2019: Seeking Me

2018, oh my. You were a beast. You were a beast to a lot of people. But you also brought me a lot of clarity and focus. And a brand new baby so thank you for that.

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I had wanted a lot of 2018 and I definitely got more than I bargained for (ex. baby). I had hoped for a year of tiny adventures (oops, how about one big baby?) as well as:

  • Save an emergency fund- Yes!! We have a fund that we have not yet touched, although mostly due to the generosity of others. Still that fund is there and holding strong for inevitable rainy days.
  • Keep a clean house- Yep. But then we had a baby so we’ll revisit this one in about ten years. Or more.
  • Learn to balance priorities at work- Honestly I learned to prioritize my home life over my work life which was not my goal. So this is still an area of growth.
  • Be present- Sometimes I was successful, sometimes not but this is a lifelong goal.
  • Drink less caffeine- Sure did. Cause I was pregnant. Now I have two children. So, currently not a goal.

I love the new year.  I love setting intentions and coming up with resolutions. In case you can’t tell, I’m a list maker. I’ve already been working on my 2019 bullet journal (bujo if you’re hip). List after list!

Because I like to go overboard with my lists, resolutions and hopes and dreams for the new year, this year is three-pronged.

First, a word for the year: Perception. I have a tendency to let my perception of events take on a life of its own. I call it spiraling. Something happens to interrupt my day- an incident, an email, a conversation, me- and before I know it that moment that I perceived as negative has attached it to many other negative thoughts and is now spiraling out of control. I start to lose my grasp on reality. The reality is my life is good, my day is good, my children are good, etc. One thing should not knock me off course. With that I strive to take a step back and better evaluate the moments in my life for what they are- moments and not something more substantial.

Part two is 12 monthly challenges. I was inspired by @thenewchrissy’s 2019 monthly challenges and decided to tag along for a few as well as make up my own.

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Part three is a more traditional resolution.

Be me. I want to be authentic as best I can whenever I can. And in a lot of ways, I don’t know what that means. For a few years now I have unconsciously worked to confirm my style, my manners, my preferences to better fit my work or being a mom or whatever. Now I want to figure out- just what are my favorite bands, my favorite books? What do I like to wear? Where would I go if I could go anywhere? What do I care deeply about? Other than lists, preferably. The fog of babies has not lifted but I can see it clearing ahead of me and without wasting any of the preciousness that is life with littles, I will still seek me.

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Reconnecting with this person. Not her clothes though…

 

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My Baby Turned Two

As much as it is easy to be caught up in the rapid development that is our newborn’s, it is hard not to watch Haines’ development with bewilderment. Only a moment ago he had his first Christmas and now he’s turning 2. Already this year it is his third Christmas season. How can that be? He’s just starting out in the world after all!

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Baby’s First Christmas

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Patiently waiting his turn to go through his stocking last year

These last few weeks I have probably watched Haines more closely than normal, wondering how big brotherhood is effecting him and waiting for him to cross that final hurdle to full toddlerhood. He’s two now. No longer a baby, not yet a big kid. His words are joining to become two and three word sentences although he still often grunts and signs for things. He still sleeps in a crib but also brings his dishes to the sink after meals. Haines repeats everything we say, clearly noticing more and more around him each day.

What a strange world this is. We’re trying to figure out the balance of reasonable expectations and actions have consequences and picking what battles we want to fight. Of letting him explore and try new things OR this is not worth my sanity for his adventure.

I thought this holiday season he might be old enough to start to enjoy the stories and traditions but he is still too young. He doesn’t understand who Santa might be or why we decorate the tree, not the floor, with ornaments. I scaled back my tree decorating dreams and we skipped decorating cookies. There will be time for that yet.

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Instead we’re taking advantage of this last opportunity to get by with a little less. We celebrated Haines’ birthday with a trip to Enchanted Airlie (holiday light display) and a low-key party. Burgers, queso and cookie monster cupcakes. Haines loved the cupcakes but probably not as much as he loved the fruit and yogurt dip my mother made. As always, Nana is his favorite! I cleared the furniture out of the living room to let the kids take over and that was it. We didn’t get him a gift. We didn’t decorate the house. We just loved him a little more loudly and filled our house with friendly faces. It was the best.

