So, you’re having a baby…

Motherhood: Day 1. Do I look remotely prepared? I'm still in my pajamas!
Motherhood: Day 1. Do I look remotely prepared? I’m still in my pajamas!

When I started this post, it said, “I’m going to be an aunt again, TWICE this year!” and then went on to talk about how two of JC’s sisters were pregnant and it’s so exciting.

Then…I became an aunt again, 17 weeks earlier than planned.

Konni had her baby, JJ, at 23 weeks, 3 days. He was 1 lb, 5 oz. I keep picturing a box of butter to imagine his size.

He’ll be 2 weeks old on Monday. So far, he’s stable, which is good. He has a lot of inflammation in his lungs, which is not surprising. There’s a lot of watching and waiting right now. No news is good news. Please join us in praying for him.

I thought I’d get this post done in pleeeeenty of time before she even had her shower! But no.

In any case, this goes out to her, and to Katie, my other sister-in-law, who is due (quoting JC, here) “the summer or the fall, sometime? One of those warmer months.” (kidding, I asked her later, LIKE YOU DO, and it’s July). Perhaps I should re-title it, “So, you’re having a baby, or omg you just had one and this is all very sudden and confusing.”

First up, I’ve been digging through my archive and adding the tag “so, you’re having a baby” to everything that seems helpful. You can find all of those links collected there. There’s lots of stuff there! I’ve written a lot about having a baby, it turns out.

Beyond that, here’s “I Probably Have Recommended This To You: Baby Edition.”

Phase 1: Pregnancy and Birth

  • Drink lots of water! Take care of yourself!
  • I’m a big, big, big fan of The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth. It lays out a lot of the research and options for managing labor. Very science-y.
  • If you’re not in a science-y mood, might I recommend Ina May Gaskin? Don’t read Spiritual Midwifery if you’re new to hippies and/or refraining from psychedelics during your pregnancy. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, on the other hand, is very good and accessible.
  • We took a Hypnobirthing class, and, although my labors were too fast for traditional hypnobirthing to work, I felt that the preparation it gave me and the suggestions and focus during class on trusting my body were incredibly helpful. I’ve heard great things about Bradley method classes, too.
  • I read like…40 books on labor while I was pregnant with Silas. I’m glad I did, because the stuff you think is going to happen doesn’t, and having these other resources in your head in the moment is great. One that I skimmed, but which ended up being incredibly useful during early labor, was Active Birth: The New Approach to Giving Birth Naturally.
  • JC read a number of books for dads/partners, and the one he recommends to people all the time is The Birth Partner – Revised 4th Edition: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor Companions.
  • If your baby is (like both of mine) the kind of jerk who wants to be in a bad position, get thee to the chiropractor. I mean, do it anyway, because a chiropractor who is licensed for prenatal will have a magic table that makes you feel not-pregnant for the little bit of time that you’re on it, and that’s super fun. Plus, mine successfully turned both of my babies (who were posterior). Petra kept flipping back and came out that way, but Silas stayed put. I also recommend SpinningBabies, which is just a series of postures that you can do before and during labor to get your baby in the best possible position. It doesn’t always work, but it can’t hurt to try it. Little known fact: “putting your feet up” is the worst position for late pregnancy. I know it’s what you see on TV and whatever, but don’t do it! It encourages the baby to be posterior, and they’re harder to get out that way. Oh, and ask your midwife/OB to teach you to feel the baby’s position yourself. It’s kind of fun, and, if you’re having a stubborn positioning issue, you can monitor it yourself between visits.
  • Get decent maternity clothes. You don’t have to go nuts, but some basics are helpful. Here’s a nice guide. If you have a friend who is a similar size and has already walked this road, see if you can borrow a few things. One of my friends was pregnant at the same time as I was, and about midway through the second trimester, we swapped a few pieces and really felt like we had a new wardrobe.
  • Plan on literally not getting out of bed for a week after the baby is born. You’ll probably feel physically capable of doing a lot, but rest is the fastest way to recover and heal. Make a nest, get some books, and just chill with that new bundle.

Phase 2: Newborns (they don’t come with a manual. More’s the pity). And nursing.

