Tuesday, September 1, 2015

And Then There Were Three

  Wow. It's been a crazy couple of weeks, and I have a very valid-and adorable-reason for not updating. A reason of the newborn baby variety! Allow me to start from the beginning..."the beginning" in this case being 40 weeks and 4 days pregnant. Because OF COURSE I once again went past my due date.

  My mom came to visit on August 13th, and in my mind I'm thinking, "This is perfect. My back pain is now at the 'unmanageable' point, and this is my third baby, and while I certainly don't believe I'll deliver early, I'm hoping for my due date at this point. That way, mom will be here to watch Tony and Alessandra, Will can take me to the hospital without any issues, and my mom will get to see her new grandbaby." Well. I'm sure I don't need to tell you what happened. Naturally, the 15th (my due date) came and went, and on August 17th, my mom unfortunately had to make the trip home to Wisconsin. I was so discouraged, and in so much physical pain, and I was slowly entering panic mode because Will was scheduled to leave on August 31st for Fort Irwin, CA for 5 weeks of training. Not to mention, the baptism was scheduled for August 29th. To say we were beginning to stress is probably the understatement of the year. I went in on August 19th for an appointment with my midwife, and voiced all of my frustrations and concerns. Seeing as how a membrane strip spurred me into labor with Alessandra, my midwife offered to do the same since I was already over my due date. I happily agreed, she did her thing, and I left her office already beginning to feel some fairly strong contractions.

  I stopped by Fort Carson to relieve a very exhausted looking Will from Alessandra Babysitting Duty, and I had three more intense contractions right there in the parking lot. (Picture this, if you will. Lunch time on a crowded military base, a veryvery pregnant woman clutching her belly and moaning her way through contractions in the parking lot while soldiers in my husband's platoon walk by gaping at me. Not my finest hour). Will was becoming increasingly concerned, and he cautiously suggested that he talk to his commander and come home for the rest of the day, because this could very well by the real deal. I was about to tell him not to worry, I'm sure I had plenty of time, when "OHMYGOSH I NEED TO REMEMBER MY BREATHING MY FREAKING LOWER BACK IS KILLING ME AAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHH."

  Suffice to say, Will told his commander he was pretty sure I was in labor, and he was sent home.

  I was pretty sure it was going to be another fast labor, like Alessandra's, and I wanted to be prepared. I made sure all of the things I wanted to take to the hospital were packed up, I texted my doula and let her know that I wasn't in active labor yet, but we would probably have a baby within the next 12 hours, and I got to work on getting this thing going. I did the Miles Circuit. I bounced around on the birth ball (and updated Instagram...thanks for all the prayers, everyone!), kept myself hydrated, and took a walk around the neighborhood with Will and the kids.
Last belly shot!
  By nightfall, I was cranky. I was having intense contractions every 10 minutes, but this had been going on all day, and the contractions didn't seem to be going anywhere. I was exhausted (not having slept very well the night before, and unable to relax knowing that another contractions would be coming up soon). Will put the kids to bed, and around 9:00, he called Madison over in hopes of just getting me to relax. I put some relaxing essential oils in the diffuser in my room, put Gregorian chant on my iPad, and attempted to relax as Madison rubbed my back and used the rebozo wrap to take the pressure off my hips. I eventually drifed off to sleep, and Madison told me that she was going to go back home, but she was on standby if I needed anything. For the next couple of hours, I woke up frequently to contractions, and then fell asleep again. 

  Until 4am. It seems as though the second the clock struck 4, I jumped out of bed, feeling the contractions coming one on top of the other, and shook Will awake. "We have to go to the hospital and we have to go NOW," I begged him, as Will flew out of bed like a man possessed and began running frantically around the room. I was no longer aware of anything "normal;" getting dressed, trying to figure out what in the world we were going to do with Tony and Alessandra, packing the remaining items in the car, etc. I knew with a sinking feeling I was experiencing back labor (because degenerative disk disease isn't quite painful enough). I was swinging my hips back and forth, moaning and breathing my way through contractions, but I just couldn't relax. It felt like someone was shooting a nail gun into my lower back, and tears actually came into my eyes when I thought of the long car ride I had ahead of me. 

