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I really don’t mean to stir the pot with the title of this post, but I’ve had so many thoughts flying around in my head as I reflect on the first 12 weeks of motherhood. Those first months are full of self-doubt and questions, especially when your baby doesn’t go “by the book” the way you had planned. Ha! Does any baby? For me, when things with Ainsley weren’t going the way I thought they should go I started to stress out and worry and try to force something that just wasn’t working instead of trusting my momma instinct. Note to other mommas: Always do what’s right for your baby, not another person’s baby or the theoretical newborn in the parenting books you read. That said, here are a few truths I’ve come to in the first three months of motherhood:

1. How you feed your baby doesn’t really matter. 
For the first few days I agonized over the fact that Ainsley wasn’t breastfeeding well. She was hungry and cranky and losing weight and I kept trying to force the issue. I felt SO guilty when I introduced a bottle of breast milk, but she took to the bottle so well that I knew we were doing the right thing for us.

2. There is no shame in feeding your baby formula. 
I have been so blessed to be a part of a new momma group that met during the first few weeks of Ainsley’s life. The moms in that group varied widely in their breast feeding experiences. Some had babies that were allergic to breast milk and required special formula, others had supply issues and supplemented with formula and still others just didn’t want to breast feed long-term and were making the switch to formula before heading back to work.

Personally, I’ve been introducing some formula into Ainsley’s diet for the last couple weeks, and it’s been going great. At first I felt incredibly guilty about the whole thing; my supply was ample and Ainsley was thriving on breast milk, so why wouldn’t I continue? But 11 weeks of exclusively pumping was exhausting and I felt it was better for my mental health to cut back, even if that meant introducing formula. Sure, breast milk is the perfect food for baby in most cases, but formula is pretty good, too.

3. Say “yes” to the paci if you want, when you want. 
Nurses in the hospital might make you scared about nipple confusion and all that jazz, but I’ve had enough momma friends who have recommended giving your little one a paci when you want, even if it’s sooner than the magic 4 to 6 weeks.

4. Find a Facebook group for your parenting style. 
Seriously, I don’t know how our parents did this newborn thing without social media. There are so many great groups on Facebook for almost every parenting style or infant issue you may have questions about. There are groups for exclusively pumping mommas, faith-based groups and the like. I’ve joined a group for moms following BabyWise as well as a few other momma groups. It’s been great to have a supportive place to ask questions and throw around ideas about feeding and schedules and sleep issues.

5. Be prepared to buy and try every sleep contraption on the market. 
In just three months of life, we’ve spent a ridiculous amount of money on sleep solutions. When you’re a tired and weary parent, you’re willing to do or pay anything for a couple extra hours of shut-eye. We’ve used a flannel swaddle, Ergo swaddle, Halo Sleep Sack, Miracle Blanket Swaddle Up, Woombie and Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit. For us the Halo Sleep Sack and Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit have been the two that have worked the best, but it varies from baby to baby.

6. Don’t expect to get all the things done on maternity leave. 
In fact, expect to get none of the things done on maternity leave. Cuddle your baby, be invested in your little one and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get everything done. Maternity leave is for baby bonding and healing and adjusting to a new normal, not proving you’re some sort of super momma who can bounce back in a second and do a thousand tasks.

7. Take developmental milestones with a grain of salt. 
I remember one morning sitting on the couch and crying to Joe early on because I thought Ainsley might be blind. (Really?!) She wasn’t tracking objects well at the point when one book told me she should be able to track and follow things in front of her face. A week or two later she started tracking well and I felt incredibly silly for overreacting. Babies develop differently and different times and paces. Don’t get too stressed. And if you are worried? Ask your doctor, not the internet.

Mommas, what other words of wisdom would you add to this list?
Madison

Brown Rice Salad
Friends, let’s be honest: I haven’t exactly been knocking it out of the park in terms of cooking creative, healthy meals since having a baby. We’ve been eating relatively healthy, but it’s been mainly in the form of quick foods like smoothies, protein bars, pre-made salad kits for Joe’s lunches and simple grilled foods. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s hardly gotten my creative juices flowing in the kitchen. That said, even if I had the time to cook more right now, I would probably prefer to spend it cuddling little miss Ainsley instead.

This salad is our new favorite go-to for a quick, healthy dinner and also makes great lunch leftovers, too! It stores well in the fridge for a number of days and tastes amazing when served over a bed of mixed salad greens. Joe loves it just as much as I do, and that’s saying something for a guy who always wants some sort of meat with every meal. It’s made easy thanks to Trader Joe’s and their convenience items like microwavable brown rice, pre-shelled edamame (frozen), and pre-cooked brown lentils. Of course, you could always make these items the old fashioned way if you don’t have access to Trader Joe’s, but when you use the ready-to-go items for preparation this salad can be tossed together in a matter of minutes!

