My First Mother’s Day Wish List

TLMB's extremely specific Mother's Day 2016 Gift GuideOne thing about The Husband and me is that we’re pretty terrible at gifts.

Well, let me rephrase that:

We both generally don’t care much about gifts and tend to prefer spending our money on experiences together, or going shopping and picking out exactly what we want and buying it and there’s your present. Sure, it eliminates much of the surprise but it also cuts back on the number of disappointing, never-used gifts we buy each other out of guilt at the last minute (sorry again about the cheap ice cream maker and Bonsai tree, 29-year-old Husband.)

However, I was 38 weeks pregnant and (unbeknownst to me at the time) five days away from popping out (not how it actually works) a baby on my 30th birthday, and admittedly I was pretty cranky that all we did was go have lobster bisque during happy hour at a nice restaurant, take a walk around the park and tuck me into bed at 8 p.m. Even though it’s all I was physically capable of doing, I warned The Husband not to spend much money because A BABY IS COMING and he wrote me a very sweet note in my card.

I mostly blame being super pregnant for my birthday crankiness. I’m only human.

And now I’m a human who MADE ANOTHER HUMAN, so it’s time to celebrate my first Mother’s Day! Woohoo!

Here is a list of very heavy hints in case anyone in my life is looking for a gift idea.

The Last Mommy Blog’s 2016 Extremely Specific Mother’s Day Gift Guide

BUY ME STUFF!!! Tangible gifts:

Teething/breastfeeding necklace

My baby is teething and also becoming distracted AF when he nurses, so something other than my delicate upper chest/lower neck skin for his little razor claws to clutch on to would be tremendous. I particularly like this silicone and oak necklace from GettingSewCrafty on Etsy.

Silicone teething necklace via GettingSewCrafty on etsy.
Silicone teething necklace via GettingSewCrafty on Etsy.

Pretty, delicate jewelry, because sometimes I want something just for me

Not everything has to be about the baby. Only like, 95 percent. I don’t own much jewelry (and now that I’m home all day, don’t wear much), but something like the little bee necklace below (also from Etsy, this time via ACharmedImpression) would be sweet.

Little gold bee necklace via ACharmedImpression on Etsy
Little gold bee necklace via ACharmedImpression on Etsy.

Intangibles and experiences

A gift certificate to Clothes Mentor

I’ve been trying really hard for the past few years to avoid buying new clothes unless they’re manufactured ethically. Which mostly means buying clothes at consignment stores/thrift stores, because unfortunately I cannot afford brand new clothes that are  manufactured ethically.But I feel like a superhero when I find good clothes at consignment stores.

I discovered Clothes Mentor while I was pregnant and being utterly dumbfounded by all the insanely priced, shoddily made maternity wear I found at most retail stores. I went to Clothes Mentor and basically cleared their small maternity section twice.

And now that I’m post-postpartum, and the same-ish size but a bit of a different shape, I could use a few new pieces to spice up my (increasingly spit-up stained) wardrobe.

A massage, from The Husband

When I was pregnant, I craved massages (obviously?). I got two prenatal massages over the course of that time from professional massage therapists, and both times felt like I had been tentatively patted down by former TSA agents. I think people are afraid they’re going to send you into preterm labor if they massage too firmly. Then, about a month ago, I finally cashed in the massage gift certificate my parents had given me for my birthday. This time, I felt like I needed a stick to bite as she rolled my neck muscles around under my skin. I had bruises the next day.

I know I could have piped up any of those three times and let the therapist know what I wanted, but here’s what I’ve finally learned about myself: I’m not very assertive, and I don’t like practicing this important skill while a stranger lotions up to rub my naked back. So instead, how about my best friend/life partner does it, and I’ll have no trouble letting you know what I want. Bonus: Free gift

A trip to a bar

We’re starting to get used to the take-your-baby-to-a-Mexican-restaurant routine, so we’re getting out sometimes, but it’s still somewhat frowned upon to practice baby-wearing while sidled up to a bar. I know because I’ve tried. I  met The Husband at our former neighborhood brewery and sat at the bar with The Baby sleeping on me (at like, pre-happy hour, around 4:30) and some of the patrons gave me stink eye. Or, to circle back, they frowned upon me.

