To Work or Not to Work

When I was a naive 20-something, and thought about motherhood, I thought that I would be a working mom. I have been working since I was 17yrs old and wasn’t really able to imagine being a stay at home mom. Of course, as a 20-something, marriage was a long ways off for me as well. It definitely wasn’t in my 10 year plan. When I lost my job at the beginning of 2014, I spent the next 6 months on disability because of a knee injury.  I had planned to stay in the restaurant industry because I liked it, but it became clear that it wouldn’t be realistic. Serving jobs don’t give you sick days, they aren’t sympathetic to pregnancy and forget daycare. The cost of daycare far surpasses the amount I made in tips.

I am lucky because my husband has a good job that allows me to stay home with our son. Obi and I go to the zoo, we visit my grandparents, and I am able to be there when he does something new. But financially, things are tight. We live in an apartment instead of a house, and we keep a close eye on our budget every month. As a homemaker I am perfecting my cooking skills, learning how to organize my home, and keep it clean.  I am by no means perfect at any of these things. The apartment is often pretty cluttered and messy, and there are days when Obi has taken all my energy and I just can’t make a fancy dinner.

Sometimes its hard to see that what I do has value. It’s not quantified, and I don’t see the fruits of my labor in a bi weekly paycheck.  I know that one of the hardest jobs is to be a mom.  It’s a 24hr a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year lifetime occupation. And I know it has value when I see my son’s face light up when I walk into a room. In spite of this, I feel like I occasionally lose sight of who I am as an individual. Instead of Sara, restaurant manager, piano teacher and soccer coach. I am Sara, Owen’s mom, occasional blogger and amateur chef de cuisine. I ask myself, would a job help with my individuality?  What’s so wrong with being a stay at home mom?

I know stay at home moms, and I know working moms. I have the utmost respect for working moms. They get up in the middle of the night with their little ones and still make it to work.  They are the ones pumping breast milk on their breaks so that their supply doesn’t drop.  They can’t help but be nervous the first time they drop off their babies at daycare. They work all week and still do laundry, housework, and cook dinner. Being a working mom is really hard.

I also have respect for stay at home moms, because society tells them they don’t matter. That we are probably just sitting on the couch checking Facebook while watching day time soaps.  A stay at home mom does all the homemaker things while spending time with a little person who demands 100% of our attention. A lot of my chores get done in between naps. Often I sit my son in a high chair just so that he can see me while I do the dishes and make dinner. I get up in the middle of the night and I don’t get to make up that sleep the next day.  I could nap- but there’s always something to take care of.  If I’m lucky I can get a shower in.

We are the only country that doesn’t provide national paid family leave, or any kind of support once the baby is born.  Women who use food stamps are looked at with suspicion instead of compassion. Moms who formula feed are considered selfish regardless of whether breastfeeding was an option for them or not. Congress is defunding Planned Parenthood which is a pretty strong political statement against the care and health of women.  So much of society is looking at mothers and judging them for any choices they make. We can’t win.

For me, its a double-edged sword. I could go back to work, leave my son at daycare, and earn a paycheck that contributes to a house or a family vacation. I might miss out on his first words, when he crawls for the first time, and his first steps but I would be there in the mornings before work, the evenings after work and the weekends.  Or I could continue being a stay at home mom, writing a blog during Obi’s naps, and spending time watching him grow and learn. We may not have the money to buy a house right away and we may not take a glamorous family vacation but I would have the memories of watching Obi grow. As he gets older, having the time to take him on adventures will be invaluable. That time will help shape Obi into a good kid and someday a good man.

In the end, there’s no wrong answer. Every person has a choice to make and it’s not an easy one.  For now, staying at home is what I am choosing. When Obi is still so young, its sometimes hard to see the future when we are having a rough day. But I know that for me, being free to go on adventures with my son is the life that I want. Besides, I can go back to work when he is in high school.  I hope.

