New Mama Project http://www.newmamaproject.com Real talk about the transition into motherhood Wed, 04 Jan 2017 14:54:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 I’m So Tired: A Mental Health Day for Mom http://www.newmamaproject.com/mental-health/ http://www.newmamaproject.com/mental-health/#comments Wed, 04 Jan 2017 14:52:53 +0000 http://www.newmamaproject.com/?p=2229 In a culture that highly values productivity, busyness and results, it's really hard for many of us to scale back and let it go some days. I absolutely love to feel productive and, in general, I enjoy life more when I'm active and creative. But I also think that many of us forget about the importance and restorative quality of just being.

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I’m so tired.  Almost everyone in my house has had some form of sickness over the past few weeks. It always seems to go that way over the holidays, doesn’t it? I came down with a bad cold, body aches and all, right before we had relatives staying with us for Christmas. My 4 year old has had a cough for at least a month, my husband has been teetering on the brink of sickness, and the baby has his first cold and cough now. (And if you’ve ever tried to nurse a sick baby in the night who’s so congested that he can barely nurse, you know how little sleep I’m getting right now.)  My 6 year old is the only one to have escaped it so far. I think it’s fair to say that I did not adjust my expectations appropriately this year, as Fiona suggested in her post about being a good enough parent this holiday season. I set them high, exhausted myself and my family to meet them, and now I’m paying for it. The actual stretch of days when we had family here was wonderful and full of memories we’ll all cherish, but that could have happened with much less planning, work, and orchestrating on my part.

I remember when I had no kids and worked full time.  When life got to be too much, I’d take the occasional mental health day and skip work.  That’s a little trickier now that I’m a mom to 3 (and my kids are homeschooled so they’re always here) and I’m self-employed.  Luckily I’ve significantly dialed back my work load since the baby was born, but I’ve still got household duties, holiday clean up, day-to-day tasks to accomplish, my own expectations to live up to, and people to feed.  Multiple times a day.  Yesterday when I woke up, I was instantly overwhelmed.  I looked at the day ahead of me and couldn’t fathom how I was going to make it through.  I was exhausted to my core.  As the morning went on, I somewhat organically formulated a little plan for myself.  I was going to take a mental health day from as much as I could.  I would do the bare minimum to keep everybody fed and well cared for, and besides that I would take care of myself.

We also had a pretty productive selfie session!

By the end of the day, the kitchen was piled high with dishes and there were toys everywhere.  My kids watched a lot of YouTube.  Over the course of the day I read books and snuggled with my kids, relaxed while the baby napped on me, and allowed myself to knit and daydream about some upcoming travel plans.  Every time I had the urge to get up and clean, plan, or attack my to-do list, I reminded myself that it would be there tomorrow and I just let myself rest.  This somewhat simple act of nurturing myself felt a little bit radical.  And it was mostly a perspective shift that I needed.  Instead of chastising myself for being unproductive and lazy, I congratulated myself for taking care of myself and making the intentional choice to rest.

In a culture that highly values productivity, busyness and results, it’s really hard for many of us to scale back and let it go some days.  I absolutely love to feel productive and, in general, I enjoy life more when I’m active and creative.  But I also think that many of us forget about the importance and restorative quality of just being.  It’s the exhale we need after we inhale.  And we too often deprive ourselves of it.  If you’re feeling the holiday hangover, or if you’re simply exhausted because you have a baby that doesn’t sleep through the night, I encourage you to take a mental health day.  Jot down any items on your to-do list so you can offload them from your brain, put the list somewhere you can find it tomorrow, and start today with a clean slate and a plan to stay in the moment.  Rest.  Fill your own cup.  I bet you’ll come back tomorrow with renewed energy and gratitude to yourself for taking this time.

 

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How to Be a Good Enough Parent this Holiday Season http://www.newmamaproject.com/good-enough-holiday-new-mamas/ http://www.newmamaproject.com/good-enough-holiday-new-mamas/#comments Tue, 20 Dec 2016 19:40:28 +0000 http://www.newmamaproject.com/?p=2223 This season, as a good enough parent, I'm turing my focus inward towards what the little ones need and wants. I'm finding rituals and activities that bring me joy and calm and we are looking forward to peaceful celebrations with friends and family.

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It’s the holiday season here in the US and in many other parts of the world. People are decorating their homes, baking tasty treats, buying lots of gifts, and spending time with loved ones. All of these activities can be wonderful with children and somewhat challenging with little babies. My three year old is just getting old enough to care about Christmas which means we’re doing a lot of quick thinking about what traditions we want to pass on to her.  I enjoy a lot of the festiveness of Christmas, and there are many activities I would like to do with our children.  This is majorly complicated by having a six month old baby in tow.  I’ve decided that my approach to the holidays will be much like my approach to parenting in general.  My goal is to be a good enough parent this holiday season.

