This will genuinely be a short post because I’m exhausted, the baby is asleep (in his bassinet!!!) and I have to get up in 3 hours to put a goddamned chicken in the refrigerator because I can’t time a slow cooker meal to save my soul. (All that prep work and we ate frozen chicken nuggets for dinner.)
We’re surviving, and that’s about it. This is that deep, foggy newborn period that will be a blessed distant memory someday. Which already breaks my heart whenever that thought occurs to me while staring deeply into Baby 2’s eyes and watching his little nose wrinkle and his fingers grasp my hand. Even though I’m bone-deep tired, it feels easier this time because I know how short it lasts.
The Toddler is amazing me with his sweetness and brilliance even as he tests every last boundary. He is careening through toddlerhood, and we are slogging through this snowy week. Always busy, he’ll pause from coloring on his own face with markers for a brief moment to snuggle next to me and rest his head on my shoulder while I nurse the baby, and tell me he loves me, before dunking his whole hand into my water glass and getting up to see if he can open the freezer by himself.
My house looks like a tornado hit it. I haven’t looked in a mirror for more than 20 seconds this week, and I usually have to brush my teeth while peeing.
It’s the third and final installment of my Ask A Mom series with Melissa from I Crashed the web. If you missed the first two parts, find them here and here. (You can also read the corresponding blog posts where I answer many of the same questions over at Melissa’s blog: Part 1 and Part 2).
I started watching a third friend’s baby on Wednesdays, sometimes at my house and sometimes at her house. This friend had her baby 10 days after mine, and she is a former neighbor, so it’s been nice to get out of the house and back to my old neighborhood once every other week, even if it means I’m soaked with sweat and almost literally juggling two babies. Parents of twins–hell, parents of more than one kid–I don’t know how you do it, and I don’t know how I’ll do it if we end up there. I adore my small charge, and it’s so fun to see the two boys interacting, but I am practically comatose after the day with the two of them. I’m not sure how people do it day in and day out.
What does this have to do with Melissa, you ask?
Well, friends, Melissa is a downtown Clevelander and has met me twice now to walk the babies around the Ohio City neighborhood after she shops the West Side Market. I’ve taken to scheduling a long walk during morning naps (The Baby usually naps twice, briefly, on babysitting days). I hold The Baby in the carrier and push the stroller with The Friend’s Baby. I get an hour and a half’s walk in the city and they get a good snooze. See why I get so sweaty?
Really, though, it’s been amazing to get catch up time with Melissa. Her baby is getting so big and squishy, and we get to talk about life and motherhood and exchange war stories and advice. For this third and final installment of Ask A New Mom with Melissa, we’re getting deep. Enjoy!
Part Three: Parenting philosophy and self reflection
How would you describe your approach to parenthood so far? Do you think it parallels your approach to life pre-baby, or has it been a major shift for you?
My approach to parenthood so far has been as follows: Flexibility. I’m a semi-type A person and not in that I plan every detail – but more that I love having my to-do list and checking things off of it. I thrive on productivity and am not content just sitting still. (Just ask my husband – I’m the worst Netflix binge watcher and get antsy after 1-2 episodes) This has changed since becoming pregnant and now with the baby. I’ve had to realize that I probably won’t get everything done on my daily to-do list, because frankly, it’s out of my control. Fussy baby from 3-7 pm? The chances of me making dinner goes down significantly. Cluster feeding baby from 6 pm till midnight? The chances of me leaving the couch and writing a blog post (I’m still getting used to breastfeeding and haven’t quite mastered the one-handed feed) are slim to none. And that’s okay. So how is a to-do list person supposed to adapt? I still make my lists, but now I have a weekly list and prioritize one thing in a day. And these are small tasks, like “do laundry,” “buy stamps,” “write thank you card for X,” etc. This way if I have one of those days where I end up having to binge watch Sex & The City for 3 hours while FW feasts (Seasons 4 and 5 are too relatable now for me), at least I know I have the next day to get something done.
