Matteo's First Photoshoot and Pop Quiz

Saturday, December 27, 2014

My little guy is just over 2 weeks now.  He is still in that newborn haze where he has just enough energy to nurse, suffer through a diaper change, and give a little eye contact for 5 minutes.  Then he's totally wiped out and needs to sleep for an hour or two before beginning the process again. He's eating every 2.5-3.5 hours, which feels totally manageable compared to Sisi who ate every 1.5 hours.

My biggest anxiety while pregnant was going through Postpartum Depression again, and I'm so happy to report I'm all smiles so far.  Maybe a few panicky moments when the sun goes down (totally hormones), but nothing that deep breaths and Amoryn can't solve.  With Sisi, everything was so new and overwhelming.  I'd never even held a newborn, and suddenly I was responsible for keeping one alive and happy.  If she cried, I took it as a chastisement that I was a horrible mother.  I remember being so surprised when she first smiled at me at 6 weeks.  I thought, "Wait, you actually like me??? You're not miserable? I had no idea!"

This time around is so much easier, for lots of reasons.

  • I have confidence in my mothering abilities. I realize that babies are sturdier than they look.  I know to pause (aka "le pause") before rushing in to rescue him when he cries, not to be cruel, but to listen to him and figure out what he really needs from me. As a result, I feel I've gotten to know Matteo really well already.  Also, an ounce of prevention is my motto this time around when it comes to sleep learning (not training, learning!). That means no crazy shenanigans to get him to fall asleep, because while rocking/nursing/shusshing and bouncing a 7 pounder to sleep is no big deal, when he's 15 or 20 pounds it becomes a huge burden. Babies can happily fall asleep on their own, I'm amazed to discover!  
  • I think of babies as intelligent and worthy of respect.  They are not just squirmy blobs, they are people, and they are worth talking to and listening to.   It's amazing how much Matteo relaxes when I just tell him what I'm going to do, whether it's a diaper change or nap time or even if I need to put him down to be by himself for a bit. When he cries, I listen to him and empathize. This sounds very kumbaya, doesn't it?  But I really believe this kind of communication is so good for both of us.  It's actually therapeutic for me to talk things out with him. He's like my little shrink :) 
  • My physical recovery was fast.  Thank the Lord, my labor was so short that it left me pretty much unscathed.  That makes EVERYTHING easier to handle.
  • I have Sisi to distract me.  My days just fly by, because while baby is napping, I'm busy caring for my eldest. With baby #1, each day never ends. It's like the twilight zone.
  • I have perspective.  Every annoying phase ends.  Nursing was pretty painful with Matteo at first, but I didn't despair.  I told myself it would get better soon, and it already has.  Even waking up every 3 hours at night is tolerable because I know one day, just when I think I can't take it anymore, he will start skipping those night feeds and I'll enjoy a full night's sleep again.  And of course, watching Siena thrive is daily proof that it all works out in the end.  Matteo is probably our last baby, so I am treasuring each moment with him.  Every day I think, "I'll never have a baby this itty bitty again."  
Ok, onto the newborn pics!  Trista blessed us with her talent yet again, and took some adorable pics of Matteo.  Every parent knows how stressful the newborn shoot is.  Sure, your baby looks all cute and serene in the pictures, but behind the scenes there is poop flying and lots of griping.  Thanks to my aforementioned perspective, I was able to keep my cool and really enjoy the shoot!TRISTA LERIT, you are such a good friend and you are amazing at capturing wee babies!!!

Sisi is handling the changes pretty well, although I can see she is grieving a bit.  I trust that she will work out her mixed emotions in her own time.  She likes to help me with the baby, but does not want to hold him.  I was actually surprised she did it for the picture!

And just for kicks, POP QUIZ!  Can you tell Sisi and Matteo apart?

And try this one...


Matteo's First Week!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Fresh from the womb... 

My dream team.  Lindsey and Melanie from OC Midwifery are so amazing.  

I'd like you to meet Matteo.  He was born on 12/12/14, at 4:34 am- 6lb 15 oz, 20 inches long.

