Love and Velcro

baby

I recently came upon this wonderful piece by Coffee + Crumbs (Lots of great stuff there! Check it out!) and it immediately brought me back to the early, extraordinarily difficult days with my son. Reminders of that time crop up now and then because, really, the kind of trauma we both endured — and that’s exactly what it was — isn’t easily forgotten, but this particular piece reminded me of how (literally) attached we once were and how far we have come. And with that realization came the kind of validation I had deeply craved during those long lonely days.

From the moment the Pitocin was administered, my little guy made his feelings known. I carried him quite low toward the end of my pregnancy, but once his eviction notice was sent, I swear on everything holy that kid squeezed himself as far up into my ribs as he could. He did not want a scintilla of space between us and spent the entire first year of his life screaming that desire into the cosmos… and my aching ears.

He was my velcro baby — as attached to his mama as a kid could be. And while it may be tempting to imagine such a scenario as blissful days spent snuggling soft baby skin and breathing in that intoxicating baby smell, the reality is nearly the exact opposite. My life was full of blood-curdling screams every.single.moment I set him down to shower, cook, or even sleep. Picking him up usually knocked the noise level down a notch or two but he still cried incessantly. At one low point while my husband was deployed, it literally took me three days to pay a bill over the phone. My screaming velcro baby was stuck to me like glue, messing up the voice prompts and turning a seemingly simple task into a Herculean feat.

Life was hard, desperately hard.

Unfortunately, it was made even worse by a barrage of comments insinuating that I was somehow spoiling him, that responding to his needs was enabling manipulative behavior and that I had brought this difficulty on myself.

But I had lived through the baby years before — quite successfully, in fact. I knew I hadn’t directly caused his clinginess but I was still troubled by the fact that I couldn’t solve it. All the baby books said it required solving, after all. And most everyone in my orbit, his pediatrician included, insisted that the situation required a tough love approach.

It was a rough situation, indeed. After all, he wasn’t the average clingy baby. My boy suffered colic, severe reflux, feeding difficulties, and weight-gain problems. He was in the care of a gastroenterologist by 6 months and in feeding therapy by the time he turned 1. My life seemed little more than a revolving door between various medical offices with varying interpretations for his many maladies. As a mother, the inability to pinpoint his seemingly never-ending pain was gut-wrenching.

So I held him. What else could I do?

I held him when my arms ached and my back winced in pain. I held him as we both cried ourselves to sleep, unable to get the other to understand what we needed. I held him even as every inch of my body screamed for space, for a moment to breathe. But no matter what anyone else said, I held him. He needed it. I could feel it.

All the while, I questioned myself. I wondered why I couldn’t “fix” him and constantly evaluated what I could be doing differently. I stared in confusion at my clingy, irritable child, wondering why he was so high-maintenance when every cell of my body knew he was a calm soul at his core. What kind of mother can’t understand her own baby? Why was there such a disconnect between who I felt he was and the behavior I was seeing?

By his first birthday, my confidence was shattered. Nothing seemed to be getting better.

And then, one ordinary day, it did.

Life marched on — tenuous at first, and then increasingly sure-footed, like the pitter patter of my little boy’s feet as he ventured off to explore the world outside my weary arms.

And you know what? He has never looked back.

Sure, he is still my snuggle bug. After all, I wasn’t wrong about that soft soul of his. Turns out, he is very much like his mama — introspective, sensitive, and affectionate. And despite all the hysteria that holding a baby might cause an unhealthy dependence, at close to 3 years old, my cool little dude is as independent as it gets.

Though I’ll never know for sure, I like to think it’s because I held him through his pain, that I respected his needs even when I felt I had totally lost my way as a mother. We share the bond of the broken, two people who refused to give up even in the darkest of nights.

Eventually, morning came. And it delivered a (finally) happy and healthy little boy.

So while Coffee + Crumb’s essay brought me back to those difficult days, I know we are safely on the other side. Back then, he fought sleep while wailing the hours away in my arms. Tonight? Well, he’s still fighting sleep — but only because he can’t decide which dinosaur he likes more: Tyrannosaurus Rex or Ankylosaurus.

I’ll take it.

