I am not employed.

I quit my job before we got married in the fall of 2009. I began doing some freelance writing work, and found out that I was pregnant shortly thereafter.

We knew that me being a stay at home mom was the best choice for our family. We were right; I’m not perfect but I cannot imagine not being home with my son every day.

Our plan was for me to stay home and then write part-time in order to pay my own personal bills. Ha!

Being a mother is hard work. It is even more difficult if you have very (very) little help. My husband works a lot and has to travel a lot for work, and is just a busy guy in general. I don’t get nights and weekends “off.” (What mother does?) But, much of the time, I don’t even get a whole lot of help during that time. If my husband is gone, that means I also have to take care of two needy dogs, too. And run the household.

I’m not trying to complain. What I am saying is that this journey has been a lot harder and more exhausting than I ever envisioned. Write articles? When? I need my downtime, too, you know. I also need to do laundry and clean the house and run errands.

Needless to say… not much “real work” was done during the first six months of my son’s life. I think I have written maybe two articles that whole time, if that. I had to resort to selling some thing to help pay my bills.

Sure, some of it is laziness. I have time to go on discussion forums and facebook and blogs, right?

But, in order to work, I need to be in a certain frame of mind. I haven’t been in one since before my son was born. My brain is tired and preoccupied. Words haven’t been coming to me. I have felt a huge lack of creativity. I haven’t even feel like reading books. It’s like there has been something in my brain that blocks the motivation and ideas from flowing… and no wonder when I am constantly in the midst of BABYHOOD.

There have been a lot of tears over money and feeling inadequate and like a failure as a woman. It is very difficult to adjust to being “taken care of” by a man, especially when the two of you used to be equals when it came to working and education. I’ve learned that money and careers can really affect a relationship because it throws off the whole balance of power. And not that a couple should be trying to overpower or control each other… but with money and success comes power. When you lack those things, you lose a bit of power. You feel like you have to fight for respect. It really does change how you feel about yourself, how others look at you. We’re a career and money driven society, and it is reflected in how we treat others and view ourselves.

I’ve noticed this in my own relationship, now that I don’t have a “real” job (again, based on societal views… trust me, I work HARD). But it has changed the power structure in our marriage. The fact that he’s the breadwinner and I’m the stay at home mom has really changed the balance in our household. It stresses him in a lot of ways (he has a lot on his plate and a lot that he has to take care of and be responsible for) while I deal with setting career goals and other dreams aside for awhile so I can focus on raising a family. This is a major shift, because at one point we were BOTH working and BOTH going to school and BOTH paying our bills and we did it all together. It gives him a weird bit of power. He doesn’t abuse it and is usually unaware of it, but I still notice it from time to time. He doesn’t mean to be that way, and when I call him out on certain things he is surprised and doesn’t even realize he’s being a certain way.

I know that I carry a certain power myself, and I try to keep that in mind… I’m the mother of his child and the leader of our household. I’m the glue that keeps it all together. I keep things running. We chose this, we both want me to stay home with our son. But it comes with its ups and downs. I have had to redefine what the meaning of successful is. Especially because *I* was supposed to be the successful one. It was me who was supposed to have the good job, to make a lot of money. I was told my whole life how smart I was, how successful I would be. I wonder how many people look at me and shake their heads, think I’ve given up, think I’m lazy, think I’m “just” a stay at home mom. There’s more to me than that. But I am LUCKY to be one. I’m sure my son agrees!

I am happy, but I struggle. I see my friends being wildly successful, and I am soooo happy for them. But sometimes I do feel jealous. My husband just got a promotion at work, and I am insanely proud of him. (And hey, I’ll benefit from the raise.) However, it can be hard for me sometimes. I love (LOVE) staying home with my son and I am learning so many things and trying hard to make it all work. But when I spend a whole day trying to get my son to nap, and he is teething, and my elderly dog has an accident in the house, and the laundry pile is overflowing… sometimes it would be nice to get a promotion, too. Or at least someone to come help clean the house once a week.

