Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Asha Moremi - 8 weeks

 



 




My sweet, snuggly, easygoing Asha is 8 weeks old today. I'm not one to believe that "everything happens for a reason," but it does seem fated and somewhat magical that this steady, gentle soul entered our lives at such a transitional moment.



I'm going a little bit crazy with two kids, I admit. They are so LOUD, all the time, and I hate noise. My brain short-circuits, and I just want to run away. They have competing needs and I feel like I need four hands for each of them, when I only have two to do everything. It's in those moments, when Amaliya is shouting mean things at me and dinner is burning and daddy is late and I'm totally burned out from 12 hours with no moment of silence and at least one person always touching me, that I have to pause.... and be grateful that, of all the second babies in all the world, Asha is mine. I can put her down to tend to her sister; I can lie her in her crib and know that she'll nap; She doesn't mind waiting a few minutes to eat, and then eating quickly so I can get other things done; She goes to bed with minimal pageantry and no fighting required.

Yes, she cries, and yes, she demands as much attention as any other baby. She'll scream her protest at being put down while I'm busy with her sister, but as soon as I pick her up, all is forgiven. She's accepted the chaotic but inflexible routine of our household and adapted to it perfectly, in only 8 weeks. She smiles at me, and I know without a doubt that she's on my side. I need that, these days.



I'm not generally prone to guilt, but I do feel as if I've been failing a bit for the past few months. Sometimes I wonder if I'm not as bonded to Asha as I was to her sister at this point. Part of it is that I haven't spent much time alone with her, since her dad and big sister have been home a lot since she was born. Part of it is that we're frequently stuck in the house (with the weather being so damn hot and Asha screaming murder in her carseat or the carrier, it's really hard to get out and even take a walk) and being indoors/inactive makes me unhappy and rather crazy. And of course, part of it is those lovely postpartum hormones which have been doing a number on me for the last couple weeks. I don't feel as bonded with her as I'd like to be, and I also feel like her presence has drastically changed the solid bond I have with Amaliya. I feel adrift, taking care of both of them and loving on them the best I can, but not really connected, you know? I know this will pass, and I'm doing my best to take care of all of us (myself very much included) and find our new normal. I love my girls, they love me, and their growing love for each other is a beautiful thing to witness.



It's been hard, but now that my husband is back at work and Amaliya is settling into her new school, I'm trying to make the most of the days I have with Asha.  I talk and sing to her, take naps with her, and try and be more "in the moment," breathe in her sweet babyness and let go of my anxiety.

I'll save my crazed postpartum ranting for another post, and focus now on my beautiful Asha. She's just started cooing this week, and it melts me.  I love how she locks eyes with me when I talk to her, grins, and squeaks while frantically flailing her limbs. You can tell how excited she is to be part of the conversation. Her eyesight is much better now, so she can actually focus on and watch her sister's crazy antics (for the first month or so I think Amaliya was just an afro'ed blur and source of loud noise for Asha, and she was terrified. Now, she's fascinated!)

She's still incredibly strong - she pushes herself so far up during tummy time that she consistently rolls over onto her back. She's getting much better at holding her neck up and sitting upright in my lap. She'll get weighed at her 2-month appointment next week, but I think she's approaching 11lbs right now, and almost outgrown her 0-3m sized clothes.

Lots of drool these days

Asha Likes: Being talked to, making eye contact, watching her sister (from a safe distance), being outside, my left shoulder (still), her play mat, wiggling on her changing pad, and this balloon that Amaliya "bought"for her:



Asha Dislikes: Her carseat (sigh), the carrier (bigger sigh), being stifled by her sister's love (see below), being carried "like a baby"unless she's eating, being bathed and massaged, pacifiers (unless she's REALLY tired, and then she'll take one until she falls asleep), being woken up prematurely from a nap.





Sleeping: We're emerging from the chaotic newborn days, and Asha is turning into an excellent sleeper. She's in her crib at night probably 90% of the time, and only sleeps with me if she wakes up in the early morning hours and can't doze off again. She is AMAZING at putting herself to sleep.  We started putting her down sleepy-but-awake at around 6 weeks, and she usually dozes off within a few minutes with minimal fussing. In the last week or so her sleep patterns have changed - she's not napping for such long stretches during the day right now, but she's consistently doing a 6-7 hour stretch at night (one night we got a solid 8.5 hours!)