What is something you’re super proud of about your approach to parenthood so far?
I’m really proud that I haven’t let FW change too much of my “normal” life and change me. Since we brought him home, while of course our lives have changed a lot, there is still have sense of normalcy. I still bake (somewhat). I still blog. I’m back running (somewhat). I’m still showering daily (but kudos to you moms who don’t shower daily – I’ve always been a person that HAS to shower…I took 2 today!). I also haven’t let him keep me homebound – within the first week or so we took him to Coastal Taco for our first lunch out. Nearly every Friday night, B and I go out for a happy hour beer to celebrate the weekend. We went out for beers and dinner tonight on E 4th to celebrate B’s brother’s birthday. He’s really been all around downtown. These are all things that keep me sane – they make me, me. I’m not saying that all moms should make sure to leave the house daily, go for runs, go out to restaurants, etc. Do what you’re comfortable doing – but do what makes you feel like YOU.
I haven’t lost my identity since becoming a mom – I’m still me, just me as FW’s mom.
A mindset I’ve adopted that I’m proud of is giving myself ONE thing to do each day to help me feel like me. Whether that’s making sure I shower, telling myself we’re going to go for a walk, or just having one sit down meal, I try to do one thing to help me feel sane.
Confess without shame: What’s one thing you’ve screwed up as a mom so far?
Not letting the baby sleep! The first few weeks I did not realize that FW should be sleeping nearly all day. Honestly, I thought he was just cranky and not tired. So, I mistakenly overstimulated him. We went for 2-3 walks/day, played with his playmat, read books, etc. By 3 or 4 pm, he was super cranky and I didn’t know why. Well, now I know – he was tired and couldn’t get himself to sleep! Now I make sure or at least try to get him swaddled and in his crib 1-2 times a day for a nap. It’s not nearly enough, but he’s much happier when he has slept.
What is something your husband is really good at, dad-wise?
Honestly? Nearly everything. B has excelled at bottle feeding FW, carrying him, bathing him (something I still haven’t done…whoops!), and being my support system. I’m so lucky – he is much more of a natural than I ever could have imagined and I’m so grateful that he is around. He was off for two weeks when I gave birth and it definitely made the transition that much easier.
Have you read any parenting books? Any recommendations? Any discussion about how they make you feel like drinking because you’re clearly failing?
I have two books that go through infant development the first few years- does that count? And unfortunately I haven’t read much of them. I haven’t gotten the hang of reading while holding or feeding a baby yet … maybe that’s a good thing so I can just drink and not feel like I’m failing?
You had a bunch of friends have babies right before you did. How do you think this affected your own experience/approach to pregnancy and early motherhood?
I am so so so so so so so so (etc) lucky to have friends have babies right before me. I have been able to learn from them about pregnancy and childbirth and now motherhood and it has been so great to have people to talk to and know what I’m going through. I didn’t know much about pregnancy and childbirth and postpartum life (breastfeeding, raising babies, healing your body, sleepless nights, etc.). I feel like we don’t talk much about it as a society and I was clueless – until I had friends going through the same thing. Yes, we’re all different and experience everything differently, but it’s nice not to feel alone or too surprised by anything!
I have alluded to my IRL friend, new mom and far more dedicated blogger Melissa a couple of times. She has a six-ish week old baby, the lovely Sir FW, and I thought it would be a fun idea to interview her about where she is at in the great adventure of motherhood. She agreed and interviewed me, too.
We both had so much to say that this has now become a miniseries. This week, she’s answering my questions about pregnancy.
Without further ado, here’s Part One of my interview with Melissa. (If you’re into fitness, baking, healthy eating and/or new mom stuff, I highly recommend you check out and subscribe to her blog! She’s an inspiration in all of these areas without making you feel like a failure – a rare and wondrous balance in the world of fitness/food/mom bloggers.)
Ask A Mom: Melissa at I Crashed The Web
Part One: Pregnancy and becoming a mom
Has motherhood changed your perspective on the world in any way?
