Monday, December 31, 2012

Questions for the New Year

I found this list of questions through Jen Dary's blog and felt moved to pen my own answers.  I appreciated its focus on the bigger picture of what I value and how that translates into my dreams, hopes, and goals for the coming year.

1. Because I want 2013 to count, I'm going to stop letting the perfect be the enemy of the good and just do.  I've been putting things on hold, waiting until the rest of my life is in perfect order, which we all know never happens.  It's time to get started.

2. Because fear of failure is no longer a good enough reason not to do it, in 2013 I will be brave with what I write.  Too often I try to make my thoughts and opinions more palatable out of fear of offending someone, or if I'm being more honest, out of fear of being judged.  If people don't like what I write, they don't have to read it, but why even bother if I'm not willing to take risks?

3. Because I listened to the whispers inside, in 2013 I will take concrete steps to become a writer.  Why is so scary to just write that?  Probably because it makes me feel like I have created too many expectations and that people will be disappointed with what I produce, but I suppose that's the reason for number one.

4. Because things that brought me joy in childhood still do, in 2013 I will read for fun.  Often.  And instead of watching television.

5. Because simple pleasures are so rich, in 2013 I will appreciate the ordinary.

6. Because my body has served me so beautifully all of these years, in 2013 I will honor it by listening to what it needs.  No rigid rules or restrictions, just striving for balance.

7. Because the world needs my service, in 2013 I will remember that the work I do every day--helping my child grow into his own little person--is my service to the world in this season of life.  

8. Because of the remarkable people who have loved me and made me who I am, in 2013 I know that I have a community who will allow me draw on their love and support when I feel overwhelmed.  There is no shame in asking for help.

9. Because I am willing to believe in the power of forgiveness, in 2013 I will let go of the resentment I feel toward friends who disappeared after the birth of my son.  Like most situations, blame lies with both parties, and pointing fingers only leads to bitterness.

10. Because the silence has gone on long enough, in 2013 I will speak out for gay marriage, even when it's uncomfortable.  Change is coming, and it can't come soon enough.

11. Because I am so blessed, in 2013 I will focus on gratitude.

12. Because I vow to be more radical, in 2013 I will submit a piece of my writing for publication.

13. Because I want, in the last days of my life, to remember this year with tears of gratitude, in 2013 I will consciously limit my time in front of screens so I can better prioritize my family, friends, and dreams.  Because let's be honest, how likely is it that at the end of my life I'm going to wish that I had checked Facebook one more time?  Not very.

So here's to a new year.  2013, I look forward to getting to know you.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Our (Pallet) Christmas Tree

Last night we listened to Christmas carols, took turns keeping HP from a complete meltdown as bedtime approached, burned dinner due to distraction, and most importantly--decorated our very own pallet Christmas tree.

Here's the finished product:



The project is fairly self-explanatory, but here are the steps if you would like to make your very own pallet tree:

(1) Find an abandoned pallet.  We found ours next to a dumpster at the charter school in our neighborhood and were lucky that it was in such good shape. 

(2) Paint or stain the pallet.  We went with a stain so it would retain the natural wood look (and because we didn't have a background paint on hand).  It was amazing how the stain transformed the pallet from a dumpster find to something worthy of being brought into the house.

(3) Paint a tree onto the pallet.  We spent hours outside figuring out the best angles and design, but when the time came I didn't follow any of our lines and just painted freehand.  Turns out I was over thinking it.

(4) Hammer in nails to hang ornaments.

(5) Hang on wall and decorate to your heart's content!

I'm so pleased with the way it turned out.  Even if we get a real tree in the future, I think we'll continue to hang this one as a decoration to remember our first Christmas as a family of three.

Monday, November 26, 2012

'Tis the Season

In the years since becoming an adult I have not decorate my home for the holidays.  It always seemed expensive and a hassle.  Every year we would discuss getting a tree, then argue about whether to get a real or fake one (I grew up with real; he grew up with fake), then end up not doing anything at all.  The issue never seemed pressing since we were always visiting family for Christmas and relied on their traditions (and decorations!) instead of creating our own.

Now that HP is on the scene, it feels different.  We're still visiting family instead of having Christmas at our house and we still don't agree on whether a real or a fake tree is better, but Christmas has taken on a new importance now that we are a family of three.  This year I feel a strong urge to put up decorations, listen to carols, and generally get in the holiday spirit.

I know HP is too young to "get" Christmas and could care less whether or not we had a tree.  Even so, I want to start creating family traditions now.  What can I say?  Christmas is just more fun now that we have a child.

The issue of a the tree still remained unresolved.  My husband didn't want to get a real or a fake tree, and I didn't press the point since our house is tiny and can not accommodate a full-sized tree without some serious rearranging.  For several weeks I had been brainstorming creative ways to have a (free) tree without taking up valuable real estate in our cramped living space. 

Enter the pallet tree.

We found a pallet in good shape next to a neighborhood dumpster, brought it home, stained it, and painted a tree on it.  It's currently on our patio airing out.  I'm very happy with how it turned out, and will post pictures once it's on the wall and fully decorated.

It sure doesn't feel like the holidays are approaching with the highs in the 70s for the past week, but once our tree goes up it will be "beginning to look a lot like Christmas" in our home.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Meltdown

Yesterday was going along swimmingly until around 4pm. After that? Complete disaster.

HP was tired, screaming, and refusing to be comforted.

I just wanted to order a pizza, drink a glass of wine, and curl up with a book. But HP doesn't tolerate dairy in my diet, there was no wine in the house, and the screaming child required my constant attention.

Parenting is easily the most humbling endeavor I have undertaken in my short life. I (naively) thought it would be easier. I thought I would know how to get my child to take naps. I thought I would always be able to easily comfort him when he was upset. I thought I would intuitively know what he needs at all times. I thought being an intelligent, competent adult would be enough for me to easily handle the challenges of motherhood.

Turns out, none of the above is true.

Last night I reached a breaking point. Neil wasn't coming home until after HP's bedtime and I just couldn't cope with it anymore. The fact that HP is still adjusting to the time change (read: I see a lot of the 5-6am hour) is not helping matters. I like to be up for at least half an hour before HP so I can drink a mug of tea and read a book in peace before starting our day. Lately, I haven't had that luxury. Or if I have, it means I am in tears and exhausted by the time 8pm hits. I do not cope well with limited sleep.

Speaking of 8pm, that's when I went to bed last night. The thought of staying up a minute later was just too much to handle. Good thing, too, because HP was up at 10pm, 11pm, and 3am before getting up for the day.

Parenting, you got the best of me yesterday. But as Oprah says, "Cheers to a new [day] and another chance for us to get it right."

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hopes and dreams, June 2011 edition

In June 2011 wrote several pages of thoughts about my life, both where I was and where I wanted to be. I used to do this kind of spontaneous journaling regularly, but regrettably fell out of the habit sometime in the middle of college.

Here's the first entry from June 16, 2011 (please excuse the many fragments, poor grammar, and generally unpolished nature of the segment):

What would I wish for recklessly? What do I want my life to look like in two years?

A baby. A house. Fruit trees. Bees. Blackberries. Raspberries. Strawberries. All-year round garden. Chickens. Gas stove. Cargo bike. Herb garden. Colored walls. Me as a photographer. Flowers. Sewing. Root cellar. Canning. Reading. Bridge playing. Loving.

I haven't written anything about Neil. Why is that? I think because when I'm wishing, I'm wishing for what I don't have. And what I don't have is a strong sense of physical place and home with my creative life flourishing out of it. And that's what I wish for. My vision includes Neil as a stabilizing force and constant presence, but not as an object of my wishes.

I love that I gave myself two years--that was smart. (And I'll probably need to tack on at least one more to get it all done.) I've made good progress toward achieving this vision. I wrote this shortly after we arrived in Austin. At the time, I felt like I was floundering. I remember feeling so lost. I'll let my former self describe how I felt (written on June 30, 2011):

I feel... lethargic. Apathetic. Directionless. What's a better word for it? Lacking purpose. Why is it that purpose is so closely tied to income in our society? I want to escape from that model of thinking, but I can't. Or won't. I feel pulled back to it. Like it has some magnetic force. I think it's the force of my own judgements. Looking down on people who weren't supporting themselves. I have it ingrained in me that supporting myself equals being successful. Not being rich, just not having to ask for help. How very American of me.

