Thursday, March 29, 2012

Every Pregnancy is Different

I'm 27 weeks pregnant today which means I'm in the last week of my second trimester. The other day a friend said to me, "Your pregnancy is going by really fast for me." My reply: "It's going fast for me too!"

I can't help but compare this pregnancy with my last, and there are some definite differences:

-I'm so much more tired this time. It's true what they say, having a little one to chase around keeps me busy and doesn't allow for napping any time I want.

-I threw up every other night for 16 weeks with Ellie. I've only gotten that sick three times this pregnancy, but I am still nauseous at times, even at 27 weeks.

-This pregnancy is flying by, whereas the last one seemed to drag on. This could change in the third trimester.

-With my first full-term pregnancy, I was always very aware of being pregnant. This time, I go hours where I forget I'm pregnant, despite the huge belly attached to me. I don't have time for it to be as all-consuming, and before, I had a full-time job.

-I've gained less weight so far. With Ellie I gained 50 pounds! I have been able to exercise more and be more aware of my activity this time, despite being more tired. I'm certain I'm still going to be beyond the recommended weight gain of 25-35 pounds by the end. Oh well. I plan to lose it all again. (I turn 30 in December and want to try to run a half marathon before I exit my 20s). I've embraced the fact that my body is more susceptible to weight gain during pregnancy, and I refuse to stress about it. I just want a healthy baby.

-The first time around I was researching everything from car seats to birthing techniques to sleeping patterns before the positive pregnancy test was in the trash. This time, I haven't done anything except read my weekly updates about how my baby is growing. It helps that many of these things aren't nearly as intimidating the second time around.

-I took a picture of my growing belly almost every single week with the last pregnancy. I think we've taken two or three this time.

I'm 24 weeks in these pictures.

-I had a very specific birth plan with Ellie: no induction, no epidural, and especially no C-section. None of these worked out. This time, I have the same goals. I am hoping to have a VBAC, would like to try without an epidural, and don't have the option of being induced. (If I go a week past my due date I will go straight to a C-section). But, I feel like I am holding each of these more loosely this time. I simply want a healthy baby and whatever it takes to get her here is what I'll endure. (Side note: other parts of our birth plan were carried out, like no Hepatitis B shot in the hospital, delayed vaccinations, and no pacifier or formula given to Ellie.)

-With Ellie, Michael was my "pain management tool." He rubbed my back and helped me through each contraction that hit every few minutes for about 12 hours straight. Afterward, we both realized how hard it was on him mentally and physically, and we've talked about having someone else around to relieve his duties, be it a doula or someone else. Of course, we haven't even talked about those options yet for this pregnancy, but we will. (See Ellie's birth story here and here.)

-Because I'm not working a full-time job like last time (if you don't count being a stay-at-home mom), I have been able to get a few things done on my to-do list. With Ellie, we moved when I was 8 months pregnant so I didn't even attempt to set up her room until the last month of pregnancy.

I made a reversible car seat cover for our new little one, and it was a super fun project. This was my third one, and I think I get better with each one. (Here is my first and here is my second one).

I made more cloth wipes and pre-registered for the hospital. I've sorted through my newborn clothes to figure out what we need. Since this baby will be born in a different season than Ellie she will have slightly different clothing needs.

Items still on my to-do list:
-Do some major spring cleaning
-Redecorate and organize the girls' room-it's strange to not just call it Ellie's room anymore.
-Make curtains for living room and girls' room
-Keep scrapbooking Ellie's pages before her sister arrives
-Get more cloth diapers
-Figure out a double stroller system
-Figure out when to move Ellie to a toddler bed, sometime after the baby is born to give her time to adjust
-Figure out what other baby items we need for this baby
-Build Ellie a sandbox in our back yard
-Update our birth plan/think about a doula
-Pick out a name for this baby girl!
-Go on a Babymoon!! (Not sure if this will happen, but a girl can hope!)
-Soak up the time we have left as a family of three. I can't help but think that soon enough we will only faintly remember these 20 months with only one child.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Poor Elmo

It's not uncommon for me to take a shower at 2:00 in the afternoon. That's the time Ellie is down for a nap and often the first moment of the day for myself. Some days I end up showering while she's awake and playing, usually if we have somewhere to go.

We live in a tiny, two bedroom, one bathroom house (smaller than many apartments) so I'm comfortable showering, knowing Ellie is

A) almost always playing in the bathroom while I shower, or
B) only 5-10 feet away in the living room or her room playing

Last Friday I stepped into the hallway after a quick shower. I had probably been in the shower a total of five minutes. I stepped on something slimy and cold. It stuck to my toe. I peeled it off my foot and sniffed it. A black bean? Hmmm, that's weird. I took another step towards my bedroom. Another piece of goo stuck to my foot. Suddenly I had deja vu (this wasn't the first time) and I knew what this meant.

