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.

October 16, 2013

Great deal on a fancy nursing bra!

Hey breastfeeding mamas and mamas-to-be, Saks Fifth Avenue's Friends and Family event is on and you can score this Le Mystere nursing bra (note that it includes underwire which is a positive or a negative depending on your preference) for $15 with coupon code FRNFAM now through October 20th. They have a lot of sizes not typically available in big box stores and although it was originally $50+ at retail, I am excited to score this bra for a big box store price. I hope I like it!

Note that the photo was one I assembled for Consume or Consumed because I didn't want to post a woman in a bra for those who read from work.

October 5, 2013

Three to six month favorites

By the time Emilia was three months old, she was sleeping happily in her crib (much to my own unfounded concern and worry... I worried for no reason frequently as I adapted to new motherhood). Over the next three months as her motor skills developed even more, she would put everything in her mouth, chew on anything she could, and roll and scoot as means of mobility. She started sitting up and liked being held in a standing position. Accordingly, a lot of the consumer goods we came to appreciate during this time were those that ensured continued safety, comfort, and stimulation.

She had developed enough head and neck control to sit safely in her Bumbo seat. And with the play tray, this seat became her first eating chair. I am reluctant to call it a high chair since we kept it on the ground but it gave her a nice spot where she could sit up, play, and eventually try new tastes. We waited til she was six months old to actually start solid foods but the seat was helpful long before that as a way to keep her propped up and able to be in the mix, socially. 

Although it wasn't perfect, we liked our breathable bumper.

As I said above, Emilia began scooting and rolling all over between three and six months. With increasing mobility, our beloved swaddle was no longer safe. We transitioned her from the swaddle when we were in New York right after her four month birthday. As a crib sleeping baby, her risk of limbs getting caught between bars cause some worry. We used a breathable bumper to guard against suffocating. Of course and as demonstrated above, this bumper was not a perfect solution. Still, we were so glad to have it during this period of her growth.

At night she typically slept in a sleep sack layered with a footed sleeper because it was still quite cold in Pittsburgh. We loved the Halo Sleep Sack Swaddle because she had plenty of kicking room plus the optional swaddle wings (since we were still swaddling her at three months). She had all kinds of footed sleepers but because our house is somewhat drafty, I preferred fleece or thicker cotton with a zip closure rather than buttons like this one from Carters. This way changing her could be done swiftly. We would still typically layer onesies underneath most of her outfits.

When it came to bundling up before leaving the house, we learned our best bet was to move swiftly. She came to get frustrated when we would put her in warm clothing while still in the warm house so the faster we could make the process, the better. We were handed down an adorable, thick Gap Baby bunting that had two very easy zippers for closures.  This one is quite similar albeit for fall and early winter rather than the coldest of the cold days.

Whenever we wore her, we began using the Ergo more often because she was big enough to fit in it (since we didn't have the infant insert).  My only beef with the Ergo is that the thick shoulder straps are a bit bulky under narrower coats. A lot of my more tailored outerwear options look ridiculous under the Ergo. But over doesn't feel secure enough to me.

We still prefer the Ergo to our other carriers. I love the big zip pocket in the front. I regularly wear her around the neighborhood sans purse because I can fit my phone, keys, and money in there with no problem.

Her favorite toy during this time became the Winkle. Its rattling sounds, bright colors, and highly grab-able/chew-able tubes were the perfect design for her grabby hands. She loved gumming it and shaking it and does to this day! We accumulated a cache of teethers but her favorite one for on the go was her "car keys." We kept them tethered to her car seat via these "lots of links." The links themselves are fun to play with and chew. And we still keep her keys handy for trips.

Because she enjoyed a supported standing position so much and seemed fairly stable, we also began using the Exersaucer. Yes, it looks hideous. But one of the compromises of this new life is to accept the practical over the aesthetic. We needed a spot to put her into that wasn't her bouncey seat (which she basically outgrew/became bored with) or her swing (which she would only tolerate when already tired).

We still used her sound machines and video monitor religiously. We still loved her hooded towels and many blankets. She still played with her baby gym and some other things from my Newborn to Three Month Favorites post. But all of the above became our most helpful items as she continued to grow and change.

