Lessons I’ve Learned the Hard Way as a New Mom

Hard to believe this kiddo is 15 months

In my experience, being a mom isn’t really something you can prepare for. And while you can have all the advice in the world — you have to make your own mistakes too. I knew what not to do and yet I still did some of it. Why? Because it felt right at the time. Honestly, some of those early months are a bit of a blur. Hello, hormones and sleep deprivation. That said, I want to share some of the most important lessons I’ve learned over these last 15 months because maybe, just maybe, you’ll take some of my advice to heart. Or, or, you’ve been in the same boat and will feel comforted knowing at least one other person has been there too and gets it. So, without further ado…

Don’t be a hero. I believed if my job title was stay at home mom, well, I had to be really damn good at it. And for some inexplicable reason, that meant I had to do almost everything myself. I’m someone who craves control and can be a bit of a perfectionist, and so during Levi’s first year it was hard for me to trust others with his care. I also felt a strong need to prove myself as a mother, and as a result I didn’t hire enough help to begin with. What’s more, I turned down many offers for free (yes, free) help from willing family members.

This was wrong, SO wrong. The saying it takes a village to raise a child is just as true in our fast paced modern society as it was back when the term was coined (anyone know when that was)? We are not meant to do this alone. I repeat: we are not meant to do this alone, and we need all the support we can get. I actually felt guilty, that’s right— guilty leaving Levi with others in order to take some much needed time for myself. Well, playing the martyr eventually got old and led me to feel resentful and burnt out. I also think it’s one of the many reasons I ended up struggling with postpartum anxiety and, later, depression. So please don’t feel bad for getting help if you can afford it, and for the love of god don’t turn down free offers of help so you can practice self care (or at least accept most of them)!!! Others may not follow your baby’s routine as well as you’d like, but you deserve the break, and chances are your child will be just fine. This brings me to my second point…

It’s okay to break the rules sometimes. I love routine. A lot. I do better with structure, and I’m a firm believer kids benefit from rules and routine as well. That said, I’ll be the first to admit I became too obsessed with maintaining Levi’s sleep schedule during his first year. I mean I would literally stress out if he missed his nap or bedtime by more than ten minutes.

In addition to wanting Levi to get the rest he needed (and let’s be honest — I needed too), I desperately wanted to have a sense of control over both our schedules. My well intentioned desire to have him go to sleep on time and in his crib caused me to turn down many plans and outings. Unfortunately, my actions left me feeling more anxious and isolated than ever before and ultimately contributed to my PPD and anxiety.

Experience has taught me nothing bad will happen to either one of us if Levi goes to bed later once in a while. Even sleep experts will tell you well rested children can tolerate missed naps or later bedtimes every so often. In fact, it’s a normal part of life to make exceptions. But because of my postpartum anxiety, something so obvious just wasn’t clear to me at the time. Thank goodness I sought help. Not being afraid to break the rules here and there has made motherhood so much more enjoyable and I’m deeply grateful I was able to get there.

Continue reading

Opening Up About Postpartum Anxiety

levionbeach.jpg

I’ve dealt with anxiety on and off my entire adult life. For the most part it’s manageable, but twice I’ve needed medication to get me through  particularly challenging times. Unsurprisingly, my anxiety decided to rear its ugly head when I was faced with my biggest challenge to date: motherhood.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it started, but around the time Levi turned four months I became consumed with all things sleep related. I was exhausted and desperate to get him sleeping better. I read countless books and hired a sleep consultant, and yet one month into sleep training, Levi’s  naps were still hit or miss, and some nights he would wake up crying at odd times. Instead of accepting it and recognizing that hey, he’s just a baby and this is normal, I did the opposite — I blamed myself and obsessed over every short nap and rough night. Did I put him to bed too late? Was his awake window too long? Everything was somehow my fault. 

I began to feel anxious before every nap and bedtime but I figured many new moms dealt with this type of anxiety and it would pass. After all, I was generally happy the rest of the time and in love with my baby.

I knew something wasn’t quite right when Levi was seven months and I began losing sleep about our upcoming trip to Montreal and the baby free vacation to New York we had planned. By this point Levi was sleeping through the night and napping reasonably well, yet I remained anxious about everything. I couldn’t help it. My parents brought up the subject of medication, but I brushed it off because I didn’t want to take any drugs until I was done nursing. I also remained optimistic my anxiety would improve on its own as I settled into motherhood. 

