Category Archives: first year

The Write Choice

A friend of mine recently went to work for the mom-founded, mom-run upstart Juice in the City. So, I was using my Friday night to troll the company’s site since it’s expanding to the D.C. area soon. Basically, if you subscribe to stuff like Living Social or Doodle Deals, you’d probably be a fan of the Juice. It’s similar in that it offers discounts to cool stuff in your metro area, but it’s totally targeted to the mom in us.

Every day the site features a deal on anything from mommy-and-me painting classes to family portraits to mini van tune ups, all provided by locally owned businesses. Not only are the discounts great, but you can have the assurance that it’s a good deal on a good product or service because it’s been totally checked out by a local mom. I think it’s a really cool concept–a buy-local business built by moms for moms.

But that’s not really what this post about. While I was scavenging the site, I ran across this blog post, A Writer Mom’s Balancing Act. From one writer mom to another, it really struck a chord with me. Especially this part:

“We [writer moms] have an ever-present need to put words down. No matter what else demands our attention, no matter how severe our sleep deprivation, our personal muse is always hovering nearby whispering, ‘Write.’ We must write. But finding the time to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard can become more challenging than finding a needle in a haystack the size of Mount Everest.”

I write for a living. And that’s fun and rewarding. But what I really find fulfilling as far as writing goes are the hours I spend feeding this site. And I so have those same muses whispering in my ear to the point that if I go too long without posting, I start to feel bad, kind of guilty or something. It’s pretty silly–I mean, who’s really reading this thing anyway–but blogging has become a major part of my weekly routine. It’s very similar to when you get into a good exercise routine and then you miss a few days; you get all anxious to get back to the gym.

And so while it’s always hard to find free time when you’ve got a baby, it wasn’t until I had a baby that I was ever this disciplined about writing for myself. And I am grateful for that. Writing is just good for my soul and, until I became a mom, I didn’t really realize how much of myself I had been missing by not writing for fun frequently enough. Funny how for as much as babies can take from you–time, energy, patience, and all the rest–they give back more without even knowing it.

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Filed under babies, daily life, first year, moms, working mom, writing

Confessions of a Cosleeper

Let me just set the record straight and say that I am not an advocate of cosleeping. Not only do I just not sleep well when baby’s in the bed with me, between him kicking me all night long and my worrying he’s going to roll off the bed, but I truly believe that parents and kids should have their own separate sleeping areas.

Some experts would argue that baby belongs in crib for the simple reason that it’s safer. That’s more than likely true, but I think it’s good for a number of other reasons:

  1. It’s undeniably better quality sleep for both baby and mom. Each can go through their normal sleep cycles undisturbed and without disturbing the other.
  2. A separate sleep area reinforces the idea of a bedtime, which naturally creates a much-needed schedule for both baby and parent.
  3. Babies need to learn to self soothe. In other words, they need to be comfortable putting themselves back to sleep if they wake up at night.
  4. Babies need to learn to be independent. That means not only sleeping independently but also figuring out how to amuse themselves in their cribs for a little bit so mom can press the snooze button once every so often.
  5. It’s a heck of a lot less messy. Between the drool and the wetting through the diapers, I’d rather change a crib sheet over my bed sheets any day.

But even I have to give into temptation every once in awhile. (There’s picture evidence to prove it.) Because let’s face it, it does feel awesome to have this sweet, sleepy baby curled up in the crook of your arm.

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However, this summer there was an inordinate amount of cosleeping going on. Way more than I’d like to admit, actually. So what was driving me to nearly do a 180? Here are the factors that I trace to that sudden uptick in baby-in-the-bed nights:

  1. I was missing my husband. Plain and simple. And being close to baby was like having a little piece of him next to me even when he couldn’t be. I guess it made me feel a little less lonely.
  2. It was nice to feel needed. This was probably a consequence of #1, but there is something gratifying when you can quiet a crying baby just by pulling him close.
  3. We were sleeping in the same room. We spent most of the summer at my mom’s, so baby and I were bunked into the same room. Although he went to sleep in his pack’n’play without a problem, if I started to get ready for bed at just the wrong point in his sleep cycle, it was all over. He was standing in his crib, wailing for me.
  4. We weren’t exactly alone. Throughout the summer, we had a number of guests slumbering in the room next door. So when #3 would happen, I felt obligated to find the fastest way to quiet baby down so his crying wouldn’t keep them up.

