Desiree: One Part Granola, One Part Stilettos, All Parts Mom
Desiree is a brand new mom to a baby girl. Fresh from the hospital, she’s navigating the initiation into parenthood and everything that goes along with it - from waiting for her milk to come in, to learning to get a proper latch, to decoding her baby’s cries in the middle of the night.
Sorry, couldn't resist the bad pun. My daughter and I are closing in one year of nursing. It has been a wonderful journey and I'm so thankful and blessed to have been able to take this path. To be sure, we're not done nursing but it's amazing to think about how far we've come.
I was so nervous about even being able to breastfeed. Like childbirth, there's no way to tell if you can do it until you're doing it. You can't practice and there are no signs or clues to give you a hint. My eyes were saucers and my jaw was on the floor the first time I squeezed the girls and colostrum came out. That may be TMI, but we're all friends here, right? Yet, I was still unsure if I actually had the goods. After the baby was born, I dutifully put her to my breast, ignored the pain of a bad latch and hoped for the best. I was overjoyed when my milk came in and after a home visit with a lactation consultant to correct her latch, I was ready to dance in the street! Not literally of course – who has that kind of energy right after you have a baby?!12:20pm on Friday February 3
By now, I'm sure you've heard that it's actually quite unhealthy to eat twice the amount of food you regularly consume when you're pregnant. I actually read somewhere that American women shouldn't increase their intake at all because we eat too much to begin with. Now, I may not have pigged out at every turn but I shamelessly indulged every single craving I had, day or night. I gained a healthy amount of weight during my pregnancy and thanks to breastfeeding, I'm actually ten pounds lighter than my pre-pregnancy weight. Yes, I know how lucky I am. But once the baby came, eating became a whole different ballgame.9:00am on Thursday January 19
Post pregnancy exercise – there's an oxymoron for ya. I never thought I'd say that because after all, I am a yoga instructor. I've practiced yoga for over ten years but these days my practice is anywhere but a yoga studio.9:00am on Thursday January 12
This is going to be my daughter's first Christmas, but this holiday season marked a lot of firsts for her. She crawled for the first time during Thanksgiving at my parent's house. We were at home in Dallas when she made her first lurching attempts but by the time we arrived at my parents, she was a crawling master. I spent most of my time on the floor crawling around after her, frantically moving all the power cords out of reach. I became a pro at scooping her up before she reached the stairs, much to her delight. She thought it was all a game and her laughter put smiles on everyone's faces.9:00am on Thursday December 29
This year, the only thing I asked from Santa is an extra set of hands. We're visiting the in-laws for the holiday and the grandparents are going to be a great stand-in for Santa. I'm looking forward to eating a full meal with both hands, taking long hot showers and enjoying a cup of hot chocolate without eager baby fingers reaching for it! It will be a Christmas miracle!9:00am on Thursday December 22
There's a fancy shopping area in my hometown that they decorate with millions of lights every year. Thanksgiving night, they make a big deal of flipping the switch and turning on the lights. It's a pretty big deal and I've actually gotten to take a helicopter tour of the city to see the lights. Hands down, Christmas lights are my favorite part of the holidays. Every year, we always made a big deal about getting out the Christmas tree and stringing the lights, inside the house and out. My mom does a different themed tree almost every year, but there are always lots of lights.9:00am on Thursday December 15
December is here and it is the official start of the holiday season. It's so crazy to think that the new year is just around the corner and my daughter is closer to her first birthday than she is to the day she was born. It got me thinking about holiday traditions and how we're going to incorporate them into our new family of three.9:00am on Thursday December 8
When you're pregnant, other parents have a tendency to smugly look at you and smirk about how you'll never sleep again. They offer annoying bits of advice, like “sleep when the baby sleeps.” That is, they offer advice like that once they're past the sleep deprivation stage. Those who are still in it simply nod and smile, members of the same bleary-eyed army that you've just joined.9:00am on Thursday December 1
My modesty flew out the door the day my daughter was born. I have learned to shrug it off when my bra is showing. Not the strap, mind you, the entire bra. Although deep v-neck shirts are nursing-friendly, they aren't so great for concealing the nursing bra. As much as I wish I could resort to this excuse every time my bra is showing, sadly it happens with other shirts too. I walked into the elevator at my pediatrician's office one day to discover that my button down shirt was unbuttoned nearly to my navel because I was too frazzled to remember to re-button it once I'd finished feeding the baby. It hasn't gotten better now that the baby has figured out that my shirts stand between her and her food. She regularly pulls at my shirt no matter where we are and I've become so accustomed to it at this point that it barely registers.9:00am on Thursday November 24
This is my first holiday season as a mom. Before I had a baby, I looked forward to going home to have my mom take care of me, if only for a long weekend. She made breakfast and hovered in the nurturing-mom way that made me thankful that I had a place to call home. We will still travel to my parent's house for Thanksgiving, but this time I have a child of my own. I'm the nurturing mom and I'm bringing my own family to the dinner table.9:00am on Thursday November 17
This is our first holiday season with a baby. As neither my husband nor I have family who live nearby, we will celebrate our daughter's first holidays away from home. As much as I'd rather have Sofia's first Thanksgiving and Christmas at home, it's more important to me that she spend it with as much of her extended family as possible. That means we will once again pack our suitcases and our little family will hit the road.9:00am on Thursday November 10
This post is brought to you in real time, as in, we bought Sofia's Halloween costume yesterday. I confess that it kind of snuck up on me and I haven't given it much thought. I'm also writing this in our hotel room where we are visiting my husband for the week. His new job is in another state so we usually only see him on the weekend. However, we jumped when he suggested that we come up and spend the week with him and explore our new city – it's so nice to get to see him every evening and we're having a ball camping in our hotel room!9:01am on Thursday November 3
My daughter and I played for the first time today. By that I mean, we dumped out her toys on the floor, I put some toys close to her and she actually reached for them! She shook a rattle like nobody's business! She crinkled her crinkle book with the best of them! She pulled the strings on her pull toys like she actually knew what she was doing and I couldn't have been happier or prouder of her!
