NMC: Whole Parenting Family

Today's New Mom Confessions come from Nell who blogs over at Whole Parenting Family. Nell is a fellow local mom who lives in a huge, drop-dead gorgeous home across the river from me in St. Paul. (Seriously, please take time to check out her house tour on Design Mom!) She has three adorable children and I love her mantra on wanting to parent the whole of her children, not just meeting needs, but helping them to find beauty in the everyday. She blogs about natural parenting, everything from recipes, to natural births, to planning a garden, to tips on developing character in children, Nell's post are always informative and smart. On the side she runs a lovely Etsy shop, Whole Parenting Goods, where she sells handmade textiles for families. Be sure to find her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. 
Now even though I have three children, the newest is only six weeks old, so once again, I'm a new mom. It's new every time--the adjustment to small diapers, sleepless nursing nights, and the fear of snapping his neck off. 

1) I hate brushing my kids' teeth. Don't get me wrong, I do it, but man! I hate it. They clench down, they growl, they want their turn. Even though it's not an epic battle, I always have to mentally gear up. But what's worse than stinky breath from your sweet kid? I begrudgingly admit it is well worth it and dang important.

2) I eat chocolate in our walk-in pantry. Sometimes when the kids are at the table having lunch. It's my super guilty mommy pleasure.

3) I throw all my clean clothes on the floor of my closet. Never folded. Never sorted. Then I complain that I can only find my bathrobe to wear. My poor husband.

4) When four o'clock rolls around and I still haven't defrosted the meat for that fabulous gourmet I was planning on, we eat Amy's Pizza. From the freezer. If I'm feeling fancy, I'll add some of my own mozzarella. 

5) I am having a love affair with my hand-me-down iPad from my sister's significant other. It's the only way I get my screen time fix with a newborn--lying in bed, nursing, scrolling the interweb world and keeping some semblance of connection with my out-of-the-house friends, i.e., if you don't live in my house, I may have trouble having an actual conversation with you.

To see all the posts in the New Mom Confessions series, click here.

Finding Healing After A Traumatic Birth: The Difference A Letter Can Make

Since I wrote the post about admitting that I had a traumatic birth with Eli, many of you have written to me about similar experiences. While I'm saddened that this is so common, it's also nice to know I'm not alone. Some things have happened since I wrote that post, so today, I just want to give you encouragement in your journey, by telling you more about mine.

If you'll remember, at the time I wrote the post, I had written a letter to the hospital I delivered at with feedback concerning the birth, but had not yet received a response. Since then, I received a call from the vice-chairman of the department of anesthesiology at the hospital system who is also lead anesthesiologist at the provider that serviced my epidural.

The doctor called first to apologize for my experience over and over again and let me know it wasn't normal or an example of the work they do. Second, if you remember from my post, I mentioned that my letter requested that my nurse anesthetist and anesthesiologist did not assist me in this next birth, if I chose that service. The doctor let me know the nurse anesthetist had left the anesthesia company, and while the anesthesiologist was still with the company, I learned that he does not normally do OB rounds, and the chance of me getting this particular doctor was about 3 percent, which is small, but it does mean I'd still have a 3 percent chance of getting him again for this next baby.

I was surprised by the call, but I truly appreciated it - and I was relieved that I likely wouldn't have the same people in the event that I opted for an epidural again. In response, I told the doctor that I appreciated his apology and knowing it would be crazy-rare for me to get the same anesthesiologist for two births, I could handle it and would be fine going forward.

But this man went way above and beyond. He offered to be on call just for me during my birth, and he said he would come in a personally give me an epidural if I ended up wanting one. Remember - I'm due December 28 - right over Christmas. Holidays. Parties. Vacation. Family.

I told him it wouldn't be required, that it was a generous and kind offer, but completely unnecessary.

But he insisted over and over again.

He did leave it to me to make the final decision. It's up to me if we call him in or not, and to be honest, I probably won't. (Although I may severely regret that decision if I see my original anesthesiologist again!) But the fact that he was willing to do this for me is all that mattered. In fact, it brought me to tears later.

Prior to the phone call, I kept wondering what I wanted from the hospital. From the anesthesiologist. From the doctors. What would make it better? And I didn't really know. I mean, I wrote that letter 14 months after the events occured. What could and should I expect? Just acknowledgement perhaps? Recognition that they didn't do right by me? An apology would have been nice, but I wasn't expecting it. Let alone a personal phone call from the head of the company. Or having my own personal anesthesiologist on call for me 24/7 leading up to the birth.

