Tips for New Mamas

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Recently I had the pleasure and joy of welcoming a second sweet child into our family.  The second time around feels so different from the first.  I feel more calm, relaxed and ready to take things as they come.  I also feel much more confident in my abilities to care for this little being, able to listen to myself better, and communicate my needs as I come into my own as a mother of 2.

With my 1st born I was obsessed with Google and taking advice from every mom blog I could find.  I read books about sleeping, parenting, you name it.  I spent so much time worrying if I was doing everything right that I exhausted myself and sometimes forgot to live in the moment and relish the time with my newborn son.  We had a wonderful time and I have very fond memories of my 1st maternity leave; however this time I promised myself would be different.  Besides banning myself from Google and internet advice, I made the commitment to enjoy the moments, to stop and take a breath, and use my maternity leave as time for me to reboot and my son and I to bond and connect.

As I reflect back on both newborn experiences I wanted to put together a list of what I’ve learned for all those new moms out there.  This list is particularly pertinent to the 1st couple of weeks after you get home from the hospital.  I am sure it will continue to evolve and change as you and your baby grow each day.

  1. Have your support person – It is essential, in the beginning, that you have someone there to help you.  For both babies I had both my partner and my mom to help.  Having a person, or a couple of people, is something you need because you simply need help and cannot do it all.  This person should not be someone that expects you to be your normal self or someone that you feel the need to entertain.  This is someone who can see you through highs and lows and you feel comfortable with communicating with easily.
  2. Get off the internet! (and STOP reading books!) – Everyone has an opinion, experience, and different perspective.  No two babies are the same and there is no magic formula.  You can try different techniques with your baby to see what works and do what feels right for you.  There is no magic answer to getting your baby to sleep, eat, etc… so just listen to yourself, watch your baby, and take comfort in knowing every new mom has felt this way.  If you do want to look something up use some of the more reputable, less opinion based sites, http://www.aap.org, www.llli.org, or call your pediatrician for those medical questions.
  3. Go topless – OK you might be wondering, what?! Trust me on this one.  You have likely heard about skin to skin time with your baby.  Skin to skin time is my lifesaver and has been my number one help in combatting baby blues feelings.  Every day I make sure I take off everything on the top half of my body, undress baby down to the diaper, and lay with my him.  I do this at least 2-4 times per day and the feeling is indescribable.  It is the most relaxing, restoring, and happy time for us both.  Both of my sons would melt into my chest, our temperatures adjust to the same level and we both just relax and breathe.  AMAZING!
  4. Ask for help- As someone who has a hard time asking for help this is something I have to force myself to do.  But really, if your partner is there, a support person, family member, etc… don’t be afraid to ask them to do the laundry, cook dinner, put the dishes away.  You should not be doing any of this in the 1st few weeks if you can help it and you need to ask for help. This also goes for any roller coaster emotions you may experience.  Postpartum hormones are no joke and it helps to have someone to talk to and share your feelings with.  Find someone or a network of people that you can call when you want to sing with joy and when you feel like you are about to crack.  It is important that you ride the rollercoaster of emotions with someone next to you who can listen and watch for any signs of concern.
  5. Limit visitors– I know it is so exciting and everyone is Facebook-ing, texting, etc… and they want to see you and the baby.  But it is also exhausting… you are tired, not sure of what you are doing, learning your babies’ cues, and not wanting to expose them to a lot germs and the outside world.  I make the rule that for the 1st two weeks I limit visitors as minimally as possible to allow myself time to rest and not have to worry about anyone other than me and baby.
  6. Take naps– Everyone says to sleep when the baby sleeps… based on my experiences that would be a lot of sleep.  Both of my babies slept A LOT!  However I did find it particularly helpful to reserve a time around the same time everyday to sleep.  Each nap I took helped me to feel more rested, patient, and prepared.
  7. Allow yourself time to heal– It is easy after the 1st week or so to start feeling a little bit better.  When you start feeling better you might get a bit over ambitious and start running errands, filling in your social calendar, etc… The 1st 2 weeks are such a critical time for healing so make sure you are listening to that and taking time time to rest, heal, and limit activity until you are back to normal.  The 1st two weeks I drink A LOT of water, get as much sleep as I can, eat whatever sounds good to me, and pamper my body as much as I can.  You have just been through an extraordinary physical journey and you deserve to treat yourself like a Queen.
  8. Keep somewhat of a schedule– Babies are unpredictable, life is crazy, and sometimes you don’t know how to make sense as to what is going on.  I am a bit of a planner and a tad bit OCD so this might not resonate with all of you.. but… it really helped me to keep somewhat of a daily routine.  For me I am most emotional postpartum in the mornings so it was important for me to communicate with my partner that I needed him to take care of our older son so I could lay in bed, breastfeed, and then take a nice shower before I came out of the bedroom for the day.  It is also helpful for me to make sure that I am doing my hair/makeup and dressing somewhat nicely everyday so I can feel like a real person.  This small morning routine made all the difference in my outlook on the day.
  9. Laundry! – OMG babies are so dirty!  I completely forgot how much laundry you do in the beginning.  The minute you go to change them they pee on their onesie.  If you have a boy they pee out of their diapers a lot… tons of spit up, etc… Just be prepared for a lot of laundry.
  10. One day at a time – Last but certainly not least, take everything one day at a time.  It can become so easy to get sucked into thinking about the future… How will I ever go back to work? Will my body ever get back to normal? When will I feel like this new life is normal? Etc… You just have to focus on each day as it comes.  This is a special time for you as you are becoming a mother.  Allow yourself time to do things you like, sleep when you need, eat what you want, and feel content with just being.  All of the other stuff will work it’s way out you just have to focus on each day and it will get easier and easier as you go.

