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Posted in baby, parenting

Language Development in Babies and Toddlers

I had the opportunity to talk to language development specialist, Rachel, about how to encourage your babies and toddlers to start talking. To hear the full interview, use the media player above. If you prefer to read it, the transcription of the episode is below. Enjoy!

Nicoll
Hi, everybody. This is the Mastering Motherhood Podcast, and I’m your host, Nicoll. This show is made by a mom, me, for moms. Covering pregnancy, postpartum and parenthood topics as we go through this motherhood journey together. Today we have Rachel on the show to talk about language development. Rachel is an early intervention teacher and parenting coach who works with parents through their unique struggles to get them living their best family life. Welcome, Rachel.


Rachel
Hi. Thank you so much for having me.


Nicoll
Tell the listeners a little bit more about yourself.


Rachel
So as Nikki mentions, I help busy moms gain peace and overcome daily struggles with young children. I specialize in babies and toddlers through early childhood, and that’s what I work on individually with parent coaching as well as individually with early intervention. So I’m here to help you with all your early childhood needs.


Nicoll
Tell me a little bit more about what parenting coach means. I’ve never heard that before.


Rachel
Well, a parent and coach is when you are having some struggles or some difficulties in your home with your young children or even with you, that you’re unsure of the decisions that you’re making and what’s happening with your children. I would be there to help you. So if you’re having trouble with bedtime, and I could help you put in place a bedtime routine and things to follow along to help your child go to bed at an appropriate time for the child’s age. If they’re having trouble eating and you need help with meals or how to get them to sit and not watch the TV and eat a meal, I can help you implement strategies to make your day just a little bit easier. So you’re not struggling all the time.


Nicoll
Rachel, why didn’t I meet you sooner? That sounds amazing.


Rachel
Thank you.


Nicoll
So I want to talk about language development. Um, I have a son. He is seven months old, so it’s kind of like front of mind for me and…just…I… So let’s start with at what age should kids start talking?


Rachel
Okay, well, what I first want to explain is that everything doesn’t happen at a specific age. I want parents to know that language development happens in stages and in different ages. So when you’re talking at the playground with another mom and they say my 11 month old says three words. And you think, well, mine doesn’t say anything. It’s okay, but maybe by 13 months, by 15 months you’re going to hear those words. And what I also want to explain is that there are typical words that we all know. Mom, dad, car, ball, bye. There are words at that stage at 12 months at 18 months, where it may not be a typical word, it could be what they use for a specific item. So, like if your child says “wah-wah” for water and only uses that word, that approximation for water, that counts as a word because even though it’s…yeah, even though it’s not a word that you would use, if they only use it for that one specific item, they are communicating with you that this is what they want. So even though it’s not the full word “water”, if they use that only for the specific item and not just walking around the house babbling, if they’re using it as a word, as a form of communication, it is a word. And sometimes that’s hard for parents to see. Those are counted as words in…into also being together with “hi,” “bye,” “mom,” “dad” and all those other words that you want to hear, you want, hearing both a typical word and a non-typical word, is part of development.


Nicoll
Oh, that’s awesome. I’m so glad that you talked about how language happens in stages and not at an age, because I’ll tell you, I’m very guilty of constantly Googling at what age should my son be saying his first word. You know, when I get a result like 6 to 8 months and then, you know it…he’s seven months. You haven’t said…he hasn’t said a word, and then I’m panicking. And then I have other mom friends who their seven-month-old has said like “mama” and I’m like, “Oh my gosh,” it’s like, should I be doing more? And so I’m relieved to hear you say that.


Rachel
It is, and I hear so many parents. Language is something that I talk about so often because it’s really a concern. Just like you said, you’re at the playground, you’re talking other moms and you hear that their kids are saying this and your kid isn’t. And it’s when you’re at 12 months. When your child is 12 months and 14 months, it’s not the time to worry because things do happen and really between 18 and 24 months between a year and 1/2 and two years old, that’s when you will see the most abundance of language. They could have a new word every day, where four months ago they only had a few words. That’s really when language starts to double and multiply during during that on span of ages.


Nicoll
Wow. So are there milestones that parents should be looking out for? Like at what point should they talk to their doctor if they’re concerned?


Rachel
Okay, well, let me give you a few little things, a few guidelines. I’m not going to give you a specific amount of words that you should have at a certain point. But other things that you can look for between 12 and 18 months, they might start to say some common words, Mama, Dada, hi, bye, those words that we say. But you also want to see if they’re getting your attention for what they want. So even if they don’t have the language, if they’re pulling you to the kitchen to show you, okay? I need to eat, but I don’t have that word yet. I’m pulling you to the kitchen, and if they are pointing to things, they’re showing you in a nonverbal way that they want something, and also that they understand what you’re saying but necessarily can’t answer you verbally. Those are important things to look at between 12 and 18 months that if you tell your little one, “pick up the car” or “get the ball,” they can understand you even if they don’t have a verbal way to respond. And then by 18 to 24 months you want a little bit more words to start to form and even where they can start to put two words together. So it’s not a sentence. It’s a phrase. It’s “more cookie,” “mama milk.” It’s two words together to start to make their own phrase, and you want to see a little bit less of the pulling and more of the words coming out. So these are things that I want parents to look at, too, because I always ask,” Are they communicating with you in another way, without the words? Are they pulling you? Are they pointing to something?” And that’s a form of communication too, it’s just not expressive. It’s nonverbal communication, and that comes first before the language comes. But I always tell any parent that living in the U.S., evaluations are free. So if you really are concerned and you’re really worried, you should look to get an evaluation now. That being said, most doctors wait until after two because, like I said, between 18 months and 24 months is really where you see the most abundance of language developed. So many doctors do wait until after that to really see if they’ve reached milestones and how they’re progressing.


Nicoll
How is the evaluation done? Do you know?


Rachel
Yes, the you can go through your pediatrician or you call the Department of Health for where you live and now, depending on the age of the child, if they’re under three, then it’s early intervention. And if it’s after three, you have to go through your school district because even though they’re not a school-aged child, it’s then part of your district because of who would be providing the services. So like I said, if you have a concern, speak to your doctor of course, and if anybody has any concerns, I would be happy, too. You could write to me any time and have a question if you just have a question, but speak with your pediatrician and let them know your concerns and document it. Document what your concerns are and think about those other things that I mentioned, too, because that’s what they’re gonna ask. Even if there was not verbal communication is their nonverbal communication? Does your little one understand what you’re saying? All of those are part of getting an evaluation, or whether or not they feel that an evaluation is necessary. And that’s why I said that many doctors wait till two unless they…it’s very noticeable because many children develop so many more words between a year and 1/2 and two years old, and that’s why they wait till two. But I always suggest that if you’re really concerned and you are really struggling to think that your child is progressing at all, then you could move forward and call your Department of Health and try to go through the process of getting an evaluation. It’s free, and so if you’re concerned, they will let you know anything.


Nicoll
That’s really great to know. Alright, I want to jump into how can parents be doing things at home to encourage language development?


