I'd never met the Andersons before coming to the hospital to photograph their first moments with sweet Emma, but as soon as I stepped into the room I felt like I was watching old friends become parents. The tiny hospital room was filled with a quiet excitement, an awe at the sweet girl they had brought into the world, and the feeling that this was only the beginning of a big, beautiful story. I'm so grateful to have been a part of it.
Each day with a newborn (with my newborn, anyway) is totally different from the last. Some days are magic. You wake up feeling surprisingly well rested, and you drink your coffee on the couch instead of in bed at what should be lunch time. You put your baby in a darling outfit, which you document in photographs, and she coos up at the camera like the little angel baby that she is. You make it out of the house (!) and wander through Target and Old Navy, which becomes a sort of artificially lit paradise, even though it's crowded and the cashier is rude and you don't even like Old Navy.
And then the next day you wake up freezing cold at a quarter past five because you're drenched in breastmilk (again). Only moments after waking there is a particular diaper changing incident in which it is necessary to catch poop in your hand. The angel baby is gone and replaced with this little red thing that screams every minute that she's not eating. Every. Minute. She spits up in your freshly washed hair, which is only freshly washed because she spit up in it yesterday. And when your husband finally comes home you can barely muster up the energy to form a complete sentence, let alone a conversation.
And somehow, in all of it, there is an abundance of grace like you've never known before. Just as in labor, there are moments (however brief) of rest. A hot bath when she finally falls asleep. Timely words of encouragement from your mom. That victorious moment when you get her to fall asleep in her crib and not your arms. When you kiss her squishy cheeks and swear she's giving you a real, genuine smile.
Ultimately, at the end of the day, everything is (more or less) okay. His mercies are new every morning, and gosh if that wasn't written for new moms.
My mom told me, smiling sympathetically as I nursed Karey for the third time that hour, that taking care of a newborn baby is probably the hardest thing I'll ever do, and I believe it. It is so hard. But those ever widening gaps in my endurance and sanity are just little doors for the Holy Spirit to tip-toe in (so as not to wake the baby, of course) and whisper, "I'm here. This is hard, but it's good. And I'm not leaving you to do it alone."
I am exhausted and frustrated and would LOVE to not wear the same pajama outfit every day. But, (honestly, to my surprise) I'm not drowning in despair. There's hope here, and lots of laughter in between the diaper blowouts and crying fits. One day the fun, joy-filled moments will far outweigh the hard ones, and for now that's all I need to know.
So. I have no intentions to be a lifestyle, or a mommy blogger; I'm just a gal with a camera and a lot of thoughts who likes to ramble on here every once in a while. BUT after these past two weeks with a newborn I just had to share the little things that have made a huge difference in mine and my husband's sanity. There are a thousand posts out there on postpartum necessities as relates to physical recovery (we all know about the padscicles by now, right?) but there are so many other random things to think about, too. So, for what it's worth, here are the things that have made my new mama life a thousand times easier.
Nursing sleep bras - I was very much a minimalist when I put together my baby registry and started gathering things for postpartum life. True story, I only bought ONE nursing bra before having Karey. Because surely any more than one is terribly excessive, right? Eh, no. Let me tell you something: once your milk comes in, I don't care how many fancy, cute nursing pads you have, you will be waking up for those midnight feedings freezing cold and drenched in breastmilk. This is a fact. I used to not understand the concept of "sleep bras", (set the sisters free, am I right?) but when you're breastfeeding, they're a must. You want to have something comfortable to sleep in, and a few extras to change into when your boobs are exploding with milk those first few weeks. Target has some gorgeous ones that are incredibly comfortable and surprisingly sexy.
Speaking of sexy - you'll want something pretty to wear during those first couple of days home from the hospital. It's going to be a little rough - you're wearing adult diapers, you can barely walk, your stomach is flabby and squishy and hanging all over the place. But wearing your husband's T shirts and your high school gym shorts are only going to make you feel worse. Find some comfy, pretty pajama shorts to wear with your soft, sexy nursing bra and you will feel like a million bucks, flabby stomach and all. I promise.
