The Questions ‘Old’ Moms Ask Themselves When Considering A Late-In-Life Baby

Becoming an “old new mom” was never part of my plan, but here I am. And while I’m so grateful for my beautiful family, having a child later in life has definitely been a different experience. The path leading to my geriatric pregnancy looked much the same as it does for lots of women. Very career-driven, I spent the better part of my twenties and early thirties in college earning my doctorate and working (as my dad would say, “like a borrowed mule”), so my focus was simply elsewhere. It wasn’t until right around the time that I met my husband at age 34 that I first began to hear the faintest sound of my biological clock ticking.

Over time, as tends to happen, that ticking became louder. When my husband and I got married, I was blessed to become a stepmom to the sweetest boy ever born … but I couldn’t shake the strengthening desire to add to our family. And so, one fall afternoon in my 37th year of life, my husband and I decided that our DNA was worth combining and that we wanted a baby.

A few weeks later, I was staring at two little pink lines that would change my life (and brain) forever. I didn’t know it then, but I would be joining a growing sisterhood of women having babies at an “advanced maternal age”.

As excited as I was about becoming a mother, pregnancy and childbirth were definitely not kind to my aging body. Right before I went in for my scheduled C-section, I remember someone asking me if we would ever have another baby. Practically snorting at the absurdity of that question, I emphatically answered, “HELL NO! WHO ON EARTH WOULD DO THIS TWICE…ON PURPOSE???”

And then it happened.

I woke up in the recovery room and held that sweet little newborn baby in my arms and gazed upon his angelic face for the first time. He had his daddy’s eyes and his mama’s nose. I was captivated, overpowered by a wave of emotion that I still struggle to describe. I literally burst into tears because I couldn’t take how beautiful he was. Without a doubt, I was in love and my former self who didn’t “get” what this motherhood thing was all about was gone … forever.

Fast forward to the present. I am now 40 with a two-year-old, whom I love more and more with each passing day. Our son is a smart, funny, vivacious little firecracker who has been an absolute blessing to our family. Now that he is walking (running), talking (yelling), and potty trained (eh, mostly), our life has started to settle into a nice, comfortable rhythm … which, of course, means that all I can think about for the past eight months is having another baby.

Wait. WHAT?!? I mean, clearly this child has broken something in my brain, right? Seriously … have I lost my ever loving mind?!?

Like any logical person facing this conundrum, I’ve made a list of the pros and cons. The tally is solidly in favor of us being one and done … but all the logic in the world doesn’t stop the thoughts, the questions, and the longing. And, since so many more women are having kids later in life, it has become increasingly clear to me from conversations and online message boards that what I’m experiencing is a very common predicament … paralysis by analysis that places you squarely on the fence. Without a doubt, the emotionally taxing decision of whether to attempt conception amid diminishing opportunities is one that unites older moms because we likely feel some version of the same stress, uncertainty, and pressure.

So, if you’re an old mom on the fence trying to explain this to someone (or married to an old mom on the fence and trying to figure out what the hell is going on in her head), here are a few questions that are likely being considered … about 100 times per day.

Is it worth the risk?

The statistics for pregnancy after 40 are scary, and the risks to both mom and baby are very real. First and foremost, it’s harder to get and stay pregnant. And, if you’re lucky enough to conceive and carry to term, there are a host of other concerns. I could share some of the stress-inducing numbers, but if you’re on the fence with me, you’ve probably been secretly reading them on your phone anyway. And, as if that wasn’t enough, many of us are also having to weigh these risks in 2020. So in addition to just the normal, everyday uncertainties, we also have to consider a global pandemic that puts pregnant women at a higher risk (and older, high risk pregnant women presumably at an even higher risk than that).

Given the variables, it feels ludicrous to even think about having a baby right now. But then you read an article about a lady who had three healthy pregnancies after 40 … or you know a woman who knows a woman who became an old new mom during the pandemic with no problems whatsoever, and you think, see? A seemingly endless number of other women are out there dodging the complications every day … so why not me? And is there really anything worth having that doesn’t come with at least a certain amount of risk?

Am I just too old?

The pregnancy amnesia that comes with motherhood is a force to be reckoned with … it has to be, otherwise the world would be full of only children. But, even looking back through the strongest of rose-colored glasses, I still remember how hard it was growing a baby in this old body. What weighs on me heavily is that I’m 100% certain that pregnancy would be even worse now because I’m almost three years older … and chasing around a perpetually busy two-year-old.

Would I seriously be able to keep up with an energetic three-year-old while pregnant (especially if it’s even harder than the last one)? And forget about pregnancy, will I be able to put myself back together while keeping up with a newborn baby AND a toddler (who still doesn’t consistently sleep through the night)?

Regardless of how sad it makes me feel to admit it, I have to consider the simple fact that maybe I’m just too old to do it again. I mean, sure, lots of other moms do it. In fact, not only do I know a surprising number of women who have had multiple kids later in life, but when I think about them collectively, they all have one thing in common … they all seem much younger than they actually are. Maybe it’s because no one expects to see a member of AARP at back-to-school night … or maybe having kids later in life is actually some weird fountain of youth that keeps you younger out of necessity.

In my quest for statistics related to older mothers, I was surprised to find that the older the new mom, the more likely she is to survive to an unusually old age. In fact, there was one study that found that women who lived to at least age 100 were four times more likely to have had children while in their forties.

It really doesn’t matter how many studies I find, the future and how it will be impacted by my age still fill me with worry (even for our two-year-old). Will my body be able to keep up? Will my kid feel weird about having an old mom? Will I live long enough and be healthy enough to enjoy being a grandmother one day? Clearly there’s no way to answer these questions without a crystal ball, but the uncertainty is stressful.

Why does time seem to be going so FAST?

