The Happy Sacrifices of a Mama

It feels a bit audacious to entitle this post with that line.

What mom wouldn’t give all for her kids, if she could?

It’s not what the dreamy romantic younger version of myself thought of first when I dreamed of having a family one day, to be honest.

As the dream come true unfolds, the grace comes, too.

But what hard thing doesn’t require sacrifice?

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Our announcement photoshoot for baby #1, our son! Photo Credit: Dana Christine Photography

When I first became a mama, first found out I was expecting within, things got devastatingly worrisome for me, very fast.

I didn’t expect to find myself bleeding and cramping at 6 weeks pregnant, while waiting for prenatal care to start at 10 weeks.

I didn’t realize those are the symptoms of a miscarriage, at first, but then I did and it was scary!

I desperately tried to find a healthcare professional to help make sense of what was going on.

I prayed a lot.

I tried the first option for healthcare and found myself even more worried, with no answers.

I tried the second option that had such strict rules, there was no help at all for me.

The third was a previously scheduled appointment to “just see” if a home birth could be right for me.

I don’t know why I even looked that option up. I always knew my mom had three home births out of 4, but I didn’t know if I had it in me!

Some part of me stretched to imagine the hopeful end of this pregnancy and wondered if I could really make it through contractions with no option for pain relief medication.

Here I was, the girl who just thought how cute my belly would look rounded. And how fun it would be to get cute maternity clothes!

And yet, here I was, the girl who took a natural pregnancy course to prepare years ahead of even being ready to start having children.

Who took a prenatal multivitamin because I was of child-bearing age.

Who tried her best to get her health in order.

I went to the home birth appointment and immediately found support.

Immediately, I was taken seriously AND someone could help.

I was sent to an ultrasound to check for the baby.

I was given a test to see what my progesterone levels were and found out they were almost nothing within a few days.

Our hearts leapt with joy & relief as we saw our little one’s strong heartbeat on ultrasound at just 6 weeks pregnant. (This technician had years in the field, had opened her own practice and specialized in high risk pregnancies- but even then it was super early to see the heartbeat, not a possibility to hear it yet).

But they plummeted as I continued to bleed and cramp through the weekend.

I held onto that ultrasound, knowing there was a real possibility it could be the only picture I’d ever have of this child.

We got the results quickly about the low progesterone and the midwife I had just met was able to refer me to a doctor who prescribed progesterone injections and pills.

My husband became my nurse and was the most amazing.

I barely had bruises that are common at the injection site from how excellent he was at administering the shots! We were pretty shocked with that new responsibility- who knew so many women go through that to have a baby?!

I did however, have excruciating hip nerve pain. I could hardly put any pressure on them. I talked about this with those I was close with, but a new feeling in all of this was a feeling of being alone. I wonder how many other pregnant mamas feel this way?!

I was in a ballet program, at the height of my dreams to finally go en pointe and dancing 6 hours a week.

I had the best abs of my life 😉 And quickly took a picture in case I never saw those things again!

But every time I did a class, I had miscarriage symptoms or excruciating pain I didn’t understand. I so badly wanted to be the girl who did ballet up until birth.

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7 months pregnant with our first!

It took me 33 weeks to finally realize it wasn’t working for my body.

(I took a break until the second trimester then came back full force).

So, enter the progesterone shots that made me so severely ill I threw up more times in a day than I could count. All my favorite foods were out.

I was in survival mode. Survive and let this baby survive.

And…he did!!!!!

And he was worth every second. But that was so hard and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.

After his homebirth you can read about here, I finally realized I’d been experiencing symphysis pubic dysfunction (SPD). That was the reason for the clicking and the barely being able to walk after ballet class or walk up hills, or even open doors without the pain.

After his birth, I took it easy and around 9 months postpartum, I did a workout program with Beachbody called 21 Day Fix. I craved that intense athlete type of burn that I’d experienced as a ballerina.

But I still couldn’t lift my legs in a grand battement or any of the positions of ballet without intense pain.

So, for the first time in my life, I branched out into weight training and cardio. Those boring things that non-dancers did! 🙂

It was the MOST fun!

At 10 months postpartum with my first, we became pregnant with our second.

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And I avoided over-exercising completely so I would stay far away from that incredible pain of SPD. I had a great pregnancy (if you can just easily say something as hard as carrying a growing person for 9 months is great-  for me it was AND it was so challenging)!

I was so in love with our little girl growing in the belly while being completely in love with our son who was soon to become a sibling, unbeknownst to him!

Her amazing birth came and you can read about it here!

I had taken up a light workout in the last 4 weeks of pregnancy because I couldn’t take it any longer and figured I’d made it this long without having a flare-up, and I couldn’t sleep unless I worked out at least a bit each day.

The birth was great on me physically, so at 4 weeks postpartum, I came back to movement.

And 6 weeks postpartum, I did some postnatal workouts.

I puffed up to the highest weight I’ve ever been I thoroughly enjoyed my maternity leave with baby Eilah and didn’t focus on anything stressful. I was pretty much high on happy essential oils and her sweetness and baking anything I wished; it was the sweetest 6 weeks ever!

Then real life hit and I could barely do it. Two babies at different stages + working was just all I could figure out, and I could never figure it out. It just got done somehow! I tried my very best!

I finally realized I needed a new tool to fight anxiety and down feelings that I’d successfully fought off with other forms of self care- ie, sharing my heart and life with Jesus & family, Epsom salt baths & essential oils.

So I went back to Beachbody workouts and started Morning Meltdown 100. It was neat timing because that program was just coming out at 5 months postpartum and it was set to music, so I felt like it was *my* program!

It added so much to my life! A feeling of confidence, a sense of having control over our days & my health, and those feel good hormones! (I know quite a few amazing coaches if you need a referral!)

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Using baby girl as a “weight” on vacation!

But I had to take it so very slowly and any time I tried anything special with my diet, our breastfeeding relationship suffered.

So I had to let the idea of a “perfect-diet-that-would-magically-make-me-lose-weight” go.

I was heavy, couldn’t eat dairy on top of my regular gluten free diet and it wasn’t fun to be eating so healthy but weighing so much.

At least the workouts made me feel responsible in that area, even though nothing seemed to change.

I don’t know…I guess I’m at the end of the blog here.

Since writing this originally, I’ve done a juice fast this past week. It was lovely & tough and it was just so fun to do something big for detox & my health. I had to cut it shorter than I wished, but it’s okay- mom energy comes first! I really felt in tune with my body like I haven’t in forever & it was so sweet. Also, non-caffeinated Ailene was super fun. (Like when I went to the Post Office & walked out with 3 unpaid packing envelopes to get a pen- then realized it and ran back inside! Maybe the workers watched the whole thing through the huge windows ☺️)

My baby girl is 17 months and we are weaned a little over 2 weeks today.

My journey of letting so many things go and surrendering to so many things happening to my body has come to a new chapter.

Parenthood is funny…any area that I ever used to let slide, I realize that I’m letting it slide now and my kids are growing up to have memories that are affected by that.

