Sunday, December 9, 2018

Joy and grief

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It's Adrian's first December and I'm struggling with the fact that I feel like this is supposed to be my most joyous Christmas ever!!! ™ and instead it's feeling like the hardest holiday season since the first one after my dad died. My dad's birthday was on Friday and I held it together all day and then listened to Gary Jules' Mad World in the car on repeat while I drove home from work and I cried. A lot. It was one of the last gifts we gave him - the album with that song. He heard it in our car and told Dustin he loved it and now I cry every time I hear it, thinking about him, thinking about death. This year is particularly emotional for me. I say my dad's name a million times a day now, since my daughter is named after him, and I feel like he has never been closer to us, or further away.

I had a resurgence of grief while I was pregnant - I didn't want to tell anyone about the baby, because every time I told someone it just reminded me that I couldn't tell my dad and stepmom. But I guess I didn't fully expect this December to be so hard. I thought that now that she's here I would be overwhelmed with joy and experience the holidays in a whole new way. (No pressure, right? Most joyous Christmas ever!!!)

And there is a lot of joy. Adrian will be eight months on Monday and I feel like I say this about every stage, but this is the best. She's crawling like a champ, and it's so much fun to be able to walk around the house with her following along. She loves being mobile and she's just delighted by everything and we're constantly discovering that she understands more than we think she does. It's amazing, she's amazing.

On the other hand, I'm coming off a particularly exhausting quarter at work, and combined with the sleep deprivation (I've just accepted the fact that she'll be continuously teething for the next two years) and the fact that my body is always fighting off daycare germs and my house is a mess because I never get past the bare minimum of tidying, every day feels like a crazy repeat of pumping and dishes and baby meals and I never seem to get ahead. I'm just worn down and it feels like my dad's birthday pushed me right over the edge because all weekend I've been crying, pretty much at the drop of a hat. For me, the holidays haven't been about gifts for a really long time. The feeling I strive for is peace. The quiet sense of calm when I would sit on the couch in front of the tree, with the whole house clean and a candle lit, the hours I would spend in the kitchen baking and then assembling boxes of cookies. I had a lot of time to myself, time to sit and think and remember the people we don't have anymore and feel grateful for the ones we do. I guess it was how I was coping, these December rituals, the hours I spent in my own head. And I'm realizing that it's going to be a while before the holidays look like that again. Don't get me wrong - I'm excited for this season of chaos, but I think I'm also having a hard time letting go of what it used to look like and I'm trying to figure out if there's some middle ground, where I'm embracing the insanity but also not living in a house littered with baby toys and abandoned cups of cold coffee (am I ever going to get to drink hot coffee again?). And beneath it all, constantly, is the grief, swelling up, brought so much closer to the surface because all my emotions are closer to the surface these days and it's scary but also kind of liberating and it's making me question the way I've handled emotions up to this point.

We are complicated beings, and I'm learning to sit in the middle of joy and grief and accept that I'll be feeling both, probably forever, but maybe not quite as intensely as I am in this moment. I'm probably going to cry a lot this month, and that's okay. The sweetness of my watching my daughter gnaw on Christmas tree ornaments doesn't offset the sadness I feel, but it does bring a new dimension to my life, and I'm grateful for this experience, for this love, for this fleeting period when everything is new and fresh and my emotions are spilling out everywhere.

But I'm also going to try to use the rest of her nap to clean the house because let's be honest, there's only so much chaos I can embrace.



{photo of me and my girl, in front of a painting by my dad that hangs in her nursery - thanks to jamie for capturing this for us}

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Life at 6 months

Six months

You guys, six months is so much fun. I thought that all the newborn snuggles were amazing, but watching her rapidly gain all these new skills (and sometimes getting to sleep through the night) is the best.

Our lives at six months are crazy and it feels like we're in the weeds most weeks, but (most days) I actually love it and feel really full and content. I mean, don't talk to me after a night of teething related sleeplessness, when I hate the entire world with a fiery passion. I will admit to crying while driving to work just because I'm so exhausted and there's nothing to do about it. But there are other nights where she sleeps for 11 hours and then wakes up babbling and I feel amazing, like we're conquering the world. It's a lot of highs and lows but the highs seem to wipe out the memory of the lows pretty quickly.

I worked full time from home all summer while taking care of her, which was maybe the craziest decision I've ever made. I was so tired and done at the end of those three months. I felt like I was on call 24/7 and I was never sleeping and I felt guilty a lot of the time. Around 5 months she started to outgrow her willingness to take loooong naps in the wrap (the only thing that made this crazy scheme possible), which put my workday into a tailspin. She started daycare at just the right time (5 months + 1 week) and it was the best thing for both of us. I feel so much better being able to focus exclusively on work during the day and then shift to her at home, and she loves being surrounded by other kids and gets the biggest grin on her face when we hand her over to her caretakers each morning.

