Flying With Baby – Tips from a New Momma

Posted by Kate Ardohain

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Over Easter, I made a trip out to Utah with my 15-week old baby, Steven, to see my extended family. Chris stayed in California to work on his thesis. Traveling alone with a baby was nerve-racking for me, as I am a huge planner and rarely go out of my comfort zone unless I am forced to, but being a new mom, I tend to exit that zone quite often now! After two successful flights there and back, I wanted to offer some tips and tricks that worked for me.

Pack Early – Pack and repack in the week preceding your travel. Both for you and baby. For me, it was helpful to go through my day making a mental checklist of the things I use for Steven. Once I was packed, I went through everything with Chris to ensure I wasn’t forgetting anything.

Carry On Bag – I am not a fan of diaper bags that sling over the shoulder and don’t offer a ton of usable space inside. For me, the best thing to use is a backpack. It offers a lot of space, a lot of pockets (big, medium, small and the smallest pocket in the front of the bag), and it has two straps to throw onto your back for easy carrying. In my carry-on, I was very strategic about what I wanted to carry.

  • Travel Diaper Bag – (Medium Pocket) We got ours at Target and it is basically a little fold up changing pad with pockets for diapers and wipes. I was able to pack up 6 diapers, a travel pack of wipes (our favorite are the Kirkland brand from Costco), and an extra outfit for Steven
  • Nursing Cover – (Biggest Pocket) The swaddling blankets we use are big, lightweight, and perfect for covering up when nursing (we use the Cuddle Bug Muslin Swaddle Blankets that are 47×47 inches… for the record, most swaddling blankets are much smaller than this)
  • Change of Clothes – (Medium Pocket) In a gallon size ziplock bag, I put an extra shirt for me, an extra jammie for Steven, a burp cloth, and a few more diapers
    Extras – (Small Pocket) Pacifier, gas drops, and a little toy that I had removed from Steven’s play mat that was small and flat, but that had a little rattle inside to hold his interest (keep in mind, he wasn’t even 4 months old, so it doesn’t take much)
  • Mommy Stuff – (Smallest Pocket) Travel stuff: wallet, phone charger, and sunglasses. Easily accessible and only the necessities
  • Extra Space – (Biggest Pocket) The last thing I needed to throw into the backpack was the carrier that I was using to transport Steven through the airport so the biggest pocket had only the nursing blanket and lots of extra room to shove the carrier in

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Baby Outfit – I know that a lot of the time, people tend to make trips with young babies due to family wanting to meet your new bundle. Because of this, I think it’s only natural to want to dress the baby in a super cute outfit to meet his extended family. Unfortunately, sometimes “cute” translates to lots of pieces that can be misplaced during travel. To make it easy for me, I dressed Steven in one of his “jammie” onesies: one piece, with one zipper and footies, covering him from neck to toes. No lost socks, rogue hoodies, or bunched up pants. Sidenote: I dressed in a comfortable outfit, just a t-shirt and workout pants with pockets so I didn’t have to worry about adjusting or things being too tight or uncomfortable.

Bib aka, The Attached Burp Rag – To go along with the outfit, I put a bib on Steven to travel with. It was one less loose item to fall onto a dirty airport floor. For the record, once I boarded the plane, I had a burp cloth tucked into the side of my backpack carryon to easily access and use during the flight when I was settled and not getting up to move around a ton.

Baby Carrier – I was super lucky and Carly had a car seat waiting in Utah so I didn’t have to use a car seat or stroller. I had Steven in my Ergo baby carrier to get through security and to walk easily through the airport with the ability to use both my hands. The great thing for me is that Steven tends to fall asleep easily when he’s in the carrier and I’m moving, which meant that I was the crazy, rocking, bouncing lady in the security line for 20 minutes, and I was okay with it. When I got to the scanner at security, I was able to walk through with Steven still in the carrier and just get checked on the other side. It was really simple and convenient. On this note: once I was through security and to my gate, I took him out of the carrier and played with him (keeping him awake) until we boarded to give myself the best possibility for a good sleep on the plane.

Diaper Change – For me, it was easier to find an empty corner in an empty gate to lay him (and all my supplies) down on his portable changing pad to get him cleaned up so I didn’t have to deal with people shoving and short-tempered in the airport bathrooms. I changed Steven right before I boarded the plane to ensure he was clean and dry when I sat down and I didn’t have to worry about an emergency change in the tiniest bathrooms known to man on the plane.

Boarding – There are different schools of thought on when to board with baby. Some say to take advantage of early boarding for people traveling with children under 2 and some say wait until the last minute to board to minimize static sitting time with your baby. For me, I wanted to board early to get situated and just keep Steven occupied for the 10 extra minutes until we left the gate and I could start nursing him. It worked because I didn’t feel rushed and I had everything ready to feed, burp, or play with accessible before everyone else boarded.