This combination of factors was like kryptonite to my cosleeper resistance. I found myself having a baby sleep-over, -on top of, -next to, and -under at least a couple nights a week. And I was exhausted each and every morning that it happened.

While this whole exercise made me appreciate the space and routine that I have in my own home, it also underlined for me just how important it really is that baby have his own digs. There’s less fussing and what little waking (if any) there is during the night is extremely short lived. Moreover, he’s sleeping sounder. When we were in the same room I could barely open the door before he was awake; now that he’s in his own room again, I can walk in with the dog trotting behind me, adjust his blanket, and even put a hand on him and he barely stirs.

In the end, my stint as a cosleeper ended up proving to me that baby and mommy really were better off in their own beds. Even if I miss hearing those last little yawns in my ear before baby books it into the land of nod.

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Filed under babies, co-sleeping, daily life, first year, infants, naps, sleep

Born To Run, Not Just Walk

Baby crossed a few major milestones this summer. And while I’m sorry that I’m only now getting to catch up on them, the truth is I’ve not only been busy trying trying to enjoy them but also just trying to keep up with them. Literally.

When baby and I arrived at my parents’ house for July Fourth weekend, baby was a crawler. He was pulling himself up on furniture, creeping around the house from chair to chair, and pushing all his walker toys, but he was not what I would consider vertical. Then one day not too long after we arrived, he took the first step on his own. The next day he took three steps on his own. The day after that he took five steps on his own. And after that he was a walker.

I had no idea it would happen that fast. I thought it would be a much longer process, one where he would spend weeks only being able to take a couple steps before crashing. I thought for sure it would take a decent chunk of time to develop the muscle strength, coordination, and balance to be toddling around. Apparently not. By the time we were packed up Labor Day weekend to head home, baby could run. 

And as fast as his chunky bow legs can carry him is clearly his preferred mode of transportation. This of course means that I also am doing a lot more running than I’m used to–even with the training that I’ve been doing to prepare for the Army Ten Miler next month. (Remember you can still donate; just click here before Oct. 3!) My mornings should start with “on your mark, get set, go” followed by the pop of a pistol because, from the second my alarm clock rings, it’s off to the races, the finish line being 7pm when my baby goes vertical to horizontal in his crib.  

But as I say that, one thing occurs to me: My baby really isn’t much of a baby anymore. I’m not sure I like the sound of toddler–just yet.

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Filed under babies, child development, daily life, first year, holidays, play time, walking

My Life in Sippy Cups

There are so many ways to measure life with a baby. The most obvious is in months, but then there’s also inches or pounds. I always liked to measure time by the number of teeth my wee one had, but with his last molar coming in, I guess that’s no longer really an option. Diaper size is always a good one, too. But until recently, I hadn’t considered that time could also be measured in ounces.

I was having having a stroller happy hour with my oldest-and-dearest friend and her 9-month-old baby girl a few weeks ago when the topic of sippy cups came up. We discussed everything from introducing the sippy cup to when to kill the bottle all together. Moms always want to know what brands other moms are using. So, of course, we debated the pros and cons of a number of sippy cup brands.

So, when I took stock of the past 15 months in PBA-free plastic, here’s what it looked like:

Sadly, this is not the full spectrum. I definitely experimented with a number of additional sippy cups, to include those with straws, caps, and even a Nuby one that had this weird but kind of cool lip spout. But these were the go-to sippy cups that I would more or less get psyched about when I opened the dishwasher and realized that they were clean.

A number of mommies asked me how I ended up deciding on a bottle brand. Fifteen months into this whole kid thing and I think back to how much I agonized over selecting a bottle brand. I read all sorts of reviews and finally settled on Avent. It was highly rated in the book Baby Bargains, mostly because it was PBA free; was supposedly proven to reduce gas, fussiness, and colic; came in 4-, 9-, and 11-ounce bottles; and was cheaper than Dr. Brown’s or Born Free bottles. (I’ll also add that they are a heck of a lot easier to clean than, say, Dr. Brown’s with that tube thing that runs down the center of the bottle.) The big drawback was that they have this separate seal piece that you need to make sure is inserted or the milk runs everywhere; however, they started making bottles that have a longer collar so they don’t need a seal, but you kind of have to look for them. (Hint: They have a slightly yellowish, medicinal hue to the bottle. Why? No idea. But they are awesome.)

