managing intense relatives 101

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You’re pregnant. Your baby’s coming soon. You’re wondering how you’ll be getting any sleep with a newborn in the house, among countless other things.

The good news is: your mother-in-law* wants to come help! The bad news is: your mother-in-law wants to come help! [*or whichever big personality relative is about to descend upon you]

The thought of it is so stressful you’re ready to bury your head in a platter of macarons and eat your way out.

What can you do? Is there a way to get the sleep you need and maintain your sanity while not totally alienating your MIL?

Absolutely.

When managing big personalities, there are some tools you can use.

mother-in-law-advice
“back in my day, we did everything exactly the opposite and you all turned out fine!” omg stfu

1. Your partner needs to be the heavy and run interference. She or he is your personal security detail. If you’re a single parent, you may need a trusted friend to play this role—helping you strategize in advance how to manage the visit and distracting the intense relative when possible. Your bouncer needs to step in and protect your space when you say your safe word, like “get your mom outta here before I murder someone.”

2. Brainstorm tasks and activities that can be a useful distraction. What are her skills? Organizing a minimalist nursery? Prepping some freezer meals? Setting up baby gadgets? Running around the city for the perfect new carrier? Planning a bris? Finding the right balance between allowing her time with baby and keeping her busy with tasks she enjoys that make the most of her strengths will benefit you both. 

Maybe MIL can hold the baby so you can get that all too important daytime nap in. Maybe she will help you hire a postpartum doula (similar to a baby nurse, but more mother/family oriented) so you can get more nighttime sleep in those early weeks. See if you can make the most of the things she likes to make the visit more bearable. See if you can find the win-win.

3. Practicing your best nod and smile will be helpful, too. “Thank you for the suggestion!” Repeat ad nauseam. The main key to managing big personalities is remembering: would you rather be right or be happy? Let it slide, as much as possible. Vent to your sympathetic friends later. 

4. Take care of yourself. I know, it is a cliché and triple hard as you adjust to life with baby. But making sure you’re eating, getting rest, and otherwise honoring your needs as much as possible will go miles in terms of helping you survive a challenging visit.

Before you know it, you’ll be getting a fresh pedicure and breathing a sigh of relief to have your space to yourself again. A little planning will help you get through that initial visit during the newborn days, with the sleep and sanity you so desperately need.  

Choose happy, choose your battles, choose a more peaceful way to get through the visit in the best way possible. It will be over soon and you WILL survive. And who knows, MIL may even really step up and surprise you. That would truly be some good news.

cool people I know: Iryna!

Iryna Sosnovska
Iryna and her daughter.

I met Iryna over a year ago. I was instantly struck by her warmth and professionalism, and of course her gorgeous photos (you’ll find several on this site). I have since had the pleasure of working with Iryna in her photographer role, so I can personally attest to her gentle skill in coaxing flattering shots from someone who is rather camera shy. She even managed to get some smiles out of my cranky toddler. If you’re looking for a family or portrait photographer, you can’t go wrong with Iryna behind the lens.

1. What drew you to family photography? How do you approach this work?

Through my journey as a photographer, I’ve photographed pretty much everything (except sports). For years, I worked in journalism as a reporter and photographer in Eastern Europe. I always loved telling stories. Back then, I would never have considered becoming a family photographer. Well, that was before I became a mom… Without exaggeration I can say that becoming a parent changed the way I looked at things and life in general, and what was truly important. When I create family portraits, I am in the same mindset– that I’m telling someone’s incredibly important story that shouldn’t be forgotten. When I work with families, I see and feel this importance. Their kids and partners are everything to them and documenting these relationships and milestones, I believe, is the greatest gift I can give to people.

2. What surprised you most about becoming a mother?

That it’s doable and how much I loved it! I was the last of our family and friends to become a parent. So I saw a lot of babies growing up in front of my eyes. I looked at their parents and saw a lot of struggle. There was of course joy, too, but I was seeing that parenthood was NOT easy. And I always loved being independent, my husband and I are passionate about travelling, and when I imagined myself having a kid, I thought I would not be able to do most of the things I loved in life. NOT true! We travel, and my daughter is an amazing person. She is 4 and she is the smartest , funniest, and most easy-going kid I’ve ever known. She indeed is the best thing that ever happened in our lives.

3. What would be your #1 piece of advice for a new mother?

Listen to yourself. There is so much information out there, so many different approaches to parenthood. Everyone will have an advice for you. Read, listen, ask different sources, but ultimately truly listen to what your heart tells you. That will be the best way to go.

