new mom

5 Gift Ideas for New Moms

One of the most common questions my non-mom friends ask me is, "What should I get so-and-so for a gift? Once she has her baby?" It's sometimes hard to know what exactly to give someone when they've just had a baby--and you don't really want to bug the new parents by asking what, exactly, they'd like. I thought I'd share a few ideas. 

1. Food. 

When in doubt, give food: gift cards for their closest pizza place, meals to shove in the freezer, groceries that make easy meals, or pre-made snacks. One thing that I ate pretty much non-stop when Forrest was a newborn was turkey sandwiches. So if you really don't know what to do, make some food, buy some groceries, or pick up a few gift cards so they can pick up take out. 

2. Gift cards

Again, gift cards are one of the best gifts you can give, either for food or groceries, or, alternatively, places they would need to pick up something quick. I basically fell in love with everyone who sent me a Target or Wal-Mart gift card in the newborn days; my husband and I ended up going to Target at least once a day for the first two weeks to get things we just hadn't thought of (more diaper cream, Vaseline, diapers, a head support for the car seat). A few ideas include Target, Babies'r'Us, Wal-Mart, WalGreens, their local grocery store, or Amazon. 

3. A clean house. 

People really underestimate how nice it is to have a clean house. I remember feeling like I would never have order again when we brought Forrest home; I'd been in the hospital for over a week and a half, I hadn't seen my house in days, there was mail and stuff and boxes everywhere from people sending us things, bringing us things, and trying to organize without me being there. Plus, we had all this baby furniture moved around. So here's my piece of advice: hire a cleaning service for your new mom friend OR go and vacuum, pick up, and clean for her. 

4. Time.

When Forrest was around 3 weeks old, my mom came over one afternoon so that I could take my first shower in like 8 or 9 days. It was the best 40 minutes of my life. If you have a new mom friend, sanitize your hands and body incredibly well, make sure you don't even have an inkling of a cough, and ask if she'd like you to hold the baby while she showers, or pays bills, or lies in bed. Holding a newborn is pretty great tbh.  

5. A necklace. 

All of these gifts are great. But some people really, really want to get moms something more... substantial than just useful. If you're this kind of person (which is awesome), I highly recommend something commemorative. It doesn't have to be super expensive. I have a bracelet with a little blue bead that my mother-in-law gave me after Forrest was born and I love it. A necklace or simple bracelet is a great idea. I like this simple stone necklace. This personalized Tree of Life necklace is gorgeous. This simple ring is perfect for a mom who doesn't wear a ton of jewelry. Confession, I'm actually thinking of ordering this super cool necklace for myself

None of these gifts tickle your fancy? Most importantly, you know your friend better than anyone else. Give something from the heart, whether that means a gift card, a big hug, or a pizza. One note I'd like to include is please don't get new moms anything "feeding specific": if your friend is struggling with breastfeeding, it can feel like a lot of pressure to review a breastfeeding pillow, breast milk bags, or a breastfeeding shawl. 

5 Apps that Every New Mom Needs

In the weeks after I had Forrest, my life would have fallen apart if I didn't use apps to help me remember things, get Forrest to sleep, or generally pull my life back together into some semblance of normalcy. I went through my phone and picked out the apps I used the most in the first 6 months of Forrest's life. These apps saved my sanity, helped me remember details that otherwise would have just... slipped away, and ultimately, kept me company on those long, lonely days spent holding Forrest as he napped. 

1. SoundSleeper

SoundSleeper is a white noise app. That's it. That's all it does. And it is invaluable. I would pay for this app, except I didn't have to, because these wonderful people give it to you FREE. There are about 10 different noises to choose from (Forrest's favorite is Mountain Stream, it still knocks him out within 5-10 minutes). They play for 30 minutes and then fade out, but you can always extend the time back to 30 minutes near the end. I have played the Mountain Stream noise at least 900 times since Forrest was born. That's like 450 hours of white noise. 

2. The Wonder Weeks App

This is an app that actually has no real use except to read and go, "oh my god, ok, it's normal, he's fine." I actually forget it exists until Forrest starts turning into the meanest little gremlin on the planet. Wonder Weeks are proposed weeks (they're actually groups of weeks, like 4-5 at a time) that coincide with major periods of neurodevelopment. Recently, Forrest started throwing temper tantrums, only wanting to eat certain foods, and generally being a MAJOR hand full. I opened up the Wonder Weeks App and realized, oh, he's smack dab in the middle of a wonder week--which is why he is so cranky. This app is great for reminding yourself that the fussiness will go away. Eventually. 

3. Sprout Baby

Because of Forrest's preterm birth, I had to keep meticulous track of his feeding and pooping. Really. At first I used a notebook, but that required a lot of energy. Eventually, I downloaded Sprout Baby and, yes, I ended up paying the $4.99 upgrade on it. You can use Sprout Baby to keep track of bottle feeding (ounces, when, and what was fed, formula or breastmilk), to keep track of breast feeding (which side, how long), and to keep track of diapers. It sounds dumb now, but these are questions that pediatricians expect you to answer and keeping track of diaper output is incredibly important in the first six months. Sprout Baby was the easiest to use app of all the ones I tried (and yes, I tried a ton). It also had a pump log, which, if you end up pumping, saves you a massive headache because you can see your output for each day in a handy-dandy graph. 

