Thank Your Nurses

I’ve expanded my hours at the local hospital and now get to be on the maternity floor a few times a week (ask me how second baby fever is going.) I’m surrounded by the nursing team thus feel qualified to tell you their favorite ways to be thanked.

If you’ve already been through labor, you know that nurses are the real MVPs of the process. Sure, a doctor may have caught your baby and sewn you up, but the nurses are the ones with you day and night. They see more parts of you than anyone else ever has, they don’t bat an eye at the myriad fluids and smells and sounds emanating from your bloated meat suit, they put up with all sorts of dumb questions and emergencies and chart documenting all while they likely juggle more than one patient. If you had a great hospital experience- or even (especially?) if you didn’t, but you’ll always remember that one nurse who made things better for you- please pass along your thanks.

1- Nurses love food. They’re working long hours, often hustling around on their feet all day lifting and supporting and rolling birthing people who might be dead weight from an epidural. They need to eat, but don’t get much (any) time to do it. When patients send food, they cheer. “What room is this from?” “What kind of cupcakes are those?” “Are there any more granola bars in that gift basket?!” Both sugar treats and healthier foods are appreciated. We had one couple order in pizzas to the break room during dinner time! Some parents get real creative and drop off baskets with Diet Coke cans, trail mix, fresh fruit & string cheese; others have the local bakery deliver a box of donuts or cupcakes. All is appreciated. Including a card with your names and/or room number & date of stay will help jog their memories.

2- A thank you note. Yes, they really do read them and yes, sometimes they cry. If you’re a words person and just need to emote, don’t feel silly writing a card or letter to your nursing staff or those one or two individuals who really made the experience for your family. So many inpatient units around the country are understaffed and these people are being stretched to their limits– a little personal reminder about why they do this work in the first place can go a long way.

3. Nominate them for a DAISY Award. The DAISY Award can be given across the country to recognize excellence in nursing. Even if your nurse isn’t chosen as a winner, they’ll get recognized for being nominated by their employer. The nomination form is super simple, and it’s an easy way to let someone know they really made a difference for you and your family during labor, delivery or postpartum.

4. Sorry- no cash. Not that I think you’re out here entrusting Benjamins in the hands of the postal service in the year of our lord 2021, but also be leery of giving gift cards. Your hospital likely has a policy in place capping the amount of a gift that one individual employee can receive, so if you’re trying to think outside the box, this isn’t the time. Stick to food & praise. We had one dear patient try to give a nurse a large gift card to buy a specific pair of shoes because they heard her mention needing new ones. So, so appreciated! But also against the rules. (Don’t worry- the gift card was moved along to the hospital foundation to purchase items for patients in need.)

Don’t Send Flowers

To the friends and family members of people who have just given birth: do not send flowers to the hospital.

This isn’t a commentary on “flowers die, pizza gift cards live forever” (but seriously, food > flowers.) Send whatever dying soon flowers you want, or a potted plant, or a beautiful orchid– it’s none of my business! Just send it to the house and not the hospital.

Hospital rooms might not be the prettiest place one could ever sleep, but hopefully parents will only be spending up to three nights there. The patient will be too sleep-deprived and in love with their newborn(s) to care if a floral bouquet is brightening the bedside table. When they leave, they will have an absolute armload of things to carry out. Duffel bags of clothes, the Boppy they thought they’d use but probably didn’t, packets of newborn info with copies of hospital consents, plus a car seat holding a very fresh baby. They don’t have the arm space to also load up the car with your well-intentioned detritus.

Feeding Solids

Baby will be eight months old next week which means he’ll have been eating solid foods for half his life. Below is some advice I feel I can give based on our experience. Per the recommendation of his pediatrician, we started introducing purees when he was four months old. This will differ for every child, so please trust the advice of your doctor instead of a random person on the Internet.

We made the decision to start him at four months because baby was getting very interested in what we were eating, was able to sit up with assistance, and just generally thought he was a way older baby so wanted to eat solids NOW, dammit! He’s been a champion eater since he came out of the womb, and his journey with solid foods has been no different. If it were up to him, he’d be bellying up to the table with us at every meal and have kissed bottles good-bye already. We have yet to find a food that he won’t eat (seriously) including fish, mushrooms, beets, corn on the cob, tikka masala… he’s a goat. A really cute, messy goat.