We're working on a bedtime routine, since that will make evenings with two kids SO much easier. For the past couple nights I've changed and fed Asha around 6:45, rocked her in a dark room with white noise on and sang a little, and put her down in her crib around 7:00. She goes right to sleep, wakes up between 1-4am to eat, then goes back to sleep until 6. After I put her to bed I'm free to spend a little time snuggling and reading with Amaliya, and both kids are in bed by 7:45 which is so, so essential for my sanity and hygiene and marriage.

Asha is getting better about napping in her crib, but her favorite nap location is still the Boppy Lounger (but she's outgrowing it and getting more mobile, so its days are numbered). She doesn't seem to like sleeping on me much anymore, but that's probably because it's hot and we get sweaty.

 

Eating: There's not much to say here, really.  She took to breastfeeding like a natural, eats 6-7 times a day and once at night, and has no issues taking a bottle.  She tends to gag and choke on my milk a lot more than her sister ever did, but I think it's because I have an oversupply and am pumping extra to freeze.  I try and pump regularly and not feed her when I'm engorged, and that helps. She's pukey sometimes and has really terrible gas that makes her miserable (due, I think, to the abundance of kale in my diet. I'm quite sad to give that up).  Gas drops and gripe water seem to help though.




Nicknames (all given by her sister): Ashie, Ash-ba, Ash-bosh, chubby cheeks.



Asha is definitely one of those "trick babies." The kind of baby that makes babies seem so wonderful that you feel like you should have more babies. Terrible birth control, this one is. Aside from the temptation to always have a sweet smelling, snuggly baby in the house, I do feel that our family is very complete now that Asha is with us. She rounds us out, in a way. My husband with his intellectual, analytical brain on fire; me, like a dalmation on steroids, always jumping around and juggling a dozen things and unable to contain my need to MOVE; Amaliya, with her fiery temper and social nature, always talking, always needing to interact and connect and communicate; We're a mess of strong, at-odds personalities.... and then came Asha, with her steady gaze and aura of Namaste. She unites us. She brings us peace. She seems softer than the three of us, more sensitive, more gentle. She is exactly what we always needed.




And we do love her so.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Asha Moremi - 4 weeks



It's been four weeks since Asha joined our family and, dare I say it? I feel complete. She's so sweet, so snuggly, so tiny, such a baby, that I just know she was meant to always be the littlest member of our family.

Amaliya's infancy was a confusing time for me.  I knew nothing about newborns, of course, so the physical demands of caring for one knocked me askew for quite a while. For the first 6 weeks I wished fervently that she was just grow a bit, just be a bit older and more independent, not constantly needing so much from me. I wished away her newborn-ness, and though I don't feel particularly guilty about it (I was doing my best, at the time), I am happy to say that I am reveling in Asha's first weeks on this earth. Newborns are familiar to me now - their simple yet taxing needs, their squeaks and gasps and yawns and sneezes, their erratic sleep patterns. I felt overwhelmed by Amaliya, never sure I was doing the right thing. Now?  Ah, the different that confidence makes.



I've learned not to overthink babies. With Amaliya, anxiety about everything kept me up at night, even while she slept.  With Asha, I am much more easy going. No panic attacks wondering if she's getting enough breastmilk, if her poop is the right color, if her weird breathing patterns are a sign of undiagnosed issues. She nurses and is gaining weight, so I don't freak out about her nutrition. She won't sleep in her crib? That's fine; we all sleep better with her tucked into bed with us anyway.  Panic-free parenting has been wonderful, this time around.



Much of the credit for this relaxed attitude goes to Asha; Her needs are easy to interpret and address. I never felt like Amaliya was a baby, really.  She was such an old soul, independent and sassy from the get go.  Asha is different. There's something so vulnerable, so sweet about her, young though she is. Something about the way she can't sleep unless she's snuggled up in my warmth, how she burrows her face in my neck and falls asleep on my shoulder. Something about the way cold sensations and loud noises seem to upset her, the way they never upset her sister.  She's delicate and gentle, with a quiet, mournful cry that sounds like singing (which her dad says makes him feel guilty, even when he hasn't done anything).  She's made these first few weeks relatively easy on us.

Asha Likes:  Being held all day and night, sleeping, boobs, staring at faces, the Boppy lounger, her play mat, the changing table, blankets, resting on mama's shoulder.



