And Baby Makes Four: A Birth Story

No more whining about about still being pregnant, Internet–Baby 2 has arrived!

I’m going to dive right into the birth story. Here goes:

We spent Tuesday trying to keep busy (and warm), knowing The Husband would have to return to work the next day if baby still hadn’t come.

The Toddler had been understandably descending into cabin fever (it’s been sooooo cold here in Northeast Ohio), so we decided to take him to a nearby indoor playground to burn off some energy. The Husband and I took turns crawling through tubes and chasing behind him as he did his best to outrun us among the approximately 3,000 other manic children whose parents sought refuge with us. (Yes, I hoped that my bumbling around on playground equipment might help move things along.) I also scheduled a last-minute haircut during The Toddler’s nap.

The Husband handled bedtime, and since he had been so diligently handling the care and feeding of our goats and chickens every morning and night through the past several increasingly frigid weeks, I decided to suit up and do the night chores. I hauled warm water out to the barn, refilled the hay feeder, gave each goat a good back scratch and locked up for the night. Then took out our kitchen trash and dragged the cans out to the street for garbage day.

The full moon shone across our snowy yard during all of this, and reminded me that Baby 1 had been born during a full moon.

We went to bed a little after 9:00. I was just drifting off to the sound of The Husband’s light snores a half hour later when I felt a gush of fluid.

No way, I thought to myself as I rushed to the bathroom. My water hadn’t broken until just before I pushed with Baby 1, and I hadn’t felt so much as a tickle of a contraction tonight. But the clear puddle collecting on the bathroom floor confirmed it: It was go time.

The first thing I did as I waited for contractions to begin was rush to the basement and move a load of wet clothes to the dryer so they wouldn’t stew while we were in the hospital. About 15 minutes later, after maybe one light contraction, I stirred The Husband from sleep and let him know I was calling the midwife, but to try to go back to sleep until I was further along.

As I expected, she told me to call back when my contractions were five minutes apart, or in 12 hours, whichever came first.

I called my mom to give her a heads-up that she should be ready to come over the next time I called, then hopped in the shower. By the time I was dressed again (and again… I soaked through a pair of Depends and my sweatpants), contractions were three minutes apart and picking up in intensity. So I roused The Husband and told him to get ready, called my mom back and got back on the phone with the midwife to tell her we were on our way.

We roused The Toddler for one last potty break and gave him a hug in his sleep, and then we were off. It was 11:10 p.m., 0 degrees outside, and I was sitting on an old towel as The Husband drove us to the hospital.

We checked in at the ER and stood waiting in the lobby (with a towel wadded between my legs) for a nurse to retrieve us. I had a few contractions on the walk to the maternity ward, and the nurse said she’d skip over triage and take us right to the Holistic Birthing Center. (Incidentally, we lucked out getting there when we did, as three other laboring moms arrived right around the same time.) Before I was allowed in the labor tub, I had to be monitored on the bed for 20 minutes. Which was rough.

As soon as I was allowed, I stripped down to a nursing bra and hopped in the labor tub, which was about two feet deep and big enough to stretch my legs out. It was just as nice as I’d hoped. Contractions were still painful, but the water made me buoyant and made shifting positions far easier. I ended up mostly kneeling with my head resting on my arms on the side of the tub while The Husband leaned in and talked me through some of the affirmations I printed out for him.

Things picked up really quickly from there. I got in the tub probably around 12:25 and was told I should take breaks every hour so I didn’t get overheated.

Because there were so many women simultaneously giving birth, the nurse and midwife weren’t around much during this time. The nurse came in periodically to monitor the baby’s heartbeat on the doppler, but aside from that, The Husband and I were alone.

I got out after about 40 minutes to pee, then got back in, but felt like I had to go again soon after and was having a hard time catching enough of a break to maneuver out of the tub and get to the bathroom before another contraction hit. There were two spans of contractions after my first bathroom break that peaked four times each without a break. I was well into primal mode, moaning loud and low through each contraction. When I finally managed to get back out of the tub to pee again, I knew I wasn’t getting back in (the birthing center doesn’t allow pushing/delivery in the tub.)

The Husband paged the nurse and let her know he thought I was getting close to pushing (based on what he remembered from the first time around.) I tried to get in the shower for a minute, but knew I needed to hunker down in a stable position and felt panicky and out of control standing up any longer. I hung my arms around The Husband’s neck and endured a few upright contractions before hustling over to the bed.

I kneeled on the bed with my head and arms draped over the raised top. Looking back, this was definitely transition. I had been doing a pretty good job of relaxing all my muscles through each contraction up until this point, but no amount of moaning or “melting around the pain” was doing it for me anymore. All my concentration was going into not panicking.

