Every Baby Is an Individual! And, Let them be Little

img_1335As I have said frequently, there is nothing like parenting to change your most carefully laid plans. It is astonishing how easily these tiny little humans change everything, and challenge literally everything that you thought you knew. Being a parent requires flexibility, humility and patience, and trust me that your beautiful little beings will work their completely unconscious hardest to make certain they teach you these lessons every day. Being a parent can be so overwhelming, here you are with this fragile new life doing everything you think is the best for them and questioning EVERYTHING you do. And then things seem to not be working, doubt enters your head and you are assaulted with a million different opinions as to what you’re doing wrong. Why won’t my baby sleep like that/eat this way/play like that?! Why aren’t they crawling/walking/talking yet? Well, there are no babies who are exactly alike. They each will develop in their own way on their own schedule. I CANNOT STRESS THAT ENOUGH. Just because one baby crawls at 7 months doesn’t mean there is necessarily anything wrong with the other baby who crawled at 11 months.

Two things that frustrate me intensely about our culture are the curve expectations placed on children and the competition that exists (even subconsciously!) among us mothers. When my twins were about 5 months old a friend nonchalantly asked me how far behind the curve twins normally are. While I’m certain she meant no harm, it sent me into a bit of a tailspin. Were they too behind?! Should they be doing more?! And please understand, I absolutely advocate intervention in serious cases of developmental delay, but the facts are that acute delays are not the norm and most of the time your baby is just fine.
img_1340So what if your baby started sitting up two months after your friends baby did?! Maybe your kid will talk first. Maybe they won’t. Chances are though that your baby is doing great, and that sweet little human is going to do things when they’re dang good and ready. A friend posted that her son was FINALLY accomplishing a milestone and my heart broke for her. Clearly something or someone had caused her to feel he was behind. Which he isn’t, at all. He’s simply doing things as he is ready. This should be celebrated, not judged.

img_1339Why do we push our babies and children so much?! You know, I am without doubt all for educational enrichment. I read to my babies, they listen to a wide variety of music and languages and I choose many toys based on their educational value. But I also let them chew on the books, listen to happy silly songs, and play with brightly colored rolling ducks. We dance and wave our arms and make silly noises. I believe teaching JOY is equally as important as learning the alphabet. They are learning every moment whether you are teaching them or not. But what are they learning? That they are competent and smart? That they are capable of learning anything they want and can actually enjoy doing so and become confident in the process? Or are they having it pounded into their wee heads that they aren’t learning enough, or as quickly as they should? That their friend is better/faster/smarter?img_1342

I don’t like the competition I see so often (especially on social media!) among mothers on whose child did what first. Of course I think every mother should see her child as amazing, (I talk more about that in this post, click here). But as possibly new and insecure mamas, we do not need to see our friends bragging (even if they don’t mean to cause harm!) about how their child is so superior and advanced and thus question if our own babies are doing ok. A friend posted a while back that after her baby had his pediatric checkup their doctor said her five month old was “basically functioning at the level of a year old baby” and that the doctor called him “Baby Thor”. This made me have to work with my head that my also five month old babies were doing alright since their doctor did not call them baby thors and they were definitely not functioning at a year old level. I call this type of thing “brag shaming”. And I’m sure this mama didn’t mean to, she was genuinely proud of her son as she should be. But I’d like to offer this for consideration. Be proud of your wee ones. But be sensitive to the fact that your seemingly innocent post about how advanced your kiddo is might make another mama question if her also absolutely perfect baby is doing ok.img_1341

And you know what? Your baby is only little once. While I FIRMLY support and believe in practicing involved parenting and actively teaching them, our culture has placed such a rush on growing them up fast and forcing them to become competent little humans as quickly as possible. (And I’m well aware this isn’t just our culture). I absolutely will teach my children respect, how to focus, self discipline, social decorum and how to behave politely as the situation may demand, but I will also let them shriek and run, play with abandon, and cry on my lap. They don’t need to practice algebra at two and play Mozart by three. If they end up doing so, great. But I’m not going to ruin their childhood by pushing them until they’re miserable. I was chatting with one of my piano student parents the other night and she shared that her daughters school wants to place her in the gifted program, and while they want to give her more, they’re not going to push her past what she wants to do. I have SO much respect for them. This child, she is balanced, she is wicked smart, she is motivated and driven, she is HAPPY. She has focus, confidence, and empathy well beyond her years. And her mother is wise in giving her as much as she wants without ruining her thirst for knowledge by shoving too much down her throat. This child is one of my best students. Never once has she said “that’s too hard” or “I can’t”. She’s happy and focused and a delight every lesson.

