can you tell i’m in planning and nesting mode? i seriously feel so ready for this little bug to come. 38 weeks on friday! ramona was only four days “late” and i am just doing my best to will this second one out sooner. ha. we all know our little ones have their own perfect timing.
the beauty of a newborn is that, besides them f*cking up your sleep schedule, they are so so easy. they don’t take a lot of equipment save for your boobs, some warm-enough clothes, and fresh diapers. they can’t run away from you. they can’t crawl into trouble. they certainly can’t say “no!” (though there are times when they won’t stop crying and it does feel spiteful). they sleep anywhere and anytime and you can take them along with you to most any place. toddlers? not so much.
so thinking of this –of how much easier and simpler it seemed to be when ramona was a wee one– i started thinking about just what is it i like to have around me to feel prepped for a little one. this, of course, is all based on memory from three years ago. we’ll see how this little bug requires same or different. ironically, i can’t say i’ll be surprised if she throws me for a complete loop.
clockwise top left: || oxo candela night lights. the exact ones we used don’t seem to be available online but these are some good options for night time nursing. instead of turning on my bright bedside lamp, i used the soft glow of these to position ramona and also get some reading done while she nursed. || the sopranos complete series. jp and i blazed through mad men when ramona was first born bc there wasn’t much else to do besides sit on the couch and nurse and watch shows. we’re all set now. i know i know: i’ve got a toddler now! i’m banking on the kindness and generosity of my husband and village to take her on dates once in a while so little bug and i can take our sweet time recovering (in front of the boob tube) at home. || indian cotton prefold diapers. we didn’t use these as diapers for ramona. we used them as spit up rags, leaky boob rags, shit-i-spilled-my-much-deserved-margarita-on-the-sleeping-baby rags. they are in handy piles all over the house. || coveted things sketchy arrows blanket. little bug is going to have enough hand-me-downs from ramona. a dear friend gave this to me at my mother blessing and it’ll be baby’s very own special swaddle blanket. ramona’s is the aden + anais peacock blanket. || the snuggle-me co-sleeper. i can’t think of anything better for families that want to bed-share. this is a soft, organic pillow that is situated right in bed with you that snuggles the little one just right and elevates her enough that you won’t fear rolling over her. ramona felt right at home in this thing. || sakura bloom sling. this is a great way to ease into baby wearing and carrying. unlike other wraps and carriers, the sakura bloom can be used with itty-bitties. i love mine and can’t wait to have a new little squish to carry around in it. || bkr water bottle. nursing makes me thirsty! and i also like things that look good. i love my bkr water bottle and i feel safe drinking out of it. i always keep one handy wherever i plunk down to nurse bc i know i’ll be parched as soon as baby starts eating. || my brest friend nursing pillow. i love this guy. it wraps around my body and secures so i don’t have to worry about it moving around. some may find it bulky but i liked how it kept me propped up and gave me more use of my hands. ||
what newborn necessities did you have for your little one? what am i missing?
I have decided to find myself a home in the mountains, somewhere high up where one learns to live peacefully in the cold and silence. It’s said that in such a place certain revelations may be discovered. That what the spirit reaches for may be eventually felt, if not exactly understood. Slowly, no doubt. I’m not talking about a vacation.
Of course at the same time I mean to stay exactly where I am.
Are you following me?
–Mary Oliver in A Thousand Mornings
after a wonderful trip to florida with ramona and my mother (three generations of spunky olson women!) followed by a babymoon getaway to texas hill country with jp, it is time to hunker down, settle in, nest, and prepare myself mentally and emotionally for the arrival of little bug. i’m thankful i got to jet away for a little bit before life plants me firmly at home, where i ought to be. and where i want to continue cultivating as a sanctuary of peace, serenity, intention, and calm.