If I don’t do dishes today, at some point, we won’t have clean ones to eat off tomorrow. Not a big deal if it happens once or twice, but if it’s regular, that will be their normal! Yikes!

I’ve had to let things go SO much but for the first time in forever (oh wait, right this isn’t a Frozen singalong)…for the first time in a long time I have a sense of self.

I’ve been pregnant or breastfeeding for 3 years & 9 months. (and both for 4 of those). Not the longest I’ve ever heard of, but I’m still amazed I was able to do that.

And one of the things I’ve received back in this past week is the ability to dance without abnormal pain, again.

I didn’t know if that would ever happen for me!

But if I could say one thing in closing?

I think our lives, in a lot of ways, are going to be better than we ever dreamed.

In a time when it’s easy, even prudent to focus on the concerns and fears, let’s not forget all the treasures right in front of us.

“Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.”- Eleanor Roosevelt

Xoxo,

Ailene

p.s. “If circumstances were a person, we could look them in the eyes and say, thank you for not being what I expected. You gave me an invitation to grow and become even more of who God dreamed I would be.”

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God has blessed me greatly with these gifts, the people in my family!

 

Eilah’s Birth Story

It’s a little over one year from the birth of my second baby and it’s time to write.

Hers was so special to me, I’ve just had to treasure it in my heart for this year.

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I write it here on my blog not to be too personal, but because I desire this blog to be a place where courage is written about.

And I write about birth because it is one of the most courageous acts known to man.

Birth is unpredictable. It is a surrender.

It is so beautiful.

*this should be pretty G-rated, I guess PG-rated. If you know going in that you’re reading about birth, you should probably be okay to read the whole blog. No worries if not, peace out here. ❤

When I first began to dream of having a second baby, I just knew I’d like to have that baby in a hospital.

My homebirth with my firstborn son was wonderful. It was everything I had asked for, even if some parts devastated me for awhile. I think that if you’ve given birth, you might know what I mean. If you sit down in my home for tea, I’d be happy to share more with you on that.

Just know that I treasure his birth and I’m in awe of the gift I was given to be able to have my first experience of becoming a mother and bringing life forth into the world, at home. It was SO my personality, SO where I was at, SO what I was comfortable with and SO where I felt “led”.

Not too long after I felt this pull to a hospital birth for my next child, I found out we were expecting. Our first was 10 months old at the time.

We felt shocked and then that shock immediately sparked into joy. Hard to describe the bubbling, free incredible joy of finding out there’s a new life growing inside of you.

I started out with getting care from a group of midwives that were connected to a hospital. It wasn’t a good fit for me. And I’m proud of myself for realizing that early enough so that it wasn’t too hard to switch things up and go down a path with someone I felt so comfortable with. A family doctor whose knowledge and kindness was just right for us.

Fast forward through 41 weeks and 2 days of pregnancy, growing belly a second time around and ultrasounds (including finding out she was a girl!), and it was go time!!

My parents came 5 days before our daughter’s due date and I took off of work to prepare, instead of working right up until labor like last time.

Only…labor seemed to start each time my doctor stripped the membranes, but stopped. I won’t do this again. I had it done 2 or 3 different visits at the end and it just was too painful & I’m not sure it progressed things really at all.

My mucous plug regenerated too many times to count and true to my experience in my first pregnancy, I’d had Braxton Hicks practice contractions & tightening throughout and like crazy for the last 2 or 3 weeks of this pregnancy.

Since this darling didn’t come on her due date, I had to go back to work for a week.

It.was.miserable.

I love my job but it was too much for me emotionally, physically and mentally.

My whole body, soul and spirit was preparing for a baby and I could hardly force myself to focus on anything else. It was so uncomfortable just to sit.

You get the point! And if you know, you know!

I remember thinking the Sunday night that made it 1 week of being overdue, my parents leave in 2 days….my 1 year old needs to be taken care of & he’s so used to them now & they know his schedule…I can’t go back to work…My husband’s whole staff is in limbo with us…I’m calling my doctor first thing tomorrow and getting the soonest available appointment and talking about induction.

I didn’t know too much about induction other than everything I had studied. I’m a researcher, especially when I’m experiencing something or getting ready for something big in my life. I do it for hours, can’t help it, just love it!

But studying and practical experience are two different things.

Anyway, that Monday, I mentioned it and she mentioned it and she asked when I would like to schedule it. I was so relieved!

It might seem like the natural course of things, but for me, I was coming from a homebirth. We didn’t talk about induction too much and I was also hesitant to go for it because of a lot of what I had heard in my studies on natural pregnancy.

Induction is a gift.

It’s probably not for every circumstance, every birth.

But in our story, mine and Eilah’s, it was right.

My body immediately went into painless labor upon scheduling the induction and went from almost 4 cm to 6 cm dilated overnight.

The relief I began to feel after all of that stress was incredible.

I also felt so close to the Lord as I had prayed and asked for a painless labor the first time around and it just wasn’t. It was a different story and I did feel prepared to go through it and I’m grateful on so many levels. I wouldn’t trade that story or working through that pain. It was a huge success story for me.

This labor was different. I felt some big things happening and a few times of cramping that I could breathe through and I wasn’t surprised to find my body had been laboring all night as I slept.

When we got to the hospital, its beauty and the warmth of the nurses enveloped me.

It was so my personality to have things scheduled and such a gift to drive there while my body was not in the thick of things. Hats off to you ladies who have labored in the car! Wow!

I stepped into my spacious room and mentioned to my nurse that I may want an epidural but I wasn’t 100%.

She was very supportive and I already knew my doctor was supportive either way I went.

My husband and sister left the room to get things & I had a moment to myself in that room where I’d give birth to my daughter.

I prayed and envisioned angels to minister and protect. I walked around and felt such peace.

Everyone came back in and my sweet doctor then walked through the door. I instantly felt at home. This woman who had been caring for me from the halfway point of my pregnancy on, was here and she was going to take good care of us.

I was nervous to have my water broken…this was the light induction we had decided on the day before. I didn’t need or qualify for other means because the cervix was dilated a ton and soft and ready!

I laughed because having my water broken wasn’t painful at all. The contractions started coming and it felt so good to walk around.

(It hadn’t felt good to walk through my contractions when having my first baby.)

You can read about his birth here.

I could feel my baby girl moving down with each contraction. I sat on an exercise ball (which had been my saving grace with my firstborn’s labor towards the end) but even though the counter-pressure felt good, I wanted to keep walking so gravity could help as much as possible.

The other surprising thing that was awesome and funny to me was that sitting in the hospital bed was also the best most perfect counter-pressure for my lower back! I just always read that it wasn’t the right position to labor in but for the moments I needed to have baby’s heart monitored and needed to be strapped down, it was sweet relief and very comfortable. And my baby’s heart rate was beautiful!

Maybe one of the biggest preparation points for me going into both births was meditating on peace and being fearless. I had many positive words I would speak and it’s amazing how I felt my spirit was built up each time. I had two different soundtracks I listened to during pregnancy and one I really listened to right before labor and birth to get me in the right spot for leaning on God and trusting and choosing to be fearless.

