October 27, 2012

"When I'm Big..."

"When I'm big," said Tessa the other day, "I'm gon' drive a purple sparkly car and drink Diet Coke." 

We can only hope, y'all.

I started telling Tessa that soda makes kids sick and is only for adults so that she won't pick up my caffeinated sugar bubbles habit. I had ironically given up Diet Coke before I got pregnant with Livvy, but then coffee made me so nauseous that I returned dutifully to my silver cans for a caffeine fix that wouldn't make me hurl. Now, Diet Coke and me, we're reunited, two peas in a pod. Me and coffee? I'm back on that sauce, too.

Speaking of sugar, we discovered another way to reward and encourage Tessa's good behavior other than Dum-dum lollipops. I actually think this works better, too. On one of my recent nursery-decorating-related trips to JoAnn, Nekos came up with the idea to buy Tessa a bag of plastic beads and let her pick one out every time she does something good (i.e., goes to bed without giving either of her parents a splitting headache, peeing in the potty even though she'd rather let loose in a diaper, eating a baby carrot even though she'd really, really rather not, etc.). She is now so proud of her necklace and all of its "charms" and its evidence of her goodness. At night when I'm smooching her sweet cheeks and putting her to bed with promises of a new bead in the morning should she go to bed without a fuss, she says, "But, mommy, I don't know which bead I will pick out. Red or purple or green or pink?" And she drifts off to sleep dreaming of the tupperware container full of beads that sits atop our refrigerator. Oh so tantalizing.

Tessa's other new favorite thing? The horses that trot around downtown Nashville at night, sweeping tourists and rosy-cheeked couples around in carriages. We've taken the long way home more often than not recently, rolling up right next to those horses so that our Tess can get a good, long look at them. "I want a horse to come live at our house," she says, all moony-eyed.

Things are so good around here. I'm putting the finishing touches on the nursery, which I've spent the last six weeks or so having so much fun decorating and shopping for and thinking of. It's been a process, and I can't remember taking so much time to redo any other room in our rouse. I'm normally not the picky sort, but I ordered three sets of curtains for Baby Livvy's room before I found just the right ones. I think part of it is my expectation that hard times may be ahead--sleepless nights, for sure, but maybe baby blues, too--so I wanted to create as serene and as sweetly cheerful a space as possible, like an antidote to any bad juju out there. Plus, there can't possibly be a room that's more fun to decorate than a baby girl's.

Anyway, just wanted to pop in share some new Tessa pictures. Will be back soon with finished nursery pics and more. Hey, I'm going to have a baby in a month!

October 19, 2012

34 Weeks, Potty Training, and a New Job.

It's been two weeks since I've blogged here. As much as I love to blog and enjoy what a reprieve it is and how it's become part of my identity even, I sometimes just fall out of the habit of doing it or don't feel like I have much to say ... and also there was that one time last week when I took some pregnancy pictures to go along with a post I wanted to write and I looked all puffy and hippopotamusy and felt terrible about it and decided not to write the post at all.

I've also been busy, happily so. Through a sweet friend, I found a new part-time job that I get to do from home. It's an answered prayer. I'm wearing a whole bunch of hats for a home renovation company called Stratton Exteriors, focusing mainly on office management stuff, as well as blogging and social media. It's not stressful, it's been gratifying so far, and it's helping us make ends meet. After working for so many huge companies to whom I'm anonymous (my last job I never once met any of my bosses in person--all email, all the time), it's really nice to see how I can make a real difference to a small business. I've also been busy potty training my two-and-a-half year old. It hasn't been the swellest thing I ever did, but there's no turning back now. There are entire days when she doesn't have any accidents. And then there are other days when the washing machine fills up with pee-pee panties and towels and other unmentionables. But we are getting there.

Anyway, I do want to continue to capture this pregnancy here with photos and words. Here are a few progress snapshots from the last few weeks. I've been pretty regular about documenting my belly through my Instagram (I'm "blackandwhiteandlovedallover" if you want to follow me there) with biweekly-late-night-bathroom-mirror-pajama-shots.