We're still figuring out how to juggle our lives as two working parents, but we're settling into a routine.

I wake up just before 6 am, pump while getting ready (I have the Spectra S1 which holds a charge, so I can walk around the house while pumping and I don't know how I'd survive without it), leave a bottle of milk on the counter and then get out the door by 6:30. Adrian wakes up between 6 and 6:30 so some mornings I'm lucky and get to see her and others I don't (but then that means she's sleeping in, so lucky in a different way). D takes point in the morning Monday through Thursday (we switch on Friday due to my meeting schedule) so he gets her up, feeds her the bottle, gets her dressed and drops her at daycare by 8:30.

I'm at work by 7 am and I just plow through as much as I can. I rarely take a lunch break. I pump three times at work (9:30, 12:30, 2:30) for about 15 minutes each time. I'm incredibly lucky and have an office so I can just shut my door and keep working while I pump. In theory, I try to leave the office by 3 so that I have a little bit of time to go to the gym or run errands, but I think that's happened once so far. This is a really busy time of year for me, but things will settle down at some point and I'm hoping to reclaim that hour. The absolute latest I can leave is 4:30, otherwise I'm risking being late to daycare pick up because traffic is a total crap shoot. It can take me 30 minutes or an hour, who knows?

I pick up Adrian by 5:30 at the latest, but usually closer to 5. We head home and she plays on the kitchen floor while I get her dinner ready, pack her lunch for the next day, and set up the bathtub and nursery for bedtime routine. Since I'm solo in the evenings I like to have everything staged before we start dinner. I set up the bathroom and put her towel on a baby bouncer so I have somewhere to put her when she's done with her bath. The first time I did bathtime alone I didn't do this and then I had a squirming wet baby and nowhere to set her down. I also start the kettle so I can quickly get a bottle ready in case she wants one before bed.

Depending on when she woke up from her last nap I'm aiming to put her in bed between 6:30 - 7:00, so I'll usually give her dinner around 5:45 pm, let her play with her food for 15 - 30 minutes (she usually has a bottle around 4:30 pm, but if she didn't then I'll breastfeed her as soon as we get home so she isn't too hungry at dinner). During dinner I don't multitask at all, I sit with her and talk to her and have a snack while she eats. We're doing baby led weaning, so she eats real food and I basically watch her like a hawk for any signs of choking (so far just plenty of gagging, which is healthy and normal). It's a really sweet time of day, because she's so excited about her food and also seems to think it's fun to watch me eat.

After dinner I carry her straight to the bathroom and she takes a quick bath, then I put her in pajamas and nurse her. If she's especially hungry I'll give her a bottle of pumped milk afterwards. She sometimes likes to tank up right before bed if she was having too much fun to eat much at daycare. We dim the lights, read a story, turn on the white noise and then I sing her bedtime song and lie her down. Most days she squawks to herself for 10 minutes then cries for 5 minutes, then I go in and soothe her a little and she falls asleep shortly after. Other days I have to go in multiple times. Once in a while we hit the timing just right and she falls asleep right away and I don't go in at all. We're supposed to put her down awake but if I've gone in multiple times I'll usually cheat and just nurse her to sleep because by that point in the day I'm really tired. I clean up from dinner (Circe helps with the floor) and wash all the bottles and pump parts and then pick up the house while I'm listening for her cries. She's usually asleep between 6:30 - 7:00 and I check my work email and handle anything that came in after I left.

If D makes it home by 7:30 then we'll catch up and eat something quick together (we're doing a lot of eggs these days because we just have zero energy for cooking), maaaaybe watch 30 minutes of TV and then I start getting ready for bed, take a quick shower (I'm so bitter on nights I have to wash my hair because it eats up extra time) and make sure I'm all packed up for the morning. I pump one last time around 9 pm, put my pump parts in the fridge for the next morning, and try to be in bed by 9:30 pm. I used to make sure I pumped or fed her every four hours at night, but that wasn't sustainable for me so around 5.5 months I started stretching it out and now I can go from 9 pm - 6 am (there are a lot of nights where she wakes up to eat once during that stretch, but if she sleeps through I'm fine too). It was uncomfortable for a couple days but my body adjusted pretty quickly.

Adrian is still inconsistent at night, so sometimes she'll sleep straight through, which is heavenly, but fairly often she'll wake up once in the middle of the night because she's hungry, I'll feed her and then put her back in her crib and she falls asleep right away. If she's teething or sick she'll sometimes have so much trouble sleeping that one of us will just go in there and hold her all night. It is not awesome but if it happens we alternate nights so that we at least take turns being zombies. This week she's cutting her top two teeth, so I had a really rough night with her on Monday, and D took over for Tuesday. If the pattern is the same as her first two teeth she'll only have a couple hard nights and then it will get better. We've tried Tylenol but it doesn't seem to make a difference, she just wants to be snuggled.

