Bringing Home Siblings

This post contains affiliate links to help you find the products we have found helpful. We may get a tiny reward if you use our links but the recommendations are our own. Pretty Photo above credited to Jordan Marie Photography

All of us Real Mothers have gone through the fun adventure of bringing home a second or third baby to the family and I think we’ve collectively had just about everything go wrong that the rest of you could expect. The inspiration for this post was a friend’s recent experience of her 2-year-old trying to help “calm” a fussy 1-week old brother by very silently and sneakily feeding him an almond <cue full mom panic by proxy>. Luckily she was watching and everyone is ok.

We thought we’d put together a rundown on what will help avert disaster in sibling-land and make the transition as smooth as possible. Most of this is directed toward families bringing home a new baby with a first child (or multiple children) between the ages of 1-5 years old. Older kids are generally a bit easier to explain about baby safety, mom’s recovery, etc… hopefully.

Talk early and often

IMG_3444Being pregnant while managing a tiny terrorist is hectic in and of itself. If this is baby #3 or more for you on the way, that craziness is compounding. It’s easy to forget to talk to your kids about what to expect with a new baby ahead of time because frankly, you’re just in survival mode 90% of the time as it is. However, it makes a HUGE difference and it is much easier to manage baby’s arrival at home if you have had a few convos ahead of time and set realistic expectations for big brother(s) and/or sister(s). Some strategies include using books (see suggestions below), children’s shows (also below), incorporating a little Q&A or “talking to baby” session into bedtime, or talking about it for a bit when you see other people with small babies.

Don’t Miss Topics:

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Photo credit: Fiona Margo Photography
  • Where Babies Come From: This is bound to come up in one form or another. Rather than just avoiding the conversation, do yourself a favor and have these books: What Makes A Baby and Hello in There!, for a low-level detail, kid-targeted, but medically accurate way to explain how the baby got in there and how it gets back out. Some other great books are in This Fatherly Blog Post.

 

  • Shows: This is a parent and sibling win-win situation. Your kid feels like they are being treated to TV time, and you get help explaining the sibling transition from familiar children’s characters. Some of our favorites include “We Can’t Wait to meet the Baby” and “The Baby is Here!” (also books!) from Daniel Tiger. You can also view some great short videos about welcoming baby on  PBSKids.org.

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  • Baby Safety: As reviewed above, kids love to “help” mom with baby and are often distressed by the baby’s distress. Go over specifically:
    • Never put anything in baby’s mouth (including pacifiers because you don’t know where that thing’s been when the toddler finds it). If your kid is older the rule could be “without asking a parent”, but err on the side of never. Since younger kids understand positive “DO” commands better than negative “DON’T” commands – you can frame this as always bring things to a parent BEFORE giving to baby.” This also is important because younger kids may want to share small (CHOKING HAZARD) toys that they may not understand are dangerous to baby even if they are not put near the baby’s mouth. More than one sibling in our crew has tried to share a lego or two to cheer up their new baby, and they need to understand that sharing with a baby is ONLY okay when a parent approves the toy.
    • Never put anything over the baby’s face. Kids also love to “play peekaboo” or give stuffed animals to the baby which can smother tiny nostrils easily. Again, the positive spin on this is that blankets/toys/etc always go on the legs, NOT the face. Include not putting things in the crib/basinet with baby – little kids are remarkably good at “sharing” when you least want them to.adorable baby beanie bonnet
    • Never pick up the baby without a parent’s help. If your kiddo is much older, you can adjust this to their ability. But again, err on the side of caution when baby is tiny and needs head support. A positive way to frame this is “always ask for a parent to help you pick up or hold baby.”
    • We also find it helpful to have a “no-touching-on-the-face or hands” rule to manage germ transition. Point out they can kiss the toes or top of the baby’s head. And keep antibacterial spray such as this kid-safe one from CleanWell ALLLLL over the house.close up of baby feet
  • Mom’s Body: As a second (or third or fourth)-time moms’ belly grows larger, it somehow becomes an irresistible target for kids’ boisterous jumping, bouncing and otherwise projectile launching. You can be reassured, the baby is very well protected in there – but of course if a direct hit results in ongoing pain or bleeding, go get checked! Talk a lot about ways to be gentle with mom’s belly each time this happens.

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    Photo Credit: Kimberlin Gray Photography
  • Birth and Recovery: Also take the opportunity to talk about what the plan will be while mom is at the hospital or birth center. Go over how mom will be very tired and have some “ouchies” after the baby comes out and talk about ways the kids can help out – getting ice packs for you, rubbing feet, making faces or telling stories to the baby, helping to fetch diapers, etc…. Most kids love being able to help. Emphasizing their “big kid-ness” helps them feel special. If your kid is reward-motivated, you can even set up a points-chart that they earn a sticker for each helpful act to earn a new toy or privilege.

Gift From Baby

Picking up a special time-occupying gift for big kid “from the baby” goes a long way to establishing the baby-is-your-friend status we all want. Some good ideas can be found in this post: Plane Travel with Littles: Carry-On Packing List. Do yourself a favor and DO NOT buy toys that make noise. Boys and girls alike usually like to have their own babydoll of some kind to “mirror” what the parents are doing with the real baby, here are a few other options by age.

