My Turtle Necklace
This was my gift from Jay for my 1st Mother's Day. I knew when I started back to work that I needed something that I could wear so that I could carry my Turtle with me. I've worn it every day for almost a year now and besides my engagement and wedding rings this is my favorite piece of jewelry. It's the strongest chain I've ever seen because it has stood up to a year of pulls and tugs from Turtle and all her little friends.
Universal Paci Clips
We are a paci household. I know it's controversial but pacis help reduce the risk of SIDS in the early months and I decided a paci would be easier to wean from than her thumb. These are by far my favorite paci clips. The loop on the end (as opposed to a snap) allows it to be used for any type and brand of paci. We continue to use these even though we are working on weaning her off the paci.
These are invaluable and one of the first things I bought after Turtle was born. There is nothing that will make a new mom loose her schmidt faster than listening to a screaming baby while she digs in a cavernous diaper bag for an itty-bitty spare paci. We've had a few different brands and I don't really have a preference. Just, if possible, look for one that will hold more than one spare.
Circo Jeans from Target
We have been the thankful recipients of lots of wonderful hand-me-down clothes and they have really saved us. Children's clothes are amazingly expensive. And having to buy an entirely new wardrobe every few months is overwhelming. For this reason I highly recommend accepting any and all clothes! Whenever I get a new batch, I always go through them right away. I sort them into the different sizes and pack them back up in clearly labeled boxes or bags. (Nothing fancy, I just use a Sharpie to write on the outside of an old diaper box or white trash bag.) Then when she gets ready for the next size, I go through what I have and pull out and wash anything that is seasonally appropriate. When she outgrows a size, I pack it up again, in clearly labeled boxes or bags that way it's easier for the next person.
Baby Center is my go-to website for most of my questions. I love that it seems to be very balanced and not biased. It gives different perspectives and advocates very few hard and fast rules. It will cover the "old school" rules while also discussing newer research. I've used it for everything from developmental milestones to how to start solid food.
More than anything else, I have been so thankful for all the veteran mothers in my life over the last year. Those first few weeks are brutal in that you are trying to make decisions on whether a behavior is normal when you have no idea what normal looks like for your baby! It's nerve racking. I don't know what I would have done without my friends, especially my mom. I'm so thankful to have such a close relationship with my mom. Watching her with Turtle, watching what she was concerned over and what she wasn't helped me hone my instincts so much.
So, to wrap up this series, here is my best advice to prospective or new parents out there.
1) Trust your instincts! All the books are great but know that the "right" way is what works for you and your family. It might feel like you don't have any instincts, especially those first few days and weeks, but know that you do. You just have to be quiet and listen to them. Oh, except for the one (as my friend says) that will occasionally tell you to eat your young, or sell them on Criagslist! :-) That one is normal but it means you need a break as soon as possible.
2) Remember that your baby needs love first and foremost. Give him or her that and everything else will fall into place.
3) Judgement is a part of being a parent. No matter what you do someone will judge you for it. Breastfeed, formula feed, co-sleep, sleep train... someone will have an opinion about it. So, make the decision that is right for you and your family and the heck with anyone else. Stay far away from controversial parenting topics on the internet (people get brutal) and feel free to use the hide, unfriend, and block features of social networking sites.
4) Things WILL NOT go as you plan. Some things will but some things will not. That's ok. The sooner you surrender to what is instead of trying to force it to be what it was supposed to be, the easier life will be. Also, my experience has been that as soon as I get comfortable with Turtle's routine or rhythm then she will change it. The harder I try to fight the change, the worst it is for everyone. And sitting around with moms of teenagers and even my mom who has adult children, it seems that change is the only constant in parenthood.
5) Parenting is super hard on a relationship. Just like they say the first year of marriage is the hardest, the first year of parenthood is super hard too. I was surprised at the strain it put on my relationship and we have a pretty solid one. We are still working this out so I don't have any real advice on how to make it better, but know it's going to be hard so you're not surprised when it sneaks up on you. And there is no shame in couples counseling. You don't have to be on the verge of divorce to go. In fact it's much more effective if you don't wait that long.
5.1) Allow your co-parent to struggle. That's how you learned too. Rescuing my husband (in my case) was one of the worst mistakes I made early on. It killed his confidence and communicated to him that I had no confidence in him either. You learned how to change a diaper or what needed to go in the diaper bag by trial and error. Let your partner do the same. If he or she forgets something, it's ok. You'll improvise or run by the store and they will learn just like you did. And resist the urge to criticize the way he or she does things. Just because it's not your way doesn't necessarily mean it's wrong.
5.2) Try not to keep score. It's suuuuuuuuuuuuper hard not to some times! Especially the more sleep deprived you are. If you need help or feel like the other person isn't pulling their fair share then just communicate that. You don't have to justify if by pointing out that you've changed the last three diapers and they have only changed one. Communication, negotiation, and compromise are going to save your sanity and possibly your relationship.
What to check out the entire series? Here it is:
Bringing Home Baby:
A Pregnancy Must Have List
A Newborn Must Have List
A Newborn Nice to Have List
A 3 Month Nice to Have List
A 6 Month Nice to Have List
A 9 Month Nice to Have List
A 1 Year Nice to Have List