The “F” Word

“First-time-mom” it is a term that elicits both giddy smiles and pompous eye rolls. “Motherhood is a whole new world,” a former colleague and fellow parent once told me, “it will show you a secret social circle and perspective on life that you never knew was there. Once you get that baby bump, you’re in.” She was right. What she didn’t tell me was that being a first-time-mom was a rite of passage… an initiation into the secret society that sometimes feels more like hazing than memorable life event.

Being a mom is hard — amazing, beautiful, exhausting, precious, tedious, funny, humbling, educational, agitating, life-changing — but hard. Being a first-time-mom, though… it’s overwhelming in every sense of the word. Never before have you felt such pain, love, responsibility, fear, exhaustion, change, awareness, humility, loneliness, cluelessness, or awe.

Sometimes we multi-child moms can scoff at the first-time-moms, belittling their fears, mocking their questions, snickering at their anxieties, lamenting their frequent pediatrician visits, filling them full of — solicited and unsolicited — advice. (Don’t even get me started on the, “just wait until…” habit. Let moms enjoy the stage in which they’re living. Let’s not instill fear or trepidation in our cohorts.) It is as if we entirely forget how it felt to be a first-time-mom. It’s as if we no longer acknowledge we were once full of exhaustion-drenched anxiety, questions, and hubris. Instead of rolling eyes at our new sleepless sisters, let’s help them along. Let’s open our hearts, offer our shoulders, and lend our support in ways we wish others had for us.

Parenting is something you must live to truly understand and experience to learn from… there is no way around it. So why should we expect first-time-moms to be anything but novice?

Some expectant moms have heard the moans of multi-child mothers and hope to skip the first-time-mom stage altogether. You cannot bypass first-time-motherhood. You can acknowledge, through self-awareness, when a level of anxiety may be novice, but there is no way not to be “a first-time-mom.” You are anxious because your entire life — your body, mind, perspective, relationships, routine, goals, everything! — has been upended in but a moment. You ask questions because this is all new and it is unlike anything you have ever experienced. You feel hubris because the triumphs you encounter feel momentous and you need to cling to a sense of knowledge amidst the chaos. Mostly, though, first-time-mom qualities are rooted in love. You love your offspring so much that it is simply terrifying; you have never experienced such an emotion. You will be a better mother for having lived through and allowed yourself to learn from all of this.

Motherhood is all about love. Let’s love one another. Welcome, first-time-moms!


Nearly Human

#3 used to be a decent sleeper — he was somewhere between the torturous night-grazing of #1 and the dependable slumber of #2 — but the 4-month sleep regression changed all of that. He never quite got the hang of regularly sleeping through the night after that sleepless tailspin.

For the last two weeks, #3 (9-months-old) has been in some sort of sleep crapiness. He awakes to nurse — we’re talking competitive eating here, no “human pacifier” stuff — 6 times each night. I’ve forgotten what being rested or having a functioning mind feels like.

HOWEVER, last night he only awoke three times. That means I got REM sleep. Oh holy sleep gods, I feel as if I can do anything!

I actually remembered to put my tea in the kettle to steep. I didn’t groan like an old ship as I pulled myself out of bed this morning. I didn’t zone out in the middle of assembling my pump parts trying to remember what day it was. I feel nearly human! 

**Third-time-mom disclaimer: I know full well the danger of claiming one’s baby is sleeping better or well. I am not expecting REM sleep to be repeated, but it was nice last night. Be kind sleep gods!**

First Kid vs. Third Kid

My parenting has changed drastically from having my first child to now with my third.


#1: In the early weeks, I remained completely still as she napped on me multiple times each day. Had to pee? Hold it! Had to sneeze? Don’t even think about it! Later on, our schedule all day, every day revolved around her 2-naps per day schedule. She always napped in her crib. Plans would be rearranged if she overslept.

#3: He may catch a morning nap in the carseat or Ergo, but it’s not guaranteed; the afternoon nap happens at home but he will be stirred if he over-sleeps. We’ve got places to be!


