Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Bringing Samuel Home

Even though I'd really love to share Sam's birth story (whenever I get around to writing it down), it feels a little raw still and I get a sharp little pain in my heart when I think about how everything transpired. As many of you already know, Sam was born via c-section. The procedure itself went well and in the end, we are all here and healthy and happy, which is all we really wanted at the end of the day. But it's been tough for me to process everything and I'm still working through it (feeling like I didn't really birth him). Anyways.

So instead, I'd like to try and write down some memories from the first few days when we brought him home. These are painful and blurry and all swirling together in my brain but also the beginning of mothering - the first time living out a new vocation and role that I'll be playing for the rest of my life! They were hard and beautiful days. Here's what I remember...

We brought Sam home on a Thursday afternoon, around 2pm. Well, I'm not sure we'd call it home. Our home at the time didn't really feel like home. Every time we'd visit either of our parents' homes or a friend's home or even spent time in the mountains, we'd come back to our little apartment and it just felt.... sterile. Like living in a hotel. We never really wanted to go back there. I remember I was unhappy in that little space and it took me a while to be okay with bringing our baby home to that apartment (I finally got there, but it still didn't feel like how you want a home to feel - warm, familiar, inviting, cozy). But that was Sam's first home. Not perfect, not exactly what we wanted, not very conducive to family life - and yet, it was. God had already started to help me let my idea of perfection go and asked me to trust that He would make things right and good for us.

My mom was due to arrive the next afternoon, on Friday, so we had the rest of Thursday just as a family of three for the first time. I remember after getting home and settling in a bit, I sat in our new glider holding our baby for the first time and watching him sleep. It was the first time since he had been born that I was able to just sit and hold him, uninterrupted, for longer than a few minutes. Again, God asked me to trust Him, to let go my expectations of how I wanted the first few days with my baby to go and instead be grateful that we were together and safe and healthy. There were a lot of tears in those first few days. I remember sitting with Sam, not doing anything else, and just looking at him wondering, "Who are you?" (and also, Who am I now?). He was so tiny (unexpectedly!) and I felt a little lost (unexpectedly) and not able to take care of myself at all - what a vulnerable time it was for us (me). Do you sense a theme of "unexpected things" here? Thankfully, Lewis's stalwart presence and sameness lent me a sense of security and calm - that even though everything was different and different in ways I didn't expect, he was still there, we were still together, and I wasn't doing it alone.

The feeling of stability grew even more once my Momma arrived -- and thank goodness it wasn't long until she was there!! It had been a long time since I felt like I needed her as much as I did then. Someone who knew me and loved me and already loved Sam more than I did and could love him enough until my feelings could catch up. She snuggled him and held him for hours while he slept so that I could sleep or shower or just sit. She made me the same snacks she had made when I was a little girl ("little stuff cut up" :)) and rubbed my feet. She brought delicious smelling soap from home and a beautiful shirt that I was able to nurse in, to make me feel more put together and myself. She took care of not only our bodily needs (all the meals, grocery shopping, cleaning, driving!) but our emotional ones too. What a gift that she was able to be there. When I was trying and flailing about and learning how to be a mother, she mothered me just as she had done when I was a baby and needed so much love and attention.

But even though she was there and made our not-so-homey home feel more filled with love, it was still hard and new. I remember Samuel was asleep and Lewis was playing a video game (aka escape from reality! thank goodness he took care of himself too) and my mom and I sat at our kitchen table and had a mug of tea and just talked. I wasn't able to laugh yet - it hurt too much for the first few weeks - but I so badly wanted to. I so badly wanted to feel carefree and present and just...myself. And for a few minutes, I did. It was such a gift. Once she left (I cried, she cried - how would we do this without her!), Lewis and I had to figure out what our lives looked like as parents as well as husband and wife and partners and teammates and friends. Small glimpses of what was to come broke through the haze of sleeplessness and hormones and anxiety. One night (not that days and nights mattered much at the beginning), Lewis was changing Sam's diaper. Sam used to love to have his diaper changed and would immediately calm down and look around. So everything was quiet and Lewis and I were just talking when all of sudden - Lewis starts laughing and whoops and throws a wipe over Sam, who had just peed ALL over Lewis and the wall. It felt SO good to just laugh together and recognize the joy we felt together and that we were still a team (us v. Sam! haha) and not everything was hard or new. These days, we absolutely adore Samuel and he cracks us up and I love, love, love being a parent with Lewis. Looking back, I can see the beginnings of our parenthood in moments like this.