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Here’s the bottom line: flying with a baby takes a lot more of a lot of things. More time, more patience, more “stuff”. But taking the time to plan for the worst and hope for the best was extremely helpful for me. It turned out, once I started feeding Steven, he slept the whole flight out to Salt Lake and most of the flight back which made it really simple. It’s okay to stress about it. That just means that you care about things going well and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Postpartum Fitness Tips

Posted by Kate Ardohain

Postpartum Fitness Kate

Let’s be real, after I gave birth in December, the last thing I wanted to do was get out and go for a nice, long jog. Truth be told, I was worried that I would not be able to get out and even walk for a while because I was in so much pain with the normal after birth downstairs issues (see my Things Women Rarely Talk About Postpartum post) and also because I was dealing (unknowingly at the time) with a prolapsed bladder and prolapsed rectal muscles.

Honestly, this was disappointing to me because I was getting a little stir crazy and would have loved to just get outside for a nice walk in the fresh air, but that wasn’t happening. It took about 2 weeks for me to get up and feel good enough to go for a walk around the block with Chris, the baby and the dog and it was slowwww going. As in it took me about 25 minutes to go around the block slow. Chris was extremely patient with me and was also patient with the fact that I’m sure he wanted to tell me that it may be too early to get out and get moving again when I was so sore.

DO WHAT YOU CAN WHEN YOU CAN AND LET IT BE ENOUGH

It’s different for every woman and I’m the first to say that whatever works for you, go for it. If you feel like you need more time before you can get up and go for a short walk, then, by all means, wait until your body tells you it’s good to go. That being said, it was important for me to start walking as soon as I was able so I didn’t fall into the rut of “let me spend another week finishing all the bad food in my house and sitting around because I don’t have to be anywhere.” I’m the kind of person that needs routine and can easily fall into the trap of “well, I already ate a donut this morning, so today’s diet has gone out the window and I need to have a burger and fries for lunch and a pizza for dinner to round it out and then start fresh tomorrow.”

I knew that I had to start slowly and for me, that meant just walking. At first it was around the block, then it was around the block twice, then twice a day. It was what I could do that day and I told myself that was enough for me.

Quick side story: when I first started running, I would put music on and tell myself I would run for the length of one song. Then two songs, then three. I would never go for pace or distance, just for the length of a song. It really helped me build my endurance up and help me wrap my mind around running because I always knew there was an end in sight and if I could just make it the next 1 minute and 32 seconds, I could walk. This is the advice I give to everyone when I’m asked about general running, but especially distance running.

It was great to be able to put Steven in the stroller and take the dog out and just take my time and enjoy nature and being out of the house for 5 minutes. It felt like some “me time” even though it was with the baby and the dog. It was also great for me that Steven was super comfortable in the car seat and stroller and fell asleep about one minute into the walk (and has continued to do so since that first week). A quote I saw on InstaGram one day really changed the way I thought about my fitness journey:

Let it be enough

It sounds so simple, but so many people (me included) tend to beat themselves up over missing a workout or cheating on their diet. As for me, I start to get obsessive about most things in my life when I’m trying to make a positive change and repeating the “let it be enough” mantra to myself on days when I am just wiped out and can only get in a quick 5 minute walk or when I pick an apple over a brownie, but end up eating the brownie at 2 a.m. when Steven is up to nurse… just “let it be enough.” Let the choice to made in that moment be enough for the day. Small changes lead to big changes and that choice to go on a five minute walk instead of sitting on the couch watching another YouTube video is a step (no pun intended) in the right direction.

LOOK FOR ENCOURAGEMENT AND HELP

There are mommy/daddy groups and work out groups all over the world. I live in a military community and found a group called the “Stroller Warriors” that do twice weekly walk/runs with other moms and dads in the community. It’s really nice to be out with other parents who are just working on themselves and happen to have their kids with them while doing it. In fact, the first workout I did with them was the day before I gave birth! Not only has it been nice for me as far as accountability and getting back into jogging in a new way (aka – the added dynamic of the baby and stroller) but it has helped me become more social with other parents and talk about things I’m dealing with as a new parent. There are so many options out there for whatever you’re into whether it’s walking, running, swimming, or even mom and baby yoga (believe me, this 7 pound little boy gives my arms a workout on a daily basis).

FIND OTHER WAYS TO FIT IN FITNESS

There are hundreds of fitness apps out there, but for me, FitSpark is my favorite for a busy mommy. It was made by Tammy Uyeda, a Physiotherapist, Certified Group Ftiness Instructor, and mom of three. The app is great for me because you can select the amount of time you want to do your HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout from as little as 7 minutes up to 20 minutes. Depending on how long or how soundly Steven has been napping, I can select a length of time to workout. Sometimes, I just continue to do 7 minute workouts until he wakes up! Before I know it I’m almost up to a half an hour of exercise.

FitSpark App

The workouts consist of short bursts of exercises that last for 30 seconds to a minute long then have a break in between. After selecting the time length you want, the app shows you a preview of the workout with all the exercises, how many rounds of exercises, and the interval between exercise and rest. You can click play on any exercise in the set and it shows you exactly how to do it. If you don’t like that set of exercises, you can select “change workout” and get a whole new workout. Tammy is also on InstaGram and she posts weekly with new exercises that require little to no equipment (the most “equipment” I’ve used is a chair from my kitchen or my coffee table: stuff that I already have, not things like hand weights or resistance bands that some people don’t own). Tammy is not only great at fitness but is super kind and interactive with her followers on IG and routinely responds to comments and tagged posts despite the fact that she has over 15,000 followers, is an entrepreneur, and busy mom of three!

