Pregnancy Week 19: A growing, shrinking family

Today concludes Week 19 of my pregnancy, and may I say, Good Riddance.

Pregnancy-wise, things are going blessedly well. According to the creative souls who come up with these things, Baby #2 is the size of: A zucchini (I’m assuming your standard supermarket zucchini and not the neighbor’s garden variety from which you could carve out a canoe), a Gameboy, a hotdog, or a pair of sunglasses. Hmm… OK. In real terms that means it is about 6 inches long and 8.5 ounces.

My symptoms haven’t changed much; the heartburn remains a near-constant but still tolerable presence, and I have found myself getting winded more quickly when I climb stairs, but otherwise I’m feeling pretty good. This upcoming week we’ll have our anatomy scan, and the following week is my next appointment with my midwife, during which I will likely plead for heartburn relief of some kind.

(Incidentally, I saw a video on Instagram or somewhere from a mom explaining that pregnancy heartburn easily is eliminated by taking 100 deep breaths. I haven’t found the time this week to string more than five deep breaths together at a time, and I don’t mean to be a complete cynic, but… I expect this is bullshit.)

The real theme this week has been, unfortunately, loss (that, and toddler diarrhea, but nobody wants that recap.)

Last weekend, my beloved cat, Bills, died suddenly from an undetermined illness. In the span of 24 hours he went from seeming perfectly fine (he even hopped into The Toddler’s crib on Saturday morning to indulge in some tentative snuggling) to weak, with labored breathing that had me rushing, too late, to an emergency vet.

Soon after, I had to make the urgent and heartbreaking decision to have him put out of his misery. In the end, he was too dehydrated to have any blood work or to be able to get an IV inserted, so I have no idea what killed him, and I wasn’t allowed to be in the room when he was euthanized. My husband and I buried him under a white pine tree and sprinkled wildflower seeds on his grave.

I know that the price you pay for the unconditional love of a pet is the inevitable goodbye at the end, but God, it’s hard. Bills slept as my “little spoon,” with his head on my pillow, almost every night for the past eight years. He was the through line for every scene change, major milestone, disappointment and triumph of my entire adult life.

He wandered into the backyard of the first house I rented with my then boyfriend (now husband), who named him “Bills” in an unsuccessful attempt to deter us from taking in a pet we could hardly afford at the time. Bills reluctantly traveled with us through five moves, tolerated and eventually loved the second cat and the dog we brought home, let me cry into his fur when I had a miscarriage, and sat with me in the predawn Christmas morning hours while I started timing the first contractions that brought my son into the world. He was a steadfast, uncomplicated source of comfort, and that was the hardest part of losing him: He wasn’t there to console me.

So  that’s the bittersweet cloud that has hung over the past week, as my belly gets rounder and time marches on. My family shrunk a little even as it grows. Though we suffered a loss, we get to keep the memories. And that’s something.

Pregnancy Week 19: A growing, shrinking family

Surfacing

Winter-window
The Toddler and I were both clawing at the walls last week.

There’s something about winter that presses down on me every year and makes me feel incapable. And not just incapable of achieving goals but of having original thoughts. I don’t even really hate winter, but after noticing a pattern the last 3-4 years, I have to acknowledge that it really gets to me.

Which is why I’m super relishing the unseasonably warm weekend we just had and the week that is ahead, even if it probably points to the catastrophic, irreversible climate change we’re pretending as a country is not happening. (But that’s a train of thought for another post. I can’t think and talk about politics all the time. I just said winter makes me depressed as hell.)

The reason I’ve mustered the strength to think about getting back to blogging, beyond the nice weather and sunshine we’ve had lately, is that our household has finally emerged, still sniffling a little, from two weeks of snotty, coughing, sleepless hell. The Toddler (new nickname. Catchy, right?) caught it first, either from licking every toy at the library or from a birthday party we attended. He started excreting more mucus than seemed possible, quit eating much in the way of solid foods, and coughed his way pitifully through the night.

Immediately, the amazing progress he had made learning to fall and stay asleep by himself, vanished like it had never existed.

Then The Husband caught it, so night duty became my exclusive purview for a few nights.  At least I’m not sick, I thought, trying to console myself when The Toddler called out for me the fifth time in as many hours.

A few days later, of course, that was no longer the case. In the middle of all this, bless his little heart, The Toddler cut THREE TEETH — two molars and a canine. So even when he was starting to recover from his cold, he woke screaming from tooth pain. And even when The Husband wanted to help with night wakings, he couldn’t. Only MOM. (Technically, only MOM’S BOOBS.) I absolutely spent some of those night wakings crying while he nursed, and most of the others gritting my teeth and trying not to be a resentful asshole to either The Toddler or The Husband, neither of whom really deserved any blame for this miserable situation.