#1: I hid in another room to nurse at family gatherings, even when she was cluster-feeding. I pumped to bottle feed in public. We always had a suction bulb nearby just in case. I feared nursing in public.

#3: He nurses in the Ergo multiple times per day. He stays latched as I chase after #1 & #2… I suspect I could latch him on without the carrier and he’d be able to dangle their by way of suction


#1: Everybody had to scrub up before touching her. I attached hand sanitizer to her stroller. Any sniffles and you were banned. I feared older kids sharing their schoolyard cooties with her. No sitting on the floor without a blanket. Pacifiers were thoroughly cleansed if they touched anything but her mouth. Bottles were sterlized.

#3: Germs boost the immune system.


#1: I forced myself to sit up and stay awake for every single night feeding. I fretted over every sleep grunt or hiccup. I was entirely certain I’d never sleep again.

#3: He nurses in our bed while I try to catch some shut-eye. I’m still not sleeping.


#1: I documented her every movement in a journal. I wrote multi-page letters to her biweekly. I read “What to Expect the First Year.” I encouraged her physical development with great anticipation. We attended baby gymnastics classes and mommy-and-me swim. (She didn’t regularly walk until 19-months any way.)

#3: I have maybe two passages written in his baby book (note to self: try to remember when he got his first tooth… he’s on tooth #4 now.) He’ll walk when he walks and then I’m screwed.


#1: Everything was new and coordinated. Getting her dressed was fun. I changed her multiple times a day, completely redressing her every time her outfit had a smear, dribble, or spot on it.

#3: Any top + any pants = dressed. Unless he pooped up his back, wipe the onesie with a baby wipe and keep it rolling, everything is hand-me-downs anyway.

Food Introduction-

#1: It was a momentous occasion to introduce solid foods. Each mealtime was an event. Each food was painstakingly introduced with cautious assessment of possible allergic reaction.

#3: He hated purees. He eats what we eat.

Putting Baby Down-

#1: I would place her in her Exersaucer or baby swing, ensuring she was reasonably pleased before I tended to whatever duties required me to put her down.

#3: I put him on the floor.


#1: Most of her toys were new. All were thoroughly washed and were sanitized if she ever got the sniffles.

#3: I maybe threw some of his cloth toys in the wash during a nesting frenzy before he was born… I think?? He plays with his own toys, as well as #1 and #2’s toys, but prefers trying to tear apart the shoe basket.


Life is nuttier with 3 kids, but it’s easier not being so caught up in the first-time-mom worry. That’s just exhausting! You have to live it to learn it.

Lowered Standards

Sleeping in used to mean an 11am wake-up and perhaps even a post-shower nap on notably lazy mornings. Now — after 4+ nighttime nursing wake-ups — if I make it to 6:30am I’m pleased (tired, but pleased) and 7am is downright luxurious.

After a long day and a nursing-heavy night, all I wanted to do was sleep until 7am on this Saturday morning. 6am I’m awoken to nurse, 6:15am my nursling dozes off, 6:17 am I am out of bed and heading down to pump because I am engorged, 6:45am #3 and #1 are awake. 7:15am #2 is awake.

Maybe I’ll just try for 6:30am tomorrow.

Milk Donation: Labor of Love


780oz (6 gallons) of breast milk for donation

Milk donation… it’s an ancient practice to share one’s breast milk with another’s child. However, somewhere along the way it faded into a fray movement… a suspiciously regarded practice associated with pachuli-scented hippies and cloth-diapering baby-wearers. I am none of those things (I rest somewhere around a 4 on a 1-10 scale of hippiness). Though, I do wear #3 as a matter of survival since I have yet to sprout a third arm. Mainly, I am a believer in sharing one’s excess with those in need.

When I sort through my pantry and donate boxed and canned goods to my local the local food pantry, no one bats an eye. When I donate old housewares and clothes to charity, no one flinches. When I donated my hair, others asked for details so they could follow suit. When one gives blood or agrees to be an organ donor, society regards the act as socially responsible. However, when people hear I donate my surplus breast milk — 20oz daily that accumulates, unused, in my chest freezer because my littlest eats straight from the tap — to a mom who cannot make enough, despite her phenomenal efforts, people get twitchy.

