You Can't Hurry Sibling Love

I always had a strange feeling growing up that I would struggle with fertility. Totally normal childhood concern right? Matching Barbie wardrobes, wearing the right light up sneakers to match my Lisa Frank notebook, and impending fertility issues.

I was shocked when the exact opposite happened. I got pregnant with my first son pretty soon after my husband and I officially decided we were ready to embark on parenthood (hah!). I had a smooth pregnancy, and jumped into parenthood without looking back.

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My son, Brooks, was a perfect baby. He slept well, ate well, played well. My husband and I thought we hit the baby jackpot (and we still do). It seemed like we blinked and he was eating solids, crawling, babbling, and sitting up all without any issues. We knew that we were good parents, but we also knew what a good kid we had on our hands.

Then we got cocky.

“Maybe we should start thinking about having another baby?,” I asked when Brooks was barely 8 months old. As if the stars aligned, we sat next to a couple at a wedding reception that same week who had just had their second child 18 months after welcoming their first. They went on and on about how wonderful it is. We green lit a second baby that night.

I regressed back to my concerns about fertility especially since I hadn’t gotten back into a normal period cycle since having my son. That concern was again deemed ridiculous when just a few weeks later I was looking at a positive pregnancy test.

We were ecstatic - we were going to have two babies just 18 months apart! As we geared up for another 10 months of pregnancy, a little seedling of doubt/guilt was planted into my mind.

Are we robbing Brooks of his special time with just his mom and dad? Is it too soon? Will he be ready? Our justification for this was always, “Don’t worry - I’m sure they will be best friends!”

Flash forward 10 months and we are welcoming a chubby new baby with the roundest head I have ever seen almost 18 months to the day since we welcomed our first. Once the meds wore off, it was time to introduce Brooks to his baby brother. He was so young, I really wasn’t expecting much of a reaction. But, baby, was I wrong.

Brooks’ lack of reaction spoke loudly. For the first few months Brooks didn’t give the new kid, Vance, the time of day. I’m sure he silently thanked him for the extra Bubble Guppies that he got to watch while I nursed, but otherwise he was uninterested.

We did our best to encourage interaction slowly. Brooks was learning body parts so we would suggest he tickle Vance’s toes or boop his nose. The few times Brooks decided it was safe ended in a look of disgust.

Eventually, Brooks understood that the new kid was a permanent fixture, but that didn’t change his mood. We continued to encourage interaction but Brooks was getting bigger and able to run away and scream or grasp his dad’s neck with the strength of a pro wrestler.

I stayed up crying for weeks thinking that I had done something wrong to both of my boys. I robbed both of them of the special sibling bond that I had banked on during those 10 months that I was cooking Vance. I was at fault, per mom guilt usual.

As Vance developed physically, we started to see a small shift in Brooks. Brooks started to sit closer and obviously question what Vance was all about around the 5 month mark when Vance was participating more at mealtimes. But still there was a lack of interaction that didn’t match the Pinterest perfect bond that I had in my mind for them. Naturally, I took to Google.

Instead of falling down the message board rabbit hole with all its unnecessary abbreviations that I spend an equal amount of time Googling, I took a step back. I thought about the situation without getting my emotions involved. These were the facts:

I had two healthy boys. They both were developing ‘on track’ according to medical standards. And they are both two very different human beings who are just starting to discover the world around them.

What I realized by just shifting my perspective a little bit, is that I was the only one putting pressure on my boys to bond. There was nothing wrong with the situation. It wasn’t what I had imagined, but at the same time they are both so much more than I could have ever imagined. When I take a step back, I really can see just how young they are. Even though they likely had no clue, the pressure that I put on them was unfair.

Sometimes I compare their sibling relationship to that of a married couple. There are life moments that present any couple with the opportunity to either grow together or grow apart.

I have seen these moments become more frequent in the past 3 months. Vance is now waving, saying a few select words, cruising, and becoming a toddler. With these developments, Brooks has taken a marked interest in what the the baby is doing. “Cute baby go night night?” is a commonly heard phrase in our home in addition to “Here you go, cute baby.” Which is the sweetest prelude to playing together that I could have asked for.

We have also continued to do our part to help them interact more. Every night Brooks hugs the baby, tells him he loves him, and closes the door of his bedroom. Little repetitive actions like this have made Brooks realize that Vance is an important part of his family (and that the kid is here to stay.)

Now that Vance is just about walking, I sense that the life moment that presents them with the opportunity to grow together is coming soon. Brooks loves to chase and be chased. Once his brother is able to play that game, I imagine that they will be inseparable.

But again, that is just my imagination.

If that doesn’t happen, I will still be there to encourage their own unique sibling love story.

Holiday Counting Exercise

This time next year, Brooks will be a preschooler. I cannot believe it.

I’m lucky to have a lot of educators in my life who can tell me a little bit about what to expect and how best to prepare my child. But, I often find myself wondering, “What else can I do to best prepare him?”

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I try to inject learning into our day - lots of reading, counting stairs as we go, life skills, etc. It’s hard to create a fun and engaging activity when I am also trying to wrangle my newly walking one year old. That’s where Education.com comes in!

Their education resources are top notch…and fun! Brooks and I embarked on a Counting to 5 Challenge in a festive way with Education.com’s Lend a Hand activity.

So grab the finger paints, scrapbooking Holiday stickers, some markers, and a little glitter glue (it didn’t go everywhere, I promise), and let’s get to work!

Basically, each element of the tree will have 5 parts so that each time you can decorate your tree you can encourage your child to count to five. You start with a simple hand print, then 5 strands of glitter glue tinsel, then 5 ornaments, then a 5 pointed star on top of the tree and finally 5 presents underneath the tree.

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Aside from being a simple activity that requires little prep time and clean up, the best part is that you can tweak this activity based on what you have around your house. I didn’t have glitter glue, so I used regular Elmer’s glue and glitter. If you don’t have glitter you can wait until the glue dries and then paint it with your finger paints. There’s always a workaround so you don’t have to run to Wal-Mart with your whole army in tow mid-activity.

I thought that the repetition of counting every element would bore Brooks, but he loved it. We started with “one, two, three, two, four” and by the end we could get to five easily.

I’m really encouraged by the ease of this activity and the results. We will definitely be printing off a few more activities and worksheets from Education.com!

And I’m sure that Brooks will be well prepared for preschool, even if I’m not!

 
 

Getting Out of the House with Kids and Your Sanity

Lemme tell ya, this isn’t easy. You might be thinking, “Jess, just go! Be free! Live!” And to that I say, no.

With the holidays upon us, there are so many fun things to do! I often make excuses to stay home, but recently I’ve noticed my kids really enjoying our outings. So I’ve saddled up and decided to embrace the fun alongside them.

I am a planner down to my soul. I anticipate and prepare like the apocalypse is on my doorstep. So now after 2.5 years of parenting little people and two toddlers wreaking havoc on my once stylish lifestyle, I know a few tips on how to get out of the house and have fun with your kids without losing your damn mind.

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  1. Have a backpack baby bag

    At my baby shower for my first son, my friends got me a beautiful leather camel colored bag. It is gorgeous. But once my little men got busy and heavy and walking, I couldn’t manage the children and a shoulder bag. So I only use that when I need to be stylish, and I opt for this bag more often. This one is also a good option for the dads. Although my husband rocks our tassle adorned baby bag like nobody’s business.

  2. Research parking beforehand

    Parking is one of the few things that makes my husband anxious, so we always research where to park before we go to a new place. It’s helpful to know if you’re going to have to manage a stroller in street parking or if you’ll need a stroller at all if parking is onsite.

