fatherhood

amelia: one month old.

so i’ve been a mother for a month now?

yea. that is a real thing. i can’t believe it either.

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i am writing this at the tail end of amelia’s morning nap time. i use the term “nap time” loosely, because i feel like that leads you to believe she has a set time in the morning when she sleeps, which is not the case at all. she likes to be up and hanging out from her morning feeding (around 5-7am) until late morning (around 10am-12pm), which can be a little tiring for mom. although if she isn’t gassy, she’s quite a lot of fun! we like to look up at the ceiling together, her favorite spot is the corner of the dining room ceiling.

our darling daughter has been pretty wonderful so far. she eats like a champ, which i am so thankful for, i haven’t had any issues nursing her at all. she sleeps at night with almost no fussing, and has had a couple nights where she goes five hours in between feedings. do you know what it feels like to get four hours of sleep in a row when you’re only used to two?? heaven, it feels like heaven.

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our only challenge has been that her little tummy is growing so fast and working so hard, that she has had some troubles with gassiness the past week or so. there is nothing worse than feeling gas bubbles running through your baby’s tiny body and not being able to do anything to help her feel better. we have started giving her a warm bath in the morning, which helps, and dad and i have both learned some moves that make her feel better, but if it’s a bad day, there is nothing that helps until she has cried herself into an exhausted sleep. i’m confident that she’ll grow out of this in the next couple of weeks, but until then, we will wear a circle into the living room carpet while pacing with her, and keep the baby gas-ex company in business.

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i think my favorite part of the last month has been amelia learning to focus on our faces. one day last week, she started to really LOOK at her dad and me, instead of just looking near our faces. it’s the coolest thing to watch her develop and grow and discover things around her. the day she starts to find her hands and feet is going to be the craziest/best/awesomest!

we have a crazy week ahead of us, because one of my best friends is getting married on saturday and i’m in the wedding! so amelia will get to go to her first salon visit while mommy gets her nails done, and she’ll get to hang out while we get ready the day of the wedding. i predict she is going to be quite the party animal, and will get pretty milk drunk, so i’ll have to keep an eye on her.

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things we never thought we’d say.

when you become a parent for the first time, you know things are going to change. you know there are sleepless nights ahead, and that your main focus is no longer on yourself. you even expect to become somewhat of a hermit as opposed to your normal, social self.

what you don’t expect is for the topics of all your conversations to revolve SO MUCH around your baby. and because all your baby does is eat, sleep and poop, you start talking about things that generally aren’t considered to be part of polite conversation. so that naturally leads to certain things being said between mom and dad that we never thought we would say. just for fun, here are a few things Mister Man and i have said to each other in the three weeks(!) that Amelia has been with us:

“i just got pooped on and i didn’t even yell. be proud of me!”

“did you hear how loud that fart was?? that was amazing!”

“those four hours of sleep felt SO GOOD. i can really tell the difference between three and four.”

“she’s so advanced, i can’t believe her umbilical cord fell off after just 7 days!”

“do you realize that our pillow talk now revolves around our daughter’s bowel movements?”

“should we use the natural gas drops or the regular ones?”

“it was so nice to go outside today…i haven’t been out of the house in three days.”

MM: (said in pinky’s voice from ‘pinky and the brain’) what should we do tonight erin? me: (said in brain’s voice from ‘pinky and the brain’) same thing we do every night pinky…bathe the child, try to get the child to sleep, watch an episode of ‘sleepy hollow’ and go to bed.”

so yea. that’s our life now. i’m sure it’ll get a little less ridiculous eventually, but for now we are the lamest. and we kind of love it if we’re being honest.

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and now, i’d like to introduce you to one of my newest sponsors. meet martha kate, of leaving perfection, learning grace. i just started to read martha’s blog, and my goodness, if you want some thoughtful reading in your blogroll, hers is one you need to check out. i wanted martha kate to introduce herself to all of you in her own words, so here she is!

