Plum at four months

Gazes at her fist like it’s the most fascinating thing she’s ever seen (it probably is). Also definitely looks at the cats and dog as though she’s realized they are independent beings and not just part of the decor.

Coos, squeals, squawks, smacks, and occasionally makes consonant sounds: guh, ma, da, mmm, and nnn. Also is starting to chuckle. Once she laughed out loud a lot because her Uncle T was so very funny.

Sleeps in her co-sleeper from about 7-7:30 pm to between 6:30-8 am with maybe one wake up for first breakfast sometime between 3 and 5:30 am.

Deliberately touches people (especially her dad) on the arm or the face. Also rubs her hands all over her own face while falling asleep and waking up.

Has just started drawing things—aside from the magical fist and its thumb—to her mouth.

Drools much more than she ever has before; chews on her bottom lip and tongue.

Rides the bus in the baby carrier to and from work with me four days a week (I work from home one of the days). At work, Plum naps in her stroller bassinet, drinks milk, visits with my coworkers, and plays on her quilt.

Scoots all around on her back by pushing herself with her feet. She is very unlikely to be in the same orientation in her bed at the end of nap as she was at the beginning.

Hangs out on her side with her legs to the side and could be rolling over any day now!

What I want to remember: Plum at three months

Plum is three months old tomorrow! This is what I want to remember:

We thought she was chatty before, but OMG this girl loves to talk. She makes new types of sounds every day and is happiest when we are talking to her and pausing for her response.

The smiles are only getting bigger. My favorite type of smile currently is the one she makes while breastfeeding with a nipple still in her mouth. Occasionally milk runs out of the corners of the smile. Sometimes she even mixes in a nipple-ful smile with a coo or two. My heart!

If she fusses while being held, she often wants you to lay her down on a blanket so she can beeb* around. She is starting to move (!) by bending her legs and pressing her feet into the floor to push and frequently ends up rotated from where we leave her in her travel crib.

How loudly she smacks and murmurs as she tries to suck on her thumb/fist. We can hear her with the door shut. She works so hard to get that thumb in her mouth, but sometimes when she does, she gags herself, so we’ll see if it sticks.

She’s little, but she can burp so loudly. Cracks me up every time.

*to beeb: to wiggle around like Plum does; sometimes beebing involves sound and sometimes it doesn’t. From the proper noun Beeb, Plum’s most commonly used nickname.

What I want to remember: Plum at two months

I love Kelsey’s “What I want to remember” posts, so I’m going to write one, too.

Plum is two months old (really nine weeks old now!), and these are the things I want to remember:

She makes a pirate face when she knows she’s about to breastfeed, with one eye sort of squinting and that same side of her mouth open like she’s saying “ARRRR.” Sometimes she makes the face right before she latches on and sometimes she just makes it when I take her from Hubs or someone else who is holding her.

She makes cooing sounds in her sleep—like little, audible sighs with each exhale. She doesn’t do it all the time, and I think she’s starting to do it less, but I love it.

How much she loves her dad. She lights up when he gets home, and they sit on the couch together and just chat back and forth while I make dinner. Since she’s started smiling, she is all smiles for him, and she definitely makes baby noises back at him as he talks to her.

How sweetly she wakes up in the morning. Again with the smiles.

How wiggly she is during diaper changes, like it feels great to be in open air.

Pregnancy at 38 weeks OR Plum’s Birth Story

Throughout my pregnancy, I was pretty sure that Plum was going to come late because most first babies do. I expected to be at work well past my February 19 due date. So when my water broke at 10 pm on February 5, I was confused to say the least. First, I hadn’t really considered the possibility of an early arrival. And second, I wasn’t sure that it was my water breaking (maybe I had just peed myself, like you do). It turned out that it was the real thing and now we have a lovely three-week old baby. Here’s how it happened:

The morning of Friday, February 5, I got ready for work as usual. Before I left the house, I told Hubs to take a picture of me. I can’t remember exactly why I did it, but I’m glad I did because it’s the last photo of me pregnant and not in labor. It was a pretty normal work day, and then I taught prenatal yoga at 4:30 that afternoon. On the way home I stopped at Whole Foods to buy soup bones to make bone broth, which I wanted to have during labor/postpartum, but they didn’t have any. Hubs and I spent a low key evening at home watching The Good Wife and eating frozen pizza, until the aforementioned water breaking.

