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For #MotherlyStories | My husband and I are planners by profession.


He’s an electrical engineer who sometimes spends months on complex projects. He reviews tiny notations over and over again. He’s the quintessential “measure twice, cut once” guy.


I’m a former journalist, if there is such a thing. I now teach mass communication at a community college, where I advise a student newspaper. My course outlines are meticulous. When I went on maternity leave for six weeks during the spring 2014 semester, I left my substitute a detailed “how to” guide complete with custom dividers.


We have a pseudo script for even the most innocuous of events.


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So the fact we’re diverging from one of the biggest plans of our life is something of note these days to those who know us well. We’ve put our plans to have another baby on hold because, simply put, I’m just not ready yet. Maybe I will be in another year. But this wasn’t the family situation I thought I had planned.


When we married in 2008, I was 24 and he was 27. We were young. The average age American women say “I do” for the first time today is 27, according to the Pew Research studies. For men, it’s 29. Across the Internet, there’s fun graphics proclaiming the “decline in marriage among the young.”


That’s not us. We met when I was a high school senior. He was a second-year college student. I took him to prom. He asked me to be his designated driver when he turned 21. We spent years shuffling reliable and not-so-reliable cars between universities in Northern California and internships in other states during a three-year long distance relationship.


By 2008, we had degrees and jobs. We were finally sending out “save the dates.”


Immediately after walking down the aisle, we got the questions:


When was the baby coming? How long would we wait?


We had other plans. We saved to buy a house. I took an editing job with longer hours that kept me away from home because I was trying to “lean in” before it was a thing. We went on daylong hikes with views of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands. We ate expensive dinners in Carmel. We took a dream vacation to New York City.


We told each other five years would be a good goal of marriage to get to sans child, especially in a time we were seeing so many friends’ marriages end only after a few years.




In 2013, over an Italian anniversary dinner of gnocchi at one of our favorite restaurants, we decided it was time to try. We’d wait for the beginning of the school year and plan for the baby to be born near the end of the spring semester or after finals. Because that was a good plan.


We got pregnant the second month we tried.


The first 26 weeks were magical. Sure, I was tired. But I kept running the first trimester. I was still able to knock out a 10 miler with friends at 18 weeks. I did yoga twice a week.


Reality hit hard in the third trimester when my legs swelled like balloons and my blood pressure began inching up. I felt like throwing up all the time. I could barely move when I got home from work.


At 32 weeks my doctors ordered regular fetal non-stress tests. At 34 weeks, those tests increased to twice a week. At 36 weeks I was leaning over my swollen belly searching for my feet as I was being discharged from the hospital with a gigantic jug to capture my urine for two days for a lab test. The results sent me back to my doctor where I waited 45 minutes, uncharacteristic of her office, until she finally came in and said: “We are delivering you at 37 weeks because of pre-eclampsia.”


Stunned, I could only eek out a response.


“That’s Sunday,” I said.


“Yes. It is,” she responded as she typed the orders.


Things didn’t go well at the hospital. After 36-hours of induction and nothing going as planned, I had an emergency C-section where I was put under general anesthesia because I could feel the initial scalpel cut into my body.


I don’t have a beautiful birth story. I don’t even really have a birth story at all. I was handed my daughter before I was given pain medication for the incision that had just been cut below my belly button. The first moments I had with her were excruciating. She was bundled snugly in my arms, so peaceful and content. I felt like I was going to pass out from the discomfort. I asked my husband to take her away.


It’s hard for me to think about it, let alone write about it. The hole the doctor cut that day may have physically healed, but not emotionally.


The problem with all this is that we had a plan for how our family would come together. We wanted our daughter to have a brother or sister in spring or summer of next year. We told ourselves that two years was a good amount of time between children.


But I’m petrified of being pregnant again.


So many women talk about loving pregnancy and how it truly encompasses the best moments of their lives. I have Facebook friends who look amazing after giving birth to their second, third or fourth children. They banter about their all-natural births and how they did it without medical intervention.


