Part of what gets us out of bed in the am (besides coffee!), is discovering amazing and talented mamas and great products we think you might like! Although this series is sponsored by Fisher-Price, the Jonathan Adler Crafted By Fisher-Price Collection totally knocked us out with it’s incredible design and quality so we were thrilled to collaborate with them and the authentic women in these posts.

Marketing maven Kate Arends has had the knack for creating brands from the ground up for almost 10 years. Along with running her successful blog, Wit & Delight, she also creates award-winning strategic design, marketing, and product solutions for nationally renowned companies. Now a first-time mama, Kate shares why she took postpartum depression so seriously, the importance of a strong support system, and how having her first babe felt like a science experiment.

Kate Arends

Looking back to just a few months ago waiting for August to arrive, what were you the most excited and the most anxious about? How did those dreams and fears play out in reality?

Wow, it really feels like a lifetime ago that I was pregnant. I was most excited to meet this little person. Wondering what his disposition was going to be like and what was going to happen now that Joe and I combined our genetics! It kind of felt like a science experiment. I was most anxious about juggling a newborn and running a business. This fear was realized. It’s still the hardest thing about being a mother. I didn’t expect to feel so natural in this role however. I was surprised how quickly my “instinct” kicked in… I didn’t think I had it in me, but I somehow felt confident handling a tiny newborn, even though I had held exactly 5 babies in my lifetime. Biology is awesome.

Early days with a new baby can be pretty hectic! Everything feels so new and emotional. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in the first months with August?

The biggest challenge was learning to let go of routine for a little while. We were just trying to get to know one another and give him everything he needed, when he needed it. I also didn’t realize how hard the first weeks were going to be on our marriage. Joe felt really helpless and I realized I needed to give him the opportunity to define his role as the father. Simple things like having him change the diapers or bouncing him back to sleep after feedings helped him get involved in those early weeks.

Going back to work can have its own set of challenges from missing your little one and feeling guilty to real time logistic on getting work done. It can be even more challenging when you work for yourself and “set” your own hours. How have your first days back to work been?

Honestly, they were the worst days of my professional life. I hadn’t anticipated my brain changing during this process and I was (and still am) a little slower when it comes to decision making and time management. I hadn’t anticipated this when managing our workload upon arriving back at work. A few things went wrong and like dominos, we got behind. Our studio build-out had major delays and we ran into remodeling issues in our bathroom. It all compounded on itself and I’m still trying to make up for the time we lost. So yes, it’s been a real struggle. I’m currently 2 months in and it’s just now starting to feel easier.

Sleep is always the most elusive and sought after thing in the early days with bebe. What has August’s sleep schedule been like? Any tricks you’ve found that help get him off to sleep?

I’m kind of afraid to say he’s sleeping like a champ, because I know a lot of parents with children a similar age are struggling with sleep training. We got lucky; after around 3 weeks, he proved to be pretty easy going and really enjoys his crib. (I like to think he’s an introvert like his mom). I am, however, not sleeping as much as I’d like to due to being really behind with work.

As for our sleep tricks, I listened to my mother’s advice, which was to help him self-soothe as early as possible. At about 6 weeks and 12 pounds, we started to observe him closely to see if he was just waking up as part of his normal REM cycle or if he truly needed to eat. It turns out he only needed one feeding at around 4-5am. There was a difference in the way he cried when he needed help going back to sleep and when he needed to be changed or fed. It was subtle, but our intuition was right. At three months we’re sleeping a solid 12 hours (7pm-7am) with an occasional 5am feeding. He’s gaining weight at the same rate, ~2-3lb per month. He’s around 17lbs at 3 months.

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A close and really stylish friends calls to tell you the good news she is expecting. She is so excited but feeling overwhelmed at the thought of creating her registry. What are your top 5 items you would tell her to be sure to include?

This is a fun question! Every mother and every baby is different, so I try to give advice with that caveat. The top five items based on our personal experience would be:

  1. Muslin swaddles. We use them for EVERYTHING and you cannot have enough in the house. I’ve even worn them as a scarf!
  2. The NoseFrida. A neighbor gifted us this device and it saved us from a very long night the first time August got a cold.
  3. A Halo Sleepsack. August couldn’t sleep without his.
  4. A fabulous rocker. Go for comfort, then style. There are great options at Room & Board!
  5. Anything from the Jonathan Adler Crafted By Fisher-Price Collection. The combination of materials is really my favorite aspect of the pieces. Injecting wood into the functional aspects of the Deluxe Bouncer and Deluxe High Chair is so chic. August loves to gaze at the bold patterns and I love that it fits in with our décor! I’m also a big fan of the midcentury animals and shapes included in each piece. Classic and timeless!

