Adjusting to Motherhood.

Close your eyes and think of this: you are pregnant and about to embark on the blissful journey of parenthood… What does that look like in your mind? Or if you already have kids, remember back to the time when you were pregnant and try to think about all the things you thought your life would be like once your sweet little baby got in your arms. Most people already had an idea of what parenthood would look like even before they have their own kids. I know I did… and after being a parent for almost 9 years now, I can say that what I thought it would be was 100% wrong. Sure we have moments of picturesque Pinterest activities and amazing family game nights where no one gets mad. But mostly it is chaos, craziness and cleaning up the same toys over and over again. And as much fun as it all is, I had to adjust my expectations of what parenthood should look like quite a bit.

I have found over the years that parenting is just one big adjustment, especially in the first year. Each child brought new challenges and just as I thought I had it all figured out one of them would throw a curve ball. As a new mom with my first, I was totally thrown off by her inability to just go to bed. Sleep. That is all I wanted. So we ended up sleeping together because that was the only way we all slept, even though co-sleeping was something I was totally against before she was here. With the next two kids I didn’t care where they slept as long as they were sleeping (in a safe place of course). Although, we couldn’t seem to get the second child out of our bed… It wasn’t until baby #3 came along that we really decided to press the issue. We also gave him a pacifier from the beginning. Getting that thing out of our nightly routine required jumping through some major hoops. But during those years we all got sleep! Our third was a great sleeper and nurser, I thought I finally hit the jack pot with an easy kid! We had no challenges getting started with breastfeeding and I had these wonderful ideas of pumping once while at work and continuing to breastfeed while together at home. He had other ideas for once I returned to work and after 2 weeks of a lot of tears & struggles switching from bottle to breast, I decided I had to be ok with exclusively pumping. I was much happier and so was he. Exclusively pumping really ended up working out great for our family. Were those all the right choices? Maybe, maybe not… could I have done something differently? Better? Probably, but who really knows how it would have ended up in either situation… either way it is what worked for us at the time or I would probably make those same decisions if I had to go back.

Other people didn’t always agree with the choices we made in parenting but I have learned that doing what works for our family is really what is best. Once I gave myself permission to do what works for us I felt so much better about our choices. Every day brings new struggles and choices. As our kids continue to grow and change the picture that I have in my head of what life will change. What I think life will be like having a preteen (gasp!) is going to change as we get closer—and that’s ok, I am working on being flexible. We will continue to make mistakes along the way but I feel like as long as our choices are based on what we think is best for our family and not based on other people’s opinions we will be ok.

The point: Do what is best for your family. Forgive yourself for the bumps, move on and make adjustments tomorrow!

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Just Bend.

palmtree calm

Palm trees are amazing trees. They are tall, have winding trunks, produce amazing coconuts, and are beautiful and majestic. They are on the front of every beach-view postcard, a symbol of the good life.

…but, palm trees don’t always have it so good.

Winds during a hurricane or other coastal storm are well over 80 miles per hour. The palms are beaten over and over again, pounded with wind and rain, just trying to stay upright. Unfortunately, some palm trees don’t make it through the hurricanes, or do, but sustain a lot of damage. Those trees don’t just bend under the weight of the whipping winds–they break.
palm tree

Why do some palm trees stand firm, while others crumple over under the pressure? The answer lies in their roots. In order for a palm tree to stand firmly rooted, their roots have to have grown deep and wide around the tree. They have to have been nourished well, and some even entangle their roots with those of other trees, even more firmly keeping those trees standing tall. The palm trees that fall? Their roots are weak. They grow shallowly, without the proper nutrients, with no other roots to support them. Without a strong root system, they fall over under the pressure of the storms, when others around them are able to bend without breaking.

Being a mother is a lot like being a palm tree. Without a deep root system, intertwined with the roots of those around us, we don’t just bend under the weight of the storms. We break.