I heard Ellie playing in her room with a talking Elmo book. I quickly dried off as I was still dripping wet, threw some clothes on, and followed the trail. I grabbed a cloth and starting picking up the gobs of what I now knew to be poop.

The trail went from the living room to my bedroom, and across the hall to her room. Ellie was wearing pants that were only slightly damp. I kneeled on the floor to strip her down and my clean, just showered knee slipped on more goo. I found traces all along her leg, and into her sock and cute pink monkey slipper.

Somehow the talking Elmo book was a victim too. Yikes.

(In case you're wondering, "How does this even happen?" I will tell you I had been experimenting with Ellie's cloth diapers and snapped them a little looser than normal. At least I know the reason behind the mess, and can take the blame for it.)

I couldn't be 100% sure where Ellie had traveled in those few short minutes, so after a careful inspection all the carpets were vacuumed and wood floors mopped, and the bathroom was cleaned.

This was not a "fun" mommy moment. No person wants to take an hour out of the day to clean a trail of poop all over the house. It's these moments I'm reminded of the simple sacrifices we make as parents. This situation came just as I was reflecting on my previous post about whether I present parenthood as too perfect. Obviously, not everything about being a mom is glamorous.

Every parent will have some kind of story like this, some situation that was no fun and messy and stinky and just plain yucky. Recently we were telling a newly married couple about Ellie's middle-of-the-night throwing up escapade. They said every time they hear a story like this it makes them question becoming a parent. Do they really want to clean up poop or throw-up? No one does, but for every story like this I have twenty more of the amazing, joy-filled moments with my daughter that make these moments feel trivial. And, like I stated in my last post, those are the moments I prefer to share.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Way I See It

A few days ago I received a comment on one of my blog posts from a stranger. I never know who reads my blog because most people don't leave comments, and I'm surprised but also thrilled when I hear that people I don't know read my blog.

The comment said, "You always seem to make your child out to be perfect and the things you do for her. How about writing some time of the struggles you have as a parent or the challenges in your family. I'm sure they are present, yet since this is a blog perhaps all you want to reveal is the good..."

I take any form of criticism to heart, and this, from a total stranger, had me thinking. I didn't sleep well that night. This is specifically something I wonder about: Do I make parenting sound too easy? Am I naive? Do I sound like I have it all figured out? Am I always presenting only the good side of parenting? Should I stop talking about how great of a kid I know I have? I even asked my husband what I could be blogging about that would be more struggle and less "perfect."

After reflecting on this for a couple days, here are my thoughts:

1. I started this blog to reflect and verbally process, and ultimately, to keep my family and friends all over the world updated on our lives. Bluntly, this is my space and I feel like I can express what I want, how I want. I've also recently received feedback from friends who've expressed specific appreciation for what I've written about and how I communicate my own research and knowledge as I journey through mommyhood. I guess one person's critique is another's praise.

2. I'm not sure how long this person has read my blog but if he/she went back in time they'd find many, many posts about the very hard experience we had of having a miscarriage, trying to conceive, moving, and even questioning the timing of all these things. I think I'm an open book and if anything, have leaned on the side of sharing too much information and intimate details, often being "too" vulnerable on the internet (or so I've thought).

3. I have an easy baby. There. I said it. It's just the way it is. I will own it completely. She started sleeping through the night at 5 weeks old and has slept well ever since. Sure, she has her moments and days where she wakes up early or in the night, but it's rare, and nothing like the experience of many of my friends with babies.

She eats well and ever since we started her on solids has eaten just about anything we give her. She has her days when she's a little picky, but mostly, she eats healthy food and lots of it. She eats what we eat. I don't necessarily think it's what we've done, although we do offer her a large variety, I think every child is different and ours is one who just isn't picky. What else can I say?

The other day at a friend's house there were about eight kids all eating cupcakes, and one cupcake came back to the kitchen, the frosting a little smudged, but otherwise untouched. That was Ellie's. She just wasn't interested in it. I'm sure she will be one day, but for now, she isn't.

When her teeth come in we barely notice a fuss. She just popped two more molars this week and if I s-t-r-e-t-c-h the truth a little I could probably say maybe she seemed a little more clingy. But honestly her behavior has been no different other than she has been chewing on her finger a bit. No late nights, no crying or fussing or teething rings.

She's social, loves people, flies on an airplane quietly and sweetly, and is simply a happy girl. When we tell her "no," she may cry and complain for a bit but even then she "obeys" and knows to stop. (I'm guessing this will change with the approaching toddler tantrums).