Getting My Groove Back

One of the hardest things about being a new mom is that fact that I’m a little curvier than I want to be. My last trimester I think I gained maybe 20 pounds and weighed in at a whopping (and alarming) 207lbs the day I gave birth. Normally a size 8-10 athletic build, I am struggling with being a 12-14 right now. Its extremely disheartening.  Everyone said nursing helps the weight come off but I felt like I gained weight while breastfeeding.  So what’s an exhausted mom to do?

Of course the first step to getting on track is to focus on a healthy diet.  I eat a lot of whole grains, fruits, veggies, drink a lot of water with lemon and sometimes cayenne. I even drink Apple Cider Vinegar- sometimes straight, sometimes mixed with lemon, cayenne and soda water.  But I also suffer from a caffeine addiction as well as a sweet tooth. Cutting back on sugar has been so hard. I tried to limit my sugar intake to lactation cookies but trying to bake with a 5 month old is challenging.  Finally, most nutritionists recommend that you don’t eat past 8pm. That’s challenging because I may not get a free moment to myself until then. The other challenge is staying on track- sometimes I just am so exhausted I don’t want to cook.  This leads to bad decisions and then guilt. I’m sure I am not the only one who experiences this.

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A friend introduced me to Blue Apron. Its a weekly mail order cooking company that sends you fresh and healthy ingredients for three meals- specifically portioned out for 2 people or a family.  Some of the ingredients are unique- which makes them hard to find if you want to recreate the meals again. But the cooking instructions are clear and straightforward- accompanied by photos so that visual learners like me can see what things are supposed to look like at every step.  For two people it usually costs $59.95 and you receive your deliveries on Thursday or Friday.  The accompanying recipe cards have the calorie count and each recipe is usually below 1000 calories.  Fantastic for those looking to stay below a 2000 calorie intake.

Next, I started to work out again. There are lots of women who go back to working out when they are 6 weeks postpartum but I was still in some pain in my lady parts and the thought of going running or doing crunches was just inconceivable.   I met my husband playing soccer and was still running but ended up tearing my ACL and meniscus in a soccer game 6 months before our wedding. Rough. It took some serious rehab to get back on my feet in time to walk down the aisle. Fast forward a month and a half and I was pregnant.  It was a full year before I could really start working out again.

When my son was 3 months I started playing soccer again and promptly sprained both knees (who knew that was a thing) but stuck with it until the knees got stronger and I had joined two more teams. Now I am playing three nights a week- sometimes two games in one day.  Soccer is a great interval workout. Arena soccer is faster than full field outdoor, and playing co ed is a little riskier for injuries. You really sweat and you do a lot of running. I still feel like I want to add another couple days of workouts. So I’m starting slow. Three sets of 15 leg lifts and three sets of squats, using my 17lb son as a free weight.  There’s a row of beach stairs in Cardiff by the Sea, each staircase is about 90-100 stairs and it’s on the beach. I would like to start adding that to my non-soccer workouts.

I don’t weigh myself because I’m less interested in a number and more interested in my clothes fitting me again. I won’t really feel like I am getting results until that happens. Unfortunately it takes time and until that time comes, I need to invest in some new wardrobe pieces. Sigh.

The next step in getting my groove back is usually a hair cut and new color. There’s a rule about not cutting your hair after a major life event (usually a breakup, lost job, etc) but a birth can apply here. There’s a lot of wisdom in that rule. It’s also one I break too often. I had just gotten my hair past my shoulders and my son was getting a little hair grabby so I decided to chop it.  I almost always regret it. I have two different hair people. One to cut and one to color.  I always love my color- I only dye it myself when going red. I’m a bit of a hair chameleon in that I’m always changing my color.  And its not my stylist’s fault if I regret my hair cut. I just really wish I could grow my hair out past my shoulder blades. And then I get impatient and do something drastic.

Getting your groove back takes work. And it takes patience. Patience is hard when I’m looking in the mirror and seeing a tired, super curvy, frizzy haired reflection staring back at me. I just keep reminding myself it took 9 months to get myself here, it’ll take at least that long to get my body back.  The trick is to stay positive, eat healthy, exercise whenever and however I can.  Focus on the things I can do now like put on a little makeup, get my hair done, or at least get a shower in.  What things worked for you?

