the early months / depression

Depression is a funny thing. And by funny, I mean really not funny.

Because when you’re in it, it feels so real. It is real. You feel like life is so hopeless and you lose your motivation to do anything. You lose your enjoyment of the small joys in life (and the big joys too, I guess). You don’t care about what food you eat, or if you see your friends, or what TV show you watch…if you even want to watch TV. You just don’t want to do anything, but you have to, because a tiny human is depending on you.

And by you, I mean me. Let’s just cut to the chase here. We all knew that’s who I was talking about.

I experienced a dose of postpartum depression. It could have been much worse, but it was there. There were moments when I would catch a glimpse of my former self, brief periods of happiness when I was out with friends or, let’s be honest, having a glass or two of wine. But most of the time I just slogged through life, just making it through each day, only to do it all again the next day – and that in itself was daunting.

The thing is, that though depression is real, oftentimes the things you’re depressed about aren’t real. Your life can be beautiful, you can have a beautiful baby girl and a loving husband, supportive friends and family, all your needs met, and you can’t even appreciate it. (Whoops, I’m doing it again. I mean me.) Life can feel hopeless when it’s really not. It’s very crippling.

I remember when Simona was somewhere around 4 or 5 months, and I was still having bouts of crying  and some of those same feelings of hopelessness. I thought, how can this still be postpartum stuff? Doesn’t that go away within the first couple months?

I guess not. I think it can last even longer than I struggled with it, which was about 5 months or so. Maybe even 6. I still have my days, even now at 9 months. But maybe that’s not related…maybe those are my own issues. Who knows? I have problems.

We considered getting help, but I felt embarrassed and like something was wrong with me, and didn’t want to share my feelings with a doctor. I felt like I should surely be able to conquer this…to just snap out of it. But as Joseph kindly phrased, “If your leg was broken, you wouldn’t feel embarrassed about going to the doctor. This is a real thing.”

Depression is real, but it isn’t really you. It may feel like you, it may feel like your new reality, but it isn’t. I remember a particularly bad night, feeling like there was no light at the end of the tunnel, and Joseph telling me, “I know you’re in there somewhere.” That was hope in itself to me, because he was recognizing and letting me know that this wasn’t truly who I was.

I’m so thankful for my loving and supportive husband. Without him, I think I would have just been curled up in a corner somewhere, crying, with Simona somewhere nearby, crying too because her mom is a nutcase. Joseph was patient with me, and kind, as he always is. And so was God. And my mom. And now I feel like I’m making an Oscar acceptance speech. I’d also like to thank chocolate.

It’s a little odd writing these things now, especially since I feel pretty much like myself again. But I think it’s important to be honest and to share what I went through, just to prove, as Joseph kept (keeps?) telling me, that it will get better. You may be in a really dark phase, but it will pass. That’s just a fact of life. You’ll probably even get to learn from and it and grow too, or something like that.

things no one told me about being a mom – episode 1

You learn so much as a new mother. You learn about yourself, your baby, your husband, and even your parents (there’s definitely a new appreciation there). Some things you (thought you) were prepared for, and some things completely blindside you. I’m going to share some of the latter in this new series.


1. YOUR HOME WILL NEVER LOOK THE SAME

I used to say I would not let the baby stuff take over my home. As I’m sitting here typing this, I can look to my left and see the baby bouncer, look in front of me and see a slew of toys and a baby gym, and look to the dining room to see a highchair and a pack ‘n’ play. It is virtually impossible to keep at bay. I would vow not to get bouncers and gyms and tons of toys, maintaining that my baby would be happy to play on the ground with a cardboard box and a measuring cup. All the time. Also she would never cry and be a perfect sleeper. And I would keep a perfectly clean home, just as before. Duh.

But somehow it happened. I didn’t mean for it to, but now I can buy toys with the best of ‘em, and I love my “lawn” for bottles, and I don’t know what I would do without the baby gym. So things change.

And things get messy. You may do a good job of keeping the baby gear away, but things will still be messy. There will be dried spit-up on the carpet, dried baby food on your clothes, God-knows-what in the carseat…and you won’t really care. The dishes may pile up in the sink you used to keep impeccably clean, and you just don’t worry about it like you used to. I used to get really hyper about cleaning the kitchen after a meal, or straightening up the house, but having a baby tends to rearrange priorities a bit. It goes something like baby, sleep, eat, work, housework, work out. Husband and myself are in there too, but I’m not sure where.

