Getting the Most out of the Happiest Place on Earth

By: Masae (parts written by her other half, Charles)

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This photo was taken on Reagan’s first visit to Disneyland on her 1st birthday.

My parents took me to Tokyo Disneyland growing up in Japan. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up since my dad was finishing up his graduate program but my parents managed to take us to Disneyland on a yearly basis and it was something that my sister and I looked forward to. Whether you believe in brainwashing your child with Disney fantasy or not, there is something magical about going to an amusement park and just having a fun day with your loved ones. So when my daughter turned one this past March, my husband and I didn’t hesitate. On her first birthday, we took her to Disneyland. Even though our daughter will probably have childhood amnesia and not remember Disneyland at age 1, my husband and I invested in two annual passes to create fun memories for us and our daughter and to get as many adorable photos of Reagan to look back on when she is older. With daily adult tickets starting at $92 per person, it can get difficult to justify the cost-to-fun ratio, as well as how much you can maximize that ticket cost with a baby or a toddler. After all, you do have to somehow squeeze in feeding, changing, and napping in there. If you do go, here are some of my personal tips as well as recommendations that I have received from my fellow Disney moms (Since we live in Southern California, some of these tips may be more for the Disneyland in Anaheim).

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Reagan was quite starstruck to see Mickey.

6834742731_1e8c6dfc8e1. Get Annual Passes – If you live in Southern California or plan on coming to the Anaheim area, I suggest getting an annual pass. It is a decent chunk of change, but here are three reasons why I am recommending the Disneyland Annual Passport. First, you get to come back (duh!). My husband and I chose the Southern California Annual Passport which means we do have “blockout” dates and can’t go on any of the Saturdays and the entire month of July but guess what!? Those are the days that we avoid anyway. Secondly, with a toddler it’s difficult to visit a lot of attractions in one day. At best we’ve done 5 rides plus a show and/or a parade, and that’s pushing it. With an annual pass, we don’t feel like we need to do everything in one day. If you take the feeding, changing, and napping into account, there isn’t a lot of time to see everything you want to see. The pass allows you to do different things each time you visit. Lastly, Disneyland offers payment plans to annual passes with a down payment. As a bonus, annual pass holders also get discounts at shops and select restaurants in the theme park!

2. Go on a cool day and bring water – The first time we took Reagan to Disneyland, the temperature went up to the 90’s. Not only was she uncomfortable from the heat, WE WERE UNCOMFORTABLE! Disneyland allows outside food and beverages (no glass bottle), so bring lots of water. One of the tricks I learned as a kid is freeze your water bottles. Bring those for yourself. You will thank me later for having that icy cold water and not having to pay $3 for Dasani.

3. Go during off-peak season – The best time to go is in January to February before spring break starts, on Labor day weekend in September *after* school starts, a few days before Thanksgiving, and a few weeks in December just before the holiday rush. You won’t have to wait in a long line for rides and as a parent, I love watching Reagan walk around and explore without worrying about her bumping into people. We have yet to use a leash or feel the need to since we often go on weekdays, although no judgement here if you need to! I also have taught Reagan to hold my hands if she wants to walk so this has helped as well. Off-peak season schedule.

4. Download an app called Disneyland Lines – If you have a smartphone (and if you don’t, what the heck?), download an app called DLR Lines (http://touringplans.com/disneyland-app). It is an app where people in the park report the posted wait time for the rides and the actual wait times. For instance, Peter Pan may have a posted wait time for 15 minutes but someone waiting in line may report actual wait time of 10 minutes or perhaps 20 minutes. This way you can better plan your Disneyland experience for the whole family, especially if you have an impatient toddler that cannot wait in a long line (if you don’t, please tell me your secret!) This application also allows me to check the overall crowd level as well as crowd level separately for Disneyland and California Adventure. For instance, there are weekdays that would fall under off-peak season, but because the Anaheim Convention Centers sometimes will have events, the crowd level will go from 1 out of 10 to 6 out of 10 (crowd level of 1 means empty and crowd level of 10 means crowded). In my past experience, anything above a crowd level of 5 on a weekday, I usually just stay home. This app also guides you on parade and show time for the entire day as well as when rides break down.

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Baby Care Center

5. Make use of the Baby Care Centers – Disneyland and Disneyland California Adventure Park both have amazing and clean baby care centers with a great staff. There is a nursing room with chairs for breastfeeding mamas, an area to pump privately, clean changing tables with disposable sheets on all of them, small toilets for toddlers who are potty training, feeding area with highchairs, a kitchen with a microwave and sink, and more. One of the things I love about this place is that not many parents know about this place and hence, it’s fairly empty. The place is nicely air conditioned and each baby care center has a main room with television playing Disney movies (of course), and tables and chairs for the kids to just hang out. The staff working there are extremely sweet and Reagan has received at least one or two stickers each time she has visited the place. It really makes diaper changing a lot easier (especially if you are by yourself). The stickers can also be used to write your child’s name and your phone #s in case if your child gets lost. Pro tip: this is also the place that Disney staff will take your child to if your child is ever lost.

6. Make a list of things to bring – Your list may differ from mine, but here are what I consider the necessities.

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STROLLER and CARRIER Disneyland does rent out a stroller for $15 a day. The very first time we went, we brought our Bob stroller with us and use a bike lock. Then, as we went, we realized that we were the only crazy paranoid Asians locking our stroller (or rather, my husband was the crazy paranoid one). We have been going to Disneyland since March of this year and so far, the place is safe enough to leave your stroller unattended. Just park in a designated stroller area, take your valuables with you, and put something on the stroller that can be easily identified (maybe zip tie a luggage tag if you’re really that worried). Friends often ask me which stroller to bring, and I always prefer to bring my heavy-duty Bob jogging stroller over my Uppababy umbrella stroller because Reagan hates having to be buckled in each time she gets in and out of the stroller. We solved that problem when we got her a snack tray for the Bob and that is why we always bring the Bob. It’s also nice that the Bob stroller is big and sturdy and we pack many of our necessities. This allows us not to carry too many things and have our hands free. Another plus with a big and sturdy stroller is that it doesn’t flip backwards each time I grab Reagan out of the stroller even with all the stuff hanging on it. But as long as you have a stroller, you will be fine. Just bring one. It will help with your arms. And if you have one that can recline and your child sleeps in, even better. Check out Snooze Shade as well (SnoozeShade Plus – The Universal Fit Stroller Sunshade (UPF50+)). We haven’t needed to use this but I have seen tons of other families using this during nap time at Disneyland. As for carrier, we used to bring the Ergo but as Reagan got bigger and over the hot summer, we started to use the Baby Hip Nari Hugger Baby Carrier more often (here is my review on the hip hugger https://firsttimemommygroup.wordpress.com/mama-splurge/). Baby Nari Toddler Hip Hugger Carrier ~ Black, Denim, Pink, Beige, Brown

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Here is my husband and Reagan watching the Disney Parade.

DIAPERS/WIPES I always bring extra diapers (currently 3) and wipes, but now I carry what I will use and if I need extra, I keep them in my car along with a change of clothes. This way I’m not carrying whole bunch of “I may need these things” and only carry what I need for the day.

SUNSCREEN I like California Baby’s Sunscreen Stick. It’s small enough that it doesn’t take much space or weight in my bag. Minnie ears and sunglasses optional.

HANDWIPES Bring hand wipes. Great for after touching handles and seats on the rides when you can’t get to a restroom.

BIB I always seem to forget this one but if you want the photos of your kid without food stains on the front of their shirt, this might help.

BRING LUNCH/SNACK Disneyland charges a lot for meals and snacks. I do love their Churros but healthy snacks can really help your little ones stay happy. And happy kid = happy mom. I always bring a collapsible cooler bag with slices of organic apples or pears from home (I soak them for 5 minutes in water with a little bit of salt to keep them from turning brown), string cheese (very handy), food pouches (easier than spoon feeding), animal crackers or cereal, and fruit strips. I use a Thermos for Reagan’s organic milk and water, and hers has Minnie on it because she *LOVES* Minnie. Right now if Disney puts Minnie on something, they can just take my money.

SOUVENIRS I have bought Reagan souvenirs from Disneyland but I have also bought Disney things from Disney Store on the web during their sale as well as from Target. Just keep it in a bag and give it to them at the end of your trip. I know it’s not the same since it wasn’t purchased at Disneyland but here is why I say this. For instance, Disneyland sells small handheld bubble guns (I believe the little suckers are priced at $13.99 inside the park; granted they do say “Disneyland” on them) but you can easily get them for $3.99 at Target. This also goes for all my daughter’s Minnie gears, etc. Try to buy them before you visit. You will definitely save few $$$.

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Taken using iPhone with HDR on.

CAMERA/EXTRA BATTERY My husband will bring the D-SLR but I usually just use my iPhone and take photos in HDR so it’s more clear. Bring extra portable batteries so your camera and phone will last all day (Anker® Astro Mini 3000mAh Portable Lipstick-Sized External Battery Backup Charger – Silver).

Some tips from the husband on D-SLR camera gear: Bring only 1 or 2 lenses. You won’t need all your lenses and if you go to Disneyland enough you can try different setups. I personally use either the Canon 24-105L as a walk-around lens plus a fast prime like a 30mm f1.4 or 50mm f1.4 for indoor shots without flash. Wider seems to be better than long lenses. Don’t bring an external flash or tripod, you won’t need them. Put UV filters on all your lenses and bring the hoods for bump protection. Bring a huge memory card and shoot in burst mode. Those precious moments go by quickly. When taking photos with characters like Mickey and Donald, set the camera to Auto/Program mode and hand it to the photographer’s helper. They will happily take photos with your camera. Bring a sling camera backpack that swivels from front to back easily, and if you have additional room you can put daipers, wipes, and other baby necessities so the wife doesn’t have to bring her diaper bag. If you’re in the market for your first D-SLR, I recommend the Canon Rebel T5i and a 50mm f1.8 lens as a great starter.

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This one was taken this past weekend on my husband’s camera.

7. Baby/Kid-friendly rides – I encourage you to get there really early to avoid lines if you are planning to take your little ones to the typical Fantasyland rides. These rides generally do have longer lines in the morning (about 5 to 30 minutes wait depending on the crowd level) since most parents will try to squeeze these in before their kid’s afternoon naps. I noted few scary but kid-friendly rides with asterisks. My daughter didn’t care if rides were scary or not until recently (19 months). And just last week, she clung on to me when we were in Haunted House. Maybe because the Haunted House was decorated in Nightmare Before Christmas (I guess a bit more stimulating than the usual HH).