Of course we've had meltdowns. Of course there have been difficult times. But it's all relative to what I know, and mostly what I know is that compared to all my friends I have it really, really good. How can I complain to my friend about being woken up an hour earlier than normal when her baby is up every few hours in the night and Ellie is sleeping for 12 hours? Or when new (newer than me) moms ask me what I did in a particular situation, or with a certain typical baby problem, and I have to honestly answer that I barely had to do anything, or that Ellie is a unique girl and not typical of most babies?

My most difficult time so far as a mom came the first 6 weeks when learning to nurse. I didn't blog about it in detail because I didn't think my male readers would want to know details. But you name it and I had it: mastitis (at least 5-6 separate times); thrush; I was stuck with the shield AND the shell, I was in pain to the point of tears as Ellie nursed, and had bloody, sore, extremely painful nipples (yes, I just said that on my blog. How's that for honesty?). I cried during almost every nursing session for weeks. I went to a lactation consultant almost daily for the first few weeks of Ellie's life, trying to get her to latch on without a shield. I wanted to give up, especially when even the lactation consultant told me it might not be possible. It was stressful and difficult. But I was determined. I completely understand why some people give up, and for a lot less than what I was facing. Eventually, after many, many tears and with a lot of hard work it happened. Not all at once, but I got to a point where I said adios to those blasted shields, hopefully never to see them again. That was not an easy part of starting out as a mom, especially when saddled with the sleep deprivation and the sleepless nights, but I am so grateful that I was able to nurse Ellie fully, and didn't wean her until after I found out I was pregnant again. It was worth all that agony. I truly think that if I was able to nurse and work though all my issues, most other moms can too. I love to encourage other moms who are struggling with it because I can share my experience.

Another "less than perfect" situation was when Ellie was a few months old and she suddenly started waking up an hour or two into her night's sleep and would stay awake, crying until her last late night feed. This went on for two months and we tried everything to get her to go back to sleep. It was annoying. A little inconvenient, mostly because she was consistently interrupting our Friday Night Lights marathon. But even then, we were still awake, it's not like it was 3 am and the middle of the night, so how could I validly complain about my trivial TV interruption? Once she fell back asleep it was solid sleep again until the morning.

Because we've had such an overall easy-going baby, we are mentally preparing (if that's possible) for a less-than-easy baby with number two. We can't imagine it getting much easier, and maybe we're due for some rough parenting experiences (many of you are probably agreeing that we "deserve" a harder baby. Maybe we do.) I hope and pray that my second round of attempting to nurse will be much less stressful, and I know a few things to do differently this time around. But we're excited and ready. Which leads me to my last thought...

4. I love being a mom. The experience I have of staying home with my daughter (soon to be plural) is absolutely wonderful. Lately I've been dwelling on the big picture of staying home and what that means. I'm not using my college degrees directly. I'm not contributing significantly to our financial income. But I have the undeniably huge task and privilege of being home with my child and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Maybe I am overly positive about motherhood. Maybe I tend to focus on all the things that are going well. I think it's because I'm truly passionate about trying (and failing) to be the best mom I can be, and love sharing that with others. Yes, I make mistakes and yes life isn't perfect and yes sometimes I am at a total, utter loss as to what a wise mom should do (welcome to toddlerhood and beyond). Lately I've tended to blog about all the positive things because I see each experience through the eyes of my daughter, who gets to spend her days with me and not at a daycare, and I am realizing what I'm ultimately providing for her. I know this situation isn't practical for everyone, and it's not meant to comment on people who have to do that out of necessity or even desire. But for me, and in my house and in my family, this is a priority and one we've sacrificed things for to make happen.

Even when the little moments of tears and frustration and tantrums and cleaning up messes and poop make up parts of my day (things that don't seem blog-worthy), I see the big picture, and I feel lucky. More than lucky, I am blessed in immeasurable ways more wonderful than I ever imagined before becoming a mom. I love the big picture, and that's what I tend to focus on, both daily and here on my blog.

I welcome any and all comments, positive and negative, and take each to heart.

(Coming soon: a blog post about a not-so-fun mommy moment).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Stroller Series

(This post was motivated by my sister-in-law and inspired by our mutual friend, Sherry, who loves to post pictures in a series on her blog.)

Ellie and I go on a lot of walks and runs in our jogging stroller. Not to be too overly dramatic, but I LOVE my BOB stroller. I have used it more in the last year than I would have ever thought. It was worth every penny. Just having it and wanting to use it has pushed me out the front door to exercise more times than I can count.

