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Category Archives: Pregnancy

Best Laid Plans

Newborn baby love

Gazing at my newborn son’s perfect head

Yesterday, upon reading a friend’s account of her newborn daughter’s birth story, I couldn’t help but think about best laid plans, and how often they veer off course. And, how perfectly the phrase about best laid plans captures the always-going-awry world of parenthood.

This friend of mine planned for her baby’s delivery more meticulously than anyone I know. She chose her natural birthing center long before she ever became pregnant and did everything possible to ensure the most natural experience possible.

And yet, she could never have planned for the many complications she endured throughout her pregnancy, including a bicornuate uterus, a potentially breech baby and “unstable lie”, a constantly flip-flopping fetus and an external cephalic version. (You’re not alone: I had never heard of most of those things before either.)

Unfortunately, all her careful planning went out the window when her baby first decided to wait until more than a week past her due date to arrive, and then showed signs of distress during the slowly developing labor. Despite months of preparing for a natural, drug-free birth, my poor friend found herself being wheeled down the hallway for an emergency C-section.

Best laid plans: how they do go awry.

Parenthood is full of plans gone amiss; it’s almost as if labor and delivery are nature’s way of preparing you for a life filled with the unexpected.

I had my own best laid plans for my son’s delivery, most of which went out the window in the 41st week of my pregnancy. I had intended to let him arrive on his own schedule, until we went for a 41-week ultrasound and were (mis)informed by an overzealous technician that our baby was already weighing in at nine pounds (“And growing more each day!”).

While my husband and I were thrilled to have such a healthy and vital baby, I became terrified for the labor I was already dreading. Two days later, in the darkness of night, my husband and I checked in for an induction with enough luggage for a three-week stay.

And once again, my carefully laid plans unraveled, one by one.

It turned out that labor was a far cry from what we saw in a series of horrifying videos shown at our childbirth preparation class. My experience was nothing like that of the overalls-wearing mom (seriously, who gives birth wearing overalls?), who walked the hospital corridors and brayed loudly while rolling around on a yoga ball.

Within moments of arriving at the hospital, I was given a hospital gown to wear, hooked up to a monitor and prepped for an IV. So much for the socks and tennis shoes I prudently packed so I could walk the halls and undergo natural childbirth. So much for the birthing ball, which we never unpacked from the car (given the other six bags we dragged into the facility). So much for the Jacuzzi tub I was so excited about, which never saw a drop of water during our entire stay.

Since that day, there have been plenty of other best laid plans.

There was the Superbowl party we tried to attend, only to have my usually happy 3 ½-month-old son launch into hysterics just as we pulled into the driveway. (Little did those partygoers know there was a woman frantically trying to breastfeed a manic baby only steps from the front door.)

There was my snobby attitude toward baby formula, which ended up being a lifesaver in the post-partum days when my son and I struggled mightily with breastfeeding.

There have been numerous cancelled plans, countless ruined outfits, endless missed opportunities.

That’s all just part of being a mom. You plan like you’ve never planned before, only to have things fall apart at the seams. You worry endlessly about one thing and then discover you were worrying about the wrong thing all along. You stress and agonize over your child’s birth, only to learn that the delivery is just the beginning of a long journey you’ll make together.

As it turned out, my friend’s umbilical cord was wrapped around her baby’s neck, not two or three, but four times. As her baby traveled down the birth canal, the cord pulled tighter and tighter around her sweet baby’s neck. The natural birth she had so carefully planned may have actually spelled disaster. Who could’ve ever guessed such a thing?

As my friend so beautifully wrote to her perfect little daughter, “On the day you were born, you were born. And that’s all we really wanted anyway.”

Those words bring tears to my eyes.

You try. You do your best. You make your plans, and watch as they fall apart before your very eyes.

And at the end of the day, you look down at the perfect little head of the human being you created, and you smile. Nothing else really matters. Nothing else ever will.

Read parts one and two of Sara’s delivery story on her excellent blog, www.vivacatalina.com.

Perfectly Imperfect

Tree Swing

So read the tattoo sported by a man who came to hang a swing from a tall, shady tree in my yard.

