Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Weary World Rejoices

Advent has begun again, and it has wonderfully, beautifully, coincided with a brief period of rest in my soul. Rest that has been much-desired, but ever-elusive for the past year.

The first 3-4 months after Noah was born, I was in constant physical pain, exacerbated by the constant anxiety I had about my baby. About everything in general, but sleep in particular. It seemed like my days revolved around hour-long feeding sessions and a brief period of "play," after which I would spend 45+ minutes getting him to sleep, only to get a 25 minute nap out of him. Seriously, for the month of November, you could set a clock by those catnaps. It was just long enough to go to the bathroom, change into real clothes (sometimes) and eat a meal. I was so discouraged. In so much pain. I felt like the worst mom ever. I was so drawn to the need to seek God in His Word, but too tired to do so.

We've also had this background of financial strain that was causing me to blame myself for not continuing to earn a full-time income. For the past 2 years, we've intentionally lived on Ross' salary plus about 20% of my income, in preparation for this very season. We paid off our debts. We bought a reasonable house. (Well, reasonable mortgage-wise. Don't get me started on renovations again.) We thought we were prepared since we've lived on this income for a while, but suddenly it's different. It's different knowing we can't draw from the savings account here and there. And we just did not anticipate hefty out-of-network physical therapy bills. Circumcisions. Hearing aids. I mean, we anticipated some of those things, but we didn't realize that we'd end up paying so much more than just our insurance deductible.

I just physically couldn't find it in me to work more night shifts when I'm already getting so little sleep, so I looked around and found an opportunity to take an 8-week day shift travel nursing assignment in an Omaha NICU. Perfect, right?! It would've been 8 really exhausting weeks, working full-time in Omaha and still fulfilling my PRN obligations here. But I would've had free childcare there, and I would've made in 8 weeks what it will currently take me 8 months to earn as a PRN nurse. It would've been a huge financial blessing. But after thinking and praying (and spending a night in Omaha where I was up EVERY HOUR with Noah) I said no. And WOW. We've been so blessed by that NO. The first good career decision I've made in a really long time!

Because after a few weeks of some sort of developmental and physical growth spurt, this week has been a breath of fresh air. KNOCK ON WOOD we are back to just one nighttime feeding around 3am (instead of 10pm and 1am and 4am and 5:30am...). And-- drumroll please-- we have a NAPPER** at long last! Seriously. 6 months in the making.

I'm more aware than ever of the cyclical nature of having a baby. Weeks of crazy growth and weeks of rest. I'm learning that maybe God's calling me into the same rhythm. Instead of just surviving those crazy weeks, I want to be able to dig in. Be present.

I've written myself a note above Noah's changing table: You chose to be here, so BE HERE. When those crazy weeks circle around again, I want to be ready. And that means while this kid is taking two naps a day, before he outgrows the swing, you better believe I'm resting when he's resting. I'm actually doing daily devotionals. I'm reading for fun. Sometimes I'm even napping! I'm still doing small chores, and when Ross comes home I catch up on laundry and make dinner and whatnot, but seriously. When Noah is resting, I'm going to rest, and I don't even feel bad about it. It's so, so needed. I had no idea having just one child would be this hard, so I'm stocking up. Stocking up, so that when it's time to dig in again, I won't feel so depleted. Because I love this baby with my whole heart. And I want to be present to cherish his baby-hood while it lasts!

Oh holy night!
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear'd and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh night divine
Oh night when Christ was born
Oh night divine
Oh night divine

**The last few weeks, instead of eat/play/sleep, we've settled into an eat/play/eat/sleep routine. We also started putting him in a swing for naps (to lull him back to sleep when he wakes up at the 25 minute mark). He's fallen into a fairly predictable 1+ hour morning nap around 8 or 9am, and an afternoon nap that still varies considerably. I don't know if the schedule change helped, or if the swing helped, or if he finally just reached a developmental ability to nap, but I cannot even express how WONDERFUL baby naps are! Poor guy was so overtired. And so was I!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Color Blind Spots

So I'm possibly the least-equipped person you've ever met when it comes to political debate, but a friend shared this article (…/repetitive-motion-disorder-black-…/) with me and I wish my friends and family would read it. I've always assumed I'm not racist, and some of the "reflexes" mentioned in this article are not things that I personally identify with. HOWEVER. I'm slowly starting to learn that I am raising my baby boy in a very different world than my friend's baby boy. Same city, same economic class, vastly different realities. 

