In honor of my Carter’s FIFTH BIRTHDAY (seriously…how is that possible?!?!), I wanted to finally get this post published. It’s something I’ve been making a mental list of for years now every time I have one of those AHA! moments in parenting, and the actual post itself has been hanging out for months now as I have a few minutes here and there to peck away at it. Between work, three kids and everything in between, this poor little blog doesn’t get much love.
But as I was saying, my Carter turned FIVE yesterday, so looking back at that new mama Jenni in 2009 with her adorable (but kind of cranky) newborn, these are the things I wish I could go back and tell her.
I will preface this by saying that if you know me, most of it will not surprise you in the least, but if you don’t, I consider myself to be a mostly-attachment-parenting-but-didn’t-plan-to-be kind of mama (I’m not “crunchy granola” by any means, but am a self-dubbed “chewy granola bar”). My recommendations are not for everyone, but I’m willing to bet at least one of my top ten will apply to you whatever your parenting style.
So let’s start from the beginning…
1. Morning Sickness
Whoever came up with the term “morning sickness” must have been a man. Must have. Because really, when I was in my first trimester, the morning was the only time I felt quasi-human. Starting in the early afternoon (with Collin) or the late morning (with Rory) however, it was like a hangover that lasted for weeks on end. In the movies, a pregnant woman usually throws up once, washes off her face and goes on with her life. But in reality (for me, at least) it was more like dry-heaving constantly, horrible nausea, and not even being able to think about, let alone eat, anything (I lived on Ensure). And it was worse with each pregnancy, so during my first trimester, I didn’t gain any weight with Carter, lost 11 pounds with Collin, and lost 16 pounds with Rory! Best/worst diet ever…and the skinniest I have been since high school was during pregnancy, how crazy is that?
So ready for the good news? Despite the awfulness, it eventually goes away! Right around the 13 week mark, the fog lifted and I felt not only human, but pretty darn great for my whole second trimester. And even though I have said each time I was in the thick of it, “I’m never doing this againnnnn!” (which I also said every time I got drunk/sick in college) I have three children, so once there is some distance between the misery and present, I was able to forget about it enough that I was willing to go through it one more time. It’s how our species survives, folks.
P.S. None of the over-the-counter or old wives’ tales remedies worked for me (especially not eating Saltines before getting out of bed) but prescription Zofran (generic Ondansetron) helped take the edge off a bit. If you are miserable before you go see your OB (mine did first appointment at 8 weeks and morning sickness started at 5 weeks), call them and see if they would be willing to prescribe it for you!
Oh mama, having a baby is hard work! You spend 9ish months growing this little person and can’t wait to meet them, but then you actually have to get them OUT of your body. Labor and delivery is NOT easy, but it was actually way easier than I expected it to be. What I wasn’t even worried about, and should have been, was the post-partum period after Carter was born, and whoa, this caught me off-guard! I had a third-degree tear from Carter’s vaginal birth, and the recovery process kicked my (sore) bottom. Now some of you are not big fans of medication, but for this girl, the epidural was a magical invention that allowed me to enjoy my labor (as much as anyone can really ENJOY it) and pain meds post-partum were essential. The good kind thankyouverymuch. I was breastfeeding, so I made sure my doctors knew this and were cool with making sure I wasn’t going to mess with my babies, but I alternated something strong (Darvoset/Vicodin/Percoset respectively) with ibuprofen, and I can’t even fathom trying to get through that first week without my drugs. But what I wish I had known with Carter is how very busy the nurses are after you’ve had a baby. Yes, they will eventually remember you need your meds, but usually a few hours AFTER you actually need to take them. So words of advice? When you write down how often you fed your baby and how many pee and poop diapers they’ve had (because yes, they make you keep track of that), also keep track of when you get your pain meds and when you should have your next dose. And when you’re a few minutes out from that next dose, use the call button to let someone know you’d like your pain meds, please, so you have a chance of actually getting them on time. STAY ON TOP OF THEM. I didn’t do this with Carter and I was a puddle of misery. With Collin and Rory I did, and what do you know? I was a human being! Amazing! There is no shame in admitting you need a little bit of help. You just made a person!
During your post-partum stay in the hospital you will get crazy big maxi pads, Tucks pads and Dermoplast spray, which are all fine and good, but here are a few more products that I really loved and brought with me for the second and third time around:
- Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm and Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Spray, both total life savers after a vaginal birth. They are all-natural, very soothing, smell good and just made me feel much more pleasant in general.
- Also Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Butter, which is SO much better than Lanolin if your boobies are sore…again, all-natural, doesn’t stain and actually works. (I used a ton of this with Carter, but didn’t need it at all with Collin or Rory because breastfeeding is waaaay easier when it’s not your first time at the rodeo.)
