Saturday, September 8, 2012

Six Months Already???

I can’t believe that it has already been six months since our little guy was born and our lives completely changed. I know it sounds cliché, but I really could never have imagined how utterly different and how incredible my life would become after Hayden was born at 4:59 that morning. He is literally the best thing to have ever happened to me (although meeting my hubby was pretty awesome, too!), and he has made me learn so many things about myself and my inner strength in the short time that we’ve had together so far.
Hayden, one day old

He makes me laugh and surprises me every. single. day. From the little turtle-like faces he’d make when he was first born to the loud giggles and open-mouthed toothless grins that we get today, his personality just blows me away. While most of the time it feels like just yesterday that I was in labor, it amazes me that he has accomplished so much in such a short time, and as a result it sometimes feels as if we have been a family of three forever. We learned to breastfeed together, and while it was difficult at times we stuck to it and are still at it now, even though he’s also eating solid food twice a day (his favorites? Peaches, pears, or oatmeal mixed with prunes). He has always hated tummy time but only a few days ago finally started not only rolling from his back to his belly (which he’s been doing for ages) but also from his belly back again. My little boy loves to stand up when held and can even support himself holding on now for a short while, and he is sitting up on his own (and rarely tips over) now, too!

Hayden, one month old
I have treasured every single first with him (even first diaper blow-out in public…at Disney World no less…really!), and I look forward to all of the firsts still to come. I can already see that he is going to be an active boy; I won’t be surprised if he skips crawling all together and is toddling around the house in the months to come…which reminds me, I should probably start childproofing!
Hayden, three months old

I knew I wanted to be a mom years ago, but I had no idea that I would enjoy it this much, or that I could possibly love a little boy as much as I love him. Hayden is my absolute world, and I cannot wait to continue experiencing life, as sleep-deprived as it is sometimes, with him.
Hayden, six months old! Already!

Happy Half Birthday, little pickle! 

My Birth Story - Repost

I posted my labor story on my previous food blog, but I am no longer writing there and I feel like it better belongs here, so here is the repost :)

I was due March 13th, and had been told at my 38 week appointment that while I was progressing dilation-wise, the baby was still high up and probably wouldn’t be showing his face any time soon, so I was expecting to go at least until my due date. I’d been having quite a bit of back pain for the last couple of weeks, but I have a condition that affects my spine so I was just attributing any pain to that and the weight of the ever-growing baby. The morning of March 5th, I ended up leaving work at around 4:45am (my shift ended at 5:30am) because my back pain and cramping was starting to become a bit more uncomfortable. I didn’t think I was in labor, but I wanted to head home and rest just in case. Apparently after I left that morning my co-workers started placing bets as to how many hours it would be before I was in the hospital. C went to work that day, and all day I updated him on the length of my contractions (which weren’t hurting, just uncomfortable) and how far apart they were. We ended up going in to the hospital late that night because, even though I wasn’t in a lot of pain, the contractions had held steady for at least six hours at that point. That night I was monitored, checked, and sent home with a muscle relaxer and a diagnosis of “false labor.” I went home so frustrated; we had thought our little guy was about to make his appearance!

Wednesday morning I had my 39 week appointment. Everything went as usual and I was feeling uncomfortable due to my back pain again but otherwise I felt great. The elephant-size swelling that had taken up residence in my feet and ankles over the previous few weeks had even disappeared! So, imagine my surprise when I lugged myself onto the exam table and the nurse told me my blood pressure was high for the first time my entire pregnancy!

“No worries,” she said. “You’re probably just a little nervous because you’re so close to the end now. We’ll take it again later and it’ll be fine, I’m sure.”

Okay, cool. Bring in the doc, then! The doctor came in, checked me, and I’d progressed again. We talked about my trip to the hospital and my level of discomfort, and then he said words I was absolutely not expecting. “I’d like to induce you this week, due to your back issues. I’m worried about him getting much bigger and you having difficulties with labor because of it.”
I always swore I would NOT be induced strictly due to discomfort, no matter how far along I was. I didn’t want to be induced at all, really, because I’d heard horror stories about how much more painful it is and I wanted to go as naturally as possible. But, if the doctor said that’s what he wanted to do, I wasn’t going to argue. Plus, I was already almost 4 centimeters dilated, so I hoped the induction process wouldn’t be too lengthy or difficult. And I had another couple of days to prepare myself and walk like crazy and try to go into labor on my own! No big deal, it’d totally happen. Except…not so much. The doctor left us in the exam room while they went to schedule the induction with the hospital. While he was gone, the nurse came back in to check my blood pressure. Still high. Crap. She left again, then came back to move us to another room so that that exam room could be used for another patient. So, we waited some more. Nurse arrived again, took my blood pressure again. High again. Double crap. She then said she’d be back after checking to see “what the doctor wants to do”.
What do you mean ‘what the doctor wants to do’??? He wants to induce me in a couple of days! Right???

