Mama Thoughts: The Struggle

Photo credit:  J E Theriot

Motherhood can be isolating.  Each time I’ve had a baby, amidst all all of the intense joy and wonderment I’ve felt at the fact that I created this tiny human, there has also been an equally intense feeling of being overwhelmed and isolated.  After all, no matter how much anyone else wants to help, most of my baby’s care is up to me.  We’re mammals, that’s how we’re designed.

But the fact that the demands of motherhood are natural doesn’t mean they’re comfortable.  This is a lesson we’re re-taught time and time again as our children grow up.  And despite so much attention being given to the younger generations’ stress levels due to the differences between what they see portrayed on social media vs the realities of their own lives, very little attention is paid to how this same, strange modern day dichotomy is playing out in the lives of mothers.

I’m fairly vocal about the struggles I experience as a mother.  Anyone who knows me, knows my true story.  But I am still acutely aware that the perception of my life, my experience as a mother, can be perceived completely differently by outside observers.  Perhaps it’s something as simple as the fact I try not to leave the house without getting properly dressed or that I wear makeup 99% of the time.  People who merely see me out and about probably think I have it all together.  “Look at her!  She still has time to take care of herself!  She must be so together!”.

But how wrong they are!  There is one truth above all others:

We’re all a hot mess, some of us are just better at “hiding” it.

For me, I often have days of small victories.  One of them is putting on an actual outfit.  It’s how I make myself feel like I’m still a member of the outside world, even if I’m hanging on the edge of the cliff by my unmanicured fingernails (seriously, I haven’t had a manicure in over 4 years).  I put on makeup every day (usually at stoplights) because I am too insecure with my skin to go without (who has time for a dermatologist?).  These facts are my actual reality behind what might make others think I am someone who “does it all”.

Because I definitely do not do it all.  There are at least 40 concrete things I could rattle off to you right now that I could be doing better in my life.  For myself and for my children alike.  But I’m making a concerted effort to keep doing what I can and allowing my goals to be fluid.  Because the individual scales of my life (children-spouse-career-self) are never going to be evenly balanced.  Ever.

I’m learning every day to accept that certain areas will have to take up the slack for others in order to survive with as much grace and joy as is possible.

I’m also learning to find the beauty in having a life that often, internally, feels scotch-taped together. It is providing me with the opportunity to grow and mature, to lean on and confide in my girlfriends and my husband, to steer my beautiful children through life despite not always feeling like their confident Captain.  And to find love in unexpected places.

Through the experience of motherhood, I’ve found a new, profound feeling of connection to other women, even when I feel entirely, utterly alone.  As I lock eyes with another mom at the store who’s having “one of those days” – I know her struggle.  I get it.  I hope she’s OK.  Or I witness an older woman watching my children, suddenly being transported to memories of her own.  I see her, I actually physically feel her love and her longing.  It makes my heart simultaneously swell and break for her.  I hope she’s OK, too.  Or when I see a pregnant woman, staring at a baby aisle with so much excitement about the future but also so overwhelmed by the weight of this new journey.  I want to rush up to her and hold her hand as she becomes part of this crazy, messy tribe.  I hope she’s going to be OK.

Not one of us is perfect, not as a person and not as a mother, no matter what we see in various posts or pictures on social media.  We can’t fall into the trap of feeling inadequate or less than what we erroneously perceive as other people’s perfect lives.  The more we lift the veil on this perception of perfection, the more real and raw and connected we are to one another, the more we will flourish.  We’re in this together, girlfriends.  Scotch tape and all.

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The Bugaboo Bee – It’s True Love

bgbbee3-5-met-retouchdefdef

Oh, Bugaboo Bee, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

I have a confession: I have a stroller problem. I don’t want to tell you how many different strollers I’ve owned over the past 6 years, but suffice it to say that I presently have 6 (and that’s after I’ve sold several recently). Yes, I’m a strolleraholic! So without further ado, let me tell you about my absolute favorite for the past 5 years: the Bugaboo Bee.

