Tag Archives: first time mom

How to prepare to be a first time mom before looking into your baby's eyes.

How To Prepare To Be a First Time Mom

In the months before becoming a first time mom, you’ll hear dozens of opinions on what you need to buy and what you can do without. Most often, the advice will be conflicting and for good reason. No two babies are the same, nor are the needs of the parents. In my experience, you don’t need to spend a ton on your first child, but there are a few staples you’ll want to splurge on.

Whether you’re in a walk-friendly city or a rural “driving is the only option” neighborhood, a safe car seat is a must. As a first time mom you’ll need one to take your newborn home, especially if you are birthing at a hospital. The car seat is one thing you’ll want to buy new. Even my carless cycling friends have a car seat for their Bakfiets Cargo Bike to keep their daughter safe on the roads.

A safe place to sleep is important whether you’re planning to put your newborn in their own room right away or keep them near your side for several months. Buying a new crib that is up to current safety standards is a must, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. Cribs come in all sizes and styles, as well as budgets. In addition, if you plan to keep your baby nearby, invest in a quality bassinet, rock-n-play sleeper, or co-sleeper.

If you plan to breastfeed as a first time mom, you won’t need a ton of feeding supplies right away. If you want to splurge, look into a high quality breast pump that is comfortable to use. If you aren’t planning to breastfeed, invest in a few different types of BPA free bottles. Newborns may be picky with how they feed. Instead of buying one kit, pick-up a few individual bottles until you find what works best.

You can save on pretty much on everything else! What you should think about is how your family operates. Will you be walking a lot? Then maybe a higher quality long lasting stroller may be a good investment. If you’ll be traveling, you might want to look at items that support simple travel, such as formula dispensers. These can save a lot of headaches when you are out for hours each day.

Second-hand items that work for most babies include strollers, swings, high-chairs, booster seats, and toys for older babies and toddlers. Luckily, children’s clothing is less expensive than it used to be, so if you don’t have a friend who can give you hand-me-downs, you can hit the sales racks and make out pretty well.

In the first few months, you really don’t need as much as the ads and magazines will tell you. Keep it simple and save your funds until your newborn is a few months old and you’ve gotten to know their needs a little bit better.

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What I've Learned - Julie Schumacher, Writer

What I’ve Learned: Julie Schumacher, Writer

Julie Schumacher is the founder of Well Turned Words, copywriting and editing studio. She’s also the co-founder of Forth Chicago which seeks to celebrate and connect creative, entrepreneurial women in Chicago. 

Tell us about your family!

We have one daughter, Loie Jane, who is 3. She’s a copper top and is very into ’80s music and feta cheese. 

What I've Learned - Julie Schumacher As a first time mom, I thought that I was going to knock it out of the park. I wasn’t super nervous and felt that, if our daughter was born healthy, I was going to be one of those “at ease” awesome moms.

I didn’t. I wasn’t. I got knocked on my ass. I didn’t sleep, didn’t eat, and worried incessantly those first few weeks. I’m wired anxious and assumed I’d rally…because I always rally. At about 8 weeks postpartum, I was hospitalized with postpartum depression. It was just the worst.  My mom moved in from Philadelphia, we brought in an incredible post partum doula, my husband protected and provided like a beast, and we got me in to see an incredible therapist in conjunction with a smart medication plan through a psychiatrist.

It is so, so, so humbling to have gone through that. I’ve never failed at something so spectacularly before, or so publicly. Now, I’m not saying I failed at motherhood. My kid’s great and we’re super bonded and all that and I think I’m a pretty great mom. But in the moment and the months after there was a significant amount of self-confidence and identity rebuilding that had to happen. I had to relearn to love myself, accept way more help than I’d ever been willing to take in a lifetime, and was forced to figure out what it would take to claw my way toWhat I've Learned - Julie Schumacher happiness. And on top of that, I had this wee little beastie I wanted to love and get to know and take care of and felt like it was happening with a hand tied behind my back (and blindfolded and while balancing on a very small, wiggly beam). We fought back hard and I was very quickly back on my feet (which is not to discount any woman whose fight is longer. Go mama, go!).

That’s a pretty big shadow, though, to walk out of. Even now I have to explain that PPD doesn’t mean I ever tried to harm myself, or our daughter, and I am not convinced everyone believes me. Sounds awful, right? It’s one of the reasons I’m vocal and open about my experience. More women need help and more people need to know how to help them.

The collaterals, though, are remarkably all positive. I saw how strong my marriage was. I saw how rad my mom and husband are. Seriously. My mom was indefatigable and my husband’s shoulders carried way more than I assumed a human could. They never doubted me those many nights I loudly announced I would never get better.

