The Story of Bean—Part 2

Bean is two weeks old. Though we have the usual post-partum fatigue, and my c-section recovery is slower than I would like, the past two weeks have been blessedly uneventful. We’ve rested, nested and generally found the new rhythm of life with a baby in the house. I’ve been fortunate to have my husband home for a couple of weeks to help with my recovery, because he is the ultimate Mr. Mom. The house is clean, the masses are fed and he is right there with me during the up-every-two-hours nights and the post-partum emotional fits. I’m sure that the real challenges will come when he returns to work this week, but for now, I am grateful that he’s been here so we can adjust to all these changes together.

 

I’m sure this week will be the real challenge. My husband is back at work, the Heathens go back to school tomorrow, and I need to retool my days to balance my job as a stay-at-home mom with the added responsibility of a newborn. I’m sure I’ll get into a routine soon, but I confess that I’ll be hard-pressed to fold laundry and clean bathrooms when I could be snuggling this:

She is beautiful, soft and has that “new baby smell.”

And she’s so worth the wait.

 

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:

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.

 

 

Baby Gear—Figuring Out What We Need, What We Don’t, and What We Really Want

I realized today that we are exactly six weeks away from Bean’s arrival, assuming nothing unexpected occurs before then. I’m personally skeptical that we’ll make it all the way to our surgery date, because I can’t, for the life of me, fathom this baby growing any larger. Her cute kicking has morphed into painful ninja moves that give everyone the visual heebie-jeebies. If this kid gets any bigger, I won’t be able to walk upright because of the sheer force of my stomach’s gravitational pull. My lungs are already squished to the point that I’m constantly short of breath, and yes, I have officially hit the waddle stage.

My OB laughed manically when I asked her where the hell else this baby can possible grow, because my abdominal cavity is officially out of room. Clearly, she is used to those eighth-month blues, when a pregnant woman finally crosses the line between cutesy and glowing, to uncomfortable and fed up. However, as much as I’m starting to fuss, I really can’t complain with any degree of seriousness, because this pregnancy has been ridiculously easy and uneventful. We know we’re very fortunate for this, but it’s still easy to let the hormones and discomfort get the best of me sometimes.

With the six-weeks-until-D-Day realization, I’m also at the point when my hormones are kicking into nesting overdrive. Though I’ve slowing been purchasing the big-ticket necessities, we are still woefully unprepared in terms of baby gear. I’m having trouble prioritizing those “must-haves” from the “sure-would-be-nice-to-haves.” As my husband and I learned with our first two heathens, buying baby gear is kind of like gambling, because each item’s usefulness is sometimes entirely dependent on the personality of the baby. Take baby carriers, for example:

My oldest child barely tolerated being carried in one, while my youngest child practically lived in his (thereby saving my sanity). We also learned the hard way that some items are complete trial and error, and not to invest in too much of one thing until we’ve test-driven it first. I can’t tell you how many pacifiers, baby spoons and sippy cups ended up in the reject pile during the boys’ first year, until we finally found the perfect item they each would tolerate. Babies can be dang persnickety.

I know that some items are relatively safe bets, like a swing:

 

G-Man probably would have been an only child if not for the salvation of a good swing. A Boppy was a must with both, because C-sections incisions and newborns must be handled with care:

 

So, I went ahead and bought one as soon as we got past buying the car seat and the stroller…but then I hit a roadblock.

Despite this not being our first rodeo, I’m quickly learning that many of the “usual” items we normally would have stocked up on by now have changed A LOT in the past eight years, and I’m still trying to figure out how they all should be prioritized in the budget. Baby monitors can now come with cameras:

 

Receiving blankets come in specialized “swaddle” versions, which I have a feeling may be as much of a preference issue as the right pacifier is:

And don’t even ask me what the heck this is:

They even make strollers now with iPod jacks, and I confess my inner-geek took that into consideration when I was shopping.

Among my inner-debate about modern baby gear, I also have the secret yen for a few items I probably really don’t need, like an overly expensive diaper bag:

 

And cute nursing covers:

And this thing, which is a handheld device for sleep-deprived parents of newborns:

It keeps track of naps, feedings, timing and other important info. It’s either is the best idea ever, or a waste of money, but I have a feeling it’s another “won’t know till ya try it” kind of thing.

As you can see, I’m spending entirely too much time and brain power thinking about this stuff. Even as I keep telling myself that, my inner pregzilla keeps whispering “six weeks, six weeks, six weeks…”

Excuse me, I think I need to go find a large cup of Sonic ice and some chocolate. That usually shuts her up for a while.

Siblings, Pregnancy and a Lesson in Expecting the Obvious

As we get closer to Bean’s imminent arrival, I’ve started to consider just how the heathens are going to adapt to the uncharted territory of a new baby. This is new ground for us, because when Bear was born, G-Man was only two-years old and our house had just burned down. We were too busy trying to get through the day-to-day to even focus on the usual introspection that a new baby brings. It was sink or swim back then, and we were in the midst of so much chaotic change that a new baby was barely a drop in the proverbial bucket.

