Betcha weren’t expecting a title like that for my latest blog, were you??
Admit it….you totally clicked on here just to see if I was just being crazy or I indeed converted to the thug life just for thrills.
Relax, I’m not that ghetto, although I can rap a 90’s Vanilla Ice song like nobody’s business — granted it’s in the most awkward and southwest Missouri hick twang ever as I’m driving down the road by myself. No, my booty still ain’t “bootylicious”. And my dance moves are still as basic white girl status as they’ve ever been, so don’t worry. I’m still me. #KeepinItReal
I chose this title partly because I couldn’t really think of anything else clever, but mostly because five weeks ago I officially entered the Mom Club, which I refer to as Da’ Hood — that is, motherhood. (Not really sure where I got this from, but hey…we’ll go with it.)
And no, to my amazement they didn’t give me a cool T-shirt or gold chain or stunner shades or a fancy VIP card or anything like that. They just slapped a precious 7 pound 10 ounce baby girl on my chest and sent us out the doors with a newborn in our backseat two days later and that was that.
No instruction manual. No “in case of emergency, push” button. No test or extensive interrogations to make sure we weren’t psychos and were indeed qualified to be parents. We were just homebound with a tiny human we were now solely responsible for and literally had NO CLUE what we were doing or what to expect next.
Those first few days that soon rolled into weeks that quickly turned into a month already gone by have been quite the adventure, to say the least! I have learned. I have loved. I have laughed until I cried and cried until I laughed.
And I have loved every second of it, even when it’s sometimes really hard to.
Throughout my entire pregnancy and now postpartum experience, there are many realizations I have come to know that either mothers I highly respect and look up to have passed down to me or that I have had to figure out for myself (or yes, I’ll confess…look up on Google and WhatToExpect.com in the wee hours of the night when I’m absolutely positive something is wrong with my child or I’m not “momming” good enough.)
One of the most beautiful things, in my opinion, about becoming a mom is realizing you’re now a part of a tribe of amazing, creative, and strong women out there who have been where you are and can lift you up when it gets overwhelming and celebrate alongside you when it’s exciting. To offer tips and tricks to help you transition and get through the hard times. To pop a top and enjoy a glass of wine with from time to time and blow off some steam, so you are more refreshed and energized when you return to your babies. How sad and lonely and overwhelming would it be if we kept all our tricks up our sleeves to ourselves and didn’t share with other mommas out there who are joining our club for the very first time, completely clueless and scared and excited to the newness of it all? Afterall, they say sharing is caring!
So here it is! A compilation of the greatest advice I was ever given as a first time mommy-to-be, that I can now pay forward to someone else about to experience this crazy and beautiful journey through Da’ Hood!
#1 – Your experience is YOURS.
I listed this first…because I think of all the realizations I’ve had so far as a mom, this one really hits the nail on the head. Verbatum.
Here’s the deal.
Some mothers have a healthy, energetic, and altogether glowing pregnancy. Others can outsleep a cat, look like they just crawled out of a dumpster half the time, and may not be able to get more than a five foot radius away from the toilet until about Week 22 (**ehemmm….me!!!). Some maybe not even then! Some will gain 40-50 pounds, while others will look only five months along the day they are considered full term. Some mothers opt for in home or even all natural births, while some DEMAND that epidural or choose a cesarean. Many moms may not even get a choice at all. You’ll hear about moms who had a quick, easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy labor, and you’ll hear about those who endured 36 or more hours of the worst pain imaginable until their little ones finally came into this world. Some exceed their due dates by a week or more, and some live in the NICU for several weeks until they get to finally come home. Some will breastfeed, make their own baby food, and use cloth diapers. Others prop a bottle, buy Gerber’s lil’ snackies, and think Luvs or Huggies will suffice. Gender reveals and maternity sessions may be the greatest thing since the invention of the Tupperware to some moms, while others may not really see the point. And let’s uneven the playing field a little more about whether some moms find it necessary to broadcast weekly baby bump pictures on Facebook or to have a birth photographer bedside to document the Big Day.
The point is…I have never heard two moms have the exact same experience about pregnancy, birthing, or parenting in general. So don’t believe for a second that your story will be written like someone else’s. You just do YOU and always trust that this is the way things are meant to be and you are doing what is best for you and your baby.