Having a great support system is key to navigating the newborn stage. What has your support system been like? Anyone special you want to say thank you to?

I owe my mother and my husband thank you’s for life. I definitely didn’t realize how much help I would need… I’ve always been pretty self-sufficient, but the second they put that baby in my arms, I wanted to do everything I could to build a support system around him, which meant I needed to be OK asking for help.

My mother stayed with us for 3 weeks, which allowed me to nap, shower, and keep up with emails here and there. She helped me learn to not over handle the baby, and that sometimes they need to be put down and given some alone time. I felt like I was failing if I wasn’t feeding or changing or rocking or reading to him. She’s the reason why he is sleeping so well. I sobbed when she left.

Joe has always been a help around the house, but he really started to go the extra mile when I went back to work. I was so busy that I would forget to eat and become intolerably irritable. He started to show up with lunch or put granola bars in all my bags, a sweet way of saying, “honey, you’re not yourself when you’re hungry!”  He’s always willing to make sure August is packed and ready to head out the door so I’m able to wrap things up with work. It really is the little things that mean the most.

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That’s so sweet! I don’t know what I would have done without my mom either. Moms are the best. Your home is so stunning and light-filled and you have a very particular style throughout. You must have put a lot of time and thought into getting your home ready for August. What part did you enjoy the most? Did you update any rooms besides the nursery?

I started nesting before I knew I was pregnant! I got this insane urge to clean out all of our closets and then, on a whim, decided I needed to trade in my Mini Cooper for a larger SUV. A week later, there was the positive test. Unfortunately, it didn’t really stop there. I cleaned and organized and purged until we had enough room in this tiny house for another human. The actual designing of the nursery was fairly straight forward. I waited until the 30-week mark before I started thinking about the space and by then, you can’t special order anything unless you’re cool with having furniture arrive in week 38. I wasn’t, so it was all in-stock items!

The most rewarding aspect of creating a nursery was seeing how much August enjoys his room. He immediately took to the wallpaper we installed, which was the main décor element in our space. To this day, he is happiest in his room.

Shopping for bebe and stocking up on adorable tiny things is half the fun! Any fave places to find things? Things you became obsessed with?

Oh the clothes! The décor! I’ve had so much fun discovering beautiful brands that make dressing and designing a room for August a blast.

Our favorite clothing brands: Winter Water Factory, Petite Organics, Polarn O Pyret, H&M, Old Navy, and Tiny Cottons.

My favorite décor sites: Land of Nod, Incy Interiors, Target, Serena & Lily, All Modern, RH Baby & Child, Dwell Studio, Ouef NYC, and Fawn & Forest.

You had an emergency C-section, which must have been really scary and not in your birth plan. How have you been feeling postpartum? What’s your plan been like to get back on track physically? Biggest challenge?

It’s been tough. I labored for 12 hours and pushed for 4 before the emergency C-section was recommended. It was exhausting and, in many ways, I’m still recovering. Because I have experienced depression in the past, I took my risks for postpartum depression very seriously. I had my placenta encapsulated and that really helped my energy levels immediately after surgery.

I’m trying to learn to accept my body with all the changes that have happened. I haven’t started a diet or exercise regime beyond eating balanced meals and watching my caloric intake. I’m about 3lbs away from my pre pregnancy weight, but everything looks a little different. My girlfriends have been super supportive, too. Once I talked about my weight gain and challenges after surgery, they were more open about their experiences. It helped dispel the idea that I had to bounce back 12 weeks after birth because that’s what’s normal. There is no normal; everyone has a different birth and a different postpartum experience.

Kate Arends

What’s been the biggest surprise to you in this crazy journey of motherhood?

How fulfilled I feel. I know it sounds terrible, but I wasn’t prepared for the extraordinary change that comes with having a child. When I get home from work, whatever happened that day melts away. Yes, I open my computer each night and yes, I think about work all the time, but those moments we’re together… I just didn’t expect the entire world to fall away like that. It’s really beautiful and unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

Kate Arends

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