On good days this level of busy-ness feels pretty fulfilling and on tough days it feels like a grind and every once in a while it feels like I'm actually drowning, but I'm so aware of how short this stage is. Everything changes every few months, so nothing lasts for very long, good or bad. There's also a chance that she'll be our only kid, which makes everything seem very bittersweet because I know this might be the only time we get to do this and be in this moment, so I try to just sink into it and pay attention to the good parts and move past the hard parts as best I can. Easier said than done, but I feel so lucky to be here right now (can you tell I'm writing this post after getting a full night of sleep?). There are multiple times a week where I'm watching her and I'm just in awe that we get to do this. Even putting all the crazy mushy emotions aside, it is a huge privilege to get a front row seat and watch a human being develop. Does that make sense? Seeing her learn everything from scratch is just amazing.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

"Soothing ladder"

We are attempting pre-sleep training. I'm not sure what you're supposed to call it. Cosleeping had been going great then last week a switch flipped and after a couple nights of broken sleep we realized that Adrian was having trouble sleeping because she needed more space to roll around and our presence had stopped being soothing and started being exciting. I immediately ordered two sleep training books recommended by friends and we decided to start with the "soothing ladder" method from The Happy Sleeper. We kind of dove into it and amazingly we were able to transition her into her crib in the nursery for the first time ever, which I honestly wasn't sure was possible. That's not to say it hasn't been bumpy. The theory is that at this age you only let them cry for a minute, so if she cries you go in and soothe her in the least intrusive way possible (i.e. stand there, if that doesn't work give her a paci, if that doesn't work, talk to her, then rub her back, pick her up if all else fails). Sometimes by some magic stroke of timing she's in exactly the right place for a nap and she just takes her lovey and rolls over and goes to sleep on her own with zero fuss. More often, we go through the soothing ladder a few times (or for an hour). Sometimes I have to go in there so many times that I'm about to decide I misread her cues and she isn't sleepy and she is never going to go to sleep again probably. That's often when she finally falls asleep.

In order for it to work I have to adopt this sort of zen mindset, where I just accept the fact that I will be walking in and out of her room every few minutes, possibly forever. I have to ignore the pressure I feel from the work that piles up while I do this during daytime naps and focus on radiating calm. I'm usually the opposite of a "woo" person, but I put so much focus into projecting calm and the sense that I have all the time in the world for this and I swear it helps. I spend a lot of time standing in the hallway, staring at the timer on my phone and trying to decide whether the noise she is making counts as "crying" (which you are supposed to intervene with) vs. "fussing" (which you are supposed to allow them to do). But it feels worth it because when she does go down she sleeps well, and she's learning to string together her sleep cycles on her own, which is pretty sweet to see.

This week I'm camping out in the nursery at night because the idea of her being in her own room that long is too much for me, so I get to see when she starts to wake up at night and then (like magic!) quietly fusses about for a few seconds before drifting back off. I just can't believe she's capable of this. Watching a baby develop new skills is just amazing, I can't get over it.

You guys, baby sleep is such a crazy thing. I knew that this was going to be one of the big challenges, but it's still mind blowing to me how much time and thought and energy you put into it. I'm trying to change my mindset, because I'm so type A and I like consistency and planning, so I'd been feeling really guilty about "failing" at baby sleep. Like, I purchased this super expensive bassinet and only used it for two months. We ended up cosleeping when that wasn't our plan. But I'm trying to flip that and tell myself  that we're doing a great job reading and responding to her cues. The SNOO was a huge blessing during the first few months, when she was so tiny and we needed to feel that she was safe above all else. And she was sleeping 6 - 7 hour stretches in it! And then when she started to resist the bassinet but she would fall asleep instantly with me, we transitioned to cosleeping and it was best for all of us. And when she started to struggle with sleeping in our bed, we noticed and now we're showing her that she can self soothe and sleep alone. There will probably be a hundred other transitions with her sleeping, and I need to get over the fact that things aren't going according to "plan" because there is no plan with a baby.

Also, I've lost the ability/time to actually edit posts, so all this baby stuff just gets written out in a 15 minute burst and then slapped up here as is. It kind of kills me, I just do not have the mental capacity for any fine tuning right now. The hardest part is keeping posts to a reasonable length, instead of spilling out a million tiny details and sidebars that are currently occupying my brain. Also, not using emojis, because I definitely would add the sideways laugh/cry face here, which is slightly different from the straight on laugh/cry face because it would subtly indicate that my current mindset is not just funny/sad but also that it's slightly crazy. Okay, that's enough, I'm out.


