Friday, September 30, 2011

Hannah's Birth Story: Introduction

Welcome to a new series I'm planning to write for this blog about my pregnancy with Hannah. Overall, I felt that Hannah's birth was an incredibly positive experience. Having an unmedicated labor went better than I could have hoped and made me confident in the health of my daughter. Since she was born several weeks early, it could have been a very scary time so I am proud to have gone the natural route and would encourage other Moms to make the same decision as well! I had never thought of myself as an athlete before, but after giving birth I felt like I had just completed a marathon. I got such a rush from the sense of accomplishment and the exhaustion, mixed with true love for our new baby.

There was a lot of preparation in the months and weeks leading up to her birth. I started with a healthy diet once the morning sickness passed. Then, I began exercising regularly when I regained my energy. I chose prenatal workout videos of yoga, cardio, and strength training. I also walked around the mall during my lunch breaks or walked around the neighborhood with Zac after work if the weather was nice. Zac helped encourage me to drink plenty of water, too. All these things were instrumental in my choice to have a natural birth.

It wasn't until halfway through my pregnancy that I actually started considering that option. Mostly out of fear that for some reason I wouldn't be able to have an epidural, I wanted to know how it would be done without one. The more I learned, the more it seemed like it should be my first choice and not my backup plan. I finally made the decision when I considered that (like me) many women are too scared to have their first baby the natural way, but think that they could do it the second time around. Why not my first time? I resolved to do everything I could to prepare myself for the natural birth plan, but to keep an open mind and do what seemed best for the baby when the time came around.

Initially I borrowed the book "Husband Coached Child Birth" for Zac, in the hope that he would learn how to support me during the delivery. Well, he didn't read very much of it, but he was still a great resource for information because the book kept touting the benefits of swimming to pregnant women. Lucky me, married to a Rescue Swimmer. I needed to get into a pool with him- stat! We started swimming during our vacation in Florida and kept it up when we returned home. He showed me how to breathe in the pool and coached me to swim laps. If you can believe it, I didn't even know you had to exhale prior to drawing in a new breath before we started. I quickly improved from controlled drowning to active swimming. Whenever I got tired or cold and wanted to quit, Zac prodded me along and sent me on a stroll to the other side of the pool. Then I would feel my little future Olympian kicking and I knew that this would be good practice for me to eventually keep up with her in the pool as well. I had just enough time to get the hang of swimming before Hannah decided it was time for us to meet!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

This Little Mommy Stayed Home by Samantha Wilde: Book Review

“Think of the funniest person you know, give her a baby and a month without sleep, multiply by ten, and you’ve got the incomparable Samantha Wilde rocking the hilariously appalling realities of motherhood and the modern marriage.” Karen Karbo

Joy is stumbling through the first year of Motherhood with a husband who works 24/7, a monster mother-in-law, and a loveable baby boy. Her humorous take on everything from her mother’s impending fourth marriage to a crush on her steamy yoga teacher, mixed with the everyday trials of first-time motherhood will have you poring through this page turner.

She starts in a seemingly normal situation for many new moms, having recently relocated to the suburbs of New York for her husband’s work. This brings them closer to her opinionated mother-in-law, who balks at everything Joy does as a parent. It’s no help that her absentee husband has begun siding with his Mother on top of everything else he does to get on her nerves. She has a hilarious breakdown from the bathroom when her husband asks her where she keeps the diapers. Is it possible that it’s been so long since he changed the baby?

Amidst all this, a stream of amusing characters parade through Joy’s day-to-day. Her flirtatious yoga instructor and former college boyfriend keep the romance sparking even as it flickers out of her marriage. She’s accompanying her Mother on too many pre-wedding errands to allow enough time to cyber-stalk her future Father-in-law. As if she didn’t already have her hands full with a new baby! So, if you can find a few minutes to yourself or if you can manage to hold a book while nursing your baby, I highly recommend this one. Any other Moms read any great books lately? Let us know!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Could Motherhood be Making Me Crazy?