Having Simona has made me much less of a control freak about cleanliness. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not living in filth now or anything, but I’ve realized it’s okay if I don’t get to clean to bathroom this week. Or next week. And the laundry will wait patiently while I scrounge for some good clean underwear. The dishes will get done. But maybe I want to sit on the couch first and have a sandwich.

It’s just inevitable that when you add a new person to your family, you add new things to your life, and new chores to your list. I don’t know why I thought I could get away with having a baby as a neat, poopless accessory. Of course there’s more to it than that, but you know what I mean. As minimalist as you are, you have to at least have clothes and diapers. And then you have to wash those clothes and change those diapers.

So your home will look different. Maybe just a little different, or maybe ‘overhaul’ different. It’s a home where a tiny human will slowly grow into an adult, and that’s a beautiful thing. It is a messier, more chaotic life, but it is one filled with joy and love and baby coos. It’s filled with tiredness too, but that’s another story for another time. The long and short of it is that it’s worth it. I’d never trade the literal bundle of joy that now resides in my house, not for all the clean carpets in the world.

the early months / napping

It was a rough first few months.

The ever-growing dark circles under my eyes could’ve told you that though. No amount of concealer could hide the lost hours of sleep and countless crying spells. I even have a really good concealer…at least according to the lady at Ulta. I wonder if she has kids. I wonder if I had mentioned motherhood if she would have said, “Oh, we have something for that,” and led me to a secret back room with Magic Makeup for Moms. Made by elves.

Anyway, it was a trying time, in many ways. I had(have) a good baby though. A beautiful, healthy, happy girl with a strong taste for short naps. She’s 7 months old now, and still, the majority of her naps are 45 minutes long. That’s how it’s always been. I think she may be starting to grow out of it now. We’ll see. We’ll hope and we’ll see.

I fought it for a long time. I tried everything I could think of to make her naps longer. Was she up too long? Put her down earlier. Up too short? Keep her up longer. Not stimulated enough? Take her on walks, dance for her, make her lift weights.

I read so much about it that I finally just gave up reading about it. It’s too tiring. You can find anything you want to find out if you look it up on the internets. You’ll find arguments from both camps on any subject and you can basically just pick what you want to do anyway.

The other thing about researching everything is that every baby is different. You can find a bunch of info, but no other baby is your baby. So your baby isn’t doing x, y and z yet? That’s okay. Nobody else can tell you exactly what works for him or her. Parenting is so much trial and error. You figure out what you can and can’t do, and you survive. There will always be babies and parents that are doing “better” in your eyes, and there will always be someone with a more difficult situation than yours.

So I just accepted the short naps. It took months, but I accepted them. That’s just Simona’s way. And I can’t necessarily change it. But I can change my outlook.

So I learned to become a fierce multi-tasker. Silver lining, people. Those 45 minutes sure fly by though, when you’re trying to do laundry/respond to emails/clean up the kitchen/take a shower/watch Price is Right.

I’m also learning that these times take patience. A baby is not a machine, as my husband likes to remind me. You can do everything ‘right’ and your baby still doesn’t respond as you’d hoped. Babies are constantly changing and growing and adapting. Just when you think you figured something out they change again. This is both frustrating and beautiful. You wouldn’t want your baby to always remain a baby (or would you?). So if you’re in a rough patch, just keep going. It will pass. Your baby will learn and grow, and you will too, in the process. That’s the bonus. Or maybe…that’s the purpose.

starting solids and big smiles

If you follow me on Instagram you’ve seen a few of these already…sorry. :)

The day she turned 6 months old. Can hardly believe it!

I was so excited about starting solids with her. Turns out she has kind of a love/hate relationship with it. She got suuuper excited sitting in her chair for the first time (picture on the bottom right), and sometimes likes her rice cereal. Sweet potatoes are touch and go, she hates bananas and avocado. She below for illustration of this.

Guess we’ll keep trying.

