We Are Both Right

Our Two Cents: Advice for a Mom Who Wants Her Fair Share

When you are finished using second-hand baby gear, should you return it? nerdluck©/stock.xchng

When you are finished using second-hand baby gear, should you return it? nerdluck©/stock.xchng

Dear Suzanne and Amanda:

Nearly two years ago, I gave a whole bunch of my baby gear to a friend who was about to give birth. Even though this was her fourth baby, it was a “surprise,” so she didn’t have much in the way of a stroller, high chair and other assorted equipment. I’m not planning on having any other children and the stuff was taking up room in my attic, so I was happy to pass it on and see someone else get use out of it (I told her as much). The stroller and high chair were two “big ticket” items, the rest of what I gave her included a nursing pillow, a whole bunch of clothing and some toys. Everything was in really good shape.

Fast forward to the present. My friend no longer has a baby girl, but a toddler and apparently doesn’t need the gear any longer. A few weeks ago I was surprised to see that she had posted a note on Facebook saying that her fourth was truly her family’s last baby and that she was selling off all of their gear. She included a list of all the items (with pictures), as well as a description and a price. I was horrified to see that a lot of the stuff on her list was what I had given her!

I was really mad that not only had she not asked me if I wanted my stuff back, but that she was selling it and hadn’t asked me if it was OK. I called her and asked her if she was planning on giving me a cut of the money she made off of my baby gear, and she point blank said, no, that I had given her everything not “loaned” it to her and she was well within her rights to sell it. Now we aren’t speaking.

What do I do? Honestly, if she had just told me her plans in advance, I probably wouldn’t have been mad, although I still would have wanted her to give me a portion of what she was selling it for. Also, there were some outfits that I wouldn’t have minded holding on to (for sentimental reasons) and now they are gone.

–I Should Have Just Had a Yard Sale

Amanda: I keep going back and forth on my answer. On the one hand, if you had given your friend a baby gift that was new, you wouldn’t expect it back. On the other hand, I agree that since she was selling the items and profiting off of your generosity, she probably should have run it past you first, if at the very least to find out if there was anything you wanted before it disappeared into another baby’s nursery. (And this would be true too if she was donating the items or passing them along to someone else.) So I guess the question is, was your baby gear a gift or a favor? Clearly, you and your friend have different opinions.

Since you’ve talked to her and she “disagrees” with you (part of me wonders if she’s embarrassed by the situation), I think I’d try one more time, maybe in a non-confrontational way. Write her a letter or an e-mail telling her how disappointed you are that she didn’t check with you first to find out if there was anything you wanted back, because there was. If she responds, then maybe you can once again try to discuss her giving you a portion of what she made from the sale of the gear.

If she doesn’t respond or is once again angry, I think letting it go is the best option. And in the future if you pass something along from your attic, be sure to let the recipient know if you want something back.

Suzanne: At this point I would just let it go. Sure you gave her things that maybe you could have used again, but if you didn’t mention that upfront as part of your agreement, then you really couldn’t expect her to comply.

When you give something away you just can’t expect to get it back. What if one of her older children accidentally stained the stroller seat with permanent marker — would you have expected a replacement?

Just last year I gave my sister-in-law whatever I had left of my children’s newborn clothes (being sure to keep a few of the outfits that were special to me) as well as a portable baby crib. When her twins outgrew everything she called to ask if I wanted it back. While it was very nice of her to ask, I replied that it was now hers to do with what she wished, whether that was pass it along to another mom who could use it, donate it, sell it, trash it, whatever.

She never told me what she ended up doing with the stuff and I have no reason to want to know. Because when I handed it over, I considered it her property.

And that’s why I think you might want to let this one go, in the interest of maintaining a friendship. But next time you decide to help a friend out, just be sure she knows what you mean when you loan something to her.

What do you think about what Yard Sale’s friend did? What do you do with used baby gear?

If you have a problem that needs two points of view, e-mail advice@wearebothright.com.

Our Two Cents: Is It Worth Saying Something to the Pregnant Mom Drinking (and Smoking)?

parenting advice

Cheers... or not. If a pregnant woman decides to drink or smoke, is it an open forum for comments? ©Jim Reilly/stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne,

Usually I’m the type of person who keeps my opinions to myself, but last night while out with a group of mom friends I saw something that I wish I had spoke up about.

There’s a woman in our group of friends who is about four months pregnant. I’m not especially close with her, but I do see her when our extended circle of friends gets together every few weeks. Most of the time we take the kids to the park or meet up for lunch, but sometimes we’ll do a girls’ night out at a restaurant, etc.

