Aside
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I hesitate to put this into words, given how miserable I was during my last pregnancy, but I really want to maintain a positive outlook this time around. You know, maybe even be that ‘glowing’ pregnant woman who handles the whole ordeal with ease! I’m not gonna put too much pressure on myself to enjoy every minute of it, but I’m going to try to keep in mind that it may very well be the last time I experience pregnancy.

Thinking about the things I want to do differently the next time around brings up some unresolved issues with my birthing process. Please don’t judge me – I’m probably about to sound crazy here for a bit. But I think that part of the reason I experienced such a downward spiral of confusion and sadness after Kenneth was born had to do with how chaotic the whole process felt. I mean, we went to the hospital without a diaper bag, much less a car seat. We were not at all expecting to have him in our arms the very next day, and I just didn’t feel prepared. On top of that, he was severely jaundiced for a week after he was born, and six days later we were still in the hospital because he hadn’t had any bowel movements… Cue the pediatrician telling me I was going to brain damage my child if I didn’t give him formula.

It just wasn’t really a fun time, all-around.

But (and this is a deep dark secret) I think that what bothers me most and doesn’t sit right with me is how the actual birth itself went down. I experienced amnesia after the fact, for whatever reason – exhaustion? Stress? I really don’t know, and I’ve never asked a professional out of embarrassment. But I don’t remember the first few hours after giving birth… I remember the doctor telling me to stop pushing, watching him grab a scalpel and cut me open, and then I remember the doctor holding our baby up by the leg. He let out one little cry and then went silent, and my gut told me that that couldn’t be right. Then he was immediately taken away (somewhere behind me) for what, I don’t know. I kept asking, “Is he okay? Why isn’t he making any noise?” And no one would answer me. Finally, the nurse brought him to me and laid him on my chest. My arms were too weak to wrap around him or hold him, and my legs were so weak that I watched them shake as I kept my knees bent and my doctor stitched me back up.

And that’s where it ends…

At some point, our families came in and joined us, and we were taken to another room. But I don’t remember any of this, or recall how much time had elapsed or what I did to bond with my son. I remember the first nurse coming in once we’d been moved, and asking me how long it had been since our little guy had eaten. I told her that I wasn’t sure, and that it had probably been when we were still in the birthing suite. She was quite upset, as that had apparently been a few hours ago.

The hardest piece for me to stomach fell into place at my eight-week checkup. I told my doctor about the pain I’d experienced around the incision site when my husband and I had sex, and he asked me why he’d given me an episiotomy. I thought to myself, “What do you mean, why?” I had assumed it was related to the fact that I’d been pushing for two hours and his head had reached a point it just wasn’t going to fit through.

“I’m not really sure…” I replied.

“I only do one or two of those a year. And only if there’s an emergent situation,” he said.

My stomach sunk. Suddenly it made sense why, though he’d asked me maybe fifteen minutes earlier in my labor if I wanted baby brought straight to my chest, he was taken away after he made it out. Doc speculated that perhaps the baby’s heart rate was dropping. Whatever happened, I will probably never know…

It took me awhile to acknowledge that this combination of events truly saddened me, but in time I did… And I found peace knowing that if I faced those feelings, I would be able to close the gap between my baby and myself. All of these events supported the voice in my head telling me to be afraid. The one that didn’t believe I would ever be a mother – not after the “uncertainty” of the first trimester had passed, not after finding out his gender, not as I started to show… Not even as I went into labor. It never felt real, and the chaos surrounding his birth fed that fear that I would lose him.

In time, after much struggle and anxiety, it began to feel ‘real.’ I think at some point I realized that if I held my breath waiting for the bottom to drop out, I would miss out on so much. When I look back, that seems to be true for about the first month of his life. But after that, I began to embrace being his mother and sustaining another human life. I began to trust my body and heart and soul to do what they were created to do. And it was amazing… I’m so glad I decided not to let fear keep me from those precious moments.

Anyways.

These are the thoughts that plague my mind as I’m trying to fall asleep tonight. Things I hope are different the second time around. Hopefully this will be a non-issue, as I now have living proof that my body is indeed capable of creating a human being. 😛 Hopefully instead, I rock the entire pregnancy and childbirth with the confidence of someone who’s been there, done that. Hopefully I will have more faith in God’s plan.