We walk to the library, to the grocery store, to the pharmacy. I've used it at the zoo, to get through the airport by myself with all my luggage, and just around town.

I also take a lot of pictures. A LOT. Naturally, I have a lot of pictures of Ellie in the stroller, as we both love spending time on walks/runs.

Here are a few from the last 17 months:

First walk in the stroller: 4 days old

Bundled up: 5 weeks old

Aunt Amy and cousin Isabelle visit: 5 weeks old

First trip to the zoo: 4 months old

Sophie the Giraffe came on most walks.

5 months old (March 2011)

7 months old (May 2011)

Fell asleep on a flight: 10 months old

Visiting Idaho: 11 months old

Our happy one year old

Happy New Year's Day 2012: 14 months old

Last week: 17 months old

And a bonus video: Ellie loves to sing, and is content in the stroller and the sunshine. This was an 80 minute walk and she loved every second of it.

We will definitely be getting a double stroller for Ellie's little sister to join in on the fun.

Monday, March 19, 2012

We All Judge

This article has been circulating emails and Facebook. In case you haven't read it (and don't want to click on the link), it's a letter from a mother of three, "Apologies To The Parents I Judged Four Years Ago." She apologizes for all the ways she judged parents before having kids of her own. She lists her ideals pre-children (which she implies are naive and unrealistic) and compares them to her reality now with a four-year old girl and twin 20-month old boys.

I appreciate her humor and honesty. I too, have thought of things that I was smug and judgmental about pre-children. For years, many of our friends and family had been having children before we had our first, and we spent a lot of time observing, watching, absorbing, and (if I'm being super honest,) judging. Michael and I often discussed what we saw or heard in these homes, and what we appreciated, but mostly, what we would do differently. As most couples judge pre-children, we had an arsenal of observations ready to be implemented with our own children.

I'm acknowledging that we were naive to think we had some things all figured out. We both could admit that every child is unique, and every parenting style is different, and that we would experience a lot of "baptism by fire," learning as we went, but, we had some ideas of how we would do things "differently" (read: better).

I can admit now that I was much too harsh and quick to judge. I only have one 17-month old. I am just at the very beginning stages of the toddler tantrums and terrible twos, not to mention I only have one child begging for my attention during her every waking hour. I acknowledge that my thoughts are based on the limited experience of having only one child, and I accept those judgments from you parents of more than one child who are thinking right now, "You only have one. Just wait until you have two or three. Then you'll see."

In a few short months I will begin a whole new round of realizing how judgmental I've been, and maybe I will eat some of these words.

But in my current reality, I have to say that though this author has a lot of good points, I think she doesn't necessarily speak for all mothers. I am a full-time stay-at-home mom of one (although I do work a few hours a week), so I know I have something many mothers don't have: time. I can look over her list and reflect on my own pre-children/post-children experience and feel good about at least some of the decisions I've made and how we've kept those commitments through the first 17 months of my daughter's life.

To those of you who read this article and think that all of your ideas and desires for parenthood will be thrown out the window the moment your first baby arrives, I'm here to say that some of them, at least, are possible. They take hard work and commitment, but they are doable. You will probably have to choose which are most important to you, but don't give up on them all completely.

In fact, I'd say many of the things I am committed to now for my daughter have actually grown in strength as she's gotten older, not waned.

Here are a few examples:
Cloth diapers-I love using cloth and until I was pregnant had never even considered them before. They were extremely intimidating at first, but after asking hundreds of questions to my cloth diapering friends I've found that I get a real sense of satisfaction from using cloth. (I LOVE to help other new moms get started on cloth diapering. I have "tutored" many friends into the cloth diaper world.)

Cleaning without chemicals
-This was something I've stumbled upon more recently, but I don't think I'll ever go back. I clean mostly with vinegar and baking soda and love knowing that I'm saving money AND creating a much healthier environment for our entire family.

Eating/Feeding mostly organic, homemade food-I was never much into organic until I started preparing to make food for Ellie when she turned six months old. As I researched I became increasingly convinced of the necessity for at least some things organic. The cost isn't that much more than regular food, depending on what it is, and I think the long-term benefits outweigh any cost. Making large batches of homemade food is not as time-consuming as it seems, and there are plenty of things I could give up for an hour or two to make food that lasts for days or weeks.

No sugar (or very little)-This also came along with my food research. I have seen no reason to give Ellie many sweets, and as they say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Ellie eats whole grains, fruit and vegetables (among other foods), and the sweetest thing I give her is crackers or bread. A couple weeks ago we gave her ice cream for the first time, and she wasn't interested. Recently, we have offered her a bite of cake or sugar but she refuses a second bite every time. She does, however, ask for seconds and thirds of the meals and vegetables I make her. Why mess with that? Most likely she will be a child who loves sweets in due time, but I'm in no rush to jump start that.