Rachel
Yes, there are things that…simple activities and proven strategies that everybody can do every day. And some of those things include repetition and pointing, labeling, verbal routines, signs and gestures, all these things that you could do each day. And now what I mean by that is I’m gonna tell you something that you may think it’s silly, but I want parents to narrate their day. So even if you have a baby and there are no words and you don’t expect words yet, I want you to narrate your day. So if you go to the grocery store and they’re in the car seat, just go over your list and say, “We need apples. We need bananas. Do you think we should get milk today? What do you think we should have for dinner?” Talk to them as if you were talking to anybody else. Because parents that narrate their day expose their children to 1,000 to 2,000 extra words every hour. That’s huge, huge, because the only way we can help our children with language is to expose them to as much as possible. So narrating your day is one of the things that’s easy to do and that you could do all the time. Another thing that parents can do, when you read, ever have your little one come up to you when you have to read the same book 20 times a day, over and over again, right? Because that’s what they want. And though it’s tedious for us, the repetition helps them learn, so you might start to see your little one understand what what the caterpillar does next and what happens next because you’ve read the book every day. It’s not that they’re reading it with you, but they’re remembering it. And they’re recalling what happens. That helps them understand that words have meaning and can be put together to make sense, to make more of a story. So you have to read those books over and over again, you know. And as I said, when you’re little one starts to pull you or say one word, if they just say cookie, I want you to try to elaborate on that. Don’t tell them they’re wrong. You know, you don’t want to criticize or anything. You just want to elaborate. So if they say cookie, you say, “Oh, you want the chocolate chip cookie? Okay, here’s the cookie.” Give them more of that word because you could easily say, “Yes. Here’s the cookie.” You want to give them more language so that they can understand that any time they ask for anything, you can build on it. So if they’re pointing outside and see a bird, you say, “Yes. A blue bird. A blue bird is flying.” Whatever it is you can build on it to add two or three more words to show them to make a sentence and not just the individual word.


Nicoll
So it sounds like these are things that parents can be doing from day one. From the day you bring your baby home.


Rachel
Absolutely. Absolutely. I would change my little one’s diaper. He’d be two months old and I would change his diaper and talk about changing his diaper and say, “I have to take off your dirty diaper. I need the A and D. What pajamas should we put on?” I would just talk no matter what we were doing.


Nicoll
I have a question about when kids say words that mean something to them, but it’s not the word that we use. So, like you used “was-wah,” for example. Um, so if I have it… So if my son starts saying “wah-wah” instead of water, is that something that I should correct him on? Because I see a lot of parents that they’ll also start saying that word like, “Oh, do you want ‘wah-wah’?” Is that okay? Or should they still be using the regular word?


Rachel
You should be using both. You don’t eliminate our typical word because if you only use their word for it, they’re not going to have an understanding of the typical word. You want to put them together so you can say “was-wah”, because that’s what they’re understanding. But you say, “You want your cup with wah wah,” and then when you give it to your son, say, “Here’s your water.” So you could say both. You put them together so that eventually the word will turn into water.


Nicoll
Okay, so they understand both. Well, we live in a bilingual household, and I’ve heard that kids who grew up in bilingual households start talking later on than other kids. Is that true?


Rachel
Well, with bilingual kids, they sometimes may talk a little bit later, but it really typically is within the same age range. Because what they’re trying to do, though, is they’re trying to see which word is easier for them to use. So if they know two different words for the same item, they’re trying to see which word is easier for them to use. I’ve even known bilingual children that will use English and Spanish in the same sentence. So half the sentence was in English and half the sentence was in Spanish. But those were the words, and she was four. And those were the words that she liked and that were easier for her to use. And that’s fine. And that’s totally okay.


Nicoll
That makes perfect sense and I’ve never thought of it that way. That that they probably know both words, it’s just a matter of which one they prefer. Which one’s easier to say.


Rachel
Yes, yes.


Nicoll
So what about other unique situations, like twins?


Rachel
Well, I have to remind parents that twins are individuals. They’re not… They have the same birthday, yes, but they are not the same child. I actually worked in early intervention with a few sets of twins where the girl was fine and the boy needed services and was not speaking. Now that is very difficult for parents to cope with and understand, because they do have twins and they don’t understand why one is doing it and the other one isn’t. And the most important thing to remember is that they are individuals. They are different people where they will progress and learn at a different rate.


Nicoll
Do you ever find that they do like, twin talk, so they talk to each other, and because of that, they don’t feel a need to, like, learn the language that the rest of us use.


Rachel
That is the thing that is a real thing, where they can just kind of babble to each other or have fun with each other, and they already have a peer. They have a peer at their same age, at the same level with them where they can play and be. So that’s why you as the parent, want to do all these things to always encourage the language. And another way to encourage it, I tell parents to get on the floor. When I’m working with children, I am sitting on the floor all day. I am not up because you want to be on their eye level. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to see you and connect with you and understand what you’re saying. So when you’re playing and when you’re doing things with them, you should be on their level on the floor.


Nicoll
What about TV? Does having TV as background noise influence, positively or negatively, Language development?


Rachel
It doesn’t, but you don’t want too have too much watching TV time. Now, if it’s just on in the background, maybe you have the news on or you have something where they’re really not paying any attention to it, that’s different than sitting and watching TV each day. And you really want to limit the amount of TV because TV doesn’t allow for any interaction. So when you are sitting and even rolling a ball back and forth, very simple, but it’s a game and they need you to roll the ball back for it to be fun. Otherwise it’s boring. You can talk and play and laugh. When they’re…when children are sitting and watching TV, there is no interaction and there is no requirement for language. That’s the problem is that they could just sit and watch TV and not have to say anything. And that’s why it doesn’t encourage. It doesn’t encourage language. But like music, you could put music on or sing songs. Music is great for language.


Nicoll
That’s awesome. I…my son, definitely enjoys music, so I’m glad to know that it’s great for language too.


Rachel
It is absolutely. It doesn’t have to be kid’s music. A lot of parents are like, “Oh, I’m tired of wheels on the bus and tired of baby shark.” I get it, we play regular music, so as long as it’s not explicit or not kid-friendly. But we play regular music that I like, that my husband likes. And I promise you I have the only three-year-old that walks around asking for AC/DC.


Nicoll
Oh my gosh, that is such a relief because I do get really annoyed with some of those kids songs.


Rachel
Yes, yes, it’s just the kids songs has the repetition built in like I mentioned before, and that’s what helps the children to learn those words. But if you’re in the car, if you’re cooking dinner and you want some music or you can play regular music and that is still great for development.


Nicoll
Well, that’s a relief. If you had one piece of advice for parents to help their kids with language, what would it be?


Rachel
It would really be to narrate your day and to add on one more word to what they say. Narrating your day and just talking throughout what you’re doing is one of the best things that you could do for your children because you’re exposing them to so many words that they wouldn’t know otherwise. Your child could sit in the high chair, and you could be feeding them, and that’s fine. But if you don’t talk about how there is no milk in the fridge and this is the microwave and I want a snack and we have no napkins, they’re not even gonna know those words. You have to introduce them to all the things and all the language as much as you can.


Nicoll
That’s true, right? Like they might see the object or whatever, but they would they would have no way to put a word to it unless you are saying it.


