Category Archives: Parenthood

Advice For New Moms

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Last year, when several of my friends and clients were getting ready to have babies, I polled some of my already-mom friends to get their suggestions on what friends and family could do to help new moms in those first few whirlwind weeks of life with a newborn. Now it is my turn to have a baby (plus I have a whole other batch of friends who are due in the next couple of months), and so I’ve reached out again to my expanding network of mamas to get some advice on what new moms should do for themselves to make the transition to parenthood feel a little more manageable.

Here’s what they had to say about the stuff  you’ll need, things you should do, and what’s most important to remember about this life changing experience.

Make Time For Yourself

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Find some time every day to step away from the baby, and take a moment for yourself. It may feel very hard or scary at first to break away for even short periods of time, but it was the primary piece of advice offered by my friends who have more than one child. If a well-seasoned mom is telling you that it’s important to make time for your own self-care, you know it’s advice that’s worth prioritizing.

As my friend Nina explains:

…once the baby arrives, a lot of attention gets shifted from mom to baby. But mom is recovering and her world has been rocked–so self care is important, as is asking for help…do your best to do something for yourself each day. Take a walk, take an extra long shower, etc.

Naomi, another mom of two, reiterated the value of a good shower.

No matter what, make time for a shower.
This was the one thing I stressed out about each day when I was home alone for those first few weeks after my husband went back to work – when would I get a chance to shower, if my baby wasn’t a good napper. Well, turns out, kids cry… frequently. And, if you miss the window of showering while they nap, nothing bad will happen if you place them in their crib and they’re safely contained, while you jump in the shower and have 10-15 minutes of hot, steamy YOU time. It does a body good.

She also added that in addition to making a little time for yourself every day, it’s also worthwhile to find time at least once a week to get out of the house on your own, and enjoy a bit of extended alone time.

Once a week, step away from the baby for an extended period of time.
Daddy (plus any other family) bonding time is important for both daddy and baby, so why not use that as an excuse to get out of the house, put on something other than clothes that have spit up on them, and go do something that requires either physical or mental energy for your own benefit and psyche. As much as you may want to sit at home on the couch snuggling with your tiny little human, fresh air and adult conversation (or just listening to music without baby cries interrupting you!) is SO worth it. Go for a walk. Spend some quality time with the dog at a local park. Go to a coffee shop and sit with a warm mug and people watch. Relish in the peace and quiet with a good book that hasn’t been touched since before you became a mom.

 

Spend Some Time With Other Adults

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While alone time will help you feel nourished and sane, it’s also important to spend some time with other adults.

My friend Erin recommends:

…[finding] some friends or neighbors that have young children and might be stay at home moms and try to do play dates/walks/etc.  The first few weeks are hard being in the house all the time so getting out and having some adult conversation is so nice!

She also encourages taking advantage of the fact that little babies tend to sleep a lot, which can make leaving the house with your little one in tow feel a lot less daunting.

Don’t be afraid to go out to dinner or go to get-togethers with friends/neighbors and take the baby with you. Take advantage of the first few months when they sleep all the time and this is actually pretty easy.  This goes for flying too.  We have only done short flights so far (under 2 hours), but every one she slept the entire time and the flight attendants are super helpful and nice when they see you walk on with a really small baby!

Build A Strong Support System

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This was another commonly shared bit of advice. Accept help from others when it is offered. Ask for help when it is needed. One thing I have learned over time is that people do not offer their help unless they actually want to give it. Don’t worry, if someone feels annoyed or put out by the thought of having to help you, they won’t offer in the first place. So trust that anyone who asks how they can help genuinely wants to be available and helpful to you. Take people up on their offers to come over and hold the baby while you shower or nap. Let people bring you food. Let them tidy up while they’re visiting. If you’re having a hard day, don’t be embarrassed to call up a friend and tell them that you need some company or a helping hand. It may feel selfish and overly indulgent in the moment to have people making you dinner and trying to anticipate and accommodate your needs, but trust that life will present many opportunities for you to make it up to them in the future by offering your help when it is needed.

