Monday, November 4, 2013

New mom advice

I had this post buried deep down in drafts, in rough draft form. I planned on completing it during my 31 Days of Writing, but forgot.

First of all, I am a new mom myself, so I have nowhere near all the answers… or even a tenth of the answers.

Mothering is different for everyone, as every mom is her own unique individual, and has her own unique child(ren).

What I have written below is in no way deep or profound. Just some helpful tips that I have learned myself, and with the help of others, that have helped me as I walk through this new journey of motherhood.

Moms on call: sign up for their newsletters, watch their seminars, download their app, read their books, buy their blankets, follow their recommendations for products. Basically, make them your new virtual BFF's. Even better, hire them as your own personal consultant if you would like. Also, get your own twitter account, if you don't have one already, and follow them. Read their twitter feed for additional helpful tips they share with other moms. I can't sing their praises highly enough! They will encourage you and enable you to feel like you are more then competent to be your child's mother. And perhaps most importantly, they will give you the tools to help train your child to have healthy sleep habits. Possibly the best gift you can give a new mom.

The Woombie: buy it, use it, preach about it! I am a huge proponent of swaddling babies for the first few weeks of life, especially for sleeping. Unfortunately, not everyone (especially daddies and grandparents) is able to get a good tight swaddle that stays in place during naps and night time sleeps. This is where the woombie will be your saving grace. Yes, it looks like a straight jacket, and the grandmothers might criticize you at first, but trust me, your baby will love it! And those around you will become believers too.

White Noise Machine: I think everyone should sleep with noise makers, but if you and your husband don't think you can handle it, your baby definitely needs it! Especially if they have older siblings, dogs in the neighborhood or house, or live in a house with a door bell. I never have to worry about the Fed Ex guy, Ellie's screams, etc… waking up Quinn. Our noise machine is loud enough to drown out any household noise. I vacuum, blend, even come and go from the room, and the noise maker covers it all. We use the white noise machine recommended by Mom's On Call, or box fans.

You sweat! Yes, in the weeks-months of your post-partum period you will sweat unlike anything you have ever experienced. This will mainly happen at night, so put deodorant on before bed. Even consider using clinic strength stuff like Certain Dry. Also, keep at one least a clean shirt by your bed... You will want to change by that 3 am feeding. Unfortunately, the hot flashes can strike during the day too, while out in public, so dress lightly and in layers. Both my girls have been born in either the fall or winter, so my post-partum months are during the cold season (thank God!). Layers are my friends! Sleeveless or short sleeved shirts with cardigans are the way to go!

Shower everyday. Yes, I know some days you barely have time to pee or eat, but trust me - a shower makes you feel like a new woman. And even if you hair is still dripping wet all over your mens white t-shirt and yoga pants when you husband gets home, you will feel better about yourself that at least you are clean. There have even been days where I showered right before crawling into bed, but at least it happened. It helped me feel like I did something for myself that day. And besides, clean and tired always feels better than dirty and tired.

Mascara and earrings: they take 30 secs to put on and make you feel like a new woman... Even in pjs. Trust me on this one. Give it a try, and tell me I am wrong.

Buy some new pjs and yoga pants: You will feel better because they're new. You may not be dressed in high fashion, but new clothes, even pj's, are fun and always make you feel better and provide a slight change of scenery. 

Keep a camera handy at all times and teach your husband how to use it. Most men, I have decided, do not naturally know how to use a camera, or know how to look through a view finder and think gee, the way my wife is holding her head is giving her an uncharacteristic double chin, bet she wouldn't like that… I will have slightly change the position of her head. 

Ask people to take pictures of you with your baby. Especially your female friends and visitors. This way you can avoid double chin shots, or mid blink expression shots, explained above. Make sure you are not always a mom behind the camera. You and your kids will want pictures of you with them.

Don't step on the scale until3-4 months postpartum: It's the least of your concerns. I knew this, and ignored this at my 6 wks check up after Quinn. Yes, you have to step on the scale at this appointment, but you don't have to look a the numbers reading across the scale's screen. Your body is rapidly adjusting and changing in those first few months, and what no one really tells you,  your weight can actually fluctuate during this time. It takes 9+ months to grow a baby, and gain your pregnancy weight. The majority of women are not made able to to loose the weight faster then they gained it. It usually takes longer. Focus on just being healthy. Keep sugary yumminess OUT of your house. Keep healthy, quick snacks and foods readily on hand. And don't look at any pictures of Prin.cess Kate postpartum… unless you want to visually kill yourself.:)

Everyone says sleep when the baby sleeps. I couldn't nap after either of my babies were born - my mind was too busy. Adrenaline too high. But try to at least rest. Enjoy those newborn sleepy snuggles on the couch.