img_1336If a child is taught to love learning, without fear, and views new concepts as exciting and not scary, they’re far more likely to be motivated to push themselves to do more, to do better, in confidence and on their own, without having us ride them and make them miserable. A child is born looking at the world in wonder. We have a tremendous responsibility to teach them about this world without destroying that starry eyed fascination. It took a little while for my babies to crawl. Could I have done more tummy time, or pushed them harder so they would crawl faster? Absolutely. Did they crawl when they were ready? Of course they did! I now have speed demons blasting all over everything, my son just the other day went fearlessly four wheeling over rocks by the river. In my opinion the extra tears and stress of lots of tummy time wasn’t worth it. We did tummy time of course, but only as long as I could read to them and keep it a mostly happy experience while we did. I did not deem the frustration and intense tears to be worth them crawling a few weeks earlier.

img_1338Of course we cannot prevent all frustration. Not every learning experience will leave them filled with happiness and wanting more. But I believe that if they have this foundation of confident joy filled learning, they can handle the not so glorious moments.

I was homeschooled growing up. A tremendous sacrifice my mother made for her children, and a gift I will be forever grateful for. While ensuring I had a balanced education, she allowed me to pursue subjects I was passionate about and patiently allowed me to conquer those I was less than interested in as I grew. For example, for a while I was obsessed with phonics. I completed more phonics workbooks and projects than most people do in a lifetime. Math, on the other hand, was not my favorite. But she experimented until she found what I connected with, a way to learn that didn’t scare the pants off of me or make me feel stupid. And we did do tests, she prepared us for this real world of college testing and scary expectations. But because I had that foundation of joy, that love of learning, I was able to face the scarier real world and conquer it.

I firmly believe this concept also applies to emotional growth and understanding, but I’ll save that for another post.

img_1337In closing, my dear fellow mamas, please don’t allow our social media and culture to make you question your baby or yourself. We are all doing the best we can, trust in your child and allow them to bloom on their own schedule. They’re only little once, celebrate these moments and don’t allow fear to rob you (and your child!) of the joy of watching them grow and thrive according to their own personal schedule.

 

I Gave Birth to a Cling-on?! Or, The Fourth Trimester

img_1332Being a new mom is exhausting. (To put it mildly…!) Crying babies are stressful, and as I explained to my loving patient husband after multiple times of yelling at him for no reason as my babies cried, us women literally have a physiological reaction to our babies wails. Our milk lets down, we sweat, heart rates elevate and our natural biological response is to respond to our babies. Thus, when our baby is crying and we cannot figure out why, it is obscenely stressful. We are programmed to answer our offsprings needs, and when they are young they have one way of communicating their needs, and that is crying. You can safely assume that if your baby is crying, they have a legitimate need. They’re hungry, scared, cold, perhaps something hurts (colic anyone?) but they will not cry to manipulate or because they are selfish. A baby cannot be selfish or manipulative, they simply do not have that extensive of an understanding of the world.

When I brought my twins home, I did not plan at first on co-sleeping (read more on that in a previous post, click here). That decision changed the second night of their being earthside, and it is without fail one of the best parenting choices I have made to date. As I said in that earlier post, the minute I would set my babies down they would scream as if they were on fire. Now, I understand why. Thankfully I had my own parents loving example to follow in attachment parenting and thus when things ‘weren’t working’ with my wee ones I was confident to change them. fullsizerenderLet me elaborate. Have you heard of the fourth trimester? I hadn’t. The fourth trimester is the months that follow a baby’s birth. No one, not my nurses, not my midwife, not the pediatrician for darn sure, NO ONE mentioned to me anything about this fourth trimester business. Let me try to explain this succinctly. Up until birth, your baby had zero unmet needs. They weren’t hungry, they weren’t cold, they weren’t afraid, absolutely nothing required them to communicate their needs. Suddenly, that all changed. In a split second they went from a warm dark place where they were quite literally connected to you, to a bright, cold, foreign space where not only are they no longer attached to you, but they get hungry, they get uncomfortable, and you know what, THEY DONT UNDERSTAND. They have no way of grasping what has happened. Suddenly things hurt, they’re alone, and it’s terrifying. So they do the only thing they know how, they CRY.

fullsizerender-3And our culture expects this scared little human to be ok sleeping alone in a crib/cot/bassinet and new mamas are left questioning what on earth they’re doing wrong because their new little charge won’t sleep or stop crying! Mamas, you are doing NOTHING wrong! Your baby is crying because it wants YOU. They want to feel safe, fed, and CONNECTED. Your uterus was a lot more welcoming than the softest blanket on earth could ever be. There is nothing wrong with your baby because it looks to you for protection and nourishment 24/7. And the nicest, warmest, softest cot can not replace your beating heart and the smell of your skin, no matter if it sways, vibrates, sings or flies. You are truly the only thing your baby knows. That baby does not need to learn independence right now, independence is born out of confidence and confidence is born out of knowing their needs will be met. And they learn that their needs will be met when you answer their cries. No, you won’t be able to prevent their crying altogether. And some times you may have to put your baby in a safe place so you can pee, or cry yourself for a moment. Babies want to be touching you constantly, and yes it’s exhausting! And sometimes you just need to take a second and BREATHE. And they may cry. But setting them down briefly, that is different, that is an exception! That is not training them that their needs are insignificant.

