In-Laws for the holidays

Dear Is This Normal,

This is my first holiday with a baby and we’re planning to spend the week with my husband’s family at their house. I am incredibly stressed with the situation – they always seem to give me a hard time about being ‘overbearing’ or too fussy with the baby. I’m too rigid with sleep schedules, feedings etc. in their eyes and I’m feeling extremely anxious to be in their presence all week without being judged and called out for trying to parent my way. Any tips for how to handle? I really don’t want to create drama over the holidays and get into a fight with them, but I’m already gearing up for feeling ostracized.

Scrooge Daughter-in-Law

Dear Scrooge,

Ah, the holidays! A time for families to gather and spend time together, and bond with the newest member of the clan. What joy, what fun! Or … not. Listen, babies do weird things to people, and navigating the holidays with a new baby is difficult terrain, to say the least. The audacity of some people, to question a new mother or father on how they’re parenting their brand new baby, seems to reach EPIC levels during the holidays. Maybe because you’re seeing a lot of people you don’t normally see very often, but also because some people just don’t have the good graces or manners to mind their own damn business. I feel you, Scrooge, I really do. 

I get that you want to do what you can to keep the peace and not make a tough situation tougher. But it’s also important, MOST important, that you feel comfortable being the mom that you are, and are able to parent your new baby in the way that works best for your family. Do you want to piss people off? No, of course not. Do you want to compromise who you are as a parent, put your baby through undo stress, or be forced into situations that make you uncomfortable? No way, no how. 

This is going to require a united front between you and your husband, and it’s going to require setting some boundaries before you head to your in-laws’ home for the holidays. I’m sure they’re expecting a week of anything goes with their grandbaby, and while that plays well in theory, it’s just not the reality for an infant. Unless grandma and grandpa want a week of screaming ANGRY BABY, they should want structured naptimes & feedings, too! Communicate with your in-laws before the trip that while you respect their views and appreciate their advice and help (after all, they’ve done this before), neither you nor your husband will tolerate your parenting choices being judged because they don’t align with your in-laws’ expectations. Expect some hurt feelings (but don’t feel guilty over them). As you’ll soon discover MANY MANY TIMES on this parenting trip, someone else’s hurt feelings are not your responsibility when it comes to doing what’s best for YOUR baby. 

Now, I’m not suggesting that you be a complete hard-ass on the trip and try to rule them like a drill sergeant. As important as it is to set your own boundaries, it’s also important to give in a little, when and where you’re comfortable doing so. This is their grandbaby! You want to give them as many opportunities as possible to be doting and helpful grandparents (key word being HELPFUL). There are plenty of ways you can do that! Rather than you or your husband always being the one to hold or rock the baby, hand them off to your in-laws and give your arms a rest. When it’s time for a nap or bedtime, ask your MIL to help get the room ready. Make her part of the Team Sleep – let her know what baby’s optimal sleep sitch is, and put her in charge of preparing the environment. And if you notice little things they do that aren’t exactly what you’d do, but aren’t derailing your own parenting goals or style in anyway, be like Elsa and let that ish goooooooo. You can absolutely maintain your own boundaries and set your own expectations without being nitpicky about stuff that doesn’t matter in the long run. 

Best of luck to you this holiday season, Scrooge! It isn’t easy to balance being a new parent with wanting to keep everyone happy, but remember, that isn’t your job. Your in-laws will get on board, or they’ll be missing out on some bonding time with you, their son, and their new grandbaby. Put the ball in their court before you get there, and keep doing what’s best for your family.

Bah Humbug,

Is This Normal

Help! My Toddler Is So Picky

Dear Is This Normal,

I’m dealing with a 100% full blown picky toddler who refuses to touch anything green and would rather go hungry than eat anything “healthy.” I try to draw a hard line, but when my kid tells me they’re hungry during bed time, it breaks my heart. How do I find a balance of giving my child healthy options while also making sure they eat enough? What’s the balance? How do I make this work without feeling guilty on both sides of this issue?

Signed, 

Healthy Soldier

Dear Healthy Soldier,

Every single parent of a toddler just nodded their head in agreement as they read your dilemma. Toddlers are awesome little humans, but reasonable and adaptable? Not so much! This is all so incredibly (and frustratingly) normal, I can’t even tell you.

