Where is My Mind?

I’m totally losing it. I don’t think it’s shocking that a woman with a 7 week old baby would feel like her creativity is missing. But it’s been missing for a long time.

I first noticed it when I was pregnant. During the first trimester I was too tired to care that I hadn’t written anything and my craft supplies were collecting dust. In the second trimester I spent my extra energy canning. Three batches of tomato jam, one applesauce, one apple butter, one pasta sauce, strawberry syrup and strawberry jam later I found myself in the third trimester. There is no extra energy in the third trimester. Everything I had went to keeping my job and eating (I gained most of my weight then, which is not how it’s supposed to go!).

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Now I have a newborn. At 7 weeks we wake up at least twice a night and his preferred spot is in my arms. So no, I don’t have a lot of extra energy for writing blogs, writing letters, creative thinking, cooking fun meals or arts and crafts. And yet it feels so much more extreme than that. When I have a few moments to myself, I have no idea what to do. I have found myself just sitting on my couch staring off thinking, “What do I like to do?” “What do I need to do?” Tyler told me to get out of the house and take a break. I had no idea where to go.

Much of this can be contributed to my recent monumental life changes but I think it’s more than that. It’s not just Haines that’s blinding me, it’s the media. It’s the morning news, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. It’s watching the Today show in the morning while I try to wake up and automatically reaching for my phone every time I’m sitting for a few minutes with nothing to do. Considering the number of times Haines eats a day, that’s a lot.

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Milk drunk baby

I want my brain back, but that means learning to do nothing again. To sit with my thoughts, even if nothing comes at first. To take walks without music or podcasts. Deleting Facebook from my phone. And for the time being make lists so I can remember what’s going on! I know Haines will be impeding the situation for quite a bit longer but maybe I help find my mind little by little.

In the meantime:

  • I’m reading The Sun when I need help staying awake in the middle of the night instead of looking at my phone.
  • I’ve deleted the Facebook app from my phone so I can’t easily access it.
  • I will be making an effort to get outside every day. (If anyone has any tips for hiking with infants, I see this in my future…)
  • I will sit and do nothing sometimes simply to let my mind move itself rather than have outside influence.

One thing at a time, y’all.

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Get outside!

Reflection: Growing Pains

2016 might be the most hated year ever. (It’s hard to say though since I’ve only been around for the last 30. Surely the years of the black plague top this.) Despite that I’ve heard many writers online say that while as a whole 2016 was the worst, personally it was a great year. For me, I would describe it as a positive year but overall it was a year of growth.

First off, I literally grew a person. It’s not often you get to use “literally” correctly but I really did. I have the traumatic childbirth memories to prove it (plus a baby).  Growing baby Haines was challenging in unexpected and totally predictable ways. The physical parts are trying- the fatigue, feeling physically weak, being sore in the third trimester, the discomfort of your organs moving to new places in the first. I hated having to slow down my lifestyle and feeling like I couldn’t do the things I enjoyed. Having those few months of discomfort and living in a body in which I felt little control taught me to be more aware and have empathy for those who deal with these issues on a daily basis.

I was surprised to find the social aspect challenging. While I loved discussing pregnancy and parenting with friends, answering overly personal questions to total strangers was frustrating and monotonous. And it didn’t help that many of my friendships have always included a shared love of beer. When one of your favorite social activities is visiting breweries and you’re pregnant, you’ve just damaged your social life.

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My last drinks before we knew about Haines.

Emotionally I struggled with bridging from a pre-pregnancy lifestyle to parenthood. As brain mushed from hormones so did my desire to be creative or try new things. My interest in the world narrowed severely as our little household began to feel like more than I could handle. Even now I have a hard wrapping my brain around all that is going on. Then again, I don’t think I’m the only one.

Second, I became a parent here in the last few weeks of the year. Childbirth followed by a taking a 2 week old to the ER were growing pains that I don’t need to repeat for quite some time. (Of course now baby Haines is teaching me how to handle his first cough/cold which I’m also not pleased to learn about.)  As an unexpected consequence of becoming a parent I’ve also learned that this little guy gives me strength I wouldn’t expect. No, I don’t sleep through the night now but surprisingly, it’s okay. Our trip to the hospital was terrifying, but also, it was okay. As long as Haines is here with us, everything seems doable. Even when it’s terrible.