- If you are hurting and they don’t bring you one, ask for a sitz bath (and ask them to show you how to use it properly, because I found it pretty darn confusing!) because soaking your bottom is helpful. Bring it home with you and try to find the time to use it a few times in between all of the other things that will totally overwhelm you after becoming a new mom! I did this while Carter sat in his bouncy seat and I read a newborn care book, lol.
- Also, a pretty nightgown & robe for you (make sure the straps come down easily if you’re breastfeeding) so you look good in pictures and some infant gowns for the baby (my hospital gave me these awful shirt-pants that served as, yes, both the shirt and pants) so it’s easier to change their diapers
P.S. Don’t be scared to take a shower like I was (did I mention I was hurting a lot?). Especially if you have an epidural and they covered your back in tape, it will feel fabulous to get clean.
3. Milk Production
I am a big fan of breastfeeding. We Mamas are absolutely amazing in that not only are we capable of growing a person from nothing, we are also capable of sustaining them completely for the next 6 months while they grow at an obscene rate…and then continue to supplement that growth for as long as we choose. Breastfeeding has consumed nearly 3 years of my life in total (and promises to stick around for around another year) so I know a lot more about it now than I did when I was struggling to figure out how to feed baby Carter. What is now so easy was so NOT in the beginning. First of all, I’d read the book Babywise (which now, I realize is not for me, but back then sounded fabulous) and was planning to put him on a 2-3 hour schedule. So when he wanted to eat All. The. Time. I didn’t realize that my body would keep up with his demand. I thought that once he’d eaten, it would be another 2 hours or so until my body made enough milk to feed him again. Of course now I realize that even if my breasts feel completely empty, if a baby is hungry, they will make more milk. It’s like magic. If you are able to, put down the schedule and just breastfeed on demand. Your baby (and boobs) will let you know when you need to nurse. This comes from the lady who wrote down every single feeding for Carter in a little notebook, and who is the same lady who can’t even tell you how many times Collin or Rory ate in a day. For me, the latter is easier and better.
4. Milk Sensitivities
Well first of all, you will find that poop is a part of normal conversation. Before babies, it’s not something you talk to your friends about, but after, you will often find a group of mamas having conversations about their babies’ excrement like they used to discuss where to go out on Friday night. That being said, when Carter was a tiny baby, his poop turned from normal, seedy, yellow poop to freaky, mucousy, green poop. Asking Dr. Google, the most common response was that it was a foremilk-hindmilk imbalance, meaning he was getting too much of the “skim” foremilk that comes out in the beginning of a feeding and not enough of the “whole” hindmilk. Which ok, I guess that can happen, but that was not the case for us. I talked to my pediatrician and he made my do lots of poop cultures to check for various bacteria, which yes, involved scooping said yucky poop from his diaper into little vials, sometimes in the wee hours of the morning. And of course the results were non-conclusive. I also tried an elimination diet, getting rid of all dairy and soy, for a few weeks, but A) it was horrible and B) it didn’t accomplish anything. This seems to be a pediatrician’s go-to recommendation, and something I struggled with a lot because I felt like I wasn’t a good mom if I wasn’t at least trying it. What I know now is that my kids have a dairy sensitivity for the first few months of their lives. Since I am horrible at elimination diets and it’s not severe, I do a mid-grade elimination diet, cutting out milk, ice cream, butter and yogurt, but keeping cheese and things containing dairy. We also give the baby…
We get Udo’s Choice Infant’s Probiotic from our local health food store. I keep it in the fridge, and I put some of the powder on my finger and stick it in her mouth every morning (while apologizing, because she gives me a very dirty look), which helps maintain a healthy gut and IMHO reduces the severity of the dairy sensitivity. Rory still has some freaky poop on days that I have more dairy than usual (yes, I’m talking to you, pizza) but in general she’s not the least bit bothered by it, unlike my cranky baby Carter, who did not get the benefit of my experience in dairy sensitivities…or probiotics. Even without dairy sensitivities, a healthy gut is a good thing for a baby to have. I’ve read recent studies linking all kinds of bad things to a lack of gut bacteria, so I’m glad she is getting that boost every morning.
6. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is another of my favorite things. I cook with it all the time (for cooking I like LouAna Pure Coconut Oil because it doesn’t have any coconut scent or taste and it’s like $6 a jar at my local grocery store) and I keep a jar by Rory’s changing table (for this I have a fancy Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil jar) for everything else. My most common uses are diaper rashes and face rashes, both of which usually disappear overnight with just a little bit scooped out with a clean q-tip and dabbed on the afflicted area. And if you get it on your hands, just rub it in, since it also works great as a moisturizer. There are a million other uses for coconut oil, but these three are my go-to’s.