Wrong. The doctor came in a few minutes later to say that, since my blood pressure wasn’t going down, he just wanted to induce me that day to be safe. So, we should leave his office and head for the hospital; they’d be ready for me there. WHAT?!?!? My first response, after a giant gulp, was “well…can I go home and get my bag first?” Haha. I was so worried about my bag! We were told that was fine, just to get there whenever we could, so we left the doctor’s office, headed to Target to grab a few snacks for hubby’s bag and a couple of sandwiches (neither of us had eaten yet that day, and we knew that once we got to the hospital I wouldn’t be allowed to eat for quite a while), then headed home and grabbed our bags and headed to the hospital.

We checked into the hospital around noon and I was brought into a room on the Labor & Delivery floor shortly afterwards. I changed into a gown, met with my nurse, a midwife, and the anesthesiologist (who I assured would not need to help me, but explained my autoimmune issue to him just in case), and then I waited. They started my pitocin and antibiotics at 1:40pm, and we waited some more. I turned the Food Network on and just chatted with hubby for the next few hours in between nurse visits and monitoring. I was contracting, but it just felt like uncomfortable cramping so I really was doing well. My parents came to visit at about six o’clock, and C went to get some dinner in the cafeteria at that point (I kept insisting I didn’t care if he ate in the room with me, but he refused to do so). While my parents were visiting, I winced a few times in discomfort, but again, nothing serious. I will say, though, that the entire time my contractions were never more than three minutes apart.

After my parents left is when things started to get a bit serious for me. C and I decided to go walk the halls, so the nurse helped me with the wireless monitors and gave me a second gown (I really didn’t want anyone to see my butt if possible; little did I know how little I would care about such things in a few more hours!), and off we went! It was at that point that my pain started to increase with each contraction. I was able to walk through them at the beginning of our tour, but by the second time around the floor I was having to stop and double over every time one hit. We eventually went back to the room and I got back into bed; the pain from the contractions themselves wasn’t too horrible, but the pain in my lower spine and SI joints was getting increasingly worse and was almost at the point where it was just sticking around and refusing to wane between contractions. Plus, my contractions were super close together at that point – usually only a minute or two apart. I remember telling C, over and over at that point, “this isn’t going to work for me!” Haha…like I had an option at that point! The next time the nurse came in, I asked if there was any sort of pain management option that was not an epidural. She said they could put some medicine through my IV that “wouldn’t take away the pain, but would make [me] feel drunk so I wouldn’t notice it as much.” I told her to start it, stat.
You guys. That medicine was crazy. First of all, she was darn right when she said it didn’t ease the pain. Second of all, it didn’t make me feel drunk, it made me hallucinate! I kept half dozing off in between contractions and thinking I was saying all these things to hubby that I wasn’t really saying. At the same time, though, half of my brain was cognizant of the fact that I probably wasn’t really saying them, so I didn’t ask him anything because I was afraid of repeating myself! Turns out, though, I still asked him the same question (I don’t remember what it was, though) at least six times…oops. While I was busy alternating between hallucinating and contracting, hubby sat by my bed and read his book in between my contractions!

I ended up giving up a short time later and asking for an epidural. Having it put in didn’t hurt at all, despite what I’d been told previously, but then…it didn’t work! It sort of numbed my right leg, but my left leg and the left side of my lower back were completely normal. I kept telling the nurse that, because I was now in pain in my lower back and it was just not easing up, and she kept telling me I just needed to lie on my left side so gravity would make the epidural work better. No one seemed to believe me as I continued to tell them it wasn’t working (“this just isn’t going to work for me” became my phrase of the night, haha…I’m sure my nurse thought I was absolutely insane), so the anesthesiologist came back three times and gave me C-section level drug injections each time, with nothing changing in my pain relief!

Finally, finally, around 2am or so, they gave me another epidural. Hubby says that I actually ended up getting three separate ones, but I only remember two of them. This time, it worked! Hallelujah! Everything I’d heard came true; I couldn’t feel athingfrom the waist down! It was hilarious. I kept telling hubby over and over about it. I think, at that point, I was just so happy the pain was gone that everything entertained me. Over the next two hours, I progressed pretty quickly, from 6cm to 10cm (probably because I was no longer tensing up in pain every time I had a contraction!), and at 4am the nurse told me it was time to start pushing. Woohoo! I asked her how long first time moms usually push for. She told me anywhere between one and three hours. Ugh. Not so woohoo. That motivated me, though, and I was ready to get going!