Monday, August 13, 2018

Surviving maternity leave

I really had no idea what to expect from maternity leave. I've always worked, even when I was in school. All my friends work, so it isn't like I could count on meeting up with people on a weekday. D took four weeks of leave, and that time passed in this lovely haze (mostly - the first week of c-section recovery is a special form of hell, but after that things got better). I mean, we were tired, sure, but we took advantage of the newborn stage and went out a lot. If there was an outdoor patio, we were there. And then he went back to work and I knew I needed some kind of strategy to get me through the next couple months. I have struggled with depression and anxiety in the past, so I was hyper-aware of my potential for developing postpartum depression and I wanted to do everything I could to try to keep myself in a good place.

I want to make it crystal clear here that PPD is not something to take lightly and I don't believe that you can pull yourself out of depression with sheer willpower. I was 100% prepared for the possibility of taking medication if necessary. I am incredibly lucky because I didn't develop PPD (yet - did you know it can set in months after giving birth? stay vigilant!) but I can't say that was due to anything I did. That said, I know that there are steps I can take that help keep me on track when I'm struggling, and I felt better when I had a plan.

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{scene from my daily walk}

When D was getting ready to go back to work I sat down and made myself a list of categories that I needed to hit in order to feel human each day. These might be different for you, but for me it was:

Social - text, phone call, actual meet up with other people (I went to a support group once a week but that was often the only in person thing I did)
Self-care - shower, brush teeth, change clothes even if it's just to a new pair of sweats, do a face mask
Get out of the house - walk outside, or sit in backyard, or drive somewhere
Productivity - laundry, dishes, vacuuming, grocery shopping, writing, etc.
Physical activity - taking a walk or even just cleaning the house
Eating - remembering to eat is a real issue sometimes, so I kept a good supply of decent snacks (mostly trail mix packets) in a visible location

The bar was suuuuuper low in each of these categories. I only had to do one of those things in each category each day (although I did try to shower, brush my teeth, and change my clothes daily). There were plenty of days where the only social thing I did was send a quick text to a friend, but it still helped. The categories can overlap too. Spending 20 minutes running around cleaning the house counts as productivity and physical activity. I made sure that I got a little bit of time alone each evening when D was home where I could just retreat to the bathroom and spend a luxurious 15 minutes washing my face and brushing my teeth to get ready for bed. The nighttime routine felt like a chore pre-baby and now it feels like a full on spa day.

I found that days where I followed this checklist were the easiest for me emotionally. I'm not saying I never felt sad, or lonely, or exhausted and isolated and confused about why this country doesn't take parental leave seriously, for fuck's sake. Ahem. But having goals made the time alone feel more structured and manageable and even enjoyable. The newborn stage is hard but it's also such a sweet time and I wanted to be able to be aware of it and savor it to whatever extent possible. I think I did a pretty good job and I'm grateful for the time I had to focus on her exclusively.

This all fell apart when I started working from home, FYI. I can't tell you how many times D gets home in the evening and I suddenly realize I haven't brushed my teeth or eaten all day, forget actually making it out for a walk. Trying to squeeze in work during every possible free moment is no joke and I'm not killing it in the balance department these days but it's for such a limited time that I'm just kind of surviving. It helps that my sister is here at least a couple days a week to help with the baby, but I still find that I'm crawling the walls by Thursday evening. I have never appreciated weekends so much, because even though I still have to use them to catch up on work I at least don't feel like I'm on call 24/7 and D is home to take care of the baby so I can focus. Sooooo ... note to self - maybe revisit the checklist and see if I can't do a better job of taking care of myself for the rest of the summer, as brief as it is.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Four months postpartum

She's turning into such a little person, and I can't believe it's only been four months.

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My absolute favorite thing right now is watching her work on her fine motor control. The look of absolute concentration on her face while she figures out how to make her hands do what she wants amazes me. This week she's started reaching out and gently running her hands over our faces while she stares intently and I just die.

Four months is an exciting time for her, and a weird time for me (what isn't weird about being postpartum? I have so many feelings about this stage of life). My hair abruptly started falling out last week. Not like "oh, that was a lot of hair to lose in the shower" but like "dear god, those are entire clumps of hair just falling out in my hands" - it was a horror show. I'm surprised I have any hair left at this point. I need to get it cut so that I feel slightly less frumpy but I feel like it's safest to wait until the hair loss hits a plateau, so that my stylist knows what he has to work with. Please tell me there will be a plateau.

I also threw my back out this week and had to go to a chiropractor for the first time. Apparently the c-section decimated what little ab strength I had (I've always hated ab work) and now my back is over it. So I need to work on that. The chiropractor asked what I do for exercise and usually when I'm asked this lately I lie and say I walk several times a week but I was just honest and told the truth. I do nothing. Absolutely nothing. I was walking daily until I had to go back to work and then I was still managing to walk a few times a week but then the weather got crazy hot and now I just do nothing. Is it any surprise that my back is failing?  The chiropractor looked like no one had ever said that before. She even said "oh, walking counts" and then I had to tell her that no, I really meant nothing, no walking, nothing. Am I the only one in LA who doesn't exercise? I would love to say that I went home and took a walk but I just went back to working and then ate a bunch of cookies instead of getting lunch.

