Over the past few days we’ve been introducing new Baby and Blog contributors through a series of Baby Love features. Since I will, too, be sharing my thoughts on mommyhood, I figured I should do an introductory feature so that you guys get to know me a little better ? Here it is.
L: My name is Leila and I’m a Jamaican expat living in Chicago. I am a work-from-home mommy! I created and edit two websites, Black Girl with Long Hair and this one, Baby and Blog! I’ve been married to my husband, Norman, for 3 years now ?
Tell us about your children.
L: I have one son. His name is Noah! He is now 12 months old. Noah is… well, Noah is quite a character. He is very determined and very funny. He is outgoing and extroverted like his Dad, and has smoldering intensity like his Mom, lol.
Can you give us a mini-version of your birth story?
L: My birth story is kind of funny because my contractions were mistaken for food poisoning! Let me explain…
Two weeks before my due date I started having what felt like mild menstrual cramps and I noticed blood in the toilet when I peed. I called my midwife, told her my symptoms, and she told me that there was no need for alarm. So I went about my day. The pain got progressively worse and I called my midwife who told me — again — that I was not in labor.
“What have you eaten lately?”, she asked.
“Well I had some cream cheese yesterday, and I’m kind of iffy with dairy, ” I replied.
“Well, it’s probably some mild food poisoning. You just have stomach cramps that are irritating your uterus.”
So… again… I went about my day.
By the time my husband came home from work, the cramps were so bad that I doubled over whenever they hit. I tried taking a nap, and got a few minutes of sleep. But when I woke up the cramps were so bad that I was howling in pain. I called my midwife a THIRD time and, in annoyance (shame on her!) she told me to come to the hospital to get some pain meds so I could sleep through the night.
Now, I’d started timing my contractions. But I thought (incorrectly) that cramping had to be evenly spaced to qualify as labor contractions. And mine were all over the place — some were 2 minutes apart, some were 16 minutes apart — so I thought it wasn’t real labor.
By the time we got to the hospital I was TOTALLY the stereotypical loud woman in labor. A nurse took me up to triage, did a checkup and matter-of-factly told me that I was 7 centimeters dilated.
That’s when I lost it. I was in total shock, angry at my midwife, and feeling totally unprepared. My mom wasn’t scheduled to arrive in town for another 2 weeks, we didn’t have all our baby stuff together, we didn’t even have my hospital bag or our camera. I started sobbing and a few minutes later I felt a flood of liquid gush out of me…
I tried, unsuccessfully to convince a nurse to give me drugs. She told me that it wasn’t a part of my birth plan and, even if it was, it was too late. I seriously wanted to cut her, lol.
Things calmed down when I got in the birthing tub. The hot water was the only thing that calmed me. It eased my contractions considerably (they still hurt like hell, though) and I was able to get little bits of sleep in between contractions.
A couple hours later, after about a half hour of intense pushing, Noah came shooting out!
Did you breastfeed? How did you balance breastfeeding and working?
L: I breastfed for 7 months, although I definitely suffered from ‘overthinking it’. My plan was to nurse and then pump all my ‘extra milk’. My first mistake was assuming that I would have extra milk! I had been on a ton of breastfeeding forums during my pregnancy and most mothers talked about having excess milk supply. I didn’t realize that that wasn’t the norm. So when my plan to pump my extra milk didn’t work out, I thought there was something wrong with me. I also learned that the pump is not as effective as the sucking motion in extracting milk from the breast, so the body, in turn, produces/replaces less milk after pumping. After 7 months of pumping/nursing drama my supply was pretty low and I was burnt out, so I just let it go. I’ve learned a lot for next time!
Managing breastfeeding and working was an insane challenge! I think I spent the whole first 6 months of Noah’s life walking around bra-less and, sometimes, shirt-less, lol. I just had to learn how to get more done with less time. Motherhood in general — and breastfeeding in particular — made me a much more efficient worker!
How do you balance work and motherhood? How do you carve out time for yourself?
L: I have a nanny. If you can afford it, GET ONE!!!! If not, crowdsource your child care as MUCH as possible. Friends, in-laws, grandparents… get as many people to pitch in and help as possible!
As far as carving out time for myself. It’s something I definitely prioritize. My mother’s parenting philosophy was put kids first, above all else. Now, in her later years, she’s shared that it was NOT a strategy that worked well for her because she lost a lot of herself in the parenting process. To honor my mother, it’s important for me to take care of myself as I raise my son. I want to model for him the kind of woman I hope he someday marries — one who knows how to love and to give, but also knows her worth and how she should be treated.
What is your biggest parenting challenge right now?
L: Finding and providing healthy outlets for Noah. His energy level is so high and he outgrows things (developmentally) very quickly. I am just trying to keep up. Also teaching him how to play nice with other kids. Like many toddlers, he doesn’t quite get the concept of sharing, and he doesn’t understand that you can’t just walk up to a kid and take his or her toy, lol.
Who is your child-rearing support group?
L: My husband and my mother-in-law.
How do you determine that your kids are happy and well-adjusted?
L: Noah learns and develops quickly, so I think that’s a sign that he’s well-adjusted. We try to keep our household full of love and free of negative emotion. I hope and pray this gives Noah the foundation he needs for happiness and confidence.
What is the most important value, ideal or philosophy that you want to impart to your children?
L: I want Noah to have a love or learning, and to know how to be resourceful. I want to know that, if he was dropped anywhere on the planet — in any culture or any situation — he could survive and thrive. I want him to question cultural and societal norms. And, most of all, I want him to have integrity.
What advice would you give to a new mom?
L: Parenting is not a competition, and it is NOT a sprint, so take things in stride. Give yourself time to learn. Identify the values that you want to pass down to your children, and be deliberate about conveying them.
Also, don’t get hung up on milestones and such. You have 18 whole years to raise your child. He or she will continually develop in this time. Some children bloom early, and others bloom late. So don’t worry about it.
Also, be grateful for your child! Children are a blessing, despite all the challenges. Shower him or her with love.