Wednesday, April 23, 2014

One Year Ago Today

{May 3, 2013: 4W}

There you were. Just a cluster of cells. A flick of star stuff. But you were there.

I woke up on the morning of Tuesday, April 23, 2013 feeling a little odd. It didn't feel like I was getting sick; I had a strange collection of symptoms that I had never experienced before. I dragged all day at work. I remember just having absolutely no energy. The occasional belly pains were the weirdest part; they were so foreign, so unfamiliar. (It turns out that my body was busy moving around to make room for you.) The thought of pregnancy entered my mind, but I was dubious. If I was pregnant, I'd be doubled over a toilet puking somewhere, not feeling like this.

I remember texting your daddy joking about how I might be pregnant. Neither of us really believed that it was a possibility. After work, we ate dinner together. I remember having very little appetite. I wasn't nauseous, just not hungry. After dinner, I took a pregnancy test that I had just lying around. I took it more so to rule out one possible diagnosis. I didn't even consider that it may be positive. We had just started wishing for you; there was no way our prayers could be answered so quickly! I thought about running to grab your daddy as I waited for the results, but I didn't have a chance. Those lines appeared so fast, and instantly my world changed.

I yelled for your daddy: "I just took a pregnancy test and it's positive!" We held each other and laughed and smiled so big that tears rolled down our cheeks. Then he asked, "Are you sure?" The second test indicated the same results.

We went to bed that night with many questions circling through our minds. What will we name you? Who will you be? Who will we be as parents? Have I done anything to screw this up yet? It was hard to sleep, and even harder to think about anything else.

The next day, I had to go to work and pretend that nothing had changed. I actually had to stay late that day for CPR recertification. The dummies had become so desensitized from overuse that my friend Amy and I had to jump on their chests for the computer to register compressions! I thought I was going to throw up. Afterwards, we went out for Mexican with Dan, Caroline, and Stephen. I thought for sure I had given myself away when I skipped the margarita. All of these friends got a kick out of this story when we shared our secret later. Within a month, everyone important to us knew.

More change has occurred in our family in this last year than I ever thought possible. At first, you were difficult to take seriously. How could you be real? You were just a hope, an idea. Besides, my pants still fit. Over time, though, it became obvious that you were growing. Eventually, you even looked like a person...

{July 15, 2013: 14W3D} 

...right down to your little toes.

{July 15, 2013: 14W3D}  

Not only did you become a person, you became you. During your final ultrasound, we really got to see your face, with features that I now lovingly recognize.

{December 3, 2013: 36W4D} 

{December 3, 2013: 36W4D} 
{December 20, 2013: your birthday}

Over the last year, the simple became more complicated. The difficult became automatic. The impossible became effortless. The good became indescribably better. You've created new identities for us in the form of our most important roles: your parents. We loved you so much then, but nothing could prepare us for how much we love you now. Thank you for changing our lives forever.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Four Months Old

I think this has been the most fun month thus far! I'm done with my test, and I have a few more months until I go back to work, so we've really been having some fun together. This month, you went to Disney World for the first time where you got to visit with Mimi, Auntie Amanda visited you and we did lots of fun things around Atlanta, you celebrated Mommy's golden birthday, and you celebrated your first Easter and Passover. It wasn't all fun and games though, as we think you're getting your first tooth. This month, we've really seen your personality take off.

You're very social and silly, and you love to talk to us. You also talk to the sunshine on your jumper, Chelsea, certain toys, basically anything with a face. You've also either developed a strong preference for patterns or a deep appreciate for Mommy's home decor, as you consistently talk to our duvet cover. The fort trinket box that Daddy made for Mommy in 2005 is another one of your favorite things to look at. Basically, you just love to have fun!

You've shed your male pattern baldness, and are now developing a thin layer of light brown peach fuzz all over your head. We can't tell what shade your skin is yet because Mommy lathers sunblock on you any time we play outside, but your cheeks are very rosy. You still have the most beautiful blue eyes. We think you're starting to look a little less like Daddy and a little more like Mommy.

Moving is your favorite. You don't like to sit still, and if someone is holding you, they'd better be carrying you around! The only time you sit still is when we're at the dinner table, so we've started using your high chair even though you're not eating anything but breast milk yet. You're really good at tummy time, and can push all the way up on your elbows. Pretty soon, you'll be pushing on your hands! You rolled over for the first time on March 28th, but you haven't really done it consistently yet. Your head control is getting really good, though, and you love to practice holding your head up while sitting on someone's lap. This past month, you've also become so much more curious with your hands! You're grabbing and manipulating everything...usually to see if you can put it in your mouth!

