Friday, March 10, 2017

change is good, right?

It's crazy how fast things are changing with this pregnancy. I feel like I just got past the point of feeling sick and adjusting to the idea that I'm even pregnant, and bam - next week, I'll be in the third trimester. Unreal. I'm still in the sweet spot of feeling good and energetic, but I can tell I'm slowing down. I don't think I started slowing down with my first pregnancy until the very last month. Granted, things were so different then - I spent every morning traipsing around town with groups of summer campers, and every afternoon swimming with them. I'm so much more stationary these days, and it's not helping anything. In fact, I took a bunch of walks/jogs the other week when the weather was so gorgeous here, and they were awesome. Instead of wiping me out, they boosted my energy. Unfortunately, following this week's epic windstorm in southeast Michigan, it's freezing again - like, down to ten degrees tonight - and isn't supposed to warm up for awhile. Kind of a problem, considering it's getting harder to, you know, tie my shoes and zip my winter coat.

Baby seems to be doing great. His movements are intense! I think he's still small enough that he can really wiggle around in there. Twenty-seven weeks (which is what I am now) is when Rowan snuggled into her breech position...and never shifted. Don't get me wrong, she still wiggled and bumped and kicked. Trust me, I'll never forget the feeling of being kicked in the ass from the inside. But aside from trying to stretch out lengthwise across my belly right before she was born (ouuuch), she stayed breech for the entire final trimester. Either way, hard to say, but I think this babe is still rolling around in there. I feel round head or bottom lumps on all different parts of my belly. It probably helps that my uterus is more stretched out this time than it was with Rowan. 

Speaking of stretched out...I somehow got away with only a couple minor stretch marks the first time, right above my bellybutton. They weren't even noticeable after a couple months. Well, those stretch marks are...stretching. And it sucks. They itch. They hurt. And as much as I'd love to pretend I don't care about the way they look, I do care. I'm not loving them, sorry. Should be interesting to see how they fare over the next few months, especially considering I'm definitely on track to gain more weight this time. Apparently, when I was pregnant with Rowan, it not only helped that it was basically my job to exercise, but also that I had a major aversion to candy. That is...not the case this time. Gimme all the Easter candy! Oh, and ALL the (vegetarian) protein. Eggs, nuts, beans, quinoa, peanut butter: gimme.

Right. Ahem. Anyway - it's so surreal to watch my belly bulge and ripple wherever the baby moves. He's even woken me up a couple times when he's partying. Other than that, though, I'm (thankfully) back to sleeping well, which is such a relief after being so sick for a couple weeks there. (Worst sinus infection ever.) Lately, I keep going to bed earlier and earlier. I was asleep before nine last night. If only I could bank those sleep hours for the future! I mean, yeah, they'd be helpful postpartum, but I'm also anticipating that next week will be a little funky. J.J.'s going to be out of town, and the time change always screws with Rowan for a few days. Bleh.

Although - I almost wish we had decided to go with J.J. on his trip. He'll be in Austin to present at South By Southwest (SXSW), and I'm just itching to be somewhere warm. Honestly, what I really wish we'd planned for is a "babymoon" trip. I kind of hate that term - babymoon - but I get really bummed when I realize that we won't ever take a trip as a family of three again. It's been just the three of us for almost four years, and what can I say? I love us. We got a decent tax refund this year (side benefit of having only one, relatively small income), which was initially earmarked for getting the huge trees in our backyard trimmed so they would stop dropping adult-human-sized branches on my tiny children in the summer. Then the upstairs bathroom became something of a priority. THEN two things happened. One, we had that ridiculous windstorm the other day, which dropped a bazillion branches and gave me the (potentially dumb) illusion that any of the remaining branches are unlikely to fall. Two, we got the official estimate for replacing our bathtub back from Lowe's, and LOLOLOL YEAH RIGHT. That's not happening.

I'm researching other contractors to do the installation, but in the meantime, I find myself looking at my tub...and then picturing, say, a little trip to Florida. Nothing too crazy, just a few days at a cheap Airbnb close to a warm beach. I just would love to take Rowan on her first flight ever, to get out of the cold for a few days, to make some memories, and to spend time with J.J. and Rowan before our family changes forever. I'm not trying to sound melodramatic, but I really am kind of mourning the idea of things changing so much. It's a good change, duh. I know. The best kind of change. But still different, you know? Not to mention that it'd be nice to do a vacation like this when things (read: Rowan) are relatively low-maintenance. No diapers, no Pack 'N' Play, no special cups or food or carriers. It's not exactly a solo beach vacay, where I throw a bikini and some flip-flops into my backpack and hop on a plane, but we're just at a low-key, easygoing place right now, all things considered.

