My Emotional Journey With Pregnancy and Parenthood
It is almost 7 years ago that British Ex and I found out we were pregnant with our first child. A little girl we decided we would name Madeline Anna Rice. (Named after the main character in my favorite childhood book. And, my cousin, who I think of as a little sister.) I was thrilled that I was becoming a Mom. At 39, almost 40 I did not think that parenthood was in the cards for me.
It was an extremely rough pregnancy. I was sick AF the first and second trimester. was anemic,. I had high blood pressure (which was a shock because I normally have extremely low blood pressure.) They thought I had gestational diabetes.
Then the kick in the teeth came. We found out that Maddie would be born with Down Syndrome. This frightened the fuck out of us. But, we decided that we would have her and love her and make the best life for her as possible.
My brother, Mike said “She’s going to be the best kid in the world with Down Syndrome and the most loved baby on the planet.”
The Ultimate Nightmare Scenario
The kick in the teeth I described just above this? That wasn’t it wasn’t the real kick in the teeth. The real kick in the teeth came in March of 2014.
On March 17, 2014 – at 32 weeks pregnant – I went into labor. It was St. Patrick’s Day. A Monday. I was in my office. My co-worker had to help me off the 93rd floor of the Sears Tower and into a cab. I rushed to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. I spent a stressful night hooked up to all the monitors the doctors could find to use.
At 4:07pm on Tuesday, March 18, 2014 I gave birth to my beautiful daughter. Maddie. My dream baby.
I wasn’t even able to see her before things turned into a nightmare. They rushed her into NICU at Prentice Women’s Hospital. Then, a few hours later, they rushed her to the more advanced NICU at Lurie Children’s hospital.
The only people who saw her that night were British Ex and my Mom. I saw her next morning. And, when I did… I was beyond panic. Maddie was intubated, she had a PIC line in her tiny foot. She was under UV lamps because she was jaundiced. There were heart monitors attached to her.
The next 10 days were a blur.
Then on March 28, 2014, just after midnight, my sweet Maddie died. In my arms.
She never got to see sunshine, or breath fresh air. I only was able to hold her the last day of her life. She never even opened her eyes.
Then Came Penelope Jane
The next 5 years were filled with grief and regret. Then amazingly, in January 2018, I found out I was again pregnant.
I held my breath for the first trimester of that pregnancy. Until we found out that she was healthy. Even so, my pregnancy with her was rough. I was 44 and my body was like “WHAT THE FUCK, KATE?!?!?”
I was on bed rest for a lot of my pregnancy. My blood pressure was high. I had preeclampsia. And, on August 7, 2018 – at 35 weeks pregnant – I was rushed into the hospital to have an emergency C-section.
We like to say that Peej just was too excited to get out and start her life. And, honestly it’s pretty true. This kid is full steam ahead, always.
10 Parenting Tips for New Moms
This is the thing: When we found out she was healthy, we prepared for her arrival with vigor.
I read all the Mom blogs, all the advice columns. Asked for advice from my Mom, my sister-in-law, my friends with kids. I got some good information, for sure, but there is a lot of stuff I wish I had known then, that I know now.
Hence, me wanting to share my 10 Parenting Tips For New Moms with you. Hopefully, your journey out of the hospital and into the crazy world of momming will be easier than mine was.
#1 – Be Strategic About Your Baby Registry
There are a couple of component to this tip. I learned a lot of things about making a baby registry from my sister-in-law. Still, I got sucked into baby gear trends and registered for a lot of senseless nonsense. And, left stuff off my list I really needed. Here is what you need to know:
- Ignore shit like bottle and baby wipe warmers. They are unnecessary and you’ll never used them.
- Register for important basics: A good quality (not a fancy) stroller and convertible car seat, diapers, wipes, Dreft baby detergent, bottles, binkies, swaddle cloths, burp cloths, crib sheets, a soft papoose, a quality breast pump, etc. These are the things that you really need from day one.
- Make sure to register for clothing that is 1-2 sizes larger than you think your baby will be when they are born. Otherwise you’re going to end up with a lot of newborn clothing that the baby will grow out of in a nanosecond.
- But also register for some newborn stuff. Particularly important are pajamas and onesies. Babies blow out PJs and onesies at least 3 times a day. You’re going to need a lot of them.
Things you might not think of when making your baby registry
- Be conscious of the season your child will be born in when registering for clothing. But, also think ahead to the next season and the next season and register for clothing appropriate for those temperatures.