Here’s what that means to me.

Dialing back my Pinterest-worthy vision of ….well, everything.  In my mind I see a house decorated well enough to make the cover of Pottery Barn.  I envision sending carefully crafted care packages to family with an array of pre-school created crafts and treats. Our holiday meal is something spectacular enough to be Instagrammed to friends and families.

As a good enough parent, I stuck some evergreens in my window boxes, strung up a few lights and called it festive. We slapped together some Christmas Tree crafts spontaneously one afternoon when my daughter was motivated. I still haven’t made the care packages for family and I’m letting my mother-in-law take the reigns for the holiday meal – Thanks Olga!

Embracing the season of our lives.  I’m being a good enough parent this holiday season by recognizing the season we’re in.  My baby is small and needs to be held, nursed, and cuddled for most of the day.  My three year old needs her parents close to play with her and help her feel special with a new baby around.  This means there’s not a lot of time for creating elaborately staged holiday activities or treats.  Even though our decorations may be lean, I’m confident that my children will remember the love and nurturing they received from their good enough parents. I doubt they’ll look back and ask why we didn’t have an elf on the shelf or take the sleigh ride to get the tree. (There’s always next year for that!).

Reducing extra stressors as much as I can. So many folks seem so busy during the holidays. A walk by the post office today showed a line 15 people long waiting to mail holiday cards and packages. Sometimes getting the decorations up can be more stressful than enjoyable. This season I’m working on decreasing stress as much as possible. I’m not doing Christmas cards (never have, but I LOVE getting yours so please keep me on your list). Truthfully I’m probably not going to send those care packages (sorry family). Any presents my kids get will probably not be wrapped very beautifully – what’s wrong with a brown Amazon box? I haven’t lived up to the vision I have for myself as a holiday baker, crafter, or gift giver, but that’s ok. After all – I’m the only one who had that vision.  This way everyone’s expectations of me are low enough that when I do even the smallest gesture of holiday cheer they’ll be awed – right family?

I’m trying to move towards what my babies need – which is always more of me – and let go of what I think I need this season. This season is practice for the next. Just like the holidays, this moment in time is fleeting – it will pass before I have time to enjoy it. If I can cut down on extraneous stressors and focus on the joys at hand I think I can capture the magic of the season. I’ll try to grab a cookie, some Christmas music, and a peppermint mocha along the way just to nourish my holiday spirit.

Whatever holiday your family celebrates I hope that you are finding ways to adjust your expectations, embrace where your family is at right now, and reduce extra stressors as much as possible. Small children can increase the magic and joy of the season. Little ones can also add a layer of stress to a busy time of year. This season, as a good enough parent, I’m turing my focus inward towards what the little ones need and want. I’m finding rituals and activities that bring me joy and calm and we are all looking forward to peaceful celebrations with friends and family.

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Parenthood and the Comparison Trap http://www.newmamaproject.com/parenthood-comparison-trap/ http://www.newmamaproject.com/parenthood-comparison-trap/#comments Wed, 07 Dec 2016 15:42:40 +0000 http://www.newmamaproject.com/?p=2216 You're awake in the middle of the night with your baby for the third time. As you're feeding her, and scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, what are you thinking when you see that picture of your friend's baby sleeping peacefully in his crib? Or that video of your other friend's 10 month old baby walking already?

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You’re awake in the middle of the night with your baby for the third time.  As you’re feeding her, and scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, what are you thinking when you see that picture of your friend’s baby sleeping peacefully in his crib?  Or that video of your other friend’s 10 month old baby walking already?  Or that perfectly manicured photo of the smiling children creating beautiful artwork in an impeccably neat room of the complete stranger you follow?  Do you feel happy for those families?  Or do you feel envious, not good enough, and confused as to why you don’t have the sleeping, walking baby or the perfect artist children?

I often see new moms seeking feedback from other moms with questions like, “when did your baby first start stringing a few words together?” or, “when did your baby start sleeping through the night?”, or “how do you get your baby to sit still and read books with you?”  These questions are often followed by an explanation of some insecurity that the parent has about their own child’s development or behavior.  I understand this insecurity.  I have felt this insecurity and I still feel it at times today with my children.  In fact, this trap of comparing my baby to other babies is what set me and my first child up for so much stress and turmoil during our first year.  I was constantly comparing him to what I perceived the norm to be for his age.  And he wasn’t fitting in.  And I kept looking at other people’s babies and trying to get him to look like them. We were both miserable.  But the problem is, my child wasn’t somebody else’s child.  He wasn’t going to fit their mold.  And trying to employ strategies to get him to sleep, walk, etc., that worked for somebody else wasn’t going to work for him.

