Henry's Birth Story Two Years Later

by Lauren Matthies


Last year I decided to rewrite my birth story (I never know whether to call it Henry's or mine--we'll go with our) one year after having given birth.  I wanted to recount it without looking at my original story to see how my perspective had changed in a year.

I hadn't decided whether or not I was going to do it every year, but I now see why my mom would tell our birth story every year.  I used to think, "I know it already," but what I didn't realize was that she was reliving it herself.  It was her birth story as much as the story of my birthday.  It is a day she will never forget.  It is one that she wants to retell and retell so that she doesn't forget it.  At least that's how I feel.  I worry that the details will get fuzzy overtime.  I worry that I'll forget the way I felt the instant Henry was placed on my chest.  His warmth, my love, the joy of holding my baby in my arms.  The feeling that I didn't ever want him to be taken away from me.  

Two years later it feels much more distant.  It feels so long ago that I was pregnant and went into labor.  Last year I felt like I was reliving every moment on a physical and hormonal level.  This year it feels more in my head like a distant memory.  When I see people with newborns, I'm reminded that I don't have one.  My newborn is long gone.  He's grown into a toddler, a beautiful little boy even.  In so many ways, he's still the tiny infant who was placed on my chest that evening, but in so many ways he's blossomed into a person whom I love even more than that baby boy.

Nothing can quite prepare you for pregnancy, birth, and motherhood.  It's been such a journey for me.  One that at times I didn't know that I was equipped for, but one that I trusted would turn out okay.  And how it has.  It's not over, thank goodness.  It is a journey I will forever walk.  One I'm so proud of myself for having the courage to venture upon.  One I can look back on and see how far I've come.

So, while I've decided not to rewrite my birth story this year, I will appreciate it.  I will appreciate my body for all it did to grow and birth my baby.  I will appreciate my body for all it's done to nurture and nourish him since.  And, I will appreciate myself for being a mother every day.  For being a mother when it felt impossible and in the moments when I was overcome with joy.  One thing I do know is that labor is a beautiful metaphor for motherhood.  The difficulty, the pain, the fear, the emotions, the highs, the ecstasy, the love.  It's all there.  And, the love.  Love beyond love.  Love that only grows with time.  Love that I don't know how it can possibly get bigger, but I know it must, because as much as I love him the first time I held him, I love him even more today.


My Journey to Bed Sharing and Extended Breastfeeding

by Lauren Matthies


When I started this motherhood journey I never imagined I'd be bed sharing and nursing an almost two year old.  In fact, I didn't know too much about the research on either subject.  I thought it was weird when parents shared a bed with their children, and I had no idea what the recommendations on breastfeeding longevity were.  I knew that I wanted to nurse my son, but didn't envision myself nursing a toddler.  Likewise, I knew that I didn't want to leave my son to cry in a crib, but I didn't think we'd be sharing our bed with him every night.

I remember the first time I shared a bed with my baby.  It was the day after or night of (I'm not even sure as all my early postpartum days run together) his birth.  We were in the hospital and I was holding my son (not touching him felt so unnatural as his whole existence he had been a part of me).  Exhausted as I was, I closed my eyes to rest.  I remember a nurse coming in and scolding me.  "You cannot do that," she told me with a tone that implied I was doing something horribly wrong.  I remember feeling like that wasn't right.  I remember thinking that I just wanted to hold my baby and that together we would be safe.  After all, my sister was sitting in a chair right next to us and how was I going to harm my baby holding him in my arms, while I lay on my back and just rested my eyes.

At the time I didn't plan to sleep with my son.  Sure, in that moment maybe, but that wasn't my long term plan.  We had registered for a crib which I thought we would use once Henry was no longer in the rock n'play.  Had we lived in a bigger apartment and not been moving soon maybe we would have set the crib up in our room and had him sleep there from the start.  Who knows.  I think that our parenting decisions have been a combination of our circumstances, our beliefs and personalities, and Henry's temperament.  Whatever the case, Henry started sleeping in his rock n'play by our bed.  I remember a few times when I would let him come in bed with me while I rested during they day.  I had a million pillows and safety measures set up to ensure his safety and I only ever let him in the bed with my husband if I was awake.

This is the earliest picture I have of us sleeping in bed together from when he was three days old, the day after we were discharged from the hospital. I'm pretty sure I didn't even actually sleep. 

This is the earliest picture I have of us sleeping in bed together from when he was three days old, the day after we were discharged from the hospital. I'm pretty sure I didn't even actually sleep. 

Once he grew out of his rock n play we attempted to transition him to his crib (you can read more about details our sleep journey in my Child Led Sleep Training post).  That didn't work.  He wanted to be with me, his mom, his first home, the person who grew him and continued to comfort and sustain him.  I can't blame him.  Until he was at least a year old (maybe later I don't really remember the exact point) I never slept with my back to him.  I would crawl over him every time I needed to turn over and switch sides.  Now I still watch to make sure our pillows and blankets are never too close to him and I often end up at the bottom of the bed because he's taking up too much space.

Parts of sharing a bed I love and parts of it I hate.  Yet, sleeping with him feels natural, normal, and right.  With him in our bed, we know that he feels safe, protected, and secure.  It also gives my husband a sense of bonding with our son that he doesn't get during the day.  Since he works away from home and Henry has always been a mama's boy, my husband doesn't get the same feeling of connection that I do.  At night he will sometimes just watch Henry sleep.  He loves knowing that our son is safe and enjoys experiencing his presence.

Part of the reason Henry sleeps so well with us is because he can nurse whenever he wants.  Since he was born I've pretty much nursed on demand.  We really struggled in the beginning.  Henry couldn't latch, I didn't know what I was doing, and we needed to use a nipple shield for the first few months.  I have gone through many stages where it has been incredibly painful and I often feel exhausted and drained (both literally and figuratively) as a result of nursing.  When we spend hours nursing to sleep, when he keeps me up all night latched on, when he takes it without asking, when he sticks his hands down my shirt and pulls my boobs out without any regard for my privacy, those times I wonder why I continue.  Yet, when he is sick with the stomach flu and I don't have to worry about dehydration, when he is sad or hurt and finds immediate comfort at my breast, when he is asleep on me and I get to feel the warmth of his body and admire the beauty of his every feature, these are the times I am so grateful that I continue to nurse him.

I don't know when we will wean nor when we will stop bed sharing, but I trust that all three of us will know when the time is right.  I believe that our journey is fluid.  I want these phases to end naturally, the same way they began and the reason they have continued.  Right now I know he is benefiting from both of these practices.  Both physically and emotionally, I believe that he is better as a result.  Until that or something else changes, I will have faith in our decisions and trust our parental instincts.


Child Led Sleep Training

by Lauren Matthies


If you're reading this post my hunch is that you are not one of the lucky ones who has a child who sleeps through the night.  That's okay, I don't either.  If you do have a good sleeper, congratulations.  Feel free to keep reading.  I wanted to talk a little bit about what I've decided to call "child led sleep training."

Sleep training talk is every where these days.  When our parents and grandparents raised kids I don't think "sleep training" was as big of a conversation point.  I think the evolution of sleep training has been largely due to social media.  We all know what everyone else is doing these days.  While our parents had heard of the Ferber method, I think they mostly trusted their parenting instincts and didn't expect to be getting a ton of sleep as new parents.

Henry has not been a great sleeper from the start.  At the beginning we had no pattern or schedule.  He was pretty nocturnal.  He slept a ton during the day and then was up all night.  The lack of sleep I get these days seems great compared to those newborn days.  Being honest, it all kind of seems like a blur.  I remember my husband would change Henry's diaper and then bring him to me.  I would nurse him and try and get him back down in his rock n' play where he slept next to our bed.  I wish I had known back then that I could nurse him whenever I wanted (or he wanted).  I nursed him a ton, but I also remember thinking I should be sticking to some sort of schedule.  I recorded all of his sleep, wake, and nursing hours on an app and, in hindsight, I wish I had just let it go and not worried about establishing any sort of routine in the chaos.  I also wish I had known that it was okay to nurse him whenever and wherever like I do now.  In the beginning I thought I needed to "know" what he needed and only nurse him when we was hungry.  Now I know that nursing is so much more than food and I allow him to guide me and provide it whenever he asks.

