Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Conversations with You: Your Black Eye

About a month ago, Bella accidentally pushed you down the stairs. Dad was on watch. I came home right after it happened and I found Dad on the floor with you in his arms screaming bloody murder. Dad felt so terrible. You ended up with a huge black eye. 

This is the conversation you had with everyone who would listen for the next few weeks...even far after your eye had healed.

You: I have boo-boo! (Points to right eye)
Me: Oh no! What happened!
You: Bella pushed me. Up stairs. Hit wall there.
Me: I'm so sorry that happened. Are you okay?
You: Yeah
Me: Did it hurt?
You: OUCH!

At a certain point you would say, "Mommy pushed me." Thankfully, at school you made it very clear to the teachers that Bella was the culprit. I was worried that they were going to call CPS on me. The entire school knew about that darn Bella and your black eye.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Dear Baby: This Past Year

Dear Baby,

Your birthday completely snuck up on me this year. So much has changed since your last birthday and I feel like things are still unsteady. Will we ever get the hang of things?

This is the last picture I took of you before you turn two tomorrow. We were waiting for Dad to come by with the car to help me with some large and heavy items from a work event nearby. I feel like it's a good representation of this past year. We have been constantly juggling work obligations and figuring out how to keep being so-called "good parents." So far, you've been invited to two birthday parties and you haven't attended any because both your Dad and I were working. I'm so thankful that you aren't able to realize this yet.

I hope that by the time you're able to read this blog, we have finally got our act together and you know just how much we adore you.

Since your last birthday, you experienced a true Christmas where we went to church in the morning and you got to open up a ridiculous amount of gifts, especially since we had no family around. Your favorite gift was a Joovy tricycle and your new chair that we got you.

Since your last birthday, you grew obsessive over Bella. Every morning before we leave for daycare you say goodbye to her and on the way home you ask, "See Bella?" She is so incredibly patient with you. We have to work on your gentle pets. Also, if you drop food on the ground it is fair game. You can't be upset with her for eating it.

Bella's not doing too well, Baby. She's on daily medication now for her arthritis and goes through life with a limp. I don't know how she will be next year. We need to enjoy her company and treat her well.

Since your last birthday, we've moved back to California. Dad was incredibly unhappy at his old job in Illinois and we missed family terribly. Living in the midwest was also miserably cold and it was unbearable. We put our house on the market, Dad quit his job, and we sold most of our possessions. You and I tackled a plane ride on our own back home while Dad drove Bella the 30 hours on his own.

It was a risky move, but it was the right one. I can't believe we did it.

Since your last birthday, we went to Disneyland twice. You were not impressed. Like, at all. The first time we went, you peed out of your diaper and leaked right onto Dad's jeans since you were sitting on his lap on the Storybook Land Canal Boats ride. We had to leave early. You actually had night terrors after one of our trips...And yet, we are most likely going to go again this weekend for your birthday.

Since your last birthday, we started co-sleeping. I remember always wanting to sleep next to you when you were an infant, but you could never fall asleep while we were in the same room. When we initially moved to California, you refused to sleep in your crib so we gave in to you sleeping with us.

We tried letting you cry it out and it worked for a week. But then you came down with the worst cold that landed you in the ER with a fever of 104 at 2am. You had croup and it was the most heartbreaking thing. I didn't even mind it that you threw up on me in the waiting room. Three times. 

It was the most difficult five months of our lives. I would have to lie down next to you completely still in a dark room for at least an hour until you fell asleep. You always liked to sleep right against or on top of me. Let's just say that Dad and I don't do well on little sleep. We argued more during that time than any other. Thankfully, you went back to sleeping in your crib as soon as we moved into a home of our own back in July.

But at least I got some good sleeping shots of you. I never really had any last year because as soon as I would enter your bedroom you would pop your little head up, wide awake.

Since your last birthday, you have thrown more tantrums than I even thought possible. Some days you refuse to let me pick you up while others you cry out, "Up, please, Mama!" I can't wait for when you can actually express things verbally to me.

Since your last birthday, we took you to the beach. You were highly unimpressed and mostly scared.

Since your last birthday, you have started eating with utensils and will not consume anything green. You used to devour zucchini and broccoli. Now, I can only get you to eat vegetables if they're mixed with fruit in a pouch. Your favorite foods include macaroni and cheese, dino nuggets, eggs, and really any carb. I can always rely on you eating fruit, thank goodness.

Since your last birthday, you have grown to love butterflies. You often beg us to watch Flight of the Butterflies. You're also a fan of dinosaurs and at one point you were all about Winnie the Pooh. One time, Dad took you to Target by himself and he was going to buy you some bubbles. On the way to checkout, you had a complete meltdown right in the toy aisle because you wanted the bubbles RIGHT FRIGGIN' NOW and he had to carry you away, kicking and screaming. 

Since your last birthday, you decided that pumpkins are the most amazing things and you have to sit on every one that you see. We took you to your second pumpkin patch after daycare one day and you refused to let me put you down. Since you were obviously not having fun, we started to leave and you flung your body backwards screaming, "PUMPKINSSSS! SHHHIIITTT!" You're still having trouble pronouncing "sit." 

Since your last birthday, we went trick-or-treating and you were the most amazing pilot. I didn't think you would wear your costume that I had been saving for over a year in storage. I underestimated the power of bribery. Now, anytime we do something you don't like you think you're going to get a cookie.