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Birth Story: The Arrival of Austin McGovern

I told myself all sorts of comforting lies while I was waiting for baby #2 to arrive.

He would be early. 

My labor would go more quickly with a second baby. 

I would be better prepared to handle the pain and discomfort of labor. 

Nope. As his due date approached everyone I saw reminded me he could arrive at any time and asked for an update on any signs he may make an appearance. There were none. Each day was a regular day. I wasn’t having any contractions, just the expected soreness of a woman carrying 40 extra pounds in her middle.

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Although I was tempted, I didn’t try to encourage the baby’s arrival. I took walks every day but didn’t chow down on jalapeños or drink castor oil, etc. I thought about it but I read a few articles that discussed how “natural induction methods” would only cause contractions not labor (oh, hell no). Most importantly though, I just wanted to give this baby the space to take his time.

Yes, I complained about waiting. Yes, I was getting frustrated and increasingly short with people who inquired about him. It felt like the ultimate game in patience, which is very dramatic of me as I went into labor only two days after the due date.

We were hoping for a punctual baby on October 26th but on October 29th just after we put Haines down for his nap, I had my first contraction. Tyler was trying to get me out of the house for a mental health break but I found myself frozen in pain in our kitchen. I went to bed instead.

With Haines my contractions slowly increased in frequency and intensity. This time they  started with a higher intensity and were irregular for hours. Contractions are jerks. Because of my previous history (tested GBS negative but Haines developed sepsis at 2 weeks old) our midwife encouraged us to go ahead and come in so I could get antibiotics in plenty of time. My midwife practice seemed as traumatized as we were by that experience.

Laboring at home is definitely my preference. Last time I felt much more able to handle the pain, channel my thoughts, be distracted, etc. At the hospital I was just watching the clock. An hour has passed, where were we now? Any progression? It felt like torture BUT the anxiety of not knowing when to leave for the hospital for antibiotics had also weighed heavily on us. I barely got to the hospital in time to deliver Haines and Tyler was especially worried about a repeat.

When I arrived at the hospital I was only 3 cm which is basically… nothing. My contractions were only 10-12 minutes a part and manageable pain wise. The hardest part was how nauseous I felt. My midwife encouraged me to eat (a pleasant surprise!) but I stuck to ginger ale and ice.

After several hours of laboring at the hospital and only progressing to 5 cm my midwife broke my water in an effort to speed things up. In case you were wondering, that is a very unpleasant experience. My midwife felt sure this would do the trick but two hours later I was not quite 7 cm and completely worn out. The contractions felt brutal. The idea of an epidural had previously terrified me but I was ready for some help.

Honestly I had been so proud of myself for having a natural birth with Haines, I really wanted to do it again. It was solely a pride/vanity issue. Now? Now I know that epidurals can be the best thing ever. It kicked in quickly and my contractions all but melted away. My midwife gave me pitocin while I took a nap and I woke up a couple hours later ready to roll. She came in to check me and found the baby’s head coming her way!

I was completely taken off guard that it was time to push but we got started immediately. In 3 contractions, Austin McGovern joined the world!

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When Haines was first placed on my chest, I felt terrified. I was overwhelmed by giving birth. I was overwhelmed by having a baby. The joy of his arrival was completely overshadowed by the incredible change that had just taken place in my world. When Austin was placed on my chest, it felt like everything. I don’t know how to describe the way the room came to life, the total joyous tears and chaos as everyone celebrated his arrival.

And instead of feeling like Austin was a stranger, I knew him. He was mine, he was ours. He was here.

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I’ll never let toys take over my house and other lies I told myself. 

There are toys all over my house. I actually strategically place toys in each room of the house. So not only do I do the EXACT OPPOSITE of what I said pre-baby, I do it on purpose.

There are lots of great reasons to not let toys take over your house.