And, as an aside, in case you were wondering, I never got higher than a 3 for nipple size, so I wouldn’t waste your money on a bunch of nipples, if I were a soon-to-be mommmy again.

Baby graduated from the 4-ouncer to the 9-ouncer somewhere around the five-month mark and then again to the 11-ouncer around the eight-month mark. I’m a little torn on how I feel about the 11-ounce bottles. By the time he was able to consumer a whole one, he was onto a first sippy cup, so I really only used the big bottles when I was trying to pack a lot of ounces relatively compactly. So, is the 11-ouncer necessary? Probably not. But it did make life a little easier from time to time.

Baby’s first sippy cup was a Munchkin Mighty Grip 8-ounce Trainer Cup. I’m not sure exactly why I picked that one over any other one. Maybe it was that it looked relatively simple but not cheap and didn’t have any sort of Dora or Cars designs on it. But this sippy cup was great. My wee one transitioned beautifully to it thanks to a super pliable spout. (I also tried the Munchkin Mighty Grip 10-ounce Flip Straw Cup, but it was a little advanced at the time and even now, despite the cool design, it’s not one of baby’s preferred cups.) The downer with this cup, however, is that if you are lazy–like me–and sometimes throw it in the dishwasher without totally taking the top apart, the spout piece can become misaligned and, yes, you will have milk all over the place.

Speaking of milk all over the place, at about 9 months, my kid figured out that because of the Munchkin trainer’s super bendy spout, if he pushed down on it, the milk would flow. All over him, all over the counter, all over the floor, all over the car seat, all over the car door–and that was lots of fun. Needless to say, I soon found myself on a mission to find a replacement.

During one of my mom’s visits around this time, she purchased a couple of Playtex Lil’ Gripper Spout Cups. Personally, I thought they looked cheap, even a little ghetto, and all I could think about was tampons when I saw them in the drawer. Baby hated them even more than I did. He’d scream and throw them on the floor. In retrospect, they were probably just a little too advanced for him at that stage; he couldn’t handle the totally hard spout and would get frustrated because he wasn’t getting his milk fast enough for his liking. So, because I would rather clean up spilled milk than have a mommy meltdown thanks to a hysterical baby, I dealt with the Munchkin messes for awhile after that.

It was about three more months before I tried the Playtex First Sipster. And once I had it, I wished I had found it months before because these cups are awesome. The drinking spout is the perfect combination of hard form and yet still has some squishy give when pressure is applied. The end result is a fantastic transition cup where baby can both learn to slurp milk into his mouth and also still bite down on the spout to release the milk, similar to a bottle. The bonus is that the spout is still rigid enough that there’s no squeeze-induced spillage. But spillage can occasionally still occur if the clear plastic seals on the inside of the top aren’t in their proper position. (I’ve found that out the hard way.)

It wasn’t long–just a matter of a few weeks–after I found the First Sipster that baby was able to handle the Lil’ Gripper once again, so that victory was a little short lived. But that was okay, in a way, too, because the First Sipster’s smaller size meant lots of refills for my thirsty one. And now, the Lil Gripper is really the sippy cup I reach for when we’re on the move.

But it’s clear that after this great search for the ultimate sippy cup, the sippy cup days are numbered. At 15-months, my wee one is happy to drink out of a cup when mealtime rolls around. I bought some of those First Years Take & Toss 10-ounce Straw Cups, mainly because I love the Take & Toss spoons, and they’ve worked out okay. My kid doesn’t really care for the straw other than to take it out and chuck it on the floor and the top doesn’t really prevent spills, so I just fill it up about a quarter of the way. He wraps his two mitts around the cup and goes for it while I stand at the ready with a paper towel for any misfires into the mouth.

While the end of the sippy cup era is in sight, I find I’m the one really not ready to give the sippy cup the old heave-ho. I absolutely need it to keep my car and my kitchen at least somewhat clean. But it is funny to take stock of how big a place ye olde sippy cup has had in my life over the past year and change. I would’ve never thought I’d care so much about a silly little cup.

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Filed under babies, bottle feeding, daily life, feeding, first year, food, formula, infants, sippy cups

Baby Envy

I had a friend the other day ask me when I was going to start thinking about baby #2. The better question would have been when haven’t I been thinking about baby #2. All it took was for my post-birth stitches to heal and I was already planning for the next one.

