Not To Push It

If Only I Would Have Known…

That there were going to be so many differing opinions on parenting. I know I’ve talked about this a few times, but I really want this to be a theme in everything that I write – each parent has to choose how to raise their child ON THEIR OWN. It’s one thing to be asked for advice and to give your opinion or personal experience, and another thing entirely to force your ideas on people who hadn’t asked to hear them. I’ve noticed lately especially in social media that people are literally spewing their ideas on parenting – and as a fellow parent, I’ve become annoyed. Not to say that I’ve never offered up my advice on anything – this blog is all about my personal experiences and things that have worked for me and for my family. But that’s just it – that last part – it’s worked for ME. That doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you, or for anyone else for that matter. It does no good to tell another mother that something she is doing is “wrong”. So I breastfeed. Does that mean a mother who chooses to formula feed, or NEEDS to formula feed, is wrong? No! It means she’s doing what’s best for HER family! I cloth diaper…but it’s because it’s what held in my son’s virtual geyser of pee the best at night. If you use disposables, I’m not going to condemn you! You know why? Because it’s not hurting your child. Other than outright child abuse, these little nuances in how we raise our children or do things aren’t going to harm them!! Sometimes I really wish we could go back to the old days when there weren’t all these conflicting views to spark hate over. Because I see that so often now – hate and mean words and anger – over what people post about parenting.

I absolutely hate getting on Facebook or anywhere else and seeing posts about how people who do something are harming their child. The main parenting decision I see this about is vaccines. So here goes : I’m going to broach the subject. It’s not fair to use fear-mongering to try and sway mothers. If you choose to vaccinate or not vaccinate your child, SO BE IT. That’s your personal choice, and you are free to do as you decide for your child. But it doesn’t mean that someone else is a bad mother for not making your same choice. I had someone tell me that I was killing Kaleb by giving him vaccines. They referred me to a website full of parents whose children died within weeks or months of receiving vaccines and are convinced the vaccines were what caused it, even if autopsies or other reports end up finding differently. I’ll be the first to say that it’s ALWAYS tragic when a child dies. ALWAYS. No matter how or why or when it happens – but does it do any good to make a mother feel bad for making the choice to vaccinate or not vaccinate her own child? No! And does it make a mother who did vaccinate feel any better if her child happens to die that you blame her for choosing to vaccinate? No! I feel like all I ever see online is people posting about why NOT to vaccinate. I just feel like the argument is becoming very one-sided and accusatory, and that’s something that I hate to see. All the media these days about GMO’s and shots and government spying has made us all conspiracy theorists. The world is not out to kill your child! And though pharmaceutical companies are out for profit (most businesses are), I’m sure a lot of people working for those companies have children themselves, and I doubt they would intentionally do anything that they knew would harm your baby. People argue that some of these diseases are all but eradicated and therefore we don’t really need the shots anymore… well, yes, but if no one got the shots for a few generations, all of those diseases would no longer be suppressed and I bet we would begin to see more outbreaks. I may not want my son to die from a shot, but I wouldn’t want to watch him die of whooping cough (which is making a major comeback) or polio either.

So, the moral of this story I suppose is that bad things can happen either way. If you vaccinate your child, there is a small chance that something awful may happen. But if you don’t vaccinate then there is also a small chance that something awful may happen in the form of a disease. You, as a parent, have to research and weigh which risk is less for your child. I say this because some children SHOULDN’T receive vaccines, or can’t because of health reasons or family histories of vaccine reactions. I feel like I speak from a place full of sympathy and genuine heart-felt desire to be fair, because I was a complete basket-case where SIDS was concerned. After trying for Kaleb for longer than we had ever dreamed we would have to, then being so careful to not do anything even remotely dangerous during my pregnancy, I certainly wasn’t going to enter into any decision lightly where his precious life was concerned. If I truly would have felt like he had a greater risk of dying from SIDS after a shot than he did  of getting a disease, I wouldn’t have vaccinated him. You, as the mother of your child, have to make that decision within your own household (because the risks/benefits are different for every child!!!!) After a TON of research, I chose to vaccinate Kaleb. Does that mean you have to vaccinate your baby? No. Does it mean you’re wrong if you don’t? No. But does it also mean you’re wrong if you do? No! Make your own decisions, do your research. You are not a bad mother if you aren’t totally “granola” in all that you do!!!! Since everyone out there is posting anti-vaccine sites, here’s one to bring balance back to the madness: it’s a great site that clearly gives the numerical risks of each disease versus its vaccine – facts. And I like facts. There are also in-depth descriptions of what ingredients go into each, etc.

http://www.chop.edu/service/vaccine-education-center/a-look-at-each-vaccine/

Let’s stop publicly force-feeding our opinions to each other. Let’s stop scaring each other. Let’s support other moms and their decisions to do what’s right in their own families. As women, we need to empower one another and love each other, not find faults and induce anxiety attacks over every aspect of parenting. It’s hard enough as it is.