Well last night we went out to dinner to celebrate two birthdays in the group and a few of the women ordered cocktails or beer — including this pregnant woman. Now I’m all for making your own decisions and obviously you would have to be living under a rock to know that drinking while pregnant is risky. But the kicker is that later on she went outside for a smoke!

When I got over my disbelief, I kept going back and forth in my mind over whether or not I should say anything. None of the other women seemed to bat an eyelash. Then again, maybe they were feeling the same hesitance as me. Should I have spoken up?

–Busting at the Seams

Amanda: In a word, no. I’m going to go ahead and assume that your friend has a brain with working cells. I’m going to assume that she has seen or heard at least one of the million news reports that says smoking while pregnant is a big no-no. And despite all of the information existing out there, study upon study upon study, news reports, PSAs and everything else, she still chose to light up. She knows the risks, she knows it’s selfish. Nothing you are going to say will change that.

If she were a closer friend I might consider talking to her at a different time, a few days after the fact, but not in an accusatory tone. I think I’d just come out and ask her if she was still actively smoking and see where the conversation went. But that’s it. I know it’s tempting, but I don’t think this is your place to play pregnancy police. And while I appreciate your concern for your friend’s unborn child, this is a matter for her. She’s a big girl, she knows what she is doing.

As for the drinking, I need a little more info before offering advice, although it would probably be along the lines of what I said above. I’m one that thinks it’s OK to have a glass of wine on occasion while pregnant. Now, you don’t say how many drinks she had or what exactly it was she was drinking (was it possible she had virgin versions of her cocktails?), so I’m going to stay out of it.

As should you.

Suzanne: It sounds like you are not the type of person who feels the need to weigh in on what’s in the grocery cart of the person ahead of you on line (and suggest that rice cakes are a healthier alternative to potato chips). Just the fact that you made it through the night without saying anything shows that you are aware of the consequences and the most likely outcome of sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong.

That said, I can feel your anxiety over this particular situation. First, there’s an unborn child who doesn’t have a say in what is going into his/her fragile body. Secondly, you probably can’t fathom why a woman carrying life would buck best practice and put her baby at risk.

And yet, for all the same reasons Amanda suggests, you might as well forget about saying anything. She is not committing a crime that is punishable or reportable to law enforcement. And no matter how gentle, subtle, or well-worded your input, it’s not likely to be the lightbulb that’s going to make this mom put out her cigarette or pass on a drink.

Our species is stubborn. We don’t like unsolicited advice. No matter how well meaning. And you were probably thinking a few steps ahead to what this woman would say when you pointed out the obvious.

So let it be. She’s going to have to make many more decisions in her child’s life in the years to come. And she will have the final say. As hard as it may be, all you can do is focus on giving the best to any children under your care and just hope for the best as far as everyone else is concerned.

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What do you think? Would you have spoken up?

If you have a question that needs two opinions, send an e-mail to advice@wearebothright.com.

Our Two Cents: Finding the Right Pediatrician the First Time Around

How did you choose a pediatrician? Share your tips with this mom-to-be. ©A Patterson/stock.xchng

Dear Suzanne and Amanda:

I feel like I’ve got everything in place for my baby’s arrival next month — except for something really important. I still need to find a pediatrician, but I have no idea where to start.

This is my first baby and some of my friends have given me recommendations, but I feel that if I just go with one of their doctors I will have spent more time picking out bedding for the nursery than choosing a doctor.

Obviously, we are going to depend upon this person a lot in these coming years and I need someone to tell me how you know she/he is “the one.”

–Paging Dr. Who

Amanda: You are right, choosing a pediatrician is a big decision. Like you, I felt a bit overwhelmed. To compensate and make myself feel better, I felt the need to do a lot of homework ahead of time. I made phone calls, Internet searches and read a ton of books on how to find the best doctor for my little one. I was amazed at those who just choose their pediatrician at random, simply flipping through the insurance book and selecting a name that they liked.

But despite all my legwork, that’s essentially what we wound up doing.

T. and I were new to the area when our son C. was born and we didn’t know anyone yet to ask for pediatrician recommendations. We picked some names of doctors out of our insurance book and made appointments to interview them. Dr. Q. was supposed to be our first meeting, but I went to labor the night we were scheduled to go to her office. She seemed nice enough on the phone — she was the only one out of the handful of pediatricians who had called us back herself rather than have a nurse or secretary do it — so when it came time to choose a doctor at the hospital we went with her and haven’t looked back since.

We lucked out. I love our pediatrician, who we’ve been with for nearly eleven (!) years now. The mom to two teenage boys, she has a very calming presence and a seemingly endless amount of patience for my borderline ludicrous inquiries and speculation. Nothing seems to faze her — everything is fixable, nothing is cause for alarm. The few times we have faced a semi-serious situation, she has handled it with a collected aplomb, balancing the delicate tightrope of making sure we knew the severity of what was going on, while assuring us that everything would be OK.

