Eating My Words: Learnings from a First Time Mom

Penny is eight weeks old as of yesterday, if you can believe it! Enter incredibly cliche but incredibly true statement about how quickly time is flying. IT REALLY IS OKAY?!

I think it would just about be the understatement of the century to say that becoming a mother changes you. I know you’ve probably heard and read it a thousand times, but that doesn’t make it any less true: motherhood changes damn near everything about you. I knew this. I mean, I knew that going through the experience of pushing a watermelon through a bagel-sized hole would probably have some kind of effect on me. And I kinda guessed that suddenly being responsible for an entire human life might cause some shifts in my perspective.

So I was prepared for the whole thing where my heart grew three times a la The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and was ready for the profound understanding and incredible love and appreciation for my own mother that would come with becoming a mom myself. But I wasn’t prepared for how becoming a parent to Penny would make me so easily change my mind with regard to things I said and judgements I made during my pregnancy. That I would renege on certain elements of what I thought was my parenting philosophy. That I would find myself doing things completely opposite to how I had “planned” to do them.

Basically, I just didn’t know anything about having a kid, until I actually had a kid.

I mean, while I was pregnant, I really didn’t worry too much about the whole post-birth part of the equation. After all, I was in great shape going into this whole parenting thing, y’know? I mean, I’d been around my nieces since they were both a week old, I’d raised two dogs from puppyhood, I’d read the parenting books and the mommy blogs and educated myself on infant safety and sleep training and baby-led weaning. I had this in the bag!

HAAAAAAAAA.

Yeah. Penelope entered our world, and never before have I eaten so much humble pie so quickly. Consider this my official apology for all the times I was judgmental about basically anything having to do with parenting, in any way, during my pregnancy, Because as I have oh-so-quickly learned, when it comes to trying to keep my tiny human fed, rested, and, well, alive, there is pretty much nothing I won’t do.

Here are some of the things that I thought before, y’know, giving birth:

  • I’ll never co-sleep/bed-share.
  • I can’t imagine possibly loving anything more than I love my dogs.
  • We don’t need a swing, and we definitely don’t have room for one.
  • Soothie pacifiers are ugly! I’m never using them.
  • I’m not going to be one of those parents who doesn’t want to leave her kid with a babysitter.
  • My baby’s going to sleep through the night early, it’s just about getting them on a schedule, right?
  • Breastfeeding squicks me out, so I just don’t know if I’ll be able to do it.

And the reality now that I’m a parent:

  • Co-sleeping: I fracking LOVE sleeping with Penny. Prior to having her, I really just didn’t understand how obsessed I’d be with her, and how much comfort I would get from having her close by. Not to mention how comforting it is for her to have me — well, my boobs, at least — close by, too!

I would have her next to me in bed all the flippin’ time, nestled up to those pillows she has for cheeks every night, IF I wasn’t so petrified that Sean or I would accidentally smoosh her, or suffocate her with a pillow, or smother her with my boobs. Also, we have a queen-sized bed and are king-sized people, so having her in bed with us, even in her DockATot, doesn’t really work too well. Le sigh.

  • Dogs: You guys KNOW how obsessed I am with my dogs. I’ve had Harry since I was 15 years old, and Daxter may be turning 7 (!) in January but is totally still my baby. I used to talk all the time about how I couldn’t imagine loving anyone more than I love my dogs, even once I have kids. But the truth of the matter is that while I 1000% still love Harry & Daxter, I just can’t help it: I love Penny more. Honestly, it’s hard for me to even admit that, really, because I used to be super judgey about people who said this very same thing, but I’m not going to lie to you guys.

  • Swing: We still don’t really have room for one, especially not the huge honkin’ Fisher-Price Cradle ‘n’ Swing that I tried out at my sister’s house and OF COURSE worked like a charm for Penny. She took like a three hour nap in it!

But I tell you, anything — ANYTHING — that will buy you even thirty extra minutes of peace, quiet, or sleep is 100000% worth getting when it comes to this whole baby gig. So guess who had placed an order for one of these bad boys before she even stepped on the airplane to come home? THIS GAL.

 

  • Soothies: I still think these particular pacifiers are ugly as sin, and when you look into the little hole in the middle it makes your child look like a guppy, but of course Penny loves them and thus so, too, do I. At least they’re cheap, lol.