I was sleeping like I had been when he was a newborn. Even the mess was similar, though instead of pooping hourly he was vomiting hot mucus all over me whenever he nursed at night. The days felt endlessly long because I was too tired to do much and we were quarantined from going anywhere, because cursed be the parent who brings this cold to another family.

He’s had a cold before, and I remember being this spent before. It breaks you down so that you don’t even realize how broken you are. It feels hopeless and eternal.

But then the night before last, he only woke up twice. He even puked the second time, soaking me down to my underpants in breastmilk and snot. But you guys: He slept in until 7:45. And then he napped for another solid 2.5 hour stretch yesterday.

Last night was even better. It’s 6:45 a.m. and I’m alone. He’s not awake yet. He’s truly feeling better and starting to catch up on his deep, deep sleep deficit. I’m glad for him, because of course it breaks my heart to see him in pain, but if I’m being honest, I’m also super excited for me. I feel like I’m surfacing from two weeks of barely treading water.

It feels so good to feel good again.

(If any of this sounds like nonsense, I remind you that I’m super rusty in the blogging game.) Also, in other news, I made my first Etsy sale on my Granny’s stuff, we’re starting to play  “Are we really doing this” chicken regarding actually getting goats this spring and I think it’s happening for real, and having a sick toddler made me wonder sincerely how anyone keeps two or more children alive at any given point.)

Surfacing

A beast of a week (and it’s only Wednesday)

The Baby caught his inaugural daycare cold, so the momentum I picked up last week fizzled out pretty spectacularly. Fortunately, his cold never evolved into anything worse than a whole lot of snot, so he’s going back tomorrow for a big chunk of time while I catch up on things. I managed to check a big job off my list this evening after putting him to bed early (because he took one. 30. minute. nap. today. you. guys.) so as a reward to myself, I’m blogging. (Also I had a beer. I earned it.)

The animal kingdom has played a fairly big role in this week’s chaos, on top of The Baby’s cold. On Monday, my brother and mom brought their dogs over to run around since our side of the property is less wooded than theirs.

We recently started letting our two cats outside during the day. Yes, I know this shortens their lifespans. Yes, I know cats spend most of their waking hours murdering for fun. But their yowling was yet another thing keeping The Baby awake, meaning their indoor life expectancy was already rapidly declining, and they wear bell collars to keep them from sneaking up on birds (so far pretty effective.)

I digress.

family-photo
Charlie is the confused one in the lower corner of the photo. This is always his face.

I knew one of the cats, Charlie, was still outside when the neighbor dogs arrived, and that the dogs sometimes like to chase the cats, but I hadn’t been able to find him to coax him inside and figured he was fully capable of making himself scarce if he didn’t want to be chased.

But he did want to be chased, so he went full Halloween cat and taunted one of the dogs until he took the bait. Then he chased that 15-pound furry meatball about 20 feet up a tree, where Charlie clung pitifully by his armpits to a branch and yowled.

Shit.

I handed The Baby over to my mom. My brother steadied an extension ladder while I tried to coax Charlie, just out of my reach, down from the tree. He calmed down while I was up there, but not enough to try to climb head first down at me.

Realizing I could just about reach him, but didn’t have the number of hands necessary to keep me from falling out of the tree if I were to grab him, I climbed back down, retrieved my Boba soft structured carrier, and climbed back up.

We both returned to earth completely unscathed.

And I had a beer, because I earned it.

charlie-cat-rescue
Ugh, of course this happened.

In other news, the saga of my unwillingness to sleep train my baby and, in response, his unwillingness to sleep, continues. Today’s second failed nap had me ugly crying on my bed with my head in my hands. The Baby thought I was playing a funny game and giggled hysterically, which made me quit crying and then want to start crying again because I’m such an asshole for getting so mad at my sweet, sweet boy.

Parenting is so hard sometimes, you guys.

(Coincidentally, my tale of cat rescue lines up with today’s WordPress daily prompt… Yay! via Daily Prompt: Tree)

A beast of a week (and it’s only Wednesday)

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

This stinks.

Morning usually comes in waves at the TLMB house. The Baby will spit up/have a leaky diaper that wakes him up, a cat will get hungry, Louise, our dog, will scratch her neck to jangle the tags on her collar to let us know she needs to pee, and we’ll all gradually make it from horizontal to semi-vertical.

This morning at around 5:20, it was a noisy cat who stirred me from sleep. I went to feed him and shut him in the basement to avoid waking The Baby. Our dog followed me out of the bedroom and stood at the door to be let out.

