9 Things I Learned From Having My First Baby That I Hope To Remember With Baby #2

Two short years ago I was very pregnant with my first little girl, Gialina.  I had no idea that she’d choose to over stay her welcome by one full week, then decide to come into the world with the ferocity of a thrashing great white shark, all while weighing an ounce shy of 9 lbs.

Today I’m 30 weeks pregnant with Gia’s little sister and I can’t help but feel a little bit more anxious about her arrival.  A lot of it has to do with the fact that I know what to expect when it comes to an unmedicated labor and delivery, but a bigger part has to do with how we will adjust to adding a new member to the family.

Don’t get me wrong, being a new mom isn’t easy – no matter how many times you do it.  It’s always a challenge adjusting to no sleep, postpartum pain and numerous other things that come with the territory.

With my second baby arriving around October 4th, I know some aspects of this new mom thing will be easier.  It’s not because I’m suddenly an expert after having one child.  I’m still unorganized at times, drowning in laundry and tired.  I’ve just got more tricks up my sleeve this time around.  Most of my tricks are really just common sense that I didn’t have the first time around with Gia.

So expectant mamas and new mamas alike – don’t wait for your second or third baby to read this.  If I could send a letter back in time here are a few things I would tell myself before having kids:

You will never be fully prepared for what it’s like to be a parent.  It doesn’t matter how many books you’ve read, how many friends/family you have with children, how much you’ve nested, or how long you’ve actually waited to become a parent.  No amount of preparation will truly prepare you for children.  You will learn so much about yourself and your spouse the moment that little life comes into this world.  You will have a lot that you will continue to learn, so consider this the most educational experience of your life.

Appreciate your pre-baby body for all that it has done for you.  You will never realize how amazing and beautiful your body is until you’ve given birth.  Before having a child I spent too many days worrying about that one dessert, worrying about how my jeans looked and all of the workouts that I just had to complete.  As hard as it will be to see your body change through pregnancy, it is equally as amazing.  Once Gia arrived I realized there was so much more to life than a bikini body.  I can still want to look and feel good, but in a healthier way.  I would never want my daughters to be so critical and self-depricating, the way I once was about myself.

It’s okay to ask for help.  You think you know how to do it all, but you don’t.  Take a few deep breaths and tell yourself, “this too shall pass.”  You’re going to make mistakes, but how you come back from them is what matters most.  You don’t need to be superhuman.

Tell everyone around you how much you love and appreciate them.  They’ll never tire of hearing it, so tell them every chance you get.  After giving birth you will appreciate your mother in a way that you never could before becoming a mother yourself.  Tell your spouse how much you love them, because they will be your rock while you recover from labor and delivery.

Just when you think you’re starting to figure things out the routine changes.  I felt like this was most relevant for me during the newborn phase.  Just when I thought we were doing X amount of naps per day, it changed to Y amount.  Babies and toddlers change and grow so quickly that you can’t expect these phases to last long.  So be prepared, once you fee like you’ve mastered something it’s about to change in a hurry!

If nursing hurts and doesn’t get better after the initial latch, unlatch and try again.  I did not consider myself successful at breast-feeding.  In fact, I felt so shamed by the lactation consultants when I sought help.  I remember after my first night in the hospital with Gia that I felt so lucky that she latched well.  The problem was that she looked like she had a perfect latch (according to the nurses), but I still had issues.  I gave breast-feeding my best shot for about a month or so.  It was one of the most stressful things I’ve been through in adjusting to life as a new mother.  I don’t say these things to scare new moms, but I say it in hopes of people taking initiative to educate themselves.  Go take a breast-feeding class offered by your hospital.  I did this and found it very helpful and I’m even signed up for the same class before baby #2 arrives.  I developed a very, very severe case of mastitis while breast-feeding with Gia.  It was so shocking to me that the signs and symptoms of mastitis were never mentioned to me during my first breast-feeding class.  If your breast feels hot to the touch, has red splotches, or you have a high fever, it’s likely you are suffering from mastitis.  This was what took me out of the breast-feeding game.  TMI but, I had nipples that were cracked like the Grand Canyon, blood blisters, the whole nine yards.  I mention all of this because there is nothing wrong with making the decision to stop nursing.  At the end of the day fed is best and when our kids hit kindergarten no one will know who had formula and who had breast milk.  You need to be the best mom you can be and sometimes that means knowing when to stop something.