Make Time For Each Other

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Don’t forget that your partner is going through this major change too. You’re in this together, and it’s important to use that relationship to bolster and lift each other up when you are feeling tired and frustrated. Remember, the baby is the enemy, not your partner.

My friend Alyssa‘s recommendation:

set aside time every single day to check in with your partner. It is so weird and hard, and tiring in the first few months, but if feels much less so if you are communicating well and having your feelings (fears, excitement, etc.) heard. It will also help you feel less alienated from your life before baby.

Soak It All In, But Don’t Feel Pressured To Love Every Minute Of It

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The thing I hear most often from new parents is that the time really flies by. Soak it in and try not to worry too much about what you’re doing right and wrong. And as Erin recommends, don’t fret about all of the other little things you aren’t getting done while you’re busy just enjoying your time with your new baby. The house may get dirty, the laundry might not be folded, there are probably lots of errands you need to run, but don’t feel guilty about letting those things slide while you devote your days to spending time with your little one.

But at the same time, don’t feel pressured to love every single second of motherhood. As Nina so wisely explains:

People will say “ENJOY EVERY MINUTE! They grow up so fast!”

Don’t feel bad if you aren’t enjoying it all. It’s hard. There are so many good moments! But also some really intense ones. So enjoy when your baby smiles, but don’t feel like a bad mom for questioning this whole parenting thing if your baby keeps you up all night, and don’t feel guilty for checking Facebook while holding your baby, or leaving your baby to go get a pedicure.

Other Miscellaneous Advice

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Stay hydrated and well-fueled.

Keep snacks and a water bottle nearby as much as possible.
Whether you’re breastfeeding or not, staying hydrated when you’re body is changing and you’re sleep deprived, is key. It’s easy to have hours fly by amongst the changing, burping, rocking, feeding routine and not have eaten a single morsel. Make sure you have granola bars, trail mix, protein (hard boiled eggs… string cheese…) and any other snacks that you enjoy, within arm’s reach. Portable, pre-packaged snacks are also good – frequent doctor’s appointments and grocery errand runs are great times to refuel!

Things you made need when recovering from a vaginal delivery:

ibuprofen, stool softener, super maxi pads with wings, tucks medicated pads, preparation h medicated wipes, and the little squeeze bottle the hospital gives you. Things down there can be rough for a little while!

Look out for signs of postpartum depression:

postpartum depression and anxiety are common, and the symptoms may be different than what you think they are. If you aren’t feeling right, talk with someone.

Stuff to have on hand:

invest in a good travel coffee mug and use it around the house instead of a mug.  It’s the only way a new mom will ever drink hot coffee.

[Keeping in mind that every baby is different:]

Rock N Play- This is so easy and convenient to move around from room to room or pack up when you travel.  I use this all the time when I need to shower.  I can sit [the baby] in this right outside the shower door and still keep an eye on her.  We have done a few road trips as well and have taken this for her to sleep in at night.  Much easier than packing up a bulky Pack N Play.

Bobby Lounger- Love this for the same reason as the Rock N Play.  You need a lot of “things” to sit them in when they’re really little and this is just so easy to move from room to room with you. [The baby] would nap in hers all the time.

Bibs and Burp Cloths- The amount of spit up and drool is no joke so you can never have too many of these!

Sleepers with zippers- The sleepers with the snaps I found to be super annoying when you’re doing diaper changes in the middle of the night (or anytime for that matter).  Do yourself a favor and buy the ones with zippers…..so much quicker and easier!

 

Lastly, while advice from other moms is helpful and it’s always nice to have a little guidance before you embark down a new and unknown path, remember to trust your own instincts. No two babies are exactly alike (not even those that are genetically exactly alike), and you’ll come to learn what works best for your baby and your family. Trust yourself, and let yourself off the hook if you feel like you don’t know what to do. No one has all the answers. Just like your kiddo, you have to learn as you go. Good luck to all of the new and soon-to-be mamas out there! Wishing you all safe, happy deliveries, and lots of sweet baby kisses.