Other things that I don't want to forget about my one-year old:

-One day you came from home from daycare demanding us play the "Fishy Song." I had to ask your teacher. We must have played it at least ten times in a row that night. You also love anything Frozen and recognize the voices. Itsy Bitsy Spider, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed are your other favorites.

-You like to pat me on the back and tell me to go "night night." If I try to sit up, you push me back on the floor. 

-You refuse to sit in highchairs and booster seats. You very much prefer real chairs.

-Anytime I ask you "how many" you say two. Anytime I ask "what color" you say pink.

How many mommies do you have? Two. 
What color is the sky? Pink.

And I don't even want to correct you.

-I love love love hearing you say "otay" instead of "okay." 

-You don't walk. You run everywhere.

Baby, there are some days where I just can't wait for you to go to bed. I'm sorry I have these feelings. Every night, though, I immediately miss you. 

Parenting is incredibly difficult. However, you have made me such a stronger and more selfless person. I can't wait to celebrate you tomorrow. And celebrate another year of surviving parenthood.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Dear Baby: Your Birth Story

Dear Baby,

The day before you were born, exactly a year ago, I was getting some coffee with my friends, sitting uncomfortably, and talking about how anxious I was about your arrival. Afterward, I went to Walmart to pick up a few last minute grocery items and there was a moment while walking around that I felt you drop down. I waddled around, imagining what it would be like to give birth in the ethnic foods aisle. Little did I know that we would be heading to the hospital that very night to meet you. 

0036: I flopped to sleep on my other side in bed, trying to get comfortable, like I did at least 50 times a night while pregnant. I felt a gush of liquid wet my underwear and I rushed to the bathroom to check. I spotted blood in the toilet so I called the hospital to speak to a nurse. The nurse directed me to go to the hospital. By the time I went back in the bedroom, Bella had already curled up in my spot on the bed. 

I woke up your father and told him, "I think my water broke. They told me to go to the hospital. I'm really sorry if this isn't it and we're wasting our time." Just a few days ago I had experienced terrible Braxton Hicks contractions and thinking that was it, only to have the contractions stop after an hour. 

0102: I put on some makeup because I figured a lot of pictures were going to be taken and said goodbye to Bella. Dad put our "go bags" in the car. We were ready to go.

It was a brisk 41 degrees outside. Dad wasn't very nervous during our quiet fifteen minute car ride to the hospital. He didn't believe that I was actually in labor. I felt a contraction. My first true contraction. It was more uncomfortable than painful and very different than the Braxton Hicks contractions I had experienced before.

0120: We arrive at the emergency room. The receptionist asked us if we were visiting a patient. "Um, I think I'm in labor," I say as more of a question than a statement. I get checked in and changed into a hospital gown. We're told that they need to check to see if I am indeed leaking amniotic fluid.

The contractions are getting more painful at this point. I'm asked my pain level. I give them a five. Dad makes a comment that his arm is really sore because of a shot he received early that day. "Oh, your arm hurts? I'm in labor and your arm hurts?!"

0200: Nurse Tanya tells us that we are having a baby today.

0230: Nurse Paula tells me that my veins are terrible and struggles to hook me up to an IV. She gestured the Sign of the Cross before poking me again. It was not very reassuring.

0245: Dad steps out to make phone calls to our family members. The cell phone reception in the hospital was terrible.

0250: The midwife, Jennifer, checks my cervix. She tells us that I am 2cm dilated and 100% effaced. Jennifer manually broke my water completely and spots signs of bowel movements inside the womb. They want to induce if the contractions do not get closer.

0400: The contractions were so close together that I felt like I could not catch a break from the pain. I ask Paula about getting an epidural and if it is too early. She looks at me like I'm a huge wimp so I wait a few more minutes.

0420: I start dry heaving from the pain and shaking. They ask for my pain level at this point and I say that it's at a nine. I tell them that "I'm saving my ten" and realize that I just quoted Hazel Grace from The Fault In Our Stars. I'm ready for my epidural!

0530: Nurse Teresa takes over for Paula. Thank goodness. The anesthesiologist finally makes her way over to me. I had imagined being on my side while Dad held my hand for this part, but instead they kicked him out of the room and I sat up while a nurse braced me and the anesthesiologist gave me my epidural. I was suddenly aware of the state of my breath at this point. She stuck me three times in between contractions before she was successful.

0545: Epidurals are AWESOME. My only regret was not getting one earlier.

0614: Dad left to check on Bella and tidy up the house. He also picked up a newspaper along with some Monster drinks. A nursing student inserted my catheter. Her breath smelled of the Peanut M&Ms we had brought for the hospital staff. At this point I had lost count of how many strangers had seen my vagina.

0905: I am 7cm dilated. Teresa is surprised by how quickly I was progressing on my own. I was so amazed by my own body.

Also, the lavender air freshener I brought with us was a huge hit.

1055: 8 cm dilated. Teresa walked us through the procedures of meconium aspiration. They needed to whisk you away after birth to clear your airways. This meant that I would not be able to hold you immediately and that we may not hear you cry right away.