This was also the point The Husband endured a little abuse from me. He kept repeating, “stay low” (one of my mantras to help me remember to not scream). I first mumbled “Don’t tell me what to do” into his shoulder. When he repeated it again, I said, “Shut up shut up shut up!!!”

The midwife came in to check me. She first thought I was at a 9 with a lip and offered to stretch it out over the baby’s head. I flatly refused this and told her I’d wait. Things were happening quick enough and I didn’t see a need to speed it up. She checked a second time, but then on further review decided I was actually closer to a 7 and rushed back out to deliver another baby. The nurse stayed with me and hooked me back up to the fetal monitor. They were a little concerned about the baby’s heart rate (it was pushing into the 170s, apparently a bit high.)

Very soon after, I started to feel an involuntary urge to push. I grunted, “Pushing!” into the husband’s shoulder and the nurse paged the midwife back. I was still on all fours on the bed. I could feel my uterus involuntarily convulsing. I don’t remember this feeling from the first time around, but it was just as I’ve heard other people describe, like “throwing up, but down.” The midwife asked me if I could move to my side for pushing and I whimpered, “I can’t, I can’t move.” She told me the baby’s head was going to tear me if I didn’t shift. With great difficulty, I leaned over to kneel on my right side. I clamped onto The Husband’s shoulders and the nurse held my left leg. I remember seeing my belly writhing and contorting into the strangest shapes as the baby made its way out.

I pushed through maybe four contractions – about 10 minutes. The baby was out quick, and screaming on the first breath. The midwife told us to look down and see for ourselves what we had. I was too contorted to sneak a peek, but The Husband announced it was another boy. As quickly as I could, I maneuvered to my back and pulled him up onto my chest.

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Because he’d had such a quick passage through the birth canal, Baby 2 had a lot of mucus stuck in his lungs and was working to cry it out. The pediatric nurse ended up having to take him to the warming table to suction him out. I felt one last urge to push and the placenta came out. The midwife showed it to me (I hadn’t gotten to see it last time and was curious.) I started to shiver involuntarily. The Husband helped me out of my wet nursing bra and into a dry hospital gown while the nurse cleaned me up.

Finally, after some suctioning, Baby 2 calmed down enough to nurse. We spent about an hour at that before he fell asleep. We wrapped him up and put him in the bassinet, and not long after, The Husband and I fell asleep, too.

So that’s the quick and barely edited version of my birth story. Baby 2 was born after five hours of intense labor at 40 weeks, 3 days. He was 8 lbs, 3 oz and 20 inches long. As expected, he had a full head of hair. Right now he’s snoozing next to me while The Toddler continues to descend into Winter Madness. We’re all exhausted, and we’re all happy.

And Baby Makes Four: A Birth Story

Revisiting cloth diapers

 

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Image via Amazon

A few weeks after The Baby was born, The Husband and I tentatively got out the stash of cloth diapers we had accumulated leading up to baby’s arrival. We were hoping to save some money and reduce the environmental impact of our family,  and, if I’m being honest, prove wrong the people in our family who told us we’d get sick of it and give up, as they had.

When we finally braved the transition at around four weeks, I realized it really wasn’t a big deal. There was already a mountain of laundry, so it didn’t feel like much of an extra burden (although our second-hand all-in-ones that made up the most of our collection took forever to dry). It felt really good to not have to run to the store when we were out of diapers. We stuck with disposables for nighttime, and I expected smooth sailing at least until The Baby was no longer exclusively breastfed.

The Baby, however, had other thoughts on the matter.

He hated having a wet cloth diaper, so much so that it would rouse him from each and every nap during the day.

Finally, after about two months of trying to power through it, in the midst of our big, overwhelming move, I conceded. We started using only disposable diapers, and I sadly packed away the cloth diaper stash in hopes our next baby might be more amicable to them. While the rational side of me knows that The Baby’s comfort, and above all, SLEEP, are more important than my proving a point, I am also really stubborn and didn’t want to hear, “I told you so,” from the people who had told us so.

Nobody really did that, but I still felt a little sour about having to give up this thing I had been pretty sanctimonious about.

About a month ago, The Baby and I were visiting the library when I saw another baby, a little older than him, crawling around with a big fluffy butt–obviously cloth diapered. I had honestly forgotten about them. A few days later, running low on diapers and not particularly wanting to go buy more, I unearthed our stash and decided to get back on the proverbial cloth diaper horse.

It worked! The Baby sleeps soundly through a wet diaper (though we’re still disposable at night, I’m not crazy!) and we’re back to saving a million dollars a month on diapers and not throwing away so much.

