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New Life in the Lowcountry

Amber, Drew, Penelope and Mookie's adventures in Charleston, S.C.

Updated: 2018-03-06T11:01:04.488-05:00


Parenthood, pt. 2


More than five months into parenthood, it feels like I’ve accumulated a wealth of wisdom. Hindsight is 20/20. There are things that you find that you couldn’t live without, and there are some others that you didn’t need at all.For example, in a blog I posted in early April, I wrote about the things we planned on doing for Penelope (aka Baby A at the time), and in another post written a month later, I wrote about the items I thought would be most handy in the first few months with our baby. Very few of my predictions were correct. I guess that’s what I get for being so opinionated about something I didn’t know a thing about!With my pregnancy, everything pretty much went according to plan. I did probably gain too much weight (according to the “average”), but to be honest, I think I was a bit underweight at the start, so I really did need those 43 pounds. I spent all of those nine months thinking of B-Day (Birth Day), thinking about what it would be like to give birth and meet this creature that was growing inside of me. What would it feel like? Would it hurt like holy hell? Would I be capable of having an intervention-free birth? Would Baby A be OK? Would Baby A be a boy or a girl?This leads me to my first lesson: I didn’t read any books about what happens AFTER birth. You know, like, what to do when the baby is actually here. (Well, this is not entirely true: I did read Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding, but that’s just about breastfeeding.)If you are pregnant, I urge you to, first, throw away What to Expect When You’re Expecting (it just makes you paranoid and scared about birth, save for the monthly updates on the growth of your baby--I did like that) and start reading books about your baby. I highly recommend The Happiest Baby on the Block because it gives you incredibly valuable tools to calm your baby once your baby officially leaves La-La Sleepy Newborn Land and decides it’s time to SCREAM!! This happened for us when Penny was exactly two weeks old. Drew was holding an unhappy little girl in his arms when he got this book off the shelf, sat down on the floor and started reading desperately. Everything in this book worked for us. (But keep in mind that all babies are different, so what works for one baby may not work for another.) Other books that I recommend are Elizabeth Pantley’s The No-Cry Sleep Solution and The No-Cry Nap Solution. These two books, along with her others, are geared toward parents who are taking the Attachment Parenting path. (See this link for more on Attachment Parenting.) Our pediatrician recommends Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, but it seems to advocate the Cry It Out method, so we’re not using this book. Two other wonderful books are The Baby Book by Dr. William Sears and Martha Sears, RN, and The Vaccine Book by Dr. Bob Sears. I refer back to these books constantly. If you want to a really good and more anthropological look at motherhood, I highly recommend Ourselves as Mothers: Universal Experience of Motherhood by Sheila Kitzinger. The thing about being a first-time mom is that nothing can prepare you for parenthood. And unfortunately, many of the books you read are either geared toward pregnancy and the act of childbirth and then what's going on with your baby and his/her developmental stages. But in order to be a good parent, you first need make sure that YOU are OK. That's why I think Ourselves as Mothers and other books geared toward what it means to be a mother are so, so, so helpful. Your health and sanity are important, too.Second lesson: Expect the unexpected. For me, this was my failure at breastfeeding. I never expected that it wouldn’t happen, and I think this is why I went on a downward spiral. When my water broke, I had moments of sheer panic, and I swore to Drew that I didn’t care if I had a natural birth or a C-section: I just wanted this baby to come out safely. And honestly, I think I would’ve been OK with not having a natural birth. But never, NEVER in my wildest dreams did I think that breastfeeding wouldn’t happen. And the really [...]

I celebrated too early


"Y'all come back now, ya hear?" <--- Drew's caption for this picture.This wild-eyed little missy has been driving me up the wall the past few days. How does such a sweet girl do this? Well, after our Friday celebration last week, she has decided to throw long naps out the window completely and sleep for only thirty minutes at a time. No matter how hard I try, this girl refuses to nap longer. So, instead of a celebratory beer, I've needed a beer (or several, actually) in order to drink my woes away. I have not imbibed yet, but I sure am close.This leads me to my advice for soon-to-be new moms: Babies change every day. EVERY. DAY. What worked for a few weeks may not work later (i.e. a certain way to put your baby to sleep). I wish someone would've told me that as I was preparing for motherhood. Or perhaps someone did and I was too hard headed to soak up this golden nugget of advice. As one friend put it: Babies keep us living in the present. They are our best gurus.Oh, yes. And this guru of mine is teaching me all sorts of things. Like, I really need to work on my patience. And that I am the only person who can solve this predicament. I would love to hand her off some days and say, "Please just fix her so she can sleep longer. Please, for the love of God." But I can't, and, of course, I won't. (And really, she is perfect already.) I'm (and Drew) the best person to figure this out because I know her the best, even though lately I look at sweet P and say, "Who are you and what did you do with my Penny?"Help is on the way, thank goodness. I just ordered The No-Cry Nap Solution by Elizabeth Pantley. This author comes highly recommended from the birth center. I already have the The No-Cry Sleep Solution, but it is mostly geared toward nighttime sleep, which Penelope already does pretty well, so I never really delved too much into it. Anyway, I read an excerpt of the Nap book, and the cat-napping section pretty much describes Miss P to a T. I hope we'll find some relief here. In the meantime, I'll just be waiting next to my mailbox.---------------As I shift into full-time mommydom this week, it has suddenly occurred to me that I need to figure out what the heck we're going to do all day. I've decided that we will kick off with a tour of Charleston County parks. I'll pack the Ergo and/or our stroller, and we'll set out, exploring what the Lowcountry has to offer. I'll bring my mala beads (kind of like a rosary), and I'll recite my mantra while hopefully Penelope sleeps for longer than thirty minutes. Either way, it won't be a bust: I'll get my exercise, and Penny will see the world. Hopefully it'll be warmer than this past week, where I had Penny dressed like this for our outdoor excursions:If this is how I choose to dress my daughter when it's 40 degrees outside, then just wait until the temperatures hit 20. She will be one big ball of fabric. Only her mouth will be visible. Just kidding.-----Also, thinking about enrolling Penelope in Infant Swim Self Rescue lessons. What do you guys think? Would you do it? My desire stems from the fact that we are basically surrounded by water. (We are living on a peninsula, you know.) Here is a video about the lessons: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="420">[...]

Penelope, the silly sleeper


This was me Friday night---so ecstatic that my little girl had slept all by her big self for 2.5 hours during her afternoon nap. Sure, I had helped her back to sleep twice during that time, but it didn't require me to lay down with her for the entirety of her nap, which has been the norm for about a month now. I am hoping that Friday's nap represents a change in Penny's sleep patterns.

Penelope is a pretty easy baby to get to sleep. The problem lies in the fact that she wakes up thirty to forty-five minutes later. It's a matter of getting to her while she's still sleepy to get her back to sleep. I've spoken to the pediatrician about this, and they say that a forty-five minute nap is on the low end of "normal." We've tried just letting her take several short naps throughout the day, but that means that our little girl is tired all day long. And I just cannot make myself let Penelope cry it out. I know several people who have done this, and they say that they've had great results, but there is just something within me that prevents me from doing this. As a mom, I have a big physical and emotional reaction to hearing Penelope cry, and I cannot just let her cry in a separate room. I have a hard enough time coping with not being able to reach her when she cries in the backseat of the car. (And it's not like I don't realize that a crying baby is going to happen--I can deal with it, as long as I am able to physically be with her.)

