Next in our series on pregnancy, birth, and motherhood is Randee. When Randee and her husband first found out that they were having a boy, they were crestfallen–they had pinned their hopes on having a little girl. Now that their son Eero is here, however, they can’t imagine life any other way. Randee had a relatively easy pregnancy and smooth birth, and Eero was sleeping through the night by 6 weeks old! Here she discusses figuring out Eero’s sleep schedule, navigating her initial disappointment over having a boy, and setting boundaries on her schedule in order to protect her independence and nurture her marriage.
What were the most difficult aspects of pregnancy?
My pregnancy was actually super easy. I was one of the lucky ones. I didn’t have morning sickness, I gained just the right amount of weight. I was pretty comfortable the whole time.
The hardest part was when we found out the gender of the baby. We really wanted a girl, and found out that we were having a boy. It was more so my husband than me. I leaned more towards wanting a girl, but I was fine with having a boy. He was really set on having a girl. So it was more emotionally difficult, because we were sorting through all the ideas of what we thought we wanted, and what we were actually going to get.
How did you sort through it?
A lot of talking, for sure. And avoiding making assumptions about personality based on gender. Eero is his own person. He could be really sensitive, really feminine, you just don’t know. Having preconceived ideas about a baby before they’re even here, and even after they’re born, doesn’t do anybody any good. It doesn’t do the child any good, it doesn’t do the family any good. So we really worked on not labeling him before he’s able to develop however he’s going to develop naturally.
It also helped us to work through it by knowing that we would need time to bond with the baby after he was born. That it was okay if it didn’t happen right away. I have a friend who had a similar experience regarding the gender and his advice was “bonding takes time.” It really helped us to hear that from him. It took away a lot of the pressure, so I really appreciated his honesty.
How was birth different from what you expected?
It was a billion times easier. I’m one of the rare stories. All I had heard were the horror stories, so I went into it with that expectation.
I ended up getting induced and then I got my epidural right away. So, I didn’t ever feel a single contraction. The waiting was the hard part…..about 12 hours from when I was induced, but I only pushed for 45 minutes and he was born. I didn’t have any pain and I was smiling and laughing in between pushing. It was such a positive experience. I could be wrong, but he is such a calm baby that I feel like the birth could have contributed to that. He came into such a relaxed and happy environment.
What is the most challenging part of being a mom?
Eero’s a super easy baby. He is just naturally chilled out and always has been. We are extremely lucky. So for me, I think the challenge is more balancing everything, and getting used to being on a different schedule than before. We’re really stringent on naps and keeping a schedule, because it really helps him to be a good sleeper. But it is hard because you can only be out for a certain amount of time before you have to get back home and put him down for his next nap. As he gets older, that is getting easier, though. He is able to be awake for longer periods now versus when he was a newborn.
Figuring out your relationship with your partner is also different after you have a baby. You have to work around the baby’s schedule. You have to really focus on trying to make an effort to spend time together. For example, when the baby goes down for the night, make sure you spend time. So it’s just balancing all your normal things with now having a baby.
What’s helped you navigate that?
I think it’s more so that it’s what you have to do.
You don’t really look at it and think, ‘oh this is horrible.’ You just look at it and think, ‘this is just life now.’ I’m always reminding myself that everything is temporary. Even when you go through the baby getting sick, which is really hard, they’re going to get better. They’re going to teethe, but it’s going to end.
You always know that even when things are hard and you may be struggling, that it will pass. There are so many phases and sometimes you just have to push through until it changes again. It really helps to accept that and not stress too much about it.
Any practical advice–any tips or tricks you have stumbled upon– (in general) or for navigating sleep deprivation (in particular)?
Figuring out a nap schedule was the biggest thing that helped. Because once I figured that out, everything else fell into place. He was happy when he was awake, and he would sleep better at night.
A lot of people don’t want to let their babies sleep for too long during the day because they think they won’t sleep at night, but it’s the opposite. I realized that babies need to learn to go from one sleep cycle to the next. If they are woken up or interrupted, it makes it very difficult for them to do this…..in turn, they rely on you to put them back to sleep. If I had known that from the beginning, those weeks of figuring it out would’ve been a lot less stressful.