All that said… I wouldn’t change this situation for anything. I don’t want to go get a “real” job. I love this time with my son. It goes fast. Those first six months… they go fast. I haven’t missed a single milestone. I saw his first smiles, heard his first giggle, saw him roll over for the first (and second, and third) time. I see all the silly, funny, magical things he does. I am there for him when he’s upset and wants to cuddle. I wouldn’t trade those moments for all the money and success in the world. To me, it’s all been worth it. I know, ten years from now, I won’t look back on these early years and think, ‘Gosh I wish I had gone back to work.’ I will, most likely, give anything to go back to this hard time and relive it. It comes with a cost, and yet… it’s priceless.

I am happy to report that my writing “frame of mind” is finally changing. I am getting new ideas. I have FOUR writing projects in mind (BIG ones, not articles). I have poetry that I want to submit to some journals (not new poetry, but still, it feels good to desire something more again). I am feeling creative again, and damn it that feels good! And, these past few days, writing articles and making money again doesn’t feel like some far away unattainable goal that feels impossible. It feels tangible again. I hope, when I write about the second six months, that it will be much more positive than this post has been. My son is now 7 1/2 months old, so it’s been a journey to get to this point.

Welcome to part two of my series on the first six months. I want to share what I’ve learned about cloth diapering. This isn’t going to be a “how to” because, well, there is a whole heck of a lot of information out there on how to cloth diaper. I thought I’d share my own personal experiences on it all, though, along with a few tips that have helped me out.

1) Be careful, it can be surprisingly addicting. If you would have told me that I would want to buy diapers the way I once used to buy designer bags… I would have laughed in your face. I remember having “wish lists” of bags that I wanted to save up for. Now, I have that for diapers. I like trying new things, and once you find something that really works it can be hard not to want to stock up on them. They make some really cute diapers, too. So be prepared for this, because you just might surprise yourself. I think part of the addiction stems from the fact that, well, it brings some fun and purpose to changing dirty diapers. I change a lot of diapers. Anything that can make it seem like a little less of a chore is a good thing in my book.

2) I wish I had tried more things before buying a stash of one diaper. I bought into the “pocket craze” and ordered 15 Fuzzibunz to start out with. While I do like the diapers a lot, they aren’t my favorite and there are definitely better diapers for newborns. I wish I had started with prefolds, and then got a variety of diapers to test out. I have spent a lot of money on diapers (still less than I would on disposables, especially when you keep in mind how many of these diapers I’ll be able to use on our next baby) and could have saved some money if I had been willing to look beyond the new modern cloth diapers.

3) That said, there are some wonderful modern cloth diapers out there. I am thankful for them because they are what turned me on to cloth diapering, and have helped bring about this cloth diaper revolution and make them more mainstream. They can be very convenient. They are super cute. Get some for sure!

4) Try the “scary” stuff. Prefolds and flats? Are you kidding me? Snappis, pins, wool? No way. Except, well, they are pretty awesome. When I first started cloth diapering my little newborn, I never expected for any of those things to enter our house. But my son is currently napping in a pinned prefold with wool longies. Never say never! There’s a reason people still use some of these things. They are effective, simple, and inexpensive.

5) There’s something to be said for natural fibers. Cotton, hemp, bamboo. Wool covers. Yes, the microfleece liners and microfiber inserts have their place. But so do these natural fibers. They are thirsty, breathable, soft, and nice. You can’t help but feel good when you put organic cotton on your little one’s bottom. (If prefolds and fitteds aren’t your thing, check out the bumGenius Organic Elemental all-in-one diapers and the Flip hybrid system with the organic insert.)

6) You can use cloth for overnights, but it takes more planning. In the early weeks, I changed my son throughout the night, but once he started getting bigger and sleeping for longer stretches I stopped changing him overnight. You can’t just put a regular cloth diaper on and expect it to hold for 12 hours. Some people swear by “double stuffing” their pocket diapers, but I’ve always struggled with pocket diapers leaking overnight. My favorite choice? A sustainablebabyish snapless multi with two of their doublers. These are wonderful diapers. No matter what you use, you’ll need more of it. Hemp inserts (I like the Babykicks Hemparoo Joey Bunz inserts) hold a lot and are good to pair up with other materials. If you are getting leaks, try something else.

7) Give cloth wipes a try. They are easier than you think.