#2 – Be thankful.
Week 5….the week I will never forget.
I was driving in my car alone in Springfield when I felt it. A sudden warm gush. I looked down and tried to feel what was going on.
I was frantic. For days I hadn’t really felt well and had some spotting off and on, but never this heavy. Something was definitely not right. I immediately pulled into the nearest gas station and raced to the bathroom, tears already streaming down my face. This couldn’t be happening. Not to me. Not to us.
I freaked out even more when I felt a sharp pain and passed what I just knew was our baby. Our little precious miracle we prayed for. Right there in a lonely bathroom stall at the Kum and Go on Sunshine street. I called my husband who was over an hour away – completely hysterical – telling him I was going to the ER and he needed to leave right now and come get me, because I didn’t think I could face what would happen next on my own. He dropped everything and flew there as fast as he could.
It felt like eternity – the time it took me to drag myself out of my car and walk across the parking lot through those sliding doors to await my fate. Every step grew heavier and the lump in my chest grew larger the closer I got to the check-in desk. “Please, God.” I begged over and over as they took my insurance information and escorted me to be admitted.
Everything else from there was a blur, but a very long one. The nurse’s questions were just muffled mumbles I couldn’t understand as she checked my vitals, put my wristband on, and ushered me to the waiting room until Kurtis arrived. Nearly two hours passed before they finally called us back for even more hours of blood work, urine tests, IV fluids that ended up busting my veins, and the most painful internal ultrasound I have ever had to date. When the moment of truth finally came, the ultrasound tech told us over and over as she was getting ready to examine me that we should definitely prepare ourselves, but also that other mothers have had similar symptoms and things surprisingly turned out to be okay.
I held my breath and almost couldn’t look at the screen when she finally pointed and said “right there.”
The whole world stopped. A teeny spec. Our miracle baby. Right there on the screen, when I was CERTAIN I had already lost it. While there was definitely a newfound sense of hope that I at least still had a baby inside, there was still this deep unsettling fear that there was no movement – no little heart “flutter” – to confirm whether or not our little one was actually alive. We were sent home and told we wouldn’t have answers for at least three more days until they could recheck my blood levels, as I was not yet far enough along to detect a heartbeat on the ultrasound.
Let me tell you. That afternoon was definitely long, but it didn’t hold a candle to the next three days I was on bed rest before my follow-up appointment, praying and pleading that we would get the news we longed for more than anything else.
Fast forward three LONNNNGGGGGG days later, and I got the phone call from my doctor that my blood levels were stable and increasing! A week later they were able to actually detect a heartbeat on the ultrasound, and I never cried so hard in my life seeing that flutter on the screen and hearing that little throbbing noise coming through the speakers. We were congratulated, comforted, and reassured that I indeed had a perfectly healthy, viable fetus growing strong inside.
I still thank God every day for that very moment.
As for what caused all those crazy symptoms and the scariest moment of my life so far? We may never know. Some told us it was just implantation pain and bleeding. Some told us we very easily could have miscarried a twin. We don’t waste time wondering what might have been. All I know is I am forever GRATEFUL for this chance I have now, to embrace a beautiful, healthy baby in my arms that God didn’t have to spare us that day. I am THANKFUL, because many of my loved ones and friends have suffered infertility. True miscarriage. Sudden loss of a child. I am BLESSED that our story had a happy ending, when that is not the case for so many others out there.
So I will take the morning sickness, excessive tiredness, stretch marks, swelling, contractions, nipple chafing, and fussy sleepless nights any day over the outcome that was almost our worst reality.
#3 – Most people mean well…..Most.
People can be cruel.
Like, REALLY cruel.