To be clear, I totally get that cloth diapers aren’t for everyone. I was one of those people for most of The Baby’s life. The further into parenting I get, the more I realize I really like the path of least resistance… for me, that’s eliminating a Target trip here and there to buy diapers.

I’m so glad I decided to try again. It’s probably a good lesson for parenting in general–I’m not going to get to decide how everything goes, and I have to be flexible; but also, just because something doesn’t work during one stage of our lives doesn’t mean it’s off the table forever.

In case you’re wondering… here’s my gear list:

My cloth diaper stash

Diapers:

11 Bumgenius all-in-ones (bought secondhand on Craigslist for ~$100)

2 Motherease fitted diapers

2 Econobum covers plus 6 prefolds (Honestly, these work great and are very cost effective, but I can hardly get The Baby to hold still long enough to get them on)

I also use these liners now that The Baby is pooping more than just breastmilk (I’m thinking about getting the hose thing that attaches to the toilet, but for now, these have been working pretty well.)

Wipes:

Two dozen Bumkins flannel wipes

For wipes solution, I use these great Baby Bum Drops by Knickernappies

Holding dirty diapers:

1 Planet Wise large wet bag and small wet bag for taking wipes to-go

1 Kanga Care pail liner (suspended from the door, rather than using a pail, because my baby is essentially Godzilla in his room)

Laundry:

Charlie’s Soap for the diapers – I haven’t had much issue with staining; actually, we started using this soap for all our laundry and I’m really happy with it. You only need like a tablespoon for a whole load! I wash in hot/warm and run everything through a presoak and extra rinse cycle

I also dry everything with wool dryer balls (except the pail liner, which hangs dry). As I mentioned, the downside of the all-in-ones is they take 300 years to dry, but when the weather is nice I’ve been hanging them out to dry either straight from the washer or after an hour in the dryer to finish them off. There’s something so nice about seeing your laundry swaying in the breeze, and the sun also helps with staining.

I wash whatever is in the wet bag at least every other day, or when we start to run low on the all-in-ones. Now that The Baby is almost 10 months old, we’re going through probably six cloth diapers and one disposable a day (which feels like nothing compared to those early days!)

Now here are a few questions I have for you:

  • Do you use cloth diapers? Any tips and tricks or favorite products?
  • What’s something you had your heart set on for parenthood that didn’t work out the way you hoped?

 

Revisiting cloth diapers

The babyproofing arms race escalates

Happy Friday, everybody!

Just a quick, blurry photo to show you all a fun new trick my baby learned.

Babyproofing arms race
Oh, shit.

I spent the entirety of The Baby’s nap yesterday re-babyproofing our living area after he pulled this shit on Wednesday.

Did you know you can pull all the knobs off your stove and just leave one on the counter to use when you need too cook?

No need to buy knob covers. Which is great, because we have to save all our money to buy more drawer locks, furniture straps, baby gates and anti-anxiety medication (for me.)

In addition to reaching the stove knobs, The Baby can pull things off the top of our kitchen table, and has learned how to push his jack-in-the-box up against the wall of his play yard so he can climb atop it.

The babyproofing arms race continues to escalate. I’m still losing.

The babyproofing arms race escalates

A sneak peek at our family photo shoot

Just a quick update!

I mentioned a few posts ago that I finally got around to scheduling a professional photo shoot for our little growing family. Annie at Pulp Foto in Medina did an amazing job of capturing The Baby’s wild, gleeful spirit right in her backyard. (Not an ad, just super happy with my experience.)

Here are a few photos from the shoot I can share without breaking my own rules. (It’s so tempting!) You’ll just have to trust me that they all turned out amazing and my baby is beautiful.

🙂

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A sneak peek at our family photo shoot

Nine unexpected necessities for the first nine months of motherhood

9-monthsThe Baby is now nine months old.

Give or take a few days, he’s been on the outside for as long as he was on the inside.

That. Is. Crazy.

I’m starting to realize that sooner or later, he’s going to have to get a new pseudonym. (Suggestions welcome.) When I hold him and look in the mirror, I see myself hefting a toddler, not the compact, seven-pound newborn I inexplicably expected to exist in stasis forever and ever.

I could reflect endlessly on the breakneck passage of time with a child, but it’s been a long time since I’ve contributed anything in the way of potentially useful advice to the Internet of moms (not like there’s a dearth, but whatever).

So instead of trying to compose a poignant way to say, “Holy shit, my baby is getting older by the second and I can’t fathom how quickly time has flown let alone conceive of the tomorrows that lie ahead of us,” I’ve composed a quick listicle (does anyone else think that word sounds filthy?) for new moms and moms-to-be about, what else, “baby essentials no one tells you you’ll need.” (Again with the clickbait. But for real this time, I hope this is helpful to someone.)

