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Saturday, May 13, 2017

My Daughter is Half A Year Old...whaaaaat?!

No, I didn't throw a half birthday party for my Sugar Plum Princess, but she did wear a dress and a headband for perhaps the second time in her life. Solid effort, Mom! She doesn't seem to mind headbands, so I might start throwing them around that noggin more often so people stop calling her "handsome". haha! She is a handsome little broad though.
Does this count as a smile, Mom?

I'm not going to say we've "hit our groove" because I don't know if that ever happens with your first child. Right when I think she has a predictable routine, she goes through some mental leap that wreaks havoc on our controlled regimen. So the routine is, I'll feed you, play with you, look for signs of fatigue, put you down and pray that you sleep for longer than an 30 minutes. She typically has a good reason for refusing to nap.  This morning, she left me exasperated after refusing to nap for, I don't know, five hours...thereabout.

I plopped her in her jumperoo after admitting my defeat. After a few minutes of jarring bounces, she settled into a comfortable squat. The grunting started and in a few short minutes she was quite literally in deep doo-doo.

Matt followed me into the nursery. We knew we had to tag team this diaper change. I was impressed by her poop's upward trajectory. As I lifted her legs, she doused the front of her onesie in pee. Matt said he thought we were going to have to "cut her out of the onesie". haha. No jaws of life were required, but an emergency bath commenced and we have a sweet smelling six-month-old fast asleep in the crib now. I hosed down her onesie, but I'm not confident that it will be appropriate for another wear.

Sorry that I'm so preoccupied with poop. It seems like Skylar's moods revolve around her BMs these days though, so they all seem like very important episodes. Today's was just a lovely Mother's Day gift.
Sums up motherhood for me. Skylar is a headband repeater. --Fashion police reports. 

OK, let's see if I can remember any of the fun stuff Skylar started doing in her sixth month of life:

Sitting! She still has the most fragile ballerina arms, so she's hesitant to use them as props, but the girl can sit. Her trunk is strong and I'm confident she'll sprout a pair of guns soon.

Two teeth! They erupted in the same 48 hours and everyone was in pain.

Eating food! I was so relieved when I offered her a spoonful of oatmeal and she leaned in for it like a pro. Back in the horrible post-tongue-tie-revision days, her dentist was concerned about her hypersensitive gag reflex. Since her tongue never touched her palate (early on), she gagged whenever anything hit the roof of her mouth. I thought this would lead to eating problems but I've yet to see her really gag on anything! Such a relief. And I know "food before one is just for fun" but gosh, my boobs are relieved to have some caloric backup.

Skylar's likes thus far: oatmeal, avocado, carrots, peas, spinach, sweet potato, hummus. Dislike: asparagus

Ditched the Merlin Magic Sleep Suit. This marshmallow suit was a wonderful transition tool to get her to sleep comfortably in the crib, but you're supposed to get the little babes out of them before they start rolling. Plus, I think the puffy sleeves were preventing Sky from self-soothing in some cases. She now wears a sleep sack, which is the only hope she would have of keeping a blanket on her busy legs.
"Hey, where's my marshmallow suit?!"

*Oh, about rolling over....yeah, Sky did that when she was three months old then stopped. Cold turkey. At our six-month check up, the pediatrician said we should start physical therapy if she's not rolling in two weeks...cue the mom guilt! I'm not too concerned. I know she has the ability deep down in there, she just has a case of muscle memory amnesia.

New octave. Skylar has been singing for a while's precious. But there's singing and then there's hitting a note so high that it can be confused with the shrillest of cries. Sky has been experimenting with this lately. I hope it's just an experiment and she doesn't decide to sing in this tune during our 8-hour flight to Holland this summer.

Bath time is the greatist. But it wasn't always! Sky has found a love for bath water. She kicks and squawks and laughs her way through baths. We used to bathe her 2x week and dread it. Now, I look forward to her nightly baths. No matter how cranky she is, I can plop her in and she'll have a ball.

Mom Milestone?

I cried during her shots. I haven't been fazed at the other appointments, but as I stood there cradling her arms, three inches from her screaming face, my heart hurt. I know moms are supposed to empathize when their babies hurt but before, I've easily written shots off as completely necessary pain for Sky girl. This time, she was to get four shots and I wanted to shout "Stop!" halfway through. Four shots seems like a lot for my 16-pound chiquita. She was upset for two minutes. I nursed her after shots and cried for the next five minutes. She was probably like, "Mom, what is your deal?! I'm fine."

This will be my first Mother's Day as a mom and I still cannot believe I'm in the Mom Club. I'll never forget the first time I said, "my daughter".  I was at CVS, picking up a Vitamin D supplement for Skylar.  The pharmacist said, "Are you Skylar?" and I said, "No, she's my...daughter!"  It was so fun to say.  Then I realized I left my wallet at home.  I drove back laughing at my mom-brain and smiling about having a "daughter".  Such a gift.

Three giraffes chilling at the zoo.