Impossible as it seems in the moment, velcro babies eventually grow up. They detach. They explore their world and inch ever further from the physical closeness of you. And that’s when you, too, will have come through the other side. Just hang on, Mama. Let your little one hold on. Cling together through this bumpy ride because velcro is tough, but so are you.

  • C
Advertisements

Rules for the Accidental Stay-at-Home Mom

family-1784371_1280
Photo Credit

Some girls grow up dreaming about being a stay-at-home mom. They relished the idea of snuggling their babies all day, baking delicious chocolate chip cookies, and volunteering at school holiday parties.

Not me.

While I will take baby snuggles whenever I can get them, I honestly always imagined myself in the classroom as the teacher instead of the parent volunteer. And baking just isn’t my thing… the two dozen burned Valentine cookies that ended up in my trash can are testament enough of that.

So when I became a stay-at-home mom, it was…well, a learning experience. Everything I had always believed about myself and my career path suddenly shifted. I was terribly insecure about myself as a mom (I mean, who isn’t?), and unsure of how to navigate a life I had never imagined for myself. It took some time and, while I still struggle here and there, these 4 rules have helped me navigate SAHM mom territory:

1.) Stop Explaining Yourself

Five years into my SAHM mom life, I still have a hard time with this. Maybe it’s because I grew up with two working parents. Maybe it’s because I get antsy about falling into an ill-fitting stereotype. Either way, I find myself explaining our family’s choices more than I care to admit.

On one hand, I know it’s nobody’s business. On the other, well, I’m an insatiably curious and ambitious person with a passion for teaching and making a difference in the lives of others and even though I am intensely grateful for the opportunity to stay home with my kids, I am just as intensely dissatisfied with “wasting” years changing diapers, doing laundry, cleaning up puke, and waiting out temper tantrums because, frankly, I’m jealous of my husband’s career successes and his ability to have adult conversations while I’m stuck trying to decipher what gibberish word my youngest is screaming about while dinner is burning and the oldest is busy reminding me about the swimming class that started two hours ago.

Whew… Did I just black out?

Listen, explanations that lend themselves to horribly constructed run-on sentences just aren’t beneficial for anyone. It might feel good in the moment but you know what’s even better? Feeling at peace with your family decisions even when you aren’t totally content with your professional achievements. Frustration is inevitable but give yourself a break. You are your own harshest critic.

2.) Make a Long-Term Plan

plan-1725510_1280
Photo Credit

When you stumble into this lifestyle, it’s easy to fall into a wheel of negativity. There is the pain that comes with isolation, the guilt of feeling discontented, and confusion in the struggle to maintain an identity. Dealing with such heavy emotions is no easy task, especially when our cultural messaging makes confronting them almost taboo. After all, what could possibly be better than staying home with your babies? Well, depending on your personality, a lot of things — and that’s perfectly fine.

Whatever the reasons behind your SAHM status, if the situation feels less-than-ideal, do yourself a favor and make a long-term plan. Is returning to work possible once your kids are in school? How many years will that take? Check out ways in which you can further your education in the meantime so that you’re prepared when the time comes. Keep an eye out for work-from-home opportunities. And, most of all, communicate with your partner so that you are both on the same page.

Taking these steps will help you maintain a sense of accomplishment outside childrearing, while also serving as a reminder that this is only temporary.

3.) Allow Yourself to Tune Out

Buh-Bye, mom shamers! Ignore their judgmental stares and snuggle into a good book or—gasp!—laze away on Facebook while your kiddos entertain themselves on the playground. It goes without saying that you’ll keep an eye on them but, let’s be real, kids are pretty adept at playtime. They really really don’t need your help. And because your job literally never ends, it’s important to allow yourself a mental break here and there. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

giphy.gif
I mean, look up at least once in a while…

4.) Don’t Let Your Interests Die

I know, I know. Easier said than done, right? Especially if you have a difficult baby or are in the throes of toddlerhood (somebody save me…). Maybe the only pastimes you can recall include watching Dora the Explorer on repeat and emptying diaper pails but, believe it or not, you existed for many years prior to becoming a mother. Get back to that girl. Self-care is crucial for all moms, and that includes being selfish enough with your time to pursue the hobbies you once loved.

books-1605416_1280
Photo Credit

Get out in nature (check out the Osprey if your kiddo is still tiny!), read a good book during nap time instead of worrying about the dishes, or sign up for a fun dance class. Hell, start a blog so you can indulge in topics outside of Dr. Seuss and Paw Patrol. But find something you enjoy doing and learn how to put yourself first every once in a while. After all, part of being a SAHM is modeling the kind of behavior you want your kids to emulate, right? Take the opportunity to show them that self-care is not selfish. It is a lesson that will have far-reaching impact.