Today was not as good of a nap day. It seems like the conditions in our small one-bedroom apartment are hardly ever right for a sleeping baby. Mookie may bark, the washing machine may clunkily start a new cycle, the floorboards may creak underneath my feet or Drew or I may accidentally knock into something in the kitchen. I long for the days when Penelope would sleep through everything. Here's hoping that today's nap time was just a bump in the road.

Update on the blues


I needed this hiatus from blogging. Thanks for sticking with me....Well, many weeks have gone by, and Penelope is growing by leaps and bounds. At 20 weeks, she has begun to laugh, babble, chew on her toes and drool like a fool. All in all, she is becoming a little person, which to me is just shocking. I guess I just didn't know what to expect as a new mom, assuming that she was going to stay little forever. Penelope growing up? Nah, she'll be my little baby forever---right?Not so. She is growing at lightning speed, and she is just lighting up the world in the process. And that's exciting!For me, I'm growing, too. In August, I met several times with a mental health counselor who is also a home-birth midwife. There were many tears shed on my part, as I conveyed my fears and anxieties as a new mom to her, and she listened with a wise and sympathetic ear. Just talking about it helped, and she gave some insight to what I was feeling that probably never would've occurred to me before. She did say that what I was experiencing was probably not postpartum depression, as I was still able to enjoy Penelope, Drew, etc.; I was just experiencing a profound sense of loss and grief that I needed to work through. I did not need to go on any medication.What I realized is that I went into motherhood with a great deal of expectations on myself, based on what I had learned from mothers from my childhood and adulthood, as well as the opinions I held for moms I only met in passing, say, at the grocery store. You know, the times where the child is screaming in the store, and you look at what the mom does in reaction to the child. Generally, you would say, Oh, I would never do that, etc.Well, take those expectations and then put yourself in the same exact situation, and see how well you do. I found that those preconceived notions bit me in the ass. I found that my karma caught up with me, big time.A lot of my feelings also were generated from me not speaking up for myself in certain situations. This is hard for me, because I am a people-pleaser. My counselor has encouraged me to find my voice. I am still working on this. I have to remember that I am Penelope's mom, and, as my beloved mentor has told me time and time again, I was the perfect applicant for this position.As for the not-breastfeeding residual feelings, I think I can finally say that I can put those feelings on the shelf. I am allowing myself to pick them up and carry those feelings around again temporarily, but I know how to safely and neatly stow them away. I think this turning point came at Penelope's four-month pediatrician appointment. I came away from that appointment feeling as if I had been awarded a blue ribbon in parenting, which is great. Penelope is just a thriving little girl, and that is what is important.(Which brings me to a different, unrelated topic: Why do we as mothers, or more generally, women, find it so difficult to believe in ourselves? We too often look for outsiders to validate ourselves. Oy! That is a big one--bigger than me, that's for sure.)Anyway, so things have been going pretty well. I realize that there are always going to be ups and downs. For instance, a few weeks ago, I was despondent over the fact that it is impossible to get Penelope to sleep longer than forty-five minutes by herself. How was I ever going to get anything done around the house? After a restful weekend, with Drew helping me during the day, I conceded that I was just going to have to lay down with Penny so she could get her long nap in. And for five days, I did it, and Penny was a much happier human being. And I'm using this time to either try to take a nap (which is difficult for me) or just close my eyes or read a book. I've come to enjoy this time, because not only is this quiet time for me to rest but also a chance to really take in Penny at this stage of her life--because she's not going to be little forever. This past weekend, when we were in Drew's hometown in Georgia, I found out that[...]

My love letter to Iowa State


Today, the Iowa State Cyclones beat the University of Iowa football team for the first time since 2007. It's been a long dry spell for the intrastate rivalry. The winner is presented with the "coveted" CyHawk trophy at the end of the game. (I use quotation marks because the trophy recently went through a redesign, and--it's pretty lame looking right now.)

It was a big deal. We won 44-41 in triple overtime. How often does that happen? And it happened at Jack Trice Stadium, our stadium. The only way I could enjoy the game was with live updates online. Drew, Penny and I left to get groceries when regular time had run out, so I knew that I was going to miss some really heavy stuff. I was glad.

When we came back, I checked the score. We won! And then I eventually got around to texting the other Iowa person who works with me at The History Press. He went to University of Iowa. His team lost. In the immortal words of Nelson from The Simpsons, "Ha, ha!"

As I was washing my face tonight, getting ready for bed, I was still reveling in today's football win. (And I was also still basking in the glow of being nearly finished with Tina Fey's Bossypants. Love. It.) The win (I will say this as much as I can, just to rub it in) made me think of other good sports-related memories from my years in Ames, Iowa.

The first memory that came to mind is clearly my favorite: going to Iowa State hockey games. I never went to one where I was of age to drink, so I was probably pretty hammered by shots my friends and I had taken earlier at our friends' dorm in the Towers (may they rest in peace/pieces). The best thing about hockey games is taunting the other team's goalie. Because they are so close to you. And you know that they just want to rip off their mask, scale the tall window and pick a fight with you. It is awesome.

Then, as I'm washing the soap off my face, I recall my second favorite memory: being part of the mad chaos that took place my freshman year (March 2000) when the Iowa State men's basketball team beat UCLA to make it to the Elite Eight. That was also awesome because what my collective peers did that night made absolutely no sense. (Maybe it's because Iowa State is mainly computer nerds and farmboys. It's debateable.) Anyway, our team had Marcus Fizer, Jamaal Tinsely and Paul Shirley--we were really, really good that season. So when the buzzer sounded at the end of the game, Iowa Staters went nuts. The first place that the student body gathered was at Martin Jischke's abode on campus. He was the much-maligned university president, and it seemed perfectly logical to go there, stand around his house and demand his resignation.

Then it was somehow decided that we would walk to Jack Trice Stadium (not, for some reason, Hilton Coliseum, where the basketball team plays), break into the stadium and try to tear down the goal posts. I will not say whether I was part of the breaking and entering (I was--but in my defense, so was about two hundred other people), but I will report that the students were not successful in taking down the goal posts. After that, it then dawned on people that it would be much more prudent to go gather in Collegetown and drink some more. And set couches on fire.

(You see, that's what Iowa Staters do best: We like to start riots. It's true: See the Veishea riots.)

None of my great Iowa State-related sports memories are linked to football, because we usually suck. And so, when we have the opportunity to win over the Hawkeyes, it gives us pride that we're not the crappiest NCAA Division I football team in the state this year. Those folks in Iowa City are.

Go State! We won!

Hurricane prep


It seems like this is it: the first time we'll have to think about preparing for a hurricane. As I write this, Hurricane Irene is projected to be a Category 3 storm by Saturday, making landfall somewhere in the Carolinas. At midday yesterday, the bull's-eye of where it would come ashore was right over Charleston. Now that has shifted farther northeast, somewhere between Myrtle Beach and Wilmington, North Carolina. But the margin of error is 200 miles, so Irene could shift course at any time.

And with a three-month-old baby at home, I don't want to take any chances.

