Advice I wish I’d Had Before My First Baby

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This has been an exciting week for our family: Christmas, snow days, kids + Daddy home on vacation, beloved cousins coming to visit…and the imminent arrival of a new baby!

My sister is due to have her first baby any second now. Well, technically, she was due to have the baby a few days ago, but just as a watched pot never boils so, too, does a much-anticipated baby never arrives. At any rate, we’re all waiting on pins and needles waiting for this baby. And as I’ve been waiting on my pins and needles I’ve been doing some thinking about the journey my sister is about to embark on: childbirth and motherhood.

Like all type-A personality first-time mothers, I read every pregnancy book under the sun when I was expecting my first baby. Real life experience, however, has taught me a few lessons that none of the pregnancy books prepared me for. And in light of my own lightbulb moments, I am going to share the advice I wish I’d had before birthing my first baby:

Get the dang epidural.
Yes, it is medically-preferable to have a natural childbirth with no drugs entering your system. But it is also me-preferable to not endure 40+ hours of excruciating pain when there is a simple (and legal!) option available. I “went natural” for my first two births only to end up with emergency c-sections (and the epidurals that go with them) both times. Receiving pain medication/an epidural/help of any kind does not make you weak or inferior. Looking back, I wish that I would have been alright with accepting the aid of an epidural long before I was at my literal breaking point.

If you feed your baby formula, or choose disposable diapers over cloth, or co-sleep, or _____ you are not a bad mother.
Oh my goodness! Why is this still such an issue? Just do what’s right for you and your baby in your situation, and that will be what’s best for the only people that matter in that situation: you and your own baby. The end.

When you leave the hospital after childbirth you will still look pregnant.
This was a sore disappointment for me. It will take weeks, months, years, maybe never before you will look again like you did before you were pregnant. Just think of this as an excuse to go shopping for fun new clothes (even if they are a size or two up from where they used to be) and remind yourself that your body made a freaking human being and is pretty stinking incredible.

Breastfeeding will not always feel like H-E-Double Hockey Sticks
I remember those first days of breastfeeding were, in many ways, more painful than actually giving birth. I wondered how other “more experienced” moms could just stuff a baby under their shirt in public and continue a conversation while this same searing pain seized their body. Well, here’s their secret: It doesn’t always hurt (Can I get an amen?!). After a week or two your body will adjust and it will not feel like a thousand bees are stinging your most sensitive regions every time your baby has to eat.
*Sidenote* If you are experiencing extreme or prolonged pain, definitely ignore my blog and talk to your doctor instead!

Even when you screw up (which you will), you are still the best thing that’s ever happened to your kid.
You are a mom now, so own it. You do 99% of The Stuff with your ultimate aim being to do what’s best for your child. So what if you mess up now and then? We all do! It’s called being human! When you yell at your kid for leaving Legos on the stairs again or hide in the bathroom to check your email while your toddler roams the house moaning, “Mama? Mama? MAMA?” just cut yourself a little slack. Trust yourself. Apologize if you need to, give a hug, and move on.

Some day your baby will sleep.
This isn’t so much advice as just a bit of reassurance. You will reach levels of exhaustion that you didn’t know were possible to achieve. Hang on, Mama. Because some day. Some day, that baby will sleep. And it will be the best night of your life.

Forget About Cooking.
It is totally acceptable (and recommended) to eat a combination of frozen food, pre-made meals, cereal, and take-out for at least a year after your baby is born. Don’t stress out about making gourmet meals (or even decent meals, for that matter) for a good, long while.

Which brings me to my next point:

Seek and accept help.
I am still working on this one, but it’s a lesson that has sunk in more and more with each child. By baby #3 I finally came to the realization that no, I can NOT handle everything alone. In fact, I really should not even try to do everything alone. If someone offers to bring you a meal or run an errand for you, say yes. If you need someone to bring you a meal or run an errand for you, ask them. Find a friend, a family member, a mom down the street who you can call on, and do it. It takes a village, right?

Which brings me to my next point:

Find your tribe.
Life is not something you should go through alone–we were created for community, and at no point in my life has community been more critical than when I was a new mom. Find some other like-minded moms who are going through the same thing as you, some women who you can swap ideas and stories with. This can happen organically or through organizations (there are TONS of fantastic mom groups out there!). My motto: Stay connected to stay sane!

Don’t enjoy every moment.
People always say to enjoy every moment of motherhood, to love every second because before you know it the kids will be gone. Yes and no. Yes, motherhood offers countless moments to enjoy. Yes, you will blink and your baby will be starting kindergarten, then you’ll blink again and he’ll be moving out. But, no, don’t enjoy every moment. Motherhood is also full of unfathomable difficulties and tough choices and actual real pain. You don’t have to enjoy that. If you’re struggling, that is totally normal. Persevere through the difficult, and there will be new joys to find on the other side.

Laugh
On a daily basis I come across situations where I have the option of crying or laughing. The sensible option would probably be to cry, but whenever I’m with it enough to choose, I choose to laugh. You’re having a terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad day? The kids team up together to utterly destroy your house while your back is turned? Your preschooler has a bathroom emergency in a public park with no restroom? Laugh, take a blackmail photo, and clean it up. LIKE A BOSS.

Pray
There is no problem too big, no sleepless night too long, no tantrum too loud that prayer can not help. Lean on prayer in the good times and the hard times alike, and I promise you it will work!

To my sister and all of the other mamas just starting out, congratulations! You’re about to embark on the greatest journey of your life. Embrace the ups and downs and the twists and turns. Enjoy the great moments and persevere through the difficult ones. You’re amazing, and you’ve got this!

The Last Last Time

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When I was a new mom and I would think about what the future would hold for me and my babies, I always thought of the firsts. The first time my baby would smile at me. The first time he would say “Mama!”. The first time he would roll over. THE FIRST TIME HE WOULD SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT (Can I get an AMEN?!). Even now as we have entered the elementary school years, I can’t help but anticipate the other firsts that await us: Losing their first tooth, reading their first chapter book…and on and on with firsts until they’re even older than I am now.

The firsts are exciting. We look forward to the firsts and the new doors that they open. What I was’t prepared for, though, was the lasts. With most lasts, you don’t realize it’s the last time that particular thing is happening until it’s already over. By the time you realize your baby isn’t crawling any more, he’s already crawled his last crawl. By the time you realize your baby isn’t saying “pas-ketti” for “spaghetti” anymore, it’s too late to capture that adorable mispronounced word on video.

We have three children and our youngest, Hannah, is our last baby. Being our last baby, I am particularly aware of the stages that Hannah leaves behind because the last time she does something is, well, the last last time that I get to experience that particular thing with my own children. For the past 20 months I’ve been experiencing all of the firsts, and the lasts, for the last time with Hannah.

This past week I had one of my most significant last lasts to date: I decided to wean Hannah from nursing. I’d already nursed her longer than either of the boys (With David I quit nursing at 13 months because I found out I was pregnant and I needed a break, and with Jacob I quit nursing at about 15 months because he just decided one day that we were done and that was that.)–but with this last baby I wanted to hold onto that special bond for a bit longer. I told myself that we’d continue nursing until after our trip to Ireland so I could have that “trick in my bag” if she got fussy on the airplane or in the hotel room late at night, but after we got home it was time to cut her off.

