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New Mommy Checklist

6 months into this mommy gig, I’ve read many mommies’ “must-have” lists, and I think it’s about time I put together one of my own! When the hubs and I ventured into our local Babies ‘R Us to put together our registry, we were lost. And I mean, L O S T. We went in around noon, and by the time we left, the sun had gone down. Needless to say, the incredibly helpful sales clerks had shown us everything we ‘needed,’ and by the time we left, there were thousands of dollars’ worth of items on our registry.  A word to the wise, ladies, and take it or leave it: Having a baby is sort of like Valentine’s Day. It’s commercialized. And believe me, there are companies around every corner who want the money you are oh-so-willing to spend on your precious bundle of joy.

We are planners. I am a micro-managing control freak, and my husband has made a career out of anticipating every potential obstacle/downfall in order to win wars. This baby thing? We wanted to be prepared.Yep, we were that couple that went out and bought every item we had registered for that we didn’t get at our baby shower.  (And most of it is collecting dust in the nursery we never use.) The truth is, there are very few things you truly need in order to raise a baby.

With that said, here is my list of “Must-haves.” These are the things I would, without a doubt, invest the money in again if I could do it over.

  1. Diapers! Diapers, diapers, diapers. We got one package of diapers at our baby shower. That’s right, one. Mamas, make sure you let your guests know you want diapers! In every size! (Unless you’re doing cloth diapers, in which case, you rock. I wish I’d been that ambitious.) I think people were afraid that everyone else would bring them. Guess what? You can never have too many diapers.  I know that’s not what you want to hear, and compared to the glorious walls full of ‘things’ you are going to look at when you register, diapers are lame. They don’t make your heart flutter. Trust me – when you go through three packages in the first week of baby’s life, you’re going to want to exchange five of those binkies you got for some Pampers because, well, priorities!

    I know, I know... My baby could pretty much be a diaper model.

    I know, I know… My baby could pretty much be a diaper model.

  2. Sleepsacks: This is an embarrassing admission – when we were in the hospital, every time we needed to swaddle baby, we called a nurse in. Turns out, between myself, my husband, and my mom, we all sucked at swaddling. I was terrified to do it wrong and fall asleep only to wake up to a baby who had somehow tangled himself up in his blanket. In retrospect, the blanket tragedy was probably mostly an irrational fear, but sleep-deprivation will take its toll. And when it does, this Halo Sleepsack will provide you some peace of mind. It was, in those first few weeks, my favorite item I received at my baby shower (and I didn’t even register for it! Thanks, Aunt Molly –  you are brilliant). I wish I’d gotten a dozen because, inevitably, baby would pee in it in the middle of the night, and it became a guessing game – Do we put him in it first thing, and hope we can anticipate when he’s going to have a huge blowout, or do we wait until AFTER he’s had a blowout halfway through the night, and then put it on him??? Seriously. Next time around, we will have tons of these things so we never run out.
    "Guys, if you let me out of this straight-jacket, I promise I'll behave..."

    “Guys, if you let me out of this straight-jacket, I promise I’ll behave…”

    photo 3 

  3. Breastpump: Engorgement. ‘Nuff said. I’ll probably do a whole post at some point on breastfeeding basics (you’d think it would be self-explanatory, right? Not always!) but if you’re choosing to breastfeed, at some point or another you will probably want to invest in a good pump. I got the Medela Freestyle and used it every two hours for the first two weeks (latch issues galore) and it held up nicely.  If you aren’t going back to work, and you won’t be giving bottles except on rare occasions, skip a pricey one. But it’s worth it to get the higher quality if you’ll be using it frequently.
  4. Cloth diaper inserts: My precious bundle of joy made it pretty clear early on that he was a spitter. I mean major reflux. A basic burp cloth simply wasn’t going to handle this mess. Thankfully, my mom prepared me with diaper inserts (which I pretended to be super stoked about when I received them at my shower, then gave her a real “Thank you” once baby got here and I ran out and bought another package). Every new mom deserves to know this life hack. Diaper inserts were made to be absorbent. They may not be the prettiest, but what better time to learn to embroider than when you’re nesting instinct finally kicks in? Besides – when it’s 3 a.m. and there’s a puddle of spit-up under your little one and you’re not about to wash the crib sheets again, you’ll thank me.

    photo 1

    Owned.

