My Favorite Books for Early Motherhood

Monday, January 30, 2017

When I was nearing my due date with James, I was drawn to certain books to help me prepare for the life-changing craziness ahead. While nothing can really "prepare" you for having and caring for a baby, many of the things I read helped me the first few months of motherhood. I don't think reading a lot of parenting books is a necessity to being a good parent, but reading has always given me solace. It was a natural step for me to pick up a few books to feel self-assured about what I was embarking on.

Also, I didn't read any pregnancy books. I paged through one or two and found them mildly interesting, but I also just felt like reading about pregnancy wasn't going to be super beneficial for me (that's just me though!). When I had weird pains or whatever I would Google to see if they were normal, but for the most part I just let my body do its thing.

Here is the list (I'll update if I read any other good ones this time around):

1. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
Ina May started a commune back in the 70s called The Farm where practicing midwives have helped hundred of women have natural births. While this book has many hippie moments, I loved reading the long collection of birth stories and appreciated her descriptions of the laboring process. Even though I ended up getting an epidural, I still enjoyed reading about natural childbirth and how to keep myself calm and focused during contractions.

2. Hypnobirthing by Marie F. Mongan
I skimmed this book but still gleaned good information about staying in control while going through labor. Since I tend to have anxiety, I wanted to feel calm and collected instead of panicked while laboring, and this book gave good techniques.

3. I just put Husband-Coached Childbirth: The Bradley Method on hold at the library and will update once I've read through that one as well.

1. The Nursing Mother's Companion by Kathleen Huggins
This book was my best friend the first few weeks of nursing. I read certain sections at least 5 times and if I was worried about anything my first instinct was to turn to this book to check it out. It breaks down what to expect from nursing for the ages of children, including children over 2, goes over pains and problems with breastfeeding, and overall helped me feel confident and sure of myself.

2. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International
The first time I went on a walk with James he was 5 days old and it was to the library to pick up this book. It is definitely more in the natural camp than the other one and I liked its approach to the mother-baby bonding through breastfeeding. The information is slightly different than the other (although there are definite overlaps) and it was good to get an additional perspective.

1. The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp
Brock and I used the 5 Ss EVERY DAY until James was probably 3 months old. I remember James crying in the hospital and Brock trying to quiet him and I said, "Shush him louder than his cries!" Brock did it and James immediately quieted down. We were amazed and used all the tricks in the books to great success. I'm definitely going to read this one again before our baby comes to make sure I still have it down.

2. The Sleepeasy Solution by Jennifer Waldburger and Jill Spivack
I didn't read this one until James was around 6 months old and I wished I had read it sooner. When James was struggling with nighttime wake-ups I read a bunch of books on getting kids to sleep and this one was definitely my favorite. Their methods for sleep training really worked for us and I loved all the different age breakdowns and how they approached naps.

1. Waiting for Birdy by Catherine Newman
Newman's book about her second pregnancy and life with her husband and two-year-old was laugh-out-loud funny and so poignant about the years of early motherhood. I connected with the sentiments she expressed and am dying to reread it.

2. Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman
I'm not sure this is technically a memoir, but I loved the differences Druckerman brought up between French and American parenting. I've read it twice and each time came away with new insights about the type of relationship I want to cultivate with my children.

What books about early motherhood have you read? I'd love to hear!

Linking up with A Cocoon of Books 

Some Ramblings

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Here is an installment of some random thoughts I have floating around my brain. Enjoy!

1. A few weeks ago, I printed out a 2017 calendar (one page for each month) that I found somewhere on Pinterest. I hung it up in my closet to keep track of my exercise because it's nice to see how it measures out on a weekly basis. Today, I realized that the calendar I printed was from 2016, not 2017. Yes, it took me weeks to realize that. Sigh. And I printed all 12 months on cardstock. Double sigh.

2. I have resigned myself to the fact that I will likely have to keep napping this entire pregnancy. During the first trimester when I was so sick and exhausted I didn't think much about my daily naps (besides the panic I felt if there was a chance that I might have to miss one), but I assumed that my need for them would disappear around the same time my nausea did.

I've had to accept that the need has not gone away. A few weeks ago I declared that I was going to wean myself off naps. It was a very noble attempt, but I started noticing that on the days when I didn't nap I would be so emotional and exhausted at night that I could barely do anything. Yet the constant need to sleep for 2+ hours in the day embarrassed me. Which is silly, because I'm pregnant and need to take special care of myself. So I have let go of my shame over having a similar sleep schedule with my almost 2-year-old and am looking forward to five more months of naps.

