To the Little Boy with the Cystic Hygroma

This is your heart beat.

A slow steady rhythm marked by flickering white light.

This is the pulse of life.

An erratic fast then slow but pushing on relentlessly.

In the rush of everything, everyone, and everywhere I need to be,

I listen for the thumping in your chest

That sets my steps

And Moves me on despite the setbacks and lacking self-confidence.

I listen for the next beat with bated breath.

Keep beating though the journey is long.

Keep beating though the slog is hard.

Keep beating to guide me where I can hold you in my arms

and become the one who leads you beyond.

Bed-Sharing: Not For You to Judge and Not For the Faint of Heart

My daughter has been co-sleeping since she was born.

I was ashamed of this at one time but choose not to be now. I know the safety concerns, the doctor recommendations, all of that. But still, I prefer to co-sleep, though we are, at 16 months old, trying to transition our daughter to her bed.

Why did I start co-sleeping? I suppose for the same reason other parents who co-sleep do it, we’re exhausted, and our babies refuse to sleep alone.

I tried. God knows I tried not co-sleeping. This was not our default decision. We had a nursery set up; we had the baby monitor, we had the crib with only a fitted sheet, a mobile, a nightlight. It was a nursery built for safety and sweet dreams, but our daughter had other opinions.

We then tried a bassinet in the same room but not in the same bed as us. This was also a flat out FAIL. No matter what we tried, and we tried multiple methods for soothing a baby to sleep, she would wake up again and again. To this day she is not a great sleeper, naps are short and sporadic and she usually only sleeps about 9 hours a night. I have spoken to her pediatrician about this but her development is on track, so there is no reason to be concerned.

The only place she felt confident and comfortable to sleep was next to me.

Perhaps I should have prefaced this post with this, but I exclusively breastfed my daughter since birth. Starting out I had to feed her consistently, at least every half hour to an hour. She gained weight well, but I felt like she was nursing nonstop for at least the first six months of her life. Obviously, this further complicated my sleeping habits and arrangements at night.

We tried for about three weeks to adjust our daughter to be able to sleep in her bassinet beside the bed, at the very least, without success before we gave up and began full-time co-sleeping.

The difference in the amount she slept, not to mention how much extra rest I got, was substantial.

I was devastated, but I didn’t know how else to handle the situation.

Two weeks later my husband, National Guard, deployed to the Middle East and would be gone for nearly a year.

Two weeks after that I started a new, full-time job as a Reference Librarian and Instructor at a community college.

I was exhausted all the time from solo-parenting, from working all day, then mom-ing all night. I was also suffering from post-partum depression which I still struggle with, and I was utterly overwhelmed. Co-sleeping and taking away at least one problem was probably the only thing that saved my sanity at the time. I got more sleep, able to just turn over and nurse my daughter back to sleep during her frequent night feedings. Co-sleeping also allowed me peace of mind when I was home alone all those months that in case of an emergency in the night I had ready access to my daughter.

Now, co-sleeping is not for everybody, and it requires some significant adjustments to how you sleep, from getting used to not using blankets, to understanding that you will probably not be able to sleep deeply. I am a naturally light sleeper, and I don’t tend to roll around a lot during my sleep, most nights I would fall asleep in one position and wake up in that same position. This was to my benefit when I came to terms with the fact that I would be co-sleeping. One of the few benefits of my husband deploying during this time is that there were not two adults co-sleeping with an infant, reducing the risk that arises from more bodies in a bed, though my husband is also a lighter sleeper and often slept on his back all night. Neither my husband or myself are overweight which is another factor which raises the risk of SIDS while co-sleeping with parents. Breastfeeding further reduces the risk of SIDS.

We don’t smoke. Our home’s air quality is good. We didn’t have pets at the time. We used a humidifier. We used a pacifier. We even bought a co-sleeper that can be placed directly in the bed which was useful for traveling when we didn’t want to lug her whole Pack ‘N Play w/bassinet attachment. But still didn’t provide the comfort level our daughter demanded when sleeping at night.

