My life plan for 2014: I was going to carry my baby to term, have a great delivery, instantly bond with my son, and fully enjoy my maternity leave (complete with nearly 10 weeks off of teaching elementary school and plenty of support from family). My husband and I were going to love the newborn stage and provide a loving home where happiness prevailed on a daily basis. We even had a mental list of all the things we would teach our child and the values we wanted him to possess. Enter preeclampsia. Enter bed rest. Enter early induction, 34 hours of labor, an emergency c-section and a NICU stay. You can probably guess how quickly our “plan” for a smooth entrance into parenthood was dashed into pieces. This initial shock continued with us returning home to an empty house (my family was out of the country on vacation because nobody was planning on an early delivery). Worse, my husband didn’t have any time off due to starting a new job.

I felt disconnected from my son—like I couldn’t register that he came from me. I loved him and took care of him—but it all felt surreal for several days. I had never expected boredom to be a part of my postpartum experience. I had imagined days full of dirty diapers, playing, feeding, and crying. Instead, I had hours and hours of down time while my baby slept during the day. My whole house was in order (thank you nesting instinct), I wasn’t working, and I had only lived in my house for 3 weeks and therefore didn’t have friends in the neighborhood. I will forever be grateful for my mom’s friends who totally stepped up to the plate, and for strangers in my neighborhood who brought meals and expressed support

Still, this transition was hard in ways I had not previously imagined. All of my child development training and teaching experience felt like it was slowly turning to unused mush in my brain as I got lost in the day-in and day-out routine of caring for a baby. As a parent, there was no “work hard to help them grow and then send them home in a few hours” option. There was no break for collaboration, prep work, or professional development. Instead, breaks were slowly filled with laundry, dishes, or bills. I often joked with my husband that I needed a recording of an audience clapping for me every time I changed a diaper. I missed having others validate my hard work and talents.

As time went by, we slowly found our “new normal.” I returned to work to finish off the rest of the school year. Our son became more interactive as he learned to smile, laugh, and babble. I found myself enjoying each new stage that my son entered. Overall, things became REALLY good. I really did love being a parent. However, I still found it hard to be intentional with my parenting when my child was at such a young age. We just went through the motions of keeping everyone alive and happy each day- and honestly that was okay. It was a good life.

A few years later, we welcomed our daughter into our home. This pregnancy, although fraught with anxiety due to a recent missed miscarriage, was much smoother. I had a completely different hospital experience this time around. My daughter was healthy and able to stay in my room. Breastfeeding fell into place rather easily. Whether it was because I was more relaxed as a second-time parent or whether it was the lack of a traumatic birth, I’ll never know… but I do know the mother/baby connection was there at the moment of birth.

During this hospital stay, a volunteer entered my room and asked me if I would like to sign up for a program called Begin with the Children. I was wary at first, but she explained the free program to me as “parenting help that is delivered each month.” I figured that if I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to use it. I signed the paperwork and essentially forgot about it after that.

A few weeks after bringing my daughter home from the hospital, I found a package in the mail containing my first KinderKronicle. It took me a while to even remember signing up for this program. I flipped through the colorful articles and was instantly impressed that this WAS FOR ME as a parent, not for my daughter. It was covering topics such as building a strong marriage through communication, strengthening our family ties, and building a plan for the future. I was hooked.

Each month I would flip through the short articles and read interesting ideas about how to be an intentional parent. Although it covered some of my daughter’s developmental milestones, it really focused more on how I was developing as a parent- and that is something I had never studied in school. It made me think about what I actually wanted my family to be like, and how we could get to that point. It presented opportunities to discuss goals with my husband. I could count on the fact that at least one time a month, I would have a physical reminder to evaluate myself as a parent and to become better. I can honestly say that after the birth of my second child, I lived in the moment more and was more intentional about how we spent our time and efforts as a family. I owe much of that to KinderKronicle.

Fast forward to the present time, we are about to embark on another parenting journey… this time with twins! We are looking forward to starting over with the Begin with the Children program. In the happy chaos that our family is becoming, heaven knows we could use a monthly reminder to be intentional and in-the-moment at each stage of our parenting journey. Wish us luck! We are glad that the Begin with the Children program is here to help.

Kaitlyn resides in Utah with her husband and 2 (soon to be 4) children. She has a degree in K-6 Elementary Education and a master’s in Curriculum and Instruction. She owns and operates Little Critters Preschool from her home and enjoys the balance that she has found between working and staying at home with her children. She loves Cafe Sabor, Aggie Ice Cream, and automatic car washes.