Real Talk: My Baby Doesn’t Sleep and I’m Not OK

I have written and rewritten this post half a dozen times. It’s so hard to know what and how much of my life to share online. If I share too much “bad” stuff, I feel like I’m being melodramatic and seeking attention. But if I only share the “good” stuff, it feels fake. I tend to use sarcasm to talk about stuff that upsets me because it’s light and easy and I can continue to pretend that everything is fine while letting off a little steam. As a new mom, I sometimes feel like I’m not allowed to be honest about how hard this is because I’m supposed to be drowning in gratitude for a healthy baby, and blissfully in love with my little girl. But I firmly believe that acknowledging my struggles in no way diminishes my gratitude or love. So here goes.

***I feel like it goes without saying, but just in case you’re worried: I love my daughter. My husband and family are incredibly involved and supportive and we’re working on it with our pediatrician. Please don’t interpret this as some kind of cry for help. I’m not depressed. I don’t need meds or therapy. I need sleep***

Vera just sucks at sleeping. Right before the three-month mark, it seemed like she was maybe on her way to sleeping through the night, but then we went into some kind of regression that never ended. Rather than getting better, it’s been getting worse. She used to regularly take 1-2 hour naps twice a day; now, we’re lucky if she naps for 25 minutes twice a day. Sometimes her naps are as short as ten minutes. Or she falls asleep nursing but wakes up ready to party the second I put her down. When once she slept for 3-4 hour chunks all night, she’s now up every 2 hours or less. Every. Night. Sometimes she wakes up and eats and then it takes over an hour to settle her down again. Or she falls asleep for thirty minutes and then wakes up crying. I haven’t slept more than four consecutive hours since before Vera was born five months ago.

While Ben was on paternity leave, I was getting regular naps to help offset the deficit, but now that he’s back at work, I’m just digging deeper and deeper into my hole. As someone who has more or less made a career of being overtired, I’m reaching the end of my reserves. My brain function is starting to go.

Mom Brain, right? People talk about “Mom Brain” with a wink and a smile, as if it’s some benign condition that causes you to do silly things like put your coffee in the kitchen cabinet instead of the microwave, or wash the same load of laundry twice. The other day, I put pizzas in the oven without cheese. I literally didn’t even realize my mistake until I was cleaning up and found the package of cheese still unopened on the counter. But calling it Mom Brain makes me absolutely furious. It belittles something that’s a much larger issue. Mom Brain is actually sleep deprivation, and there’s nothing funny about it.

There’s a reason sleep deprivation is classified as torture. After 24 hours without sleep, your judgement is impaired. Hand-eye coordination is impaired. You’re more likely to have a fatal accident like falling asleep at the wheel. Long-term sleep deprivation can cause cardiovascular issues and hormone imbalances. It is terrible for your health.

Being a new mom is already hard. Being chronically sleep-deprived makes everything harder. I’m “on” all day, with no breaks and no help. I get one or two 25 minute chunks each day while she’s napping to tear around the house trying to get shit done. It’s not even long enough to make myself a cup of tea and drink it in peace, let alone nap or exercise or journal. Even if I had time to exercise, I certainly don’t have the energy.

The days are hard, but the nights are harder. The sun goes down, and I know I’m in for another sleepless night; I become irritable and restless. I get into bed and lie there thinking about when she’s going to wake up next, instead of actually trying to get some sleep. I cried myself to sleep last night because dammit, I thought by five months in, sleep would be better. It’s supposed to be better by now. Isn’t it? Every time someone asks how she’s sleeping I fantasize about punching them in the throat.

We do all the things we’re “supposed” to do. We have a strict bedtime routine, down to reading the same exact books and singing the same exact song every night. We’ve tried nudging bedtime a bit earlier or a bit later. We give her a “top up” bottle of pumped breast milk in addition to nursing before bed to make sure she has a full belly. We use a white noise machine. None of it seems to help. We go back to the pediatrician next week and I pray that she has some help for us, but at the same time, I can’t let myself get my hopes up.