7. Baby Wearing
When I had Carter, baby wearing was one of those things I did occasionally but didn’t really NEED since he was my only child. When Collin was born however, baby wearing became essential because Carter was just turning two and a toddler tornado…with Collin strapped securely on my chest, I could still take on the playground with the little man. Plus my children have never been big car seat fans in general. Collin could nap in his with the best of them, but Carter and Rory both go into hysterics whenever they got near it, so keeping them in the car seat when not in the car was never really an option. Not to mention the big bruises all over my legs from carrying the carrier in one hand while holding Carter’s hand with the other. Now I very rarely even take Rory’s car seat out of the car, and instead I strap her into the Ergo or Baby K’Tan before we head into the grocery store, park, birthday party, etc. They are especially awesome for shopping excursions because there is still room in the cart for sibling(s) and you keep the new baby away from the germs and usually ASLEEP the whole time you are trying to be productive. (No promises for the behavior of older siblings and its effect on productivity.)
Co-sleeping, or officially bed-sharing, is probably my kookiest mama habit, and not one I ever planned on adopting. But it’s my favorite, for sure. I adore sleeping with my kiddos…emphasis on the word SLEEP. I’m not up and down tending to a baby in a crib (been there, done that, didn’t sleep for a year, thank you baby Carter!) and everyone in our family sleeps so much better this way. I already wrote about this journey here and here so I won’t go into the details of how this madness began, but as an update, I will say that Carter, while still in our room, has been sleeping in his “Carter nest” on the floor for the past year, while Collin is in the middle of the bed, and Rory is on my right. Oh, and we have a king-sized bed. It’s not always perfect, but it has done wonders for my sanity. If your kid sleeps in a crib with little or no fuss, congratulations you luck duck! But if they fight you tooth and nail like Carter did, learn how to safely share a bed, and give it a try. And yes, I realize this makes me crazy according to a lot of people, but it works for us.
This one is random, but an important public service announcement: if you feed your baby too many carrots and sweet potatoes, their nose will turn orange. It has a name, too: carotenemia…I wish I didn’t know this from experience! As most babies do, Carter loved carrots and sweet potatoes more than peas and green beans (not that I blame him) aaaand, unknown to me, almost all of the “meal” baby food jars (like Chicken & Rice, etc.) have carrots as their #1 ingredient, even if it’s not in the name. When you see your baby all day every day, you might not even notice it happening (seriously, how did I not notice that??) but looking back at pictures, I feel like an awful mom for NOT noticing. The good news is that it’s not bad for them (it’s actually a build-up of good nutrients) but it took months to de-oompa-loompa my boy. Do yourself a favor, and read the labels!
Finally the most important thing: love. In the days before Carter made his grand entrance, I was pretty terrified about labor & delivery, but my mom gave me great advice: “This is going to be the best day of your life.” SO TRUE! Hardest day? Absolutely. But best? The best of the best of the best. Until you have a child, you really have no idea just how much you can love anything in this world, and that emotion is going to hit you like a Mack truck when your child is placed on your chest for the first time. I knew I would love my kids, but I had no idea just how much.
This is probably going to sound snobby, but back in my college days, I couldn’t understand why on earth a woman would want to be a stay at home mom. I know! I just want to go back and flick myself between the eyes! At 23, my career was so important to me, and I wanted to use my college degree to do big things. I was NOT ready to have kids for a very long time, and Glenn often joked that he was going to have to switch out my birth control pills for a placebo to get me to shift my focus from my career to having babies. But somewhere along the line, a switch flipped inside of me. My biological clock started ticking, and soon it was all I could think about. When it took us a few months to get pregnant and then I miscarried my first pregnancy, I was devastated, and so worried that my hesitance to get pregnant earlier was going to keep me from having children. But three kids later, I am glad to report that was not the case.
Being a mom, especially while also running a business, is the hardest thing I have done, and sometimes…ok, a lot of the times…my kids can drive me crazier than anyone else in the world. But even when I don’t LIKE them so much, I still LOVE then more than I ever thought possible. They are my greatest accomplishments, for sure, and I can barely even remember what it was like to live in a world that didn’t rotate around Carter, Collin and Rory. I am glad we waited until we were ready to have kids because as I mentioned before…HARD…but I am so glad we decided to have children. Being a parent is really the best thing ever. And that is the one thing I really don’t need to go back and tell new mama Jenni in 2009, because she knew it the first time they put baby Carter on her chest.