Jumping back in- I had only back labor with my son. This time I was having labor that started in the front but about an hour and a half into it the pain started stretching to my back.

I made the decision to get an epidural at that point. I knew you had to make that decision early enough and I wasn’t up for experiencing front and back labor while not having a birthing tub and having quite a bit less energy from being a mama to a 1 year old and not being able to sleep much.

The anesthesiologist was incredible and a God-send. He kept explaining everything the whole time and honestly the worst part was probably having to curl my neck over as I had to hunch over so he could place it properly. My neck hurt a ton the next day from that and it seemed to go on forever!

The epidural kicked in and it was magical!

I texted a group of my close friends who were praying for me and they were so sweet!

I told them how much I recommend an epidural and one of my friends let me know she was actually expecting and we had the sweetest conversation!

And then…I felt like throwing up. It was 20 minutes in and I had felt a stitch in one side so they had recommended pressing the button to up the dose.

I felt okay for a bit and Carl laid down to take a nap in the room.

The nurse checked me and I hadn’t progressed, so she contacted my doctor and ordered Pitocin to rev things up.

She left for lunch break.

And then I felt worse. I was crying and felt like throwing up and passing out. It was so tough to have pure bliss and then feel so much worry as pain started to come back.

My sister was right by my side and she had studied up on how I was last time so she could be prepared to help me for this birth. She knew it was hard for me to communicate at all the first time. I was wanting to get outside of myself this time and ask for help, but it was so helpful to have her fight for me and step up and go get a nurse and tell them what was going on with me. This is what a doula does and she was my best friend sister doula!

The head nurse who was older and very sweet came in during this time. She asked if this was my first baby and when I said it was my second she looked around and things got moving. She checked the cervix and said, baby moved down and it’s about to be go time.

It was such a relief to realize that this is what was going on.

They asked me to hold off on pushing and I was happy to.

I really wanted my doctor and nurses to help me not to tear this time around. I know that I needed and wanted that guidance and help from them.

And it did not disappoint.

There is nothing like feeling the pain of contractions (a muscle contraction that you can’t control but just have to breathe through) and pushing with all your might to work with that intensity.

Knowing that baby is working, moving down, too.

It felt like forever to work through that contraction and then wait for the next one. I begged to keep pushing; it’s just such a high level of intensity. This is probably what had me tear almost to the 4th degree the first time around, pushing too soon & not going with my body and I wanted to follow the advice of my doctor because she knew my desire to try to not tear and she was there to help me reach that goal.

The nurses, now friendly faces and my doctor looked me right in the eyes and each one said, you can DO this, that’s it, you’ve GOT this, great JOB and it was one of the most incredible moments of my life. My sister was so touched, as well. She was right there and Carl had woken up and was right there, too. His green eyes were my rock and steady place.

My team told me when to wait and helped me to hold on until the right moments.

It felt like pushing was taking forever but it actually was 4 minutes altogether of pushing, shaving 1 minute off my 5 minute time with my son.

And labor was 4.5 hours altogether.

And my dream come true was here. And I cried.

She was my treasure, my darling girl and she is and always will be. ❤

How to Recover from Birth

Dear mama,

You’ve just come through it, haven’t you?

I remember the complete shock when my first child was born.

My first thought was “Whoa, heavy!”

It was a water birth & as soon as he was in my arms, I realized why it was so crazy carrying him those last few weeks- 9 lbs 9 oz & I was such a thin-armed person which is a funny way of saying I HAD NO ARM STRENGTH AT ALL!

With my second child, it was just so sweet.

It was a typical hospital birth situation & she was laid on my chest & I cried!

So, my friends here are some tips on how to recover from this wonderful experience. Now, I have not had a c-Section experience, so I won’t be able to speak on that. But I did have a full 6 weeks of needing rest from my first experience with birth, so in that perhaps you can relate.

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Q: What just happened to my body?

A: A lot, sweet tough lady, a lot!

For me, I was recovering the first time around from an almost 4th degree tear. Don’t look that up if you don’t know what it is, and if you’re family (I mean, except for like mah GIRL COUSINS or my sister who knows literally everything, shoutout, you all rock & I LOVE YOU!!!!) stop reading this article here. HAHA! During this time of recovery, I recommend these things, in this order:

1. Figure out the easiest way to have a “smooth move” bowel movement. Listen to your care providers and ask any questions before you either go home or they leave your home. Prepare ahead of time with some foods that help with this. My go-to the first time was eating whole bags of delicious apricots. It really, really worked like a charm! The second time was smoothies & chia seeds, at least one chia pudding a day. I also had this herbal tincture for afterbirth pains & took a drop under my tongue while experiencing that pain, which was greater the second time around so I also took ibuprofen. I’m not totally sure but I think herbs in general help my body with bms, too.

2. Have your tribe around you. I don’t honestly know what this looks like during the time of writing, since coronavirus is a thing & social visits aren’t. Perhaps you could hire a nurse or postpartum doula to help smooth things out. I’m not sure about doulas in the place of birth at this time, but hiring them to come to your home afterwards is probably up to you.

3. Lay down as much as you want to. It felt like something had ripped out of my insides any time I tried to walk, and it’s okay to honor that sort of feeling, because it’s true. You have a placenta-sized wound inside & it will take 4-6 weeks or longer to heal, from what I understand. This is what the bleeding is about.

4. Ice padsicles or the hospital ones are a must for the first 24-48 hours or longer. It helps offset the pain & heal the swelling. I can’t imagine recovering without these!

5. Speak with your care professional about these options, but find a way that is comforting & familiar to rest your body more than just laying down. For me, it was epsom salt baths with a special herbal remedy to promote healing. My whole body relaxed and I felt like I came back to “me” in a special way with this experience. It’s not always recommended to have a bath, so there might be something else, like a heating pad on the shoulders (mine were always sore from the new job of carrying a little bundle 24/7!) or even a cup of tea! I highly recommend Pink Stork’s Recovery tea. These herbs are so supportive in this time & always gave me happy feelings.

6. Create something special or several special things for yourself. Things that can be within arms reach of your bed. I had a basket with a muscle rub, ear plugs, chapstick, nipple balm, a good book, my Bible & journal and yummy snacks on my nightstand. Also great place for pain meds (if you don’t have toddlers).

7. My best friend helped me with this perspective. Try to look at the frequent nursing or feeding sessions & middle of the night wakings as a time to do something extra fun that you’d miss out on if you were sleeping. Start a favorite show or have a list of favorite movies. We always had a few cluster feedings in those first weeks & months & it comes in clutch!

8. This also leads me to this- when you’re starting a nursing session, make sure you use the bathroom first, if your body is back to doing this naturally on your own yet after birth. The oxytocin from the milk letdown may make it pretty tough to hold out & it’s better to be in a calm & patient place when stuck nursing for a long time then feeling the urge to use the bathroom intensely! Plus, I’ve had sessions that lasted many hours & didn’t want to have to re-latch as I was learning how to do that & not so good at helping my baby do that with my first! So once he was on, I wanted him to stay on for as long as he wanted!