Seriously? When I was pregnant with my son, time moved so slowly that I was convinced that the secret to eternal life was to be pregnant. Those 10 months felt like 10 years. Since his birth, however, the clock feels like my sworn enemy. At the same time that I’m keenly aware of my fertility slipping away, so are the last moments of my son’s babyhood. It feels silly to be emotional about that because the point of having kids is to watch them grow up, but I can’t help but be overcome with sadness each time I’m forced to pack up clothes or toys he has outgrown.

As I agonize over this decision about whether or not to have another baby, I have also become acutely aware that each of my baby’s firsts is also quite possibly a last for me. There will be a last time I hold him in my arms to feed him, and a last time I rock him to sleep at night. (Even typing those words makes my eyes well up with tears.) Right now, every milestone feels like a bittersweet reminder of my aging ovaries and I find myself clinging to those baby moments in a desperate attempt to keep them from slipping away … and, despite my desperation to hold onto them, I can still feel them leaving my grasp.

At the same time, there is also this intense (albeit self-imposed) pressure to jump off the fence in an effort to beat the clock. If we decide to try for another baby, the longer I wait, the less likely it is to happen (especially since my husband and I decided years ago that measures involving medical intervention just wouldn’t be for us). My guess is that the decision that your family is complete might be a difficult one to make in any situation, but there’s a difference between making that decision on your own and having time make it for you. In a matter of months or, at best, a few short years, there will be no choice to make because these ovaries aren’t going to keep pumping out viable eggs forever, a fact about which I’m reminded at least daily.

Maybe it’s not just my fertility slipping away that I’m mourning. Maybe the impending loss of my fertility is also a reminder of my youth slipping away, as well … a reminder of my own mortality, and of how quickly our time on this Earth really is. Whatever it is, the clock seems to be ticking faster and faster … and the more I want it to slow down, the faster it goes.

Why didn’t I start earlier?

Sometimes my sadness at the possibility of having no choice but to be one-and-done turns into anger, even if for a moment. Why? Why didn’t I start earlier? In my attempt to have it all, did I put myself in this regretful position of having biology plan my family for me?

The truth is, I met my amazing husband later in life, and there’s nothing that could have changed that timeline. Having him as my husband makes me the luckiest woman on Earth, but there are still moments when I feel frustration that I’m in this position of having to weigh the risks and reward of motherhood under such a time crunch. Deep down, I know that if I was 10 years younger, this would be a non-issue.

Obviously there are never guarantees, but at least I’d have time to let our son get a year or two older before having to make this decision. It’s a hard feeling to be on the fence because you don’t want another child yet, but yet might be too late.

What if I regret this decision?

Regret is an unavoidable possibility when you make decisions … it’s just a part of life. But, we’re not talking about the same regret you might feel after having one too many slices of pizza or spending too much on a pair of shoes. No, the regret that might come as a result of this decision might be hard-hitting and could quite possibly last for the rest of my life. (I know that sounds overly dramatic, but these are the thoughts that go through my head!)

To make matters worse, there are several layers of possible regret to consider. What if I decide that I want a second baby and I’ve waited too long? What if we decide to go for it and there are serious complications and, God forbid, one or both of us doesn’t make it? On the flip side, if we decide our family is complete as is … will our two-year-old wish for a sibling to grow up with when he’s in elementary school and his older brother (my stepson) is an adult? Will I send him off to college and feel anguish at the fact that I didn’t have another child when I had the chance?

Courtesy of Suzy Lofton

I know that the weight of caring for two little ones will probably have days where it feels like too much or places temporary stress on our otherwise happy little life, but I struggle to see how I could ever regret adding another little person to our family … but what if the statistics turn out to be true and this decision ends up causing all sorts of unnecessary heartache and stress instead?

Am I just being plain old selfish?

Is my biologically-driven desire to procreate completely ignoring the reality of the impact it will have on my husband, our boys, and the rest of our family? I mean, let’s face it, we’ve already shelved our early retirement plans because we will have a kid in high school. I know we can provide a good life for our sons, including fully-funded college accounts, and still remain financially comfortable. Having another mouth to feed, another college fund to build, and additional daycare expenses (among other things) clearly takes away from the people who are already in this family.

And let’s not forget that my deciding I want to go through another pregnancy and newborn phase would clearly put everyone else in this house in the predicament of having to go through it as well. What about our toddler, who is the textbook example of a mama’s boy … would another baby take away from him and somehow make me a lesser mother? Would either of our boys feel less important or less loved? And then there’s my own aging parents (who, incidentally, had me in their mid thirties) … as the likelihood that they will need additional support increases, can I balance that with also taking care of a house full of little ones?

Am I tempting fate?

To be honest, I lucked out with our son. I got pregnant right away. I had an uneventful (albeit uncomfortable) pregnancy. I had a planned C-section with a skilled doctor and our son’s birth went completely as planned. What if I’m not that lucky this time? What if it isn’t uncomplicated or things don’t go as planned? I won the kid lottery once … should I quit while I’m ahead?

Which should I listen to – my head or my heart?

Look, I’m a smart girl. I know the risks … and the work … and the devastation it will likely cause to my body. I know that we have finally settled into a routine and life is starting to feel a little bit easier. I know another baby means losing the guest room, possibly buying a larger car, and two daycare payments. I know it will mean months (or years) of interrupted sleep, and diapers, and spit up, and crying.

I know all of this. But that doesn’t stop my heart from aching for a sweet, newborn baby, from marveling at our adorable son and wondering what other awesome little person we could create. It doesn’t stop the twinge of jealousy I feel at pregnancy and birth announcements. It doesn’t stop me from picturing our lives 10 years down the road and seeing two kids at home (my stepson will be in college by then). All of the logic and sound judgment in the world can’t stop the wondering and yearning.

There are so many upsides to being an older mom, but this has definitely been one of the unanticipated challenges for me. Make no mistake about it – the seemingly constant internal monologue and almost-daily back-and-forth, being driven by a biological clock that seems to tick louder every day, can feel positively suffocating at times.