After owning countless strollers, I realized that my biggest complaint with all of them was their size and weight. No matter how wonderful their other features might be, the heft of most strollers became a big bummer on a daily basis. I didn’t like lugging them in and out of my car (or how much of my trunk they took up). I didn’t like running into doorframes or display racks with the edges of the tires. I really didn’t like not fitting down some store aisles or not being able to easily maneuver around displays. Don’t even get me started on trying to fit in changing rooms at stores!  I needed a narrower, lighter stroller, STAT.

tog-662px-bgb-bee3-totalAfter several failed attempts with other, less expensive brands, I finally closed my eyes and hit buy on the Bee. It arrived in all of its European-designed funky glory, and I wondered how I was going to deal with a stroller that didn’t look entirely traditional. But as soon as I popped it together and had my daughter climb in, all my doubts evaporated. She immediately decreed, “Mommy, I wuv dis -troller!”.  And the push! My goodness, the push! The Bee g-l-i-d-e-s! Everything about the Bee immediately exceeded my expectations and made me a believer in the Bugaboo brand.

In addition to all of this, the Bee is solidly built, parent-faces (a must for me with babies and young toddlers), and is also exceptional for tall kids.  The seat pan is extendable (to continue providing leg and thigh support) and the seat back is also extendable!  Both of my kids have been near the 99th percentile for height as infants and toddlers, so these features were invaluable.  In fact, my oldest is now almost 6 (and has slowed down to the 50th percentile), but she still fits nicely in the Bee with the seat fully extended in both directions.  Amazing.

I’ve owned many iterations of the Bee over the past 5 years now: the “original” Bee Minus (as it’s become to be known), the Bee Plus (or Bee +), the black framed Bee Plus, and the Bee3.  I’ve gotten adventurous and made my own custom canopies, tried out the baby cocoon when I had my 2nd child, added the Bugaboo rider board, imported a Twoo Seat to attach to the board so my oldest could grab a seat if she tired of standing… I.just.love.this.stroller.

If you are in the market for your first stroller, spare yourself the all too common mistake of buying “too much” stroller and just buy the Bee straight away.  If the price scares you off, buy a used one off of Craigslist.  Even an old Bee Minus (identifiable by its solid white wheels, “wings” on the sides of the seat, and the extra large canopy) in good condition will be a far better stroller than most and should run you between $75 and $150 depending on your area.

The Bee Plus (white spoke wheels, a non-extendable canopy, 3-piece harness buckle) on the silver aluminum frame should run from $200-$350 depending on your area (assume $50 extra for the black frame).  You can always update a Bee Plus with the Bee3’s basket (it’s slightly larger), seat (fabric is different and the harness straps are 5 pieces), and extendable breezy canopy (it zippers open to reveal an extra panel) should you feel the need for any of these parts.

bgb-bee3-bassinet-662pxThere is also now a bassinet/carrycot for the Bee available as an additional piece.  Between you and me, I think the cocoon is more than sufficient for use with a newborn (it’s easier to cart around AND easier on your wallet).  But, if your heart is really set on having the full pram look for your newborn, you can certainly splash out for the beautiful bassinet!

If you’ve been going round and round, wondering if those high end strollers are really worth the price, I’m here to tell you YES.  Absolutely.  I’d rather have an old Bee than nearly any other brand new stroller.  It’s just that much better.  Happy strolling!

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Want to Know What to REALLY Pack for the Hospital?

Photo credit: Tess Watson

Here’s my official list I share with everyone…
FOOD. Hospital food is awful and they feed you at set hours. You will be hungry ALL THE TIME (you just birthed a human!).

Ensure (check with your OB). There’s no reason you shouldn’t have calories during labor. Easy way to get some sustenance without going against doctors’ antiquated orders to withhold all food.

A water bottle that won’t leak, that you can keep in bed with you. Much easier than having to keep that stupid tray table nearby and actually move your poor, abused body to reach it. You can pour water from the measured cups the nurses bring you so they can still keep track of your intake. If your bottle has ml or oz markings, it’s even easier.

Clothes that are easy to nurse in, but you won’t mind taking pictures in. In dark colors. You will bleed like a murder victim postpartum (no one ever prepared me for THAT!). It is much less horrendous if you’re wearing a stretchy black nightgown vs a light blue hospital tent.

Slipper socks. Hospital floors and bathrooms… Enough said. (Dark colors again – you’d be surprised what ends up on your feet the first few times you stand up).

Rubber bands and comfortable headbands. Hair in your face is damn annoying during labor. And postpartum sweat hair looks better in a headband.

Cameras/phones/chargers/laptop or iPad. My oldest wouldn’t have left the hospital with a name were it not for my laptop and the Internet. It’s also easy to upload pictures to friends and family if you bring your gear.

Cosmetics. If you’re normally a makeup queen and you don’t want 11,000 pictures looking like complete hell, bring whatever you normally use. If you’re concerned about those 1st photos: Model In a Bottle. Hand to God it works and I credit it for keeping me human while delivering my kids.