 

Images for this post were provided by Naomi Caltaldo of Urban Row Photography. You can check out more of Naomi’s fantastic work at the Urban Row Photography blog, or schedule your own Maternity photoshoot today.

Social Media, Kids and Consent

This article, “Don’t Post About Me on Social Media, Children Say,” popped up in my newsfeed yesterday and I was immediately curious to read what it had to say. Our online lives are very carefully curated. Whether we readily admit it or not, I think we all make efforts to appear a certain way on social media platforms. Professional, together, totally #killingit at life. Or super happy, untroubled and #blessed in every way. You try to look funny, well read, thoughtful, adventurous, carefree. We want our social media selves to be our best selves (I know I’m not the only one who has been like, “well here’s a horribly unflattering photo of me…untag”). Even when we use those networks to admit our failings or seek advice, it is often done so in a way that conveys, “I am big enough, and secure enough to admit that I cannot do it all.” Or the failures we are willing to share came from attempts to do things that lesser, lazier people might not bother with in the first place. I should know because I am that lazy person who is super impressed that you even made the effort to begin with.

But what about kids who don’t get to curate their own online selves? In a world that is increasingly interconnected via social media, how do you decide how much of your children’s lives to share?

“As these children come of age, they’re going to be seeing the digital footprint left in their childhood’s wake…While most of them will be fine, some might take issue with it,” Stacey Steinberg explains.

“Those early posts from parents linger, not just online, but in our children’s memories — and the topics may be things we don’t see as potentially embarrassing. The son of a friend (who asked that I not use her name) still brings up things she wrote about his picky eating when he was younger — years ago, she says.”

My husband and I have agreed that if we have kids, we would really limit how much we share about them on Facebook or other social media platforms, and would ask our family members to refrain from sharing as well. With photo streams and family photo album apps, there are plenty of alternative ways to share pictures.

This decision is in part because I still find the internet a little terrifying, but more because I have watched close friends lose their babies, or struggle to have them in the first place and have heard their stories about how hard it is to go on Facebook and see an endless feed of family portraits and smiling infants staring back at them. Social media is a wonderful way to share the joys and triumphs in our lives, but I would hate to think that my joy would cause other people pain. My happiness is in no way diminished by other people not knowing just how immensely happy I am. And yet, when those same friends find the happiness they’ve been denied thus far, I hope my Facebook feed is plastered with images of their smiling babies and family photos.

I love seeing pictures of my friends’ kids online, and reading little snippets and stories about the things they are doing and learning. Plus I feel more connected to my friends when I read about the funny, embarrassing things their kids did, or get some insight into their various struggles with childrearing. As the article points out, “that kind of sharing — about food issues, potty training and tantrums — is exactly the kind of sharing that can be valuable. ‘Children benefit from the community created when parents have the ability to share their stories,’ said Ms. Steinberg. Those posts about picky eating might have helped my friend find solutions, or a fresh wellspring of patience for a behavior her child would eventually outgrow.”

And it is not as if any of us were free from the embarrassment of our childhoods before the internet existed. We all have stories from childhood that our parents love to share about ridiculous things we said and did before we had the capacity to recognize our own embarrassment and force everyone present to swear a blood oath never to speak of this moment again. Pictures in an old fashion photo album are not likely to make their way into the hands of perfect strangers, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get hauled out from time to time to offer a visual accompaniment to an embarrassing story. And though smartphones have made it so that we always have a camera at the ready to record videos of the wonderful, hilarious, horrifying and potentially extremely embarrassing things kids are doing, there is a box of old VHS tapes in my parents’ basement that proves parents were recording their children’s most mortifying moments long before cell phones came into play. Sure, the footage of my sister and me making up dances to the Sister Act soundtrack is not likely to find its way to YouTube (thank god), but it still makes me shiver with embarrassment every time I think about it. We all do embarrassing stuff as kids, then our parents use that against us as we get older, then we grow up and have kids of our own, and the cycle starts over again. It’s the circle of life. And yet, the ease of sharing in the digital age does raise important questions about consent and agency. Children are entitled to a level of privacy even before they are old enough to know what privacy is and demand that it be respected. And if we overshare kids’ images and experiences before they are capable of deciding for themselves, are we potentially failing to teach an important lesson about the need for caution and careful consideration in online interactions?