But I can’t guarantee I won’t worry my heart out for the little being that will come. ❤

1

New Mommy Checklist

6 months into this mommy gig, I’ve read many mommies’ “must-have” lists, and I think it’s about time I put together one of my own! When the hubs and I ventured into our local Babies ‘R Us to put together our registry, we were lost. And I mean, L O S T. We went in around noon, and by the time we left, the sun had gone down. Needless to say, the incredibly helpful sales clerks had shown us everything we ‘needed,’ and by the time we left, there were thousands of dollars’ worth of items on our registry.  A word to the wise, ladies, and take it or leave it: Having a baby is sort of like Valentine’s Day. It’s commercialized. And believe me, there are companies around every corner who want the money you are oh-so-willing to spend on your precious bundle of joy.

We are planners. I am a micro-managing control freak, and my husband has made a career out of anticipating every potential obstacle/downfall in order to win wars. This baby thing? We wanted to be prepared.Yep, we were that couple that went out and bought every item we had registered for that we didn’t get at our baby shower.  (And most of it is collecting dust in the nursery we never use.) The truth is, there are very few things you truly need in order to raise a baby.

With that said, here is my list of “Must-haves.” These are the things I would, without a doubt, invest the money in again if I could do it over.

  1. Diapers! Diapers, diapers, diapers. We got one package of diapers at our baby shower. That’s right, one. Mamas, make sure you let your guests know you want diapers! In every size! (Unless you’re doing cloth diapers, in which case, you rock. I wish I’d been that ambitious.) I think people were afraid that everyone else would bring them. Guess what? You can never have too many diapers.  I know that’s not what you want to hear, and compared to the glorious walls full of ‘things’ you are going to look at when you register, diapers are lame. They don’t make your heart flutter. Trust me – when you go through three packages in the first week of baby’s life, you’re going to want to exchange five of those binkies you got for some Pampers because, well, priorities!

    I know, I know... My baby could pretty much be a diaper model.

    I know, I know… My baby could pretty much be a diaper model.

  2. Sleepsacks: This is an embarrassing admission – when we were in the hospital, every time we needed to swaddle baby, we called a nurse in. Turns out, between myself, my husband, and my mom, we all sucked at swaddling. I was terrified to do it wrong and fall asleep only to wake up to a baby who had somehow tangled himself up in his blanket. In retrospect, the blanket tragedy was probably mostly an irrational fear, but sleep-deprivation will take its toll. And when it does, this Halo Sleepsack will provide you some peace of mind. It was, in those first few weeks, my favorite item I received at my baby shower (and I didn’t even register for it! Thanks, Aunt Molly –  you are brilliant). I wish I’d gotten a dozen because, inevitably, baby would pee in it in the middle of the night, and it became a guessing game – Do we put him in it first thing, and hope we can anticipate when he’s going to have a huge blowout, or do we wait until AFTER he’s had a blowout halfway through the night, and then put it on him??? Seriously. Next time around, we will have tons of these things so we never run out.
    "Guys, if you let me out of this straight-jacket, I promise I'll behave..."

    “Guys, if you let me out of this straight-jacket, I promise I’ll behave…”

    photo 3 

  3. Breastpump: Engorgement. ‘Nuff said. I’ll probably do a whole post at some point on breastfeeding basics (you’d think it would be self-explanatory, right? Not always!) but if you’re choosing to breastfeed, at some point or another you will probably want to invest in a good pump. I got the Medela Freestyle and used it every two hours for the first two weeks (latch issues galore) and it held up nicely.  If you aren’t going back to work, and you won’t be giving bottles except on rare occasions, skip a pricey one. But it’s worth it to get the higher quality if you’ll be using it frequently.
  4. Cloth diaper inserts: My precious bundle of joy made it pretty clear early on that he was a spitter. I mean major reflux. A basic burp cloth simply wasn’t going to handle this mess. Thankfully, my mom prepared me with diaper inserts (which I pretended to be super stoked about when I received them at my shower, then gave her a real “Thank you” once baby got here and I ran out and bought another package). Every new mom deserves to know this life hack. Diaper inserts were made to be absorbent. They may not be the prettiest, but what better time to learn to embroider than when you’re nesting instinct finally kicks in? Besides – when it’s 3 a.m. and there’s a puddle of spit-up under your little one and you’re not about to wash the crib sheets again, you’ll thank me.

    photo 1

    Owned.

