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Archive for June, 2013

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“Enjoy every moment.”

“That’s kind of a lot of pressure.”

My response was out of my mouth before I could stop it. I may have offended her, or hurt her feelings, and I don’t feel great about that. I wasn’t trying to be mean or bitchy, but that nice lady I had just met unfortunately uttered my biggest motherhood advice pet peeve on a day when my speech filters were not fully operational.

She meant it nicely, of course. It’s one of the things people think they are supposed to say to people with babies. When you say it, the other person is supposed to smile and nod and maybe tilt their head to the side in a wistful manner. But there are a few reasons why it sets me off

First of all, as I said to her: I don’t need more pressure to do motherhood the right way. I put enough on myself, and the media takes care of the rest. Pick up an issue of “Parents” magazine and check out any article on Having Maximum Fun With Your Child to see what I mean. Perhaps I’m too much of a literalist, but the flip side of “enjoy every moment” is: If you’re not enjoying every moment, there’s something wrong with you, or your parenting skills, or both.

Secondly: What if you’re just having a bad day, or a string of them, because oh I don’t know… Insomnia, cramps, crushing headache, your sister/cousin/brother/dad/partner is being awful just then, you have no idea how you’re going to put the kid through Kindergarten. Granted, there are times when caring for a kid provides respite from bad days, but my experience is that being a parent on a day you just need a break from being a parent is the opposite of enjoyable. (Which is why I will never again have more than two glasses of wine on date night.)

Thirdly: Come on. Poopy diapers and teething and spitup and sleep deprivation suck, deeply, for a long time, and everyone knows it.

Finally: What if your kid is sick? I don’t mean like with a cold, I mean with cancer or some serious illness you can’t tell they have just by looking. My kid, for the record, is (knock wood) very healthy, but I do sometimes allow myself to think about what it would be like to deeply love a very sick child. There is no possible way parents of sick kids are enjoying every moment. They’re just enjoying the ones they can.

So maybe that’s the better statement: Enjoy as much as you can. It’s not as pretty, but it rings true to me.

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My first exposure to video calls came courtesy of the Jetsons, because I am that old. I recall thinking, in my little tween brain, “Gosh. You’d have to make sure you looked okay.” I didn’t much care for that thought. (Even at that age, I was a low-maintenance kind of gal.)

Little did I know that just a few decades later I’d be Skyping with my mother-in-law five days a week (the hubs handles weekends). (And yes, I do make sure my hair and face are passable before we begin, though some days I’m more passable than others.)

One day this week, she noticed that Baboo was playing with a couple of strainers. You know the type:

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They’ve been among his favorite playthings for the better part of a year, but for some reason she’d never seen him carrying them around.

During the next day’s Skype session, following the standard discussion of the baby’s breakfast (calls are easier with the baby in a secure location), she held up a strainer. She described its size and how she uses it. Baboo grinned and chortled, clearly happy that his Avva knew the joy of strainers. She put the strainer down and picked up another, smaller one. Again, she told him all about it. Same reaction. She showed him a third strainer, again smaller than the last one.

By this time I was off-camera, dabbing my eyes in my T-shirt. It was the sweetness that got me. The pure joy of my mother-in-law’s strainer tour, the forethought that must have gone into it, the baby’s reaction, the connection.

Sometimes I love technology more than chocolate.

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7:30, a perfect June morning. The baby happy in his chariot with a hunk of apple, me happy with a piece of gum and my thoughts.

Across the street, a Russian granny, the one who used to wear the Pujols ball cap. She is not wearing it today. She moves slowly. They all do.

We cross to greet her.

“So big!”

“Yes, and walking!” I trot my fingers in the air to make sure she understands.

She spreads her arms to hug me, I think. I smell urine. I lean in anyway. She kisses me on the cheek and takes my hand in hers. I look down and see my great-grandmother’s hands, plump as sausages, soft as the baby’s.

“Boy?”

“Yes.”

“Nice boy.”

“Yes.”

She takes his hand, squeezes it. Ruffles his hair, makes doting Russian Granny noises. Smiles at him, her gold teeth shiny in the morning light. He is a little unsure but smiles back. She shuffles off with a “thank you.”

I continue my walk with tears in my eyes, not really sure why I’m crying, not really caring.