  • It’s not attractive.
  • It’s not welcoming to your adult friends, who you still want to hang out with you but struggle to make time for.
  • There is no child-free area. Nothing feels sacred anymore.

But alas there are toys in Haines’ room, toys in our living room, toys in our guest room (just extra books and a single wooden puzzle), toys upstairs in my office/craft area (I’m still waiting for my creative juices to come back so I can utilize this space), toys in each bathroom and toys in the kitchen.

Yes, it sounds awful. If you do not have children or your child is young enough to have not taken over your house, you might think I’m crazy. But I have shit to do. In every room of my house.

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Our living room is where we hang out and is where there is the most space so that’s where a lot of Haines’ toys are. Eventually I want to get to a place where they be easily hidden, but right now it’s just a goal.

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In the kitchen we have one lower cabinet that I have let Haines take over. Every time he leaves a toy out in the kitchen, that’s where it goes. I have also moved all his baby bottles there. He likes to throw them all over the floor. It’s not as annoying as it sounds. We’re working on him picking things back up. I’d say it’s a 30% success rate.

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I originally put these shelves in here for cute things like plants or towels. Ha!

The bathroom is one of the most important places to have toys. Sometimes your bathroom business is not quick. Sometimes you need a few minutes. It’s not as though your 18 month old can just wander around the house safely entertaining himself. No, he has to be in the bathroom with you. He might be satisfied taking your tampons and pads out of the bottom drawer for a few minutes but now you need to wash your hands, brush your teeth and check your hair. Time for a police car that makes siren noises and a book.

 

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To be totally honest, I only have toys in my office as part of my fantasy where I’m going to do work up there and Haines will entertain himself. This has never once happened. I only work up there during nap time and “work” is really cleaning up the piles of bills and other things I let stack up for weeks at a time. A girl can dream.

So I have toys all over my house.

Sometimes I also feed my child fruit when he refuses to eat the dinner I made him. Berries mostly. Yep, he throws food on the floor and then I give him fruit. Sometimes I cry about it too.

Several times a week he watches Sesame Street or Daniel Tiger, another thing I said I’d never rely on before he was born.

Even though I thought I’d only expose my child to awesome musicians that Tyler and I love, we listen Pandora’s Toddler Radio or Family Folk Songs every single day. In fairness, watching Haines try to do all the gestures to Wheels on the Bus makes my heart explode. Who knew, right?

 

Baby’s First Year Survival Tools

One of the things expecting mothers always panic about is all the things. You feel you need all the things! In reality, you won’t need half of what you end up with when you have a baby. A lot of people will try to give you things. You’ll most likely accept everything  thinking, how am I to know what I need? You don’t, so cut yourself some slack. I don’t know what you need either, but I do know what I used to get through HEB’s first year. If we have another baby we’ll probably need totally different things! But hopefully not because we’re not buying anything.

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Newborn hell (or 0 to 3 months):

I have to be honest, those newborn days that everyone (without a newborn) glows over… those are pretty intense. Even if you are not breastfeeding you may start to think, surely this is impossible! Horribly enough we all started off as extremely needy, up all hours of the night, feeding every 2 hours, adorable little babies.

  • Netflix– get it, gift it, don’t judge yourself for binging it.
  • Chicco Keyfit stroller caddy– We loved this for the ability to plop our carseat right in and start strolling without ever disturbing our sleeping babe. There’s also tons of storage underneath so I could throw his diaper bag in there. I preferred using this for grocery shopping (heavy things in the caddy, light things in a basket) rather than a cart when he was small.
  • A breastfeeding station- Find yourself a Boppy or a Brest Friend or whatever and keep it near your comfiest chair or couch. Near that fill a basket with granola bars or easy to eat snacks, your kindle or your TV remote and remember to bring water when you’re sitting down to feed. Two minutes in and you’ll suddenly remember you’re DYING of thirst.
  • Rock n Play– Haines slept in the Rock n Play for the first 4 months of his life and absolutely loved it. Admittedly though we never put the batteries in so it didn’t rock him on its own. I would reach out and rock him to sleep in the middle of the night if needed, but never used the actual function. I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to stop.