  To be honest, I remember very little of what happened next. I knew at one point, Madison showed up at our house (while I was actually yelling at the contractions to leave me alone while standing next to Will's car in the driveway), and she stayed at our house until her friend, Karissa, could show up to watch our kids. Will made it to the hospital in record time, with me crying and yelling my way through the contractions. At one point, Will was convinced I was about to deliver the baby, so he called the hospital and told them he needed someone out front with a wheelchair. Once we arrived, I was silently making a deal with myself; "okay, they're going to check me once I get up to the room. If I'm fully dilated-and I MUST be, because I can tell I'm in transition-I'm going to tough it out and not ask for an epidural, because I know I can do this. If I'm not fully dilated, well, I'll see how far along I am and take it from there." The nurse checked me, and cheerfully informed me that I was at....a five. A FIVE???!!!! I didn't ask, I yelled, "please get me an epidural! I can't last through one more contraction! My back is being ripped in half!" The nurse informed me that she had paged the anesthesiologist, but he was tied up with another patient and I would have to wait a little longer. 
Pictured: Me.
  In the meantime, Will and Madison arrived, and Madison immediately set to work trying to calm me down and take some of the pressure off my lower back. At this point, I was crying, practically scaling the walls in pain, and cursing my body for giving me both a long labor AND a posterior baby. The anesthesiologist finally arrived, and I was thrashing around so much Will had to put his entire body weight on me and forcibly hold me down. (Side note-I'm sure I was an absolute favorite of the medical staff that morning). I kept having contractions one after another, and at one point, I started pushing my way through contractions. Wait a minute, why was I pushing, I was only dilated at a five...The epidural finally, FINALLY kicked in, and according to everyone in the room, I started apologizing profusely to everyone there. "I'm so sorry, Madison! I'm so sorry, Will! I failed!" I don't really remember this part, but apparently everyone just kind of backed away and gave me the, "...okay, crazycakes" look. My midwife came in, checked me and told me that I was fully dilated (hence the pushing during the placement of the epidural), and congratulated me on making it so far with my terrible back pain and back labor. At that point, I could still feel the contractions, but they weren't nearly as severe, and Madison helped me through them. Megan (my midwife) suggested that I lay on my left side, and we got some essential oils and Gregorian chant filling the room. 

  I remember finally feeling ready to push, and since it happened to be the shift change, my second midwife appeared, and things started to pick up. I didn't push for very long, and I remember both of my midwives encouraging me, and Will saying he could see SO much hair, and the baby was almost here, just one more push...
Yep. Definitely worth it.
  I couldn't even process what was happening; I could only focus on the beautiful baby who was placed on my chest. I heard Will say, "It's a boy!" and I thought, "AHA! I knew it all along!" Then my other midwife, Jolene, gave Will kind of a strange look and suggested he check again. Will looked between the legs, and said, "Wait! I mean, it's a girl!" And now I'm all, "What? A girl? We have another daughter? I was wrong again??" We were just in absolute awe over our healthy, beautiful baby girl. I stared at her, kissed her face, and exclaimed over her full head of hair while Will told the nurses we were naming her Gianna Maria (after Saint Gianna Beretta Molla and the Virgin Mary), and once the cord was cut, I passed our new daughter over to Will.
True love. *
   Later in the day, Will went home to pick up the kids, and he brought them back to the hospital to introduce them to their new baby sister. They were both over the moon with excitement (Alessandra was slightly jealous, but still enamored with baby Gianna), and we managed to get some great pictures. I spent the night at the hospital after sending Will home with the kids, snuggling and nursing our precious new baby. There's just something so special about those first 24 hours; the newness, the awe, the newborn smell, the overwhelming love...it's truly impossible to describe, but every new mother knows this feeling. The moment Gianna was placed on my chest, I thought my heart was going to burst. This beautiful little soul whom I had carried for (over) nine months, through a physically painful pregnancy and long labor, was finally here. We had prayed for her, worried over her, all the while without knowing anything about her at all...and she finally arrived, and she is ours. It's truly indescribable.

  Despite my sadness at the thought of saying goodbye to Will so soon after the birth of his second daughter, I can't even begin to describe how blessed we have been with all the help that was bestowed upon our arrival back home. Our good friends came over on Friday evening to meet the baby and bring us food. On Monday, our dear friend Jessica flew in to Colorado to stay with us for a while as a nanny/postpartum doula. Our longtime friends Chrissy and Jared flew IN FROM GERMANY (trust me, that warranted capitalization) to stand up as godparents for Gianna's baptism last weekend. The amazing women from our Catholic Women of the Chapel group organized a meal train for our family, which is awesome because I once again totally bombed the whole "prepare a months worth of frozen meals prior to baby's arrival!" thing. I am grateful beyond words to everyone who prayed for us, offered their help, visited us, brought us food and gifts...we are so blessed. Thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of our hearts. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

If You Have Kids, You Will ZOMG Ruin Your LYFE!

  Oh, Washington Post. I'd like to say I expected more from you, but that would definitely be a lie. Here I am, perilously close to delivering baby number three, and I just so happened to stumble upon this little gem. At first, I thought it was a joke. Okay, I hoped it was a joke. Naturally, it wasn't, and as I read the article, my eyebrows kept raising so far towards the sky I'm pretty sure I now have permanent lines on my forehead. So, WP, if people mistake me for a woman in my mid-40's instead of my early 30's, I'm holding you personally responsible. 

  For those of you who don't have the time or the desire to read through the article, I'll sum it up for you. A group of German parents were interviewed about their overall happiness from the birth of their child up until the child's second birthday. The results? Dismal. According to this particular "study" (and I use that term loosely), raising a child was found to be more stressful, more taxing, and more devastating than divorce, unemployment, or even the death of a spouse. The parents reported trauma from the physical exhaustion during pregnancy, to the strain on their relationships, to general depression. While I'm certainly not dismissing those very valid points...all I could do was shake my head.

