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As one of my dear friends gets set to end maternity leave soon, I am going back to a reflection I wrote long ago. I hope most moms and dads are easier on themselves than I once was. . . .
I remember being on maternity leave one of those days breastfeeding in front of the TV and watching an interview with Soleil Moon Frye (moonfrye.com), the child actress from my youth who played Punky Brewster. She wrote a book called Happy Chaos which came out right after my first baby (I have never read it however). I clearly remember her saying, “Embrace the chaos,” and I really felt like she was crazy. My life was totally different than before. The life of this little creature was all in my hands and it made me feel out of control. I used to be pretty much in control of my life and now it seemed I never would get it back. How could I embrace the chaos?
If I was not embracing the chaos, it was most lovingly embracing me.
I felt so much love for my new baby, more love than I’d ever felt in my whole life (and still do). I could spend hours just holding him, and because he could actually breastfeed for a whole hour at a time, I had to sit for hours holding him. But I also still felt tied to doing things like making amazing food, being an attentive wife, getting ready to go back to work and keep up with all the things I was missing at work.
The thought of paying bills and hosting all the people who wanted to come over and visit my baby made me want to cry. So I cried sometimes . . . sometimes a lot. And even though I thought it was crazy, the phrase, “Embrace the chaos” stuck with me. Obviously, not everything is chaos, but with children, I have learned to let go of some things. I try to make it easier on myself which sometimes requires asking for help, something I am not always good at.
Some things that have made my life easier: pre-cooked bacon, take-out coupons, and ground coffee. I used to buy the beans and grind them. I loved the smell, but with breast pumping, washing bottles, measuring milk and packing it every day for daycare, the smallest time saving innovation feels like a lifesaver. I’ve listed many of them on my Recommendations Page. Keep in mind that I didn’t have to buy all of these things on my own . . . as you read on you will discover many of them were given to me by friends.
Another big help was the Beco Gemini Baby Carrier I used to own, but have now passed on to a dear colleague. While reading up on baby carriers, I learned NOT to purchase one before the baby is born. I took that advice to heart and test drove many options at our local baby store, the Little Seedling. The people there were super helpful about finding the most comfortable carrier for me and my first born, which worked just as well for my second. You have to make sure you can put it on by yourself for doing things like grocery shopping. I also really enjoyed vacuuming with my oldest attached to me on the baby carrier. If you go to sporting events, the baby carrier is also a must.
By this time, I also have a Pinterest Board full of easier-to-make recipes for busy moms and dads. I remember the days of sitting the babies in the bouncy chair in the kitchen, playing music to them and singing while I cooked. While I am working full time as a teacher, I also allow myself one day of take-out for the family per week. Look for future posts about good take-out spots and coupons.
My other source of stress, the amount of people I felt I had to host with a new baby could not really be avoided. People naturally want to see your baby, love babies, want to hold babies. But don’t be afraid to ask them for help. Many of my friends also reached out to me. They brought me food. They made food for me in my own kitchen. My mom and sisters-in-law would come over, hold my baby for hours while I did crazy things like sleep or try to make homemade ricotta lemon pancakes with blueberry syrup. Sometimes they would clean for me.
Honestly, I also felt overwhelmed with all the gifts and hand-me downs too. My wonderful co-workers threw me a beautiful shower and after carrying everything into our tiny condo, I remember looking at the bags lined up on the floor and feeling completely exasperated. How could I even use all this stuff? One of the retired teachers filled about three large shopping bags with garage sale finds. I got it all packed away in the nursery.
A couple of months later, my friends Luis and Ingrid (another Mama + 2 Muchachos) gave me almost everything from their nursery: Bassinet, bouncy chair, swing, clothes, towels, almost anything you could imagine filled the back of my dad’s truck. I will never forget getting home, getting it out, and furiously organizing it all while my husband told me to relax. It took most of the afternoon and evening, but that’s the incredible nesting instinct. As soon as I sat down to rest, I went into labor. And I have used about 99% of the hand-me-downs and garage sale items. They were such a big help! So take them! Take them all! And don’t be exasperated or overwhelmed. At least TRY not to be! And when you are done with all the things you used for baby, lovingly pass them down to the next mama who needs help.