At that point, my epidural had partially worn off, so I could feel my legs again and the contractions were painful but not overwhelming. I was actually glad that I could feel it at that point, because it helped me with the pushing (plus, with the end in sight, it just didn’t seem quite as bad anymore). On my third contraction of pushing, though, things started to feel a little funny. My heart started racing, and at first I figured “well uh, hello…you are trying to push out a baby, of course your heart is racing,” so I didn’t say anything. Next, though, as I leaned forward to start pushing again, I felt really sick out of nowhere. As I was asking the nurse for a bucket, I then felt a weird wooshing in my ears and told her that I didn’t think I could hear very well. Apparently that was a bad sign, because all of a sudden buttons were being pushed, I was told to stop pushing (which is NOT EASY BY THE WAY), and I was lying on my side with an oxygen mask on. My blood pressure had dropped to 80/50 for some reason, causing my heart rate to increase and baby’s to go down – not good. As I tried to concentrate on breathing and not pushing, my room filled with nurses and doctors while they decided what to do next. They stabilized both of us and decided I ought to push some more. They had attached an internal monitor to the baby’s head so they were able to closely monitor his heart rate.
Back to pushing I went. Little guy cooperated until the nurse had me change positions, at which point even I could audibly hear his heart rate slow considerably again. She put me back on my side and doctors were called in again. This time the doctor on call from my actual practice was there (she’d been in the middle of a c-section previously), and everyone kept talking back and forth about whether or not they should just do a c-section for me to get baby out. I finally asked what was going on, and the doctor explained that it seemed that the cord was wrapped around the baby in some way that, when I pushed in certain ways or he moved into certain positions, it was causing the issues with his heart rate. At that point, I didn’t care what they did, I just wanted him out safe and sound. I told them that, and the doctor decided that since she was there we would go ahead and have me try pushing again and see if we could get him out that way.

At that point I was extra motivated, but gosh you guys, that is hard work. I mean….duh. I knew it would be, but sheesh. I will say, though, I made it through the entire thing without yelling at hubby once! I did, apparently, yell “I can’t $(%^(@ do this anymore!!!!!!!” during my very last push, as my little guy came out…and luckily, I didn’t have to. I do feel bad for other first time moms down the hall, though…I was pretty loud. Oops. It wasn’t as bad as I made it sound, I swear! Our little ball of cuteness came out with his cord wrapped around his body and his neck, but after a quick check he was proclaimed perfectly fine! Hubby and I laughed, cried, and watched until he was cleaned up, checked again, and brought over to my arms. I did it! He did it. No….we did it.

Hayden was born at 4:59am on March 8th, 2012. He weighed 7 pounds, 11 ounces, was 21 inches long, and had a full (cone-shaped) head of brown hair. We couldn’t be happier, especially since we are finally starting to work out the whole sleep thing!!

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Best Breastfeeding Aid Ever? My Brest Friend!

I told my family that I was pregnant when I was about 10 weeks along; it was the night before my birthday and we were celebrating with dinner at my parents’ house. Once the initial excitement and basic information was done with, my mom and one of my younger sisters immediately began rattling off all of the different products I would need to acquire over the next 30 weeks before my son was born. The first product they suggested? A Brest Friend.

“I’m sorry, a what?” I asked. I got an exasperated sigh in response as my mom and Emma exchanged looks.

“A Brest Friend, Lenore! To help you breastfeed! It goes around your waist! Bethenny has one, she swears by it.”

“Wait, Bethenny? Who??? Do you mean a Boppy?”

Another sigh. “Nooooooo. A Brest Friend. Way better than a Boppy. And you know, Bethenny. The housewife? Bethenny Ever After?” My mom and sisters talk about the Bravo housewives like they are close personal friends, on a first name basis, especially Bethenny, their all-time favorite.

“Oh, that Bethenny.Of course.”

So, I learned that day that I would need to get a Brest Friend before I gave birth or I would never hear the end of it. I really didn’tk now the difference between it and a Boppy (the other popular nursing pillow), other than it actually straps around your waist while you use it. Luckily, we visited a huge annual consignment sale a few weeks after that first Brest Friend introduction, where we found one for an insanely great price. Barely used, in perfect condition, I purchased my Brest Friend for only $15. My mom was so excited she brought it home with her so she “could wash it and make sure it was good as new.” The next day, I got this photo from her on my cell phone:

Apparently, my dad likes the Brest Friend as much as the rest of the family.