These aren’t necessarily things you’ll add to any baby registry, but their value is real. At least in my experience.

Nine unexpected necessities that have gotten me through the first nine months of motherhood

1. A screen dimmer app for my phone

I keep talking about how I’m trying to be more present and less glued to my phone around my baby. That does not apply while I’m nursing The Baby to sleep for the third time in a day. (YES, I STILL DO THIS. I KNOW. MOVE ALONG.) I don’t get a whole lot of time to consume media, so if bedtime is the time I get to scroll through Reddit or Facebook or whatever, so be it. But that blinding bright light on my phone may as well be the search light on a helicopter. The screen dimmer has become one of my most-used apps.

2. A frozen pizza a week

I hit a sweet spot somewhere in the 4-6 months range where The Baby was immobile but self-sufficient enough to hang out without too much fussing in a bouncer or carrier for enough time that I could get a reasonably easy home cooked dinner on the table. Now, though, there’s always a night or two where things have gone completely nuts by 4:30 and there’s no way I’m going to manage to cook anything because the sink is overflowing with dishes and there are 60 pages of a magazine ripped to confetti all over the kitchen floor. On these nights, The Baby gets a smattering of healthy leftovers along with an apple, some cheese, whatever, and once he goes to bed, The Husband and I get to relive the good old days with a frozen pizza. Once I started to accept this and put one in the grocery cart each week rather than deluding myself that I’d make a mega batch of homemade pizza dough to freeze, proactively thaw and top with organic vegetables, things got easier.

3. Peanut butter

I promise, this whole list isn’t  going to be about food. (The first item was a phone app, if you recall). But I am still so hungry all. the. time. And peanut butter has been the fastest way to get calories into my tummy so I can crank out the milk. We’re very picky about our peanut butter in the TLMB household (Must be the natural you-stir kind. No hydrogenated oils and no palm oil. Must be crunchy.) and I’ve found Target’s Market Pantry brand is the least expensive that I have easy access to. Which is great, because we go through at least a jar a week.

4. A running group text with no-judgment mom friends

I think I’ve mentioned a couple times before that three of my IRL friends and I made a pregnancy pact got pregnant around the same time. We’ve had a group text running since we all were pregnant where we’ve been able to complain, ask for advice, share random baby product reviews, celebrate and commiserate without worry of judgment. We can also text at all hours of the night or day knowing that our fellow new moms are probably awake or will soon be. I may be a habitual Internet over-sharer, but there are some things even I can’t bring myself to say here (or…*shudder*…share to a parenting group on Facebook. Which sometimes seems like putting yourself in front of a firing squad.)

5. A fairly regular date night

While there are certainly pros and cons to living across the street from my parents, one undeniable pro is I have pretty consistent access to a babysitter. (Thanks, parents!) At the end of the work week, The Husband and I are desperate to drive around the corner to our disappointing exurb happy  hour spot to share a beer and strategize the next several steps in our endless home improvement journey. We’ve gotten really efficient at snapping out of our tired funk to make each other laugh and to have the deeper conversations we don’t get when there’s a baby in the mix. Reconnecting, even for just 45 minutes while somebody else feeds The Baby dinner and gives him a bath, has been vitally important for my sanity (and The Husband’s too, I hope.)

6. A uniform

I knew going into the SAHM gig that if I stayed in my pajamas all day I’d languish. So every morning I wake up and put on my go-to uniform: jeans or shorts and  a v-neck T-shirt. I bought a stack of shirts from my local discount big box store (rhymes with Schmarget), but for fall I think I’ll be hitting up my favorite consignment store. Either way, having a handful  of easy but not too sloppy go-to outfits that can be mixed and matched has made it really easy to get dressed in the morning, and because it really is just 5 shirts and 3-4 bottoms, when I wear them out or get them hopelessly stained with breastmilk, I can guiltlessly turn them into cleaning rags and go out and spend another $50-$75 on the next season’s uniform. I know this probably sounds really boring/depressing to more fashionable readers, but I’ve always been really lazy about clothes, we’re on a tight budget, and this is keeping me happily out of sweatpants and my ninth grade cross country T-shirt (yes, I still have it/wear it.)

7. A side gig

I’ve mentioned a few times before that writing is important to me. We could scrape by for a little while longer without my extra income, but having a side gig has been beneficial in a  number of ways: It lets me exercise my creativity and skills; it helps pay for groceries and Amazon prime purchases; and it makes me feel good to contribute financially to the family (reminder disclaimer: being a SAH parent is a full-time job and if that’s “all” you do, it’s plenty, and you should value it and feel valued by your working-outside-the-home partner!)

