Bad Days

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Sometimes you just have bad days. It doesn’t matter who you are, everyone has them.

For me, it’s usually because Eli is upset and I can’t figure out why. That is the worst kind of bad day. I can tell he is hurting or in need of something but he can’t talk yet to tell me what it is and I’m left to guessing. Other days, it’s because he keeps going for the no-no’s and no matter how many times or different ways I try to get him not to, he keeps going for it.

In the first case, I make a mental checklist of everything I know that soothes Eli and start going down that list until something sticks. The last resort is putting him the car and driving around. Or, if he is sick, the last resort is Tylenol. Most often we have these kinds of days it is because he is teething. At this age, he’s pretty much always teething.

(For the record, I tried to find a picture of Eli crying but it seems I do not have one.)

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Baby proofing early would have been helpful here.

For the second scenario, when Eli is pushing his boundaries, I have to have a good attitude. I also have to be firm. Children know and remember when you let it slide one time.  A mom of 4 boys told me: “distract and redirect”. I use this method often. I take him away from the no-no, by cheerily offering up another thing to play with. When not even the most enticing toy works, I remove him from the situation. There is no point in keeping up the same cycle if we are both just getting frustrated. It’s not that I’m giving up on teaching him the lesson, it’s that doing it over and over again until we’re both crying isn’t going to drive that lesson home.

The hardest part is keeping my calm through these moments. He will feel me get upset, and it will add fuel to his fire. So I step back, take a deep breath, and start fresh. What method have I not tried yet? What could he be needing at this moment? How can I redirect him? What is Eli feeling at this moment? That is the most important question. Once I take my emotions out of it and focus on his, it makes it much easier.

At the end of these days, when I am holding Eli before bed telling him all the things about him that I love, I add in, “Today was a bad day. That is okay. Sometimes we have bad days. We are both learning. Tomorrow is a new day.” I swear, he understands what I mean. Because after this mantra, he and I both seem to come back to each other. The frustration is gone. We are mommy and son again. We are both learning. Each day isn’t a contest to win or lose at, it’s a lesson. What did we learn today? How can we apply that to tomorrow?

Tomorrow is always a new day. Remember that.

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Smile!

We’ve been busy…

My mom’s backyard wedding!

Sorry, readers. I apologize for my absence this week. But I have had a couple other things going on…. like my mom getting married! In our own backyard! Needless to say, I have been busy. More on the wedding later.

I have missed my blog, and so I come back to it this morning with a short story and a sweet sentiment:

When Eli’s dad and I were dating, we celebrated a Valentine’s day where we both forgot to get a card for the other. Realizing this, I joked with him about what my card would have said, had I written one. In a slightly (okay maybe more than slightly) sarcastic tone, I said, “Every moment with you is magical”. With a cheesy sigh and a batting of the eyelashes, it became an instant go-to response for us. We would use completely unromantic, ironic moments to whisper to the other, “every moment with you is magical”.

Then our son was born.

And truly, ever so truly, every moment with Eli is magical. There is this sense in the air, nearly tangible, of something so much more special, important, and uniquely wonderful with Eli around. It goes back to what I’ve said before, about all the time spent with my baby daddy leading and preparing us, unknowingly, towards being parents together. I didn’t know when I said it that Valentine’s day what that phrase would really come to mean to me.

So to you, dear son, my darling boy, I want you to know….

Every moment with you is magical.

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An Unabridged Version of Labor

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Our first day together.

I still have the voicemail my doctor left on my phone at 5:52 am on July 10th, 2013.

She told me to come in as soon as I could, she wanted to see me before 7:00 am if possible. I actually remember it not being very clear to me whether I was just going in for a check-up or if I was going to be induced. I knew my doctor was about to leave on vacation, so maybe she just wanted to see me again before she left and set me up with one of her colleagues. I took my packed hospital bag with me anyways, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be admitted or not.