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Reagan was thrilled to be dressed as her favorite character Minnie Mouse.

Fantasyland

  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Snow White’s Scary Adventure**
  • Pinocchio’s Daring Journey**
  • Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride**
  • Alice in Wonderland**
  • King Arthur Carousel
  • Casey Jr. Circus Train
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • Mad Tea Party
  • Storybook Land Canal Boats
  • It’s a Small World (pretty long ride. My daughter gets pretty restless towards the end with the repeated song…)
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds (35 inch height minimum)

Mickey’s Toontown

  • Gadget’s Go Coaster (35 inch height minimum)
  • Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin
  • Mickey’s House (walk-through; character greeting)
  • Minnie’s House (walk-through; character greeting, usually a long wait so anything less than 20 minutes is pretty good)
  • Chip n’ Dales Treehouse (walk-through)
  • Donald’s Boat (walk-through)
  • Goofy’s Playhouse (walk-through; Goofy is often in front of his house for greeting)
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I took Reagan on a weekday and just went after all the characters. We didn’t get to ride on anything that day but she was so happy to meet all her favorite Disney characters.

Tomorrowland

  • Disneyland Monorail
  • Astro Orbitor
  • Autopia (32 inch height minimum)
  • Finding Nemo Submarine Voyager**
  • Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (love this game but tough to do with a toddler)
  • Captain EO (3D film; Reagan didn’t really keep her 3D glasses but she really liked the songs and dance)
  • Star Wars Jedi Training (a show near the main eatery that allows kids ages 4 and up to participate in training to become a Jedi. Even if you don’t have a kid that is at least 4, this is really cute to watch! Darth Vader and stormtroopers!)

Frontierland

  • Columbia Sailing Ship
  • Mark Twain Steamboat
  • Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes
  • Big Thunder Ranch (petting zoo)

New Orleans Square

  • Disneyland Railroad (several different locations to get on and off)
  • Pirates of Carribean** (suprisingly, this is Reagan’s favorite ride and will sing “yo ho ho ho paw-rate why me”)
  • Haunted Mansion**

Critter Country

  • Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (exit leads to character greeting)

Main Street USA

  • Double Decker Omnibus
  • Horse-drawn Streetcar
  • Fire Engine
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Peek-a-boo Donald!

CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE PARK

Paradise Pier

  • Golden Zephyr (not sure why, but this ride is ALWAYS down)
  • Ariel’s Undersea Adventure (Reagan loves loves this ride)
  • King Triton’s Carousel
  • Toy Story Midway Mania (3D; my husband and I love this ride and we get pretty competitive)
  • Mickey’s Fun Wheel (we actually tried the moving cart instead of the stand still and Reagan hated us after. It’s fun but she was definitely scared)

Hollywood Land

  • Disney Junior Live on Stage! (one of Reagan’s favorite show. 23 minutes long and floor seats. Fake snow, bubbles, confetti, with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, and Jack and the Neverland Pirates)
  • Muppet Vision 3D
  • Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!
  • Turtle Talk with Crush (not a ride)
  • Sorcerer’s Workshop
  • Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular (40 minutes long; suprisingly, Reagan did great and loves the musical. But if you have a little one who can’t sit that long, I wouldn’t do the musical. Nicely air conditioned)

Cars Land

  • Luigi’s Flying Tires (32 inch height minimum)
  • Master’s Junkyard Jamboree (32 inch height minimum)

Bug’s Land

  • Fracis’ Ladybug Boogie
  • Tuck and Roll’s Drive ‘Em’ Buggies (36 inch height minimum)
  • Flik’s Flyers
  • Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug!** (3D show)

I hope I got most of the kid-friendly rides/shows. If I missed any, sorry!

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Rider Switch Pass

FASTPASS and Rider Switch Now… how do you get on the fun adult rides? When we were successful with Reagan’s napping we took turns. Utilize FASTPASS and utilize Disney’s “Rider Switch Service.” For instance, I can wait with Reagan while my husband Charles gets on Space Mountain. Once Charles comes out, he can watch Reagan, while I take the Rider Switch Pass and not wait in the line again. Ask a Disney Cast Member at the beginning of the ride for the Rider Switch Pass.

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I hope this will help should you decide to visit Disneyland/California Adventure. Enjoy yourself and remember that Disneyland is the HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH! Don’t stress and if you feel like you are losing steam, walk over to California Adventure because that is the only place that serves alcohol (unless you have access to Club 33, in which case, you need to get me in). Carthay Circle Lounge, Al Fresco Lounge, Bayside Brews, Cove Bar, The Karl Strauss Beer Truck, Flo’s V8 Cafe, Wine Country Trattoria, Rita’s Baja Blenders, and California Adventure Draft Beer.

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IMG_3579MASAE – FOUNDER OF FTMG / AUTHOR / ADMINISTRATOR

Born and raised in Osaka, Japan, Masae moved to Southern California at a young age.  She always knew she would someday get married and become a mom. In 2012, her dream came true when she gave birth to a beautiful little girl. As a working nurse on a perinatal unit, she thought she had seen it all.  Even her mom advised her to move back with her during the transition as a new mom. Of course, she immediately declined and went on with her confidence, experience, and knowledge.  Around when her daughter was four weeks old and Masae running on few hours of sleep, she packed all their things and moved back to her parents’ place. She said “Only for two weeks.” Two weeks turned into two more weeks. That’s when First Time Mommy Group was also started. She added eight of her mommy friends with young babies (some she hasn’t seen since high school/college) and found an instant connections with array of topics that you come across as a new mom. It was her new haven and she leaned on them for support, encouragement, and guidance… and occasional, VENTING! What she learned as a new mom… “It takes a village to raise a child!”

OUR LABOR STORY

By: Sarah

Tuesday, October 1,2013 (40 weeks, 4 days):

Since Abby did not naturally make her debut over the weekend of 9/27, we had to wait for our induction time for her to make her debut. Our OB/GYN Dr. Lily had set up an 10am induction at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Tuesday, October 1st. She asked us to check into Cedar Sinai at 10 am at the third floor Labor and Delivery department, and let them know I’m the 10 am induction. we got up that morning around seven to make sure that I showered, pooped, and ate a hefty breakfast before we arrived at the hospital (I had been advised by many women to shower, poop, and eat prior to going to the hospital, since I wouldn’t be able to do those things easily once I got admitted for the induction and actually had the baby).

The night before our induction, arnold and I had a quiet dinner at home…we cooked dinner for the last time as a family of two. We made meatloaf and brussel sprouts. It was a nice calm dinner before the storm. We both felt ready for the baby to come, but part of us grieved realizing that life as we knew it was going to change forever. There would be no more quiet dinners at home for awhile!

Driving to the hospital, parking, and checking in were totally surreal experiences. It felt like we were just going to the grocery store or running a typical errand. I knew I was in for a long labor though because Dr. Lily had warned us that the cervix softener would take awhile to get me effaced and then dilated. I expected a 24 hour labor or more, in the end it turned out to be a 22 hour labor from the time of check-in to the point where Abby made her debut.

A rundown of our 22 hour labor timeline:

10/1/2013 –
9:45 am. Checked into labor and delivery at Cedars-Sinai
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10 am. Admitted into labor & delivery room #8, with a pimped out view of Hollywood, Sunset Blvd, and the Hills; all the nurses said we lucked out with the best room with the view. Changed into the hospital gown and vitals were taken.
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11 am. Hooked up to an IV in my left arm; had the external fetal monitor, and contraction monitor hooked up to my belly, which made it hard to be mobile afterwards. When the contraction machine was put against my belly, it said I was already having contractions, but I couldn’t feel them.
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Noon. Our nurse Dawn (a nice motherly, Filipino nurse) got us acquainted and gave me cranberry and Apple juice to drink, plus sugar free jello to eat, and Italian ice to lick while my husband, Arnold got real food at the cafeteria.
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1pm. One of the myriad of OB/GYN residences (all young Asian kids) checks me and says I’m 1 cm dilated, 50% effaced (no change from the last month). Proceeds to insert a cervix softener directly into my cervix and says will check me in 4 hours.
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Afternoon 1-5 pm. Arnold and I read, watch tv, play candy crush, nap, and post on Facebook. Waiting for things to happen.
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4-5pm. OB/GYN residence checks me down there, I’m only 1.5 cm dilated, 60% effaced. They start the Pitosin drip through the IV. The resident calls my OB/GYN Dr. Lily; she recommends putting in a catheter, which is basically a balloon that will open up my cervix with mechanical pressure to 3-4 cm. They tell me it’s quite uncomfortable but will speed up the labor process to get me more dilated, since I’m making such slow progress.

The two young Asian OB residences (one female, one male) struggle for 30 minutes to get the catheter in my vagina, utilizing a huge spectulum. I’m very uncomfortable at this point bc the spectulum is very large; when I look down later, I see a ton of blood. Nurse Dawn holds my hands and tries to distract me with Halloween costumes and stories of her son while the two residences struggle to get the catheter into my vagina. The two residences FAIL at putting the catheter in me because I’m not far enough effaced yet, so they are having difficulty placing it in my cervix.
They give up and call my OB to tell her the news.
I breathe a sigh of relief for now.
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7pm. Shift change for nurses, residences, etc. I get a new labor nurse Julie, a younger nurse who is less motherly than Dawn, but more direct and straight forward.
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8pm. Pitosin drip continues. The contractions get stronger and I begin to feel them more, they feel like menstrual cramps on the first day of my cycle. The 2 new OB/GYN residences for this shift and nurse Julie inform me that my OB dr. Lily has recommended that they try the catheter procedure again.

Internally I groan and am reluctant to do this, but on the outside, I put on my strong face. Prior to the procedure getting tried again, the OB resident checks my dilation and effacement. She checks me and states that I’m 3-4 cm dilated so I won’t need the catheter procedure. I scream outloud, “HALLELUJAH, PRAISE JESUS!” The two labor nurses laugh out loud and give me high fives. I am so relieved. I’m making progress after 10 hours of labor.
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Wednesday, 10/2/2013
Midnight. Nurses had suggested that we get some rest and sleep, since it’ll be awhile before I get fully dilated. Arnold is knocked out on his comfy couch, sleeping and snoring. I’m trying to sleep but my contractions are getting stronger and it’s getting harder for me to sleep. I had previously asked about when I should get the epidural – the nurses all suggested to get it once you BEGIN to think about getting it. At this point, on a scale of 1-10 (1- no pain, 10 – extreme pain), I’m at a 4. My pain threshold to ask for the epidural is a 6, so I think I can wait for nurse julie to come back to check on me before I ask for it.
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12:30 am. No sign of nurse Julie.

