Baby Steps: True tales from a new mommy

I have a baby!!!

I know what you’re thinking. Considering I was pregnant, this was the most likely outcome; but, as my due date came and went, I was pretty convinced I was just going to be pregnant forever.

The first thing I thought when I met our baby boy was that he was amazingly cute.  Allow me to be honest and say that not all babies are cute-cute, some are just cute because they’re babies. Sure, all mothers are biased, but I still can’t believe how perfectly adorable he is, and that I had made him.

The second thing I thought was, how do I feed him? I was in the hospital room with my husband, it was the middle of the night, and even though I’d been to a breastfeeding class, neither the baby nor I had ever actually tried it, so we were a bit lost.  Thankfully, babies can go almost 24 hours without food when they first come out, because I know he didn’t get much of anything our first few tries.

Our first morning, the lactation consultant helped me latch on one side, and we managed the other side the next morning. Unfortunately, it would be another month of the blind leading the blind before I realized that the nipple trauma I was experiencing wasn’t just a brutal adjustment, it was a shallow latch. There are many lessons learned for me that had to do with not knowing what was “normal.”

Here are a few of the lessons I have learned. I won’t call them advice because every experience is unique, this is my first time out, and I’m certainly not qualified to be “advising” others. I am so grateful for the support I’ve received since you really don’t know what you don’t know, and you also don’t know to ask about it until you’re in the moment throwing your hands up in the air. So, here are the things I kinda-sorta know now.

  • Even though you always hear, “never wake a sleeping baby,” you do need to wake them up to eat every 2-3 hours for the first month because their little bodies will let them sleep through opportunities to gain weight and get crucial nutrition.
  • Rocking and lullabies do very little to comfort a newborn. Swaddling, shushing and controlled shaking (refer to the 5 S’s from Happiest Baby on the Block) work much more effectively.
  • There is more to successful breastfeeding than latching. After a month, I was dreading feeding my baby rather than enjoying it. Lucky for me, I got sick, and decided to mention my feeding issues while at the doctor. Now, I look forward to it and am so proud to be able to do it.
  • Sometimes you have to remind yourself that the baby isn’t crying because he/she is mad at you.
  • Your baby won’t be mad at you when he/she wakes from a nap that came from learning to self-soothe/cry it out.
  • If you are breastfeeding and your baby isn’t gaining as much weight as the doctors want him to, you will beat yourself up; however, the pride you feel with each ounce he gains will end up trumping any frustration.
  • Although breastfed babies don’t really get constipated, they may need pooping “encouragement” after they finish with the initial meconium poops. We had to use a q-tip to get things started. This is one of those things I would never have known about if I hadn’t had to do it.
  • As much as it’s nice to feel needed and bond with your baby, breastfeeding can also feel like a burden, and it’s easy to feel frustrated when you can’t ever pass off the work. A friend suggested I view it as a tool that only I could use to soothe and satisfy my baby, and that perspective made a big difference in how much I enjoy it.
  • If you think you’re going to get a nap, but you don’t, you will feel drastically more exhausted than if you plan not to get a nap, and you do.
  • How tired you feel when you wake up to the sound of a crying baby all depends on what the clock says. Honestly, if someone were to move the time forward before you looked, you’d feel more refreshed.

I really thought I’d be much more bothered by lack of sleep and a plethora of diapers (we average 15 a day… homeboy hates to be wet… seriously, hates it) than I am. It really is different when it’s your own.  I’d swim through poop on no sleep for this little dude. I seriously hope I don’t have to do that, but if he needed me to, I’d bust out that swan dive in an instant.


Back to basics

A few years ago, and in some communities still today, it was cool to drive a big, gas-guzzling SUV, own a giant home, grab on to all the latest conveniences, and hit up megastores. Big, flashy and convenient were the hottest trends.

What’s cool today looks quite different. I believe it use to be referred to by the not-so-endearing term, “granola.”

When I hear words like green, bicycle, farm-to-table, carpooling, public transit, hybrid, solar energy, down-sizing and farmers’ market, I get all gooey inside.

Awareness, along with the economy, has brought about a new appreciation for properly caring for and utilizing the environment and our natural resources.

