Kindergarten is happening

Wednesday night

Lunch prep: Day 1

Lunch prep: Day 1

Tonight I put together Olivia's lunch for school. Tomorrow. Because school starts tomorrow.

I never really understood the people who created designer lunches. Sushi shaped like faces. Carrot smiles and sandwich cut-outs to look like eyes, pretzel noses and broccoli ears.

It's complete overkill. But now I kind of get it. Because whatever I put in this little flower-patterned lunch bag is what she will have when I'm not there. This is what I send with her. And I want there to be a moment in her day when she opens the bag and sees how much I love her. How much I believe in her, and how I'm so proud. Even though she's bravely entering this world of school and new friends and new activities, I want her to know that her mama is still here loving her and I always, always will be.

Now how do I show that with food?

Thursday morning

We got up at the earliest possible time. I wrote out our plan on my white board (Lord I love white boards) and referred to it occasionally. As long as I get out of the shower by 6:40 this will all work out.

It didn't matter. We got to school a half hour before the bell rang. Like maniacs. There were still cars pulling in as we left, way after the bell, and the worst part of me was like, how are all these people *just* now getting here? Don't they love their children??!! (kidding)

We went into the cafeteria where the kids wait for their teachers to come and get them and lead them off to class. Several families looked like ours: two parents, a little sibling, all eyes on the kindergartner. Olivia looked so small and her backpack looked so big and the school seemed enormous and perfectly clean and the parking lot was chaos but inside everything ran like a well-oiled machine.

Two kids from Olivia's daycare ran up to her and hugged her, so excited to see her after hardly seeing her at all during the summer. And I sent a little prayer of thanks up to the heavens. Thank you! Thank you for sending these friends to her. Please let them be helpful and nice and make her look cool and popular. Okay, just joking about that last part but if it's not too much trouble, it wouldn't hurt, you know?

Eventually the moment came where we had to say goodbye and we had to do it without crying. That would have completely freaked her out. So I smiled my biggest smile at her, and gave her one last hug.

"Have fun today, okay?"

"Okay, mama."

"But not TOO much fun, okay?"

"Mo-om!" (laughter)

And the bell rang, and the teacher gathered her group, and the little ducklings waddled off behind her single-file. And the two parents and the little brother watched until she was down the hall and out of sight.

"Olivia school," Henry said. "Yes."

Saturday night

My sister and I were talking. It always starts innocent enough. How are you! How's the house? Ok, so how is Kindergarten going? How's it really going?

Okay, well, here's the story. So I told her how it went.

"This is not an easy story to hear," she said to me. Or maybe there was an exclamation point there, because it wasn't easy [!] It was hard! There were tears!

And so we had some tears, her and I. It felt good to be understood. Even though I still don't completely understand.

Sunday night (1 week later)

Sunday was book club night. Several mamas whose children haven't started school yet, some with no school kids, and two of us who just started. So it was a good time to hash it out. We talked about the details, the pick-ups and drop-offs, the classrooms we hadn't fully seen inside, and the kids who were mean on the playground this week.

These are all part of the picture. But it's still hard to explain the emotions behind the Kindergarten transition.

Earlier in the summer I really didn't think it would be a big deal. Lil O has been going to daycare since she was 8 months old, and she loves it! She loved the summer preschool program we enrolled her in. And I knew she would. Because she is social kid. A rule-follower. A born learner. Like me, she tries to get all the gold stars. Like Jake, she is charismatic, she thrives in a crowd.

But she is also my baby. Watching her walk down the big hall of this big school in single-file behind a teacher I felt like I was watching her walk straight into this next phase of life. A very tangible transition.

When a baby learns to walk, there is no "first step." People try to capture this moment and they might tell you that they did. They'll say that Baby So-and-So walked on THIS date. But in reality, learning to walk is a long process. It's a lot of inching out and falling down, inching, letting go of the coffee table for a second, then grabbing again, then letting go, falling, getting up, and so on. One day you look at her and realize she's walking more than crawling. Thank goodness, you think, that took forever. 

Not school! School happens on one day, ready or not. There's no grabbing the coffee table a little longer for stability. You just let go. The bell literally rings, and you let go of them, and they walk into Kindergarten. It's beautiful. And heart-wrenching. And perfectly normal.

Please, God, let her just walk into that classroom like it's no big deal. Let her fit right in. Let those JCPenney clothes be just the right thing we were supposed to buy. Let her backpack be cute. Let her lunch remind her that her mom and dad love her. But do not let the carrot sticks remind her too much of home. Keep homesickness at bay, please oh Lord. If there are tears, let them be mine. If there are scraped knees, let them be some other kid's. Or maybe hers. Let her days be filled with equal parts challenge and triumph, timidity and reassurance. May she grow to love learning. May she grow a bit slower (please?) but always just surrounded by love.

Naps: A Memoir

I posted this picture of our recent nap FAIL, and it got me thinking about everything I've learned about naps.

He's got this beige thing going. (But not the nap thing) #wildmongoose #ontheloose

A photo posted by Hmv (@hmvlife) on

Here it is, a short memoir in naps:

