A Health Story: Battle for Balance with Food and Fatigue

IMG_7581Today, I wanted to share the health story of my dear friend Emily.  Emily and I have been friends for over 10 years now.  We met through church in college and lived together for a couple years before getting married.  I’ve shared so many memories with this girl (a trip to NYC and countless costume parties stand out best); she was always the friend I could count on and still is today. She’s one of those rare friends who would move mountains to be there when you needed her. Now we have daughters just a few months apart and have been learning how to be moms together- we share natural remedies, healthy recipes and parenting tips with each other.  Emily is also a very talented writer, so I hope you enjoy her story…

Short-term survival vs. long-term survival. Choosing my sanity in the present or my health in the future. Those were my choices when it came to things like food, caffeine, and treatment plans, as well as the way those things affected my marriage and finances. With a large mug of coffee in my hand and thoughts of brewing another, this is what I’m contemplating, and how it all seemed like a lose-lose situation.

My childhood was happy in my giant family of nine  – no we weren’t Catholic or Mormon, yes my parents were crazy. However, I was always the sickly one. I recently found out I had the worst vaccine reactions of all seven of us, and that was after I almost died from pneumonia as a baby – as in my grandmother told my mom to make peace with it. She was very sensitive like that. Later, I had multiple ear infections (read: rounds of antibiotics), and I got stomach bugs so often my favorite “food” for a while was ice chips. We even owned a breathing machine for when I got sick, as I had a form of asthma called reactive airways. It’s a good thing I was homeschooled at the time as I would’ve been “one of those” who failed kindergarten from missing school all the time!

As I got older, I grew out of the constant infections, but inherited my father’s world-shattering allergies. I even got his elephant-like nose blowing – charming, thanks Dad. These allergies followed me into adulthood, and would trap me in bed all day like the flu at the peak of cedar pollination. I couldn’t be outside at all then, or when mold, grass, trees, weeds, or oxygen was too high. (Wait, maybe oxygen was on my safe list…)

Sometime during all of that, perhaps in high school, my energy took a nosedive and never came back up. I slept in between classes, and until noon on Saturdays when my mom let me. A few months after I turned 16 and started driving, I even fell asleep at the wheel.

We all just thought I was a normal, sleepy teenager, particularly after my thyroid panel came back normal. So I just kept sleeping as often as possible, all through college, often snoozing 12-14 hours a day. This was, in part, due to my low grade depression that kicked in towards the end of high school.

These health issues followed me like the bouncing metal cans on the “just married” car, and the “clanging” of those collective problems finally arrested my attention: my body wasn’t functioning quite right. However, all of this was still my normal – it was predictable and liveable, so I did nothing about it. Then, right before I got married, my body really punched me in the gut with random and violent gluten intolerance – literally.

The night of my bachelorette, I was too sick to go out – so all my friends came over in their little black dresses and sexy makeup to watch Tangled with me. The night of my wedding, I kept dragging my sister to the bathroom with me to loosen my corset as I was sick again, until I finally just had to take the whole thing off and hope my dress contained me for the rest of the reception!

I had no idea that gluten was even the issue until a trip to the doctor a few months later. Basically, he gave me a script for antacids, and recommended a gluten free diet. The pills did nothing for me, so after a hysterical breakdown about never eating bread or pasta or cookies or anything good in life again – not even COMMUNION – I gave up the mainstay of my diet.

For a while, I was able to get away with “just a bite” of glutenous (yes, I made that a word) indulgences without the miserable nausea that wouldn’t just end with a simple puke…but that didn’t last long. Soon, I was that annoying girl at the restaurant asking if something contains gluten, then having to explain what it was, and then hearing, “No, I don’t think the fried chickpeas have any of that”… think being the operative word here that drove me CRAZY. So you’re hanging the likelihood of my hanging over a toilet half the night on your desire to avoid checking with the chef? Thanks, I appreciate your ignorance…I mean assurance.

Luckily, Austin became a safe haven for us, the gluten challenged. Eventually everything from gluten free fried chicken to gluten free donuts appeared on store aisles and restaurant menus.

But it did not protect me from the next wave of symptoms. The encircled GF by entrees and products did not mean healthy, so neither was I.