If you want to go with someone that your friends recommend, go for it. After all, they like and are happy with their choices. But if you feel like you need to work for it a little bit, by all means, schedule an appointment ahead of time to interview potential candidates. Ask them how they feel about issues that are important to you — breastfeeding, co-sleeping, crying-it-out and vaccinations. Ask about general office policies — billing, how to reach the doctor in case of emergencies, etc. Then go with your gut.

Not sure you can trust your mothering instincts yet? Before you freak yourself out about the magnitude of it all, remember that you can always change your mind. If you go for a visit and don’t like him or her or aren’t crazy about the pracice, you can always choose someone else.

Good luck and congratulations!

Suzanne: I’m a planner with a capital P and when I got to the page in my pregnancy journal that suggested I interview pediatricians, I have to admit that I balked. Of course, like you say, it is a super important part of getting ready for your baby’s arrival, but in my case, I wasn’t quite sure where this interview process was going to get us.

The web turned up questions I should be asking when going on these interviews (like those suggested by The American Academy of Pediatrics) but I couldn’t help but think that any doctor in his/her right mind would have to be  agreeable to things like the recommended immunization schedule and breastfeeding.

Because really, would you go on a job interview only to sit there and say you don’t want the job? No. That wouldn’t make much sense. So why would these doctors be any different in trying to welcome a new patient?

(OK, maybe you won’t agree on infant ear piercing, but that wasn’t a deal breaker for me. And no, that wasn’t one of my interview questions.)

So I decided not to go to too much trouble conducting these interviews in person. Instead I set aside one lunch hour to make some calls. Among my criteria: proximity to home, multi-physician practice, 24/7 coverage, and of course, a practice that would accept my insurance. The rest would take care of itself, because if I showed up and some ogre was being condescending and had a backward approach to medicine, I would be out the door in no time. It wasn’t like I would be handing my newborn over for a major procedure on our first visit.  I figured I had time to get a feel for how comfortable I was with the personality and approach of whatever practice we chose.

And that’s exactly how it happened. We were lucky to get it right on the first shot, and even though we have since moved a little further from the medical office where the six-physician practice is located, I never hesitated to stay with them. They weren’t affiliated with the hospital where I delivered (also not a deal breaker since there’s always someone to see your baby in the hospital) but they have been there for us for a quick strep test at 8 a.m. on school days and for our 2 a.m. calls about seizures. The primary doctor who sees both my son and daughter has the most comforting way of communicating, and there’s nothing he’s said that I haven’t trusted (being a cynic working in the medical field, that means a lot).

So I encourage you to go with your gut instinct. Don’t sweat the “process” but make some calls and let that surging mother’s intuition do its job. And if it’s not exactly what you envisioned once the relationship is underway, feel free to take one of your friends up on a recommendation. By the time baby is here, you will have a better feel for what matters in a pediatrician and who will be the most supportive of the parenting style you develop.

Best to you and the baby!

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How did you choose a pediatrician? Any additional advice for Dr. Who?

If you’ve got a question that needs two answers, send an e-mail to advice@wearebothright.com.

Best Sibling Spacing – Bigger is Better Than We Thought

©Runabout

When it comes to sibling spacing, a break between kids might not be such a bad idea. ©Runabout

I was an only child. Until I wasn’t.

I was one month shy of turning nine years old when my little sister was born, and was over eleven when my brother showed up. While I loved having the full attention of my parents, I also loved being a big sister and adored my younger siblings. Still, when it was time for me to start planning out my own family with my husband, we were more inclined to go the traditional route, and our first two kids were born a little over two years apart.

Everything was great. The children, while not immune to the normal sibling squabbles, were ultimately friends. And while there are certain perils to having two young children very close in age (diapers, tantrums and an overflow of talking Elmo dolls spring to mind), it was also a lot of fun.

For a while, T. and I talked about adding a third to the mix. But life kind of happened and soon enough we found ourselves out and about with no diaper bag, no sippy cups and  no large assortment of baby gear in our then-smaller car. It was nice.

For those of you have been reading this blog for a while (thanks!), you know what happened next. Short version? The day my daughter started kindergarten I found out I was unexpectedly pregnant. Five minutes. Two lines. Three kids. The return of the diaper bag.

While  I had lots to freak out about in those early days, one of my concerns was definitely about the spacing of our kids. We were doing so well, how would an infant fit into our little unit?  Having been the eldest sibling in a widely-spaced family, I knew the benefits, but I knew the downside too. Sure, I’d have two little mommy’s helpers at my beck and call. But would my two older children be as close to their little brother as they were to each other? I thought having a little (little) sister and brother was awesome, but I admit, there were times in their lives that I missed out on because I was busy doing my own things — going to college, getting married, having my own kids.