1-2 year old: Buckle Toys, Latch Board or Latch Barn

 

 

2-5 Years Old: Magnatiles, Dollhouse and Green Toys Cars + Track

Also consider a tablet loaded with educational games, see Fave Fridays: Smart Screen Time for ideas!

 

Of course, you know your kid best, get them something you know they’ll be excited about and will play with relatively independently for a while. Avoid toys with choking-sized parts even for bigger kids until you know they’re on board with the “nothing-in-baby’s-mouth” rule.

Lower Your Expectations

Most kids go through some form of regression when a new baby comes home. That can take a lot of forms. Potty-trained kids might have accidents again. Kids who have no trouble sleeping alone at night might suddenly be getting up. They will want to play in the baby’s bouncer, ride in the stroller, suck the pacifier. It’s a normal phase and will pass if you don’t overreact. Acknowledge it, talk about it briefly and move on.

Also lower your expectations for getting stuff done. Enlist more help. You will not get those luxurious “nap when the baby naps” moments as easily as when there was just one little being taking your time. (Did those really ever happen anyway?!) Set yourself up for success with a decluttered house, easy food in the freezer and loved ones on board to help as much as possible. If you have trouble asking for help, make a list ahead of time of things that would be helpful or set up a MealTrain or other chore-registry to delegate.

love sweet face portraitThis post is about preparing the kiddos, but part of that also involves preparing your coparent and other family/friends who will be helping. Make sure they know the priority is helping with the housework and the big kid(s). Your job is the new baby. They’re NOT there to hold the new baby while you ‘get stuff done’. I repeat: THEY ARE THERE TO GET STUFF DONE and only as much of the new baby stuff as you want to delegate. Liberally use the phrase, “My doctor/midwife said I need to be holding the baby as much as possible for bonding, immunity and milk production, so can you please <do the dishes, fold the laundry, go to the store, make dinner, take Jimmy to the park, etc…> while we go take a nap together?”

IF and only if you desire a moment away from new baby to shower, snuggle your big kid or whatever else, then others get to hold new baby. No one has a “right” to new baby time except YOU.

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Photo credit: Stacey Petersen Photography

If you don’t have family or a community to help, look at neighborhood list serves like NextDoor to hire a middle or high school aged “mommy’s helper” – cheaper than a nanny or babysitter, literally they just come over and do chores or play with your big kid while you’re home taking care of baby.

Enjoy the Before

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Photo credit: Jordan Marie Photography

The one guarantee with bringing another little life into the family is that things will be different. Better in many ways, harder in many ways, and just altered in many, many ways.

Watching siblings grow together and love one another is one of the greatest joys of parenthood.

Try not to worry too much about how you’ll manage it, because you just will. Do your best to try to soak in the remaining time while the newest addition is still easily portable, fed and clean on the inside of your body. Plan special outings that will be harder with a new baby like going to a movie or kids’ museum. Take a moment every day to pay attention to the little life on the inside as you did with the first baby without even realizing you were doing it.

Good luck multiples parents-to-be, enjoy the ride!

Anne is a mom to three (including one beautiful brand new baby) and family physician in California. Christiana is a mom to three, military spouse, attorney, and currently a stay-at-home mom in New England.

Holiday Baking Hacks

“Twas the night before the holiday party and all through the fridge, not a stick of butter could be found, not even a smidge…with the children in bed and the dog in her crate, I’m wondering if Amazon delivers this late… “

 

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“No butter?!?!” It would be nice if the big man delivered late night baking essentials too…

The week of last-minute-everything

It’s the last week before Christmas, y’all. The final countdown. The week that in our home is unofficially known as “the week of last-minute-everything.” Between the perpetually forgotten stocking stuffers, out-of-stock toys, procrastinated holiday cards, cookie exchanges, white elephants, and school holiday performances; the office, classroom, and social holiday parties that often tend to occur during this same chaotic week have a tendency to sneak right up on me. Which is bad enough when you can’t find your ugly sweater, but even worse when you realize you’re on the hook to bring holiday treats for two dozen preschoolers and are plum out of a key ingredient.

We all wish we could bake cakes out of rainbows and smiles, but in reality, we need butter. and sugar. and eggs. And sometimes… we run out. So, here are a few ways to save yourself if you come up in a bind in the kitchen.

Favorite “Baking Hack” substitutions

Here are some of my favorite ways to get the job done when a run to the store is just not going to happen.