Rachel
Absolutely. Absolutely. And that’s how they understands that the word has meaning. And they understand that the word is important. Before that, you have to think they don’t know what’s the importance of words or why you’re saying all these words. They hear Mommy talking. Now you’re talking, but they have to then make a connection that this word has a meaning. And this word, if I say” more cookie,” I’m going to get a cookie. They’re gonna understands that that word has meaning and they can get something from it.


Nicoll
Now, the most important question of all. How do I get my seven-month-old son to say Mama instead of Dada first?


Rachel
I know. You’re not gonna like this, but Dada is easier.


Nicoll
No!


Rachel
It is the way the tongue moves. And if you try to say it, Dada or Mama, the way that it moves, Dada is just a little bit easier than Mama.


Nicoll
Oh, my gosh. And I guarantee you that’s gonna happen because also, my son looks just like my husband like there is not one drop of me in him. I don’t know how. So his first word probably will be dada, too.


Rachel
Both my kids said that that first and most children do, it’s more common to say Dada first.


Nicoll
Of course, even though I’m like, every single day, I’m like “Mama.” He just laughs at me. Oh well. Rachel, you have a website full of so many helpful resources to explore. Kid talk is the name of your site and you also have a Facebook group. So what can parents expect to find on your website? And then talk a little bit more about your Facebook group, too.


Rachel
Oh, thank you. So on my website are more things about development, like we’ve talked about. Now I have even an article on music and how that helps child development. I also have tons of activities that you can do at home. I know when you’re a mom and you’re home and it’s February and snowing out there like, what can I do with my three-year-old and not go crazy today? I can help you. I have tons of activities that you can do at home, and most of them don’t even require toys most of them are household items, you know, cotton balls and Popsicle sticks and different things that you could do with your children right at home. I have tons of those activities for you and different ideas to keep you busy and to give Mommies just a little bit of peace. A moment of peace to finish that cup of coffee as your kid learns to play a little bit by themselves. You can find tons of that on the website as well as the Facebook group.


Nicoll
I’m a huge fan of the website, so parents, I highly encourage you to go check it out. I’m also going to include all of this information, links to Rachel’s website, Facebook group and everything like that in the show notes as well. But I know we spent a good portion of today talking specifically about language development, as a reminder, Rachel is also a parenting coach that can help you through a variety of other struggles that you might be going through. Rachel, how can parents get in touch with you?


Rachel
Anybody, I would love for anybody to join my Facebook group, and you can always message me anytime, I’m very reachable and I will respond to any message. My Facebook group is Explore Kid Talk Parenting Guidance for Early Childhood and that’s my website. And my Facebook group have the same name. You could also go on the website, and there’s a place while on the home screen to send me a message. And I get back to people as soon as possible. And then, if you would like, we could set up a phone call, a video call where I could just talk to you and get to know you. It’s totally free just to talk and get to know you and give you some pieces of advice to help you. And then if you would like to work together further then we discussed that then.


Nicoll
You are an excellent resource and just a wealth of knowledge. So I highly encourage you to reach out to her. Well, thank you so much for being on this show today. Rachel. It was so great to have you.


Rachel
Oh, it was my pleasure. Thank you for having me. Thank you so much.


Nicoll
Thanks for listening today. For more on pregnancy, postpartum and parenthood, visit MasteringMotherhoodPodcast.com and subscribe to this show wherever you get your podcasts. If you have a topic that you’d like to hear, shoot me an email at MasteringMotherhoodPodcast@gmail.com. Thanks.

Posted in pregnancy

Tips for Managing Pregnancy Anxiety

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Pregnancy anxiety is something we don’t talk about enough. Postpartum depression and anxiety are, thank goodness, being talked about more publicly now, but there’s not as much attention on the very real anxiety that women can have while they’re pregnant.

Why isn’t pregnancy anxiety talked about more often?

Probably because pregnancy is a temporary condition. There is an end date, even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes. And because of that, some conditions, like anxiety, might not be taken as seriously as they need to be. We think to ourselves, and often doctors think, “It will get better when the baby is born.”

And let me tell you something – MOST CONDITIONS DO! Hip pain? I can almost guarantee you it’ll go away once that baby is born. And maybe in some cases anxiety will, too.

So do I need to just suffer through it?

Of all the many ailments we suffer for the nine months we’re pregnant, most of them we just can’t do anything about. We have to suffer through them.

But unlike the hip pain you have, for example, which you are suffering because of your rapidly-changing body, there are things you can do about anxiety. You may not get rid of it completely, but you can probably ease it a little bit.

I’m going to start out by saying – I am NOT a doctor. I am not here to provide you with medical advice. But I am here to tell you that you are not alone. It is very common. I was there. And I can share with you my experience, what worked for me and what I wish I would have done different.

My Experience With Pregnancy Anxiety

It’s important for me to share my story because:

a) I didn’t recognize my anxiety symptoms for what they were.

b) When I did recognize that I had anxiety, I didn’t get the help and support I needed from my doctor.

It was really hard for me to tell my doctor that I needed help. Right or wrong, I felt a lot of shame in admitting I had any mental illness. We still don’t live in a world where it’s okay. So when I allowed myself to be vulnerable and tell my doctor what was going on and she didn’t help me

I think back on it now and it just makes me so angry. I wish I would have handled it differently and I don’t want any other mothers to feel the way I did.

My history with anxiety

I am a very anxious person. I’ve been riddled with anxiety probably since birth. So I knew when I became pregnant that pregnancy anxiety was likely something I was going to face.

I had stopped taking all medications, including anxiety medication, before becoming pregnant because I just didn’t want to take any chances contaminating my unborn child. I didn’t do any research – this was just me wanting to go into pregnancy with a clean body.

Pregnancy

I’m not going to say my first trimester was great. Physically it was, for sure. But mentally, I was very stressed, as I think many mothers are. I was glued to the computer trying to research everything I possibly could. Looking back, I can see now that I was trying to get control over a situation that was out of my control. Like, if I had more knowledge, I could somehow make sure that my baby would develop exactly how I wanted him to. I quickly learned that so much of it was out of my control. I was just so paranoid.

And this paranoia and stress continued throughout my entire pregnancy. Granted, I had a lot going on. I had just gotten married, I wasn’t feeling great about work. But we all have things. You’ve got to consider every aspect of your life when you’re bringing a baby into the world! And especially your first pregnancy when you just have no idea what to expect.

I spent so much time trying to find out if the things I was experiencing were normal, or trying to figure out what to expect next – if I’d get stretch marks, if it was normal not to get morning sickness, when I’d start to show, and on and on and on.

I’ve obviously never been pregnant in any previous eras, but I feel like the amount of information we have at our fingertips, while often times helpful, can also be detrimental. All of my research and googling was creating these fears about conditions I didn’t even previously know existed.

I simultaneously looked forward to and dreaded each doctor’s appointment because I was always terrified they were going to find something wrong, but also wanted validation that everything was going right.

I remember feeling such relief when they’d play my baby’s heartbeat at the appointments, just to leave the appointment, do a google search, and then be paranoid that it was the placenta, not the heartbeat they were hearing.

At every, or almost every doctor’s appointment, I was required to fill out this survey to be screened for anxiety and depression. I’ll be the first person to admit that I wasn’t entirely honest when I filled out those surveys. I thought I knew myself well enough to know if I was suffering from anxiety and depression. So I embellished my happiness a little bit because I thought I was fine.