BOREDOM EATING AND FINDING ALTERNATIVES

Lastly, on the food front, I am the kind of person who would rather eat what she wants and exercise it off than eat kale and carrots for every meal and not have to go for a walk. At the same time, I am realistic, and know that not everyone feels that way, so each their own! For me, I just try to make healthy choices when I can. Sometimes, cookies are it and I try to just limit myself to not each the whole package. I have been known to throw half a package of Oreos away after dousing them in Windex because I ate the other half and couldn’t stop myself and even throwing them in the garbage wouldn’t be enough because they are packaged and really didn’t touch any of the gross garbage that’s in there and I could just open them back up and continue to eat them so I force myself to cover them in poison and even then I consider it, but tell myself I shouldn’t because I’m breastfeeding and it’s just not responsible for me to ingest ammonia…

This goes back to the old mantra let it be enough. Just make the best choices you can for that moment and move on. Beating yourself up about eating a cookie doesn’t make the incident disappear, but you can make a better choice next time.

One thing that has helped me with mindless eating (I tend to eat most when I’m bored) is coming up with a list of things I can do when feel the urge to just snack on everything in the pantry. My list is: brush and floss my teeth, (ice cream after toothpaste? Gross) write a handwritten card or letter to a friend, (how fun is real mail amongst all the bills?) go for a walk, do a quick workout, (thanks 7 minute FitSpark!) start a load of laundry, drink a cup of tea, or play with the baby for a while. It helps that moment pass and usually when I’m done, the craving is gone or I’ve had enough time to think more about if I really want it. The last thing that works for me is having a snack size bag of cheerios. A full cup of multi-gran Cheerios (which are delicious and taste like Lucky Charms, sans marshmallows) is only 110 calories and they are so tiny that I’m kept busy for like 20 minutes eating them while tending to the baby!

Lastly, just don’t beat yourself up about fitness or getting back to your “pre-baby” body immediately after you leave the hospital. You just grew a human and gave birth to it! Give yourself a break, do what you can, and let it be enough.

Kate and the mamaRoo: Worth the Hype?

Posted by Kate Ardohain

Disclaimer: I received a mamaRoo for free from 4moms for review purposes. The thoughts and opinions below are my own.

Baby in the mamaRoo

It’s no secret that I was active during my pregnancy. I’m completely convinced that my running and walking has created a monster. Don’t get me wrong, Steven is a relatively good baby as far as 2 month old babies go, but this kid does not do “still” well. Getting him to calm down when he’s being fussy takes about a thousand steps around the house or a long walk in the stroller to get him to sleep, which isn’t entirely convenient when it’s two o’clock in the morning.

4moms mamaRoo to the rescue!

Before Carly and I went to the ABC Kids Expo, I knew about the mamaRoo because Chris’ sister, Rachel used one for her newborn and loved it. When we went to Buy Buy Baby to do our baby registry, one of the few things we knew we wanted was the mamaRoo. Count us completely surprised and honored when we got it in the mail after the expo from the company for free!

What we knew we’d love:

  • Doesn’t take up a lot of space – a lot of swings these days are required to have a wider base at the bottom so they don’t tip over when the swinging motion starts, but the mamaRoo is all electric and takes up less than 3 square feet of space so it’s convenient to put anywhere in the house. Ours sits mainly in the living room, but we’ve moved it to the bedroom as well.
  • Different motion options – when Carly and I were at the ABC Kids Expo, we met with a representative from 4moms who told us that the making of the mamaRoo involved observation of over EIGHT THOUSAND moms to make the five offered motions for the “move like you” trademark. Steven prefers the “kangaroo” motion, but there are also “car ride”, “tree swing”, “rock-a-bye”, and “wave” motions. It’s great because you can adjust how fast or slow the motion goes.

mamaRoo baby

  • Different sound options – mamaRoo has 5 different options for your baby to listen to: rain, fan, ocean, heart, and auxiliary. Plus you can turn it up from a volume of 1-5 for SUPER intense heart sounds! Steven prefers the fan overall, which is the one that sounds most like white noise to me.
  • Easy to put together and wash – this literally took Chris 5 minutes to put together once we got everything out of the box. It all seemed so simple even down to the part where the baby sits, that just zips into the frame (also making it super easy to remove and wash). The newborn insert also just slides right over the little seatbelt part so you can wash it.

Assembling the mamaRoo

The other things we love about it, (but didn’t know we needed until we actually had a baby):

  • The newborn insert – which is reversible and super soft and easy to wash. Steven was so small when he was born (and is still on the small end of things, weighing in at a little over 7 pounds at one month) so putting him in the mamaRoo with no insert would have been a squished up, bobble-headed mess. Having the insert also seems to help with the fact that we can wrap him up after buckling him in by putting a blanket over the insert and tucking it underneath so he’s nice and snuggled. My only compliant about the insert is that there aren’t more options as far as colors or patterns go. Right now, mamaRoo only offers one reversible insert that has colored shapes on one side and a grey polka dot pattern on the back.
  • Adjustable seat recline – with a baby that has a bit of reflux, having something for him to sit in that can adjust to more of a sitting up position was really helpful.
  • Auxiliary input – as a baby gift, Carly gave me a little iPod with “baby songs that don’t drive people nuts” on it. It’s nice to be able to connect that or my phone with Pandora on to the mamaRoo and just let it play when I don’t want to listen to the white noise of a fan for 20 minutes.

