Quora Question #7 — Motherhood Edition

I know I said I was going to be doing writing ones, and I’ll be getting to them, I just wanted to do a few more of the non-writing variety first.

This time we’re focusing on motherhood. Here are some that I’ve found interesting:

What is it that nobody tells you about having children?

That there is no such thing as a deep sleep any more: I used to be able to sleep through anything. Now, if my almost two month old whimpers then I’m wide awake.

Being a new mom is an emotional rollercoaster: Seriously, there were times I went from happy to pissed to sad to overjoyed in a space of a few minutes. Hormones are crazy.

Babies are messy and you learn not to care: Diapers suck, and changing my first ones made me kind of sick to touch them so it took a while to get it done. Now I change a diaper in about a minute without even thinking about it.

Every moment that passes makes you love that baby more: I’ve never love anything as much as my children, though my husband comes close. I love seeing them learn new thing and feel pain when those lessons are hard ones.

 

What does a baby’s kick feel like?

Like others have already said it starts with a flutter and grows from there. For me the fluttering felt like having a gas bubble flowing up my whole belly. Almost like when your stomach grumbles when you’re hungry.

As it got further along and my little girl got more strength it became something that was a little harder to describe. Almost a combination between a push and an actual kick or punch. But then again that’s not very accurate either.

It is a sensation that can’t really be described well.

I remember asking my doctor and even my mother to describe it and they really couldn’t either.

But also like others have said, once you’ve given birth you miss the sensation. You miss that connection that goes away at labor.  Even though the kicking, punching, hiccups, and all those other little movements were uncomfortable a lot of the time (especially near the end) you miss them intensely.

I remember being in the hospital and waking up at one point and putting my hands on my stomach like I usually do. I freaked or because my daughter didn’t “high five” me like she so often did. I almost called the nurse in before I remembered where I was and why.

It’s something you come to expect and you miss it when its gone.

 

What should I know when having a baby?

A lot of these answers are wonderful. Like others have suggested, using BabyCenter | Advice and support on pregnancy and parenting is great. Not only do they have a weekly newsletter that goes out during pregnancy and post-pregnancy with things to look for, they have a forum and community that is (usually) friendly and filled with people in your shoes.

My biggest suggestion when it comes to new babies is:

You can never have a perfect plan for you baby.

You can try and plan the basics and make sure you have what you might need, but when the baby comes then that child is going to have individual needs like all full grown people do.

What you should plan on having before baby comes home (in my opinion):

  • Diapers — A LOT — If you think you have enough, by one more case. Even then you’ll still need more. The exception to this rule would be NB size diapers. Those only, usually, last the first few weeks but you’ll still need more then you think. Also the wipes to clean up with.
  • A car seat — At least here in Colorado, you cannot leave the hospital without one.
  • Some place for the baby to sleep — This doesn’t necessarily mean a crib, at least not at first, just somewhere the baby can sleep. As a new parent you’ll be holding/changing/feeding the new baby much more than baby is sleeping so if you don’t go through the expense of buying a crib first, you’ll be fine. But you will want some place for the baby to sleep when he or she does.
  • Clothes — Depending on the season, you don’t need a ton. I have a winter baby and usually have a plain onesie under whatever outfit she wears. Then usually a small jacket. I like sleepers and two piece outfits the best. It seems a lot easier to change diapers that way. Also eliminates the need to completely change an outfit if you have a diaper blow out.
  • Some kind of blanket — Preferably a receiving style blanket. Babies — especially newer babies — tend to prefer to be swaddled. It reminds them of the womb. Having a thicker blanket may be necessary in the winter to keep the baby warm. Just remember with a non-swaddling blanket they are at a risk for SIDS. Make sure that you only cover to the waist or low chest. If your baby wiggles or moves a lot, then it may be best to avoid a loose blanket.
  • The small things — burp clothes, small hand towels for sponge baths, large towels for big baths, thermometer, bulb syringe for those pesky buggers in the nose and spit up in the mouth. When a baby gets a few weeks old then things like shampoo, body wash and lotion for babies are nice.
  • A boppy, or some other kind of feeding pillow support — even if you don’t breast feed, you still want something for the support. When you’re up for 36 hours straight and trying to feed through a cluster feed, you’ll be really thankful for that extra support.

Once the baby gets older, and once you have them home, you’ll be able to determine what other things you need.

  • I do suggest some kind of carrier. Even for around the house. It’ll allow you to hold your baby as often as he or she wants and leave you with hands free to get other things done around the house.


