Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Curious George Birthday Party Under $200

It has been almost 5 months since's Hannah's first birthday, so I figured it is about time to show off the birthday party.  From the time she was very little, I knew Curious George would be the perfect theme for our little monkey.  I started making a lot of the decorations very early because I only have about 10 minutes here and there to get anything done.  It was a lot of fun making almost everything myself. I got a lot of my ideas from these two blogs:  Hostess with the Mostess and Frosted Events, and other things I just had to wing and come up with myself.  It was a small party of about 20 family members and close friends, but I think it came out really great.  It was a fun project and it did not cost a lot of money!

I made the banner from scrapbook paper purchased at Michael's.  I just guessed with the size of the pennant, printed out the letters, used round objects in the house to cut out the circles, punched holes in the corners, and strung it all together with ribbon.  Cost:  $6

For the flower vases, I used recycled oatmeal containers.  I created the stripes in Photoshop making sure the file was 8.5 x 11 inches.  Luckily, the oatmeal containers were about 11 inches tall, so I didn't have to buy any special paper.  I printed out two sheets of regular paper per container and taped them on.  I happened to have two glass vases that fit perfectly inside.  The flowers were purchased at Trader Joe's that morning.  Cost:  Free for the vases.  $10 for flowers.

I bought the three Coca-Cola glasses and the candy inside of them at The Dollar Tree.  The candies are Red Hots, Lemon Drops and bubble gum.  Cost:  $6. 

I borrowed the white cake stand from my mom and she made the angel food cake on top of it.  Cost:  I have no idea.  Free to me!

The books and stuffed animal were Christmas gifts.  

I purchased the table cloths, plates, cups, and napkins at Party City and probably paid too much, but it was easy.  I think it all cost $40.  

I borrowed the cupcake holder from my mom.  I bought the different colored cupcake papers on Amazon for more than I probably should have, but I HAD to have them!  For each color (yellow and red), they were about $5 for 40 papers.  For the toppers, I found some random blue circle things in the scrapbook aisle at Michael's. I printed out red H's and meticulously cut them out. Also in that package were the fancy yellow rectangles I used for food labels. I think that package was about $3.  I didn't have enough blue circles for all the cupcakes, so I used leftover yellow and red scrapbook paper from the banner, cut out some pictures of Curious George, and glued them to the back.  I got the white sticks at Walmart for about $2 for a huge package (I had a ton leftover.)  I just used boxed cake mix and premade icing. 

Total cupcake cost:  $25 for 40.

I made the chocolate chip cookies and put them on two white plates purchased from The Dollar Tree.  Cost: $4.50 

I took a photo out of this white frame that we already had, printed out this quote and glued it it to yellow paper.  
Cost:  Free

The main food table.

For food, we had taquitos, a veggie tray, chips and salsa, and peanut butter and banana sandwiches.  I made everything from scratch, including the salsa.  I really don't know how much the food cost, but I'm going to guess about $30. 

Every month, I took a photo of Hannah.  I printed out all the photos, taped the month number to the corner, hole punched the corners and strung them together with ribbon.  I bought an assorted pack of balloons at The Dollar Tree and just picked out the colors I wanted.  They are strung together with thread.  Cost:  $2  

In the room off of the living room, I put a red table cloth over our coffee table and called it the doodling desk (an idea from one of the linked blogs above.)  I printed off Curious George coloring sheets for free, and i got the yellow box from the dollar section at Target.  I made the sign in Photoshop and glued it to leftover red scrapbook paper.  
Cost: $2  

I got the popcorn tub at The Dollar Tree.  Inside are the goodie bags.  I wish I had a better picture of the bags themselves.  Inside of the clear cellophane bags is a banana, a yellow lollipop, and a small bottle of Curious George bubbles purchased from Amazon.  We had 7 bags total for a cost of about $1.75 each.  
Total Cost:  $14 

We set up the drinks on our island.  I already had the metal tub.  I borrowed the water dispenser from my sister.  Keeping with the color scheme, we added lemons to the water, and we had Coca Cola and Squirt (yellow and red cans!)  
Cost:  $12

I made this sign for the door.  
Cost: Free

For Hannah's cake, I made a no-sugar recipe from, used low sugar Cool Whip for the frosting, and surrounded it with sliced bananas.  She really didn't eat any of it.  Oh well!  
Cost:  I don't know...maybe $7 for all the ingredients.  

Grand Total:  About $160

All of the numbers I gave above are complete estimates because I'm going off of memory from months ago.  I think they are all pretty close to what I spent though.  

Now that she is almost a year and a half old, I guess it's time to start planning the 2nd birthday party!  

And let's not forget the dress I made from a thrift store adult sweater.  My mom added the scarf because my sewing skills are mediocre at best!  This is the tutorial I used.  