  • Heavy cream – for every 1 cup of heavy cream, substitute 3/4 c. whole milk and 1/3 c. butter. Melt butter and mix into milk.
  • Eggs – Substitute 1 tbsp cornstarch whisked together with 3 tbsp water, whisked together, per egg.  I use this substitute all. the. time. It’s great in a pinch, but also for saving eggs for brunch, for when that one vegan relative comes over, or even for cookie dough you know the kids will be sneaking. (No raw egg to worry about here!)person peeling the egg
  • Baking powder and Baking Soda – Contrary to popular belief, you can substitute baking soda for baking powder, and vice versa. ON ONE CONDITION. The substitution is NOT ALWAYS EQUAL. Baking soda is much more powerful than baking powder and contains an acid. Read carefully!
    • Baking Powder: Substitute 1/2 tsp of baking soda and 1 tsp vinegar or lemon juice for every 1 tsp baking powder needed.
    • Baking Soda: You may substitute baking powder for baking soda at a 3:1 ratio. So simply use three times the amount of baking powder as you would baking soda.
  • Sugar – Both honey and maple syrup (or a combination of both!) are good sugar substitutes in baking. Use 3/4 cup honey or syrup per every cup of sugar needed. Color will be darker if you’re subbing for white sugar here. (Note: Some recipes suggest reducing liquid and adding 1/4 extra tsp. of baking soda for each cup of sugar replaced. I haven’t done this, but you may notice less of a difference in texture with these adjustments)
  • Vanilla – Equal amounts of maple syrup, slightly less almond extract, or (something I always have in the fridge) vanilla almond or soy milk. When cooking for adults you can also spring for a boozy dessert by equally substituting any dark liquor like bourbon, rum or brandy.yellow pastry on white powder on brown wooden table
  • Butter – You have a few great options here.
    • Greek yogurt: For every 1 cup of butter required, substitute 1/2 cup of greek yogurt.
    • Coconut Oil: Substitute in equal amounts, but note that taste can be noticeable (I think this can be a bonus, but non-coconut lovers should proceed with caution). A combination of coconut oil and greek yogurt is also fantastic!
    • Applesauce: For every 1 cup of butter, substitute 1/2 cup of applesauce.
    • Avocado: Substitute equally.
  • Shortening – Coconut oil is the same texture and subs really nicely here. It will give your baked goods a coconutty flavor, as noted above, so not the choice for you if you don’t want that. You can also substitute butter (if you’re not out!) at equal parts plus two tablespoons per cup. But expect a softer dough if you’re making roll-out dough for cookie-cutting. making gingerbread cookies christmas cookie cutters

If it’s healthier holiday treats you’re after, some quick (and sneaky) ways to make seasonal sweets less sinful are to:

  1. Reduce sugar. You can do this without being skewered at the cookie exchange by adding extra vanilla and/or cinnamon if applicable. You can also cut up to 1/4 cup of sugar from most sweet bread and muffin recipes simply by sprinkling a teaspoon or two of sugar on top before baking.
  2. Choose healthy fats. Butter, coconut oil, avocado, and whole milk yogurt are all good fats that top hydrogenated shortening, vegetable or canola oils in our kitchen any day.
  3. Add fiber. You can easily add fiber to bread and muffins by reducing flour and adding flax, wheat germ, chia seeds, and/or oats in its place.  These substitutions not only add fiber but naturally cut calories and boost other nutritional benefits too.
  4. Add protein. You can squeeze protein into bread and muffins (and even cakes!) by adding a scoop or two of your favorite vanilla or unflavored protein powder. Chia seeds are a nice addition to some baked goods as well.

Turns out you can have your holiday cake (and cookies and muffins) and eat it too.  Now that’s some joy definitely worth spreading.

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fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and amateur late-night holiday baker. (Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography)

Postpartum Prepping

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Basically since I became a doctor-mama, my go-to baby shower gift has been a big-ol-bag of all the things you’re gonna want to have around after you give birth that no one else will gift you. It’s not the kind of gift that gets a round of, “AWWWWW!!”, and I usually advise the moms to open in in private later so as not to embarrass the grandmas and/or husbands in the crowd. But, after going through the birth aftermath myself, I realized it was the best thing I could do for friends to save them or their loved ones that trip to the grocery store/pharmacy after birth.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Of course, I realize most other people don’t do this for baby showers. So here’s a list of all the things you maybe don’t know you will need. Try to have all this on-hand by about 36 weeks gestation just in case things happen early. I went to get mine at *ahem* 36 weeks exactly and posted about it on Instagram stories (follow us @asamotherblog if you don’t already!). At that point in pregnancy, most women and their babes still go home in the normal 1-4 day postpartum interval so you won’t have extra time to prep.

Diapers & wipes

You probably got some of these at the shower, but make sure you have the right start-up stash before baby is there. You’ll want 1 or 2 boxes of newborn sized diapers. Don’t get much more than that at first because many babies grow out of the N-size fairly quickly. Get 2-3 boxes, minimum, of the size 1’s. Which diapers? That’s up for a whole separate blog-post debate… However! For the N’s, make sure it’s a sensitive skin or natural diaper option to avoid early diaper rash and the ones with the blue stripe to tell when it’s wet are wonderful for your addled post-partum brain. For the wipes, just buy the biggest possible box of SCENT-FREE, sensitive skin wipes. You’ll use them.

Kirkland - ibqh Baby Wipes - Ultra Soft - 900 Count Box rcuzj

Maxi pads

Speaking of diapers, you’ll be wearing your own as well. In the hospital, they provide lovely, actual adult-diaper sized pads and mesh underwear to house them. Grab a few extras for the trip home if you can. After that, though you’ll want a box of heavy-flow, overnight, extra-large pads to wear. You will bleed much heavier than a regular period for at least one week, sometimes 2-4 weeks post-partum and you canNOT use tampons. Get another box of lighter ones for spotting after which can be another few weeks. Get unscented, sensitive ones – your lady parts will be, well…. fragile, to say the least.