1205: The contractions were so strong at this point that I could feel them even through the epidural. I kept pressing that little button to up the dosage, but I had reached the max. I threw up twice. They wouldn't let me drink any water to get rid of the taste of vomit so I tried my best with ice chips. 

I was completely dilated. It was time to push. I never attended any birthing classes so I really had no idea what I was supposed to do. My legs were up and open in the air with no sheets to cover me. I threw all modesty out the window, but was thankful that I had at least painted my toenails. 

Because of the epidural, I had no control of my legs. At one point my left leg almost kicked the poor nursing student in the face. 

At the peak of every contraction I was coached to push. Every time I did so Teresa would cheer me on and say, "You're so close! She's almost out!" Teresa was a liar.

1300: We met the doctor for the first time. I had been pushing for nearly an hour at this point. She left the room after a few more pushes. 

Dad took a look even though I specifically told him to stay the heck away from below my waist. Instead of passing out like dads do on sitcoms, he cheered me on, too.

1330: The doctor came back in the room. She made an incision so that I wouldn't tear. I was exhausted at this point and wanted to be dramatic and cry that I couldn't do it anymore. Teresa told me to stop grunting while I pushed and just focus (which is totally different than what I learned at Tae Kwon Do class my senior year of high school when we were told to shout "kiyah!" to focus). 

1343: They told me to stop pushing. Your head was out and they needed to suction out your airways. 

1344: A final push and there you were! Dad cut your umbilical cord and they took you away to clean you off and take measurements. The doctor stitched me up after I delivered the placenta. She left quickly after and I shouted after her, "It was nice to meet you!"

As soon as I saw you I started crying. I was in awe of you and I was so proud of what my body was able to accomplish. I spent so much time fearing your birth and now it was over.

As much as I wanted to hold you, I felt a sense of relief that I had some time before you were handed over to me. I was terrified of the thought of being a mother. Although I carried you in my stomach for 38 weeks and felt you kicking me, the reality did not set in until I saw you and heard your strong lungs.

You measured 6 pounds, 9 ounces and 18.75 inches long. Besides being a bit jaundiced, you were as healthy as could be.

Dad got to hold you and touch you before I did. He put on your first diaper and you held his finger with your teeny tiny hand. Dad would become the diaper changing pro.

And then they handed you to me. You were mine.

I had only held two other babies before you--very reluctantly, I might add. Holding you did not feel natural to me, and yet in that moment I felt complete.

After ten minutes one of the nurses asked me if I was ready to start feeding you. Well, we already know how breastfeeding went for us. You can refresh your memory here. Again, I was so blown away by my body.

We stayed two more nights at the hospital. Dad and I were beyond exhausted. I had never been so tired in my entire life and yet I felt a surge of adrenaline and kept going. Whenever all three of us finally fell asleep someone would come in to do some kind of test or check our vitals. Although everyone was so kind, we just wanted to take you home.

It was rare for all three of us to be asleep, by the way. After swaddling you and setting you back down in the bassinet you would just cry and cry. Eventually, we finally asked someone to take you to the nursery so that we could get just a few minutes of rest. I felt ashamed for doing this, but it was absolutely necessary.

When we were finally allowed to take you home, things fell in place.

And that, Little Miss, is how you came into the world. 


Monday, August 17, 2015

The First. The Second. Then Our Rainbow Baby

My favorite family picture.
I've been meaning to write about my miscarriages for such a long time now. I'm not sure what was holding me back, but I do know that I want to share my experience because reading about other women's miscarriages helped me get through mine. I hope that my words will help others in the same way.

My husband and I decided we were ready to become parents in November of 2012. I knew very little about the science behind getting pregnant. We had spent most of our early adulthood fearing an accidental pregnancy that it seemed silly to fear infertility. I went off the pill. We were both healthy young adults. That should have been enough, right?

The First

On a whim, I took a pregnancy test in February 2013. It was 2am, and through my blurry eyes I saw a pink line grow darker and darker. I thought about all the clever ways I would tell Hubby. Instead, I just ran into the bedroom and shouted, "I'm pregnant! You're going to be a dad!" He woke up panicked, thinking that the house was on fire. We exchanged a quick embrace and kiss and fell back asleep. I couldn't believe that we had gotten pregnant so quickly.

I went to my doctor's office the next day during my lunch break to confirm the pregnancy. This would be the first of numerous times I would have to pee in a cup. I received a phone call with my test results that afternoon. The nurse stated that the test was negative, but to not worry as it was most likely due to the fact that my hormone levels were still low, especially in the middle of the day. She recommended that I return a week later and go in the morning.

I took several more pregnancy tests the following days at home to confirm what my body was already telling me. At this point, my period was already 17 days late. My chest was so sore that I could barely wear a t-shirt. I needed to pee every two hours and my appetite was out of control. After dinner every night, my stomach extended because of extra bloating. I downloaded a pregnancy app on my phone and started a Pinterest board titled "For Future Little One" that included pins of nursery color schemes and parenting techniques. I had no concerns and was excited to finally get it on record that I was pregnant so that I could schedule an ultrasound.

The urine test came back negative again. They decided that perhaps a blood test would be more accurate. I went back to work and waited hours to hear the results. Yet another negative result. I ran into my friend's office and sank on the floor in tears. She was kind enough to call another clinic to find out if I could be tested again as she had heard before of pregnant women with false negatives. I stayed at work, thinking that there was still hope. Shortly after, I went to the bathroom and saw blood.