When you are a new momma, it often seems like everyone and their other brother wants to give you their unsolicited “advice” about how you should grow your tiny human, bring it into the world, and especially raise it. I’ve been scoffed at for ordering a small Starbucks drink at the mall or getting a 32-ounce cherry coke at the gas station. I’ve had my hands slapped for trying to lift a medium sized box that I could seriously lift with my pinky. I’ve been reprimanded for ordering a subway sandwich by a random stranger, who didn’t realize that I literally had been vomiting everything else and a ham sandwich was literally all that sounded good to me that day and at least I was feeding myself SOMETHING. I’ve been told that I wasn’t a “real woman” if I opted for an epidural. I’ve frantically checked over my shoulder at get-togethers to see if anyone noticed me licking the spoon after mixing cookie dough or sneaking an teeny-tiny sip of red wine. People have literally FLIPPED OUT on me when I posted any photos of our home renovation progress and I had a paintbrush in my hand, was on my hands and knees helping lay flooring, or was standing anywhere remotely close to a ladder. (As if taking on a DIY on top of working very demanding full time jobs, skimping on a tight budget, and trying to get it all done in time before I pop isn’t stressful enough as is…) And let’s not forget to mention the hateful remarks about either being a stay at home or working mom or debating whether or not breastfeeding or exclusively pumping or bottle feeding is what is most practical for our busy lifestyle.
Then they look at you like you’re more irrational than the number pi and want to blame it on your raging hormones when you finally have heard enough of it all and snap and put them in their place.
You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t, am I right???
The hardest lesson I’ve had to learn is sometimes you just have to take it all with a grain of salt and assume everyone’s best intentions, even if it is super annoying or hurtful. Even if its your best friend or a family member degrading your choices because “that’s not how they did it”. Even if you’ve SERIOUSLY heard it all a million and three times before. Because, yes, it’s true. Some people really are just jerks and don’t know what the heck they’re talking about. But most people are just concerned and want to make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Trust me…you’ll go absolutely bonkers if you don’t occasionally bite your tongue, take a deep breath, laugh it off, and just let it roll.
#4 – Let people help.
There’s nothing I hate more than admitting I can’t keep it all together on my own.
Afterall, I am Woman, right?? Aren’t I supposed to be able to save the world and wear a superhero cape?? I mean, back in the old days mothers were birthing new babies with a toddler on their hip and had five other little ones running around while simultaneously milking cows and planting gardens in the 90 degree summer heat and putting dinner on the table by 5pm sharp every night. They survived motherhood like a champ — without all the fancy rock n’ plays and bottle warmers and Freemie cups for hands-free pumping and probably not Moscato wine, either. It’s 2018. I live in modern-day America, y’all, where we have crock pots and robot vacuums and Google and Amazon Prime 2-day shipping. I have perfectly functioning central heat and air, all the bells and whistles in terms of baby gear and equipment, no other children running around at my heels, and am pretty sure I can’t tell you the last time I ever had to pull a weed or pick a tomato. So why is my sink always overflowing with dishes and I never have clean underwear because I can’t keep up with the laundry like I used to? I can’t even tell you the last time I seriously dusted or scrubbed the shower. We desperately need groceries and I haven’t shaved my legs in going on two weeks. There’s bills and mail piled up under the TV stand that I haven’t sorted through yet and boxes and boxes to unpack. And how many more times can we possibly eat frozen pizza or hamburger helper because I am too exhausted to prepare a meal that requires more than ten minutes of prep work on my end?
Mommy and wife guilt is a very real and serious thing, my friends. During my entire pregnancy, our life was the absolute CRAZIEST and busiest it had ever been, and I rarely ever cut myself some slack when I fell short. When I wanted to have a pity party and beat myself down over and over for all the things I didn’t accomplish for the day, I had to always stop and remind myself that I was leading a very busy lifestyle that required a lot of my time and energy, so it was perfectly acceptable that I came home completely and utterly EXHAUSTED each night and passed out on the couch, pretty much up until the day I gave birth.
Not to mention that we were also in the middle of a major home renovation that we came home to every night to work on ourselves any chance we could so we could be moved in before Baby Brown’s arrival. Every weekend it seemed we were tied down with another birthday party, graduation, family get-together, church dinner, baby shower, or last-minute late night trip to Lowes. When we didn’t have anything going on, we were so wiped that we literally lounged all day. My husband also works a full-time engineering job and comes home to a 280 acre farm with over 60 head of cattle, where there’s always feeding to do, fences to fix, tractors to repair, and new baby calves hitting the ground that need tended to. At the time, I was wrangling middle schoolers for 8 hours a day then had lessons to plan and papers to grade as soon as I got home before I could play Housewife. Then we woke up to do it all again the next day.