Anesthesiologist Dr. Coleman walks into the room with a residence anesthesiologist Dr. Chad and asks “Did somebody here ask for an epidural?”
Me: “No, I don’t think I did but since you’re here, I’d like to request for one.”
Dr. Chad: “what’s up Arnold? long time no see since UCLA days!”
Me (confused): “Uh? you know this resident, Arnold?”
Arnold: “Chad? dude, we used to play ball together at UCLA!”
Dr. Coleman: “Well, I was going to have Dr. Chad here do the epidural but since he’s acting so professional, I’ll do it myself!”
Arnold and Dr. Chad catch up while Dr. Coleman preps me for the epidural.

At this point, the OB resident walks in and wants to check me, but I’m in the middle of getting prepped for the epidural. My nurse Julie then walks in 5 minutes later confused, and I ask her if she had requested for the epidural. She says no, and that she heard from the OB resident that I was getting an epidural, so she rushed over. I tell her, “I was going to ask you to get the anesthesiologist once you returned and he showed up, so I thought I should take advantage of him being here.”

Nurse Julie and Dr. coleman proceed to give me the epidural while Arnold/Dr. Chad continue to shoot the ish. Oh, the easy life of being the husband! :P But to be honest, I was silently glad that the attending Dr. Coleman gave me the epidural instead of the resident – I couldn’t feel a thing when Dr. coleman gave me the epidural. Nurse Julie said I did great because I didn’t even flinch but I attribute it to dr. coleman’s steady hand.

Now that I have the epidural, I can’t get out of bed to use the restroom, so Nurse Julie has to do give me a bladder catheter to drain my urine. Now I’m truly bound to the bed with all these wires and lines running into my body – with the IV on my left side, the fetal & contraction monitors on my belly, and now the bladder catheter on my right side.
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2-3 am. The OB/GYN resident checks me and says I’m 7-8 cm dilated, almost all effaced. I guess she wants a second opinion, because she later brings the first OB/GYN resident and she confirms that i’m 8 cm dilated. yeah! progress is being made.
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3:30 am. As the nurse is checking on me and asking me to shift in the bed from one side to the other (the epidural makes you go numb so they periodically make you shift from one position to another), I feel a gush of liquid coming down from my bottom area. I tell her, “I think my water just broke.” she verifies it and checks the fluid to make sure it’s clear colored.
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4:30-5 am. The OB resident checks me and says I’m fully 10 cm dilated. she then asks me if there is pressure down there, as if I want to take a big bowel movement. I tell her, “Not really, but I keep farting and I can’t control it!” LOL. They call dr. lily and she says for me to start pushing and she’ll be in within the hour.
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5am – 8 am. On my lead with my contractions, the nurses start getting me to push down there. At first, I’m confused as to how to push because I feel tension in my face and neck, but they try to direct me to push down there as if one is constipated. Everyone is walking in and out of the room through these 3 hours, and at around 5:30 Dr. Lily shows up, a midwife shows up, a bunch of pedatricians and students walk in, a shift change of nurses occur, and Dr. Chad comes by to say goodbye to Arnold after the shift change. I feel like I’m an open exhibit at the museum, with everybody looking down there at me and wanting a chance to see or inspect me!

At some point, I see Dr. Lily whispering to the midwife and she brings out the scissors and thread because I’ve already torn down there and she has to sew me up already. I try not to ask or think about it because I’d rather not know the details of what’s going on down there. I just think to myself, “Isn’t it weird that she’s sewing me up when I haven’t even pushed the baby’s head out?” but I see frustration on the face of Dr. Lily and I hear her say that I’m very swollen down there.

As each contraction comes with the three pushes per contraction, everyone in the room starts cheering for me and yelling encouragement to me,
“Keep pushing, Sarah!”
“Push harder, keep on going!”
“You can do it, Sarah!”
“Yes, that’s the right type of pushing!”
It’s as if I’m running a marathon and I’m almost at the finish line.

At some point, since the pushing is so slow, Dr. Lily leaves to check on other patients and let’s the nurses handle my pushing. I can see frustration on the faces of the people around the bed cheering me on. I’m given an oxygen mask and I’m asked to take deep breaths in between each contraction to regain my strength and to give relief to Baby Abby.

When Dr. Lily returns, she says to me, “Sarah, it’s been 2 hours of pushing. The baby’s heartrate is dropping at each contraction, so you need to get this baby out. Otherwise there is only one way she’s coming out. Make sure you take in deep breaths of the O2 during each rest period. That is helping the baby to recover.” I know what she is subtlety implying… If I don’t get this baby out soon, she’ll make me get a C-section. The thought of that makes me somewhat deflated but also focused on getting this baby out. If I was going to get a C-section, I could’ve gotten one 22 hours ago and not gone through the whole effort of dilation! Her threat makes me focused and at each O2 breath, I scream inside the mask “HELP ME JESUS! GIVE ME STRENGTH, I NEED YOU! HELP ME PUSH OUT THIS BABY!”

I’m in a daze, in a dream or nightmare of some type. My conscious is awake, and my mind is focused but I don’t show any breakdown of any emotion on my face. I want to cry externally from the frustration and exhaustion, but I know that if I let that defense down, it’ll be all over for my own internal resolve. So I vow to myself to remain focused and to push this baby out if it’s the biggest dump of my life.

At the next couple contractions, I feel my pushing and start to make progress. There is now a huge blockage down there, and I know the baby’s head has progressed down to the opening. It had previously been like a scared turtle, coming out and then going back in, but I felt this push had allowed the baby to stick. It honestly felt like a huge piece of caca that wouldn’t come out, like when I’m constipated. Dr. Lily and the nurses look excited around me and Dr. Lily gets scrubbed up in a full gown ready. I know this is it, and that these next couple of contractions will get Baby Abby out into the world. I’m still in a daze, and I don’t remember how many contractions or how long it took from this point, but I just remember pushing really hard and then Dr. Lily yelling “STOP PUSHING!” But I can’t stop and I feel a huge relief down there as baby Abby exits my womb.

She’s wet and slimey, but they put her directly on my chest area and she starts crying immediately. All I hear myself say is “Hello baby, this is my baby! Omg, hello baby, I love you!” and I start crying from the emotion and relief that she is out and seems healthy.
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8:14 am. This is the exact time she was born. After she was born, they let her do skin-to-skin with me for 20-30 minutes, where Abby actually latched onto my breast for a good 20 minutes. As we did this, Dr. Lily cleaned me up down there and I just recall her pulling and pulling stuff out from down there (my placenta). I, then, see her sewing me up and I ask her if it’s bad, she says “No, not that bad, 2nd degree”. I breathe a huge sigh of relief.
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9:00 am. Dr. Lily leaves and we thank her for the hard work. The nurse cleans up the baby, weighs her, and measures her length. We had kept on getting ultrasound estimates from the doctors that she was going to be large, like 8 lbs so I was curious to see what abby’s actual birth weight would be.

7 lb, 2 oz
21 inches long

Our baby has made her debut into the world. Life as we know it will never be the same!!!

right-after-birth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1231705_10153261782655615_2040595877_nSarah is an electrical engineer who has worked in the satellite communications industry for the last 10+ years. She has been married to a wonderful man Arnold for almost 4 years. Together they had been trying for 2+ years to conceive and were finally blessed with a daughter Abigail in October 2013, which they attribute to a miracle from God. Sarah wanted to write blog as an outlet for herself and then saw the opportunity to encourage other women struggling with infertility. Visit her blog at http://barrenandpregnant.wordpress.com

The Weaker Sex

suffering

By: Christina

I sometimes call myself a solo mom. If we aren’t close personal friends, you might be wondering what it means. Basically, I’m married but my husband works in another state. It’s different from being a single mom, because I can’t move in with a friend or my parents but no one comes home to me at night, and I spend most of my time alone with my daughter.  My husband is gone for more of the year than he’s home. It can be isolating and lonely, but I get to sleep in the middle of the bed and I never have to share my secret stash of chocolate.

I meet a lot of other moms through Claire’s school. They come to me on the back end of rough weeks. They tell me ‘Brad worked all weekend. I know just how you feel’. I want to scream at them ‘You have no fucking idea how I feel because your husband still comes home at night!’  Of course, I don’t actually say that.  I’m not completely unhinged.  Yet.

When I feel like this, I remind myself about Viktor Frankl.

ggvik

He revolutionized psychology by penning his seminole work on scraps of paper he scavenged and secreted beneath his bed in Dachau. But let’s leave the holocaust out of this. Frankl’s point is more important than all the rest of that, anyway. He said suffering is relative, and that all suffering serves a purpose. He said a horrible event for one person is just your average day for someone else. Think about that. If anyone has a right to comment about human suffering, it’s this guy.  You’ll be delighted to know he also lived one of the most tragically romantic love stories ever. But I’m straying from my purpose here.

What I really want to convey is that parenting is hard. Doing it alone is harder. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, because in the end we’re all just surviving.

Parenthood is a lifetime of sacrifice. It means we don’t live for ourselves anymore. We live for them instead, and in doing so, we let go of the things we want.

If you’re like me, you know it’s pointless telling you to make more time for yourself or to find a sitter and go out because the battle is more work than it’s worth. You get tired of fighting for everything. I’m tired of the battle for clothes, the battle for clean teeth, the battle to get to school on time. The battle to buy groceries. My life is really much easier if I just want less.

To survive, I give up on the things I love. I surrender my time to her instead. I give up my love for crafting and reading. I buy books like tickets for a vacation I’ll never take. They pile up on my bookcase, an orderly reminder of the life I’m not living anymore.  I tell myself it gets better, and it does. I remind myself that it gets easier and it does. But I get older, too, and further from the version of myself I could still recognize in the mirror.

I tell myself it’s what mothers do; what we’ve done as long as there have been mothers of babies. It’s what women do. And to think society dubbed us the weaker sex. It was men who said that, but we can’t blame them. They don’t know any better. They’ll never go weeks upon weeks without rest so that a tiny, helpless creature can feed from their bodies. They’ll never willingly allow themselves torn asunder to create life.

starscomeoutYes, we fight less. We surrender sometimes, from weariness or fatigue or just exhaustion, but it’s not weakness. It’s a strength they’ll never understand. We’re mothers. We put the future first. We guard our children at our own peril. We breathe life into the world with our own blood and sweat and tears. Our bodies suffer endlessly in sacrifice.