When we were suddenly unable to afford basic necessities – gas, utilities, milk – we wanted to point fingers and rage about unreasonable cost inflation, but a lot of the finger-pointing needed to be done in front of a mirror. We wanted everything we had, until we had to suffer the true cost. I hate a recession as much as the next gal, but I’m grateful for the wake up call, and I like where we’re trying to go now.

People are proud to serve fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs from their own gardens. We know what a carbon-footprint is. We are gradually taking steps to reduce, reuse and recycle.

Before we make purchases, we think about where they came from, and we scan the labels for unnatural preservatives and chemicals. We recognize that an extremely long shelf-life is a sign that something might be off.

We approach cleaning, and illness, with a more holistic approach because we are learning that natural options and cures exist, and are less likely to lead to negative consequences. If your child accidentally drinks your lemon-vinegar concoction, he’s going to fare much better than if he drank a chemical cleaner, and natural cures are less likely to kill good bacteria in addition to bad bacteria.

We own more fashionable reusable bags than we do purses. I’ve always known green was my color.

I can’t think of many things cooler than knowing your local farmers by first name and knowing what chicken should actually taste like.

We still have so much to learn, and no one expects perfection, but every time you take pause to think about our future, Mother Nature gets the warm fuzzies.

When it comes to eating our words, at least granola tastes good.


Don’t hit the wall, get over it

I was born with a fear of heights (acrophobia). I’ve worked very hard to conquer my fear; however, even rationale and hard work don’t make me want to scale things without a net or a harness.

Several years ago, I came face-to-face with my fear during an adventure race. I was one of a three-person team as we ran, rafted and mountain-biked through the Blue Ridge mountains of Georgia. Part of the race involved mystery events, one of which was a tall, wooden wall with ropes hanging down the front. The object was to get the entire team to the top of the wall using only each other and the ropes.

As we raced toward the wall, I was aware of two things: 1) I was terrified. 2) I needed to conquer my fear for my team to continue. Rather than hesitating and giving my fear time to take over, I ran right up to the wall with my team and went to work.

The feeling I had at the top of the wall was so much stronger than the initial fear I felt at the bottom. I can’t even fathom how much regret and disappointment I would have felt had I let my fear beat me, and us.

We all hit walls sometimes. We reach a moment or a point in an endeavor where we’re faced with fear, lack of confidence, or simply the fact that we don’t know what to expect on the other side.

It’s so easy to let the wall win and stay within your comfort zone, but do you really want to be the person standing at the bottom of the wall while others continue on with the race? I doubt it.

The next time you find yourself up against a wall, make the decision to test yourself. Tell your body and your mind that you want to feel the pride and the rush that come with finding out what’s on the other side of that wall. Once you get over that first wall, the rest will fall like dominoes and you’ll find yourself in a position for winning the race against all the obstacles that have been holding you back.

The next time you’re faced with uncharted territory, climb the wall.

The perfect gift


Still hunting for thoughtful presents? Visit Oxfam and help those in need, in honor of those you love.

Oxfam has gifts for every price range, and you can choose how your recipient is notified of the donation.

The same money that could buy someone a nice sweater could also buy a school meal for a child in need, livestock to help sustain those who live off the land, a water purifier, mosquito nets, books, medical supplies, a boat, or even a replanted forest. A gift like that warms a heart more than the softest cashmere. In fact, if you give a family sheep, they can make countless sweaters each year.

Giving through Oxfam is easy. You don’t have to deal with parking or lines. Heck, you don’t even have to leave your house. You could click the link above in this very article and be done shopping in twenty minutes or less.

When you give the gift of a donation to Oxfam, you’re just like the real Santa Claus. You might not have flying reindeer, but you will touch people all over the world and share the joy of Christmas in its most sincere, genuine form.

Out with the new

Once upon a time, everything I have was new to me.

  • Everything in my closet was once new and I couldn’t wait to wear it.
  • Our car used to have that new-car smell.
  • My husband was once my new boyfriend.

I still have the same clothes I felt like a new person in when I was in the department store dressing room, the car still runs great, and my husband is as sweet and handsome as ever. The only difference is, now they’re worn and comfortable, instead of fresh and new.

What is it about new stuff that gets us so excited? We’ll enter stores with signs promising antiques and vintage goods, but who wants to shop at a store that sells worn and comfortable merchandise? Doesn’t that mean the goods are used? If I can afford new, why would I buy something used, right?

