Mommy Mondays: 37 Weeks 5 Days

Mommy Mondays WM

Only during pregnancy do days matter – especially near the end.  The final countdown to the moment when you finally get to meet the little person who invaded your body and knew every one of your secrets for 40 weeks give or take a week or a day or two, must include days.

Her room is ready.  Walls have been painted a lovely lilac and her white furniture is ready.  Decals of butterflies, flowers and bees decorate her walls – lovingly placed by her parents and brother.  Her clothes, new and gently used from generous friends, are washed and neatly folded in the drawers. Receiving blankets, wash cloths, socks, mitts, caps – the whole lot awaits my infant girl.  Big brother helped to select the softest bunny in the world for his little sister and her bassinet stands gloriously next to my side of the bed.  I peak inside every morning visualizing her in it and am simultaneously overcome with memories of  how her brother once slept in there all bundled up.

Our bags are ready.  Everything is ready.  Everyone is ready to hear the news.  I am not ready.

I have a list of things to do, to complete before she arrives.  Most of it includes finishing Christmas shopping and wrapping.  There are also a few more things to settle in the new house.  Our short list of names keeps changing and I’d love just one more good night of sleep.

I feel like I am racing time each time my uterus hardens as I live through Braxton Hicks.  I stop and wonder after some period-like cramping that I haven’t felt in…well, in 37 weeks and 5 days!  I wonder if this new found energy to settle, put away, clean up, cross off one more thing from my perpetual “to-do” list means that I am in nesting mode.  I know it all means she will appear soon – but I still need a little more time.

I also know that I will miss feeling her move around inside me terribly.  She has been a most physical inhabitant.  Her brother was calm and occasionally reminded me he was there.  She has been happily bouncing around since I was 17 weeks!  I will miss feeling her and having her all to myself.

As with all things parenting related, when a baby decides to arrive has nothing to do with me or my wishes.  It is the precursor to every lesson that parenting brings, particularly how you are no longer in control of your own life.  It is all about letting go and letting life happen.

I can do that.  I can let go.  Just give me about 2 weeks and 5 days.

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Mommy Mondays: Oh, Sleep!

Mommy Mondays WM

Ah, Sleep.  I took you for granted in my youth, in my pre-parent days.  As a teenager I didn’t know what the world was like before noon on weekends or holidays.  In my twenties once I started my teaching career, being awake at 9 am on a weekend was blasphemous!

Then I got pregnant.  I couldn’t believe the outpouring of love and happiness that everyone showed at the addition to our family.  Apart from family members, those who were most happy were already parents themselves.  It was like I was entering some sort of exclusive club that only having children permits.  We also noticed a pattern in the congratulatory comments – they all ended with a knowing smile as we would be advised to “get our sleep now”.

Yeah, sure. I would think.  We’ll be up for night time feedings and we’ll lose some sleep…boy, was I naive!

I had no idea that I would never sleep like I did when I was childless again.

I had my son.  For two weeks he slept like an angel…so much so that he barely woke to eat.  One Saturday afternoon, at two weeks old, he was awake.  He was awake all day long.  It was bizarre.  I didn’t think much of it and enjoyed seeing my cutie with his eyes open for a change.

Thus began the sleeping circus.  The child barely slept again.  The next few weeks were a struggle because he slept in short spurts – rarely did he sleep longer than 2 hours at night.  The only time he slept this well he was on his tummy.  Yup, on his tummy.  My exhaustion overpowered my fear of SIDS and I allowed him to sleep on his belly against every fear, against every piece of advice from doctors and sleep experts.  It was the only way we could get any sleep.  There were times I would just let him sleep on his tummy on my chest – it would make me feel more security and trust that he would be alright, that I could take care of him.

My husband and I would take shifts throughout the night to make sure the baby slept soundly (on his tummy) and was safe.  So, he got more sleep, but we were at our wits end with sleep deprivation.  We had help from my mother, but it was never enough sleep to take away the numbness of lack of sleep.

That’s when I was introduced to this book:

I devoured chapters 1-5 within a day.  And, I was obsessed.  This book did two things to my fragile, sleep deprived self: give me hope that I could help my son become a good sleeper and therefore, we could sleep…and, I felt so uneducated!  I spent my entire pregnancy reading about pregnancy and delivery – not once did I think to read about what to do once the baby arrived.  I felt it would come naturally.  For a woman in her early thirties who had never changed a diaper there was nothing natural about any of it.

Weissbluth’s methods are strict and at times seem cold.  Nonetheless, Weissbluth is direct, practical, does take into account the emotional toll of sleep training or lack thereof.  His book enlightened me.

Every stage of my son’s growth and development was marked with sleep issues: multiple night wakings, rising too early, the world’s shortest naps. The only thing we had down was a great bedtime routine.  He fell asleep easily enough.  Every night I left his room I prayed for a full night or half a night’s sleep.  Occasionally the prayers were answered, most nights he awoke and would not go back to sleep without me or his dad going to him.