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Step Stool That Saved Dinner

Toddlers love to be involved in absolutely everything their parents are doing.  They want to learn, explore, and experiment.  Being only 29 inches tall does not serve Hannah well in this regard.  Most of the time, I am on the floor exploring with her and teaching her how the world works.  Unfortunately, there is this thing called "having to eat."  Any time a meal needs preparing, or a dish needs washing, Hannah freaks.  She literally wedges herself between my legs and the counter and pushes with all her might while screaming.  I try to be as quick as possible.  I sometimes sit her up on the counter, which buys me a little time, but then it just turns into a game of me cooking with one hand, and preventing serious injury with the other.

Then came the step stool.

We went to Ikea a couple weeks ago and picked up a nice sturdy, wooden, and most importantly tall step stool.   This thing has completely changed our lives.  Not only am I able to actually cook dinner, Hannah is now involved.  The stool has replaced horrible, screaming fits with wonderful learning experiences.  She stirs things for me and pours ingredients in bowls.  She loves standing at the sink and pouring water from one cup to the other, splashing, and "doing dishes."  She is head over heals in love with her stool.  This is a child who has never had anything hold her attention for more than 3 minutes in her whole 16 month long life.  Now, she will stack spice containers for 15-20 minutes (!)  If you have a toddler, and you don't have a stool, go get one NOW!

If you don't have an Ikea nearby (I don't see the stool online), look into buying a Learning Tower.  They a re pricey new, but you can sometimes find them on craigslist.  If you're handy, here are some  plans to build your own.
Stacking spices is actually a really great activity.  The way the caps and bottoms are, they fit nicely on top of one another without falling.  Hannah easily stacks 3-4 all by herself.  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Evolution of a Parent: Our Sleep Journey

Before reading this post, please read The Evolution of a Blog.

While pregnant, I skimmed Dr. Sears' The Attachment Parenting Book.  A lot of the ideas made sense to me, but I wasn't going to take it as gospel.  I kind of had an idea of what kind of parent I wanted to be, but I also wanted to wait until H got here, and then kind of wing it.

And wing it, we did.  

There were many things I didn't know and wasn't prepared for.  When H was about 9 months old, I wrote a post on here called The Honest Truth.  This post was written as I was slowly coming out of a bad place, hence the overwhelming negativity in it. We had a pretty rough infancy with H, but it wasn't because she was a particularly hard baby.  I believe now that I had a hard time because of my perspective of the situation.

If I could rewrite The Honest Truth, I would probably keep the bulk of it the same.  I think it does a good job of describing to people the details of how having a baby is hard.  What I would change is the ending.  Yes, it is difficult, but what I realize now is the reason for it.  It wasn't hard for me because Hannah was a "bad" sleeper.  It wasn't hard because she refused to take a bottle or pacifier, or because she loved bouncing on the yoga ball.  It was hard because she was a baby, and babies have a lot of needs.  She wasn't a bad sleeper.  She just loved to be close to her mommy, (can you blame her?)  I would have melt down after melt down because she wouldn't nap anywhere except my arms.  Instead of reading books and researching the internet to try to figure out how to make her nap flat on her back all by herself, I think it would have been easier to handle if I just would have realized that she's a baby.  I should have realized that she just spent almost 10 months curled up in a nice warm, safe place, with the slightest bit of motion, listening to my heartbeat.  I was expecting too much of her, and had zero empathy for her in those moments.  This is my deepest regret as a parent so far.  

I had a love-hate relationship with co-sleeping.  I loved snuggling with her, and knowing she was safe right next me.  But I despised having to go to bed so early, barely seeing my husband, and sleeping in 30 minute increments.  Although nothing can really cure sleep deprivation, I think a better attitude about it would have made all the difference in the world.  I always said we coslept out of desperation.  "She has to sleep with me.  She refuses to sleep anywhere else,"  I would say.  As with my example about naps, I should have realized that it is only natural for her to want to cozy up with me.  I should not have made it sound like she was lacking some terrific skill that all other babies possess.  I should not have made it sound like she was totally and completely inconveniencing me.  The truth is, it was inconvenient.  But she is a human being that I am raising.  I'm not trying to make her fit into the life I had before.  This is a completely new life filled with new challenges.

We moved H to her crib at 6 months by making her cry, like everyone told us to, and it worked.  I don't regret this because I don't think it scarred her for life, and we all ended up sleeping better (including her.)  To this day (at 16 months old), she continues to wake at night.  We've been through so many different routines of sleep.   We go through about 2-3 weeks of consistency, then things change.  The times when I have been happiest are not when I am getting adequate sleep.  It is always when I accept the situation, look at life through her eyes, and have empathy.  It is when I stop reading things on the internet, or talking to other moms, making comparisons about how I "should" be doing things, what I should try, what is normal.  I'm happiest when I stay in my own world and realize I love the way things are, and we are absolutely fine.  I feel this way for a little while, then I get sucked back into the comparison game and try to change things again.  I tried to night wean, I tried CIO again.  We tried so many things I can't even remember everything we've tried.  I went back to having the "She's a terrible sleeper" attitude.  It was exhausting always trying to figure out how things should be and how to get there.

