March 29, 2014

A Birthday Party to Celebrate a Year of Firsts!

After much debate about where to throw Emilia's first birthday party, we wound up hosting it at home. By the time I began planning all affordable venues were rented and the only ones that remained were astronomically priced (in my opinion). So at home, it was! Our house is pretty small and the layout isn't super conducive to a kid party but it was a house crowded with love which is the best kind of "problem."

The preparation for the party was also a labor of love and all the grandparents lent their help. My mom and sister were especially busy with decorations, crafting and putting their amazingly creative energy to use. They made all the personalized decorations, photo banners, and collages, and they came over to help me clean, decorate, and set up. It wouldn't have happened without them! We're lucky to have so much help nearby. A lot of our decorating ideas came from Pinterest but they still needed to be executed which I could have never done by myself. My mom also made the high chair skirt above and a baby-friendly party game with party animal favors all of which were big hits.

 The weight is off a bit since her 1 yr. appt. was later that week. She was just over 19lbs.

My mom also made cookies and my parents brought a huge amount of food. Chris's mom and stepdad bought the cake and also brought food. And Chris's dad and stepmom rounded out the buffet with additional dishes. And of course Chris cooked too. As you can imagine there was a lot to eat!

Emilia wore a striped Ralph Lauren dress that I picked out for her a month or so prior. It wound up being a bit too long but thankfully, my mother-in-law was kind enough to hem the lowest stripe with a quick stitch that was easily pulled out afterwards so that she can wear the dress as she grows. She had a second outfit in which to smash her cake that consisted of a tutu and a shirt with a "1" on it that I found at Gymboree. We cleaned her up and changed her back for opening gifts (which I realize many people today don't do in front of guests but our families insist that it would be inappropriate not to... I guess it depends on the region and the families involved. I've been to parties both where people do and don't...). She received many lovely gifts from our very generous family and friends that we continue to enjoy every day. 

It was a great day and it commemorated an even more wonderful year! Our time with Emilia has flown by and she is already sixteen months old. We're so grateful for the love in our lives and for our family and friends who helped celebrate this time. Suffice to say that work and life have managed to get in the way of blogging so this update is long overdue. For that I apologize and I thank you for checking back in here, despite the hiatus!

December 3, 2013

When you try to stage a family photo...

... on your baby's first birthday, the evening before your husband defends his dissertation, you wind up with shots like this:

I love that Emilia and Speck are in agreement about this exercise in futility and are making the same faces in the second photo to express their annoyance.

I don't have a lot of time for an update (which is why this being posted a week past her birthday) but to summarize, Chris is now Dr. Chris. Emilia is now a one-year-old. Speck and Emilia exchange kisses and snuggle up during naps which makes my heart grow three sizes. I think they've bonded over the thrill of Emilia dropping/purposely feeding Speck from her high chair. Emilia loves the gifts we gave her (Wheely Bug, Schoenhut Piano, and Sevi Xylophone) as well as the gifts she was given at her big party.

Thanksgiving remains my favorite holiday because (removed from its colonialist origins) it is about food, family, and gratitude but this year really tested that devotion. We spent too many hours of the day in the car with a cranky baby and a carsick mama, trying to see all three families. It was draining enough to do so before we had a child. Now it seems impossible. I don't think I can handle a Christmas Day like this year's Thanksgiving Day. Don't get me wrong. I want to see everyone and be together. We're lucky to have so many loved ones who are close enough to visit. But it feels so wasteful of Emilia's pleasant wake time to coop her up (and make her very grumpy) while driving three hours to and fro. It was so taxing that 50% of us had meltdowns. I'll let you guess which ones...

Over the weekend, somehow Chris finished his final dissertation edits AND helped me throw a ridiculous, over-the-top first birthday party for Emilia on Sunday. My mom and sister are creative giants and decorated the house so beautifully! And all the grandmas brought food in addition to what Chris made so we ate well. An update about that will follow soon. In the meanwhile, I am waist deep in papers to grade with no Thanksgiving break left to use. I can't believe she is already one! I can't believe Chris and I both managed to finish! Happy (belated) Thanksgiving! I have a lot to be thankful for this year and hope that despite my occasional feelings of overwhelm (and corresponding meltdowns) I never lose sight of that.

November 19, 2013

What a difference a year makes!

I almost can't believe that this time last year, I was days away from meeting my daughter! It feels at once incredibly recent and impossibly distant. As her first birthday approaches a flurry of mixed emotions circulate in my head. I obviously continue to struggle with processing my fear and sadness surrounding her birth. I actually never finished recording her birth story because of it. It's telling, though perhaps unsurprising that I wrote everything that occurred up until I was in triage at the hospital, where my blood pressure results indicated to the midwife (following recommendations from my cardiologist and the risk OB in maternal fetal medicine) that I would need an epidural immediately. It marked the turning point in my agency and control. But I accept that I cannot change the past and parenting has offered many lessons in relinquishing my desire for (and ability to) control.

Frankly, the process of writing my birth story always felt more about me than her. And although I still believe that I matter and will honor that idea by refusing to erase the hard feelings from my memories of her birth, at this point in time, I also relish in focusing on her. Of course I wish my hazy recollection of her birthday (and the time I spent laboring over the course of the days prior) wasn't clouded with pain, confusion, and sadness. But as we come upon one year of time together, I am trying my best to cling to the few bits I recall and am told about her earliest hours. After all, from that day forward it really no longer got to be just about me. 