Pro-tip: Take ~6 of these heavy duty pads, soak them in witch hazel (see below) and freeze for your own soothing stash of ‘padsicles’, this tip brought to you by my fave pregnancy/post-partum book, The Girlfriends’ Guide to Surviving the First Year Of Motherhood.

Clothes

You might already be set here depending how you shopped in pregnancy. The basic wardrobe of your first 2 months postpartum is as follows:

  • Nursing tank top or bra + boob accessible shirt
  • Kimono or sweatery-type thing
  • Stretchy pants
  • Slippers or comfy socks
  • Granny panties

Nursing tanks have 3 varieties: comfy, sporty, supportive. I would get yourself MINIMUM of one of each if you’re planning to breastfeed for a while. Here are a few of my faves:

The bras also have comfy and supportive options. Get at least 1 of each. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT get nursing bras with underwire. This is a HUGE risk factor for getting clogged ducts which hurt like a mofo. You won’t need that kind of support anyway once your milk plumps those puppies up.

I am super excited that the drapey-cover-up trend is still happening because there are SO many cute options to turn your nursing tank into an actual outfit these days! I mean, you basically get to wear a robe in public and are insta-stylish. For your stretchy pants, you will continue to rock your maternity pants for a while – fold the over-belly ones down if needed. Also, have some high-rise leggings around. NO low-rise, if you have a c-section, those will push on your incision and hurt and if you don’t it will not support your recently vacated tummy enough.

Buy at least a 5-pack of large underwear you don’t care about. The underwear should fit you at 3rd trimester pregnancy because (hopefully you already know this), you will look 5-6 months pregnant for the first several weeks after birth, minimum. When in doubt, size-up. You need ones that are soft, big enough to hold those overnight maxi-pads and that are cheap enough you feel fine throwing them away after they’re stained. Black is a good color choice. Again, avoid low-rise, get at least mid-rise. And add on whatever slippers/socks you like if someone didn’t gift you.

Food

Moving on! In recovery from birth and when starting up nursing, you will need LOTS of easy food. If you’re getting hungry a lot, your body will have a harder time making milk. Stock up on protein and healthy-fat rich snacks that are easy to grab and eat one-handed. My go-to’s are protein bars like RxBars, cheeses, nuts and nut-butters plus something to slather them on. If you like it, lunch meat is also a great option (you get to have it again, yay!).

Stock the freezer with ready-to-heat meals and the pantry with easy sides. I keep around bags of frozen vegetables (much better nutrition than canned), a supply of ground grass-fed meats to throw into the crockpot for marinara or chili, microwavable brown rice and quinoa, sweet potato fries and other easy meals you can throw together 1 handed.

Drinks

Yes, get yourself some celebratory wine/beer/liquor. This should go without saying, but… Should you get drunk while you’re sleep deprived and breastfeeding a tiny human? NO. If you have a history of alcohol or addiction issues, should you jump off the wagon? NO. Can the rest of you have a glass of champagne to celebrate being an actual superhero-miracle-maker? Heck yes!

What I’m really talking about here though is hydration. You’ll need to drink 3-4 Liters of water daily, aka a GALLON A DAY, while recovering and nursing. If plain water isn’t your thing, stock up on what will help you get that in. Herbal teas with fenugreek are a great nursing support. These Upspring berry-flavor or chocolate options are also great. Fruit juices are cool if you’re not diabetic. Sparkling water counts. Just get. it. in. Avoid soda, please, for me?? It’s not good for your recovering body.

Baby First Aid

I strongly recommend getting the Fridababy Baby Basics set that has a snotsucker (much more gentle and effective than a bulb), a Windi (can be a miracle for colicky babies), the Dermafrida for your skin and nail clippers. This is great to put on the registry! Get some plain baby nasal saline drops for stubborn boogers. Have a good diaper cream on hand – Resinol has been our family go-to since I was a baby, but anything basic is fine. You also should have a rectal thermometer in the house in case you need to check a temperature accurately.

For your lady-parts

For you ladies who know you’re having a cesarean section for whatever reason, you don’t necessarily need this. For everyone else planning for a vaginal delivery, also get a large bottle of witch hazel or witch hazel flushable hemorrhoid wipes or pads. You will be far too tender to wipe at all at first and will just use the handy spray-bottle while you go then pat dry oh-so-gently. After that, though, you’ll want to use these gentle wipes, not dry TP for about 6 weeks. Also pick up a bottle of Miralax and some docusate stool softener if you’re not already using them. You’ll want your poo’s SOFT. Trust me on this.

Nursing supplies

If you can get a double-electric breast pump from insurance, definitely do that. If not, or I would say even if you do, I also recommend getting a manual pump as back up and for travel. It’s super helpful even if you’re not planning to bottle feed at all, just to have on hand if you’re engorged or have a clog. Also pick up a jar of organic coconut oil. This is by far the best nipple lubricant and safe for baby, no need to wipe clean before feeding. Put it on after EVERY feed and before EVERY pumping session until your nips have toughened up. You’ll usually be given some lanolin – this is usually WAY too sticky for sensitive nipples. Use it on baby’s bum instead. If it’s your first baby or you’re sensitive, you might need something stronger at first like this Motherlove Organic Nipple Cream.

Motherlove Nipple Cream Certified Organic Salve for Sore Cracked Nursing Nipples, 1 Oz.

