What seasoned moms think you should know about having a new baby

When I started writing for Trying To Conceive, I was juggling a baby and a toddler and hoping to have another one very soon. Passionate about everything from using cervical mucus to find out when youre really fertile (it works!!!) and natural childbirth to baby carriers and breastfeeding, I was tremendously excited to share the world in which I had landed — the new mom world — with women who were just about to walk that path.

My miscarriages and fertility were just behind me. I felt so incredibly blessed to be the mother of not one, but two sweet kiddos. It was a blessing I didnt take for granted. Though I was committed to spending the unique phase of early childhood with my children, I also missed the intellectual challenge one can only find at work with other adults. Sharing my blog posts with readers here gave me an outlet I really enjoyed, and that could also help other people.

Time has passed now, and I find myself in other waters along with many friends. Because Im getting older, and I have some medical issues, and my other half is pretty sure he doesnt want any more babies (sob!), my no-longer-baby kids will probably be IT for me, childbearing-wise. From this perspective, my views have changed. Some things that didnt matter much back then matter more now, and others that were all-important then are irrelevant now.

No matter how many kids you will end up having, youll also inevitably end up in that post-having babies stage of your life. Are you trying to conceive your first now, or have you recently become a mother? Id like to show you how I feel about the roller coaster of trying to conceive, being pregnant, and mothering young babies a few years down the line (my babies are eight and six years old now).

It IS wonderful — even the sleepless nights

Both my babies cried, but especially the second. There were moments at which I just needed that to stop, and yet it didnt. I was so happy when my husband was at home for a long period of time (he travels for work rather a bit), so I could sleep instead of walking around with the baby. I remember feeling isolated from the rest of the world, wishing with great vigour that some of my childless friends would invite me to have a coffee or lunch, to talk about dating and work and stuff.

I remember being anxious when my babies had a fever, and especially when my daughter fell off the bed (I had no idea she could turn over by herself) and I was convinced something was wrong with her brain. I remember having to carry a heavy and overpriced travel system up many stairs because the lift was broken, and being utterly exhausted when I finally reached the top floor on which we lived. (Husband bought me a baby carrier after that!) I remember stress over potty training, and delayed speech, and grandmas complaining I didnt put socks on my babies in summer.

I also remember the unique baby-head smell, the breastfeeding, the snuggles, the first smiles, the snuggles, the private moments with those babies late at night when everyone else was asleep, and the tiny little clothes. It was wonderful. All of it. Even the stuff that caused me stress back then.

Mommy wars dont matter

Before I became a mom, I enjoyed a good dose of politics. That didnt prepare me for the radical feelings so many moms have about so many issues, from how someone gives birth, to whether they breastfeed or bottle feed, whether they enroll their babies in reading programs, and whether they stay at home or go to work.

Those things mattered, because I needed to be Sure I made the Right Choice. Whether I did or not, my kids arent just alive but also thriving now. So are the kids of moms who made completely different choices. In some cases, friendships were lost over vaccinations vs no vaccinations and other stupid stuff like that. The bottom line is that if youre making choices that are right for your family, knowing all the pros and cons and sometimes not even that, everything is dandy. Your infant care practices matter nothing to anyone outside of your own family. Dont lose sleep over that. On a similar note, what others you know and dont know (online!) do with their babies is none of your business. Unless they are doing something truly abusive. Hint: Formula feeding is not abusive.

It passes. way too quickly

It does. Youll be stuck with a hopefully wonderful adolescent soon. Remember that baby-head smell. And those kicks you get from inside your uterus. And the crying. And the simplicity of it all.

Dont lose yourself

That one speaks for itself, doesnt it? I did lose myself a bit. I forgot about all the things I really enjoyed, including clean hair and make-up, but also reading Hegel and visiting art exhibitions. Dont do that if you can help it. Yes, taking a hiatus is pretty much inevitable unless youre wealthy and have a live-in nanny, but dont forget about the things you really enjoy. Yes, that may also include all-night wine-fueled conversations with your significant other. Those are important.

Youre really not that important

I remember a point at which I sincerely believed everything that went wrong was my fault or I could impact everything. Among the most embarrassing was a time at which my cat peed in my babys stroller and I only noticed after we left the house with the baby in the stroller. OK. That one may have been my fault. Dont judge, pregnant women. Something like that WILL happen to you too.

I fault it was my fault my firstborn wouldnt potty train easily, that my second kids teeth turned out weirdly, that my kids fought with each other and pulled each others hair, and that they preferred chocolate to organic green smoothies. Most of these things are just normal, and youll find a way to deal with them. Nurture, loving and guiding your kids, is extremely important. When they do that annoying thing your husband or mom always does, its probably nature though, something that is just as important. Reading to your baby in utero wont make them love Tolstoy, so if they dont want to tackle that in High School, its probably not because you didnt do this. In a big way, kids are just who they are regardless of what you personally do or dont do.