Last night, I went out to the Mount Pleasant Walmart and bought disposable diapers, wipes, a jug of distilled water for Penelope's formula and a weather radio. I had also intended on getting D batteries, but I could find none in the store. It looks like they've already been bought up, included with most of the water in the water aisle--it was pretty much completely cleared out.

It was the second time yesterday that I had visited this Walmart. I went earlier in the day with Penelope and bought three containers of formula.

I'm not entirely sure what's going to happen over the next few days. I have no intention staying and riding out the storm, but I'm not quite sure when we should (or could, depending on work) leave Charleston. I really want to avoid being stuck in traffic as the rest of the Greater Charleston area decides to leave en masse. I've been told that the best time to leave is in the middle of the night, so I would probably opt for that. And since there is really only one main road out of Charleston (Interstate 26), I am thinking that I would take back roads to Augusta, and then Athens and then on to Cleveland, which is where Drew's family lives.

Drew has work responsibilities with this impending storm. He and his boss would need to move out the company's valuable computers after they've released their employees. It may come down to Drew and I leaving at different points in time. I worry about driving to Georgia with Penelope and Mookie, but I may have to do just that, unless Drew wants Mook to stay with him. Drew has entertained the idea of riding the storm out. To that (and please say it with me), I say a big "Hell No!"


We started making a list of things we want to bring with us, and what we would leave behind. I need to run by our bank today and put some items in our safety deposit box. Mostly, we would be bringing our computers, photo albums and other beloved items (for me, this includes my yoga stuff). The rest can be replaced: furniture, clothes, etc. I also checked with our landlord, and we have no responsibilities in weather prepping our apartment (i.e., boarding up the windows and doors)--that's up to the owners who live above us. The only thing about that is that they are out of town, and if they were smart, they wouldn't come back only to leave a day or two later. Hmmm...

More decisions will be made over the course of the next day or two. I don't have a smartphone, but I can text updates to our whereabouts on my Twitter page, which can be found here:!/Amber_Rosie

Send good thoughts, prayers, etc. our way and to the people of Charleston. Hopefully Irene will be good to us.

Coming clean


I'm not quite sure how to start this blog entry.

After thinking that these feelings were gone, that I'd said goodbye to them completely, they keep sneaking back into my life. I have decided that it is time to call it what it really is and try to find away to make myself feel better.

I have postpartum depression.

I feel like I have a deep bond with my daughter. I have a very supportive and loving husband. My dog follows me around the house. I have people, mostly far away, who are rooting for me and tell me that I am doing a wonderful job as a mom. But it is very difficult for me to really believe that in my heart. I don't know why--it just is.

The culprits, I believe (and what my midwife believes as well), is my failure at breastfeeding and choosing to isolate myself in my apartment in the process. On Friday, I emailed my midwife and we later talked on the phone. She said she sees what I am going through frequently in birth center moms who are unable to breastfeed or end up having to have a c-section birth; it really shakes us to our core because it was not how we envisioned our birth or mothering experience. She said it's really like mourning a death.

I couldn't have said it better.

She also said that, in my case, it was really just a boob failure (which made me laugh), and that there was nothing I could've done to prevent it from happening (re: not having colostrum for the first three days of Penelope's life).

On top of me mourning this loss, there are days where I feel like I cannot get anything done--like I am paralyzed. I do meet all of Penelope's needs and more, but when it comes to taking care of myself or the house, it's been one big FAIL. Plus, I don't really have a lot of people here in Charleston that I am friends with, and I don't want to cling to them in desperation as well. (For my Charleston friends who are reading this, I swear I'm really not crazy.) It has been so hot here, I am reluctant to take Penelope out of the house. I don't know where we would go. We could go to the mall, sure, but I can't buy anything, and that takes all of the fun out of going to the mall. Plus, I am still paranoid about driving alone with her and her throwing a fit. I am not at the point where I can handle her crying. I know that it is inevitable and that it happens to everyone, but it just seems cruel and unusual to go through right now. I've looked to see if there are any mom groups here in Charleston, and there are a few. The ones that I am most interested are in North Charleston or Summerville, and that's quite a hike for someone who lives downtown. There is a mom/baby yoga class that we could go to on Thursday evenings, to which we'll probably go, but it will cost $10 per class. That may not sound like a lot, but we're on more of a fixed income now that I am only working part time (starting tomorrow/Monday).

Plus, there's always the "will-they-like-me?" insecurity.

So, you may be reading this and thinking: she is full of excuses and she's whiny. You're right; you're absolutely right. There is absolutely no reason why she should be crying, especially when her daughter is smiling at her all the time.


Anyway, I am definitely going to seek counseling. I am going to get some names on Tuesday from my midwife when she is back at work. She also said that there is no harm in going on medication for about six months to help me adjust, but I think I am going to see how counseling goes first.

OK, I'm done talking about this now.

Burping: It could be an Olympic sport


Penelope, God love her, is a gassy, burpy girl. I just (FINALLY!) put her down for another nap after working on that last burp/spit up for at least a half hour. Sometimes it's really easy to get all of them up in the form of what seems to be non-stop spitting up, but there are times where that burp is lurking in her belly, not willing to give up its space.

The poor girl was just whimpering "I'm so, so, so tired! Please, mama, get this nasty stuff up so I can go to sleep." I had her on my chest, patting her back. Sometimes I was standing up, sometimes I was sitting down and sometimes I was rocking. Then I would try sitting her in my lap and having her lean against my arm while I patted her on the back with my other arm. Sometimes I would jiggle her with my leg, sometimes I would not. Sometimes I just let her be, thinking it would spontaneously come up on its own, sometimes I would rub her back. Then I thought, maybe I'll just lay her down for awhile and see if it comes up. Nope. Put her back on my chest. I put her higher up, and then I transitioned her to lower down my chest. Then(!) we tried bouncing on the bed, with her facing my chest, and then later with her sitting in my lap. Then I thought--maybe I'll lay down in bed on an incline and let her lay on my chest----nope! That just made her mad. Then I started thinking: For the love of God! Please let this girl spit up because I am hungry and tired.

Finally, I got a little dribble up, and I thought: OK, this is it! Let's lay her down because this poor girl is rubbing her eyes and still whimpering. Pacifier in. She pops it out. I walk back over and pop it back in. She starts flailing her arms (we're trying to not swaddle her as much), looking at the butterfly mobile that's swaying above her, and then she starts to slowly calm down. She just stares--and then her eyes get oh-so heavy.

And then, she's asleep. Now, it's time for me to eat. Hallelujah.

I write this not to complain. I'm not. It is just exhausting how it sometimes takes so much to relieve your little one's discomfort. She is getting more fun by the day, and she seems to be sleeping better, which means I am sleeping better. That definitely means a lot.