img_0633In addition to cosleeping, I started wearing my babies. And things became infinitely easier. They slept on me while I made dinner, or did grocery shopping. And no, they didn’t stop crying altogether. They didn’t magically fall asleep every time. But because I was holding them, at least I knew that I was trying to answer their pleas for help. I wasn’t ignoring their cries, even if I couldn’t always prevent them. I wasn’t teaching them that their needs didn’t matter. When a baby cries and is ignored, they learn they don’t matter. They learn their needs will not be met. I fail to understand how that is a recipe for raising a confident human being.img_0634

It is infinitely frustrating to me that this concept of teaching our babies to function without mama is portrayed as necessary to being a ‘good’ parent. Human babies are born more dependent and helpless than any other species, and yet we are the only species that tries to force them to be ok without their mamas so early. And in doing so, many mamas are left feeling that they are failing, or that something is wrong with their baby because they won’t succumb to this cultural expectation. I cannot tell you how many times I had someone tell me, ‘eventually you have to let them cry’, or ‘you’re spoiling them, they won’t ever sleep alone’, or my favorite as someone told my husband, ‘stop babying them’. Stop babying them?! They’re BABIES for the love of all that’s holy! I hate the blame game that is played, somehow in our culture it becomes the mothers responsibility to teach their child that they don’t need them. Yes, you read that correctly. Mothers are expected to teach their babies that babies don’t need their mothers. And no, it makes zero sense.

fullsizerender-2It wont last forever. One day your tiny little cling-on won’t want to be attached 24/7, you will pee in peace, and they will sleep in their own beds. And they will do so when they are ready, and armed with the confidence that they are safe. As painful as it may be to consider the fact that one day my babies won’t need me as they do anymore, I want my children to grow up to be confident people who know who they are and go into the world empowered, people who can make a change in their world because their own is a solid one and they are strong in knowing who they are. And I personally believe that teaching them that who they are matters, that it is ok for their needs to be met, is crucial to them developing into confident, kind, empathetic strong human beings. It is hard to see another persons needs as important if you never believed your own needs to be important.

So mamas, hang in there and hold those babies close, don’t feel like a failure because they won’t sleep without you, or because they cry when you go out of sight. Be confident and know that although it’s hard (especially some days!) you are teaching your baby that they matter, that they are important, and that will never be something you regret.img_1333

The Postpartum Experience

fullsizerenderAs I’ve mentioned before, my mother is Italian, and I come from a loving, high energy and very effusive family. No emotions on lockdown when I was growing up, (nothing has changed in that). Open expressions of love and feelings were never prohibited, and I’ll say with amusement that my energetically open, affectionate and readily communicative style of living was definitely something for my sweet husband to adjust to. But despite having grown up with such love and depth, I wasn’t prepared for the beyond intense, past all consuming feeling that is being a mom.
I don’t think anything, or anyone, can actually prepare you for the insanely, crazily beautiful, soul devouring, complete passions igniting, space vacuum roller coaster of love that is being a parent. You feel things you never imagined you could feel with an intensity you could not have imagined possible. You would jump in front of a speeding train for this tiny human, and every emotion in your body is woven tightly into their every breath.

I know things have gotten better in some ways, but in so many other ways I believe new mamas are left to hang dry in our culture post birth. I was blessed to have an incredible support system of husband and family and it was still the most grueling experience I’ve ever had. fullsizerender-3 Everyone says your life changes the moment your baby hits your chest. That wave, that feeling of joyous uninhibited love didn’t happen as suddenly for me as I fought through postpartum depression for a while after my twins arrived. PPD is a tricky beast, I found myself experiencing this completely overwhelmingly intense soul consuming love for these two tiny beings while simultaneously feeling terrifyingly emotionally dulled and vacant. I remember waiting for the wave to hit me after they handed me my babies, but all I could think was, where did these things come from?!
My room was filled with people within an hour of my twins being born. Well meaning family but it was too much. Thank God for the nurse who kicked everyone out for me so I could rest and try to wrap my head around what had just happened. (Standby for my full twin birth story post next week) In hindsight, I’m giving myself permission with my next kid to not see anyone for a while after birth. My life at the time my twins were born was pretty high stress, I was teaching 7 days a week and looking back I realize that is partly why I wasn’t able to identify that my feelings of depression were more than environmentally triggered. I believe the trickiest part when fighting a mental battle is how easy it is to lay blame for the situation on anything physically present, especially yourself.