Our new neighbors in Oak Park stepped up and carried us through. Friends sat with me while I wept on the porch and one friend was charged with dragging me to movies so I’d leave the house…those are some damn fine friends. What I've Learned - Julie SchumacherIt was through therapy and talking with my husband and closest of friends (a mom entrepreneur champion Jill Salzman of the Founding Moms) that I took the years of research and teaching of writing and launched Well Turned Words. I was given time and permission and support to do something I always kind of thought I could do but would likely have never done…because who actually gets paid to write? Now, our world makes so much sense on this path. Our family is happy and strong. It was a slog. No doubt. But hot damn, I’m happy and our family is thriving.

I sometimes wonder if a single part of my body, mind, worldview, approach to life, or future goals have not been touched by parenthood. On a very basic scale, having a kid is a nice swift kick to the shins of whatever routines you enjoyed pre-kids. On a larger scale, I think more about modeling for her an expansive life. If I let fear, regret, guilt dictate how I move through the world, she’ll see that. If I don’t do something because I’m just too tired or if I don’t handle a relationship with care, she’ll see that. If I lead with a strong partnership, good friendships, grace, confidence, humor, sass, joy, and a dash of “well, I guess we’ll see what happens!” she’ll see that. I want her to know she can have many acts, be many women, and do many things in a single lifetime. So I have to live that first. When I need parenting advice, first and foremost, I talk to my husband.

What I've Learned - Julie Schumacher We share what we see, strategize, offer gentle suggestions on something that worked for one of us. He’s the person I chose to parent with so his opinion or ideas matter more than anyone else’s to me. Then, I have a phenomenal community of women. I highly recommend surrounding yourself with women better than you. My mom and sister are awesome and talented mothers (and great overall) as are some close friends who I’ve known since college and met as a mom. I also have plenty of dad friends I think are just phenomenal parents. I don’t just talk to other people with girl parts. A good parent is a good parent.

I have an online community as well. I have the SpitfireMom Society, which I started with a design partner in Denver and appreciate the conversations there about business and family life. I adore Ask Moxie and the community she’s built. I also have a top secret group of women from a birth board now connected on Facebook. We all have kids the same age and were bonded over those first months. We’re all over the country and about as different as can be but it’s a safe, warm space to say out loud the stuff that goes through my head. We call ourselves the Mamascenti. It’s silly and awesome. What I've Learned - Julie Schumacher

My favorite thing about being a parent is the forced intentionality. I have to be more purposeful and thoughtful about what I say and do, both around her but also in general. The selflessness is hard but great creativity emerges through constriction, I think. There’s also the heart-explodingly-huge amount of love I get to experience when she says “Mama?” and then asks me something weird. For my marriage, I love having a whole new way to fall in love with my husband. I knew he was great. Watching him as a father? Wow. Watching Lo, my favorite thing is her acquisition of language. It’s like watching civilization evolve. That sounds ridiculous. But it’s really incredible to witness and hear how our intonations and expressions regenerate in her. She says “awesome” a lot. Not surprising.

Are there routines that you’ve set up in your family to help things run more smoothly?

Yup. M/W/F I get up with Loie and get her ready for school. T/Th my husband gets up with her and I sleep in. I say once a month I am going to start getting up to work out. I will let you know if that ever happens. We tend to each sleep in one weekend day, which is superb. We encourage each other to spend time out at night with friends. I’m home with her on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We do a play date or go to the library or play outside in the mornings. Sometimes we just hang around the house in our PJs all morning. We host a toddler music class here on Thursday afternoons. One of us takes her to school, the other picks her up. Whoever is putting her down for bed, theWhat I've Learned - Julie Schumacher other person is prepping a late dinner or tidying up. We try to keep the house in good shape because we both work from home and my husband is a neatnik. We’re pretty rigid about her sleep. A well-rested kid makes the whole world sunnier and protecting her sleep 85% of the time means we can be flexible the other times. We have a weird kid who sleeps in so we get her up at 7 so she’ll take a nap. And we wake her up from her nap 90% of the time so she’ll fall asleep at night. Please don’t throw things at us. I know most moms would kill to have a 7am wakeup. We all seem to thrive on routine. We talk about whether she’s a creature of habit (she yawns at 1:15 if we’re late putting her down for a nap) because it’s in her DNA or in the air of the home.