Continue reading

Motherhood Update: Levi at Nine Months

Levininemonths
Levi at nine months 

Nine months. Wow. It’s amazing what a difference one month makes in the life of a baby. One month ago Levi was going through a whiny and clingy phase. He would cry whenever I left the room, and was difficult to please. Now, at nine months, our little boy is happy as can be and no longer protests when I leave the room. I, in turn, am feeling happier and relaxed (as relaxed as someone with anxiety can ever be).

Speaking of anxiety, If you’ve been following this blog, you’re probably wondering what ever happened to the New York trip David and I had planned last month sans baby. Umm, well, it didn’t go quite as planned. Originally we were supposed to go away for five nights and leave Levi with my mom and dad in Montreal. Then a month before I asked David to cut the trip down to three, and then to two days because Levi wasn’t taking a bottle and was having separation anxiety. Those two things mixed together made me feel I wouldn’t be able to enjoy myself while away, thus defeating the entire point of a vacation. To be honest with you, if we didn’t have a wedding to attend, I would’ve canceled the trip altogether.

All this to say, one week before we were scheduled to leave for New York, I changed my flight so I would be gone for only 24 hours (David left for New York a few days earlier for work). 24 hours!!! I know what you’re thinking, crazy right?! Even though deep down I knew Levi would be okay without a bottle and my parents would do an amazing job, I was still terribly stressed about leaving him. Friends and family were rolling their eyes and urging me to go for the full two days, but my gut was telling me otherwise and I listened to it. And you know what, I’m glad I did.

Continue reading

Motherhood Update: Levi at Eight Months

Familyphotos2018(36of2)
Levi is eight months!

And just like that — Levi is eight months! Every month has had its unique joys and challenges. When Levi is happy, there’s truly nothing better. This month’s challenge, however, has been keeping this kid entertained. He’s quite the discerning child all of a sudden, and as parents we’ve had to up the ante considerably. Levi is also able to stay awake longer between sleep periods which has its pros and cons. The pro is we get to do more fun things together, the con is we have to find fun things to do together. The fact it’s summer in Miami and extremely hot doesn’t help, neither does the fact there are significantly fewer scheduled mommy and baby classes.

What makes him happiest these days is eating, which I can surely relate to, but I can’t exactly feed him all day. Somedays 20 minutes can feel like an hour and I find myself simulatenously bored and worn out. So, yeah, it’s been a bit of a tough month. Overall, Levi’s still a happy baby, but he’s definitely growling and whining more. It’s surprising to me because he’s sleeping through the night (YAAAS!) and his afternoon nap is finally better.

I’m sure it’s all just normal developmental stuff, but of course I can’t help but wonder if it’s something else. I know he’s teething and uncomfortable, so there’s that…I’ve also been considering the possibility that maybe he’s become a bit spoiled by all our attention. We do leave him to play by himself a bit everyday, but I’m starting to think he needs to be left alone even longer in order to learn how to amuse himself without our help. He’s great at doing it when I leave him with the babysitter, but lately, the second I’m  back Levi becomes whiny and clingy.

Continue reading

Motherhood Update: Levi at Seven Months

Levisevenmonths
Levi at seven months.

Our baby is seven months! There are moments when I can’t believe how quickly time has passed, but then there are times I feel I’ve earned every single day. Being a mom is hard work, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying, doesn’t remember, or is doing a lot of outsourcing. Don’t get me wrong, Levi is the sweetest little boy, but he’s also now at an age where he’s able to express both his likes and dislikes, and believe me — when he doesn’t like something — he lets us know.

His current likes include: stroller rides, playing in his activity center, putting everything in his mouth, “walking” with daddy, his lovey, and eating.  His dislikes include: his afternoon nap, drinking milk from a bottle, diaper changes, tummy time, and avocado.

One of the biggest changes since my last update is that Levi is eating solids and really loving it! I’m not quite sure why, but I was a bit intimidated by the whole thing. That said,  with the help of my Ninja food processor and this super helpful online eating guide — feeding him has been a wonderful , albeit very messy experience for the both of us. I’m proud to say he’s a real gourmet just like his mama!