We deserve to rest, to fight less. We deserve quiet evenings on the porch drinking tea and watching the stars come out. It’s our reward for the thousand little battles we win every day and never boast about because we know our suffering is relative. We’re women. We’re stronger than they’ll ever know; even when we surrender.

christinaCHRISTINA – AUTHOR

Christina Hill blogs weekly about her life as a solo mom at pastelninja.wordpress.com. Also, Claire would like you to know that she’s four now.

What I’ve Learned from Being a Stay At Home Mom (Part III)

By: Vivian Kelly

 

*Here’s the third part to my posts regarding being a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM). Read part I here and part II here.

 

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1. I learned to plan ahead. In the early days, I didn’t have a schedule and just went with the flow. This was fine in the beginning when I was adjusting to mommyhood, but I eventually felt like I was in the movie Groundhog Day. I found myself getting bored, the days became long, and I no longer knew what day or time it was. Also, if I decided to do something last minute, by the time I got Leah ready and all her stuff together, she either wanted to take a nap or eat.

I eventually figured out that I’m a person that likes to have things planned and organized. I implemented a flexible schedule for each day, so at any given time, I had a sense of what would be going on. For example, when Leah was younger, at 9:30am she would be napping, so I could shower and do laundry or 11:30am is lunch, so I could schedule lunch dates at that time or figure out what I need to make. I really began to enjoy being at SAHM once there was more control and structure in my life.

 

2. I learned to take time for myself. Being a new mom, it’s really easy to get consumed with all things baby and even easier to forget to take care of yourself. There would be days I stayed in sweats all day or when I forgot to eat lunch. Then I would walk past the mirror and wonder… who is that?!

Once I put Leah in day care twice a week, I really took advantage of this time. Not only did I use it to get all my errands done, but I also would meet up with friends for lunch, get a pedicure, go to the gym, or do some shopping. I felt refreshed, and when it was time to pick up Leah, I missed her so much, I smothered her in hugs and kisses. It also felt nice to look and feel put together for my husband.

 

3. I learned to find a group of mommies with kids close to Leah’s age. I was one of the first in my group of girlfriends to have a baby. While I love to meet up with them for dinner or get togethers, occasionally I did feel disconnected. This article does a really good job of explaining the feeling.

When I signed up for Gymboree, I ended up finding a group of mommies that I really connected with. Since then, we’ve been on numerous play dates where the kids have buddies to hang out with and the moms can have some adult conversation. We’ve even had a few “Moms’ Night Out,” and let me tell you, the topics we cover are hilarious!

 

4. I learned to really appreciate my parents. I’ve always had a pretty good relationship with my parents. Of course I went through some rebellious teenage years, but I’ve actually always enjoyed hanging out with them. Even before Leah, I knew my parents worked very hard in order to support the family and give us a comfortable life.

My parents as grandparents, however, are amazing! They constantly provide us with food that’s pre-washed and pre-trimmed, they never turn down a request to babysit, they’ll walk around with Leah if she gets restless at restaurants so we can eat, they’ve traveled with us, and they’ve watched Leah overnight. We’re really blessed that they live close by, and Leah is super attached to them.

 

5. I learned to not be a control freak and let my husband step in. When Leah was an infant, I sometimes secretly resented my husband. I watched him sleep and snore while I nursed Leah in the middle of the night. I watched him try to feed her, only to disapprove and want to do it myself. I got frustrated when I would hand Leah to him to catch a break, only for her to start crying and taking her back to soothe.

Now that Leah is 22 months, I have watched a beautiful relationship grow and blossom. He wakes her up in the mornings, performs her nighttime routine, takes her out when I need a nap, and they have specific daddy/daughter activities. He is the biggest softie with her and often has more patience than I do. While the way he does things may not be the same way I would do them, that’s okay. Allowing my husband to do his thing without me hovering or criticizing has allowed him to create his own special moments with her, and he loves it! I was able to go away for a weekend, and even though I was nervous that she might not be eating the healthiest or napping when she usually does, I knew everything was going to be okay and I could enjoy my girls’ weekend. And boy is she a daddy’s girl now.

 

6. I learned to savor this time I get to be Leah’s primary caregiver. She is growing up way too fast, and I find myself taking a moment everyday to mentally note every aspect of this rapidly changing little girl. I may eventually decide to go back to work once the kids are older, but right now, I’m soaking it all up. Today, she’ll be a little monkey and want me to carry her all day. Tomorrow, she’ll be off to college. 😉

Vivian KVIVIAN KELLY – AUTHOR

Born and raised in Southern California, Vivian spent her childhood raised by a tiger mom playing piano, dancing ballet, and making sure she received straight A’s. She found herself working in healthcare IT for 6 years, and squeezed in a season of being a Laker Girl somewhere in between. Living in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter, Vivian is now a stay at home mom finding the balance between her roles as mom, wife, and woman. www.vivnmatt.blogspot.com

 

What have you learned since becoming a parent?

On Taking Photos

1-2The holidays are around the corner, and because we don’t have enough on our plates, I’m sure we are totally planning on sending out holiday cards this year….especially if this is baby’s first Christmas! For those of you who are considering doing some fall photos, I would really encourage it – I believe that our little ones are only this little for such a short period of time, so I really want to capture as many moments as I can. Not only that, but have you noticed how rarely the entire family is in one photo; baby, mom and dad? Anyhow, we recently did our very first family photo shoot a few months back of our little family…just being us!

YEAH RIGHT, this isn’t us just being us. I’m NEVER that well groomed (well, not lately, anyway – that’s another post in itself), Olive is usually has food or grass stains everywhere, and my husband has a ‘fro going on.

Anyway.

Before I leave you with a few of our pictures, I want to also leave you with a few tips to taking family photos, especially with an infant. Because……looking natural in pictures is difficult enough, even without a kid in tow.

1. Plan for the weather – especially if you’re headed outside.

Los Angeles was hit by a crazy heatwave for a period of about 2 weeks at the end of August. It was about 100 degrees every single day, and while we had initially planned to take our photos at Griffith Park, our photographer had the brains to call me that morning at 7am to say that probably wasn’t the greatest idea. We ended up settling for taking photos at home (air conditioned, yay!) and at a nearby park. It was still crazy hot, but much more bearable. Babies also get irate when it’s too hot out, and I’m sure you want photos where the baby is happy………..right?

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2. Have a friend/sitter on hand

It’s really difficult to get babies to do anything you tell them to do. Try getting a baby to look at the camera and smile………yeah, you’re going to have A LOT of pictures where you’re all looking in different directions. If you’re able, invite a (familiar) friend over to distract baby with noises and silly faces while they stand behind the photographer. This way, your baby is at least looking in the right direction at the right time. Bonus: if your baby really likes the person, you get huge smiles and giggles. We had our nanny come in that day, and it was such a great help.

3. Schedule shoots in the morning, right after they wake, and are fed.

A well rested, well fed baby….is a happy baby. A happy baby = happy baby pictures. Babies also tend to generally be in a better mood in the beginning of the day, before they get overtired, so be sure to get them during that window. We took our photos right after Olive’s first nap, so she woke at 11am, had her bottle, and we were shooting by 11.30am.

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4. Plan your outfit(s)

If you have enough time with the photographer, be sure to plan and pack who is wearing what – and when – in advance. Time spent with the photographer is valuable (since you’re paying for their hours) so less fussing about during your session on ‘this doesn’t match that’, or ‘why are you wearing that ugly crap, husband??” gives you more time to get additional frames in. Also, as most of you know, the longer things drag on, the fussier/more bored baby is going to get. If you’re on location (not at home), pack each outfit change in a separate bag (Mom, Dad and Baby’s Look 1 in Bag 1, etc) for even faster unpacking.

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5. Communicate with your photographer.

Be sure to tell your photographer what you want from your session. What mood do you want to set in your pictures? Is there a particular way you don’t like to be shot? Or are there sentimental or important details of your home/nursery that you’d like her to take some images of? The more you can give your photographer an idea of what you might want, the better she can help capture you in that light.

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Last but not least…Have Fun.

I know that some people freeze up in front of the camera, or try really hard to pose for shots. While that might be okay, don’t forget that you and your baby are the happiest when you two are just interacting, being yourselves! And again, happy people = happy pictures. So let loose in front of the camera, and just be. Some of my favorite photos are the ones that my photographer took of us just goofing around.

I hope you enjoy our pictures!

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All photographs by Yuna Leonard Photography.

Jody CJODY CHE – AUTHOR

Born and raised in Singapore, Jody moved to the United States in her teens to attend high school and college. Jody B.C. (Before Child) worked in the apparel industry for six years, but is now trying to navigate the murky waters of being a Stay at Home Mom. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, daughter and two dogs. Catch more of Jody at: http://mybabyolivejuice.wordpress.com.

Preschool Politics and the Worst Walk of Shame

by Christina

My daughter, Claire, was three years old when she was invited to a holiday cookie decorating party with the other kids from her preschool class. Everyone was going to be there. Of course we went too. Everyone was going.

You see, having a school-aged child is a lot like being back in school yourself, except instead of making friends based on your own merits as a person, you are forced to make friends based on the merits of your child instead. You get to spend time with these people even if you really don’t like them. They won’t know your name and you won’t know theirs either. You’ll know them as ‘Kendall’s dad’ and ‘Lucas-With-A-C’s mom.

I’m lucky. My brilliant child is also quite beautiful. She wears the cowlick in the center of her forehead with dignity and pride because, of course, she doesn’t know her hair is supposed to be flat in front yet. And the other kids, they love her. Her personality is bigger than she is and just lights up the room.

I’m not telling you this to brag. Really. I’m setting the stage so that when the humiliation switch goes off, you can all really appreciate how low my lowest moment gets.

So we went, along with Brittain’s mom and Kendall’s mom and the Lucas’s moms and charming little Margaret’s mom. We went inside. We took off our shoes. They had a lovely home. The living room was straight out of a Better Homes and Gardens magazine, right down to rustic wood furniture; blue suede cushions perfectly coordinated to a design on the wall. We took the kids through to a dining table where a finger food lunch was spread out and waiting for us.

We sat all the children in wooden chairs with big kid cups and heaped their plates with cheese and grapes and carrot slices and pretzels with peanut butter for dipping. They were delighted.

Except for mine.

My perfect, charming, delightful little monster, who every parent I’d met had remarked on –oh, she’s so clever. She can write her full name without tracing the letters. Oh, her big blue eyes are so beautiful- that kid –my kid- wasn’t interested in lunch. Instead, she wanted to open every door in that strange house. She wanted to jump on the couches. And pull things off their impeccably decorated Christmas tree. And knock pictures off the refrigerator.