Allow yourself 5-10 minutes a day to do something you love just for you - exercise, read, blog, craft. No, its not a lot of time, but it can be your time to reconnect with you. This time for me is often in bed, for about 5-10 minutes after by husband and babies fell asleep. I usually read books, devotionals, or blogs on my smart phone or kindle.

Create a chore list with one or two things a day. You can not conquer an entire house in one day once you baby arrives. But you can do one or two little tasks a day, in those early months.

The weekends are not for catching up and sleeping in. I am still learning this, nearly two years into this mommy-business. For years, Saturday mornings are for sleeping in, watching TV, lounging, doing whatever you want. Or even getting up super early to do something new and exciting. Not once you have a baby, Saturday is no different then Monday… for a season. It won't always been this way, but it will be this way for a while. Your babies don't care what day it is, they still want to eat and wake up at the same time every day. They need you just as much Sunday afternoon as they do Thursday morning. You will be getting out of bed at the same time Saturday morning as you did the day before. Even if you made the silly mistake to stay up late Friday night, like you did in your pre-child days. For the record, I usually do this every Friday night. It requires an adjustment of your expectations. You will need to be reminded of this and it takes lots of practice, but it will help you enjoy those "Monday-like weekends" a lot more fully. One thing that has helped me create a slight difference in weekends, from weekdays, is to try to get all the chores done during the week, so that you don't have a ton of house work for the weekend. Instead of cleaning, folding laundry, dusting, etc… You are spending time together as a family. For the record, I failed epically at this plan this past week, and ended up doing lot of house work this weekend. It was just one of those weeks.

Speak openly-honestly with your husband... Mom... Girlfriend ... Stranger in the park. They will let you know you are not crazy in this new mothering role... Ok your hubs may think you are a tad crazy, but he doesn't have a uterus, so his understanding is rather stunted in this arena. ;) But others will understand, and validate your feelings of crazy. Early motherhood is crazy. And hard. And messy-dirty. But I also think its magical. Sometimes you just need help finding the magic from others who have been there before, even with, you. 

Make other moms... Be patient it can take awhile, but will be worth it. It takes work adjusting to friends with kids. Varying ages of kids, along with their personalities, can semi-complicate forging mom-relationships, but keep trying. You won't regret it. No matter how supportive your mom, husband, or even mother in-law is, being around other females who are going through the same phase of life as you will be incredibly empowering and encouraging.

Watch your baby's eyelashes grow. One of my friend's mom said this to me shortly after Ellie's birth. I just short of shrugged it off and though uh, okay. But before long, I got it. Eyelashes don't sprout up overnight. They grow at unnoticeable speeds. You notice their growth only when you take the time to soak up the quiet moments, be present in the exhausting night time feedings, or even choosing to find joy and thankfulness during the never ending days with a cranky infant.

Watch the eyelashes grown. If you don't, those moments will be gone and you will never get them back.


Here is a link the post of my favorite baby must haves

These thoughts and opinions are solely mine alone and I have received no compensation in writing this post.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Day 31: New To Two Finale

It has finally arrived - the last day in the 31 Days of Writing Challenge.

This month of October has completely flown by for me! Not sure how much of this was because of this New to Two role of mine, and how much had to do with the writing challenge.

The fact that I managed to post something every single day, before the midnight deadline, is beyond shocking to me! It has really helped me feel accomplished in one area of my life. Granted, this blog is overall one of the least important aspects of my life, but these days accomplishment does not come easily or readily, so I will gladly take it where I can.

I wasn't able to write posts on about half of the subjects that I had outlined for myself at the beginning of this journey. Most days just didn't allow for deep, though provoking, or soul baring writing. However, my main goal in joining this challenge was to record life, memories, thoughts, and emotions of this time in our life - adjusting to having two kids, under the age of two. And I feel like I did that. Even while traveling!

As luck would have it, I had great plans for this final post. And great plans for this final day of October.  You guessed it - not going to happen.