  1. First baby: Naps rule the world. Baby needs naps. Mama and daddy really need naps. Does baby #1 nap? No. I obsessed over this for roughly 36 months.
  2. Second baby: Naps are ... optional. We got things to do, people to see, playdates to attend. Naps for baby #2 are bound to happen, don't get me wrong. But more as a result of the sheer human need for rest. Not so much the motherly compulsion to put baby down to rest in a timely and ordered manner each and every day.
  3. Normal babies vs. colicky babies: This makes all the difference. Normal babies lie down, and if they are tired enough, they eventually fall asleep (est. 10 minutes). Colicky babies lie down, panic ensues, sleep is the enemy, where is Mommy?! Dear God, where is Mommy?!! And so on.
  4. Mommy: The mommy of colicky baby is a hot mess. She obsesses. She nurses on demand, for serious. The mommy of normal baby relaxes and waits. She knows that normal baby will either be asleep in about 10 minutes or not. I was this mommy today. I snapped this picture of Baby Henry not sleeping and all twisted up because it cracked me up. Afterward I scooped him up, took him out to the living room, let him play another 30 minutes or so, then tried again. Finally, he slept. Like he should. Like normal babies should.
  5. Panic begets panic, chill attitudes beget chill households: This is the rule that we should hear about, not that "sleep begets sleep" bullshit. (If you haven't heard, this is the notion that babies who sleep well during the day will sleep well at night. I have no idea if it is true, but I believed it for a long time (kinda still do) and it can make you crazy trying to get good daytime sleep to happen.) Really, if you have a panicky baby who wakes up at the slightest thing, only wants to be held in your arms, and insists on one parent over the other, this stuff will make you panicky as well. The household feels like it's on eggshells. Whereas chill attitudes from mom or baby or dad or all of the above (preferably!) somehow seem to create an atmosphere of chillness. This is very chicken vs. egg. "Is our second baby calmer because WE are calmer?" No one knows. But the aura of calm is very nice, isn't it?
  6. Postpartum nonsense: Postpartum depression, folks. IT IS REAL. It affects everything. I just have to mention it with regard to naps because it plays a role in every aspect of parenting. I've had friends who had it with Baby #1 or with Baby #2 or #3. PPD lies to you, and tells you that the babe is not napping because of you. I'm here to tell you: this is nonsense. This parenting stuff is hard. It's not hard because you're doing it wrong. It's hard because it's hard. But it will pass. It will get better.
  7. Finally: nap time is parent time. We all know this. But the second time around I understand this like it's my gosh darn JOB. As soon as kids are asleep, I'm reading my book or searching for flights or washing my dishes or WHAT-ever. Whatever needs to be done, it's the first thing I do. This is precious time! It doesn't last forever. Stop farting around on Facebook and get your shit done! And if "your shit" involves some time with the husby or some time with the peaceful quiet or even (whoa) a nap for yourself, then get on it! And have a blast.

Love ~
hmv

How to Have the Best Maternity Leave Ever in 5 Steps

It has been my lifelong quest to have the "best" everything, and maternity leave was no different. I started planning for it, literally, from the moment I started to think about getting pregnant.  There is no perfect recipe for a maternity leave, but for my money, I'd say I got pretty close.

Step 1: Plan WAY Ahead

Step 1 of the plan is to plan. I know. But seriously you need to think ahead if you're going to do this right. For one thing, does your employer have a family leave policy? Oh they don't?! Join the club! No one does. Your precious unborn child will need you after he or she is born. Somehow this fact is lost on the entire country, but take it from me, you'll need some paid time off. Your options:

  • Sign up for a short-term disability policy. Try and do that BEFORE you get pregnant because you'll get a larger benefit. Also you need to jump on it during open enrollment.
  • Save up your sick leave and vacation days. Make sure your employer lets you use sick time during maternity leave. Isn't that sneaky, sometimes they don't!
  • Consider a leave of absence. Without pay. Sometimes this is allowed, sometimes not. Talk to HR. Talk to other ladies who have had children at your work.
  • Save up. Obviously. How you gonna live without paychecks??

Step 1 part B: Talk to your boss. If you're comfortable.

Obviously this is very subjective. Think about whether this will do more harm than good. In my case, it did a lot of good. I have a great boss who is also a mom. She also appreciates the ability to plan ahead for our office. Lastly (and this is important!) she can keep a secret like a mother-. We had some coffee and a chat about 3 months before I actually got pregnant. I told her that my husband and I were hoping to expand our family. We didn't know when, exactly, but it might be a few months ahead. She thanked me for letting her know and for trusting her.

Based on our previous track record, my husband and I had been pretty fortunate in the fertility department. If we weren't fortunate this time, I'd probably want her to know that too because secondary infertility is no small deal. But as it turned out we were fortunate. Four months later she was asking me about this big conference scheduled for September. I had to tell her, no, that wasn't going to work because ... baby time 2015! She was over-the-moon excited. And then she kept that secret for a few more weeks until I was ready to share. I freakin love my job so much.

Whoa! Get out of the office before the baby gets out of you.

Step 2: Get out of the office before your water breaks over everything.

The question: When to start your maternity leave?

The answer: At exactly the point where you can't TAKE IT ANYMORE. You don't want to go too soon because you only have so much paid leave time. You don't want to go too late because you'll just hate life and all your coworkers and your cankles.

I had to ask around about this one, and the consensus was this. Try hard to stay at work until your due date. But don't stay past that. You're going to be struggling in weeks 38, 39, 40. But you can do it. I started leaving work early in week 39, and people were super understanding. Once we entered week 41 I was like No. Can't do it anymore. I'm not going back there without a baby.

Step 3. Decide: Take As Much Time Off As You Can -or- Spread Out Your Time Off 

In one camp, we've got TAMTOAYC. As much time off as you can get, all at once. Pros: 

- you get this incredible block of time off that you may never get again
- no work distractions 
- never need to do laundry, really, because PJs are always OK and never dirty  

In the other camp, we've got SOYTO. You take some concentrated time off at first, then spread out your days as you gradually return to full time work. Pros: 

- you'll get days off with your little one well into their 4th, 5th or 6th months of life
- breastfeeding is easier to keep going because you can keep up your supply on your days off with baby
- you'll also have regular face time with your coworkers and boss, who will see that you are committed to the team and also that you haven't died in a tragic laundry avalanche

I decided on a hybrid approach. It went like this:

  • Weeks 1-7: Totally off work. I think I answered 1 work email.
  • Week 8: Worked 1/2 day.
  • Weeks 9-14: Worked two 1/2 days per week. Tuesday/Thursday afternoons specifically.
  • Next month: Worked full time, but took Wednesdays off.
  • Next month: Worked full time.

This arrangement was amaaaazing. I worked it all out ahead of time. Most of my work was transferred to coworkers. But I asked to keep one project (a yearly report) that I do each year in December/January. This way I'd have one succinct project to focus on. I left my "out of office" message on and did not answer email unless it was easy/necessary. When that project was done, I started catching up on everything and got back in the groove. Gradually.