What do you know now that you wish you knew back then? (as a first time mom) 

That you’ll find a way. That any thing your kid is doing that feels unsolvable, untenable, or totally bizarre will likely be replaced by something that feels equally permanent, annoying, or odd. And you’ll be so busy worrying about the new thing that you will forget to realize that the previous worry has resolved itself. That cyclicality of parenthood is both comic and infuriating to me now. That no one gives you a reward or medal if you refuse to ask for help or refuse help that is offered. Even now, after being knocked on my rump, I still want to do it all myself. That’s lame. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. And if someone offers to hold the baby so you can pee in peace or take a nap? JUST SAY YES. What I've Learned - Julie Schumacher

When it comes to fun, I always crave travel. My husband and I like to cook together, I love baking. The fun of chopping and stirring and seasoning as a couple was a huge piece of our courtship. As counterintuitive as it sounds, the meticulousness of baking is very calming for me. Give me some flour to sift and something to level and I’m in heaven.

I like to talk. A lot. So talking with my friends and husband about things inconsequential and grand. Plan and scheme for the next phases and iterations of our life. If I’m not talking, I’m reading. I’m in an excellent book club of smarter-than-me women who actually read the books. Our neighborhood is ripe with families so we do things locally, the Farmer’s Market, the park. Because we like the parents of the kids our kid knows even toddler birthday parties at jumpy places can be fun. Forth Chicago, a creative salon I run with two other Smart Moms, is so much fun but not super unwind-y. It does connect me to other women who like to talk about all sorts of things. And I What I've Learned - Julie Schumacherget to try out new parts of my brain through the beauty of our events and revisit the parts of my brain that love facilitating conversations.

With my daughter, I love reading. I will read the same damn story over and over and over. And there is nothing a 3 year old likes to do more than read the same story over and over and over. When it comes to values, we talk about wanting our daughter to move confidently and with empathy and awareness through the world. To have a chance to try many things she might like and to fail miserably at some and experience success in others and to realize there’s value in each. To cultivate community and to be civically minded. To be an excellent friend. To be able to speak her mind and to listen with equal measure. To have a strong moral compass rooted in global and progressive values. I want her to have a social sport she can play with friends into adulthood (that is one of those “because I don’t” things). I want her to be a good communicator, always put her shopping cart away, and to vote (because I do).

Photo by Kelly Allison

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What to Pack for the Hospital - SmartMom

What to Pack for the Hospital

Photo by Eden Frangipane

One of the first things that you’ll learn as a mom is that you need to be prepared for everything. Along with planning your baby registry, organizing and stocking your nursery and baby proofing your home, one more thing you need to prepare if you plan on a hospital or birth center birth is thinking through what to pack for the hospital.

To stay ultra-organized, have your bag packed before you hit full-term, which for most moms is 37 weeks. Before you stock up on nursing pads and newborn diapers, ask your hospital or birth center what supplies they provide — you might be able to save a few dollars!

Hospital Bag Must-Haves

Paperwork: Most hospitals and birth centers require you to have all of your insurance information and hospital forms filed prior to your delivery. Some will offer you the opportunity to preregister, while others will give you the forms to fill out at home. The last thing you’ll want to do when your water breaks is fill out your medical history!

Comfortable Clothing: Even though you’ll likely be issued an ever-so-stylish hospital gown, some moms prefer to labor in their own t-shirt or nightclothes. You’ll also want to have a warm robe or sweater on hand, as well as two or three pairs of warm, non-skid socks in case you need to walk the halls during labor.

A supportive maternity bra and nursing pads. If you plan to breastfeed, come prepared. Though many hospitals and birth centers have lactation consultants who will help you navigate those early days of nursing, it’s better you come equipped with the proper gear than have to send your partner on a last-minute store run.

Toiletries and personal items. Though your hospital stay might feel a bit like a weekend getaway, your bathroom won’t be equipped with hotel-sized shampoos and lotions. Pack your lip balm, hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, face wash, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, contact lens case and solution. You might not care what you look like during labor, but afterwards, you’ll want to feel human again!

Headband or ponytail holder. If you have longer hair, you’ll want to bring something to keep it away from your face. Avoid clips or anything metal, as you won’t want any additional pain or distraction with a baby on the way.

Cell phone and charger. Hospitals aren’t known for having the best cell phone service, so be sure to bring your charger. You might want your smart phone to time your contractions — and to send your baby’s first photos to friends and family after the birth.

Camera, battery or charger. Even in the midst of your post-birth bliss, you’ll want a few snapshots of the special moment. If your partner is your labor coach, delegate the photographic responsibilities to a nurse.

Clothes and basic hygiene products for your partner. Even though the focus will be on mom and baby today, dad might want to take a shower and freshen up for the onslaught of visitors who want to meet your newest addition.

Clothes for your baby. Bring a few outfits for your baby, even though they’ll probably be fine in a diaper for the first 24-36 hours. Bring at least one “going home outfit” and then one or two more changes of clothes. If you’re planning on using cloth diapers, bring those along too, as most hospitals will provide disposables.

Hospital Bag Nice-to-Haves

Extra pillow. Hospital bedding isn’t the most luxurious, so if you’re in for a multi-night stay, you might want a few comforts of home. Outfit your pillow with a case that you don’t mind ruining or leaving behind.

