Thoughts on Calvin's Birth

Monday, September 4, 2017

Calvin was born on Friday, June 16th. It was 4 days before his due date, which made me so happy. I had always wanted to have a baby early since going late is horrible. James was also born on a Friday and for some reason I love that both my babies are Friday babies.

Labor and birth itself, from a medical standpoint, was fairly straightforward. I had contractions all day on Thursday, and went to the hospital after they had been 5 minutes apart for a while. Unfortunately, I wasn't dilated at all and they ended up sending us home.

But the contractions continued and I woke up at 1:30 am on Friday with horrible pain ripping through me. We went back to the hospital around 3 am. For some reason, I always remember that as we drove there, I was having these awful huge contractions and was urging Brock to hurry. The streets were deserted and one of the lights turned yellow as we approached it. Instead of going through the intersection to, you know, get to the hospital to have a baby, Brock slammed on his brakes to avoid the red light. At 3 am. With no other cars around and his wife in active labor. At the time I was like, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING WHY WOULD YOU STOP????" but now I laugh every time I think about it.

I still wasn't dilated at the hospital, and when the nurse told me that I thought, "If they send me home again I will die. I will actually pass away from all this pain." But instead, after making me wait through some horrendous labor, I was able to get a shot of morphine. It made me feel like I was a soldier in the Civil War (does anyone else always associate those two things?), and only barely took the edge off the contractions.

But after about two hours on the morphine I had dilated enough to get an epidural, and from there it was fairly smooth sailing to birth. Smooth sailing is of course a relative term, as birth is not easy or particularly enjoyable, but all in all once I got the epidural I felt like a new woman.

Calvin was born around 11:15 am (technically 11:14, but only his mother cares about the exact time), so in all it was about 10 hours of real labor. I suppose I shouldn't count the contractions I had the 24 hours previous, although whenever someone asks how long labor was I say "About 10" and silently add the extra 24 in my head because I just can't forget about it.

A weird thing about this birth is that my water never actually broke. They kept checking for it but it was intact the entire time, and in the end I pushed it out just before I had Calvin. It was really gross but also cool to see.

After Calvin was born, the nurse was reading back what happened to the doctor and she said, "11:12 water bag came out, 11:14 baby born." I thought, "NO WAY were those two minutes apart." The pain in getting him out was so intense that I couldn't stop screaming. I felt like I was getting ripped open. I'm shuddering at the memory and wishing I didn't remember pain so stinking well.

But then I got to see his sweet face and I couldn't stop drinking him in. I loved his tiny fingers, his perfect upturned nose, his sweet little chin and adorable cowlick. His ears were folded just so and his hair was dark. I loved him instantly and was so happy to have been made a mother the second time over.

Life With Two Kids

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

I've been a two-kid mom for nearly two months, which means I'm mostly adjusted to the craziness of a newborn and a toddler. It's surprising to me how much I love having two and how non-traumatic adding a baby was to our family (Brock's four weeks of paternity leave definitely eased the transition).

I know many people have a hard time transitioning to two kids, but it has been amazing for me. I'm constantly awed by how much I enjoy having two. There are definitely stressful times, like yesterday when both were screaming in the stroller and I had no option but to take deep breaths and power walk, but I'm able to handle those times with more calm than I would have thought possible.

The calm before the storm

I think one reason why the transition has been so great for me is that it feels like my brain is at a perfect equilibrium. With just one kid, I often felt bored whether we were at home or out. I couldn't really do things I wanted to do (like reading on the couch), but playing cars or watching James at the park left me looking at my watch every 5 minutes.

Now that there are two, I find myself more fully engaged. At the park I have a baby to nurse and snuggle, and when the baby is sleeping at home I have a big kid to read books to. It's so great.

Of course, it's not all amazing. I feel a bit guilty at not being able to hold Calvin as much as I want because of how needy James is. Calvin is often content in his swing or kicking his legs on a blanket, but I don't want to deprive him of being held and cuddled as much as James was as a newborn. Especially since I want to be holding him all the time. I live for the moments when I can sit in the rocking chair with him on my chest. The sad truth of the second baby is that those moments don't happen as often as I would like.

The sleep deprivation is worse this time. When it's your first baby, you really can sleep as much as the baby does, but James is usually up by 6 so that's when my day starts too. Luckily, he still naps and almost every day I've been able to get Calvin to sleep at the same time, so I've been able to squeeze in an extra hour and a half of sleep.

Plus, the thing I love most about being a second-time mom is the perspective I've gained. With James, I felt actual despair over how little I slept and occasionally went to pieces because I thought interrupted sleep was my new permanent reality. But this time, I know that the sleep evens out in a couple months, and that I can sleep train by 4ish months, so it's not the end of the world.

