Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Something Right

It started at the park.

Ellery went down the slide, normally one of her favorite things, but must have bit her tongue when she landed.  She came up screaming, inconsolable, and when I saw the blood in her mouth, I knew she had reason to cry.  She's generally a pretty tough kid, and doesn't cry when she falls, and we try not to make it too dramatic when she takes a spill, especially since she's inherited my klutziness.  But this time I knew she was in pain, and she needed some comfort and extra love.  As I held her close, I realized how cold her tiny hands were, and felt an extra rush of guilt that I hadn't dressed her in more layers.  The bright sunshine today was deceptive - as is our second-floor apartment that always stays really warm.  I hadn't realized just how cold it was outside and now knew it was time to leave the park, since my toddler really wasn't dressed warmly enough.

But you can't explain that to a toddler, who just wants to keep swinging and chasing the friendly bigger kids she's met at the park.  Her bleeding mouth, along with her desire to stay and play longer outside, made it very difficult to get her into the car.  She protested loudly, giant tears spilling down her cheeks, and I felt even worse.  She hasn't had much time outside recently, thanks to her pregnant, sick mom and the rainy weather, so I wished we could have stayed longer, but I also knew it wasn't good for her to be in the cold without warmer clothes.

So we headed home.  We played for a little while, then had dinner together.  Sam had a work dinner, so I knew he wouldn't be home until after the baby was in bed, which was fine.  We're no strangers to Sam having to work late.

But suddenly, after dinner, everything was wrong.  Everything I did made her scream in frustration, and I couldn't figure out what she wanted or needed.  She asked for milk, but then when I gave her milk, she started crying because I realized she wanted the empty milk carton to play with.  She started putting pipe cleaners into a water bottle, then started screaming again when her little plastic cow from her farm set wouldn't fit through the tiny opening of the bottle as well.  When I tried changing her diaper to get her ready for bed, you'd have thought I was performing a root canal on her.  It wasn't normal for her; she can tend to get whiny, but never has these full-on scream-cry tantrums, especially not one right after the other.

I didn't know if she was just having a bad day, or if it's her age and her desire to express her autonomy, and if we are ushering in a new phase of our sweet little girl turning into an independent, defiant, (dare I say stubborn?) child.  I'm praying it was just a bad day, because I'm not sure I'm ready to handle the terrible twos this early, especially with a new baby coming along next month.  Whatever it was, it was rough.  And to feel hugely pregnant with a stupid, lingering head cold, I didn't feel up to the task of being a gracious, patient mother.  I finally got her into her pajamas and declared we'd start our bedtime ritual half an hour early, because her grumpy demeanor meant it was time for bed.

Once we were settled into the glider, reading her books with her milk and blanket, she was fine.  She calmed down quickly, and sweetly snuggled in to me as I read several of her favorites.  I turned off the light and started singing a few songs while we rocked, as is our routine, and then told her goodnight and laid her in her crib.  Minutes later, she was screaming again.  Frustrated that she hadn't quieted down and gone right to sleep (but recognizing that it was earlier than her typical bedtime), I went back in her room to rock with her a little longer, hoping she'd soon be sleeping, because I needed a break, too.  As I rocked in the dark, holding my sweet babe, I went over the details of the day, thinking of all the things I wished had gone differently, the ways I wished I had reacted differently, all the while growing more and more irritated that she still wasn't sleeping.

And then, all of a sudden, into the darkness, Ellery spoke.  "Four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten!"  No, the words weren't perfectly clear, but I knew that "Fo, fie, si, se-en, eight, ny, ten!" equaled her counting to herself.  As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I realized she was holding up her ten fingers.  My frustration quickly melted into pride and overwhelming love, as I realized how fast she's growing up and how unbelievably smart she is.  (Yes, I'm that parent that has no idea how smart other kids are, but I'm convinced my kid is brilliant.)

"Ellery, do you want to practice counting?"

"Yeah!"  (Her "yeah's!" are currently one of my favorite things.)

For the next few minutes, we counted to ten over and over, and I was shocked by the fact that she knew all the numbers.  When did this happen?  She counted from one to ten all on her own (only once, and I'm sure I won't be able to get her to do it again for awhile), but I still couldn't believe it.  I realized that she's learning and growing more every day, and observing and picking up far more than I realize.  It reminded me that time is fleeting, and that she won't be my tiny baby for much longer.  And that, though I often feel the opposite, I must be doing something right.

So for all you other moms out there in the trenches, in that phase when your children are small and still require so much help from you, you moms who feel like most of your time and energy is devoted to these tiny people, who have precious little time to yourself, and who feel that you are messing up, making mistake after mistake in your care for these little ones?  You're doing something right.  

If you love your child and do whatever you can to help your child become who she's meant to be, you're doing something right. 

If you're a stay-at-home mom, putting your own dreams on-hold while your children are young, you're doing something right.

If you're a working mom who is trying to balance work life and home life, all while doing the heroic deed of helping to provide for your family, you're doing something right.

If you're a working mom who loves her job and works because she knows she's happier and healthier, and consequently a better mother because she works, you're doing something right.

If you're a mom who daily tries to make the best decisions for your child based on what you believe is right (not what the books say is right, or what your friends say is right, or what your mother or mother-in-law* says is right), then you are doing something right.

So relax, sweet mothers, because it's too easy to blame ourselves for these bad days.  Sometimes bad days are just bad days.  It doesn't mean we're failing, or we are doing everything wrong.  We just gotta keep loving these babies, and loving ourselves, and most importantly, trusting in God through it all.

If we do that, we're doing something right.