  3. Embrace venues with outdoor spaces

    We honestly don’t go out to eat as a family often. But when we do, we always opt for a place that has an outdoor option. We worry far less about cleaning up if our kids are dropping food on the ground vs. inside. Also, its typically easier to let the kids walk around outside. They can stretch their legs and you can enjoy one or two bites of your food while its still warm.

    This also helps me with my shy child. I know that he tends to get more timid in enclosed spaces with lots of people so outdoors at non-peak times are best. You can read all about my shy baby here.

  4. Stock your bag appropriately

    I never leave the house without a snack and water for everyone going on the adventure - including adults. I also have simple first aid (like band aids), hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, small toys, and extra clothes (again for everyone). So when the shit hits the fan, you’ve at least got animal crackers and fresh socks to get you through.

  5. Work around your kids’ schedule

    I am a firm believer in prioritizing the kids’ schedule over my need to get out of the house. I try to keep as many naps as possible at home because that means they will sleep overnight better. That’s far easier now that they both only take one nap. When they were younger we would always shoot for the majority of their naps at home. Outings are going to be the best when your kids aren’t tired or cranky because they missed a nap.

Those are the basics. You’ll be prepared for any curveballs and still get to go out and have fun with those babies!


Birthday Letter Writing Tradition

This week is a bit crazy in our household - we are hosting Thanksgiving and our littlest man is turning one that same day!

Even through all the trips to the store (and back to store), I am looking forward to a few minutes of peace and quiet to work on my favorite first birthday tradition - letter writing.

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First birthday celebrations can easily get out of hand and understandably so - it is a big deal! You kept that tiny person alive for a year! However, instead of getting lost in all the presents and cake, I like to focus my most meaningful energy into a present that my children won’t open for years.

For each child’s first birthday, I request that in loo of a gift (or let’s face it, in addition too, because baby presents are fun!) they bring a letter written to the child to be opened on their 18th birthday. The letter can contain their hopes and dreams, sage advice, or jokes.

The most important thing is that the letters are a symbol of the love that my children have been lucky enough to be surrounded by starting from go. I also love that even if some of their family members pass before their 18th birthday, they will still be able to connect with them at that special time.

Once we collect all the letters from near and far, I put them in a glass shadow box that is kept in their rooms. I love looking at the stacks of letters and thinking what a wonderful life we lead. Nothing could make me more grateful than knowing that my babies are loved by so many.

So as my littlest approaches that one year mark, I’ll dust off his shadow box, grab a box of tissues, and get to writing!

Happy Birthday, sweet Vance. You are truly a gift, and I am honored to be your momma.

Kindess Day for Kids

I love the word ‘kind’. I feel like that is what I want to raise my children to be - kind. It is all encompassing to me. Kindness implies that they are giving, empathic, helpful, and the list goes on and on.

While it can seem simple, it is sometimes the most simplistic things that are the hardest to teach - especially to a two year old. This year, we will be participating in Kindness Day by picking out a few of the random act of kindness ideas below to do.

 sharing is caring and blah blah blah the kid ate my donut

sharing is caring and blah blah blah the kid ate my donut

Pay for the person behind you in the drive-thru

Let someone go ahead of you in line

Particpate in whatever donations your grocery store asks you about at checkout

Pick and give flowers to someone

Post anonymous sticky notes with validating or uplifting messages around for people to find

Compliment a stranger

Send an encouraging text to someone

Let a car into the traffic ahead of you

Hold the door open for someone

Share

Write chalk messages on the sidewalk

Donate old clothes

Send happy mail to someone you haven’t seen in awhile

Smile at strangers

Start a Little Free Library

2018 Family Costume Reveal : Toy Story

It’s no secret that I love making Halloween costumes. My husband usually has a commitment on Halloween so I am left doing a group costume alone with the boys. This year, that is not the case and I finally got to get the old man in on the fun!

Brooks, at the ripe old age of 2.5, is loving Toy Story and anything that flies so obviously he had to be Buzz Lightyear. Once I landed on that, I worked the rest of us around the movie.

I made these costumes entirely out of cardboard or foam paper and hot glue and some things that we had around the house. Assuming you can get all the right colors of foam paper in one container, this should be a VERY low budget family costume.

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And you can’t forget The Claw for the little alien! I covered our wagon in trash bags leaving the seatbelt accessible. I used the pole for the canopy and an old wire coat hanger covered in aluminum foil for the actual claw. Pop some foam paper eyeballs on a green ballon and strap that baby alien in!

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Jury is still out on whether my husband enjoys it! Fingers crossed! More photos to come on Instagram stories! Happy Halloween!

Celebrating Dia de los Muertos

My husband and I share similar backgrounds - Irish, German, Catholic - so there is little diversity in our household by default. In the current political climate, I think it is paramount that we inject some outside influences into our boys’ life. This year, we have decided to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday that translates into “Day of the Dead.”

If you’re familiar with the Pixar movie, Coco, (which is really good btw!), Dia de los Muertos is the holiday on which the movie focuses. Having studied Spanish throughout my schooling, I was familiar with the basics of the holiday but this movie really struck a cord with me and showed me the true meaning.

The importance of family, living and dead, is the central theme. I love the thought that our passed family members are watching over us and know all about our lives and accomplishments. As someone who didn’t grow up with many living grandparents, I love that my kids are experiencing such a loving relationship with all their grandparents. It is such a treat to watching them all be together. It warms my heart to think that my grandparents are watching their kids be grandparents, and their grandchildren be parents, and their great-grandchildren grow into well rounded men.

To honor those important to us who have passed, particularly my grandparents, we are celebrating Dia de los Muertos on November 1. Of course, this is not your traditional Dia de los Muertos (hey, this is my first try!). If you’re interested in celebrating as well, here’s are the must haves for a DIY gringa Dia de los Muertos!

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  1. Offrenda

    The offrenda is the altar around which the celebration occurs. Traditionally, the offrenda is three layers to represent the underworld, the earth, and Heaven. The altar usually is covered in one purple tablecloth and one lacy. This article from Buzzfeed is my source for how to set up an offrenda properly. I will have to alter my altar a bit because babies and things on the ground don’t mix.

  2. Marigolds

    Marigolds are the traditional flower of Dia de los Muertos. They are a brightly colored and potent flower that is intended to guide the dead to the living. Since I am very allergic to flowers, and have the blackest thumb, I opted for tissue paper marigolds using this DIY guide. (Instead of wire I used a thin piece of tape.)

  3. Food

    It is customary to welcome the dead with their favorite dishes. Nothing says, “Hey, I miss you,” like a food.

  4. Skulls

    I’m not sure if this is American-ization of the holiday or not, but skull imagery is used on everything. Brooks is hit or miss on what scares the pants off him, so we will be going light on the skulls. Likely just some plates and maybe some cake pops. If the kid is afraid of cake pops, I’m giving him back.

  5. Photos

    The altar is decorated with photos of your passed family members. In Coco, if a family member’s photo doesn’t sit on the offrenda, they cannot pass through from the land of the dead to the land of the living. Jus sayin’.

  6. Papel Picado

    These are the colorful banners you typically see as decoration. I’ll be following this DIY guide.

Feliz Dia de los Muertos!

Halloween Costumes with a Baby Carrier

I LOVE Halloween. As I’ve gotten older and had babies, I love it even more!

Brooks’ first Halloween was about 5 months after he was born. I knew he wouldn’t really be able to participate at such a young age, but I wanted to include him in the fun. I think I was also looking for something to do at home when he was napping so I opted to make costumes that would allow we to wear Brooks in his baby carrier.

I came up with two options - Astronaut Brooks and Safari Brooks. Both are easy and require only a few items that you don’t already own!

 Old family photos of Brooks in his carrier costumes hence the poor quality!

Old family photos of Brooks in his carrier costumes hence the poor quality!

