Two Saturdays ago, I made my way to the Edgewater Community Library in Edgewater, MD to attend a Babywearing International of Southern Maryland meeting. BWI of SoMD has various meeting times and locations, which you can check out on their “Free Meetings” page. The one at the Edgewater Library is usually held on the 3rd Saturday of the month at 9:30am (but double check their calendar before you head over).
The four volunteers at BWI of SoMD were (from left to right):
These volunteers were very knowledgeable of the many different types of baby carriers out there and helpful in finding the right fit for every parent that came in. They even gave prenatal advice to help parents-to-be! Libby took time to answer my questions and show me how to use a Meh Dai, a woven wrap, and a ring sling.
Anyone who is interested in learning about babywearing and baby carriers is welcome to attend for free. BWI also offers a membership ($30/year) that allows parents to check out and borrow any carrier for one month at a time. This is a wonderful resource because as infants grow, their baby carrier needs change, so instead of investing a lot of money in a carrier that you may not need or use later, you can try on and check out one of their carriers. This particular chapter of BWI had 2 overflowing suitcases worth of carriers so there are plenty of options to choose from!
Babywearing International was founded in 2008 and has since grown to over 85 chapters throughout the United States. Their mission is “to promote babywearing as a universally accepted practice, with benefits for both child and caregiver, through education and support.” (1) Benefits to babywearing include: happy and healthy babies, bonding between parents/caregivers and babies, and comfort and convenience. There are lots of different carriers and BWI volunteers want to help teach parents about their different uses to maximize the benefits for parent and baby.
To find your local chapter, check out https://babywearinginternational.org/chapters/.
I love reading. Probably one of my favorite parts of parenthood is getting to share this love of reading and books with my children. After 5 kids, I’ve had a chance to read many children’s books. Here is a list of my favorite board books that I love to read again and again to my kids (and they love them too):
Night, Night, Little Pookie by Sandra Boynton. I’ll be honest, I love all of Sandra Boynton books but this is one of my favorites. Pookie is such a cute little character. I love that the Pookie books have little lines in it that Pookie says so as your child gets older, they can interact and say what Pookie says along with you.
Time for Bed by Mem Fox. I got this book as a baby shower present with my first and have loved it ever since. So much so, that I re-bought it after it got lost so I would have it to read to my fifth child. My husband and I both had this book memorized at one point. I love the realistic paintings on every page but I especially love that each page has a different animal snuggling in with their baby, getting them ready for bed. The rhyming is super sweet and this book is also educational because it teaches the name of animal babies.
Goodnight, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. I’ll be honest, I didn’t love this book right away. I thought it was a little boring to name the things off in the room and then say goodnight to each one. But as my children got older, I realized how valuable that is for some children who may need to be aware of the things in their room and not be afraid of them once the light gets turned off. This book shows kids they can say goodnight to the objects in their room, and even any noises, and still be able to fall asleep. It also is a fun book for finding and seeking because as you read off the objects in the room, your child can learn to find and point them out.
That’s Not My Puppy by Fiona Watts. I love the whole “That’s Not My…” series, actually, but the Puppy one was the first one I ever got. This book has a different puppy (doll, cat, monkey, etc depending on which book you get) that has a section of touchy-feely texture that your child can touch on every page. Every one of my toddlers has loved books that have different fabrics or materials to touch. This book also teaches adjective vocabulary as your child sees why that’s not their puppy ("That's not my puppy, its tail is too fluffy.") until they find the puppy that is theirs on the last page.
Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton. Yep, how could I not include another Sandra Boynton book? Seriously, her books are the best. I have wasted so much space storing so-so books for my older children that I decided with my 5th that I would focus on providing quality books over quantity and that means Boynton books! Infants and toddlers really love animal books and this one has cute illustrations while also teaching the animal sounds.
Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? By Dr. Seuss. This is another book that I was given with my first and had to re-buy later because it got lost and I had to have it! You can buy a paperback version of this book but it’s slightly different than the board book version, for some reason. I personally like the board book version because it’s safer for little hands not to accidentally rip plus I love when Mr. Brown knocks on the door, that I can knock on the book to simulate the sound. Just as Moo, Baa, La La La goes over animal sounds, this book goes over lots of other sounds, from lightning to cuckoo clocks. It's a fun, rhythmic read and another book my husband and I have memorized because we’ve read it so many times.
Indestructibles: Baby Babble by Kate Merritt. Yes, technically, this is not a board book but it's meant for the same age of children so I’m including it. The Indestructible books are made out of a sturdy paper-y, fabric-y material that doesn’t rip, tear, wrinkle, or even dissolve upon first drops of drool. They’re just as the title says, indestructible. There are several books in this series but my daughter’s favorite was Baby Babble because she liked seeing everyday objects and learning their names.
From Head to Toe by Eric Carle. This probably isn’t the first Eric Carle that comes to parents’ minds when they think of Carle but it’s one of my favorites. Any book that can combine animals with fun movements for my kids to mimic is my kind of book. From bending your neck like a giraffe to thumping your chest like a gorilla, kids will enjoy learning about the animals and acting just like them.
I talk to my children all the time about adolescence and the perception of being different from their peers as being bad. It didn’t dawn on me until I started reading Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, that the same happens to parents as well.
Just the other day, my daughter who is almost 14, told me about girls in her class who were talking about what they got for Christmas. Most of them said clothes. She said she wanted to say that she got Shopkins but was afraid they would think she was immature. This fear of standing out, of being different, affects us all.
