To the stepmom bringing home her first baby…

I see you holed up in the dark nursery with your tiny newborn and sore nipples, learning how to breastfeed. You don’t have the option to sit and let it all hang out on your comfy couch in front of the TV like other new moms because you have a teenage stepson and that’s just weird.

I see you biting your tongue and clenching your fists every time your step kids want to hold your tiny, fragile bundle of joy. Did they wash their hands? Why do they need to hold him at all? Don’t breathe in his face! Don’t touch his face! Only touch his feet!

I see you guzzling down the diet soda as you figure out dinner not just for you and your husband, but for your growing stepchildren too. You wonder what it would be like to only have the stress that comes with a new baby instead of also feeling the weight of managing a household of six—the meals, the basketball games, the laundry.

Postpartum hormones alone are enough to make a woman feel overwhelmed, but throw in the complicated feelings of a blended family, and that is MORE than enough to make a woman feel completely CRAZY.

I am here to tell you that you are not crazy. You are going to feel a lot of different emotions when you bring your baby home from the hospital. Some of these feelings may even come as a surprise to you because you have a positive relationship with your stepchildren. You may feel like you walked into the hospital to give birth feeling one way about them and walked out hours (or days!!) later feeling a completely different way toward them.

You may not feel like sharing your baby. That’s okay. You may also be mourning the life you thought you would have – you know, the one where you get married and experience parenthood for the first time with your partner. It’s okay to be sad that he’s already done this before.

But mama, it will get easier. Your hormones will gradually level out. Your baby will become sturdier, and when you’re ready, you’ll let others hold him so that you can do things like brush your teeth and wash your hair. Now that’s a benefit most new mamas don’t have! Oh, and remember how you were sad that your husband has done this before? Now you are thankful that you have a partner who already knows what to do and is comfortable with a teensy tiny baby.

Not only will you start to find a groove, but you’ll also find sweet moments of joy. When your stepson makes your baby giggle like no one else can. When you find your 11-year-old stepdaughter is more nurturing than you ever knew. When your 14-year-old stepdaughter steps up and shows leadership. When they fight over whose turn it is to change the baby’s diaper or help with his bath. When you’re all on the floor, cheering him on as he takes his first steps. When they come home from their bio-mom’s house and can’t wait to see their baby brother.

I won’t lie to you. Blended families are no joke. It can be a lot to juggle, especially when bringing a tiny human into the mix. But I am finding that in between the moments of chaos, they can also be wonderful. The bond between siblings transcends DNA and in our case, a several year age gap, and it really is something special to witness.

So hang in there, Mama Bear. You’ve got this.

 

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My farewell to breastfeeding… and the boobs that made it happen

Dear Double D’s,

You should win an award for best disappearance act. You left as quickly as you came—seemingly overnight.

We had a good run. Nearly two years, in fact. I remember the first time I saw you. I did a double take that morning in the bathroom mirror. Are my boobs bigger? I must be imagining things, I thought to myself. When I saw two pink lines on the pregnancy test, I knew I wasn’t.

Over the next nine months, I watched you enlarge several cup sizes. For the first time in my life, I experienced what it was like to have Victoria’s Secret-sized breasts.

“Enjoy them now!” People said. “Some day they’ll shrivel up like mine did after kids!”

We went through an adjustment period after the baby arrived. You were sore as Baby A tried to figure out how to latch. It took several visits to the lactation consultants and an ample amount of nipple butter, but we finally figured it out.

That first month, it felt like all I did was breastfeed. Hours never went by so quickly and yet so slowly before in my life.

It took a while for you to regulate your flow. The first night Baby A slept 12 hours—the only night he slept that long until he was 10-months-old—I was awake pumping because you were hard as rocks and about to burst. It also seemed I was leaking everywhere. I found breast milk in random places all over our house. Crusty white spots on our leather sofa, even where I hadn’t sat but had apparently walked by naked at some point. Getting in and out of the shower was a feat in and of itself. I raced in after undressing while you sprayed milk all over the bathroom floor. With force like that, I could become a volunteer firefighter.

My goal was to make it one month nursing Baby A. That was the amount of time I had read was most beneficial for the baby.

“You may enjoy it,” people told me.

I faked a smile and said, “Yeah, maybe.” There was no scenario in which I could ever imagine enjoying breastfeeding. Just thinking about it made me uncomfortable.

When we reached one month, however, we were in a groove. You adjusted to just the right amount Baby A needed, and when he slept longer stretches, I didn’t need to pump anymore. I decided to keep going until six months.

Six months came and went. You were still coming through for us—producing the right amount for Baby A. You were a reliable companion and gladly came along with us wherever we went. I loved the convenience of not having to prepare or wash bottles. We were all happy with our arrangement so I decided to continue to the one-year mark.

But just after Baby A turned 9-months-old, our relationship hit an unexpected rough patch. I suffered a bout of food poisoning that was on par with childbirth pains, and due to severe dehydration, your milk production took a serious hit.

I hung on to Baby A’s nighttime feeding for a few more weeks, but I knew I was delaying the inevitable. There wasn’t enough in there for my growing boy. I broke into the freezer stash I had so diligently pumped while on maternity leave, and soon, I started adding in formula.