*By the way, I'm lucky to have a mom and mother-in-law who are both amazing and gracious and have never interfered in the way I parent.  The above was just a blanket statement that I thought some people might relate to.  Love you, Mom and Noreen!

Monday, November 10, 2014

the big bad c-section monster (and why it's not that scary)

I'm getting closer and closer to having another baby, and it looks like it will be another c-section.  I really wanted to try for a VBAC (and I still may get the chance!), but the odds are looking like I'll have another huge baby.  My gestational diabetes puts Abel at more risk, and so we can't wait around until 42 weeks to see if he'll come out on his own.  Additionally, my doctor can't use certain induction drugs, so if he comes out on his own, before 40 weeks, it'll really have to be a miracle.  (And believe me, I'm still praying for a miracle and think it's possible!  But I'm also preparing myself for another c-section.)

Lately I've been thinking about women who were like me, who never wanted a c-section, but for medical reasons, were forced to have one.  Unfortunately, many of these women end up dealing with postpartum depression because the birth of their child didn't go exactly "as planned".  I am so grateful that I didn't deal with PPD at all, but I know that when you really hope for a certain type of birth, it's hard to let go of that mental image and let something else happen.

Because of this, I wanted to write a little about my experience so that people aren't so afraid of c-sections.  It doesn't have to be the worst thing in the world.  In fact, it can be the best thing in the world if it saves your baby.  I don't want any woman to feel discouraged or like a failure because she had to have her baby cut out of her.

*Disclaimer: Obviously a natural, vaginal birth is ideal.  If someone can safely deliver a baby, then they should never choose a c-section.  All I'm saying is that sometimes, a c-section is necessary for the health and well-being of the mother and baby, and in those cases, it is the best option!  And it's time for women to stop feeling bad about that.*

These are the misconceptions about c-sections that I want to correct, ideas and beliefs that scare pregnant women when the possibility of needing a c-section presents itself.  I used to be naive, so I used to think these same things.  But then I experienced a c-section for myself, and so now I'm experienced and educated.  Here's the truth about c-sections, from someone who has actually had one.  (Don't listen to people who've never had a c-section - they have no room to speak!)

1. Doctors and hospitals encourage c-sections when they aren't medically necessary.

This may be true for some doctors in certain hospitals, but that was in no way my experience.  In fact, my doctor tried to encourage Sam and I to do one more day of labor induction before resorting to a c-section.  I think the only reason she even agreed to the c-section was because of my diabetes, and the fact that it became more unsafe for Ellery the longer she was in the womb.  If I hadn't had GD, she would have never agreed to do the c-section.  It is unfair and untrue to insinuate that doctors want to do c-sections, and do them when it's not necessary.

2. C-sections are bad for the baby.

This might be the misconception that pisses me off the most.  Because it implies that the mother has allowed something to happen to her child that is not in the child's best interest.  (That untrue, guilt-ridden thought would send any new mother into a depression!)  Obviously a vaginal birth is the best option, but the next best option is a c-section.  In some cases, the only other option left is brain damage or death.  To me, that sounds less appealing.  People seem to forget that prior to modern medicine, childbirth resulted in the death of lots of laboring mothers and infants.  And often it was because of complications during birth that could have been avoided if a c-section had been an option.  Once Ellery came out, my doctor realized that she had been too big to possibly fit through me, and that if we'd tried laboring, Ellery probably would've gotten stuck in the birth canal, which would've resulted in terrible issues, possibly even death.  After speaking with the staff at the hospital, I learned that in many cases of oxygen deprivation and major problems at birth, it was because the mother was so adamant against having a c-section, that the baby suffered.  Issues can often be avoided if people listen to medical advice and let the doctors do their job of safely delivering a baby.

Additionally, Ellery has never experienced any side effects from the c-section.  She's completely healthy, and has always developed perfectly normally, even being advanced in most areas.  If you've ever spent time around my child, there's no way you could insinuate that she suffered any long-term affects from the c-section.  (And if she has, she would have been some magical wonder child if I'd had her naturally.)

3. You're too drugged up during a c-section to remember anything about the birth.

This is ridiculous.  I remember every single detail about Ellery's birth, vividly.  I remember being scared, alone in the operating room while they administered the epidural, before Sam was allowed in.  I remember the anesthesiologist at my head, walking me through what was going on, speaking in gentle tones.  I remember Sam at my side, alternately looking at me and then at the surgery, watching as the doctor cut me open.  I remember the pressure I felt as my midwife pressed on my chest to help the baby out while my doctor pulled her from me.  I remember her first cry, and the complete rush of relief that flooded over me, and the tears that immediately came.  They held her over me for a moment so I could see her before they weighed her, and I remember exactly what that view was like.  I remember thinking she had the cutest little eyes.  I remember my doctor exclaiming, "You're heavy!" when she pulled Ellery out, and all the nurses commenting on how big she was.  I remember Sam being fascinated by my being sewn up, and my anesthesiologist telling me that I'd be back in bikinis in no time (and thinking that was really funny, since I've never had a pretty, flat stomach).  I remember asking for her APGAR score, and, upon hearing how big and long she was, asking the nurse to repeat it because from what I knew of babies, 22 and a half inches was really long, and 9 lbs, 14 oz was really big.  So no, I wasn't too drugged up to experience everything fully, and I remember exactly what happened, down to the smallest detail.  (Like I remember the complete mortification of being totally naked and pregnant, lying on the table, while a male anesthesiologist and another male nurse were in the room.  Obviously that whole "mothers have no shame after birth" thing wasn't true for me, because to this day I still remember how embarrassing it was!)