Step 3 part B: If Your Partner Can Take Time Off, Do That Too

My husband's time off was also hybrid:

  • Weeks 1-3: Totally off work.
  • Weeks 4-8: Worked full time, but took 1 day off per week.
  • Weeks 9-14: Worked full time, but covered for me on Tuesday/Thursday afternoons. (As in, he was off work and watching the kids during this time.)
  • Next month: Totally off work.

Doing paternity leave like a boss

Having some days home with me throughout my leave was the BEST. I was very worried about getting the postpartum depression, so this was integral to building up my support network. Also integral: regular visits with friends, play dates, coffee dates, visits from family, Christmas (that happened), social media, oh and WellMama too. Definitely WellMama.

Jake's decision to take that last month off work had two major advantages, aside from his total delight at taking a month off to bond with his baby. First, it prolonged Baby Henry's time home with us. He got lots of one-on-one attention. And no daycare germs until he was 4 1/2 months old. And no daycare expenses.

More importantly, I firmly believe that partners become really great partners when they get the chance to parent alone. Let your husband or partner (husband in my case) take charge for a while. Maybe it's a month, maybe it's just a weekend. But try and let them figure the parenting thing out. Babies will take a bottle, eventually. Dads will find things that soothe the baby. Together they will develop their own special relationship. Staying home all day with a baby (or multiple kids) is exhausting. Both parents should experience it if they can. It creates a healthy appreciation for stay-at-home parents, for daycare providers, for the work and drudgery and, at times, the joy of full time parenting.

Step 4: While on Maternity Leave, It is OK to Have a To-Do List, but... 

...You probably know what I'm going to say. Adjust yo' expectations. If you are Type A like me, this will be very difficult. In all likelihood, you will fail at this. Try this: first, go ahead and write out your whole crazy list, just go nuts. Think of everything you'd love to get done during this time "off." 3 months off from work? WA-HOO! Right?  

Wrong. Three months will fly by. Your list is way too ambitious. Don't torture yourself. Parenthood, especially NEW parenthood, is hard enough. 

But that doesn't mean you can't accomplish a few things. I hate it when everyone tells you to just calm down and embrace your baby and do nothing. I ... can't ... not ... do all the things!

So now that you have your crazy long list, start prioritizing. Slash and dash. But remember, it's very satisfying to cross some things off your list, so throw a few low-hanging fruits on there. 

Lastly, consider keeping a "Done List." You can create a Done List by writing down everything you got "done" that day. Include whatever you want: grocery shopping, creating a shopping list, watching HGTV, watching the baby sleep on your chest, building a custom bunk-bed. (Just kidding. Who builds things, honestly?) 

I've always been big on lists (can you tell?), so I was a little scared to give up my to-do list in favor of a Done List. But in the end, I'm so glad I did. I did it with only 10 days to go, but oh well. Now I have a few pages of memories of what I did, which grew increasingly funny and self-centered (Day 9: watched HGTV! Had coffee with Missy!).

Step 5: Enjoy.

Enjoy. This final tip goes for all the mamas who are on good footing health-wise. Who are not struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety. Who have reached a point of peaceful acceptance with their laundry-drenched living rooms and never-clean kitchen sinks.

Just enjoy. You never get to have a baby this small again. That is true every day that goes by. Don't drive yourself crazy thinking about it (as I did, at times). Just embrace it. And embrace that tiny baby.

Enjoy the little moments you get to have. It won't be a picnic every minute of every day. Sometimes it will be friggin unbearable. But sometimes you will get to have a great playdate with your stay-at-home mom friend at the local kids' gym, and you'll watch the kids goofing around and you'll think, this is so fun. It's 2:00 on a Tuesday! Sometimes you'll get to make coffee for your friend and you'll hear about her baby who is waking up every 1.5 hours at night. Your baby will chill out for a while, allowing you to be there for her and really listen.

I thought I would do these fun things "all the time!" As in, "we can go to the library for storytime all the time!" "I can write on the blog all the time!" It didn't happen. It took me a while to figure out that it wasn't physically possible to watch HGTV and take the kids to the park and catch up on my online course all at the same time all the time!

I enjoyed the moments though. I ticked a lot of things off my list. A couple of favorites:

1. Letting my baby fall asleep on my chest.

2. Going to WellMama and feeling the mama love.

3. Waking up late each morning next to my baby and trying to make Henry smile. Sometimes Olivia too.

That's what counts. Enjoy, mamas.

A Son is Born: My Second (Amazing) Birth Story

Whenever I read birth stories I always want to get right to the good stuff. So let me break you off with a little preview.

At 11pm, my water broke. To be frank, it practically exploded. All over the bed, the carpet on the way to the bathroom, the TWO towels I grabbed, and eventually the shower. It was a wonder that the entire house didn't fill up and threaten to drown us all.

This is a good story. I promise. It is so good, in fact, that I feel a little guilty, almost sheepish to tell you all about it.

But forget that, I deserve a good birth story. I feel entitled to a good birth because of how terribly, heartbreakingly difficult my first birth was. This second birth was really everything I wanted it to be. As one of my favorite midwives, Pauline put it, "It was really healing. My first birth was traumatic. My second birth was a healing birth."

As I mentioned previously, I was in labor for over a week (sorta). Read about that in my earlier post, We Had a Baby. I'm going to jump ahead a little. My mom and dad had been visiting since Thursday and Friday respectively. My husband's folks came down on Friday as well. It was now Tuesday night, one day after my October 20th due date. The nightly contractions had started up again, and as we had done almost every night, we said good bye ... and maybe see you later! But probably not...because this baby will never come. [sad face]

I had an appointment the next day to go into the hospital or birth center to see Pauline the midwife and hopefully induce labor. I didn't exactly have a medical reason to induce labor. I just had been waiting for so long and I was already 5 centimeters dilated (FIVE!) and my membranes had been swept twice and my back hurt like the dickens (after MONTHS of physical therapy to avoid just such a thing) and I was ready to go. I also got myself this appointment because, for this pregnancy, I had been following a new school of thought:
Do Whatever the Flip You Want to Do and Don't Ask for Permission.