Love, Allison and Kaleb

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That I’d Miss The Newborn Stage

If Only I Would Have Known…

that I would actually miss all of those I’m-so-exhausted-I’d-rather-be-in-a-corner-crying newborn moments. When they’re happening, especially with a first baby I think, it’s so tempting to look at your red faced screaming infant and think, “I had NO idea what I was getting myself into.” You just want to be able to look at them and say, “baby, what’s bothering you? And what can I do to fix it?” But of course they can’t answer – you’re left to scurry around the house desperately marking things off the “tried” list (okay, I fed him, changed him, held him in my left arm, held him in my right arm, held him up against my chest, walked outside, took a few laps around the neighborhood in the car, turned up the heat, turned on the air, put him in the swing, stood on my head while juggling puppies…) to no avail. If you’re lucky and had a baby who slept well from the start – thank your lucky stars. Thank them every day. We were not so fortunate. Kaleb woke up every 45 minutes when he was born to nurse, and after a month or two that got up to an hour and a half between wake-ups, and just now at 5 months old is sleeping 7-9 hour stretches and is able to put himself back to sleep if he stirs in the middle of the night. So we became very well acquainted with exhaustion. But even aside from that, the newborn stage is just plain rough. So many days I felt like throwing up my hands in surrender to this little person who I just couldn’t seem to please.

But then, there were the times when he would fall asleep on my chest, and I’ll always remember how he would rest one little hand on top of the other and then his little chin on top of that, in the most precious way imaginable, and I would just melt. He had this little snore that was more like a tiny whooshing “shoooo….shoooo”. Those little baby smiles they gift you with while they’re sleeping even before they know they’re doing it. And how cute are those itty bitty footed sleeper outfits??? Kaleb had one when he was born that was preemie sized and said “I’m So Hip” with a hippopotamus wearing sunglasses on it. Seriously, I could die from the cuteness. The tiny squeaks they make. The first time they hear your voice after they’re born and already begin to turn their head to find you in the room because in all the world, they know mommy and daddy.

It’s tempting to get frustrated. It’s easy, too. Today, Kaleb fought both of his naps. Refused them, actually. And I know he was dead tired from the look in his eyes. As I stood upstairs, desperately in need of a nap myself, rocking and bouncing and shushing him for an hour and a half with no success, right as I was getting to the point of being “so over it”, guess what my big boy did? You know, the one who’s now over 5 months old and usually falls asleep with his arms hanging limply to his sides and his mouth wide open? He put one little hand on top of the other against my chest, and then leaned his head against me on top of them, gave a big sigh, and fell asleep. You could have knocked me over with a feather. He hasn’t done that in months, but it was the sweetest little gift he could have given me today. A lot of friends are having babies right now, and they’re so precious and little, and I’m constantly amazed by how quickly and easily I’ve forgotten how it feels to hold a newborn in my arms. Do I have baby fever again already? No way, Jose! But I realize that as difficult as those first days were when I was in the thick of them, that stage was so wonderful and new and full of things that were shaping my son into the kid he is becoming. To have that little reminder of his newborn days today was such a blessing – and I found my momma’s heart hoping that he will always sleep with his hands folded in that perfect way, that way that reminds me of the best day of my life when he came into the world. So mommas, if you have a new one, take notice of all their cute little quirks that make them uniquely them…later on when they start to grow out of the baby things, the remnants of those things will get you through difficult days, and make you yearn for the days that are long past, the days that allow you to look down on your 5 month old, or one year old, or five year old, or ten year old, and remember the smell of Johnson and Johnson baby shampoo, of sleepers with monkies on the butts, of sleepy smiles, and losing all those darn tiny socks in the laundry. My hope for all of us is this: that no matter how old they become, we never stop snuggling our babies as if it was the first day we brought them home.

Love, Allison & Kaleb

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To Give Up On Impatience

If Only I Would Have Known…

that in order to be the mom my son needs, I would have to give up on some of my old ways. You see, I’m a very efficient person. I like things done fairly quickly, and I’m not the biggest fan of getting dirty. The other day, I was feeding Kaleb rice cereal with a long-handled plastic spoon. As I carefully scooped up a tiny portion, scraped the excess off on the side of the cup, and then slowly put the spoon in his mouth (all the while employing my dear husband to “hold his arms down!”), our sweet little boy decided to show his mama what-for. He wrestled his little arms free of Blake’s grasp, and right after I had given him a bite, shoved his little fists right into his dripping-with-soupy-cereal mouth, effectively smearing it all over his face/bib/clothes/seat/hair. I was horrified. I quickly grabbed a wet rag and began cleaning little hands and cheeks. Then, regaining my composure, we tried again. This time, he reached his pudgy little arms out, grabbed the spoon in both hands, and literally shoved it into his mouth. As I sat there, watching the food slowly oozing out of the sides of his mouth all down his chin and into his neck fat, his little mouth sucking on the end of the spoon and smiling at me with bright eyes, I surprised myself by bursting into chuckles. My son had just effectively told me, “You know, mom, if you’re not going to shovel faster, I’m just going to do it myself!”. And I didn’t blame him one bit. So without my usual clean-up-after-each-bite ritual, I just wrenched the spoon back, scooped up some more, and this time held the spoon out in front of him so that he could gauge the distance, reach out, grab the spoon, and pull it into his own little mouth again. We repeated this process until the whole cup was gone and he was whining for more. And then I wondered to myself: how long has he had this little skill that I had totally missed seeing because I was more concerned about containing the mess and making the feeding process faster by doing it all myself? I had learned something valuable about my son that day, seen a new trick he had picked up and learned a little about his personality. He’s a go-getter, and one with pretty darn good hand-eye coordination at that! Was there more food on his body and the seat than probably actually made it into his stomach? Oh yeah. Was he all sticky as he reached for me to pick him up? Definitely. But was he also smiling and giggling and fed and happy, wearing a look that said, “See mom, I did it all myself!!”? He most certainly was.