4. You can't bond immediately with the baby, like in a natural birth.

To be fair, this probably depends on the hospital you deliver at, as well as your doctor.  I was lucky enough to be at a hospital that was very baby friendly, and they placed Ellery on my chest right away.  As soon as they pulled her out, they held her over the partition so I could see her, then took her to be cleaned and weighed and measured, and to make sure there was nothing wrong.  She was on my chest in less than two minutes of being pulled from my uterus.  Sam was right next to me, and we just watched her look around, her sweet little face so close to mine.  She stayed right on my chest while the doctor put me back together, and then we were wheeled into the recovery room.  We were allowed plenty of time as just a family of 3, as I breastfed Ellery and she slept on my skin.  I'm not sure what the protocol is for most hospitals, but they didn't even let my mom come in right away because they knew how important that bonding time was.  The hospital in Portland where I'll deliver Abel is even more baby-friendly.  I'll get immediate skin-to-skin time with Abel, even with a c-section, to encourage mother-baby bonding.  (Apparently this hospital is so encouraging of breastfeeding that they don't provide formula unless medically necessary, and they don't even provide pacifiers.)  So even with a c-section, the staff at this hospital has a goal of doing what is best for baby, which includes immediate skin-to-skin, mother-baby bonding, and breastfeeding.

If you can safely deliver your baby vaginally, that's wonderful!  I'm truly amazed, because my body hasn't worked that way for me.  But if, during your labor, something happens and your doctor suggests a c-section, please be open-minded.  I really hope this post can help people realize that c-sections don't have to be something to be feared.

Yes, the recovery is painful.  But so is labor, right?  At least the pain from a c-section  happens after you've had your baby, so your sweet little person can make everything better!  (And at least it's your abs that hurt, and not your lady parts.)  I'll admit, I did have a particularly good experience with my c-section, and not everyone recovers as quickly as I did.  But just as there are c-section horror stories, there are vaginal birth horror stories as well.  Some vaginal births go super smoothly - so do some c-section births.

Ultimately, I just encourage all pregnant women to be flexible with your birth plan.  Remember that this is one of the first lessons in becoming a mom - that you have no control.  You may have the illusion of control, but you really have no control.  It's a great thing to have an idea of how you want things to go during labor, but if things change, you'll be happier if you can go with the flow and adapt.  Because as any mother will tell you, those babies don't always cooperate out of the womb, either.  And the more flexible you can be, the happier you'll be.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Ellery and Halloween

A tutu, handmade by a friend, a simple white onesie, and white tights.  Fairy wings from the dollar store, and a ribbon crown bought at Enchanted Forest around her first birthday.  Total cost about $10, a simple DIY Halloween costume.  But on this little girl, it sparkled.  My little fairy princess.

The other kids were much bigger and faster.  Repeatedly they were told to slow down and wait for Ellery, who was running the whole time, laughing to herself, glancing up at her dad excitedly as we made our way from house to house.  The first house included some confusion.  She didn't know why she was carrying the empty Starbucks paper bag, or why the door was opened for her, so she just tried to walk in.  At the next house, she meekly held out her bag, as the kind inhabitants placed a small piece of candy inside.  By the third or fourth house, she'd figured it out, and was unabashedly reaching in to the bowls of candy to pick what she wanted.  Granted, she had no idea what she wanted, having never tasted any of this candy before.

The joy was impossible to contain.  She was giddy, and when I asked her if she got more candy, she yelled out, "CANDY!"  She struggled any time Sam or I tried to carry her, saying, "Down, down," until we set her back on the sidewalk.  She would then obediently reach out her hand for ours, and wrap her tiny hand around our index fingers while she raced to try and catch up with her cousin and friends.

It was a very family friendly neighborhood, and most houses were well-lit, with kind people inside who constantly commented on what a precious little fairy she was.  One house was dark except for a glowing red light, and three people dressed in very scary looking skeleton masks were sitting on the porch, handing out candy.  We skipped that house and I clenched my teeth, wondering why some people have to take it too far, and make a day that could be fun into something on the verge of evil.  When you know you'll have young children coming to your house all night, what makes you think it's a good idea to be very scary?  Not just creepy in a fun way, but scary?  And similarly, why would you allow your child to dress in such a scary costume?  We saw lots of Princess Elsas and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but occasionally there was the little boy in the demon mask, or the freakish-looking zombie makeup, and I can't help but wonder what these parents are thinking.  I don't typically like to judge other parents, but in this case, I judge.  Parents, quit dressing your kids up in such evil costumes.  Who cares if that's what the child wants?  You're the adult; say no.

Yes, there were some annoyances, but for the most part it was just a fun night.  It was the sweetest thing to watch her experience something new, to figure out that most of the people were simply excited to see the children in costume, and to happily hand out candy.  Personally, I got numerous comments about whether or not my belly was a costume.  Yep, I really am pregnant, and no, I didn't strap on a fake belly just for Halloween.  Sam and I just laughed and laughed at our little girl, who daily gets more entertaining and fun.  It's the perfect age, and if I could, I'd freeze time right now.  I want to keep watching her learn and explore and discover, to laugh when she realizes that she can fake a laugh, and that when she does, we laugh with her.  I want to keep her at this age where she gives us sweet kisses and hugs, her little voice raspy as she repeats every word she hears.  (I also prefer this age where we can dump her candy back in the bowl for more trick-or-treaters, and she is none the wiser.)

Last night was the first time in a long time I had fun on Halloween, and it was all because of Ellery.  She really does make every experience better.  The only thing I can think of that hasn't gotten better with Ellery around is sleeping, but I've slowly learned to live with far less sleep than I ever thought possible.