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3-6 months:

This was a pretty tough time for me. I went back to work and Haines’ sleep had really gotten worse so the level of fatigue was high. At the same time though H started to interact with us. He was alert and playful. It really lifted me up.

  • Bouncy chair– This is something we didn’t know we really needed. It was a hand-me-down (as is everything else) and I wasn’t even sure why we would want it. Um… you want to carry this lightweight all over your house so you can get things done! This is what baby lays in while you cook dinner, go to the bathroom, type your blogs- all the important things.
  • Frozen meals- I had fixed some items in advance and my mom and Natalie also stocked my freezer as well. The first few weeks/months we were the beneficiaries of a meal train but that comes to an end well before the fatigue does. Having the world’s easiest meals on hand is very helpful. I also froze muffins to help me with my constant need to snack.
  • Ergo– We started out with a 2nd hand Chicco carrier which worked okay, but it was a huge upgrade when a friend gave us an Ergo. After a little while you start to want options for going out and having some sort of baby wearing device is a must. (Also, I tried a wrap and found it to be an enormous pain the tush.)

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6-9 months:

The first turning point! Everything was fun during these few months (minus sleep training and ear infections). Haines was excited for everything- food, Clara, being outside. There were also so many milestones during this time. He sat up, crawled and walked all between 7 and 9 months.

  • Kiddo food trays- I LOVED using these to make Haines’ baby food. I made all of his food at home which was much easier than I anticipated. When he napped on the weekend, I would dump all the veggies into a steamer before blending in our Nutri-bullet. Any blender will do. The only downside here- HEB moved on from purees pretty quickly. He wanted to feed himself!
  • Baby proofing- This turned out to be much more in depth than I would have expected. We had to get rid of several pieces of furniture that we deemed being too annoying with a baby to keep. If you’re going to try to limit your “No! Don’t touch that!” conversations than I will suggest going beyond outlet covers and cabinet locks. Every trash can in your house should have a heavy lid, your toilet paper should be moved near the ceiling and any knick-knacks resting within 3 feet of the floor should be moved. Probably just get rid of your blinds now.
  • Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes Musical Toy- For months this was Haines favorite toy. It could entertain him indefinitely. This is probably the only thing we ever tore up the house looking for.
  • Nursery rhymes- Start practicing now. This was the only way we could get perk up a cranky baby during diaper changes or going into his carseat.

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9-12 months:

This was the second turning point. We have a routine. We can mostly anticipate Haines likes and dislikes. He’s fussier and harder to console but also easier to distract. Children are weird.

  • Alphaprints book & The Itsy Bitsy Snowman are Haines two favorite books right now. They are guaranteed to lift his mood!
  • Bathmat– If your baby wants to crawl all around the bathtub then I recommend getting a non-slip bathmat for the tub. It has cut down on his falls tremendously and ours has a hook so it can hang on the shower to dry.
  • Spoutless sippy cup– Haines has struggled with all the other cups we’ve given him but took to this one right away! (Full disclosure: we still use a bottle most of the time, but this cup has helped a lot).

 

If you’re stressing about needing all the things, don’t. Get a carseat. Figure out a safe place for the baby to sleep. Buy a few diapers (and expect many more in gifts). Collect every hand me down you can. You’ll figure out the rest.

And remember, for better or for worse, this is only temporary.

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Capturing Baby’s First Year: A Calendar for Dad and Relatives!

Last Christmas I scrounged together an idea of a gift for Tyler just in time. It was to spend the day canoeing (we never went). Haines was only eleven days old on Christmas day and gifts were low on my priorities. Despite all that Christmas week last year I had a lightbulb moment- the best possible gift for a new dad.

It wasn’t an expensive gift and those expenses I did incur were mostly optional. The only difficulties were planning and planning is hard because it involved a baby so buck up.

Each month I dressed Haines up as something or someone that Tyler loves and create a calendar. It was a challenge to come up with 12 feasible ideas at first but once I involved a couple people, the ideas started flowing!