Celebrating My Tough Mother

My mom underwent a routine hysterectomy on October 18, 2016. As far as I knew, it went well. Skylar's due date was November 25, but I knew that was way off, so I told my folks to plan on driving westward around November 20. But Sky came into the world like a freight train on Wednesday, November 9. My parents said, "No problem! We'll be there Saturday." They had just been visiting my brother and his family in Houston. I was impressed with my dad's driving stamina-- it's a 12-hour drive from San Antonio to Tucson. 

They arrived and shared in the joy of their daughter's newborn baby, their TENTH grandchild! 

They spent 24 hours enveloping our baby in love before breaking some serious news. My mom has been living with Parkinson's Disease for at least four years now (that's not the news). Her medications work wonders, but she still deals with sudden-onset fatigue. As she was taking a nap, my dad opened a conversation with a weighty tone. Always a master of communication, he made sure to preface the big news with "this has a happy ending". 

Scans following my mom's hysterectomy revealed cancer. Cancer. That's all my dad had to say for my postpartum flood gates to open. I'm not sure when exactly they received this news, but it came as a complete shock. They had told my brothers and their families, but out of respect for my upcoming delivery, kept the news from me. I'm glad they did. The news may have sent me into early labor. My dad then said they planned on doing exploratory surgery on my mom the next week, hence why they were only staying in town for a few days. Oh, the happy ending my dad had warmed us up with-- they received a call from MD Anderson Cancer Center on their drive to Tucson, reporting they actually saw no cancer on the images they had on file. It looked as though it had been isolated to my mom's reproductive organs, which were, of course, removed in the hysterectomy. So they both were in joyful spirits, though I still was processing the word "cancer".

I had never heard of such an easy bout with cancer-- "Oh, you had cancer, but it was removed in that surgery you had scheduled before you knew you had cancer." But we can agree that it was pretty miraculous timing for my mom to have this procedure done. No hysterectomy would have meant no cancer discovery. My parents were thinking "praise God!" from the get-go.

I eagerly awaited updates from my dad the following week during Mom's exploratory surgery. We were praying fervently that nothing would be found. For some reason, I was confident that nothing would be found. So when my dad called me from the waiting room after a lengthy surgery -- three hours longer than planned -- I was devastated by the news. They found more cancer in Mom's abdomen. They did "debulking" to remove as much of the diseased tissue as possible. 

My dad was so strong on the other end of the line. "The doctors feel confident that they removed it all," he assured me as I cried. I felt guilty every time my dad heard me cry. If there was anyone with the right to grieve this news, it was him. But I heard no mourning. Just immediate hoping and praying. 

Mom was going to need to undergo chemotherapy. Even if the surgery had found her abdomen free of cancer, doctors had recommended chemo. Her treatments would start two days before Christmas. 

My parents were in the middle of renovating a new house when they first heard the 'c' word. They rushed to finish renovations. The home turned out beautifully. My parents moved in the week before chemo was to begin. 

Gorgeous new home! Pre-flood. I love Joanna Gaines, but she has
nothing on mi madre.
Post-flood cleanup.

Then a washing machine drain clog flooded half of their perfectly-outfitted new home. They slept on couches at their old house for a night, then bunked at my brother's families' house for a night. My mom was discouraged. She is the most stoic woman I know, but this was getting to her. She couldn't catch a break. After the floors were redone, and stuff was moved in (again) they were able to settle in and prep for chemo No. 1. 

The first round of chemo came on Friday, December 23. She felt great the day after, then a three-day migraine kicked in...on Christmas Day. 

I FaceTimed my parents on December 28. I'd never seen my mom look so tired and despondent. The migraine had kept her from sleeping. She was crawling out of the depths of a personal hell, as she put it. During the day, a construction crew was making a ruckus as they finished building the garage. As you might imagine, these construction noises were like hammers to Mom's temples. My dad had dropped a bunch of weight, from stress. 

But then, the migraine subsided. Mom felt better. She and her doctors plotted out ways to combat future migraines. Their strategic planning worked. No one floats through chemo, but my mom marched through the next five rounds fearlessly, with complete faith that something good would come out of all this. 

Mom recently told me, "I thought it was kind of neat that chemo started at Christmastime and ended at Easter." Hah! Really neat, Mom. But I'm sure she was thinking of the greatest sufferer of all, as she hurdled her way through her temporal discomforts. 

She hated losing her hair because when she looked in the mirror, she saw a sick person. She's always been the type to prefer to ignore/forget any illness or pain. But this was obvious. Everyone would know. She wore hats all the time, even to bed. It's hard for any woman to imagine not having a crop of hair on your head-- not just for aesthetic reasons, just for basic physical comfort. Eventually she made light of it, joking that she and Skylar had comparable amounts of hairs on their heads. 

We themed each round of her chemo (thank you, Kayla Redig, for the brilliant idea!). More and more people got in on the themes and posted photos during the weeks of her treatments. Mom reacted and responded to each and every person's contributions in the "Barbie Chandler's Themo to Laugh Through Chemo" Facebook group. She updated all of her loved ones the day after a chemo: 

"Chemo #5 (of 6) DONE!!! No problems thanks once again to you faithful prayer warriors AND awkward photo sharers. Tom & I had to try to tame our loud laughter in the treatment room, but we both had tears running down our cheeks, we were laughing so hard!" 

