Pregnancy + Babies

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I know everyone says this, but I cannot believe I have a baby who is this close to being a year old. I mean, she was just born yesterday.

This is what she actually looked like when she was born yesterday. I die.

This is what she actually looked like when she was born yesterday. I die.

So, besides ripping my heart out, how is the little stinker doing? She’s amazing. And, also, sometimes a beast.

Let me explain.

Up until fairly recently, in a lot of ways raising Vivi was not totally different from having a Tamagotchi. (I’m kidding; it could not be more different. But bear with my hyperbole for the sake of the story.) She had the same three basic needs, and as long as I was able to care for them, she was happy. She felt hungry? I fed her. She was tired? I rocked her to sleep. She pooped? I clicked the toilet button and cleaned it up.

You get the point.

But in the last month, something shifted. In short, Vivi became a person.

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And you know what? People are nothing like Tamagotchis. People get annoyed and take their frustrations out in unhealthy ways. People sometimes just wake up grumpy for no reason. People get bored. People actively choose not to satisfy their needs because they’re feeling ornery.

Vivi is people now.

Which, as you can imagine, can be frustrating. But it’s also really interesting. Having a baby is never boring. The second you think you’ve got this all figured out, you wake up to a new day and a brand new baby complete with new emotions, feelings, and needs. So I’m always figuring Vivi out, whether I like it or not.

Fortunately, most of the time, I like it. It’s amazing watching a baby become a person. Vivi has apparently decided that crawling is not really her bag and has moved straight on to trying to stand up and walk. My heart leaps and my stomach drops every time she pulls herself up on her chubby little legs, always turning to grin at me like, “Did you SEE what I just DID?!”

I see you, baby girl. And yes, you are amazing.

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She’s also “talking” more and more, repeating more words and sounds and getting more communicative with gestures and facial expressions. She has so much personality packed into that tiny little body, and she makes me laugh out loud every single day.

The thing I love most about my little eight-month-old baby, though, is her zest for life. Vivi embodies joie de vivre, and she tackles every day with so much spunk and bravery and happiness. Everywhere we go, she grins her widest smile for anyone who will make eye contact with her, and she’s constantly taking in her surroundings and trying to absorb every detail.

Vivi Bean, I hope your tenacity and curiosity never leave you. 

So, yes, sometimes she is frustrated because she can’t do everything she wants to do. Sometimes she is grumpy because she is tired but doesn’t want to nap. Sometimes she is whiny and needy and this momma doesn’t know what to do with her.

But, most of the time? She continues to be my greatest adventure.

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You guys know how I feel about baby stuff. But you know what is actually one of the most difficult parts of creating a baby registry for your first kid? You honestly have no idea what you will need.

Sure, sure, there are 8,000(,000,000) blog posts out there telling you what you should REALLY register for (cough), but the thing is, until you’ve lived with your baby, you can’t really know which products are going to save your life and which are just going to take up room in your already-too-tiny apartment.

That fact is one of the reasons why I love momma makers. Moms who start their own businesses creating products for other moms just seem to really get it. They’re not trying to make your life harder (you get enough of that from leaky diapers, ya know?); they actually want to solve a real problem you will really have.

Plus, who doesn’t love an entrepreneurial hustler, amiright?

You guys know my friend Haley, maker of the are-we-sure-they’re-not-magic Beluga Baby wraps? Well, through Haley I was connected to Lorene of Glitter & Spice. And what “why didn’t I think of that?” amazingness has Lorene cooked up for moms? Teething. Jewelry.

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Think about it: Little ones will chew on just about anything they can get their chubby little hands on when they’re teething. Necklaces, being that their location puts them in prime grabbing location, are one of the most popular options. So why wouldn’t you wear a necklace that doubled as a safe teether?

But before you start imaging something cheesy strung around your neck, you should know that, um, Lorene’s pieces have been in Vogue, Glamour, and Harper’s Bazaar.

Yeah, they’re that cute.

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She also has traditional teethers in cute shapes, like the super popular Cookie Teether. Trust me, it never stops being hilarious watching people freak out when they think you’re handing your three-month-old an Oreo.

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I won a necklace from Glitter & Spice in an Instagram contest, but I was so charmed (PUNZ) by the products that I couldn’t help but order a second necklace and a bracelet. I can’t even tell you how many times Viv is fussing and I just hand her the bracelet to gum for a while. Instant toys are the best kind of toys.