I don't pretend to know much about Ferguson, or Grand Juries, or what it's like to be a police officer. (I'm grateful for law enforcement officers who protect our rights and keep our communities safe!) But I do know that some of the things I'm reading on facebook make me uncomfortable these days. If you find friends and family saying disparaging things at get-togethers this week, please be prepared to at least mention that:

1. We all have a right to act in self-defense. But self-defense is very different from pre-emptively acting out of fear/misinformation/stereotype.

2. Marijuana use is roughly equal among whites and blacks, yet blacks are almost 4 times as likely to be arrested for possession. (…/war-marijuana-black-and-white-report)

3. "Can we perhaps, just this once, admit our collective blind spot? Admit that there are things going on, and that have been going on a very long time, about which we know nothing? Might we suspend our disbelief, just long enough to gain some much needed insights about the society we share? One wonders what it will take for us to not merely listen but actually to hear the voices of black parents, fearful that the next time their child walks out the door may be the last, and all because someone—an officer or a self-appointed vigilante—sees them as dangerous, as disrespectful, as reaching for their gun? Might we be able to hear that without deftly pivoting to the much more comfortable (for us) topic of black crime or single-parent homes?"

I already struggle with a lot of fears now that I have a baby. I cannot image adding more to the list simply because my baby has a darker skin color.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

If I Could Tell Myself

I think those first few months of new-parent-hood were clouded by hormones and fatigue, yes, but also by pain. Until a few weeks ago, I truly thought I was never going to physically recover from childbirth. Thank GOD for modern medicine and the fact that I'm finally, slowly, on the mend.

I don't think you can outsmart those early hormones, but wow, those early days were so hard, and I was only dealing with mostly run-of-the-mill baby issues! I didn't have any perspective and I think I just thought things would be that hard forever. If I could just look back at myself at 8 weeks, I'd tell that poor girl so much:

1.) Go to physical therapy NOW. If 8 weeks postpartum feels a whole lot like 8 days postpartum, don't wait for the pain to get better! It obviously isn't improving on its own.

2.) Go to the pain management OBGYN NOW. See above.

3.) Someday, sooner than you think, you will be able to eat dinner with your husband again instead of one of you holding a screaming baby while the other one inhales whatever food you managed to scrounge out of the cabinet.

4.) Cloth diapers aren't that big of a deal. Don't stress about them so much. Just do it. (And I wish I'd known about Fluff Love University sooner!)

5.) Trust your instincts. If you feel like you still have thrush, it's thrush. If you think your baby has reflux, he has reflux. (Spoiler alert: both of them will eventually improve, I promise!)

6.) Just buy some non-maternity clothes a size up. Actually, I'd go back and tell my first-trimester self this one, when I was in between my normal clothes and my maternity clothes. I'm actually comfortable at the weight I'm at, but I do NOT fit into my old winter clothes yet.

7.) Take more pictures with your nice camera and fewer with your iPhone. Babies move too fast and half of your pictures are blurry!

8.) Don't compare yourself to your mom friends, and don't compare your baby to your friends' babies. You will either feel inordinately proud over something you can't take credit for or, more likely, completely awful because you feel like you're doing it all wrong. See: 6 Things New Parents Need to Stop Doing.

9.) In fact, don't even shame yourself about your feelings. They're not uncommon. Exhibit A. Exhibit B.