  • Newborn babies are…a little boring, to be honest. They don’t smile or … play… or talk…You spend a lot of time on the couch, nursing endlessly. It’s a sweet, snuggly time, but it can also be hard. I find that women who are a bit…Type A, if you will (like me) have the toughest time with this stage. Convince people to come visit you. It helps. And don’t be concerned if you don’t feel an immediate rush of overwhelming love. I took a while to warm up to Baby Silas, and I felt like our culture lied to me about that feeling. Some people feel that way, and some don’t, but that doesn’t keep you from being a good parent.
  • People will ask what they can do, and the answer is FOOD. Food is the best. Set up a TakeThemAMeal, or, if you’re feeling shy about that, ask your BFF or church to set one up for you. Things I learned about my church after my babies were born: Those folks can COOK. And love to hold babies so you can go to the bathroom.
  • At some point, you’ll have to cook for yourself. I discovered this cookbook once I was past the point of especially needing it, but I love the premise: Parents Need to Eat Too: Nap-Friendly Recipes, One-Handed Meals, and Time-Saving Kitchen Tricks for New Parents
  • I just discovered The Longest Shortest Time podcast, and I’ve been binge-listening. I wish I had known about it when Silas was a baby, because it is the best, most sane, baby-related media out there.
  • Some crazy number, like 80% of carseats are installed incorrectly. Take it to the fire station and have them check it for you, and show you how to do it right! This is very important! What carseat to buy? I don’t know, they’re all a pain.
  • We enjoyed the Dr. Sears Baby Book, because it had recommendations for the various ages and stages, and was non-threatening.
  • Other books on babies that I loved are basically developmental psych books posing as baby books. Including: What’s Going on in There? : How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life and Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps — And What We Can Do About It, both by Lise Eliot, have a lot of fascinating information about the development of the brain from conception through age 5. Bedtiming: The Parent’s Guide to Getting Your Child to Sleep at Just the Right Age purports to be a sleep training book, but turns out to be an incredibly useful guide to when you should just not try to do anything major in your kid’s life (weaning, potty training, etc).
  • I haven’t read The Wonder Weeks, but I found the chart on the last page of this probably-illegal PDF deeply reassuring. I’d read it if I were going to have another baby (which I’m not!)
  • Get a baby wearing device. Both parents should learn how to use it. If you’re not sure what to pick, see if you can borrow a few from various friends.
  • Babies do not need a ton of things. My kids literally did not play with toys until they were a year old and started to do imaginative play. I mean, they had toys, but they were mostly interested in sharp objects, heavy objects, and dog hair.
  • That said, they loved mobiles (remember to think about what they will look like from underneath, not from your eye line). I also wish I had gotten them a baby gym, but probably a beautiful wooden one, because I’m a snob about those playmat things.
  • We had a little baby bath thing, which was nice for when they were tiny and slippery. That’s about the only specialty bath thing we needed for a tiny baby. People gave us lots of baby wash cloths, but… you can use normal washcloths, they don’t mind!
  • We never had a crib for either baby. Co-sleeping was SO MUCH EASIER. It’s important to know how to do it safely, but you get so much more sleep. It’s worth the effort. Most cosleeping deaths are actually situations where a parent wasn’t planning on cosleeping, but does it anyway, as a middle-of-the-night decision. Plan on bringing your baby to bed. Everyone does it, and planning on it is safer.
  • We didn’t have a cosleeper thing, just some bumpers, which we still use to keep them from rolling off their normal-person beds.
  • Nursing is hard. Find a lactation consultant before you need one. You go into it thinking, “I’m a mammal, how hard can this be?” But it seriously hurts, for about the first two weeks. The crazy thing about it, which I didn’t realize until I had Petra, is that you teach the baby how to nurse. So if it’s your first and you don’t understand what you’re doing, it can be trickier. I knew an LC, so I would email her questions about nursing Silas, but in retrospect, I wish I had done an in-person session. I recently realized that he has a slight lip-tie, which would explain a lot about nursing him.
  • At the end of your pregnancy, buy nursing bras that are one size up from where you are at say… 35 weeks. When your milk comes in, you’ll be better endowed than you ever were in your life. Other things to get for nursing: reusable nursing pads, lanolin (sounds gross, but trust me), and a breastfeeding pillow (I liked the Boppy, but a taller one might have been better?). Oh, and some magazines. Books are too heavy to hold while nursing. The New Yorker and The Atlantic were my go-tos.
  • Nursing takes a LONG TIME. I remember before Silas was born, reading that newborns need to eat every 2 hours. That didn’t sound so bad. But then he came, and I learned that that two hour interval is from the beginning of one feeding to the beginning of the next. And the baby could eat for FORTY-FIVE MINUTES. And then there’s usually some burping, a diaper to change, and before you know it, it’s feeding time again. Just…wanted to warn you about that, because it surprised me. A lot.
  • Also, your insurance should cover a breast pump, thanks to Obamacare. Even if you’re not going to be headed back to work, it’s worth getting one and making sure the baby will take milk from other care providers. When I was working, I had a double-electric pump (don’t remember which one, they’re all awful). After I had Petra, I was home, and I used a hand pump, which was a bit slower, but much more comfortable.