Watching my little girl explore her toy basket was amazing – as excited as I was, you'd think no one had ever played with toys before! Isn't that the way it is with all new parents – your child is the first and only child to ever experience anything? I'm no different and now that Sofia is starting to interact with her world, I have such plans for us!
Since we stay at home together, I was pretty fearful of how we would manage once the weather got cooler and it wouldn't be as convenient or comfortable to be outside. We go to a weekly playgroup but that's only for a couple of hours – what were we going to do with all the rest of our time? But today showed me that we have a whole new world waiting for us to explore.
As the days get shorter and we're inside more, I'm looking forward to our new experiences. We're starting solid foods and if our first attempts are any indication, eating/feeding is going to be an adventure in itself! I'm constantly amazed when she picks up a new food and it hits me that this is the first time in her life that she's eating avocado – the texture, the smell, the taste, it's all brand new for her! How amazing is that!? Additionally, our family has a pretty big move on the horizon and I'm hoping that we'll welcome the new year in our new home.
Change can be scary or exciting – all that matters is your attitude. I plan to take a page from my daughter's book and look at everything with happiness and wonder. It's a privilege to get to see the world through her eyes and as we plan to celebrate some pretty big milestones in her first holiday season, I'm happy I get to be by her side for the whole thing.9:00am on Thursday October 27
I’ve entered a different space-time continuum. I constantly need to be reminded what day it is and every other day I shake my head like an 80-year-old woman, exclaiming “Where does the time go?”
discovered that I don’t much care for the term ‘stay-at-home mom.’ While
technically I guess it’s true, ‘stay-at-home’ has these alternate connotations
of leisure and prison and neither of those apply to me. Even though I don’t go
to an office every morning, I work just as hard and often I keep hours much
longer than I ever did as a receptionist or yoga instructor.
Sure, part of my job description includes lying in bed and nursing my baby, but I’m on call 24 hours a day. I’m also in charge of Mental Development For The Child, which involves very important things like learning to match your diaper to your outfit and which bow gives that perfect finishing touch without going overboard, all while making it look effortless.
And yes, the importance of a schedule in my daughter’s life means my days don’t usually look different from one day to the next. But we’re doing big things – we’re laying the foundation for her future. She’s learning trust and security which will aid her in learning independence down the line. I’m with her every step of the way to encourage exploration and to guide her growth. So while I may not be mourning the end of my maternity leave I have definitely not stopped working.
I wouldn’t dream of getting into the battle of ‘whose work is more important’ because we all know what a minefield that is. There is no use looking over the fence to check on the neighbor's grass because all that matters is where you are and what you’re doing in this present moment. I repeat that to myself anytime I feel like I should be teaching my daughter long division rather than making faces to hear her laugh. It’s what I tell myself when I’m doing the millionth load of laundry and I’m wondering why I bothered to go to college. Sometimes my days are a blur of feeding, changing and cleaning and I don’t know if I’m coming or going. Sometimes I miss the workplace interaction that I no longer get, but I stop, breathe and remind myself that I’m exactly where I need to be.9:00am on Thursday October 20
By the time this is posted, we will be on our first family vacation. At least I hope we are. I hope we will have survived the packing and the flight. Oh my goodness, the flight. I am nervous about being on a plane with her for so long and I have fervent prayers that she will sleep for the majority of it and not be that baby who screams the whole way.
The last time I traveled with my daughter, we were going to my parent’s house and the plane ride was a little over and hour. I wasn’t concerned about forgetting anything as I knew that all the necessary stores were just around the corner. This time, we are travelling internationally, I don’t speak the language and I doubt they have a Babies R Us anywhere close. Isn’t it so funny how you automatically assume that your country and your city is the only place on Earth where babies are safe?
Naturally, I know she’ll be fine and we’ll probably have a wonderful time without incident. However, we do have to take some precautions just to be on the safe side. One of them is packing formula. We have been extra blessed with being able to breastfeed and it’s a great point of pride for me to exclusively breastfeed my daughter. I don’t anticipate any issue while we’re traveling but my husband insisted that I purchase some formula on the way off chance that I get ill and am unable to feed our daughter.
I wasn’t prepared for the rush of emotion I felt as I stood in front of the formula at the store. I was paralyzed, first by the sheer number of options. Protein sensitive, colic, organic, generic, this brand, that brand. How in the world do you choose? Additionally, I simply didn’t want to buy formula. It wasn’t a choice that I made for my daughter in the beginning and I didn’t want to make it now. Yet I put it in my cart, feeling like I was carrying contraband.
I don’t expect to fall ill. If I have to give my daughter formula, she won’t die. More than anything, I just want to do what’s best for my baby and that means being prepared as best as I can.9:00am on Thursday October 13
We just found out today that we’re going to move out of state. My husband got a new job and while it’s an amazing opportunity for him, I’m a little melancholy. I’ve been in Texas for over ten years now and I took it for granted that this would be our forever home.
I love our house – it’s got just the right amount of space, it’s got loads of character and I adore our neighborhood. We have a great parent’s network and I had visions of my little girl growing up with the kids in the neighborhood, going from kindergarten to high school with them like I did in my hometown. To think that she won’t remember her first house makes me a little wistful. My husband and I have so many memories in this house and I can just see her rolling her eyes when Mom and Dad start talking about the ‘olden days’ in the house in Texas.
But that’s when it hit me. She’s her own person and she’s going to have her own memories of a different house and different friends and they’re going to be all her own. Even this young, she is living her own life, telling her own story and even now, I’m a witness. It’s hard to think about my child as an independent being, separate from me, especially when she needs me so much right now. Yet, her story is going to be so different from my own and hearing the news that we’re about to start a new adventure really got me thinking about that.
My daughter is a part of my soul. She will forever be connected to me. But at the same time, she is separate, with her own distinct tastes and interests and she will have the confidence to find her own path. As she becomes more aware of her surroundings and her place in the world, she’ll have a much different backdrop than I did. I’m at once excited and nervous for her. I can’t wait to see who she’ll become, what choices she’ll make and how much more successful she’ll be than I was. And of course, I’m nervous because each day I feel more vulnerable as a parent. She was ultimately protected when I held her inside me and each day I have to loosen my hold just a little more.
I’m excited for our move and I’m excited to watch my daughter grow and develop her personality and make her special mark on the world. I thought we’d stay here forever, but the more I think about it the happier I get. I get to see a new place through her eyes. We get to explore together and while she may not remember her time in Texas, we’ll have plenty of great memories, no matter where we land.9:00am on Thursday October 6
I am nowhere near ready to have another child. I’m so smitten with my daughter that in this moment, I couldn’t imagine having another baby. I know it’s a cliché, but I really do wonder how in the world I’ll have enough room in my heart for another. I’ve been told countless times that your heart grows but I look into her eyes and she’s my entire world and I just don’t know how a heart can get big enough for more.
When my husband and I were dating, he joked that he wanted eight kids – at least I think, no I hope it was a joke. I gave him a serious side-eye and said, “You know I’m 32, right? I couldn’t have that many even if I wanted to, which I absolutely do not.” Even when I was pregnant, he asked me how soon we could get started on the second one. I pushed him away, asking if I could finish with the first one, thank you very much.
Now that she’s here, I have no idea how in the world I would manage more than one baby. And she’s easy! She started sleeping through the night at eight weeks old, she’s happy and she only fusses when she’s hungry, dirty or tired, all things I can easily fix. I’m pretty sure this means if I have another one, he or she will be the exact opposite – isn’t that a rule? Only one easy kid per family? Never mind that pregnancy isn’t exactly the most fun I can imagine having. Going through that again with an active toddler to chase is not my idea of a good time.
I know that this only means I’m just not ready. I also know that one day the switch will turn on and I’ll be ready to add to our family, because I would like to have at least one sibling for my daughter. Just as I wasn’t the first woman alive to have first-time-mom anxiety, I’m not the first one to contemplate the nuances of having more than one child.
One of these days, we’ll add to our family, but for now I’m soaking up every minute I have with my daughter – just the two of us.9:00am on Thursday September 29
Food is my husband's passion and lucky for me, he's an excellent cook. We have a great system where he cooks and I clean up – it's a marriage made in heaven. Before we had our daughter, we ate out just as much as we cooked at home and we would always go all out. We'd order a bottle of wine (or three), appetizers, entrees, desserts and our meals were often several hours long. We loved trying new places, eating new foods, comparing restaurants and going to dinner with friends. My, how things change when you have a baby.
We made a valiant effort. We smugly went to a fancy restaurant when the baby was just a few weeks old. The bottles of wine were gone – my husband drank his glass of wine alone as I scrutinized the menu for dishes that wouldn't upset the baby. I'd learned the hard way that she and dairy were not friends!
Our appetizer came and we had the nerve to pat ourselves on the back. The baby was sleeping, we were enjoying our meals the way we used to and we scoffed at all this talk that babies change your life. Just as our entrees arrived, she woke up.
Chalk it up to rookie parenting, but I didn't feed her the moment her eyes opened. They'd gotten my dish wrong (there was cheese all over it), so my husband went ahead and ate his meal while they fixed mine. The baby sat in her car seat while he finished his meal, slowly becoming more and more agitated. Still it didn't dawn on me to feed her. He took her for what was supposed to be a quick turn around the restaurant to calm her down. He disappeared while I ate my meal alone.
He'd been gone so long I began to wonder about them. It was only then that I looked at my phone and smacked myself in the forehead – it was way past time for her to eat! I flagged down our server, hurriedly paid the bill and ran out in search of my husband and the baby. I found them outside, the baby screaming at the top of her lungs, him sweating, with a look of desperation mixed with anger and blame all over his face. Without words we got the car and headed home, shaken (him) and guilty (me.) We were at the restaurant less than an hour.
We haven't had a fancy sit-down dinner since. We eat in shifts now and I've been known to shovel food in my mouth straight from the pot on the stove. Now when we go out, we are acutely aware of the time and I nurse at the slightest sign of fussiness. It'll be while before we get back to our three-hour dinners, but a to-go box at three in the morning isn't that bad either!
When I was in school, I was never sad that summer was over. I enjoyed every second of my time off, so I never felt any regret when that first day of class rolled around. On the contrary, I was excited for the semester and I looked forward to the classroom experience. Yes, I wear my nerd badge proudly and I hope to pass the same love of learning to my daughter.
It's been a while since I've been in school and it's easy to lose that connection when you're no longer in that environment. Now, I couldn't tell you when classes start or even where the closest elementary school is because that's not yet a part of my reality. Additionally, working outside the home is no longer on my radar. When I was still pregnant, we decided that I would stay home with our daughter and every day I'm grateful that I have that privilege. I'm there for every smile, coo, scream and laugh and I cherish them all.
However, I've had a job since I was 16, often two or more. Most women go back to work after 12 weeks of maternity leave and it was strange waking up on that 13th week to realize that it would be a long time before I had to be at an office by 9 am. I rolled over and kissed my baby with a little smile on my face thinking about how lucky I was (we were co-sleeping then and sometimes we still do.)
Until I realized that my new office never closed. My new boss, while absolutely adorable, was kind of demanding and thought nothing of requiring my services at three in the morning – every morning! It was quite the adjustment and in the beginning it was a good day if I remembered to brush my teeth. Now, as the Chief Operations Officer I have found a rhythm – with the approval of my boss, of course. We have our morning and nighttime routines well-established and just yesterday I was able to plan several meals and complete grocery shopping without incident. I even cooked a full dinner, with all the food groups and everything! This is a major feat coming from the one who used to consider macaroni and cheese a complete meal.
Even though fall will not bring the start of a new semester, nor do I have to adjust to going back to my office from maternity leave, it is still a sign of change. As I get more comfortable in my new job, I feel less overwhelmed and more excited about what's to come. The way I see it, if I can manage to get the grocery shopping done AND make dinner without have a nervous breakdown, I'm going to be just fine.
My daughter's birth day was the most amazing day of my life. I know practically every mom says that and I guess I'm no different but it really was a dream come true. I'd had trouble conceiving, so getting to the day of delivery was like crossing the finish line of the hardest race of my life. It felt so good to be at the hospital, knowing that I would meet my daughter soon.
I had researched every possible thing about pregnancy and birth so when it came time for me to be induced because of medical complications, nothing about it caught me off guard. I was in complete control of myself and my surroundings and that allowed me to enter labor with the greatest feeling of peace. Of course, that's not to say that it was complete smooth sailing. Birth hurts and labor is hard, there's no two ways about it. Yet, the preparation I did gave me the strength to make it through and I had my low-intervention, drug-free birth and it was perfect.
Looking back, I'm so thankful to have had such a positive birth experience. It definitely set me up for success when it came to managing those first few weeks. I was so proud of what I accomplished and I was so confident that I could handle whatever challenges that came next. Going without sleep and figuring out how to breastfeed weren't easy, but I had the strength to learn because I had such a positive mental state. Knowledge is power and I would tell any new mom to read and research as much as possible, because the greater your preparation, the greater peace you can feel. Of course, labor is a physical process but your mental state is vital. You must believe in yourself and your ability to accomplish your goal of having your baby. If I could, I would be the biggest loudest cheerleader for every laboring woman. Just imagine me on your shoulder whispering “You can do it! You're wonderful! You have the strength! You're amazing!”
We all need support and encouragement in our lives, most of all when working to bring another life into this world. I was surrounded with love and support the day my daughter was born and because of that, labor was a rewarding experience for me. I wish that sentiment for every woman because we deserve it.
My husband and I have a two-year-old lab named Maya. I’m not a dog person and I was vehemently opposed when my husband broached the subject of us getting a dog. However, over the past two years she has nuzzled her way right into a very special place in my heart. After all, I was the one who got up with her at two in the morning to let her out, I taught her all the tricks she knows and I was the one who jumped up and down squealing when she went potty outside. Like it or not, I was her mommy and she was my first baby.
Maya was my confidante when we were trying to conceive. She comforted me during that stressful time, when I wondered if she would be my only chance at mothering. Often I’d sit, huddled on the sofa, crying into her fur. I loved my dog but I longed for a child and somehow I think she understood. I was overjoyed when I finally became pregnant but I worried about Maya and how she would adjust to playing second fiddle in a house she once ruled.
For the most part, Maya has gotten used to our new addition. We’ve made an effort to include her so she doesn’t see the baby as a threat and take her frustrations out on the baby. So far we’ve been successful, as she has accepted our daughter and often just goes into another room when she starts crying. Now, there have been moments of sibling rivalry, when she’s brought sticks in the house or ripped up one of the baby’s blankets because no one was paying attention to her.
I’ve lost count how many t-shirts and slippers I’ve lost to Maya’s puppy teeth. I’ve cleaned up more of her bodily fluids than I care to remember. Yet, I’m grateful to my dog. She taught me patience. She made me comfortable with putting myself second. She kept me from sinking when I was down, reminding me that simple things like going for a walk and throwing a ball can indeed bring peace and comfort. She was the first one who awoke the mother in me.
My heart and soul belong to my daughter. She will forever be the most important person in my life, as will future children if I am so blessed. However, I will always cherish my Maya. They say dogs are man’s best friend, but she’s most definitely Mommy’s Good Girl.
A couple of weeks ago, I traveled with my daughter for the first time. We flew to my hometown to visit my parents and to visit friends and family who hadn't yet met the baby. I was nervous about flying alone with her, but she did a stellar job and I was so proud!
It's funny how your senses change when you become a mother. You can hear the slightest baby murmur in the other room, you can smell a dirty diaper at fifty paces and you do indeed grow eyes in the back of your head.
We were in the gate area and my daughter started to get fussy. I knew it was time to eat but we were going to board soon. I felt the stares as she got louder and more insistent. I saw them peeking over their newspapers, shifting in their seats, the judgmental stares because I couldn't quiet my child. I gave in, draped myself, and nursed my daughter. She instantly calmed and they disappeared behind their newspapers, settled back in their seats and resumed their day.
See, I think people are far more consumed with their own worlds to be too concerned with how or where I feed my child. It's only when my world collides with theirs that they come from behind their newspapers to see what's causing the interruption.
When we arrived in my hometown, my parents were overjoyed to see their grandbaby. I think my father made it his mission to introduce her to the whole city because we took her everywhere! That meant lots of nursing in public and not once did my super mommy senses pick up on any negativity regarding me feeding my daughter. I only felt the stares when I dropped the ball and she had to let me know she was hungry or that it was past her bedtime. I feel very blessed that my family and friends are in full support of me breastfeeding and that I grew up in a big enough city that there are far more interesting things going on than a random woman in a restaurant feeding her child.
I get more questions and quizzical stares when I wear my baby. We were in the airport waiting to return home and I wrapped her up in preparation to check our carseat and stroller. Once on the plane, the gentleman next to me said “I noticed you in the gate area putting on that contraption. That's pretty neat!” I smiled and thanked him. When we took off, I assumed the position – me draped, baby latched. He glanced over, smiled and opened his magazine.9:00am on Thursday August 25
It's funny how well a pregnant belly functions as an ice-breaker. At times it's not so great – women sharing their particularly horrible birth stories is one of those times. However, it's wonderful at other times – like when your friends notice your glazed eyes at the prospect of being responsible for another human being and they reassure you that it's all going to be okay.
I was nervous about breastfeeding because there was a lot I didn't know and I didn't know where to begin. (What did we do before Google?) Thanks to a quick internet search I found more information than I knew what to do with! I asked questions in breastfeeding and pregnancy forums online and the relative anonymity allowed me to shed my insecurities. No question was too outlandish, no fear too unreasonable. No matter what I was thinking or feeling, someone had gone before me with the exact same concern and I was comforted in the knowledge that I wasn't alone.
Additionally, an acquaintance of mine stepped forward when I found out I was pregnant and offered her expertise as she had just had her first child a few months earlier. She was my friend's wife and we'd only talked in passing. However, in the name of doing what was best for my unborn child, I got over my shyness and peppered her with questions. It was all fresh in her mind and she was a researcher, like me. Through emails, texts and phone calls she made me feel more and more comfortable with the changes my body was making and it was largely because of her encouragement that I grew more confident. More importantly, she became my friend. She was the one I called when I woke up one morning to find that my body did indeed work and I was leaking! She laughed with me as I celebrated, happy that my body was doing what it was designed to do!
A support system doesn't have to be an extensive network of intimidating professionals. For me, it was a group of faceless women who had gone down the path I was starting and a really good girlfriend who doesn't even bat an eyelash when you show her your enormous nursing bra, saying “What the heck is THAT?”
I miss my stilettos. I miss lunch with my girlfriends. I miss being able to spend hours doing my hair. I miss being able to wear clean clothes that stay clean for longer than five minutes. These days, if I'm not barefoot, I'm in flats. Lunch is a handful of crackers or nuts or whatever I can eat with one hand. I rejoice if I get to merely wash and comb my hair – styling it is no longer an option. I used to enjoy looking at fashion websites and daydreaming about the perfect shoes. Now, if it doesn't have to do with raising my daughter and being the best mother I can be, I click away.9:00am on Tuesday August 2
I have a confession to make: I don't like to pump. I don't like the way it sounds, I don't like the way it looks, and I definitely don't like the way it makes me feel. Putting my daughter to my breast is the most wonderful feeling in the world. I have grown to look forward to every nursing session we have together and I am even more convinced that breastfeeding is the right choice for me. In contrast, pumping feels very cold and mechanical and I can't help but feel like I'm being milked like a dairy cow.
Thanks to my amazing husband, I'm afforded the privilege of staying home with our daughter so I don't have to stock a freezer because I have to go back to work. Yet, I know that for those women who choose it, pumping is a lifesaver that enables them to give their children the liquid gold that is breastmilk.
It took me several weeks to get over my prejudice towards my pump. It sat in its pretty, fancy bag forever before I summoned the courage to use it. Even though I wasn't looking forward to doing it, I didn't want to break the machine on the first try. My overactive imagination had turned pumping into this complicated, delicate process that I would surely screw up if I wasn't careful. Luckily, I figured out the physical mechanics fairly quickly and I will admit it was pretty cool to see the bottles fill up with milk. I was in awe of my body and its abilities and I smiled when I saw firsthand what was responsible for those adorable fat rolls on my daughter's arms and legs.
Even so, I'm still not a fan of the pump. But seeing my husband feed our daughter warms my heart and getting to leave the house by myself is a downright celebration! Who cares that I'm only going to the grocery store? And thanks to the pump, I had my first sip of wine in over a year!
I have friends who have never used a pump and others that swear by it. I'm thankful that as mothers, we have options to determine what works best for us. While I still feel like I'm being milked every time I hook myself up, I'll gladly pay that price to give my husband more time with our daughter. Plus, there's a mani-pedi gift certificate with my name on it that I can't wait to cash in – just as soon as I pump!
For the majority of our first month as parents, both sets of our parents were on hand. It wasn't until our daughter's third week of life that my husband and I were on our own. The good part of having the extra hands is that neither of us ever felt that desperate, overwhelming panic that you hear about. My father-in-law cooked, my mother-in-law kept up with the housekeeping and my parents did the same. It was a blessing to have that much help. However, the downside is that when they all left my husband and I were a little lost. It was obvious that my primary responsibility would be the baby – after all, we were still nursing around the clock so she was never far from me. But the dog still needed to be walked, laundry and dishes needed to be done and what in the world were we going to eat?
By that time, my husband had gone back to work. Thankfully, he was working from home but he was still largely unavailable. Additionally, he works across time zones so he often he kept long hours holed up in his office. I wasn't too upset about that – his dad left our freezer stocked and that left me to lay in bed and stare at my baby. But soon enough, the food ran out, the house got dirty and the laundry and dishes piled up.
We learned to do things in spurts. If the baby fell asleep, I hurriedly put her in his arms while I dashed to the kitchen to frantically unload and reload the dishwasher. I would run back to feed her and hand her off again while I did a load of laundry. Then she would wake up, he'd hand her to me and I'd feed her again while he ran to the kitchen to make dinner. It was only through this tag-team approach that you're not seeing us on an episode of "Clean House" right now.
Nights were a little more challenging. There wasn't much he could do about feeding the baby so often he slept soundly while I was up every two hours nursing. This didn't upset me either as I saw no point to him being awake simply out of solidarity. At least one of us should be well-rested and it should probably be the one who's paying the mortgage. Now, that's not to say I didn't fantasize about throwing a pillow at his head during a particularly long and fussy night when I would have given my favorite shoes for some sleep.
One night, I simply couldn't take it. The baby was fed, her diaper was dry but she was just inconsolable. My bones felt like Jell-O and I begged him to simply walk around with her while I got a little sleep. He did and that twenty minutes was the best of my life. That power nap was just enough to get me through a couple more hours and by some miracle, she slept for a solid hour shortly thereafter!
My husband has resumed traveling but I continue to do things in spurts – thank goodness for babywearing! I get her tied up and strapped in and I'm able to get a lot accomplished. Some days I get more done than others, but overall we're doing quite well. More than anything, my first month as a mother has taught me that some days the only thing you'll be able to do is brush your teeth and that's okay.
That's how many hours there are in a week. Our first week home, I think I slept for eight of those 168 hours because I couldn't take my eyes off of my daughter. I was afraid that if I closed my eyes she would disappear. Of course, my body eventually demanded that I rest and I surrendered, but that first week was a blur of feeding. Every time she cried, I fed her. I had a single task – put weight on the baby. I didn't want to supplement with formula so I pretty much never stopped nursing. I was focused and dedicated. It did the trick and one night, my milk came in with a vengeance.
I got a splitting headache and it felt like all the liquid in my body was being violently redirected to my chest. I couldn't drink enough water and was hungrier than I'd ever been in my life. Thankfully, my father-in-law cooked some fabulous meals and I would do my best to stuff my face before the baby would demand milk, I mean, my attention. My husband did his part in reminding me of the tips and tricks from the lactation consultant, but for the most part it was up to me and the baby to get it right.
Additionally, I had to deal with the physical recovery of giving birth. I felt like I'd been turned inside out! I thought that I'd be able to hop right out of bed since I'd had her naturally but that was definitely not the case and that first week was the worst. I ventured out of the house once and that was a mistake.
We'd gone to an outdoor festival. With port-a-potties. Port-a-potties are not your friends when you're less than a week postpartum. We also went out to eat, where I got stuck in the restroom for over half an hour because I had, *ahem* 'sleepy bowels.' Now I understand why women are advised to take it easy and stay home for a bit following childbirth. It's not to snuggle in with your newborn. It's to avoid port-a-potties and so you could be constipated in the privacy of your own home.
I was also on the lookout for postpartum depression. I'd purchased some so-called new mom happy spray and I doused myself every few minutes because I was so scared of what might happen if I didn't. I'd read stories, I'd talked to my friends and I wanted to do everything I could to give myself the best chance for success. Placebo or not, it worked and I made it through with only a normal amount of the weepies.
Yet, even though I watched my birth video at least ten times the first few days, even though I looked at the hundreds of pictures, I still couldn't believe it was real. I couldn't believe I'd actually given birth to a real live human being. I probably should have been scared but I wasn't – I was excited! I felt like I'd crossed the finish line of the longest, toughest race of my life (so far) and I won! I got the best trophy in the world and I couldn't wait to celebrate! I think that's why I slept so little. I kept waking up to pinch myself (don't worry, I didn't pinch the baby) to make sure it wasn't a dream. Then I would look into her face, inhale her perfect scent and know that it was all wonderfully, fantastically real. I was a mother.
I am a self-proclaimed pregnancy and birth activist. I studied pregnancy and birth for two years prior to becoming successfully pregnant so I knew more than the average first-time mom. During our hospital tour, I was the only in our group firing questions at the nurse who was clearly unaccustomed to someone being so prepared. Very early on, my husband learned to simply follow my lead because I had far more information than he did and he trusted that I knew what I was talking about.
Once the baby came, he continued to support my decisions knowing that I had a lot of information backing them and I always had the best interest of our daughter at heart. When it came to breastfeeding, it was no different. The best thing my husband has done to date is not to question me when I tell him what I need.
For those that don't know him, this is a major demonstration of trust because my husband is extremely inquisitive and rarely goes along with anything without asking 1,001 questions first. So when I told him I needed to see a lactation consultant and he simply agreed, that was monumental. When I told him what kind of pump I would like and he said okay, I was stunned.
Even more telling is his ease with me nursing in public. He's a very private person and once told me he was unsure of how he would deal with that aspect of breastfeeding. Now that the baby is here, he's hardly batted an eye when I stop what I'm doing to feed our daughter, no matter where we are.
I knew what I was getting into regarding pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. I knew where to find the research, how to maximize my resources and I was very clear about my preferences. On the other hand, my husband was in very unfamiliar territory yet he chose to trust me and has excelled at supporting me in the choices that I made for my body and for our daughter.
I have let him know what I need and without fail, he's been there for me and for that, I'm extremely thankful. I know that it's because of his faith in my ability to feed our daughter that I've been so successful with breastfeeding. It takes a strong person to be able to follow someone's lead and my husband has provided that quiet strength just when and where I needed it. Even though I'm the one who is doing the physical work of breastfeeding, I definitely couldn't do it without knowing that he was there behind me, cheering me on every step of the way.
My husband is an idea man, he's a dreamer. While it's a mostly endearing quality, dreams and reality don't often match up. When my husband and I were dating, he used to joke that he wanted eight kids. I laughed it off because I was quite certain that he didn't have the slightest idea what he was talking about. I knew that he was attached to the idea of eight children, the dream of a houseful of kids because reality is far different.
Now that our daughter is here, I'm not so sure he's all that enthusiastic about having a ton of kids anymore. Sleep is very important to him and a couple of nights without it has him singing a different tune. He's also very accustomed to being able to figure things out and find the solution to just about any problem. However, newborns don't fit into a neat mold and of course they don't come with instruction manuals. Many times he's looked at me demanding to know why the baby is crying. It's also difficult for him because if he was able to calm her by walking ten circles around the living room one night, according to him the next night the same thing should work and he gets truly frustrated when it doesn't. Unfortunately, the baby didn't get the memo and when I try to suggest to him that he try something else, guess who gets the brunt of his frustrations?
Luckily, I know my husband and I have a thick skin. I'm also lucky that my hormones have settled down because if they hadn't, you might be hearing about me on the six o'clock news!
However, as with all situations in life, nothing is ever all good and nothing is ever all bad. Just when I feel like he's written off the baby until she makes more sense, I walk into the nursery this morning and the two of them were playing together. It was a really sweet moment and I ran to get my camera. I got some great shots of the father and his daughter and I knew that everything is going to be okay.
I was very fortunate when we got home from the hospital. Both my husband's parents came to stay with us for several weeks to help out and having them with us was a godsend. Thanks to them, my only responsibility was my daughter. I didn't have to make one meal, the house stayed clean and we got to bond. It was the best gift anyone could have given me.
In addition to that, I got a home visit with a lactation consultant! She came very highly recommended and I was really excited to meet with her. Even though my daughter was a champion breastfeeder, her enthusiasm was doing a number on my nipples! I was prepared to tough it out and just prayed that it would get easier as I grit my teeth every time she ate. When the lactation consultant showed me what I was doing wrong and she latched on painlessly, I burst out crying! Through my tears, I kept saying “That didn't hurt! That didn't hurt!” I was so relieved and so full of hormones that I simply couldn't stop crying. The tears started all over again when she expertly swaddled her and my daughter instantly became serene. I had been trying and trying, and like Houdini, she escaped from the swaddle no matter what I did, upsetting us both. I felt like I was letting her down but with much practice, I'm happy to report that we have achieved success with both latching and swaddling and she is one happy baby!
Sleeping is another story. I didn't know my under-eye circles could get that dark! There is no concealer in existence that can mask circles as dark as mine! That first week was a life-changer and I didn't feel the weight of my new responsibility as acutely as I did until night. I don't think I got any sleep when we first came home. Between staring at her because I simply couldn't believe she was actually here and staring at her to make sure she was still breathing, I may have closed my eyes for a minute or two.
My husband? As soon as his head hit the pillow, he was snoring. Thankfully, he took the day shift and in between nursing sessions I actually scored a couple of naps.
My world suddenly got so much smaller – everything revolved around her. I couldn't bear to be more than an inch away from her and her every cry caused my ears to perk up and I was instantly on alert.
My life is forever changed and I wouldn't have it any other way.
My daughter was born at 4:54 in the afternoon. We had skin-to-skin contact for over an hour immediately after birth and we got to breastfeed in that time as well. She was, as they say, a champion, with an amazing suck reflex and the strongest jaws imaginable. That first latch was incredibly painful but she seemed to know what she was doing. We were doing so well that I actually had to take her off so we could move to our postpartum room. I wasn't in a rush, but we still didn't know how much she weighed or how long she was and family members were starting to get anxious for the news. I was also ready to get settled and cleaned up as best as possible so I could hold my baby.
Unfortunately, they didn't bring her back until about ten that night. They said she kept spitting up, getting rid of all the fluid and mucus from her lungs. They wanted to keep an eye on her even though she was doing just fine bringing it up on her own. While I was worried, I was really pleased that she was taking care of business on her own without any help from the nurses or doctors. That's not to say I wasn't calling the nursery every hour, asking when she would be back with me. Through the postpartum pains, there was a very real ache for her to be in my arms and I didn't rest well until she was back in our room.
Once we were together again, I held her in the crook of my arm for hours. While my husband slept, I stared at her face, memorizing every feature. I buried myself in her neck, inhaling her scent. By the dim light of our hospital room, I fell head over heels in love. She was mine and I was hers. It felt very primal and I changed that night. I wasn't whole anymore – there was a piece of me that was gone yet there, in the crook of my arm. The protective urge stirred within me and I knew nothing would ever be the same again.
They say having a child is like having your heart walk around outside your body and while I understand that, I also think there is an unbreakable bond that forms at the same time. A bond that makes your stomach hurt when they cry, a bond that makes your chest swell with pride when they dirty a diaper, not to mention the bond that turns any mild-mannered woman into a beast at the mere thought of harm to her child. All that happened the night she was born.
Her birth changed me, but that first night sealed the deal. Not only was my daughter born on April 11th, her mother was born as well.
Six days ago, my daughter came into the world with her eyes wide open, alert and screaming her head off. After two long years of trying to conceive, heartbreaking loss and finally a successful pregnancy, she was here. I had an amazing birth experience and my daughter and I enjoyed skin-to-skin contact for over an hour as soon as she was born. Because of this, she was able to breastfeed moments after birth! I also like to think she was such a champion because she had no drugs in her system. That's right kids, no epidural. It was the best thing I've ever done and I knew I made the right choice when I looked into her bright eyes and she met my gaze, like she knew me and had been waiting for this moment just as long as I had.9:00am on Thursday June 2
I don't believe in airing personal dirty laundry – a funny statement coming from a blogger, right? However, some things should be kept private and sacred. It's the only way to maintain a sense of sanity and having a separation between public and private is vital. Therefore, you'll understand if I say nothing more than that my first Mother's Day was not what I expected it would be.
However, I'm fully aware that simply being able to comment on my first Mother's Day is a privilege. This time last year, I was trying to conceive and I was convinced I would never get to participate in this particular holiday. I had just made my peace with being child-free when I found out I was pregnant. So even though my first Mother's Day didn't go as expected, I can't be truly upset looking into my daughter's face, the one who made me a mother, who granted me access to The Club. But it got me thinking about my expectations of motherhood and how they've changed now that I'm actually a mother.
9:00am on Thursday May 26
My expectations about motherhood started with her birth. I wanted a natural birth but had to deliver in a hospital due to risks from my clotting disorders. I knew I would have to fight every hospital staff member to do have a hospital-based unmedicated, intervention-free birth. Instead, I had the most amazing birth experience that by far exceeded all of my expectations. Because of my amazing birth experience, I just knew I'd be able to hop right about of bed and get on with my life within moments of giving birth, so imagine my surprise when it took me almost a month to feel normal again.
On the other hand, I expected that breastfeeding would be incredibly difficult and prepared myself for a host of problems. I knew it would be my karmic payback for having such a great birth, but again I was pleasantly surprised. We got the hang of it pretty quickly and haven't encountered any of the major obstacles. Yet. I may have just jinxed myself.