Modern medicine saved me from a likely seizure before I could even meet my child. At some point in those blurry days after my daughter was born, I remember someone telling me I could have died.


And yet, my husband wanted to stick to the original plan for parenthood in those initial months. He told me the next time would be better.



Seventeen months later, I’m not convinced. Conversations about it paralyze me. He reminded me earlier this year, after our daughter’s first birthday, that we had a timeline for a second baby. We were, in many ways, at an impasse.


He wants another child, sooner rather than later. I can see it in his face. Having our daughter made him a different person, one that understands time passes fast and we only have so many moments. He’s sentimental now in a way he’s never been.


But we were both looking for an “out” from the plan – me for cowardly reasons, him because after 13 years together he knows pushing his stubborn wife only makes her dig in her heels more.


Four months ago we got it. After working as an adjunct professor for five years I accepted a tenure-track full-time position this fall. Six weeks ago, I started my new job. I made a declaration before I ever walked into my first lecture section: I didn’t want to be pregnant my first year teaching full time.


Suddenly there’s a new plan. It’s one that includes me showering my toddler with as much love as possible while running a program and building curriculum. It’s one that gives me another year to recover from the invisible scars of difficult pregnancy and childbirth. It’s one I wouldn’t have been comfortable with two years ago.


As a new mom, I’ve learned plans don’t mean much of anything. That doesn’t make them irrelevant, but, rather, moveable. So I’m accepting this non-bump in the road for the next year – especially if the end goal puts me in a better place to embrace the original plan.

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If you had asked me a few years ago what I thought my biggest accomplishment was, I probably would have rattled off a bunch of career-related successes and financial wins. Or even something about my worldly travels. I was full of money-driven, "success" driven goals. I had it all mapped out.

I was ticking off items on my list thinking the more I did the happier I would become.

But, my sweet child, in the short three and a half years I've been a mama, 1,352 days to be exact, I have realized something. Something you need to know.

No matter what, nothing I do in life will ever be as great as being your mom.

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My accomplishments aren't measured in dollars, they are measured in hugs and kisses. And every time we say "I love you."

My accomplishments aren't measured by other people's praise, they are defined by the fact that I love you and will never stop.

My accomplishments are defined by the truth that I am with you no matter what. By the truth that I will be your biggest fan. Your protector. Your teacher. Your friend. Your confidant.

My accomplishments are defined by the truth that I will always be proud of you. That I will love you unconditionally, always and forever.

Yes, there are times when I achieve some pretty awesome things in life outside of being your mother. Moments I celebrate. Some are money-driven, some are career-driven, others are just things I've wanted to achieve and set out to do so. Am I proud of those things? Sure I am. I want to be an example to you that you can achieve anything you want to in this life. The world really is your oyster. Those moments though, never even come close to how proud I am to be your mom.

You see my child, no amount of money in the world can buy me the feeling of your little arms wrapped tight around me. The feeling of utter happiness I feel when I see you happy. No amount of money can buy the special bond we have.

My greatest accomplishment will always be you.

I won't lie, it isn't always easy. Sometimes, there are moments of exhaustion. Moments of frustration. Moments of tears. Moments where I desperately needed some 'me' time. But I will always choose you.

I know some people will not see motherhood as an accomplishment. That it is just something you do as part of life. But they don't see you like I do. Some people might wonder why I gave up a successful career to be home with you. But they don't know you like I do. They don't know that I was chosen to be your mama. That we were destined to be together. They don't know what an honor it is to be your mama.

So, my sweet child here is the truth.

You are my life's work.

You are my legacy in this world.

You, my child, are my greatest accomplishment and always will be.

[This article was previously published here.]

Life

Aside from hygienic reasons, there's something about a bath that's soothing, inviting and relaxing. Even little ones can enjoy the benefits of self-care but they often need a little bit of entertainment while they're getting cleaned. Because they are so small and constantly putting anything in their mouths, it's important to use toys that are just as safe as they are entertaining.