Finally, at some point a few years ago, I couldn’t eat anything without fear of nausea, or the kind of bloating that makes you want to stab your bursting belly with an ice pick. I remember eating a paleo, whole 30, #alltherestrictions meal of chicken, spinach, and sweet potato, then being in so much pain I may have cried. I felt completely defeated.

After researching for hours upon hours, I found the GAPS diet, or Gut And Psychology Syndrome. It was created by a neurologist with a masters in nutrition who created this way of eating for her clients, whose disorders ranged from ADHD to autism, depressed to schizophrenic. She found they all had something in common – unhealthy digestive systems. While my mental state was not my primary issue (despite recurring depression), it was obvious my gut was unhealthy.

The first week was TERRIBLE. Like, can’t get out of bed terrible. But I finally, finally, had relief. It resolved my food intolerances to eggs, chicken, and nightshades, and eventually I could eat anything except gluten without reactions! It was my miracle diet.

These days, my chronic fatigue continues to hang over my life like a dark cloud, but when I’m watching my nutrition, I can celebrate being the healthiest I’ve ever been. I haven’t given up on finding total healing, but now I just focus on generally making healthy choices. I used to be obsessed with which diet is best, which food groups are evil, and which of the thousands of supplements I should take (you should see my collection!). It got to the point where it affected most of my close relationships because of arguments I would get into about drugs versus alternative medicine, whether my current diet was healthy or just a fad, or if it mattered using Tilex to clean the shower versus Mrs. Meyers. It had to end.

Now, I’m a lot better at picking my battles, finding that happy space between short term sanity and long term health. I try to choose 90% whole, unprocessed foods for my family (when my picky toddler lets me!), I work to use natural cleaning products in most areas, and I experiment with various natural and/or homemade beauty products. But! I don’t insist on primarily organic food, I had a hospital birth with an epidural, we give our daughter Motrin when she’s visibly in pain, and yes, I let my husband use Comet to clean the INSIDE of the toilet. That’s not how I wanted any of those things to go, but the stress of trying to control everything just isn’t worth it anymore. At what point is it too costly for my relationships and my sanity when I’m fighting tooth and nail for every health decision in our family? We had to meet in the middle.

That’s where I try to live now, finding what healthy feels like in my own body, and in our home. I let God and my husband help me figure out what that looks like. And praise Jesus, every year I get just a little closer.

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Back at it…

Wow… somehow it’s been almost 4 months since I’ve blogged.  It’s hard to find time for hobbies lately that aren’t just zoning out after bedtime with a glass of wine and Netflix.  I do have several posts scheduled you can look forward to, but thought I would do a quick catch up on life lately.

Last Fall, the stress of trying to work full time with a baby caught up to me.  I was working from home two days a week, but it was hard. I wanted more time to play with her beyond evenings and the weekend.  Honestly, I’m not someone who loves to work or enjoys that time away from home… I don’t say that to guilt those that do, but I say it because I’ve felt out-of-the-norm as a working mom who doesn’t feel that way.   I’m thankful that my work supported my need for flexibility and allowed me to go part-time. I’m still in the office three days a week, but my days at home can be focused on my girl as well as giving me time to run errands, get groceries, meal prep, exercise and clean house.  And I’m actually able to enjoy my weekends with my family.  I feel grateful for a schedule that gives a whole lot more balance to my life and that’s allowed me to focus on my health again, as well as precious time my girl.

In other news… this Spring, I weaned my daughter.  I shared about our many struggles with breastfeeding in the early months, but honestly it was never easy. We were never on a schedule, never able to wean from the nipple shield, pumping at work and after bedtime was annoying and I always struggled with / stressed about supply.  Plus, breastfeeding seemed to have the opposite effect on me that it does on others and made me gain 20 pounds; I couldn’t cut down on calories because it would affect my supply and I was ready to lose the extra weight.

While I never “loved” nursing like some women do, I was so thankful for the ability to provide a strong foundation for my daughter’s health, giving her the best nutrition possible.  I did love the bond it created.