At this moment, I can say with confidence that I have come full circle.  We decided to go back to co-sleeping, at least part time.  We realized, as a family, that this is just what H needs.  By waking up so many times at night, she is trying to tell us something.  She is not ready to be by herself all night long.  Sure, sometimes she only wakes twice, which is less than some toddlers do, but it would always take me about 30 minutes to get her to go back down.  This meant about 2.5 hour sleep stretches per night for me.  We bought a mattress a few weeks ago and put it on the floor in H's room, and I have never been happier.  Sometimes when she wakes, I can rock her and get her back in her bed, and I sneak back to my bed.  Sometimes, I just lay down with her and sleep with her the rest of the night.  It is amazing.  I now have a love-love relationship with cosleeping.  There are times when she only wakes once, and I only have to nurse for a bit and she rolls over and goes back to sleep, all without me having to get up.  There are times when she wakes, and all I have to do is pat her back and remind her I'm there for her, and she goes back to sleep.  If she was alone in her crib, a simple little wake up like that always turned into a big prodcution: cry a little, stand up, cry a lot, wait for me, I come in, nurse, rock, nurse, rock, try to lay her down, cry again, nurse, rock, nurse, rock, etc.  All she was trying to tell me in those wake ups was, "Mommy, I'm alone in here!  Where are you?  I'd like to see you and have you hold me for a minute please."  Now with her next to me, when she wakes up, she is thinking, "Mommy? Are you there? Oh you are, I'll go back to sleep now."  Even though H may be waking just as frequently at times, I feel more rested than I have in a very long time.  There are times when I feel pretty tired, but I try to maintain a good attitude about it.  I love waking up in the morning to a big, wet, open-mouthed kiss from my little girl.  When she had a cold, I was able to nurse her a lot at night, so she didn't keep herself up all night coughing.  I love that I could do that for her.  I was tired, yes, but I felt good about the reason for being tired.  And I was much less tired than I would have been if I had to get up constantly all night to tend to a sick a baby.  

So there you have it.  My evolution as a parent so far, and our roller coaster of a sleep journey.  I'm sure parenting will continue to be a roller coaster in and of itself for the duration of my motherhood.  I'm not much for labeling the type of parent I am because I think it's better to pick and choose little things here and there that work for you.  But here I am, a co-sleeping, breastfeeding, amber teething necklace buying softy who most would probably consider an "Attachment Parent." I suppose if I'm labeling, that is the label I would prefer; however the woman at uses the word "gentle parenting," which I like better.  I didn't start off as a parent thinking, "I am going to be an attachment parent."  We just do what works for our family.  What I've come to realize is that I am happiest as a parent when I listen to my gut, and respond to my child's needs according to my instincts.  I regret not knowing all of this and for not having this point of view before Hannah was born, but I'm forever grateful to her for teaching all of this to me.  

The Evolution of a Blog

This blog has been quite ignored lately.  The answer is simple:  I have a toddler.  I know it is easy to make time for the things you want to make time for, so I suppose I just haven't wanted to make time for blogging.  It isn't a priority.  But writing is cathartic for me, so I think it will be good to get back into it. The original idea of this blog was to be all about "home" type stuff, i.e., crafts, recipes, diy and the like.  When I get the chance, I will post things of that nature.   What I recently realized is that the place where I have the most to learn is parenting.  Because of this, I will start to post things about my personal parenting journey, as well.

As a disclaimer:
Please keep in mind that when you read any of my parenting posts they are about me.  They are not me telling you what to do.  They are not me judging others about what or how you do things.  With each individual child and parent comes just as many individual ways of doing things.  Do what works for you.  Just because you do things differently than I do, does not mean that I think you're wrong.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Turn a Puffs Container into a Toy

I've spent countless dollars on toys for my 9 month old, and you know what she wants to play with?  My phone, my wallet, the remote, and basically anything that is not meant to be a toy.  I've made the decision to start making her toys out of household items that she wants to play with anyway.  

My first attempt at this uses two things you probably have lying around your house right now:  an empty puffs container and fabric.  Just cut up the fabric and stick it inside.  That's it!  She loved it!


Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Follow-Up of Sorts

Ever since I wrote my previous post "The Honest Truth - What Really Happens After Baby Arrives,"  I have felt a heaviness lifted from my shoulders.  It must have been very therapeutic to write out all of my feelings, and through this, help others.  I've gotten many comments of appreciation from other moms.  Some are currently going through the early days of infancy and are thankful to hear they are not alone.  Some have older children, or children who are all grown-up, who have thanked me for sharing.  It just proves to me once more that us mothers should not be ashamed for thinking that child-rearing is hard work!  We should not feel ashamed for feeling tired or angry or unconnected with our baby at first.  None of us went into parenting thinking it would be a walk in the park.  We knew it would be hard.  We aren't that naive.  But no one ever explained why it would be so hard.