Last week I gave in and went to Madewell and got the highest rise pants that they had in a size that fits me comfortably. I don't know what I've done right in my life for mom jeans to come back into style just as I had a kid, but I'm very grateful.

I know that at some point I need to get my act together and start taking better care of myself but this summer is almost over and I just can't be bothered right now because all I want to do is eat cookies and watch my baby grab stuff. But I swear I'm going to start doing those postpartum ab exercises, because the back spasms are no joke.

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P.S. You try making a baby smile without looking like a total idiot, it's impossible, I'm pretty sure.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

SNOO review (sort of) - months 2 & 3

First SNOO post (months 0 - 2) here.

SNOO

So I should admit up front that I considered letting this series die a quiet death and never posting about baby sleep again because I feel like a huge failure. I basically gave up at week 11, which was my second week back at work (aka - no more naps during the day) and a wonder week leap, and I just gave in and started cosleeping*, which was never in my plan. But here I am posting this anyways, because even if it isn't really a review of the SNOO anymore, maybe it's still helpful to someone? Or maybe just acknowledging that babies are different and getting your sleep in whatever way works best for your family is okay? I hate to discourage people from the SNOO because it was so great for us during the first couple months, and I have heard from so many other people for whom the SNOO was a lifesaver. I should try reading those emails to Adrian to see if they can convince her.

Anyways, here are my notes from the last two months.

Week 9: 6/12 - 6/19 Started out strong, still getting those nice 6 -7 hour stretches in the SNOO at night. But it kind of fell apart towards the end of the week, probably a perfect storm of her getting all her two month vaccinations and being a bit fussy and me getting stressed about going back to work. We dipped back down to 4 hour stretches for a few nights.

Week 10: 6/19 - 6/26 My first week back at work and everything is kind of topsy turvy and we're trying to figure out a schedule. She decides she isn't into the bottle anymore (nice timing!) and we have a little regression on the evening fussiness. Still getting 4 - 6 hour stretches consistently at the start of the week, but shit starts to fall apart on Friday and then I realize we are entering a Wonder Week (since she was born a week late she goes through her leaps a little early, because they are based on due date and not birth date).

Week 11: 6/26 - 7/3 Wonder Week leap three in full swing, I'm not even attempting to get her to sleep anywhere but on me. We're actually relatively lucky because she mostly stays cheerful during Wonder Weeks (so far!) but she just cannot sleep on her own while she's going through a leap. She naps happily in the wrap during the day, but at night she hits a fussy wall and it takes a concerted effort to calm her down and get her to eat and fall asleep. Then if you try to put her in the SNOO she will sleep for maybe 40 minutes, then she's up and inconsolable. I give up and just accept that we're co-sleeping this week. It's crazy that she can be crying and refusing to sleep for ages and then falls asleep within two minutes if I lie down and hold her. I'm barely sleeping because I'm so aware of her, but knowing that there is an end date for this makes it bearable and even sweet. I'm hoping that she rebounds after this leap and maybe we'll even get a magical 8 hour stretch.

Week 12: 7/3 - 7/10 Things are still terrible. Did I ruin our baby by letting her sleep with me for a week? She is refusing to sleep for more than 15 minutes on her own, at any time of the day or night. I know that we need to suck it up and make a big push to get her back in the SNOO but we're both working and I just can't face even one night of waking up a million times to soothe her back to sleep. I tell myself we'll try over the weekend.

Week 13: 7/10 - 7/17 Yeah, that didn't happen. We had a crazy heat wave and all ended up camping out in the nursery, so she's still sleeping with us. The thing is that she sleeps so well that it's hard to motivate to get her back in her bassinet. Even though I don't sleep heavily when she's with me, not having to get up multiple times a night feels so good that I'm reluctant to give it up. I don't fall back asleep easily once I'm up, so I'm extra motivated not to wake up fully over and over again.

Week 14: 7/17 - 7/24 Why am I even writing this review? I feel like a failure because I haven't even attempted to get her back in the SNOO and our kid will probably be sleeping with us until she goes to college. At least we're pretty well rested? Her nighttime schedule is like clockwork now. We put her down around 8 or 9 pm, she sleeps solidly until 2 - 3 am, when I feed her half asleep, then she's back down until 6:40 am. I still sleep pretty lightly with her next to me, but I've stopped feeling quite so terrified that I'll roll over on her. We're both always in exactly the same position every time I wake up. I did put her in the SNOO for a couple of her daytime naps this week, which went over okay. She'll sleep for about an hour in the SNOO during the day, whereas I get 2.5 - 3.5 hours if I wear her in the wrap. She's always been a good daytime napper, and the only thing I do is adhere pretty firmly to the "awake times" theory, so I only let her stay awake for about an hour and a half at a time during the day, then I make a major push to get her down for a nap. Part of the issue is that I really NEED those long naps because I'm working from home and I need concentrated times when I can bang out a ton of work without interruption. So wearing her is worth it to me because she'll nap better and longer.

