In a recent conversation with a newly expecting mom, I found myself giving some valuable (and solicited) advice about labor and delivery. I’m not usually the type to offer up my two cents and complete birth story, since I hated it when people did that to me, but since she was asking me quite a bit about what to expect and what I recommend, I opened right up! So I thought I’d share my top 5 pieces of advice when it comes to labor and delivery for first-time moms:
1. Try out prenatal yoga – Personally, I was never much of one for yoga. And as far as giving birth went, I just assumed I’d get the epidural as soon as I was able to. I had heard about prenatal yoga and figured I would give it a try – hoping to learn some helpful poses and breathing techniques for when the big day came. I was pleasantly surprised with how much I learned and how much confidence I gained in my ability to possibly undergo an all natural birth. Breathing, visual focus, relaxation, movements and poses were all super helpful leading up to the birth and also very much so during my labor. I actually spent most of my labor on a yoga ball and my yoga mat. And although I eventually begged for the epidural (after all, 22 hours of labor takes quite a toll), I was still really happy that I did prenatal yoga because it gave me a great deal of confidence in my ability to manage labor pains.
2. Ask your mom how her labor/delivery was – I have heard so many friends share that they “went fast” just like their mom or sister did and many others who say they were late or had very long labors just like their close relatives did. I’m sure this isn’t always the case but I highly recommend, if you haven’t already, finding out how your mom’s labor was because it might give you at least an idea of what to expect. Personally, my mom was late with both my sister and me, and I found myself not going into labor until 5 days after my due date.
3. Forget the birth plan – A labor and delivery nurse once told me, “a birth plan is a one-way ticket to a C-section.” And given that I heard at our birthing class that about 1 in 3 women have a cesarean section, I can see how this might be true. Although I already knew that I wasn’t going to put much effort into a formal plan, I was reassured by this advice. I think that all too often women go in with a set plan on how the labor and delivery process will go and, unfortunately, find it difficult to adapt and adjust when the baby has their own agenda. I see this as a good first step to letting go of some need to control for the rest of your life because, believe me, you have to be flexible and adaptable when it comes to kids. I told my husband how I thought things would go – that I wanted to last as long as possible without drugs and use what I learned in yoga to push through the pain but that I wasn’t completely against an epidural. I also made sure to ask my doctor ahead of time if I would be allowed to be out of the bed and mobile so that I could practice some of my yoga techniques. I was fortunate enough to have very supportive and flexible nurses who would monitor the baby’s heart beat while I was out of bed and away from the machines.
4. Eat before you go to hospital – I can’t tell you how many friends warned me that once you go to the hospital, you are not allowed to eat anything besides ice chips. Being that I’m prone to becoming hangry when I don’t eat every few hours (trust me, not pretty), I kept this in the back of my mind. I started labor pains around 3am and managed to stay home, eat a nice full breakfast and then leisurely head to the hospital after calling my doctor. Now, I know this isn’t the case for all women but I was fortunate enough to have time on my side so I had plenty of time to fill my tummy for the long road ahead. Now, some doctors may tell you this is a terrible idea but it worked out fine for me and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was not in the least bit hungry during my long day/night at the hospital, nor did I get sick or throw up during the process.
5. Do what YOU want – I took notes from some of my close friends and decided that I did not want any of our family (or friends) at the hospital while I was in labor. The thought of people waiting around and my hubby needing to provide regular updates was something I just didn’t want to deal with. There was nothing anyone could do in the waiting room and who knows how long it would take, so they might as well be comfortable at home until they get the exciting news that there’s a baby to see. An acquaintance said it best – “It only took me and my husband to make the child so it’s only going to be the two of us getting that child out!” And I wholeheartedly agree. It’s a really private, emotional, and strenuous time. The last thing you need is to be worrying about anything else but being as relaxed as possible (something that yoga taught me is your #1 goal in labor.) Make sure that you make decisions, draw boundaries and do whatever you have to so that you are comfortable and relaxed. And if that means having your family camped out in the waiting room, then by all means! It just wasn’t what I wanted. And really, the mom is the one who gets to make these calls. (Yes, that’s you!)