Also, after writing the post, I've really been thinking hard about the first few months of Hannah's life.  I've read my post over and over, reliving all of it.  The more I read what I wrote, the more I felt like it may have sounded like I was complaining, (and maybe I was at some points during the post.)  But I think the reason why I had such a difficult time in the beginning is because I was so completely unprepared.  I was talking to John last night, and pretty much concluded that I will not do anything differently with our next baby. I think everything I did with Hannah was completely and 100% the right thing to do, but I was only doing them to survive.  Next time, I will do them not only out of survival, but because I believe they are right.  Looking back on it, if I would have had more empathy for Hannah, I may have been able to handle some of the difficult days a little better.  She was a tiny little baby who was used to being in my warm, quiet, tummy for 9 months - of course she didn't want to sleep in the bassinet!  And of course, she wanted to be held in the wrap to sleep - it's meant to mimic the womb.  And of course, she wanted to nurse constantly - the sucking motion is very comforting, breast milk is yummy, and being close to me was her favorite place to be.  Knowing all of these things now make it easier for me to understand why Hannah seemingly gave me such a hard time.  She only wanted what was natural for her - to be close to her mommy.  I know not everybody necessarily wants to parent this way, and that's fine.  If your baby is anything like Hannah, at least you will now know why he is doing what he is doing.  Because you'll have this knowledge, maybe you won't feel how felt ("Why are you doing this to me???")

I also wanted to make it clear that things don't automatically get better at a certain age.  Everybody's  experiences are different.  For some, things may start to get easier around 4 or 5 months, for others it may be much longer.  We still have many bumps in the road.  Sleep is a constant battle, and new challenges begin to arise (sleep regressions, teething, nap transitions, etc.)  There will always be a difficult part of parenting, no matter the age of our children, but as long as we have the support of others and know we aren't alone in our struggles, things will be infinitely easier!

In addition to being mentally prepared for things to be more difficult than you thought they would be, I thought it would be helpful to give you information and actual tools to get through some of the tough times. Here are some links of information that may be helpful for you:

Baby's Fourth Trimester: Helping Your Baby Make a Peaceful Transition from Womb to World

Baby Explains Normal Newborn Behavior

The Baby Sleep Site - 4 Month Sleep Regression

The Baby Sleep Site - 8/9/10 Month Sleep Regression

The Baby Sleep Site - Nap Tips

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Honest Truth - What Really Happens After Baby Arrives

Before I say anything, I need to preface this post with somewhat of a warning and explanation.  This post is not meant to crush anyone’s spirits.  It is not meant to scare people out of having children or make pregnant women terrified for their newborns to arrive.  It is not meant to be negative, and it is certainly not meant to generalize the experience.  I also am not looking for sympathy and not complaining.

My purpose for writing this is one fold – to help other parents.  

I want you to know that if you have these feelings and these experiences, you are not alone.  I believe that knowing that others have done what you have done and have made it to the other side alive, is huge for coping with difficult experiences.  So be forewarned:  I am going to be brutally honest here.  I may say things that will strike a chord with people, or make some people feel uncomfortable.  Some people may disagree with me or not want to believe me.  If you’re pregnant, you may be angry with me for putting a damper on an otherwise exciting time in your life.  For that I apologize, but I believe getting this information out there is so important.  I’ve thought about it for a long time.  I’ve been conflicted about sharing my experience, and the experiences of other moms I know because I’ve been afraid of offending people or crushing spirits. But it is time we stop sweeping this type of stuff under the rug and start helping each other out as mothers.  Even if what you read today does not resonate with you, hopefully when you are having a hard day or night with your baby, you will remember something I said and some of the loneliness you are feeling in that moment will be lifted.  I am sharing my own personal experience, so it will by no means be exactly like this for you.  I know many moms who have had similar experiences, so I know I am not unique.  It is very likely you will go through or are currently going through one, some, or all of things that I did.  At the very least, I hope what I am about to say helps at least one person get through one of the most difficult and exhausting things any of us will ever go through.

Okay, now onto the brutal honesty. 

Before you had a baby, what did you picture when you thought of babies?  It was something like this  right?   

An approximate 7 month old child, sitting in a high chair at a restaurant, or being pushed around in a stroller in the mall.  They are inevitably doing something cute:  smiling, learning how to wave, maybe screaming in joy, and learning how to crawl.  They’re so cute and fun and I want one!  Most people don’t picture an 8 pound newborn who can barely open her eyes, can’t smile, can’t do much of anything except eat, sleep (maybe), poop and cry.  Even though in your head, you know that babies don’t pop out cute little crawling, smiling tiny people, it is still a bit of a shock that first week or so when you realize all you’re going to be doing for a long while is holding this tiny helpless thing, feeding her, changing her, and trying anything and everything to get her to stop crying. That wasn’t really part of my fantasy of being a mother. And some babies cry a lot, sometimes for no apparent reason. For most people, the newborn stage (first 4 months or so) is the single hardest part of child-rearing. 

I’m just going to come out and say it:  It sucks. 

