Thursday, May 22, 2014

Things I Wish I Knew as a 1st Time Mom

Our newest addition takes me back to the day when those first two pink lines appeared... the excitement, anxiousness and amazement are still keenly remembered after 3 bio babies, a large (some what overgrown) 5 year old "baby boy" and a sweet baby girl through adoption!

Now baby #6 is on its way!  The insanity!

I was reminiscing about those early days and realized having baby #6 is a whole lot different than having baby #1! I began to wonder how much easier it would have been had I known what I do now...

What did I wish I knew back then?

1. Pregnancy is meant to be a time of preparing for parenthood, not just spent doing all the things commonly done to enjoy pregnancy. 
Don't get me wrong, enjoy it! Live it up! Take that photo of a hand heart over your globular belly, buy some fun baby stuff, have a baby shower or two, register and take a Babymoon... but remember, this is all preparation for a life long journey called "parenting".

Prepare for that too! Figure out what you think you want to do with a sleepless baby, a screaming toddler and how you want to address things like feeding, childcare, and discipline.

Remember, your partner is also in on this and your marriage is not to take a backseat to baby. Go to a marriage conference, find a mentor couple to talk with and discuss how to keep your marriage at the top of the list and also how to balance children and marriage together! The best gift you can give your children is loving your spouse more than you love them!

One day as I held my 1st I realized how silly I had been to be so concerned about getting burp clothes, diapers and wipes... being a parent was HARD! I needed something far more protective than a burp cloth! I needed the help of the Holy Spirit... because in that moment I knew without His help I would, for sure, foul this thing up on my own. Pray often. Meditate on the Word. Live out the concepts of Brother Lawrence in keeping up a constant conversation with the Almighty! This practice is made for mothers with little ones.

My TOP Parenting Book List 

On Mothering -  Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic (best read when you have a 3 year old)
Basic Child Training - Raising Godly Tomatoes by Elizabeth Krueger
Disciplining and the Heart - Give them Grace by Elise Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson
On Marriage and Family - Creative Counterpart by Linda Dillow
Adoption - The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis

Other things I enjoyed learning and discovering as a new mom...
Baby sign language
Various sleep or scheduling methods
(Attachment parenting/co-sleeping to even scheduling/"sleep training", 
through it we found our "happy medium".)
How to make your own baby food, baby wipes, and hair and skin creams
Cloth diapering

Tim told me if I ever made him do "hand hearts" over my belly I might as well take away his "man card".
I ofter to "let" him this time around... he declined...

2. Birth. It is important, but not life altering if things don't go as you've planned.
Prepare for what you want, but surrender what you don't "get".

Learn a natural birth method, even if you never intend on using it because you never know what you're going to get. When I delivered in the hospital with my 3rd child, there was this poor woman next door screaming her poor head off... like REALLY screaming, insanely! When I commented I felt really bad for her to my labor nurse, she said that she was a 1st time mom and hadn't planned on having a natural birth (and was obviously unprepared for one) but her labor was progressing too quickly and they couldn't get her the epidural she wanted because the baby was almost ready to be born. She was in "transition" and had no means of dealing with her obvious pain because she had thought she'd have that miracle working epidural! Thankfully her suffering was over with shortly, but I bet she wished she had some sort of back up plan to help her out in her hour of need.

Similarly, even if you learn 10 birthing methods prepare your heart for an unexpected c-section or need for various interventions... things happen and life throws us curve balls, even when we think we know what we want. Prepare to be balanced... prepare for the unexpected.

Know that in it all, birth is a normal (a typically non-medical) function of the body... and the purpose of birth is to get you a healthy baby. I believe a woman's body can accomplish amazing things. You are stronger than you think and however your baby enters this world is a miracle that you participated in!

Hospital birth went well and we got a baby!
Home birth went well and we got a baby!
Other forms of delivery go well and they get their families a baby!