This last would be different. It would be my last last. I’d already had my last time nursing each of my boys, but this would be my last time ever nursing a baby. It was significant. I knew that I was weaning her, and I knew when our last time nursing would be. I have spent approximately 4.5 out of the past 7 years nursing a baby and, to be quite honest, I was heartbroken that this stage of life was ending.

The precious, quiet moments alone with my babies, the snuggles, the soft sounds of their rhythmic breathing–the nourishing of their bodies and my soul. This thing that had been such a huge part of my life would soon be just memories, and I could hardly stand the thought of losing it forever.

And yet, it was time. When the day came to experience this last last together, I just took a moment to soak it in. I studied Hannah’s smooth face and her wispy hair and tiny hands resting on my chest. I prayed over her as I often did when I was nursing my children. I thought about the baby she was and the little girl she is becoming. And then, I let her go.

This stage was over for the last last time.

As my children grow there will be beginnings and endings and everything in between. There will be times when it will be easy to push them out (Like two weeks ago when I gave David a proclamation that I was done with the carpool line circus and now he was an official card-carrying school bus rider). And there will be times when no matter how hard I want to hang on to them, I will have to let them go (Like when they decide they want to drive a car or go out on a date or–I don’t know if I can even say it–move away to college.).

Parenting and life, as it turns out, is really just a series of firsts and lasts. How you handle those firsts and lasts, though, is what will define your life. So, I will embrace my lasts as I’ve embraced my firsts–with openness for what lies ahead. Because no matter how many firsts or lasts there are, one thing will remain constant: there is never a last adventure.  So today we embark this new stage of adventures together, another day older and another day bigger. And do you know what? I think this will be our best adventure yet.

Here’s to the firsts and the lasts, friends, and the adventures that lie ahead!

A Day In The Life of 3 Kids

img_0204I have a few friends who are currently pregnant with their third child. This, of course, has spurred many-a-question about what this mystical/maniacal life with three children actually looks like. It’s hard to say exactly what life is like with three kids–it’s the most wonderful and most busy my life has ever been! Perhaps the best way to demonstrate what life is like with three kids is to SHOW you what life is like with three kids.

Here is a typical day for our family, with our three kids aged 1, 4, and 6:

6:00  Wake up to an alarm. Forget the days of getting to “sleep in” until the children wake up on their own, because now that you have three children at least one of them is old enough to be in REAL school (i.e. a school that takes attendance and administers tardies to late parents). Which means you have to get your tired bum out of bed before the true chaos begins so you can get a head start on the 1.3 million things that must be done before 8 AM.

6:02   Go to the bathroom in peace. Savor this moment, because it is the only time you will pee without an audience today.

6:05   Prepare coffee/tea/install IV line of caffeine

6:15   Get out the lunchboxes that you started packing last night. Finish filling them with the “fresh stuff” that you didn’t want to get moldy and/or soggy overnight.

6:20   Greet the early bird (Kid 2) and offer him a banana on the couch so you can start making breakfast.

6:21   Start making breakfast

6:22   Hear the baby (Kid 3) waking up on the baby monitor

6:23   Nurse baby, change diaper, dress baby. Make a mental note to savor these last few months with a baby who snuggles into your arms and can’t talk back.

6:35  Return to the kitchen to resume making breakfast. Pause briefly to scrub crayon off the couch where Kid 1 decided to practice his modern art skills while you were otherwise disposed with the baby.

6:39  Dog is whining at the door and crossing her legs. Grab the leash, put the baby in the stroller, and take the dog out for a quick walk around the block.

6:50   Warm your coffee back up in the microwave while you resume the breakfast preparations.

6:51 Realize you’re out of eggs, and scrap the breakfast preparations. Pour bowls of cereal instead and call it good.

6:55  As you’re carrying the cereal bowls to the breakfast table, you hear squeals of “Moooooooooom!” coming from the bathroom. Kid 1 did his business, and needs help cleaning up. The only problem is, he started trying to “clean up” himself, and now we need to scrub and disinfect a large portion of the bathroom and unclog the toilet that just had an entire roll of toilet paper flushed down in a single go. Do what needs to be done.

7:07  Wash hands. Thoroughly.

7:08  Re-heat your coffee in the microwave.

7:09 Pour milk into the cereal bowls on the table and call the kids over to eat. WHERE IS KID 1?!?!

7:10  Go wake up Kid 1, “The Teenager”, who likes to party with his stuffed animals all night and sleep all morning.

7:13  Rush Kid 1 to the breakfast table and tell him to shovel that cereal in his mouth as fast as he can, because we have to go, Go, GO!

7:15  Sneak back to your bedroom to finish getting ready while your kids are busy eating breakfast

7:23  Hear a loud crash coming from the general direction of the breakfast table. You don’t hear any crying, so just ignore it.

7:25 Re-heat your coffee in the microwave

7:30  Wash dishes from the failed breakfast preparation and encourage kids to PLEASE EAT FASTER BECAUSE WE STILL HAVE TO GET DRESSED.

7:35 Go change baby’s post-breakfast diaper.

7:38  Help kids clear the breakfast table and return to their bedroom to get dressed.

7:40  Argue with a 4-year old about not wearing shorts and a t-shirt when it’s 40 degrees outside. Tantrum ensues.

7:48  Start the shoe hunt. Find multiple sets of shoes that actually fit your children and have both shoes from the pair happily residing together. Celebrate this victory by throwing fictional confetti in your mind.

7:53 Re-heat coffee in the microwave, and transfer it to a travel mug for the remainder of the morning.

7:54  Kiss your husband goodbye.

7:55  Put on coats and backpacks and head out to the minivan (You have 3 kids. You definitely own a minivan.)

8:00  Strap baby into her car seat while the big kids whine about who touched who and why they can’t buckle their own seatbelts.

8:10  Bring Kid 1 to the elementary school. Chat with parents about the news of the day, or nothing at all…it doesn’t really matter what you talk about, you’re just excited to talk to an adult who doesn’t hold you captive while regaling you with stories about Angry Birds or PJ Masks.

8:25  Do your special handshake and kiss goodbye with Kid 1 (He’s still young enough to let you kiss him goodbye. Remind yourself to enjoy these moments.).

8:30 Drive Kid 2 to preschool.

8:45  Give Kid 2 his special handshake and a kiss goodbye, because you still have a solid 2 years where that will still fly.

9:00  Stop at a trail on the way home so you can squeeze in some much-needed exercise (And by exercise, I mean push your baby in the stroller for a few minutes while she screams and angrily throws Cheerios at you.)

9:45  Drive home and get baby ready for her nap

10:00 NAP TIME!!!!
Do 3 loads of laundry (This is only today’s laundry. There will be more tomorrow.), empty the dishwasher, prep dinner, vacuum, pay bills, return phone calls, contemplate cleaning the bathroom but decide to save that one for later. Pat yourself on the back.

11:30 Wake baby up early from her nap because it’s time to start school pick-ups.

11:45  Shove a sandwich in your purse to munch on in the car while you’re driving hither and yonder.

12:00 Pick up Kid 2 from preschool.

12:15  Stop at the grocery store to stock up…for the third time this week. Three kids eat all the food and no matter how much you buy, you are always out of something.

1:30  Drop off groceries at home and feed Kid 2 and baby a snack.

1:35  Change baby’s post-snack diaper.

1:40  Back in the car to pick up Kid 1 from school.

2:00 Pick up Kid 1 from school. Feed him a snack in the car while you drive to swimming lessons/soccer practice/dance class/science club.

