Friday, November 20, 2015

Paloma at One Month

My little girl is one month old! OK, technically she turned 5 weeks yesterday, but I will probably always be delayed with these posts, so there you have it. What was she up to this month? She's been a pretty easy baby, nursing around the clock. For the first couple of weeks she made herself cry by pulling her own hair. She'd get a hold of a chunk and try to pull her hand away but couldn't. Poor thing. She's making lots of eye contact with us, and even by the 4-week mark she was starting to smile, like a real smile. Almost! 

Like Hunter as a newborn, Paloma has a very strong neck and also likes listening to music, though she prefers classical (funny since I listened to a lot of Daft Punk while she was in the womb). Unlike Hunter, she actually sleeps some stretches at night in her bassinet, but we are definitely doing a bit of co-sleeping around here. Again. We, thankfully, did not have to deal with the crazy force-feeding like we did with Hunter, but it did take a her a bit longer to get back to birth weight (2 weeks -- probably because it took a little while for my milk to come in and supply get established). No worries, though, because she's gaining over an ounce a day. Our little champ! 

Monday, November 9, 2015

New Month's Resolutions: November

October was a very productive month! I finished 2 books, finished another Montessori mobile, had a baby, sold some of my cloth diaper stash, sold stuff on ebay, and even did a bit of Christmas shopping. Hunter went to three different pumpkin patches (once with us, another time with his tios, and another time with my mom and his school) and had a Halloween parade at school. Papi took him riding his bike on some trails, then he came home and washed his bike. Finally, we spent lots of time loving on our new baby girl :)

These were my goals last month:

Be patient [for the baby to arrive]. I wasn't exactly patient, but while I was waiting, I got a lot done!

Do special time with HunterI was good about this up until the baby arrived.

RELAX for now and SLEEP when baby sleeps once he/she is here. Yes, lots of relaxing before baby arrived, but only a few naps here and there once she arrived.

Goals for November:

1. Send out birth announcements and/or holiday cards. We just did a family photo session and plan to send out holiday cards, but I haven't figured out if I will make the birth announcement part of the holiday card, or send out something separate...

2. Continue to work on my connection with Hunter. It's been challenging, yo. Taking care of a newborn has been so easy. Even sleep-deprived, it's just so much more enjoyable this time and I am so much more relaxed. Parenting Hunter, however, just got tougher. He is great with his sister. Loves her, wants to hold and see her all the time. Isaiah and I are just trying to figure out how to balance giving him what he needs with everything else going on in our home.

3. SLEEP when baby sleeps. I am so lucky to be home with my baby right now, but there are so many things to DO around the house. I need to stop and sleep at least one sleep with her before I pick up Hunter from school.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Paloma's Birth Story

Hunter meets Paloma for the first time! (About 5 hours after birth)
Warning: This post is nothing like Hunter's Birth Story. I call his birth my "lady-like birth" and Paloma's birth my "crazy-lady birth." I try to keep this blog family-friendly by avoiding the use of potty-mouth words, but on this occasion I let one slip. If you find the word shit offensive, do skip this post. Also, if you find that graphic birth details make you queasy, do skip this post.

My aunt says that for her October 2015 will forever be the month that she kept saying, "No baby yet?" You see, my firstborn, Hunter, came at 37 weeks and 2 days, so naturally all of us thought that Baby #2 would be early too. Even with an October 13 due date, I was certain I would be having a September baby.

Starting at 38 weeks, I was getting crazy Braxton Hicks. My mom said, This is the week, but still no baby. At 39 weeks I was getting crazy impatient. I said, This is the week, but still no baby. At my 40 weeks appointment, I felt like something was happening, so I asked the midwife to check me for dilation: 3 cm! But then I frowned, "Don't some women go weeks at 3 cm dilated?"

She answered, "Yes, but I don't think that's the case here." I had been having some irregular contractions for a few hours at that point, and I guess she had a feeling too that something was happening.

After the appointment, we went out for pizza for the last time as a family of three. I contracted all through dinner. We went home and my mom arrived an hour later. We all got Hunter to bed (because sometimes it's a team effort), and Isaiah and I lay down to have a rest. Suddenly, at around 9 pm, my contractions stopped altogether. I was bummed, but also thankful to get some rest, so we fell asleep. At 3 am I woke up to some contractions that were a bit more intense than the ones I had been having all day. I timed them, and since they were pretty consistent, I phoned the midwife, who advised us to come in.

