Expecting the Unexpected: the Importance of a Shower

Within 48 hours of returning home from the hospital I realized that showers weren’t just a “nice-to-have” but an absolute necessity. I know, I know. Bathing is an everyday occurrence in our society – why is it so important now that you have a newborn at home? For so many reasons, dear reader – so many!

For one thing, I was nursing Vivi, and the early days were rough. She nursed around 3.5 – 4 hours total a day, and that didn’t count hours spent working on her latching skills, burping her, or cuddling during a mid-nursing nap. All told, we spent most of our waking hours in my favorite armchair, now affectionately known as the “nursing chair”. Those were precious moments, but let me tell you, it could be exhausting.

I also had a mean case of “the new mommy”. Even with my own mother – arguably the best mom there ever was – I was always lurking around the corner or hovering nearby. “Does Vivi need me?”, I’d ask. I couldn’t stand to miss a single diaper change or snuggle, and every little cry signaled to me, Vivian needs her mommy right away!

Additionally, as most parents know, it’s a dirty job. At some point in the day you will be spit up on, slobbered on, or otherwise slimed with an unmentionable fluid.

Here’s where the shower comes in.

Not only did it wash away all the yuck, it was like a sensory deprivation tank. The water and fan blocked out all other sounds. No whimpers or cries triggered my overactive mommy reflex. And though I loved holding my baby close, it was nice to be alone. In the sweet quiet of white noise, I could finally relax and let go.

After a shower, I felt more awake, less in a fog. I felt happier and more “together”. And when I had time to blow dry my hair afterwards, I even felt pretty again. Seriously – I cannot stress the restorative power of a shower enough. It got me through the roughest patches of the first few weeks.

Now, ten weeks into mommyhood, I no longer need a shower to feel relaxed, but I would tell every new parent: it is so important to give yourself at least 10 minutes of uninterrupted “me” time a day. Take a shower, go for a walk, read your favorite magazine. You and your baby both will reap the benefits.

Expecting the Unexpected: Sleep Arrangements

So, long before baby Vivi was born, Brad and I had “the talk”. Parents, y’all know the talk I’m referencing… the talk where you convince each other that having a baby won’t disrupt your life that much. [If this wool-over-eyes exercise didn’t exist, people wouldn’t have babies.]

One of the big concerns we both had was sleep. I’m an eights hours of sleep a night kind of gal. Brad can get by on less, but we have both been known to sleep until noon on more than one occasion (give or take a thousand).

We collectively decided that the family, including baby V, would sleep best if Vivi slept in her own room from day one. We invested in two monitors: an audio monitor to pick up even the smallest of sighs and a video monitor for late night “she’s too quiet, let’s check on her” panic sessions.

For the first month everything went as planned. Vivi didn’t sleep much (no surprise there) but when she did sleep, she slept in her crib in her room. As time passed, however, it became increasingly hard to put her down. She would go from a deep sleep to wide awake the minute her back touched the mattress. Or the rare times that she did stay asleep, you would crawl into bed, only to see the dreaded blue bars on the audio monitor jump as she noisily awoke. It was as if she was biding her time until the moment you relaxed and began to doze… then BAM! She was wide awake again, the little trickster.

Seriously, though – all things considered, it wasn’t that bad. Brad was on paternity leave, so I had plenty of help at night. We agreed to rotate two hour shifts (so at least one of us was getting some much-needed rest). Even if Vivi slept in your arms the whole shift (meaning you didn’t sleep at all), it wasn’t too bad as you knew the two hours would end eventually, and your relief would clock in.

The trouble came when Brad went back to work and I found myself on baby duty alone at nights. After three nights of a 30 minute nap here and there, I was beginning to look and feel worse for the wear. I tried to nap with Vivian during the day, but when you have to choose between eating or sleeping, you will opt to forego sleep for sustenance at least once or twice.

Night four arrived. I remember sitting in Vivi’s bedroom looking longingly at the guest bedroom’s soft bed right down the hall. I made a decision. I’d tuck Vivi safely into her bouncy chair right next to the bed, and I’d rest for just five minutes. Then something magical happened. Once in her bouncy seat, Vivi drifted off to sleep… and slept four hours straight! I woke up again and again, shocked to find that she was still sleeping. I felt like a new woman the next day!

Friday night rolled around, and we started the shifts again. Back in the crib for Vivi, and everyone was getting less sleep. Once the weekend ended, I made the executive decision – if Vivi slept well in the bouncy chair, I was willing to give it a shot.

For whatever reason, it worked! Maybe it’s because the bouncy is elevated, and it helps her mild reflux and snuffy nose. Maybe the cradle position makes her feel cozy. Maybe she just likes sleeping in the same room as Mommy.

Regardless of the reason, Vivi has been sleeping in her bouncy nightly for the last 5 weeks. And she sleeps great – but that’s a bragging session for another post. Not only that – I sleep great too. I’m a notoriously light sleeper, but I seem to sleep right through her “fluff” noises and only awake when she is truly fussing. Brad, on the other hand, seems to wake up more often during the night, and he normally can sleep through anything!

Funny how things work out, isn’t it?I know I should try the crib again soon, but I’m not pushing it. All in good time, right?

The thrill of it all

Though this blog will cover more than just parenting, one of my main reasons for writing is to document and share my experience as a new parent – the highs, the lows, and everything in between. As I was musing over what it means to be a parent, the word “adventure” kept popping up, and I found myself pondering the meaning of the word. My solution was (no surprise) to google it. Here’s what I found.

ad·ven·ture
Pronunciation: \əd-ˈven-chər\
1 : an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks
2 : an exciting or remarkable experience
3 : an enterprise involving financial risk

Man oh man, doesn’t that hit the nail on the head? Becoming a parent is no doubt one of life’s great adventures. There’s something new around every corner, and no matter how much you try to prepare, you will be surprised.

If you know me, you know I’m a planner extraordinaire. When I learned I was expecting our first baby, I bought or borrowed book after book on child birth, child care, sleep training, and breastfeeding. There were lists – oh, were there ever – and I asked questions of all the moms in my life, young and not-so-young. In the end, nothing really prepares you for parenting.

I thought I was a wimp when it came to pain (I didn’t have a clue). I thought I knew what “sleep deprivation” was (I didn’t have a clue). I thought I knew love (I didn’t have a clue).

In just two short months, I learned that I’m brave and much stronger than I ever would have expected. I learned that when sleep deprived, you can forget people’s names, even people you’ve known for years. I’ve learned that you can love someone so much that you feel your heart near-bursting with joy.

And so begins a little post series I like to call, “Expecting the Unexpecting”. Every so often, I’ll post about an unplanned turn of events in my journey as a parent. First up: sleep arrangements.