The reality is that there’s probably no magic bullet. We’re not doing anything wrong. I suspect that she’s just a shitty sleeper, and probably will be for the duration. Which is a really hard pill to swallow. How long can I do this? Yes, I have family and friends who can help me out with naps here and there, but this isn’t a situation that can be rectified with an occasional half hour snooze. I just don’t have any answers.

I could write more. Complain more. Entreat the gods for help. But I’ve gotta go; Vera just woke up crying for the second time tonight. It’s 8:06 pm. So yeah. That’s how I am these days.

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A Day in the Life of a Stay-At-Home-Mom

This post was inspired by Amy at Let’s Go Running.

I haven’t been writing much, for a lot of reasons, but this seemed like an easy way to check in with you all. I know that day-to-day life with an infant is probably not that thrilling for all of you, so feel free to skip this one and come back another day.

6:30 am 
Vera wakes me for the fourth and final time. She’s up pretty much every two hours or less all night, which makes for rough mornings. And afternoons. And evenings. Anyway, I digress.

I nurse her in bed while I contemplate whether to get up or attempt to sleep in. By the time Vera is finished eating, it’s clear she’s up for the day, so I lie in bed and cuddle her for a bit. Ben comes in to kiss us goodbye before leaving for the day, and I know it’s time to get up.

7:00 am
I change Vera and pop her on her activity mat to play while I get what I call my “infrastructure” going. I fill my 32 oz water bottle, pop some overnight oats in the microwave, and pour myself some coffee (Ben makes enough for both of us when he gets up). I eat breakfast and drink my coffee on the floor next to Vera’s activity mat so we can chat and play.

7:50 am
Vera is ready to eat again, so I set us up at the kitchen table. While I nurse her, I do some online Christmas shopping and make to-do lists. After her feed, she’s sleepy, so I attempt to put her down for a nap. True to form, she wakes the instant I set her down, but she’s calm, so I leave her in her crib for some quiet time.

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8:15 am 
While Vera hangs out in her room, I make tea and work on this blog post a bit. I also read other blogs (yep, still lurking out here, reading your blogs and not commenting!) and pick up a bit around the house.

8:35 am 
Vera starts to make sad noises, so I scoop her out of her crib, get her dressed for the day and plunk her in her exersaucer. While she babbles and plays, I get myself dressed and make the bed. These are two of my “How to Stay Sane as a Stay-At-Home-Mom” tips. Actually getting dressed every day and making the bed make me feel much more productive, even if I don’t do anything else all day.

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Vera is happy in her exersaucer, so I put some Christmas music on and wrap some Christmas presents. I do a gift exchange with some of my blog friends every year, and historically my gifts don’t arrive at their destinations until well into the new year. I’m a master procrastinator. But this year, my shopping is all done, I just need to get them in the mail. Go me!

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Gifts for my bestie’s son. And you best believe everyone is getting robot wrapping paper this year.

9:37 am 
Vera is no longer happy. It’s “nap time,” but getting her to nap is kind of hopeless most days. It takes me 25 minutes to feed her and settle her down. Once she’s out, I HUSTLE, because her naps last an average of 20 minutes, which is hardly enough time to accomplish anything. I use the bathroom, brush my teeth, and start to put away some laundry.

10:30 am
Right on cue, Vera wakes from her typical less-than-30-minute nap. I attempt to settle her back down, but it’s no use. I slap a fresh diaper on her and load her into the car seat to head out for yet more Christmas shopping. Shop local, ya’ll. I finish shopping for my sisters-in-law and grab a couple of necessities for around the house as well.

11:30 am 
Vera has fallen asleep on the car ride home, so I take advantage of the bonus nap to make myself some lunch. I have started keeping pre-chopped salad ingredients in the fridge to make it easier to make healthy choices when I’m scrambling to eat during my very brief breaks, so I assemble a salad and some other leftovers. I work on this blog post a bit while I eat.

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Trying to eat up those Thanksgiving leftovers

Noon
Vera is up and at ’em, so I feed her a snack and then put her down for some tummy time while I pump. I pump once a day to a) help keep my supply up and b) build a freezer stash for days/events when I’m out of the house. Next up is reading! I’m trying to make sure I read to Vera more than just at bed time, so we busted out a bunch of our new books that Gramma and Grampa gifted at our visit over Thanksgiving.