  5. NoseFrida: If you follow Baby Sideburns, you probably saw her roast-post on the NoseFrida. I love my Baby Sideburns, but I must respectfully disagree with her here! When baby gets his or her first cold, and you’re listening to painstakingly stuffy breathing, you’ll do anything to make it better. To include sticking a tube in your rugrat’s nose and sucking the snot out using your very own lung power. These gadgets are seventeen bucks – do yourself a favor and register for it. In fact, make it a baby shower game – whoever shows up with the NoseFrida in tow wins a prize. Really, though, this person knows what they’re doing and probably loves you very much. (Disclaimer: I draw the line at the Windi. Google at your own risk!)

    photo 2

    The mother of all snot-suckers.

  6. Carrier: A fellow mommy loaned me her ErgoBaby when Kenneth was about two months and we had to fly (sans Daddy) from Missouri to Florida. We never looked back. This thing is so much easier to use than a stroller or infant carrier.  Plus, you have your hands free. It’s especially useful when baby is fussy and only wants to be held. You can go to the grocery store, get laundry done, do dishes – pretty much anything, all while baby is snuggled in close to you (and sometimes even napping peacefully on your back!). I definitely encourage every new mom to check into a local babywearing group on Facebook. The ladies there will hook you up with a Learn & Play where you can try (and even borrow) different styles of carriers before investing in one (they start around $125). We even ventured out into the realm of ring-slings! Can’t wait to have another baby so we can try it out with a squish. 😉
    IMG_0709

    Aww, man… No more excuse for not getting anything done. But at least my arms aren’t sore!

    random2

    Complete with sleepydust… It’s love.

  7. Boobies: Yep, I went there.  I just wanna point out that boobs require no washing/sterilizing, and they’re free. I dunno about you, but I am super lazy, and the learning curve of caring for an infant was enough for me to handle without washing bottles multiple times a day, and running to the store for formula. My little man is finally starting solids, and I am seriously resenting having to consciously anticipate/plan his meals, then be all responsible and stuff and clean them up. Ugh. It was so much more fun when my body did all the work. 😦
  8. Swing: Oh my gosh – I forgot the swing! How could I forget the swing?! Little man is now 22 pounds, and he STILL loves to nap in his swing! There was that one incident when he fell out (before he’d actually rolled over and we didn’t realize just how mobile he was) so I advise you to always strap baby in, even if he’s never shown any signs of escape before. Otherwise, embrace the swing! Seriously! I’m all about ‘attachment,’ and ‘bonding,’ and ‘skin-to-skin,’ but sometimes you have to shower. Or leave your love with a babysitter.  Or go into another room to have 45 minutes to yourself for the sake of your sanity. When life happens, you will want a swing with lullabies and a safety harness to strap your baby into. This is one of those things that made my heart flutter when we looked at it in the store – “How cuuuuuuute! He’ll have little lamb ears!” Now, my heart flutters when I attempt a swing transfer during naptime and he starts to stir. I digress….

    003

    Arguably the best $175 we ever spent…

 

Well, I think that pretty much covers it. These are the things that have made the first few months the easiest for us. The rest of the baby hoopla is, well, just that. In fact, look out for my next post on the things I was surprised not to have needed! That should be fun.

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2

The Day I Forfeit.

Since baby came around, I’ve somehow become ensnared in the mommy competition. It was a slow downward spiral, and I’m not sure I was entirely cognizant of it until the other day. I was surfing a website I’m subscribed to which focuses on natural childbirth, etc., and something they said made me rather sad about being unable to have an intervention-free birth. And then I had a light bulb moment – why the hell would I be sad or mourn for the birthing process I went through? Our story is our very own, and it wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t have a stroke, or an embolism. My son and I both made it through alive. I have so very much to be grateful for, yet I let my idealism blind me to all of the good fortune I’ve had.