8 ) The right supplies will make cloth diapering easier for you. Get more than one wet bag if you can afford to. I recommend a smaller, zippered wet bag for the diaper bag. I do most of G’s diaper changes on our first/main floor, but keep his large diaper pail upstairs in his room… so I have a couple of smaller wet bags that I put his dirty diapers and wipes into, and then I can just empty those into his big wet bag. You don’t need a ton of stuff, but things like diaper sprayers (they hook up to your toilet’s water line and you can spray poops into the toilet once your baby is on solids or if your baby is formula fed), liners, extra doublers and inserts, nice storage containers, etc. will certainly help you. (Random note: I had to put a space between the 8 and the “)” at the beginning of this one because WordPress automatically turned that into a smiley face with sunglasses. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8) 9 10).

9) They are just diapers, and it’s just laundry. Really. If you get detergent build up on your diapers they most likely aren’t ruined. You might need to fine-tune your laundry routine but, in the end, they are just diapers. If you need to take a break from them and use disposables for awhile, or don’t want to take them on vacation, you aren’t a bad mother and it isn’t the end of the world. Don’t panic if something isn’t working. Do some research, look around online, ask for advice, whatever. Diapers will get dirty. And if they are stained, the sun is a miracle worker. A good sunning does wonders for stained diapers (and it’s good for the soul, too). Also, the laundry isn’t so bad. I don’t spend my evenings washing diapers, like so many people seem to think. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming. You can cloth diaper, even if you’re busy or have a job. They don’t have to be washed every day.

10) I don’t care if I’m a weirdo. Don’t know anyone else who cloth diapers? Do other people think you’re crazy for wanting to cloth diaper? Do people turn up their noses at the thought of you washing your kid’s poopy diapers? OH WELL. That’s how a lot of people were with me and I just bit my tongue and tried to educate (or ignore) them. So pave the way. Be “weird.” It’s okay… they aren’t the ones doing the laundry, they aren’t the ones changing your baby, they aren’t the ones buying the stuff. Just smile and know that your baby’s bum has less chemicals on it, that you’re saving money, and you’re helping the planet with every diaper change.

Also… it’s a learning process, and there’s a learning curve. Don’t be discouraged by that. It can be overwhelming because there is so much information out there about cloth diapering, and so many different opinions. So take a deep breath. Take it a step at a time. Keep some disposables on hand in the beginning, just in case, if it will encourage you to keep cloth diapering when things get a little tough. Newborns are hard work and you have so much to figure out. But it gets easier. You’ll get braver, more confident, more comfortable each day. Your newborn will become a smiling infant. You’ll learn things together, as you go.

Newborns are TINY. Even if it doesn’t seem that way in the beginning, you will look back and think, ‘Wow, look at those little bird legs.’ Expect this to affect the way you diaper. Changes in height and weight, changes in diet, changes in activity… that will all change how you diaper. Be adaptable. Enjoy it. You will look back on pictures of your newborn in cloth diapers and realize how cute and silly they looked! And how quickly that time went by. Before you know it you will be working on your baby’s NEXT six months and packing away diapers that no longer fit.

And, if you are still worried about cloth diapering and it makes you feel better, I have had TWO poop blowouts EVER. And they were my own fault. Cloth diapers hold in poop like you wouldn’t believe. One of my friends said her (newborn) daughter had a (disposable) diaper blowout every. single. day. No thank you! I like the poop kept in the diapers where it belongs, and not on my son’s clothes or blankets.

I remember when I was pregnant and swore up and down that I wouldn’t be one of “those” mothers who talks about her baby’s poop. So it goes.

Now that I have safely survived the first six months of motherhood, and don’t seem to have forever damaged my child in any way, I thought I would share some of my personal insights on this parenting business. Welcome to the first of a four part series of posts about, well, the first six months.

I am far from being an expert, and I am still learning new things every day about this whole baby thing, but at least now I can say that I have some real life experience in raising a baby through the first half of his first year. I thought I’d share some of my favorite baby (and mommy) products that have made my life a bit easier, and G’s life a bit happier.