Moms of young children who have nursed and/or pumped breast milk are generally impressed and express interest. Individuals who have not nursed or were brought up when formula companies were heavily marketing their product as being “better than nature” often respond in disgust, trepidation, and/or bewilderment. Honestly, though, I don’t care what others opinions are on the topic (though I wish for wider acceptance and awareness, of course); their opinions won’t hinder my donations.

“Why don’t they just use formula?” Some quip. Formula isn’t always a feasible option. Some babies can’t or won’t drink formula, and some families simply do not prefer to use formula (just as some families choose not to breast feed.) Often, babies who are sensitive to dairy ingested by their breast milk provider also react to soy-based formulas. In these circumstances — if the mother cannot produce enough breast milk or is waiting for dairy to leave her own system so she can provide her own breast milk for her child without causing him/her pain, or if the dairy-sensitive child’s guardian is not a lactating female — a milk donor who does not eat dairy products is the route to go. As a dairy-free donor, I donated thousands of ounces to nourish such children.

“Isn’t it risky?” People ask, citing concerns over disease and bacteria. Milk-sharing is an informed risk, like consuming raw seafood or eating bake sale goods. Donors who have been screened by milk banks — milk banks are an option for some recipients to use as a means to receive donated milk, though it would be costly and not all qualify — complete medical screening akin to blood donor screening. Milk banks take a further step by pasteurizing the donor milk. Milk recipients can pasteurize milk at home, if desired. However, many pathogens are eliminated when the milk is frozen, as is the standard method for donor milk to be delivered to recipients.

“You can’t trust people; how do you know the milk you’re receiving is safe?” If you receive donated breast milk — which is different from purchased breast milk — you are being given breast milk from a mother who (except in cases of infant loss) is providing that same milk for her own child. That mother is providing you with milk she had either originally pumped and frozen with the intent of feeding it to her own child, or she is pumping the breast milk purely for donation in addition to nursing her own child. Each pumping session takes 15-45 minutes, this does not count cleansing the pump parts or bagging and freezing the milk. The mother is doing this without receiving any repayment and often loses money due to milk bag and pump parts costs. It would be incredibly bizarre for the donated (not purchased) milk you receive to be anything but pure breast milk, pumped with the loving intention of nourishing a child.

“It’s body fluid. Eww!” First of all, breast milk is not equal to blood, stool, or urine. Breast milk is created solely to nourish a child; it is food. Breast milk is filled with antibodies and has amazing antibacterial properties, thus enabling it to be surprisingly resistant to spoilage. Cow’s milk is just as much a bodily fluid as human breast milk.

The main thing to remember when seeking a donor or when becoming a breast milk donor is: open, honest communication. Recipients should feel free to ask potential donors about medical history, dietary habits, drug and alcohol intake, etc. Most donors welcome and expect these questions, as long as they are asked graciously and respectfully of course. Similarly, donors should feel free to ask why the milk is being sought, how old the child is, etc.

Breast milk donation

Bagging 320oz of frozen breast milk

Oversupply, despite its downfalls (clogged ducts, risks of mastitis, engorgment discomfort, frequent pumping, etc.) is a gift for which I never would have asked but for which I am immensely grateful. I cherish being granted the opportunity to help nourish another’s child, to have my oversupply make sense considering others struggle with production, to have amazing families become a part of my life by way of milk-sharing. Milk-sharing has enabled me to turn an otherwise bothersome medical anomaly into an immensely rewarding service.

If you know of anyone interested in milk donation, whether as a recipient or as a donor, I am more than happy to be a resource. Milk-sharing is a fulfilling way of sharing love and excess with others. Aiding others in beginning their own milk donation journey is an undertaking I adore. Share on!

