First Weeks at Home as a New Mommy {Plus Raising Babies in Romania}

Mommy soothing baby girl. #1dayold
Mommy soothing baby girl. #1dayold

Birthing your first child is a major life event. It is one of those things that many people wait years for, or takes others by surprise. Either way, none of us really know what it is going to be like until it actually happens. In my case, I didn’t fully understand what it would be like, especially how long it would take me to recover. But think about it, during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, a woman’s body does a really astonishing thing. It’s so cool how God designed it: women are able to grow, carry, nurture, and protect a tiny person inside of our bodies, and then release that person out into our big world and into our waiting loving arms through a very painful and difficult process. Then we feed this tiny person with our body, though sometimes not always successfully. It’s pretty awesome!

I believe that all good things are worth waiting and fighting for… which is exactly what the early motherhood process is about: Pregnancy is all about the waiting, and delivery is all about the fighting. And after all that we get our reward, our crown of honor as a mother.

Then after we get our little blessing, everyday life sets in. The transition is a difficult one for any family, especially with a first child. A woman’s physical recovery as well as the changes that a couple faces emotionally and physically are pretty major.  My husband and I were no different.

Favorite daddy-daughter moment from yesterday. #fathersday
Favorite daddy-daughter moment from yesterday. #fathersday

I was blessed to have my husband there for the entire pregnancy, the birth, and the first few weeks after Olivia was born. This is a big deal for us because Jay is serving in the US Air Force. I was blessed that he did not have to deploy at all during this season, so I didn’t have to do any of this alone. I know that many couples are often not that lucky, and we thank God regularly that we were able to be together as we started our family.

We were especially fortunate to be able to get an assignment at a base 30 minutes away from my hometown, so I could be around family, friends, and our church. I really believe that having a strong support system will make all the difference when Jay does have to deploy down the line. I believe this was the answer to many, many prayers from ourselves and our loved ones.

Jay was a huge help while he was on paternity leave. He participated with everything from feedings, changing diapers, laundry, grocery shopping, and cooking.  I remember the day he had to go back to work, and the dread I felt for having to get by without him. Plus, it was a little disappointing that our precious family time in our “cocoon of love” had come to an end. A cocoon was really how it felt to me…

I love my view this morning. #week1
I love my view this morning. #week1

Then reality set it, life went on. Jay returned to work, and we had to settle into our normal routines. He had been an amazing help, and I treasured being able to see him with Olivia as a first time daddy… a real heart-melter. To this day I love watching him lock eyes with her, watching her adoringly, making her giggle. It makes me fall in love with him even more.

Jay played a big part in my recovery. I needed help getting in and out of beds and chairs while I was healing from the episiotomy stitches. I was grateful that we were able to avoid a c-section but I was on pain meds for weeks. Simply sitting was extremely painful, and getting out of a seat was even worse. It would take me five minutes to fully lower myself into a chair trying to ignore the shooting pain. Once I was in the chair, I would stay put as long as possible because I knew that the blood rushing through my nerves from slowly lifting my booty off the chair would be incredible. Who would have thought getting up would be the worse of the two?!?

My mom was amazing to have through all of this. On multiple occasions she cooked my favorite meals, Romanian soups, plus dessert, and brought over bags of groceries a few times. She helped with the baby so Jay and I could take breaks and nap. It was awesome. If you have a mother who lives nearby — make sure to ask for help. No one expects you to do it all and be super mom after having a baby. It took us a little bit to figure out our mother-daughter roles with this new baby, and it is still a work in progress. But we both have two things in common: we love Olivia and we love each other. Some days we butt heads on what it looks like, but we try to keep lines of communication open and remember that we love one another and both mean well.  I learned I needed to verbally invite her to help because she did not want to push me or take over. She wanted to be a part of what was going on with me and the baby, and she really wanted to help and love on us. She just needed to feel like she was welcome and loved. { I love you, Mom! <3 }

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#handmade clothes by my mom. #babypaula #romania
#handmade clothes by my mom. #babypaula #romania

A little about my mom: she is an amazing woman. She raised three kids, two of which (my brother Walter and I) were born in Romania only eleven months apart. Yup, they call that Irish twins or “two under one”. She birthed me and then became pregnant with my brother. Shortly after, my dad had to leave the country to make a way for us to escape the oppressive Communist Dictatorship that was controlling Romania at the time. (I will tell more of their story on a future post.) He missed the end of my first year as a baby, and did not get a chance to meet his son until over a year later when we were reunited in America. He missed my first birthday, and left right around the time I was beginning to walk. This was a very difficult time for both of them, especially my mom. She was basically a single mom raising two babies in a country where she had no running water, disposable diapers, dishwasher or laundry machines, pre-made baby food, and little access to baby clothes. She washed our clothes and cloth diapers by hand, even during the freezing cold winter, and then line dried everything. She sewed or knitted all of our baby clothes and blankets, because they were very difficult to find. She also had no car and took the bus with two little ones in tow. Ten years later she had my little brother, Lucas, and was able to enjoy all the benefits of raising a child in a democratic republic like America. Like I said, she is an amazing mother. She is great with kids and loves all of us like crazy. She has a wealth of great knowledge to share if I ever need help or advice.