Anyway, cue 30 weeks later, when I gave birth to my amazing son. He breastfed like a champ immediately after birth, but we had some issues with latching once we got to our hospital room, and since I hadn’t brought the Brest Friend with me to the hospital (something that will never happen in later births), I also had to struggle with arranging piles of pillows just so in order to support my little guy better while he ate.

Once we got home, I continued to stress out about breastfeeding issues, but giving up was not even an option in my mind; I would figure it out. And when I started using the Brest Friend pillow, half of my problems were solved. I got so much support from the Brest Friend that I was able to focus entirely on Hayden’s latch instead of worrying about positioning as well.

Here are the features of the Brest Friend that I adore most:

- The firm surface supports baby well and has a raised spot on both sides for under his/her head

- It straps around your body, providing back support and ease of movement (obviously it is not recommended to stand or walk around while feeding your baby strictly using the pillow) and allowing you to get up and walk while holding baby when you are finished without worrying about the pillow dropping and getting in the way

- The cover is easily removable so that you can wash it when, inevitably, your baby spits up all over it (or you leak on it). It is a bit difficult to put the cover back on the first time, but once you figure it out it is simple

- The strap is adjustable around your waist, making it fit snugly both immediately after baby is born and if/when your waist size changes

Needless to say, I love this thing. I still use it occasionally when feeding Hayden, even though we’ve worked out a way to do it without, but I seriously don’t know what I’d have done without it when we first got home from the hospital. I even brought it with us when we went to visit my parents at their house so that I wouldn’t have to work out the pillow system again!

Have you used a breastfeeding pillow like the Brest Friend? Did you find it helpful? Which one did you like best, and would you purchase it again?

Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post. I was not compensated by the company that makes the Brest Friend in any way for this post and all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Taste of the Nation Orlando 2012

I am SO excited to be going to Taste of the Nation Orlando again this year at the Orlando World Center Marriott! I had the opportunity to go as a blogger last year (you can read my recap on my old blog here), and so I am thrilled that I am lucky enough to go again this year, plus I'm bringing along the hubby this time!

Taste of the Nation is an incredible charity event that is held across the country every year. 100% of the proceeds go to No Kid Hungry, Share our Strength’s nationwide effort that was established to end childhood hunger in America by 2015. 
This year, the Taste of the Nation Orlando event will take place at the Orlando World Center Marriott on August 25th, 2012. It begins at 6:45pm and the event will last until 10pm. VIP admission is $150 a ticket, and includes a bounty of food, drinks, and entertainment.

Taste of the Nation includes representatives from numerous high end local eateries, including Cress Restaurant, Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine, Fulton's Crab House, K Restaurant & Wine Bar, Sushi Pop, and many more. You can view a full list of participating restaurants here, if you'd like to know more.

Cakes from the 2011 Empress Sissi Bakery table
Just like last year, there will be a key raffle for an instant wine cellar. This raffle is so cool, you guys. You buy a key (or as many keys as you want!), and at the end of the night everyone who purchased keys lines up to try them in a door to an area chock full of various wine selections. Seriously an instant wine cellar. Only one of the keys sold actually works, and the person that is able to enter the door wins the whole darn thing.
There will also be a silent auction like last year, but they are also adding a live auction this year! The live auction will feature amazing items, including a trip to the San Francisco Wine Country, and an amazing trip for two to France! The silent auction will include tons of local items, including Blue Man Group tickets, a 4 Rivers gift basket, plus stays at hotels across the area. You can see a full list of both auction's items at the Taste of the Nation website.

In addition to the amazing food and auctions, there will also be plenty of entertainment and drinks to go around! Interested in going?

K Restaurant's 2011 display

Tomorrow, for one day only, there is a discount available for tickets purchased on the Taste of the Nation website. Use code ONEDAY to receive $25 off of each ticket purchased! You can purchase your tickets here: TICKET PURCHASE

Want to read more about Taste of the Nation Orlando? Check out their website, or read my recap of last year's event!

This is an awesome event, and it really couldn't benefit a better charity, so I hope to see many of you there! Are you planning to go? Let me know in the comments section!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Joe's Crab Shack and a Giveaway!!

This giveaway has already ended...please scroll down for the results!

So I’m a total dork and as a result I have to announce…Todayis my biiiiiirthday!!! Yep, that’s right! And I’m 29today, which means I really need to live it up this year, or something. Also,it means that, since it’s my birthday, I’ve got a gift for one of you, myreaders! Well okay, I would’ve had this giveaway either way, but since it is mybirthday we’ll say it is for that reason!