Don’t fret, mama! Sometimes, all it takes is a change in the way you present food to them and giving them a bit more control over the situation. When all else fails, you go full Trickster Mom and start hiding veggies in the foods they love until they come around. Pediatrician Dr. Alison Mitzner is here to offer some specific support and advice for getting your toddler to expand their palate, and hopefully give you some peace of mind.

First of all, you are fighting the good fight. Don’t feel guilty. Toddlers can be very picky! If they are healthy, growing appropriately, and energetic, they are most likely getting all they need right now.

But, introducing healthy options into the meals your toddler eats is so important in the long run. And there’s a couple of ways you can do so.

It may help to get your toddler more involved in the food you prepare. Take them to the grocery store with you, show them healthy options, and let them choose what to buy and what they want to eat at home for meals and snacks.

At home, have them choose between the two healthy food options they picked out at the store. This makes them feel more in control over what they’re eating (and more likely to eat it!). Also you can have them help prepare the meal. Children are more likely to eat foods they helped prepare.  At meal times, make sure to serve everyone the same thing. You want them to stick to the healthy meal that is made.

Model good eating habits. We are our kids biggest role models, and if they see you trying, eating and loving healthier food options, they’ll be more likely to eat them too.

Pay close attention to how you portion and serve meals to your toddler; kids are often hungriest at the start of the meal, so this is also the best time to have them try a new veggie or food.

If you’re running into a wall with these other tips, it might be time to get creative. Lots of parents resort to mixing in veggies into foods their kids love (like carrots in macaroni and cheese, cauliflower in tater tots, and even broccoli or spinach in sweet smoothies).  Often times they love it and never know they just ate a full serving of good, healthy veggies! 

If you have any concerns about your child’s diet, always discuss them with your pediatrician. Your pediatrician sees you and your child frequently in the first years of life, and can and should discuss their diet and nutrition to ensure your child is growing appropriately and getting what they need.

Remember, the most important thing to do is keep introducing new foods, in small amounts, one at a time, into your child’s diet. Even if they don’t like it the first time, keep trying. Don’t get discouraged by their refusal to eat something new—it may take several attempts, but knowing you’re feeding them good, nourishing food is so, so worth it.

Good luck out there,

Dr. Alison Mitzner

Dr. Alison Mitzner is a single mom, a board-certified pediatrician, a writer, a fitness expert, a Sr. Director at a major pharmaceutical company, and a passionate supporter of moms feeling calm, confident, and healthy. Her health and wellness articles have been featured in the The Huffington Post, Today, Shape, Parents, Reader’s Digest, Aaptiv, Self and more. Dr. Mitzner’s mission is to help moms of all types with real, science-backed advice and parenting tips — so they can feel great, parent with confidence, and get back to their most important job… being a mom!

www.dralisonmitzner.com

Still Recovering?

Dear Is This Normal,

My baby is almost 11 months and I feel like I should be back in the swing of things with my fitness/diet. Instead, I haven’t lost the baby weight and I’m a completely different person. I’m lethargic all the time, I feel utterly exhausted and I have no motivation to start working out again. Is This Normal? How do I break this and get going again?

Sincerely,

Still Recovering

Mama, there is no hard and fast rule about when you should feel up to doing anything after the birth of your baby. We have this idea that women should (there’s that annoying word again) bounce right back after pregnancy and childbirth without missing a beat.

But in reality, we are all different humans and will do things at our own pace and within our own limits of comfort and ability.. If you’re ready to start getting back to feeling a bit like your pre-baby self, that’s amazing. But it’s also OK to take the time you need to adjust to this new season of life. For some tips on how to ease back into exercising, , we have board-certified pediatrician and fitness expert Dr. Alison Mitzner to help get you started off on the right foot.

Dear Still Recovering,

Dear Still Recovering,

First, it’s important to be clear on expectations and misconceptions. Getting back into shape doesn’t happen overnight, like you see often with celebrities. It’s true that you can lose about half the weight quickly in the first month or two, but the remainder can take months or even a year or so! It took your entire pregnancy to put on the weight. Losing it the right way takes time, too.