The Bump sent me an email asking this today. In short, I'm sure the answer is yes. I have a feeling that Zac would tell you I was crazy long before Motherhood. If we're referring only to my sleep-deprivation, supersonic hearing, and lack of adult conversation-related insanity, then I would attribute all those things to Motherhood. What are the craziest things I've done since having Hannah?

I have a recurring dream when she starts crying that I'm already holding her. Since I think she's in the room with me, I desperately search in the dark for her until I snap "into it" and go to her room to calm her. I'm pretty sure that I've even slept with my arms in the air (thinking that I'm cradling her) because they're often numb when I wake up.

I've read a ton of advice books and googled even more things than I can count. I've battled (and conquered!) a dryer that refused to start in the daytime in order to use cloth diapers. I even agreed that Zac could go away for a guy's weekend when Hannah was only 3 months old. I spent the entire time both regretting and being grateful for that decision.

The biggest thing that's making me crazy is spending time with Hannah. Just when I think I have everything figured out, she throws me for a total loop. For example, she's been getting better at falling asleep for naps over the past few weeks. Recently, she really fell into a predictable pattern of exactly when she would fall asleep in my arms. Then yesterday as we were going through the whole process, I got to the part when she would generally relax into dreamland and her eyes popped open and she started smiling and talking to me! Of course, I couldn't be mad that I would have to start all over and spend another 20 minutes coaxing her to sleep. I just tried not to laugh, responded to her that it was "night night" and went back to relaxation mode. What else can you do with someone so crazy cute?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Becoming an expert on Hannah

If Zac could throw out every book I've ever read on pregnancy or child rearing, he would do it in a heartbeat. But, as much as he would like to raise our daughter by figuring it out as we go along, he can't deny that she is truly thriving from some of the expert advice. He is still a strong and true reminder that our little girl will not likely fit any mold, and she needs personalized care. Which is why I'm excited and nervous to be doing it myself.

How will I know we're on the right track? When Hannah greets me with a smile post-nap or pauses while nursing to flash a toothless grin at me. I'll know it when she sails through a new experience confidently with me by her side. It'll be clear when I no longer hear wails as she cries, but individual and unique statements telling me exactly what she needs.

Every once in a while the books may give some looney advice. On the other hand, they might even make a suggestion I desperately want to follow, only to find that it definitely doesn't work for Hannah. That's the great thing about striving to become an expert on one little girl. I don't have to be a perfect Mom, I just have to be her perfect Mom and I can't help but feel like it's going well as I watch this amazing little girl grow.

Monday, September 26, 2011

15 Weeks Old

Hannah is quickly approaching the 4 month mark and has the personality to prove it! She is excited and delightful to play with. She's gaining more control of her limbs and is enthusiastically reaching for her toys. Her vocabulary is expanding from mmmms and oooos to big words like Google, Gaga, and Wagyu. Who know she had a taste for expensive beef?

Poor baby got the sniffles along with her Mama on Friday :( We have been keeping them at bay by trying to get extra rest. Dada raised her crib mattress and set up the humidifier so that's helping quite a bit. Surprisingly, the nasal aspirator did not turn out to be a torture device as I expected. She smiles and coos after I clear her teeny nose!

Here's a video of her on the boppy. She starts talking after about 20 seconds. Look at those bright eyes!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Sugar and spice...

Sugar and spice and camo and helicopters. That's what little girls are made of in this house! We're so excited to take Hannah to her first Air Show tomorrow. She will be wearing this adorable onesie- the first craft I made for her! I finished it just in time :)

**Custom orders for sale on Etsy

Hands aren't just for gnawing!

Hannah recently discovered her hands and she enjoys soothing herself by gnawing on them. She is starting to get used to having them around all the time and is getting better at controlling her arms as well. I like to help her gain awareness of her arms using a little activity from Baby Yoga.

First I squeeze each of her joints (shoulders, elbows, wrists) about as firmly as I would squeeze a peach to test the ripeness. Then I open her hands by stroking the inside of her fist and rub in a circle. I hold each finger on each hand. The whole time I tell her what I'm doing; "this is your arm, this is your elbow, here is tall man!"

