10 Baby Shower Gift Essentials

Baby shower season is upon us. Okay, I don’t actually think there’s such a thing as baby shower season but I’m attending 3 baby showers in 6 weeks so it feels like a lot. Three baby showers also means quite a bit of gift giving. This should be simple but… I hate registries.

This seems ridiculous. Registries are very helpful tools. You are told exactly what a person needs and how to purchase it. You’re even told how many they need of each item! This is too easy for me. I want gift giving to be personal. I want you to know I thought about your gift. Sometimes this works out very well and sometimes I fall short. Normally it just means I’ve taken a simple task and made it extra complicated. Instead of buying something straight off the list like any sane person, I have to put a lot of thought into it. I look into all the items I rely on or those I found surprisingly useful.

Baby Survival Items:

1. Burp cloths- You can’t have too many. We probably have twenty. We use cloth diapers as burp cloths primarily. To be honest every single one of our cloths has been sewn on by my mother. She’s a overacheiver and it’s awesome.

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Happy baby with cutie burp cloth! 

2. Changing pad liners- The changing pad cover will get gross quick so protect it with a liner and that’ll give you some extra time between changing it. We have 3 of these.

3. Toys- Mortimer the Moose is definitely Haines’ BFF right now with lots of parts to chew and grab. A close second is Infantino Hug and Tug Musical Bug. This was easier for Haines when he was younger to grab onto and be captivated.

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Devouring Mortimer while trying out headphones. 

4. Soothie pacifiers– Not every baby digs on pacifiers but Haines definitely still wants one. We use the 0-3 month Soothie pacifiers.

5. Hand sanitizer- Although boring this is a reasonable gift for new parents. Now that our lives are 90% poop we go through a lot!

6. Wipe warmer– After the first couple diaper changes Tyler went out and bought one. Our December baby wasn’t handling cold wipes very well. A lot of sensitive hiney jokes ensued.

7. Boppy protective cover- You think you’ll skip this one. Save the money right? Okay well, just wait until your baby pukes several times a day on it and you feel it seeping into the pillow. Yes, just go ahead and wait.

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90% of my photos have this boppy in the background. Pick a pattern you’re really going to like. 

8. EndIt! diaper rash cream– We learned about this in our second venture to the hospital. It’s made in NC and primarily available online. It smells like campfire or Beggin’ strips. That part is super weird but it works wonders! Cloth diapering parents beware- this stains. If we need to use it I switch Haines to disposables for the day.

9. Wet bags- I’ve mentioned these before but they’re so darn useful!! Drop in dirty cloth diapers or wet swimsuits or pukey clothes. The list goes on!

10. Swaddles- A lot of babies only sleep if they’re swaddled. I am terrible at swaddling so I relied almost entirely on SwaddleMes and Woombies. You can get the kind with arm vents so your baby can still utilize it even when they’re not being swaddled anymore.

Hopefully my new mama friends will forgive the gifts that aren’t on the list. Otherwise, that’s what gift receipts are for!

From College to Career: Taking the Long Road

Between graduation weekend recently passing and my friend Chrissy’s recent blog post on being a late bloomer I’ve been spending a lot of time considering my college to career path. I should preface this though by letting you know I’m an internship coordinator. This basically means I spent 50% of my time speaking to primarily undergraduate students who have one of two attitudes:

Option 1: I’m just getting started in my career and am trying to figure things out. I’m hoping this internship will help me determine the focus I want my career to have in the long-term.

Option 2: I know exactly what I want. I’ve always known what I want. Even if I haven’t, I have come to my current conclusion by a series of logical steps including shadowing, internships, volunteer activities, school projects and so forth (Sidenote, overacheivers always provide examples.)

I can safely say I didn’t fit either of these options when I was in school. When I interned during my sophomore year of college, I was… terrible. I thought I would connect quickly with my work reading the slush pile at a children’s publishing house. Uh, no. I was incredibly intimidated by the constant silence that permeated the building. No one ever seemed to walk through the old converted house. No one stopped by to chat. No one exchanged humorous stories about their weekend. My mentor tried to offer me some guidance but mostly kept to her incredibly quiet self. I started to shrink beside the staggering pile of papers. By the time the summer ended I had learned very little, mostly due to my own inability to ask questions, and still wasn’t sure if I wanted to be an editor.