And the scary thing is, this comparison trap doesn’t end when our babies grow into toddlers, children, teenagers, and even young adults.  For the most part, the mainstream culture here in the U.S. is one that promotes competition and achievement over most other things.  And when you value competition and winning, you are actively engaging in comparisons all the time.  My first baby, the one that I agonizingly tried to mold into the baby I thought he should be, still doesn’t fit the mold.  He is six years old and he has his own strong set of passions, interests, and goals for himself.  They don’t necessarily set him up to look like the studious, rule following child that we all are told we should have.  And when I start seeing other people’s photos and reading their descriptions of their kids on social media, I find that I’m still tempted to fall into the trap of comparison.  But when I allow myself to go down that road, I stop seeing the child right in front of me.  And I risk missing all of the quirky, unique things about my son.  He is inquisitive, agile, generous, analytical, thoughtful, and has great negotiation skills.  When I stop comparing him to other children, I see all of these beautiful things and more.  And all of a sudden, it doesn’t matter if Child X is reading chapter books at 4 years old or Child Y is hiking miles at a time at 5 years old because I have stopped looking at them as the models for what my child should be.

I’ve come to believe that comparison almost never leads to happiness or fulfillment.  We don’t do ourselves any favors when we compare our babies and children to other babies and children and we don’t do them any favors either.  Because the older they get, the more they can feel that.  And we absolutely don’t do ourselves any favors when we start comparing ourselves to other mothers.  I know how hard it is to avoid that comparison trap, though.  Social media is constantly reminding us of everything happening in everybody else’s families and sometimes it feels like we just can’t measure up.

But what if you stopped trying to measure up?  

What if you noticed those thoughts of comparison creeping in, acknowledged them, and then stopped whatever you were doing that led to them in the first place?

Put down your phone and look at your baby or your child in that moment.  What is he or she doing?  Drink in her sweet little toes as they grip the floor when she pulls up to stand with precarious balance.  Cherish the tone of his voice as he babbles to you in his pre-verbal sounds.  Go snuggle with your child as she watches her favorite cartoon (and stop feeling guilty that she’s watching TV!).  Truly look at your child and see him for his perfectly unique self.  You might find, that with practice, the comparisons start to fade to the background and your appreciation for your child and connection with your child grows stronger.  I invite you to join me on this path.  I have so far yet to travel, but it’s a beautiful journey.

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A New Mama’s Response to the Election http://www.newmamaproject.com/2212-2/ Wed, 16 Nov 2016 01:25:05 +0000 http://www.newmamaproject.com/?p=2212 As a new parent I am working out what this means for myself and my family. As a citizen I am working out what role I want to have in the future of our country. It can be hard to find a balance between parenting very needy children and staying politically engaged, but I feel strongly that I need to do both.

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Baby Feet

I had a blog post planned for this week. I was going to talk about time. How time moves slowly and fast when you are a new parent. I could still talk about that, but in light of the historic election last week I thought I should make some kind of comment on that. Though I am sometimes micro-focused on life with my small children, I’m not unaffected by what’s going on in the world.

This week has provoked many thoughts and feeling from all of us. We are all still making sense of what this means for the US and if there will be broader implications. Some of us are elated with feelings of excitement, satisfaction and change. Others are mournful and fearful. This is the most universally emotionally charged election I’ve been cognizant of in the US. As a new parent I am working out what this means for myself and my family. As a citizen I am working out what role I want to have in the future of our country. It can be hard to find a balance between parenting very needy children and staying politically engaged, but I feel strongly that I need to do both.

I feel like I need to put out there that I am coming from a position of privilege. Much of the responses I’ve seen to this election have illuminated the divide in our country between those who mostly live in a bubble of privilege and those who do not.

From our black leaders and citizens we are hearing that the election results were no surprise, and that white Americans need to wake up to the reality of white supremacy. From middle America we are hearing that this was about jobs, security, and re-invigorating small-town America. From women we are hearing the disgust with a country tacitly approving of misogyny.

There are endless points of view on the outcome and everyone believes theirs to be true and accurate. I have my own points of view. They are a little murky and still evolving, but in some ways they are clearer than ever. To be sure they reflect my position of privilege, but I hope they also reflect my efforts to be a socially conscious ally to those who experience ongoing systemic oppression. I don’t always say the right thing or know what to do, but I think I’m on the right path as an ally of social justice.

