We Interrupt this Blog…

For a little bit of vitamin D. Bean looked a wee bit yellow, but was not jaundiced enough to be of real concern. The doctor recommended some sunshine, and given our post-partum confinement, we all needed fresh air and a change of scenery.

This was our first real outing since leaving the hospital, and though it was only an hour, I think our entire clan benefitted greatly. It’s amazing how a beautiful day and some fresh air rejuvenated everyone.

Even this clown.

The Story of Bean—Part 1: The Hospital

We’ve made it through our first week as a family of five, and I feel marginally human again.

Bean’s birth was my third c-section, and from the moment I checked into the hospital last week, I realized that much has changed since I had my last child. Prior to this pregnancy, I experienced two very clinical births, after which both my boys were whisked away to the nursery for hours on end. I remember asking my husband repeatedly to find our baby, because both boys were constantly taken away for tests, shots, monitoring and check-ups. In retrospect, those experiences were far more stressful than they needed to be, but the hospitals in our area had not yet embraced the value in post-birth bonding and supportive breastfeeding policies.

I was thrilled to learn that this would not be the case for Bean’s birth. Barring complications, Bean would remain with us in the operating room, and then stay with me continuously in post-op recovery (now in a comfortable and baby-friendly L&D room, rather than a tiny post-op holding room). She would only go to the nursery for a bath when we were ready. All assessments and examinations would be done in the room, with us there, and only when absolutely necessary. I felt a huge rush of relief when I heard this; I truly believe that having a baby, only to have it unnecessarily whisked away in seconds and then kept away for hours, is a horrible kind of trauma for a mother. C-sections are already difficult enough, without the added stress of being helpless and separated from your child. From the moment she was born however, Bean was always close by, and my husband never left her side:

The only bad part of Bean’s birth experience was the surgery itself. During the operation, I was in pain…a lot of pain. I could feel a lot more of what was happening than I should have. Rather than visiting with my husband or cracking jokes with the nurses (like I did during Bear’s birth), I kept a death-grip on my husband’s hand and clenched my teeth to keep from screaming at the doctor to hurry up and finish. At the time, I figured I was just being a sissy, so I kept my mouth shut…when I really should have spoken up. That’s my own dang fault. By the time my surgery was over, my normally low blood pressure was dangerously high, and I kicked myself for not trusting my instincts.

However, those new hospital policies ended up being my best medicine, because within minutes of exiting the operating room, I had her in my arms:

Her pediatrician even came to us for her initial exam, so I was front, center and available to ask questions, rather than having to wonder what was happening. Throughout our hospital stay, Bean only left our side for a once-a-day bath, and a few unexpected tests when the pediatrician detected a possible heart murmur. I had frequent visits from the lactation consultants, to make sure we were set up for feeding success.

We still had the never-ending visits from nurses and ran on very little sleep as a result, but there was no getting around that. As much as our hospital has evolved into a more nurturing and less “let’s avoid a lawsuit” kind of place, a c-section is still major surgery. I required constant monitoring and the recovery is not a picnic. Today is really the first day I haven’t felt like death warmed over. We also had a few hiccups with my medications, some kooky timing of vaccinations and the added stress of waiting for the pediatric cardiologist to tell us all was well. Overall, however, the experience was still better than I had expected or hoped.

So, the hospital stay was only three days, and in retrospect, I am very grateful for the way things have changed. Even when the pain robbed me of breath, and I all I wanted t do was cry, I only had to reach out for her and everything was better:

In the Land of Lego’s

For a kid that can’t focus on his homework for five minutes at a time, Bear has the uncanny ability to spend hours on whatever project actually captures his attention. Lego’s are his current obsession, and he spends most of his allowance on various kits, which his father and I encourage wholeheartedly. As much as I LOVE stepping on the randomly misplaced Lego every day, I am constantly amazed at what Bear does when he gets into that intensely focused zone.

Naturally, all he wanted for his birthday was even more Lego’s, and his grandparents gave him a kit for a rather large pirate ship.

This was by far his largest Lego project to date, and building the ship took several hours…but he did it. All by himself, piece by piece, and with a methodical patience that I’ve never seen in any 7 year-old, Bear completed his pirate ship:

He was so proud of the finished product that he made me close my eyes as led me into the living room for the big reveal.

