Postpartum Life

The weeks after baby’s birth are beautiful and totally brutal. There is the incredible joy of the new arrival. There are so many quiet moments caught up in watching this little life. Watching his little fists swat around in a robotic dance makes me laugh. One day soon he will see his hands and look at them in amazement. Another milestone arrived and on to the next.

At two and a half weeks, he sleeps for a couple hours at a time. Every day or so, he does a four stretch. Sometimes this is at night, sometimes it’s not. His face, completely relaxed, lips smushed in a pout is a heart wrencher but also puts me into a full sprint towards the nearest couch or bed. Total joy and totally tired.

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He eats well, something to be thankful for. I am happy when he is full and peaceful, but I do not wake up gleeful at 4 am when it is time to feed again. I don’t want to change his diaper although I am glad it is wet or dirty. I don’t want to uncover my own warm body to fetch him from his bed and fill him up, but I do. It is a gift for me to get to do so and my gift to him. Once we are cuddled up together and I halt his cries, then I remember the simple joy of our togetherness. Although not when he wakes up again 30 minutes later with an unknown complaint, cries of gas or needed comfort or more hunger.

I find myself considerably more patient with those in my life who wear diapers than those who speak in full sentences. I am almost as easily offended as I am tired. I have eaten so many sweets my teeth feel like they’re rotting.

I spend an unreasonable amount of time on the internet during our endless nursing sessions. The first weeks after birth are a tough time to be on social media so much and yet it is hard to avoid when you are desperately trying to stay awake at all hours of the day and night. I look at photos of friends and strangers adventuring across the world, across town, across their neighborhood. At once I am both jealous and totally content. I would love to be galavanting through another country or exploring a trail or cooking a divinely fancy meal.

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This meal will mostly sound like, “Taco! Haines taco! Haines bite!”

But I would also like to be here, just where I am, watching one baby sleep, knowing the other is also resting and will come home soon to blabber on about his day which I may or may not understand. “Haines paint. Elmo music! Mason (insert something unintelligible).” My home is warm in contrast to this rainy, chilly day. I’m sitting at a table I helped my husband make. In every direction I see photos of our family, art that tells the story of our lives.

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Cousin love

There is also a pile of laundry and a vase of flowers that need to be thrown out. I should have wiped the table before sitting down. There are remnants of Haines’ breakfast sticking my sweater to the wood. My breasts are sore and quite possibly leaking. My clothes don’t fit. I am almost always aware of my stitches and the discomfort that increases when I walk or stand for long periods.

Parenting is complicated. It is being thankful and a bit wistful all at the same time as you move between phases of life: childless to parent, baby to toddler, one child to two. But it is undoubtedly the best thing to happen to me. There’s no place I’d rather be.

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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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So Long Summer!

I basically blinked and found September was almost over. It will be Tyler’s birthday in only 3 days, which typically signals the start of fall for me.

August and September were challenging months personally but also marked with wonderful times.

Family:

Tyler’s father, brother and my future sister-in-law came to visit in August for a beach weekend. It was great to have the time together, although the highlight was watching Haines interact with everyone and learn to love the beach!

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My mom moved to town! Unfortunately she only got to spend one night in her new house before we evacuated for Hurricane Florence but her house is still whole as are all of us. I have never lived in the same town as either of my parents as an adult and I’m excited for this new adventure!

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Step 1: Convince your mom to move to Wilmington. Step 2: Let her spend one night in her home before evacuating. 

Haines:

Baby boy has freaking blossomed over the past month or so. Today we played “night night” for probably 30 minutes. This is a great game where I laid down and got tucked in with a blanket and Elmo over and over again. It wasn’t my idea! I hope we get to play it again.

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Regardless Haines is talking and singing nonstop. He is imitating everything we say and do- a very scary prospect- between total fits of rage. We have entered the time of tantrums, which I am not pumped about but recognize as a necessary evil in his growing up. One day they’ll stop. Just like one day he’ll go to college, right?

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Baby #2:

Baby boy is growing away! I had actually lost a little bit of weight in early September, only to gain 11 pounds in the last two weeks. 11 pounds!!