My blog is all about learning to live a life filled with grace and leaving perfection in the dust. It’s about my journey through eating disorder recovery and everything else in between. 

i  asked her to share her favorite part of my favorite season (fall!) with us to get to know her a little better too: I LOVE comfy sweaters, cozy scarfs, riding boots and mocha drinks, all which signal fall is here!!

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isn’t she ADORABLE?? you can find martha kate at her blog, leaving perfection, learning grace, and also on twitterfacebook, pinterest and instagram (personal and blog). head over to get to know her and tell her that erin sent you.

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what to expect after baby.

we’ve all heard of what to expect when you’re expecting, the quintessential “get ready for baby” book, right? well, where is the book that tells you what to expect once you’re done expecting? there are a lot of things that no one thinks to tell you about the dizzying time after baby is born, and things that you don’t believe until you get there, and a little manual might be helpful!

we all know to expect no sleep and to have your world revolve around the baby, but here are the most unexpected lessons i found out in the first few weeks of being a mom. it’s by no means a complete list, but i’m sleep deprived right now and these are the ones that stuck out to me, so you’ll look past that i’m sure.

for anyone that has had babies already/has a lot of experience with babies and new moms, what would you add to the list?

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what to expect after

1. “sleep when the baby sleeps” is not just an urban legend.

you MUST take at least one nap when the baby naps, every day. i say this because it’s true, it’s not just something people say to be funny when you have a baby. keep in mind, you are only ever getting 2-4 hour chunks of sleep at a time for the first few months of your baby’s life. and sometimes the best hours of sleep are during your baby’s daytime napping hours. those extra two hours of sleep (even if it’s a light sleep) will serve you better than any load of laundry or sinkful of dishes.

2. you will cry for no reason at all.

i was talking to my mom about something funny she and Mister Man had talked about during one of the aforementioned naps, and all of a sudden, tears started pouring out of my eyes. i wasn’t feeling particularly happy or sad or emotional in any way, and yet there they were. same thing happened when i gave my husband a hug after dinner one night. waterworks every where. there are a lot of hormones running around in your body, and sometimes they need somewhere to go. tears happen to work well.

3. squirt bottles and ibuprofen will be your best friends.

if you have a vaginal birth, this is true. the squirt bottle and i have remained inseparable these past two weeks. trust me on this, it’s the best thing to happen to a bathroom since toilet paper. also, ibuprofen. i was lucky enough to not be very sore in the days following the birth, but i had a couple of stitches down there, and the ibuprofen helps you do things like sit down and get up with so much less annoyance.

4. you WILL learn your own baby’s needs.

one of the things i was terrified of the entire pregnancy was being able to know what my baby would need and when. for some reason the thought of knowing how much they should eat and being able to hear them when they cried at night seemed so daunting to me…i was more scared of that than the actual labor part! let me put you at ease right now: all of the instinct will just come to you the second that baby comes out. i used to be the heaviest sleeper in the world, like sleep through a hurricane heavy. now, if amelia squeaks in her sleep in her own room, i can hear it immediately and will wake from a dead sleep. and as far as the other stuff goes, give it two days and you will already be able to tell the difference between her “i’m gassy” cry and her “i’m wet” cry.

5. there will be too many people at your house.

they will all be people you love and it will be wonderful and terrible all at the same time. being surrounded by love and care and amazing people is the best, especially when you feel so full of feelings you could burst! but then the fatigue sets in, and you realize how much energy it takes to be around people all the time. so make sure that you take care of yourself and try to spread the visits out over the first few weeks. be especially protective of your weekends as you learn your new schedule.

6. you will want to hold your little one ALL.THE.TIME.

and you should hold them as much as your heart desires. but you also need to nap sometimes, and eat sometimes, and shower sometimes. so in the end, putting them down (especially when they’re asleep) can be good for both of you. letting them nap in their crib or bassinet helps them get used to being there at night, and it helps them learn to sleep outside of someone’s arms. so even if it’s just one nap a day, try to put them down for just a bit and take care of yourself in the process.