The only downside is that I may need to ask the Lego company to put me on a payment plan. With the pirate ship complete, he’s ready for another challenge.

 

Designing the Nursery—Part 3

After nine loooonng months, we’ve reached the week of Bean’s birth! The nursery is about 95% complete (we’re shy some artwork and maybe a lamp or two), but I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the finishing touches will come with time.

Overall, I am really happy with what we’ve accomplished thus far, because I am definitely not the creative/designer type. In fact, I honestly have no decorating sense whatsoever. Our house is a piecemeal effort, to which stuff is randomly added on impulse. We’ve never set out to “design” a room with any type of plan in mind. Even after the fire, we focused on the frantic procurement of everything we needed to get a roof back over our heads. The concept of any “design” was lost in the driving need to get the house complete so we could go home. Despite my love affair with the pages of Southern Living, I find it impossible to conceptualize a plan for our own living spaces.

But alas, when I realized that Bean was my first girl, and quite possibly my last child, I decided that I better get invested in my pregnancy and baby-planning experience, especially the execution of the nursery.

As you may recall, we started out with the weird room. The only real inspiration I had came from some custom, designer bedding I had seen that featured a pink, gray and white color scheme. I also knew that I wanted a room that could grow with Bean, because we didn’t want to invest a huge amount of money decorating a room that would just have to be redone in a year or two. No highly themed baby room for us, especially when our budget needed to focus on more important things…like car seats and medical bills.

So, I figured that I would create a neutral “base” in terms of paint and furniture, and add the girly/baby elements through easily changeable or replaceable accents. Simple enough, right?

For the walls, I picked a very light gray color, and decided on an ultra-white color for all the trim and built-ins:

Painting took forever, and we learned a valuable lesson about why primer is probably a good idea. In the meantime, I fell in love with this furniture from JCPenney:

However, the dark chocolate wood did not seem to jive with my lighter gray and white color scheme; after much deliberation, I figured that I would  be a rebel and go for it. The crib, which is convertible to an adult bed, was just too beautiful for me to pass up.

We added storage to the room by combining baskets with the existing built-in bookshelf. My OCD really liked this feature, because I’m able to organize and compartmentalize to the point of ridiculousness…a basket for bows, a basket for socks, a basket for sheets…you get the idea:

The main wall features the bed:

And the cute round rug I found at a local shop today. We wanted something round to break up all the rectangles in the room, but until this afternoon, I had yet to find anything that fit the bill. Here’s a better look at the vinyl decal I found on Etsy:

I splurged on the decal for a couple of reasons; it was a major art feature, and down the road, it will be easily removed with no painting involved.

Now for my favorite part: the bedding. I finally admitted to myself that I really could not spend $400+ on custom-made bedding when it would only have about a year’s worth of projected use. I also realized I shot myself in the foot by picking such an unusual color scheme, and my attempts to find pre-made, bargain bedding failed miserably. With time ticking away and few options left (well, that wouldn’t break the bank), I decided to try my hand a making my own bedding…yep, it was an overly ambitious goal for a girl that can barely sew a straight line. However, as I scoured the fabric stores with failing confidence, I hit the proverbial Holy Grail. I found a floral fabric that featured not only pink, gray and white, but also a nice chocolate color that would pull together both my room color ideas, and my not-so-coordinating furniture selection. After two days, no pattern, plenty of tears and enough swear words to land me in trouble, I finally finished my not-so-perfect but oh-so-economical bedding:

By using coupons and shopping the sales, I spent about $50 from start to finish, and ended up with bedding that I love, and I don’t have to feel guilty about.

In addition to the crib, we also got the dresser/hutch, which fits perfectly in the limited space we have on the other wall:

Finally, we cleared out some of the wall-of-built-ins:

And ran a closet rod through them, so we would be able to hang up some of Bean’s clothes:

Like I said, we still need more artwork, accents and maybe a lamp or two, but overall, I’ll bring Bean home to an actual nursery. We finished everything with just a few days to spare, but by taking our time, we created a space that actually followed a path from inspiration to reality.

I’ll be cleaning like a banshee for the next day or two, then it’s officially baby-time…if I don’t succumb to pregnancy-nesting-madness first.

 

 

Busy, Busy, Busy

When I left my job a couple of weeks ago, I envisioned spending the last few weeks of my pregnancy nesting and relaxing.