When he outgrew his rock n' play around 4 months old, we tried to put him in his crib, but that only lasted for about two nights.  I tried to nurse him to sleep in his room and then set him down, but he would wake no more than 30 minutes after I left.  And that was after hours of trying to set him down without waking him.  I decided it wasn't worth it and he wasn't ready, so he started sleeping in bed with us.  

During this time and for a while after, I would nurse him in our room in the dark and quiet.  It would take hours to get him down.  I started to become frustrated with the fact that I didn't get to spend any time with my husband in the evening.  We never got to watch TV together, an activity that helps me wind down and lets me connect with my husband.  So, we changed our plan.  We started nursing him in the living room while watching TV.  He really had no trouble falling asleep and I would hold him in my arms until I was ready to go to bed.  At that point I would try to set him down in our bed without him waking so I could brush my teeth and join him.  Sometimes I was successful at keeping him asleep, others I would have to nurse him again.  Over time this routine became draining because I literally had maybe two minutes apart from him all day. All my sleeping and waking hours were with Henry. This phase probably lasted the longest.

The next longest phase was probably the best set up for me.  I would nurse him to sleep while watching TV with Derek and then I'd put him in bed and run into the room to nurse him back to sleep if he woke up. During this time we set up another baby monitor in our room so that we could relax easier knowing we wouldn't miss him if he woke.  I always try to rush into the room before he gets upset or has time to cry.

Eventually we noticed that he would start to get distracted by the TV.  He wasn't falling asleep in the living room anymore so we had to return to me nursing him in the bedroom.  We always followed his sleep cues more than the clock when it came to bedtime.  Since two months old I have bathed with him every night after dinner.  That's the only consistent bedtime routine we've had.  During bath time I talk to him about our day.  We go through what we did, the most challenging part of the day for me, and my favorite part of the day. Sometimes we also discuss our plans for the following day.

Right around 14 months he started getting four molars at the same time.  We went through about a week of him needing to be driven to sleep every night.  Sometimes it's not worth the battle for me and others he seems almost scared to go to sleep.  On those nights sometimes he'll even refuse to nurse because he knows it will put him to sleep.  Driving does the trick.

At about 14 and a half months I decided that I should establish a consistent bedtime routine (I've always worried about this from the start).  We started a schedule of dinner, playtime, bath time, playtime in his room, reading Llama Llama Nighty Night in bed, and then nurse to sleep. The first couple nights he fought it, but then I thought we were getting into a good habit. He even brought the book in bed for me to a couple times, but then he started to get upset again.  One night he almost crawled off the bed looking for me.  I felt terrible because I hadn't noticed his motion on the baby monitor so I didn't run in the room before he became distressed.  By the time I got to him, he was so sad and scared.  I brought him out to watch TV with us and allowed him to just be with us until he got tired and I nursed him back to sleep with ease. 

Just like the above example, I've decided that it's okay to break rules. I've decided to follow his lead, trust that we will do the right thing, and have faith that he will learn to sleep on his own and through the night when he is ready. I have to put aside the guidelines others claim are best, and trust my gut, realizing that I do not always need to lean on "expert" advice.  I also highly recommend reading Kelly mom's website.  I have turned to her words multiple times for comfort.

After all, the first night in hospital after giving birth to him, I remember that I needed to be touching him in order to feel relaxed. I think it's a similar feeling for both of us.  We shared a body for nine months and found comfort, life, and security in each other.  My belief is that it's okay, and even good, to allow that relationship to continue naturally as needed. I'll also never forget how on his first full day of life I was holding him in our hospital bed and I could tell he was tired and needed to sleep yet didn't want to close his eyes.  He's always made incredible eye contact with me and looked to me to help direct him.  I closed my eyes to assure him that everything was okay and to help model for him how he could let go.  As he watched me, he allowed his eyes to close and fell asleep in my arms.  I still do that to this day.

When Henry was 15 months, we moved to another state again (our first cross country move was at 10 weeks old).  We were in our house on a Saturday and had his big boy bed set up by Sunday.  We started nursing and lying in it together by Tuesday and and we would practice fake sleeping in it.  On Friday or that week, Henry took his first (albeit short) nap in the bed with me.  He had fallen asleep in the car and I transitioned him into that bed.  The next day started his nap in there and even slept there some by himself.  We only tried this a few times because he wasn't sleeping very soundly and as a result neither of us were getting the daytime rest that we needed.  Eventually I decided that there was no need to work so hard to force it.

Moreover, I've always felt torn about transitioning him to own bed.  On one hand I want more space, better sleep for everyone, and alone time with husband.  At the same time, I know I will terribly miss him being cuddled up next to me, sleeping with my baby, and know that one day he won't want to curl up next to his mama anymore.  As with every part of parenthood it's a fight between wanting certain tough phases to end while simultaneously not wanting to lose time.

Around 18 and a half months we had another sleep breakthrough.  It was the first time I felt like we were starting to get our sleep somewhat under control.  We had started a regular 8:30pm bedtime every night with a countdown leading up to it (sometimes we'd go a little earlier and sometimes a little later, following his cues and trying to find a time when he was tired enough to give in but not so tired that he was losing it). He also began regularly waking up between 6:30-8am.  For the first time we were beginning to establish some consistency.  I also let go of the need to have an exact "bed time routine."  Sometimes we read books, sometimes, we play, sometimes we watch TV, sometimes Henry plays on his iPad or watches a movie on it while Derek and I watch TV.  I trust that he knows what he needs and I allow it to develop naturally.  The only "structure" is that I try to have him up from his nap no later than 3pm (again sometimes things happen, I try to go with it), we eat dinner right when daddy gets home, we play until between 6-6:30pm, do bath time, and then have free time until bed time.

When he was almost 21 months old Henry and I took a trip to visit my family in Colorado.  I wanted to keep his schedule the same so, with the time change, I had himgoing to bed around 7:30pm.  When we came home, we kept the same 7:30pm bedtime in spite of the time change. Bedtime started to became so much less of a fight. Although we were still sometimes nursing a lot at night or having early wake ups, sleep was feeling like less of a problem, especially in comparison to where we once were. 

Just after turning 22 months he had a night where he came to bed with out any struggle at all. After our countdown I told him it was time for bed.  He handed me his iPad, said goodnight to daddy, came to bed with me, and nursed to sleep within thirty minutes.

The next night he slept in his own bed for the first time ever.  He was really tired and wanted to read some books in his bed.  A couple times I've said to him recently that he can let me know if he wants to sleep in his bed or our bed. When we were reading, he said he was ready for "night night." I asked if he wanted to stay there and he said yes so I turned on the sound machine, turned off the lights, and shut the door (I was shocked when he didn't get upset and want to leave because before he's said he wanted to stay there and not really meant it). I got in bed with him and nursed him to sleep like I normally do in our bed. He woke up once around 10:30pm to nurse. He does this almost every night and I never knew if it was because I was disrupting him by coming to bed. Then he slept through the night!!! He woke a little before 5:30am (which has been his regular wake time lately) calling "mama." When I reached him he told me that he wanted to nurse. We cuddled and nursed until he was ready to get up. I told him that I was so proud of him and he nodded his head in agreement.

While I know we may have more ups and downs ahead, I will celebrate the small successes and feel gratitude for how far we've come.  The thing that I think is most important to remember is that each child follows his own path.  We've had wins and struggles on our journey, we choose to breastfeed to sleep, and I will always have my bed available to Henry (or sleep in his with him) if he needs.  Ultimately, I think any success we have is not necessarily because of anything I've done but because he's ready.  We will always experience changes based upon stages, development, and what's going on in our lives. We have had times when we woke up in the middle of the night and spent hours watching TV and nursing on the couch. We've slept on couch together many nights.  We've shared a bed, and now, we've slept apart.  We've driven him to sleep and taken midnight fast food runs for our sanity.  I've almost lost my mind spending hours nursing him to sleep and I've laid next to him with him still latched in awe of how lucky I am.  It's all been a part of our journey.

Years from now I will look back and remember the beautiful moments and forget the challenging ones.  I can all but guarantee when I'm 98 I will not, for one second, regret the time I spent nursing my baby (or babies) to sleep and holding them in my arms. Even when I want to give it up, I find that there is nothing better than watching him doze off feeling completely at ease and comforted against my chest.