Yesterday I got a really fun opportunity to visit the Joe’sCrab Shack on International Drive with some fellow bloggers to meet theirculinary director, George Atsangbe, and learn about (and sample!) some of theirpopular summer dishes.
The whole group!

You guys. While I’ve been known to visit chain restaurantsoccasionally, I normally don’t wax poetic about the dishes they offer; they aremore a “this is right here, let’s just stop and eat” type of thing. Joe’s isofficially different from other chains for me after yesterday. I’d eaten atother locations a few times before, but it had been quite a while and I’d neverbeen to this particular Joe’s, so I was pleasantly surprised by my experience.

Chef George Atsangbe, talking about popular dishes
Once everything was set up and we got started, Chef Georgeshared quite a bit about the philosophy behind Joe’s Crab Shack’s menuselections, including the fact that they serve only wild-caught and sustainablecrab and include locally grown produce in their menu. Additionally, Chef Georgetold us about their current “Home Grown Summer” menu (before we got to try afew of the items ourselves) and demonstrated just how to crack crab legs to getthe most meat for the least effort!

While we chatted about the various seafood items on Joe’smenu, food began arriving at our table. We started with the peel and eat shrimpthat are featured on the Home Grown Summer menu. Served both cold and hot andcovered in Old Bay seasoning, it was really hard to hold back on how manyshrimp I ate! I’m normally not a peel and eat shrimp kind of girl, but with theadded seasoning, the flavor was totally worth the effort!

We next learned about the nutritional benefits of so many ofthe Joe’s menu options. Did you know that a 1 ¼ lb lobster has only 90calories??? Seriously! Plus, it is full of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, soit is totally good for you. Just don’t indulge in the drawn butter too much andyou are good as gold! Plus, the Alaskan snow crab and the grilled fish andshrimp found on the menu are all low in fat and calories but full of awesomeseafood flavor. Knowing all of this, I felt a lot better when the steampots starting arriving at the table!

Chef George, showing off a steampot
Here’s one of the things that I learned yesterday aboutJoe’s Crab Shack. They have so many options for different seasonings on yourshellfish that really, that drawn butter isn’t necessary. Think of all the fatand calories you can save while indulging in amazing shellfish-y goodness! On pastvisits to Joe’s, I had ordered the basic items with little seasoning, thinking“I don’t need that, I just want to taste the crab.” But here’s the thing. Thoseseasonings and spices? They just enhance that shellfish flavor instead ofmasking it, making the entire dish just oh so delicious.

I’m rambling now, I know, I know. Soooo let me just sharesome of my favorites from the tasting yesterday, and then I’ll get on to mygiveaway! We sampled five different steampots of the nine that are offered,including the Joe’s Classic, the Ragin’ Cajun, the Bean Town Bake, the SamuelAdams, and the Santolla. While they were all delicious (and if you are lookingfor that basic flavor to dip in butter, I highly suggest the Classic), two ofthem were at the top of my list. The Samuel Adams steampot from the Home GrownSummer menu was oh my god amazing. I am not a beer drinker, so I really didn’tthink I’d be much of a fan, but I couldn’t stop reaching into that pot andgrabbing some more snow crab and lobster claws! My second favorite steampot wasthe Santolla, a new addition to the Joe’s Crab Shack menu. This pot was full oftender clams and New Zealand green lipped mussels (a new one for me, thesemussels are huge, plump and briny) as well as Antarctic King crab and shrimp,all covered in Old Bay seasoning and a spicy garlic wine sauce.
Santolla Steampot

Ragin' Cajun

I’ll be honest, being from Massachusetts I was a bitdisappointed that the Beantown Bake wasn’t my favorite, but it ranks way upthere anyway just for the sheer fact that it has two whole lobsters in it (incase you hadn’t figured it out by now, we ate a ton of food yesterday morning)!! This steampot is definitely bigenough to share, in my opinion.

Brian from Central Florida Top 5
posing with the Mason jar cocktails
As we all moaned and groaned, clutching our full bellies,Chef George refused to let up! Out came samples of their three signaturecocktails (all served in Mason jars that you get to take home! How cool!Pinterest ideas galore!) and their new three berry cobbler that was served witha giant scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Holy wow. We found room for more.

