I am officially back to work after my mat leave. Whew, what a week it has been! Before I was even pregnant, I was interested in the topic of mothers coming back to work after their leave and how, sadly, most of the time, they were suddenly at a disadvantage.
I feel lucky to work at Upwork, where initiatives are in place to try to combat women being disproportionately negatively impacted by having children. For example, the same leave is offered to both mothers and fathers. And, even more important, it is encouraged for all parents to take it. But, despite being at a supportive company, I still was nervous to return to work. As most parents are, I’m sure.
Uniquely, because of the pandemic, we aren’t sending our 5.5 month old to daycare (as we originally planned, pre-covid). Instead, we are alternating between some days where we work in shifts and others where my mom comes to help us with Cam. …I’ll cut to the chase here and say the days are intense.
I am an executive assistant. A women of a Schedule. I love clean start and end times, consistency, and strict order. Babies do not adhere to predictability. Breastfeeding seems to be the trickiest to navigate as, obviously, only I can do this. I found myself constantly counting hours in my head this week; okay he ate at this time so he’ll have to eat again then… please say I don’t have a meeting scheduled.
I’m hoping next week will be less stressful in regards to feeding times because Mike and I have finally conceded to the fact that our baby is a power napper. We just can’t bank on him sleeping for a full hour. Instead I’ve readjusted my work blocks and have accepted that 45 minutes is all we will get. (If anyone has tips on how to extend naps, I’m all ears!) Luckily Cam goes to bed pretty early and typically sleeps through the night, which gives me time to catch up on things in the evening.
Our guiding light in keeping up with eating healthy meals has been food prep. Over the weekend I prepped overnight oats and these egg quinoa power bites that we like for breakfast. We also took a few minutes each night to prep lunch for the next day. I’m proud to report that, sticking with my New Years resolution, I didn’t fret when things weren’t necessarily done my way. For example, one night Mike prepped some PB&J sammies and I thought: wow… messy. But, as quick as the thought came, I simply shrugged and put the lid on our Tupperware. The sandwiches were made. Who cares about the rest?
All in all it’s good to be back to work but I won’t lie, it’s daunting that this work-from-home-with-a-baby arrangement doesn’t have a end in sight… I’m very thankful to have flexible hours though; and besides, I can’t really complain about getting to spend more time with my cute co-worker Cam, can I?!
Of course the star of my mat leave has been Cam. I feel so fortunate to have had the past ~5 months to bond with my baby. I can’t begin to comprehend parents who only get 6 weeks of leave but we’ll save the politics there for another post…
Right now, our days typically look like this:
Between 7am – 8am Cam wakes up and eats (he is still breastfed)
9am – first nap for about 45 min to one hour
10am – feed
Play until 12pm, when he takes his second nap for about 45 min to one hour
1pm – feed
Play until 3pm, when he takes his third nap for about 45 min to one hour
4pm – feed
Around 4:30pm/5pm Mike comes downstairs and plays with Cam while I cook dinner. We usually eat aggressively early, between 5pm/5:30pm, so we can start Cam’s bedtime routine; bath, books with dad, feed with mom, bedtime at ~6pm (a note that we sleep-trained him at 4.5 months so most nights he goes to sleep right when we put him in bed …after a cuddle and a rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, of course)
Right before we go to sleep, we change him and he eats again
For the past 3 weeks or so, he’s been sleeping through the night after his dream-feed 🙌
I feel excited to go back to work, but also nervous. We’re still in the midst of the pandemic and won’t be sending Cam to daycare so days are going to be more full on than they were while I was on leave. We will have to be very organized but I am beyond thankful my job allows me to work from home, and that I will still get to spend a lot of time with Cam.
I wrote about the 4th trimester here and here and love going back and reading them. I want to write more updates about Cam – what he is loving, learning, etc. – but haven’t quite nailed down a schedule. Maybe every quarter? Stay tuned. 🙂
Almost the entirety of my mat leave – aside from the first 2 weeks way back in early March – took place during the COVID-19 pandemic. We had little physical support because of social distancing rules but, despite greatly missing our friends, family, and doing “normal” things, we’ve had some really sweet times that I always want to remember.
The things that stand out aren’t actually the momentous ones. My first Mother’s Day was lovely – filled with well wishes, nice gifts, and an enchilada (my faveee) dinner – but honestly, I look back on the evening when Mike, Cam, and I went on a walk and explored a new part of our neighborhood with more earnest feelings. That random week-day night stroll was so spontaneous. We had no idea we would stumble on a completely unknown section of our neighborhood by deciding to turn right at one street, instead of continuing straight on our regular route. It might sound silly but it was a whole new world to us. We were in the thick of summer so – even though it was later that we normally walked – it was still gloriously light out and we kept asking each other, “did you know all of these houses were back here!?” Cam had drifted to sleep from the constant roll of the stroller as Mike and I alternated pushing him and making jokes about the “hidden” neighborhood we had no idea existed.
Or the time Cam slept in late and I was able to finish a cup of coffee and an episode of Sweet Magnolias in bed, right next to him peacefully slumbering.
Or all of the Kim’s Convenience we watched on the couch eating endless quick meals like ravioli or the burritos I made and froze before having Cam.
Or the day we broke parenting rules and let Cam veg out with us one Sunday. We pulled out our couch to make it a bed, ordered take-out nachos and chicken + avo sandos, and just lounged. Cam rolled in-between us while we ate and watched a documentary. I’m sure he got more screen time than is “allowed” but he also got a relaxing afternoon with both mom and dad; family time.
Cam and I also went on a lot of walks during my mat leave. We typically would go in the morning, before it got too hot. I loved those leisurely strolls, listening to an Audible book and cruising the neighborhood.
When I was desperately trying to get Cam on more of a schedule (which didn’t work for a few months!), I would track his sleep and feeds in a spreadsheet. And then I added another tab to start meal planing. Next I added a tab for what else we still had to do for our house renovation… and on and on it went. Now we have this massive, basically living and breathing spreadsheet titled “life admin” and I’m in there literally every day.
Call it extreme but it eases this control freak’s heart; especially the meal-planning aspect. And we barely ever waste any food because everything is planned out, down to the last leaf of spinach. Double win in my book blog!