I was in the kitchen taking my night time vitamins and then I started to walk into the bathroom when it happened. I went to the bathroom before saying anything to Hubs because I’d just had something like 40 ounces of water to drink, but once I got into the bathroom, I was pretty sure that it was my water and not pee. I told Hubs that I thought my water had just broken and he said, “I guess I’d better stop drinking.”

I also texted our doula to ask how I would know if my water had broken, and she told me to put on a pad and see what happened. She also asked if I was having contractions, and I could feel my belly tightening if I put my hand on it, but I couldn’t feel anything else. I followed her advice and the pad was soaked within a few minutes, which suggested that it was definitely my water and not pee.

We got in bed and tried to sleep. Pretty soon after, though, I started having contractions. I didn’t know they were contractions at the time because the tightness was so low in my abdomen and not in my back at all (I thought they might have been rhythmic gas pains-ha!). But in any case, the tightness was happening at regular intervals. I took a benadryl to try to facilitate sleep, and then went back to bed.

About 2 am, after not really having slept, the contractions were too intense to stay lying down. I texted our doula to confirm that I was having contractions as well as bloody show and phoned the birth center to page the midwife on call. When the midwife called back, she suggested I take a bath, eat a snack, and take another benadryl. I made peanut butter toast and got in the tub. My contractions immediately got closer together, and I started moaning/om-ing through them, which I kept up throughout the rest of my labor. When I got out of the tub, I threw up the peanut butter toast (yuck) and then took another benadryl and tried to sleep on our couch.

[Sidebar: I found out later that Hubs was timing my contractions based on my vocalizing, while also texting the doula to ask whether this was a drill.]

I dozed on and off through contractions from about 4-6 am and then got up. I walked the dog and then proceeded to labor around the house while moaning/om-ing through contractions and getting some things ready to go. Hubs got up a little before 7 and sprang into action as well. We hadn’t packed any bags, didn’t have any food to take with us to the birth center, and didn’t have the car seat in the car. I was able to pack a bag for Plum and me in between contractions, and Hubs did the car seat installation, found a dog sitter, and grocery shopped. He also kept encouraging me to eat (some oatmeal, which I also threw up) and drink juice and water.

Our doula came by around 10:30 am and suggested some position changes for me to try. She also turned off the lights and lit some candles to make the environment cozy. The student doula that was working with our doula came over, too. They kept me company, encouraged me, and reminded me of my labor mantra (“I’m gonna get huge”) while Hubs finished up preparations, and they also kept track of how close my contractions were.

Because we live so close to the birth center, the midwives had told me not to come in until my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart. About 12:30 pm, our doula said it was time to think about heading to the birth center. We threw everything in the car and then I got in the backseat on hands and knees, using the newly installed car seat as a support. I had two contractions on the six minute drive, which were not my favorite, but then we were there.

No one else was laboring at the birth center, so we had our choice of the three birthing rooms, as well as the undivided attention of the midwife, student midwife, and nurse. Throughout my pregnancy, I’d had high-ish blood pressure at all my prenatal visits, in spite of mostly normal BP when taking it at home, so it was a slightly tense moment when they took my BP that day. I knew that if it was anywhere close to too high, I might have to transfer to the hospital. Luckily, it was well within the normal range (and lower than it had ever been for the midwives!), so we got to stay at the birth center. They also took my temperature and did a cervical check. I was about five centimeters dilated at that point.

For the next several hours, I just labored in different places around the birth center, vocalizing all the way: the tub, the toilet, a birth ball (which I hated), walking around, and the shower. I was in the shower for about 30 minutes, and it felt amazing to me to use the handicapped handle bars to go into a deep squat during contractions, while Hubs used the shower head to spray warm water over my back. In between contractions, I stood up and swayed my hips. I knew that the contractions while I was in the shower were longer and more intense, but I never felt as though they were beyond the limits of my coping skills.