Toiletries. Shampoo/conditioner/soap/face wash/brush/contact lens solution and case/toothbrush and paste/hair brush. Even the “fancy” hospitals tend to not have anything beyond hospital hand soap in the shower. Color me shocked when I had my first. My hair was even more shocked.

Chapstick. Your lips may get very dry during labor. The post partum sweating should keep you covered after that…

A nursing cover is useful unless you will be comfortable with whipping the girls out with visitors watching. You can skip nursing pillows – a lot of fuss when you can get extra bed pillows from the nurses and haul a lot less in/out of the hospital. And also skip nursing pads – your milk won’t come in for a few days and, if you should be early and leak, the hospital will happily give you some.

Cute baby outfits to take baby home in. Don’t bring just 1 – you may have a diaper disaster and baby may be too big/small for standard newborn size. The hospital will provide basic babywear, a hat, and swaddle blanket for your stay.

Postpartum Clothes. Comfy, stretchy outfit for you to go home in. You’ll be in the hospital mesh underwear with the huge pad (like Depends size) and you will still look approximately 7 months pregnant, so take that into account when choosing clothes.

Oh and remember to take off your rings when you get to the hospital! Your hands will swell from all the fluids in the iv’s and you don’t want them to cut off your rings. Wear a necklace if you don’t normally so you’ll have somewhere safe to keep them until you de-puff.

The hospital will provide diapers if you’re not doing cloth and will give you ones to take home. The little gauze wipes they have are gold. Get as many as humanly possible. They’re hard to find elsewhere and $$$$ when you do track them down.

Take home an extra (or two) perineal bottle so you’ll have one for your 2nd bathroom or for when you leave the house. That thing is your BEST FRIEND.

I packed the most valuable items at viability (24 weeks) and taped my “grab it” item list to the top of the bag so I (or my husband) wouldn’t have to think about where to find things when it was actually go time. I was unexpectedly hospitalized at 32 weeks during my first pregnancy and was so glad I had a bag and list for DH to follow so I wasn’t trying to think about what I needed in a stressful situation!

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Mama Thoughts – Confidence

Photo credit:  J E Theriot

Going through life as women, most of us are at least vaguely aware of this nagging voice in the back of our heads, second-guessing our authority and autonomy. It probably stems from the messages society gives to us as women: women should be polite, women should not take charge, women should never ever rock the boat… No matter how empowered we are, no matter how much we pride ourselves in being women that buck the trend, that break that old cycle of being told what is OK for us to feel/think/do/be… along comes motherhood and even the strongest of us falter.

It has no business demanding that
we ask permission to be
the mothers we want to be.

I’m sure it’s in no small part due to the fact that we are now embarking on the most important role we will ever play in life: being Mom. What we do now, the decisions we make for our children, can have repercussions for generations to come (not to mention on the immediate health and happiness of the people we love the most). The gravity of this role, this job, can be quite terrifying. And with this fear, all of the self-doubt we’ve spent our whole lives pushing out of our heads can come crashing back in with a thunderous roar.

I’ve heard so many beautiful, confident, loving mothers be paralyzed by self-doubt, despite their maternal instincts practically shouting at them.

“Is it OK if I let my baby sleep in my room? She seems to only feel safe if I’m near, but I don’t know if that’s bad?”

“My baby cries and cries. I think he’s hungry, but he ate not that long ago. I want to feed him, but everyone says I should get him on a schedule or I’ll regret it. Is it terrible if I feed him?”

“My mother keeps telling me that my baby is going to get spoiled if I keep holding her all the time. But she’s happy when I hold her. I don’t want to do the wrong thing. What do you think?”

“Everyone is sending their kids to preschool, but I don’t think my kid is ready. Do you think it’s bad if I wait another year?”

I’ve had doubts like these approximately 40,979 times myself.

My wish for all of us is that we can re-harness our confidence and go with our guts, just like we normally do in life. We are smart and capable; the loving stewards of our children. We are connected to them in a way we are to no one else on Earth. Learning to believe in ourselves, specifically as mothers, is a gift we should strive to give to ourselves and to our children. Every time that obnoxious voice starts cropping up, telling us we’re wrong, let’s stomp it back down. It has no business demanding that we ask permission to be the mothers we want to be.

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The Fisher Price Rock & Play – Because You Need a SHOWER

Fisher Price RockNPlay

Do you have a baby?  Are you shopping for a friend?  Then you need a Rock & Play.  It really is that simple.

