Motherhood, and fatherhood for that matter, can present us all with many surprises. Before the birth of a first baby, we all have ideas & expectations on how we will birth, parent, feed, diaper, and sleep with our babies. The raw truth that all current parents know; none of that matters when baby is born. I personally had SO many plans on exactly how I would do things; perfect pregnancy, all natural birth, co-sleep, nurse until baby weans on their own, still go out with friends, hire babysitters frequently, feed only organic, all natural, grass fed, no hormone everything, etc. I think back to that and laugh as I hand my 15-month old a potato chip from the full size bag I am currently shoving down my own throat between reading the same single-word book for the 92nd time today and secretly wishing wine was OK to drink at 11:02 am. Parenthood changes things for everyone no matter how many times they say it won’t.
I’ve come up with my top ten list of ways I didn’t think my baby would change my life, but did anyway.
- I said I would keep up with childless friends after my baby came. Here’s the deal…at 5 weeks old we took our daughter to a friend’s house for a BBQ/Pool party. At around 7pm I looked around and realized I was the only adult left in the condo. I was sitting on my friend’s bed nursing my tiny baby while everyone else (including my husband) was downstairs swimming at the pool. Eventually, about an hour later, he came looking for me. At this point, I was almost crying too. The baby was inconsolable from gas, sleepiness and who knows what else. We both tried for over an hour to get her stop crying, but we couldn’t. (something I didn’t know was possible before I had a kid) We got our stuff together, said goodbye and started the 30-minute drive home. Our baby has always hated the car, so she cried even harder on the drive and by the time we made it home both her and I were crying. The entire night was not a pleasant experience and it was also the first time I realized that my baby WOULD change how I interacted with friends whether I wanted her to or not.
- I said I would get my “pre-baby” body back quickly through working out, dieting and of course, nursing. I gained about 50lbs by the time I gave birth. At 2 weeks post-partum I was naturally down 35 pounds and I started back at the gym. I was in the gym or out running 4-6 times a week & I was nursing around the clock. Everything I read about nursing making my baby weight “fall off” was a complete waste of time. It actually does not work that way for every woman and I am proof. That last 15 pounds of baby weight was hanging on for dear life. At around 6 months post-partum, I went through my closet and got rid of many of my pre-pregnancy clothes and my husband took me to Anne Taylor Loft where I was able to buy some clothes that made me feel beautiful and actually fit my new curves. At 10 months post-partum, I was still up 5lbs and my body shape was still much different. Around that time I found out I was 4 weeks pregnant. Even though I was still nursing and continued to nurse until my daughter was about 12.5 months, I started gaining again. I’m 25 weeks pregnant and up 20lbs now, but feeling much more comfortable in my new, squishier body. Plus, we live at the beach and I love not having suck-in my stomach in bathing suit photos.
- I said my days of traveling the world were over. Raise your hand if you have ever been told “__________ now because when you have kids you can’t do that anymore.” **RAISES BOTH HANDS** Let me be the first to tell you that I have learned that other people’s opinions on everything are pretty much garbage unless they stood in the exact same situation you are in. I started traveling with my daughter at 5 weeks old and we have never stopped. She has traveled more than most adults. At 13 months old she had been to 13 different states and 3 countries outside the United States. I love traveling with her so much I started a travel site for parents: bigbravenomad.com I never thought I would spend my evenings writing blog posts about the joy of taking my kids everywhere. Never. But here I am and I love it.
- I said I would co-sleep with my baby. Turns out neither her nor myself loved co-sleeping. We both would just roll around uncomfortable, but never actually sleep. My kid slept in her cosleeper until 3.5 months and then we transitioned to her crib. We all slept SO much better this way. I couldn’t have known this is how it would be and maybe my next kids will want to sleep in my bed, but this one likes her own space and I can respect that. Plus, I could sleep in whatever comfy position I wanted, so that was great too.
- I said I would nurse my baby until she weaned herself. I read an article once written about a woman who remembers having an “end of nursing” party when she was 5 and it stuck with me. It didn’t feel weird to me to think of my own child nursing that long. When the time came, nursing came very easy for me and we made PLENTY of milk. There was no real solid reason we stopped, but my daughter was scheduled to have her kidney removed at just over a year old and I was about 14 weeks pregnant (again) and VERY VERY sick 24/7, so I let my body and my baby move toward weaning. By the time she was discharged from the hospital we were done physically nursing and about 2 weeks later we had gone through my entire freezer supply with nightly bottles. So, just like that our journey ended quietly and sweetly. It wasn’t how I imagined it going, but I am very happy with the time we had.
- I said my cat and my human baby would be my “babies” and clearly they would be best friends. Turns out, that was NEVER true. My cat hated my baby from day 1. Before my daughter was born, I was a cat lady. My Instagram feed consisted of many cat photos and on my deployments my husband would show me my Jodi cat via FaceTime or Skype. I was in love with that cat. Once we brought the baby home, she would sulk around and occasionally sniff at the baby and keep her distance, but stay in the same room with all of us. Then when our daughter started crawling, she would hide all day. By the time she walking our cat hated our daughter so much that she stayed in a constant state of being upset and caused her intestines and bladder to become inflamed. This also caused her to become an indoor nightmare; she started pooping, peeing and puking anywhere but her litter box. After weeks & months of cleaning up after her, lots of cuss words, and a $200 vet visit later, she’s on meds now. She also stays contained in our bedroom if we aren’t home. She still hates our baby even though our baby follows her around saying “cat” and meowing while trying to pet her. Oh well.