What do you do? You’re the parent. That’s your hellion wreaking havoc in this expensively decorated house. What do you do?

I’ll tell you what you can’t do, since you enrolled your kid in a really good school. You can’t spank her. You can’t yell, not even when she smacks you across the face.

Here’s what I did: First, I hugged her to hold her arms down so she’d stop hitting me. Then, I whispered to her that she needed to make a better choice. Then she bit me, which of course forced me to let go. It hurt.

And then she ran around and around through the kitchen, dining room, foyer (which you just know these people pronounce ‘foi-yay’). Then I did a big sigh because, you know, I was pretty well screwed in front of Claire’s entire class at that point.

Eventually I caught her. I said a brief goodbye and thanks for the invitation to a roomful of preschool moms who were too embarrassed to make eye contact with me.

You’ll all just have to trust me when I say you haven’t known a walk of shame until you’ve carried your embarassingly bad child away from a party in front of a whole table of other perfectly mannered children her same age and their parents who can’t bring themselves to look you in the face when you say goodbye.

I slung my screaming kicking hitting biting little angel over my shoulder, scooped down to pick up coats and shoes, and made the long barefoot trek down the driveway and along the street to my car. In the rain.

I wrestled my screaming child into her car seat. When she hit me again, I told her she’d lost her ‘car choose’. When she spit in my face, I told her I was going to punish her by playing something she’d really hate. Then I summoned up all the dignity I could muster, glided into the driver’s seat, and turned up the Greatest Hits of the Pixies as loud as I could stand it. Claire screamed. A lot.

It sounded like this:

WAAAAAJAAAMAMAMA caribouuuuuu AAAAMAMAMAAAAAAAAA wave of mutilation AAWAAAMAMAAAAAA here comes your man WAAAAAAAAAAAMAMAMAAAA

Eventually I tuned her out and the GPS kicked in so we were toward home and (for the love of god) nap time. Then I checked my rear view mirror and saw what every parent fears. Claire had unbuckled her seatbelt and was desperately trying to open the car door. WHILE IT WAS MOVING. The road we were driving on was too narrow to pull over so I did what every desperate person would do. I stepped on the brakes. A lot. It was like Mister Toad’s Wild Ride in there. At first she fell over but then she figured it out and just turned around. (I told you she’s brilliant.)

When that didn’t work, I used my mom voice. But of course, thanks to Frank Black, she couldn’t hear a word I said. Then I sprayed water in her face, but it only made her mad. It was like kicking a hornet’s nest. So then, lacking any other options, I pulled over and I did what desperate parents do.

I spanked her. And get this- she laughed in my face. Then I buckled her back into her car seat.

AND SHE DID IT AGAIN. Seriously.

I told her I was pulling over to spank her again. She spit at me again. And you know I pulled that car right back over. But spanking obviously wasn’t the answer. I had to do something else.

Before I tell you what came next, I want you to think about what you would’ve done. Don’t judge me. You don’t have any ideas either, do you?

Cause this is what I did:

Claire: Waaaaaah

Me: You took off your seatbelt.

Claire: waaaaaah

Me: You can’t do that. It’s dangerous.

Claire: waaaaah

Me: When you take off your seatbelt and stand up in the car, you can get hurt.

Claire: waaaah

Me: If you stand up in the car while it’s moving, and someone hits us, you’ll die. You’ll fly out the window and your face will scrape along the pavement and you’ll bleed everywhere. You’ll bleed and hurt. And if you’re lucky you’ll die but if you’re not lucky, your whole body will hurt and you might never walk again. You’ll hurt forever. Or you could die. YOU COULD DIE!! YOU COULD DIE!

Oh, who am I kidding with that last part. The whole paragraph should’ve been capitalized. I yelled so long my throat started to hurt. Then we drove home quietly and I put her down for a nap.

But the parents at that stupid cookie party didn’t see all that other stuff. They just saw her bouncing off the walls and me desperately trying to control her.

Best of all, I got to see them all again on the following day when I took Claire back to preschool. They still don’t know my name, but since I’m judged solely on the merits of my child, I don’t think it matters.

christinaCHRISTINA – AUTHOR

Christina Hill blogs weekly about her life as a solo mom at pastelninja.wordpress.com. Also, Claire would like you to know that she’s four now.

Breastfeeding

by Lindsay Louise Woolf

birthofolive

When I first dreamed of being pregnant and raising a newborn I always imagined a glamorous picture. It never even dawned on me that there would be labor pain, sleepless nights, restless leg syndrome every night at 9:00pm, crazy hormones, and lanolin cream for sore nipples. I learned real quick when the nurses handed us our baby girl at the hospital that this glamorous picture was far from reality. I’ll never forget a few days before giving birth a woman told me to go in with a mind set that “you’re an animal.” At first I thought that was crazy but I soon realized she was right on the money. I was there in the hospital and all I could remember was my girlfriend Emily telling me “you’ve got this!”,  ”if I can do it, you can do it!” and Francis telling me to “be an animal!” and that’s what got me through labor & delivery and my first day of breast feeding my baby girl. You have to be brave, you have to remain calm but fierce, you have to be “an animal.” If you can remind yourself that your body created a child inside your womb then you are also equipped to handle labor & delivery and the beautiful experience of breastfeeding.

How often should I breastfeed? 

Your newborn should be nursing 8 to 12 times per day for about the first month. By 1 to 2 months of age, a breast fed baby will probably nurse 7-9 times a day.

Before your milk supply is established, breastfeeding should be “on demand” (when your baby is hungry), which is generally every 1½ to 3 hours. As newborns get older, they’ll need to nurse less frequently, and may develop a more reliable schedule. Some might feed every hour and a half, whereas others might go 2 or 3 hours between feedings. Newborns should not go more than about 4 hours without feeding, even overnight. -kids health.

Are feeding intervals counted from the time my baby starts or stops nursing?
You count the length between feedings from the time when your baby begins to nurse, rather than when he or she ends, to when your little one starts nursing agian. In other words, when your doctor ask how often your baby is feeding, you can say “about every 2 hours” if you first feeding started at 6a.m. and the next feeding was at around 8 a.m., then 10a.m., and so on. -kids health.

Olive at 4 weeks old wanted to sleep through the night. However, I would dream feed and change her diaper once or twice a night. That all changed when she started teething around 12 weeks and she was waking up on her own.

The day we came home from the hospital was a bit overwhelming. I wouldn’t have the call button for the nurse and lactation specialist? Oh man, was that scary! Not to mention my hormones were running wild with the thought that our little one was entering the outside world (Definitely shed some tears during the car ride home). Finally we get home and I immediately had a question. Should I pump? I was so scared it would dry up my breast milk that I didn’t. Soon after my engorged breast reduced, I pumped. My sister who had a baby 9 months after I did took my advice on pumping and still to this day has storage freezers bags full of breast milk. So proud of you Lacy!!
breastmilk

Why pump in the beginning? 
In the beginning is when you have the most milk supply. Pumping AND nursing will keep your milk production up.

When is the best time to pump?
The best time to pump for me was early in the morning and late at night.

Different positions to breastfeed:

  • The Cradle; Sit with baby lengthwise across your abdomen with your elbow supporting her head and your hand supporting her bottom. Your other hand supports the breast.
  • The Cross Cradle; Lay baby on her side, well supported (consider a nursing pillow) and touching you. If you’re feeding on your left breast, use your right arm to support baby’s body and your right hand to support her head. Your fingers support the left breast.
  • Side Laying Position; To feed on the left breast, lie on your left side with your back supported. Lay baby on her side facing you, her chest against yours. Your right arm will support her body, and your right hand will support his head, bringing him toward your breast. Some mothers are more comfortable with the baby supported in the crook of their arm.
  • The Football Position; Hold baby at your side face up and lengthwise, supported by pillows. If nursing on your right side, use your right arm to support baby at your side, and guide her head to your breast.

Olive spit up a lot so feeding her in the football position seemed to work for us better because she was more in a up right position. It was also easier to burp her when switching sides. She stayed within her growth chart at her monthly pediatrician visits so we never had to worry about the spit ups being a problem. Eventually she stopped spitting up at 8 months old. (no more laundry problems…Yay!)

Breastfeeding can be easier if you have a daily routine. Take a look at our routine

In the end we survived. I managed to push through my first few weeks of pain by using lots of lanolin cream and cold packs for my sore nipples and engorged breast. Once I became comfortable and confident breastfeeding began to get easy and feel natural. I set a goal for myself to breast feed Olive for 1 year. I am happy to report that I breast fed for 1 year and 4 months.

My pediatrician strongly encouraged me to push the foods so I did.

We started introducing:

  • Apples and Bananas in a mesh feeder when she started cutting teeth around 5 months.
  • Puréed Food (Bananas, Apples, Carrots, Avocado, Egg Yoke, Sweet Potatoes) around 6 months.
  • Puffs & Yogurt Snacks around 8 months.
  • Puréed Food with Meat around 9 months.

Olive was never a big eater. It never really bothered me until Olive turned a year old. I asked my pediatrician what I should do about her eating habits and she assured me that Olive was getting the right amount of nutrients from breastfeeding. However, Dr. D recommended that I start the weaning process. My mommy gut knew I should probably listen to her because I had lost a lot of weight from breastfeeding 24/7 and my energy level was kaput (guess you could say my daughter was a boobie baby). After a few months of trying to wean I realized that in order for me to actually not give in to morning and night time feedings I would have to stop cold turkey. The day I officially stopped was August 21, 2013. Looking back, weaning Olive was not hard at all. There were a few times she would want to nurse and I would just hand her a cup. Guess what?!? As soon as I stopped breastfeeding Olive immediately starting eating table food.

What’s in the cup?
We have decided not to give Olive  cows milk so she drinks:

  • Organic Almond Milk
  • Organic Coconut Water
  • Water

My breast were engorged for exactly seven days.  The morning of the eighth day I woke up and my breast had reduced several sizes. A few days later I was completely back in my regular size bras!