3. Breast vs. Bottle
A majority of women in my local community breastfeed... I know this isn't always the norm everywhere, but this is where I am coming from. That said, I have been both a breast and bottle mom.  I've done both fairly exclusively... meaning some really never took a bottle or formula and another took only a bottle and formula.

First off... Breast vs. Bottle is not a moral issue. It simply isn't. 

It is an issue of methodology...
What method will you choose given the information you know? For me, it all came down to... which method I found most met our needs as a family and meshed with our values. That was the breast with our first 3 babies. While breastfeeding was and has always been a challenge to me initially, I did it because I valued it and it best met our needs.

I didn't nurse because it was noble/right/best, I nursed because it was the easiest option (for me) and FREE!

I made the choice with our 5th to not pursue re-lactating (and to formula feed her) because of a few factors...
1. I knew I'd have to take drugs I didn't want to take to start lactating again... as she entered our family via adoption.
2. I knew pumping is very hard for me and usually produces very little results.
3. I knew that if she didn't take to nursing I'd not be able to give her stored milk because I have a lipase enzyme issue that makes my milk taste like soap and none of my previous babies would choke it down after it had been stored for more than about an hour.

Honestly, I didn't love bottle feeding, but I did it because it fit our family during that season, it was best for us all. I found bottle feeding at night something akin to being drunkenly impaired and trying to do a jigsaw puzzle under pressure of being punched in the face by a screaming maniac. Head nod.

Despite it being less than ideal for me, I did it, because it too was what was best for our family and met the needs of our child at that particular time and situation. I was extremely thankful it was an option and that formula had kept my child alive and thriving for her first months of life! She has continued to have amazing health and honestly I have seen very little difference in comparison to my breastfed babies.

Also, with each of my nurslings I had to learn how to nurse (again), it never came easy for me. That is why I think lactation specialists are miracle workers... they really are. They fix problems instantaneously and send you nursing on your merry way! That said, expect to ugly cry when you call them... they will expect it and it is okay, sob and sniffle away, go and see them and things will get better!

That night I called a lactation specialist in tears and they helped!

4. Things will be hard... but they will get easier.
When my first little one came I had been under the impression that they typically come out and do three things: sleep, eat and poop. Well, that was a BIG fat lie! When my first was born she came out and stayed up all hours (day and night), she cried... endlessly and even pooping wasn't exactly as I expected it.

At most she'd sleep for 30 minutes and wake up and cry some more. I tried every method of dealing with the lack of sleep, crying and the fact she seemed unlike any newborn on the planet. I read a long list of books. One helped me parent her better... basically, I learned that all the shooshing, rocking, slinging, bouncing, and cajoling I had been doing (as advised by all the other books) was just majorly overstimulating a child who entered this world prone to being overstimulated easily. She needed help from me to anticipate her need for sleep and to shut down. It worked and she eventually stopped crying (so much) and started sleeping in a more normal pattern (more than 30 minutes.)

BUT... really what I needed was for a friend to tell me, "Hey girl, You know, it is hard right now. BUT, it will get easier. I promise you will sleep again. She will sleep. You won't feel like your world has been thrown upside down. Hang in there and keep on loving and caring for that baby!"

The BEST 1st Week of Parenting Photos... This is reality...
(Seriously, my favorite photos, ever!)
Me: "What was I thinking??? They all lied... lied! They said new babies just eat, sleep and poop?"
Tim: "Um, you can take her now! She must need to eat again? She is crying... again."
Me: "I just fed her 11 minutes ago! I don't think she ever stops crying..."
Addie: "God? Why? This mother is incompetent! I can't stop looking at the lights!
Help me! Save me from this insanity!!! The lights!!!!"
(Note... she is the exact color of her magenta dress.)
And look... I am "shooshing" and rocking the poor child!


With any hope this will be your next child. 
He slept a solid 5 hours his first night, and all he did for months was eat, sleep and poop normally!
Angel baby!