It's funny -- neither one of us cried when Hunter was born nor after Paloma's birth. With Hunter's birth, we were emotional, of course, and thrilled, but also a little frightened. I don't even remember the car ride to the hospital, but this time was so different. On the way, we sat in silence for a few minutes, then we pulled over so I could sit on a towel (didn't want to mess up our car's upholstery), but once we got going again we just looked at each other and both started crying tears of overwhelming joy. They were tears of relief to finally get to meet our new baby and also, I think, tears of gratitude that we get to do this all over again. We went from not being sure we'd ever get to be parents to getting to do it twice! They were the tears of a family becoming complete.

I was checked again upon arrival (at around 5:30 am) and was at 4.5 cm, so something was definitely happening, but they didn't want to officially admit me yet (because at that point the hospitals have to start their countdown, and if baby is not born within a certain window of time, the interventions start), so the midwife on duty told me to walk around and basically just move as much as possible to get this baby to come down. Well, I hated walking -- I just wanted to sit, and I certainly didn't want to do the labor dance I had been practicing (the whip nae nae, yup). After two and half more hours of contractions, during which the following phrases came out of my mouth:
-This sucks.
-I hate this.
-I don't want to do this anymore.
-Now I understand elective C-sections.
-Just rip this baby out.
I decided to get in the shower. It felt good to be in there. Contractions were intense but I was still able to breathe through them and even talk to Isaiah. I had been sitting in the shower, but I decided to try the next contraction standing, and that's when the craziest thing happened. I was leaning against the wall, breathing through the contraction, my feet shoulder-width apart and swaying my hips like the nurse had told me to do, which I had previously ignored because it hurt too much, and I felt my baby move down.

It hurt like hell, but also hurt so good. I realized I needed to keep doing this if I wanted my baby to come sooner than later. I finally realized more pain and pressure equated progress. Since I wanted progress, I welcomed the pain. I continued to go through the next few contractions while standing and swaying, imagining my baby move down a little more with each contraction. By not moving I had been playing it safe, stalling the inevitable, but by standing and swaying, I was helping my baby make her way out.

I stayed in the shower until I couldn't stand it anymore and went back to the birthing room. I sat at the edge of the bed and rolled tennis balls under my feet between each contraction. Then as they got more intense, I started squeezing the tennis balls, one in each hand, while I leaned on Isaiah, arms hanging around his neck, to make it through each contraction. Every other contraction was really bad, like shouting out "I can't do this!!!!!!" bad. The other contractions were manageable and I was able to breathe through them and use my voice (like humming). Then something was really happening because I told the labor nurse I wanted to get checked again. I remembered from Hunter's birth I knew it was time to push because I felt like my butt was going to explode, so that's what I told her, "I am having the butt-explosion feeling!!!"

The midwife came in and told me she would wait for the next contraction to check me and that I would need to lean back a little bit and when I did and she checked me I thought I was going to die it hurt so much and gush my water broke everywhere and I let out a big scream because OMG I needed to push that baby out ASAP!!! With the next contractions I kept shouting, "I am pooping!!!!" because that is exactly what it felt like was happening and the nurse was all, That's a good sign, it means something is happening, and I was thinking, No shit something is happening -- this baby has got to come out now!!!

That's when the midwife told me I could start pushing, so I got in position, the same position I used to birth my boy: on all fours on top of the bed with a big pile of pillows on which to rest my head. That's when I channeled the crazy ladies who give birth in the movies. I was fierce and I was loud and I screamed, "THIS HURTS SO MUCH!!!" I just started bearing down and pushing, but it wasn't my mind, it was my body just doing its thing. I felt totally out of control (which is how I felt pretty much the whole labor, actually). Then the midwife started talking to me and giving me instructions, and I had to tell myself to shut up and stop screaming so I could hear what she was saying, "At the next contraction, only do a half push." They coached me to blow raspberries to help me control how I pushed, and I did exactly what they said. Then they said at the next contraction don't push at all, and I did exactly what they said. And it all worked because my baby came right out. It took less then five minutes, and at 10:09 am on the 15th of October, out came our second miracle, Paloma Belle Freerksen! Even Isaiah was shocked at how fast she came. One minute I am getting into position and the next her head was out!

There was a bit of drama, though. When my bag of waters burst and sent amniotic fluid everywhere, they checked it and found some meconium, which meant they needed to have a pediatric team in the room when she came out. That was pretty surreal too because there almost wasn't enough time to gather them all up and get them in room before I started pushing. Anyway, when Paloma arrived, she was blue and only let out the tiniest scream. The midwife slid her between my legs and I pulled her up onto my chest and lay down with her, but she didn't get to stay there long. A couple of minutes had passed and I still didn't know if she was a he or a she. When they asked me to pass her to the pediatric team, I finally got to take a look and declared, "It's a girl!" (Isaiah had mistaken part of the cord for a penis, so he though he had another son but kept mum because he wanted me to make the declaration.) They quickly cut the cord (but left it long) so the team could examine her and suction her mouth. Once they saw that she was fine, they let Isaiah cut the rest of the cord and handed her back to me.

