Infant Days: The Epilogue

It was just over two years ago (!!) that we told the world M was going to be a little girl. A few months later that little girl entered the world and completely rocked mine to its core. It was T O U G H and I feel like I was very open and honest and blunt about our struggles with parenthood.

Sometimes I wonder if M will ever find those posts and IG pictures and FB updates, and think I felt regretful. It wasn’t always glamorous and I very rarely painted it as such. And while I hope that was/is helpful to new moms, I sometimes wonder what M will think.

So I thought I’d write a epilogue to the infant days. My 19-month-old is full bore toddler now so we’re in a completely different chapter. (Maybe even book?)

I think every parent has a favorite age. Some will say each stage was their favorite and then the next one happened and it was even better. Kudos to those moms and dads. That is not what I (or K) would tell you.

I loved the newborn snuggles but I struggled during the newborn phase. Even after we cleared the fog, it was hard to find my groove. But then M started rolling. And sitting up. And eating some soft foods.

Then she started smiling and babbling. Pointing and shaking her head. Reaching and rejecting. By the time she was 13 months she could pick out her favorite foods, point to what she wanted, and walk across the room.

And we hit our stride.

I’m sure there are many parents who do not love toddlerhood. Eighteen months is a challenging age. Some parents love newborn age, some like school age (this will be K’s favorite I bet). I am a toddler-lover through and through. M is so much dang fun.

I love that she can communicate- even when I don’t know what she’s saying. Sometimes she’s crying because there’s a thread on her pants- but you know what? I know why she’s crying and that’s such a relief. She’s feisty and inquisitive. She loves doing everything herself… but wants mom or dad close by. She follows the dogs around and expects them to follow her. She can point to and name her body parts. She loves to figure out how something works. She likes to help with everything. She tells us when she’s ready for bed (even if she’s not sold on it when it’s actually time to sleep). She’s down for any adventure. She really is such a fun kid and such a fun age.

SO… for all the struggles and tears and complaining I did 1 year ago, let me just share what a good time we’re having right now. Sure, it’s not always easy. We have tantrums and breakdowns. But dang, it’s rewarding with M. She’s one of my favorite people to hang out with.

I might be singing another tune when we potty train… or transition from crib to bed… or start thinking about preschool. But for now? I am one happy human with my sassy little toddler.

*For those that struggle with toddlerhood, it will change. I would never paint a rosier picture than it really is, but I wanted to share that motherhood isn’t miserable forever and ever with no moments of joy.

Every Direction

I use Instagram for three things: keeping up with all of you (& my non-blog friends), inspiration for my Animal Crossing island (#nerdalert), and parenting information.

Let’s hone in on that last one.

Recently I started following some new (child) sleep experts and questioning every single thing I’ve done for M and her sleep habits. (Fear not- I question my parenting every hour of every day. All parents do…) It got me thinking… when it comes to parenting, advice and research is thrown at you from every direction.

Let’s think about a generic law. You show up to a store at 6:17pm and try the handle, only to find it locked. You notice that they closed at 6pm. What do the laws of the land dictate? You shrug your shoulders, turn around, and try another day. Breaking in would be wrong.

Ok… same situation, but apply the rules of parenting. Door is locked.
Well… some experts would suggest you jiggle the handle. Try tickling or stroking the keyhole to inducing unlocking.
Or you might try talking to the door about why it’s locked and whether or not it thinks that’s a good idea. If you’re more hands on, you might spank the door or shatter its glass to teach the door a lesson in defying you.
Try putting the door in time out and return 2 minutes later to see if anything has changed.
Maybe you don’t believe in locked doors. While locked doors might protect the herd, it’s not good for you and your family. You prefer open doors and plenty of sunshine.
**And there are no true consequences for any approach you take.**

That is a silly example, but it’s how it feels to read conflicting parenting advice on e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.

“You can’t co-sleep with your kid, you’ll crush them.” // “You put your child in a crib at 4 weeks?? Do you WANT them to die from SIDS?!”

“French fries will poison your toddler.” // “You know they make jar baby food, right? You don’t have to puree like a hippie.”

“Don’t give your child peanut butter(/eggs/fish/etc.) until they’re a year old.” // “Give you baby peanut butter before 6 months to reduce allergic reacts.”

“Breast is best.” // “Fed is best.” // “Goat milk is best.” // “Formula is full of sugar.”

“You must adhere to a strict and early vaccine schedule.” // “Make sure you talk to your doctor about spreading out shots and eliminating unnecessary ones.”

You get it.

It’s exhausting. (Arbitrary rules exist in more than parenthood, but this is trench I’m stationed in right now.) Like… give me a tried and true manual and I will follow the rules. Don’t give me this “Some experts say…” bullshittery.

Also… is fussing the same as crying it out? Because I would argue no but please don’t call the baby sleep police on me.

