February 15, 2014

Before I Forget (39 weeks pregnant)

Written Monday, November 11, 2013:
I don't want to forget this pregnancy, in all of it's beauty and pain. It's the last time my body will grow and carry a child: a feat so crazy, miraculous, and emotional that one assumes you won't ever forget. But you kind of do. 

I remember my other pregnancies, but not completely. So I write this post today to help me remember... this exact feeling of fullness, tightness, breathlessness. And the strangely perfect combination of contentment and utter exhaustion. 

After all these weeks of braxton hicks contractions, acute hip and back pain, and annoying reflux, I'm feeling spent. Seriously. And
 I'm guilty of wanting to self-induce.  It's taking serious acceptance and patience—and a major mind adjustment... so difficult for any woman at this stage. Today, patience is impossible to achieve; I am restless, obsessive. I want to meet her now. I want to have labor today. I want to change a diaper tonight. Hold her at my chest and breathe a long sigh of relief that we made it, we're on the other side. 

But for now, I will rock on my birth ball and await things beyond my control, knowing next week could be very different. This baby girl will be born full term, healthy and ready. It's not easy, but we've come so far. And she'll be worth it. 

:: photo by the talented Leslie Kutzen

October 21, 2013

Bed Rest with Kids

{Running myself another bath. 35 weeks + 4 days.}

Bed rest seems to agree with our little girl. As of today, she has not yet made an appearance, and instead might be settling in for the long haul. I'm so relieved, after a month of stress, concern, contractions and... bed rest.

Prodromal labor started in week 31 with painful and frequent Braxton Hicks contractions that caused my cervix to dilate (only 1cm). Modified bed rest was recommended. Week 33 I lost my mucus plug, and then the cramping began, accompanied by constant 10 minute-apart contractions (which are still ongoing). To prevent further dilation, I've been told to keep my feet up until week 37, just in time for Halloween. I've never been so excited to go trick or treating with my boys!!!

So... ten more days of sitting around on the sofa, napping, taking baths, lying down, having my husband do the dishes, sweep the floors... Sounds like a dream, right? Far from it.

To the folks who said they'd love to switch places with me: let me assure you that bed rest is not what you imagine. Contrary to what the name suggests, it does not leave you feeling rested. In fact, it is both physically and emotionally exhausting. On many levels. I want to do SO much—for myself, with my children, in preparation for this baby, for my husband, my home—and I can't. I fantasize about going for a walk or a run, carrying baskets of laundry, lifting groceries, using my muscles (before they completely deteriorate). I've had a few "screw this" moments—only to find myself keeled over, breathless and contracting at the top of our third floor staircase. (Not worth it.)

Being on bed rest with kids is a challenge. Sitting around all day clearly doesn't promote great parenting, but it does actually force you to stay still, in one place. I never realized how much cleaning and running around I normally do. To be honest, I think the boys like me better this way. When they aren't at school, we have many, many hours to kill—and I've had to learn how to spend quality time with them, without putting them on bed rest too.

Some of my strategies for bed rest with kids:

  1. I keep their art supplies permanently on the dining room table, with stacks of paper, pencils, markers, scissors, and tape. Everything is ready for them to use, whenever. I'm not in there, but I can hear what they're up to. 
  2. I multi-task my pee breaks: during the short walk to the bathroom I fill a tray with snacks and drinks. If they need a snack, they come to me (instead of climbing the cabinets or scouring the fridge).
  3. I have fully embraced and accepted screen time (TV and tablet), but I try to break it up with reading them books, playing Lego, coloring. 
  4. They will sit with me and my laptop, watching nature or science videos on YouTube, Discovery or TheKidShouldSeeThis.com.
  5. We sit and do homework. 
  6. I've signed them both up for ABCMouse.com. They sit with me, either together or one at a time, for about 30-45 minutes to do the activities. 
  7. Scavenger Hunts. I write a list and they collect items. Very often I'll include items on the 3rd floor that I need, such as Tums or a blanket. 
  8. Play music. As long as I'm sitting and watching, my kids will sing, dance and perform for me. This is my favorite past time. 

I guess when you weigh the risk of having a premature baby with the complaints of a couch potato mom, it's clear that I can just suck it up for a while. And that's fine. It's only a week and a half. I totally got this.

September 19, 2013

The Best Laid Birth Plans

You know that quote about the best laid plans?* Yeah, me too. It's been sounding off in my head for several weeks now, driving me crazy. I try my best to ignore it—as I write my birth plan, speak to my doula, read my Hypnobirth book, practice breathing techniques, tour the hospital, try birth squats and attend prenatal yoga classes. 