We were in heaven with our new little girl! We went home the next afternoon, but not without being reunited with the amazing labor nurse we had with Hunter's birth. She walked into our room and her face lit up, "I remember you!" We all hugged, and it was very special for her to meet Paloma. For Hunter's birth, it was like she had become part of our family, so it was a special treat to see her again. Everyone who came to visit commented on how relaxed we looked, and you know what -- Isaiah and I felt different. We weren't scared shitless first-time parents. Parenting this little newborn came back to us like riding a bike, and it felt so good.

And now for some photos from the first week!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Hunter's Montessori-Inspired Children's Bedroom

For the first couple of years of his life, Hunter did not have his own room. As much as I loved the idea of creating a nursery for him before his birth, it was just not possible. I was about 8 months pregnant when we moved into the 2-bedroom house we had bought. The second "bedroom" was actually a converted garage that needed lots of work, so Isaiah worked tirelessly to make the other bedroom our sweet little family bedroom. The idea was that when we finally got around to redoing the converted garage, it would be ours, and Hunter would finally have his own room. Fast forward to earlier this year, Hunter had turned two, we had sold our house without ever redoing the second bedroom, and a new baby would be joining us. We wanted Hunter to have his own space (and eventually start sleeping in his own bed)!

Hunter's bedroom is actually my favorite room in our little house -- probably because it's the only space in the house that I put a lot of thought into creating. Even though as renters we're not permitted to paint the walls, the room is still great because it gets the best light and it's just so peaceful. Even Hunter's baby cousin loves playing in there!

First, you will notice that Hunter has the typical Montessori floor bed. We use a full-size futon (which works great at bedtime since Isaiah and I lay with Hunter until he falls asleep), but I have read of others using a twin size mattress as well. A definite draw back of the floor bed versus a crib is that even though Hunter falls asleep in his bed, somewhere between midnight and 5 am he ends up in our bed. Oy.

Next, we have one shelving unit (from IKEA) for Hunter's toys. When we first bought the "toy storage" unit, we used the sliding storage boxes and dumped his toys inside, but after my Montessori training, we swapped those out for the shelves. I learned that young children need to have less toys and more order in their life. When toys are organized in baskets on shelves (rather than bins or a toy box), the child not only clearly sees what he can choose to play with but he begins to see that each toy has its place and he knows where to put it when it's time to clean up.

For storing clothing, we have a chest of drawers as well as a wardrobe (both from IKEA). Inside the wardrobe, I set two tops and two bottoms. When it's time to dress, Hunter chooses a shirt and shorts or trousers from the two choices I've offered. He also knows that socks and undies are in the top drawer.

For work space with some of his more delicate activities (like opening and closing glass bottles), he has a table and chair (also from IKEA).

Finally, for artwork, we have one of Isaiah's old baby blankets hung above Hunter's bed, his class photo from last year, a LEGO/DUPLO poster, a vintage car poster Isaiah made for my classroom back when I taught 3rd grade, and some vintage PIXI books arranged on a curtain wire (yup, IKEA -- so is his train set, dirty clothes hamper, and the lambskin rug). 

Aren't they so cool? I picked them up during my many visits to the Brocki (Salvation Army Thrift Store) when we were living in Switzerland. Anyway, artwork should be hung at eye level. We are sort of there. Apparently, I installed the curtain wire incorrectly, so when Isaiah eventually fixes it for me by screwing it into the studs, I will have him arrange the wire a little close to Hunter's eye level. Also, the vintage car poster is not hung low enough because I am afraid he will rip it down because he loves it so much. (Gotta learn to trust that boy...)

Here are a couple of more details you'll find in his room: 
*Board Books -- Ideally, for a very young child, you would keep only 3-4 books in a basket so the child is not so overwhelmed by his choices. Hunter, however, is out-growing board books now, and besides, we read with him out in the living room, so the books he is choosing to read these days are on our bookshelf in that room. These board books are more for me to keep separate the books I plan to read with the new baby. If you look closely, you can tell I am a huge fan of the Mini Masters books (still need one more and I have the whole collection) as well as the "Donde viven los animales?" collection (I have all four)!
*Matryoshka -- This set of Russian nesting dolls is such a great activity for young children. I really enjoy watching Hunter work with this material.