Perfectly Imperfect.

His was not a private tattoo, carefully placed in a spot he could conceal if he so chose. It wound around his wrist and artfully snaked up his arm, streaked with dirt and sweat on a late July day.

I found myself wondering what made him choose that phrase for his permanent ink; what was it about that statement that made him want it emblazoned on his skin for all the days of his life? And then I found myself thinking how freeing those words are.

While not as old as my husband and I would have liked, my house is not new. This house has lived longer than I have. It has stood in this spot for over 40 years, and bears the scars of people who lived here many years ago.

The windows are old and heavy, and require more than a little elbow grease to be heaved open. The edges of the glass panes wear shaky little mountain ranges of paint, unevenly applied by someone I’ve never met.

Behind the large mirror mounted on the bathroom wall, you’ll find a layer of psychedelic wallpaper that I just couldn’t bring myself to tear down.

And the built-in cabinets in our den wear a once-fresh coat of paint, applied by us only a few years ago. Now, just four years after we arrived here, the paint has begun to chip away and show the dark, old wood underneath. When you open those cabinets, you can peer into ancient caverns that once held someone else’s belongings.

Perhaps they once stored some child’s toys. And perhaps those toys belonged to a boy named David, who perfectly imperfectly tattooed his name on the inside of one of the doors.

This little detail, this tiny personal touch, is one of my favorite things about this house. I love being reminded that people lived here before us; that families made their lives here and raised their children and ate family dinners in the very spot where we today eat ours.

I love feeling the breeze come through the kitchen as my reward for the effort of heaving those large windows open. I love seeing that, no matter how many times we apply a fresh coat of paint, we are reminded that we can no more cover the past than we can erase it.

And I love seeing little David’s name, scrawled in his childish hand, when I open the cupboard door to retrieve some firewood or a photo album. (Because, in my house, those things perfectly imperfectly live in the same spot.) It’s a reminder of those who came before us, and those who will someday live here after we have moved on.

I like to think that, before we do, my son will tattoo his own name in a spot I’ll never find. A new child will feel the breeze in his hair as he swings from the tree in our backyard, where a little plastic swing is waiting for him. And one day, he’ll open a cupboard door and see the mark of a boy who lived here before.

I hope these children — both the one who lives here now and all those to come — grow up to remember an idyllic childhood, marked by open windows and backyard tree swings. I hope they’ll look back fondly upon a house that was perfectly imperfect. I hope they’ll see themselves as perfectly something, even if that thing is imperfect.

And I hope the mom who finds my son’s name someday smiles when she sees it. I hope she thinks of us, and imagines us reading in a chair or sharing a meal in the kitchen. I hope, like me, she will never try to scrub this tattoo clean or paint over it. I hope she sees just how perfectly imperfect it is.

We’re All “Mom Enough”

Babywearing

My little guy, happy in his sling

Congratulations, moms! Society has found a new way for us to fail.

As much as I tried to avoid doing so, I have to discuss last week’s provocative cover of Time Magazine. You know the one.

It’s weird. It’s controversial. It’s challenging.

So what?

I admit, at first glance, I thought it was depicting another one of those inappropriate teacher-student relationships. (Sorry for the mental image.)

But, no. It’s a gorgeous, stylish mom, breastfeeding her 3-year-old son. And now, people all over are judging her and weighing in on her parenting decisions.

The funny thing is the article isn’t really about breastfeeding at all; it’s about attachment parenting. I won’t go into the details on what that is — I don’t really feel I’m qualified to discuss it. I don’t even know if I would be called an attached parent or not.

Yes, I practice “babywearing.” The sling is a great way to tote my baby around, simple as that. (Also, I don’t know how “attached” I am, since in the photo above, I’m not actually wearing the sling. I’m the one in the background enjoying a glass of wine.)

No, I don’t co-sleep with my son. Frankly, I’m afraid if he and I sleep and nurse in my bed, we’ll never leave it. The dishes will pile up; the dogs will starve to death; before I know it, he’ll be 3 and we’ll be on the cover of Time.

Yes, I make homemade baby food. Trust me, if this were any more complicated than putting a sweet potato in the oven, it’d be beyond me.