10.) Your baby's sleep schedule will at best make you tired and grumpy, and at worse expose your selfishness and control issues. Reinforce good habits, take what sleep you can get, and then just roll with it. Love him through it. His sleep will eventually sloooowly improve. You'll start to notice that his weeks of bad sleep will correspond with huge developmental leaps, and it will start to make sense. Reading this helps a lot:
“Infant/toddler sleep is erratic, unpredictable and doesn’t conform to our expectations. Children’s sleep habits have evolved to best serve the child, even if they don’t make sense to the parent. Adjust your expectations, not your child’s sleep habits (within reason)."

11.) CTFD and laugh a little. If you can't reach this point on your own, talk with your spouse, with other mom friends, or with a counselor until you can.

12.) Endorphins are still so very real. Work out if you can muster up even an ounce of energy, because it WILL give you more energy. Swimming, Body Pump, Piyo, hot yoga, and sometimes Zumba are your friends. HIIT, running, and plyometrics are not.

13.) Ross is a pretty awesome dad. Don't deprive him of opportunities to shine.

14.) Not only does breastfeeding get better, but should you be so lucky as to be able to continue this relationship, you'll start to notice how sanctifying it is:
Perhaps this is what Jesus had in mind for the Eucharist. Through the breaking of the bread, God invites us into the nursing relationship: the meeting of all our needs.
I think about the cracked nipples and the itchy thrush, the aches and fevers of mastitis, the midnight trek across the house to feed a crying baby, fatigued to the point of nausea: "This is my body, broken for you."
I think about the times I missed out because of the chore it was keeping (my baby) fed, the chained-up feeling of pumping at work, the moments when I wish desperately for a break: "Poured out for you and for many…"
I think about God, who has given me these children and the means to sustain them, who is present in the Eucharist and in my nursing chair, who by these rituals invites me to participate in His life-giving power: "Do this, in remembrance of Me."

15.) Sleeping baby faces will always make your heart melt. That gummy smile will never fail to make your heart explode. Sometimes, instead of trying to capture the sweetness with the millionth picture, close your eyes and memorize it instead.

16.) You love your baby. You're doing a good job.

Monday, November 10, 2014

I Still Miss Being Pregnant

When I first had Noah, I just wasn't ready for him to come. Are you ever ready to go from two to three? Probably not. But I really wasn't physically and emotionally ready for him to enter the world a week and a half before his due date. (Although, mother's intuition for the win. I was anxious all along that he was going to come early. Not premature early, thank God, but just early. Like I was. Like my brothers were. But I clung fast and hard and desperately to all those statistics saying first time moms usually go past their due date.)

Then here he was, plain as day. He needed me every moment and I needed to be with him every moment. I physically missed being pregnant, though, so much so that I cried about it often. I missed his kicks and rolls and hiccups. I missed the fact that we were inseperable. For the first 2-3 months of his life, it was almost painful not to be in the same room as him. I would have extreme anxiety when people took him from my arms.

Now, I miss pregnancy for different reasons. Shopping for maternity clothes is much more fun than shopping for post-partum clothes. Pregnancy aches and pains were nothing compared to the postpartum aches and pains I'm still struggling with. But more than anything? Being pregnant with that first baby is magical, even if you are fixing up a P.O.S. house and working two jobs. It's all of the anticipation and excitement and dreams, and none of the reality of how your life is going to change forever-- in good ways and bad!

I'm grateful every day that I had a healthy pregnancy with Noah. I've seen loss personally and professionally and it never gets easier. In fact, now that I know this kind of love, the thought of loss is even harder to wrap my head around, and impossible to wrap my heart around.

I have a health baby. This is a miracle. If thrush and reflux and hearing impairment and lip and tongue ties are our biggest issues, well that's just fine by me.

But you know what makes me feel like an awful mom? My kid doesn't nap. It sounds so silly when I type it out, but it's the source of extreme anxiety on my end.

Nothing. NOTHING. Has brought out my neuroses and anxiety and selfishness and control issues like motherhood has. I mean, I love it. I truly do love this little human. He is such a delight and I desperately want the best for him. I want him to be happy and healthy. And when he's not, it crushes me.