Week 15: 7/24 - 7/31 We're deep in Wonder Week leap four (which lasts for-freaking-ever) and she started rolling over for real this week and it made her completely crazy for a couple days. Cosleeping started to get weird because instead of staying snuggled up next to me all night she now wants to lie on her back with her arms spread out, which means that this 13 lb infant is somehow taking up 1/3 of our bed. She's also waking up more, and I don't know if it's the four month sleep regression or the rolling but I'm bummed.

Week 16: 7/31 - 8/7 Ugh, it's been a week of her waking up every 2 - 3 hours wanting to eat, or just being fussy. I'm exhausted. I know it's just a phase, but towards the end of the week, not having had more than 1.5 hours of sleep at a time for five nights in a row I told her to go fuck herself when she woke up at 3am and then I felt bad. She didn't seem to care either way so I guess we're still friends. She's still sleeping super sprawled out in bed and I'm thinking maybe instead of getting her back into the SNOO we'll just work on transitioning her to her crib. We'll see.

This is ending on a sad note, but I'm happy to give a spoiler and note that week 17 has started off really well, back to 7ish hour stretches at night the last couple nights. Fingers crossed this sticks for a bit. I am a way nicer person if I get at least one uninterrupted stretch of sleep at night.

* Thoughts about cosleeping - I've never been anti cosleeping, and I know plenty of people who do it happily and safely, but it always seemed like it wouldn't be the solution for us. Our dog sleeps with us, for one thing, and I like my space at night, and after 9 months of forced side sleeping I was really looking forward to being able to roll around to my heart's content. Initially, we "coslept" for short periods by letting her sleep on my chest while I was propped up, just to get a couple hours sleep during fussy nights. Once she was 11 weeks old it started feeling less scary because she was so much stronger, and she'd sleep alongside me, against my belly/chest with her forehead just below my chin. We followed some standard safety tips, like limiting bedding and pillows. Luckily it was summer, so we mostly just slept without blankets, or only pulled the blankets up to my waist and we already have a firm mattress. Circe kind of resolved the dog issue because she's been sleeping with us way less since we came home from the hospital. She gets annoyed that I have to get up to feed Adrian at night, so she started sleeping on the floor beside our bed instead, although she'll hop up and sleep on Dustin's side for some snuggles in the beginning of the night. I also got more comfortable with the idea of Circe and Adrian coexisting, because they spend a lot of supervised time together on the playmat during the day, and once Adrian started rolling it was pretty obvious that she's strong enough (and loud enough) to wake us up if Circe gets too close. Circe has also proved herself surprisingly tolerant. She chooses to lie beside Adrian during playtime, and waits patiently and stoically while I have to detach Adrian's death grip on her fur multiple times a day. If she gets too annoyed she'll leave the room, but in general she seems willing to put up with a lot, which I definitely didn't expect. But at night she consistently avoids Adrian, to the extent of not wanting to come over to my side of the bed at all, so I guess her tolerance has limits. Circe is pretty committed to sleeping.

Anyways, long story short, cosleeping didn't feel as scary as I expected it to once she got bigger, and even though I'm still hoping this is just a short phase in our lives (she starts daycare in another month and she has to learn to sleep on her own before that) it's been a surprisingly sweet one.

Friday, July 27, 2018

The giant pregnancy post

Soooooo I wrote this just a couple weeks after having Adrian, then kept telling myself I'd come back to it for editing and to split it up into a few easier to read posts about specific aspects of pregnancy. But that isn't happening, and today I realized that it's the one year anniversary of finding out that I was pregnant, so I'm going to just dump it here as is. Otherwise I probably won't get around to posting this until the kid goes to college. Things covered in this post - body image, first trimester misery, (not) exercising while pregnant, discovering I had a defect in the umbilical cord (SUA), dealing with contractions from 28 weeks on.

pregnancy

By the time we decided we were ready to try for a baby, I wasn't all that worried about the actual baby. I'm incredibly lucky because I've been able to spend a lot of time and develop a close relationship with my sister's kids, and even the newborn phase didn't seem too intimidating because I got to stay with them for the first two weeks both times. I wasn't stupid enough to believe that this was the same experience as actually parenting, but at least I knew how to hold a newborn and how to change diapers and that sometimes when the umbilical stump falls off it is really freaking gross but that doesn't necessarily mean that anything is wrong.