No, I didn’t have exclusively positive, affirming thoughts throughout my pregnancy. Any mom who didn’t spend some of her pregnancy in bed with a bag of marshmallows is a stronger gal than me.

Whether you’re practicing attachment parenting, helicopter parenting or whatever else, you’re probably just trying to do the best you can. Despite the wealth of parenting books out there, babies don’t come with an instruction manual. Aren’t we all just trying to figure it out one day at a time?

My state’s recent inability to love thy neighbor, to live and let live, has made me suddenly hyper-aware of all the ways we pass judgment on each other. And based on what? As a society, we’re not exactly knocking it out of the park.

According to the National Poverty Center, 22% of our nation’s children are living in poverty.

One out of every three American children is considered to be overweight or obese.

One-third of our country’s fourth grade public school students are at or below the “Basic” reading level.

So why are we worrying about this healthy, well cared for child?

I was inspired to finally write about this subject after reading an amazing commentary titled, Wake Up Moms — You’re Fighting the Wrong Fight! I was hooked by the second paragraph, just after reading this line:

I’m sorry – I’m busy perfecting my “style” of parenting. I just like to call it “parenting” and it involves me making sure my child stays alive. It’s working out pretty well for us so far.

Amen, sister. Whether or not you agree with the author’s perspective that our country’s standards for maternity leave are deplorable (I do, by the way), she makes a great point. Why are we moms wasting our time judging each other? Isn’t our job hard enough?

I have no idea if my style of parenting would meet society’s approval or not. I really don’t care. I’m just doing the best I can. I don’t know a mom who doesn’t question herself every single day.

As for the breastfeeding mom? She’s taking care of her son the most effective way she knows. And let’s not forget: breastfeeding isn’t exactly a walk in the park. It’s one of the most selfless things a mom can do for her child, and it’s really, really hard (at least for me).

And still, that beautiful mom probably looked at that photo of herself and found something to criticize.

I say, bravo to her. Bravo to you. Bravo to me.

We’re all doing the best we can.

Locomotive Appreciation Day

Posted on
Little Red Caboose

Photo credit: Stephen Mimms, Fotoblur

I’m just starting to emerge from the haze of a triple whammy: strep throat, sinusitis and an infection in both ears. Let me tell you: there’s nothing like a few days in bed to make a gal feel needed. With me down for the count and my husband working long hours at his commission-only job, our house looked like an episode of “Hoarding: Buried Alive.” Throughout the week I spent flat on my back, I lost track of the number of times my husband came to my bedside and said, “Wow. You really are the locomotive of this household!”

As sexy and glamorous as that metaphor is, there are many days I want a break from shoveling coal. But, as I’ve mentioned before, the job is relentless.

Over the past six months, I’ve thought many times about how much I admire moms who work outside the home. I remember one day, shortly after having made the decision to stay home with my son, when I watched a woman lugging an umbrella stroller off a city bus with a young child in her arms and rain pouring from the sky.

I think of that woman often. Nearly every time I feel like I’m not cut out for the job of stay-at-home mom, I remember the stolid look on her face. I picture her pulling herself out of bed in the darkness of the yet-unbroken day, yawning as she pulls clothes onto her little one. Walking to the bus stop to board the first of several buses she’d ride that day. Going from home to daycare to work and back to daycare before finally arriving home, exhausted and soaking wet.

Every time I see her in my mind, I think to myself how I could not do what she does.

But being sick for a few days gave me a new and unexpected perspective on my job as a stay-at-home mom. Is it possible I’m tougher than I thought I was?

Every morning during the time when I was sick, my husband would bring my son to me in bed and I’d think to myself, I want so badly to call in sick today. But each day, I still had to do my job. Granted, I didn’t do it well during this time, keeping my son in bed with me most of the day. But I found the strength to smile for him, tickle his chubby belly and nurse him frequently to keep him well. And, amazingly, it worked. My son came through unscathed, suffering no more than a stuffy nose.

