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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

thoughts on motherhood (6 weeks)

As I write this post, my six week old son is sleeping next to me in his bassinette.  He has that angelic sleeping newborn look going on, and I stop every minute or so just to look at him.  

It's hard to imagine that six weeks ago, I didn't know that he was going to be our baby.  I didn't even know our baby was going to be a he.  I remember feeling slightly shocked when the hospital nurse showed Theo to me for the first time.  For ten months I had been pregnant with "a baby" - no defining characteristics that I knew of yet that set him apart from any other baby.  And then I saw him, and there was no mystery or generalness anymore -- he was himself.   He was Theo.  

Six weeks ago, at this very minute, Theo was born.  

We've come so far since then.  In that moment six weeks ago I felt exhausted, broken, scared, so so happy, and overwhelmed.  In this moment today, I feel rested, strong, nurturing, happy, normal, and so so in love.  

Our days don't seem so hard anymore.  Theo keeps his eyes wide open for longer stretches during the day.  He smiles in recognition when he looks at me.  He's gotten the hang of nursing.  He loves looking up at the ceiling, at fans, at contrasting colors, at fireplaces.  He falls asleep in his carseat - in the car and on walks.  He's easier to soothe.  It already seems like he's getting so old, and I'm still measuring his age in weeks - not months or years. 

I've changed too.  I feel stronger and more confident.  My body feels more normal.  My wedding ring somewhat fits again.  I can walk for longer distances.  I can go up and down stairs and carry things heavier than Theo.  I don't feel as anxious or as overwhelmed by motherhood.  I actually enjoy "babysitting" 24/7.  

I still struggle with having a c-section, and I don't know if I'll ever fully believe that I gave birth to him.  Mostly because of how disconnected I felt with my body and the whole birthing experience.  But I love this boy of ours more everyday, and I'm so thankful that regardless of the way that he came into the world - he is healthy and growing and well cared for.   

My new favorite thing is when Theo falls asleep on my chest in the evenings.  No matter how big he gets, I'll always remember that feeling of him sleeping peacefully close to my heart.  I feel like I'm taking something from him it feels so comforting.  But I remember what it felt like to fall asleep with my mom or dad patting my back as I fell asleep as a kid, and I know that falling asleep the way he does must feel just as comforting to him as it does to me.

These past six weeks have been some of the best of my life.  Seeing my husband become a father, my parents become grandparents, my siblings become aunt and uncles has been amazing.  And the time off to sit, and read, and watch tv, and spend time with family and friends -- all while caring for Theo - has been one of the biggest blessings of my life.  

Saturday, July 18, 2015

my mom's garden

A great thing about visiting St. Louis in the summer is seeing my mom's garden.  I snapped a few photos of her flowers, vegetables, and pots yesterday before it got too hot.  That's the other thing about visiting Milwaukee in the summer: plenty of heat and humidity.  But I prefer this weather to the cold and snow hands down.  These photos help explain why.


<golden beets>


<sun gold cherry tomatoes>

 <Duke the puppy>


<fairy garden>

<succulent garden>

More photos of mom's garden here.  

Thursday, July 16, 2015

thoughts on motherhood (week 4)

- I'm starting to recognize Baby T's different cries and different cues.  Depending on the time of day, I also have a pretty good idea of what he needs and why he might be fussy.  I even have some pretty good go-tos for soothing him.  It's pretty fun to get to know my baby.

- We have smiles this week!!  They most often happen in the morning right after nursing when we're both seeing each other after being asleep for a while.  It's special that we're both happy to be back together.

- We're in St. Louis this week for my uncle's funeral.  Many family members and friend met Baby T for the first time at the funeral home.  It was a very "circle of life" moment seeing people gush over a new life so close to where my uncle lay.  We were hearing "congratulations" and "I'm so sorry for your loss" in the same conversations.  I witnessed how babies can help with grief, but it also made me think about my own mortality and Baby T's mortality.  It made me feel more thankful for whatever time we're blessed to have together.  And It also made me pray the prayer Anne Lamott prays in her book Operating Instructions: please, please, please let my son outlive me.  (I highly recommend this book by the way.)

- People ask me things like "are you totally in love?" or "were you instantly in love?" or "are you just in awe of him?"  I have a hard time answering.  Not because I don't love Baby T but because I think I'm still trying to figure out my feelings.  I know that I look at him all the time.  I know that I miss him when he's taking a long afternoon nap.  I know that I love when other people recognize that he's the most beautiful baby in the world.  I know I feel very proud of him.  I know I kiss him all the time.  I know I love holding him close to me.  But I also love getting a break at the end of the day when Paul comes home from work.  And I also have a hard time waking up every night to nurse him.  And sometimes I just want my space.  And sometimes I'm totally fine looking away from him to check out instagram, or read a book, or watch tv, or surf the internet.  So does the combination of all that mean I'm totally in love?  Can there be hard parts mixed in with all the strong motherly feelings I have for him?  Probably.