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Well, naturally as soon as I put up my baby basics post I began to think of things I’d forgotten… And so here we go again:

– Play mat: This is for further down the line, and more for the folks with hardwood floors, but they provide a space of the kid’s own as well as cushioning when they’re first rolling around. This one is fun, and free of the nasty stuff some of them have.

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– Batteries: Ds and AAAs. Lots of them. Because not having them when a favorite toy or God forbid the swing runs out of juice when that’s all the baby wants is not a fun scene.

– Sunscreen: You need it from day one, basically. Didn’t know that until one of our early pediatrician visits. And don’t think that your baby doesn’t need it because of their lovely caramel or olive skin. That’s a big ole myth.

– “The Happiest Baby on the Block” by Dr. Harvey Karp: Another excellent, compassionate, sensible book about how to soothe a fussy tot. The basis of his methods is the idea of the “fourth trimester,” i.e., the baby’s first three months of life, during which some of them need a lot of help adjusting to life outside the womb.

– Infant massage: Find a class or watch some videos. This is a wonderful way for both mom and dad to connect with a newborn, and it’s quite soothing for all of you.

– Hand sanitizer: Because there will be times when washing your hands is too much of a hassle. Trust me. Get two or three dispensers and a super-mongo one to refill them from. Keep one near the front door for visitors (and yourself — it’s always a good idea to clean your hands when you come home). If you think I’m being alarmist consider that newborns (3 months and under) who spike a fever get an automatic hospital stay.

– Cart cover. Because there is no way to wipe all the surfaces your baby will touch, and suck, and you have no idea how disgusting or sick the last person to use the cart was. Also, carts are hard, and babies are soft — why not make it a little cozier for them? This article explains various features and reviews popular models.

– Baby hangers. Even if you’re having a boy, you’ll want to hang some stuff, and many store hangers are flimsy. Also: Cute! And handy for air-drying certain items.

– Speaking of hangers: If the nursery is dinky and the closet is of a reasonable size, look into having it customized. You will quickly find that you need to maximize all available space to store your baby’s accoutrements.

– Bibs. Long before you need them for mealtimes, you’ll need them for both drool and spit up. If your baby is like mine, you’ll need a couple dozen if you don’t want to do laundry twice a day. Get snap ones, not Velcro ones (it quickly becomes useless). Terry cloth ones are cool, but the waterproof ones are better. Carter’s makes nice durable ones.

– Socks. Many of them are useless for tiny, wiggly feet, but they make great hand-hiders. See, your kid’s hands will ATTACK and TERRIFY him or her! And you will be too scared of trimming those itty bitty nails to keep them from scratching the bejesus out of that sweet little mug. Bonus: They’re perfect infant mittens.

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Recently a mom-to-be asked for my opinion on baby gear must-haves, so without listing the obvious (crib, stroller, car seat) and without further ado…

GEAR

– This is a double-edged sword, but: A video monitor will both ease your mind and make you stare at a tiny screen for hours because sleeping babies are CUTE! We have one from Summer Infant, and a backup one for travel (and just in case) from Levana. The resolution on the Summer Infant one is better, but the other one shows the temperature in the room and acts as an intercom, nightlight and lullaby player. And now some feed the image to your phone.
Because there are so many, with varying features, I’ve found a review of the top picks for you.

– A Pack-n-Play with a bassinet attachment or inset; we have a pretty standard Graco one. Some people use it in lieu of a bone fide crib, and it works well as a travel crib. It’s also a great place to park a kid when you need to brush your teeth/take a 3-minute shower/breathe for a few minutes (I still use it this way). Baboo slept in his until he was 4.5 months old, when he started sleeping in…

– A swing. It’s somewhere safe and happy for the baby to hang out, and if they have trouble sleeping, it helps immensely because it makes it earlier for them to handle the transitions between sleep cycles. Baboo slept in his for a few months. Look for one that folds easily so it won’t be a pain to move or store.

– A floor gym is great as a place to park very young babies and is designed to make tummy time more fun. ‘Cause heads up: Most babies hate tummy time.

This version of a Boppy pillow is a nice cozy place to park newborns, and our boy loved to sleep in it.

– An umbrella stroller is great if your primary stroller is a tank like ours. Much easier to travel with, maneuver in stores, and pop in and out of the trunk.

– A white noise machine will mask household sounds and approximate the soothing sounds of the womb. Ours has six sound loops, lets you hook up an iPod if you want your own music, and has a nightlight, which is handy for nighttime changes and feedings (low light means baby stays mellow and goes back to sleep quickly).