So what do you do? I don’t know. This isn’t an advice article. I’m just as clueless as the rest of ya.

A while back Kristen commented that she goes by, “Eat the fish, spit out the bones.” I can get on board with that. So here’s my not-tested, nonexpert-approved parenting advice:

Learn who your kid is. It’s tough because babies are potatoes but as they grow and their personalities emerge, change some of your routines and activities to foster their growth (and energy and sleepy cues and hunger pangs).

That’s the best I’ve got. Also- watch out for sleep regression and one-year-molars; they’re a true b*tch. I’ve heard the two-year-molars are just as gnarly. Will report back.

Best of luck, guys.

Baby Talk: What I’ve Learned

Being a mom is both nothing like I thought it’d be and everything I expected. I’ve always been introspective but motherhood really brings it out in me. What else am I supposed to do while rocking a fussy baby alone in the dark at 3am…?

Here are some truths I’ve learned over the past +13 months.

These are the good ol’ days.

Yesterday, today, two weeks from now. There is some “good ol” in every day. The newborn stage wasn’t for me, but looking back we had lovely days just lounging around together (because I was too exhausted to move). M is a freaking monkey and I am dead tired by the end of the day, but when I ask for “snuggs” and she wraps her arms around me and bite-kisses me, I know I have it good. And there are so many good ol’ days to look forward to with her.

You trade one mess for another.

As I hang Moo’s clothes in her closet she sits under my feet and unpacks the bins of bows and hats. While I wash dishes in the sink she squirms in her highchair and rubs spaghetti sauce in her hair. It’s chaos and the only way through it is understanding that if you want to get anything done, you simply trade one mess in for another.

There is no good & bad- just baby.

We were so proud of ourselves for training M to sleep in her own bed. But at 4am when she just wants to be held you know what I can’t do? I can’t bring her to our bed because she thinks it’s playtime. I love that we have a super little eater but you know what she does when I have ANYTHING edible in my hand? She fusses and cries because she wants a bite. She knows where her nose is but sticks her finger in it if you ask about it. She loves the dogs but sometimes won’t leave them alone. There’s no good and bad… there’s just a baby figuring it all out.

You find a focus & you obsess.

It seems like moms fixate on one or two things. “I MUST breastfed and my worth is based on my success… We WILL follow baby led weaning to the T and we will not supplement with purees… My child NEEDS to sleep X amount of hours in the morning and X amount at night to ensure perfect REM sleep”…
I’m the sleep mom. And it’s paid off, but I have been the sleep police with Moo since week 4. It’s funny how parents pick one or two areas to OBSESS over. Pay attention- because we definitely do it.

And perhaps the most bitter truth…

She will never love me as much as I love her.

It sucks having this realization. Then I realize how much my mom actually loves me. And K’s mom loves him. And really how much any half-decent mom loves their kid. And there is no possible way for that child to love their parent as much. It’s selfish to wish that she would, but dang…

And on that note…. I’m going to go scroll my phone and watch newborn videos.

What has parenthood or aunt-hood or guardian-hood taught you?

12 Months (!!) of Madelyn

This is the last of the designated M posts. I’m not planning to do more quarterly updates and this will round out the birthday-related topics. I’ll likely give an 18 month update mid-2021.

On Saturday we had a zoom party for my baby. It was lame, but it was safe, so I’ll take it. She also recognized people on the video so I think she enjoyed herself.

Nicknames: Maddie, Mads, Moo, Maddie Lou, Poodle, Snoots

Stats: Chunky monk is 23 lbs. and over 31.5 in. long. Clothing-wise she’s slowed down a bit and we’re still hanging out in 18 months outfits. (Thank Jesus.) She’s above the 99th percentile in height, though. WOOF.

Likes: Her dad, her dogs, and her stuffed animals. She loves music and dancing, likes to watch the dogs run around inside and out, and loves having her toes eaten. Lol

Dislikes: Shots (duh), being wiped off after a meal, Mom leaving the room, and having dog toys taken away from her. She hates being restrained, too. She also refuses to leave socks/shoes on.

Sleeping: M has always been a great sleeper. We were struggling with bedtime AND staying down for the night for a few weeks, but she’s back to normal now. I think it was the 1 year sleep regression. UGH.
We’re still doing 2 naps/day and I will hold on to them both as long as possible!

Eating: Our little poodle loves her noodles. She is a carb queen. She also loves avocados, eggs, meatballs, fish, and turkey. But pasta is the way to her heart.

Development: I don’t have time to list all the new things this girl can do. She does everything in her own time but once she’s got it, she’s got it. She stands, walks along furniture, walks with help, walks with her walker… but no independent walking yet.
M is a MONKEY. She climbs on everything- stairs, couches, toys, humans, dogs… lol. She knows how to get up and how to use tools to get up, and she knows how to go down (“feet first!” we say over and over).
She knows 4 or 5 body parts, yes and no, how to wave and clap and point and she tries to blow kisses, she signals “all done” when she’s finished a meal, she cuddles her stuffed animals, and she has mastered the colorful rings toy.
She makes a million sounds, says mama dada and da (dog), and will repeat back sounds and syllables of words you say to her. She knows who people and animals are- and can tell our dogs apart by name.

