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New Mom

I was petrified when the time came to take my first child home from the hospital. I timidly asked the nurse, “Will you show me how to change her before we go?” I had changed a few of my niece’s diapers, but this tiny little helpless being was mine. I looked at her precious little face and thought about all the ways I could screw up. Over time, I figured out how to really listen to my intuition and take other people’s advice with a grain of salt and you will too. New mamas, here are 6 tips to get you there faster.

1. Listen and Observe Your Baby – The best thing you can do to hone your natural maternal instincts is to listen to your baby’s cries and observe his or her behavior. You will be the one who knows your child better than anyone so when it comes time to answer questions about your child’s health or development you’ll be ready with the answers.

Before you rush to pick up your crying baby (if you know they are safe) take a second to stop and listen. Pay attention to what the cry sounds like. Is it long or start and stop, is it muffled or a full on wail? Then once you figure out why your baby is crying, you’ll be able to associate the sound with the cause. The more you observe, the quicker and easier it’ll be to tell whether they are hungry, sleepy, need a diaper, are in pain or just need a cuddle. You’ll also be able to answer your doctor’s questions about behavior that is unusual for them.

2. Save The Panic For Later– Babies are actually surprisingly resilient. When my first child was about eight months old she was sitting on the couch next to me and when I turned my head for a split second she went bounding over the back of it just out of my grasp. She fell onto the laminate floor with a sickening smack and for a second I couldn’t breathe. It took the longest second of silence ever, but then I heard her cry and my heart flooded with relief. I called the doctor and she told me to watch for signs of a concussion, but since she didn’t lose consciousness she was most likely fine.

While you have to be especially careful with newborns, as they get older the probability that they’ll get minor injuries goes up. The trick is to save the panic so that you can get them help first. You can freak out afterwards.

Oh and P.S. injuries to the mouth bleed like crazy. I spent $100 in the ER for that little piece of advice when my daughter cut her gum in a minor fall. No stitches were even done. Perhaps if I took a little longer to freak out, I would have thought to call the on-call pediatrician instead of racing off to the ER.

Again, you’ll need to answer questions about an injury or illness so it’s important to assess the situation and get the details before panic empties your mind.

3. Stay Off The Internet – Two days after I brought my first child home, my husband insisted we bring her to urgent care because she made a grunting sound in her sleep. He’s the one to jump on the internet to consult with Dr. Google and come to the worst case scenarios when it comes to our children’s health. If you really want to know what that rash is, make a doctor’s appointment and for the love of all that is holy stay off WebMD or Google. You’ll save yourself loads of unnecessary worry. Her grunting in her sleep was perfectly normal by the way.

4. Trial and Error Are Your Friends – You don’t have to have it all figured out to be a great parent. Don’t be scared to try something new or abandon a long standing technique that is no longer working. I always tell first-time parents, “Do what works, until it doesn’t anymore.” I co-slept with all of my babies until they got to an age where it became counterproductive and we both got less sleep instead of more. Then I moved them to the crib. Be wary of anyone who tells you definitively “this is what works.” Every baby and family is different and they can only tell you what worked for them, not what will work for you or your child.

5. Ease Up on Your Expectations – I see so many good moms totally beating themselves up when they don’t live up to their own expectations. When I was pregnant with my first child I told myself, “I will try to breastfeed.” That’s the extent of the promise I made to myself and as such I wasn’t going to be devastated if it didn’t work for me or the baby. It ended up being a great experience for me, but I know many women who really struggle with breastfeeding. So temper your expectations by saying, “I want to try to do this” instead of “I’m going to do this” when trying something new. You’ll be less hard on yourself if things don’t go according to plan and you’ll be a happier mom, which is always the best gift you can give your child.

6. Accept Help of Any Kind – Sure, maybe your mom’s fussing over the baby is getting on your last nerve, but if she offers to give you a break of an hour or even overnight, TAKE IT. When I was a new mom, my mother offered to come up once every month or so and watch my daughter downstairs overnight. Those days gave me the sleep I so desperately needed so that I didn’t feel like I was falling apart. We may want to do it all or feel we need to, but if someone offers to help, take it without shame or worry. The truth is that none of us do it alone. It’s too hard. When they say it takes a village, it’s because it’s true. Bottom line, if you can’t get a hot meal, shower or some sleep once in a while you’ll feel like you’re losing your mind. You can’t fine tune your maternal instincts if you’re not taking care of yourself.

I have a special place in my heart for new moms. I see them in the store with their tiny babies. Sometimes they ask me with weary eyes how long it took for my kids to sleep through the night. I often don’t have the answer that brings them comfort, but I want to tell you new moms, you WILL survive the baby years. You’ll wake up one day to a chubby faced toddler racing through your house, then a tall and independent child, and then a moody teenager. Motherhood is a roller coaster. It’s frightening, exciting and goes just as fast.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama can be found writing on her blog The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not wiping poop or snot off her three adorable kiddos. This “tell it like it is” mama has NO time for drama, so forget your perfect parenting techniques and follow her on Facebook or Twitter for her delightfully imperfect parenting wins and fails. Her work can also be found on Money Saving Mom and Mamapedia.