Oh, yeah. And I was growing a human on top of it all, too. So there’s that…
And now that our sweet baby is here? Pshhh. I like maybe get one box unpacked from our move and one picture frame hung on the wall a month. Maybe every two weeks if I’m real ambitious. There are days I literally never leave my bed because she is super fussy and wants cuddled or I’m just too exhausted to function. Anndddd my legs are still hairy, the shower still needs a good scrubbing, and we still have DiGiorno’s pizza once or twice weekly. And somehow, it’s okay!
I’ll never forget the best advice I ever got as an expecting mother.
Ask. For. Help.
Seriously. Do ittttt.
Don’t ever shame yourself for feeling tired and overwhelmed all the time, whether pregnant or postpartum or ten years down the road with three kids and a dog. Busy is the new norm for all of us mommas, and we all need a little leg up sometimes to get us through. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to pick up the phone and ask my mother in-law to ride with me to get groceries, text my sister in-laws for mommy advice to calm my nerves, recruit my best friends to help me paint kitchen cabinets in the new house, and let my mom provide dinner for us so I didn’t have to cook. Find yourself a good support system, whether it be your mom, mother in-law, a sister, your spouse, best friends, or whoever you have in your life. Ask them to fold a basket of laundry, run the vacuum, or to grab a few things you need at Wally World. Book a babysitter so you can enjoy a bubble bath or a date night or just a short un-interrupted nap for once. Let the ladies from church bring you a casserole when you first get home from the hospital.
And don’t feel guilty about it for a second! Most of them are seriously more than happy to help because they have been where you are and they want to feel needed and appreciated. Let them, so you can breathe a little!
#5 – Less is really more.
I can laugh about it now, but I remember having a mental breakdown one night after going through all the things we received from one of our baby showers. While I was completely grateful and overwhelmed with love at all the wonderful gifts our friends and family provided us, I was also in complete shock at how expensive everything was and how many things one tiny person needed to survive. I was seriously hyperventilating when I realized we still had a lot of major things we hadn’t purchased yet — like a changing table and a crib and bottles and a car seat and ALL the clothes, as we didn’t find out the gender of our little one until the big day — and my due date was only a few weeks away.
How were we possibly going to afford it all or get all we needed in time? The mountains of diapers and wipes we received were no doubt a godsend, but I knew we would blow through them extremely fast. Not to mention all the hospital expenses we were about to get slapped in the face with. (We joked that I was either gonna have to hook it or donate a kidney to keep up with it all!)
And when it came time to pack my hospital bag, I swore I needed this and that and everything under the sun to bring my precious baby into the world the right way. He or she had to have the most perfect coming home outfit and I needed my entire makeup drawer and straightener and the comfiest birthing gowns and cutest slippers ever for myself.
My sweet baby came along just fine, not caring whether or not I looked “photo worthy” or if I had everything I thought I needed. And half the crap I stressed so much about having when we got home I didn’t even use or need right away — like a high chair. I’m serious! I was so bent out of shape that I didn’t have something my kid wouldn’t even use until about 4 months old.
What I really learned is that less is truly more. When it finally comes down to Show Time and you’re in hardcore labor, you won’t want to lug your entire house up to the 4th floor of the hospital, and neither will your partner. You most likely won’t need a gigantic camera with five different lenses and attachments to document each moment, because it all happens so fast and it’s so much more practical to snap a photo on a cell phone. Or hire a birth photographer to do all the dirty work for you, if that floats your boat. You will be lucky if you get to “fix yourself” up with anything more than a fresh hospital gown, some dry shampoo, and a stick of gum to brush your teeth before visitors are barging through the door to ooooooh and awwww at your precious little bundle. Trust me, — and I am a relatively vain person by nature who hardly leaves the house without eyeliner and a little concealer — no one cares about your zits showing, the bags under your eyes, and the fact that you haven’t showered in two days when they hold that sweet baby. The focus will not even be on you at all, so leave the salon at home!
You also won’t use hardly anything in a diaper bag you bring from home, because the hospital gives you diapers, formula, and basically anything else you could possibly need during your stay — and often times you get loaded with a goodie bag to take home to get you and your little one by your first few weeks! (And God bless Dermoplast numbing spray, oversized pads, mesh undies, and that nifty little squirt bottle they give you to “service” yourself!!!) I also learned my baby could care less if she was wearing the cutest outfit ever I found on Etsy, a plain white onesie from the clearance aisle at Walmart, or just chilling half naked in diaper and a swaddle blanket.