the diapers and burp rags are washed and folded. i’ve gone through all of ramona’s baby clothes, from 0-12 months, laundered and put them away in a new spot for baby #2. my birth kit is stocked and ready to go. i have been taking my vitamins, watching what i eat, drinking tons of water, constantly sipping on red raspberry leave and nettle tonic, and snuggling ramona whenever she will let me. home feels good and right. we are ready to meet this little girl.
time with ramona is precious. it’s important to me her and i keep connecting as much as we can since things will be changing so soon. i make eye contact with her, dance w her, hold her when she needs, take our sweet old time with tucking into bed and nap time, sing her a million songs, and always say yes to one more book. man, she sure is my little lady.
we accept any good vibes and prayers sent our way as we enter into this next stage of family. love to all of you.
this above photo is from when we finally arrived in denver on our way home from florida. ramona, who has been potty trained for the good part of a year, decided to empty her bladder in her plane seat while i was reading her a book. just like that. soaking her pants and dress on the first of our TWO legs home. and of course i didn’t have any extra clothes bc, well, she never has any accidents. never say never, right? luckily, i had one stray diaper, which was intended for our second leg where i was hoping she would take a snooze (she does wear diapers for bed time). i asked her why she did that. “because i do that,” she said matter-of-factly. i couldn’t have put it more succinctly myself, miss minka. the pilot on our second flight offered her a t-shirt from his suitcase (god bless southwest airlines) which she wore for about 10 seconds. she just loved being able to be mostly naked out and about. silly girl. this is one for the books.
life is going to change dramatically when little bug arrives. i can anticipate and foresee some of these changes but others are going to take jp and i (and ramona!) by storm. before life gets rocked and we’re juggling a toddler and a helpless newborn and patio season opening up at the populist (which makes for an increasingly busy hubby) jp and i set aside a long weekend to spend some time with just the two of us. our intention was to slow down, be a pair free of our daily commitments and distractions, and reconnect with each other. so off to a ranch in hye, texas (that’s hill country, y’all) owned by jp’s aunt and uncle.
we were blessed with great weather, free and spacious accommodations, beautiful sunsets, wonky wi-fi that forced us –even more– to be present with each other, and a golf cart that enabled me to explore the land freely (this belly doesn’t get me too far these days). i understand a baby moon is a luxury that many people can’t find the time or finances for and i do not take it for granted we were able to steal away for these handful of precious days.
jp is the most important person in my life. he is my lover, my rock, my best friend, my confidant, my reason, my chosen one. he is steadfast, kind, humble and pretty much your poster-child of patience. living and learning and loving with him has taught me much about being grounded, listening well, and constructively and respectfully agreeing to disagree. at the risk of sounding cheesy, being his partner has made me a much better person than before i met him. and he also loves and embraces all my quirks and who i am at my core!
i gush about all of this bc, while i LOVE LOVE LOVE being a mother and that will always be a part of who i am, my partnership with my husband is the most important relationship i will cultivate on this earth. we are a team. and i want to continue to work on our marriage and our union so that when ramona and little bug watch us, it will be so evident to them how we are able to love them so well: bc jp and i love each other as best and as selflessly as we humanly can. jp and i working on a strong, healthy, loving, respectful marriage is, perhaps, one of the most essential things we can give to our children (that and the freedom for them to be themselves… but that’s another post). my hope is that a strong marriage will set them up to love themselves and to expect and give good, honest, respectful love from and to their future significant others.
furthermore, if we do things right, ramona and little bug will be leaving the nest around the time they turn 18. and i shudder to think that jp and i will have not made the effort and taken the time to grow our love and connection with each other and, instead, feel like strangers bc we don’t know what the hell to do w the other now that we don’t have such an active role as parents.