In those moments, I have to force myself to stop, breathe, and remember just how grateful I am to have the life I have right now. There’s a picture in our bedroom that says, “I remember the days I prayed for all that I have now” and it’s so true. I can’t let my fence-sitting make me lose sight of how fortunate I already am.

I honestly don’t know how this story ends or on which side of the fence I’ll land. Until then, I’ll keep cramming our closets full of baby clothes and toys until I can decide what to do with them.

No matter the outcome, given the growing sisterhood of old new moms out there who are struggling with this very same decision, I know I’ll be in good company on either side of the fence.

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I’m Done Apologizing For The Fact That I Want A Daughter

I’ll never know what it’s like to go through a pregnancy without having a sex preference. I wish I never cared from the start, but I did. Although I played sports competitively growing up and didn’t own a skirt until I was in 10th grade, I just didn’t picture myself as a boy mom. Yes, eventually I wanted babies of both sexes, but I had this fantasy in my mind of having a girl first, of her establishing a calm tone for the family and becoming my little helper and friend as she grew.

Before my husband and I had children, we optimistically wanted 4-5 children. Like so many naive pre-parent thoughts and expectations, actual parenthood would shift our desire.

There was never any consideration whether we would find out the sex of our children during pregnancy. The idea of “we want to be surprised” at birth never entered our minds. In fact, I like to say that discovering the sex of your baby is always a surprise, the only difference is when that surprise occurs. And as my friend used to say, “I find out during pregnancy so I’m not disappointed when the baby is born.” It’s better to take time to deal with that disappointment.

So when we found out our first was a boy, I bought myself (yes, myself) a cute pair of boy booties, decorated the nursery in Classic Pooh, and told myself it would be fine. (Of course he never even wore those booties as these things never fit newborns, and I probably lost them by then, and who has time and energy for multi-piece outfits. But that’s beside the point.) I told myself baby boy clothes can be cute too, and we have 3-4 chances left at a girl (remember I hadn’t experienced parenthood at that point).

And it was fine. I mean it was hard of course, as parenthood always is, especially with a newborn, and especially your first newborn. But I loved and love that little boy beyond words.

Then I was pregnant with my second baby and I was sure this time it would be a girl. But it wasn’t. And I told myself it was fine. They would be friends. I used to say, “I just wish that I could have a promise that the next one will be a girl.” But there are no promises.

The next pregnancy, at my 12 week ultrasound, the doctor told me, though it was just a guess at that point, she thought it was a girl, and the technician agreed with 90% certainty. So I held that hope for a glorious three hours, until my doctor’s office called to tell me the blood test results came in, and it was, indeed, another boy. I remember that call vividly. I remember I was driving my kids home from swim lessons, and I remember on which specific street I was. I remember how my doctor’s assistant first asked me what genders I have, and by her reaction to my answer, I knew what was coming.

It wasn’t until this third time that there were tears and depression at the news. It was a hard pregnancy for me, starting with finding out that I still wasn’t getting the girl I dreamt of. On top of that, I ended up getting the overwhelming news that I had gestational diabetes, which plunged me further into depression. Now I didn’t even have the option of eating my feelings.

And I had a lot of feelings and a lot of guilt about those feelings. I was sad and disappointed even though it felt wrong. I wondered if this pregnancy was worth it, especially having to poke a needle into my finger four times a day, having to be hyper-cautious about the foods I ate, and dealing with the anxiety of whether I would make it through the pregnancy without insulin. Then, one of my closest friends became pregnant with a girl during my pregnancy. It was hard not to be jealous no matter how hard I tried to tell myself not to compare, and to instead be grateful for what I have.

Of course I deeply love my three boys, now 6, 4, and 2. I love each of their individual personalities, even if I don’t always get their name right until the third try. I love sharing my Harry Potter obsession and my affinity to math with my eldest; I love the goofiness of my 4-year-old and watching him complete 12-year- old LEGO sets; I love the sweet, caring, cuddly, fun presence of my youngest. They are your stereotypical energetic boys who love ninjas and superheroes, building, sports, and, of course, fighting with one another. For each one present, the energy level grows exponentially.

Having three little boys is exactly as bonkers as you would expect. Parenting them isn’t what I thought it would be (definitely a lot more chaotic and louder), but I’m confident all parents would say the same. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t a parent, while somehow at the same time maintaining my certainty that I want to add a fourth child.

And, although I don’t have firsthand experience with girls, I imagine they truly aren’t always sweet and calm and having glittery flower decorated tea parties attended by unicorns. I imagine my fantasy of having a little friend and helper for life, like all things in parenthood, wouldn’t turn out like I expect. And I wish I could tell you (and myself) that I’m perfectly satisfied being a boy mom. But it’s time to be honest with myself. I still want that girl, and I’m done apologizing for it.

Of course I’m grateful to have each of my healthy children, especially having had a serious health problem in my childhood. I’m grateful I had no issues conceiving, carrying, and birthing them. I know there are many people who desire all these things, and I want every woman to have all of that too. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have my own feelings about what I haven’t gotten, how important it is to me, and what I’m willing to do to get it. I can love what I have, wish for the best for others, and still yearn for something more for myself all at the same time. And if I haven’t tried everything in my power to get it, I know I’ll always regret it.

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Why I Gave Up On ‘Blessing Sandwiches’

Soon after our son was born, I developed a somewhat standard response to check-in questions: “Hard and best.” That’s how I described my transition into motherhood. Because it felt impossible to mention one without the other. The sleep deprivation without the joy, the loneliness without the fulfillment, the loss of one identity without the discovery of another.

Eventually, I graduated to the blessing sandwich.

You know, the “I’m grateful I get to stay home with him. Sure, sometimes it’s isolating. But I feel really fortunate to have this time together.” Or the, “He’s a really happy baby. Still not sleeping through the night. But all the smiles during the day make up for it.”