I've started working out again, and realized very quickly if I am to keep it up, and not ruin my favorite 3 o'clock hour ( I detest working out, and doing so during the 3 o'clock hour would completely ruin my "me time") I am going to have to get up earlier then the girls. Earlier starts to the morning also need to happen just to help life run more smoothly around here.

This morning I had my alarm set for a not too early of a time so I could get in my work out before we started the day. I have a long list of small tasks to accomplish today, as well as an evening full of plans. All of this should have gone smoothly, thanks to the plan in place.

As luck would have it, I woke up at 3:30 am with a splitting barometric pressure headache. Having a brain/head that is a freaking measurer of barometrics is not my idea of a desirable talent, but its what I have been given. When Quinn's 5 am feeding rolled around, my head hurt even worse, and I felt like I hadn't slept at all due to the headache. I turned off the alarm. The work out would have to wait until 3.

As I was eating breakfast, I got a text that Ellie's day long outing to the grandparents (aka a mom's saving grace!) was cancelled due to cases of the fall sickies. The to-do list would have to wait until… my youngest is 2 yrs old. And yes, that statement is overly dramatic.

When I started the month of October, and this writing challenge, I thought/hoped that the end of this month would find us in our groove. Schedules would be kept, errands run, chores completed, re-entry into society would be running smoothly, etc… Ha!

In all honesty, things are more disorganized now in many ways, then when this month started. But thats  because we have re-entered society. Errands are being run. Chores do get completed, just way past when they should have been. And because Ellie has decided now is the time to not only protest the very existence of her baby sister, but also take up pitching fits at any moment of day for any given reason, and often for no reason at all. Hello toddler-hood!

The only thing Ellie semi-enjoys about Quinn right now are her dirty diapers. She takes great delight in throwing "Shoonies" away. However, the slightest coo or whimper from Quinn sets Ellie off into a full on scream fest. You can imagine how things spiral from there.

Dear Lord, serenity NOW!

And while I realize this is a completely normal developmental adjustment, I know my daughter, and realize I need to do a better job incorporating her in Quinn's care and routines.

I am hoping and praying, that just like all other times in life, this is just a phase. Plus, I also realize that we were out of town for 5 days, and came home with an awful case of strep throat that resulted in a massive allergic reaction to penicillin. Its not been an easy past week for any of us.

As the mom, I set the tone for the house for the day, sometimes even down to the minute. It is more necessary now then ever before that I make sure I am taking care of myself, and cultivating my relationship with Christ on a daily, somedays even hourly, basis.

The role as a mom makes you hit your knees unlike anything I have ever experienced. Ten trips to time out in an hour (the first hour after breakfast), and the toddler is still doing the exact thing she keeps getting in trouble for, can make you feel like a complete and epic failure of a mom. Quite possibly a candidate for the worst mom in the whole world award.

In addition to being spiritually healthy, being mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy is also important as a mom. Seeing the numbers on the scale at your 6 weeks appointment, and having them swirl before your eyes every time you try to find an outfit to wear, will do a number on you mentally and emotionally. It is possible to still be carrying around the tons of pounds of water weight you obtained after giving birth due the massive volume of fluids you were bolused with, right?? If the answer is no, hush your mouth. Its what I am telling myself for now.

While I had hoped this post would be full of goals accomplished, awesome insights realized, and tips for how to survived the New to Two role, we just aren't there.

Fortunately, God started working on my need to adjust my relationship with expectations before I entered this new role.

Yes, I still battle self doubt, insecurities, and experience disappointments on the regular. But I also am learning to more readily stay flexible, and to adjust my expectations on the fly. As I am closing up shop, so to speak, in the evenings, I think this, this, and that is what I would like to do tomorrow, but we will just take it an hour at a time, and see what all the day has in store.

The month of October I wanted to write daily and settle into a productive schedule and routine. Well, I did write daily. Our routine is somewhat better. Quinn is at least sleeping better at night. Productivity is hit or miss, depending on the day.

So looking ahead to the month of November, the month of giving thanks, I want to do just that. Live thankfully.

Yesterday, I sent this to Jared:

"coot" is how Ellie says "cute":)

He is right - I will have years, later, to shower before 5 pm. I want to the be thankful in the days where the house is a disaster, I am unshowered, and the girls are wild and emotional. After all, this is what I prayed for and wondered if I'd ever get to experience.