Ten weeks of motherhood


There is not a day that goes by that I do not think about what it was like to give birth to Penelope. I wonder when I will start to think of her birth less and less. I remember the awe I felt, the utter shock of what had just happened. I don't so much remember the pain, mostly, I think, because it wasn't as painful as I had expected. I am so grateful that I was able to give Penelope (and myself) a wonderful and peaceful birth experience.Motherhood isn't easy. I am sure Drew would say that fatherhood, in general, isn't easy either. There are some days where I swear I have my daughter figured out. On those days, we are in sync: responding to each other easily and naturally, and I am able to satisfy her wants and needs. Then she trips me up, and we start back at square one. I am trying to not get overconfident on those days where we are in sync, because I know that she is constantly evolving from a tiny newborn into an increasingly heavy and more mobile infant.The smiles she gives are becoming more and more frequent, and I love being able to play with her and see what she takes joy in. She thinks ceiling fans with multiple lights are hilarious (I think she thinks the lights are eyes); she also thinks the butterfly mobile above her cosleeper is really funny, especially when the fan causes the multicolored butterflies to dance above her head. She loves tongues, and we play a game where I stick out my tongue and wait for her to do the same, and then we start all over again. Penelope also seems to enjoy her (almost) daily massages. I learned how to do them from the book Loving Hands by Dr. Frederick Leboyer, a French obstetrician who learned the baby massage technique from an Indian woman who was massaging her baby in the middle of a bustling Indian city back in the '60s. I've combined the massage with baby yoga stretches I learned in Itsy Bitsy Yoga, and I think Penny really likes that.Last night I accidentally scared her half to death. I had just come home from a bike ride, and Drew was telling me about the progress she had been making in her baby gym. (She's now latching both of her little hands around the hanging rings.) We were hovering over her, rooting her on, when I accidentally pushed a glass of water off the nearby coffee table, causing the glass to break and the contents to spill all over her. She screamed. And screamed. And screamed some more--making me feel like the worst mommy in the world. We checked her over twice, making sure that no shards of glass got on her. Drew swaddled her up, and I rocked her to sleep and breathed deep, slow, yogic breaths so she would settle down. It worked. Thank God.I continue to fight with my inner demons about not being able to breastfeed. About two or three weeks after Drew went back to work, I stopped pumping. I was having difficulty finding the time to pump to keep up my supply, and so I began to see it dwindle. I became discouraged and gave up quietly, not even telling Drew. I suppose I was ashamed that I was giving up on breastfeeding entirely. There are times where I want to learn how to relactate, which is possible but difficult and really takes commitment. But then I start to wonder: is this about me or about Penelope? She is doing so well and thriving on formula--why should I disrupt her life? I think part of the reason why my failure at breastfeeding has hit me so hard is because, four days before she was born, I dreamed of her. She had black hair (which proved to be correct), and I was breastfeeding her. When I woke up, I was so excited.The sadness over breastfeeding is also an economic and safety issue for us. Formula is so expensive, whereas breast milk is free and better for babies. There is never any need to worry about breast milk being recalled or tainted (unless the mama is really unhealthy). Every time I open a parenting book and read about bre[...]

A new world for Mookie


Life has changed quite a bit for our little furball. Instead of getting all of our attention, his wants and needs have taken the backseat to Penelope (except when we travel--more on that later).

When we first brought Penny home from the birth center, we were so sleep deprived and overwhelmed, there were times when we completely forgot about him. We would suddenly remember that that he was still outside after maybe a half hour or so of letting him out. (At least we were remembering to do even that!) We felt like awful dog owners, but we were still getting the hang of being parents to another human being.

Mookie, at first, wanted nothing to do with her. He would barely get close to her. Now, as the weeks have gone by, he's getting braver, sniffing her out occasionally. He doesn't like to hear her cry; he is always quick to be by her side. I'm not entirely sure if he's just being somewhat affectionate in his own way, or if he's just like, "C'mon--be quiet!"

For those of you who've been around Mookie, you know that he's quite a rambunctious little guy who is quick to bark at anything that goes by our apartment. Penelope actually sleeps through his barks, which is absolutely wonderful. I credit this to her probably hearing him barking while in the womb. That or she has incredible selective hearing.

For ol' Mook, his walks have become less frequent, although we still try to take him around the block twice a day. I've managed both Penelope and him on walks by putting Penny in the Ergo carrier. Walks, though, are much more enjoyable when I've got Drew to help me.

When we all travel together, it's kind of a juggle. Mookie has never liked being in the backseat unless there's someone back there with him to keep him there. So, Mook rides shotgun while someone rides in the back with Penny. Strange, yes, but it keeps everyone happy. Sacrifices must be made.

Reading poetry to Penelope


Drew and I like to read poetry to Penelope. He prefers the poets he studied in college, while I am digging in to my new Rumi collection. You may remember that I wrote about my favorite Rumi poem a year or two ago and how it correlates to one of my favorite songs. Well, after I read Penny that poem, Love Dogs, I decided to read the one that followed it immediately after. I was struck at how pertinent it is for our situation and to other new parents out there. It's talks about how you must surrender yourself to help--to allow people to help you, even though you think you can do it yourself. Sometimes you just can't. It also reminded me of the beginning of my yoga teacher training and what my teachers said: In order to learn, you must empty your cup, so that you can fully absorb what you want to learn. You can't go into a situation with a half-full cup, thinking you already know what you're doing. To learn, you must be thirsty for the knowledge.

Here's the poem:

Cry Out in Your Weakness

A dragon was pulling a bear into its terrible mouth

A courageous man went and rescued the bear.
There are such helpers in the world, who rush to save
anyone who cries out. Like Mercy itself,
they run toward the screaming.

And they can't be bought off.
If you were to ask one of those, "Why did you come
so quickly?" he or she would say, "Because I heard
your helplessness."

Where lowland is,
that's where water goes. All medicine wants
is pain to cure.

And don't just ask for one mercy.
Let them flood in. Let the sky open under your feet.
Take the cotton out of your ears, the cotton
of consolations, so that you can hear the sphere-music.

Push the hair out of your eyes.
Blow the phlegm from your nose,
and from your brain.

Let the wind breeze through.
Leave no residue in yourself from that bilious fever.
Take the cure for impotence,
that your manhood may shoot forth,
and a hundred new beings come of your coming.

Tear the binding from around the foot
of your soul, and let it race around the track
in front of the crowd. Loosen the knot of greed
so tight on your neck. Accept your new good luck.

Give your weakness
to one who helps.

Crying out loud and weeping are great resources.
A nursing mother, all she does
is wait to hear her child.

Just a little beginning whimper,
and she's there.

God created the child, that is, your wanting,
so that it might cry out, so that milk might come.

Cry out! Don't be stolid and silent
with your pain. Lament! And let the milk
of loving flow into you.

The hard rain and wind
are ways the cloud has
to take care of us.

Be patient.
Respond to every call
that excites your spirit.

Ignore those that make you fearful
and sad, that degrade you
back toward disease and death.

Heading to the Heartland


In a few weeks, Penelope will be taking her first plane ride! She and I will be heading to the Midwest so she can meet the Billingses and the Johnsons. I am a bit nervous for the trip, especially since I'll be traveling sans Drew. But I am hoping it will be easier than I think. I've been told to travel as light as possible. I've heard that you can rent car seats and strollers, but since I'll be flying in and out of different cities, I'm not sure if that would work. Do any of you have advice for me?

She and I will be taking off from Atlanta and flying nonstop to Kansas City so we can attend a mini Billings family reunion. I'll get to see cousins I haven't seen in a decade or more. And then my parents will drive the two of us back to Sioux City, where we'll stay for a week. We're even planning on making a trip to Pocahontas, where my grandparents live. On the way back, we'll depart from Omaha, landing in Charleston after a two-hour layover in Atlanta.