9. It helped me to view my maternity leave as a time to do just one thing- love on my baby & get to know them. Both times I met my children, I felt like I do with any other person, like I was getting to know them & was curious as to what they were like. It’s such an amazing time to see the very first tiny buds of their personality & it’s astounding how much you can tell from the very beginning! I did also set goals because it’s my personality- I wanted to rest well & nurse well & figure out how I could get my baby to sleep as quickly as possible for naps & through the night. I was really pleased with how this went but it never feels easy & since it’s a little human, it’s just not a little robot. There’s a lot of honoring their way & figuring them out, while also hoping to get some kind of consistency.

10. I loved using an app to keep track of sleeping, diapers & nursing. Helped me to see my daughter’s patterns and then work with those.

11. Be gentle with your body. Notice your thoughts, acknowledge the negative or positive ones. Don’t take either too seriously. Know that your story is yours. You may “bounce back” but things might be totally different, still. You may not bounce back but learn to celebrate the good things. Because bringing a new person into the world is a really, really, really good thing.

Much love to you!

Curious, what bit of knowledge or advice would you add to this?! Love to hear from ya in the comments!

Xoxo,

Ailene

How I trained baby #2 to sleep

At first I was going to title this, “How I trained baby #2 to sleep through the night”.

But, I decided to drop the second part because she only *just* started sleeping through and so this post is mostly about promoting baby sleep.

That’s what the past almost year has been like!

(I can’t believe she’s almost 1!!!!!)

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First, I wanna say- hey girl (or hey parent!), I’m glad you’re here. There will be no mom or dad shaming in this post.

The biggest thing I learned this year is that how well your baby sleeps is not a measure of good parenting.

My baby slept pretty well and not well and that isn’t what made me a good mama to her.

My goal as a parent is to be gentle where it’s needed and firm where it’s needed and to have the wisdom to know which situation calls for either one.

That said, my baby girl needed gentle. Many times, I’d try to push her to reach my next sleep goal for her and each time, I found out it wasn’t what she needed. My sweet Eilah girl needed gentle guidance into great sleep. And I’m so happy I was able to embrace the patience this required and do what was best for her. (Uh, also that my husband & sister & whole host of friends/support system let me whine & kick & scream & prayed with me when it was driving me nuts!!!)

Here are my tips!

  1. You just had your baby. First, congratulations! Secondly, now is a wonderful time to start learning your baby’s sleep rhythms.
  2. I like to start out with letting baby sleep their longest stretch at night. How do we get there? Glad you asked!
      1. – There are helpful sleep associations & the ones I used with my daughter were a Dockatot and a Halo sleep sack. My son also used a wubbanub pacifier for a time.
      2. – I used an app called Baby Tracker to mark a start & stop time to feedings, sleep & diaper changes. (Lifesaver for baby #2, in my opinion as life may have a lot more going on!)
      3. – I fed her every 2-3 hours and woke her up to do so during the day. This thankfully pushed her 4-5 hour stretch to nighttime.
      4. – I looked at the app data and then I knew how much she usually ate & even which side. Knowing how much she was eating & when in a day helped me to know how long to let her sleep and when to wake her. Looking at her data gave me a lot of confidence in those early months! I dropped the app & went with the flow around 5 or 6 months bc she was getting distracted by my phone! (and mama needed a phone detox ☺️)
  3. My daughter couldn’t do cry it out. That had worked with my son but each time we tried with her, she’d end up throwing up and/or we quickly realized she had been using her voice to let us know she actually needed something!
  4. At night, I would change her diaper, put her in a Halo sleepsack or swaddle in the beginning & nurse her until she was either asleep or almost asleep. I wanted to put her down to sleep in either state. I learned from my son that you can sleep train and even wean a baby who always nurses to sleep at night, so I wasn’t worried about that. But I wanted to see if she could learn to go to sleep without being conked out from milk and she did/does so well!
  5. I would then immediately set her down in her Dockatot to sleep her longest stretch. It was amazing to have a time I knew she’d go to sleep each night! It was between 8:30-10:30 with the goal to get her to a normal 8 or 8:30p.m. bedtime (the same as her 2 year old brother). She woke up after a 5-6 hour stretch until 10 months old, then woke up again or a few more times and I nursed her & put her back down to sleep each time. *Just note that I don’t happen to co-sleep. It’s a personal thing as I can’t sleep that way, but I know a lot of moms who get their best sleep & it can be done safely. If you’re wondering about it, google mommypotamus or mama natural and co-sleeping safety for tips!
  6. During the day, I would look for signs of her being tired (rubbing eyes, getting fussy) and it helped that my app showed me when she usually was falling asleep for naps. I would change her diaper & put her in the Halo swaddle or sleep sack. Then I’d nurse her and she would always be awake. She would sleepily look at her wall decor until she fell asleep. She would let out a yelp or fuss for 30 seconds sometimes, but I’d pull the door to almost shut and when I either listened for a moment and/or checked back in 5-10 minutes, she was asleep. (This didn’t work for my son & I don’t know if it was him, or it was me- so know that I firmly believe each child teaches us about who they are through sleep training and every other part of everyday life & a schedule. I love the journey, even when it’s tough because ultimately you are getting to know your child intimately and that is the best part of life together).
  7. My daughter eventually dropped all night feeds, goes to sleep at 8 or 8:30p.m. in the same room as her older brother and sleeps 11-12 hours, the same as he does). She goes down for her first nap 1 to 1.5 hours after waking, sleeps 2 hours and naps her second nap of the day around 2:30 or 3p.m. This schedule fluctuates with life and either goes earlier or later depending on her needs but comes back to this. We recently started making sure she wakes up by 6p.m. so she can go down at 8 or 8:30, most days she’s up before that. When she was smaller, I didn’t worry about it but just made sure she was up 1 hour before going down for the night.
  8. I’m just so grateful that sleep training, even done very gently, does work! Now mama is learning how to sleep through the night again! ❤

I’m sending hugs & praying for you, friend! You are loving your child, you have goals, and you are suffering long with them and being kind. I’m amazed by you and I know it ain’t easy.

Let the people who love you help you, friend. This is a TOUGH season even as much as it is PRECIOUS. Sleep whenever you can, take a bath or a walk when you can, and learn to let others watch the baby when it’s time to let go a bit. You are holding him or her close and it’s such a privilege, isn’t it?!

Much love,

Ailene

What’s it’s like being a mom of 2 :) 11 months in!

It’s been 11 months since having our second child and I thought it would be nice to share how it’s been going!

First, you see those faces?! I adore them!

My children, a boy and girl, are 19 months apart. My daughter was born last February and my son was born two Junes before that.

Really, he was also a baby when she was born.

But quickly, oh so quickly and yet at times slowly, he’s becoming a little boy.

When we brought “baby” home from the hospital, we dressed her in an adorable pink furry bear onesie.

This may not have been the best choice, as he tried to pick her up like his favorite teddy bear and I realized our mistake. 🙂

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I remember those first weeks and leading up to it, wondering how on earth we could care for both kids.

We put some things into place and basically Daddy began to take over in some areas that freed me up to rest before she came and start to carve out a new normalcy of mama not always being available.