My baby is now almost 9 months old, and sometimes I get little pangs of guilt when I look back on those early days.  The happy memories are easily buried by ones of exhaustion, sadness, emotional roller coasters, and self-doubt.  I think, “I’m a horrible person.  I wasn’t elated.  I wasn’t on cloud 9.  I was in hell.”  Isn’t that a terrible thing to think about your little precious baby’s early days?  Terrible!  But it is true.  And I have slowly learned that I am not the only one who feels this way.  Why didn’t I know that everyone goes through hell and back in those first few months (or longer)?  Sure, people gave me little hints here and there disguised as funny remarks, “You’ll be tired!”  “Just wait til the baby gets here!”  “Just wait..just wait…just wait…”  These comments are so easy to brush off.  “Yeah yeah yeah, I’ll be tired.  I get it.”  But I understand why no one wanted to tell me the real, honest to goodness truth.  It’s the same reason it has taken me this long to write this.  It is hard to admit these feelings, and it is even harder to tell a happy, excited, pregnant woman that it may not be what she is imagining at first.  

Okay, back to the “it sucks” part.

Tired does not even begin to describe what you will feel.  I used to stay up until 4am in college, get up at 8, go to class all day, go to work, study, repeat.  That was tired.  There isn’t even a word for the lack of sleep new parents experience.  Not only will you be working nonstop all day, and staying awake all night, but you’re body is making milk, dealing with a sudden drop in hormones, and recovering from labor. 

The first night we brought Hannah home, we tried from 8pm until 3am to get her to go to sleep.  If there is one thing I’ve learned as a parent it’s that sleep is not something you are born knowing how to do.  I thought, she’s tired, why isn’t she falling asleep??  I still don’t really know the answer to that question, but it is hard work trying to get a baby to fall asleep and most importantly, stay asleep.

Since she hated every sleeping contraption we had, we co-slept for the first 3 weeks.  I had to wake her every 2 hours to feed since she wasn’t gaining weight.  Breastfeeding was difficult.  Sometimes it took me almost 15 minutes just to get her latched on, 45 minutes of feeding, and who knows how long trying to get her to go back to sleep after all of this.  If you lost count, that is about an hour and half I was awake every 2 hours.  I started dreading bed time because I knew what was coming.  It’s not like when you have a hard job, you come home, you get to rest, go to bed, recharge and start it all over again in the morning.  With this job, it never ends.  The nights run into the days and I rarely got a chance to recharge.

After the first 3 weeks of doing this, we moved her to the Rock n Play sleeper.  It’s reclined and much cozier than typical baby beds.  She loved it and we started to get more sleep. 

That lasted about 3 weeks or so before she started waking every 15 minutes, which led us to co-sleep until she was 5 months old.  The co-sleeping started out pretty good.  She slept in 3 or 4 hour stretches and I didn’t have to get up to feed her.  Then she realized she had an all-night milk snack bar and slowly started waking more frequently until she was up every 30 minutes to an hour.  Although I love the idea of co-sleeping and loved cuddling with her all night long most of the time, I quickly realized this arrangement was not working for our family.  The thing is, we had no other option.  We were completely out of ideas.  What do you do when your baby won’t sleep in the crib, bassinet, or Rock n Play?  We were completely lost, so just kept trying to survive doing what we were doing. 

During all of this Hannah was also refusing to nap.  The first month or so, she would just fall asleep while nursing or in the car or whatever.  Then she got to the age where I actually had to try to get her to go to sleep.  She would cry and cry and the only thing I could conclude was that she was tired, but wouldn’t sleep.  She would sleep in the Moby wrap, but only if I was standing, so I would have to stand up for 2+ hours to let her nap.  She would sleep in the car, but would wake up once we got to our destination if she wasn’t in a deep sleep.  So I would drive 30 minutes to my parent’s house, and hang out there while she napped in her car seat.  But most of the time, the only way I got her to nap was in my arms or in the wrap.  This meant I was literally attached to her 24/7.

Lots of things did not work out the way I imagined. 

Hannah refused to sleep flat on her back.  The bassinet was useless.  The crib was useless.  She slept in my arms, in my bed, and for a short period of time in the Rock n Play sleeper until she got sick of that, too. 

She also refused to take a bottle.  I thought I would be able to pump some milk, and let John take over a night feeding sometimes to give me extra sleep.  Or at least let him give her a bottle in the evenings, so I could take a long bath or a nap or something.  Nope.  Bottles were her worst enemy, as were pacifiers.  Nursing was our only tool to soothe her most of the time.  Everyone tells you breastfeeding is hard, but no one told me bottle feeding might be impossible.

She cried, and cried, and cried for no apparent reason.  We figured later that she was most likely colicky, but knowing that doesn’t necessarily make it easier to deal with.  If she wasn’t sleeping or nursing, she was crying.  I had a swing, a bouncy seat, a bassinet – places I was supposed to be able to put her if I needed a break to pee, shower, cook dinner, or just give my arms a rest.  Guess what?  She hated all of them.  I held her all day long, and when she stopped sleeping at night, I held her all night, too. 

Babies get hungry way more often than “every 2 hours” like some books say.  I would feed her, 30 minutes later she would be crying.  We would try everything.  Diaper change, swaddle, white noise, bouncing, rocking, blah blah blah.  “She can’t be hungry! I just fed her!”  She was hungry.  Or maybe she wasn’t.  Maybe she just wanted to suck on something because it is very comforting for babies.  Have a comfortable chair or spot on the couch with all your essentials nearby because you may not leave that spot for 3 months. 