Getting started with exercise and a fitness routine is often the hardest part for new (and overwhelmed) parents. There’s a lot to factor in. When you have a child, you expend a lot of your energy caring for your baby, often with little sleep. If you’re nursing, you have to consider your milk supply, which also takes a lot of energy to produce. Of course you’re feeling tired! 

Though it seems counterintuitive, small amounts of exercise, even 15-20 minutes at a time, can really help. Walk around the block with the stroller or do a workout video in your living room while the baby naps. Just start moving! Physical activity can be super beneficial, even when you’re tired, since it gets those endorphins and blood flowing and can give you the boost of energy you need. Besides the obvious physical benefits, exercise can also do wonders for your mental and emotional state and lift your mood when you’re having a particularly rough time.

Try to find a support group or group of moms working toward the same goals. Your tribe can help you get and stay motivated, and accountability goes a long way! Consider downloading one of the many apps that can help track steps while walking with your baby. The accountability often makes it easier to set—and stick to—your goals. After a while, you’ll probably find that the way you feel after exercising is all the motivation you need to continue.

When building a routine, make sure you’re paying attention to your eating and sleeping habits, too. Drink plenty of water, and take a look at what you’re putting in your body every day (a food diary is a great way to track what you’re eating if you don’t follow a specific meal or food plan). Good nutrition is key to feeling your best!

Sleep is the last part of the equation, but I know it’s easier said than done with a little one. Nap if you can and if needed. Lack of sleep can actually lead to overeating due to changes in your hunger hormones. If sleep has been an issue for you, you may find that by adding exercise into your routine and tweaking your diet, you actually end up getting more quality sleep!

Good luck mama,

Dr. Alison Mitzner

Dr. Alison Mitzner is a single mom, board-certified pediatrician, writer, fitness expert, Sr. Director at a major pharmaceutical company, and passionate supporter of moms feeling calm, confident, and healthy. Her health and wellness articles have been featured in the The Huffington Post, Today, Shape, Fit Pregnancy, Parents, Reader’s Digest, and more. Dr. Mitzner’s mission is to help moms of all types with real, science-backed advice and parenting tips — so they can feel great, parent with confidence, and get back to their most important job… being a mom!

www.dralisonmitzner.com

I Have Separation Anxiety Being Away From My Kids

Hi Is This Normal,

I have such a hard time being away from my boys, age 1 and 4. Even leaving them for a couple hours makes me feel super anxious and like I’m doing something wrong. Is this normal? How do I manage my anxiety about being away from my boys? 

From,

Always Home, Never Alone

Dear Always Home, Never Alone,

Awwww mama, I feel you on this, and so many parents reading this can relate. We hear a lot about mother child separation anxiety from our child’s perspective. But you know what? Moms feel it too! We’ve spent the vast majority of our time caring for our kids. We nurture them and see to their basic needs by wiping their tears and fixing their boo-boos. So much of our lives—and our identities—can get wrapped up in being their mom. So yes, it’s totally normal to feel some measure of anxiety and guilt when you’re away from them, even if it’s just a couple of hours. 

You know what the experts say about helping your child manage separation anxiety? Assure them they’re safe and secure, make sure they know you’re coming back, and make a quick exit. A lot of that can be applied when it comes to managing your own mother child separation anxiety, too. You’re leaving your child, but you’re not leaving your child, you know? You’re going to be back shortly, they are going to be well-taken care of in your absence, and will most likely have fun with their caretaker while you’re away. 

I think it might help for you to stop trying to NOT feel anxious when you’re away from your boys. It’s not a switch you can turn off!  It’s completely normal (and a sign of a strong maternal bond) to feel not quite right when you’re not with your kids. It’s not always going to feel comfortable, especially at these young ages. But there’s a difference between acknowledging those feelings and beating yourself up over them. Guilt is a common emotion for moms—but it’s not useful or helpful. 

It also may help to prepare a bit more for when you have to leave. Try coming up with a fun good-bye routine to go through with your kiddos. A song to sing with them, a special book to read, even a secret handshake or hug. Then establish a check-in schedule with the caretaker while you’re out; for every hour you’re away, they can send a picture or quick text to let you know the boys are happy and having a good time. 