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Professionally, I also evolved. For the first time I was in a position where I was speaking with high-level executives professionally on a regular basis. After years of experiencing anxiety with public speaking, I became my company’s Toastmasters club president, an organization dedicated to my top fear. It is with that same new confidence that I forged relationships and created programs that I’m proud of. It is also what allows me to feel comfortable taking 12 weeks leave to be with Haines. Thank goodness for that.

I expect 2017 to also be a year of growing pains… and perhaps every year going forward. We are still learning to get through the day and before I know it I will have to learn how to go back to work. I don’t have any resolutions for 2017 but I hope to learn about balance, who I am as a mother and a partner and my son.

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Photo credit: Zachary Sprague

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Came Early

We had done our best to think the baby would be late. Unbearably late. This, we heard, was the best way to not be get through the days before baby arrived. The day before our due date we went to the midwife for our weekly appointment. We knew there was really nothing she could tell us to help predict when the baby would come but we hoped for something anyways.

Everything looked great and I was dilated 3 cm. This really means nothing though. You can stay at 3 cm for days without progress. We scheduled our next appointment and an induction for the day after Christmas. On the way home I asked Tyler to stop and buy a Gatorade. I felt nauseas and gross, glad to be working from the couch. I planned to stop work a bit early and get in the bath but come 4 pm there was still too much to do.

At this point Tyler had come home from the grocery and I admitted that I had been having contractions since 2pm almost every twenty minutes. I showed him where I was writing them down in my work notebook. He was not impressed that I hadn’t told him immediately.

Everything seemed very manageable then. I got in the bath and rested. The contractions were felt doable. I could handle this. When I called my mother to let her know what was happening I was calm on the phone. No rushing, drive safe. Don’t come if you’re tired. Tyler arranged for our dog to be picked up by friends.

Although my contractions didn’t become consistently closer together, things quickly deteriorated. My attempts to walk around the house were unbearable. I threw up my dinner- soup and a milkshake generously dropped off by a coworker. Soon I refused to get out of the recliner, dozing between each contraction and squeezing Tyler’s hand when they came. It was hard to open my eyes to see my mom when she arrived. When Tyler called the midwife around 1am I was asking for an epidural. I wanted to go to the hospital. My contractions still weren’t consistently 3 minutes apart and she encouraged me to stay at home and walk around- speed things up. Um, no.

I barely made it to the car.

Mom and Tyler carefully walked me out, holding me up. Our hospital is only 4 minutes away which made all the difference. The midwife changed her tune when we arrived- I was already 10 cm dilated and wanting to push! It was straight to the delivery room where the midwife sat at the end of the bed ready to break my water. I started to fall apart asking for an epidural again (if you’re ready to push this isn’t going to work). With the midwife between my knees a contraction hit and BAM! My water exploded all over her and the surrounding area. She got up to change her clothes with a “Well, that settles that.”

The baby was ready to make an entrance and I was able to start pushing immediately. Fortunately for me it was all over in a matter of 5 or so contractions (20 minutes, perhaps) and also fortunately for the baby whose heart rate dropped significantly for about 10 of those minutes. I ended up getting an episiotomy which certainly wasn’t in my birth plan but was totally for the best. It all came to an end with the announcement of “It’s a boy!”  and the total shock of a baby being placed on my chest.

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Childbirth Surprises:

  • I didn’t curse, which I was proud of as that seems like an unpleasant thing to put up with at your place of work. On the other hand I screamed so hard my throat hurt for days. Sorry, nurses.
  • Apparently Tyler and I both truly thought the baby would be a girl as we both thought/said, “Are you sure?” when we found out it was a boy.
  • It turns out there is no keeping your support team away from the business end of childbirth. With your head to your chest and your knees open and up to your ears, there is no way to distinguish any part of you. The whole of you is in childbirth.
  • The post-delivery shakes completely caught me by surprise. I didn’t know to anticipate them and they felt totally debilitating.
  • The nurses and staff at the hospital completely lived up to their reputation and took care of us 100%. It was incredible.

