Thursday, December 29, 2011

23 weeks

The holidays were a whirlwind, which is why I haven't been posting (I thought I could do it from the road, but that didn't happen). We had a lovely time visiting both sides of Alex's family though. I found it especially interesting to note all the changes from this year as opposed to last….my goodness life moves fast! At least it does in our case, most of which I attribute to being in our 30's when all of life's big events tend to unfold. At any rate, this year I was carting around a pregnant belly for everyone to gush over and touch while last year I strolled in fresh off my honeymoon, tan and entranced in a bubbly, gooey-eyed love fest with my new husband (I distinctly remember my father-in-law telling us to relax on the PDA). This year also felt more like a baby shower for me given baby girl got more presents than her parents (with the remainder of the gifts being for our new house, another change). 

Every year Alex's dad puts out little Christmas teddy bears that represent our family (so cute). They are each dressed in different outfits and have our names written on signs tied around their necks. It's so amazing to watch the clan grow! This year there was a new little bear wearing a homemade cloth diaper for my niece Olivia who was still in my sister-in-law's belly last Christmas. Looking at that bear was one of those moments where it hit me that this hungry being dancing in my belly will soon be an actual member of the family. Next year she will have a bear with her name on it, she'll be crawling around in the wrapping paper and stealing everyone's hearts. 23 weeks in and the reality of this is still NUTS to me. 

Also nuts, our house has officially exploded in baby gear. On top of our Christmas haul, we received a huge carload of baby clothes and baby necessities from my wonderful sister-in-law (lucky us we are having a girl, which meant lots of hand-me-downs from our two nieces!). Having our house taken over by piles of teeny tiny pink clothes, car seats, boppy pillows, breast pumps, and nursery decorations really seems to bring home (literally) how much our immaculate Pottery Barn lifestyle, complete with millions of small, swallowable trinkets decorating every room will soon be a thing of the past.

Meanwhile, the belly is picking up speed. I am amazed at how quickly it's growing now—it was such a slow process before. Over Christmas there was literally a night that I went to bed and when I woke up it was evident to everyone in the house that I had grown overnight. Insane. I stepped on the scale when we got home after the holidays and suddenly realized this baby is for real, and she's growing like a weed now. This is happening!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

take me away

This time last year Alex and I were in beautiful Antigua. It was probably the best trip of my life, and was so heavenly and meaningful that I can easily recapture a slice of the experience any time I close my eyes and think about it. I don't know that I've ever been on another trip that has afforded me that kind of long-term effect—instant happiness at just the thought of that magical island. At any rate, I'm thinking about Antigua right now, amidst all the craziness of holiday preparations and a house that seems so chaotic and completely out of control with renovations and messes in every room. I could use a tropical vacation right about now! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

the other side of the bump: swing construction

This post was written by my husband, Alex. We are going to try to have him post a semi-regular series: the other side of the bump. Men's and women's experiences of the same event are drastically different, and I'm fascinated by these differences. When it comes to the topic of parenting and pregnancy, I'm especially curious to read his thoughts. I hope you enjoy the series! 

I put together a swing last week.  More specifically, I assembled the Bright Starts ™ Cradle and Sway Swing from the InGenuity collection, model I-56, offering comfort Recline adjustable positions, Whisper Quiet Operation (for peaceful rocking), True Speed sustained swinging speed, and touting Bella Vista snail/ball/bumble bee accessories and the efficient hybridrive™, meaning, of course, that excessive battery use is no longer a problem.  Apparently, this device will someday swing my child.  I haven’t met this child, but I am told that when they do come to exist, they will need some swinging.  That was where I came in to the equation.      
The swing came tumbling out of the shipping box in an overwhelming mass of plastic parts and jingling hardware one evening several weeks ago.  Luckily the instructions were written in six languages.  As I sought one familiar to me, I told myself this would be a valuable experience for me.  It did seem vaguely fulfilling, like the civic satisfaction of voting in an election, despite having no knowledge or interest in the candidates that will one day take an office I know nothing about.  Well, at least my wife will be happy with me anyways, I told myself, leafing through the monstrous manual. 