7. you will learn to eat as fast as humanly possible.

because the baby waits for no boob to be done eating. in the two weeks amelia has been here, i think that every single dinner Mister Man and i have sat down to eat together has been interrupted or postponed by her. and that’s totally okay, i am happier than happy to feed my little beauty, but it’s the new normal which is hard to get used to. and so whenever i sit down to eat now, i scarf my food down like there’s no tomorrow, because i never know when i’m going to get the chance to do it again!

amelia 3 days old

8. you will wonder how you ever found yourself in this situation.

this amazing, surreal, wonderful, awe-inspiring situation. i look at our daughter every day, multiple times a day, completely stunned by the fact that she is ours. she is ours to care for, to love, to cherish and to adore forever. and how can anybody possibly be this lucky? the only answer is that there is a God, and He is so much more generous than you ever knew was possible. so when you find yourself wondering how you got here, say a quick prayer of thanks for however it happened.

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our birth story.

this post contains words like “dilated”, “effaced”, “crowning”, and “placenta”, among others. if those words make you uncomfortable…too bad. be an adult and get comfortable, because this is real life people, we all get born the same way.

also: grab a cup of coffee, this is a long one. 

as many of you know, our due date of august 15th came and went like any other day of the pregnancy. no braxton-hicks, no weird twinges, nothing. i still made sure to say goodbye to my co-workers that friday, just in case i didn’t come in the next week, but i was pretty sure i’d be there on monday. on august 16th, Mister Man and i were just hanging around the house with nothing to do, since what do you do when there’s no baby yet?

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basically, we decided to do all the silly things they tell you to do to induce labor: eat spicy food, drink a small glass of guinness (at home), have sex (fyi: so much easier said than done when you’re nine months pregnant), take a walk, etc. we headed to saturday evening mass before going out on a date to our favorite thai place. we said some prayers for baby, then went to the restaurant for some REALLY spicy curry.

once the labor induction items were checked off the list, we went to bed and woke up the next morning with no baby or labor on the horizon (i DID sleep for 11 hours each night that weekend, which maybe should have clued me in to what was ahead, but it didn’t strike me as special at the time). we celebrated my brother-in-law’s birthday with dinner that night, and went home, making jokes about my water breaking and wondering what we were going to do all week while we waited.

i took a bath when we got home to relax, and it felt so nice to just soak. when i got out of the bath to get ready for bed, around 10:30pm, i was in the bedroom when i felt a bunch of water at my feet. i sort of blinked for a second before running to the bathroom with a towel between my legs to sit on the toilet. sure enough, a huge gush of water came out as soon as i sat down. no doubt in my mind, my water had broken. mind you, not many people’s water breaks before they have contractions, so we weren’t really prepared for this. i put a giant diaper pad on, and called the hospital to see what i should do. thank goodness for the nurse working the phones that night, because she told me to stay home and sleep while i could, to come in when the contractions kicked in, and to call if they hadn’t started by 12 hours later. i think a lot of nurses would have told me to come in right away because of infection risk, and i did NOT want to do that. it’s much less risky in my mind to stay at home versus going to a hospital where there are tons of germs.

once i let him know what was happening, Mister Man and i went to sleep. i had a few contractions throughout the night, but nothing that really kept me awake. when we woke up, they hadn’t gotten much stronger. we ate breakfast and took a walk to try and speed them up, but nothing was happening. so we called the hospital, and they told us we would need to come in. i’ll admit, i cried a little, because i had my heart set on laboring at home for most of the time. but what can you do but roll with the punches?