Why can't I provide the best for him? Why can't I get him to sleep when he's telling me he's tired? Does this ever get easier?

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Day of Life with a 4 Month Old

Yesterday, Noah learned to roll from back to front! He's done it once or twice before on accident, but yesterday it really clicked. As he kept repeating his new trick, I realized my days with an immobile baby are limited! I wanted to do a post like this ages ago, but honestly pre-Zantac all of my energy went into trying to get Noah to stop crying and sleep.

That's not to say that every day is rainbows and butterflies now, but honestly the majority of our day is quite happy. This little guy is a joy to be around. Earlier this week, I was at the park with a friend who hadn't seen me since the Day Before Zantac. (AKA Noah cried all day, I cried all day, I finally had to lay him in the crib and walk away for an hour because I couldn't handle it, and he cried the whole time.) My friend said my whole countenance is different now, and I agree. I'm a much more patient mom now that my baby and my lower back aren't screaming at me all day long. Thank God for modern medicine!

Anyway, here's a much lower-stress day in our lives now. I'm so thankful that I get to spend most of the week at home with him. He's the cutest boss!

[Note: Just because I note multiple "events" an hour, don't think I'm trying to make myself sound busier than I am. Chill days like this are an absolute delight and they allow both of us to settle into a rhythm and find a good "normal" for us. I can think of 1,000 scenarios that are more hectic than this one, which is why I'm so thankful for today!]

0110: Noah is awake. Ross brings him to the bedroom and I feed him.

0145: Noah is done eating. The past week or two, he has been good about falling right back to sleep after his middle of the night feeding. But tonight, it's clear that isn't going to be the case. He's not fussy, but he's most definitely awake. Ross finally goes to the nursery to rock him while I eat a Larabar and chug some water.

0210: Noah is asleep. Ross and I aren't far behind.

0501: (seriously, this kid's internal clock for the 5 o'clock hour is astounding) Noah is awake again. Ross brings him to the bedroom and I give him his Zantac and feed him.

0530: Ross gets ready to go for a run with a neighbor. Noah is still eating.

0600: Noah's done eating, but he's WIDE awake.

0630: More often than not, he goes back to sleep by 6:30 or 7 and sleeps until 8:30, but that's not happening. He's all riled up and happy-shouting and smiling and babbling.

0700: I give up trying to quiet him down, and get up and change his diaper. Ross leaves for work and I put Noah down on his playmat while I get dressed and make oatmeal for myself.

0705: We almost never leave the house when it's dark, but I realize I'm out of coffee and I have a Groupon for my favorite coffee shop 20 minutes away. I bundle Noah up and head out to get caffeine for me, but also in hopes that Noah will fall asleep in the car.

0745: Noah puts up a valiant fight and stays wide-eyed until we turn onto our street on the way home! I miraculously transfer him into the house in his carseat and he stays asleep. I put the carseat on the floor of our bedroom because the trashmen are super loud from his bedroom on Friday mornings.

0800: I slip back into bed, hoping to catch a short nap.

0830: Noah is awake and he wakes me up from my 15 minute catnap, too.

0840: Feed Noah.

0915: Change his diaper (which was dangerously close to a blowout) and get him dressed.

0930: I put Noah on his playmat in the kitchen while I start this post and eat my gluten-free brownie from the coffee shop. I also take my vitamin and probiotic to balance it out :-)

0945: I watch him play while I pump. He's practicing rolling the other way! I wonder what makes their little brain decide to just do these things one day seemingly out of the blue.

1000: I waited a little too long for naptime, and Noah starts to fuss. We hightail it to the nursery where I put him in his sleepsuit and start rocking.

1015: He put up a decent fight, but sleep won in the end. And this fussing is NOTHING compared to months 2-4 when he would scream for about 45 minutes before finally taking a 20 minute nap. Poor guy!