I want my purpose to be raising children and feeding my family. I love the dedication of Deborah Madison's Local Flavors cookbook: "For Michael and Diane, for quitting your day jobs to grow good food, gorgeous flowers, and great girls."

That's what I want people to say about me. That's what I want my life to be like. Right now I feel stuck on the first clause. In limbo. I see where I want to be but I can't get there yet... This is just a season.  Right?

I love looking back because it provides a unique lens to view the present and the future.  I love my life right now, I truly do.  Becoming a mother has been both challenging and rewarding in expected and unexpected ways.  Some aspects of parenting an infant feel incredibly isolating, but other parts have parenting opened me up to life in a new way--a better way.

I feel more determined now than ever to live the life I want, which in many ways, is outlined above. I am still working through figuring out exactly where I want to be in one, two, five, or twenty years from now, but the vision I described more than a year ago still rings true. The need to take those ideas from words on a page to reality has taken on a special urgency since HP's arrival. The life and home we are creating will be the foundation of his childhood.


And apparently it's going to require a lot of berries.  Better get started!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Advice to my future pregnant self

On Sunday we had a reunion with the other two couples from our birth class. One of the little girls is two weeks and a day older than HP, the other little girl is two weeks and a day younger.

We all shared our birth stories and how we were adjusting to life as parents. The experience allowed me an opportunity to reflect on what I loved about HP's birth and what I would change.

There are so many things I loved about HP's birth. I loved being at my own home. I loved how calm everyone in the room was, even when it was taking longer than expected. I loved not having to travel to the hospital or birth center while in labor. I love that when I walk into our bedroom with HP I get to tell him (or think to myself), "You were born here in this room!" I loved how the experience made our house our home in a new way.

Even while acknowledging all of the beautiful aspects of his birth, there are still things I will do differently next time. So future pregnant self (I'm sure we will have a second child, even if Neil is not yet convinced), here's what you should do differently next time:

(1) Wait to push. Yes, I know that you are tired of being in labor and you just want to get it over with, but starting to push before your body has the urge to push may result in three hours of pushing. Not fun.

(2) Don't get checked early in your labor. You may think that you want to know, but when you find out that you're close to complete at midnight, think you're almost done, and then end up being in labor for another ten hours? It's hard to cope. It's better not to know so you don't have false expectations about how much longer it will be.

(3) Take the time to find the right personality fit with a midwife. We chose our midwife in large part because she was so experienced (she's attended more than 2000 births!), she was in our neighborhood, and there was a chance our insurance would be accepted (it was!). There were three midwives who attended our births and all of our appointments, the primary midwife and two assistants. Personality-wise we clicked best with the assistant midwives.  I don't want to make it sound as though we had a bad experience with our midwife, because that is not the case, but I do think that finding the right person to deliver your child is about more than experience, convenience, and finances. There's something intangible about finding the person who fits best with your family and it is worth the extra time it takes to find it.

(4) Most importantly, trust your instincts and your body. This advice will be easier to follow since you've been through the experience once. If you want to push in a certain position?  Don't let anyone tell you not to.  If you want to tense up during a contraction instead of relaxing? Do it. And tell everyone who tells you to relax to back the heck off. (I was cursing so much in my head at every person who told me to relax. All I wanted to do was not relax for one contraction--just one--but as soon as I would start to tense up everyone told me not to. In retrospect I should of just said what I was thinking instead of bottling it up. And yes, I do know it's better to relax then to tense up, but at the time I just didn't care.) Of course you should listen to your midwives and the advice they give, but in the end, it's your body and your labor. Be assertive in what you do and don't want.

(5) You may not think so at the time, but in the end, it's all worth it.

HP at two days old.  Photo by Jennifer Borget Photography

Monday, October 22, 2012

Solo Parenting and Goals Revisited


This week is going to be emotionally and mentally challenging for me.  Henry will be out of the house for HP's bedtime four out of the five nights.  Having him share parenting duties with me for the last one to two hours of HP's day is key to maintaining my sanity.  He's usually home by 4:30, at which point I am ready to hand our child over, start cooking dinner, and swap stories about our days.  Rehashing the day of an almost four-month old in great detail may not be very interesting, but Henry patiently listens as he entertains our son and then regales me with stories from the adult world.  I don't mind being on my own once a week (which is the norm for us), but four times?  I think it may push my parenting/coping abilities to their limit.

Of course the week Henry has to work late is also the week that HP gets his four-month shots.  Not only will I be exhausted from parenting solo most of the week, but at the end of said week, I will likely have a tried, fussy baby on my hands.  He won't be the only tired, fussy member of our household either... I think by week's end we'll all have legitimate claims on those adjectives.

I welcome all positive thoughts and words of encouragement.

***
Last week was my first attempt at intentionally accomplishing bigger projects (and by bigger I mean small projects that have been hanging over my head for weeks and weeks without getting done).  Here's a quick recap of how I did on my weekly goals.  

Tasks completed:
  • Catch up on uploading pictures to HP's shutterfly site.
  • Sign up for the meet-up group for moms in my neighborhood.
  • Create a meal plan and corresponding grocery list for next week.
  • Write at least one more blog post.
  • Finish thank-you notes.

Tasks still left to do:
  • Organize HP's latest pictures into folders by date.
  • Back-up HP's pictures onto the external hard drive.

I feel good about what I did accomplish.  I can't believe I had been putting off some things, like signing up for the moms' group--it took less than five minutes!  We were also able to cross off a few house projects (like flushing the hot water heater, knocking down wasps' nests, and getting the grass out of the cracks in the driveway), which always feels good.

In light of Henry's work schedule for the week, my main goal will be to make it through the week in one piece.  If I can find the time, I'd like to finish the two incomplete tasks above and start working on organizing the file cabinet.  I have a feeling that project will take more than one week, which is fine.  Slowly, slowly...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Taking a Break

This morning I woke up and read this article by Erica at NW Edible Life and it renewed my desire to make the hours of each day count.  My favorite line is,
"[T]ime is a currency that doesn't pay dividends.  You spend your hour and it's gone.  Please spend your hours on the things you love and cherish and value."
I don't need to fill my days with more activities and productivity (though I am working on that as well), but with more meaning.  I want to spending less time on Facebook and more time walking through the park with HP, less time reading blogs that don't inspire me and more time getting lost in books, less time checking my email and more time laying on the floor playing with my son.

In an effort to not be inspired and then fall back into my regular habits, I'm going to take a Facebook break for the rest of the month.  I periodically find myself needing to take a step back from the social media behemoth to reassess how I use it.  Lately I've been going to the site out of habit, with no real purpose in mind, and leaving feeling less fulfilled than before I went.  I want it to be a tool to connect to friends, not a black hole into which precious hours of my life disappear.

Social media is a tricky beast.  It's a never-ending balancing act to use it in a way that adds joy to my life without wasting my time.  Hopefully these two weeks will allow me to reset my habits and relegate Facebook (and mindless blog browsing) to its proper place in my life.

Because who wouldn't want to spend more time making memories with this child than staring at a screen?


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Savoring each stage

Two nights ago I read this article by Devon Corneal in the Huffington Post about how as parents we so often celebrate the firsts, but we never know when the last times are happening. My favorite quote is:
I'm not naïve enough to believe that this moment of reflection will stop me from becoming irritated, impatient, frustrated, bored or upset tomorrow when my son whines, spills spaghetti sauce on the rug or throws a fit because I won't let him stay up late. Maybe, though, I'll temper my response if I can remember how fleeting this all is. That for every moment I've prayed would end, there is something I miss.
HP and I have been having some serious napping struggles these last few weeks. I'm at a loss for what to do, which leaves my approach lacking in consistently. I have a new plan to try every day, and each one is a flop.  

On Sunday Neil tried putting HP down for each nap instead of me nursing him to sleep. That plan was a big, fat fail. The child is stubborn. By the end of the day I decided to just let it all go. Yes, he nurses to sleep right now. I'm sure that statement horrifies some who think he shouldn't be addicted to a "sleep prop."


I don't care.