parenthood, especially the early years, is hard. when ramona was first born i had awful thoughts about jp and our marriage. some of these were fueled by crazy hormonal changes going on in my body, and others were caused by the great shift that had happened in our family. in the beginning, with all this newness, we didn’t always adjust as well or as quickly as our emotions needed. and there are, of course, still days every so often where we completely miss each other. and having young (basically helpless) children compounds this. and it can be lonely and frustrating. but, i will tell you this: it is a season. and it too shall pass. especially if both you and your partner are on board w working your darndest to communicate honestly and respect the other (even if biting, nasty words get hissed in the heat of the moment) and are open to being humble and asking for forgiveness and giving it freely.
this post didn’t quite go the direction i had originally planned: but marriage is hard and i think struggles like how babies can totally knock your marriage on its head need to be talked about more openly so that others don’t feel they’re all alone. that, and how important it is to set aside the craziness of life and find time to connect with your lover. the payoff, when the chicks have flown the coop and it’s the two of you old birds wondering what to do with your empty nest, will be well worth it.
thought you’d be getting more of texas hill country? below is my list of suggested things to do (besides soaking up the open space, wide skies, and drinking on the porch) if you find yourself one hour west of austin, texas, in what people are calling the napa of texas (i know, 30 weeks pregnant is prime time to go wine tasting. ha!)
I’ve written many letters to you about you, and being your mother, and how much I love you, and how you’ve been growing and learning. I love writing these letters and reflecting on where we’ve gotten and who you’ve become since our [...]
I’ve written many letters to you about you, and being your mother, and how much I love you, and how you’ve been growing and learning. I love writing these letters and reflecting on where we’ve gotten and who you’ve become since our family grew to three.
For a long time I will continue to be –as simple and complex as it can be– your mother. You will know me as “mama” and you will assume, rightly so, that my job is to be there for you, to feed you, to clothe you, to kiss your owies, to read countless books to you, to drag you around on errands, and to tuck you in at night. Being the person most familiar to you, who has just always been there, you will, understandably, take me for granted. I am your most constant — always have and will be for many more years (at least 16 more if all goes as planned).
My Minka Moo, I accept this position and relationship fiercely, passionately, and enthusiastically. I am yours as much as you are mine.
But the day will come when you will realize I am more than just your mother. And if/when you realize this in your pre-teen or teen years, you will most likely think of me as an alien. You will wonder why I laugh so loud or why I eat chips by the fistful or why I say silly things that are best left for inside my head or why I insist on asking your friends a million questions or why I’m pretty darn particular about how the house is kept or why I get grumpy and take it out on you and Papa for what seems like no reason at all.
What you won’t realize, in your growing independence, is that these traits/quirks/obsessions of mine aren’t new to me. They’re just new to you. I’ve always been this way. You’re just slowly realizing I’m not the perfect caregiver and playmate you always thought me to be. This will be hard on both of us. And when you do come to understand this, there are some things you should know to hopefully understand me better…
–I do best w some quiet time for myself each and every day. Perhaps it’s because I’m an introvert –but no matter what it is, if I don’t find for myself enough time to steal away and do my own thing (read a book, blog, clean the living room, nap, watch trashy reality shows, journal, do my nails, whathaveyou) I get a bit grumpy. And sometimes a little rude. And I’m not proud of it all and I’m working on that. But it’s hard when I know that all I need is alone time and I cannot get it. So please don’t ever stop napping.
–I am learning how to be a better listener but I’ve still got a ways to go. Your Papa is teaching me some really important things on how to put other people first. A big way I can work on this is by listening to other people and without judgment. This goes along with my stubbornness: I assume I’m always right thus it’s hard for me to be a gracious listener when I disagree. This gets me into trouble. Which makes me grumpy. Which makes me need alone time. It’s a vicious cycle. Like I said, I’m working on it. You and I will undoubtedly butt heads over this. I’m sorry. I love you.
–I can’t cook. I was never taught, never thought about learning, and your father enables me. Now, I am working really hard to want to learn for you but it’ll never be the best thing you ate. And if it is, bless you. Needless to say, if your Papa continues to work evenings, we’ll have many dates over take-out and at restaurants. And I’m kinda excited about all those dates with you.