Also. I know this is a little silly, but part of the reason I wish we could do a special trip with Rowan is that I just want to be able to soak her up while she's still my only one. It's hard to describe what I'm feeling about making her a big sister. Mostly, I'm thrilled beyond measure and feel so fortunate that we can introduce this new role into her life, this whole other way of loving and being loved. On the other hand? It's going to be hard to watch her struggle through this transition - and I know there will be times when it's a struggle. All for the greater good, of course. I don't know, I just want to play in the sand and the sun with my girl and my partner in crime and have a fun, stressless good time together. *Clicks back over to the Airbnb website*  *Pretends that it's okay to fly during the third trimester*  *Ignores financial responsibilities*

Plus, as much as I love this whole Batman phase, there are some summer clothes I'm dying to get this one into...

For the record, right after this sweet photo, she turned around and called, "Now take a picture of my bottom! Hahaha!!"

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

room reveal: Rowan's big kid bedroom!

I can't believe it's taken me almost seven months to get to this point, but I think I can finally officially say that Rowan's big kid room is DONE. Granted, I've been pregnant for all but about two weeks of this room makeover, so I'll cut myself some slack...but STILL. The truth is that everything's been finished for a couple months except painting the closet and building the window coverings, which I knocked out over the last couple weekends. So: DONE.

It all started at the end of last August, when the guest room still looked like this:

We'd been trying for awhile to get pregnant, and my thought was that once a new baby was on the way, we'd move Rowan from the nursery into the guest room/office, since the nursery is so small that a twin bed would barely fit in there (if at all). I wasn't sure how to introduce the idea to her, given that she was completely happy in her crib in the nursery. Thankfully, one day, she waltzed into the guest room and announced, "I want this to be my room!" It's always better when kids think big transitions are their idea, so I jumped on the opportunity and said, "Awesome! Let's plan it! What do you want it to look like?"

She actually had a big hand in the room's design, which was so much fun to do with her! Her main requests for her big kid room were: pink and yellow walls; glitter on the walls; a big kid bed; one pink lamp and one yellow lamp (harder to find than you'd think, omg); and pictures of her family (aww). We were looking through Pinterest one day and she added one more request - a white tent over her bed. 

This all sounded easy enough, although I was a little wary about the pink and yellow walls. I wasn't sure how to pull that off without it looking...I don't know, oppressively fluorescent? And wouldn't pink and yellow clash with each other? Luckily, I stumbled on this picture from the Land of Nod website, and it sparked a paint idea:


I LOVED that diagonal paint swath, and I figured it would allow for enough white space to offset any mega-bright colors. Plus, as much as I've never really appreciated pink, I am super, super into the dusty rose that just happens to be trendy right now. I could make that work with a mellow shade of yellow, right?! 

So I got to work, first selling most of the furniture from the guest room and moving all our office stuff down to the basement (as if we have room down there for it, but whatever). Then I primed the walls...with a little help:

Once the walls were ready, I got stuck for awhile trying to figure out the optimal paint design. I used painter's tape to test out a couple ideas, but nothing was really gelling. I ended up having two of my friends (who both have amazing eyes for design...thanks, Kendal and Katie!!) come over to help me plan the paint patterns, and also to choose the right shades of pink and yellow. Then I kicked Rowan and J.J. out of the house one weekend day and spent way longer than I'd anticipated taping everything off.

I used a laser level to get the straightest lines possible, which was super tricky around the windows, because the window moldings cut the laser line off. Taping everything pretty much took longer than the actual painting did. That was super frustrating - but totally worth it. The design ended up looking perfect, with flawless lines (tip: rub a damp washcloth along the painter's tape and let it dry before you paint - makes for extra-crisp lines with no bleeding). It was especially worth it when Rowan came back that evening and saw her "pink and lellow" walls for the first time.