During adolescence, we all struggle to find out who we are as individuals but in our pursuit, a dichotomy forms of the good and the bad. What I like is good, what I don’t like is bad; what is familiar is good, what is different is bad. However, the problem with this way of thinking is that just because something is different, doesn’t make it bad. Just because my daughter likes Shopkins, shouldn’t make that a bad thing in the eyes of others who do not like Shopkins. However, because the other girls in my daughter’s class were happy about different gifts than my daughter had received, she internalized that as a direct criticism of her gifts. She felt she was different and, therefore, bad.
But different isn’t bad, it’s just different.
Now let’s equate this to parenting. Look on any library or bookstore shelf in the parenting section and I guarantee you will find a whole slew of books claiming to have the right approach to parenting. For years, I couldn’t even look at those books because if they suggested different parenting techniques than I used or was comfortable using, I thought that meant I was a bad parent (different = bad). Brene Brown says:
“Our need for certainty in an endeavor as uncertain as raising children makes explicit ‘how-to-parent’ strategies both seductive and dangerous. I say ‘dangerous’ because certainty often breeds absolutes, intolerance, and judgment. That’s why parents are so critical of one another--we latch on to a method or approach and very quickly our way becomes the way. When we obsess over our parenting choices to the extent that most of us do, and then see someone else making different choices, we often perceive that difference as direct criticism of how we are parenting.”
Seriously, my mind was blown when I read this. This is exactly what I had faced and confronted for years as an insecure mother, and sometimes I still face it. When others are confident in their parenting and proclaim (overtly or not) their way to be THE way, what does that say about me and my parenting if it’s different? That I must be doing something wrong? Absolutely not.
Different isn’t bad, it’s just different.
It took me years to realize this though. Every one of us was blessed with different upbringings, experiences, and personalities. And each of our children will have their own set as well. Each situation and relationship is different and we need to respect and praise those differences instead of fearing, rebuking, or self-criticizing.
What we need is a spirit of love, compassion, understanding, and non-judgment when sharing with others our parenting experiences. Is it good to give tips that have been helpful to you to new moms? Probably. Is it good to chastise the mom who lets her kids sleep in her bed because that’s something you would never do? Definitely not. Her choices may be different than yours but that doesn’t make them bad, just different.
Just as I want my daughter to embrace every beautiful unique quality she has and recognize how good she is, I want all kids and adults to recognize this as well. Brene Brown said, “the question isn’t so much ‘Are you parenting the right way?’ as it is: ‘Are you the adult that you want your child to grow up to be?’” When we as adults can set the example of loving and accepting our differences, our kids will learn and grow from that as well.
Last week, after having the honor of attending the celebration and funeral for a beloved wife, mom, grandma, and friend, my thoughts turned to what made her such an amazing mother and if those same words could be said about me. I thought about the stories that were shared about her and the traditions she loved. I thought about all the many moments that composed her life that were full of grace and compassion and love, fierce love.
I thought about the moments that compose my life. The sweet ones, the happy ones, and even the not-so-good ones. The times that I kept my cool, the times that I didn’t. I thought about the moments to come and what I wish for them. How I wish I could be more creative and consistent with family traditions. How I wish I hugged my children more; put my phone down more to take the moment to look in their eyes so they could see the fierce love I have for them. How I hope and pray they know that I love them through my words and actions.
And then I felt overwhelmed. How can I change and do those good things more? I have bad habits. I have selfish tendencies. I have inner struggles between wanting to give my children all my attention versus teaching them to be independent. I feel conflicted with my schedule and finding balance between my physical and emotional needs versus my children’s. I struggle to know how to discipline my children to correct negative behavior while still letting them know I love them.
And in a flash, I felt incapable of change. I dismissed all the good I’ve done in the past and feared the mistakes I will surely make in the future. I felt defeated.
As I experienced these emotions, I remembered the vulnerability of laboring women. I remembered how I breathe through the contractions with them; how I remind them that all the contractions that have come and gone are over; how I encourage them not to worry about the contractions to come. And it dawned on me, the same could be said to all the little moments in life we experience every day. All the moments that have already gone by, for good or bad, are over. All the moments that are to come will come, whether we worry about them or not. All we can do is breathe through each moment. Live it, experience it, and do our best. As my son whined today about having a headache and not having the right spoon he wanted, I had a choice in that moment of how to be his mom. I chose to calmly tell him I was sorry he didn’t feel well and that he could choose a different spoon. I thought, “This was a good moment.” Breathe in, soak it in, and move on. That moment has already come and gone and I don’t know what future moments are in store but I’m choosing now to not stress or worry about how to “be” then. I choose now to take each moment one at a time.
“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
It all starts with those 2 magical lines on the pregnancy test revealing the happy news; the dreams and plans for what pregnancy, labor, and motherhood will all be like. You begin to register for your baby shower while figuring out whether you do or do not want delayed cord clamping on your birth plan. It will all go perfectly, right?
Although I do personally believe in birth plans as a way to help you prepare for your birth by knowing your options, I think it’s also important to realize birth plans are just that: a plan, not a guarantee of what actually happens. And dealing with what actually goes down at your birth may be harder than the actual birth itself. If you find yourself in the scenario where your “best laid plans” fell apart, either in small or big ways, at your birth, here are five suggestions on ways to cope:
All of these were steps I took to heal. I gave myself permission to grieve, I began to let go of the “what if’s” and the guilt, and I pursued doula work to try to help other women have happier births, whether or not their birth plan went according to plan. Motherhood is such a blessing but it can be so challenging too. And starting off motherhood with the feeling of failure because your birth plan fell apart is an awful feeling. Find ways to grieve and heal that work for you so you can move past the disappointment and be ready to face all the blessings and challenges motherhood has in store for you.
Birth Boot Camp Certified Doula (BBCD)