It sorta blew my mind.

As the doctor closed the phone call, he asked me how I was doing and if I felt the conversation helped anything at all. And I told him truthfully - yes. But as Mike and I were talking about it later and I was processing it more, I realized that while I so appreciated the phone call and the offer he made, I'm not sure that was what truly helped me in my healing. I think it was more just writing the letter.

It forced me to process what happened. To write it down, rereading it for accuracy, honesty and clarity - and by doing this, it forced me to relive it and then deal with my emotions and feelings. I didn't know what I wanted back, probably because there wasn't really anything I needed back. I more just needed to be heard. To know they knew was enough for me.

As I've talked or written with some of you, most of you have said you never wrote to your hospital/ob/anesthesiologist to tell them what happened - and you're still reeling from your experiences months and years later. So today, I'd encourage you to write a letter. Not to air every emotion or feeling you had, but to let the right people know what happened in a calm, logical manner. Find the good in what happened and tell them that too - for me it was my nurses, and I sandwiched my concerns between their praises.

Remember, a hospital, anesthesia company and OBGYN are all businesses - they want to give you good customer service and I think sometimes because they work in the medical realm - an area that most of us are completely ignorant in - we don't feel like we can tell them that we feel we were treated wrongly. But we can! And we should! If I learned anything from my letter and the phone call I received it's that these companies want to do right by their patients - their customers - and our feedback matters, even if it does come a year and a half later.

A big part of healing is knowing how to separate the bad things that happened from the good things, and recognizing that how you were treated is abnormal, and not representative of all doctors, nurses - whomever. And even though you logically know that, hearing it directly from the source can make all the difference. But also remember, the hospital can only change their methods, personnel and systems if they know that something isn't working right, and how will they know when we as the patient, won't tell them? Don't slide what happened to you under the rug, brush it off as if it never happened, or downplay it - your perception of your birth was real and in the end, is all that matters. Hospitals know that, and contrary to how it feels, they want you to have a good experience!

Wherever you're at in your journey to heal after a traumatic birth, know you're not alone. I totally thought I was until I shared my story with you all and I realized that (sadly) I am one of many. The stories and reasons are vast and varied, but the one thing thing we have in common is that we're looking for a way to heal and to no longer be haunted by our experience.

And I think this is one way we can start down that path.

ps. The hospital and anesthesia company don't know I have this blog, and even if they did I've intentionally left the name out of where I delivered because I don't ever want to use this space as a place to rant or complain, just to get special treatment. But when companies do impressive things just for the sake of good customer service, I want tell you about it. If you're local and are curious about where I delivered, I'd love to tell you - and for the record, I'd totally recommend it. 

Related Posts:
Eli's Birth Story, Part I
Eli's Birth Story, Part II
When You Finally Admit You Had a Traumatic Birth
Rewriting Your Birth Story - A Podcast For Those That Had A Traumatic Brith

My Top Pieces of Advice for First-Time Mom (That You Probably Haven't Heard Before)

Over the past year or so, I'm proud to say I've successfully kept my son alive, decently healthy and, approximately 82 percent of the time, what I would deem "happy." As I'm nearing the halfway point to welcoming my second child into the world, I've been reflecting on my time as a first-time mom and all the ups and downs that come with it. Like anything with raising children, there's a lot of advice out there for motherhood. And it's a good thing, 'cause we need the collective wisdom of women who have been there and done that.  But sometimes, I feel like the advice is a continual cycle of of the same stuff churned out over and over again, and I don't just want to add to the noise. 

So as the mom who's still in the trenches and only a short year and a half away from those sleepy, crying, happy, crazy, newborn all-nighters, here are some things I wish I would have known that I don't feel are often said. 