Unnnnnfortunately, this face was quickly followed by, "But I wanted the WHOLE THING to be pink and lellowwww!" Meaning, she was not happy with parts of the walls staying white.  -_-  I mitigated her disappointment by showing her that the pink paint is actually glitter paint. The glitter is awesome - you just add a packet right into your paint can, stir it up, paint away, and voila, you get a subtle sparkle all over the wall. It's super hard to photograph, but I got a (admittedly mediocre) video of it:

Rowan also loved being my construction assistant. She helped build her new bookshelf, her new bed (a birthday present from Grandpa), and her new double glider (a Christmas present from Gramma, which is awesome and big enough to fit all three of us - soon, all four of us).

Oh, and she loved "helping" J.J. measure when we hung the wood cornices this past weekend:

But anyway - enough with the boring descriptions. How about some more pictures? I'll go around the room clockwise, starting from when you look in the doorway. (Ignore that light on the ceiling...yes, it's a porch light; yes, it's from the previous owners; yes, Ikea discontinued the light I'd planned on replacing that one with; yes, I'm too lazy to find another one that I really like, so yes, it stays for now.)

Aaaand because I'm a total dork, here's a video with a 360-degree tour:

I'll list all the sources at the end of the post, but some details about the details: She chose her bedding from a few photos I'd pinned for her, and I looove her comforter. It's super cute, and it helped guide my paint color choices. (Although it's possible I started out with a different shade of yellow that looked too orange and eventually re-painted with this shade. POSSIBLE.) Oh, and just so you know, to fulfill Rowan's wish for one pink lamp and one yellow lamp, I had to buy two pink lamps and spray paint one of them yellow. It was impossible to find affordable lamps that came in both pink and yellow! I did score some awesome white lampshades from Target that are even glittery, much to Rowan's delight.

I made the canopy over her bed using some sheer curtains, a large embroidery hoop, and some battery-operated LED twinkle lights from Amazon (which I neglected to take a picture of, but trust me, they're up there!). 

Her nightstand drawer is where she stores her ever-growing
comic book collection. Only Robin is allowed to read them with her.

Per her request for pictures of her family, I got a bunch of free square prints from Parabo Press (I only paid shipping, which was like $8 or something). I don't love the way they're arranged right now - I should've done them in straight lines instead of following the diagonal paint line - but I can't bring myself to take the time to rearrange them, so there you have it. 

I made the paintings over the bookshelf, with Rowan's guidance. She asked for specific lyrics from "This Little Light of Mine" and "Bushel and a Peck", and she very much wanted a picture of Baby Kermit, who was her obsession back in the fall, when she pretended she had an Invisible Kermit in her hand at all times. She doesn't really care about him anymore but claims she still wants the painting.

I also DIY'ed the cornices over her windows. I didn't want to do full curtains in her room because I had visions of her pulling them down while playing in her bed at night (accurate...she's already snapped the roller shade up while messing around and scared the crap out of herself), so I went with cheap blackout roller blinds from Lowe's and livened them up with the wood cornices - again, props to Katie and Kendal for the inspiration on those. I followed these instructions (found via Pinterest) to build them. The wood is stained with Minwax's Classic Gray stain, which ended up matching the bookshelf and glider perfectly. A pretty easy project overall!

And yeah, I chose to leave her closet doors off. Remember how I removed them to make the guest room closet into our office?

I wanted to leave the doors off for a few reasons. First, I love love love the way her dressers turned out. I initially thought I'd wallpaper the back of the closet wall, but when I did a test run, it just didn't look right. Plus, I was going to have to buy like double the wallpaper I'd already bought to cover the whole back wall, so I nixed the idea and put it on the drawer fronts instead. Second, those closet doors are stored in the basement somewhere and are still the plain orange-y wood color that all our other doors originally were, and I didn't feel like finding them, painting them, and reattaching them. Third, I considered hanging a curtain over it (like we did in the nursery), but I really just wanted her dressers to be visible! I think they're my favorite part of the room. Maybe I'll hang a curtain eventually, but I'm happy with it for now.

My friend Katie made that awesome macrame wall
hanging! She's one of the most talented people I know -
check out her Etsy shop for adorable bonnets.

All of her clothes fit into the six dresser drawers with room to spare, although I do hang up some of her dresses. I use the white bins on the top shelf to store the clothes she's about to grow into and the ones she's just grown out of. That gray-brown box on the shelf below the white bins is her memory box, which is basically where I throw all the stuff that would go into a scrapbook, if I were one to scrapbook. Which I'm not. So she has a box.