I'm going to relish these years when Ellery is still young enough to enjoy the simple, fun parts of the day, where it still feels okay and safe to go trick-or-treating.  I still won't decorate my house, though I'm sure when Ellery is a little older she might want to carve a pumpkin.  But I am going to enjoy these years, when I get to see everything through Ellery's eyes, and be reminded again of how fun and special life is, a wide open world ready to be discovered.  This little girl has taken her cynical, somewhat jaded mother and made me softer, happier, and more content.

Thanks, baby girl.  I don't think we could have picked a more perfect name for you, little Ellery, our "bringer of joy".  You bring joy to everyone around you, every day.

Monday, October 27, 2014



Has anyone figured it out yet?  I haven't.  Some days I feel like I'm on top of everything.  Okay, honestly, there have been maybe five days I can remember feeling that way.  Most days my to-do list goes half undone.

After documenting our day on Wednesday, I was discouraged to see how little I actually got done.  I felt busy all day, but in reality, most of the things I had hoped to do that day were left ignored.  It's not for lack of trying; it's for lack of time.  Or, it's for having a toddler that makes normal tasks take twice or three times as long.  Take, for example, getting into the car.  She's at the age where she insists on walking down our flight of stairs all by herself, which understandably takes much longer than it would if I were to just carry her down.

After reading my blog, I also started to feel a bit guilty.  Guilty that I hadn't spent enough time playing with Ellery, that I was too focused on the other "chores" I needed to do.

And I realized I'll never have the perfect balance.  Some days will be much more fun for Ellery, and will include play dates and activities and lots of undivided attention.  Other days will include grocery shopping and cleaning and necessary household tasks.  Some days I'll ignore those household tasks while Ellery naps and simply rest myself.

I've realized that my "balance" simply means my priorities change daily.  And honestly, my priorities aren't always set by me; they are reflected in what needs the most attention that day.  Take, for example, the past few days.  Thursday included a strange nausea that hit whenever I stood up, which meant Ellery and I watched a lot of nursery rhymes on YouTube.  Friday I felt fine, but Saturday and Sunday hit with a terrible sore throat and runny nose, with some lingering nausea that again had me laying down most of the day.  Thank God for Sam, who took Ellery to church and to our small group on Sunday so that I could take a nap and try to get well.

When I literally cannot stand up because of feeling sick, my priority becomes my health.  I'm responsible for another little life inside me right now, so I have to listen to my body when it tells me to slow down.  Housework went undone and Ellery was likely bored most of the past few days because I had no other choice but to take care of myself.

Today Ellery was the priority.  She must have decided to let me know that she was tired of my illness, because she was acting out all day.  She spent about two hours screaming when I tried to get her to nap.  So today, housework went ignored and all my attention was on the kid because I really had no other choice.

I've realized that for me, balance means doing whatever it takes to keep my head above water that day.  When we run out of clean dishes to use, or run out of food in the freezer, the housework and errands will again be prioritized.  And maybe tomorrow will be magical and Ellery will nap perfectly and I'll feel energetic and healthy, and I'll be able to accomplish enough to feel a little bit more on top of things, and a little less behind.  I'm hoping I can feel caught up before this second baby comes, because I'm pretty certain adding another child to the mix won't exactly make things easier.

Speaking of this second child, I finally got around to sorting through some of his clothes today.  This was the first thing I've done to prepare for the arrival of this little guy, which is funny considering that I'll be "full term" in six short weeks.  By this time with Ellery, I'd had tons of crafts and decorations done for her nursery, I had obsessed over a baby registry, and we'd already set up some furniture in her room.  From what I understand, this is pretty normal; with your first baby, you're uber prepared, and with your second, you finally start getting around to doing things at the very end of the pregnancy.  At least I hope this is normal?  I'm not really worried.  As long as he has a place to sleep and something to wear, we should be fine.  Oh, and maybe a few diapers.  I'm trying to figure out how big this kid will be.  With Ellery, I had to give all her newborn clothes to my sister, since Ellery was too big to fit into any of them.  And my mom, who had gifted us with a bunch of newborn diapers, ended up taking those to my sister as well, as Ellery was too big for those.  What if we have a normal-sized baby this time?  What if he feels like a newborn?  What if he could actually fit through the birth canal and I could deliver him like a normal person?!  My mind cannot even fathom it.

What was this blog about again?  Oh yes, balance.  Okay, so am I alone in this?  Is every other mom totally organized?  Do your days go exactly as you plan them?  Have you found a peace about it?  I think I finally have.  I'm okay with admitting I'm not perfect and that I never will be.  Doesn't stop me from trying though!

I found this photo on Pinterest and thought it was hilarious and really fitting today.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Day in the Life of this Mama

*I wrote most of this last night, so this all took place yesterday, October 22nd.  It's actually funny reading this today, since today was completely different.  But more on that later...*

There's a blogger named Hollywood Housewife who started a project called One Day HH.  Basically the idea is to document a normal day in your life through photographs and post them to Instagram.  You're not just showing off the fun, exciting parts of your life - it's just a snapshot of your real daily grind.  I thought this was a fun way to keep up with my theme of living in the present, as this post will be a pretty accurate view of what my present life currently looks like.  I didn't want to do it on Instagram, to avoid annoying all my IG followers, and I thought I'd put it here instead.  Because no one is forcing you to read my blog, right?

I also thought it would be interesting because I know some people wonder what a stay-at-home mom does all day.  I can't speak for all stay-at-home moms, but this is generally what I do every day.  To be honest, today didn't involve a lot of activities out of our home because the weather is crazy gray and rainy, and Ellery has a bit of a runny nose, so I didn't want her outside.  When the weather is nicer, we usually go for a walk, or go to the park, or at least go to the library or something.  Today was more of a hideout-at-home sort of day.