Asha Dislikes:  Baths, cold wipes, the car seat, the bassinet, babywearing (though we're working on it), getting dressed, unfamiliar people, pacifiers.



Sleeping:  Not bad for a baby, I guess?  Her first couple nights at home, she cried from 12-4am and otherwise slept fitfully on my chest, but thankfully she straightened out her days and nights fairly quickly. Now she reliably sleeps from 8pm-12:30am, 12-3:30am, and 3:30-6am (roughly). The only caveat is, of course, that she has to sleep tucked into the crook of my arm, hugging my breast. We start every night in the crib, just for practice, but it typically lasts about 10-60 minutes before I take her to bed with me (except for one glorious night when she slept the whole night in her crib and I got really excited, only for her to refuse the next night).  Honestly, I don't push it too hard. When she gets a bit older I'll try harder to transition her (I really don't LOVE cosleeping, snuggly though it may be. I want my adult bed back soonish), but for now?  We're sleeping.  I have a newborn and I am more-or-less well rested, so I'm willing to do whatever works to keep it that way, for now.



I am enjoying these moments.  I know the days of falling asleep with a tiny baby snuggled in next to me are fleeting, and its likely something I won't experience again. I am soaking it in while I can.

Naps are all over the place, in typical new baby fashion, though she does take one 3ish hour nap every day, usually in the morning.  She'll nap in the crib sometimes, but mostly likes to be on her tummy in the Boppy lounger (a position that does give me anxiety, but it is what it is. I watch her like a hawk).



Eating: Asha had an amazing latch from the beginning and, thankfully, we've had no problem with breastfeeding.  She has a partial lip tie just like her sister, but less severe than Amaliya's I think, so my nipples are sore but not bleeding like I remember from 4 years ago. It doesn't affect her intake and I know from experience that the soreness will go away in a few weeks, so we're just going with it.  There's no pattern to her feeding yet - on demand, 'round the clock is how we roll right now.  She generally doesn't go more than 3 hours without eating, with an occasional 4 hour stretch overnight.  I started pumping as soon as my milk came in to start building a freezer stash.  She took her first bottle at around 2 weeks with no drama whatsoever, thank goodness.



How's the family?:  We've all fared better than I anticipated in the wake of so many huge changes. The jump from one kid to two has been just as hard, if not harder, than I anticipated, just in interesting ways. Amaliya has been absolutely wonderful with her little sister.  She's never acted jealous, loves on the baby constantly, and really enjoys being a helper. We're sleeping and therefore not as short-tempered as I had prepared for.  Mostly it's the NOISE that is killing me now. Having a baby screaming in one ear, Amaliya yelling in the other, my husband trying to talk to me, and the TV going in the background is just too much, and I start to short-circuit and want to run away (obviously, I'm the only one in my house that appears to be averse to noise and chaos. Lucky me). I'm trying my best to just roll with it.



Otherwise, we're getting into a rhythm. Figuring out how to do all the things we used to do with one kid, just with two.  Accepting that everything takes longer and requires a lot more equipment.  A big perk of baby #2 is that you're not allowed to just wallow around in the newborn haze for too long. Big sister has school, extracirriculars, a routine that cannot and should not go out the window because a baby came along. Plus, it's almost summer, and we have a ton of fun things in mind to do. Our newest addition will be right there, living life with us.

Though it would help a lot of she could make peace with her carseat already .










Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Arrival of Moon Cheese (Asha's Birth Story)



Asha Moremi Ojo
Born on 5/4/2016, 2:24pm
6lbs 15oz, 19.5in

Knowing that second babies tend to come earlier and faster than the first, I was prepared for a quick labor this time. This made me slightly nervous, since my husband works about a hour an a half away and is slave to the train schedule, but knowing that most babies are born during the night, I didn't worry too much. It was a running joke throughout my pregnancy that I was afraid to have a baby in the middle of Yucaipa Boulevard, the long main road that leads to the birth center, a good 15-20 minutes away. I'm afraid I almost jinxed myself.

On Wednesday, May 4, I was technically 41 weeks and 2 days pregnant and mentally very tired of the whole thing. My body hurt, my stamina was nonexistent, and my patience with myself (not to mention Amaliya's patience with me not being able to play tennis with her) had run out.  I'd been to the midwife 2 days earlier, but I was only dialated 1cm and not at all effaced - not unexpected, given that my cervix showed no progress when labor started with Amaliya but still progressed quickly. Still, I was discouraged, and every day more fearful that I would require a hospital induction.