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And if you’re worried your kid won’t realize your new necklace is actually for them, don’t be. I literally had JUST snapped mine on, and Vivi immediately started chowing down. There’s something about those 100% silicone beads that they can’t ignore.

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Finally, the products are really safe. Lorene uses silicone that is BPA-free and has no phthalates, lead, or PVCs, and the wood beads are organic and untreated. Because you have other things to worry about (see: aforementioned leaky diaper).

Ready for the best part? I have a discount code for you! Enter JUSTINE20 during checkout for 20% off your Glitter & Spice purchase. Who doesn’t love a little savings? Trust me when I tell you they’re worth every penny. (And seriously, did I mention how cute?) Happy shopping!

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*contains affiliate links

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Hands down, one of the best parts of having a baby girl is the clothes. I probably would have enjoyed dressing a boy, too, but as a lover of girl clothes myself, it’s so much fun to style her in dresses, headbands, and bows.

That being said, I never want to be the type of person who forces my kid to wear uncomfortable clothes. Most days, she and I are lounging at home or running errands, so our “style” is pretty laid-back. I also prefer baby clothes that look like an outfit I might wear, as opposed to super matchy-matchy sets.

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That’s why I was so excited when I learned about the Sweet Peanut Clothing Company. This adorable company creates mix-and-match baby separates out of soft, organic cotton. Each piece is a streamlined design for easy, comfortable wear, and I love how most of the patterns are gender neutral. Sweet Peanut releases two new themed lines per year, and they’re all playful and bright.

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Also, this semi-crunchy mom can’t help but love that the fabric is never chemically treated and non-hazardous dyes are used to create the vivid colors.

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Plus, can we talk about how cute the clothes are?

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Of course, a cute model doesn’t hurt either! What are your favorite children’s brands?

*Clothing was provided for a review.

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Today in statements you definitely already knew, I had a baby a little over seven months ago. The experience taught me so much about pretty much everything — myself, my marriage, my friendships, and what was important to me.

It also taught me that there are a lot of clueless (and even downright rude) people out there.

Also, people are kind of cliche — they all like to tell pregnant women the same things over and over.

I’m actually a pretty hard person to offend, so while I wouldn’t say anything anyone said to me actually ruined my day or anything, there are a few things that actually could ruin someone’s day or at the very least stuck in my craw long enough that I’m still thinking about it seven months later.

So in the spirit of spreading the wisdom, I’m sharing the four things that I find it really annoying for people to say to pregnant women/new moms — and what we should all start saying instead.

#1: You should sleep when the baby sleeps.

A) DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO YOU’RE NOT MY DAD. B) Oh, yeah? Should I? So I should not only be able to control my mind and body enough to drop off at will, but I should also just give up on accomplishing anything for the first three months of my child’s life? I don’t know about you, but if I truly slept every time Vivian slept, I would have literally been living in squalor. My husband works full-time, and my mom was only with us for the first couple of weeks. Should we just not have clean clothes or washed dishes or food stuffs? It’s not practical to sleep when the baby sleeps (and your body is so out of wack anyway, you might not be able to), and all it does when people tell you this is reinforce that there is yet another thing you are doing wrong. Not. Helpful.

Instead, say: I’m free tomorrow from two to five, so I’m bringing over dinner. And maybe I can throw in a load of laundry for you if you have any?

(SHE WILL ALWAYS HAVE LAUNDRY. Plus, she might actually take a cat nap if she knows you’re holding the baby and that dinner is taken care of.) Basically, don’t be the person that says, “Let me know if I can help!” Be the person that says, “Here is what I’m doing to help. I gotchu.”)

#2: You’ll never get your body back.

I had about the same reaction to this as I did when I was getting my engagement ring sized and literally three people told me that I shouldn’t size it down to fit because I would definitely gain a bunch of weight after I got married and/or had a baby. So apparently the assumptions start early.

But you know what? I didn’t. And, as someone who has struggled with weight issues in the past, I found statements like this to be almost equivalent to some kind of terminal diagnosis. (I know that probably doesn’t make sense, but weight issues mess with your sense of reason, yo.)

The point is, who are you helping when you say things like this? I truly think most people who said this kind of thing to me meant it in a “don’t beat yourself up if you can’t lose the baby weight — it happens to everyone!” kind of way, but it always, always, always sounds a little bit…mean. Well, maybe not mean, but at the very least like a subtle dig.