Three Berry Cobbler
I’ve got to say, the food at Joe’s was surprisinglydelicious, but I was also impressed with their service and atmosphere. If youvisit the International Drive location, I’d strongly encourage you to go atlunch time. The restaurant is much less trafficked at that time, giving theservers extra time to spend entertaining and catering to their guests. At onepoint, we witnessed a birthday patron “flying” around the room, and then got tosee most of the servers joined by some visiting soldiers in a dance! Such a fun, family-oriented atmosphere,each Joe’s Crab Shack location also features an outdoor playground for the kidsand encourages them to get involved with their food choices.

Okay! Now for the giveaway! I had such a great timeyesterday that I want to share that experience with one of you, and you don’thave to be in Orlando to enter! Joe’s Crab Shack has locations in 30 statesacross the US, so odds are there is one near you. I’m giving away a $25 giftcard that can be used at any of these locations, and here’s how to enter:

Mandatory entry: If you’ve been to Joe’s Crab Shack before,what is your favorite menu item? If you’ve never been, check out their menuhere and tell me what item you’d most like to try!

Additional entries (leave a comment for each one):

1) Follow me on Twitter at @orlndofoodie

2) Follow Joe’s Crab Shack on Twitter at@Joes_Crab_Shack

3) Subscribe to this blog via email

4) Tweet about this giveaway: “I just entered towin a gift card to @Joes_Crab_Shack from @Orlndofoodie! To enter, go here: #EatAtJoes”

5) Share this giveaway on Facebook (share button at top of post)

That’s a total of six possible entries! You have untilmidnight on Wednesday, August 8th, to enter, at which point I willuse to choose a winner! Once the winner has been notified, he or shewill have 48 hours to respond (please make sure your email is included withyour entries!) before I will choose a new winner.

Disclosure: I receiveda free tasting of several of the menu items at Joe’s Crab Shack. I also wasprovided with the $25 gift card that I am giving away to my readers. However,any opinions expressed are purely my own and have not been approved by Joe’s CrabShack prior to posting.

I totally forgot to post the winner last week! The winner of the Joe's Crab Shack gift card (who was actually contacted last week) is....

Comment number 21, Rosario Michelle!! Congratulations, enjoy it!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On the Fear of Missing Out

I’m sleep deprived. Well, duh, you are thinking, you have a four month old. Really, though, if we had a conventional childcare/work schedule as a family, I probably would not be as deprived as I am, and neither would my husband. Hayden sleeps mostly through the night these days, which is amazing, as young as he is. He normally goes to sleep between 8:30 and 9:30pm and then sleeps through until between 5:00 and 7:00am. If he wakes up during that period, it is usually only once and very briefly (according to my husband, anyway, who handles the night time routine) for either a snack and/or a diaper change. So, if we had a conventional schedule, with both of us working a 9-5, M-F work week, we’d probably be doing pretty well! We could take turns with the middle of the night wake-ups and the early mornings, and we’d be just fine, probably.

Hayden, one month old
Of course, as are most things in my life, our work schedules are anything but conventional. Well, Chris’s is, actually. If anything ,his is even more flexible than the conventional schedule, with his ability to slightly alter his hours and work from home occasionally. Mine, though, is not so much. I work an overnight shift in public service, so I leave for work while Chris is getting Hayden ready for bed, and then I get home in the morning usually a little bit before Hayden wakes up. This is great for me, in a way, because of that question people always ask when one returns to work after maternity leave. Is it hard leaving the baby at home? The answer, for me, was, “Well...not so much. He’s asleep, after all.” And so while I am at work all night I am not missing my baby too much. I am not needing to constantly take breaks to text home and see how he is doing, because I know that both he and my hubby are fast asleep, and I take comfort in knowing that. 

It’s during the day time that I worry about missing out. We can’t really afford childcare at the moment, and I’d much rather not put him in daycare anyway until he is older, so, while Chris watches out for Hayden at night time while I’m at work, I take care of him during the day. I love this deal, really, even though I dreaded it at the beginning (see my post on going back to work). I get to spend time with Hayden all day (in between morning naps for both of us and an evening nap for me, plus dozing for me whenever else he dozes during the day), and then do my part for our household finances by going to work at night. 
Obviously, I’m sure you can see the issue with this “great deal” that I love. When the heck do I sleep?  That’s been a huge issue for me to figure out since I started back at work last month, because of this major concern I have with missing out on time with Hayden. The sleep I get in the morning when I first get home has never bothered me because he is usually asleep at the same time. It is once he’s woken up, though, and I am up with him (and fully responsible) that the guilt and fear set in.

By encouraging him to nap more and play in bed with me in the morning, am I somehow understimulating him so that I can get more rest?

Am I causing issues that will be difficult to reverse by letting him hang out in my bed instead of putting him in his crib every time he dozes off for a nap?