You really love to do "standing baby," where we hold you up so that you can weightbear through your feet. Our favorite part about it is that you'll bring one leg up and then stomp down hard. We call it "Ellie-zilla." Our other favorite thing that you do is purring. You've never been a quiet sleeper, but now just as you're drifting off to sleep, you tend to make these sweet little sighing noises that show us just how content you are. Above everything else though, your cheeks are our absolute favorite.

Springtime for Ellie and Her Family

In 2014, Easter (a holiday Daddy celebrates) fell during Passover (a holiday Mommy celebrates). We didn't really get into the meaning of either holiday with you too much this year, but we did want to expose you to them a little bit!

During Passover, we have a special ordered meal where different foods symbolize different things.

Additionally, we don't eat bread during Passover. You'd think that a gluten-free week would be pretty healthy, but actually we just eat a ton of brisket to make up for it!

(That side dish is cheesy potato-y goodness.)

Every Easter, the Easter Bunny brings you something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read. This year, you got a bubble blowing kit (want), a bunny stuffed animal (need, obviously), pacifier clips (wear), and books about Passover and Easter (read). Here you are with Daddy opening your basket!

Since we were all dressed up, we decided to have a little photo shoot.

Then Daddy got carried away with the camera remote.

...and then we joined in the fun.

I hope you enjoyed your first Passover and Easter!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Awkward Aftermath

This post is an epilogue to your reflux episode. But first, an anecdote:

Mommy is awkward. I'm not just using that term loosely, like an Instagram hashtag. I really am. I'm not consistently awkward; sometimes I can actually be quite graceful socially. But when I'm awkward, I am AWKWARD. Worst of all, my awkwardness seems to come in clusters. I remember one of my more awkward days when I was in grad school. For whatever reason, our lecture was in a different classroom (a different building, in fact) than it usually was. The newer School of Medicine had an exit sign over the door to leave the auditorium and return to the main atrium of the building. This older research building had no such thing. You wouldn't think this would be important, but when you really have to go to the restroom in the middle of a lecture, it's pretty distracting to the rest of the class when you open not one but THREE closets trying to find your exit. Later that day, I went to heat up my lunch in one of the microwaves in our student lounge. When I opened the microwave door, I was surprised to find food inside. "Excuse me," a stranger said next to me. "Do you mind if I finish heating up my food?" This guy had been standing there as I walked up, and his food had two more minutes to go. I opened a microwave while it was in-use and tried to stick my food in there while the other food's owner was standing right there.

Anyway, my point is that sometimes chaos isn't an isolated incident.

After that crazy night Saturday, we woke up at 7:00. You didn't sleep through the night (despite the fact that this had become pretty consistent over the last month or so), but I expected that after you weren't able to eat much during your last feeding of the day. You ate well at 7:00, and you were your usual happy and playful self. You went down for a nap at 8:30, and then woke up at 10:00 for a snack. Again, you seemed like yourself. We had brunch plans with my friend Amy, so I strapped you in your carseat and we left around 10:30. You didn't really sleep in the car, but you seemed pretty content.

Once we got to brunch, you decided you weren't happy. I thought maybe you were tired of the carseat, so I put you on my lap. This calmed you down momentarily, but then you began to fuss again. I fed you. Again, momentary bliss, then fussing. I changed you. Same thing. I held you in my lap again and you began to settle down. I placed you back in your carseat just in time to eat my food while it was still warm. You dozed for about half an hour, then woke up cranky again. I fed you again, but we noticed that we were getting some dirty looks from the wait staff who wanted our table. I walked you over to the car (while still feeding you), finished the snack in the car, and we took off.

You fell asleep in the car almost immediately, exhausted after such a challenging brunch. I needed to go to Publix to get food for the week. Passover was fast approaching, we were hosting company that night, and I had agreed to help out some neighbors by making them dinner. When I woke you up to transfer you from the carseat to the Ergo Baby, you weren't too happy with me. You kept trying to go to sleep while I was wearing you, but I think you were just too tired to let yourself fall asleep! At one point, I even fed you inside the store in an attempt to calm you down. Here's something I've never noticed before: there aren't really any chairs in grocery stores. The grocery shopping took about two hours.

By the time we finally got home, it was about 3:00 and you had slept for a total of two hours since you woke up that morning. Your eyes looked glazed over, and you were staring at something far away. I tried to put you down for a nap, but you were too tired to sleep. So I made dinner wearing you, tried to soothe you, and tried to avoid overstimulation. You weren't too fussy during dinner, as long as one of us held you the whole time. Needless to say we went to bed early.

I had over-programmed our day a bit. But even after a rough night the night before, I didn't think it was necessary to change our plans just because you were tired.

Here's the lesson I learned: never underestimate the power of fatigue.

Here's the lesson I want you to learn: a good night's sleep can cure almost everything.