That Wednesday morning I came home from dropping Amaliya off at school, looked at the sink full of dirty dishes and thought, you know what?  Not today.  Today I'm not going to frantically get the house ready just in case this is the day we have a baby. I'm going to enjoy some time to myself. I made a luxurious cup of coffee with butter and cinnamon, and laid on the couch to read for two blissful hours.   Around 10:30, I headed over to the midwife for a non-stress test to check on the baby, stopping for a mini blizzard at Dairy Queen along the way.

I opened the door to the birth center and before I could step one foot inside I heard a "pop" from my abdomen, and felt a sharp cramp along with a small gush of fluid. What perfect timing. We went ahead with the test, which involved being hooked up to one monitor tracking the baby's heartbeat, and another monitoring my contractions.  Moon Cheese was active and healthy, but I wasn't having any contractions. After a quick check revealing that my cervix was, in fact, progressing (3cm, 65% effaced), I headed home around 12 to wait for contractions to start. From the car I called my husband and told him to grab the earliest train home (which happened to be at 1pm), my mom to ask her to leave work and get ready to take Amaliya for the night, and my best friend Pokey (Erin) to come sit with me in the meantime.

I noticed some crampy sensations on the drive home, and had my first intense, had-to-stop-and-catch-my-breath contraction while trying to parallel park the car. My first thought was regret for the sink full of dirty dishes I'd left from that morning.  I ran upstairs to finish packing Amaliya's overnight bag (which was a disaster, by the way. I packed nothing but shorts and t-shirts for a cold rainy day, and forgot underwear and a sweater entirely. Somehow I did remember a toothbrush and all her hair/bath supplies). I came downstairs and attempted to unload the dishwasher, but was in too much pain to get very far. Finally I gave up and put on a movie (Dances with Wolves - I wanted pretty scenery and a beautiful score to distract me. Of course I remember nothing of it, except for glancing up once between contractions and seeing Kevin Costner's bare ass on the screen. There are worse things). At that point the contractions were extremely painful, requiring vocalization and rhythmic movement. I threw up my entire lunch, then draped myself over our ottoman and labored on my knees.

Pokey arrived around 1 or 1:15, I think, and at that point I was timing contractions 5-6 minutes apart. They quickly increased to every 4 minutes, then every 2.  Looking back, I'm amazed at how coherent I was as compared to my first labor. I remembered to try and keep my voice low, to find a rhythm to my movement and breath to help me through each one (I swayed my hips and tapped my hand on the ottoman). I remember desperately wanting to wait until Kunle got home, not wanting to leave without him. And then I had a different contraction - longer, so intensely painful that I lost control of myself and cried, and I felt the baby move distincly downward. My brain short-circuited at that point. I knew I was in transition, I knew we needed to go, I was afraid to leave without my husband with me, I was irrationally worried that he'd come home and not know where I was. I am so, so thankful to have had such a capable friend by my side through all this, since I was unable to vocalize anything that was going through my head.  She made the call that we needed to leave at that moment, a bit before before 2pm, and threw the car seat and my bags into the car. I somehow ended up in the passenger seat, screaming and biting on a pillow, and we sped off.

I had a few bad contractions in the car, but the change in position actually helped the pain and moved things along - not ideal, since we were still 15 minutes away. I had a moment of almost- panic when suddenly, in the middle of traffic and construction on the Boulevard, the pain lessened considerably and the next contraction brought with it the intense urge to push. I've read enough to remember that you're supposed take shallow, panting breaths to avoid pushing, so I tried, and it worked for a while. I saw Erin expertly maneuvering the car through traffic and was so grateful, even in that moment, that she was so calm and in control of the situation. She was using my phone, trying to reach my husband who was on the road, telling him to come straight to the birth center. I said out loud, "I am NOT having this baby on Yucaipa Boulevard!" And she confirmed, "No, you're not!"

We pulled into the birth center and one of the student midwives rushed out. She ordered me out of the car and told me to keep walking, even through the next contraction, likely afraid I would drop a baby on the pavement. The next 10 minutes are a blur. I'm on the bed on my hands and knees; I'm ordered onto my back and hold my knees to my chest; my midwife tells me to breathe her down, so I focus on keeping my breaths even and deep while I push; Pokey is by my head, holding my hand; I feel the ring of fire (something else I don't remember from last time, and wow, what a sensation); I feel when her head, and then her shoulders emerge; finally I'm told, "take your baby!" and I reach down to pull Asha into my chest. 