No thought or prayer or comedic contribution to Themo went unappreciated. The themes made us all feel like we could help, in a small way. I read this book years ago about the importance of hope in the face of illness. It leaves you with little doubt-- hope in the face of a sobering diagnosis matters. And my mom had hope and unshakeable faith throughout her months of draining chemotherapy. 

Themo #1 was "It's A Wonderful Life". Above is my brother, Ben, and his lovely bride, Katie, with their niblets, doing the best reenactment ever of the original IAWL poster.

In late February, my dad's vision in one eye was clouded. He had a hole in his retina. It was repairable, but he had to spend a lot of time facedown to keep the blood flowing to the revised eye. He shook it off; told very few people about it. He's probably upset that I'm even writing about it! The biggest bummer for him was that he couldn't play nurse to my mom as well as he had been the previous four months. It seemed to me like they were receiving an unfair serving of trials in a short span of time. 

Mom had her final round of chemo on April 10. We would find out if any cancer had made it past the toxic drugs on May 1. Mom and Dad went ahead and scheduled visits to see all of their grandkids in May and go to their cabin in Door County, Wisconsin. 

I don't know if it was the report of more cancer in the exploratory surgery back in November that got me down or just the nature of the monster that is cancer. I was nervous about May 1. My parents continued to be examples of fortified faith. They prayed that cancer would be gone, gone, gone, but they remained firm believers in Romans 8:28-- "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  

Matt got the text before I did on May 1. "Ohhhhhh, awesome!!!!!" he said from the couch. "Did you get the text?" "No!" I said eagerly staring, waiting for my phone to light up. "CANCER GONE!" he read aloud. I started crying and hugged my man tightly. I feel like I fully exhaled for the first time in months. In her cheery tone, my mama announced the news to those who had been prayerfully supporting her through this journey via Facebook: 

These looks really say it all! I love how my dad is so lovingly embracing his precious bride. 
I forced Skylar to dance with me in celebration for quite a while. Matt was at practice, otherwise he'd have been in on the hootenanny. 

I don't know why cancer exists, and I don't know why my mom has had to battle both Parkinson's and ovarian cancer. I do know that a lot of people bore witness to my mom's stalwart faith during this valley in life. I do know that she has an eternal hope in Christ that made this bump tolerable for her. Same goes for my dad. 

My mom is a wonderful person-- a lot of people think so. But nothing exempts you from getting a horrible disease/diseases. I believe in God. I believe he hears our prayers. I don't believe he burdens us with suffering, but I do think he helps us wring the good from it. I know my faith was strengthened as I watched my parents plow through this arduous time, mostly laughing and smiling. It is my hope that many were inspired by their unwavering trust in God's plan throughout this struggle. 

No, their trials are not over forever. Nor are mine or yours. But shoot, there's no cancer in my mama's body! I think I'll be smiling about that news for a long while. Thanks to all who prayed. Thanks to all who will continue to pray. 

I've written rave reviews of my mother before, but there's nothing that reveals her character more than the story of the last six months. It seemed like my mom's greatest hurt came from her worry that she was inflicting stress on those around her.  She wanted to conquer this thing so she could get back to loving her husband, kids, grandkids and friends with pre-cancer gusto. 

I'm so blessed by her example. I hope to be half the mom to Skylar that my mom has been to me. But even if I'm 10 percent Barb Chandler, that's pretty good. She's a tough act to follow. In motherhood, in life. So happy to have the bar set so high. Happy Mother's Day, to one tough mother. 

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." 
Hebrews 11:1

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

5 Months! And It Keeps Getting Better

I'm not positive, but I'm 99 percent sure we're in a really magical stage of Skylar's beautiful life. She "talks" a lot, sings herself awake in the mornings, sleeps through the night (well, it's happened twice), is generous with her contagious smiles, and is showing no signs of wanting to be mobile (totally fine by me).

She drinks in the world around her (often instead of drinking in milk!) and is making us appreciate our surroundings more. I wish I could bottle up our evening walks-- to avoid any overtired crankiness before bedtime, we walk around the 'hood. The weather has been heavenly. Skylar looks up at me and gives me smiles. She's also learned that her voice does a neat thing as we walk on Tucson's bumpity roads. I'm probably a hazard to all as I walk because I stare at Skylar mostly, often zig-zagging my way down the road. Beware of the reckless evening mom walker.

After four months of paranoia, something clicked at the beginning of March. Maybe it was the pediatrician reassuring me that Skylar was growing as she should, the lactation consultant explaining the up and down nature of a breastfed-baby's growth curve or my comforting trip to visit my folks in Texas. My mom looked at Skylar and in a somehow-not-condescending tone said, "How can you think there's anything wrong with her? She's thriving!" Perhaps there's a little milk magic in San Antone, because Skylar looked a little pudgy after this second trip home as well!
Happy place!

Morning chats with Mimi!

As soon as I gave myself permission to think, "I'm making the perfect amount of milk for Skylar. She's not fat and that's OK," the storm of new motherhood insecurities subsided. I stopped pumping for two weeks and it was good for my brain. Sometimes putting a number on things is unnecessary. All lactation consultants say it-- "What you pump is not indicative of what baby extracts." Easy to say, but not easy to believe. I was staring at the bottles as I pumped, which is like standing above your stove, waiting for water to come to a boil...