He's just so little. Of course I don't want to create "bad habits," but I feel like I have been so worried about not creating those habits that I'm no longer effectively meeting his needs. The child no longer takes a pacifier (I can count on one hand the number of times he's actually taken it, and I don't even need to use all my fingers) and he needs to suck to calm himself down. So nursing it is.


I keep reminding myself that this is just a phase and will be gone before I know it. He's not always going to want to cuddle in my arms and nurse to sleep. He's not always going to refuse to nap longer than thirty minutes no matter how many ways I try to soothe him back to sleep. Both the things that I most enjoy and the things that frustrate me most about this stage will come to an end and we'll be facing a fresh batch of joys and challenges.  


What I loved most about Corneal's piece is that it wasn't overly sentimental. Of course we all want to take the time to be present with our children and enjoy each stage to the fullest, but that's easier said than done when the reality of parenting is staring you in the face. She sums it up nicely when she says, "Raising children isn't all warm snuggles and charming memories. Parenting can be a long, hard slog."  
I continually go back and forth between telling myself that "this is just a phase" so I can get through the day and telling myself that "this is just a phase" to make sure I soak it all in.

The night after I read that article I thought, "Yes, I really should savor those middle of the night feeds when I get to cuddle with him in the quiet of the night; they won't last forever." That night he woke up four times. Four.  


Maybe I don't need quite that much savoring.



Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Big Week

It has been a big week at our house.  Here are the highlights:

(1) Sunday: HP decided to take a pacifier.  He doesn't always take it, but he has put himself to sleep with it at nap time on more than one occasion.  (We don't offer it to him unless he is napping.)

(2) All week: HP is mastering sucking his thumb/fingers.  These first two are big because it means that he can soothe himself to sleep instead of nursing to sleep.  Amazing.

(3) Tuesday: HP slept through the night.  We put him down around 7pm and we had to wake him at 5:40 so we could catch the bus for me to go to the dentist.  I couldn't believe that the time he decides to sleep through the night is the morning we have to wake him up.  Lame!  Since then he's just been waking up once a night.  Hopefully he'll permanently drop that last feeding in the next month or so.  For now I'm just glad to know that it is possible.

(4) Friday: HP took a bottle (!!!).  I have mentioned in the past that he has refused to take a bottle.  To be fair to him, we haven't been pushing the issue very hard.  Most of the information I read suggested that someone besides the mother offer the bottle, so we had mostly been trying when Henry was home.  Since Henry leaves for work the same time HP wakes up and then doesn't get home until 1-2 hours before HP's bedtime when he is semi-fussy, there were few opportunities during the week to give the bottle a good try.  I would try myself during the week, but honestly, I found it frustrating to pump milk, try and feed it to him, have him refuse, and then clean the pump/bottles.

On Friday I decided that we needed to be making more of an effort.  I want to get out of the house without HP sometimes, and if I want to make that happen, I need to commit to working on the bottle.  He had taken two long naps in the morning and was in a good mood.  I pumped an ounce, tried to feed it to him, and instead of just mouthing the bottle and letting the milk dribble down his face like usual, he latched right on!  Amazing!  Then I pumped two more ounces and he took that no problem as well.  I pumped a little more so Henry could feed him when he got home, and he downed it once again.

Yesterday morning I pumped a full bottle and left to grocery shopping solo while Henry watched him for a couple of hours.  The weather was cool and perfect for a bike ride to the newly opened package-free grocery store.  It was glorious.  HP was fighting his nap when I got home, but he had taken the full bottle.  Success!  Now I need to think about what I will do with my newfound freedom.  Perhaps take a yoga class once a week?

(5) All week: HP's been sleeping in his own room.  We made the switch on Friday the 7th and haven't looked back since.  Henry and I love having our room back.  I don't regret co-sleeping for the first two and a half months of HP's life, but I am happy for him to be in his own room now.  I think we all sleep better because we're not waking each other up in the middle of the night.  For further evidence of that point, please refer to point number three.

(6) Monday, Friday, and Saturday: HP took three long naps this week: one for 3.5 hours on Monday morning, 2.5 hours on Friday morning, and 2 hours on Saturday afternoon.  I'm sure there are many children for whom this is the norm, but HP has had a lot of trouble sleeping for long periods of time.  He has been taking several (usual 4-5) short naps instead of fewer, longer naps.  The long naps are great for him because he is so much better rested and great for me because I can accomplish a lot when I have a large chunk of time.  Before I felt like my whole day was spent trying to get him to go to sleep, starting a project, then abandoning it a few minutes later when he woke up, which was no fun for either of us.  Here's to hoping those naps become more regular as time goes on.

I thought it would be easier to get HP on a regular napping schedule, but it's been a real challenge.  I stopped worrying about it after HP's two-month well-check when our pediatrician said that it's complete normal for his sleeping to be erratic during the day at this point.  She said that he should fall into a consistent pattern around four months, and not to worry as long as he seems happy.  Hearing that relieved a lot of stress for me.  I was starting to feel like a bit of a failure when he wasn't napping well during the day, despite my best efforts.

All in all, it's been a great week with lots of big accomplishments.  We're very proud of you, HP!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Lunch Date with Dad: Failure x2

For the second week in a row, HP and I have had lunch with Henry.  Last week we met him at the office so he could introduce HP to his coworkers.  He was an angel the whole bus ride there.  Before we went up to his floor I nursed him and changed him to try and prevent any unnecessary meltdowns.

Turns out there was no stopping the meltdown train.

As soon as we walked into the building, he started crying.  I tried to feed him again, but he wasn't interested since he was already full.  My theory is that he hated going into the cold building after being sweaty from being pressed up against me in the wrap in the heat of the day.  Regardless, he made quite the scene.  His screams echoed throughout the stairwell as we made our exit.  When I put him in the wrap so we could head to the park across the street to eat lunch, he immediately quieted down.  I should have thought to try that sooner, but it's hard to think straight with a crying child in your ear.  Once we left the building and arrived in the park he was sweet as could be, cooing and smiling on the blanket.  Little stinker.

Take two of "operation eat lunch with dad" happened yesterday.  I was headed to Whole Foods to get ingredients for Henry's birthday cookies.  (I hate making cookies.  Hate it.  I find the whole process incredibly tedious.  But Henry loves cookies, so for his birthday every year I make them.)  I had the bright idea to have Henry meet us at Whole Foods for lunch since his office is nearby and there's a nice place to sit outside and dine.

Once again, HP was on his best behavior the whole bus ride and while we shopped before his dad arrived.  When we were ready to eat lunch?  Nothing could stop the crying/fussing.  We had to take turns holding him and walking him as the other diners looked on.  Not exactly what I had in mind in terms of quality family time.  As we left I told him that maybe we probably shouldn't try and have lunch together again until HP is 12.  Or older.

When we arrived at the bus stop the kid fell asleep, slept most of the ride home, then was alert and happy.  I think he was overstimulated, tired, and couldn't put himself to sleep.  We left for Whole Foods right after he woke up from a nap so I thought we'd be safe, but clearly it was still too much.

I want to respect his need to nap at home and get the rest he needs, but I also need to leave the house on occasion.  It's been a challenge for me to find the balance of meeting both his needs for sleep and my need for social interaction.  I know it will be easier when he's older and on a more regular nap schedule, but for now?  It's hard.  He is currently in a pattern of taking several short naps instead of a few long ones, which makes it even more difficult to find those windows of opportunity to leave the house.  We're working on it.

I remind myself that this phase will be gone in the blink of an eye.  For now, we'll eat lunch with Henry on the weekends.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My Postpartum Body

I am now more than two months postpartum.  Honestly?  The recovery has been easier than I expected, but that could be because I had heard horror stories from other women and expected the worst.  I was fortunate in that I didn't tear, which is a miracle considering I pushed for just under three hours.

Adjusting to my new body has been a process.  I'm still a few pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight, but I am comfortable with where I am.  I was at the lowest weight I think is healthy for my body prior to conceiving, so adding on a few pounds?  No big deal.  That's not to say I wouldn't eventually like to get back to where I was, but I'm not in a rush--especially since I'm breastfeeding.  When I look in the mirror, I feel comfortable with what I see.