 I probably won't share my entire labor story this time around (it's sacred!), but here are the main points.  Cramps at 3am, tried to walk them off or sleep through them, but I couldn't.  Woke up Joe who called the midwife and the doula, apologizing that maybe this was false labor.  20 minutes later, thunderstorm starts, water breaks, I'm pacing around the house trying to survive the contractions.  Deep breathing, listening to the rain fall onto our roof, praying for strength.  I retreat into Matteo's nursery, and try to count the fishes in his room as a distraction.  I decide to get on hands and knees just to give my legs a little break, and suddenly BOOM!! head falls, I'm fully dilated and ready to push.  Midwife and doula are still not here.  Sobbing hysterically, trying not to push, remembering that the exact same thing happened with Sisi, staring at the Christmas tree and counting the ornaments. Hold him in, hold him in. Focusing on the monkey ornament.  Midwife arrives. Doula arrives (both were coming straight from other births!!) Joe is trying to fill the tub in vain, midwife hears me pushing and guides me to the couch.  No time for water birth, one excruciating push, then another, Matteo slides out and I'm making this face.  Yeah, I was pretty overwhelmed with love, relief, thankfulness, and also terror.  Being a mom is a mixed bag of emotions!
I'm so in love, so proud of this little guy.  He is tiny and oh so sleepy; his eyes are almost always closed, unlike Sisi who was staring everyone down from day one.  


Enjoying my last few days...

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

before baby boy is born!  I'm due in about a week, and the practice contractions are getting stronger and stronger.  I'm having to pause and breathe through them as I write this.  Baby is measuring great, in the ideal position, and I have a feeling we will meet him very soon.  At this point I am more excited than I am anxious.  I am so curious about this little boy.  Will he look like Sisi?  Will he be super active like he is in the womb?  I'm even curious about my labor- will it be just like last time?  Will I handle it with more grace and self-confidence this time around?  I can't quite remember the pain, so I'm weirdly curious about how painful it will be.  (According to the Hypnobirthing classes I took last time, I'm not even supposed to use the words "due date", "contractions" or "pain", and I've said all three in this paragraph.  Let's be real, euphemisms don't always work.)

I'm not one to wish pregnancy away because I know how hard and tiring those first few months can be.  I consider pregnancy to be a nice little vacation, a calm before the storm.  I'm a pretty happy preggo, it's almost like the hormones put a little pep in my step! I'm treasuring my time with Sisi and Joe before the family dynamics completely change.  Here's what I've been up to...

Hubby time: 

Fermentation Farm and lunch at Fukada Restaurant (where we didn't mind the long wait because we brought reading materials :)

The goods:  kimche, duck eggs, organ meat sausage, boar bacon, and red currant kombucha tea) 

 Nana time! 

Playmate time! 

Mommy-Sisi-Dragon time: 

And of course,a few crafting projects for the nautical nursery.

I would show more pics of the nursery, but it would require me to move car seats and daipers and Christmas presents out of the way, and I'm just too lazy.  Baby's room is still a bit of a storage area :/


Totally Practical Gift Guide

Most gift-guides on the internet make me cringe a bit.  Gold-plated drink stirrers?  Wiener dog shaped eye mask?  Trendy geometric toothpick holder? These are clever gifts that make a really splashy first impression, but usually just end up adding clutter to your home.  I probably sound like such a scrooge!  I do like gifts, both giving and receiving, but my tastes have changed.  I now appreciate more practical items- either things that make my life easier in some way, or consumable things that will be used up and won't gather dust for years and years.  The coolest thing is that without my saying a thing, most people have picked up on my new minimalist tendencies.  They end up buying me consumables.  My sisters-in-law have gifted me with things like really good quality olive oil, raw honey, and shea butter.  My brother gifted Joe with a huge leg of lamb for his birthday.  That's what I'm talking about!