Apparently we only have 5 weeks left until his arrival (assuming he’s as punctual as his brother) which completely freaks me out but I also spent WAY too long looking at baby Haines photos today which made me very glad we’re doing this again.

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On the flip side, our community of Wilmington, NC is deeply suffering right now from Hurricane Florence. There is so much destruction but our house survived intact, as did my mom’s. We have a lot of yard clean up to do but that is a small price to pay. We are incredibly lucky. Flooding and downed trees have devastated homes and our neighboring communities. It is hard to believe this is our town.

If you are interested in providing support to those in southeastern North Carolina, Nourish NC, Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina and the Red Cross are good options.

 

 

32 Weeks

What a whirlwind year. All of the sudden I’m 32 weeks pregnant today, 8 weeks (hopefully) left until we’re a family of 4. Where did the time go?

This pregnancy has been so much easier in a sense as I haven’t had time to focus on it. Every hour of the day seems accounted for. It’s only stolen moments that I can think about baby boy #2. Whenever he kicks or somersaults or hiccups I am reminded of his quiet presence, waiting to make his debut. My belly is so large that I imagine it’s hard to believe I don’t spend all my time conscious of him but as must be common with younger children, the anticipation is more subdued, more of a bear hug than a champagne toast.

I worry he’ll think he was less desired, less welcomed, less celebrated than his older brother but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. To know his brother only increases our excitement. Now we know what love can feel like and to know that is to understand the world is absolutely limitless. That we will love him perhaps more easily because our hearts have already been opened.

This year has been full of challenges. Some have felt well beyond my ability to handle them, but we are still here, still standing, still reaching out to the universe asking for more.

So, the countdown begins baby boy! See you soon!

Feeding a Toddler Makes Me Want to Lose My Mind

I hate feeding my toddler. I feel dramatic saying this but it’s essentially true.

Feeding him baby purees when he was an itty bitty thing? Loved it, adorable. I didn’t care if he didn’t like it. I had memorized the whole “babies should try something 7 times before you give up on it” (I’m paraphrasing). He was getting all his important nutrients through breast milk or formula. Real food was just for fun. He spit out something? Oh well, we’ll try again another day.

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See? Adorable. 

Now our tiny baby who ate everything is a 19 month old toddler who changes his mind constantly. One day he’d eat quiche for lunch, the next he’d cry at the sight of it. Even when we realize today is a day for reliable favorites- hot dog, cheese, peas, etc. he won’t eat a bite. Fruit only, thanks! Serve that same meal for dinner- a total hit. Commence pulling my own hair out…

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Before quiche went out of favor. 

Logically, I know Haines can’t yet communicate things like, “I’m really not hungry. I had a big snack earlier.” or “Sorry, but I can’t eat another hot dog. I’m hot dogged out.” or even “My stomach is a bit out of whack today. Do you have some plainer?” Instead he cries and flails or joyfully throws his food across the table. My logical self tries to pick up the clues in this and not take it personally, but sometimes that’s asking a lot.

Throwing food is also one of my least favorite things. Again, Haines doesn’t realize that I’m trying to put off cleaning the floors and this is going to mess up my plan but it is SUCH A PATIENCE TEST!

Mainly I just flip between being annoyed that I spent the time to put together a meal for Haines that he could care less about and being concerned that he’s not getting what he needs.

But.

We’re working on it. More so working on us than him.

I wish we could eat more as a family as that often seems to help but we are rarely on the same schedule as Haines. He eats dinner between 5:30-6, only a few minutes after we get home from daycare and work. Organizing a meal for the whole family is pretty much impossible. So, we eat breakfast together when we can and sit with him when he eats his other meals.

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The key to taking a toddler out to eat is starving him beforehand and then offering him pizza from Benny’s. 

We’re working on just giving Haines a meal with a decent mix of foods we know he likes and things we’d like him to eat. If he only eats what he likes or if he doesn’t really eat anything, we try to let it go. Everything we read says children are resourceful, they eat when they’re hungry, don’t force it and so on. (We take turns saying this to whichever one of us is most frazzled by the dinner experience.) We often save the fruit portion of dinner until the end otherwise he just spends the whole time asking more blueberries (ba-boos) or applesauce (apps).