Here goes!  Also, all my pictures were taken on my iphone, and it was super dark and dreary today, so we had very little natural light.  Needless to say, the photos aren't top quality.

First thing I did when I woke up?  Made Sam's lunch.  Super exciting.  

Bible/prayer time while I drink my coffee and knit.  I've learned that if I try to pray early in the morning, I fall asleep.  Knitting helps keep my hands busy while I do some praying.  Only got to do this about fifteen minutes before the little monkey woke up, though.  Still, even that little bit got my day started off on the right foot.

Baby girl gets milk and a little Baby Babble time while I attack some dishes.  I'm a morning cleaner.  I'll totally go to bed with my house a mess, no problem.  But in the morning, I've got energy and so that's when I clean!

While Ellery eats breakfast, I start my workout DVD.  She actually enjoys watching it and tries to copy the movements with her arms.  Funny kid.  Sidenote: I would not be so diligent about exercise if it weren't for this silly diabetes.  Believe me.

Had some fun playing in her room, and then she started throwing Willow's ball for her.  It's pretty great when Willow plays with her.  Would you believe me if I told you Ellery loves it? ;)

Reading books to settle her down before nap time.  

While she sleeps, I start laundry.  I'm beyond thankful that we have a washer and dryer in our apartment.  While we were in Petaluma, Sam and I drove past the laundromat where I used to do our laundry, since our old place didn't have any hookups or machines.  I can't imagine doing that now, especially with a baby, and it just makes me so very grateful.  After living in that little home, with no washer, dryer, or dishwasher, I swore I'd never complain about laundry or dishes again.  With modern conveniences, they're really not bad at all!

Fortunately, she slept long enough for me to finish my workout, take a shower, and chop some veggies in preparation for dinner.  

I browsed Instagram while I had my apple and peanut butter snack. ^^ Then more dishes/straightening up the house/laundry.  Living the dream, am I right?

My back was starting to hurt and I hadn't sat down much by this point, so I decided I'd go read during the rest of her nap.  On my way to get my book, I heard a very angry little girl start to cry.  We were both pretty bummed her nap was over.

But then Willow came to say hi, and Willow always makes things better.  

Poor Willow. ;)  Next was practicing counting on her abacus.  I discovered she knows 5, 6, and 9.  Had no idea she knew those numbers???  She played in her room while I cleaned out her closet.  Packing up summer clothes and clothes that are too small always makes me sad, especially since I don't know if we'll ever be able to use these sweet girl clothes again.

Selfie before we head out to Costco!  Gotta document what we wore, right?  (Also, sometimes I wonder if I'll ever stop dressing like I'm a college student.  I doubt it.)

Our very rainy drive to Costco.  I've decided not to complain about rain, especially since I know California would love to have rain.  So we were thankful for the weather today.  Incidentally, I'm sort of in love with all the farms and fields near our home.  Love this little town!

Rain can't get us down, yo!  On rainy days, sometimes trips to Costco or Target are just fun excursions for the baby.  She was particularly enthralled with all the Christmas decorations displayed at Costco today.  Lots of snowmen and gingerbread men covered in Christmas lights.  Luckily we didn't need a ton of stuff, so it wasn't so bad carting our stuff around in the rain.


At Costco I found some super fun faux leather leggings!  While trying them on, I decided to check and see how big Abel is getting.  I used to go to church with a woman who was completely disgusted by bare pregnant bellies.  And to be honest, they used to weird me out.  But after having one myself, I have realized how miraculous they are, and that makes them beautiful to me.  So my apologies if you're grossed out by pregnant bellies.  Just keep scrolling.

But seriously, I love this stage when he's moving all around, and rather than just feeling random movement I can tell he's kicking or punching.  And how about them leggings?!  I'm impressed, Costco!  Just for the record, I will forever be an advocate for leggings as pants.  They're super comfortable - why wouldn't you wear them as pants?  Are you afraid of being happy?  Plus, I can never find a good pair of jeans that actually fits!  I blame my chicken legs and non-butt.  But those traits happen to work just fine with leggings, so that's what I prefer.  All you haters, keep hating, I'll just wear my Costco leather leggings.

Meanwhile, Ellery read to herself in her room while I unloaded our Costco haul and took ridiculous pictures of my belly.  (I feel obligated to document her day as well, so y'all don't think I just ignore her while I try on clothes.)  :)

 Then Ellery tried to coerce Willow out from under the bed while I folded four loads of laundry.  And no, Willow didn't come out from hiding.  ;)

Next was a song and dance party in the living room.  Super blurry picture, but she was spinning and loving it, and I had to capture it.  Currently she loves singing "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and "If You're Happy and You Know It".  She's also a major fan of playing "Ring Around the Rosie" and requests it by saying, "ashes, ashes," and pulling on my hands until I stand up and play.  How do I resist that little love?

After more puzzles and books, it's nap time again for the monkey.  And mama gets to test her blood sugar again.  Yay.

I was feeling hungry and tired and my blood sugar was a little low, so I decided to take it easy and snuggle with Morty while I read and ate a gluten free pop tart.  Seriously, gluten free pop tarts.  Thank you, Jesus.  Had to set my alarm for twenty minutes, because if I didn't, I'd have sat there reading all day.

Don't let his face fool you.  He loves when I lay on him.  He was totally purring.

Fortunately, Ellery took a great afternoon nap, so I was able to start dinner while she was sleeping.  Typically, she's awake while I'm trying to cook, and really demands attention.  She plays with tupperware in the kitchen with me half the time, but eventually starts acting up to get me to play with her.  So I'm thankful for days when I can just get dinner together in peace.  Not that I don't love playing with her; it's just hard to keep an eye on things on the stove when she's crawling out the cat door onto the balcony.