Personality: I hate COVID. Moo is so much fun to hang out with and take places. I hate that we can’t go anywhere with her. She has a happy disposition and she’s way more clever than me. She’s starting to find certain things funny and she’s starting to find some things scary. I love that we’re seeing her imagination develop. Unless she’s super tired or in pain, she’s a happy happy girl .

Travel: Sigh.
We have done some longer drives lately. We popped down to Cabela’s in Tridelphia, WV a few weeks ago and Maddie did great!
We took her to the reverse Christmas parade our town had and she loved driving through the float displays, waving at everyone.

Mom’s Summary: It was weird to see my baby turn one. I remember everything about the day she entered this world- and it doesn’t seem that long ago. M brings joy to everyone she meets and that’s especially true for me. I’m so proud of all the things she’s learned this year and I LOVE that despite all the isolation, she’s a happy friendly adventurous little girl.

M is starting to get a feisty, head strong, clever personality. I’m looking forward to shaping her into a kind little kid 🖤 I struggled a lot with the helpless newborn stage. I am much much more cut out for the communicative and temperamental toddler stage. I know that’s weird to prefer (and maybe I’ll take it back), but I love her budding personality- even the more difficult side, lol.

I now have a T O D D L E R and I am not ok. 😭

All professional photos courtesy of Jackie Beachy Photography.

Baby Talk: Dear New Mom

Happy Thursday. This has been on my heart so I wanted to get it out.

Dear New Mom,

First of all, congratulations! Secondly, how are you? Welcome to what I would describe as the hardest month/six weeks of your life. I am 7 months and 3 weeks into this parenting thing and, admittedly, we both have a long way to go… but there’s a massive difference between where you’re at and where I’m at, so I wanted to give you some encouragement.

Let’s get this out of the way: there is nothing wrong with you.

If you want to do laundry and organize the pantry while baby sleeps, do it. If you want to hold your baby while she sleeps, do it. If you want to take a nap while he’s snoozing, do it. There isn’t a wrong way and you shouldn’t feel guilty. Listen to your body and your brain.

But also… tell your brain to can it. You’re going to feel guilt. Guilt over a dirty house. Guilt over “spoiling” your baby (<< impossible.) Guilt over wanting to hand baby off to a visitor while you do dishes/nap/shower(/cry).

Stop that. Guilt only sucks whatever energy and stamina you have left. There is no wrong way to survive the first month as long as you’re taking care of your brain and body.

But let’s talk about your body. Girlfriend… it’s straight up broken– whether you pushed baby out or underwent a cesarean. (And if you adopted you’re STILL not running at 100% because babies suck the life out of you no matter what.) I know it takes all your energy to stand or roll out of bed for the 100th time to feed a crying baby. I know you pee when you sneeze… or cough… or move. I know there are stretch marks and swelling and ouchies everywhere. I know your boobs hurt.
Not to mention your brain and your hormones and your insides…

The six week gap between birth and your first appointment is B U L L S H I T . If you need to see the doctor sooner, do it. (I went twice- once for PPD and once for an infection.) Give your body what it needs- antidepressants, sleep, Tylenol, etc. Even if you’re breastfeeding, the doctors can work with you and figure out how to help. Talk to them.

And now for the most important part: accept the help (& do so without feeling guilty!).

If you have a spouse, let them raise that baby, too. They’re not helping you or watching the kid, they’re raising their child. If you have family nearby that you trust and love, accept their help. Let them spend the night or drive you to your doctor appointment or pick up the groceries for you. If you have a trusted neighbor let them come over and rock the baby to sleep while you shower. Say YES when you need the help or want the break. I was bad about this & I regret it.

I know you’ve heard this before & I hope it’s not coming across as unsolicited advice.

Please know that sometimes these are not the golden days… Sometimes these are the make-it-or-break-it days. You’re tired and sore; it’s tough to truly enjoy anything in those moments. But the days will get better and better. Motherhood will start to feel more natural over time. Your baby will recognize you and smile at you. You will figure out how to squeeze in sleep and brushing your teeth and maybe even a shower.

It doesn’t get easier necessarily, but you get much much better at it. And you’ll realize that all things end- good or bad. The crying, the sleepless nights, the snuggles, the helplessness… it will all end eventually and you’ll come out on the other side.

For the new moms in my life, if you want to reach out I am available. You can vent, ask me to mask-up and hold your baby, or run to the grocery store with a long list.

You will get through this. Your baby will thrive. You are doing a fantastic job. ❤️