And, finally, just a couple more befores and afters, since this post doesn't already have a million pictures:

Before / After

Before / After

Before / After

All in all, Rowan's big kid bedroom turned out even better than I'd hoped. It's cozy, colorful, and so totally Rowan. Plus, I think it'll grow with her for awhile instead of needing major updates in just a couple years. Not to mention that it was a nerdy dream come true to plan the room with her. Hope you love it as much as we do! 


Source list:

:: Bookshelf (from Target, although I'm not seeing the color I have there anymore...)

:: Paintings over bookshelf (aka my Etsy shop)

:: Frames for paintings (Ikea RIBBA)

:: Double glider chair in dark taupe from Walmart (the beautiful quilt on the chair was made by Gramma)

:: Nightstand (Windham Side Table from Target's Threshold collection)

:: Bed (from Amazon)

:: Sheets (from Target)

:: Comforter (Land of Nod's Fly Away Quilt)

:: White pillow, pink flower pillow, lamps, fabric bins (can't seem to find the same bins, but they're just pink bins from Target's Pillowfort collection, like the rest of these items)

:: Instagram prints (from Parabo Press)

:: Dressers (ASKVOLL from Ikea)

:: Removable wallpaper on drawer fronts (from Walls Need Love)

:: Rug (Rugs USA's Tuscan Moroccan Shag)

:: Blackout roller shades (from Lowe's)

:: Glitter for paint (from Target)

:: Paint colors:
   -- darker pink (wall behind bookshelf) = Riviera Rose from Olympic
   -- yellow = Banana Mania from Behr
   -- lighter pink (closet area) = Pink Sangria from Olympic

Sunday, March 5, 2017

at three and a half (...almost).

Somehow, my sweet little girl is almost three and a half. That is heartbreakingly, impossibly old, and I'm really, really glad to have another baby on the way, because I am SO not ready to be done with having teeny-tiny kids. A post I wrote this time last year - "at two and a half (...almost)" - popped up in my Facebook memories the other day, which was a good reminder that I meant to document details about Rowan more frequently. Like, I had planned on doing it every month, or at least every few months, or at least every six months. Looks like we're on the once-a-year track for now, so...whatever.

This is Rowan, at three and a half:

Fun fact: This is the only picture I have from the last
six weeks or so where she's not wearing a Bat costume.

:: Her imagination is probably her strongest personality trait right now. She spends hour after hour, day after day, weaving her imaginary worlds with her toys. She builds cities out of roads and train tracks and play houses, and then all of her little "guys" - dolls and little plastic figures from Frozen, Peppa Pig, Daniel Tiger, and more - make their way through the cities, usually encountering "emergencies." 

:: But the most prevalent way her imagination comes through is how she pretends she's Batman. She used to be Rey from Star Wars, and J.J. was BB-8, but now, she's Batman. All day, every day for the last month or so, she wears her "Bat-dress" and her mask. Everywhere she goes, passersby say hello to Batgirl, and she's quick to correct them: "No, I'm BatMAN." (We're working on a polite way to say that.) She and J.J. (aka Robin) saw the Lego Batman movie a couple weeks ago, and she works details from the movie into her play. I know nothing about Batman, so I'm not usually involved in the play. I wasn't cool enough to be given a Bat-name until about a week ago. We were in a big snuggly family hug, and I told Batman I loved her. She said, "I love you, too, Mama! I mean, I love you, too..." - and J.J. and I glanced at each other over her head, eagerly awaiting the christening of my Bat-name - "...The Witch!" FYI, there is no The Witch in the Batman world. Trust me, I asked. And she literally calls me "The Witch," whether we're in the middle of a game or just walking around Target. Here, she uses it casually while praising me:

:: Speaking of Target, one of her other great loves in mannequins. She thinks they're little friends for her. She hugs them, kisses them, chats with them, and makes me take pictures of her with them.

Pretty sure those boots are on backwards.

:: Besides preschool two mornings a week, she's taking gymnastics and dance classes, and she wants to take swim lessons, even though she's convinced she knows how to swim. That's actually part of the reason I WANT her to take swim lessons - because she thinks she can, when she can't really. She can swim underwater for a few feet, but that's about it.