1030: I drink about 1/3 of my coconut milk cafe au lait from this morning after debating taking a nap as well, and deciding I will try to take one this afternoon instead.

1040: I do a quick 18 minute Piyo workout.

1100: Pretty much right on cue, Noah wakes up. I rush to the nursery to rock him back to sleep before he gets too riled up. He's definitely still tired and I really try to get him to take at least one nap a day that's more than an hour long, even though he almost always wakes up 45 minutes after laying down. He falls asleep quickly, but I rock him for a few more minutes until I feel like it's safe to put him back down.

1115: I quietly warm up some leftover fajita filling to eat alongside corn chips, carrot sticks, and guacamole for lunch.

1140: Do my deep breathing and a few Physical Therapy exercises while I scroll through Instagram and wait for Noah to wake up again. I love and hate that our house is so tiny, you can't do anything remotely noisy during naptime.

1207: Baby's awake!

1210-1240: Feed and burp Noah.

1250: Clean diaper and playtime! I set Noah down on his playmat to kick around and I talk to him while I unload the dishwasher and quickly make a batch of pumpkin chocolate chip bars.

1315: Hearing aid time! I make sure he's upright so he doesn't get feedback ringing in his ears, and we sing songs, read a book, and play patty cake. The minute he becomes disinterested, I take them out. The goal is to only have positive associations with his hearing aids!

1335: Move toward nap.

1355: He's asleep!

1400: I eat a pumpkin bar and applesauce for a snack.

1425: I lay down in hopes of a nap.

1430: Baby wakes up instead, and this time he won't be rocked back to sleep. Should've taken advantage of the morning nap!

1440: Spend 40 minutes feeding a fussy, overtired, squirmy baby and wonder if he's actually eating anything or just wiggling. Then he spits up in my hair and I figure he must've eaten something.

1520: Eat another pumpkin bar + some salt and pepper potato chips (darn you for buying these, Ross!) Play with Noah on the floor for a while.

1545: Change diaper. Go on a 1 hour walk. Noah probably sleeps for 40 minutes of it. He's so tired today.

1700: Put pork loin in the oven for dinner.

1715: Wait for Dad and greet him with a smile when he comes home!

1740: Noah gets a 20 minute bath. He splashes and shouts much less than usual. So tired today!

1800: Give Noah his Zantac and feed him for hopefully the last time today. [We've been putting him down after this feeding and doing a "dream feed" around 9:30-10pm for a week or two, but the last few days we'd wake him out of a good sleep to eat and he was so fussy, barely ate anything, and took an hour to settle back down. So last night we just let him sleep and he slept until 1am. He used to eat at 10pm and then again at 2-3am and 5-6am, so we essentially dropped a feeding in the hopes of all of us getting a tad more sleep*. We kept pushing him, hoping he'd give us that long stretch from like 10pm-5am like adults sleep. Alas, he has not taken that opportunity. So if he's going to get his long stretch earlier in the night, I guess we need to, too :-/ ]   

1830: Ross rocks Noah to sleep while I finish up with dinner and take a shower.

1900: I eat dinner with Ross. Nothing fancy: pork and roasted sweet potatoes.

1945: Do physical therapy exercises, talk with Ross, go over our budget.

2030: Pump.

2115: Grownups in bed, lights out!

I cannot believe I just wrote our entire day out in such mundane detail. Today was actually a fairly indulgent day, to boot, since we didn't have any errands to run or appointments to be at or night shift to prepare for. It feels silly to document this, but I already wonder what the heck my days look liked at 2 months (I do know this: a very tired blur).

I know it'll be fun to look back at our happy days at 4 months. And when I'm tempted to feed like all we do is eat, play, and sleep (well, some of us sleep more than others haha) I remember: "It's never mundane to them. Not to their brains which measures your mundane as safety, as meeting their needs, helping their brain literally explode in connections. Relish the "mundane" because to them it's the essence of life and the building block of a future." And really, these tiny, everyday moments are what I'm going to want to remember most about this blur of new baby-hood and new parent-hood.