Astronaut Baby

This is my “cool weather” option. Brooks is outfitted in a little Nasa costume that my dad picked up. I believe he found it at the place where diets go to die, Cracker Barrel. Here is similar one. Mine was really lightweight, so he wore it all night and didn’t get too hot. I was the galaxy, so I attached cut out stars to my black shirt and pants with hot glue.

The carrier is the rocket ship. I used felt for the actual shape and what are surely trademarked Nasa images from Google. The fire coming from the bottom is tulle, but you could use streamers as well. In retrospect, I would recommend using foam paper vs. felt.

I attached the ship to the carrier with safety pins. If your kiddo is grabbing at things, make sure to use something else or keep an eye on him. I had attached the ship before I put the carrier on or the baby into the carrier, so it was simple to just pop Brooks in like normal.


Safari Baby

Before I committed to making costumes, I had already purchased a Pottery Barn zebra costume for Brooks. I’m going to blame a late night nursing shopping spree for that. It was great, but really thick. Too warm for Florida in hindsight, but damn he was cute in it.

I bought a pith helmet on Amazon and wore an army green collared shirt open with a white tank underneath. I also whipped out my Bean boots for the occasion. My feet have never sweat more.

The carrier is meant to be the greenery/brush. I attached a full sheet of green felt (or foam paper) to the carrier using safety pins to cover up the blue color of the carrier. I then attached different kinds of leaves from Joann Fabrics using hot glue to that piece of green felt. I put one more piece of leaf in my helmet and called it a day.

Since the zebra costume was warm, Brooks just wore a regular onesie when we weren’t out trick or treating. I changed him in the trunk into the zebra, and then put him in the carrier already outfitted with the leaves.

The hardest part was getting his zebra head to stand up so that you could see him well enough. Once that was resolved, it was smooth sailing.


Both these costumes look like them took much more effort and time than they really did, but that’s the name of the game for moms. Happy Halloween!



Why I Stopped Apologizing for My Shy Child

I describe myself as an extroverted introvert. If casually presented with the opportunity to socialize, I will typically decline. It is only when I am forced into social situations that I open up.

As a child I had to be told to say hello to others. I often wondered why I wasn’t more outgoing or eager to raise my hand when I knew the answer in school. I wanted to be the first one to volunteer to read, but I usually silently chanted “Don’t pick me. Don’t pick me,” instead. I didn’t really overcome my timid ways until I took a public speaking course…..as a sophomore in college.

Nowadays, I will ditch my sweats and go out because I think I should. I’ll begrudgingly put on make up and heels and head out into the wild. Afterwards, I’m glad I got outside my comfort zone, but always ten times more happy to be back in my sweats.

And I am fine with that life for myself.

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Once I embarked on the ‘stranger danger’ phase with my son, Brooks, I was not surprised that it came on like a tidal wave. My husband was also a shy child, though he blossomed a bit sooner than I. We expected our child to have a healthy dose of skepticism in his blood.

I started to get a bit concerned when well past the 12 month mark, Brooks’ anxiety escalated. (Stranger danger usually peaks between 6-12 months.) He would cry even when his grandfather, who lives nearby and sees him often, visited. I felt awful for his grandfather because it was a meltdown every time he came over. But I always justified it with, ‘Sorry, you know he’s just so shy.”

At the time, he was still an only child (I was about 3 months pregnant), and I was a stay at home mom. We didn’t do many playdates outside of our home, and most of our outings were familiar. I hadn’t put much of an emphasis on socializing him or getting him outside of his warm and cozy shell.

His anxiety progressed into a phase where he would physically try to make himself as small as he could, balling up in corners or behind houseplants, hoping not to be seen. Once he realized that he was still clearly visible, he would shoot his arms out to me to be picked up and the flood gates opened. And there I was to offer “Sorry, he’s just so shy,” to make a guest feel more comfortable with the situation. Not realizing that my son was the one who was truly uncomfortable.

On any given day, he wouldn’t show any characteristics that triggered anything concerning beyond just being timid. Nothing like lack of direct eye contact, inability to smile, etc. that would lead me straight to the pediatrician’s office. So we worked on it slowly. First in more familiar situations with both parents by his side, then with just one parent, then with more strangers. We had our ups and downs but overall there was progress.

We continued down this path until the 2 year mark. At that point I took a leap of faith. I enrolled him in an interactive music class. We were the first ones to the class, and the teacher greeted him with open arms. He immediately froze. He was scared, unsure, and hid behind my leg. Instinctively, I pulled the ole ‘Sorry, he’s just so shy,’ out of my hat.

The instructor’s response stuck with me. She brushed it off and said, “Every child learns differently.” She went on to say that if Brooks is an observer, he will learn first by observing me. I would be his greatest teacher.

Great. So I, a former shy child myself, have to participate in this class and act like I would gladly dance around with a tambourine for 45 minutes? So I did. And eventually, at the 43 minute mark, so did Brooks.

Afterwards, I thought about the exchange I had with the instructor before class. I had essentially apologized for Brooks being Brooks. He is shy, but he also has the kindest heart. He loves to sway to sounds. He gives the best hugs. Why was I not opening with that? Though Brooks couldn’t understand what I was saying, I imagined how he would feel if he heard me apologizing on his behalf for a quality that comes so naturally to him.

I was heartbroken and ashamed. I realized that I was more concerned about the experience of others- strangers- than I was about the experience of my own child. From that moment on, I made a conscience effort to stop apologizing for my shy child.

I see his rambunctious, happy, playful side all the time. He loves to run and yell ‘tip-toes!’. Need a baking assistant? He’s there in a second. Got a ball? You can bet he is going to try to take it and run. Just because others’s don’t see this side of him, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist or matters any less.

I imagine that he will be a lot more like me, an extroverted introvert, than I ever expected. The music instructor was right. I am his greatest teacher. I often find him hanging out in his bed relaxing. He knows that he needs a little extra time to recharge at 2 years old; something I didn’t realize until my 20s.

The other thing that he knows is that not everyone is worthy of seeing those special sides of him. He will grow up making others earn his trust. He is not willingly giving the most valuable pieces of himself away to any stranger who says hello on the street. Again, something that I didn’t learn until my 20s.

I realized that if I go through life expressing regret for Brooks being a shy child, that teaches him that there is something wrong with the way he is. And that’s just not the case. He learns best by watching others. He observes. He eventually mimics, and if someone really peaks his interest and earns his trust, he will engage.

And I am fine with that life for my child. No apologies.

Handsfree Hacks

Kids have a lot of stuff.  Stuff to eat. Stuff to put on their butts. Stuff to play with. Stuff to wipe their butts. Stuff to wipe their slobber. Stuff to entertain them. 

Moms also have a lot of stuff.  Stuff to take pictures of your super cute, snowflake bebe.  Stuff to eat. Stuff to drink.  Stuff to occasionally watch Instagram stories on while your kid learns to avoid certain death on the playground. Nope scratch that.  I meant "while your kid learns independence." 

Below are the best products to give you a hand so that you can catch the toddling toddler or prop up your newborn after feeding without mastering the art of juggling. 

1. Loopy Cases

I was never a popsocket person.  I thought they were bulky.  I bought a loopy after I had my second son because I instantly realized how much more I would need to be carrying including those soul suckingly heavy infant car seats.  It slides over your finger when you're on the move without getting in the way. 

2. O Venture Keychain

Have you ever dropped your keys on the floor of the car when you're unhooking a car seat? And then they magically disappear once the kid is free to run into traffic? Yep. 

This keychain slides over your wrist giving you the flexibility to hold them while performing everyday tasks.  It is a bit large, but you get past that once you see how useful it is. 