I read articles, I studied sleep training methods, but I could not change my daughter’s sleeping preference. Many of the articles I read which were published by major parenting sites like The Bump, WhattoExpect, and Parenting were starkly against bed sharing. But I know many people in the real world who were forced into an identical sleeping arrangement. It is almost like this secret club, shamed into isolation by more successful parents who managed to establish “safer” sleeping habits.

But a 2013 study by Colson, et al. shows that the percentage of co-sleeping parents has risen from 6% in 1993 to 13.5% in 2010, and at least 45% of parents admitted to sharing a bed with their infant “at least some of the time.” It happens, there are situations where it is just something parents do.

Whatever your preference for your child, where the intentions are obviously not malicious, where the parents are not going to bed drunk or high, or in other ways neglecting their child, you should reserve your contrary judgment of the parents who do share a bed with their infants. Bed sharing was a common practice at one point in time; my great grandparents shared a bed with their children when beds were a commodity, and many families were forced to share one bed.

There are obviously other considerations that must be taken into account when discussing infant sleep arrangements like sleeping position, does the infant sleep on their back, side, or stomach? My daughter usually slept on her back in my bed but would roll onto her side the few times she slept in the bassinet or crib.

I feel like there is a lot of online judgment towards bed-sharing parents, like most online bullying, there is a trend towards increased anonymous criticism vs. in-person criticizing. When faced with actual human beings who you can see love their child, want the best for their child, and work their butts off for their child, it is easier to, if not relate, at least sympathize.

I am not posting this to endorse or encourage bed-sharing. I am merely telling my story as a mom who bed-shared and presenting a narrative that I feel is needed in the conversation surrounding infant sleep arrangements. I hope my story makes somebody else out there who bed-shares feel unashamed, supported, and a little less lonely.

Do you bed-share? Share your story in the comments!

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What I Want You To Remember

You won’t remember the hours I spent rocking you.
You won’t remember the way I worried that you weren’t eating enough.
You won’t remember the time I spent baking and decorating your birthday cakes.
You won’t remember the tears I cried when you were sick.
You won’t remember the sleepless nights.
You won’t remember the pain I felt when breastfeeding.
You won’t remember the bedtime arguments.
You won’t remember any of that.
 
It isn’t your job to remember the work, the fears, the struggles of early parenthood.
I’m not doing my job if I place that stress on your tiny shoulders.
The things I want for you, the things I want you to remember, are only good.
 
I want you to remember the warmth of my chest under your cheek.
I want you to remember the lullabies that soothed you to sleep.
I want you to remember the taste of those birthday cakes on your tongue.
I want you to remember the tears of happiness that only you could inspire.
I want you to remember you were worth every sleepless night.
I want you to remember that your health meant more to me than my comfort.
I want you to remember the bedtime stories that taught you to dream.
I want you to remember that you were safe and loved.
 
I want you to remember we are your home wherever you roam.
 

13 Mommy Facebook Pages You Need to Follow

Let’s face it, our Facebook timelines have taken a serious dive. I know mine has dissolved into a near constant state of fear, anger, and frustration. But there are still some bright spots on the platform, a few pages that the shadows have not overtaken.
And if you are new to this whole parenting thing like me, you are probably aching for some relating. I found some pretty awesome mommy Facebook pages you need to be following for advice, for support, and for some good old fashioned making fun of our crazy lives.
These ladies share uncensored Mom truths, hilarious memes, relevant topical stories from the news, magazines, other social media platforms, etc., recipes, accessible fashion advice, DIY, and even survival gardening.
Moms really can do it all and these Facebook pages show that the proof of that is in the content, served up homemade or from the microwave, no judgement.
Here are some of my favorite Facebook pages that brighten up my timeline.