Around 4 pm, I got out of the shower and had another cervical check. I was completely dilated and at about +1! I got on the birth stool at that point because I thought I wanted to be there to push. I started to feel a little bit as though my body was pushing for me, so I started to push. And I pushed and pushed and pushed. At first, I didn’t mind because my contractions had gotten further apart and shorter, but it became clear pretty soon that I wasn’t making much progress.

In contrast to the capability I felt breathing, moaning, and laboring through contractions, I felt pretty unprepared for pushing. For me it was completely different because I had to hold my breath and direct it downward instead of using my breath and being able to blow the pain out. Plus, even during contractions I got a break, but when I was pushing and things were just stretching, it just hurts the whole time. About two hours in (I actually didn’t know that it had been two hours) and after several position changes (birth stool, hands and knees, side-lying on both sides, reclined/supported on pillows), I started to get pretty whiny and asked if someone would help me get the baby out. The midwife felt me do a push and then coached me a little bit, instructing me to push harder and to maximize each contraction with several pushes.

From that point, I was much more effective, and I could feel actual change and movement. But I was still pretty whiny and talked a lot about how hard it was and how much it hurt. The lovely thing is that even though I know I was probably pretty annoying, my birth team was nothing but supportive and wonderful. They monitored Plum’s heart rate, which stayed great pretty much throughout pushing. And they said things like, “Yes, it’s so hard, and you’re doing it,” and put cool cloths on my head and gave me drinks of lemonade. At one point the student midwife gave me a little bit of tough love and said something along the lines of, “It’s hard, but the only way for it to stop is to push your baby out, so do it.” And so I did.

Plum came earthside at 7:53 pm on February 6, 2016. After the student midwife delivered the head and shoulders, Hubs pulled Plum out the rest of the way, and as he brought our baby to my chest, he said, “We have a daughter.” I was so surprised that she was a girl and so glad to be done pushing and have her with me. She didn’t cry right away, but I never felt worried because she was looking right at me. They suctioned her mouth a little and then she cried a big cry. We waited until her umbilical cord stopped pulsing and then Hubs cut it (her cord was so big that they thought for a minute they would need a bigger clamp, but that didn’t actually end up happening).

She and I did skin to skin for a while and then I got stitched up (second degree tear) while she and Hubs did skin to skin. We spent the night at the birth center and headed home the next morning, where we’ve been enjoying each other ever since.

I am so thankful that I was able to birth Plum pretty much how I’d hoped I could. I felt so incredibly supported and empowered and safe in the birth center setting and with our birth team. What an incredibly sweet and powerful way for Hubs and me to welcome Plum!

Plum: 8 lbs 10 oz; 20.5 inches

Plum: 8 lbs 10 oz; 20.5 inches

Enjoying lately

37 weeks of pregnancy today: Technically full term! Plum can come any time before 42 weeks and we will [likely] be able to birth at the birth center. It’s a relief to be at this point—and that Plum is head down, which we had confirmed this week by ultrasound—but really I have plenty left I could do pre-birth. Plum, you can come whenever you want, but feel free to stay in there and grow a little bit more. And in spite of increased slowing down and discomfort (mainly with sleeping and getting up from sitting), I am not at the “get this baby out” stage that some people feel by now, and I am so thankful for that. Plum’s movements have changed from big movements to what feels like stretching and some kicking. It’s pretty nuts to watch my skin move as Plum moves underneath, and I feel delighted with feeling him/her through my skin and being able to identify what is a butt, foot, knee, etc.

Nesting activities: Hubs and I did an amazing living space rearrangement that opened everything right up in our open plan apartment. Some of the changes included him mounting the TV on the wall, finding a loving home for the TV stand my dad built for me in college, and me ordering a cozy new runner rug from Overstock. It’s starting to wear off since the initial rearrange two-ish weeks ago, but for a while, every time I walked into our living space, I thought, “Wow! I just love this!” Things are also mostly together for Plum’s room, including a new rug, which now has a rug pad and got rolled out this week.