3. Backpack Diaper Bag

I love a beautiful bag, but the functionality of a backpack diaper bag cannot be beat.  I don't have the time to adjust a bag, push a stroller, wipe drool, and not lose my mind.  I have two - a cute one and another one that can get sunscreen or any other mystery goo all over it.  

4. Apple Watch 

One of the more luxury items on the list, but it has saved my sanity.  Being a Type A scheduler, I have timers going constantly.  Mostly for warming bottles, but I don't have the luxury of standing in the kitchen to wait for it.  I also like that I can see emails and texts come through immediately so that I can determine their urgency without having to check my phone constantly.  And my favorite feature is that the watch will ping your phone when you can't find it - or when your toddler hides it.  Well worth the price tag. 

5. Straws 

If I had a third arm, most of the time I would be giving myself a drink with it.  I fill up a large Yeti with ice water in the morning and leave it on the kitchen island all day.  I pass by to do nearly everything, so each time (whether I've got my hands full of people or laundry) I can bend over and take a swig.  Besides, the whole world is going strawless now anyway.  Join the bandwagon with these stainless, dishwasher safe straws


6. Monitor with a portable screen 

If you're still in the baby monitor stage, you know what a pain it is to lug the screen around while you're getting things done.  Some monitors (like this Project Nursery one that I have and love) comes with a tiny monitor that slips on a watch band or a keychain.  I hook it on, and I can go the same range as the large screen. 

7. Universal Remote

I have one of these sitting in the office that has yet to be synced to our TV (hint, husband, hint), and I can't wait to use it.  We use Amazon TV, Netflix, and cable so we have way too many remotes to keep track of.  This way we only have to deal with one, and only have to hide one from our toddler. 

8. Amazon Alexa

The ultimate handsfree tool.  I don't have one, but my in-laws love theirs.  The kids also love to have conversations with her, so double whammy! 

10 Tips for Going From 1 to 2 Kids

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After having my second child when my first was a mere 18 months old, I was often asked which of the following was easier.  

Going from 0 to 1 kids

OR

Going from 1 to 2 kids

While they each presented their own challenges, going from 1 child to 2 children was WAY easier and here's why. 

We knew what we were getting into.  We knew that there would be nights when the newborn is going to be wide awake at 3am and want to sleep the rest of the day.  We knew how to give the first bath.  We knew how to jam my boob into the baby's mouth properly.  We knew how tired we would be.  

The mental aspect was easy.  We accepted that the first 2-3 months were going to be a shitshow.  Our toddler would watch way too much Bubble Guppies and probably eat way too many frozen fish sticks. 

Once you overcome that mental hurdle, the physical aspects are simple.  You just do it.  You wake up 3+ times at night to feed the baby, then you're up at 6am to take care of the toddler.  If you're lucky, both parents will get an extended leave.  If not, you power through.  

And powering through is so much easier with your second child because you know how truly rewarding parenting is.  You've seen how they grow (so quickly!) into little personalities.  They don't stay blobs that barely respond for long.  All the smiles and snuggles and bedtime stories remind you that these little people see you with rose colored glasses on.  You're perfect to them...even with toothpaste in your hair and your bra on backwards.  

So if you're nervous about having your second child, below are a few tips + links to hopefully get you out of the water.  

Caffeinate + Hydrate

The days are long, but the years are short.  But the days are like really long. 

Find the balance between 'Oh my God I've had so much caffeine I'm going to shake to death" and " I have to pee every 5 minutes because of all this water."  The caffeine will keep you going and the water will at least make you think you're making healthy choices. 

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Spend time with each child alone

This can be really hard at the beginning.  I admit, I didn't do a great job.  Since I was nursing #2, #1 spent a lot of time with his dad.  I should have been more proactive about it, but I was tired and sore and busy making excuses obviously.  Hand over the littlest one every now and then and play with the big guy.  Do what he wants to do.  Remember how silly and fun you used to be with him.  That's who he wants to see. 

Get on a schedule ASAP

This saved my sanity.  When I had an idea of what to expect each day, I could manage the little hiccups that came along.  

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Sync the schedules

One of my OB nurses suggested this every appointment - get your kids to take at least one nap at the same time.  My older son always napped around lunch time, so I knew that I had to work it out so that the little fella did one of his naps then.  I fiddled with his Eat, Play, Sleep routine until I got the naps within 30 minutes of each other.  

Now that they are 2 and some change and 9 months, they still have a nap that overlaps.  It allows me to finish the housework, write, eat lunch, and get ready for the afternoon.  It is essential.  

Involve your older child

18 months is a bit young, but I was still able to ask Brooks for diapers and wipes.  He would waddle over with them for the baby.  It gave him a sense of purpose in the times when I was truly focused on the baby.  

Know that your children will be as different as night and day 

My first son had a dairy intolerance as a newborn.  It took long nights of him writhing in pain and a tummy that was hard as a rock for me to put two and two together.  Once I figured it out, I started a dairy and soy free diet.  However, it takes a long time for all the dairy and soy in you to be completely flushed out.  So Brooks continued to writhe with a hard belly for another 10 days - 2 weeks.  It was truly awful.  I (of course) blamed myself for not knowing and not eliminating the allergens sooner. 

With my second, I cut the dairy out of my diet a full month before he was due just in case he had the same intolerance.  I slowly reintroduced dairy once I felt like I knew his patterns and temperament.  He was fine.  All the worrying, sending meals back, and label reading was unnecessary this time around.  He is, after all, a completely different baby. 

There will be a lengthy transition time

We are still in the midst of this, and there is a post in the works on that.  Basically, your older child will act differently.  He'll want his normal amount of attention and do anything to get it.  And your older child might not love the little one immediately.  It takes time. 

Purge your house before baby #2 arrives

I foolishly started doing this when the littlest was 1-2 months old.  I hit a boiling point where we had too much stuff.  All I wanted was a clean house with only the essentials.  

I recommend A Simplified Life by Emily Ley.  It's step by step how to simplify all aspects of your life.   

Just Laugh

If you're still not scared, check out these articles.  They will make you laugh.  

Transitioning from One Child to Two: Hello Shitshow

13 Solid Pieces Of Advice For Parents Going From One Kid To Two

Have a Little Confidence

First of all, you've done this before.  You know how to take care of small humans.  Sure, they will each be different and take you to unexplored territory.  But that's the fun of it too.  Go on an adventure together knowing that you'll both be better on the other side.  

Life's Tough. Get a Helmet.

When my daughter, Piper, was born, I was handed a beautiful baby with a slightly wonky-shaped head.  I was told that she would outgrow it and that almost all babies who are born “naturally” have a bit of a funny shape to their head. 

Fast forward to her one-month check-up and her pediatrician mentioned that she had a flat spot on her head, but as long as we kept up with the prescribed amount of tummy time, it should naturally correct itself.

Guess what?  It didn’t.  And at her 6-month check-up she was referred to an orthotics specialist to see if she should be evaluated for a cranial reshaping helmet…and then I lost my $#*!. 

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The mom guilt was so strong.  So, so strong.  I had all kinds of questions – What could I have done to prevent this?  Did she not do enough tummy time? For the record, Piper hated tummy time and sounded like she was being murdered every time she did it, so I did the bare minimum recommended amount, because my heart and new Mom nerves couldn’t take it.  But maybe that was bad.  And seriously, why didn’t I make her do more?  And did her Rock N’ Play give her a flat spot?  And on and on and on…oh my gosh.

And then there were more questions.  Some were selfish: Will everyone think I’m a bad mom?  Will people think I just left my kid on her back in her crib for the first 6 months of her life? Some were really worrisome: Will the helmet make Piper unhappy?  Will it affect her development?