One of my friends recently posted a picture of her smiling baby on Facebook and basically said, "I didn't get anything done today because this guy started smiling!" One of her friends responded, "Getting nothing done? You just helped create hundreds of new brain connections, decreased his cortisol levels so his brain develops in a calm environment, and helped him begin to trust that God loves him unconditionally because he's seen that in his mama's eyes. In fact, come to think of it, you deserve a nap!" I love that. And I love this job. And I love my sweet little family.

*Edited to add: Noah slept from 1900 to 0400 that night!!!! That's the longest he's EVER slept. I woke up about every 90 minutes to look at him on the video monitor, but almost always fell right back asleep after I saw him breathing, which means I got about 6 hours of more-or-less uninterrupted sleep. Yay! I think he's coming off of a major growth spurt and more tired than normal. (I always know it's a growth spurt because I am ravenous and super thirsty. And craving chocolate cake. Seriously.)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

What I Really Want to Say

Natalie Goldberg says that simply writing the words, "What I really want to say," will spark some good writing. I have a lot I've been wanting to say, but I'm not sure where to start, so I'll try this.

What I really want to say is:

-I can't believe Noah is 4 months old. I know it's the oldest cliche in the book; but sometimes I look down at his little face and see glimpses of a boy, and not just a baby! Honestly, it does make me a little sad. Postpartum recovery was rough for me for some reason, and I've been in a lot of pain. I feel like I finally started to emerge from the haze of discomfort only to find my baby isn't a baby! I can already be nostalgic about when he used to wear that tiny outfit, or when he used to fit just here.

That being said, it's an absolute delight to watch him grown and develop! I am so used to babies perpetually staying babies at work and it's so new to me to have a one learning new tricks every day. The pediatrician actually said he's doing a few 6 month things like standing and bearing most of his weight on his legs, and doing the skydiver move when he's on his belly. It's pretty funny to watch, and it's crazy that some mornings he'll just wake up and start doing something he's never done before, like it's no big deal!

-Noah started Zantac a few weeks ago and it's amazing what a difference it's made! It makes me a little sad we didn't start it sooner. I feel like a lot of those infuriating, sleepless days could've been avoided! I feel so bad that when I was tired and irritated, he was just trying to say he was in pain! Better late than never, I guess, and we're happy to have our smiley baby back. Still working on naps, but at least he doesn't wake himself up crying now!

-I have always been a homebody, but having a baby brought that to a whole new level and I'm fairly restless some days. It finally doesn't give me complete anxiety to leave the house, but I'm still particular about doing it during his awake times, and not wanting to feed him in public (we're just not coordinated enough for that). I knew intellectually that having a baby would change everything, but I will admit I'm still adjusting to some of those changes. I wouldn't trade him for anything, but that doesn't mean that some days it does feel good to leave him with Ross and run errands alone in the evening.

-I miss sweaty workouts. I started working out slowly around 7 weeks postpartum and have been working out about twice a week since then, with about two long walks thrown in the mix as well. I mentioned that my recovery has been really slow, and it's made working out a bit discouraging. Swimming feels the BEST, but I'm mentally opposed to swimming indoors since it's much colder than swimming laps on a sunny, 90 degree day.

-Physical therapy and accupuncture have been Godsends. Incredibly expensive, yes. But I feel like my pain and swelling is finally getting under control and I don't even want to think about how I'd still be feeling without those things.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Things I Wish I'd Known About Sooner

I wrote a post a while ago, just a totally new mom sharing what was working for us. There are some things I either forgot to put on that list, or didn't know about yet. So without further ado, here's the second edition of things I'd recommend having with a newborn in the house...

+ Wonder Weeks: There's a book, a website, and an app. For the sake of simplicity, we've been using the app. The theory behind the 'wonder weeks' is that there are growth spurts in baby's brain at fairly predictable intervals. You enter baby's due date into the app and they predict your baby's 'wonder weeks' and give you a detailed description of what's going on in their brain at that age, and what skills they are developing during that time.