I took my physical wellness and confused it with mental wellness. I honestly didn’t think anything of my high levels of stress. I thought it was normal. Maybe it was.

Then things changed.

When I was 7 months pregnant I made a crazy, but worthwhile decision, and left my company of five and a half years to accept a job at a new company. Taking a new job in the United States in your third trimester is a bold move. It made me legally ineligible for FMLA, meant changing my insurance, all sorts of things. Not to mention learning a new job when your brain is foggy.

Luckily, my new company worked with me as best they could and I was able to take leave after having my baby, but it’s still a little scary knowing that when you’re not covered under FMLA, your job isn’t legally protected.

After I started my new job I went to another routine prenatal appointment and filled out the same depression/anxiety survey I had filled out before. But this time my answers were a lot different. Now I was experiencing physical symptoms of anxiety – feeling very tense in my muscles, unable to shut my mind off to sleep, very short of breath, especially when I started thinking about stressful things. And it had gotten to a point that I felt like I needed to talk to someone about it.

So I did. I told my doctor that I had suffered from anxiety issues before, so I knew what it looked like and I was definitely having some major anxiety issues. She just casually glanced over the notes from my previous visit and said, “You weren’t having any anxiety issues at your last appointment.”

I said, “A lot has changed since then. And I’m telling you about it because my anxiety is bad enough that I need help.”

She seemed really irritated at this. It seemed to me like she was just there to do a quick, routine appointment and move on with her day. Anything beyond that was just not what she wanted to deal with.

So she said, “If you’ve had anxiety issues before, did you have a therapist?”

I said “Yes. But that was a few years ago.”

And she said, “Well then I would recommend you talk to them.” And got up to leave.

I told her, “It’s not that easy. For one, I saw this therapist a handful of times, so it’s not someone I have a trusted relationship with. For two, I just started a new job and I have to be here every other week. It’s just not a possibility for me to schedule an appointment with another doctor. And when I’ve scheduled with them in the past, appointments are booked out several weeks in advance. I need help NOW. I’ve already sat on this long enough.”

And at this point, I was starting to get really upset. I was sitting here telling my doctor that I’m struggling and literally begging her to believe me and to help me.

Begrudgingly she made a comment like, “So what do you want? Medication?”

I said, “Actually, yeah. That would be great.”

So she proceeded to tell me all of the possible horrible side effects, including my baby having trouble latching. Well breastfeeding was really important to me and the last thing a pregnant woman wants to do is anything that will hurt her baby.

So I just broke down in tears. Had a complete meltdown in her office. Told her that I didn’t want the medication now and I didn’t know what to do. And she basically just left me there.

It was awful.

Looking back

Now that I know more and have a clear head, I should have advocated for myself better. I should have asked to speak to a different doctor, who likely would have told me that the benefits of having a mentally healthy mother, in my case, likely would have outweighed the possibility of the very managable side effects from the medication.

But I didn’t. I let her leave me alone in this room having a complete mental breakdown and feeling completely helpless.

I’m now 6 months postpartum and if I could go back to a 7-month-pregnant version of myself and give her advice, I would tell her this:

See your doctor. And if you aren’t feeling supported, see a different doctor. When your doctor isn’t giving you what you need, ask if there is someone else you can talk to. Call or email the office later and tell them you need to speak to someone else. We have to advocate for ourselves.

To give you a little bit of context – the OBGYN office that I go to has multiple doctors. So I had other options. And if yours isn’t like that and you don’t like your doctor – go to a different office. It doesn’t matter if you’re 7 months pregnant.

A few weeks later I was in the office for another appointment and a very pregnant women was at the front desk scheduling her next appointment. She gave the receptionist the day she wanted to come in and said she’d be willing to see any doctor in the practice except….you guessed it…the doctor that I had talked to about my anxiety. I remember thinking, “So it’s not just me. This doctor isn’t vibing well with her patients.”

It seems like we’re seemingly open about mental illness, but in practice, maybe not so much. In my situation, it felt like my doctor asked me depression and anxiety screening questions to check it off the list. And I was too ashamed to answer the questions honestly.

Managing the Anxiety

I want to share what did work for me.

If I had the time, I think I really would have benefitted from seeing a therapist or counselor. But I didn’t.

From that point forward I had to work really hard to focus on my stress and anxiety. Here’s what I did:

  • I started a daily gratitude journal. I always thought those were so corny, but I was desperate. So I did it. Every day I wrote down something that I was thankful for and I made every entry meaningful. I wrote things like, “I’m so thankful to have a supportive husband.” And, “I’m thankful to have a job that allows me to support my family.”
  • I stopped consulting Dr. Google. This one was hard. Like a lot of people, I obsessed over Googling every single symptom. I had to consciously make an effort to stay positive and rational.
  • I called the doctor for anything and everything I wanted to. And you know what? They weren’t bothered by it! I went in for stress tests when I was worried about Baby’s movements and my (new) doctor told me that she’d rather I go in 50 times for no reason than not go in the one time I needed to. Do you know how good that felt?
  • I took more baths. These felt so good to me. I’d throw on my favorite book on tape or podcast and just relax.
  • I stopped talking about my stress to people who didn’t make me feel good. There were several people, even close friends, that I just couldn’t talk to anymore about my pregnancy issues because, for whatever reason, their responses just made me mad.

Those 5 things worked for me and I wish I would have started doing them sooner.

It’s critical, for you and your baby, to find ways that work for you. And it starts by recognizing that you’re suffering. Recognizing that you can feel better. And advocating for yourself.

XO Nicoll

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Posted in Uncategorized

Special Announcement

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I’ve got some exciting news to share! (No, it’s not a new baby.) But it is a new name. The last few years I’ve operated my blog under Nicoll’s Corner, and began a podcast under the same name.

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll remember that it started out as more of a lifestyle blog. I blogged about topics from my wedding to how to raise chickens and everything in between. I’ve always loved writing and my blog allowed me that creative outlet.

And then life changed for me.

In August of 2018 I became pregnant. And since then, I’ve needed support in a way that I never needed it before. Support that I’ve been lucky to find in my family and friends, and especially in my network of other women who have gone through the motherhood journey themselves.

Being a mom is hard. The questions and the worry are never ending. It has been challenging to feel like I’m doing it right. All while also being a good employee, good wife, daughter, sister, and friend. Not to mention feeling good about my body and keeping my head on straight.

So I started writing about pregnancy and motherhood. And then I started podcasting about pregnancy and motherhood. I wanted to create a community of fellow mothers and offer the same support that I have found to be so helpful. And to better reflect this community, the name of my podcast and blog is changing from Nicoll’s Corner to the Mastering Motherhood Podcast.

What does this mean for you? You can still receive the same great pregnancy, postpartum and parenthood content on both this blog and my podcast. In the coming weeks you will just see the new name: Mastering Motherhood Podcast. My blog’s web address will also change to MasteringMotherhoodPodcast.com. And finally, my social media and email addresses have changed as well, so check out on the Contact Page. You’ll see a fun new logo and cover art for the podcast, too!

I’ve so much appreciated your support throughout the years and I hope you continue to tune in, send your questions in, and keep on building this community of strong moms.