So I want to sit at a bar and enjoy one drink with no baby on my person. And then not too long after I want to hurry home to give that baby a squeeze because I will have missed him.

Picnic me

Pack a picnic (lots of fancy cheese, please) and take us somewhere pretty where we can loll around on a blanket, eat and watch the clouds go by. Maybe the baby can even nap on said blanket and we could read and catch up on each other’s lives and hopes and dreams. Or just talk about The Baby’s poop and sleep habits and gargantuan feet some more.

No thank you:

  • Jewelry that says “mom” on it. I know what I am. No need to be so literal.
  • A long, fancy date night. The Baby is still figuring out bedtime and I don’t want to be out so long that I might have to pump.
  • Clothes picked out by someone else. I have no idea what my body is doing still. Better let me try it on.

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My First Mother’s Day Wish List

My gender neutral, not color neutral nursery

The Husband and I decided to keep our first baby’s sex a surprise. For one thing, we like surprises, and for another thing, it bought us some time before the entire world started pushing its gender stereotypes on our little (what turned out to be a) guy. No “Daddy’s Little Princess” or “Big Man” onesies, etc. This, of course, drove some people totally crazy, but I don’t care.

When we started trying to figure out our nursery, I ventured over to Pinterest to search for gender-neutral baby ideas. There are, of course, tons of awesome nurseries showcased all across the Internet. One thing I found was that often times, gender neutral also meant neutral-neutral: grey, beige, white, etc.

I love neutral colors, but I wanted something a little brighter for our babe-to-be. I also tend toward eclectic decor (and admittedly a lot of hand-me-downs, cheap Target stuff and finds from our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Find one of these in your community – they are so awesome!)

Pinterest completely overwhelmed me with ideas (though you can check out my nursery pinspiration board here.) Finally, I got the idea to use this vintage opera poster that my mother-in-law had picked up at a thrift store and gifted to us a few years ago as the basis for the nursery’s color scheme.

Puss in Boots vintage opera poster
The inspiration for our nursery: colorful, vintage, eclectic and gender neutral without being neutral-neutral.

[Soapbox second:] Yes, you won’t be the first person to notice there is a “scary” looking demon-creature on this poster. But guess what? The Baby LOVES staring at the poster while he gets his diaper changed, and as we don’t point to the creature and say, “This is something you should be scared of!” he probably won’t be scared of it. And maybe it will be a lesson for him that just because something isn’t beautiful doesn’t make it evil. [/soapbox second]

Anyway, we decided to paint the walls a light blue to mimic the background of the poster. Yes, The Baby could have been a girl, but I am a girl and I like blue and again with the pressure of gender conformity!!!

We scored two cool dressers at ReStore, one a perfect little wooden chest of drawers with cutouts for handles and the other a low, wide dresser to serve as our changing table. The latter was painted two shades of butt-ugly green, but The Husband meticulously painted it a yellow also pulled from the Puss in Boots poster. There was a big sale going on at ReStore the day we went, and we got both dressers for a total of $65.

I found a rug at my favorite online source for rugs, on sale I think for $99, Rugs USA. (Not a paid advertisement, I’ve just gotten some great deals there!)

Rug from Rugs USA
The rug from Rugs USA.

I’ve always loved the classic beauty of a Jenny Lind crib, and went with white. I registered for it, just to keep track of what I wanted, and before I could order it, I found it delivered to my doorstep as a gift my very dear best childhood friend.

Inspired by a friend who made awesome dropcloth curtains for her apartment, I bought a bunch of dropcloths that were on sale when we were buying paint and made curtains and a matching crib skirt.

We finished it off with an inexpensive rocking chair I found on Overstock for about $200. It’s not a plush upholstered chair, but I have two jerk cats who scratch up every piece of furniture we buy so I didn’t want to put too much money into it. This chair actually walks backward across the room whenever I rock in it, so I wouldn’t glowingly endorse it, but it’s pretty comfortable for what you pay, and if I ever get around to sticking some non-skid pads to the bottom of it, it will probably quit scooting so badly.