And when she woke - more books!  She's pretty good about playing on her own, but she lets me know when she wants company.  Plus, I like to use times like these to help her learn.  We point out animals, do animal noises, point out colors and shapes, etc.  I'm responsible for educating this little lamb for now, and I don't take that lightly.  I know her brain is like a sponge right now, so I want to help fill it with as much knowledge as possible.

Sam had a work meeting, so it was just me and the kid for dinner.  Post dinner, pre-bath are generally when she's most hyper.  So while I straightened up her room, she ran around like a crazy child, mostly chasing Willow and trying to lay on her.  Willow's such a champ.  And I really can't blame Ellery for her obsession with cats and the deep-seated need to cuddle them.  (See above picture of me and Morty.) 

Pretty sure we both look forward to bath time the most.  She gets a bath every other day, unless she's particularly dirty, and she loves playing in there.  It's always a bit of a struggle to get her out.  And I like having the chance to simply sit and watch her play.  (Sitting is always very welcome when you're a pregnant, stay-at-home mom.)

Then we snuggled in our glider, baby smelling fresh and clean and perfect, and read books while she drank milk and clutched her blanket and stuffed cat.  And that's another favorite part of my day.

Baby sleeps, and mama has herself a bowl of sugar-free salted caramel ice cream.  Don't let the name fool you - this ice cream is actually not very good at all.  But sometimes you just need ice cream, am I right?

Sam came home and I worked on this blog for a while, then went to bed because I wasn't feeling well.  Exciting life, right?!  It's pretty simple but I really love it.

And if you actually read this far and looked at all the pictures, I'm impressed.  And maybe your life is less exciting than mine? ;)  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Gestational Diabetes Monster (and why it's not that scary)

My post today doesn't really have anything to do with my theme for blogging during October, but it's something that's been on my mind, so oh well.

Sometimes I feel like the poster child for the way someone doesn't want their pregnancy and delivery to go.  It's as if I've become a "scary story" that make people afraid of ending up like me.  I'm probably being a bit dramatic, but perhaps it is because I constantly have pregnant friends and family telling me, "I have my glucose test next week - I'm so scared I'll end up with gestational diabetes, like you!"  Okay, maybe it isn't constant.  But I do hear it pretty often.  And I get it because I'm the same way.  Whenever I hear a story that involves some sort of complication with pregnancy, I immediately think of myself and hope that I don't have to go through the same thing.  That's why I don't watch the news - it's hard for me to hear about something terrible and not worry that it will happen to me.

So I just want to set the record straight.  Gestational diabetes is not that bad.

Now please don't misunderstand.  I don't mean it's not a big deal - it is, and it should be taken seriously.  If you are diagnosed, you need to be sure to exercise and eat well to avoid your blood sugar levels getting out of control.  It is something that should be addressed, but it isn't the worst thing that could possibly happen to you.

When I was diagnosed with GD while pregnant with Ellery, I thought it was the worst thing.  And it was scary, meeting with the diabetic counselor who told me my baby was at a higher risk and that I needed to perform fetal kick counts to be sure her heart hadn't stopped beating in my womb.  Definitely scary for a first-time mom.  But this time, the diagnosis wasn't scary at all.  I know what to expect, I know what to do, and I know that there are far worse things I could experience with this pregnancy.  In fact, I'm starting to see the good sides of having gestational diabetes.  It forces me to be a much healthier person, which is good for me and the baby.  And, on a completely superficial level, it helps keep my weight gain under control.  In fact, I'll start losing my "baby weight" during this trimester, which makes it that much easier to get back my pre-pregnancy body once I've delivered the baby.  Kind of a nice bonus, if you're vain like I am.  ;)

The thing that's worse about this pregnancy than my first is the timing.  We'll probably schedule a c-section the day after Christmas.  That means that during Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, I'll be on a strict no sugar, low-carb diet.  Not exactly the most fun during the holidays.  But another thing I can be thankful for is not being able to be with family during the holidays!  Weird thing to be thankful for, right?  Of course I'd love seeing my family, but it'll be much easier to live without those holiday goodies if I'm not surrounded by them.  I'll miss my mom's coffee cake and my mother-in-law's kringla, but since I won't be anywhere near those treats, I won't feel quite as deprived.  One way I've been "prepared" for GD is having my gluten problem.  Over the years I've gotten used to not being able to indulge in desserts, so missing out on cake, cookies, pie, or cinnamon rolls is no new thing for me.  (See?  Look at how many calories I'm saved from because of my gluten intolerance and diabetes!  I'm so much healthier!  So much to be thankful for, right?)

Ultimately, if anyone is reading this who is afraid of developing gestational diabetes in their pregnancy, let me set your mind at ease.  Chances are, you won't.  Interestingly, I didn't have many risk factors at all.  I wasn't overweight before becoming pregnant, I wasn't in a high-risk ethnic group, and my only risk factor was that my mother's grandmother had diabetes.  All the doctors and specialists I worked with always looked at me with this funny face when I met with them, wondering where my diabetes came from.  A lifestyle change didn't make a difference, as I made it a point to avoid sugar and increase my exercise with this pregnancy.  My dietitian's best guess was that it was because of my undiagnosed celiac.  For some reason, that can lead to diabetes.  I'm not exactly sure how it works, but unless you have a gluten problem like I do, I wouldn't worry.