I have one more announcement for my Apple Podcast listeners and Alexa users: Apple Podcasts is now available on Alexa-enabled Amazon devices in the United States! Just say, “Alexa, play Mastering Motherhood Podcast on Apple Podcasts” and viola!

Thanks again for reading/listening and for your continued support.

XO Nicoll

Have a question? Submit it HERE

Posted in baby, postpartum

Best Baby Products of 2019

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Scrub-a-Dub-Dub!

Having a new born means constantly cleaning your baby! From puke to poop, we’ve got you covered with the best products to keep your babe squeaky clean.

This post contains affiliate links. Upon purchase, we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Disclosure Here.

Best diapers

Of all the diapers I tried, and I tried a lot, Pampers Swaddlers have continued to be my favorite. They fit my baby well, don’t leak and don’t smell when he pees. Best of all, as my baby has started sleeping through he night, I haven’t had to use any overnight diapers. The regular swaddlers work great! If you do like overnight diapers, however, Pampers has those, too!

Best wipes

Pampers wins again with their sensitive wipes. I highly recommend getting the refill packs with the pop top because believe it or not, breastfed babies can sometimes go weeks without pooping. If you’ve already opened a pack of wipes and your baby is on a pooping strike, the pack will dry out pretty quickly without the pop top.

Best diaper cream

A+D is my favorite diaper cream. It prevents and treats diaper rash and the smell is tolerable, which isn’t true for many other diaper creams. The ingredients are also gentle enough that they can be used for other skin irritations. A+D is also a favorite of mine because it doesn’t contain zinc oxide, which can actually irritate your baby if it gets on some of their more sensitive private parts.

Best diaper pail

You will be amazed at how many diapers your baby goes through a day and they STINK! The Munchkin Step Diaper Pail keeps the stink away, and even has Arm & Hammer Pucks you can use to have your pail smell like lavender or citrus. There are a couple of options for bags, but I recommend the Snap and Seal refill bags.

Best soap

The best baby soap actually doesn’t contain soap at all. It’s the Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser. Baby skin, especially newborn skin, is so sensitive that even baby soap can irritate it. If you’re trying to treat baby acne, use water on your baby’s face, but Cetaphil on the rest of their body. Follow up bath time with Cetaphil moisturizer.

Feeding Essentials

Breastfeeding comes with some unique challenges, especially in those early weeks. These are some essentials that make the experience a little bit easier. If your baby is using a bottle, there are a couple of items in this section that you’ll want, too.

Best nursing pads

The Lansinoh Stay Dry Nursing Pads are my favorite. They’re pretty big, but I found that I needed that, particularly when my supply was trying to regulate, or when my baby started sleeping through the night. Many disposable nursing pads are itchy, but these ones are soft and comfortable.

Best relief for sore nipples

You’ve got to get some gel pads and keep them refrigerated, if possible. The pads are reusable and and really do make a big difference.

More relief

Even if you don’t get the gel pads, you’ve got to get some lanolin cream. Medela’s Tender Care Lanolin Cream is a personal favorite. It’s safe for breastfeeding, and will also come in useful to ease the discomfort of pumping.

Best bottle for breastfed babies

Just when you’ve got the hang of breastfeeding, you’ve got to teach your baby to eat from a bottle. This can be stressful for nursing mothers because the last thing you want is a baby to refuse the bottle or worse, prefers the bottle and goes on a nursing strike. Mams bottles are great for breastfed babies. Be sure to keep the slow-flow nipples. Breastfed babies won’t need to size up. These bottles even self-sanitize!

Best sanitizer

Speaking of sanitizing, it can be such a hassle to sanitize bottles and pumping parts, especially if you’re traveling or doing anything that takes you outside of your home. I’ve tried everything from boiling water to microwave sanitizing systems, and even went as far as buying a sanitizing machine. They all work and have their good and bad sides, but when I’m in a pinch, I always use the Medela Sanitizing Spray.

But remember, New Mama, these are just things. As long as your baby has your love, food, diapers and a safe place to sleep, you’re doing it right.

XO Nicoll

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Posted in pregnancy

False Negative Pregnancy Test

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“I took a pregnancy test and got a negative result. Could I still be pregnant?”

In short, yes.

This usually happens when you took the test too soon. For the best results, you’ll want to take the test no sooner than the first day of your missed period, and take it first thing in the morning.

And although uncommon, it is also possible to take a pregnancy test later than your missed period and still get a negative result…even when you’re pregnant. It happened to me. Here’s my story:

The first month

When my husband and I decided we were ready for kids, I stopped taking birth control and started tracking my cycle

The first month after I stopped taking my pills, I waited the 28 days for my cycle to start again and it didn’t come. 29 days….30 days….And I was thinking to myself, “Holy cow! That was really fast, am I pregnant? There’s no way.”

I took a pregnancy test: Negative.

At 32 days my period finally came. It was my first period post-birth control, so it wasn’t a surprise to me that it was a little wonky. I had always had very regular periods, with or without birth control.

The second month

The second month of my cycle, I was late again. And the app I was using, Clue, takes into account the length of your previous cycles and makes predictions about when you’re ovulating and when your period will start. Based on my previous period, it didn’t have me scheduled to get this next one for a few more days.

I was at work the next day, it was a Friday, and I was in a meeting right before lunch, thinking about this dream I had the night before. It was wild. I was on this cruise ship, but was drowning. Like, Titanic style. I was thinking about the dream because it felt so real. I literally woke up thankful for my life because I thought for sure I had drown and died on this dream cruise ship. And as I was thinking about this dream, I suddenly remembered my best friend telling me about her crazy pregnancy dreams.

She had three kids and that was how she knew she was pregnant with the third, because of a crazy dream she had. As soon as I remembered her telling me that I was thinking, “Could it be? No way. People have crazy dreams all the time, right? It doesn’t mean they’re PREGNANT.”

But I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so as soon as this meeting was over, I ran to the local grocery store and bought a pregnancy test. One of those boxes that come with two tests.

As soon as I pay for the thing, I ran to the bathroom and ripped the box open. I ran into one of the stalls and took the test.

The faulty test

I’m sure you are all familiar with how pregnancy tests work, but in case you’re not:

  • There are two potential lines you’ll see when you take the test. One of them is the test line. This one ALWAYS turns pink, it’s how you know the test works. The other one may or may not show up.
  • If only the test line shows up, you’re not pregnant.
  • If both lines show up, you’re pregnant.

It’s that simple.

So I peed on this stick and waited and waited and waited…..and waited….nothing. Literally nothing. Not even the test line came up.

I had to go to back to work and all the nerves and excitement got in my head so I didn’t have to go again for HOURS after that.

I left work at the end of the day and went home to make some Korean food, which I had been seriously jonesin’ for. And while I was out getting the ingredients I passed by the liquor store and I thought to myself, “I should definitely get some wine.” A little part of me was like, “Should you? You could be pregnant….” But, I figured it was better to be safe than sorry, so I went ahead and bought that bottle of red.

I got home and made my Korean food and again wondered if I should open that bottle of wine. I ultimately decided that I should. So I drank a glass because somehow in my mind I reasoned that I wasn’t OFFICIALLY pregnant until a test confirmed it. So wine first, then test. Plus I still didn’t have to go.

