An Experienced Mom with a Teenager and a Newborn
We hear from Jillian, a nurse from Idaho.
If the first 1,000 days are the most important and your child will learn the most, does that mean that we don’t need to do anything for the other 4 billion days? Only kidding. I have two children who have a vast age difference. And before you ask, yes we wanted children far apart in age. Why you ask? Because we are part crazy and thought that starting all over when our oldest was almost a teenager would be the perfect opportunity. I truly can say that have children about 12 years apart does have both it’s advantages and disadvantages.
Here is my disclaimer. I am not a perfect mom. I ate junk food when I was pregnant. I consumed caffeine. I didn’t always nap when my newborn was napping. I turned on the television to occupy my kids as toddlers and I fed them GMOs, chip, fruits, veggies and they even had pop as a treat as well. I don’t claim to be the best, but I have experience in parenting and two amazing children that are going to do great things.
I want to start by saying pregnancy, for me was one of the most amazing experience of my life. It wasn’t always rainbows and butterflies, but it was one of my most cherished and loved memory I will ever have. My son is almost 15 years old and my daughter is almost 3. My kids could not be any more different in my pregnancies or their personalities. However, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I have experienced a high risk pregnancy and delivery along with an easy no problem pregnancy/delivery with my daughter. I was fortunate though with both children that my labor and delivery was 4 hours and 2 hours. With my youngest, I was all prepared to get an epideral and walk around the hospital or even take a bath like they do on television. I however, did not have the chance as my daughter was ready to make her entrance to the world very quickly. I remember telling her grandparents she was born and their response was “already?” I also laugh hearing the story because my oldest was in a gravel pit with his grandmother on an ATV when we said she was born. Moral of this story is that expect the unexpected. I have always and will always say, have a plan for your labor and delivery, but be open minded to changes as they arise.
When I found out I was pregnant, I was excited, happy, scared and somewhat lost. I also felt guilty for feeling scared. I mean, with my first I was young, but for the 2nd I was older, but I still had so many questions, excitment and different fears in my head of what to expect. I don’t mean fears of becoming pregnant or being a parent, but fears of miscarriage, painful labor and other things. I was afraid from day one what things could happen to my baby. I came to realize that no matter if you are 18 or 35 you will have a mix of emotions and that is 110% normal and fine. I mean you aren’t adopting a cat or bringing home a plant, you are growing and live human now. Your life will forever be changed no matter how you look at it. I love to think that if I never had my children, I would know something was missing from my life as they may not be my absolute everything, but sure are my almost everything. The spot that is missing from my children is my husband. I know that isn’t the case for everyone, but it is for me. My husband (then significant other) took on the role of daddy for my oldest when he was a toddler and never looked back. He is the father to my children through and through. My support and my rock.
So what is the run down with pregnancy? If you are fortunate enough to avoid morning sickness, more power to you. If not, invest in anything ginger and keep a stash of saltine or oyster crackers hidden everywhere around you. Do you have a night stand? How about a car? Are you working and have a desk? You should keep stashes of these in all those places. The morning sickness can be terrible. I despise the taste of ginger, but I tell you what… it eased my sickness in a heartbeat. My husband knew how bad my morning sickness was so he put containers of oyster crackers in our vehicles, by my night stand and a couple containers in the cupboard for me. I swear it was all I could eat for a few months.
You will feel tired and even absolutely exhausted at times even with a full nights rest. My best advise it to rest whenever you have the chance. Your body is growing a tiny human, you are going to be tired. This should pass or get better once you hit your 2nd trimester. You may even start having strong smell aversions as well. This isn’t something you can avoid in public, but at home you may not be able to cook a certain food.
A side note, you may be angry for a while and that is ok, but try and keep yourself in check. I would have random outburst over minute things such as running out of milk or someone telling me they didn’t like the football team I love. My hormones were sometimes running wild and I would take some times to go some place private and relax. Sometimes “me time” is what you need. And dad’s, remember this is temporary, but you may also need some me time alone. Try and be patient with your pregnant partner as she may not mean everything she says right now. She isn’t trying to start a fight. More likely, she is already upset that she is this emotional and needs support.