Reading about past vacations, scrolling through my sister in laws new and old posts, and catching up on my favorite rotation of bloggers has somehow kept me feeling less lonely. Particularly posts about life with new babies. It’s crazy how similar experiences are when we enter this new adventure!
Some recipe posts have been dusted off and made again too. Which, speaking of…
So sooooo many meals (and dishes!!!!) because we are basically home all of the time.
We’ve been officially remodeling since last Thanksgiving (when the first cabinets came down) but did the majority of the work in January/February of this year when my father in law came out to help and lend us his handy electrician skills. Looking back now I am relieved we got most of it in before COIVD struck.
Of course we’ve been doing small projects continuously since Camden was born (and still have a number of them to do). Happily though our kitchen is essentially complete, aside from the pesky kick-boards. (Oh, well! Who see ’em anyway?!)
With 100+ meals cooked at home since COVID, it is so nice to have our open-concept updated kitchen.
Ounces of “normalcy”
Mike and I used to have weekends booked solid for months at a times. You name it – baby showers, birthday parties, movie nights, weddings, weekend getaways, dinners with friends, hikes, coffee dates – and we had it on the books. It seemed like we were always doing everything. Just the way I liked it. Of course this was bound to change, at least a little bit, with a new baby but I didn’t expect to go almost 6 months without touching anyone aside from Mike and Cam.
Luckily, we’ve been able to safely see a few people over the past few months. Pre-COVID, these interactions would seem so everyday. Now they are cherished and have to spread thin to last us weeks of social stimulation.
We’ve visited one of my closest friends, Lauren, and her husband a few times in her backyard. Thankfully she moved about 10 minutes from us late last year and it’s been a treat having her so close during this crazy time.
Our first real “outing” was on a hard, copped up Sunday. We needed to get out. I somewhat urgently messaged her, essentially inviting myself over, “hey can we come over and sit in your backyard?”
She gracefully replied something like: “sure thing! hot tub is on too!”
Ah, to have great friends! Cam even did us a solid and actually napped so we could get in there for a quick soak.
We’ve done a few dinners back there, too. Masking up after we’ve eaten!
Lauren and I have also walked on a trail nearby and, even though right now it is hard to only have these moments, I know they have cemented our bond forever. When we are grannies we will look back on the time we spent together, 6 feet apart.
We had another epic backyard get-together to celebrate a birthday. It was the first time we’ve seen this side of our family since early 2020. Amazingly my aunt transformed her backyard into a socially distanced oasis. We ordered take-out Mexican and ate burritos poolside. Cam even got in the water!
We also crashed my uncle’s campsite, which allowed us a nice afternoon out in nature. Camping during the summer is so much fun (read about some of our past trips here, here, and here) but it sounds like a logistical nightmare with a little babe. I was all but eager when I got a text that my fam would be camping near by us in Big Basin one weekend. We quickly decided that yes, we would love to stop by and enjoy some of the great outdoors with them, even if it was only for a few hours.
It was about an hour drive and, with the car packed (even if you’re only going somewhere for a short amount of time, having a baby – during a pandemic, no less – means you’re bringing it all), Cam snugly strapped in his carseat, and our own sandwiches in a paper-bag, we met them at their campsite. It was so nice to get out, see some family, and do something new!
Note: since writing this California has been experiencing an early start to wildfire season because of a freak lightening storm. Sadly much of Big Basin was burned in the fires. It feels so strange having just been there. My heart bleeds for my home state and the destruction that has been done.
Since June 1st I’ve done at least 10 minutes of yoga every day. My goal is to get to 100 days, which will coincidentally also mark my first day back to work. I am hoping it will serve as a beacon of sorts; a reminder that I can still find time to do yoga, even while being back at work!
It’s weird to me that I thought I didn’t have time to get on the mat everyday before having a baby. For the past 12 years I’ve done yoga a couple times a week but, aside from a 30 Day Challenge here and there, have never been this consistent. It just goes to show you that you make time for things that are important to you. And, after carrying a baby around all day long, yoga is essential to me.
Netflix has been recommending Madam Sectary to us for a while. We finally gave it a try and I am so happy we did. It is 6 seasons and probably took us about 2 months to watch. I don’t know if it was because I am in desperate need for some functioning government, or if it was Dr. Henry McCord (maybe a combination of both?) but I LOVED THIS SHOW. I’ve never been so sad when a show ended. Téa Leoni, or Madam Sectary, is such a boss throughout the whole 6 seasons. And I enjoyed the family/work dynamics of the show. Gaaaaaah, it was just so good. I might re-watch it.
It’s weird going back to work but not going back to the office. This might be the dream for some, but I loved my office. It isn’t too far from my house; my company is simply amazing and provided a clean, safe, fun, snack-and-booch-filled environment; and I generally just enjoy the people I work with so it was nice to chat with them in between meetings or while grabbing a perfectly steamed oat milk latte (I know, aside from millennials, most generations are cringing at that last workplace indulgence).
All of that to say, until I can safely return to office-life, I’ll be wearing a lot more leggings to work. And this might be controversially but I’ve discovered a legging that is better than Lulu. …Lolë!
My mother in law got me a pair of Lolë leggings for Christmas years ago and they are my favorite. They fit nicely but don’t squeeze me in the way a lot of Lulus do. After probably the 50th time I went searching for my Lolës (I may have pulled them out of the laundry a few times in those early days home from the hospital….), I finally decided to buy some more! I rarely do this – unless I really love something – but I purchased 2 of the exact same leggings. They are so comfy and flattering! Plus they were having a sale…
So even though no one will be able to see me from the waist down, I’ll be wearing them, ready to rock n’ roll at work!
Back when I had endless hours to scroll around the internet, I used to love reading What I Ate Wednesday posts from bloggers I followed. It might seem weird to most, but for some reason I am fascinated by what folks fuel themselves with throughout the day.
Some of it might stem from me being pretty particular about what I eat in a day… I am a firm believer that you can eat everything and anything, just not in the same day. Nothing is “bad” in our house; bagels loaded with cream cheese, whole pizzas in one sitting, double servings of ice cream. We indulge in it all. However, if we are having a loaded burger with fries for dinner, we’ll eat lighter for breakfast and lunch.