When you’re an accidental stay-at-home mom, digesting the guilt of yearning for a career while trying to enjoy the fleeting precious moments of childhood, life can feel unsettled. The journey isn’t an easy one but it can certainly be made easier. What are your thoughts? Is there anything you would add to this list?

  • C

 

 

 

 

The Truth About Sleepless Nights

coffee-break-1291381_640

Last night, my kids woke up five times between the pair of them. Bed linens were stripped and washed, bottles were refilled, carpets were cleaned (don’t ask), snuggles were requested, and complaints of all kinds were given. Apparently, the threat of death by dehydration or loneliness looms large between 2 and 5 a.m. Who knew?

In the end, I managed to cobble together a few broken hours of sleep despite going to bed early. Nobody was sick. Nobody was teething or in any sort of pain. It just was. And it was exhausting.

The truth about nights like these, no matter how often they occur, is that they are a cripplingly lonely part of parenthood. Even if you are lucky enough to have a partner around to help, it can feel like the rest of the world knows nothing of your pain. Outside, street lamps burn brightly while your neighbors’ windows are annoyingly dark. It’s as if you can hear their carefree snores against the backdrop of your kids’ incessant whining, and in those crushing moments of isolation, it’s easy to feel as though you are failing hard at this parenting thing. Why my kids? Why me? With one in preschool and the other well into toddlerhood, the kind of sleepless nights we often associate with the newborn stage should be far behind me, right? Right?

Apparently not.

As a new mom, I heard a lot of encouragement that helped me tough it through extreme sleep deprivation. And believe me, my kids really pushed the limits. There was also constant reassurance that this phase of life is relatively quick and that sleeplessness would soon be a distant memory.

When you’re in the thick of it, you drink in those words like some magical elixir that powers you through the hard times. And there’s no denying the good intentions behind them. But the truth is, they are often just a placebo, and by the time you realize it, you’re nothing short of an expletive-laced, fire-breathing dragon.

And that’s not just a metaphor, either — crazy hair, smeared makeup, and rancid morning breath can, for a time, become your new normal. Take it in stride. You’re still beautiful, and it’s nothing a hot shower and strong coffee can’t fix.

The thing is, the people who throw these empty platitudes your way were either blessed with freakishly easy kids (rare, but hey, it happens), have blocked out the trauma (who can blame ’em?), or simply refuse to acknowledge it (no one is buying the charade). The truth, though? It’s all a crock of shit. What no one tells you is that the “phase” they are really referring to is parenthood, and sorry sister, you’re already in deep. There’s no turning back.

Tonight it may be a fear of the dark, but in the blink of an eye, it’ll be sleepovers, date nights, and even drinking parties. Don’t kid yourself, your college student won’t be turning in with a warm cup of milk at 9 o’clock. The reality is, your kids will keep you up for the rest of your life. It was in the fine print when you signed your life over to another human being. For future reference always read the fine print.

And while you may, on the whole, get significantly more sleep than you did in the beginning, that doesn’t make unannounced middle-of-the-night parties any less painful. The bar of “normalcy” is ever-changing — for all of us. While three straight hours of sleep may have felt like a godsend once upon a time, when your body has adjusted to a new normal, anything less than six can feel like a punch in the gut.

We like to pretend that night wakings and four cups of coffee kind of mornings are either the stuff of infanthood or have an easily traceable cause, like illness — if you’re a good mom, that is. I mean, reading all the best baby books virtually guarantees the bestowment of “good sleeper” status on your kids forever, right? Their arbitrary standards are obviously a piece of cake to meet, but if your kid happens to fall short, it must by your fault for failing to do x, y, or z.