  First of all, the study only focused on the first two years of the child's life (otherwise known as the SWEET BABY JESUS SEE ME THROUGH period). Well, thanks, Professor LOL. I'd be hard-pressed to find a parent who wasn't overwhelmed with a newborn who wanted to scream instead of sleep at night, a teething infant, a formerly fantastic sleeper who went through the famous four-month old sleep regression, and the Terrible Twos. Even if you have a baby who came out of the womb with the temperment of Mother Theresa, it's still a major adjustment in your family. And let's be honest, not everyone is going to have the same experience; you can't say "everyone hates the newborn period, but don't worry because it gets better!" No, not everyone will hate the newborn period. Personally, I love it. But I've also never had a colicky baby who screamed uncontrollably for 23 out of the 24 hours of the day. Just like I've never experienced HG during pregnancy, or dealt with severe food allergies with a small child, or faced a crushing physical or mental diagnosis with either of our children. OF COURSE all of those things will add a tremendous amount of stress to a new parent. But...to suggest that the depression that comes along with having a baby is comparable to (or worse than?) the death of a spouse? I don't say this often, mainly because I'm not a teenager anymore, but I'm officially going there.

  I. Can't. Even. 

  Even though I love the newborn period (and I do! truly!), it was very, very difficult with Alessandra. She never wanted to sleep, nothing made her happy, and I felt mentally ill from sheer exhaustion. However. Even in my darkest moments when I wanted to jump in the car and drive to the opposite end of the country, I kept repeating to myself, "This is a transition period. It's hard, it's exhausting, but it WILL get better." And of course it did. Not overnight, but within a few months, she began sleeping more and settling into a routine. Sure, sure, I was still tired and had my crabby moments throughout the day, but I could definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel. The more sleep Alessandra got, the more everyone's lives improved, and by the time she was six months old, we finally felt like we had settled into a comfortable routine as a family of four. The transition period had passed, and life had greatly improved. 

  I'm fairly certain that if I lost my husband, I wouldn't be sitting here writing about how much my life improved six months after the fact. 

  I've noticed a disturbing trend these past few years; in a desperate attempt to make parents (frequently, mothers) not feel so alone and overwhelmed, we've gone from the 1950's "put on a happy housewife face no matter what!" mentality, to "here's everything that absolutely sucks about being a parent, and hold on to your hats because it's a wild ride!" One unhealthy end of the spectrum to the other, in my opinion. Look, I'm all for keeping it real. I've blogged many, many times about my lack of the crafty Pinterest mom gene, the tantrums and antics I've had to deal with in public, and how my house is generally neat and clean, but won't be showcased on the cover of Good Housekeeping anytime in the near future. But I try to keep in mind that:

a) I love my children fiercely, and I don't ever want anyone to get the impression that they're a burden to me (or worse, that my children read this blog one day and break down sobbing because they think I don't love them)

b) There's a difference between light-hearted humor and thinly-veiled contempt, and

c) While everyone appreciates a humorous parenting moment, I truly don't want to scare people away from having children. 

  I have a few friends-men and women-who are at the point in their lives where they're considering starting a family, but they're legitimately afraid to have children because of these kinds of articles that are constantly appearing all over the internet. Or they read a post by a mommy blogger who is trying SO HARD to be "relatable" and "edgy," but they just sound bitter and resentful. One thing that really struck me was the mention at the end of the article about the concerns of many European goverments, regarding the declining population rates in their countries. Gee, ya think? When you're constantly bombarded by articles pretty much promising you that if you have a child, you'll lose your looks, your sanity, your marriage, and your individuality? Who in the world wouldn't be terrified of procreating after reading articles and blog posts like this one? 

  Fellow parents, I beseech you. Let's make a pact to focus on ALL aspects of child-rearing: the wonderful, the good, the not-so-good, and the flat-out ugly. I'm by no means suggesting that we revert back to the days of our grandmothers, when you were supposed to put on a happy face no matter what, and everything was expected to be super duper perfect with a cherry on top. Of course not; that's equally harmful and unrealistic. What I am saying is that if you had a wonderful, relaxing, rewarding day with your children, go ahead and share it! If you have a child who potty trained in three days, go ahead and shout it from the rooftops (expect to have rotten food thrown at you, but hey, WORTH IT), and if you have a child who volunteers at a soup kitchen in his free time and prays the rosary every night and asks if he can clean up the kitchen after dinner, heck yes take pride in that. 

  By the same token, if having a child HAS negatively impacted your marriage, don't feel as though you have to keep everything bottled up inside. Having the support of a trusted friend, a therapist, a religious leader, whoever, can do wonders. If you have a child with special needs, and you're just DONE at the end of a particularly rough day, don't be afraid to reach out for commiseration. If your normally well-behaved child acts like you just shot them up with meth before you head into the grocery store, and they're pulling items off the shelves and shrieking at the top of their lungs because you won't buy them expensive bakery cookies and they have a potty accident in the cart and pee all over the groceries (not like I know anything about that), please understand that that one hour is NOT a reflection on your parenting, and feel free to give the stink eye or sassy comeback to anyone who so much as raises their eyebrows at you. Like I said before...I'm all about keeping it real. Some days are wonderful, and my heart feels like it could burst from the love and pride I have for my children. Other days, I consider the wisdom in buying stock in my favorite brand of tequila. 