We gathered a few best practices from the American Academy of Pediatrics for safe bath time with infants and kids and our favorite products to keep our littles having fun in the water:

  • Use a safe, sturdy tub. Baby bathtubs can be "bucket style" for sitting upright, slanted for support, inflatable, folding and spa-style.
  • Be aware of bumps, edges and slings. Consider avoiding tubs with slings and pay close attention to any bumps or edges that pose a risk.
  • Never leave a child alone in a bathtub. Children can drown in 1 or 2 inches of water so make sure you're not stepping away from the bathroom or leaving babies in the care of another child.
  • Check water temperature. Lower the temperature of your water heater to no more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid burns.

Here are our favorite safe bath toys for infants and toddlers. And of course, always check (and double check) toy labels for age guidelines and hazard warnings:

Green Toys tide pool bath set

Green Toys tide pool bath set

This 7-piece bath set includes a starfish, scallop, abalone, snail, squid and jellyfish, as well as a seaweed-patterned storage bag that are packaged using recyclable materials and printed with environmentally responsible inks. Each piece is designed to pour water in a different way—scoop up water with the abalone and create a cascading waterfall with the holes along the edge, or fill the jellyfish and watch the water run down and out each of the legs.

$12.77

B&H baby thermometer

B&H baby thermometer

Ever wonder if your baby is too hot or too cold during bath time? This high and low temperature alarm includes an accurate thermometer that flashes and beeps when water is at a non-optimal temperature. It also doubles as a bath toy that complies with the Consumer Product Safety Commission's toys safety standards, so you don't have to worry if the thermometer will produce chemical reactions in water. Genius!

$16.99

Sophie la girafe so pure bath toy

Sophie la girafe so pure bath toy

Babies can have fun chewing away this Sophie bath toy because it's made of 100% natural rubber from the rubber tree's sap. The rubber ring is also easy to grip so little ones can have full confidence splashing and playing around. And don't worry, water can't get inside the toy so bacteria and mold won't form.

$23.93

Skip Hop bath puzzle

Skip Hop bath puzzle

A puzzle and bath book in one? Yes, we'll take it! The pages float in water and stick to bath tiles so you're child will be entertained the entire time they're in the water. We love that the handy stroller ring keeps it all together when they're done.

$8.00

Green Toys my first tugboat

Green Toys my first tugboat

This cool tugboat toy is safe for the earth as well as your child. It's made with 100% recycled plastic milk containers, which helps save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and is free from BPA, PVC and phthalates. It also features a wide spout which will help them scoop and pour water while exploring in the water.

$11.91

Boon marco light-up bath toy

Boon marco light-up bath toy

If you have older kids and are less concerned with them putting toys in their mouth, your kid might enjoy Marco. Put Marco in water and watch him float while the color-changing light activates. It's BPA-free, too.

$11.99

Skip Hop light up bath toy

Skip Hop light up bath toy

Featuring water-activated multicolor lights, this soft and squeezable bath toy is sure to make a splash with any child in your life. Choose from a dinosaur or unicorn with the phthalate-free materials.

$4.50

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This year's flu season has been making headlines, and there's a lot of (perfectly understandable) concern among parents about flu prevention and treatment.

The flu vaccine is the single best way to prevent your child from catching the flu. Other ways to prevent the flu from taking hold in your family include washing hands frequently, avoiding close contact with those who are sick, avoiding touching your eyes, mouth and nose, and staying in good overall health—getting plenty of sleep, eating a nutritious diet and exercising regularly.

But what if, despite your best efforts, your child comes down with the flu? It can be hard to watch children suffer with flu symptoms such as chills, fever, aches, cough and congestion. That's why parents need a helpful, complete, scannable-at-2-am-in-panic-mode rundown of what to do for the flu, when to call the doctor and how to help little ones feel better.