I typically try to follow the general rule of one protein-heavy meal, one carb-heavy meal, and one combo (protein/carb) meal throughout the day. For this precision, I spend a good amount of time meal planning but I don’t mind because strangely enough, I actually enjoy it and, more importantly, we rarely have ANY food waste. I account for all of the food in our house, down to the very last spinach leaf.
Eating this way works for me (and by default, Mike). It’s something I am able to stay consistent with because I don’t feel like I am depriving myself. Nothing is off limits. No day is a diet day.
…Whew, ok, what a longwinded intro just to share the damn thing!
Below is what we ate today. Granted it’s a little fancier than we normally go but I’m trying to get in some longer prep meals now before I go back to work early next month and it’s basically quesadillas and fish sticks every day.
Breakfast: overnight oats with berries, coconut shavings, and mint
This was my first time making overnight oats and yesss please, count me in. I used this recipe and think the mashed banana really made it yum. Next time, I am making a double or triple match so we can enjoy for more than one breakfast.
Lunch: fish tacos with guac and pickled radishes + corn on the cob
Three things here. 1. I made a blacked fish spice blend a few weeks ago but doubled the recipe so I would have some on hand for another time, which I recommend doing! 2. Do you know how easy it is to pickle radishes (and red onions for that matter)? Just slice thin, cover with vinegar (I used apple cider), sprinkle with S&P, and let sit for at least 10 minutes. An easy way to get a lot more flavor bang. 3. I’ve started using corn on the cob to replace other lunch sides like chips and I’m loving the healthy swap.
Snack: mini orange (a cutie) and a kids Z bar
This snack takes me right back to the early days with Cam. Usually during our afternoon walks, I would take a bar and an orange with us while Mike pushed the stroller. As a loose rule of thumb, if I am having a snack that is packaged (like a bar), I like to pair it with something whole (like a piece of fruit). It might be more calories (although, marginally as fruit is usually pretty low cal) but I feel better eating grown-in-the-earth food.
Dinner: ratatouille and chicken with a creamy dill sauce
Since COVID I’ve been pan-frying a lot of our meat and have to say I like it more than baking. I love the brown crispy bits. Tonight I fried up some chicken using a bit of coconut oil and made a quick sauce with chicken stock, sour cream, mustard, and a bunch of dill. I paired the chicken with previously made, frozen, thawed, and heated up again ratatouille. Along with forgetting to take a picture, I forgot to roast our potatoes (!) so dinner was pretty light, which brings us to…
Dessert: milk shakes and onion rings + fries
Sweet and savory! Mike and I knew we were going to be hungry after such a light dinner so indulged in milkshakes and a bit more food.
I was in Australia the first time I tried chia seed pudding. I needed something portable and nutritious before a day of sailing. At the grocery store the night before I spotted a little pot of pudding that enticed me so I read the ingredients. Not bad, I thought – always a sucker for clean ingredients – and scooped it up. I savored it the next morning on our sailboat before heading to the Whitsunday Islands.
The next time this powerhouse breakfast came into my life was camping in Yosemite one summer. One of our friends set up a chia seed buffet and I loved all of the combinations you could make with the pudding as your base.
In my former life (before COVID!) when I would take the train to San Fransisco for work, I would make chia seed pudding to eat during my commute. It is easy to make ahead of time and keeps me full for a long time. A win for the workday.
From adventures down under, to camping, to hours of meetings and emails, this is one of my favorite breakfasts. Although lately it’s been fueling endless days at home because of COIVD and shelter-in-place…
Every other week or so, I’ve been batch-making chia seed pudding to enjoy for a few days. I like to think of it as the oatmeal of summer, since it served cold, making it a perfect way to start a warm day.
I defrost mangos in the refrigerator the night before to give a bit of fruit juice to mix in with the pudding. I’ve also added cocoa powder for a more decadent breakfast. The options are limitless!
1/4 cup chia seeds
1 cup plant based milk
berries or any fruit
whisk chia seeds into plant based milk and let sit for at least 3 hours or in the fridge overnight (easy peasy!)
Here we are, 3 months since Cam was born! We are now officially out of the newborn stage. The saying “the days are long but the years are short” is already ringing true.
The world feels heavy right now. Devastatingly police brutality and systematic racism are major problems here in the States. And we are still dealing with the wrath of COVID. I am desperately grasping at thinking of this year as a cocoon year of sorts; 2020 feels stifling but I have to believe we will come out of it changed. For the better. (I’m looking at you, November.)
It’s weird because I’m simultaneously waiting for 2020 to be over but also relishing in these sweet months with Cam. I know this is a time I will reflect on and want back, despite how isolating and scary things might feel some days.
To be honest, I can’t help but feel jealous of moms who had their babies before COVID and got to experience a “normal” mat leave. If I’m not careful with my thoughts, my mind drifts to all of the things we are missing out on; like friends and family visiting (and helping!), weekend getaways, and even something as simple as going for a leisurely coffee as a family.
I am endlessly thankful for our health. And at least we have technology. Cam has continued to meet and chat with family either over Facetime or in person with masks and socially distancing. Here are some pictures we have for the baby book. What a crazy time!
(If you look closely in the background of photos taken in our house, you will notice we still have a fair bit of work to do as far as renovations go! We’ll get baseboards one day.)
Given COVID, we have still spent the majority of our time at home. Mike went back to work this past week so now it’s just me and Cam during the day. One of the few sliver linings of COIVD is that Mike is working from home so we get to see him a lot more than we would have if he was back in the office (ha!!! office life… seems like such a distant way of life now).
The day before Mike returned to work things got real wild and we drove to another trail to take a walk. We grabbed coffee/tea at Peet’s before parking and walking around Almaden Lake Park. The sun was shining, the trail was beautiful, kids were there playing soccer with masks on……..
Cam pretty much slept the whole time but it was so nice to get out and do something different.
Speaking of sleep, Cam is still a pretty good sleeper. We wake up between 1 – 2x/night. This seems solid for his age in my opinion. I’m still trucking away reading Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and if I massively reduce the ~300 pages I’ve read so far, it breaks down to the following:
The more sleep your baby gets, the more your baby will sleep. This might sound counterintuitive but the reasoning is that if your baby is overtired, they will have a difficult time falling asleep and go into “sleep debt,” which should be avoided that at all costs! Cam isn’t the best napper – often opting for 20 – 45 minute power naps 3 – 4 times a day – but he is a really good nighttime sleeper soooo small wins?