Two years after S. was born, I’m happy to report that my fears so far have been unfounded. S. is one of the beaming lights in C. and A.’s lives. They are sad when he isn’t awake when they leave for school and he is the first person they ask for when they walk in the door. They help me with him a lot sure, but more often than not, without my asking, they’ll be bringing him outside to play or plop him on the couch to read to him. They love being with him and he thinks they are the sun, the moon and all the stars.

Every day I’m amazed by my kids’ capacity to love. Would it have been on such display if their sibling was one or three years younger instead of eight and six? I’m certain it would have existed, but I don’t know if I would have seen in in such abundance.

How did you space out your children? Do you have any regrets?

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Suzanne’s kids are five years apart and she couldn’t be happier.

Mind the (Sibling Age) Gap

What do the numbers mean? Are bigger sibling age gaps any better than having them close together? ©Kriss Szkurlatowski/stock.xchng

Whether siblings are spaced seven minutes or seven years apart, there are ups and downs to every age gap — no matter how you do the math.

My children are 5.01 years apart (that’s five years, five weeks if I divided right). And there are plenty of days when that adds up just perfectly.

They have enough space in between them that there’s not much competition. At the same time, my son loves to instruct his little sister in all of his favorite pursuits, like baseball, wrestling, fishing and football. And she adoringly follows his lead every step of the way.

I’d like to think that having her around makes him more patient (on most days). And it’s not just her that he has to tolerate.  All little kids gravitate toward him and he doesn’t seem to mind.

I had to laugh when the mom of one of his baseball teammates came up to me as we were marching in the opening day parade, just to say that when she picks up her son and daughter from their after-school program, she is touched by the fact that L. makes a point of sharing how well her five-year-old is batting each day. I heard the same thing from another friend’s mom, who said she doesn’t feel bad about her little one hanging around on playdates because L. always makes him feel included. Which is funny considering that my son is 5’2″ at 8 years old and most often isn’t a match for kids his own age, never mind a child years younger.

Ah, our gentle giant. Still, I worry when I hear him in the next room calling for his sister (just over three feet tall) to surrender in a wrestling match.

At times, I wonder if having back-to-back babies, less than two years apart, would have been better. It would mean twice the work, but all the diapers and potty training would be consolidated. All of the toys at any given time would be age-appropriate — no worries about Nerf darts wandering into the baby’s crib. And the children would be a perfect pair of playmates for each other.

But I have to say that as much as it would have been nice to have them be slightly closer in age, I think a gap of between two and five years gives everyone the space they need to develop as individuals and yet have a strong sibling bond.

From a parent’s point of view, the five year gap gave me and my husband some time to take things slow and learn the ropes. We placed all of our attention squarely on L. for five solid years (and then finally gave him a break!). But seriously, I have to think that he enjoyed being an “only child” for a while.

We also had a chance to recover from the intense infant years and gave our backs a rest from toting baby gear everywhere. There were even three whole months with no day care tuition (woo-hoo) since S. arrived the month L. started kindergarten.

In the time since, she’s benefitted from having her fair share of attention because her brother is mostly self-sufficient and there haven’t been any other babies around.

So I guess we found the right answer for our family, but how about you? What’s the best age gap between siblings in your opinion, and is it what you have — or what you wish you had?

If you hadn’t guessed, Amanda and I are both first-born (that explains a lot, right?). And we each had a significant age gap between us and our youngest sibling.  To me, that meant another student in my pretend classroom and an impressionable actor to direct in my homegrown plays. For Amanda, it turned out to be a road map to parenting.

Our Two Cents: Who Should Be in the Delivery Room?

©canoncan/stock.xchng

Who gets to be in the delivery room when a baby is being born? ©canoncan/stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

I am six months pregnant with my third child — a girl. Every time I’ve delivered, it’s been just my husband and me in the birthing suite. He’s a good coach, both attentive and calming.

This time around, I’d like to ask my mother and my best friend to be there as I go through labor and when I deliver my daughter. It has nothing to do with my husband, I just know that they would love to be there as much as I would love having them. It would be something that we would all always remember.

Hubby gets along just fine with my mom and BF, but he’s objecting my idea, saying that it would take away from the specialness of the moment for him and that he’s not entirely comfortable with having other people there.

Since I’m the one doing all the work, isn’t this my call? It’s not like he’s never been in the room before. I don’t understand what the big deal is. I’d love to get another opinion.