I don’t think you can really plan two years in advance. I tried to plan for the first year with clothes and diapers and things like that, but even then there are so many things that I didn’t take into consideration.

Babies are born at different weights and lengths. They grow at different rates. You’ll never be able to plan a perfect schedule because it’ll be blown out the water within the first few minutes after birth.

My daughter only stayed in new born diapers a couple weeks, she didn’t even fit in a majority of new born clothes because of how long she was.

Pregnancy is also different for everyone. And it’s definitely nothing like TV.

I had a relatively easy pregnancy compared to a lot of my family and friends, and even with that it was terrible.

The first trimester is full of so many risks that it’ll drive you crazy between all your sessions of a quick run to the bathroom (or toward any open vessel) to throw up. The term morning sickness is completely deceiving. You’ll be sick all the time. Or you won’t. It’s different for everyone. With me, I was really sick the whole first trimester. Not just nauseous either. It felt like the cold from hell. I was achy, feverish sometimes, exhausted.

Follow food and drink restrictions and don’t put your baby in harm by eating or drinking something. You’re sharing a body with something that is highly sensitive to the environment you put it in.

The second semester for me went quickly. I was no longer feeling any of that sickness that came with the first trimester. It was wonderful feeling my little girl growing inside of me and that connection was intense. The first kicks and movements made me cry. You will be very emotional. Those hormones floating around at a higher rate make things intense. I didn’t personally have any crazy cravings but I was told this is the time frame when they really start to hit.

The third trimester is a repeat of the first. Except everything was ten times worse. Also, crazy emotions. That last month was a horrendous one and seemed to be longer then the rest of the pregnancy.

And through it all, I had a ton of medical issues come up. You will go through a lot of tests. Pee in a lot of cups, bleed a lot of blood. I failed my glucose tests, I had to be on NST (non-stress tests) due to high blood pressure, I had to be on antibiotics during labor.

Labor is scary, hard and painful.

My birth was hard work. It was really slow going and pretty painful the whole time. I ended up not being able to give birth naturally and had a C-section for issues during my labor.

C-sections aren’t as bad as you’d think, but recovery is not fun either. You’re having major surgery and your body was already under a lot of stress from pregnancy and labor to begin with. Take your time to recover, take it easy and ask for help. Don’t turn anyone away!

It is all very expensive.

From buying what you need to care for the baby to all the medical fees, the money adds up.

It’s also stressful and costly to your family. Remember to take a breath, your hormones are still going crazy and you aren’t getting much sleep. Those first few months are going to take a toll on everyone.

But all in all, I’ll leave you with this:

It is all completely worth it in the end.

My son referred to his step father as “my dad” last night and I wanted to cry. I told him that I am his daddy and his step father is Matthew. Is this proper?

I know this was asked awhile ago, but I wanted to throw my two cents in as well.

First, I want to say, I understand how frustrating and heartbreaking your situation is. My husband has had to go through a lot in regards to the custody of his kids and the changes regarding the custody plan. It’s hard, and it gets even harder when the children aren’t close enough to make switches and exchanges of custody an easy process. I wish you the best of luck in whatever your plans to proceed with possibly changing the custody arrangements.

As you may have guessed by that last statement, I’m a step-mother. I came into the lives of my three step-daughters while they were very young (2, 4, and 6) and have been with their father for coming on nine years. Throughout my relationship with their father and being a part of their lives we haven’t tried to force any “name” or “title” usage on the kids. We’ve let them decide how to refer to me. Usually, it is by my first name. But then again they also refer to their dad by their first name and dad interchangeably. We like names in our family.

Being a part of their lives, I’ve made sure to not take away from their mother in any way. Though my husband and their mother have an on edge relationship, the most important thing to he and me is that the girls are happy and healthy. Their mother will always be a part of their lives and so will their dad and I. Each of us have different relationships with all of them, and that is normal. The important thing is not to talk down any of the other relationships because that is going to put stress on such a young person. Like other answerers have said, they may even get to a point where they keep things from you because they’re afraid of your reaction.

While I understand how hard it is for you to hear, you do need to understand how young your son is. He is probably well aware of who you are in his life but when I child experiences family, there are certain titles that get used in a family. For a young child it may be hard to add the term “step” to a common title without getting tongue tied. Also, it’s not necessarily common for a young child to refer to someone by their first name while they’re in a position of authority to them. Keep in mind, most of the adults in their lives are going to have certain titles, and for the most part they aren’t names. They have their teachers which are Mr. or Ms. Whatever, and uncles and aunts and grandparents. Then they have parents. That is usually mom and dad in conversations with peers.