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Kitties are apparently more entertaining than books

1:30 pm 
Vera is ready for a diaper and a change of pace. She’s fussy and fidgety, so I nurse her briefly, then change her and put her back in the exersaucer. I have a few Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups and try to work on this blog post a bit more. This lasts maybe five minutes before Vera demands my undivided attention. She’s fussy and obviously tired but won’t go down without a fight. We play a few rounds of peekaboo and some games from baby yoga, then she settles in for a marathon nursing session. This is unsurprising as she has been “snacking” all day.

2:30 pm
Post-meal, she falls asleep in my arms. Rather than trying to put her down and risking waking her, I continue to work on this blog post one-handed. It’s tedious, but what else am I gonna do while holding a napping baby?

I wish I were being productive, but I know baby girl needs the sleep, and quite frankly, I need the break, so I surrender to the siren song of Netflix and turn on Love Actually. This is a good choice because Vera ends up napping for almost two hours (!!!!), which is seriously unheard of right now.

4:10 pm 
Ben is home! Yay! Once he has a snack and gets changed out of his work clothes, I hand off Vera so I can get supper going. I’m making pizza, so I need to make the dough and get it rising ASAP, otherwise we’ll be eating at 9 pm.

5:00 pm 
Vera is fussy, so I attempt to feed her, but it doesn’t last long. She’s super distractable these days, and eats in short, frequent bursts, particularly when Ben is around. While the dough rises, we take turns playing with Vera, making faces, singing, flying her in the air, and basically just trying to make it until bedtime. She also snacks a couple more times. You’ll also notice that I ceased taking pictures at this point, because keeping V happy in the hour or so before bedtime is pretty tough.

6:00 pm
Bath time! This is the beginning of our bedtime ritual. We got her all cleaned up and in a fresh diaper (we use cloth diapers during the day and disposables at night) and PJs, and Ben gave her a bottle. In an attempt to load Vera up on calories and hopefully get her to sleep more, we give her a bottle of pumped breast milk before bed in addition to nursing. So far, it hasn’t really seemed to help, but at least it helps to offset all of her mini feeds during that day.

Once she finishes eating, it’s reading, a bedtime song, and lights out. Of course, she never falls asleep easily, but we try to stick to our routine as much as possible. General wisdom indicates that eventually, the routine signals to baby that it’s time to go to sleep, but we’re still waiting for that to take effect… I get the pizzas in the oven between attempts to calm her.

7:00 pm
She’s finally out! Hallelujah! Ben and I resume watching a video game walk-through on YouTube for Red Dead Redemption 2. Yep, we’re the people who watch those videos. I mean, we can’t afford a PS4, which means we’ll never get the game, so why not watch someone else play it? We also stuff our faces with pizza and salad.

7:30 pm
Vera wakes up and fusses, but I’m miraculously able to calm her back to sleep fairly easily. More pizza and watching Archer while I knit Christmas gifts. Vera makes a few more halfhearted fusses, but we don’t have to intervene.

9:00 pm
Ben heads into the kitchen to clean up supper dishes while I head into the bathroom to get ready for bed.

9:30 pm
I attempt to dream feed Vera, but she doesn’t eat very much, then wakes up completely when I put her back down, so I feed her some more, and she finally goes back to sleep.

11:50 pm
Vera wakes me for the first of many times. Lather, rinse, repeat.

So there you have it. A super glamorous, very interesting day in the life. (Sarcasm. So much sarcasm)

Parent friends, talk to me about sleep training. Vera is almost old enough and I am DESPERATE to start getting more sleep. I’m not interested in crying it out, but open to all other suggestions.

 

Life Lately

Hey there, friends. I kinda dropped off the map there for a bit. In addition to feeling a LOT of ambivalence towards blogging (that’s a post for another day), life has been absolutely bananas. Here are a few updates on what’s been going on in the life of Rae.