Perfectionism. Bleh.

My life is messy. Yes, yes it is. In fact, I’m pretty sure I found a dirty diaper at the bottom of my diaper bag, today, that had been there for God only knows how long.

…That was an overshare, huh?

I went to a mommy group today and we (inevitably) traded birth stories, and I can’t begin to tell you how good it felt to hear other women tell me they asked for an epidural as soon as they were admitted to the maternity ward.  The truth is, nothing is quite as humbling as raising a little human.  The standard is oh-so-high (this ‘standard’ I’m referring to is my own, but I suspect every mom has this imagined standard in her heart), and entirely impossible to live up to. I could never give my little man everything that he deserves, despite my best intentions. Today, I watched other mommies smile and laugh about it (as opposed to beating their heads against a wall for being the worst mommies ever!), and I decided that I forfeit.  What does that mean, exactly? Well, for me it meant going through and unsubscribing from any webpages/blogs/facebook feeds that left me feeling the slightest bit inadequate. Yep. I am no longer an attachment parenting, babywearing, breastfeeding, natural birth advocate according to social media. I am just a mom. The best mom I am capable of being, and that’s just gonna have to be enough for my son. I love him so, so much, that I will never be able to doenough to express that. I give up holding myself to the ‘right way’ of doing things according to all of the latest research.  Because, quite frankly, the anxiety that I’m going to screw my kid up if I don’t do A, B, and C is keeping me from being emotionally present. And in the long run, I think he will appreciate having a mother’s open, joyful heart much more than he will appreciate the time and money she spent dicing up organic avocados in a futile attempt at baby-led weaning. 

Perhaps I simply have too much time on my hands! Maybe tonight I’ll lobby for Baby #2.

 

(…Still laughing…)

 

Okay, friends! Any advice for REAL parenting and letting go of the perfect mommy in my imagination is highly encouraged! 🙂 Please and thank you.

3

Seasons and surrender.

Today at the library I checked out a book on color schemes. We’re finally starting to decorate our house, and I’m loving how it’s coming along. The furniture, the colors, the textures. Everything says ‘cozy,’ and it’s becoming a place I’m proud of and a place I want to be.

Of course, with all of the changes, there’s this voice in the back of my head reminding me of the very real chance that in two years the army may decide to relocate us. If not, then my husband only has two more years before he retires, and then who knows where we’ll end up.

So tonight, as I’m cuddling with my main men in bed, my mind wanders – when it’s time to move on, what will I miss most about this house? And the answer is immediate: this is where we brought home our baby.

Suddenly, I want to go back in time and undo all of the changes we’ve made.  Here I am, correcting all of the ‘imperfections’ in my environment, not realizing that one day I will look back and associate them with September 1st, 2013 – the day our lives gained another level of purpose.

Yes, I want to be comfortable in the house I’m living in. But I wish I had at least documented the way things were before. Was it pretty? No. But it was a symbol of that chapter of our lives.

I know exactly how I will picture it in my brain forever:

The post-baby-hibernation-mess that happens when you haven’t left the house for weeks because you’re learning how to care for another human being. (Burp cloths stashed in every corner!)

The embrace of stillness as my universe, all 7 lbs 12 oz of it, rested peacefully on my chest.

The ever-present dim lighting, making it feel like it was always a varying degree of nighttime.

Maneuvering through laundry piles to rescue a distressed newborn at three in the morning.

The rigid tension in the air those nights he refused to sleep and I thought it might kill me.

I’ve heard women comment, occasionally, on their fear that they won’t be able to love their second baby as much as their first. At the time, I remember thinking something like, “Well that’s just silly! Of course you’d love your second as much, right? Isn’t that innate?” But now, I understand. Kenneth and I, we’re battle buddies. We learned something scary and new together. We figured each other out, and he was patient with me as I knocked down the walls that allowed me to meet his emotional needs. Now we have this bond, this crazy-insane bond, and I can’t imagine what it would take to build something similar with number two – to be honest, I can’t imagine why I’d invite another family member into this nicely-balanced triad we have going. Gosh, that sounds so mean! (Future second child, I apologize to you!)