The second test

FINALLY I felt the urge to pee. I quickly found the 2nd pregnancy test that came in the box and went to the bathroom. SUCCESS…this one worked. The test line showed up.

I was sitting there waiting for the verdict….waiting….waiting…and I didn’t see anything

….or did I? I couldn’t tell.

My bathroom was kind of dim, so I took it out to my kitchen. I was holding this test at 20 different angles, holding it up to the light and I still just see the faintest shadow of a line. It was so faint that I honestly wasn’t sure if it was my eyes deceiving me or just the spot where the dye was, but hadn’t turned pink. Still inconclusive. So I took the test outside because at this point it was still daylight. And for the life of me I COULD NOT tell if there was a faint line or not.

I had no idea what to do. Or how to feel. Was I happy? Was I panicking? Overreacting? Hoping to see a line? I had no choice…I had to take another test.

The third test

I went back to the grocery store and bought like 6 more tests. And a card for my husband….just in case. And Sunny Delight because…ya know….Juno.

I was chugging the Sunny D and waiting until I need to go again. Luckily, the grocery store had one last box of the pregnancy test with a digital display that just tells you “pregnant” or “not pregnant.” So I decided to take that one.

I took the test and it just has this hourglass that was flashing. FOR-EV-ERRRRRR. And all I could think was, “Great. Another faulty test.” After ages and ages it finally read…pregnant. I couldn’t believe it. I cried and was so happy. I wanted kids and much like many women, was convinced that I wouldn’t be able to have them.

I’m a very anxious person and thought for sure that if I wasn’t very careful, this baby would just fall out without me knowing or something. Or thought that maybe I had dreamed the whole thing up or that the test gave a false positive (which isn’t a thing, by the way). When I called my doctor, they asked:

“Did you have a positive test?”

“Yes.”

“You’re pregnant.”

“Are you sure?”

“Have you had any bleeding?”

“No.”

“Okay then you’re pregnant.”

But I still took a pregnancy test about every other day, just to make sure. I didn’t feel pregnant. I felt great! No morning sickness, nothing. I didn’t look pregnant (Obviously, it was so early). Eventually the pink line on my tests became very obvious, which I was so thankful for. 

I quickly realized how costly it was becoming for me to be taking multiple pregnancy tests every day and I convinved myself that I was, in fact, pregnant. And that everything was going to be okay and I needed to just calm down.

So I laid off the test for a few weeks.

The final test

A couple of days before my first prenatal appointment, I decided I should take another test, juuuuuuuust in case.

I took the test AND…it was negative. I kid you not. One pink line.

I proceeded to lose it. I was crying, called my doctor freaking out. I just didn’t understand how I could be pregnant one day and then a week or two later not be!

So I called the doctor who again asked me the same set of questions:

“Did you have a positive test?”

“Yes! But that was a few weeks ago!”

“Have you had any bleeding?”

“No!”

“Okay, then you’re still pregnant.”

And I was like, “But the test was negative!!!”

And I’ll never forget this. The doctor told me, “You’re going to spend the next 9 months worrying about your baby, and then another 18 after that. Just relax.”

So obviously I did not relax. But I did feel a little better that the doctor wasn’t concerned.

The doctor’s appointment

My prenatal appointment was 2 days later and at this point I had convinced myself that something had gone terribly wrong, because there was just no other possible explanation for this test being negative. My husband and I went back to the exam room for the ultrasound. The doctor pulled out the ultrasound machine and I was just a wreck at this point. 100% prepared for the doctor to tell me my pregnancy wasn’t viable or I was never pregnant to begin with. And then I saw it…this tiny flickering blob. And I had done enough research to know before she even told me, that was a heartbeat.

That moment was so emotional for me. I cried and felt so much relief…and fear. And love. How was I possibly going to be a good enough mother? How was I going to protect this baby well enough? I already loved him or her soooo much.

The worry

Let me tell you…that doctor I spoke to on the phone was right. The worry never went away, it just changed. I never found a reason to stop worrying. If you’re a parent, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Since my son was born, the worry has just gotten worse because I love him soooo much. He’s 6 months old and I still check on him multiple times a night to make sure he’s breathing. Is that normal? I have no idea. It could be postpartum anxiety. Or it could just be that I care so much about that baby boy that I spend every second of the day and night making sure he’s safe and happy. That’s motherhood.

Why the false negative?

So why was did that test come up negative? I still have no idea. There are a few theories:

  • Maybe I took the test too late in the day and my HcG levels were too low.
  • Maybe I drank too much water and my urine was diluted.
  • Others have told me that if you have TOO MUCH HcG the test won’t work. It’s called the hook effect.

I really have no explanation. But I have met other women who have had similar experiences, and even met one woman who has never had a pregnancy test give her a positive result, even though she’s had multiple healthy babies.

The moral of the story here is…you know your body. Don’t ever hesitate to call your doctor if you suspect anything is going on, regardless of what a test says.

XO Nicoll

Have a question? Submit it HERE

Posted in baby, parenting, postpartum, pregnancy

Mom Groups: The Good, the Bad and the Weird

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“I’m pregnant and I’m thinking about joining a mom group. Should I?”

Congratulations! You’re pregnant and probably looking for support from others who can relate to what you’re experiencing. Sure, you probably have friends who have been pregnant before, and maybe you even have yourself. But there’s just something about being able to talk to women who are in the same stage of motherhood that you are at the same time. Because let’s be honest…we all look back at our pregnancies and probably remember them differently than they actually happened.

There are a few different kinds of mom groups, and each of them brings something different to the table. Personally, I’ve had experience with three.

The facebook mom group

Very early in my first trimester, about 4 or 5 weeks in, I was invited to join a private group on facebook made up of other pregnant women who were all due around the same time I was. At the time that I joined, there were probably 200 of us.

The good: The women in this group were so kind and supportive. It was great to be able to ask them questions that I wouldn’t ask someone I actually knew.

They also made delivery seem much less scary. A good chunk of them delivered before I did and I just remember looking at their photos and thinking, “holy cow, they look so good!” And after delivery, they’d just be gushing about their babies, not saying how awful it was, so that gave me hope.

When it got closer to my due date I was experiencing some contractions and I asked them how you know the difference between Braxton Hicks and real contractions and it was nice to get so many different perspectives based on their own experiences.

Our babies are all around 6 months old now and we still post every day.

The bad: During my first trimester I almost left the group. There were several women who experienced miscarriages and being that we were their support, they would often post, in detail, what was happening. It was horrible for them and in a different time I may have been in a headspace to be more supportive, but being that I was pregnant also, I found myself just getting a lot of anxiety and fear that I would also have a miscarriage. It kept me up at night and constantly had me thinking the worst. I was lucky to have a healthy pregnancy, but the stress that comes with being pregnant was definitely exacerbated by being in that group so early on.

The weird: Every group has a weird mom and in this group, they were the pregnancy elitists, as I called them. They were usually women who had given birth before and knew it alllllll.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved having women in the group who had already had kids because I found their experience to be very helpful. But the pregnancy elitists just had a way of acting like it was their way or the wrong way.

The hospital mom group

The hospital that I delivered at had a new moms networks that met once a week. The first part of it was dedicated to going around in a circle and each mom talking about what went well and what didn’t that week. Then a guest speaker would come in to talk and answer questions. The guest speakers ranged from pediatricians to leaders of fitness groups for new moms, to moms who had experienced postpartum depression.