Just kidding, I asked permission, just ... I didn't shy away from asking. That's important! I asked for appointments with the midwives that I wanted to have appointments with. I asked to hear the baby's heartbeat again (please). I asked the ultrasound tech to "make sure" it was really a boy. Twice. (She was sure.) That's me waiting for the ultrasound at 20 weeks with my ominous blue shirt.

Back to the night of October 21st! After my folks left I decided we should probably start timing these contractions. Sometimes we did and sometimes we didn't time them. I didn't want to get my hopes up, but I kinda had this suspicion about this round of contractions.

Jake would time them on his phone and I would often forget to tell him when they had ended. We could still see that they were 4-5 minutes apart and lasting, I don't know...maybe 50 seconds? After an hour of this I called the midwife after hours line. It was about 10pm.

Don't let this bossy lady into your waiting room.

hmv's Tips for an Easy Labor:

  1. Make it Short. Think minutes, not hours. Boo hours.
  2. Make it your second or third birth. Get things warmed up first. Birth canals need practice. Practice makes perfect.
  3. Make an appointment to get the baby out. This will frighten your little one into a speedy and timely birth.

DO NOT:

  1. Let anyone tell you "Oh I bet that baby will come early!" Run from these people. Something about these comments scares the baby into never coming out ever.
  2. Believe anyone who tells you things will be easier and faster this time. I didn't believe those jokers. Look at me now. Super easy/fast labor!

Anne the midwife answered my call and listened to me have a contraction. I made a little noise but mostly I handled it like a total pro so she was like, "Well, it sounds like the contractions are really regular, but you should keep timing them until they are 4-5 minutes apart and at least a minute long." Aww, crap, should have timed the duration a little better. "Also you should probably lay down and get some rest," Anne said, "I think this is probably leading up to active labor."

Well well wellllll...that was good news. Jake and I cleaned up the living room a little and made our way to bed. I can't recall if he texted his folks to warn them. I grabbed an ice pack and towel for my aching back and laid down in my nightgown, which was also a special hospital gown that I had made for me (seriously!) by a kind Indian lady on Etsy (not kidding, here is her storefront).


At 11pm, after snuggling in tight to bed, my water broke. To be frank, it practically exploded. All over the bed, the carpet on the way to the bathroom, the TWO towels I grabbed, and eventually the shower. It was a wonder that the entire house didn't fill up and threaten to drown us all.

When I first felt it, I went, "OH! ... Some water? I think?" And then I moved a millimeter and the gush happened. It was so much water I laughed and hooted and could not contain my excitement. It was happening!!

Now is as good a time as any to explain why going into labor like this was so thrilling to me. Yes, thrilling. Not terrifying. I am a woman who has endured a natural childbirth. I spent 14 hours huffing and puffing and pulsating with pitocin that made each contraction so intense that at times I wanted to pass out from the pain. I do not recommend that method of childbirth. Unless that's what you want to do, then I support what you want to do. But if you want my recommendation, I don't recommend a 100% natural pain-relief-free childbirth.

I do believe in nature though. I believe in women and our powerful bodies and our powerful drive to bring life into the world. It is an incredible thing. And I really wanted to experience that nature. I didn't want a highly medical birth all hooked up to machines with nurses and doctors telling me what to do. So scheduling that appointment for Wednesday morning was kind of a bummer. I wasn't thrilled to get poked and prodded, to have my water broken for me, to get pumped full of pitocin again, and then (yes) some pain medication. I didn't want to feel like the human machine on the end of a conveyor belt of interventions. But on balance, I really needed to have this baby and I was losing faith in nature to make it happen.

But whoa, nature came in at the 11th hour in kick ass way. Once my water broke we were off to the races. Contractions came on faster, and we had to move quickly. Jake called the midwives, his parents, my mom. The midwives told us to head straight to the hospital. Moments later (it seemed) Jake's folks were in our living room. I was doubled over the blue easy chair having a contraction and ruining my cute black leggings. (TMI? There was a LOT of water. And there was meconium in the water. If you know what that means you know what I mean about the leggings. Ick.)

Somehow I got into our car. Somehow we traveled down the Beltline and up to the hospital. Contractions continued. Jake kept talking me through each one. He was amazing. Up until this point, you see, our days had been somewhat stressful. I was emotional. I was incredibly uncomfortable. Some nights ended with us arguing or me getting upset about some little thing. Other nights ended with us eagerly anticipating what our little guy would look like and how amazing it would be to have a baby in our house again. I hoped that the night I would go into labor would be a good night. It turns out I really had nothing to worry about.

Contraction!!! (And a sweet booty to boot)

As we checked in at the front counter of the hospital I had another contraction. Right there on the counter. And YES, I had the wherewithal to ask my dear husband to capture the moment. You're welcome, world. The guy at the counter asked us, "so...you here for labor and delivery?" "Umm...YES" Jake said. (He loves this part of the story.) What the hell else do you think we might be here for in the middle of the night?!

The kind sir told my husband where he could find a wheelchair, and they wheeled me up to the 5th floor.

The hospital staff flew into action. The staff nurse checked us in while at the same time starting an IV for me while at the same time calling for the anesthesiologist. I had three things I kept running through my head during this: 1) we are with the PeaceHealth midwives, make sure they know that; 2) I am GBS-positive, so they need to run an IV with antibiotic for me as soon as humanly possible (the antibiotic makes sure that the mom doesn't pass this bacteria on to the baby and it is best if it runs for 4 hours before the baby comes out, and we knew this baby would come fast); and 3) I want an intrathecal.


"INTER-THEE-CUL," I pronounced it, and I pronounced it several times so they knew I was serious. A short, strange anesthesiologist was soon brought into the room. Despite his odd ways, he was my hero; I suspect that the intrathecal was the defining thing that made this birth my healing birth.

