Tell A Mom Tuesday: Second Mothers

This week, I want to give a big thank you to all the women who become our second mothers. I was lucky enough to be mentored, nurtured, and loved by many women as I was growing into a woman and mother.

The house I grew up in was on a cul-de-sace. Across the street, my godmother Mary lived with her two children. Mary gave me my first Lucky Charms and what my mother called “rubber cheese,” the Kraft individual slices wrapped in plastic.

Mary was a big woman with large burgundy glasses leftover from the 1970s and white pixie hair.

And Mary smoked. She was a real smoker with a leather case that held her Marlboros and a raspy laugh that turned into a cough when you really got her going. She kept a carton above the refrigerator. She also had a bag of a purse filled with anything anyone needed—scissors, gum, paper clips, glue, cotton balls.

And when my parents were busy or my sisters locked me out of their rooms or I was just pissed off, I’d go to Mary’s. It seems like she was always at her kitchen window, looking out to the street, ready to greet me. I would eat junk food, tell her about whatever had upset me, and then fall asleep on her couch. I don’t think I have ever napped anywhere better before or since Mary’s house. She never woke me, never rushed me. Mary never seemed to have anywhere she had to be.

She was a second mother to me. Her house was Ninja Turtles when mine was Sesame Street. She had Doritos! She talked to me like I was her equal.

I hope Mae will also have second mothers. Women she can learn different skills and ways of thinking from. Homes she can visit and feel safe and warm and loved.

So here’s to all our second mothers. Thank you for helping raise us, too. And thanks for giving our moms a break!

#tellamom today and every Tuesday. Or just share this post with your second mom(s).

 

Sentimental Friday: To Daddy

We are the luckiest girls in the world. Period. End stop. Period.

You are sad to leave us in the morning and can’t wait to hold your baby girl in the afternoon. You give mommy a break at the exact moment she needs one. You love us so much. There aren’t words. When your husband becomes a father, it’s a transformation. In some ways, you lose a piece of him to your child, but you gain so much. Mainly, respect. We love you, Daddy. We are so thankful. And right now as I write this, you are singing our girl to sleep. I love you, Jimmy.

 

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Accidental Rituals

Amidst the chaos of a baby’s first year, it’s hard to stay in any routine. We cook, work out, read books, all sporadically. Of course, I keep trying to maintain some sense of order and then I fail and try again (rinse and repeat). You think I’d get the hint, and I am slowly starting to let go of the need for a schedule or routine.

I think the best we can hope for are loose rituals, and those are mostly impromptu and accidental.

We have a ritual every morning. One of us goes in to get Mae after she’s woken up for the day (any time between 6-7AM) and we bring her in bed with us. We lay her between us and talk about the how the night went or the day to come. She stares at the woven art above our bed. We admire her little fingers and toes. We listen to her babbling and try to translate. But we start our day slowly, all still in our pajamas and warmth of our bed, even if it’s only for ten minutes.

I cherish this ritual that we have stumbled upon.

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Tell A Mom Tuesdays: Wonder Woman

This is our second #tellamom post. I just loved the positivity that it caused, so I am hoping to keep it up. The purpose of this post is to simply praise a mom. I hope you will pass it on. If you see a mom with her hands full today, tell her she’s doing a great job and then hold the door for her! Or post online and #tellamom

This Tuesday’s mom is my trainer and friend Dani Almeyda.

Here’s a detail that pretty much sums up Dani: she was still training and doing star jumps on the day she went into labor with her son. Star jumps, people. I can barely do these on a good, non-pregnant day. Basically, Dani lives BIG. She reminds me of the Maya Angelou quote, “Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told: ‘I’m with you kid. Let’s go.”dani

Dani is also a fearless mom. She was back to training at OPT with Marshall, her son, strapped to her in a baby carrier after just a few months.

And now she’s pregnant with a little girl, who is arriving in September.

Dani works two jobs, is an entrepreneur, takes care of Marshall, gives to her community, and is a loyal friend. She’s one of those women that you just can’t understand how she gets it all done, but it’s not annoying because she’s so genuine and kind. ;)

She makes me do A LOT of squats and I still love her.

She makes me do A LOT of squats and I still love her.

Her positivity is contagious.

Those who know Dani are better and brighter for being around her. What a wonderful outlook on life she will pass to her children.