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I may have totally lacked direction but sometimes I looked like Nicole Kidman back then. So there’s that. 

Since I didn’t have a plan B I just kept working at my hospitality jobs and my anxiety grew over what to do next. I spent most of my senior of college depressed that I had no sense of direction. It worsened during summer camp and the months I spent living with my mom afterwards.

There is this expectation when you come out of school (or perhaps this is just millennials) that you should know what it is you want to do. You should be focused and forward thinking. If you don’t know what it is you want then at least create some sort of awesome app/non-profit/small business in the meantime to prove you are kicking ass at being an adult.

One of the other somewhat acceptable options was to travel after graduation, which I did. I assumed that traveling would help my destiny emerge. In reality it took another 5 or 6 years of customer service/hospitality work before I landed a job in a publications department finally putting me on a career ladder towards an editor role. It was then and only then that I found out where I was most suited- human resources.

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I found my way to cycling and HR all at the same time. 

Although it was shocking to discover, I’m really social. I like working in teams with lots of collaboration. Problem solving? Strategy? Love it! I’m all about process improvement and trying new ideas. If you’d told me that ten years ago, I would have never believed you. Turns out I prefer books for fun not for livelihood. I wouldn’t make a great editor.

Most of the interns I work with find my career path unnerving. They are focused overachievers and the idea that their internship won’t put them on the path to success completely throws them off. They nod suspiciously as I suggest there may be alternate routes to finding their path. For the rare few though my zigzagging journey gives them breathing room. Their graduation panic starts to subside. One of our best interns is taking the summer off to travel before applying for full-time positions with us in the fall. When we talk about strategies for how to present her time traveling to employers, I know she’s making the most of both worlds: her ambition and her need for more.

As you might guess there are times I wish I started my chosen career path earlier. Maybe I’d make more money or be in a position with more influence. But just as often I think about how I could have traveled more and taken my time. It leads me to think I struck the right balance after all. Looking at today’s college students and their ambitious inclinations I have to wonder what Haines’ generation will be characterized by. I hope we’re able to share with him the importance of the journey over the destination.

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First stop coffee shop. Next stop the world!

Pumping at Work (Otherwise Known as Crying Over Spilled Milk)

There’s nothing to make you feel more like a dramatic fool than crying over spilled milk, but when it’s breastmilk? Having recently spilled half a bottle of breastmilk at work, I say that’s legit.

There’s only two parts of Haines’ life that have stressful (except for that one time we went to the hospital): sleeping and eating. I felt strongly that I wanted to breastfeed so I’ve been lucky in that Haines latched on pretty well from the get go. Despite that we still spent the first couple days home in constant tears watching La Leche YouTube videos. The worst was being up in the middle of the night, the house dark around me save for the bathroom light shining into the hall, trying to get Haines to latch while everyone else slept. Babies are so tiny then and frail seeming. It was such an ordeal shifting him around my body into different positions until we could get settled. The first few weeks I was always hunched over, my breasts brought to his mouth, rather than the other way around. My shoulders lived up around my ears,  before my body finally unclenched.

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Almost five months later breastfeeding is certainly easier. I still don’t love it but it can be a nice reason to sit down and relax a few times a day. Pumping is not like this. It is not relaxing to grab my laptop twice a day at work (formerly three times a day) between meetings and set myself up in the health clinic. Once hooked up I force myself not to watch the milk drip into the bottles. I try not to count every ounce. If it’s not enough, should I make another trip to the health clinic? Do I have time to stay longer or do I have a meeting? Why is nothing coming out? Should I try to use the hand pump tonight once Haines goes to bed?

Haines turns five months on Sunday (Mother’s Day!) and has yet to have any formula. There’s a couple reasons for this:

  • I’ve super lucky and typically don’t have trouble producing milk.  I don’t believe there is any rhyme or reason to this.
  • I’m cheap. I really don’t want to have to buy formula. Just the idea of having to select a formula brings me anxiety, let alone the idea of paying for it. I have to travel without him in July so chances are he will have to be introduced at some point. I guess I’ll get over it.