I had to give my son a long bath tonight to get all that goop out from his double chin, and it took me a while to clean up the mess. But what is far more important than all that was that my son got to practice something useful tonight. He’s learning how to eat with a utensil, at five months old, and learning where food comes from. He’s learning to be independent and how to help himself. That, I realized, is far more important than me being able to get him fed and move on to some other task quickly, to keep the flow of MY evening moving along, right on schedule. Our children need us to teach them things. They need “hand-over-hand” learning in which we help them to achieve things themselves – one small step toward growing up at a time. And though that may take a little longer, or make a bigger mess, we need to learn to put aside our selfish adult-ness for a few extra minutes so that they can experience something new, something they will continue to build on and use. You see, my friends, if you hold their arms down forever, later on you will have to take responsibility for why they cannot raise them up themselves. I know I don’t want Kaleb to miss out on opportunities for growth because of my type A personality! Tonight, I overcame that personal hurdle, and I had fun doing it. Our lives are meant to be imperfect – we are meant to strive to be refined daily in our quest for Christ-likeness! God knows us perfectly, and He knows our children perfectly, and so He blesses each of us with the children that He knows will refine us in the areas we need refining the most. As I kissed Kaleb’s chunky little cheeks goodnight tonight, I was so thankful for the lesson he unknowingly taught me – a little bit of extra patience for the moments that matter most.

Love, Allison and Kaleb

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It’s Ok To Ask For Help

If Only I Would Have Known…

that I was going to have to swallow my pride and ask for help, in more ways than one, after Kaleb was born. Motherhood comes with a million different emotions, and unfortunately, all of those emotions come right about the time when your hormones are seriously going wacky again. And when I say “wacky,” in reality I mean “just a second ago I was so happy and now I want to gouge my eyes out with a spoon” absolute crazy.

I really want to say everything I’m feeling in this post, but the theme comes with two meanings for me. First, I’ll speak to the “lighter” of the two issues. I’ve always been a pretty independent person. Being a part of the military for the past two years has made me even more so (I like to think). So when it came to being a new first-time mother, I didn’t really have much of a clue at all about anything that I was doing. Every grunt he made in his sleep would prompt a google search starting with “is it normal when…” (don’t lie, you’ve done it too). I was sleep deprived, especially in the first three weeks, when I felt like the answer to every awful day or sleepless night or crying fest was answered by “oh, he’s on a growth spurt!” to which I would reply, “AGAIN?!?!” I had lots of people offer to help me, including my parents, who were great enough to come stay with me after he was born (my mom stayed the first ten days of his life). It seemed like any time I came downstairs, half-drunk with exhaustion, there was my mother, washing my dishes, doing my laundry, tidying the house, vacuuming the rugs. Was I grateful? Ohhhhh yes. But was I also hit with awful pangs of guilt? Every minute.

We all have these grand ideas for our lives. We see all these tv shows and blogs and think that we should be able to be it all. I mean, a baby sleeps most of the day, so it should be easy to get all those chores done and still have time to sit and watch your favorite tv show with a cup of hot coffee as you watch your little angel soundly sleeping next to you, right? It’s so easy to get trapped into thinking that it’s easy to be Supermom, or even that “everyone else” seems to manage it. I mean, didn’t you see Suzie Homemaker’s facebook post about how she’s ALREADY back in her pre-pregnancy jeans because she’s been faithfully back at the gym with her baby in a papoose on her back since postpartum day four, and all that AFTER she put a yummy pot roast in the crock pot for later and folded seven (count ’em!) loads of laundry? And there’s pictures to prove it too! All we tend to see are the successes of peoples’ lives, their little victories throughout the weeks, the relieved posts when everything goes right (for once). And that’s great: everyone needs great days and domestic battles won, and they deserve to bask in the glow of that. But yet we take those as the norm, and expect ourselves to live up to this envisioned ideal that may or may not be the whole story. See, that mom probably forgot to say that she was so busy juggling a screaming baby she didn’t even get to eat breakfast, or that she’s already changed three times due to a veritable Everest of spit up, or that she’s hoping that a crock pot recipe will be easier to handle than the chicken dish she tried to make (and subsequently burned) the night before when the baby woke up a little earlier than expected. I didn’t want my mother’s help. I did, but I didn’t. I wanted to believe that I could do it all myself. I wanted to impress my mother with how I could handle this new challenge in my life. In doing so, I was reluctant to ask for her help. She would offer to change a diaper – I would say “I can get it!” with a smile, because I didn’t want to seem like I was “passing off” my duties as a mom. I didn’t want to seem like I didn’t want to do every last thing for my child. I didn’t want to seem lazy.

Now for the other part of what I wanted to say: there are other ways in which some new moms need help. I suffered from postpartum depression (PPD). It didn’t even hit me right away; it was a few days after Kaleb was born that my mom started to notice the signs. The biggest thing for me was that I DREADED the night time. Unfortunately, it was winter, which meant it got dark pretty early too. I would be-bop around all morning, happy as a clam in the sunlight. And then, when the sun would start going down, this literal panic would set in. I didn’t want it to get dark. I knew that the night time was the worst time for Kaleb – this was when I was still trying to force him to sleep in his crib in a separate room, and he would startle himself awake about every thirty minutes to an hour and I would have to spend at least an hour tending to him. He was also eating every 45 minutes. There were nights I ended up sleeping on the floor in his room just because I was too exhausted to go back across the hall to bed. I was a walking time bomb. I would cry for no reason. When night fell, I would get quiet. Tear up over nothing. My mom softly suggested I go see my doctor – I denied I had a problem. But I did.

