is doing such a good job. They are so resilient. These babies, they surprise us all the time!

I should probably mention that Penelope is a Baby Wise baby. The sleep, eat, play cycle really helped us sync her natural rhythm to our lives. It’s a parent led feeding schedule. I never in my wildest dreams imagined I would do something like that, but after trying it, I can’t imagine doing it any other way and that’s probably because it worked so wonderfully for our family. The only thing it didn’t do which is kind of hilarious because the whole point of doing it is so your baby would sleep through the night. Well she didn’t until she was 10 months old. It helped plan out our days, and that was amazing. She for the most part naps wonderfully and then eats after her naps and then has playtime and so on. But the sleeping, well maybe I’ll transition to that next.

This is from way back in the begging when sleep was a luxury that didn’t come very often…

Penelope was waking up anywhere between 1-3 times a night. As you can imagine, that’s a lot of work for momma. I was tired of getting horrible sleep, so both my husband and I felt she was ready and most importantly we were ready to try the “cry it out” method. We felt comfortable with the fact that our baby was getting plenty of solids and nursings during the day that it was no longer a hunger issue but a comfort and pattern issue. Would I have done it sooner? No. You know when it’s time. Earlier I truly believe it was a hunger issue and then it slowly transitions into a pattern and if they don’t do it on their own I believe they just need a little support from the parents. So did it work? YES. And it’s been amazing. She has been sleeping through the night ever since then. Yeah there will be some nights where she wakes up at 11pm or at 4am but it’s because of a poopy diaper so there are no nursings involved. She goes right to sleep. It’s sweet! It took 3 days. The first night as you can imagine was the more difficult. Then by night 3 you feel like it’s going to work. By the 4th night you have a baby sleeping soundly. Its crazy. We were not believers until we tried it for ourselves.

For us, or should I say for Penelope having a routine has really helped keep our lives sane. Baby Wise was great in that sense. Also, having a bedtime routine from the beginning really set us up for success. We do bath, books, snuggles, white noise, teddy and pacifier for bed. We never let her fall asleep on us, always in the crib. Well the first 7 weeks we did (we didn’t start Baby Wise until then). In the beginning I just wore her all the time. I think baby wearing is so crucial, especially in the beginning.

The problem for us was never getting her down to sleep. That has always been easy, it was trying to keep her asleep. She would wake up multiple times to nurse. I figure that is just how it is for nursing mothers. It makes sense too in a biological stand point. The baby is making their own milk every time they feed. They are the milk makers. It’s the whole demand and supply (another great thing we learned in our breast-feeding class) and not supply and demand like I would have thought. If they are demanding the milk and eating frequently (for us it was every 2 hours around the clock the first 3 months). It was a lot of hard work on my end, but the milk kept coming so I kept feeding her. I can now tell the difference because as soon as she started to drop her feedings, my body adjusted to it gradually. I would have moments though where I felt like I had to pump in the morning but I didn’t because if I would have it would have just made more milk. So what would I do? Soak my shirt. Yep, nothing else to do. Eventually it evened out. I still get moments, especially if I hear her crying where my breast feel tingly and want to lactate. Not as bad as they used too! I am so glad we are done with that stage. It’s something in the way our brains are wired (hormones), I would hear her cry for me and my boobs would respond.

I also want to mention that the first 6 weeks, I had no idea what breast-feeding was going to be really like. I didn’t know if I was going to feed her for as long as I did. I wanted to that was always a goal, but I also had no idea how realistic that was. So, I pumped as well as fed her. I didn’t know this until the lactation consultant at the breast feeding support group informed me but I was telling my body to make milk for two babies not one. You see, I was creating so much milk (I later learned that was a blessing too) because I would feed her one breast (she was always very efficient and quick) in ten minutes, and then she would be full and not want anymore so I would pump the other side to relieve pressure and store the milk in the freezer for if one day I needed it. She would then feed off the opposite breast that she fed the previous time in the next feeding and so on. Block feeding is what it is called. For her, that’s what she wanted and not until later did she feed both sides, and even then it was only at bedtime. That’s just how she wanted it. Your baby will let you know when they are hungry, trust me. They are basically in control.

Pumping sucked. It was a lot of hard work. Once I realized I was just making extra milk by feeding on top of pumping (because I wasn’t feeding her what I was pumping), I stopped. A few months later I realized that since we don’t have a deep freezer, my milk that I worked so hard to store would expire in my top freezer. I didn’t know what to do. I cried at the thought of throwing it all away. So I donated it. I donated it to two different moms that were having a difficult time with breast feeding and it was awesome. It wasn’t even weird. It was just so right. These mommas wanted to feed their baby real breast milk and not formula so heck yeah, I was more than happy to give them my milk. I wasn’t going to use it. Not only because there really wasn’t any need to give Penelope a bottle (which she never had), but it was going to expire before I could use it all. That’s why I gave it to two different moms. Between them, they could use it all on time. Here is the milk I donated below. I donated every single drop. Still makes me want to cry thinking about it…

At first her naps were 45 min to an hour every 1.5 hours and eventually transitioned to 3 naps a day each ranging from 1 to 1.5 hours. She is now at 2 naps a day. One in the morning around 8:30-9am (she’s up at 6am on average). The first morning nap is 1.5-2hrs long and sometimes longer. Her second nap is around 1-2pm depending how long she slept for in the morning she will take 1 hour nap but sometimes a little longer again depending on her first nap.

The last two things we’ll have to wean are the bedtime feeding and the pacifier, which I don’t mind at all. They work for us. She only uses the pacifier for long car rides and for sleeping. She never demand it so that is good. I am sure though when we take it away for long car rides and sleep she will demand it, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. I was always an anti-pacifier person so It’s kind of funny that Penelope likes the pacifier. She isn’t a thumb sucker, so the pacifier helps her sooth. Well maybe she would have been but I made it a point to encourage her to use the pacifier instead of her thumb. I was a thumb sucker until first grade and I just didn’t want that for her. As soon as she discovered her thumb we slipped in the pacifier.

We still wear her a lot. She isn’t walking on her own quite just yet. She does only if she is pushing something or holding on the furniture/walls etc. According to her cousins from the Nelsen side of the family they didn’t start walking until 15 months, so we shall see! I have a feeling she might be the same way. I am totally ok with that. She can stay a baby a bit longer for all I care :).

She says, mom, momma, dad, dada and doggie. That’s about it! And she babbles a lot. She also likes to point at everything. It’s so cute. Well I know pointing is rude, but she does it with such excitement and always has so much to say about whatever it is that she is pointing that it makes me smile.

We introduced baby sign language from the very beginning so by six months she was signing for “leche” or milk. She can sign for more, please, and all done. We are working on book and “aqua” or water. That one is a little more tricky. I also throw in the sign for grapes every once in a while since she loves them so much.

She loves to read. It’s awesome! It comes with a price though. She will ask to read a whole box of books. It’s neat and wonderful for her, but I get so tired and bored after 20 books. I’m not kidding. We read stacks and stacks of books in one sitting. Who knows how long this will last.

She is really sweet. I love her. Can you tell I’m her number one fan? She is such a good baby. She loves to snuggle and cuddle her toys. She sleeps with “teddy”. They are the cutest pair. He is her lovey. I love how much comfort she finds in him. I know when she goes night, night that she is in good hands. They snuggle. It’s so sweet.

She is such a lover and not a fighter. That girl would hug everyone all day long if she could. The hug attack is her favorite. Out of nowhere she’ll just jump on you and give you the biggest hug knocking you down to the floor. Here she is hugging a gigantic teddy bear at the store the other day. It almost broke my heart to see how upset she got when she realized he wasn’t coming home with us.

Here she is hug attacking abuelita…

She is so silly and smily. A very content baby. Trust me she does cry and it’s a good cry too, but she rarely shows it off. She has moments where she gives us a sneak peek of what toddlerhood will look like (in a negative way) but I am thankful on a daily basis she is so pleasant to be around. She plays independently with her toys both in her room and the living area. She doesn’t need me to entertain her all the time. I can do the dishes and clean around the house for seriously an hour and she’s fine finding something to do. I always keep a close watch of course and she is never too far away. There is always something we can do to make the house more baby-proof but so far I feel that my baby has a safe playing environment.

Yeah, this year has been pretty amazing. It’s also important to note how much hard work it has been too. There is no way around that. Babies are so needy. They require so much out of you. They are completely and utterly dependent on you for everything. Shelter, food, security, love. Everything. I am so thankful and feel blessed that I have been able to provide her with that and more. She has had stability and a loving home since day one. I wouldn’t have it another way. I have given her %110 percent of my time, love, you name it. I’m hers. It hasn’t been easy on that end. It has required a lot of me. You know what is neat though? I could have never imagined how difficult and challenging having a baby would be. More than I could have imagined, but I love it. I love how much she needs me. I love how much she keeps me busy. It’s my job. I feel honored.

It’s so important to find time in yourself in all this. It’s one of our biggest challenges for sure. I am with her so much and I love it until I don’t and I need a freaking break. HA! So my husband and I are constantly making an effort to communicate our needs. You have to. In order to have a healthy environment not only for your children but for yourself you have to be on the same page as your spouse. Let each other know your needs, wants, desires. Give each other kudos when you are doing a good job, and let each other know when you are not. Finding that alone time is challenging. It got so much better once she started sleeping through the night, but even then I would stay up late watching the Bachelor in Paradise or whatever trash TV just to unwind. We have been on only one date without baby and I have gone out on one girls night since baby. Do we need more? Heck yes, but you know what? We also don’t mind it. We love just being homebodies and having family time. It’s the best. We love our home and each other. It’s our security blanket from the outside world LOL, but yes, it’s important to get out and try and have baby free moments. We need to be better at that.

He’s my rock…

We always talk about what we could do to be better at this. It’s a constant work in progress. You can’t know unless you try different things. We allow ourselves to have alone time as much as possible. My husband loves to go surfing and mt. biking and I love yoga and running. We make the effort to get our exercise on a regular basis. We need it! I think everyone can relate to that.

We also make a huge effort to keep our lifestyle as much as possible. Yes, our lives have changed, but we still love to adventure and explore. That has always been one of our passions as a couple. This past year we have kept our promise to each other to continue to have a good time. We have taken lots of trips and have done some really fun adventures. Penelope’s first trip was to Kauai at 5 months old. She’s gotten to visit WA a couple times now. She’s been on many camping trips, visited friends and family, went on that epic road trip you can read about that here. We do hikes on a regular basis and try and play outside as much as possible. I mean we live in Southern California, if we are not outside enjoying the sunshine, it is our fault and our fault only.

It’s been an awesome year. I feel blessed. It’s been the fastest year of my life and the most challenging. It’s made the bond with my husband even stronger. Each and everyday more and more. We have learned so much and have so much more to learn. We are excited for baby number two. We are already trying. We said we would after the first year, so here we are. Wish us luck. I really hope it doesn’t take as long as it did the first time. Penelope is going to be such a great big sister.

Oh, and I’m turning 30 this weekend. Heck yeah! More on that next time 🙂


2 thoughts on “Our First Year as Parents

    1. It goes by so fast! Don’t even think about it. Bury your face on that precious baby and enjoy every single second. I know you will. It’s the best! She is so cute. I’m excited to watch her grow. In just a few months she is going to look drastically different. So happy for you!!

      Love right back!

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