I’m much more sensitive to stories in the news, on TV (real or fake), etc. that deal with violence, tolerance and/or children. I want FW to grow up in a world that is peaceful. I want him to live in a world that tolerates him and his beliefs- whatever they may be. And I want him to be safe. I’m now so much more affected by what’s going on in the world around me, now that my world is so much more than me- it’s me and my family.
What was the worst parenting or pregnancy advice you got before baby arrived?
Sleep when the baby sleeps. Okay, so this isn’t exactly awful advice (I did take a 40 min nap today while FW slept, yay!), but do what works for you. Some days, your baby won’t sleep much or only in spurts of 10-20 minutes, so don’t rely on this for your naps. Sleep when you can and do what you wanna do while the baby naps. Yesterday for me, this was baking lemon zucchini bread. Another day it was working out. Do what you need to do to stay sane – whether it’s sleep, shower or just sit on the couch and eat a brownie (or two).
What was the hardest part of pregnancy for you?
Slowing down. I thrive on being busy and productive and I had to change my lifestyle somewhat near the end. I got tired more easily, especially during the end, and I had to make sleep a bigger priority. I no longer could run 5 miles, meal prep, blog, go for a walk, and hang out with friends all in one day – it was too tiring! Running a 5k felt like a half marathon and I was pooped. I had to prioritize and spend my free time doing more relaxing than usual.
What surprised you about pregnancy?
How easy it was for me. I was really lucky in that I had a relatively easy pregnancy. I didn’t have morning sickness. I didn’t feel toooooo large or uncomfortable until the end and I was able to keep up a somewhat active lifestyle throughout – I continued running (I did a 5k at 38.5 weeks) and walking throughout. I know that not all pregnancies are that easy and I feel so lucky!
Are you happy with your childbirth experience? Is there anything you wish would have gone differently?
I went in without a birth plan – I told the nurses and doctors my plan was “to have a healthy and happy baby” and I got it. Would I have liked to have been able to manage without an epidural? Yes. Would I have liked to have had only one epidural instead of having them have to do it twice because the first one didn’t work? Yes. But overall, I’m very happy.
This past weekend we took a quick road trip through Columbus and to Cincinnati to visit some of The Husband’s family. Managing a single road trip does not make me a traveling-with-baby expert, but we were way more successful than I could have imagined, so I thought I’d share some tips for any new parents prepping for their own excursions.
Start with a good list. I love a list, and packing is no exception. Mentally go through a regular day with your baby and write down everything you’ll need, from diapering, to feeding, to naps and sleep; then consider any activities you are planning during the trip (for me, that was maybe using the hotel pool and going to the zoo) and list anything you’ll want for that (sunscreen, hat, swim diaper, etc.) If you are a parent and you are reading this, you know to plan for disasters, so it almost goes without saying you should bring a few extra changes of clothes/a few more diapers than you think you need.
Here are a few things I packed that came in handy:
Neatly folded plastic grocery bags for holding dirty diapers, soiled clothes, etc. I also brought a few zip-top sandwich sized storage bags for holding pacifiers, doling out small portions of baby puffs, etc.
Baby carrier. You guys, baby wearing is so handy for travel. We brought our stroller but it ended up staying in the car the whole time. I impulse bought a soft structured carrier the day before we left but I have zero regrets.
Boobs. Because I’m SAHM-ing and extremely lazy about pumping, I brought zero bottles and only the milk I carried. A bottle could likely have come in handy at some point, but honestly, probably not enough to make up for the having to wash everything. Obviously you will have to adapt to your situation.
Easy, mess-free snack. I knew we were going to be dining out a lot and I wouldn’t have a whole lot of control over sodium levels, etc., I bought a canister of Baby Puffs to keep The Baby occupied at the table if we were short on options for him.
Silicone placemat and a bib. Our hotel had a breakfast buffet with fruit and other BLW-friendly items, so we wanted to take advantage of it without being the worst hotel guests ever. This helped contain the mess (a little.)