No TV- We haven't had a TV for years, though we still watch plenty on the internet. Ellie hasn't watched much TV, except when at other houses where the TV is on a lot. Even then, she mostly doesn't seem interested for more than a few minutes. She's used to playing and keeping herself busy. Everyone keeps telling me this, of all things, will change when baby #2 arrives. I can see how that's possible, but I don't think it's as inevitable as people say. I do think if I had it I might be tempted to use it, but if that were the case I probably would have turned on my computer and let her watch cartoons by now. Neither of us realize what we're missing out on, and I'm fine with that. I appreciate blogs like this one that give me plenty of ideas for activities to do with Ellie instead of watching TV, and also appreciate being validated that there are other moms that make no TV a priority as well. I'm not judging other families who let their children watch TV, I'm just acknowledging that if no TV is something you want to implement, it's not impossible.

I only share this list to show that some ideals of parenthood are doable. You don't have to compromise everything you'd hoped for pre-children. Of course, this article did help me think through some of the judgments and ideas I had pre-children that have changed.

Discipline- Oh, how many times did I see a kid throwing a tantrum at the store or in a restaurant, and immediately my first thought was, "Wow, that kid needs a good spanking." As I mentioned before, I'm just beginning the first stages of tantrums with one child, but already I have been humbled in my judgments regarding other parents' styles of discipline. Everyone has different methods and philosophies, but suffice it to say that we have totally changed our tune in regards to discipline, spanking, and how to approach these with our child(ren) (that could be another post). I would echo the author of the article and apologize to the many, many parents I judged in this area. Whew!

There are plenty more, but I will end by reiterating what the author of the article states. Parenting is tough, and every child and situation is unique. What works and has worked with my first-born daughter most likely won't work the same with the next one. I write all this knowing that in a few short months I may once again apologize for judging those parents of multiple children.

But for now, I am going to cling to the hope that if I could make it this far with at least some of my ideals in tact, that hopefully I can continue on, even as I hold them loosely. Parenting is humbling, hard work, and I have a new appreciation for every mom or dad I see as I walk through the grocery store, kids begging for candy or crying or whining.

I too, know better now than to judge those other parents.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Letter to My 16 Month-Old

(I wrote this letter to Ellie in her journal, but decided to share it).

Dear Ellie,

You are becoming such a big girl! You are 16 1/2 months, and you are so curious about everything. Every morning when we get you out of your crib, you stand and point to everything, telling us what you see, or asking for us to tell you the word. You say so many words and literally learn new words every day. You also have almost 30 signs. It's so fun to teach you!

We love your laugh-it brings us such joy! You are very into playing with your blocks ("bocks") and can sit for a long time stacking and playing. You are very tender and sweet with your baby dolls. You kiss my belly because we tell you there's a baby in there. I am so excited for you to have a little sister! I already imagine the fun you'll have, and the trouble you'll get into. It will be crazy at times, I'm sure, but I look forward to seeing you as a big sister. At the same time, I keep trying to soak up our time together. There are only months left of just the three of us, and you will never remember life without a sibling.

A few days ago I was determined to plant flowers with you. You see flowers and we call them "pretty," and you had so much fun digging with your little shovel and "helping" me with the dirt. It was a bonding time and a precious memory for me.

In general, you love "helping" me. You use the broom and "sweep." You take cloths and "clean" the tables. Compared to other kids your age, you really seem to be able to focus. We sing the "clean up" song and you help pick up your toys and actually put them away! You've surprised people with that.

I have so much fun with you and can't imagine working or not being home with you. It's brought me more joy than anything before in my life.

Tomorrow it will be exactly one year ago since I quit my job (gave them notice). It was the best decision. I can't imagine anything but being home with you: coloring pictures and building towers with your blocks and having play dates ("play play play," you always say it three times).

What an honor to be your mommy. Your personality is emerging more every day, and I love seeing glimpses of this little person you are. You are stubborn and I foresee some tough moments ahead, but you are also extremely tenderhearted, sensitive, intelligent, a quick-learner, and usually very responsive and obedient. You just don't like being told "no!"

There are so many decisions I make as a parent, and I know I don't always make the right ones. I hope and pray you'll give me grace as I learn to be your mommy.

I pray I will teach you to love Jesus, to follow His example, and to love others with grace and compassion. Your middle name is Grace, and I pray you never stray far from God's gift of grace.

I love you more than words can say.

Love, Your Momma

(Trying to sign "thirsty" with silly gloves on.)