–Labor Loves Company

AMANDA: If it was me, I’d abide by my husband’s wishes. Yes, usually the pregnant mama gets to call all the shots, but it is his baby too, and certainly this will be one of the most important moments in his life as a father, a husband and a person — even if he’s done it twice before.

Having said that, I’d like to know why your husband is objecting. Personally, I’m in the “no guests” camp when it comes to labor and delivery — mostly from a modesty standpoint, but I like keeping the experience between my husband and I. Does he want this to be a special moment between just the two (three) of you? Does he have medical concerns? Is he not a big a fan of your mom and bestie as you think?

I think there is a way to compromise though if you are really insisting on having them there. You could either have them stay until a certain point — say until it is time to push, or have them come in when you are about to, depending on what your husband would prefer. That way you still get to hear them cheering them on, and he gets to spend the majority of this moment alone with you.

In any case, I think a conversation is in order.

SUZANNE: If you watch any number of birth stories on TV, you might just begin to think that tickets are being sold at the door to labor and delivery. Two by two, the expectant mother’s whole family (brothers, cousins, aunts, and even the mother- and father-in-law) shows up and stays right there at the foot of the bed to watch the blessed event.

Now I’m all about doing up birthday parties in a big way, but that very first one — the day your child enters the world — is  best kept a private affair in my opinion. Not to mention your husband’s from what I gather.

While your two extra guests certainly don’t constitute a crowd, you might just try to come up with another way to involve them and respect your husband’s feelings at the same time. Amanda suggested a great compromise, and one that might satisfy everyone’s expectations for the big day.

If you have your mom and best friend join you and your husband during the early phases of labor, be sure to set some ground rules with them in advance. If he wants to be the one to guide you through your breathing techniques or be the only one at your side during the internal exams, then prepare them in advance to heed those wishes. You will still have plenty of time for joking around, watching mindless TV together, or whatever it is that you feel up to in the time between 0 and 8 centimeters.

When the staff says it’s go-time, your invited guests will have to know that it’s time to make their exits (as gracefully as possible, without having to be pulled out of the room by a nurse) and wait for word to come back in at whatever point you and your husband have agreed upon (as soon as they hear baby’s cries, when a few minutes have passed and he comes out to get them, or even when you’re all back in order and have the baby at your chest).

In the end, your mom and friend will still be among the first to celebrate baby’s arrival with you and your husband, and will no doubt be honored to have had backstage passes — even if they didn’t get to sing with the band.

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When you delivered your baby (or your spouse did) who was in the room? Have you ever witnessed a baby being born that wasn’t your own?

If you have a problem that needs two opinions, drop us a line at advice@wearebothright.com.

Best Of: Advice on Being a Mom

What motherly words of advice were like a life saver for you? © Arjun Kartha / stock.xchng

Whether it’s your very first Mother’s Day or your twentieth, you have undoubtedly received some great advice that helped you along the way.

You know the kind we mean. The few words that picked you up when you needed it most. Or the detailed instructions that got you through those first few days home with baby.

Whatever they were and whoever uttered them — those words of wisdom made you realize that you were not alone in the sometimes overwhelming world of motherhood.

We’re sharing ours and we hope you will too:

AMANDA: One of the best pieces of advice about motherhood came, from all people, my husband. Now while he’s a great dad and the best father for my children that I could ever want or hope for, he is undoubtedly not a mother, nor will he ever be.

Still, I will always be grateful for his words of wisdom.

Start a blog.

I know, it’s not a sentimental pearl. Heck, it can’t even be classified as practical. But it was what I needed at the time and personally and professionally changed my life.

For years I had been writing professionally. Writing. Writing. Writing. My dream right? I thought so. Except I wasn’t happy. I was in a total rut. Because for all the words I was churning out on a daily basis, none of them were mine really. It’s not like I was plagiarizing or anything, but I wasn’t writing for me. I was writing what other people wanted me to write. And I was tired.

And then I found out I was unexpectedly pregnant with my youngest. We were freaked to say the least. I mean, we had talked about maybe having a third, but I think we were just about over it. My elder two were in elementary school, I had just lost about 35 pounds (all the baby weight!) — we were happy with our little unit just the way it was. And then two lines.

Big picture I was excited, but acutely, I was overwhelmed. Totally on so many levels. T. and I decided to keep the pregnancy under wraps for a while — we wanted our kids to be the first to know and before we told them about their new little sibling, we wanted to be sure everything was OK. The problem was, I was having trouble not talking about the pregnancy to my family and friends, especially under the surprise circumstances. I was hormonal. I was having mood swings. And I had no outlet, except for one person. And I think he was tired of hearing me talk.

So in his infinite wisdom, or maybe it was desperation, my husband suggested I start a blog.

