Monday, September 8, 2014

Back to Work

Thirteen weeks off of work is a complete luxury. So luxurious that it balances out the ludicrous stress of 100% unpaid "maternity leave." BUT I'd do it again in a heartbeat, and I feel really good about the part-time hours I'm working for now. SO thankful to have flexibility in my career.

That being said, 13 weeks felt never-ending when it started. I don't really sleep for more than 3 hours at a time yet, so it certainly hasn't felt like a vacation, but my return to work flat-out SNUCK UP on me. Rude. It actually came a little sooner than anticipated. My manager texted me at the end of August saying, "by the way, one of your certifications expired and you need to renew it before you can work again." Oops. So Noah and I went to a 5-hour STABLE class the first Tuesday of September. It was actually a nice way to ease back in.


Then, Saturday night came. My parents were in town and helped Ross out a lot over the weekend! But I still didn't take a nap beforehand because this kid doesn't do naps in general. Also, I was super anxious. Then 4pm came and I was EXHAUSTED and so SAD and I just started sobbing. Poor Ross. "Me going back to work means Noah is OLD! It's going too FAST! I can't stay awake ALL NIGHT! I'm so TIRED!" Seriously. Every one of those feelings was legit and heart-wrenching.

But I got dressed. ("Last time I wore scrubs I was in LABOR!")  (Although these particular pants hadn't fit me since the first trimester. Yay!)

Thawed milk for Noah to eat overnight. ("He was so little back in July!)

Packed my extra bags so I could pump.


And said goodbye to my favorite tired baby.




The whole drive to work, though, I kept feeling like I was forgetting something. I was fully clothed, I had my badge, my lunch, my water bottle, my pumping stuff, and my purse. Oh but wait. I don't have my BABY. He's only been coming to work with me for the past year!

I missed his post-coffee dance parties. I missed rubbing my belly out of habit as I walked down the hall. It was weird. But it went okay. I think eventually I was too tired to be sad. By the time I got home and went to bed, I'd been up for something like 30 hours and of course, the last full night of sleep I got was 3.5 months ago, so there's that. But we did it. I got lots of sweet, sweet grins from our bald baby when I got home, and Ross survived a night of solo parenting.

Can't ask for more than that!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Babies Don't Keep

Mother, oh mother, come shake out your cloth!
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She's up in the nursery, blissfully rocking!

Oh, I've grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby, loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping's not done and there's nothing for stew
And out in the yard there's a hullabaloo
But I'm playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren't her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo.)

Oh, cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
But children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust, go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby. Babies don't keep.

{Ruth Hamilton}

Highlights from August 11-18 when I gave up fighting Noah for sleep and focused on getting him some rest whenever, wherever. That was my only goal each day:
















Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I didn't know it would be so hard

Eight weeks. EIGHT WEEKS. How can this be? Those early days are already fuzzy and yesterday this video made me cry:



About half the day, I feel like this: "What? I don't want him to grow up! Yeah, he's so cute. Oh I love you cute little smiles. OH MY GOSH! I want him to stay little!"


Then there are inevitably a few hours of the day, when Noah is bawling and hasn't slept in hours and he's looking at me like I should know what to do but I don't, when I just doubt everything. I hate myself when I wish away these parts of babyhood because I love my baby. I love the elusive smiles we're starting to get. I love knowing that bresatfeeding is finally going well enough that he's getting rolls on his legs. But then I hate that we just spent our last night in newborn sleepers and newborn-sized diapers.




I love his big blue eyes and his tiny baby fists, knowing that both those things will change at any moment as my infant moves into bigger babyhood. I love his wiggles and his shouts and the thousands of facial expressions he makes, but I hate not knowing what he's actually saying.



This morning, Noah is sleeping wrapped in a Moby wrap on my chest and I'm afraid to move too much or make too much noise, because sleep is a rare and wonderful thing for him.




I just read this beautiful post, and I can't stop reading it. The author's way of putting words to some of my current feelings is so phenomenal-- I want to remember what stands out to me here:

"Before I was a parent, I was the perfect one. People told me my life would change. People told me I would be tired. That parenthood would be the greatest and hardest thing I would ever do. 
Yeah yeah yeah.
I know. I know.
I knew everything.
...Then in a blink, (he) was here. (He) was tiny and marveling. (He) was so incredibly beautiful. (He) was perfect.
But wait.
I am not ready.
This is so hard.
I am so tired.
Why hadn't anyone prepared me for this?
I. Know. Nothing.
...The love you will feel is nothing like you have felt before. It will be foreign and familiar all at once. It will fill you to the very top of your heart, nearly spilling over. The thing about this kind of love, though, is that it can feel heavy. Disproportional. You may feel like you will nearly break in half from the top-heaviness. You will not be able to tell the difference between exhaustion and depression, and that darkness will rob you from what should be the most tender months of your (son's) new life.   
Your baby will cry, a lot. Your days will both begin and end with the saddest screams you will ever hear. Your body will respond the way that it is programmed to - with panic. 
...This love will crush your ego. It will destroy your capability to trust yourself. The fear that creeps in the shadows of this love will paralyze you... You will feel guilty for not measuring up. You will feel guilty for feeling guilty. You will feel guilty for feeling guilty for feeling guilty. You will cry over absurd things, like not being pregnant anymore... You may never feel like you will get the hang of carrying this love."
That's exactly where I am. I want to love every minute of the newborn stage because I know it's fleeting. But I don't love thrush. And it's hard to hang out with an overtired baby who's refusing to take a nap. And I never thought I would doubt everything like I do. When I was pregnant, I joked that I don't know what to do with a toddler but hey, I can keep a baby alive. 


I never knew that I'd question his eating and sleeping so much. That I'd wonder if I was too boring alone in a quiet house with him. That when I stopped setting an alarm at night for him to eat, I'd spend the night waking up every few hours anyway to make sure he was still breathing and wasn't crying and eventually I'd wake him up to eat anyway, ruining what may very well have been his first night to sleep through the night (that was last night).
I thought I'd relish holding him all day and didn't realize that it would be excruciating on my upper back. I didn't realize that sometimes I'd have to decide between being using my hands to prepare food for lunch, or having a quiet baby.
I didn't realize that I'd love him so much it would scare me and make me doubt everything I did.
I got that breath of air at 6 weeks just long enough to gather strength to go back under. I didn't know it would be this hard.  


But I do know that I love him fiercely and it's an honor to be his mom.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Jesus is Better

I have a problem. I want my baby to remain tiny, while I'm simultaneously doing everything I can to overcome his poor initial weight gain. Today he weighed 8 pounds and 14 ounces which is awesome! Up a whopping 12 ounces in 12 days! But also, sad. His newborn-sized clothes are getting pretty snug, as are his newborn diapers. His Shar Pei-esque elbows and knees are filling out and he even has the tiniest of rolls on his legs and arms. He is precious and wonderful and I am filled with pride and also an inordinate amount of sorrow as he grows.


Like, it's an actual problem. I shouldn't be this sad.

I am accustomed to working with babies in their first 28 days of life. Plenty of NICU babies stay longer than that, but since they were so early and/or so sick, most of them still leave acting like a newborn. I was nervous that I would like my baby less as he got older and bigger. Thankfully, that has not been the case, and it's so fun to watch his coordination develop and see recognition in his eyes. (Do you ever think... how weird would it be to not be able to just reach out and grab something? To have your arms and legs move around but not have control over them? So crazy! Babies have to learn so much.)


The passage of time is something that's always been hard for me to deal with for some reason, and what better than babies as an example of an accelerated version of time passing?! People tell me, "it goes too fast!" "You'll blink and he'll be this age (gesturing to whatever sized toddler they're walking around with)." And my least favorite, "Enjoy every moment before it's gone!"

Rather than helping me enjoy this time, these comments give rise to anxiety and nameless fears of missing out as time passes me by. I still haven't been able to address the root of this issue, but when I brought it up to a friend, she had such wise words:

"The truth is, we think that either 'being in the moment' and 'staying present' or the opposite, 'if it could only be like ___ in the next stage,' will satisfy us. And the truth is, we're all insatiable. We all want more of whatever we don't have. It's an interesting thing in motherhood to rest in Christ and be grateful for whatever God has handed us this day. All our expectations fly out the window. Otherwise we're left disappointed and wanting."

She is a wise, wise friend.



We've sung this song a few times at church, and the refrain "Jesus is better" keeps running through my head every time I find myself mourning something silly. Jesus is better than squishy cheeks and sleepy newborns and I simply have to believe that.


If you need me, I'll be bunkered in, listening to this song on repeat while I snuggle my baby.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Baked Oatmeal Squares

Continuing on the theme of quick, healthy snacks, I adapted these oatmeal bars for a change up from cookies for a few days. But instead of making bars, I divided the batter between 12 muffin tins for ease of individual serving.
  • 1.5 cups gluten-free rolled oats (not instant oats) 
  • 1 cup brown or white rice flour
  • 3 tbsp chia seed
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp ground flax
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1.5 cups almond milk (or other milk)
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup (or other liquid sweetener)
  • 2 tbsp nut or seed butter
  • 1 banana, chopped small
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup toppings as desired
Preheat oven to 350F and line muffin tins or an 8 inch square pan with two pieces of parchment paper. In a mixing bowl, blend the milk, syrup, banana, nut butter, and vanilla until smooth. Add oats, flour, chia seeds, flax, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon and stir until combined.