Well, comfortable until I look at my midsection.  It's the one part of my body that still doesn't feel like "me" after giving birth.  I look down and think, "Whose body is this?!"  I used to have a fairly deep innie belly-button that Henry referred to as the "bottomless pit". After giving birth it might more accurately be called the "deep, dark, pit of despair where nothing that enters can ever return"since the mounds of jiggly, stretch-marked flesh now well up around it instead of the taut-skin of my former life.  Sigh.

Please don't misinterpret what I am saying.  I fully recognize how amazing it is that I was able to grow, carry, and give birth to a child.  I am in awe every time I think of it.  I will happily accept a little more jiggle for the joys (and frustrations) that come with motherhood.  That said, I need to process what happened to my body and how I am handling those changes.  I generally consider myself to be someone with a positive body image.  (A big thank you to those who have reinforced what's important in life: my parents, husband, and friends who all value people for who they are and not what they look like.)

Pregnancy, childbirth, and life postpartum have required me to intentionally and continually check-in with myself to see how I am coping with all the changes occurring in my body.  How do I feel about gaining 40 pounds during pregnancy (yes, 40)?  How do I feel about having feet so swollen that the act of standing forms rolls of fluid-filled flesh around my ankles?  How do I feel about the absence of abominable muscles post-birth that made it feel like I could touch my organs?  How do I feel about my stretch-marked abdomen?  Accepting my body for what it is right now, not just what it could be, is a constant effort.

Here are the numbers.  (I hesitate to even write out this part, because I think it can be misinterpreted.  The reason  I decided to go ahead is because I have found it so helpful when other bloggers have shared their weight gain/loss journey during pregnancy and postpartum.  For me, it reinforced the fact that every body and pregnancy is completely different and that we need to embrace and accept how our individual bodies cope with growing, and recovering from growing, a human being.)  I gained 40 pounds while pregnant.  I erroneously assumed that I would only gain 25-30 pounds since I am active and eat well, but that clearly was not the case.  I was right on track to gain 30 pounds until the third trimester hit, then I started gaining two pounds a week.  I found it a little worrisome, but what can you do?  Since I wasn't eating junk, I wasn't overeating, and I was still active, so I tried not to stress about the weight gain too much (which is admittedly easier said than done).  

Turns out a lot of what I put on in the last trimester was water weight.  I lost 27 pounds in the first week, some of which was obviously HP and the placenta, but a lot of which was excess fluid.  I remember getting out of the shower one day after giving birth and telling Henry, "I have supermodel legs!"(which clearly, I don't).  I knew my feet were retaining a lot of water, but I didn't realize how much my legs were as well.  I was shocked to be able to see my calf muscles after they had disappeared for months.  Silly as it sounds, I also remember exclaiming, "Look at how skinny my feet are!  I don't think my feet have ever been this skinny!"

Since that initial drop in the first week, I have been losing a little bit more than pound every two weeks, which seems like a reasonable and healthy rate of loss.  At ten weeks postpartum, I have seven pounds to go to be at my pre-pregnancy weight.  I am not "dieting", but I am very conscious of eating whole, unprocessed foods instead of junk (although I do indulge on occasion since I believe that food truly is one of life's greatest pleasures).  I do well in the morning and evening, but struggle to sit down and eat a meal for lunch.  I feel pulled in so many directions, that by the time Henry comes home I realize I have only snacked throughout the day.  I need to be better about that, since eating a real meal at midday as a significant impact on my patience and mood by the time the evening arrives.

Finding time to exercise has been a bigger challenge for me than eating healthy.  I do not want to exercise to speed my weight loss, but to feel more like the old me.  HP and I have started taking walks (almost) every morning.  Sometimes they are only 15 minutes, and sometimes we go as long as an hour.  Most of the time we around out for 20-30 minutes.  I miss doing yoga.  I miss biking.  I miss the way I feel after lifting weights.  I know I could be doing all of those things, but I am struggling to fit it into my day.  HP does not have a regular nap schedule at this point and requires a lot of help to go to sleep.  When he does nap I feel like there are twenty things I need to accomplish around the house, or I just want to sit, read, and collect myself.  Using that time to exercise has not happened.  I am hopeful that once he gets into a regular routine I can set aside one of his naps to do a yoga video or lift weights.  Right now I am giving myself grace as I adjust to caring for a child.

So that's where I am, for now.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Being present

After I wrote my post about how much I miss living close to my family I had a breakdown.  Henry came home that evening and I just lost it.  Crying, hysterically on the couch while he looked on in horror.  Can I still blame postpartum hormones?  No?  Okay.

After I got everything off my chest he said he didn't know whether this was one of those times where I wanted to talk about what we could do to improve the situation or whether it was one of the times I just wanted to vent.  It was the latter.

I know it's not productive to constantly list all the things that are hard about our current situation (living far from family, not being able to easily walk places from our new house, feeling isolated, not being able to get HP to nap consistently), but it was just what I needed to do.

As Henry rightfully pointed out, not all of those challenges are a result of living in Austin, many of them would happen if we lived back home.  So true.  Having an infant and adjusting to parenthood is just plain hard.  It's wonderful, and there are so many joys that come with this stage, but that doesn't take away from the fact that it's a major adjustment and requires, well, adjusting.

The next morning I woke up ready to focus on the positives.  I don't want to spend HP's childhood wishing we were somewhere else.  There are many things I would dearly miss if we left Austin.  We bought a house this spring and are starting to put down roots.  I think part of the emotional roller coster I've been on this week stems from the fact that settling down in Austin (at least for the short-term) makes me feel vulnerable.  If we are able to move back to my hometown in a few years, it will be a hard to leave after investing so much of ourselves into relationships here.

Austin is the place where HP was born and where we started life as a family of three.  It will always hold a special place in our lives and hearts.  I know that if we ever leave, it will be bittersweet.  It will be hard to leave all that we have cultivated here behind, and the longer we stay, the harder it becomes, which makes it scary to put myself out there.  But isn't that just the way of the world?  I've moved enough times in my life to know, but that doesn't make it any easier.

I know this season in our lives is going to pass in the blink of an eye and when I look back I'll think it flew by.  Case in point: HP just started rolling over this week.  How is that even possible?  Didn't I just birth him?  He's no longer my squishy little newborn.  I don't want to spend this stage wishing we lived somewhere else.

The challenge is to find the balance between keeping our goal in mind (moving closer to family and to a smaller city) and being happy where we are.  If moving back home is important to us (and it is), I don't want to push that desire aside, but I also don't want that desire to prevent me from being present where I am (especially since we will likely be here for a few years to come).  It's a fine line, and I'm doing my best to stay on course.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Family

When we moved to Austin we said we would stay for at least five years.  Five years seemed like long enough for Henry to get some solid job experience that would expand his options when looking to move closer to home.  It's no secret that I've had a hard time adjusting to life in a big city, especially after the miserable drought of last year.  This spring, I made the decision to commit to life in Austin.  Now that we have a child though?  My thoughts have changed.

I never grew up with extended family nearby.  We saw grandparents, aunts, uncle, and cousins only once a year.  Twice if we were lucky.  I thought that's how all families were.  I never questioned the idea that I would graduate high school, leave the state for college, and eventually find a job in a new city (or country!).  It never occurred to me that I would want to move back to my hometown after leaving; it just wasn't the model I grew up with.

Now that I have a family of my own, my desire to move back to my hometown has taken on a new urgency.  My parents, sister, and brother all live within a mile and a half of each other.  When we lived there for six months during the job search, I loved it.  I loved having dinner at my parents' house, playing cards with my siblings and their spouses, seeing old friends from my childhood, being able to easily ride my bike or walk everywhere in town... the list goes on.  Henry and I were excited to embark on a new adventure, but it was hard to leave my family behind.

My mom was able to come down for HP's first week of life.  When she left, I cried buckets of tears--huge, ugly, body-shaking sobs.  I wasn't crying because she was no longer going to make our food for us (though that would be missed); I was crying because she wasn't going to see HP again for months.  What I had thought was normal as a child--only seeing extended relatives a few times a year--is not what I want for HP.  I want his grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins to be a part of his every day life.  Living fourteen hours from family doesn't make that possible.