I also started to really take time for cuddles each day with my firstborn and that would continue after the baby got here. For us, it was watching Peppa or other shows. It’s still a great time for cuddling and nowadays I love being there with him so he can interact with me as he learns things on a show. Lazy parenting, whatever! Life-saving & a good break at times!

Now that I had two kids, I found myself reticent to go out. It would just be a bit before I could figure out how to do it safely- I’m guessing any parent with two smaller kids has to get the hang of it.

Something that has been tough is that we’ve been waiting for our oldest to talk clearly and make his needs known for a long time. I thought he’d be able to speak in English for about a year and a half before it just started to happen recently at 2.5 years old!

I remember the scariest moment when I braved going to the park with both of them and he ran into the street. I thought I would faint but determinedly ran after him and got him, while needing to leave my baby in her stroller. It was so stressful and it took me a long time to get up the nerve to try it again! I decided to wait until he could follow directions and we are still working on that.

So this past almost year, we have stayed home and opted for a daycare program that was a few mornings right after Eilah was born and then another one that’s only one day a week more recently. It’s been a great thing for our family!

In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with togetherness and being safe and then venturing out when you know it’s smart to do so. If you know me, I LOVE ADVENTURE!

Our son has been to 10 states, most of those in his first year of life. But we’ve chosen to stay home a lot more once our second arrived, just to give time to adjust to this major change for not only us, but also our 2 year old.

We have since traveled twice and both were great experiences!

I think the key to a great trip is to do it with family, if possible because everyone loves spending time together and it takes the pressure off to know that grandparents are enjoying being with their grandkids and caring for them. It’s just the best! I remember traveling last year at 3 months pregnant and solely with my 13 month old to a family beach vacation with my large Italian family. There were so many people to love on him and look out for him and it was still exhausting but so enjoyable. I’ll never forget my brothers and cousins being happy to hang with him while I went swimming in the ocean. Delicious freedom!

So fast forward to this morning with two kids.

My son is 2.5 now, my daughter just turned 11 months old.

It was the day of the week we needed to get up and out to drop him off at his daycare experience.

I was trying to fight off the familiar feelings of stress and feeling disappointed in myself for not getting it right.

It’s been really hard to get him up and out lately and I didn’t want to start the new year in the same frame of mind.

He tantrums every single time.

Right now tantrum triggers are anything to do with being told what to do and having to do it in a timely manner.

Our past 3 times, we were so late even though we started getting ready an hour ahead of time. The very last time before break, it was 30 minutes! Ee!

So, this morning, I did NOT want to repeat that!

I decided I would make his lunch the night before to get that out of the way.

I’d wake up early and get an hour of work done so I didn’t have that in the way.

Check. Check! It was going well!

He threw a tantrum about getting his fleece pullover on, normal. (He’d already thrown a small fit that involved a dirty diaper and we successfully got through that while keeping everything clean so I was like, we will DO THIS).

Daddy (my back up:) ) left for work and we were still on time and it was shoe time.

I gave him a choice and to my delight he said, “boot doe”. Doe is his word for shoe and this was his first time saying boot! He thought it had to go with shoe, so cute!

And my goodness, was this the first time ever he has SAID an opinion or preference?! My eyes tear up just thinking about how long I’ve waited for that!

I put Eilah in her baby carseat and we all 3 happily began going down the stairs to the door.

We stepped outside as my 2 year old stunned me again by chatting about the birds and wanting them to come back and saying “birds, fly!” It was wonderful!

Then reality came crashing through me as I realized I had forgotten my purse with not only my driver’s license but also my fob.

How could I have forgotten that? And my phone was in our home.

My husband was hopefully coming as back up to help us load up, but it was cold and we couldn’t just wait.

It dawned on me that all this joy and ease was about to get difficult.

Two steps forward, one step back. That has truly been this whole year as a mom of 2.

Making me unflappable. Making me thankful things weren’t always easy and for all the depression and challenges I’d overcome after having my first. Making me figure out a schedule and always always planning ahead not just for things to go smooth, but just for things to happen at all!

I think being a parent of two little ones gives an invitation for intentionality. Whenever a movie pops on, I still have a hard time sitting down and staying still. For me, movie means time to clean up the home & get things done while the toddler is entertained and the baby doesn’t need to nurse, go down to sleep, etc! It’s a bit embarrassing- especially when my sister is over and we are supposed to be enjoying it together and I just go to the kitchen and start unloading the dishwasher!

So, yes, my 2.5 year old did not understand why we had to step back inside. He cried so hard all while I was explaining it to him every step along the way. Even the baby started to cry (she doesn’t cry often!) I tried not to cry, myself. I fought off the feelings of disappointment in myself for not being perfect and at the same time, felt determined that we could still make this all happen and be on time for his class.

I ran up, got the purse, ran down and when he realized we were going back outside and to “our-car” (He says it like one word), he was instantly back to being happy. I was glad I held onto happy, too.

We got to his school and he just started quivering as soon as he recognized it. Not because it’s scary, but at the same time, it is at his age sometimes. He feels all the feels like one live wire. I took it slow, took him out and held him and tried to form a plan.

His school involves stairs, so I learned early on that I can’t keep the baby in her stroller. I’ve tried everything. I’ve carried her in a carrier and ended up carrying my 2 year old at the same time. That’s a wild experience.

Today was even harder. Why did I think doing my arm day workout was a good idea before this whole deal?!

I decided to carry her in her carseat and carry him, as well. Idk but I think that was like 50 pounds. I was staggering and pushing forward with everything in me.

A lady was like, please go ahead and I was like, uh, I can’t. Thankfully the greeters came and helped and held Eilah in her seat while I helped him transition into his class.

Whew. So yeah, that’s an example of what it’s like being a mom of 2. Just the practical real life-ness of it.

It’s hard, it’s simple and it’s beautiful.

We’ll have many years of going out to parks and on adventures and it’s okay that the first year was more quiet.

Would you be interested in tips on how to enjoy being at home with 2 kids, doing educational activities and having them practice self play? It’s been amazing for being a work at home mom! I think I’ll do a post about it soon. My next one will probably be my daughter’s birth story. It’s kinda neat because it was a hospital birth, after having a homebirth the first time around! I loved both for different reasons. I was ecstatic about both for different reasons. And I’ve absolutely treasured her birth story in my heart for the past year. What a gift it was to me and to our family!

Xoxo,

Ailene

 

What I wish They Told Me Before Having 2 Kids under 2

Here’s what I wish “they” would’ve told me before I had 2 kids under 2.