A travel mug. One of my mom friends told me to make sure I have one so as not to have to resort to the whole re-heating your coffee in the microwave thing. Also, no worries about accidentally spilling on the baby. Genius.
A project of some sort. I admit this one sounds a little bizarre. But after a week or so of being cooped up indoors with a baby attached to my boob 24/7 I was starting to get a little antsy. When I have a free moment (or even just a free hand) I write in my journal, or take and edit photos - nothing huge, just something that makes me feel like me, and like I've accomplished something that day, which is imperative to my sanity.
A lineup of shows/movies. As much as Trevor and I love staring at her, during those cluster feeding marathons, we're ready to turn on an episode of Gilmore Girls (or ten.)
Snacks. Dried fruit, granola bars, those packaged crackers and cheese things that offer no nutritional value. I keep little stacks of them on my bedside table, because I never know when I'm going to get stuck there breastfeeding for an hour and a half.
Cheap tank tops. I grabbed a handful of these at Target about a week before giving birth and I am SO glad I did. I've lived in these almost every single day - they're comfortable, easy to nurse in, and I can throw them on without wondering whether they'll fit my postpartum body. (There's nothing worse than rifling through your closet only to discover that, no matter how much weight you're losing, about half of it still won't fit.)
A sleep swaddle with velcro. Those beautiful patterned swaddle blankets have many wonderful uses, but it is almost impossible to get your two day old baby swaddled in them correctly for the fifteenth time that night. At three in the morning, velcro is everything.
Burp cloths on every surface in every room of your home. For spit up, for when your boobs start leaking out of nowhere, for catching an explosive poop oozing out of those beautiful baby jeggings that were brand new and perfectly folded neatly in a drawer just last week. Again, something I only had a handful of before, but after baby came it was the first thing we added to our to-buy list.
And lastly, but in my opinion, the most important purchase of all: a waterproof mattress cover. I bought one for the crib a while ago and gave myself a pat on the back for being so proactive in saving our expensive crib mattress. But it never occurred to me to get one for our bed, which is where we spent 90% of our time those first couple of weeks. I'm sure you can imagine the damage that can be done in only two weeks with a newborn baby between the breastmilk, the spit up, and poop and pee. I wish SO BAD I had thought to buy one of these sooner.
Granted, not all of this will apply or make sense for other new moms, but these are just some of the things that I wish I'd known a month ago.
Karey Ireland was born on March 15, changing our lives forever with those chubby cheeks and wiggly eyebrows. I'll write out her birth story one day, but I want to record these sweet, dreamy first days with her. How she's burst into our lives and made every little thing a thousand times better. A week and a half ago, I wouldn't have had a clue what to expect. I didn't daydream about cuddling in bed with the morning sun streaming in, or a little button nose, or staring at her for hours on end. I had hoped it would be fun, but I really had no idea.
And now she's here and she's more than I could have ever dreamed or hoped for. Taking care of her has come so naturally to Trevor and I, a couple of clueless kids who'd never even changed a diaper before.
These past few days have been the most perfect of my life - strange and dreamy, adjusting to a whole new way of life, kind of like being on a honeymoon, where each lazy day runs into the next. When it came to having a baby and becoming a mom, I was worried about so many things. But I didn't factor in love, how it takes over and makes even the hard stuff seem sweet and simple. These days with her have been so honest and pure, not doing a thing but loving on each other and becoming a family. Coffee and cuddles and our own little world. We are so deliriously happy.
With my due date only days away, I wanted to take the time to capture the weird, fun, uniqueness of these last few days - the waiting, the peace, the frustration, the endless cups of raspberry leaf tea I'm consuming. I haven't done a day in the life in years (it's SO much harder than it seems, especially without kids). The catch 22 for doing this project now is that I have had literally nothing going on these last few days, so the photos aren't exciting in the least, but having all that free time is what makes a project like this so much easier to do.
These images aren't necessarily bursting with creativity, and I wish I had taken so many more, but overall I am thrilled to have this special time captured forever. To show Karey one day what life was like as we eagerly anticipated her arrival.