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For those breastfeeding mamas preparing to go back to work there are several things you can do to make life easier. I would highly recommend the following:

  1. Start your stash. The breastfeeding class we went to before giving birth did not recommend a stash but I wish I had more of one. There’s no need to go crazy with it but once you’re ready to start integrating bottles, start pumping every day. On maternity leave I would feed Haines, wait 30 minutes or an hour and then pump. I find doing this early on in the day after the first feed is best. Night time is the only time we’d get a decent stretch without feeding so I’d be fuller in the morning. Well, or I’d be laying in a puddle of milk. This still happens. Don’t go crazy and safe guard your stash though! The stash is only worthwhile if you get to use it. Use it to have someone else feed your baby. Take a walk, go see a movie, take a nap and wave bye, bye baby!
  2.  Buy a hands free pumping bra. I’m a fan of this one. For some reason it didn’t occur to me that a bra like this would be necessary until a few days before I started work. Doesn’t everyone just hold their bottles to their breasts? No. They absolutely do not. This is pretty much the only way to work and pump. Actually it’s the only way to not hate pumping because you can be reading or flipping though Instagram.
  3. Definitely order your electric pump from your health insurance before it’s not covered under the ACA anymore. The electric pump makes life so much easier! I also recommend buying a hand pump. You can them for under $30, they fit easily into a large purse and are pretty easy to use. I bought the Philips Avent Manual Comfort Hand Pump. Whatever you do, buy it on Amazon. It’s way cheaper. I’ve found the hand pump is great for when I want to be away for the house for several hours but won’t be a place convenient for an electric pump (ex. coffee shop).
  4. When you prepare for pumping at work, keep in mind that this is a messy endeavor. In addition to your electric pump I recommend bringing:
    • 2 burp cloths- 1 to tuck into the bottom of your nursing bra to protect it and 1 for your lap. I just use cloth diapers as burp cloths.
    • Your hands free bra
    • A stash of disposable breast pads for when your pump time gets bumped back for a meeting
    • A wet bag– essential! Between pumps I keep my bottles in the bag and then place them in the fridge. This keeps me from having to wash them in between pumping. (*This is probably not at all recommended. I just think it’s a huge pain in the butt to wash them every time.) Either way it keeps the stuff that’s wet from getting milk on everything
    • A Nalgene- rather than taking storage bags or several bottles with me to work I pour my milk into a Nalgene. I cover it with a Freaker so that no one can see what inside when I keep it in our shared work fridge. Fun fact: your work fridge may be full of breast milk like mine.

 

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I must admit, I think because of breastfeeding I do end up with a lot more than my fair share of cuddles. I like that best of all.

 

Heartstrings

Being a mother is exactly as I thought it would be and totally different all at once. I know I’ve just gotten started on this path but it’s already a whirlwind. I expected to love my baby in ways I couldn’t understand. I expected to feel overwhelmed and sleep deprived. I even expected that I would alternative between hate and love for parenting.

All those things are true and yet I really had no idea what I was getting into. I didn’t understand the physical connection I would have to Haines. A friend asked me to describe what it was like to love him and it was so difficult to articulate. I know everything a person can know about him but he’s still a total mystery. I’m tuned in to his babbles and kicks but I don’t always know what he wants or why he’s upset. I don’t have a clue who he is going to be. He could grow up to be a serial killer and yet I just love him. It truly feels like a string has been tied from my heart to his and whenever I think of him I feel the tug. Whenever he cries it tugs. Whenever he laughs it fills up and explodes with happiness.

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Explosion.

The physical connection is more than that. Do you remember making fun of your parent when the car stopped suddenly and they put their arm out in front of you? You laughed because in a real accident their arm wasn’t going to stop you from being thrown forward. You thought it was a silly gesture, but it wasn’t a gesture at all. It was instinct. It’s my hands jumping to protect Haines from his own wobbly head even when he’s secure in his seat. It’s my body being thrown into motion at the sound of his cry. It’s never turned off. If I can hear him my body is alert, ready to go.