  But in the meantime, go right ahead and give the publishers of this "study" the major side-eye. 
Look at us...we never cause our parents a single moment of stress!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Third Time Around

  I feel like parenthood-to me, at least-is a constant ebb and flow of, "Dang it. This philosophy/product/book/advice sounded so promising at first, but it doesn't work for me at ALL," vs "I had absolutely zero intention of ever giving this a try, but WOW I'm so glad I did, because it's been a lifesaver." Truth be told, I imagine most parents feel this way. When I was first pregnant with Tony, never in a million years did I imagine myself as a crunchy attachment parent. Sure, sure, I was interested in natural birth and knew I wanted to breastfeed for as long as possible, but that's pretty much as far as it went. Then I had a baby. Everything I thought I knew went straight out the window, and I just decided to read my baby's cues as best as possible and just go with the flow. Once I did so, I wouldn't say life became easier (because let's face it, life with a tiny person who is completely dependent on you is never easy), but I was definitely able to relax a little bit more, knowing that I was doing what was right for my baby and I. 

  All that being said, with the delivery of baby number three looming closer and closer in the future, I decided to compile a list of things that I'm choosing to do differently this time around, things that have helped me a lot in the past and I want to continue with our newest addition, and things that I thought would never work but really surprised me. Starting with...

1. Birthing at a hospital. 

  If you've read my previous posts on natural childbirth, and Tony and Alessandra's birth stories, you'll know that I'm very passionate about natural childbirth (or, as my fellow crunchy moms say, I'm a natural childbirth junkie). I had Alessandra at a free-standing birth center run by midwives, a water/caul birth, etc, and it was an absolutely amazing experience with what I consider to be the easiest recovery on the planet. When we moved to Colorado, I initially considered a homebirth. There is a plethora of homebirth midwives in the area, I've been blessed with low-risk pregnancies, I had a FAST delivery with Alessandra, we have a large bathtub in our master bedroom so I could certainly have another water birth if I wanted, etc. However, while I am still firmly in "camp midwife" and have been seeing two CNMs for prenatal care (and I freaking love both of them...these women are amazing!), I decided against a homebirth this time around. 

  First and foremost, we're too far away from a hospital for my own personal comfort. Evans Hospital at Fort Carson is quite close to us, but they don't accept homebirth transfers. The next semi-decent hospital is a good 25-minute drive away. A lot can happen in 25 minutes, and while I don't anticipate any problems during my labor and delivery, that's simply not a risk I'm willing to take. 

  Two, my back issues have steadily grown worse during this pregnancy (and believe me, I'm dreading the first appointment I'll have with my neurosurgeon after I give birth. It ain't gonna be pretty), and if something were to go wrong during labor and delivery that WASN'T related to pregnancy, I want to know that I'm in a facility that has healthcare providers who can immediately come to my assistance. 

  So! All that being said, I've written up my birth plan (if anyone wants to see a sample, leave me a comment and I'll post it), washed the infant car seat and set it aside to assemble in Will's car, and sloooooowly began the process of packing my hospital bag. Here's what I have thus far: 
(The beagle will not be joining us at the hospital).

From left to right: Labor socks and Pretty Pushers L&D gown (I hate hospital gowns with the fire of a thousand suns), cheap Target underwear and fuzzy socks, and a bag of toiletries. For baby: wet bag with a couple of prefolds, a cover and a snappi, pink and blue going home outfits (oh, my heart!!), and one of my favorite swaddling blankets. Not pictured: Going home outfit for me, tankini/sports bra top for when I will most certainly want to get in the tub, change of clothes for Will, hairbrush, comb, makeup, etc. Plus snacks and drinks for labor, iPod with speakers (for those who are curious, I prefer to listen to Gregorian chant during labor), rosary, Ipad, phone, and chargers. Those are pretty much in the "throw 'em in the bag as we're running out the door to the hospital" category. Another necessity that will be joining us in the delivery room: 
  I haven't packed the diffuser and oils yet, because obviously I'll still be using them at home for the next couple of weeks. I can't imagine a L&D experience without my Young Living essential oils, and these are the ones (thus far) I will be bringing with me. Pictured from left to right: home diffuser, Peace & Calming, Frankincense, Clary Sage, Lavender, Tranquil. Oily mamas, am I forgetting anything? Ylang Ylang will also be included, but it won't arrive at my house until the first week in August. 

Moving on to Other Things That Worked Amazingly Well for Our Family...

2. Babywearing

  I didn't really do a whole lot of babywearing with Tony. One, he loved his stroller and was perfectly content to walk around in it for long periods of time, so I really had the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality. I did purchase a Baby Bjorn from a consignment store when I was pregnant, and the few times I wore Tony in it, he and I were both miserable. He seemed horribly uncomfortable, and would only tolerate it for ten minutes or less. That stupid thing absolutely killed my back, and for the life of me, I couldn't understand how other parents could wear their baby in it for long periods of time. First chance I got, I sold it back to another consignment store. Good riddance. If THAT was babywearing, I wanted nothing to do with it. 