I wrote it over the course of several months because I wanted to document our sleep journey and share it with anyone who may be going through similar struggles.  I figured it was fitting to finally finish this post the day after his spent his first night sleeping in his own room.  Remember, there is no one path.  My journey is only one way.  Here's to restful nights and many more beautiful moments. 


Why I'm Okay with My Toddler Being Demanding

by Lauren Matthies


Okay, this title is a little misleading.  I am not okay with my toddler being demanding, however, I am okay with polite bossiness.  What do I mean by that?  Well, do I require my son to say please?  Yes.  But, do I allow him to direct me?  Yes.

Around 18 months we started to get a lot of "here" (e.g, sit here, put this here) and commands to do this or that (e.g., mommy drink this, daddy drink this, put this show on, go out there, give me your hand, come this way).  It can be a lot.  As an autonomous adult having a toddler start dictating what you should do, how you should do it, and when you're allowed to can be frustrating and downright annoying.

Yet, here is why I don't mind it.  Imagine being in a foreign country, or better yet another planet.  You have wants, desires, and needs yet you don't really know how to communicate them. You try and the creatures on that planet do their best to guess what you are saying, but a lot of the time you are out of sync.  Then, one day you start understanding their language.  All of a sudden you say things and they respond in the way you intend.  You feel control for the first time.  You are eager to test out this language to confirm that it's not just a fluke.  You are thrilled that finally you can communicate in a way they understand and reliably respond to.

That's what I imagine it must be like for a toddler who is learning to speak.  After months of engaging in a communication guessing game, he is developing words that accurately express what he's feeling and what he desires.  I imagine it's both thrilling and reassuring.  I imagine it fosters a sense of self-efficacy and confidence.  And, I believe that by responding to his demands (albeit teaching him to request more than demand) I am demonstrating that he has value, worth, and a voice that is both heard and worth hearing.

So, even if it can be exhausting to be told to get up and down ten times, to move a cup left and right half an inch until it is in the exact right spot, or to stop and start a song thirty times, I will cherish it and revel in the joy of our mutual conversation.


My Little Secret

by Lauren Matthies


I like to think that my son and I share a bond that no one else does. I look at him and am filled with love I can't explain. He feels like part of me and he once was. He grew inside of me and was formed within me. He contains part of my DNA and when I look at him I feel connected to him in a way that I think only a mother knows.

Announcing our pregnancy came in waves. First I told my husband, then I told my sister, after that we surprised our families, and lastly we announced our pregnancy to the world. There's always excitement in telling a new group. You know this exciting piece of information and know the news will bring others joy. At the same time, sometimes I like to reflect back on my little secret.

There was about a two hour window, maybe a little less when Henry was my little secret. When only I knew of his existence, before I even knew of him by name. A moment in time when he was just my baby and only I knew he was being formed. In one instance I learned about him and for that small window I had a little secret, a secret so big about something so small and yet so monumental.

I had taken my pregnancy test at my studio and immediately after getting a positive I had to go interact with my students and lead a class. I had to contain my excitement and calm my shaking body. I had to keep my mind focused on teaching when I just wanted to direct all my attention and energy to the life I had just learned about. I secretly placed my hands on my belly as I taught and thought about how I would share this little secret with my husband. But for that time he was my little secret.

After class I ran home and surprised my husband. He was on shock for he hadn't had the time to digest it. I was, of course, thrilled to tell him, but in that one moment Henry no longer was my little secret.

For almost nine months he was part of me and I felt connected to him in a way that no one else could, yet at times I feel nostalgic for even the shorter time in which I first discovered my world would be changing. The smallest moment that I shared with just my baby. Him dwelling in me and my knowing of his sweet life.


Traveling with a One Year Old

by Lauren Matthies


Henry and I have been jet setters lately.  We've had three trips in his first month of toddlerhood and two of them were cross country ones.  Needless to say, I feel like I'm raising a little travel pro.  I'm so proud of him, and thought I'd share our tips and my experience.

Before I get started, I want to be clear that all my advice is coming from the perspective of a breastfeeding mom.  Non-breastfeeding moms and dads, you are superheros.
 

I thought I'd break my advice down into the following categories: Packing, Airport, Flying, and Other.  With packing being about what to bring, airport covering our time at the airport, flying being the time in the air, and other covering everything else about our trip.

Packing

Packing with a toddler definitely takes more planning, but luckily, because their clothes are small it doesn't take up much more room.  We even managed to pack my husband, Henry, and me all in the same suitcase.

I like to keep a running list of things I need to bring, and a special section for the last minute things I need to pack.  I keep it on my phone so I can always add to it anytime I think of something.

Ironically before having kids, I always had snacks with me.  I love to eat, and you don't want to be with me when I'm hungry.  Now, my snacks play second fiddle to Henry.  Thank goodness, in a jam I can breastfeed, but his snacks keep him entertained as well as fed.  I bought this bento snack box for Henry and it is perfect.  It takes up more room than ziplock bags would, but it keeps the food from getting smashed and is a perfect serving tray.

If you can get away without bringing your carseat, do it!  We traveled with it once and it was horrible.  It took forever to arrive in baggage claim on the first trip and got lost on the return flight.  The other times we've either had family have a carseat available or rented one from the rental car agency.

I  always check my bag when flying with Henry because it makes it so much easier.  All I bring with me on the plane is my carrier and a bag (that can fit under the seat in front of me) filled with diapers and wipes, snacks, toys, an outfit change, my wallet, and my phone.

Airport

I try to get as much energy out at the airport as possible.  When we arrive at the airport, I immediately put Henry in my carrier.  That way I can check in and get us through security without having to chase him around.  I wear him through security because it's much easier to do that and have my hands swabbed than to deal with taking him in and out (especially because he wants to be on the move at all times).  Once we are through security, I let him free.  This way he can run around and explore before having to be contained on the plane.

Flying

One thing I learned on the first flight, is you must plan ahead regarding what you have within arms reach.  My first flight I was in a row with no under seat storage so all my snacks and activities were overhead until the seatbelt sign turned off.  I had to resort to using the emergency pamphlet and airlines magazines as entertainment.

Henry struggled the most on his first flight because he wanted to get up and walk around.  Each time we've traveled, I've found that the first flight is the hardest.  Everything is new and exciting again so he doesn't want to miss out.  By the second one he is exhausted and the airplane is less novel, which allows him to fall asleep.

Luckily Henry doesn't seem to have problems with his ears (I did when I was young), but I make sure he can breastfeed if he wants to at all times during the flight.  The sucking motion is meant to help with their ears.

Before Henry the aisle seat was always my favorite.  I like having easy in and out access and the added room of the aisle.  Now, we opt for the window.  Not only does it give an extra option for entertainment, especially before take off when he sees other passengers walking around and doesn't understand why he can't, but it also gives me a place to lean for added nursing room (I've gotten really lucky and have either had the seat next to me empty or have been traveling with my husband on the majority of our trips.  This makes such a difference because Henry is very tall and doesn't have the best nursing manners).  Also, the aisle is dangerous with toddlers.  They are almost guaranteed to be hit by the cart or a passenger walking by as they (or at least mine does) like to flail around and take up a bunch of room.  The window also keeps them contained a little easier.

The best thing is to have a nice passenger sitting behind you.  Henry loves to peer over the seat so it's always helpful when there's another interested child or a kind and interactive adult.

For entertainment, I have a book from Target that has fold outs and it provides tons of entertainment.  Basically a couple books, snacks, and my boobs are our in flight entertainment.  We've also tried some downloaded videos, but those can be hit or miss.

Try not to panic when your toddler does break down.  I know it's so much easier said than done, but he or she will pick up on your anxiety which can only make things worse.  Try to breathe and pray that the other passengers have compassion.  Ultimately, you'll be okay, your toddler will survive, and the other passengers on the plane will eventually forget about the horrible child they flew with (or they'll forever have a good story to tell at parties).

Other


Go to the bathroom before you get on the plane and don't hydrate too much!  It's hard to go to the bathroom, especially if you're traveling alone and especially if your baby falls asleep on you.  I really wish I had a diaper sometimes.

I try to explain to Henry a few days before leaving that we will be going on the plane.  I don't know how much he understands, but I figure that the more I can prepare him ahead of time, the better for both of us.