  1. Fall and Christmas plates & decor come back in season before you know it. Just leave them out! 🙂
  2. You might feel like you are required to be the energizer bunny & pulled in many directions, but just breathe. It.will.all.come.together!
  3. Prayer is powerful.
  4. Reach out for help. And when God sends help, open your heart to receive it.
  5. Stay close to your partner. Let out the ugly to God, then a tamer version to your partner. Sometimes it will be in the reverse order & that’s okay because life is real & they will love you through it & perhaps offer insight, kind eyes or prayer that will heal you. In the midst of it all, keep pursuing your spouse in some small way. It will go miles!
  6. Diapers are just diapers. No need to potty train super early unless it works for you & your toddler! You get used to it & it’s one less thing to worry about right now.
  7. Give it a little while before you feel like you’re in a rhythm. The home will come back in order, your health will come back into order, just take it in small steps towards your main goals. Write them down so they’re not in your head! Then give yourself grace as you slowly implement them. It will be soo satisfying when you reach each tiny goal- don’t worry, it will happen!
  8. Take in the moments of rest. When baby needs to nurse or be held longer. When the toddler needs to be held or read extra books. These are the highlights of your life. Truly, these babies won’t be babies forever and even the toughest memories when they are tiny become beautiful after some time passes.
  9. See if you can either a) get up a little earlier than the kids to meditate, pray, read the Bible and/or do something you love for a few minutes (sip some tea while watching the sunrise, etc.) or b) stay up a little later to do the same thing. But believe me, the more sleep you can get, the better so sometimes that is the thing that is most necessary & helps you the most!
  10. I wish someone had told me all of the JOY having 2 babies under 2 brings. When the 4 of us just lay on the floor and laugh, it fulfills something in my heart that I could never have dreamed. It’s SO good.

What’s something you wish someone had told you about having 1, 2 or 3 kids (or more!)?!

Xoxo,

Ailene

What Type of Parent I am

I’ve had the amazing realization of what kind of parent I should be this week.

I want to start by saying that I have a reallly compassionate heart and I remember what it was like to be a tenderhearted kid.

So, I guess I’ve always wondered how I would parent.

I figured that I would still be my Italian self who can be loud & passionate, but also gentle which is my nature.

I’m guessing I’m probably not alone in feeling a little afraid of how to proceed.

But 2 year olds…man, they pull it out of you.

You find yourself with a tantruming little person in front of you and you just have to figure out how to deal. Amiright?!

Our 2 year old’s tantrums have been at an all time high in the past few weeks and I won’t go into details, but let’s just say I’ve had to face everything. Just everything about how to parent and who I am as a parent.

And it hit me- I will be a firm and tender parent.

Firm where it’s absolutely needed for guidance and to keep my child from harm and from harming others.

And tender as soon as he gets it and I can just wrap him up in my love.

No matter how upset he has been, my love has been bigger.

It just overflows and you’re just trying to find any way to bring calm back to their hearts and environment.IMG_1683

I guess my heart as a child used to be confused by authority figures who were harsh and never explained themselves.

Every person has moments where they handle it badly, but I think the thing that healed me the most was those authority figures who followed up and apologized and when it was appropriate, explained what was going on.

I still don’t completely know how this will go- that’s parenting a firstborn for ya!

But I’ve had so much confidence in my parenting and my child responds amazingly well to my confidence.

So, to all the other mamas and papas out there who are going through tough times, I’m praying for you, that as you read this you’d feel grace and just know what to do next with your child.

We’re doing it!

In it together,

Ailene

Postpartum Bliss

I’ve gotta write this down.
It’s entitled “Postpartum Bliss” because that’s what this season has been.
And it’s so starkly different than my first experience, struggling so deeply with undiagnosed postpartum depression.
Part of me feels like I’m holding my breath, having squeaked by the first 6 weeks with only low moments, that I’m able to come out of. And living from one high to the next of this joyful life.
I was all set to see a doctor this time around and even say yes to help for chemical or hormonal imbalances.
It’s just not happening. Tears in my eyes to type that out.
How my postpartum experience has really been…
  • Easy.
  • It makes sense.
  • I feel like my little and big prayers are being answered and heard. They were, of course, last time. But it didn’t feel like it.
  • Not living with anxiety and guilt constantly weighing on me and in all of my thoughts and mind pictures.
  • Getting sleep!
  • Knowing how to do this breastfeeding relationship and being amazed at how well she has done from the very beginning. She does have a pretty serious lip tie, but it doesn’t bother her or I. I guess that happens with lip ties- sometimes they cause all kinds of problems and sometimes, for some reason they just don’t.
  • Understanding how to get my newborn to know her nights from her days and her being able to sleep through the night at 1.5 months old. (She stays asleep while I give her a dream feed when I go to bed, and I wake up 2 times when I hear her starting to come out of sleep and she goes right back).
  • I can actually work out. Without feeling like my body has fallen apart and will take years, if it ever recovers (now I know that it did recover, instead of the weight of constantly not knowing).
  • With getting good sleep and being able to fight anxiety & guilt, I’m enjoying my days.
  • I feel no guilt in being extravagantly good to myself.
  • Being thoroughly grateful for my toddler having care outside the home for 4 mornings a week and then a solid afternoon nap so that I’ve even had alone time since I’ve been off of work. By the time he does wake up, I’m so missing him that the time I have with him is so enjoyable to me. Drinking it in as he’s growing so fast!
  • Because of all the ease and rest available to me, I’ve been able to enjoy my 2 babies even though there’s definite craziness to 2 under 2 years old, I think I haven’t felt the full craziness of it yet. I’m so grateful we are all able to nap! How do people do this with older kiddos?! (I’m sure there’s grace for that, too).
  • During my maternity leave, I did what I enjoy- baking, watching movies, reading some of the best fiction books, planning my future workouts, cuddling my baby (sometimes when you have a newborn it’s easy to forget to just hold them because you enjoy it, not just to meet all their needs), bubble baths.
  • An Epsom salt bath just a few days after birth brought such a sense of normalcy to my upside down world. It was so soothing physically and emotionally. I just had a feeling that everything would be all right.
  • Accepting help with joy from family and just taking it easy.
  • Taking naps daily AND sleeping in. (My babies both have gone to sleep later at this stage and slept later for a full 10.5-11 hours, with 3 or 4 feeds). Um, my first baby didn’t do this until 3 months old? And then completely dropped sleeping through, waking every hour for a regression stage, and THEN slept through with no feedings from 6.5 months on). I know what it’s like to have nothing work and I keep holding my breath that it might happen with baby girl. This brings me to another point…
  • Taking it one day at a time. Each day has enough grace in it. 💛
So, here is my ode to my amazing first 6 weeks, being able to enjoy my sweet girl and sweet life and being so thankful for each one of you who has uplifted me throughout my two pregnancies and postpartum seasons and prayed for me, reached out in any way.
I love you so and I’m so grateful for your support! It means the world to me and I pray for each one of you to have a season of joy upcoming, where things make sense again and you find yourself simply smiling again and your dreams don’t seem too far off. Where the hope of life and joy of life finally catch up to you again and maybe you haven’t even felt it since the magic of childhood, but I pray you’d feel it again. All the magic, all the hope and so much bright joy.
Love,
Ailene

An Open Note from a Very Pregnant Lady

Written January 25, 2019, 2 days before my daughter’s due date.

If I see one more self-righteous, shock factor pro-life photo or statement.

Listen, I’m as pro-life as they come. I’ve had a huge heart for babies who are unwanted and moreso a passion for mamas who are facing pregnancy that is unexpected and perhaps terrifying.