Another key point is an early bedtime (the author suggests really early like 6pm or 6:30pm) is one of the best things you can do for your baby. Sleep is compared to food, in the terms of you wouldn’t deprive your child of food when hungry and the same is true for sleep. Don’t deprive your child of sleep when they are tired! Basically be a good parent and put your child to bed EARLY. I agree with this in theory but in practice, we’ve found Cam does not go to sleep before ~8pm. If we try to put him down earlier, it is a nap and he’s up shortly after. I have heard counter advice to the early bedtime that says before 4 months, babies will fall asleep easier between 8pm – 10pm, so we’ve kept bedtime later for now.
Once you have an early bedtime established (ideally around 6 weeks but, as mentioned, this isn’t our story), you can start building in the scheduled mid-morning nap around 3-4 months, and then the mid-day nap. Eventually I will have to figure out how to get Cam on a better nap schedule…
Sleeping while in motion (in the car or a stroller) is “junk sleep” and can’t be counted as a decent nap. This is a downer but we’ve started putting Cam upstairs in his bassinet for naps now and, although they are short, at least he is (hopefully) getting good quality sleep.
Apparently the key to unlocking all of this sleep magic is to put your baby down when he is drowsy but still awake. Then, ideally, your baby might fuss for a few minutes but quickly self-soothe to sleep. It’s hit or miss if this works for us. Sometimes we catch Cam at that perfect point and he is able to put himself to sleep, other times he falls asleep nursing or while we are rocking him. There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason! I hope to eventually get in more of a routine at bedtime so we can anticipate his sleep schedule better but, so far, we’re taking it day by day, nap by nap…
Extinction is what you have to do when you spoil your baby (probably like we are doing) and they don’t self-soothe. It is just letting your baby cry until they fall sleep. The author basically says “you shouldn’t feel bad about your baby crying themselves to sleep because you are allowing them to learn how to sleep well.” I try to remember this advice but so far we haven’t left Cam to cry longer than ~5 minutes and even that short amount of time was hard. We’ll see if we have to use the extinction method as we’ve been pretty passive on a sleep schedule. We agreed at 3 months, we’re cracking down though. Stay tuned…
What else? I started writing in a notebook that I will give to Cam one day. I only have a few entries so far, and I started it on a whim, but want to continue writing in it until he is at least one. Most of it is really just about how much I love him =) and what we did that day (which is a lot of the same thing because of COVID) but I still think it will be nice for him to have when he is older. I would love to have something to read from my parents about those early days.
We’ve started reading a lot more to him, and set up a little play area in our living room with his soft books and some toys. My mom-voice is probably so annoying for Mike to hear during these readings. Ha. Oh well! (I also love saying “oh Camaroniiiiii” in a pretty theatrical voice that I’m sure is only funny to Cam. Which is it. Btw. Funny. To Cam. He laughs when I do it. …Or he did, once;)
In other news, I’ve essentially given up on trying to enjoy any alcoholic beverage. Mike and I celebrated our 1 year wedding anniversary (!) and I indulged in 2 cocktails, thinking the babe was sound asleep. Of course he woke up shortly after and was starving. It was stressful frantically defrosting bags of milk while trying to gauge how hungry he was and if we should pull another one out of the freezer. That instance plus having to do a lot of prework for a drink has lead me to the conclusion that it is basically not worth it at this juncture. I keep saying a glass of wine is meant to be enjoyed, not to be a source of stress where you are constantly checking the clock and the baby monitor! Maybe when he starts eating solids I will feel more comfortable about having a drink, but for now sparkling water for me it is. (I’ve also joked that Cam’s 1st bday – when I think I will likely stop breastfeeding – will be like my second 21st bday; shots, shots, shots…!) (Kidding) (Kind of)
Cam has started to giggle/laugh and it is the bessssttttttt ever. His smile is so cute I can’t handle it. I love talking to him and will do anything to make him laugh, no matter how ridiculous I look. He also loves our ceiling fan downstairs and we often joke that it is his best friend, since there’s no one else around (#SIPjokes). Around 10 weeks he let out his first excited squeal while staring at the fan going round and round and it was so stinkin’ cute.
Bath time is another favorite. He is so chill when we put him in the water. Cam is a SNUGGLE BUG and loves to be held. He likes his pacifier but spits it out on accident sometimes, so mom & dad spend a lot of time rushing to try to put it back in his mouth before he wakes up. One of my favorite parts of the day is getting him from a nap, when he is so happy to see me get out of the bassinet and curls into my shoulder for some sleepy extra love. We’re still going on daily walks, which is probably more for our benefit than his.
Cam is starting to be quite chatty and loves telling us stories through lots of grunts, arm waving, and furrowed eyebrows. He has found his hands and loves to suck on them. I think he is pre-teething because the drool is unreal over here. We’ve been playing some throwback jams and dancing around with him. I think my best hits have been Mambo Number Five and Miami. Mike and I have discovered we have very different taste in music…
Overall things have been tricky given COVID – and the general adjustment to having a new little roommate – but Cam is “the best baby ever,” to directly quote me and Mike basically everyday. He is so fun to hang out with and watch grow. I can’t wait to share him with our friends & family. Until then we’ll just be here snuggling, chatting, listening, and loving our favorite guy.
I wrote the following while breastfeeding (one handed, on my phone) and instead of trying to string them together in some coherent post (because, honestly… no time!), I’m just going to leave them as fragmented thoughts and feelings from those early days.
So many texts and messages left unread… the notification icon serving as a reminder to respond; send a picture, tell his name, birthweight, how we were adjusting.
We don’t really have a sleep strategy right now. Aside from a tired glance at each other around 9pm asking if we should start thinking about going upstairs, and, if so, who should take the first shift. Until we learn another way, we are sleeping in 2 hour shifts. Sometimes one of us is successful at getting Cam swaddled and to sleep in the bassinet so we are able to sleep a little longer – and at the same time – butthis is rare so far.