She's so tiny, I thought. So much tinier than I thought she would be. I worried for about a second, until she let out a loud, angry cry. She turned pink right away.  Healthy and perfect. I felt so much love for her during those first few moments, despite still being in shock over what had just happened.

We waited a bit for the cord to stop pulsing, and just as they were about to cut it, my husband rushed in. All he said was, 'Oh!" and he looked rather dazed as they immediately handed him the scissors so he could cut the cord. He missed the birth by about 5 minutes.

We forgive him






That is how Asha entered the world, only 2.5 hours after my first contraction. Moon Cheese does what Moon Cheese wants, after all.



I received a shot of pitocin in the thigh due to some heavier-than-expected bleeding, and delivered the placenta easily. Once I was cleaned up and checked, they propped me up in bed and left us alone to marvel at our creation for a while. We laughed at her enormous feet, were amazed by how she already loved to suck on her hands. She has a very strong latch and nursed well from the beginning. A perfect specimen, all around.

Pokey picked up Amaliya early from school and brought her over to meet her sister, only an hour after she was born. Amaliya walked in nervously, overwhelmed and obviously very excited. She was thrilled to meet her sister, climbing into bed with us and showering her with kisses immediately. She got to "help" with measuring and examining the baby and watched with amazement as they trimmed the umbilical cord.  I was so proud of how maturely she handled the situation, especially considering how surprised and overstimulated she was by the whole thing.


Moral support






 


 

And then, 3 hours after the birth.... we were home!  Pokey picked us up dinner, Kunle dropped Amaliya off at my parents' house for the night, and we settled in for a long, sleepless, yet blissful first night with Asha.

It's a nice feeling, to know that your family is complete.

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Friday, April 15, 2016

38 Weeks



I find that I get in zones with writing, and it’s very hard to switch gears. I cannot spend a day churning out copy for emails and brochures, then sit down in the evening and write from the heart.  All this to say, I’ve been wanting to write for months and months now, I have so much to say and so many things to capture, but I haven’t been able to sit and get the words out with so much of my focus tied up in my day job. Now that I’m on maternity leave, I would like to spend more time in this space, telling my personal stories.

*****
Maternity leave.  I am 38 weeks pregnant. I wish I had written more during this process, captured more details to remember it by, since this will likely be my last pregnancy and last baby. Then again, how can you really capture it?  There are not words sufficient to explain how weird and magical it is to grab hold of your baby’s foot at it kicks you, stretching your uterus, reaching for the outside. How deeply you feel the connection to a bundle of cells you’ve never met, and how you instinctively know how connected they feel to you too. How that connection is proven every time my husband rests his hand on my stomach - the baby scoots over and calmly bunches up right under him, then kicks furiously and pushes outward whenever he takes the warmth away. How can I put into words how magical it is to listen to her heartbeat at every appointment, and hear it accelerate every time big sister starts singing or talking? Or the joy of preparing an older child for the responsibilities and realities of expanding the family, the pride in witnessing her excitement and readiness?

There really are no words.  To be pregnant is a privilege and I know it.  It hasn’t been easy this time, for sure.  I have a hard time right now remembering what life was like before I was pregnant. A time when I felt comfortable in my body, able to wake early and run long and still keep up with my family all day.  A time when it didn’t feel like my husband’s work schedule was sucking the life and joy out of me. A time when I wasn’t repulsed by 80% of all smells, my bones didn’t ache, and my underwear fit. I look at pictures of myself from a year ago, in my size 7 jeans, and it feels like another lifetime. I’m sure Amaliya doesn’t even remember a time when her sister wasn’t in my belly, and that’s a strange thought. The days are long but the years are short, or so they say of raising children, but it applies to pregnancy as well.  This will all seem like a flash in the pan, a brief moment, when I look back on it.  For now we are frozen in time, my undulating belly and I, just waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

I plan.  It’s what I do. I am able to make fast, firm decisions partly because I am always forecasting and reviewing all possible future scenarios in my head. It’s a mixed blessing when pregnant, because though I feel very well prepared for all that can happen to me during labor and after, I am also a little terrified when I think too long about my life with two children. I know we’ll adjust, life will continue, we’ll settle into a new normal and forget that life was ever different. I know that anticipating the struggle is much worse than living it. I already can’t imagine life without my newest baby girl, and she hasn’t arrived yet.  