Whether it’s during our pregnancies, our births, our postpartum high, breastfeeding lows, parenting is a giant roller coaster. Without a firm root system, there is no way we will make it through the tough spots…we will bend, and we will break. We need nutrients–we need healthy food for our bodies, minds, and spirits. We need other people around us to intertwine ourselves with, who will support us when things are hard. They keep us upright. We just bend–we don’t break.

It’s never too late to develop your firm roots. Start reading, educating yourself about whatever stage of parenting you’re in. Don’t be afraid to take a stand for yourself and your child. Feed yourselves with nutritious food, empowering knowledge, and spiritual guidance. Then find your peopleJoin a mom’s group, play date, book club, church group, community service organization…anywhere you think you’d find like-minded people. Then don’t be afraid to open up. We ALL need people. Chances are, the people you’re looking for are also looking for you. So find them, then grab onto each other. The winds are coming, and they don’t always let up quickly.

A Letter From Your Baby in the 9th Month

Hi mommy, it’s me!  In case you can’t tell by my all my stretching, kicking, and squirming, I am anxious to get out of here! Any day now, I will be in your arms and we will begin our journey together. I know you’re anxious too, not just to meet me, but about so many things.  You have probably wondering for many months what it will be like when I’m in your arms, what it will be like to breastfeed me, how to know what to do when I cry, so many things to wonder about. You’ve never been a mother before, and I will be so very new to this “life outside the uterus” experience. I thought I’d let you know by way of reassurance that we are going to be a great team! Your touch, your voice, your smell, your fabulous milk will be my everything. It will be the starting point from which I learn about my world in the comfort I will return to over and over again.

Some things to know about me, and that wonderful milk you’ll be making, might be very reassuring to you. Our Lactation Consultant can go on and on (seriously) about how wonderful your milk is, like how there is 3 million live cells in every teaspoon, how researchers are learning more every day about multipurpose molecules, long and short term immunity, and how your milk changes to meet my needs as I get older.  Did you know that your milk even changes throughout the day? In the mornings when I’m really hungry and thirsty (after sleeping for a few hours-more about nighttime sleep in a bit, I promise we’ll get there together), there’ll be so much milk that you’ll feel reeeeally full. It will be loaded with lactose, which is such a delicious carb, tastes like melted ice cream! The lactose reduces unhealthy bacteria and helps me absorb calcium phosphorus and magnesium  better.

When I’m just learning how to latch, you’ll probably need to use a lot of physical supports, because at that point I won’t know how to reach or hold onto the breast. We might even try “laid back” nursing together. I love to be in full body contact with you and I can use my newborn reflexes to help maintain a good latch. I promise I will get better and better at this latching thing.  It’s hard to believe in the beginning, but later in the year we will learn how to do “aerobic breast-feeding” together, lol. I will be able to latch with one foot up by your ear and one finger in your nose : )  Breastfeeding is really not supposed to be painful. When it is, it’s because my mouth is compressing your nipple. A bad latch doesn’t work for me either because I don’t get as much milk. So please don’t hesitate to call our lactation consultant. She wants more than anything for breastfeeding to go well for both of us. She has many, many interventions, “tricks up her sleeve” and a ton of information to share with you.

One last thing I wanted to talk with you about is sleep. You may feel that I’m nursing 24/7 in our early days together. I actually learn to breastfeed by breastfeeding, and being at your breast honestly meets most all of the needs that I have. I will get more efficient, so much more efficient, that when I’m four months old you might be calling our lactation consultant to ask her if I can really be finished in seven minutes, lol. At the end of the day when I’m tired and crabby, I will want to “cluster feed”. Your milk is lower in volume then but much higher in fat, which is fabulous for my brain development, and soothes my little nervous system much like a bowl of Häagen-Dazs does for yours : )  Those frequent, high fat meals will take me a while to digest and get me ready for that first big chunk of sleep at night, which could be 3-4 hours.  Doesn’t that sound fabulous!

I sure do love you, Mommy. I will show it in so many ways, and I can already feel how much you love me.

See you soon,

your Baby

By Theresa Hardy, MSN, CPNP, IBCLC