#tellamom this Tuesday. Dani, we’re in awe of your mom skills!

lowercase babywearing

HangoverBabywearing

I’d seen parents using Baby Bjorns and Ergos for a while, and my sister used one with my nephew, so babywearing wasn’t a new concept to me. In my opinion, it was and is just practical. You have your hands free! It’s also great for the grocery and cooking dinner and any time you have a child that doesn’t want to be put down (that might be all the time). Did I mention you can have your hands free?

So I am a total advocate for babywearing, but it’s not my religion. I wear my baby when it’s convenient or necessary, but I’m not a BABYWEARER. This is one of my favorite clips from a favorite movie about extreme attachment parenting and anti-stroller/Babywearing beliefs. I use a stroller and couldn’t imagine life without it. I also use my ring sling a lot.

I’ve written about how I think a ring sling is a must for surviving babies, but I don’t think you need to use it all the time. I don’t think you need one in three different colors, and I don’t think you need to buy one that cost $125 bucks. And I don’t think it will work with every baby. Some parents treat Babywearing like the people who run with all the special equipment. It’s like dude, you just need a good sports bra and good sneakers. Now just go run and stop buying stuff. The religious Babywearers remind me of a quote from the Bible that I never agreed with (there’s more than one):

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. Revelation 3:15-16 (ESV)

Really? What’s wrong with being lukewarm? You’d rather me be cold?

BABYWEARERS tend to come off as a bit extreme and rigid in their parenting philosophies. And unfortunately, it kind of scares off the people who just want a convenient and efficient way to carry their kids/babies. I was lukewarm about bw, probably closer to hot than cold, but I was hesitant to dip in my toe in the water because I knew I didn’t really belong with the capital B Babywearers.

So while I think bw just makes sense, I don’t think it needs so much hoopla around it. Try a few different kinds of wraps, learn how to use them properly (youtube helps), find other parents who know about babywearing, and then see if it works for you.

Eventually, I am going to write an entire post about my love-hate relationship with Dr. Sears, but the way he discusses babywearing is one of the things that makes me dislike him. He brings it up like it will almost always calm your baby and that all babies will love it. This is so NOT true. Babywearing really worked for his kids and a lot of other’s, but just like anything else in parenting, it doesn’t work for all.

I see babywearing as just one more tool in my belt for survival. Some days it works and others it doesn’t. So if you are thinking about trying it, I totally encourage you to do so. It can be really helpful, and it doesn’t mean you have to join the anti-vaccine-homeschooling-vegan-gentle parenting-cloth diapering parents. Unfortunately, these types of parents are predominantly white and middle/upper class. I’d love to see babywearing become popular in other socioeconomic communities, but I think it has to become more practical and friendly in its message.

Be lukewarm about it. Buy one used on Craigslist. Then drink beer with ease and tell me what you think.

jimmy babywear

 

Guest Post: We’re Not Building Character Here

daddy sleep

 

 

Here’s a guest post from my better-half about one thing that all parents are obsessed with– sleep. You can read more about my husband’s adventures in fatherhood here. Also, if you have any topics that you’d like to write about or you’d like me to write about, let me know.

 

 

We’re not building character here.

That was a regular refrain in our house during the first three(ish) months of Mae’s life. It was an all-purpose justification for behaviors that bordered on parental misconduct: five quiet minutes of pointing her toward the television. Three hours of blissful sleep as Mae snoozed on my chest,  ignoring the risk that she could tumble off or I could roll over and crush her.

“We’re not building character here,” Megan and I would tell ourselves and each other. “You can’t spoil a newborn, and we’re just supposed to keep her alive at this point.” It felt like real parenting — the books may advise this or that, but when the rubber hits the road, you do what you must, dammit.

Now that the unspoilable fourth trimester is over, though, I’m feeling the burden of character-building. Sleep is at the heart of the issue (and of everything else in our lives now). Our plan for sleep training has always been to try no-cry solutions around six months and, if Mae didn’t respond to them, attempt cry-it-out methods.

As is often (always?) the case, our plans shifted or disappeared when reality interfered. Mae’s colic subsided around 14 or 15 weeks, but it gave rise to long, nightly bouts of exercise-ball bouncing to get her to sleep. Bedtime slipped from 8 p.m. to 8:30 to 10. Mae’s never been fond of daytime napping, and Megan and I worried about her diminishing nighttime sleep. We also worried about the total lack of interaction between us. The bedtime bouncing left us too spent for more than cursory exchanges.