I finally talked to a friend of mine from a past small group, explained how I felt, and asked what she thought since she had been open about having suffered from PPD after one of her pregnancies. She gently urged me to go to the doctor, and to fill out the depression questionnaire honestly. I did. Twelve points signaled depression. I had sixteen. How could that be? I had TRIED for this baby. I can vividly remember afternoons alone in the house in Pensacola laying with my face in the carpet, sobbing, begging God to give me a baby and asking why he was making so many people around me mothers, but not me. So now that I finally had the thing that made my life complete, that gave me more joy than I have ever felt, why was I depressed?? I was horribly embarrassed. It made it worse that my doctor was a woman who had said she had kids – I wondered if she ever needed this help, if she thought me a “cop out” or less of a woman or even a drug seeker. So, with my head hung low, I left with a prescription for Zoloft. I started taking it and within days noticed a difference. I was still upset at night time, but nowhere near the dread I had felt before. Over the next month it got to where I didn’t care about the darkness anymore – I could still function. Less and less did I wake up every hour with him mumbling things like “I’m so tired right now, I could jump out that window” or “oh my gosh does he EVER stop crying?? I JUST fed him!” until I was getting up with a sigh but no complaint. It upset me to realize how badly I had needed the help, even the medicine. I could see it, maybe, a little more with someone who hadn’t wanted their pregnancy or to be a mother…but we had tried for a long time! I was supposed to be the most joyous person in the world over the birth of my son! But that’s the thing: I WAS. I loved every noise he made, every breath he took, every flutter of his pretty blue eyes. I was absolutely in love. I was just also utterly exhausted and overwhelmed.

It only took me about two months before I came entirely off the meds and have been perfectly fine ever since. I share this because I know so many other people having babies right now, especially first babies, and I don’t want anyone to suffer like I did before I finally gave it up and went to get the help I needed. It’s not embarrassing; It’s common. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your child. People equate PPD with the mentally ill women out there who have done horrible things, who have harmed or even killed their children. It’s not all like that. Sometimes it’s just literally being so tired you can’t even see straight. Or frustrated because for the life of you you can’t figure out why your baby is crying. If you’re not feeling well, it may not just be hormones. Talk to someone! Talk to your spouse! Talk to me! But DON’T think you’re alone, or a bad mother.

It takes a huge swallowing of pride to have a child. You have to be willing to step down from the Mighty Mom pedestal and admit that once in a while, you do need that neighbor who offered to come over and watch the baby while you nap, or have someone bring you dinner, or let your mom fold your laundry, or ask your husband to change a diaper, or talk to your doctor about how you’re feeling. Use the help that is being offered to you – people really do have good hearts and mean it when they ask if there’s anything they can help you with. Believe me, there’s plenty of time to be Supermom AFTER your baby starts sleeping through the night.

Love,

Allison and Kaleb

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That I’d Be In Bed By 9

If only I would have known…

That 9pm is the new midnight. Looking at my little pea all tucked into his pod next to me, I realized (like I do every weekend and most Wednesdays) that this time a few years ago, I would just be putting on my high heels, finding my cell phone, and heading out on the town. In college, I had quite a few different groups of friends, and chances are at least one of them was going out. Auburn was known for great drink specials at the bars on Wednesday nights (ladies drink free until 11!) and we had a great eclectic bar scene to choose from. You wanted hit bands and a breezy summer night? You went to Skybar. You wanted little booths tucked into corners and pool tables? You went to Quixotes. You wanted laid-back acoustic guitar and a tame crowd? You went to 1716. So many options, so little time.

When I got married, things began to settle down (which was ironic, since Blake worked at one of the bars as a bouncer as a night job when he first moved in with me from North Carolina) and I learned what the term “homebody” meant. We would go out to dinner, and then a fun night consisted of going to the movies with friends, getting frozen yogurt, or black light mini golf (I’m the reigning champion if you’re wondering – it’s an obscure skill I’m pretty proud of). We still went out and did things, it just wasn’t to party. I blame Blake’s geriatric status. At any rate, the momentum began to shift. At first I didn’t like it – I wanted to put on a cute dress and go dancing!! But I started to realize during those months that when I DID go out like I used to, it didn’t have the same fun factor as it had before, and I started to prefer the movies instead (only if I could get the guy to put all that artificial butter on my popcorn when Blake wasn’t looking).

Now, here I am, 9pm and in bed. And I’m not sick. Or hurt. Or have a test the next morning (not that that usually derailed plans anyway). I’m in bed before 10 pretty much every night now, unless there’s laundry to be folded (tonight there’s not, because my husband is awesome and already took care of it while I made dinner…*swoon*). Why, do you ask? Because dear Kaleb is on a semi-tight schedule these days. And it’s great, and it works, and I love it, so I don’t fight it. I had always read that when a baby is new, you might as well not even try to implement a schedule on them – they need to be cared for on demand so that their needs can be best met. Oh how it took every bone in my Type A body to follow those directions!!! At the end of the first two weeks I was done with it, and tried to make him go to bed at a certain time, or feed him at a certain time, and I was horribly disappointed – the kid just wasn’t listening. I mean, here I am, trying to be rational, and he’s just like, “yeah right, mom. You’re funny.” So I gave up the ghost and just waited patiently for the day everyone swore would come, when he would start to develop his own schedule and I would be able to catch on and roll with it.