- Specifically, ask for this: Magic Sleepsuit Before you know it, your kiddo will be able to break free from the swaddle and turn themselves over in their crib. They won’t be able to sleep without the swaddle, but swaddling them will be unsafe. This suit will save your life between months 3 and 9. Trust me, you want many many of these suits in different sizes.
- Register for gift cards for meal services, Target, the grocery store, etc. These will be lifesaving in the early days of being a Mom. You just aren’t going to have the spoons to cook for yourself and your family, and there will be things that come up that you will really need to run out and grab.
#2 – Don’t Over Buy Your Baby Clothes, Toys, or Books
My bestie, Molly, and I went super nuts tracking down and buying 2nd hand clothes for Peej. And, books and stuffed animals. Literally, there was not a stuffed animal I saw that I didn’t buy.
Then the baby gifts started rolling in. Basically, my apartment became a baby goods store after that. While I enjoyed shopping for those things with Molly, we probably should have laid off a bit.
There were so many things that Peej didn’t get to wear, or play with, or read. We ended up donating bags and bags of unworn baby clothes to a woman we knew who was pregnant with a little girl who was struggling financially.
Let your friends and family have the joy of picking out things for your little one. You’ll be delighted with what you receive. And, if you’re missing things you can always pick them up after your child is born.
Meta Parenting Tip: Maybe, just to ease your mind buy a couple of PJ and onesie sets. Or, buy them a special toy you want them to have. But, don’t go crazy.
#3 – Prepare a Savings Product For You Child in Advance
A lot of people are going to send you money as a gift for your little one. While you could use that moolah to buy baby gear you need, it’s smarter to stash it away for emergencies involving your child and your child’s future education.
While you can simply create a custodial account at your bank for your kiddo, there are lots of savings products that are secure that will nurture the money your child receives and maximize it for their future educational needs. Look into them while you’re pregnant, and get them set up with a first deposit from you. If you think you cannot afford that, know that most of these accounts require a deposit as low as $50 to open them. It will be one less thing you need to think about with your fuzzy newborn mom brain once that kid comes shooting out of your womb.
Meta Parenting Tip: I recommend a 529 Savings Plan for your child.
#4 – Take Advantage of Anyone You Know Who Wants to Help You
Literally, I would have lost my mind without my family and friends being there to help me after Peej was born. My wonderful Mom came and stayed with us for the first month after the baby was born. From running errands, to shopping and cooking for us, to giving me time to sleep… she was a lifesaver and indispensable.
Then, when we discovered that Peej had a lactose allergy, my Mom AND my Dad came back out to LA to help us. It helped me and British Ex catch up on sleep, it gave me an opportunity to run errands while they played with their granddaughter, and they just generally provided me with comfort. They emphasized in a very fraught time that I COULD do this mom thing. And, that I was going to be great at it.
My friends were awesome, too. They came over to cuddle Peej and allowed me to shower or cook or fold laundry while they did. And, in general, they just kept me company while British Ex was at work. You’ll be surprised at how much you need adult interaction in the first few months of your child’s life.
#5 – Don’t Let Your Partner Skate on Helping Out
British Ex was actually pretty good about this. After I taught him how to change a diaper, swaddle, and feed her – he took on a lot of those duties at and equal pace to me. Plus we traded responsibilities. He would sleep on the couch or in her room with her and get up at night to feed her, or change her. Then I would get up super early and let him go and sleep. This worked out well until they changed his schedule at work and he started having to go in early in the morning. Thankfully, by then Peej was pretty much sleeping through the night.
But, if you notice your partner avoiding doing baby duty? Insist. Force them to interact with their child, force them to help you care for that kiddo. This is a modern world, the mom who carried that child isn’t solely responsible for its’ care and feeding. The other parent should be heavily involved, too.
Meta Parenting Tip: Plus it’s funny as hell the first time that sweet baby shits on your partner.
#6 – Relax About Breastfeeding And Don’t Freak Out if You Can’t
The irony of my breastfeeding journey is that with Maddie I produced magnificent amounts of lactic fluid (I had to throw a Doctor Who reference in here somewhere.)
With Peej? I could barely produce an ounce a day. Plus, because she was premature, Peej had a really hard time latching.
At first I stressed out about this. Which only made it harder for me to pump and/or breast feed.