When you’re first starting out, pediatricians recommend introducing one new food at a time over a period of 3-4 days to test for allergies, but once a food passes the test then you’re free to mix ingredients. Levi has already tried and enjoyed pureed carrots, sweet potato, squash, zucchini, banana, pear, peas, plum, chicken and turkey. The only thing he doesn’t  like so much is avocado. He’s eating about eight ounces a day, spread out over two meals. If you’re about to start your baby on solids, I highly recommend these genius suction plates,  and these adorable bib/smocks.

Continue reading

Motherhood Update: Levi at Six Months

Levi22weeks
Levi at 22 weeks in his activity center.

As I’m writing this Levi is almost six months. He’s becoming increasingly more social which makes playtime much more fun for us as parents. Levi’s also started laughing and making these hilarious bird-like noises which we mimic back to him much to his delight. He’s losing interest in his swing and keeps trying to pull himself up from his playmate. However, he enjoys his activity center and is fascinated by the trees and the sky. I place him by the window and he just stares out into our backyard. Free entertainment folks.

A couple of weeks ago he started rolling onto his side which made for a bit of a rough week sleep-wise because he would roll over and either get scared or uncomfortable and start to cry. Thankfully it passed, and now we get a kick out of seeing him fall asleep in the most awkward positions (the things that entertain us these days, oye!).

It’s been over two months since I’ve pumped breast milk and given it to Levi in a bottle (I don’t like pumping very much), and I’m getting a little worried he’s going to reject the bottle. I know I have to get on this asap, but I seriously enjoy holding him close to me while nursing him, while also being too lazy to pump. That said, the older he gets the more comfortable I’ll be leaving him for extended periods of time and I’m definitely going to want him to take a bottle of breastmilk or formula when I do.

In about one week we’re going to start offering him pureed food which I’m both nervous and excited for. It’s going to mean more work for mom and a lot more cleaning, but I’m looking forward to getting him started on his culinary journey. Hopefully he’ll be an adventurous eater just like his mommy!

Continue reading

Why Everyday Should Be Don’t Forget About Mom Day

Levi18weeks
Levi 18 Weeks

When you’re pregnant, everyone asks you how you’re feeling. People hold the door open for you and engage you in friendly banter. You’re showered with attention and it feels good. But then you give birth and — poof — just like that those same folks start caring less about you. A lot less. The baby is the focus of everyone’s attention, and rightfully so — babies need tons of attention. They’re fragile, new, and adorable. They also smell incredible. How can anyone, let alone a tired, rundown, and hormonal new mom compete with that?

But here’s the thing: please don’t forget about Mom. She needs you almost as much as the little baby. Her life has changed completely, and if she’s anything like me, chances are she sometimes feels anxious, lonely, and confused. She’s also tired. Really tired.

Continue reading

Motherhood Update: Four Months

Levi16weeks
Levi at 16 weeks.

Our little Levi is four months old! I wish I could say these months have flown by but then I’d be lying to you guys and that would defeat the purpose of this blog. The truth is being a mom is tough. It’s hard work and right now it’s my full-time job. And Levi is actually an easy baby! He’s always smiling and is happy to chill in his baby swing or stroller, or lay on his play mat. He is absolutely delicious and makes me smile whenever I’m with him.

The hard part right now really has to do with his sleep or lack thereof. At 17 weeks he’s still waking up twice most nights to eat, which is considered normal for his age and wouldn’t even be so bad IF he actually napped during the day! Since about nine weeks his napping has gotten worse and worse. I have read Dr. Weissbluth’s book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and have spoken with two sleep consultants who both told me I could start nap training at 16 weeks because that’s when biological rhythms for naps emerge (I’ll discuss night sleep training in another post). This means babies are biologically programmed to sleep at certain times and be awake at other times. More specifically, nap training involves putting your baby down in his crib (drowsy but awake) after a consistent soothing routine and leaving them in their bed for one hour regardless if they’re sleeping or not. The idea is to teach them to fall asleep on their own and fall back asleep when they wake between sleep cycles.

Continue reading

On Banishing Mom Guilt Once and for All

LEVI14WEEKS
Levi at 14 weeks.