I was six days past my due date—they’ll let you get to two weeks— and at that point I was resigned to the whole labor process. I felt certain I would never go into labor on my own, my baby was huge (although measuring right on track, which is why they didn’t pop me sooner), and I just didn’t care anymore how he came out. They say that is when you know you’re ready, when you stopping caring and worrying, and instead of saying “I just want to have my baby” you are saying “I just don’t want to be pregnant anymore”. I’d had my hospital bag packed and the car seat installed since 35 weeks pregnant, and now I was almost at 41 weeks. I was so beyond “ready”.

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I sent this to my baby daddy the day after my due date with the caption: still pregnant.

There wasn’t a fear, or a nervousness, or even a butterfly-in-the-stomach feeling. All I felt was an overwhelming sense of “Let’s do this.”

My induction had been scheduled for the night before, but they had to cancel it because the hospital was too full. I blame it on those 50 Shades of Grey books, they created a mini baby-boom. Anyways, a room must’ve opened up because there I was, waddling into the elevator and up to the maternity ward.

I didn’t know when I entered those doors that I wouldn’t be walking through them again for 3 days.

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It happened quickly and slowly at the same time. They got me in a gown, my doctor came in a checked me, gave the go ahead to start pitocin and gave me a rough timeline for the day. I would probably have my baby by the evening if things went smoothly.

I have nothing against women who want to have their babies naturally. You are woman, hear you roar. We are amazing creatures capable of enduring so much. But what you are about to read is why I believe you should at least give birth in a hospital. Drugs or no drugs, at least be inside the hospital.

I had a wonderfully textbook pregnancy. Everything happened exactly as it should. Except one big detail: I didn’t go into labor when I should have. My baby was healthy, I was healthy, but apparently I made too nice of a home in there for him, because he stayed too long. He grew larger than what would be physically possible for me to fit through my body, but we didn’t know that yet.

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So the pitocin (labor inducing drug) dripped into my veins, my water was broken for me, and when I started feeling the contractions at like a 4 on scale of 1 to 10, I got an epidural. (I was iffy on an epidural, I wanted to go as long as I could without one, but once you get to a certain point it is really hard to sit still long enough for them to place it, and it makes things more difficult for you, your baby, and the anesthesiologist. Also, my anesthesiologist was about to be tied up in surgery for two hours). By 1:00 pm, I was numb from the waist down, contracting regularly, and waiting for things to speed up. I watched Harry Potter, I played cards, I got caught up on my favorite TV show. Friends came in and out, family too. It was very relaxed. I had no indication of what was coming,

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Notice their jackets and sweatshirts? I had the AC up on high. Apparently it’s normal for mamas to be super hot during labor and the days following.

Around 4 pm, when no one was in the room with me except my baby daddy, I puked. All over. My gown, the bed, the blankets. He called the nurse and helped me get cleaned up. I was hungry (I didn’t eat breakfast in the rush of getting to hospital that morning), but they won’t let you eat anything solid because so many women throw up during labor. I had tried jello, popsicles, sprite, broth. Didn’t matter. It was all back up now.

My doctor’s shift ended; I met my new doctor. They checked me again, and I was still at 4-5 centimeters. I had been walking around at 1 centimeter for a month, then when I got the pitocin I went quickly to 4-5 centimeters. Then I stayed there. All day.

I was still contracting right along, they got me set up for the evening, and instead of having my baby on the 10th of July, they told me, because of my slow progress, to sleep now and hope for the morning.

Around 11 pm is where I stop remembering most of the details. I have flashes of moments. Seeing the emoticon pain scale on the wall and realizing I’m a 10 I’m a 10 I’m a 10. The anesthesiologist was being paged back in. People were coming in and out of the room and talking over me. My best friend/birthing coach rolled tennis balls on my lower back to help ease the pain. My mom held my hand and I squeezed hers back. The doctor or the nurse or my subconscious told me to focus on a spot on the wall until the contraction had passed. Someone tried to put Justin Timberlake in the cd player because I wanted to give birth to Pusher Love Girl* but I said no, don’t.