This job, which I’m so lucky to have right now, is — frankly — really, really hard. It’s mentally exhausting and emotionally challenging. But I’m starting to realize that there may be some people out there who feel they couldn’t do what I do every day — even if I’m not pushing a stroller through the rain.

While I was sick, each time my husband referenced a train to compliment me, I’d respond, “But I just want to be the caboose!” Alas, we ladies rarely get to be that cute little red caboose. Whether we’re pulling along our friends in times of crisis, or our parents, significant others or pets, we seem destined to be caretakers. We put our own needs last and respond to the call of those we love.

Call me a feminist if you like (I was, after all, voted “Most Chauvinistic” in high school), but in addition to Mother’s Day, I think there should be a Women’s Day. Although, that term sounds a little matronly. Ladies’ Day? A bit menstrual. Gals’ Day? Too “Mad Men.” Vagina Day? That one has potential, but may return some undesired results when entered into a search engine.

I guess that leaves only one thing … Happy Locomotive Day, ladies!

A Life More Ordinary

FAME
Three times in the past three days, I’ve been mistaken for someone else. At first, I concluded I must have a doppelganger preceding me everywhere I go — walking my neighborhood with two dogs that look like mine, frequenting my favorite coffee shop, browsing titles at the library.

But then, another thought occurred to me: perhaps I’m not as unique as I think I am.

We all want to think we’re extraordinary, don’t we? There are so many vehicles available to fan the flames of that idea: Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Pinterest … so many ways to say, “Look at me! Look where I am! See how witty I am?”

Growing up, I was small. Short, skinny, bespectacled and knobby-kneed, I didn’t exactly command attention when entering a room. I was notable mostly for how thick my glasses were, but enjoyed a brief period of fame by hypnotizing my fellow classmates. I recall spending an entire sleepover in the school gym getting my friends to mumble incoherently (although, realistically, they were probably faking it) and feeling like a powerful sorcerer.

I was neither popular nor unpopular; neither a mean girl nor a Key Club altruist. But I always envisioned a time when I’d be a famous artist, or a bestselling author. My drawings of trees and appaloosa horses would command thousands at auction. I’d travel the globe doing book signings. I’d sing and dance through the hallways of a New York performing arts high school with a troupe of my fellow students following behind in perfect dance-step.

For years — and my heart beats with mortification as I admit this — my ATM pin was 3-2-6-3.

F. A. M. E.

I can’t — and don’t — blame my kid for the fact that I never did those things. It’s not like I became a teen mom and all my hopes and dreams went out the window. I had plenty of time to do extraordinary things before Hudson came along.

Getting married, buying a house and being a mom to two dogs and a baby — those are about the most ordinary and clichéd things a person can do. And yet, I feel I’m finally doing something special.

Part of growing up and becoming a parent is making peace with a life more ordinary than the one you may have envisioned for yourself. I’m not saying any of us should settle, or that we shouldn’t still strive for the extraordinary. But when you’re a parent, you often find yourself taking the road more traveled.

When I was pregnant, I came across a poem that resonated with me in an incredibly powerful way. Part of me felt uncomfortable with the notion expressed in the poem, as I don’t believe it’s healthy to live my dreams through my son. And, I don’t plan to give up on my plans for my life — that just isn’t the example I want to set for my child.

But my son came along at a time that wasn’t the most convenient for my husband and me. Throughout my pregnancy, I felt apprehensive about the heavy responsibilities of parenthood. I wondered how being a mom would change me, and if that change would be for the worse.

And sometimes, I wondered if my time to lead an extraordinary life was over.

I say, no. My love for my son is extraordinary. My responsibility is extraordinary. The work I have yet to do to be the best mom, wife and friend I can be is extraordinary.

My life is ordinary. My child is — well, he’s mine. One shining, extraordinary accomplishment in life.

To My Child

You are the trip I did not take;
You are the pearls I could not buy;
You are my blue Italian lake;
You are my piece of foreign sky.

You are my Honolulu moon;
You are the book I did not write:
You are my heart’s unuttered tune:
You are a candle in my night.

You are the flower beneath the snow
In my dark sky a bit of blue;
Answering disappointment’s blow
With “I am happy! I have you!”

