I am so excited to be featuring my first ever “Mommy of the Week” post today. I have been writing about my life as a new mom and sharing all of my personal learning curves, but I never thought of tapping into the wisdom of others, and sharing it with my readers, until I formulated this new feature. I hope that you enjoy this first of many Featured Mommies on the Sweet and Simple Life blog.
I met Chloe on a popular pregnancy forum when I found out that I was pregnant. We were due around the same time, and I was instantly impressed by the fact that she was “Team Green,” meaning that she didn’t want to know the sex of her baby until the baby was born. I found that idea to be so adventurous and bold, and came to learn that Chloe is all of this and more. She became my friend and confidant through months of pregnancy joys and struggles. Although she was always modest and kind, she was also well-rounded and outspoken when necessary; a beautiful artist, a college graduate, and a loyal spouse.
Chloe was 21 years old and only 31 weeks pregnant when her baby decided that it was time to make his grand entrance into this world, a sweet BOY and amazing little preemie that she named Arlo. This strong little man was born 9 weeks early and weighed 4 pounds. While the rest of us preggo chickadees in the group were chatting about early third-trimester woes, Chloe was enduring an unthinkable experience as a young new mom in the NICU. Throughout her experience, she remained composed, gracious, and thoughtful of others, and she spent her days and nights pumping breast milk for her sweet baby boy. She is one amazing mama, and I’ve been wanting to ask her so many things about her story.
I’m so pleased she has agreed to share her story with us here today. If you have any additional questions for Chloe, just ask her in the comments below:
- What was the first thing you thought when you found out you were pregnant?
When I saw the little plus sign on that pregnancy test, I think at first my mind went blank. A happy blank, but blank. My next thought was more than likely, “Well, that explains my sobbing for 20 minutes at About Time the other night.” I’d been having odd symptoms for a while – like the sobbing, but also the migraines and periodic nausea. All in all, I was overwhelmingly happy. I was ecstatic. I told myself I’d wait until his daddy woke up and tell him in some way that was all cutesy. Instead I went straight upstairs and poked at him until he seemed conscious enough to tell. My whisper of “I’m pregnant!” was met with an endearing, sleepy “Says who?”
- What was one of your main parenting goals before Arlo arrived and what is your main parenting goal now?
This is one thing I can say never changed. My main parenting goal was, is and I assume will always be this: raise a happy, cultured, well-informed kid. Sure, there are other goals; don’t co-sleep, breastfeed, insure he never owns a Creed album. Some of those goals fell by the wayside (let’s just say my baby and I shared a bed or couch every sleep for a good 7 months, and I was just fine with it), but the big one has never changed. I just want to raise happy kids. I have my own ideas of how to get us there, but those will fluctuate and change as he grows or more kids come along or our world changes. I told Cate once that I believe the two biggest traits you need to employ as a parent are a sense of humor and flexibility. I can’t guarantee what music Arlo will like or if he’ll want to play sports. I don’t know if he’ll like to read or if he’ll have a million friends or anything else, but I do know I have to be willing to adapt even when I don’t get it (here’s looking at you, peewee soccer).
- You’re the mom of a preemie baby. What was it like going through a long-term NICU experience?
Ah, the NICU. I don’t know what constitutes as long-term, but I do know that whether your baby is in the NICU for two days or four months it feels like a long time. Arlo’s time in the NICU held some of the hardest days of my life. When your baby is in the NICU, you’re in this terrible place where immense, unceasing worry meets total boredom. I was afraid all of the time, but I was also honestly bored. There’s really only so much to do in a hospital for 24 hours a day. The hospital time made me a bit crazy. I scarcely left, and when I did leave I had to practically be dragged out. Once out, I spent all my time worrying about being out and not with the baby which didn’t exactly make me a joy to be around. Mom guilt is the real deal and preemie mom guilt is possibly even worse, especially when you’re like us and never get a reason for the preemie-ness. Our six weeks felt long and felt lonely. I loved that people wanted to be there for us, but – despite the loneliness – I could feel myself internally groan every time someone wanted to come and see us. I was supposed to be enjoying the end of my pregnancy. I was supposed to be lounging and nesting and looking down at my perfect round belly. Instead, I felt deflated and empty and like I just wanted to sit and stare at my perfect boy in his little fish tank NICU home. All of this babbling to say that it was hard. It wasn’t at all the image I had in my head of the sleepy, snuggly days of having a new baby; it was scheduled and timed and our construction paper decorations really only did so much to make our little cove feel warm and cozy and not like the monitor-filled, partitioned off spot it truly was. We came out of it though. My son received wonderful care and is healthy and happy and perfect. Our bond was unaffected, our nursing relationship intact, and I can look back at it all and feel at peace.
- If you could give a small piece of advice to another new mommy, what would it be?
I think the best advice I could give to a new mom would be: don’t feel bad for ignoring the advice everyone in the whole wide world wants to give you. Ironic, right? Something about being a woman, and subsequently a pregnant woman and then a mom, makes people think they can give you any and all advice they feel like giving you. The beautiful thing is that you don’t have to listen. Take the pieces that click with you and go right ahead and forget the rest. Those people who tell you to soak it up as much as you can though? Listen to them. Listen to them when they’re saying that part anyhow. When they start going on about sleeping when the baby is sleeping and if you should formula feed or not and every other topic under the sun, feel free to tune them out.
- What is one thing you’d like to teach your child(ren) to help them make this world a little better?
I think if I had to narrow it down to one thing it would be this: we can change the world. That’s the first thing and the biggest thing to believe if we want any shot at fixing things, isn’t it? When we stop thinking we can change things, we stop being able to. The problems in this world, especially of late, feel insurmountable. There are heartbreaking, horrifying things happening in our world on a daily basis, but I want my children to forever know that we can change things. Fighting each other won’t get us there and fighting fire with fire won’t either, but things can change. Only when we allow ourselves to be made helpless, when we allow our heartbreak to stop us from trying to better our world, do we lose. I’ll end my diatribe now, but that’s what I want them to know.
Thank you Chloe for sharing your thoughts and story with us today. I feel so honored to call you my friend and to have you in my mom-tribe. Getting to know you and your sweet boy, and sharing all of our “mommy firsts” throughout this past year has been wonderful, and I look forward to a lifetime of more memories with you two! Okay, sappy moment over. Let’s take a look at these sweeties and coo over those sweet baby snuggles!