When she reached her first birthday, I was ready to start the process. She got sick with RSV right after that and I didn’t want to stop then as her immune system recovered.  I hoped it would happen naturally, but of course it didn’t.  It was really tough on me emotionally (ok, likely hormones had a lot to do with it) to intentionally stop because I had worked SO hard to make it happen in the first place. Eventually, I convinced myself that I needed to do it for me and started decreasing one session per day each week.  We just kept busy or got out of the house to distract her.  We couldn’t do a bottle replacement because she wouldn’t drink milk.  We tried all kinds of milk, but she didn’t like any of it.  She still eats yogurt every morning and loves cheese at mealtime. She loves her sippy cup of water and drinks more than any kid I know. The process took about 6 weeks, but she handled it really well and I was thankful it was easy in that way. IMG_7547

These days, I’m chasing a 17-month old toddler.  She’s been walking since 10 months, so she’s runner and climber now, constantly on the move.  She’s outgoing and says + waves hi and bye to everyone we see at the grocery store. She loves her dog “Belle-y” and feeds her as many snacks (aka “nacks”) as she can sneak. If you ask her what sound an animal makes that she doesn’t know, she’ll scrunch her nose and sniff like a bunny because that’s her favorite. She loves to dance and clap her hands and stomp her feet with joy.  She gives the best hugs with a pat on the back and always blows kisses when saying bye-bye. Her favorite foods are blueberries, bananas, applesauce, yogurt, chicken, cheese, ice cream and whatever we’re eating. And she’s absolutely loving the pool this Summer, already swimming like a champ.  These are truly the best days.

 

 

Cloth Diapering

My mom used cloth diapers with me and I always assumed I would do the same.  Seemed an easy way to save some money, while also giving my little one less exposure to harmful chemicals.  Plus, it is a great way to help out the environment a bit, keeping (on average) 6,000 diapers out of the landfill.

When I was pregnant and started to research it, it was beyond overwhelming.  There were so many different brands, types of diapers, opinions on how to wash, etc.  I had some friends give great advice to get me started, did a lot less research and decided to keep things as simple as possible. If you have been considering trying cloth diapers but have been scared that it would be too difficult or complicated, I want to share the easy way to cloth diaper that’s worked for me.

Newborn Days: We did not start cloth diapering until my daughter was around 3 months old for a couple reasons:

  1. Newborns don’t fit in cloth diapers until they are a bit chunkier.  You have to buy special newborn cloth diapers, which didn’t seem worth the investment to me. My daughter struggled to gain weight in the beginning, so it took her a few months for her skinny legs to fill them out.
  2. Life with a newborn can be hard. I did not have the emotional or physical energy or time to cloth diaper with the amount of diapers babies go through in the first weeks.  Once the diaper count slowed, it felt much more feasible.

We got lots of disposable diapers as gifts from people, so we just used those.  I will say that it is amazing how using cloth prevents blow outs SO much better; that reason alone may convince me to start earlier with another baby.

Saving Money: Cloth diapers can be a bit of an investment at the beginning, but overall it is much cheaper in the long-run.  There are a several ways to save on costs:

  • Register for them. When you create a gift registry for your baby shower, add cloth diapers to the list.  The covers can be cute like clothes and people like to buy them.  This saves you a ton in the up-front investment and was how I built my own stash.
  • Choose a cheaper type and splurge on the brand. Cloth diapers come in all types, with all-in-one and pockets being much more expensive than the prefold + covers. Brand matters too- I suggest choosing a top quality brand that lasts many washes and wears to avoid future replacement costs.
  • Buy gender-neutral. If you can use diapers for multiple kids, that helps save a lot on the investment.  I have some super girly options, but most of my patterns and colors are more gender neutral for more flexibility in the future.
  • Get them second-hand. I did not do this but wish I had known about the huge market for used cloth diapers.  You can strip clean used diapers. Or, if that is unappealing, I am constantly seeing people selling their stashes that they’ve never even used because they bought and never actually tried it.

My Routine:  I use prefolded cloth diapers in covers during the day.  There are lots of ways to fold the prefolds and it really depends on your baby’s gender and habits.  I have found that the angel fold has worked best so far for us.

Since they have wetness protection, I usually only change the covers when it is a poopy diaper.  Wet diapers go straight into a wet bag.  Before 6 months (starting solids), dirty diapers also went straight to the wet bag.  Now, I use a diaper sprayer attached to my toilet to rinse out any solids before putting in the wet bag until laundry day.

