I had the distinct privilege of being asked to speak at the Catholic Women’s Blogging Network // Twin Cities this past weekend. My talk was on branding and social media and monetizing. But the true kernel of my talk answered this question: is there room for you? Another blogger? Another creative? Another woman looking to be known and to feel connected?

The answer was and is always; yes. Yes, there’s room at the cool kids’ table for another blogger or maker. Yes, the whole blogging world should feel like the cool kids’ table. Those distinctions aren’t found in our network. We are all cool. We all have something distinct to offer. There is audience enough for all our voices.

This doesn’t mean we don’t need to hone our craft! Room for improvement abounds over here on this lil blog of mine. It’s humbling to look around at how much better and smarter many of my blogging sisters are hustling. It’s a good kind of humbling because it inspires me to put more energies here.

But when women who attended the conference asked if the world really needed their voice? Yes. The answer is always yes.

Yes because I want to learn from them. I want to hear their peaks and valleys on this life journey. I want to be a reflection of God’s love for them.

We do this sharing online thing for lots of reasons. Sometimes I share because I am insecure about my experience and hasten to find reassurance it’s normal, or it’s relatable. Other times I share because I’m chasing that dopamine rush of feedback, affirmation, and attention. But I try to have my primary goal for sharing be to give greater honor and glory to God. He’s the One I owe my gifts to, howsoever small they may be. He’s the One my work should point back to, overtly or quietly.

Laura laid out how to write better, when to find time to do it, and the publication process. Haley shared her journey as a blogger and offered tips and insights along the way. Anna and Jacqui and Susanna made the whole day run smoothly and beautifully with delicious food and decor. The afternoon workshops provided a relaxed atmosphere for one on one questions and feedback. The gifts in our swag bags and big giveaways were extraordinary!

If you can, attend one such gathering. You’ll meet kindred spirits (Nancy and Laura and I couldn’t stop gabbing after all these years of blogging sisterhood). You’ll have a chance to hear from people further down the path than you. And you’ll leave feeling (hopefully!) that yes, there is always room for you and all you have to offer.

See you next year at #cwbntwincities !

Last Sunday was a real doozy. I awoke to my little nursling snarfling her way across our king-sized bed to find her liquid gold, checked the clock, and listened for the daily howling of my wolf pack. Happily surprised to find out it was already 6:50 and the howling had subsided, I nursed and started my mental check list.

Mass. What time should we go today?

How messy is the kitchen? Did I sweep the floor to combat the ant invasion we’ve been experiencing?

Is that pee on my shirt or spit up? Is her diaper leaking? Am I leaking?

After a happy milk-guzzling sesh, we both made our way out into the hallway, pausing to hear the howling and wrestling in the kitchen. Kids + Dad = happiness. Why don’t we just get dressed real quick like and go to the 7:30 mass? It’s the Old Rite, low mass, and fairly quick. We usually go to the 10am orchestral Latin New Rite. Can’t be that rough and we’re all awake and seemingly stable mental places. **seemingly**

So off we went. The kids dove into semi-church clothes and given the early hour, I didn’t enforce our usual “dressiness on Sunday” standards. We were going to cruise in & out so Jesus would forgive me if my daughter wasn’t wearing a dress nor my sons their bowties.

You can see where all my optimism is headed. Right off that cliff.

We arrived at our century+ old church, the most gorgeous in all the land in my very humble opinion. We were even almost early, meaning nearly on time, meaning miraculous. Skipping up the steps, my children’s scamper seemed to show their zeal for the Lord and time in His church. **seemed**

AA felt ambitious. We didn’t sit in the very back, or even on an outside pew where the wall could act as a guardian from a toddler who sometimes runs away. We sat in the back-ish, middle-ish, and rapidly removed our many layers (it is early spring in Minnesota, meaning you still need gloves, hat, scarf, boots, and heavy coat). The baby settled in to nurse in the sling and the children leaned and preened to observe the beautiful prayers at the foot of the altar.

Until the baby wasn’t happy, and needed jostling, not a semi-kneeling mama. Then we migrated to the baptistry in the back of the church–where she had been baptised mere weeks before. And bounce out the burps we did. And nursing while standing and swinging we did. And sit on the usher’s seat before getting a side-eye we did. I felt confident. I watched our older three kids piously paying attention with my handsome husband in the pew, straight out of a rich painting. Or a tapestry! Maybe we were a tapestry. God’s love, the columns, their happy quiet hands. Oh yes, there are so many layers there. Let’s go with tapestry.