Our generation is blessed and cursed by the abundance of information spoon-fed to us by a simple Google search. Just as you can freak yourself out by seeing your symptoms align with some deadly illness on WebMD, you can spook yourself into thinking something is seriously wrong with your baby. With so much information, there's bound to be misinformation and opinions written as fact.

I believe the Four-Month Mom Calm that kicked in was also do to my lack of research. I stopped reading about everything and gleaning information from the far corners of the internet. Babies have lived for millenia without first-time parents knowing much of anything about child-rearing. They used the people around them for advice (I assume), but I'm sure they didn't stress nearly as much as we Millennials do. There was no Dr. Spock in Ancient Rome. And with less stress, they probably produced more milk and their babies didn't feel the contagious tension when held in mama's arms. Just Annie's theories. Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely pleased to be raising a baby with modern medicine and knowledgable doctors...point is, civilization marched on, without Google.

I didn't stop reading everything, I simply stopped reading about everything. One book I recently Amazoned is "Raising A Healthy Happy Eater" by Fernando & Potock. I'm only in the introduction, but I already love the tone of the book. It's sciencey, without being incomprehensible. A resource for parents and doctors alike. Skylar will be starting solid food in the next couple months and I have no idea what I'm doing, so I'm relying on these feeding experts to guide me. The authors bring up the huge amount of energy devoted to proprioception (our ability to know where we are in space/where our limbs/fingers/toes are going) when baby is learning to eat. And balance. Imagine sitting on a bar stool, with your elbows off the table and your feet off of the foot rest and trying to eat. It would take a lot of core strength to successfully grab a bite of food...then there's the whole issue of proprioception/actually getting the food in your mouth. That's the example the authors give to help us empathize with our babies.

So interesting to think I was once that helpless...I can't imagine how frustrated little chunker me would have been, attempting to grab and place food in my mouth without finely-tuned motor skills...the thought frustrates me now as I precisely place a spoonful of peanut butter on my tongue. ;)

5-Month-Old Skylar Milestones

- She reaches for toys and grabs them/shakes them.

- She grabs her feet and resumes "happy baby" pose.

- She is teething. Gnawing on her pacifier more often than sucking on it. Drooling up a storm. I see some lumpy gums in that sweet mouth!

Plastic waffles....yum yum yum. 

- She SLEPT NINE night. haha. I'm not forcing sleeping through the night because she's SO distracted during her daytime feeds. So I think she still needs some nighttime milky sometimes (which is no big, because I usually sleep while she eats).

*Never in my wildest pre-Skylar dreams would I have thought that 4 a.m. feeds were "no big". Sure, it will be cool when they don't exist, but they really aren't much of an intrusion into my night's sleep.

Honestly, I didn't love motherhood for the first 8 weeks. It was hard, hard, hard. But I have complete amnesia about much of that chapter and am so in love with this little girl. My dad said, "You guys need to have another baby, so Skylar doesn't think the world revolves around her." #Truth #ButNotForAWhile
Someday, maybe you'll have Daddy's gorgeous tan, baby.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Sky Life

Holy mackerel, less than a month has passed since I last wrote! Things must be getting better over here. Not that they were ever rotten, but I'm finally out of the newborn haze.

But really, how do people do this with a toddler or two or three toddlers? How do you breastfeed and simultaneously make sure your other kids don't accidentally do something suicidal? I'll cross that bridge when I come to it, or I'll wait until Skylar is an independent 8-year-old before having another. ;)

I think back to my pre-Skylar mind and remember thinking everything was going to be "routine" and "normal" by our scheduled trip to San Antonio in February. I know a lot of people want to be their pre-baby selves at times during mom-hood, but man, I kind of think my pre-baby self was a self-righteous idiot. I'm not sure if there was any sort of routine worked out by the time we flew to SA last month! But events are becoming slightly more predictable in these unchartered waters...

A few reportables from Skylar's fourth month of life:

- Skylar laughed! It was brief but it was a telltale sign of a belly laugh in our near future. She's ticklish, but is not nearly as amused as I am with the "tickle monster". She reacts the first time, then looks at me like, "Mom, you're killing a bad way" for the next five minutes.

- Neck control. I never thought I'd be so pumped about my baby's strong neck, but it makes her so much more fun. She can go on airplane rides on my legs, sit in the eye-sore that is the Fisher Price Jumperoo (it's OK that it's not aesthetically pleasing since it can basically babysit my child), and actually see things other than her blanket during tummy time.
You can't see the full breadth of its vibrant ugliness in this photo--- but baby toys weren't meant to beautify your house, just pacify your life. 

- Getting her first cold. And it sucked harder than the booger sucker I used to help clear her congestion (and that sucked hard). She went from 3 nights in the crib with a 6-hour stretch to hourly coughing fits at my bedside in the Rock n Play. A sad regression, but the most terrifying part is watching your baby struggle to breathe. :( No one so new should have to experience phlegm. It took two weeks to clear, but she's now snot-free. Hallelujah!

Matt might kill me for posting this, but it was too Norman Rockwell-esque to not share!