Weaning Tips and Tricks:

  • You don’t have to quit cold turkey. You can reduce feedings and slowly stop. It was just best for me and Olive to quit cold turkey. Why? Felt like I was only teasing Olive. Some days I would give in and nurse her… I would have never stopped (it was for the best).
  • If you need to quit cold turkey use a breast pump to slowly reduce your milk supply. Just know it will take longer for your milk to dry up.
  • If you want to dry up quickly don’t express your breast milk. If the pain is excruciating express a little in the shower.
  • Use organic cabbage for drying up your milk. This also works to reduce swelling since the cabbage is cold. The enzymes in the cabbage supposedly help. Make sure to cover entire breast and replace them when they wilt.
  • Use an ice pack or a frozen towel to reduce swollen breast.
  • Drink sage tea. Sage contains a natural estrogen that is reputed to dry up your milk supply. Peppermint Tea helps too.
  • Take a pain reliever. I used ibuprofen (if you are pumping and saving the milk for your baby, be careful about what you take, consult your doctor, etc).
  • Avoid nipple stimulation, as this will trigger milk production.
  • Drink lots of water. If you become dehydrated, you will actually start producing more milk, and your discomfort will increase.
  • The first few night you may leak. Totally normal.
  • Wear a snug sports bra…even at night. The tighter the bra the more comfortable I felt. Not so tight that it is uncomfortable.
  • I worried about getting a breast infection (mastitis) Never did. A good way to tell if you have mastitis is that your breast will turn completely bright red (literally… you will know).

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Here are a few more questions that came up while breastfeeding Olive:

1. How do I know she’s properly latched on?
Here are twelve signs:
•No Pain
If your newborn is latched on correctly, nursing shouldn’t hurt a bit — though it may feel a bit strange at first. “Breastfeeding [for the first time] is a different sensation than a woman has ever experienced before,” says Denise Altman, a registered lactation consultant in Columbia, South Carolina. “It’s like trying to describe labor pains to someone who’s never had a baby.” Altman says you should feel a gentle tugging and slight tenderness at most.
•Pink Lips
When your babe is latched on, his lips should curl around your nipple. “Some babies have very thin lips and some have Angelina Jolie lips,” Altman says. “But you should see at least a thin pink line.” Lightly push down on your breast tissue to see the latch. If his lips are tucked in, you may develop nipple soreness.
•Tongue Position
Have a helper pull down your baby’s lower lip to see if her tongue is in the right spot. If it’s not between your breast and her lower gum, the latch is wrong, and it’s best to start over. “Make sure the tongue isn’t glued to the roof of the mouth,” Altman suggests. Tickle your baby’s cheek with your nipple to get her to open as wide as possible before bringing her to your breast.
•Asymmetrical Latch
Although the exact position depends on your breast size, at least half of your areola should be in your baby’s mouth. For the most comfort, lactation consultants typically recommend an asymmetrical latch, meaning more areola should show above the baby’s top lip than below the bottom lip. But, as always, check with your consultant to find out what’s best for you.
•Wiggling Ears
If your baby is sucking and swallowing correctly, you should see his ears moving up and down. The movement may be rapid at the start of a feeding and slow as the feeding progresses.
•Swallowing Sounds
Listen for a short “aah” as you nurse your baby, Altman says. This is a sign that her breathing and swallowing are coordinated and she’s nursing successfully.
•No Spilled Milk
If milk is leaking out of the corners of your baby’s mouth, that usually indicates he isn’t latched tightly. However, it also could mean you have an abundant milk supply or your babe is simply a messy eater. “Leaky milk is only a problem if feedings aren’t going well,” Altman says. “If Mom is having pain or if Baby isn’t gaining weight, then there’s a problem.”
•No Noises
“Usually if you’re hearing something, there is a suction break somewhere along the baby’s lips,” Altman says. Make sure your nipple is deep in her mouth for the best suction. If you start to hear noises, gently insert your index finger into the side of her mouth, pull her off, and start again.
•Relaxed Baby
It’s a good thing when your little one mellows during a feeding. “When a baby is breastfeeding, the intestines release a hormone that relaxes,” Altman says. If his hands unclench, his legs go limp, and his eyes roll back, that means he’s getting his fill. But, Altman warns, he shouldn’t fall asleep while sucking. A baby who nods off while nursing is disinterested and isn’t getting filled up.
•Round Cheeks
Nicely rounded cheeks mean your baby’s mouth is filling with breast milk after each suck — and that’s a good thing. If her cheeks start to hollow — like she’s making a kissing face — she may not be latched on properly, and you’ll need to start over.
•Steady Flow
Altman asks her mothers to imagine a steam train while nursing. “I tell them to picture the little bar that connects the wheels,” she says. “Your baby’s jaw should be moving forward and backward as smoothly as that bar.” If your baby’s jaw is gliding, the milk is flowing easily, but if he looks like he’s chomping, he’s not getting a steady supply.
•Chin Rest
Your newborn’s chin should be pushing into your breast and her nose should be lightly resting on your breast. If her face is pulled away from your body, she probably doesn’t have enough of your breast in her mouth.
By Randall Noblet of Parent.com

2. Is My Baby Getting Enough Breast Milk?
Babies give us “signs” to let us know they’re getting enough to eat. This is handy, after all, as you want to make sure that your baby is receiving all the nourishment she needs and, you can’t actually see how much milk she is taking in during each nursing session.

Let the following signs be a good guide that your breast feeding baby is getting enough:

  • Your breasts feel softer after nursing (your baby has emptied some of the milk that was making them firm. And you’re hearing the sucking and swallowing sounds associated with that emptying).
  • After a feeding, your baby seems relaxed and satisfied.
  • After gaining back her initial weight loss after birth (within 10-14 days), your baby continues to gain weight. Consult with a lactation consultant and/or your baby’s doctor for more details about your baby’s growth, but on average, a good weight gain is 1/2 oz-1 oz/d in the early days of life.

In the first few days, when your baby is getting your valuable colostrum, she may have only one or two wet diapers a day. After your milk comes in however, your baby will wet six to eight diapers per day.

In the first month, your baby has at least three stools a day, and they lighten to a seedy-yellowy/mustard color by the fifth day after birth. She may have less frequent bowel movements once she’s around 2 months old. In fact, it’s not uncommon for breastfed babies to skip a day of bowel movements now and then. Once she’s eating solid foods, at 6 months, she’ll probably become quite regular and go back to having at least one bowel movement a day.

During every breastfeeding session, let your baby end the feeding. Your baby will let go or fall asleep when he is no longer hungry. He will look very content. If needed, break suction before you take baby off your breast by gently sliding your finger between your baby’s gums and into his mouth.
-NHA

3. How do I know if she’s hungry?
•sucking on their hands; lip smacking.
•rooting, turning head sideways with mouth open.
•fussing.
•you may also see an increase in body movements such as stretching, or hand-to-mouth movements.
-NHA

4. Am I producing enough breast milk?
The first month of breastfeeding is key to developing the milk supply you will have for as long as you breastfeed your baby. In some cases, a mother is unable to produce enough milk to exclusively meet the needs of her baby. However, true milk insufficiencies are very rare. Infact, about 1 in 1000 women is actually unable to produce enough milk to breastfeed.
-NHA

5. How long should I breastfeed?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants are breastfed exclusively for 6 months, and receive no milk substitutes till 12 months, and that mothers continue to breastfeed after that for as long as they enjoy it. The World Health Organization recommends that infants nurse, here and worldwide, for a minimum of two years.

6. What is Dream Feeding?
Dream feeding is the term adopted for a late-night feeding of a newborn. The main benefit of dream feeding is that it helps the baby sleep for a 4- to 5-hour stretch overnight, which allows mom to finally get some much-needed sleep. It’s called dream feeding because the baby usually stays asleep through the feeding process. It doesn’t work for every baby, but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that many parents are able to get more sleep by dream feeding.

Benefits of Dream Feeding:
Having a baby can send you on a downward spiral to fatigue and sleeplessness. Your new bundle of joy will wake up every two to three hours for a feeding, so you will have to wake up each time as well. You don’t get enough restorative sleep, and it wears you down, potentially deteriorating your health and mental well-being. If dream feeding works for you, it can allow you to get 4 to 5 hours of sleep. If your partner does the late-night feeding, you might even get in a full night’s sleep (occasionally).

How to Dream Feed:
Dream feeding is usually carried out at around 10:30 or 11:00 p.m. Every baby is different, but a typical feeding schedule can occur at 8:00 and 11:00 p.m., followed by 2:00 and 5:00 a.m. (Having fun yet?) For the feeding that occurs in the late-evening hours, the goal is to feed the baby without fully waking him up.

Try to get the baby to take the nipple without waking him/her:
You can do this by brushing the nipple against his cheek. Gently stroking his hand or the soles of his feet can sometimes work too (don’t ask us why). Once the baby takes the nipple, you can usually change his diaper without disturbing him too much. Once the feeding is done, gently move him over your shoulder. Burp him and put him back down to sleep.

Hopefully the baby will stay down and sleep past the 2:00 a.m. feeding time. The goal is to stretch out that overnight sleep period as long as possible, so you can get some extra hours of sleep. If you are bottle feeding and your partner can do the dream feed on schedule, you could potentially get a full night’s sleep.

When do you stop Dream Feeding?
You can start weaning the baby off of dream feeding after the first two months or so. After that, most babies start to sleep through the night on their own. Most babies will take no longer than 3 to 4 months before they are sleeping through the night. In some cases, the baby may develop a dependency on that late-night feeding, and it will be more difficult to get them to “kick the habit.” You can either reduce the amount that you’re feeding them until they can go without it, or just try to quit cold turkey. –Just Mommies

Products that I loved during breast feeding:

  1. Boppy Body Pillow
  2. Burt’s Bees MamaBee Body Oil
  3. Medela Disposable Nursing Bra Pads
  4. Medela Tender Care Lanolin
  5. Hydro Gel Pads
  6. Philips AVENT BPA Free Soothie Pacifier
  7. Medela Backpack Pump
  8. Medela 9 Volt Vehicle Lighter Adapter
  9. Medela Pump & Save Breastmilk Bags
  10. Dr. Browns Glass Bottles
  11. Dr. Browns Nipples
  12. Dr. Browns Bottle Cleaning Brush
  13. Babies R Us Bibs
  14. Bobby Bare Naked PillowSlipcover
  15. Aden+Anais 4 Pack Swaddle Blankets

Did you know?

The 2013 CDC shows that:
76.5% of US infants begin breastfeeding.
49% breastfed till 6 months.
27% breastfed till 12 months.
37.7 exclusively breastfed till 3 months.
16.4 exclusively breastfed till 6 months.

*Map Below shows the 2013 percentages of mothers that breastfeed in each state.

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Thank You!

Thank you Emily for inspiring me to breastfeed. Thank you my husband for believing in me and lifting me up on those days where I just wanted to give up because it was to emotionally exhausting mentally and physically.