The unraveling began with the toddler tripping and racing down the aisle toward me. I raised to hands to shush him and ush him BACK to the pew with the non-nursing, non-jostling, non-dancing adult. GO BACK TO DADDA, I stage-whispered. It fell on deaf ears. Deaf because he was so busy talking loudly aloud. ALOUD talking. Loud talking. His older sister dashed out of the pew to administer justice and possibly even a punishment (she’s all law & order, that one) and I stage whispered to both, GO BACK TO DADDA!!!! while the baby awoke and wailed for the other side to nurse on which requires far more jostling in the sling and my fellow mamas-in-the-back tossed sympathetic AND empathetic tired eyes my way.

They settled in and made their hands comfortable, yanking and petting the baby’s protruding feet, practicing their climbing and dismounting skills on the USHER ONLY cushy chair. My furious mouth kept mouthing G O B A C K and after several scuffles over who the baby loved more, they obliged. My sweaty pits emanating that nursing odor (you know what I’m talking about–raw chicken & hot dogs) kindly obliged by slowing down production lines and I could kinda relax back into my jostle-dance moves against that stubborn burp.

Until they decided part 2 would be an even greater reenactment of “Kids Gone Wrong, Mass Version.” This round included silent sobbing on the part of my daughter who couldn’t hold the baby’s hand while she nursed in the sling and a shin kicker of a tantrum by my toddler (let’s just call him “the toddler” as I really wanted no ownership part in that action) against the recently refurbished great wooden doors. My husband, profound in prayer and seemingly blind and deaf to the 10 rows away from him hullabaloo, slid an arm around our oldest, similarly positioned in prayer, and the two of them shared a moment.

Meanwhile, the tired empathic eyes had graduated to nodding heads and even a open-mouthed smile from a few of the mamas who get it. Looking at  you, Susanna, and you, Jacqui, with a nod to Elizabeth and Kate and Maria, too!

Communion couldn’t come soon enough. Not only because partaking in the sacrifice of the Mass with receipt of the Blessed Sacrament is obviously da best, but because it meant I could busy our monsters with walking in a straight line and catching up with their father.

After Mass, no donuts for this crew. We hurried home so I could lock myself in a quiet bathroom and just breathe and wipe my pits.

But these cute pics are from after everyone had eaten and calmed the sundaymorning down.

 

Many days, I’m hustling MonsterTot to the toilet while SweetCheeks is in the sling, hoping like a tornado chaser to catch the big storm (poop) before it’s gone (in his pants). I’m spelling out words for SweetPea’s construction-paper-cut-and-stapled-into-a-book while wiping a huge spitup out of my hair and onto the hem of my bathrobe. I’m pulling snow pants on a squirmy, reluctant toddler while the baby is bouncing in her little chair, a-gooing with her big sister. Lots of juggling goes on day-to-day and the big kids need more schlepping around to school & activities & playdates than when I had my third baby and the oldest wasn’t even four yet!

I’ve been on this path with a newborn four times now and each time I marvel that while she is the easiest member of the family to parent, she’s also the most needy. Here are our six top tricks to keeping life with an infant easier. A few of these are feasible only because I’m not working outside the home, so take that into consideration.

1) Nurse on demand.

We feed on demand–that means whenever my baby squalks or squeaks and doesn’t have a burp or diaper, I offer to nurse her. Sometimes she drinks a ton of milk, sometimes she just soothes herself. Yes, I am a human pacifier, and yes I’m okay with that. Using a pacifier before 8 weeks old can really impact amount of breastmilk you produce for the long term. Here’s an article about it. Basically, when the baby sucks, it tells your body to make more milk. The first few months tell your body an approximation of how much milk your body should make for the baby in the long haul. Don’t impede that if your breastfeeding goals are longer term.

If you are bottle feeding, try not to introduce a bottle before four weeks old as it can confuse their sucking mechanism and make nursing from the breast not go as smoothly. Here’s a great article about how to bottle feed a breastfed baby, including switching from side to side to develop eye contact both ways and sitting them upright to cut down on burps.

I also nurse to sleep while rocking–or bouncing her on my chest if I’m laying at an angle in bed. A hormone in breastmilk called prolactin helps make them (and us!) sleepy. I’m going to use all the tools in my tool box!

But does this mean my baby nurses all the time and no one else can ever take care of her? Kinda. Tiny humans need constant care in a way that our society isn’t structured to give. Moms aren’t always cared for postpartum, they’re expected to go back to work soon after birth, and we also want to get away from the baby sometimes because it’s hard having a little person crying and needing us around the clock. I figure the first 8-12 months are just going to be me primarily taking care of the baby. I used to pump & bottle feed with my first but subsequently I haven’t and even though it means I miss out on some events at night, I often just bring her with because of number two . . .

2) Wear in a sling.

