Baby, Norah

eight months old

Look who’s a big girl now.

8 months old

Thus begins the journey from babyhood to toddlerhood.  I can feel it coming.

This month has been full of so many changes.  She went through a few weeks where she couldn’t sleep well and was so hard to get down at night.  But as is often the case with sleep disturbances, we came out on the other side and BAM!  New baby!  So many developmental leaps happening right now.

She’ll cry when she sees me leaving a room.  She laughs whole-heartedly at her brother’s attempts to be goofy and entertain her.  She babbles incessantly.  She loves the bath.  She’s still crawling army-style on her belly, but she gets around fast, and much to my dismay, she pulled herself up on her crib railing twice last week.  And we’ve mastered the purees and sippy cup, so I think we’ll move on to tiny finger foods soon.

I don’t know where the time is flying, or more importantly, I don’t know how babies grow this fast.  I mean 8 months was not really all that long ago, but the tiny flour sack of a body is long gone, and we are full-blown active baby over here.

It’s exciting and painful all at the same time.

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Baby, Norah

three months.

Norah is officially three months old as of last Saturday.

3 months

This is the age when you look at your baby and think about how much she’s grown in a few short months.  Holding her head up.  Following us with her eyes.  Sleeping for more than two hours without needing something to eat.  Unfurling her clinched fists.

She’s such a different baby than the one I brought home in May.

It’s an odd feeling this time around, knowing she is probably my last.  It feels weird to leave certain ages and stages behind.  I’m reading some Anne Lamott these days, and I ran across something yesterday that made me smile and nod my head and breathe a little easier with these changes.

“Here is my theory: I’m all the ages I’ve ever been.  You realize this at some point about your child — even when your kid is sixteen, you can see all the ages in him, the baby wrapped up like a burrito, the one-year-old about to walk, the four-year-old napping, the ten-year-old on a trampoline.

“[…] So how can I be represented by a snapshot, or any one specific age? Isn’t the truth that this me is subsumed into all the me’s I already have been, and will be?”  — Anne Lamott, “A Field Theory of Beauty”

 

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Happy Monday, friends.  Hope it’s a good week ahead.

Baby, Birth, birthday letters, gratitude, Norah

Birth Story: A Letter

Dear Norah,

I’ve written letters to your brother on each of his birthdays, and I intend to do the same to you.  Your first letter though will be for this first Birth Day when you entered the world, and I’m writing it now when it’s only been a few weeks, and I can clearly remember all the sights and feelings of those first few hours.  I know a day will come when I might forget some of these tiny details, but there are so many things about that moment that will remain stamped in my mind forever; I know it.

Your brother’s birth cracked me wide open, in every sense of that phrase.  It was a long process and ended with some details I did not anticipate, and as surgeons pulled his little body from my belly, I was ripped open literally and figuratively. All kinds of new love came from the cracks in my broken heart, and I love him for it.  His birth taught me a million things I didn’t know before and gave me new eyes for so many things I’d never seen, but sadly, I didn’t really believe in my ability to do everything I needed to do to consider myself a real mama, and part of me assumed I just wasn’t made for birth.  The scar on my belly and in my heart stayed there for a long time.

Then you came and you grew and that scar literally disappeared from my view as the nine months progressed.  I think you were already whispering to me from where you were, telling me that I was every bit the woman I wanted to be and that we could do this together.

When May 18, 2012 arrived, and I felt that first contraction, I really thought it would be a slow, painful, long process and my nerves started to set in as my old fears crept up a bit.  You didn’t leave time for much of that though.  First a reminder at 11:30am, then another at 11:45, then another about 12 minutes later.  You were telling me that my body was working, and it would work so much faster than I thought it could.  I insisted on a full tummy though, so I made your dad and brother sit with me to eat lunch.  It was our last meal as a family of three, and in typical Jude fashion, he was shouting, “Stop dancing, mama!” as I tried to sway through the contractions.  Your Grammy came to get him, and then Nana arrived and your dad drove us to the hospital.  Drove is an inaccurate depiction really.  He flew like a bat out of Hell and cursed the traffic while envisioning his precious daughter making her entrance on the side of GA 400.  Contractions were coming every three minutes at that point, and he and your Nana were getting nervous that I was close to meeting you and the hospital was too far away.