She’s started this thing where she smiles really really hard and scrunches up her nose and almost hyperventilates. It’s so cute and I almost captured it here.

She also does the scrunchy face for Pooh bear. Such a fun age this is!

my favorite things for baby (months 1-6)


If you’ve had a baby or are pregnant, chances are you’ve come face to face with the dreaded registry process. Don’t get me wrong, it’s so fun to start picking out things for your baby, but when you walk into the veritable warehouse that is Babies’R'us and are smacked in the face with at least 14 options of every single thing you might possibly need, it can be a little overwhelming.

I remember the day we registered. I remember walking into the store and saying to Joseph, “can’t someone just tell us the things we need?” I knew we didn’t need things like a baby butt fan or a crumb cap, but where to go from there? What was essential and what was a luxury?

Obviously things like burp cloths, diapers, clothes and sheets were essential. We slowly knocked things off the suggested list, but somewhere in between the aisle lined with 25 different baby bouncers and the pack ‘n’ play museum, I was about tuckered out. Being 7 months pregnant isn’t ideal for lots of decisions being made while on your feet and without any food.

So besides the basics, what are the other things that are nice to have without being excessive? This post got me thinking about what things worked for us. Of course every baby is going to be different, and every set of parents has their unique style and priorities, but here are some of our picks.

1. These socks - All the other baby socks we had usually ended up off the feet more often than on the feet, but these actually stay on. It’s a wonder.

2. Lamaze Freddy the Firefly – I was originally against toys like this, thought they were so obnoxious-looking. But you know what, they’re like that for a reason. Baby doesn’t care if you have a stylish looking toy, she just wants to be entertained. And Simona really loves this guy, he’ll occupy her for a long time. (see top picture) But she does love her Sophie, too, if you’re looking for a trendier toy.

3. Infantino Baby Gym – I was also against these. I didn’t want any tacky baby stuff taking up space in my house. But Simona spends like half her day in this sometimes. I seriously wonder what I’d do with her if not for this. I mean, you can just put the baby on it’s back, but then all they can stare at is the ceiling. This is so great for learning to grab things – I remember when Simona started swiping at the dangling toys and we were stupid excited. Now she’ll grab one hard and shake it with a fiery vengeance. We’ve had it for months and she still plays with the animals.

4. Miracle Blanket – This kind of saved us. Simona would continually houdini her way out of a traditional swaddle, and she hated those velcro flap ones. And she wouldn’t sleep unswaddled for quite some time. This doesn’t require any noisy velcro and the baby can’t break free of it. She slept well in this.

5. Aquaphor - I thought babies were inherently and permanently soft-skinned, so I was surprised when Simona would get dry patches on her skin and cheeks. I used various baby lotions, but Aquaphor is fantastic for healing those dry patches fast. This is the ‘baby’ Aquaphor, but regular works just fine.

What are your favorite baby things?

playtime

Have you ever watched a baby play?

Simona (provided she’s in a good mood) can play with one toy for like 20-30 minutes. She stares at it, chews on it, shakes it, finds the tag (she’s obsessed with tags) and sucks on it. Some of her favorite toys are the simplest things, like a polka-dot burp cloth or an empty wrapper. In fact, sometimes when I’m moving her to the next activity, I feel bad because I worry I’ll transfer my poor attention span to her when she was perfectly happy where she was.

The other day as I changed her diaper and she played with her little Pooh bear, I looked at her to see her grinning at the thing with a smile bigger than I think I’ve ever smiled about anything. She shrieked in delight as she moved him to her mouth to suck on his eyes. Poor Pooh.

But it’s so amazing to me that we’re born like that, finding so much joy in the simplest things. Simona doesn’t need to be facebooking while she eats lunch and watches TV and paints her nails. Where did this hyper-multi-tasking come in? It makes me sad that I have a hard time doing one thing at a time, and really focusing on it.

The simplest things in life are truly the best things. A home-cooked meal with good friends, a long walk on a summer evening, a good book and a cup of tea…these are the things that really enrich us. As much as social media “scratches an itch”, it’s like this compulsion that doesn’t usually make us feel better anyway, but it’s hard to stop.

I want to take a lesson from the babies of the world: focus on one thing at a time, and truly enjoy that thing. Be present in the moment and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Obsess over the tag on your little blue elephant toy or stare out the window at nothing. Just don’t pee your pants.


a birth story – part 2

If you haven’t yet, I suggest reading part 1 first. (P.S. The wedding was the 24th, I had said it was the 26th.)

That night after the wedding, I felt my first mild contractions. They weren’t bad and were pretty far apart, but I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy about feeling pain. I didn’t even wake my husband, cause I didn’t want to keep him up if this wasn’t the real thing. And sure enough, come Sunday morning, they had stopped. Joseph and I decided to head home that morning though, just in case, rather than hanging out for the day with family in Madison. As we drove South on the expressway, I once again tried to will contractions to happen. I’ve discovered that doesn’t work.

We hung out together all day Sunday, just the two of us relaxing and trying to not think too much about the pressure we felt to have that baby before 8PM on Monday.* We were still up around midnight (normal for us at the time) when I felt more contractions. This time stronger, and closer together. Joseph whipped out the stopwatch (or smartphone, whatever) and began the timing. We took a walk outside, excited through the pain. I was having contractions of about a minute each, five minutes apart, for an hour when we called the doctor. That’s when they say you should call (the 5/1/1 rule), but I didn’t think it was that bad yet.

When the doctor found out the situation he told Joseph to take me in right away. What? Already? I had wanted to labor mostly at home, but…doctor’s orders. So we grabbed our bag and went, calling Joseph’s sister and my mom (our chosen labor helpers) as we whirled away.

As I sat in triage (where they measure you and ask you a bunch of personal questions), Joseph’s sister came and marveled at the fact that I was still talking and even smiling sometimes, as every time she’d been in that room she wasn’t able to answer any questions. I started to think, ‘hey, maybe I’m gonna be one of those lucky ladies who breezes through labor!’ That’s when they told me I was only like 2 centimeters dilated or something ridiculous like that, and they couldn’t admit me yet. I could either hang out around there or go home. I chose home.

We got home around 3AM and I had a few more contractions along with a snack and we decided to try to get some sleep. That was a silly idea because literally as I crawled into bed my water broke.

Again we made the calls, but this time I was able to labor at home for a few hours with the help of Joseph’s sister (what a champ). I ended up going to the hospital around 7AM when it got pretty bad. Since I had already gone to triage earlier that morning, I got to skip it and was whisked away to a room. That was nice, because at this point I could see how Joseph’s sister hadn’t been able to talk during her time in triage. I could also see that I was not going to be one of those aforementioned lucky ladies.**

I labored at the hospital for 6 hours (for a total of 13) before our sweet girl was born. It was kind of crazy how fast the time went even though it was so painful. You’d think it would go slow, but I think since my contractions were pretty close together the whole time I didn’t have much of a chance to clock-watch. Another crazy thing is that it’s hard to remember what the pain was even like and how terrible it must have been. I remember saying, right after she was born, “No wonder women forget labor pain. You’d have to in order to ever want to do that again.” But now it’s all getting foggy. I do remember yelling out a couple times and worrying about scaring or disturbing other mommies down the hall.***

I pushed for an hour (I didn’t have one of those movie-perfect two push deliveries) before she came. And then it was over, and the doctor was holding her and announcing, “It’s a boy!” Seriously, he said that. We were all shocked because they had told us girl the whole time. The shock lasted about 2 seconds before he corrected himself. “No, it’s a girl!” We’re still not sure if he was messing with us or if the cord was hanging just so.***

There she was, a perfect little bundle, and it was the most surreal thing. She was dark-haired and quiet. I couldn’t believe that the little human the doctor was holding had been in my tummy that whole time. It’s hard to explain. My first thoughts were relief and disbelief and my second ones were something about fingers and toes. But she was here, and beautiful.

Simona Myla was born at 1PM on August 26th, exactly 7 hours before I was supposed to be induced.**** And she waited until after the wedding, from which she had a window of 48 hours to make her appearance on her own. So I got to be at, and fully appreciate, my brother’s wedding. I had thought I wanted her out before then so I could bring her, but now I see that I would have been very preoccupied and tired, had I even made it there at all. (My expectations about what having a newborn was like were very skewed, but that’s another story for another time.) The timing really could not have been better. God’s plan is always perfect and always better than what we can dream up, and I remind myself of this story when I’m doubting or worrying or all caught up the way that I think things should go. I’m very thankful. The end (or the beginning).