To start off with, Vera is apparently one of those babies that just isn’t a good sleeper. Usually, between three and four months of age, babies develop discernible sleep patterns and schedules, and begin to sleep for longer periods of time (think 6-8 hours). We thought we were approaching that point when we started getting regular four hour chunks, and even a few five hour chunks, but as soon as we hit the three month mark, it all went to hell. Either she hit a growth spurt or started the dreaded four month sleep regression a month early, but she hasn’t slept longer than four hours since, and generally wakes at LEAST every 3.5 hours every night, usually even more frequently. Oh and naps? What naps? She might take two or three half hour naps a day. It sucks. A lot.

To help with the sleep issue, our pediatrician recommended me trying a dairy-free diet. V was having pretty regular bouts of crying due to gas pains during the day and waking up at night, so the doctor suggested both probiotic drops and going dairy-free for a while. Since starting both, Vera has had pretty much no episodes of gas-induced fussing. Whether that’s the dairy or the drops is kind of a guessing game at this point. We have Vera’s four month checkup next week, so we’ll be asking the doctor about next steps. Boy I hope I can start eating cheese again soon. It’s been extremely hard maintaining a dairy-free diet. Of course it’s worth it for the kiddo, but it’s no fun. Halloween was a huge bummer, let me tell you. Most commercial chocolate has milk in it. Boooooo.

5k training. Right. I’m training for my first post-baby race. It’s going… Not well. You may have seen my post on Instagram, but with three weeks to go until race day, I’ve missed more scheduled runs that I have completed. I haven’t been to yoga in over a month, and haven’t done any strength training in weeks. I know that I will be able to cover the distance, but I had really hoped to race this one, to see what I can do. The way things are going, this will end up being more of a fun run than a race.

We also turned our lives completely upside down to install hardwood flooring in more than half our house. While we are absolutely delighted with the results, it was a really difficult two weeks. I don’t recommend doing major home renovations with a new baby in the house. Our furniture was every which way, there were tools everywhere, sawdust all over everything… And it was very noisy. Not at all conducive to baby naps.

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Vera’s room in progress

On the health front, things have also been less than stellar. I got a cold, which Vera and Ben then both got as well. And Vera can’t seem to shake the congestion. It’s been over a week now, and she’s still struggling to breathe through her nose, particularly at night. This makes everything from eating to playing to sleeping much more challenging for her. To help with sleep, we are putting her in the Rock n Play, which is a ridiculous crutch that we don’t want to rely on for the future, but is totally necessary for any of us to get a halfway reasonable amount of sleep right now.

I also still have a milk blister on my left nipple. Did I tell you about this? I honestly can’t even remember. But yeah, I have a blocked milk pore that is extremely painful. It’s been there for over a month. I’ve been to the doctor twice, and had it lanced twice, once by a midwife and once here at home (with a sterile needle given to me by my midwife). I’ve done everything recommended for at home treatment and it’s just not getting any better and I’ve kind of given up and decided that this is my life now. Breastfeeding is no joke, people. I honestly don’t know what women did before modern medicine.

Additionally, we went for our first family road trip. We went to Pittsfield, MA to meet up with my bestie Mandy, her husband, and their new baby at her parents’ house. It’s basically the halfway point between them in Jersey and us here in VT, so it was nice that we could see each other without either side having to drive the whole distance. It was wonderful to see my friends and meet their baby. Liam was born a little over a month before Vera, so Mandy and I basically went through our whole pregnancies together. The weekend was great, but hectic. Mandy has a huge extended family that is always drifting in and out of her parents’ house, so we were socializing all weekend. Vera had a hard time with the change in schedule and slept even worse than usual, although she thankfully was a champ and slept the entire car rides down and back.