Make sure the ruffles on the diaper aren’t tucked in.  This might seem really stupid and basic, but it’s very helpful if your child is having diapers that explode often.  Another good thing to try if you feel like you’re changing diapers and outfits on the regular is go up a diaper size.  I didn’t really have to worry about this too much, but did have to remind relatives that ruffles go out!

Swaddle, sway, swing, shush!  If you’re baby is having a hard time sleeping (day or night) you need to swaddle your baby.  It makes them feel safe and secure, just like when they were in your tummy.  Swaying and swinging motions help many babies fall asleep once they’re swaddled because that motion feels the same as the motion they felt while growing inside of you.  Think about it – you didn’t sit your entire pregnancy.  When you moved, your baby moved.  It’s comforting!  The shush noise was also something they heard in the womb.  You have blood flowing and tons of other bodily fluids that are moving throughout your entire body that create a shush sound that makes baby feel at home because it’s all they hear all the time.  (I just mention these tips because I remember they worked for me.  All babies are different and just because I say it worked for me doesn’t mean it has to work for you and your baby.)  I read a book called “The Happiest Baby On The Block,” prior to Gia’s arrival that really dives into these tips.

Just say NO!  Now that I’m a mom of an almost two-year old I’m used to saying that little two-letter word.  People are going to want to come visit you and the baby right after birth.  People are going to tell you that you need to be feeding them solids by a certain age and that they should have rice cereal in their bottle.  People are going to tell you that you don’t need to be so routine oriented about their sleep schedule.  You know what you say to all those people?  NO.  Just because certain things worked for them doesn’t mean you should do it too.  Anything being said to you that’s annoying, opinionated and unsolicited – just go ahead and say no.  It’s your baby, not theirs.

The bottom line here is listen to your gut.  Becoming a new mom for the first, second or third time is a lot.  Like I’ve said many times before, we’re all just winging it and doing what works best for us.  I’m glad I’ve put this all on my blog because it serves as something I can come back to so I can remind myself of these things.  Lord knows that two months from now I’m gonna forget all about everything I learned the first time around with Gia.  Here’s to hoping I re-read this post during all of the middle of the night feeding sessions that I’ll soon be experiencing.  Don’t be hard on yourself, trust the process and trust yourself!  You’ve got this!

xo

Chocolate Coffee Almond Scones, A Perfect Morning Treat

Father’s Day this year was a busy one, yet still very low-key.  I knew the moment that I saw these scones posted on Kate Wood’s “Wood and Spoon” blog that I’d be making them as a Father’s Day treat.

Anyone who knows me should know that I love coffee.  My husband, Craig, was not a huge coffee drinker when we first got together seven years ago.  Let’s just say, things have changed and he needs his coffee almost as much as I do!  These scones are the perfect blend of everything that I love, so I had to share Kate’s yummy recipe.


Chocolate Coffee Almond Scones – recipe by Kate Wood:

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Before sharing the recipe goods, I’ll tell you a little bit more about how Father’s Day was spent this year…..

I woke up earlier than usual just to make sure that I could prepare the scone dough, give it time to chill and then bake before Craig became ravenous.  My husband wakes up hungry and is usually wondering what’s for lunch before he can even finish his breakfast.  Must be a man thing??

Our plan for the day was to have Craig’s dad and family over in the morning to share the scones with.  They arrived around 8am and once they all had their fill of my fresh scones, we went to a little coffee shop across the water in the neighboring town of Martinez.  I don’t really remember how I came across States, but it very well could have been my fellow coffee lover, aka, my mom.

We enjoyed our coffee at States, where I love to go because it’s very kid friendly.  There are wooden blocks and old toy trucks that are left on the lower shelves for the children to play with.  Gia always has a good time when we are there and even gets her own little coffee.  (I just fill her little to-go coffee cup with water and she thinks it’s the coolest.)

After taking our last sips from our drinks, we meandered through the Farmers’ Market that’s held on Sunday mornings in Martinez.  Once we all got to take a look at the offereings, we packed it up and parted ways.  Craig’s family went back home, while Craig, Gia and I had some family time.  We went five minutes down the road to a nice little park across from a fire station.  Gia played for about 45 minutes before we decided to head home, feed her lunch and put her down for a nap.