For me, the nights are hard. This has already been tested and true for my personality though. I’ve been a home-sickness sufferer my whole life and nights are always the worst. It’s weird because I am technically home but feel the weight of sadness still creeping in sometimes… To be fair, I guess my home is completely different than what it was before and now night time is basically battle time. **Cam became an all-star sleeper probably around 3 weeks so I am happy to report my sad nights were very short-lived!**
Of course the playing field isn’t level when one of you has to breastfeed essentially every 2 hours, but we are trying to grasp some resemblance of fairness.
“Rested” is a word for the future and a feeling of the past. Survival is the new mantra. Sleep 20 minutes to get you through the next 60. Don’t look in the mirror.
You don’t know true reward until you’ve tasted that sweet, sweet glorious coffee after another night endured.
It’s strange when nights are broken up into 2 hour increments (and whole days in 6 hour chunks… until you get your next dose of pain meds). The stretches of time in the middle of the night are pure maddening magic. Nothing compares to being bone tired and hearing Cam hungry cry. Then negotiating how to move my body in the least painful way to feed him. One leg up, grab on for support, rock forward and hope there is enough ofph to propell me forward. Scoot my butt back. Inch by inch. Pain in my incision if I move too fast. Deep breaths and lots of groaning but finally in position to expose a chaffed nipple. Latch. Suck, suck, suck. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Breatheeeeee. They say breastfeeding gets easier
Oh the sweet soul candy hours I spend in the early morning staring at my new baby. My heart explodes a thousand times a night for this kid. The sight of his perfect button nose. His little curved lip. Those moments of brief eye contact turn me upside down and inside out. My baby.
Mike’s snoring is becoming a favorite sound of mine; with each inhale and exhale another minute is added to my sleep stock. Yes babe, keeeeeeep on sleeeeeping. I’ll match your 1.5 hours for my own soon enough.
Then you wake up, have a cup of coffee and eggs that were scrambled in butter and start a new day.
Happiness. I’ve been thinking about the difference between real-time happiness and in-the-past happiness. For me, “in-the-past happiness” is something that time and distance produce. Space from the moment is what allows you to register that you were, in fact, happy then. Real-time happiness is when you know while you are living something: I am happy.
I am a semi-regular offender of experiencing happiness in the past and it pains me. But sometimes it is easier to realize how much brighter and beautiful and happier it all was in retrospect.
In a day and age when living in the moment is held as highly as eating well and exercising enough, I feel twinges of guilt when my happiness is sourced from memories instead of the actual moment. And I have a sneaking suspicion that this might be the case for the 4th trimester.
The 4th trimester is commonly referred to as the first 3 months of life with your new baby. It is a time laced with adjustment. From those tortuous sleepless nights to the magical bonding with your baby, these months are unique. Despite the lack of sleep, it is obviously a time to be cherished. A time of happiness.
But my question is: can it be more real-time happiness than in-the-past happiness? I’m hoping to work hard at making it as real-time happiness as possible. I don’t want to look back to know that I am happy now. (Could this be a sliver lining of a global pandemic? Having the time to think about all of this…?)
Our son is 6 weeks old – halfway through the 4th trimester – and he hasn’t been held by anyone but me, my husband, and a handful of doctors and nurses. This is not what we expected. Every day is limited to what we can do in our home, aside from our daily walk(s). Some may say this is true of most days with newborns – to which I probably agree – but ours are limited by not just a baby but also the government.
Days are tedious. But, as I’m trying to remind myself constantly, they are also joyful. Every day I get to spend another 24 hours with only my husband and my son. We’re in the middle of the Great Pause and I’m navigating it by soaking in the first few months of my baby’s life at home. …Literally government mandated to stay at home. What a bizarre, beautiful, perplexing thing.
Despite the fear of COVID-19 and the monotony of social distancing casting it’s shadows on our days, I know these short months are so special. I am grateful – and want to be present– for these moments filled to the brim with my boys.
Right now, at 6 weeks in, our days look a bit like this: Most days Cam wakes up between 5am – 6am for a diaper change and a feed. After this we either put him back down in his cradle or remove all of the pillows on our bed and let him sleep with us for “morning cuddles.” I love starting the day with our morning cuddles, despite actually sleeping way better if he goes back down in his cradle. Babies are loud and squirmy when they sleep, which makes sharing a bed with them decidedly less restful.
Between 8am – 9am we head downstairs and, in-between pulling shots of espresso and toasting bagels, we take turns dancing around the kitchen with Cam. Then it’s time for his morning nap, which is usually downstairs in his vibrating seat. (Although I am reading Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and it says for meaningful sleep babies should be in their crib and not be moving. Ek! We’ll work on that eventually…)
The next 7 – 9 hours are spent changing diapers (usually Mike), breastfeeding and pumping (obviously me), going on walks (sometimes 2-3 a day), managing to feed ourselves lunch / clean up (so many dishes), and soothing Cam (which means STANDING with him – why do babies prefer to be held standing vs. sitting and how do they know the second you sit down? HOW?!).
All of the sudden it is dinner time and it’s a shot in the dark on who will be cooking it, if Cam will be awake, or if we will be eating in shifts. We’ve had all sorts of evenings. I’ve managed eating a burger one-handed while feeding him but we’ve also had nights where we’ve cooked, ate without a babe hanging on either of us, and even tag-teamed the kitchen after. Once timing even worked out where I fed him and pumped right before our pizza was ready… meaning I was able to have a beer with dinner.
Every other night we give Cam a bath, which he seems to really like. And then it’s time for bed – something we haven’t figured out the exact science to yet. Typically though, I feed him and then shower while Mike burps him and tries to get him down in the cradle. Sometimes he’s successful and it’s early enough for us to watch a show together before going to sleep ourselves but other times Cam is wide awake when I out and needs some extra calories before snoozing.
I’d say 60% of the time we get a decent night sleep. Cam’s longest stretch so far has been 7 hours (!) but it is typically around 5 hours from the initial time we put him down to the first time he wakes up, and then about 3 hours, and then down to ~2 hours (this is our morning cuddle stretch). We have certainly had our hard nights, but thankfully these are more of a rarity than a regular practice.
Just this week Cam started giving us small social smiles and OMGTHEYARETHEBEST. He has a good appetite and is able to take a bottle now with pumped milk. Initially he loved his pacifier but now he makes a face like we are trying to poison him when we put it in his mouth. He LOVES being on his side. Tummy time is usually spent on one of our chests and he can hold his head up for a decent amount of time. He also strains his head up from our shoulder when he is hungry or tired and then inevitably slams it back down when he his neck muscles give way. For some reason Mike and I both find this slightly amusing.