We’re probably less intrigued by our own used goods because we know the kind of care and abuse they’ve been through. We want to feel fresh and new again, so we seek out people and goods we haven’t potentially screwed up yet.

  • New clothes fit the body we have and the way we feel today. They update our personal packaging – as though we have a brand new marketing campaign.
  • A new car wouldn’t have that dent in the bumper from where you ran into a stationary object.
  • New people don’t know our faults. In fact, they only know what we tell them, and we can tell our stories and jokes for the first time all over again. We get another chance to impress.

We need to start referring to new stuff as what it is. Inexperienced.

No one wants to hire an entry-level (new) employee for a job requiring experience, so why do we like “new” so much? New hasn’t gone through the training process. New jeans are stiff, and new shoes give blisters. The insurance is even higher on new. New takes you all the way back to square one.

Before you spend a fortune on new clothes, a new car, or bestow more attention and affection on new friends, remember that new will also be old one day; and, your old will always be new to someone else.

The average dinner plate vs. your stomach

I want to give you a visual to help you better understand portion control. First, take out one of your dinner plates. Next, make a fist. Unless you have really big hands and tiny dinner plates, they will be drastically different sizes.

Your fist is roughly the size of your empty stomach. It’s very elastic (especially if you challenge it frequently by eating large portions), and it’s made to stretch to fit about a liter worth of contents. Now, picture yourself in too-tight spandex. That’s elastic too, but put too much inside it and it looks and feels uncomfortable, right?

The next time you get ready to load up a dinner plate think of your little fist-size stomach before you shovel in large bites one right after the other (without so much as time to fully chew and swallow in between).

Remember to always eat slowly so your stomach can gradually, gently stretch to accommodate your food. Your body doesn’t even know you’re eating until 20 minutes after that first bite. If you can cut back on how much you stretch your stomach at meals, your stomach will tighten back up a bit, and the rest of you will likely follow suit.

Make a habit of proper portion control and you’ll avoid that uncomfortably full feeling. Over time, you just might get away with wearing that spandex.

Is coconut oil your skin cure-all?

My skin is really sensitive and annoying. If it’s dry, it gets bumpy; 0ver-moisturized – bumpy. If I use sunscreen, it gets bumpy. My skin’s natural inclination to get bumpy in all circumstances is only exacerbated by the fact that I spend most of my life in semi-sweaty workout clothes, opening it up to all kinds of fun, funky bacteria.

Dermatologists have told me to go as basic as I can on my skin regime, but to always wear sunscreen. Basically, skip all of the chemicals, acids, etc. All the fancy promises on skin product labels usually mean more ingredients that could irritate my skin, so I have to ignore them and get the most stripped down stuff I can find.

A friend at the gym mentioned using coconut oil, from the baking section, as an anti-fungal moisturizer one day, so I decided to check it out. I love the smell of coconut, but was worried it would be overpowering, and I typically opt for lotions rather than oils so I won’t be greasy, but I decided to give it a shot.

Now, on the other side of skepticism, I am loving coconut oil.

Coconut oil has no additives – not even water, which can inflate, then later deflate your skin cells, and it’s loaded with antioxidants to combat free radicals, wrinkles and age spots. The fatty acids in coconut oil prevent fungal and bacterial infections, and it’s been found helpful in the fight against acne, psoriasis and eczema.Coconut oil even has sunscreen and deodorant capabilities without any harmful, harsh ingredients. Oh, and I don’t even notice the smell once it’s on, so I can wear my normal sprays and perfumes without the scents fighting each other.

Since coconut is a solid at room temperature, it’s less messy than other oils, and easy to travel with. I have a smaller plastic container I keep some in for that purpose. Whenever I’m about to shower, I run hot water in the sink, stop it up, and set the closed container of coconut oil in the water to melt while I bathe. Once I’m out, it’s ready for slathering all over. You can also rub it quickly in your hands to warm it up.

I’m going to look into using coconut oil for babies too, since baby oil contains mineral oil which is a petroleum byproduct. We plan to have a family, and I wouldn’t put something on my child that I wouldn’t put on myself. I’ve read of it being used as a hair moisturizer and even a tool for intimacy, so it has multiple uses in your home from the kitchen, to the bathroom, to the bedroom.

If you’re in the market for a safe, gentle moisturizer for your entire body, consider trying coconut oil. If it doesn’t make me bumpy, everyone should be in the clear.