  1. Scary Mommy
  2. The Drunk Mom
  3. Diary of a Mom
  4. The Typical Mom
  5. Hot Mess Mom
  6. CafeMom
  7. The Winey Moms (Disparaging remarks about people who receive government assistance proliferated this page after my recommendation. Steer away, I ended up blocking them there was so much hate.)
  8. Insane in the Mom-Brain
  9. The Survival Mom
  10. The Mom Edit
  11. The Mom Life Uncensored
  12. The Mom Truthbomb
  13. The Mom Life

Most of these ladies blog on a separate website so make sure you drop in on those and give them a follow, let them brighten up your inbox too! What else are you getting in there, another coupon for 10% off at a store you will never shop in again? (Looking at you Forever 21!)
And don’t forget to give A Bookish Mama a like and a follow if you want to see more posts like this!

Updated: 04/24/2018

The Ultimate Baby Cheat Sheet

My daughter is about 16 months old. As our first child, we had a lot of buying to do to get ready for her arrival. We had a baby shower of course but ended up buying most of the more significant items ourselves, except the crib which my coworkers at my old job bought for us as a gift WITH a crib mattress (they were seriously the most amazing people in the world, and I miss them every day).
The cost of preparing for a baby can be enormous, especially when confronted with all these lists of what baby should have. I scoured these lists on Pinterest for months. I made my own lists, I made Amazon wishlists AND baby registries. I wanted to be prepared for anything and everything this unknown nugget would throw at me, especially as my husband was preparing for an overseas deployment a month after my due date. Anything that would make my life easier as I solo parented a newborn was a must have.
As a result, we ended up buying many things it turned out we didn’t need/would never use. I realize every baby is different and for some the items we ended up wasting money on could have been useful. However, I think our experience was pretty standard. Some of the things we didn’t use because she had zero interest in the item, like a cosleeper bassinet. Some products I honestly forgot I had bought and got by fine without.
The items I did use were used heavily and were actual life-savers. This post is dedicated to those beautiful objects that sometimes made parenting a breeze. Or at least made me not want to rip my hair out as badly.
I will link all the items to Amazon for easy reference to what they are and an estimate of cost. Of course, you can buy these from your retailer of choice if you decide you need them.
Boppy

Version 2
Usually passed out like this post feeding.

Easily my favorite baby product and the thing I used the most. A boppy is a nursing pillow that fits around your waist. It is technically a nursing pillow but is useful for bottle feeding as it allows you free use of one hand at least. I breastfed, so the boppy allowed me to have both hands free (once Little Bit had learned to latch and stay latched correctly). Once she got older, we would prop her in this to help her strengthen her neck, and she learned to actually sit up using this pillow. My mom would even lay her in it for naps, and it was convenient for stuffy noses. The only caveat is that you need to invest in multiple covers. I had one, and the regular milk dribblings meant a lot of washing and not having a cover for the pillow itself which I needed during washings as well. I’d say a minimum of two but three might be better if you can swing it.
 
Bottle Sanitizer (if you don’t have a dishwasher with the sanitize option)
My apartment did not come equipped with a dishwasher, so a bottle sanitizer was a must for us initially as I did not want to boil water constantly. There are several variations of bottle sanitizers including some you can put in the microwave but we went with a plug-in appliance that sanitized in less than 5 minutes. It worked great and was definitely much easier to use than more traditional methods. However, once we moved into our house with a dishwasher with sanitize functions, we no longer needed this appliance.
Diaper Genie
I have heard people bashing the Diaper Genie, that is was an overpriced garbage can, for years before I got pregnant and so was a little hesitant about this purchase, but it honestly makes a huge difference in odor. Where there are babies there is excessive amounts of poop. And that poop just progressively gets stinkier and stinkier as baby progresses from milk to solids (I have also heard formula fed babies have smellier poops than breastfed babies). The Diaper Genie shuts these odors in and includes a charcoal filter for additional smell protection. Your nose and the noses of your house guests will thank you. We bought two, by the way. You will need to purchase refills for the bags and the charcoal filters, but you can buy these in multi-packs.
Cloth Diapers for Burp Cloths
We did not choose to use cloth diapers over disposable diapers for our daughter. I really wanted to but in the end was too intimidated to
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She loved playing with the clothes too.