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The tennis balls were great for counter pressure and they are supposed to save the masseur’s hands from getting too tired. They didn’t at the level of pressure I was asking for, so baby daddy and best friend switched off. That’s my mom’s hand I’m squeezing, look at how white her fingers are…. sorry mama.

I had gone from feeling the tiniest of twinges when I had contractions to feeling EVERYTHING. They tried to up the epidural—I felt really bad for the anesthesiologist, it was his last day before retirement and it wasn’t his fault I could feel everything. They checked me again, and I was at 6 centimeters but my cervix was starting to swell. The boost in the epidural wasn’t helping. As each contraction grew stronger I knew that my pelvis was going to break.

I’m pretty sure I said it out loud, but in my head I know I was begging for a c-seciton and a spinal. I knew a spinal block would work and stop the pain. And a c-section would get the baby out and that would definitely stop the pain. I was so nauseated at this point I couldn’t open my eyes. When I did I became so dizzy I felt immediately like throwing up. My contractions were 45 seconds apart, and I had no breaks, and my labor was growing more and more intense, but my baby wasn’t getting closer to coming out.

I remember even less. It was maybe 1 am. I was being wheeled to surgery, my baby daddy was somewhere gowning up. Then I was getting a spinal block and digging my nails into the nurse holding me up on the table. Then throwing up again, all over, and someone made a joke about how many gowns I was allowed to go through.**

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Baby daddy took a selfie while he was waiting for the surgery to start…. #abouttobeadaddy

Someone, probably the doctor, asked “can you feel this” as a scalpel was pressed to my skin, and I was pretty sure I couldn’t. But I could’t really move my face to talk to tell him that. My lips were heavy and dry and I wanted water but they definitely won’t give any water to the girl currently in surgery and whose been throwing up all over. My eyes were still shut so I wouldn’t puke again. Someone said that I was going to feel a lot of pressure and pulling and tugging. I think I asked my baby daddy to take pictures of the c-section—I really wanted to see it—but I couldn’t open my eyes and he was not so into the blood and guts stuff.

I don’t remember much, but let me tell you, I could feel it. I could feel what was happening. I didn’t feel any pain, but I felt all the motions. And then I felt the doctor pull my baby out of me, and I said out loud, “Oh, that feels so much better”. I am pretty sure the whole operating room laughed at me. It did feel so much better. Immediately, all the discomfort I was feeling was gone, and the nausea was gone, and a huge weight was lifted. Literally.

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Now that’s a fresh baby. Maybe 2 minutes old here.

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And that, dear readers, is why my baby got stuck and I had to have a c-section. I often get the jaw-drop reaction when I tell people how big he was, and then they look me up and down, and their jaws drop further. “That baby came out of you?!”

The doctor joked that he “made a 5 pound incision for a 9 pound baby”, and the anesthesiologist said “that baby’s as big as she is!”, and my baby daddy was saying “he’s so beautiful he’s so beautiful”, and I was just so glad not to be pregnant anymore. I wanted see my baby but I still was not opening my eyes much because now the exhaustion caught up to me and my eyelids were so heavy.  I asked what color hair he had because that would help determine what we would name him. His hair was dark because it was wet, but some how this connection was not made, and so I said “maybe Luke”.

The first person Eli made eye contact with. His 23 year old mirror, his daddy.

The first person Eli made eye contact with. His 23 year old mirror, his daddy.

My baby daddy held his baby, our baby, our maybe Luke baby. I turned my head trying to see, but I was still numb and stuck on the table while they stitched me up.  At some point I know I asked to see my placenta. It was so cool, but the poor thing was tired and used up. One week overdue and a 9 lb 2 oz baby really beats up a placenta.

