Some thoughts on motherhood.

12291840_1040558042673995_5846392439479838624_o“How much has your life changed?” is a question I’ve heard many times in the past five months. My husband and I were the first in our circle of friends to become parents. Most of our friends had the common exclamation of “Finally!” though a few had a sheer look of terror thinly masked by congratulations.

How much has my life changed? It has changed tremendously in some ways, but in many ways, not at all. I still spend too much money on Groupon. I still love eating popcorn and drinking sweet wine. I still procrastinate on laundry, paint my nails, buy flowers for my garden, see my friends, and cook dinner. I still blog (er, sometimes). I still go to conferences and have lunch and work my job. I still feel like for the most part that I’m very much Alyssa, the same old Alyssa I was 13 months ago before I made a human.

What has changed? My body. I creak, I jiggle, I sag, I ache. But even the changes in my physical self are minute, tiny and small compared to the most massive change of all, in my heart. I don’t mean there are changes to the vascular system of my body, but I mean symbolically, my heart will never be the same. My heart, my whole heart has changed, because now it is forever living outside of my body, shared with a delightful little girl whose smile is like glitter falling from the sky.

IMG_0844Having a baby is a lot like falling in love. The giddiness, the overwhelming desire to be with that person, to see them first thing in the morning and to miss them when they’re asleep, even if they’re right next to you, their tiny hand curled around yours, the sweetness of their breath gently kissing the same air you breathe. The way their lower lip trembles ever so slightly and then, a heart-bursting coo; the satisfied sigh of sleeping babies everywhere. It’s feeling love even when they’re screaming in fits, loud and abrasive, right in your ear, because who knows why; but you scurry around trying to fix it, to make everything right, because that’s just what you do.

I had a lot of anxiety about becoming a mom, as I think most new parents do. Will you be good enough for this tiny person, enough to make them happy and healthy, to thrive? Will you be mindful enough to accept that sometimes no matter what you do, how much of the world you give them, you can’t guarantee that they’ll be happy or healthy or thriving? But right as she was born and I exclaimed that she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen, I knew that the best thing I could do for her was to just be there and be present. To be with them, to soothe their cries, to snuggle just a little bit longer even though you haven’t done laundry in three weeks and your hair is oily and there’s a stack of unpaid bills towering on your desk. Babies don’t last forever, but oh boy, chores sure do.

Beyond the fact that babies are adorable, I think what’s so magical about becoming a parent, whether it’s by biological birth or adoption or what, is that you get to see the world through brand new eyes. We forget a lot of the wonder of life, and really, every day is a miracle. The fact that we come out naked and helpless, unable to stand on two legs, is miraculous considering each and every day, new skills are growing. Every day Holly does something new, and that joy and intrigue behind the very simplest of things, like finding her feet, is too innocent not to adore. How special it is to shake off the dust of adulthood and remember that life is truly an adventure. Special moments are often hiding in the ordinary.

So what is hard about being a mother? Nothing is perfect, after all. There’s no break. Even if you manage to sneak away for a beautiful morning at a ritzy spa, free from iPhones or babies, you’re still a mom. You’re never not a mom, ever again, even if the unthinkable happens and you lose your child. You are a mom and will always be. You will never ever stop worrying or loving or wishing the world and the stars and every single planet for the child that has your heart. You will be tired. You will feel pulled in too many directions, like Gumby with more brittle limbs and a spongy tummy with overgrown roots. However, you’re not just a mom. You’re still you, complex like the solar system, individual and varied, rich in interests and hobbies. However, you need to work to remember that you’re still you and not just a mom. You’re a mom, and you’re your own person, you see?

How has my life changed by being a mom? My life has changed a lot. But it also hasn’t. I’m the same old Alyssa, just better. Happier, richer, renewed, more tired, content, achier, Alyssa.

