December 28, 2012

1 Month Old.

On Wednesday Livvy became a month old. I love her soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much. Everything is new and exciting still: her first bath (she was a fan), the first time she wore shoes (hot pink Converse), the first time she smiled (this week) or had a bottle (yesterday) or a babysitter (tonight). Oh, and then there was The First Christmas (really fun).

I can't help but comparing; my introduction to Livvy has been so different from my introduction to Tessa. It's been more joyful and peaceful. I've been better rested, more self-assured. I haven't been trampled by guilt and self-loathing. Nursing her has been dreamy and a source of pride, and I've loved having her sleep in our bed with us, her silky body nestled next to mine. Everything about my first weeks with Tessa was just the opposite of this, but I so appreciate having had two completely different experiences (bottle feeding and breastfeeding, crib sleeping and co-sleeping) because I know that no matter how pitted the road a mother pushes a stroller down, the destination is the same: maddening, endless love that reboots itself after even the worst days and moments. And I can say, too, that the whole platitude about how breastfeeding braids mother and child more closely together is a bunch of boloney. I loved Tessa just as intensely and immediately. It's just that because she was tongue-tied and I happened to be going a little crazy after I had her, I tucked a bottle between her beautiful, parted lips instead of a breast. And I bullied myself about bottle feeding, which was useless and really damaging.

Livvy is nearly 10 lbs. now, up from her 7 lbs., 11 oz. at birth, and most of her newborn clothes no longer fit. During the day she wants to eat at least every two hours, but at night she can hold out for four hours at a time. I haven't minded much and have been amazed at all the things I can do while nursing a baby. Mostly, I've been amazed that I can sit and be still and do nothing while nursing her. I didn't do these things before she came along. I was too busy doing all the other things that needed to be done. Her other feats: She can support her weight with her legs for several seconds at a time and hold her head up for a supernaturally long time. She has begun to smile just a little bit. A crooked, gummy smile that snags my heart. She still does very little crying, and she is easy to calm when she does get ticked off. Her only desire in this world is to be held, so we oblige her as often as we can.

Things have been mostly happy around here. There have only been a couple of times when I felt so vastly overwhelmed that I had to sit down on my bedroom floor and have a good cry. (The bedroom floor is always the place where I have my best cries.) And that's been mostly because I've missed myself. I've missed doing some of the things I love to do--taking long baths, sewing and taking on house projects, spending uninterrupted hours getting work done and being productive--because the only thing I really do right now is motherhood. But I know that the time will come again when I have time to devote to these things. Until then, I am going to hold my baby.

It hasn't made things any easier that we've been having an especially hard time with Tessa's tantrums, which have been a part of our lives for a long time now but have gotten more intense since Livvy was born. We have strings of good days where she throws almost no fits, and then strings of days that are punctuated with ugly fit after terrible, horrible, humiliating fit. The good news is that Tessa adores her sister and having her around, if not the slightly diminished attention she's getting. The first thing she says every single morning when she comes up to our bedroom to wake us is: "Where's Livvy?" I point to Livvy in the crook of my arms and her face melts into a smile and she climbs in bed with us all to kiss and snuggle with Livvy and to talk us into getting out of bed. We are all still getting used to, and making room for, this new little soul in our lives. She is spectacular, and we are spectacularly blessed to have her.

And some Instagrams of Liv (and Tess, too) from the past month:

December 18, 2012

Stuff I Made: Rain Cloud Mobile.

Two days before Livvy was born I sat down and cranked out this rain cloud mobile to hang above her crib. It was one of the last things on my "to do for baby" list, and it turned out to be such a simple project. The whole thing took about 45 minutes to make (a whole bunch less time than it would have taken me to make the bird mobile I planned on making... I spent an hour making one bird and then quickly gave up on all that) and required less than $5 in materials, and I love how handmade it looks and the color it adds. I 100 percent ripped it off from adorable French kiddo site My Little Square. Here is their beautiful version.

Here's what I did:

Made a pattern for the cloud and raindrop.

Cut out two pieces of white felt using the cloud pattern and machine stitched them together, leaving a three inch portion open, which I stuffed with fiberfill and then stitched closed.

Cut out 24 raindrop pieces to make a total of 12 raindrops. 