Reading back over this, it all seems very doom and gloom, but that’s not what I intend. It’s simply an honest look at what’s been going on. Thankfully, Ben has been on paternity leave from work since October 8, and has been enormously kind and helpful as far as trying to get me some extra sleep. He generally gets up with Vera every morning to allow me an extra hour or two in bed. And he’s been knocking lots of little niggling home improvement projects off the list left and right. We’ve now got a shelf in the laundry room for our detergent instead of balancing it on a windowsill. We’ve got new light fixtures in both bedrooms to replace the ugly fan/old lady light combos. The cat scratcher is now mounted on the wall instead of kicking around the kitchen floor. AND…

We bought a “new” car. It’s a 1998 Honda CR-V and we LURVE it. We’ve been casually keeping an eye our for a small SUV for a while because Ben’s truck can’t take a car seat. We knew that eventually we’d want more than one car that can transport the kiddo, and we also knew that if we were going to have more kids and/or get a dog like we want, we’d need a slightly larger vehicle. We found this on Craigslist and got a hell of a deal, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed that it stays road-worthy for us for a few years. I’m just happy because it has studded snow tires and all-wheel drive, so I’ll probably use it as my winter car while Ben drives the Civic. Fun fact, we now have cars from each decade of the 80’s, 90’s, and aughts–an ’87 Toyota pickup, a ’98 CR-V, and a ’08 Civic.

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So yeah. Life has been chaos. And I think with a baby, that’s just kind of how life is going to be now. We’re just trying to roll with it.

What kind of car do you drive?

Have you tackled any home improvement projects lately?

My First Week As a Stay At Home Mom

I knew that being a stay at home mom would be challenging. Everything I’d read in magazines and online, every friend or acquaintance I’d talked to, indicated that being a full time mom was no walk in the park. As with so many things, however, knowing a thing and understanding a thing are very different.

My first seven weeks as a mom were a walk in the park compared to what many women go through. I had a husband who was able to be home with me, and we could divide and conquer. If I was fed up or having a tough day, it was no trouble to just hand Vera off to Ben and escape for an hour or an afternoon. If I really needed to use the bathroom or make a snack, there was another pair of hands to help out.

Now, though, it’s all me. From the time Ben leaves at 6:45 am until he arrives home around 4 pm, I’m on Vera duty. And it’s HARD. Don’t get me wrong; I love my daughter with my entire being. And I CHOSE this. I chose it before I knew what I was up against and I continue to choose every day now that I know what it really means. And I’m SO lucky and SO grateful that this is a possibility for our family. But that doesn’t change the fact that catering to the needs of a tiny person is challenging.

I won’t lie, I had a couple of tough days last week. It was super hot Tuesday and Wednesday, so I was reluctant to take Vera out in the stroller; folks, I didn’t leave the house at all for two days. Cabin fever is REAL. I’m an extroverted introvert, meaning I require equal parts quiet down time and socialization, but being home all day with an infant is the worst of both worlds; I’m neither alone nor getting adult socialization.

So then why not get out of the house and go places? Well, we love country living, but that presents its own set of challenges. Living an hour away from the closest city means that getting us out the door takes TONS of work. I have to time feeding just right so that she’ll sleep in the car. I have to make sure that I have the diaper bag stocked, my water bottle, snacks for me, the Boppy, and all the other attendant crap. And no matter how well-behaved your infant is, being outside of your house for long periods of time is taxing. Finding a comfortable place to breastfeed is hard. Being in a store with a crying baby is hard. Lugging the stroller in and out of the trunk at every stop is hard.

In order to stave off the cabin fever and keep myself sane, I’m planning to seek out at least one thing per day that Vera and I can do together outside the house. I’ve signed us up for an Infant Yoga and Massage class, plus I have my weekly postnatal yoga class. There’s story time at the library once a week, and I’m sure I can come up with a few other things. I’ve learned that I NEED to get out of the house every day, even if it’s just a stroll around the yard.

Aside from extreme cabin fever, I’m still delighted with my decision not to return to work. Vera is AWESOME. I don’t know how we got so lucky. Other than occasional gassy-ness she’s the happiest, calmest baby. Even at her most upset, she’s not even that loud. Sure, I wish I were getting more sleep, but her smiles and coos make everything worth it. I just remind myself that these challenging newborn days are temporary, and will give way to challenging baby days, which will give way to challenging toddler days, and so on until I have an adult on my hands (woah!). I’m determined to enjoy each phase as much as possible.

Stay at home parent friends, what are your favorite “stay sane” activities?