  • The Internet can be a scary place when it comes to information about introducing solids. Some people get absolutely militant about baby led weaning (BLW), some people are terrified of their kids choking and only feed purees for the first year, some people read about all the metals found recently in baby foods and put off introducing solids as long as possible. Protect your mental health when sourcing info! Make sure it’s coming from a reputable source, make sure you’re truthful with your doctor and aren’t afraid to ask questions, and be prepared to unfollow the trendy baby food Instagram accounts, if needed.
  • I wish we had registered for those silicone bibs with the built in food-catching trough. I figured “meh, a bib’s a bib” but WRONG-O, new mom self. The journey from spoon or hand to actual digestion is a chasm greater than the Grand Canyon. The more comfortable baby gets with non-purees, the more food will end up in their lap, on the floor, and under the cushions of their high chair. The more you can catch in their bib, the less you’ll be scraping off the floor after baby has gone to bed. Still pregnant Natalies, add these to your registries!
  • Incorporate baby’s food into how you already eat. If you loathe cooking, don’t put the pressure on yourself to make all of your kid’s food homemade. If Friday night is sacred pizza delivery time for you and your partner, start letting baby suck on the crusts or pick off a few olives and squish them up for baby to try. If it’s daunting to think of new foods to puree, or you don’t have a food processor, think of already soft foods you don’t have to transform after you get home. Items like avocado, ricotta cheese (lower in sodium than other cheeses!) canned pumpkin, yogurt, etc. are baby friendly right out of the package & you can eat them, too.
  • I won’t be giving any advice on introducing allergens because that’s medical grade info I’m unqualified to preach to you about!
  • Start with a little, then add more if they eat it. If you scramble a whole egg for baby, only put a bite or two on their high chair tray. If they eat it, give them some more. Until you know they’ll eat the whole thing, you end up wasting a bunch of food because it’s not that appetizing to eat the remainder after a baby has glommed all over it. Similarly, I’ll plan my breakfast and baby’s together. If I know he’s good for half an egg, I’ll set aside the other half- not covered in baby drool- to eat with my toast. If your baby is like mine, they’ll be more interested in eating if they see you eating along with them.
  • Pack snacks in your diaper bag when you’re going on outings. Even if you read Bringing Up Bebe and don’t believe in giving kids snacks between meals, as they get more active, they’re harder to keep entertained at a restaurant booth or in the car. Have some rice teethers, one of those puree pouches, or even pickles (our kid loves sucking on pickles on road trips) packed with you to give them something to work on. They’ll develop hand-to-mouth skills and keep quiet for longer!
  • Your dining area will get messy. Your kid will get messy. There will be food waste as your child learns to not open their hand over open air and let food fall. You’re gonna need to breathe and try to accept these things. You can look at this as a fun opportunity to teach baby the lifelong skill and enjoyment of eating! You’re both learning together. There will be times when baby grabs the spoon and really wants to feed themselves, but ends up with peanut butter yogurt in their hair, or rubs their sleepy eyes with a hand covered in applesauce. Accept that there are a lot more baths in your future, and keep some baby washcloths near the sink so you can do a post-meal wipe down.

Baby Towels

You know what you don’t need? Baby towels.

Sure, they’re adorable because they come with little corner pocket hoods that make your kid look like a duck or a dinosaur.

But you know what I bet you already have? Towels. Regular-sized towels that won’t outgrow your kid in six months.

Take baby towels off your registries, still pregnant people, and add wipes (can never have too many) or restaurant gift cards for you or straight cash money instead.

Product Recs for Not Baby

I don’t have any insightful recommendations for an almost-mobile baby except a wing and a prayer. However, I have recently discovered a few things I’ve been loving for myself that I’ll pass along to you!