A response that some friends have had is to seek peace and to disengage from the conversation. I think many liberal white progressives are shocked and disappointed at the outcome of this election. Some are responding by protesting and mobilizing. Some are turning to their micro-world and hoping for the best. There is a lot on the line here as a parent of small children. I am worried about:

A continued system of white supremacy that oppresses persons of color thereby robbing us all of the opportunity to reach our highest potential and perpetuating hate.

The reproductive rights of myself and my daughters.

The safety and security of the many refugee families that live in my community and came to America in hopes of escaping unsafe situations.

The proposed deportation of millions of individuals (including children) who do good, hard, honest work.

The civil rights and safety of LGBTQ friends and neighbors.

Many people are hopeful that the new government will help create jobs, increase a feeling of national security, decrease taxes and restore a perceived better way of living that some once enjoyed. (I urge you to remember that the past is riddled with egregious abuses to various peoples’ civil rights – what is so great about that?)

So while it may be easier to ignore what’s happening outside my door – that response tends to be a very privileged response to the situation. It could mean that I am not feeling directly fearful for my civil rights or even my life. I argue that our world is better when we are looking out for ALL our citizens’ rights, safety, and wellbeing. This is why I am working to stay engaged in the conversation and seeking opportunities for small acts of activism.

I’ve been asking myself many questions. What can I do to affect positive change? Where will my efforts be most fruitful? What is my sphere of influence? Can I really have any effect on things? What do I want to see happen? What’s the answer? Who can be trusted? Is my point of view right?

I haven’t found the answer to these questions yet. The one question I have answered in my head is When I look back at this time what side of change do I want to see myself on?

That answer is clear: I want to be able to say that I stood up for what I believe in and I worked to make it a reality.

I’m working on finding a balance between meeting the immediate needs of my baby and young daughter and fighting for what I so strongly believe in. I’m engaged in the conversation with friends and neighbors and the world at large. I’m looking for opportunities in my community to become involved in organizations that are working towards changes I believe in. I am a mother and an activist.

I’m also practicing self-care. There are times that I do need to unplug in order to recharge. There are articles I can’t read right now. There are people I don’t really want to talk to about their beliefs. There are meetings I can’t make because I’m busy with dirty diapers, baths, and bedtime. There are times when I need to escape and find some peace in the day or the week.

I’m making meaning of this election and understanding the perspective of others who disagree with my point of view. At the same time I am firming up my beliefs and fully recognizing some hard truths about myself and my country.

I know you are all thinking a lot about the election results of last week. I also know many of you are overwhelmed with getting through the day with small babies. I hope that we all find ways to be on the right side of change.

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A Letter to my Oldest Child http://www.newmamaproject.com/letter-oldest-child/ http://www.newmamaproject.com/letter-oldest-child/#comments Tue, 01 Nov 2016 11:00:14 +0000 http://www.newmamaproject.com/?p=2205 The other day, your dad and I were reflecting on how much our life has changed since you were born six-and-a-half years ago. And the change feels bigger than the typical, "you have a baby and everything is different" type of change. You see, you were born with a beautifully strong personality and, from day one, you communicated very clearly with us about what was OK with you and what wasn't going to work. We tried not to listen at first, because we figured we knew best, and because we were led astray by cultural messages imploring us not to listen to you or to our instincts about what you needed.

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Dearest Oldest,

The other day, your dad and I were reflecting on how much our life has changed since you were born six-and-a-half years ago. And the change feels bigger than the typical, “you have a baby and everything is different” type of change. You see, you were born with a beautifully strong personality and, from day one, you communicated very clearly with us about what was OK with you and what wasn’t going to work. We tried not to listen at first, because we figured we knew best, and because we were led astray by cultural messages imploring us not to listen to you or to our instincts about what you needed.

246825_665577135932_4408471_nBut around the time you were six month old, things began to slowly crystallize for us, and we began to get some clear glimpses of who we wanted to be as a family. By the time you were about one-and-a-half, we had overhauled our entire life to best meet your needs and to live in alignment with our newfound values. We changed jobs so I could be home with you, we moved to a different state to make this work. We finally listened to your very clear messages about needing to sleep near us at night. And most importantly, we learned that you were to be trusted to show us the way. Your needs were valid and real and it was time for us to respect them. We didn’t need to be scared that your desire to be near us at all times would result in your being insecure later in life. We learned that it’s normal for babies to want their parents close, and now that you’re six, we know that meeting your needs was right. You have grown into a thoughtful, confident, and caring child.

I’m so grateful to you for all you’ve taught us so far. And I’m also a bit sorry. For sure, there’s something special about being the first child and being the person who made us parents. But as our first, it feels like we have to learn all of our lessons with you. Most of our parenting mistakes are made with you because every stage with you is the first time for us. We’re trying to follow the principle of trusting you now, and hoping that we’ll make less mistakes as you grow, but we know that there will be more. And for that, I’m sorry.