Today, she absolutely adored this exercise. She followed me with her eyes while cooing and smiling. Afterwards, she kept her fists open for quite a while- which is something that will help when she's ready to put her palms on the floor and crawl. She kept using her arms and hands, so I mirrored her motions so that she could watch. This is a playful connection you just can't match by shaking a rattle in a baby's face. It was a lot of activity for her and she was ready for a nap right away after we finished, but it was a little trickier to coax her to sleep. Pretty sure she was saying, "I don't want to go to sleep, I want to stay up and have fun all day. I love playing and... zzzzzz."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thanks for Reading!

Just wanted to take a quick minute to let you know how much I appreciate your visits to this site! I'm enjoying writing these posts and plan to keep it up. There are a few reasons why I started this blog:
  1. To give family and friends fun updates on Hannah.
  2. To share what I've learned with other new parents.
  3. To make some money.
In the first week, I feel like I've accomplished all those goals and I hope you'll continue to help me out. If you like what you're reading, leave me a comment so I know I'm on the right track, or better yet- forward it to a friend. There's a survey to your right ----> please take a second to click and let me know what you'd like to read in future posts. Last, but not least, Google is desperately trying to improve their advertisement features so that you're actually seeing something that might interest you. If the ads are too annoying, let me know. But, if you end up seeing something good click on it here because I'll make a few pennies. From time to time, I'll also be recommending books or products that I have tried out. As an affiliate, I'll make money if you purchase that product. The companies have not contacted me, but I want you to know that up front.

I've had a great time sharing with you so far and I even made 89 cents. Hopefully, there's more where that came from ;)

EASY Does It

Sorry Zac, I think Hannah has given up on plotting her evil takeover of the world. She's too busy having sweet dreams! It's about 4 weeks since we first started following the daily pattern of Eat, Activity, Sleep, Your Time and I'm ready to make a confident review that it works for us! We started gradually and modified it a bit, but I think we all have the hang of it now. Hannah is really the star of the show because she always knows what's going on. Luckily she keeps the rest of us on track and sets the pace for the day.

I won't say that it's easy to raise an infant, but this is certainly helping. We still have our share of ups and downs (wake UP early; wish I could lay DOWN.) The big difference is that I feel like I'm doing what's right for the whole family now. In the past, I was overwhelmed by trying to keep up with the house and take care of Hannah. I rarely made it past "laundry" on the to do list. It's a great feeling that I can give her all my attention during those joyful moments just after she eats while we play. I relish in the sweetness of putting her to sleep on my shoulder as her hair tickles my face. When she first lays down for her nap, I fold laundry or check my email so I can stay close to her. Then I bask in the freedom of her nice, long naps and race through the rest of my to-dos!

Of course, Hannah is my number one priority. But part of that is making sure she has a great home and family to grow up in. If having a clean house reduces everyone's stress, then that's the first thing I do during "Y Time." Later in the evening Zac and I finally have time to relax together with a nice meal. When Hannah first came home I kept thinking in horror how difficult it would be to go through raising an infant, or worse, suffering morning sickness with another child. Now, I've finally realized how it's done and I can't wait till we get the chance to have a second baby.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rule #4: Listen to your Baby

Babies are smart! They have a unique set of sounds and cries to tell you what they need. If you immediately pick up your baby every time she cries, you may be missing out on an opportunity to hear what she needs from the expert. Once you take the time to learn her cries, try a new way to calm her. Let her know you're there by shushing and talking in a soothing voice if she needs to hear you. You can place a hand on her chest firmly, but gently to establish your presence. Wait a few moments and see if she calms right back down. Sometimes she just needs reassurance that you are near. Since this method is less disruptive, she'll easily get back to sleep. On the other hand, if she's hungry, cold, or needs a new diaper you'll know the exact solution since those are two different cries! (Hint: a hunger cry sounds like a few wails followed by short coughs and does not get louder. The other two clearly indicate distress.)

Hannah recently learned to squeal, so we're enjoying all the delightful sounds she can make! I think she's saying "Mama, this is hard work, but I can do it because I'm tough like Dada!" What do you think?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

127 Hours

Late last week I decided that Hannah and I would take a "staycation" to help her get used to sleeping without all the usual daily interruptions. Equipped with the knowledge of two Baby Whisperer advice books, plenty of groceries, and lots of hope, we settled in for a long week. I had already started Hannah on the EASY routine (eat, activity, sleep, your time,) and it seemed to have a great impact on her attitude and the amount of sleep she was getting. However, I was still having trouble with the process of getting her to sleep and nap so I figured something wasn't quite right.