I’ve always liked working, and I wanted to have it both ways, and this is how I’ve managed to satisfy both sides. While having a looming deadline while I’m trying to clean up a poop blowout spend quality time with The Baby can be stressful, it’s really nice to hand him off to The Husband, shut the door and get to work when I need to. As one of my group text mom friends said about her experience going back to work full time, “it helps with the whole ‘motherhood’s complete annihilation of your sense of self’ thing.”

8. A daily photo/milestone tracker

They say, “Babies don’t keep,” and holy hell, that’s true. It’s hard to savor every moment as I’m frantic about trying to find ways to preserve memories of these moments. For me, having an app like Tinybeans (that I back up regularly just in case!) has been really helpful. I can track milestones, his growth, and daily photos/videos. So on those days I’m so exhausted I don’t know how I’m going to carry on with mothering, and then he goes to bed and I find myself missing him, I can scroll through the days gone by and marvel at the amazing little person he has been and is becoming.

9. An amazing co-parent

The Husband has been an amazing partner the last nine months (and the nine months that preceded it, and a handful of years before that, too.) Not only has he been incredibly supportive to me as I figure out this motherhood thing, he has made an impressively smooth transition into the weird, wild world of fatherhood. I can’t imagine having taken on motherhood without him by my side.

Fellow new moms: What are some things that have gotten you through motherhood?

Nine unexpected necessities for the first nine months of motherhood

Ask A New Mom: Part 2 with Melissa at I Crashed the Web

Last week I kicked off a series of interviews with old friend, new mom (and fellow blogger, though fellow implies we are equals and she is way better and more prolific than I am in this sense) Melissa.

Melissa and I (and two of our other new-mom friends)  have been texting back and forth about new mom problems (#momprobs?) the past week or two, and they have centered mainly around sleep. Yes, the thing that is incredibly boring for people to read about if they’re not in it, but the thing that has more power over your life than almost any other element of parenthood. Of the four babies I know, one is still a newborn with erratic and unpredictable sleep (Melissa’s); the only girl of the pack, formerly a through-the-night unicorn who merely flirted with daytime naps, is now waking up to “chill” several times a night at five months old; one has been successfully Ferberized and wakes up a few times a night to eat but goes down easy — and naps up to four times a day still at almost eight months; and one, my one, is sleeping 11-12 hours a night and has decided this week that one nap is plenty for him, thanks.

Or at least, this is what I decided is happening yesterday after reading from my own personal advice column/bible Advice Smackdown on AlphaMom.

Here’s an adorable picture I took of how he sleeps now. You know, once a day, if I’m lucky. Everyone keep your fingers crossed I find time to shower today!

Child's pose
Child’s pose… *that’s* why they call it that.

Anyway, here are a few more Q&As from her present, my distant past, on newborn life.

Here’s part two, with Melissa from I Crashed the Web.

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Melissa, her husband B, and baby FW enjoying Cleveland Pride at Public Square.

ASK A MOM: MELISSA AT I CRASHED THE WEB

Part Two: The Newborn Life

Development/growing check-in: How old is FW right now, and what’s he up to?

FW is 6 weeks!

[Update: He’s like 9 weeks now. I hope Melissa will update us in the comments with what 9 weeks is like, but I wanted to commemorate the 6-week-old FW in this post since that’s still very newborn.]

He’s probably in the middle of another growth spurt (he’s eating, sleeping and crying a lot) but when he’s awake and not cranky he is enjoying his playmat and his bouncy chair. He likes his pacifier and most of the time likes when I sing to him. He has started smiling, which is a ton of fun (and don’t tell me it’s just gas) and he loves looking in the mirror.

You’re in the middle of maternity leave. How are you feeling? What are you thinking about as going back to work draws nearer?

It is a bittersweet feeling – I’m finally feeling like FW and I are bonding and we’re getting in the groove of things together but now we’re more than halfway through! I know that going back to work will be good for both of us, but it’s something I can’t think about now without getting a little choked up. I am just trying to enjoy every minute of my days with FW!

Newborns are scary! What was hardest for you to get the hang of: Diapers, clothes changes, baths, breastfeeding…?

Baths. They scare me. In fact, I haven’t given FW one yet- no, he’s not a stinky baby, it’s just become “father-son bonding time” (really so I don’t have to do it. I hope B isn’t reading this and catching on…).

Thanks again to to Melissa for letting me grill her. Don’t forget to head over to her blog to see my own answers to some of these questions (and then go find out WTF Freekeh is and make yourself some curry!) And tune in next Friday for the final part of this interview series – Part Three: Parenting philosophy and self reflection.

Ask A New Mom: Part 2 with Melissa at I Crashed the Web

The first seasons of motherhood

Seasons of Motherhood

For the first time in weeks, the windows are open and a cool-ish breeze sways the wind chime over our kitchen sink. The apples and pears are beginning to ripen on the trees. School is back in session. The familiar nostalgia of this time of year is particularly strong today.