Overall flying with a toddler is harder than flying with a younger baby.  The fact that they are mobile changes everything.  Also, they are so much more interested in their surroundings.  As tough as it may be, try to remember that there's only a small time frame that you'll be traveling with them at this age and you'll get through it (or at least I keep telling myself that).  And, it will give you more compassion for other parents in the future.

Safe travels!




 


Thanking Your Toddler

by Lauren Matthies


One of my goals in raising Henry is to raise a confident and kind child.  I hope that he will feel competent and valued and, at the same time, will learn manners and skills that will help him grow into a well adjusted adult.  One of the ways in which I try to model positive behavior and reinforce actions that I like is by thanking Henry.

Although toddlers give plenty of opportunities to scold and correct, I try to focus on appreciating the good things Henry does.  On a daily basis he gives me the opportunity to thank him for:

Being kind.  I love when Henry is kind to people we interact with out in the community.  We talk about how it is especially important to be kind to people who are serving us.  At the grocery store they recognize and always greet Henry by name.  They rave about how he is their favorite baby.  I always tell him how much I appreciate the kindness he shows strangers when he waves or smiles at them, while simultaneously telling him that I appreciate how he stays close to mommy to make sure he is safe.

Helping.  Even though toddlers are often up to no good and seem to be purposefully causing trouble, they are also big helpers (at least in their eyes) and I like to show appreciation for that helping spirit.  If I ask Henry to bring me something and he does, if he cleans up, or helps carry something, I am sure to thank him.  Even if he decides to engage in a "helpful" behavior that isn't helpful, I thank his effort.  After all, isn't it the thought that counts? 

For listening.  How often do my desires and Henry's line up?  I'm sure not often in his eyes.  He wants to stay outside when it's time to go inside.  He wants to play with the cookies when I say he can't.  He doesn't want to get in his car seat and I make him.  For all the times he cooperates, even after a struggle, I thank him.

For affection.  I always thank Henry for showing his daddy and me affection.  I also thank him for being gentle with our bunny Max.  I greatly appreciate the hugs, cuddles, and kisses he gives and want him to know that I do.

For using kind language.  Shortly after I started asking Henry to say "please mama."  He started giving his own version of "please" by saying "mama" in a special tone.  When he gets angry and demands something or yells at me, I ask him to "ask nicely."  Immediately he will change to his kind tone and say "mama."  I always tell him that I appreciate him asking so nicely.  He has also started interchanging "mama" for thank you.  (I think evidence that my words of appreciation are being heard.)  As a result, I also thank him for saying thank you.

For being patient.  Most of the time Henry has to follow my time line even if it contradicts with his--maybe I am working on a blog post, going to the bathroom, on a phone call, or we are standing in line.  Some of those times I feel impatient too so I can only imagine how he must feel.  When we waits for me or with me, I am sure to thank his patience, and I especially try to show my appreciation before he expresses frustration.

Even on the roughest of days, I can always find things to thank Henry for.  I believe it's important for so many reasons and will continue to seek out ways to appreciate Henry's daily contributions.


Why I Don't Say "It's Okay"

by Lauren Matthies


Since Henry was born, one thing I've tried to do with him is help him label his emotions.  It's something that we take for granted as adults.  We cry because we're sad, we yell because we're angry, we pout because we didn't get our way.  We usually know how our actions and feelings are related.  Yet, even as an adult sometimes I can't explain what I'm feeling.  Sometimes I just get out of sorts for no reason.  Or I start crying (thanks hormones) with no explanation.  So, if I as an adult can't even always figure out my emotions, I can only imagine what it must be like for someone who is new to the world.

When Henry starts crying because he falls down I will help him verbalize his tears, telling him that he's hurt and/or scared.  When he is screaming and crying while I try to put him in his car seat, I will vocalize that he is angry with me and doesn't want to go in his chair.  I also explain to him that although he doesn't want to ride in his car seat, it's the only way to be safe in the car.  When Henry throws himself on the ground in the evening, I tell him that he is upset and tired.  What I try to avoid in all these instances is telling him "it's okay" or "you're okay."

Why do I do this?  Well, in addition to helping Henry label his emotions, I want to validate them.  He's upset for a reason.  In his world everything isn't okay and he isn't okay.  Even though those statements come from a good place, one of reassurance and care, they can be dismissive.  Telling him "you're fine" says "I don't understand your experience," "what you're feeling isn't valid," and "there's no reason to be upset."  Even if, in my adult mind, there is no reason for him to be upset, he feels something and his emotional reaction is justified in his eyes.

Although I slip sometimes, rather than say "it's okay," I aim to help him understand his experience.  I label his emotion, explain the situation (if applicable) and let him know that I am there for him.  Whether I hug him, hold him, nurse him, or tell him with my words, I want him to know that, even in the depths of his emotional distress, I am there.  I see him, I hear him, I am there.  I will sit with him, talk to him, and help him work it through.  It may not be okay in the moment, but together, hopefully we'll get there.
 


Pressure to Perform

by Lauren Matthies


I think one of the greatest challenges that the modern parent faces is the "pressure to perform."  Because of social media, the Internet, and the presence of sites like Pinterest, we are constantly bombarded with messages about parenting.  Everyone seems to have creative ideas, phenomenal kids rooms, and brilliant educational activities that fill every day.  It can create a feeling of pressure--pressure to perform, pressure to be the best parent, pressure to raise the most intelligent, social, and well-adjusted child.

I think it's wonderful that we have so many resources at our fingertips, yet I think it can also do a detriment to both us and our children.  If you've ever watched a child open a gift, you know that they often find the packaging much more enthralling than the present inside.  Their little minds can create wonders and worlds out of our adult trash.  They don't need much to explore and invent, and, when left to their own devices, they find a way to entertain and educate themselves.

I am definitely not advocating a lack of parental involvement.  Quite the opposite, actually.  I think that the presence of a parent can be enough in and of itself.  Take away all the activities and simply be together.  Mimic each others' sounds and faces.  Talk about the day.  Discuss the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures around you.  Stare into each others' eyes.  Snuggle, cuddle, and embrace each other.  Hear and follow your child.  Take turns sharing the unique wisdom each of you have to offer.

Lately Henry and I have been spending hours sitting in our ball pit reading and playing our "quiet/noise" game. We rarely make it through a book but Henry loves to help turn the pages and then point to the bookshelf when he wants a new one. Sometimes we spend a lot of time on one book and other times we quickly change to a new book.

During our game, I put my finger up to my lips and whisper "shh, quiet." After a couple seconds of silence we start kicking the balls with our legs to make "noise." Henry has even started putting his finger to my lips to signal it's time for quiet.

What I love about these activities is the control and self-regulation they teach Henry. Aside from the obvious of learning words and the importance of reading, he's learning that he has a voice with which he can communicate. By flipping the book over for me to read it again or by pointing to the bookshelf for a new book, he's learning that he can use his voice to express his needs and wishes. Similarly, in our "quiet/noise" game, he is learning calm, patience, patterns and commands.

Remember that even the smallest activities can be opportunities for both learning and connection. Trust your children to lead you and don't worry that you need elaborate plans to entertain and educate them.  Let go of the pressure to perform and instead practice presence.


Henry's Birth Story One Year Later

by Lauren Matthies


I really wanted to write Henry's birth story at his one year birthday.  I purposely haven't read the first one I wrote because I thought it would be neat to compare them and see how my memory has shifted with time.  I've been eager to do it, but held off until today so it was right at this time everything started a year ago.

A year ago today I had my weekly OBGYN check up.  I saw the nurse practitioner and she said that I was about a centimeter dilated, but she didn't anticipate anything happening between then and my next appointment.  I taught my regular classes that evening (sitting on a ball like I had been doing for about a month due to my extreme pain and immobility).  That night while Derek and I were relaxing and watching TV I felt really restless. I remember feeling like I wanted to move and a general sense of being unsettled. Hindsight makes me think it was because my body was about to go into labor. I wish I had known at the time that this was our last night with just the two of us. I think it's pretty neat that our last night together fell on our 7 year dating anniversary. I've never actually thought of it like that.

That evening I went to bed and at some point ended up on the couch. I think I actually spent the whole night on the couch because I had been sleeping out there due to my pain and discomfort. I'm grateful that I was wearing a pad as a result of the spotting from my exam because just before 4:15am when I got up to go to the bathroom my water broke.