3. I recently bought some maternity leggings at Old Navy (similar) and have been wearing them about 3-4 times a week. Usually I would space them out more, but it has been raining here so much (sidenote: is the drought over yet?) that I can't wear the maternity dresses I bought when I was expecting this to be a normal warm winter. I'm having to get strategic about making sure I don't wear them too often when I know the same people will see me.

4. After writing this post I decided to buy The Highly Sensitive Person. It slightly breaks my rules because I haven't read it before so I'm not sure if I'll want to read it again, but I have heard a ton of good things about it. I'm 99% positive I qualify as a highly sensitive person just based on the description, so I'm extremely interested in exploring the topic more. And since my library didn't have a copy I felt justified in buying one of my own.

5. I have been feeling the baby moving around a lot the last week and it has been great. I was feeling slightly dumb because I wasn't sure for so long if it was actually the baby or not. Shouldn't I know how it feels since I've already been pregnant? But after enough times when I stopped and thought, "Why does my stomach feel so weird?" I realized that since I wasn't on a roller coaster it must be the baby. And it's nice to feel a little mover inside me again. We find out the gender in a week and a half and I am so excited.

Recharging Through Alone Time

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

I am a person who needs a lot of space and a ton of alone time. This one aspect of my personality is likely responsible for many of struggles as a mom- it is easy for me to feel burned out when I don't get enough of that alone time. Especially since James acts like my little magnet pretty much every minute he's awake. There is no rest from this constant desire he has to be right next to me all the time.

And while I'm sure this is just a stage, my (faulty) memory is telling me that I can't remember a time since he was mobile when he hasn't been this way. It can be so hard for me to feel like I have any breathing room or time to recharge (classic introvert).

Recently, I was reading a book about parents called All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior. It's not exactly about parenting, but more about parents' stories.

One of the mothers Senior focused on was talking about how her husband seemed to take full advantage of his free time on the weekends but she never did. Senior asked, "Do you think if you said to your husband 'I want to walk around Barnes and Noble by myself for an hour or so on Saturday; would you be okay with the kids?' he would be fine with that?" And the woman admitted that her husband wouldn't mind that at all.

Reading that hit me right between the eyes. I could do that. Why have I never done that?!?

This isn't to say that I don't consciously work to having alone time. Brock understands this need and is super accommodating on nights and weekends to help me get the time away that I crave. But I had never thought of leaving the house to get that time.

Usually, I'll hide out in our bedroom while Brock takes care of James, or I'll stay behind while Brock takes James to the playground or farmer's market. Both of those are fine, but being at home isn't as relaxing as leaving. I always feel like I should cleaning the bathroom or mopping the kitchen
or in other ways doing something more productive than sitting down and reading a book.

So a few weeks ago, after reading All Joy and No Fun, I asked Brock if he would mind if I headed out by myself to the library for an hour or two. Obviously, because he's Brock, he said to take my time, so I went. I wandered the shelves and browsed in a lazy way that I can't when I have James with me. I then sat in a chair by the window and read for more than an hour. It was bliss. Pure bliss. I cannot emphasize enough how this hour and a half alone at the library fulfilled me in a way that I thought I wouldn't be able to get until my kid(s) were teenagers.

When I got home, I was so happy. It was around 5:30 pm, which is my usual time when I'm absolutely done dealing with James. But on that day I was so happy to see my husband and son and I had endless patience to play trains and read book with James. It was remarkable the difference I felt.

I've since repeated this outing (including this weekend) and it's hard to overstate how wonderful it is for me. I don't have to spend any money and my mental health has been so much better. I love anticipating my alone time and I enjoy every minute while I'm gone. And when I get back, I'm so much better at being kind and loving to the people in my life who most deserve it. It's definitely a win-win.

Recently Read: January 2017

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share what I've been reading lately
It's been a good reading month so far. I've finished 5 books since the new year (some on my list are from last month) and am looking forward to my audiobooks coming off the long hold lines. As always, I've quit a bunch of books in between the ones I've read. For some reason, it's always hard for me to decide to stop, but I'm so happy once I do. And when I find books I truly enjoy, like these below, I feel great.

1. Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
I LOVED this book. It is a slow, beautiful read where Hannah (the narrator) looks back on her life. She analyzes her actions and the ones of those around her and her thoughts on love and grief are profound.

2. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
Such a great novel. I loved reading about Taylor and how she left her family and all that was familiar, and in doing so was able to find a new family of sorts. It was an interesting look at relationships.

3. Pit Bull by Bronwen Dickey
It was a fascinating look into the history of hated breeds that goes back a hundred years and definitely made me reconsider the way I think about pit bulls. There are a few sad dog stories, just a warning if you're sensitive.