Am I letting him entertain himself too much in the afternoons because I am too tired to engage him enough?

Does he spend too much time in front of the tv watching Little Einsteins while I try to tidy up between naps so that I can doze when he does?

What if, when I go to lie down for a few hours after Chris gets home from work, he does something new? What if he sits up, or plays with a new toy, or sticks his foot in his mouth, or does some other equally silly but oh so important thing while I am upstairs sleeping away?

Am I keeping him in his stroller too much in the afternoons because we go out and walk around the mall or Target or some other store so that I stay awake better? 

Mostly, am I missing out on activities that we should be participating in together because I need to sleep?

The answer to most of these questions, I know, is that what I am doing is just fine, and if I miss out on something the first time he does it, odds are he’ll do it again and I’ll see it that time. Does that make me feel better? Sometimes. Not always. And I know I’m not alone with these feelings, so that helps a little, too. At first, when I came back to work, I fought the need for sleep in the evenings so that I could spend extra time with my boys. Finally, though, the lack of sleep caught up with me so that it ended up outweighing that need to be with them as much as possible, and I’ve started taking advantage of my wonderful husband and the fact that he takes over with Hayden as soon as he gets home from work so that I can get some extra sleep.

Caught by Dad, passed out on the couch together
Am I still sleep deprived? Absolutely, although not nearly as bad as I was a couple of weeks ago when I was still fighting what is necessary for daily functioning. Do I still fear missing out? Oh, yes, of course. Despite this fear, though, I have realized that in order to be a good mother to my baby and a good wife to my husband, I need to take care of myself as well. I need to make sure I am rested so that the health issues I already have don’t get any worse and so that new ones don’t crop up. I also need to make sure that I get the sleep I need so that I can focus fully on the time that I do spend with my little family instead of focusing on not falling asleep sitting up (yes, I’ve done it. As I told my sister the other day, it is amazing what positions you can fall asleep in if you are tired enough!).
The anxiety regarding lacking sleep, missing out, and not being engaging enough comes and goes, but I am finally learning to cope with it.

Have you struggled with the balance between spending time with your family and taking care of yourself? What techniques or solutions did you come up with to cope with this struggle?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Going Back to Work - First Time Mom Chronicles

I'd like to write a bunch of entries documenting the things that surprised me about or were major changes when becoming a first time mom, so I'm going to label those posts as the "First Time Mom Chronicles."

I thought that I’d go crazy staying home from work as a new mom. I knew that the first few weeks might be tough and that taking care of Hayden would take up the majority of my time; I even knew that I would miss out on quite a bit of sleep during that early period. With that knowledge, though, I assumed that after a few weeks I’d be working on my blog while watching the baby and keeping my house spotless (mind you, it wasn’t spotless before I had a baby!), and that soon after that I’d be pulling my hair out dying to get back to work for a reprieve from domesticity. My husband experienced that hair-pulling just before his four week paternity leave ended; he was ready.

We’d spent the past three weeks sleeping in shifts when I declared myself unable to sleep sitting up with a baby on my chest any longer. I was deathly afraid I’d fall into a deep sleep (not just the occasional snooze while he ate) while holding him in an unsafe position and so we decided to split the night up (this is a completely different post, really. Suffice to say, Hayden hated his bassinet). Chris took the early shift, sending me upstairs to nap (in between feeding sessions, that is, and at the time our little guy was eating every one to two hours) until he couldn’t stay awake any longer, and then I’d takeover from there. Our way of dealing with Hayden’s early days was far from conventional, I think, but again, that’s another post to be written at another time.

Anyway, my dear husband couldn’t wait to get back to work, if only because it would put some semblance of a schedule back into his life. He’d be able to sleep at night again, and would get a bit of a break to just be with himself during the day at work before coming home and helping out again in the evenings. I didn’t blame him one bit, but didn’t find myself in at all the same position. At that point I still had between four and eight weeks of maternity left available to me, but the mere thought of doing work other than strictly being Mommy already was giving me serious pangs of anxiety. Plus, I work an overnight shift and we were not planning to put Hayden in childcare, so the logistics regarding when I would ever sleep once I went back to work added to my ever-increasing angst.