On day 1 I armed myself with a new plan for helping wind her down and a pair of blackout drapes. (Thanks Dada for setting those up and building her beautiful nursery!) Since we were already on EASY, I had become much better at distinguishing her cries and I was able to isolate new issues as they came up. When she woke up I would unwrap her from the baby burrito and wait for her response. Generally, she was pleasant and peacefully waited for her next meal. Holy smokes! I had time to use the bathroom before nursing or grab a drink of water or start the laundry! After eating in the morning I'd let her play in the activity gym. She focused on the toy and enthusiastically swatted and kicked away while chatting to herself. It was amazing to watch her learning on her own and gaining excitement from tackling these new skills. Then she yawned, so I changed her diaper, bundled her up and turned off the lights for naptime. I shushed her and patted her back while she writhed and protested. Sure enough, though, within 10 minutes she calmed and let me put her in the crib for a snooze. I stuck around in the nursery for an extra 10 minutes and shushed when I heard her stir to help her get to sleep. I quietly folded laundry and checked my cell phone to entertain myself. Then I got some breakfast and took a nap. Hannah slept right through to the next meal!

Next, we repeated everything with variations to the activity. Since she was very physical in the morning I sat her on my lap so we could coo to each other. How sweet! She laughed, she giggled, and smiled while talking. It melted my heart to see her so happy and I just knew we were on the right track!

Nap #2 rolled around and it went pretty well, too. It wasn't until the afternoon that the meltdowns started. I stayed the course and kept up with the plan even as she woke up every 20 minutes from 4 until 7. Still, as I listened to her cries I knew that the majority of them were tired cries. I was responsive to her other calls and we did finally make it through the day by 8 for her long snooze. At 11, I tried a dreamfeed and it went perfectly! I didn't even have to help her get back to sleep- it was too easy. She woke up a few times that night, but I resisted the urge to nurse her since she was not giving me any hunger cues. I took care of the other baby matters and helped her back to sleep.

The next day went by similarly, with small progress in the amount of fussiness before each snooze. I could tell Baby Bear was tired! No sooner would she get a new diaper after a meal than she would start yawning. So I'd begin winding her down and get almost all the way through and she would pee. Change diaper, start over. Wake in the middle of nap, start over. The sun peaks through the corner of the shades and wakes her up, start over. A few times she didn't want to go back to sleep so I would take a quiet walk with her in my arms to the mailbox to pass time before her meal.

By the end of the day my arms and back were so tired from putting her to sleep two to three times per nap. Luckily Dada came home from work, gave her a bath and took over the wind down routine like a pro! Out of the 500 baby pages I had read in the past month I got Zac to read 8 of them. Let me tell you, they were the right eight! She melted into his arms and it was the first time he was able to put her in bed without tears. She also seemed to like the way he shushed better than me, so I took a note to mimic his gentler sounds from now on.

Things got dicier on afternoon 3. And even worse on day 4. I was encouraged by her morning progress and the additional sleep we were both getting, but it was not easy to stay on track. There were so many times as I was laying her down that I just wanted to nurse her to calm her down. However, I realized that would just start the cycle all over and potentially add new unnecessary meals to her day. I did everything I could to keep her calm and settled using methods the Baby Whisperer suggested. At one point as I kept trying to calm her with the "shush/pat" method to no avail an epiphany struck and I remembered that Hannah was already used to the cuddle cure suggested in "Happiest Baby on the Block." (Swaddle, Side, Shhhh, Swinging, Sucking.) I tried that and it worked even though I was the one who remained unsettled. I was so nervous for the evening that I barely made a peep. That night temperatures dropped so Hannah stayed unsettled for most of the early hours. After I got the house back to a comfortable 72 degrees the day moved forward with some noticeable improvements.