The good: I found this group to be very informational. I got a lot out of being able to ask questions of the guest speakers and other mothers. It also got me showered and out of the house to a place where I felt comfortable bringing a newborn. Newborns are hard because you never know when they’re going to be hungry or cry or just need to be held.

Being a part of this group, I felt comfortable nursing or changing my baby’s diaper. I also knew that I wouldn’t be judged if he broke out in tears for one reason or another.

The bad: I found it difficult to form solid relationships with the other moms in this group. I didn’t go every week because I had a vacation and other plans, and I was only able to go for the 12 weeks that I was off of work. It wasn’t enough time to make anything more than acquaintances.

The weird: The weird mom in this group was the Regina George of the moms. She had been going for a long time and rarely skipped group, so she knew most everyone, but only seemed to like a small group. She would often use time during group to organize meetups, but only invite some of the moms, and be very vocal about how she didn’t want to invite everyone.

The work mom group

My office has a new moms group that has occasional meetings to do mommy and baby yoga, or have a guest speaker come in to talk about work-life balance.

The good: Of all the mom groups, this is the one made up of mothers who can most easily relate to each other. We all work for the same company, in the same part of the state, and we all work. Let’s face it: working moms have some unique stresses – pumping at work, feeling comfortable with your childcare provider, etc.

It has been great to be able to connect with other mothers who can relate to many of my struggles as a mother, but we can also talk about things outside of motherhood.

They are also women that I see on a regular basis, so forming friendships has come with a little more ease.

The bad: I don’t have anything negative to say about this group. It does force you to mix your professional and personal lives, though, so if that’s not something your comfortable with, this might not be the group for you.

The weird: Every woman I’ve talked to who has joined a new moms group at their work has told me about the mom who has stayed in the group a liiiiiiitttle too long. At least at my office, the group is intended for new moms. Meaning, mothers of babies. But there’s always that one mom whose kid is like 15, yet they’re still a part of the new moms group. Perhaps to impart their wisdom? Who knows.

Should you join?

My answer is yes. It’s so important to have as much support as possible, especially as a new mother. Motherhood is hard and often times lonely. Find a network. Ask them questions. Cry on their collective shoulder.

If it isn’t making you feel good, then quit. But it’s worth a shot.

XO Nicoll

Have a question? Submit it HERE

Posted in baby, parenting

How to Treat Baby Acne

My baby is one month old and has broken out with terrible acne. What do I do?!”

Don’t panic. I know it’s hard seeing breakouts on your new baby’s perfect face, but it probably bothers you much more than it bothers them.

If your baby is showing signs that their acne is hurting or itching them, or you’re at all worried, please schedule an appointment with your doctor.

Baby acne is very common and while time heals all things, there are a few steps you can take that may help speed up the process.

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Washcloth and warm water

Using a soft washcloth and lukewarm water, gently wipe your baby’s face once or twice a day. This will help clear it of milk, formula, or anything else that may be accumulating on their sensitive skin throughout the day.

Avoid soap

Believe it or not, baby soap may actually cause your baby’s face to break out worse, so avoid using soap on their faces and stick to just water.

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser is great to use on their bodies during bath time. It’s soap-free and easy on Baby’s newborn skin.

Breastmilk

The power of breastmilk is amazing. After you’re done nursing, try expressing some drops directly onto your baby’s face and gently spreading it over their acne.

Not only can breastmilk help treat baby acne, but some moms have been known to use it to alleviate sunburns, mosquito bites and several other skin ailments.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil can serve as an anti-bacterial, as well as a moisturizer. Try applying a little bit to your baby’s skin and see if it helps.

Coconut oil can also be used to treat cradle cap and cracked nipples from nursing.

Tubby Todd’s All Over Ointment

Even if you don’t use it to treat your baby’s acne, Tubby Todd’s All Over Ointment is a great product to have on hand.

It’s made with natural ingredients and can be used to treat anything from cradle cap to diaper rash to mom and dad’s dry heels.

The ointment is a little pricey ($16 for 3.2 oz), but a little bit goes a long way!

Try not to stress too much about your baby’s acne. It does get better…at least until they’re teenagers!

XO Nicoll

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Posted in baby, parenting

How to Choose a Halloween Costume for Your Baby

“Halloween is in two weeks and I still haven’t picked out a costume for my baby. Help!”

Good news! There’s still time. First Halloweens are fun, but don’t pressure yourself to pick out the perfect costume. When it comes to babies and Halloween, practical is best. Here are some tips:

Check the weather

Not only the weather, but what your plans are.

Do you have older kids that you’ll be taking trick-or-treating? If so, baby may need a warmer costume, or one that can fit a coat underneath.

Live somewhere warm? Then those fluffy, warm costumes may overheat your beach babe.

If you plan on staying inside while your baby is in costume, you have more flexibility, but should still remember that babies overheat easily, so nothing too warm.

Avoid costumes with tails

Baby dinosaurs and other costumes with tails are cute, but don’t expect your little monster to stay in costume for long. If your baby can’t sit up on their own yet, you’ll have to hold them the entire time they’re in costume. If they can sit up, you will still need to take the costume off for car seats, high chairs, etc.

Consider buying a Halloween onesie

You already know to always have a spare set of clothes in the event of a blowout or puke. But why not make it one more festive?!

Halloween onesies can be found at reasonable prices, and you’ll be thankful you have one when your baby is tired of wearing their costume. The onesie pictured below was purchased at Carters.com for less than $10.

Buy online from a company you know

Prefer to buy Baby’s costume online? Do it! But keep in mind these tips:

As tempting as it is to take advantage of Prime and buy your baby’s costume from Amazon, proceed with caution.

Sizes can be hard to determine when buying online, especially if your baby is right around the 6-month mark, as many costumes come in either sizes 0-6 months, or 6-12 months. Buying from a company whose sizes you’re already familiar with can help avoid ending up with a costume that’s too big or too small.

Double check the shipping time and availability of the item. With two weeks left until Halloween, there is still time to get your costume shipped, but verify where it’s coming from and how soon the company can get it shipped. In September I ordered a Halloween costume that was Prime eligible on Amazon, but didn’t realize until after it shipped that the costume was coming from China (I’m in the US) and would not, in fact, be delivered that week. One month later and I neither have the item, nor am able to track it.

Companies like Carter’s and Target have some really cute costumes that generally ship quickly. They are also pretty good about letting you know when items are out-of-stock, so you’re not ordering costumes that won’t ship right away.

Don’t use face paint

We’ve all seen the adorable and hilarious Pinterest photos of babies sporting cute whiskers or funny mustaches for Halloween…don’t do it. Baby skin is extremely sensitive and face paint can not only irritate their faces, but can be difficult to wash off. You also have their busy little fingers to consider…fingers which will surely be in their mouths, rubbing their eyes, and smearing the makeup you so carefully applied.

Enjoy costume hunting and be sure to take lots of pictures! Remember – think practical.

XO Nicoll

Have a question? Submit it HERE

Posted in pregnancy

What You Should Know About Your First Trimester

I just found out I’m pregnant, but it’s too early to tell anyone and I’m feeling really overwhelmed. What do I need to know about my first trimester?