  As I fortunately discovered, the so-called "crotch danglers" were definitely not the only form (and certainly not the preferred form) of babywearing. During my pregnancy with Alessandra, I was introduced to a local babywearing group, and I was stunned-and admittedly, overwhelmed-by all the different wraps and carriers out there. The Moby! The Ergo! The ring sling! The Mei Tei! The stretchy and woven wraps! What's more, all these babies really seemed to enjoy being worn in these colorful, occasionally unpronounceable contraptions. I decided to start out slowly, and I purchased the Moby wrap and the Ergo carrier. All I can say is...wow. Thank goodness I did. Alessandra was NOT a baby who enjoyed, or even tolerated the stroller. She wanted to be held and nursed at all times, and I can truly say that babywearing saved my life (and my achin' back). I also began to quickly discover that babies like certain wraps or carriers at different stages. When Alessandra was a newborn and an infant, she adored the Moby. I could wear her for hours in it, and after nursing, she would fall asleep on my chest. The weight was evenly distributed, and it never hurt my back. When she began to get a little older and a little heavier, she preferred something a little more supportive than a stretchy wrap. For whatever reason, she didn't really enjoy being in the Ergo around the house, but whenever we were outside, she was perfectly content to fall asleep against my chest in the buckle carrier. A college friend/sorority sister of mine sent me her ring sling, and I also purchased the Mei Tei, as Alessandra preferred the soft-structured carriers when I wore her around the house. I was amazed at the difference in her temperment, my ability to, you know, actually get things done around the house, and just how much of a difference babywearing made my day-to-day life easier. Admittedly, I became hooked, and my stash has grown over the past two years. 
  Pictured (from the bottom up): woven wrap, purchased from PaxBaby, Mei Tei, Maya ring sling, EllaRoo ring sling, the Moby wrap, and off to the left, my Ergo with the infant insert. Not pictured: standard Tula in Dynasty. 

  Fortunately here in Colorado, we have a thriving crunchy community, with babywearing groups and meetups galore. If I ever feel like I'm in over my head, help is a mere Facebook message away. 

And now, for something completely different...

3. The high-powered, high-tech breastpump. 

  With Tony and Alessandra, I had an almost identical experience with breastfeeding. Over-supply in the beginning, and two babies who took to nursing with minimal issues. It had always been my plan to exclusively breastfeed, and I was thrilled that I was able to do so. However, when Tony was six months old, I noticed something wasn't quite right. My once extraordinarily chubby baby was quickly losing his rolls, and he ALWAYS seemed to be hungry. I didn't feel as though I was producing enough milk, and this was confirmed by Tony's pediatrician when we went in for his six-month checkup. She suggested I start taking fenugreek to boost my supply, and since Tony was so interested in solids at that point, I should start giving him Stonybrook YoBaby yogurt, to help him put the pounds back on. I was so discouraged, and this feeling only intensified when I had to have emergency surgery three months later. I was in the hospital for a week, and I was on such heavy medication I couldn't breastfeed. Much to Tony's dismay, he was giving formula by Will during my stay in the hospital, but I was hoping against hope I would somehow be able to re-establish our breastfeeding relationship. And fortunately, I was, for a few more months. Once I returned home from the hospital, I began taking the fenugreek again with a vengeance, and slowly began re-introducing our daily breastfeeding routine with Tony. He weaned himself right around his first birthday, and I vowed to be better prepared next time in case, God forbid, we were in another similar situation in which I couldn't breastfeed. 

  When Alessandra was born, she didn't do a whole heck of a lot of sleeping, so she made up for it by nursing around the clock. During those rare times when she would sleep, I would pump and immediately put the expressed breastmilk in the freezer. I was afraid that once she started sleeping more during the night (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA), I would once again have a drop in my supply. Well, that did end up happening, although not until she was eight months old, and this time I was prepared. With the approval and support of our pediatrician, I enlisted the help of a certificed lacatation consultant, who came to our house one day in December. She watched me nurse Alessandra, weighed her, asked me a bunch of questions about my diet and Alessandra's routine, and determined that yes, I am one of the rare (and incredibly unlucky) women who simply does not produce enough milk after my babies begin to sleep for longer periods at night. She recommended a bunch of supplements to me, gave me a few tips on foods that boost lactation, and she praised my impressive freezer stash of frozen breastmilk. At least this time, while I was trying to build MY supply back up again, I didn't have to worry about my baby girl not gaining enough weight. The LC suggested that I continue to nurse her during our normal times, and if she still seemed hungry afterward, Will should give her a bottle of breastmilk. What a relief; her advice worked. After taking loads of supplements and herbs and adjusting my diet (including but not limited to GoLacta, MoreMilkPlus, fenugreek, leafy greens, oatmeal, blueberries, lactation cookies, and drinking what felt like my weight in water everyday), I noticed an increase in my supply, and I continued breastfeeding Alessandra until she was about 17 months. 