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Baby Haines has been kind enough to sleep on my chest while I’ve typed but I think he’s reached his maximum. We’ll just have to share more soon.

Happy holidays everyone.

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This is a very photogenic family. 

 

Pregnancy Holiday Gift Guide

Some little growing baby is apparently still not ready as we approach T minus 3 days to due date. I am trying my best to remain somewhat active but it’s not easy. Yesterday we took two walks (both combined probably equaled a mile) and I practiced my prenatal yoga moves. Today we drove out to Brunswick  Nature Trails and with a couple breaks I was able to walk for almost an hour. That directly resulted in 2 snacks and a 45 minute nap. I haven’t gotten off the couch since. Being 10 months pregnant has made me oh-so-fascinating.

Spending a lot of time on the couch directly affects the amount of time I spend on the Internet and has now resulted in a pregnancy gift guide. Because let’s get real, I have no idea what new moms need but I do have a few thoughts on nice gestures for pregnant ladies. With the holidays approaching, and pregnancies everywhere I look these are some things that came to mind.  (First thing to realize, all stages of pregnancy are not alike. Nor are all pregnancies are alike but most have a few things in common.)

First trimester gifts:

Sweet almond oil or Palmer’s cocoa butter– In the first trimester it was nice to get into the habit of lathering up my belly. My first trimester was in the warmer months when I didn’t feel like a thick lotion so I used sweet almond oil in the beginning. Later when the itching (re: stretching) really began in the belly region the cocoa butter brought a lot of relief.

Belly band– One of the first things your medical provider tells you is that eating for two is not a thing but even if the first trimester you start to fill out. This is mainly due to bloating. I was first asked if I was pregnant at only ten weeks. The belly band my sister sent me was so convenient. It’s basically a tube top to keep your pants up and it’s essential for life.

Bra extender– I really wish I had known this was a thing. In my pre-pregnant, ignorant life I didn’t know that your rib cage expands. So insane.

Trail mix or snacks you can easily carry- While I still tend to keep a snack within easy reach, it was necessary for survival in the early weeks. There were many times where I was sure I would either puke or collapse if I didn’t get food. One of the nicest, simple gifts I received early on were some small, yummy snacks to keep in my bag.

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A bucket of strawberries isn’t a practical snack to carry around but look at this tiny belly! I think this was 11 weeks. 

Second trimester gifts:

Some sort of enormous body pillow- I am incredibly cheap and had planned to sleep the rest of my pregnant nights with my carefully arranged six pillows when basically a stranger gifted me a giant body pillow. Life changer! Now I know I wouldn’t have survived without it.

Prenatal yoga gift card- I started prenatal yoga at about 28 weeks but I wish I had done it the whole time. There’s something about being in a class for and with other pregnant women, all preparing for the same thing, that feels like the safest place I experience on a regular basis. For Wilmington, NC residents- Longwave is the only place in town with  prenatal yoga classes in the evening.

A lifetime supply of La Croix- Most of my first trimester was spent partly in hiding, partly asleep. When I reentered the world I had no idea what to drink when out and about. Y’all, the answer is La Croix. It’s the easy answer, I know, but just go with it.

A cutie outfit- As the second semester approaches the third, the cute bump feeling fades into big blob. Almost all of my clothes during pregnancy have been handed down to me, thank goodness, but that also means I’ve spent the last 6 months in clothes I didn’t pick out, aren’t necessarily my cup of tea, and at times barely fit (because pregnancy). My mom gifted me a couple cute dresses of my own choosing this fall and it was a total pick-me-up. Highly recommend. Old Navy Maternity, Motherhood, Seraphine and Pink Blush were the sites I perused the most.

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I’ve outgrown this favorite from Seraphine but I loved it. 

Third trimester gifts:

Massage- Because everything hurts.

Bubble bath- Because everything hurts.

