A Mother Far from Home

on becoming supermom


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How to prepare your child for another baby (reader Q + A)

A Mother Far from Home

I recently received an email from a dear friend in a similar situation to myself, having babies very close together. My first two are 13 months apart and, as I type, my third bun in the oven will be only 16 months younger than my second. Here’s what she writes.

“I was wondering how did you “prepare” Ella Kate for Judah’s arrival since she was still very young? My daughter will be 15 months when baby No.2 is born and I wonder how she will deal with the fact that another baby will take up a lot of Mama’s time which she previously had all to herself. Especially since at 15 months they are still very dependent on Mama Bear.

 Any thoughts and tips, fire them my way !! -H”

Excellent question, H. I grappled with this topic myself since I knew that my firstborn would be too young to have a conversation about the whole thing. It was more about preparing her as a tiny person to cope with change as opposed to preparing her mind for change, as you would an older child. Here are some thoughts.

1) Get her a baby doll and role play. An aunt suggested I get my oldest a baby doll and roll play changing a diaper, burping and feeding. We would both hold a baby and do this together (as approximate as it was) in hopes that when a real baby came home she would have a frame of reference to put it in. We didn’t do it every day but we did it frequently enough. I tried to hone in the concepts of baby and cry so the noise didn’t bother her, and we just hoped for the best. Then when the baby arrived, I made sure to give my daughter the baby doll and so she could feed, change and burp with me. She didn’t really turn into a copy cat baby mommy, but I think it helped her realize, even at her young age, what I was trying to communicate. Continue reading

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How to Choose a Baby Name

A Mother Far from Home

How does one go about choosing a baby name? This may seem pretty self-explanatory, but I think choosing baby names is so fun and ultimately very important. I read once that you can seriously put your children at a disadvantage with the name you give them. There are certain names (and not ones that are simply ethnically diverse) that will make your child seem like a joke when they are at a job interview in a nice suit speaking to a potential employer. “Ketchup, why did you decide to become a teacher?” “Bounty, tell us about your strengths.” You may not like it and it may not be fair, but using our children’s name as a way of expressing our own creativity and preference for nonconformity is not always a great idea.

What to think about when picking a name.

1) Names that run in the family, even way back. A great way to start thinking about names is to get family members to make lists of all the names they can think of that run in the family in both genders. You may find a name or two you’d forgotten about but that are timeless. I think this is a great tradition and being able to keep a name running in the family is special, at least in my book. My grandfather (who I was very close to) was named Buford. Now, that was way big back in the 1920’s but just not something I wanted to inflict on my son. Nor did I think papa would mind. So, I shortened Buford to Ford and, voila, my son’s middle name was born. You don’t have to confine yourself to family names or carry down a name to the fifth generation (is that not reserved for royalty?) but sentimentality has its place.  Continue reading


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To Breastfeed or not to Breastfeed

A Mother Far from Home

I was going to title this article Breastfeeding: Does it or does it not suck? But since I’ve already used that when talking about pacifiers, I thought I’d just be a grown-up and use a nice title.

Now, this article will not enter into the age-old debate on breast vs. bottle. Breastmilk is natural and therefore free and easy. Formula is a medical miracle that enables mothers to feed their babies if their milk supply is low, if they are working full-time, or if they choose to feed by the bottle for whatever other reason. It is a huge blessing that formula is an option today! For us, I had my first child out of my home country and she was born in Scotland, a country with a renown midwifery program and with heavy emphasis on breastfeeding. So that’s why I took the plunge. Additionally, we were stone cold broke so it wasn’t even a choice.

However, I remember having numerous conversations back in the States about breastfeeding and the general consensus was that it was just kind of, well, not weird, but, yeah, sort of weird. Women who, prior to getting pregnant, don’t feel particularly maternal and think that bottle feeding is just easier and less personally invasive. Even today, as any mother can probably agree, 75% of my Facebook feed are friends who are mothers. And, the majority of my friends from the States are bottle feeders and the majority of my friends from elsewhere are breastfeeders. It makes me think. Perhaps, if most people around you bottle feed and most babies you’ve ever been around (if you’ve been around many) were bottled fed, then many women don’t even consider breastfeeding. Continue reading


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Postpartum Anxiety

Many people probably read the term “postpartum anxiety” and immediately think, nah not for me. It seems extreme, as though one must be having panic attacks at 15 minute intervals and in the supermarket check-out line to be considered anxious. While, this sure can occur, I think the most common form of postpartum anxiety is less mild, more subtle and far more widespread than one might think.