You fill out a zillion forms after your baby is born scanning for the ‘baby blues’, but I, as I imagine most new mothers do, had no intention of admitting anything other than my joy at being a new mom. I had nothing to be sad about right, I had two healthy new babies! And in no way shape or form did I want anyone to think I was anything but completely capable of being their mom. I had literally waited all my life for this moment, no way was I admitting that I was anything other than fine.
As I’ve mentioned before, due to our circumstances I went back to work at three weeks postpartum. It was horrible, and I could (and will) go off on the ridiculousness that is ‘maternity leave’ in this country. My poor husband didn’t even get a week off. My parents stayed with us after the twins were born and I can truthfully say I wouldn’t have made it through without them. I was so blessed to have a mom who wanted to be there and support me in my new journey.

But despite my circle of support, going back to work that early meant many more people around me and my babies, and it would have been overwhelming no matter what but adding PPD to the mix meant I went into hard core survival mode. My goal every day was to get through hour by hour until it was over. I was completely shut down emotionally, but still had no intention of that showing so I put on a face and faked it like I’ve never faked it before. I could feel the precious moments with my babies slipping by and that made it so much worse. Every day I felt I was losing my long awaited time with them as I paddled desperately through my exhaustion and mental fog, and every day I felt more like a failure and more heartbreak over my lost time.

It is shocking how overwhelming it is to be a new mom. Not only do you have these tiny humans literally relying on you to SURVIVE, everyone has an opinion on how you should be doing it. Every day was like getting a fire hose of emotion to the face.
I wrote in a previous post that sometimes as a mama you are forced to pour from an empty cup, and I don’t believe there is ever a time where that is more true than when you have a newborn. This tiny human needs you, and needs you 24/7. You’re going through recovery from LITERALLY making and bringing a new life into this world, and you absolutely must dedicate everything you are to someone else. I mean, it’s hard to have time to PEE let alone heal and recover. You are completely and utterly the sole source of life to this tiny new being. No matter how supportive your spouse is, and no matter how much supportive family you have, I truly believe you will never experience any pressure in your life that is more intense than being a mom. Nothing has ever made me feel so tiny. And I had the support of my loving husband, parents, and sisters. Not all women are so fortunate.
fullsizerender-2

Add to this new mom pressure the social pressures and expectations of family friends and work and I believe it is a recipe that can quickly end in disaster. I was expected to be social, see people and have them see my babies. It was like pouring acid on my nerves but I strapped both my babies on me in wraps and a smile on my face and I slogged through. I love this article (mothering the mother, click to read it) from the birth without fear blog, it discusses the horrible lack of postpartum and bonding time that is allowed to mothers in our culture. As it says, in many cultures women are given 40 days to do NOTHING post birth but heal and bond with their baby. And think about it, can you really imagine any task more intense than MAKING AND GIVING LIFE? I remember reading in one of my mama groups of a mother in my area who stayed in bed for ten days post birth doing nothing but being with that baby. I was green as a crocodile in envy as I told my husband about this. And she wasn’t just being lazy and having a vacation. Heck no. She was adjusting to having birthed an entirely brand new human! Yet spending that time with your baby seems so excessive in our cultures eyes. I will never understand why we treat birth as a serious illness that needs massive medical intervention but the need for postpartum recovery time is so often slid under the rug and dismissed.

My twins will be a year old next week, my PPD has improved significantly, it does eventually fade. I still fight guilt and cry for my lost moments with my babies, and I know there are things I will do differently should we have another child. I yearn to see a culture where birth is treated as a natural process and postpartum recovery is held on a pedestal of tremendous importance. Imagine yourself in that scenario. I wonder if I could have avoided or at least short circuited the PPD I dealt with. What would it have changed for you mamas? I hope sharing my story can one day touch some mama, more than anything I feel new mamas need someone who understands. Who can say, I get what you’re going through, and it’s not fair. One day I hope our culture changes and women can truly be there for each other in support like this, I hope our expectations of new mamas can evolve to where we see being a new mama for the serious matter it is, and as a culture respect it. I believe the health of our future depends on it.