So (shock!) we don’t often talk about older kids having problems going to sleep or staying asleep. We just yell profanities into our pillow and then walk them to school in the morning like nothing happened. The bags under your eyes may betray your secret, but your lips certainly won’t because discussing it seems to be admitting total incompetence. Nobody wants to feel like a failure, let alone admit it out loud. But if you were to google “why won’t my kid sleep at night?” you would find that you are most certainly not alone.

And that’s what you need to hear. That’s what all moms need to hear. You are not alone.

Whether your kids wake up constantly or just once in a blue moon, it’s okay, and for the most part, completely normal. By all means, check out online forums if they provide a sense of camaraderie. Throw out every four-letter word you know once the door is closed and your little one can’t hear. Break out a 2 a.m. glass of pinot grigio if it helps you relax and put things into perspective. Most of all, talk about it with your friends, your babysitter, your grocery bagger — anyone who will listen. But keep talking. And then talk some more. There’s healing to be had in communication (and commiseration).

Just keep moving, Mama. Parenthood is skinned knees, broken hearts, irrational temper tantrums, and yes, sleepless nights. It’s a bumpy ride, and your journey won’t look like anyone else’s. Just do you — because this shit is hard and that’s okay.

 

  • C

(Originally published on Scary Mommy – 14 September 2016)

**C also writes for POMP USA, a start up company promoting businesses owned by service members, veterans, and their spouses.

Please visit www.pompusa.org for more information**

Hey Kid, Get Outta My Bed!

girlsleep

My dear, sweet, lovely child,

Let me be blunt: You are driving me out of my ever-loving mind.

Listen, I know you’re just 4 and have very real fears of the dark, monsters, and being alone. I get it. Hell, just a few weeks ago, your dad and I were certain that an off-kilter washing machine drum was actually a blood-thirsty burglar. And when he left our room to confront that would-be intruder, I didn’t place high odds on his returning safely. I wished in that moment I still had a blankie to snuggle up with like you do. The dark sucks. Unfamiliar noises suck.

But you know what? Things that go bump in the night will scare you until the day you die. None of us are as brave as we pretend to be.

That being said, we have got to find a new arrangement.

I’ll be honest, your grandparents were superheroes. They survived four kids — that’s four complete childhoods full of bad dreams, scary storms, and midnight snuggles — with a kind of grace that I can’t quite seem to muster. I try. I do! But, I just wasn’t prepared for this level of torture. Nobody told me!

I’m not sure where you acquired that starfish technique of yours but I have to say, it’s not very conducive to fitting two grown adults and one tiny person in a queen-size bed. But I could live with that tiny sliver of mattress if it meant a peaceful, if precarious, night’s sleep.

Alas, that is not the world in which we live. No, apparently starfish people must flail about as if an imaginary ocean current forces their body to remain in a state of perpetual movement. They seem to have evolved motion sensors that lock onto anything in its path. And by anything, I mean anything called Mom. Dads have somehow acquired immunity. Explain that one.

Sometimes it’s the starfish that shows up. Sometimes it’s just a shadowy figure standing quietly over me until I awake in horror. Even then, I am guilted into letting you crawl into my bed because my inevitable shriek of terror causes you to cry and tell me I scared you. Whatever form your shapeshifting takes, it’s utterly exhausting.

Child, I love you. You are my world. But, for the love of God, if I have to peel your sticky, sweaty feet off of my face more than once a night, you will find yourself with a gremlin instead of a mother at daybreak — and not the cute one either. Nobody wants that.

Look, I know I’m not blameless in this. Websites and self-help books all say that I’ve allowed this nightly behavior to flourish with my apparently less-than-stellar willpower. So…guilty as charged, I guess?

Just know this: I love you. I love you so much that the thought of refusing you comfort in the face of genuine fear is unthinkable, even when my own comfort is drastically reduced. The truth is, while part of me can’t wait to sleep comfortably again, I also know that these days are numbered.

Yes, I want the starfish out of my bed. Maybe we compromise with a sleeping bag on the floor? Just spitballing here. But you, my little girl…you never have to worry about being alone. You never have to worry about the dark. You can always find comfort in your parents…

…until you’re grown up and the washing machine drum gets off balance. Then you’re shit out of luck.