The cool way pregnancy works is that the placenta steals some of your nutrients to help feed your growing baby.  Hormones develop in later pregnancy to help you from having low blood sugar by resisting the effects of insulin.  So when you're pregnant, your body makes more insulin to make up for that.  Some women are unable to make enough insulin, which makes their blood sugar levels too high, which is the when gestational diabetes develops.  So yes, you may end up being one of the lucky few whose body just can't make enough insulin to make up for the crazy way your hormones are working.  But odds are in your favor.  So no need to worry.

And if you do end up with gestational diabetes, realize it's not the most terrible thing ever.  You'll eat much better, exercise more, probably have more energy, and won't gain as much weight.  It's annoying to have to test your blood sugar four times a day, and very annoying to see pregnant women who eat a much worse diet than I do somehow avoid getting GD.  But there are lots of annoying little things about pregnancy.  Just enjoy every little kick from your baby, and remind yourself that it's only three months of your life.  Then you'll get to enjoy a lifetime with the little person inside you, the little person who is totally worth three months of being on a "diet" during pregnancy.

Monday, October 20, 2014

5 Baby Products I Couldn't Live Without

There are so many different mothering styles, and I am a big believer in finding whatever style is right for you.  Don't try to be another type of mother; be you!  That's the reason God gave you the babies He did - because they needed you and all your specific traits and idiosyncrasies.

It took me precisely one year and one week of motherhood to figure this out.  I always thought I wasn't organized enough as a mother.  Other moms had their babies on schedules, and had textbook Babywise babies, or still others were working moms and seemed to somehow do it all.  Meanwhile, I didn't work outside the home and still couldn't manage to keep the house clean.  I heard a lot of moms almost brag about how tough they were as moms; that if their kid fell down, they didn't really coddle them for fear of babying them too much, or they had no problem letting their kids "cry it out".  As a new and completely insecure mother, I thought I must be babying Ellery too much.  Part of my personality is nurturing (hello, I would rescue every shelter animal if I could), and as a mother I was very nurturing.  Hearing people talk about how tough they were made me think I was doing something wrong.

Then at one year and one week old, Ellery had her seizure and I stopped caring if other moms thought I was too soft.  I stopped comparing myself to those moms, and realized that I was the perfect mama for Ellery, just as I was.  That doesn't mean I don't have room to grow, or that I always make the best decisions for Ellery.  It just means that I finally found my confidence as a mother.  I realized that what we went through was tough, but I survived, and that God gave me the tools I needed to mother her through that scary time.  And I realized that when you watch your one year-old have a seizure, you quickly realize that being tough isn't all it's cracked up to be, and you nurture and comfort your scared baby as much as possible.

Wow...that was a really long tangent that sort of came out of nowhere.  Here I meant to talk about alternative necessities for moms of little ones, and somehow ended up with the above paragraphs.  Sorry.  All that was meant to say that my style as a mom is more the baby-wearing, cloth-diapering, essential-oil using style.  (You can say I'm a hippie, but trust me, I've known some hippies and I'm not nearly hard core enough to be a hippie.)  Below are some really great products I've loved as a mama, that fit my style, and that aren't necessarily things you'd normally find on baby registries.  If you find yourself as the same sort of mother, or if you're pregnant and have no idea what type of mother you'll be (like I was!) then hopefully these can be good ideas for you!

1. Essential Oils

I didn't start using essential oils with Ellery right away, but once my friend Marci told me how well they worked with her little boy, I tried them and have never gone back.  As most of you know, Ellery was not a good sleeper at all, so we started using Lavender on the bottoms of her feet, and got increasingly longer naps and nighttime sleep as a result.  I recently started using Cedarwood instead of Lavender and am getting even better results!  You can also diffuse these oils into the nursery, which I intend to try once I buy a diffuser.  We've also used Onguard, which helps keep illness at bay.  Once we took Ellery to visit Marci's family, and she developed a cold right when we got to their house.  Naturally, I felt horrible that I'd unknowingly brought my sick baby around her baby.  Ellery played with Caleb and slobbered all over his toys, but still Caleb didn't get sick!  In fact he didn't even get a cold or fever at all during his first year!  That's when I really got into using Onguard, because Marci faithfully used it on Caleb and it clearly worked.  Clove has been extremely helpful on Ellery's gums when she's teething, and Melaluca is great for diaper rashes!  (Especially if you cloth diaper and can't use diaper cream.)  Melaluca and Clove are also great for little cuts and scrapes on little ones (or, in Ellery's case, minor cat scratches).  And as a mother, I've been loving Balance, which totally helps mellow out my crazy hormones.  I just put a little bit on the bottoms of my feet and behind my ears and somehow the little things that normally send me into a frenzy aren't that big of a deal!  I highly recommend essential oils to mothers of little ones.  We use doTERRA, but I've also heard good things about Young Living.  But whatever you do, don't buy the cheap ones at the health store - get good, quality oils, because that makes all the difference!  (If you're interested in trying out oils, comment below and I can get you some.)

2. Baby Babble

This DVD has been a lifesaver.  It was developed by two pediatric speech pathologists, whose job it is to help toddlers learn to speak.  The DVD teaches babies simple sign language and words, and even has parent tutorials to show parents what they can do at home to help their kids with their speech.

I really don't like Ellery watching television, so for most of her first year, she never watched it.  Every now and then when I really needed her to just sit still, I'd let her watch a little bit of this DVD.  It quickly became obvious that she loved it.  In my first trimester of this pregnancy, when we were also packing and preparing to move, I was desperate for time to just rest or get some packing done, and Ellery watched more of this than I intended.  I started feeling guilty for letting her watch it once a day, but then suddenly realized her vocabulary started to explode.  She started mimicking mine and Sam's words, and surprising me by knowing words I didn't teach her.  I realized that I had Baby Babble to thank, and felt so much better about letting her watch it.  Rather than sitting her in front of mindless entertainment, she was being educated, and I was able to get us moved, without feeling guilty.  I highly, highly, highly recommend the Baby Babble DVDs for all mothers, regardless of your parenting style!