I am curious to know what kind of thought process goes into people’s decision to share or not share images, videos and stories about their children online. One of the great things about Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms is that it allows us to stay connected with people no matter how far way they may be. My brother doesn’t live in the United States. My sister-in-law lives all the way across the country. If either of them have kids, I know I will want a steady stream of pictures and stories to help me feel connected to their kids’ lives. As a mother, I would be more likely to say no pictures of kids on the internet, period. But as an aunt, I would definitely be emailing and texting like, “why haven’t you posted any photos of my niece/nephew in the last two hours?!?!?!?!?!?!”

What is the right balance between recognizing and respecting that babies and small children will one day be teenagers and adults who want to control how they are publicly depicted, and our desire to share our lives, with all its joys and hardships with other people?

Do you share images of your kids online? How did you decide what and how much to share? Where do you draw the line? I would love to hear what other people think about this topic.

 

How To Help A New Mom

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Major life transitions are times when we may need help and advice the most. Big changes, even happy, positive ones like getting married, starting a new job, beginning college, entering retirement, can be stressful moments in our lives. This is probably most apparent with the transition into parenthood. I do not have children, but the experiences of friends, clients and the Look Who’s Talking movie franchise have shown me that for new parents, every moment and decision is like stepping into a great unknown. And yet there remains one unequivocal, knowable truth: it is really hard and you can use all the help you can get. Since I do not have my own experiences to draw on, and I have learned that people with babies do not like it when you compare parenthood to pet ownership, I reached out to some of my baby-raising friends to find out what was most helpful for them in those first few months with a new baby, and what help or advice could they have used and wish they had asked for. To all of the lovely women who responded, thank you for sharing your experiences and wisdom, and for letting me make goofy faces at your babies and smell the tops of their heads (why do babies’ heads smell so good?).

Here is what they had to say:

Nina (mom to an adorable, bright-eyed little girl who is a little over a year old and is surprisingly well behaved when hanging out in a rock climbing gym)

What was something helpful that someone did for you after you had a baby?

“My mom’s support. I had a fair amount of anxiety and depression that I didn’t realize right away. She was a great listener and encourager. Newborns are a lot of work their only ‘word’ is crying, so an actual human saying ‘you are a good mom’ when you feel like you don’t know what you are doing–or worse, failing to meet some absurdly impossible standard your brain has tricked you into believing–was really affirming and emotionally helpful. My mom’s a smart lady so she also encouraged me to see a psychologist and I am so glad I did.

Also cooked meals! Cook a mom some meals.”

What help could you have used and wish you had asked for?

“I think just ask [my husband] or someone else to watch the baby for a longer chunk of time so I could be non-mom Nina…especially on my maternity leave, it was a lot of baby work and I could have benefitted from more time to do the things I did for fun before I became a mom.”

 

Naomi (mom to a plucky 4 year old girl and a 10 month old boy with the greatest natural hairdo I have ever seen on a baby)

What was something helpful that someone did for you after you had a baby?

“A friend came over a couple of times to help hold, entertain and occupy the baby while I was able to pickup around the house, do dishes, laundry and general clutter removal that eats away at me if I stare at it long enough! She also brought lunch for us and cleaned up after we were done eating, so it was one less thing I had to think about….Another way [she] helped was to meet me to go on a walk, to get fresh air (and much needed coffee!) during those first weeks being a mom. Having adult conversation and fresh air was more critical than I ever realized.

Any sort of household help during those first few weeks and months was so appreciated for me as I’m the type of person that gets stressed out when things around the house get cluttered, messy, dirty, etc. But being so tired and still figuring out the new routine, it was hard to find the time to do them while I was the only one at home with a newborn.