Mamas Have Needs Too?! Or, Self Care is Haaaaard

img_9806Self care is hard. As a mama, it’s literally almost impossible sometimes. They say you can’t pour from a cup that’s empty but sometimes as a mom that is just what you have to do. Sometimes my kids don’t sleep, so I don’t sleep, and you know what? When they wake up the next morning I don’t get to just ignore them while I catch up on my zzz’s! Nope! They need fed, diapers changed and someone to watch them so they don’t knock out a tooth or stab out each other’s eyes. And yep, I am that person!
Sometimes I don’t get that glass of water or get to pee in a timely fashion because my babies have needs that can’t wait. Call me crazy but it’s really hard to go to the bathroom when my son is screaming because he pooped his diaper and it’s burning his little butt. So I change his diaper, and then eventually, I get to pee. Typically with a kid on my lap (or two). And as you might know from my last post, (click here to watch my rant on sharing love not germs) I just finished having the stomach flu. And nope, motherhood didn’t ‘pause’ whilst I fought that nasty virus.
I used to lecture my mom on self care. I still do sometimes since her kids are adults and she still doesn’t care for herself as she should. But, being a mom myself, I get why she doesn’t. Someday my kids will be adults and I I’ll probably need the self care lecture because let’s face it mamas, decades of a habit is hard to break. img_9796
And you know, I chose to bring these little beings into the world, they didn’t really have a say in it. So I don’t think it’s unfair that their needs are put before mine. That doesn’t mean though that some days aren’t so hard I want to cry, and sometimes I just want to eat my dinner without it getting slapped to the floor or shoveling it in my mouth at a race rocket pace. It doesn’t mean I don’t love my kids, or that I don’t want them more than anything. It doesn’t make me a bad mom that I look at photos of women with their hair and makeup done, their cute jeans obviously freshly washed and feel a pang of absence of my self worth.
Motherhood is HARD. Do I love it? With all my heart. Is it worth it?! Without question! I wouldn’t trade being a mama for ANYTHING. But. It. Is. Hard. So hard. Being the primary caregiver to tiny humans is no joke. There are literally lives DEPENDING on you, 24/7! HUMAN. LIVES. Whether or not your child survives let alone thrives is all on YOU. That’s one heck of a privilege and responsibility y’all.

img_9677I’m trying to remember to do little bits of self care when I can. Having a third cup of coffee (even if it gets cold), taking the extra 30 seconds to not only rip the ponytail off my head before bed but actually brush my hair, putting on a quick show for the babies so I can wash my face without screaming in the background. These things seem small but mamas you know, those small things are the first to go when you’re prioritizing your moves like a military captain for efficiency.
This won’t be my last post on self care, so tell me, what do you find is YOUR biggest challenge as a mama in caring for you? Let me know in the comments!

Hang in there mamas, and go buy some wine, I prefer the big bottles. A glass may help (I find it heavenly, and yes you can have it even if you’re breastfeeding!!!!). But I’ll go off on that later.fullsizerender

On Mom Shaming

imageI’ll readily admit, before I had kids I didn’t really buy into the whole “mom shaming” concept. Of course I was, and still am, fully aware of the judgement that exists, both from other moms and myself. However I somehow had it in my mind that I would be immune to the judgment, that somehow it wouldn’t bother me, that perhaps I just “wouldn’t let myself” be exposed to situations which could leave me feeling judged. And don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty of judging, I mean, this entire post is me judging others for judging for goodness sake.

But anyway, as I said before, if parenting does one thing for you it will teach you to never say never. It wasn’t until I had my own munchkins that I realized my idyllic sense of no judgement was not only unrealistic but naive. It started before I even gave birth to the twins. “Oh, you’re not scheduling a- c section? Oh, you don’t want that toy/blanket/clothing it will absolutely maim/harm/kill your child. You’re eating what? You’re walking where?!” Still I clung to my foolish belief that it would dissipate after the twins arrived and everyone saw what a capable mother I was (ha ha).

It did not. It increased, exponentially. Strangers feel no shame in approaching me to berate me on my mothering choices. “You’re not sleep training?! You haven’t gotten them on a schedule yet?! You don’t have a set bedtime?!” “Oh…you’re letting them have screen time already?” (Yes, I needed to pee. And it’s really hard to pee when every muscle in my body is tense because my children are screaming like they’re being torn asunder. Don’t worry, I’m only letting them watch The Exorcist so it’s cool). image
And then, “you’re BREASTFEEDING?! TWINS?! YOU HAVEN’T FED THEM SOLIDS YET?! You know you can now right…” (Really I had NO idea, I’ve been a mom for nine months now but have been living under a rock so had no idea of common practices and approaches to raising babies). “Oh wow, they’re not crawling yet? You do know it’s important they crawl right …” Actually I hang them from their ankles at night to prohibit crawling, but thanks for your concern.

Clearly, I have not only lost my marbles but probably had none to begin with. And my poor children, well obviously they’re hopelessly screwed, at least according to the general populace.

Moms are vulnerable, especially new moms. I am no exception to that, and despite my wonderful support team of husband, family and friends I will admit that the judgement has shaken me more than a time or two and caused me to retreat home viciously questioning my own abilities as a parent. Why weren’t they crawling?! Was it tummy time?! Maybe I didn’t do it enough/well/right?! They are stressed today, is it my lack of scheduling?! Why do they hate car rides so much?! It’s easy to have your “mama knows best” resolve shaken when well meaning friends and relatives have no hesitation in criticizing you or sharing their opinion.

