I've been a mom for 11 months, 1 week, and 2 days. I am by no means an expert on the subject of raising children, but I have managed to sift through a good deal of bullshit over the last year (ish) and here is what I think all parents need to know/do:
1. Find a support group. A group of non-judgmental, 100% supportive, easy to talk to women and/or men that aren't related to you. That way you have people to turn to when it's 2:30 in the morning and your baby won't sleep. He's not mad or upset, he's just awake and you need to chat. Or if your sister is up your ass because she thinks your precious baby girl needs bows in her hair all the time because "otherwise people will think she's a boy." Or you find a weird rash all over your son's chest and belly and you're worried about whether or not you should be worried. Text your group, or post to them on Facebook. They will be an ear to listen, a sounding board, and always good for a vent.
2. Know this: You know your baby better than anyone. I don't care if your momma had 11 kids and they all "turned out fine," you will know your child better than anyone else in the world. You know what he/she needs. You know what will make them feel better, what will comfort them, and what will just make things worse. Trust your instincts. Especially that second night in the hospital, when you and your spouse are pacing around the room, rocking, humming, shushing, singing, doing everything you have heard works. Just stop, take a deep breath and relax. Swaddle him up, crawl back into your big, comfy hospital bed, cuddle the baby and breathe. It will be ok.
3. Stop focusing so much on child raising articles, books, and shows hosted by "experts". Yes, they might have good tips or tricks, but stop worshipping them. Please refer back to number 2.
4. People will give you all sorts of crazy advice. Whether you want to hear it or not. I've found the most effective way of dealing is to just smile and nod, and then go back to raising your kid the way you know is best for your baby. Crying it out worked wonders for us. You don't want to do it? Cool. My neighbor says giving your baby a pacifier will stunt his ability to self soothe and make it harder for him to latch when breastfeeding. That's cool. Smile and nod. Then move on.
5. Trust your partner. I can't tell you how many times I've heard/seen moms physically take their child from it's father because "he wasn't doing it right." First of all, there's rarely such a thing as "right" when it comes to parenting styles. Unless he's spiking the bottle or some other life threatening event, you need to chill out a little and trust him. My husband and Connor do acrobatic tricks and thanks to hubby, Connor's been climbing the stairs since before he could walk. Inside, I'm screaming "DEAR GOD!! STOP THIS MADNESS!!" but outwardly, I'm cool as a damn cucumber. Connor's having a blast, he and hubby are bonding and he's safe. I trust my husband to prioritize my son's well-being above all else. You need to try and do the same.
6. Shit happens. Both literally and figuratively. Roll with it. We had a blowout diaper in the car, on our way out to dinner as a family date night. Turns out, we only had one spare diaper, no wipes, no clean shirts, and only 1 pair of pants (a size too small). We managed. Two days ago, Connor threw up all over himself in the car seat on the way to lunch with Hubby. I used every wipe we had to clean the baby, the car seat, and myself. In a parking lot. In Texas. In the summer. Hot, sweaty, and mildly nauseous, but we survived. You will too.
7. Parenting is gross. Needs to explanation.
8. Breathe. You will be great. Your kid(s) love you. You will do everything you think is best for them. You will screw up. It's part of life. Live and learn.
There's something to be said about a friendship based 100% on honesty and trust without even the slightest fear of being judged.
Of the 3 aforementioned people, there is one that I know I could reveal anything about myself, no matter how weird or twisted it may be, and I will receive no judgement, no "wtf?" if it is something too weird; we'll have a conversation or two about it, and move on. It's amazing, and it goes both ways.
I think everyone needs people like that in their lives. I know friends always say "you can tell me anything", but often times 'anything' just means anything they are comfortable with. It rarely literally means anything.
In my experience, people get very judgey if it's something they don't understand. Personally, you can tell me literally anything and I'll talk to you about it. If you need advice, I'll do what I can to put myself in your situation and offer insight. I might be completely off-base, but I'll try. I have many quirks and things that make me "not normal", it took me a very long time to accept that. It took me even longer (in fact, I still struggle with it) to accept that there is no such thing as "normal".
If you have an issue, talk to someone. If you have an issue with a specific person, talk to that person. If you need a sounding board to get your thoughts straight before talking to someone, I'm always here.
I've been on the receiving end of judgement too many times to ever want to turn that on someone else. I will not judge you. I might ask questions, maybe a bunch of questions, but it's only so I can fully understand what you're saying or thinking.
I used to mock the phrase "ride or die friends" because I thought it was silly. I still think the wording is silly, but I have a better understanding of the meaning now.
That you never really, truly know someone. You can know a lot about them, but no one knows everything about someone else.