- SLEEP. Beautiful sleep. She's been in the crib for a week and every night gets better. We've used the Baby Sleep Solution book (shoutout to Brandy and Phil Maben for the wondrous recommendation) to teach her how to self-soothe and it's been magic. We went from two nights of TONS of crying- interspersed with lots of mom and dad soothing crib-side - to nights of Skylar finding her hand to suck on instantly and falling asleep within five minutes. Voodoo, I know. We haven't followed the book's strict schedule by day because I feel like I need to feed Skylar more than every four hours to keep my supply up. That said, we do follow a sleep-feed-play schedule throughout the day. She takes 3-4 naps and is a MUCH happier girl because of the extra zzzs. Oh, and her mom is a much happier girl too.

- Merlin's Magic Sleep Suit. I'm really not sure which was more impactful, this marshmallow suit or the BSS book...I'm just going to say they've been a dreamy (pun-intended) combination. The sleep suit was designed to muffle young babies' Morrow (or startle) reflex, which often jolts them awake. It also lets them feel cozy, like they're still in a loving embrace (but they've actually been abandoned in a baby cage by the big human cradles they're used to...kidding, but cribs really are roofless cages, right?). Looking at Skylar, in her stay-puffed suit, in the monitor, never ceases to make me laugh out loud.

See? It's ridiculous. But magical.
Don't judge me for the make-shift nest below her. Not pediatrician-approved, I know. 


- Breastfeeding. Skylar's tongue tie has got me paranoid for life in this realm, I'm afraid. She wasn't gaining well in the beginning and was always hungry. I worked really hard to recover my milk supply and am still always nervous about it. She's still not a fat baby, so the concern that's heard around mom world "is she getting enough?!" is always resounding in my head. It's just weird to me that she's not chubby. MG and I both had way more thigh folds as babies.

And pumping is a whole other un-fun side of breastfeeding that nobody tells you about. I'm udderly (get it...) impressed by moms who exclusively pump. It's quite possibly one of my top three least favorite activities in life. I do it daily to keep my milk supply in check, but geez, I don't enjoy any sucky minute of it (last pun, I swear).

Synopsis: the responsibility of sustaining a life with a product of your own body is stressful. I totally understand why people switch to formula shame in it. I know plenty of hearty, healthy formula-fed babies. There are other struggles, but BFing is the highest on my list.

Ultimately, life with a baby is awesome. I stare at Skylar for irrational amounts of time and love attempting to see the world through her eyes-- seeing trees for the first time on our walks and trying to figure out what these enormous furry creatures are hovering around her. There are plenty of times I just want to go take an hour-long shower, but there's also every morning -- she smiles when she sees me for the first time and I have complete amnesia about whatever sleep loss she contributed to overnight. I just think "oh my gosh, it's been 12 hours since I last saw you in daylight! You're more beautiful than I remembered!".

Dear God, thank you for this incredible ability to make a baby and raise a baby! I'm loving the daily adventure.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Skylar Takes to the Skies, 3 Month Update

Amazing how slowly days seem to go with a new baby, yet how quickly they go when looking at my blog. I guess this blogging biz will remain just a monthly outlet until my Skylar becomes more predictable. There's only so much I can spit out during her 10-minute to 3-hour-long naps. :)

What was reportable about month three? Well, after the tongue tie fiasco (which isn't as rare as I had thought! Sky's dentist said 40 percent of babies have some degree of tongue tie), things got scary again. I thought her tie was reattaching, but I guess it was just scar tissue that needed loosening. Paranoid New Mom started to settle down as Skylar's weight steadily climbed.

Life is really an ebb and flow of paranoia and contentment. "Oh, she's smiling so much today-- such a happy, healthy girl!" or "Shoot, she's fussy after feeding...she's starving, her tongue is pinned again, we have the most difficult child in the universe!"

I have dreams about Skylar not gaining any weight. In one such dream, I was surrounded by my friends with babies. All of their babies were chunky and laughing and peaceful. They were all able to sit, independently, in adult chairs. I looked over at sweet 6-lb., fussy Skylar in a carseat and started crying. No, Skylar is NOT 6 lbs. in real life. She's climbed passed 13 lbs! She's far from a chunk, but she's (hands down) the most active baby I've ever beheld. I'm convinced she could pump her legs for 20 hours of each day. Every day is Leg Day for my bulging-quaded viking girl.

Skylar and I embarked on our incredible journey to San Antonio on Sunday, January 29. Matt was in South Dakota for a clinic, so I was on my own with Sky. I packed for a ridiculous amount of time, fearful I'd forget something integral to Skylar's survival. Really, I'm the only being integral for Sky's survival at this point (no pressure, breastfeeding moms!). I guess diapers are sort of important, but those are just a formality. ;) Don't worry, I didn't travel with a bare-butted baby. After loading up my Jeep and feeding my gal, we were off.

Faking confidence at the PHX airport.

I had the day mapped out in my head as I would a 100 breaststroke at a big meet. This is what I need to pack, this is what I'll do to prepare in the ready room (the airport) and this is how I'll efficiently move through my race (the flights). I was stressed out, but faked confidence...