I had done this type of work for her before.  I had assembled an impressive portfolio of particle-board achievements: bookcases, polyester coated lounge chairs, you name it.  I had Philip’s head screw-drived and mini-alan wrenched my way into the annals of home furniture construction.  I enjoyed the challenge, I told myself, somewhat convincingly.  And yet, this was different.  For one, it was gray plastic, cut into strange curvy angles I was unfamiliar with.  And more importantly, it came with many unanswered questions.  What would the final product be?  What purpose would this serve in my life?  Why should I spend several hours callous-ing my hands, cursing distant and perhaps non-human manufacturers, and puzzling together part L with hardware number 20043?  For what tangible reward?  I needed more information.  I looked to the picture of the swing on the box for answers, and into the eyes of the model baby in the swing on the cover, sporting a look of mixed satisfaction and confusion.  The child in the picture seemed as befuddled as I.  “Why am I in this strange swaying chair,” he/she/it seemed to say, “When will I be getting out?  What do they want from me?  I guess I’m happy here, but I really have no context to judge this experience by.”  Comforted that someone, albeit a stranger in a picture likely under the age of one, had similar feelings about this swing, I looked at the swing itself on the cover as a guide for my labors.

The assembly itself was mostly painless at first.  I blew through the first seven steps.  The wily European manufacturers only required that I snap a few pieces of plastic to each other.  They clearly had experience with the chronically inept, I thought to myself smugly.  But then came step eight...  Simply screw a long screw into place, the directions instructed, matter-of-factly.  What they failed to impart was that you needed to hold three different heavy plastic parts in precise alignment while you screwed in this screw.  How many able parents did they think our imaginary, soon-to-be-real, child had?  For the next hour I cursed as I failed with the screw several times, tried it backwards, failed again, looked at the child on the box again for answers, failed again with the screw, looked at the child on the box under better lighting, shared another moment with he/she/it, and then finally succeeded.  With the infamous step eight complete, the only remaining challenges were with how to set up the accoutrements for my soon-to-be child.  There was the seat cover, the velvety bumblebees to circle above the child’s head (didn’t sound comforting in theory, but I guess these were a different brand of the feared stinging insects, they were smiling…), and a snail and box of the same material to attach to the provided tray.  After I attached each of these pieces, I called to Alexa to look at the swing and get her reaction.  Of course, every time her reaction was the gooey smile and cooing that all women, particularly in child-bearing years, seem to get, even at the mention of a baby.  But somehow I needed this reaction to keep on going.  Finally, when the whole of it was put together, I put in the batteries and turned it on.  It played songs or alternatively, babbling water to ease this soon-to-be-not-hypothetical child.  So I pushed the swing and played the song to congratulate myself on a job well done, and for more gooey smiles and cooing. 

And now, every so often, I turn on the swing.  I give it a push and turn on the song.  I leave it to gently rock in the corner and play its magical music in the subtle background.  I look back at the swing and try to picture a girl in there sleeping gently, but I cannot.  In the attempt to create the image, it melts from my eyes like a fading dream.  So I turn back to my computer and continue reading about the Patriots, but the song continues lightly behind me to the gentle sound of swinging.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

22 weeks

I think I have an acrobat or tap dancer living in my uterus. I know it's normal, but never having experienced it before I am shocked by how crazy my baby girl's movements have become overnight. I had been feeling her gentle flutters and pokes for weeks, but the day I turned 21 weeks she suddenly felt like she had grown considerably in both size and strength. It's exciting for Alex to be able to share the experience now that you can feel her on the outside of my belly, not just the inside, and it's amusing for me to watch my shirt move as she practices her gymnastics. I just can't believe such a small being, weighing just a little over 1 lb. can kick with such force. Insane. Also, it makes me a little nervous for what's in store the next few months as she gets bigger.

I had my first experience of being pregnant in public this week. It's been cold outside ever since my belly popped so normally when I'm out in public the evidence of my uterine contents is buried under a large puffy jacket and scarf. It was a different story when Alex and I went to his work holiday party on Friday—it was the first time I had people gathering around me (mostly women), staring at the bulge, asking a million questions. And it was my first experience of someone coming up to me and asking "are you pregnant?" It may not sound like an overly exciting experience, but for me it was. It was as if I was being ushered into the secret club I've heard about, but never been allowed to step inside of—the mother club. It's really incredible how your relationships with women change when you are pregnant (and I'm sure even more so when you give birth). Suddenly complete strangers can understand your ecstatic joy and your character-testing pain without words. It's an incredible thing.