Although I don't remember, I am told that I was wheeled from the post-op area back to my labor and delivery room holding her in my arms. Although I don't have memories of the logistics of getting her positioned in a way that allowed all my wires and monitors to stay in place, I have a photo of her latched onto me as we breastfed for the first time. I see all the wires attached in the photo so I know they were still on me. I remember thinking while breastfeeding her that we got this and that her latch was strong and that breastfeeding felt weird but right. I don't remember doing skin to skin contact and that remains one of my bigger regrets but I felt like an alien in my post-surgical body so I am going to cut myself some slack. As our families cycled through to meet her, I remember being too out of it and too focused on breastfeeding to stop and let my parents and sister hold her. Although I was oblivious, my mom told me that my dad felt awkward about my breastfeeding because I was uncovered while feeding her. At that point I don't think all the riches in the world would have motivated me to feel an ounce of modesty or concern about anyone seeing any part of my body. The only thing that mattered was her.

I remember that my parents came through first, followed by Chris's parents. Although I forget their order of visits I think his mom and stepdad may have been next, followed by his dad, stepmom, and sister. I remember that I held her as we were wheeled into the postpartum recovery area and I remember feeling hungry but was not permitted or able to eat anything. I think at some point Chris left Emilia and me to find something to eat for himself as everything in the hospital was closed. I remember wanting to be awake to hold and nurse her but feeling too exhausted to keep her in bed with me without falling asleep (sleeping while bed-sharing was not permitted in the hospital but even if it wasn't, it would have been unsafe for me to do so with all the medication that remained in my system). I pulled her little bassinet as close to my bed as possible because I was unable to get out of bed at that point. I tried my best to soothe her with my voice. I remember thinking in amazement that she was easily soothed by this which made me realize she recognized my voice from hearing it in the womb. In retrospect this was also a good glimpse into her easy going personality.

Eventually I was able to get out of bed and practiced swaddling her. She would cry during diaper changes because she was cold. She would fall asleep fairly quickly while feeding. She seemed so small and so sweet. She smelled so good. She hated her sponge bath. She rooted at everything and I recognized it from one of our ultrasounds where it appeared as though she was shaking her head "no" furiously. 

I remembered thinking vividly that even though she didn't come into the world in the way I had hoped or anticipated, she clearly knew that I was her mom. I remember feeling overwhelmed with love and concern for her. And now my baby is about to turn 1!!!

October 22, 2013

Work // Life

I've settled into the semester and although I am spent, things are mostly good. I am so proud to share that Chris has submitted his dissertation draft! In all likelihood, we will have both finished our doctoral degrees before Emilia turns 1. I almost can't believe it! I realize we should have done so before her birth but we didn't (and there's nothing we can do about that now). I try not to beat myself or Chris up about it. And frankly, it's amazing that becoming parents didn't derail us irreparably. If anything, having a baby forced us to become better time managers and lit a fire under us to take care of business. So, thank you Emilia!

Speaking of, Emilia is having a blast with "Aunt Katie" on my teaching days. I am so grateful that my sister comes to my home to be with her when I can't be. Baby girl lights up as soon as she sees Katie's face and although there are days when I wish I didn't have to go, I never leave with worries or fears about her care.

My teaching days are l.o.n.g. It's hard on everyone for me to be away for 12 plus hours (on some days when I have meetings for example). But it's necessary and it's not every day. Chris is forging his way with bedtime routines. He got a raise this week. He's working on a publication for submission. He's teaching a class in the spring and will likely take some research trips abroad. I'm working on my book proposal and a few small grants. I try to finish my course preparation and grading on campus but that isn't always possible. I have my big three year review this December (delayed by one year due to maternity leave stopping my tenure clock) so I am gearing up for that. Things are busy!

Emilia and I are still happily breastfeeding and on my working days I almost always manage to out-produce the volume of milk she consumes. I've found that (depending on how my schedule shakes out), it is easier to pump either right before I leave or right when I get to work, and then always as soon as I get home. I was pumping in between classes and before I left campus but that made for really harried afternoons and later arrivals home which seemed silly. I'm no longer anxiously squeezing in pumping sessions during short breaks between back to back classes so I can focus on course prep or grading during that time instead. I do run the risk of engorgement with my current pumping schedule and break things up more on the occasional 12 hour day. But so far it has been manageable.

I will say that I am tired. Maybe that is to be expected? Emilia's teething, separation anxiety, and night waking are hard on my sleep. I just bring her into bed when she wakes up rather than attempt the more frustrating process of staying up until she's back down so that I can put her back into her crib. Bringing her into bed and going back to sleep myself (as much as I can while nursing) makes everything a bit easier, albeit crowded. Truth be told, I long for the wake-ups after the on-campus workdays when we're apart. And I'm sure there will be a time once she's older that I'll long for all of it; the harried days of working and pumping, scooping my teary and bleary-eyed baby up from her crib, and bringing her into bed with me. Her first (almost) 11 months have flown by. It's difficult to fathom.

When I'm having a rough day or week, I remind myself how fortunate we all are for our health, our extended families, our jobs, and our circumstances. Life is a perpetual balancing act at the moment so maintaining our senses of gratitude is really important. Chris and I still haven't properly gone out for our anniversary (the "10 years coupled" mark that we hit in August or the "3 years married" mark that we hit just a few weeks ago) for example. But we're finding our way. We're figuring out how to be productive, how to continue forging our careers, how to be some version of our pre-parent selves, and most of all I suppose, how to be a family.