Before we dehumanize the situation by sharing traumatizing things, let’s think about who actually goes for an abortion.

She’s strong. Yet she’s faced with something most of us cannot fully relate to. Can you imagine her situation? She’s a college student who worked so hard to get her scholarships and she had a moment of passion or was, worse, put in this situation by force. Wouldn’t you want to press delete, too?

Yes, deleting a tiny bunch of cells who for sure will become a human is horrific. Yes, ending a heartbeat of a beautiful child is terrifying. But it’s not an easy choice and I don’t know who is righteous enough to look down on someone in that situation.

Maybe you just want to “get the word out” but just look into the eyes, the beautiful eyes of a woman who is in that situation and love her. Fight for her unborn child by supporting her. And even by giving her the dignity to make the choice herself. You just literally cannot save her child. It’s HER child and her choice to save him or her. She’s the one who will live with the choice, in every way and you might be able to come alongside and support her in a huge way by adopting her child. But the traumatic photo on Facebook? Who is that helping?

The statement full of shock factors that are just absolutely disturbing- is that gonna help HER? Or is it some battle you’re fighting against…against who exactly? “The other side”? Just make it personal because though it’s a human rights issue it’s the most intimately personal choice a woman could ever have.

To those who are in this place. You, brave woman, you are strong. You can make this choice. I hope you see the potential this tiny group of cells or this fully-formed human has inside of you and find courage to bring that person forth. This would be the most selfless and heroic thing you could ever do and I believe, the redemption key to your story. I think it will enable you to move forward and not hold you back. You can offer a child literally everything in giving them life. But it’s your choice to make. And I hope you feel the love so many of us have for you, though we’ve never faced what you’re facing and don’t know if we’d have the courage to follow through with what we are asking.

See yourself in five years. Where are you? Where is this little one? Can you be proud of this decision? Can you live with it? Not shame on you– can you live with it? But seriously, if this crushing weight you’re feeling was lifted, can you feel the life you’ll have? Make your decision that way and know you are loved.

To all the women I know who have had a child on their own, facing very uncertain circumstances and risking reputation, future career choices, everything- you are the most bad*ss woman out there. I feel barely worthy to wash your feet. I am astounded at all that you have given up to give life. I am ashamed at how easy I have it in so many ways, for pretty much no reason of my own.

I wish I could do more to advocate for YOU. To help you get the college degree you don’t have the time, finances or mental space to obtain because you’ve chosen to become a mother. To lift off the pressure you feel, bearing all the weight of parenthood on your strong but slim shoulders. To let you deeply, surely know that you are worth loving and being stayed with. Worth being honored and cherished. As a person, as a woman, not just because you are a mother. Girl, I wish I could give you security. For the future, heck, for right now. I can’t, but I will stand up for you and women like you for all my days, in any and every way I know how, and I won’t pretend to “know” you, to know your circumstances and to judge you according to my own standards. I promise to advocate for you and to love you and I commit to speaking highly of you because that’s all that is in my heart for you, all my days. I can’t say it in enough ways, you, you’re amazing. I can’t believe you chose to give life when so many wouldn’t, couldn’t, or haven’t. Thank you for making your child’s world your whole life and in so doing; giving us the whole world. Your son or daughter is one of the most amazing gifts we could ever have in this world and I just want to say, thank you.

A Guide to Baby Sleep

Did the title pull you in?
It’s actually a little bit of a joke.
I have hesitated to write on this topic because I’ve had a good dose of what it’s like to try everything and your baby sleeps terribly.
Hearing that sleep deprivation is a true warfare tactic really resonated with me in that time.
I never cussed so much in my life, didn’t recognize myself and was a mess wrapped in a normal-seeming self. Only God knows the depths certain moments felt like while healing from birth, caring for a newborn, learning breastfeeding and having broken sleep with no guarantee anything would ever change.
I did, however, end up with a child who learned how to sleep through his nights at 6.5 months old (it took a week of a few cry-it-out sessions and being in his own room- I think we were waking him all night since he was 4 months old & became more aware of his world). He has slept well and taken good naps ever since 6.5 months old. I think it was everything we keep trying for and had in place since he was born, not just that one week, however.
(He is almost 17 months and just woke up at 2:30a.m. and 6:30a.m. this week during a fever/teething episode for the first time since 6.5 months old! We are so blessed.)