It happened. About a week and a half to two weeks ago, I finally started really noticing patterns. He was awake at about the same time every morning, and then napped around the same times in the afternoon and evening. When I would come home from work around 5:30, he’d be falling asleep (probably because he gets a bottle of breastmilk at the center around 4:30 or 5) so I’d put him down for an evening nap, which was perfect, because it allowed me to cook dinner and get some other chores done before he’d wake up again. I realized he always woke up between 7:30-8:00. I started giving him a bath every night right when he woke up, and letting him soak in the warm water for a bit to help him relax. Then he gets fed and swaddled, we read him a story, and then he gets put in bed usually by 9. The first night we did this routine he went from waking up every 2 hours to sleeping 3.5-4 hour stretches at a time. I was amazed. Personally, I think the cloth diapers help us too because he HATES being changed/naked/cold so before when I was changing him every single time he was waking up, he would wake totally and scream and it would take up to an hour to get him back down again. Now with them, I only have to change him every other time, so he will drift right back to sleep after he eats. I ALSO like that he sleeps in our room, because before when I was trying his crib in his separate bedroom, he would have to wake up and really make noise for me to hear him, which would also make him going back down a long process. Now, I hear the first whimper and rustling around and so he’s being fed before he even really wakes up.

After the first few days it became apparent that this schedule was going to work for us (at least for now) and I’m getting better sleep than I did before. I think that’s why the beginning weeks of parenthood are so tough – babies need you so often and you have no idea when that’s going to be. You don’t know the tricks to your baby yet that will help them go to sleep or be more comfortable; in short, you’re flying by the seat of your pants, and it’s exhausting. A lot of friends’ babies got to the point of a schedule, and longer sleep, much sooner than Kaleb has. His longest stretch so far has been just under 5 1/2 hours at a time. But I’m thankful for each stretch I get, because I remember those first few nights where I was up literally about every hour with him. It gets better – it’s just hard to see that when you’re a sleep deprived new first-time mom.

Once Kaleb started settling into a rhythm, it made it easier for me to introduce some consistency. I modify my schedule so that his stays constant, and it helps. Granted, not everything that worked for us works for everyone (including the diapers or co-sleeping), but regardless, your baby WILL get onto a schedule!! Have no fear! The day will come when you finally start seeing patterns and realize that your life can start to slide into a familiarity. Now I know about what times will be best to go to the store, or what times he’s going to want to play, or when I should probably be home by in the evenings. Does it take sacrifice on our parts? Oh yeah. We can’t stay out super late or go to dinner at 7:30. But it’s worth it to be able to predict my kid for the first time. Scheduling happened pretty naturally for us, and if you can notice similar patterns in your baby’s sleep/wake cycle, I highly encourage it, especially the bedtime routine, if nothing else. Kaleb goes down for bed so much faster than I ever would have dreamed possible when he was born, and it’s because he’s starting to know what to expect from us around the same time each evening. As parents, we give up things, like being out past 9pm, but it’s worth it for a good night of sleep. So much for crazy Wednesday nights 😉

Love, Allison and Kaleb

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To Let Go & Let God

If only I would have known…

that try as you may, you’re never going to get it 100% “perfect” on your own. What I mean by this is that in the recent weeks, I have realized just how many decisions today’s moms are faced with – and the intense scrutiny that all of those decisions can put you under. There are so many choices, so many things you can do “right” or “wrong” for your child, it really blows my mind. Think about it: by the time your baby comes into the world, the barrage of questions begins. Are you going to cloth diaper or use disposables? Breastfeed, formula feed, supplement, or a combination? Will your baby sleep in a crib in its own room, or in bed with you? Will you stay at home or go back to work and leave your child with someone else or in a daycare? Will you vaccinate or not, and if you do, will you do it on the recommended schedule or not? (warning: this is a long post)

It’s truly overwhelming. When I was pregnant, I was so paranoid (and before anyone goes “honey, you still are!”… I know. Let me explain). I didn’t want to do ANYTHING to jeopardize the safety and well-being of the child we tried for so long and prayed so hard for. I heard caffeine intake increased the risk of miscarriage – I didn’t touch even chocolate until I was over 20 weeks. If it had a glimmer of caffeine, I was boycotting it. I would wake up in the night accidentally having rolled onto my back instead of the golden “left side” and panic, wondering how long I’d been like that (how dare my subconscious not notice!!). I avoided certain drinks, certain foods, I didn’t do any exercise or heavy lifting I wasn’t supposed to. To put it simply – if something was going to happen to my child, it sure as heck wasn’t going to be my fault. This was even what led me into my huge research campaign into natural birth (but more on that another day).