My arms were heavy and still too numb hold my baby boy. We wheeled into recovery, it was going to be my chance to hold him finally, well kind of, they put him on my chest and I’m pretty sure I put my arms around him but kept my eyes closed and asked begged for ice chips. We did skin-to-skin for an hour and then baby daddy got to do skin-to-skin for an hour. Nurses monitored our vitals, measured Eli’s head and length.

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In recovery. If this is the first time I held Eli, I don’t remember it.

Then it was 4 am and it was over. We were wheeling back to my room, the room I had just been playing cards in earlier. The nurse was going to give Eli his first bath and baby daddy was going to watch and I kept saying how I wanted to watch but I couldn’t because I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I was so tired and my eyes were so heavy.

After the bath, we told the nurse to take him. We were so exhausted, and we just needed to sleep. It was just baby daddy and me now. And our baby. Our new fresh, perfect baby. Did you know they still say “ten fingers, ten toes” in the delivery room? Even though we’d already seen all of them on an ultrasound. Anyways, the nurse took my little baby boy out to the nursery. (They don’t usually do that anymore, it’s been found it’s best for the baby to stay in the room with mama and dada). We slept. A few hours went by and I woke up, it was morning. I wanted to see my baby—now that I could actually open my eyes and see— and I paged the nurse to bring him in.

It was the morning of July 11th, a new day, a wonderful new day. At 1:54 am my son had entered the world. After some much needed rest, I was ready to meet him. To stare at him. To ogle him. To fall in love with his face and his soft soft skin and his tiny toes and his strong fingers and his bright, alert eyes. I wasn’t sure how, but in those moments with him, everything was right in the world. That day, and every day since, the world has been a much better place.

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* because the name of the song says pusher, a baby born to JT will be born with a swag rating of 100, and because its a good upbeat song to workout to, and I equated labor with a going for hard run.

**I was very glad for the joking atmosphere in the O.R. If I had gotten to choose to have a c-section and been more coherent for it, I would have been right there with them joking and light hearted. I actually asked at one point while pregnant if I could watch my own c-section, they told me no because you go into shock or something…whatever. How many other times can you talk to the surgeon as they operate on you?! How epically cool.

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What I Never Leave the House Without

This is the WubbaNub. The wub, the wubba, the wubby. It’s just a pacifier with a plush toy attached to it and it makes everything so much easier. It should just be called a lifesaver.

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I received two WubbaNubs as gifts while pregnant, and I didn’t understand their value until months later. I thought it was this silly, cutesy baby toy. I had no idea a WubbaNub had so much practical use. Because of the stuffed animal attached to the end of the pacifier, we never lose it.

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It’s easier for Eli to handle. Before he could even move himself around much, he could find the WubbaNub in his crib at night. I have never had to go to his room in the middle of the night and blindly search in the dark for his pacifier. He can do it himself. (Bonus, he learned self-soothing sooner.) Also, I have never had to frantically run to the store and buy another pack of them, because they don’t get dropped and if they do they don’t roll or bounce like the plain pacifiers.

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It may mean Eli always has either  a giraffe or a puppy dangling out of his mouth, but it makes life so much easier for me. Like when I’m driving, and he is fussing, and he can grab the Wub and put it in himself. It’s incredible. I recommend one to every soon-to-be parent I see, and any stranger who comments on it. If you have a baby, know someone having a baby, or know someone who might have a baby, get one. They are about $13 and you can get them online or at a few different stores–the WubbaNub website can help you find where to find a retailer carrying them near you.

Seriously. It’s so simple and so genius. The WubbaNub is like a life hack, but for babies. A baby hack.  The best baby hack.

*Double bonus: this pacifier is a much safer alternative to the dangerous—and not AAP recommended—pacifier clip. It achieves the same purpose without posing a strangulation risk.

 

5 Myths About Babies

Here are 5 myths that I wholeheartedly believed before having my son and was pleasantly surprised to learn are not even close to what it’s really like.