Try to keep from constantly checking in or worrying about how they’re doing. Your babies are with someone who loves them, and they are just fine.  When you come home, they’ll be thrilled to see you! It will definitely get easier as your boys get older, but these early years are hard on our mama hearts. 

Home is Where the Heart Will Always Be,

Is This Normal

My Kid’s Dandruff & Eczema Makes Me Gag

Hi Is This Normal,

My kid has dandruff/eczema and makes me gag. What happened to their baby soft skin?! I want to be able to nuzzle my baby, but honestly the thought of rubbing my nose on their flaky head and face is enough to make me shudder. Help!

Squeamish Mama

 

Dear Squeamish Mama, 

It would be super great if, while well-meaning friends and loved ones prepared us for having a baby, they also took some time to talk about alllllllll the ways that babies and toddlers and kids would gross us out. Because—look there’s no good way to put this—kids can be suuuuper gross. 

 

I remember the first time I caught a whiff of the neck cheese (!) fermenting in the folds of my sweet baby’s neck. It took all my self control not to hurl right then and there! I didn’t know we were supposed to be wiping those folds several times a day. I was so naive! I hate to say it, but neck cheese is just the beginning. It’s a whole lifetime of gross stuff. I mean, have you heard of teenagers? You can smell them a mile away.  

 

We imagine babies to be these perfect, pristine little beings. But in reality, they’re people, just like us. And unfortunately, eczema is very common! I promise, your baby is not the only baby shedding their skin like a snake. If you notice your baby is a bit more flaky than usual, it’s always a good idea to have your pediatrician take a look. But when you hear the word “ECZEMA” don’t panic. It’s gross, but there are some things you can do to help manage it.

 

The tricky thing is, while there are plenty of treatments for eczema in kids, it can take some trial and error to find the one that works best for YOUR kid. This is especially important when it comes to baby eczema, since treatments that work on adults might not be safe for your baby depending on their age. But there are natural remedies for babies that are definitely worth a shot! Here are a few of our favorites: 

 

  • Honey! Honey is a humectant, which basically means that  it attracts and traps moisture to the skin. Lots of parents swear by manuka honey for its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties! 

 

  • Coconut oil, which can moisturize and prevent inflammation in your little one’s irritated skin. Moisture helps speed up healing!  Make sure to get unrefined coconut oil which contains lauric acid, a type of fat found in mother’s breast milk. 

 

  • Chamomile is another natural remedy for eczema in children that can promote healing. Chamomile has polyphenols and flavonoids, two great antioxidants which preserve and heal damaged cells! 

 

Apply these after a brief bath (long baths inflame itching), but make sure to first pat your baby dry without scrubbing. After applying the above topicals on the affected areas, make sure to choose loose and comfy clothing for your baby so there’s no further irritation to the skin. Remember: stay away from scented soaps, scented lotions, and too-hot water like they’re the plague.

 

Treating your child’s eczema is important, but preventative care is really where it’s at. You can do a few things, like identifying and eliminating the environmental factors that seem to trigger the condition (if you have a family history of allergies, start with familial triggers), but for the most part avoid over-bathing your child. 

 

Babies and kids are very cute but also very gross. I hate to say it mama, but this is just the beginning. You’ll get through this! Even if you gag in the process. 

 

Grossed-Out Moms Unite!

 

Is This Normal

 

My Baby Isn’t Walking Just Yet

Hi Is This Normal,

Is it normal that I worry so much about my baby meeting all the CDC milestones? Is it me or are all the other kids super advanced? Why does my neighbor’s son walk at 8months but my daughter will not even crawl yet?

Dear Milestone Marker,

It’s TOTALLY normal to compare your kid’s milestone markers to other babies. We track them on a universal scale, so of course we look to other kids to see how ours are matching up! And yes, it’s 100% normal to worry that your baby isn’t doing all the same stuff on the same timeline as her baby peers. We compare ourselves to others in so many aspects of our lives – career, appearance, finances. The thing is, comparing your baby to someone else’s baby is like comparing apples to sushi. No two babies are alike – not even identical twins! This was never more evident to me than when I had my second daughter. I remember thinking, “Two girls, cool! I’ve done this before, second time around is going to be caaaaaake.” And my children literally could not have been more different if they’d tried. It was like I’d gone back to Parenting 101, except I was cockier so the failures and letdowns stung just a bit more. Every time the baby did something later than her sister, I worried about her. Every time she did something earlier, I worried about her sister! Our pediatrician had to sit me down and tell me to stop worrying, because despite being born of the same parents and nurtured in the same household, my kids were their own separate beings, independent of one another. They’re 9 and 5 now, and I’m still learning this lesson, tbh.