  • Vital Proteins Collagen. I’d heard of people taking collagen, but never much thought about it for myself until I saw it at Aldi (the holy grail of grocery stores; if you haven’t been- GET THEE TO ALDI.) I asked in my Instagram stories if people had good experiences to share & a ton of people said, “yes, girl– collagen is the sh*t.” I can now report, after getting through my first container and buying more, that I am also fully in the collagen cult. My postpartum hair loss seems to have subsided, and I can tell when shaving my legs that all hairs are now growing at quite a quick rate! My nails are growing faster and stronger. Some people say collagen helps with their joints, but I permanently feel like I’ve been hit by a truck from lifting my child all day, so I don’t have any anecdotal evidence to pass along there. The unflavored kind isn’t completely hidden in just water, but many respondents said they mix it in coffee & can’t taste it. My second flavor has been strawberry lemonade since all the other flavors sound like barf, and it’s decent enough to sip on a whole glass without issue.
  • Australian Gold BB Cream Sunscreen. I used to be pretty good at putting sunscreen on my face in the mornings, but something about pandemic weariness + pregnancy laziness got me out of the habit. I’m spending more time outdoors than ever before now that baby likes to constantly be in motion, but have very sensitive skin so can’t go throwing on any old sunblock that’s been in the back of a drawer since 2018. This product was recommended to me on a skincare forum and I LOVE it, mostly because it’s an SPF + BB Cream in one. I got the lightest shade- “Fair to Light”- and it matches my Casper-like skin tone well enough that I could wear only this for the day if I’m not doing a full beat. It’s not greasy- you definitely need to moisturize beforehand since it’s pretty matte- but I don’t think twice about “ugh, sticky sunscreen” because it’s more like fun makeup than a skincare obligation.
  • Poke Cake. Ok, this isn’t really a product, but my birthday is in two days, and I’m making myself a poke cake. If you have any backyard gatherings planned this summer, or just want a stupidly easy, cooling dessert to have on hand around the house (and you do want that because you deserve that) Jello-O Poke Cake is! the! answer! You can make it with any flavor of Jell-O! And technically any flavor of cake! I’m doing white cake + cherry, but my old favorite is white cake + strawberry. My step-grandma makes it with yellow cake + orange Jell-O, and I give that combo all the thumbs up as well. Probably don’t make it with chocolate cake because that flavor would overpower your choice of Jell-O? You could do lemon cake + lime Jell-O if you’re a fake citrus-loving weirdo, but that’s more tang than I prefer in my treats.

Kids’ Music

Our tyke has always loved music, and he’s started to bop along and “dance” so I’m dead from the adorableness. A friend of mine introduced us to Raffi, who I’d never heard of previously, and now he’s a frequent Spotify play in our house on the Alexa/ government listening device.

Raffi is hokey kids’ music- I’ve already got all the lyrics down to “Banana Phone”!- but our son loves it, so I guess this type of music exists for a reason. So many pregnancy advice books told me to find a song we could play to the kid in utero that would be his favorite when he burst forth, but we’re not hugely musical people and never found the “right” one. Poor kid did listen to “Rain On Me” by Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande at least 100 times during my pregnancy, though, so maybe we should revisit it??

I try to play him Fleetwood Mac and Simon & Garfunkel and his dad plays him The Beatles a lot because… I don’t know, we’re trying to culture him? Make him a really cool, old soul seven-month-old? Or probably because he’s too young and impressionable to actually be exposed to my garbage music preferences of Fall Out Boy songs popular in high school, explicit Cardi B, and “Bulls on Parade.” I should play him the Space Jam soundtrack more since that’s hands down the best movie soundtrack of all time.

Babies do love a full musical performance, so if you know the lyrics, I can recommend ELO and Meatloaf, though you’ll feel positively ancient and that you’ve already turned into the embarrassing parent you promised yourself you wouldn’t be. So, Raffi. Thanks, Rachael, for the music tip. I now pass it along to you, dear reader.

Peri Bottle Uses

I thought most people had heard of this, but occasionally I’ll talk to a new parent whose mind is blown when I pass on this advice, so now it’s going on the blog for all to access!

Hang on to your peri bottle after you no longer need it for it’s intended use,** and utilize it during your baby’s baths. It’s great for gently washing shampoo out of their hair without dumping water down their face, and it’s a lifesaver to spray out all the hidden milk/drool that accumulates under their chin(s). Now that my son is older and more playful during bath time, he thinks it’s hilarious to get sprayed in the face with it.