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Alyssa’s 5 New Mom Must Haves For First Weeks With Baby

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Photo by LynnetteJoyPhotography.com

Having a baby is super fun, because not only are you obviously excited about the joy of having your little one earthside, you get to stroll the aisles of stores with impossibly itty bitty versions of human clothes, like little socks that make you turn into a giggling, cooing, baby-like version of yourself. We were incredibly blessed to have several baby showers, and we received TONS of stuff that has made our arrival into parenthood just a bit easier. However! As massive life changes are, you can never be 100% prepared, and we found our Amazon account burgeoning with frantic middle of the night purchases (thank you, same day shipping.) As I have several friends due to deliver in the next few months, I wanted to share some things that got us through the first few weeks and are still going strong after month one. This could be helpful as well if you’re picking out baby shower gifts, etc. In full disclosure these are affiliate links, so if you happen to click or buy something, I’ll make a few pennies and go buy myself a Porsche. Or not. 😉

  1.  The Breast Friend Nursing Pillow

Breastfeeding has been tough. I naively didn’t do much research on the subject, assuming once baby arrived she’d open her mouth and milk would flow freely. Not so much, especially when you have a few hormonal disorders that make milk production challenging. This pillow was recommended to me by my friend who’s also a new mom, and it is WORTH EVERY PENNY. It clips around your waist, essentially providing a table top for baby to rest on that’s perfectly aligned with your chestal region. We even use it when bottle-feeding, and Dad likes to use it too. It comes in all kinds of cute colors and designs and has a machine washable cover because babies and boobies are messy.

2. Motherlove More Milk Special Blend

As I mentioned, my PCOS and thyroid conditions mean the dairy fairy isn’t visiting as often as I would like. I am meeting regularly with a lactation consultant, and she started me on this herbal blend to help make more milk. It works! It tastes yucky, so dilute it with a shot glass of cranberry juice (fun to shoot in front of unsuspecting visitors who look on horrified, wondering if new motherhood really IS going as well as you say), or you can order the pill version. There’s all kinds of things you can try to help you make more milk like Mother’s Milk Tea or Lactation Cookies, but this stuff does a pretty good job and is quick n’ easy.

3. Aden and Anais Muslin Swaddle Blankets

Before I was initiated into the cult of motherhood, I scoffed at the price tag on these. Sure, I thought, they’re soft and trendy and have cute prints, but what’s the big deal? Well, here’s the big deal. They honestly get softer with every wash, and once you’ve mastered the art of the swaddle, you’ll learn that it’s an ancient magical technique that turns your wriggling, screaming baby into a marshmallow of soft contentedness. We have eight of these and they’re in constant rotation of use in our house, as the material stretches enough to not squeeze baby like a boa constrictor, but it keeps them wrapped up like cooing little mummies. LOVE them – 1,400 awesome Amazon reviews don’t lie.

4) Bath Sponge

We had several bathing contraptions for the bambina, ranging from a fancy sling with multiple upright positions to a miniature bath tub, to a spongy ring with a built in pillow and straps. Well, every single one of those has been ixnayed in favor of a plain old sponge, baby sized. For a mere $7, you can stick this thing in the sink or bring it into the bath tub with you and baby. It’s just cushy enough to hold up their little bums, but light enough for you to float them gently down the river of your bathtub in your hands like a raft.  You can get these at any baby store (ours is actually whale shaped and was $6 from Buy Buy Baby). I’m sure we’ll use the fancy bathing contraptions when she’s bigger, but for now, the sponge is the way to go.

5) Gowns

I have learned in the short month I’ve been a parent that onesies with snaps are the devil when it’s 3:00 a.m. and you’re trying to dress a screaming baby. It’s all about zippers down one leg, or even better, the baby gown. We had two of these on hand and in the first week of Holly’s life, ordered four more. These are super easy to put baby in, and to just pull up to change diapers. They also have the rollover cuff so if you have a baby scissorhands, they can’t scratch their darling little face (we have a baby scissorhands.) Worth it. Get a few! Also, who doesn’t look darling in a miniature night gown?

So that’s that! Honorable mentions go to Gas Drops and Gripe Water for fussiness, the Munchkin Latch bottle (doesn’t leak nearly as much as others and helps our girl switch easily between bottle and breast),  connecting rings for baby hands to grasp, the Baby Bjorn WE Carrier (she’s in it and nuzzled against me as I type!), and the Simple Wishes L-Plus Hands Free Pumping Bra.

Looking for other recommendations and insight? These two bloggers helped me out a lot on my pregnancy journey: KJPugs and What I Run Into. Every baby and parent is different, but I hope this helps some of you out as my fellow bloggers helped me!

Till next time — got any must haves to share with me? Let me know in the comments!