I’m sure that many other moms have tons of other advice for newly expecting moms but these were the ones that really did the most for me and seemed to resonate with the new momma that I spoke with. Best of luck to you as you prepare to bring a life into this world! It’s a pretty awesome thing you’re going to do. And remember, as some of my good friends say, “not all superheros wear capes.”
This post is brought to you by Wegmans Apple Pomegranate Sparkling Juice (since I thought it would be a little mean to tempt pregnant mommas with a wine recommendation. 🙂
By our 4 month check up, our little guy was showing signs that he was ready to start solids. He had an incessant interest in anything we were eating and was sitting up with some support. We were fortunate enough to receive some great guidance from our pediatrician on which foods should be introduced when. This made things pretty simple but I’m learning that many other mommies aren’t so lucky to have this guidance and are left wondering:
* What are good first foods for baby?
* What kind of baby cereal should we use?
* Will my baby develop a preference for sweet foods if we start with fruit?
* When can my baby eat meat?
Here’s the deal, at least from our experience…
Start with baby cereal (mixed with formula or breast milk) first. If you follow the instructions on the Gerber box, it will be pretty much all milk with barely a noticeable amount of cereal. That’s OK! You’re getting baby used to the idea of eating off a spoon and getting a little substance (besides milk) in their tummy. Yes, it will be messy and end up all over the place; you might as well just get used to that! One useful piece of advice: If your little one has runny poop and goes very often, you’ll want to use rice cereal. If your baby doesn’t poop very often or has trouble going, oatmeal cereal is the way to go.
Offer this mixture once a day to start and if it seems to be tolerated well, you’ll want to work up to three times a day eventually.
As our pediatrician told us, the idea is that you want them to get used to eating meals with the rest of the family sitting at the table.
(Whoa – who would have thought that feeding your baby wasn’t just about providing nutrition but also acquainting them with social norms?!) Hopefully you’ll see that this works well – the baby is occupied while you’re enjoying your meal (as long as you can align schedules and you get used to feeding yourself and a baby simultaneously.)
After cereal went down fine, we decided that bananas would be a good first real food – no cooking necessary. To start, you want to make sure that the food is VERY pureed and thin. (I used the BELLA 13617 Baby Rocket Blender – more on that in another post.) We would do cereal at breakfast and bananas at lunch or dinner. Word to the wise: Introduce new foods at breakfast or lunch time to minimize the risk of a bad night’s sleep if something doesn’t sit well. (That’s if you’re lucky enough to have a baby who sleeps at night. Us? Not so much.) I’d recommend keeping all food and cereal separate for now – there will be plenty of time for mixing when you have a good list of foods that your baby likes.
After bananas, we moved on to apples and pears (stewed on the stove with water for awhile, then pureed) then sweet potatoes and carrots (steamed in the microwave or in a small rice cooker, then pureed.) We tried peas and green beans but both seemed to give our little guy a tummy full of gas which made already rough nights pretty unbearable. Our pediatrician advised waiting a month and trying again if something upsets his tummy. Another rule of thumb, “if at first you don’t succeed, try try again.”
This is all new to your little one – be patient, laugh at their funny faces when they eat something new for the first time, and try things again if they don’t seem to be a big fan the first time around.
As for people who worry that starting baby on fruits will give them a preference for sweet things, here’s my take: milk (whether breast milk or formula) is already slightly sweet-tasting. You’re more likely to get your little one on board eating solids if they are also sweet, at least somewhat. Fruit is healthy – it has natural sugar and it’s not a gateway to candy and soda! Get real people! I say start with fruit then move to sweet potatoes or carrots (sweeter vegetables) and then move to less sweet foods like peas, green beans and avocado. One of my tricks is to mix a new (less sweet) food in with a food that your baby already likes – just to start. You don’t want your little one to insist on eating everything mixed with bananas but mixing peas with carrots may warm him up to the idea of a green in his diet quicker than starting with peas alone. (Don’t mix two new things though, then you won’t know what is the culprit if something doesn’t agree with baby’s tummy.)