I had intended for the ideas to correlate with the months of the year but… that got a little complicated. I had grand plans that I would take the picture on the day he turned 1, 2, 3, months old etc. but that quickly became unrealistic (like, almost immediately).

January- Fishing

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January was a struggle- there’s a learning curve with this people! I set a fishing scene- blue blanket, gummy worms and a fish at the end of a homemade pole. Every time I see some sleeping newborn in a fishing basket looking perfect, I think…. this is why newborn photographers get paid the big bucks.

February- Bookworm

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Okay, I admit it. This month was for me. I love a baby bookworm. BUT I used Tyler’s favorite children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, so it’s all good. This was one of the easiest photos to do. I popped out the lenses in some free, cheapo sunglasses I had and paired with a onesie made at my baby shower- done!

March- Baseball

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Tyler’s obsessed with baseball and even bought Haines a tiny Louisville slugger before he was born. I couldn’t get Haines to stop chewing the bat.

April- Chef

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My all time favorite! I ordered a chef’s hat and apron (unnecessary but it came in a set) via Amazon and popped baby HEB in our pressure cooker. He happily sat in that pot for like ten minutes! I threw in a dish towel for color and a wooden spoon to occupy him. Be still my heart!

May- Virginia Tech Hokies fan

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Tyler comes from a Virginia Tech family and his mom used to make these awesome “Mad Hatter” Hokie hats. I requested one and paired it along with one of the THREE Tech onesies we received as a gift for Haines. Three!! That seems insane but Haines was pretty pumped about the whole thing.

June- Golfer

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Tyler used to work on a golf course (okay, several) and is a huge golf fan. I stole one of clubs and this putting practice green thing to make this photo work. Haines is also wearing Tyler’s Masters hat but I couldn’t get that in the picture.

July- Clara

Two years ago we adopted Mrs. Clara, our lab beagle mix. I put Haines in black footie pajamas to match Clara but getting the two in a photo together was the worst! My dog and my baby are too active for this. I had to settle for the only slightly adorable photo we have of the two of them together.

August- Glenn Danzig & Bruce Campbell

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If you’ve never seen Tyler without his shirt off then you probably don’t know he loves Danzig and Bruce Campbell (hint, hint: multiple tattoos). So here we have featured Haines’ Misfits onesies in front of Tyler’s prize Army of Darkness poster with Bruce Campbell.

September- Scuba Diver

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90% of our photos looked like this.

Pro tip: do complicated costumes during months 3-6! Haines was too mobile by the time we got the scuba diver costume. He wouldn’t hold the pacifier in his mouth that I’d blackened with sharpie to look like a respirator. He also wouldn’t keep the goggles on his head. It was a disaster. In the background, I had toy fishes but you’d never know.

October- Beach Baby

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My mom made a onesie out of a T-shirt fromTyler’s job. It’s so stinking cute! You can’t tell but in this picture Haines is on the verge of hysteria. Still, cuteness overload.

November- David Bowie

Tyler is an enormous Bowie fan. So I found a DIY Ziggy Stardust costume on Pinterest and did my best. Yes, face paint would have taken it to the next level but have you tried to put face paint on a ten month old??? It’s challenging, that’s all I’m saying.

December- Snow Bear

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Snow Bear is Tyler’s childhood bear. He’s a VIP in our household and I made Haines a matching outfit. He struggled with sitting still but still managed to be a bit cute and cuddly with Mr. Snow Bear.

Tips for creating your baby calendar:

  • Only take horizontal photos. Vertical photos don’t work on most calendar formats.
  • Three to six months is your baby photography sweet spot. Any outfit that’s complicated should be taken then. Otherwise you’ll have a baby who refuses to suck a pacifier colored to look like scuba respirator or a baby who won’t cuddle with the dog (dog and baby photos will always be difficult).
  • Use large blankets/quilts or sheets for backdrops.
  • Get another person involved if at all possible. You think you can do it, but.. you need help. I involved only a few people. Regrets!
  • Use MPix to put together your calendar. I tried Costco for maximum cost savings but I needed more options to customize what I wanted. MPix ended up being inexpensive but more user-friendly.