Posting Photos of Your Baby

Every once in a while, the news channels will report on a mother who found their child’s photo on a child pornography website. Horrifying right?  So when Obi was born my husband and I talked about our options for safely sharing photos of our little one with family and friends. I have a pretty locked down Facebook profile but I do have a lot of friends on there from college that I don’t exactly remember.  I’m working on deleting people but it’s a slow going process.

One option is to create a secret Facebook group and limit members to family and close friends.  But I have never been completely sure that the Facebook security was completely locked down.  Also, its easy to snag photos from the Facebook News feed. Occasionally I share a photo- for major milestones- but for the most part I try to keep  90% of the photos I take off Facebook.

A second option is the website Tinybeans. Its a photo sharing website that allows you to update people on a specific email list.  You can comment on the photos and its limited to the people you have email addresses for. There’s an app for Iphone and probably for Android- I don’t have an android phone so I am not sure. I tried using it before Obi was born but I decided it wasn’t a good fit for me. I have a ton of photography apps on my phone already and didn’t want to add another- they take up a lot of memory.  If you are interested in Tinybeans check out their website https://tinybeans.com/.

The third option is Google+. My cousin uses Google+ to share photos and videos of his daughter. Its great if you already have a Gmail account because chances are you have the email addresses of family and friends already through your email addresses and you can just add them all to the subject line. It also shows up on the Google+ news feed even though I don’t really know anyone  besides my cousin who uses Google+ as their main social media presence.

The option that I selected was Instagram. I already use Instagram for myself and I can always give Obi the password to his account when he’s grown up and has a cell phone of his own. (EEk!) He can see photos that chronicle his childhood and add his own someday.  So I created an Instagram account for photo sharing and use it only for photos of him.  The people who follow him are all people I know and talk to on a regular to semi regular basis. Its harder to take photos from Instagram and I was really able to censor his followers.

In the end, everyone chooses what works for them. Technology changes so often there will probably be more options for photosharing.

Wear all the babies…

So,  at a meet up for pregnant mamas, someone brought up the subject of baby wearing.  There are meetings all over San Diego for moms who want to educate themselves on the finer points of baby wearing. What is baby wearing?  It is the idea of using a wrap like a Moby or a woven, a soft structured carrier like a Mei Tei, a ring sling, a full buckle carrier like a Lillebaby, or a Half buckle carrier to carry your baby. These carriers keep your hands free but allow your little one to be close to your body for comfort, nursing, or a nap while out and about.  Babywearing is huge here in San Diego. There’s a group for every kind of baby wearer on Facebook.

I always knew about baby wearing because my mother used a Snugli and a sling with me and my brother way way back in the 80s. I just didn’t know it had a name.  I didn’t know a lot of things until I joined a few groups on Facebook. The idea of being able to keep my son close to me while having my hands free to do housework, walk around without a stroller, and soothe him to sleep when we are out in public sounded great to me. But the world of carriers is a rabbit hole of names, brands, and people who are strongly opinionated about it.

Some of these companies are:

  • Tula- The brainchild of a multi-national couple who saw a niche in the baby wearing market, they make ergonomic canvas full buckle carriers with fun and unique prints, woven wraps, and woven ring slings. There are two ways to wear your baby in a Tula, a front carry with your child facing you or back carry. There are also two different age groups- the Standard and the Toddler. The Toddler Tula is made to carry kids 18 months to 4 years old and with a minimum weight of 22lbs.  They really are works of art- I have coveted the Naida woven wrap conversion ring sling since I saw its mermaid print.  These carriers run from $135-$800 depending on the print, whether its a woven wrap conversion full buckle carrier, or if its a simple wrap. Some of the more popular prints have been retired and thus become more valuable.  They hold their resale value and there’s a high demand for Tulas here in San Diego- they sell out a lot. Visit http://www.tulababycarriers.com/ for more info and their official website.
  • Ergobaby- The next carrier is most commonly found at Target, Babies R Us, and Bye Bye Baby. Sometimes you can find them on sale on Zulily.  Ergo carriers are a full buckle carrier that allow you to carry your baby several different ways. They differ slightly from the Tulas in this respect.  Additionally, you can wear your baby from infancy to toddlerhood- usually until they are 33 lbs- depending on the carry. There are 4 carries available with an Ergo- front inward, front outward, hip and back carry.  For more information on the guidelines of these four carries visit http://store.ergobaby.com/baby-carrier/four-position-360?jumpTo=videos
  • Lillebaby- This is the carrier that I use for my son. I have the Lillebaby Complete Airflow. It’s a mesh Full buckle carrier that allows 6 different carries- fetal, infant, face out, toddler, hip and back. I love it because it keeps my son cool with the mesh breathable fabric. I can wear this for a full day at the zoo and my back does not hurt.  It’s also not as feminine as the Tulas can run so my husband will wear him as well. For their website visit http://lillebaby.com/
  • Sakura Bloom- This company makes wraps and ring slings in linen and silk. They are beautiful in their simplicity and light and airy for warmer climates.  There are all kinds of how-tos for wrap carries, I haven’t been brave enough to try them yet but the baby wearing world is full of women who are able to wrap their babes in these beautiful creations. The ring sling is popular for quick carries and for tiny babes. Sakura Bloom wraps and ring slings are for newborns to little ones weighing 35 lbs.  Visit http://sakurabloom.com for more info.
  • Mei Tai- A mei tai carrier is a square- or rectangle-shaped piece of fabric with straps on all four corners. The “traditional” mei tai has a history that stretches back hundreds of years. The carrier has its roots in Asia, where mothers often carried their babies in simple fabric carriers that tied onto their bodies.  In the baby wearing world it falls on the line between a wrap and a soft structured carrier.  Mei Tai’s are meant  for front and back carries for newborns to toddlers.  For more info check out http://meitaibaby.com/
  • Babyhawk- A company that makes soft structured carriers in a similar design as the mei tai. Used for front and back carries.  Some of these carriers are reversible and in patterns.  To shop these carriers, visit http://www.babyhawk.com
  • Kinderpack- The Kinderpack features a uniquely styled shaped and contoured body panel, that creates a rounded seat for baby’s bottom. It molds to your child so comfortably and cradles their legs in upward comfort by fostering the recommended “bottom-lower-than-knees” seated fashion. Offering 4 sizes for your child, including one of the only carriers on the market specifically designed for preschoolers. The infant size boasts an adjustable base to change the width of the carrier. The standard size is perfect for those who want to buy once, keep forever. The toddler size is a good choice for your little one that is approaching 30 lbs or 32 inches, and wants to be arms-in. And for those bigger kids there is the preschool size.  Preschool size is also a great carrier for older children with special needs.  The Kinderpack is similar to the Tula in its selection of cute patterned carriers, impassioned followers and frequency in which they sell out of specific prints.   For more info check out http://mykinderpack.com/

With the variety of carriers, carries and safety guidelines. Baby wearing can be intimidating. One of the best ways to decide what’s right for you is to find a baby wearing group in your area. Here in San Diego, Babywearing International of San Diego has a lending library where you can rent different carriers, get educated, and see what your babe likes best.  Their Facebook page announces meetings in your area and they frequent various mom and baby centered events.  Don’t let anyone tell you baby wearing is harmful to your child, they aren’t educated enough about the benefits to know better.  I may not be expert level but it’s worked for me.

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Disney Lullabies

In my previous post, I wrote that I sing my son to sleep with Disney songs. For those who don’t or can’t sing, here’s a playlist you can put together for your kiddo to fall asleep to. It’s up to you to put them in order and you can certainly add your own Disney faves to the mix.