Trust me. I read this and other books. You’re supposed to ignore. You’re supposed to not smile. You’re supposed to encourage and help the child learn to sleep by themselves.  You’re supposed to let them cry it out.  Extinguish the learned behaviour because as Weissbluth reminds his readers, lost sleep is lost sleep forever.  You can’t make up sleep and this is detrimental to children.

I was now exhausted by reading, researching, asking, trying to get this child to sleep and nap properly. I needed off the misery-go-round.  My husband hid the baby books and I didn’t ask where they were nor did I hunt for them.  I had to go with what I knew of my child.

A fog lifted.  Feelings of incompetence slowly turned into trust of … dare I say it… my instinct?

My son did not magically become a better sleeper.  We still battled at dawn for more sleep; we groaned when he awoke after 30 minutes of napping, but my son was always happy.  I finally recognized that my child cannot be defined by the stories or advice provided in a book.  I had to learn to take my cues from him.

Marc Weissbluth’s book is a good one.  It does give newbies like me a great structure and understanding of sleep in babies and children.  I did use what I learned of his advice and applied it to my family and my child – and it worked. On my terms.

I reflect on this experience because I will shortly be learning another human being’s sleep patterns and needs.  I think that’s the best advice I’d give any woman that’s expecting – unless you’ve had plenty of experience with babies and children and are supremely confident in your knowledge of them, put the pregnancy book down.  Pick up one that tells you what it’ll be like when your gorgeous little somebody is in your arms.  Yes, do it now, when you’re in your right mind, less sleepy, less (believe it or not) hormonal.  Now is a good time to soak in the information and decide what tips you’ll take, what you’ll discard, what feels right for you.  Once baby comes, it can all fly out the window, or you’ll use it – but at least you’ll know.

Note 1:  I would never tell any parent to let their baby sleep on their tummy; I don’t intend to do so with my next baby – we were just desperate for our son to sleep.

Note 2: My son is now a great sleeper.  It only took 4 years! We have a solid, early bedtime routine, he falls asleep & stays asleep on his own and (mostly) wakes at a decent hour.

What were your sleep training experiences like? Share your stories below!

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A Review of Coccoon Apothecary’s Skin Care Products

(I’m fighting the guilt of missing yesterday’s NaBloPoMo post…four year old with a fever, home renos, 7.5 months pregnant, nuff said)

Love discovering natural skin care products?  Love knowing that what you’re putting on your skin is not full of chemicals you can’t pronounce or that are linked to some really bad health issues?  Love, love, love all things girly and trying new products all the time?

I found a pretty neat line for you.  Coccoon Apothecary.

I realize that I probably came to this party late, and many have already discovered Coccoon Apothecary.  But, here are my thoughts on the products I’ve been using since midsummer.

I’ve been using Magic Bean Lotion on my tummy and other areas that stretch during pregnancy to avoid stretch marks.  And, not even one!  I can’t fully attribute this to the lotion.  My genetics are pretty good here – my mom doesn’t have stretch marks, and I didn’t get any with my first child when I didn’t use Magic Bean Lotion.  However, it smells yummy (chocolate), moisturizes very well and keeps my skin supple. Touchy Feely Lotion is just as effective and I love the subtle smell of lavender.  My only complaint: didn’t last long at all for full body use.  At that price point ($21 CAD) I expected it to last longer.

As for their line of facial skin care products, I used the Rose Petal line because it concentrates more on anti-aging properties.

Petal Purity Facial Cleanser feels a little too creamy for my taste and I don’t think it’s meant for make-up removal.

I love the Petal Purity Exfoliator because I don’t feel like I’m scrubbing my skin with sandpaper and it leaves my face smooth, clean and refreshed.

Rose Dew toner is nice and my skin does feel, well toned, but again – I don’t feel like it completely removes make up residue.

Rosehip Oil Serum is simply lovely.  It took me some time to get accustomed to the strong smell of rose, but the effects of a tiny drop of oil gently massaged into my face had me convinced.  At first I was afraid it would make my normal skin oily (especially along the t-zone).  I quickly learned that the oil absorbed well.  My skin was left soft and the next morning it didn’t feel like it was washing off when I cleansed.  A great product.

Rosey Cheeks Facial Cream is gentle and creamy – again you don’t need a lot.  It settles nicely into the skin without feeling oily and leaves skin supple.  It’s a great facial cream.

Eyewaken eye cream goes a long way – just a tiny bit covers the entire eye area.  It moisturizes nicely and my eyes look good…I haven’t notice dramatically new “lines”.

I just tried the Ancient Mud Mask and I loved the results, but I found the mask too much like sandpaper.  It felt rough on my skin when I was applying it.  My face looked great once I rinsed it off, but I had a few red patches.  I don’t have sensitive skin – I can confidently use any product without a test patch and this product left it a bit too patchy for my liking.  Having said that, my face was super soft!