Cookie dough & endless movies- Because everything hurts.

Comfy pajamas- Because nothing fits. I’ve been wearing the same ratty black leggings every day for the last months and they are the best thing to ever happen to me. I will never let them go.

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Welcome to my third trimester uniform. 

I’ll just be hanging out, feet up and Netflix on until there’s more to report.

 

The Waiting Game

I’d like to write about things other than pregnancy right now, but at 1 week and 4 days until our due date I actually can’t think about anything else.

We’re at the point where every time I make a sign of discomfort (which is a lot) Tyler thinks we’re going into labor. Regardless at our appointment this week, our midwife indicated there was no reason to think we were going anywhere fast. She even let us know that they would let us go until December 28th if the baby didn’t come first. Oh good. I’m super pumped to hear that. I bought this baby a Christmas day outfit so… let’s hope he or she is here to wear it!

I have to admit that while my pregnancy has been very smooth sailing, my attitude recently has plummeted. I really like to be a busy lady. I like projects and crafting, especially at this time of year, and I’ve had to cut all of that out. Standing for more than a few minutes or walking the dog around the block has become challenging.  Each night after work I stay close to the couch, which drives me a bit crazy. I know I’m very lucky to not be on bed rest or have some risk to be watching out for but this very normal pregnancy can still a pain in the butt (and back and legs).

We’re making things bright and cheery around the house with our Christmas tree already out and watching movies each night. Tyler also came home yesterday with safe-to-eat cookie dough which I am trying not to eat all at once. In the meantime I’m finally finishing the Elena Ferrante novels and getting ready to start Land of Love and Ruins by Oddny Eir. If I can’t travel the world right now, at least I can read books from Italy and Iceland. Tip: Pregnancy is best undertaken from the bathtub with a book in hand.

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Clara is also doing her part for holiday cheer. 

Third trimester survival plan:

  • Prenatal yoga at Longwave– My yoga instructor is also a labor & delivery nurse. I keep wishing they offered this class more than once a week!
  • Baths with bubbles- Bubbles are technically optional but it makes things feel more luxurious.
  • Tea- I make a point to drink a ton of water each day but I also have a schedule of tea throughout the day. It starts with Earl Gray (where I pretend this gives me energy) and then goes to peppermint, lemon ginger or chamomile throughout the day. Although I drink all sorts of brands, I’m really into this Winston-Salem tea company, Chad’s Chai, right now. Gotta support the hometown!
  • All the movies- From Christmas classics to action flicks, keep them coming! This week we’ve watched everything from A Charlie Brown Christmas to Armageddon.
  • Reassurance that I’m not only pregnant lady drooling away out there- Feel free to read this “Top 10 Things They Should Warn You About Before You Get Pregnant”. It makes pregnancy seem really attractive.
  • Working from home- I’m incredibly lucky to be allowed to work from home when I can’t hack it at the office. Recliners make for way better chairs than my office provides. Also they come with dog cuddles.
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There’s not a lot of room to spare in our chair but Clara finds it all. 

I’ll leave you with this bright spot on our tree to really get in the spirit. It’s probably the highlight of our tree.

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1988, y’all. 

Nesting

I got into the whole pregnancy nesting thing a bit late in the game. At least that’s what it feels like. Fellow blogger Graylin Porter has been posting pictures of her adorable nursery and she’s still got months left! My mother and friends have been asking after the baby’s room since this summer. I guess it’s just safe to say I didn’t rush the process.

Whenever asked I say that the nursery is “adventure themed” but it has as much of a theme as our wedding did. Our wedding theme was “fun.” People really love a theme though, so there you go! It was really cool to incorporate a print of a US map I got for Christmas last year. Tyler’s grandfather’s hobby was framing and we were able to use one of his frames for it. The hot air balloon Tyler gave me for my birthday looks perfect with it.

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The most special part has to be the baby blanket that Tyler’s mom made though. It’s absolutely incredible. She made it by hand while living on her sailboat in Central America. It’s perfect for our soon-to-be beach baby. If there’s one thing I don’t doubt, it’s that this kid will be a total fish (his/her father might not make it otherwise). My mom bought these sweet notecards that she framed to go with the blanket.

