How We Are Surviving Parenthood

(Just found this post I never published! I’m going to try and get back into blogging so here it goes!)

OUR SECOND BABY is on the way, due to arrive at the end of August. We are beyond happy and excited to meet this new little human we are growing. Will it be a boy or girl? Will they look like big sister Penelope and daddy or maybe mommy this time? It’s so fun to dream the answers to these questions, but we shall see, before we know it, the baby will be here as part of the family and we can’t wait to welcome him/her!

I’ve been doing a lot of reflection lately and asking myself how did I not only survive the first year, but how am I still standing? Now that we are adding one more to our clan I’ve been reflecting a lot on what motherhood looks to me as a full time stay at home (who works here and there helping out a friend manage their Airbnb) mommy. I have a few mommies to be in my life right now, one in particular, who asked me for some pregnancy and first year advice so, instead of a quick FB messenger response, here is my attempt to offer any insight to what this motherhood/parenthood life looks like, what worked for us and also an attempt to remind myself of what to do and not to do for round two. I feel kind of vulnerable sharing so openly but here it is…

EVERYONE will try and tell you their advice, their own opinions and their own parenting philosophy, from your parents to your nosy next door neighbor. And all of it is so different! All of it is useful though. Trust me. I say that because even if someone is giving you what they think is great advice, you might learn for yourself by simple observation of their own situation whether YOU think it’s good or bad. It can get overwhelming. Don’t let it though, take it all in and then weed out what you liked and what you didn’t like. The more examples, stories and observations you are a part of the more you are going to learn. Even before the baby gets here, if you have a good idea of what type of parenting style your family wants to practice, it will help. Back in the day people didn’t read books on how to parent, they learned from each other, their parents, family members and community. Now we have all the tools imaginable! I took everything from books to nosy parenting advice from my neighbor. Again, it’s all good stuff, and again you’ll know right away what not to do from observing others and what things to try because you’ll just know what “feels” right and what works for you.

Not knowing what type of parent you want to be before hand is ok too and it’s ok if it evolves into something different than what you thought. TRUST yourself, your natural instinct will lead you to many successes and yes, many failures too, but that’s ok. Once baby gets here, surround yourself with other mommy friends and play groups, not only will it make you feel good to get out of the house, it’s a great learning experience, peer group and support that you will need. As hard as it is, make sure you get out of the house and don’t isolate yourself. For me, being naturally an extrovert and social person, I knew that I was going to need that, so I made sure to make an effort even before birth to connect with other expecting moms. I also can’t talk “momshop” and do the “mommy” thing all the time. Honestly, sometimes it drives me crazy. It’s a balance. You will find yours.

Now that I have done this before I know that in the beginning when you are pregnant continue to exercise and stay active, try and rest as much as possible, drink lots of water, get sleep and really just enjoy your time with your husband, friends and yourself because alone time will never be the same – it will be different, because once baby gets here those moments of solitude will be rare. If this is your second or third baby etc. it will be extra challenging to do these things, I know it is for me to find that time and energy, but we must try.

One thing is for sure – motherhood looks different for everyone. I’ve met lots of babies this past year and therefore lots of mommies and let me tell you we each have our own way of doing things so it’s important to keep into perspective what actually works for you and your baby and not what you think does or should just because it seems to work for someone else. Be honest with yourself too. Do not compare – well do, but if you are learning from it and choosing to make adjustments or confirmation to your own way of doing things. It’s so easy to pass judgment and or be super critical of others and yourself at times so it’s important to keep in mind to be honest with yourself about how parenthood is really going.

I love hearing what other parents are doing because I love learning how this all works. Observation is the key. You see parents that are often complaining and exhausted, stressed, sleep deprived etc. (We all are to an extent but some are worse then others ) so I what to know why. I’m curious! Mainly because I want to not do what they are doing! Learn by observation right? And by doing of course. I see parents that are for the most part smiling, somehow look rested, and don’t look like they have surrendered as a slave to their own child and I’m like, I want some of that. I want to hangout with you, I want to know all your secrets. I want to be your friend. Tell me!