- Sometimes I'm paranoid I'm not prioritizing Baby T well enough or not doing enough for him.  I think it comes from the big statements people say about babies or parenthood ("it changes everything" -- "your life will never be the same" -- "it's the greatest love you will ever know" -- "you will do anything for your baby -- "it's all worth it").  If I didn't have these thoughts in the back of my head, I think that I would be pretty pleased with how I'm doing as a mother.  But those little voices make me question if I'm doing enough, if I'm sacrificing enough, if enough of our lives have changed, etc.  I have a good feeling that I'm doing fine and the people I care most about have confirmed this, so I think I'll just recognize that these little voices can affect me and try to do my best to let them go

- I changed Baby T's explosive poop last week so I've officially entered the next stage of parenthood 

- My body (externally and internally) continue to heal well.  My regular activity level is looking more like it did pre-Baby T.  I'm still not exercising but hopefully I'll get the all clear for that after my six week check up.  I'm hoping to follow some post c-section exercise routines I've found that help target your lower abdominal muscles and get those functioning again.  I'm continuing to feel more and more like myself. 

- Something special happens when you carry a newborn around.  People respond with the kindest smiles.  You can see their hearts melting and softening.  It reminds me of that scene in Children of Men when a small baby pauses an entire battle -- people were so in awe of the precious little life.   I see small versions of that everytime people see Baby T.  

- Moms of all ages (family, friends, and strangers) have been especially kind to me the past few weeks.  We got an extra smoothie and help out to the car at the grocery store.  Ladies helped me clean up my spilled drink at the coffee shop.  They all want to help a new mom with a new baby.  I see all of these moms' thoughts go back in time as they start reminiscing about their own babies and their own transitions to motherhood.  We swap birth and nursing stories.  It's like being initiated into a not-so-secret worldwide club.  One without any hazing where they're really nice to their new recruits.  

Friday, July 10, 2015

a thank you list

Parenthood has been a wonderful, difficult journey so far, and it has been made so much sweeter by all the people who have shared the road with us.  Many thank yous are in order.  
thank you to everyone who showered us with gifts and love during our pregnancy and helped us get all ready for Baby T's arrival

thank you to my coworkers who supported me through my whole pregnancy, listened to all my joys and fears, and welcomed Baby T like a member of the family

thank you to the hospital staff who helped safely deliver Baby T

thank you to the night nurse who encouraged our early nursing attempts

thank you to the nurse anesthetist who checked on me periodically in the second half of my c-section 

thank you to my doula for being an amazing coach and support person -- and for calling me a warrior

thank you to Candice for taking good care of our pups when we hung out at the hospital

thank you to Grandma and Grandpa (Mom and Dad) for driving up to meet Theo the day he was born, for taking care of the pups, and for keeping us company in the hospital 

thank you to all of our hospital visitors who came to meet Baby T in his first days of life

thank you to Grandma and Aunt Libby for keeping me company in those first late night feedings at home

thank you to Grandma for just generally helping us survive our first week with smiles still on our faces

thank you to everyone who has brought food or visited us or cleaned our house in these early days

thank you to everyone who has texted, messaged, called, face-timed, sent gifts, or sent any kind of love our way.  It means the world to know our baby is so loved by so many people

thank you to Devin and Katie for your long distance mama support

thank you to Pedro and Diego for being cool with us bringing a little human home without consulting you first.  Pedro you are great at sharing your humans' laps.  Diego you are great at always letting us know when Baby T is crying and needs to be picked up (I think you guys are going to be great buddies someday) 

thank you to all of our friends and family for being so excited for Baby T's arrival.  It warms my heart to see how loved he is

thank you to Baby T for being so strong through labor, for being such a great nurser, for teaching me about parenthood, for choosing us as your little family, and for being such a wonderful little human

thank you to Paul for being a strong supportive partner for me to lean on (literally at times).  Thank you for late night diaper changes, for taking care of our pups and reminding them we still love them, for telling me I'm beautiful, for thanking me for being a good mama to Baby T, for all the stories you tell and songs you sing Baby T, for reminding me I'm strong and can do this, for loving our son so much.  I couldn't be doing this without you

Monday, July 6, 2015

my neglected community garden plot

I knew this garden season wouldn't be a stellar one because of that little guy in the stroller above.  Having a baby mid-season really cuts into time you can spend at the garden.  But I still rented my usual plot just to have a place I could eventually take Baby T to and to stay connected to all my gardening buddies.  

Luckily I've had some help with my plot, and I think this bit of help has managed to keep most of my veggies alive.  Success!!    

The biggest help came from my mom and brother who were in town last week to visit Baby T.  I blame my gardening fever on my mom, so it only made sense that she would be the one to help me transition my plot from late spring to early summer.  My brother just got roped into the deal because all helpers were given custard upon finishing.  

They were total rockstars: they pulled all my lettuce, thinned my carrots and kale, and planted my tomato plants and nasturtium seeds.  

And then my brother watered everything.  He liked this a lot better than planting seeds.  