People offered to help, but I didn’t want it.

The word help stressed me out and still does.  Since Hannah wouldn’t take a bottle and was pretty much crying unless she was sleeping or had a boob in her mouth, I was terrified to leave her.  I didn’t even want someone to come watch her while I laid down in the other room and slept.  There was no way I would even sleep.  Sometimes I would try while John watched her, and I could hear her crying in the living room, so would just get up. 

I was terrified to leave the house. 

Since the only tool I had to soothe her was nursing, I was terrified to be out in public and have her melt down.  I’m all for nursing in public, but back then it was still such a production to feed her.  I couldn’t do it without my boppy pillow, and it was so difficult getting her latched.  I did not want to attempt that in the middle of the grocery store. 

Then it wasn’t about nursing, but it was about naps.  I was trying to establish a good nap routine and get her used to sleeping at home, so I didn’t want to be out and about while she was tired.  She would inevitably fall asleep in the car seat and wake up the minute I got home, then refuse to take a real nap and cry until she was tired enough for the next nap.  It wasn’t worth it for me to go through that, so I stayed home.  If friends wanted to hang out, we had lunch in my dining room. 

Even now, I don’t leave the house during nap time.

We did not have any semblance of a schedule for a looooong time. 

Don’t let people tell you that you should be on a schedule.  When I say schedule, I mean a by the clock eat at this time, sleep at this time, type of day.  It’s impossible with a baby.  Hannah is 8 ½ months old and we literally JUST got on a schedule last week.  I know people with kids her age who are still not on a schedule.  You can try.  You can try really hard to feed by the clock and put down for naps by the clock.  But babies are just little humans and their needs vary.  Sometimes I would think we were getting somewhere, but it would all blow up in my face and completely change for some reason.  This can be really frustrating.  I could never set a time to meet up with people.  There were lots of different mom and baby classes I was interested in, but could not reliably attend because I had no idea when Hannah would sleep.  And if Hannah was sleeping, there was no way in hell I was waking her up to go to baby yoga.  I couldn’t tell friends, yes!  Let’s meet up at 11!  It was really frustrating.  This was another reason I just told friends to come over if they wanted to hang out. 

I got no positive feedback from my baby for at least 3 months.

Babies will start to smile a little here and there early on, but it’s not predictable.  The work you are doing is selfless and even though your baby is healthy and thriving, you will secretly wish she could look at you after eating and say, “Thanks mom!  That milk was yummy and just what I wanted.  Good job!”


The important thing to remember about all of this is that you will get through it.  We got through it.  Hannah is 8 ½ months old, sleeping in her crib at night and taking two solid naps per day.  Sometimes she has some bad nights where she wakes up a lot, but it’s manageable.  I want to clarify though, that she did not just magically start sleeping better one day.  I read every sleep book on the market and worked very hard to get to the point we are at now.  That's why I am still nervous when we ever have to change our routine.  I worked my butt off to get those two naps and to get her in the crib.  My biggest fear is to ruin it!  She still doesn’t take a bottle, but she eats solids and drinks water out of a sippy cup.  Nursing isn’t a big production, and most feedings only take about 10 minutes.  We take her with us everywhere because I’m not afraid of a melt down that can only be fixed by nursing.  And if I absolutely had to, nursing in public is super easy now.   She plays, she smiles, she giggles.  She reaches her arms out for me.  She holds my hand while I feed her and plays with my hair.  She interacts with the world around her and it is fascinating to watch her grow as a little person.

Let me say it again because it is the point of this whole post: 

You will get through this.  It is temporary.  It will pass.  You are not alone. 

Babies are hard work.  Kids are hard work.  Don’t feel bad if your baby arrives and you aren’t as elated as everyone thinks you should be, if you feel like ripping out your hair, and if you question what you have done.  We’ve all been there.  And the hardest part for me was the guilt of having these feelings.  I should have been happy.  I should have done things differently, I thought.  The truth is, I did everything I could to just survive and that is fine!  A friend of mine once told me that the first 6 months are pure survival and I just needed to close my eyes and get to the other side.  Nothing is more true than that statement.  Having a baby is the most beautiful and wonderful thing I’ve ever experienced.  She loves me unconditionally, relies on me for everything, and I made her!  It has also been the single hardest thing I have ever experienced.  Do not feel bad if you aren’t happy all the time.  That’s normal!  Just trudge through it.  You can do it!

I don't want to minimize what dads go through during all of this, (although I am going to be biased and say moms have it worse!)  My husband had to sleep on the couch for 5 months while Hannah and I took over the bed.  He would get up at 2 in the morning while I melted down and she wouldn't sleep.  He would walk around the house with her, shhh-ing in her ear until she fell asleep, then wake up and go to work the next day.  He had to listen to me cry, tell me it would all be okay, and give me the positive reinforcement I so badly wanted.  All the while, he was starting up his own business, and trying to grow it big enough so we could pay our bills, (since we were now a one income household.)  Fatherhood sure wasn't what he thought it would be at first either, but he got through, too!  We got through it together, and we're stronger now because of it.   