Another thing I wish I would have done with both of my pregnancy is to stay active. I love working out in general, but for whatever reason I didn’t stay active during both my pregnancies. When I did stay active with my daughter, my body felt so much better and delivery seems much easier. I found that prenatal yoga helped ease back and hip pain. Also even just daily walking and dancing, although made me tired, helped my body feel better daily and with labor/delivery.
While aches and pains are pretty common during pregnancies, keep in mind some may need a doctor visit. I will say, sciatic pain has been a culprit of major pains during both of my pregnancies and there is not much home remedies or enough safe amounts of Tylenol to ease the pain. I did find the magic cure all for most aches and pains during pregnancy though. A prenatal massage. I am not much of a massage person in general, but I wish I would’ve tried this sooner than I did. My last straw was holding onto things while I walked into my massage appointment. I literally held onto railings and walls as I walked because it was so bad. I was limping so bad, the lady helped me walk into the room. I was even dragging my cankles because they were so sore and swollen. I was in so much pain and my mood was terrible to put it lightly. An hour later, I left with normal sized ankles, no sciatic pain and I could walk (or probably waddle) like a more normal person.
With one pregnancy I had multiple hospital visits and preterm labor which put me on complete bed rest. For my other pregnancy, It was like a piece of cake. There were no complications, no bed rest, and just an overall great experience. I would like to add that I am one of those crazy people that absolutely love being pregnant. Even with all the complications, I enjoyed my entire pregnancy. There is nothing more special than feeling those kicks, turns, or hiccups in womb.
So what about labor? I would say, my best advice is to have a plan going into labor, but know that it may change quickly. What I mean is that I am a baby and wanted an epidural for both children. I am not about the natural birth (even though there is nothing wrong with that.) I want the pain controlled as best as possible. Due to complications with my oldest, I had a late epidural that helped me immensely. With my youngest, I progressed so quickly, that I was unable to get the epidural even though I begged and almost pleaded for it. You labor and delivery plan will not be exactly what you want, but be flexible and make sure the staff knows what you want.
I won’t lie and deceive you about labor and delivery. It’s painful. It’s a pain that no woman will actually be able to describe with words. However, the moment you deliver you precious baby, the pain is almost instantly gone. The gift you get from the pain is more than worth it! I can remember the first time I held both of my children like it was yesterday. I remember my husband ever so gently touching our daughters head, arms, fingers, and toes as she lay on my chest when she was 10 seconds old. I remember looking up and seeing tears on his cheeks. My husband doesn’t shed tears for anything. It was such an amazing time. I remember our oldest meeting her for the first time. He had tears. The love was there from the moment he laid eyes on her.
With my youngest, I went into labor and we told our parents “She’s Here” two hours later. Their response was “already.” I laugh because I can’t imagine what 8-14 hours of labor is.
Now once you deliver baby, you have different medical tests that will be performed over the next couple days. They do hearing, vision, and some other types that are all common practice. There will be some weird looking icky diapers as well. I think it’s called merconium. It’s normal! You will get lots of information at the hospital before you leave.
Now with my youngest, I was so extremely tired that I could barely function after delivery. I luckily had my husband and shortly after, our son and then grandparents there to help me rest. It doesn’t mean that you are a bad parent if you need a rest right away. It means that you are exhausted from growing and delivering a live human and your body needs a rest. You will have many many years with your child. I also sent my husband to the store to buy 100 gallons of water because I literally could not get enough to drink. Ok, maybe not that much, but it was allot.
It’s time to bring baby home. I hope you have what you need set up. Contrary to popular belief, a newborn doesn’t need much at home. A car seat, a place to sleep, some clothes, diapers and way to eat.
Side note; veer away from baby clippers. I had a whole big fancy kit of newborn clippers and everything. The first time I attempted to clip my eldest’s toe nails, I had a hold of his tiny little foot. I remember breathing in his newborn scent and with ever so precision lining up the clippers. At the last minute, he jerked his foot and I clipped an ever so tiny spot of his skin and seen blood. He started screaming and crying because I was crying. I even called my mom as I was so upset with myself. She told me everything was ok and he would be fine. I needed that reassurance because I wanted to be the perfect mom. I realized I will never be a perfect mom, but I would always try and be the perfect mom for my kids. Oh and that fancy clipper kit was in the garbage that night. Stuff happens and you learn from it. I can laugh now, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I find it much easier to just peel off the nails after a night bath or at bed time.