Your two younger brothers are so lucky to have the benefit of you as their older brother. You have paved the way for them to be parented in a way that honors their needs from the time they are newborns on (we still make mistakes with them too, but we have learned so very much from you). We are less anxious about decisions we make with them because we have the benefit of seeing you thriving before our eyes and that helps us know that everything will be OK. And most of all, they have an incredibly caring, compassionate, and fun-loving older brother always ready to play with them, help them when they need help, and care for them when they’re having trouble.

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I know sometimes it seems like we expect a lot from you and perhaps we even sometimes forget that you’re still so young. I just want you to know how very much we love you. You made me a mama and we have been through so much together in your six years. I love you in a way that I love nobody else on this earth and am so very grateful to have you as my oldest.

Love,
Mom

 

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The Loneliness of Motherhood http://www.newmamaproject.com/loneliness-of-motherhood/ http://www.newmamaproject.com/loneliness-of-motherhood/#comments Wed, 19 Oct 2016 01:44:57 +0000 http://www.newmamaproject.com/?p=2196 There is sometimes a loneliness that goes with motherhood. Until I became a mother I really didn't understand this. I didn't understand the shift that I would experience going from a coupled adult to a mother. Now I know. I am still surprised though at the moments when motherhood feels most lonely.

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There is sometimes a loneliness that goes with motherhood.  Until I became a mother I really didn’t understand this.  I didn’t understand the shift that I would experience going from a coupled adult to a mother.  Now I know.  I am still surprised though at the moments when motherhood feels most lonely. It is often when I am surrounded by people.  It would seem that having others around would help me feel supported, loved, and connected. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes these times that I feel loneliest.  I find that combatting the loneliness of motherhood can be difficult in the moment because it involves me admitting that I need help, sharing what’s not going well, and asking people to focus on me in a moment where I might not be at my best. When I ask for help and remember that the challenging moment will pass I usually make it through this lonely moment a little more smoothly.fiona-gazing

We are just returning home after 10 days visiting family.  This visit also coincided with me learning that my 3mo daughter has not been gaining weight adequately.  My first daughter had slow weight gain on breastmilk alone so I wasn’t surprised by this situation, but it is still challenging to find a way to supplement the baby and continue to breastfeed. During this trip I was trying to figure out when and how much to supplement my baby with formula. And trying not to be too disappointed that I need to supplement in the first place. While I was experiencing an emotional and intellectual inner battle about what the right choice to make was – there was a whole lot of family dynamics happening outside my head.

Though this village of family wanted to help as much as they could, I wasn’t sure how to harness their presence to overcome my inner turmoil.

When I’m around family I try to generally keep myself together.  I know they love and accept me no matter what, but I don’t really wants to be seen as a hot mess mama.  We’re also currently the only ones on either side with small children. Everyone loves our children (as far as I know) and everyone’s great with the 3 year old – which is a HUGE help, but there’s still not a ton of help other people can give for the little baby.  I am also admittedly a little controlling (though I hate to use that term because it has a negative connotation) about how things are done.  It was hard to let others prep bottles or feed the baby because I wasn’t sure they all knew the “proper” way to do it (i.e. sit the baby up, put the formula in after the water, let baby take the nipple rather than shove it in her mouth, read baby’s signs to know when she’s done, etc). But, when I don’t ask for help or let people know what’s going on – they continue on as if everything is fine.  This can also be challenging.

I remember one afternoon when the baby was particularly fussy.  I couldn’t tell if she was hungry or tired and my usual tricks didn’t seem to be working.  I took her to a room away from others and felt a little resentful that no one was coming to my aide.  Then I checked myself.  Why would they?  I hadn’t raised a red (or white) flag to say I needed help. I hadn’t asked anyone to do anything.  I’d just crept away silently.  What would I have thought as an outsider?  I would have thought that a mom was taking care of her baby and would be back when she was done with whatever she needed to do.

The next day I did share some of what was going on for me with my husband. I told him, “I’m so confused about what the baby needs. I don’t want to over feed her, but don’t want to underfeed her. I’m frustrated that she won’t fall asleep or stay asleep in the carrier like usual.  I don’t know how others can help. I’m overwhelmed.” That day when I crept away to calm the baby – he checked in on me and I felt just a little less alone.

I still had trouble opening to door to let the rest of the family in.  Part of it is that I don’t really want to be seen as an incompetent mother.  The other part is that I can’t really formulate what it is I need them to do.  I passed the baby off as much as I could and tried to ask for help with little things like prepping meals, grabbing something for me, or entertaining the big kid.