+ Simply Noise app (for 'brown noise'): We use this if we aren't at home with the fan in the nursery.

+ Ergo Carrier: I'm sure lots of carriers work well, but we like this brand now that he's older, and Ross doesn't feel too silly wearing it!

+ Motorola video baby monitor: It would be nice to be able to pull up the baby monitor view on a smartphone, but the paranoid side of me does like that this monitor is on its own network, and not WiFi. Since I'm hearing impaired, I especially like that I can glance at the video screen, and that there are agreen and red lights across the tip that will light up as he makes more and more noise. The light often wakes me up before I hear him through the monitor. I also like that this monitor tells us what the room temp is, since we're still figuring out air flow in our house.

+ Belly Bandit BFF: I'm still skeptical of the "belly compression to lose baby weight" movement, but when I finally started to go to physical therapy around 12 weeks post-partum, they recommended getting a belly band for the swelling I was having and HOLY COW I felt so much better the first day I wore it! I wish I'd had it from day one in the hospital, because I think it also would've helped prevent a lot of the lower back pain I had in those first few weeks. I liked this better than a lot of other ones I tried because it fits over your hips, too, which is where most of my pain was.

+ Target Up and Up breastmilk storage bags: I'd heard horror stories about generic bags beaking in the freezer and leaking when thawing, but so far these have been superb. They're nice and thick, they seal well, and I haven't had any issues with freezing and thawing. I'm so grateful, because they're so much cheaper than the brand name ones!

+ Foundational Concepts: In France, every postpartum woman has a Physical Therapy evaluation. Here, not so much. Women get right back to running or Crossfit or what have you without really knowing how their pelvic strength has changed, and then end up with long-term complications. I had a ton of pain and swelling post-partum and finally referred myself to PT. Best decision ever.

+ Herbal bath from New Birth Company: Absolutely ask your health care provider if you're allowed to take a bath post delivery. Certain surgical incisions or pre-existing health conditions might exclude you from this. But in my case, the Midwife recommended taking a warm bath every day to help with the pain from my stitches. For the first 2-3 baths, I used an herbal bath pouch made by one of the Midwives I used to work with. You boil water and steep the pouch like tea, and then add the water to your bath. It felt so good. Now I kind of want to go buy another one!

+ Little Remedies medications: I love these because they really only contain the ingredients they need. They are naturally flavored, but they don't have sugars or dyes in them. Do you know how hard it is to find Infant Tylenol without Red #40? Impossible. Until I found a store that sold the Little Remedies version. So far, we've used their gas drops, their gripe water, and their acetaminophen. Noah LOVES to gulp all of these down!

+ Nose Frida: Sadly, Noah got his first cold right around 4 months and we made an urgent trip to Buy Buy Baby when our bulb syringe just wasn't cutting it. The Nose Frida got a TON of snot out of his nose. I don't know how else to say it. It works so well! Of course Noah hated it, but he could always breathe better afterward!

+ Cloth Diapering Class: I wish I'd done this 5 months ago! It was so much easier just asking questions in person than trying to read everything online.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Quick Six

This year went by SO fast. Probably because we didn't sleep much from June on. What a fun but crazy year of marriage. Pretty non-eventful on the marriage front (thankfully), but crazy on the life front: new jobs, new house, new baby...

One of my good friends watched Noah for a few hours while Ross and I slipped away for our annual pizza dinner. We went to SPIN and enjoyed sangria on the patio. It was blissful!

It's so crazy to look at Ross and Noah and think how easy it would've been to check out when things fell apart three years ago. But if I had checked out, I wouldn't be HERE. With THEM. And I'm so grateful God held us together when it seemed impossible and undesirable.

Can I be totally unoriginal in my sleep deprived state, and steal a sentiment that's so true, but so not mine?
Remember that thing about God restoring the years the locusts had eaten? Three things in front of me that I shouldn't be staring at. Redemption never gets old. It's never boring to look at. My very own parted sea.