This ingenious invention provides you with a safe, confined area to place your little bundle of joy for sleeping during the day, the night, or just while you take a shower.  Its inclined angle is a godsend for babies with reflux (and babies who like to look around), its rocking (although the range is small) provides just enough motion to lull a baby back to sleep, and its portability (it collapses into a flat package) allows you to cart it from room to room (or from your house to grandma’s).

The Rock & Play hit the market after my first was already too old for it, but after seeing a friend with one, I swore that my 2nd baby would absolutely have one.  Let me tell you, it did not disappoint.  The public at large should send Fisher Price personal thank you notes as the Rock & Play is THE reason I showered regularly while my 2nd was still new.

The Mama LOVES the Rock & Play and the rest of society is really glad I showered!

Showering as a new mom

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Choosing a Breast Pump – The Ameda Purely Yours

Ameda Purely Yours

I think that picking a pump was one of the most stressful decisions to make because I felt like there was so much riding on making the right choice. I wanted to breastfeed so badly; I wanted to stack the deck in my favor by having everything I might need.

After blisters, blocked ducts, and an emergency trip to a lactation consultant (best decision ever) when a blocked duct made it so that I couldn’t put my arm down… breastfeeding finally got a little easier.  8 months later, I’m a pro (it does get easier!!!). Looking back, I’m so glad I researched the heck out of pumps because my pump ended up saving this over-producer from a constant battle with blocked ducts!

As I looked in to pumps, I couldn’t get over the price of the Medelas or the fact that they’re single-user (unless a pro model) because they aren’t made with a simple and inexpensive membrane that would reliably prevent milk from ever entering the motor unit… Well, don’t get me started on the rip-off factor, the sheer waste of throwing all these perfectly good pumps into our landfills, or the idea that scores of women are feeding their babies milk pumped with what could be a contaminated, moldy motor (google that if you’re brave and over the morning sickness stage).  Anyhow, I crossed Medela off my list.  I looked into the Avent Isis, but the sticker was also very high.

I read a snippet somewhere about the Ameda Purely Yours, so I started doing research.
It has

  • a membrane, making it safe for multiple users
  • two horns for simultaneous pumping
  • separate adjustments for speed and suction
  • BPA-free components
  • can be used hands-free with a simple pumping bandeau
  • and the price was about half the Medela!

Even better, I found my Ameda on Craigslist for a song.  I was instantly impressed by its quietness and small size.  Once I started using it, I found it to be quick at expressing and really comfortable to use.

What more can you ask for? Well, my previously-loved pump started making what seemed like a funny sound.  I called up Ameda to see if there was anything I was doing wrong.  Instead, the rep I spoke with suggested we just replace the unit to save me the hassle of investigating it on top of taking care of my new baby.  I read her the serial number and we discovered it was an oooold unit.  Well outside of warranty.  But because Ameda is awesome, they stood behind their product and the lovely rep arranged to ship me a replacement unit anyway!  I can’t say enough about the pump, but the company is even better than their product!  A rare thing today.

If you’re in the market for a pump, the Ameda is a FANTASTIC choice.  There’s no need to drop a small fortune on a pump in order to get a quality product.  And if you have questions or need encouragement with breastfeeding, feel free to contact me. I have.been.there.  :)

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The UPPABaby Vista is a Winner

UppaBaby Vista Colors

There are approximately eleventy-thousand stroller options out there.  Umbrella, Snap N Go, travel systems, luxury…

I became obsessed with strollers as this purchase would mark my official First Large Baby Investment and hitting that milestone meant I really was having a baby.  I looked at every stroller going by, I did internet research, and I finally started chasing down people pushing strollers I was considering in order to grill them on their strollers and to see if they were happy with their purchases.

I finally decided that my needs were as follows:

  • Relatively light (but not so light as to compromise durability)
  • Turns easily and can be steered with one hand
  • Does not require a PhD in structural engineering in order to fold
  • Can grow with me as I hope to have another baby before this one graduates from the stroller
  • Has a nice pattern that doesn’t scream boy or girl so that I can keep it should the next baby be a boy

Points 1, 2, and 4 eliminated travel systems for me, the Snap N Go was too bare bones and did not meet Point 4.

As I ticked options off my list, I started looking at the “luxury” lines.  They really met my criteria – although they also made my inner cheapskate die a little.  I eliminated the Orbit for its non-traditional looks and proprietary (and expensive) car seats.  The Stokke Xplory was too futuristic for my baby dreams.  The Bugaboo Bee didn’t have a carrycot (at the time).