  5. NoseFrida: If you follow Baby Sideburns, you probably saw her roast-post on the NoseFrida. I love my Baby Sideburns, but I must respectfully disagree with her here! When baby gets his or her first cold, and you’re listening to painstakingly stuffy breathing, you’ll do anything to make it better. To include sticking a tube in your rugrat’s nose and sucking the snot out using your very own lung power. These gadgets are seventeen bucks – do yourself a favor and register for it. In fact, make it a baby shower game – whoever shows up with the NoseFrida in tow wins a prize. Really, though, this person knows what they’re doing and probably loves you very much. (Disclaimer: I draw the line at the Windi. Google at your own risk!)

    photo 2

    The mother of all snot-suckers.

  6. Carrier: A fellow mommy loaned me her ErgoBaby when Kenneth was about two months and we had to fly (sans Daddy) from Missouri to Florida. We never looked back. This thing is so much easier to use than a stroller or infant carrier.  Plus, you have your hands free. It’s especially useful when baby is fussy and only wants to be held. You can go to the grocery store, get laundry done, do dishes – pretty much anything, all while baby is snuggled in close to you (and sometimes even napping peacefully on your back!). I definitely encourage every new mom to check into a local babywearing group on Facebook. The ladies there will hook you up with a Learn & Play where you can try (and even borrow) different styles of carriers before investing in one (they start around $125). We even ventured out into the realm of ring-slings! Can’t wait to have another baby so we can try it out with a squish. 😉
    IMG_0709

    Aww, man… No more excuse for not getting anything done. But at least my arms aren’t sore!

    random2

    Complete with sleepydust… It’s love.

  7. Boobies: Yep, I went there.  I just wanna point out that boobs require no washing/sterilizing, and they’re free. I dunno about you, but I am super lazy, and the learning curve of caring for an infant was enough for me to handle without washing bottles multiple times a day, and running to the store for formula. My little man is finally starting solids, and I am seriously resenting having to consciously anticipate/plan his meals, then be all responsible and stuff and clean them up. Ugh. It was so much more fun when my body did all the work. 😦
  8. Swing: Oh my gosh – I forgot the swing! How could I forget the swing?! Little man is now 22 pounds, and he STILL loves to nap in his swing! There was that one incident when he fell out (before he’d actually rolled over and we didn’t realize just how mobile he was) so I advise you to always strap baby in, even if he’s never shown any signs of escape before. Otherwise, embrace the swing! Seriously! I’m all about ‘attachment,’ and ‘bonding,’ and ‘skin-to-skin,’ but sometimes you have to shower. Or leave your love with a babysitter.  Or go into another room to have 45 minutes to yourself for the sake of your sanity. When life happens, you will want a swing with lullabies and a safety harness to strap your baby into. This is one of those things that made my heart flutter when we looked at it in the store – “How cuuuuuuute! He’ll have little lamb ears!” Now, my heart flutters when I attempt a swing transfer during naptime and he starts to stir. I digress….

    003

    Arguably the best $175 we ever spent…

 

Well, I think that pretty much covers it. These are the things that have made the first few months the easiest for us. The rest of the baby hoopla is, well, just that. In fact, look out for my next post on the things I was surprised not to have needed! That should be fun.

3

Seasons and surrender.

Today at the library I checked out a book on color schemes. We’re finally starting to decorate our house, and I’m loving how it’s coming along. The furniture, the colors, the textures. Everything says ‘cozy,’ and it’s becoming a place I’m proud of and a place I want to be.

Of course, with all of the changes, there’s this voice in the back of my head reminding me of the very real chance that in two years the army may decide to relocate us. If not, then my husband only has two more years before he retires, and then who knows where we’ll end up.

So tonight, as I’m cuddling with my main men in bed, my mind wanders – when it’s time to move on, what will I miss most about this house? And the answer is immediate: this is where we brought home our baby.

Suddenly, I want to go back in time and undo all of the changes we’ve made.  Here I am, correcting all of the ‘imperfections’ in my environment, not realizing that one day I will look back and associate them with September 1st, 2013 – the day our lives gained another level of purpose.

Yes, I want to be comfortable in the house I’m living in. But I wish I had at least documented the way things were before. Was it pretty? No. But it was a symbol of that chapter of our lives.

I know exactly how I will picture it in my brain forever:

The post-baby-hibernation-mess that happens when you haven’t left the house for weeks because you’re learning how to care for another human being. (Burp cloths stashed in every corner!)

The embrace of stillness as my universe, all 7 lbs 12 oz of it, rested peacefully on my chest.

The ever-present dim lighting, making it feel like it was always a varying degree of nighttime.