September 20, 2013

Baby bookworm

When I was newly postpartum and post-surgery, feeling groggy, sad, and insecure in my new mom role, I turned to books. Not books on parenting mind you, but children's books. I decided that even if Emilia was very newly born, something we could do together that didn't require a lot of special talents or knowledge or even physical mobility was reading. Books were my comfort zone. And Emilia was lucky to have a lot of books gifted to her before she was even born!

Growing up, I was a voracious reader. My schoolteacher mom encouraged it and some of my earliest memories are of reading with her and my grandmother. My gram taught me how to read via the classic "Fun with Dick and Jane" series. It had lots of rhyming and illustrative pictures that enabled me to work with contexts to make sense of letters on a page. That was when I was about 3. Still, when I was pregnant I didn't anticipate that I'd turn to reading with my own baby to bond with her when she was barely a week old.

The first book we read was Charlie Harper's Colors. The vivid contrasts allowed Emilia's blurry newborn vision to still be stimulated and follow along. The second book we read was The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton. She was mesmerized by the page where all the animals exercise. It remains her favorite to this day! All the Boynton books are favorites of Emilia's because of the fun rhyming and cartoon animals. And reading The Going to Bed Book remains integral to her bedtime routine, along with Goodnight Moon.

After attempting to read, If I Could Keep You Little when Emilia was only a few days old, I found myself crying my way through the words. I put it down to save for another less fragile time. Its message truly captures the bittersweetness of how swiftly time passes along with the excitement of seeing them grow and change.

Another book we read very early on that remains a favorite was The Mommy Book by Todd Parr. When my own mom (who bought the book for us) read it to her, she marveled at how engaged Emilia already seemed by the pictures and the process of advancing a page. The page depicting the mommy with the long blue hair wearing jeans caused Emilia's face to light up with enthusiasm which was amazing to see.

Now when we read books, it's fun to notice what will stand out the most for Emilia. Often she will put her hand on a page and try to get us to turn back so she can linger on a visual from before. She loves to point to the babies in Everywhere Babies. I was really lucky to be given the bulk of her library as shower gifts from loved ones. And I've also bought some of my favorites like Virginia Lee Burton's The Little House.

My mom and sister created centerpieces for the tables at my baby shower with children's books they picked for us. Through working with children my mom in particular was familiar with many series and titles that are new to me and fantastic. The above book, Llama Llama Misses Mama is one such newer volume about separation anxiety with a mama who drops off the little llama at school/daycare when she goes to work. We're reading it a lot lately because the message about separation anxiety fits our current situation.

Regardless of whether my mom chose old favorites or new classics, she inscribed every book with a message for me and my then baby-to-be. When I read to Emilia, I include the inscriptions, though she's sometimes eager to advance the pages to find their more exciting visual offerings. I had no idea I would get so much joy out of reading with her. I had no idea she would respond so strongly to pages and colors and the sounds of words in patterns and rhymes. Reading remains among my favorite moments of our early days together. And it's one of my favorite things to do with her to this day.

August 23, 2013

Newborn to Three Month Favorites

 Hanging at the Skip Hop Tree Friends gym

One of the fun parts of prepping for baby was researching items to add to our wish lists and registry. As a genre of consumer goods, I was about as unfamiliar as I could be with baby items. At different points, I asked the "been there, done that" moms I knew, I searched for blog posts, I read reviews, and I went with my gut. We wound up being showered generously by many loved ones who were so excited to welcome Emilia and help make our family transition as smooth as possible.

Now that she is nearly nine months old (!!), I figured I would share some of the most useful and lovingly used items among the baby gear. Because she is such a different tiny human with new and changing needs, I am breaking it into two posts. This one covers the "fourth trimester," aka the period from birth to three months. The next will be from 3-6 months.

As shown above, the Skip Hop baby gym has been a favorite around these parts from week one. It is great for tummy time as well as kick time. Emilia still plays with it so its usefulness extends well beyond the fourth trimester.  And it is adorably gender neutral making it a wise buy for people contemplating more than one baby.

I realized when I was putting together my list, most of the items for 0-3 months are about facilitating sleep. This makes sense because so much newborn time is spent sleeping. So the following items are about sleeping and soothing.