Most new parents love the you-me-and-baby-makes-three stage, to the point that it’s a little hard to quite picture life with a second child. And it is awesome. You’re in this sort of beautiful baby bubble. But for whatever reason, my husband and I so want to be on the accelerated kid plan. Maybe it’s that we feel like we were a little late to the whole baby party (what were we waiting for anyway?) or maybe it’s because my husband was an only child and dreams of nothing less than a houseful of kids. Or maybe we just realize time is really no longer on our side. I mean, you start doing the math on how long it can take to get pregnant, how long you are pregnant (I’m of the 10-month philosophy), and how long before you sort of have things under control once baby has arrived and it’s like a two-year minimum for every kid, on average. And as painful as it may be to admit, we’re not getting any younger.

Of course making good on the promise of a second wee one is a physical impossibility for my husband and me right now. Short of a miracle–but I’m not really holding out for an act of god in this case, although in writing this I’m wondering if I should get our company prayer group praying for it–you kind of have to be in the same place for just a tiny bit of time.

This reality, of course, almost makes me want a #2 even more than I did before. And if that didn’t, the recent second baby wave among a number of my friends would do it. I’m especially fascinated, if not the slightest bit jealous, of the friends whose first babies are still little–like a year or 18 months old–and they are due again within a couple months. Are these wonderful ladies ridiculous fertile or did they use some crazy technique to shift into high-gear baby making?

Some people would say that I’m crazy; with my so-called hectic life, I need two babies in diapers like a hole in the head. True, but I still want them. And honestly, my first baby is so not meant to be an only child. Just watching him interact with other kids, I know he really wants a sibling, too.

But there are always some reservations about a #2. Most moms I know worry most about being able to love the second as much as the first. In my head that totally makes sense that so many mommies feel that way. I mean, moms have been so singularly focused on baby #1 that it’s hard to imagine having the bandwidth to be able to give that kind of love and attention to a second without somehow shafting the first. But I don’t really have that fear.

My biggest fear is about the getting pregnant with #2. Baby #1 was a whoops of sorts, so I didn’t have to stress about getting pregnant because it happened without us really planning for it. But with how eager we are to have a second, it makes me worry that our hopes will put nutty undue stress on the trying. And the last thing I want to be when thinking about a new baby is frustrated.

But I feel for mommies who don’t know that their hearts are infinitely expandable. I don’t know where I read it or heard it, but at some point it sunk in to me that when people have more children, their love is never divided; instead, it’s multiplied. I just love that idea.

While my time to multiply isn’t now, that little realization keeps me looking forward to the days when (hopefully) I won’t be able to hold all of my kids in my arms at one time. And in the meantime, I’m content to be insanely happy, even if the tiniest bit envious, for my mommy friends who are on the road to becoming mommies for the second time.

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Filed under babies, birthing, family, first year, infants, maternity, newbie parents, pregnancy

I’m Not Stupid, I’m Just Still Pregtarded

Last week, work took me to San Francisco for a housing trade show. (This is also why I went radio silent on my posts.) In my pre-mommy days, I used to absolutely love, love, love these types of trade shows because I could work them like no other. I had nearly every minute of my waking hours programmed with meetings with new and long-time sources. It made for some really long days, but I would come home with a boatload of story ideas and a fat stack of business cards, each name and company affiliate already committed to memory by the time my plane landed back in D.C.

But that was then and this is now. And now, my mommy brain doesn’t work like that. It can neither process nor retain anywhere near the volume of information that it used to just a year ago.

An embarrassing case in point: I was standing with a long-time source/friend when another source happened upon us and stopped to say hello for a few minutes. I immediately recognized this person and was actually glad I had run into him by chance, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember his name. And it wasn’t like I had only met him once or only talked on the phone with him. No, this was someone I saw fairly frequently over the years at events like this and while his face was more than familiar, I was drawing an absolute blank when it came to his name. After chatting for 10 or 15 minutes, he left and my friend said to me, “Who was that?” All I could say was, “I don’t know; I can’t remember.” I spit out like five facts about this person and his company, but the one really important piece of information–his name–was not in the list. My friend looked at me with disbelief, and said, “You carried on a conversation that long and you don’t know him?”

I tried to explain that I did know the person, but it’s really hard to convince anyone that you know someone when you can’t conjure up a name. So, I just came clean and said that ever since I had baby, my brain hadn’t worked quite right.

