This past year I did something I never thought would happen – I gave birth to a perfect little baby boy! It was incredible and most certainly a life-changing moment. But wow – was it ever a rollercoaster.
I have decided I want to share some of my real insights and some bare-bones true experiences with you all.
Serious Disclaimer: This is all entirely my thoughts, ideas and personal experiences. The beauty of motherhood is that everyone has their own experience and I believe that is part of what makes it great, but also really hard. What worked for me, or what I experienced could be entirely different than you and that is ok. I also think it’s important to note that there is no one right way to parent and that has become quite relevant as everyone seems to have ideas and advice about motherhood – including the unlimited differing opinions all over the internet. This is meant to be my candid thoughts and experiences, it’s not meant to be judged or criticized. Parenthood in 2023 feels like a whole lot of expectations, judgments and ideas on how best to parent. We, as a collective, need to be more open, fair and supportive to parents as they navigate their own personal journeys.
As I write this, my baby Bobby is almost six months old and I’ve had some incredible months getting to know him and seeing how my whole world has changed and truly it has – for the better! Now here are some of the things I wish everyone really talked about before baby and during those first beautiful, but pretty hard, months. I really hope that anyone reading this has the best experience and sometimes I think understanding you’re not alone when all isn’t exactly what you pictured
Birth is hard and does not always go as planned
Our birth did not go as planned. By a long shot. But in the end, I think it was meant to be that way. We ended up giving birth in Saskatchewan. I had planned to be back in Alberta to deliver, but plans of course don’t always go as planned, and due to my being in Saskatoon for law school, I ended up being admitted 5 weeks before my due date for pre-eclampsia. I got wonderful care, and truly the hospital did everything they could to give me the “natural” birth I wanted, but in the end, I had an emergency c-section, two weeks after being admitted, and three days after being induced. The whole thing was exhausting, hard and overwhelming, but definitely worth it. My advice is to have a sense of some of the choices you would like to make, but try not to overthink it. Easier said than done I know.
Mom guilt is serious but doesn’t have to be crippling
In the early weeks, I felt a lot of guilt trying to be all things to all people, but especially to little Bobby. As a working mom, who didn’t get an official maternity leave, and is also a full-time student, I was balancing a new baby, final exams for school and trying to squeeze in a little work here and there too. For a type A, control-freak that was hard for me. I’m used to extreme productivity and it took me some serious time to adjust to the new life that required so much of my time and attention.
I wanted nothing more than to be with Bobby and just to spend all of my time with him, but constantly felt pulled in a thousand directions (not by anyone other than myself though, my team was incredible, as were my family and friends who supported me).
In the end, I had a bit of a meltdown after about 2 months and made a decision to stop working for two months entirely for the summer – and consciously take some time to just breathe and enjoy being a new mom without the added pressure I put on myself every day to also be a great boss, a great student and to be part of all my typical volunteer activities in the summer months. I said no, for the first time in my life, to trying to be everywhere and do everything and it helped me immensely.
Every day is still an adjustment, and I’m back to work and back in my final year of law school, but I’m still finding ways to balance the mom guilt with the mom productivity and the full-time loving on Bobby I want to do. Every day isn’t perfect and I still struggle with the balancing act.
I’ve leaned into the village of people supporting me, saying yes when they offer, and reaching out when I need more help and we are so filled with gratitude as they are helping us get through and thrive and not only am I a mom, but I also get to be the other parts of me that matter too.
Hormones be raging
Why doesn’t anyone warn you about the raging hormones thatgush through your body after birth? And not just after birth, but for the months following giving birth! This was the thing about having a baby I was truly not prepared for. The emotions, the waterworks, the meltdowns and the sheer gravity of feeling like an outsider in my own body. It was not bad emotions – seriously there were 90% overwhelming love and devotion feelings that had me crying non-stop but I now understand even more so why women are trying superwomen. I spoke with my doctor a lot about this, and considered even medication for my post-partum depression that sunk in, but instead worked with some other coping mechanisms that helped me through the clouds (and the seriously beautiful waterworks days too). There are serious pots of gold at the end of the rainbow so to speak when you have a baby, but its more than okay if you have some pretty big thunderstorms and clouds to wade through. Get help if you need it, talk it out with your partner or friends or anyone who you trust to listen and take the time you need to figure out this new chapter in your life.