Could you have a fertility problem

You’ve done everything “right” — since you and your partner have been trying for a baby, you’ve taken folic acid, eaten a healthy diet, and exercised regularly. Neither of you smokes or drinks, and you either have lots of intercourse or know when you ovulate so you know you’re intimate during the fertile window.
Still, you’ve been waiting for that elusive positive pregnancy test for what seems like ages. A few times, your period was late and you thought that you finally hit the fertility jackpot. A few other times, you were very tired and your partner started talking you into believing you were pregnant. The months are whizzing by, and you certainly do your bit to make pregnancy happen.

So, why don’t you have a baby on the way yet, Could you have a fertility problem,Your age and your fertility
It’s true that the vast majority of couples who are actively trying to conceive get pregnant within a year, but statistics aren’t everything. You have a certain chance of conceiving during any one menstrual cycle, and that chance depends on your age among other things. Once you are in your thirties, your egg quality already starts to decline slowly. Your forties are another story entirely — you may not even ovulate every month any more.
Age is the single most common cause of infertility, and one that happens to every woman (and most men, too) eventually. Having said that, it’s important to note that trying to conceive may take longer for older couples than those in their early twenties. You actually have more reason to suspect infertility if you are not pregnant after six months in your twenties than you do in your thirties and forties.
This is meant to be encouraging for older couples, but doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s perfectly legitimate to seek medical assistance if you are not pregnant after 12 months of trying — no matter what your age. It is up to you and your partner when to seek out fertility testing, but if you are in your late thirties or early forties, time is indeed of the essence.

Do you have any risk factors for infertility
It is always good to see your doctor before you start trying to get pregnant, for a general preconception checkup. This checkup might weed out medical problems that could interfere with your chances of getting pregnant as well as your potential baby’s health. Sexually transmittable diseases that do not have symptoms (chlamydia, particularly) could go undiagnosed for many years without you having any idea you have them. If you do have an STD, you want to know about it. Couples who are trying to conceive and haven’t gone through STD testing yet can still seize the opportunity and do so now.
You may also be aware of existing medical conditions. Irregular menstrual cycles can point to issues that could prevent you from getting pregnant, such as a hormonal imbalance (see . Any abdominal surgery, including appendicitis, can also lead to fertility problems — if you have had any surgery, look into it further.
Then, there are the more obvious culprits. Women who have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, fibroids, an past chlamydia or Pelvic Inflammatory Disease diagnosis, cysts… all of these things are risk factors for infertility. They indicate that you have every right to seek medical attention now, even if you haven’t been trying to conceive for a full 12 months yet.
Not getting pregnant can be due to many different factors. They include poor lifestyle choices or nutrition (you’ve already looked into that), simply having sex at the wrong time of the month (you have probably looked into that one too), and female fertility problems. Could you have a fertility problem, Yes, you could. But never neglect the possibility that your partner could be facing a fertility problem too.
In practical terms, this means you should both go to the doctor when you make that initial fertility appointment. Risk factors for male infertility include erectile dysfunction, trouble ejaculating, and overheating the testicles through constant hot baths or laptops in his lap. Vigorous biking can do the same thing. Testicular surgery is another possible cause, as are many chronic diseases including diabetes.

10 family activity ideas for the weekend


Many parents feel obligated to come up with wonderful, fun activities during the weekend. Spending time together as a family, and reconnecting, is wonderful… but it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. What activities can you do regardless of your financial status, or what kinds of facilities there are in your neighborhood, Here are 10 of our favorite family activities.
Credit: Teapics via Flickr Creative Commons
1. Going for a walk together
It sounds boring, but walking together has a lot to offer — physical exercise, fresh air, a chance to chat with your kids and partner, and renewed energy. When my kids were really little (even littler than they are now), the thought of “going for a walk” every day, as people in the country I live in seem to think is the proper mom/housewife type of thing to do, made me want to run away screaming. Now, we do it fairly regularly, and it’s fun. We grab a hot chocolate when it’s cold, and an ice cream during the summer.
2. Clean up
The weekends provide a great opportunity to clean and tidy your house, as a family. Doing those chores together can make the process fun, and you’ll be so happy to sit down after, and enjoy your lovely home. If you want to go a step further, why not organize a “clean up the neighborhood” event, This teaches your kids to be responsible citizens of the earth, and may help you connect with neighbors.
3. Go to the movies
See a movie on the big screen! Almost every child loves the cinema, and if you choose your film well, it will be fun for you too.
4. Something creative
Depending on the ages and interests of your children, of course. A friend of mine recently built a huge wooden trebuchet from scratch, together with his four sons. After they were done (something that took several weekends), they invited all their mates to launch water balloons with their new siege “weapon”. But playing with clay and baking the results in the oven, drawing a portrait of someone, or teaching your child how to use a sewing machine are ideas too.
5. Go to a house of worship
Even if you don’t believe, visiting different houses of worship can be very educational. You can even visit a few different ones, either during the same weekend or spread out over several weeks. Then discuss the differences in the way they worship, and how the house of worship made you feel.
6. Play games
If you have small kids, games like hide and seek, I spy with my little eye, or just running around, are bound to make them happy. My kids are always begging me to play hide and seek with them, and I make a point of doing what they want during the weekends. Board games can be fun, even if you have teenagers (well, for some teenagers, anyway).
7. Enjoy good food
Cook an elaborate meal, or have your husband or kids make you one! Or order take-out, if that’s what you like. If you make a point of always enjoying some special meal during the weekend, the foodie in all your family members will have something to look forward to. We like to have a sit-down meal together, usually with three courses. It helps us realize the weekend is different from the rest of the week, when we’re too rushed to have an elaborate meal.
8. Swimming
Most people will have a public swimming pool in the neighborhood. Why not use the weekend as a chance to check out yours,
9. Nature appreciation
Go bird watching, bug hunting, frog catching, or something similar. Find out what species live in your area. If there is a patch of nature, like woods, a lake, or a nice park, near you, go and enjoy the scenery. And take pictures.
10. Interactive games
If you really have to use the TV or computer, why not play Wii sports games with your kids or partner, It does use a screen, but at least it gives you some exercise and it also encourages family bonding.

