Back to Work

This week, after twelve quick weeks, I returned to work. In America, my friends congratulate me on being eligible and able to take advantage of the full twelve week leave. The men I know all say, “Wow, that’s a long time.” My friends in other countries think it is ridiculous that twelve weeks is considered ample time to recover and return to work. As someone who hasn’t slept a full night in months, I’m inclined to agree.

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I know there are so many benefits to being working parent. I drink my caffeine hot and enjoy adult conversations on a daily basis. I use my brain and solve problems that make me feel accomplished, even if just for the workday. I have a career, a boss, a field that I enjoy. Oh and the biggest advantage- dual income!

But I will never stop feeling that I am missing it. Not just missing out but truly missing “it.” Missing the best parts of the day with my boys. Missing them grow before my eyes. Missing everything. Our time together is mostly sleepy breakfasts, wrestling in and out of pajamas, perilous dinners (Will he throw a tantrum because we dared offer him food?), nursing in the wee hours, and reading a quick bed time book to one while the other protests, ready to be rocked to sleep. It is not nothing but it is also not enough. Would anything be?

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Even though I like most things about my job and my life, going back to work also makes me feel like I am running back into a hamster wheel. Thirteen hours of each day will be spent at full speed. Up at 6 so we can all get dressed, get fed, get out the door. Work hard to leave the office by 5 to get home, to get everyone fed, dressed, in bed around 7 before sweet tiredness turns into angry tears. Clean up, prep for tomorrow, take a shower in the hopes that there will be a few quiet, relaxing moments before nursing the baby again and lights out at ten.

There is no perfect balance. No parent doesn’t wish to be home, long to be at work, can’t wait for the kids to go to bed, and joyfully wake them up. Our situation will find its normal but for a few days at least I am giving myself the space to feel all the feelings as they are.

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There is something extra sad about going back to work this time knowing we will not be doing this again. We’ve decided our family feels just right as a foursome so there will be no more pregnancies, no more newborns, no more back to works. All of which is the right choice for us but it is hard not to feel wistful about the end of this chapter.

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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…

 

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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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!