Breastfeeding sucks (well sort of)
Ok, it doesn’t suck. Not really. It’s actually amazing and wonderful. But also super hard. And didn’t really work for us. I wish more people talked about how hard this would be. I knew my birth may not go as I’d hoped due to some high-risk factors, but I thought for sure I’d be able to breastfeed – I just would have to try really hard and it would work. But after six weeks of really really really trying, I finally gave up. I will say that when we did get it to work, it was magic – truly was some of my happiest memories of my time with Bobby in those early weeks. I also would love to give a shout-out to the team of lactation consultants I worked with and nurses at the Nicu, as well as when we got home from the public health office.
In the end, I gave it my all, my partner Brian supported me every way he could at every feeding, but even the doctor and lactation consultant advised I stop. Bobby got formula all along, starting from when he was tube fed in the NICU and then through bottles, but I struggled so hard believing (although all the rational and logical parts of my brain and body knew that “fed is best” and wanted desperately to make it work. We tried supplements and all the “tricks” in the book like power pumping, cookies, etc., but in the end, I just couldn’t get the magical milk to come out of my body easily (either through latching or pumping) and we had to stop.
My advice to new Mom’s is to do whatever works for you and know that at the end of the day, you don’t always get what you want, but I know deep down my little boy got some of my milk and the colostrum at the beginning and I believe I tried the hardest I could – and that’s what matters to me. Do whatever matters to you and try your best to not be overwhelmed by the endless “how to feed your baby” advice that washes in.
The most beautiful overwhelming love
I loved my baby from the minute I knew he was in there and that love grew when I found out that he was a boy and then it grew every day that he grew inside me, but nothing prepared me for the day I would meet him on the outside, or the day he gave me his first smile, or now when he wakes up and smiles because he sees me. I’m putty in his hands and it’s truly the most beautiful overwhelming feeling of love and gratitude for the gift that he is in our lives. He is pure joy and even though the days are hard and long and complicated with work, school, family responsibilities and trying to balance, the love overwhelms those feelings and I feel just so lucky to have him. I still cry sometimes when looking at him or when he holds my hand and certainly those first few weeks I cried all the time. I think that is ok though and it’s the love that I have for him that I try to give him every day and in every hard moment I hold closest.
Baby Gear: Our Favourite Baby Items That We Actually Used – Birth to Six Months
I’m not sure if you felt overwhelmed by the sheer thousands of baby products you suddenly feel the need to own and have at your fingertips as you prepare to bring home a baby but I sure did. We were incredibly blessed with very generous friends and family members who showered us with love and many gifts and so many of them were things I didn’t even really understand why I would need most of these things and wow – were they helpful. We also had many second-hand items passed along from extended family which were super helpful to us and have been able to pick up some great gently-used items on the online marketplace.
This list is NOT an official paid endorsement for any of these products. This is my real-life experience and personal tastes and choices.
This is also a list that is focused on the first six months of life at home with Bobby. We’re definitely transitioning into other items and what we use now is changing.
Uppababy Travel System
We have the Cruz V2, Bassinet attachment and Mesa V2 infant car seat. We absolutely LOVED how easy to use this system has been and still are using it. The click-and-use versatility of this set has been so simple to use and even I got the hang of it really quick. We travel a ton and have taken Bobby on an 18-day road trip to British Columbia, a plane trip to Newfoundland and everywhere in between. The car seat and base worked well (and we gate-checked them both with the stroller) and are still comfortable for Bobby. The bassinet was great as a stroller pram in the early months and worked as a travel bed for the first six months as well. As we move into the fall we’ve started using the regular forward seat and are loving the adjustable mechanisms and he’s loving it too. No doubt that this system is definitely a splurge, but thanks to some great friends and family who pitched in for some, we definitely think it was well worth the investment.
Jolly Jumper Travel Mirror
We travel a ton so having this mirror was a game changer once we got it installed. I love being able to see what he’s up to while in the rear-facing car seat.
We were fortunate to have one of these passed down to us and it’s an older generation model, but I have to say that I could not have lived without it. Bobby still at six months likes to day-nap in it sometimes and it has saved many a meltdown by me and him.
We were given a Halo bassinet and we loved it and used it up until five months in our bedroom before we began to think it wasn’t safe anymore as Bobby started moving himself around too much. He also started being more sensitive to our movements in the room while he was sleeping and needed to be moved to his own room (a whole other conversation and article can be had on this alone as there are so many mixed opinions on sleep). I liked this one that you could see through the mesh from the bed and the side went down pretty easily.