Out and about with friends
This, like I mentioned before, was a major surprise to me. I’d always assumed that I’d get bored at home, that I’d need to work at least part time, but here I was wishing there was some plausible way that I could stay at home with my baby. I even started googling work at home jobs, but of course most of the ones that Google pops up with require some sort of up-front payment or are time-consuming scams. So, I just braced myself to return to work. To make my anxiety of leaving my baby at home even worse was the fact that I was going back to work on the overnight shift and we had no child care planned. Actually, I take that back. We had child care planned, it was just not outside child care. Chris would watch Hayden at night, while I was at work, and I would watch him during the day. For the few hours of overlap in between and when Hayden took his naps during the day, I would sleep. That was where my major secondary anxiety came in. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to sleep enough, that I’d end up so deprived that I’d risk my son’s safety and my own health (I have an auto-immune disorder that is easily triggered into flare-ups), and that I’d fail at mothering, housekeeping, and work all at once. Plus, I worried that my marriage would suffer, that I’d lose time with my husband in exchange for catching up on sleep.

I’ve been back at work for about a month and a half now, and while I wish I could say it has been incredibly easy on all of us, it also hasn’t been nearly the nightmare that I expected and dreaded it to be. We’ve worked out a pretty good routine, the three of us. I get home from work at about 6am and after putting things away head straight to bed. Normally, I am asleep by 6:30. Hayden wakes up any time between 5:30 and 7:00 (normally towards the later end, thank goodness for my hubby!), and Chris gets up with him and takes him downstairs. The baby gets fed, changed, and Chris spends time with him until it is time for him to go to work, at which point he tries to get him to fall back to sleep and brings him upstairs to our bedroom in his Rock ‘n’Play (which, if I haven’t mentioned before, is a genius invention and needs to be given some sort of award). If he is asleep at that point, I normally don’t even wake up, sleeping until he wakes me. We normally head downstairs between 9 and 11, when I feed him, grab some cereal myself, and hangout for a bit before he takes a good morning nap (which usually lasts between an hour and two hours). Hayden does the majority of his daytime sleeping during the morning, which works out pretty well for me. If we have gone downstairs already, when he takes his morning nap I normally look at the mess around me and then lay down on the couch and nap with him. Lately, though, we’ve been indulging ourselves a bit and staying upstairs until the early afternoon. When he wakes up, I bring Hayden into bed with me, where I feed him, and then we cuddle and watch tv until he dozes back off, at which point I happily do the same.

Hayden hanging with his Grandpa
Our afternoons are a bit more active during my work week. If Chris has ridden his motorcycle to work and left us with the car, we may go to the mall or to Target just to walk around and get out for a bit, or I will take Hayden to my parents’ house while I go to physical therapy or other appointments. I love that Hayden gets these afternoons with his grandparents, and I know they love spending time with him, too, so that makes me happy. If Chris has taken the car (which happens more often lately with all of the rain we’ve been getting!), Hayden and I stay in and hang out, reading books and playing with the toys he now takes an interest in. He also is obsessed with cramming anything possible into his mouth; he even tried to eat his child-sized soccer ball the other day when we were taking photos for the England game to send to my in-laws! He is also becoming a bit more self-sufficient without being mobile yet, so I can put him down on his play mat for a bit some afternoons to get things done (although I usually choose baking or computer time over cleaning, I have to admit).

Chris comes home between 4 and 5, usually, at which point he assumes “daddy duty” and I pump before lying down before work. I try to get at least two or three hours in the evenings, but it is hard because I am always hating that I am missing time with my boys! I do try to nap as best I can, though, before pumping once more and heading out for work (I start my shift at 9:30). Normally around the time I am leaving, Chris is putting Hayden down for the night, so he gets a couple of hours to himself to either play his computer games or go to bed early if he is particularly tired.

Phew. That seems a lot more complicated than it actually feels when we are doing it. The nice thing is, my days off rotate so I do work some weekend nights. On those days, I get several hours more of uninterrupted sleep thanks to my amazing husband, and we get to spend a bit of time together as a family in the afternoons. I do wish the baby got out of the house more often during my work week, though, so on my days off I try to make sure we have at least one big outing. Lately we’ve been spending a lot of time wandering around the parks at Walt Disney World, meeting the characters and taking advantage of our annual passes.

Will this schedule work forever? Absolutely not. Hayden won’t always nap this much, and won’t tolerate a tired mama in the afternoons, and eventually the laundry and dust piles will completely take over the house. But, for now, it works for us, and that is enough for me. It means I don’t have to put my infant in day care, and it means I get to watch him grow up and spend time with him while still helping to pay our bills. The best thing about our crazy nutso schedule, though, is that we made it work. Since giving birth, I’ve learned that I can handle almost anything, and that I am capable of a lot more than I thought I was capable of before I became a mom.

It is amazingly corny, but being a mom has made me a much better version of myself.

How did you cope with going back to work after having your first baby? Did you have to adjust your schedule in a major way? How has it changed as your baby gets older?