:: Preschool is going great! She had a tough time at drop-off for a while, but that's a thing of the past now. I can't say she has "best friends" at school, but she always has a wonderful time and is full of stories about her morning when I pick her up. Her teacher is one of her favorite people on the planet - "She's my teacher AND my buddy," Rowan will say. I made the mistake of mentioning that Miss M. wouldn't be her teacher forever, and Rowan cried the saddest, purest tears I've ever seen her cry before. I wanted to take it back immediately and tell her that Miss M. would be her teacher for the rest of her life. Honestly, I'd be pretty okay with that scenario. All in all, we love, love, love her school. --Oh, one cool thing they do is invite "mystery readers" to read a book to the group. Anyone who's special to one of the students can come share a story. J.J. was the mystery reader a few weeks ago, and I seriously thought Rowan was going to explode when she saw him. She almost literally flew into his arms:

Please note that Robin is wearing his cape. :) :)

:: Rowan is learning to write all her letters, and she loves to draw. We like to write stories together - she dictates the text and draws the picture, I write the words for her. Usually the stories are about thunderstorms. When she does write her own letters, it's typically her name. When she was making a valentine for J.J., she turned her R for Rowan into a B, and then proceeded to write the rest of the letters for "Batman"...so that's how she prefers to sign her name now.

The card she insisted on getting for Robin. :)

:: After going the last half of the summer, all of the fall, and part of January on a horrrrrible sleep pattern of waking up two to five times a night, she appears to have remembered that she can actually sleep through the night without assistance. I am praying I didn't just jinx it there, because that sleep regression (or whatever it was) suuuucked. Rowie ONLY wanted me to help her, and honestly, it's getting harder to roll out of bed with this big belly in my way. Generally, she takes a nap from about 12:30 to 2:30 every day (I wake her up then so she'll actually go to sleep at a decent hour). Some days, she just rests, which is fine because I want her to learn to still stay in her bed and be relatively quiet for an hour or two, even if she's not sleeping...Mama needs that break! We wake her up at 7:00 in the morning so that we can all get dressed and out the door in time for work/school/etc., and at night, she's in bed around 7:30 and asleep around 8:30. 

:: She is beyond ready to be a big sister. She massages my back when it hurts, she talks to the baby, she loves to feel him kick, and she has all sorts of plans for living with Gramma after he's born. :) I fear a little for the baby, though, based on this recent interaction between Rowan and her (seven-months-younger) cousin:

:: Rowie's favorite foods these days...hmm, hard to say. She's still an awesome eater and will try almost anything, but she has much stronger opinions and preferences than she used to. She still loves my Mexican quinoa; she requests a grilled cheese sandwich with Annie's Goddess dressing for lunch every day; and pretzels are her favorite snack, mostly because she can get them herself from the pantry. She loves the mac & cheese from Panera Bread, but I still can't find a brand that she'll eat at home (and god forbid I try to serve my homemade mac & cheese to her). She loves scrambled eggs, but only with ketchup (EW). She'll eat anything with vinegar splashed on it, so pretty much every night with dinner she has a salad (spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers) with some apple cider vinegar on it. Oh, she LOVES gorgonzola cheese and eats it - plain - with as many meals as I'll allow her to have it. For a while, I couldn't drink anything that wasn't sparkling (special pregnant snowflake alert), so now Rowan always wants "sparkly red orange juice," which is sparkling water + orange juice + red fruit juice. 

:: Besides Daddy Robin and her teacher, her favorite person in the world is Gramma, J.J.'s mom. She invites herself over to Gramma's house regularly, and she literally cheers when I tell her it's a Gramma Day. She told Gramma that she's going to live with her for the summer, after the baby comes. (Not her worst idea.) There's a bedroom at Gramma's house that she has claimed as her own; she sleeps there for sleepovers, and Rowan even moved all the children's books in the house onto the bookshelves in that room.

:: Can't believe I almost forgot to mention Hayjack! A couple months ago, Rowan unearthed a random Beanie Baby cat from our basket of stuffed animals. I can't say she'd ever given the cat a second glance before, but she randomly latched onto it and has carried it with her EVERYWHERE ever since. When I asked her if he had a name, she responded "Hayjack" without hesitation. Poor Hayjack is turning pretty gnarly and grungy, but at least he's getting to see the world. He was even bestowed a nametag at preschool:

:: She still loves decorative Band-Aids and is allowed to put a new one on after her bath each night.