Also grab yourself a pack of either washable or disposable (judgement free zone here) boob pads for leakage. I have hoarded all the removable pads from every swimsuit and athletic top I’ve ever bought and use those because they’re washable, but if you aren’t a weirdo like me, buy some 🙂

Last but not least, vitamins

You’ll need to stay on vitamins the whole time you’re recovering from birth (3 months) and longer if you’re nursing. You can keep taking your same prenatals if that works for you or transition to a post-partum vitamin. Two options that are good are Healthy Mama Postnatal and Naturemade Postnatal Support.

Be Well Rounded! Perfect Postnatal Multi-Vitamin +DHA Softgels. Once Daily to Optimize Nutrition While Breastfeeding. 1 Month

Nature Made Postnatal Multi-Vitamin Plus DHA Softgels, 60 Count

 

I’ll be adding Nerium’s Youth Factor vitamin and superfood drink because it can help prevent post-partum hair loss and might boost milk supply as well. Taking all the help I can get!

Here’s the list in-brief for printing:

  • Sensitive skin diapers: 1 box newborn, 2 boxes size 1
  • Sensitive, scent free wipes: largest possible box
  • Maxi-pads: 1 box overnights, 1 pack regular, unscented
  • Nursing tanks x3, Nursing bras x2, stretchy high rise pants
  • Pack of large, mid-rise underwear, dark colors
  • Slippers/socks if needed
  • Snack foods, pantry foods, freezer foods
  • Large water bottle (about 1 liter size), other hydration options
  • Fridababy Snot-sucker, nasal saline drops, Fridababy Windi, tiny nail clippers, rectal thermometer
  • Bottle of witch hazel or witch hazel wipes
  • Stool softeners (miralax and docusate)
  • Organic coconut oil
  • Other nipple cream if needed
  • Breast pads for milk leakage
  • Vitamins

Ok, I’ve got pregnancy brain and that’s all I can think of… all you experienced mamas out there, what else would you recommend?? Comment below!

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Annie Ray is a mom of 2 due any time now with baby #3, a family doctor and Target-lover in Sacramento, CA.

PostPartum Rage Is A Real Thing.

A couple of weeks ago, an article came across my newsfeed that stopped me dead in my tracks. We have discussed postpartum depression and anxiety here on the blog to help normalize the conversations about those two particular, and VERY prevalent, states of motherhood. But, what about those of us who have had both of those things manifest differently? What about those of us that cannot pinpoint what it is that we are feeling, leaving us confused, feeling isolated, and abnormal? What if our symptoms are not only sadness, stress, or anxiety? (as if that isn’t enough…sheesh)

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Photo Credit to Actify Neurotherapies

Commonly known symptoms of PPD and PPA are mentioned above, but with one caveat. The Anger/Rage category that is seemingly brushed over for the other symptoms listed here. My own postpartum manic anxiety turned into something I had never even knew existed until a couple of weeks ago…….it was FULL. BLOWN. RAGE.

Have you ever just been having a normal conversation, and something triggers you and you have this overwhelming anger that makes your ears turn bright red, your blood boil, and before you know it, your whole family is crying because you’ve screamed for the last five minutes without knowing what you’ve said or even why?

Have you found yourself trying like hell to not throw something across the room when the toilet seat is peed on and you forget to check before you sit, and end up throwing said object anyway?

I have.

Hi, my name is Kristy, and I am just realizing that I have suffered from PostPartum Rage for 7 years.

People don’t often talk about this ugly symptom of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, because it describes a state of mind that is downright hard to talk about. To watch someone from the outside go through such uncontrollable anger must just look wrong. We have images within us that create this patient, loving, and kind image of a person that we hope to be as mothers.  I know that was my intention upon having children.  However, the “inner monster” that would come out of me during moments where I could not control my environmental triggers had other plans. It would create a panic that would lead to confusion, then frustration. Then, the trigger event happens and then boom….pop goes the mommy.

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Photo Credit New Scientist

I try to think back on all the times that I could feel my friends and family’s eyes on me, as I was triggered by the kids, dog, losing my keys or cell phone, or whatever. It was almost as if, in an instant, I would watch myself from outside my body. Normalcy would give way to rage, rage ended always in guilt, and all throughout this cycle, my inner voice is begging me,

200“Stop it this ISN’T a big deal! Breathe. Just please Breath.”

 

After my episode was over, I would go immediately into the depression cycle over the way I had “behaved” because I should have control over it. I would be so embarrassed for my family, that I’d regularly cry by myself or with my husband for significant periods of time over the next day or so. I’d then chalk it up to a bad day, pick myself up, and tell myself I’d never let it happen again.

But it always did.

The things is, I could not control it. It had its raging claws stuck in my brain, puppeteering me through episodes that could last seemingly for hours.

Thanks to Carolyn Wagner and her post on Motherly on a particularly bad day, I read what seem like a perfect description for what my postpartum symptoms were. I could never solidly say I was depressed or anxious all the time, but one thing I could always rely on, was having an anger button with a hair trigger.

When broken down though, Wagner explains it most perfectly by saying,

“In overwhelmed,  guilt 

I mean, Ding friggin’ ding. In one paragraph, I was given the gift I had always needed…… to feel UNDERSTOOD.