Pour mix into prepared pan and top as needed. (I put chocolate chips on half of mine and swirled strawberry jam on top of the other half.)

If using an 8x8 pan, bake for 35-40 minutes.

If using muffin tins, bake 20-25 minutes.

Enjoy!



(((In addition to these and lactation cookies, I've been eating lots of pumpkin chocolate chip muffins from PaleOMG and protein bites from Fitnessista. That is, when I'm not eating cookies or muffins my mom made for us!)))






The First 6 Weeks

In some ways it's hard to believe it's been 6 weeks. Then again, the last 6 weeks have really just felt like one long day, so time markers seem a bit irrelevant. I don't plan to write monthly baby updates on the blog, since that's what Noah's baby book is for. But since this blog is still our family record, and writing is how I seem to solidify and process things, I want the record to show that 6 weeks postpartum is when I finally felt like I got my head above water.


That's not to say I have things figured out (ha!) but simply to say that I'm starting to feel a little more comfortable in this new role. I'm also starting to feel a little more like myself again, as evidenced by the fact that I'm blogging again, for one. But also by the fact that the desire to eat more vegetables and less sugar is creeping in, as well as the desire to exercise again for sanity purposes!

One of my tasks as postpartum nurse at the Birth Center this past year has been to administer the postpartum depression screen at 2 weeks and at 6 weeks, so I'm fairly comfortable saying that I don't have postpartum depression. Anxiety, on the other hand, has been out of control!

More random thoughts on the past 6 weeks since it's been hard to form a coherent post these days:

...I thought having a baby during my favorite season-- summer-- would be awesome! Don't get me wrong, it's great that it's not freezing and gray outside, and that we can take morning or evening walks, and that we don't have to worry about icy roads. But last I looked it was spring, and now suddenly it's mid-July and I've spent most of summer indoors! This is usually the time I intensively refill my sunshine reservoir by spending lots of time working out outside, reading books outside, and swimming. I need summer to fill that bank so it can last me through the long, dark winters. I'm hoping to get outside more, soon!

...If labor brought out my quiet, meditative side, postpartum has absolutely brought out my socially anxious side. The desire to eat, sleep, and breathe baby and hide away as a family of three has been incredibly high. The amount of distress I felt having to get out to (what felt like daily) appointments in the first few weeks was ridiculous. Granted, we've had a lot of appointments: pediatrician visits, numerous weight checks, lactation consultations, OB visits, chiropractic appointments, etc. But when your baby doesn't breastfeed well you really don't want to sit down for an hour in a strange environment while they try to eat, so everything felt so rushed and time was at a premium.

...Speaking of breastfeeding, it seemed to be going fairly well, albeit exhausting, in the first 2-3 weeks. He ate often, and long. I easily spent 10 hours a day sitting and feeding him. His wet and dirty diapers were always on track, yet his weight was not. I wish I'd written more during those weeks because they're already fuzzy! I know I didn't sleep when the baby slept... I think I used his one long nap of the day to make food for myself haha! But if I thought I didn't have a lot of free time then, it shrank drastically during the third week when I had to start pumping and supplementing with bottles to get Noah back to birth weight. It worked! But to the incredible detriment of my sleep and my sanity. If you asked me how I was doing at 2 weeks out, I was really okay. Incredibly anxious, a little tired, but mostly happy. Things were going how I expected them to go at 2 weeks out. But by 3 weeks, I was an exhausted mess with really just an hour of free time between rounds of feeding, supplementing, and pumping. We're just now starting to back off on pumping and slowly dropping a bottle every few days.

...I unfortunately have a list of regrets from Noah's first few weeks and I feel like between visitors and my own anxiety, I missed so much of his sleepy newborn days. It's something I've really been struggling with and all I can do is pray that God softens those regrets, helps me focus on the sweet times we have together now, and helps me remember to do things a little differently the next time around.

...I never got to nest, the house isn't finished, and while I'm more okay with that than I was before labor started, it's still pretty stressful. I sit here 6 weeks postpartum having watched Ross and my parents do every single bit of "nesting" around the house as I feed this baby. Half of our belongings are still in boxes. I don't know where most of my non-maternity clothes are (although it's not like I could fit into them anyway). Really, I don't know where anything is.   **That being said, my parents did an incredible amount of work while they were here visiting and Ross and I simply couldn't have come home from the hospital to a live-able house without their help. Thank you!!!**

...Kudos to the c-section moms. Post-partum recovery has been really difficult for me, and I cannot fathom recovering from major surgery while taking care of a baby.

...The best things you can say to someone post-delivery are, "good job Mama!" and "You look amazing!"