My sister-in-law brought us a basket of healthy, easy to grab snacks to keep in the house–granola bars, trail mix, nuts, dried fruits, crackers. Some mornings that’s all you have time to eat, whatever’s handy and can be eaten with one hand. Another friend made us ham and cheese sandwiches on hamburger rolls that she individually wrapped up and froze. They were easy to defrost in the microwave in 30 seconds and that ensured I had a warm, easy lunch at my fingertips. I was so sad when they were finished!”

What help could you have used and wish you had asked for?

“I would have loved if someone was able to come over and be with the baby while I went out and shopped for groceries, clothes, etc. Just having a little while to myself, by myself, would have been huge. It is quite a transformation that you go through after having the baby and being home with them. Before and while pregnant, I was able to go anywhere at anytime. Once the baby arrived, you’re tethered to a new human with so many needs and so much stuff! Sometimes, I just wished I could up and leave the house in 5 minutes, when I decided it was convenient for me, if there was someone who was willing to babysit.

I would add making sure you have frozen meals at the ready. We made it a point to have soups, casseroles, pasta dishes, etc. prepared and ready to reheat, before the baby was born so that the evening routine was easy as well. By that time of day, you don’t want to think about what to have for dinner – you just want to have it done! So, if we hadn’t made our own, I would have loved it if others had done this for us. We just got lucky and had time to make meals the month before we were due!”

Liz (mom of a wily and wonderful 6 year old girl, a sweetly shy, but wild-haired almost 4 year old boy, and a smiley little one year old fella)

What was something helpful that someone did for you after you had a baby?

“After Baby #3, folks gave us frozen homemade healthy meals. It was great! I didn’t realize how much I would appreciate them at that point in life. With the first two babies, life was still manageable. We could still make dinners, or could “cheat” that night, and order take-out for us. It was after #3 came that I had to plan healthy meals for not just for us, but now for two growing young children! I’m embarrassed to admit how many times we served cereal for dinner!  Another helpful thing was being given disposable Tupperware. And honestly, it was only after having #3 that I got into this situation, and realized that I needed the help in the kitchen!”

What help could you have used and wish you had asked for?

“I have a lot of help from family, I’m lucky to have many relatives within an hour’s drive. However, one thing that I would have loved to have had was more help with household chores. It’s great to have family come over with the intent of helping, but their help was to hold the baby, relieving me so that I could get the chores done. It was great to have another set of hands to help (no one likes a crying infant) but I wish I could have been more direct with requests such as helping me fold laundry, helping me do the floors, or just putting dishes in the dishwasher for me.”

 

I also reached out to one of my wonderful clients, a single mom with a 6 month old son who has the sweetest grin you will ever see and has already spent some time on my massage table alongside his mama! Here is what she had to share:

“In the first two weeks the thing that was most helpful was having someone, my mom in my case, just make sure I was cared for. I remember crying exhausted tears of appreciation when she did the laundry and I had clean clothes to put on. As a nursing mom, I felt literally pinned to the couch for hours on end. She made sure I had water and snacks. Once my mom left I had some support in the evenings so I could go to sleep for two or three hours. I don’t know how I would have survived without that. I wish I had asked for those sleep breaks from the beginning. It was difficult because I wanted my tiny little newborn with me at all times, but I was so exhausted. I also wish I had asked people to bring me food. Once I was left alone with the baby and he was still having those marathon nursing sessions, I was often going all day without eating.”

 

So there you have it. If you know someone who is getting ready to have a new, little human enter her life and you are wondering how best to help: food, sleep, household help and a little sense of normalcy appear to be the keys to a new mom’s heart. Thank you again to all of these wonderful women for opening up and allowing us this useful peek into life with a new baby!

For any new moms out there who are struggling, hang in there, and reach out for help. I leave you with this additional bit of wisdom from Nina:

“It’s hard, but so good. It got better when I stopped worrying if I was doing it ‘right’.”

 

 

{Photo: Me as a baby, hanging out with my mom}