 

1. You’ll never sleep again ever.

This is so far from true. And it’s the most prevalent baby myth out there. I believed it. I was ready to go through two years of a horrible, never-enough-rest, haze. The truth? I sleep up to 10 hours a night. Sometimes I wake up, ready to start my day, before Eli does. Newborns sleep like 16 hours a day, it just doesn’t happen all in one chunk. That is double the adult’s 8 hours of recommended sleep! And then I had a magic baby, who at 9 weeks old was sleeping from 10pm until 5 am. Don’t we all have a grandpa out there somewhere who has the same routine? So yes, for 9 short weeks, I was up a few times a night feeding a baby. Feeding a baby isn’t exactly rocket science and even then I could kinda half-sleep for the 20 minutes it would take. Now he sleeps an 11 to 12 hour stretch at night. When I first had him, I was instructed to “sleep when he sleeps”. I followed that advice in the beginning, but it would be silly now if I went to sleep at 8 pm to wake up at 8 am. Not only do I get plenty of I rest, I get more rest now than I did before I had a baby.

2. They are huge time-sucks.

Let me refer to the above paragraph. Eli goes to bed at 8 pm. Every night, I have two or more hours to do whatever I want. He also naps up to three hours a day. More time to do whatever I need to do. And when he’s awake, he’s a baby, so it’s not like he can complain when I take him shopping with me. My time is still my time. He needs face to face interaction for a big part of his awake time (it’s the best way to help him learn and be a happy baby), which happens naturally when I’m feeding him, and easily when he is playing. The time I spend interacting with him is always time well spent. And when he sleeps, there is still plenty of time leftover for me. Even if he did take up more of my time (cue toddler-hood), it is all time I would love to give to him.

3. Kids are no fun.

Really? Now I have an excuse to wear pajamas all day, eat food with my hands, and watch cartoons. How does that equate to “no fun”? Eli gives me a reason to be silly, to not care so much what I look like, and to have an imagination. Granted, he is crawling and pretty interactive now at this age and that makes him really exciting. Even as a baby he was fun to just stare at. Babies find the most basic things amusing: silly sounds, funny faces, or even themselves in the mirror. For a while, I could turn on the sink faucet and Eli would be mesmerized. Babies are naturally comical, because of their body proportions and their lack of ability—so even if they themselves aren’t fun, they’re sure fun to laugh at. As they get older, kids give parents a reason to revisit the best days of their childhood. Building forts, water balloon fights, dress-up, tea parties, and pretty much any game that was ever played. It’s all fun, that’s the point of being a kid.

 

4. The ‘ew’ factor

I had visions of poop, and spit up, getting peed on… and somehow when I pictured myself as a mom I had flour smudged on my face and my hair was half in a bun, half all over the place and my socks didn’t match. That was not an accurate picture. I have found as a parent that I am cleaner than I was before, because I have this fresh, tiny human who is new to all the ick of the earth and who my instincts make me protect. I am cleaner. But yes, he poops. And it must be cleaned up. If I had to time it, I’d say the whole process of changing an average poopy diaper takes 3 minutes. That is 3 short minutes of icky icky icky ew ew ew good lord what did I feed you?! And then it’s over and he’s clean again. Even for having a boy, I’ve only gotten pee on me a handful of times. The spit up is never a very large amount, and it is usually whatever I just fed him, so it’s not really very gross like grown-up vomit. Of course, we haven’t really begun potty training yet, but as far as babies go? They aren’t really very ‘ew’ at all.