I remember a lot of exhaustion, pain, and frustration. Exhaustion for obvious reasons - Sam would only sleep on my chest at the beginning and I was so worried I would drop him or he'd roll off or suffocate on something. I couldn't believe we were co-sleeping! (It was fine, of course, as most parenting decisions end up being, I'm discovering). And lots of pain from healing, from no longer being pregnant, from breastfeeding, from intense backaches thanks to weak abs and unsupportive hospital beds, from not being able to stand up straight. And frustration about not being able to do anything without help (get in and out of bed, go to the bathroom, shower, sit at a table, hold Sam, pick things up off the floor, get in and out of the car, make myself a snack, fill up a water bottle, do any light cleaning - anything). It was so tough.

BUT but but but. All of this helped to prepare me for motherhood. I so, so want to do it ALL and do it by myself all the time. I want to be supermom and have a happy child on a great sleep schedule who eats perfectly and to have my old body back and fit in pre-pregnancy pants and have a clean house and homemade meals and be generous and kind to friends and do every extra thing I ever get invited to.....but I can't. And every time I try or think for a second I can, something happens to remind me, "No, no! You can't do it all." So I think early motherhood, those very first few days of having Samuel at home, were the best bootcamp. I didn't have a choice that I couldn't do it all. I felt lost and frustrated and overwhelmed and disappointed in our birth - but in that storm of craziness, I became a mother and learned how to be a mother and that the most important things were to love God, love Lewis, love Sam, and to be kind and gentle to myself. To accept help from others, to lower my expectations of myself/Lewis/Sam, to trust that God would make things right and good, to find beauty in small things and be grateful for brief moments of rest. In those first few weeks, I had never (and I mean NEVER, including law school which is no small thing) been as grateful for 30 minutes of rest as I was then. Sam put everything into perspective.

Bringing Samuel home felt like all the hard and frustrating feelings no one likes feeling - stress and exhaustion and disappointment and fear and anxiety and guilt. But bringing Samuel home was the beginning of motherhood and sanctification and dying to self and deeper, truer love.

first time in our home as a family of three - the beginning of it all!

Monday, March 27, 2017

What I Packed in My Hospital Bag

a hospital appropriate photo...

One of the blog posts that's been bouncing around in my bed (don't ask me why this topic seems so compelling to me, but it does!) is what I brought to the hospital when Sam was born, and more precisely, what I actually needed, used, and liked. His birth went so utterly different than we had hoped or planned - I'd really like to write it all down and should and maybe will share? - so it's sort of surreal to think back to those few days. In so many ways, it was the worst four days of my life. Sadly, I hated our hospital stay and left with a lot of anxiety and stress. That, coupled with a stressful birth, definitely caused some PPA (another blog post for another day on PPA/PPD, but I do want to say it's so real and hard and if you're pregnant, remember when the baby comes to try to be so nice to yourself and get the help you need, be it professional or otherwise).

But on the other hand, it was some of the most beautiful days of my life because Sam was born and our family grew and we all expanded to fit him into our lives. Really hard and really good and beautiful. I don't want to forget what it was like. I'd really like to be able to look back and be proud of myself and Lewis and all of us for doing our best and making it and to see how even though it was hard, it was so worth it.

All right. Enough gushing about feeeeeelings. Practical Paige wants a LIST to reference back to for later! And it may or may not be of some interest to you too :)

Note: this doesn't include what Lewis "packed" (we had very different ideas of being hospital-bag-prepared and he literally threw a change of clothes into a duffel bag in like 2 minutes. Much to my satisfaction (I kid), he regretted some of his choices and wished he'd had some different things (like comfortable shoes for lots of standing over a screaming baby in a UV tanning bed)). I guess this doesn't include what I packed for Sam either, which was basically a carseat, two outfits in different sizes in case he was tiny/huge (he was tiny) and some pacifiers on a whim but THANK GOODNESS because those pacifiers saved our lives/ears, nurses' grumbling be darned.

What I Brought

  • toiletries - shampoo, soaps, etc.
  • hair ties, bobby pins, a brush, etc.
  • nursing nightgown + robe
  • socks
  • change of clothes to go home
  • a book + iPad + phone charger
  • tennis ball for labor
  • lip chap
  • plastic flip flops
  • nursing bras
  • boppy nursing pillow
  • earth mama nipple cream
  • camera
  • documents/forms/wallet/insurance cards/etc.