Shout out to previous guest poster Morgan for the tip that peri bottles can also be fun, cheap toddler toys! Let them use it to squirt the driveway on a hot summer day– you can “draw” smiley faces, their names, etc. onto the cement. It dries quickly, then repeat, because repetition to the point of insanity is what kids are best at.

**If you’ve yet to give birth, the hospital provides you with a peri bottle to use during your stay and to take home (Frida Mom also makes a popular version.) Because things are probably, um, super delicate (sore, enflamed, possibly torn, gnarly as hell) down there, you can’t immediately resume your normal toilet paper routine. The peri bottle is a way to gently clean yourself without making matters worse. TIP: fill it with lukewarm to skin temperature water unless you want quite the *shivers down the spine* downstairs wake up. Leave it to the Tucks pads or padsicles to provide you cooling relief, if needed.

Normal? Usually Always

The amount of Googling a pregnant person does cannot be overstated. Almost all of the posts in my online due date group started with, “Is it normal…??” When you’re pregnant, the answer is usually yes.

Yes, it’s normal to get bloody noses & have toothaches & be insanely thirsty. It’s normal for your nose to get visibly wider, both your shoe size and eyesight to change, and a bunch of other just weird/ gross/ foreign things to happen to your body because you’re cooking an entire person.

It seems most of the “what is happening?!?!” freak outs can be attributed to the pregnancy fact that your body is literally creating and circulating at least 50% more blood than normal. All those super visible veins you couldn’t see beneath your skin anymore? So much more blood flow now!

Unfortunately, the “am I dying or am I just a parent now” questions don’t end after birth. Don’t underestimate the amount of truly bizarre things that will come out of your body postpartum. My baby turns seven months old this week, and just this morning I was like, “What IS that?!?!” in regards to my own body. The glamour train does not stop rolling, my friends.

In honor of my college roommate’s kid turning one this month (a baby I’ve yet to meet! Thanks, pandemic!) I’ll leave you with one of my friend’s favorite sayings. NORMALIZE IT. Specifically, in her case, she wants to normalize “the size of the pads they send you home from the hospital with.” She has a photo of her lil’ newborn bub laying next to one of the postpartum pads from the hospital, and they’re the same size. When I showed the picture to my (dear, sweet, naive because I hadn’t yet given birth) husband, he assumed it was a pee pad the hospital had given her to put the baby on. Lololol nope– it’s basically a placemat she has to wear around to catch the insides falling out of her.

Mother’s Day

I’m probably supposed to be thinking about my own mother and not myself on Mother’s Day, but I’ve had my kid and our relationship on my brain a lot this weekend. I’m a mom. That’s bananas. (Unrelated note: you capitalize Mom when you’re using it as someone’s name, as in, “Hi, Mom!” but leave it lowercase when using it as a noun that’s not proper, like “My mom came to my house.” I know we’re all adults and you probably already know that, but the amount of people who don’t bothers me.)

In so many ways, I don’t at all feel different. I’ve heard many people remark, “I don’t even remember what life was like before I became a mom!” …really? Are you just saying that because you think you’re supposed to or are you grossly exaggerating? Because I remember– life was so much easier! I remember having worries, but what were they about?!

But, obviously, I feel super different, though not in ways that can be greatly articulated. I’m more patient with my son than I ever knew I had the capacity to be. He’s here, and it’s like, “Well this makes sense.” I remember thinking a few weeks after he was born, “I have two arms, two legs, one son,” like he’s a part of me just as my hair or kneecaps are. I wasn’t a person who always knew she would be a mother. Early on in adulthood, I was very anti-procreating. Then I got sort of ambivalent about it, then I met someone who would make a great partner and biology took over and I needed a baby now. Now that I’ve met that baby, of course I’m his mother- it’s the most logical thing in the world.

And moms are, like, amazing. That adjective is heinously overused, but so appropriate to use when you sit back in amazement over the sheer amount of things we can accomplish. Physically, emotionally– the mental load moms are capable of carrying could cure this world of everything that ails it. [I’m not saying dads are terrible or that parents or guardians who don’t identify as mothers are any less amazing. Lifting up one doesn’t automatically negate any others!]