The sun isn’t coming up until 7 a.m. these days, and usually The Husband is on morning dog duty. And usually, because Louise is afraid of the dark, he turns on a porch light that always makes me grumble from bed because I worry it will wake up The Baby. So I decided to leave the porch light off and assumed Louise would tentatively amble a few steps off the porch and pee before hurrying back to the safety of the house, as she usually does.

(We discovered her fear of the dark last summer when we took her camping and she tried to scratch her way into the tent after night fell. This girl does NOT like not being able to see.)

Instead, I heard a small ruckus that sounded like a snort on the far side of our garden, about 20 yards from the house. And then I smelled a stink. Oh, God, a stink.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Oh hi. By Ryan Hodnett (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Because our bedroom windows were open and the porch lets off just near it, I was whisper-hissing her name and quietly clapping to try to find her without waking up The Baby. I went back in, found my boots, and wandered over to find her rolling around in the grass. This cat-loving doofus had gotten eyes deep in the business end of a skunk.

I sighed, resigned to  my fate of never, ever, ever sleeping in again and went to gather old towels and supplies. (A quick Google led me to the de-skunking solution that worked pretty well: hydrogen peroxide, baking soday and dish soap. Thanks, Mythbusters.) If a fluffy cat-like thing makes our dog forget her fear of the dark, a cold hose bath will remind her in full force that she hates the dark (and also baths.)

Four baths later (one of which was mine) and the household is wide, wide awake with only one more full hour until the sun comes up.

Happy weekend, everybody.

P.S. This week marks my descent back into coffee addiction after two years off the stuff. I have mixed feelings about this.

P.P.S. The Husband just walked by and sniffed me and gave me a 2/10 for skunk smell. Shit.

This stinks.

Embracing the hustle

embracing-the-hustle

First and foremost, let me say that the “just” in front of any reference to stay-at-home-mom (i.e., “I’m just a stay-at-home-mom”) diminishes what is a very difficult, very important job. Being a stay-at-home mom of one baby for the past five months is the toughest gig I’ve ever had.

So if you’re a stay-at-home-mom and keeping your children alive and fed and entertained is “all” you’re doing, it’s plenty. You’re killing it. Nothing I’m about to say is intended to diminish or denigrate what you’re doing. Okay? (And cut it out with the “justs!”)

So.

I really like writing. I also really like dabbling in the print design (desktop publishing?) I’ve been doing since I was editing my high school newspaper. Writing greases the gears in my brain when they seize up from all the breastmilk and high chair hose-downs and endless rereadings of Brown Bear, Brown Bear. For some people, self care is getting a haircut more than once a year or browsing their favorite store. For others, it’s typing, alone, over a bowl of ice cream while dad rocks the baby to sleep. Different strokes.

This blog has been a nice outlet for my creative pursuits when I find the time to put my thoughts together. However, we’re working with a pretty thin margin on my husband’s income, so freelancing has been an important contribution to my family since I left full-time work, too (and thus has had to take priority over blogging on many occasions. I just don’t have it in me to try to monetize a blog right now.) Freelancing also scratches the small but persistent entrepreneurial itch I’ve had all my life.

One of the reasons I was afraid to embark on parenthood earlier in my life was the daunting mountain of responsibility that children come with–I didn’t feel like I had enough financial security, even with nonstop full-time work with benefits–to hack it. The irony is, now that I’m home with the baby, living really frugally and making smaller change in weird spurts, I feel less of the suffocating anxiety I felt before The Baby arrived and more of the vastness of possibilities that lay before me.

In addition to money worries, I also feared that giving up my full-time career would mean losing the fulfillment and pride that came along with it, but I’ve learned to embrace the hustle that is gig work. It’s a tough juggle, but it’s also exhilarating to choose projects that excite me and to deliver good work to satisfied clients.

I’ve also started babysitting a friend’s baby one day a week (what a workout!), and today I visited an amazing flexible child care center where The Baby is going to spend a few hours a week so I can grow my business a little bit.

I have far, far less free time than I used to. But I’m also operating at maximum efficiency with the time I do have.

As many obstacles as parenthood throws out for us, The Husband and I are relishing the great privilege we’re realizing we have: We can build the life we want for our family, however we want. Being parents doesn’t mean that we are chained to the traditional gender roles of American families, nor are we condemned to both working 60-hour weeks and missing our kids in daycare all the time.

Yes, for the foreseeable future, The Husband is going to continue to work long hours and have a crap commute (and to come home and summon a second wind so he can bathe, chase and otherwise thrill The Baby while I catch a breath), and I’m going to pound out articles and design annual reports in the stolen 15-minute increments I can find during naps. But none of that is preordained and none of it has to be forever.