On the nursery front….so frustrated. We (and by we, I mean Alex) finally got to the painting stage after agonizing hours of wallpaper peeling and wall patching….and I hate the paint color. Sigh. Alex was not very pleased with my reaction and utter disgust when I walked into the room (or the money we tossed down the drain by not first buying paint samples). But, I had envisioned very light khaki-colored walls with crisp white trim and instead we ended up with a hideous flesh color. The hormones in me are now going bonkers because I feel this great sense of urgency about the room….like I need to move furniture into it and have it ready for the baby NOW. 

I didn't get a chance to snap any belly photos yesterday, which is why they are missing from this post. I will hopefully post some tomorrow!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

ben folds, you are killing me!

This song is making me SOB right now…and miss my dad incredibly (of course, I just sent him the link with a sappy note). It's pretty easy to set off the waterworks in me lately, but anything that mentions a child growing up and moving on?? Kills me. I hope I can remind myself during every difficult phase my baby girl goes through to stop and cherish her, because as we all know, they grow up so fast. She's not even here yet and I'm already wanting to slow down the clock so I don't miss of second of her precious existence. Can you sense the level of pregnancy hormones I've got going on over here? :)

P.S. I cannot wait to hear the song Alex will write for his little girl!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

baby dances to the funk

I decided amidst my anxiety last week to start seeing a therapist. Sure it was only 4 days of anxiety, but for this mama that was 4 days too many. I know myself well, and am quite familiar with the ghosts that like to lurk around in my soul. Those ghosts have lost much of their power over the years as I've built a strong wall of therapy, support groups and unconditional love around me, but I know all too well that with the right combination of hormones, significant life changes, and lazy brain chemicals they can grab me and suck me into their world. That's a place I am not eager to visit, especially when my life is about someone else right now….a tiny someone else who is relying on me to nourish her and keep her calm. Besides, I love the idea of therapy while pregnant. It's so natural for issues from the past and anxieties about the future to come up throughout your pregnancy. It's an enormous life change and there are so many unknowns from how you will experience pregnancy to the birth to becoming a mother to totally altering your lifestyle. Anyway, it's great to have someone (professional) to unload all that on so you can focus on creating a healthy, peaceful environment to bring your baby into.

So what's so interesting about seeing a therapist? Well, if you live in "the happy valley," as they call my area, you might get a little more than talk therapy (i.e. there may be singing bowls, energy work or dancing involved). This is one of the reasons I was drawn to the area—the hippie factor. It's pretty similar to the culture of San Francisco (where I thrived) with its open-minded community, focus on natural living and natural healing, and a wealth of intuitive people who seem to be living on a totally different spiritual plane than mainstream America. That being said, I wasn't surprised when my therapist asked me to go home, put on music that I love and dance with my baby. I admit, I was somewhat skeptical of this assignment and put it off until the last minute, but it was honestly the most therapeutic thing I've done in a long time.

Normally, my life is chock-full of therapeutic activities—yoga, painting, exercise, meditation, weekly support groups, etc. It is that lifestyle that keeps me sane, creative and motivated. But, I left that lifestyle back in Stamford, CT when I moved into temporary housing over the summer while insanely trying to find a house to buy in "the happy valley" with just 2 months to do so. All those therapeutic activities that make me "me" were pushed to the side….then I got pregnant and we moved. Don't get me wrong, learning I was pregnant was a joyous occasion and my husband and I were intentionally trying to conceive, but the reality of the timing meant being catapulted from a stressful few months of fearing we'd have no place to live to suddenly being in a new place, surrounded by boxes I couldn't for the life of me unpack, and spending my days throwing up and passing out from severe exhaustion. Where was I in that mess? I was lost. There isn't much you can do for yourself other than try to survive when you have a tough first trimester (which for me was more like a tough 17+ weeks). 

So, by the light of a string of blue Christmas lights last night I turned on some music. At first I wasn't drawn to dance though, I was drawn to sing. And with one song, I found my voice again—the voice that is so full of emotion and passion, the voice I haven't heard in so very long. Halfway through the song I started to cry, partly due to the hormones, but partly due to remembering the "me" that has been lost in the shuffle of a chaotic transition. The tears made me feel like I was not following my therapist's instructions very well so I changed the music. Where would I find my joy, where could I dance? Phish. 