Love,

Gremlin Mommy

 

  • C

(Originally published on Scary Mommy – 13 September 2016)

**C also writes for POMP USA, a start up company promoting businesses owned by service members, veterans, and their spouses.

Please visit www.pompusa.org for more information**

The Day It Dawned On Me That I’m Not So Young Anymore

girl-414378_1280

My early 20s don’t seem like they were that long ago. While the days of body shots, cartilage piercings, and other regrettable life choices bear no resemblance to my current life, I still remember them with a kind of clarity that (copious amounts of alcohol notwithstanding) seems to undermine the decade that has since passed.

Perhaps it’s because my “under-tall” stature tends to convince people I am barely within legal drinking age, or maybe it’s because my children have generously allowed me the kind of beauty sleep necessary to keep my skin soft and supple — just kidding, that’s not true at all. Either way, I’ve always considered my husband and I fairly cool. Like, maybe we have more responsibilities and life experience under our belts, but we definitely aren’t old fuddy-duddies, right?

Wrong.

Last week, we took advantage of some rare free time to head out for a fun-filled day sans whiney children. It was blissful, entailing a six-hour round trip drive to reach our destination. We turned off the Princess Tea Party CD that had played on loop for the last three months and listened, gratefully, to whatever the hell we wanted. We snacked on junk food without having to share. I took a nap. Turns out, road trips without children are surprisingly relaxing.

On the way back, we stopped for dinner at a burger joint. My husband ordered some food while I secured a quiet booth and checked my phone to see if there were any messages from the sitter. (And by “sitter,” I mean our good friends who we conned into thinking it would be fun to watch our kids for a day. Suckers.)

Just as we began chowing down, relishing in the knowledge that we would be able to finish our entire meal without any meltdowns, potty accidents, or other inevitable shenanigans, a group of young guys sat down in the booth next to us. They were tan, muscular, and judging from their barely there tank tops, wanted to make sure everyone knew it. They could have easily passed for some serious surfers grabbing a bite after a long day on the waves, except despite the fact that we live in California, we are nowhere near coastline or any sort of water.

As they lounged in their seats, incessantly running their fingers through their thick sun-kissed hair, my husband nodded over at them and whispered, “Do you think they are college-age or what?” Trying to look inconspicuous, I feigned interest in the menu posted above their heads for a better look at the surfer boys. “Definitely,” I agreed. “College kids, for sure.”

At about that time, a gaggle of girls bopped in who happened to know the boys. They giggled and high-fived and jumped around in their impossibly small Daisy Dukes. Tan and tiny, their barely there tank tops ensured everyone knew it. (I must’ve missed the loose, faintly see-through tank top memo.)

Then somebody made a joke, and they all laughed obnoxiously loud. Like, there’s-no-way-it-was-that-funny-but-they-had-to-be-the-center-of-attention-anyway kind of loud. My husband and I looked at one another and rolled our eyes.

“Well, that’s annoying,” he grumbled. With my fingers pressed deeply between my eyes, I responded with, “My sinuses are killing me, and it’s way too loud in here. We need to get home anyway. It’s getting late.”

It was still light outside.

And that’s when the obvious slapped me right across the face. My life looks nothing like that anymore. I don’t look like that anymore. I don’t talk like that. Did I ever resemble this seemingly farcical representation of young adulthood? Moments before, my husband and I had felt victorious over our early-bird dinner while these young guns were probably eating their first meal of the day and wouldn’t go to sleep again until we were waking up. What had previously felt like my not-so-distant past suddenly propelled itself light-years away from my current reality.

I looked down uneasily at myself: conservative cardigan and sensible shoes. (We had walked around quite a bit that day, after all!) I glanced over at my husband: smart polo and khaki shorts (not of the cargo variety). We looked old, comparatively at least.

I mean, we had good reason to be dressed the way we were. We had just come from a Vatican exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library so, duh, we had to at least look like the feeble, tired parents we are.

Oh, I hadn’t mentioned that yet? Yes. We spent our one day alone oohing and aahing over papal artifacts at a presidential library. And we liked it! But that’s not even the best part. Ready for this? We found and reported a grammatical typo in the museum and felt awesome about it.