3:30  Feed all 3 kids their post-swimming/soccer/dance/science snack and drive back home

3:31  Baby falls asleep in the car because this is supposed to be her nap time, but since she is the third child she never gets proper naps. She will probably develop life-long sleeping problems because of her erratic baby nap schedule.

3:59  Pull into the driveway and pull your key out of the ignition. Baby wakes up immediately, and she’s ANGRY. She will stay angry until bedtime, because car-naps ruin life.

4:00  Unload kids and one gajillion THINGS from the minivan. Things breed and multiply in the minivan/house/yard/laundry pile when you have 3 children.

4:30  Read and do homework with Kid 1 while Kid 2 runs circles around you and baby screams at your feet.

5:00  All the kids are totally losing their sanity and self-control. This is the perfect time to start cooking dinner, so do that.

5:30 Pour yourself a glass of wine so you can finish making dinner.

6:00  Dinner is served! Watch in exhaustion as all 3 of your children proclaim their utter disgust at what you have prepared and claim that they are not hungry. They don’t eat a single bite.

6:30 Clean up from dinner and wash dishes while the baby pulls out and licks all of your Tupperware.

7:00  Bath time! Your 3 kids will splash so much water out of the tub that you won’t need to scrub the walls or  floors after all.

7:30  Make piles of pajamas on the floor and tell the big kids to get dressed while you get the baby ready for bed.

7:40 Come back from getting the baby ready for bed to find the big kids running around the living room partially dressed–they are wearing underwear. On their heads.

7:45  Wrestle the big kids into their pajamas and park them in front of the TV so you can put the baby to bed.

7:55  Muster up an ounce of energy to read a bedtime story to the big kids.

8:00  Lights out.

8:02  Fall onto the couch with a bar of chocolate and Netflix.

8:03  Pass out on the couch with a bar of chocolate and Netflix.

9:00  Feel your husband nudging you, and realize that you fell asleep on the couch again. Get up and finish your “night chores” (pack tomorrow’s lunches, run the dishwasher, fold the laundry from earlier today, sign the homework folder, re-stock the diaper bag).

10:00  Get into your real bed and call it a night.

10:01 Dream of a beautiful life that is full of joy and challenges and love.

6:00 AM   Wake up for a new day, and realize that your dream is actually your reality with 3 kids.

Dear Hannah: A Love Letter To My Daughter On Her First Birthday

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Dear Hannah,

Happy first birthday, darling! As I gaze at your sweet face I am at once questioning how a whole year has already passed since I first met you, and at the same time feeling as if you’ve been a part of me–a part of us–forever. I am so blessed to have shared this, your first year of many yet to come, with you.

Looking back at this year is like viewing a mosaic–many small pieces that come together to form a full picture. Small pieces like your first smile at 8 weeks old, and the thousands of smiles that have lit up the world since then. Small pieces like your tender cuddles,  your tiny body sinking into mine. Small pieces like your snarl nose when you’re feeling feisty. Small pieces like the way you sneeze three times every time you see a bright light. Small pieces every day, a thousand moments meshed together.

And then there are the bigger moments. The loving relationship you’ve already developed with your big brothers (May you always keep your big brothers close. Especially when you’re a teenager and claim that you’re ready for a boyfriend.). The bond you’ve created with your daddy (May you train him in what a princess is and how to treat her.). The growth you’ve made from a tiny, squirmy infant to an independent mover and self-feeder (May you continue to become more self-sufficient. Maybe even learn to wipe your own bum some day…and teach your brothers, too, will ya?).

This year has been a big year for our family, and I’m glad you got to join us on the journey! This year we gazed into the depths of the Grand Canyon and wondered at the massive granite walls of Yosemite. We dipped our toes in the Pacific Ocean (…and ate lots of Pacific Ocean sand. Lots of it. And by we, I mean you.). We flew on airplanes and drove the entire length of the West Coast. We fueled old relationships and made new friends. We learned and laughed and loved together. We had ups and downs and learning curves, but we made it. And, truly, we are all better for it.

So now, as you begin your second year, my prayer is that you will continue to grow into you. That you will realize more each day the you that God created you to be, and that he would bless that growth.  That you would learn to depend on God in the same way you now depend on me–for your very sustenance and life. I pray that you would know the same love and joy that you bring to me each and every day.

Thank you for joining me on this adventure called life–I can’t wait to see where life takes us this next year! Happiest of birthdays to you!

All my love,

Mommy

First Baby vs. Third Baby

I’ve been in this mommy gig for almost 6 years now (but don’t even get me STARTED on how my BABY is about to turn 6. SIX! No. Nuh-uh. Nope. I refuse to acknowledge that these babies of mine will soon outgrow me in wit and height, and I will cry IF I WANT TO.). A lot has changed in those six years–the age and size of my child(ren), the availability of new and improved baby paraphernalia, the fact that my doctor now advises feeding peanut butter to babies. We’ve gone from a family with just one baby, to a family with three children aged 5 and younger. The most notable change over the years, however, would have to be with myself.

I don’t know if I’ve become more wise over the years or if I’ve just given up, but the fact is, I do things differently now. Like, really differently. From my first baby six years ago to our third baby right now, my parenting style has…ahem…shifted. You can see this shift in basically every aspect of my parenting (or lack thereof). For example:

Healthy Eating
First baby:
I literally baked his first-birthday cake from the dirt of the earth. It was made from  stone-ground whole wheat flour, home-made applesauce (cooked from the apples I picked myself. Off an actual tree.), and organic angel kisses. Nothing but the most pure, natural ingredients for my little sunshine.

Third Baby:
I’m pretty sure she just ate an Oreo that had been wedged under the couch since before her conception. She is 7 months old.

Sleep Training:
First baby:
I read Happiest Baby On The Block cover to cover and I implemented the 5 S’s of “calming the fussies” like a BOSS. Happiest baby on the block? Check!

Third baby:
What? There’s a baby crying? Ah, no baby ever died from crying…right???

And while we’re on the topic of sleeping…

Naps:
First Baby:
All naps must be done in a crib, with baby sleeping flat on his back. Play soothing white noise in the background and minimize distractions. And, of course, while baby is sleeping I should work on getting some shut eye as well–after all, good mommies sleep when the baby sleeps!

Third Baby:
I forget that there even is a crib at home, because we’re never at home. Between preschool drop-off, kindergarten drop-off, grocery shopping, errands, exercise, preschool pick-up, and kindergarten pick-up there is exactly zero chance of this baby taking a nap in a crib. Carseats, strollers, baby carriers, a blanket on the grass, and my weary arms make excellent napping spots. Mommy hasn’t slept in 6 years, so we’re just gonna roll with it.

Mom’s fashion:
First baby:
Oh my goodness! My pre-pregnancy size-tiny jeans are snug! Oh, the despair and the agony! At least my perfectly styled hair with fresh highlights still looks cute!

Third bay:
I don’t even know what size I am any more because I refuse to look at those blasted numbers printed on the tags inside my pants. If they fit and I’m comfortable, that’s all that matters. I’ve named my muffin top “Frank”, and I’ve decided to make peace with him so we can be friends. I dress Frank in yoga pants and flowy tops most mornings, and we can all move on with our lives in harmony. And this is nothing to say of my shoes that have also grown with each baby that I’ve pushed out of my body.

My hair is worn in one of two fashionable styles: Top Knot or Low Knot, well out of the way of grabby baby fingers. My hair is tinged with gorgeous gray strands that I earned while chasing my boys across busy parking lots and rescuing them from precarious perches.