On the way home, I called my husband in tears to tell him that I had lost the baby. I crawled into bed and stayed there the rest of the day with Bella. Hubby came home and held me for a bit before I finally fell asleep. I woke up in such pain. My body was disposing of what it no longer needed and it was excruciating.

I called the doctor's office the next morning. They directed me to the women's clinic on post where I miserably sat in a waiting room surrounded by glowing women with their growing bellies. Since my pregnancy was never documented officially, the doctor told me that it was just normal period blood and I did not have a miscarriage. Stunned, I asked him how it was possible that I had all the pregnancy symptoms and three positive home tests. He said that some women who have been trying to get pregnant for a long time may fake symptoms enough to have a hysterical pregnancy. He ended with, "We can't help you. This clinic is only for pregnant women, and you're not pregnant."

I left discouraged and confused. I made an appointment with another doctor so that I could receive some sort of explanation to my positive home pregnancy tests. This doctor, a woman, was more sympathetic and confirmed what I knew all along. I was pregnant. Something was wrong with the baby and my body let go.

My husband and I went shopping that weekend. He saw a book he wanted to buy for our future child. His response to my miscarriage was more hopeful. We had been able to get pregnant. That was the good news. I, however, was just angry at the world.

The Second.

I downloaded ovulation apps and period trackers on my phone. Trying to get pregnant consumed my life. Every month I would take a pregnancy test as soon as I could. Pregnancy symptoms and PMS symptoms are remarkably similar, which is a terrible mindf*ck. I had a pregnant patient come in the office with the same due date of what would have been mine. It was a struggle holding back my tears and act excited for her.

Finally, on November 1st, the test came back positive. I put a sign around Bella's neck saying that she was going to be a big sister the following July and sent her to my husband. He had just decided that he was leaving the Army. Our future was uncertain. We laughed at this less than perfect timing. We cried the happiest tears.

Two weeks later, I spotted a little bit of blood. We went to the Emergency Room to make sure that the baby was okay. After a three hour wait, I was finally taken back to get an ultrasound. The technician gave a short introduction: "My name is Veronica. Don't ask to see the screen. I can't show you anything. Don't ask any questions. I can't answer them." I hated her.

(Veronica ended up being one of my patients later on and she was the sweetest woman. She didn't remember me, but she told me how she hates that part of her job when she can't find a heartbeat and isn't able to comfort her patients. I was so excited to tell her later on when I was pregnant again.)

The doctor who spoke to me about my results was not any kinder. My cervix was still intact, but there was no heartbeat. "It's probably still too early. You're only six weeks pregnant. Everything looks fine. Come back for a follow up appointment tomorrow."

Little Miss gets hundreds of kisses a day.
My husband couldn't stay with me at the follow up appointment. It had been yet another three hour wait and he had to return to work. I sent him away, reassuring him that I would be just fine. Dr. Guidry came into the room with a solemn look. He explained to me that the pregnancy was most likely not viable as the gestational sac and yolk was not the proper size. That plus low HCG levels and the lack of a heartbeat meant that I needed to prepare for another miscarriage.

He wanted me to return in a week for another ultrasound and HCG count before we made any decisions. I let my coworkers and bosses know about the situation because I would no doubt be missing work. A week later, I was bleeding again. I called my boss to let him know that I would have to miss work again. He asked me if I found anyone to cover my job. I was losing my second baby. Work was not a concern for me at this point.

Before Dr. Guidry could even do an ultrasound, he let me know that "this was it." This was the miscarriage we had been waiting for. But wait! The sac had grown. There was still no heartbeat, but there was hope. He was amazed.

The following week, I started bleeding profusely at work. It was enough to saturate a pad. I was also cramping badly. It was a busy day and I didn't want to leave my coworkers so I asked around for Tylenol and answered a few phone calls with tears in my eyes. I eventually left the office after persuasion from my coworkers, but before I left a patient's mom stopped me and spoke to me about a fundraiser for her son. I had to act as if everything was perfectly fine.

I met my husband in the Emergency Room. At this point I was in agonizing pain that started from my lower back and wrapped around my stomach. Hours passed in the waiting room. They had to draw some blood from me and my terribly small veins were not giving a single drop. I was poked three times before they found a good vein. I was in tears.

The nurse tried to comfort me by saying, "I know it's a big needle, sweetie. You don't have to be scared."

Did she even look at my chart? I was losing my baby. It wasn't the needle. Please make her go away.

Four hours passed before I was taken back and seen by the doctor. She confirmed that I was having a miscarriage, prescribed me some pain medication, and sent us home with her apologies.

I remember asking my husband during the drive home how he could possibly believe in God after all that we had been through. He said that we were done trying. He couldn't see me in so much emotional and physical pain again.

I had a follow up appointment the next day. The young doctor asked me if I knew what was going on. I told her that I knew that my pregnancy was not viable.

"Oh. We're using big girl words," she replied pretentiously. I wanted to punch her in her stupid face.

I was prescribed Cytotec to induce the miscarriage, Vicodin for the expected pain, and anti-nausea medicine to counteract the Vicodin. We decided that I would take this over Thanksgiving weekend
so that I could have time to recover. My husband and I had previously agreed to host a Thanksgiving dinner for a group of misfits with nowhere else to go and we didn't want to cancel on everyone. I spent a lot of time in the bathroom passing clots and using a heating pad to help with my cramping. No one knew.