We accessorized with, of course, the poster (VERY securely hung… I know it looks a little scary hanging over the changing table but I pulled on it while super pregnant and it didn’t budge), a cool wooden duck I found at a thrift store, a framed set of six vintage postage stamps I found in the back of a desk drawer (another ReStore find) and a “Cleveland Born” print also from my BFF.

I knitted a very simple block color blanket to match the colors in the room, bought some pretty neutral Burt’s Bees jersey knit crib sheets, and there you have it – nursery complete.

I think we spent just about $600 for everything. Not bad, eh?

Here are some photos of the nursery (in our old house). Of course, everything but the paint came with us to the new house, so once we get around to painting, it will be home sweet home again for our little guy.

How did we do? Let me know what you think at @arkayokay.

Don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest for more nursery and baby ideas.

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My gender neutral, not color neutral nursery

Weeknight Meal Wednesday: Mom party food

Weeknight meal for new moms: Greek salad & pizzaI referenced in my post earlier this week a Greek-style salad and white pizza I made for my mom friends a few weeks ago.

I should say: My baby is getting older so my obstacles are shifting as I cook. When he was all about sleeping in a baby carrier all the live long day, I wouldn’t have been able to get a pizza in and out of the oven very successfully. So keep that in mind if it’s still early days.

But the great thing about this meal is it tastes great at room temperature, so you can make it a little ahead and your mom friends (or your significant other) can grab and eat as timing permits.

Greek Salad

This is an easy and very adaptable salad. A yogurt-based dressing or Bulgarian (soft) feta cheese make it creamy.


  • 1 English cucumber
  • 1 can chick peas
  • 1 small jar Kalamata olives (Be kind to yourself. Buy pitted!)
  • 1/2 medium red onion
  • 1-2 ripe tomatoes
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • 1 small container *feta cheese
  • Baby spinach (optional)

For the dressing:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Lemon juice (it’s OK to use bottled)
  • Brown/dijon mustard
  • Dried or fresh herbs, oregano is especially good
  • Salt & pepper
  • Plain yogurt (optional)


Seed and chop the tomatoes and cucumber into bite-size pieces. Toss in a bowl with the rinsed can of chick peas. Check the olives for pits, chop coarsely. Chop the onions. (I don’t really like the bite of raw onions, even red onions, so I did a quick pickle: I chopped them into bite-size pieces and tossed them in a very small pot to which I had added white vinegar, salt and some pickling spices once it came up to a near boil. I let it sit for a few minutes before draining and rinsing. This is entirely optional, but I enjoyed it.) Chop and add the parsley. Finally, add the feta.

*My grocery store sells Bulgarian feta, which in addition to being way cheaper than the Greek version, is very soft and ends up lending a creaminess to the salad once I mix it in. If you don’t have this option, no worries.

Mix the dressing separately. I usually use a mason jar and shake the whole thing up. I do about 1 part lemon juice to 3 parts oil, add a good dollop (a teaspoon?) of mustard, a small handful (tablespoon?) of dried herbs that I first smashed up in my hand, and salt and pepper to taste. If you want a creamy dressing (and/or if you didn’t find Bulgarian feta), add some plain yogurt to the mix. Taste and adjust as necessary.

Because there’s no lettuce in the salad, it won’t wilt much. Toss it with the dressing and chill it for a little while before you serve to let the flavors meld. I ended up having a lot of liquid from the tomatoes & cucumber, so I mixed in some baby spinach leaves before serving to pick up some more of the dressing.

Greek salad
The salad, pre-dressing. Gorgeous, no?


White pizza

I used to make my own pizza dough usually. Then I had a baby.


  • 1 package of fresh pizza dough (I bought whole wheat)
  • Red onions (use the other half from the Greek salad recipe)
  • One tomato (a meaty tomato like Roma is probably best for this)
  • A few slices of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • Olive oil
  • A ball of fresh mozzarella cheese
  • A few cloves of garlic
  • Dried herbs of your choice


Bring the pizza dough out of the refrigerator and let it sit on your counter to warm up for awhile so it’s easy to stretch. Once it’s pliable, stretch it out and lay it on a greased pizza pan (you can also spread cornmeal underneath it.)