Public Breastfeeding
First Baby:
Hold on! Let me grab one of my four nursing covers and slip away to a private room where I can nurse in privacy and modesty.

Third Baby:
I’m already late for kindergarten pick-up, so I just whip it out in the Target parking lot. Privacy has been a myth since my toddler learned how to open the bathroom door, and I’ve already lost my modesty in a birthing suite three times. So, ya know, whatever, Bro.

Bathing:
First Baby:
Every-other-day bathing is ideal so you can practice proper hygiene without drying out baby’s skin. Between baths, make sure to dab at exposed skin with a warm, damp towel infused with essential oils and good chakra.

Third baby:
We went swimming in a public pool over the weekend. That should count for at least a week, right?

Receiving Unsolicited Advice
First baby:
Wow! What powerful insight. You’ve done this before, so you probably know what’s best. After all, what do I know–I’m just a new mom. Maybe I should just implement each piece of conflicting advice I get from a complete stranger who doesn’t know me, my situation, or my baby.

Third baby:
(Smiles and nods her head while rage boils from the deepest core of her being and smoke bellows out her ears)

Bodily functions
First baby:
Baby spits up on you and immediate panic sets in. You change your entire outfit, and that of the baby before setting about disinfecting all exposed areas.

Third baby:
Baby spits up on you and you wipe it off your shoulder with the end of your ponytail. The dog laps up any spillage that made its way to the floor. Eh, good enough.

Time Management
First baby:
WAH!!! I don’t have time for ANYTHING any more! Having a baby is hard work! How am I supposed to get ANYTHING done with a BABY?!?!

Third baby:
I only have the baby today?! Halelujah, sweet Jesus! I have a whole hour to get stuff done…hmmm…what should we do? I know! Let’s go get our nails done, do our monthly Costco shopping trip, get an oil change, and run a half-marathon. Piece of cake! (Oooh! Maybe we should get some cake, too…)

Date Night:
First baby:
Date night is important. We’ll call on our army of local family and same-life-stage friends to help babysit so we can get out at least once a week for some alone time to recharge and reconnect.

Third baby:
Nobody wants to babysit two crazy boys and a baby. Not even if you pay them. We are in the “Netflix and a bottle of wine on the couch after bedtime, but try not to fall asleep before the end of the movie” stage of life. And I’m okay with that, because I can’t stay awake past 9 PM anyway.

Dressing The Baby
First baby (a boy):
Pajamas every day. That should do it.

Third baby (a girl):
I spend tens of minutes that I don’t have each morning styling the fluffliest, furliest, adorable-est frock and bow combination for this sweet flower baby. Tutu? Check. Tights that look like ballet slippers? Check. Sparkly tiara? Check. Now, let’s create an excuse for an outing so we can parade the baby in public.

A Mother’s Love
First baby:
I love you more than the breath of life itself. I would not even hesitate to lay in front of a barreling train for you. In fact, I’ll even watch 3 episodes of Caillou in a row with you just to see you smile. Sacrifice, baby. I’d give it all for you.

Third baby:
I love you more than the breath of life itself. I would not even hesitate to lay in front of a barreling train for you. In fact, I’ll even watch 3 episodes of Caillou in a row with you just to see you smile. Sacrifice, baby. I’d give it all for you.

Some things change (okay, MOST things change), but the important ones will always remain the same. To each of my babies: I cherish you, I’m for you, I love you. And that, my friends is one thing that will never ever ever change.

Hannah’s Birth Story

IMG_1220If there is one lesson I have learned as a mother it is this: I am NOT the one who is in control. I am repeatedly reminded of this basic fact as I live out my motherhood journey, and it is never too soon to learn this lesson anew. Starting, for instance, at birth.

None of my children have followed the birth plan I laid out for them. I don’t want to boast, but they were excellent birth plans. They were detailed and specific and research-based plans. I’m fairly certain that these birth plans would have set all of us up for both short-term and life-long success–my kids probably would have grown up to be president if they’d just followed the dang plan. And yet. They had their own plans. I am NOT the one who is in control. So begins the story of Hannah.

After having two long, difficult labors with my boys that both ended in emergency C-sections, we decided to cut straight to the chase with our third baby and schedule a C-section for her birth. None of that painful labor business, thank you very much. Considering how much planning I had done for both of my previous births, I was quite proud of myself for relinquishing control on this, our final birth. After all, I already knew that I could not control how the labor and delivery would turn out so I was willing to put it all at the hands of my fully-capable doctor. At least then, I thought, someone I trust will be in control.

We went ahead and scheduled the delivery for 11:45 on Tuesday, February 9th, one week before my due date. David had been born nearly two weeks late, and Jacob had been born a week early, so we figured this would give us a good window of time to get the baby out safely (and with none of that painful labor business, thank you very much).

The week leading up to our scheduled delivery was, in usual Allison-style, quite busy. Since I knew the exact hour our baby would be born I was overly-excited and needed some distraction. The boys and I “did school”, we went to Playhouse on Wednesday, and spent the whole day on Friday at Happy Hollow riding the rides and petting the animals and painting our faces.

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On Saturday Jon and I snuck out for a little date (pedicures for my choice, and the liquor store to restore Jon’s masculinity). Then there was this little thing called the Superbowl that was being hosted a few miles from our house the Sunday before our scheduled delivery. The boys and I drove out to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara to pose for a few photos and see where all the action would be going down.

On Sunday we went to church and small group, then came home to tidy up a bit before heading over to our neighbor’s house for a Superbowl party. We had a great time Sunday night “watching” football (and by watching football I mean the kids played outside on our neighbors’ new playground while the grown ups ate copious amounts of food and chatted with the TV running in the background).

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My mom flew into town from Seattle late that night and Jon picked her up from the airport a bit after 11:00 PM. I was able to relax a bit knowing that Mom was finally here–she was going to be our primary caretaker for the two wild banshees (David and Jacob) when we went to the hospital later that week. Everything was going exactly to plan.

And then. I’d been having a hard time sleeping Sunday night–at 39 weeks pregnant I had to get up every hour or so to visit the restroom, and then when I went back to bed I couldn’t get comfortable and my mind was racing with all the thoughts of what was about to come. Plus, all that spicy food from the Superbowl party wasn’t settling too well. At least, that’s what I thought at first when I started having abdominal pain a bit after 5 AM that Monday morning.

However, when the abdominal pain started coming and going in waves every 4-5 minutes I realized that this was not due to spicy BBQ pork or chili. No, these were contractions. Holy moly, I was in labor.

By 6:00 the contractions were coming every 2-4 minutes and getting stronger, and I decided this was actually happening and figured it was time to wake everyone up to share the news. Jon (groggily) jumped out of bed to take a quick shower and pack his bag while I tried to get in touch with my doctor. Since we already had A PLAN, however, I did not have the necessary after-hours phone numbers to contact my OB. I called the hospital and they told me to just come straight in and they’d get in touch with my doctor for me.

I went downstairs to greet my mom (I’d already gone to bed the night before when she arrived) and let her know about the recent turn of events. While I was chatting with her in her room the boys woke up next door and I went in to tell them the exciting news: their sister was coming TODAY!

At about 7:00 Jon and I loaded into the car and took the 10 minute drive down to the hospital. The morning commute had already started but, thankfully, rush hour was nowhere near in full force at that early hour as we made our way as quickly as legally possible down Highway 17.