One day I look forward to all of sitting down and eating a meal together without asking my kiddo to take his foot out of his plate or where he just says, “No thanks” to a food I’ve offered him. One day…

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Ice cream is a pretty consistent hit.

 

 

Enjoying Pregnancy

We are quickly closing in on the third trimester! It’s so hard to believe. All of the sudden I find myself thinking, this pregnancy may be actually flying by. Just kidding, I have 13 weeks left. It’s definitely not, but realizing that this is my last pregnancy has had more impact on me than I would have expected. I’m relishing in the moments I didn’t soak up before. Every little kick and somersault, the little pains that irk me when I move from seated to standing, and the times Haines pulls up my shirt to check out my belly. (No, he has no idea what’s in there. I’m sure he thinks I should lay off the snacks.) I’m even thinking about having maternity photos taken… although in fairness, I’m still really cheap and very uncomfortable in front of a camera so I have a friend who wants to take my photo for free, call me!

I didn’t enjoy being pregnant with Haines. It wasn’t particularly painful or tough but the emotional turmoil I felt was constant. I really struggled with what becoming a parent meant, what it was going to do to my life, to my identity. I felt obsessed. My first pregnancy and many of the months afterwards was almost solely focused on processing what it meant to embrace my evolving sense of self while making room for the needs of another life. It was easy and insanely difficult all at the same time. There is nothing like being needed by your child to put aside your own needs without another thought. But it doesn’t mean it isn’t hard to power forward, go without sleeping, live on snacks, etc. You can’t power on forever without a toll and I have learned to make the most of the moments I have to myself- even if it’s just nap time.

This process is not done, of course. I have no doubt I will learn this again with #2 and continue to learn with each phase of our lives.

But these days at least, I’m finding joy not only in Haines but in this pregnancy and anticipating the littlest member of our family. Where before I thought I might burst with fear, now I am a strange combination of calm and elation. I want to celebrate this time! But as baby #2 grows, I’m doing my best to make time for the two of us (me and the tiny, growing bun in my not-so-tiny oven). Once I have two children out in the world, there may not even be nap times to catch a moment of quiet.

Prenatal yoga// I won’t go on about this any more. If you’ve read any post I’ve written in the last few months, it’s been all prenatal yoga is the best thing since sliced bread. This is still true.

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Baths// When I was pregnant with Haines I was able to take a bubble bath every week. Now some tiny toddler keeps dirtying up the tub with his playground dirt and leftover dinner in his hair. For these last few weeks, there will be more baths. If I tell you I can’t hang out because I’m washing my hair, it’s a lie. I’m just reading a magazine in the tub.

Beauty regimen// I don’t know what else to call it, but I’m trying to slow down and actually pay attention to taking care of myself. Haines keeps me busy enough that repeatedly I get to work realizing I haven’t brushed my hair, put deodorant on or checked my outfit. I won’t look in the mirror until my first bathroom break at work. Clearly I’m not vain but I’m often disappointed when I get that first look. It makes me feel like a slob. So I’m slowing down. I’m remembering to rub almond oil on my belly, put mascara on in the morning and a couple bobby pins in my hair. It’s not impressive for sure, but I’m hopeful less people will look at me like I’m an injured whale.

Friends// These weeks I don’t get halfway through the week without mentally formulating a plan for some weekend social activities. I don’t care what it is as long as I’m chatting to someone else for an hour or two each day. It’s not enough to really satisfy my needs but it takes me from surviving to enjoying life. This weekend my husband sent me to beach yoga, we had friends for dinner, checked out a new coffee shop with a neighbor, and we’re going to a goodbye party.

Date night// Since Haines turned 3 months we’ve tried to take a date night every month. We have mostly been successful in this mission, but with number 2 on the way we’re trying to get in more whenever we can.

Only 13 more weeks to go y’all. No one panic.

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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?