Norah is a busy little girl these days. She plays all day long, and is often narrating her own activities. She has said a few complete sentences, but usually it’s still two word phrases: “socks on,” “burp baby,” “dark outside…” She knows exactly what she wants (and doesn’t want), but still can’t always communicate it to us. So we have a lot of crying and whining these days.
She still loves her baby sister, though still needs to be reminded to not put things in her sister’s face. She watches us take care of the baby and then mimics with her doll.
Her favorite activities are drawing with her markers, buckling (anything), putting socks and shoes on and off, watching Curious George or Babar the elephant, picking up sticks in the backyard, swinging at the park, standing on a step stool in the kitchen to “help,” and twirling around to “Ring Around the Rosie.”
Here she is riding on daddy’s shoulders at the park!
I’m a week away from returning to work, and that reality is once again a bit tough to swallow. I’m sitting here, in the nursery, snuggling my sweet babe, and shedding some tears. I already miss her.
Pinterest has really changed my life, our house, and my husband’s list of projects. Really, though, it’s been a great source of new ideas for our home, and often, with detailed instructions on how to carry them out. People out there have some really great ideas, and it’s fun to be able to find and tap into them so easily!
So, here’s the latest. I had seen this pin, showing a shelf behind a couch. I actually liked this idea for our basement “rec” room, but when I showed it to Matt, he wanted to do it in our living room. And I quickly agreed — though we have side tables on each end of our couch, if you sit in the middle, there is nowhere to put your drink. We don’t have a coffee table, we have a storage ottoman, and it’s precarious to put a glass on it.
Since we have an 18-month-old running around, we have constantly had to keep an eye on the TV remote and our beverages, so this would be perfect for keeping those things just a little more out of the way (though she CAN climb up on the couch).
So far, our intention is to keep this space purely functional, and not put any decorative items on it. Since we already have an adjacent wall full of floating shelves, I really don’t want to clutter up more space with things. This new shelf is actually pretty invisible unless we put something on it.
Here’s the (very easy!) breakdown: We bought a length of wood, cut it to the length of our couch, sanded it, stained it, put a couple coats of polyurethane on it, and hung it on the wall with four “L” brackets. Though we probably won’t use it to hold a lot of weight, we did screw all the “L” brackets into studs…. so if some kiddo tries to sit on it someday, hopefully it’ll stay put. We already had the sand paper, stain, and poly; so our only cost for this project was the wood ($18) and the brackets ($11).
Hi, our names are Michelle and Matt, and we have a floating shelf problem.
The time of life right after having a baby is so… weird. It is a mix of so many opposites and extremes, and sometimes it’s hard to make sense of it all. Please forgive me if this blog post (and many of the others during this time) are the ramblings of a half-crazy person.
I am considered very lucky, as an employed U.S. American woman, to have ten full paid weeks of maternity leave. While paid maternity leave is guaranteed in many other countries (don’t get me started), it is certainly not here in the U.S. While we do have a federal law that gives us the right to take up to 12 weeks off after having a baby and not be fired for it, employers are not required to pay you during that time.
I took ten weeks off when I had Norah, and will do the same this time. However, my post-partum experience is proving to be quite different this time. Last time, I was a weepy, sleep-deprived, and hormonal mess. That’s pretty normal, right? This time, it has certainly seemed easier in many respects. I think it’s a combination of knowing what to expect AND lowering my expectations for myself during this time. What do I mean by that? Let me give you an example.
I tend to use lists a lot in life. At work, I have a note pad where I keep weekly and monthly to-do items I need to tackle. And usually, I keep a separate DAILY to-do list on a separate scrap of paper. This daily list is written in a sharpie marker: one color to list the items, and another color to cross them off. I find it incredibly satisfying to cross things off a list with a sharpie. In fact, sometimes I’ll write an item on there that I’ve already done just to cross it off.
Anyway, speaking of lowering my expectations for myself during maternity leave… I have found that the only way I am able to function is to use the dry-erase board on my refrigerator and write every single thing on there that I want to accomplish that day (though it doesn’t guarantee I’ll get it done — just that I won’t forget it). Here’s an example of a list for one day:
- empty dishwasher
- water plants
Seriously. If I don’t make a list, I could end up spending the whole day on the couch feeding the baby and watching episode after episode of Lost on Netflix. (Of course, this written list is separate from the
un-written unspoken items of bathe the baby, rock the baby, feed the baby, change the baby’s diapers, etc.) To keep me even more on-task, I have set recurring daily reminders on my phone for walk (9am) and nap (2pm), just in case I’ve gotten distracted by then. I also have an iphone app (ShopShop) for items I need to pick up at the store.