Preheat the oven to pretty hot. Say, 450°?

Drizzle or brush olive oil onto the dough. Finely chop the garlic and spread it around. Add some dried herbs if you want; I went with dried oregano to match the dressing in the salad.

Slice the mozzarella cheese into disks as thin as you can get them without cutting yourself and cover the dough with them (you can leave gaps, it will spread.)

Thinly slice the onions and separate the circles. You won’t need a ton, just enough to spread out over the pizza.

Thinly slice the tomatoes and try to seed them well and get out as much moisture as possible. If you skip this step, you could have a very soggy mess on your hands, so take care.

Spread out your seeded tomato slices. Top the whole thing with bacon crumbles.

Bake until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is starting to brown. Slice and allow to cool a bit (you can eat it hot, but you’ll worry less about dropping crumbs on the baby if it’s at room temp!) Leave out some crushed red pepper flakes for people to season as they like.

Enjoy this easy white pizza with a Greek salad at your next new-mom get-together. Via The Last Mommy Blog.
The finished pizza. Yum!

Bon apetit, mamas!

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Weeknight Meal Wednesday: Mom party food

The importance of mom friends

The importance of mom friends - via The Last Mommy BlogMotherhood has been tremendous. I had a quick and easy labor, a fast recovery (save for some lingering hip bursitis… ouch) and, so far at least, have evaded postpartum depression and anxiety. My baby is a joyous baby, who is quick to laugh and quick to calm down when the evening crankies, teething pain or a loud sneeze from Dad sends him crying.

But in the midst of all this, I’m trying to find my footing during this big move, adjusting to life as a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom, and wrestling with the mountains of self-doubt and fear that accompany all of these life changes at once.

Even in the best circumstances, motherhood is a tough gig, which is why it’s so important to connect with other (supportive) mamas.

A few days before we moved, even though I should have been packing, I instead hosted three of my good friends who have joined (or are soon to join) me in becoming moms. I feel really lucky that so many of my existing friends are taking the leap around the same time as I did–it makes it easier to skip ahead to the boobs and poop discussions when you’ve already covered the getting to know you stuff.

(Also, I can now relate to Jim Gaffigan in Dad is Fat: “Parenting is a cult. And as a cult member, you can try to explain it to other people, but we just appear like lunatics.” Because even though parenthood is tough as shit, I want everyone I know to join me because it’s also amazing as shit. Do it. *Make a baby. You’ll love it.)

Anyway, It was great to be able to put the babies on the floor, pour some wine and feel the great psychic hug of women who are in the same boat. Three of us have already gone through childbirth, and we cover almost the full spectrum–from intervention-free, to  epidural and vacuum, to emergency C-section. While we run the risk of scaring our friend who is due in 8 weeks or so, I remember starting to become obsessed with other people’s birth stories as my due date loomed, so I hope our conversation was empowering instead of scary. (And to those of you who tell birth stories with the intention of frightening others, BOO.)

Naptime is short and my to-do list is long, so here are a few quick tips for hosting a low-key baby party with your mom friends.