It's a hard situation because Henry truly loves his job here.  He is doing meaningful work that challenges him intellectually.  He enjoys his coworkers and respects his boss.  How often does that combination occur?  We feel truly lucky for him to have found this job.  At the same time, neither of us feel truly connected to Austin.  We both long to live in a smaller town, with a more mild climate, that's closer to family.  But how do you balance everything you want?  Is it worth it to move back home if Henry has to take a job that he doesn't love as much?  If we wait for him to find the perfect job in Missouri are we going to be waiting forever?

It's not that I hate my life here--not at all.  We've made wonderful friends here who would be hard to leave behind.  Austin has things to offer that my smaller hometown is lacking (most notably excellent local and organic food options).  It's just that I love my family and want to have more than a long-distance relationship with them.  

Realistically, we'll likely meet or exceed the five year commitment we originally envisioned when we moved here.  And the longer we are here, the more connections we make, and the more rooted we become, the less likely it is that we will leave.  But if the perfect job came open?  Let's just say it would be hard to turn it down.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

HP's Birth Story

I'm sitting on my couch watching my weeks old baby sleep on my chest. I should be sleeping, too, but the memories from the birth have started to fade and I want to record them before they are forever lost in the recesses of my mind. I wanted to give myself some space from the experience before putting it into words, but not so much space that I would forget the details. Seems about time I write out HP's (aka Wolverine's) birth story because the details are already starting to slip.

*(Turns out I am quite verbose when it comes to retelling stories and this is much longer than expected. I apologize for all of the unimportant details I decided to include, but I wasn't sure what I'd want to remember, or more importantly, what I would remember in the future, so I wrote it all down.  Feel free to skim.)*

Wolverine decided to make his appearance (it's a boy!) nine days late.  Here are the official states:

Birthday: June 24, 2012
Time of birth: 10:11am
Weight: 8lbs 9oz
Height: 22in
Head circumference: 13.5in

And here's the story:

I had assumed all along that I would go into labor before my due date. My mom had both my sister and I approximately two weeks early, and I figured I would be the same.

Wrong.

My due date (June 15th) came and went, with no signs of labor. I was quite content, even thankful, for Wolverine's tardiness. We had just moved into the house and had many projects on the to-do list before the birth. I spent the days leading up to his birth painting nearly every surface of the house and generally abusing my oh-so-swollen feet. When we finished up the bathrooms though I finally felt "ready." My readiness did not seem to make any difference to Wolverine, who showed no signs of wanting to leave his uterine home.  

On Friday the 22nd I reached my breaking point. I used to think it was ridiculous when women would say, "I'm never going to go into labor on my own; I'm going to be pregnant forever!" Whenever I would hear that I would think, "Well, that's the silliest thing I've ever heard. Of course you'll go into labor!" But after hitting 41 weeks? I felt like I was going to be pregnant forever. Neil kept saying that I would have the baby that weekend (he really didn't want to go back to work on Monday after weeks and weeks of thinking it could be his "last" day before paternity leave) and I kept insisting that he would be heading into the office on Monday, not snuggling with a newborn. I had my postdate ultrasound scheduled for the next Thursday (the 28th) to make sure it was safe to continue the pregnancy if I still hadn't given birth. When I originally made the appointment I thought, "There's no way I'm going to make it to the 28th!" At 41 weeks I was sure I'd be going in. All of that's to say that I was mentally ready to be a parent instead of pregnant.

I'm glad I went so late because I think it helped me be in a better mental place to cope with the birth. If Wolverine had decided to come before my due date (or even in the 40th week), part of me would be saying, "Not yet! I'm not ready! I haven't painted the bathroom!" (And yes, I know how trivial that sounds, but it was important to me at the time.) When I finally did go into labor? My thoughts were more along the line of, "Bring it on!  Let's get this baby OUT!"

I thought I had been having contractions the week prior to his birth, but I could usually only tell when I actually felt my abdomen (and could feel the tightness). There was no specific start and end to each one and I was so unsure of what I was feeling that I wasn't even sure they were actually contractions. Turns out, they weren't. Or at least not real contractions.

On the morning of the 23rd (Saturday) we rode our bikes to a neighborhood potluck, swam at the pool, and came back home. I napped with Neil on the couch while he skimmed through Dr. Sears' The Baby Book. I was exhausted and thought to myself that I should sleep now in case I went into labor that night. I got ready for bed at 8 o'clock, still feeling exhausted and wanting to rest up as much as possible.

I was drifting in and out, but not actually asleep when I felt a "pop" at 9:15 as my waters broke. I jumped out of bed and went to the bathroom where I informed Neil who was brushing his teeth. He had been concerned all along that I would wait too long to call the midwife and no one would be here for the birth. While I was changing clothes and putting in a pad, he got on my phone, pulled up the midwife's number, and handed it to me. The midwife asked me several questions then told me to relax, try and sleep, and call back when my contractions were less than five minutes apart or in the morning, whichever came first.

Almost immediately after hanging up the phone with her I had my first real contraction. I told Neil after it was over that everything I thought were contractions before, were in fact, not. These were unmistakable; there was no wondering or guessing about what it was. For the next hour, we laid in bed, timing my contractions and trying to rest. It quickly became clear to me that I would not be able to go back to sleep because my contractions were already 6-7 minutes apart and lasting for at least a minute. Neil timed contractions and I tried to relax through them.

After a little more than an hour I gave up trying to sleep and wanted to start moving around. We watched an episode of the Colbert Report while I stood behind the couch, swaying my hips through each contraction. Standing was infinitely more comfortable than lying down. Around 12:40am my contractions were 4-6 minutes apart and we called the midwife back to come to the house. Genevieve arrived first (one of the assistants) at 1:15am. She listened to the heartbeat and asked how we were doing. She waited to check dilation until Michele (the primary midwife arrived) fifteen minutes later.

We went into the bedroom and Genevieve checked my dilation just before 2am. She said I was at a 7, but she later told me that I could have been as much as 8.5; she had been being conservative in her estimate. At this point I am thinking that Wolverine will be here within a couple of hours. Not so much. Looking back, I think part of what made the second half of my labor so hard was that once I had been checked, I thought I was almost done. I was not prepared for labor to last another eight hours.

I labored on the birth ball for awhile, then at Michele's suggestion I went into the shower at 3:30am. I have no idea how long I was in there, but that's when the nausea hit in full force and I vomited off and on with contractions until I started pushing. At first I just stood in the shower, but then I brought the birth ball in. The water did help, but between the contractions and the nausea I was having a rough go of it.

The whole time I was in the shower I kept thinking that I had to be getting close to complete. The midwives told me to let them know if I started feeling the urge to push, which we all expected to happen soon. Eventually I just wanted them to check me again because I thought I might be close (for no real reason other than I thought I should be).

Michele checked my dilation at 4:40am and said I was complete in the front but 2-3cm in the back still. Apparently the last part of the cervix to dilate is usually in the front, and mine was in the back, which usually happened when the baby was posterior. She checked Wolverine's position and sure enough, he had turned posterior. I was surprised since he had been anterior throughout the entire pregnancy. In an effort to turn him she stacked a huge pile of pillows up on the bed. I got on my hands and knees, with my upper body elevated against the pillows. At this point the contractions were starting to get unbearable and I found the position incredibly uncomfortable. I was still vomiting, which didn't help matters. After several contractions they checked his position again and found that he was back to being anterior.

Since I still had not felt the urge to push, I continued to labor on the birth ball, standing, and squatting with Neil supporting me. Throughout the entire labor time was completely irrelevant. I was always surprised when I would look at the clock and see how much time had passed. That's not to say that it was easy, just that I would think, "Oh, another hour has passed? Okay, I feel just the same as I did before."

Genevieve checked at 5:45am and said I was complete in the front, but only 9cm in the back. She had me do a few "practice" pushes to see if I could push past the lip of cervix. My cervix was still tight so I continued to labor for another hour, this time on the birth ball in the living room.

Around 6:30am I broke down and started crying. Everyone kept telling me to relax through the contractions when I just wanted to tense up. I knew they were right, but I was getting so frustrated and tired. Cindy talked to me while I sat the birth ball, tears streaming down my face, eyes closed. She told me how everyone gets to this point in the labor and what an awesome job I was doing. Hearing her words helped me get through that final bit of dilation.