Still, I’m afraid.  I’m afraid of the depression that will inevitably set in, thanks to hormones and sleep deprivation.  I’m afraid that, unlike last time when I the freedom of a husband who worked part time, allowing me to get plenty of exercise and sleep in and maintain a sense of relative freedom, this time I will be alone with my babies for 13+ hours a day, every day of the week. I’m afraid of losing the ability to take care of myself, and having no one to take care of me, and what that means for my family.  I’m afraid of not being able to hold it together, mostly. Of losing myself, the sense of identity that I proudly held onto throughout my initial transition to motherhood.  

It’s the same old, sad story that fuels blogs and message boards and mommy groups around the world – women lose themselves in motherhood, our sense of separateness and personhood and individuality is eroded by the fact that we are non-sleeping, milk-dispensing, caretaking drones who exist solely for the comfort and upkeep of the families that we, at one point, thought it was such a brilliant idea to build. We all feel that way, sometimes, and there’s no judgment here. We all question our choices even when we know beyond doubt that they were good choices.  We all feel worthless sometimes, even when doing the most important work. It is possible to look at the child you created and feel overwhelmed by love and joy and pride AND despair, knowing that you are doomed to be worn down by the intensity of those feelings for the rest of your life.

*****

I wrote the above a few days ago.  I seem to be wavering between panic and peace on a near daily basis.  The last week was hard, physically – my own fault, since I committed to a consignment sale and volunteer hours when I really should have been gently stretching or warming the couch. We had our third baby shower yesterday (I honestly did not plan for or anticipate having any; my gratitude is boundless), which was the last of my big commitments for the month. I am grateful my baby Moon Cheese decided to bake for a full almost-39 weeks and allowed me to push through.  Now I can breathe. Now I am prepared.  And no, she will not be coming home to a spotlessly clean, quiet, calm house, or a meticulously decorated nursery.  Those things just aren’t in the cards for second babies. But she will certainly find two parents and a big sister with arms wide open, so anxious to meet her, so in love already.

We’re ready for you Moon Cheese.  Asha.  We’re ready.


Friday, January 1, 2016

Farewell to another year.

2015 was the year of mama/daughter selfies

It was also the year of couch snuggles


These year-end recaps and goal-setting posts are my absolute favorite to write and read over. It always feel like dropping an anchor, tying a ribbon around a tree, putting something in a time capsule. I go back to all my previous New Years posts for an honest look into where I was at the time, and where I thought I was going.  So many things turned out as expected, so many didn't, and new scenarios came about that I would have never dared to dream of. This is one day every year where I feel like my past and my future coexist, where everything coalesces into one and I can see my whole life, start to finish, clearly spread out before me. It's empowering and humbling all at once.  So let's dive in!

2015's word was mindfulness, and really, I couldn't have picked a better mantra to get me through a very hectic year. Between the 5am alarms, the long work hours, only seeing my husband for an hour a night during the week, the mind-numbing drudgery of our rigid daily routine, and the haze of pregnancy... well.... if I hadn't made a conscious effort to be mindful, I probably wouldn't remember much of anything.  This year could have easily passed me by and left some negative feelings in it's wake.  Instead I revisited this post often, to remind myself to stop and really feel every moment.  And 2015 had some great ones.

#family

We made the most of our weekends, attending lots of local events and getting out to the coast a few times. We took full advantage of only having one child who is at a perfect age for sleepovers with her grandparents, and went on more dates together. We were kinder to each other than ever before. We spent every possible moment snuggled on the couch together. I traveled for work a few times, reliving a little of my long-lost family-less freedom, and then experienced the relief and peace of coming home to them again. I marveled every day at my daughter:  so tiny, still able to curl up in a neat little ball on my lap, yet so fierce with her blossoming independence.  I breathed her in deeply, and allowed time to stop every time she reached up to hug my belly and kiss her little sister.

the sweetest

It was a weird year in so many ways.  Overall, hard.  Harder than any year has every been before, mostly because of the time restrictions and increased domestic load that I feel eroding my personal freedom. I feel worn down, thinking back on the year as a whole. But when I think back on individual moments, I can't recall any that were particularly difficult or dramatic. All I remember are moments of joy.  Really, I can't ask for more than that.