  Now that our insurance company finally decided to join the 21st century and cover breastpumps and accessories, I took full advantage. My old breastpump had definitely seen better days, and I wasn't looking to drop a few hundred on a fancy schmancy new pump. However, since everything from the pump, to bottles, to accessories (such as tubing and membranes) was going to be covered 100%, it seemed foolish to not take advantage. I got the necessary prescription from my midwife, and immediately jumped on Pinterest to read review after review from pumping mamas on the best breastpump out there. I eventually decided on the Medela Freestyle pump, and snagged the very last one at Target. Can I get an AMEN?? 

4. Appropriate postpartum recovery

  I read an article not too long ago about how harsh American is on new mothers. You name it, it's there: the expectation that you'll jump right back into your normal routine after giving birth, including but not limited to Julia Child-approved meals, a spotless house, older children who are perfectly groomed and well-behaved, boundless energy, a bikini-ready body...you name it. It's ridiculous, it's unhealthy, and the simple fact of the matter is that no woman on the planet can pull that kind of routine off without the help of a full-time housekeeper, nanny, personal trainer, personal chef...you get the picture. I will be the first to admit I was very guilty of falling into this trap after I gave birth to Tony. Despite having a long and difficult labor and delivery, and not feeling well at all once we returned home, I was bound and determined to put Super Nanny and Martha Stewart to shame. A few hours after coming home from the hospital, I nursed Tony, gave him to Will for snuggles on the couch, and immediately set off to Babies 'R Us and the grocery store. Why? I still don't know. Granted, we needed groceries, but there was no reason I couldn't have taken Will up on his offer to go food shopping for me. I remember standing in the produce aisle, swaying back and forth, and trying to focus on the broccoli so I wouldn't pass out. It was way too much, way too soon, and I paid dearly for it later. 

  When Alessandra was born, I was *slightly* better about taking care of myself, but I still felt guilty that my mom and Will were basically running the house. To be clear, all of this pressure, all of these expectations were mine and mine only. No one ever made me feel like I should be "pulling my weight," or doing anything besides recovering, nursing, and bonding with the new baby. I fell into the trap of trying to be Super Mom, and as a result, my mental and physical health suffered. I have zero plans this time around to do anything except stay in bed for a few days, take postpartum herbal baths in our glorious tub, snuggle and nurse our new baby, read books and comfy with Tony and Alessandra, and eat good, healthy food (that won't be prepared by me). I owe it to myself and our new baby to recover properly, and not overdo it and go five steps backwards. 

   When we were attending Mass in Shreveport, I remember a homily given by a visiting priest. He was speaking about the sisters Mary and Martha, and how their roles defined them. I've always seen myself as more of a Martha; bound and determined to make sure the house is running smoothly, our guests are entertained and comfortable, good food is always prepared and ready, and everyone around me is well taken care of. I'll never forget, though, that this priest emphasized the importance of BOTH roles; there is a time to be Martha and make sure everything gets done, but there's also a time to be Mary. It's just as important to sit and listen, to spend time with your family and guests, and not hop up every two minutes asking if you can get anyone anything. There's wisdom and value to be had in the roles of both women, and one isn't better than the other. 

  I definitely plan on embracing my "Mary" role for a while after the new baby arrives. :) 

Friday, July 17, 2015

7 Quick Takes-FREEDOM

1. Today (okay, technically tomorrow at midnight) marks the beginning of Will's block leave. Block leave is a glorious, beautiful thing. It means Will has sixteen days to do anything that is not even remotely Army related. Staying up too late playing XBox, enjoying a beer and a cigar late at night, not setting his alarm for 4:30am, not dealing with soldiers who thought it would be a great idea to get a DUI after leaving the bar, and NO PAPERWORK. For sixteen days. It will be awesome.

2. In other awesome-related news, the end of my pregnancy is rapidly approaching. Here I am, a day shy of 36 weeks.

Of course my back doesn't feel like it's going to break in half...why do you ask?

Not wanting to be left out, Tony demanded that Will take a picture of his belly as well. Will asked if he was pregnant like Mama.
Tony: "Yes!"
3. My back, unsurprisingly, has gone from bad to worse. Or as my midwife put it, "You'll be crowning and you'll have your neurosurgeon on the phone, scheduling the earliest available appointment." Yeah, pretty much.

4. I'll confess to having a slight obsession with The Walking Dead, although I was less than thrilled with the turn the show took this previous season. I'm also slightly obsessed with baby wraps and carriers; specifically, Tulas. At this point, I really need someone to talk me out of hiring an artist to customize a Walking Dead Tula for me. I mean..I just think that would be the coolest thing ever. I would be the envy of every babywearing parent in Colorado. 

(Just repeat over and over..."it's not in the budget, it's not in the budget, it's not in the budget..."). 

5. Speaking of zombies, I am once again reminded how poorly I would fare in the event of an apocalypse. We briefly lost power last week (and by "briefly," I mean like thirty minutes), and I grumbled incessantly about not being able to turn on any lights, get dinner started, charge my phone, etc. Talk about first world problems. I am hopelessly spoiled, and if I'm being honest, pretty hopeless in general. I have no idea how my ancestors did it. 