At 7:15am I asked to be checked again because I thought surely I was ready to push. I know that you are supposed to wait for the urge to push, but at that point, I was ready to move onto the next stage. I figured if I was fully dilated I just wanted to push the baby out. That only takes a few minutes, right? How hard could it be?

Turns out, pretty damn hard.

I still had a lip of cervix, but I was able to move Wolverine's head past it with a practice push. They told me I could start pushing if I wanted to. Looking back, I should have waited until I felt an overwhelming urge to push. At the time I just wanted to get him out and be done with the whole thing.

First I wanted to try pushing on my hands and knees because that seemed most comfortable to me. Michele said that that position moved the baby's head off of my cervix and was therefore less effective. I wish I would have insisted on continuing in the position I found most comfortable, but at that point in the labor I was not in a position to argue/debate with anyone. I moved to squatting on the edge of the bed with Henry supporting me from behind. In between contractions I would get up and walk, which was not what I wanted to do, but I was told it would make the contractions stronger and more effective.

I continued to push using the birth stool or squatting on the edge of the bed. Around 9:30am Michele checked to see how far down Wolverine had come and said he had moved back up instead of continuing his descent. The news that I was not only not progressing, but moving backwards caused me a moment of doubt. I thought, "This isn't working. I'm never going to get this baby out. I'm going to have to go the hospital and have them cut this baby out of me because clearly I am incapable of pushing him out." That thought alone made me pull it together and push through (literally) the last hour. I realized that no one else was going to do this for me. I think I was really struggling with the fact that I couldn't take a break; it was contraction after contraction at that point. I just wanted a moment to rest and collect myself, but my body had a different plan in mind.

Michele recommended that I use a breast pump for twenty minutes to increase the intensity of the contractions to help my pushes become more effective. Those twenty minutes were the worst part of the entire experience. My contractions increased in intensity and I literally could not resist the urge to push. Trying to relax instead of pushing at that point was pure torture. It was only time I vocalized through the entire labor. I could not stop myself.

At 9:50am I returned to squatting for the final pushes. At this point I could feel Wolverine's head. Apparently he had a huge spiral curl that everyone could see. As he was crowning I moved to the bed where he crowned for three contractions. Everyone kept telling me, "This will be the last one.  You'll get to meet your baby with one more push!" They were finally right the third time they told me that...

He was born at 10:11. Neil caught him and immediately put him on my chest. I remember Michele asking, "What did you get? A boy or a girl?" And Neil looked. A boy! We had both thought all along it had been a boy. At my first (and only) ultrasound around 10 weeks I remember seeing the heartbeat on the monitor and thinking, "That's my baby and he's a boy." And there he was.

He was very purple when he came out and it took a moment for him to cry. We rubbed his back and they gave him a small amount of oxygen. He was crying and pinking up after a couple of minutes. I was oddly unconcerned about the purple/lack of crying. I just remember knowing that he was okay, that it was just taking him a minute to adjust to life on the outside.

After about fifteen minutes one of the midwives asked if we had a name for him. I looked at Neil and asked if he still wanted to name him HP. We'd had the hardest time coming up with a boy's name (our girl's name had been set since around 20 weeks). Our little HP.

At 11:00am we started nursing, side-lying, and he latched right on. He nursed for a good twenty minutes, then had his newborn exam. The midwives left around noon with plans to check in the next day. I was exhausted, but happy.

Neil was amazing through the whole experience. He was so calm and supportive throughout the labor, doing whatever I needed. Not that I'm surprised, but you never know exactly how your spouse is going to respond in such a new and different situation than anything we've experienced before.

I will say that once HP was in my arms I remember thinking, "Whelp, I better enjoy this because I'm never doing that again." Of course by now the memory of the pain has softened around the edges and I think, "That wasn't so bad!"

But seriously, natural birth is no joke.

Looking back (now eight weeks later) there are parts of the experience that I would change if I could do it over. I wrote most of this post when HP was about four weeks old, but as I got close to the end, I had to stop because I found myself becoming frustrated with the way some things happened. Now I've had more space and time to reflect I was able to complete the story and put my frustrations into proper perspective. In the end, I got what I wanted--a healthy baby born naturally at home with no complications. And for that, I am thankful.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Thoughts on Motherhood

I'm almost two months into this whole "raising another human being" adventure.  Honestly?  So far it's easier than I thought it would be, but that's only because I imagined it being impossibly hard.  That's not to say that it's been easy, just easier than I envisioned.

I'd heard horror stories of babies crying for hours on end, no sleep for parents, and painful recoveries from birth.  I've been blessed with a sweet, non-fussy baby, a husband whose work let him take a full three weeks off and then go to part time for another six weeks, a mother who cooked every meal for us for the first week, friends who brought meals for the following two weeks, and a smooth recovery from birth (it helps when there is no tearing involved).  We're just now settling into our new "normal" as Henry is back at work (part time, but for him that still means 30 hours plus a week--one week he worked close to 60 hours), I'm once again responsible for feeding our family, and the newness is wearing off as the reality sets in.

There are days when I feel like I've got the hang of this whole parenting thing and then there are days when it's all I can do to get us fed and make it through the day.  My best days include the following:

(1) Putting on really clothes instead of staying in my pajamas.
(2) Eating a real lunch instead of snacking all day.
(3) Limiting the amount of time I surf the internet/facebook.
(4) Keeping the house relatively straightened.  I always feel more productive when things are orderly.
(5) Reading a book for fun.

Learning how to use a ring sling has made our lives infinitely easier.  I now go on a walk with HP every morning, which has been a great way to meet the neighbors, get some exercise, and establish a rhythm in the morning.  HP isn't a big fan of the sling if I'm not moving, so he only puts up with it for so long when I'm cooking or doing other chores around the house.  It's a start.

The biggest challenge for me has been finding the balance between my needs, HP's needs, Henry's needs, and our needs as a couple.  I am a big believer in not having a child-centric life to the exclusion of everything else.  Of course HP has a lot of immediate needs that can't be ignored, but that doesn't mean that we can't intentionally carve out time and space for ourselves as individuals and as a couple.  I'm still trying to figure out how to make it all work in this season of our lives.

I'm still in awe every time I look at HP's sweet face.  We made that!  He grew inside of me for nine months!  It's surreal, but feels so natural at the same time.  I love being a mom, but I have to say I don't feel like a "mom"... just regular ol' me, only with a child.  Not sure if that makes sense.  I suppose I just imagined it feeling different right away, when it's felt so natural to open our lives to embrace this new little person.  Maybe feeling like a "mom" is something that grows slowly over time, not something that strikes you in an instant.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Sleep deprivation

HP, I'm glad you are sleeping well today, because after yesterday?  I was afraid it might not work out, this whole "having you as part of our family" thing.  Child, why do you fight sleep when you're tired?  You're unhappy, I'm unhappy, your dad's unhappy.  All in all, it's not a great situation.  Although I will give you credit that once you finally went to sleep at 5pm, you slept until the next morning at 7 (aside from waking up to eat, but that's to be expected).

Here are some fragments of our day:

*The day started out with you shooting poop across the room (literally) to land on the wetbags, two walls, and the floor.  Your dad appreciated that 3am joy.  I appreciated you missing the diaper bag.

*Desperately trying to get you to take a nap with me in the bed because I was about to lose my mind if I had to walk around the house with a screaming child in my arms any longer.  You didn't oblige.

*Henry (after you FINALLY went to sleep at 5pm after skipping all but a brief mid-day nap): "It was a sad moment when I realized that the highlight of my day was mowing the lawn.  There's not even a close second."

*Me sobbing at the kitchen table after realizing I probably have thrush again since my nipples are hot pink, it burns when he nurses, and I occasionally have shooting pains in my breast.  It's just been one thing after another with breastfeeding.

*Me, looking at you after you'd gone to sleep: "Look at that sweet face!  It's hard to believe he was giving us such a hard time all day."  Henry in response: "I think you forget easier than I do.  I look at him and I think *shakes fist in the air*."  (Of course he's joking.  Sort of.  But he really does love you.)

But today you've been great.  We went on our morning walk, you've been napping like a champ, and I think I may have figured out what has been bothering you so much--a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance due to your snacking habits.  The symptoms fit you to a T, right down to the spraying poop.  What did people do before Google?  Actually, don't answer that, because what they probably did was rely on their family doctor instead of over-diagnose their child after typing symptoms into a search engine.  Ah, well... I figure getting you to eat full meals instead of snacking every.single.hour can only be a good thing for everyone involved.