What I truly abhor the most is the brag shaming. “My child is Superman, he crawled at 2 months!” “My pediatrician said my baby is basically the next improved version of Einstein, he’s speaking 7 languages at 7 months old!” While I am proud of my children and of course personally think they are the brightest most beautiful creatures to ever grace the planet, I do not make post after post about this. I know how it feels to see that and immediately wonder why your child hasn’t reached that milestone. Every child is different, and while everyone says to celebrate that and that every child learns at their own pace (which IS true) many frequently make that statement and then immediately post as to how advanced their child is compared to every other single child in the universe. And they should see their kiddo as amazing, beautiful, unequaled. They’re the parent. That’s their job. (Now don’t get me wrong, I do not believe in teaching your children that that they poop gold, sneeze rainbow dust and in general do no wrong, thereby giving them not only a false sense of reality but also turning them into insufferable jerks, but that’s another post for another day).

imageJudging is part of human nature, we can’t help it. But we can shut our mouths about it. So judge away, mamas, I’m right there with you, but let’s keep it to ourselves. We never know when we might be at the  receiving end.

A Place to Put Them, Gadgets and Gizmos

imageMy husband and I are not big on ‘stuff’, however it became evident to me after the babies arrived we were going to need SOME stuff. I took to Craigslist and the first item I found was an exersaucer, it’s still a little big for them and as you can see from his expression, my son thinks the flapping starfish is not to be trusted. My next find was a baby play gym, complete with kick pad piano. The wonderful lady we bought it from threw in a second play gym when she heard we had twins, and bless her heart, have we ever loved it. We ended up buying a few more things from her, namely, a crib mobile, bouncy seat, and auto swing. As she said, sometimes you just need to have somewhere to put the baby and go to the bathroom.

You’ve already heard me talk about our bassinets, wonderful whirring imageand rocking devices that do sometimes soothe and keep a wee one sleeping. When we first started out on our pregnancy journey, researching what type of gizmos and gadgets we wanted was overwhelming, to say the least. You cannot just choose color and style for anything, there are literally dozens of options no matter what type of device you are considering purchasing. Stroller shopping is equal in my opinion to car shopping, not just in stress levels but wow, do those things ever get expensive!

imageYes, it’s true, baby stuff can take over your house, but there are a few things that are so worth it. The play gyms are amazing, while they never lay there too long it gives them just the right amount of stimulation. They don’t get overwhelmed, yet it normally wears them out enough to take a nap. Sometimes my little boy will alternate enthusiastic play with cat naps, all in the same gym. It’s wonderful.

The swing is amazing, you can crank it up and hang things off the top imagefor them to look at in wonder as it goes back and forth over their little heads. And as I’ve mentioned before, the bouncy seats are the only way I ever shower. The crib mobile is mandatory to our nighttime routine, or to diaper changes in general. One baby can lie in the crib and stare in fascination at the swinging jungle creatures that rotate to alternating clips of Debussy, Chopin, and Bach while the other baby enjoys a diaper change. (These days, my babies LOVE diaper changes. Sometimes I’ll change them even when they’re not imagedirty just to break the fussy cycle).

We’ll even put both babies under the mobile to brush our teeth, etc, and most of the time it’s distracting enough to them that they stay happy until it’s time to nurse to sleep. We recently acquired Bumbo seats, (due to having a gift card we purchased ours at Babies R Us, but I recommend Amazon due to slightly better pricing/free shipping).image

My babies are still a little young for the Bumbo, but we’ve been using it in tiny increments, as especially my boy gets super excited he can sit up in it. It’s a wonderful little contraption, small and compact, even the tray stores on the back of the seat. We do have Boppy pillows, I used them like crazy for the first month but have less so as of late, I do use it to prop them up after eating sometimes but don’t use it as much as I thought I would. Perhaps I will use it more a they get older. In the meantime, I do highly imagerecommend glowing rubber duckies.

Devices I am eager to use include the Johnny jump ups my parents got them, as much as my babies like to bounce and pretend to stand I foresee lots of use in those. In short, while you don’t need to turn your house into a display case for Buy Buy Baby, I highly recommend having a few key baby gadgets and gizmos, for as a dear friend said to me, sometimes you just have to have a place to put them.

Baby Belly Woes, to the Chiropractor We Go

imageEver since she was born, my sweet little girl has dealt with some sort of tummy trouble. At first, it was gas and colic. Grammy found a wonderful product called ColicCalm, and it provided some relief. We became masters of the leg pedal and stomach massage, and I wouldn’t be surprised if my little girl has learned to celebrate every toot she emits with a ‘yay!’ and cheers. Once she neared 3 months, the colic began to subside but she was still very fussy more often than not, (translation, never have you seen such mighty Tarzanian yells out of such a tiny body).