I never expected my water to break since a lot of people's don't, and I definitely want expecting it in that moment. I called my husband's name and he immediately woke. It's funny because he is a sound sleeper, yet there must have been something in my tone of voice that got him wide awake. He even asked me if he had been awake before I called him because he rose so fast.

I told him that I thought my water had broken (it kept becoming more and more clear that it had as the liquid continued to pour out of me). I called my mom and then texted my dad when she didn't answer. My dad had apparently been awake and staring at the clock or his phone because he couldn't sleep. We always say that "we are one" so he must have sensed the start of my labor. My sister also said she was dreaming that Henry was being born when my parents woke her with the news.  I took a picture in the bathroom with the clock in it to mark the time as Derek hopped in the shower. By the time he was out, I was standing by the door with my bag ready to go.

The drive to the hospital I sat on a towel. I wasn't particularly having contractions, at least not more than I had been having for a few weeks. I started having them two Fridays before I gave birth. I remember it feeling really surreal.

We got to the hospital and I got checked in. We had to enter through the ER side because it was before the normal entry hours. I'm glad we went on the hospital tour so we knew what to expect. When they gave me a bracelet I got excited because it meant this was really happening. Eventually a man came out with a wheelchair and it was my turn. We were going in. Henry was going to be born!

I got taken to a small room at first and they hooked me up to a bunch of things. I know one of them was monitoring my heart rate and contractions and the other was an IV of antibiotics because I had tested GBS+. I remember having to go to the bathroom really badly but was afraid I couldn't thinking it would cause an infection since my water had broken. Eventually I decided I was just going to go. I was not going to poop on the table during labor!

Derek called our families and told them we had been admitted and Henry was coming today. My family had already booked their flight and was on their way to the airport. Derek's family just had a short trip from Orange County to Riverside. Meanwhile, I was texting people to get my classes covered and canceling the private lessons I had scheduled for the day. I laugh now because I remember thinking "I probably won't make it."

The contractions were also getting much stronger at this point. Every time I got up to go to the bathroom I left a slimy mess that Derek called "snail slim." Apparently your water keeps coming out, it's not just a water breaking moment.

I hated any time Derek left the room because our nurse kept trying to pressure me into not getting am epidural. Derek and I had talked about it beforehand and decided we wanted to go that route. Largely because he didn't want me to have to be in so much pain. I do think that was the right decision because I can't imagine the intensity of the contractions continuing to increase until Henry was born that night.

The nurse would pinch my arm and tell me how I could use my brain to anesthetize it and kept telling me to make saliva. I remember just not wanting to talk. I wanted to breathe through the contractions and instead she kept making me repeat back her theories on why I was strong enough not to need an epidural. It was definitely not helpful. Especially because it made me feel like I was being judged and, in the state I was in, the last thing I needed was to be questioning myself and my decisions.

Over the process of my labor there were three different nurse shifts. The second one who we had the longest was massaging Derek's ear at some point talking about how it would calm him. I think that was the second one, it all feels kind of like a blurry dream. The third one came on right before Henry was delivered.

At some point I was moved into my much bigger labor and delivery room. The problem with this room was that the temperature was freezing. Even the nurses commented on it and my husband was definitely not dressed appropriately. We were both freezing and I was covered in layers and layers of blankets. I got the epidural sometime during the 11am hour. I was nervous but it went fine. Again, though, I just wanted to breathe and the anesthesiologist kept making me answer questions and talk.

Shortly after getting my epidural things took a bit of a turn. Initially it made me very giggly and giddy but then I got exhausted and my blood pressure dropped. They put me on oxygen and I remember just laying there with my eyes closed. Around this time was when my family got to the hospital. My mom and sister spent a lot of time with me in the room. They and Derek all alternated between being with me and sitting in the waiting room with Derek's parents. I think only two people were allowed in the room at a time even though we broke the rules a few times.

One thing I didn't expect was how thirsty I would be.  I love to eat, but I didn't care about food, I just wanted water.  All I could have was ice chips and I can tell you, that is not hydrating.  I would wait for the ice to melt and drink it, but I just wanted water.  Bear in mind, I hadn't eaten or drank anything since dinner the night before.

By the time I was ready to give birth, neither or my doctors were on call.  So, I ended up with a doctor I had never met before.  Apparently she is notoriously late.  They had me start pushing while she was on the way and then when they could see Henry's head, they made me stop.  It felt like forever that I had to wait.  I also had to help hold my legs up and they were so heavy.  I did not like the doctor.  She was not very attentive and was making jokes with people in the hallway.  Only the nurse near me was giving instructions and seemed focused on Henry's delivery.  The hardest part for me was the breathing.  I wasn't allowed to inhale long.  I had to take a really quick inhale and then give 3-5 pushes with each exhale, if I remember correctly.  Once the actual pushing got started, though, it wasn't long until Henry came out.  I think it was only about 5 sets of pushes.  I remember feeling my abs contracting and feeling like I was using them to push him down the birth canal.  Derek saw Henry come out.  He said it was super bizarre how his body contorted to come out.

The next moment is one I never want to forget.  I am already sad that it is a moment I can't experience again.  I worry that the intensity of the memory and the emotions I felt will fade with time.  My wedding day was my favorite day of my life, but the moment Henry was placed on my chest was the single greatest moment of my life.  I remember how warm he felt and how overcome with love I felt.  I felt like a piece of me was being ripped away when they had to briefly take him from me to wipe him off.  Derek cut the umbilical cord, something he didn't want to do because he felt like he was hurting the two of us.  Our family become complete in a moment.  It makes me emotional to think about.  I would live this moment over and over again.  Even if I had to give birth and go through it all again.  I loved it.

I did tear and had to get stitched up, but luckily the epidural made it so I didn't feel any pain. Also, my focus was on our new family.  We were left to spend our first time as a family.  Henry and I couldn't figure out how to breastfeed, but I just held him against my chest.  I wish I could go back in time and watch the three of us enjoying our first moments together.  I would love to observe it and just breathe it in. 

We had flipped a coin to see whose family would come in first.  Mine "won" so my parents came in first.  Then Derek's.  We decided that the opposite family's siblings would come in next, so next was Derek's brother and fiance followed by my sister.  After everyone left, Derek went to get us food (Del Taco).  He was fading fast so I called my mom and she and my sister came back.  I wasn't super hungry (like I said, I just wanted to drink), but I knew I needed to after 24 hours without food.

As I said, Derek was beyond exhausted at this point so he went home to get some rest.  My sister, Emily, spent the night with Henry and me.  Our room was absolutely horrible.  The light above my bed was broken so I had florescent light blaring down on my the whole night.  I had to share a room and Emily only had a tiny chair beside my bed.  Our roommates blared the TV all night and were incredibly loud and inconsiderate.  The hospital was horrible.

Rewinding a little bit.  I stayed in the labor and delivery room longer than normal because I wasn't regaining feeling in my legs.  Eventually (probably around 10:30pm) they placed me in a wheelchair and brought me to my overnight room.  I had to call for help anytime I needed to go to the bathroom.  I remember all of that was scary.  I couldn't walk on my own, I didn't know what I needed to do in terms of spraying myself with a spray bottle to wipe and then using a numbing spray.  It all felt so foreign and I didn't feel at home in my body.

The next morning I just wanted Derek to be back and I remember feeling all emotional and out of sorts.  Looking back on it, I can only imagine the rush of hormones I must have been experiencing, plus exhaustion.  It was almost an out of body type experience.  On top of it all, Henry and I weren't doing well at breastfeeding (I have another post about all the trouble we had during our breastfeeding journey) and I was seeing multiple lactation consultants.  The nurses were not helpful.  I had to manually pump, which I had no idea how to do, and was crying because it hurt so badly.  I also had to syringe feed Henry. 

We ended up staying in the hospital a second night because they wanted to watch me because I was still having trouble gaining feeling back in one of my legs.  When we did get clearance to go, Derek got us ready and we drove home.  I remember the drive home was so painful.  I know I was in a lot of pain for a while after giving birth.  I also bled for weeks and even had to get an ultrasound to make sure I was healing okay.  I also had to do a follow up visit after my 6 week check up because I wasn't healing well downstairs.  All that said, it's amazing how much the negative fades in your memory.  I'm remembering it all in order to write it here, but that's not what I remember when I think about Henry's birth.  Instead, I just remember the incredible joy I felt when holding him for the first time.  That's what I always want to remember.