6. Is it bad that I have to bribe my children with doughnuts as a reward for good behavior at Mass? Our parish ever so thoughtfully provides coffee and donuts every Sunday following Mass, and naturally Tony and Alessandra want in. We've had to skip the doughnut tradition every now and then due to wretched behavior during the homily, and man that is one painful car ride home. I'd like to think I'm not the only parent who takes away the promise of sugar as a result of bad behavior...but I think we all know by now I have embarrassingly low standards. 

7. While we're on the subject of low standards, what are the odds that Will can sneak a margarita past the nursing staff at the hospital once I give birth? Purely hypothetical question. 

For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum!

Friday, June 12, 2015

7 Quick Takes-Thwarted By the Weatherman

1. Two posts in two days, can you even HANDLE it? I'll pretend that my semi-frequent updating is due to me getting my s*&# together, and has absolutely nothing at all to do with wicked third trimester pregnancy insomnia. I mean, what else am I going to do when I wake up at 4:30am, a mere 5 hours after I fell asleep? Okay, I suppose I could find something to watch on Netflix, but at least by blogging I feel somewhat productive.

2. Colorado weather is really throwing me for a loop. We had some gorgeous days here this past week; sunny, in the 80's, perfect pool weather....and then the rainstorms began. Pre-kids, there were few things in life I loved more than rainstorms. Storms meant spending the afternoon in a coffeeshop or Barnes and Noble, a latte in one hand and a book or my journal in the other. Now? I dread storms. Every time we hear a clap of thunder, Alessandra shrieks, "oh no!!!" and runs and buries her face in my shoulder. Okay, so that's actually very endearing. Storms bum me out now because my kids get bored FAST, and there are only so many activities around the house I can offer up that we haven't done a million times already. By mid-afternoon, everyone is crabby. 

3. Determined not to let the constant rain get to me, however, I rounded up the kids a few days ago, and purchased a kiddie pool from Target. I had my eye on a simple but sturdy-looking inflatable pool that was big and safe enough for both kids, but Tony somehow managed to talk me into the "super cool" kiddie pool with a slide, a palm tree, and a sectioned off splash area. I had a hard time saying no, especially since this bad boy was on sale for $28. 

4. I'd like to take a moment to personally thank the Target employee who assured me that this particular pool came equipped with a manual pump. Anyone want to take a wild guess as to what WASN'T included in the box?

5. I can neither confirm nor deny that there is a picture of me flipping off the un-inflated pool in our backyard, while my kids whined and cried a few feet away. 

6. Fortunately, all those Army moves over the past 10 years were good for something. We have air mattresses galore in this house (anyone want to visit us in Colorado? We have a variety of sleeping arrangements for you to choose from, and, umm, rain. Lots of it). Air mattresses have electric pumps. Electric pumps actually work pretty well for kiddie pools. Unless, of course, you were expecting to inflate the slide and palm tree as well. Then you're out of luck.

7. No matter! The husband, who has been absent these past few weeks due to field training, will be home in a matter of days. After an appropriate amount of time to recover (I'm thinking half an hour, tops), he will be available to do all those husband-y type things around the house that need doin'. I'm sure he absolutely can't wait to return home and blow up palm trees and hang curtain rods.

Happy Weekend! For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Little Bit of This, Little Bit of That

  Summer is here in full force, and for the most part, it's been great. Hot days that aren't unbearable, since we no longer live in the South with 100% humidity. Lots of outside time, popsicles, library trips, and the occasional run through the drive-thru for an ice cream treat. Speaking of which...

  Pretty much everyone I know has read that blog post on how to give your kids a 1970's summer. Hey, I'm all for it. My laziness is well known through these parts, so pretty much anything that requires zero effort from me gets two thumbs up. Now, I realize that this whole 1970's summer thing is more or less geared towards parents who have older children ("drop your kids off at the movie theater and let them sneak into different movies all day long! Let them play at their friend's house all day without checking in with the parents!" and so on). Well, no. I don't really feel like dealing with CPS, so I don't think I'll be dropping my 4 and 2-year old off solo at the movie theater anytime soon. As far as just bringing them to a friend's house and letting them run wild all day? Pretty sure Maureen and Rashel would permanently block my number, and hide under the tables in their respective homes if I ever pulled a stunt like that. So, losing track of my brood for the day is out. 

  But wait! "Let them eat whatever they want." Okay, this one I can handle. Sort of. I try not to be a stickler about nutrition...but despite my best efforts, I'm pretty fanatical about the food my children eat. We don't do fast food, or super processed food, sugary snacks, etc. However, I don't ever want food to become a battle in our house (I have seen that backfire many, many times), so our general rule is this: you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want, as long as it's healthy. That means I always have fresh fruit, string cheese, yogurt, baby carrots, hummus, etc in the house, and Tony and Alessandra can eat snacks whenever they please. I'm a grazer myself, so I wouldn't feel right enforcing the "you WILL eat three square meals a day and that's the name of that tune!" rule around here. But I'm getting off track. Despite my anal retentiveness regarding childhood nutrition, I tend to relax a little bit around the holidays and summer. I also like having spontaneous treat days with my kids, because let's face it, pregnant ladies like the ice cream. And if I'm REALLY getting into this whole 1970's summer kick, what's more old school than a chocolate and vanilla swirl cone from McDonald's? And more importantly, how much damage can one little cone do? 