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She goes on to say that it “  

But how can this be? I am a strong woman. I have a support system. I have a great life, with GREAT kids. BUT, none of my friends or family had ever mentioned this type of symptom before. I hadn’t really even seen it as a doula!  I allowed that feeling of abnormality assist in isolating my rage, as I saw myself separate from my peers.  This is what created room for false perception to take over within me. AKA, self- judgement.

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After I peeled myself off the floor in a fit of tears, I immediately shared it on social media with Carolyn’s words still echoing in my head. The feedback was almost instant.

I really am not alone.

This symptom doesn’t go unnoticed, but it does seemingly get brushed under the rug in conversation. I believe it is more taboo because it is ugly, uncomfortable, and well……..angry.  Until now, I had felt that I had part monster inside of me. I even called it “Monster Mommy” while

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Photo from Readers Digest

apologizing to my family after calming down from an episode. Since I have been gifted a jumping off point towards being more informed about Postpartum Rage, I can now start creating awareness of its episodes within myself and with my support system. With this mindful awareness, I can understand what sets me off at it’s core, and avoid getting myself into those situations.

 

In cases where triggers are unavoidable, I have enlisted the help of my husband. As per the article, I would track when and what would set me off. We came up with a code phrase, “you are spinning” to alert my brain to what is about to happen. And, I dare say, it has been a powerful helper. We worked together to find one that wouldn’t cause the trigger to go off more immediately such as “calm down” or “you’re getting upset”   <shutter….jaw clench……okay just breath>

No matter what it is you do, there are a few things I want you to know:

  1. It’s okay. And it is okay to talk about it.  Please know that others need to know that this is a SYMPTOM, which means it can be treated.  You can ask your care provider to help you through this time. But please, have a true discussion about it.
  2. There is help. If you are a partner, friend, or family member of someone and you read this, please know that your partner doesn’t want to have this symptom anymore than you or your kids want her to. So don’t be afraid to ask whoever you can for help with it.
  3. You are loved. Self care is extremely important as parents. So, I am letting you know that  shifting into a self-care routine is vital to managing this. Your loved ones will thank your newfound self-care awareness when you learn how to tell when you need a break before you explode.
  4. A recurring theme of mine is that you’re never alone. Ever. And this is no exception.

                              ….It takes a village.

 

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Kristy is a doula, self-care advocate, struggle-bus rider, and mom of 2 in Virginia

 

Public Places, Crowded Spaces

I used to be really, really laid back.  I was so laid back, in fact, that many of my friends would comment about how much they loved having me around in large groups because I was so “go with the flow.”  When we were making plans, and everyone was trying to make a decision, I would often say, “I’m cool with whatever!”  And I meant it.  This wasn’t one of those, “I’m cool with whatever but then will be miserable with the decision.”  I legit would be happy anywhere with anyone and without complaint.

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Then, I had children.  Many people warned me about the ways we change after we make some miniature versions of ourselves.  For the most part, however, for me at least, they were all false.  I’m mostly the same person I was before kids.  Sure, I am a little feistier than my previous self (mess with my kids and you’ll get to see that lovely side of me).  I am still totally fine with going with the flow when it comes to me and plans with my friends.  However, despite all of the ways in which I didn’t change, I managed to change in the one way no one warned me about when it comes to my kids: Anxiety in Crowded Spaces.

I legit worry about people stealing my children.  All.  Of.  The.  Time.  Before I head into the grocery store?  I look for the various exits to make sure I know where they are in case I need to make a run for it.  In Target?  I eye all of the well-meaning strangers and tell my kids to stay in the cart at all times.  Before heading to a theme park like Disney?  Oh, you don’t even want to know.

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This all came to a peak the day after Thanksgiving this year.  My dear friend had this great idea.  “Let’s go to the Children’s Museum!”  I thought this was awesome.  My kids were excited!  This was a place where you could touch and play with everything.  What could be better?  Right?  Right?!?!?

Y’all.  Everyone and their mothers were there.  I am not exaggerating.  There were so many people there that you could barely move without touching another person.  It was the first time I truly realized that new Mommy-Margo no longer is easy-going and go-with-the-flow in public, crowded places with my children.

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I could feel it happening.  I was getting hot.  I was tense and stressed any time I couldn’t see both of my children in the same spot while one was ducking under an exhibit or running around the corner to go up stairs to a slide.

I managed to hold it all in and not verbally fret over my children, save for the occasional, “Hey, Levi, please stay close to your sister!”  Just because I have turned into the worst-case-scenario lady doesn’t mean my children should suffer, right?

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So, since I am a solution-oriented person, I called my OBGYN.  I was like, “Is it possible for me to have post-partum anxiety STILL?!  Two years later?!?”  She then asked me a bunch of questions, including the most important one, which was, “Does this feeling keep you from doing activities like going to the store or going to the museum or the park with your kids?  Does this feeling keep you from sleeping or eating?”  The answer was a no.  “So,” she said, “what you are feeling is the normal fear we all parents have.  It’s due to the news, and the world, and life.  Having children means worrying about them, too.  If you feel like it’s impairing your ability to do normal things, though, you need to schedule a time to come in and see me.”