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When we arrived at the hospital I went to the patient registration area because that’s what I remembered to do from our hospital tour that we’d taken a few weeks earlier. When I sat down at the registration desk (ID and insurance paperwork in hand) ready to go through the necessary paperwork, the representative just gawked at me and said, “Are you in LABOR?! You have to go straight up to labor and delivery!”. Oh yeah, I’d forgotten–this was one of those parts that was NOT part of the plan.

Jon went to move our car to a legal parking spot while I found my way up to the correct floor of the hospital. Since I’d already called to notify them that I was coming in, they were ready for me and whisked me straight to a L&D prep room. I changed into a glamorous pink gown that had so many holes in it I couldn’t figure out where to put through my arms–turns out the breast-feeding holes were NOT the correct place.

Once we were in the prep room, things moved very quickly. My labor was progressing rapidly–after only 2 hours I was already 4 cm dilated, fully effaced, and having contractions lasting for about a minute every 2 minutes. Since my previous labors had lasted 24 and 48 hours, I was surprised at the speed this baby was coming. I was progressing so quickly that the nurses asked me if I wanted to try for a vaginal delivery, but that was NOT THE PLAN. I declined their offer and told them I wanted to stick with the C-section.

Shortly after we arrived at the hospital, my OB (Dr. Kilkenny–she’s Irish and I love her and would truly like to be her friend) arrived. Mondays are typically her day off, and she had just gotten up to meet with her personal trainer when she got the call to come straight to the hospital instead. Over the past year I’ve developed a strong relationship with Dr. Kilkenny–we’ve been through a lot together–and I was so glad that she was there to be the one delivering our baby.

Just after 8:00 I was prepped and set for surgery so they wheeled me down to the OR. Once in the OR I got my spinal and was ready to go. It was time to get this baby show on the road.

At 8:39 AM on Monday, February 8, 2016, our daughter made her debut (and for those of you who are the stat-seeking sorts, she weighed 7 pounds and was 20 inches long). Hannah Doreen entered the world, gorgeous and perfect, without so much as a squeal of greeting–she was wide-eyed and curious, simply taking in this amazing new world in which she found herself.

Alrighty, quick time out here–I have to make a note about Hannah’s name.

Sticking with the Biblical name tradition we already had going with our children, we chose Hannah. I have always found inspiration in the Biblical story of Hannah–she had great faith and obedience to the Lord, and she found great favor in His eyes. The name Hannah means grace, which is fitting for the circumstances we find ourselves in welcoming a child into our family.

Her middle name, Doreen, was the name of Jon’s beloved grandmother who passed away this November. Gramma Doreen played an integral part in our family and it is no stretch to say that Jon and I would not be where we are today without her care and support. She loved our children deeply and it was her greatest desire to meet her first great-granddaughter before she passed. In addition to the personal connection we have with this name, we also discovered that the name Doreen is of Irish origin (another place we have a deep personal connection with) and one of it’s meanings is gift (which, of course, she is). Little Hannah Doreen, our grace gift.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled birth story.

While a nurse and Jon took Hannah next door to clean her up and take her vitals, the doctors completed my surgery and got me stitched up. It was then that I learned Hannah had been Frank Breech in my womb, basically doing a gymnasts pike position instead of diving head-down ready for delivery. She almost certainly would not have been born naturally. I was grateful all over again that I decided to stick with our plan for a repeat C-section and hadn’t changed my mind last-minute to give V-BAC another try!

Once I was all stitched up I rode on a hover mattress onto my recovery bed (I also had a robot clean my bathroom at the hospital. True story. Welcome to Silicon Valley.) and was wheeled next door for 2 hours of bonding time with my new daughter. We were immediately placed skin-to-skin and she began nursing straight away. I couldn’t believe how beautiful and tiny and perfect she was. Oh my, I was in love.

Our next stop was our new home-away-from-home: our own personal recovery room in the maternity ward. We were in room 271–a perfectly functional space with a hospital bed for mom, a rolling cart bassinet for baby, and a too-short fold-out chair/bed for Dad. Plus, there was a nice view of the parking lot two floors below (Daddy liked being able to keep an eye on our car, so this was an actual perk).

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Over the next two days we mostly hung out in our room, nursed a very mouthy baby around the clock, scorned the nurses who woke us up every two hours to check my stats, and took infinity photos of our precious baby.

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We were not alone in our stay in the maternity ward–in fact Hannah was born right in the middle of a baby boom. Turns out her birthday was the first day of the Chinese New Year (year of the Monkey…quite fitting for our family of little monkeys!). Since it is considered good luck to be born during the New Year–and we live in an area with one of the highest-density Chinese populations outside of mainland China–it was a very popular day at the hospital for scheduled C-sections and inductions.

The boys and my mom were able to come by for a few hours each day for little visits with their new sister. I have never seen David and Jacob so excited and gentle and affectionate–it was love at first sight for them, too. On Hannah’s birthday they brought a gift for their new sister: an adorable stuffed pink pig, swaddling blankets, and HEADBANDS (oh my goodness, I’m going to have to buy stock in headbands before we go broke on my shopping binges). Hannah is such a thoughtful baby that she also brought gifts for her big brothers: a new movie and balloons that they could blow up and shape into animals and swords.

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Our visitors also brought cupcakes so we could have a little birthday party for Hannah. The best part of the cupcakes, though, is that they were actually frosted cornbread muffins. In my rush to leave the house that morning I had spouted off instructions to my mom to take the cupcakes out of the freezer and frost them to bring to the hospital…only she went to our second freezer and took out corn muffins instead! No worries, though, because–as always–the Funfetti frosting saved the day.

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Unfortunately I couldn’t eat the cornbread-cupcakes that first day because the anesthesia I’d had for my surgery was making me nauseous. After throwing up a few times that morning–and getting some good anti-nausea medicine in my system–I felt much better and was quickly on the road to recovery.

I was able to get up and start walking around my room by the end of day 1 and, despite what the doctors had expected, we were ready to go home on day 2. We got our hospital discharge papers on Wednesday, February 10–still 5 days before my February 15 due date–and went back to our real home sweet home.

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We are settling in well to being home again, this time as a family of five.

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I still can’t believe that we have three kids–that this will be our new forever life. It is so much more wonderful than I could have dreamed of, and infinity better than I ever could have planned. So, even though this birth did not exactly go according to plan, it was exactly as it should have been. This is our life, and we are abundantly blessed.

Welcome to the world, little Hannah. We are so glad you’re here!

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To My Daughter On The Eve Of Her Birth

Disclaimer: I started writing this post a few days ago in preparation for my scheduled C-section today. Baby had other plans, though, and arrived on her own schedule a day early! I still wanted to share my thoughts leading up to her birth, though, so I’ll share this with you on the day AFTER her birth! Watch for her whole birth story coming soon! 

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Dear baby girl,
Tomorrow our world will change forever!

We have been waiting these past nine months–and for years before that–for this very moment. And now that it is here, I can hardly believe it. Tomorrow will be the culmination of our prayers and our wondering and our waiting: you will be born. No longer will we hold you in just our hearts and in my womb, but we will hold you close in our arms. I. Can’t. Wait.