Fast forward eight years, and I have a feeling it’s going to be a whole new ballgame.

When we told the boys that our family was about to expand by one, they both took it in stride. Sure, a new baby sounded epic, but with nine WHOLE months to wait, their goldfish-like attention spans soon dismissed the news as exciting, but not really any big deal. At least, not any more exciting than a new episode of Swamp People.

As we progress, the baby is still kind of an abstract concept to them, though we have experienced some moments of pure hilarity. The first occurred when Bear decided that the best way to talk to Bean would be to yell into my open mouth…after all, if food travels from our mouths to our stomachs, why not sound?

As my stomach balloons to cartoonish proportions, Bear constantly eyes it with suspicion, and frequently asks, “After you have the baby, you’re gonna to go back to normal, right?” Of course, I have to explain that my stomach will not shrink overnight, because I just know I have a “But you still LOOK pregnant!!” on the horizon, and no post-partum girl needs that kind of confidence booster. He also has a habit of referring to Bean as “your pregnancy,” as in he will ask “how is your pregnancy today?”

Yeah, he’s a strange one, that kid.

Meanwhile, G-man seems to take it all in stride, though he does laugh hysterically when random baby parts start protruding from my stomach. Other than that, he’s just laid back about the whole thing…perhaps deceptively so.

In all this pregnancy madness, my husband and I somehow missed the most OBVIOUS issue on the planet, because it sure didn’t come up when we announced the pregnancy to the kids. However, a couple of weeks ago, a conversation cropped up that I should have seen coming a mile away. Should’ve…Could’ve…Would’ve….

As we were eating dinner at the table, the kids and I were having our usual recap of everyone’s’ days. Out of left field, Bear looks at me and says, “So, Mom, how exactly did the pregnancy get into your tummy anyway?”

Cue the deer-in-headlights look from me. Seven dang months into my pregnancy, yet I am still blind-sided by this question.

Not only did I have NO answer for my inquiring 7 year-old, but my husband and I hadn’t even discussed what kind of approach we wanted to take with this topic should it ever come up. And the lucky man was still in Boston, so I couldn’t even throw him under the bus with the good, ol’, “Ask your Dad” response. You’d think that two reasonably intelligent adults could have anticipated this moment, but nooooo.

While my brain scrambled frantically for an answer, G-man looked up from his pasta, shrugged his shoulders and said, “stomach acid…duh!”

And I am such a dork that, before I could even stop myself, I muttered, “Yeah, what he said.”

About fifteen seconds later, I managed to collect myself enough to scrape together some nonsensical response about Dad and me discussing it, then God deciding to bless us and yada, yada, yada, but by then, they had already moved on to the Lego’s they wanted to buy with their allowance money.

Yeah, this is about to get very interesting.

Designing the Nursery—Part 2 (Baby Steps)

This is the face of the little booger who consistently gets the hiccups at 3:00 AM. Could you sleep if someone poked you in the ribs, every three seconds for an hour? I highly doubt it. In fact, she is so active lately, my stomach always looks like we are seconds away from an Aliens reenactment. I have officially crossed into the discomfort portion of my pregnancy, and I don’t think I can swing wearing yoga pants to work…*sigh*

In the meantime, work on the nursery has been on hold. Though I didn’t want to write about it at the time, my husband had to go away on a nearly month-long business trip. Let’s just say that working full-time, keeping the heathens fed and healthy, and maintaining some semblance of order in my house has been a challenge. I’ll spare you the nitty-gritty of those three weeks…it’s enough to say they weren’t a picnic.

My husband made it home safe and sound this weekend, and we’re gearing up to resume work on the nursery.

Though this project has been on hiatus, I still spent time figuring out a few things. If you recall, the room in question has these shelves:

I wanted to maximize the storage potential of this space, so I figured that cute baskets would be an attractive solution. Finding the right baskets, however, proved to be a challenge. I really wanted something that was as large as would feasibly fit into the space, so that the items inside would not be completely visible at a glance (I’m not very adept at keeping drawers Martha-Stewart-neat). I also needed so many baskets that the budget became a significant issue. Just as I would find the perfect basket, I’d also find the $20-a-pop price tag. After weeks of searching at all the usual places, I happened down the home-storage aisle of Lowes:

These baskets were only $6 a piece. I also found some in a smaller size (3 for $12), which I’ll be able to use for things like hair accessories…yes, I said hair accessories. I’m having my first girl for cripes sake.

Painting is an ongoing process, but while I’ve been waiting, I also found this wall decal on Etsy, which I will be ordering this week:

 

Progress may be slow, but, hey, it’s still progress.