But we made it, with four hours to spare actually.  I waddled in the door of the hospital and stopped every couple of minutes to grip a wall or a doorway and moan through a contraction.  As you grow, you will find this funny, I think.  I’m typically a fairly private person about that sort of thing, but I didn’t care.  Again, your perfect pace didn’t leave time for self-doubt or second guessing, and I am so grateful for that gift.  A surly woman checked us in and took too long on the monitor strip, but once she was done, we got settled in our Labor and Delivery suite with a kind nurse and our awesome doula Pam, and things really took off.

earlier labor

Contractions were coming one on top of the other, and I started shaking and became very demanding of your father, which is a trait you will see the rest of your life.  It hurt.  And I was starting to wonder why it hurt so badly when my dilation was only a “four or a five” when I was checked minutes ago.  I thought a hot shower might help, so I stepped in and let the water pour over my back and I did find some comfort, but you were still being heard so much more loudly than I expected at this stage of the game.  I asked to be checked again since I really wanted the warm comfort of the tub.  My midwife told me that I was progressing well, so I stepped in the warm water.

my team.  :)

I think you had your sights on being a water baby from the start because often the warm tub will slow down a laboring mom, but for us, this is where things really picked up.  Your dad was playing a soundtrack of El Ten Eleven and City and Colour, and I just listened and pretty much held on to him for dear life, and before long I found myself loudly vocalizing to get through the contractions.  With your brother, I endured nineteen hours of unmedicated labor and a surgery following that, and the whole time I remained so silent you could hear a pin drop.  I tend to turn inward when dealing with discomfort of any kind, but you sent me a message that sometimes we surprise ourselves, and I found that vocalizing really helped me with the pain.

This is getting hard.

Sometimes I lamented that “Oooooooch this huuuuuurts.”  And sometimes I told my body to “open, open, open.”  And at one point, I started talking to you and telling you to “come on baby, come on Norah.”  And with every all-consuming contraction, you were talking back to me and telling me it wouldn’t be long.  I think we are going to talk a lot, you and I, because we were doing it from the very beginning.

Then next thing I know, my body starts pushing a bit with each contraction as you move downward.  And then pushing a lot.  I push and I push, and I thought I would be so anxious at this point of the delivery because it’s where things went awry last time.  But again you were looking out for me.  No time to be anxious or question or even think really.  I just rode the wave of each contraction and listened to my body and pushed when it told me to.  And for the first time in thirty-one months, I began to think maybe I really was strong enough to do anything I wanted and perfectly created to do this.  I started saying so aloud, “I can do this;  I can do this;  I can do this,” like a chant.  Everyone in the room was assuring me that “You are doing this,” and I gladly hung some hope on their words of encouragement.

With each push, you came closer to meeting me, and it hurt more and more.  I began yelling loudly, or I remember it that way.  Your dad assures me it wasn’t that out-of-control, but I swear he is just being kind to me because I seemed to remember screaming like a banshee as you moved through my pelvis.  I started to waver a bit on my confidence, but my midwife looked right at me and assured me that I was doing it and you were minutes away from my arms.  She told me your hair was waving in the water as I would sway between contractions, and a smile emerged for me because I knew we were close.  With another push, she encouraged me to feel your head, and so I did.  You were partially out and all soft and warm from the water and from your place in my own body. That moment of feeling your fuzzy little head in that water while the rest of you was still part of me will forever remain in my memory, Norah.  Someone in the room commented on how amazing it was that the perfect song was playing at just the right time, and I like to think that was another little nudge from you that everything was coming together exactly as it should to make this magic moment.  The next contraction came, and I gave it a few good pushes, and out popped your shoulders and the rest of your tiny little frame, and with the help of my midwives, I lifted your beautiful body right from that water to my own chest.