But I was pretty anxious about the pregnancy. I was afraid I'd gain a million pounds, or that I'd be incredibly sick the entire time, or that I'd hate the feeling of sharing my body and that my anxiety would spike up. I worried about it a lot. I wanted to have a baby, but I just couldn't imagine myself pregnant.

And then (several months later) I was pregnant and it wasn't bad. None of the things I was worried about happened. Other things happened, things that I wasn't expecting and hadn't bothered to worry about, which is probably some kind of lesson that I should learn except that right now I'm pretty tired from carrying a human around for 41 weeks and so I'm not in the mood.

I'm sharing this not to say that hey, pregnancy is easy and there's no reason to stress! Everyone's experience is so different and there's no way to really anticipate how pregnancy will feel. I'm just sharing to say that maybe it's not worth stressing too much in advance because you can't predict how you're going to feel or what is going to happen. And each pregnancy can be different, so even being pregnant before doesn't necessarily mean you'll know how you'll feel the next time around.

Physically, I had a pretty easy pregnancy, for which I am super grateful. As soon as I got a positive pregnancy test I decided to kick into super healthy gear. I was going to eat protein and vegetables and drink tons of water! I was going to exercise moderately every day! I would be my best self and then I would have the world's healthiest baby!

This lasted for approximately two weeks, at which point morning sickness kicked in, which in my case was more like a 24/7 hangover of epic proportions that dragged on until I was 20 weeks along. I was lucky that I wasn't actively throwing up, but the nausea and lack of energy meant that I spent a lot of evenings lying on the kitchen floor in front of the refrigerator trying to convince myself to open the door and eat something, anything. Even in the moment I was aware of how ridiculously dramatic this was, but I honestly didn't feel up to anything else. I ate a lot of peanut butter for "dinner" during this time. I also had to force myself to drink water, for the first time in my life. And I had this lovely pregnancy symptom where my mouth tasted weird all the time, but especially after eating. That sentence does not adequately communicate how incredibly disgusting and frustrating this was. If anyone else is suffering through weird pregnancy mouth, I can say that I finally figured out that eating protein (mostly cheese sticks, in my case) didn't make it any worse, but any kind of carbs, especially sugar, was a nightmare. Also, chewing minty gum helped a little. I ended up eating zero sugar for two thirds of my pregnancy because of this (so at least I had one healthy habit).

Even once the morning sickness cleared up I had zero desire or energy to exercise. I can count on one hand the number of times I worked out during pregnancy. My only saving grace was that I committed to taking the stairs everywhere I went, even though I park on the fifth floor of the structure everyday at work. I told myself that this sort of counted, but in practice I was basically a land slug. I want to say that if I had another chance I would do it differently but to be honest I'm just not sure I was capable of it.

Surprisingly, I didn't gain a million pounds, and I actually ended up really feeling okay with my body during pregnancy. I was shocked by this. I've struggled with mild to moderate body image issues for most of my life and they tend to flare up when I'm stressed or dealing with major life events. At the time I got pregnant I was already at the heavier end of my personal weight spectrum and I thought that adding on extra pounds would raise a lot of issues. But I think I ended up being so busy and distracted that I didn't really think about it much (postpartum body image is turning out to be a whooooole other thing that I'm still in the early stages of figuring out). Once I got over the morning sickness I expected my appetite to rebound like crazy but instead it just went back to normal. I never felt overly hungry while pregnant and I think I mostly continued to eat like normal, although I did make an effort to keep healthier stuff stocked, so I snacked on a lot of nuts and yogurt. I wasn't perfect and I was pretty stressed at work, so I admit that I sometimes had a pretty sporadic daytime meal schedule. I would start out well (I ate the unsweetened Trader Joe's instant oatmeal with a sliced banana for breakfast every single week day of my pregnancy, because it was easy and I could do it at work) but then I was trying to cram so much work into my day that I'd realize I'd been sitting at my desk for hours and hadn't gotten up to go to the bathroom or eat. I vividly remember sitting in the grocery store parking lot one afternoon after work crying because I'd waited too long to eat and I already felt like a bad parent and this kid wasn't even born yet and what was wrong with me and why couldn't I get it together? Turns out that there are a lot of dramatic pregnancy moments that feel either hilarious or embarrassing in retrospect but are dead serious in the moment. Anyways, long story short, I thought I was going to be dealing with massive body image issues while pregnant, but instead I gained a totally normal amount of weight and felt surprisingly good about my body the whole time. I do credit part of this to switching over to maternity clothes pretty early. It's hard for me to feel good about myself if I have buttons or zippers digging into my midsection. Over the belly pregnancy jeans are basically leggings that look work appropriate. I'm honestly not sure why we don't all wear them all the time. I also found that I wore tighter clothes during pregnancy than in my normal life. I tried the beautiful hipster tunic-y or drapey maternity clothes and I looked like a house. I figured out quickly that I felt my best if I was wearing form fitting clothing that made it clear I was housing an actual baby and not just an extra large burrito, so I stuck with that. I mostly lived in maternity jeans and a few long sleeved maternity tops. Since I was pregnant during holiday season, I also bought a couple festive maternity dresses (I got a few pieces from both Pink Blush and Asos and found that at both places the quality is super mixed. The holiday dresses I got from Pink Blush look cute but they are seriously the cheapest feeling things. D asked if I was flammable after he felt the fabric on the dress I wore to his holiday party BUT multiple people commented on how amazing the dress looked, so it served its purpose and I just made sure to stay away from candles. On the other hand, the maternity workout leggings I got from Pink Blush are ah-mazing, and I wore them non-stop for six months - they don't seem to have the same exact pair anymore but they were similar to these. So I would say just order stuff and then return anything that feels cheap once you try it on.)