- I said I wouldn’t let my kids have technology all day or for extended periods. Here’s the deal, my child hates the car. I believe I have mentioned this previously, but she does. As a newborn and small infant she would cry until she choked or stopped breathing. As an older baby she would scream and cry and throw toys and snacks would only pacify her for 5ish minutes before we were back to hysteria. For her first birthday we decided to forgo having a birthday party and take her to New Orleans instead. It’s 4 hours away. Easy right? Well, no. She cried and screamed the entire drive there, every single car ride we took around the city, and then cried the entire drive home. (She was very pleasant outside the car.) Just for some background here, we have tried different car seats, we have tried music, we have tried toys, food, a little fan, mirrors, opening the window, ignoring her, sitting in the back with her, everything. She still cried. So, when we got home, I put an iPad mount on the head rest of the center back seat. Now, she watches movies in the car and she’s calm. We’re all calm. We’re all safer because we’re all calm and not distracted. Never say never with kids because I never thought my kids would sit pacified by a TV in the car, but she is and it actually makes us all so much happier. Oh and can I add that Mickey Mouse Club House is baby crack and if you ever need an hour to shower or eat a warm lunch or drink your coffee warm or sit in a closet eating a cookie you don’t want to share, turn that show on and let it do its magic. Thank you Disney Junior for this magical show.
- I said I would continue working in the work force and that my baby would go to daycare. Oh man, this one is a doozy. I was an active duty Air Force Civil Engineer. I planned to stay in as long as possible. I have an undergrad in Civil Engineering and a graduate degree in business. Why would I ever give that up? Parenthood has a funny way of changing you. During my pregnancy we found out one of my daughter’s kidneys was bad. At 6 days old we found out the good one was actually not 100%. Her doctor suggested she be in one-on-one care (nanny or me) and that daycare wasn’t the best choice for her. I knew right there in the doctor’s office what I would do. Before my very short maternity leave was over I had already submitted my application to leave the military. When she was 3.5 months old, I officially became a stay at home mom. I spent some time grieving the change, but now I love it. I have started a website in a market I truly love, I’ve started connecting with other companies in the mother/child industry, I’ve started a Mother’s Morning Out program for other mothers in my area, and I jumped into Young Living and am a distributor for them now as well. I love my freedom to come and go as a I please, I love being here for every milestone of my baby’s life, I love being able to say no when I don’t want to take part in something. I never ever thought I would love being home so much, but I really do. I believe everything happens for a reason and the timing could not have been more perfect for me to be able to separate from Active Duty after 5 wonderful years to start my family.
- I said I would always have patience and be gentle in my parenting. It is actually incredible the amount of patience you gain when having a child. I am truly amazed that as she gets older and more mischievous, I find myself being even more patient. Things I would have never been able to tolerate before I had my own child isn’t even a blip on my radar. However, I have failed miserably at having patience and being gentle many times. I can remember one night when my daughter was only 3-4 months old, my husband was deployed and she was waking up every 30 minutes to an hour when she had been sleeping 7-9 hours straight. It was probably our third night of this and something in me couldn’t take another wake-up. As I walked into her room for the seventh or eighth time that night, I hit the door with my open hand as hard as I could. I still don’t know why I did that. It stung pretty bad. I was embarrassed at my loss of control and outburst, but in the moment I was overcome with emotion. I have had many moments where it has been hard to remember that she is a little baby, that she may not always sleep great, that she may not want to do whatever it is I want her to do. While I admittedly have not been 100% patient or gentle, I try not let the mom guilt overwhelm me. She is a baby and I am her mother, we are both humans and both allowed some grace in this giant learning process.
- I said I wouldn’t become “that mom” who always talks about her kid 24/7. I love this so much. I am PROUDLY “that mom.” My daughter is the center of my universe. I get genuine pleasure out of looking up baby products, traveling with my baby, talking about her, talking about being a mom/birth/nursing. I am writing an article RIGHT NOW about her. It’s insane and no one can understand it until they hold that tiny baby for the first time, but as far as I am concerned, I will be “that mom” until the day I die. I will show you the 5,567 photos I took of her today if you let me. I will talk about her teeth breaking through, her diaper rash, her chubby fat hands/cheeks/belly, how she slept in or didn’t sleep at all. I will talk about her all day. I can’t help it. She really is the best thing ever and parenthood is better than I ever imagined it could be.
As I prepare to welcome our second child in October of this year, I am going into it with an open mind and heart. I realize that this new baby will likely not be the same as my first, so it will be a completely different experience and I cannot wait for the adventure.
If you ever have any questions about traveling while pregnant or with your children, let me know. (Or if you just want to chat about kids in general) I am only a click away.
Left to right:
The last real photo of me pregnant. That was three days before my daughter was born at 39W, 1D. Clearly before I knew what was about to happen to my life.
My daughter and I on the day of my "going away" lunch at work
Taken 1.5 months post partum -- I still had my Linea Nigra + stretchmarks + an extra pooch
My Cat asking me when the baby would be leaving.
My daughter watching an Ipad in the car
My precious chubby baby girl in her first hours Earthside
Me and my whole little world; my daughter
Fly Brave. Travel Often. See everything.
written by VHS contributor// Tavia Carlson