Host your mom and baby friends

  1. Find a big, clean blanket (an old quilt or comforter works great) to spread on the floor. This will be your baby depository and will create a safe space for the babies to kick, babble, spit up, etc. while the moms gather round and marvel at them and have a glass of wine.
  2. Put your pets in another room or block them from the baby depository. Even if you know your dog is a saint who loves your baby and will lick him clean if you let her, you can’t guarantee perfect behavior, and it will put the other moms more at ease. Nothing stops a fun baby party like a baby getting stepped on by a dog.
  3. Gather up your baby gear and put it within easy reach of the baby depository — your bouncer, your activity center, your playpen, etc. It’s also a nice idea to put a baby changing station nearby with a designated trash can, wipes and a pad.
  4. Make food that can be eaten whenever a mom is free, without you having to serve. I made a big Greek-style salad and a white pizza, and laid them out in my dining room with a pile of plates and silverware and dishes (and wine and water). That way moms could serve themselves whenever they weren’t nursing. This makes it easy for everyone to relax, including you, because your own baby isn’t going to necessarily make a lot of time for you to run back and forth to the kitchen to pour drinks and stir pots.
  5. Practice mom etiquette:
    – A boob out is NO BIG DEAL. Outside of their own houses, moms generally have to be on high alert for a nip slip. Let everyone drop their guards so you can all feed your babies without feeling like flashers.
    – Also on a very closely related note, NO JUDGING. No judging if a friend is using formula, or holding her baby through the duration of every single nap, or gave her baby a middle name you think is sheer lunacy, etc. I would say even if you think something she’s doing is borderline dangerous (like cosleeping), tread lightly. Pediatricians, books, online resources, her other friends and family all have opinions about what she’s doing. Why add to the cacophony of doubts that she’s doing things right? You can relate, right? So lay off. Be supportive. Everyone tell each other you’re doing a great job. If something really throws you for a loop, and you really can’t keep your mouth shut, send a carefully worded, just-to-her email with helpful resources and reiterate she’s doing a good job.
    – Try not to compare your babies, at least out loud. Everyone’s watching their offspring for signs of genius. And all babies develop at different rates and hit different milestones at different times. Be positive. Again (and again, I reiterate), a mom-and-baby hangout is all about relieving stress and anxiety (yours and  your friends’), not adding to it. Remember: Comparison is the thief of joy.
    – Take lots of photos, but ask permission before you post them anywhere. Some nutjobs keep their baby’s photos offline. Don’t assume everyone will be happy to see their beautiful offspring on Instagram.

The baby is awake. Still trying to work out longer naptimes, but he’s just officially four months old today (squee!) so I’m trying not to freak out about it too much, but a longer-than-45-minutes nap is a rare treat. So this is where I leave you.

– Reanna



The importance of mom friends

Unpacking some stuff: On moving, motherhood and fulfillment

I swear I haven’t disappeared from blogging this early in the game. I’ve been moving. With all our stuff. Into a house that is already fully furnished (and then some). With an almost-four-month-old baby.

I’ve had plenty of ideas for posts, but I was without Internet and a computer for almost a week and have devoted every waking hour to either trying to spend quality time with The Baby or rotating piles of crap through various rooms in the house.

Instead of coming up with interesting lists of advice or recipes, here’s a general, probably overlong update on life in the (new) TLMB household.

On Saturday, my mom drove up to watch The Baby (thank you!!!) while The Husband, a couple of friends (thank you!!!) and I loaded our hastily packed possessions into a U-Haul and then hastily unpacked them into my grandparents’ already packed house.

It has been a rough few months of wrapping my head around the sad fact that my grandparents will not be living out the rest of their days in their home, like they had hoped and planned for, but instead are languishing in a nursing home, sharing a room about the size of a college dorm in a place that smells like things no one wants to think about. They are too medically fragile for us to take care of them here (my grandfather is receiving hospice care at the nursing home). It’s the only feasible solution, but it really, really sucks.

It has also been an unusually difficult task going through all their earthly possessions, while my grandparents are still alive, and making the call about what to keep and what to sell or throw away.

To describe them as hoarders would be impolite but accurate.

All I want to be is a dancer. An artist. A auther.
Can’t wait to finally publish my first book, “I’m Right.”

While their house wasn’t a path carved out between towering columns of old newspapers, it was close. In addition to the hundreds of pounds of expired canned goods, dozens of bars of soap and overflowing closets of clothes and sheets and towels, I have found a lot of things to be sentimental about (like the miniature rolling pin I used to use to help my grandma make pie, or my great-grandfather’s portrait), and some of things I wish I hadn’t seen.

While they gave me their blessing to move in, and the only practical way to do so is to make space for me and my family, cleaning out my grandparents’ house has made me feel like an eavesdropper on a conversation I’d rather not have heard.