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 25, 2014

Dear Noah


You're 11 weeks old today. I feel like for the past few weeks I've been thinking of you as "nearly 3 months old" which, when you were 8 weeks old, was just not accurate at all. But now here we are almost actually 12 weeks and then 3 months old, and ugh. Where did time go? The last week we've been easing into a smoother place after a few rough weeks.

I was thinking about the day you were born (actually, at 4:29pm which is when you were born). And I wanted to write. I'm typing this because my journal is in your room and you're sleeping in your room for a few more minutes. This sleeping in your room is a new thing you've done that past few days... one nap a day in the rock and play and I sit out here and watch you on the monitor and simultanously love having two hands, and miss holding you. Where did you take all your naps two weeks ago? How is it that I can't even remember? I'm so glad I dropped everything and just loved on your the past few weeks. There was some frustration initially, as I adjusted my expectations. You're keeping me on my toes. This week it seems like you take a morning nap in the Moby wrap while we walk, your mid-morning/early afternoon nap in the rock and play (used to be that I'd try to sleep with you on me for that nap), and afternoon naps are hit or miss and often involve my "mellow music" playlist, which I'm thoroughly sick of.

Those early weeks I remember walking out to the driveway with you and singing "How Great Thou Art" to get you to calm down. Your dad would come home and read to you on the couch and then you'd pass out on him and I'd have to wake you both for the last feeding of the day. For a long time you ate at 10pm, 2am, and 6am and then whenever you wanted during the day. Things are sliiiightly more predictable now, and I aim to get 7 feedings in, with the last one starting around 10pm. Some nights you wake up at 2 or 3, but more often than not you've been sleeping until 4... and even 5am the last two days! It's amazing the difference a little more unbroken sleep makes... in all of us! You had a pretty rough time from weeks 6-9 figuring how to nap and some days you'd get so exhausted you'd just screamed at night. You'd look at us like, "how are you not fixing this? How do you not know what I'm saying?" And we didn't know. We had no clue. We just knew you were sad and it made us sad that we couldn't make it better.

I just looked through your birth pictures. I'm so glad Vanessa was there to capture that special day! "Special" doesn't even do it justice. It just sounds trite and inadequate. But I look at the pictures of your coming out and crying, and there's one sequence of shots where they are putting you on my chest and you're crying, scrunching your face, and then... relaxed and resting on me. It brings me so much joy and makes my heart want to burst for love for you and your vulnerability and your trust. I'm your only mom and you trust me and that is just above understanding. Babies are so vulnerable! And it breaks my heart knowing that there are other times that the world will be cold and loud and frightening and I won't be there to make it instantly better. Or I will be there, but I won't be enough. This is inevitably a matter of if, not when, and it draws me back to Jesus. The incarnation never seemed so real. Jesus never seemed so vulnerable. To come into the world as a helpless baby!?

These thoughts also draw me to Jesus because I hope with all my heart that you will know that when you can't find comfort at home, and I'm not there to take care of you, Jesus is enough. (Even me "being present" with you isn't enough for my fickle heart). And if he loves his children as much as I love you, then this love is nearly incomprehensible. An all-consuming, I love you, I want what's best for you, I want you to know the answer is right here, right in front of you, even when you can't see it. Even when the options are confusing and the world is overwhelming, the only really important choice is Jesus. He's the ultimate comforter. He's the one who can really dry the tears from your eyes. I want him to be enough for me, and I want him to be enough for you. I love that our relationship gives me a new glimpse of what God's love must be like. The times I have your food right there and you can't calm down enough to find it, the times you're so tired you're freaking out and you just need to breathe and relax, the times you get scared and I'm just one room away but how can you know that? Those are the times I wonder if God is just laughing at me. Because usually the solutions to your problems are so simple and obvious to me. How must I look to God, with all my fumbling, and complaining, and fretting?

Thank you, Noah, for showing me what really matters.


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.