I know. I get it. I can't actually plan a birth. (It's a big waste of time, will make me feel like a failure, blah, blah, blah.) But this is my third and final birth experience—and I'm deeply excited about it. Even when all my good sense is in tact (admittedly, a rare occurrence), I cannot stop myself from planning, preparing or talking about natural birth. Am I deluded? Yes, according to my friends, family and acquaintances. (Isn't it odd that people are so opinionated about someone else's birth choices? Not just mine, but in general. I don't get it. It's a mother's choice: their baby, their body, their family. Each birth is amazing to me, from c-section to home birth... and pregnancy and birth are so personal. But I digress.)

Reading through my (ridiculously detailed) bullet points for a serene, intervention-free, dimly-lit, natural arrival for our little girl, I am fully aware of the reality (ie, it will hurt like hell and I will want the drugs). BUT, what kind of pregnant woman would I be if I didn't try to control everything—even things that are clearly out of my control? And more importantly, what kind of mama bear would I be if I didn't at least try to plan my version of the best, safest, most amazing birth for my baby? 

Something tells me this time will be different, so I'll be sticking with my birth plan. Mostly because I've never been so prepared for anything in my life. We're talking serious "A" for effort here. We finished our Hypnobirth course two weeks ago. After fifteen hours of class and countless hours of reading and practice, Andrew and I have acquired an arsenal of skills that should take me through labor and delivery without a hitch. I know how to breathe through surges (Hypnobirth term for "contractions"), focus on positive affirmations, and allow the pleasant feeling of light touch massage to take over any negative sensations my body feels. 

I'm not going to lie. I still need a LOT of practice. 

There's obviously no way to predict how I will perform in the moment, but I feel optimistic. I've been through it twice before, and know firsthand that it truly doesn't matter how these little ones arrive to us. We just want them healthy. In fact, here's one last bullet point to the birth plan: If all plans fail, it's OK.  

*In case you have pregnancy brain like me, the real quote is: The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry.

August 26, 2013

In Love With... Goodbyn

Is it wrong to have a crush on an inanimate object? Because I've been getting flushed and schoolgirl-giddy thinking about... a lunch box. Yeah, that sounds slightly crazy, but in my defense it's not just any lunch box. It's a Goodbyn bento box. And I'm not the first designer/mommy to blog about these food containers. Because they are pretty darn perfect; the epitome of simple, functional, and helpful (!) product design.

Kindergarten starts tomorrow (preschool next week) and I haven't thought much about anything except these three little compartments—in which I can fill so many pretty and delicious goodies. The possibilities!!

What's cool is that they keep food separate (crucial for picky eaters who don't like food to touch) and are super easy to clean. This doesn't sound like a big deal—until you realize you're making 10 lunches a week (for me, Wes + Chan times 5).

I've been daydreaming about perfectly petite sandwiches, trimmed—Japanese style—into cutesy animals, alongside vegetable forests and heart-shaped apples. Cloud-shaped rice crackers are next to dinosaur pancakes (with banana chip scales), being shot at by rays and spaceships of cheddar. I envision a chocolate chip crepe with flowers of strawberry slices... Or a granola boat floating on a sea of blueberry yogurt. A kitty cat of cucumbers with cheese ears and olive eyes! (If you have no idea what I'm talking about here, then type "bento box" into Pinterest—crazy and amazing.) Just imagine my kids's faces upon finding these exciting things in their backpack!

Unfortunately, I don't have 2 hours to spare every single day. So... I'll probably just make a cheese sandwich, and throw in some veggies and a slightly processed (but organic) snack. Or something like that. Still pretty cool though, right?

p.s. This is not an advertisement for Goodbyn. I'm just a fan.

Top photo: I am in awe of these elephant sandwiches from Bent on Better Lunches

August 20, 2013

Not Gender Neutral

I was absolutely fine with keeping the gender a surprise. Really, I was. But then something happened to me around 22 weeks. I suddenly had a deep desire to know exactly what sort of babe was moving around in there. I felt detached and found it strange to say "the baby kicked me" and "do you want to feel the baby?" I needed a pronoun. More than that, I wanted a name. (We had a short list of lovely girl names to choose from, but absolutely no boy names. Which of course meant that we were definitely having a boy. In my head at least.)

One afternoon, while sifting through several storage containers of baby boy clothes, I started to fall in love with the little boy in my belly. The tiny clothes brought me back to those magical new baby moments with Wes and Chan. I draped a soft blue onesie over my belly and imagined this new growing boy. Perhaps he would be just like his oldest brother in demeanor, with Andrew's giant green eyes and born with a head of blonde hair and big feet? Or maybe he'd be darker, more Native American, like my dad's family?