  • Babysitters: Um, it took a LOT of mental and emotional effort just to be willing to leave Penny with my own parents for the amount of time it took to go to see a movie. Who the hell knows when or if I’m going to be okay with the idea of leaving her with anyone else! Turns out I am VERY ATTACHED TO MY BABY. Who knew.

  • Sleeping through the night: LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLLLLOLLOLOLL ::laughing crying emoji::

  • Breastfeeding: I’ve been breastfeeding Penny since she was born (with Sean giving her the occasional bottle of pumped milk) and chuckle when I think back to my comments about breastfeeding icking me out. From the first moment, it really has felt like the most natural thing in the world to me!


My views on feeding your baby in general have actually not changed since becoming a parent. I believed then, as I believe now, that a fed baby is the most important thing. So whether you exclusively breastfeed, exclusively pump, supplement with formula, exclusively formula feed (or whatever combination above you choose!), the “right way” is whatever works for you and your family.

That said, I didn’t realize how much I had internalized the whole “breast is best” sentiment that seems to run rampant through the comments section on Facebook and on mommy bloggers’ Instagram pages.It was this pressure to breastfeed that made me feel like it wasn’t an option not to at least try to do it… for which I begrudgingly admit I am now mildly glad, since I do enjoy nursing Penny. But it also made me develop a resistance to the idea of using formula. I was extremely upset at the idea of having to supplement with formula when we were dealing with her jaundice issues, and was determined to be able to provide pumped milk for the additional feeding we had to do as part of her treatment.

I recognize that I have gotten lucky in the breastfeeding department, but I still I think I caused myself a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety over not wanting to use formula — and for no reason! Formula is perfectly healthy for babies, is incredibly convenient, and can be a literal lifesaver for many parents.

I have since given Penny formula a few times (like I said in my last post, having a little bottle of the ready-made stuff while traveling ended up being a really good idea) but still felt a twinge of guilt doing so. And WHY? I’m still working this one out.

Anyway, this list is really just a small sample of the learnings I’ve had since becoming a mom, and I’m sure that the list will only continue to grow and grow. But hey, that’s a big part of this whole parenthood thing, I’m told — learning on the fly, rolling with the punches, and just continually trying to do our best.

Q&A: Dogs & Babies, Maternity Leave, and the DockATot

Soooooooo, let me paint you a word picture (accompanied by an actual picture.) Here I was, sitting on the sofa, browser open, Penny napping peacefully in her Rock ‘n’ Play, the dogs snoozing away nearby, and with absolutely no idea what to write.

It’s not that I don’t have things to write about. I mean, I had a baby six and a half weeks ago. I’ve had a lot of learnings and really do have a lot to say, haha. But it’s like there’s so much I want to say, I can’t figure out how to say any of it! Tough though it may be to believe now, there used to be a time when I posted daily to this here blog — sometimes even twice a day! Shocking, I know. And back then, I had no problems coming up with something to write about every day, but it seems that the longer I go between posting, the harder it is for me to get back into it. Conundrum.

So being the internet-dependent person that I am, I turned to you guys to help me figure out and narrow down what I should write about with regard to what life has been like over the past several weeks. And boooooy, did you! Thanks to you all, I now have a whole list of topics to to dig into, specifically for those who might be interested in the nittier, grittier side of newborn momming. Since some of your questions are pretty big and deserve posts of their own, I figured I’d start off by tackling some of the easier-to-answer questions I’ve received.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

How are Harry & Daxter adjusting to life with their new baby sister?

Thankfully, bringing Penny home has been a total non-issue for the dogs! Harry has been completely nonplussed by her presence since we took her home, and Daxter continues to warm up to her more and more. I was a little bit worried about how Daxter in particular would take to her, as he had exhibited some jealous behavior towards my nieces when they were babies, but thankfully those issues have yet to surface with Penny. Yay!