All-purpose cleaning wipes and baby wipes. In addition to baby wipes for diapering, I kept a stash along with all-purpose cleaning wipes to clean The Baby and the table, respectively.
This is totally dependent on how your baby sleeps, but I brought a sleep sack and both Wubbanubs. The Baby uses them only when he is going down to sleep but I would have lost my mind if we hadn’t brought them. I also brought a very small fan to help with white noise if our hotel A/C wasn’t loud enough to do the trick. We carried our cosleeping habit to the hotel so didn’t bother with a Pack and Play or anything. I’ll talk about our nap setup later.
Toys and entertainment
We brought The Baby’s favorite book for bedtime, and I fished a few toys out of the box that he doesn’t usually play with (I try to rotate them to keep him from getting overwhelmed and/or bored with the same toys all the time.) I also strung several canning rings onto a plastic toy link to make a fun, noisy rattle that I wouldn’t mind losing. Because we’re trying to go with the whole low-tech baby thing, I did not set up any baby TV on my phone for the trip.
Plan your bags well. I used our large diaper bag as the “suitcase”/staging bag, filling it with all the diapers we’d need for the weekend, The Baby’s clothes, burp cloths, bibs, and blanket. I put all his clothes in one gallon size zip-top bag, the bibs and burp cloths in another, bath toys and baby shampoo in another, and used each pocket in the bag for other “groups” of items. Sunscreen and bug repellant in one, wipes in another, etc. I used a separate, small backpack to hold all the food-related stuff, as well as a mini diaper clutch with just enough diapering supplies for each leg of the trip. My point is, try to start off extremely organized. It made it easy to grab stuff in the car and kept me from feeling weighed down like a pack mule.
Don’t forget your own comfort. Comfy shoes, plenty of nursing bras, snacks for the ride and hotel room, and a pile of books. The one amazing thing for me was getting to read a little while The Baby napped because I was too far away from my dirty laundry and unfinished DIY projects to try to tackle them while he slept. It was, in short bursts, almost vacation-like.
Driving and time management
Plan around naps. We tried to time each of our departures around The Baby’s usual nap times to give him a chance to sleep in the car. It usually worked out great. I also chose to sit next to him in the back during the second leg of each trip to serve as entertainment (and occasionally lean over his carseat to nurse him, yep) to keep him from flying off the handle.
Break the trip up. We weren’t going far, but stopping in Columbus for a few hours (and then in Oxford on the way back up) gave The Baby a chance to stretch out, hang out somewhere other than the car, and burn off some energy.
Take your time and be flexible. We decided throughout the trip that while we wanted to have fun and see everyone, we weren’t going to try to stick to any overtaxing schedules. We tried to make sure The Baby at least had an excellent first nap each day, so if his second nap was spent being lugged around in a carrier at the zoo, he’d at least have started off well.
While it’s easy to crash anywhere when it’s just you/your significant other, I think it’s totally worth it to save up/find deals to get a hotel room that can serve as a good home base. Call me a control freak (I am), but when you’re away from home it’s really nice to be able to manage your surroundings to make your baby (and yourself) as comfortable as possible, and sometimes that’s just not possible if you have a fold out couch in someone else’s house.
I intentionally found a hotel that had mini-suites and decided to cash in some credit card points to offset the extra cost. We stayed in a king studio suite, and while there wasn’t a separate room for The Baby to sleep in, there was plenty of floor space for him to crawl around, and The Husband and I did have a separate sitting area to lounge in while he slept. There was also a mini-fridge and an extra sink, which came in handy for washing our placemat, etc. after breakfast. It was just nice to have the extra space.
Basically, we just did our best to stick to the home routine. I put The Baby in the middle of the bed with pillows blocking each edge (but nowhere near him… gotta love a California king bed), and we just kept an eye on him from across the room while he napped. At night, we did our usual bathtime, story time routine, and it worked out great. The blackout curtains were clutch and made me realize the really-dark-but-not-actually-blackout curtains in The Baby’s room are not quite cutting it.