I'm large, y'all. I haven't gotten on the scale in a couple of weeks but the last time I did it said I had gained 21 lbs. Baby Livvy should weigh nearly 5 lbs. now and is supposed to be 18 inches long, which will be very near to her length at birth. I am starting to get uncomfortable, having a lot of sciatic nerve pain in the backs of my thighs. ("Do down dog!" prescribes my yoga teacher friend.) And at night, my feet throb with twin heartbeats, even if I've hardly been on them that day. Plus, the exhaustion of the first trimester has returned. For some reason, I get most tired between the hours of 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., like cannot possibly keep my eyeballs open another second longer. This has opened up lots of bad mothering opportunities for me. There have been several times when I've put on a movie for Tessa and then gone off to take a nap--a drooling-dead-to-the-world kind of nap. A day when I get to have a nap is a good day. I'm trying not to beat myself up about this. Instead I make the most of the days when I mysteriously have energy. Though I am otherwise enjoying the hell out of pregnancy, I eye the finish line with excitement. I want to reclaim my body. I want to burn my maternity clothes. I want to have a few beers. I want to be able to dance around the living room with my daughter without feeling like a house. I want to stand up without groaning. I want to feel like a woman again, and not just a "pregnant lady." ("I just can't allow a pregnant lady to carry a computer to her car by herself," an Apple store employee said gallantly last week, making me feel  pregnant, just pregnant, and not much of anything else.) Mostly, I want to lay eyes on my brand new daughter. I want to hold her to my chest, kiss her silky hair, examine her fingers and toes, watch her milky tongue unfurl in a yummy-smelling yawn.

Believe it or not, I'm also really excited about giving birth again. The day I gave birth to Tessa was one of the best of my life, and even though I was induced and had my water broken for me and had an epidural (one of those highly medicalized births that's so villainized these days) I had an almost perfect birth experience. This time I'm going to try to hold off on the induction and let my body go into labor on its own. Because this time I know that hurrying through these last days and weeks is pointless. Instead I'm going to focus on the daughter I have here now and continue to work on loving my new, temporary body for all of the hard work it's doing making the newest love of my life.

October 2, 2012

That Time I Had Postpartum Depression.

There's still a package of brown paper lunch bags in my laundry room, leftover from a time that ranks among the worst in my life. Tessa was only a week old when my mom sent Nekos out to buy the bags for me to breathe into. She'd read that it could help a person who was hyperventilating.

By that time I had only slept a few hours total since leaving the hospital four days earlier. And never more than an hour at a time. And never a restful sleep. Instead my body clawed onto a ledge of wakefulness, desperate to hang on. At night, when I was supposed to be sleeping, when Nekos was masterfully swaddling Tessa and shushing her and bringing her to my breast every few hours and then falling soundly back to sleep, I took up residence in our guest bed downstairs so that I couldn't hear her cry in her bassinet upstairs. It was a cry that set my body buzzing like a misplaced piece in that Operation board game. I was too scared of what was happening to me to even feel like a terrible mother. That would come later.

On the day that Nekos went out to buy the paper bags my body was so besieged by panic attacks that I could do little more than lie in bed, paralyzed. My mom and my husband were perplexed; they had everything taken care of, were swishing around me cleaning and shopping and cooking and caring for Tessa, encouraging me to go take a long nap, to sleep it off, whatever "it" was. Looking at me like he'd seen a ghost, Nekos went outside to plant shrubs in our barren front yard while my mom tried to calm me. From my post in bed, my eyes wide and eaten up by dark circles, I asked her to tell me that everything would be OK, to read me affirmations, to tell me anything peaceful. I also told her I thought I was going crazy and needed to be taken somewhere. In the end, the only thing that made me feel any better at all was a Xanax prescription and, finally, sleep.

In the two and a half years since then, I've been plagued by insomnia, never so terrible as it was those first weeks but persistent and often without much reason. Having never found real relief otherwise, I've become quite an expert on sleeping aids. (Really, ask me anything. I'll tell you that Ambien is scary and weird and that if you have young children who you need to be able to tend to in the middle of the night, half of a tab of Unisom is the way to go.) I've also fretted relentlessly about postpartum depression returning with another baby. In the time since, I've read a lot about PPD and now know that insomnia is the main symptom and that, unlike other types of depression, PPD is more about anxiety than it is about the blues. That's what kept me for so long from acknowledging that I had suffered PPD or from talking about it to close friends; I never felt particularly sad, just scared out of my mind.

Now I consider myself a hands-on but laid-back mom, the mom I was always supposed to be. I've put my fears about motherhood behind me and have become so much more secure in my decisions about how to raise Tessa. Still, I am shaken by how profoundly PPD bulldozed its way not only through my first weeks of motherhood but through my entire first year. Long after my hormones returned to normal, my confidence was in the crapper. In the end, my PPD was the primary reason I stopped breastfeeding Tessa when she was just six weeks old. (This broke my heart.) Not only was she born tongue-tied (which just means her tongue is more tightly fixed to the base of her mouth than most people, making breastfeeding really painful for the mother), but pumping and dumping out so much of my Xanax-y milk led to a quick decline in my supply--and my morale.   

Now we sometimes use those brown paper bags to pack Tessa's lunch and send her off to Mother's Day Out. And I've prepared myself and my doctor and those I love for the very real chance that PPD could make an unwelcome return in a couple of months. This time I hope I'll know better what to do, and that I'll remember, truly, that everything and everyone will be okay. Most of all my newborn daughter.