Now, I’m going to level with you: not all those other kids are super advanced. I’d wager a guess that most of them are just totally normal, developing babies. Because guess what? Parents don’t brag about the normal, ordinary stuff their kids do. That’s not going to win them any accolades at Tiny Gym. They brag about the one-off stuff, the seemingly extraordinary stuff that they can use to set their kids apart from the herd. And you know what else? They also exaggerate about milestones … a lot. An excited, first-time mom can jump the gun and hear “MAMA” when really, all her 5-month-old was was trying to do was poop. You really have to take every brag and boast from parents with a grain of salt, just keep that in mind.

But you may have very valid concerns about your little one’s developments, and I don’t want to downplay that at all! There’s nothing worse than having a genuine concern dismissed. If you need some reassurance, schedule a sit down with your pediatrician. The CDC milestone guidelines are just that: guidelines. They are not requirements, and they are not set in stone. Some kids sit up before they roll over. Others walk without crawling first. Every baby is different! I know it’s worrisome, but unless your pediatrician seems worried, I want to gently encourage you to not focus so much on the guidelines or what other babies are doing before yours. She’s working on her own timeline, which is exactly right for her. And don’t worry that your 8-month-old isn’t walking, trust me. Once they start doing that, it’s a whole new (and incredibly stressful and exhausting) ballgame.

Doing Things On Her Own Time and That’s Just Fine,

Is This Normal

How do you not resent the sh*t out of breastfeeding moms?

Hi Is This Normal,

How do you not resent the shit out of breastfeeding moms? I’ve tried everything! I’ve tried pumping directly after feeding, pumping in between feedings, supplements, lactation bars, food to ‘increase supply’ that dont do shit. I lost my appetite after having her and since then my husband was in a car wreck and broke his leg when the lady hit him. Also our dog has a bleeding tumor on his asshole. There’s just so much going on I really can’t remember to eat or drink…then the very little supply I have tanks even more. I’m only 3 months pp but I just decided yesterday to give up. Now everytime I see about someone complaining about their supply dropping from 9oz to 6 I wanna scream at them. At least they can pump more than a half ounce. I just get so angry and jealous. Fed is best, everyone’s journey is different. I. Get. That. But God damnit…how do you let it go?

No More Breastfeeding.

 

Dear No More Breastfeeding,

Oh mama. You’ve been through A LOT. And you’re just coming out of your fourth trimester! Honestly, we need to start considering the first few months after you have a baby part of the pregnancy and childbirth process as a whole. Because the physical and emotional stuff we go through in those months is BRUTAL. You’re dealing with recovering from childbirth, a new baby, an injured husband, and a sick fur baby. I’m actually blown away that you stuck it out as long as you did, because if I were you I would have thrown in the towel a long time ago. So much respect and admiration for you – you are a badass.

Breastfeeding can feel sort of like a cruel joke, right? Like, here’s this thing that we’re told we NEED to do, it’s what moms do, it’s what our babies need. But hey, you know what? We’re going to make this VERY IMPORTANT THING so incredibly difficult! Makes sense. It doesn’t work for a lot of moms. Some boobs are, as it turns out, merely for decoration. It sounds like you’ve done everything you could think to do to make this breastfeeding thing work, and it didn’t. The fact that you were able to recognize that this wasn’t in the cards and stop putting yourself through a whole lot of misery is actually awesome. You know what’s more important than breastfeeding your baby? YOU! Your mental and physical health! Your babe is going to be just fine, and they are going to be fed, and at the end of the day that is all that matters.