But I digress. I suppose what I’m trying to say is, time goes by so fast. Before you know what’s happening, your walls are a different color. And ya know what happens next? You’re packing up the house you brought your baby home to and moving across the country.

During the aforementioned cuddle session with my boys, I had my hand on Kenneth’s little foot, and as he startled he brushed my hand with the toes of his free foot. I was reminded of the butterfly-kicks in my belly, before  I’d ever laid eyes on those precious little toes. Holding his little feet, I would have given anything to live in that moment forever. Or even to stop time just for a little while. Instead, I’ll go back to bed, and fall asleep praying that he won’t be all grown up when I open my eyes in the morning.

Aside
5

Disclaimer: A page worth of self-pity follows this sentence.

Does anyone remember Xanga?

I’m about to divulge my insecurities, which briefly took me back to high school, which reminded me of that wonderful web-diary where I jabbered self-indulgently about which girl had said what to me that week at school, and how long I’d spent on the phone with my boyfriend each night. Ahh, those were the days…

I wish someone had told me that high school isn’t actually so different from the ‘real world.’

I still feel like I’m being judged by every girl I meet.  Like it’s some sort of competition or something.  Ridiculous, right? It’s not like I’m an adult, or anything…

I just find it a bit outrageous that I woke up at 6 a.m. this morning to get ready for a play date. When I say ‘get ready,’ I mean I spent an hour and a half showering, shaving, putting on makeup, styling my hair… I put on perfume, for Christ’s sake! And made sure I had on the proper number of accessories. Needless to say, I put more effort into preparing to hang out with these girls for 3 hours than I do on a daily basis for my poor husband.

This is only the third play date I’ve been to, and the first was at the mall.  But the last two times, both houses of the hostesses have been perfectly clean, with candles lit, a spread of food – today’s even featured a Valentine craft.

…Okay, the craft was cute and I’m glad that we did it, but seriously!? I’m not Martha Fucking Stewart and I’m gonna stop going to these silly things because A) my son can’t even crawl, much less play and B) I leave feeling terrible about myself! Who are these people? Last time I checked, we live in Florida, not Connecticut.

Am I the only mommy out there who doesn’t always have a face and house and hair that are perfectly put together? Is it wrong for me to feel like I’m being ‘fake’ with these people? I wanna make friends here and everything, but I don’t wanna clean my house for hours before I invite them over!

Before I got married, I waited at least three or four dates into a ‘relationship’ before letting the guy see me without makeup. I am three play dates into this mommy-group, and still wearing a mask.  Does that say something, or is this charade what ‘normal’ people do every day? I just don’t know! It certainly doesn’t come easily to me – if you’ve read any of this blog, you know I have a vested interest in keeping things real. But I’ve never moved anywhere new, and never had to work at making new friends.

Days like today, I’d give anything to be back home and see something familiar. When I left the house this morning, I realized I’d memorized where the exits were between here and the next suburb over, and that felt like a milestone to me. Like this was starting to become home.

And then I tried to fit into this group of people that just aren’t my people, and I realized how much it would mean to me to raise my baby and grow my family around people who already love us.  I guess I took some things for granted – I never knew love and friendship were such hard work.

15

Who I am vs. who I’m “supposed” to be.

So. It finally happened.

I was on the phone, today, with a deceptively-kind-sounding salesman, when he said something that revealed the wolf beneath his sheep’s clothing.  He asked me what I ‘do,’ and I replied that I’m a stay-at-home-mom. This guy replies, “Ah, one of those ‘domestic engineers,’ eh? I laughed for about 15 minutes the first time I heard that one!”

Wait.

15 minutes? It’s not that funny. And not all that far from the truth.

Perhaps I was already on edge after reading an article that an acquaintance posted on the lovely Facebook (if you must read it, you can find it here). The gist of said article is that women who choose not to chase after a career for fulfillment are inferior to women who do.