The thing was, blogging definitely helped me work through my feelings, but it did other things too. Because suddenly I was writing again. Really writing. Like back in high school, dear diary, writing for myself writing. My voice was there all along, I just hadn’t been using it.

It felt so good to write what I wanted and how I wanted to write it. Not the repurposing I was doing in my paid jobs — press releases and stories on parenting that had been written umpteen times. But the funny thing was, the more I wrote about the soon-to-be-S., the more relaxed I became with my other projects. Everything improved. It was amazing.

So short term, the blog was helping me professionally and emotionally. But as time went on, I realized it had a much greater, valuable purpose. It’s S.’s history — his life and my pregnancy with him.

Now I haven’t been as good as I used to be as writing in it, but when I go back and look, I can not only read about S.’s “firsts” in great detail, but incidents and milestones that I would never think to record in a baby book. Funny yarns like the time C. lost S.’s exersaucer and all of his funny nicknames, as well as things from my pregnancy like how I was a childbirth class delinquent.

When I look at C.’s and A.’s baby books I see a lot dates and grasp at fuzzy details at the edge of my memory. When I read the blog about S., I remember.

SUZANNE:  It was my first job out of college and I was an assistant in the public relations office of a hospital. At the helm was this vibrant woman in her forties who was the best mentor you could want. She was a Fulbright Scholar. Be it in the Board Room or on Broadway, she had stage presence. She spoke as passionately about breastfeeding as she did her career. She was a fabulous cook, a gardener and looked as put together in Chanel as she did a barn jacket. In other words, you could say she knew a little about doing it all.

And even though I worked for her years before I had my first child, there was one piece of advice from her that I never forgot.

Superwoman. Stupid woman.

Yes, that was her advice. The woman who seemingly did it all said you were stupid if you thought you could do it all.

Which means a lot more to me now than it did then.

By nature, I’m the consummate multi-tasker. I feel accomplished when I fill my days to the max. But lately it seems to have reached a crescendo. My mind is now racing around the clock. My children are seeing way too much of a harried mom who is short on energy.

And I’m beginning to realize that if I keep pushing the limits, instead of having it all, I might actually lose it all. How I wish she was still around to ask her what to do next.

But I guess that’s the thing about advice. It’s like someone coming along and cleaning the eyeglasses you didn’t even know were dirty. And then it’s up to you to find your own way.

Or meet someone with some more great advice.

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What’s the best advice you’ve received since becoming a mom? What advice would you give to a mom-to-be? (Besides telling them to visit We Are Both Right!)

Our Two Cents: How To Prepare Your “Baby” Not to Be the Baby Anymore

So you got the "I'm a Big Sister" t-shirt. Now what? © Armin Hanisch / stock.xchngDear Amanda and Suzanne:

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

My husband and I just found out we’re expecting our second child. We’re really excited and know our daughter will be thrilled with the news when we tell her in a few weeks. Julia’s three and has been asking for a baby brother or sister constantly.

I’m just worried about how she’ll react when the baby comes home with us — considering that she’s been the center of everyone’s attention since she was born!

How did that go for you? Was there anything specific that helped you prepare your younger ones, both before and after baby arrived?

– Another on the Way

Suzanne:
Well congratulations! That is exciting news.

A little different than the first time around though, right? Your biggest worry in getting ready for baby then probably was finding the right shade of yellow for the nursery. At the most, maybe you had a pet who needed to get oriented to a baby’s cry. And now you have this sweet little one, who you can’t imagine not being the apple of your eye. The last person you think about when you finally get to sleep and the first one on your mind (and/or breathing on your face) when you wake up. You want to make sure that she’s as thrilled to welcome home the new baby as the rest of the family.

Chances are she will be. Eventually.

However you choose to prepare her for a new sibling — whether through books, talking about the baby, bringing her to a sonogram appointment, letting her feel your belly, involving her in choosing things for the baby’s room or a combination of these — keep in mind that even when she reaches the point of elation at the thought of welcoming a new baby home, she won’t really know what comes next until it really happens. And then you might be dealing with a roller coaster of emotions that could rival what you experienced during pregnancy and postpartum combined.

So basically — have no expectations. And if she turns out to be the most well-adjusted big sister ever, you can breathe a long sigh of relief. If not, you will know that she’s experiencing an absolutely normal reaction to a major change in her life. (I was going to write “her world being turned upside down” but that sounded too dramatic. Even though it could very well be how she feels.)

I thought I had it made in the shade when I found out I was pregnant the second time, only because my son was going to be five when the baby was born and wouldn’t have the same trouble adjusting as a toddler who might not be able to communicate his feelings. How wrong I was.