This feeling of being ready to spring into action is something I’ve repeatedly described as feeling “on”. It may be the thing I didn’t understand the most before he was born. I knew my hearing would become attuned to all his little noises and I’d heard of leaking breastmilk when the baby was in distress but I didn’t understand… the absence of an off switch.

Have you ever been to a networking event or a conference where you’re expected to mingle with people you don’t know? I don’t excel at this. I plaster a smile on my face, introduce myself and shake some hands but the anxiety of having to talk to strangers never leaves me. I hate it. When the event is finally over, my shoulders gradually draw down away from my ears and I can relax. The exhausting act of being on your best behavior and speaking to others whether you want to or not gives me the same sort of feeling “on”.

Except with a baby relaxing is a learned skill. It doesn’t just happen at bedtime. When Haines was first born and my mother or Tyler would tell me to go take a nap I would lay in the bed and cry. I would cry and cry and imagine they weren’t taking good care of him. My mother and my husband may be the last people on earth that wouldn’t take good care of him. It was insane but I couldn’t turn my off switch. No matter the circumstances, I couldn’t relax.

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Thank goodness this has gotten better or daycare would be a disaster.

 

Camping with Babies

One of the number one things I looked forward to in moving back to North Carolina was camping. In Austin we camped every month that Tyler was in town, but one of the things we’ve done the least since moving back has been…camping. In the two years we’ve lived in Wilmington, we’ve camped 4 times. To our credit it’s been in 4 different places.

We went with friends to Croatan National Forest two Easter weekends ago. After we got Clara we took her to a small island accessible by boat only. In September of last year, around the end of the second trimester I took Clara to join friends to camp at Neuse State Park.

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Camping while pregnant was… not as bad as anticipated. Drinking a beer around the campfire is one of my favorite parts of camping so abstaining did take a bit of the fun out. I laid on both sleeping pads for extra cushion and by some sort of magical force I only had to get up once in the night to pee. I wasn’t far enough long that my walking was affected so it was pretty fun!

This past weekend I took the next step in camping- camping with a baby. Natalie was in town and we took Haines and Clara to Carolina Beach State Park along with friends. It was a very busy weekend at the park but with the exception of one truck full of yelling partygoers the campsites were relatively quiet. We walked the nature trails, played games, roasted s’mores and journeyed to the neighboring brewery. You really can’t beat a state park next to a brewery. So this trip I got to drink beer around a campfire and at a bar. Major improvement on the previous camping experience. IMG_3269

Even though everyone chipped in helping with Clara and Haines, camping with both a 4 month old and an easily excited dog is stressful. Clara was somewhat well behaved which isn’t saying much. Other dogs typically hate her and this trip was no different. Haines didn’t mind being outdoors all the time. He also tolerates being carried in the front pack better than I tolerate carrying him.

As it turns out he does not tolerate sleeping on the ground in a sleeping bag very well. This is fair as many adult humans do not either. I made him a palate out of blankets and swaddled him in a muslin blanket inside a thin sleeping bag that also had a hood. He wore a knit hat which also didn’t help with the sleep issue. I had intended to pack his fleece sleep sack but failed to remember it.

I ended up feeding him 4 times during the night which is on par with the feeding schedule he had during his newborn nights. This was partly because I could never find his pacifier in the tent when I needed it. But a boob I could find so we went with that. He only woke the campsite up once around 3 am so that’s pretty good, right?

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In case you can’t tell that’s two friends, one dog and a baby. 

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Those two beautiful hours that Haines slept.

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Wrapped up against the morning chill!

Next time we camp I will:

  • Figure out another sleeping option for him (suggestions welcome!)
  • Stuff 10 pacifiers in my pillowcase so I can pull them out throughout the night
  • Bring along a chair/seat for Haines so I don’t have to hold him the whole time
  • Also put the flashlight in there so when I run out of pacifiers I can find more

I also am going to be on the lookout for another baby carrying device. I love the free aspect of our hand-me-down Chico carrier but it doesn’t fit me well and it hurts my back. Time to do some research on different options because the hiking and camping won’t be stopping!