One good thing. One hard thing. One good thing again.

Just to prove that this journey is in fact better than it is difficult. That I love it more than I struggle through it. That for every moment I’m on the verge of impatient tears, there are two more that I’m grinning and grateful. That if motherhood was a contest, and you could love your way to a victory, I would win.

And then, somewhere in the midst of all the thanksgiving, with noticeable shame rising within me, I sheepishly admit the rest.

I share the way I struggle as my mom brain fails to produce a big words or deep thoughts. How I sometimes feel like I live in a continuous loop of “when’s the last time you pooped?” and mindless errands. That it’s tough to silence the comparisons, resentments, and insecurities of my mind. How I grapple with the question of where I measure, what I’m bringing to the table, and whether or not I’m doing enough.

When I see other women who appear to be seamlessly juggling their careers and their families, I find myself thinking, “I’m just a mom.” Or when my husband tells me about his day at work, and I report back that we read books, played with blocks on the floor, and took a walk around the neighborhood, I leave out the part about feeling lonely when I saw other women talking between their yards. Or when the cashier at Target asks me if I did anything exciting over the weekend and it suddenly seems a little lame to admit that shopping at Target was the cool thing we did.

At the end of the day, I let it be known that even in the midst of tough moments, I’d never trade the life I have. I carry on about how I can hardly remember my life without our son in it. I express all the joy, pride, and appreciation I feel. I speak aloud my gratitude for the family we’ve created, for the home we’ve settled into, for the experiences we’ve had that have led us to where we are.

But somewhere along the way, I discovered that what I need more than this curated blend and imagined balance of blessing sandwiches is grace.

Grace to stop conflating the way that I feel with the love that I have.

Grace to allow the complexity and contradiction of the messy and beautiful, empty and full, doubting and trusting, and hard and good of this season, without explanation.

Grace to get through the worst, to cherish the best, and to live within the ebb and flow of the two.

Grace to know that having bad days doesn’t make me a bad mom and that having the best days doesn’t mean I’ve perfected the gig. It simply grants me space to feel both, at once or neither.

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How To Cope With D-MER, From A Mom Who’s Been There

When I gave birth to my son, things were perfect. My labor was short. My contractions were straightforward. My abdomen compressed regularly, and rhythmically. 90 seconds on. 60 seconds off. And he was healthy. Clear skin. Clear lungs. Strong heart. I couldn’t have asked for a better birth experience. The doctors were patient and supportive. My wishes were seen and heard.

I also had one hell of an epidural. My body was numb from the waist down.

But the best part was my son’s demeanor. He was a happy baby. A calm baby. An easy baby, which is to say he slept well and nursed often. He latched moments after I placed him on my chest and bare breast. And it seemed breastfeeding him would be a breeze. But after a few weeks, things changed. My relationship with him and breastfeeding changed, and I became anxious.

I didn’t know who was more upset: me or the red-faced baby in my arms.

Now I know what you’re thinking: It is normal to be overwhelmed. Parenthood is hard, breastfeeding is hard, and sleep deprivation is brutal. The first few weeks are particularly trying. But there was more to my emotional instability than exhaustion. I was suffering from something called D-MER, or dysphoric milk ejection reflex.

Of course, many people do not know what D-MER is. In fact, the term is rarely used — and the condition is misunderstood. However, according to D-MER.org, an awareness-based website managed by mom and lactation consultant Alia Macrina Heise, dysphoric milk ejection reflex is “a condition affecting lactating women that is characterized by an abrupt dysphoria, or negative emotions, that occur just before milk release and continuing not more than a few minutes.”

To put it another way, D-MER is a negative emotional response to the physical act of your milk letting down.

“D-MER presents itself with slight variations depending on the mother experiencing it,” Heise writes, “but it has one common characteristic — a wave of negative or even devastating emotions just prior to letdown.” And that was the case with me.

My stomach hardened and sank. I could feel the milk rushing forward, and the bile rushing up. An acute wave of depression took control of my body. I felt distant, absent. My face flushed with warmth and tears, and I became afraid of a monster I could not see, of a threat which did not exist.

Mother suffering while breastfeeding
Peter Dazeley/Getty

The good news is the anxiety and sadness only lasted a few moments. The feelings disappeared as abruptly as they come on. But for two or three minutes, I felt lost in my own body. My legs shook. My arms felt leaden, not solid but heavy. Like molten metal, they lacked stability and support. And I felt nauseous. I wanted to run. I was scared.

So how did I cope? How can you cope?

Here’s the best way to manage D-MER if you want to keep breastfeeding.

Acknowledge your feelings, don’t avoid them.

The first and most important step toward managing D-MER is to understand it. After all, once you recognize there is a correlation between your physical being and your emotional one, you will know what to expect. My son fed every two hours and when I felt “on edge,” I looked at the clock. Realizing I was about to let down was very helpful. I also knew I could count through it. Before I got to 200, the feelings would likely pass. That said, 200 seconds can feel like an eternity when your body is restless and your mind is depressed. As such, it is imperative you implement coping strategies like…

Busying yourself or your hands, with exercise, food, and/or fidget devices.

While snacking may sound silly, food can help you focus on something outside of yourself. It is also easy to do while feeding your babe. Not on the couch yet? Get up and move. Running in place can (and will) burn off nervous energy.

Practice relaxation techniques, like meditation and deep breathing.

I’ve never been very good at meditating, but many people are. They find the practice centers them — and grounds them. As such, you may want to have a guided meditation at the ready, like those on Calm, Headspace, and 10% Happier.

Use the ABCs to control anxiety.

Pick a broad category of things and/or objects — like colors, desserts, or cars — and make an alphabetical list in your head. Colors, for example, would look something like this: amber, blue, cobalt, etc. If your anxiety is still elevated when you get to “z,” pick a new category and start again. The point isn’t what you pick (or how far you get), it’s that you distract your mind long enough to work through any uncomfortable or dysphoric feelings.