It’s been two weeks since Baby A has nursed, and today I looked in the mirror to see that you are gone too. In your place, are two freakishly small breasts—more like chicken nuggets—that I don’t even recognize. So much for my Victoria’s Secret modeling dream.

Although our end was abrupt, I want you to know that I’ll always cherish the time we spent together. Even more so, I’ll treasure the bond you created between Baby A and me.

Sincerely,

Mama Nuggets

 

4 Parenting Things I Swore I Would Never Do Before I Became a Mom

I’m only nine months into this whole parenting thing, and I’ve found myself doing things I said I would never do. Turns out, it’s a helluva lot easier to have opinions from the outside looking in, but when you’re here, in the trenches of motherhood, you do what you gotta do.

 1.  Co-sleep

“We should just put the crib in our room,” my husband said. “He’ll be in here most of his first year anyway.”

“No way,” I said firmly. “I will not be one of those moms who let her baby sleep in her bed.” My sister was one of “those moms,” and I vowed to be different. We would sleep train our baby as early as possible, and we wouldn’t give in and pick him up when he cried.

Fast forward to now. Baby A is almost nine months old and still sleeping in our bed.

And do you want to know something? I freaking love it. Sure, some nights are difficult, and sometimes I want to punch the moms that post a photo of their 6-week-old baby on Instagram with the hashtag “12hoursandstillsleeping.” But every morning when Baby A wakes up between RM and me, happily babbling and smiling, we soak it in. We stay in bed just the three of us for an extra 15-20 minutes and sometimes longer on the weekend. It’s our favorite time of day.

This is what works for us. Turns out there are some benefits to it as well. It’s taken me a while to feel comfortable saying that without feeling anxious that I need to sleep train him soon or his sleep will be ruined forever or God forbid be pegged by moms in the Cry It Out Camp as being weaker. How about none of us judge each other and we accept that we all do what we need to do to get through these early years.

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Crazy hair after coming out from under the breastfeeding cover at Anthony’s restaurant

2.  Breastfeed in public

Early on in our relationship, RM and I were on a double date at Olive Garden (hey, I know it’s not real Italian food, but those breadsticks! Am I right?!) with a guy from work and his wife. Midway through dinner, she began nursing her newborn under a cover at the table.

“You guys don’t mind, right?” Our friend asked.

“Of course not,” RM quickly replied.

I bit my tongue. Afterward, I told RM how uncomfortable I was when she nursed her baby as she talked to me. Couldn’t she feed her in the privacy of her home before dinner so she wouldn’t be hungry when we were out?

RM simply said, “You’ll feel differently some day when we have a baby.”

Another point for RM. Again, I realize how judgy and naïve I was pre-baby.

First of all, I had no idea that newborns literally eat ALL THE FLIPPING TIME. I remember feeling like all I was doing those first several weeks was nursing Baby A. The only way to avoid having to nurse in public would be to never leave my house! And that obviously wasn’t an option if I wanted to keep my sanity.

The more I nursed Baby A the more my breasts felt utilitarian and functional—not sexual or inappropriate at all. I will never stop being amazed at the human body and what it can do—growing a baby and then providing nourishment and strength through breast milk. Incredible!

I’m happy to say Baby A enjoys nursing wherever we happen to be when he’s hungry while I enjoy a slice of humble pie.

3.  Make my own baby food

This sounded way too crunchy and hippy to me. I planned to buy the pouches. When would I find the time to make baby food anyway? Fast-forward a few months to when I became a Stay At Home Mom and realized A. those pouches are pricey and B. I actually have time to make baby food.

So I dusted off RM’s food processor and started pureeing away! It’s been fun to try various combinations and watch Baby A experience new foods. We still buy pouches to grab and go—and because sometimes I don’t feel like making food even when I’m home—but I try to occasionally make our own purees to save money and do our part to help the environment. As it turns out those pouches may be organic, but they’re not so eco-friendly, according to this Huffington Post article.

I learned that making your own food isn’t crunchy and hippy at all—it’s just sensible.

4.  Take my baby to a restaurant

How rude of people to take babies to restaurants. Can’t they get a sitter? So disruptive! Why are they even going out to eat? Stay at home with your baby.

Man, I was a B.

As it turns out, when you have a baby, you still like to eat at restaurants. When your baby is tiny and needs to eat every few hours, it makes the most sense to just bring the baby with you. He’ll probably sleep most of the time anyway!

When Baby A was only a few months old, we took him to several nice restaurants. I was always a bit nervous going because I was afraid of getting the stink eye from strangers if he disturbed them—you know, people like me who thought there was no place for babies in restaurants.

Then I decided to stop caring. I needed to get out. If for some reason he was extra fussy, I would take him out of the restaurant. Thankfully, he always quietly slept or nursed.

Now that he’s a bit older and louder, we probably won’t take him to quiet dinners at fancy restaurants as frequently, but you can bet your ass we’ll still be going out to dinner. Instead, you’ll find us enjoying a basket of bottomless fries at Red Robin.