These I hand stitched together with coordinating embroidery floss.
Then I attached the raindrops to the cloud with white embroidery floss and hung the mobile from the nursery ceiling.

Livvy has yet to sleep in her crib, but I'm sure one day soon she'll slumber sweetly under this raincloud of many colors. 

December 6, 2012

Tessa Talk, 2 Years, 8 Months.

Not complaining at all, but we're kind of running out of things to do as a family around the house. These are the last few days of Nekos's paternity leave, and even though we've taken Livvy out of the house a few times I still don't feel totally relaxed doing it. She's just so leeeetle, and I'm still working on reestablishing my mom-to-a-newborn sea legs. Not to mention breastfeeding in public, which is just so awkward with the baby and only the two arms that I have and the nursing cover and the nipples and all the other things and trying to keep it all PG and nonchalant.

Anyway, today we interviewed Tessa in our kitchen. Nekos does video production for a living so I knew I had to hit him up to do a family-related video while he was off from work. (This video was shamelessly inspired by Bleubird Vintage's recent interview with her toddler.) 

Here is our Tessa Jean at age two years, eight months:

December 3, 2012

Bathroom Mirror Maternity Series.

With Liv asleep in my lap, I had to put together all of my bathroom mirror belly pictures as one last goodbye to nine long--and yet oh so short--months of growing this baby girl. Pregnancy wore me out and made me feel like I had a terminal illness for the first four months. It worried me (can we afford two kids?) and thrilled me (most of all when we found out we were having a girl); it changed me, softened me, kept me warm. It yielded the best gift of all: a healthy, happy baby. I am grateful. 

Also, here are a few pregnancy photo shoots we did at 18 weeks, 21 weeks, and 25 weeks. Goodbye, pregnancy! She was worth it.

December 1, 2012

The First 5 Days with Livvy.

Today Livvy is five days old. These have been five of the happiest days of our lives. Nekos has two weeks of paternity leave so we have spent our days taking walks, cooking, cuddling, watching Christmas movies, and marveling at our newborn daughter and our two year old's reaction to her. Baby Livvy has thus far been exactly what the doctor ordered--quiet and calm, a great eater and sleeper, and the best answer to all of our questions. (Please, please, please stay this way. God?)

For all of our fretting and my anxiety over the past nine months about what it would be like to add another baby to our family, she has done exactly what everyone told me she would: cracked the stone of my heart wide open, big and glittery. For Nekos, too. He doesn't do well to get very excited about our babies when I'm pregnant with them, but once he first lays eyes on them, he loses his mind with love.

These first days with Livvy have been very different than my first days with Tessa, which were damaged by postpartum depression. So far I have been getting the sleep I need to keep that hell at bay, and I'm much more relaxed. When Tessa was little, I could never once unwind enough to fall asleep with her in my arms, or to fall asleep for very long under any circumstances, but for the last two nights Livvy has slept tucked in the crook of my arm, her cheek warm on my shoulder, my cheek nestled against the silk of her hair. This baby isn't tongue-tied like Tessa so nursing is going so much better (although I definitely wouldn't say it's been easy), and I'm mostly enjoying it. Instead of stressing me out, it is part of what helps me to relax.

As for Tessa, she had planned to teach Livvy how to paint and dance, and was disappointed to see that those things will have to wait. We will never forget the bewildered look on her face when she first saw Livvy in the hospital room naked and squalling and getting her first bath. Livvy was not at all what she expected. I can't leave Tessa alone with Livvy and probably won't be able to for awhile because she wants to hold and rock her and push her swing aggressively and generally be a bull in this baby's china shop. My mom, who is keeping Tessa tonight, texted me earlier: How do we keep Tessa from feeling like she's been replaced? We've all noticed that she's wilder than ever--doing the lion RAWRRR she loves to do more often and right in our faces and asking zillions of silly questions for no purpose other than to capture our attention. She has it. She will always have it. It will just take time, I told my mom. She is very loved. 

One more thought: Birth is so amazingly transformative not just because it just is but because it shakes up your very identity. Overnight I went from being the mom of one precocious little girl to the mom of two little girls. That makes me a real mom now. I'm not just playing at this. There are two carseats in my back seat, and I have a lifetime of mommy duty ahead of me. Birthday parties and temper tantrums and boo-boos and broken hearts, report cards and time-outs, Christmases and weddings, moments that scare the pants off me and others that make me cry for joy. (Sometimes I think, What have I done?) I'm official. Hi, I'm Ellen. I'm 30 years old, and I have two kids. Woah.