If I do not put something on my list I will most certainly forget it (though I may remember it during a 3am feeding a few nights later). THIS is why maternity leave is awesome. I’m really not sure that I could function outside my home right now, let alone in a professional capacity. I mean, I actually have to remind myself in two separate ways each day to take a nap, even though my primary state of being is pure exhaustion. Ironic, huh?
Not long ago, I read an article about the final days of Michael Jackson — symptoms of severe sleep deprivation, according to sleep expert: “Depriving someone of REM sleep for a long period of time makes them paranoid, anxiety-filled, depressed, unable to learn, distracted and sloppy, Czeisler testified. They lose their balance and appetite while their physical reflexes get 10 times slower and their emotional responses 10 times stronger, he said.” I read this article while I was still pregnant, and chuckled, because I knew this was waiting for me on the other side.
I’d love to get back a few IQ points before I need to interact with the public in a professional capacity. The great news is that Hope slept for just shy of seven consecutive hours last night…! She was eating every three hours up until a couple of nights ago. Here’s to hoping I can get it together during the next month!
We are excited that we have gotten a lot of the bigger house projects out of the way, so that we can start doing some of the smaller things that can make our lives easier. Today it was $16 ($20 with a 20% off coupon at Bed Bath & Beyond) that finally got our shoes out of a jumbled mess on our closet floor!
I even reused the box it came in to cut out supports for my tall boots.
Here’s my latest Pinterest-inspired project!
Matt had torn down (and then rebuilt) an old fence in our backyard and so we had a bunch of pickets I could use for this project. I had seen this pin on Pinterest, and thought it could be something that I could DIY. I wanted something fairly large to hang on some empty walls in our basement rec room, so I thought this would be worth a shot, and enlarged some photos from our honeymoon. It turned out to be a pretty easy project, and I did all three for less than $30 since I already had a lot of the materials on hand. Not bad, considering the original pin links to a similar item being sold for $110 each!
The pickets had already been cut to a similar length, thanks to our fence improvement project, so all I had to do was lay them out to form a square and them drill a couple pieces on the back to hold them all together. I varied the cut sides (some are at the top, and others at the bottom.
I screwed them together from the back, so you don’t see them from the front. They are around 30″ square.
Then I added hanging hardware on the back, as well as some adhesive cork (it’s drawer liner) to the bottom corners to save the wall from getting scratched and to provide a bit of grip to keep them steady and even once hung. You could easily use other types of picture/frame stabilizers- I was just using what I had around.
It was Matt’s idea to use upholstery tacks to hold the pictures in place – this way the art can be easily changed out.
I also put some poster board behind these photos to make them pop a bit more.
Here’s a budget breakdown of this project:
Wood – luckily free, we had it around
Screws – we already had these
Hanging hardware – $2
Cork for stabilizing – already had this, too
Poster board – $14! (Note to self, don’t send hubby to the craft store on an errand. He’s not a bargain hunter like me.)
Upholstery tacks – $2
Photo enlargements – $3 each at CostCo = $9
I love the look of the weathered wood. I’m a bit surprised by this, because I typically like really modern-style home furnishings… so this look is something I haven’t done before. The art really fills up this wall, and I love that we can swap out the photos in the future, if we want. What do you think?
The best things of having a newborn (again):
1. When you put them down, they’re still there when you go back later. Nuff said.
2. The happy Buddha face when they’ve got a full belly.
3. You get to snuggle them as much as you want… They can’t yet squirm away (nor do they want to)!
The worst things about having a newborn (again):
1. The razor sharp fingernails. Add sore nipples and flailing baby limbs to this, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
2. Lets address the elephant in the room: sleep deprivation. This special part of parental torture means that you are always one small mishap away from cracking. The yogurt container that jumps out of the fridge when you open the door now becomes an expletive-laced sob-inducing event, as opposed to just, “oops!” I guess it’s “irritability” on steroids.
3. Nursing loneliness. You spend several hours a day, sitting, alone with your newborn, feeding them. Depending on the day, or the hour, this item could also be on the “best” list. Sometimes you feel like you’re a spectator in life, because everyone else gets to carry on, doing things.
I think we are a bit obsessed with floating shelves. We used them a lot in our previous (teeny) home for obvious reasons (space, or lack thereof!)… but now we just really love them. I think we have them installed in every room of the main floor of our house.
I had been wanting to build this magnificent and modern/industrial shelving unit for our living room to put our TV on. I was inspired by this. I had priced it all out, drawn sketches, taken measurements, etc. But the $350-ish price tag for materials and the amount of work it was going to take to assemble it… well, life seemed to get in the way of that actually happening. So I found new inspiration that seemed a lot easier and cheaper – this pin on Pinterest.