As the Christmases roll by, we have less and less gifts to buy.  It's really liberating to just be able to enjoy the season and look forward to the traditions of Christmas instead of the stuff. Joe's family does a white elephant exchange, my family is just a handful of people and we have a 20.00 limit.  Joe, Sisi and I don't really do gifts under the tree.  Instead, we stuff each other's stockings with useful things, like the following...

Here is my little Gift Guide for the person who doesn't need or want a lot of frou frou stuff.  It's the kind of stuff people could buy me over and over and I'd never get sick of it.

Minimalist Gift Guide Part 1

1. Life Extension Liquid Vitamin D 2000 IU Mint Flavor:... (A few drops a day keeps sickness away!) 

2. Bees wax tea light candles (Burn so much longer and cleaner than regular parafin wax candles)

3.   Sea Salt tealight candle holder (Made of a real salt chunk (I licked it to see), supposedly neutralizes the air of bacteria, mold, and allergens by emitting negative ions, but I just love the vibe of these candles.)

4. Cupsco Classic Cup 16oz 4-pack Stainless Steel (I break cups all the time, so these are Kristin-proof and baby-proof.  Also, stainless steel is so easy to clean and is supposedly more hygienic than ceramic, plastic, or glass.)

5. Peak Fresh Re-Usable Produce Bags, Set of 10 (Essential for anyone who does CSA, or eats a ton of produce- keeps fragile greens like spinach fresh for 3 weeks, which is pretty amazing.)

6.Winter Dream Tea from Coffee Bean  (I get this every year- it's sweet and spicy and so good with a splash of cream and honey.)

7. Stella Mare Cranberry Tangerine candle (Stella Mare is definitely my favorite candle brand.  Soy wax, so it burns longer and cleaner, amazing scents, and super reasonably priced.) 

minimalist gift guide part 2

8.  Fruit Pigmented Lip and Cheek Stain (100 Percent Pure is my favorite natural beauty brand, and this lip stain is such a pretty cherry shade.  It's a lot like benetint, but no yucky chemicals.  I put on a few layers on my lips in the morning, let them dry, and then apply clear lip balm on top.  My lips look berry stained for several hours.  Only bad thing is it tastes awful.)

9.  Redmond Earthpaste Cinnamon Amazingly Natural Toothpaste (This toothpaste is made out of mud.  It's completely safe if swallowed, which makes it perfect for Sisi, too.)

10.  Facial Primer by 100 Percent Pure (I never used to use primer, but this one feels so wonderful on my skin and provides such a nice even base for my powder foundation.)

11.  Everyone Soap (This one bottle of soap has replaced my shampoo, body wash, shaving cream, dog shampoo, baby shampoo, and bubble bath.  My shower has like 3 things in it- it's a minimalist's dream come true!!)

12.  Paraben free deodorant (Another great 100 Percent Pure product.  Truth be told, I don't usually wear deoderant.  I'm fortunate to not have smelly pits.  But my pregnancy hormones have kicked in and I am finding deoderant is necessary.  This one has only a handfull of ingredients.)

13.  Pacifica Wanderlust Perfume Trio (These fragrances are fairly natural and don't have a chemically scent.  The blood orange and the vanilla are lovely, and would probably smell even better blended together!)

14.  Primitive Sweet Almond Oil (I read  that French moms use this to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy.  I've used it religiously this pregnancy, and I have very few stretch marks on my belly.  It's also a rather light oil that absorbs quickly into the skin.  It doesn't have a strong scent like coconut oil. I also apply it to my face, let it sit, then rub it away with a cotton ball to remove my makeup.)  



Getting my Heart Ready for Baby #2

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Yesterday, I bought a container of heavy cream that expires just before my baby is due.  That was a reality check!  He's coming!

Where to even begin?  This pregnancy has whizzed by so fast.  The middle of next month is my "guess date" and I am finally finding time to prepare for baby's arrival.  When I was pregnant with Sisi, preparing for baby was synonomous with preparing for childbirth. I took long baths, meditated, did my prenatal yoga faithfully, and read stacks of books on natural labor. It also meant nesting in a strictly physical sense- freezing meals, cleaning the house, preparing the nursery.  I gave little thought to preparing mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for my life to be turned upside down (in a good way, in hindsight). Boy was I shocked when my very smooth pregnancy and childbirth led to the utter chaos of the newborn months.