Even though we haven’t officially met yet, I feel like I already know you so well. We’ve already had 39 weeks together as one being, intimately connected through every moment of your life thus far. I have to thank you, because during this pregnancy you have been very good to me (well, as long as you don’t count those first three months when I constantly felt like I was stumbling off the teacup ride and would puke any time I saw a salad). Our doctor has commented several times that we are a model pregnancy and she wishes that every patient of hers would be so “easy”. I think we’ll make a great team!

At every prenatal appointment when I hear your heartbeat on the doppler I still get tears in my eyes because it is the sound of your beautiful life.  I can’t wait to meet you and see who you become–to witness the outpourings of that beautiful heart and to share in the love that will come from it. I want to know what will touch your heart and what will trouble it, what will make it content and what will make it beat a bit faster. I look forward to knowing who you are, from the inside out.

I can’t wait to see you. I keep wondering what you will look like–will you resemble your brothers with light hair and piercing blue eyes? Or will you be the kid who picks up some of my genes and have my green eyes…maybe even red hair like your grandpa? Will you be soft and squishy or long and lean? Tomorrow I will gaze at your face for the first time and it will be like meeting a stranger–a stranger who I already love.

Your brothers can’t wait to meet you, either. Every day they smother my belly with kisses and whisper sweet words to you.  David is excited to show you all of his toys and share his favorite movies with you. Jacob still thinks that you’ll be sleeping with him in his bed every night so he can give you extra cuddles. They adore you already, baby girl.

As you grow up, your brothers will care for you and defend you, teach you and–most likely–drive you completely bananas. Just know that they love you very much–and I’ll do my best to remind you of this when I have to unbury you from a mountain of Toy Story toys or rock you back to sleep because they’re running around outside your bedroom during nap time like the wild banshees that they are. They mean well, and I pray that the three of you will have an amazing relationship throughout your lives.

Speaking of amazing relationships, I can’t wait to see your daddy doting on you. He has wanted a daughter for as long as I’ve known him, and I know that you will be his little princess! Your daddy is an incredible man and he will treat you the way you should be treated: with love, respect, encouragement, and dedication. I am proud that you will have such a worthy man as your role model–he will be your daddy, but he will also be your biggest fan.

So, as we close in on these last few hours before our first meeting, know that you are already cherished. Sure, there will be lots of craziness in your life–that just goes with the territory when you’re the third child born into a busy family. But know this: no matter how crazy life may get, you are loved, you are treasured, and you will be welcomed with the most open of arms.

I love you, baby girl, and I so look forward to being your mother!

Always and forever,

Mommy

P.S. Happy early birthday–I just wanted to be the first one to say it! Tomorrow we shall have cake 🙂

 

 

Buh-Bye, Bump

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I have been pregnant for just over 2 of the last 5 1/2 years, which means I’ve had loads of time with my bump (my bump, of course, being the human child/ren growing inside my womb). It’s surreal for me to think, then, that this stage of my life is nearly over. Forever. In just a few days our last child will be born and I will never again have a bump (flabby trophy tummy excepted, of course). It’s a bitter-sweet realization.

My first pregnancy bump was highly anticipated. I expected my belly to start growing exponentially the moment that pee stick turned positive. I couldn’t wait to have that pregnancy glow and not be able to see my toes. Seriously, this is the stuff dreams my dreams were made of. Each day I would examine my still-flat tummy in the mirror and disappointedly wonder why it still looked so toned (back in those days I was a marathon runner, not a multigravida).

As the months progressed, however, my bump (finally) started to grow.

pregnancy 010And grow (Note the moving boxes. Why do we always move when I’m pregnant?)…

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And grow…

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And grow!

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That baby we’d been waiting for was making his presence known, and I adored my bump. We spent months planning obsessing over every aspect of our baby’s birth and arrival. We painted the baby’s room and I posed with my bump in the baby’s new nursery. I wanted everything to be perfect.

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As holidays approached, I even decorated my bump in celebration. Pregnancy was so much fun!

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I had grown quite attached to my bump, but when my baby’s due date came and went…and 10 more days passed…I gave my bump an official eviction notice. It worked, and on October 27, 2010 our first child entered the world.

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Exactly one year after I said goodbye to Bump #1, I started growing Bump #2. This time around we got to share our baby joy with…our baby. Looking back at some of these photos makes me wonder what we were thinking–seriously, we had TWO BABIES!

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Bump #2 progressed through the natural progression of fruit growth, from the size of a poppyseed, to an orange, to a fully ripe watermelon.15 weeks baby 2 - 0006

It was so much fun sharing Bump #2 with Big Brother and joining him in his wonder and curiosity about the baby that was growing in Mommy’s tummy.
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And although we knew all our lives were about to change, we knew with certainty that it would be a change for the better.IMG_2228

A few years passed, and there was no bump. In those bump-less years our family learned what it was like to raise little boys–to splash in puddles and collect sticks weapons of mass destruction and wrestle before bed. They were sweet years that I will always hold dear.

After we got good and settled into our little life and our routines and our not-needing-diaper-ness, we decided to mix things up again. Enter Bump #3.

I was elated to be pregnant again–and, if I’m totally honest–absolutely terrified. We had a long road getting to Bump #3 and I just wanted everything to go smoothly. That, paired with the fact that I knew this would be our last baby, made me cherish this bump more than I might have otherwise.

From the very beginning, I was in love with Bump #3.
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When we found out that Bump #3 was a she, I absolutely did not believe it. After all, we were a boy family and I had gotten so good at puddles and sticks and wrestles. Once I got past the shock of the whole girl thing, though, I fully embraced it. I’m thrilled that I will get to introduce dolls and dancing and sweet cuddles to our usual routine of puddles and sticks and wrestles.IMG_7946

As this baby (and my belly grew) I got to experience the sheer joy of anticipation with our big boys. This was probably the greatest difference with Bump #3–the fact that we had two older children who totally understood what was happening and absolutely adored their baby. The questions and the cuddles and the doting words and the shirt-lifting-belly-revealing-in-public never end with these two.IMG_8086

And even though each of my bumps has been its own unique experience, each has brought our family one step closer to completeness. I’ll be a bit sad to say goodbye to my bump for the last time–to say goodbye to the excitement and expectation that it has always brought. In the end, though, I know that something even better is coming.

In a few days I will meet my daughter and the wait will finally be over. My bump will be gone forever, but it will signal the start of our next grand adventure. And I’m ready–ready for the goodbye, and even more ready for the

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Reflections at 1 Year Post-Miscarriage

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You know how there are those things in your life that define you–that change you? Those catalyst events that occur, and you know that you will never be the same again. Last year I experienced one such occasion, and it has forever altered my very being.

One year ago this week I miscarried what would have been our third child. I’ve written about this topic several times this year because it’s been cathartic for me and has been a huge part of my healing process. I feel very strongly that my pain should not be wasted, and if my story can help even one other person, then I will continue telling it. Now that it’s been one full year I want to revisit my thoughts–mostly just to check in with myself, but also to share with you about how God has worked in my life this past year. So much has changed…and yet some has still stayed the same.

There is still not a single day that goes by that I don’t think about my lost baby. Even though I know that this was God’s plan for this child–and for me, and my family–it’s still difficult. It’s painful.

I wonder what she would have been like. I wonder if she would have had Jon’s eyes and my nose. I wonder if she would have giggled when her big brothers played peek-a-boo with her. I wonder if she would have enjoyed rice cereal and avocados when we introduced them this month or if she would have spit them out at first taste. I see other babies who are the same age as she would have been now and I wonder if they would have grown up to be friends. I wonder, I wonder, I wonder and the hardest part is that I will just never know. Not in this life, at least, and that’s a hard pill to swallow.