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The best, best part of the room? All the generosity that got it here. We’ve been so incredibly lucky by receiving tons of hand-me-down baby items while also being able to repurpose other furniture. This dresser/changing table? That’s from my nursery! Tyler had been using it as a dresser but he was forced to give it up (I don’t think he minded).

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This crib? A gift from a coworker whose children are too old for it. And these are just the big pieces. In the closet and dresser are all sorts of little items that have been passed down to me. Almost every piece of clothing I wear right now is the same.

These are the things that remind of the community of love that surrounds this little one. Displaying them for him or her is the most fun of all. I really look forward to being able to share this generosity with others when the time comes as well. It’s been the hidden surprise to all of this- how glad others are to help and how they go out of their way to do so. Pay it forward!

Living in Limbo

Shit’s changin’ y’all. There’s really no denying it and no one is immune from it. If you live within the confines of the United States you probably feel a bit like I do, like we’re in limbo. A major change has been announced but we don’t necessarily know that that means  yet. It’s hard to say what a Trump administration will look like or accomplish. You might think you know but so does your neighbor and I’d bet both of you have very different ideas. Who is right?

If you’re in North Carolina, the sense of being stuck in limbo is even worse. It’s Thanksgiving and we still don’t officially have a governor. Someone call that election already!

If you’re pregnant and due in say, three weeks or so, you might also feel like you’re in limbo. In fact all of pregnancy feels a bit like this. It’s all hurry up and wait. Much of the first trimester is waiting not to feel so tired and waiting to be able to share your good news. The second trimester flies by because you feel (mostly) like a human being which is a refreshing and short-lived change. Your home, your mind, your excited parents and in-laws are transitioning towards the future, trying to prepare for a new little being who is coming to reside. At the same time you’re stuck. Technically every day we get a little closer to baby makes three but it feels the same as yesterday- a little uncomfortable, a little sleepless and a whole lot o’ waddle.

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36 1/2 weeks

In fact I write this at 4 am because I can’t sleep, can’t get comfortable and I’m hungry.  I finally took off my ring tonight as the swelling in my fingers and feet started yesterday. We are in the home stretch now with only three weeks to go, although as many people have pointed it could be less. Just as many people point out it could be more. Regardless it’s hard to anticipate the finish line. As first time parents, I feel confident that we don’t have any real sense of our lives are getting ready to change. I can guess at how our daily routines will be forever altered but I can’t guess at the impact on our hearts or futures. As someone who never really factored children in when I imagined life, the other side of these three weeks seems even more foggy.

Perhaps the sense of in-between is greater because there we don’t know anything about this little person. There’s no gender currently associated with the baby so we can’t project any ideas onto it. We can’t practice using the boy name we’ve picked out or the girl’s. We joke about using either and enjoy hearing everyone’s guesses. Those who choose boy seem very sure. Those who choose girl almost always mention they’re just guessing. I am positive that I have no idea. I am a doubter in mother’s intuition right now.

Several friends have mentioned how fast my pregnancy feels to them. That time has just flown by. I’m pretty sure in twenty years it will feel that way to me too. For me, the action of waiting for movement, watching what I eat and drink, considering activities before I take them on has become so ingrained into my every day that pregnancy feels more like a permanent state than 10 months. (If 40 works is full term who the hell started this myth that pregnancy is 9 months? Can’t anyone count around here?) And still out in the unknown is how will I feel when my body empties out. I’m not sure I remember what it’s like to be only one heartbeat, one brain, one body, one person.

For now I will binge on Luke Cage and Gilmore Girls and try to stop eating everything in sight. Multiple people have told me I will reach a point where I feel full after only a few bites. Thursday I felt full for the first time since entering the second trimester. Apparently only Thanksgiving (3 slices of pie included) can do the trick.

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A few friends, a great potluck and a selfie stick is definitely the way to go. 

Happy belated Thanksgiving everyone. 2016 is coming to a close!