― Anne Campbell

Om Sweet Om

Baby yogi

Happy baby in Happy Baby

For the past few weeks, I’ve been getting back into yoga after a long time away. So, I found myself one evening in a room full of people, all of whom seemed to have been given instructions I somehow missed.

One by one, the yogis laid out think woolen blankets, then spread out their yoga mats, then layered towels atop the large pile. They rolled back and forth over giant bolster pillows: warming up, loosening their spines, releasing inhibitions and stressful thoughts. As I watched person after person go through their own personal routine, I felt more and more out of place.

Is this a yoga studio or a homeless shelter?, I thought.

When the instructor started moving us through poses, I looked around frantically, trying to decipher the arcane language she was speaking.

“Chaturanga Dandasana!”

“King Pigeon!”

“Happy Baby!”

Ah! Finally one I know! I laughed to myself as I lay on my back like an overturned beetle, wrapping my palms around the soles of my feet. In that moment, my son’s grinning face came to me like a beacon of light through the clouds. I smiled and relaxed a little, easing into the poses and not worrying as much about whether or not I was doing them right.

Moving and stretching, I began to think about how detached from my body I became during pregnancy. My strategy for dealing with the various parts of me growing larger was to just ignore them.

Butt? What butt?

Cankles? What cankles?

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that as your belly grows, you can no longer see your thighs. It’s the one merciful thing that happens during pregnancy.

As I reached and bent, rolled and contorted, I tried to get reacquainted with my body. Tried to see the good, make peace with the fact that my body isn’t quite what I’d like it to be. And suddenly, I thought of a favorite passage from Gloria Steinem’s Revolution from Within, where she reflects on her own process of letting go, forgiving herself and celebrating herself.

I realized that, while I may not be happy with my body today, there will come a time when I’d give anything to look like this. To be able to bend and twist, to sweat, to experience the feeling of accomplishment that comes after a workout. Instead of criticizing myself, only to one day realize how silly I’ve been, why not celebrate the youth and vitality I have today?

I came home and took Revolution from Within off the shelf, and reread the passage I had been thinking of. It resonated with me as much today as it did the first time I read it. I hope it speaks to you as well.

Sometimes, when I enter a familiar room or street, I think I see a past self walking toward me. She can’t see me in the future, but I can see her very clearly. She runs past me, worried about being late for an appointment she doesn’t want to go to. She sits at a restaurant table in tears of anger arguing with the wrong lover. She strides toward me in the jeans and wine-red suede boots she wore for a decade, and I can remember the exact feel of those boots on my feet. …

I used to feel impatient with her: Why was she wasting time? Why was she with this man? at that appointment? forgetting to say the most important thing? Why wasn’t she wiser, more productive, happier? But lately, I’ve begun to feel a tenderness, a welling of tears in the back of my throat, when I see her. I think: She’s doing the best she can. She’s survived — and she’s trying so hard. Sometimes, I wish I could go back and put my arms around her. …

We are so many selves. It’s not just the long-ago child within us who needs tenderness and inclusion, but the person we were last year, wanted to be yesterday, tried to become in one job or in one winter, in one love affair or in one house where even now, we can close our eyes and smell the rooms.

What brings together these ever-shifting selves of infinite reactions and returnings, is this: There is always one true inner voice.

Trust it.

—    Gloria Steinem
Revolution from Within

How Wonderful Life Is

Baby Feet

What a week! Two sweet babies have arrived. Welcome to the world, Gavin Lochridge and Millie Elizabeth! What joy your parents have ahead.

Alas, there’s more than joy on the horizon. There’s fear and anxiety, exhaustion and angst. There are countless moments that will make your parents question their strength. Your mom and dad will endure minor breakdowns and major diaper blowouts. Lots of insecurities. Probably a few whispered arguments about how to handle one situation or another.

On more than one occasion, your parents will offer up everything they own in exchange for just one hour of sleep.

Yes, yes, that’s it. Clooooose your eyes … Yes! Yes! NOOOO!!! Oh, please, please, please close your eyes again! Just for a few minutes! I’ll nap right here next to your crib. Standing up. Yes! Yes!! NOOOO!!!!