:: Her favorite books right now are Curious George books. They're mostly fine, but I made the mistake of getting some old-school ones at the library last week, and they're soooooo looooong. We read three books before bed, in the morning, and when she wakes up from nap, and I'm getting dead sick of George, I have to say. The cute thing is that she's memorized all the books, so we have a tradition now of reading the books "together" - I read a page, she reads a page, etc. Every once in a while I get to sneak in a non-George book, which can either be a book about becoming a big sister (we have a few) or one from her Girl Power book that J.J.'s cousin got her for Christmas (I love those ones!). Curious George is her favorite thing to watch on TV, too, except at Gramma's house, where she loves to watch Peppa Pig.

:: She finally allows me (yes, ALLOWS me) to listen to music other than her music class CDs in the car - all thanks to my niece, who was visiting over Christmas and mentioned that Adele is her favorite. Rowan idolizes my niece, so now I'm allowed to play a CD in the car that has a bunch of Adele songs on it. It's also a Mumford & Sons CD, actually, so that's a win. 

:: Other random loves of Rowan's: using chopsticks, grape-flavored Tylenol, playing light sabers outside in the dark, putting slippers on first thing in the morning, and "checking the drains." We have a friend who's been heavily involved in getting fresh water to residents in Flint, MI, where the tap water's been poisoned with lead for the last few years. Rowan heard about her advocacy and action, and she wanted to help, too, so she pretends to be a "drain checker" and looks down every drain, sewer, and pipe to see if the water's clean.

:: She wants to be a million things when she grows up, but most recently and prominently, she wants to be a cardiologist, a librarian, and an engineer. She'll tell you she's already an engineer, actually, because of the time she figured out how to fix a little magnetic train wheel. She sat back with a surprised look on her face and said, "Huh! I fixed it! Hey, engineers are kind of like superheroes!"

:: Rowan and I have a "secret kiss" now, sort of like a secret handshake, where we each click our tongues and then give each other a smooch. She likes to tell me she loves me more than I love her - that she loves me "ten a million fifty dollars." I have to say, though, even though three has been a lot more challenging than two (the whining, the stubbornness, the tantrums, the drama), I will always love her more.

...So much and every day and all the time, because she's my Rowan Batman.

Previous "all about Rowan" posts:
:: at two and a half (...almost).
:: at eighteen months.
:: at sixteen months.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

that fourth trimester though...

So I've been trying to get a video of this for like twenty minutes, but I'm sitting here on the couch and watching the baby kick so hard that it's actually knocking things off my belly. Ha! Of course, every time I aim the phone in the right direction, he quiets down. I guess it's My Eyes Only for now. :)

I have to say, I am getting legit excited to meet this baby. A new smoosh to snuggle, new cheeks to kiss, a new tush to squeeze, and I seriously can't wait to see Rowan and Browan (as we've jokingly been calling him - Rowan's brother = Bro-wan, geddit geddit?) interact with each other. 

The other day, my friend posted a picture of her newborn napping on her chest with the caption, "The fourth trimester is the best trimester." (The "fourth trimester" refers to the three months postpartum.) Ha! I scoffed. In fact, I was almost...insulted? I truly didn't understand how that would be possible. That postpartum stage was the worst "trimester" by far for me the first time around. Granted, my friend had hyperemesis gravidarum (aka constant barfing during your entire freaking pregnancy), so she basically just endured a nine-month battle with norovirus and is thrilled to be on the other side. Still, trying to imagine how my fourth trimester will be this time around, from the cushy vantage point of a dreamy second trimester (so much energy, so much sleep, so not sick, so not sore from birthing and nursing), doesn't leave much to be desired. In fact, I'll just say it: I've been DREADING that fourth trimester. It's what made me nervous about ever having another baby.

Thinking about it logically, there were a lot of reasons I struggled so much and hated the first few months after Rowan was born. I mean...

::1. Breastfeeding issues
I've talked a lot here about all the issues we had with breastfeeding, which led to me exclusively pumping for more than a year. I have a different outlook on breast milk these days (understanding that fed is best, versus breast is best), but whew, those nursing troubles in the first couple months postpartum totally threw me for a loop. Every feeding was a battle, and the breastfeeding process (finger-tube-feed, then bottle, then pump for twenty minutes, then wash everything) left less than an hour between feedings for sleeping, feeding myself, peeing, etc. I never experienced the postpartum joy of lying around with a sleeping baby on you, because there was no time for me to lay around.

::2. Postpartum mood disorder
I also had pretty bad postpartum anxiety, no doubt exacerbated by Rowan's feeding issues. The anxiety robbed me of a lot of that bliss that new moms experience; everything was tainted by worry and fear. I wrote an article for the Scary Mommy website about it and appeared on a local news segment to discuss what helped, so I've spent a lot of time processing it all, but it still looms as my primary recollection of being a new mom: feeling terrified.