 

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The Picture of Sleep Deprivation

As I write this post, I thank God you can’t see what I look like. Picture yoga pants, tank top, hair in a sloppy ponytail, dark circles, and an unwashed face. I consider the fact that I got my contacts in this morning without perforating my cornea a win. Last night Sydney decided that she wanted to wake up every hour on the hour to eat. I have no idea what made her go from waking up twice a night to this new nightmarish schedule, but I pray it doesn’t continue. Yes, I put my kids on the bus looking like I was run over by one.

The Never Ending To-Do List

I sit here writing this, thinking about all the other things I should be doing now that Sydney is napping. I realize it’s been at least seven weeks since I’ve even written out a To-Do List for myself. I sit here dreaming of a nap I know I can’t take. Even if I could make my body cooperate, which it almost never does, the thoughts in my head start racing, telling me I should hurry up and unload the dishwasher, finish my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, write this post, figure out what in the hell I’m going to make for dinner, take a shower, put on real clothes, sweep the dinning room, write a note allowing my daughter to get my son off the bus on her own, and on and on. For a SAHM it can be difficult not to feel like the days bleed into one another without stop, but add a newborn and sleep deprivation to the mix and I barely recognize that whole weeks are flying by. I feel like I’m not getting a lot done. I feel sloppy and lazy and oh so very TIRED.

 

Mom’s Night Out

The other day I watched Mom’s Night Out. It was a great movie and I felt especially connected to the main character – a SAHM of three kids and an aspiring mommy blogger. I won’t divulge too much because it was a great movie, but I will mention two parts I especially identify with (SPOILER ALERT – SKIP TO NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT). She calls herself the Bruce Banner of SAHMs. One minute calm and then inexplicably turning into the Hulk the next. I can relate. I often have “moments” as she calls them, where the stress bubbles over and I lose it. I try to control the Hulk, but sleep deprivation definitely makes it harder.

Yesterday I had to try hard to keep myself from freaking out over my son spilling his apple juice all over the floor. Seems so silly to me now, but sleep deprivation while parenting feels a lot like living on autopilot. I get the basics covered like remembering to get my kids off the bus, monitoring homework time, cooking dinner, getting through the bedtime routine, all the while feeding and changing the baby. Anything else, any extra work just pushes my brain past the scope of it’s lowered capacity and out comes the Hulk. The second part of the movie I really LOVE is when her husband tells her that her job is… and she fills in his pause with the word “hard.” What he says though is “important.” “Your job is important.”

 

It’s A Thankless Job I’m Thankful For

There are people who think parenting is not really work. After all I don’t collect a paycheck. Hell, I’d settle for a “thank you” most days over whining about what I made for dinner or settling the great “it’s my turn to watch my show on TV” debate. Well moms and dads I don’t need to tell you that this parenting gig is supremely hard sometimes. New parenthood is like boot camp. Your thoughts and decisions become dictated by someone else. I don’t eat, sleep or shower when I want too. I pray for small chunks of time when the baby is napping and the older kids are at school and then I attempt to cram a day’s worth of activities into them.

Would You Rather Eat or Sleep?

It’s crazy when you think about it. It’s torturous to have to decide which of your basic living functions you can have at a given moment. Food vs. sleep. Use the bathroom vs. get a drink of water. Yet we do it. We change our baby’s diaper while we hold our own bladder. We feed our baby while our stomach growls. If you’re like me you bathe your baby, yet have to wait for perfect conditions to arise just so you can take a 15 minute shower that almost feels like a spa, that is until one of your kids barges in telling you that the baby needs to eat so you’d better hurry up. I look around my house at things I should be doing and start to feel like a failure. I feel like being a SAHM means my house should be spotless, my kids impeccably behaved, and I should be a crafting, volunteering, Martha Stewart wannabe. But that’s just not realistic. So I have to remind myself that my job is important. It’s a good reminder to all of us. The important things in life just don’t end up on a To-Do list.

It’s A Marathon Not A Sprint

I’m finishing this post days after I started it. This morning I managed to get my kids washed, dressed and out the door in time for church, while I had to run back upstairs to change my baby vomit and coffee stained shirt. I made sure the kids looked presentable and almost forgot to run a brush through my hair. I need to make a conscious effort to remember myself and that’s what you need to do as well new mamas. Whether this is your first baby or your fourth, if you find yourself back at the starting line 10 minutes after you started this parenting race or 10 years, it makes no difference. It takes some crazy endurance because parenthood is a marathon not a sprint. So I needed this reminder and I hope you find it helpful too – RELAX, BREATHE, REMEMBER THAT WHAT YOU DO IS IMPORTANT, AND REMEMBER TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. THE TO-DO LIST CAN WAIT.

An article about food allergies in today’s New York Times relates well to a piece we did this month, “Food Allergy Follies?” Our article is about conflicting studies as to the optimum time to introduce solid foods to your baby to help prevent allergies. My feeling after reading the reports was that the science to pinpoint this is just not there. Glad to see the NYT is following up on our breaking news!

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