Other notes:

Although the mamaRoo is Bluetooth capable, we haven’t used that feature at all. I think it would be nice to change speed or motion or sound with my phone, but it’s just not something I have used yet. Also, there is a little mobile above the seat with three plush balls with patterns on one side and a colorful side on the back. At almost 8 weeks, Steven has started to really look intently at the black and white side of the mobile.

It’s nice that the balls are easily removable to keep looking at and playing with away from the mamaRoo – we have even taken one to the pediatrician to keep Steven occupied and not fussing while in the waiting room. I do wish that the mobile was electronic as well, though. With the entire system being electric, having a mobile that rotates but only when you do it on your own is a little out of place. I also wish that there was an on/off switch instead of just plugging and unplugging it.

Sleeping in the mamaRoo

Overall, I think this product is great and is such a step up from the standard swings that are (or used to be) so popular in the baby market. It’s so many things in one and has really been useful for us, not just as a swing, but also as a great little place to put Steven down to just take a nap with no movement or sound just because it’s so ergonomic and comfortable.

When we were at the Expo in October, we made a point to stop by the 4moms booth and I really got the impression that their engineers are really invested in making superb products. They don’t have as many products as some other baby brands on the market, but the things they make are extremely well-made, simple, convenient, and useful. (You should check out their version of the pack and play: AMAZING!) I would highly recommend them to any parents out there.

Labor Fears Follow Up – What Was and Wasn’t Worth Worrying About

Posted by Kate Ardohain

Kate

Before I went into labor and delivered my baby boy, I wrote a blog post about my labor fears. Now, one month after giving birth, I wanted to take a moment to follow up on those fears and talk about what was and wasn’t worth fretting over.

My list of fears from that blog were as follows:

1. The unknown, including contractions, epidurals, and labor in general.

Let me start this off by saying one thing: labor and delivery are different for every woman. There is no cookie-cutter story or set of experiences that I could type out to make it so all your questions and fears are addressed, but in my experience, it was so easy to fear the unknown and there was nothing I could do about the stress it brought upon me. People can tell you not to worry about it or that there’s no reason to be anxious when you don’t know what’s to come, but let’s be real: you’re going to worry.

A lot of this relates back to my birth story so I’ll be brief here. I was worried for all the right reasons. I didn’t know what I didn’t know but, in all honesty, nothing I experienced during the entire process was horrific. There were moments that I was scared (“time to start pushing”), there were moments when I was in pain (7 contracting hours into labor), there were moments when I was unsure (“it’s always difficult to administer an epidural when someone has this big of a tattoo on their back!” Hardee har har), and there were moments I was extremely uncomfortable (shuffling to the bathroom and being sponged down for 10 minutes by nurses while trying to pee for the first time since the catheter was removed). But it’s all possible. I’m not going to say it was the most pleasurable experience in my life, but, honestly, I would rather give birth again (with an epidural) than go to the dentist to get a cavity filled. Yes, I’m totally serious.

2. Being unsure of my pain tolerance

From what I’ve read, contractions are different for everyone and that’s what I mentioned in this first blog. I wasn’t sure what they would be like for me. In a word: painful. In two words: painful but tolerable (I suppose that’s three words). In the beginning, I wasn’t sure if what I was feeling was a contraction or if it was just cramping until it happened again, with the same duration, same cycle, (build up, painful peak, and slow taper) and closer and closer together. I’m not gonna lie, the peak of the contraction, although only about 20 seconds for me each time was pretty painful. It felt like having a period cramp times 50 where you are incapacitated. I couldn’t talk or walk, I just had to breathe (hee-hee-hooo Lamaze style) and rock back and forth while leaning against something (usually Chris).

There was relief between the contractions but when they got so close together, the relieving moments were few and far between and by the time we decided to go to the hospital (7 hours after the first contraction) I was feeling exhausted and extremely uncomfortable. When the time came that the nurse asked me what my plan was for pain management, I immediately said “epidural.” Apparently, 7 hours was long enough for me. It wasn’t that the contractions were excruciating, it was more the fact that they were exhausting. When they got so close together, it was like, as soon as one ended and I could catch my breath and regain myself, another one would start. And the bottom line for me was, no matter what I decided or how this baby came out, I would still be getting the same baby! There’s no “downgraded version” that rears its ugly, misshapen head because you choose to have an epidural. Birth is birth!

3. Tearing / getting an episiotomy

I spoke to my doctor about his thoughts on an episiotomy during my appointment in month 8. He told me that his episiotomy rate was low and that he generally preferred not to do it if it could be avoided. That being said, I was secretly hoping that I wouldn’t need any “assistance” because my vagina would magically stretch to the exact size it needed to be and then retract down to its original size by the time I left the hospital with my newborn baby in tow. That, unfortunately was not the case.