What I Used & Loved

  • nightgown and robe - but not until day 3; had we left sooner, I might not have (I had just happened to wear birkenstocks to the hospital which was bomb.com because I wore them when I shuffled around the room)
  • shampoo, conditioner, etc. - taking a shower was terrifying but I felt a million times more human afterwards
  • hair stuff
  • lip chap
  • socks
  • nursing bras + nipple cream
I didn't end up using anything related to labor because I didn't labor for any length of time or any sense of the word :/ And I had thought I would use the iPad, read my book, or perhaps even check my phone? Nope. I barely glanced at it for four days. Like, it sat across the room untouched for at least 24 hours at one point (sorry, parents and everyone else trying to get a hold of me!!). 

Even though I know a lot of people 100% recommend taking a nursing pillow to the hospital (and so I obliged and did), I barely used it because my incision was so tender and anything resting on it or near it was painful. So! Maybe leave it in the car and then have someone fetch it if you decide you want it. I also brought the wrong sort of clothes to go home in...again, probably because I had had major abdominal surgery and so different parts than I expected were tender! I wish I had had a really loose, soft dress instead of stretchy pants and a maternity top :) 

Other things I wish I had had were my own pillow (I know...bodily fluids...but I do think I would have slept better). Also, since we're in the US, you pay for quite literally everything in the hospital, so I wished I had brought my own tylenol/advil, which is all they gave for pain anyways most of time, (besides the one or two times I accepted the percocet) and stool softeners (ah, the glamours of birth). Finally, this is sort of but not really a joke, I wish I had had a sign to post on the door that said "essential personnel only!" or some such thing. We had people coming into our room literally every 30 minutes and it killllled me and seemed so unnecessary. For next time, I'll definitely be advocating for myself more and being much more firm about when we are able to see doctors, hospital staff, etc. I mean, I didn't even get to eat dinner two nights because there were so many people in and out of there. Not good!! Anyways. Something good to know for next time, if there is one!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Ferbering, feeding, finding our way


Don't you just love alliteration! An adequate title, but it's actually accurate and absolutely what we're up to these days (see what I did there. okay, I'll stop)

I know this is controversial but we are in the midst of sleep training dearest S. Spoiler alert: it's going awesomely. I'll back it up and explain how/why/when etc. because before we started, I must have googled these questions a million times. The WHY is because he's 5 months old and despite some hiccups, a week here or there of clinginess/up-every-two-hours-crap, he's been a great nighttime sleeper. TOTAL CRAP NAPPER. But great at night. You can't win 'em all and I'll take good nighttime sleeper over napper any day. I digress. He was already doing great, so we sensed (and knew) that he *could* sleep for longer and without our help, he was only eating once per night anyways and had been doing it for weeks and he just seemed...ready? I don't know. Also, I (we) were ready to have our bedroom back and to have less fighting at bedtimes.

Pre-Ferber, he was sleeping in his crib in our room, swaddled, with white noise + pacifier, and rocked to sleep. This usually worked but not always, and some nights, he'd basically just fuss/cry/scream in our arms until he passed out and he didn't seem to care if we were there or not - us holding him or rocking or whatever did not one lick of difference for him (he'd arch his back and spit his pacifier out etc. etc.) and it was so exhausting for us and him, this constant battle of the wills. Too much stress all around. The other problem was that he'd end up waking in the middle of the night and would require being rocked back to sleep for 20 mins at 11pm, 1am, 5am, whenever, which was brutal for us (and LOUD for the parent still "blissfully asleep" in bed). OR he'd want to be nursed back to sleep which I am 90% not into most of the time (because I know he's not hungry and I don't like being a human pacifier. I know it totally works for some people and if that's you, rock on. But it's not my favorite thing in the world, that's for sure).

Basically, we just sensed he was ready and was so close to sleeping even easier (aka with less stress/crying for everyone in the long run) and just needed to be helped over the edge and break those last few sleep associations. So we decided to sleep train him. We chose to do the Ferber method, mostly because it had the "best reviews" online (lolol) and it's what my parents used and we all turned out fine. I know even the word "Ferber" makes some people cringe (so much crying!!!) but lemme just say it is NOT as cruel or ruthless as folklore would have you think. He wrote a book (Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems) that I highly recommend; it's probably one of my top favorite parenting books, in fact. It is incredibly reasonable, helpful, non-judgmental, and encouraging (not to mention interesting and easy to read - bonus when my attention span for fact-based parenting books is practically non-existent). He basically explains what sleep is, what it looks like in babies, what's "normal," and how to address any sleep problems your baby might have. He gives tips if the baby's in his own room, in your room, or in your bed; if you feed at night or not; if there are medical issues or not; if you have multiples; etc. etc. SO SO HELPFUL. And all along, there's a ton of "You and your baby can do this! Don't worry. It's going to be okay. And if X doesn't work, you can always try Y." I loved it. (Lewis read it too). Needless to say, we are 100% Ferber fans.