Penelope and I will be in the Midwest on July 15 through the 25th. If any of you Missourians or Iowans want to see us, get in contact with me, and we'll try to make something happen! :)

As for Drew--he'll be catching up on some much needed sleep. Lucky guy.

Penny at 5 weeks


Sleeping beauty.It seems that time is flying by, and our little girl is growing fast. At first, I was surprised when people started remarking at how big she's been getting. When you see your baby every day, it's hard to notice the little changes. But now, I can tell--especially in her weight. She's getting heavy!A very unhappy Penelope with her parents at Grandma Winder's 60th birthday party.So what is she doing these days? Well, when she's not sleeping (which is still quite a bit--her longest stretch so far has been 4.5 hours), she is starting to recognize her parents' faces. She is even debuting her beautiful, gorgeous smile while she's awake. These smiles are elusive, so when she does decide to show us her toothless, gummy smile, my heart leaps for joy. I can't wait to see more of them. She does not like to be burped, but her protests seem to be stronger when we didn't move fast enough to give her her bottle. If her food arrives just in time, her burping protests are merely a whimper. She loves to be held and carried around the house; so far my Ergo carrier is working out quite well! I am, though, still on the lookout for the perfect sling. Penny also still loves her tummy time, and it shows. She can hold her head up for a good length of time. I'm not sure if she's ahead of schedule on this, but it does make Drew and I proud.Being carried in the Ergo makes Penny sleepy.Penelope is absolutely fascinated with our couch and its pattern. I also think she is very intrigued by art, as I have caught her looking at our art on our walls and the patterns on the drapes. I've read that that's pretty common for young'uns such as Penny.As for her nighttime sleep--well, there are some days where she sleeps better than others. I really think the culprits are that she doesn't have all of her burps up and that swaddle isn't good enough. Both are still a work in progress. I feel like Penny spits up a lot, and we will be having a talk about it with our pediatrician next week.Drew and I have good news on the food front. The midwives at the birth center have put me in touch with another birth center mom who has copious amounts of breast milk and is willing to share with us her "overflow" (the frozen breast milk that's taking up too much space in her freezer and will go bad before her eight-week-old daughter ever consumes it). I picked up the breast milk today, and we will be introducing it to Penny over the next 24 hours or so. Our lactation consultant has recommend easing Penelope into it by doing feedings of half breast milk and half formula, to make sure that her tummy takes to this mom's milk.This isn't the first time Penny's had another mom's breast milk. In the week after she was born, another birth center mom (who is also a certified nurse-midwife) gave us some of hers because she was also in a similar overflow situation. I am beyond thankful for these women, who are willing to share their (what I like to call) liquid gold to give to our sweet Penelope. Am I envious of them and their supply? Of course I am! But I am not about to let my jealousy get in the way of making sure that my daughter has the best food possible. Am I concerned about the quality of the breast milk? No. These women have come recommended from the birth center, and I know that my midwives and lactation consultant would not advocate breast milk sharing with these moms if it wasn't safe.[...]

I. Am. So. Tired.


Penny is an excellent sleeper, except for one crucial stretch of the day: between the hours of 2:00 and 6:00 a.m. This is a recipe for disaster for me because I am not and never have been a napper. Even when I was Penelope's age, I only napped for fifteen minutes at a time. I am not sure if I can undo thirty years of habit.

Drew and I have divided up our nights so we can accommodate Penelope's feeding schedule, which is typically every three to four hours. Drew gets the "late shift," meaning 9:00 p.m. until around 1:00 a.m. Then I take over for the "early" shift. I try to go to bed anywhere between 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. so I can get some sleep before I need to feed her. When she wakes for my first feeding with her, she is usually pretty sleepy for her diaper change and feeding, and I try to get all of her burps up. In my arms, she is out like a light. I swaddle her as tightly as I can, and I lay her in her co-sleeper next to my side of the bed.

Then the restlessness begins. She breaks loose from her swaddle. Or she starts to spit up. Or she just decides to grunt and move around before she nods back off for five or ten minutes at a time, and then the whole thing starts all over again. I pick her up occasionally, thinking she still needs to burp. Usually this is futile, because I get nothing up. I lay her back down---and then she usually spits up in her bed about twenty minutes later. So then I repeat the same process, to no avail. Then I usually have to re-swaddle her. And then she breaks out of it. Just this past night, I decided to give her her pacifier, thinking this would solve everything. Nope. Still the same restless Penelope.

So I decide to start making coffee at 4:30 a.m. because I know that within an hour or so, I will be feeding her again.

This is incredibly frustrating and usually leaves me in tears. Drew has offered to get up with her and feed her, but it's not fair to him because he's already stayed up with her long enough, and he has to go to work all day long. Surely I could try to fit in a nap, right? Or perhaps we should just move her bed into a different room. Knowing that she is sleeping next to me puts my mind in a hyper state of alert. For those precious few minutes where she is sleeping soundly, I start to get worried and place my hand over her chest to make sure she's still breathing. Moving her bed in theory sounds like a wonderful idea, but this also seems scary to me. In some masochistic way, I want to hear every peep she makes, just to know that she is still with us. Either way, I lose sleep.

I realize that lack of sleep comes with the territory of having a baby at this age. (She's one month old today!) But knowing ahead of time that you're not going to get a lot of sleep is a lot different than actually experiencing it. When the sun is up, I am up. Plus, I absolutely cherish my time with Penny during sunrise. This is usually when she is the happiest.

So I'm not sure of what I can do except to suck it up and deal with it.

Gaining confidence in being a parent


I had been eagerly awaiting my mom's arrival back in Charleston ever since she left a few weeks ago. I kept telling everyone that she was going to teach me all about babies. She's had plenty of experience, having raised three kids and baby sitting her four other grandkids frequently. I knew that Drew and I were taking good care of Penelope, but I had (or perhaps still have) no confidence in myself as a parent.

There are so many dos and do nots in raising a child. And there are so many things that could potentially harm an infant. For example, I was given a hand-me-down sling from a friend of mine, and I put Penny in it last weekend. She loved it--she went right to sleep in it, all snug as a bug in a rug, and I thought my life was revolutionized. We went on a walk around the block, and I was able to do some chores as she hung on the sling around my body. I was raving about the experience on Facebook later that morning, and when I searched for a link on the sling I found that it had actually been recalled a few months earlier! The recall was due to a suffocation risk. I was heartbroken, and I promptly took Penny out of the sling.

Many of my fellow mom-friends said that basically it's all about paying constant attention to your child. There was probably nothing wrong with the sling; the recall was probably the result of some parents using the sling improperly. Sometimes all of the directions just have to be spelled out, regardless of how obvious the matter is.

My confidence is growing a little, day by day. The thing that's still missing, I think, is how I can still enjoy all the things I know and love and incorporate Penny into the picture. I know things will never be the way it used to be, but I do still crave a version of myself pre-Penelope. I figure this will come in time. I just need to be patient with myself.