At Rest
* Aden & Anais muslin swaddling blankets. These are the best! If your baby likes to be swaddled then these are a must (especially if you don’t want to get one of those swaddlers that you velcro around them). Newborns outgrow receiving blankets quickly. These are nice and big, but also lightweight. I liked being able to swaddle G in them, even in the hot summer months (he was born in July). These are wonderfully versatile blankets, too. They can be used as a blanket, carseat or stroller cover (to shield them from the sun, for example), nursing cover, etc. They get softer with each washing, and you can even double them up if you need a bit more warmth. If the price seems like a bit too much, they make a “for Target” model for about $10 cheaper. That’s what I have and they are great.
* Halo SleepSack Wearable blanket. I really like this, especially now that winter is here. Keeps him warm without the dangers of using a loose blanket for an infant.
* Cloud B Sleep Sheep. Cute, soft, sweet. We use it every night on the “ocean” setting and it is very soothing. It even makes me a bit sleepy!

Health
* Nosefrida: The Snotsucker. This thing is both disgusting and wonderful at the same time. It really does work, though. I still use the blue bulb thingy for when he’s just a little stuffy, but when there’s a lot of snot, the Nosefrida is AWESOME.
* Vanicream Lite Lotion. It’s surprisingly hard to find lotion and bath products for babies that aren’t full of fragrances, dyes, and other things you don’t want on your baby’s sensitive skin. According to the bottle, it is “formulated without dyes, lanolin, fragrance, masking fragrance, parabens, formaldehyde.” It doesn’t really smell like anything, actually. And it isn’t greasy. I use this after every bath. I also have a bar of their soap that I will try out after we’re done with the Method body wash (which I also like).
* CJ’s BUTTer. I love this stuff. A lot. I use it on everything. It’s made for diaper rashes (cloth diaper safe) but it’s also recommended for eczema and all sorts of other stuff. I have several forms and scents. I’m constantly dipping into the big tub of Oatmeal, Milk & Honey BUTTer. I use it any time he gets a red or dry patch. I used it on his mild cradle cap. If he scratches himself, I dab some on the mark. I use it on his bum. I use it to help my diaper pins slide through his prefolds. I use it on my own dry skin (slather this stuff on your feet and then put on some cotton socks for the day and see what a difference it makes!). I like how it is all natural but also gives him a sweet “babyish” smell, especially since I don’t use icky scented baby powdery bath stuff. I put it on him after baths, especially on certain parts (like ankle and wrist creases). And it’s great for protecting his chin from drool! There’s an unscented option if you prefer that (I use the unscented on a q-tip to clean the moisturize the opening of his nostrils).
* Amber teething necklace. We’ve gotten some weird looks, but oh well. My son wears a necklace, and I think it is cute. Not only that, but Baltic amber has natural pain relieving properties. The warmth of the baby’s skin releases oils in the amber, which absorb into the skin. These must be used with care; never leave your baby unattended while he is wearing a necklace, and he should never put it in his mouth. I do think it relieved at least some of G’s discomfort while teething.

Baby Carriers
* Moby Wrap. Honestly, not much was better than have my son cuddled up close to me in his Moby during those early months. My son was a big guy and I must admit that I didn’t like this once he started to get a little bigger (beyond 3 months) but it is inexpensive and it is sooooo snuggly. At first I never thought I’d figure out how to wrap it, but once you get the hang of it it’s easy and lovely. When my best friend saw this picture, she joked, “I wish you carried ME around in that.”

* Ergo Carrier. Ahhh, this thing is wonderful. It is pricey but has already been worth every cent. It is so comfortable and my son loves coming shopping with me in this. I can’t wait to bring him places this summer in it, and have him on my back looking around while we hit up the farmer’s market and grab muffins and coffee on leisurely Saturdays.
* Maclaren stroller. Can this be considered a “baby carrier”? Sure, why not. I am big on babywearing but my son really enjoyed our trips to the park in the stroller before winter arrived. Also, when it was hot and humid, neither of us would have wanted me to wear him while we walked around for a couple of hours. This is a very high quality stroller that is easy to use, lightweight, and has some really nice features. It is also made to last and has a lifetime warranty. If Baby #2 arrives in the next few years, we’ll be able to use it for the next baby, or for G if the baby is being worn. We went with the “Ryder” model, in the “Albert Thurston” designer series. I scored it for half off on Gilt (let me know if you’d like a referral) but otherwise I would have went with the Quest. This rates as one of my husband’s favorite baby items. When we went walking with it (before winter set in, ugh) he would totally hog it and never let me push it. Men.