Norah

And you did not utter a sound or make a cry yet, but I felt as if you had been talking to me for months, telling me that we could do this together and I was not broken and that I was every bit the mama you needed.  And you looked at me.  Just looked.  For the longest time.  Those big silent eyes just looked and blinked a bit as if to say that you completely expected this moment and there was nothing surprising about it.  I talked to you and I kissed you, even with all of your gooey birth stuff on your sweet little head.  And I remember saying aloud that I felt like a new woman.  I think what I meant at the time was that the all-consuming pain of the work of labor was over in an instant.  But now I hear that statement with new ears because I really was a new woman in that second, one who knew that she wasn’t broken.  And I can never explain to you in enough words or long-winded letters how much gratitude I have for that lesson, Norah.

Norah
Being a woman is hard.  We judge ourselves and we expect too much and we internalize everything.  It breaks my heart that you will learn these lessons someday, but I know you will.  All I pray for in my life with you, in my years of being your mama, is that I can somehow give you the confidence and love and overwhelming gratitude that you gave me at 6:39 pm on that day.  I look at you and I know with all certainty that you are beautiful and perfect and created to do anything in the world that you set your mind to, and apparently so am I.  Thank you for teaching me that and for loving me before you even arrived.

Love,

Mama

Baby

a new normal

Everyone talks about life after baby in the sense that things will return to normal.  Or a new normal, as people like to say.  Norah is 17 days old as I write this, and we are right on the cusp of things feeling like a new normal.  Part of that is good – the familiar routines, the ability to get life back on track for the non-newborns living in the house, the steadiness that is lost for a moment when you first get home with a squinty little baby.

But it also makes me a little sad, in a way.  The newborn phase is over so quickly.  And we are still in it, I know.  But I already feel it slipping away like water through my fingers.  We are trying hard to soak in in though.

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She is growing at a ridiculous pace. In fact, she weighed in at 9 pounds, 15.5 ounces this weekend – which is actually a little ridiculous. Mama makes some crazy milk, I guess. I haven’t supplemented at all this time and I’ve got one fat baby … which is hilariously ironic in light of Jude’s early weight loss and my meager supply there at the beginning and all of our drama. Smooth sailing this time. Thank you, boobs. One less thing to worry about.

I’m trying to remind myself that SAHMs need a maternity leave as well.  I mean it’s only fair.  I felt not an ounce of guilt for lounging with a baby two years ago, and I shouldn’t feel any now.  It’s a honeymoon.

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So until this new normal is really our normal, there might be a larger-than-usual laundry pile. Or a lackluster dinner on the table. Or an extra cartoon for my toddler every morning. Normal can wait.

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Baby, gratitude, motherhood

week one

Norah turned one week last night, and we celebrated with some extra cuddles. I love the way newborns just mold right to your own shape.

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Postpartum has been unbelievably easier this time than last. I feel reasonably great excepting a little soreness and a couple tiny stitches. Breastfeeding is working out beautifully, and I’m having none of the issues I had before. The combination of experience as a mother and such a beautiful natural birth is leaving me feeling pretty confident as well. Such a stark contrast from last go around.

Having two kids at home brings the occasional challenge no doubt. Just last night, the baby woke up Jude, and it was two full hours before he could settle back down for sleep. It made for a rough, sleepy morning. But seeing the two of them together already makes my heart swell.

siblings

siblings

I’ve learned that I can drive myself crazy with Carpe Diem thoughts, especially in this role of motherhood with so much growth and change happening every moment. It’s impossible not to go there with a newborn though. These moments are so sweet and so fleeting.