Now that Kaleb is here, I’ve realized that the paranoia never ends (at least for me). I find myself staring at his chest as he sleeps, and any sigh followed by a few seconds of apnea will literally almost make me pass out with fear. Even when he sleeps nice 4-5hr chunks at night, chances are I woke up 37 times in between to check on him. I don’t think I’m the only new mom who does this, so I’m really hoping this post will reach someone. In the past two months I have been barraged with choices to be made for my son. I have done my best to research all of them. For example, when he was born I was determined to “make him independent” and tried to make him sleep alone in his own room in his crib with the door cracked across the hall from us. However, within the first week I found myself getting up every ten seconds to pad across the hall and creep in to check on him because I would hear him make noises and didn’t know what they were for. I was also exhausted from his every 1.5 hr feeding schedule, especially when each time I would wake him up to change his diaper, feed him, then spend half an hour trying to get him back to sleep – which left me about 30 minutes of sleep each cycle. I was on the verge of collapse (more on that another day, too). Finally, sleep-deprived to the max, I decided I would THINK about the idea of co-sleeping. I started researching full-tilt. I read so many peer-reviewed journals I’m surprised I didn’t have an aneurism tricking my body into thinking I was back in nursing school. And finally I realized that if I could do it safely, it was worth a try. We bought a co-sleeper so that he would be protected from us rolling onto him, and Blake even moved into the other bedroom since our bed isn’t huge. I swaddled him and laid him on his back with nothing else around him (other than the mesh walls of the sleeper) and for the first time in forever, he slept great, and I did too. It works for us, and I do it as safely as I can. However, I found just as many journals and articles and personal testimonies that it would prevent SIDS as ones that said it would increase the risk.

And let me tell you – it has been this way with every issue I’ve tried to look into. Just as many people have stories praising the safety of your child if you do such-and-such as you will find horror stories of the one where something went wrong. This whole post is being written because I got Kaleb his two month shots the other day (cue Jaws music). The instant that some people found out I had vaccinated my son I started getting links to all kinds of websites – websites pretty much telling me my child was now going to die of SIDS within a week because he’d had his shots. Or have seizes. Or brain damage. Or retardation. I PANICKED. I mean, called my mother in tears, ran to my neighbor’s house in tears with Kaleb clutched to my chest, still crying when Blake got home, saying over and over “I killed our son and I didn’t even know it and now I can’t take it back!! I’m the worst mother in the world!!” I didn’t sleep AT ALL that night, and he slept on my chest because I somehow blindly believed this would protect him. Even now, I’m up watching him sleep.

I was so mad at myself because I had researched everything else about my son’s life down to the letter (including whether swaddling him increased his risk of SIDS), and here I was, the stupid mother who just blindly gave her son his vaccines A) because he has to attend the CDC where I work and they won’t let him attend without them, B) because I had been vaccinated so I didn’t think twice about it, and C) I had never even considered an alternative. Granted, the first point I can do nothing about, but the rest made me feel so naive. I’ve heard stories now of all the ingredients some shots contain (of course, I’m not certain these are all true) and I wished I could take the shots back. But then my mother asks me, “well, Allison, would you rather him die of whooping cough? or tetanus when another kid bites him accidentally? or be disfigured by some other disease? You have to weigh the risks with the benefits.” No, I would rather my son not die of those things. In my heart, I believe I did the right thing by vaccinating him (and in fact, I later found a peer-reviewed article cited by the Centers for Disease Control that said that vaccinating a child on the recommended schedule DECREASES the risk of SIDS) – whether others agree with that or not. Luckily, he has had no reaction to them so far, hasn’t even gotten a single bruise. And no one in either of our families has ever had an adverse reaction to vaccines. And he’s around a ton of other people every day, so I thought it was for his safety that he have them and be protected. However, after my research (and scare) I don’t judge people AT ALL who choose NOT to vaccinate their children. That’s the point of this whole rambling thing – I see both sides. There’s evidence pointing both ways – convincing evidence from very credible sources. I had to step back and rationalize that the risk of some of these diseases was greater than the risk of a severe reaction to a vaccine (now when he hits a year and comes up for MMR, that’ll be a different story – I’m still debating that one hard), BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN I’M “RIGHT”.

How can any of us know? I mean, truly, really, 100% know, that ANYTHING we do will negatively or positively affect our child? (other than the obvious things, of course, like smoking or shaking or not using proper restraining devices in cars). We’ll never know. We just have to go day by day and PRAY that we are doing right by our kids. Because God knows we try. We try hard. Every mother wants her baby to be safe and happy. So you do your thinking and eventually you decide, and you just have to go with it. And there will always be people on the other side with their own backgrounds and experiences and knowledge that will disagree with you. And our reasons are different (I cloth diaper to save us money and to hold my kid’s ridiculous amount of pee that was leaking out of disposables…not because I’m into saving the Earth *sorry, Earth*). The moral of my story is to be tolerant of other people. Give advice, but give it gently, and don’t be offended if they don’t take it. Don’t ever assume you’re right and your way is the only way. Don’t make people feel like absolute crap as a parent if they did something different than you. I am lucky to have some great friends and family who support me in my choices, even if they wouldn’t do or aren’t doing the same for their own families. When I texted a dear friend after my “I just inherently killed my kid with the Hep B vaccine” freak-out, her simple response that knocked me back to sense was “SIDS is a possibility no matter what. Relax 🙂 you’re doing good.” Thank God for that simple response (and for the record, we’ve done just about everything in raising our kids differently so she’s not biased!)

