Tuesday, February 4, 2014

If I Could Do It All Over Again: Part 2

Now that I have recovered from Snowpocalypse 2014, I bring you Part 2 of my mini-series... and this one is a tad bit more personal than the last! Read at your own risk.

What I Would Do All Over Again...

1. Request that there be NO VISITORS for at least 24 hours after delivery. First, let me say I enjoyed every single visit. However... that was the problem. I wanted to talk and entertain instead of rest. And boy, did I learn my lesson. The first few days with a new baby are extremely overwhelming. I am VERY MUCH a people-person so I did not mind having visitors, but I know now that what I needed during those first couple of days was rest. By not saying "no" to visits, I exhausted myself and made an already stressful situation more stressful (a few of our visitors saw me in tears, crying from stress!). I also want to be more frank with people who ask if we need anything. I loved for people to come visit after we got home, but I wish I'd taken more people up on their offers to help with chores or cleaning or cooking or laundry. Also, lemme just say this - I will no longer visit people in the hospital after they have a baby unless they are close family. I'll come visit you when you are home and I will bring dinner!

2. Find a way to record baby's firsts. Obviously, I have monthly updates posted on my blog that I can print out and keep forever. But I don't have some fancy schmancy baby book with a thousand details filled in - as the saying goes, Ain't nobody got time for that! :) What I did instead of a super detailed book is this (and it kinda happened by accident)... one of the "free" "perks" (I use both of those terms VERY LOOSELY) from having awful newborn pictures made at Portrait Innovations was that we got a large wall calendar. At first, I was like... what the heck am I gonna do with a wall calendar full of not-so-cute pictures? Then I had a rare moment of genius and decided to put it on her bedroom wall along with a Sharpie. I could easily record anything I wanted to at any time without having to drag out some book and a cute pen and all that craziness! I am planning on getting another calendar made for this year (I'm a little behind, I know...) - it's a super easy way to mark all sorts of fun little details that might otherwise be forgotten.

3. Start a routine early. We spent five weeks being absolutely clueless about our baby. Every time she cried, we would go through a list of why she might be crying... Wet? Hungry? Tired? Over-tired? Bored? Hot? Cold? No, no, no, no... Finally, a friend told me that we could go ahead and start establishing a routine. (Note: I am not saying "schedule"...) We did start a basic routine when Maleah was five weeks old and it worked wonderfully (Baby Whisperer's E.A.S.Y. method)! We had a predictable pattern to our day that really helped Maleah eat, sleep, and feel better. We no longer had to try to go through a laundry list of possible irritants figure out each cry - we could just consider where we were in the day's routine and know what she needed. As she has gotten older, the routine has adapted, changed, been flipped upside-down, and - at times - been thrown out the window altogether! But having consistency in her day has proved to be beneficial for everyone in our household in a thousand ways! I will say we used BabyWise to help get us started on the routine, but I wouldn't say we subscribe to all of those methods. More or less it was a good tool in the beginning to know what a typical day for a newborn could look like and how to solve some of the most common newborn "issues" (for lack of a better word!). 

4. Ask for an "exam" at the 6-week check-up. My OB's office does not normally do vaginal exams at the check-up unless the mother is due for a pap-smear. I did not know this and I also didn't think it really mattered. But, in my case, I had some abnormal healing that had to be taken care of at 5 months post-partum (You wanna put that silver nitrate stick WHERE!?). If I'd been offered an exam earlier, I wouldn't have had to deal with the pain and discomfort before realizing something was not right. I will beg for an exam next time - bet they won't see that comin'!

5. Start a College Fund. Okay, technically I did not start a college fund for Maleah. Her grandparents did. But, it an option we were already looking at - a CollegeCounts 529 savings plan. Seriously, even if you only put $10 a month in this account for a while, DO IT! College costs are always on the rise and it is a whole lot easier to save for it rather than to strap her down with student loans after graduation (like me... oh, how I hate to see mail from Sallie Mae!!!). Right now, while Blake is in school, we don't really have a lot to contribute. Every little bit helps, though, so we have decided one way to save  for her education is to always put our spare change in her piggy bank. Every now and then I'll also slip some dollar bills in there just for fun. We had it cashed the other day and there was a whopping $73 in there! If I did the math correctly, that $73 will be about $125 by the time she turns 18 if it grows at an APR of 3%. Her grandparents all have access to this account, so they can make deposits at any time. Starting now will help us get in the habit of contributing on a regular basis and we'll increase our deposits as time goes on!

6. Buy a video monitor. We have not had one of these with Maleah, mostly because her room is so close to ours. If I had one, I probably would have lost my mind staring at it for any sign of stress during those early months! (I really learned a lot about trusting God with my baby without it!) But, it would be nice to have now that she is older for those times when I'm not quite sure if she's fussing because she's awake or just fussing mid-sleep. Because now when I go in to check on her, it becomes a big ordeal! 

7. Hold her more. I am very glad we helped Maleah be able to fall asleep on her own and nap/night time is not really a battle. But, now she doesn't like for us to rock her for very long (particularly at night) - she'll even point to the crib, asking to go lay down to sleep. I wish I had soaked up those times when she was so tiny and liked to snuggle. There's a balance, though, in my opinion - but I think I erred on the side of caution and missed out on some prime snuggle time. She has actually started letting me rock her more often in the past couple of months and I am treasuring it! Just this morning, she was up at 5:15 and I went in to give her some milk and try to get her back to sleep for a bit. She took her milk, snuggled in my arms, and then laid her head on my chest to be rocked. I defintely enjoy those moments when they happen!

8. This, too, shall pass. The days are long, but the years are short. Enjoy it because it flies by so fast.  Oh, man, how true each of these little phrases are. When the crying seems to go on forever, I remember - This, too, shall pass. When I'm counting the clock down to the second for nap/bed-time, The days are long, but the years are short. When I catch myself looking forward to the next stage or milestone, Enjoy it because it flies by so fast. No matter how many times I have told myself to stop and enjoy the moment, no matter how many times I've tried to soak it all in... this year has gone way too fast. I still feel like it happened in the blink of an eye, even though I tried so hard to let it linger. I look at Maleah every day and appreciate Who sent her to me and try to remember that each moment with her is truly a gift.

What are some things you found helpful during your baby's first year?

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