An intrathecal, also known as the "walking epidural," is administered by an injection into the spine. It generally contains the same mixture of narcotics and anesthesia that a traditional epidural has, but there is less of each drug. It wears off after 2-4 hours because it is not administered by catheter, so you can't turn it up or off, you just get what you get. The no-catheter thing was a huge PLUS in my book because catheters kind of freak me out. I didn't want a tube coming out of my back or out of my urethra. Even though the risk is low, there is some chance of causing permanent incontinence, and I just feel like that would really cramp my style. So no catheters for me. But Yes, pain medicine.

For me, the intrathecal worked very quickly, but it did not obliterate the pain. That was fine. I could manage the pain. Contractions remind me of waves in the ocean; they start slow like ripples, then build...build..buildBuildBUILD and CREST!... With the drugs, it worked more like ripple...ripple...build..build..BUILD/done. No crest. No incredible burst of pain in the hips. As the contractions came and went, coasting away in this tolerable, gentle way, I found myself delightfully surprised. So surprised that I started smiling and talking. Smiling!

"It's so much better," I told Jake. "It's not that bad."

Laughing away the contractions while in the on-all-fours position. easy peasy.

Laughing away the contractions while in the on-all-fours position. easy peasy.

Let's be clear: it was still very difficult and still painful, but I knew what else it could be, and it was not that. Let's just say my glass was half full right then.

So off we went. My contractions continued on and became closer together. When the midwives first checked me in the hospital, I was already 8 centimeters dilated. 8!!!!!! That means I went from 0 to 5 in the two weeks before, and from 5 to 8 in the two precious hours I was having contractions at home and then driving to the hospital. That's fast.

But we had to get to 10 centimeters, and I had a few tricks up my sleeve. My HypnoBabies training had previously taught me about the power of distraction. Although I wasn't planning to do things by the Hypno book again, I really liked this idea and totally planned to steal it. I wrote some up notecards with places and people from my life that I could think about and visualize during the contractions. Jake would read them to me and kind of walk me through each one. So, for example, he would tell me to imagine our backyard garden...think about the strawberries growing in the raised bed...remember Olivia picking the strawberries as soon as they ripened. And so on and so forth. It worked well. I dug it. Jake was a great co-captain.

My mom and dad were also aboard the baby-having ship. Yes, both my parents were there. My dad mainly rubbed my back and told me how well I was doing. You know, dad stuff. My mom did the same, but she also interacted with the nurses and midwives, and asked questions so Jake and I could focus on our thing, and also took some great pictures and video. I watched the video later and it was incredible. But it was weird. And there was a lot of my butt. Like, WAY too much. (No, don't bother scrolling ahead, it's never going to be linked here.)

Since I wasn't completely incapacitated by the drugs, and since my midwives were kickass, they let me change positions on the bed. I moved to this all-fours/child's pose for a while. It was nice. I shifted back to my right side when I got the urge to push. I planned to push on my side. I did that the first time and it worked well, and Patricia the midwife agreed that it would be a "beautiful way to push." Hells yeah. One person can grab your top leg and brace it, another person can block your bottom leg and you push on that person. It simulates a squatting position without the major downside of squatting, which is that it's F-ing impossible to squat when you're having a baby.

Although I knew I could push, I didn't want to throttle forward too fast. I pushed a little...pulled back...pushed again. When the energy rose I started pushing harder.


Now pause for a second. Suddenly I look around and see people rushing toward me. What is going on? Where are they going? Wait, they're passing me. They aren't going to me, they're going to my DAD, who has started to FAINT. Whaaa?? Can this be happening?! My first thought: "Oh my God I've destroyed my father with all this dramatic pushing, what have I done?!!" But my second thought: "No, wait, my dad is a registered nurse, he doesn't get freaked out by this stuff. What is wrong?" In the end, nothing was wrong. I mean, Dad was fine, just very dehydrated and very tired and the room was very hot (my fault, I asked them to crank it). The nurses got him some water and a chair and he felt better. Meanwhile, I got back to pushing a baby out of my uterus.

Jake is talking me through a contraction as my dad rubs my back. I'm almost ready to push.

Jake is talking me through a contraction as my dad rubs my back. I'm almost ready to push.

Pushing is not like contractions. In my opinion, it's better. It's so powerful and all-encompassing and there is just nothing like it in our human experience. (Well, there is one thing that is SORTA similar. Gross, I know, but it's true. As my friend and OB/GYN always says, if you're not pooping, you're not doing it right! Someone should needlepoint that.)

I felt very powerful in the last stage of labor. I felt in my element. In my regular life I take these cross-fit classes that are so hard, they kick your butt, but you kind of love it afterward. Pushing my baby out felt impossible at first; how can this work? Logistically it IS impossible. The reason why a 14 inch baby's head comes out of a 10cm opening is beyond comprehension. But then you just do it anyways. Nature kicks in again and you just try, knowing that it can't work...can it?

"Big push," the midwives said. And POP! He was out. Shoulders next, as Anne the midwife gently looped the cord back over his head. I reached down and felt his head emerge, impossibly, in one blessed moment. (Later they would tell me that all this pushing took only 5 minutes, but they must be lying.)

"Oh! My BOY!" I cried. And then I just cried and cried big tears of joy and relief and an emotion that has no name. It is the thing that bonds mothers. You know it when you feel it. And suddenly you are enveloped into this community of mothers. A community of women that goes back a bazzilion years and kazzilion babies. I suppose we would call it love, but there is no love like this. There just aren't words.

My favorite picture of us right after Henry was born and things settled down a bit.

For a few minutes, the NICU staff needed to take our baby into a side room and suck the fluid out of his lungs. Jake went with them. He watched as they shoved their tubes down to get the fluid and waited for him to cough, which he did, after an eternity lasting about 4 minutes. Baby boy was so blue when he came out, though they say that many babies look like that. He did not cry at first, and in the video that my mother took I heard myself tell him, "Cry!" a few seconds after he was out. This was by far the worst part of the birth for Jake. Somehow I was spared, either because I didn't understand what was happening, or because I did understand somewhere deep down that he was OK.