3. Baby Carriers

This is one you probably will find on baby registries, but I wanted to talk about a few carriers in particular.  First, the Moby.  The Moby did not work for me.  But!  It worked for Sam.  Unfortunately, the Moby ties around your waist right around where my cesarean scar is, so when I tried carrying Ellery in the beginning, it was too painful after my surgery.  Not to mention, she was born in late May, so carrying her got really hot.  I'd be sweating and she'd be sweating and we'd both be crying when I used the Moby.  But for some reason, when Sam used it, she loved it and went right to sleep.  We eventually got an Ergo, which both Sam and I loved and used a ton.  I'd walk Ellery around the neighborhood in it, and Sam would use it to get her to sleep when we weren't home to put her in her crib.  It wasn't painful on our backs or shoulders, and was fairly easy to use.  It is more expensive than the Moby, but we easily got our money's worth.

Ellery wasn't a big fan of strollers, so baby carriers were huge for us.  Not to mention, it's much easier to navigate while wearing your baby, rather than trying to push a big stroller around.  Studies also show that babies who are worn are generally happier and cry less.  In her first year, when Ellery was particularly fussy, I'd put her in the Ergo and she'd calm right down.  It's so important for bonding with Daddy, too!  I'm a big believer in the importance of human contact, and I love this easy way of connecting with my baby while also having my hands free to do things around the house.

With Abel, I'm hoping to try the Sakura Bloom ring sling.  You can use it from newborn all the way up through toddler years, and you can even breastfeed in it.  It doesn't tie around the waist like the Moby, so I'm hoping I'll be able to use it right away, even if I have another c-section.  I've heard lots of great things about this sling, so hopefully I'll be able to use it and review it once Abel is born.

4. Baby Moccasins 

I love baby moccasins.  They are the only shoes Ellery will consistently keep on her feet without trying to take them off once we get in the car, or while we are walking in the middle of the grocery store.  I didn't put Ellery in shoes until she could walk, except for soft booties to keep her feet warm.  Once she started walking, we got some moccasins from an Instagram shop and have loved them!  There are tons of shops to try, but we have used Littlelookershop and Mybeautifulittleshop moccasins and both are great.  They run about $30-40 per pair, depending on the size and style.  You could always buy Freshly Picked moccasins, but I'm kind of a cheap skate and couldn't justify spending $60+ on baby shoes, especially because you get the same product from other shops for half the price.  I know for some people it's more about the status symbol, but I don't care much about that.  (Neither does Ellery.)  Also, I'm pretty sure Sam would have a heart attack if I spent that kind of money on Ellery's shoes, or if I spent that much on a pair of shoes for myself!  Seriously, we're cheap.  Anyway, once your baby starts walking, baby moccs are fabulous!

5. Baby Led Weaning

This isn't really a product, but more of a trend.  We didn't start this with Ellery right away, but I found some information about it on Pinterest, tried it, and loved it.  We will definitely be doing Baby Led Weaning right from the start with Abel.  Basically it just means you skip the whole baby food phase.  No purees, just regular food.  Typically babies start eating solids around 4-6 months, and at that age most of their nutrients and calories are coming from breast milk or formula, so feeding isn't so much about them getting enough food as it is about experimenting with eating.

I'm just a fan because BLW was so much easier.  At first I was making all of Ellery's food in our Vitamix, which wasn't a ton of work, but still extra work with a baby.  Once we started BLW, I'd fix the same thing for Ellery as I fixed for me and Sam.  If we were having chicken curry with potatoes, so was Ellery.  If we were having tacos, so was Ellery.  (Or rather, she was having taco ingredients, like black beans, olives, and avocados.)  The idea behind BLW is that babies learn to chew first, rather than simply learning to swallow, like with pureed baby food.  In this way, it helps babies learn that they need to chew first, which reduces the chances of choking.  (If a baby is used to swallowing purees, then is suddenly given a cracker, he might try to swallow it and start to choke.)  You can give your six month-old baby any (healthy) soft, small piece of food, and they can learn to feed themselves.  If you can easily squish the food between your thumb and forefinger, the baby can easily mash it with his gums.  In the beginning, Ellery's favorites were avocado, black beans, and bananas.

Babies also learn how much they need to eat, and learn to regulate their hunger that way.  Rather than stopping once the baby food jar is empty, they stop eating when they're full.  It also helps them learn to eat flavorful foods right from the beginning, which can help them be less picky eaters later on.  As I said, Ellery ate exactly what Sam and I ate, and I was just careful not to use too much salt.  It even helped me fix healthier meals for Sam and me, since I wanted to be sure Ellery was eating as healthfully as possible.

BLW is much cheaper because you're not buying additional baby food, you're just sharing your meals with your baby.  You also don't have to worry about spoon-feeding your baby, which allows you to sit and enjoy your meal along with baby.  It gives you some free hands and baby learns confidence as she realizes she can feed herself!  Win win.  Of course, some things still need to be fed, like yogurt or cottage cheese.  But for us, the experience with BLW was a great one!  For more information and ideas, click here.

Okay, so this post became much longer than I intended - sorry!  It's just something I've been thinking about as I'm trying to compile a list of things I'll need for Abel.  I remember how overwhelming it was to register was when I was pregnant with Ellery, so I thought I'd put together a list of things that have been invaluable to me!  Things that aren't necessarily on everyone's radar.  Hope this was helpful to some new or soon-to-be mamas!