Please don’t compliment my post-baby body.

Every time someone tells me, “You look great for just having a baby!” my heart sinks a little.

Don’t roll your eyes; of course, anyone—with or without a new baby—likes to hear she looks beautiful. It’s the deeper context behind these comments that evokes a range of emotions. What a world it would be if women were revered and distinguished for post-natal physical changes, rather than pressured to erase every reminder of this special period.

Pregnancy is hard. Let me repeat: PREGNANCY IS HARD. I was blessed with a very easy one and I still view it as the most taxing thing I’ve ever experienced. You’re carrying around an extra 30 pounds, constantly sweaty, emotional, swollen and exhausted. Back pain, morning sickness, heartburn, you name it. Your body becomes a utility to sustain a second life, and the punch line is that you’re expected to work and be generally pleasant while this occurs for 40 weeks. Childbirth is a beautiful and holy experience, but one that can initiate a separate series of physical changes and strains.

Despite the myriad of challenges, any mother would endure it again a million times to experience the joy of motherhood.

Can we change how we regard womens’ bodies following pregnancy? I don’t view my body in pre- and post-baby terms, and don’t understand why society urges such a distinction. It’s still me; I have just one body. No matter what it’s been through or where it looks different, it’s amazing.

Every day when I look at my daughter I reflect on the pure miracle of her existence. I am deeply awed with how my body nurtured and sustained her. I love and respect myself in an entirely new way, and am grateful for my good health like never before.

Our society is so consumed with physical appearances that we denigrate pregnancy and childbirth—the most sacred miracles in a woman’s life—into something that mustn’t leave a trace. These are events that should be forever celebrated, rather than rushed into memory.

Instead of comments on how much weight I’ve lost or my fitness levels post-baby, I wish someone would acknowledge the fact that I showered today, got to work without spit-up on my clothing and am functioning on 3-hour stretches of sleep. That’s the really impressive part, and the stuff we should compliment.

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It’s Saturday night and this is happening

I’m writing this on my phone while sitting in a parked car, in my garage, in total darkness. The baby fell asleep on the drive home (after screaming for 20 minutes), and I just need to sit and absorb the quiet for a bit. She’s sleeping contentedly in her car seat and I dare not wake her just yet.

There are lots of aspects of parenting that no one can appropriately warn you about: the fatigue, the emotions, the feeling of spit up gliding down your shirt…

But the thing I never expected and continue to struggle with is a lack of down time. Time to do absolutely nothing. Not to blog, talk on the phone, cook or clean. To be lazy and selfish and free from any demands.

As an introvert, this kind of quiet is essential to survival. It’s how I recharge and restore energy–an endangered resource these days–and center myself amid the chaos of this new life. The moments are fleeting when I can actually mentally let go and simply marinate in the moment.

When the baby was born, people constantly offered to come watch her so that I could go out and get things done. That was hugely helpful and kind, but what I always wished they would say instead was, “Let me come pick up the baby and take her for a few hours so you can sit in your house and just be still.”

She is my world. She needs me. And I cherish being needed. This is a sacred duty, motherhood. But it’s hard not to lose myself in this process from time to time.

So, it’s Saturday night and I’m sitting in a dark garage with a sleeping baby, and oddly enough, I’m perfectly ok with that. These changes and challenges are pushing me to bend where I’m rigid, and stretch where I want to be stagnant. It’s uncomfortable a lot of the time but the reward is so, so worth it.

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Favorite Baby Products

As a new parent, it’s amazing HOW MUCH STUFF you amass. It’s everywhere. We’ve been overtaken.

Even with a surplus of guidance, we still ended up with lots of things we never used and others we’d gladly stockpile. Babies are all unique, and I know this list varies for each family, but several friends who are expecting have asked for my must-haves. Here are some favorites, bearing in mind that none of this is actually required, but all of it is majorly helpful. And I’m sure I’ll have an entirely new list in another few months.

Life Savers:

Summer SwaddleMe blankets: Once you learn about the Moro Reflex, you, too, will savor these blankets which are basically baby straight jackets. Turns out velcro is all you need to keep your infant from smacking herself in the face and waking up every three minutes while sleeping.
MAM pacifiers: These are the only ones Lila likes and are unique in that they come in a special mini size for newborns, where most brands only offer 0-3 months or 3+ months. They also come in glow-in-the-dark styles which makes them automatically cooler.
Mobi Wallmate: An automatic night light is something I bought on a whim because it was on clearance, and am thankful for every day. With a baby, your hands are always full, and you spend a lot of time looking for things in the dark.
Rock ‘n Play Sleeper: Oh man. Can’t rave about this one enough. It has been our saving grace for a baby with reflux and where she still sleeps for the most part, at five months.
Nose Frida the Snot Sucker: Bless you, crazy Swedish product engineers. This thing is so gross and utterly ingenious.
Dohm sound machine: Experts say that the noise level in the womb is as loud as a vacuum cleaner, so babies are–understandably–a little freaked out by silence. This thing is the best. Not only does it offer steady white noise to help lull baby to sleep, it really effectively drowns out other noises so you can actually do things around the house. People will tell you not to tiptoe around your sleeping baby, so that she learns not to be a light sleeper, but when you haven’t slept longer than an hour in three weeks, this thing will be your best friend.
Boba: Babywearing is great for baby and convenient for parents. It allows you to do all kinds of important things, like eat and get the mail without an international incident. I chose this carrier on a friend’s recommendation but I know people love the Ergo and Moby as well.
Whale of a Tub: Bath time is a nightly ritual. In fact, for a period of early weeks, it was the only place Lila didn’t cry during the day. We took LOTS of baths.
Gas drops – any brand: Believe it or not, baby farts are kind of cute…but they’re also painful for little tummies, and that means crying. And crying. And more crying. We would buy these by the keg if it was possible.
Boppy changing pad liners: Blow outs happen. These make them less offensive to clean up.
Munchkin formula dispenser: So that leaving the house is a possibility.
Boon Lawn drying rack: Just yes.
Newborn side-snap t-shirts: My mom got us some of these and they’re the best for brand new babes. They’re soft, easy to put on a blob-like newborn and don’t interfere with a healing umbilical cord like a onesie can.