Rug on top and opening up living space + Tonks on bottom |

Rug on top and opened up living space + Tonks on bottom

Time with loved ones: My dear friend Sarah was here in early January for an amazing weekend of talking, walking, and eating copious amounts of cheese. Tomorrow, local friends are hosting a mother blessing party for me, and several out-of-towners are also joining us. I am feeling so well loved and supported by our community!

Swimming: It feels so good to put my [much heavier and more unwieldy] body in water and move around. I’ve been trying to go to our indoor community pool at least once on the weekends and on MLK Day, I even got to do aqua aerobics with the senior citizens.

Our new Roomba: We named it Kreacher, and after some fits and starts figuring out how to set him up so he will do his best work, it is amazing to live in a less furry house. Occasionally Kreacher has trouble finding the dock after he does a cleaning cycle, but I think that’s because Tonks lays on the floor and blocks his path. Bonus video of Zeda meeting Kreacher:

Pregnancy at 32 weeks

Physically, I am still feeling pretty good. I’ve had a bit of heartburn, and I am finally past the point where I can sleep on my stomach (so sad!), so sleep is getting trickier. A nearly-weekly happening is very early morning insomnia, where I wake up sometime between 2 am and 4 am and can’t go back to sleep for at least an hour. But I’ve continued walking (I aim for 2-4 miles daily), prenatal yoga classes (three/week), and acupuncture, as well as started seeing a chiropractor, which I think has all helped my body relax and prepare.

There’s absolutely no doubt that I’m pregnant and the comments from strangers have increased accordingly. Weirdest yet: I was going into the bathroom at some rural Tennessee McDonald’s, where we’d stopped for a break on our way back home from Christmas. A guy coming out of the men’s restroom stopped me, and said “Congratulations. Do you know what you’re having?” I answered that we were going to be surprised, and then excused myself because I HAD TO GO TO THE BATHROOM. I guess it could be weirder, but how funny that he thought I needed to stop and talk to him about my pregnancy.

The mental/emotional shifts that I’ve experienced over the course of the past seven-ish months feel like the most striking things I’ll remember about this time (even more than the terrible nausea early on). As a strong extrovert, I am pretty used to wanting to do all kinds of social things. But during this pregnancy, I have been happiest at home by myself, with Hubs, or in a one-on-one scenario. In larger groups, I feel dull, and as though I can’t quite keep up with the conversation. My fear of missing out, which used to be really strong, is now nothing compared to my desire to go to bed early or cuddle a cat or dog. It’s an interesting change for me, and one that makes sense, given how internally focused I am on myself and on Plum.

Speaking of Plum, s/he continues to have a strong heartbeat (135-145 beats per minute) at midwife visits, measures right on schedule, and according to my favorite pregnancy app is the size of one of those sit-on scooter boards that I played with in PE in elementary school. I also love that I am already getting a sense of Plum as an independent person: Monday morning, Hubs woke up early to go to the gym, but reached over to feel my belly before getting out of bed. Plum was kicking up a storm, all while I slept peacefully. It’s pretty fun to imagine that it won’t be more than 10 or so weeks (and maybe fewer) before we meet this person on the outside!

Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats

The only time I tried to make steel cut oats on the stove, it was a burned disaster. I was not (nor am I ever) in the mood to constantly stir the oats for the hour or however long it takes them to cook. (I actually don’t know since I’ve never been patient enough to find out. I may have been doing something wrong). Belated apologies to the ladies who had to eat slightly burny oats at my house that morning.

But I love steel cut oats. Their fibery healthfulness is matched only by their creamy yet lumpy texture (so pleasant to the palate) and their affordability in the bulk section of your neighborhood grocery. I also love how filling and warming they are, especially as the weather turns chilly.