Swaddles, burp cloths, washcloths and blankets! My favourite baby items have been muslin and we use them over and over again. We have some Aden and Anais swaddles that are our go-to’s for more than swaddling – burp cloths, summer blankets, stroller, towel when travelling, you get the picture – for everything! We also have actual muslin burp cloths and washcloths we got on Amazon that we use every single day. Before Bobby was born, I splurged on a Harry Potter Aden and Anais muslin blanket and it’s still getting used every day too. I can’t express my love for muslin when it comes to baby gear more.
Dr. Brown’s Bottles
I wasn’t a believer until we got some gifted to us after we mentioned Bobby was pretty gassy. And now that’s all we are using. As I talked about in my earlier article, Bobby was exclusively formula-bottle fed after six weeks (with a combo of breast milk and formula for the first six weeks), and we have found these bottles worked great to reduce air intake and therefore gas. As a side note, I really enjoyed the glass ones for the first few months but now that he is getting more eager to hold the bottle himself and learning how, the plastic ones are much safer and easier for him so finding those plastic ones is my preference now at 5 months+.
Tommee Tippee Soothers
This I believe is entirely baby-specific, but we have found Bobby loves this brand of soothers the best. I also love the glow-in-the-dark ones as I do find that feature helpful in the dark at night.
Happiest Baby Sleep Swaddle Sacks
Bobby loves to be swaddled and quite frankly hasn’t had any good naps or sleep without feeling like he’s all nested and cocooned tightly. There are many arguments about sleep swaddles and even I was skeptical – but let me tell you – I’m now a believer. My partner calls these particular ones a baby straight jacket, but for serious people – they work amazingly and are super easy to use. We tried lots of kinds of swaddles and used the regular blanket style for the first two months, but Bobby figured out how to get out of all of them. We did like the Halo Sleep Sacks, but he figured those out too. The Happiest Baby ones seem aggressive, but he sure loves them and they generally instantly soothe him.
We had a neutral brown one I loved. It was not only great for the monthly milestone photos, but it proved very practical in those first few months when Bobby was super tiny. We kept it on the coffee table and he napped in it, lounged in it and then at night sometimes he would rest in it in our bed and it created his own little safe spot.
Cuddle Bug/Moby Baby Wrap
I was skeptical of this at first. Like how was I supposed to get that giant piece of material wrapped correctly around my body so that Bobby was safe? But wow, thanks to my friend Laila, we figured it out and this wrap has been a lifesaver. I was fortunate to have two so I had one on standby even if one was puked on (like everything gets puked on). This was also how we managed to fly to Newfoundland and back without a single meltdown or even major cryfest on the plane rides – he slept soundly in the wrap on me for all four flights. Can’t recommend these stretchy fabric miracle wraps enough. It’s honestly easier than it looks. There are many brands of these and I think they are all basically the same, but I did find the Moby wrap had a firmer fabric than the Cuddle Bug brand but both had their merits.
SkipHop Soft Sink Bath
This little bath support shaped like a whale tail was and still sometimes is, Bobby’s favourite part of the day. We called our kitchen sink and his “floaty” his “sink spa” and it was a practical and useful bath aid. It air-drys faster than you think and has supported him throughout the first six months of his life. We will miss it as we transition to the full-size bathtub.
Two-way Zipper Sleepers
I do not believe all sleepers are made equal. Will all get the job done – absolutely – but I keep going back to the same sleepers in the drawer whenever they are clean. We have loved any of the two-way zipper sleepers we received or have purchased, but especially the Kyte Baby brand sleepers have been luxurious in fabric, fit perfectly snug under the sleep sacks and the stretchy nature of them have meant that they fit way longer than you think they will. I have on the same day spent far too much money on sleepers at West Coast Kids and then gone to a consignment store for other finds. It’s about balance, right?
Skip Hop Portable Diaper Changing Station
We use this all the time. As I’ve said we travel a ton and with a baby not only travelling with us, but while I’m still working or now in school all fall and winter, this portable changing station works great. I can even say with confidence I can get it out, use all the parts easily while having Bobby up in my arms and holding him with one arm and unravelling this and setting it up for him with the other. Now if we could just get all public bathrooms to be created equal and amazing for change set-ups?
About the author
Born and raised on Random Island, Newfoundland, Krista Balsom grew up dreaming big. Moving to Fort McMurray in 2001 and attending Westwood Community High School and Keyano College before heading to the University of Ottawa to study political science and then public relations at Algonquin College, Krista returned in 2009 after working on Parliament Hill as a legislative assistant, to work and put down further roots in Fort McMurray.