Pregnant women always talk about pregnancy brain, so when I was a mommy-to-be, I was completely prepared when I started spacing out on stuff all the time. I chalked it up to the fact that your brain can’t function at full capacity when you are growing another human inside of you. In fact, I used to call it “placenta brain.” (Although someone recently had one better; he said his wife became what he called “pregtarded.” Love that.) But I had no idea that it would be more or less permanent.

Now, being unable to remember sources is so not a good thing when you’re a journalist. And realizing that’s where I am made me wonder whether I’ll ever really be as good at my job as I used to be.

This question also got me thinking about all those stories you hear about working women who get passed over for promotions after they have kids. My initial reaction to those stories always was: “That’s so unfair!” But could it be possible that placenta brain rather than management bias was more to blame in some of those cases? I mean, how realistic is it to earn a promotion on past performance when going forward you’ve got very real limitations on how much time and effort you can put in?

It sounds awful to suggest that, but when I really look deep, I can’t say for sure that my job performance post-baby has not suffered in some way. I mean, some days I feel like I’ve still got it. But other days, it feels like I’m running just to keep up. (And then there are still other days where I think I might be sucking at both my job and being a mommy.)

And then it sort of occurs to me that maybe why some of these women get so ticked off at not advancing in their careers post baby is because they’ve been getting the shaft all along. Maybe pre-baby they were killing themselves to be a superstar, with the hope that someday all their hard work will pay off in a big promotion. And then baby comes and they realize that someday is today. They know it’s impossible to keep up their pre-baby pace–working moms just can’t stay until 10pm working every night anymore–and they’ve also got some perspective on what’s reasonable when it comes to work versus what’s possible given the realities of babies’ needs. Working at break-neck speed just doesn’t pencil without some real advancement; these women need more incentive to make dealing with the BS of an office worth spending time away from their babies.

But now that my brain won’t go back to working right–I’m convinced that once you go pregtarded, you can never go back–it’s hard to see how I will be as smart, fast, or competitive (my company’s internal tagline) as I used to be. Although I’m sure, in reality, my brain is probably functioning at the same pre-baby voltage, I know its power is being divided to more outlets, reducing it’s end capacity. So, while it’s a relief to know that I haven’t just spontaneously lost a bunch of brain cells, it’s a little depressing to consider that I maybe have peaked in my career given the amount of stuff–spouse, baby, pets, house, job and all the detours that come along with them–I have to process on a daily basis.

The good news, then, is while I may not be as driven and strategic as I once was thanks to my plaguing case of placenta brain, the one work aspect that does improve post baby is efficiency. It is an upside to realize that even if I’m doing less great work, I’m getting more of it done in a shorter amount of time.

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Filed under babies, daily life, first year, parenting, post-pregnancy, pregnancy, stay-at-home moms, working mom

Dads on Duty

Today is Father’s Day and being as we’re a military family, I can’t help but think about all the military dads (and boy do we know a lot of them) who didn’t get to spend today with the people who most love and adore them–their kids.

Every day I am lucky enough to be able to see my baby’s smiles, hear the patter of his hands and knees as he crawls across the floor, make him giggle, and hold him close at night. How far away those simple pleasures must seem to those deployed dads when they are in places where it can often be hard to see the good in things or people. I bet some days a diaper blow out or two sounds way better than anything they’ve got to deal with.

During the past two years, my husband has been gone a lot for military-related activities. He missed out on a lot of my pregnancy, a lot of the new baby lovefest, and a lot of baby’s firsts. It’s definitely been frustrating for him at times even though it doesn’t exactly come as a surprise. I mean, missing out on birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions is pretty much in a soldier’s job description.

But despite all that he’s missed out on in the name of duty, he has still managed to grow so much as a dad. He lives more deliberately, with a greater sense of purpose. He’s simplified his needs and reshuffled his priorities. He’s learned to celebrate some of the littler things in life. And his emotional range has expanded to include new varieties of joy, pride, and heartache. In some ways, you might say he’s become a better person. All because of baby.

He never needed to change for me, but it’s been interesting to watch his transformation. It’s clear that he’s had an idea in his head of what kind of dad he wants to be and has been working very hard to deliver on that despite the challenges and limitations that come part and parcel with being a soldier. And for that, I am grateful.

So, with that said, my thoughts go out to all the military dads who inevitably had a pretty lonely today, as well as their families who miss them so much. Here’s to their ability to be as good of dads on the home front as soldiers in the field. Happy Father’s Day!

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