Another great thing that my mother told me really hit home for me today. I was talking to her about my fear of something happening to Kaleb. My mother tried for over 3 years to get pregnant with me, then lost multiple babies (including ectopic twins) between my little brother and I, who are almost 6 years apart, not for lack of trying. So I knew she could understand my fear of losing a long-awaited child. She said that after mourning the loss of one of her babies, she had gone to our pastor, who had very simply asked her, “who are you to think that any of those babies were ever really yours in the first place?” After being momentarily taken aback, my mother realized what he was saying. She told me, “you know, Allison, every child is just really on loan from God. There’s a reason only he knows as to why he entrusts a specific child to us for an amount of time only he knows. That’s why all our days are numbered, but none of us can know how many there are. It’s not for us to know. It’s just our job to keep them and love them and take care of them the best we can until he takes them back.”

WOW. Talk about being convicted. It’s so true. If something happens to Kaleb in the coming weeks or months, I’ll be devastated. But I won’t blame it on anything I did as a mother. God sees everything I do, and I bet he goes crazy reading my thoughts. He knows that I’m doing everything I can to honor his decision to entrust Kaleb to me and be the best mother I know how to be for him. He knows that I love my son with my whole self. But the fact of the matter is, I’m just a surrogate. Kaleb is really God’s son – I just have to be thankful for every day that I’m allowed to keep him. But in the meantime, I’ll go check on him while he sleeps 🙂

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’” – James 4:13-15

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” – Psalm 139:16

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You Lose One, You Lose The Other

If only I would have known…

That my parents were going to be right about practically everything. I recently took Kaleb home to meet most of my family and friends, and one night I was up late after finally getting Kaleb to go to sleep. Recently he had been having a hard time going to sleep and the only way I could get him to sleep longer than 45 minutes at a time was for him to lay on my chest. My dad and I were sitting in the living room and talking about nothing important, when he turned to me and asked how Kaleb was doing during the nights. I rolled my eyes and sighed my exhausted-new-mom sigh and started explaining how he had been only sleeping about two hours max at a time since he had gone on his one month growth spurt (apparently until they’re like, 3 years old babies are CONSTANTLY on a “growth spurt”) and I was so worn out – I couldn’t wait until he started sleeping through the night!

Now, my father is a man of very few words. If he elaborates or does more than nod, it must be important. That night though, he turned to me, smiled, and simply said, “you know, the thing you just have to remember when it’s hard is that for every bad thing that eventually goes away, he’ll grow out of something good too. One day he will sleep through the night…but by then he will also be too big to lay on your chest anymore when he sleeps. I think one of the saddest days I ever had was the day I realized you were too big to sleep on my chest in the recliner anymore.” I had never even stopped to think about that before – that by the time I get one thing that I’m looking forward to, I’ll lose this precious other thing that I am only able to share with him now because he’s still so small. I froze with the realization.

I think there will be something to take for granted at each stage of Kaleb’s life, something that I otherwise would look over in the scheme of wishing for some hardship to be over. Will it be nice when he can drink from a sippy cup and I don’t have to sit down to feed him? Yes. But I’ll also miss the bonding time that I have with him now with breastfeeding. Will it be nice when he can talk and tell me what he needs so that I no longer have to guess? Yes, but then I will miss the victorious Awesome Mom feeling that I get now when I get him to settle down without the advantage of him being able to help me. Will it be nice when I can put him to bed and go downstairs and know he’s asleep and not have to check on him? Yes, but I will miss times like these when I’m laying there next to him and he suddenly startles awake looking around desperately for mommy, and then smiles and closes his eyes again once he realizes I’m there.

There will be times in all walks of motherhood where some undesirable thing makes us throw up our hands and dream of the day when it will be done. What we have to remember is that, like my father told me, when you lose a bad thing, you also lose a good thing. We need to cherish the bad things because they mean that we are still experiencing a time of parenthood that we will never get back.

Love, Allison and Kaleb

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That Cloth Diapering Is Just As Easy

If only I would have known…

that cloth diapers were this easy, I wouldn’t have mocked so many “granola moms” who used them before! I’ll admit, the whole natural approach used to make me roll my eyes and wonder who all these women were trying to impress (“I’M the best mom ever!” “No, I am!!”). When we moved to this base, I had a neighbor who used cloth for her new son, and having seen the colorful diapers drying on the line out back for weeks, I decided I’d at least ask to see one (mostly to justify the small stash of disposables I already had waiting in Kaleb’s closet). Once I actually got a hold of one, though, I quickly realized that the joke was on me. The diapers were called AIO’s (All-In-One’s) and looked just like a regular diaper, velcro and all, only they had two terry cloth inserts that were already sewn to either end of the inside of the diaper. All you have to do is flap one down and flap the other down over top of it, and there you have it, a contraption that looks eerily similar to a disposable diaper, albeit thicker. I was amazed. The velcro even worked exactly the same as a disposable – with no training or know-how whatsoever, I could have put one of these diapers on a kid. I was speechless.

With a bit of hesitation, I bought my first set of 6 diapers online, not quite sure how this whole venture was going to work out. I’ll admit – I was scared of being labeled as “that crunchy mom who thinks she’s better than us other moms who just use Pampers” like I had labeled so many moms in my head before (is it too late to apologize??) and I didn’t want people to think that I was trying to show off. I’m sure there are other women out there who feel that way too and it’s keeping them from trying something that has worked out so well for us and for so many other families. And I feel like I speak from the middle, because we have ended up having to use both kinds of diapers on Kaleb. The Child Development Center where he goes while I’m at work doesn’t allow the use of cloth, so when he’s there he’s in disposable diapers using disposable wipes. But whenever he’s home, we only use cloth diapers and wipes. Now I have a complete stash of about 18 cloth diapers and wash every other day.