I talked a lot about this in my “Things Women Rarely Talk About Postpartum” blog but let’s just be brief and say that I did tear. Not in the muscle, which I am grateful for, but I did have 4 small skin tears around my vagina and urethra. The pain following the birth in the days I came home was, in a word: extreme. It really was something I was not fully prepared for (I’m not really sure how you can ever be prepared for that) and I was tremendously uncomfortable for days, being unable to sit without my donut pillow, and unable to pee without numbing spray. The fear was real, folks. I honestly should have put much more merit into this fear because this was all I was focused on for about 10 days following my hospital stay.

4. That something will go wrong during birth

This one was at the bottom of my list for a reason: I wasn’t that worried about it because I knew that I would be delivering in a hospital and that the medical staff was set to handle 99% of all situations. The only thing that was a little unnerving was the amount of suction they had to use for Steven. Apparently he had taken a gulp of amniotic fluid on his way toward the light and his breathing was muddled and labored when he arrived. The nurses kept using the bulb syringe on him while he was laying on my chest and seeing how difficult it was for him to breathe and cry at such a close proximity was unsettling to say the very least. After about 2 minutes, he was good and had a hearty sob going but those first 120 seconds were difficult for me emotionally.

The Real Deal – 6 Things Women Rarely Talk About Postpartum

Posted by Kate Ardohain

6 Things Women Need to Know Postpartum

Let’s be honest here – I was so terrified of labor and birth that the thought of anything afterward never even crossed my mind. Now, nearly 3 weeks after giving birth to my son, I wanted to take a moment to be real with you and talk about the things that I have experienced postpartum in just 19 short days (19 days postpartum, not that I’m going to take up 19 days of your time to write this blog, just so we’re clear). This list is down and dirty, so hang onto your hats (do people still wear hats?) here it is – the real deal.

1 – Postpartum Crotch Pain: this is number one for me because this was the worst part of my postpartum experience, hands down. Yes, there are many things about pregnancy and birth that are truly miraculous. You spent the last 9 months growing an entire human being inside your body – every toe, every finger, every eyelash, YOU DID that! Then you pushed it out… and there’s where this item begins. I had an extremely short “pushing” phase of my labor. The entire thing lasted about 20 minutes and I am grateful, no doubt about that. I am also grateful that my tearing was minimal – I had what was medically classified as “4 1st degree perineal and urethral tears” which basically means I had 4 tiny skin tears around my vagina and my urethra but no muscle tearing, and no episiotomy. I also had an epidural prior to giving birth so I didn’t feel any of those tears happening or being stitched up afterward. Until that epidural wore off…

OH. MY. GOD.

Ice diapers (yes, this is quite literally one of your baby’s diapers cut open at the crotch, filled with crushed ice, put in your giant mesh underwear, and pulled up against all your sore bits) and dozens of witch hazel pads later, I left the hospital. When I got home, I could literally barely sit down. Sitting was extremely painful. Standing was painful. Walking was painful. Laying down… that was good. But have you ever tried lying down and taking care of an infant? Ya, not so much productivity there. Don’t get me wrong, I did have Chris there as well as my mom and dad, but unfortunately, I was the only one with a “working” set of breasts. Let’s just say it was a lengthy process.

At the 10-day mark postpartum, I finally felt that I could sneeze, blow my nose, and cough without A LOT of pain. You know when you hurt yourself or when you’re sick, and you don’t realize how much you use whatever is out of commission until you’re stuck without it? Well, let’s just say, the following services were out of service for 10 days: laughing, coughing, blowing my nose, clearing my throat, and sneezing. My God, sneezing… I sneezed on day 2 and I literally burst into tears because I felt like I had just either ruptured my stitches or given birth to Steven’s unknown twin. I effectively stifled every sneeze for a full 8 days after that.

Here’s the long and short of it: Every time I go the bathroom, it takes me five minutes to get through my routine: fill my spray bottle with warm water, pee, spray down the area with aforementioned water, dab (not wipe) with toilet paper, spray numbing spray along the whole area, put a pad in my underwear, insert two Tucks pads, apply Preparation H (cause, pushing a baby out of me unfortunately meant also pushing a hemorrhoid out as well) pull up my pants, wash my hands and waddle back to whatever I was doing.

Words of advice –

• Showering daily is an absolute must for me. I attempted to use the sitz bath they gave me at the hospital (basically a little basin that you fill with water and set in the toilet and then sit on for 10 minutes to soak your stitches) but it was so awkward and painful that I didn’t continue after the first time so showering, washing (with Summer’s Eve sensitive wash, unscented), and thoroughly rinsing daily is a essential.

• Get a donut pillow to sit on, but don’t overuse it. The donut pillow is GREAT for taking the pressure off your stitches and that whole area in general, but overuse for me caused even further pressure and stretching down there when I didn’t use it. When you aren’t sitting, lay down if you can to completely take the pressure off. Sit in soft chairs and recline as much as possible.

• Take the medication you need for pain management. I was prescribed Naproxen and I took it pretty religiously for the first 5 days until I felt like I could get by on IB profen and then with nothing at all by day 10.

• Things WILL get better. I know that everyone probably says this and when you’re in the moments of pain (or “sneeze birthing”) it’s hard to believe that you are ever going to be a functioning woman again, but it will heal. Just give it time and get through each hour as it comes.