And you know what? My body did come back — I actually think my tummy looks better than it did before because I burned up a lot of belly fat whilst pregnant. That isn’t intended to be some loosely veiled humble brag. I’m just saying, you don’t really know how your body will react to pregnancy, so don’t let people stress you out. Pregnant women should take care of their babies and take care of themselves. That’s really all that matters.  

Instead, say: You look amazing! 

(Because she probably does look amazing because pregnant women are gorgeous. And because there has never been a pregnant woman who didn’t want to hear this.)

#3 Hoo-boy, are you in for it!

You know that guy in your office who loves to shoot down ideas during brainstorms by saying things like, “That won’t work” without providing any helpful alternatives? Something about #3 just makes me think of that guy.

Granted, no one actually said the words, “Hoo-boy, are you in for it!” to my when I was pregnant, but I like to think of this for a placeholder for every stereotypical negative remark people make to pregnant women. “You’re going to be so tired!” “Get ready for a lot of screaming!” “Guess this means your social life is over!”

I mean…unless said pregnant woman is new to the planet, I’m pretty sure they have an idea what they’re in for. Like, it’s kind of a thing that newborns don’t sleep for long stretches and cry fairly often and you probably shouldn’t go clubbing as a new mom. But you’re not really helping anything by pointing this out. Especially if this particular pregnant woman is already feeling kind of down or worried about the negative aspects of a new baby.

Instead, say: As soon as you feel up to it, I’m coming over with a bottle of wine and holding your baby while you tell me all the gory details.

What’s that? The negative aspects of a new baby can be funny? Or at least a good story later? Not unlike #2, sometimes a pregnant woman or new mom just needs reinforcement that her life can be similar to how it was before — not just a ribbing reminder of everything that is about to/has just changed. Be the good friend who helps her focus on the positives — and who proves that they’re still your friend despite the changes.

#4 You can’t do that when you’re pregnant/when you have a baby.

There are exactly two exceptions to this rule: 1) if you are the woman’s health care provider, and 2) if you are explicitly asked by said pregnant woman what you think.

Because, you know what? In our culture, pregnant women and moms are dumped on, you guys. We are made to feel like pregnancy and babies are the ultimate burden, and virtually every aspect of becoming a mother is made twice as hard by societal implications. Think about it: Maternity leave rarely comes with pay in this country, meaning women who love their jobs have to choose between leaving young children in daycare or giving up their careers. Public breastfeeding is routinely looked down upon, meaning women are essentially shamed into staying home rather than continuing to live their lives. People make comments like, “You’ll never get your body back,” reminding women that they’re only as good as they look and their contributions as mothers and therefore the creators of future society are valueless. (Or am I the only one hearing that when people say things like, “You’ll never get your body back”?)

The fact is, there are very few things you finitely cannot do when you are pregnant and/or have a new baby. In most cases, even medical professionals agree that all things in moderations are generally fine. (Except, I don’t know…arsenic. But, really, that was probably not a big part of your life before pregnancy anyway.) I’m a fairly crunchy pregnant person/new mom, but what other moms choose to do is their business. If I have opinions, I’m almost always going to keep them to myself. (Unless, you know, you’re trying to eat arsenic. In which case, we will have words.)

Instead, say: How are you feeling?

Because actual concern is always a better place to start — and much more helpful — than judgment. 

Pregnant ladies/new moms out there, what did I miss? What are your least favorite things to hear?

This happens to me a lot. I have a funny anecdote or thought, but it’s not really worth dredging out into a full post. So, instead, I’m just sharing my funny thoughts. That you may or may not also find funny. Enjoy.

Oh, Canada.
Fact: Canadians are the nicest people. (Honestly, it might just be the accent. It’s almost impossible for them to sound mean.) But also, they are just a very sincere, kind people. If you don’t believe me, I humbly submit exhibit A to the court: I once heard two Canadian guys having an argument in which one of them was literally threatening to STAB the other guy’s DOG , but if you were just judging by tones and expressions you probably would have thought they were two roommates disagreeing about which Netflix series to binge next. If that conversation had happened in New York, it would have ended in a triple homicide and a trending Twitter hashtag. Heck, if two roommates disagree about which Netflix series to binge next in New York, it can end in a triple homicide and a trending Twitter hashtag. Canadians are the nicest; game, set, match, eh?