Ups and Downs

#2 learning to rollerblade

#2 on his first rollerblading attempt

Falling. It’s a part of life. Bumps, bruises — to the body and the ego — are life’s way of teaching you, molding you, and keeping you humble.

Getting back up from a fall is painful, trying, and necessary. Learning how take a tumble and pull yourself back up again without becoming disheartened, that’s a valuable life lesson.

On this beautiful April afternoon, #2 tried rollerblading for the first time. “You will fall,” I warned him as I strapped on his safety gear, “it’s ok. What you need to do is learn how to get back up. Soon, with more practice, you’ll fall less and get up faster. Just know you will fall today. You’ll fall but you’ll get back up and be fine.”

He wobbled and rolled and tumbled. He scrambled awkwardly to coerce his bumbling toddler limbs, encased in oversized safety padding, to pull his 30lb frame upright. He’d try and fail, get halfway up and fall back down. I offered my hand for stability only. He — determined — refused. He plopped down on the driveway, deflated.

“You can do this. You’re strong and you’re smart. Think before you move and you’ll be up on your feet in no time.” He looked at me through the visor of his helmet, paused, slowly pulled himself up to squatting, and then to standing. He did it!

“My ride my bike now.”

Learn how to fall and get back up: check.

Froyo Meltdown

A weekday outing to get frozen yogurt with friends… gold star playdate overflowing with giggles and sprinkles, no? Unless you’re #1. #1 took this sugar-soaked opportunity to release her inner demon spawn in public.

As I ensured #2’s container remained free from allergenic contents, #1 grabbed a mamoth paper cup and began pulling serving handles, pouring ribbons of frozen colors into her container. I caught her as she reached the fourth lever. I took the cup: “Only Mommy pulls the handles, hon’.” #1 was irritated.

I moved to the toppings. #2 wanted gummy frogs. As I plopped two jiggly, technicolored frog-shaped blobs into his dairy-free treat, #1 melted on the floor because she had a dollop of melting frozen yogurt on her finger. I handed her a napkin. Unsatisfactory! I offered to help her wash her hands after we pay. The horror!

“You have until the count of three to choose your toppings, or you don’t get any.” 1… no movement 2… a scowl. 3. I put the paper bowls on the scale, smiled, nodded, and paid as the teenage cashier looked back and forth between me and my enraged firstborn, who was now writhing like a rabid octopus and demanding toppings.

#2 and #3, completely unfazed by #1’s public display of demonic possession, sat and partook in the playdate. I invited #1 to calm down and join us.  “I don’t like ice cream without toppings!” “I’m sorry you didn’t choose in time. We’re here with friends. You can either be friendly and join us, or go alllllll the way down to the end of the bench and sit by yourself. I’ll hold onto your ice cream.” She wailed her way down the bench and curled up angrily in the corner.

The rest of us chatted and the well-behaved children happily slurped colorful frozen spoonfuls. “Stop talking!” #1 barked from her pouting perch. I glared at her and returned to the conversation. “This isn’t fair!” She lamented as she scooted closer. I turned to her and quietly gave her one more chance, reminding her that she’d be sad later if she wasted this fun playdate being grumpy. She fumed. I turned back around.

Then I see #1’s sparkly light-up sneakers next to me. She has returned. She scoffs at her naked, partially melted frozen mound — which #3 had sampled — and rejoins the playdate.

Frozen yogurt playdate: survived.




At 4.5-years-old and the eldest sibling, #1 has some strong maternal inclinations showing through. She rushes downstairs in the morning, breezing past me and lobbing a quick “good morning” to her dad, as she belines it for #3. Hugs, cuddles, happy morning greetings, and excited playtime ensues.

After pre-bed storytime, which #1 and #2 like to do in my husband’s and my bed, #1 now likes to tuck in #2. She pulls up his covers, hands him his pacifier, sings him a song, then kisses him goodnight before gently closing his door and heading to her room for her tuck-in.

#1 has begun helping #2 go to the potty now too. She can be a little overbearing — insisting on a potty seat despite #2 not needing one — but is really quite thorough.

I may be able to take some time off if this continues!