I'm not so naive anymore.  I have an idea of what to expect, although I'm also expecting that I'll need to throw those expectations out the window. Baby #2 will be his own little man.  He might be the opposite of Sisi in so many ways. One thing I know for sure is that I will grow to love him fiercely, and that all the craziness will one day become my new normal.  Even if I have trouble bonding in the beginning, even if I get PPD like I did before, I will one day be ok.  That's really reassuring.

So how am I preparing this time?  I'm still doing all those little nesting rituals because they are important for stress relief, but I'm also trying to pay attention to the physical, psycho-emotional, and spiritual aspects of bringing a new life into the world.

Physical:  I feel strong and energetic, even though sometimes I wake at 4 or 5 am with back pain, unable to go back to sleep.  On those days, I sip some tea in the dark and head to 6:30 am yoga class. I'm spoiling myself a bit more with this pregnancy, indulging in prenantal massage every 2 weeks (so so awesome) and  frequent chiropractic appointments to straighten me out.  Since Sisi broke her arm a few months ago, I've had to lift and carry her much more than is wise, and I'm paying for it big time with tweaked nerves and muscles.  Baby is breech at this point, possibly due to all the assymetrical lifting I'm doing.  Thankfully, Sisi's cast came off today and I can enforce a strict no lift policy from this point on.

I'm not really afraid of the pain of childbirth this time around.  I've been through one home birth and a pretty rough miscarriage, so I know what to expect. I can expect a crazy amount of pain, but also have learned some tricks and strategies for coping. I also know the kind of environment I need for labor- quiet, calm, dark.  After Sisi was born, I was upset at myself for not letting Joe soothe me and take a more active role, but I realize now that I was totally overwhelmed, and it's my normal reaction to want to close my eyes and zone out.  Sisi is the same way.  When her arm was broken before the pain meds, she wanted the room quiet and didn't want anyone to talk to her.  As soon as the meds kicked in, she was more willing to be cuddled or entertained.  Like mother like daughter!

I'm actually dreading the aftercare (midwifes hands up my uterus, the stitching up, etc.)  more than the birth!  I also remember that it hurt to pass the placenta, but I was high on happy hormones so I coped well.

Right now baby is breech, which is a little worrisome at almost 34 weeks.  But my midwife and chiropractor have assured me that he still has time and space to move. If baby stays head up, I will have to come up with a plan B, find a doctor and a hospital and maybe have a totally different birth than I'm hoping for.   I will not dwell on that until I have to.  I have every reason to trust baby and trust gravity.

In the last two weeks, I've spent time with 5 of my girlfriends who have newborns and infants. Watching them breastfeed, change diapers and soothe their crying babies brought back vivid sense memories.  The zombie sleepless feeling, the bliss of holding a sleeping baby, the awkwardness (and suffocation?) of breastfeeding in public under a nursing cover.  It's been almost 4 years since Sisi was born, but it's all coming back to me.  I'm expecting the newborn phase to be messy and sticky and tiring, so at least I'm being realistic.

Psycho-emotional:  My therapist gave me a reality check the other day.  She said that I need to chill out.  I need to hire a maid instead of scrub the floors by hand.  I need to let Joe tuck Sisi in so I can meditate in the bubble bath.  I have to let the rest of my family take care of all the holiday plans.  I might not even have time to buy Christmas presents or cook a paleo Thanksgiving, and that has to be alright. I HAVE to get comfortable with accepting help NOW, or I will not be able to do so when the baby is born.   I feel like I've come so far with the whole perfectionism thing (it's why I'm in therapy in the first place), but apparently, it's my default mode when I go through major life changes.My performance-based attitude combined with wacky hormones is the recipe for post-partum depression.  This is the reason why I made that Pre-pregnancy contract with myself before we even starting trying. My therapist said there are 3 options:  1) get help wherever needed 2) let go of the housework and be ok with chaos or 3) try to do it all myself and get depressed again.