But through it all, there will be joy. Overwhelming, indescribable joy.

Through their exhaustion, your parents will look at each other with widened eyes, shaking their heads and saying, “We did this.” They’ll see themselves in you, in the shape of your eyes or your perfect little nose.

They’ll watch you adopt little quirks and personality traits. They’ll laugh over how much you like to eat, or how cute you look in your tiny outfits. They’ll talk about your poop — a lot.

They’ll be humbled by their love for you. They’ll rock you late at night and tell you they love you, over and over again.

One day, in the not-too-distant-future, you’ll break into a wide grin and kick your chubby legs at the sight of your mom’s beautiful face. Let me prepare you, little babies, you will love nothing more than looking at your mom’s face. And your mom will feel the same way about you.

You both have parents who have waited a long time for you to arrive, and who have loved you since the moment they learned you were on your way. Soon, you’ll come home to a room that’s been lovingly prepared for you. A room filled with books your mom and dad will read to you and stuffed animals you will one day drag behind you. You have so much to look forward to.

And to your parents, I say this. Even in the most trying times, try not to wish those moments away. They will be gone before you know it. The lack of sleep, the awful-smelling diapers, the feeling of being totally and completely overwhelmed: it’s all part of the wild ride. In no time, you’ll be packing away your baby’s first outfits and wondering, “Where has the time gone?”

Lean on your friends and family. Ask for help. Cry when you need to. Don’t beat yourself up over the dishes in the sink or the stains on your shirt. Look into your baby’s beautiful eyes and know that you’ve done at least one amazing, incredible thing with your life. Nothing will ever change that. Life will never be the same again — it’ll be fuller, crazier, messier. Better.

And to you, Gavin and Millie: No one knows where you’ll go in life. We can’t even imagine all you’ll see and do, or what the world will look like when you’re an adult.

But one thing is certain:

How wonderful life is. Now you’re in the world.

For Love of Frankie

This is Frankie.

He’s — how shall I put this? — exuberant.

If you’ve ever come to my house, you may have a slightly different description, such as wild, hyper, manic or insane. In the first 10 minutes, Frankie likely jumped all over you, put your forearm in his mouth, ran wild circles around the house and made off with at least one of your shoes — possibly from inside your suitcase.

Despite (I cringe to admit this) four rounds of obedience training, Frankie doesn’t make a very good first impression.

But to my husband and me, Frankie is the heart and soul of our family. And, strangely enough, he’s my role model. His enthusiasm and zest for life is greater than that of anyone I know. He’s passionate in a way I wish I could be. He’s curious, crazy-smart and loves intensely. Sometimes I think he understands me better than anyone in the world.

So when he started limping around and whimpering last night, it sent shockwaves through our family.

I was out taking an infant safety and CPR class (yes, I just now got around to the “infancy PR” class I was supposed to take before Hudson arrived) and came home to find the house in a state of panic. I had missed my husband’s voicemail asking me to call before entering the house, so when I put my key in the door, Frankie — even in a state of acute pain — jumped up to give me his usual exuberant greeting.

My husband — filled with emotion and anxiety — said, “Something’s wrong with Frankie.”

Those are words I never want to hear about either of our dogs.

When you have a dog like Frankie, you have to be accustomed to a few bumps and bruises. When he was a puppy and I was desperate to tire him out (three vigorous walks a day just weren’t doing the trick), I took him to a tennis court so he could run freely. Insanely excited, he took off in his usual high-spirited style. After a few throws of the tennis ball, I looked down to see blood flowing from all four of his paws.

Panic-stricken and guilt-ridden, I carried him nearly a mile back to my apartment, tears streaming down my face. The vet bandaged his injured paws and declared him fine, and I avoided tennis courts from then on. But when we got home from the vet’s office, Frankie looked at me, and — I swear — his eyes said, “Let’s go!”

No matter how many times he gets knocked down, he always gets back up. He accepted first the introduction of a new puppy (who grew up to be bigger and stronger than him) and then the arrival of a new baby. He’s the kind of dog who excitedly bursts into the vet’s office with his tail wagging, forgetting how many times he’s encountered pain inside those doors. He’s the kind of dog who will always jump up to greet me, regardless of how much he’s hurting.