I definitely tried my best to prepare the dogs as much as I could prior to Penny’s arrival:

  1. I made sure a bunch of the baby stuff was all set up and placed the house long before I actually went into labor, so they could get used to all the new furniture and “stuff” that would be encroaching on their space.
  2. The dogs stayed with my parents while I was in the hospital (where they stay frequently), and I sent my parents home with the hat that Penny wore in the hospital to let the dogs get familiar with her smell.
  3. When the dogs came home, I went outside and greeted them by myself without the baby since it had been several days since I had seen them.
  4. Lastly, upon the advice of my friend Lara, who is a dog trainer, I made sure not to make a big deal of trying to get the dogs to “meet” Penny. I didn’t force them to go up to her, or hold her up to them to sniff, or anything like that. Penny was sleeping on the couch in her Boppy lounger when they came in, and it actually took them a little bit of time to even notice her.

All those things combined led to a very uneventful introduction, and things continue to go quite smoothly! Daxter still doesn’t love it when she starts crying and fussing (he’ll just get up and sulkily leave the room, lol), but he loves curling up in her Boppy lounger when she’s not using it, and both he and Harry (as well as my brother’s dog, Pixel) all seem to be generally unaffected by her presence. And Penny can sleep through their barking and yapping too, so win-win!

How’s breastfeeding going?

I feel very fortunate not to have had any real issues with breastfeeding thus far. I know that’s not the case for many people, and I’m incredibly grateful to have what seems like a good milk supply, as well as no issues with Penny latching (nor with her taking the occasional bottle). I have dealt with pretty regular engorgement issues (I don’t think my supply has really regulated yet), but fortunately have not had any complications from that, like mastitis (and praying it stays that way!)

 
That said, breastfeeding in and of itself is not without its mental and emotional challenges, even if the physical aspect has been pretty smooth for me. After all, just because it has been going well so far, doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to continue being that way, so the possibility of my milk supply dwindling in the future is sometimes on my mind. Also, I’ve been super grateful that Sean’s able to give her the occasional bottle of my pumped milk, as it can be emotionally draining to be her only food source, but we were also constantly second-guessing whether or not we were giving her too little, or too much, when we bottle fed her.

I ended up getting the Hatch Baby Grow scale and changing pad which, in addition to letting us keep track of her weight and growth (something that the data-freak and crazy first-time-mom in me L-O-V-E-S), it has also allowed us to see roughly how much she has been taking from me as well by weighing her pre- and post-feeding. Doing so has really helped alleviate a lot of my worries with her feeding, and I can definitely say that she’s getting enough to eat because she’s packing on the pounds like a little champion: 11 pounds 12 ounces as of yesterday!

What was it like leaving the house by yourself with Penny for the first time?

Thankfully, it was very smooth, but probably only because I ramped up my outings with Penny VERY slowly. Sean and I had taken her out with us together several times (to the doctor, to lunch, etc), and when my sister was in town we took both Penny and my nephew Alex out together as well.

So by the time Sean was back at work and it was just me, I felt relatively confident in handling her carseat and stroller… but I still took it one baby step at a time. Pretty sure our first time out solo was just to the Chick-Fil-A drive-thru, lol. Then to Target. Then finally to meet a friend for lunch, and now getting out of the house is easy as pie… as long as I don’t need to be too punctual. Punctuality is definitely not my strong suit now.

What was it like leaving Penny for the first time?

The very first time I left Penny was just to run some quick errands while Sean was home on the weekend — this only happened a couple weeks ago. It’s actually kind of crazy to think that I wasn’t more than a room away from her for almost six entire weeks, heh. I did pretty well since it was a short trip and I was actively doing something the whole time — driving, running into the store, etc.

The first time Sean and I both left Penny was last weekend when we went to see Blade Runner 2049 and my parents watched Penny for a few hours. I did less well that time — even though I know my parents had everything totally under control, it was still hard to be away from her, of course. She’s my tiny human, after all! I’m obsessed with her. I did okay during the movie itself (it was really good!) but I was ready to get up and race out of there the second it ended. Also, I burst into tears when Sean poked fun of me for checking my phone as soon as the credits started to roll, lol.

How long are you on maternity leave, and when do you go back to work?

I’m very fortunate to work for Yelp and receive twelve weeks of maternity leave, fully paid. If you’re outside of the US, that probably doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but believe me, it’s above and beyond what most people get in the States and I’m very grateful. Since I was induced three weeks early, I used my PTO to add to my maternity leave as well to beef up my leave time and keep my original return-to-work date in mid-December.