Baby, In the Home

Norah’s Nursery

I’m full term this Thursday, meaning if I were to go in to labor, they wouldn’t stop it.  And while I fully expect another three or so weeks before baby girl makes her appearance, I’m crossing things off the to-do list like mad lately.  I’ve got plans for a stop at Babies R’ Us (ugh) this week to use some store credit and pick up odds and ends I need to replenish, and I think next week I’ll start packing hospital bags to be ready.  The idea of packing my stuff doesn’t bother me at all; I think I started packing a few things on my due date last go around, and I had all I needed.  The idea of packing belongings and instructions for my two-year-old is stressing me out though.  I have no idea how long I’ll be gone, and I’d really prefer that he meet his sister at home if I can be back here in the time frame of 24-48 hours, but if it’s longer than that, he’ll come to the hospital.  The guessing game of labor and delivery – when it will happen, what time of day, how things will go – is equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking at this stage of the game.

This weekend brought some fun things though when I crossed a big one off the list.  Norah’s room is finished!  Take a look now, folks, because I know most of the details and organization won’t look like this in a couple of months when we have a real eating, sleeping, pooping baby living there.  That much I remember.

We went with Baby Cache again for the crib and most of the furniture because we loved the one we had for Jude, and we actually are still using his as we’ve converted it to a full-sized bed. It’s served us well, and we found one we liked this time, too.

crib and monogram

The monogram is one I found on Etsy, and I simply spray-painted it with gray paint. It’s fairly light, so we hung it with Command strips. (There’s a glare in this photo, but I think you get the idea.)

For a long time, I couldn’t fine any bedding I even remotely liked, but then a Pottery Barn sale email landed in my inbox one day, and I settled on the “Dahlia” pattern. We’ve used Jude’s toddler blanket / quilt that came with his bedding as he’s grown older, and I love that it’s a quality item we can keep for a long time for each kid. Pottery Barn nursery details make me swoon. So so cute!

bedding

bedding

I also decided (Thanks, Pinterest!) to use various fabric and embroidery hoops to decorate the wall above her changing table. I’m really happy with the way it turned out, and it was pretty inexpensive for a large focal point. A bonus is that I also have some scraps of fabric to use for one thing or another.

embroidery hoops

I chose one particular fabric from that wall to carry to the windows, and I made this simple valance using this easy tutorial.

valance

Add a garage-sale find that I repainted…..

yard sale find!

And some other details like a mirror we found at Home Goods and an old Ikea lamp that we used to have in the guest bedroom….

Norah's nursery

My favorite thing about putting a nursery together is the tiny details that become sentimental. This is the first thing we bought for Norah, just after we found out she was a girl. I found it in a random souvenir shop across from the Louvre on our Paris trip when I was about 22 weeks pregnant. It loosely translates to “When I am grown, I will go to Paris.” I love it and the memories it brings.

Norah's first gift

And then this little project was a mix of a few different Pinterest ideas (mainly this one), and I am happy with the final result. It’s big brother’s scribbles, hole-punched and glued on a painted canvas to form her letter.

toddler art

Lastly, we moved the old Expedit shelf and rocking chair from Jude’s room to the nursery. I spent countless hours in this seat last go-around with a newbie, and the shelf became a command center of sorts. The baskets are great for storing burp cloths, blankets, and snacks and such you need as an overwhelmed nursing mama in the early days.  And great for faking organization by hiding the mess.

Jude's old expedit and rocking chair

All in all, I am happy with the way it turned out. It’s not really all that much like my earlier idea, and I discovered that the antique / dusty sort of pink is pretty much impossible to find. Still though, we used some sprinkles of purple and a little pink to lighten up the green, and I think in the end it’s feminine without being overwhelming. Or so I hope.

So that’s the finished project!  Drawers full of baby girl clothes, a finished room, and clean sheets on her bed are making me realize we have a new little person making her entrance soon.  And that’s pretty exciting.