So, you see, some things are still the same. I don’t think I will ever not miss this child. Perhaps some things are meant to never change.

On the other hand, some things have changed profoundly.

For starters, I am stronger. I have learned the power of the heart and soul, and mine have been fortified. I know now that I can weather storms and come out on the other side–not just intact, but more powerful than before.

Along with my personal strength, I have been encouraged by the strength of others. So many of you have shared your own stories of heartache and loss with me this year, and walking through these trials together has motivated me to continue moving forward. Going through a difficult time is so much easier with friends, and for all of you who have shared with me, and in turn supported me, I am grateful.

Most importantly, however, I have learned that God’s plan is always perfect. I knew this before, but now I truly believe it. Even in the messy, chaotic, unexpected, heartbreaking turns that life throws at us, God is sovereign and His plan is perfect.

I would not be where I am today–as an individual, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend–if I had not experienced pain and healing this year. We are not meant to go through life feeling like we are in control, because we aren’t. We are not meant to live in total comfort in this world, because this world is not the prize.  We are not meant to suffer in solitary silence, because Christ suffered publicly for the benefit of all people. We are not meant to walk through life alone, because we are created to live in the community of others. The truth is that we are made for a greater purpose, and sometimes pain and suffering are necessary to move toward that goal.

And then there is hope. Because no storm lasts forever, and new days begin just when we need them. Our joy comes in the morning. That is where I find myself now: a place of profound joy. Not superficial happiness, but joy. Joy because I have walked through this time and still experience grace and love and triumph every day. Joy because the end is not really the end, but just the beginning of something totally new. Joy because my story is still being written, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

May you be encouraged, friend, whatever you are going through. Know that with pain comes power. You are cherished. You are never alone. And finally, find your joy–your joy in today, your joy in tomorrow. Find your joy in the journey, and never let it out of your sight.

One year down, and forever ahead. Bring it on!

 

 

My Favorite Baby Gear From A-Z

With just over two weeks remaining until our “bun” is fully “baked”, I’ve been in full-on baby preparation mode lately. In the past week I have borrowed a bassinet and several boxes of *pink* baby clothes from friends. I’ve washed four loads of doll-sized clothing and sorted them into drawers and closets. I located our infant car seat and toured the birth center at our hospital. And, finally, I got my bags packed for the BIG DAY. We’re officially (almost) ready for show time!

Seeing as I’ve been hyper-focused on all things baby, I thought I’d put together an updated list of some of my favorite baby items (my very first blog entry on this site was on a similar topic, so feel free to cross-reference that post here). And just to challenge my foggy pregnancy brain a bit more, I thought it would be fun to make this list in an A-Z fashion. Where possible, I’ve included links so you can view (and if you so desire, purchase) the products I reference. And now, with no further ado:

Allison’s Favorite Things: The Baby Gear Edition, From A-Z

Amazon PrimeIf there is one single product or service that has most positively impacted my life as a mother, it is Amazon Prime. I love Amazon Prime so much that I’m seriously considering the name “Amazon” for our third child (it’s got a nice ring to it, don’t you think?). Seriously, though, it’s amazing. My new-mom dream was to be able to do my shopping in my pajamas while nursing a baby and never have to leave my house–and Amazon Prime makes this wild fantasy come true. With Amazon Prime I can order everything from diapers to nursery furniture and it will be delivered TO MY DOOR in two days (or less) for FREE (well, “free” after you buy a $100 annual membership. But it’s worth every last penny, so just buy it).

71N34lz3t-L._SX522_Baby Bjorn bibs: Oooh! I think I should get bonus points for coming up with one that has not ONE, but THREE B’s! These are my favorite bibs because they are basically plastic troughs that you can attach to your baby’s neck, which is basically what you need if you’re trying to feed a real live baby/toddler. Babies are the messiest eaters in the world and they spill every dang thing you feed them. The “spill pocket” at the bottom of the bib catches all the food that your little darling hurls out of their mouth and, since it’s plastic, you can just toss the whole thing in your dishwasher after the food dismemberment feeding time.

4Carseat Canopy: When you go out in public with a baby, everybody will want to see and touch your baby–never mind if the baby is sleeping or you just don’t want strangers getting near your offspring. Enter the carseat cover. You just strap this bad-boy onto your carseat’s handle and you have an instant privacy shade for your baby (*bonus: it keeps the wind/rain/sun off your baby when you’re out and about). I like the brand Carseat Canopy because they often offer freebies as long as you pay the cost of shipping–just Google “free carseat canopy promo code 2016” and you should come up with a few options for buying your own at a discount.

71sBhaQKMPL._SX522_Diaper bag: You really do not need anything fancy for a diaper bag–as long as you have some sort of receptacle that can carry a few essentials from point A to point B, you’ll be fine. That being said, I do prefer a backpack-type bag because you can wear it along with a baby in a front-carrier and not topple over to one side. And while any old backpack will get the job done, my favorite is the Petunia Pickle Bottom Boxy Backpack. I’ll be the first to admit that this is a splurge item ($150 for a bag that will literally hold poop), but they’re so dang cute…and practical. They are made of a strong, liquid-resistant outer material (this becomes essential as you realize the fact that babies are basically just tiny liquid-discharging machines) and can be worn as either a backpack or messenger bag. They also have a fold-out diaper changing station and plenty of pockets for storing essentials. Plus, you’ll use it every single day, so you may as well get a sturdy bag that you love.

As an added bonus for the letter D, you’ll want to stock your diaper bag with diaper cream. My choice: Bordeaux’s Butt Paste. It gets the job done.

61C+HfLHDRL._SX522_Ergo baby carrier: With two other busy boys to care for every day, I’m pretty sure baby #3 is going to live in her baby carrier. I’ve had my Ergo since baby #1 was born and it’s still in excellent condition after years of near-constant wear and tear (seriously…boys wear and tear everything they can get their hands/feet/mouths on). It’s comfortable for me to wear, easy to get baby in and out of, and compact enough to stuff into my diaper bag when I’m not using it. I also love that it can be worn in three positions: front (perfect for newborns and babies), side (to be honest, I have no idea how this position works so I’ve never actually worn it this way), or back (great for older babies and toddlers–I can still fit 3-year old Jacob in it this way).

814ykZ+Vs5L._SL1500_Food preparation: When your baby is ready to start eating solids, it’s great to have some options for making and storing your own baby food. Making your own baby food can save you money, plus you know exactly what is going into the food that you serve your baby (and they get a preview of the food that they’ll be enjoying for the entirety of their growing-up years: your cooking). I have a Baby Bullet that I use for making everything from rice cereal to veggie purees (it also comes with food trays and jars for freezing and storing servings). Another type of baby feeding product I love are reusable food pouches. There are several brands available, and they are a great option for baby self-feeding and food on-the-go.

41t+ZTXVOuL._SY300_Gowns: During the first few weeks of life, our babies live in these open-bottomed sleep gowns. During this time frame, babies need approximately 10 thousand diaper changes and everyone is sleep-deprived and groggy and doesn’t want to deal with a single button or snap or zipper. Sleep gowns are the perfect solution because you can just pull the gown up, change the diaper, and nod back off to sleep–all without even having to fully open your eyes.

download (1)High chair: You can spend a pretty penny on a high-end high chair, but you really don’t need to. What I have found to be the most practical (granted, not the most fashionable) high chair is a simple space saver high chair that straps on to a regular dining chair and can transition from baby chair to toddler booster seat. I also love fold-up booster seats for dining out and travel.