So, there — whatever. I guess it shouldn’t really have taken some spry young chickens to make me acknowledge my inevitable decline into muumuu dresses and Tom Collins cocktails. But, for now, I’ll happily enjoy my yoga pants and nightly glass of pinot grigio like the rockin’ 30-going-on-80-year-old that I am. Life has brought me to this exact point, and it’s not going to slow down anytime soon. I am just going to get older, grayer, and crankier. But I’m totally fine with that, and you should be too, because I’m comfortable in my cardigans and wouldn’t be caught dead in a see-through tank top.

Besides, at least I know how to hashtag so I’m not totally hopeless, right?

#FuddyDuddyForLife

  • C

(Originally published on Scary Mommy – 8 September 2016)

**C also writes for POMP USA, a start up company promoting businesses owned by service members, veterans, and their spouses.

Please visit www.pompusa.org for more information**

Essentials For Flying With Baby

I was 18 when I got my first passport and international stamp. I wouldn’t get my next stamp for another 6 years. My daughter on the other hand, had her passport picture taken when she was less than a week old. Imagine two people shaking a tambourine in her face to try and keep her eyes open long enough for the picture. Girl was not havin’ it.

We currently live overseas in Japan, and now at the ripe old age of 7 months, Baby Girl has been on 3 trips, 1 to Singapore, and 2 back to the States, and a grand total of 14 different planes. She was 2 months, 3 months, and 7 months for each trip.

Our trips always include multiple car rides, a cab, a bus, multiple planes, lots of waiting around time, and no fewer than 20-30 hours from Destination A to Destination B. Once upon a time before I had a baby, I always brought a full carry-on. Now, for the life of me I can’t tell you what I ever had in it. Hubs puts my noise canceling headphones (if you travel a lot, buy these. Trust me, you won’t regret it) in his bag but other than that, my carry on is now her needed items.

Our goal is to still travel light while making sure all her needs are met and our sanity is still intact by the end. So, from a bit of experience, many that made me feel like the worst mom on the planet, here are the things I’ll now never start the journey without:

1) Extra clothes for baby 

An obvious must. But when I say extra, I mean extras for your extras. I found this especially necessary at the 2 and 3-month age. She was still having big, unpredictable blowouts at this point and there could be multiples in a day. I didn’t feel the extra extras were as necessary on her 7-month-old trip; just extra clothes did the trick.

2) Extra clothes for you 

Seriously, don’t skip this. We get so caught up in getting the babies things ready we forget what may be crucial for us. Last I checked the duty free wasn’t selling t-shirts. So unless you want to smell like puke for 8 hours straight, throw it in.

3) Diapers/Wipes 

Duh. We plan for one diaper every 2 hours. Better to have too many than not enough. Wipes, always go for the soft packs. They take up way less space than a bulky plastic container.

4) Scented Plastic Bags 

For when the inevitable poopocalypse happens. Sure you’ll wash the clothes out, but that stink lingers. I’m not a fan of smelling poop or throwing away clothes so these bags are the perfect answer.

5) Food   

I was breastfeeding for my daughter’s first two trips making this a breeze. Just pop the girls out and my girl was happy. A good tip is to feed your baby while the plane takes off and is landing, it should hopefully help baby’s ears.

Breastfeeding lasted about 4 months for us, so she was on formula for our more recent trip and it is much trickier and requires much more planning. Like I mentioned, our overseas trips are typically anywhere from 20-30 hours from one destination to the next so that’s a lot of food to plan for. Our baby eats every 3-4 hours during the day and no longer wakes up to eat at night, so that’s what we planned for, plus one or two extra servings just in case. You know your kiddo best, so plan out those servings.

The biggest kicker though is knowing where you are going to be getting your warm water from for the formula. We were not prepared and ended up with a screaming baby until we got to the airport and asked a restaurant for warm water. We have since smartened up and now have a thermos already filled with warm water we bring with us. Most airports are good with it when you let them know it’s for the baby. (On the actual airplane, the flight attendants can provide the warm water.) On this last trip we also threw in a couple baby foods (so also a wipe down bib and spoon). Of course, don’t forget the bottles or sippys!

5) Changing Pad 

I’m no germophobe, and we are in full support of our girl one day putting some dirt in her mouth and building up that immunity! But I’ve been in a lot of airports, and those changing stations almost never seem to be nice and clean and most are actually pretty hard. So for the sake of your little one’s health and comfort this is a must have.