Baby, In the Kitchen, pregnancy

Freezing Food for Newborn Days

Yesterday a friend of mine was asking how my husband was doing and if he was excited about the new baby.  I explained that I think he’s the one nesting lately, not me.   He’s cleaning and organizing and replacing things around here that needed to be replaced for a long time.  It’s probably in part because he remembers how hazy and busy that first month with a new baby can be, and he knows home improvement won’t happen for a long time.

I wish I could get the cleaning bug as part of my last month of pregnancy hormonal fluctuations.  I know for most people “nesting” is a phenomenon that has them rewashing baby clothes and organizing some long-forgotten bathroom cabinet or something.  So far, I cannot seem to get motivated in that regard.  In fact, I am ashamed to tell you that the nursery is not quite complete yet.  Close, but not done.  (Which is extra funny considering I think my son had clean sheets on his bed at 26 weeks gestation.)  I am 35 going on 36 weeks, and I need a push to finish these sorts of things.

But the one area where I think my nesting instincts are taking hold is my kitchen.  I’ve written before about the glory of freezer cooking and how it helps a busy weeknight come together or a sleepy morning go more smoothly.  I didn’t discover this until my son was about 9 months old, but it would have been so helpful in those early days.  This time I have another mouth to feed, of course.  And I know Jude’s world will feel really different no matter what I do, but I like the idea that he can still sit down at the same table with the same parents during the first few weeks of this transition.

I’ve mostly used Once a Month Mom as my resource for recipes and ideas, and I wanted to link them here as well.  I’m trying to do a good mix of dairy-free and regular recipes in light of a lot of newborn’s sensitivities to dairy in the early weeks.  I was lucky with my son that I could eat anything at all and he was never bothered, but you never know, so I wanted to be at least somewhat prepared for that possibility and not have a freezer full of food I couldn’t eat.  Once a Month Mom now has a dairy and gluten free menu every month, and while I don’t care to limit gluten, I used that menu to get some dairy-free ideas since 99% of my freezer recipes involve cheese, cream, or milk.   So far, I have managed to cook and freeze the following:

Breakfast: Chocolate-Strawberry Scones, Dairy-Free Carrot Raisin Muffins, and Sausage Balls.  Still on the agenda: Berry Baked French Toast and Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Muffins.  We are big egg-eaters around here, so if I pair an egg with just one muffin or scone, that’s enough.  We should have breakfast taken care of for at least 3 weeks on my calculations, I think.

Lunch: Dairy Free BBQ Beef Sandwiches and Whole Wheat Rolls, Pita Pizzas.  Still on the agenda: Dairy-Free Chicken Taquitos, and “Tacos in a Sleeping Bag.”  (My kid LOVES those!)

Dinner: Dairy-Free Cajun Chicken ready for the grill, Tex-Mex Ravioli Casserole.  Still on the agenda: Chicken Divan, Baked Ziti, Dairy-Free Slow Cooker Greek Chicken, Pasta with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Artichokes, Slow Cooker Chicken and Mushrooms

A few extras like mashed potatoes for a quick side dish and a couple of rounds of pizza dough should help, too.  I also hit up the frozen foods aisle at Trader Joe’s for a few favorites, which for us means Crispy Orange Chicken, Fried Rice, Chicken Tacos, and Croissants.

We have a small chest freezer in the basement, so most of it is stored down there – mainly so I won’t be tempted to dive in to it before the baby arrives.   I just used old paper grocery bags and labeled them for various meals to make things more simple.

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Most of the dinner entrees really won’t fit in the dinner bag, so they will be stacked beside it instead.  Still though, walking downstairs to get food and throwing it in the microwave, the oven, or the Crockpot is ten times easier than making something from scratch, and I’m excited to reap the rewards next month.  On the whole, it’s taken far less time than one would think since I typically just double something we are eating tonight and freeze a portion.  I’ve used Jude’s nap time to cook and freeze as well which is always helpful with an hour or two alone.

I am a little lost on the dairy-free menu, so any suggestions on things of that variety that freeze well would be greatly appreciated.  Send them my way!