At Play
* Sophie the Giraffe. Yes, it is an overpriced, glorified dog toy. I couldn’t believe I was dropping nearly $20 on something I had to convince our beagle didn’t belong in her toy bin. But you know what? I would have spent five times as much on it. My son LOVES it. It was the first toy that consistently caught his attention, and it was the first toy he started to reach for. It is wonderful. It hardly left his hands when he was teething. It tags along with us almost everywhere. And, to be honest, there’s something so endearing about those sweet eyes and pretty spots. A++++

* Those stupid plastic keys. You know the type, I don’t even have to link to them. One of our friends got him these for Christmas and I’m pretty sure they’re his most-used Christmas toy, and they probably cost $2. He loves those damn things.
* Summer Infant SuperSeat. This thing is all sorts of awesome. Seriously, get one. It works a lot like one of those Bumbo thingamajigs but, in my opinion, has a better fit (at least for chunkier babies). I remember my sister’s kids couldn’t sit in theirs for long because the leg openings were so tight. This is much roomier. It can also be used as a booster seat when they get older. And, the best part, it has an activity center that attaches to it. We use this pretty much every day and my son loves it. We’re getting ready to step up into a larger activity center or Jumparoo, but this has been great for when they aren’t quite ready for it. It seemed to help G work on sitting up, and he could use his arms to support himself if he needed to. We lucked out and received this as a hand-me-down, and I’m so grateful for this one!
* Bouncy seat. I was surprised to like ours as much as I did, but it was great to have on hand. I don’t really use it anymore, but it was great when I needed to put him down while I did something (like empty the dishwasher or cook dinner) and was great so I could actually eat dinner. Well, with both hands and at the same time my husband did.

On-the-Go
* Skip Hop Versa diaper bag. I finally found my holy grail of diaper bags. I started off with a Coach diaper bag that I loved and it was very pretty. However, it was heavy and bulky and not very practical. I’ve only had the Skip Hop Versa for about a month, but it’s awesome! If you need to carry a ton of stuff it’s probably not for you, but even if I need to go somewhere for the day with our cloth diapers, it fits without being too hefty. It’s lightweight, the strap is easily adjustable, and it has wonderful options for pockets. I got the one in black, and like that it looks more “purse-ish” and doesn’t scream “I’m a diaper bag!” but is also very practical. Love.
* Pishposh Mommy Carryall. This thing is very cool. I used it until I got the Versa, but am definitely not getting rid of it. It’s great for moms who would prefer to carry their baby stuff in one of their big ol’ purses. It fits a lot and keeps everything very organized. Cool product!
* Car organizers. This one is VITAL to my sanity. I have an Eddie Bauer car organizer that hangs over the back of one of the front seats, as well as a small backpack, and these store some necessities/”in case of emergency” items. Most of the time, if I’m out and about with my son, my car is going to be nearby. It’s nice to have a spare diaper, wipes, outfit, shirt for myself (you never know when the projectile spit-up will attack), mei tai, hand sanitizer, etc. on hand. I don’t need to worry if I leave the house without a spare outfit or diaper, especially if I’m just running somewhere quick and don’t expect to have to change him. I also keep some toys in a bin to keep in the car:

Nursery Organization
* Cube storage units. You know the type. They are great for storing toys or whatever else you need. I like that you can hide the clutter of toys by using canvas bins, but you can also display other items in the cubbies, such as books or nicer looking toys. It’s a practical piece of furniture that, in my opinion, is also aesthetically pleasing. On the top, we keep a lamp, a fan, and some Kleenex and hand sanitizer.
* Munchkin Baby Care Cart. Okay, so this has horrible ratings on Target’s website. I didn’t have problems putting it together (though the wheels were hard to get on) and it works for me just fine. Is it a super high quality piece of furniture? Duh, no. But I put it in his closet and use it store his clothes (just for whatever size he’s currently in), blankets, sheets, Boppy covers, etc. I don’t roll it around the house or put anything heavy in it, so it’s perfect for what I use it for. I like the openness of it and how easy it is to reach in and grab what I need.