Although we knew we wanted to co-sleep to make nighttime breastfeeding easy on everyone, our bed didn't seem very conducive to doing so, safely. Our bedroom isn't set up in a way that would accommodate the Arms Reach Cosleeper loved by so many. And I didn't want her to be across the room in a pack'n'play. So we went with this Summer Infant Side by Side Co-sleeper. It is essentially a padded metal frame with mesh sides and a cushy oval bed. The stock photo on the box depicts the bassinet set between the two doting parents. We tried this the first night we were home from the hospital and it was too big to be comfortable in our queen size bed. Thankfully, we have a foot board so we put it at our feet so that we could just sit up and soothe her in those early days.

It was great that she had her own space while being so close. Some nights Chris and I would take turns laying at the foot of the bed with her, allowing us to get close without fear of falling too deep into sleep. Especially when I was still taking prescription pain medication after surgery, it seemed important to keep her close albeit in her own safe spot.

Perched nearby at the top left of the photo is the mini Sleep Sheep. Wow was this thing clutch! We brought it everywhere because it was so useful to have white noise to calm her and allow her to nap. Sometimes we still bring the sound machine part when we travel in case we're in a louder hotel or something.

My favorite sound machine option is the Homedics Sound Spa Lullaby that has many songs and sounds, a timer function, a plug in option so you don't need to worry about batteries, and best of all, it has the option to project a light show onto the ceiling or wall. She still loves this light show! And when she was really small, she was MESMERIZED! This was an off registry gift from my aunt and it is probably the most useful, helpful sleep related thing that goes well beyond the 0-3 month period. We have brought it with us on every overnight trip because the white noise options are versatile and you can use the timer or just let it play all night. It muffles  city noises and dog barks fantastically!

In the early days, Emilia slept best when she was swaddled and we had apparatuses for this. Summer Infant Sleep Swaddlers, Halo Sleep Sack Swaddles, Aden and Anais muslin blankets, etc. Although I liked the muslin blankets that were recommended highly everywhere, in the early days I preferred the Pottery Barn Kids receiving blankets in flannel. They were warmer and seemed to stay in place better than the muslin. Since she was born in November, she spent a lot of time adjusting to the coolness of our drafty house. We increased the base temperature of our thermostat but having warm swaddle blankets also made a difference. After she grew a bit, I came to really love the Halo Sleep Sack Swaddle because she had plenty of kick room and the versatility of the swaddle wings that could just wrap around her waist or help snuggle her arms.

 in the moby

They don't always sleep though! They like to look around and explore. On the coldest days we didn't really take Emilia on many walks but we still tried to get her out and about. For walks while babywearing, we used the Moby Wrap and the Baby K'tan. She was too little for the Ergo then and these felt more snuggly. We also liked our Britax Chaperone car seat which snapped into the Britax B-Agile stroller. The stroller is lightweight and folds in a snap. It also fits into my trunk much better than the Chicco Cortina travel system I also considered.

Laying on the newborn napper pillow

It's helpful to have a spot to put your baby while you're hanging out together so we loved the Boppy Newborn pillow. We would put it between us while we ate dinner on our coffee table. That said, it looks just like a dog bed so we had to be pretty vigilant in putting it up and away from Speck.

Speaking of pillows, I continued to use my pregnancy pillow as an in-bed nursing support pillow. Although I had a regular boppy that lived downstairs, if I was only buying one to last through pregnancy and postpartum, I'd re-buy this.

Other hits: wipes warmer (winter babies in old drafty houses need them), nosefrida, hooded towels, books, toys, a nursing cover, burp cloths, socks that look like shoes, buntings from baby gap (that zip instead of button!), a video monitor, hats... so many hats. I could go on... but I'll stop there for now.

August 21, 2013

4 trips in 8 months

In NYC after our first flight with baby

Chris and I have always loved to take trips and travel. Before we were ready to start trying to conceive, we went to St. Lucia. Right after I found out I was pregnant, we went to San Diego and New York. And we had planned to go to New Orleans but had to cancel due to inclement weather. Being pregnant and having a baby slowed down our travels but didn't halt things entirely. Over the course of Emilia's 8 (soon to be 9!) months of life, we've taken four trips. They were each relatively short and only one involved flying. The rest were drives. And now that we've had a few chances to try it out, I am eager to attempt bigger distances.