So sure, I might be that person who, in preparation for a trip to Disney will write my phone number in sharpie on my children’s arms, put a tracker on their body and dress them in bright colors down to their shoes.  But apparently, it’s ok and I’m not alone.

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(This is not my phone number, but… you get the idea!)

Is this all over the top?  Maybe.  Am I resourceful and prepared?  Hell yea.  I am a planner after all.

If you are having these feelings, remember to be honest with yourself.  If it’s causing problems in your life, there are lots of ways out there to deal with it, and lots of professionals ready, willing and able to help you.  The Postpartum Support International website has lots of great resources – and NO, there is no time-limit on when you are considered “postpartum”.

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And, most of all, remember – you aren’t alone.

 

Pathways picture #3Margo is a financial adviser and mom of 2 little ones in Maryland.

Supporting a Friend During Infertility

Infertility is a topic that will impact nearly all women in some way. Either yourself or someone you know will likely struggle with this – it affects 1 in every 10 women. For some women, it can feel unbearable to wait 6 months to get pregnant – others will wait years and spend thousands of dollars, undergoing invasive treatments to conceive. As more women wait until they’re a bit older to start trying to conceive, more struggle with this every day. As a physician, I am very well practiced at discussing the “medical” side of this when patients come into the office…. but as a friend? I still struggle to come up with the right things to say and do.

I reached out to one of my #WCW’s, Natalie Bushman, fellow mommy-blogger at Nat your average girl, for some help and am so happy to share her wisdom here. On her blog, she has shared her journey through new motherhood, then through secondary infertility (difficulty conceiving after a successful natural pregnancy), the twin pregnancy that resulted from treatments and being a mom of 3 along with fabulous personal style and home decor posts.

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Total blogger crush on this cute fam!

She recently discovered they’ll be bringing baby #4 into the family (congrats!!!) and I asked her to give us some insight into being there for friends who are going through an infertility journey since she’s personally experienced this from multiple angles.

Thinking back to when you first got pregnant with Blair, did you have friends who were already dealing with infertility issues? How did you approach them with news of your pregnancy then?

I was one of the first people to get pregnant in my friend group and didn’t know anyone at the time experiencing infertility. Looking back though, I was so naive and it never even crossed my mind that I could have a hard time getting pregnant (even though my Mom struggled for years). I just assumed that since I was healthy with a regular cycle that it would be a cinch… and lucky for me it was the first time! I didn’t think twice about miscarriage or not seeing a heartbeat at the first appointment. Ignorance was bliss but oh how the tables have turned!
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Baby Blair, their 1st

I’m sure people had all kinds of responses when you were struggling to get pregnant the second time around. You’ve blogged about the things people should NOT say to couples. Did any friends or family members say things that were helpful and supportive?

Yes, my close friends were amazing. Honestly one of the best things to say is simply,
I’m sorry. That’s so hard. Is there anything I can do for you to help?
Totally basic but shows that you care even if you haven’t experienced infertility yourself. The other things that helped were when my friends would check in on me after they knew I had a big appointment. Or they would say, “Call me after your appointment. I want to hear what the doctor said.” Things like that. Things that you would say to anyone going through a hard time or health scare. It’s just about showing you care. Hearing that someone is praying for a specific need of mine also made me feel better. To know that I wasn’t forgotten.

How can people approach this with friends who they aren’t sure if they’re having fertility problems – do you think that’s different than how you approach friends who have told you outright they’re in fertility treatment?

Ok, so I actually had a friend who told me she was struggling but she hadn’t told anyone else. At that point, she had an adopted child but had made it clear that he wasn’t adopted because of fertility reasons. She had even previously made it known to our friend group that she didn’t have a desire to have biological kids. However, over the course of time, things changed and her desire to have bio kids grew.  In group settings, it would be wildly uncomfortable because I knew to be sensitive but others didn’t. Other moms would share their birth/breastfeeding stories and I would try to direct the conversation elsewhere.
However, if people don’t know you are struggling then you really can’t expect them to be sensitive…especially if you have previously made it clear you aren’t interested in being pregnant. I guess it’s a balance. It kind of depends on your relationship with the person. I steer clear of asking strangers any type of kid-related questions. But if you’re my good friend and you’ve decided to be tight-lipped, then that is harder to help. Overall, I guess it’s just always best to be sensitive. But if people aren’t honest with their situation then it becomes harder to be sensitive.

Did you want people who knew what you were going through to check in on you regularly? Or did you feel like you just wanted to update them and not be bothered?

I kind of referred to this a little bit in question three. For me, I liked having people check in on me. There was only one instance in which I protected myself from this and that was right after IVF. I knew that I would get the phone call on December 28th that would tell me if I was pregnant or not (it was through a blood test result) and I purposely told my friends I wouldn’t know till December 30th. I wanted to be able to process the news (if it was bad) with just Matt. I wanted to have time to wrap my mind around it and be sad for a little while. I didn’t want to have to field a bunch of texts and phone calls. When we did find out I was pregnant I told them that day…it was too good to hold in!
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Evie and Cal

Did you worry about announcing this recent pregnancy since you didn’t have trouble conceiving this time?