And today, he’s lying here next to me, in pain.

We’re scheduled to take him to the vet’s office today at 4:00. I’m hopeful he only has a mild sprain, from yesterday when we took him to a field for a game of Frisbee. Still, I can’t help but think about what’s to come.

Frankie is 5 ½ years old now. He and I have lived together in four apartments and one house in three different cities. I’ve watched him jump as high as my reaching fingertips; I’ve cried into his soft fur. Every day, I kiss his nose and notice that it’s grown a little pinker.

As I look at Frankie, I think of my favorite memory with him. In Boston, we lived in a small apartment, but had a massive park the size of six soccer fields just a short walk away. Inside a locked, chain-link fence lay acres of nothing but lush green grass — Frankie’s paradise. Once again desperate for a way to release Frankie’s boundless energy, I’d hoist my agile dog over the chest-high fence and then hop over it myself.

One day, I brought a chair and my journal with us, planning to let Frankie explore the field while I sat in the sun. After a few minutes of roaming, Frankie came and lay next to my chair, no more than three feet away. I looked out over the expanse of green and thought to myself, he could be anywhere in this entire field, and instead he’s chosen to lie here next to me.

I don’t know what the vet will say today. But I know that whatever Frankie needs, we’ll give it to him, no matter how much it costs or how difficult it may be. To my husband and me, Frankie is a symbol of all that’s good about us, and he reminds us of how far we’ve come.

He is our first baby, our chosen son. He is patient with his canine brother and amazingly gentle with his human one. His intuition astounds me.

I only wish I could find some way to tell him how much I love him. In a moment, I’ll bring him another bowl of water and feed him some more banana, which he loves (although not as much as butter). I hope that lets him know just how much I care.

My Marshmallow Days Are Over

Madonna's Buff Bod

This can't be too hard, can it?

It’s been eight weeks since I gave birth to my son. Those eight weeks were preceded by 10 months of pregnancy, during which I ate pounds and pounds of ice cream and considered walking to the cafeteria my daily exercise.

As my delivery date neared, I started working from home exclusively and was so sedentary my sister worried I’d develop blood clots in my legs. My coping strategy for getting through the end of pregnancy involved moving everything I needed — laptop, phone, TV remote, several of my husbands oversized t-shirts, bag of jumbo marshmallows — into bed with me and getting up only to pee.

If you know me, you’re aware I’m not a terribly athletic person. I was in Coke-bottle glasses by age seven. I was the kid who had to be thrown into the pool for morning swim team practice. I was 10 before I mastered a bike. I was a reader, a drawer and a daydreamer. My idea of a fun, competitive activity is lobbing a tennis ball over the net without serving or keeping score.

You get the picture.

My lack of competitive drive causes my husband — a natural athlete and the most competitive person I know — great consternation. Early in our dating years, when we’d visit a sporting goods store, he’d yell out my name and then throw a bouncy ball or Frisbee at me to “test my reflexes.”

I knew what that really meant: he wanted to find out if I carried the necessary amount of athletic genes to produce a champion football player. While I’m certain I never passed these tests, as I surely fumbled every pass thrown at me, my husband decided to marry me anyway — poor vision and “let’s all get along” attitude be damned.

So, now that I’m faced with the challenge of getting back in shape, I’m not exactly brimming with confidence. This just isn’t my area of expertise.

During the past eight weeks, I looked for every any excuse to avoid getting in shape. I was thrilled when I read that I should wait for my doctor to give me the “all-clear” at my six-week checkup before doing any strenuous activity. On the day of my appointment, I was sure my doctor would say, “Absolutely no exercise for you, young lady! You are still far too fragile. Just relax with a bag of marshmallows for a few more weeks.”

That did not happen. Instead, I got a breezy, “Looks good!” and a stack of brochures about contraception. What??!! Does this mean my 10 months and six weeks of special treatment, of having the perfect excuse for total laziness, are over???