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When my son was 5 months old and I just got a sassy haircut and was just feeling a bit like myself again.
It’s part of the reason why finding out that I was expecting at 10 months postpartum with my firstborn turned into unspeakable, full joy instead of freaking me out. (Well, I was definitely shaking!)
Just now, I’m finally starting to look at her birth and think through and start positive affirmations. Just now, I’m able to think about giving birth again and look at the work of labor without fear, like with my first.
Before this point, I was ready to formula feed and have an epidural before going into labor. (Just kidding!)
I’m still leaving myself open to both relieving the burden of breastfeeding, even supplementing and having medication during labor, but I think that the same Ailene who was able to breastfeed and go through natural labor is still here. I just wasn’t sure until now.
I’m sure there are ladies out there who don’t have such a struggle with lack of sleep, or with healing from a difficult part of birth or don’t worry about their body being unrecognizable, or who aren’t bothered by hormonal swirls taking their emotions on a ride…but when you add all of these things together and more, I think most of us normal mamas feel like we are succumbing. Like, underneath it all and drowning.
Anyway, this post isn’t here to mostly talk about the deep, real struggles that can come along after having a baby. I need to write another post about this. But when you touch on baby sleep, you kinda gotta mention it. 😉
My ideas going into the newborn stage were that those friends who had babies who awoke every 2 hours to feed were unfortunate, that if I had faith and got my baby on a schedule, we’d go right back to normal sleep and just add a baby to our life together.
Um. I was wrong.
I quickly realized that each baby actually needs to eat every 2 to 3 hours because their stomach is so small and they digest breastmilk in tiny doses, so you have to keep it coming.
And I remember at the end of my son’s 5th week of life, my cousin asking how the scheduling was going that I was implementing that week.
Her question made me face the facts; he was sleeping worse than before and I was pushing too hard. Things were falling apart! I laughed at myself and told her the truth. She was so kind. We had our sons a little less than a month apart and it was such a joy to walk through pregnancy & postpartum with her support and understanding.
So we threw out the schedule that night. Instead of forcing him to have a “normal” baby bed time of 7p.m., we went with his rhythms. He wasn’t ready for sleep until 10p.m. and then he shocked me by sleeping 5 whole hours in a row. I let go of trying too hard and expectations of normalcy, and the thing just happened.
At 5 weeks, thus, he slept 5 hours in a row, 10 to 3a.m. (or 10 to 2a.m.). At 6 weeks, 6 hours in a row.
At 4 months, we took him on his first airplane ride to my family in PA and at my parents house, he slept 8-10 hours a night! It was crazy. It was what I had been hoping and praying for! It was possible!
However, we returned home to the next 2.5 months of absolutely terrible, worse than ever sleep. I had been hoping that 4 month sleep regression would bypass us, but my chiropractor explained that at this age they are just realizing their world in a new way and when they wake up, they are noticing their surroundings. She said it would pass and I held onto that!
We continued our normal routine, because what else do you do? I didn’t have much time to research and figure it out; I’d started back to work full time when he was 2 months old. Take away good sleep and I was barely making it in every way.
I mean, he’d go to sleep at 11p.m., wake up at 12a.m., 2, 2:30, 3, 4, 5, 6. It was so insane and there were times I was trying to protect Carl’s sleep and not involve him. And especially since I was breastfeeding, I felt like I was the only answer. I finally shared that I was literally going insane and since we were both working full time, I needed his help!
(I’m not sure he really was getting great sleep, either, but he was so willing to help when I explained what was really going on as he slept in the other room).
My son finally began to get into a good stretch around 5.5 months. He would go to sleep about 10p.m., wake up at 2:30a.m. for a feeding and then 6:30a.m. I would feed him whether he woke up or not at 6:30a.m. because I realized he would then sleep in until 9a.m. I wouldn’t settle for him waking at 6:30 or 7a.m. because I knew that I needed to start catching up on sleep. It also immensely helped me to get some work from home in before he awakened for the day. In a previous season without sleep my health took a serious downturn and I was praying to avoid this happening again with the responsibility of being a mother now.
At 6.5 months, we decided it was time our son got his own room. We aren’t the co-sleeping type of parents. After 3 days of skin to skin in the very beginning, I was done with the co-sleeping thing. It’s so precious, the stories I hear, for those of you who are!
A typical night routine looked like this:
  1. Bath time in this inflatable duck tub. We had a $50 one with a waterfall from our registry, but this inflatable tub was nice because we could submerge his body in the water while holding him and as he got older, he could lean his head back and rest it on the tail. Best $11 spent ever! We bought a swan one for our daughter! ❤
  2. Dry him off on his massage pad. Then dress him in a cloth diaper that had amazing absorbency for all night long (later we found out disposables worked fine, too).
  3. Dress him in pajamas and then a Halo sleep sack over top- warmer the baby, the deeper the sleep for us at least (of course, not too warm we used cotton sleep sacks in summer and fleece ones in winter). Greatly noticed a difference after deciding to use it one night instead of tucking a blanket around him like a swaddle. I think he felt held in and comforted.
  4. One night my husband noticed that our son fell asleep when his hand was resting near his face. After that we put our son’s Wubbanub (uh, don’t pay $18.95 for one of these- we paid much less) stuffed animal touching his forehead. It was a difference of him sleeping for a short stretch versus a long one. So wild! Our son didn’t use the paci part of the Wubbanub much. He has always preferred soft things. He mostly sucked on the giraffe’s legs, actually. Haha! I wanted him to be addicted to a paci but he only used it when teething or for sleeping in the car or stroller for a time.
  5. After he was dressed, I nursed him to sleep. No putting him down awake but drowsy. That would result in hours of screaming 🙂 Nursing him to sleep was a really good de-stress time for me each night. A time to just listen to his white noise machine and feel relaxed that my baby was now headed toward dreamland.
  6. We used a white noise machine each night. As he grew older & on vacations, I noticed that he really needed this healthy sleep association for both nighttime sleep and naps. It sent him the message it was time to sleep.
  7. If he cried hard, we always answered his cry. It’s just in both of our hearts. We only ended up doing “cry it out” when we realized that at certain times, he was so over-stimulated that any shushing or comforting prolonged the crying and he needed to get those emotions out and fall asleep on his own without help. This came at 6.5 months when we transitioned to his own room. Within a week, this not only worked to fall asleep at night, but also to go back to sleep without us on the occasion that he would awaken in the night. It took me a bit to realize that when he did wake during the night and whimper, he wasn’t actually awake and I couldn’t comfort him back to sleep and he didn’t need to nurse, he just needed to get back into his deep sleep on his own.
  8. When we decided co-sleeping wasn’t for us (and there wasn’t room in our bed, like for real hahaha, we both were clinging to the sides trying not to fall off!), we kept him in his Dockatot and put it into his crib. I’ve heard warnings about this, but if you have felt the material of the dock and put your own face up to it; it’s breathable. Also, there’s no way for a baby who can’t move to push it onto themselves like people warn about. And thank God for video monitors, I even used one when he was in the same room so I could keep an eye on him. Having him safe and secure in his Dockatot brought me such peace of mind. I couldn’t settle down and feel at peace when he wasn’t securely in it.
  9. Our Dockatot experience was another example of learning our boy. He truly loves soft things, to cuddle into them (but not mama; we both never stayed asleep or got into the deepest sleep except for an hour or 2 sometimes for a nap). Watching him sleep in it, he looks like the most relaxed little person in the world. We transitioned to the larger size when he was old enough and it’s been such a blessing in him sleeping no matter where we’ve traveled. It’s another thing that sends the message, it’s time to sleep.
  10. Last thing. Just before I weaned him at 14 months, Daddy had started exclusively reading him a bedtime story after bath and putting him to sleep. Oh, we have totally rocked and gently bounced with him on the exercise ball to sleep. No shame- those things worked and were unspeakably precious for both of us! Anyway, our son no longer needed to be nursed to sleep and learned to do the whole drowsy but awake thing. I personally felt it was the right age for him to be able to do this. I don’t know, it’s just one of those tips you always hear but never worked for us before this time.
I don’t regret any of this learning with our son and his sleep. It’s helped us to understand him in greater ways than if he’d just been a great sleeper “naturally” if that’s really a thing! Learning how he slept taught us so much about his personality and little things he loves in life. It’s been a journey that was worth it. I mean, the hardest things are usually the most precious things.
That pretty much sums it up- go with your gut, mama and daddy. If you need help, reach out to people you know won’t shame you, research if that helps you. (I’m a huuge researcher, especially when things break down, it’s the first thing I turn to). If you talk to Him, ask the Holy Spirit about every single detail. Be your true, honest, raw self with God and don’t hold anything back. I remember talking to Him about why my son couldn’t go down for a nap without so much crying, which was causing me a lot of stress and anxiety. Then I’d ask, is there anything I can do to make this better? Or do I have to not do anything in this instance and let him cry? I’d just get this feeling on what to do and began to trust those feelings as they worked! Different things at different times, but the Holy Spirit knows.
Something else I’ve had to realize is that each family has their own story. There’s a great story being written that they are living and sometimes it requires them going through things I don’t go through. And other times, I’m going through something that they aren’t. My advice would never work for them where they are at and they are doing 100% the best for their family and making it through the trials presented to them. And same with me.
Just wanted to share my journey,
Much love, especially to you precious sleep-deprived parents who are doing everything and your little one just needs nights with you. It’s maybe something to do with the incredible child they are; perhaps they really and truly need that time with you. I pray for grace for you. That keeps coming and wholeness over your life as you journey through life and parenthood.
Love,
Ailene
p.s. Please message me for resources that helped us and any questions. I’m an open book! I don’t know that I have a ton to offer except a compassionate ear and I’m happy to pass along anything that helped us.
p.p.s. None of the links are sponsored. I just wanted to show you exactly what we used!