Making sense of Penelope


Every day brings about some new adventure with Penelope. She surprises me about something every day. And I feel like I am starting to get a handle on her cues, like when she is getting hungry, when she is about to spit up and when she is sick of the position that she's in. There are times when she is fussy when I am holding her, and I know that I will have to put her down so I can complete some task. I always think she's going to absolutely freak out when I set her down (in a safe spot) and walk away, but to my consistent surprise, she just lays there, as content as can be, for about ten minutes.

One thing that's difficult to keep up with is keeping her fingernails trimmed and filed. Last Friday morning, she woke up looking as if she had been in a cat fight; she had so many red and angry scratch marks all over her face. It's a constant battle to keep those mittens on her hands because she either somehow slips them off or the elasticity of the mittens' band wears off. Either way, I'm trying to get to her nails every other day.

As I mentioned before, Drew and I have really found that The Happiest Baby on the Block has been an excellent tool for keeping Penny calm and happy. It's all about the five S's: swaddling, shushing, swinging, sucking and side or stomach lying. The pediatrician that wrote the book says that these five actions help your infant recall life within the womb. The first three months of life is all about the so-called fourth trimester. When Penelope is upset, we dive into the five S's. We don't always have to do all five; sometimes even one of them will do to keep her nice and calm.

Yesterday, Penny underwent her newborn hearing screening at MUSC's Children's Audiology Department. This is traditionally done in hospitals before infants are released, but since she was born at the birth center, we had to get this done elsewhere. It was pretty nervewracking going into her test. We weren't afraid that she wasn't going to pass--we think her hearing is perfectly fine--but the paperwork we were sent said that she had to be asleep or sleepy for the test. If not, we would have to reschedule our appointment. We got lucky, though. Miss P slept through the whole ordeal, and the audiologist said she was one of the easiest babies she had ever tested. She gave Drew major kudos for keeping her calm and happy, since he held her throughout the test.

What a week!


It's hard to believe that three weeks ago tonight, I was experiencing the worst pain of my life--and I had no idea it was because I was in labor. Luckily, this little cutie was my light at the end of the tunnel. This is her this morning for her first bath where she was halfway submersed (due to her umbilical cord taking forever to fall off). She absolutely loved it, and therefore, I loved it too. A very blissful bath that was followed by some tummy time on floor. She tolerated that for about 10 minutes. I swear, I think she's going to be an early crawler because she was just pedaling those little legs on the floor like she knew she needed to go places. It was pretty gosh darn cute.

I, on the other hand, do not feel cute. I feel tired. I've been up since 3:30 this morning. She did not want to fall back asleep until about 5:45, and by that time the sun was starting to come up. I knew that sleep would be futile for me. I know they say that you should sleep when the baby sleeps (and for which I am eating my words right now), but I have never been a napper--ever. Just ask my mom.

I have survived my first week with Penelope by myself while Drew went back to work. Every day became a little bit easier, a bit more familiar. Dare I say that today I actually enjoyed my day with her. We even ventured out briefly to pick up food at the Black Bean Company for lunch. I discovered their homemade yogurt and granola, and I have been craving more ever since.

For now, I will sign off. I plan on writing more this weekend. Time for bed!!!

Emerging from the baby blues


It took having a baby to realize that I know nothing about them.Since I had two younger brothers that are so close in age to me, I really had no experience with babies. I really didn't enjoy baby sitting--I had no patience for it when I was in middle or high school, but I did it occasionally with older kids. They were more my speed. Even when my nephew and nieces were born, I wasn't around them long enough to truly comprehend how much work these little beings are. I was always just relieved that I could pass them off whenever they started to cry or get fussy.The past two weeks have been an eye-opening and humbling experience. I have cried so many tears for so many reasons--joy, grief and some other emotions in between. What has gotten me through these weeks have been the support of my husband, my family, the birth center's lactation consultant and a very caring massage therapist/mom.After Penelope was born, I was not producing any colostrum, the initial breastmilk that is jam-packed with vitamins that helps babies get by until a woman's regular milk comes in. Seven hours went by at the birth center before she received her first nourishment--with formula. My midwife, the volunteer nurse and the lactation consultant helped me put Penny to my breast--she had an excellent latch, but she was a sleepy girl and would only suck a few times before she fell asleep. I also pumped while at the birth center, and produced nothing. The midwife told me not to worry, that babies her weight have plenty of reserves and that she was not starving. But Laurie, the midwife, could not let me go until we had a feeding plan.Throughout my pregnancy, I never really had any significant breast growth. And we discovered after I got my placenta processed into pills and a tincture by another local midwife, my placenta was smaller than usual. These factors may or may not be reasons why my milk was so late in coming in; there's really no way to tell. It was ultimately decided on the day of Penny's birth that we would supplement with formula through a syringe and tube, putting the tube next to our finger and let her suck the milk out of the syringe. I would put her at my breast to keep up her latch and to stimulate my milk, and then finger feed her if necessary. After that, I would pump for 10-15 minutes. Any milk I eventually produced would be fed to her through a syringe until we got the hang of this. I wasn't worried. I thought this would pass and I would be able to breastfeed, just as I had planned.Wednesday came and we had an appointment with the lactation consultant, Jodi, at the birth center. Penelope had lost some weight. I think she weighed 6 pounds 8 ounces. It's perfectly normal for newborns to lose some weight after birth; it typically takes awhile for them to regain their initial weight. I had been having luck in having her latch on for 10 minutes at a time, and I thought that this was it--that we could stop supplementing. I was feeling so guilty that we had been giving her formula. So at the appointment, we weighed her naked, and then Jodi had me breastfeed her. After we were done, we would weigh her naked again to see if she gained any weight from the breastmilk. And so she started sucking away. About 10-15 minutes went by, and we weighed her. No change. She had gotten nothing. Her latch had deteriorated over the past few days, and now she was just using my breast as a pacifier. We were back to square one, with instructions on how we could bring out her tongue, instead of how she was bunching it up inside her mouth.On Friday, my mom and my doula came with me to a breastfeeding support [...]