try. However, I got these flat fold cloth diapers to use for affordable burp cloths, and they were invaluable. They are simple cloth squares you can prop under baby’s cheek while feeding to catch dribbles, the keep nearby for spit up, for the use of general spills while unable to move to grab an actual towel, etc. They are super cheap to buy in bulk, and you can bleach the crap out of them, literally. Burp cloths with cute designs are way marked up for their purpose and not nearly big enough anyway. I had some burp clothes I had received as a gift at my baby shower, and they were suitable for one use before they were ready for the laundry. Not nearly as absorbent as the cloth diaper either.
 
Glider Rocker
This was a more significant purchase as a piece of furniture but also definitely worth the cost. There is only so much manual rocking a human being can do, even my National Guard hubby who lifts. A rocker is a huge help, and a glider rocker has the smoothness necessary for undisturbed soothing and near effortless transition from sitting to standing. They usually pair with a footstool which you will use, and you will be glad you bought both. We did not buy the glider linked above but bought ours from Walmart, and it has held up excellently and still gets some use today. Also, our kitty (RIP) peed on the cushion, and it came clean easily.
Pack ‘N Play w/Diaper Changing Station and Bassinet
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Bonus: You get pictures like this which are priceless.

I can’t recall the exact brand we have, but it looks very similar to the one linked above. We got massively lucky on this one, and our uncle found a gently used Pack ‘N Play with the diaper changing station and the bassinet insert (but not the little newborn bassinet on top) and gave it to us as a gift. Yard sales, by the way, are fantastic places to find baby stuff as babies grow so fast they don’t use anything long enough to really destroy it. But we used this thing regularly, the diaper changing station especially for quick changes in the living room where we kept this thing erected permanently for quick baby drops when I needed to have my hands free. I also would take it outside and let baby play in it safely while still getting fresh air during the summer.
 
Baby Gym
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The monkey was definitely her favorite.

This item gets a little less use just because the amount of time it is safe for baby to play with is so short. It is best for newborn to right before they start to crawl. After that, they start tugging it down on them or just crawling away to inspect more exciting things.  But my baby rolled over for the first time on this, and she absolutely adored the little toys that attached to it (and which un-attach for extended play options once the gym itself is no longer usable). I included it because you can purchase these at a reasonably low cost, no doubt you can find multitudes of them used in yard sales or at Goodwill.
 