I did set some goals for 2015, but not many.  They were:

1. Participate in a Toastmasters speech competition.  I did this in the spring!  I won the club contest and took second place at the Area level. I don't think I'll do it again, but it was fun to get back into competition for a minute.

2. Join a professional organization.  Done!

3. Celebrate my 30th birthday in the best shape of my life.  Body image is funny.  At the time I didn't feel like I succeeded at this.  I couldn't see how far I'd come, only how far I needed to go. But now?  I look back on pictures of myself from the spring, and I was absolutely in amazing shape. I have never been so muscular or lean, and I ran a PR in the half marathon in March.  Looking back I'm proud of the work I put in, despite the challenges.  My body never ceases to amaze me.




~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Now here we are, about to cross the threshold into 2016.  This will be a hard year to predict and plan for, because a new baby shakes up the family dynamics in ways you don't always expect.  I was having trouble coming up with my guiding theme for the coming year, but an endorphin-fueled epiphany at the gym this morning made everything suddenly clear.

I am technically two people right now, so I feel comfortable embracing two mantras for this year.  They are CONFIDENCE and GRACE.

The confidence to run down the road or walk into the gym with my enormous pregnant belly and take care of my fitness, to push myself and gain strength despite external judgements or personal doubts.

The grace to accept that my belly will grow, my fitness will wain, my weight will climb, and near the end my body will be working primarily for my new daughter and not for me.

The confidence to have another natural, unmedicated, out-of-hospital birth. To believe in my body's abilities and banish all fear and doubt, to trust myself and my support system to bring my daughter safely into the world.

The grace to prepare myself for whatever may happen. Birth is unpredictable, and our best-laid plans must sometimes be laid aside. I will leave my ego out of it - the "what if"s will not undermine my confidence or alter my plans, but if my plans must change, I will roll with it and focus on the bigger picture.


The confidence to love my postpartum body. To not hide in pictures. To buy clothes that fit regardless of the size. To breastfeed without shame, wherever I may be. To jump back into fitness and training when I can for the good of my body and mind, no matter how slow or jiggly I may feel.

The grace to accept that my body will not belong to me alone this year, and that means certain sacrifices. Breastfeeding means fatigue and carrying extra weight. Sleep deprivation takes a toll on health and sanity. When the little one starts daycare, we will all inevitably be sick for a few months.  It can be hard to love your body when it feels so depleted all the time, but I will do my best.

The confidence to keep trying new things.

The grace to understand that my time will be limited, and my expectations for adventure need to be reasonable.

The confidence to make wise and firm decisions for the good of my family.

The grace to accept the fallout when those decisions don't turn out so well after all.

The confidence AND the grace to nap, deeply and often, whenever the opportunity presents itself.

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And with that, I humbly present my personal goals for 2016:

1. To go into childbirth well prepared, physically and mentally.  For me this means reviewing some of the books and videos that helped me last time, possibly taking a refresher childbirth course, and (most importantly) staying in good physical shape throughout pregnancy.  In my mind, the similarities between weight training and birth are astounding.  Both require pushing yourself to the limit, finding a rhythm, reframing the burning, aching, raging sensation racking your body as strength instead of pain, and allowing your mind to become totally subservient to the needs of your body.  Lifting up until I went into labor was the best thing I did for myself last time, and hopefully this time is no different.

2. Become certified in CPR.  Because it's ridiculous that I'm not.

3.  Establish a fitness routine postpartum.  It won't be easy to juggle everything, but I have to find a way.  Working out is how I show myself love, and I can't let that fall by the wayside.  If that means the occasional run at 4am with a headlamp, so be it.  If it means adjusting my work schedule to accommodate a midday trip to the gym, I'll do it. It will definitely mean relying on my husband and support network to hold everything down while I focus on myself a few days a week.  It takes a village, and I am willing to forgo martyrdom and lean on my friends and family to maintain my health.

4. Take Amaliya on monthly (ideally semimonthly) dates.  We have a nice thing going right now where, every other Friday when her dad goes to work, I take her out for breakfast before daycare.  It's special for both of us to spend some time talking together, and I know it will become even more important when she has to share me with a sibling. I want us to nurture our unique bond despite the changes to our family, and I hope that continuing this tradition will help ease any anxiety or jealousy she might feel over such an abrupt change.