20130625-1019302-700x700LINDSAY WOOLF – AUTHOR

Lindsay Woolf is a mommy to a beautiful little girl named Olive Lillian Woolf. Her husband’s name is Joshua and they live in Los Angeles, California. Along side being a mom to a one year old, she is following her childhood dreams of being a Portrait & Wedding Photographer. Her blog WOOLF WITH ME is the newest way for her to post the latest happenings in her life, behind the scenes pictures from photo shoots, and anything else that inspires her. Come check back in often and don’t forget to visit her professional photography at LLWOOLF.COM. Feel free to ask her questions HERE.

Sleep Training

By Masae

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Sleep deprived husband and Reagan

Sleep training is such a personal topic. We all have ideas on the type of mother we strive to be so please do not take what I write in this blog entry as a recommendation of what you need to do. If you are against sleep training, feel free to stop reading. If you didn’t have to sleep train your baby and you and your baby are sleeping through the night, please share your secret to all the moms here. I’m sure they would love to hear it!

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Our bed became her crib… By the way, do not leave your child unattended. This is definitely the wrong way to co-sleep.

This is my PERSONAL EXPERIENCE on sleep training! Before I begin, I should tell you what kind of a mother I was when my daughter, Reagan, was born. I was pro-breastmilk, pro-babywear, anti-vaccines, anti-CIO (CIO = crying it out, aka. letting baby cry), pro-cloth diapers, no BPA, no PVC, organic everything and anything. You name it. I was that mother that was either at one end of the spectrum or at the other end on baby or parenting topics. I didn’t plan myself to be this way. Like most parents, I just wanted the absolute best for my baby girl. However, since the birth of Reagan, I have learned a lot and changed many of my views. And thank God for that! Not because I don’t believe in these ideas or lifestyle, but keeping up with some of these really brought upon unnecessary stress. I’m also glad that I have learned to be a lot more flexible. In the end, listening to my own child and deciding what is best for the situation, really helped me get through the first year.

I didn’t sleep train my daughter for the longest time because I strongly believed in responding to all of Reagan’s cries even if I just fed, burped, or changed her. The Erik Erikson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erikson’s_stages_of_psychosocial_development ) in me kept thinking that this is the first stage of life, Trust vs. Mistrust. Reagan is trying to develop trust in us, therefore, I must go to her and if I can’t I’m directing my husband to grab her. You get the picture. So for the first ten months, I never slept more than few hours.  My average daily sleep total was probably around four to six hours. Reagan’s naps mostly took place in the rocker or in the car seat while driving.  Frequently my husband or I took turns holding her in a nursing chair, while rocking and singing to her. I also co-slept with her, which I don’t recommend unless you do your homework on the subject (do research on safety, SIDS, etc).

Reagan’s average length of sleep for the first ten months was two to three hours. Every now and then, she would surprise us by giving us five hours of sleep.  I would be so amazed at the fact that she was finally sleeping that I tried to figure out why and I didn’t take the opportunity to go to bed myself. I was miserable. Being a miserable, sleep deprived bitch, I was tired and cranky and my husband definitely received the brunt of it. When Reagan was around eight to nine months old, her sleeping patterns got much worse. She started to wake up every hour. Sometimes every 30 to 45 minutes at night. I was a walking zombie. Like many parents, we attributed her frequent waking to teething. So we tried every teething remedy available: teething tablets, liquid camilla, tylenol, motrin, teething necklaces, etc. Unfortunately, nothing worked. I also noticed that Reagan’s weight gain had slow down. She wasn’t eating as much which was very concerning to me. Around this same time, my husband asked me if I was purposely trying to lose weight. I remember telling him ‘no’ and that I was just so sleep deprived that eating wasn’t my first priority. Then, it hit me. It wasn’t that Reagan was being a picky eater and just not eating, my poor child wasn’t eating because she was sleep deprived like her mama.

Since I was adamantly against using any CIO methods, my husband and I bought Elizabeth Pantley’s No-Cry Sleep Solution book. The Amazon reviews sounded promising so we gave the book a try. The author’s method required us to chart all of Reagan’s nap/sleep, how long she has been sleeping, what woke her up, what finally put her to sleep (nursing, rocking, patting), etc. My husband and I were both very desperate for sleep, we even went further by writing down the temperature in her room, what she was wearing, and what she ate or how long she nursed. Hoping that by jotting down everything, we would see patterns that could lead to success.  Sadly, there was no success. She was waking up every 30 – 45 minutes, needing my breast in her mouth to fall asleep or go back to sleep. I was her personal sleep aide. That was the reason why she was always waking up. My nipples were her pacifier.

To give you an idea of what it was like, this is an actual sleep log entry from one of our better nights:

December 3, 2012 Total Sleep Time
7:53 AM Awake in crib
8:09 AM Nurse, Breakfast
9:00 AM Nurse for nap
9:21 AM Asleep in my arms
9:30 AM Placed in crib, passed out
10:04 AM Awake brought to our bed 26 minutes in her crib
11:30 AM Nurse
12:13 PM Sleep in my arms
1:01 PM Got tired of holding, brought to our bed but woke up in the process of putting her down 48 minutes in my arms
2:30 PM Lunch, Nurse
2:50 PM Sleep in my arms
3:11 PM Transferred to crib
4:15 PM Wake up, nurse in rocking chair 1 hour 25 minutes (in my arms and crib)
5:15 PM Dinner
5:30 PM Bath
6:25 PM Lights out, nurse in rocking chair
6:34 PM Sleep in my arms
6:51 PM Transferred to crib
7:38 PM Awake 47 minutes in her crib
9:20 PM Rocked… for close to 2 hours… placed in crib
10:50 PM Woke up crying but not hysterical 1 hour and 30 minutes in her crib
11:01 PM Rocked, placed in crib 1 hour 8 minutes in her crib
12:09 AM Awake, nurse her in our bed
12:14 AM Sleep in our bed
3:54 AM Awake in our bed, nurse back 3 hours 40 minutes in our bed
6:25 AM Awake 2 hours 25 minutes in our bed

Longest sleep duration –> 3 hr 40 min

Total sleep in 24 hours –> 10 hr 34 min

Total night awakenings –> 5 times

My goal was to breastfeed my daughter for a year and this broke my heart. Do I stop breastfeeding her in order for her to get good night rest? My husband, Charles, who was working 50+ hours a week, decided to sleep on the nursery floor to crib train and wean her off from her multiple “night time feeding.” He knew breastfeeding was important for me and I’m glad he supported me on this goal. If he didn’t step in, I think I may really have fallen into depression.

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This is how I found my husband the next day.

The first night of crib/wean off night feeding training, Charles probably slept total of three hours. She woke up every 30 to 45 minutes and sometimes after 15 to 20 minutes of putting her in the crib. After few days, we learned from our sleep log that Reagan was getting total of eight to ten hours of sleep, which included the two daytime naps. I felt like an awful mother for allowing this to go on this long. It broke my heart to see that she did not know how to go to sleep and stay asleep.

At our wits end, we enlisted the help of a sleep trainer. I was ready to learn and be told what we needed to do. CIO or not, my child’s physical health was on the line. She needed to learn to self-soothe for herself and for her sleep deprived parents. Per the recommendation by many moms on FTMG, I called Natalie Willes (http://babysleeptrainer.com/). She educated us on what we needed to do. It did involve CIO, but more importantly Natalie gave us a strict daily schedule for Reagan and instructed on things like not to nurse Reagan to sleep, avoid nursing Reagan in the nursery, and breastfeed her only in a well-lit room. Within the first night of sleep training, Reagan slept from 7PM to 5AM with two short awakenings that she was able to put herself back to sleep. During the day, she began nursing better and ate more solids. For the first week, Reagan and I pretty much stayed home and only took short walks around the neighborhood as an activity. I wanted to make sure that my errands were not going to mess up her schedule and not waste the tears shed during the training. Within five days, Reagan was sleeping through the night. We couldn’t believe it. We were officially one of those parents that stared at the baby monitor all night just waiting for her to wake up, but she didn’t.

You might be wondering, how bad was Reagan’s cry? How long did she cry? Was she okay? Can you tell she hasn’t been traumatized? Reagan definitely cried. My daughter is one of the loudest children you will ever meet, so she CRIED! The first night it was for about 25 minutes straight, and then just whimpering after that. The second night, she didn’t really fight it but she let it all out on the third night protesting. I’m a bit unsure, but I think she gave us about a good 20 minutes of heart-wrenching screaming. Like parents who first do this, we questioned the methods, but then she would sleep for ten hours straight. By Reagan’s first year check up, our pediatrician told us Reagan was back on track with her weight gaining. I told the doctor that Reagan was eating and nursing more but only during the day. I’m proud to say that we successfully breastfed until she was 15 months old. She was growing up and thriving and I know it was due to her getting more sleep. I was happier, my husband was happier, and most importantly, Reagan was happier. She always woke up well-rested with a huge smile on her face.

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One of our favorite things to do… Go to Disneyland!

Reagan is now 18 months old and it’s been eight months since she learned to sleep through the night. She is verbally communicating with us, taking ballet, and a class at MyGym every week. She loves Mickey and Minnie Mouse and asks for them all the time (we bought annual passes and take her few times a month). She takes one nap during the day for two hours and sleeps from 8PM to 7AM. My husband and I are out few times a month on a date night after Reagan goes to bed, which has really helped us to reconnect and focus on our marriage once again. Before sleep training, I never thought we would get here.

I’d like to reiterate that CIO or even sleep training isn’t for everyone, and most sleep experts don’t recommend any sort of CIO training until at least 4 to 6 months of age.  Even co-sleeping like we did for ten months isn’t for every family. But this was our journey and this was our outcome. I hope whatever you choose for your own family and for your little one, that you do your homework and research. If you feel in your heart that something isn’t right, stop. In the end, the health and mind of your child and yourself is the most important thing here. Don’t let other parents coerce you into doing what they did or did not do for their children. You know your baby and his or her temperament. Every situation is different and what worked for someone won’t necessarily work for your family.

IMG_3579MASAE – FOUNDER OF FTMG / AUTHOR / ADMINISTRATOR

Born and raised in Osaka, Japan, Masae moved to Southern California at a young age.  She always knew she would someday get married and become a mom. In 2012, her dream came true when she gave birth to a beautiful little girl. As a working nurse on a perinatal unit, she thought she had seen it all.  Even her mom advised her to move back with her during the transition as a new mom. Of course, she immediately declined and went on with her confidence, experience, and knowledge.  Around when her daughter was four weeks old and Masae running on few hours of sleep, she packed all their things and moved back to her parents’ place. She said “Only for two weeks.” Two weeks turned into two more weeks. That’s when First Time Mommy Group was also started. She added eight of her mommy friends with young babies (some she hasn’t seen since high school/college) and found an instant connections with array of topics that you come across as a new mom. It was her new haven and she leaned on them for support, encouragement, and guidance… and occasional, VENTING! What she learned as a new mom… “It takes a village to raise a child!”