–I laugh really loud. By now you’ve probably figured that one out. I’ve been doing it since I was a baby (ask Pops, he’s got home video to prove it). It’s not ever going to change and if it ever bothers you or embarrasses you this is just something you’re going to have to deal with.
–I react quickly and emotionally to situations I am in. Often this is a very good thing: I have street smarts, I am very good at getting the feel for a situation — knowing when it’s best to stay or flee. I have a pretty darn good judge of character and I do judge people fairly quickly. Most of the time it serves me well. However, I’m human, I’m flawed, I make mistakes. I have probably missed out on meeting some lovely people because they rubbed me the wrong way and/or I misread their vibe the first time around. I will try and be gentle with the friends and dates you bring home even if I’m not too fond of them. If something bad happens, I usually jump to the worst conclusions (doctor’s calls, if Papa doesn’t answer his phone, when I hear sirens in the distance and you and Papa aren’t home). You may want to break bad news to your father first. His response is usually a little more measured. I tend to freak out. Again, I’m working on it.
I tell you these things so that perhaps, one day, when you’re frustrated that I’m not always on point or that I don’t seem to know you the way you assumed I always would, when you realize that I’m human –that I have my own personal struggles, personality quirks, character flaws– you’ll have some grace. And remember that I still love you fiercely, passionately, and forever. I am, enthusiastically, your biggest fan.
I love you.
this week’s contributor is april from our ship on the sea, a husband & wife writing/photography/videoography/event planning power team (and that’s just what they do for fun!). april approached me, curious if i’d be interested in a post about her experience with the unexpected things that happen after babies are born — the stuff they don’t necessarily tell you about and the stuff new parents often find themselves unprepared for; the stuff we often don’t talk about with everyone who asks us how wonderful, albeit tiring, our life with new baby must be. yes! i said. of course! mamas need to hear about other mamas’ struggles: it helps us feel less alone and can sometimes put our own struggles in perspective. it also can open up relationships to work through issues together and find support. read on!
Even before she was born, Annie was unpredictable. At 38 weeks my doctor told us that she would be arriving within days (!!!) and to get everything in order. Jeremy and I rushed home, finished the last of the nursery preparation, I went on maternity leave, and my parents arrived flew in. Two long weeks later… the day my parents had to leave to go back to Nashville, I went into labor at the Denver Biscuit Company. (You better believe I stayed and ate the entire cinnamon roll). The doctor predicted a 9 to 10 pound baby. Annie was born at a sweet little 6 lbs 13 oz.
We prepared well to bring our baby home, but we weren’t prepared for a few things that followed once we got there:
We weren’t prepared for breastfeeding not to work out for me. I mean- I took classes! And watched DVDs! And had THREE books! That preparation and multiple lactation consultants couldn’t help the range of issues I experienced. I just finished nearly 7 exhausting months of pumping. I didn’t even get the chance to make anyone uncomfortable from breastfeeding in public. : )
We weren’t prepared for our baby to have severe colic. When she started crying for hours every night at three weeks old we assumed it was gas or just typical evening fussiness. By the third day we realized we were in for weeks of what we called “Scream Fest 2012″. Annie would start crying at 5 pm and end around 11. We did everything imaginable to make it stop. One exhausting Friday night we put Annie in the car around midnight to get her to stop crying. It worked! But then we were too afraid to stop driving. We drove around our downtown neighborhood until 2 am looking at all the couples out on dates, laughing and holding hands, probably all a little sauced. I wanted to scream “OH YOU JUST WAIT.”