Back before Alex and I were trying to conceive, Phish concerts were our thing (at least one of our many things). The hot summer nights, the freedom and carefree energy in the air, and the insane music….music that can transport you to places so enthralling and hypnotic. There is nothing like it, and the experience is such a release that you leave feeling light and euphoric for days.

With the flickering of blue lights in my dark living room, and my eyes closed, I was able to transport myself to a Phish concert. The memory of those experiences immediately grabbed hold of me….and of course, I started crying again (oh the hormones!). As I suddenly found the energy to dance to the entire 20 minute 57 second version of "You Enjoy Myself" after not being able to summon enough energy to get off the couch all day, I found myself there, dancing to the funk. It was amazing to feel my old self again—the self that was not stressed by mortgage applications, seemingly fruitless housing searches and attempts to conceive, never-ending lists of house projects, fighting to stay healthy while living on rice cakes and preggie pops, parades of contractors waltzing through my house, and the fear that I will somehow mess up this whole mothering thing. Ahhhhh. 

As I danced though, I experienced a completely new sensation—the co-mingling of my old self/life with this new one I am growing into. I was lost in the music, but very aware that I was dancing with a partner. It was an ah-ha! moment of realizing this new, strange experience would be my life from now on….a balancing act, an attempt to be my own, whole self while being a fully present mother. As long as baby girl doesn't mind being strapped to my chest while I dance in hippie circles, I think we'll be all right:)

I was at this concert in Jones Beach 3 years ago:)
Damn I love those trampolines!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

21 weeks

When I look at my belly these days I am nothing short of awe-struck. The bigger and rounder it gets, the more aware I am of the human life growing inside it….something that never ceases to fascinate me. I obviously understand the biology and mechanics of the whole operation, but I still cannot get beyond the magic of it. It's insane that this fluttering, somersaulting creature who kicks me when she's hungry is going to emerge into this world and be her own, wonderful self…my daughter…and someday a mother herself. I cannot wait to watch her live and grow, but there is something so comforting about this part of her life, her beginning. For now, we are living as one, completely intertwined and connected by a magical cord that allows us to share everything. That is downright incredible…and an honor. And this sacred connection is what makes all the aches and pains, the months of toilet-hugging and disorienting exhaustion, and the constant emotional/hormonal rollercoaster somehow seem like the most amazing experience of my life. 

Speaking of connections…the tiny kicks I've been feeling have become more of a communication or interaction between me and my baby girl, rather than just a random sensation in my abdomen. She tells me when she's hungry, she tells me when she's happily full, she tells me to calm down when I'm upset and in some sort of crazy telepathic way we have conversations at times. Of course, her favorite time to communicate is 4 am….but hey, it's better than waking up at 4 am to puke.

Aside from my obviously wildly surging maternal hormones (which only means I'm writing this while the roller coaster car makes its way up the hill;), since we found out the gender last week we've been able to get moving on the nursery. I cannot wait to start putting the room together, especially since it's been a construction zone/hot mess since we moved in! We picked out a nice neutral colored paint and I have started to collect colorful decorations. Here are two that I've picked up so far:
Amy Butler Fabric Giraffe by Peppermint Bee 
I posted this yesterday, and could not help myself! I had to have that giraffe!

Pinwhale Alphabet letter from Anthropologie
But I can't tell you which letter I bought:)

Monday, December 12, 2011

an etsy baby registry

I'm currently lost in baby design land, searching for unique finds to decorate my baby girl's life. Enter: Etsy. Wouldn't it be awesome if Etsy had a registry feature? I think so!

Love is All You Need Print by Zavalick Designs

Knit Pixie Hat by Charbridge Crafts

Baby Burp Cloth by Sewing Dreams and Notions

Organic Baby Sling by Mod Mum

Custom Crib Bedding by Rocky Top Design

Amy Butler Fabric Giraffe Art by Peppermint Bee

Elephant Onesie by A House in the Woods

Organic Cotton Onesie by Jupiter's Child

Organic Baby Blanket by Organic Quilt Company

Baby Blanket by Sir Bubbadoo