I took my seat beside a man who immediately said, "I have three kids. You're fine!" He read me like a book. We chatted about his kids and he did a good job ignoring screaming Skylar when she was having trouble locating her fountain of milk beneath a nursing cover.

Timeout: Let's talk about nursing covers. I hate them. I don't want to get dirty looks for "freeing the nipple" but I know my daughter is not a fan of pecking around in darkness. Matt has told me he'd prefer I not be the one to attempt to un-sexualize breasts. :) But I totally understand the nursing mother's advocacy for a society less shocked by breastfeeding. It's how we're designed! I'm nourishing a human being and I'd prefer to not do it blindly. Rant over.

So Skylar screamed for a full 30 seconds of our 5-hour travel day. The guy behind me on the second flight (PHX to SA) got up after we landed and looked at me shocked, "Whoa, I had no idea you had a little one there. Impressive!" I was pretty impressed too! Helps to have two baby pacifiers as part of my anatomy. ;)

The best welcome to Tejas from the Mimster.

Major mom lessons learned this month: 

- A healthy baby does not necessarily mean a fat baby. My lactation consultant reassured me several times, "Annie, she's perfect! She's just growing at her own pace." She doesn't need to be in the 99th percentile in every category to be perfectly healthy.

- Colds suck for adults, but they're way worse when you have one and are empathizing with your helpless baby with a cold. Skylar gave us quite a scare with her 2 a.m. hacking fits. The poor babe is on the mend, but I wish I could use our Nose Frida to suck every bit of her sickness away.

- Nursing in public only sucks (pun intended) when your baby is frantic. Otherwise, nursing Skylar on an airplane was no big spectacle.

- I need someone to teach me how to not engage every neck, back, arm muscle while nursing. I used to swim tense; used way too many muscle groups at once. Now I nurse tense. I guess it's a workout? Static baby hold? And yes, I do laid back nursing when possible...but how about on a plane? And no, I'm not willing to carry a pillow with me.

- My sleep expectations are forever changed. We were a 9 to 10 hour per night household. Now I wear an activity tracking watch that also monitors sleep's better if I just don't check it in the mornings.

- Enduring baby's cries doesn't get easier. It gets harder. Every week, a new layer of Skylar's personality is revealed. Her crying hurts me more as she grows out of her fourth trimester/still-very- much-a-fetus stage. I planned on being that sleep training mom who had no problem with the CIO method...I'm not that mom. When she starts sweating from crying I just want reassure the heck out of her. I'll never leave you, little love!

- Naps are integral. I went to a BF support group where one over-tired new mommy said, "Aren't newborns supposed to sleep during the day? Is it OK that mine doesn't? I'm just...really tired." The LCs present said, "Some babies don't. They're their own people and that's OK." I wanted to whisper in the new mom's ear, "You're going to go nuts if baby never naps..." Skylar refused to nap when she was a starving, tongue-tied girl and I broke down once every few days.

I'll let Skylar fuss a little now before napping. I'm trying to make it so she's not up for more than an hour or two at a time after feedings. But we have to work for her naps. She's not one of those will-doze-when-tired babes. She likes a vigorous bounce and will fight her heavy eyelids constantly to make sure mom and dad are still close-by. If given a choice, she wouldn't nap. And we wouldn't get nearly as many Sky smiles. Everyone has their opinion on this, but I know my girl needs to nap. She doesn't want to, she needs to. And mommy needs her to. I'm a better mom when she naps.

Wow, this has totally turned into a mommy blog. Funny how things evolve. I think I started this while working at Anthropologie-- I was going to try to be a fashion blogger. Now that's funny. You should see my style now-- today I'm sporting fleece-lined socks, men's sweat pants, a nursing tank (which I also wore yesterday) and, of course, no makeup. I did, however, brush my teeth and put deodorant on. I'd post a pic, but I'm sure your imaginations will paint a prettier picture.

Peace out, friends who read my mom blog. xo

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Two Months of Humbling Parenthood

On January 9, Skylar turned two months old. I laid her down on the faux sheepskin rug in the nursery (that room we've yet to use for sleepy time..) to snap that perfect monthly photo. As soon as she parted ways from my chest, her face crinkled up into that devastatingly-cute cry face. The pouty lip slays me and Matt. We try really hard not to laugh at her sweet distress, but it's such a masterpiece of a face. Maybe she'll be an ugly crier in time, but right now she's downright irresistible when that pouty lip springs forth.

Don't worry...I wasn't spanking. Just letting her relieve some gas in a comfortable position.

So...the photo shoot was a mega fail. I should probably post those photos just to show a more realistic photo of what my child is like. :) But nay, I deleted them on the spot. I did eventually catch a radiant smile later in the day. But gosh darn it, there's no forcing my sassy gal to smile. She'll do it when she well pleases. Definitely not on cue for a photo shoot.

Every day with this child is an education. A truly humbling education. I read at least five parenting books -- various ways to structure the day, soothe your child, stimulate them -- and I won't say they were a waste of time, but reading so many just confused me. Now I have a guilt complex about scheduling or on-demand feedings! I can't win!