  1. “So This Is Love”- Cinderella
  2. “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes”- Cinderella
  3. “When You Wish Upon a Star”- Pinocchio
  4. “The Second Star to the Right”- Peter Pan
  5. “Your Mother and Mine”- Peter Pan
  6. “Baby Mine”- Dumbo
  7. “Stay Awake”- Mary Poppins
  8. “Colors of the Wind”- Pocahontas
  9. “Once Upon a Dream”-Sleeping Beauty
  10. “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”- The Lion King
  11. “Part of Your World”- The Little Mermaid
  12. “A Whole New World”- Aladdin

There are a ton more options to add to this list. I have found that songs in a minor key are the most effective in lulling Obi to sleep. He almost never makes it through the entire list of songs above. Happy playlisting!

Why Won’t My Kid Sleep?

So, your baby may have started out as a great sleeper, or maybe not.  Maybe you were lucky to have one that slept through the night at 12 weeks. Color me jealous. What worked for one mama won’t necessarily work for another. But we spend our nights googling just the same- trying to find new methods of soothing our little ones so that we can finally get some f@#$ing sleep.  Our son Obi (pronounced Oh-bee) was a swaddled baby from day one. A 48 hour NICU baby, the nurses swaddled him between antibiotic injections and my clumsy attempts to nurse while recovering from his birth.

He startled in his sleep so easily that when we brought him home, we kept the swaddle going.  The baby classes we took showed us how to swaddle with just a blanket- well forget it- after multiple nights with little sleep, you can barely see straight much less swaddle a baby in the early morning darkness.  The SwaddleMe by Summer Infant “cheater” swaddles were a godsend. I bought one brand new and found two at a second hand shop. They have velcro tabs to keep the babe’s arms tight at their sides. “Sort of like a straight jacket,” my mom joked.

Summer Infant SwaddleMe Adjustable Infant Wrap, Busy Bees, 3 Count

You can find them anywhere and I recommend getting at least a pack of three- you’ll need extras in case they spit up all over one, pee on another, and have a blow out in the third. (I have never done so much laundry on a regular basis.)  Obi loved his swaddle. It was his signal that it was time for bed and he would instantly get drowsy and fall asleep.  The next part of the equation is the Fisher Price Rock and Play.

A bunch of my mom friends swore by the Rock and Play instead of a full bassinet. It folds up when not in use, keeps the baby at an incline in case they have a highly developed spit up reflex, and keeps them sort of cocooned. Plus it rocks and vibrates.  This is what Obi slept in for the first four months of his life.  If he woke up, we could remain in bed and rock him back to sleep- just magic. But, babies grow (imagine that!) and one day he was just too long and mobile for the rock and play. So we began the long hard transition to the crib.

Honestly, it was great to get him out of our room and into his own nicely decorated nursery. We had painted the walls a soothing unoriginal grey, my brother’s girlfriend had given us a beautiful Japanese bird mobile for over the crib, and I had painted and drawn an elephant and a giraffe to decorate the walls. But he was four months old and that in itself became problematic.

You read all over Facebook about the dreaded “4 month regression.” My mother scoffed at the concept, telling me that babies all go through growth spurts and phases and their sleep patterns change.  What I read was that babies go from sleeping and eating, without an awareness of their place in the world, to growing in awareness. When they wake at 4 months, its less because they are hungry and more because they are checking in with themselves to see if they are ok- if they need something. Cry It Out advocates say that this is when letting them CIO helps them self soothe and fall back to sleep on their own. I say CIO is torture for the parents and while it may have worked for some- I just can’t do it.  Lots of moms have found that it works, and lots of moms are just like me and couldn’t do it.

So what’s a wuss like me to do? I went looking for other ways to soothe my son. In the book, Bringing up Bebe, Pamela Druckerman talks about the French concept of The Pause. This is not a variation of CIO but more of a 5-10 minute pause before rushing to the nursery to see what is wrong. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. The point is not to immediately go to the baby when they cry out- they could still be sleeping and in a sort of half awake- half asleep state. If you go in to pick them up immediately that may interrupt their sleep cycle and you must work harder to get them back asleep. This book is a fascinating read- so different than some of the parenting books out there. If you aren’t into French things its not for you but its a great look at how French mothers raise their children versus how we Americans do it.  If you have read Happiest Baby on the Block, this is a good next read.