When he wakes up, he does the cutest “baby stretches,” as we call them. Like he’s had the longest day at work and just needs to stretch it out. When we take him out of his cradle and unzip his swaddle (more on that in another post), we like to say “FREEDOOOMMM!!” because he instantly pops his arms out to the sides. Cam has the uncanny ability to be crashed out on a walk but wake up right when we hit our driveway, basically every.single.time. He has a hungry cry and an I’m-bored-cry. His hungry cry is as ferocious as you’d expect it to be. His favorite sleep spot is dad’s chest, where he sprawls out like a starfish. Socks are hard to put on but once secured in place, he doesn’t seem to mind them. Diaper changes aren’t a big thing to him, like he knows “yeah yeah this is just apart of the deal, isn’t it?”
He’s our little light and the best thing about our days.
Earlier in my pregnancy, I imagined this post to be about laboring at home with our doula before going to the hospital for a natural childbirth. Our reality of brining our baby into the world was very different. Instead of a natural childbirth, I was scheduled for a c-section because our baby was breech. This meant our doula wouldn’t be able to be there for my delivery, as only one person is allowed in the OR.
We were still planning on having her come to the hospital for support before and after, until, of course, the Bay Area went on a mandatory shelter in place because of COVID-19. On top of this, hospitals put restrictions on the number of visitors that could come to the hospital. One support person (obviously Mike) was allowed to be there with me. No one else; doula, family, or friends!
Like I said… a completely different birth experience than I imagined BUT I am happy to report, an overall positive one nonetheless.
The morning of my c-section, Mike and I woke up early so I could capitalize on my last hour of being able to drink something before the 2 hour NO FLUIDS rule before surgery. I got a decent amount of sleep the night before, all things considered, but still had a big cup of black coffee in bed while finishing season 2 of The Crown. We were scheduled for a 1pm surgery with an arrival time of 11am, which meant time for one last short walk before going to the hospital. I didn’t know how my recovery would go, and when I would be able to get out and walk again, so taking a stroll was definitely something I wanted to do. I got a little emotional on our walk because – as corny as it may sound – I started thinking about all of the strong women and mamas that I know. I actually began listing their names, one by one in my head, and just knowing that their thoughts, love, and strength was with me that day brought tears to my eyes.
When we got back to the house, we packed up the car* and headed to the hospital. What a different experience it was than going into labor naturally must be! The morning, and the car ride, were both pretty calm and controlled; none of the “drive faster!!!” or “grab the bag, it’s time!” stereotypical birthing scenes we see in the movies! Instead I had the chance to call both of my parents on the drive (which again, made me a little teary eyed because I know they were both nervous for me).
After dousing our hands with sanitizer and walking down eerily quiet hallways (birth during a pandemic), we checked into Labor & Delivery. Through mild small talk and anxious half laughs, we were led to a small room. For the next ~2 hours various medical staff came in, checked on me, introduced themselves, took my vitals, inserted an IV, shaved my legs (not joking), answered my questions, and tried to console me when I started to cry. It was all very emotional and a bit overwhelming for me (!) but everyone was calm, patient, and very kind.
At 1:30pm it was go-time. We walked to the operating room but Mike had to wait outside while I got my spinal tab. The OR is as bright, cold, and sterile as you imagine it would be. I was sat on a table that was way smaller than I expected and (you guessed it!) started crying. I could see Mike sitting outside from the window and it made me EVEN MORE emotional. I didn’t like that he could see me because I imagined it had to be hard watching your partner get prepped for a major surgery and there was nothing you could really do from outside the room.
Luckily the team who performed my c-section was AMAZING (and all women, which felt pretty badass!). They continuously comforted me in between doing a round robin of introductions. There were about 8 medical staff, who introduced themselves via their name and their role during the procedure. I found this to be a little amusing (although I know it makes sense for them to do it) because it reminded me of an office meeting – like, okay… let’s start with a round of introductions, shall we?
I particularly loved my anesthesiologist, which was comforting given she was sticking a needle in my spine. I forgot her name now but she expertly walked me through each next step – what to expect physically but not going into too much detail, because …gross. My spinal tap was done before I knew it. I was instructed to lay down and put my arms out into a T. I was suddenly so cold, I started shivering uncontrollably. I actually read about this happening to a lot of women so was prepared for it but was still thankful when they put a blanket to cover my arms that had warm air shooting through it. Nothing better than feeling nice and cozy in the operating room, amiright?
Next Mike got to come in (yay!) and there were a lot of questions on what I could and could not feel. And yes, it is as freaky as you expect to try to move your legs and not have them budge. That was probably my one moment of real panic. I quickly gasped “is this normal?!” and was reassured that it was. My catheter was put in place, something that I had been dreading but obviously didn’t feel at all, considering I couldn’t even move my legs… Although I will say there are some poorly designed lights in hospitals that are rimmed with a mirror. Not great for an abdomen surgery that you are awake for.
At some point, while I was avoiding glancing up because of the small, but very-much-so-there mirror, my abdomen was cut into.
Overall I didn’t feel much pain but could feel slight sensations. I think my physical pain tolerance is actually much higher than my emotional tolerance for these kinds of things. There was some pressure here and there but nothing unbearable. It did take a little longer than I anticipated for him to be out but then finally … his little cry!! Ah, hearing his voice for the first time was the best; it brought tears to both mine and Mike’s eyes; “our baby!!!!!!!”
The doctor held him up over the curtain so we could see him and then he was quickly whisked away to be checked out by the pediatrician. Mike was able to go over with him and “cut the chord” – which was more of a ritual than necessity since it wasn’t actually attached to me anymore.
I remember being so full of joy and pure bliss during all of this. They were still tugging on me and stitching me up, and our baby was wailing, but it was such a relief having him delivered and knowing that Mike was right there by his side.
The pediatrician asked if I wanted to do skin to skin with him next and OF COURSE I DID. She put him on my chest. He was still crying and wiggling all around. Mike was snapping some pictures. We were both instantly in love.