Ha…ha…Mw-ha-ha!

The first week was a literal marathon of running errands, as I realized my endless baby procrastination finally had to end. In between my days of frantic shopping and list-making, I also spent the day with G-Man at the regional social studies fair:

Which was about the most tedious day ever…for both of us. Though I appreciated that it was a valuable learning experience for him, I was not too keen on an event that kept my kid trapped in a room, sitting on the floor for over three hours, and didn’t allow me to check on him. By day’s end, we were both snarly and exhausted, so we treated ourselves to fajitas and sopapillas, and had I not been pregnant, I would have ordered a margarita the size of Texas. Regardless of the headache, we still got a little one-on-one time, which is always a treat.

Once we got past the fair, and then the costumes I had to cook up for the school’s “book character day,” we spent the weekend celebrating Bear’s birthday:

Technically, we were celebrating several weeks early, but with Bean’s arrival (and therefore my c-section) moved up, I did not want Bear’s birthday to get lost struggles of post-partum recovery. He’s been way too excited about turning eight for me to drop the ball on this one. We started with presents:

Then had a wonderful breakfast with the family. We let Bear pick what he wanted to do for the day, and he decided on a trip to the zoo:

Finally, we finished off the day with cake:

Even with it being a few weeks early, I think Bear had a happy birthday celebration, and we got to enjoy focusing on our “baby” for the day…before the new baby changes everything.

Soooo, About that Work Thing

The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind, but now that the dust has settled, I can finally catch my breath. The big announcement is that I officially left my career and am once again a stay-at-home mom. The road to this decision was fraught with questions, doubts and more than one panic attack, but ultimately, it was the only decision that was right for our family.

As the reality of Bean’s impending arrival began to sink in, we took a good, long look at our options, which were basically to continue my full-time, high-stress job and find some sort of child care for Bean and the Heathens, or leave my career and focus on being a full-time wife and mom again. Financially, both options were not optimal. Losing my income may turn out to be financial suicide, but when we added up all the costs associated with two working parents, we realized I would probably be giving most, if not all of my salary to child care and incidentals. Either way, our finances were going to require serious reconsideration.

With no clear answers, we stepped back from the money issue, and finally took a good long look at what we really want for our family. Certain truths became glaringly self-evident.

Right now, I am not the kind of mom I want to be, and our home-life is not reflective of who we are as a family. Somehow, things began to deteriorate in the past year. The pressure of being a full-time, working mom was bad enough, but both my husband and I were desperately trying to balance our demanding careers with our family life, and we were failing miserably. Well, I was, at least. My career required enormous mental and emotional resources, and though it was incredibly rewarding, it was nearly impossible to compartmentalize.

The work-weeks became more about survival, and the weekends turned into a stressful marathon of catching up and endless to-do lists. Our home began to feel less like a haven and more like a burden of never-ending needs that we wanted to hide from. I struggled to keep up with the Heathens’ school work and activities, and was always dropping the ball in some way. Instead of being focused on helping them excel, I could only make sure we did just enough to get by.

I think what really started to get to me was that I lost the joy I once had in being a mom. I used to love planning birthdays, holidays, meals and family events…that is, until I began to dread them as just one more thing I had to get done. I was sinking under the weight of my exhaustion and apathy. It wasn’t my job’s fault, and it certainly wasn’t my family’s fault. It was simply a matter of me realizing that I had spread myself too thin, and I needed to prioritize what was really important to me.

Before anyone gets their panties in a twist, I’ll be the first to say the whole “Mommy Wars” debate is totally ridiculous. I’ve seen working moms who put Martha Stewart to shame, and stay-at-home moms whose kids might as well have been raised in wild. Working versus staying at home isn’t the issue… moms, families and individual situations are far too diverse for us to assume there is ever one “best” way to raise our kids. All options have their own pros and cons, it’s just a matter of finding what’s right for each individual family.

Right now, this is what’s best for us. Being back at home full-time is going to take some getting used to, but so far, the simple act of slowing down has already done wonders for all of us. Though I’ve spent first few days mostly running the 200 errands I’ve put off for months, the stress level in our house is noticeably lower. I have some catching up to do, and getting our house and lives back under some type of organization is my most pressing objective.

Why? Did I mention that I only have a couple of weeks till Bean arrives? Yeah…She’s coming a bit early, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.