We put up our Christmas tree that weekend. I wanted some sense of normalcy. The majority of the weekend consisted of naps, changing out bloody pads, and counting down the minutes until I could take more pain medication because the cramping was the worst pain I had ever felt in my life.

I remember texting the few people who knew about the pregnancy the words: "We lost the baby. I am okay." I could overhear my husband on the phone with my sister telling her that I was doing fine and in bed.

Hubby captured this candid picture of us and I love that it captures my joy.

Then Our Rainbow Baby

A funny thing happens when you're trying to get pregnant. You're suddenly surrounded by beautiful babies and pregnant women. Friends and family start asking you when you're going to have children and all you can give is a smirk and avoid eye contact.

My friend at work had an unplanned pregnancy shortly after my second miscarriage. She was reluctant to tell me because she knew my history and didn't want to hurt my feelings. I was truly happy for her as she was born to be a mom, but I went home that evening and spent some time crying into my husband's shoulders.

Finally, in March of 2014, I was pregnant again. I took the test on my husband's birthday and was overjoyed, yet cautious. We had a difficult time celebrating this time around because we were so used to pregnancies ending in sorrow.

Every cramp was frightening. I checked for blood every single time I went to the restroom. Hearing our baby's heartbeat at our first ultrasound was the most remarkable feeling because we had never heard a heartbeat before. My previous pregnancies never progressed that far.

I felt relief when I reached the 20 week mark of my pregnancy because it meant that if anything should happen, I would be sent to the Labor and Delivery floor rather than the Emergency Room. It was a big deal.

Our Rainbow Baby was born two years after we had initially started trying to become parents. Whenever I am having a tough moment with Little Miss, I have to remember the long journey it took for us to reach this point.

 We are so in love with our baby. She is the one we were meant to have.

Curious Crawler

This child is on the move! She started crawling a week and a half ago and just a few days later she started to pull herself up to a standing position. 

Little Miss spends every minute she's awake finding new ways to endanger herself. Seriously, kid. Do you know how much effort it took to keep you alive these past nine months? And now you're actively trying to hurt yourself!

Okay, I know she's just a curious child, but how is it that EVERYTHING is now dangerous? And how does she consistently find the most deathly object in the room and sprint for it?

We removed our towering bookcases from our living room as well as the coffee table with its ridiculously sharp corners. Hubby even removed the drawer handles from our TV stand because Little Miss still isn't steady when she's standing and nearly hit her face against the metal handles when she fell down from playing with the Xbox power button. (P.S. Unplug the Xbox to deter babies from wanting to press the bright green light a bajillion times.)

As I was looking at different baby proofing products, I saw a lot of moms on message boards say that you should just keep things like tupperware and pots and pans in baby accessible cabinets so they can just play with them. Hubby and I are not "Let Baby Bang on Pots and Pans" type parents. You should have seen Hubby's face when I gave him this option. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being those parents. In fact, I envy them because they're most likely less high strung than we are. We like a neat house and my nesting instincts from pregnancy never went away.

The kitchen cabinets in our first house in Texas were baby proofed with latches and we hated them with a passion. I wanted to find another option that was also non-permanent as we're most likely going to move. I saw this option on Amazon, but wasn't super happy with the price so I made my own using dog collars from The Dollar Tree in less than ten minutes. 

1. Purchase collars and cut nylon webbing to remove buckles.
2.  Rethread nylon webbing through the buckles. Trim proper length of nylon webbing needed to loop around cabinet handles. Hot glue in place to secure. You can also sew in place, but you can only do so much during nap time.
3. Test strength of your new cabinet lock and admire your cleverness. 

And BOOM. Cabinets secured for $1 each. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Real Talk About Breastfeeding

I'm not going to write about the benefits of breastfeeding. I'm sure you've already done extensive research on all of that. Instead, let's talk about all the things books will not tell you about breastfeeding.

1) Your baby surprisingly knows what to do for the most part, even if you don't:

When the nurse handed me my 20-minute old baby and told me to try feeding her I looked at her baffled. I didn't even know how to hold my baby and suddenly I was supposed to feed her? The nurse asked if I had taken any classes and I told her that I had done plenty of reading, but no classes. "Uh oh," she responded. Thanks for the encouragement, lady.

Then this total stranger grabbed my boob and stuck it in my baby's face and she latched on like a little fish. And it was amazing.

2) It will hurt. A LOT:

The lactation consultant at the hospital will ask you if it hurts. When you say that it does, she'll tell you that you're doing it wrong. She'll then take your boob with her ice cold hand and shove it further into the baby's mouth and ask if that feels better. You'll say yes, even if it doesn't just to get her to leave you alone.

For the first month it will feel like someone is trying to twist your nipples off for thirty minutes at a time.  Eventually, your nipples will toughen up and you will no longer wince every time she eats.

3) Milk can spray across the room:

At some point you'll be coming out of the shower and realize that milk is spraying out of both boobs and you'll be paralyzed in the bathroom, naked, with both hands cupping your breasts. Just let go, girl. The bathroom counters and floor can be wiped off later.