Spiritually:  Sisi is starting to ask more about God, and I love this aspect of parenting. What a responsibility I have to not only share my faith to my kids through words, but most importantly through my example.  Living out the faith that I proclaim every single day, in the happy and hard times.  At night when I can't sleep, I hold my belly and pray for this little child I have yet to meet.  I know that I love him, but it's a little hard for me to bond with him in utero (even harder after the disappointment of my previous miscarriage) so praying for him helps to remind me that he is already a person, and is precious in God's sight. I also pray that this time I will be quicker to see the huge blessing that parenting is; that I'd see the big picture, especially during the first few months when every single day seems like an eternity.  It really does fly by.  Just look at what a beautiful little girl Sisi has become!

To all you mamas, how did you prepare for Baby's arrival?

All photos taken at Lake Tahoe by the talented Whitby B Photography.

P.S. This post is all about me, but I'll probably write a follow-up on how I'm preparing Sisi for the arrival of her little bro.


Mommy-Daughter Road Trip

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Like hippies travelling to Woodstock, Sisi and I set forth on an epic road trip from OC to San Fran to see her (our) favorite kids' band, Okee Dokee Brothers.  Normally the trip isn't really epic- it takes about 8 hours to get to the Bay Area.  I used to make the drive up to college in one trip (with an in-n-out break halfway) but when you're 7 months pregnant and have to pee every hour or so, the trip becomes an epic 5 day journey.  We had so much fun travelling just the two of us.  We might make it a tradition!  I've been annoyed with California lately, but this trip made me fall in love with my home state all over again.  There is so much natural beauty and charm beyond suburban O.C.

Our first night in Arroyo Grande, about halfway up the coast, we rented a Tepee on someone's ranch off Airbnb.  It had a full bed and rustic but nice bathroom facilities.  It felt pretty adventurous to be camping (er glamping?) without Joe there to protect us.

Arroyo Grande is so amazing.  Joe and I daydream about moving up there, buying a few acres of land, building a small eco-friendly house from scratch, and surfing every morning.  And when I daydream something, I usually find a way to make it happen :)  It doesn't hurt that my BFF lives there, too.

Next stop, San Jose, where we stayed with my college friend Kim and Sisi bonded with her daughter, Lilybeth.

And the absolute highlight of the trip, the Okee Dokee Brothers concert!!!  If you're a parent and have never heard of this band, I beg you to give it a listen.  It's bluegrass/folk music that kids love and parents secretly love, too.  I looked around at the audience and all the parents were beaming and singing along!

I got to meet the band afterward and tell them about how I started playing the Banjo because of them, and how Sisi and I drove 8 hours just to see them.  I realize now how crazy that sounds.  I'm totally a Okee Dokee groupie.

Using a jump rope as a microphone, Lilybeth inched her way closer and closer to the band until they were actually a trio.

Such nice gentlemen.  I love that they promote getting into nature and minimalism, two of my passions :)

On the way back down South, we stopped at the Monterey Bay Aquarium..  We ate at Sea Harvest Fish Market afterward- 6 HUGE bbq'd oysters for 13 dollars, folks!  Well worth the drive up just for those!

We stayed with my bff and her darling family in Pismo Beach for one night.  Sisi and Olive had somuch fun giggling and playing and singing together.  It makes my heart pitter patter when my daughter plays with my friends' kids.  It makes me realize how grown up we all are, with houses and families of our own.  Gone are the days of watching Napoleon Dynamite in pajamas while drinking boba milk tea in our crappy college apartments.

Angel showed us city folks a good time by taking us to her favorite farm and apple orchard.  

And then we came home and ate boatloads of sushi with Joe.  We missed him so much, but I think it was super special to strike out on our own for some extra bonding time before baby Matteo (90% sure that's his name) arrives in less than 2 months.  

Have you ever taken a mommy/baby road trip?  You should.