My personality type (which is obviously A if you have read more than even one article over here) produces in me a natural tendency to worry. I can rationalise most things and explain away this and that, but the propensity remains. Worry and anxiety stem from fear and fear can take root when we are in situations that are unknown, potentially frightening or out of our control. To a certain extent, bringing new life into the world and nurturing it, can be all of the above.

Thoughts on postpartum anxiety.

1) The first few months with a newborn bring a bit of surrealism home. I don’t know about you but at my house the first six weeks with a new baby feels surreal. I feel like I’m in a partial daze and still suffer from lingering effects of pregnancy brain. I believe you know what I’m talking about. Things no longer seem normal. Routine is different from before. There is a new person in the house and they are incredibly demanding. There may be other younger humans in the house attempting to adjust to a partial takeover and coup d’etat of their mother’s attention. All of these circumstances make for an unsettled mother. If you are super laid back and go with the flow (then good for you) then you may not slip into anxiety, but if you are prone to worry then this may be a challenging time. I tend to feel off-center, nervous and slightly anxious. Even though I feel this, I just can’t put my finger on why. I keep going, keep moving, keep working to establish a routine and some household consistency and day by day it lessens, but it still surfaces from time to time. During this season in our life my husband works in the evenings, and for the first few months after the birth of our son I got anxious every evening as the sun went down. The sun going down meant I’d be left alone with two babies, lots to clean up and no help. I’d feel stressed because there was so much to get done and I didn’t have enough arms to do it all. Following some good advice I started managing my expectations of what I’d be able to accomplish in the evenings, and little by little the situation improved.

2) Their health is both under our control and out of our control. Another reason we feel anxiety is simply this: we are in charge of raising a tiny person. Certain aspects of their health we can control, ie whether they are well fed, clean and monitored. Other parts of their health we are not. Some things that affect babies generally outside of our control are colic, reflux, birth defects and (even typing this word makes me want to pop a handful of xanex) SIDS. We can position our babies to thrive, but ultimately it is out of our hands. At times like this I’m glad I know God (who is bigger than me) is in control. Because of this fact, however, mothers tend to worry. Are they eating enough? Are they sleeping enough? Why are they so red? They sound like they’re going to cry themselves to death. It is a natural thing to worry about something that you care so much for. You incubated this baby in your belly for 9 months, no wonder you feel so protective. I (because I am truly neurotic) take it to the next level. I hope by typing this, I’ll feel so embarassed that I’ll stop doing it, but somehow I doubt it. I still, and my youngest is 7 months old, wake every 2-3 hours in the night to make sure he is breathing. He sleeps 7:30 to 7:30 solid. I know I should hit the pillow and not wake until they get me up, but I can’t help it. The other night I slept 4 whole hours – FOUR WHOLE HOURS – and thought it was a miracle. I did the same thing with my daughter – now 19 months – and by the time she was about one year I was able to stop myself and keep sleeping. I don’t use an alarm, I don’t do it on purpose. I just roll over and wake up just enough to know that if I don’t check on him, I’ll never go back to sleep. This, my friends, is anxiety.

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Natural Childbirth: to give birth or be delivered

I can distinctly remember saying as a young woman “when I have a baby, just give me the drugs and shut up about it.” Then I “fell” pregnant, as they say in Australia, and someone sent me a book on The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth. I’m not sure why I decided to do it.  Perhaps it was the author comparing women giving birth to cows and cats. I thought he was gutsy. I had 6 months with nothing much to do so I decided to take the challenge to give birth naturally.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think drugs are bad or that you’re a better mom if you go natural. However, I have to say that afterwards, it feels pretty dang good. I think it’s all in how you view labor and birth. Are you birthing a baby or getting delivered of something (exorcist, anyone?). If you take the latter perspective, the you’d feel the need for drugs because it seems like something wrong is happening. The former, you can say “this is natural, my body was made for this, women in China give birth on the rice paddy and go right back to work.” Pep talks. I did the stretches, exercises, I walked and practiced the positions and relaxing.

After birthing two babies naturally, here is what I think based on my experience:

1) Labor doesn’t have to hurt as bad as they say it does.  Maybe it’s all those movies with women screaming. Maybe it’s the wives’ tales or the negative anticipation of the whole thing, but it isn’t as painful as the hype (now this was just my experience so it will be different for everyone) . To be blunt, it just felt like strong period cramps . But, as opposed to period cramps, it’s a contraction with a purpose and that makes all the difference. I am not tough and I’m a redhead. Don’t we have a low pain threshold? With my second baby, I didn’t even really start “working hard” until I was 9cm. Then a few painful pushes and meet-the-baby! I wouldn’t dream of taking medicine just for a few minutes of relief.  It takes far longer to get over the effects of the drugs than that. Continue reading