November 27, 2012

She's here!

Livvy is here! 

She was born yesterday, November 26, 2012, at 2:25 p.m. 7 lbs. 11 oz. 

We love and adore her.

Many more pictures and stories to come.  

November 18, 2012

Thoughts on Childbirth and Patience.

“Try looking at your mind as a wayward puppy that you are trying to paper train. You don't drop-kick a puppy into the neighbor's yard every time it piddles on the floor. You just keep bringing it back to the newspaper.” --Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

I was talking a good game about patience as recently as a couple of weeks ago. But even though I'm smiling in this photo from today, my smile is a pile of phoney baloney. I feel heavy, exhausted and stuck. My patience has left me, even though I keep trying to pull it back like a balloon (or a puppy) with prayer and meditation and pep talks and hot baths. Still, the truth is: I'm the girl who would rather drive across town to another restaurant than endure a 20-minute wait at the restaurant we're already at. I'd rather watch you unwrap your Christmas present today--right now, go ahead!--instead of on Christmas morning.

Nine months is an incredibly long time to hand your body over to another person (even to my child, who I love already but who remains a stranger to me). I am much better at giving my heart and my head to a baby I can see and hold and hear than I am at giving my body to a baby who is known to me only by her slow rolls inside my womb, by hope and faith. I want it back--myself. I am ready. I am tired of peeing my pants when I sneeze and of not being able to cross my legs comfortably or lean into a conversation with a friend. And there are stretch marks this time. There weren't stretch marks with Tessa.

I'm sort of embarrassed to write this blog because I wish that I could find a well of patience somewhere inside myself and pull some extra buckets from it. Instead, I decided last week to schedule my induction for the Monday after Thanksgiving--a week from tomorrow. That's a full three days before my due date. My OB is tops at dangling that induction carrot in front of me, and I'm junk at resisting it. In spite of my somewhat conflicted feelings about my choice, I want to capture them here because this is part of my story. This is part of me, imperfectly. And pregnancy is such a time of growth and new self-awareness. Of this I am now aware: I am really lousy at patience.

I was induced a couple of days before my due date with Tessa as well. I was lucky to have had a fantastic experience, without any hiccups, and to have had the peaceful birth I wanted. Are my inductions medically necessary? Not even a little bit. And I get the impression that they rub some people the wrong way because I'm evicting my baby before she's "ready." But that, I think, is one of the blessings of being a woman today. I get to choose.

I feel differently about modern birth than many of my friends. I'm the girl who turned off the documentary The Business of Being Born, which is this famous exposé about how "medicalized" and unnatural birth has become, after 20 minutes because I was annoyed. That documentary, and many of my feminist friends, advocate for the right to give birth naturally, without intervention. As a feminist myself, I'm on the other side of the fence. For me, one of the greatest freedoms of being a woman today is in having the right to deliver my baby with minimal pain, on my terms, on my schedule, instead of being forced to endure the greatest pain of my life. Is it "natural"? Nope. But I'm grateful for my freedom to give birth the way I choose, just as I am grateful for my other reproductive rights. And just as I'm grateful that we all have the right to plan our births, whether they're in a hospital or in our own homes, with truckloads of pitocin and cervidil and epidurals, or with gritted teeth and saintlike purity.

So, as Tessa says all the time now, "Let's get this party started!" Only eight more sleeps until I meet my Liv. Then I can try to locate my patience in the heft of her little body, the smell of her mouth, her hair, and with the help of others. I won't have to carry her alone any longer. Until then I have to try to enjoy doing just that.

November 12, 2012


Yesterday afternoon some of our nearest and dearest threw our family a shower to welcome little Livvy into the world. We had a hell of a time, and I was sad when it ended, even though we got to drive home with our car packed full of goodies and well wishes. (Even Tessie had a ball. Her best friends were there, too.) The food, the flowers, the sweet words, the cards and presents--they all meant the world to me. I feel incredibly blessed to be surrounded by love and inspired to give that love right back. Here are some pictures from a special day: