Category Archives: Family

When Your Baby Turns Six Months

My new baby will be six months old on Wednesday. I’m kind of in shock, but that’s probably just the months of sleep deprivation, eating badly, and getting barely any exercise talking. Hey, I’m not complaining, but the first six months of baby are pretty exhausting, even when it’s mixed up with plenty of adorable moments. I’m typing this one-handed in between chugging coffee and bouncing my wiggly side-kick on one knee. There is no longer any opportunity to do just one thing at a time. I’m starting to fear there never will be.

I was thinking about my first go-round with motherhood. When Tiny-Small was a baby I thought I was going to die. I remember very clearly collapsing on the floor around four months and just sobbing out of sheer exhausting. I am sure I googled “Can a mother die from never sleeping?” and “How many days can a woman go without sleep before she drops dead?” My husband was working so I never asked him to help with night shifts. I never really asked him for help at all because I felt like this whole baby thing was my responsibility. I was a total idiot, obviously.

With baby number two I have changed my thinking. I ask for help. I demand it even. So, baby number two has been easier to care for. She’s also got a much more laid back approach to life in comparison to Tiny-Small. I mean, the lactation specialist from the hospital diagnosed our new addition as “content to starve.” I’m not sure one can be more laid back than that. Still, having a newborn baby always brings a set of challenges to a family. I didn’t cry this time when we reached the four month mark, but I did sigh with relief because I knew we had reached a turning point. Things were changing. This kid was no longer just sleeping and eating. She was actively engaged with the world around her. She was becoming a “real girl.”

When Baby Turns Six Months
Sisterly Love

As we approach six months I can feel some of the strain starting to lift. Not only is she starting to sleep longer stretches, but she’s eating real food. She’s strong and sturdy too so we’re not so afraid of accidentally breaking her. She’s got a personality and laughs and complains and wiggles. It’s pretty fun. It’s like witnessing the beginning of self-empowerment. It’s like watching the awakening of what it means to be human. It’s like a religious experience. And it’s still so freaking exhausting most of the time, but I am delirious with the kind of hope that a full, uninterrupted hour of asleep at night will give you.

When Your Baby Turns Six Months
Someone has some cleaning to do…

Six months is that moment in motherhood where we can catch our breath for a second or two and survey the damage. What does a year of doing the bare minimum in house cleaning look like? What exactly is all of that stuff under my daughters bed? How many emails have gone unanswered? How many new plies of clutter and unopened junk-mail have burst onto the scene? How many new love handles do I now possess? What can I do to regain a little bit of my old self back? Is the fog of babyhood lifting? Will I soon be able to remember things for longer than three minutes without writing them down?

It’s also a time for self-reflection. I have two children now. How am I doing? Am I surviving? Did I make the right decision? Are we happier as a family? Yes. All yes. I was thinking back to when I started writing this blog. I was pretty angry and frustrated with motherhood. It was such a huge change that I wasn’t prepared for. I was having an identity crisis and obsessed with what I had lost or was missing. I wrote things like Existential Panic Attack Brought On by the Green-Eyed Monster. I was struggling.

This time I am so much more relaxed and accepting of my “new” life as mom. I know how to go with the flow and what is necessary to worry about and what isn’t. I’m a better mother and now that I have two kids I’m also a happier mother. Experience makes a world of difference. That and I am not so afraid that being a mom means I can’t be anything else. I know I am capable of doing more than one thing at a time. I’ve been doing it for years now!

What happens when your baby turns six months? You breathe. You Open Your eyes wide. You suck up as much joy as possible. You reassess. You smile. Then you find someone to entertain the little rascal so you can go take a much needed nap!

And if you are really, really lucky you find someone willing to come in and clean up your house. I’m still hoping to be that lucky as I sit here sipping coffee and pretending I don’t see that giant, stuffed broccoli staring at me from the hallway floor. I have a feeling I’ll be sitting here hoping for a nice long while.

 

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Mistakes Are How We Learn

I’m rushing around the house trying to serve breakfast, dress everyone, and get out the door. Things keep going wrong because I haven’t slept well in weeks. New baby on board. New lifestyle. Two kids are better than one. Two kids are more work than one. Two kids are crying at the same time. Two kids are happy. Two kids need something right now. Two kids! Two Kids! TWO KIDS! Oh, and the dog won’t stop barking. I fantasize about sending him to live on an imaginary farm and there goes two more minutes of time I do not have to spare on this fine, windy morning.

My husband is gone all week working out of town. Another adjustment to grapple with as I lose an extra set of hands to help carry the load. An extra set of eyes to keep everyone alive. An extra set of relief in the night when the baby is hungry and needs a diaper change. I’m missing an extra set of hands to fasten car seats and locate lost shoes before the school bell rings. I don’t want to be late again. Late, late, late.

I’m constantly late, behind, unorganized, confused, wondering where I put my coffee. I can’t remember if I brushed my teeth. Am I still in the clothes I wore yesterday? Why yes, yes I am. Everything inside of me is whirling. Everything keeps going wrong. I drop things. I lose things. I’m too slow and we have to get to school.

I’m making mistakes left and right. The voice in my head is beating me up. It’s relentless: Why aren’t I better at managing all of this? When am I going to adjust? When am I going to be a good mother, good wife, good home maker? I trip over toys, laundry, books, boxes of diapers…I’m so disappointed in myself. My sink is full of dirty dishes. Everything is a mess and I am so tired. I want to be like Donna Reed with a perfect, shiny home, but I also want to sit in the rocking chair and rock the baby because she’ll only be tiny for such a short time. It doesn’t matter anyway because I am tired and picking up only happens when both the baby sleeps and the kindergartner is occupied – which never happens at the same time. All morning I dream of a nap that never comes. I rock and rock and fight to keep my eyes open. I’m happy and irritated at the same time.

My mind is on all of these things as I start my day.

Mistakes Are How We Learn

Then I hear my daughter’s small voice as she whispers to herself, “It’s OK, mistakes are how we learn.” I peek around the corner and see her erasing her backward letter “B” and writing it correctly. Mistakes are how we learn. I’ve  been telling her that for weeks as we do homework in the evenings. I tell her the same thing when she pours too much water into the house plants. I remind her when she puts her shoes on the wrong feet. I sing it to her in a loud, silly voice when she reads the latest sight word incorrectly. It’s become a mantra in our house. Mistakes are how we learn. Perfection be damned. We won’t let our mistakes stop us from diving in.

Fail.

Fail again. Dust yourself off and fail some more. Just keep trying and keep going. It’s all we can do anyway. Mistakes are how we learn, my darling, mistakes are how we learn. Keep failing. Have faith. Be proud of yourself for showing up and trying. This is life. It’s messy and hard and beautiful and glorious all at the same time. Don’t let the weight of living get you down.

Hearing her gently remind herself about making mistakes calms me and slows me down. I’m learning to be a mom all over again. To two kids. To two people who need love and attention, to two people creating dirty dishes and dirty laundry (feels more like four). I’m learning to live without as much sleep. I’m learning how to delegate more efficiently. I’m learning how to fail and prioritize and be OK with mess and uncertainty. I’m learning how to sleep when the baby sleeps. Sleep anytime I can sleep.  Sleep, sleep, sleep.

It’s going to take a while to find my way. Parenthood is a long ride and I’m just getting strapped in.

 

How About A Mom Friendly Hospital Initiative?

I recently gave birth in a “baby friendly” hospital. My newborn was with me through out my entire hospital stay, except for a few minutes when they gave her a bath and a few more minutes when our pediatrician took her to another room to suction mucus out of her throat. There was no mention of formula and lots of breastfeeding support. From what I have read, having babies room-in with mothers (infant and mother bonding) and encouraging breastfeeding (classified as the optimal way to feed an infant) seem to be the corner stones of the baby friendly initiative. Sounds good, right? For the most part I am sure it is, but I think we can do even better by working towards a mom friendly hospital experience too.

Everyone knows it’s nearly impossible to get any sleep in the hospital, but I don’t think it has to be that way. For new mothers, sleeping, while in the hospital, should be more of a priority. If you’ve been in labor for hours, given birth, and then spent 48 hours not sleeping because hospital staff kept interrupting, you’re going to be a hot mess by the time you get home. I calculated that I got exactly 20 minutes of sleep during my most recent hospital stay. I’m pretty sure this lack of sleep, after the tiring exercise of pushing a tiny human out of your body,  doesn’t help in the prevention of postpartum depression. Exhausted isn’t exactly a baby friendly or mom friendly way to begin parenthood.

How About A Mom Friendly Hospital Initiative?
Sisters

After giving birth people were coming in and out of my room day and night. At one point during my stay the nurse was hooking me up to receive some antibiotics while the pharmacist, the phlebotomist, and the hospital ombudsmen were all waiting in my room to speak to me. Through out the day the medical records clerk stopped by twice, the lactation specialist came by three times, and someone stopped to offer a prayer.  These visits all happened in between the nurses, the medical technicians (blood draw every four hours, blood pressure, oxygen levels, and temperature check every two – for both me and baby) and the doctors visiting. Basically we got 5-8 minutes of quiet and privacy at a time. The second night, when it finally seemed like we might get a reprieve, we turned off the lights and tried to get some sleep. Just as we started to doze-off a nurse came into our dark room to ask us if we needed anything. In a polite, clench teethed sort of way, I said, “Some sleep would be nice.” She laughed. Of course she did because everyone knows there is no sleeping in the hospital.

In a mom friendly hospital there would be a coordination of medical visits so moms would have uninterrupted stretches of time to sleep or bond with baby. There would also be a checklist provided early on so mom could choose who they wanted visiting. Don’t want to be visited by the hospital pastor or lactation consultant? Don’t check them off. Prefer to have your medications explained on paper instead of a visit from the pharmacist? Don’t check off the pharmacist. You see where I am going with this.

I don’t want to get into a debate about breastfeeding versus formula feeding (but you can find my thoughts on it here), but I wonder, why do we have to go to such extremes? I’ve read some baby friendly hospitals keep formula under lock and key and that a doctor has to write a prescription for it. Formula is not a controlled substance. This doesn’t make any sense to me. We were told if we wanted to give our baby formula we’d have to bring it into the hospital ourselves. So we did just in case we needed it. I have a history of low milk production and we didn’t want to starve our second child like we did the first one. On the other hand, hospitals used to push formula on people who didn’t want it. Wouldn’t it be more baby and mom friendly to find a balance here? Mothers want to do the best they can for their child. They don’t need to feel guilty on the first day they become a parent. In a mom friendly hospital, both feeding options would be equally available and supported without judgement. I think this is baby friendly too.

Another confusing thing baby friendly hospitals are doing is getting rid of the nursery. I get it. The baby rooms with mom so there is no need for a nursery, except sometimes there is. When I had my first child I spent a little over 24 hours in the ICU after giving birth. I couldn’t stand or get up on my own so I wasn’t allowed to have my baby with me unless someone else (like my mom or husband) was in the room with me. I wonder, what happens now under similar circumstances? Where will the baby go? Does mom take care of the baby anyway even though it may not be safe for her to do so?

How about we keep the nursery just in case so mom doesn’t have one more thing to worry about after giving birth? Can we be a little more mom friendly and provide space and time for mom to heal when she needs it? Again, we are going from one extreme to another. Mom’s couldn’t room with their baby before and now they have to no matter what the circumstances are. Where is the balance and sensible decision making?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m pro baby friendly. It’s a terrific idea to push hospitals to do better. I’d just like to see some effort in making hospitals a little more mom friendly too. And a little more balanced. Hospitals don’t have to be friendly to one group and not to the other. We can be kind and supportive to both mom and baby…at the same time.