I so hope this list is helpful to all of you new or expectant mama’s out there.  If you have a baby on the way or are a new mom, congratulations to you!  I have found motherhood to be one of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences in my life and I hope you do too.

Two great new finds!- Books for the Kid-os!

A simple book, but strong representations of different kinds of Daddy’s doing different things with their children.

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More fun for the princess who wears hiking boots!

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diary of an escapist: Dear Mom, I don’t like chocolate chip cookies, anyway.

diary of an escapist: Dear Mom, I don’t like chocolate chip cookies, anyway..

It’s obviously not Mother’s Day, but I read this post on a friend on mine’s blog.  It brought goosebumps to my skin and made me think of my own amazing mother, who resembles this Mom, in someways.  Here’s to all of the amazing Mom’s out there.  It doesn’t need to be Mother’s Day to celebrate!

Dad Books

In an earlier post () I discussed the importance of celebrating the bond that exists between a father and child as much as we celebrate the love that exists between a mother and child.  In noticing a real lack of father dynamics in our books at home I have made it a personal goal to diversify our library at home.  I want C to grow up hearing stories and seeing pictures of loving and nurturing fathers.  I have just scratched the surface but wanted to share a few gems I have found thus far. Enjoy!

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There, There: A sweet book about a bear who continues to stub his toe or scrape his knew but his dad is always there to pick him up, brush him off, and help him back about his day.

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Me and My Dad!: A father bear and his child that do everything together, explore, climb mountains, but most importantly they do it together.

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Daddy Kisses: A story of various animals that receives kisses from their Dad.

When my son wears pink

One of my favorite shirts that C owns is a bright pink Ralph Lauren polo.  The shirt itself has sentimental meaning to me as it is a gift from a close friend.

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Throughout his life, thus far, C has been mistaken for a girl only 4 times.  All of those times were the days in which he was wearing his pink polo.  Now I know that everyone’s child is mistaken for the opposite sex, at some point.  I also don’t have a problem with people thinking my son is a girl.   With that being said, it is interesting to me how people respond when they seem C in pink:

  • A little girl on the playground came up and asked me if C was a boy or a girl.  I told her that he is a boy and she said “but he’s wearing PINK.”  I love the mind of a child because the next question she asked was “Why is he wearing pink if he is a boy?”  I told her that he was wearing pink because it is a pretty color and he likes to wear pretty colors.
  • I had a woman in her 80’s stop me in the store to tell me that I had a beautiful daughter.  I thanked her for the compliment and let her know that “he” was actually my son.  Similar to the little girl, she said “Wearing pink?” and shook her head and walked away.
  • There was one woman who asked how old my daughter was and when I told her that “he” was 18 months.  She looked at me with a disappointed gaze and told me that he shouldn’t be wearing pink if he was a boy.

It is interesting to me how we have such strong associations of what boys and girls wear.  I am not surprised by it; but my spouse and I have made a conscious effort to raise our child in a gender neutral environment.  We want C to be able to run and play in the dirt, love trucks and sports; but also to be in touch with his emotions, play with dolls, and express himself through art. Most importantly we want him to make his own choices and follow his passions without limitations.  It concerns me from time to time that our approach to parenting will cause C to feel negative consequences to the choices he makes.  If we allow him to wear a skirt to school, or become attached to a special doll, what happens to him out when he is out in the world?  I don’t want my son to be teased, harassed, or forced to conform to the gender expectations of a “boy”.  But I am left feeling discouraged after just a few outings in a shirt that is pink in color.