There are many ways to capture a baby’s first year but I prefer dressing him up in costumes that may be embarrassing to him one day!

P.S. The calendar was a huge hit with Tyler. 🙂

Baby’s First Year: Surviving the Boring, Busy, Magical Days

On Thursday Haines will be a year old. No really, a whole 12 months will have passed since his tiny peanut self entered the world. It’s insane! I see this quote on a lot of parenting sites, “The days are long but the years are short.”

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Babies are boring. Really boring at first. Yes, they’re incredible to look at and completely adorable but also, they can’t do anything. They can’t really lift their heads, eat without assistance or put themselves to bed. I spent all my first days in a fog of wonder (Who made this baby? Did I make this baby? Oh, how neat…), fatigue (Who will teach this baby to sleep? Anyone? I’ll pay you.), and boredom (Hey baby, do you have any hobbies?).

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It gets better of course. Haines walks, babbles and plays now. He doesn’t just cute yawn or stretch anymore. He plays all over the house. Sure, it doesn’t entertain me as long as it entertains him but I laugh and watch all the same.

Even in the most boring of moments, baby life also feels incredibly busy. Not that long ago I was breastfeeding every 60 minutes. So on one hand maintaining a tiny life, and on the other hand sitting and watching back to back episodes of A Chef’s Life. Now I often feel as though I only leave the house for work but I’m also chasing Haines constantly around. We play peek-a-boo, read the same book, play with toys, walk around the yard, run an errand, fix meals and snacks and so on. The only down time is those few precious naps where I typically catch up on some aspect of life. Nothing stops and yet nothing really happens either.

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A very cute baby being as exciting as he can muster. 

I’ve been surprised at how small our world has become. Our living room rug has become the center of all things. It’s where Haines turned over, crawled and walked for the first time. All the while, both of us impatiently waiting for the next move, cameras at the ready. Now I pile his toys along the edge in baskets and he drags them out all over the floor.

At times our small world has felt claustrophobic. I have felt less connected to my friends and family but also can’t remember to reach out. I can’t remember to call anyone very often. Sometimes I don’t remember to leave the house.

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In other ways our world has opened up. While I have always had sympathy for others I have not always had empathy. This is growing rapidly in me, every day as I experience life both as a parent and through Haines. The way I view things, the way I register information… I’m not a different person but I’m also not the same.

I knew I would love Haines but I really didn’t understand what that would be like. When I was pregnant I felt affection for the little fish swimming around in my belly but my love had not yet developed. When he was born even I didn’t have that immediate love at first sight moment that so many mothers describe. I wasn’t in awe of him. I was scared and overwhelmed. It sometime on day three or four when I realized I was in love with Haines and it was when he went into the hospital that I felt the place in my body where we are connected. It’s deep in my chest and when he hurts in big or small ways I can feel it contort and tug and yank me to him. I imagine it will remain forever, no matter how far away he goes from me one day (an idea that I love and hate all at the same time).

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Happy 7 months baby!

So yes, the days are unbelievably long, boring and busy. And yet despite all that I’m not looking for anything else. I’m not wishing for a new life. I’m not perfectly content but I’m glad to be here. I wish it was easier to go see a movie or get basic life chores done. I wish running errands was less a project management task and a little more spontaneous, but that’s okay.

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I refuse to apologize for needing a break or wanting to leave the house alone. Nothing less should be expected. I will not pretend this year has been all joys. It has made clearer my weaknesses. It has made clearer my strengths. It has tested and improved my patience. It has pushed my marriage in ways I both did and did not expect. But I choose to have a baby with a good person and a good partner. I feel lucky and grateful to be in this place. Above all else I have a healthy child which is the luckiest thing of all.

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Photo credit: Kathryn Falconer

 

So, we made it! We survived. This year old little guy is starting the next year of his life and I can’t wait for (most) every moment of it.