What are your childcare plans for when you go back?

I’m also very fortunate to currently work from home (though Yelp is soon opening a DC office! Exciting!) and have an ever-changing but pretty flexible schedule, which gives me options for Penny’s childcare that I might not otherwise have with a traditional 9-5. We are also lucky ducks in that we have lots of family close by! So the plan is for my parents and Sean’s mom to watch her a couple days a week, and I’ll be enrolling Penny in a part-time daycare for the rest of the time. On nights when I have an Elite Event happening, she’ll either be home with Sean, babysat by family (in addition to our parents, we also have my brother and sister-in-law and Sean’s sister in the area), or with a sitter.

How are you sleeping?

I’ve saved this for last because it’s kind of a doozy to get into. The simplest answer is: I sleep in three hour chunks. Sometimes it’s slightly longer, sometimes a little shorter, but for the past week or so she has been pretty consistent.

The (much) longer answer is that over the course of the past 7 weeks, that amount has ranged from one hour (which, yes, is just as horrible as it sounds) to 3.5 hours (which feels AMAZING to get that much sleep at once, ludicrous as it sounds), and we’ve only made it to a three hour average by finally throwing money at a sleep solution that seems to really be working for us — the DockATot.

I’ll be the first to admit that I was very resistant to getting a DockATot initially, for a few reasons. One, it’s pretty expensive for what many have described as a fancy dog bed. Two, it’s most commonly utilized for bedsharing, which is something I swore up and down and left and right that I would never do (but don’t worry, I have an entire post I plan on writing about things I said I’d never do before actually having a baby, lolololololol). Three, it’s not technically approved in the US for use as a crib nest (in a crib or bassinet), even though it is marketed as such overseas (where it goes by the name “Sleepyhead” – 100% positive this distinction has to do with )

But, as you can see, I ultimately got over my reservations and made a conscious, informed choice to try the Dock-A-Tot, and I’m gonna be honest: I am soooooo glad that I did.

A little backstory: when we first brought Penny home, I was adamant that we strictly follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations for safe sleep (to reduce the chance of SIDs). That meant she was to sleep alone (no loose bedding, blankets, or toys), on her back, and on a flat, firm surface, so we had a bassinet set up in our room which fit all those criteria. What I didn’t really consider, however, was that it would be so difficult to get her to sleep in said bassinet! Go figure.

Yup, pretty much.

Trying to put Penny down to sleep in her bassinet was a challenge every night. More often than not, her eyes would shoot back open the second she touched the mattress even if she’d been fallen asleep elsewhere. She’d also only stay down for about an hour to an hour-and-a-half most of the time she was in her bassinet, but would sleep soundly for much longer in the other sleeper products we have — her Boppy Lounger or Rock ‘n’ Play. However, since only products labeled “crib,” “bassinet,” or “pack ‘n’ play” “count” for the AAP’s safe sleep recommendations, I didn’t want to let her sleep overnight in them and started experiencing tons of anxiety that she wasn’t sleeping safely enough (on a somewhat related note, I highly recommend that new moms NOT Google things like “SIDs Death Stories” at 2 in the morning.)

So, suddenly I was either spending hours at night trying to get her to go down, and then back down, in her bassinet (often the only way to do so was by letting her fall asleep on her side or tummy whilst on my chest and then transferring her, sigh), or simply staying awake all night while she slept in her lounger or Rock ‘n’ Play. Obviously, neither of which were real solutions as they both required me to be awake all night and frankly, it started to feel dangerous as my exhaustion started compounding upon itself.

Cause darling she’s a nightmare dressed like a daydream

More than once, I accidentally drifted off while nursing or holding her in bed or in my glider, only to awaken in a total crazy-freak-out-panic each time because it felt — and was! — so unsafe. That was the reality check that finally made me realize we desperately needed to figure out a different sleep solution, as I felt the benefits of strictly adhering to the AAP guidelines were now outweighed by the risks our total exhaustion was posing (and to be clear, its not like I was suddenly intending to disregard the official recommendations, I just realized they could still be applied whilst allowing me to get some rest.)