My observations have left me wondering when society became so gendered in toys, dress, and colors.  I can distinctly remember in history books seeing boys in dresses and I know it isn’t possible that boys and girls have always conformed to the gender identities that are the norm in today’s modern society.  I did a little research and here is what I found…

4142bea448bd8464b60c9c6a0d59eb4d Mid 18th century: An oil painting with a boy in a blue frock pink-and-blue-Franklin-Roosevelt-2.jpg__600x0_q85_upscale1884: Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a young boy pink-and-blue-Baby-Bobby-3.jpg__600x0_q85_upscale 1920: Paperdoll of a boy with pastel and lacy clothing08d321c15d60c05b9c76d759ee6079391970: Sewing patterns with unisex clothing

All of these images are courtesy of a Pinterest board that is dedicated to celebrating Jo Paoletti’s book, Pink and Blue: Telling the Boys from the Girls in America.  Jo Paoletti is the Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Maryland. Her book discusses “the decline of the white dress for boys and girls, the introduction of rompers in the early 20th century, the gendering of pink and blue, the resurgence of unisex fashions, and the origins of today’s highly gender-specific baby clothing.”  She makes many interesting points and shows the flip flopping of what is common for boy and girl dress throughout the centuries.  She also talks about the rise of highly gendered clothing.  She attributes society’s fascination with gendering our babies with pink and blue to the beginning of the medical advances that allowed us to determine the sex of our children prior to birth.  Jo Paoletti writes an intriguing and thorough account of our social norms and constructions around boy and girl clothes.  Over all a great read and some wonderful historical insights. A summary of Ms. Paoletti’s findings can be found here: When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink? | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian.

Until the days in which our gender norms change once again, I am excited to continue to allow my son to make choices to dress himself in the ways he choses. I can only hope that our choices as a family will contribute to a more conscious and open society.

Support “A Mighty Girl”

C and I had so much fun at the library this morning.  We played and looked at tons of books.  I had forgotten just how many children’s books are out there… I am delaying “Gender in our Library: Part II”  a couple of weeks because I would like to find a larger selection of books to report back on.  We found a few great ones but an hour was about all we could do… so more to come…

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In the meantime I wanted to share a lovely website called  http://www.amightygirl.com.  They do a wonderful job of promoting toys, books and movies for children and girls that are a bit more gender balanced.  In short they will save me from visiting the pink and action figures aisles at Target when shopping for gifts.  Their tagline is “The world’s largest collection of books, toys and movies for smart, confident, and courageous girls.”  Happy shopping!

Gender Roles in our Library

I LOVE LOVE LOVE children’s books.  Some of my favorite memories growing up include listening to stories before I went to bed, and reading books aloud to my Mom and Sister on road trips.  When I was pregnant I could barely wait to start a library of our own and pass on my love of stories and children’s books to my son.

I began reading to C from the day he was born.  We would sit in front of the fire, in his room, or on the couch looking at pictures and starting to formulate words and stories.  Now we have days where it seems that he would be perfectly content to spend the entire day on my lap reading his books.

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Recently I started to notice how many representations there are of mothers and their children in his books.  As we read stories together I have become more and more aware of just how many books are about Moms and how frequently a 2nd parent is left out.

This got me thinking… so… tonight we pulled down all of his books.  I wanted to look and see the percentage of mother figures that there are in his books as compared to father figures, or entire family units.

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  • Total # of children’s books we own: 77
  • Total # of books that include a parent or family unit: 31
    • Total # that  represent only the Mother/Child relationship: 22 (71%)
    • Total # that represent another parent or the entire family: 9 (29%)

While it wasn’t surprising to me that 71% of our stories, with some form of parental representation, are about the mother, I find myself wanting more diversity in our library.

I think that the maternal relationship is an amazing thing to celebrate and can attest to the beautiful bond that exists between a mother and her child.  However I have also been so touched by the interactions that I observe between my spouse and our son.  Seeing the relationship that they have is beautiful and I wish that we had more books that equally celebrated the strength and power of that bond.

When I think about gender equality, it is important to look at all representations of gender on both a macro and micro scale.  Something as simple as the stories we read to our children can make an impact on the roles that they will one day feel the need to fulfill.  I hope that we can diversify the books we share with our kids and find ways to show them, in the everyday stories we tell, many different representations of parental relationships and families.  Stories in which fathers can be nurturers and deep and meaningful bonds can exist between both parents and their children.

Moving forward, I plan to be more discerning about the books I buy and authors I support.  I am also eager to have an excuse this weekend head to the bookstore to see what I can find to diversify our reading material.