Life as a Stay At Home Mom (Part II)

By Vivian Kelly

*Here’s the second part to my posts regarding being a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM). Read about my decision to stay at home here

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What are we doing today, mom?

Wonder what being a SAHM is like? I’ll break down life by Leah’s age since it has changed as she has gotten older.

0-3 Months: The first 6 weeks were more about survival. Leah’s nights and days were reversed, so she wanted to sleep all day and was wide awake at night. We were figuring out this whole breastfeeding thing, and I pretty much stayed in sweats and a ponytail the entire time. Tears were shed from a combination of sleep deprivation and hormones. We were blessed that my parents came up a couple nights every week to cook, clean, and give us some breaks. After the first 6 weeks, things started to settle down a bit, and I was getting more comfortable in this new role. I didn’t have too much of a routine in place and followed Leah’s lead. The days pretty much consisted of feeding and sleeping, and we occasionally ventured out on walks. At around 2 months, Leah’s naps only lasted 45 minutes each time, and it would drive me crazy. To make up for that, however, she started to stretch out her night time sleep naturally so I was able to catch up on sleep.

3-5 Months: Starting at 3 months, I followed a routine of Eat, Play, Sleep in 3-4 hour cycles. The routine was very helpful in allowing the day to be more predictable and planned. {When baby #2 comes, I will definitely try to start this routine from day 1.} We started the cycle with a feeding, and after that we had about an hour of “play time.” We scheduled play dates once a week, Gymboree twice a week, ran errands in between, and even ventured out to restaurants during that hour. That was followed by a nap. At 4 months, we decided it was time for Leah to move into her own room, and at the same time we would sleep train. Little did we know, she was totally ready to be in her crib. After two days of barely any crying, she started to take 1.5-2 hr naps, and slept through the whole night. Thank you, Leah! During her naps, I caught up on emails, showered, ate, did laundry, prepared baby food, etc. These 3-4 hour cycles actually made the day pass by pretty quickly. Before I knew it, Matt was home from work, he would play with Leah while I finished dinner, and then she was off to bed.

First Gymboree Class

First Gymboree Class

5 Months – Onward: At 5 months, I started noticing Leah was getting super clingy to me. I couldn’t leave her side for very long without her complaining. After discussing it with Matt, we decided to put her in day care twice a week. This really helped keep me sane, and helped keep the family running a little smoother. Mondays and Thursdays she’s in day care all day. I’ll go grocery shopping, do laundry, go to the gym, run any other errands, and prepare dinner. As a result, I’ve been able to put together nice homemade meals 3-5 days a week. Before, I just threw together anything that was in the fridge, or we got delivery. I also like to meet up with friends for lunch or get a pedicure. Leah has benefitted by having pretty good socializing skills with other kids and decent table manners. She has also grown to be able to trust other caregivers and isn’t clinging to me for dear life.

Playground Fun (Photo by Bob Cho)

Playground Fun (Photo by Bob Cho)

On non-day care days, she wakes up and immediately points to her mouth for food. I feed her breakfast, and then do an activity in the house until her nap time. When she took a morning nap, it was at 9:30am. At 16 months, she transitioned to 1 nap from 1-3 pm. As a result, I am trying to plan more outside activities in the morning. These activities continue to consist of play dates, Gymboree, museums/Disneyland, playgrounds, meeting up with Matt for lunch, and/or running errands. I’ve also enrolled her in a gymnastics and music class. I’m glad I’ve found a group of mommies, with children the same age as Leah, to schedule play dates, talk about all things baby, and even go out on “mommies night out”. It’s pretty hilarious the topics we cover. In the afternoon, I’ll take her to an indoor playground, and then head home to prepare dinner.

Whew! That’s our day to day life in a nutshell. Next, I’ll write what I’ve learned from this experience as a SAHM.

Vivian KVIVIAN KELLY – AUTHOR

Born and raised in Southern California, Vivian spent her childhood raised by a tiger mom playing piano, dancing ballet, and making sure she received straight A’s. She found herself working in healthcare IT for 6 years, and squeezed in a season of being a Laker Girl somewhere in between. Living in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter, Vivian is now a stay at home mom finding the balance between her roles as mom, wife, and woman. www.vivnmatt.blogspot.com

Perfectionist

By Masae

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My daughter at four months

After my daughter was born, I often used to say to myself that in a perfect world, Reagan would wake up around 8AM and I would wake up an hour earlier.  I would have enough time to get myself ready, put a little makeup on, and definitely have a nice, hot cup of coffee with a breakfast. I would enjoy those few minutes of silence before waking my baby up to start our day. Like many first time moms can relate, this was a rarity during our first year together.

Before I begin, let me re-introduce myself. My name is Masae and I have been married for the last five years to a wonderful, loving husband named Charles. We are the proud parents to our beautiful daughter Reagan. A month after having Reagan, it became evident that it takes a huge village to raise a child. Granted, I worked as a postpartum nurse in labor and delivery and had experience with infant behavior. I learned that being with your own baby and having to take care of one 24 hours and 7 days a week is completely different from being responsible for newborns at the hospital during a shift. Nonetheless, the experiences and the knowledge I gained working in the unit helped. For one thing, I already knew how to change a diaper and hold and burp a baby. Breastfeeding came easy. In case of an emergency, I had some idea of what to do to rescue her. However, no amount of baby books or baby experiences, can prepare you for what it’s like to become someone’s mother.  Nothing can brace you for the sleep deprivation that follows for weeks, or for some of us, for MONTHS to come.

Shower

Like many first timers, reality sets in during the first year. Reagan often woke up before me. The few minutes of silence I had hoped for was often not enjoyed over a coffee and breakfast, but mostly spent on throwing myself in the shower as quickly as possible and inhaling a Powerbar. By the way, Reagan is 17 months old now but I still suffer from “Shower Schizophrenia” (If you don’t know what that is, google Shower Schizophrenia!).

At a young age, I grasped the concept that “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” I have always loved that saying. Why rely on others to do your work? Especially if they are going to do it differently from you or do a mediocre job. Although I have always known myself to be a perfectionist, these perfectionist traits became extremely evident after having my own daughter. You see, you can’t be a perfectionist and be a good and sane mother. You just can’t. Because the minute you think you have achieved your goal as a mother, your child is right there to burst your bubble.

What I learned during my first year as a mother is that I need to relax and just do my best as a mother and as a wife, and to not sweat the small stuff. No matter how many Pinterest ideas I pin on my personal board, or whether I finally execute the collection of Pinterest ideas perfectly, these perfectionist traits will hinder me to fully enjoy my life as a mother and as a wife. Most importantly, I learned that it’s okay to ask for help and rely on others for support, and that It’s important to know that when someone else helps, especially my husband, that he isn’t doing a mediocre job. Like me, he’s just doing his best as a father and as a husband.

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Our little family

Anyway, I want to thank all the moms and moms-to-be for the new friendships, unconditional support, words of encouragement, late night advice, and most importantly, making me laugh on the First Time Mommy Group. Thank you for paying it forward by commenting on other mom’s questions and concerns. It has been amazing to witness our virtual village grow to over 3000 moms. It’s also great to finally pay it forward after surviving my first year as a new mom.

I want to close with these words from a Canadian doula Jill Smith that I came across during one of those late night feeds. Most of us have a little bit of perfectionist in us. After all, we are moms and want the absolute best for our children. We also like to judge other moms (but that is another topic save for another rainy day). Enjoy!

  • To the mom who’s breastfeeding: Way to go! It really is an amazing gift to give your baby, for any amount of time that you can manage! You’re a good mom.
  • To the mom who’s formula feeding: Isn’t science amazing? To think there was a time when a baby with a mother who couldn’t produce enough would suffer, but now? Better living through chemistry! You’re a good mom.
  • To the cloth diapering mom: Fluffy bums are the cutest, and so friendly on the bank account. You’re a good mom.
  • To the disposable diapering mom: Damn those things hold a lot, and it’s excellent to not worry about leakage and laundry! You’re a good mom.
  • To the mom who stays home: I can imagine it isn’t easy doing what you do, but to spend those precious years with your babies must be amazing. You’re a good mom.
  • To the mom who works: It’s wonderful that you’re sticking to your career, you’re a positive role model for your children in so many ways, it’s fantastic. You’re a good mom.
  • To the mom who had to feed her kids from the drive thru all week because you’re too worn out to cook or go grocery shopping: You’re feeding your kids, and hey, I bet they aren’t complaining! Sometimes sanity can indeed be found in a red box with a big yellow M on it. You’re a good mom.
  • To the mom who gave her kids a homecooked breakfast lunch and dinner for the past week: Excellent! Good nutrition is important, and they’re learning to enjoy healthy foods at an early age, a boon for the rest of their lives. You’re a good mom.
  • To the mom with the kids who are sitting quietly and using their manners in the fancy restaurant: Kudos, it takes a lot to maintain order with children in a place where they can’t run around. You’re a good mom.
  • To the mom with the toddler having a meltdown in the cereal aisle: they always seem to pick the most embarrassing places to lose their minds don’t they? We’ve all been through it. You’re a good mom.

IMG_3579MASAE – FOUNDER OF FTMG / AUTHOR / ADMINISTRATOR

Born and raised in Osaka, Japan, Masae moved to Southern California at a young age.  She always knew she would someday get married and become a mom. In 2012, her dream came true when she gave birth to a beautiful little girl. As a working nurse on a perinatal unit, she thought she had seen it all.  Even her mom advised her to move back with her during the transition as a new mom. Of course, she immediately declined and went on with her confidence, experience, and knowledge.  Around when her daughter was four weeks old and Masae running on few hours of sleep, she packed all their things and moved back to her parents’ place. She said “Only for two weeks.” Two weeks turned into two more weeks. That’s when First Time Mommy Group was also started. She added eight of her mommy friends with young babies (some she hasn’t seen since high school/college) and found an instant connections with array of topics that you come across as a new mom. It was her new haven and she leaned on them for support, encouragement, and guidance… and occasional, VENTING! What she learned as a new mom… “It takes a village to raise a child!”