Mic check; mic check….is this thing on? I first started writing this post when Pepper was 14 months old. And here we are, 10 months later, on the heels of her second birthday, finally getting around to finishing it.

{Sidenote – something is up with my website; pictures are missing, links are broken, I don’t even know. So please excuse any other part of this blog but the actual writing below. If I spend one more minute trying to make this look perfect; it wouldn’t happen.} I digress….

To all the moms who continue to blog and stay on top of their medias while also raising a child (or 3 or 10) – kudos to you! I see most of them posting about how much work they get done while baby naps. While my child naps, she’s either:

a) napping in my arms on the couch while I watch all things Bravo TV

b) napping in her stroller while I workout

c) napping in the car while it’s running; while I’m sitting inside said car, working on the computer because if I transfer her she will wake up and not continue to nap, but rather will want to stay awake and play.

People always say “being a mom is exhausting.” You know what I think is the most exhausting? All of the information out there telling you how to be a mom.

So many “rules”, so much advice, so many books….it’s all quite overwhelming. It reminds me a lot of the diet industry. Every guru and expert has their “magical plan” to give you the body (or child) of your dreams. Just follow these 4 easy steps and wah-lah – you have the “happiest baby (or most banging body) on the block.” But, what these plans and gurus don’t take into account is how different each body is; how different each child is, and how different each family is. Looking back, I guess I had good intentions on following books that were recommended to me. I mean, I bought them and started reading them, but sometime along the way I just decided to do what feels right for me and my child. I can’t remember the last time I picked up a baby book or looked on the internet for advice. Actually, I looked up something about toddler ear infections last week but aside from that…

I felt compelled to write this post for moms who are in similar seasons/situations as I was. I’m two years into the game, and while I am no expert at this; in fact I’m probably a great example of what all of the books say to not do; it feels good to just go with your gut sometimes; regardless of the standards or norms.

Sleep Training; Co-Sleeping; Bed-Sharing and More

When I originally started writing this post 10 months ago, we were still bed-sharing. My child never slept a full night in her beautiful, expensive, brass crib. When she was a newborn she slept in a bassinet next to our bed, but would often fall asleep on me after nursing in the middle of the night. Then it just became easier for us to all go to bed together at the same time in the same bed. She could wake up to roll over and nurse and go back to sleep; that was the way all three of us got the best sleep. Bed-sharing felt right for our family. When Pepper would snuggle up to me it felt so primal. And when she’d snuggle up to Rick and fall asleep on him it would melt my heart. Sure, there were nights when she was teething that Rick and I threatened to sleep train her, but we could never actually go through with it.

When Pepper was about 18 months old we decided to try this sleep training business people swear by. “It only takes 20-30 minutes” they say. “You have to commit to doing it at least 3 nights in a row” they say. “It gets easier as you do it” they say. Well, the first night Rick and I set a pack & play up in our room, closed the door, and planned to camp out on the couch until we heard the crying stop. 15 minutes passed. Then 20 minutes passed. (Hearing your child scream and cry is torture, by the way). Then 30 minutes. (My heart was ripping). Then 40 minutes. Then 45. Then the screaming and crying sounded less distant. Like it was actually getting closer to us. How and what in the world was going on? We ran into the bedroom to find Pepper standing outside of the pack & play screaming and crying – how, we have no clue. And that was our first and last night of this so-called sleep training.

A week later we put two crib mattresses together on the floor in our room and made a makeshift “big girl” bed for her. We explained to her that big girls sleep in their own bed. Every night we’d lie down beside her, say our prayers together, wait for her to fall asleep, and slide off her bed and into ours. This became our new normal. Most nights she’d sleep 4-5 hours in that bed and then she’d either walk over to our bed, poke me to wake up, and climb into bed with us or I’d scoop her up when she’d cry and bring her into bed with us.

Fast forward to this weekend, her second birthday – my stepdad made her an awesome, house-floor bed for her room (seen below). The last 3 nights she’s slept in her own room for at least 7 hours; the last few hours (the wee hours in the morning) we let her come sleep with us. So, all this to say with patience and time, she’s sleeping mostly in her own room without any formal sleep training.

Another thing on sleep training: Honestly, I didn’t have the time or desire to make myself be near a bed/crib/home during certain times of the day. I’ve got things to do, places to be, and people to see. I didn’t have the desire to follow a routine of bath, book, pat 3 times, sing 2 songs, say, do, and then ahhhh-sleep. What happens when you’re on vacation? Or on a different time schedule? Or heaven forbid want to stay out past your child’s bedtime? I needed my child to fall asleep anywhere, at anytime, and most importantly, to the sound of barbells banging and clanging in the background.

Breastfeeding, Bottle-feeding, Food Eating (or not Eating)

First of all, I’m not one of those die-hard, “breast is best” people. Yes, if you are able to breastfeed and it works for your family it is the best. But also, fed is best. Period. I breastfed Pepper until just recently; twenty-three months – which is 11 months longer than I expected to. But it was just easy and convenient and we just went with the flow; literally. People would tell me “just cut her off” and wean her after 12 months, but it never really felt right. A little over a month ago, I felt like it was time. I was over it, annoyed actually and knew it was time to wean and it went fine. There were a few tantrums but after two days or so she was over it and we were done. However, we are still using bottles and I know that’s a “no-no” at this age, but let’s be honest – it’s either those nipples or mine and remember, we’re done with mine. So that’s the next step – no more bottles.

Onto the food debacle – Ugh, I had great intentions. Kinda. I mean, I had fantasies about making my own baby food and being all granola-mom and then I came to the realization real quick that momma ain’t got time for dat. Plus, my child hardly eats. Why would I make all that food to be thrown away (or thrown all over the car)? I see moms posting pictures and videos of their child of a similar age or younger eating legit meals, like a protein, a veggie, and a starch and I’m over here enticing mine to just eat one grain of rice. Ha. But really, I don’t make food a big deal at our house. She eats when she’s hungry and doesn’t when she’s not. If we’re eating dinner and Pepper has no interest in eating; I don’t force it. Some days she eats amazing and some days she eats like a bird all day and has like 5 dark chocolate chips for dinner. At this point calories are calories and as long as she’s eating something I’m not going to argue.

“The second one is going to be different. I’m going to do things differently the next time.”

I’ve heard new moms say this and I’ve said it myself as well. But when I really think about it, I don’t know if I would change things or do things differently with a second child. Rick and I often talk about the sweet moments we’ve had with Pepper before bedtime. All three of us lying in bed together, talking, snuggling, saying our prayers and being silly together. Those are moments I’d never trade or take back for a few more hours of sleep. Hell, I’m 34 years old and I still like to take naps with my mom when I get the chance. Would I stop breastfeeding at 12 months the next time? I don’t know. Will I be more structured or force my child to nap in the crib, or do things differently next time? Maybe, but probably not. I guess it depends on the child. Much like my approach to diet/eating; parenting has been pretty similar: we’re just going with the flow – taking it day by day. No pressure, no hard and fast rules; adjusting as you go, no pressure, and lots of grace day after day.

To all my mom friends who have given me advice over the last two years (whether I’ve taken it or not) thank you. You’re not off-duty until I have an 18 year old, and then I’m sure I’ll still be texting you.

Until next time; which hopefully it’s another year from now; thanks for reading!