My story


Miss Penelope Jane Allen. Born May 21, 2011, at 6:58 a.m. at Charleston Birth Place in North Charleston, South Carolina. She weighed 7 pounds, 1/2 ounces, 20 1/4 inches long. We thought Baby A was coming on the 18th. Drew and I had our routine prenatal appointment that day at 2 p.m., and we had been told last week that he/she could be here within a week. The week before I was already dialated 3 cm and was 90 percent effaced (which means how thick or thin the cervix is, with 100 percent being practically nonexistant). When Erica, the midwife we saw that day, asked me on the 18th if I wanted to be checked again, I said, "Sure, why not?"Me breathing through contractions early Thursday, May 19.And so she did--and to our amazement, including the midwife, I was dialated 6 cm and was 100 percent effaced. She said that we could have a baby in 24-48 hours. "Are you sure you're not feeling contractions?" she asked. I told her no, but that I had been feeling crampy on and off all week. Soon we were whisked into another room, and I was hooked up to a fetal heart monitor so they could see if I was having contractions--which I was. I just didn't know that they were actual ones. Another midwife, Laurie, started me on antibiotics because I had tested for Group B Strep at a previous appointment. (GBS is fairly common; 1 in 4 women test positive for it in pregnancy, and it just means that I would have to receive antibiotics every four hours I was in labor to prevent the baby from contracting it during delivery. The baby would then be tested 2 hours after birth to see if it was GBS free.)After about a half hour or 45 minutes of monitoring and receiving the antibiotics, the midwives sent me home with specific instructions on what to do if I went into labor anytime soon. The midwife on call that night, Leigh, would call me later that night to see how I was doing.Leigh, one of the midwives, lifts up on my belly to relieve pressure and pain during a contraction on Thursday, the 18th.And sure enough, at about 9 p.m., I started having contractions, and we headed up to the birth center. Leigh and our doula, Lisa, met us there at about 11 p.m. When Leigh checked me, I had not made any more progress with dialation, and the contractions never evened out. They needed to intensify and come regularly at least every five minutes and last a little less than a minute. That just never happened. The contractions were somewhat intense, but they came irregularly. Around 6 a.m., Leigh checked me again, and my dialation had actually backtracked. I was now 4 cm dialated. She could either offer me an herbal remedy to jumpstart labor, or I could go home and rest. As anxious as we were to meet Baby A, I was more anxious to sleep and a little discouraged at my lack of progress. So we headed home. And waited...At about 8:30 p.m. Friday, I started having horrible back pain on the left side of my back, radiating up toward my shoulder blade and down my hip and sometimes reaching around the left side of my belly. I thought that maybe I had pulled a muscle or my spine was out of whack, and I was cursing myself for not scheduling a chiropractic adjustment earlier in the week. I tried to walk it off with Drew and Mookie, but I had them turn around about three minutes into it. I had to go back and lay down. When I got home, I took a Tylenol PM and Drew helped me put ice packs up and down my back. The meds made me loopy, but it did absolutely nothing for the pain.I eventually decided to lay down in my bed. It was not long after that I called for Drew, telling him that I thought I needed t[...]

GreekFest in Charleston


This year, Drew and I finally made it to GreekFest, which is held at the Greek Orthodox Church just around the corner from our apartment. The food was excellent, the weather was beautiful and not too hot and the music was great. And we got to pretty much enjoy the music all weekend long, as we could hear the music playing from the time it started until it ended at 10 p.m.

We went with some friends of mine at work: Julie, Dan and Joe.

Dan, Joe and Drew

Julie and me.

Drew and me.

My predictions...


As Baby A's arrival creeps closer and closer, I'd like to make some predictions as to what things will make those first few days, weeks and months easier. So I'm going to announce my predictions publicly, and then I will get back to you whether I was right. (I have a feeling I'm going to be completely off mark on some of them.)So, here goes:DrewThis guy will be my rock during labor and those first trying days. Well, I take that back. He will be my rock forever because this whole event involves him as much me. I have no doubt that he will be an excellent father and continue to be a loving husband.Our family, friends and doulaOur doula, Lisa, has so far been a godsend in helping us prepare for labor. She will  be there during the first few hours where we'll be laboring at home, and she'll help us stay calm and focused. Lisa will also be Drew's backup when he needs to get some much needed rest. As for our family and friends, they will be our lifelines to the outside world, helping us not only take care of the baby but also helping clean up the house and cook food. We are so lucky that we'll have plenty of help and support in those first few months.LoveLove will be all around, shared between Drew and I and directed toward the baby. I've decided to represent love with one of our mobiles. This particular one is hanging above the baby's co-sleeper, which we've already attached to our bed.SleepEveryone says, "Sleep when the baby sleeps." And then I hear a lot of people say, "But you won't. You'll want to get stuff done around the house," etc. For me, I don't seem to handle lack of sleep very well, so getting enough sleep will be my no. 2 priority (the first priority is sort of obvious). I frankly have no problem with a messy house, especially when there are more important things to do.Healthy foodIt will be imperative that I eat nutritiously during the months that I'll be breastfeeding Baby A. I am anxious about returning to my vegetarian diet (eating meat has been necessary for me, but I haven't enjoyed it). I am also planning on cutting out dairy completely after Baby A is born. I was a very colicky baby for the first three months of my life, and while that doesn't mean that Baby A will be, I want to try to take every step I can to avoid it.A rocking chairThis is a must-have item for us, and we intend to spend a lot of time in this chair. This is Drew's triumph. We found it on the side of the road a few months back, and it was in some disrepair. Drew fixed the seat, tightened up a few screws, sanded it down and gave the chair a new paint job. I think it looks pretty nice in our small nursery, don't you?Breastfeeding pillow and pumpAfter sifting through consumer recommendations, I stumbled upon this gem: the Brest Friend breastfeeding pillow. It's different from the popular Boppy because it actually secures itself around your waist and has a much firmer surface. From what I've read, the baby is less likely to fall asleep during breastfeeding, and it will help with back, shoulder and neck support for me. Hooray all around! As for the pump, I've opted to get a Medela machine for the times where I'll be away from Baby A during feeding times.Cloth diapersWe are all set with our cloth diapers. We've got about 40 prefolds (the regular white cloths that you fold into a diaper and secure with a fastener) and a few fitted diapers (the ultra-soft diapers seen below). In addition, we've got a handful of the diaper covers that will go over the prefolds or fitted diapers. These gems [...]

Melissa's story


This is one of several birth/parenting stories that I will be posting on this blog in an effort to create a forum for parents, whether new or experienced, or parents-to-be to learn more about the experience of birthing and raising children. Even though every child is different, I think it's helpful to hear others' stories. Consider this my very own journalism project! :) Please remember that these stories are opinion only, and every story writer should be held with respect. If you are interested in sending me your birth or parenting story, please leave a comment, and I will direct you in how to send it in. Thanks!People gave me bits of advice before I had my first child, Maya, but I never fully understood that advice until I experienced life with a newborn. When I was pregnant with her I couldn't wait until she was here. I would mark off each day on the calendar and keep track of how many more weeks I had left. I was induced with her on May 5th. The contractions were super painful but I had an epidural and things were smooth sailing from there :) The stay in the hospital went well and a couple days after she was born we went home. My mom stayed with us for a couple of days which was really nice. After that we were on our own. It was very exciting, exhausting, and overwhelming at the same time. She would sleep for 4-5 hours at a time during the day but wake up every 2 hours at night. (She had her days and nights switched around which most babies do). I breastfed her so that took about 15-20 minutes on each side. That was very, very painful at first but I enjoyed the closeness and bonding that came with nursing. (You won't know how painful it really is until you experience it. :/)Those first couple of weeks were really hard on me since I took care of her the majority of the time since Steve couldn't feed her and getting him up during the night to change a diaper seemed like a waste of time since I was already up. To be completely honest with you, the lack of sleep plus my hormones readjusting and feeling anxious about making sure Maya was okay really made me feel like being a mom kinda sucked. It was pretty lonely, too, since I was the first of my friends to have a baby. I didn't have many people I could talk to about the ups and downs of life with a newborn. I remember my mom called me about everyday around 11:00 a.m. to just chat for about 15 minutes. That really helped because I didn't feel I had many people to talk to about baby stuff. After a few of weeks, though, my life was adjusting and things were getting a bit easier. I loved holding Maya while she slept, giving her kisses and taking care of her. It was just those times during the evening when she was fussy and nothing seemed to stop her crying and getting up during the night that made mothering tough. I had Maya in Ames, Iowa, when I worked as a school psychologist. So, when she was about 3 months old I took her to daycare. That was really hard for me to do, and I cried the first time I dropped her off. There were times throughout that year when she was in daycare that I wanted to quit my job and be a full-time mom, but we couldn't afford it at the time since Steve was getting his Ph.D. in engineering. Once Steve got a job, we moved to Brookings, South Dakota, and I was able to be a full-time mom. I love my job! We do so many fun things together, and I found many mom groups here in town. I love having many friends who are moms. Not to say I'm not friends with those who aren't moms, but I like sharin[...]