Jake, Patricia, Anne, me and Henry. Go team!

After we were finally reunited there was more crying and rejoicing and talking about what a "beautiful birth" this was, according to Patricia the midwife. They say you get the midwife that you need for your birth, and we certainly felt that way. Patricia brought a peaceful, calm presence to this birth, my "healing" birth. Anne brought the kind of no-nonsense/ you-can-do-this attitude that I like to see when I'm doing a cross-fit class or, you know, having a baby.

You know, it's true that you're never really "ready" to have a baby; you'll never have quite enough money or enough space or enough baby books to make you feel perfectly ready. But it is also true that you're not ready for how much love this guy is going to bring to your life. That was true when my daughter was born, and it was just as true this time as well. I am in awe of how much I love him.

Henry Jones has also graced us with relatively peaceful nights and a basically low-maintenance disposition. I don't want to jinx it, but he appears to be what the others have called an "Easy Baby." They DO exist! Of course, I will have several updates and changes to tell you about in the coming weeks, but for now, we are hopelessly, emphatically in love with our Little Henry.


Deciding to stay positive this late in pregnancy

Two completely un-profound things happened recently that have changed my perspective on this whole "being pregnant" thing. So I figured I would write about them. It's been a while since I've written and why not? Sometimes you need something small and mundane to push you in the right direction.

The first thing was this little moment that happened before I dropped Jake off at work. I had a tiny contraction (short in duration, but packing a pretty hefty punch). I started to cringe and whine and ughhhh... and Jake just kind of jumped into action and walked me through it.

"Breathe."

"I am breathing."

"No, with your mouth, like this... Remember?"

"Oh...yeah. Ok. [moment passes] Well, have a good day at work!"

So it wasn't like, earth-shattering, but it started this idea rolling in my head. And the idea was this:

STAY STRONG

Or more accurately, "Stay strong, you freaking wuss! This is going to get so much harder - you will WISH you had that tiny contraction back when you're 13 hours into labor on no sleep with this extra 30-some pounds we're packing around! Because this shit is real!!" (My inner critic is such a delight.)

But I needed this reminder. A couple weeks ago I had just the faintest *inkling* of a contraction along with some back pain. It lingered for a while, and the first thought that came to my mind was "Oh my gosh I'm in labor I can't do this I'll never make it I'm getting an epidural." Then it was over. So perhaps a slight overreaction. And a huge wake-up call.

This time around we are not taking birth classes, we aren't re-using HypnoBabies (although several techniques and ideas will be stolen from those materials), and we aren't planning for a natural birth, necessarily. This flies in the face of most everything we did last time, and I am very much at peace with that. But that doesn't mean that I want to be reaching for the magic epidural wand at the first sign of labor. No no noooo...I need to do a lot of this on my own...plus the wand apparently isn't even a thing so whatever. (crap)

Focus up! Only 3 weeks to go!

So I decided I need to focus up and stay strong. I do my kegels, I walk tall and engage my core, I don't complain.*

*as much

And it has helped. Today I actually walked across campus from a work meeting whilst smiling. For real. Which leads me to the second un-profound realization I have had:

STAY POSITIVE

Earlier on this particular journey, I was suddenly hit with the poetic euphoria of the great Stevie Nicks.

Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
— Stevie Nicks, Landslide by Fleetwood Mac

There are many lines of that song that speak to me, but I do not know what they all mean. And I kind of like that. Songs like this mean different things at different times, and this line about the seasons of one's life, well...it really means something to me now.

Because the seasons are a'changing. Literally, too! But mostly figuratively. I am about to have a baby and be done with being pregnant. Probably forever. My body will never grow a little being inside of it again. Do I really want to end this season of life with a bunch of negativity? I want to celebrate this, I really do. My body is amazing! But ugh, it gets hard.

How do I handle the seasons of my life? How do I deal with the fact that this is ending and that makes me indescribably sad? The door on this chapter is closing. But at the same time it is hard (physically) to be so pregnant and so heavy and so uncomfortable in my own body. I am done with the backaches and the shooting pains and the constant commentary of strangers. I look at Jake and I long to be able to decide when and when not to disclose personal details about my life. Like when I'm going have another baby and how many I already have and how I feel in my uterus area and how dilated my cervix is. (Actually, no one has asked that yet, but God help them on the day they ever do....)

I have this theory that God made pregnancy really difficult at the end so that you would embrace the opportunity of childbirth, rather than fear it. It was a pretty clever trick. And it's working.

If you consider the metaphor of seasons, that makes sense too. Summer gets so damn hot. At some point you're like, listen, I can do without the suntan and the bikinis and all that. Give me some colorful leaves, big scarves, and pumpkin patches and let's move on already!

It's a natural progression. It certainly helps that at the end of this season, I get to start a new one with a beautiful baby boy. I get to start a mother-son relationship that will never end. And I get to go to the gym and really work out again and kind of get my body back. Forever.

Not that I'm looking too shabby as it is...

image.jpg

(you get that it's a joke, right?)

(cause I'm huge...but also sexy as hell)

Here we go again...

There is a famous story in my family that goes like this: When I was 2 1/2, my sister, Amy Lou, was born. They brought her home from hospital, and my mom's best friend/my godmother, Mary, asked me, "Hannah, what did you get from the hospital?!" I answered, after a moment of hesitation --perhaps because I just needed time to process this weighted question, and perhaps because it just the moment of hesitation I needed for mischief to seep in--

"Gum," I said.  "I got a stick of gum!"

Then everyone laughs.

This was Amy Lou's actual face when she heard this story.

Despite my early reservations about being a big sister, I came around. Amy Lou and I have a great relationship now (30 years later, we did it!).

And I have a great relationship with the other one in that picture...she came along 4 years after Amy Lou in a blaze of scream-crying glory.  I have always said that Maren was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen, and that is a true truth, but she was also a very VOCAL one.