2 – Postpartum Naiveté: Oh man. The “told you so” my mom could have given me that first 2 days home was so beyond any other in my life. Chris and I really wanted to learn the new parent ropes together and on our own. I wanted my mom there at the birth and so ultimately, my parents ended up staying with us the day we came home from the hospital. Between my emotional state, my pain, and my ignorance, that first day was a total cluster you-know-what.

Every time I held Steven and he started crying, I started crying with him. His lips and skin were so chapped just from being in a world outside of warm water for the first time, and every time I fed him and saw those little chapped, peeling lips, I started bawling. My mom was so amazingly helpful and I know now, I could not have made it through those first days at home without her. It wasn’t just that she was another set of hands, although that was useful as well, it was the practical advice that she gave me through so many situations. I admit it now, I was naïve to think that I could do this without help.

Words of advice – (from someone much wiser and more experienced than me: my mom)

• Babies can only communicate in one way: crying. Crying signifies hunger, exhaustion, wet diaper, dirty diaper, pain, fear, needing comfort, too cold, too hot, and anything else you can think of.

• Don’t take your baby’s crying personally. Reference the first bullet. Your baby crying is just his way of communicating. It has nothing to do with you or your parenting.

• Your baby is not as fragile as you think he is. Yes, babies need protection and comfort but your baby, even as a newborn is strong and resilient. I mean, don’t toss him around like a ragdoll (that bobble head and weak neck aren’t all there yet) but pulling his little arm through the sleeve of a onesie or cinching up that diaper tighter than you think it should go are totally fine. You may think you won’t, but, believe me, you’ll know when the cry turns from normal, standard crying to a cry of pain, and if it is a cry of pain, adjust what you’re doing and fix it. He’ll be fine.

• Use the “5 S’s”. This comes from the Dr. Harvey Karp book, “Happiest Baby on the Block” and my mom has used this for years with success (my sister has 4 kids that all successfully used this method). Dr. Karp starts with his theory that human babies are born 3 months early (only due to the fact that there isn’t enough room in the womb for them to continue to grow) and therefore the first 3 months of a baby’s life are the “4th trimester”. The 5 S’s are meant for soothing your baby and are as follows: swaddle, side or stomach position, shushing, swinging, and sucking. I won’t delve into it further, but I’ll just say it DOES work and if you’re interested get the book or the movie and take a gander.

• There is nothing that will bring someone to his or her knees faster than a baby who won’t stop crying. When you are at the end of your rope, put your baby in a safe place, walk away and take a minute to regain your composure. As long as your baby is safe, (not on top of a changing table that he could roll off of, but in a car seat or other means of safe keeping) take the minute you need to get yourself together, even if it means that he’s crying at the maximum decibel level for the full minute. It’s better to compose yourself and come back to the situation than do something you’ll regret with dire consequences.

• Crying is okay. For you, I mean. Hormones are still rushing through you and breakdowns are pretty much imminent. Just let it happen, embrace the fact that you just brought a new life into the world and that is an emotional rollercoaster.

• Don’t worry about being (or portraying) the “perfect” parent. Like I mentioned, my parents stayed with us the first 2 days we were home, and Chris’ parents were scheduled to come a few days later just for the day. I was totally stressing that I was a hormonal, emotional wreck with no makeup on, permanently wearing a robe and sweatpants in a dirty house that probably smelled like pee. My mom assured me that no one was expecting me to be the perfect parent. That this is real life and that, in reality, grandparents are just coming to see your baby. You’re important and all, but your baby is the number one priority. Embrace the fact that you will get a break. Put your feet up, take a nap, let them enjoy their grandson and relax.

• Let sleeping babies lie. This bullet is also in the next section, Postpartum Sleep Deprivation, but is a word of advice from my mom that is so good, it needs to be said twice: If your baby is asleep, let him sleep. Enjoy the peaceful time you have where you aren’t feeding him, changing him, or trying to make him stop fussing and take that time to just relax. Believe me, he will wake up when he’s hungry or uncomfortable.

• Use all the help you can get. One of the things that Chris and I were so grateful for (in addition to my mom’s help with baby) was the help of my dad walking our dog, Riley. Unfortunately, our fur baby kind of fell to the back burner once Steven arrived and having my dad there to walk Riley and play with her while we were so consumed with the baby was SO ridiculously helpful. I think it also made Riley feel that she wasn’t being completely neglected, which she really would have been if it had only been me and Chris there, one, because I could barely sit or stand, there’s no way I would have been able to walk her, and two, if Chris had left me alone with Steven on the first day home, I probably would have had a complete meltdown. Thank the Lord for parents. Everyone offers his or her own little piece of help, take all you can get!

3 – Postpartum Sleep Deprivation: Here’s the skinny: you can survive on WAY less sleep than you think you can. I was a solid 8+ hours a night girl before Steven came along. That first night home, Chris and I got about 2 hours of sleep and you know what, we are still functioning! Your baby is making your new “routine” though I hesitate to even call it a routine because that implies that there will be a regularly fixed program and the only thing that is “fixed” is the fact that things will be constantly changing. People always told me, “sleep when the baby sleeps.” Easier said than done, for me at least.

As a new parent (and frankly, a person that is new to the whole newborn infant thing) every sound and every movement was cause for concern. So, sleeping when he was sleeping was just not happening. Every coo, every shortness of breath, every yawn, sneeze, arm movement, and bowel movement, we were up checking to make sure he wasn’t dead. After night one, it got better. Mostly because of advice from my mom (see Postpartum Naiveté), but partly due to my and Chris’ growing patience as parents.