As much as L. participated in our planning for the arrival of his little sister, by announcing the pregnancy to our family, helping to pick her name, painting her nursery, being there for the gender reveal, and spending lots of time with her in the hospital in the days after she was born, we had no idea that he would take as many steps back in the following weeks. He hated me and my husband, or at least that’s what he told us. Hearing that was probably the hardest thing for me to digest — still to this day and he’s 8 going on 18. It came out of nowhere despite my husband’s best efforts to do special things with him every day of his leave and my reassurances that we loved him more than ever. Our pediatrician was the only one who wasn’t surprised by his reaction. The thing was, he told everyone that he loved his sister. I still don’t know what it was that made him feel divided in this way, but within a month he got over it.

In no way am I trying to scare you about the possible reactions your daughter might have around the time of your new baby’s arrival. But I hope that by knowing how wide the range of “normal” is for new siblings, you will be able to give her the time and space she might need to get used to her new role in your family.

Best wishes to all! We’d love to hear how it turns out.

Amanda:

Yay! I hope you are feeling well.

Like Suzanne said, I think the key here is to not have too many expectations. Because the thing with preschoolers is that they are funny little creatures. Not to make light of the situation, but I expect that your daughter’s reaction to the news of her new sibling will vary over the next few months depending on a lot of things — her mood, if the moon is full, if she liked the episode of Yo Gabba Gabba! on television that morning, etc.

Still, no matter how your daughter reacts to becoming a big sister — with joy, with anger or with seemingly no response at all — it’s normal and I think it’s important for you to remember that whatever she says or does, this is a big part of her emotional development.

I do think your best bet is to address the changes in your family before the new baby arrives. And this can be a lot of fun. While you may not be brave enough to solicit name ideas from Julia (while pregnant with my third I was regaled with a selection of names culled from Playhouse Disney and Nick Jr. and my kids were six and eight years old!) you should ask for her opinion on other important details like bedding, toys and even clothing. If you decide to register, bring her with you (try to keep the trip short, you can always go back later and add items if you need to) and actively ask for input. If possible, let her pick out one or two items that you purchase on the spot.

Getting her involved in the process will make her realize that she is an important, contributing member of the family and that the life of the new sibling is something she should be part of.

Another thing, I’ve found that most kids under 5 have trouble understanding time so it’s best to say the baby will arrive when the weather gets cold or around Halloween to give her some sort of frame of reference. This way you’ll avoid an endless string of “Is the baby coming today?” questions.

One baby arrives and as your family adjusts to its new dynamic, remember that your “big kid” may not be thrilled in her new role yet. Don’t be surprised if she regresses a little — asking to drink from a bottle or nurse, have bathroom related accidents, engage in “baby talk” or even ask to sleep in the crib (especially if the crib was once hers). Ask her to help you in caring for the little one – get you diapers, push the stroller or even assist in getting it dressed. It may take longer with the extra set of hands, but if she wants to be involved, welcome her efforts. (And if you are nursing, know that this sometimes makes older kids feel left out. Keep some books on hand or have a favorite movie cued up on the DVD player so you can have some cuddle time while you feed the baby.)

Some kids may welcome the new sibling with open arms and never express any discontent. Others may say hurtful things. Most fall someplace in the middle. It’s important to be patient as your little one adjusts. Encourage her to talk about how she’s feeling through words or even a picture. Try to relate — if they baby won’t stop crying, tell her that it can be frustrating for you to hear too.

Priority number one is to make sure your child feels loved and needed. Adding a new member to the family will affect Julia in a big way, but ultimately a positive one. She is getting a new sibling, but hopefully also gaining a lifelong friend.

How did you help prepare your child for a new sibling? What worked? What didn’t?

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Planning — and Planning — to Have a Family

planning to have a baby

Sometimes family planning can take on a whole new meaning. ©Bjarne Henning Kvaale/stock.xchng

A few weeks after a first date with this guy I met in college, he asked me: “What’s your ten year plan?” I was 19, he was 20. And in true job interview fashion, I told him that my first order of business was finishing college and then getting an internship and hopefully a job in the city.

“Then when I’m thirty, I’ll probably get married and have a baby,” I said rather confidently, giving him a sneak peek at my fifteen-year agenda in case he needed to know. (He can’t say he wasn’t warned about my Type-A-always-in-control personality).

Somehow this didn’t scare him off. Instead he wanted to know what would happen if I met someone now who wanted to get married and have kids in a few years. “Well he would just have to wait until I was ready,” was my self-assured response.

Yeah, OK.

Graduated three years later, got married that September. To him.

But in a true sense of compromise we waited on the second part of the deal. And waited. And waited.