  According to the cashier, McDonald's no longer sells swirl cones. Boo. However, they did offer a vanilla cone dipped in a chocolate shell for a mere $1.75. Hey, sounded good to me. I was picturing a small cone in a delicate chocolate shell, a slight mess in the backseat of the car that would definitely involve my kiddos getting a bath that night, and satisfaction all around. Well, the reality was somewhat different. I was handed three ginormous cones; they were steadily dripping vanilla ice cream through a chocolate shell so thick I had to wonder if the McDonald's employees had some kind of Willy Wonka chocolate river in their kitchen. With a sinking feeling, I handed the ice cream cones and a few paltry napkins off to my children, all the while begging them to not make TOO much of a mess. I had barely pulled out of the parking lot when I realized my jeans and t-shirt were covered in ice cream, I somehow managed to get chocolate all over the steering wheel, and my fingers were beginning to stick together. Did I mention I hadn't even taken a bite out of my cone yet? 

  The mess became so unbearable (and I must reiterate, the mess on ME) that I was forced to pull over into a Mariott parking lot on the way home to avoid getting into an accident. It was close to the end of the day, traffic was getting heavy, the kids were covered in ice cream and chocolate and they were begging for baby wipes, and my hands kept sticking to the steering wheel. I was fairly certain I was about to cause some kind of serious pile-up, and the law would not have been on my side ("Mrs. Tenney, do you mind telling the jury exactly what you were eating when you rear-ended a fuel tank?"). I took a flying leap out of the car, chucked my ice cream cone into the trash can by the door, and made a beeline for the package of emergency baby wipes I always keep in the car (see? I'm not a completely lame parent after all!). I opened the door to the backseat...and I actually had to step away for a second. There was chocolate EVERYWHERE. All over the kids. All over the car seats. All over the passenger seats. All over the coloring books, stuffed animals, seat belts...all I could do was curse my laziness, and wonder why in the hell I didn't just pick up a tub of ice cream at the grocery store like a normal person and have an ice cream sundae night instead. 

  I cleaned up my crabby kids to the best of my very limited abilities, making multiple trips to and from my car to the trash can. At this point, a small crowd had gathered near one of the doors, and they were alternating between open-mouthed stares at me and whispers amongst themselves. I gave them my best, "move along folks, nothing to see here!" smile, but it did nothing to help my case. Keep in mind, at this point I was just trying to make my kids and my car passably clean; I hadn't given a second thought to my own appearance. It was pretty much at that moment I realized what I looked like to the crowd of people gathered outside the hotel. A gigantically pregant woman, whose clothes were covered in ice cream and had melted chocolate smeared across her face, arms and hair? I'm not sure I've ever felt more unattractive in my entire life. 

  By the time we made it home, I immediately stuck both of the kids in the bath and scrubbed all the ice cream and chocolate off them. I put them in their jammies, stuck them in front of the TV with an episode of Octonauts, and went out to the car to face the music. To make a long story short, I ended up having to hand wash both car seat covers, scrub melted ice cream off the plastic parts, and actually removed, discarded, and re-assembled a brand new harness to Alessandra's car seat (I had an extra set upstairs in my closet). The straps were seriously that far gone. 

  After I put my kids to bed that night, I got myself cleaned up, and collapsed on the bed, dreaming of the day when I would once again be able to indulge in a giant margarita. Because I have to tell you, this whole "effortless 1970's summer" has already required far, far too much effort on my part. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

7QT: Woes of an Army Wife

1. Will is once again in the field for a few weeks; it's day three, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't already reaching my limit. 95% of the time, I'm grateful for the military life. Seriously. Will has a steady job and paycheck, we have tons of great benefits like free housing, utilities, and inexpensive but excellent healthcare (we have Tricare Standard, for those who are wondering), we were able to live overseas for five years, travel around the world, and I've met some amazing people through the military who I know will be lifelong friends. So rest assured, this isn't another Army wife whining about how everything sucks all the time. But...sometimes things do suck. There are downsides to the military life; deployments, incredibly long days, your spouse is in the field or at a training school for weeks at a time with zero communication, dealing with Finance, etc. I've been having a couple of cranky days, and I thought I would lighten the mood by shamelessly using 7QT to describe our life (at the moment) in memes.


TRUTH. The day after Will left for his fourth deployment (in 2008), our internet went on strike. Not just any internet, mind you; TKS, German internet which was created by Satan himself. Customer service was useless. I ended up dragging our huge, bulky desktop all the way down the stairs, hooking it up to the modem on the floor of our living room, and it stayed that way for the whole eight months. 


Pretty sure these handbooks are the most useless things ever created. 


Yep...definitely learned this the hard way. 


Seven moves in ten years, people. While I may projectile vomit at the sight of a moving van and cardboard boxes, at least I can say we've become experts in PCS (permanent change of station) moves. 

The struggle is real.


Now, I'll give the military credit where credit is due, and admit there have been some massive improvements in housing over the past couple of years. But...not all the bases care that much about housing conditions and updates. We've seen some pretty scary places over the years. 

Happy Friday! For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum!