The Baby is now nine months old.
Give or take a few days, he’s been on the outside for as long as he was on the inside.
That. Is. Crazy.
I’m starting to realize that sooner or later, he’s going to have to get a new pseudonym. (Suggestions welcome.) When I hold him and look in the mirror, I see myself hefting a toddler, not the compact, seven-pound newborn I inexplicably expected to exist in stasis forever and ever.
I could reflect endlessly on the breakneck passage of time with a child, but it’s been a long time since I’ve contributed anything in the way of potentially useful advice to the Internet of moms (not like there’s a dearth, but whatever).
So instead of trying to compose a poignant way to say, “Holy shit, my baby is getting older by the second and I can’t fathom how quickly time has flown let alone conceive of the tomorrows that lie ahead of us,” I’ve composed a quick listicle (does anyone else think that word sounds filthy?) for new moms and moms-to-be about, what else, “baby essentials no one tells you you’ll need.” (Again with the clickbait. But for real this time, I hope this is helpful to someone.)
These aren’t necessarily things you’ll add to any baby registry, but their value is real. At least in my experience.
Nine unexpected necessities that have gotten me through the first nine months of motherhood
1. A screen dimmer app for my phone
I keep talking about how I’m trying to be more present and less glued to my phone around my baby. That does not apply while I’m nursing The Baby to sleep for the third time in a day. (YES, I STILL DO THIS. I KNOW. MOVE ALONG.) I don’t get a whole lot of time to consume media, so if bedtime is the time I get to scroll through Reddit or Facebook or whatever, so be it. But that blinding bright light on my phone may as well be the search light on a helicopter. The screen dimmer has become one of my most-used apps.
2. A frozen pizza a week
I hit a sweet spot somewhere in the 4-6 months range where The Baby was immobile but self-sufficient enough to hang out without too much fussing in a bouncer or carrier for enough time that I could get a reasonably easy home cooked dinner on the table. Now, though, there’s always a night or two where things have gone completely nuts by 4:30 and there’s no way I’m going to manage to cook anything because the sink is overflowing with dishes and there are 60 pages of a magazine ripped to confetti all over the kitchen floor. On these nights, The Baby gets a smattering of healthy leftovers along with an apple, some cheese, whatever, and once he goes to bed, The Husband and I get to relive the good old days with a frozen pizza. Once I started to accept this and put one in the grocery cart each week rather than deluding myself that I’d make a mega batch of homemade pizza dough to freeze, proactively thaw and top with organic vegetables, things got easier.
3. Peanut butter
I promise, this whole list isn’t going to be about food. (The first item was a phone app, if you recall). But I am still so hungry all. the. time. And peanut butter has been the fastest way to get calories into my tummy so I can crank out the milk. We’re very picky about our peanut butter in the TLMB household (Must be the natural you-stir kind. No hydrogenated oils and no palm oil. Must be crunchy.) and I’ve found Target’s Market Pantry brand is the least expensive that I have easy access to. Which is great, because we go through at least a jar a week.
4. A running group text with no-judgment mom friends
I think I’ve mentioned a couple times before that three of my IRL friends and I
made a pregnancy pact got pregnant around the same time. We’ve had a group text running since we all were pregnant where we’ve been able to complain, ask for advice, share random baby product reviews, celebrate and commiserate without worry of judgment. We can also text at all hours of the night or day knowing that our fellow new moms are probably awake or will soon be. I may be a habitual Internet over-sharer, but there are some things even I can’t bring myself to say here (or…*shudder*…share to a parenting group on Facebook. Which sometimes seems like putting yourself in front of a firing squad.)
5. A fairly regular date night
While there are certainly pros and cons to living across the street from my parents, one undeniable pro is I have pretty consistent access to a babysitter. (Thanks, parents!) At the end of the work week, The Husband and I are desperate to drive around the corner to our disappointing exurb happy hour spot to share a beer and strategize the next several steps in our endless home improvement journey. We’ve gotten really efficient at snapping out of our tired funk to make each other laugh and to have the deeper conversations we don’t get when there’s a baby in the mix. Reconnecting, even for just 45 minutes while somebody else feeds The Baby dinner and gives him a bath, has been vitally important for my sanity (and The Husband’s too, I hope.)
6. A uniform
I knew going into the SAHM gig that if I stayed in my pajamas all day I’d languish. So every morning I wake up and put on my go-to uniform: jeans or shorts and a v-neck T-shirt. I bought a stack of shirts from my local discount big box store (rhymes with Schmarget), but for fall I think I’ll be hitting up my favorite consignment store. Either way, having a handful of easy but not too sloppy go-to outfits that can be mixed and matched has made it really easy to get dressed in the morning, and because it really is just 5 shirts and 3-4 bottoms, when I wear them out or get them hopelessly stained with breastmilk, I can guiltlessly turn them into cleaning rags and go out and spend another $50-$75 on the next season’s uniform. I know this probably sounds really boring/depressing to more fashionable readers, but I’ve always been really lazy about clothes, we’re on a tight budget, and this is keeping me happily out of sweatpants and my ninth grade cross country T-shirt (yes, I still have it/wear it.)
7. A side gig
I’ve mentioned a few times before that writing is important to me. We could scrape by for a little while longer without my extra income, but having a side gig has been beneficial in a number of ways: It lets me exercise my creativity and skills; it helps pay for groceries and Amazon prime purchases; and it makes me feel good to contribute financially to the family (reminder disclaimer: being a SAH parent is a full-time job and if that’s “all” you do, it’s plenty, and you should value it and feel valued by your working-outside-the-home partner!)
I’ve always liked working, and I wanted to have it both ways, and this is how I’ve managed to satisfy both sides. While having a looming deadline while I’m trying to
clean up a poop blowout spend quality time with The Baby can be stressful, it’s really nice to hand him off to The Husband, shut the door and get to work when I need to. As one of my group text mom friends said about her experience going back to work full time, “it helps with the whole ‘motherhood’s complete annihilation of your sense of self’ thing.”
8. A daily photo/milestone tracker
They say, “Babies don’t keep,” and holy hell, that’s true. It’s hard to savor every moment as I’m frantic about trying to find ways to preserve memories of these moments. For me, having an app like Tinybeans (that I back up regularly just in case!) has been really helpful. I can track milestones, his growth, and daily photos/videos. So on those days I’m so exhausted I don’t know how I’m going to carry on with mothering, and then he goes to bed and I find myself missing him, I can scroll through the days gone by and marvel at the amazing little person he has been and is becoming.
9. An amazing co-parent
The Husband has been an amazing partner the last nine months (and the nine months that preceded it, and a handful of years before that, too.) Not only has he been incredibly supportive to me as I figure out this motherhood thing, he has made an impressively smooth transition into the weird, wild world of fatherhood. I can’t imagine having taken on motherhood without him by my side.
Fellow new moms: What are some things that have gotten you through motherhood?