Because before we could even consider having a baby, we had to find stable jobs. And then they had to pay enough so that we could afford to move out of the first floor, one-bedroom unit of my grandparent’s house. Grad school tuition slowed us down a bit. Later came a cross-country move for better jobs and a new house.

Finally, we had arrived. There we were sitting in our new house with three bedrooms, a nice backyard, one block from the elementary school. The space was big, empty and quiet — even after we had unpacked the boxes and adopted a puppy.

I was 27, he was 28.

It was our fifth wedding anniversary, eight years since our first date, and still no mention (or sight) of those babies we had talked about years before. The way I looked at it, I was still ahead of the game. The way my husband saw it, he was running out of time.

And it was then that we decided — we were ready for a baby. Or more like, it’s now or never. Mixed with a little bit of I guess we’re as ready as we’ll ever be.

A few months later, when we flew home for Christmas and shared the news that we were expecting, our families kept saying: “We were wondering when you would finally get moving on that.” This from the same people who warned us not get pregnant right away when we married young.

So all the stars were aligned for the birth of our first child. There was a bedroom waiting for him, and a playroom no less. We had great jobs, good schedules that allowed for plenty of time together as a family, and everything we ever needed to be comfortable.

Our planning would have paid off. It could have been smooth sailing.

Except that no sooner had we shared the news than my old boss made me an offer to come back. Oh, wouldn’t that make everything all the more perfect if we could be near our families as the baby grows up?

And then we learned that sometimes, no matter how much you wait and plan and make things perfect, it can all change in an instant. We basically started from square one that autumn after L. was born and we had moved back home. As in gutting a house, nursing my husband back to health after a debilitating injury that put him out of work, and then moving twice before the baby’s first birthday.

But you know what? It’s all fine now. One more baby added into the mix. A little more chaos in our days. And really, it’s all good.

Just like we planned.

Amanda was quicker to jump into family life than I was. But with all of our fits and starts, we’re pretty much running side by side these days.

Were We Ready for a Baby? Define “Ready.”

©Tinneketin/stock.xchng

When it comes time for family planning, does the stork get an opinion? ©Tinneketin/stock.xchng

We were fools. Absolute and utter fools.

Here’s the scenario: It’s the late summer of 1999. Y2K fever is starting to really take hold. I am a newly-minted 25 year-old, my husband is 26. We have been married for a year and a half.

T. has a part-time job — some of the first in many steps on his way to a career. The hours are awful, the pay even worse. While his office is only about ten minutes away from our two-bedroom apartment in a quiet suburb, because of the nature of his work, he is often sent to various locations at strange times, sometimes hours away from where we live. His schedule is always changing — we can never predict when and where he will be at any given time. And while he has been at this particular job for over three years, the opportunity for advancement at this place is bleak — moving to another state could be in our cards.

I’m an associate editor at a national consumer magazine. I love, love, love my job even though I too am a low rung on a very long ladder. The hours are O.K. but the pay is not. My commute to work involves an hour-long train ride and a 25  minute walk. I’m also enrolled in graduate school (student loans aplenty), pursuing a master’s degree in publishing. I leave the house at 6:30 in the morning and on days when I have classes, I don’t get home until after 10 p.m.

We are broke. We never see each other. Our apartment, while charming and certainly a decent enough size, is really only ideal for two people.

Sounds like a great time to introduce a baby into the mix, doesn’t it?

We apparently thought so, because that August, I made an appointment with my gynecologist and asked him what my husband and I needed to do to so we could have a baby.

(That came out wrong. Obviously we knew what we needed to do to have a baby, but we wanted to know what we needed to do ahead of time vitamin and health-wise so our new little one would have every advantage.)

Seriously though. We have three children — one of which was a “surprise.” That it was not our first, but our third, astounds me to this day.

But as it turns out, everything turned out just fine. Better than just fine. That October, I was promoted unexpectedly — complete with a slightly higher salary and my own office (with a door — great for hiding morning sickness in the first trimester). In December, T. was promoted too — a full-time job that came with a huge jump in salary and health benefits. And in January of 2000, we found out we were pregnant with our first baby, C., who joined us in our new house that September.

It’s funny how things work out. I wouldn’t say we were in a rut before we found out about C., but it was only when we planned to have a baby that things really began to happen for us.

New jobs. A house. A baby.

Our family.

It was risk we took, for sure because things could have easily gone the other way. But that can always happen, can’t it? Life changes in an instant — sometimes for good, sometimes for bad. Our thinking at the time was, emotionally we were ready and that was the most important part. The rest would fall into place.

And it did.

Just how we planned it.

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What about you and your family? How much pre-baby planning did you do — if any at all? Why?

Suzanne and her husband put a little more thought into the planning to have a baby process. And you know what? Everything turned out just fine for them too — eventually.