That perspective applies to taking care of a newborn in general. I don't fret about how much Calvin nurses or from which side, nor do I compare what he's doing with other babies his age. Most things turn out just fine, and already going through the baby experience has made this time feel so much better.

These past two months have been amazing. My life is fuller and more fulfilled, leaving me happier being a mom now than I have been before.

An Ode to Cooking

Monday, June 5, 2017

Growing up, I thought cooking dinner had to be the worst job in the world. I couldn't believe that when I was a grown-up I would have to make a meal every night. It seemed never-ending and boring.

When I went off to college, I essentially had no cooking skills. After moving out of the dorms my sophomore year, my meals more or less consisted of yogurt/banana for breakfast, peanut butter sandwich and carrots for lunch, and pasta with marinara sauce for dinner. Sometimes I switched things up and had scrambled eggs for any of those meals, but that was the extent of my cooking.

After Brock and I got married, we kind of kept eating the same way we always had. We occasionally would make meals together but often would eat something like toast for dinner without a second thought. I had always been annoyed at the assumption that the wife would automatically take on the job of cook, so I made a point of not caring about cooking.

But then I had a special, amazing experience that radically changed my life.

What happened was this: I was at a point in my life where I wanted to be a better person. I wanted to improve myself and I didn't know how. One afternoon I was praying about how I could change, and I had the distinct and overwhelming thought that I needed to prepare my body for a baby. Brock and I didn't have plans to have kids within the next year (and it did end up being more than a year before I got pregnant with James) but I understood that this was something that wasn't too far away. And I needed to be ready.

I've heard people talk about lightning bolt moments, where one moment radically changed an aspect of their lives. When I reflect on my own life, this experience always comes to mind first. It was this experience during prayer that single-handedly made me decide to start cooking.

That night, I tentatively searched around Pinterest and made a grocery list of ingredients for a few dinners that didn't look too hard.

The next evening, I began to make this pesto and cheese stuffed shells recipe. I was stressed the entire time; checking the directions four times before I did anything, second-guessing how to stuff the shells, and just generally feeling unsure of myself. Everything came out fine, and Brock and I had a dinner that was at least ten times better than what we had eaten in the past few months. Together, we began to try out new recipes and I slowly built up my confidence in cooking.

I messed a bunch of things up along the way (including putting a plastic casserole lid in the oven, where it promptly melted; and mistaking a cube of butter for a tablespoon of butter, thus ruining the recipe) but learned to love the process and steps of cooking, and the feeling at the end of having made something productive.

Cooking has been so good for my personal growth. It's taught me how to stay calm in stressful situations and that a lot of mistakes can be more or less corrected. I've become better at prioritizing and keeping my eye on multiple things at once. I've learned that if something does go wrong, it's not the end of the world and everything is still fine.

I love being able to control what we eat and explore new recipes. It helps fill a creative hole in my life that I didn't know was there. Overall, learning to love cooking has made me a happier and more well-rounded person.

P.S. Here is a post with some of my favorite healthy recipes

My Newborn Essentials

Monday, May 22, 2017

Since I'm now 36 weeks pregnant, I've been thinking about what I consider to be essentials for having a newborn. This list consists of the things I used everyday for the first months of James's life. Of course, there are tons of other things that I haven't included (for instance, I would love these little kimonos!) but they are what I remember from my last go-around as being absolute lifesavers.

A quick note before I launch into the list: I have had great success using Craigslist and borrowing from friends for a lot of baby things. There are so many things that are useful for the first few months but then once the baby is 5 or 6 months old you won't really use them anymore.

1. Swaddlers
Swaddling helped James sleep so much, and I've double-checked our swaddle situation to make sure we're ready for this baby. We used SwaddleMes for James every night until he could roll over, at about 4 months. We also used Aden and Anais bamboo swaddling blankets and loved them as well. Lastly, because I like to have all my bases covered, I bought an brand-new Halo sleep sack off Craigslist for $5.

2. Burp cloths
I don't think you can ever have too many burp cloths on hand because a baby can go through 20 in 5 hours. Most of my burp cloths were resuable diapers that had fun fabrics sewed onto them, and they were thick and great for mopping up spit-ups and catching extra milk when nursing.

3. Baby wrap
My Ergo baby wrap was one of my favorite gifts last time around. I loved being able to snuggle with my baby but have my hands free. I still love the Ergo, but I also borrowed a Solly wrap from a friend because I worry the Ergo might be too thick for summer.