Sometimes it’s just hard to get people to really understand why things are so challenging. I’m sure as an outsider it doesn’t seem that big of a deal to be giving my baby a bottle.  To me, though, it comes with a lot of anxiety, disappointment and resentment. It’s hard to know who will get this and who will try to tell me to brush it off. #wouldificould

Sure enough after a couple of challenging days the baby seemed to turn a corner and we had an easier day.  Sleep came easy, feedings went just a little better, and I was just that much less stressed.  I reflected on how things do seem to pass pretty quickly these days.  The most challenging moments are just that – moments. Motherhood can be lonely sometimes, but it doesn’t have to be desolate.  Having caring friends and family really does help, even though sometimes the only thing they can do is be there so I’m not physically alone.

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A Smoother Transition Coming Home from the Hospital http://www.newmamaproject.com/home-from-hospital/ Wed, 05 Oct 2016 15:33:17 +0000 http://www.newmamaproject.com/?p=2192 So your baby is here.  She is healthy and you're healthy and you've been discharged from the hospital.  If you're like me, you're super excited to get back to the comfort of your home.  However, pretty quickly after you return home, you realize this isn't all it's cracked up to b

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So your baby is here.  She is healthy and you’re healthy and you’ve been discharged from the hospital.  If you’re like me, you’re super excited to get back to the comfort of your home.  However, pretty quickly after you return home, you realize this isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  There are dirty clothes and dirty dishes.  The baby starts to come out of his sleepy “I was just born” phase. And there are visitors who want to come hold the baby and make you feel the need to play host even though you are recovering from giving birth, figuring out how to be a mother, and doing it all while intensely exhausted.  The transition from hospital to home is a tough one, and it often takes families by surprise.  Here are a few ideas to help that transition be a little smoother and a bit less stressful.

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Coming Home from the Hospital: Ideas for a Smoother Transition

1. Minimize the time you or your partner need to spend in the kitchen. Make sure your food needs are taken care of. See this post for more ideas. And if you haven’t done much prep ahead of time, don’t panic. Ask friends and family to bring you food, cook for you, and don’t be afraid of takeout for a while.

2. Ask visitors to help with laundry. Each visitor can either start a load, switch a load, and/or fold and put away a load. You should not be worrying about laundry right now.

3. Make a commitment to get in bed with your baby and stay there for a few days at least. If you are breastfeeding, spending lots of time cuddling with baby will help establish a healthy feeding relationship. Also, if you’ve committed to staying in bed, you’ll be sure to sleep when the baby sleeps. Do your best to resist the urge to run around taking care of things while the baby is sleeping. Your body needs to rest. Honor it.

4. For the ultimate in smooth transitions, arrange to have a super helpful family member or friend, or a postpartum doula, meet you at your house upon your return from the hospital. This extra help can go quite a long way in setting you up for a peaceful transition.

5. Adjust your expectations. You’re not going to come home and resume life as it once was. Pretend you are taking some “sick days” from work or life and focus on nurturing yourself and your baby. It’s OK if it still feels hard. Just resist the urge to put pressure on yourself to accomplish anything more than eating, sleeping, and feeding your baby.

These intense early days will be over before you know it. A good start upon your return from the hospital will help tremendously in your postpartum transition. For more help preparing for this transition, check out our Postpartum Toolkit.

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The Privileged New Mama http://www.newmamaproject.com/priveleged-new-mama/ http://www.newmamaproject.com/priveleged-new-mama/#comments Fri, 23 Sep 2016 15:16:08 +0000 http://www.newmamaproject.com/?p=2181 I have been deeply troubled this week by two more police shootings of innocent men doing normal activities. Two fathers that will not be there to share in their children’s lives. Two families ripped apart at the seams. I’ve felt the call to action as a white person to work on ending systemic racism, oppression, […]

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I have been deeply troubled this week by two more police shootings of innocent men doing normal activities. Two fathers that will not be there to share in their children’s lives. Two families ripped apart at the seams. I’ve felt the call to action as a white person to work on ending systemic racism, oppression, and police brutality. I am hoping I can live my life in a way consistent with my values and beliefs and join the Americans still fighting for equality and the rights afforded to the dominant culture in the US.