We love you, even when we're exhausted, but it's a whole lot easier to like you when we've had some sleep.  Let's work on that.

(Yesterday was exceptionally terrible, normally HP is an excellent sleeper and I feel lucky to have avoided the complete and total exhaustion that most new parents feel right from the start.) 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The status of the likelihood of a sibling for HP

Last night I asked Henry how he was feeling about having a second child, and specifically, how likely it was that it would happen (obviously not for a couple of years).  As I mentioned here, we are both concerned about the environmental impact of having children.  (Although after reading this article I feel like we're so screwed anyway that we might as well have more if that will bring us joy.)

When we first discussed the number of children we would like to have (long before marriage was even on the table) I said I wanted three or four.  He said one, maybe two.  I always felt that two was too few (as the youngest of four I just love having siblings!), but I was willing to take the possible fourth child out of the equation and settle on two or three, knowing that two was most likely.  Obviously neither of us had any clue what it was like to have a child and all our discussions were purely theoretical.  How can you really know how many children you want until you know what it's like to raise them?

After becoming pregnant with HP, we agreed that we would wait and see how we feel after his birth/first year before continuing the discussion.  When I popped the question yesterday he looked at me like I was crazy and said there was "maybe a one percent chance" of HP becoming a big brother.  When he asked me the same question I said 80 percent.

Then he laughed.

We'll revisit the issue when HP's a little older and the difficulties of these first weeks have faded a bit from his memory.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Overdue

I am officially five days overdue. I have to say, aside from my swollen feet (which get worse by the day), I'm still feeling comfortable.

Yesterday we finished painting the bathrooms, which were the last rooms to complete before Wolverine arrives. The guest room and Wolverine's room still aren't done, but we're not going to start those projects before the birth.

I spent the morning preparing food to put in the freezer. I'm not as stocked up as I'd like to be, but considering all the other projects we've had to do, I'm just glad anything got made at all.

I've been having a lot of signs of impending labor, but not the real deal. I think Neil and my mom are more anxious than I am for this baby to be born. It's not that I don't want to meet him/her, it's just that I am content to wait.

We'll see how I feel in a week if I'm still pregnant.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Due date

Today is Wolverine's due date. I feel strangely ambivalent about it. Since my mom had both my sister and I almost two weeks early, I never expected to make it this far. Even so, I feel less impatient than I would have imagined. These last few days with Neil have been relaxing and lovely. He has been so thoughtful and caring, which makes me fall in love with him all over again. We're both ready and excited to meet Wolverine, but we're not in a rush. Every day I wake up and think, "I could give birth today. Or not." And then I just keep doing what I'm doing and don't dwell on it. Honestly, it's hard to believe we've reached the end. We've been so busy fixing up the house and moving that the last two months have flown by. I think Wolverine is giving us this extra time to slow down and reconnect with each other before our world is turned upside down.

A few weeks ago I told Neil that I felt like I had done this pregnancy all wrong--that I should have done a better job documenting the pregnancy. He just looked at me and said that I was being ridiculous. I think his exact words were, "Sarah, do you think people a hundred years ago worried about documenting their pregnancy?" True enough. Just because I didn't write letters to my unborn child every week doesn't mean I love him/her any less. Of course that's not to say I think it's a waste to spend time documenting and connecting with your child during pregnancy--it's just not something I faithfully did and I am working to let go of that guilt.

A week from now I'll probably have a child on the outside.

Or I'll still be pregnant.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Thoughts on only having one child

Henry and I both read Maybe One by Bill McKibbon after seeing it referenced in the comments of this post.  The book was written over a decade ago, but it is still so relevant.

There were points when reading this book that I was moved to tears.  It feels so overwhelming to think about what kind of world we're bringing Wolverine into, knowing that environmentally the future looks bleak for him/her.  I know the horrors of climate change and the seeming irreversible path we're on, but when I hear it laid out it breaks my heart in a new way.  I go from feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the issue to frustrated that no one is doing anything.  I feel compelled to only have one child for environmental reasons, but at the same time I feel angry that I'm considering giving up something I so deeply want when it seems as though the rest of world isn't sacrificing at all.  I want more than one child.  To stop at one feels... incomplete.  Maybe I will feel differently when Wolverine arrives, and Henry and I both agree it will be a completely different conversation at that point.  Right now I am not willing to give up my desire for more than one child, even though morally it feels like the right choice.

Henry and I make a lot of choices based out of concern for the environment.  We don't own a car.  We avoid flying whenever possible (although admittedly we've both emitted more than our share of carbon through flying in our lifetimes up until this point).  We don't use the air conditioning or the heat.  We try to buy in bulk to reduce packaging.  I say this not to brag, or pat myself on the back, but because all of the aforementioned things don't feel like a sacrifice; they feel like the way we want to be living.  Having one child does not feel like that; it feels like the most monumental sacrifice I would ever make.

I was particularly moved by the passage that refer to the "special moment" that we're in.  The idea that trying to mitigate the environmental damage we've already done is a challenge unique to our generation resonates with me.  It may not be fair, but it is what it is and we have to give it our best effort, even if that means giving up some things we desperately want.

Our discussions after reading the book were frustrating for both of us.  I was so emotional that it was hard to rationally discuss the topic and more than one conversation ended with me in tears.  I kept saying that I feel like we would only be having one child "on principle" and that it wouldn't really make a difference since no one else in the world seems to care about the fact that our world is falling apart.  Henry had trouble with my use of phrase "on principle" because he thinks we should be making decisions on our principles, not based on what the rest of the world is doing.  And he's right.  But I am where I am.

Henry is convinced that he would prefer to stop at one, but is open to continuing the discussion post-Wolverine's birth.  I feel I want two children, but also recognize that the most responsible course of action would be to stop after this one (or to not have one at all, but that ship's already sailed).

To be continued after the birth of our child and we have some concept of what it means to be parents.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Letting it go

For the past week (or two) I have been stressed about not having our house ready.  I had grand plans to have everything done, ready, and set up before Wolverine arrives.

I have changed my perspective.

Now I am ready for Wolverine to come whenever he/she would like.  We have working bathrooms, the kitchen is unpacked, and as of yesterday our bedroom is completely painted (including trim, which took hours and hours and hours of my time and resulted in me calling Henry in tears late in the afternoon).

Are most of the rooms painted?  No.  Is everything unpacked?  Not even close.  Have we completed all the projects we want to?  Not a chance.  But I'm okay with all of that.  Instead of spending all day painting and preparing, I'd rather spend the days/weeks we have left enjoying life as just the two of us before we become a family of three.  So I'm letting go of having the house in perfect order.  It's not like it would stay that way for long anyway, right?

Part of the reason behind this change was the realization that I need to make room in my life for the possibility that I could go into labor at any moment.  Up until now I've known that was true intellectually, but I kept pushing it aside hoping that Wolverine would wait longer.  In order to be mentally/emotionally prepared for the birth I need to change my state of mind.  So I am.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sometime this month

Wolverine will be here.  Oh my.

We're officially in the house now.  The first two nights were spent in a tent in the backyard because the fumes were still bothering me, but as of last night we're sleeping in the house.  Baby steps.

Unpacking.  Slowly, slowly... The kitchen is completely unpacked (except for our regular size plates which seem to have gone missing) along with most of the clothes.  There are still a lot of items--both furniture and boxes--sitting in the garage waiting to be put in their proper place.  By Thursday it should all be done (fingers crossed).  We're trying to put a coat of wax down in every room before we put furniture in it full time and since the wax takes 48 hours to fully cure, we are having to strategically choose which rooms to do first.

Surprisingly I'm feeling good about where we are.  If Wolverine were to come tonight/tomorrow, we'd be okay.  It would be ideal, but it would work.  The more time we have, the better (the list of items to get done on the house seems to grow instead of shrink...), but it no longer sends me into a cold sweat when I think about going into labor.