I did a ton of research to see if a cranial reshaping helmet was right for Piper.  I read more about plagiocephaly (the official medical term for a baby with a flat head) than I ever cared to.  A large majority of doctors think that growing into adulthood with a flat spot on one’s head will not have any long-term health effects.  However, a few studies suggested that not fixing a flat spot could lead to a kid having vision problems or headaches in the future.  I also thought about the fact that I have no idea what kind of person Piper will be or what her style will be as she gets older.  What if she wants to style her hair in a pink buzz cut someday?  Would her flat spot prevent her from being able to do that? 

After a few head scans and fights with the insurance company, Piper got her helmet.  It came with the instructions that she had to wear it 23 hours per day.  And there were so many tears…but only from me.  She was totally unaffected by the whole experience.  It may be coincidence, but she actually started sleeping through the night once she got her helmet.  And she totally loves it.  Like, really, really loves it.  Like, loves it so much, that if I take it off her, she immediately snuggles with it.  No joke.

I also decided that this experience was the first opportunity we had to teach Piper to roll with the challenges that life throws at you.  So, while I wasn’t excited by the helmet, I asked my sister-in-law to make a ton of great t-shirts for Piper and I ended up decorating the helmet with watermelons (the perfect Summer look).  I had no idea how many companies cater to helmet babies.  You can buy decals, bows, t-shirts and all kinds of cute accessories (I got Piper’s helmet decals from here). 

And you know what else I learned?  It’s temporary.  Her time in her helmet is coming to a close soon and it passed by in the blink of an eye.  She has a nice, round noggin now and she’s adorable as ever.  The doctors assured me that there was very little I could have done to prevent her flat spot, and I choose to believe them.  Because the mom guilt?  It’s just not worth it…

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Vance at 9 Months

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Six to nine months is my absolute favorite age for little people! There are so many changes happening - emotionally, physically, and developmentally.  It is a busy time for them, but also for the whole family with schedule changes, the introduction of table food, and possibly family meal time.  

Vance's Schedule at 9 months 

7AM: Wake up call + breakfast [oatmeal, yogurt melts, bottle]

745AM: Walk

9AM: Nap #1 (usually lasts about 1.5 hrs) 

11AM: Lunch [one puree food, one learning finger food, small pieces of fruit, water]

12PM: Playtime

115PM: Nap #2 (This one is evolving.  Sometimes its only about an hour, others it can be as long as two) 

330PM: Snack [bottle]

5PM: Dinner [one puree, finger food, water]

545PM: Bath 

630PM: Bottle + Bedtime 

Introducing Table Food

Insert anxiety about choking here.  I have introduced table foods to my boys at around 7-8 months based on where they are with their chewing development.  I always start with Gerber Puffs and Yogurt Melts.  They dissolve so I freak out far less about choking.  

The biggest thing to note about this development is that it is incredibly time consuming.  The foods have to be chopped into tiny pieces, the baby has to have the opportunity to learn how to pick up those tiny bits, and then when you are tired of waiting for one piece to make its way to the baby's mouth, you spoonfeed the tiny bits.  Vance's meals at this age take 30 minutes minimum.  

We stick with trying one new food at a time since we have a family history of food allergies.  I observe things like his digestion [READ: poop schedule and consistency] and skin for hives/rashes.  

The challenge at this age is determining when the baby has had enough food.  He's still enjoying his purees and formula, so right now the table food is supplemental.  At some point, it will start to push the others out.  But figuring out that timing is purely a momma gut call. 

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Play evolves

Vance is no longer crawling around, sitting to rest, and continuing to crawl.  He is far more interested in things now.  He pulls up on them and he pulls them over onto him. The danger zone has expanded. 

He also LOVES his brother.  He loves trying to chase him, watching him play, and even when his brother throws a basket on his head.  He's just happy to be there! 

Some of his favorite toys right now are board books, a giant teddy bear, and his shape sorter.  

He's also started to respond to our cues.  He loves to play "So Big" and raise his arms up.  He's so proud, and so am I. 

Eagle Eye

I say that 6-9 months is the greatest because once 9 months hits, and the baby is standing and pulling up on things [and soon cruising on furniture], you have to watch him like a hawk.  He pulls on things that aren't sturdy.  He's curious about things and wants to explore them with his mouth. He's busy, which means you need to caffeinate, lady.  

Also, now that he has interests, he doesn't like to be confined.  He wants to explore, so dropping him in the pack n play beyond the time it takes to brush your teeth and get half a face of makeup on, is hard.  

Soak it up

This is a bittersweet time.  Vance is still so small, but I can see the end of the baby tunnel.  He doesn't want to cuddle.  He's ready to make a mess, he's ready to get going, but I'm not ready to let him go.

But that's not the gig I signed up for. These sweet monsters grow too fast, and 9 months is when that is most evident.  

Happy 9 months, Vance Thomas.  We love your spiky hair, sweet smile, and the bumps on your forehead from being adventurous.  

An Adventure in FPIES

It all started one dark and stormy winter night. Just kidding, it was a gorgeous morning, the birds were chirping, and I had an almost two year old and a 5 1/2 month old happily cooing back and forth at one another. As a two-time so called “experienced” mama, and a pediatric occupational therapist, I felt confident enough to introduce solids into my little one's diet. What I didn’t know was that there would be a slightly turbulent road ahead.

So that day, I mixed some lovingly pumped breastmilk with some Earth’s Best baby oatmeal (it’s $3, organic and hypo-allergenic...total mom win), and gave my sweet Emma girl a couple spoonfuls. She was totally digging it, so I gave her a spoonful more. And then maybe another spoonful after that. Can’t argue with a happy, hungry baby!

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Emma about an hour before a reaction

Exactly two hours later, Emma was a wreck. She vomited every five minutes for the next two hours, and was quite lethargic. I had a hard time arousing her, but figured that vomiting was pretty exhausting, especially for a 5 1/2 month old. Now, if I know anything about moms, it’s that we always blame ourselves. Certainly there was something wrong with the breastmilk I had mixed or that I possibly just overfed her since she was loving it so much.  I felt awful, and was so embarrassed, but the doctors office said not to worry, just to wait a week or two and try again.

Fast forward to two weeks later, we tried again. This time, I told myself I would be super smart and only give her a teaspoon since I surely overfed her last time. Exactly 2 hours later, she had an even worse reaction. Every five minutes she vomited like clockwork for the following three hours. As a mom of two small children, I have seen my fair share of nasty stomach bugs, but I had never seen vomiting quite like this. Have you guys ever seen that scene from the Exorcist where green vomit sprays 10 feet across the room? That was my tiny baby. When Emma ran out of things to throw up, it started coming out like slimy yellow and green bile. She was so lethargic that she wasn’t even blinking, not even flinching each time she’d throw up...it would just pour out of her mouth.  At that point, I did what any respectable Millenial Momma would do...I called my mom. Together we called my pediatrician, and they told me to go to the ER. On our way, Emma stopped responding to me. I was pinching her feet, calling her name, moving her around, doing anything I could think of to keep her awake. I could have dropped her on the ground, and she would not have reacted.

You guys, this sounds like a scary story, but I have to tell you I was calm as a cucumber. That is, until I met the ER doctor. Ladies, I want you to close your eyes and take yourselves back to the guy at the bar in college. The super hairy, kind of creepy, extra narcissistic guy that somehow showed up drunk everywhere you went. That was our ER doctor. I spent $1500 for him to tell me that she had a stomach bug. Yes, a stomach bug coincidentally 2 weeks apart at exactly two hours after eating oats. Love that guy.

If I’ve learned anything working in the medical field, I have learned that doctors are human. Some doctors are better than others, and everyone has a different opinion on everything. Luckily, I have two great pediatricians who have been ultra supportive. The ER doc told me I could continue to introduce all foods slowly, and unfortunately Emma had the same reaction later to rice cereal. 