  • Trust your gut, and wait until you know what it's saying. Okay, we'll start off with the one you've likely heard before, "trust your gut," but I'm going to bet you're probably thinking, "But I don't know what my gut is saying!" Totally valid. Here's what you need to know: If you don't know, then wait. It's like labor, you wonder if you are in real labor like a million times when you're pregnant, and all the veteran moms tell you, "YOU'LL KNOW." But you feel those Braxton Hicks and all you do is think about them, consider them, mull over whether or not they're the real deal for as long as they last because you just can't help yourself. But then the real thing comes and YOU KNOW - and you finally get what all those veteran moms were saying. That's how it is with your newborn. Don't know when to move them to the nursery? Give them a pacifier? Drop a feeding? No? Just wait it out. You'll know. And if you don't, then it's probably not the right timing.*
  • Sometimes, you just have to get sick of something to make a change. Along the lines of trusting your gut, sometimes your gut looks an awful lot like you just getting fed up with something and finally being ready to try something different. Like getting sick of your kid getting out of the swaddle for weeks on end. Like getting tired of your child needing to suck on your finger or nurse all night instead of just sucking on a pacifier. It's okay to get annoyed and try something new. That usually means you'll have the gumption to stick with it and endure whatever repercussions (good or bad) that come with. 
  • Learn about your baby with your husband. As mom, it's just a fact that you're likely more tuned in to your child's needs than your husband is. He's trying, really. But take it from someone who's been there, as moms, sometimes we can hinder our husbands in being really great dads because we're moving too fast and not helping them learn about raising a baby. And when your husband doesn't feel confident with the baby, he's not going to want to help - because no one likes to do things they're not good at! Slow down a bit and learn about your baby as a couple. Involve your husband in the day-to-day and explain the "why" behind your methods, rather than just narrating instructions like a broken record all day and then being frustrated when the information isn't retained. He can successfully bathe your child, change their diaper and feed them dinner - just give him the chance. 
  • It's okay to worry.  Whoa, did I just type that? I feel like that's a pretty bad thing to say - I mean, we're called not to worry and to trust God, right? Well, here's what I mean. YOU WILL WORRY. You're human and you have a child who literally relies on you for their very life. That's a BIG DEAL. It's normal to worry! But let's make a deal, okay? When you start to worry, call a friend. Preferably a veteran mom-friend who's near the stage you're in so she remembers what it's like, but ahead of you enough that you trust she knows what she's talking about.  Listen to her; believe her. You probably won't at first until you start seeing some sort of change in your kid, but try. The goal here is to acknowledge the worry, then let it pass, rather than let it sit, simmer and swell until you can't function. Yes, give it to God, but there's nothing wrong with wanting to talk to someone who's been there, done that and can talk you off the ledge. It's okay to worry, as long as you deal with it. 
  • If all else fails, just guess and check. Parenting, to me, is just one big game of guess and check. As much as people like to claim it, there's no one-size-fits-all solution and it's hilarious that anyone has ever claimed there is. When your kid is crying for no apparent reason, read the books, do your research, go to the end of the great, big www and back, and then turn to your child, and try something out. Some trick, some time will likely work, but I'm gonna be willing to bet that most of the time, you'll never really know the answer to why your baby was crying. Plus, as parents know all to well, as soon as you have something figured out, your child's going to change and you'll be guessing and checking all over again. But take heart, it's what we're all doing. ALL parents are clueless, and don't let anyone trick you into thinking differently. 
  • You will always be the one that cares the most and you'll get sick of it. At some point, you'll wish someone else would just make some of the decisions. You won't care what you eat for dinner, what the baby wears to church or how heavy a blanket you bring with you on the walk. You will care about why your baby is crying for hours on end, if they're gaining enough weight, and if they're reaching their milestones on time - but at some point, you just won't want to care so much. You'll want someone else to problem solve, tell you when to call the doctor, and read a parenting-book for you and give you the cliff-notes, but no one else will do it for you. It's okay to get sick of caring - it's a lot of questions, information and decisions coming at you faster than any crash-course in college. Just do the next thing you know, and if you don't know, take a wild guess. That's what the rest of us are doing anyway. 
  • Don't try to figure out who got your kid sick. Babies get sick, it's a fact of life. Stop talking with your husband about who brought their kid to nursery with a runny nose and gave it to your kid, or who babysat your baby even though they definitely must have known that their child would come down with a rash the next day and infect your precious child before any evidence was apparent. Your kid sucks on shopping carts and eats dirt. You have no idea who it was, and even if you do, someday you'll be that parent who "allowed" your child to infect someone else's kid. Give up the detective work and just know when you have a kid, runny noses are as sure as changing diapers. 
  • It's okay not to enjoy every moment because this time can go by oh, so slow. Completely the opposite of the usual saying, right? Well, it's true. When people tell you to enjoy every moment, they don't actually mean you have have to enjoy the sleepless nights, the high fevers, the TEETHING, or the crying from shots at well-visits. What they mean is to enjoy the good moments: the first giggle, the arm rolls, those bottom two teeth finally peeking through their gummy smile, the hilarious pumping thighs in the jump-a-roo, the first steps and the first words. Because some of those tough moments feel like 10 million years and they can't go by fast enough - and that's okay to wish them away. No one should have to enjoy their child crying! I promise, as the time passes, you'll find you won't remember those looooong moments that you've wished away - you'll remember those great moments that pass in the blink of eye. You don't have to enjoy every moment  - just as long as you take time to soak up the good ones. 
Motherhood is awesome. It's truly the best thing you'll ever do, but it's also the hardest. And those first weeks and months with a baby are full of questions and doubts and second-guessing yourself, and that is totally normal. It just shows how good of a mom you are, because you just want to get it right! 