Enter slow cooker steel cut oats! I made a batch of these once a week last winter, and we just recently started up again. I modified the recipe to make it even simpler (see below) and because I like to add a banana and some nuts to mine, but skip the sugar. I always use a can of coconut milk because it gives a creaminess to the oats that is missing if you just use regular milk or half and half. I cook them on Sunday night and then divide them up (or aliquot them, if you will) and we reheat them all week and eat them. (High five from my future self!)

Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats

8 cups of water
2 cups steel cut oats
1 can coconut milk (don’t get the lite kind)

Butter the crock of your slow cooker REALLY well. The oats will probably still stick, but buttering really helps them stick less. Add the rest of the ingredients, give them a stir, and then cook on low for 8ish hours. Enjoy in the morning or whenever you want!

Pregnancy at 26 Weeks

I am definitely looking pregnant now (and not just like I ate a few too many donuts), which is mostly good. It’s led to some comments from strangers, but I don’t mind them as much as I did early on. I’m not sure whether it’s because I’ve had time to adjust to how my body is changing or for some other reason, but I am glad to not feel so annoyed. And interestingly, it’s only strangers that see me often (like fellow bus commuters) that have commented. Most people that I’ve never met before still can’t seem to decide baby vs. donuts, so they’re largely not saying anything.

I can also feel Plum moving around most of the day. It’s especially weird at night time when I lay down because that usually means A LOT of movement, so much so that last week Hubs could see my belly actually moving. Kind of like an alien.

I stopped taking the anti-nausea meds (without puking) around week 22, which was an awesome development. I’ve also been truly hungry and am finding the balance between wanting to eat sugar all the time and getting a good mix of foods that are satisfying and healthy.

I definitely feel a change in my center of gravity, which has led to differences in how I walk and how easy it is to do things like get out of bed. I also am more winded after less physical activity, but I usually feel really good after walking (especially in the awesome fall sunshine we’ve had).

Also, nesting is totally real. I’ve been clutter clearing and reorganizing to make way for Plum in our second bedroom. And I’ve scored some great deals on used gear/furniture from Craigslist/an insane estate sale, so I am excited to start getting the space ready.

Better luck next time

2015-10-29 01.20.01 pmIn an effort to avoid the madness that for me usually accompanies the lead up to the holiday season and the season itself, I created this iCal reminder for myself last year. But if I’m going to make iCal reminders that are in any way useful, it turns out that I need them a little bit sooner than October 30.

Hubs and I are currently in the midst of a three month stretch where something involving travel is planned for every weekend except three. My problem is that when most of these plans were made, it was summer, which meant that my life felt expansive and the days felt long. As we move into fall, my tendency is to turn inward, curl up, take it easy, and be cozy. During this pregnancy, I feel this need even more strongly, but many of our upcoming plans feel as though they leave little room for that.

I could probably cancel things, but I don’t want to! The plans that would be schedule-wise easier to miss (with dear friends and family, who would surely understand) are the ones that will fill us up in the midst of the required/work-related activities and travel. My solution? A new calendar reminder for next year:

2015-10-29 01.48.35 pmHere’s hoping that putting it in July—rather than October—and clarifying the language actually works! (Given that there will be another person involved by then, it had better)

Easy, hearty pasta salad

With the arrival of fall, this pasta salad is nearly out of season. But I made it on Saturday for a picnic dinner because it’s such a good take along dish, and I wanted to share it here.

1 lb of pasta (I like colorful, spiral pasta)
1 log of salami
Pecorino romano cheese (we buy it in a wedge from Trader Joe’s)
1 or 2 sweet bell peppers (any color is tasty)
1 bag of frozen peas
1 bottle of creamy balsamic dressing (the Trader Joe’s one is legit)

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. While it’s cooking, chop the salami, cheese, and peppers into small pieces and add to a big bowl. Drain the pasta and add the still-frozen peas to the strainer. Stir the peas and pasta around, which will thaw the peas and help the pasta cool down. Add the pasta and peas to the bowl with the salami, cheese, and peppers. Pour the dressing over the top. (You might think you don’t need a whole bottle of dressing, but it will taste much better if you add it all). Stir to combine well and serve immediately, or refrigerate until you’re ready to eat.

2015-10-19 09.13.28 am