Other things:

PJs that zip > PJs with snaps.
Receiving blankets make great burp cloths.
You won’t need many newborn clothes if you have a summer baby (or a whenever baby if you’re in AZ).
Buy diaper cream, nose saline drops and probiotics.
Mercury = bad. Get a digital thermometer.
Try to avoid bath products or lotions with dyes or scents.

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When you cancel cable:

1. You gleefully exclaim, “Well, guess we’ll HAVE to re-watch every episode of Parks and Recreation on Netflix!”

2. There’s a lot more video game playing by one third of this household. Hint: it’s not me or Lila.

3. I’m much closer to finishing a book than I was a week ago.

4. I wonder, daily, what the ratio is of homeowners on HGTV who are deciding to Love It or List It.

5. My love/hate relationship with the Duggars is cooling off. (I know. I KNOW.)

6. We’ve received many clingy-ex emails and postcards from DirectTV. They want us back so bad.

7. We’ve discovered fun new Pandora stations. One hip hop selection so inappropriate we couldn’t make eye contact.

8. The dogs are oblivious.

9. The baby is oblivious.

10. I know with complete certainty that none of my actions are directly or indirectly supporting the Kardashians.

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6 things

1. Last week I started drinking unfiltered apple cider vinegar in a glass of water every day. Because it’s supposed to boost your immune system and help your body eliminate illnesses. Also, it’s disgusting.

2. My dining habits leave little to the imagination. Last night I made chicken stroganoff for dinner. Tonight I had olives, chips and salsa and M&Ms.

3. When I was super sick last month, one doctor suspected I had mono, you know, because I’m 15. So he did a blood test and the results showed that I didn’t have it, but had it at some point in the past. Yep. I had mono and missed it.

4. I just scrolled through my google search history and the following items appeared, none of which I remember looking up: Randy Johnson, ketchup humor, infant chin rash, Ross Dress for Less, definition of malleable, antipodean and Mark Cuban.

5. Revelation: baby toys are the exact same thing as dog toys, but three times the cost. That being said, the baby is as amused with a plastic bottle as she is with any expensive toy.

6. A very sweet friend sent me a car seat adapter for our BOB. I can now safely race* through the streets of Phoenix with my infant! This is most exciting because the weather is perfect right now and will be hot again by the time Lila’s big enough for it (sans adapter)…and it’s been giving me judgmental looks for weeks while sitting stagnant.

*jog slowly

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5:23 a.m.

No matter how often it happens, the baby’s cries on the monitor always awaken me with a jolt. Over several months, my sleeping patterns have gradually adjusted to consistent waking at night, but this shrill sound is always off putting. Something has changed, though, and my reaction has softened.

Once resistant to these nocturnal interruptions, I’ve become more malleable. They are no longer a personal affront, but rather, a sacred duty.

I’m tired, so very tired, but it’s alright.

I cross the house in my nightly pilgrimage to the nursery, and search for the fallen paci in the dark. My hands locate it with ease and as I return it to a whimpering mouth, silence ensues. I rest my hand on her chest for a few moments so she knows she’s not alone.

I pick up the pillow and blanket I keep near the crib and lie down on the floor. Instead of angrily calculating how little time until my alarm will sound, as I did for weeks, I lay on my back and listen to her soft snores. I enjoy the quiet darkness.

Motherhood remains the Hardest Thing Ever. Lord, is it hard.

But it fits me now–like a second, invisible skin. I finally get it. I recognize that this work–this endless and exhausting and thankless work–is my greatest purpose and privilege.

This love is a forceful energy and I am grateful.

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10 reasons I’m jealous of my baby:

1. She has a permanent personal attendant conditioned to respond to her every waking need. And every sleeping need. And every other need.

2. Her clothes are all super comfortable and stretchy and she never has to wear shoes or Spanx.

3. No one judges her when she throws up on herself or farts audibly. She’s like a tiny, sweet-smelling fraternity brother.

4. She can sleep while someone else drives. Always.

5. She never has to do laundry, dishes or grocery shopping.

6. Naps…Just yes.

7. It’s considered cute that she’s chubby.

8. No hair yet means no hours spent washing, conditioning, brushing or styling it. This surplus time is instead devoted to chewing her hands, spitting up and other valuable activities.

9. It’s totally acceptable for her to lose her sh*t in public, scream and cry at the drop of a hat or refuse to make eye contact when she’s bored.

10. Free worldwide air travel for two years?? Sign me up.

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