A year later there are still ups and downs.  There are so many rough days, but there are also so many phenomenal moments.  I know, just like with his birth, I will look back and only remember the positive.  The hard times will fade away and feel so small compared to the joys motherhood has brought me.  I do feel blessed.  I can't wait to spend my last night sleeping beside my baby boy because when I wake up, I will be waking up next to my toddler.


May I Never Forget

by Lauren Matthies


This morning as I sat in bed nursing Henry I just watched him. I wanted to take it all in and seal it into my memory forever. I fear the strength of these sensations will fade with time so I want to cement them in my brain as much as I can.

I never want to forget how small his ten little toes are. The pudginess of his feet. The way he always crosses his feet at his ankles. The chunkines of his thighs. His sweet neck rolls. How his smell of sweat and breast milk combines onto a scent that is both pungent and amazingly intoxicating at the same time. The number of lines on his sweet arms and the way his hand always holds onto and caresses me as he nurses. The delicacy of his tiny facial features. The beauty of his eye lashes and how his eyes blink a little slower with each sip. The clamminess of his skin and how his hair curls as he sweats. The way he gives into sleep as I run my fingers through his hair. The way he appears to perfectly peaceful when asleep in my arms. The sound his breath makes as it accelerates when he feels me start to set him down, but slows again when he feels me still next to him. The way he always leaves his legs on top of me as if to ensure that I don't go anywhere. How someone so small manages to take up so much of the bed. And the way my heart aches with love so overwhelming that it feels as if it will explode. These are the moments I live for. This is what I never want to forget.


Lessons From My First Year of Motherhood

by Lauren Matthies


I've always hated the idea that non-parents can't possibly understand.  Yet, I'll admit, there were things I didn't know before becoming a mother.  As I approach the year mark of Henry's birth, I find myself feeling nostalgic.  I've been reflecting on the person I've evolved into since becoming a mother and decided to compile a list of the things I've learned during my first year of motherhood.

  1. You will judge and be judged.  The judgement doesn't stop now that you are a parent.  I judged parents before I was a mom, and I still judge.  Yes, I know that sounds terrible, but it's human nature.  Not that I look at others people's decisions as wrong, but I take note of what I want to avoid or do differently.  Likewise, I know that others look at me and scoff at some of my choices.  The challenge is to trust my maternal instinct in spite of others' choices and judgments because, ultimately I am the mother.
  2. You are the mother.  As I said above, regardless of what the research says, what other parents say, or what your parents think, you are the mother.  As someone who craves approval, it is tempting to make choices that I think will gain me that approval.  Yet, I have to trust that I am the perfect mother for Henry and that he was chosen to be my son for a reason.
  3. You have never known love like this.  This one is tough.  People always say it and it sounds both cliche and exclusive.  Yet I get it.  My single favorite moment to date is when Henry was placed on my chest for the first time.  The rush of love I felt in that moment was something I never expected nor experienced before.  For the first few weeks I would just start crying while looking at him and holding him because I was overwhelmed with love.  I'll be honest, after the first few months, sleep deprivation kicked in and I didn't feel that same intensity.  Not that I didn't love him, but I just felt too drained to feel anything at times.  However, now I can say that my love continues to grow every day.  I absolutely adore my son and know that I would do anything for him.
  4. You didn't know the definition of sleep deprivation.  People always tell you that you will be exhausted as a new parent.  Okay okay I get it.  Well, I thought I did.  I thought I knew what it felt like to be sleep deprived.  Boy was I wrong.  I now long for the days when I thought 7 hours of sleep was a bad night.  I haven't had a full nights sleep in over a year.  And, on top of it all, sleep deprivation turns you into a crazy person.  It messes with your sanity and emotions.  It makes you feel more depressed and isolated and it makes your problems seem bigger.  I was not one of the lucky moms who gets a good sleeper.  One day, I'll sleep again.  At least I keep telling myself that.
  5. Children are the ultimate wingmen.  I've never been great at making friends.  Yet, what I've found is that Henry is the ultimate wingman.  Not only do people approach you more often when you have a baby, but you automatically have something in common with other moms.  As a result, they welcome you in.  It's like being a part of a club and your child is the membership card.
  6. Babies are incredibly fun to shop for.  Baby clothes are absolutely adorable.  It's hard not to buy everything you see.  My husband says it's like having a dress up doll.  And baby toys are amazing.  I catch myself walking down the toy aisle at Target wanting everything.  I get more excited about them than Henry at this point.  The other day we went to Toys R Us, and man is that place amazing!  My husband, who is just a big kid, has always loved that store, but I didn't realize how cool it is.  I want it all.
  7. It gets easier.  I wish I could go back to Henry's newborn days with what I know now.  I feel like I would be able to really soak it all up.  I feel more competent every day.  Yes, I have my moments where I feel like a complete failure, but overall I am starting to feel like I have some parts of parenting down.  At the beginning everything is so new.  You are doing it all for the first time, you are learning who your baby is and discovering his or her unique temperament, and it's tough.  There are definitely parts of parenting that were easier initially, and each stage has it's challenges, but I still believe it gets easier with time.
  8. It's constantly changing.  I said it gets easier, but just when you think you know what you're doing, everything changes.  Each stage is different and babies grow and change so much during the first year of life, it's incredible.
  9. We're all doing our best to get through.  I'm determined that no matter how much someone looks like she has it together on her Instagram page, she doubts herself as a mom and is just trying to get through the day.  Yes, some days we feel like supermom and others we feel like the worst mom on the planet.  I believe that every good parent doubts himself every now and then.  We all wonder if we are going to permanently scar or damage our children with our decisions, and we all pray that we're doing at least some of it right.
  10. People love to compare.  I cannot tell you how many times Henry has been called a big baby or some variation of that.  Even I compare him to others.  Everyone wants to know when your baby walks, talks, what they eat, how much they weigh, how well they sleep.  It may be good natured, but I believe that comparison is the thief of joy, and we could all use a little less of it.
  11. People don't have baby etiquette.  I was worried that people would overcross their bounds when I was pregnant.  I heard horror stories of the advice people would give and how many strangers would rub my belly.  Maybe I got lucky, but I didn't run into much of that.  However, the second Henry got here people started overstepping.  The number of people who touch your baby is crazy.  Thank goodness I don't worry as much now that Henry is a little older, but I still don't appreciate how often people invade his personal space. 
  12. It's easy to lose your identity.  This.  I swore up and down before getting pregnant and during my pregnancy that my husband and I would remain the priority.  I envisioned us having date nights and keeping our relationship front and center.  Well, not only have we not had a date since Henry arrived (we were in a wedding when he was 5 weeks old, but that is the only time we've been away from him and it wasn't really a date), but I haven't really had any me time.  I feel like my identity is solely "Henry's mom" these days.  My roles as a wife and individual have take a backseat to my mommy needy baby.  I believe that one day the scales will shift more in alignment, but they are definitely skewed right now.  As much as I want some time alone and with my husband, I also can't imagine leaving Henry with anyone.  We both need each other.
  13. A support system is a must.  I think the most challenging part of my transition to motherhood was the amount of change I underwent simultaneously.  Becoming a mom, moving cross country, and shifting careers (studio owner to stay at home mom) left me feeling isolated.  For the first few months out here, I didn't go anywhere.  The only adult interaction I got was with my husband.  Once I got over the fear that Henry would freak out in the car and started venturing out more, I made friends and the difference it made in my sanity was incredible.
  14. Self-care is important.  I still haven't really found a way to incorporate adequate self-care into my Henry care, but I now understand how important it is.  Before having him I didn't realize how much I used my alone time in the middle of the day to recuperate and recharge.  Now that I am never alone I miss it.  I never knew that it was something I needed until it was gone.

I thought about putting these in some meaningful order, but I decided to leave them in the order that they came to me.  Through all the ups and downs of this year, I've learned so much and transformed into a mother.  I still can't believe that at times.  Even when I complain about my new role, I am so grateful for the opportunity.  I couldn't have picked a more perfect son for me, and I am beyond blessed to be his mother.  I can't wait for all that he still has to teach me.


On the Eve of My Son's Birthday Month

by Lauren Matthies


Tomorrow marks the start of my son's birthday month.  My baby boy is going to be one year old in just 28 short days.  How I became the mother of a one year old I will never know.