Anyways, the point is, having sisters is great. It is absolutely one of the most enriching, rewarding relationship of my life, it's wonderful. In the long run. In the short run it is new and different and therefore terrifying. From the parent's perspective, I think it is the scariest, bravest thing you can do. Having another child literally doubles your work. Some say it is more than double. But those people are very mean and should keep comments like that to themselves, or surely we will never repopulate the Earth.

So basically, that is how I feel about having a second child: it is the most wonderful thing ... it is the scariest thing.

But here we go... we're doing it! And I have some concerns.

I worry a little about Olivia taking on the role of the big sister. I worry about the little fights they will get into, the times that O will be jealous of the baby's attention, the days when O will wish she had her mom and dad all to herself again. Although I don't worry about these things too much for some reason. I don't think she will treat her little sibling like a discarded piece of gum. She has more love in her heart than that (not sure where she got it from). She talks about babies a LOT, and she loves to help take care of them at daycare. She talks about her sister too (she thinks we are having a girl, she is pretty insistent on that). She talks about where her sister will sit on the couch, which toys she will play with, how she will take a bath in the same tub as Olivia does. And I hear stories from my friends about how sweet it is to see their kids' sibling relationship blossom, and all of this makes me really excited. It sounds absolutely wonderful and adorable and heartwarming. Almost enough to make me throw myself into this adventure with total carefree excitement.

But not quite.

When we first found out that we were pregnant again, I think we had two simultaneous emotions: the first one was total excitement of course. There was never a doubt that we wanted to have two children, but we never assumed it would just happen.  So we were very grateful that we were able to get pregnant again, and so quickly too. But our second emotion was fear...fear of the unknown.

I don't know how we are going to do it all. I don't know how anyone does it all. We barely get out the door before 8am as it is right now. We are constantly a few chores behind. Our house is always almost-clean. But never all the way clean. Never ever. Call me crazy, but I don't think that adding another child to the house is going to move us into the totally tidy category.

I really like my job, and there is no chance of giving that up, but I will have to return to work sooner than I did the last time around. With Olivia, I stayed home for over 6 months. This time it will be about 3 months off, and then a quick transition from part-time to full-time work. Will that be enough time for me and the baby? Will we be able to establish a strong breastfeeding relationship and carry that on as long as we would like?

And that is just the unknown.  What about all the things we DO know this time? Newborns are SO hard. They eat, they cry, they sleep (from time to time), they poop and then they cry because they just pooped and how could you not KNOW that and also they are HUNGRY now! On this topic I have found that it is best to not focus on what you know. Just focus on the enduring hope that this child will be different than the first one and they will be an easy baby because they love you and they know that you need this.

Lastly, I have this one other little itty bitty fear. Postpartum depression. Women who have had PPD have a 50% chance of experiencing it again in later pregnancies (for all women the odds are 20%). So while I am not "doomed" by any means, it still hits me in the gut big time. It is hard to deal with this reality. I don't know just want to do with it, but I am trying to prepare for the possibility. 

...More on that topic later. Suffice it to say, it is one of the fears that I keep in my little bag of fears. 

One of goals during this pregnancy is to be open and honest and nonjudgmental about my feelings. Every single person I have spoken to who is expecting a second child has expressed pure and total joy. Including me, at least at first. It is really the only acceptable thing to say. "We are thrilled!" "So excited to be having a sibling...our family is growing!" "Of course it was planned!!" 

Haha...it actually was totally planned in our case, but you know. That doesn't mean you've thought it all through!

So now I try and tell people that yes, we are excited, thrilled, eager to start this new chapter and meet this new little guy. And we are also a little terrified. We don't know what we are getting into. We feel in over our heads sometimes. But other times we don't. Other times we listen to Olivia explaining which toys she will give to the baby to play with, and our hearts melt. My hormones go into maternal bliss overdrive and I feel a sense of calm. This will all turn out OK somehow. I know some of those friends were actually totally scared too (they told me later when it was safe). And they are all doing pretty darn good now. Their hearts grew big enough to accommodate the love for both kids. Even when they run out of sleep, or energy, or money at the end of the month, they never run out of love.

And neither will I. 

18 weeks and oh we have a belly!

Backyard fun - this girl loves the sprinkler, and I love watching her


My friend and fellow blogger from And Then They..., suggested that I should follow up this post with another after the baby is here, when I can really see how it is having two little ones.  She wrote an excellent post on that very thing, which I love.

Watching her watch her first movie

I feel almost silly about how exciting it was to watch Lil O watching her first movie on the big screen. But I have a theory about this.

Walking into the discount movie theater in Springfield I felt like I was walking into a theater for the first time. I was reminded of the Garland theater in Spokane where I grew up. My mom would take us to see $1 movies, and we would always ALWAYS buy the big popcorn. Free refills, y'all. And it all cost about $5 because this was the 1990s and we hadn't all been swindled into $17 diet sodas just yet.

First movie. So excited.

Anyways, the fun of going to see a movie was definitely amplified by the fact that O had never been to a movie theater before, and we were seeing everything through her eyes.

"What are doing here?"

"This is where we buy the tickets. Then we buy the popcorn, then we go see the movie." And all of that is so new and exciting. It's the best!

We slowly walked into the dark theater (we were late on purpose, there was no way she could make it through the whole movie, let alone all the previews on top of it). There was some panic when she did not immediately see Elsa and Ana on the screen.

"Is this Frozen? Mommy that is not--"

"I know honey, but remember we need to be quiet here. Shhh"

Then they played some strange Mickey Mouse cartoon thing that served no purpose. Except that it annoyed Jake with its nonstop violence. Weird.

Ahh...and then it started. O began wiggling in her seat when the opening scene appeared. (She has seen Frozen before, at her daycare on movie day. We learned this when she started singing along to "Let It Go" on our Disney Pandora music channel. Hmmmm, so that's what the kids are into these days.)