About FPIES

One lengthy Google search for me, and another Google search for my super experienced pediatrician, and he came up with a diagnosis of FPIES...food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome. And yes, it’s as fun as it sounds. Basically it’s a rare food allergy that has a characteristically delayed reaction because the allergy doesn’t occur until the food is processed in the gastrointestinal tract. The main symptoms include profuse vomiting, sometimes diarrhea, extreme lethargy, pale or blue skin, and eventually can lead to a sepsis-like shock. Unfortunately, there are no tests that consistently signal an FPIES diagnosis, and it is often considered a diagnosis of exclusion. In our case, blood tests were performed to rule out traditional allergies.  Because it is not a traditional allergy, it does not respond to an EpiPen and sometimes requires a hospital trip. In an emergency situation, fluids are given to help stabilize blood pressure and improve dehydration. The good news is that FPIES usually resolves with time, at around 3-4 years old. Medically supervised oral challenges with trigger foods are given to children once they are suspected of outgrowing the diagnosis.

Daily Life

Right now, my baby girl is on a grain free diet—meaning no rice, oats, wheat, quinoa, or barley. Who knew babies could live without Cheerios? I find myself reading labels constantly at the grocery store, and I admit that pre-FPIES I thought “gluten-free” meant grain free...nope! Most gluten-free foods are made with rice flour...who knew? Luckily, Emma is only 10 months old now and does not seem to notice big brother’s waffles or Pirate’s Booty versus her green beans and chicken, but someday soon we will all have to transition to grain-free. Guess we will have to hop on board the paleo bus after all!

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Disclaimer: We are not licensed professionals. The content in this post is someone's personal experience and not intended as medical advice. If you think your child has a medical issue, please contact professionals.  

 

My 3-4 Month Old's Schedule : Eat, Play, Sleep

Have I mentioned that I am a Type A planner? Ad nauseam? Got it. 

Having a schedule and knowing what is coming next is imperative to my well being.  I've also read that it is good for the little people. They are learning so much constantly - the whole world is new to them.  Knowing what to expect in terms of "Ok, now that lady will give me some food" or "Now Daddy is going to put me to bed" is comforting in a world of unknowns.  

I start tracking my babies' behaviors around 6 weeks.  I have a spreadsheet that has a space for the activity and the time next to it.  At the end of each day I track the cumulative time spent eating and sleeping.  Once I see a true pattern develop, that is when I decide its time to make it their official schedule.  

I start seeing a pattern in their habits pretty early - around 2-3 months I feel pretty confident that they are no longer in the newborn stage and can tolerate a little structure to the day.  

I go the route of trying to keep naps at home, which is extremely limiting on activities outside of the neighborhood when your babe is napping 3 times a day.  Just saying, both my boys slept soundly through the night at about 3 months so if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  

Of course, Type B chill moms (whom I admire) have their babes nap in the stroller or in the car and prioritize outings.  All I see in that scenario is germs and more people - both of which I'm not all that jazzed about.  To each her own! 

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Here is what my fellas did at 3-4(ish) months. 

6:30am - Eat (breast/bottle) and then play, which includes tummy time, practicing sitting in the Boppy, and playing with toys

8:30am - Nap: This nap has become consistent, so he is in his own crib in the nursery. Tip: Sound machine always on! There is a lot of activity at this time with my husband leaving and Brooks playing so we have to drown that out.  I love this sound machine because its portable and also acts as a toy/teether.

10:15am - Eat (breast/bottle) followed by more play

12pm - Nap: This nap is usually in the bassinet in our room.  We struggle through this nap, and I don't want him disturbing Brooks who is also napping at this time in the room next to his nursery. 

2:00pm- Eat (breast/bottle) and then any errands or activities out of the house.  We keep the first two naps at home to keep them strong.  The third nap will be iffy anyway, so that can be in the carseat or stroller if we've got things that must be done.  Or if I need to see human adults in person. Usually the latter.  

4:30pm - Cat nap: If we're out, the nap is on the go.  If not, he is back in his room with the sound machine on. 

6:00pm - Eat (breast/bottle)

7:45pm - Bath: We usually try to involve the big brother in this to encourage bonding, but more often than not he is running around or watching Peppa Pig. I don't blame him, Peppa is my favorite too. 

8:15pm  - Eat (bottle) - We decided to always make this feeding a bottle.  I personally relax during my evening routine of showering and pampering (usually face masks), so I take this time to do that.  This way, my husband is always guaranteed one good feeding with the baby too. 

845/9pm - Bedtime.  

Sleeps from roughly 9pm - 6am.  [Insert melodious gospel choir and beam of sunshine]

A few things to note...

Eating: With my first son, I was still breastfeeding.  With my second son, I was already weaning by this time because I struggled with DMER.  You can read those details here.  However, overall the routine stayed the same.  When I was breastfeeding, I usually had to stay up until about 12am to pump once more.  Then I was pretty good to go until the next morning.  That also helped me to build up a supply.

Sleeping: We engaged in sleep training during this time, and we are so grateful that we did.  Don't get me wrong, it sucks.  Hard.  

We would start by giving the baby 2 minutes to cry.  If he was still wailing at that time, we went in.  We replaced the pacifier, rubbed their belly and told them we were right outside and left the room within 10 seconds.  Then the clock started again.  The next time we waited for 3 minutes and so on.  It is not for everyone, but if you can handle it, your baby likely can too. 

Playing: This is always an exciting time because baby's are developing neck strength and can soon hold their heads up! That opens up so many more doors for what they can do- you don't have to just stare at them anymore!  Here are some things that we did that were fun for the babies, but also allowed me to play with our older son or to get all my other responsibilities taken care of: jumper, floor seat on the counter (with supervision of course), Rock n Play, hang out in the crib, activity gyms/play mats with toys, or pop them in their high chair.  We got this one - it has wheels and straps so they aren't going to jostle around. (And it  converts to boosters, etc. as your child grows.)

 

The Angry Side of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding has always been a hard subject for me. 

Let me start from the beginning – the birth of my first son, Brooks.  During pregnancy and after delivery, breastfeeding exclusively was the plan.  I was fine with deviations from that plan. In my mind, fed is best. 

I was ecstatic that Brooks took to nursing like a pro.  While nursing him in the hospital, I noticed that I would get nauseous every time that I fed Brooks.  I suspected it was the pain meds or other side effects after having an unplanned C-section, so I let it go. 

To my displeasure, the feeling continued after we settled in at home.  In addition to the nausea, I started having intense emotional reactions when breastfeeding.  Not in the soothing, basking in the sunlight rocking your precious newborn way.  Rather, I felt terrible unhappiness and irritability, but only when breastfeeding.

For the 30-45 minutes that Brooks nursed I was unpleasant to be around.  I snapped at anyone who came into the room or dared to speak to me.  It became known that if I was nursing, I was in my room alone to save everyone the pain of being around the monster that I became.  And then, once Brooks was done eating, I morphed back into my normal, albeit tired, self.

I had brought up the nausea with my OBGYN, which had been a nonissue to them.  I figured this new emotional development would be the same, so I toughened up and powered through…for months. 

Once I made it to 6 months nursing my son, which was the goal that I had set for myself, I decided to wean and introduce formula.  I was thrilled.  I had associated this insurmountable heaviness with nursing, and that feeling was almost gone. 

We successfully weaned, and I didn’t think about it again until I got pregnant with my second son when Brooks was just 9 months old.  After another relatively uneventful pregnancy, breastfeeding was the goal again.  The anticipation of sitting in that darkness for months nursing haunted me.

This time around, my second son, Vance, struggled to nurse a little, eventually figuring it out on his own within a few days.  Once again that gloom came every time I popped Vance on my chest for a meal.