It’s not autumn by the calendar, but all signs are pointing toward the end of summer. My first summer as a mother. My third season as a mother.

The Baby will be eight months old this week. I look back at photos of him from just a half a year ago and he is so transformed from the wrinkly skinned, thin-legged newborn that it’s almost unbelievable. While the same spirit of exuberance and indomitability has shone through him every day of his existence, he is so, so different now than he was last week, last month.

The same goes for me. I am by many measures the same person I was on Christmas Eve, dogged by nerves and striving to do my best; craving reassurance and order and also inexplicably willing to jump with both feet into the unknown. But by so many other measures, I am unrecognizable to myself eight months ago.

Because each second of parenthood feels so ethereal as it passes, I want to document the road this far before the fog thickens any further.

Winter

You are so fragile. You are so insistent. Your size is almost unbelievable. You are like a fingerprint under magnification–impossibly complex for the space you occupy. You are like a bird, a butterfly, fragile and fluttering. And you are mighty, howling.

I am tentative, battered. My heart is a raw beating thing that feels both fiercer and more uncertain than it has before, than I knew it could. I learn finally what instinct means, and I go by it. Some days, it is all I go by.

I am bleeding, lactating, hesitating, rocking, singing, gasping, crying for joy and crying from pain and crying for reasons too complicated to dwell on.

I am tired. I am soaring.

This is the first winter I don’t mind the long hours of darkness. We three huddle together against the world and learn how to be a family.

Spring

Our life is is a tumult of boxes, decisions.

You are enjoying the world. You are still small, but with each stretch and kick you are gaining strength. You laugh, marveling.

Motherhood starts to feel less like stumbling and more like dancing.

You lead.

I am stretching out, daring a little further. We take walks as the leaves unfurl. I pack up my old life in more ways than one. I am stepping into a new vocation.

Our days are a series of experiments in nonverbal communication. I am talking to you in public, feeling sometimes as though I am talking to myself. I am still learning. Misunderstanding your cues. Are you tired? Are you hungry? Hot, cold, bored? The signals grow clearer or I get more adept.

You light up the faces of the people who held your parents as infants. Some of those people die. You give us joy in our grief.

The water in the pond warms and we feed the fish. Their fins glimmer in the sunlight. You reach for bread crusts.

Summer

Our new home begins to take shape around your days.

We sweat. It is hot, hard work to make our house a safe place for you.

The cicadas wake up from a long, long sleep and the soundtrack to your first summer is a cacophony of humming–a frenzy of life. After they retreat, it is crickets and tree frogs. A nest of hungry wrens peeping for grubs.

I feel maternal in every direction, feed the fledglings smashed ants with tweezers while I carry you on my back. Find that during your nap they have flown the nest.

Your hometown celebrates its first victory in my lifetime (and, of course, in yours). This does not interest you. You have your own pursuits.

The work you’ve been doing your whole life to set yourself into motion begins to accelerate. Your back straightens, and you are sitting upright. You reach for everything you want. My hair twines around your fingers. My dinner ends up in your mouth. Your curiosity is bottomless as your bottom teeth grow in. Then the top. Then more.

From sitting, you crawl, from crawling, you stand. You are a tightrope walker. I am the net, and also the anxious onlooker, astonished by your daring and amazed by your skill.

You babble, you guffaw, you play peekaboo and you impel us to chase you.

I noticed today your knees are getting rough from crawling. Your impossibly soft skin will continue to accumulate calluses and bruises and cuts and scrapes as you amble on into your place in this world.

My heart will carry, too, each bruise and cut and scrape. But not the calluses.

 

The first seasons of motherhood

Working at home

The baby seems to be (knocking on wood) emerging a little from the worst of the sleep regression, though he still giggles himself into full alertness (how can something so cute be so frustrating) if I try to put him down drowsy in his crib for naps.

Whatevs. Parenting isn’t supposed to be easy, right? If he’s making my heart soar 75% of the time, and the other quarter of that time is spent rocking him and doing deep breathing exercises, I’ve got it pretty good, I think.

The Husband and I will be hosting a Sleep Summit at the end of this week to try to hatch a plan moving forward (a plan that doesn’t involve one of us taking impulsive and drastic measures on a whim.)

In the meantime, my parents have returned from their first vacation in a week. And as much as my 18-year-old self would be doing a spit-take at this next sentence, here goes: I missed them and I’m really glad they’re around.