So Happy Mother’s Day, friends. Whether you think it’s a dumb Hallmark holiday or are grieving because your mom has passed or will be celebrating with Momosas all day, I’ll be thinking of you. Happy first Mother’s Day, real Natalie (and the katrillion other people I know who popped out babies since last May.)

PPA Advice

Congrats on making it through this tome about my experience with postpartum anxiety. Below is the promised list of things that have helped me manage my anxiety- some days are better than others! While you won’t see therapy on this list (due to the pandemic & not making time for it in my schedule) I love therapy and certainly see how it would be beneficial during this time. I’ve had both in-person therapists and done chat therapy through Better Help, which I highly recommend if you’re open to online options!

  • Sleep. As previously discussed, when sleep goes, so does everything else. I’m more short with those around me when I haven’t slept, and little things become WAY bigger deals in my mind. It’s certainly a catch-22 because with you have anxiety and racing thoughts, you can’t sleep; when you’ve haven’t slept, it makes the anxiety worse. I’ve had to implement no phone before bed and try to read every night before lights out. I also go to bed stupidly early. I’ve been listening to ASMR videos to fall asleep on and off for 10 years (it’s only recently that you can tell someone that without them getting totally creeped out. It’s not weird!!) My current favorites are WhispersRed, ASMRvelous & ElaineSMR.
  • Exercise. Getting back to my barre studio of choice has been vitally important to making me feel more mentally well. 85% of the reason I show up for class is the boost to my brain. The other 15% is for the physical aspects of wanting to get toned and chase my pre-baby weight, but even that helps because when I’m more confident in how I look, I feel better.
  • Tossing the scale. I recognized around three months postpartum that I was letting the scale dictate how I felt about myself, and that felt like an unhealthy mind prison I’d put myself in. Now I truly have no idea what I weigh, thus there’s not a number for me to get anxious about.
  • Medication. I don’t know if I would have been slapped so hard in the face by PPA around the four month mark had I kept taking Zoloft as first prescribed at my six week appointment. I’ve tried post-baby life both ways, and right now, medication is a tool that helps me live a better life. I enjoy the experience of being a mother, a wife, an employee & myself more. I don’t feel unlike myself; I feel like a more calm version of myself.
  • Talking about it. White knuckling what I was going through helped no one. Giving voice to my feelings without letting them rule my day helps me recalibrate, whether it’s writing them down or saying them aloud. Huge love to my husband for never diminishing what I’m going through. I even let my mom know I was on medication- a big deal for me!- because I wanted to be transparent with our support systems about what’s going on.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine. I know, right? Me! Telling you this! I love coffee and greatly abused it when running my business and in those first sleepless months, but there’s no doubt it heightens my anxiety. I’m down to one spoonful of caffeinated grounds in my pour over in the mornings; the rest is decaf, then no more for the rest of the day. As much as I hate that it’s true, alcohol is a depressant, and I’ve had to get honest with myself about how it’s no longer serving me. This isn’t a big announcement of lifelong sobriety, but it’s my next self-improvement hurdle to be more conscious about when I’m drinking, why I’m drinking, and if it’s just out of habit (it is.) I don’t like parenting when I’ve had alcohol, and it certainly isn’t beneficial to my brain- especially on meds!
  • Gabby Bernstein. Gabby’s been my guru of choice as of late. I’ve read her book Super Attractor multiple times, and she just launched a podcast that helps me remember to take deep breaths and let go of allllll the ways I try to control everything in my life. I’ll put on a YouTube video of hers in the morning when getting ready if I’m feeling especially anxious. I mentally make a gratitude list when I wake up before grabbing my phone, I try to lean in to what feels fun vs. what I think I “should” be doing, I incorporate things I love into each day because that’s the point of life, right? (Avocado toast! Trixie Mattel videos! Long stroller walks!)

Not sure any of these are groundbreaking, but again, it’s what works for one person! Always happy to chat if you’re struggling or have suggestions of things that helped you or you have great decaf coffee suggestions.