Our first trip was to DC, for Chris's work. Emilia was almost two months old. We drove and scheduled our departure to occur around her bedtime. She slept through the entire car ride! We even stopped to eat a late dinner and she managed to stay asleep for the entire rest stop. I over packed because 1. I'm a first time mom 2. we had a car which meant no checked luggage fees/limitations and 3. I am a first time mom!! I was a nervous Nellie so I brought everything but the kitchen sink. My electric pump. My manual pump. Emilia's bassinet. Her stroller and carriers. Her white noise machine. Books. Toys. A Boppy pillow. I could go on. It helped ease my worries to know that we would have all the comforts of home with us. We didn't use half the stuff I packed.

Our second trip was to NYC and we were flying. Emilia was just over four months old. Out of nervousness, and to avoid paying for checked bags, I upgraded our tickets to first class. It sounds indulgent but it really wasn't. The upgrade that was offered when I did our online check in was only $10 more than checking a bag. And without her stroller (since we planned to wear her everywhere) it seemed like we'd need our hands for baby wrangling more so than luggage maneuvering. I was glad we did it because not only did we get to check bags (included with first class tickets), but we got to board early. We did get a few sideways looks having a baby in first class, but I valued the extra space. And she didn't make a peep during the flight, save for the few seconds I tried to force the "nurse during take off" rule so many seasoned mama travelers suggested to me. She just wanted to look around and I was still covering up/she was still willing to nurse under a cover. I relaxed and let her take the lead during landing as well as our return flight's take off/landing. The white noise of an airplane is akin to baby Unisom.*

Our third trip was to Cleveland and we drove. It was a nice short drive and an otherwise uneventful experience. She slept there and back. I probably overpacked a tiny bit because I had a car I could fill but felt way more relaxed than when flying or when driving to DC.

Our most recent trip was back to NYC again to meet our friends' new baby over the 4th of July. We decided to drive because our flight home on the last trip was delayed for so long at LGA that it would have been faster to drive. And we saved some money by doing so. It was super easy though Emilia was old enough that she was no longer a guaranteed car sleeper. She was more wakeful on our drive home than on the way there. I think this was due to the fact that she hadn't gotten to nurse much prior to our departure and the timing corresponded with when she typically goes to sleep (so she tanks up on milk prior). I didn't over pack. And she did sleep for a good portion of the drive. Because the drive was longer than any others it makes sense that she was up (and sometimes upset) during it.

Overall, my main lessons (more so for myself than for anyone else, since every baby and every family are different) are to be flexible. Realize that cities have things you can purchase once you arrive so don't feel like you need to bring everything. A lot of the stuff you think you need, you won't. Don't be a slave to the schedule (if you are following any schedule). Our "schedule" has always been pretty baby-centered so she lets me know when she needs to nap, etc. When things are different and there are new people and stimulation everywhere, she will likely skip a nap or fight sleep if you try to time out trips back to the hotel for napping. I learned that this is ok. I came to accept that regardless of whether she napped, our trips back to the hotels were useful opportunities to relax and regroup. Sometimes she'd nap. Sometime she wouldn't.

The most useful consumer goods for us have been the Ergo, our stocked diaper bag (more on diaper bags soon), baby wipes (is there anything they can't clean?), a few key teethers/toys, light layers (for everyone but especially for Emilia), and a bottle of pumped milk. The last one is probably the most important. If we're driving and she's upset but we can't easily or safely pull over, a bottle allows me to hop in the back seat and feed her without the dangers of the "boob dangle."

My most harried moments all entailed taking her to restaurants when I knew she was overtired or when she let me know she was overheated. Her only public travel meltdowns have corresponded neatly with our reservations-required, linen napkin, fine dining plans. We try to make one plan like this per trip, so as to still get to do what we normally do during travels, but in a limited manner. We have typically booked lunches or early dinners to accommodate everyone, but especially Emilia. And we go into things willing to bail, requesting that our food be packed up while one of us takes her outside, so as to not cause too much a scene if she does get upset. We've only had to follow through on that willingness once. Every other time, if there was an issue, we resolved it and carried on as usual.  

As she gets older, more independent, and more communicative, I hope that we won't lose our willingness to keep traveling. I certainly haven't lost my travel bug and every new experience is that much more joyful when processed alongside this small, curious, and brave tiny person.

*I realize this won't always be the case. And eventually it will be really stressful to fly with her because she will want to be able to run around. But while she's small enough that she can't, we are enjoying the ease of short travels.