Eventually, we decided to accelerate the sleep training schedule. After brief, ineffective flirtations with gentler approaches, we’ve done two bursts of cry-it-out “training.” Each emerged the same way: one night, Megan and I were taking our customary turns bouncing with Mae to get her to sleep. After an hour (or two), we gave out, put her in her Rock-and-Play and (gulp) let her cry.

That first time (in mid-June), we did three nights. Mae was 16 weeks old. The first night, we sat on the porch with the monitor and took turns checking on her. At 2-, 5- and then repeating 10-minute increments — just as Dr. Ferber advises — one of us went into her room, told her she was going to be OK and walked back out.

She found our reassurances unconvincing.

After 45 minutes, she fell asleep and didn’t wake until morning. Each of the next two nights, she cried for less than 10 minutes before falling asleep. One night, she woke briefly at midnight; the other, she slept straight through.

Not bad, right?

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Those three days were the most self-righteous of my still-brief tenure as a father. I’m not a cry-it-out advocate, but I don’t object to it, either. I don’t believe it teaches kids to expect abandonment. I do believe that, for babies, self-soothing is the first step toward developing higher-level coping skills down the line. Self-soothing is a step toward character-building.

Letting Mae cry was physically wrenching. It also felt like real parenting. We were putting Mae’s long-term interests — her need for good rest, her current and future coping skills — ahead of the short-term pain of crying. “Let other parents coddle their kids,” I thought. “We’re teaching ours.”

But crying it out was less successful with naps. Mae cried as long as she slept, and those diminishing returns led us to back off on sleep training.

Since then, Mae’s sleep has been all over the place. She’s had nights where she awoke every two hours. She’s had nights where she woke up only once. Some days, she takes multiple 60-, 90- and even 120-minute naps. Other days, half-hour naps come only with sweat-drenching struggle.

The four-month sleep regression is real. And it’s craptacular.

The nightly grappling led to our second impromptu round with crying it out. On a Saturday night, Mae fought with both of us for more than an hour. We laid her down, again retreated to the porch with the monitor, and let her go. The check-ins seemed ineffective in June, so we bypassed them.

On the first night, I went into her room after 45 minutes, soothed her for a few minutes, and she slept through the night. Night two: 30 minutes of crying, 10 minutes of soothing, a full night of sleep.

I’m feeling less self-assured this time, though. Something happened the first night that … I’m not sure if it’s changed my perspective on cry-it-out. It’s stuck with me, though. When I picked her up, the crying stopped almost immediately. But her little body couldn’t calm itself so quickly — for two or three minutes, she alternated sniffles with barely audible whimpers.

That pitiful sound — the heave in her throat, the whimpers that couldn’t quite escape her windpipe — has haunted me. I hear it when I lie down to sleep, in the car, when I’m working. I’m not sure what that means for our sleep training plans. But I’ll be less self-righteous about whatever we do.

 

Tell A Mom Tuesdays

I heard about this concept on the One Bad Mother podcast, which is hilarious and wonderful and all parents need to listen to it. So every Tuesday I will be giving a shout out to a mom, just telling her she’s doing a great job. I’m doing this because so much out there on the internet fuels the “mommy wars” or is advice driven or judgmental. I think we need spaces that are just about praising moms.

This Tuesday, I’d like to write about my good friend Jennifer Buck. Jennifer is the mother of six-month-old twin girls, Kate and Claire. She’s the mother of twins. Enough said, right? I’ll go on a little more.

Jennifer delights in her babies. She’s one of my mother-friends that always reminds me to find joy in every small milestone. Kate and Claire are a month older than Mae, so Jennifer and I went through our pregnancies together and now our babies’ first years. She’s been a friend who I can share honestly with and most importantly, we both know how to laugh at ourselves and each other! Humor may be the most important mommy-tool of all, and Jennifer has been a giggler since I met her in high school. How wonderful it will be for her girls to grow up around a woman like that. I remember that I could find my mom when we were out shopping by listening for her laughter. I think Jennifer’s girls will do the same.

Here’s to you, Jennifer Buck! You are doing one helluva good job! I hope Kate and Claire are as kind, thoughtful, and funny as you.

Maybe Mae got her chin dimple from Jennifer? ;)

Maybe Mae got her chin dimple from Jennifer? I tell Mae it’s where God took a bite out of her because she was so sweet, and so is Jennifer.

 

And I want to encourage all of you to #tellamom today and every Tuesday. We could start our own positive revolution.