6) Carrier 

Confession: I never thought I’d be a baby wearer and there was no way in hell I was going to spend the $100+ for one. BUUUUT my co-worker ended up giving me her old one and if I knew then what I know now I wouldn’t hesitate to dish out the cash. I’m not saying it’ll work this way for everyone’s kiddo but putting my baby girl in it would almost instantly put her to sleep. I also loved being able to have both my hands available, which is super important and necessary to me when traveling.

7) Stroller  

But not your big bulky one, an easy cheap umbrella stroller does the trick. In Japan they make you check your stroller when you check the rest of your bags, there is no gate check for it. Japan is amazing though, and provides a stroller for you while you’re in the airport. I have since learned that not all U.S. airports have strollers for you (probably since you’re allowed to gate check them).

For short airline trips your stroller may not be as necessary if your kiddo is happy in a carrier. For longer trips though, you’re inevitably waiting around at some point. Imagine trying to eat while wearing your babe and then picking crumbs out of her hair. Yup, that was me, and since I’m not a monkey I don’t think I’ll be winning any mother of year awards for that one.

8) Blanket 

Overseas trips means we are at some point traveling over our nighttime. We request the bulkhead seats so she can have a bassinet that the airline provides. On the airlines we’ve been on so far, the baby is good to go in the bassinet if they’re 10 kilos (22 lbs.) or under. Since you’re trying to get baby to sleep in a place that’s foreign, bringing their favorite blanket can help to provide that comfort and familiarity of home.

9) Toys 

Not at all necessary at the 3 month mark but a lifesaver at the 7 month mark. We brought two small toys that she loves but can also easily be shoved into the bag and not take up much space. Bottom line, they helped keep her entertained and happy. Tip: Don’t bring anything too noisy or that can make noise on its own!

10) Burp Cloth 

‘Cause she’s a baby, and babies spit up. Pretty straight forward, huh? When I’m wearing her in the carrier I put a burp cloth on my chest too. Helps save my clothes and hers.

11) Your Patience and Sense of Humor 

No matter how much planning you do, there’s likely to be some unpredicted moments. I would always feel so bad and start to stress if my babe was crying on the plane until someone gave me the best advice; “you’re never going to see those people again”. Babies cry, it’s what they do, because that’s how they communicate their needs and emotions. It’s unrealistic to expect your little one to never shed a tear during the adventure, so do your best to roll with the punches and laugh off the puke that just went all over the both of you right as you’re boarding.

If you encounter the person who rolls their eyes and mumbles constantly under their breath because there’s a baby on their plane ride, screw ‘em. You will never see that person again. Your energy needs to be directed toward caring for your kiddo, not worrying about a grown adult’s desires. In all honesty though, we’ve only had this encounter once on all of our plane rides. By and large, people have been kind, understanding, and even helpful.

Does traveling with a baby require more planning and energy? Absolutely. Is the idea maybe even a bit daunting? Sure. To us though, the idea of not continuing to travel, to see family and friends, and explore new places seems more daunting. Admittedly, our experience thus far has been with a non-mobile little one. But, we have some trips planned for later this year when she should definitely be walking; and I can’t wait to update you with the new lessons we learn from our inevitable parenting failures.

• K

The Best Piece of Baby Wisdom I was Never Given

D6

Before I became a mom, I was offered all kinds of baby advice. Some of it I found helpful, other things not so much. I felt comfortable picking and choosing between the gems and the rocks because I was fairly confident in my ability to parent well. I mean, people do this everyday, right?

 After I became a mom, I was offered even more baby advice. And, again, I was happy to use what was applicable and throw out what didn’t appeal to me. This process worked just fine with my first child and I vividly remember wondering why people made parenting through babyhood so complicated. To me, it all seemed very natural. I simply followed my intuition and, before I knew it, a sweet and spirited little toddler emerged before my very eyes.  So, naturally, I planned to follow the same process when my son was born.

And then he turned my world upside down.

He was colicky. He wouldn’t sleep, wouldn’t eat. He screamed every second his skin was not touching mine. He was sick constantly. He was miserable. I was miserable. And suddenly, that intuition I had been so proud of disappeared overnight.