Though we are now in a day and age where divorce and separation are a huge part of our and our children’s lives, we don’t need to make it more difficult on them.

What I ask you is have tolerance for your son. Explain to him how you feel and why you feel that way. It’ll go over a lot better than “just don’t call him dad because I said so.” Explain to him how it makes you hurt to hear him to call someone else dad, and relate it to him in away that he understands. Find a common ground.

Last but not least: even if you suspect that it is a working of your ex, do not blame her in front of the kids.

Their mother is going to be a part of their lives forever, so are you. Though her new partner may not and your new partner may not, you will never be apart from them. Not in their hearts at least. It is a hard situation for kids to go through, especially over a distance. Don’t make it worse by playing the blame game and shutting them off from wanting to talk to you.

And do not use what they say against them.

Be someone they can confide in comfortably. They’ll depend on that as they grow up.

 

What does it feel like to be a step parent?

Like others have said: It’s hard work.

Being a step-parent is definitely not the same as being a parent. Depending on when you come into the lives of your step-children is really going to be what determines the relationship you have with those children.

Never try to replace the parent you’re “step”-ing for.

As a step-mother, I knew going in that I wasn’t “mom” to my step-daughters, and I never would be. They have a mother they love dearly, and I’d never fault them for that love. I’d never try to replace it. Instead, I wanted to be someone they could love and care for as a person. I have been a part of their lives for a very long time and plan to be there for the rest of their lives as well. They know this. We are a happy family and try to be there for each other in all aspects.

Like Clare Celea stated, your relationship with your spouse does take on a newer meaning. You don’t get those parenthood firsts that you would with a spouse that has no previous children. But you either learn to quickly accept that or you learn that you want something different. I learned that while we may not experience the firsts together, his knowledge of those firsts were and are extremely helpful while I experience them. Even if as a new mother myself I have my moments of freak out, he is always there to bring me back into my right mind and help me see the ways around the hard things.

All-in-all, I love being a step-mother and mother. It is a hard job to do and any person that takes on the role of a parent or step-parent have their own experiences to fall back on. But everyone finds a place to be in and once you find that comfortable place things become a lot easier.

 

Is it reasonable for an ex-spouse to ask me not to marry again because he/she does not want our kid/s to grow up with a step mother/father?

I don’t think this is an easy question to answer.

The simple answer is, no they don’t.

But I think the questions that come from that request are the important things. It sounds like the ex is concerned about the raising of your shared children. That should be a discussion that is had. Hopefully, that was a discussion had before it becomes a major issue.

But the truth is, with all split families, the situations are different. It may be a hard situation where communication isn’t great and there is a lot of animosity of one or both sides. These kind of questions and concerns can be a hard thing to address.

Even if things are perfect between each parent, it still is going to be a hard thing for a parent to know that there is going to be a new person in their child’s life that is going to be a person who plays a major part in it.

When my husband and I got married, he let the mother of his daughters know that we were getting married as a courtesy. Especially since he was going to tell his daughters as well that same night. We both knew they’d have questions and bring up things that may have not been realized before. Having everyone aware and involved meant it would be easier to answer any questions that came up.

In my case, I’d already been a part of their lives for four years prior and had taken on that “step-parent” role without the official/legal ties. I knew my husband’s stance on parenting and I followed in his footsteps on the way he wanted his children raised. I never asked their mother, but then again I wasn’t required to. I assumed my husband and his ex discussed the raising of their children before and after their split. Though they don’t get along, they do want their children happy.

Totally getting side tracked. My point is that the ex does not have a right to ask that, but I believe you have an obligation to your children to have some kind of an agreement on how your children are raised. If anything that gives them consistency. It may not always work, but it’s a good idea to at least try to have that conversation.

 

My wife likes bathing with my daughter who is 3 years old and I don’t feel comfortable. Is it okay or not?

When it comes to bathing together, I think it’s very normal. Lot of women do it for a variety of reasons.