I’ve come across secrets (mostly mundane, but nevertheless illusion-shattering).

I’ve found reminders of how much they adored me but also how they favored me over my brother (which remains a source of tremendous guilt for me and a lingering reason we’re not all that close.)

And most painfully, I’ve found evidence of my grandmother’s great disappointment in life and the myriad ways she tried to fill a gaping psychic void: hundreds of cookbooks, dozens of hobbies and their accompanying unfinished projects, diaries documenting one dull day the same as the next. My grandmother left college to care for her ailing father, and spent the remainder of her adult life as a stay-at-home mother (which was, for her time, the expected path for just about all mothers.) She was a doting grandmother and an avid cook and always, I now suspect, suffering from depression that was certainly part biochemistry but also part unrealized ambitions.

My grandparents’ house was the setting for so many, mostly happy, days of my childhood, but looking at everything again from the perspective of a new mom, especially as a new mom who has chosen to step out of her career for awhile, has been a fraught experience.

I’ve spent the last 12 years away from this place, trying to define who I am, and so much of that has hinged on a satisfying, if not particularly special career. I put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed, and honestly only in the past few years have I felt anything approaching contentment with where my professional life was headed. I don’t regret stepping away from this trajectory, but I do have a lot of anxiety about how my days will unfold in the years to come.

Now I am redefining myself again, as a mother.  I’m doing it while returning to this house and beginning to understand the life of a woman who loved me very much, but who now I realize was always unsatisfied to some degree or another with her lot as a homemaker.

My grandmother’s life fell short, in many ways, of what she wanted. Going through her things at the end of her life, and at the beginning of my son’s life and my new life as his mom, has made me realize just how important it is for me to honor my own happiness and fulfillment.

Everyone tells you to cherish every moment with your baby. Just yesterday my dad tearfully said, “Blink, and he’ll be 10 years old. Blink again and he’ll be heading off to college.” Of course, this is the beauty and the agony of parenthood.

While I’m devoted to spending as much time as possible soaking in every second of motherhood and trying not to blink, the past few months have taught me that it’s just as vital for me to actively seek whatever creative, intellectual and communal pursuits make me happy. Making a family doesn’t excuse me from my responsibility to myself to care for my soul.

When I’m facing the end of my life and my progeny are facing the task of going through all my stuff, I want them to know that while I made sacrifices for them,  I don’t have regrets for a life not fully lived.

Does any of this make sense? Or have I spent too much time alone surrounded by boxes?


Unpacking some stuff: On moving, motherhood and fulfillment

Weeknight Meal Wednesday: Nacho Matrix!

weeknight meal - nacho matrixI’m going to have to keep this post brief as I am currently babysitting for a friend and both babies are sound asleep, but who knows for how long?

After skipping a week, here’s another installment of easy, practically non-recipes for new moms who maybe haven’t showered in a few days and are filled with joy but empty of food. Lady, you need to eat. Let me help.

One of my favorite easy (though not always particularly healthy, I admit) weeknight meals is nachos, because they’re so versatile and can serve as a blank canvas for whatever cuisine you’re craving.

The last time I made nachos (last week) I tried to take a photo, but it looked like trash so instead of subjecting you to my disappointing photography, I made you a…


While you can go by the book across any row and make a stylized nacho recipe, you can also mix and match or substitute to suit your personal preferences.

The main rules for nachos are: Pour chips into a baking dish (I usually use a 9″x13″ Pyrex dish because The Husband and I can murder a pile of nachos), layer on your toppings (leaving out things that won’t survive the broil very well, like avocado, green onions, etc.) broil for a few minutes until cheese are melty/starting to brown, and then eat! I also like to pour a bowl of salsa to dip into, along with any leftover refried beans, sour cream, etc.

Nacho matrix

You can also download a PDF of this if you want to print it out and stick it to the fridge.

Enjoy, mamas! Time to go check on my two slumbering little buddies.

Weeknight Meal Wednesday: Nacho Matrix!