5. Tell my husband that I love him every day.  I'm resurrecting this goal from 2012, the last year in which we had a new baby. I met the goal, literally telling him "I love you," at least once every single day.  Granted, some days I whispered it to him after he was asleep because I was mad at him, but I still said it, and I really feel that it made a huge difference.  Growing a family means a lot of stress and big changes to the family dynamic, and can be hard on a marriage.  I'm pretty sure he didn't realize that it was my goal to affirm my love every day (I didn't tell him), but that's okay, because I didn't do it for him. Forcing myself to remember how much I love the man I chose as my partner, no matter how hard things seemed, helped snap everything into perspective during those intense moments of frustration and sleepless despair.

The best daddy in the world, no exaggeration

6.  Learn one new thing.  The most cliched of all resolutions, but there you have it.  I love picking up new skills and knowledge, it's a big part of my identity that I can't let slip away this year.  I have options - a sewing machine that I intend to fix up and learn to use, access to classes at the YMCA, adventurous friends that I can talk into anything.  I'm going to delve into one new thing this year and, though I probably won't master it, at least I'll have dusted off the cobwebs and done something to make myself proud.

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And there you have it.  Anchor = dropped.  As amazing and interesting as 2015 has been, I can't wait to experience the joy and challenges that 2016 will bring our way.  Happy New Year to all!

Another year older, another year better!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Checking in

I thought I might blog more often about this pregnancy.  11 weeks later and that obviously isn't happening, for a multitude of reasons. I did want to swing by and drop a quick update on life, love, babies, and all that.  In short, I'm feeling fat and happy, the family is thriving, and we're very much looking forward to 2016!

The day after Thanksgiving

The second trimester brought the anticipated spike in energy and relief from all-day sickness, thank goodness. My first pregnancy was so easy that this one took me very much by surprise.  Even aside from the nausea I just feel much more tired, overwhelmed, achy, and.... frankly, old.  There's a world of difference between being pregnant for the first time at 26 and being pregnant for the second time at 30.  My body hurts, I've gained the recommended amount of weight for 40 weeks in a record-breaking 21 weeks (oh my), and I have felt generally un-cute for the past few months.



This too shall pass, I know, and I'm already adjusting my body image and feeling better about myself. I spent the majority of my youth struggling with my body, but after having Amaliya I spent a solid 3 years maintaining my weight and getting into the best shape of my life. It was hard to go "backwards" so dramatically as soon as I got pregnant, but I've accepted and gotten used to it. The stage is set for an epic fitness comeback in 2016/17!

5am airport selfie


View from the Capitol buidling, looking out towards the Washington monument
I just spent 5 days traveling to Washington, DC and back for work, which was hard on my body but harder on my schedule during the holiday crunch.  I've been a diligent elf, though, and wrapped up (ha!) my Christmas prep a few days early.  Amaliya is almost 3-and-a-half, which is a wonderful age for starting traditions and making Christmas magic. She understands Santa, is looking forward to getting/giving gifts, exclaims in pure wonder when we see "lights ablaze!" while driving through the neighborhood, and I know she'll have an amazing time with all the family-centered festivities that will be happening this week.  I've loved prepping for Christmas this year, and daydreaming about next year when we will be celebrating as a family of four.

The preschool Christmas concert - cuter than cute!

Otherwise life is as hectic as ever.  We both work long hours, weekends are a blur, and time marches on relentlessly.  I can't believe I only have 18ish weeks left until Moon Cheese joins us.  There's so much to do - baby things to buy, closets to clean, clothes to sort (once we know the gender, which will be soon!).  At least one thing has remained the same throughout my two pregnancies, and that is the overwhelming sense of peace and stability that overcomes me when I'm pregnant.  I tend to be hormonally volatile most of the time, but when pregnant, I am balanced.  Happy. Even during the most frustrating moments, I can feel the little life inside me kicking my organs, and it really does bring me joy.  Every time.

It helps, of course, that Amaliya has been an absolute peach for the last few weeks.  We seem to have found the eye of the hurricane when it comes to 3-year-old tantrums - she's much calmer and more reasonable now, learning all the time and a total delight to talk to.  I'm sure we're heading for rough times when she hits her next big developmental leap, but that's okay.  The little breaks in between get us through.  I always feel so lucky to have her.




As always friends, thanks for reading! Have a wonderful holiday!