Quick Brown Rice and Lentil Salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Salad, Entree
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 to 6
 
Ingredients
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup edamame
  • 1 cup brown lentils
  • 1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
  • ½ cup chopped almonds (I used roasted and salted)
  • ¼ cup roasted pepitas
  • Dressing
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Instructions
  1. Mix all the salad ingredients together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the dressing. Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat evenly. Serve room temperature or refrigerate until chilled.

 

photo (79)
This year I celebrated Mother’s Day for the first time on the “other side of the fence” if you will. I’ve spent 27 years celebrating my mother, step mom, grandmothers and aunts who have been like mothers to me, but getting to enjoy this holiday actually being a mom myself felt extra special and had me all sorts of sappy and sentimental.

Although the day has come and gone, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to reflect a little bit on what being a mother has been like these first few months. I’m already finding the first few weeks with a newborn to be hazy in my mind, and I have a feeling that before long these early months will be just a fuzzy memory as well. It makes me sad to see my little peanut growing up so quickly, but as someone who wouldn’t consider the newborn days “my thing” I’m also very thankful that she is getting bigger. My husband and I say every single day that Ainsley is more fun than she was the day before. It really is true that life just keeps on getting better.

But those first few weeks? Man, those weeks were hard. I lacked the perspective to see how fleeting they were, despite the fact that everyone told me they would go quickly. I thought I would be waking up every two or three hours for the rest of my life and that I would never get a solid stretch of sleep, and sometimes I still wonder if my little one will ever sleep the magical “8 hours” in a row. Even now I lack the perspective to understand and realize that the baby stage doesn’t last forever, even though I’ve told myself a thousand times.  But is there anything sweeter than being the one that can silence cries and soothe tears and fussy tummies? Is there anything better than when you feed your baby a bottle and they hold on to your finger with their little clenched fists? Or the adorable way they look when they’re sucking on a paci in their car seat? For some reason that gets me every single time.

Before Ainsley was even conceived, when I was still scared, sad and doubtful that I would ever become a parent, I had a dream. In my dream I saw a sweet baby girl that was all mine to have and to hold. She was chubby, cute and had plenty of dark hair and the sweetest little rosy complexion. I woke that morning and sobbed to Joe when I realized that baby was just a dream because it felt SO real and it hurt to wake from that dream. But that vision stuck with me, and I knew that some day that little baby would come and join our family. In fact, it was the reason I believed Ainsley was a baby girl from the moment I took that pregnancy test, so much so that I started calling her Ainsley five weeks into the pregnancy. I was certain it couldn’t be any other way.

Motherhood has been far more difficult that I ever imagined. I never thought it would be easy, but I was entirely unprepared for the challenges it would bring. There are good days and difficult ones, days when I think I can hardly go on without more sleep than I’m currently surviving on, days when I think I’ve dropped the ball as a mother, moments when I look back and wish I had handled the situation or the crying with a little bit more patience. Sometimes I have to take a moment and re-start my day with a different attitude because, just like my baby, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed with much less perspective than I need to tackle what the day has in store.

But it seems like each really difficult day is followed by a day that is equally wonderful, filled with smiles and coos and new baby developments, when I feel like I’ve really got this mommahood thing down and we’re really hitting our groove. And is there really anything better than going to pick up your baby after a nap only to be greeted with a huge, gummy smile? I don’t think so.

So thank you, Ainsley, for making me a mom and for making this year’s Mother’s Day so sweet. Most days I don’t feel equipped to be a mom, but I certainly feel equipped to be YOUR mom, if that makes any sense. You are my one and only precious baby girl, the child we so longed and prayed for, the one who made all our dreams come true. We love you more than you’ll ever know!

Madison

 

IMG_5675

 

Flashback photo from Ainsley’s first week of life, when we were still figuring out the whole pumping/bottle feeding thing.
Eeek! Can you believe how little she is there? Be still my momma heart. 

I think one thing everyone who has ever breast fed can agree on is this: pumping is absolutely the worst. Anyone with me on that one? Although Ainsley is only two months old, I have already put my pump to good use since I’ve been exclusively pumping since she was four days old. Seriously, I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Since Ainsley had a small gap in the corner of her lip it was clear from the first few horrible days in the hospital that breast feeding just wasn’t going to happen for us. I lasted a couple more frustrating days at home before I made the switch to bottle feeding breast milk, and I can’t tell you the wave of relief I felt when the doctors confirmed that Ainsley’s lip gap was probably a big source of our lack of success at breast feeding.

Of course there are a number of reasons that women pump: to keep up their supply, because they’ve returned to work, because breast feeding multiples is just not working, etc. And I think that the universal opinion on pumping is that it’s just plain miserable. So, if you’re in the same boat that I’m in, I’ve brainstormed a few things you can do while pumping to make it less miserable…

1. Embrace Pumping in the Car
I thought this was so strange when my friends told me that they pumped in the car driving places. But after one too many days scheduling my life around being home to pump, I decided to just embrace pumping while driving. I bought a set of Freemie cups (which are WAY more discreet while driving and easier to use) and a car adapter and my world was changed. It’s great to be able to multitask while driving and it’s even better not to feel chained to getting home in order to pump or to sneak away to a bathroom somewhere in the middle of an event or activity.

2. Blog!
How do you think I made time for this blog post?! But seriously, sitting down with your computer to blog, do bookwork, catch up on e-mails that you never have time to respond to and other semi-productive tasks is a great way to get your mind off pumping and get caught up on those things you say you never have time to do. I usually keep my computer next to my pump so it’s always within arm’s reach.

3. Blow Dry Your Hair, Do Your Makeup
Every now and again when I’m really crunched for time, I set up my pump on the bathroom sink and do my makeup or blow dry my hair while I’m pumping. Finding time to do your hair or makeup as a new momma is hard enough, so this is sort of an easy excuse to take a little time to yourself.

4. Refrigerate Your Pumping Supplies
I don’t know why it took me so long to realize this, but when a new momma friend told me you can take your pumping supplies and store them in the refrigerator for the day it was a game changer. Refrigerating your supplies for the day eliminates the need to clean them every time, and those extra minutes can be used for more important things – like napping!

5. Pump and Feed
This isn’t meant to be an advertisement for Freemie, but I’ve loved the cups so much and they’ve been a game changer for pumping. It’s not easy, but I have figured out that I can pump with the Freemie cups and feed Ainsley her bottle at the same time. I don’t do it often, but when she wakes early and needs to eat and I need to pump, it can be done!

Mommas who have exclusively pumped, do you have any other tips to share? 
Madison

Ainsley2Month

Likes and Dislikes: This month has been so much fun because her little personality is really emerging more and more every day. Joe and I say every day that she is more fun than the day before.

Ainsley Loves: having people sing to her, smiling at friends and family, eating, playing on her baby gym, playing with her daddy and practicing rolling over, hanging out in the Ergo and dancing around the house with mom while music is playing in the background.

Ainsley Dislikes: This little girl has a super short fuse when it comes to eating and we joke that she gets hangry like her momma. If you wait too long to give her a bottle she pretty much loses it and the only way to get her to take her bottle is to sing to her – strange but true. She is starting to like tummy time more, but it still isn’t her favorite, and she really dislikes having her clothes changed.

Daytime Schedule: Still waking up at 6:30 each morning, give or take 1/2 an hour. We’re still sticking to a 3 hour eat, play, sleep cycle during the day, but her wake times are getting longer, around an hour and a half at a time, and her naps range anywhere from 1 hour to 2 1/2 hours; her morning naps are on the shorter side and she usually takes a long nap in the early afternoon, followed by another short cat nap before bed.

Eating: Her eating hasn’t changed all that much from last month. She is eating 4 to 5 ounces during the day and then takes more of a cluster feed approach closer to bed time. Once in a while she will eat a 6 ounce bottle. Lately she seems to be going through a growth spurt because she is eating much more than usual. We are still feeding primarily breast milk in bottles but have also started to introduce some formula each day, mixing it half and half with breast milk because I’m not sure how long I’ll continue to pump.

Sleep: We started to have a lot of trouble with Ainsley taking forever (we’re talking 1 1/2 to 2 hours) to go to bed at night, meaning most of our night consisted of putting her down, soothing her, going back in to rock her and start the process over and over again. Instead of keeping her awake until 9 or 9:30 we have started putting her to bed earlier, around 7 and it’s made a huge difference. She goes to sleep at 6:30 or 7 and wakes up around 12 and then again around 3 or 3:30 with a morning wake time between 5:30 and 6:30 each morning.

Family Transition: Now that Ainsley is getting more predictable and I’m starting to understand her and her schedule a little better, it’s making the transition into parenthood much easier! I am really starting to enjoy my days with Ainsley and a lot of times when Joe gets home I’ll tell him how much FUN she is and how much I love being her mom. Additionally, since she is going to bed earlier and easier, it leaves a little more time for Joe and I to eat a peaceful dinner together and have some time just the two of us, which is great. It’s also incredibly gratifying to walk into her room after naps and be greeted with a huge smile. Those smiles really do make it all worth it! Overall, I’m enjoying being a mommy so much more this month than last month, which was pretty rough to be really honest.

Mommy Body Update: I went in for my 6 week postpartum check up and was surprised that I’m back to my pre-pregnancy weight. Things are certainly not as toned and firm as before I got pregnant, but I’m trying to be patient and take it a day at a time. Honestly, finding time to get to the gym has been minimal, especially since I’m still battling sleep depravation, but we’re going on lots of long walks and I’m doing plenty of squats and lunges in the Ergo since Ainsley loves to be worn in that thing every day. Despite the fact that I’m not in the shape I used to be, I’m really feeling better in my body than ever and have found that I care a lot less about the little vanities in life now that I’m a mom. If I’m healthy and active and eating fairly well the other little imperfections can just slide.

Resources: Still using Babywise and Moms on Call as my main resources. My mom also gifted me What to Expect: Baby’s First Year, which I really love because it gives plenty of information on developmental milestones and activities to do with your baby by age.

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