When I was finally fully intact again, we were wheeled out of the OR to the recovery room. We stayed there for a few hours and soaked in our little guy until it was time to go to our room. Our very tiny room. Here we stayed for the next 2 nights. For 6 meals, vital checks every 3 hours from nurses, visits both mornings from the doctor who performed my c-section, multiple pediatricians checking on and testing our baby to be sure he was healthy, HGTV on loop, endless pictures of our precious little one, many phone calls and text messages updating our friends and family, broken hours of sleep, sore nipples, … and the purest, rawest love I’ve ever felt.
Typically c-section patients are in the hospital for 3-4 nights but since I was recovering well, and COVID-19, we were able to leave after 2 nights. On the way home, we uncharastically stopped at Jack in the Box for curly fries and a Dr. Pepper. There was a cute Welcome Home sign from our neighbors** attached to our door that made me cry big, juicy, feeling-loved-on tears. We did another round of updates to family and friends, “we’re home!” and settled in as a family of 3.
*I packed WAY too much stuff, from multiple cozy outfits and fluffy socks to face moisturizer, a book (hahah), and makeup (hahahahhahahahhah). I’m not exaggerating when I say I only needed to bring snacks and drinks, an outfit to go home in, a robe, and my cell phone charger. I didn’t even need underwear because I wore the giant ones the hospital gave me.
**On top of the sweet sign, we have a neighbor who graciously made us lasagna and dropped off diapers on our front porch. Another neighbor made us banana bread that we ate for breakfast for 3 days. Multiple times during those first few days, the mamas of the neighborhood and others texted me to make sure I was doing alright. I am so, so thankful for the outreach of support in our little community, particularly because we only bought our house ~1 year agoand still felt all of the love. I’m glad our little babe will be growing up in such a supportive, loving place.
Note: I typed up this post way back in October but it’s been living in my Drafts since I didn’t have pictures to go with it. Now we’re sheltering-in-place because of COVID and I’ve managed to carve out a few minutes – in between breastfeeding and diaper changes – to make my favorite banana bread, snapshots included.
What a crazy time we are living through… I imagine many people are baking more since we’re all bored, restless, and probably have varying degrees of anxiety because of the current affairs and how unknown things are. We’re consuming news hourly – and, if similar to me – looking for any glimpse that reads this will be over soon. We’re rapid-fire reading headlines and digesting them after with our friends and family on video chat. Any retrieve or coping we can muster is welcome.
We’ve all seen and laughed at the same memes. We’ve cried. We’re taking more walks; getting outside and noticing things we didn’t before. But we’ve also started to avoid eye-contact when we pass others – is it okay to say hello? Now most of the time I look down at my feet when I would have offered a friendly greeting or at least a smile just weeks ago.
We’re trying to remember that Earth is getting a break during this and pollution is down. We’re calling people we haven’t talked to in years. Things we used to shrug off – or even dislike entirely – we suddenly crave… what I would give for a family game night (my former self was selective about the games I played and the time I spent playing them). Never again will time with others be taken for granted; or a shared bottle of wine, a welcome embrace, an unexpected visitor.We’re missing our “old” lives and realizing we really didn’t have much to complain about, did we?
We’re cleaning out closets and drawers and garages; and maybe some buried feelings we haven’t had time to sit with before. We’re going deep, turning inward for guidance. Or, we’re not. We’re worried about using too much toilet paper. We’re eating at home a lot more. We’re thankful. We’re scared…
It’s a lot.
I can’t wait to be on the other side of this. I can’t wait to write something light-hearted and jolly again. Reading the words below, I think, what a simple time. But I also think, oh, how we will grow from this and… at least we still have banana bread.
Mike and I love banana bread. Who doesn’t?! I am all about splurging with a white flour and refined sugary piece of it occasionally but for the normal day-to-day, I prefer something healthier. Which is why I am so happy I found / fine tuned this recipe!
It’s made with real, simple ingredients and no added sugar. I love having it for breakfast because the protein from the eggs and almond butter keeps me full. Plus, it’s a pretty good pairing with morning espressos.
I had a crazy busy few days at work and some bananas that were ripe and ready to rumble, so I asked Mike to make the bread while I was away at a work dinner. I scribbled down the directions for him, which coined the recipe “ILY Banana Bread.” Whenever I write Mike a note, I always include ILY at the end for I Love You. It’s nothing original – I’m sure a millions of other couple use ILY too – but we’ve been doing it since we first started dating so it’s special to us. ❤
I started the third trimester right before the New Year with a raging case of sciatica. Not super fun, especially when you spend New Years Eve running through an airport 6 months pregnant to try to catch a flight… Unfortunately we didn’t make our flight and Mike and I woke up in Denver, instead of home, on the 01/01/2020.
Unexpected changes in travel plans aren’t ideal but looking back it was actually a special, cozy New Years Eve for us; and one that we will definitely remember. After missing our flight and eventually succeeding in rebooking it for the next morning … or so we thought … we devoured chicken tenders and salad on our bed at The Westin (the airport hotel we splurged for – vs. staying at the airport motel we were given vouchers for – because it was New Years Eve and we thought we had to be back to the airport by 5am the next morning). Plot twist: we realized later that our flight was actually for 7pm the following evening, not morning.
Cool cool cool…
Trying to make the best of it, we went down to the lobby/bar to ring in the New Year with a bunch of strangers… I ordered a mocktail and Mike participated in the free champagne toast the hotel offered. We people watched a bit, counted down as the ball dropped, and kissed each other into 2020. Luckily the lobby was actually quite nice, and it wasn’t a bad way to spend the evening in the slightest. PLUS officially being in 2020 meant we were that much closer to meeting our little guy.
But before he made his debut, mom & dad had some serious house renovations to do. Midway through the month Mike’s dad (Grandpy!) came to stay with us for a month and help with the renos. Oh, man how much we owe him! In about a month we had new recessed lighting downstairs, our flooring was ripped out, most of the walls had a new coat of paint on them, a wall and a closet were torn down, and new cabinets were in place to give us a more open kitchen area. I tired to help where I could but being pregnant didn’t make me the best worker. Instead I was in charge of shopping, cooking, and laundry. Plus getting in walks, yoga, and making sure I was sleeping well to keep growing the babe.
The renovation continued into February, and ordinarily a control freak who loves a spick and span household, some days were more of a test for me than others. I was also trying to make sure everything was buttoned up at work before my mat leave started. And we had 10 hours of newborn classes to squeeze in during limited time.