Et tu, sourdough?
I started using natural deodorant full-time recently. I’ve tried this in the past but with, I’ll be honest, a lot of failure. What I’m saying is that I sweat a lot. Natural deodorant doesn’t seem able to handle that. But I found a brand I like recently called Bubble and Bee (after it was recommended by a blog commenter!). And I also learned from friends (who know these kinds of things) that part of the reason why I sweat so much is because of how much bread I eat. To which I’m kind of like, what’s up with that, bread? First, there was the whole carb debacle of the early 2000s. And now this whole sweating thing? What did I ever do to you? BESIDES LOVE YOU.

Mommy craziest.
Have you ever tried reasoning with a seven-month-old? I mean, really, I have these moments where I’m looking at the baby and she’s holding the spoon that I’m trying to feed her with in her chubby little death grip, and I’m trying to pull the spoon away, and we’re just, like, staring each other down while I’m saying things like, “No, sweetie pie, give Mama the spoon. If you don’t give me the spoon, you can’t keep eating and you’ll be hungry again too soon. And you’re going to just splatter food everywhere, which will make more work for Mama.” And she’s just looking at me, like, not even like, “I don’t understand what you’re saying,” but like she does understand and she’s just thinking nonsense thoughts back. “Spoon dorsal fin rainbows and puppy dogs carpet.” And I’m honestly trying to think of what I can say to get through. These moments make you start to question your insanity.

Recently, I had a small stress spiral.

I started to say I had a meltdown or panic attack or something equally dramatic, but, for one, I don’t want to make light of actual panic attacks and two, it wasn’t nearly so overt or overblown.

What happened was, I came to the sudden and almost paralyzing realization that I have a lot on my plate.

SURPRISE, self!

This probably should not have been as shocking as it was. I’ve got a husband, an almost-seven-month-old, three secular jobs, an apartment to take care of, spiritual responsibilities, friendships to maintain…it’s a lot. But, listen, we’ve all got our ways of dealing with stress. And if mine includes a healthy dose of denial, that’s my business.

And it probably didn’t help that I was coming off a week of vacation and a 24-hour flu, both of which rendered me exhausted and had set me back in terms of what I was able to accomplish on my to-do list. The point is, it all hit me hard and I ended up staying up until 2 a.m. one night catching up.

Because that’s how your brain works when you’re stressed: You’re so worried about being exhausted that you stay up late and get five hours of sleep. Perfect plan.

You’ll be pleased to know (unless you’re, I don’t know, a sadist) that I ultimately got it together. Everything on the list got done. And while I’m still feeling the effects of sleep deprivation a bit (you never really catch up, do you?), I’m a little less panicked about everything I’ve got going on.

It’s just…well, it’s hard being a work-at-home mom. There are days when, even though everything is getting crossed off, you’re just not doing anything all that well. There are days when writing deadlines get pushed back because I had to reschedule source interviews because Vivi didn’t take a nap as planned. There are days I find myself responding to emails one-handed while I play blocks with Viv with the other.

I would love to tell you I spend every single breastfeeding session staring lovingly into my daughter’s eyes, but, honestly, sometimes I’m posting a new photo on a brand’s Instagram account.

And sometimes I feel guilty about that. And others, I feel totally okay with it because it’s these jobs that mean I am home breastfeeding my daughter instead of pumping in an office somewhere so I can leave milk with the daycare attendants. Because I’m sure I would feel a whole other kind of guilt if that were the case.

Because the fact is, motherhood almost invariably means guilt about something.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the guilt and the responsibilities ever since my semi-all-nighter, and here’s what I’ve come up with:

I’m probably always going to feel bad about something. Even if I wasn’t working at all, I would most likely not always be 100 percent on as a mom. I would have tired days where I would be a lazy mom. I would have irritable days where I would be an impatient mom. I would have drained days where I would be a boring mom. But I think as long as I’m still being Vivi’s mom, I can make my peace with my imperfections.

And I have to remind myself that these are not new or unique feelings — every mom feels this way at some point about something. So…maybe I can just let it go. I can just keep doing, rather than let myself get caught up in the thinking.

Because I’m doing this. I’m being Vivi’s mom, and I’m working and taking care of my home and maintaining my relationships. If I’m doing it perfectly or not, I don’t know. (Probably not because, ya know, I’m not perfect. I know, I’m really sorry to shatter that charade.) But I don’t think perfection matters in this case. I’m doing my best, and my daughter is happy and healthy.

And that sounds pretty perfect to me.