Now is where the biggest and important growth starts. You are in charge of teaching your child everything. And when I mean everything, I mean everything from holding your finger, how to eat and anything else. This is the start of the most vital part of your child’s life. By having a good support system at home, you can help your child prosper.
These first two years with both my kids flew by so fast. They were both very smart and learned at a fast pace. I remember when “baby Einstein” first came out. I saved my hard earned cash to buy my son those videos. I wanted to make sure everything he watched, listened to and played with was educational. I don’t think he cared at that point, but I knew how important everything we did was starting right away. With my daughter, I was much more laid back, but she wanted more of the learning games and such.
When I say it’s vital for their brains, I am not saying you need to spend every waking moment doing school type stuff, but a variety of different things to form their likes, dislikes and start their learning. We have toy trucks, babies, play kitchen, shapes, colors, bubbles, riding toys and much more. They aren’t anything fancy and allot came from garage sales and thrift stores, but they work. We sit down and interact with the kids and you can literally see them learning before your eyes.
As a newborn, it’s recommended to have your child to tummy time. I always laid down with the kids and sang songs with them and just talked to them. They may not understand, but they are learning to trust you and pick up on calming sounds, fun sounds, giggles and much others. Soon, you will be helping them pick up things and teaching how to use their tiny fingers or how to roll over.
Suddenly, before you know it, your child will be sitting up on their own and babbling about how their day was at the office. Ok, maybe not that far, but they will be talking gibberish. My kids loved to mimic me. I would smile and they would smile. I would scrunch my face up to look angry and they would try.
You will have to remember your patience during this time as well. I think newborn is the easiest stage for me, but also the most tiring. I was like a walking zombie with my youngest. She was a terrible sleeper and I breastfed her so neither of us slept through the night for probably a year. I napped during the day if my husband was home, but she wouldn’t take a bottle, so my naps were few and far between. My oldest started sleeping through the night almost from day one and was always a great sleeper.
Then comes the “solid” foods. This is always parent preference, but there is baby food you can buy from the store, homemade baby food and also soft foods they can eat right from your plate. I tried store bought baby food with both my children. They were not very impressed. I know there is lots of information on what to start with and what to avoid, but I stuck to soft foods such as mashed potatoes and bananas. It’s trial and error. Please expand their food palate as they grow because they will try new things and be more apt to each a larger variety as they continue growing. Nutrition plays a huge part is your child’s health. I remember giving my oldest broccoli for the first time. He took a bite and swallowed. He had that look of disgust and confusion on his face. I of course laughed as it was cute. I was assuming he was contemplating the texture, flavor and everything else. It was at that moment that I knew things were gonna go south. I heard his tummy rumble and the unmistaken gagging sound. There was no delay, I was soon covered in broccoli. I never tried that food with him again. I laugh now about it, but even at 14 years old, he hates broccoli. My youngest could eat “green trees” all day and night.
One of the best tips I can give you is that no child will ever fit into the “perfect” box that everyone thinks they should. They are going to learn some things slower than other children their age. They also may learn quicker. You may find that your child is on the 5% end of the growth chart while their cousin is on the 75% end. It’s ok. As with adults, children need to have their own differences. It’s makes them all special.
Speaking of growth charts, your will be at the doctors just about every week, ok I think it’s actually monthly but It feels like every week. It is normal for this, but it can seem excessive. It is all about their growth and development and to make sure that they are thriving. You will get options to give vaccines or to pass on them. They will see how big baby’s head is and how much they weigh. You also will see how tall they are. I forgot to mention that at every appointment you will fill out the same 80 page questionnaire about what your child is or is not doing. I have a doctor that we love, so it makes these frequent visits much easier.