Next, there’s the Zipadee-Zip from http://www.sleepingbaby.com. First introduced on NBC’s Shark Tank, the Zip A Dee Zip is a swaddle transition for parents who used the swaddle and rock & play for their babies.  The star shaped pointed sleeves (I always described it as a four armed starfish or a flying squirrel) inspire sounder sleep than any of the other swaddle transitions out there.  The startle reflex or “Moro” jolts baby awake with that falling sensation we adults sometimes get.  They startle awake and can’t find their edges like they would in the womb.  The Zipadee-Zip provides those edges and still gives them a range of movement so that they can roll and stretch. When Obi started rolling himself over, this is what we transitioned to.  It really works!  Other benefits to the Zipadee-Zip are keeping baby from scratching his/her face, allows you to buckle baby into a car seat for those late night drives around the neighborhood, keeps baby warm on colder nights (if we ever get any).  Again, I bought mine second hand from a mama who ended up not needing hers and though the $35-$37 price tag seems steep, just think about the amount of sleep you could get if this works for your little one.

Now, for the less commercial methods of getting baby to sleep. I am a musician and have a moderately decent voice, Obi loves to listen to me sing to him and this works wonders at soothing him in all kinds of situations. I’m a Disney fan so I cycle through the Disney songs I know and by “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas, he’s asleep.  Even if you can’t sing, playing music for your little one can be the key. I also use one of those large exercise balls. I never even thought about using it until my cousin said it worked great for his daughter- and after using it night after night, I was convinced. So I bounce in front of a fan (white noise, another great sleep tool) singing “Stay Awake” from Mary Poppins and a few other Disney classics.

A lot of books and online articles recommend a routine- bathtime, story, song/music and then sleep. And it can be effective. But it doesn’t always work. Babies aren’t robots and you have to adjust to whatever their needs are that evening. Waiting to put baby to sleep when they are rubbing their eyes and ears, fussy and whining is also counterproductive. While those are signs of sleepiness, they are also signs that baby is over tired and it might be harder to get them down.  I recommend trying to get them down three hours after their last nap, or at the very first sign of tiredness. If your little one’s eyes are getting a little red around the edges, put on that night diaper (invest in them, changing a diaper at night can interrupt their sleep cycle too), and start your night time ritual.

Finally, the last thing that has really worked for me is the Dream feed.  This is harder on exclusively breast fed babies but it can work. Usually my son wakes up between 10 and 11pm. At this time, I could get him back down but he might be up a couple hours later.  I warm a bottle (he decided he was mostly done breastfeeding at around 4.5 months, so I pump) and while he is still sort of asleep, I rock and feed him approximately 4-5 oz.  He goes back down so easily after a dream feed and wakes up 5-6 hours later.  This way, he’s not waking up expecting to be fed in the middle of the night, and you aren’t creating a bad habit of feeding him when he really just wants to be held for a few minutes to get back to sleep.

Ultimately, you could find that all of these things work, or you could find that some of these things work some of the time.  There will be nights (like last night for us) where nothing you do will work and all I can say is make sure you always have coffee. Eventually, they do fall asleep and if you can- take a nap when they do.  Just know that you aren’t alone and that somewhere a parent is exhausted, bouncing their baby on an exercise ball, singing lullabies hoping they will eventually get some sleep.

Welcome to Motherhood

Hi there! If you have found this blog, chances are that you might be up late, trying to figure out why your baby won’t sleep, looking up diaper rashes on google, or shopping on Amazon for diapers, wipes, diaper creams etc.  The purpose of this blog is to be a supportive place to read and discuss the things that challenge us as mothers today. I grew up without cell phones, the internet, Facebook, Instagram etc and I have no idea how I will address these things with my kid when he reaches the age when they are important. Lots of my mom friends have struggled or are struggling with breastfeeding, getting their baby to sleep, being a working mom, or which product to buy.  I am by no means perfect, and I can’t possibly worry about being perfect when I am just working on getting through my day.   But I can write about it, and hopefully someone out there who is going through the same thing will feel like they aren’t alone.