After the colic stopped, we weren’t prepared for the chronic congestion to begin. It’s common for young babies to be congested, but when it didn’t stop, we knew something bigger had to be going on. We took Annie to the pediatrician more times than I can count, Urgent Care twice, and the ER on multiple occasions when her breathing was so labored that she refused to eat or sleep. No one seemed to find anything wrong, but as her parents, we knew there was an issue. It was heartbreaking and we felt defeated. Finally, an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor confirmed what I already assumed- her adenoids we’re blocking her airway so severely that she struggled to breathe and eat, thus making quality sleep a joke… a super NOT funny joke. In six months time Annie had only slept for more than three hours ONCE. Thankfully, the end of the sleeping/eating issues is in sight – Annie is having her adenoids removed next month and we expect her issues to almost fully resolve. YAY!
Either most new parents really do have few issues, or those who do simply don’t talk about it. Well, I really wanted, maybe even needed, to talk about it. I thank Emily for giving me the space to do so, and I hope that someone out there finds this helpful. I want to share some of our own lessons learned, thoughts, and internet love with those who might be struggling:
Ask for help. Since Annie’s birth, Jeremy and I have had three dates. One given to us by friends for three hours, a quick dinner date, and a movie. I take responsibility for this because I didn’t feel comfortable burdening anyone. Looking back- what a ridiculous thought. So many people who love us were willing to help, and we could have used the time alone together. So- ask for help! If your friends offer, take them up on it – that very week! If your family lives out if town- show weakness! Say- “Um yeah… we’re LOSING IT OVER HERE, please come help. Thanks!” Most likely those new grandparents will be thrilled you asked and will get on that plane if they are able to.
Talk about it. Your honesty allows others to be free in sharing their own hardships. My greatest comfort in low moments has been finding those who will simply say “I know. It sucks. It will get better.”
Learn to let go and do what you need to do to get through it. Don’t beat yourself up over getting delivery because you’re just too exhausted to even think about turning on the stove. The same with the housework – nothing matters more than your well-being, especially not mopping. I wish we would’ve been more open to letting go of some things that weren’t working. Was giving Annie breastfeeding ideal? Yes. But should I have considered giving it up at the extreme point of exhaustion while Annie was sick and not eating any way? Yes- I should have been open to formula.
Give yourself the ultimate gift: Stop comparing yourself to others. When those well meaning friends with dream babies who sleep through the night at 3 weeks old (I hear these mystical babies exist?) start to offer advice about your difficult baby- it’s ok to stop them mid-sentence and say “We’ve actually tried it all.” and get off the phone. I’m not suggesting being rude, but if you have to hear another unhelpful suggestion again you might lose it even more severely. (So hey dream baby parents- it really is awesome that you’re having an ideal experience. Really- no sarcasm! It’s awesome! But your friends aren’t and they are struggling. So consider *not* offering advice. Instead say “What can we do to help?” Better yet- don’t even ask- just do it. Bring a meal over or take their baby for a walk and let your friends have an hour alone.)
With all this said, we didn’t expect that we’d be so happy to spend our weekends laying on the floor with Annie, singing songs and reading books. The delight in her laughs, the feel of her little hands rubbing over my cheeks and my husband’s beard – the best! Tonight we all sat together on the floor with baby sized instruments and had a mini-family band for a few precious minutes. I never expected to pray for time to stand still, even for just small moments like these.
P.S. I hesitated writing this post because I didn’t want to sound ungrateful. We recognize how fortunate we are. We have a happy baby girl, and her health issues can be fixed. We are lucky- we know this. However, when you’re in the muck, it all becomes relative. To those who might be struggling – I’m wrapping my arms around you in a huge internet hug. It gets better- I’ll swear on it.
thank you so so much, april. your honesty is brave and important. and i have no doubt this will have been something someone needed to read. parenthood is not easy. but its trials, as much as its blessings, need to be talked about amongst other parents and community members so that we can learn from and support those going through what all parents have gone through. (and how beautiful is that family?!)
if you are interested in contributing to A Denver Home Companion, please submit original writing (or ideas!) to emily [at] adenverhomecompanion [dot] com. though i may not be able to publish everything, i certainly consider all of them.