You will also accidentally spray milk into your poor child's eye and the stunned look on her face will be hilarious.

4) You may wake up in a puddle of milk:

Sometimes nursing pads slip while you are sleeping. Thankfully, milk stains wash out of sheets and clothes (for the most part).

5) Mornings will be spent milking yourself like a cow:

Engorgement happens, especially in the mornings. Your supple bosoms will turn rock hard. This may mean that your letdown will be too fast for your baby so it will be beneficial to pump or self express before feeding her. I find that if I don't do this she will be more likely to spit up or pull away. Think of the scene from the movie The Neighbors while doing this and laugh at the absurdity of it all at 4am.

6) You will be the sole provider of nourishment for your baby, and it will be exhausting:

This is probably the toughest part of breastfeeding. Although your husband is around, there is just not much that he can do other than change diapers, and do you really want to wake him up in the middle of the night just for that? Sure, you can have him take over for a feeding if your baby will take a bottle, but that just means you'll have to get up to pump anyway so that you can keep your milk supply up.

7) Those first few weeks you will wonder if formula really is "that bad":

I can't tell you how many times I wanted to quit that first month. Even hubby was willing to go to formula because he saw how badly I was struggling. However, using the bottle is really troublesome as well because it requires measuring, warming, and washing. It's easier to pop out your boob.

Full tummies make us happy.
I'm glad I stuck with it, but I can certainly see why some moms choose formula over breastfeeding. It's rough, man!

Eventually, you'll become a pro and will be able to breastfeed while walking around the house. Just make sure you've closed your curtains.

8) Wardrobe decisions will be based on how easily accessible your boob is to your child:

Nursing camis, stretchy shirts, and button down tops will be your new best friends. I miss wearing cute clothes and I've already warned The Hubby that I will be treating myself to a brand new wardrobe when I stop breastfeeding.

9) Milk wasted is a real thing:

The next best thing to a baby drunk on milk is a smiling baby. If you can get a milk drunk baby to smile, your heart will melt and all will be good with the world again.

It is remarkable how easily you can comfort a screaming baby just by feeding her, and sometimes nursing is the only thing that will calm her.

10) Holy cow! You're making milk! You're amazing, Mama!

Seriously. The human body is pretty darn cool. Applaud yourself!

1. Always keep a water bottle by your side as breastfeeding makes you extremely thirsty. Make sure the bottle allows you to drink with one hand, like this one.
2. We go through ten bibs in two days. My baby is a spit up expert and the use of bibs means I get to change her outfit less often.
3. You will leak milk and nursing pads will make it less messy and embarrassing. I prefer the Lansinoh brand over the Medela ones.
4. The Feed Baby Pro app is such a lifesaver, especially in those early days. I started using it while at the hospital as nurses would come in the middle of the night and ask when the last time I fed my baby was and how many wet or dirty diapers we've changed. And you'll be like "I can't remember. I just popped a human being the size of a watermelon out of my vagina twelve hours ago. Please GTFO so we can rest."Sleep deprivation is not pretty, folks. You can set an alarm to alert you when the next feeding is and it'll track which boob you last fed on, which is especially helpful for me because I can never remember.
5. Forgot those tiny burp cloths. You need maximum coverage. I like to use flannel receiving blankets instead.
6. I first tried using a natural nipple butter and found it to be useless in relieving pain. Get the lanolin!
7. Some say you shouldn't have the television playing in the background, but you're going to need something to keep you awake at 2am. I recommend binge watching on Netflix the following shows: Parenthood, Gilmore Girls, Friday Night Lights, Alias, Chuck
8. I love our Mombo Nursing Pillow and find it to be sturdier than the popular Boppy.
9. I live in these nursing camis from Target and have four that go into rotation. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Dear Baby: This is Really Hard

Dear Baby,

Let me preface this by saying that I am truly happy to be lucky enough to be your mom. I love you, I absolutely do. But being your mom is so incredibly difficult, Baby.

I am writing this to document my journey. I want you to know what I am going through so that when it is your turn you won't feel like a failure if things aren't perfect.

I remember calling a good friend of mine after she had her baby. She had been dealing with infertility for so long that her son was a miracle, yet she wasn't completely happy at the time. I couldn't understand it, but I do now. You will get it too one day, and I will be there by your side to help you get through it.

So many moms post pictures of themselves on social media with their newborns and everyone is smiling and happy, myself included. No one ever talks about the lump in the back of your throat when you can't get your baby to stop crying. I feel so defeated and inadequate when you cry, Baby. I know that you can't help it as it is the only way you can communicate right now, but it wears on me.

You cry when you're hungry so I stick my boob in your face. You cry when you're tired and I say to you, "Little girl, just go to sleep. No one is keeping you up." You cry when you're not being held so I swoop you up in my arms. You cry when I'm not walking around while you're being held so I find myself taking laps around the kitchen island while I try to get dinner ready for the night.

I find myself whispering in your ear, "I love you, Baby," whenever you cry to calm myself.

I spend my time begging you to just take a nap long enough so that I can use the bathroom or eat a sandwich for lunch. My days are monotonous: nursing, changing diapers, rocking you to sleep. I count down the minutes until Dad gets home so that I can have just a moment of rest and someone to talk to who actually understands what I'm saying.