I dreaded nursing.  I dreaded working through the negativity. I dreaded holding my perfect newborn and feeling anything but pure glee.  I felt a terrible guilt associated with my fleeting mental state while nursing.  Why could I not feel the way I was “supposed” to feel when I was given the gift of a healthy baby and a body physically capable of feeding him? 

One morning 3 months later when I was skimming Instagram stories, I heard someone mention D-MER.  A blogger was discussing her breastfeeding triumphs and failures, and mentioned that she knows that there are some women who feel intense negative emotions when their milk lets down.  Her message was that breastfeeding shouldn’t be something that you dread, hate, or that makes you feel any less than.

My ears perked up.  She was talking about me.  Breastfeeding had made me feel less than the perfect mother.  During each feeding, I was filled with an irritation that would later fill me with guilt. 

After some power-googling that morning, I discovered that D-MER stood for Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex.  It is an anomaly that affects a very small percentage of breastfeeding mothers with irregular dopamine activity.  This means that this condition is 100% hormonal.  It is neither a mental illness nor any sort of psychological issue. 

I should have talked to my doctor once these symptoms became the norm.  However, there is such stigma associated with any sort of mental manifestations that I was instantly shameful.  I had already begun to wean Vance because I felt hopeless.  I knew that having a happy momma was more important than having an exclusively breastfed child.  It devastated me though – I  (irrationally) felt like I was starting Vance out in the world with an instant disadvantage. 

I learned from my research that this stigma is a large part of why D-MER is not well known even amongst medical professionals.  Women are ashamed to speak up about unpleasant things in general, too often opting to appear polite and quiet.

In addition to stigma, every sign in the hospital, OBGYN, and pediatrician’s offices clearly delineate the benefits of breastfeeding for mother and child – decreased risk of certain cancers for mother and decreased risk of allergies and future infections for baby, and passing along antibodies made specifically for your child.  What kind of selfish person wouldn’t want to give all that to their child when they are physically able?

I felt an overwhelming guilt.  I was so lucky to be able to produce milk efficiently and to have a child who was a good eater.  With all that being the case, in my mind I should nurse regardless of the mental toll it takes on me.  I should have been strong enough to overcome my side effects in favor of feeding my children. 

In reality, I should do what is best for my family as a whole.  I am not an island alone whose needs are disregarded now that there are more mouths to feed.  I now realize that my well-being contributes to the wellness of the family.  And that is something that is not on signs in the hospital. 

I hope that this admission of D-MER and all the nasty symptoms that come along with it encourages others to talk to their doctor’s openly.  Bring this, or any other condition that makes your well being take a backseat, to your doctor’s attention.  Once more people come forward; there will be a stronger justification for research into this condition. 

And finally, to the mom struggling through D-MER:

You are doing your best – trying to breastfeed your child and give him the milk that your body perfectly made for him. But if you are feeling depressed, angry, anxious, or generally unhappy ONLY when you’re nursing him, don’t overwhelm yourself by ignoring those warning signs.

Speak to a doctor, and develop a plan for your family.  If that means medicine, good!  If that means weaning, good!  Prioritize yourself so that you are capable of giving that beautiful child all he needs.

This is your journey, and it is beautiful no matter what. I know you’re trying your best, and so does that sweet baby staring up at you.

 

 

Stay At Home Mom Myths

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When I found out that my first was on the way, I was happily employed doing what I loved in a good environment.  I had grown up with a stay at home mom as had my husband, and we both loved the special time that we had with our moms as kids.  We decided that since my husband's job showed more potential for future gain, that if one of us was to stay home it would be me. 

I knew that my overly emotional self wasn't going to be willing to leave a 6 week old baby to go back to work readily, so I opted to stay home.  And honestly, that was the greatest decision I have made.  

No doubt - I face eye rolls when I say that I stay home with my kids, especially as a young mom. I am also frequently asked, "Do you still like staying at home?" , now that I've been in the game for 2 years. I had never been asked that question when I had any other job, nor do I hear it posed to others EVER.  Most of the time, people are thinking that the following myths are reality when posing this question.  Spoiler Alert - they're wrong. 

We're lazy

You're right -  I pretty much let the 2 year old run the show until I get out of bed around noon to eat cookies. [Insert face palm.} In reality I am CEO, teacher, coach, photographer, nurse and programs manager at ALL TIMES.  For real, they don't stop. 

We don't deserve a break 

Everyone deserves a break.  This goes back to the "lazy" myth.  For some reason, if there is a couch or bed near your place of work or you can wear leggings then people assume you are straight chilling all day.  I don't sit, unless it is to feed children.  Physically that is obviously exhausting, but it is more the emotional toll that makes us deserving of a break.  

We are constantly on - worrying, teaching, thinking ahead, and putting ourselves last.  Sometimes momma needs a beer and a second to think about something other than Paw Patrol and purees.  

We've given up on careers 

I am proud of my education and work history. I have evolved from job to job and this is no different.  If a future employer cannot see the value of managing a household and prioritizing my little people, then that isn't the workplace for me.  

That being said, I am taking it upon myself to stay up to date with today's workplace in an effort to be in the loop when the time comes for me to go back to the 9-5 grind, which I plan to do once these little monsters can take care of themselves. (So much for being That Lazy Millennial too.)

Your partner makes bank

SAHM are not all wearing Gucci and Chanel while the maid does the housework. In reality, we make daily sacrifices to lead this lifestyle.  We tone down what we buy, focus on bargains, and as always put ourselves last.  I don't remember the last time I bought something for myself that wasn't on sale.  Bargain hunting is my middle name so I make the best of that and make spreadsheets (keeping me in the workplace loop) and strategize spending.  Accountant is another hat that looks real good on me.

Your home is always clean 

So, just no.  While the working mom's child is at day care or in the capable hands of grandparents, ours are running wild in our home.  Every meal is at home.  The mess is constantly growing larger, and the window to clean it grows smaller.  When babies are small, they nap a lot.  As they grow and their capacity to destroy grows, their nap time shrinks and it is a cruel cruel circle. 

No "Mom Guilt" 

There is a reason why it isn't called "working mom only guilt". We all feel it.  Anytime that we aren't doing something to make our children's lives better, easier, happier, smoother seems selfish.  And that includes when we're watching Instagram stories for five minutes during nap time - I should be baking a vegan bundt cake from scratch damnit!

You support traditional gender roles

I don't support it, but I do get it.  My husband is just better at building the toys, and I am better at cleaning.  It drives me nuts that that is the case, but a few misconstructed toys (one plastic golf caddy still rolls backward) has taught me to just suck it up.  However, I am teaching my boys to be well rounded.  They bake with me, they "help" with the laundry, and they will eventually help their dad build stuff.  They will in no way grow up thinking that they have to be a certain way based on their gender.  Hells to the naw. 

Staying at home is not fun 

Here's the real secret - it is SO much fun.  Today alone I was a ninja, a French chef, and the first mate of a pirate ship.  Sure, corporate life is rewarding too, but the smile on a little boy's face when momma is acting a fool is priceless. 

So there you have it.  We aren't rich, unmotivated women in high heels and aprons.  We've simply shifted focus temporarily.  And yes, I still like being a stay at home mom. It is the most challenging and rewarding job I could have.

The Waiting Game

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After finding out that your body is now the host of a little alien, emotions run rampant.  Half because of the hormones, the other half because of the dread.  Of course you are ecstatic to meet your little bundle, but for first time mothers that happiness is often met by an equally powerful anxiety.

Pregnancy is one big waiting game.  You're waiting for the first sonogram, to find out the gender, and ultimately to meet the little human that consumes your every thought.  If there is one piece of advice that I could give to the (what seems like perpetually) pregnant, it would be this - Be patient.

I was (over) eager.  I was ready for the baby bag and the teeny onesies right when I found out that my firstborn was on the way.  I didn't realize that those first few months were the last time I would really feel like me for a long time.