The parts of pregnancy I didn't anticipate were the hardest. At our 20 week anatomy scan we were so excited to finally confirm the sex of the baby, and instead we found out that I had an umbilical defect. Most umbilical cords have two arteries and one vein, but I had a condition called single umbilical artery (SUA). Five minutes of googling later and I was totally freaked out. An SUA can be isolated, meaning that it is just an anomaly and not associated with any other issues, or it can be associated with chromosomal abnormalities or heart or kidney defects. We found out on a Saturday and I was crushed and panicked. Everyone I talked to told me to get off the internet right away, and I tried to follow that advice and made it a full 48 hours. Then I talked to a friend and my therapist and they both told me that it was perfectly understandable to want to learn more about it and they reminded me that I had to advocate both for the baby and for myself. I understand why people tell you not to start googling, but how else are you supposed to know what questions to ask? I already spend a good chunk of time reading and discussing scientific articles for work, and so I went straight to the source and looked up every peer reviewed journal article I could find on SUA. At first it was pretty disheartening. Even if an SUA is isolated and not associated with any other issues, it can still lead to a higher chance of restricted fetal growth or late term miscarriage or stillbirth, presumably because the cord is more fragile and prone to damage. Dustin and I spent a pretty depressing night sitting up in our bed, surrounded by my stacks of highlighted articles. But after going through everything I felt confident that our doctor was following the best course of action. Given that the anatomy scan showed a healthy heart and kidneys, and that the prenatal screening and anatomy scan didn't show any signs of chromosomal issues, there was every indication that we had an isolated SUA and the only action indicated was closer monitoring during the third trimester. I'm not going to say that I was able to immediately let it go and stop worrying, but I did my best. The last month of pregnancy I was increasingly worried but the extra monitoring (two non-stress tests per week starting at 32 weeks, plus growth scans every 2 - 3 weeks) helped reassure me that she was growing just fine. And she was just fine, as it turned out! I did end up having an unplanned c-section, and the SUA factored into our decision on that. Her heart wasn't handling the contractions well but the doctor might have let me try to labor a little longer if they weren't concerned about the SUA already putting her at higher risk. I 100% do not regret that decision, even though the c-section was stressful and the recovery kind of sucked. I just feel so lucky that she arrived healthy and happy, after all that concern.

And then there were the contractions. At 28 weeks I had a particularly hard week at work and also felt terrible physically and then finally figured out that I was having contractions every five minutes. I spent two separate nights in L & D that week, but it became clear that the contractions weren't causing my cervix to dilate, so they told me to try to rest more and warned me that this might just be my baseline for the rest of the pregnancy. Ugh. I did what I could to modify my schedule, splitting up my work day between the office and home as often as possible. I found that I couldn't stop the contractions but with tons of hydration and lots of rest I could keep them to a manageable level. They weren't painful, just uncomfortable, so once I knew they weren't an indication of pre-term labor I was able to mostly relax and ignore them. Every single time I would go in for non-stress tests the tech would look startled and ask if I knew I was having contractions. YES. I KNOW. I was worried I wouldn't know when they transitioned into actual labor and that I'd have the baby on our bathroom floor. SPOILER - as uncomfortable as they are, those early contractions feel NOTHING like actual labor. I woke up with a contraction the morning I went into labor and immediately knew that this was the real thing. I can't even really describe how it was different, but I could tell it was. In the early stages the contractions feel similar, but with real labor they started getting painful and increasing in strength pretty quickly.

So that's a whole bunch of pregnancy stuff crammed into one post. Long story short, there is really no way to predict how a pregnancy will go, so my recommendation is to try not to stress (or build up big expectations!) ahead of time and then just roll with it as best you can when it happens. I know, I know. Easier said than done. I'm sorry! I guess my only real advice is to get into maternity clothes ASAP.