Congratulations! Whether you planned to become pregnant or you’re surprised to find yourself a few days late, that moment when you see the second pink line show up on a pregnancy test is very emotional. Your whole life is about to change. Here was my experience, and some things I wish I would have known going into my first trimester:

Symptoms may not be what you expect

Pregnancy symptoms can be your typical sore boobs and morning sickness. Or they might be non-existant. Nothing is normal, and everything is normal.

My experience: My best friend, Steph, told me about the intense dreams pregnancy can bring on. After I stopped taking birth control, my cycles were pretty long. So for the second month in a row, my period was late. I didn’t think much of it.

One night I had a crazy intense dream that I was on a cruise ship that was flooding and I was drowning. Weird, right? The next day at work I was in a meeting and BOOM! I remembered Steph’s words and I thought…is it possible? It was. That was the day I found out.

My symptoms after that? Nothing. Some food aversions, a lot of foods just didn’t taste good. MAYYYBBEE my stomach felt a little upset if I ate breakfast too late. I didn’t feel good when the weather got cold. But they were all things that weren’t totally out of the ordinary for me.

I spent so much of my first trimester worried that something was wrong because I couldn’t relate to what other pregnant women were going through. I even longed to feel terrible like they did. At one point I went so far as to take another pregnancy test at 7 weeks just to make sure I didn’t imagine it. And guess what? THE TEST WAS NEGATIVE! I obviously lost my mind and called the doctor immediately. Turns out it’s just some phenomenon that happens sometimes when you’re a few weeks in.

Two first-trimester doctor appointments and my little baby was developing right on track.

Some people just don’t experience a lot of symptoms.

We have so much information at our disposal

You can find out anything you want to about your growing baby. Insomnia got you up at night? I always searched different hashtags on Instagram to see how my bump compares to others that are just as far along.

It is so cool to learn about how quickly your little embryo is developing, especially when you can’t see or feel it yet.

Information also comes with a large dose of reality. You will learn about the alarmingly high rate of first trimester miscarriages, birth defects, and everything else that can go wrong.

You have to know when to put down the laptop and just have faith that everything is going well in your body.

My experience: I’m a researcher. So from the instant I found out I was pregnant I was constantly scouring the internet, or flipping through the pages of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. A lot of what I found was scary, but I couldn’t get enough information.

I also joined a private Facebook group of other women due around the same time. Believe it or not, that group was by far what has caused me the most stress in this pregnancy. It was about 160 women, and all too often they were posting about bleeding, miscarriages, going to the doctor and not finding a heartbeat. These were all things I head read about on the internet, but putting a face to the stories made it very real. I spent far too much time worrying that their terrible stories would happen to me.

Joining the group was really eye-opening for me. I didn’t realize how common miscarriage is and how blessed we have been to have a hassle-free pregnancy. But seeing the posts was so anxiety-inducing that I actually wished I hadn’t joined at all. It wasn’t until I was at about 15 weeks that I started to find the group helpful. There were other first-time moms who would ask questions I wanted to know the answers to, and plenty of experienced mothers who could provide sage advice.

Each person has different needs, but if I had to do it all again, I wouldn’t have joined that group until my second trimester. Pregnancy is stressful enough.

The human body is incredible

Pregnancy really is a miracle. I was and am continually amazed at how quickly a baby grows in utero.

A pregnant body is making so many changes to accommodate that little being and giving it everything it needs in order to thrive.

For as often as we complain about sickness or fatigue, they are minor symptoms compared to the miracle that is happening inside.

My favorite first trimester moments: My first two doctor’s appointments were unforgettable. The first appointment was at just seven weeks and the instant that I saw that little heart beating on the screen I started crying. It was so surreal seeing a living being inside of me.

Just four weeks later, at 11 weeks, the ultrasound clearly showed my baby’s arms and legs. The difference in just a month was amazing.

Those two appointments made the pregnancy so much more real for me.

I wish you a smooth and stress-free pregnancy and so much patience as you wait until you’re comfortable telling the rest of the world about your little one!

XO Nicoll

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Posted in postpartum

6 Things I Didn’t Expect Postpartum

I’m nearing the end of my pregnancy and have done everything to prepare for labor & delivery. What should I be expecting after delivery that I haven’t already heard about?

Yes! As expecting mothers, we spend so much time reading up on every aspect of our pregnancy and what to expect during labor. But there are a few surprising things that come postpartum. Here were my top 6 biggest surprises:

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1. The peri bottle

Talk about a lifesaver! After you give birth and you’re a bloody mess *down there*, the hospital will provide you with a little water bottle that you squirt on yourself when you go to the bathroom. It feels great and leaves your very sore parts clean, like a portable bidet!

A word of advice: get a spare and pack it in your diaper bag because you do not want to be running an errand, have to pee and realize you left your peri bottle at home. It hurts and it’s just not an experience I’d wish on anyone I love.

2. Being scared to poop

I was more scared of my post-delivery bowel movement than I was of childbirth itself. Every muscle, tendon and piece of skin had been stretched beyond its breaking point and the idea of anything else coming out was just unfathomable.

Between how I felt physically and the mental block that prohibited me from going…it was days before I would get near a toilet for Number 2.

3. Tailbone pain

To piggy back on my fear of going to the bathroom…that was in large part because of how bad my tailbone hurt! I remember telling the nurse at the hospital that it felt like I bruised my tailbone, to which she responded, “you probably did.” What?!

Yeah. Apparently Baby’s head can cause some trauma to your tailbone. I couldn’t sit comfortably for months after delivery!

4. Stretchy skin

It makes sense, but not something I ever gave any consideration. After giving birth, your stomach is still very swollen for weeks, but once the swelling starts to come down, your skin is still stretched out.

Don’t panic yet! Your skin does eventually catch up…kind of. I’ve accepted that I’m probably always going to be a little squishier, but at least my skin doesn’t look/feel as funny as it did in the days following delivery.

I’ll also add…the squishy skin and stretch marks are so worth it.

5. Nursing is hard

I don’t know if you plan on nursing, but if you are, just know that it’s hard at first. And it hurts! But it’s normal and it does get better.

I don’t know why, but this took me totally by surprise. I thought it would be the most natural thing in the world, but it takes your baby some time to learn and it takes your body some time to acclimate.

It’s also tricky because breastfeeding requires you to continue to care for your body when your only care in the world is caring for that brand new baby. The last thing on your mind is drinking enough water and intaking enough calories…which is what your body needs in order to produce milk.

Unfortunately it also means a couple of weeks of pain and sleep deprivation because your baby needs to eat every 2-3 hours, if not more.

Once both you and Baby get into a routine, though, it’s very special.

6. How much I love my son

Of course I knew I would love him. But I never expected how overwhelmed with love I would be. There were so many days when I would just hold him and look at him and cry because my heart was just exploding out of my chest. The love that a mother has for her child is unlike anything I ever could have imagined. It’s simultaneously wondering how you ever lived without this little person, worrying about everything that could ever hurt them, and understanding that this right here was your entire life’s purpose and nothing else will ever matter as much as your baby.

Wishing you and your baby a healthy delivery. You’re doing great!

XO Nicoll

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