So three $20 shelves from IKEA and less than an hour of labor transformed our living room and now we have this:
It saved us from having to buy an expensive TV wall mount, and it provides much-needed shelf space for some decorative items and plants. And my husband did such an amazing job hiding all the cords, don’t you think? He found these gems (in white) at the hardware store, it allowed us to hide most of the cords for the TV, XBox, and stereo. They just drop through behind the drywall. That middle basket on the floor is actually hiding all the cords, outlet, and a subwoofer.
Even though there will always be a small part of me lusting after pipe shelving, we should have done this ages ago!
Today my daughter, Hope, is a month old. Yet her due date was just four days ago. I want to write down her birth story before it gets lost in the blur. Having a newborn, I am fully in the blur right now.
Due to the bleeding episodes that I had due to a low-lying placenta during my pregnancy, I was hospitalized once at 26 weeks (for four days) and then again at 32 weeks (for four weeks). The plan during my 2nd hospitalization was to stay put in the hospital until delivery. I actually wrote a blog post about hospital bed rest, but it was such a pity party that I did not publish it on here. Maybe I will someday.
The fact that I continued to have bleeding episodes throughout the end of the pregnancy indicated a danger of a major hemorrhage (also known as a placental abruption) that would have put my life and baby’s life in danger. The perinatologists (high-risk OB’s) suggested that we deliver the baby at 37 weeks gestation. I had been given steroids for the baby’s development, and overall, the outlook for a 37-gestation little girl was not risky…
However, during the 35th week, I had two more bleeding episodes, so the doctors recommended that we deliver at 36 weeks. So, on July 17th, the doctors scheduled me for a cesarean for Friday, July 19th. I asked for one more ultrasound to determine the location of the placenta; and after all this time of barely budging, the placenta was finally over 2 centimeters from the cervix, which was the minimum “required” by the doctors to try for a vaginal birth for a low placenta. So just a couple hours before my scheduled cesarean, the plan changed and I opted for an induction instead.
While in some respects, this was a scarier option (risk of hemorrhaging and an emergency c-section), I still wanted to try. I wanted to be spared the surgery and recovery, if possible.
The induction started around 1pm on July 19th. I opted to have an epidural pretty early in the process, because I wanted to be awake if I needed an emergency c-section. This meant I was stuck, horizontal, in bed through all of it. I also was apparently pretty sensitive to the epidural, and it caused my normally low blood pressure to drop even further. So I was woozy and weak off and on. It felt awful.
Quite a difference from the unmedicated birth I had with Norah! I had regular contractions through all of it, but was not dilating much. By 7am the following morning I was still only 2cm dilated. They broke my bag of waters shortly thereafter, and I finally managed to doze for a couple of hours after that. This is when my paranoia was hard to manage, because having amniotic fluid leak out of you feels exactly like the scary bleeds I had been having for weeks. I kept needing to be reassured that it was amniotic fluid, and not blood (since I couldn’t see over my belly!).
Sometime before 11am, they checked my progress, and I was fully dialated! They immediately started to get the room prepped, and I continued to be a basket case about bleeding. They kept reassuring me that it was a normal amount of blood for a birth. I pushed for maybe 10 minutes, and Hope was born. She, like her older sister, had the umbilical cord around her neck twice… but once again, the docs simply unwound it, and she was fine. In fact, she screamed and recovered from birth much quicker and better than Norah did. Her first Apgar score was 8, amazingly. She was so teeny tiny, but so strong. She weighed 5 pounds 8 ounces and was 18 3/4 inches long. She nursed within minutes of being born.
She is named after her great-great-grandmother. And her middle name, Victoria, is after her grandfather, Victor.
I am so grateful that everything turned out so perfectly, especially after such a scary pregnancy. And strangely, I am actually really glad that I got to experience both an unmedicated birth, and a full-on medicated birth. They were such incredibly different experiences! While I hated the feeling of the epidural (both the numb legs and the low blood pressure wooziness), being stuck in bed with so many tubes going in and out of me, and just overall the medical nature of it… the positives were that I would say that overall I experienced discomfort, not pain — and because of that, I felt so much more present for this birth. Because I was not lost in the pain, I have a clearer memory of Hope’s arrival and I got to experience the emotions of giving birth. I cried tears of joy when I got to hold her for the first time. With Norah’s birth, I was still in incredible pain and just in shock, I think, when she was born.
Because Hope was so strong, and I think they took pity on me having been in the hospital for four weeks; we were released to go home the next day. Luckily my insurance provides for an in-home visit from the nurse, so that we could go home, but still have Hope checked 48 hours after birth.
Hope received donor breast milk for the first few days of life, until my own milk came in. The reason for this is that they don’t want such small babies to lose too much of their birth weight. She has proven to be a great eater and is growing very well so far.