by the time we arrived at the hospital, my contractions had all but stopped. i knew what that meant, especially since my water had been broken for 12 hours. it meant they were going to want to induce me somehow, and that was the last thing i wanted. sure enough, they told me that they were going to put me on pitocin after checking to see how far i had progressed so that my contractions would start. i just prayed that i would be far enough along to not need any other induction methods. we had been at the hospital for about four hours by the time they checked me at 4:00pm. the nurses (and i!) were really happy because i was 3cm dilated and 60% effaced, and the baby was at -1 station, which means it was almost “locked in” to my cervix. this meant that i would only have to be put on pitocin and nothing else. this also meant that i would still be able to have a water birth if i wanted, and could still try for an unmedicated birth.

labor day

the hospital we delivered at is in the process of being designated “baby-friendly”, which means that they are committed to minimal interventions, and want the process to be as easy on mom and baby as possible. i was able to eat while i was in labor because i wasn’t getting the epidural (which meant i had more energy throughout the process), and the monitor i was hooked up to was both mobile and waterproof (which allowed me to labor out of the bed, in the bathtub, and would have allowed me to do a water birth as well). i highly recommend looking for a hospital that has similar policies if you are at all interested in a natural birth but want the reassurance of a hospital as well. 

i labored from 4:00-9:00pm with good progress. i spent the first part watching tv with Mister Man, until the contractions started coming too close together for me to concentrate, at which point we turned on the playlist i had made for the labor (i will share that in a separate post). i ate dinner, and then they checked me again at 9:00pm. i was only dilated at 3cm, but had progressed to 90% effaced, which meant that really good progress was being made and they would keep me on the pitocin to see if i could deliver later that night. the nurses were pretty sure the baby wouldn’t be born until the next day but agreed to let me keep going.

things got going really quickly after that. between 9:00-11:00pm, the contractions really picked up and got strong. i labored in the bathtub for a while, then they moved me onto my side in the bed to get the baby in a better position to move into the birth canal. i threw up the chicken fingers i had eaten for dinner, which was awful, but also a good sign that i was getting close to delivering baby. at that point, as i was breathing through the contractions, i started to feel my body contract in on itself and push involuntarily. i could actually feel the baby’s head moving lower and lower. i told Mister Man to tell the nurse that i felt like i was bearing down, and she said she thought that i was just feeling the pressure of the baby moving. she then had me stand up and hang on to MM so i could sway back and forth during contractions. during the big ones, i was literally putting all my weight on him so i could just concentrate on breathing.

i did not have any pain medication during my labor. i will talk about this more in a future post, but i truly believe that women have been done a disservice when they are told how “painful” birth is. giving birth is not comfortable. i do not pretend it is. but i do believe that it is not painful in the sense that we understand pain in our normal lives. breathing and relaxation techniques can do a lot to help, and so if you’ve ever thought about a natural birth, don’t let conventional wisdom get in your head. all that said, pain medication exists for a reason. there is a point when exhaustion plays a huge role in the success of the birth, and sleep is needed, and you can only get sleep if you aren’t in extreme discomfort. i support all women’s decisions for their birth process, especially when it’s in the best interest of their babies. 

during one big contraction, i could feel the shape of the baby’s head as it moved lower down, and that’s when it really hit me: there was a baby in there and he/she was coming out very soon. i said to Mister Man, “is this transition? i hope it is, because otherwise i don’t know what that is going to be like!”. bless his soul, he said, “maybe…but either way you can do it”, and that was it for me. i repeated back to him like a mantra, “i can do this. i can do this. i can do this” and he kept on agreeing with me and telling me how good i was doing.

at 11:00pm, the shift changed and they checked me again. the nurse looked up and said, “congratulations! you’re 100% there and ready to push!”. i had progressed 7cm and 10% in two hours and it was go time. she said they would call my doctor to come and asked if i wanted her to fill the tub for me. i said yes, but in the back of my head i just knew i wouldn’t make it there. she told me if i wanted to try pushing to put my energy towards something, i could. so on the next contraction, i pushed. and she looked at me and said, “wow. you’re really good at that sweetie. i don’t know if you’re going to make it to the tub, what do you want to do?” i told her i was staying there to push, she could turn off the tub. the problem was, the doctor wasn’t there yet and the baby was coming REALLY quickly.

so for the next three contractions, they told me to pant to keep the baby in, because it was already crowning. i would say that was the hardest part of the whole ordeal, fighting against my body’s natural instincts to PUSH. after the third contraction, my doctor ran into the room asking if she had missed it, and got to work right away. two contractions, six pushes and 20 minutes later, miss amelia joyce came crying into this world, perfectly pink and wide-eyed and beautiful. they told us she was a girl, and all i could do was hold her on my stomach and look up at Mister Man and say, “oh my gosh, oh my gosh!”.