You're doing great momma - a whole heck of a lot better then you give yourself credit for. So go on into that nursery and hold that baby - and if they're not currently crying - soak up that moment for everything it's worth. Remember, trust your gut, take wild guesses for what to do next, and remember that you're not alone - none of us know what we're doing, but at least we're all in it together. 

*This does not apply to fevers, rashes or other weird medical situations. When in doubt, always call the nurse line. 

**Photo courtesy Melinda Dawn Studios.

Worth Sharing

Lately my walks around the neighborhood have been getting a bit boring/redundant, so to spice them up I've been listening to podcasts. This list from Where My Heart Resides are some great sources, and I also love Longest Shortest Time and This American Life. Try them out if you need a little motivation to walk more than a quarter mile before you get bored!

Thought this concept of Momboarding from Whole Parenting Family was hilarious, and I've totally done it before - haven't we all?

Have you heard this song and seen the video from Colbie Caillat? If not, give it a listen. Apparently there's a lot of debate around it, but I just think people shouldn't read so much into it - it's a refreshing message in today's world.

I shared this on Facebook, but it did so much to calm my nerves I want to share it here too: This plan for "cheating" the 529 college saving's plan is brilliant if you have some cash reserves to pull it off. And even if you don't have as much as they're suggesting, it's still a great concept. Originally our financial planner told us we needed to start saving something in the neighborhood of $400/month since Eli was oh, ZERO until he was 18 in order to pay for a public college. Times that by 3+ children - yikes! This plan makes me feel better - but in all honesty, only a little.

Found this article fascinating in the Washington Post about what happened when a mother drove a Mercedes to pick up food stamps. There's tons of debate surrounding this article as well and to be honest, I'm not sure what to think about it. Here are some thoughts as to why it evoked such emotion in people.

Ummm, J.K. Rowling came out with a short essay about Harry Potter, and frankly, I was disappointed. While it was cool to learn what jobs everyone ended up with - that's about all the post offered. I want moooooooore Rowling. MOOOOOOOORE.

Have you heard about the concept of designer babies? You know, where you pick the gender and have a guarantee that the child won't have any chromosomal or genetic abnormalities? Well they're a reality and a smooth 50k can get you one - here's a flyover on the basics. I don't know about you, but this raises a lot of red flags in my book. Just the name "designer babies" makes me throw up in my mouth a little ...

After this post about finding balance in motherhood between perfectionism and laziness, I received a lot of comments, emails and messages from many of you with various thoughts. Some loved it, some hated it, and some were right in between. And that's okay! I only hope to challenge your thinking with things that I've been challenged by. One reader shared with me a great article from the Christian viewpoint, The High Calling of a Wife and Mother in Biblical Perspective, and it's definitely worth the read. While it's a heavy read (True confessions, I had to break it up into smaller chunks for each day or I started to glaze over.) it's worth every ounce of time to digest. It's inspired me to not just do my day-to-day care taking of Eli and the home, but to find the deeper value, esteem and purpose of it. Lots more thoughts here, but I need to turn them off since Worth Sharing is for me to share bite-sized tidbits, not a mud slide of opinions. Check it out when you get time.

And finally, I'm sad to say that I'm closing my chapter as a contributor with Rookie Moms. It's been such a fun ride but as I'm preparing for this new baby, I've been taking time to evaluate my writing commitments - as my number of hours of sleep each is night is about to shrink significantly. I'll still be regularly over at Twin Cities Moms Blog as well as entertaining a few random one-off projects -  but the majority of my time will be focusing more on this space and all of you! Thanks so much for your support as readers, and thank you to the lovely ladies over at Rookie Moms - it's been a true pleasure to work with them and I've enjoyed it immensely. If you'd still like to follow along with the other moms who participate in the Rookie Mom's challenges, you can do so right here. 