Comfortable going-home clothes. Contrary to what you read about celebrities amazing post-baby bodies, it can take some time to get back into svelte shape. Bring maternity clothes to wear home, in six to nine month maternity size. Even if they’re too big, you’ll want to feel comfortable.

Birth tools or supplies. If you’re planning a natural childbirth, bring along anything that will help you focus, like a labor playlist loaded onto your iPod or an exercise ball for bouncing. Your labor room may be equipped with these, but if they’re essential to your birth plan, better that you come prepared.

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What I Wish I Knew as a First Time Mom - SmartMom

What I Wish I Knew as a First Time Mom

Photo by Andria Lindquist

When I was 25, I became a mother. My son Will was born early one July morning by emergency c-section. He wouldn’t latch and hated breastfeeding, so right away I learned about nipple shields, breast pumps and the agony of spilled milk (yes, I sobbed).

Only one of my friends had a baby back then. It was uncharted territory in my circle of friends – no one could really relate to what I was going through. Everyone else was still in their 20-something fun stage. But I was married, settled and trying to figure out this motherhood thing. Back then, it felt very lonely. But in retrospect, I think it was just new mother nerves.

Here’s what I wish I knew as a first time mom:

It’s Okay If You Don’t Breastfeed … or If You Do.

With Will, I fell into the category of new mothers who didn’t have an easy time with breastfeeding. Will wouldn’t latch, but learned to with a nipple shield. But in the end, I pumped and bottle fed because it worked better for us. And that was okay. We stuck it out as long as we could – about six months. But I felt so guilty when I finally threw in the towel and chose bottle over breast.  Looking back, I wish I’d really accepted that either breast or bottle is good – as long as baby is loved and nourished.

Yes, You Will Change.

No matter how hard you try to fight and deny it, motherhood changes you. For me, the biggest change was in the way I looked at my work. Before children, I could easily detach my self from my work – which meant as a journalist I could cover very serious, heartbreaking events focusing on the facts, the events and the truth. I wasn’t personally invested beyond wanting to be sure that my reporting was fair, accurate and did a service to the community. Once I became a mother, I felt things far more deeply – which meant those very serious, heartbreaking events became a lot more personal to me.

Don’t Be Ashamed.

The stretch marks. The breastfeeding. The strange changes to my body and self – plainly put, I was a little ashamed of it all since it was so unfamiliar. Looking back, I wish I could have seen the beauty in pregnancy, new motherhood and more.

The Picture Perfect Ideal Isn’t Real. 

If baby’s socks don’t match, it’s okay. If he cries a little, it’s okay. If he has a little stain on his shirt from lunch or needs to be changed in an inconvenient place or needs to see the doctor for something that just doesn’t seem right: it’s okay. That vision of a picture-perfect child who is always impeccably dressed is only for airbrushed magazines. In real life, childhood – and parenting – is messy.

Let go of the waiting.

When Will was a baby, it felt like I was always waiting for something – the perfect time for his baptism, baby pictures, to check out the local library. All that waiting translated to a lot of … nothing. I wish I’d seized the moment more and gotten out with my son to explore our local library and all the other great resources for parents of young kids. The fact is that the only perfect time is the time you decide to go.

Losing It IS a Good Goal. 

When I was in my 20s, I took weight loss for granted. When I had my son, most of the weight melted away. What I wish I knew was that it would be fleeting if I didn’t keep at it. Living at a healthy weight requires vigilance and dedication – well beyond the initial loss.

Multifaceted is Fabulous. 

When you become a mother, you don’t lose the woman you were. You just adapt a little and change. And that’s okay. Heck. It’s fabulous. Don’t be afraid to embrace the new and old you all together as one great multifaceted  you.

Things Change.

The sleepless nights, midnight feedings and difficulty learning your child’s cry language? Want to try your hand at making your own baby food? These things are fleeting. Before you know it, you will be walking your child into their kindergarten classroom. So enjoy every single moment.

You are More Like Your Parents Than You Think.

Look, none of us want to believe we are like our parents. We can list hundreds of ways in which we are different. But in the end, you learn to parent based on how you were parented. Perhaps you will make adjustments and improvements (heck, one would hope you do) but the bottom line is that you are like them and you parent based on what you know.

You Will Make Mistakes.

I sobbed the first time I cut my son’s nails – because I accidentally nicked his delicate skin. It was a mistake, but I felt like the worst, most incompetent mother ever. I wish I knew back then that mistakes like that are bound to happen. You just have to learn and grow from them. And in the end, don’t sweat the small stuff.

If someone you know is a first time preemie mom, we have some advice on how to help them out here.

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