There are multiple reasons for this. Sometimes it's because you don't think it matters so you don't mention it. Sometimes it's something that happened in your childhood and you've forgotten the details or just think it's old news. Sometimes it's because you know if you share that info, it will change how people look at you. And sometimes it's simply because you've been burned too many times in the past and you just don't trust people.
Regardless of the reason, my statement stands. No one knows everything about anyone.
There are 3 people in my life who know me better than anyone else. Each knows a different part of me, and each knows things the others don't, as a result of any of the aforementioned reasons. I like to think I know these three as well as they know me, but I have been proven wrong in the past about them, so there's really no way to know; thus reaffirming my initial statement.
I don't think it's all bad. Everyone has secrets; it's human nature. Not lying, but wanting privacy and something just for you. It's just truth.
In my experience, there are people who just take what they want and leave you, and there are people that give you part of themselves in exchange for you sharing part of yourself.
Those people, the ones who take and give back, are the ones you need to keep.
My three? Sometimes they take more than they give, but to be honest, sometimes I do too. As long as there's balance, things will work out.
Ok, by "soon" I mean in less than a month. He turned 11 months this past Tuesday. Over the course of this week, I have bought cake mix and cake decorating items and ordered the birthday invites. It's hard to believe that it's already been a year.
12 months ago I was a huge, miserably uncomfortable pregnant woman. Now? Now I have an adorable, red-headed, cuddly mess of a child running my home (very nearly literally). My life revolves around him and I wouldn't change a thing. In fact, I'm fighting to not change it. We'll see how that works out.
I've gone back an forth about having a big party, or not. Should we have a theme? Should we just do something low-key with family? It's not like Connor will remember this day, right? But I will, and my hubby will and it is a day to commemorate. It's the day we went from a married couple to a family. The day we stopped being just two people, to three people bonded together forever. It's the day I officially became a mom, without a doubt or question. It's the day my husband became a full-fledged dad. It's the anniversary of the biggest change in our lives. Ever.
So, yeah, we're celebrating. We'll have a party. Spend way too much money on too much food and end up eating leftovers for a week. We'll have tons of people in our house. We'll feel so much stress and love and an overwhelming sense of "hell freaking yeah! We made it through the first year!"
Yeah. We're partying.
When I talk to new people about my son, it (almost always) comes up that I had a c-section. For some irritating reason, I then feel the need to explain why to these people (who's immediate reaction is something along the lines of "why would you do that?" or "oh, you didn't actually give birth").
Look here, people, a c-section is giving birth. Arguably, it's more difficult. Did you get to cuddle your baby seconds after he was born? That's great, because I didn't. I barely remember seeing his face because I was on so many painkillers. (Btw, if you're debating, TAKE THE DRUGS.) Do you have a gnarly scar right across the top of your bikini line? I do. From what I understand, your recovery took a couple days, maybe you were happily walking, even skipping out of the hospital? I was struggling to get in and out of bed for weeks. They sent me home with pills that made me feel like a zombie. After 3 days, I quit taking them and just dealt with the pain because I wanted/needed to be alert for my tiny newborn. I bet it didn't hurt you to laugh. I bet they didn't have to remove really sticky (and painful) bandaging from your new giant hole just so you could take a shower.
For those who think a c-section isn't the same as giving birth, let me ask you this: did it result in a human being coming out of my body? Yes? It did? SUCK IT.
So the next person who looks down on me for having a c-section needs to be prepared. I went through hell. I had evil contractions just like every other birth-giving momma. A person came out of me. That, my poor ignorant "friend", is what happens when one gives birth.
October 10th, 2013 was one of the happiest days of my life. It was the day we found out we were pregnant. We'd just started trying the month before and I didn't really expect to get pregnant right away, but I was so thrilled. I cried reading "pregnant" on the little digital screen. Hell, I took 3 pictures of that damn thing.
We told our parents within a couple days. Our siblings by the end of the next week.
October 13th. I was visiting my sister and hanging out with her kids when I noticed some spotting. She had 3 kids, so I asked her about it and she said it happens, not to worry. So I tried not to worry.
I called my OB later that week to schedule my first OB appt and mentioned the spotting. They said "don't worry, it happens" and to call if it turns red or if I have any cramping. Ok. Don't worry. Got it.
October 20th. Hubby leaves for work. I get up to use the bathroom. Red. Bright, scary red. Call the OB. It's Sunday, so they're closed, but I leave a message on the emergency line and my doc calls back within 5 minutes. "It could be nothing, but go to an urgent care center just to be sure." I push her a little more, because I'm terrified at this point, and she confirms my biggest fear. I could be losing the baby.
Call hubby. He comes right back home, picks me up, and off the the urgent care center we go. I'm cramping, and crying my eyes out because I know what's happening and there's literally nothing I can do to stop it.
The nurse at the UCC sucked. She was short and rude and kinda pushy. She took blood from my hand, leaving a giant bruise that lasted for over a week. Just what I needed, right? A constant reminder of what I'd lost. The doctor and ultrasound techs were really nice. The ultrasound tech confirmed that I had been pregnant, but that I must have passed the baby already, because there was only "small evidence of conception." I appreciated her using medical terms and cold-ish language. "Conception" rather than "baby." It was taking everything I had not to breakdown right then and there.
They didn't rush us out, which I also appreciated. They were very kind and honest with us.
By far the worst day of my life. I still cry thinking about it. I cried on the day that baby should have been born, even though I was 6 months pregnant with my son. I cried on the anniversary of the day we lost that baby, as I cuddled on the couch with my 2 month old.
Miscarriage. It's one of those "clubs" that no one wants to belong to, but once you do, you can never leave. I found a lot of family and friends who had lost a baby and I never knew until I told them about mine. I had made the mistake of telling my students and coworkers that we were pregnant as soon as we found out. Un-telling people is one of the hardest things. The look of pity is worse.
We got pregnant with Connor about 8 weeks later. I was so happy and so terrified. I now knew the worst could and very well might happen. I was checking for blood several times a day. I'd get so anxious and nervous before every appt because I'd have a sinking feeling in my gut that something was wrong and we'd lost this baby too.
If you've never lost a baby, you can't imagine just how nerve-wracking and terrifying pregnancy can be. I wouldn't wish this kind of fear on anyone. I never really got to just relax and enjoy my pregnancy. I always worried that something would go wrong.
That's what miscarriage does to a person. It changes your entire perspective on things, and it alters who you are. Forever.
It took me a long time, and a lot of research and reassurance from my wonderful husband, to believe that the miscarriage was not my fault. I didn't do anything wrong, and there wasn't something wrong with me. Sometimes babies just aren't viable or healthy, and the body rejects them as soon as possible to save you from the pain and heartache later on. I know that is the truth, but it still hurts sometimes.
Miscarriage is one of those "taboo" topics that we don't talk about because it's sad and no one wants to think about it. I don't like thinking about it, but for me, and for the other women I know who've lost a baby, it's not something you can forget. The pain fades, but the thought it always there, in the back of your mind. Always.
Even on days like today, when the stresses of life are getting to me more than normal, there are little things that make it better.
When it comes to my son, I am the law. Hell, I'm the law, the House, Senate, and the damn Supreme Court. My husband is literally the only person in the world who can veto my parenting decisions/rules, and even that is perilous.
So, family, friends, and complete strangers, if I say "no, he can't have that" or "no, he can't do that" or just plain "no" for anything at all, you have to accept it and MOVE ON. I do not have to justify, explain, or rationalize anything to you. You might be my favorite person in the whole world, but if I can't trust you to do as I've asked with my child, you won't be seeing us often (if at all).
I'm so sick of having to convince people that I know what is best for my child. Don't like what I'm doing? Think I'm doing it wrong? Go have your own kid and do what you think is right, but you will do what I've said or you will not see mine. It really is that simple.
Now, let me say this before I start getting angry/concerned texts, calls, or messages: I'm not targeting any one person right now. I'm venting pent up frustration that has been building since he was born.
Here's how it works: I make the rules. Hubby gives his stamp of approval. You, whoever you are (cousin, grandparent, aunt, uncle, friend), will follow said rules or you will start to notice you don't see us anymore.
My beloved son is clumsy. Far more so than I, and that's really saying something. He's not walking yet, so when he gets really excited, he crawls too fast and trips over himself. I feel kinda bad (but not too much) because I think it's adorable and hilarious.
He also manages to get himself stuck (see photo) doing simple stuff. Again, I feel a little bad because I think it's terribly amusing.
Yep, I'm that mom. Oh well.
Dear Marvel and DC,
I would first like to say thanks, and I LOVE your work. My soon-to-be 6 year old niece loves your work too, but she prefers the female characters, since those are the ones she idolizes and relates too. The problem is, for all the female characters that y'all do have, there are very few kid-friendly stories primarily revolving around the women. I have found (after literally hours of searching online and in stores) 3 "I can read" style comics about the women. I find this both appalling and shameful.
Comics aren't just for boys. Girls of all ages love this shit too.
Cater to us, damn it.
A disgruntled but devoted fan
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Writer and Contributor for the Motherhood Community