Parenting is challenging.  It doesn’t matter what your life situation – there are always struggles.  But, my parenting struggles are not directly complicated by my race, physical ability, religion, gender identity, or sexual preferences. I am a white, middle-class, able-bodied, heterosexual woman.  I’ve had two uncomplicated natural childbirths and I have a loving and supportive partner and family.  I know that this puts me in a category that many new parents aren’t in. There are many things I don’t have to worry about because of the spot I occupy in society. So, this post is just to point out some of the privilege I benefit from and acknowledge the fundamental struggles that those without these privileges may experience.

fiona-and-girlsAt New Mama Project we want to create a virtual space that feels safe, supportive, and accepting to anyone who feels they need some help getting through the postpartum or early parenting experience.  This has been tricky to do coming from two white women who have relatively similar lived experiences.  We know that there is no such thing as color-blind and we want to create a space that acknowledges racial, cultural, gender, sexual, and other differences.  We certainly know that any difference or otherness one experiences can have a major impact on your well-being as a new parent.

Our greatest joy would be to fill our blog with postpartum stories from a wide array of new parents so that every new parent could find themselves on our site.  If you feel compelled to share your story with us, please do so here! Whether you have a new baby or grown children, if you have a postpartum story to tell we want to here it. While we’re working on inclusivity, I can also do my part to acknowledge the homogeneity of our site and my white privilege.

The privileges myself and my family experience:

  1. I feel safe in my community and I do not worry that anyone in my family will be wrongfully killed by law enforcement.
  2. People generally look at me and have positive assumptions.  If I’m doing something unexpected with my children, it’s unlikely someone will contact the authorities.
  3. I can attend parenting groups in my community and be assured there will be parents who have a similar life experience as me.
  4. I can send my child to pre-school and know she will encounter many children of the same race and culture.
  5. Breastfeeding my child is normalized by my friends and family and they generally support me doing so.
  6. I can tell people I am co-sleeping with my child and they assume I understand the risks and benefits of this practice. They will not contact child protective services based on this information.
  7. I can choose (and afford) to feed my children the food I see as most beneficial to them.
  8. I am generally regarded positively and treated well by doctors.
  9. I am physically capable of caring for my children.
  10. I am able to take maternity leave.
  11. I can be with my family in public without people asking me about how we got our baby – people assume I birthed my baby.
  12. I have the resources to buy clothes to fit my postpartum body.
  13. I have a car to transport my family around.
  14. I can afford diapers for my children.
  15. My family has health insurance.
  16. My children have been able to see a pediatrician for well-visits.
  17. My children are at lower risk for various health complications and even death just because they are white.
  18. Research studies on diseases and medications have been done on large groups of people who are the same race, gender, and socio-economic status as me, so I can feel more confident that any given healthcare is appropriate for my child or myself.
  19. My religious beliefs are not in contrast to recommended health care policies for my children.
  20. My children will be positively regarded by their school staff.

I could continue on and on here with the various privileges I experience and that my children will experience. There are many that I have missed and the conversation goes deep. I often feel I cannot sufficiently express the depth of appall and sadness I feel about the continued systemic racism and oppression in the US.  I hope that we are, yet again, at the rebirthing of our country into a new era where EVERYONE feels they benefit from our society. I hope that I can look back and be proud of the role I played in that change. I hope that my children will know a world with less oppression and more equality.

If you want to read more about white privilege you can do so here, here, and here

 

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Postpartum Physical Recovery: Listen to Your Body http://www.newmamaproject.com/postpartum-physical-recovery-listen-body/ Thu, 15 Sep 2016 00:45:22 +0000 http://www.newmamaproject.com/?p=2171 Sometimes I scroll through online forums where moms chat and ask questions. I'm curious about people's birth, baby, and postpartum questions. It really helps me get an idea of what people need support with and gives me ideas for what to share here on New Mama Project. Something I see many new moms asking questions about is physical recovery, both immediate healing as well as long term postpartum body changes and adjustment.

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Sometimes I scroll through online forums where moms chat and ask questions. I’m curious about people’s birth, baby, and postpartum questions. It really helps me get an idea of what people need support with and gives me ideas for what to share here on New Mama Project. Something I see many new moms asking questions about is physical recovery, both immediate healing as well as long term postpartum body changes and adjustment. And many moms ask by inquiring about what other moms in the group have experienced. It’s normal and OK to want to hear others’ stories and experiences, but sometimes I think a crucial piece is missed when we ask about what others have experienced in an attempt to figure out if our own experience is normal or OK.

You see, when we ask for others’ experiences, we can’t help but compare or wonder why we aren’t healing as quickly, losing weight as quickly, feeling more energetic, etc. There’s no way to know every detail about another person’s life, and the snippets we get don’t paint the whole picture. Responses from others about their own experiences can be helpful, but they can also cause us to bypass something so vital – listening to our own bodies.