Preparing for Baby: Activity Guide

preparing for baby activity guideThe entire time I was pregnant, it was impossible for me to conceive of just what it would be like to actually be in possession of a human baby. Basically my expectations were, feel indescribable love to a degree I could not imagine, and feel completely overwhelmed and have no idea what I was doing. That was the extent to which I could imagine motherhood–nothing more concrete than that.

I remember being in my breastfeeding class, holding a rigid plastic baby to my shirt and trying not to make eye contact with the equally uncomfortable expectant father sitting across the table from me, and thinking just how insufficient this preparation was for actual motherhood.

As I’ve said before, I don’t pretend to think I can fully prepare anyone for becoming a mom, but in my first 100 days of motherhood, I can tell you that the following *activities may help exercise some of the more important skills you will need, such as desensitizing your gag reflex and pretending not to be uncomfortable.

*Do not actually do any of this.

Binder clip
By Prosavage2600 at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

To prepare for early visitors

Activity: Stay up all night long. In the morning, call someone you are fond of but not particularly close to (your boss? your husband’s uncle?), and invite them to come over for a visit. Find yourself a good strong chip clip, binder clip or similar pinchy thing. Allow a vanilla milkshake to come to room temperature. Affix the clamp to a nipple and dump a good amount of warm milkshake to the other breast, allowing it to thoroughly soak through your shirt. When your visitor arrives, try to hold a pleasant conversation and notice how your visitor chooses to maintain almost a crazed level of eye contact or finds a focal point across the room to stare at during the entire visit.

How this helps you prepare: If you have to feed your newborn during a visit (and oh, you will. The eat literally all day and all night long), you will likely find yourself in some amount of pain, you might leak all over, and your baby will do his or her best to help you flash a nipple at your visitors. (Yes, sure,  breastfeeding is never supposed to hurt if you’re doing it right. Congratulations if you figure it out and it never hurts.) Good luck maintaining your composure while you figure this all out in front of an audience.

cottage cheese
By stu_spivack (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

To prepare for messy events during outings

Activity: Place a 16-ounce container of small curd cottage cheese in the trunk of your car for nine days. (Is it winter? Then put it in the back of your closet.) After nine days is up, wrap a baby carrier around you, grab the cottage cheese and go to a diner with your husband and your brother-in-law. Place your order, and then dump the cottage cheese  into your baby carrier. Be sure to really smoosh it down there so it soaks through your clothes. When your food arrives, see if you can eat toast without gagging. This will be impossible, so instead, watch everyone else eat breakfast for as long as possible before you must race home to clean up. (For the full effect, once you get home, smear your dog in spoiled cottage cheese, too, and then try to clean both of you up.)

How this helps you prepare: Just last week, I went to a diner with Baby, Husband and Brother-in-Law. I was already just emerging from a bout of food poisoning (which is THE BEST when you have an infant), so I just ordered toast. The Baby determined it was a good time to break his spit-up record. I stewed in the hot sour stink for a good 15 minutes before I decided I couldn’t take any more and walked us home to deal with it. When The Husband caught up with us and I begged him to help me, he nearly threw up. So it’s probably a good idea to have your partner participate in this activity to dull his gag reflex, too.

By Paolo Neo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

To improve one-handed dexterity

Activity: Have someone bind one arm to your body, then balance a plate full of fragile items (Christmas bulbs, lit candles, or raw eggs would work) on your head. If you’ve been particularly active during pregnancy, plan not to sit down at all during this activity. Once you’ve got your arm pinned and are balancing stuff on your head, attempt to complete normal daily tasks such as feeding yourself, brushing your teeth, putting laundry in the dryer, using the bathroom, picking up something you dropped or checking Instagram.

How this helps you prepare: Very young babies tend not to like being put down for long stretches of time. They also have floppy necks and are very fragile, so you can’t just bend over like you usually would, even if you can figure out how to do things with one hand. *Pro tip: Practice picking stuff up with your toes.

To prepare for how much you’re going to love your baby despite how disgusting he or she is

Activity: There is no need (or way) to prepare. You will find yourself soaked in milk, covered in poop or spit-up or both, and still (mostly) content to deal with it because your heart is bursting. At least the first 50 times or so.