Later, after Gia woke up and played a little, we went over to my parents to see my dad for Father’s Day.  My grandma joined us too – there’s no way she’d go without seeing my dad on Father’s Day.  My mom made us a nice dinner and I’m pretty sure that the dads, as well as their stomaches, were happy.

Overall, we had a really nice day.  Sometimes it’s just doing simple, easy things with family that are the most enjoyable.


Daddy and Gia swinging together at Nancy Boyd Memorial Park in Martinez:

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Hopefully you’ll enjoy these scones as much as we did!  Now, for what you’ve really been waiting for, the recipe……

Chocolate Coffee Almond Scones

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup whipping cream, plus additional for brushing
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder or instant coffee
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and chopped
  • 1 cup chopped unsalted almonds
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. In a small container, stir the whipping cream and teh espresso powder to combine and set aside in the fridge to keep cool.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar.  Use a pastry cutter or the back of two forks to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it becomes a coarse meal consistency with pea-sized clumps thoughout.  Stir in the almonds and chocolate chips.  Add the espresso and cream mixture and sitr into the dry ingredients, just until evenly incorporated.  If a lot of dry ingredients remain in the bottom of the bowl you can add an additional tablespoon or two of cream, just barely enough to make it all come together into a dough. (I found that I definitely needed to add the extra bit of cream.)
  3. Pat the dough to 3/4 inch thick and use a biscuit cutter to cut 2 inch circles of dough for each scone.  Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Put the pan in the freezer to chill for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Once the dough is chilled, use a pastry brush to brush a thin layer of whipping cream over the top of the sonces.  Bake in the oven until golden brown around the edges of each scone, about 25 minutes.

Notes:

  • Chilling the dough ensures the scones will rise well.  You can skip this step but it isn’t recommended for best outcomes.

Recipe from Kate Wood of “Wood and Spoon”

xo

Why We Are Having Another Child

As parents, it seems like Craig and I have finally fully adjusted to life with a little one and now we are adding a little sister to the mix.  Yes, we know we will have to referee many backseat battles and likely have to buy two of everything when it comes to toys – imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, of course!  But what we are most excited for is to witness Gialina and her little sister play with one another and embrace each other in warm hugs.

When Gia was born I realized I would do anything to protect her.  I hope and pray that Gia will experience a similar feeling growing up with a younger sibling.  When baby girl number two comes along and starts to become more independent, our children will learn how to split the last chocolate chip cookie that I made, and hopefully learn how to divide TV time when their favorite show is on.  Obviously these little lessons will take time and there will be bumps in the road, but they will come in handy when they are in school.

Craig and I both grew up with siblings and we couldn’t imagine not giving Gia that same gift.  She might not see it that way in the beginning, but as already experienced by Craig and I, having a built in “playmate” and lifelong friend is wonderful.  There won’t be an urgent need to schedule playdates when Gia’s best friend is in the next room.  I know that some of this talk of being best friends can be wishful thinking on my part.  I am fully aware that siblings fight and sometimes they fight a lot.  I’m also keen to the idea that we are going to raise our children with a strong moral compass, so with that, we believe that our children will love and respect one another for a lifetime.  It’s all about setting a good example and instilling proper values.

In Gia’s almost two years of life, we’ve witnessed such empathy, compassion, humor and intelligence on the daily.  Whether it’s mastering a puzzle or learning to hit a plastic golf ball, we know that Gia will teach her younger sister so many things.  In the same regard, as an older sibling she will learn a lot of patience from our new addition.

As I’ve gotten older, I share so many of my thoughts and problems with my younger brother, Zach.  I hope that Gia and her sister will turn to each other for guidance, just as their funky Unkie and I do.


Pictured here is my brother Zach explaining the finer points of surfing to Gia.  I can’t wait for her to know the bond siblings can share.

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As sister’s they will celebrate so much together – from birthdays to a walk down the aisle, I hope they stand by each other’s side through all of life’s monumental moments.  With those good times also comes tough times – bruised knees, a less than perfect grade, a broken heart.  No matter the problem, siblings should be there to dry each other’s tears and act as a shoulder to lean on.