::3. Rough c-section recovery
I'm not sure exactly what I expected, but recovering from my c-section (which was planned, since she was breech) was way harder than I'd anticipated, based on stories from friends who'd had them. In the hospital, I couldn't lay flat without passing out, but I couldn't sit up without searing pain in my abdomen. I walked hunched over for weeks and couldn't get on or off the couch without help. There was the unsettling combo of extreme numbness around my incision site, but horrific sensitivity at the edges of the numbness. Keeping track of all the post-surgical meds I was on - Percocet, ibuprofen, a prophylactic laxative - was a round-the-clock job. Plus, no one ever told me how or when to start stepping down the meds, so I was still taking the full dose of Percocet at two weeks postpartum (not typical, apparently). The Percocet made me foggy and sleepy, causing me to nod off every time I pumped, and I couldn't follow conversations or focus on anything. I quit cold turkey when a lactation consultant mentioned I probably didn't need to be on the full dose anymore, that maybe it was contributing to Rowan's sleepiness at the breast, and it was like the world came back to life. All in all, post-surgery, I felt beyond frustrated that I couldn't just jump back into life the way it seemed like my friends had done. It made me feel weak.

::4. Sleep deprivation
I know, boo-hoo, another mom complaining about sleep deprivation. It's hard for everyone, but I will give myself a little credit and say that my experience was slightly different from the norm. Not only was I recovering from major surgery (and literally did not sleep for more than thirty minutes in a row until we left the hospital after three days), but we had to wake Rowan up to feed her every three hours, per doctor's orders. As I described above, our breastfeeding routine was so involved that there was only about an hour out of every three hours that I could even possibly be sleeping, and my anxiety caused insomnia during a lot of those one-hour chunks. Since Rowan was slow to gain weight, we didn't let her sleep longer than three hours during the night for months, which meant I didn't sleep for more than an hour or so at a time for months.

::5. Lack of routine
This messed with me more than I realized. Everyone loves to claim that they're spontaneous and flexible and easygoing, that they don't want to be pinned down by a rigid schedule...but that only actually holds true for a small percentage of the population. Most people don't realize how important routines are in their lives, because they take them for granted. Go to work, go home, spend time with friends and family - there can be a lot of variability within the structure, but most people know what to expect from their day-to-day lives, and knowing what to expect is beneficial.

I, for one, thrive on routine. It doesn't have to be intensely specific (I eat lunch at 12:15 exactly), but I like predictability (on Tuesdays, we go the library for story time). I'm not going to throw a tantrum just because the museum turns out to be closed or school's out for the week or my meeting gets rescheduled. It's more that I thrive when I don't have to expend energy adjusting to constant changes, big and little. Some people thrive when their everyday routines are mixed up - livened up, they'd be more likely to describe it. Spontaneity invigorates them. Me, I'm happiest when I know what to expect and have a decent routine in place.

All this to say - routines are pretty much thrown out the window during the fourth trimester. Not only are you adjusting to a new baby and new motherhood, but you're also adjusting to the weird abyss of maternity leave (if you're fortunate enough to have one). I know I was lucky to have twelve weeks to be home with my newborn, but it was tough to have the days (and the long, long nights) stretch out endlessly in front of me. I'm also an introvert, and what little energy I had was completely sapped by having constant visitors (who I wanted to hang out with but couldn't actually handle for more than about fifteen-minute stretches) and a multitude of appointments (lactation consultants, pediatricians, occupational therapy for the baby, psychiatry for me). There was no time alone, no time to recharge, and I wasn't able to recognize the effect that was having on me, let alone figure out a solution to it.

::6. Feeling alone
The friends who'd given birth around the same time as me seemed to be adjusting way more easily than I was. They'd post snuggly pictures, claiming to love the time when it was just Mama and Baby, quiet together in the hush of the night. Meanwhile, I'd be scrolling through Facebook while attached to the pump at three a.m., trying desperately to stay awake through a Percocet haze, sometimes looking longingly at my husband while he cuddled our baby and a bottle of my hard-earned breastmilk - and sometimes shooting daggers of rage at him and the baby as they slept peacefully through the rhythmic nipple-yanking I was experiencing. One friend who'd had a c-section within a few days of mine posted a picture of her sweet little family on a hike in the woods together, baby happily ensconced in an Ergo, pausing to nurse and grin for the camera. Meanwhile, I couldn't stand up straight without level-nine shooting pains at my incision site, my baby hated being worn, and every feeding was a three-person, hour-long ordeal that always involved tears from at least one of us. Basically, everyone else seemed to be assimilating, and I still couldn't figure out how to dress myself (nursing bra? nursing tank? what pants do I wear when I'm too big for regular pants but too small for maternity stuff??). What was I doing wrong?