What is sleep training with a baby?

Everyone, including people who have never even seen a newborn, knows that babies tend to have erratic sleep patterns. They will sleep most of the day in the newborn stage but all that sleep doesn’t do you, the parent, much good when you are trying to catch some sleep during the night, only to be greeted by an awake baby time and time again. The concept of a baby “sleeping through the night” is extremely popular among parents for obvious reasons. And that is where sleep training comes in. Because small babies will not, generally, start sleeping through the night all by themselves.

How does one sleep-train a baby?

There are several methods that are popularly used, including “Ferberizing”. All infant sleep training methods involve allowing a baby to cry himself to sleep, for longer or shorter stretches of time, and with or without a parent next to the baby.  This is known as “Cry It Out“. The idea is that the baby will learn to self soothe and a clear schedule will be established, in which the baby goes to sleep at a certain time and will hopefully sleep through the night.

Advantages

The advantages are hopefully more sleep for the parents, and a baby who will go to sleep without having to be rocked or driven around for long periods.

Disadvantages

Babies do not usually sleep through the night for a very good biological reason – their tummy is too small to process large amounts of food at once, and they need to eat and eliminate throughout the day and night. Opponents of sleep training with infants say that babies fall asleep after a “cry it out” period because the baby learns that her needs are not going to be met, and she may as well stop. The other disadvantage is that it is not nice to listen to your baby cry himself to sleep. If your instincts tell you to pick your baby up, even when your newborn just won’t sleep, you should probably listen to them.

When can I start wearing my baby in a carrier?

Baby carriers come in many forms  – from soft structured carriers to mei tais and ring slings. They all have one thing in common though, and that is that they allow parents to carry their baby easily and conveniently. If you are expecting a baby at the moment, or are parenting a newborn, you are probably curious when you can start wearing your baby in a carrier. Depending on the carrier you choose to use, the answer is immediately after birth! So, let’s take a look at what the best baby carriers for newborns are.

Stay away from bag slings

First, I’d like to point out that one of the most well-known bag slings, the Infantino Sling Rider, was recalled from the market last year after several babies suffocated and died in one. Though some other bag slings are still for sale, this type of baby carrier can force your baby into a shape that makes him or her unable to breathe. Because the baby hangs away from the parent, and is quite low down, it is sometimes not possible to notice this immediately, especially when your baby is sleeping. Just don’t risk this, and stay away from bag slings.

Pouch slings and ring slings

The hot daddy in the picture above is carrying his baby in a pouch sling. This type of sling is practical for newborns, as it allows them to be carried in the so-called cradle hold. Later on, when your baby is a toddler, you can have them sit in the sling on your hip. This type of sling is not good for people who have shoulder problems, as all the weight literally goes to one shoulder. They are ideal for short trips. Ring slings are similar to pouches, with the difference that you can make them longer and shorter with the adjustable rings.

Mei tais

A mei tai is a traditional Asian baby carrier. It is what I used for my son from birth to about a year, and we were both extremely happy with it. Newborns get snuggled into a mei tai in “froggy style” with their legs crossed, like in the fetal position. Look for a mei tai that has a good amount of head support for newborns, like a Baby Hawk. Mei tais distribute the baby’s weight evenly among the shoulders and the hips, making it a great option for long rides. With one of these, you can wear your baby on your front or back. They are very versatile.

Soft structured carriers

Perhaps the Baby Bjorn is most famous and easily found in a store. They are not suitable from birth though. The Ergo baby carrier can be used with a newborn, as long as you use an infant insert, which can be bought from their website. The Ergo and similar options are much like a mei tai, but work with buckles instead of the long ties a mei tai has. They can also be used on front or back, and the Ergo has a sleeping hood that allows your baby to sleep in comfort. This is my favorite carrier because it has thick, padded straps and can be used from newborn to toddler – at two years and a couple of months, my son still happily rides in it. It does not hurt my back, at all!