4. What are some things you and your daughter love to do in NYC?

We enjoy so many things NYC has to offer to families. We love going to libraries for story time and then looking through the books and choosing a dozen to bring home. In summertime, there is really nothing better for a 4 year old than exploring outdoor playgrounds. We especially love two playgrounds in Central Park (one on 59th St on the west side and the other on 190th St on the east side). The Bronx Botanical Garden and Bronx Zoo are among of our favorites, too. As an indoor creative place, Children’s Museum Of Arts  in Tribeca is hands-down our favorite.

5. If someone would like to find more information about working with you, what should they do?

If you would like to learn more about how we work and plan your photographic experience, the best way to start is to call us at 917.370.9741. Then, you’ll find out more about us and we will discover all the wonderful things about you and your beautiful family and what you love about them. Portrait photography is such a personal experience, so we need to make sure we are a good fit. I want my clients to have the most amazing photography experience they can imagine. And the photo shoot is only a small part of that!

Learn more:

Iryna Sosnovska Photography
Turning memories into art

info@sosnovska.com
917.370.9741

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OMFG is it winter break yet?

give her the

Only about 2 weeks to go. My family is lucky in that our work and school schedules allow us some real downtime over the holidays. We are so looking forward to seeing friends, no morning or evening rush, hanging out together doing not much of anything. Oh, the new Star Wars, of course. The grandparents have already given my kids everything Star Wars (merchandising! where the real money from the movie is made!), so a very merry Christmas to you, J.J. Abrams!

How’s your holiday shopping going, anyway? You know the whole thing about going for experiences over things, right? You don’t want your thoughtful gift to be konmaried right out of the house come spring cleaning.

The gift of a doula is the best gift I ever gave myself. It’s one of the most thoughtful, loving, nurturing experiences you can gift to the expectant parents on your list. The onesies are so cute, the tiny booties and softest blankets, the high tech strollers… but the postpartum doula is the one who will make sure the new parents are fed and rested. That the laundry isn’t piling up. That they are remembering to take care of themselves while everyone around them is asking about the baby. That they aren’t alone in the middle of the night and the baby won’t stop crying and they are too tired to see straight. A postpartum doula helps them figure out how they want to parent, the best approach for their family at that time. A birth doula cares for the family before and during that most intense and unique of human experiences– bringing a baby into the world, be it naturally, medicated and assisted, or surgically.

Every person, every family is unique in what will be most helpful to them. A doula can adapt to their needs to assist them in the best way possible. Pretty much the best gift ever.

falling into postpartum

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I’m looking forward to working with clients as a postpartum doula. The role is quite flexible depending on your needs, but the focus is on supporting the mother (whatever that might mean to her) during the first 3 months with a new baby (also known as the “fourth trimester”). Set aside your other concerns so you can bond with your baby, learn each other’s patterns, and adapt to your new normal. A postpartum doula will also help you figure out your parenting style, so you feel more confident as you step into parenthood or a bigger family. Let’s talk!

is this thing on?

esenting

Well, looks like it’s about time for my annual blog.

Earlier this year, I became obsessed and re-fired up for life as a doula. I took a postpartum doula training in June so I could add that to the services I offer. I’m planning to take a placenta encapsulating training as soon as possible. (a vegan…. learning about placenta prep… that’ll be interesting.) And next I want to take a breastfeeding counseling training, too. ALL THE TRAININGS!

I’m am thrilled to be re-opening this part of my life and can’t wait to work with some families through labor and the newborn phase. Who’s in? I’m looking forward to working with you.

Reentry Ruminantions

Happy boy even as mama heads back to the rat race!

My maternity leave ended about 3 weeks ago. I’m still readjusting and figuring out how to be a working mom again [yes, I know all mothers are hard-working mothers but you know what I mean].

By US standards, my leave was awesome! 12 weeks paid through maternity leave and disability, and I was able to add 2 weeks of vacation on either side, for a total of 16 weeks paid leave. I finished work at 38 weeks pregnant and had exactly a week to get the nest in order as Leo arrived at 39 weeks on the dot.

Being on leave reminded me of how critical that time is for the mother and whole family. I needed that time to establish successful breastfeeding, rest and recover from birth, help my older son adjust, and bond with the new baby. It is such an emotional and chaotic time that I can’t imagine trying to function at a job as well. But heading right back to work is reality for many new mothers in the US. Even now with Leo at 4 months, I’m still tired as he still wakes to nurse at night, but it feels like nothing compared to the exhaustion of the newborn weeks.