I wear my big little chunker in a ring sling (Sakura Bloom double silk is my favorite) so she is vertical for a lot of the day. She kinda lives in it. The advantages to this are: she gets her burps & gas out naturally because she isn’t transverse, she strengthens her core, she is close to my heartbeat and smell, and I have my hands free while still being able to offer the security a newborn craves of human contact.

It’s really hard to figure out a ring sling unless you have someone show you, on you, with a baby. Just watching videos or seeing other people use one wasn’t enough for me. If you have a postpartum doula, she should be able to help with this. Or if you live near me, please let me bring you and your newborn a meal and show you how to use it!

But won’t my back hurt and can’t I set her down so I can get something done? Properly worn, your back shouldn’t hurt. You might need a different sling or carrier if it does. And I totally set my babies down, usually in this bouncy chair, but when they’re fussy and I need to get something done, the sling is the ticket! As they get older, they’re super easy to nurse in the sling, too!

3) Co-sleep.

This isn’t everyone’s favorite way to spend their evenings, but it’s made our lives so much easier! We did make a closet into a nursery (that post here) but she sleeps between us in our king sized bed and this means a few perks: she nurses in the middle of the night and I don’t even have to go to a different room to tend to her, she nurses in a side-lying position so I don’t even have to sit up to nurse her, she never cries at night because she has an all-access pass to nursing.

We also use Natty diapers at night and they hold so much pee that unless she poops, which she hasn’t in probably over a month, we don’t even have to change her diaper in the middle of the night.

On the rare occasion when she’s fussy at night and doesn’t have a burp or need to nurse (though I’m convinced burps are the number 1 culprit of non-hungary or diaper related fussing), I can kick gently rouse my husband and ask him to walk her around a little.

Doesn’t this mean you will never have sex again because there’s always this baby in your bed, and she will never want to leave it? First off, there are plenty of places to have marital relations that aren’t your bed. The question of whether or not the baby will ever leave your bed is a valid one. We’ve gone through this twice before (SuperBoy moved to a crib in his own room at 6 months or so–in my ambitious pre-attachment parenting days where I slept on a mattress on his floor  a LOT) and the transition to their own sleeping space is a pain in the rear, but when they’re older, I’m okay with letting them fuss a little more. No infant should be left to cry alone for a long period of time. It’s damaging to their prefrontal cortex. Google it because there’s a whole body of research on the topic and then you can draw your own conclusions.

4) Bathe together.

I hated leaning over the tub and hoping while I leaned that my infant wouldn’t somehow wiggle out of the baby bathtub insert thing. So with our second onward, I just hop in the bath with the baby until they’re old enough to be in there alone. This often means I take a super hot bath (feels so good on my sore pelvis and tailbone!) and then add cold water before bringing the baby in with me. I just sit with my knees up and balance the baby on my thighs, facing me, and use one hand to spongy-bathe her. Then I swoosh her just up to her chest back and forth in the water and make lots of funny faces. Of course, I use Molly’s bath wash on baby (and me!) and then call it a day.

Doesn’t this take so long and isn’t it a pain to get out of the tub with her? I don’t bathe her everyday–probably 3x a week or so. And I do take a bath everyday so nah, it’s not a pain for me. Getting in and out of the tub I do VERY carefully, of course, and take precautions not to slip!

5) Dress her in clothes easy to change a diaper in.

I used to think a baby needed outfits. Now I know a baby needs everything elastic and easy on-easy off, with no midriff showing in the Minnesota winter! And that sleep sacks are the best for nighttime diaper changing ease! This is my first winter baby and here are a few items of apparel I bought this round that have made life so much easier.

Sleep sacks: Kate Quinn, Sassy Knitwear, and Baby My Love all make great ones.

Footed overall: L’oved Baby. I basically want this in every color. This is the only thing lil babies need to wear!

Hat: Miou sells these Peruvian made alpaca wool bonnets. My girl lives in hers.

Socks: Lian Lifestyle cashmere socks in a pack of 6. She wears them everyday. They pull up nicely over leggings and keep her ankles warm, too!

A few long sleeve hand-me-down onesies and a bunch of leggings I had made before she was born–throw a sweater on top and we’re good if we’re going for the fully dressed look. Otherwise, she hangs in her footie overalls. On a rare occasion, I’ll put a dress and tights on her. I found a bundle of good non-itchy tights here.

6) Rest and say no to lots of stuff.

Just rest and say no when you have a new baby. Say no to getting back into your jeans right away or bringing your baby into public where everyone can cough on her. Your placenta detached from the wall of your uterus and there’s a big ole sore there. Let the blood go to healing your body and not to hiking around!

You may think I’m insane or preachy or a lot of both after reading what we typically do with our babies–so forgive me and know I am not judging you for not doing likewise! Just sharing what has worked for us. Share what has worked for you!

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