Maneuvering through laundry piles to rescue a distressed newborn at three in the morning.

The rigid tension in the air those nights he refused to sleep and I thought it might kill me.

I’ve heard women comment, occasionally, on their fear that they won’t be able to love their second baby as much as their first. At the time, I remember thinking something like, “Well that’s just silly! Of course you’d love your second as much, right? Isn’t that innate?” But now, I understand. Kenneth and I, we’re battle buddies. We learned something scary and new together. We figured each other out, and he was patient with me as I knocked down the walls that allowed me to meet his emotional needs. Now we have this bond, this crazy-insane bond, and I can’t imagine what it would take to build something similar with number two – to be honest, I can’t imagine why I’d invite another family member into this nicely-balanced triad we have going. Gosh, that sounds so mean! (Future second child, I apologize to you!)

But I digress. I suppose what I’m trying to say is, time goes by so fast. Before you know what’s happening, your walls are a different color. And ya know what happens next? You’re packing up the house you brought your baby home to and moving across the country.

During the aforementioned cuddle session with my boys, I had my hand on Kenneth’s little foot, and as he startled he brushed my hand with the toes of his free foot. I was reminded of the butterfly-kicks in my belly, before  I’d ever laid eyes on those precious little toes. Holding his little feet, I would have given anything to live in that moment forever. Or even to stop time just for a little while. Instead, I’ll go back to bed, and fall asleep praying that he won’t be all grown up when I open my eyes in the morning.

3

Who needs who, here?

Happy New Year! Kenneth turned 4 months old yesterday…. I wish I could say that it’s gone by so fast, but truthfully, it feels like it’s been WAY longer than four months. I have to admit, there’s been a huge learning curve that I never anticipated when it comes to caring for an infant. Don’t get me wrong, certain things came naturally:  Showering him with affection? Done. Easy. Changing diapers? Middle-of-the-night feedings? Check, and check! He’s a baby, and he requires a lot of attention, but I love the crap out of him so it doesn’t really phase me. 

It’s the little things that no one explains to you about becoming a mother that get me.  How do you balance keeping a home with caring for such a small, defenseless being?  How do you deal with the anxiety of putting him down to walk away and do something else that just doesn’t seem nearly as important, big-picture wise? It’s been really difficult for me to let go. At first, I felt so uneasy any second that I spent not focused on him. I had to have him within arms reach every second of every day (imagine my husband’s disdain when I realized I was a co-sleeper, and he realized he wasted tons of money on nursery furniture!).

I just went out for a few hours alone for the first time this weekend. When I say “for the first time,” I mean for the first time of my own accord. My husband dragged me out on my birthday, so we left Kenneth with a sitter for a few hours, and twice we’ve had to have someone watch him for a couple of hours when we went to counseling.  But just the other day, I had this very sudden, very strong feeling that I needed to get out. I needed to take my ‘mommy’ cap off for awhile, and just be ME.  It felt so good to hang out with one of my girlfriends sans baby, and though I felt a twinge of guilt when I walked out the door, it was appeased when A) I recognized that I left him with his daddy, and I can trust him to take the best care of our precious baby and B) I felt like a new woman when I got home. 

Today, I discovered that having him next to me is part of the reason I’ve found it difficult to get anything done around the house. I left him in bed, turned on the baby monitor (which we’ve used, oh, probably less than 5 times since he was born), and kept it close by as I worked on laundry, cleaning, etc. while he slept. And oh. My. Goodness. I got so much done! It’s hard to explain, but when he’s in the same room as me, I find myself checking on him constantly. Even now as I write this, he’s sleeping in his swing, and I’m glancing over there every 30 seconds, then losing my train of thought. It’s like my “maternal instincts” have been in overdrive since he was born, and are just now starting to wind down.  (I’m glad I’m seeing improvement, otherwise I was going to ask my doctor for some tranquilizers at my next OB appointment! Holy anxiety.)

Re-reading this, I know I sound like a crazy person.  There are probably lots of mommies out there who have had all of their shit together since day one, but I must admit, I am not one of them.  I don’t know if this paranoia is related to my miscarriages, or postpartum hormones, or sleep deprivation, or what… But it could be worse, right? I’m certainly not neglecting him! On the contrary, he is so adored by myself and his daddy. And he’s such a happy baby, you can tell that he knows it! 