Moral of the story? As cool as diaper genies, wipe warmers, and battery operated aspirators are, you really just need the basics starting out! As long as your baby is well fed, clean, warm, healthy, and has a safe place to sleep and be transported from here to there, you are set up for success!
#6 – You really CAN do it.
There seriously was a moment when it was finally go time and I was pushing and bringing our daughter into this world after nine LONGGGG but amazing months of varying emotions, horomones, morning sickness, Braxton Hicks, stretch marks, and emergency late night Taco Bell runs where I panicked and thought to myself, there’s no freaking way. I can’t do this!!!! Shove it back up there and I’ll cross my legs real tight! This can’t happen! Not today, Jose’!
There was also a moment where my doctor reminded me she was already halfway out, and I literally didn’t have a choice, so I knew I had to just buck up buttercup and give it my all until it was done.
Y’all, the woman body is INCREDIBLE and should definitely be dignified more for all the things it can endure and bounce back from. I’m serious. They don’t prepare you for what happens after the pain meds wear off or your adrenaline slows down and they take your catheter out and you have to pee on your own and you take a first glimpse “down there” after birth and scream Oh, my God! It’s wrecked forever!!! I have a freaking UDDER!!!
Then you get home and literally EVERYTHING is so sore and you walk funny and have to sit sideways on an ice pack like a hen on eggs for three weeks straight until you finally recover while being the most sleep deprived and exhausted you’ve ever been in your entire life, but you know you will probably never “sleep” again because you still have to take care of your precious little one (hey, at least she’s adorable!!!) and life still goes on anyway, when you swear you could fall over dead at any second.
If there’s one thing motherhood has taught me about myself, it would be that I’m fairly certain there is nothing I can’t handle or make it through now. Even when the nights are long and she’s screaming her head off for no apparent reason for a solid two hours straight and I’m so overwhelmed and exhausted and I feel like I am going to explode, I survive and live long enough to blog about it! Mommas, we are TOUGH. God made us to handle the unimaginable and multitask on a level unlike any other, because He knew we were capable of just throwing our hair up in a messy bun, chugging an oversized mug of coffee, cranking some gangster rap from time to time, and just handling it! (You’re welcome, by the way, for getting Ice Ice Baby stuck in your head!)
Just when you think you’re at your wits end, you find a way to hold and feed your baby with one hand while pumping, folding a basket of laundry, and crying to your momma on the phone for advice with the other. Somehow, we make it! Even those of us who, while all of this chaos is going on, are also sitting helplessly on the couch watching their toddlers and other kids throw fits, terrorize each other, and tear up the house faster than a tornado in upstate Kansas. (Haven’t ventured into that journey myself quite yet since I have one child, but I can only imagine it’s stressful for those of you who live this out every day! I pray for patience and strength and good wine for you!)
It absolutely gets really hard sometimes, especially when the baby blues and for some, postpartum depression sets in after the newness and excitement of a newborn wears off and no one comes to visit or help you anymore and you’re stuck in an empty and messy house until your loved one gets home or someone comes over to relieve you for half an hour so you can at least take a shower long enough where you don’t have to make the impulse decision of whether or not you’re going to finish shampooing your hair or shave your legs because the baby is screaming and all Hell is breaking loose on the other side of that shower curtain.
Hard times are inevitable. But friends, in these times let’s give ourselves some grace, realize that the hard days might be LONGGGG but the years are oh so short with our sweet babies, embrace the good moments for all they’re worth, and just breathe until we find a way to ride out the storm until it passes.
To say that motherhood has been a whirlwind so far is definitely an understatement! I can honestly say that in my 24 years of life, nothing has ever wore me out more yet made me happier and so full of overwhelming love. As I sit here watching our sweet baby girl sleep and am reminiscing about the past five weeks since we brought her home, I cannot believe literally how fast the times are already flying and all the fun memories we’ve had so far.
My friends, we are so incredibly blessed with this gift of motherhood, every single one of us.
I know that these tidbits of wisdom someone shared with me that I am now passing on to you (that literally took me every bit of the past five weeks to blog in between naps and feedings and pumping sessions, of course) will be closely tucked away in my Mommy Toolbox whenever I need them to remind me to simply soak it all in and ENJOY it.
Every single exhausting and stressful and scary and fun and altogether amazing bit of it.