Then there's the enormous stress of taking care of you. I think about you every second of every day. I hate taking you out of the house because I never think that you're warm enough and I'm terrified of you getting sick. I worry about my own health now because who would be able to take care of you if something should happen to me? The amount of anxiety I have now that you're here is astronomical.

When you were two weeks old we went to the post office together. At the time Dad and I were using a convertible car seat rather than an infant car seat, which meant I had to unbuckle you and put you in a sling. It was 30 degrees out so I did all of this in the cramped backseat of the car to keep you warm. As I pulled you out I saw that you had pooped out of your diaper and through your clothes. I had no choice but to carry you inside anyway, with poop leaking onto my own clothes.

As we stood in line, I felt a sudden gush of blood coming out of me and it would not stop. We made it home, covered in mustard yellow poop, and I hurriedly changed you and nursed you until you fell asleep. For that hour of time I feared I was hemorrhaging and needed to go to the hospital. I started to cry, not out of fear for myself, but for you, Baby. What would you do without me?

When we picked up Dad from work that evening he cheerfully asked me how my day was. I answered him not with words, but with tears. "This is really hard, " I finally blabbered.

As a first time mom, I am always questioning my parenting skills. Am I giving you enough tummy time or will you never be able to crawl and walk? Should I be talking or singing to you more often? We haven't been reading to you nightly like I promised we would. Does this mean you won't like books later on in your life? Is it okay that you're still sleeping in your Rock 'n Play instead of your crib? Will you ever be able to sleep without being swaddled? What if a fire starts in the kitchen and we're upstairs? Do I tie you to my body and jump out the window, hoping that the snow will cushion the fall?

These are things that go through my head daily. It's overwhelming.

I'm someone who needs a set schedule so it drives me crazy that I don't know if you're going to sleep for five minutes or five hours at a time. Do I have time to shower or will I end up running to you with soap in my hair because you woke up earlier than I expected and started bawling?

There's also the physical pain I've been experiencing ever since returning home from the hospital. My lower back pain was so terrible that I had to kneel on the floor to change your diaper instead of bending down to get to your level and cross my fingers that you don't spray poop in my face. Nursing and carrying you around has wrecked my shoulders and neck, so much so that sometimes I fear I won't be able to do it anymore.

But, Baby, whenever it is your turn to become a mom, you'll see that you are capable of handling so much more than you ever imagined. Something in you, like it has in me, will drive you to keep on going because you are doing something so much bigger than yourself. You will love this job more than any job you have ever had in your life. You will be rewarded with cuddles, smiles, and sweet coos instead of a paycheck, and that will be more than enough.

Each day will get easier so do what you can to simply survive those first few months. Leave those dishes in the sink. Wear the same pair of yoga pants weeks in a row, even if there's spit up on it. Have your husband order pizza for dinner because you set off the smoke detector for the seventh time in four months. Cry all you want. Be in bed by 7:30pm and asleep by 8pm.

Just know that you are the best mom for your baby and that after this you can conquer anything.

I love you, Baby. Thank you for teaching me that I am stronger than I thought I was.


P.S. Can you please smile at me a little more often? Cause Mama needs it some days.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I Will Miss: Your Tortoise Neck

Your neck and its million and one tiny folds only reveal themselves when you are truly relaxed. I like to compare it to that of a tortoise as you like to shrink it back and forth. If you're crying, forget about trying to get in there to clean out the collection of lint and remnants of spit up, making it one of your stinkiest body parts. This means that I am forced to wipe off that "neck cheese" while you're sleeping or nursing. The cold makes you shrink your neck back in, and just like that it disappears again.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Dear Baby: About Your Father

Dear Baby,

They say that little girls grow up and look for husbands that remind them of their fathers. I know that you'll probably be completely grossed out by this, but I hope that this is the case because then we would never have to worry about you.

Your dad is amazing and it is so easy being married to him. He is the man I compare all other men to when friends or family members come to me with their relationship problems. I tell them to "find someone who treats you the way my husband treats me." There's this fallacy that marriage is something you need to work on in order to last. Baby, if you have found the right person marriage will never feel like "work" to you.

Now, I don't claim to be an expert when it comes to marriages and relationships. However, Dad and I have been together for ten and a half years and I can count on one hand the number of fights we've had.  We've been through more hardships together than the average couple during that span of time. Five of those years we spent living over 3,000 miles apart. We survived a deployment and countless weeks away from each other due to the Army. The house you are living in now is the fourth house Dad and I have lived in in just five years. The two of us slept on an air mattress in an empty bedroom for the first few months of our marriage until we slowly built enough in our bank account to buy real furniture. Together, we got through two heartbreaking miscarriages, which I will write about some other time.

Your dad got us through all of this with good spirits simply by being the remarkable man that he is.

Dad is extremely overprotective, which means he'll send you a text before you leave for work in the morning to tell you to be careful driving with foggy windows. He'll always make sure when walking on sidewalks that he walks on the side closest to the road so that he can hop into action if he has to. He'll grab your hand if you're walking through a crowd. If you stay in the car and he steps out to grab takeout he'll stick around and make sure he hears the doors lock before leaving your side.

You will find some of this to be overbearing and I'm sure you will roll your eyes at him at some point, but just know that he does these things because he cares about you so much.

