This Mother’s Day I am feeling especially grateful for my mama, who’s been as amazing as usual as I confront becoming a mom myself. Granted, I’m probably TOO attached to my mom; we travel together a few times a year, talk every morning and I seek her out for everything from cooking lessons via Skype to answers to thorny life questions when I need wisdom/understanding. (When I told her about my ambivalence after learning I was preggo, her response was, “Well, if the baby comes out cute you could probably sell it on the black market for at least 40 grand.”)
This is all to say that I’ve never under-appreciated the connection between moms and their children. So in preparation for this fall’s arrival of Baby Hu-Stiles, I sought out advice and product recommendations from some of my favorite-girlfriends-who-are-also-moms. I’m overwhelmed that these brilliant, beautiful women — one who I’ve known since 5th grade — took the time to share these personal insights with me, and with you. Happy Mother’s Day.
“It surprised me how crazy my nesting instinct was when I was pregnant. At one point, when I was still quite far from my due date, I decided that some small shelves urgently needed to be hung (by husband Oliver) on the nursery wall at 11 p.m.
I wish someone had told me that uncontrollable shaking is common during labor. It happened to me at home, before I went to the hospital, and it freaked us both out.
When you find yourself worrying about childbirth, know that you have things like this to look forward to: Your baby’s belly laugh. After bath time, when we’re patting Carmen with the towel, she starts giggling and shrieking. It’s the sweetest thing in the world.”
1. I LOVE her high chair, which becomes a regular kid chair.
2. This is such a simple thing, but it makes a big difference: Waterproof changing pad liners. You put one on top of the changing pad cover, and when the liner gets dirty, you just toss it in the wash, so you don’t have to constantly wash the changing pad cover.
3. I love our stroller. We wanted one that was easy for travel (lightweight, simple to fold) but rugged enough to take to the trail, and this one has been great. Since last summer, it’s been to Portland, Oregon; Washington, DC; Chicago; New York and Miami. And all over Austin.
1. “First time mom nursing mistake: When my less-than-one-day-old daughter had a hard time latching on, I gave her have some formula. I thought she would be less frustrated and more patient after having a little snack. She ate, fell asleep, and woke up hungry again. She was still unable to latch, and even less willing to try, now that she knew there was an alternative. The bottle had already become her preferred source of food. Nursing her after that was even harder. If I had just held out, she and I would have both been better off.
2. I wish I had packed my hospital bag weeks early. My water broke one week before the due date, in the middle of the night. There was barely any fluid, so I was confused about what was happening. Half-awake, my husband and I went to the hospital to have a nurse look into it. We thought we were going to be sent home for a false alarm. Our daughter arrived hours later. My husband invited everyone we knew to the hospital right away. I was still wearing the shirt I had worn to bed the night before, when my water broke. No makeup. No brush. I recoil looking at the photos from that day.
3. At night, I sweat buckets once the milk came in. And my boobs leaked continuously at first. I didn’t expect to go thru so many pairs of nursing pajamas in a night. I would have registered for more nursing pajamas. And a waterproof mattress cover.”
1. Contoured changing pad. At first, babies can’t just go anywhere you go. They need to be placed on something soft and cushioned, at least until they can hold up their own heads. Having a special baby chair or portable crib in every room in the house gets cumbersome. I ended up bringing the changing pad with me everywhere. It’s light, soft and portable. Young babies don’t roll off the pad because the sides are contoured. It fits in the backseat of any car. It was especially great when my daughter fell asleep on it – I could drag/carry her and the pad with me if I had to move to another room.
2. Swaddling blankets. These blankets are the difference between no sleep and plenty of sleep. Need I say more?
3. A steamer. Pretty much any baby food can be made by steaming, then mashing. No need to buy the bottled stuff. No need to buy an expensive baby food making machine.
“I had always heard that kids get sick a lot, especially when they start daycare. But one of the biggest surprises of motherhood for me, was how much more often I would be sick as a result. As mothers, we see ourselves as the caregivers, not the one needing help but sometimes we do and we should ask for it.
What new moms need most is sleep. Nothing prepares you for how little you get those first few months. You think you are superwoman at first with the adrenaline (and hormones) and all that love pulsing through your veins. But after a few weeks, it’s hell. I remember briefly falling asleep a few times during the day, while I was still standing up! God, I was so exhausted. I remember the fatigue much more clearly than even the labor pains. So, listen to friends and family and for everyone’s sake, sleep when that baby sleeps!”
1) Triple Paste (it’s the best butt paste I’ve ever used on my kids and I’ve tried them all. This stuff is expensive but it’s magic in a tube and cures diaper rash over night)
2) My Breast Friend (this is much better than the “Boppy” breast-feeding pad because it fits better and really does make breast feeding easier, just be sure to buy a cover for it so you can take it off and wash it easily. Poop, spit-up, food and breast milk stains are inevitable).
3) Medela Automatic Breast Pump (Invest in the most powerful pump out there. It will save you time and energy, two things that will be in short supply for the next 18 years!)
“My first baby just turned 4! The rate of change after the “birthing day” is exponential, and I’m having a very hard time remembering what I didn’t know 4 years ago. The first things that come to mind are things that surprised me but aren’t necessarily things that could be learned.
First, I was surprised by how great it felt to finally have my baby in my arms (as opposed to on my bladder). Obviously, the gods (mother nature, the creator, whatever you want to call him or her) have it figured out. By the end of that 40th week, you are fully equipped to handle whatever your baby decides to dish out. Your body and mind are preparing for being a mom in more ways than just trying to figure out how to get one more week out of a pair of pants. You are adapting to the way your body changes and reacts; you are functioning on small amounts of sleep with strange aches and pains; and, you are modifying your food intake to an unpredictable set of needs and cravings.
The second thing that was a bit of an eye opener was the “mommy effect”. Ellie was a pretty agitated baby, and I had the tools to care for her. There were times when all I had to do was pick her up, hold her close, and do a magical bounce to calm her down. I could literally go on and on and on and on and on and on and on, but I won’t. I’ll leave it with this: Becoming a mother has fundamentally changed me, for the better, in every aspect of my life. I sort of understand my grandmother’s craziness in always wanting us to have kids; she just wanted us to know the joy of motherhood.”
1) Halo Sleep Sacks w/ velcro swaddle attachment
2) Gerber sippy cups
3) Robeez Infant Socks
In the early days I was surprised by how much adrenaline I was running on to take care of Marion Cass and keep everything in my house in order. I’m also surprised by how much I learn from my children every day – especially now that MC is 2 and talking and showing me more of her personality and her likes, dislikes, etc. There are moments were I just become overwhelmed by how much I love them and my eyes fill up with tears. Everytime that happens I’m surprised (pleasantly).
1) I think the BOB stroller is this best thing in the world. It’s expensive, but worth every penny. It’s light, you can take it anywhere, it’s durable, and you can basically go off-roading with it. Love the BOB.
2) I just got a Summer Infant video monitor. It’s not so important when the baby is a newborn, but Marion Cass just started climbing out of her crib and I had to switch her to a big bed. The video monitor allowed me to do that because I can watch what she is doing, and there is a way that I can talk to her through the camera. So when she started climbing out of her big bed I told her to get back in it and she did. It was amazing. And now she’s sleeping in a big bed.
3) Both my girls have loved being swaddled and really asked for it. I like the Swaddle Designs blankets in flannel. Not to brag, but I’m a very good swaddler, but once Kate and Marion Cass started sucking their thumbs or fingers, they would fight and fight to get their hands out of the swaddle and are often successful. But they are rarely successful if they are swaddled in the flannel blankets.
4) The nap nanny. It’s the perfect incline for the baby — especially when their tummies are really full and they are uncomfortable from eating too much. And you can transport it anywhere in your house because it’s so light. It’s awesome.
“I’m going out on a limb when I make this confession — I am still breastfeeding, and I plan on doing it for the first year, but I don’t like it. There, I said it! I feel terrible! But I think it’s something new moms may want to hear. Because it is okay to not enjoy it; I am doing it because it is what is best for my little girl.
Our problems started early when, after four days of successful feeding after birth, my milk came in. And baby decided she did not want anything to do with my breasts.
After she hadn’t eaten anything for almost 12 hours full panic set in, I contemplated formula, but I really didn’t want to go that route and destroy my chances at continuing breastfeeding. I called my pediatrician who recommended pumping and giving a bottle which I did, at the risk of turning her into a bottle girl instead of a breast girl. We came back from that, but then my nipples continued to decay into an unrecognizable state that required frequent ibuprofen and biting on a pillow every time she latched on. The night she started spitting up blood – my blood – was the night I almost caved again and went to formula.
If you’re breastfeeding, you are the only source of food. You cannot leave baby’s side for more than three hours (if that!) for a long, long time after she’s born. And that can be tough for a mom who is used to her independence and wants to get more than three hours of sleep for one night! Every pediatrician visit (and there’s been lots of them) was a stressful event because she wasn’t gaining weight quickly enough — was it my fault? Was she not getting enough milk? That’s a lot of pressure for a new mom!
This all sounds so negative, but I’m speaking out about it because I am a good mom. A damn good mom. And I hate breastfeeding. And that’s okay to say, even though I’ve never heard anyone else say it (although I secretly think there’s millions of moms out there like me). I would highly recommend that moms set up an appointment with a lactation consultant after they leave the hospital, even if things are going well, to give them some pointers and reassurance — even though the LC I saw was kind of a hippie and most of the tips she gave me were not super helpful. The one thing she did tell me that I listened to was “keep up the good work.” It is good work to keep that little babe on the boob as long as you can, even if it hurts, even if you hate it! It’s okay to go to formula, and to hate that too! We all love our little babies, and that’s what is important.
1. We have “The First Years BabyPro Sterilizer” that we LOVE! People told me don’t register for these stand alone sterilizers because everything can be sterilized in a dishwasher. But sometimes (most of the time for me) when I need something sterlized I need it done NOW! And my dishwasher takes almost an hour to run. This little baby sits on our counter and takes 11 minutes start to finish. Great for quick bottles, binkies, anything!
2. Aden & Anais swaddle blankets. Most receiving blankets are not big enough to swaddle. These are huge, and they are made out of a lightweight fabric that breathes easily so baby isn’t too hot or cold.
3. Lansinoh Gel Pads. These are much better than the Medela brand, and they are great for sore nipples. They are 10 bucks a pop, but they are SO worth it!
4. Sleepers nightgowns that don’t have buttons or zippers — just a little gown with elastic on the bottom. Carters makes a great one. When you are changing a diaper at 3 am you are not going to want to mess around with buttons that take ten minutes to snap!
5. Moby wrap — this little gem is great for gassy babies. It requires a couple of views of the youtube instruction video to figure out how to put it on, but it works like a charm.
Thank you again to my gal pals, who, in between being crazy career women and involved mothers, took time to write me these delightful messages for this blog post. And here’s to all the mom’s out there … You are amazing every single day.