Say what?! Oh no, she didn’t! (But yeah, she really, really did.)

So here’s this poor guy who’s just said exactly the wrong thing to me at exactly the wrong time. Only, I’ve never been faced with this situation before and never even considered how I would handle it because it wasn’t until reading this stupid article that I realized people actually still feel this way.

What a slap in the face. First, some lady writes some obnoxious article arguing that the role I chose to take on in my family contributes nothing to society, and then this guy, this stranger whom I have never spoken with before, laughs at the term ‘domestic engineer,’ as if to say, “Why on earth would you compare something that doesn’t require a college degree to something that someone without a college degree couldn’t possibly have the aptitude to understand?”

Wait, wait, wait… Let me give you some background information.

I got my discharge papers in the mail yesterday. My attempt to go back to school courtesy of the United States Army collapsed around me in the wake of a surprise pregnancy.  And BAM: the unspoken-of, not-so-happy ending to that story arrives yesterday via certified mail.  I am no longer a member of the military. My bonus? Gone. My GI Bill? Nope. That 97 I scored on the ASVAB? Doesn’t. Mean. Shit.

So the message that I’m some sort of failure isn’t just coming from all around me.

If I’m 100% honest, it’s coming from within me, too.

I am so disappointed in myself.  I am such an intelligent woman… I have test scores out the wazoo to prove it. So why the hell can’t I finish anything I start? Why can’t I be that person who powers through college and walks away with a diploma to show for it?

The truth is, it just doesn’t matter enough to me… And the reward isn’t worth the risk. What I’m afraid of (and I think many men and women of my generation can relate) is taking out loans, investing four to six years of my time, doing everything everyone has told me I “need” to do to get ahead – and coming out with a job that pays just over minimum wage. Or, worse, not being able to find a job at all.

There are five or six things I think I would enjoy doing, but the only thing I have ever known I needed to do, the only thing I’ve ever felt called to do, was to be a mother.  I know I’m capable of graduating college.  I just can’t bring myself to give so much to something that matters so little to me. I’ve never been a career-minded person. I’ve always felt most alive with family.

I don’t know that I need to justify this to anyone else. After feeling angry over the whole deal for a couple of hours, I decided Ms. Amy Glass and Mr. Salesman-guy can suck it.

Sadly, I do feel like I need to justify it to myself.

So:

Dear Lindsay,

You are doing something so very worthwhile.  If you need a reminder, just look at the man who’s closest to you – look at the hurt he’s suffered at the hands of a woman who should have made sure he only ever knew what it felt like to be loved.  This world needs more mommies.  Its children need hugs when they’re afraid. They need someone to take their picture, so they know they’re worth remembering. Someone who will stop anything she is doing at any time to make whatever is wrong, right. They need someone to accept them just as they are, wherever they may be. They need to know that, yes, they can make mistakes, and yes, they are still worth loving. Someone in their lives has to take the time to create opportunities for memory-making. Someone has to perfect the art of making a house a home. Someone has to be patient enough to recognize that even though all of the little things she’s doing can sometimes feel like ‘nothing,’ together they add up to something really, really important…

…Love.

I know that sometimes you feel like no one sees the things that you do. No one recognizes the value in the person who washes the dishes and does the laundry and makes the beds and cooks the meals. No one sees the sacrifices you make for your mission, your goal.

But God does.

Please know that everything He’s brought you through up until this point has prepared you for this, and you will not fail. This is what you were created to do. Sometimes you wish you were one of ‘those’ people, and that’s okay. Go ahead and let yourself feel that way if you must. But after you’ve felt it, let it go. You are right where you need to be.

Maybe the people you’ve loved will, one day, recognize just how much of yourself you’ve given. But probably, they will never fully understand.  And that’s okay, too. What you are doing has a forever impact. An eternal impact. For now, make peace with not always being able to see the big picture. And quit trying to change your ‘stripes.’ You are more than enough.

Hugs and kisses,

Me