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Here's what to do when you think your child has the flu:

1. How do I know if my child has the flu?

Symptoms of influenza tend to come on suddenly, and include:

  • Fever (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or greater)
  • Headache
  • Muscle pains
  • Cough
  • Hives
  • Congestion
  • Runny nose

So how do you know whether it's a cold or the flu? Symptoms of the common cold may be similar to the flu, but generally are milder and include cough, congestion, runny nose and sore throat. RSV, or respiratory cold virus, is a separate condition that can cause cold-like symptoms in older children, but may cause a more severe lung disease in infants called bronchiolitis. Your best bet is to call your pediatrician for a diagnosis.

2. What should I do if my child has the flu?

The best treatment for most flu infections is what doctors call "supportive care:" encouraging fluid intake, giving fever-reducing medication such as children's acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and getting plenty of rest.

Children who are at higher risk of complications from the flu or whose symptoms started within the past 48 hours may also receive treatment with an antiviral medication. Talk with your primary care provider about your options.

3. What medicines are safe for my child to take for the flu?

Fever-reducing medications, including ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can generally be given to children with the flu with your pediatrician's okay. Children should not receive aspirin. Be sure to follow dosing directions for your child's age and weight.

4. What are home remedies for flu symptoms in kids?

Flu treatment is all about comfort care for symptoms—rest, fluids, fever-reducer, repeat. Keep children with the flu home from school, preschool or daycare, keep them comfortable in bed (or snuggled up on the couch), and offer fluids—and plenty of sympathy.

5. Should I try to make my child with the flu eat, or drink?

Keeping kids hydrated while they're sick with the flu is important. Encourage small, frequent sips of liquids and soup to keep up with hydration. But don't worry about forcing your child to eat a hearty meal: As your child's infection resolves, their appetite will return.

6. When should I call the doctor for my child's flu?

Parents should always call their pediatrician if they're worried, of course, and if your child has a chronic medical condition that may be worsened by the flu, call your doctor right away. Here are symptoms that warrant an immediate call to your care provider:

  • Fast breathing
  • Signs of dehydration including decreased urine output
  • Fever and cough which improved at first but have worsened
  • Fever above 103 degrees, or any fever in a child under 3 months of age

Serious signs that warrant a trip to the emergency room or a 911 call, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Labored breathing
  • Blue discoloration of the lips or face
  • Difficulty in awakening
  • Severe muscle pains
  • Seizure activity

7. How long will my child's flu last?

Most kids with the flu run a fever for 3 or 4 days with aches and chills. But the worst symptoms tend to be over within 4 days or so, with gradual improvement in respiratory symptoms after the fever resolves.

8. When is it safe for my child to go back to school or daycare after having the flu?

Most daycares and schools have specific guidelines, such as 24 hours without a fever. Children with the flu are usually contagious for 5 to 7 days after the first onset of symptoms, and are at their most contagious when their fever peaks during the first 3 days. In general, children should stay home until they're fever-free for 24 hours and respiratory symptoms have improved.

Watching your child suffer with the flu can be hard, but knowing steps you can take to help your little one feel better fast can help. Hang in there—even flu season can't last forever.

Learn + Play

If you haven't bought an Instant Pot yet, what are you waiting for, mama? It's one of those holy grail items that, once used, you're not sure how you ever lived without it. In fact, it was one of the most-purchased items from Motherly mamas last year and was life-changing for one of our editors when she finally caved and tried it out for her family.

Whether you're a chef who loves to make gourmet meals or a mama who hates cooking and needs more time in the day, it's one of those products that works for everyone.

And, the Instant Pot is on super sale today on Amazon—just $56.99.

Instant Pot 6-quart

instant pot sale

Why does it have such a cult following? Because it cuts down on cooking time and you can cook just about anything in it. It acts as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer and warmer all in one. And the smart one-touch program makes cooking ribs, soups and desserts so much easier.

The 6-quart size cooks for up to six people, making it the perfect size for your family, and is 29% off today.

$56.99

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