Preparing for Baby: Activity Guide

Looking out for number 1 when you feel like number 2

Looking out for number one when you feel like number twoSelf care is important no matter where you’re at in life. All that stuff about putting your own oxygen mask on first, blah blah, can seem laughable when you’re a new mom just fighting to survive (or sleep for more than two hours in a row). But like it or not, it’s true: If you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re going to do a worse job of taking care of others.

So even if your baby is now Priority Number One, and even if you literally feel like Number Two (by that I mean poop), you’ve got to take care of yourself.

So, for all those brand-new moms out there clinging to whatever shreds of sanity you can, I submit a list of very easy self care you can manage. As someone who has yet to redeem just redeemed(!) a free birthday massage from three months ago and only clips her unvarnished nails to keep from accidentally scratching her baby more than he scratches himself, I promise you, these are not lofty goals.


I had my baby in the dead of winter (admittedly, an El Nino winter with very warm days), but between the dry heat and the constant hand-washing, I was always one firm handshake away from having every knuckle split and bleed.

You know what’s less cool than not washing your hands before you touch your baby? Bleeding on them.

So crack open one of the dozen bottles of baby lotion you got at your shower and use it on yourself. It’s gentle/benign enough to slather on your face, too. And if your baby hates lotion as much as mine does, you will feel better about not letting all that free lotion go to waste.

And if you really are facing cracking, bleeding dry skin, rub some nipple butter (lanolin or the vegan stuff that smells like cocoa butter) on them.


This shouldn’t be advice for new moms… it should sort of come naturally in response to hunger pangs. But as someone who rarely misses a meal and stress eats in even the worst of times, I can say that during the first few weeks it was pretty easy to nearly starve. When The Baby decided eating was something he wanted to do every hour for 45 minutes at a time, I had to decide how to spend my 5 minutes of free time (because the other 10 minutes of my 15-minute feeding break were devoted to changing his diaper), and eating was often trumped by peeing or half-showering.

Here are some things you should keep on your coffee table/jammed into couch cushions/by the toilet for some quick, multi-tasking snacks:

  • Granola bars, cereal bars, and any other snack bars
  • Baggies of crackers, unsealed so you don’t need two hands to get into them (did I mention your house is going to be a mess? Don’t worry about dropping Goldfish crackers and grinding them into the carpet. Your neglected dog will appreciate having something to do, i.e., licking cracker crumbs from around your feet.)
  • String cheese (keep these in the refrigerator. Don’t get food poisoning.)
  • Pre-washed apples. Not bananas, not oranges, not anything you have to peel or that might be juicy.

Eating during the first few weeks is not about flavor, or really about balanced meals or anything. It’s about getting enough calories to keep yourself alive and producing milk (if you’re producing milk). You’ll be able to sit at a table and use a fork soon; in the meantime, make it easy to eat with one hand.


Yeah, yeah. Babies don’t let you sleep. This is almost not worth commenting on because it’s the most talked about reality of new parenthood and a surprise to no one. I’m not going to get back into the details or arguments about co-sleeping. All I’m here to tell you is to do what works for you, as safely as you can. I decided co-sleeping was safer than dropping my baby while I fell asleep holding him trying to get him to sleep, because I am not the type of human being who does well while sleep deprived, and my baby turned out to not be the type of human being who likes sleeping alone very much, at least he didn’t in those early weeks.

If you can’t nap, shower.

As I’ve mentioned before, showering has become my favorite hobby since I became a mom. Washing my hair and shaving my legs feels as indulgent as a full day at the spa, and if I get to blow dry my hair in my bath robe I emerge from the steam almost feeling like I’ve had a nap. Good showers may be few and far between; try to tank up the baby and let someone else worry about him for a half hour while you see if you can use up all the hot water. (Yes, that’s terribly irresponsible advice in this day of climate change and droughts, but if you don’t shower for the three days in between, you can make up for it every so often.)

Take care of yourself, mamas! It will (probably) get easier soon.

Looking out for number 1 when you feel like number 2