(Thinking about this next part makes me emotional and teary eyed.) Above all else, we are making our family a family of four because we want Gia to have someone to grow old with.  Friends come and go, but family is forever.  Unfortunately our parents aren’t able to physically be around forever, so having another sibling ensures that Gia will have a blood connection long after Craig and I are gone.

I’m aware that not everyone wants another child, let alone one child.  (I’ve addressed that in my blog before.)  I try to be sensitive to the fact that everyone is free to live their life exactly how they wish, with child or without.  I also know that those who want kids may have difficulty conceiving and may never experience what Craig and I have.  I feel great pain for those who want kids but are unable, and I have great respect  for those who choose to live their life without children, as these are very personal things.  All I know for myself is that I would absolutely regret not having a second child.  I feel like I would be robbing Gia of something that I know is so amazing.  This is why we are adding another girl to our gang.


Soon Gia will be picking flowers with her built in bestie.

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Sidenote:  I know my blog invites opinions of others, but I want to remind everyone to be kind.  By no means do you need to agree with any of my opinions, let’s just be respectful of one another.

I’d love to hear from friends and strangers alike – Why have you decided to have a another child?  Feel free to comment here and don’t forget to follow more of my adventures on my Instagram page, @mrsbennigson.

xo

Career & Family

I’ve had quite the wide variety of jobs throughout my short life, all of which have taught me a lot about who I am and who I want to become.

In college I studied broadcast journalism with a dream of becoming a news anchor or sports anchor.  After graduating, I quickly realized just how important being close to my family was and put my dream of reporting the news on the back-burner.  Many, many times, if you want to break into broadcasting you will have to move to the middle of nowhere to get your start with a small news station.  Now, this isn’t always the case, after all, it’s all about who you know.  I’ve always been willing to start at the bottom like everyone else, for the opportunity to climb the totem pole, but the thought of leaving my family behind for an indefinite amount of time killed me.  Then there’s also the likelihood of still being far away once I potentially did settle into a larger news station in a bigger city.  Yep, I made the right choice for myself, but I do have days where I wonder – “what could have been?”

My first job out of college was with a local police department, as a Community Services Officer.  Sounds official and I even looked pretty official, having to wear a civilianized police uniform to work everyday.  I really enjoyed that job, as I got to work with the people in the community almost everyday.  To sum it up, one of my main responsibilities was running the Neighborhood Watch for the entire city.  This meant holding educational meetings at homes of community members where the neighbors would come and ask questions about general crime prevention.  Surprisingly to some, it was a lot of fun!

After working that job for about six months or so, I knew I wanted something more – more hours and more money.  The job at the police department was only part time, so I took to the internet and started to see what else was out there, even though I didn’t really know what I was looking to do.  (I’m one of those people who loves so many different things that I could see myself having many different jobs or career paths.)

I remember randomly applying for a brand new little airline named Virgin America.  I truly did apply on a whim believing that I would never hear back from them.  Not only that, but did I really want to fly all the time?  Within a few days of applying as an “In-Flight Team Member,” a.k.a. flight attendant, I was starting the interview process and eventually went on to a stressful four week training before getting my wings.  People have no idea what kind of training flight attendants go through, but I have to say after having been through it, it is tough and it is very serious.  At the end of the day a flight attendant is there to keep passengers safe, not just to bring you a coke with no ice.

During the three years I worked for Virgin America I traveled, I met wonderful people and was part of something so unique that I don’t think it will ever be replicated.  I know my former colleagues can certainly agree with that.

I stopped working for Virgin because I didn’t feel like I was growing anymore.  I did what I could within the company to grow – became an In-Flight Team Leader, was part of the Promotions Team and worked at Virgin HQ in Burlingame, CA.  Eventually the commute to HQ got to me enough and I decided it was time to close that chapter.

Enter police work once again.  Even before my first police job, I had always been curious about police dispatchers.  Many who know me know that I come from a law enforcement family, so as they say, “it runs in the blood.”  I tested for police dispatcher positions and eventually was hired with a local police department.  I’ve never been through such a mentally challenging experience with a job until this one.  It’s hard to explain to people exactly what the job is like if they don’t know police work or have never sat alongside a police dispatcher for a partial shift.  Just like with anything, I can’t expect the general public to know just how taxing a job like that can be.  You talk to people who might be facing the absolute worst moment of their life, or you might be talking to someone wanting to end their life.