When James got a bit older, around 5 months or so, I bought the Ergo baby carrier (again, Craigslist! $40) and we used that all the time too.

4. Pacifiers
Pacifiers are so amazing. I liked the Soothie option best, because I found being able to put your finger in the middle of it really helped the baby get the sucking concept.

5. Baby swing
Really, any time of baby swing will do the trick. We had a Fisher-Price one for James that was passed around among all our friends, and this time I'm borrowing one from a friend here (the same one that's lending me her Solly wrap, bless her).

6. Stroller
I've loved the Britax travel system, which I've used daily for the past two years. It has an attachment for the carseat to clip into the stroller, it folds up super easily and can be used as a jogger.

Since I go on walks all the time, I knew that we need a double stroller and trolled Craigslist every day for months to find something. I ended up getting the Maclaren twin techno for $140, which I like because it also folds up easily, is side by side but not too wide, and the seats can lay completely flat.

Some breastfeeding lifesavers: I like reusable breast pads better than disposable ones, a breast pump is a lifesaver (I've been considering buying a hand pump but haven't yet pulled the trigger), and a nursing pillow helped my back and neck from being in excruciating pain.

Some Ramblings

Monday, May 8, 2017

Here are some of my recent random thoughts:

1. One thing I've been thinking about lately (especially after writing my recovery post) is how well I remember the details of birth, labor and recovery. This is not true for everyone, as I keep talking with women who tell me they honestly don't remember the pain. I had always thought the saying about how women can't recall the pain of birth was just a weird myth, but no, it's true! I am so shocked at that, because I remember everything so keenly. I'm not sure it will ever fade from my memory.

2. I'm looking for tips on using sunscreen with kids. I'm very very into sun protection (Brock thinks I have a sun phobia) but I'm struggling when it comes to James and sunscreen. He flails around and I'm never sure how much I actually get on him. Plus, he has a little sock tan and a neck tan, which makes me panicky. I'm thinking about finding a gel-type sunscreen that might be easier to apply, but maybe a spray is the way to go?

3. About a month ago, we got James a twin bed since we want the baby to be sleeping in the pack n play that James had been using. At first he slept through the night no problem. But the past two weeks or so have been pretty hard. He gets up constantly right after we put him in and we have to go in 3 or 4 times each night to tell him to get back in bed. Plus, he's been getting out of bed in the middle of the night. He'll quietly come and stand right next to my face and wait for me to notice him, which always scares the daylights out of me.

There have been a few nights (like last night) where he will get up and be in our room 3-4 times before 5:30. And if he hasn't been up before 5:30, then 5:30 is his new wake-up call. And before this he had been sleeping until 7! This is all a very rude reminder of what having a newborn will be like. Anyway, I don't know any strategies for keeping him in his bed but I'm desperate for some. Should we put a baby lock on his door so he can't open it?

4. Back in November, the state of California passed a law prohibiting the use of plastic bags in grocery stores. I freaked out about it when I heard because we used the plastic bags to put dirty diapers in before we take them out to the trash. But I've been thinking lately how creative we've become with things we would usually throw away. I'll look at the bag that bread comes in or the empty bag of granola, or all the green produce bags we have and think, "Perfect diaper size". In a way, I'm grateful for the law because it's been fun to see what we used to throw away that we now stash to use for diapers.

5. We drink so much milk that it's a hassle. I have to go at least twice a week to get us more and between the three of us we drink 5-6 gallons a week. Doesn't that seem insane? Almost every time I load my cart up with 4 or 5 gallons someone will comment, "Wow, you sure like milk!" and I never know what to say. I hope that my love for milk will calm down after I have the baby, like it did after I had James, because this amount seems unsustainable.

Five Eye-Opening Books Set Outside the U.S.

Friday, May 5, 2017

I've been saying lately that having a child has killed my travel bug. The thought of dealing with a toddler on a long flight, fighting jet lag, and needing to take into account naps and early bedtimes makes me too exhausted to even want to take James to a different country.

But I don't want to stop learning about new countries and cultures, so I've compiled a list of some wonderful books that take place outside the U.S. In these books I've been exposed to ideas that have helped me savor the breadth of experience in human lives.

1. Marching Powder by Rusty Young
Thomas McFadden, a British citizen, is the center of this book. He is in the Bolivian prison San Pedro for drug smuggling, and experiences a bizarre form of freedom where inmates buy their cells, are able to have their families live with them, and can go on supervised visits to the outside world. It is a fascinating look at an inner world I knew nothing about.