Fisher-Price-Cradle-n-Swing----pTRU1-18900932dtInfant swing: Our first baby needed to move All. The. Time. If he was not moving he started fussing (and, by fussing, I mean screaming his bloody head off). This constant need for motion was not conducive to any of us getting sleep. We would not have survived our first few months of parenthood if it were not for our baby swing (which, conveniently, can keep a baby in motion while Mom and Dad pass out on the floor next to him). There are hundreds of baby swings on the market–some go forward and backward, some go side to side,some jiggle around like a kangaroo, some have light shows and play music. My best advice: borrow one from a friend or find a cheap one on Craigslist. While I think a swing is necessary, every baby likes a different type of motion, and some babies (not mine) don’t like motion at all, so it’s really not worth investing hundreds of dollars on a swing right off the bat. Plus, if you borrow one from a friend you won’t have to store a big, clunky swing in your garage after the baby outgrows it in a few months.

71gjkTVIlBL._SX522_Jumparoo: These things are god-sends for busy parents. My babies loved jumping in their Jumparoos, and the Jumparoo gave me a safe spot to set baby while I completed necessary tasks such as cooking dinner or peeing by myself.

koala-baby-deluxe-blanket-matte-satin-gray-41389276-01Koala Baby Blanket: These blankets are well-made, soft, and adorable. David received a Koala blanket as a baby and, five years later, is still one of his favorite lovies (he calls it Gigi).

Lansinoh Lanolin: When you are nursing a newborn for 8-10 hours a day (Yep, you read that right) there are some areas on Mommy’s body that may become a bit…um…tender. I keep a few bottles of this lanolin stashed around my house: 1 on my nightstand, 1 in the nursery, and 1 in my diaper bag for whenever I need a bit of relief.

Madela nursing pads: I have tried just about every type of nursing pad (used to soak up breastmilk leaks…this is a real-world baby post, so no apologies for TMI) and these are my favorite. There are a few reusable types that worked really well for me, but they just added to the already seemingly endless piles of laundry that breed in my house when there’s a new baby. This brand is super absorbent and, due to their sticky backs, they stay in place well.

51-RRZZqrfL._SL1000_Nose Frida nasal aspirator: This one may gross you out–Jon can’t even be in the same room when I’m using it–but it’s one of the most useful tools I have in my baby care arsenal. Babies get all forms of gunk stuck in their tiny noses and, since infants are terrible at following simple directions like “blow your nose into a Kleenex”, nasal aspirators are quite helpful. As long as you can get past the fact that you literally have to suck the snot out of your baby’s nose (don’t worry, there’s a filter in the tube so nothing ever passes from baby’s nose to your mouth), this device works like a charm.

51bqoE-8TcL._SY679_Odor-free diaper pailAdmittedly this one is a bit of a stretch for the letter “O”, but it’s important so I had to fit it in somewhere. I’ve used the popular Diaper Genie but I got fed up with buying pricey liner refills every week or two. My new favorite is the Baby Trend Diaper Champ–it’s simple to operate, it uses standard garbage bags (which you can buy for pennies at Costco), and it does a great job blocking odors.

61JHmam7RlL._SX522_Portable cribThis is an essential baby item in my book. A portable crib is useful for setting up an extra sleep or play space for baby anywhere in your home or for use when you’re traveling. My two favorites are the basic Pac ‘N Play and the KidCo Peapod (basically a tiny tent that folds up into a pouch and can fit in a carry-on bag–awesome for airplane trips or stuffing into an already-packed car).81vFpOKT4fL._SY679_

Quiet book: Think of a quiet book as part story, part activity book. They are engaging for both baby and parent (which is important, because you’re the one who will have to read it 60,000 times). And, while we’re at it, just go ahead and stock up on books in general. The more books, the better!

Rocking chair: You will use your chair every day when you are feeding your baby or helping them fall asleep. A comfortable rocking chair or glider with a foot stool will make your life oh-so-much easier. If you choose a chair for sentimental reasons (you know you’ve had your eye on that old wooden rocker that your grandpa made for your mom when you were a baby) just make sure you find one that doesn’t creak or squeak–the last thing you want is for your chair to wake a just-now-sleeping baby!

51-tH1-Qy4LStroller: I actually have four strollers because I use them all for different purposes. I have a cheap umbrella stroller (seriously cheap…I think I got it for $8 at Target) that folds up compact for those times when I just can’t fit another piece of anything in my car. I have a snap and go stroller for when I want to push around the baby car seat and a few essentials. I have a BOB jogging stroller for when I want to exercise or have an all-terrain “vehicle”. And I have a Phil and Teds double stroller for when I need to transport one or more smallies and still want supreme maneuverability. Excessive? Nah. I mean, you wouldn’t ever just own one pair of shoes, would you?

81zalEX4A9L._SY679_Teethers: You’ve gotta feel for those poor babies when their razor-sharp teeth start poking out. My babies never had terrible teething pain, but there were a few cherished teethers that helped them through the hard times. Sophie the Giraffe is an all-time favorite with her soft rubber body and yummy scent. I also really liked these fresh food feeders by Munchkin–I’d just slip a piece of frozen fruit inside the mesh pocket and baby went to town. Although I’ve never used them, I have friends that swear by amber teething necklaces for baby to wear (they help with inflammation) and silicone teething necklaces for mommy to wear (fashionable and chewable. Trés chic.).

Under garments: Fact: moms need practical, supportive under garments while they are nursing. I’ve never found a nursing bra that I really liked, but I love wearing nursing tanks. They help me stay covered up while nursing…and also help a bit with holding in that lovely post-partum tummy th.

Video monitor: Being able to monitor baby once she moves to her own space can help put your mind at ease. A video monitor is particularly useful because you can spy on baby to see if they truly need your assistance or if they’re just faking it for attention (or you can just look at how stinkin’ cute they are while they’re sleeping).

51GBK5Pv31L._SL1200_Water bottles: When I’m nursing I basically turn into the Sahara Desert: I’m parched all the time. Now I keep water bottles in every room of my house so I can quench my thirst on a whim. My favorites are the no-spill type with a 81KhpJObTvL._SX522_straw like these made by Camelbak and Contigo.

eXersaucer: This little gem keeps baby entertained and your hands free. What’s not to love?

Yum-yums: When baby starts eating solid food, you’ll want a good supply of snacks. Some of my favorites are puffs (they’re truly delicious–make sure to save a few for the baby if you decide to sample them) and yogurt melts. You may also want a snack cup with a lid to serve them in, especially if you’re on the go. I also love squeezy pouch baby food (carried in all grocery stores, and even Costco has a great selection now).

81dhKS8PJOL._SX522_Zippered sleep sacks: Apparently babies are no longer allowed to sleep with traditional blankets, so sleep sacks can help keep baby warm at night. Zippered sleep sacks can also serve a dual purpose: if you have a toddler who is prone to removing their own diaper (ewwwwwww….but it happens), just put the sleep sack on backward and zip it up. Bam: baby straight jacket.

Whew! I did it: the whole alphabet of must-have baby items. Now that you’ve read my list, what are some of your favorite baby products? Just let me know if you need my address so you can send them my way–I’ll even let you use Amazon Prime 😉