This first year has been an eternity and a blink of an eye.  It seems like a lifetime ago that I was pregnant.  The intensity of the pain I felt has become weaker in my memory and the person I was before seems somehow foreign to me.  Yet, at the same time, I cannot believe I am about to have a toddler.  I still want to call him a newborn.  He will forever be my baby after all.

Time is funny like that.  It plays tricks on us.  It moves both fast and slow, yet it is also constant and steady.  It's so easy to see the way in which my baby has transformed over this year.  Looking back I don't believe he was ever as small as the pictures show.  Now he can wave, shake his head, and clap on command.  He walks with assistance and says "mama."  He's molded, and is continuing to mold, into such a fun, loving boy.  Although his changes may be more obvious, I am also a different person.  I have grown and evolved in these past 11 months in more ways that I probably realize.  I've become a mother, and that reality still catches me off guard at times.  How am I a mother when I still feel like my mother's baby girl?

As nostalgic as this landmark makes me feel, I am also excited.  I'm grateful for the opportunity to watch my son grow and to continue to grow myself.  I recognize how blessed I am to have a child to call my own.  What a privileged life I lead.  These past few days I felt waves of emotion.  I remember the immense love I felt for my son the second he was placed on my chest (a feeling I wish wouldn't fade with time's passing), but as strong as that love was, it has managed to grow.  I look at him, especially when he is asleep in my arms, and am speechless.  There are no words to describe the magnitude of the love I feel for him.  He is perfection.  I adore him.  I know that I would do absolutely anything for him.

 I also feel an incredible pressure to nurture this life.  I have a responsibility to help him evolve into the man he is destined to be and a man that will make a positive impact in this world.  I pray that I am equipped to be his mother, and I thank God for trusting me with this most precious life.


Different But Equal

by Lauren Matthies


My husband and I have different ways in which we contribute to the household.  Neither is better, harder, or more valuable.  They're different, but equal.  Even though I know this, I often disrespect my husband's role by comparing our responsibilities.  My husband goes to work while I stay home with Henry.  Partly because of that division of labor, partly because of Henry's temperament, and partly because we exclusively breastfeed (meaning no pumping or formula), I end up carrying the most of the burden in regards to the day to day tasks of caring for Henry.

However, my husband cares for Henry in a different way.  He makes money for our family, he makes sure our home is clean and babyproofed, he does the laundry, he drives when we are together so I can sit in the backseat with Henry.   So, while I feel the weight of taking care of Henry's needs, my husband's responsibilities are different, but equal.

I think one of the greatest areas of stress between partners at the addition of children is about the division of labor.  What worked before and was the status quo, no longer works because there are new tasks and a new family member who needs a ton of care and attention.  Even if you had an idea of how the home would function before the child's arrival, his or her temperament might force you to adjust your plan.  Moreover, I'm a firm believer that nothing can truly prepare you for having a child.   Therefore, it's easy to feel tension or distress while navigating the new roles of mother and father and the changing relationship dynamics.

The challenge and the goal is to learn to respect and appreciate the other without devaluing that person's contribution.  While our tasks and roles may be different, their value is equal.


Pregnancy Progression Photos

by Lauren Matthies


A couple days ago Henry and I celebrated our 38+3.  What does that mean, you ask?  Well, Henry was born when I was 38 weeks and 3 days pregnant.  Being the sap I am, I calculated the date at which he would have been out in the world for 38 weeks and 3 days.  To commemorate this day I took some reenactment photos (which I'm including below with some other pictures I took to track my pregnancy progression).



What I Learned While My Husband Was Away

by Lauren Matthies


Recently my husband was out of town, leaving Henry and me alone for the first time.  Even though we've been away from Derek before, we've always been with my family.  It's never been just the two of us.  I was really anxious.  I wasn't sure how it would go, and I expected to be overwhelmed and exhausted.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  It ended up being one of my favorite weekends and it taught me so much.

So, here's what I learned while my husband was away:

  1. I'm more capable than I think.  Like I said, I went into this weekend not believing I'd be able to handle it.  I came out of it feeling like a super mom.  I know one weekend does not a super hero make, but I realized I am capable.  I can do this mom thing, and I'm pretty good at it.
  2. It helps to think of my son and me as a team not as adversaries.  I realized that when I view my son and me as being on the same team we are more successful.  If we can work together to resolve problems, make each other happy, and get things done, we will succeed.  Even one day when he's pushing boundaries and purposefully butting head with me, if I can choose to be on a team with him, working with him rather than fighting him, I think we'll both be happier.
  3. Expectations are everything. When my husband is in town I expect him to help out.  Even when he comes home from a long day of work, I expect him to help me.  I want him to take Henry while I make dinner, give me a chance to shower, and change a diaper every so often.  When he was gone, I knew I couldn't rely on anyone else.  Rather than feeling overwhelmed and burdened, I felt even less drained.  Expectations change your perspective.
  4. Having a flexible routine helps.  Henry and I had a great routine while Derek was away.  We were like clockwork.  Naps, bedtime, eating, it all worked.  Yet, at the same time, it just flowed.  The first night, I didn't know what to do once the clock hit the time my husband usually comes home.  But then I decided, we could make our own routine.  One night it was bedtime and he didn't seem to be settling while we were starting to nurse to sleep.  I told Henry that we could get our fancy drinks (bubbly water for me and a sippy cup that he doesn't know how to use for him) and watch some trashy TV.  Within 10 minutes he let me know that he was ready to nurse again and fell asleep immediately.
  5. I feel safe with my son and he and I are intimately connected.  At night, whenever Henry and I were in the same room I felt safe.  When we were in separate rooms, I felt anxious.  The second I texted that sentiment to my mom, he woke up, not to nurse, but  just to be held.  He slept in my arms and we were both comforted.
  6. I don't want to be without him.  All the time I wish for some free time and me time, yet as I sat on the couch watching him sleep on the baby monitor, I missed him.
  7. I can make time for me.  I've finally found a way to have some me time.  In our new routine, I do bath time with Henry and then take him into the bedroom to nurse to sleep.  I used to nurse him to sleep while Derek and I watched TV and hold Henry until I went to bed.  Now, I stay with him until he lets me set him down and then sneak away.  Even if I have to run back in there a few times (I like to catch him before he cries), it gives me some free time in the evening.   It's a great balance.

On Being an "Attachment Parent"

by Lauren Matthies


Why did I put "attachment parent" in quotes?  Well, I don't like to label my parenting or anyone else's for that matter.  I think it's silly to title parenting styles when they're all just different approaches to the same goal.  Am I an attachment parent?  I guess so.  I looked up what attachment parenting is and Attachment Parenting International defines it as "[being] about forming and nurturing strong connections between parents and their children."  They continue, "Attachment parenting challenges us as parents to treat our children with kindness, respect, and dignity, and to model in our interactions with them the way we'd like them to interact with others."  So, yes, I guess I'm an attachment parent.

My parenting, however, isn't derived from or defined by any website or parenting theory.  I choose to parent the way I do because I believe it is best for my child.  I like to think that all (or hopefully at least most) parents parent this way.  Good or bad, they parent out of the belief that what they are doing will result in the most well-adjusted adult.

So, what does my parenting look like?  I co-sleep (and bedshare) with Henry.  I babywear.  I breastfeed.  I let him sleep on me and in my arms.  I include him in my daily activities.  I don't put him in daycare nor have I left him with a babysitter.  I'm with him 99.9% of the time, other than when he's with my husband while I take a two minute shower every other night (and even then sometimes they stand outside the shower waiting for me to get out).  At first I couldn't leave Henry for any amount of time with out him crying hysterically.  Videos and pictures of him with my husband depict such an upset baby that I cried when looking at them.  Now, he enjoys his time with his dad, but still doesn't relax quite as much as with mommy.

Could I force him to sleep in his own crib, be away from me, and be content at all times  in his car seat, stroller, and high chair?  I could.  Should I?  Maybe.  Do I believe I should?  Absolutely not.  

There's a definite downside and sacrifice to the way I parent.  I am often exhausted mentally, physically, and emotionally.  Carrying such a heavy baby all the time is physically tiring, not sleeping soundly results in never ending sleep deprivation, being with Henry all the time to meet his needs without time to recharge myself is incredibly draining.  There are times when I feel like I've had enough.  Times when I want to pass him off and let him deal with the consequences (and yes, I feel like a horrible mother for feeling that way).