Reflux Relief in Arendelle

There are many aspects of parenting that are impossible to prepare for...most aspects, in fact. Even the parts that are common sense can turn out to be far from what was expected. Teething, for instance, is obviously uncomfortable. I've heard that babies can be fussier when they're teething because they're in some pain. So you give them some Tylenol and something to chew on and move on with your life, right? Oh no. It's oh so much more dramatic than that. The thing about teething is that it causes increased salivation. It doesn't seem like this wold be a very big deal, but actually, salivation is the first stage of digestion. If you have increased saliva, the digestive enzymes in your mouth are increased and the chemistry throughout your entire digestive system is completely thrown off. For some babies, this wouldn't even be noticeable. For some, they may have some increased gas. For others, it's a total disaster.

So when I saw you start to do this:

...and this:

...I had but one thought:

There was more drool than I could have ever possibly imagined. It was endless. I'd say on average, you went through about six bibs and three outfits per day. You were still acting like your usual self, so I just kept you dry, gave you Sophie to chew on, and didn't worry about it.

Last Saturday night, when you were 16 weeks old, you had an episode like nothing we had ever experienced. Your Auntie Sara was over because Mommy and Daddy were heading out to our neighborhood's annual wine tasting. She was playing with you downstairs while we were upstairs getting ready. You had spit up quite a bit earlier that day, but I didn't think anything of it. I found out later from Sara that you had spit up a pretty substantial amount when you were downstairs with her.

When I turned my blow dryer off, I heard you crying. The crying went on for a while, and I could tell that Sara was having a tough time soothing you, so she brought you upstairs for me to feed you. Since you had gotten rid of so much of your food earlier, it made sense to me that you might be hungry. Eating only brought us momentary relief, however, as you kept breaking off and crying. In all of our history of eating issues, it's never seemed painful for you. But that sure was what it looked like. By that point, you had cried so hard that you were having trouble breathing through your nose. I used the snot sucker to clear it, which you hated per usual.

You were already so upset, and eating and blowing your nose had only snowballed the situation. You were crying pretty hard, and nothing was soothing you. You seemed pretty tuckered out from all the crying, so I put on the Ergo Baby and hoped that wearing you would help to rock you to sleep. You had some pretty bad hiccups though, and that made it difficult to sleep. Thus began a pretty nasty cycle: you'd cry til you dozed off, then the hiccups woke you up, then you cried harder. This went on for almost an hour until the crying turned into screaming.

Your daddy made the brilliant suggestion that he take over. You're usually a very happy baby, but if you are upset, nursing can always soothe you. You wanted to nurse because you were uncomfortable, but nursing was only making it worse. It was best for me to leave and take that option away from you. Then Daddy had another brilliant idea: he distracted you with Frozen.

Daddy played "Let It Go" on repeat and you were instantly calm. As soon as it was over, you'd start to fuss again. But your breathing calmed back down, your hiccups disappeared, and eventually you were able to go to sleep.

We don't let you watch tv or play on the iPad or iPhone quite yet, so I thought it was just the novelty of the screen that distracted you. But other material does not seem to have the same effect. There's something about that song that just chills you out! Disney really is magical.

Fortunately, we haven't really had any other serious reflux episodes since that awful night. I felt so helpless. The worst part was that I couldn't explain to you why you were feeling that way. It must have been so scary and confusing for you. I have lots of mom friends who deal with reflux regularly, and I can't even imagine what that's like. That night certainly helped me to gain some empathy, and I'm so incredibly grateful that (so far) we haven't encountered any health issues.

I called the pediatrician the next week to ask if they wanted to check you out. They agreed with my theory that teething was to blame for the sudden GI issues. Who would have thought two (oh yeah, did I mention you have first TEETH rather than a first tooth?) tiny teeth could cause so much trouble!

Sunday, April 6, 2014


March of 2014 was a wonderful time. I took an exam that I had been studying for since March of 2013 (yes, back when you were just a thought!) and Daddy and I decided that I was going to stay home with you until June. We had three months with nothing to do but play. And 3-6 months a great age for play time! Mommy really likes to travel, but since we had decided to live off of one income for the next three months, that was kind of out of the question (except for Disney World that one time, of course). We took advantage of all our beautiful city has to offer and pretended to be tourists in your home town!

On St. Patrick's Day, we visited the Georgia Aquarium with your Auntie Sara. It's the world's largest aquarium, and at first you seemed more excited about the atrium than the fish! I guess it's understandable. It's very bright and colorful...

...and, of course, you weren't even three months old! The day went about as expected: you slept a little, fussed a little, ate a little. Auntie Sara was happy to be doing something fun on a rainy day, but I wanted more. I wanted you to interact with the animals so badly! Look Ellie! Otters! Nothing. Look Ellie! Belugas! Still nothing. Then, we sat in front of the "Wow Window" at Ocean Voyager and you saw Tallulah the manta ray.