Text a friend or make a phone call.

Connecting with another person won’t just help your D-MER, it will help you feel less isolated and alone (which, as any new parent can tell you, is super important).

Recognize it can and will get better.

You’ve been here before — and worked through these feelings before — and you can do it again. Take it one minute and second at a time.

That said, if you are overwhelmed by D-MER and/or if these thoughts do not dissipate, you should speak to your OBGYN or another trained professional, as these feelings can also be symptoms of perinatal mood disorders.

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Babies Wreak Havoc On A Marriage, And It’s Time To Start Talking About It

I sat up in the middle of the night for what felt like the millionth time. My eyes were red and sore from the excessive tears streaming down my tired face. There I was, alone in the dark with one of my boobs jammed in my newborn’s mouth as she happily nursed away. Meanwhile, my husband was lying next to me with his limbs sprawled out like a hibernating bear in the dead of winter.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

If you asked me what emotions were running through me that night, I’d say a new breed of angry sad. Because yet again, my hubby Matt had miraculously slept through our daughter’s scream crying. And yet again, I wanted to beg him to get the fuck up and talk to me about anything.

Literally anything.

Prior to meeting Matt, I carried with me the burden of being a lifelong people pleaser and didn’t speak up often about my needs in past relationships. But having a child knocks that protective coping mechanism right on out of you. I was just too exhausted, too uncomfortable, and way too hormonal not to lament loudly about what I felt Matt should – and shouldn’t – be doing. The sheer resentment I felt when he wouldn’t wake up with me (or instead of me, goddammit!) resulted in a ton of hysterics to forcibly make him a part of the nighttime routine.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

Oh, and did I mention that my adorable pint-sized ball of wonder wouldn’t take a bottle ever? So when I tearfully yelled at my hubby to wake the eff up, it was solely for the emotional comfort and a feeling of sharing equally in our new duties together. Even if Matt couldn’t feed his baby yet, I needed him to be there for his unbearably vulnerable wife. But the way I communicated with him usually left something to be desired, causing my grumpy ass husband to get pissy with me at the most inconvenient times in the night.

This challenge, along with a shit ton of others, led to more fights between us in that first year than I’d like to admit. Let’s just say we fought a lot. The ongoing conflict made me feel like an asshole so much of the time. It left me wondering if we just weren’t mean to be parents together. And even though Matt and I genuinely loved each other, the “D” word was definitely put on the table in the darkest of moments. Despite desperately wanting to know, I didn’t feel comfortable to ask other moms if they too were ugly sparring with their partners-in-crime.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

I realize now that they were probably feeling way too uncomfortable to ask me either.

As new parents, no one wants to openly admit that a tiny human has the potential to destroy the status quo of a loving relationship – or break down an already faulty one. We’re taught to “soak up every moment” with our babies because “it goes by way too fast.” But how can we enjoy that first year if we spend most of it arguing with our spouses in shame-induced secrecy?

It’s time to go public about a very private issue so many of us deal with but no one seems chomping at the bit to start talking about. Babies have the very real ability to wreak havoc on a marriage, and we need to widen our judgment-free zones to safely start opening up about it.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

Thankfully, quite a few couples have recently done just that. Because someone got the genius idea to tally up just how many arguments new parents have. And I’m going to warn you, the number is staggering.

The folks at ChannelMum.com and The Baby Show decided to ask OnePoll to conduct a survey on babies and marital strife. Their results found that in the first year of parenthood, couples can get into an average of 2,500 fights with each other.

I’m going to repeat that a little louder, for the parents in the back.

The average married couple can have up to 2,500 arguments in the first year of their kid’s life.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

Let that reality sink in for a minute.

The 2,000 parents who were surveyed shared a bunch of obstacles that placed a heavy strain on their transformed relationships. The most common fights centered around who wasn’t pulling their weight with the new responsibilities, competing for the “most tired” award, and sex not happening anymore. Nighttime parenting duties were argued about as well, along with stress around finances.

And not only were most parents feeling a lack of romantic connection, but a third of the couples admitted to going up to five days without talking to their partner.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

Here’s where it gets painfully real. For every ten parents surveyed, at least six brave souls confessed that they were completely unprepared for how much a new baby would change their lives. I’m going to guess that this number would be much higher if the rest of the parents had to take a lie detector test. Because no matter how ready you think you are for a baby, you are never ever ready enough. In fact, the unexpected challenges surrounding the first year of parenthood led a fifth of the surveyed couples to break up for good.

I don’t know about you, but that last sentence in particular is one giant bummer. But hang in there, folks. There’s an upside to all of this.

First of all, no amount of skills in the marriage department left the interviewed couples unscathed from verbal battles. Which at the very least, can provide some comfort to those of us (i.e. me) who feel like we suck at being married. For the seasoned veterans, remembering how very human you are has the potential to help ease the blows when emotions are running high.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

“Even those couples who usually communicate brilliantly can find the first few months of having a baby tough, and arguments are a really normal part of the adjustment process,” says ChannelMum.com founder Siobhan Freegard in a public release of the study. “Lack of sleep during the early months and getting used to the new-found responsibilities can pile pressure on new parents and contribute to arguments,” she explains.

In terms of what helped the couples through this rough ass time, 23% of parents polled sought out a support system of friends and credit that with easing their parenting burdens. Others said that sharing in overnight duties, having sex regularly, and enjoying some semblance of a social life helped them cope with the extraordinary changes parenthood brings with it. “Making time for each other can be just as important as learning how to look after the baby, as happy parents will naturally result in a happy child,” Freegard says.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

In the age of Google, we now assuredly know that information can be so powerful. Arming ourselves with the honest-to-goodness knowledge about the entire first year of parenting can help us come up with real solutions when the natural and inevitable marital conflicts arise. And more importantly, realizing we are all basically fighting the same battle here can allow us to feel seen, heard, and supported. Because let’s face it — learning how to become a parent alongside someone you love is a shit show, plain and simple.