August 20, 2013

I took a brief hiatus but Emilia didn't stop growing!

Out of necessity, my blogging slowed down while I defended my dissertation and finished my doctorate. But Emilia has been busy with her own serious projects such as crawling, getting into a sitting position on her own, pulling up to stand, eating many solid foods (both purees and whole), cruising while standing, clapping, waving, pointing, hugging, kissing, paddy caking, and more!

I cannot get over how swiftly she's changing. It is remarkable and fun but of course bittersweet. Joy pours off her and she smiles with her whole body. Her laughs and purposeful snuggles are so affirming and wonderful. I had no idea that parenting would be so amazing! But it's a labor of love with challenges also.

She's teething (she has three teeth so far with more to come) and more mobile so both bring their own sets of issues. We need to baby proof. And we need to lower the crib. Again. But she has handled her tooth pain like a champ (more wakeful but not necessarily more fussy). And although she has been a little anxious if I'm not nearby when she encounters a new group of unfamiliar faces, she settles back into her usual social self upon confirmation that I'm indeed still there.

June 22, 2013

Baby Shopping

Since becoming a parent, I've come to enjoy shopping for baby things more so than shopping for anything else! Here are some items I've been eying for Emilia as well as my new parent and parent-to-be friends.

Row 1: Dress, Doll, One Piece, Book
Row 2: Dress, Mobile, Doll, Blanket with Hat
Row 3: Dress, Leggings, Manhattan Toys, Crib Shoes, Book

June 17, 2013

Father's Day

Chris and his dad snuggle Emilia

I've already written about dads in this space and have loved seeing Chris become a dad over the last few months (I've also loved seeing my dad and his dad and stepdad be granddads!) but I wanted to commemorate that this time last year, I gave Chris a little dad-to-be baby gift. And this year our little baby got to wear it to celebrate her dad's first Father's Day!

Thank you to the great dads (and granddads) for all that they do for their families!!

June 5, 2013

Six Months Postpartum

We both always look this happy! Except for when we aren't.

At six months, postpartum I feel pretty good. Some days are better than others. I start back in the classroom for a condensed summer course soon. So that will be interesting! I've been juggling working at home (on research, writing, revisions, and various service commitments) while taking care of Emilia for a few months now. And I have a defense date set for my dissertation (finally!!). On the whole, things are going really well when I think about what I've been able to accomplish with regard to a work-life balance. I really hustle during her naps out of necessity. I also try to use the time when she is in bed for the night. Sometimes I stay up later than I should but it's the only way to still be as productive as I need to be. I'm sure all of this will shift again when I have to be apart from her to teach for several hours, a few days a week. 

(all photos taken by my friend Sarah with my camera)

I feel more confident in my ability to mother Emilia. She's so fun and lovable. I'd shout from the rooftops that this girl hung the moon if I could! I have more experience under my belt and have been told by many parents more seasoned than me that she seems extremely pleasant and "easy" in demeanor. As the person who spends the most time with her, I would agree with that assessment but include that even "easy" babies have their moments. And that is ok! Growing up and developing are hard work. It is necessary for me to remain empathetic to and respectful of her needs, while being flexible overall.

Breastfeeding has become such a joy and I feel so fortunate to be able to do it after struggling. Snuggling while nourishing her brings me so much happiness! We have both learned so much and are really good at it now. My milk supply is going through some sort of renaissance where I am again dealing with overproduction. I pump and stash the extras on those days when I have the good sense to do so before I go to bed. She goes to bed between 7-8pm and often sleeps until 6-7am. Sometimes she'll wake once in there to eat. And if I have an inkling that she might wake, I don't pump. But she's unpredictable and when she doesn't wake and I don't pump, I wake up engorged and uncomfortable. I hate having to wake the baby to nurse her if she's slept in, but I do so when I'm otherwise ready to be up for the day.  On the nights when she wakes up right after I pump... Ugh. It's usually the start of a long and rough night for me. I'd much rather get engorged!