5. Products/Gear/Things...
Having 5 (nearly 6) children sort of helps you eliminate all the junk that seems to accumulate after a few babies. I have made my "Must Have" list of top items I really couldn't live with out.

A ring sling and an "ergo" style carrier ~
Ok that is two... but you will want a sling (I prefer a ring sling) for the early infancy period because it is most adjustable and able to keep a baby up on your shoulder, aka "the sweet spot", without them flopping all about.
Then once they have some heft to them and some head control you can move to a more comfortable ergo style carrier. There are many brands and they are all just about the same, but you'll use it for up to about 3+ years after that.
I still have my first ring sling and ergo and they are going strong and still get used!!! I have carried 4 babies and toddlers in my ergo and still carry my 3 year old in it very often on my back. Seriously, promise me you won't get a Bjorn... please, they stink in comparison, plus they are less than ideal for baby's hip joints.

A pretty blanket ~
It doubles as a nursing cover, towel, spit up rag and diaper changing mat... get a ton of nice blankets and never leave home without one!

A booster seat for eating ~
Booster seats are great for age 5- 6 months (at the introduction of solid foods) to age 3+.  They are portable, non-bulky, very easy to clean, and can be used and put away with out taking up a lot of room like a traditional high chair. We have had the same one last for 9+ years, it is going strong. I have owned swings, bouncers, bumbos and even a hand-me-down high chair, but this one seat has outdone them all!

An umbrella stroller ~
We have given away EVERY other stroller, and we have had a fancy pram, jogger, single and double/stander. The humble umbrella works well, is light and portable and just as functional as any of the others and works for all ages. We don't plan on buying a new stroller, just sticking with our little umbrella!

An activity center seat, play thing ~
I am not really one for big things like swings, bouncers or entertainer mats, but we have used this exersaucer with every baby too and it is grand for times mommy needs free hands and a happy baby.

STINKIN' cute. There is NO doubt!
Some of my other favorite things:
Burt's Bee Diaper rash cream
Soothies glycerin nursing pads (you will thank me!)
Bum Genius or Bummies Brights cloth diapers
No diaper bag ever... they are all SO ugly! I just buy a bigger purse I like.
Nursing covers
Jesus Story Book Bible (just get it, it will make your cry).
Oyin skin and hair products (brown skinned and curly haired people... but I have been known to snitch some of the whipped cocoa butter for my own skin).
Shea Moisture baby lotion

6. You are a "mom" now...
When I first became a mom I saw lots of other moms doing things and holding various beliefs about being a "mom" and how to care for their babies. I felt like I needed to do what they were doing and believe what they believed in order to be a "good mom". I realized later that being like others wasn't what God called me to be. I was called to obey Him and be myself in my new position as a mother.

There aren't really many "rules" to be a parent... Really the only real "rules" I can pinpoint are:

Nurture and protect your child physically and emotionally... Meet their needs.

Train and discipline a child in the knowledge of the Lord.

Teach your children the things that they need to know to mature and grow up.

Mean what you say and say what you mean.

Honestly that is about it. Really.

How you go about doing those things are NOT rules or laws mandated by God... they are simply the methods to accomplishing the important things. Methods vary and often people place moral implications or weight on the methodology that they most value. That is when we offend or hurt each other... or begin to make our methods an idol... (examples are: breast vs. bottle, to vaccinate or not vaccinate, to spank or not to spank.) The sweet thing is that God has given you and your husband complete freedom to parent how He gifted you and in the convictions you both personally hold. Your methods may not look like your older sister's, your best friend's or your neighbor's and that is totally okay. The scope is very wide for what are acceptable methods for parenting and caring for a child.

And... you can even feel free to do something different with your next child! 

I also really struggled with being a "mom" and still being "myself." I took me sometime to realize that being a mom is who I am, but that isn't the extent of who I am.

Becoming a "mom" didn't change me... I (and God) determined the kind of mom I (already) was.

Welcome to motherhood! 
I can't wait to see you be the mom God crafted you to be!

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