Breastfeeding
* Nursing tank tops. I use the Target ones and they have held up just fine. I wear these every single day. I tried a few different bras but couldn’t find one that fit well and was comfortable enough to wear all the time. I don’t even wear a bra most of the time, I just wear one of these. Then, I can just put whatever top I want to wear over it, and when I nurse I’m not baring my stomach or my whole chest. Helps me be able to not completely flash my dad or one of my husband’s friends when I nurse.
* Reusable nursing pads. I used disposable ones at first, but they get expensive and are sometimes a little bit icky. If you’re going with the disposables, I highly recommend the Lansinoh ones. The others I tried just didn’t absorb as much (especially in the beginning, when I felt like my breasts were geysers that belonged in a national park), and the cheaper ones left bits of fiber and ickies behind. Washable, reusable pads are very comfortable and you just pop them in the wash with your clothes. I recommend getting a few pairs of them, so you’re not left without on laundry day. My favorite? Megaroo’s Nursing Pads. They are made with cotton velour and backed with a layer of PUL (the waterproof material that you see in a lot of cloth diapers and covers). She also makes AMAZING extended tab prefolds that come in super cute patterns.
* Lansinoh lanolin nipple cream. I used this stuff a lot in the beginning, when my nipples were still getting used to breastfeeding (and he was nursing every half hour). I don’t use it anymore, but it was great to have around in the beginning. Another perk? It can be used to lanolize wool diaper covers.
* Boppy pillow. I know these get mixed reviews, but ours has been used every day since he’s been home with us. I initially used it for breastfeeding, and for extra support when I held him; there were days when the ONLY way he would nap was in my arms, so I needed the support. But it was also great for some tummy time, and he still likes to lounge around on it.

The Icky/TMI/Not Fun Things
* This is actually just a tip for anyone who is pregnant and reading this, and hasn’t experience a vaginal birth before. Stock up on menstrual pads. You might not realize how long you may have bleeding and discharge for, but it is yucky and not fun. Have a lot of them on hand. You don’t want to have to go to the store on your first day home alone with your baby just because you ran out of the ones you stole from the hospital. Make sure you get a peri bottle from the hospital to help you clean up when you get home. Also… get a big container of Tucks pads. They are made for hemorrhoids (which, hey, might be a fun bonus after your deliver!) but they can also be used on your tender lady bits; I would sometimes wipe with them, and would also lay them on the pads a few times a day. Oh! And I heard a wonderful tip from someone online. Buy yourself some witch hazel if you don’t already have some, soak some pads with it, and put them in the fridge or freezer. Witch hazel is the soothing ingredient in Tucks pads, so this will basically be a nice, giant Tucks pad that is extra soothing.
* Okay, so this one isn’t icky or TMI or not fun, but also stock up on quick, healthy snack to have on hand. Do this before the baby comes. It can be very difficult to eat when you are with a newborn 24/7, and there were times that I’d look at clock and go, “Oops, it is 3pm and I’ve only had a bowl of cereal today.” Get fruit, fiber bars, and other snacks that you can grab between meals. This is especially important if you are breastfeeding; you need to take care of yourself and consume enough calories (and stay hydrated with plenty of water!). My husband was only able to take a week and a half off of work before I was thrown into parenthood full-force, so this was essential since I no longer had him home with me all day, making sure I was eating and drinking.

One final bit of advice… you don’t need a ton of stuff. I know, I know, I’m sitting her telling you all the products that were so great for us. But there are a lot of things you can wait to buy. In the very beginning, your baby only wants and needs you. Every situation is different, and what works for one baby won’t work for another. What one mother loves another despises. We never used pacifiers or a swing, but I’m sure other mothers would rate those items at the very top of their lists. Get the essentials and the things you will want early on, and don’t stress if you haven’t picked out what spoons you’re going to use when you start feeding solids.

There you go. The items that helped us through our first six months. Now that G is working on the second half of his first year, I am already finding new products that we love and starting to pack up some of the old stuff. You may have noticed that I left one glaring product line out of this: our cloth diapers. I have waaaaay too much to say about that one, so stay tuned for the next part of this series where I will talk about cloth diapering a baby through the first half a year, and what I have learned.