4. French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon
It seems like everyone I know has read this book, but this was my first time and I really enjoyed it. I liked observing my habits from an outsider's perspective and figuring out ways to make them better. James definitely can improve in the vegetables department, and I'm going to try out the recipes from the back of the book this week.

5. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
I was a teensy bit disappointed by this one because I thought it was going to be a really complicated mystery. It was an interesting read and the characters were fascinating, but at the end when the mystery was revealed I was like, "That was it?"

6. Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
This book started out great but petered out a bit towards the end. It's a memoir about a specific part of his life, namely his time as a stand-up comic. Learning about Steve Martin's life was eye-opening and reading about his panic attacks in his 20s gave me one of those "He's a real person!" moments.

Reader Confession: I Rarely Buy Books

Friday, January 13, 2017

I  have a confession today: I super rarely buy any books, mostly because I don't want to own books I wouldn't reread.

I get about 98% of my books at the library. Libraries are this wonderful source of comfort and exploration for me. I love wandering through the stacks and pulling out books that look interesting. Checking out books from the library allows me to try out a wide range of books without having to worry about whether or not I'll like the book and allows me to stop reading them with minimal guilt.

In the picture below, I only finished about half of the books, which is pretty normal for me. I stop books because they're boring, sad, gruesome, overly sexual, etc. If I'm not into a book within 50 pages, I stop it and pick up another. And sometimes I'll read a book, and later admit to myself that it made me too sad or was too intense for me to want to reread.

From top to bottom: Read and liked, read and loved, had to return before I started it, read and loved, read and hated, stopped reading, stopped reading, stopped reading, read and liked, and the last two I just flipped through for the pictures.
Because of that, buying books feels like way too much commitment for me. What if I don't like it? You can't return read books (right?). It would feel like such a waste. I don't want books on my shelves that I don't love and that don't say something about the type of person I am.

A few Christmases ago, my parents gave me a Barnes and Noble gift card. I bought The Chosen, The Devil in the White City, and Man's Search for Meaning. All of those were amazing and I have read them all twice, The Chosen three times, which made purchasing those books well worth it.

But the next Christmas, when I got the gift card again, things did not go as well. I bought The Empathy Exams and Team of Rivals. I loved Rivals a lot, but it took me about a month to get through and when I was done I realized its sheer volume would probably keep me from reading it again. I actively disliked The Empathy Exams; I couldn't stand the author and thought the stories were disjointed. The only reason I finished it was because I had bought it and felt like I had to finish.

It is that experience (and other similar ones) that makes me wary to buy books without reading them first. I want to know that I'll like them, that I'll want to read them again and again and be happy to display them.

Normally I don't feel bad about using libraries over purchasing books. But as I've gotten older and learned more about the book world, I feel guilty that I rarely support authors, booksellers, publishers, literary agents and all the other people who make the books that bring me so much joy. I want the world to keep producing books, good books, that will broaden my horizons and teach me something about the world.

Not buying books makes me worry I'm not doing my part in this process, that I'm not supporting an industry that makes me happy. I've resolved to start (slowly) buying books that I love and want to reread. I know that having the books easily available to me will boost my happiness, as will the knowledge that I am giving back to the world of books.

The Second Pregnancy

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

So (have I mentioned this enough?) I'm pregnant again. Our little baby is coming at the end of June, a little over 5 months away. It's wonderful and hard and so different from last time.

I was so much sicker this time. I probably threw up the same amount of times, but the nausea I felt for the first 13 weeks or so was unrelenting. It sapped my energy and made it hard to do anything. It was horrible and there was no relief from the constant sickness. The only thing that helped (a little bit) was chewing minty gum whenever I really felt the urge to barf. I ended up going through about three packs of gum a week.

The fatigue was also intense. Every day for the first two months I needed a two hour nap in the afternoon and was in bed exhausted before 10:30. A few times I was asleep by 9:30 and I never felt rested. If I went on too long of a walk or waited too long before napping I would practically have to crawl into bed because of how tired I would be. It was unlike anything I had experienced before. The fatigue was especially hard because there was never enough time for me to do the things I desperately need to relax- read, blog, hang out with Brock, etc.

Probably the biggest difference between my last pregnancy and this one is how much more I wanted a baby this time. With James, Brock and I really felt like it was the right time to have a baby, and for me it was a huge leap of faith to follow those feelings. The fact that I was actually having a baby was so surreal. For months I didn't contemplate what it would take to be a mother, and I was glad for how long the pregnancy took because I didn't feel ready. While I did feel love for James every time we heard his racing heartbeat at the doctor's office, I had no idea what motherhood or mother's love would feel like.