I think I should highlight that I’m pregnant – and pregnancy hormones tend to do all sorts of things to your skin.  With my first pregnancy I broke out all the time.  With this pregnancy, my skin has never felt better.  I may review these products again once baby is over 3 months old, I’m sleep deprived and therefore my skin will be different.  If they make my skin look great then, then these are truly great products!

What I like most about these products is that I use them with complete confidence that nothing yucky is getting through my skin to my cells or baby’s.  Do you have a natural skin care product that you love and would recommend trying?

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Having a Baby Does Not Mean You Will Lose Yourself

I follow an organization for parents in the Greater Toronto Area on twitter: Life With A Baby.  Today they had a great tweet and link to their blog:

When my son was born, my world stopped.  It all revolved around him.  At first I was so out of sorts.  I had no idea what I was doing, felt completely incompetent and in true Karen fashion, decided I would master this whole mothering thing. I failed to realize that I didn’t need to master anything.  I was enough the way I was for my son.  I also failed to realize that he wouldn’t be a newborn forever.

Since this is my second go at having a baby, I know what I need to hang onto myself: stop trying so hard, time to sleep, write a blog post or two, read something other than parenting books, ask for help, rely on my friends. These things will all help me to remember me and to survive the demands of a newborn. However, I think the most important lesson I’ve learned is that it is all temporary.

Those first few weeks of figuring out feeding and sleeping are insane.  It is so much work as you get to know the little person that lived inside you for 40 weeks!  It is overwhelming.  It is exhausting.  It is frustrating and amazing and awesome. And, it won’t last forever.

Very soon there will be time to go on dates again, go back to the gym, read books I love, keep up with the twitter/facebook/blogging world, meet friends for lunch or coffee etc. Once those first 6-8 weeks pass and the craziness passes, I will have a chance to reconnect with myself.

I will be able to play with my son,  play with my daughter and revel in being a mommy without being defined by it. I will enjoy every minute, be grateful for what I have and remember that I am living in a temporary reality that will change and change and change.  The demands of a baby will disappear into the demands of a toddler and I’ll eventually have another pre-schooler saying “I Know Mommy!”  when I remind her to pick up her toys or finish her veggies. The baby that demanded my time will be gone forever and I’ll have myself back.

Above all, I think the most important thing to remember is to keep in touch with that internal voice. If it says “I am happy”, then all is good.  If it says otherwise, then I will listen to it and act accordingly. After all, this is what we do when we are being true to ourselves.

How did you hang on to yourself after having a baby?  Any strategies that helped and you’d love to pass on?

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In Preparation for A Daughter

A few months back I wrote about my decision to not find out the sex of my baby.  I wanted that “it’s a…!” moment.  I was adamant that I would not find out.  You can read about that here.

Then life happened and I was in a position where it would be best to know what we are having before baby is born. That’s when I found out that we’re having a girl!  I cried all the way home.  I would’ve been just as happy had it been a boy – my experience with my little boy so far has been nothing short of phenomenal. But, I’m sure everyone who knows me would agree, I am such a girl’s girl that having a daughter would be…well, it would be expected.

There is a little nagging voice inside me, reminding me that this news might be wrong.  I might end up with the surprise of a lifetime and give birth to another boy.  Unless that happens, I will indulge my fantasies about raising a daughter.

My mind whirls with romantic notions of the bond we will share, of passing down all of the things I’ve learned, of using my wisdom to help her navigate life and the heart to hearts we will share…but, let’s be honest…she’s going to want to learn these things on her own…and if she’s anything like me, she certainly won’t want anyone telling or “advising” her otherwise.

I think of my future daughter and I am scared that she will succumb to the pressures girls and women in the modern era face.  I am scared that I she’ll feel less than perfect because of all the images we are bombarded with about ways to improve ourselves and it is only until we are old enough that we realize that we are perfect just the way we are. I hope to validate her feelings, to help her feel a strong sense of self, to know her voice, and to know herself so well that she will be armed against a harsh world that easily brings girls down.  My mission will be the same as with her brother, I will love her and empower her; I will use the incredible support system I am lucky to have.

My mother is the strongest woman I know.  My aunts, her four sisters, are warriors with hearts of gold.  These four women have influenced me to believe in myself, to know that in the face of adversity I can and will survive.  They give love freely, they speak their minds, they nurture and care for their families.  Love, strength, resilience, and femininity is what I have learned from them.  It’s something that I see in all of my female cousins.  It is something I am proud to claim and I am looking forward to giving my own daughter – to let her know that she is not alone when she is facing the friend who gossips, the group of girls who reject, her own inner critic saying she is not pretty enough, or the boy who breaks her heart.

Motherhood has been the most challenging and rewarding experience of my life.  I have fully invested myself in raising an incredible boy and helping to guide his path into manhood.  And, now I get to do that with a daughter – you’d think it would be easier since I’ve lived it.  Precisely because I’ve lived it, it’s actually tougher.

For now, I’ll concern myself with preparing for those sleepless nights and feeding schedules.  I will immerse myself in her babyhood as I did with her brother.  I’ll hope for a healthy baby.  And, I’ll deal with the rest as it comes.

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