I’ve discovered a whole lot through two brutal rounds of new parenting. There is no damn shame in having messy moments in a relationship, especially when it involves caring for a small baby. You are not broken if you feel like you can’t be yourself with your partner after you’ve birthed a child. It’s okay to speak up if you’re overextending yourself as a new parent. And good lord, give yourself a friggin’ break if you’ve lost your temper hundreds of times in the most sleep deprived state you will ever experience.

Many of the reasons Matt and I argued that first year were easily justifiable. But I’m still cringing and laughing when I think back to how ridiculous it was to fight at a time when so much was already up against the both of us. Now, I at least understand why we argued so much — and why it is so totally okay to talk about it.

The post Babies Wreak Havoc On A Marriage, And It’s Time To Start Talking About It appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Beware: Knock-Off Car Seats That Don’t Meet Safety Standards Are On The Rise

It’s a sobering fact that car accidents are a leading cause of death among children under the age of 12. At the same time, we have an amazing way to reduce and prevent these deaths: car seats.

The thing is, car seats don’t work unless they are installed and used properly. It can be confusing to make sure your seat is the right size and fit for your child, that it’s installed correctly in your car, and that your child is strapped into it appropriately.

But parents do what we need to do to get it right—including seeking  help from child passenger safety technicians (CPST) if needed—because car seat safety is that important.

As if all of that weren’t time-consuming and nerve-wracking enough, now parents have another car seat related stress to contend with: knock-off car seats.

Of course, not all affordable (read: cheaper) car seats are fake knock-offs, but apparently some folks out there have decided to make a pretty penny off of parents who are looking for a discounted seat by passing off fake ones as the real deal.

As The Washington Post reports, knock-off car seats are saturating the online marketplace. Companies selling unregulated products are touting their wares on massively popular sites like Amazon and Walmart, and parents are attracted to the seats because they are sold for less than market value.

Important note: It is possible to purchase discounted car seats that ARE safe. Check out this post for some ideas.

The Post reports that upon contacting Walmart and Amazon, most of the knock-off seats were removed, but sites like Ebay and AliExpress still contain a ton of listings for knock-off seats.

d3sign/Getty

As you can imagine, these seats are not safe. In order for a car seat to be legitimately sold in America, it must meet federally set safety standards and pass several crash tests. These seats have not, and will not, keep your child safe in the event of an accident.

Laurel Schamber, a certified child-passenger safety technician based in California, described to The Post one knock-off seat she saw a grandmother bring in a few months ago for inspection.

“It looked like a deconstructed backpack,” Schamber said. “It’s made of backpack material, no manufacturer name, no labeling, nothing.”

In addition, she said, there was no chest clip, which meant that if there was a crash, a child could potentially be tossed right out of the seat. Even the smallest crash could cause that to happen, Schamber warned.

Other outlets, such as KMOV, St. Louis’ local news channel, have also warned of knock-off seats that have been spotted in their communities. These seats share many of the same traits that Schamber mentioned.

 

And it’s not just infant car seats that are in play here. There are several copy-cat booster seats being sold as well, such as knock-off MiFolds. These seats, which can be folded up small enough to fit in a backpack, are easy to replicate, and it’s not always easy for parents to tell the difference between a real MiFold and a fake.

“Parents and caregivers can’t be expected to know by looking at the product whether it’s good enough,” Jon Sumroy, MiFold’s chief executive, tells The Post. “You can buy the MiFold at Walmart or Target or Buy Buy Baby in the United States.”

Sumroy explained that in order to get his products sold in these stores, he had to show they they met safety standards. But he says that sites like eBay don’t check to see whether the seats are safe.

The truth is, when you buy products anywhere on the internet, you really don’t know what you are getting. And with so many of us looking for the latest deal online, it’s easy to see how parents could fall for these knock-off brands and not even realize it.

Karl Tapales/Getty

However, just because these seats exist, it doesn’t mean you have to fall victim to one of these scams – scams that could very well put your child at risk. There are a couple of simple, key questions to ask yourself when you are purchasing a car seat:

– Is your seat properly labeled? All car seats are required to have this printed on their labels: “The child restraint system conforms to all applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards.”

– Does your seat have a recognizable product brand label on it?

– Can you find your car seat brand listed on a reputable car seat website?

– Does your car seat have a model number and manufacture date?

– Does it have an instruction manual and a product recall registration card?

– Is your seat listed on the Academy of Pediatrics approved list of seats?

You can also check the seat for “red flags” that many knock-off seats share: no chest clips, made of low-quality plastic material (including buckles), insecure fit in car, and just generally made of flimsy material that looks like it would easily break.

Finally – and maybe most importantly – if the deal you are getting on your seat seems too good to be true, it probably is. Listen, raising kids can be seriously expensive. But car seat safety is something that none of us should skimp on, ever (and again, buying a good quality seat doesn’t have to break the bank). The lives of our precious kids are too important.

For more information about car seat safety, check out this post written by Alisa Baer, MD & CPSTI (i.e., The Car Seat Lady) as well as our interview with her here.

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Why Childcare Is So Important To Me Even Though My Kids Are Teens

Here is the deal: my kids are both in high school. I can feel the ache and hope that is coming: the graduations, my empty arms, home, washer, refrigerator. My empty nest.

I am a long, long way from that wild time of searching for childcare when they were age zero to 5 — heck, conception to kindergarten might be more apropos. But even now, despite having nearly-grown sons, my 2020 vote will go to the candidate with the best plan to fix America’s broken child care system.

I’m not really a single-issue voter. Not at all. In fact, I care deeply about lots of issues: suicide rates, mental health, toxic masculinity, #metoo, common sense gun laws, mass incarceration, college costs, equality, health care, and general policies that create a society full of good people living good lives. Yet all of my issues, there’s one that I would wager would produce positive outcomes across the board and impact all of our issues — if only America would invest in positive, healthy, loving, and intentional early childhood development.