For more information on the timing of introducing certain foods, check out my handy chart: Introducing Your Baby to Solid Foods. It includes a basic outline of when to start feeding your baby certain foods, including when to introduce dairy and meat products.
This post was brought to you by St. Julian Winery Founder’s Red. It’s a smooth, easy-drinking red wine. Goes great with a meal or chocolatey dessert! (Brought to us from friends who live in Michigan!)
Maybe it’s because I’m technically a millennial but I’ve always had a need for positive reinforcement. As a kid, I wanted to know that my parents were proud of me. In college, I wanted good grades from my professors. In my first few jobs out of college and, still today, I’ve hoped that my supervisors would give me positive reassurance and guidance on how to continue to improve and grow.
This has all worked out pretty well for me. I’ve grown to be ambitious, hard-working, caring, and dedicated. I aim to please, achieve goals and set my sights on bigger and better things. Feedback and positive reinforcement have been great motivators.
Aaand, then I became a mom. Now that was a total game-changer.
Being a mom is one job that no matter how you’re doing it, it almost always feels wrong.
It seems like you never have the answers or solutions to the questions and struggles you face. Is my baby immune to sleep training? Is it OK for babies to get THIS many shots at once? Why is my toddler crying over a banana? What’s the best way to handle a child who is too attached to mommy? Sure, you can do hours of internet research and read books, but at the end of the day – you’re still the one choosing a method and trying to figure out if it was the “right” one.
Feedback is pretty hard to come by as a parent. Sometimes your child will provide that reassurance you crave but, in all likelihood, their feedback will be unclear, inconsistent or nonexistent. One time your solution to their crying will work and another time it will make them scream louder. You’ll read a great tip about handling toddler tantrums and when you go to execute, your toddler doesn’t even acknowledge your existence. You are, most often, left without reassurance that you’re doing things right.
No one prepares you for this aspect of parenting. No one warns you that you’ll always question what you’re doing and that, most often, no one is there to tell you that you’re doing a great job or reassure you that you’re not totally messing up your child.
You’re left to make decisions that you feel incapable of making and handling scenarios that you could never plan for. You do your best and always question if you could have done it better. You crave feedback and reassurance that you’ll never get, at least not any time soon.
I recently remembered something that my father said back when I was in high school. When people were surprised that he didn’t give me a curfew or watch over me and my sister like a hawk, he would say “I’ve done everything I could to instill the right values and morals in my kids. They’re old enough now to make their own decisions and all that I can do is hope that they make the right ones.”
My dad was right.
He knew that he and my mother had done the best job they could raising us and that we had a sense of obligation to make them proud and do the right thing. So, although I crave immediate reassurance that I’m doing right by my toddler, I guess I will have to wait another 15-16 years for real feedback. That’s a tough pill to swallow but I also feel like it puts things in perspective. Every little day-to-day decision that I make related to my toddler will not make or break him. In the grand scheme of life, these are little things. How I handle his crying, sleep issues, tantrums or begging for his mommy may seem like life-altering situations at the time, but they’re not. Teaching my child the morals and values that are important to us is the big piece. And, although I’d like to know if I’m doing that right, I guess I’ll be waiting awhile to find out.
“They don’t just give those kids to anyone,” my husband said as I lamented our less than perfect 8-day cross-country trip to visit my sister. I was telling him that I felt embarrassed by the way I had lost my temper with our toddler time after time on our vacation. I felt like a terribly impatient mother who could not contain her frustration. And, to a sibling and her husband who never wanted children to begin with, I was certain I appeared completely in over my head.
I came to a lot of realizations on our trip, mostly the hard way. Through a conversation with my husband I realized that I needed to start asking for help sooner. I normally don’t reach out for someone to intervene between me and my toddler until it’s way past my tolerance level. And then it comes in the form of biting off someone’s head instead of a cry for help. I realized that I do this because I feel like a failure. When we’re battling it out for him to go to bed and he’s fighting me tooth and nail, I feel like asking for help is me giving in. Like his will won over my own. Like I couldn’t handle the situation myself. Like I was an incapable mom.
The second revelation I had was that I have a strong-willed child.