How did you figure out what his sleep schedule was?
Eero is naturally a very good sleeper, but we did everything we could to encourage it. I researched online. And I found this little chart that shows you by age for how long they should be awake during the day. It also tells you how many naps they should have during the day, and for how long they should be sleeping total–naps and night time sleeping.
I could tell when he was able to stay awake for longer because he would take longer to get fussy. The timeline really followed the chart for him.
Any life saving baby gear?
1. A video monitor. Before I even had him, I knew I never wanted to co-sleep or have the baby in our room. So I thought, if I can see him all the time…it takes 15 seconds for me to get to the nursery from our room. So from day one, when we got home from the hospital, he slept in his crib. I think that’s really helped with sleeping. Because when he’s in his crib, he knows that’s where he sleeps every night, where he takes naps.
2. Zipadee-Zip. Which is like a swaddle transition. Their arms are inside. They can move them a little bit, but not enough to smack themselves in the face. So I swaddled Eero up until he was about 3 or 4 months. And then I switched to this. I didn’t want it to interrupt his sleep this all of a sudden not being swaddled. So they came up with this Zipadee-Zip. I transitioned him to that for a while and he got used to sleeping with moving his arms a little bit. And then eventually I was able to have him in the crib without anything.
3. Nipple guards, for breast feeding. In the beginning, breast feeding is hard! And it’s awkward. And you have to figure out how to do it. A friend told me about nipple guards for protecting the nipple more than anything. But I actually think it helped Eero latch because it goes in their mouths and triggers them to suck. You read all these things about nipple confusion “don’t do this, it effects this or that,” but it doesn’t. They’re fine! He was eating fine, everything was fine.
4. I use a baby tracking app which helps track sleep, diaper changes, breastfeeding or formula (whatever you use). That way you know how much they’re eating. That’s really helpful, especially for the sleep. I know exactly how many hours he’s sleeping a day, how long he’s been awake. I never have to remember anything, which is good. I can just open it up and see, ‘oh, he’s been awake for an hour and a half. He needs to go to sleep.’ Things like that were really helpful.
How do you divide up the work of care giving with your partner?
We don’t really plan anything out–honestly, moms tend to do more. That’s the way it is from the beginning. But we do really help each other out – if we’re both home, one person’s watching while the other person’s preparing food – things like that. One thing that we do that I think is really helpful is I have one day a week where Eero’s in daycare and I’m off of work, so I can actually do things I want to do and not have to worry about being home. Sundays are the day where Andy’s supposed to be able to just go out and do things. I think that’s really important. Because when everything becomes about the baby, then you lose your own independence and you also lose your relationship. All these things are so important, even for the baby.
If you had 9 months remaining before getting pregnant for the first time, how would you spend that time? What would you make sure to do?
For us, personally–home projects. We did so much up until Eero was born. But, as soon as he was born, everything stopped. And so we’re now just trying to get back into doing those things. If I had to do it all over again, I would want to get all that stuff done beforehand, so that I wouldn’t have to worry about it. It’s just so much harder when you have a baby.
How did you and your partner figure out how you wanted to approach parenting? Do you adhere to a particular philosophy?
I think, for the most part, we have always tried to approach things with what seems the most logical to us. We try not to jump into situations with stress and panic……we just stop, think and try to work things out as best as we can. We don’t really adhere to a certain philosophy, but we definitely prioritize communication. We always want Eero to feel supported and loved, no matter what, and that he can come to us with his problems. I think that’s the hardest part with a kid growing up, is that they go through really tough times. And if he doesn’t feel like he has a support system at home, that’s where he may run into problems. So, we always want him to feel that it’s safe to talk to us.
What is the most fulfilling part of being a mom?
Seeing him change and grow and figure new things out is amazing. At first, babies are just kind of a lump. They cry, they want to be fed, they sleep. So once they get older and start to interact with you and learn new things, that’s just amazing.
Also, Eero loves his dad. As soon as he sees him, his face lights up. Especially after what we’ve been through–fretting over having a son–it’s amazing to see that bond.
Thank you, Randee, for sharing your insight and experiences! Your advice is both practical and reassuring – I love how you balance being nurturing and levelheaded. And Eero seems like such a sweetheart!