I flailed alone, trying to just get through each day. I questioned every single decision I made and wondered why I was such a terrible parent this time around. I remember wondering if I just couldn’t cope with having two children. And I even asked my husband if he thought I was suffering from postpartum depression. There had to be a reason why I could not make him happy. And I was convinced that it was my fault.

I simultaneously craved advice from anyone who would offer it on the off chance that they had the magic cure, while also shuddering in fear at the potential judgement being passed. When you get to that point of desperation, you have already tried every trick in the book. So in my grumpy, anxiety-ridden state, I was also frustrated when none of the advice I was given offered any real hope.

I felt ashamed and embarrassed when people I loved would make simple suggestions that insinuated his “bad” behaviors had been “allowed” to flourish. And in fairness to them, they were confused too. For the most part, such comments came from people with average kids who followed the baby book “rules”. They never had to question the axiom of putting a baby to sleep drowsy but awake. They never struggled to get their kid to shut out external stimuli enough to even allow sleep to come. It was never a question that their baby would eat exactly when and how much he was supposed to eat. So a baby like mine was… well, a mystery.

That is, until I came to a very simple realization: He is his own, unique, self. 

Simple enough, right? But the implications were profound and immediately provided a sense of comfort I had been lacking for an entire year.

I should have seen it all along. From the moment my first child was born, I was amazed at how much personality she had. It’s remarkable, really, how little it has deviated from my initial impressions. Even little propensities, like her distaste for sleeping under blankets, have been evident from very early on. Watching her grow put a new spin on the nature vs. nurture debate for me and I began to recognize that while genes influence a large percentage of one’s personality, nurturing those traits in a positive manner ultimately forms the final makeup of a person.

So why couldn’t that apply to my son, as well? I’m convinced that it does and that it explains a lot of our early struggles. Undoubtedly, there were some medical issues that complicated things but, for the most part, I was simply trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. I was searching for answers in places that didn’t take his needs or personality into account. In my attempt to make my baby “normal”, I was actively ignoring the personality traits that would make it impossible to follow conventional baby wisdom. And in doing so, I prolonged the suffering for us both.

No one would argue the fact that no two adults are the same, so why do we continue pushing the narrative that all babies fit into the confined “rules” we have set forth as a society? Some people are reserved. Some are outgoing. Some are night owls, while others prefer to rise with the sun. It would be ridiculous to expect us all to operate by the same guiding principles, yet this is the expectation we have for our children. Why is that?

It still boggles my mind how simple, yet elusive, this idea seems to be. In all the overwhelming pieces of advice thrown at me by family, friends, and doctors, I was never once told that he simply might not be wired to sit quietly by himself, to sleep with regularity, to digest new foods easily. And it certainly wasn’t proposed that I follow his lead to figure out what would work best for the both of us.

In this age of smart phones and Google, when we have the answers to everything at our fingertips, we have come to expect that all our problems are black and white. We rarely take the time to consider nuance and outliers to the point that we neglect to examine them entirely. Maybe it’s time we acknowledge that we don’t actually have all the answers and that our babies are worth listening to. It’s humbling to realize that an infant can communicate better than you can listen.

At the end of the day, I don’t have all the answers. But I do know one thing: I know my son is exactly the person he was born to be. He is an independent, strong-willed, intense little boy. And I find great beauty in that. Someday, he may be be a CEO, a philanthropist, an entrepreneur, or a diplomat. Whatever he does, he will make his presence known, just as he has done from the very beginning. Hopefully, he just does it with less screaming.

So if you are a struggling Mama, like me, know this: You have done nothing wrong. When all else fails, put down the baby books, tune out Grandma’s endless stream of advice, and remember that your intuition is still in there somewhere. Listen to it. And listen to your baby. He is his own little person that was never meant to conform to conventional wisdom. Your struggles won’t disappear overnight. There may not be any easy answers. You may still come out of that first year feeling traumatized and broken. But at least you know you will be able to pick up the pieces and recognize your beautiful baby for exactly who he is, not for who anyone else says he should be.

 

  • C

**C also writes for POMP USA, a start up company promoting businesses owned by service members, veterans, and their spouses.

Please visit www.pompusa.org for more information**