I use cloth wipes so that I can keep everything together and not need both a trash can and wet bag.  Cloth wipes are much better at wiping and more gentle on the skin anyway.  I put the wipes in a diaper warmer with a homemade solution of coconut oil, lavender essential oil and water.

At night, I use pocket diapers with extra hemp inserts for additional absorbency.

Laundry Routine: I end up washing my cloth diapers every 3-4 days.  I dump everything in the wet bag into the washer and throw the wet bag in too.  Wash cycles vary greatly based on your type of washing machine and hardness/softness of water.  I would recommend searching for your machine type on the Fluff Love University website for detailed instructions on the best way to clean your diapers thoroughly and keep them lasting.

For detergent, I prefer to use powder because I have to add Borax to my washes to prevent mineral build up with the hard water at our home.  You can see a list of recommended options here, but I generally use either Seventh Generation or Tide Free & Clear.  I have been able to get rid of all staining by laying the items in the sun; I have never used bleach on my diapers.

Using prefolds & covers helps reduce drying time.  I always air dry my covers on a rack to preserve the elastics and my wet bags too.  Inserts & prefolds can go in the dryer and it usually takes 2 cycles to dry them.

Traveling: I still use disposable diapers if we are traveling or will be out and about for a few hours.  Generally if we are just going to the grocery store or somewhere short & nearby, I will keep her in a cloth diaper.  I do keep a small wetbag in my diaper bag just in case.

Getting Started:  People definitely have their preferences for what style and brands to buy.  My goals were to save money and make things as simple as possible.  And I had two main things I looked for in deciding on a brand of covers:

  1. Double gussets = two layers of elastic around the leg holes. Gives a great, flexible fit even for a kid with skinny legs and I have never had a problem with leaking.
  2. Snap closure.  Velcro just doesn’t last and it sticks to everything.

Here’s what makes up my  stash of cloth diapering supplies:

Are cloth diapers something you would be willing to try?  What other questions do you have?  I would love to help you get started!

Easy Homemade Marinara

Homemade marinara has always intimidated me. While it’s so easy to buy pre-made sauce at the store, if you look at the ingredients list, the jars are often full of sugar and preservatives.  When we took a cooking class in Italy a few years ago, I discovered that making my own sauce is not nearly as difficult or time-consuming as I thought it would be.

This is not the recipe we learned how to make in Tuscany, but a variation I created one day while trying to use up some extra veggies I had in the fridge.  This version gives the opportunity to add more flavor and some sweetness by using vegetables in the sauce.  Since it all ends up pureed, this is an easy way to serve your unsuspecting kids more veggies.  I love that it makes an easy, all-in-one-dish meal.

Ingredients:

  • two 16-oz cans of organic tomato sauce
  • 1 organic zucchini
  • 1 organic red bell pepper (seeds & core removed)
  • 2-3 organic carrots (peeled)
  • 1/2 yellow onion (peeled)
  • 6 cloves of garlic (peeled)
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 1-2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 5-6 leaves of fresh basil

Preparation:

  1. Roughly chop the veggies, onion and garlic.
  2. Add the veggies to a deep pot with the olive oil and cook over medium-low temperature until soft.  This usually takes around 15 minutes; the smaller your veggie pieces, the faster they will soften.
  3. Add the tomato sauce.
  4. Use an immersion blender to puree the veggies into the sauce.
  5. Add the salt and crushed red pepper to taste and let simmer on low until you are ready to serve.
  6. When you remove from heat, add some chopped fresh basil.
  7. Serve over pasta or spaghetti squash with fresh mozzarella or Parmesan cheese.

To add some protein, make it a ragu / bolognese by adding cooked Italian sausage to the sauce.  I also love to add in even more veggies at this point by mixing in some chopped kale or spinach that I have sauteed with shallots.

Baby Led Weaning

Now that my baby is almost a year old, we’ve got nearly 6 months of solids food eating underway.  It has been such a fun experience watching her explore food.  She is an incredible eater compared to most kids her age and I am thankful she is always willing to try new foods.

When I was pregnant, I read the book Bringing Up Bébé (highly recommend!) that shares bits of wisdom from French parenting. One of the main topics in the book was about kids’ eating and it really struck a cord with me. The idea is this: Kids Eat What Parents Eat.  It involves eating mostly real food, eating a variety of food – including lots of colorful vegetables, tasting new items, having a healthy relationship with eating habits, and eating together as a family.  When we were getting close to starting solids with my daughter, I started to research more about how to implement this practically and discovered Baby Led Weaning (BLW).

(FYI: Weaning in this case simply means the introduction of solids, and not weaning from breastmilk.) BLW takes into practice the whole idea above in a safe way for little babies as they are learning how to eat.  Babies have been eating what their parents ate for thousands of years- far before we had blenders to make purees or little baby spoons. Many nations around the world follow the BLW way naturally.

We have loved the BLW process and I’m now a huge advocate of how it works to create a healthy little eater.  My mom and husband were very skeptical at first, but now they are believers in the process too! Here are the benefits I have seen so far:

  • Family Meals: Sharing food together as a family and in community are important to me.  Developing this habit early was a big goal for me.  The biggest benefit practically is that baby sees you eating and mimics you- both being willing to eat what you eat and copying the way you eat (chewing, bite sizes, using utensils).  This also begins to teach a baby how to behave at a dinner table -I think has already had a positive effect on our ability to eat in public without causing a scene and actually getting to eat our own meals.
  • Confidence & Independence: Giving my daughter the ability to learn how to eat has given her confidence in trying new foods and starting to be self-sufficient.  It also gives me a much-needed break as I don’t always have to sit there spoon feeding her.
  • Safety- Chewing Before Swallowing: When babies start with purees, they are used to getting a large amount of food in their mouth and swallowing.  When they start solids from there, food often must be cut very tiny so they do not choke.  BLW teaches babies how to chew before swallowing. It also teaches how much is appropriate to bite off of an item and how much will fit in their mouth. Since babies have a stronger gag reflex when they are younger, it is the perfect time to teach this skill- I have seen my daughter fill her mouth and start to gag, learning to spit it out and try again rather than forcing it down and choking.
  • Developing Tastes: Have you tasted baby food? It’s bland and disgusting. It doesn’t taste good to us, so why would a baby want to eat it? Babies are born with a full set of 10,000+ taste buds and are just as eager to enjoy their meals as we are.  There is no reason to stay away from various flavors or spices.  My daughter can eat food just as spicy as I like it and she prefers her food to be well-seasoned.  She loves chili, Tex-Mex and BBQ!
  • Learning by Touch/Senses: We all know that babies learn by putting things in their mouth.  They explore the whole world this way.  As I put various items from our meals on her tray, she gets the chance to touch everything- the different textures and sizes- and develop her grasp. She also gets to experience the smells and colors of her food much better than she would through a puree.  Babies are drawn to color (as we see in their toys) and this translates to the food they eat as well- often, my daughter will choose the orange sweet potato or green bean or red beet over white bread.
  • Convenience: I don’t have time to make homemade purees.  When we go out, she just eats whatever I order. And at home, she eats whatever I cook.  I’m not making special meals for her or accommodations. It’s simply easier on me.

Does this sound like something you would be interested in trying with your baby?  I know that getting started with something so different to the norm can be overwhelming, but here’s a little intro on what helped me the most:

Resources: I recommend reading either of the following BLW books:

I also joined the Baby Led Weaning for Beginners Facebook group to see helpful pictures and videos, answers to questions and tons of tips.  I started following it about 2 months before we started and it was more helpful than anything!

When to Start: No sooner than when baby is 6 months of age, can sit unassisted, has lost the tongue-thrust reflex, and has an interest in food.

Safety: Choking risk is the number one reason I hear that people are afraid to try BLW.  As I mentioned above, BLW does not increase choking risk. The key thing is to learn the difference between gagging and choking.  Gagging is a reaction that helps prevent choking and teaching them how not to choke- letting them work it out and learn.  Watching videos on the Facebook group and knowing the signs for gagging vs. choking are important.  As always, it is important to know child CPR as a parent, and that knowledge should help you be more confident when your baby eats.  An easy way to distinguish: If they are loud & red, let them go ahead. If they are silent & blue, they need help from you.

In general, baby should be eating what you are eating, with a few health/safety exceptions…

  • Don’t offer whole nuts or popcorn or peanut butter on a spoon- items that can easily stick to/in their throat.
  • Quarter (lengthwise) round foods to avoid lodging in the windpipe: blueberries, grapes, cherry tomatoes, sausage, string cheese, carrots.
  • Season generously but limit the salt/sodium. Since your babies kidneys aren’t fully developed, too much sodium can cause them harm.  This is another good reason to avoid processed food.

No teeth? No problem.  My daughter did not have teeth when we started.  She still would mimic my chewing and those jaws + saliva are powerful at breaking down foods to swallow. You would be amazed at how she learned to pull at a strip of meat with her gums and chomp on it a few minutes before swallowing. This girl loved steak even before she had teeth.

Food Before One Is Just For Fun: For the first couple of months, my daughter really did not eat a lot.  She would taste and chew and explore, but would swallow very little. And that is perfectly normal and okay.  Breast milk or formula is still a baby’s main source of nutrition before the age of one.

BLW How to CutCutting to Size: There is no need to cut foods into tiny pieces.  In fact, you want foods to be more finger-sized so they are easier for young babies to pick up and hold.  Having large pieces also helps them learn to bite off an appropriate amount. Cutting little grooves in slippery items like banana and avocado is also helpful to keep their grip. Here is a great picture to use as an example when you are preparing food for your little:

What do you think? Is this something you would try with your baby?  Have you tried it and loved it (or hated it)?  I would love to hear from you!

A 2017 Recap

2017 was quite a year… my life completely changed upon welcoming our baby girl.  I am loving being a mama!  I haven’t had as much time for blogging this year, but surprisingly I’ve gotten more traffic than ever to this site this year.  Thanks for sticking with me and reading!  In case you missed any posts over the past year, I’ll do a quick highlight here…

The year started out waiting anxiously for my daughter to arrive, giving birth, navigating breastfeeding and life with a newborn, and figuring out how to survive be a mom.  Most of my blog posts this year were focused on parenthood, as it has been quite all-consuming lately.

I’ve only shared two recipes this year, though you see more on my Instagram stories if you follow me. One was for an easy household hack and another for the quickest, yummiest weeknight dinner – those save me as a working mom!

Lastly, I started a series on sharing various health stories.  I’ve shared a lot of my own, but I am so encouraged by hearing how others find hope in tough diagnoses or lack there-of.  I hope you have been encouraged also!  I would love to continue this series next year, so please let me know if you have a story to share (anonymously or not – I am more than happy to plug your personal blog!).

Wising you a healthy & hopeful new year!  May the Lord bless you abundantly!

Christine

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*Photograph by Jessica Doffing Photography

 

10 Things I Didn’t Expect About Being a Mom to a Newborn

Now that my daughter is almost a year old, I’ve been reflecting back a lot.  I’m thankful to have a super content, happy baby these days, but the beginning months were really difficult for me. I knew that being a mom would be hard.  Rewarding, but exhausting.  We were the last of most of our friends to have a kid and our friends are pretty open & honest, so I thought my expectations were well-set. But, there were a few things I did not anticipate about those first few months having a newborn…

  1. My baby’s birth day was not the best day of my life. I knew childbirth would be really hard, especially because my plan was to do it without medication.  It is called labor after all. But, I thought millions of women have done this throughout history, I can do it too.  I did it, but the pain of back labor left me kind of traumatized.  (Read my birth story here.)  I’ve had hundreds of better days than being in excruciating pain trying to push a baby out. It was absolutely incredible (and a relief) to finally meet my daughter, so that moment was the best. But, the day itself was terrible.
  2. Breastfeeding may be natural, but it can feel impossible. Breastfeeding is another thing that I had heard plenty of stories about.  I knew it could be painful and take lots of practice through the pain.  But, I thought that getting help from a lactation consultant could fix all those things.  Or that maybe people just gave up too quickly. I am so glad it is an easy, beautiful thing for some people, but, for some of us, there can be so many obstacles to overcome.  I’ve made it almost 11 months and it still isn’t easy.  I’m shocked and so grateful we haven’t had to supplement with formula, but I will never think less of anyone who has to for their sanity or to ensure baby is fed. Read our breastfeeding journey here.
  3. You may dread car rides.  I thought that putting baby in a car seat and driving around was supposed to be this magical, instantly calming thing to make them stop crying and fall asleep.  Or your baby is like mine and instantly loses it as soon as you put them in the car seat and proceeds to scream the entire drive where ever you are going.  Maybe they will quiet down a bit once you get going on the highway, but the second you hit traffic or a red light, the screaming resumes. I’ve never hated yellow lights so much.
  4. Pacifiers will ruin nothing.  Nor will they solve everything. I heard & read that you should never give a baby a pacifier before 2 weeks old or you could ruin breastfeeding, so I was going to try my best to follow that.  Maybe it’s just my baby, but she wasn’t dumb- she knew the difference between something milk is coming out of and something it’s not. We made it a few days before getting desperate enough to try it; of course, she wouldn’t even take it, so it wasn’t very helpful.
  5. How it was possible to get so little sleep and still function. Maybe your baby slept through the night at 4 weeks old. Awesome. Mine didn’t until 9 months and I know some would even be thankful for that. To nap those first three months, she had to be held. Thank the Lord for my mom who would come over to hold her while I napped and for the solly wrap that allowed me to wear her and be hands-free to get things done. I still can’t even fathom how I worked full time and took care of a 3-month old fussy baby getting only a couple hours of sleep each night, but I did it. Somehow, you survive. P.S. If you aren’t a parent yet or pregnant, I recommend not saying you’re “exhausted” to anyone with a baby.
  6. Some babies are hot-natured.  I’ve always seen newborns bundled in so many clothes and blankets babies sleeping in footed fleece onesies and thought that’s what you were supposed to do.  My daughter has only worn socks like 4 times in her life.  I’ve gotten plenty of judgmental looks from strangers, but I realized very early on that she was getting extremely hot in “typical” newborn attire, so I stopped.  She wears long sleeve onesies and a muslin sleep sack to sleep every night and she’s just fine.  And it’s got to be cooler than 70 degrees out to even consider pants. Every baby is different.
  7. Bottles can take practice.  Babies love milk. But, even when a bottle is filled with that magical goodness, they still may reject it as if it is poison. We tried 5 types of bottles with the milk at different temperatures and several individuals trying in various positions over the course of two weeks.  Nothing was working. Then, finally, the week before I went back to work, my friend (thanks, Emily!) held her while standing, bouncing and facing the tv and she finally drank it. From then on, she took it no problem. Why did that have to be so hard!?
  8. Schedule? What is a schedule? If parenthood has taught me anything, it is to be flexible. If I followed the eat every 3-4 hours advice, my daughter, who struggled to get enough milk or gain weight, would have been a failure to thrive.  I nursed on demand and I’m thankful I did. But, it kept us home most of the time in those early months. I am still amazed when I see people out and about with their newborns because our fussy baby who needed to eat constantly wouldn’t really allow that. Eat, Play, Sleep?  No way. Not for us.  She nursed to sleep for months because it was the only way she would sleep.  She’s always napped when she’s tired and I watch for cues instead of watching the clock.  It’s what is best for her.
  9. The diaper part isn’t so bad, except for the blowouts. I thought I would find it far more annoying to change diapers all day than I did. Exclusively breastfed newborn baby diapers are not bad… Even my husband was surprised at how not terrible it was pre-solids. But, there is just something about that poo that no matter the brand/size/fit of a diaper, you are bound to have a blowout every once in awhile. And it will always happen when you’ve just put them in a cute outfit or are about to walk out the door.
  10. It can strengthen your marriage. I heard so many warnings about how having a kid is really hard on your marriage… yes, there is certainly less downtime and date nights are fewer and far between, but you still end up with many quiet evenings at home together.  Of course, it takes work, but I’ve found that us both being in the “we have absolutely no idea what we are doing” stage together, especially when we were both beyond exhausted, bonded us immensely.  I’ve realized more than ever how well we complement each other and what a great team we can be.  I’m also thankful for the 5 years pre-kid we had to travel and learn how to communicate.

We could have never gotten through this trying time without our friends bringing us meals, supportive texts and prayers, and help from my parents, especially my mama who would come over to pray over me, hold the baby while I slept, encourage me through nursing struggles, bring me lunch, make me tea and even clean my house. If you’re in the thick of it, I pray you have a community to support you too.

Parents- is there anything missing from this list you would add?  Were those first few months rough for anyone else?