We discovered she was dealing with reflux as well, and our pediatrician prescribed ranitidine, explaining that insurance would not cover the better reflux medication until we tried this one. It had zero effect, and so they switched us to Prevacid. I’m not a big fan of giving my teeny little baby much besides breastmilk, but I am also not a big fan of her projectile vomiting multiple times a day. We still weren’t pleased with the results of the Prevacid, so we began to research alternatives. A friend recommended chiropractic treatments, and we decided to give it a try.

This past week was our first treatment, we discovered our little girl has imagea beautiful spine and palate, but an unusually tight neck and irritated diaphragm. She did not mind the majority of the treatment, which was basically like gentle baby massage, however when the doctor went to release her neck muscles she complained at the top of her voice. The doctor explained that while it wasn’t comfortable to release she would probably express relief right afterwards, and she did, with a giant baby sigh. According to the doctor she will only need one more visit. It’s five days after her first adjustment, and the jury is still out. She’s still vomiting, we are both on outfit number two for the day. My husband attempted to greet me with a kiss after work and stuck his hand in a lovely giant vomit spot on my side. To his credit he did not recoil in disgust, but took baby girl so I could change. I will admit I would be just fine not smelling of ode de la Baby Puke so often, (lavender oil only does so much, and while I am fast at dodging, she is faster at puking).

We will go for the last appointment, and perhaps, hopefully,  it will make a huge difference. If not, we will continue to try various natural remedies we find and thankfully she will eventually grow out of it. In the meantime, I will continue to work on mastering the BabyPuke Dodge and Wipe.

Co-sleeping, How I Survive

imagePeople have co-slept as long as the human race has existed. Babies didn’t have their own separate mud huts, they stayed near mom at all times. Warmth, protection, there were many reasons to not let your infant leave your side. Of course today our circumstances are different. It is highly unlikely a wolf will sneak into your baby’s room and devour it in the night, and we live in comfortably climate controlled homes. Personally, I had resolved to use the crib when my babies arrived. I valiantly declared they would sleep on their own. My own mother, who co-slept all three of her girls, patiently helped me set the crib up beautifully with baby sheets and bumpers, smiling a quiet little smile as I adamantly insisted my babies would only sleep in their bassinets or the crib.

imageWell, my babies finally arrived one day. Not surprisingly, they didn’t like the cold plastic bassinets at the hospital. (Who would when your previous residence had been a warm squishy womb!) We brought them home from the hospital, celebrated our triumphant return as a family of four with a meal my mother had lovingly prepared and got ready for our first night at home. We tucked our tiny new members snugly into their vibrating, rocking bassinets and prepared ourselves to sleep.image

Now, newborns wake up a lot, but that first night our little babies didn’t sleep at all. Not even a five minute stretch. The minute their tiny bodies touched the bassinets they would begin to wail. We were desperate, in a haze we wondered if this up all night routine would be our lives the next few months. I still get PTSD from that first night when I hear the bassinets whirring.

The following night while nursing them I realized as long as they were near us, touching us, they would sleep. Of course they woke up to eat but they would at least sleep a little. After my 24 hour holdout, I brought them into our bed. Of course they didn’t immediately start sleeping for long periods of time, but they slept. And that was all I asked for. We tried a few more times to let them sleep in their bassinets but to no avail. They calmed instantly when near us, and it seemed absurd to insist to these tiny beings they couldn’t be with us for comfort when that was all they asked for.image

Nowadays, they sleep like angels. They wake a few times a night to eat, and since I sleep between them I simply flop back and forth. One latches, we both snooze off. The other one wakes, I flip over, they latch, we snooze off. Sometimes they wake up simply because they want an arm wrapped around them. And since they’re right there, it’s easy to do. My mom never said I told you so, just smiled a quiet smile when I announced the babies were in our bed to stay.

imageAnd I don’t regret it a moment. Given a choice of trucking across the house multiple times a night for feedings or waking periodically for cuddles, let me tell you, cuddles win every time. With my twins eating the way they do, I would spend less time in my bed than I would walking back and forth though the house. Cuddles aside, I credit my sanity to our decision to co-sleep. No, it hasn’t ruined my marriage. My husband and I are even excited for the day we add more wee ones to our brood and our bed becomes even more full. And yes, my children will one day sleep in their own beds. I hope that day takes a while to get here, I don’t know what I’ll do without their soft cheeks, midnight hugs and sweet hair to smell.

Saying No

 One of the biggest lessons I am learning as a parent is how to organize my priorities. A big, giant chunk of this involves learning to say no. Not just to other people, but most often to myself. I have realized that many things that were very important to me must become less important in favor of my children. A dear friend recently said to me, ‘I didn’t realize how selfish I was until I had children’.