And 6 months later:

 

*Looking back on it, maybe we should have spent all day sleeping, but how were we to know that our we had already had our last night of good sleep for quite a long, long time?

**While I wasn’t one of the rare women who breeze through labor with hardly a whimper, I feel very fortunate to have the labor story I did. I am not in any way complaining about how it happened, because I know that some women experience much worse and that mine was fairly average.

***Yeah, even in labor I’m a people pleaser.

****He is an excellent doctor. Really. No lie.

*****I know that not all induced labors are really that bad, and that there are women who have had good experiences with it. Unfortunately though, the stories that you hear, or at least the ones that stick with you, tend to be the negative ones.

a birth story- part 1

It was a warm summer night and we were on a walk. I loved our night walks, we’d often walk the mile to the main street in town and get ice cream or dinner. This walk was different though. I didn’t feel as relaxed as I normally did, couldn’t fully enjoy it because I was trying so hard to conjure up a contraction.

I was overdue, by a week. We had been trying every labor-inducing technique in the book (save for castor oil, which sounded disgusting) for a couple weeks at least. I wasn’t really uncomfortable, and wouldn’t have minded my belated baby except for the fact that my brother was getting married in less than a week and I needed to get that baby out by then. I couldn’t bear the idea of missing his wedding, which by the way was 2.5 hours away in Madison, where we had planned to stay for a few nights with all of the family.

I was due on the 11th of August and his wedding was the 24th. Plenty of time to get the baby out and come to the wedding, we thought. But as the days went by and nary a contraction (not even Braxton-Hicks) came to pass, I started to get a little anxious. I think we all did, except for Simona, who was perfectly happy where she was. (And God, who knew exactly what He was doing.) My doctor said we should schedule induction, so we scheduled for August 26th at 8PM.

By the time Tuesday the 20th came and went, we all started praying the opposite of what we’d been praying up until that point: that the baby would stay in until after the wedding. We got the okay from my doctor to go up to Madison, he assured us that if contractions started there, we’d have plenty of time to get back in time if we left right away. Most women have pretty long labors with their first child, he told us. (Super.) But we were happy to have his approval and so on Thursday I sat in the passenger seat as my husband drove North on the expressway. I had a stomachache, but that wasn’t going to stop us from going, and it also wasn’t stopping me from eating a big chocolate chip cookie as I talked to my sister on the phone about my pains.

Fast forward through the favor-making, family-bonding, girls-shopping-trip hours before the wedding (all so fun) and I had made it Saturday with my belly. I sat there for the beautiful wedding, not without tears, and marveled that I could be there to fully enjoy it. Once we got to the reception, I gave the okay to the baby that she could come out now. But she decided to stay in that night as I got down with my (big) bad self on the dance floor and had a general blast celebrating.


photobooth at the wedding

After the reception, I made sure the baby had gotten the message about coming out now. I really wanted her to arrive before my scheduled induction on the 26th. I’d heard terrible stories about induced labor, involving drugs and C-sections and many many hours. It has to happen sometimes, and I’m grateful for modern medicine, but it just wasn’t what I wanted. And now the clock was ticking. I had two days until then.

 

Stay tuned for part 2 coming soon!

a woodland nursery

Baby is coming, any day now.

She’s got a pretty room ready for her that she probably won’t care about for some time, but that’s fine. I think it’s important to have a peaceful lovely room for your babe, because it does something for your spirit, in turn doing something for your baby’s spirit. I feel calm and happy when I’m in this fresh new room, and I can’t wait until it’s filled with baby’s coos, zzz’s, even cries. I can’t wait to dress her up in clothes that she also won’t care about for awhile, clothes that are wonderfully impractical (baby overalls, infant shoes) but worth it because then I can swoon over her even more.

Without further ado, here’s my new favorite room in the house:

If you’re interested, you can find:
-wall decals here 
-woodland mobile here
-tissue paper animal art here (I made my own using this adorable shop as inspiration, but it was pretty time-consuming)