You were absolutely mesmerized. Awestruck. You sat there and watched her for a good 20 minutes. You just tracked her back and forth from the other side of the glass, smiling, talking to her, even reaching for her a couple of times. I didn't want to leave, but I didn't want us to get stuck in the World's Largest Traffic Jam (it is Atlanta, after all).

A couple of weeks later, we went to the Cyclorama for Daideo's birthday. He's a big history buff (as is Auntie Amanda, who was in town visiting), so even though Mommy would prefer a planetarium, we thought it would be a nice way to celebrate him. You got to see a locomotive, and lots of...artifacts? memorabilia?...stuff from the Civil War.

Then, we got to watch a movie about the Battle of Atlanta and see the Cyclorama, which was actually pretty cool! My favorite part was when it was really quiet and you sneezed really loudly. You're so cute.

Afterwards, we did a little driving tour and had lunch in Inman Park. You were so excited to spend so much time with Auntie Amanda and Daideo!

Springtime in Atlanta is really great. After a brutal winter, there are a couple of just gorgeous weeks before everything gets yellow and then hot. We decided to celebrate the beautiful weather at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens with Mommy's friend Melissa.

We saw lots of different types of flowers, which looked even more beautiful against a clear blue sky.

There were tons of tulips, which are Mommy's favorite flower. I wonder what your favorite flower will be!

Of course, you learned all about Chihuly.

But mostly, you were just concerned with staying comfortable and cool.

We have a lot more fun stuff to do during the rest of my maternity leave, especially now that baseball season has started!

Don't Dwell

One question I often get asked as a new mom (especially from expectant friends) is how long it took to recover from a c-section. I always answer with six weeks. It's a terse and generic answer, but that's because I assume it's not exactly an open-ended question. I've had some time to reflect on this a bit, and yeah, I think six weeks is about how long it took for me to heal physically. As a healthcare provider, I realize that a switch didn't flip at six weeks; it was a gradual process. After a couple of days, it became easier to go up and down stairs. After about a week, it became less painful to go up and down stairs. After several weeks, I was no longer out of breath after going up and down stairs. One simple functional task had an entire continuum of healing. I had you almost four months ago and even now my incision is uncomfortable from time to time, even with the vicious scar massage I've been performing religiously.

But the physical recovery is nothing compared to the emotional recovery. Maybe it's not like that for everyone, but it was for me. I've mentioned on here multiple times that I had a lot of remorse surrounding the circumstances of your birth. A c-section robbed me of those first few incredibly over-hyped moments that I had been looking forward to for the preceding nine months, and it left me with foggy memories of our first couple of weeks together. I felt like I had let you down. Even after watching your tiny, tired body transform into a happy and healthy bundle of wonder, I couldn't shake that feeling of guilt. Your smiles and coos would distract me momentarily, but as soon as I was alone with my thoughts, I felt a cold inadequacy.

I never considered it to be postpartum depression. I certainly didn't feel sad about anything else, and I was far from uninterested. This self-flagellation is a part of my personality that I try to work on, but the idea of a perfectionist working on not being a perfectionist is an ironic paradox. I had talked about it with friends who had experienced similar guilt trips, I had read blog posts from other moms, and I still only found temporary solace.

Unlike the gradual physical recovery I had endured, my emotional recovery abruptly concluded. One day, your Auntie Amanda just said to me, "C'mon! Be nice to Ellie's mom!" It was a bit of perspective that was finally effective for me. Feeling guilty was selfish. I'm not just Julia anymore - I'm Ellie's mom. And just like that, I was over it.

One trait of mine that's even stronger than my perfectionism is my determination. I tried my hardest to get you out, despite the pain, despite the fatigue. My stubbornness was no match for the medical emergency that arose, and then an even more significant trait took over: love. I loved you enough to be sliced open to get you out. I would have endured an even worse recovery, both physically and emotionally, if that's what it meant to keep you safe. I loved you that much, and it was before I had even met you! This love grows stronger and stronger every day that I get to know you better. And my perfectionism won't apply to my parenting style nearly as much as my determination and my love for you. I don't want you beating yourself up the way your mommy does, so I'll try my hardest to set a good example for you.

There's so much guilt in female culture. We should contribute to our household income. We should be present and available for our children more than humanly possible. Women, girls even, beat each other up, and we continue to beat ourselves up. Instead, we need to focus on supporting each other and being good to ourselves. These mom-to-be friends of mine who ask about my c-section recovery are asking because they're scared that they'll face a similar fate. It is an open-ended question. So yeah, it took about six weeks to recovery physically, but it took exactly 13 weeks to recover emotionally. Those 13 weeks had some difficult moments, but they taught me how to have grace with myself in a way that nothing else ever has. I learned that there is no wrong way to become a mom, and that you and I were perfect for each other from our very first moment together...even if I don't remember it.