Both of my parents adore The Baby. My dad is retired/disabled and thus is around during the day when he’s not taking care of my grandfather and is good company as I adapt to SAHM-hood. He’s also great with The Baby. But my mom is FANTASTIC with The Baby and can keep him occupied and giggling for a good long time. Her many years as a home child care provider are really shining now that she’s a grandmother.

She is currently at the park with The Baby so that I can get some rush freelancing work done. This is the first outing The Baby has gone on with someone other than his parents. While a gigantic part of me wishes I were also at the playground with them, I’m grateful to be able to hand him over so I can clock some time and earn some cash.

I came to a good break point while awaiting some feedback so I might go do something reckless like take a shower.

One last thing: Thanks to everyone who commented with well wishes and commiseration and book suggestions and sleep training (or not sleep training) suggestions in response to my previous post. Sometimes motherhood can really knock you off your feet. Thank you for helping me back up. ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

Working at home

Baby led weaning, indeed!

adventures in baby led weaningI hadn’t heard about Baby Led Weaning until I was pregnant and a friend asked if I planned to try it, but once I started reading about it, I was committed. It makes a lot of sense to me that babies should be given lots of variety, and the agency to decide what they want to eat and how much of it. As someone who was fed purees as a baby and grew into a kid who didn’t eat anything but peanut butter and jelly, mashed potatoes and chicken nuggets until basically college, I wanted to give The Baby every opportunity to start off on the right foot with food.

When I explained to my mom what BLW was, you’d have thought I was explaining how I was going to feed The Baby lit firecrackers and broken glass. When she was raising kids, purees were the only way to go because choking.  (As the BLW book explains, gagging ≠ choking, and babies gag easily and regularly as they figure out how to manipulate food in their mouths. As long as you’re supervising and not giving them nuts, whole grapes or other obvious choking hazards, they’re going to be fine.)

And while my mom still is adorably cautious about the whole ordeal (she peeled cherries for The Baby and then proceeded to cut them into pieces about the size of a small booger), I think at this point her delight in The Baby’s messy, exuberant dinners has diminished her fears about having to rescue him from a too-big piece of food.

This all started about a week ago. Although The Baby has been advancing pretty rapidly developmentally, sitting up with very little assistance needed, putting anything in sight in his mouth and gnawing on it with his gums, everything I’ve read has said not to start BLW until baby hits the six month mark, that any earlier than that is just too early for the baby’s digestive system and can up the risk for choking.

But I was holding a fussy The Baby at the dinner table during family dinner on Sunday, trying to finish up my corn on the cob so we could get him to bed, when he grabbed the other end of the corn cob and started chewing and sucking on it with the determination of a starving dog.

After that, The Husband and I tiptoed around the fact that this particular baby was leading us headlong into a new phase, trying to stick to the 6-month recommendation. The Husband would surreptitiously let the baby suck on the bitten side of a whole apple; I’d offer a chunk of banana in the mornings after TH left for work. Finally, unceremoniously, we gave in and started offering food on the regular. Each day The Baby has tried something new, and each day he has impressed us with his enthusiasm for whatever’s on the table (and his capacity for making a gigantic, gigantic mess.)

Here’s a short list of things The Baby has *eaten so far during his short but promising career:

  1. Corn on the cob
  2. Apple
  3. Banana
  4. Toast fingers with apple butter
  5. Cheddar cheese
  6. Mushrooms, beet greens and carrots out of a tomato-based soup
  7. Broccoli
  8. Penne pasta with broccoli and chicken
  9. Roasted potato
  10. Asparagus
  11. Roasted green beans
  12. An assortment of Indian food on naan
  13. Watermelon
  14. Peaches
  15. Frittata with spinach, onion and cheese
  16. Roasted sweet potato fingers
  17. Rice with sweet potato and chick peas mixed in
  18. Cucumber sticks
  19. A taste of mom & dad’s morning smoothies (usually beets, bananas, blueberries, spinach and almond milk)

So far, he hasn’t outright rejected anything, though the texture of cheddar cheese threw him a bit, and the tartness of some fruits makes him go a little walleyed. I’m really happy we opted to go this route and can’t wait to continue exploring new tastes and textures with my favorite little gourmand.

As a bonus, his eating our dinners has forced me to step back toward healthier meals from my exhausted and defeated approaches to dinner in the recent past. Someday soon I’ll revisit Weeknight Meal Wednesdays with a BLW-friendly meal.

Join the conversation: Did you go the BLW route? What were some of your baby’s favorite foods? Any tips for someone just starting off?

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Baby led weaning, indeed!

First Father’s Day Card from The Baby

DIY Father's Day Card from the BabyI’ve been meaning to share this craft since last weekend, but life got in the way again. It was The Husband’s birthday last weekend, and The Baby and I decided to make him a birthday card. I love how it turned out, and it was easy and fun to make, so I thought I’d share it with the wider momosphere in time for Father’s Day.