Sleep is another story. I would love to say I prepared for sleep deprivation but there isn't a way to do that. You can't pre-sleep. The only option is to try your best not to wash your hands with toothpaste if you can remember where the bathroom is. Only parents of a newborn will understand that last sentence.
Motherhood is not what I expected it would be. It's a million times better – minty fresh hands and all.
My journey through pregnancy will come to a close any day now. It has been a long road, taking over two years to finally reach the finish line, only that I may begin the journey of a lifetime that is motherhood. As you approach any finish line, it's pretty normal to look back and assess. You reminisce over the good parts, lament the bad ones, wish you could do it over again, or wipe your brow in relief that those days are behind you.
This has been a roller-coaster ride filled with the highest highs and the darkest lows. At many times I was certain I would never get past that point, that this pain was the worst pain I was capable of feeling and that any moment I would simply disintegrate from the force of my tears. And then the sun would rise, I'd find that I hadn't disintegrated and I found the strength to face another day.9:00am on Thursday May 19
"Grab it like a hamburger and shove it in as far as it will go."
"You have to toughen your nipples, otherwise it'll hurt like no other!"
"It's not as easy as it looks."
"Make sure you have a lactation consultant on speed dial!"
These are snippets of things that I've heard from family and friends about breastfeeding. Before doing my research, I didn't really understand what the fuss was about. I thought breastfeeding was easy – put your nipple in your baby's mouth and they do the rest. Little did I know!
I learned about different holds, how to address challenges I may face, and all about the Golden Rule: Always Get a Good Latch. My cousin gave me a book on breastfeeding at my baby shower and I was confused – how much information do you need to put mouth A on nipple B? Consider me schooled and I've since read that book cover to cover - twice.
My own mom told me that I should rub a rough washcloth on my nipples daily to toughen the skin. Because my mom said so, I did it. Once. It hurt so badly that there was no way I was going to keep that up! Thankfully, I read that was nonsense, that I would not need to mangle my poor nipples. As if pregnancy wasn't challenging enough, we're expected to inflict pain on ourselves? Daily? I overheard a lady in my doctor's office saying that she was pulling and twisting her nipples in preparation for breastfeeding!
Provided you have a good latch, breastfeeding shouldn't hurt. It's definitely a new sensation that takes some getting used to, but it's not supposed to be torture. I wonder how many women have given up because of pain that could have been avoided, or because they received bad advice.
Unfortunately, breastfeeding is not something you can practice – just like childbirth. You just have to wait for the big dance because you can't do it without a partner. So women of the world, leave your poor nipples alone!
When I made the decision to breastfeed, I started my research with my mom. I asked her every question that came to mind, assured that she would be able to point me in the right direction with her years of wisdom and background as an RN. Imagine my surprise when she told me that she was only able to breastfeed me for about six weeks and then I was exclusively formula-fed after that. Now, my mother is very supportive of me breastfeeding so I knew there was more to the story than that.
After a few more questions, I learned that my mom had never really seen it done and didn’t have anyone to ask for reference. I was a sleepy baby and would often fall asleep at the breast, causing around-the-clock nursing sessions. I also had colic, making those short six weeks of maternity leave a barrel of fun! She’s told me stories of pacing the house from 8pm-2am because the moment she stopped moving, I would scream. Oh, and let’s throw in recovery from a pretty serious c-section because a colicky baby who won’t breastfeed isn’t quite enough! My father, while extremely doting and family-oriented, hadn’t the first clue about breastfeeding. Formula-feeding me allowed him to help out and preserve my poor mother’s sanity.
A few nights ago I asked my husband whether or not he was breastfed. The only thing he could tell me is that he had to have goat’s milk which sounded suspect so I called his mom for the real scoop. After chatting with her, I learned that she tried to breastfeed him in the hospital during their three day stay. However, she too told me she had no support, that the nurses weren’t that knowledgeable about breastfeeding and that she had difficulty getting him to nurse. Soon after, she made the switch to formula only to find out that he was unable to tolerate it. After a few bouts of projectile vomiting, they discovered that his little digestive system wasn’t fully developed (it sounded like he had GERD) and once she switched to a lactose-free formula, he was a happy baby. (I'm not quite sure where he got that goat’s milk story from.)
In both cases, neither of them really knew what they were doing and there wasn’t anyone available to show them the ropes. With no encouragement or resources readily available, coupled with the culturally accepted belief that formula is practically identical to breastmilk, it’s no wonder that both ladies made the switch early in their babies’ lives.
These days, there are countless web articles, videos, support groups, books and conferences all designed to set you up for success in breastfeeding. We now know that breastmilk is far and away superior to formula and I’m confident that when my daughter gets here, we’ll be able to face and conquer whatever challenges we may encounter!
My first baby will be born in just about a month. I'm still digesting that information because I never thought it would happen to me, yet here I am, going to the bathroom approximately 12,000 times a day and watching my belly roll with a very real, very tiny human getting ready to make her grand entrance.
Throughout this pregnancy, I've done my research. Car seats, strollers, parenting styles, sleep training – you name it, I've Googled it. However, my decision to breastfeed wasn't something that I had even given a second thought.9:00am on Thursday April 28
Today, I'd like you to meet the last of our Bravado Designs Breastfeeding Diaries Class of 2011, Desiree.
Desiree is a brand new mom to a baby girl. Fresh from the hospital, she's navigating the initiation into parenthood and everything that goes along with it - from waiting for her milk to come in, to learning to get a proper latch, to decoding her baby’s cries in the middle of the night.
Deeply committed to breastfeeding, Desiree’s decision stems more from her research than her own family. Understanding that breastfeeding is best, but not as easy as it looks, she armed herself with books, YouTube videos and La Leche League meetings to prepare for the journey ahead. In her own words: "In the end it’s going to be me and that little girl, deciding to work together to make this happen. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that we’re going to make a great team!"