I realized that there’s a label for all of our difficult struggles and stressful times, and that made me feel better in an odd way.
Reading book excerpts and blog posts and quotes on Pinterest about strong-willed children gave me reassurance that I’m not alone. Up until now I have felt like I can’t handle my child. Like I wasn’t ready to be a mom. Like everyone else was better at this than I was. Like I wasn’t thankful enough for the child I had been given. I had never considered that maybe my child wasn’t like most children. I hadn’t thought about the fact that maybe my friends’ children were a bit more manageable and easy-going than my spirited, opinionated, busy little guy.
I’ve said it before but I realized it even more so on a vacation that involved LONG plane rides and even longer car rides – it’s OK to break your own rules. I am not proud of the number of hours that our toddler spent in front of an iPad over the course of 8 days. Playing games and watching Thomas the Train over and over and over again on the plane, in the car and before going to bed…I could see ourselves getting carried away using technology to occupy our child. We were even guilty of turning on a movie in the morning or evening hours just to keep his attention a little bit so we could have some time to breathe. These are not standard practices in our household but on a vacation where we were out of our routine and comfort zone and familiarity, we did what we had to in order to get by.
Lastly, I learned that sometimes you just need to kick back with a drink and relax. Yes, even when you’re on parent duty. It’s OK to have a drink or two (or more) in the middle of the afternoon or before your little one is going to bed. (Especially when you’re on vacation and your child doesn’t want to sleep and bed time becomes a serious struggle.) You can’t bank on having the time or energy to enjoy your vacation after your little one goes to bed because it may not happen. You have to enjoy what you can and, even though some may gasp in horror at what I’m about to say, sometimes a little buzz is just what you need to take the edge off of parenting your strong-willed child who is now addicted to electronics while on vacation.
Parenting is not always easy. In fact, for me, it feels quite hard most days. I question my effectiveness, my decisions, my approach, and my patience ALL THE TIME. I guess, at the end of the day though, it all comes down to reflection.
Reflecting on those moments when I lose my temper and I’m too stubborn to ask for help, and thinking about how I might do it differently next time allows me to forgive myself (at least a little bit.) I’m just a work in progress and our toddler is too. Learning lessons along the path of life is the best we can do.
This post is brought to you by Canyon Cutter, a dry white wine that we purchased and drank IN the Grand Canyon National Park to celebrate my sister’s birthday.
I know it’s bad. I know there’s no real educational value. I know it’s lazy parenting. I know that if I admitted it to our pediatrician, I would get a judging look and lecture about how there are so many better alternatives and how this habit can be detrimental to development.
I was one of those people who said I would never use television as a tool to entertain my young children. I would be an involved parent and encourage creative play and hands-on activities instead. I would make my kids play outside and do active things. And then I had a child of my own and realized all of the benefits of plopping them down in front of the television. Yes, all of those selfish perks for ME. And Daddy too, I guess.
My toddler is an active kid. I mean REALLY active. Like, if he’s not sleeping or eating, he’s moving. NON-STOP. It’s fun but it’s really freaking exhausting. And, sometimes, he exhausts himself but it’s not nap time and it’s not bed time, and it’s that time in between where we don’t know what to do with him and, quite frankly, he doesn’t know what to do with himself. Now, don’t get met wrong, we’re really active parents. No couch potatoes here. We chase our little guy, take him for walks, play outside (when the weather isn’t crap), try out new activity ideas from Pinterest, read books when he’ll sit still…you get the picture (I hope.)
But the thing is – sometimes we just need to watch TV. It’s our escape. It’s quiet time. It’s a chance to catch our breath. It’s also a great opportunity to get some quality snuggle time with our wild child. He curls up with his sippy cup of milk, lets me smell his hair and rest my head on his. I hear him talk and point and get really interested in what’s happening on the screen, and then lay back again for more cuddles. It’s heavenly. I soak up every second of these moments because I know they will not last forever. I scold my husband for doing it and I feel guilty when I do it, but I really enjoy watching TV with my toddler.