Grandma & Olivia.
Grandma & Olivia.

I love that I can ask for her take on things. We brainstorm solutions for caring for a fussy baby, or a baby who decided to be on a food strike, or who is dealing with separation anxiety at night. I do enjoy being able to figure things out on my own first. I think that is sometimes the fun of being a mom… figuring stuff out, and I appreciate having a chance to do approach motherhood in my own process, and make some of my own mistakes. Sometimes I just need to try things my way using my best judgement, but through all of that she is always there for me when I need her. She is an excellent encouragement and sounding board!

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We had just moved back home to California a few months before having Olivia, after living out of state for a 2 1/2 years at a different military assignment, so we were just barely beginning to reconnect with old friends. As a result I did not receive months worth of coordinated, dropped off meals as some new moms enjoy, but my mom and Jay really stepped up to help. And I did have two of my sweet friends dropping  off a couple of dinners. Between Jay and my mom, we had meals covered for the first week or so. Having the help made a big difference especially in the beginning, trying to get my milk supply to come in. I may go into more detail about my nursing challenges on a later post, but I had some major challenges with nursing. I needed to have a regular supply of food available to scarf down when I had a spare minute in attempt to get my supply going. I don’t know what I would have done without having all that food available. I wished it could have lasted a little longer. I wonder sometimes if I could have succeeded better at nursing if I continued eating right longer. I ended up having to supplement so that she could get enough to eat.

From day one, I would say Olivia was a relatively easy baby. She was a lot of work at that early age just because she was a newborn and needed a lot of care around the clock. But her temperament was, and is, very calm compared to a lot of newborns. I was able to nanny infants and toddlers for many years before I had Olivia so I has something to compare to, and she was definitely more mellow than some of the other little ones I’ve cared for. She just has a very sweet, thoughtful personality. Maybe I am a little biased.

I remember Olivia’s doctor was concerned about her jaundice, and we had to have her tested every 1-2 days for almost the entire first week. I cried when they had to prick her for the blood test. My heart just broke to see her cry. And then when she turned two weeks I cried again because she was getting so big so fast. (< Those were happy tears.) I am sure hormones and maybe a little postpartum depression were partially to blame, but seeing my little Olivia growing so quickly was a little sad. Part of me wanted her to stay little a bit longer, even with all the sleep deprivation and work caring for her.

I remember it being so hard to get anything done because I had little free time to get to any house work. It still is hard even now, some days, with my little mover. It was a constant battle between catching up on the sleep I needed while Olivia slept or using the time to catch up on laundry, cleaning, or cooking. Newborns are a lot of work. They go through their eat, sleep, and brief awake cycles every 2-3 hours all day and all night in the beginning, which is exhausting for both mommy and daddy. This was especially true for us with our baby because she was our first, and we didn’t know what to expect. I mean… we talked to people, read all the books, took all the classes… but the reality of a new baby was still a major shock.

The lack of sleep was the hardest part for me. I would have paid good money on certain days just for an uninterrupted nap or shower when I was home alone. But then came the best part of having a baby: She would lock eyes with me when she first woke up. She’d blink a little and I’d get a glimpse of those sweet baby blues, and they took my breath away every time. And then around 6 weeks she gave me her first real smile and my heart skipped a beat.

#firstsmile #6weeksold #milestones
#7weeksold today and full of smiles and love.
#7weeksold today and full of smiles and love.

Olivia is such a little miracle. Jay and I both love her so much even with all the difficult changes, exhaustion, and occasional frustration. Children make all the hard work and sacrifice worth it a million times over. We would do anything for our child. Our hearts are never left empty because everything we give of ourselves comes back to us 100-fold, just to have her in our life. Someday she will grow up and leave us… and stand on her own two feet. Until then I will enjoy helping her get there and treasure all the beautiful moments I have as her mommy.

My baby & I playing in the pumpkin patch. #7monthsold
My baby & I playing in the pumpkin patch. #7monthsold

FITL signature handwriting

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