...If you're visiting a mom with a new baby, please bring food. Seriously. It feels selfish to say that but wow, procuring food for myself during that first week was really difficult and we couldn't have done it without the generosity of others.

All this being said, I think I've had 8 jobs since graduating college 7 years ago (most of the time working more than one job at a time) but this is by far the best job, with the best boss, that I ever could've asked for. I sincerely love motherhood even more than I thought I would and I'm so grateful for this time!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Pregnancy, Postpartum, and Newborn Products

I feel like I've really been pretty minimal (out of necessity and personal preference) regarding buying ALL THE THINGS that they market for pregnant women and new moms. However, I wanted to write a quick post to help me remember what products I have found useful during such a unique time. Let me know if I need to add anything!

PREGNANCY

Body pillow- I asked for one for Christmas as an alternative to the fancy "pregnancy-shaped" pillows because it was much much less expensive and seemed more versatile. I was already a side sleeper, so this replaced the small pillow between my knees and was much more comfortable and supportive as my joints got looser and my body got bigger. My grandma bought mine at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

Support hose- I started getting painful vericose veins around 15 weeks and I wish I'd bought some good hose the minute I started having symptoms! I finally bought some around 18 weeks and they offered SO MUCH relief. I went to Biofeet here in town to be fitted and ended up buying some Sigvaris medical grade support hose at a hefty price point. But oh my word they were invaluable. There was a huge difference between the days I wore them and the days I didn't. I actually wore my fist pair into the ground and bought a second pair for the last few weeks. So worth it for the support they gave my legs and belly. Not sure how I'd feel about them if I was hugely pregnant in the middle of the summer, though...

Larabars and KIND bars- Both have simple ingredients, are gluten free, and don't make a lot of crumbs! Such a great snack when I was on the go and started to feel lightheaded. Also, I ate a chocolate chip cookie dough Larabar before our 12 week sono and baby was bouncing off the walls. Safe to say he loves them too!

Pampers' Hello baby app- This app offers highlights every week of pregnancy, but even more fun is that if you double click on the image, it goes to a life-sized image of your baby at that gestational age! So fun, but I wish we'd had an iPad to view it on. Baby outgrew the iPhone pretty quickly :-)

Full Term app- I'm sure there are lots of contraction timers out there, but this one couldn't have been easier. You just push "start" at the beginning of a contraction and "end" when it's over. The app calculates frequency and duration, maps out averages for you, and more. It also has a cheat sheet for the different stages of labor which is nice.

POSTPARTUM

Body pillow-same pillow, different use. It has been so helpful for breastfeeding support since it's wider and also unstructured. I basically wrap it around myself and tuck it into the side of the chair when I feed the baby.

Larabars and KIND bars- Another repeat. So easy to snack on during middle of the night feedings.

Ice packs- Also see if your nurse will send you home with ice pads!

Lanolin- I've only tried two brands, but I like the Medela one the best. It seems to go on easier.

Breast pump-  I learned this the hard way: even if you don't think you'll use it right away, or don't plan on using it at all, order it before your due date! Most insurance companies provide some sort of benefit for breastpumps now, and you can usually order them a month before your due date. Do it! (P.S. My lactation consultant friends say that the Medela Pump and Style or Ameda Purely Yours pumps are the best for home use.)

Nursing tank tops from Target- Not nearly supportive enough for me to wear out and about, but awesome for wearing to bed and around the house. I actually even wore this and a loose black skirt for my postpartum hospital stay. I'd love to have some nicer, more structured nursing tanks but for now, these are the ones in our budget. (But if money wasn't an issue I'd stock up on these and these).

Maxi skirts- Because nothing else fits and my cute maternity dresses just don't look right on my deflated belly

NEWBORN

Summer SwaddlePod- OMG this is too cute. And Noah LOOOVES it! He totally knows that when we zip him up in it, it's time for bed.

Moby wrap- I'd used this with a baby in the NICU and fell in love. I know there are a ton of wrap and carrier options out there, but this works for us in the newborn stage. I like having him right against me and he gets to feel like he's being held while I have the use of a hand or two.

Aden + Anais blankets- My grandma and one of my friends also made some big, soft, swaddle blankets. But when it comes to store-bought ones, the Aden + Anais ones have been the best. They're actually big enough to keep him swaddled! (Although after he got stronger around two weeks, we moved to the SwaddlePod at night and just use the blankets during the day.)

Boon grass- Ross is obsessed with this company and their "grass" is a fun and functional drying rack that doesn't look totally utilitarian.

A nice camera- We totally splurged on this... but if you're going to take the plunge, what better time? Can't wait til our newborn photographer has her next camera class so I can learn how to use ours better.