I enjoy it so much that the guilt doesn’t outweigh the joy it brings me, at least not now. From what I read and hear about being a mom, we’re always going to feel guilty about something. I will always worry that allowing him to watch TV contributed to his delayed speech or that it will have long term negative effects on him. I will always question if I’m actually a lazy parent who doesn’t even realize it. I will compare myself to other moms and wonder if I should be doing it more like them. But, somewhere along the line, I guess I have to come to grips with the fact that I am the parent and these are the decisions that I have to make. For now, I say let’s watch some TV and enjoy a few moments of peace and quiet and a little cuddle time.
This post is brought to you by Spruzzi Grillo 2014 and easy-drinking white that pairs well with citrus/acidic foods.
- “Shut up” – Maybe it’s because my parents instilled this value in me throughout my upbringing but this phrase is NEVER appropriate – not with a child, a spouse, a family member, a coworker, anyone. Everyone is entitled to freedom of speech – including my child, no matter how annoyed I may be with them.
- “You’re dead” – I recently witnessed a mother saying this repeatedly to her child who was sucking chocolate milk through a straw and pulled the straw out, causing milk to spill on the child and on the floor. WHOA! Hasn’t she ever heard the phrase “don’t cry over spilled milk?” This lady is threatening to kill (not really) her kid over something as simple as a beverage?! If that’s ever me, I really hope I can take a deep breath and see things with a little more perspective.
- “Hurry up” – Maybe a bit less obvious than the first two, but I feel like this phrase undermines your child’s abilities. Whether he’s getting distracted by toys as I’m trying to get him out the door or walking too slowly behind me down the sidewalk, there are so many kinder and gentler ways to motivate him. And besides, don’t people just assume that anyone with a child is going to be at least 10-15 minutes late for everything anyway?
shower gifts than I did pre-baby. I mean you can’t go wrong purchasing right from the registry but it also adds a nice personal touch to give some things that you know you really needed when you were a new mom, that new moms may not even think about. For me, the best gifts were the ones that combined both things that I asked for and also some things that my friends/family really needed when THEY were new moms. Given that it was my first rodeo, I was happy to get any advice and guidance that I could!
Never ever, not in a million years, would I have thought that I would be motivated enough or have the dedication to run a half marathon. I never liked running. Not since as far back as those middle and high school days when you had to run a mile and get timed for it in gym class. I actually wished to get sick on those days to avoid it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was a fairly athletic kid. I played soccer, softball and eventually tennis and really enjoyed being active, but running? That was my least favorite aspect of sports.
The year we were getting married my husband and I decided to run one 5K per month for 6 months to help us get in shape for the wedding. It was a daunting task at first as neither of us could even run a mile without stopping and gasping for air (we also both have asthma, so that didn’t help). We started out with one mile and worked our way up by half mile increments every week.
Before we knew it, we could both run 3 miles without stopping – we were pretty proud of ourselves but were pretty sure we wouldn’t ever run much more than that.
Fast forward a few years and a baby later, and my husband decided to start training for duathlons (running and biking.) I’m a supportive wife and new mom and I’m excited that he’s taken on such an awesome challenge, but I never had any thoughts of joining in. After summer passed and his planned races were over, he asked me if I would do a half marathon with him in February in Florida. “Ummm…no. But the baby and I will be waiting for you at the finish line!” was my response. Well, hubby didn’t take “no,” for an answer and proceeded to tell me that this was a music half marathon which meant there were about 20 bands scattered throughout the course. “Well, that sounds kind of cool,” I thought. Then he told me that there was free beer at mile 12 and at the finish line. “Ok, this is actually sounding a little fun…”
Needless to say, he found a 10-week training plan and before I knew it, we were both dedicated to 3 runs per week. We did two shorter runs on our own during the week and one long run together on the weekend. I had no idea how I would keep running as the cold winter weather moved in but somehow I just did it.
I remember thinking on one snowy run, “Wow, I’m one of those crazy people who runs in the snow?! When did that happen?!”
A little over a month before the race I was still feeling like I was way out of my league and had no idea how I’d survive 13.1 miles. Then my darling husband told me that there was a winter race coming up that was a half marathon but we could do it as a relay, splitting the distance in half. I figured I’d better get on board since it fit in pretty well with our training schedule anyway. This was my first race longer than a 5K and I was a bit nervous.