In the not-too-distant future, we will finally be able to pay off our student loans and start thinking about the real long term, now that we have a feel for what it’s going to be like. Maybe we’ll save up and start a small business. Maybe we’ll switch places and The Husband will stay home with the next baby while I go back to work. Maybe we’ll get really wild and go off the grid and become self-sufficient preppers. (Unlikely scenario, but it is an election year!)

I don’t know what the future holds, but five months after hesitatingly stepping into the SAHM/WAHM life, I’m so glad this was the choice I made.

Fellow moms (working from home-for money or for the satisfaction of keeping your kids alive, working out of the home, or whatever combination applies to you right now), how did parenthood affect your ambitions? Your perspective on your career? What greases your gears when they get locked up from the parenting drudge work?

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Embracing the hustle

A Sunday Storm, and a jagged horizon

This weekend was nice, as we neglected our endless to-do list a bit and I hosted a meeting of the craft club I started almost two years ago now (more on that…someday. I was hoping to do a comprehensive post with charming pictures to go along with it, but The Baby was too rowdy for me to take pictures. I’ll get to it eventually.)

Anyway, yesterday evening, The Husband, The Baby, my parents, brother and I were sitting around our kitchen table eating dinner as we have been doing together on Sundays since we moved out here. The sky had been threatening (welcome) rain for an hour or so, and suddenly it started to rain hard.

Our house is almost all windows, and my parents were marveling at how hard it was raining. I, a hardened cynic when it comes to bad weather (probably a knee-jerk reaction to my mother’s insistent demands for us to go to the basement all the time in childhood lest we be swept up into tornadoes–how we scoff at our parents’ desires to keep us safe!), kept eating with nonchalant, “Uh huh, I see it”s.

It was getting dark though. The wind was picking up. The hard pelting rain turned into hard pelting hail. The world turned white outside from the sideways spray of precipitation. All at once, everyone at the table but me and The Baby rose from their seats and decided we had all better skedaddle into the basement, for real. (Looking up from my food, I quickly unbuckled The Baby from his high chair and followed suit. The Baby brought his corn on the cob with him.)

As the first of us hit the top of the stairs, the power went out. We watched from the basement window as the storm left just as quickly as it had come. When it seemed safe, we went back upstairs to assess the damage.

We’re really, really lucky, but this is also the worst storm we’ve ever had on the property, going back as far as my dad can remember.

There wasn’t a tornado, but sudden strong winds whipped the tops off big, leafy trees. It toppled several of the dozens of dead ash trees (ash borers, frown). In the woods around my parents’ house, several old growth trees that my dad had spared from loggers were uprooted, leaving gaping cavities in the dirt the size of small craters.

Last night The Husband helped my brother and dad clear the half-dozen trees that had fallen from our property across our neighbors’ driveway. Both of our driveways had been blocked too, ours by a big thorny locust tree.

It also knocked every last near-ripe pear off the two pear trees near our barn. I strapped The Baby to my back, grabbed a five gallon bucket and salvaged what I could, but most of the pears had hit the ground so hard they were practically shattered.

We are really lucky–power returned at around midnight last night (so my heroic act of eating all the ice cream out of the freezer turned out to be unnecessary), and more importantly, nobody got hurt, and our house, my parents’ house and all our vehicles were unscathed.

The Husband called in from work today to help with the damage, and so did my brother. We took turns looking after The Baby and helping out outside. We spent all day clearing out the biggest branches around the house. I washed a bucket of pears and have cooked two batches of pear sauce with a lot more to go.

This is a big setback. We already have so much to do to try to restore this property to its former well-kept state (not to mention kicking off any of the half-dozen or so pipe dreams we’ve got cooking). And while it is a great relief to have come through the storm unharmed, I feel something a little like grief seeing great old trees broken, jagged and felled in every direction I look.

Here are some pictures of the damage, including one of me looking like straight up garbage. You’ll notice I’m suffering from “South Carolina eye,” allergy eyes that haven’t plagued me since moving back up from the pollen capital of the world. I also have twisted my stretched out maternity tank top into the straps of my ill-fitting nursing bra and am wearing a bandana over my inexcusable hair-ball (calling it a mom bun would be generous to the point of absurdity) — I had to wear The Baby on my back to pick up pears and he’s figured out how to rip out handfuls of hair if I don’t wear something to block him. Anyway, I’m sharing this photo with you, Internet moms, in the spirit of openness, and knowing you’re not going to judge me. Don’t let me down.

 

 

A Sunday Storm, and a jagged horizon