2. My Life in France  by Julia Child
Julia Child's life was unfamiliar to me before reading this book, and I was amazed to learn that she didn't begin cooking until her late 30s, when she moved to France with her husband. Her book is full of great descriptions of food and France in the 1950s, and it is inspiring to read about her strong relationships with friends and family.

3. Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick
When I was 14, my family visited South Korea, including the DMZ, where I was able peer out at North Korea. Ever since then I have been fascinated by North Korea and the little bit we know about life there. This book helped quench my thirst for North Korea stories, as the author interviews six people who defected to South Korea and learns what their lives were like before they came. The reality of their experiences is a little hard to take sometimes, but I came away a more well-rounded person after reading it.

4. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
This is an incredible novel describing pre-and post-colonial life in Nigeria. It is rare that a book adequately describes what different areas in Africa looked like before European colonists came, and this one gives a vivid picture into the lives and traditions of the people. This book is on my 'best novels' list because it is thought-provoking and unique.

5. Japan at War by Haruko Taya Cook and Theodore Failor Cook
In general, I'm not really a fan of WWII books, but I was convinced to try this one after Brock read it for a college class and assured me I would love it. He was so right; I lived and breathed this book and could barely tear myself away to do anything else. It's a collection of firsthand accounts of Japanese people during WWII. You'll read about soldiers who almost completed suicide missions, officers training others about beheadings, children exposed to the atomic bomb, and so much more.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Giving birth can be an extremely harrowing experience, and recovering is rarely quick or easy. I've been thinking a lot about the realities of recovery as I'm trying to make sure I'm prepared for this baby's arrival. I want to be open about how hard my recovery was with James in the hopes that maybe others can be more ready than I was.

Due to swelling and the pain of being in labor for almost 30 hours, I was unable to walk unattended for nearly two days. Every time I went to the bathroom Brock or a nurse (or both, at the beginning) had to help me get there. I couldn't even stand alone, which meant I couldn't get James out of his bassinet during the hospital stay, and wasn't able to take a shower until he was nearly two days old.

During labor, the epidural wore off on my back, and I begged constantly for heating pads to ease the pain. No one (including me) was paying much attention to how I used them and instead of wrapping them in a paper towel I would slap them directly on my skin. I ended up with a giant second degree burn on that spot that ballooned into a huge blister and was raw and painful for about a month. I still have a scar from it over two years later.

In the hospital, I had to sit on ice packs constantly because of how swollen my whole pelvic area was. The nurses would split open a baby diaper and stuff it full of huge ice cubes, then tape it back up. Sitting on a fresh ice pack was heavenly because it helped take the pain away for a bit. There was a numbing spray that went along with it and I would count down the hours until I could use it.

Then there's the bleeding. As the uterus shrinks back down after birth there is period-like bleeding for about six weeks. It tapers off near the end, but can be really heavy at the beginning. I had to wear huge pads for weeks, and about three weeks after birth I overexerted myself (by vacuuming, lol) and ended up passing two huge blood clots that made me feel weak and dizzy.

Night sweats were another unexpected side effect. For a week or two after James was born, I would wake up completely covered in sweat. That's not an exaggeration- I would be sweating from places I usually didn't sweat from, like my arms, my neck, my stomach, my scalp. The doctor said it was a way for my body to shed the water weight and that it was normal (although I have yet to meet anyone else who has experienced it).

The hormone surges I experienced were brutal. I had never felt such swings of emotion before and never cried over such trivial things. Brock once came into our room to find me quietly weeping on the bed. When he asked what was wrong, I sobbed out that James was growing up too fast. Brock replied, "He's only 3 days old." And then I said, "But I remember when he was 3 hours old!" and it only made me cry more. Obviously, I was hormonal and sleep-deprived and I understood that it was a little crazy to cry about my 3 day old baby growing up too fast. But the hormones made little things like that seem completely cry-worthy.

I remember crying because I just wanted to be free from the pain. So many aspects of my body hurt and on top of all this, I was only sleeping 2-3 hours at a time. Coming into motherhood this way was a total shock to every aspect of my life. My body felt like it had completely fallen apart and I struggled to adjust to it along with taking care of a baby's every need. I'm not ashamed to admit that during the first month there were many times that I closed my eyes and wished for my old life back.

Yet, like everything else in life, it was a stage. A hard stage that challenged me and forced me to grow and mature in ways I didn't want to, but it ended. My body healed, my milk supply evened out, my baby started sleeping through the night, etc. And that time gave me such a deep perspective on what women go through to bring babies in the world. It made me feel grateful for my mother and mothers everywhere, and helped me feel connected to women throughout time.

I'm praying that this recovery goes easier than the last, but regardless of what happens I'm grateful for the perspective I've gained after already going through it.