It's tough to see in this picture because of the lighting, but I have beets, carrots, onions, swiss chard, and kale planted in the overflowing part of the garden.  Tomatoes and nasturtium seeds in the back.  

And growing in the herb circle: lots of borage and chamomile!  And unfortunately also lots of thistle.  When will we ever be rid of all that dang thistle?! 

Speaking on behalf of my family, this was a great little outing for all of us.  Baby T hung out in the stroller most of the time, but I could tell he was excited for his first time at the garden.  It'll be fun to see him toddling around the garden this time next year!  Oh my gosh, I can't even believe how big he'll be by then.  Be still my mama heart.  

Saturday, July 4, 2015

thoughts on motherhood (week 2)

I'm writing this on Fourth of July while hanging out with my little family.  We're snuggling in lieu of fireworks watching this year.  It's a little crazy considering we were here last year.  Here's some more thoughts on motherhood for this week.  

- Things feel slightly less raw this week.  My body feels a little better, my emotions are a little more stable, and things in general just feel a little easier.  I've heard that you really turn a corner at six weeks, so I'm thinking if things keep going the way they're going, six weeks is going to feel incredible.  

- It's slowly sinking in that Baby T is actually ours.  It's overwhelmingly good and just plain overwhelming.  Good overwhelming in that I know he's ours for as long as we're all lucky enough to be together, and I get to love him and hold him and squeeze him for a very, very long time.  Regular overwhelming in that we are responsible for a human life and caring for him and trying to raise him into a loving, awesome person.  This parenting thing is a big deal.  

- People say that they have tremendous love upon seeing their baby for the first time.  I thought my baby looked like an alien when I saw him for the first time (I partially blame this on the pain meds).  The nurse in the OR room put him up to my face after weighing him and cleaning him, and I didn't quite get what she was doing.  My thoughts at the time: "I can't touch him because you've got my hands all stretched out crazy, I'm all doped up on pain meds, and I just want to get out of this room and hold him for real."  So, no, my love for my baby was not immediate.  My love started later that night when I finally felt more alert.  It might have been delayed, but it's strong and it's grown every day since.

- I survived my first day home alone with Baby T earlier this week.  He was fussy all morning and it was hard not having any back up.  But it was wonderful spending time together, and it felt like we got over a big hurdle together.  

- Parenting is a lot easier having a great partner and a great community of family and friends around us

- Every little thing I do around the house that I did before Baby T was born feels like a major accomplishment.  The first time I took a shower at home, the first time I got out of bed like a normal person (no rolling over or pushing up on my elbows), the first time I made myself lunch, the first time I made it to the community garden, the first time I walked around the block, the first time I took the dogs out.  Each time I felt a little burst of pride.  It feels huge doing all my old normal things while keeping a two week old baby alive.  And don't even get me started on how proud I feel nursing and soothing Baby T.  All my old accomplishments seem irrelevant when you can get a crying baby to sleep at four in the morning.  

- I've still been thinking a lot about the c-section, going over in my head what we could have done differently to prevent it from happening.  I had hoped so strongly for a "regular" delivery, and I hadn't even thought of a c-section as a possibility going into the labor.  A few days ago though I thought -- what if I found out that maybe there was something that could have prevented the c-section?  Is it going to change what happened?  Is it going to make me feel any better about how the birth went?  Absolutely not.  Now instead I'm trying to just sort through all the feelings about what did go down and not worry about things out of my control.  

- Having baby T is teaching me a lot about slowing down.  I realized just how much I had to learn when a friend who also had a c-section gave me the advice to not do anything I don't have to.  Hearing that caused me to have a mini internal freak out.  Because I want to do all the things!!  I want to do all the chores and keep our house clean and paint and respond to all my emails and read books and make photo albums --- and let myself recover from a c-section and raise our baby son.  A person can accomplish all that stuff right?  Um...no.  So it's time to let go of all that stuff that isn't recover from a c-section or raise our baby --- and try to just get some sleep.  

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

maternity pictures

A couple weeks before Baby T was born, we had a little maternity shoot on my coworker's land.  The idea had been my other coworker's -- who is also pregnant!  Well at the time of these photos she was also pregnant.  She just welcomed her little baby boy yesterday, and he is sooo adorable.  And Baby T is very excited to have a little baby buddy.  Anyway, back to the photos.  

I'm really grateful we have these photos to remember this special time.  At the time it seemed like pregnancy would last forever, and I couldn't even picture the actual labor or having a baby.  Now I look at these pictures and am reminded of how temporary that time was - just like all other times I've experienced that seem like they'll last forever.  It makes me want to take pictures of Baby T every five minutes.  But I won't...probably.  

My two favorite photos: above ^^ and below vv.  

I also love this one.  Valencia has been such a great friend and companion throughout our pregnancy journeys.  It meant so much to have a friend to share all the different stages - the morning sickness, the first kicks, the stretching, the aches, and now the labor stories.  So we took a picture to symbolize all that love -- a heart.  Ha!  Valencia was just amusing me because I thought we should recreate a photo I saw on Pinterest.  Now that's a good friend.