Phase 3: Older babies and younger toddlers

  • Teething suuuuuuuucks. Buy toddler painkillers in bulk (tip: give it to them in the bath. It’s the stickiest stuff ever, and they always get it all over themselves).
  • We did amber teething necklaces. I kind of think they helped? But your mileage may vary. They’re cute, anyway.
  • They get sick and they can’t blow their noses. The NoseFrida is weird in the way that only Scandinavian children’s products can be, but it’s effective. Much better than a bulb aspirator.
  • They still don’t need much in the way of toys. My babies were very into “discovery baskets” for a long time. The Absorbent Mind , by Maria Montessori, has been an ongoing source of inspiration as I contemplate what materials to give my kids for their work and play.
  • Did you know that most board books are abridged? Just…fyi. I was kind of shocked.
  • Discipline starts to become a thing around a year old. Earlier than that, you can (and should) tell them how they should act, but it’s not like it’s going to sink into their thick skulls. Everyone has their own deal with discipline, and you have to find your way. I thought I would be much more regimented than I actually am…until Silas was about 90 minutes old. Unconditional Parenting has probably been the biggest influence on how I’m disciplining them. As parenting books go, this one is very controversial, but it seems to be working well right now. I’m uncomfortable making any strong recommendations because I’m only four years in to a long-term experiment with a small sample size. I get compliments on my kids’ behavior a lot, but they’re still so little. If Silas makes it to 25 without knocking over a 7-11, I’ll be able to recommend this book without reservation.
  • I <3 floorbeds for toddlers. Just putting that out there.
  • If weaning is a thing you find yourself ready for, I appreciated the Dr. Jay Gordon approach, although I modified it heavily.

Lastly, just to recap:

My must-have registry items are:

  1. Baby wearing device
  2. Lanolin if you’re nursing
  3. FOOD!
  4. Netflix subscription (for you, not them!)
  5. Some Bob Marley. It calms them down right quick.

Everything else is just…nice to have.

And good luck. It’s a wild ride.

PS This post contains affiliate links, which made me literally $0.26 last year.

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3 Comments

  1. Andrea Smith
    June 27, 2016
    Reply

    This is a great post! Love it!

  2. Andrea Smith
    June 27, 2016
    Reply

    I agree with so much, learned a few more things, and am chuckling at the shock of abridged board books. 🙂 I was blessed to have my mother give birth to my two younger brothers when I was 16 and 20. I got to see a lot of the nitty gritty up front and a bunch of that stuff didn’t surprise me much. In fact, I think I had it a lot easier than her. Maybe because I was in my 20s rather than late 30s and early 40s.. But I had a lot of wonderful mentoring from some moms on the Mothering forum and that completely changed my parenting experience. I’m still trying to figure it all out. And my first two didn’t play with baby toys, and my third got really into them as a baby. So, yep, they’re all different. But thanks. I’ll be looking into some of these books.

    • Alisha
      July 11, 2016
      Reply

      Thanks for the comment. I got a lot out of the Mothering forums, too, when Silas was little, but got turned off by some rather militant attachment parenting folks…They told me I’d ruin my relationship with Silas if I nightweaned him … at 15 months old! I am lucky, though, to have had many lovely friends who became parents a few years ahead of me.

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