Why You Won’t Be Seeing Much of Baby Girl on the Blog

Even before becoming pregnant, Ben and I had a lot of discussions about the presence we wanted our children to have on social media. From the get-go, Ben was adamant that putting pictures and anecdotes about our kids on the internet made him deeply uncomfortable, and he’d prefer that we keep our kids completely offline.

As a blogger and social media devotee, I was less convinced. How in the world would I share pictures easily so that friends and family could access them? How could I continue to blog about my life and family without including pictures of our future kids? As time went on, however, and especially after becoming pregnant, I realized that what Ben had been saying all along resonated with me more strongly. Thus, we’ve made the unanimous decision to minimize any sort of online presence for our kids until they’re old enough to decide for themselves what/how much they want to share. Here are a few reasons why.

Agency and Choice For Our Children
I understand that some people choose to be open books online, and love sharing photos and stories about their kids on their blogs or social media channels. It works for them, and I offer no judgement, truly. I just worry about how my own kids would feel about it when they grow up. Some day, my kids are going to want to create their own online lives, and for them to find out they’ve already got a lifetime of photos and stories about them online might not be happy news.

Safety
I think we can all agree that the internet is a scary freaking place sometimes. I don’t think I need to go into details (though I could post numerous examples), but suffice to say, I don’t want complete strangers all over the world, or even close to home, to have access to photos of my kids.

Parent-Shaming
It seems like not a day goes by without some stupid click-baity article posted about celebrity parents being called out for things like not properly buckling a car seat or their kids being “too skinny” or “too fat” or some other BS thing, all because they posted a photo online. But the thing is, this happens to “normal” parents too. Posting photos of your kids automatically invites comments. The vast majority are benign and even supportive, but you just never know what someone else is going to have to say about your parenting choices, and I’d much rather have those conversations one-on-one as needed, rather than via Instagram, ya know? Sidenote: when I posted a pic of my car seat installation, I had a comment about a better alternative within 5 minutes. Granted, it came from a place of helpfulness rather than judgment, but that’s EXACTLY the kind of thing I’m trying to avoid… Lesson learned!

All of the above means that you probably won’t see many pictures of Baby Girl, or any future kiddos, here on the blog. I’m sure they’ll pop up occasionally, but my determined rule is that there will be no “full face” photos, meaning you’ll be seeing a lot of back-of-the-head shots, emoji-over-the-face shots, or from-a-distance shots. I think this will be the sweet spot for maintaining my children’s privacy while still being able to share about my life. This will also likely mean that any updates post-baby will be focused on me and my recovery/return to fitness adventures versus posts about Baby Girl’s development.

Also, I’ve finally taken the leap and made a separate Instagram account for the blog, and made my personal Instagram account private. From here on out, blog-y, fitness-y stuff can be found on the handle @darlin_rae, while more personal and family stuff will be on @rbdinvt. If you’ve been following my personal Instagram for a while, don’t worry, I won’t boot you! But I will be VERY selective about who gets access going forward.

This also means that we need to have a firm conversation with family and friends about not sharing photos of our kids on social media without our permission. I will be the first to admit that in the past, I have shared photos of other people’s kids without giving it a second thought. But becoming a parent myself has made me realize that that’s really not cool. I don’t anticipate that this will be a fun or easy conversation, but it has to be done if we hope to maintain our kids’ privacy the way we want.

Parents, how did/do you handle social media sharing with small children?

7 Tips to Make You the BEST Baby Gift Giver Ever

I am by no means a parenting expert, but having recently been the recipient of not one, but TWO baby showers, having been to loads of them over the years, and having many friends who’ve recently had kids, I have plenty to say on the subject of gift giving for expecting parents. Here are my top 7 tips to make sure that your gift is the most-appreciated one at the party.

Stick to the Registry
Seriously, if I were limiting this blog post to a single piece of advice, this would be it. STICK TO THE REGISTRY. New parents spend a LOT of time and energy putting together their registries. Whether they’re working within a specific theme, trying to stay in line with a particular parenting style, or simply have a small house, expecting parents are usually only putting the most necessary items on their registries. These are the items they NEED or WANT most. For example, Ben and I have a very small house, so our registry really focused on multi-use items and the absolute bare necessities. Our registry even explicitly stated that our house was small and we didn’t want a lot of extraneous stuff. But we still got it. Of course a gift is ALWAYS appreciated, but it’s appreciated even more when it’s something useful and wanted. I know it can feel icky or impersonal to just pick something off a list, but trust me, this is the best way to give expecting parents a gift they will treasure.