People sometimes ask me if I regret anything that I did.  If I could do all over again, would I make different decisions.  The truth is: no.  We are going to do it all over again someday with a new baby, and I probably won't do it much differently.  Now that I know what to expect, I won't be as blindsided.  I expect it to be hard, or harder, but hopefully it is not as huge of a shock!  Also, sometimes I made a decision because it was literally my only option, so there is no way I could change it.  Co-sleeping, for example, was the only way to get any sleep whatsoever.  Looking back, I really love the fact that Hannah got the security of sleeping with me for those first 5 months.  We definitely created an incredibly strong bond.  As for breastfeeding, I do not regret it at all.  Breastfeeding is probably my single most favorite thing about parenting right now.  I'm almost glad now that she never took a bottle because our nursing relationship is beautiful.  I'm so glad I got through the difficult times of it because it was so worth it.  I really have great empathy for women who want to breastfeed and can't.  That is just one more thing on top of all of this that must be very difficult to deal with.  


Post Partum Depression is a very real thing, and although I was never officially diagnosed, I’m sure I had a bit of that going on on top of everything else.  That being said, even if you don’t officially have PPD, you may feel some of the things I’ve mentioned.

Pieces of Advice:

Walk Away

If you ever feel angry with your baby, be sure to put her down and walk away for a little bit.  I admit I had to do this more than once.

Find Support

Make sure you have someone to open up to about your feelings, and don’t feel bad if you have to cry…a lot.   Seek support from other moms, too. 

Call Your Doctor

When in doubt, call your doctor or midwife and tell her how you’re feeling. It is nothing to be ashamed of.  You will be able to take care of your baby better if you take care of yourself first.

Take a shower every day – no matter what. 
I used to shower in the morning while John watched Hannah before he went to work.  Then Hannah and I started sleeping later, so I had to wait until she was napping, or put her in the bouncy seat in the bathroom.  As you read above, she rarely napped, and she hated the bouncy seat at first, so it was difficult to say the least.  But showering was a huge priority of mine. I needed to feel human and get out of my pajamas everyday. 

Get outside.

Even if you just go in the backyard for 10 minutes a day.  Get outside.  I didn’t follow this advice and I think it would have helped. Hannah was born in October so it was cold outside when I needed to be out, but I could have made it work.

Don’t have too many visitors that it gets overwhelming, but don’t cut yourself off from the world.

Yes, I was afraid to leave the house, but I talked to friends on the phone a lot, and a few times a week, people stopped by to say hi.  It was a nice change of pace.  That being said, if too many people are dropping by that it overwhelms you, put a stop to it.

Don’t worry if you don’t “sleep when the baby is sleeping.”

That is the oldest advice in the book, but it isn’t always realistic.  I always felt this pressure to sleep, so would lie there thinking “Sleep!  Just sleep!  The baby is sleeping and this is your only chance!”  So it didn’t happen.  If you’re like me, try to at least rest while you can.  Sit on the couch and watch TV or read if you get a moment to yourself.   I didn’t always follow this advice either and should have! 

If help with the baby stresses you out, at least let people help out in other ways.

The single most helpful thing anyone did for us was bring us food.  So many people brought us food that I didn’t have to cook for 3 weeks.  I don’t know what we would have done without that food.  There is no way I was cooking dinner, that’s for sure! If people ask what they can do, have them do your laundry or clean your house or go to the grocery store.  They may be expecting that you will want them to watch the baby, but those other things can be much more helpful.

Don't Let the Facebook world get you down.

We all do it.  We post cute photos of our babies on facebook.  Don't look at your friends' photos and status updates and think, "They are having such an easy time with parenthood!  It was so hard for me, why isn't it hard for them?"  The truth is, it is hard for them.  They may not be having the exact troubles you are, but they are struggling.  They just aren't posting photos of the 3am wake up or Cry Fest 2012.


Remember that even though you feel exhausted, sad, and overwhelmed you do love your baby and your baby does love you.  You’re doing a great job, and just a few short months from now, things will be better.  There are still hard moments.  I’m still tired everyday, but I’m finally to a place where I truly enjoy every minute with this little person.  Being a mom is the best job I’ve ever had in my life, but it definitely took me some time to warm up to it J 

Moms who are reading this, feel free to share your own experience.  It may help a new mom out one day.  Let's all make an agreement to let the cat out of the bag from now on and not sugar coat our experiences.  We owe it to each other to tell the truth and validate each others' feelings.    

And please, share this on facebook and Pinterest or where ever you feel it is appropriate.  There may be someone out there who is feeling isolated in her feelings who needs to hear these words.  Pass it on to all your current mom friends (even if their babies are all grown up!), and future mom friends.  