NMC: Oh Happy Day

Today's New Mom Confessions are from Jessi who blogs at Oh Happy Day. Jessi and I knew each other in college and it's crazy to see how far life has taken us! She's now blessed with two little munchkins, Noah and Everly. She recently started her blog to encourage young moms to "choose joy every morning," and provide a realistic look at the messy reality of motherhood. Beyond her blog, you can find her hanging out on the three greats, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. 

Hello Oakland Avenue Readers! My name is Jessi and I'm pretty new to the blogging community, so I'm super excited to be sharing here on Laura's blog today.

My husband Matt and I have been married seven years this summer. I’m a stay-at-home mom to our son Noah, born in July of 2011, and our daughter Everly, born in August of 2013. I would consider us still "new" to parenting and definitely still struggling on how to parent a strong-willed toddler. While my kids are such a joy they are most certainly exhausting, and some days I have to remind myself often that they are a blessing. Below are some of my confessions as a parent. Thanks so much for reading!

  • Everly's new chew toy lately is her already-been-used nose syringe. The kid thinks its a teether, and I usually just let her play with it as long as it's been cleaned recently.
  • Lately I've found myself putting Aquaphor all over Noah's boo-boos. He think it's magical medicine that immediately relieves his pain. So far it works.
  • Often I blame my children for food stains on my clothing, but really they are just from myself.
  • I've been known to eat food off the floor while cleaning up after my children. Things like grapes, blueberries, those sorts of things. Kinda embarrassed I just admitted that one to the worldwide web. 
  • I usually try to multi-task while brushing my teeth, which just results with me walking around the house with a toothbrush in my mouth for 10-15 min. trying not to drool. When will I learn to be patient and just single task?
  • Noah always makes me feel like an artist when he asks me to draw something for him. He's so impressed with my abilities to draw houses, cars, and trucks. Give the kid a couple years and I know his artistic abilities will outgrow my first grade drawing level, but for now I feel like Picasso.
  • Almost always I manage to shower every day. Some days after I shower I’m guilty of putting my pajamas (t-shirt and leggings) back on.
  • Often times if I don’t have an answer for Noah or don’t have to the energy to do something he wants, so I tell him we’ll “have to wait for daddy to get home.” This one usually buys me a little time. 
To see all the posts in the New Mom Confessions series, click here. If you have a blog and would like to share your confessions on Oakland Avenue, email me for the details!

Holding My Coffee In Both Hands

I tend to be a morning person. I love waking early, having alone time when the house is quiet and still. Ever since becoming a SAHM, I find myself looking forward to going to bed, just so I can wake up early. It's weird, I know.

But like most pregnant ladies in the first trimester, I found myself sleeping in as late as I could until Eli woke up, and even then leaving him in his crib for as long as he was happy until I drug myself out of bed. Now that I'm 17 weeks, for the most part, I'm out of those terribly sleepy days, and while a nap is always welcome, it's no longer required to make it through the day. I find myself waking early once again, waking one, two, even three hours before Eli does. (Lest you think I'm getting up too crazy early, he's been waking around 8 or 9 a.m. for the past two weeks. Also, please don't hate me, as I've often been told, I'm sure I will repay this blessing tenfold with the baby in my belly and you can laugh at me then.)

I get up, shower - well, let's be honest, I shower every three days so I normally sock bun it up - get dressed and head straight to the coffee maker. I find my happy spot on the couch, (True confessions: I have to rotate the cushions quite frequently so it's not too obvious where this happy spot is.) put my feet on the coffee table and settle in. I hold my coffee with both hands, slowly waking up, praying, thinking and being.

Is is just me, or does anyone else find that they are much more patient and productive during the day when they've had a bit of time to themselves?  I never realized how much I needed this time until I lost it in that first trimester. I find that because I've had some time alone, I'm more ready to invest and be intentional with Eli throughout the day. I've had time to organize to do list, spend time in this little corner of the internet, and have a quiet time with the Lord while slowly enjoying a cup or two of coffee. I've found I'm so much more patient with little hiccups and setbacks, and I'm not nearly as distracted when Eli wakes and is ready to go.

Two hands on a coffee mug is a small thing, but I'm amazed at what a big difference it makes.

*I actually wrote these thoughts a few days after this post about balancing productivity and laziness - and how "me-time" each day isn't a right, and I realize it may sound like I'm talking out of both sides of my mouth. So I just want to say, while I find it easier to be more intentional and industrious when I have this time, it doesn't give me an excuse to not be patient and productive when I don't get it. It just happens to make choosing my attitude during the day easier. Kapeesh?