There are so many conflicting views out there. I told my mom I didn't know how parenting worked before Google, but now I sometimes wish I couldn't Google everything. Every kid is different. Everyone has an opinion of what's best. My sister-in-law said she finally felt like a confident mother when she stopped taking advice. Instincts are a powerful thing. I'm far from figuring out Skylar's language, but I learn something new from her every day.

I hired a lactation consultant when Skylar was six weeks old. Sibylle (the LC) came to the house and watched me nurse. I thought calling an LC was unnecessary, but I'd do it just to get affirmation that all was well.

I did have an inkling that something was up after reading about the magical "milk drunk" state that Skylar never seemed to experience. Moments of wakeful calmness were nonexistent in her first weeks. She was on a fuss-eat-fuss cycle. We would do whatever we could to lull her to sleep and get some peace. Sibylle checked her mouth after I'd nursed Skylar on one side and said, "Wow, your girl is really tongue-tied." I couldn't believe I'd never noticed how pinned the tip of her tongue was to the floor of her mouth. I also couldn't believe no doctors at the hospital or at our pediatric follow-ups had checked for it.

On December 22, Skylar got a laser frenectomy-- a procedure that freed up her tongue. The dentist who did the procedure said her tongue tie, the most severe type, would have led to speech and dental issues. And, had we not discovered it soon, I'm sure my milk supply would have dried up. The tongue is what helps stimulate production and Skylar's tongue was, quite literally, tied down. She was basically nursing with her lips and her gums. Yeah, ouch.

We are on week four of oral stretches to be sure her mouth doesn't heal up. Our mouths heal up rapidly, and we definitely didn't want Skylar's tongue to heal pinned down again. So these stretches are horrible. We wipe our fingers under her tongue and lift to be sure her frenulum (webbing under the tongue) isn't reattaching. As you can imagine, Skylar loathes these stretches. We're tapering off now, but we initially couldn't let six hours pass between stretches. Yeah, so that 3 a.m. stretch kind of sucked! So much for sleeping through night nursing sessions! She was roused to shrieks. But thank heavens, that phase is over. Now she's learning how to use her freed up tongue. She's still in the habit of chomping, rather than sucking, so the nursing game is a challenge. I'm constantly paranoid that she's not getting enough, but I hear that's a common mama syndrome. I am reassured when she takes a meal break to smile or sports a milk drunk face for a few minutes post-feeding.

But being content and calm just isn't my girl's thing. She much prefers to move every limb at once and have constant stimulation. She despises napping and will fight her heavy eyelids all day if we let her. One place she can't resist sleep is on our chests. She loves being worn or held. It's tough to kick her off my chest and put her in the bassinet after some feedings, but I also don't want her to only know how to sleep when nested on another human!

So, perhaps I'm making my child sound like a demon....she's not a demon. But she is a beautiful handful. Oh expectation versus reality.

I thought newborns slept all the time. Not mine!

I thought my child would be sleeping 8+ hours/night by now...if I had followed the feed-wake-sleep schedule I planned to. After discovering baby girl was starving, I started feeding her whenever she wanted and threw schedules to the wind. Her record is a 5-hour chunk of sleep at night. I'm perfectly pleased with two 4-hour naps though.

I thought my baby wouldn't change my life so dramatically. I was going to be the mom who hit the gym right away, got abs back instantly and needed the best jogging stroller because I'd be running with little miss by week two. Hah! What a joke! I'm actually mad at my pre-baby self for thinking motherhood was so easy. I'm sorry, mothers of the world, for assuming I could master life's most demanding gig in two weeks.

I thought I'd be a minimalist. No TV screens, no mobiles, no swing. Oh, you should see the nursery now! After fighting the urge to buy a swing -- the ultimate sleep crutch -- for 8 weeks, I bit the bullet and it tastes so good! Skylar is sound asleep in the swaying beauty right now.

Who knows. Maybe I'll have her on a more structured schedule in a few months, but right now, I'm doing whatever it takes! I have swallowed my pride and accepted that I was ill-prepared, as most (if not all) first time parents are. Matt and I have the added disadvantage of being the youngest children in our respective families. I never had to take care of anyone growing up! Pretty sure I couldn't even meet the needs of my American Girl doll. Poor Kirsten.

Thankfully, I have a mom who loved and nurtured her children so well. Thank the Lord for her example. That's really my motherhood manual. Unfortunately, I don't remember the first few years of my life, so I'll have to follow my instincts and her advice until my memory starts serving me...

I think calling that lactation consultant was the first time I followed my instincts and it reassured me that I'm not totally free-falling through this. As a super mom to four children under the age of 5 (Susana Starbuck!!!) says, "God gives you the grace you need." Susana has a boatload more grace than I do! But God has given me the grace I need to love and nurture my active girl. And He's a solid source, so I'll trust that supply....and pray that He can help me trust my milk supply. :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Month into Mommyhood

Alright, let's see how long Skylar's nap lasts...I'm on the clock! I've got heavy rain white noise YouTubed right now, so hopefully that's just what Sky needs for some solid sleep.

Speaking of solid sleep-- this girl (me) got 7 hours basically straight last night! New Father of the Year, Matt Grevers, took the night shift. I slept in the guest room. MG texted me at 3:15 a.m. to let me know when she was last fed, then again at 3:44 a.m. saying, "you missed her first projectile spit up." haha. I migrated to the bedroom at 6 a.m. As I crawled quietly into our bed Matt mumbled, "Careful, there's spit up over there." Eh, not enough for this mama to care.