But, there are also upsides.  I know without a shadow of a doubt that my son trusts me and feels safe with me.  He soothes so quickly with me.  He can fall asleep easily in my arms.  When he gets hurt exploring the world (even on my watch), he knows that he can come back to me for comfort, reassurance, and security.  I'm teaching him that there is consistency, safety, and love in his world.  That his needs will be met.  That his cry will be heard.

So, yes, parenting this way (whether it's considered attachment parenting or not) is exhausting, and it's definitely not always enjoyable.  It requires me to put my needs and desires on the back burner, but it's also so rewarding.  I am helping shape my son every day, giving him the upbringing that I believe is best, and nurturing the beautiful innocent soul that his is.  And, as a gift back to me, he gives me love every day in the form of precious cuddles, kisses, and smiles.


The Plight of a Stay at Home Mom

by Lauren Matthies


All my life I dreamed of being a mother and longed to stay home.  I fixated on the day I would no longer have to go into work, and believed I would love nothing more than being at home all day.

I never suspected that I would be one of those people who "needed" to work.  I thought I would celebrate my new job and never miss my work outside of the home.  I didn't realize how much I longed for human interaction and a sense of accomplishment.  I knew I was an overachiever, but I always thought that was because I was in school or running my own business.  I assumed it would go away or transfer to motherhood.  And, yes, it partially has.  I feel a need to be the perfect mother and set my son up for success.  I believe that by being home with him I am giving him the best environment and providing him with the start to life that I want for him.  Yet, something is still missing.

Being a stay at home mom can be isolating.  I adore my son and love how much he loves and needs me.  At the same time, I feel a loss of individuality.  I sometimes feel lonely and exhausted.  At times I feel like I my intelligence is fading (I cringe every time I accidentally use the wrong "there" of "you're" even if it is only for a moment).  Even though I know raising my son is exceptionally important, sometimes I feel like I am not doing anything of value and significance.  And then if I do anything other than give him all my attention, I feel guilty.

I long for a sense of fulfillment and purpose.  I miss feeling like I'm contributing to our family financially (I loved the accomplishment I felt when depositing money that was a direct result of my hard work).  I find myself staying up at night trying to brainstorm ways I can make money.  I am so grateful that we don't "need" me to work, but I think it is about much more than the money.  I think I need to feel successful, admired, appreciated, accomplished, challenged, and intellectually stimulated.

Yesterday, I met someone else who expressed the same sentiment.  She also has a graduate degree and worked outside of the home before transitioning to her role as a stay at home mom.  She also recently moved (which I think contributes to the sense of isolation).   I can all but guarantee we're not the only two who feel this way.

I adore my son and am so grateful for the opportunity to raise him and stay home with him. I'm thankful that I'm not a single mother who has to work.  I'm glad I don't have to put my son in daycare.  I'm also pretty sure that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

I by no means think that being a stay at home mom is the "toughest job in the world."  I recognize that every job has its advantages and its challenges. My title is intentionally dramatic as "plight" implies more hardship that I think is merited.  Still, staying at home is hard.  I don't get to watch Netflix all day, pamper myself, and bake.  I often don't even get to pee when I want to.  Even for someone who dreamed of this job her whole life, I realize that it's not always all it's cracked up to be.  All of this to say, if you feel this way or similar, you're not alone.

 


Henry's First Food

by Lauren Matthies


At first I thought I would wait until 6 months before introducing solids to Henry.  I waited as close to that time as I felt was beneficial for him, but also let him lead me.  Once he started grabbing our plates and putting them in his mouth, trying to jump out of my lap to get to our food, and sitting up well in his high chair, I decided we could give it a go.  We started 8 days before his 6 month old birthday.

I read a lot about baby led weaning before he started solids and thought that was the route I would go.  As it got closer, I started to worry more about Henry choking.  I read up on my CPR and first aid before giving him his first taste of solids, and I settled on something that I feel was the perfect compromise.

I bought food feeders and I highly recommend them!  This is the set I got and it has been perfect for Henry.  I put the food in the plastic feeder and let him feed himself.  This way, I am getting what I wanted from baby led weaning without the fear of him choking.  

So, why did I decide to go this route?  Why not purees?  I believe that the best nutrition I can give to my son over his first year of life is my breast milk.  I'm sticking to the notion that "food before one is just for fun."  I want him to develop a positive relationship with food.  With the high rates of obesity and eating disorders, I want to encourage healthy habits from early on.  I don't want to force him to eat.  I worry that with purees I am teaching him the lesson that he is not in control of what goes into his body.  Instead, I choose to offer him food and let him explore it.  

In addition to using the feeders sometimes I'll put food on his high chair tray.  Usually it's more of an art project for him.  I'm fine with that.  He's learning textures and smell and taste (if it does get in his mouth).  

Another "rule" I broke is the "wait three days before introducing new foods" rule.  At first I thought I needed to follow this guideline as it is purported to ensure your child isn't allergic to a specific food.  I decided that if Henry was allergic I would probably notice a reaction before the three day mark.  I am still not overwhelming his system by introducing too many new flavors at once, but in just over a week, we have tried four items (sweet potato on Tuesday, avocado on Saturday, banana on Monday, and pear on Wednesday).  I introduced each of these using the feeders.  I've also frozen some breast milk, sweet potato, and avocado ice cubes for when I do want to mix flavors and/or to help with teething pain.

I know others may have different ideas than I do, and that is perfectly fine.  I don't want anyone to feel that I am judging his or her choice, but this method is what has worked for my family, and I'll keep it until it no longer works for us.

Happy eating!

Update: Below I'll keep an active list of what he's eaten (by date) along with any notable reactions and/or notes on the preparation.

10/20 - Sweet potato - baked in oven

10/24 - Avocado

10/26 - Banana - seemed to be his favorite so far

10/28 - Pear - sliced in small pieces and fed in food feeder

10/29 - Carrot - sliced in small pieces, steamed, and fed in food feeder

10/30 - Pumpkin - canned pumpkin

11/2 - Apple, Raspberries, and Spaghetti Squash - Henry didn't really have this many new foods in one day.  I offered him apple at breakfast (which he didn't eat), raspberries at lunch (again he didn't eat), and then spaghetti squash at dinner which he seemed to really enjoy

11/4 - Broccoli - steamed and placed in his food feeder

11/6 - Blueberries

11/8 - Strawberry - frozen strawberry microwaved and fed in food feeder

11/9 - Green bean - I steamed and gave them to him whole, but we started to get nervous about choking once he  got a piece of it off so I switched to the food feeder

11/10- Mango

11/12- Kiwi

 

 


Half a Year with My Baby

by Lauren Matthies


Henry's 6-month old birthday has hit me really hard.  I am filled with joy, but overcome with emotion.  I keep thinking about six months ago today.  I was in the hospital in this moment.  My husband was by my side and my sister and parents were on their way across the country to be there for Henry's arrival.  My husband was more incredible than I can say.  I remember him being there for me, supporting me, loving me, sticking right next to me in all my gross slim and pain.

Then a few hours from now my baby boy would be placed in my arms for the first time.  I will never forget that moment.  Emotion and love filled every part of my being.  I remember his warmth and how I didn't want them to take him away from me.  It's amazing that I've looked at this sweet baby, my son, every day for 6 months, yet that was my first time laying eyes on him.

In so many ways it feels like a lifetime ago.  Being pregnant seems like a different me.  It feels like a dream.  When you wake up and try to remember it it feels familiar yet cloudy.  That's what it is to me.  Six months ago doesn't sound like that long.  I've had  many 6 months in my life, but time has changed.  It's not faster per say, just different.  I do wonder where my little baby went.  I look at pictures and he was so tiny.  Now he's grown bigger and stronger, he loves to talk, he can sit up, he breastfeeds like a champ,  and he will only continue to grow.

I am so blessed to be his mom.  Even on the hardest days, the worst days, the most poop covered and sleep deprived days, I am blessed.  I am blessed with a beautiful son, a phenomenal husband, and an amazing family.  I am filled with support and love and Henry is surrounded by people who would do anything for him.  What an incredible six months it has been, and how grateful I am for all the six months we have ahead.