I understand the resentment, and you know what? Totally normal. Here’s this thing you wanted to do, tried so hard to do, and some women are able to do it without any effort whatsoever. That’s infuriating! It’s not fair that it comes easy to some and not at all to others. The same can be said about so many aspects of conception, pregnancy, childbirth. It can feel massively unfair that this natural thing isn’t exactly natural (or easy) for everyone who’s “supposed” to be able to do it. It can be hard not to compare ourselves to other moms, but when we do that we always, ALWAYS come up short. That mom lost all her baby weight. That mom had a completely drug-free delivery at home with a doula and didn’t even tear. That mom over there? She breastfed twins and still had enough milk to be able to pump and donate to milk banks. But what we don’t see are their struggles. There’s more to every story.

You need time to mourn the end of your breastfeeding journey, because it does feel like a loss. Give yourself time! You just changed courses, and while the course you’re on is perfect and best for you and your family, the change still stings. Pretty soon, it won’t bother you to see other moms share about their breastfeeding. You’ll see someone complain about pumping and instead of being jealous, you’ll be relieved that you don’t have to hear that stupid pump 8 times a day. Be gentle with yourself right now, and take the time to say goodbye to something you tried incredibly hard to do. What you’re feeling right now is totally normal, but it won’t feel like this forever.

Focus On How Green Your Grass Is,

Is This Normal





Why does my baby sleep less than 3 hours?

Hi Is This Normal,

My 8.5 month old daughter can’t sleep & won’t sleep on her own for more than 1.5 hours. This includes both nap time and at night. Pediatrician isn’t concerned because she is gaining weight. Is this normal? She whimpers or jolts and wakes up constantly. She had stomach problems and on/off colds ever since she was born. Is it the growing pains, was it the snot, or can I just blame teething? (no tooth yet just a lot of drool) She constantly has to be held or rocked or given more milk. We don’t have enough rooms in the our home so she sleeps in the living room with me or my husband. We also have a toddler in the house (we sleep trained her and she’s fine). Is it normal and okay for my daughter to not sleep longer stretches on her own? At first I just wanted to sleep but now I am getting worried for her…

Less than 3 hours.

 

Less Than 3 Hours,

Here’s the cold, hard truth: nothing about how babies sleep is normal. I mean, it’s normal in the sense that this is just what babies do! But normal by any other sense of the word? LOL, absolutely not. “Sleep like a baby” is such a misnomer it’s actually funny. If we all slept like babies, the world would be filled with adults walking around like zombies because no one can function on 2 hours of sleep at a time. Well, no one except babies, anyway. Basically we don’t sleep at all for the first couple of years of our baby’s life, so that’s cool. That’s fine. EVERYTHING IS FINE.

It sounds like you are smack-dab in the middle of the dreaded 8-Month Sleep Regression, and I am sending you all of my sympathies from across the internet, mama. Newborns are awesome because they actually sleep A LOT. But then the sleep regressions hit, and they just keep on comin’. There are a few big ones: 4 months, 8-10 months, 12 months, 18 months, and 2 years. Each regression brings with it a new set of joys for us to deal with. Have a 4-5 month old at home? Guess what – your baby doesn’t enter deep sleep right away anymore, so expect frequent wake-ups and restlessness. The average sleep cycle for a 4-5 month old is 45-50 minutes. THAT’S IT. Damn regressions, I shake my fist at thee!

At your little one’s age, she’s going through some MAJOR developments and learning a ton. Some of it we can see, like them learning to scoot or crawl or self-feed. Other stuff happens behind the scenes. She’s absorbing so much language and beginning to categorize all this knowledge and information she’s picking up every single day. The result? Major brain overload. Her brain is firing on all cylinders right now, and that can wreak havoc on her sleep patterns (and yours). You know how it feels when you have a big presentation or important day coming up, and you just can’t shut your brain off long enough to go to sleep? It’s like that, but all the time.

Babies at this age are discovering the world around them. Ever notice how they can stare at their hands for 20 minutes? They’re just now discovering hands are awesome. They’re rolling over and learning how to use their bodies and limbs. Add to the chaos the teething thing and we’re full-blown Sleepless in Seattle (or wherever you are). Babies teeth constantly for the first two years of their lives. If they could be born with a full set of teeth and an operating sleep system, that would be freaking ACES.