With his protective side comes his sensitive side. He cried the most at our wedding, making all of our guests cry along with him. Marry someone who will pour tears uncontrollably when he sees you walk down the aisle. This is important. He cried when I told him I was pregnant and that he was going to be a father. He cried when we first met you in the hospital, and you can be sure that he will cry when he walks you to your future husband and gives you away.

Your father is so smart, but he doesn't rub it in your face like some others do. He's humble and extremely hardworking. You will never find him complaining about anything. In fact, I just discovered that he has been suffering from daily back pain for all of his adult life due to his time serving in the military. He's never mentioned it once. Marry someone who won't be a big baby when he's ill. This is also important.

Dad will like to surprise you with gifts, ranging from small to extravagant. He has purchased Kate Spade purses and Tiffany earrings for me "just because" and surprised me with gummy bears and flowers after my first day at work. Marry someone who is so excited to give you your gift that he never manages to wait until the day of your birthday or Christmas. Most of all, it's important to reciprocate back. You don't need to spend a lot of money. Just make sure you grab an extra York Peppermint Patty at the checkout line for him at the grocery store or splurge on the pricier chocolate milk. Leave love notes in his lunchbox and on his dashboard. These small things will matter to him.

My sister and I never grew up with any men around. We were responsible for taking out the trash, washing our own cars, fixing anything around the house, killing our own spiders, putting together any furniture, and lugging anything heavy on our own. It made me independent and it helped me survive a year without Dad around when he was deployed to Iraq. Although I want you to be independent as well, I also want you to find someone who will do all of those things for you without any hesitation.

Dad actually gets angry with me when I try to lift anything heavy, open my own doors, or take out the trash. He finds things like this to be his duty as a husband, and I am okay with that. Here's the important thing, though, Baby: At no point should you expect your husband to do these things or else you will grow less appreciative of it all.  I never forget to thank Dad for the things he does around the house, even if it's just changing out a light bulb. On the other spectrum of things, Dad still thanks me for making dinner, doing the laundry, and even for taking care of you all day long. Appreciate each other. This is important.

Your father tells me he loves me at least ten times a day. He'll literally wake me up in the middle of the night to tell me this. Marry someone who will do this, even if you don't necessarily want to be awakened at two in the morning. Also, marry someone who will tell you that you're beautiful daily, even if you haven't showered and have bright pink acne medication on your face. This is important.

But most of all, Baby, know this about your father: He loves us. Every single action he makes is with us in mind. We are so lucky to have him.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Dear Baby: You're Beautiful!

Dear Baby,

You are just over two weeks old now and already I'm worried about your self esteem when you are older. You see, your grandmother has been so persistent about what I should do to help mold your physical features. Every single conversation I have with her, either via Skype, texts, or phone calls involve a lengthy discussion about your "flat nose" or "big face." There is absolutely nothing wrong with you (other than the fact that you refuse to stay asleep right now).

You, my beautiful daughter, are absolutely perfect in every way.

My mom is an amazing woman and I hate to sound like I'm bashing on her. She did so many things right when raising us as a single parent.  I know that she means well, but I am beginning to see that she is the reason why I have such low self esteem.

Your grandma is very concerned with how wrinkly your hands are, the fact that you furrow your brows like Dad, that you have double eyelids, your ears being squished by the hats we put on your tiny head to keep you warm, the way we swaddle you and how it binds your limbs, the nose you inherited from me, and most importantly the shape of your face.

How can there possibly be so many things "wrong" with such a little person who is so new to the world?

I've been told to start pinching your nose so that it's pointier. I refused.

I specifically remember sitting in the backseat of the car when I was in elementary school and being told that everything about me is wonderful, except for my flat nose. "Whenever you can, pinch your nose." What a terrible thing to say to a young girl.

I've been told to have you sleep on your stomach and to alternate the side of your face you sleep on as your face will just "get larger and larger" if you remain on your back. I refused.

My mom claims that my sister's head "has a good shape" but mine is "not good"as I slept on my back when I was a baby. I tried to explain to her that infants who sleep on their stomachs are more likely to die from SIDS. And then I went on to tell her that I have a large face because she has a large face and her own mom has a large face as well. But try explaining genetics to a woman who is set in her ways.

I grew up being so self conscious about my appearance and it has unfortunately followed me through life.

When I went bra shopping with my mother the first time she insisted on getting me pushup bras because I lacked in that department at the ripe age of twelve. One time I gained a little extra weight and my mom very seriously said to me, "Min, if you're pregnant you can tell me."

I have been struggling with hormonal acne and terrible scarring for years now and absolutely nothing has helped it. It's something that I am very emotional about, but what makes it worse is that I dread showing my bare face to my grandmother and mom when I visit home because I know they'll make remarks. I remember my mom telling me she was sending me a birthday gift and it ended up being acne cream. They're visiting us next week and I am hoping my face clears up before they see me.

Right now, as I sit with you drifting away on my arm, I feel remarkably unattractive: My long hair is knotted and has not been brushed in days, I'm wearing the same milk stained top I've been wearing for days as I wait for the laundry to be finished, I have heavy bags under my eyes, and the right side of my face has exactly five large pimples taunting me.

But I promise you, Amelia, you will never hear me say any of these things in front of you. I will do my very best to raise you to love everything about yourself. The first step is for me to love myself.