Oh, totally. I was sweating over it. I know that a lot of my followers are dealing with infertility and I wanted to be SO sensitive to that. It was this weird mix of emotions because I was so thrilled/surprised by our pregnancy but so distraught over how others still struggling would react. I prayed that they would be encouraged and filled with hope that this could happen for them too, instead of feeling bitter or angry. This may sound ridiculous but when I was having a hard time getting pregnant, and I knew someone who just “looked at their husband” and got pregnant, I would be mad. But if someone who had struggled like me got pregnant, I would be so happy for them. Was that fair of me? No. But if I’m being honest I did have those feelings initially. Part of me hoped that since I had struggled in the past that I wouldn’t be that “annoying pregnant girl.”
For some reason, we seem to be happier for people who have “overcome” to get where they are. It sure makes for an incredible story. But, I regret being spiteful to those who didn’t have the same struggle as me. So what if they can get pregnant easily? You never know what else they could be dealing with behind closed doors… an abusive partner, ongoing sickness, the death of a parent, unemployment, depression… the list goes on and on. There’s so much sadness in our world.
I think if we all had a little more grace we’d all be better off!
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I can’t think of any better parting advice than that! Thank you Natalie! And friends, if you don’t already, go follow this awesome mama on instagram @natyouraveragegirl and check out her blog!
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Dr. Annie is a family doctor and mom in the Sacramento, CA area.

Election Day: Parent Edition

Yesterday was election day across the country. For some of us this might have been one of the first midterm elections you participated in, or even knew were happening. According to this article by Vox, the highest midterm voter turn-out for youngin’s (aka 18-29 year olds in voting talk) was 21% way back in 1986. If you’re wondering why it seems like older people make all the political decisions in this country… THIS IS WHY. According to a Harvard poll cited in that same article, expected turnout for these 2018 midterms is 41% in that age group. Nearly double. Times are finally a-changin’, booya! (I’m clearly out of this young hip age group because I can’t think of a ‘cooler’ way to say that)

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

That age group also happens to contain most of our parents of young children across the country. The vast majority of women who bear children do it between ages 20-34*. If you line up those numbers, that means a WHOLE lot more young mamas and papas were planning to get-out-the-vote yesterday than in earlier years. Which got me to thinking… what’s everyone doing with their kiddos??

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Me, the bump and hubby pants voting it up

I saw quite a few social media posts of people offering to watch other people’s kids so they could go vote – generosity itself! My own kids were in preschool/kindergarten while the hubs and I took just the bun-in-the-oven (currently our easiest child) to the polls. Of course there are the awesome people who plan ahead and vote-by-mail too (ahem… Christiana). But then, I saw even more posts of people carting their 1, 2, 3, 4 or more kids with them into the polls and proudly showing off their little ones with “I voted” stickers.

In case you were wondering (as I was), it is legal to bring your minor children into the voting booth in ALL 50 STATES.

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Kristy shared voting with her little lady!

Now, I’m sure some of these civically minded parents were forced to drag their kids with them by fault of not having childcare (when are those politicians gonna get on THAT?? Hello America, we are way behind other civilized nations here! I digress…). I found myself, though, regretting not having taken our own girls in to be part of the process.

Is it more of a hassle to try to focus and remember which candidate or ballot measure you meant to mark with a 3 year old trying to climb up your leg, a newborn rooting around for a boob and/or a 6 year old wanting to mark the page with the sharpie they stole from who-knows-where? OMG yes. But it’s also an incredibly valuable opportunity to literally shape the future of America via your own offspring …which is basically why we are doing all of this parenting, amiright??!

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Margo displaying her voting prowess loud and proud!

Top 3 Reasons To Bring Kids To Vote:

  1. You show the kids the mechanics. One of the reasons cited frequently by millennials and younger for not voting was that they just, like, literally don’t know how you do it. If you get your kids running through the motions biannually from a young age, they’ll be ahead of the curve when they hit 18!
  2. You inspire others. You show other people that parents’ votes count. You show other parents that they can too get out the vote, whether they have childcare or not, to make it matter even more. The other people there can also see, and be reminded, that what they are voting on is going to impact the future, the actual children there in front of them.
  3. You demonstrate Democracy. We all know kids learn by seeing and doing better than being told. So seeing you vote, discussing the results and what it means in a concrete sense will teach your children what it truly means to live in a Democratic country better than the best TED talk or Daniel Tiger episode ever could.
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Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

Next election, you better believe I’ll be showing up with all 3 of my offspring. Still not convinced it’s worth the trouble? That’s ok! Swap childcare with a friend and go get your solo vote on. Or maybe even be super organized and get vote-by-mail and just show the kids the ballot like our smart lawyer friend ;^)

What do you think? Did you take kids to vote? Was it worth it? Would you do it again?? We want to hear in the comments!

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Dr. Annie is a mom of 2 strong future voting women growing a third voter of the future in California.

 

 

 

 

 


Lo and behold, other people had similar thoughts! This article by Girlscouts of America has a great guide to how to get your kids (girls specifically) involved and excited about voting from an early age. Other articles on Red Tricycle, The 74 Million and Kveller also give great reasons for voting with kids in tow and advice for raising engaged citizens if you want more information.
*Paul Taylor et al, The New Demography of American Motherhood. MAY 6, 2010; http://www.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2010/10/754-new-demography-of-motherhood.pdf