Despite the windy and cold weather, I surprised myself and never stopped to walk during that race. “Wow. Ok, maybe I really can handle this half marathon thing after all!” This was a turning point in my mental preparedness to do this half marathon and every week that we increased our distance, I felt a little more ready to take on this challenge.
I won’t bore you with all of the details about the race itself, but we both survived. We not only made it through the race in one piece, but shared some laughs, made some fond memories and we both said we’d consider doing it again. (Total shocker!)
Throughout this entire process, I surprised myself and gained an incredible amount of confidence – not just in running but in life in general.
So often we take the easier path, the safe route. We make excuses like “I don’t have enough time to work out,” or “I’m too scared to ask my boss for a raise.” We stick to what we know and say things like “I’ll just walk when it’s nice out because the gym is intimidating,” or “I’ve been at this job for so long, starting all over again would be a lot of work.”
I admit it, I’ve been there too. It’s easy to set goals that you know you can achieve. It’s safe to stay in the same job and not venture out to try new things. Training for this half marathon took me out of my comfort zone and, quite frankly, scared me a bit. This was a difficult and intimidating goal and I was not certain that I could achieve it. After all, I never really liked running, we have a toddler and work full time, the cold, winter weather was moving in and… the list could go on. Fortunately, though, I let my husband talk me into this crazy idea and I could not be more thankful. I have learned a great deal about myself through this process and look forward to setting and achieving my next big goal.
This post is brought to you by Ménage à Trois Silk. A lighter, smoother version of the traditional one – goes great with a delicious dark chocolate!
Being a mom is a huge part of my life but it doesn’t define who I am. I am still a daughter, sister, wife, friend and employee. Sometimes those responsibilities take a backseat because being a mom is top priority, but I am still all of those things. I still have a life outside of caring for my child. I still have hobbies, goals, and dreams, and I make time to do things for me.
I think that all too often women get sucked into mommyhood and lose sight of themselves. Maybe it’s not losing sight as much as letting mommyhood completely redefine who they are. I’m not saying that keeping some of your hobbies and favorite past times is easy when you have a child. And, in all likelihood, it’s going to take a while before you feel like you can handle anything else aside from the basic survival tasks but eventually, you need to make time for it.
Get a pedicure once in a while. Plan to meet your girlfriends for a drink every month. Set a healthy goal for yourself – running a 5k or doing yoga regularly or whatever makes sense for you. Commit to a bowling or kickball league or maybe a painting class. Apply for that job you’ve been eying up.
Whatever it is that makes you happy (aside from your family) or gets you closer to a goal or dream, MAKE TIME FOR IT! No, it’s not easy but it’s important, really important.
I will admit that I really lost myself and felt pretty consumed by caring for our little guy when I returned to work from maternity leave. It probably took me a good 3 months of being back to work before I felt like I could even think about regularly exercising again, and maybe another 3 months before I felt like I had a little control over my life and I wasn’t just trying to get through each day. (Coincidentally, this was also around the time that our baby finally started sleeping through the night!)
By the time our little guy was a year old, to my extreme surprise, I was not only working full time and handling the mom stuff, but I found myself training for my first half marathon, starting a mommy blog AND adjunct teaching at a college for the first time. Whoa. Who would have thought? Certainly not me as a new mom! I have come so far from those first few months of new mommyhood – wondering how I could even manage going back to work, let alone taking on anything new!
Now, I’m not certain that I would recommend biting off as much as I have over these past few months (it’s a bit overwhelming at times) but my point is this:
New moms shouldn’t lose hope of regaining their identity.
Yes, it will take time. Yes, it requires a lot of planning and effort. And yes, it means that you have to ask for help (gasp!) But you can and you should take time for YOU. Actually no, you NEED to. Yes, you’re a mom but you’re still an individual with your own identity and you deserve to have YOU time.
This post is brought to you by Ménage à Trois Midnight. A nice, easy-drinking red wine, great to keep you warm on cold winter nights!
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