Always Include a Gift Receipt
No matter how confident you are that the gift you’ve purchased is perfect in every way, do your pregnant friend a favor and include a gift receipt. You simply can’t account for things like receiving multiples of the same item, or a baby growing so fast he or she never gets to use the item. Including a gift receipt means that new parents will be able to exchange the unused item for something they really might need later.

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Put Down the Baby Blankets
For real. Unless blankets are something that the new parents have specifically registered for, or they are handmade items that have a lot of sentimental value, just save everybody a headache and DON’T BUY BABY BLANKETS. Ben and I registered for five muslin swaddle blankets, as we’d gotten lots of cotton and muslin blankets as hand-me-downs from my coworker already. Between the two showers that were thrown for us, we ended up with no less than a dozen blankets in addition to the ones we’d registered for and the ones we already had. This is simply too many. They don’t fit in our linen closet and are currently stacked in the baby’s crib for lack of anywhere to put them (and without gift receipts, we were unable to return them!). Keep in mind, most hospitals will send new parents home with a stack too. Baby blankets are an unnecessary purchase that will just end up taking up space and being donated.

StyleNovice Blog How Many Baby Blankets is Too Many Baby Blankets

Not my blankets, but I have at least this many…

Provide a Service Rather Than a “Thing”
This is a big one that I wish more people would consider. It’s downright easy to just run out to a baby store or buy something from Amazon. But providing a service for new parents is so, so valuable. Team up with a few friends to buy a newborn or maternity photo shoot. Engage a cleaning service to come out and clean up the family’s house before or after baby comes home (or offer to do it yourself!). Give a “gift certificate” for free babysitting or dog walking or offer to drop off nutritious meals. Ben’s aunt is a professional photographer, and her gift to us was a newborn portrait session. She lives in upstate NY and even said she would come to us. Now THAT is a thoughtful gift that isn’t taking up extra space in our house.

Remember the Parents
Yeah, sure, a baby shower is generally about welcoming the new baby and making sure that the parents have everything that they might need to care for baby after baby is born. But new parents are still people, and moms especially can feel like they lose a bit of themselves in the wake of a new baby joining the family. Give mom a spa day, or offer to babysit so the parents can spend some one-on-one time together after baby is born. Give a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant or a couple of bottles of their favorite wine. My gift from my mother in law was a spa day and free babysitting, which meant the world to me. Remembering that parents are going through an incredibly emotional time and need some love too will be appreciated.

Avoid Buying Newborn-Sized Everything
While it seems like common sense to buy newborn clothes for a new baby, it’s important to remember that just like adults, new babies come in all shapes and sizes. Some babies are born way too big to ever fit newborn clothes, and preemies are swimming in them. It’s a really great idea to gift a variety of sizes so that the new parents have a depth and breadth of clothes before baby comes. Babies also grow incredibly fast, so having 10-12 newborn outfits and nothing else might mean that within a week or two, parents have to run out and buy new clothes because nothing fits. Also, consider the season along with the size. If a baby is born in the summer, they’re most likely not going to need a newborn-sized snowsuit.

Cash (or an Amazon Gift Card) is King
I know it seems crass to give cash, but honestly you couldn’t possibly give a better gift. Every baby and every family is different, and sometimes parents discover a few weeks or months in that the baby hates the bottles they registered for, or that the Rock ‘n’ Play everyone said was so magical isn’t working for them. Or, they just didn’t end up getting everything they registered for. Having some extra cash around can really help out for those unexpected expenses. It can also be used for things like ordering takeout when they just can’t face cooking, or paying a babysitter so they can have a date night. We received a cash gift from one set of friends and used it to buy a bunch of baby first aid and health care items that we hadn’t even thought to register for, like Baby Tylenol and a baby toothbrush. And we received a TON of Amazon gift cards, which we can use for things like diapers or more clothes as needed.