I like to think I’m pretty tuned into all the trending mom stuff on Instagram (#dockatot, #freshlypicked, #littlenomad, lol), so I’d heard about the DockATot a while ago (plus I have friends who really love it), but was hesitant to jump in due to the price. So I initially tried out a cheaper alternative, the SnuggleNest, which I found on Amazon as an Open Box deal for only $30.

The SnuggleNest did work better than putting her in her bassinet alone (and also allowed us to bring her into bed with us more safely), but didn’t seem to make that big of a difference in her sleep as she was still waking very frequently, and I also kept waking to find her all sidled up against one side which made me slightly nervous (even though the sides is mesh/ventilated.) Clearly she was looking for the security of feeling more snug and “boxed in.” (Which I’m pretty sure is also what makes Daxter only want to sleep smushed between my legs at night, and makes Harry cram himself into Pixel’s teeny tiny dog bed when he visits instead of his appropriately-sized one… but I digress.)

I already knew that a big part of what makes the DockATot so popular was the idea that it makes your little one feel snug and secure on all sides (their tagline is “reinventing the womb”) so I finally started researching it in earnest. And as I did, it began to appeal to me more and more — not only did I have friends who swore by its magical, sleep-inducing powers, but the more I looked into it, the more sense it seemed to make from a safety, security, and sleep perspective. Then, after one particularly sleepless night, I had a crazy mom moment and literally ran out of my house to go get one, lol.

Since using it, I’ve found that it’s not just a soft, fluffy pillow, but is structured, quite firm and, in my experience, does live up to its claims of breathability. (I stuffed my face into the bumper for over a minute and could still breathe through it.) Plus, it keeps Penny so snug that she has yet to get her face anywhere close to the sides even when she turns her head.

The most important thing, of course, is that it helps her — and thus, us — sleep. Penny goes down quite easily in it when it’s time for bed, and far more amazingly, returns to sleep so quickly after waking up to nurse in the middle of the night. Plus, from the very first night in her DockATot, Penny started sleeping 3 to 3.5 hour stretches with consistency (barring any extenuating circumstances like her coming down with a little cold this weekend ::cry::). It’s not a magic bullet that has made her suddenly start sleeping through the whole night, of course, but honestly just getting consistent periods of 3+ hours of sleep makes such a huge difference, and obviously it’s my hope that those stretches will continue to get longer as Penny is able to go more time between feeds.

We primarily use the DockATot in her bassinet (it fits perfectly), though I do bring it into bed occasionally (especially after Sean leaves for work in the morning so she and I can nap together, hehe.) And I look forward to hopefully being able to use it to help transition her into her crib when the time is right for that as well (acknowledging that if she starts rolling before then, we may need to reevaluate since the danger of using a DockATot in a crib is the potential for baby to roll out and become trapped between the side of the crib and the DAT. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it though.)

I could probably keep talking about this forever and go into even more detail as to why we made this decision and why it’s working for us, but this has already been a super long post, so if you have specific questions or would like more details about our sleep sitch, feel free to leave a comment or reach out to me!

I’ll take my leave for now, though, with the promise of coming back to address some of the other questions/topics you guys had for me — most of which deserve posts of their own. On the docket are posts about my postpartum body image, product recommendations, a day in our life, my new mom skincare and beauty routine, all of the emotions that motherhood has brought with it, and, as mentioned above, all the things I’ve had to take back about motherhood once I actually became a mother, lol.

I also intend to talk about my plans for weight loss and getting back on the health train, but I want to make it clear that this is unrelated to the concept of “losing the baby weight” because A) I think the societal pressure to do so is utter crap and B) I’m already back at my pre-pregnancy weight because I only gained like 10 pounds during my pregnancy. It’s just since I was overweight when I started out, I’d still like to lose some libbies and start focusing on my health again (especially if I’m to be expected to keep being able to carry my little chunkmonster at the rate she’s gaining weight, bahahaha.)

WHEW! Hopefully all of that should keep these blog wheels turning for a little while, at least! Penny and I are headed off to Atlanta today to visit my sister (so I guess you can add a “my experience traveling with an infant” post to the list!), but I promise to try and get back to blogging more regularly once we return! And in the meantime, you can let me know if there are any additional topics of interest that seem to be missing from the list. 🙂