I am so happy that I have two healthy little girls. And I am ecstatic that I never plan to be pregnant again! =)
I haven’t gotten personal on my blog since I wrote about my unmedicated birth experience when Norah was born, or my panic about the impending end of nursing her… but this month gave me a life experience that I guess I need to write about.
On May 10th, at around 2pm, I was at co-presenting an orientation to about 20 people at work. We had reached a point of question-and-answer, and I stood up to answer a question. When I stood up, I felt three gushes of liquid come out of me and I thought my water had broken. I was 26 weeks pregnant, NOT a good time for my waters to be breaking. I walked straight out of the presentation (luckily, the other presenter was talking and it wasn’t conspicuous that I left) and rushed to the bathroom. Then things got surreal: it was blood. Lots of it.
I tried to clean myself up enough to leave the bathroom to get help. Luckily a coworker was in her office just a few feet from the bathroom. I just told her, “I need an ambulance. I’m bleeding. A lot.” I went back in the bathroom and went between not knowing what to do and just losing it. I threw my soaked underwear in the trash. My coworker came in a minute later to tell me they were on their way. I remember sobbing and telling her, “I don’t want to lose this baby!” It all seemed surreal to me. In that moment, in my mind, there was no room for hope. Whatever was happening to me was bad. It could not end well.
I got my cell phone and called Matt. ”Babe, I’m bleeding heavily and the paramedics are on their way.” I don’t know how, but he barely missed a beat. ”Where are they taking you?” he asked. ”I don’t know, they haven’t gotten here yet!” My coworker brought me a towel to wrap around myself and I just sat on the floor in my office to wait.
As a side note, I am so grateful there are people in the world who want to be paramedics. I don’t know how they do what they do. They must see some really freaky stuff. While I was having the most terrifying moments of my life, they were just going about their job, business as usual. They arrived, asked me questions (How old are you? How many weeks pregnant are you? Is the baby moving now? When was the last time you felt the baby move?…), took my blood pressure, put me on a gurney, and wheeled me through my office building (sooo embarassing), out the front door, and into the ambulance. All while encouraging me to be calm, that was the best thing I could do for my baby in that moment.
During the short ambulance ride, they put an IV in each arm (inside each elbow) and put me on oxygen. The paramedic told the ER folks that the “most exciting” thing that had happened since they picked me up was that my blood pressure had dropped 40 points. I guess that’s why I felt like I was going to pass out in the ambulance.
I spent all of 30 seconds in the ER and they took me directly to the Labor and Delivery floor. I remember asking a man as I was leaving if my husband would be able to find me (I had texted him the hospital name from the ambulance). He asked for Matt’s last name and told me not to worry, they’d send him up.
As another side note, Labor and Delivery nurses are the absolute best! Once I got there, things felt much calmer, less urgent, and I was able to calm down a bit. They weren’t rushing around acting like this was an emergency, so I guess I figured they knew best. Instead they were bringing me warm blankets and saying things like, “Oh, you poor thing, you got blood in your shoes! That must have been scary.” They hooked me up to a baby monitor and that little heartbeat was the absolute best sound I have ever heard.
I don’t know how much time passed, but it was such a relief when the door of my room opened and Matt appeared.
So what had happened? At my ultrasound at 18 weeks (the one where you can find out if it’s a boy or girl), they discovered that I had marginal placenta previa. Basically it means that the placenta is low and is blocking the exit for the baby, so if it doesn’t “resolve,” then you have to have a c-section. When they told me this, they said that I would need to have another ultrasound at 32 weeks to see if the placenta had moved out of the way, and to let them know immediately if I had any bleeding. I don’t recall them telling me that I was at a higher risk for bleeding, nor did they describe what they meant by “bleeding.” Perhaps they don’t want to needlessly scare expectant mothers…
So I had experienced a “bleed” typical of mamas with placenta previa. Luckily, it wasn’t bad enough to put me into preterm labor, or too significant of a hemorrhage to put me or baby in danger. So I was fine, and baby was fine. But basically as long as my placenta remains “low,” I continue to be at a higher risk for bleeding. When they first told me about placenta previa, I thought my biggest fear was a c-section; now I just want baby to keep cooking as long as possible so that she’s healthy. I really don’t care how she arrives anymore.
They kept me in the hospital for 4 days (including Mother’s Day), gave me steroid shots to help baby’s lungs be more ready for the outside world “just in case,” and then I was on bed rest at home for another week. By the time I saw my regular doctor, she gave me the go-ahead to ease back into life… but taking it easy as much as possible, no heavy lifting, etc… So that’s where I am now. In limbo, hoping it won’t happen again, not sure how “easy” I have to take things, and counting down until my next ultrasound (and of course hoping for good news) in late June.
One doctor put it well, when I told her we were having a girl: “Looks like you’ve already got a diva on your hands.”