Our first year like any new parent was filled with the unavoidable challenges new borns bring like sleep deprivation and the constant need of having to care for someone other than yourself around the clock. Overall, we feel that it went pretty smooth. For our family, it’s was all about ORDER and ROUTINE. Having a good system down made all our lives so much easier! Is it possible for everyone? No. Will it work for everyone? No. Are people who don’t like order and routines to begin with even willing to try it? Probably not. In my humble opinion, if you find yourself completely overwhelmed 90% of your day for months and even years with regards to your day spent with your baby, toddler and or children, then it might be time to reevaluate. It’s ok. No one is going to judge. Do what makes your life easier and is mentally, physically and emotionally healthy for yourself, your baby and your family as a whole. Nothing else matters.

For us having order and routine helped immensely. For me as a stay at home mom having a routine helped me have control of my life. There are so many things that go out the window and you can’t control with regard to welcoming a new baby to your home, but know that it really isn’t that bad. There are things you can do and systems you can put in place to help you along the way.

I’m not saying that my way is the correct way and the only way. Not at all. For us, and mainly me as a stay at home mom it was the right way because it worked for our dynamic. There are so many different ways to raise a baby, so keep that in mind.

My order and routine was in the form of Baby Wise, the sleep, eat, play parent-led baby schedule. So before you pass judgment and say that’s the craziest idea I’ve ever heard, keep in mind that it totally worked for us and it made my first year as a mommy run pretty smooth so it can’t be that bad right? Sounds a little nuts though eh? Parent-led feedings? I sure thought so. Until I observe it, witnessed and practiced it as a nanny and then practiced it as a new mom myself. I would never suggest something to another mom knowing it didn’t work for us, but I will say this, it’s a personal decision and you’ll know what’s right and wrong for your child.

I used it as my model but I sure didn’t follow it exactly. I took what I liked from it and left behind what I didn’t feel was right for us. It’s controversial for many reasons (I’ll let you do your own research on why) but I think every mother knows their baby the best and is capable of making the right choice. Penelope took well to the sleep, eat, play routine and before I knew it her natural rhythms synchronized with this and we both knew what our day was going to look like. It was a w e s o m e. That’s all they do anyway as a baby – sleep, eat, play – so It made perfect sense to me to help her by keeping a routine in that order.

Ironically, it didn’t quite help with her sleeping through the night sooner, but I also wasn’t practicing it religiously or expecting for that to happen because I nursed her whenever she would ask for it at night until she was 10 months old and then we did the cry it out method, which totally worked and was not as horrible as people say (but more on that later). Our toddler is one of the happiest and healthiest kiddos I know so I know we did something right. Our days ran and currently run so smooth. We practiced more of a combination schedule which is a mix between parent-led and baby-led routines where you take into consideration the baby’s cues on top of the established routine set out by the parents. I think this is why it worked for us too, Penelope was also in control, they always are even if you think you are! They are the boss at the end of the day.

Penelope has been a content and cheerful baby who has established great eating habits from the beginning. The first 7 weeks I nursed her on demand which for us was every two hours around the clock. She chunked up fast! She was only tiny the day she was born and never lost weight, just kept gaining so we knew we were on the right track. It was exhausting as heck for me so that’s when I implemented Baby Wise thanks to a friend who reminded me of it. She herself had two little ones and she raved about it, so I was excited to give it a try.

I always made sure she got a full feeding and wasn’t just snacking. That’s one thing I noticed the scheduled feedings really helped us during the day. Full belly and well rested resulted in a happy baby. I believe the key was to get a full belly. You know when your baby eats well because if you are nursing you might feel like I did when your entire breast or two empty out and your baby will pull away on their own. You literally feel empty and your baby will look drunk and blissful and that’s how I knew she had a good nursing session. If they want more, they will tell you and if they are satisfied then they will be content with a burp and greet awake time with delight.

If they are in pain due to reflux and or gas and can’t get a full feeding they will tell you and pull away from the breast. They will let you know something is not right. Crying at the breast is a sign something is not right. Penelope did this rarely thank goodness, but when she did, we would give her Mother Bliss Gripe Water and it instantly worked. I don’t know if it was a placebo affect or whatever, but it totally worked for us and as you can see from the reviews online other parents thought so too.

The key to a full belly is they will last longer during awake time and sleep well during nap time and when they wake, they will have a good appetite and the cycle will start once again. Babies who snack throughout the day seem to not get a full belly and be more fussy and sleep less because they are drinking the foremilk, the thinner milk the baby gets first, which has a lower fat content so they are hungry sooner vs. the hindmilk, the high-fat, creamier milk that follows which helps keep the baby fuller longer. These terms can make it seem as if the breasts produce two distinct kinds of milk, which is not the case. The milk-making cells in the breasts actually produce only one type of milk, but the fat content of the milk that is removed varies according to how long the milk has been collecting in the ducts and how much of the breast is drained at the moment. From what I read and observed this seemed to be the case, and the mother’s who had a baby constantly snacking seemed super exhausted trying to meet the baby’s constant hunger needs. I felt exhausted as it was but felt confident in both my body to make more milk and knew in a few hours when my baby was hungry again, I’d be ready with full tanks:).

For me, setting a routine that we both got accustomed too, helped us both in so many ways. When baby was hungry, my breast were also ready to feed and when baby was sleeping, that was my time to feed myself or whatever I needed to do, and when baby was awake, we were both ready to dive right in. So for that reason alone, I really enjoyed this routine. I want to mention you can do a combination Baby Wise routine even if you aren’t nursing, are a working mom and or are a father taking care of the baby. The routine works for everyone. It’s a matter of whether you want to give it a try and see if most importantly it works for your baby.

When Penelope would wake from her nap she’d have a great nursing session because she was rested and hungry therefore super efficient. To this day she is in the routine of eating after her naps. She would then have her awake/play time until it was time to nap again and so on. It changed and adapted as she got older but the same routine and system was in place. Sleep, eat, play and so on. I never restricted her from eating during times that she wanted food. Ever. It was pretty amazing how well she ate because she was so rested (vs. eating when tired and therefore not very efficient wanting to wake shorty after to snack again). She rarely asked to eat outside her feeding time and I think it was because she was getting full feedings and her natural rhythms were synchronizing. It’s also a little different now that she is a toddler and not so much a baby. She has snacks throughout the day but for the most part her big meals are after her naps (she still takes two long naps during the day).

It’s important to keep in mind about when the growth spurts are when they are infants and feed your baby during those times as much as baby wants. They return to their regular schedule afterwards, so no worries. Again, I’m only speaking from my experience :).

Most babies eat from every hour as newborns to every two hours until their stomachs get a little bigger and they can handle three hours or more. They say don’t go longer than four hours without feeding your baby even if they are asleep feed them, so I think if you keep that in mind you won’t have a problem. When a baby gives the hunger cry, it’s beyond hungry. It’s important to watch for the early cues that they want to feed. This is where the combination-scedule is great. Sometimes Penelope wanted to eat a half hour before the “regular” time or wanted to go to sleep a half hour past the usual time. It’s ok to be flexible and listen to your baby. It never went to off schedule for us.