I got up to feed Sky 45 minutes later and saw everything she had gone to bed wearing strewn on the floor. I pieced together the story of the night based upon the trail of clothes. Skylar must have spit up on her SwaddleMe wrap, then peed on her onesie while sleepy Daddy changed her at 3 a.m. The other two SwaddleMe wraps we own were dirty. I had thrown them in the hamper because our forever-puppy (but almost 3-yr-old) dog Gretel was snuggling with/chewing on them yesterday. They were in the dirty hamper with other christened-by-pee onesies and wet changing mats. But this morning, Skylar was snuggly wrapped in one of them. :D It still had a few Gretel hairs in it, but it probably just smells like loving dog sister to Skylar. So I'll go ahead and attribute my pristine newborn's current deep sleep to the Gretel saliva and hair swaddling her.

I'm a month into this mom thing and I'm not really sure what I've done right/wrong, how much I accomplish each day, but I do think our child is awesome. Really, I'm in awe of her every feature, function and sound. I read an article about maternity leave the other day and was firmly nodding along with some of the points made. One- don't have visitors...or if you do, make sure you are OK with them seeing you/your house at its worst. There's something in me that feels forced to play hostess, even when tending to a new human. Everyone says, "don't clean, don't cook, just hold your baby and lower your expectations." But that's not in my makeup (makeup: that stuff I no longer wear). If people come into my house, I don't want them placing their hand on a table and seeing their handprint in the layer of dust. We live in the desert and have a doggie door, therefore there is always a layer of dust. Pre-baby, I did a quick once over the house with a rag before people came over. With baby, I tried to do the same...pretend like the house was "in order" and somehow things were unchanged, but that is just a lie!

Everything has changed. No amount of reading I did before Skylar prepared me for the emotions newborn screams would rouse, the constant paranoia felt when baby does finally go to sleep (is she breathing?!), the feeling of incarceration of new mommyhood (gotta be available every 1-3 hours to feed the little piggy!), and so much more. The author of this aforementioned article talked about her naive view of maternity leave pre-baby. Constant snuggle time with large blocks of time in which baby sleeps peacefully. That's precisely what I thought the first month would be. Sure, there's snuggle time, but often it's as you have your wee one straight-jacketed in a swaddle and attempting to calm her down from a demon within. That demon is sometimes obvious- a dirty diaper, a hunger pang, an overtired babe - but often times it's unknown. A total mystery. And that's when parents go crazy. I now attribute 90 percent of Skylar's fussiness to gas. The poor girl farts as loud as a human 20 times her size. It can't be pleasant to house all that air in a tummy the size of an apricot.

Oh, she woke up...I shall return.

So as everyone says, there's no preparing for how hard this parenting thing is. There's also no way to prepare for the excitement I feel in the morning when I see her after a few hours of sleep. I swear every morning she gets prettier, her eyes grow wider, and she "smiles" more (or has more poops?).  I love my morning studies of Skylar. We learn a new cue of hers each day-- God's way of giving us a confidence bolster. A little "You kind of know what you're doing"...for a few minutes out of each 24-hour challenge. My mom told me shortly after Skylar's birth, "Now you know how much I love you." She was right at the moment...but with each day I love Skylar I can only imagine the depths of that love after 29 years of life!

No, I don't have much time to sit down and tackle a project right now. But I'm coming to realize Skylar is my project. She will be my life's work and no piece of writing is ever going to outweigh the importance of loving her and striving to meet her needs. Funny how God subtly prepares us for this child-rearing business. As a child, you don't really notice babies. As a teenager, I didn't know what to make of newborns. They looked all too fragile and needy for me to handle. In my 20s, I watched my brothers and sisters-in-law chase their kids around. I thought, "man, that looks exhausting." In the last two years, I've been transfixed by babies. Their features, their smell, their noises. Matt and I started looking at young parents and envying them (hah!).

Now we are those young parents. We walked around a crowded street fair on Saturday and I was wearing Skylar. She slept the whole time, like a perfect baby (a facade!). I heard seasoned parents and young people "ready" to become parents oooo and ahhh over tiny Skylar. The older parents looked at us with empathy, but also with a hint of jealousy. A look that served as a reminder that this phase is transient and sweet. Skylar's complete dependence will not last. "This too shall pass" is the new parent chant, but surely we'll miss her newborn perfume, her naps on our chests and feeling accomplished as we get to know more and more about our little human.

I'm standing and swaying as I wear Skylar now. I'm far from an old, wise mommy, but I already feel transformed. I don't go to the gym everyday (or ever) and I don't care. My little girl tones my arms each day as I lift her to my boob, bounce her as I walk and press her to my chest. The only reason I care about my body right now is because it's the vessel that is feeding my daughter. Vanity has been thrown to the wind and thank God for that! If I donned makeup, worked out six days a week and actually cared to change out of sweats, I'd be missing out on some of the most fleeting moments of my daughter's life. This mom thing is hard, but I can't think of a better occupation.