I gave birth to my first child roughly 19 years and 9 months ago. It was the year 2000. Brad and Jennifer were married, cellphones were kind of a thing, Google was a toddler, Gore vs. Bush was the hot political topic (oh, the hanging chads!), only 41% of Americans had the Internet in their homes (I was part of the 59%), I was barely out of high school, and then … I became a mother.
At the time, I didn’t know what “safe” baby products were, I couldn’t Google mommy advice, and there were no lactation consultants at the hospital; all I had was my used copy of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and a newborn. I did the best I could with what information I had, and just kept trying to do a little better the next day than I did the day before. Parenting is a lot of problem-solving and poop management at the beginning, with some sleep deprivation thrown in for good measure. You know, to make the problem-solving easier.
In my early thirties, I decided it was time to take the leap and try my hand at a higher education. I fell in love with nursing during my son’s many “vacations” (as he called them) at the local children’s hospital for asthma and a heart anomaly. So, after late nights, exams, clinicals, missed family events, all the studying, and the stress of the NCLEX I finally was able to sign my name with a suffix. RN. Wow, it felt good — I get a little teary eyed just reminiscing about it now. Even more exciting: I was offered a full-time position in one of the greatest units at the hospital, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU.
During this time, I also received exciting news: my husband and I were expecting a baby!!! After recurrent miscarriages we were dedicated to doing everything “right” to have the best possible outcome of a healthy baby. We both did research on best practices, reputable brands, I read blog after blog of moms with similar stories, took my husband to alllllll the baby care classes (the nurses on my floor thought this was hilarious), I made him learn CPR, I talked to community safety people at my hospital for advice on car seat brands, and of course bought a brand new copy of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”.
Working in the NICU throughout my pregnancy was beautiful and fascinating. It’s one thing to see an image on an ultrasound or in a book of a baby at 24 weeks gestation. It is quite another to change their diaper — all of this while actually being 24 weeks pregnant! These tiny miracles need the utmost care and attention at all times, and I became incredibly well-versed in how babies should be positioned, what lotion and soaps to use, how to bathe babies at every age, the importance of skin-to-skin, how to feed a baby safely, and what to look for when they are distressed or just over-stimulated.
The NICU I worked in had a level 1 designation and transferred in babies from area hospitals that needed extra care, surgery, or were discharged home and had since gotten sick. We were very open to any of the parent’s wishes and used their preferred products and diapers. I bring this up for two reasons: one is that parents should know that you always have a choice, even in the hospital; and then two: one of our area hospitals actually uses Earth Mama products — so it was very frequent that our babies would be transferred in with loads of wonderful baby wash, lotion, and diaper balm.
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it: my own nursery is definitely filled with Earth Mama everything!
In my time in the NICU, I learned as much about moms as I did about babies. We are strong, we are fierce, and even when we’re exhausted, we still find a way to do what we feel is best. Some moms stayed every day, some had other children and no childcare, some had to go back to work, and some rotated time with dad — but all of them wanted to do whatever was the best for their babies. There were tears of joy, frustration, and fear. Because no one plans on being in the NICU with their baby — it just happens sometimes. Even when you do everything “right.”
I am currently pregnant with my last child, loving Morning Wellness Tea, Heartburn Tea and Belly Butter. I had to buy an extra belly butter because my husband kept using it on his hands. Love him. We’re very excited to meet our squish face!
I have a birth plan, as many of you do, and I sincerely hope that it goes to plan. But sometimes it doesn’t, and that’s OK too. There is no “right” way to have a baby, and babies are notorious for doing whatever they want (teenagers too. Ugh). I am fortunate that for my last two babies I have a wealth of baby caring knowledge from my time in the NICU, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t make mistakes, or Google a rash, or get frustrated breastfeeding — even with all the supplies I have available. And that’s OK. I’m still a badass mom, and so are you.
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