  • Bonding — Skin to skin is something that most recommend (or at least they do here in Colorado). With a baby especially. At age 3 it might be getting past that need, but its still a great bonding experience.
  • Teaching — The best way to teach is to show. You’re either going to be sitting outside the tub trying to instruct the child or inside the tub trying to do it.
  • Need to get clean — Honestly, with babies and toddler, most people don’t have a lot of free time to get a private shower in! So why not kill two birds with one stone? You’re getting both of you clean and hopefully your child is learning from the experience.

I can totally understand your discomfort. I think shared bathing is something that doesn’t really get talked about very often before you become a parent. There are so many taboos out there — especially in American culture — that would make this seem a bad thing. But even my pediatrician recommended shared baths with my baby.

Granted, there should be a stage that it stops. Usually at a stage where a child can safely bath themselves. Or the idea of body image comes into play.

If you are really uncomfortable I think you need to talk to your wife. Not necessarily to ask her to stop but to address what is going on. If you’re too uncomfortable to have her continue then discuss other options.

 

Women: How do you feel about your body after child birth?

I guess that I’m one of those women that is the opposite of most. My story is similar to Tatiana Reznichenko.

When I got pregnant, I was considered obese, but I loved my body and didn’t worry about it overly much. I tried to eat healthy and exercise, but never could devote enough time to getting my weight down. So pre-pregnancy I was 5’6” and weighed 234 lbs.

During my pregnancy I gained a normal amount of weight. I tried even harder to eat healthy and take walks and do light exercise (I was on moderate bed rest for some of my pregnancy and told not to do more than what my body was already used in in regards to exercise before that). By the time I went into labor I was 254 lbs. I gained exactly 20 pounds during my pregnancy.

I did get the stretch marks. And my boobs did go up a couple cup sizes. But those, in my opinion, are badges of honor. Like others have said, you’re growing a baby inside of your body, it’s going to change. There really isn’t a way around it.

Since I had a C-section, I wasn’t allowed to do any exercise while healing. I was also breast feeding, so was always hungry and feeling like a pig because of how much I was eating. So, when I went into a two-week post-partum check up I was shocked to find out how much I weighed.

I was 212 pounds!!

Not only had I lost all the baby weight that I’d gained during labor and the two weeks after it, I’d also lost an additional 22 pounds of pre-pregnancy weight.

I honestly don’t feel different, and I don’t think I look much different (other than the boobs, those are so much bigger!), but people do comment that I look a lot better.

I’m still obese for my weight, but I also just had a baby a little over two months ago. It took me nine months to get to my labor weight, it took me two weeks to get rid of it. I’m the abnormality, not the rule. My weight now fluctuates because I’m breastfeeding and eating a lot more then I would on a normal day. I still haven’t hit my pre-pregnancy weight again, so that makes me happy.

And Courtney Wooten is completely correct, when you breast feed you feel like a stripper! Topless all hours of the day. But it’s an interesting experience raising a baby.

 

Women: When a woman becomes a mother, do you still see the woman as an individual, or do you just view her as a mother?

I would hope I’m viewed a more than a mother.

I figure this: when a woman becomes a mother (or a man becomes a father) they take on yet one (or more caps). We all juggle so many hats in our lives and our individuality and personality is molded and changes based on how many hats we juggle. I mean I have so many hats in my collection right now: daughter, mother, wife, writer, employee, and my plain ol’ Cara hat that shows all my eccentricities.

Not only that, like Robert Johnson said, it’s a learning experience that helps you grow into something more. As a mother I’ve learned more patience, I’ve learned that I can still stay up more hours than I would ever thought possible (especially in that first month!), I’ve learned a different kind of love then ever before (and this love is different for each child — unique to the person they are).

I’ve also had to change who I see myself as, though, but I don’t think just motherhood/fatherhood does that to a person. Any life change does. You re-evaluate who you are, what your goals are. You discover capabilities you may have never imagined having and you’ll learn that there is no “perfection” so you are bound to fail at some point — and that’s okay!

Parenthood is a big change in my mind. I think it should change you in some aspects as an individual but I don’t think it should get rid of the individuality of the parent.

There are some women (and men) that their individuality gets so hidden by their new parenthood that it’s hard to see around the child — but that should be the choice of the parent, and I believe that just is one change to the individual person in a way that they’ve chosen to change how they identify with themselves and to others.

I’m rambling now, so I’ll just summarize: No, a woman doesn’t disappear just because a baby grew inside her and was born from her. A man doesn’t become just a “father” either. They are both whoever they were before with a new hat to juggle..

Woo, that was a doozy. We’ll be back on the writing topic next week. Hope y’all have a wonderful day!

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