I’ve never considered myself to be a selfish person, in fact I have often had to work on ever putting myself before others or tasks. In short, saying no has been very hard. And, until recently, this seemed in my mind to be a non-selfish personality trait. But having children has greatly changed my perspective on this.  Who benefits from saying yes to every engagement to make myself look good? Who appreciates that the dishes only sat in the sink for five minutes? I’m the first to admit that I’m an obsessive clean freak. But. At the end of the day, the dishes don’t need me to be their hero. My pants will last to be washed another day. That makeup lesson can be taught just as well next week. Today, my children need me to be their hero. They need those five minutes of us staring into each other’s eyes.

It sounds so cliche, ‘I had to learn to leave the mess to spend time with my kids’. But I have. I’ve had to make the conscious decision to walk away from the messy bookshelf to read a story, to leave the pile of laundry to share a giggle. I want to be SuperMom. I want the laundry always clean and folded, the floors always sparkling, dinner always made. And some days, I do get it all done. I get up early, they sleep, and it all comes together. And then some days it doesn’t. I have to remind myself it’s ok if we eat nachos again, and the laundry will eventually get folded.

I chose to bring these beautiful little people into the world, and putting their needs first is not just a privilege I now have, but a responsibility. At the end of the day, my daughter and son need me to be all I can be for them. And if I have already given everything to other people, or tasks, and have nothing left of myself, how can I have enough left for them?

Learning to say no doesn’t mean living life in isolation, saying no to every coffee date and turning down every opportunity to help friends and family. I don’t need to live in a dirty hovel of a house and wear stinky clothes every day. But it does mean making the right choice when something has to be sacrificed, and making the choice that doesn’t compromise myself or my children. That spot on the floor will still be there tomorrow.

Regarding Bedtime, or the Lack Thereof

imageIll be the first to admit bedtime is rather unorthodox in our house. Nap times also follow a more casual pattern, my little ones tend to do the ‘plop and drop’, rather than regularly scheduled naps. I do make certain that if they don’t sleep we at least do quiet time every hour and a half, as I have discovered going much longer than that without rest results in an acute case of windmill mode. Occasionally one or the other, (or both) will go on a nap strike despite my efforts and the dire and unfortunate state of windmill mode ensues.

Due to my teaching schedule, we eat dinner pretty late. Our usual evening schedule consists of dinner after 8pm, making an early bedtime for the kiddos very difficult if we hope to have any family time at all. After I finish teaching, we feed, change and put the babies in their jammies, sometimes giving them a quick bath. They both then usually fall asleep near us in their bouncy seats, leaving us a few quiet moments to eat dinner and catch up on the day. We all four go to bed at the same time. Diapers are changed for the last time, we swaddle them up, and they both nurse to sleep. Swaddling was something we introduced later, our first attempt was not well received by my itty bitties, (think full fledged screaming rebellion). Now they love it, it has an instant calming effect and it is an important part of our little bedtime routine. I don’t have a very set routine, we try to read a story before they pass out and we nurse and cuddle to sleep, but that’s about it.

image

Now, bedtime is different for every family, and you have do what works for you. Last week I had a wave of mama guilt that perhaps I should be having the babies to sleep at a certain time every night, and that maybe my lack of bedtime routine was setting us all up for disaster. I chose a night in which I didn’t teach as late, and we did bathtime, story time, and to bed by 8pm. At first, they crashed into what appeared to be a deep sleep. However, a mere 15 minutes later, bright, eager little eyes were darting around the room and smiles and giggles were growing in volume. I got back into bed and nursed them to sleep again. A little bit later, the wiggles started and my tiny wrapped munchkins were wide awake again. (I do highly recommend this process if you desire to get your daily workout in while trying to get your babies to sleep. Up, down, into bed, out of bed. Repeat).

This process continued for over the next few hours, when they finally fell asleep for good. (Or at least for the next two hours). They woke up unusually early the next day and with a major case of Cranky Baby-itis.  (Mama also had an equally major case of  Cranky Mama-itis).

After pondering the failure of our attempted bedtime, I realized I could either commit to this process and keep at it until they learned the habit and it worked, or I could continue with our current routine which is working great. They go to sleep at some time before 10, they fall asleep fast and stay asleep, and then stay in bed until usually after 9 with a quick nursing snack or two. They wake up full of smiles and in the most wonderful moods. Thus, I determined that, at least for now, a strict bedtime was not something I deemed worthy of the effort. I get up early in the morning while they’re sleeping and that gives me a little time to accomplish some house chores and work, etc. I do like that my children seem to be learning flexibility in scheduling, and as they grow older hopefully won’t have their balance completely upset when we have events, go traveling, etc.

Will this routine continue working? I don’t know, as I said before parenting is a constantly changing learning process. I do know it worked for my parents and my sisters, and I love that growing up, while we always got our needed sleep, we also got to watch fireworks and roast marshmallows and have many experiences a strict bedtime would not have permitted us to partake in. I hope to be able for my own children to have those experiences, I know they were a huge important part of my childhood. And of course, what works for babies today may not work tomorrow, and hence why my personal mama playbook is an ongoing source of discovery.