I was down to the Bugaboo Cameleon and the Uppababy Vista.  Two things really sold me on the Vista over the Cameleon: being able to fold the frame up with the seat attached and the price point.  Also, every person I spoke to that had a Vista RAVED about how great it is.

I proudly hauled home my new Vista and regaled my husband with stories of its greatness.  He was only marginally sold and not entirely convinced that we really needed all of this.  But oh boy was I happy and I knew it would just be a matter of time before he loved it too.

Fast forward to having my daughter and proudly pushing all 6 adorable pounds of her around the block in the bassinet attachment (it was exactly like the image I had in my head).  My husband joined us for a walk and, half way down the block, stopped to proclaim “This is the most awesome stroller of all time!  No really, this thing is great.”  Aha!  Convert!  I knew he’d see the light.

The Vista is everything I expected it to be and I can confidently recommend it now that I’ve used all three attachments with it.  My only complaint about the stroller is how much room the frame takes up in my trunk.  I have a Prius and it takes up virtually the entire footprint of the trunk (it’s too wide to stash it on its side).  That being said, this is not reason enough to tarnish its image in my eyes – a smaller stroller just wouldn’t get the job done in the same way.

Also, if you have to fly with your Vista, the travel bag is really the only way to go.  The double stroller gate check bags only fit the frame if you also remove the wheels – which is a real pain when you gate check.  Order the travel bag when you can find it – it tends to go on back order often!

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The Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper – Because You Need SLEEP

Arm's Reach Cosleeper

The great debate: will the baby sleep in the nursery or in the master bedroom?  This always seems to be a lively topic of discussion, with everyone having a different opinion of the pros and cons of each decision.  Every first time mom has her vision of how things will play out when she comes home from the hospital.  But the fact of the matter is, all of your plans go out the window when you return from the hospital as a very tired and sore lady.  No matter how Type A you are, you end up going with “what works”.

What works for us is the Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper.  This genius bassinet has one side that drops down, so when you park it next to your bed, you have easy access to the baby.  This is SO much more convenient than getting your exhausted and sore self up to walk even two feet to a normal bassinet to get your baby up/soothe her/make sure she’s still really in there.  If you have a baby that nurses every hour for the first 6 weeks of her life (like mine), this convenience is the only thing that keeps you from completely losing your mind.

It’s also wonderful:

  • when you need to just flop a hand down next to them for soothing
  • for parking that pacifier that refuses to stay put right back in their mouth before a Stage 4 Melt Down occurs
  • checking to ensure the blanket is still on when it’s a cold night

I love my co-sleeper so much that I not only own the Angelica from the “Little Palace Collection”, I also own an Original in cream.

The Angelica is beautiful and made my Mommy Heart go pitter-pat when I first saw it and envisioned bringing my little girl home to it.  It is also solidly constructed of high quality metal framing and well-finished fabric.  The Angelica is the same size as the Mini, so it will only hold your baby up to 23lbs.  It also does not break down easily – this is a design to leave at home.

 

The Original is not as fabulously girly, but it is much larger, it can convert to a playpen, and can be folded down into its travel bag for transport.  It’s a bit heavy, but the ability to take my co-sleeper with me when I travel means that I don’t care how small or light a play yard option might be.  My baby doesn’t wake up fewer times at night just because I’m traveling, so my need to have her next to me at bed level doesn’t diminish either.  It was a bit tricky to break down the first few times, but after a few dry runs I was a champion at getting the Original up and down in no time flat.

Do yourself a favor and get an Arm’s Reach Co-sleeper.  You will love it just like I do!

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Welcome to The Mama Loves…

As a first time mom, I was faced with the daunting task of deciding which products my little bundle of joy would require. There was so much information out there! There were so many baby products out there! Where to start? Stores sent me “Must Have” lists, the countless websites I’d signed up for to track my pregnancy’s progress sent tips, my mom had suggestions, and just about everyone had heard from someone that such-and-such was an absolute necessity. But did I really need umpteen onesies? Was a travel system stroller a big mistake? If I wasn’t already overwhelmed, I also had to decide which brands of this myriad of items would best serve our needs. And I thought baking and delivering a baby would be the hard parts!

I spent just over 5 weeks on bedrest, so I had plenty of time to research everything and compile my lists from the vast reaches of the internet. Even with all of this preparation, I still made some errors in purchases and found out that I really did want other items. I’ve been sharing my finds with my girlfriends and, in an attempt to simplify your life as well, I’m starting this blog to showcase the products that have surpassed my expectations and earned “The Mama Loves” title.

Enjoy!

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