37 weeks: baby watch begins


I am so close to birthing a baby, I am losing track of how many weeks I am. For the past few days, I've been thinking that I was 38 weeks. But nope--only 37. That's OK though. It's now official: this baby is allowed to come whenever he/she wants!So, how am I feeling? I am feeling very, very large. My legs and feet feel very thick. My hips and back sometimes ache. Every once in awhile, my fingers swell a tad. I get tired very easily. And this baby is a mover and a shaker. I love laying on my side and watching the baby move my belly around. It's quite surreal. Despite all of the aches, pains and discomfort, I am still a generally happy pregnant lady. Especially because I am still sleeping relatively well, minus those two or three times I am getting up per night to go to the bathroom.Drew paid me what I thought was a very wonderful compliment the other day, saying that I have so far defied his friends' predictions that I would become this big, miserable pain in the butt (not his words, but mine). He said that so far, this pregnancy has been pretty easy on him because I've remained a pleasure to be around. Yay! Will that keep up in these last few weeks? We'll see, but I hope so for both of our sakes.I've gained 39 pounds thus far in this pregnancy. I've been on carb lockdown the past few weeks, and it's making a huge difference, I think, in slowing down my weight gain. One of the things I noticed right away when I cut back on my carb intake was that I was much more hungry. The midwife Drew and I met with on Thursday said that meant that I wasn't getting enough protein. She recommended that we pick up a protein powder to mix with a creamy shake. We did, and it is so, so good!Now that Baby A is cleared for landing on Planet Earth, the birth center gave us a handout that discusses certain things that will help not only prepare my body for labor but to also get this baby here safely.Those tips include Evening Primrose Oil herbal supplements, Christopher's Birth-Prep herbal supplements, copious cups of red raspberry leaf tea and continuing to take my prenatal vitamins. According to the birth center, Evening Primrose Oil is an essential fatty acid that is a prostaglandin precursor, so it helps produce adequate prostaglandins to then trigger labor. The oil also helps soften tissue and can help the cervix be ready for dialation. Christopher's Birth-Prep and the red raspberry leaf tea are uterine strengtheners, helping my muscles stay strong so I get the most bang for my buck during contractions.While these supplements are not required (except for those helpful prenatal vitimins), the midwife that we met with on Thursday (who also happens to be the owner and director of the birth center), said that their effectiveness has been seen in her moms-to-be during labor. She said that most of the first-time moms who have had to transfer to the nearby hospital because of long, difficult labors had not taken advantage of these "tools" to help them.So, um, yeah. I'm gonna do everything I can to make myself ready.[...]

Life at the beach


One of the things I promised to myself is that I wouldn't buy a maternity swimsuit. To me, I think they're expensive and unnecessary, especially given that my trips to the beach would be during the very last stages of my pregnancy. I figure, why not show off my big ol' belly? Old men (and some not so old) do it all the time, and they've got nothing on me these days.

Unfortunately the water wasn't quite warm enough at Sullivan's Island last weekend, so I only waded in up to my thighs. I am looking forward to a trip to one of our friends' pools to relieve myself of the weight I'm carrying around these days. I am also looking forward to getting back on my paddleboard. There were quite a few out when we went this particular day, and it made me really jealous. I thought way back at the beginning of my pregnancy that I was going to be able to get back on it at this stage of the game, but my balance is awful and I can't handle standing up for long periods of time.

Here are some more scenes from the beach:

Drew is apparently giving me all of his weight. With all the exercise that he's been doing lately, like yoga, running barefoot-style, lifting weights and kayaking, he's been shedding a lot of excess pounds!

This is part of the reason why I love coming to Sullivan's Island. At low tide, there's a huge sandbar that appears, and boaters park along it, bringing their families and their pets. On this particular day, I enjoyed watching up to six dogs chase each other around and jump into the water.

And here's some of those lucky paddleboarders. That'll be me, hopefully, in a few months!

Life at 35 weeks


I am constantly amazed at just how big I am getting. My belly continues to grow outward, and my it seems as if my hips, thighs and calves are slowly following suit (along with my ankles and feet). The majority of the pregnancy bliss I had been feeling for the past few weeks has mostly dissipated and has turned to, "OK, I think I'm ready to get this show on the road!" I think of all the yoga poses that I miss doing (i.e., plow, headstand, crow), my paddleboard (I've decided to forgo trying it out now that the weather is warm because my balance is not very good these days) and all the carbohydrates I used to be able to eat without feeling guilty, and I feel a little discouraged. But not too much. I realize that this is all happening for a wonderful reason and is an easy sacrifice to make. It certainly does not feel like I am carrying around an extra (approximately) forty pounds of weight--well, except for the end of the day when my thighs feel like jelly and I am super tired.On the way back from my baby shower last weekend, I had my first instance of swelling in my ankles and feet. When we travel, I like to do the majority of driving because I get bored easily. After I had been driving for about three and half hours, we swapped. And then I looked at my feet. Whoa. Propping my feet up on the dashboard really didn't do my feet justice, so as soon as I got home I laid on the couch and put my feet up on the back of the couch. The swelling went down quickly. It seems as if that one event has invited more swelling throughout the week. I am becoming more conscious of what I eat, because I definitely feel a difference these days. My wedding ring has become a good indicator of swelling.But despite all of the complaints that I may be having these days, I am getting more and more excited to meet Baby A. I think we're going to have a long-legged baby; from the stories I've heard from Brenda, Drew in utero had acted pretty similar to what I've been feeling--mainly little feet pushing up and out. We had our latest prenatal appointment this week, and the babe's heartbeat is still healthy and strong. And my midwife and doula paid me a very lovely compliment: apparently I don't have any stretch marks on my belly (yet). So then I said, well you haven't seen my hips. Ha! But that was an awfully nice thing to hear when you are feeling as big as a boat. I haven't been using a special kind of lotion on my stomach, but I do make sure to put some on every day. And I wonder if gentle back-bending yoga stretches has anything to do with keeping my skin healthy and loose. Who knows? My midwife told me to tell my mom thank-you for the good genes, and I have. :)Drew and I also finally started our birth classes this week. We were going to start classes at the birth center for the Birthing from Within method at the birth center back in February, but we missed the first class because of my dad's aneurysm. Luckily, the facilitator does private sessions at home, so we're doing that, and our doula, Lisa, is joining us as well. On Wednesday, Drew and I learned a lot of breathing/coping techniques that we can use while I'm in labor. I am feeling so much more prepared now that we've started this. We also discussed how I imagine I'll be feeling during the most intense stages of labor. I said I can imagine me crying hysterically, swearing like a sailor and feeling like I generally could not continue on: "Take me to[...]