After spending the past two weeks in denial, it’s finally time to face facts. Truthfully, I’m tired of wearing the same pair of yoga pants (yoga — ha!). It’s time I got reacquainted with my wardrobe, which I’ve been pointedly ignoring up until now. The only place that’s more of a “factory of sadness” than Cleveland Browns Stadium is my closet.

I’m ready to get in shape. I think.

The last time I felt this motivated, I told my sister (who was working as a personal trainer at the time) to put together a workout plan that would make me “look like Madonna.” After seeing what it would take to look like Madonna, I decided looking like myself wasn’t so bad after all.

But will I ever again look like myself? Veteran moms, please tell me: has my formerly stick-straight shape permanently changed? I’m okay with having a few more curves than I used to, since my former body shape resembled that of a 12-year-old boy. I just want to know what’s ahead.

And, if you have any tips for getting into shape, please feel free to share those too. Especially if they involve lobbing a tennis ball over a net, reading a book or eating marshmallows in bed.

Meet Hudson Wells

Many of you shared in my long, wondrous trip through pregnancy. I am filled with joy as I introduce the miraculous result: my baby boy, Hudson Wells!

Hudson came into the world a week late, with long fingers and enormous feet stretching out to greet me. At 21.5 inches long, he seemed impossibly big and robust. All along I was expecting a tiny, fragile baby girl, but instead found myself gazing down at a sturdy boy sprouting a head full of blonde hair — blonde!

Hudson and Hercule

I will never forget the moment when my husband proclaimed, “it’s a boy!” What I really heard in that moment was, “it’s a baby!” Those words meant the journey that seemed interminable at times had come to an end, and the fetus growing inside me all those months was now a human being, living and breathing on his own. A real baby, finally on the outside, blinking up at me with his whole life ahead of him.

Out he came, just at the moment when I didn’t think I could push any longer, when I didn’t think I had anything left. Amidst a rush of emotion and activity, my baby was suddenly in my arms. I could only say a single phrase over and over, with tears running down my cheeks: “He’s perfect. He’s perfect.

Weeks after his birth, I still can’t believe this is the little baby who kicked and hiccuped inside me all those months. I am awestruck by his tiny fingernails, his perfect little nose, his bright blue eyes (just like his father’s). He looks up at me with such an intense, alert gaze as if I am the only thing that matters in the entire world. He makes my heart ache.

Now that the delivery is behind me, I feel so thankful for such a healthy pregnancy, for the love and support from our families, for the life this precious boy has ahead of him. The first weeks have flown by in a blur of diapers, laundry and hours upon hours of breastfeeding, but each day there’s a moment when he looks up at me with such serenity and peace. In that instant, I know I’m doing the most important thing I’ve ever done.

Since we left the hospital, things haven’t always been easy. And yet, each day there are moments that shine through the exhaustion and frustration like shafts of brilliant light. Some days I feel like I’m floundering, especially when my dogs look at me with sad eyes that tell me how neglected they feel. But even on the toughest days, I feel like I’m finally doing something meaningful with my life.

Today, I feel truly blessed: for my little family, for my home, for my life that suddenly has a new purpose. It’s already been a grand adventure. And yet, there are so many more moments and milestones to come.

Hudson’s Room

I’m also proud to unveil Hudson’s nursery, which I worked on for the entirety of my pregnancy. It was truly a labor of love, filled with items I made by hand in anticipation of the baby who would one sleep and play here.

The bedding was made by repurposing a twin-size quilt from Anthropologie. I used other pieces of the material inside frames and to make pillows.

This mobile is one of my favorite touches in the room, with birds I sewed by hand in the last few weeks of my pregnancy.

In one of my crazier moments, I hung these shelves and painted the chair at nine months pregnant, just a few days before I gave birth.

The mural is a nod to one of my favorite books, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

This beautiful piece of furniture, a gift from my parents, got a little more personality with updated hardware from World Market.

A strand of battery-operated LED lights inside the paper lantern provides just enough light for a late-night diaper change. 

I’ve already spent many hours in this wonderful Little Castle chair, and the pouf from CB2 provides a touch of color and a great place to rest my feet.

Thank you for sharing this journey with me — it’s been amazing.

Anthropologie giraffe bust


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