5. They cry all the time

This is the game changer. I assumed, because I had this image from years of hearing it and being told and seeing it on television, that babies cry constantly. THIS IS NOT TRUE. At the worst, the absolute worst case baby in the peak of the period of purple crying (more on what that means later), can cry up to 6 hours a day. That is the rare case and the worst it can ever get. And that would only be for about a week or two when baby is at 2 months of age. Then it lessens and mostly drops off by 3 or 4 months old. Now that he is out of the newborn stage, Eli only cries when he has a need or when he is upset. Most of the time it goes like this: Eli gets whiney, and doesn’t want to continue playing, and I look at the clock and realize it is time to eat/change his diaper/take a nap. There aren’t even tears, and the situation is resolved in less than 5 minutes. Even something really upsetting, like an accidental bonk on the head (curse this crawling stage), only results in 1 or 2 minutes of cryingThat’s it.

At the worst for us, around 7 or 8 weeks old, Eli cried 1-2 hours a day. It really wasn’t as much as I thought it would be or as hard as I thought it would be to deal with. Thanks to the care of newborn class I took before I popped, I was armed with every soothing technique out there, and I felt very prepared. Babies really don’t cry as much as we seem to think they do. It’s their only way to communicate, and so crying for them isn’t like crying for us. It’s not this horrible, miserable emotional outlet, it’s just a different language than what we speak.

Babies are not really as difficult and annoying as they are perceived to be. Unless, of course, you are already on the babies-are-the-best train, I hope something here has changed your perspective. Even on the bad days, it’s never as bad as I thought it was going to be. In fact, even on the bad days, it is still pretty dang incredible.

Unconditional.

Unconditional is a word we have learned the meaning to at some point, probably during a school vocabulary lesson, or  maybe at a church service. But being able to define it, and being able to feel it pouring through your heart and washing over you, are two very different things.

I want to try to explain unconditional love. It’s the glue that bonds parent and child, mother and son. It is such an overwhelming, all-encompassing feeling, that I’m not sure the English language has a way to put it into words. But here it goes.

When my 10 month old son cries, at three in the morning, or in the car, or in the bathtub, it hits a nerve. Literally. I am connected to him at such a primal, biological level, that when he is upset, I feel it too. Like a shock wave through me. That shock wave sends me into action. Actions I was never taught, never witnessed, never read about. Somehow, he cries and I know what to do. I make it better. And I want to make it better—every time—at three in the morning, in the car, in the bathtub. Loving him is getting out of bed, when I just laid down and got cozy, to go to him, every time he needs me. Loving him is feeding him first, while my food grows cold and forgotten, night after night. Being mama means never, ever, ever, having a day off. There is no way to call in sick, no one to do the job for you, life will not go on without you, the world will not keep turning. It is a constant.

And it’s the best.

You know how a list comes out every year with the best jobs to have? What line of work has the happiest, most satisfied employees? Every year, moms should be on the top of the list. For every rough moment with my son, Eli, there are a hundred amazing ones, that fill me up from my fingertips to my kneecaps, to my toes, to my eyelashes. All of me is a flood of warmth and that feeling of knowing I am home. That feeling of belonging. I belong to Eli. He belongs to me. When I see him it is like walking through the front door, smelling cookies in the oven, fresh cut grass in the yard, and all those things that make me smile with my whole body.  That is just when I simply see him. Being a mother is the hardest job, yet it comes with the highest rewards. Instead of a raise, we get giggles and laughter and squeals of delight. Instead of vacation days, we get imaginations full of adventures to be had. The joy of motherhood is far beyond any comprehendible measure.

I read something once, I don’t remember the wording exactly, but it goes like: no one holds your heart like your child; they are the only ones who know what it sounds like from the inside.

Unconditional love has no beginning nor ending. It is always. It is forever. It is powerful. It’s not a verb, it’s a noun. It’s not something I do, it’s something that is inherently in me. It is a permanent and inseparable part of who I am. Eli is my child, the tiny human I grew, and nothing can alter that. There is no box to click “agree to terms and conditions” when it comes to loving him. He will never have to earn my love, I can never take my love away. It cannot be diminished. It is there, between my son and me, in the very fibers of us, the fibers of me that make him up and that we eternally share.

Happy Mother’s day =)