Here are the two reasons I’ve become a lover of cloth: first of all, ever since Kaleb has been in them he hasn’t gotten a single rash. None. Not a dot. When he was first born and too small for the cloth diapers (we had to use Preemie size disposables for the first few weeks) his bottom was constantly having to be slathered with butt paste and powder because it was always red, no matter how often I changed him. The other reason is that my son is a Class-A Pee-er. When he goes, he makes it count. And there’s A LOT of pee. This was causing him to leak through disposables almost on a daily basis even when they were pulled tight. With cloth, it’s a rarity, and it usually means I put it on wrong (I can admit my mistakes!!) This has been especially helpful at night. Before using the cloth, every time he woke up to eat I was having to go to his room to change him as well, and usually had to change his whole outfit because of leakage around the leg holes. Now when he wakes up at night, I only have to change him every other time (unless I can smell poop) because the diapers are so absorbent, and because of that he can stay swaddled, and will go right back to sleep after eating (HEAVEN).

In retrospect, I wish I would have bought some newborn-size diapers for when he came home so I could have used them from birth and saved him all those rashes, but I also didn’t know I would have a 5.11lb baby either. It has saved us so much money, and the detergent isn’t any more expensive than regular detergent (no, I don’t make my own). Wipes too. So, I have to cave in and say I love cloth diapers. They’re cute, I love patting his big ole butt when he’s in them, and he seems more comfortable. He doesn’t cry over a wet diaper because the terry cloth wicks the wetness away from him instead of like in a disposable where  it just hangs there heavy in the front all up against him. I just wish I would have known before how easy they are and maybe I wouldn’t have judged so harshly. They’re not for everybody, and they do take commitment to stay on top of the washing, but I have come to really enjoy them. And this is NOTHING against moms who use disposables – when we go on road trips back home or at daycare, we use them too. And there’s A LOT of information about cloth diapers, a million brands, kinds, sizes, fabrics. But I encourage any soon-to-be mom or new mom to look into it instead of being close-minded like I was. Kelly’s Closet is a great site to start with (the inventor of that site also wrote an awesome book explaining it all very simply). It may or may not end up being the right choice for you, but it’s at least worth a good look!!

Love, Allison and Kaleb

It Really Is That Tough

If only I would have known…

Just how challenging this whole “new mom” thing was going to be. Everyone tells you all those cliche phrases like: “get your sleep while you can!” and “I hope you have your running shoes on!” but to be quite honest, as much as you know those people are right, it doesn’t really sink in what you’ve gotten yourself into until you’re IN IT. Then you flail around like a fish out of water for a few weeks until things start to click one by one and you FINALLY get the thought “actually, maybe I can do this…just maybe…”

I vividly remember the things I thought about when I was pregnant. I could picture myself rocking my sweet cooing baby in the rocking chair my mother used with my brother and I. I saw walks in the park on nice, sunny days. I saw proudly showing him off to strangers in the grocery store who came over because they just HAD to see the cute baby! I saw long days full of blissful infant sleep while I cleaned the whole house, cooked three meals a day, took long hot showers, and got out to find my sweet babe JUST awakening (of course throwing huge glowing smiles at mommy!).

Want to know the reality? Most nights of rocking him in that chair heard me muttering as sweetly as I could, “Kaleb, PLEASE just go to sleep for mommy…just a few hours, PLEASE…stop crying, Kaleb…PLEASE sleep…” with frazzled hair and bags under my eyes. I don’t think I’ve cooked all three meals for myself in one day yet (I seem to always forget one…). When people want to see the cute baby in the store, he usually starts wailing. I clean one part of my house at a time, on a rotating basis, because I never have time to clean the whole thing at once. And the only long, hot showers I get are when my husband comes home and he can hold the baby for a bit…and by “long, hot shower” I mean “20-minute-guess-I’ll-shave-my-legs-some-other-time shower”.

Being a new parent truly is overwhelming, even if you have great support. It’s something unlike anything else you ever do in your life and when it’s your first one, you likely have no basis for comparison (because let’s face it, we don’t REALLY know how the baby our best friend claims is a “pure angel who has already slept 9 hours straight by week 5!” really is behind closed doors). My brother is almost six years younger than me, and I remember his childhood, but I can’t say I remember much from his babyhood – I don’t remember hearing him cry in the night and my mother getting up to go tend to him, or him wailing in a store. So I don’t know how she handled all of those things. It’s the most trial-by-error process you will ever undertake, made twelve times harder by the fact that they can’t tell you what they need or why they’re upset.

So, first of all, I want to say that none of you new mommies out there are alone – and you’re NOT failing, no matter how badly you think you are. I went through the first month of my son’s life feeling like I had utterly sucked at being the Supermom I had geared myself up that I was going to be. If he cried and I couldn’t figure it out within a few minutes, or nothing I did seemed to work, I would question myself – after all, we’ve all seen the movies where the screaming child gets passed around the group but immediately calms down once handed to Almighty Mom. Just remember: at the end of the day, you’re the only mommy your child has, and he or she knows that and LOVES you and trusts you inherently. Just because it took you thirty minutes to figure out that those screams meant he had leaked through a diaper, don’t think your baby no longer trusts you to meet its needs. There’s a learning curve here, a steep one, and we’re all on it. So don’t give up!

Love, Allison and Kaleb