In the beginning we nursed every 1.5 hours and slowly moved to every 2 hours and then every three. To this day she basically eats every 3 hours with a couple snacks in between if she asks for them. So you are doing what they are going to do anyway (wanting to eat every couple of hours) you are just putting order to it. They are super resilient! They are basically doing it on their own or adapt to it smoothly. It was never a struggle for us. It felt to natural and that’s how we knew we were doing the right thing. On top of that as exhausted as I was, I knew exactly when I would get a break or when I could clock off at night. That was so important to me because in the beginning you are always on the clock but as baby grows and adapts you are given more time to rest and take breaks. I could not imagine being attached to the hip to my babies, because when would I ever get a break? I would not be a happy camper. I would probably be stressed and depressed and exhausted by all means. I need my breaks and I feel it’s important for a baby to learn to self-sooth as much as possible and be comfortable knowing that they are safe and will be ok if they take a nap or sleep on their own. I feel like they aren’t aware that you are there unless they get used to the habit of you always being there. Penelope sleeps with a teddy and pacifier – I love how she loves them and the fact she feels comfort in them.

We still wear her often, especially when we are out and about, but when we are at home, we are independent beings. The only time Penelope is clingy is when she hears me tell daddy I need a break from her and to please take her. She latches on to me and becomes super fussy. She is so smart! I need to be more careful for when I ask for help (make sure she doesn’t hear me) and make sure when I make my exist it isn’t a long drown out process.

I was not a prisioner to my house either. If anything it almost made it easier to always be out and about. I think that’s a misconception for parent-led feedings. I also think it’s what you allow to make of it. For example I planned my day around her naps and it made it so much easier to run errands and what not during her wake times knowing what the day was going to look like. It gets easier as they grow out of the newborn stage where all they want to do is eat. Ideally it was easier if she took her naps in her crib with her white noise but if the day had something else needing to take priority I definitely allowed for flexibility. The alternative was to plan for her to still take her nap/sleep around the same time but it would be in the car or in the ergo on a long walk or hike. I kept the sleep, eat, play routine in place as much as possible the only thing that changed were the locations and environment of where this happened. I did it from the beginning so she totally got used to it and also knew what to expect. It was like clock work and made everything run smoother than I could have ever imagined. Sometimes she would fall asleep right on the dot and other times she would walk into her room and ask for her nap by requesting teddy all on her own. Perfectly? No. Were there times when she skipped her nap? Yes. But it overall it worked for us.

Having a schedule and routine also made me feel secure. Penelope knows what to expect too, whether she’s with me or another caregiver such a daddy or grandma. Everyone is always amazed that we can lay her down at a certain time wide awake, and she goes to sleep on her own with no fuss. There are times where she skips a nap and fusses that she wants to be awake but it’s rare. She is human after all ;). Overall putting her down for naps and bedtime is a breeze. Penelope is an extremely content baby and a very good sleeper. Everyone says I’m lucky, but I know it comes from establishing a good schedule.

I think it’s important to be honest with yourself – is this really working? Am I still exhausted? Sleep deprived? Am I afraid to try something new because it might work better and it will make me feel worse because it will only prove that I was doing it wrong? Is there a right and wrong way? Am I being stubborn that I don’t want to change anything because I already categorized myself in the box that says what my parenting style is and if I change, what will people think of me? Moms, don’t allow yourself to get stuck in a box. Be flexible and open minded to try things you never thought you would, who knows your child might take to it and it and you will be surprised by how resilient they are and it might make your life so much easier whatever that may be. I’m constantly trying to be flexible and learn as much as I am all about routine and order. Like I said, heck if it’s working, keep it up and if not don’t be afraid to try something different.

As I reflect on this surviving the first year and now entering toddlerhood, I realize that I feel proud. I feel soooo proud. This is the hardest job I have ever had the privilege to do and I can honestly say I feel proud of myself, and of my husband and of our baby. She’s a freaking rock-star. Seriously! I know everyone thinks that about their baby, but she really is. Well she’s in the “my baby is the best” category at least ;).