Words of Advice –

• Take it one minute at a time. Not one day at a time, because that span of time is way too long in new mommy and daddy world. A minute of a wailing baby feels like an hour. Every minute that your child is alive is a success for both you and your baby. You’re learning together. He’s learning how to be a baby in this new world and you’re learning how to be a parent in this new, crazy chapter of your life.

• Keep a journal. It may sound trivial or monotonous (I am trying to keep this baby alive, I don’t have TIME to write in a stupid journal) but it has already helped me. My college roommate, and one of my best friends, Mariah, sent me a journal and advised to write one challenge and one success from the day. The first day was full of challenges and not many successes but the next day was better, and the next was better than the day prior and so on. Every day will come with a new set of challenges and new set of successes but being able to look back on them is rewarding for me. I know that Chris and I are doing this whole parent thing and we will make it because we made it through trying not to drop him during his first bath and not putting the diaper on tight enough and therefore ruining a onesie beyond washer and dryer repair. But it’s okay! You’ll make it too!

• Take turns with your partner. Chris is a total night owl and I’m a total morning person and that has proven to really work for us as parents right now. I feed Steven then go to bed around 11, Chris has him for about 3 hours after that, calming him enough for him to sleep until he’s hungry again then he changes him and brings him to me to feed. I will calm him enough to go back to sleep, then we’ll all sleep another 3 hours until Steven wakes up again and I take the morning shift until Chris wakes up. It’s really nice to put that trust in your partner and have that few hours of really uninterrupted sleep where you don’t have to worry about every sound the baby makes because you’re just in your bedroom alone.

• Let sleeping babies lie. This bullet is also in the previous section. If your baby is asleep, let him sleep. Enjoy the peaceful time you have where you aren’t feeding him, changing him, or trying to make him stop fussing and take that time to just relax. Believe me, he will wake up when he’s hungry or uncomfortable.

4 – Postpartum Pooping: the fear is real, folks. That first bowel movement after giving birth will PRETTY MUCH feel like you’re being torn open. I was SO afraid to poop that the mental anguish it was causing me was all I could focus on. Days passed and every time I ate, I thought about the fact that food was going in, but nothing was coming out the other end. I obsessed over my fear of pushing whenever I sat on the toilet. In the end, it took me 4 days. FOUR days to finally poop and it hurt. It hurt really bad. But it was over and once I made it over that initial hump, it got better mentally. I’m not going to lie to you and say that after that first one, I felt like everything was back to normal again. In fact, 19 days later, things still don’t feel normal in that area. I am back to once a day, which is great, but the pushing (albeit minimal) is still uncomfortable.

Also, truth be told, most women suffer with hemorrhoids during or after their pregnancy. I was blessed to not have any during pregnancy but am still working through one postpartum. It isn’t painful, but it is not the most comfortable feeling in the world. Plus, it feels really awkward when you feel that while showering and you KNOW that did NOT used to be there and, holy crap (no pun intended), why is it there and when is it leaving.

Words of Advice –

• Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Drinking tons of water will really help move things along down there. I know that the thought of peeing more and going through the five minute aforementioned routine repeatedly sounds a bit daunting, you your body will thank you for it and things will heal that much quicker. Plus, dehydration leads to impacted bowels (I know from experience unfortunately) and pushing anything out at that point is extremely painful.

• Preparation H and Tucks pads. After pooping, wipe with toilet paper then use a Tucks pad and wipe again. Apply Preparation H as liberally as you feel you need to. This stuff is a miracle and will shrink that sucker down quickly.

• Shower daily. Once again, keep it clean down there. The last thing you need on top of all the other issues going on in that region is any kind of uncleanliness leading to itching, burning, or any other infections.

• Go when you feel the need to go and take your time. My initial poop took A LOT of concentration, and not concentration on pooping. Concentration on something OTHER than pooping. I literally had to go in and bring my phone to take my mind off the fact that I was pushing a little bit so that I didn’t tense up and stop before things happened. Don’t beat yourself up too much if you can’t do it the first couple times you try. It’s challenging and scary and that’s okay.

• Take a stool softener. My doctor recommended Ducolax for me and it has worked well. I take it once a day with my prenatal (post-natal?) vitamin and it helped put me back on track as far as regularity and consistency of my bowel movements.

• Careful with other medications. The Naproxen my doctor prescribed me has a constipation side effect so weaning myself off that when I felt ready helped me. Sometimes it’s about picking your battles and whatever pain takes priority at that point is what you should concur.

5 – Postpartum Emotions / Communication: Let’s just be real and say the breakdowns are going to come. They may be few and far between, they may be rampant and often, but they will come. With the amount of hormones rushing through your body, it can only be expected, but that doesn’t make it easy to handle. For about the first 3 or 4 days, I was having emotional collapses pretty frequently. Like, crying over nothing. I would literally be talking to my dad about something funny that happened to him at church and I would just start bawling.