 

mom and amelia

i could not have done this without my husband. he was so calm and supportive throughout the entire process, from beginning to end. he helped me through the hardest part of my labor, and never once let go of my shoulder during the pushing. having him as my partner in this process is something i will never forget and will treasure forever. 

amelia joyce 1 day old

amelia joyce 1 day old

dad and amelia

we had such a wonderful experience with this birth. the nurses at the hospital were so amazing to us. they respected our wishes, and worked to make sure we were happy with the way everything was going. our “plan” obviously didn’t pan out exactly like we thought it would (but when does it ever), but everything happened exactly as it was supposed to, and i am so proud of myself for sticking to my guns about the pain medication. the best part of it all was meeting the perfect little girl we get to call our daughter.

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*the content is going to be pretty baby heavy here for a while, i hope you don’t mind. i’m planning on doing a post on why i chose a natural birth, some posts on the best products for mom and baby, as well as lessons learned about the “after” part of having the baby. even if you don’t have babies yet, i hope you enjoy reading about what i’ve learned, and might even pin the lessons for later when you do have some.*

a hand on my belly.

we’re sitting on the couch together, watching some show or another, as we do so often now. you stay in a lot when only one of you can drink and the other one has trouble staying up past 11:00pm. it’s just more fun that way, plus you can wear your soft clothes. so we’re watching our show, relaxing after a long day of cleaning the house (me) and working on the nursery (him). the nesting has started with a vengeance in both of us, with every inch of the house getting scrubbed and dusted and polished. it’s our way of controlling the very uncontrollable parts of this new chapter that’s speeding into our lives.

all of a sudden, he puts his hand on my belly. or as we call it in this household, the baby. my belly has ceased to be my belly, it’s now the baby’s house.

joe and baby

he does this a lot, but for some reason it makes me stop and notice this time. so much has changed in just a few short months.

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in the beginning, me being pregnant was nothing but an abstract for him. it was something that could only be proven by two pink lines on a stick, and a couple blurry black and white pictures of what the ultrasound tech assured us was our baby. he had to take me at my word that the reason i couldn’t stay up past nine was because there was a little human inside me taking all my energy to grow its fingers and toes and eyelashes.

none of this was “real” to him. the idea of being a dad was just that – an idea. a hypothetical role to be filled at some point in the future, but not just yet. then one day, he put his hand on my belly and he felt our baby move. and that’s when the pieces of the puzzle started to fit. this was no longer just an idea, something that was going to happen, but hadn’t yet. this was something that was actively happening, now, right in front of him. it ceased to exist in the abstract and became real.

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now the hand on my belly is a nightly tradition. he plays with baby z. to see if he can get a response back to his pokes. he lays his head on my belly to talk to the little one, mostly telling baby how he’s going to be the fun parent and to always listen to him (baby usually gives him a little punch to the face to set him straight, don’t worry). goodnights always include me and the baby.

and on this night, for whatever reason (maybe all the nesting), it hits me that this is him embracing fatherhood. he knows he’s a dad now, and even though that little boy or girl is still tucked away in my belly, this is his way of spending quality time with them. as endearing as they are, all the nursery prep and diaper lessons in the world can’t compare with how wonderful it is to see that hand on my belly.

i love this man more than words can describe, and to think that i will love him even more when we get to meet our baby? that takes my breath away. so i smile, put my hand over his, and let the moment wash over me.

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