I’m also very fortunate to have a clean private room for pumping at work. Euphemistically called the ‘wellness room,’ it’s set up for pumping and helps to keep up my milk supply, ensuring Leo continues to get my milk when I have to be away.

In fact, there is a lot of attention these days to making sure that employers provide nursing moms with appropriate space and time for pumping. This is absolutely important– an investment in mothers, families, and the health of babies! However, I do worry that the focus on pumping at work distracts from something for which we should all continue to advocate and that is paid parental leave in this country! Both are crucial!

I’m sure industry appreciates the focus on pumping as this means: more sales of expensive single user breastpumps, bottles, nipples, and breastmilk storage bags; and employers not shouldering the financial and administrative burden (to put a negative spin on it) of paying for an absent employee AND someone to fill in for her temporarily. But if pretty much every other country in the world can figure this out, I’m confident we can too, America! Did you know we’re one of only FOUR countries in the world without paid leave for new mothers? Yikes.

Check out MomsRising.org which currently has a petition on paid family leave. Please sign and pass it along!

Further reading:

You can read more about the critical issue of family leave in the US on the MomsRising site here. It’s eye-opening and shows why our babies, parents, and families deserve better.

Sociological Images posted some maps which give a nice visual on paid leave (maternity and otherwise) around the world.

This article illustrates (with graphs!) why family leave is a class issue. They also link to this article which goes into more detail and has a cool interactive on how education and race/ethnicity impact access to paid leave.

What about you? Were you able to take maternity leave? If you have a partner, did s/he also have access to leave? Was it paid? For how long? How did it work out for your family?

Quick, you have 5 spare minutes, what do you choose?

Greetings, I'm your new demanding unpredictable boss. And I'm adorable!

Another “life with new baby” observation. Suddenly you have these little windows of time to do something other than care for the baby, usually when the baby is napping or someone else is able to hold the baby for a bit. People say “sleep when the baby sleeps” and while this is an awesome suggestion, sometimes you may be tempted to do something else. Like eat. Or tend to some basic hygiene. Or really go crazy and check email.

While on maternity leave, my choices have varied from day to day. Yesterday I took a nap. Today I choose shower (and the neighborhood rejoiced). Crap, I think I hear the baby….

What would you choose today? How did you tend to spend those little pockets of time during the newborn phase?

What’s your #1 Breastfeeding Question?

Nursing my older son at about 4 weeks old, 2007. Last good hair day.

I attended a Breastfeeding Preparation class last week as part of my DONA doula certification requirement. An important part of the doula role is supporting new moms in breastfeeding, and even though I nursed one son for 14 months and am three months into nursing baby #2, I knew I’d pick up some good tips to help other mothers. I was also interested to see how the class was set up and how the information was presented.

Before we started, the instructor had us introduce ourselves and share our most pressing questions about breastfeeding. All of the moms-to-be wondered most: When can I supplement with formula and/or a nighttime bottle? While this was an exceptionally small homogeneous sample size of just four expectant mothers, I thought this was very interesting– both the question itself and that they all shared it as their most burning question on breastfeeding.

Does it mean they’ve heard breastfeeding is really hard and they will have to supplement or resort to Plan B? Have they heard sleep deprivation horror stories and want to be sure their partner can help with feedings? Probably. It also came out later in the conversation that one of the moms was concerned about her partner having a chance to bond with the baby through feedings. A friend of hers feels like he hasn’t been able to connect with his newborn since the mother is exclusively breastfeeding.

I can’t recall now what my most burning breastfeeding question was before that adventure began. I’d like to think it was ‘what can I do to ensure a successful breastfeeding relationship?’ I’d heard the stories from my friends and knew it could be really rough in the beginning. I wanted to be ready to tackle the challenges and make it work (a la Tim Gunn). I think I also assumed it would be mostly fine, as my mother breastfed four children, it’s as natural as can be, I’m committed, so what could go wrong?

Well, that’s a long story for another post– but we did figure it out after a grueling few months and I don’t regret a thing. When I was struggling, a friend told me, “breastfeeding goes from being the worst thing in the world, to the best thing in the world.” This piece of advice helped me to stay committed and see it through until we were on the other side.

So, what about you?

What was your number one question about breastfeeding before you began?

What is your number one tip to mothers-to-be who are planning to nurse?