Here are anecdotes from some friends who were kind of enough to share:

"I rock to the the tick of the clock matching its rhythm. My legs burn from exhaustion. I can do this in my sleep. This Is how I sleep. In motion. Upright. Exhausted. Seconds at a time. I sleep between the ticks. My eyes itch. I don't dare rub them. The baby is asleep. Whoever coined the phrase sleeping like a baby had a sick sense of humour. I can hear my husband snoring. Snoring means sleeping. Rage engulfs me. He is sleeping peacefully in a soft bed amid cool crisp sheets. He showered before bed. He ate with both hands. He went to the bathroom without a baby with him and a toddler banging on the door. He isn't in pain. His legs don't burn.  The clock blurs as frustrated tears burn my dry eyes. The squeak of the chair. The tick of the clock. The rumble of snoring. And the silent slide of tears."  
                                                                                                                                      -C.K. Mother of 3

"I cried and cried and cried some more. Breastfeeding may be natural, but that doesn't mean it won't hurt. I felt jealous of everyone else who's lives were uninterrupted. I was up every single hour. Never ate a warm meal for the first month at least. Loved my kids with all of my heart, but thought oh man what have I done?  i don't know if I can handle 2 kids. I took a lot of pain meds that made me very tired. 3am to me was just the same as 3pm, time didn't matter- around the clock was just the same repetitiveness. Change, feed, put down, take pain meds, back to sleep for 30 min to an hour. Oh and my stomach was giving me problems after my c section and I literally had to nurse on the toilet a few times. No joke. I know it's gross but I literally HAD to go. Wouldn't change a thing though. It's tough in the beginning but totally worth it. I just prefer to skip the newborn part."
                                                              -T.J.  Mother of 2 

"You want the truth, eh?  Well, like many pregnant women I tried to be realistic with my expectations while still thinking positively (often we get what we expect--we create our own reality, so why not imagine the best?), but it's impossible to know which of those expectations will get the proverbial slap in the face.  So here's the truth about what I didn't expect:
  • I didn't feel an overwhelming sense of motherhood when my baby was handed to me.  I was in so much shock from experiencing the most pain I'd ever felt and the fact that I actually just pushed a baby out of my body, that I didn't have the awareness and appreciation in that moment that I assumed would just be there.
  • Problems with my labor and delivery tainted the experience of welcoming my baby into my life:  Because the hospital basically ignored me throughout my labor until I was ready to push, and I knew my baby would have to get stuck with a needle due to this neglect, I was feeling very shocked and angry in the moments and hours after my delivery.  I spent our first night together lying awake in bed just replaying everything over in my head and despite my efforts against it, I kept focusing on what went wrong rather than my beautiful, healthy baby by my side.  Every few weeks or so I still get angry just thinking about how unfair it is that they robbed me of the treatment we all deserve when giving birth.
  • Postpartum Depression: I worried that I might get this since I'd had depression in the past, but I didn't realize it would come so soon and so powerfully.  It started shortly after we got home from the hospital as I was sleep deprived and began to fear that life as I knew it was forever gone.  I was especially mourning my life with my husband as we couldn't do the things we had done everyday for several years like eat together, watch TV, walk the dogs, stay up late and sleep in (since those first weeks we've been able to recover some of our routine).                                                                                                                                                                         For over 2 weeks I had tears just waiting in the wings for the slightest trigger.  I felt their pressure in my head and a sickness in my stomach.  Both my husband and I had little appetite and we often cried together and talked about what we were going to miss and what we feared.  We could sense each others' mood, and when one of us managed to feel better, it didn't last long because we could tell the other was hurting.  He recovered much quicker than I, and was amazingly supportive.  I can't imagine what I would have felt if he wasn't, because the depression was so powerful even through all his love.  In fact, almost nothing anyone said or did for me could do much to take the feeling away.  Everyone said it would get better, but I just wanted to know when.  If there was deadline for it that I could mark on my calendar, I could have handled it much better.  But I didn't know if it would last weeks or months.  And what if it got worse and I got the suicidal or homicidal feelings I'd heard about with postpartum depression?  The unknown was daunting.  
  • Fussiness!  WTF?  For some reason, I was banking on having an "easy" baby, or being such a great mom that my baby wouldn't cry that much or that I could stop it easily.  I had heard of colic, but I assumed that on a small percentage of babies had it and I would probably luck out.  What I know now is that fussiness is on a spectrum, and even if your baby doesn't have "colic,"  it is very likely that you will have to deal with seemingly inconsolable crying for some period of time.  The truth is that I should have researched this more before giving birth, so I had all the tools in my belt before that first long evening of bouncing, shushing, rocking, swaddling and frequent feeding.  My almost 4 month old is definitely less fussy, but some days it's like she's a newborn again, but with a louder cry.  And a long night of unexplained wakings every hour is followed by a long day of trying to keep it together while you silently ask yourself what the hell you're doing wrong and when she'll finally grow out of it.
  • No clear answers.  Before she came I was counting on an innate ability to know what to do with my baby, like I would know when it was time to just be loving and comforting, and when I had to "do what was best for her" and let her cry it out.  I realize now that not only is that not the case, but letting her cry and fuss is way harder than I imagined.  I play these mind games of wondering if she's already learning how to manipulate to get her way or if she truly does need to be comforted every time she cries.  And if not now, then when does this shift occur?  
I always knew parenting wasn't easy, but there truly is something to be said for the "immersion experience."
                                                                                                                             -D.B. Mother of 1