My son was accident prone as a toddler. I was always afraid I would have CPS on my doorstep with all the doctor and ER visits. I remember being so happy my parents gave me my old wooden rocking chair. I had it in the living room and used it all the time. My son was at the stage of holding onto furniture as he walked around. Well, he lost balance and fell. And wouldn’t you know it, he fell face first onto the wooden rocking part of the rocking chair. He had an instant black eye. As a new mom, I panicked and rushed him to the emergency room. I was thinking how bad of a parent I was. I was reassured that things like that happen very often and although it looks bad, he would be fine.
So, my youngest wanted to do everything fast. She was walking and running around at 9 months old. Do you know how hard it is to parent and teach a 9 month old who is literally running everywhere? I don’t even think she knew what yes and no meant yet. And to make it more amusing, she is tiny so people would see her and think she was a newborn walking around. Her tiny stature, big brown eyes with blonde curls makes her an attention grabber wherever we go. My son was the brute. He always looked like a tiny bodybuilder.
I want to be honest as well about my patience. They were completely gone some days and even weeks. Your beautiful bubbling baby boy will learn how to push your buttons, especially when you are already exhausted and trying to do your everyday routine of dishes, sweeping, cooking and other things. It’s ok to take a few minutes to yourself to regroup and save some face. Just make sure when you lock yourself in the bathroom to regain those patience or shed some tears of frustration double check that your energetic, loving child is safe and can’t hurt themselves. It may even be placing your child in their crib with a couple toys for a few minutes. Remember, it’s ok not to be perfect. It’s ok to have a lack of patience, just regroup safely for both of you and keep what you have left of your sanity.
The trials and tribulations of parenting are nothing like you will ever experience. There are highs and lows and you have to learn to let the little things go. Don’t be embarrassed if your child does something less than perfect in public. We have all been there and there is no judgment. Well some people might judge, but their views don’t matter with you and your family. For example, my daughter loves animals. She most importantly loves to be a puppy crawling on the floor while we are out shopping. Yes, in the middle of the mall she will start barking ad crawling. I figure she is playing and she isn’t doing any harm, so I usually let it go. It normally only lasts a few minutes. The last outing we did, she again was a puppy, but this time she was doing what dogs do best…sniffing behinds….of stangers in the mall. I was less than amused and tried to deter her. I don’t think anyone realized what she was doing, but it was still embarrassing for me. However, no one will ever remember it later on the road, expect for you so don’t harp on it too long.
There is always new challenges almost on a daily basis as a parent. If you are anything like me, somedays I fumble through it all hoping I am doing it ok. Other days when I think I can take no more, someone stops me and compliments me on my child. Never forget that when you think you can’t take much more, you can. You always will be able to. And you will grow as a parent or person in general while you will be able to allow your child to grow with you.
Even when you are not hands on face to face working with your child, they are still watching and learning from you. I find that as my daughter gets older, she wants to help in the kitchen whenever I am in there. She tries to wash the fruits and veggies. She wants to sweep and mop or she just wants to dance with me. Yes, I turn on music and just dance sometimes. It is my stress relief and my children love it. Well, maybe not my teenager anymore, but he used to.
When the milk gets spilt, laugh and show them accident happens and then clean it up together. As trivial as this seems, it will teach them that it is ok to mess up and then show them how to make it right.
When they are mad and start to hit, redirect them and explain why it’s not ok. Show them other ways to get rid of their frustrations. You may have to do this a million times before they finally understand it, but they will get it. They will learn through you how to control their anger and good ways to vent.
How about imagination playing? Is there a right or wrong way? In my book, the answer is no. Instead of trying to redirect their made up invisible friend and cooking their toy trucks, embrace it. There is a time for imagination and pretend and a time for teaching.
While trying to teach healthy habits and overall lifestyle to my children, I love to workout (as I mentioned earlier). I have since began to turn from a cardio bunny to a novice weight lifter. Over the past few years, I have bought my youngest 1 pound dumbells and other kid friendly things because she just wants to be like mommy.
It’s an amazing gift you can give your child by guiding and teaching them starting at a young age. Remember that the things we take for granted are things that your child will only learn if you show them. You are their mentor, teacher, parent among other things. Expand your knowledge and expand their knowledge. Be that silly parent on the floor playing. Be that stern parent who teaches their child to listen when they are told no. Be that parent that guides your child to live life happy and know they have support all around them no matter what. Just be that parent.