 

To Reveal or Not to Reveal

When you first announce your pregnancy to the world you are bombarded by questions. When is the due date? Did you plan it? (How is this an appropriate question??) Who have you told? Are you going to find out the sex?

I have no idea how it happened but from the very beginning I was completely against finding out the baby’s sex.  Tyler hesitated only briefly before jumping on board. Our family was supportive, for the most part, but they would have much preferred we find out. My sister though was the only one who hated it and let us know!

While a lot of our friends or coworkers, liked the idea of keeping the baby’s sex a surprise most people say, “Oh I could never do that.” They either couldn’t stand the suspense, which I totally understand, or they felt they needed to know to plan for the baby. This I never wrapped my mind around. What do you need to plan? A baby girl and a baby boy need the same things: a car seat, a crib, clothes, diapers, bottles and so forth. Even your nursery’s theme, if you have one, can go a variety of directions. Winnie the Pooh, Disney, travel/adventure, Noah’s Ark- all of these and many more work for any baby. Although if you’re really into monograms, I can see how this would be a problem. I think this is probably a bigger problem in the South than elsewhere. (FYI Haines has the best initials for a monogram. HEB!)

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The best grocery in Texas!

There’s more though that I didn’t expect. Knowing the baby’s sex makes them start to take shape in your mind. They go from this concept, this idea where anything is possible to something real, a person. There’s no more pretending. I liked keeping the possibilities open until the moment of truth, until everything changes, but I can see now how it might be helpful at times for bonding with Haines before he entered the world. Many times when I was pregnant I worried that I didn’t feel a special connection to Haines. It’s strange to remember that now as I can’t imagine Haines not being here, let alone not feeling a connection to him.

When Haines was born and they announced “It’s a boy!” to the room it was a shock, although I’m not sure “It’s a girl!” would have brought a different response. There was a baby in the room where there wasn’t one before. It was the biggest change there could possibly be. There were two people in a family and then there were three.

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On the practical side, because Haines was still an enigma we weren’t tempted to buy him toys or clothes. It wasn’t quite the same for our mothers, but I suppose that’s not surprising. Tyler bought a tiny bat that he said would be a softball or baseball bat for baby B and I bought two newborn outfits for Christmas. Santa wasn’t coming to find any baby Grinch!  Priorities, right?

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For us, it made everything a little more special, the not knowing. We were entering on a journey that we couldn’t start to imagine and keeping all of the mystery intact was something I don’t regret. It’d be hard to do it again but I loved doing it all the same.

Off to Work We Go!

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I haven’t been able to blog these past few weeks. Trying to balance work and play… well, I thought I didn’t have enough free time before and I really didn’t know what I was talking about.

Admittedly, returning to work has been significantly easier than I expected. I spent the day before mostly in tears. Okay, I was also able to work in lunch with a friend that included a beer. You never know, it could have been my last chance to drink a beer in the daytime on a weekday. But then it was all tears.

I really don’t mind being back at work. My work is interesting. I feel challenged on a regular basis. In fact, coming back to work has relieved much of the brain fog that had taken over as well as the loneliness I felt at home during the day. I don’t feel guilty leaving Haines at daycare. We secured our daycare less than 4 weeks before I needed to be back at work and did so by calling every daycare that is licensed near our home. We were (and technically are) basically on every waitlist in town. Luckily the only daycare we got into has been great so far. With only 3 other babies in the room I feel like Haines gets a lot of attention. And now instead of wishing I was somewhere else when we’re together, I am present. In the evenings I work hard to make our time together quality time.

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All that being said, this is still a struggle and a work in progress. I have come back to work at incredibly busy time for both me and Tyler. And now every hour of the day has a purpose. We wake up needing to get right to business getting everything together for daycare and our work days. After working full days we take turns making dinner and spending time with the munchkin. As soon as he’s in bed I try to take time for myself for a bath or writing but since Haines isn’t actually sleeping through the night on a regular basis sometimes I go to bed almost immediately after. Every few days we walk the dog. But really only sometimes. Poor Clara.

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Haines isn’t the only one who struggles to make it to bed time!