So, you know. All in all, my fourth trimester was a rough time. NOT my favorite trimester.

BUT. I survived. 

Honestly, that alone doesn't give me much comfort. In fact, that's what I've been dreading so much - having to just survive for a few months postpartum. Seeing my friend's picture the other day, though - the one where she claimed "the fourth trimester is the best trimester" - got me thinking.

When has dreading something ever helped make it better? And, actually, doesn't dreading it just make the negativity leak into all my other trimesters? Moreover, who's to say it won't be a completely different experience this time? The truth is that I struggled during the fourth trimester for a multitude of reasons, but none of those reasons is destined to be repeated the second time around. The resources that helped me through my fourth trimester with Rowan are still in place: husband, family, friends, medical professionals. They're all wonderful and necessary, but? I need to recognize that I have even more resources now. 

Friends on Instagram yesterday were quick to point that out when I asked for suggestions on making the fourth trimester a great one. The thing that gives me the most hope, actually, is what one friend said: "Different baby, different mama." Different baby, yes! Don't get me wrong, I adored Baby Rowan and have the best memories of (most of) her first year...but those first three months, oy. However: There's no reason to believe the new baby will have milk-transfer issues leading to an inability to nurse effectively. There's no reason to believe the new baby will be slow to gain weight and have to be woken to eat at all hours of the day and night. Different baby.

More importantly...different mama. A second baby's job is to throw his parents for a loop and make them realize they don't know as much as they thought they did (gee, I'm just so positive and sunny, aren't I?!), but there are a few nuggets of knowledge that can't be taken away:

:: I have a different perspective on the importance of breastfeeding, both for me and for my baby. Fed is best, period. I know it's vital to prioritize myself in the newborn-mother dyad, that the baby's health isn't the only thing that matters at the expense of everything else.

:: I know the warning signs of postpartum anxiety and am already taking steps to prevent it - I'm starting antenatal therapy, and I took a mindfulness class in the fall that's created a huge shift in my well-being. Plus, now I know who to turn to if/when I need support with anxiety.

:: I may or may not have a c-section, but regardless of delivery method, I have a better understanding of how my body is likely to respond to the process, and how long it might take for me - not others - to recover. 

:: I know the sleep deprivation will still be a struggle, but I also know it's temporary. In fact, all the struggles of the fourth trimester are temporary, which was impossible to perceive as a new mom. It truly, truly felt that whatever challenge we were facing - a sleep regression, a nursing strike, teething - was going to last forever.

:: Not only am I used to spending my days at home instead of at work, but having an older child kind of forces some routine to be maintained. She'll still have classes, play dates, and bedtimes, and hopefully those will anchor me instead of stress me out.

:: And as for feeling alone. Well, first of all, I've learned not to believe the social media stories that are constantly curated and presented. Those moms? The ones going for a run when I'm still trying to walk? The ones making a casserole with the baby in a carrier while I'm still grabbing handfuls of Cheerios when I remember to? They're still dealing with passing blood clots and worrying about Baby's poop and being so exhausted that they can't remember their partner's name. Not only that, but I've learned how to use social media to my advantage: asking for nursing advice (and ignoring it when necessary), garnering joy from others' responses to cute baby pictures, posting urgent questions at two a.m. and getting supportive responses. Also, I have a whole community that I didn't have the first time around - my "new mom" group. They're the ones who are in the trenches with me, and they're my favorite place to turn when I'm feeling worried or inadequate. 


I guess the truth is that, no matter what, the fourth trimester is going to have moments of bliss and moments of stress. All I can do is maximize the bliss and manage the stress...you know, pretty much like life in general. I've gotten so much better at that in the three and a half years since I became a mom, which means my job now is to be confident in myself.

Also, I'll pose the same question here that I did on Instagram: Any suggestions to make the fourth trimester go smoothly? I'm open to anything!

Fifteen more weeks to go. :)


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