Two hours later and I had placed all the clothes for our baby boy away in the dresser, waiting for his November arrival. I was convinced we were having a boy and proceeded to brainstorm boy names. Of course, we didn't actually know it was a boy; I was just a crazy pregnant lady reminiscing about my previous children. But to say something specific about the baby—his feet, his hands, his head—made me settled for a little while.

After nearly a week of boy-fantasizing (still unable to come up with a name), I surrendered and called the lab for the gender results from our 18 week ultrasound. Two minutes later I hung up feeling weak-willed and embarrassed after being told they didn't obtain or save the gender in their records... since we specified that we didn't want to know the sex. Silly me. Of course they wouldn't save that information; it's not vital for the doctor to know. And therefore it shouldn't be for us either. It's either a boy or a girl, not that complicated. I was disappointed with myself for caving in and gladly re-convinced myself that nature will give us the most wonderful surprise and I was so lucky.

I was feeling content once again with my gender neutral pregnancy. Until the OB informed me of the routine second ultrasound for women over 35. And that was it: the crazy pregnant lady with no willpower was back—and wanted to know for certain... to decorate, to shop, to nest.

Wesley came to the ultrasound with me, and we both confidently announced we thought it was a boy—before watching with awe at the 3D image of this beautiful baby... big cheeks, sweet nose, dainty hands. We were in love. To quote the lab technician, "It's not a boy!" And SHE most definitely is not.

Oh my gosh, it's a girl. A girl!!!

Vintage Camera Onesie :: Hen&Co

August 5, 2013

House Rules: Part 2, The Bunk Bed

The boys have bunk beds! After sleeping separately since birth (aside from a failed two-week trial), it was time to get these two in one room. For over a year, they have waited patiently, knowing their beds would eventually convert to bunks (we wanted to wait until Wesley turned 5). With some apprehension—and a lot of family discussions—we decided to just do it. It made sense for them to adjust to this setup now, rather than when there's a newborn in our midst.

We wrote the Bunk Bed Rules (see below) before their first night sleeping together. It was impressive and reassuring to hear how many rules the boys came up with. Apparently they were a little nervous about the arrangement too, and the rules helped them feel more at ease. I designed a poster and taped it in clear view from both the top and bottom bunk. Since Chandler cannot read, we say the rules aloud together every night before bed. If they stick to the rules for a week they get a prize. Two nights down and so far only one rule has been broken (the last rule - Chan is SO noisy when he wakes up).

Sharing a room has had a visible effect on them already: they are in really good spirits, have a better sense of each other's space and are so excited for bedtime! Seeing this from a mother's perspective just melts my heart and makes me remember how comforted and happy I was sharing a room with my younger sister. For most of my childhood we would talk, giggle and joke until falling asleep. She and I have always been at ease with each other and have a special bond today—sometimes we joke that we have the same brain. I wonder how much of that is due to sharing a room?

I'd love to hear other room sharing and bunk bed stories... What ages did you do it? Did you have rules? Have your children continued to like their bunk beds as they get older? How old is too old for a bunk?

If you'd like a printable version of this Bunk Bed Rules Poster for your kiddos, just let me know.

July 26, 2013

From Two to Three

All sources have informed me that the transition from 2 to 3 children is so much easier than 1 to 2. This makes sense to me; I'm now (kind of) a pro at multi-child tasking and my kids are used to sharing (two main hurdles of having more than 1 kid). Three kids will be just more of the same... Feedings, laundry, baths, carpooling, bedtime. Oh, thank goodness. I totally got this. What a relief! 

However. I'm not sure if this is actually true. At least for me. 
Truthfully, I never found the transition from 1 to 2 to be that difficult. We tried to get pregnant when Wes was 9 months old. Before his first birthday I was mentally preparing for his sibling. They're only 18 months apart, more like twins. When Chan arrived, I changed two diapers at once, nursed or fed two bottles at once. The first few months were not easy, but it went by too fast to notice.

And now, after several years of living with these two, we've found a comfortable groove that might be difficult to shift. These boys are my world—and each other's best friends. They do nearly everything together and/or with us. We are a strong foursome. So I guess it makes sense that I'm really worried about the change in family dynamics when the baby arrives. It's almost frightening... and certainly exciting. There are so many unknowns. Perhaps this is how most moms feel before number 2?

Of course, it might be just completely wonderful and easy.
No matter what, I'm fairly certain Little Bean Number 3 is going to rock our world.