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BONUS TIP:
This one isn’t really about the gift itself, but how one delivers the gift: include your mailing address in the card. I know that 9 times out of 10 at showers these days, the host or hostess will have you write out a self-addressed envelope, but it doesn’t always work out that way. At my shower, my mom and sister forgot to put the envelopes out, so I didn’t have those handy self-addressed envelopes. Thankfully, our Amazon registry got most of the addresses. But for anyone who didn’t buy a gift off the registry, I had to track down a mailing address for them, which made the already annoying task of doing thank-you notes even more annoying. By including your address with your gift, you’re potentially saving parents a hassle.

So there you have it. My tips that are guaranteed to make you the most popular baby-gift-giver around.***

***I can’t actually guarantee this. But I’m pretty confident that the tips above will help you make your expecting friends very happy.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with any of my tips? Anything to add?

 

The FOMO is Real

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I don’t suffer too much from FOMO as far as social events go. I’m a bit of an introvert, and usually I’m pretty happy to just be hanging out at home with my cats and my husband. I’m generally happy when plans fall through or people bail, because it means I don’t have to put on pants and a bra and leave the house.

The only things I get true FOMO about are shows. Namely, shows that I want to audition for but somehow don’t work with my schedule, or could have auditioned for and didn’t and now I’m missing out on the experience. This FOMO is what has led to me doing two shows back-to-back on numerous occasions, even when I was exhausted and it probably would have been better to just take a season off.

As I contemplate our (hopefully) impending pregnancy, I’m ALREADY obsessing over the shows and theatre opportunities I might miss. For instance, Lyric Theatre Company’s fall show A Christmas Story the Musical is auditioning right now. The music is by Pasek and Paul, of Dear Evan Hansen and Dogfight fame. There’s a GREAT part for me. And the rumor mill is suggesting that audition turnout hasn’t been that great, meaning that I stand a very strong chance of getting the part I want. SO TEMPTING. Obviously I’m not auditioning because hello I need a break. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

What if a local company does a show I really, really love while I’m 6 months pregnant, or I’ve got an infant child dependent on breast milk? I live in a relatively small city in a small state and some opportunities literally only come up once in a lifetime. I only have so many years left where it’s feasible for me to be cast in RENT, or The Last Five Years. Dogfight is a perfect example–it was the first time the show had ever been performed in Vermont, and due to the fact that it’s a small, not well-known show that never made it to Broadway, it might be YEARS before it’s produced in the area again, if ever, at which point, I will be too old to play Rose. I got lucky on this one.

I just can’t seem to shut off the nagging voice in my head that’s telling me to run out RIGHT NOW and audition for anything and everything I can until I’m too pregnant to pass as non-pregnant. I’m exhausted and burned out and have SO MUCH TO DO but I can’t help but think “What if I don’t get to do another show for a year? Two years? THREE YEARS?” I play mind games with myself, like, “You might not even get pregnant the first month. Or second. Or third. You could totally do a show this fall.” Which is INSANE! Cause if I do get pregnant right away, I’d be working a full time job AND rehearsing 15+ hours a week during my first trimester. That sounds terrible. But then, that devil’s advocate again. “If you don’t get pregnant by January, you can TOTALLY audition for the spring show.” I can’t stop.

Obviously, starting a family is my priority, and once you have a child/children, you’re simply going to miss some things. That’s how it goes. I get it. I’m sure once I have my own actual child, I will be a lot less worried about FOMO and more worried about keeping said child clean and fed and happy than “Oh, man, I could be rehearsing 20 hours a week right now.” I firmly believe that having children won’t preclude me from pursuing my passions. I have a loving, supportive husband who wants me to do what makes me happy. We are a team, so it’s not like I have to worry about, “Oh, well Ben can’t handle the kids without me.” That’s silly. It will just take some time to adjust to life with children. And I truly can’t wait. I just need to tell the FOMO to kindly shut the hell up.

Do you ever suffer from Fear of Missing Out? How do you handle it?