We all want a quick fix, and if there was a quick fix for this, I’d be rich and parents would erect a statue in my honor. Unfortunately, like so many other developmental stages in a baby’s life, we just have to tough this one out. If she’s otherwise fine during the day, and (as your pediatrician mentioned) gaining weight and hitting her milestones, you’ve just got to be patient as she works her way through this regression. You might not be able to “fix” her sleep issues right now, but you can support her through all these changes. If nighttime is the problem but she’s napping well, or vice versa, she’s filling in her sleep gaps. Come up with a calming nighttime routine that works for your family, and stick to it consistently. Keep her nap times quiet and free of distraction, as more sleep deprivation will only exacerbate the issue.

But most importantly, remember that this is only a phase, and you’ll get through it soon. Really. I promise! And that’ll be just in time for the 12 month regression to hit! 😉 I think we get to sleep when they’re in college. At least, that’s what I’ve been hanging my hat on all these years.

Waiting for the ZZZZ’s,

Is This Normal

Help. Sex Hurts.

Hi Is This Normal,

I thought having sex after delivering my baby would be awkward. Maybe a little gross. Maybe a  little uncomfortable for me, something new to figure out. Never did I think sex would cause me such pain. Excruciating – do-not-touch-me – horrible, horrible pain. I feel tight, raw, swollen and damaged. It’s been plenty of time since I had my child, and nothing has changed.

What do I do? How can I fix this?

Sex Hurts

 

Dear Sex Hurts,

This is one of those things we just don’t talk about enough, isn’t it? We talk a lot about sex to make the baby (never in my life have I known more about another woman’s basal temp and sex schedule then when my friends were TTC). We talk about sex during pregnancy. We talk about all the gory glory that the joys of postpartum bring, including that second “first time”. But once that 6-8 week mark comes and goes, the sex thing sort of fades away. We don’t check in on our postpartum friends to ask about how the sexy time is going. We don’t trade stories about how we’re managing to get busy with leaking boobs. Clearly, there are things to talk about here!

OK, so first things first: I’m going to assume you’re more than 6-8 weeks out from delivery, and were given the all-clear by your doc to get have sex. You mentioned some expectations you had for that first sex sesh after baby, and in my experience, those all sound pretty normal? But we’re not talking about it being awkward or slightly uncomfortable. You’re talking about pain. Real, excruciating pain, and THAT isn’t normal. Sex shouldn’t be excruciatingly painful, regardless of whether or not you’re recovering from childbirth. When sex hurts that bad, it’s usually an indication that something is wrong. According to Dr. Jen Gunter, board certified gynecologist and pain medicine physician, there are a few common causes of painful sex after you’ve had a baby.

First, let’s talk about our friend estrogen. Breastfeeding can cause estrogen levels in the vagina to drop, leading to dryness and pain. Think of estrogen like WD40 for your vagina – it keeps things nice and lubricated! When you breastfeed, your estrogen levels can be depleted, making sex very painful. For a lot of women who experience this, all the lube in the world may not be enough. A small amount of vaginal estrogen cream can help increase the levels until your periods have returned to normal. But check in with your gyno and ask her about this.

Second, if you had an episiotomy or tore during your delivery and required stitches, there could be an issue with how your scar is healing. TMI alert: my stitches after my second didn’t heal quite … right, and I had moderate pain and discomfort for two years after she was born until I finally asked my doctor to fix it! You didn’t mention when the sex is most painful, but if you’re having a particularly hard time with penetration, you may want your doc to take a look at your nethers to see how they’re healing. My own doctor likened stitching someone up after childbirth to trying to stitch together wet paper towels, which is absolutely horrifying to imagine but makes SO MUCH SENSE.

Finally, the muscles in your pelvic floor could be spasming. Those super important muscles can become too tight after childbirth, and can lead to very painful sex. Dr. Gunter says the feeling is often described by women and their partners as “hitting a painful wall” during penetration. But the good news is pelvic floor physical therapy is highly effective at getting those muscles to relax!