Our interactions with the college ministry are picking up again, as we re-enter society. Life is getting really really busy, and we aren't even into the Holiday swing of things yet. Here is an overview of our week:

- Sunday: church/family day
- Monday: Main service on campus in the evening
- Tuesday: A few students come over in the evening to watch the shows we DVR for them:)
- Wednesday: our own "adult" small group
- Thursday: Bible studies on campus
- Friday: late morning play date. Evenings, usually visits with family or college kids, or family time
- Saturday: UT football, family time, household stuff, etc…

Yes, that is a pretty full schedule! But its a life we love.

In addition to being Thankful, I also want to accomplish some other simple goals:

  • do my own personal Bible Study every day (I am think about doing She Reads Truth's James study on 
  • get up before the girls
  • work out 3-5 days a week for at least 30 minutes.
Those three things are tasks whose completion is nearly solely dependent on me. I can't blame my girls as the reasons for not getting them done. Accomplishing them most of the time will help me be a better wife, mom, and a better me. I am going to give myself grace to not accomplish them perfectly, or even daily. I somehow managed to write on this blog daily, so I have proved that I can do something daily if I really want to.

I have shared this picture before, but I love it so much, I am sharing it again.

In order to be thankful life doesn't have to be perfect. In fact, I think true thankfulness can be found more fully in the gaps and imperfections of life, with Christ.

I am not sure how many people, if any, read along with me this month, but for those of you who suffered along through it - thank you. I do plan on continuing to blog, but definitely not daily. That would bore y'all to tears! Maybe 2-6 times a month? We shall see.

Its been fun! Off to do some "toddler time" activities before Quinn wakes back up again!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Day 30 : when a nurse becomes a mom

Being a pediatric nurse can be a great asset in motherhood. Not only for your immediate family, but also for your other friends who are moms.

I love getting calls, texts, and emails from other moms asking questions or for advice on various childhood health and illness issues. 

I love these communications because I love the many acts of the nursing profession! One of my favorite aspects of the job was always the patient education aspect. Followed closely by broadening and deepening my own knowledge base. Helping out my mom friends encourages the continuation of both these interests.

My husband probably doesn't appreciate my skill and knowledge set as much. He is convinced I only have sympathy for illness if you've had your chest cracked open, have drains pouring out at least three orifices, or are currently receiving CPR. While this is not the case, it is true that I have no fear of a sinus infection or a stomach bug bringing any realitivly healthy person anywhere near death.

This pretty much sums up our family's interaction with medical establishments, when I do the decision/appointment making:)

Jared comes from a family with a... shall we say healthy relationship with all establishments medical, while growing up my family was doing good just keeping up to date with immunizations. 

There have been more then a few times he has second guessed my decisions about not contacting a medical practitioner (but to date, its always turned out just fine). Overall he goes with my gut in the end. After lots of repeated explanations on my part. 

While I am very confident in handing out advice to others and helping our friends come up with a plan of action, I am also very comfortable saying I don't know, check with your doc. In the end though, it's their choice what to do - to get checked out, or just treat and watch at home.

Funny thing is that when it comes to my kids I do find i second guess myself. And it's not that I second guess my nursing know-how. I second, triple, and quadruple guess my mothers intuition.

I still have way more confidence in my experience as a nurse then in my experience as a mom

All my life, I have always been far more comfortable with things of the head as opposed to matters of the heart. 

When I would help prepare my patients family's to take home their babies after major open heart surgery, we had  huge list of signs and symptoms to watch for and report, things to do, things to avoid, medications to give, schedules and appointments to keep, CPR to certify, etc… But in the end, I always concluded each discharge teaching session with, "but you are the mom - you know you baby better then anyone. If something seems off to you that is not on this list, do not hesitate to call us about it.

And I still believe a mom does know her child better then anyone. I believe this is true for me and my children.

So why do I triple and quadruple guess myself when making medical decisions for my kids?

Well, first of all, most of my experience comes from giving other moms advice based on what they have told me about their kids and what their gut saying. I use the info they give me and combine it with my nursing knowledge to formulate a plan. My nursing knowledge is way more experienced then my mommy intuition has yet to become.

Second of all, when its my kids its just me, myself, and I giving the advice to my mother's intuition. And let's be honest, that's just way too much Amy for any one person to really handle.

There is probably a little bit of pride mixed in there too. You know, not wanting the be that nurse who can't tell the difference between a common childhood cold and their kid dying.