When my kids were little, we patchworked childcare together each week (and sometimes every day!) with a combination of trade-offs, shuffles, favors, and paid help. We couldn’t afford the well known, magical in-home daycare where the kids made organic food with the loving couple who ran the program. My mom moved in with us after her divorce and we all banded together to figure out childcare each day. Sometimes, that meant relying on Sesame Street’s blend of entertainment, education, and engagement. Thank God for Sesame Street. I would vote Sesame Street 2020 if I could. And Mr. Rogers as VP for sure.

As parents, we did our best. So do most people. But the system is broken, and not just for lower-income folks like we were at the time. The cost is enormous, and it’s risen more than 70% since the 1980s, more than college tuition in a majority of states. Availability is often nil — parents are regularly told they should have gotten on a waitlist before conception. Educators are burning out, with the average program lasting just three to five years and average childcare workers earning $11.50 an hour.

This leads to compromises. One parent quits his (or more often her) job because the return on investment isn’t there. Staying home to care for kids is cheaper. Or both parents have to work, but can’t afford or access quality care, so they compromise and accept an unlicensed program. Add in the chaos of having a sick kiddo, and the house of cards that is America’s childcare system crumbles. It is an impossible equation where no one wins. Not parents. Not educators. And certainly not, our kids.

Society at large isn’t winning either.

A child’s brain is most impressionable during the first three years of life, forming more than 1 million new neural connections every second. This has huge implications on everything from rates of incarceration and suicide to high school graduations. It’s also a major workforce issue, with U.S. businesses losing $3 billion annually due to employee absenteeism that is the result of childcare breakdowns.

A comprehensive early childcare solution is the biggest lever to pull to effect change, at all levels, for all parties. All Americans need to understand that this problem isn’t one that can wait until you have your own kids, or forget about once your kids are grown up. We are far beyond that.

My sons are 17 and 14. My oldest will be voting in the next presidential election, and guess what — the issues that matter to him are also directly impacted by the outcomes driven by high-quality early childcare solutions. My son and I are about equidistant from worrying about daycare, and yet here we are, staring down the ballot box at the same issues Washington should have addressed decades ago.

I am not (fingers crossed) a grandmother yet. But I embody many other great roles — a mom, wife, an entrepreneur, a friend, daughter. There’s not one hat I would take off. And that’s why I can’t give up. Every role carries a certain responsibility and weight, and sometimes it is all very, very heavy. I am often overwhelmed with the needs around me. There is so much to build. I want to fix too many things, right now, the broken hearts in Dayton and El Paso, and all around our country.

For each problem I long to fix, there are a lot of things I would love to break. To maximize and balance my building, fixing and breaking urges, I need to find the most elegant, effective and empowering place to put my energy. I need one thing to dig into that affects each of my (often contradictory) roles. It is a bit like a magic trick. America, we have one hat, and many rabbits need pulling out of it. One solid plan could solve so many issues.

So woo me, candidates. Show me your plans. Show me you care. Show my son. Show me that you understand the foundational work that needs to be done. If we want to talk about infrastructure, start here. Our future is crumbling. Fix it.

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You Have A Baby, Don’t Feel Obligated To Do Anything Else

Mamas, listen up: You brought a baby into this world and do not need to feel obligated to do anything other than bond with that baby. Don’t feel compelled to clean your house. Or to meet your aunt for brunch. Or to even take a shower ⏤ although when someone comes to babysit, you might want to make that a priority, because it’s been a hot minute since you’ve had one. #HuggOn

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10 New Mom Fears We’ve All Had But Eventually Got Over

jogging stroller

Being a new mom can be a frightening experience. Before you had a baby, all you had to do was worry about yourself. That was hard enough. Now you have to worry about someone else, and they don’t even send you home with a manual? What are they even thinking? If you’ve said to yourself, “Who thought sending me home with this baby was a good idea? I have no idea what I’m doing!” — you’re not alone.

Here are some fears we’ve all had that we eventually got over. Well, mostly.

1. Cat vs. Dog

People love to ask the timeless questions: Are you a cat person or a dog person? I like to ask: Which are you more scared of when holding a baby? I used to love cats until I had my baby. You don’t have to walk them, and they’re quiet. Too quiet. So quiet that you don’t hear them coming right up onto your legs playing a game of Crazy Eights. Having a cat in the house is like trying to jump through tires while balancing a baby in your arms. Step aside cat — I’M WALKIN’ HERE! To answer your question: Dogs.

2. Fingernail Phobia

They are minuscule yet razor sharp. Leave ‘em be, and they can draw blood when their incoherent baby arms start to flail uncontrollably. Try to cut ‘em, and suddenly your pits are in a hot sweat and you have double vision trying not to inflict harm on a tiny finger.

3. The Public Diaper Change

At home, I’m good. But what happens if you have to change the baby in public? On the bus? At a cafe? I’m not qualified to handle this without a changing table. What did people do before those fold-down wall things were invented? Seriously. Thankfully her Huggies Little Snugglers fit like a hug.

4. Supporting the Head

It’s flopping like a rag doll, and well OK, once I maybe didn’t have my hand on it at all times. Can you permanently ruin a neck? Is that a thing? Also, there are way too many soft spots involved in this tiny melon. Please let the head plates join and de-floppify ASAP because it’s too much pressure.

5. A Wet Baby

I barely remember how to bathe myself let alone figure out how to bathe a baby. There’s way too much stuff to remember…like the binky that may be under the couch and the only toy that she likes that’s somewhere in the back seat of the car. Don’t even get me started on the slip-sliding baby body that needs to be double-teamed in order to keep it in an upright position. I cannot bathe a baby alone! Is there something wrong with me? Also, pass the Huggies Natural Care Wipes because she just peed, and we are NOT doing this bath over.