By the time the opening song started, she was completely abuzz. Her little fists were balled up next to her face and shaking in excitement. She looked at me, then quickly over to Jake. "Look! Look! This is Frozen!!"

Jake and I could have melted into a gooey puddle. It was so fun.

Sometimes she would lean over to tell us some about some obvious detail. "That's Elsa!" "It's snowing!" And we got way into it too.  When the big song started and Jake realized it, he leaned over to tell her, "Hey! Let It Go!!"

Now, I think we can all agree that the American movie-going experience is really some kind of wonderful. It isn't enough that we have the enormous screen and amazing sound effects (O grabbed her ears several times), but we also add the best, most deliciously unhealthy food to the mix. Within minutes, O was grabbing handfuls of popcorn without even looking. She was demanding "more chocolate!" from Jake. She was a monster. An all-American monster.

Eventually the snacks ran out. I even let her have some soda (four sips total, no one freak out!). But it was not enough to keep her attention. She took a lengthy bathroom break with Jake and then the show was almost done. We let her wander around in our row a little, and when she got more and more cranky we were done. They stepped out and I managed to catch the last 3 minutes of adorable Disney ending.

Somehow the whole experience ended with quite a few tears. These things happen, I guess. So much fun and so much candy and so much loud dancing non-stop cartoon princess magic...there is only so much a girl can take. But we will definitely be back.

Took this picture in the pitch dark. iPhones are pretty amazing.

Took this picture in the pitch dark. iPhones are pretty amazing.

When you love something, when you really enjoy something --whether it is the music or sports or yes even movies-- it is kind of thrilling to see your child enjoying the same thing. Plus, there is nothing like seeing a "first" happen right in front of you. I loved seeing Olivia light up and scoot to the edge of her seat. Her eyes were so wide open. Her joy was infectious. We couldn't not smile. I hope I never forget it.

Maybe it's okay to NOT love your post-baby body

So let's talk about bodies.

Everyone is loving post-baby bodies nowadays. Even their own bodies at times. It's inspiring,  There are some really beautiful sites that are trying to turn the tides of mom-body shaming.

Start with Jade Beall, famous photographer who captured the most loving, beautiful and truthful photos of mothers I've ever seen.  My favorite is #5 in the slideshow on Huff Post

Photo by Jane Beall

When I first saw this, it really took me aback. Like ... whoa.  I mean, look at her! The first thing you see is how strong she is.  --Just kidding. The first thing you see is her stomach.-- That's ok. It is a very real stomach. But look at her arms. They seem so confident. And her legs too, like she isn't scared. She isn't shrinking away. The stretch marks on her right leg look tough. Kind of cool, even. I think that stretch marks remind us of what our bodies are capable of...and if we need the body to make room again, it can. It stands ready. She isn't hiding the marks, but she isn't putting anything on display either. You get the sense that her shoulders are perfectly poised and she is looking straight ahead.

After noticing all of this, I looked back at her stomach. It is actually quite strong. Her figure is so shapely. It occurred to me that if I had seen her fully dressed, I would have never known that she'd had kids. I might even be jealous of how fit she is.  (I would definitely be jealous of how fit she is.)

So, thank you, Jade Beall, for bring these strong amazing bodies into the light.

And thank you to sites like the Shape of a Mother too.  Beautiful stuff going on there. 

But now why don't I love my own post-baby body?

I understand in a conceptual way that our bodies are beautiful and delightfully different and flawed and that the whole idea of "flaws" comes from a patriarchal hyper-commercialized standard of beauty that no one can attain.  Except ... I still want to attain it. I do. Deep down inside I still kind of do.

This is dangerous. Lisa Jo Baker, a writer and blogger, explains that this way of thinking is heading to a dangerous place. She is right, we need to stop hating our bodies.

Because we are teaching our daughters to be thin at all costs, and it is hurting them.  Like, really hurting them.  Watch this video, and you will feel it.

Lily Myers - Poetry Jam - "Shrinking Women"

I will pause while you shutter.  (That was goooood, right?)

This is so important. So much more important than making peace with our frumpy bodies that don't look quite right. My generation has a self-esteem issue, and we are passing it down to the next one.

If we allow this mindset to go on, we will create a generation of shrinking women full of self-hatred.  It does not stop at the body.  It probably does not start at the body either though.

And I think that is what I struggle with. It does not start with the body because the body hatred comes from the standards of beauty which come from the media which draw from the system. And when you start to think about it and unravel it, it just spirals out into the great beyond so far that I start to go cross-eyed and can't remember what I started talking about.

If I want to help my daughter love her body (which I do, because it's like, awesome and perfect just the way it is), then I can't do it simply by loving my own body. I also need to stop all the boys at school from teasing her. I need to control what we watch on TV and get away from the never-ending reel of fat jokes on every single goddamn channel. I also need to stop her friends and aunts and grandparents from talking badly about their own bodies. Because she loves them and looks up to them, and she looks like them!

If I want my daughter to love her body, I need to figure out how to make a peace with my own body.  Do I need to love my own body? I'm not sure. I'm not convinced. It is a long, long journey from body hatred to body love. It is like, the length of 10 football fields and then some. How am I supposed to get there in the span of one lifetime, in the system that I have to live in too? I love looking at body-love websites. But as soon as I click away its all the same garbage on turbo speed: diet ads! Tummy minimizers! Look 30 lbs lighter in 30 days!!

So what is a girl to do...

I tell you what, universe. I will stop calling my body fat. In front of my daughter, in front of other women, in front of the mirror. I will stop grabbing at that weird pooch you left me with. I will try to remember that you made us delightfully different from some reason, even if that reason is dumb. (Can't I just look like Beyonce ONE TIME?! Then I promise I would be SO accepting of all body types.)

But I can't promise to love my post-baby body. I don't "love" it. I still feel kind of betrayed and frustrated. I'm not ready to make nice. Not just yet.

In the meantime, it will be my utmost duty to keep this a secret from my daughter. And who knows, maybe by the time she is old enough to ask me if I love my body, the answer will be Yes.