While we had to be quiet and left the room fairly dim during The Baby’s sleep, I packed a picnic for our first night in the hotel (cheese and charcuterie, plus prosecco) and we actually had a pretty romantic cocktail hour in our half of the room.
Those are my tips for a successful road trip with baby. What are your go-to moves?
(By the way, I know I linked to a lot of products in this post, but none of this is sponsored. It’s just what I love/used on this particular trip.)
My mid-morning errand today involved going to Target to buy things I needed (diapers, coffee) and a few things I didn’t really need, that nevertheless will make my life a little easier (Dollar Spot mini binder with abundant list inserts to replace my near-full daily to-do list notebook, underwear that isn’t so old and stretched out that it barely stays up – sorry, I have no dignity).
What I came across, and what should come as no surprise yet still filled me with rage and dismay, was something I really, really didn’t need: a glaring reminder that I personally and new moms across the Western world owe it to society to GET OUR BODIES BACK after baby.
I was meandering through the baby aisles looking for a non-plastic sippy cup option (no luck) as The Baby has taken to clanking his bottom teeth on the shot glass I fill with water to offer him at meals. At the end of the bottles and breast pumps aisle, there it was, shining like a beacon of judgment: A rack of fitness magazines showing off the extremely fit, glowing bodies of women.
To this I say (and here comes some French, with no apologies), FUCK YOU, TARGET.
Like just about any woman with a pulse in America, I have fought my whole life to come to a place where I can love and accept my body as it is. It took me marveling with wonder and gratitude at my body’s ability to grow and push out and feed another human being. I’ve finally been able to quit grimacing at the way my thighs spread out on a seat or glowering at my arm hair or wishing I were different, or better. I am finally content with who I am, and while I have never had to endure the stigma of being extremely overweight or otherwise extremely far from conventionally acceptable appearance, I feel something almost like grief at the first 30 years of my life spent looking in the mirror and not feeling like enough.
And I have nothing against exercise. In fact, I credit exercise with helping me maintain my sanity and maybe having an almost obscenely quick and easy labor. I have been craving a chance to go running again and take every opportunity to walk around the farm or get a good stretch in, because it makes me feel good.
But this display isn’t about exercise. It’s about exploiting the vulnerability of women whose bodies have been stretched and taxed and transformed in ways that definitely don’t always feel comfortable or normal or acceptable. Society seems to think pregnant women’s bodies are public space, open for any remarks or criticisms that might come to mind. And then when baby actually arrives, even though life is 1000% different and priorities have shifted like tectonic plates, there’s that shitty expectation that if you don’t get your body “back,” you have tumbled headlong toward permanent fat frump town and your worth as a woman is forever revoked.
Exhausted new mothers who face fear and judgment and limitless guilt in every direction. It’s not enough to keep a baby alive and fed and happy and appropriately enriched. Better make room in your cart for instructions on putting yourself back together, because you’re (still) broken.
How dare you, Target.
How dare you strategically place this column of manufactured perfection in this spot, amplifying those insecurities for new mothers who are just trying to find a pump so they can go back to work or the right bottle in hopes of easing colic.
I know Target didn’t invent this expectation, but they certainly have no problem taking advantage of it to sell more magazines.
This makes me angry and sad, and makes me want to say to new moms who come across this and other post-baby fitspo and feel the monstrous weight of inadequacy:
You are good enough.
You’re more than good enough, in fact. You are a goddamn superhero, and you don’t owe it to anyone to look a certain way.
I know this may seem like a big soapbox for a small transgression, but this and every instance of post-baby body pressure is yet another form of misogyny that we shouldn’t have to fucking put up with. If we don’t call it out when we see it, if we don’t condemn it for how it makes us feel and for how it reinforces society’s apparent say in how women must occupy space in a certain way, then it’s never going to get better.
Target, you don’t get to make me feel bad about my postpartum self. I’m good enough.