It was such a surprise to me how much I did love him and loved taking care of him, which makes this pregnancy all the better because I already know how crazy I'll get over this baby. When I found out I was pregnant I felt a new section of my heart, and a new, distinct love, open up to the baby inside me. I think about the baby all the time. What will its personality be like? How will it look? In what ways will he/she be similar to James and in what ways will the two be different?

I'm can't wait to snuggle a newborn again, to nurse, to baby wear, to hear little coos and get sweet gummy smiles. It makes me feel good to know that through all the hardships and doubts I've experienced as a mother the past (almost) two years, I feel more excited than anything else to go through it all again.

And while I'm more excited this time, I'm also a lot more grateful. These past two years have shown me how many women cannot get pregnant when they want and also how many have lost babies that they loved just as much as I love this one. I don't take this wonderful blessing for granted and know that I am incredibly lucky.

Some Goals for 2017

Friday, January 6, 2017

I love setting goals at the beginning of the year (and sometimes around my birthday too) and this year it feels fun to make them public.

 Goals-setting felt hard this year because, in case you missed it, I am pregnant and expecting our second baby this June. As I was thinking about what I want to accomplish this year, I panicked because of the way that babies have of a dropping a bomb on your life and how it takes months to feel like you've found a new normal (at least that was my past experience- maybe this time will be better). It felt weird to set an exercise goal when I know that any progress will be shot after June and I'm aware that I probably won't care about crocheting while I'm dealing with a newborn, but I'm not letting myself write off the year as a complete loss. While my life will change drastically, there is still much I can improve.

Here is what I hope to accomplish in 2017:

1. Always have a craft project in the works
To be clear, to me a craft project means crocheting or cross stitching, which is the limit of my craftiness. I've noticed how much happier crocheting has made me these past few weeks as I've been working on a blanket, and I want to continue that habit. I want to cross stitch a stocking for the new baby, and probably crochet more blankets, so I'm going to make sure there is something for me to work on.

2. Read at least 50 new books
About three years ago I set a goal to read at least 50 books a year for 10 years, so this one is a continuation of that. Each year I've surpassed that goal (first year I read 72, next year I read 66, and this past year I read 87), so I'm crossing my fingers that having a baby and a boisterous 2.5 year old won't derail my reading too much and I can still reach 50.

3. Reread at least one book a month
I made this goal last year because I realized I miss rereading, which I used to do constantly as a kid but do much more rarely as an adult. Last year I reread 16 books and it was so fun to dive back into books I had loved. I'm already in the middle of Brooklyn on audiobook and have Our Souls At Night up next, so I'm off to a good start.

4. Make our apartment into a home
Right now, the only furniture we have in our living room is a couch and a small storage box for shoes. It doesn't feel very cozy to me and coziness is something I long for in our home. I want to get a lamp, houseplants, art on the walls, a rug, and a glider (yes, those are technically for a baby's room but we want a nice one to go in our front room). I don't want to spend too much money on do this (which means Craigslist), but I really want a nice, cozy home.

5. Practice hand-lettering on Tuesdays
I wanted to learn hand-lettering last year and practiced a few different nights after watching some YouTube videos on techniques. It never stuck and my hand-lettering is only a teensy bit better than it was before. I finally decided that this year, I'll pick one night a week (Tuesdays) and just sit down and practice. It's not a huge commitment, but it's consistent and after a year I bet my hand-lettering will look a lot better. Also, if anyone has suggestions of videos or tutorials for beginning hand-lettering, let me know!

6. Go to the gym on Saturdays 
I feel comfortable with my established exercise routine of walks and yoga but I want to take advantage of the gym we have in our apartment complex. Saturdays are the best option I have because I'm so worn out at nights that I have not once made it to the gym in the four months we've lived here. I'm hoping to get comfortable with the weight machines and maybe work in more cardio than I get by walking.

What goals have you set for 2017? I always love hearing about them.

An Anniversary Post

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Yesterday, Brock and I celebrated four years of marriage. It's a small number but there's so much that the number doesn't capture. Moves, a baby (and another on the way), winters, car problems, travel, job changes, tons of colds, lots of dishes, eating out and staying in, and all the experiences couples face.

We've been through a lot but I'm not naive enough to think that after four years together Brock and I have experienced it all. Life has taught me that there is a lot more in store for us.

And yet, here is just one thing I want to say after being married for four years: It is truly a beautiful thing to see two people come together, learn to compromise and forgive, learn how to serve, experience major life changes together and individually, and through all that get to a deeper level of love than they could have ever thought possible.

I love you forever, Brock, and am so excited for our life.