*Sidenote - No matter how many well renowned so and so's say it, pregnancy is not 9 months.  If you go full term, it is at least 10.  If you breastfeed, your body still isn't your own.  So buckle up, you're in for a year or so.

When you're in the final months,  someone recommending that you be more patient and savor every moment makes you want to throw that new baby Bjorn at their face.  But, they're right.  Those are the last dates you'll have with your partner, the last movie you will watch uninterrupted, the last breakfast you will have without spit up in your hair.

I see now that pregnancy is as much preparing physically as it is mentally.  Once that baby bursts on to the scene, patience is the name of the game.  Be patient when it's 3am and you want to sleep but unfortunately your husband can't breastfeed.  Be patient when that little one just won't straighten his arm to go in that adorable onesie.  Be patient when you just want to be alone but that one obscure friend from 10 years ago just has to meet the newborn.

Realizing this has helped me be more in the moment.  And if you just can't seem to be patient when you can't see your feet and you pee at least 3 times a night, remember you're almost there momma.

This was my first lesson in motherhood, and I hope you learn it faster than I.

A Birth Story: Brooks

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Introducing the man of the hour - Brooks Grant Hohman born May 29, 2016 at 8:40 pm.

It seemed like the birth of Brooks was over just as soon as it started for me.  (I realize this is a luxury when so many go through hours of labor.)

B was due on May 24, but he wasn't budging.  I like to joke that the womb had free wifi.  He was still sitting up high and I wasn't dilated an inch.   With no progress made, we went ahead and scheduled an induction for Sunday, May 29.  Yes, another week of waiting and being huge.

The doctors warned me that first time inductions could take awhile.  Being the planner that I am, I had my personals packed well in advance of scheduling the induction. Having heard that I might be hanging out in the hospital for days (eek!) before labor really got going, I decided to pack another bag of activities to keep my mind off the sure to be painful road ahead.  We had decks of cards, every Harry Potter movie, and of course Catan to keep our anxiety at bay and focus only on how many sheep I can get for this damn surplus of brick.

Induction day was finally here! The beginning of the end and only a little while longer until I see the one who had been kicking me for months.  I was given the royal treatment with courteous nurses (even though I came in right at a shift change) showing me the lay of the land and giving me the playbook for the day.  They lassoed my belly with monitors and told me that if anything changes with me or B that I would hear a strange beeping noise.

They inserted the induction meds around 4:30pm, just 30 short minutes after checking in.  Within 30 more minutes, that strange beeping they had mentioned started.  My nurse calmly walked in and checked the monitors.  B's heart rate had dropped, but that isn't too odd if it only happens once.

Ten minutes later the strange beep was back.  Two nurses came in this time to check on us, and they decided that it would be best to call the doc just to make her aware that Brooks wasn't reacting to the induction perfectly.

Ten more minutes pass and the beep continues.  Four nurses run in and determine that this induction will not go off as planned.  They remove the medicines and tell me to sit tight and await the doctor for next steps.

Thankfully, my doc wasn't far away at the time and was there within minutes suggesting a course of action.  Apparently, this had been the most gentle induction possible and since B wasn't reacting well to it, odds were high that he would not handle the stress of a natural delivery well either.  Since his heart rate had dropped 3 times within an hour or so, a C-section was going to be the safest way to get him out quickly and without distressing him.

In my mind all I could think was, thank God I don't have to push him out and that I shouldn't have skipped over the C-section part of the baby books.  My mom had a C-section with me, but that was 25 years ago so I imagined those details were a bit out of date.

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Once I signed the papers to consent to the surgery, my delivery room turned into the place to be.  Those four nurses and more came back and dispersed - one on monitors, one trying to shave me (thankfully I came prepared), one briefing my husband, and one asking me medical questions.  This was when it sunk in that I wouldn't be able to unload my surplus of bricks (just kidding!) , and that I was about to have major surgery - my first.

Nico and I were able to gather a few minutes to talk.  We agreed that once in the operating room, we would maintain eye contact.  No looking over that curtain for anything.

It only seemed like minutes, but about an hour later, me and my big belly were rolled out of the room down to surgery.  I was shaking.  The delivery room was an ice box.  The doctors, nurses, and anesthesiologist were all doing their thing, and I just looked at the metal table - so unwelcoming and sterile.

I hopped on the table (hop is a relative term) and a nice bald man covered me in the warmest blankets.  It instantly helped, but the shaking wasn't stopping.  I was terrified that the epidural wouldn't go well and I would be paralyzed.

The anesthesiologist warned me that I would feel warmth down my legs when the meds were on the way.  I instantly felt it on my right, but nothing on my left.  I told them and imagined that I would be able to feel everything during the surgery.  Thankfully, they gave me some more of the good stuff, and I went numb.

Soon after, Nico was coming in the delivery room in his scrubs and the curtain was up over my belly.  He was so excited and at the same time I could see that he was nervous.  Hospitals freak him out anyway, but he was really handling it all so well.

I began to feel a little bit of movement, and just a few minutes into the surgery I was warned that the pressure was about to hit.  I felt a little pressure, and then the doctor said, "Take a look, Dad!"

Nico and I looked at each other and we knew that we both were thinking "Don't look over that curtain, dummy", but he couldn't resist.  He got the first glimpse of B at that moment.  Brooks wasn't crying immediately and those few quiet seconds seemed to last for hours.  He was taken over to a small table under a heating light and I looked over for my first peak at perfection.  Still no crying.

Through my panic, I looked over and saw two arms and legs flailing about and I asked if he had 10 fingers and 10 toes.  I saw Nico staring at B in awe and then I heard the sweetest sound - B's newborn cry.  The nurses bundled up my little man, and brought him over to me for a quick snuggle.  I couldn't stop saying how beautiful he was.

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It was magic.  As cliche as it sounds, it really is the most pure love you could ever know.  We had created this tiny little person.  He was all ours - to nurture, to love, and to guide.

 

I was one of those mothers who instantly felt that bond with their child.  I never knew a love so deep before I had my son.  Realizing how multidimensional love is in that moment was life changing.

Of course, little man was then taken to get cleaned up and cozy while I was sewed back up.  This part took forever.  I knew his dad was with him, but I didn't realize until later that all my family and my best friend had gotten to see him through the nursery glass.

I realized while the docs were doing their thing, that this was just another day to them.  They nonchalantly discussed their weekends.  It was calming.

As I was rolled out of surgery, I passed the elevator and out popped my dad and father in law right then.  I told them quickly that I was fine and that Brooks was perfect and resting in the nursery.

Back in my room after only 4 hours at the hospital, I had my son.  It also felt like I had a hangover.  The room was spinning.  I was even a bit nervous to hold Brooks because of the spinning.  But the nurses handed him over, and I got to hold my son.  He was tiny and shockingly tan.  (We found out later that he was actually jaundice.) His little button nose and sweet blue eyes were all I could see.

We rested in the hospital for the next 2 days with family and close friends.  I guarded him fiercely from strangers and their germs and walked up and down the hallway to exercise and catch a glimpse of him napping in the nursery. There is no pride like that felt when you point out your son to other parents.  "Oh, he's the perfect one over there!"

Throughout pregnancy, Nico was always talking about being a dad, but he really transformed into a dad over those few days.  Since I was recovering from surgery, he changed the first diapers, he rolled the baby in from the nursery, he took on the responsibilities before I was able to.

He truly is the most phenomenal dad.  Selfless, gentle, and playful.

This is our story.  It fundamentally changed everything about me. It was scary and beautiful.

Brooks, I can't even begin to explain the love that I have for you.  I hope that I can be the person you see when you look up at me. It is an honor to be your momma. I love you, baby boy, with everything I've got.