4. Waterlogged

The number one rule of breastfeeding and/or pumping is that you have to stay hydrated. When you start getting even a little dehydrated, your supply goes way down. Waterlogged sends reminders of when you should drink some good ol' H20 and allows you to set a goal. (As a heads up, nursing mothers need 140+ ounces of water a day. Really.) 

5. Cartwheel

If you're a mom in the United States, you probably go to Target at least once a week. In the early days, we always needed something: more bottles, more pacifiers, diapers, wipes, a hat... Cartwheel saved us tons of money each trip because we could scan everything we were buying and see if there was a coupon for it. It's super easy to use and saves you money--what's not to love? 

Do you have any apps that new moms need to try? Share with me on Twitter

A New Mom's Guide to Beauty

It's worth repeating more than once: no one mom's journey is the same as any one else's. This is the only true fact I can give you about motherhood: maybe you (you know, you) are reading this and you're already a mom and you're like, Michelle, you take this way too seriously. It's not so bad. Or maybe you are reading this and you aren't a mom yet, and you're like, Oh my god, W H Y would I ever want to take this on? But the truth is: you might have had an easier time than me OR you might have an easier time OR you might have a worse time than me (scary thought). It's impossible to know. 

But what I can tell you is that beauty and fashion become incredibly unimportant, and yet, incredibly alluring, in one fell swoop. I don't know how else to describe it. Never have I had less time for beauty and fashion, and never has my skin and face and body been less apt for any of this, but I just can't keep away. I read more fashion blogs than ever; I read lifestyle blogs by the pound; and I watched beauty YouTubers everyday at work. I even forked over $52 for Nikkietutorial's Too Faced palette. Is that sad? No, it's awesome. 

When I say this is a new mom's guide to beauty, that new mom is me. I can only tell you what has worked for me and how I've helped myself to feel pretty when I feel I am slowly becoming a rock upon which a sea anemone (Forrest) lives. It's hard not to feel reduced to simply a life source (and that's it) as a new mom, but I'm here to tell you: you matter; you deserve to put on make up and shower and wash your hair and put on something other than leggings (unless you want to wear leggings, I can't blame you). 

Here's how I got my groove back, a little bit at a time. 

Step #1: I set small, realistic goals for myself. 

One of the very first goals for myself was that I would wear pants (real pants) to work every day. When I first went back to work, thanks to the casual nature of my office, I wore leggings and sweaters and sweatshirts. Not....super flattering and also not a great way to feel good about yourself every day. I set a goal to wear jeans, or maybe even a dress, every single day. And real shoes, not my Uggs. 

Once I successfully passed that hurdle, I set other goals: washing my hair every day, packing my lunch, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, taking Forrest for a walk. As I got more brave, I felt increasingly good about myself. 

Step #2: I treated myself to something I wanted. 

Listen: moms, as a rule, seem to put their kids first. It's natural. It's normal. It is what it is. But, here's the thing: you matter too. Sometimes, I will make lists of things I need (legitimately, actually need): I need work dresses and new jeans and professional tops and a new blazer. I have bought 0 of these things, but Forrest has western print jammies for every size in the foreseeable future. I'd rather buy Forrest a new book, a new toy, a new outfit than myself something. The more I did that, though, the more I realized I was sabotaging all my efforts to feel good about myself. 

I'm not saying you should go hogwild. There is a middle ground and I definitely believe in limiting spending on things that aren't necessary. But if you need new clothes because all you feel like you can wear are leggings and tank tops, it's ok to give yourself the gift of some new duds. Or if you've been scraping out your foundation container for two weeks, it's time to bite the bullet and just treat yo' self. 

Step #3: Screw it--I did whatever I wanted. 

At the end of the day, my job as a mom is this: to keep my son happy and healthy; to keep my house clean enough so it's at least safe for his survival; and to be happy myself. That's it. None of us are perfect. And certainly, I'm never going to be a perfect mom. I'm going to make mistakes. But I don't want one of those mistakes to be hating myself--and passing that kind of behavior onto Forrest. I want Forrest to see me for what I am: a woman who is his mom, who feels beautiful, who feels smart, who takes care of herself, who takes care of other people. He doesn't need a martyr or a perfect mom. He just needs me. And if I have to hand him off to Danny for a few hours each weekend to go work out, or run, or grocery shop, then so be it. He's not going to grow up and say, "Mom, you spend 30 minutes putting on make up that made you happy--and it ruined me." That's just not going to happen. 

Beauty is ultimately a way for us to repair our relationships with ourselves. And for some women, new clothes and learning to put make up on in a way that makes them feel beautiful is one way to do that--it won't work for every body, but it works for me and that's all I can tell you. 

After becoming a mom, it's easy to feel small, to feel a little downtrodden, especially in the early months. But you don't have to. It doesn't have to keep going. I've been in a relationship with myself for 27 years--it's okay for me to take time to work on that relationships, to feel good about myself, to take steps to repair the damage that's been done. And it's okay for you too--however you choose to.