I give credit to my mom and every single mom out there that I have observed and learned from during my lifetime. What to do as well as what not to do. I also give credit to having so many siblings, especially my youngest sister Alma who taught me everything I needed to know about patience and empathy and caring. Oh and I can’t forget about all those ruggrats who helped me accumulate millions of hours under the “childcare” category. Lets just say I learned a thing or two from them and from their parents (again of what to do as well as what not to do). Most recently to Max, the first baby I helped raise Monday-Friday for 2.5 years. That experience taught me a lot to say the least.

By the time it came around to my own child, as intimidating as it was more than anything I was so excited to dive in. From day one, I knew what I wanted to do. I didn’t know how it was going to go, but both my husband and I had talked about what type of parents we wanted to be and what type of things we wanted to do and teach our baby. It was from day one such an exciting adventure. We wanted this so bad. I knew I have always wanted to be a mom. Yes, it’s physically as well as emotionally exhausting, challenging and extremely difficult – there is no way around that. Putting that aside though I feel confident going into round two. Eager if anything!

I also take the philosophy of who I was before I had a baby to who I am now as a mother. First off I am me. Second I am a wife and third, I am a mother. Though in my opinion they only differ by a hair and are basically in the same row ;). It’s so hard to say that sometimes but it’s nice to remind myself I am Liz – I married my husband and I am his wife and then I became a mother. I am all these things and I cannot forget that underneath all those new layers like an onion that keep accumulating, I am Liz first. I came with my own set ways before all this and now I’m adapting and growing and changing but my foundation makes me who I am. So motherhood for me is so many things – unique to me.

I went into it knowing that I wanted order. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t lose myself as I have heard it’s so easy to do and trust me, there are days where I do. There were and are times where I wonder who the heck I am sitting here still in my pajamas at four in the afternoon without having talked to a single adult all day? You feel brain dead and then you get the opportunity to say something using real words to the mail man and it ends up coming out as if your mouth is in paralysis and your brain is running on crack. Basically mumbling like an idiot thinking you said something coherent but really they have no idea what you said so all they do is smile back. I try not to do that though. I make an effort each and everyday to get out of the house and experience new things nor matter how hard it is. I want Penelope to not be limited and experience new sights and sounds, feel comfortable with other people and the environment around her. We are constantly at the playgrounds or running around in open spaces as well as schedule play dates with other kids her age. We are also often at home being lazy in our sweats reading and playing with her millions of toys and books and that’s ok with me too.

I don’t know if this is of any help to anyone, but remember to just be honest with yourself of what is working and what is not. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Find a system that works for your family dynamic and roll with it, but most importantly know that you will survive and to have fun. The days are long but the years are short. Don’t forget about that saying because it’s so true. It goes by so fast, they grow like weeds.

I’m sure there is a ton I forgot to talk about, but I hope this helps, I know it helped remind me that we got this, baby number two will hopefully run smooth too, but only one way to find out.

HERE IS A LIST OF FIRST YEAR MUST HAVES:

Arms Reach Co-Sleeper
Bobby Pillow
Aden & Anais Swaddle Blankets
Philips Avent Pacifiers
Medela Tendercare Lanolin Nipple Cream
Bourdreaux’s Butt Paste
Boogie Wipes
Halo SleepSack Swaddle
Summer Infant Swaddling Sacks
Mitten Cuffs Onesies
Graco Sweet Slumber Sound Machine
Pajamas With Zippers (we hated the ones you had to button up, especially at 3am)
Reusable Nursing Pads
Bouncer Chair Depending on how much you want to spend – to me they look like they do the same thing 🙂
Winkel Boxed Teether
Chewbeads (both mommy and daddy can wear these)
Bob Stroller
BOB B-Safe Infant Car Seat
Ergobaby Performance Collection Carrier (we use this daily!)
Solly Baby Wrap (can’t wait to use if for round 2!)
Moby Wrap (we used this the first time around but gifted it to a friend so will be using the Solly)
Nursing Bras (are a must)
Nursing Tanktops Target
Mommy’s Bliss Gripe Water
Carlson Labs Super Daily D3 for Baby 400IU Supplement

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