I stopped working as a dispatcher about 7 months after starting.  I realized that I didn’t want to feel the way I felt going into work everyday – I felt so much stress and always wondered about the “what if.”  Shortly after making the decision to part ways with dispatching was when Craig was trying to get into the police academy.  I knew then that if we were going to have a life together that I didn’t want to be in the same field that he was, working the same long and hard shifts, and probably not seeing much of each other because of that.

After leaving my job as a dispatcher I felt desperate to find a new job.  This was the first time in my life where I had quit a job without knowing where I would go next.  I was of the mindset that I could just work some odd job and look for the “real” job during my time away from work.  This was when I was hired by Tiffany & Co.  I thought I would work there through the holiday season and move on, but that wasn’t the case.  I quickly saw that there was opportunity for me to grow within the company.  Over the course of working for this famed jewelry store, I fell in love with so many aspects of the job.  There were also things I didn’t care for, but that’s the case with any job.  I started studying more about gemstones and diamonds and discovered that there was a plethora of information for me to learn.

Since I so enjoyed selling engagement rings, I knew that my next move was to continue my education by studying with the Gemological Institute of America.  I took online classes learning more about metals, diamonds and colored stones.  Eventually these classes took me to the GIA campus in Carlsbad, CA for additional education and testing.  I wanted to ultimately become a Gemologist, which I still would love to do.

I’ve left behind so many different jobs and potential career paths that on some days I can’t help but feel like I’ve sacrificed a career to be a stay-at-home mom.  I do not regret staying at home with Gialina one bit, but there are times where I see others and think, well they do it – “Why shouldn’t I?  Why can’t I?”  I think thoughts like these are totally normal.  Working moms long for more time with their kids, stay-at-home moms long for something of their own and moms who do it all can still have these same feelings.

Ask people what they think about stay-at-home moms and you’ll get a variety of answers, this I’m sure of.  “They sit around all day.  They’re making the best decision ever.  They don’t contribute to society.  They’re making a great sacrifice to stay home and nurture their kids day in and day out.”  There’s no shortage of opinions about women who stay home and raise their kids.  Hell, there’s no shortage of opinions about anything anymore!

Personally, I felt it impossible for me to be a great parent and a great employee at the same time.  I’m in awe of the women who do both because it’s hard!  It’s all hard!  Sometimes something has got to give.

For me, Ashley, being a great parent means nurturing my daughter as much as I can during these first years.  I’ll have my chance again to have my career soon enough.  Don’t get me wrong here, this is not a post about how to be a great parent, because unlike work, parenting is extremely subjective.  There are no titles, no end of the year bonuses, only endless care that you must provide in hopes that your child learns new things and grows up to be a good person.

I don’t have much credibility with regards to teaching others how to be good parents, so I won’t try – I mean, hello, I’ve had less than two years of experience.  All I know is that I am becoming a better parent everyday because of all the time I spend with my child.  I am keen to her unique wants and needs.  Obviously, you don’t have to stay at home like me to be a good parent or know everything about your child.  I have single-parent friends that work multiple jobs just to make sure their kids have what they need.  I have friends who work part-time and do one hell of a job making sure that they are a provider and a caregiver.  I also have friends who bust their butts at work for 12 hours a day so they can keep their house running smoothly and their kids happy.  The bottom line is, we all do what we need to do for our individual family needs and that’s perfect, but it’s still tough.

To a degree, we all long for something we don’t have and when it comes to work-life balance and parenting.  I’m not the only mom out there who feels like I don’t do enough at home – there’s always laundry, always dishes and always something!  I beat myself up when I can’t do it all.  “You’re just a stay-at home mom, why can’t you just get it all done like everyone else?!”

Enough negative self talk.  Enough.  If you work full-time, part-time, have a side hustle, stay at home with your kids, etc., you are amazing and doing your very best.  There’s always time in this life for the it career, the vacation, the whatever.  Remind yourself that what you’re doing is right for you at this moment in time.

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My daughter and her sister who is growing in my belly will only be little for so long.  I will have my career in a few years.  For now, it can wait because I’m doing what’s best for my family and so should you, even if it means that my life and yours look very different.

xo