In her first year of life, Ellie had an ear infection at 4 months of age. Other then a few minor runny noses it was the only time she was sick or on antibiotics. I found out about the ear infection at her 4 month well child exam. Clearly, I had no idea she had an ear infection. She had a cold with a low grade fever a few days prior, but all those symptoms had cleared up. I am fairly convinced the ear infection was viral, not bacterial, but still… I didn't know she was still sick. I apologized profusely to her doctor and to Ellie. The pediatrician looked at me like I was crazy.

About 5 months later, Ellie was either teething, having a really bad 3 days in a row, or she had an ear infection, and I had no clue which it was. And we were getting ready to go out of town. So I did what drove me batty when I worked in a pediatrician's office, I called for a Friday afternoon appointment to make sure my kid wasn't sick before heading out of town. Its pretty much the equivalent of sending your custom ordered plate back at a restaurant because you forgot to mention you wanted the dressing on the side. Except as nurses, we can't spit on anything related to you because we understand germs too well… and you would probably get sick and have to be seen again next Friday afternoon.

Anyway, I had to interrupt Ellie's nap to take her in to be seen, because my pediatricians office is amazing and is always able to somehow work you in. And her ears looked perfect. I just had a fussy, coming into her own attitudinal self, 9 month old, who was now sleep deprived, on my hands.

Again, I apologized to the nurse practitioner profusely about taking up her time when she could have been tending to patients who really needed it. Thankfully, she is a young mom herself. She looked and me and said,"Amy, you are a great nurse, but first and foremost you are a wonderful mom. You can't always been the medical expert for your kids. That's what we are here for. But you are always the expert for your kid. You knew something was wrong, you thought we could help. Unfortunately, and thankfully, there is not we can treat Elliott for, but I have complete confidence you will come up with a perfect plan of care for her when you get home."

Without knowing it, she hit on a deeply seeded mistruth I tend to believe about myself - I need to be practically perfect.

The arrival of Quinn has helped solidify me more deeply into the role of mom. Plus, with two babies under the age of two, I need more help then when I just had Ellie. While I may still have dreams of perfection, I am well aware that it is no where near a viable option.

This past week, Ellie has had strep throat, and through this process I have realized several things - I am a good nurse; I make mistakes; my mommy intuition has gotten better; and even though I am good nurse; I still need medical help.

Here is how the past 7 days have gone. Thursday, Ellie woke up with a low grade fever, but no other symptoms. Odd. Usually childhood fall illness involves congestion at least. That night, I gave her what I thought was ibuprofen to help keep her comfortable as she slept. Unfortunately, since I buy dye free medication, I got confused and grabbed acetaminophen, but dosed her based on ibuprofen. Y'all, I never  made med errors when I worked, and now I can't give the most basic of OTC meds to my kids without over dosing them!!!

Come to find out, I had not overdosed her as I had also hadn't paid attention to the concentration. Miraculously, I had somehow given her the exact right dose. As a result, she was just fine, slept great, and Tylenol and Ibuprofen are now kept in separate places.:)

The next morning, she woke up screaming. And screamed for two hours straight. Her fever was 104. Then she started pull at her ears saying "Ooooowwwweeeee." I am usually a watch for at least 12-72 hours with fever before call the doctor type person, but I listened to my mommy intuition and called.

Raging strep throat.

Quick fix with some amoxicillin. Everything was looking good until Sunday when we noticed Ellie look like she had just woken up from a life long sleep all day long. Her eyes were so puffy.

They were worse the next day, plus her face looked a little swollen. These are the first signs she exhibits when she accidentally comes in contact with eggs, which she is allergic to. When I changed her diaper I noticed a very odd looking rash. It did not look or act like strep-type rash, or an antibiotic reaction rash. But something besides strep was clearly going on with her. So back to the doctor we went.

Atypical reaction to penicillin… most likely. 

Before I could even start my apologies the nurse practitioner stopped me by saying," Don't even think about apologizing, we aren't even sure she is in fact allergic to penicillin, as this isn't a typical reaction type rash."

Just like it took time for me to become confident in my roll as a nurse, it is going to take time in becoming confident in my role as a mom. And I need to be ok with that.

In the meantime, we may just show up to the doc a little unnecessarily, and maybe a tad too late sometimes.

And that's ok.

This is really old picture of Ellie, but one of my favorites