The month flew by in a haze of dust from the renovations and ever-growing piles of baby stuff, but we were able to get out and do a few fun things too; like attending our friend’s annual Super Bowl party!
We had a great baby shower, hosted by one of my best friend’s, Lauren. Our theme was Brunch for Baby, riffing off of my serious LOVE for blueberry muffins during my pregnancy. The menu also included yogurt parfait, eggs, hash browns, and of course a mimosa and beer-mosa bar for others to indulge in. 🙂 It was the perfect way to celebrate our baby-on-the-way with our closet friends and some family. (We had another baby shower planned for March but because of some medical stuff, that one didn’t happen… more below.)
Aside from renovations and our baby shower, I did a lot more yoga in February. My movements were slow and modified but it felt better than ever. And my sciatica was manageable with more practice and a lot of walking. Moving really helped with the pain during the day so it was essential! The only time things got really painful were in the middle of the night when I had to get up to pee (which happened without fail, like everyone says it does). My back felt so stiff and sore in those first few moments of walking after sleeping for hours. It took me a long time and many baby steps to get to the bathroom from bed and most of the time I was literally hunched over like an elderly woman.
Since we were so busy, especially on the weekends, I started a little Sunday ritual of waking up and reading for a bit in bed and then hitting the mat for a quick morning flow. If I was lucky, Mike would agree to join me on a morning walk to get a coffee nearby our house after. These mornings were some of my favorite and I know they will be sweet memories from my pregnancy.
Towards the end of the month, we found out that our little guy was breech at my 36 week appointment. I remember at our 20 week scan the technician saying he was breech. I instantly felt nauseous (almost any medical speak makes me queasy to the point where I think I actually might have a condition that has yet to be diagnosed).
Although the technician assured me many babies were breech at that stage and he still had plenty of time to flip head-down, there was a part of me that knew in my bones that this wouldn’t be the case. Because of this feeling, I told my regular doctor at my next appointment that I was nervous about our baby being breech but, after feeling around, she said she could feel his head down low. Okay, I convinced myself, nothing to worry about then!
Literally 15 seconds before our 36 week ultrasound, when she was feeling my belly again, she proclaimed that his head was still positioned downward. YES! I remember thinking to myself. In that moment I wasn’t concerned about not having the natural childbirth I was hoping for.
After all, if the doctor said his head was down……
Turns out, like everyone, doctors can be wrong. And when ours started moving the ultrasound wand around my belly, she immediately told us she had been wrong; he actually wasn’t facing down at all. His head was nestled under my left ribs. A hard little bump that I had felt for months, assuming it was his bottom.
I started to feel very queasy at this point (I’m telling you, it’s a condition!), and then inevitably started to cry. Mike and I had gone so far as hiring a doula for the natural childbirth I was planning on having and now here we were talking about scheduling a c-section. Through my tears, my doctor told me about doing a version (or ECV) to try to flip him head down. We scheduled one for that Sunday and …
on March 1st, instead of having our baby shower with my family, we went in for the version. From what people had been telling me it is a pretty intense procedure. I was nervous but wanted to do everything in my power to try to flip him – in the hopes that it was successful but also for the peace of mind knowing that we tired.
Ultimately the version wasn’t successful. And it was intense. I was monitored for about an hour before, given a drug that relaxed my uterus (while simultaneously making my heart race, not the best when you are already nervous!), and then 2 doctors manually tried to push the baby up and into a somersault. Lots of pressure and yoga-like deep breaths!
They tried 3 times and although his little butt did move up from my pelvis, he wouldn’t tuck his chin to complete the turn. I was so tired and sore at that point that we decided not to try again; if he wanted to stay head up and come into the world via c-section, so be it. We did some more monitoring to make sure all was okay (which it was!) and then headed home for BBQ and a movie in bed.
We briefly considered trying acupuncture next but after talking about it, decided that if the version didn’t work, we weren’t going to try anymore intervention.
March was also the start of my mat leave. The first week was all walks, yoga, reading in cute coffee shops, lunch with friends, and getting stuff done like changing my oil and getting my tires rotated. This was supposed to continue into the second and third week, with a manicure and pedicure, and an epic date day with Mike sprinkled in there too. But then… COVID-19.
During the second week of my mat leave most companies already had people working from home (it was nice to have Mike home with me!) and social distancing was taking root. At this point, sadly Mike’s parents had to cancel their trip out to visit us, which was a huge blow but I still wasn’t grasping how drastic this was going to get. I went on one walk with a friend and saw my mom that week… Little did I know how much things were about to change the week my baby came into the world.
Starting the Tuesday before my scheduled c-section that Friday, the Bay Area was ordered to shelter in place for 3 weeks. No non-essential exposure to others or leaving the house. We were told we couldn’t have visitors at the hospital and I was allowed only one support person to come with me for my delivery. Obviously this made sense, given the state of affairs happening, but it was gut-wrenching not to have my mom come meet her grandson in the hospital.
I plan to post my birth story later so will skim on those details for now. The long short is that we are so blessed to be home with a healthy, adorable baby boy. This is the main thing and I am beyond thankful. I am also thankful that we have ours and our families health; we have a home to be in during these uncertain times; we have food to eat; and Mike and I have each other to support and navigate the first moments of life with a new baby. But we’re also missing being able to introduce our sweet son to his family.
This little guy has only met us and the nurses/doctors at the hospital. We’ve had to rely on video calls and sending pictures as forms of introduction to everyone else. Some Most days it’s hard not to get really down during this time. He will only be this new and small for a short amount of time, and our family can’t hold him, hug him, kiss him, or cuddle him. Plus, not knowing when all of this will end has made it more taxing… will our son be one month when he can finally meet his grandparents? 3 months? 6 months? Please don’t let it last that long.
For now, all we can do is wait and remain positive. We’re staying put in our house to do our part in flattening the curve. We’re calling and texting, emailing and FaceTiming family and friends every day. We’re going on small family walks while I recover from the c-section. We’re taking naps and baking cakes. We’re waking up with morning coffee and tea and recapping the night – did he sleep well? how are we feeling? he peed through how many onesies? – and remembering to treasure these moments even if they are far different than what we expected.