Shag Rug or Rug Pad
So, as my baby was learning to sit up, crawl, and walk she was constantly falling like every other baby. The tumbles I could not prevent, but we had hardwood floors in the house. We needed to provide padding to diminish injuries, especially for her soft noggin. I ended up buying a shag rug for the thick pile AND a rug pad which resulted in the cushiest flooring I have ever felt. It is impossible for Little Bit to hurt herself when she falls on this rug and is super comfy just for floor play, especially for people like me who had hip problems during pregnancy. There is an upfront cost investment for this but entirely worth it. The rug pad also helps protect my hardwood floors and keeps the rug on top from moving which are additional perks. You could probably buy a rug with a smaller pile, and still be just as insulated, no doubt our setup is slight overkill.
Baby Sleepers
So. Many. Sleepers. I preferred these Carter’s terry cloth sleepers, but you can buy plain cotton ones as well. Honestly, this and onesies are all my baby wore as she spent most of the beginning of her life sleeping. Even when I took her out, she was usually dressed in a sleeper, though she was born in November, so the cold weather was a factor. Honestly, cute (often overpriced) newborn outfits that look like adult clothing is a money racket in my opinion. I bought my daughter some cute outfits, but they never seemed as comfy and would disrupt her sleep sometimes. A coming home outfit and special occasion clothes are really all you need besides sleepers and onesies in the beginning.
Onesies
Besides sleepers, I kept my baby dressed in onesies. On a couple of super cold nights in our old drafty apartment, she would wear both. But onesies are great basics and accessible to both put on and remove (you can roll them down over the shoulders and pull off from the bottom). They come in a million and one patterns and colors and are usually made of cotton.
Baby BathtubIMG_2945
Another baby object I have heard people say is overrated is the infant tub which sits in your regular tub. I found mine incredibly useful and much more comfortable than the sink. For one, the bathtub is ergonomically shaped for the baby to lean back on and support their heads. In the sink, without any additional support, you are using your own hand/arm (you will still need to keep one hand on the baby in an infant tub, at least until they can support their own head). But the tub also comes with a little hammock for newborns which was super useful and could be thrown in the washer afterward. The bathtub I use has three different options for baby to use, the hammock, a side sans hammock for newborns, and an infant side, all with varying angles as the baby develops. It saved water and offered additional support for baby. I bought mine for $5 at a Peddler’s Mall.
Baby Carrier
Finally, a product I found absolutely invaluable was a baby carrier. This particular one is a front carrier and is not meant for newborns. I think they recommend only using this product on infants 8 weeks and up as newborns cannot support their heads well. I attempted to use a Moby wrap, but my daughter hated the constriction of the wrap. The carrier allowed her hands and feet freedom, and she was able to use my boobs as a pillow. While solo-parenting this was the only way I was able to grocery shop as I couldn’t fit my food and her car seat in the shopping cart. This carrier felt comfortable on my back even after an hour of use, and the straps are adjustable. The carrier can be used up to 32 pounds, about the weight of my daughter now at 16 months.
Jumperoo
 
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Buttons and babies go together like PB&J.

Another of my favorite products, my daughter absolutely adored her jumperoo. Doctors advise against baby walkers so we bought this as an alternative for individual play and building leg strength. it has three height settings so it lasts quite a while (unless you have an early walker) and has a variety of entertaining toys. My daughter could spend hours in her Jumperoo bouncing and playing with the toys and listening to the music. Worth the investment and the space it takes up for sure. If you can find it gently used all the better! We had to buy ours new though.
 
 
 
Baby Swing
Baby swing barely made this list. Honestly, they are not worth buying brand new. Look for a nice, gently used one (always check for recalls when buying products used and always register new products for recall alerts). My sister-in-law found ours at a yard sale in excellent condition for about $20. They cannot be used for a long time, babies shouldn’t sleep in them. If they fall asleep you will need to move the baby to a safer sleep environment. And the weight and height limit is low, my daughter grew out of hers by about 4 months. But it did help with soothing some of my daughter’s colic symptoms which were bad from the time she turned 6 weeks to 3 months. Baby swings also take a lot of batteries and drain them quickly which can get expensive.
 


 
Besides diapers, diaper cream, formula, bottles, baby soap, etc. these were the most useful items in the beginning. Though I received a crib as a gift it got very little use and still is not used as baby cosleeps and has since birth. This is more common for breastfeeding mothers to do as they need to be fed more often and you get more sleep. Your comfort level for cosleeping is your own business, FYI. I never had a problem with my daughter and was always highly alert to her position on the bed. Also, solo parenting is terrifying and having her next to me in case of an emergency was very comforting.
I could easily raise another baby on just the items above, which don’t get me wrong, is still a house full. So save money and time and stick with the things that work.

Your Little Baby Girl

Little baby girl slumbering away
You’ve had your milk and a time to play
And though it’s early you’ve had a long day.
Little baby girl with lashes curled on your cheek
And lips pursed out like you long to speak
But long slow breaths mark a deep sleep.
Little baby girl with arms flung to the sides
As though you dream of a longing to fly
Or catching the power of the ocean tides.
Little baby girl let me dream with you
Of your future bright and with hope imbued
And a longing to live and share love too.