The bottom line is, painful sex (at any time!) isn’t normal, and you shouldn’t have to just deal with it. There’s likely a very real reason you’re experiencing so much pain during sex, and your doctor should be able to help you figure out what the problem is and get you back on the horse, so to speak. If your doctor doesn’t seem particularly concerned, then I would suggest getting a second opinion. Painful sex may not be life-threatening, but it can definitely affect your quality of life, and that’s just as important.

To Less Bow-Chicka-Bow-OW and More WOW,

Is This Normal

Just an average kid.

Hi Is This Normal?

My husband and I are both extremely motivated, successful and talented. I was an accomplished athlete growing up, my husband quickly picked up on languages and is fluent in several today –  we both, according to our parents, were “something special” right from the start.

Our son, and I feel terrible for saying it, doesn’t seem to have it. Or at least I’m scared that this might be the case. He doesn’t seem remotely interested in activities – painting, kicking a ball a round, etc. – yet doctors and our daycare assures us he is completely healthy.  He does like to play with his classmates and he’s a good eater  and sleeper – but we can’t help but wish he was something more. How ungrateful are we?! We have plenty of friends dealing with real problems, but this continues to keep me up at night. Is it normal to feel bummed I may have an average kid?

He’s Not Exactly Einstein

 

Dear He’s Not Exactly Einstein,

You know, I truly believe that one of the hardest things for parents to reconcile is that their kids are not just mini versions of themselves. Sure, genetics guarantees that our kids will have little pieces of us, from physical traits to personality quirks. But even though they’re made up of a little from column A and a little from column B, column C is pretty much a crapshoot! And it isn’t super fair, when you think about it (though I praise the higher powers that my tween didn’t get my cheeky attitude). I mean, we literally MADE them. We should get some say in who/how/what they are, right? Just, here you go, here’s your LIFE, it’s anybody’s guess from here on out! So rude.

But the fact of the matter is, you didn’t give birth to a mini version of yourself, or your husband, or even some hybrid of all the best parts of the both of you. You gave birth to your son – a wholly independent being, with his own genetic code and his own personality, and eventually, his own interests and strengths and weaknesses. He’s not you and he’s not your husband, and at some point you’ve got to let go of the expectation that he will be. Right now, you don’t know WHO he will be! You don’t mention how old he is, but it sounds like 3-5ish? He’s a little boy who eats well and sleeps well and likes to play with his classmates. He probably likes things other kids like, and has interests that are completely normal for a kid for his age. He sounds like a perfectly normal, healthy, developing kiddo. That’s amazing, and you and your husband are doing everything right! Seriously, pat yourselves on the back, because you are nailing this parenting thing in all the big ways.

I don’t think you’re ungrateful. I think you’re putting a lot of pressure on yourselves to live up to some set of standards you’ve convinced yourselves is ideal. And I absolutely, 100% get that and relate to that, as most parents can. We put an immense amount of pressure on ourselves every single day. This raising humans thing is no joke! But the standards for success we set for ourselves cannot be the same standards we expect our kids to achieve. That’s unfair, to them and to us. Kids should be happy. They should be healthy. They should have fun and feel safe and secure within their homes and their lives. Kids should be able to take risks and succeed and fail. They should be able to try as many new things as possible, to find the things that THEY love and enjoy. You say that you’re afraid your son “doesn’t seem to have it”. But there’s no way to know what he does or doesn’t have right now. We ALL have our things, the things that make us special and unique. Your son has it, too. He has a thing. HIS thing, that makes him extraordinary. And he has so many years to find it and nurture it and develop into the wonderful, special person he’s meant to be. Plus, who would have thought that a successful career could be a feed of selfies and witty-ish comments. YOU JUST DON’T KNOW WHAT THIS WORLD NEEDS. 

I may be totally off the mark here, but it sounds to me like you’re less concerned that he’s an average kid, and more concerned that you and your husband will be seen as “average” parents. But here’s the thing: if your son is happy and healthy and kind and compassionate, then you know what? He has EXTRAORDINARY parents. Let your son be who he’s going to be – there’s a little bit of nature and nurture, and you need to let that balance set in. Love him, support him, encourage him, and challenge him as he gets older. Stop focusing on all the things he ISN’T, and celebrate who he IS. We don’t get to decide who our kids grow up to be; we just get the immense pleasure of helping them along in their journey.

Average and Loving It,

Is This Normal