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5

Baby Love

Well, Kenneth turned one month old yesterday! It’s hard to believe – it feels like we just brought him home from the hospital. I remember, a couple of days after he was born, thinking back to a few nights before that when his daddy and I had been watching The Walking Dead every night and how it felt like that was a different life. Things are starting to feel ‘normal’ now, and this is starting to feel like my ‘real’ life.  It’s hard to remember life before Baby Kenneth – I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss my old schedule (i.e., no schedule, and unlimited sleep!). But I think I’ve definitely got the better part of this deal. Yes, things are totally different now, and (almost) every second of every day revolves around this little life we’ve created.  The truth is, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I don’t know what I’d do without him, and can’t imagine life before him.

There’s this thing about parenthood that I’ve discovered – which also holds true for marriage. People tell you congratulations when they learn you are expecting, they smile like they’re so happy for you, they give you words of wisdom and try to tell you what it might be like.  But it’s one of those things that you can’t possibly understand until you’ve done it.  And behind the smiles of the well-wishers is all of the knowledge they won’t be able to impart upon you. The things you just have to figure out for yourself.

Things no one tells you about parenthood:

You will change consecutive diapers.  It will feel like a waste of money when you hear those velcro tabs sealing followed immediately by a sound indicating a 4- or 5-wipe job.  It’s not a waste of money. Consider the alternative, and thank God that you got the diaper on in time.

A shower becomes a token gesture.  Please, continue to shower every day for your own sanity, and so that others in your household don’t judge you. But accept the fact that many times, you will barely have dried off before you are covered, again, in poop or pee or breastmilk, or a combination of the three.

God invented the breast pump for a reason. So mommies can have 15 minutes in which no one expects anything else from her. So that hubbies can let their wives get a 4-hour stretch of sleep. And so that said wives can enjoy an alcoholic beverage on football Sunday. Cause let’s face it – after 9 months of watching every substance that passes through your lips, you’ve earned it, mama!

On the subject of bottles – you will feel guilty when you see your hubby put the ‘artificial’ nipple to your babe’s lips.  Simply recall the hours you spend each day with your darling at your breast – or even better, in the middle of the night! That should nip that guilt right in the bud. Also, you may feel something else unpleasant, and it may take you a moment to realize that it’s jealousy.  Yes, your child will willingly take his nourishment from something other than you.  Yes, your feelings might be a little hurt.  That will disappear the next time he falls asleep while you’re nursing him.  Nothing will ever replace you as his mama.

On the subject of sleep – you will discover that you need much less sleep than you thought.  There are parents who will brag about how their 5-week-old baby is sleeping 7 hours a night. Don’t expect to be one of them.  Don’t expect to get more than a couple of hours of sleep at a time.  But know that you were made for this, and that when your baby is up for 3 or 4 hours in the middle of the night, you will find the strength within you to push through.  And no one wants to tell you that you might briefly resent your baby for this.  Don’t worry, that’s normal, too.  It will pass.

Also in regards to sleep – no one tells you that for every night that it seems like someone stole your angel baby from his bassinet and replaced him with a demon child, there will be a night that’s almost magical.  You’ll wake right as you hear your baby start to stir, take him in your arms, and nurse him until he passes out, drunk off your milk. And you will follow suit – drunk off of baby love. Everything will happen just how it’s meant to, and you’ll feel like the best mommy in the world (and yes – you are!).

There will be times, when your milk lets down just before he tells you he’s hungry, or when he’s laying on your chest and he matches you breath for breath, sigh for sigh, that you feel more ‘one’ with your baby than when he was in your body.  Everything will feel ‘right,’ and you will know down to your core that this is what you were created to do.  These are also usually the moments you are overcome with emotion.  It’s okay to cry. You were part of a miracle.  Drink it all in while you can – you’ll never get these moments back.

In celebration of Kenneth’s one month birthday (yes, I’m totally about to become that obsessed mother who thinks her kiddo is the cutest one in the world. Except, mine actually is! :P) :

igotmybabyback

fuzzymonkey

daddytummytime

cutestbabyever

babytoes

angelbaby

 

AND in celebration of mommy – cause I worked hard to make this baby, and I’m damn proud of my body for the way it took it like a champ!

Six weeks pregnant.

Six weeks pregnant.

One month postpartum.

One month postpartum.

Not bad, if I do say so myself! And that’s with zero exercise – unless you count breastfeeding (’cause let’s be real, sometimes it feels like a workout). If I didn’t have a blood clot the size of Texas in my leg, I’d say my body handles pregnancy pretty darn well.  Who’s ready for round 2!? 😛