Honestly, it was a little embarrassing and I felt like I had to keep saying, “I’m so sorry; I don’t even know why I’m crying right now!” There were so many times in the first few days that when Steven would cry, I would sit and hold him and cry right along with him. I felt like I didn’t know what to do for a crying infant. I didn’t know the right way to hold him, the wrong way to hold him, how to change a diaper, how to swaddle him in a blanket, why he was crying, how to stop him from fussing… it was just A LOT OF EMOTIONAL stuff piling down on me all at once.

Words of Advice –

• Talk to someone who understands. For me, that was my mom. Initially, it was just nice to be able to talk through the tears with someone. Having my mom tell me that what I was going through was totally normal and that my emotions were going to be like a roller coaster for a few weeks and that was okay.

• Talk to someone who can just listen. Chris was really my support structure. This whole process from pregnancy to birth to new parenting is SO much different for the man than it is for the woman. I had been feeling this life inside me for months, I had been seeing my body change and grow, I had felt the kicks and the contractions and the birth… but a man experiences so little of that. He doesn’t know what you’re going through and, let’s be real here, you don’t know what he’s going through. Imagine being the man in this scenario and you are just doing your best to be a new dad and to be a supportive husband but you don’t know why your wife is crying… for the 6th time today… and you don’t know how to help her our of that “funk”. Just communicate how you’re feeling, even if you feel like it’s totally ridiculous that you resent your baby for making you feel like all you are is a milk machine (yes, I had this exact conversation with Chris). Chris is just there. He’s there when I need a hug, he’s there when I need some words of encouragement, he’s there as a shoulder to cry on, and right now, that’s enough.

• Let it happen. Just be okay with the fact that you are a walking hormone and that your random bouts of tears are part of this process. They may lessen as the days go by and they may not. For me, the first 4 days were messy. Then things starting slowly getting better. Then, at the 2 week mark, I had a total breakdown when I took Steven for a walk in the stroller and he started crying when I was 15 minutes from home and I had to speed walk back, feeling like the world’s worst mother because I put him in that situation and there was nothing I could do to change his wet diaper because I didn’t bring one with us (because I’m the worst mom ever) and even if I did have one, how could I have changed him, and it was cold and windy and I’m sure he was uncomfortable and, my GOD… what was I doing with this life in my hands?!?! Ya… roller coaster… and I came home and Steven was crying and I took him out of the stroller and held him close and rocked him while I cried and Chris held me and told me that I did nothing wrong and when the baby wouldn’t stop crying, I realized that his diaper was just wet and he was uncomfortable. It wasn’t me or the wind or the stroller or anything else. It was that he was having a bodily function and that he knew the only way someone would fix that for him was by crying. That was all. Just let the breakdowns exist and be okay knowing that you’re doing your best.

6 – Postpartum FOBI (Fear of Breaking Infant: One of the scariest things for me after I gave birth was seeing how the nurses handled my new baby. Cleaning the goop off him, suctioning his nose and mouth, drying him, warming him… it was all so rough! I was like, holy crap people! You’re gonna break his tiny little arms off!

Words of Advice –

• Truth is, babies, even newborn babies, are not as delicate as you think they are. Sure, they are small and weak and their little bobbleheads are daunting when you’re trying to adjust them while cradling them in your arms, but they have spent 9 months growing tiny little bones and tiny little muscles that are meant to be strong and resilient! You can pull their tiny hands through their tiny onesie armholes and they won’t break off in the sleeve. You can pull the tabs on their diapers tight against their bodies so they stay put and don’t completely detach inside their onesie so that when you take it off, the poop is just sitting in the butt of the onesie and the diaper is somehow under their butt and around their thighs (yes, I learned the hard way). You can swaddle them tight, tight, tight inside that blanket and guess what? They will completely fall asleep and love it! My first couple swaddle attempts were loose and sad, lol. It took Steven about 4 seconds to pull his little hands out and start sucking on his fingers and another 8 seconds to kick his legs enough that he had completely unraveled the blanket. When my mom did the swaddle, he was a neatly packaged burrito baby, no flailing arms, no kicking legs, just asleep and content, just like he was in the womb. Sidenote: SWADDLING IS THE BOMB! We have been swaddling Steven since day one and man, does it work like a charm.

• When in doubt, err on the side of caution, but realize that if you think you are doing something too roughly, your baby will let you know. It just takes one leg stuck in the wrong side of the onesie to alert you that your baby needs assistance. Somehow, Steven’s tiny legs always get trapped in the left leg of his nighttime onesies… and he is quick to let us know that he’s being squashed.

• Always control your baby’s head and neck. If there’s one part of his body that really is delicate, it’s that neck. A baby’s head is like a quarter of his weight as a newborn. Imagine if you’re a 150-pound adult and your head weighed 35 pounds! That neck and head support are crucial and since babies generally can’t support their own heads until about 4 months, they will rely on you to steady them.

Bottom line: it’s been nearly 3 weeks since my son arrived and took his first breath. Since then, it’s been one adventure after another. Chris and I are constantly learning together how to do this whole parent thing. Some days are easier than others. Sometimes we even feel like we have a pretty good routine going. Then there are the moments when we feel like nothing we are doing is right. The things that worked last week or yesterday or even 2 hours ago are not working. At those times, we step back, we communicate, and we readjust. No one ever said parenting was easy but just take it all one minute at a time. You’ll get there… and so will we.

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