Finally, my Mom pulled me aside and had a talk with me. She pointed out that there are other ways you can closely bond with your baby. (Skin on skin contact.) And, she reminded me that all three of her kids (me, included) were raised on formula. We turned out just fine. (Well I did, I’m not so sure about my Idiot Brothers. Ha, ha!)
So we put Peej on formula. She’s a bright little button and is closely bonded with her mommy. Take it from my experience: If you can’t breastfeed it is not the end of the world, no matter what doctors, other moms, or judge-y mom blogs tell you.
#7 – Find a Pediatrician You Actually LIKE
I made the huge error of going with the pediatrician my OB/Gyn recommended. While I’m sure she was eminently qualified, her bedside manner SUCKED. She basically gaslit me about everything we were concerned about as new parents, made extremely judgemental statements about our parenting style, and did not take it seriously when our child showed the classic signs of colic/having a lactose allergy. She scoffed when I explained that my brother had colic, and both my Mom and I are allergic to lactose.
When she finally DID okay us to put her on soy formula, she straight out made fun of me when I asked about brands that did not have corn syrup in them.
Meta Parenting Tip: By the way, if you need to know, Earth’s Best is the top formula I’d recommend. It’s pricey, but your kiddo is worth it.
She also scolded me and made fun of me when I asked her if we could spread out Peej’s immunizations because she had been born prematurely. (Something I was advised to do by another mom who had her baby prematurely.)
It took nearly 6 months of her treating me and British Ex like incompetent parents for us to find a new pediatrician whom we liked and trusted.
#8 – Join Mommy & Me
It doesn’t have to be specifically Mommy & Me, but join a IRL mom group. You will need the support of other mothers going through what you are going through. Trust me when I say this, these women and their children will be invaluable to you. Not only will the babies be your child’s first friends; but, the moms will become your network of go-to people to talk to when you’re facing challenges.
Plus they will share their parenting tips with you, you’ll gain a lot of knowledge.
I remember at one point I was really struggling emotionally and all of my friends in my group just jumped up and dog piled on me and gave me the biggest group hug in my life.
Even though we’re not in LA anymore, I still keep in touch with these women. I watch their babies grow and change on social media. And, even some of them have had a second baby in the time I’ve been away. I love these women with my whole heart, I couldn’t have made it through Peej’s first year without them.
#9 – DO NOT CO-SLEEP
For the love of Dog, do not do this. First of all, it’s not safe. Co-sleeping has been attributed to a higher chance of SIDS. And, then there is the chance that you’ll roll over on your child and kill them.
A better strategy is this: Get a bassinet and put it as close to your bedside as possible. That way if your baby gets fussy, you can reach in to sooth her. You can easily changer her diaper in the bassinet. Plus if you invest in a good armchair cushion, you can easily grab your tiny out of her bassinet and either bottle feed her or breast feed her. You can actually doze a little bit while you do this, as the baby will let you know when they are full.
This is the parenting tip I think was most critical to the well being of Penelope. And, me.
This is much, much safer. Plust it establishes early boundaries that will impact how your child sleeps later in life. (Trust me, a thrashing 2 yo in your bed is no fun.)
We did this with Peej until she was 3 months old, then transferred her to her crib.
The ONLY time we let her sleep with us is if we are on vacation and she needs the familiarity and scent to go to sleep in a strange environment. And, still we did not do this with her until she was over a year old. We got a lot of miles out of our Pack n’ Play.
#10 – Enjoy Your Time With Your Baby
And, take a lot of pictures. I was so frazzled with trying to work from home, while parenting a newborn, that I didn’t slow down to just enjoy being the Mom of this tiny little bundle of happiness.
Also take lots of pictures, you want to remember these days. Make sure that someone takes pictures of you AND your baby. You want those too. Doesn’t matter if you look like a hot mess, you’ll look back on them and openly weep at how precious that time with your child was.
Or, maybe that’s just me?
#11 – BONUS PARENTING TIP
My final words of wisdom to you, expecting or new mom, are these:
Find an amazing babysitter IMMEDIATELY. One who can come help and give you a break during the days, and one who will do overnights when you and your partner get so sleep deprived that you cannot function.
I call this the Sahar Principle. We hired Sahar in LA when Peej was just over 2 months old because we had a wedding to go to. She became such an integral part of our family, and my sanity, that I know I couldn’t have survived without her.
Being a new mom or parent isn’t easy. You need help and support wherever and whenever you can get it.
Find a Sahar, pay them well, and trust them to help you when you need it most.
Good luck! I hope these parenting tips help!