6. Spit Up and the City

There are burp cloths for a reason, but at exactly what point do we go from spit up land to full-on barfing? Seems like I should know this, but my baby is borderline at all times and I can’t tell. Also, her neck rolls usually have a little cottage cheese brewing in them, but I swear I’m getting better at wiping the spit before it gets to this stage.

7. Germs From Other People

“STOP TOUCHING MY BABY’S FACE!” I shout this in my mind to Uncle Carl, but in person, I smile as every fiber in my being cringes at the sight of his giant, unsanitized hand stroking my baby’s cheek. I’ve got to escape. There is no way out. Mom’s work friend Janine is in the next room, and she’s coughing up a lung. I’VE GOT TO GET OUT!

8. Tummy Time Fails

I always remember to do tummy time at the worst time. See No. 6 on barfing. This baby is face planting, crying, and not liking anything to do with her tummy and time. Does the head look flatter than yesterday? Did she lay on her back in the bassinet too long? Why is she a crying, soggy, beached whale and not an over-easy cherub, happily rocking 360 moves?

9. Google

I told myself I wouldn’t search for weird symptoms, but oh yes, I did search for weird symptoms and now can’t un-see them. There is literally a picture of everything that could go wrong in life with a baby ever. I may need to cut off Wi-Fi for the next six to ten years if I ever want to sleep again.

10. Being Good Enough

This mom stuff is hard. I had no idea how hard. Will I start to feel less like a leaky zombie and more like the moms on TV (OK, not the ones on cable)? When are we going to be at the coo- and-giggles stage and leaving the farts and weird snorts in the middle-of-the-night stage? Also, I need to Google farts and snorts because that last one didn’t sound normal. See No. 9.

The good news is that I got over every single one of these fears and did make it to the cooing stage! OMG cooing is the best thing ever. The cat is still trying to trip me, but I’m not asking for miracles. Somehow, I figured out how to trust my intuition over my fears, and it sort of works. I’m still googling things, but who’s not? Right? Lisa? Anyone?

This article was sponsored by Huggies®, who believes that the first time you hug your baby, the rest of the world will slowly melt away and your life will be forever changed. At Huggies®, we are inspired by the loving bond between you and your baby and we’ll never stop finding ways to hug more like you. #HuggOn

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How I Survived A Teething Baby And Got Serious About My Kids’ Dental Care

mom with baby and toddler

When I decided to have my kids close in age, I didn’t consider that I would have an infant and a toddler at the same time. I was blinded by the idea of them growing up as best friends, building forts, and keeping each other’s secrets, even when it meant they would both be in trouble as a result. I didn’t consider that they would both be in diapers at the same time, or worse, that they would be tandem-teething, one cutting their first tooth while the other worked on 2-year molars.

Image via Giphy

Where Is the Instruction Manual?

Motherhood is utter chaos on the best day, but I’m going to be honest, I was wildly unprepared for the mayhem that came with teething and teaching my kids appropriate dental hygiene. Did you know your kid will have 20 teeth by the time they turn 3? Or that you’re supposed to take them to the dentist by the time they’re a year old? ‘Cause I didn’t. I had no idea. Baby’s first tooth should really come with an instruction manual. There could be an entire section dedicated to keeping the sink and surrounding counter space toothpaste-free too. Why must children splatter-paint the entire bathroom with toothpaste? And how the heck do you get them to stop doing that?

Image via Giphy

But alas, no one told me any of this, so there I was, waist-deep in another chaotic day with a fussy, teething baby and a toddler who had no interest in things that didn’t involve screaming. Like any rational but completely desperate mother, I turned to my social media mommy group for advice. My post may have been a slightly incoherent rant about teething that ended with a desperate plea for help. (I hadn’t slept in like three days. I was a mess!)

I Got 99 Problems But Teething Ain’t One

To my absolute delight, the comments started rolling in. Apparently, I wasn’t the first mom to stumble into a tandem-teething nightmare. Mom after mom recommended Baby Orajel™ Non-Medicated Cooling Gels for both my baby and my toddler. It’s benzocaine-free and made for babies 3 months and older, so it was perfect for my teething 3-month-old and my toddler’s nightmarish 2-year molars. There was only one problem, I didn’t have any on hand, which meant we would have to go out…in public.

Image via Giphy

So, there I was, standing in the oral care aisle of my local Walmart, the baby crying in my arms while my toddler threw groceries over the side of the cart. With bloodshot eyes and a messy bun that looked more like an untidy bird’s nest, I was 2 minutes from joining the kids in a total meltdown, when a seasoned mom walked by and handed me the Baby Orajel™ Non-Medicated Cooling Gels I was looking for.

“Been there,” she said with a smile. “Just rub this on his gums.”

Suddenly the wind was back in my sails just knowing I wasn’t alone. I could totally do this!

Image via Giphy

The Queen of Dental Hygiene

I turned back to the wall of dental products and grabbed some Orajel Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Fluoride-Free Training Toothpaste. After all, if I was going to be the Queen of Dental Hygiene, I needed all the best stuff! I’d help my toddler learn proper brushing technique (even if he covered my entire bathroom in toothpaste) and get the baby started down the right path with Baby Orajel Tooth & Gum Cleanser. (Yeah, turns out you’re supposed to clean their gums. WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME THIS?!)

I was ready. My dental care game was stronger than ever, and my kids were destined for a lifetime of happy smiles.

We made it back home with a much happier baby thanks to the cooling gel, a toddler who was totally pumped about his new Daniel Tiger training toothbrush, and me — an exhausted mother who looked like a pile of dirty laundry, but felt like a million bucks because Orajel just totally saved my day.

It takes a whole family of products to treat a whole family. Orajel Non-Medicated Cooling Gels are free of benzocaine and will soothe your baby’s teething gums day and night. For more resources on teething and learning to how brush, visit Orajel’s resource center.

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