– An infant carrier like Baby Bjorn or Moby. Great for walks as well as soothing a fussy wee one by carrying him. Go look at them before picking one — we had a Bjorn and it was kind of complicated to use, and could only be worn on your front. And still, I used the crap out of that thing.

ENTERTAINMENT

Sophie. She’s cute, babies love to gnaw on her, and she makes a great squeak (which you’ll want to disable if you have dogs).

– Books:

    For you

, The Baby Whisperer by Tracey Hogg is a really sensible approach to dealing with babies and their sleep issues. Baby 411 is comprehensive, reassuring, and crammed with common sense. We called it our Bible in the early days.

    For the wee one

: Classic baby books like Pat the Bunny, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Goodnight Moon are classics for a reason. Buy them or ask for a baby book shower. This finger puppet book is engaging for very young babies (we started with it at 6 or 8 weeks). Locally, the Missouri Botanical Garden carries the whole series; we have Little Fish and Little Bee.

– A lovey, meaning a small stuffed animal without stuff the baby can pull off and eat. I believe the professional term is “transitional object.” You’ll want this when the baby turns six months old and can safely sleep with one. We have this bear, and we bought a backup in case of loss, and so we can wash one when the other becomes too drooly or soiled.

– A projection mobile. Ours has a detachable canopy, and the baby still mellows out to the light show on the ceiling as he falls asleep — and chills out to it when he wakes up.

– A low-tech mobile to hang above the changing table. It was amazing to see how early Baboo noticed it, and he still loves it.

– A small lamp with a 4-watt incandescent bulb. (Dimly lit 3 a.m. feedings tend to help the baby go back to sleep faster and easier.) A standard nightlight would work, or you can look for something cute to make things more fun for you.

– A bottle warmer. My older brother insisted we needed one, and when we suddenly had to start the kid on formula at a few weeks old, it beat the hell out of running downstairs to microwave water to warm the bottle while the baby was screaming.

CLOTHING

– Either kimono-style shirts or long-sleeve Onesies, about six, in each of several sizes (meaning six in Newborn, six in 3 Months, etc.). People will give you all kinds of cute clothes, but the basics are what my kid lived in most of the time.

– A couple of idiot-proof swaddlers like this one (receiving blankets never stay tight enough).

– At least three zip-front sleeper PJs (snaps become unbelievably complicated at 2 a.m.). Again, worth getting in several sizes. Babies can grow fast.

– Dreft, for washing all those adorable clothes and blankets for the first few months.

DIAPER STUFF

– A Diaper Genie, duh, and at least three refills.

– Several kinds of diaper cream (you and the baby will have your preferences), tons of wipes, and more diapers than you think you need. (Running out to the store all the time will suck for a few months.) You can set up regular deliveries of these and other baby staples through Amazon Mom if you can stomach their labor policies.

– A contour changing pad, so you can set up a remote changing station. This was a life-saver when I had an unexpected C-section and had to restrict my stair-climbing. Changing the baby’s diaper was one of the few things I could do, and was actually, weirdly, a nice way to connect with him. We kept a bin of changing supplies in the living room, and he slept on the changing pad in the very early days. Don’t forget to get a few covers for it (though bath towels work just as well).

MISCELLANEOUS

– Housecleaning services. I wished I’d had someone handling this for the first six months.

– Blackout curtains for the nursery and your bedroom. You will need to sleep during the day and so will the baby. Target has cheap ones in a variety of sizes. At the very least, get a good sleep mask for yourself, and earplugs so you can really disconnect and rest when someone else is on duty.

– Pacifier tethers. First for pacifiers, then for clipping little toys to the baby, the stroller, the carseat….

– A good pair of rubber gloves, for washing bottles in scalding-hot water.

– Aquaphor or Neutrogena Hand Cream for your hands (you’ll be washing them after every diaper change, and you’ll be doing that roughly eight times a day…).

– Infant Tylenol and Ibuprofen. (Running to the store when the kid is sick will suck.)

– Nail clippers and an instant-read thermometer (not the in-ear kind, which is not as accurate).

– Unscented or all-natural baby wash, shampoo and lotion or oil. Weleda makes a great calendula oil that I love for baby massages, and the Aveeno line of eczema products is great. For bubble baths, the California Baby line is really nice, too.

– Snacks. You might be too tired to eat a meal, but a granola bar? No problem!

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