I had a scare on the night of the 30th when I woke up from a dream that I was in labor.  I was about to go back to sleep, then I realized that I actually was having a contraction.  Talk about bad timing.  Henry was sleeping at the house to open it up and let it air out, all of our stuff was in boxes, we hadn't finished cleaning the apt (that we had to move out of the next day)... Let's just say it would not have been the most convenient time to have a baby.  Luckily I was able to go back to sleep and felt fine in the morning.

As of last night my swollen ankles are back.  Oh, pregnancy!  Even with the swelling, I'm already feeling a twinge of sadness knowing that I only a limited time left in this pregnancy.  This last trimester really flew by.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Nearing the end


I’m down to the final weeks before Wolverine makes his/her arrival.  Even if Wolverine is two weeks late, s/he will still be here by this time next month.  There has been so much going on in our lives these past few weeks that I haven’t had time to really process the fact that we’ll have a child in a few days/weeks.

Right around 36 weeks I was ready to throw in the towel on this whole pregnancy gig.  The swelling, the difficulty bending over, the constant fatigue, the aching feet… I was over it.  After two days of feeling like a stranger in my own body I regained perspective and was back to being content with where I am.  Instead of wishing that he/she would come as soon as possible, I am now back to hoping that Wolverine stays in until the due date (June 15) or later so we can get more work done on the house.  (And of course I know that I have no control of Wolverine’s birthday; I’m just stating my preference.)

On Sunday we moved all our furniture (with the exception of a futon mattress) and most everything else we own into our new house.  The original plan was that we would move ourselves as well and make that our sole residence.  Turns out even after a week of airing out the house the fumes from the sealant for our concrete floors are still strong.  In an effort to avoid exposure to VOCs, we’re still staying at the apartment until our lease is officially up at the end of the month.  Living with a very limited number of items at the apartment and traveling back and forth to the house is not ideal, but it’s temporary.  Worse case scenario would be for Wolverine to make his/her debut while we’re still between residences.  All of Wolverine’s clothes and diapers are packed in boxes somewhere and still need to be washed.  I think Henry unearthed the birth kit last night so it would be accessible if need be.  I still can’t wrap my mind around the fact that we’re at the point where I could go into labor any day.  How did that happen?

Other pregnancy thoughts:

  • Stretch marks made there appearance last week.  I was hoping to avoid them, but such is life
  •  I’ve been gaining almost two pounds a week for the last few weeks (which might explain the stretch marks).  Slightly alarming, but at this point, what can you do?  My midwife is happy with my weight gain and says I’m right on track and that I’ll need the fat stores for nursing.
  •  Sometimes I wish I could just be naked all the time.  None of my maternity clothes fit anymore (okay, only a few items) and getting dressed feels like such a hassle.
  • My appetite has decreased over the last week or so.  I get full more quickly, probably because Wolverine is encroaching on my stomach space.  No heartburn though, so no real complaints in that department.


That’s the update at 37.5 weeks.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Yellow Countertops

The house we just bought has yellow countertops in the kitchen.  Bright yellow.  They are hideous.  Henry likes them.  It's a problem.

Despite my strong dislike of the countertops, they are not anywhere close to the top of the to-do list at the house.  Small items like removing the crumbling asbestos-ladden ceilings rank a few notches higher.  But the more I look at them?  The higher priority they become.  Since the kitchen opens to the main living/dining area, the countertops are prominent.

Last night I told Henry how much I wanted to put in new countertops.  I just don't feel like bright yellow is "our style" (because it's not; it's ugly).  Up until now I've never really cared about our living space.  As renters, we didn't have a say in most elements of our apartment and I've never been one to decorate.  Now that we're owners and are able to make changes I feel differently.  Everything else in the house will be calming tones that I love.  The countertops just don't fit with the vision.  I feel they aren't "us", but Henry thinks they are.

From his point of view it's not something we would pick out if we were starting from scratch, but that it is "us" to use what's there.  If we were to get new countertops the perfectly good bright yellow ones would just go in the dumpster.  Of course I support diverting items from the landfill, but I really hate the countertops.  Every item of furniture we own, with the exception of our mattress, is second (or third, or fourth) hand.  Why can't we throw out this one thing?

I'm fairly certain Henry's plan is to avoid making a decision and then we'll be too busy adjusting to life with Wolverine to care about the countertops.  The discussion is officially on hold until the end of the summer.  But make no mistake--it will be revisited.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Random thoughts from the third trimester

I have now entered the final month before my due date, which is both exciting and surreal. Right now I'm focused on moving into our new house (which first has to become habitable). Once that is accomplished (next weekend!) I will be able to better prepare for the reality of this new little person joining our life. There are a few random things I would like to remember from the last couple of weeks:

(1) When I was 34 weeks pregnant I accidentally biked more than 20 miles in one day. Neil and I had a full schedule that day and getting from point A to point B was easier on bike than bus (although there was a bus trip thrown in there as well). At the end of the day I calculated all of our small trips and realized I biked more than 20 miles in the heat, which was not my intention. After that I took a good week and a half off from biking.

(2) It's getting harder to distinguish my ankles from the rest of my legs.

(3) Two days ago I was putting away dishes in our kitchen and my protruding belly managed to knock over the green smoothie I just made. I'm just not used to extending that far in front of myself and it surprises me every time.

(4) I always heard people talking about how it was hard to tie their shoes at the end of pregnancy.  I now know from experience.

(5) I was taking the bus to look at a rug I found on Craigslist. On my way home, I was across the street from the bus stop and could see the bus coming down the road. Generally that would be no problem--the next stop was a busy one and it always takes awhile to load and unload passengers. I finally got the walk signal and started hustling toward the stop, at which point my beloved Chacos that I've had for six years decided to break. Picture it please: 8-month pregnant woman running down a busy street with one shoe on trying to catch up to the bus. Did I mention it was pouring rain? Needless to say, I did not make the bus. All I could do was laugh because I fully recognized how ridiculous I looked.

(6) For some reason I decided when making a green smoothie that it was not necessary for me to hold the pitcher while using the immersion blender. I can't remember what I was doing with my left hand that was so important I couldn't stop for a minute to steady the pitcher. Result? Green smoothie on the walls, counter, floor, clean dishes on the other side of the sink, and all over me. Lesson learned. But seriously, what was I thinking?!

(7) At my midwife appointment yesterday a three-year old girl was leaving with her parents when we were arriving.  Here was our conversation:

Little girl: Are you having a baby, too?
Me: Yes, I am.
Little girl: Are you a boy or a girl?
Me: (At first I thought she asked if I was having a boy or a girl, but then I realized what she was really asking.) I'm a girl.
Little girl: Then why do you have short hair?

I tried very hard not to laugh.

(8) Lots of strangers have been asking me about my pregnancy, and almost all of them claim I am having a boy. Time will tell.

(9) Last night Neil installed the attic fan at the house. The breakers were off so he wouldn't electrocute himself during the installation. When he finished around 9:30, it was pitch black and we just had a tiny flashlight. Before turning the breakers back on we needed to install some light fixtures in the bedrooms that had been taken down when our ceilings were redone. We needed to do it that night because we had people coming in to do the floors the next morning. Picture it please: tiny flashlight on the floor as our only light, a very pregnant me holding up a light above my head (one of which had a ceiling fan attached) while Neil tried to connect all of the wires. We got four fixtures in and turned on the breakers. Our success rate? One in four. Eventually we got two of the four to work. It's now 10:45 and I'm exhausted and ready to go to bed. Neil then proceeds to tell me that he wants to finish painting the ceiling of the bedroom before he goes to sleep. I look at him like he's crazy. I did help finish the trim (which only took fifteen minutes) before I went to sleep in the other room. Crazy kid. I do have to admit that the ceiling looks great and it's nice to have one room complete. Still. (For the record, he told me I shouldn't even do the trim and that I should just go to sleep and he didn't want to keep me up.)

Of course there is no controlling when Wolverine will make his/her appearance, but I have to say that I'm hoping he/she waits until June 16th or later (although I may be singing a different tune in a couple of weeks). My favorite midwife assistant is on vacation until the 16th and I'd really like for her to be present at the birth. We also have a lot of work to do on the house, so I'm more than happy to have a couple of extra weeks to get that in order before the birth because I know it will be a lost cause for at least a few months afterwards. Now I'm not saying I want to go weeks overdue, but a few days might be nice...