2015_SuarezJessica_BirthImages-1

After I had my first baby, who was born by cesarean, I pushed it in terms of getting mobile again. I tried to take a walk outside a few days after coming back from the hospital and I just wasn’t ready. I knew other moms who had done this so soon post cesarean and I figured I should be able to as well. And after my second was born, I felt like something was wrong with me because I was unpleasantly blindsided by the challenges I had healing from a vaginal birth. Everyone told me that healing from a vaginal birth would be so much easier than from a cesarean and I couldn’t figure out why that wasn’t my experience. If I had just honored my own body’s process and responded to what my body was telling me, I wouldn’t have spent so much time worrying and wondering.

After my third was born 5 months ago, I was doing pretty well. I had made plans during pregnancy that allowed me the freedom to stay upstairs and in bed almost exclusively for the first couple weeks after he was born. This was good. As long as I took it easy, I seemed to be recovering pretty well. At about 6 weeks postpartum though, after a somewhat busier day of running around with my kids, I started bleeding a bit more heavily. I called my midwife and she told me what signs to look for in terms of needing to go get medical attention. And then she gently reminded me that the bleeding was my body’s way of telling me to slow down. So I listened. I slowed down again. I let myself off the hook and found restful ways to engage with my older kiddos.

New Mama

I see so lots of mothers out and about mere weeks, sometimes even days after giving birth. And I think that’s OK if the mother feels happy doing that. But I worry that sometimes we feel pressure to get moving and get back out there sooner than our bodies (and our hearts and minds, probably) are really ready. It’s OK if you feel like you’re the only one recovering slowly (you’re certainly not). And it’s OK if you don’t leave your house for a bit. Most importantly, it’s OK to listen to your body. Turn off the surrounding noise and really listen. Your body will tell you what you need to do.

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The Single Best Postpartum Preparation Step http://www.newmamaproject.com/single-best-postpartum-preparation-step/ Mon, 05 Sep 2016 22:00:02 +0000 http://www.newmamaproject.com/?p=2162 Since I've been in the thick of the postpartum period, I've been thinking a lot about what has made things easier for us. I want to share what I feel like has been our single best postpartum preparation step. I

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It has been a busy summer for me.  My second daughter is closing in on the three month mark and our family is just starting to feel like we’ve got some bit of rhythm (not really).

Since I’ve been in the thick of the postpartum period, I’ve been thinking a lot about what has made things easier for us. I want to share what I feel like has been our single best postpartum preparation step. If you’re new here you can read my four part series on postpartum preparation here. If you’ve been around you’ll know that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to make the postpartum transition easier.  I even did some stuff to prepare.

I stocked up on postpartum supplies.

I talked with my partner and my parents about my hopes for the immediate postpartum period.

I worked on personally adjusting my expectations to be in line with a newborn’s needs.

But, really when it comes down to it, there’s one postpartum preparation step that was more valuable than all.  It is the gift that has kept giving all summer.  It has made so many days more manageable. It has saved me from total meltdowns time and time again. And, it is stupidly simple.

Dinner with Two

Typical postpartum dinner…#exhaustion.

THE single best postpartum preparation step I took was …… 

I collected a stash of freezer meals!!!

I know, it’s like the lamest secret I could ever share.  But, I didn’t do this with my first. I was pretty clueless as to what I would need after the baby came.  I was also clueless as to how challenging it can be to get through one quick meal prep session with a newborn.  Babies are crazy unpredictable, so even that Rachel Ray 30 minute meal can be impossible.  But, sticking a frozen lasagna in the oven at 4 and taking it out at 5 – not so hard.

Meal Prep with Kiddo

Prepping meals with my older kiddo.

So, if you are expecting a baby soon, I can give you one piece of solid postpartum advice – make sure you’ve got a deep stash of freezer meals.

How do you make this happen?

  1. Cook stuff ahead of time. Take a weekend or two and make a few of your favorite stews, casseroles, and freezer friendly meals and stock up. Try: lasagna, veggie burgers, burritos/enchiladas, chile or soup.
  2. Make double batches of some of what you’re eating in the months leading up to the baby’s due date.
  3. Let friends and family know that food is what you need. People want to give and do things for you.  Let them, but also steer them in the right direction. My mom brought up about 6 bags of frozen food when she came to help. We still have a couple in the freezer.
  4. Buy frozen dinners that you like.
  5. Stock your freezer and pantry with items to pull together simple meals. We bought a bunch of bread and rolls before the baby was born. So we always had that on hand for the first few weeks to make a quick sandwich or veggie burger. We usually have lot’s of eggs on hand (they keep for longer than you think).  We also keep tons of pasta in the house.

If you haven’t subscribed to our newsletter sign up below! This week’s newsletter with include more tips and ideas about postpartum eating as well as a recipe for one of my favorite freezer meals!

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