By Saturday I could tell she was really starting to benefit from getting better sleep. She was still tired, so there wasn't too much play time and I was having trouble getting used to spending so much time in the dark trying to calm her before her naps. We made it through another day and woke up Sunday morning bright and early to start again. Everything ran smoothly for most of the day, but I was nervous because I was returning to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald house that night and I would be leaving her with my Mom. It wasn't the first time we'd been apart, but I felt more attached to her after this week than ever. How could I explain to my mother what each cry sounded like? How would she know whether or not to shush her for an extra minute before laying her down if she stirred? Hannah had done so well all day and was very aware of her new routine. I wanted things to stay as close as possible to the norm.

We arrived early and set up her things. I fed her and then gave Mom a few extra instructions. In the past when I left her in someone else's care I always hoped for the best and made sure there was plenty of food for her. Now that I knew she was so aware of all of her particular needs, I really wanted to make sure she would get exactly what she had grown to expect. For the first time in Hannah's short life, I was overwhelmed with pride for what my little baby had accomplished in one short week. I kissed her forehead as I promised to be back that evening. I had become so used to being with her and responding to her every need that missing her brought me to tears before I even left.

What a difference a week can make.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Rule #3: Help baby get good sleep

If your baby is crying herself to sleep, she needs your help figuring it out. Find a resource and get some help. No matter your goal, someone before you has found a successful way to parent before you. Take advice with a grain of salt and find out what works best for your baby and your family. You can even consult your pediatrician. Whatever you decide, stick with it!

14 Weeks Old

Hannah is 14 weeks old! This week I'll be blogging mostly about sleeping since that's what we've been focusing on at home.

We went for a walk, picked Dada up from the airport and took some great naps today. She woke up at 6 this morning eager for breakfast. I tried sitting her in my lap while I ate my cereal. She watched me for about two minutes and then decided it was time to wiggle! I laid her on a mat while I finished and she smiled and laughed. Then she did some great belly time with lots of big, tall back arching. She even shifted her weight to one side. Methinks she be wantin' to roll over.

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Daytime Diapering vs. Nighttime Diapering

Hannah gets a new diaper about 14 times per day, so I'm happy that she wiggles and giggles through these changes with glee. As long as the temperature is right, she never has a problem kicking back playfully during the swap. In the morning, if she falls asleep from nursing I use it as a chance to wake her up for a few minutes before her nap. Today she practically slept through the whole change!

Still, I talk to her about what I'm doing and try to interest her by using her sounds (gooo, argf, cu). She finally rose when she heard me blow a raspberry and then proceeded to make what I call "Dada faces" for a minute.

Then she blossomed right back into my loveable little girl and gratefully giggled after receiving her new diaper. I'm pretty sure that "ah goo" means "that feels much better Mama!"

When she's wide awake I'll play or sing to her because it makes her very talkative and smiley. The difference between early changes and late night changes are that the goal at night is to get her back to sleep as quickly as possible! I talk as little as possible- just enough to let her know she's getting a new diap. Then I turn on the small lamp to keep the lighting dim. (So that's what those $40 nursery lamps are for at Babies R Us!) The next step is to make it snappy! I use a wipe warmer for wipes in the evening because it's a little more soothing. At the end of it all she's usually much more relaxed, but I still stay to help her get to sleep. Sometimes a pacifier will help calm her, too. She's still waking up at night for diaper changes, so I'm planning to try a few different varieties over the next weeks to find out if there's one that's better for helping her stay asleep.

It's pretty amazing that she already has a unique cry to let me know she needs a new diaper. At first it was harder to distinguish her cries, but now that we're on more of a routine it's easy to tell what she needs. I'm excited to listen to what else she starts "telling" me in the next weeks as she becomes more aware of herself and her surroundings.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Winding Down

4:23. I'm getting the impression that most babies respond well to routine. Every parent probably has a particular way to aid a baby from wakefulness to dreamland and they follow that pattern because it works. What works for my baby bear?