I had heard a lot about mom guilt before having Levi, but hearing about it and experiencing it are two very different things. Prior to his birth, I promised to give myself time to adjust to motherhood without putting pressure on myself to be a full-time mom and still do all the things I was doing before. I’m referring to things like preparing home cooked meals, freelance writing, blogging, going to the gym regularly, etc. While I have been kinder to myself than usual (yay me!) given my type A personality, I still often find myself feeling bad/guilty about not doing certain things.

During my many walks with Levi I’ve been listening to the audio book version of Bringing up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman. I highly recommend this funny, fresh, and insightful look at parenting in France, however, the reason I’m mentioning it now is because there’s an entire chapter dedicated to doing away with the dreaded mom guilt. French mothers are vigilant about not giving into it. They accept the fact they can’t do it all and that the perfect mother simply doesn’t exist. Consequently, a giant weight is lifted off their shoulders and they can approach motherhood with a greater sense of ease. In this regard, I absolutely want to be more like these women. I realize feeling guilty virtually all the time is unhealthy, and that it’s not beneficial to me or my family. You’d be surprised by the seemingly trivial things I’ve felt bad about these last couple of months (I assure you this is all true), and so now my hope is that by writing it out I will be more likely to stop feeling guilty about certain things.  Here’s to a relatively guilt-free 2018!

I will no longer feel guilty about:

1. Not making the bed everyday.

2. Going a full week without “cooking” anything beyond tuna melts, eggs, and maybe pasta if I’m feeling fancy.

3. Not always having a fully stocked fridge because I don’t want to spend my limited free time at the grocery store and don’t want to pay the pricey delivery fees every week.

4. Missing a workout, or two, or three.

5. Declining dinner with friends because I want to be in bed by 9p.m.

6. Wearing yoga pants daily.

7. Trolling social media while nursing. I made a resolution not to go on social media or text while breastfeeding but that was before I realized just how often I would be breastfeeding and that it’s actually the best time to catch up on my reading. In fact, following other moms on Instagram has been especially comforting as a new mom.

8. Politely declining visitors.

9. Politely declining sexual advances (occasionally)!

10. Sometimes feeling bored while playing with my baby even though I love him truly, madly, deeply.

11. Missing a wax, or two, or three.

12. Not breastfeeding for the full year because I want to go on a mini vacation with my husband sans baby this summer.

13. Letting my baby cry it out as part of sleep training for nighttime and naps. I’m doing it because I know that by learning how to self soothe he will have better quality sleep which will only benefit him.

14. Saying no to plans because of nap training and sleep training. I’m committed to making sure Levi gets the rest he needs.

15. Not being a perfect mom because such a thing does NOT exist.

XOXO

Val

New Mom Challenge: Sleep Deprivation

Levi11weeks
Levi at 11 weeks. This boy has stolen my heart… and my sleep. 

Never ask a mom of a newborn if her baby’s sleeping through the night as hearing this question will only remind her how tired she is. And for God’s sake please don’t tell a new mom she looks tired, even if your intention is to acknowledge her plight. The truth is I knew I would be tired the first few months of Levi’s life, I  just didn’t realize all the emotions and challenges that would arise from being in a constant state of sleeplessness.

The first month of Levi’s life he essentially ate every two hours and slept whenever he wasn’t nursing. The constant breastfeeding was tiring and took some getting used to, however, because he was sleeping so much and fell asleep so easily — it was easy for me to nap while he napped. This was crucial for me at this point and I was diligent about it. Of course, it must be said I had hired help cleaning the house a couple times a week and family members bringing us dinner and fetching our groceries. If not I definitely would’ve been more tired. Still, the combination of hormones and a lack of sleep during this first month definitely made me more prone to bouts of crying for seemingly no reason. I would snap at David only to burst into tears and apologize moments later. It wasn’t exactly fun.

Once Levi turned six weeks, a new challenge arose: it became harder to get him down for naps and for nighttime sleep. Suddenly I was way more tired than I had ever been in my life because not only was I  sleeping less overall, but I was exerting more energy trying to get him to sleep. This included endless walks around the neighborhood. Want to know how I lost the baby weight? I literally walked for hours everyday. What’s more, when he wouldn’t go down for hours at a time I would get stressed and anxious which only made it harder for me to fall asleep for naps and at night.

Continue reading