I still need to go back to the gym (I say with some embarrassment). Physically, I still feel sensitive and tender. I have lingering soreness at my incision and occasional pain on the side that has nagged me most from the beginning. My body is softer and bigger all over. I have definitely lost a lot of muscle tone which explains why the scale says one thing but my mirror says another. My hair is still falling out but in smaller volume than it was during the peak of my losses. I'm trying to be kind but at six months postpartum I honestly thought I would be closer to my previous self. My body is hanging onto the winter weight I gained in advance of pregnancy that I normally have shed by now. I've heard that many women experience this until they wean their babies. I'm in no rush to do that so I really need to adjust my expectations.

Because the weather has been nice, I have been walking a lot more which is good. Most of my summer clothes fit oddly and I'm going through some renewed struggles with body image, in part because summer is a season in which bodies are more visible. When we were in Cleveland, I wore a (technically non-maternity) bathing suit that I had bought last summer to serve as my maternity suit. It felt awkward because that suit is too large while my pre-pregnancy suits remain too small. Every year during the transition from tights season, I feel exposed and uncomfortable. But right now I feel doubly uncomfortable. And dressing to breastfeed continues to present constraints.

Regarding my overall mood, it varies. There are good days and less good days. I wonder in retrospect if I should have really pursued placenta encapsulation to help mitigate the chances for postpartum emotional swings? I tried but after a few initial emails I never heard back from the person I found. I definitely should have pursued counseling after my birth but there didn't ever seem to be enough time (not to mention the logistics of leaving Emilia when she was so little). It's difficult to know if the hard adjustments were due to my recovery from surgery, my emotional state after a traumatic birth, or just a "normal" processing of this new role?

Some long-winded stuff about birth, under a cut...

June 3, 2013

Six Months!

I am amazed by how quickly Emilia develops and changes. For the sake of documenting, I wanted to share some of her current skills.

She has much more refined motor skills than ever before. She grabs, passes, and reaches for things now. It's especially fun to watch her maneuver a food spear (since we've just started trying Baby Led Weaning).

She enjoys bath time and really loved when we took her swimming. She was splashing and grabbing and laughing with delight. 

She loves when we sing and read to her. Sometimes if she is fussing in the car, I will sing "It's You I Like" and she'll calm right down. I've been singing that one to her since she was a week old and we started reading to her around then too. I'm working on a post about our favorite books which will be up soon.

She likes Itsy Bitsy Spider and Paddy Cake. She seems less enamored with peek-a-boo but I don't do that one as often as I should.

She gives baby kisses where she basically leans into you, mouth wide open and you're left with a very slobbery cheek. But you don't care 'cause it is the cutest!

Although when especially hungry, she presumes that every part of my body might "produce" if latched, she has become very adept at tugging on the necklines of my dresses and tops. It's so interesting to see her develop a firmer understanding of where to find her food. Although rooting is a reflex that communicates the same drive, this tugging seems so purposeful. And she's been tugging at my necklines for a while now.

She has so many sounds. Consonant sounds, vowel sounds, growls, squeals, laughs, giggles, little loving grunts, and more. She babbles as though she's really giving us a piece of her mind. This melts my heart and cracks me up.

She knows her name, she knows where to look when I say "puppy," she seems to know daddy and mommy. I try to sign all of these when I say them with the hopes that she will be able to communicate back, soon. Signs I do consistently: milk, more, eat, all done, baby, puppy, and one of the most important ones: ceiling fan! From what I've read, you want to introduce signs that are helpful as well as ones that "matter" to the baby. And ceiling fan has always loomed large in Emilia's hierarchy of favorites.

She is such a roly-poly. Changing her has become challenging because as soon as I take something off, she's flipped over and is scooting away from me. When I watch her on the video monitor, I see her go back and forth and back and forth.

She prefers to sleep on her belly now and no longer gets stuck there which is good.

She loves being supported to stand. When she's standing I recite this little happy rhyme about how tall she is and she smiles and squeals. "Emilia's tall! She's not small. She's so so strong and tall!"

She does full push ups with her arms (if you are familiar with yoga, it's basically the cobra pose) rather than resting on her elbows.

She loves to sit up and can do so by herself if she starts at an angle. She can't get there from laying flat yet. But she's way less wobbly than she was even a week ago.

She kicks like a maniac, while on her back. She loves her feet. She loves to kick around while nursing which can get a little harried because... that's attached to me!!

She's just so fascinating and fun! I love getting to know her personality and feel so lucky to get to witness her develop and grow.