We take it easy in the afternoon since mornings are generally pretty stimulating with the activity gym, belly time, and regular photo shoots. She was sleepy right after her 3:30 meal so I took her into the nursery, checked her diaper, and bundled her in the swaddle. After that her eyes brightened right up so we sat in the glider and I mimicked her facial expressions and gurgles. She loves this and I can tell her next big trick will be blowing raspberries since she watches carefully with shock and awe when I do it. She has already mastered blowing bubbles, making kiss noises, and of course sticking out her tongue. Although her smile is captivating, she makes one expression I can't match, which I can already tell will become her "get out of jail free" face to her Dada. Ah but here's the yawn. We're ready to work on snoozing!

I tiptoe over with her and shut off the light, put her on my shoulder and pat her back while making shhhh sounds for ten minutes. She takes this surprisingly well and relaxes deeply until she calmly allows me to rest her in her crib. I continue shushing, sit back in my chair, and prepare to wait five minutes to make sure she gets to sleep. We're almost there, Mama is relaxing, and then... she pees. So I change her and we start all over. Except this time the sweet shoulder patting has turned into the snuggle olympics. She writhes, climbs and flails in her snuggle time snooze sack but she does calm enough to take a 20 minute snooze.

And so, we do this in variations seven times each day. Even with the repetition, every day is still a new day. In fact, I think she just sneezed and did a raspberry at the same time.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dada's Diaper Bag

Here's the link to my guest post on The Cloth Diaper Whisperer:

Rule #2: Do some laundry every day.

There will be even more to do tomorrow and you'll want to do it even less. Enough said.

Rule #1: Always keep fresh fruit handy

New Moms should have plenty of fresh fruit on hand. It's the best way to get energy, most fruits are easily portable, and it tastes great! If someone offers help in the early days, ask them to bring you fruit. Especially if you're nursing, you'll want to keep eating well and you'll be so busy that the quick snacks will offer the perfect pick-me-up.

Starting with a Whisper

4:37. There's something so tender about having a baby fall asleep on your shoulder. After she's calm from your voice and your touch you can feel her relax and begin to drift. Cheek to cheek, take a moment to notice the softness of her skin before laying her down for a delightful snooze. Of course, it wasn't always like this.  In fact, during the last nap she fitfully woke every 15 minutes after tentatively calming down only to fully wake up to an explosive poo just as I was about to doze off in the glider.  But it's worth it to wake up to see her adoring smile as she gratefully accepts a new diaper.

The Baby Whisperer describes Hannah as a spirited baby. She's overzealous and captivating when she's happily awake. Conversely, she quickly expresses even the smallest baby matters with her growing voice. When my Aunt visited and quoted Hannah's cries we agreed that she was obviously saying, "Gimme that dam milk!" or "Get me outta this dam diaper!" But she's so loveable and appreciative when she gets it. Which is why I've been poring over the two 300+ page informational books from the Whisperer. Since Hannah so clearly knows what she wants, I figure I better find out what it is and get it for her!

We started with a routine about 2 weeks ago, per the suggestion of the first book. Immediately, we saw a change in her personality during her awake hours. Since she knew to anticipate that she would wake up, get fed, have a diaper change, play, and then fall back asleep she playfully followed along as we went through the cycle 7-9 times each day. But something wasn't quite right because the matter of getting her to sleep was getting more and more difficult. Plus, even if this was manageable I still wasn't sure what to do next as she continues to mature through her baby stages.

Fast forward to today and we are on Day 4 of the new regime. This time around we're building in a winding down step before each nap, focusing on keeping more activity in the morning, and following a strict schedule for the first week. Things are different! In the morning, she's more alert for her feeds and even if she wakes up early from a nap she can hang in until the next time she's supposed to eat. We're still struggling through the "getting-to-sleep" bit, but this is an adjustment phase. Through all this, I relate a lot of what she's doing to her father's behavior. I used to immediately feed her when she would wake up at 5, but now I realize that she's crying for a new diaper and once she gets that she moans that it's too early to wake up just like Zac would. So I coax her back to sleep and she wakes up at 7 with bright eyes and actively eats. In the afternoon she's so excited about everything she's done each day that she wants to stay awake all the time (again Zac's MiniMe.)

I'll report back next week, hopefully with news that her daytime napping has improved. For now I better sleep while baby sleeps!