Monday, July 11, 2011

Mommyhood Epiphanies from Month 1

I've learned a LOT in the first month of mommyhood, but here are the most important things:

  1. I once read that the ideal to-do list has 3-5 items on it. I'm now pretty sure it wasn't a mom that came up with that rule. The reality is that the ideal to-do list for a new mom has ONE thing on it, and that one thing should probably be either a shower, a nap, or a walk with the baby. It's fine to have a long to-do list--I sure do--but I'm trying to pick just one thing a day...anything more is award-worthy. My thing today was to write this blog entry, since I've been writing a ton of very witty entries in my head but haven't had any time to actually post. Unfortunately, the lack of sleep has led me to forget all the witty parts. Sorry. Hopefully if I get back in the habit of posting, the witty will return. Fingers crossed.
  2. I was so frustrated because I haven't been getting much sleep and spend approximately 8 hours a day feeding and changing Milo, which meant that in the ten hours Michael was gone at work each day, I got absolutely nothing done. The laundry was overflowing, as was the sink, and I was eating a bowl of cereal for brunch each day and nothing else until dinner. I felt like a total failure and the chaotic state of my house was driving me quickly to meltdown land.  And then, the other day, I gave in. I was too tired to care. I did nothing but feed and change Milo and nap when he napped. I tried not to lose my shit when he cried for no reason and used it as an excuse to take a walk to get the mail. Otherwise, I pretty much lived on the couch. Then Michael came home from work with dinner, put a load of laundry in, and took over Milo duty. And then I cleaned and organized and uploaded pictures and finished the nursery and put together the footprint photo frame that had been mocking me for 3 weeks. And I had the mother of all epiphanies: my strategy was all backwards. Instead of trying to get a ton of stuff done during the day while Michael is at work, I should be using that time to enjoy every minute staring at my tiny man and walking with him and reading to him and dancing with him. And then when Michael gets home, he can dance and walk and sing and I will be free to get stuff done. And I'll be able to get so much more done in even two hours of uninterrupted time without the baby than I could get done in all ten hours during the day! (I also learned that the more I do, the more motivated I am to do more. Whereas the less I do, the less motivated I am to get up off the couch.)
And, here are some smaller things I've learned:
  1. Nursing hurts. And though it's "natural," that doesn't mean it comes naturally. Even after online breastfeeding support chats, and in-person drop in support groups, and a (very expensive) home visit from a lactation consultant, and tons of reading and youtube videos (you'd be surprised what you can find on there) still hurts. Even though, according to all of the above, everything we're doing is "right." Even the (very expensive) ointment that has to be specially compounded at a pharmacy doesn't seem to help...even when paired with around-the-clock ibuprofen. But I hear it gets easier, and so I'm hanging in there a little longer.  It does have it's rewarding bits: the portable food supply and cozy time. But who knew it would be so expensive? Driven by sheer desperation, I seem to have spent approximately...hmm...somewhere around $600 on trying to make nursing more comfortable. Of course, if any of it had worked, it would have been a perfect mastercard commercial. Alas.
  2. I don't know if I agree that babies are born too early and need to spend their first three months or "fourth trimester" being convinced they are still in the womb, but I do know that shhhing and vigorous bouncing (imitating the womb experience) really do calm baby down. And swaddling him helps him sleep better and longer, since it impairs his ability to startle himself awake with the Moro reflex. (These tips are straight from The Happiest Baby on the Block book, which makes an excellent baby shower gift for any friends that are expecting. Though I suspect the DVD is better...the author is smart, but not a particularly engaging writer.)
  3. You'll never guess the best vehicle for vigorous bouncing: a standard exercise ball. Hold baby, sit, and bounce up and down as hard as possible. Works about 90% of the time to calm the baby down.
  4. White noise works too...just has to be louder than the baby crying. Bringing the Cloud B giraffe to the hospital with us when Milo was born was genius (thanks, Alexis!)...we bring it everywhere and it works about..60% of the time.  In fact, any loud noise works pretty well, and not just because it drowns out Milo's noise. =[) Taking him to a noisy restaurant like TGIF works too. (That giraffe makes another great baby shower gift!)
  5. Babies love moving, whether in a car, stroller, or baby carrier. Between the exercise ball and the walking, this is a great way to get back into pre-baby shape (just a few more pounds, and I'm there, thanks to Milo's growth spurts/fussy phases). If nothing else seems to work, throw the baby in a sling and take a walk in the fresh air. Good for both baby and mommy/daddy.
Finally, I'm learning to accept any and all help that's offered. This is not a strength of mine. I grew up in a family that valued work ethic, independence, and self-sufficiency.  I like to think I can handle pretty much anything all by myself. But I can't; motherhood has knocked me flat on my ass and laughed at me. Which could have been a devastating discovery if not for the tandem discovery that I don't have to do it all by myself. I've been blown away by the generosity of friends, family, and even acquaintances. Neighbors offered meals and lent baby gear and took Milo for a stroll when I was about to lose it.  People stopped by and offered to pick up groceries and do laundry and dishes. I can take a walk on campus and drop into offices and homes for adult conversation and encouragement. Hell, some woman in a breastfeeding chat offered to meet me at a drop-in session just to offer encouragement because she's been here before.  Turns out it really does take a village to raise a child...or at least to keep the parents sane.

I'm very grateful for my village.

After the last month, I feel really badly that I didn't do more for my friends and family that have had babies. I'm sorry guys--I just had no idea what it was like. If I had, I would have gotten you The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD, some aden and anais swaddling blankets (the super soft bamboo ones), one of the cloud b animal white noise makers, an exercise ball and a sling or other baby carrier. Then, once baby was born, I would have found a way to help with household chores like laundry, dishes, meals, groceries, driving, etc.

I was a sucky villager.

But now that I know...bring on the babies!

Just kidding. You should probably wait until Milo, Michael and I have graduated from that whole fourth trimester chapter.

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