The Baby has been a kicking machine since he can-canned his way out into this world. He’s one of those babies who prefers to stand assisted on your lap than to sit. As I’ve mentioned before, his nickname is Kickpuncher because of all his flailing.

This craft actually first emerged on Mother’s Day, when I woke up early in the morning and tried it out on a pair of canvas totes for both of The Baby’s grandmothers. My tactics got a little more refined for this birthday card, but the essential formula is:

paint + kicking baby feet + surface = awesome abstract art

DIY First Father’s Day Card from the Baby

Materials

  • Watercolor paper
  • Non-toxic paints
  • Masking tape
  • Sponge brush or other paint mixing tool
  • A big piece of cardboard or wide, shallow box
  • A large container to use as a palette – even big paper plates work
  • Dish tub or other baby-sized bucket
  • Old towels and old wash cloth
  • Baby soap
  • Blank card and envelope
  • A helper or a place to put baby where he can’t reach his feet
  • Mod Podge

Instructions

Take some time to prep. This is best done outdoors or on a floor you can wash up quickly (obviously, avoid carpeting.) Put on some old clothes, strip The Baby down to his diaper and let him play nearby while you set up.

Lay out the cardboard or box and tape a few pieces of watercolor paper to it. You can also use the masking tape to mask off some parts of the paper to make a decoration.

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Tape your paper to the cardboard.

Fill the dish tub/baby tub with warm water and add a few squirts of baby soap.

Pick your paints. I used acrylic because it’s what I had on hand and it says on the bottle it’s non-toxic, but do your own research. Tempera paint is probably better. I like to hold up two paints and let The Baby pick his favorite. I squirt out some of this color onto my palette (I used big paper plates for the Mother’s Day craft and that worked really well; I couldn’t find them so I used bread pans for this one. The Baby has monster feet so this was kind of tough.) Anyway, for the Father’s Day card, I cut in some white to whatever color he chose, but only with about half the paint, to give it some variation. The picture below is just the tinted paint, but in the other half of the pan I squirted just the red, so he’d basically get a foot with each color. You can also do two similar colors (red and orange, say) in one go.

paint palette
Paint palette with The Baby’s first color selection, mixed in with a little white paint.

Pick baby up and hold him over the palette and let his feet press into the paint. Then pick him back up and hold him over the paper. If your baby isn’t squirmy, maybe you’ll get some neat footprints. But as I said, my baby is part Tazmanian devil and I wasn’t expecting or intending to get footprints, just fun colorful smears.

Once you’ve gotten a few good smears of your first color, dunk baby’s feet in the dish tub and give them a decent wipe-off with the wash cloth, pat dry. (Don’t worry about getting them immaculate; as you’re going to repeat the first several steps again.)

This is where it’s nice to have a helper to hold the baby, while you reset your paints. The goal is to keep baby from reaching his lower half, where there could be paint, at any time during this activity.

I did a total of three colors (with the white tint each time), as selected by The Baby. I let them dry for just a few minutes, basically the time it took me to clean baby’s feet and get new paint ready.

Baby footprints painting
A blurry photo of the finished painting. The Baby is an athlete and an artist!

Once you’re done, give your baby an actual bath. (Full disclosure: The Baby had green toenails for a few days afterward… whoops.) Also, the underside of your baby’s diaper will probably be a beautiful piece of art all its own, but resist the urge to keep it.

Once your baby’s artwork is dry, you can cut it to fit the front of your blank greeting card. (I suppose you could paint directly onto the card, but the watercolor paper doesn’t wrinkle when it gets wet, so it looks nicer.) I used Mod Podge to glue the painting onto the card and then put a coat of Mod Podge over the top of the painting too, to give it a little sheen.

Finished Father's Day card
Here’s the finished card. I cut and glued The Baby’s painting to a blank craft-paper greeting card.

There you have it! Easy, colorful Father’s Day card. I still have the other half of the painting that I plan to cut into strips and glue onto other, smaller cards I have, to use as thank-you notes. The next time I do it I think I’ll mask off the center of the card so I have a blank strip to write “Happy Birthday.”

It’s clear that The Baby has a blast when we do this, feeling the slippery paint on his feet, seeing the cause-and-effect of his kicking, and getting to splash around in the tub. And I like to think I’m instilling in him an early sense of generosity and the importance of appreciating others. I know he’s too young to really understand what we’re doing, but I figure if I start early, he’ll absorb the lesson more thoroughly as he grows.

Join the conversation: Have you enlisted your baby to help with any gifts or craft projects? How are you planning to celebrate your partner’s first Father’s Day?

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First Father’s Day Card from The Baby