So far, it's gone something like this for us:

Night 1 - Down at 8, cried for 25 minutes (we checked on him a lot - he was always fine), slept until 5am when I had to wake him up to eat. WIN.
Night 2 - Down at 8:15, ZERO CRYING. Slept till 3:30am, ate, slept till 7:30am. WIN WIN.
Night 3 - Down at 7:50, sporadic fussing/talking/noise-making for 10 mins. Slept till 2:30, ate, slept till 6:30. Not quite as great but I'll take it.

^^ and this is all with a simple bedtime routine, nurse, prayers, then a simple "Night night, we love you!" down in his crib awake, we walk out. No rocking, no fighting, no replacing a pacifier a million times. For us, the ability to put yourself to sleep (and back to sleep), to sleep in your own bed all night, and to get a good rest were things we wanted to teach Sam. We didn't think he would ever just get it on his own. And that part of our job as parents was to help him, even if it meant he was a little frustrated or annoyed learning something new. We would have waited longer (at least 6 months) had we thought he needed more help, but our guts told us he was ready and he was.

If you are "at the end of your rope," (Chapter 1's title of the Ferber book, lol), we totally recommend it. Big fat caveat: this is what has worked for us. I know a lot of people are very against sleep training and that is 10000% totally fine. Every family is different and every child has different needs! So you do you. If it's working and you and your baby are happy, then that is all you could hope to achieve anyways!



So even though we felt like Sam was ready to sleep through the night (basically), we haven't felt like he's ready for food yet.... and I don't think he is. He's 5 months old so can do purees and whatnot, but he just doesn't seem all that interested. Just to see, we fed him some sweet potato two weeks ago and he promptly spit it out (ha). He didn't get that spoon = food. So a week later, we tried some apples which he liked a little bit better but was just sort of "meh" towards. I'm not going to push it. ALSO my preference would be to do BLW aka baby led weaning aka just give your baby real food. And the pediatrician said 6 months for that party so he has a little but longer to wait. I'd be curious to know how and when other parents started foods and ALSO if you have any BLW resources because I feel like I get sucked into BLW googling vortexes with no real authority or helpful info.

On that less than conclusory note, my dear son is hungry but NOT for puree so my attention is required!! :)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

And we're back.....like a herd of turtles

Is a group of turtles a herd? Doubtful. Whatever. We're going with it.

As you may or may not recall, in the last few months, I had a baby (!!!), Lewis switched jobs, and we moved. Since then, Lewis has been plugging away at a job he LOVES thank goodness!! and I have been keeping myself and a tiny human alive. We love it and are exhausted and happy and frustrated and every emotion in between. I actually have a whole backlog of blog posts currently labeled "draft" expounding on this feeling but let's just sum it up as: In Which We Learn To Parent and move on. Something will happen and I'll think, "Hm, that would make a good blog post," (for example - the appropriate timeline to try on pre-pregnancy pants. NB: it's not 4 weeks postpartum) but then lose steam because I feel all this pressure on myself to start the blog back up into high gear and I just can't add another "to do" to my life. But I think I can handle the sporadic blog post. So, I may not be back with any regularity but I would like to cast my thoughts into internetland and see what comes back sometimes slash also have another outlet for my thoughts besides to Lewis. Bless him. He hears it all. (And now you might too woohoo!!! *kidding, I won't subject you to that*)

And with that giant intro, I got...nothing. Haha. Life is sweet and hard and brutal and I think I wanted to quickly word vomit before Samuel wakes up from a nap that is going WAY WAY longer than expected - so far, a whole 50 minutes!!!! Is he ill? What is happening. Sam is a CRAP napper. Yesterday, his afternoon nap was a whopping 18 minutes. Cue the tears. I had a beer at about 4pm. So this is amazing and perhaps I should take advantage by showering (oh, how the highlights of my day have changed since becoming a momma). And so, I shall leave you with the last few photos I've taken recently which should give you a peek into what my days consist of...