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Friday, January 27, 2012

A Life Was Grown Here

I read a post today about baby bellies and "birth markings", or more commonly, stretch marks; about the way society portrays perfect women's bodies, even those who have had children, probably even more so those who have and have nothing to show for it leftover on their exterior selves. The video "Birth Markings is lovely, and definitely worth watching. 

I think as Westerners, we are programmed to think that a woman is more desirable even after having a child if she "bounces back", and quickly. But it isn't just about losing the baby weight, it's also about not having been biologically predisposed to developing a road map of stretch marks anywhere that experienced rapid growth during a pregnancy.  Stretched, saggy skin just doesn't read "Sexy" as well as smooth, tight, tanned, supple young skin does in our culture.

Of all of the complications and challenges that my pregnancy presented, one of the things that was hardest for me to accept emotionally was the fact that I started to get stretch marks all over my belly around 34.5 weeks. I knew, and my friends reminded me, that they would eventually fade, but when they first started to show up, they were dark, purpley red, angry looking marks that turned into the beginning of the horrible PUPPS rash that ended up lasting for the next 11 weeks. But those marks didn't go away when the hives faded after delivery. They are just now, 9 months later, starting to fade from the dark purplish color they started out as to a more subtle, pinkish lavender. But even though my weight is right back where it was before getting pregnant, my belly just isnt the same.  There is a pocket of looser skin, strewn with light scars that will continue to fade, but will never disappear completely.

 Many mamas, in real life, and in the video above, say that they feel that their stretch marks are their badge of motherhood, their pride in knowing that their bodies grew someone so precious to them. But, I am not 100% there yet. It may be vain, and I never felt that confident about my belly in front of others even before pregnancy, but I don't love my stretch marked belly now. I love, I mean, love, that my body was able to create and support her life as it developed until she was ready to join our world. I was amazed as I watched myself grow and stretch, beyond what I even thought possible, and I loved feeling her move and imagining what she would be like when she was here with us. I am lucky that this is the only lasting physical scar of what ended up being a challenging pregnancy and a really scary delivery.  But all along, I hated those stretch marks. I didn't take any bare bellied pictures once they showed up, not even for myself to look back and remember just how big I was, or even just what that giant basketball of a belly looked like with all of its fresh new stretch marks (and yes, ridiculous hives). And yet, while I don't love the way my belly looks bare at this moment, and I'm not sure I will ever be comfortable baring it in public again, I can appreciate that they are an ever present reminder that underneath that skin, my body grew hers. I don't know that I feel I need those scars to remind me of what happened there, but since they are there with me for the long haul, I might as well start accepting them!  Maybe my belly isn't sexy, or magazine quality perfection, and probably won't ever be without surgical intervention which I don't think I could ever quite justify, but it is mine, "birth markings" and all.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Norah Grows - 9 Months!

Sweet love, you are 9 months old today. You have officially been a part of our world as long as you were growing inside my is so hard for me to think that it's been 18 months - a year and a half - since we learned that you would be joining our family.  From those seemingly endless weeks in the beginning of the pregnancy just hoping for another day to pass and be one more day closer to the "safety" of the second trimester to now when the weeks are just flying past and I live to soak up my moments with you in the evenings and weekends.

You now have 4 teeth completely out of the gums, and two more on top that are starting to work their way down. You have not enjoyed the process of teething these last two teeth so far, and I hate seeing you out of sorts and uncomfortable.  I ordered you a Baltic Amber Teething Necklace this week, so hopefully when it comes and we get it on you for a while it will help with relieving some of the pain when the next ones make their entrance.  I scoffed at them for so long, but finally gave in and will give it a try - hey, at the worst it can't hurt and it will just be your first fashionable accessory! 

You are 100% mobile and a seriously persistent little lady! When you want something, you find a way to get it! Your primary means of movement is still crawling or cruising along furniture, but you are FAST! You've ventured into climbing a little, and you can do the whole flight of stairs in our new condo in about 1 minute (of course we are right behind you!) Unless you are asleep, you are not still, pretty much ever.  We have some out-takes from your chair photo session tonight: 

Lainey is your home-girl.  The two of you have a decent arrangement worked out - you give her the leftovers off your tray at meals, and she shares her rawhides with you.  Seriously, you have a new found fondness for Lainey's rawhide take them out of her paws while she is trying to chew on them sometimes and get a little teething in for yourself! She is such a gentle girl, and the two of you are going to be great friends.  She is so tolerant of your "pat pats" that aren't always so gentle.  Lainey had a little tiff with Grandpa Mark's doggie a week or so ago and has a few stitches in her ear, and even when you "pat" her sore ear, she just slowly moves out of the way, or sometimes just sits there and takes it!  Can't wait to watch as your friendship unfolds with her.

You love to have bedtime stories read to you as you settle down for the night.  We are still working on improving your sleep habits, and the first part of that was to establish a bedtime routine that you can count on, every night. Dinner, bath, brush teeth, lotion and jammies, story and bottle/nurse to sleep.  So far, I think it is helping at least in that you are starting to recognize when it is time to wind down based on our activities, and the past 3 nights we have had better chunks of sleep in the first part of the night after laying you in your crib. You still wake up around midnight or a little later and come into our bed with us and nurse/snuggle back to sleep, but that doesn't bother me! I'm just hoping that we can keep it so that you aren't waking up every 40 minutes when you hit the light waking part of your sleep cycle and needing to nurse or walk back to sleep many, many times every night.  Your mama loves you, always, but I would be ok with seeing you a little less often in the middle of the night!   

You are a terrific eater! So far you pretty much try anything we are eating, and most of the time you like it! You love pasta/spaghetti, chicken, slow cooker pork, yogurt, cottage cheese, BLACKBERRIES, cheese, lunch meat, crackers/puffs, smoothies, butternut squash soup (from Prickly Pear!) and any other yummy tidbits you can sample when you get the chance (especially powdered sugar doughnuts with Grandpa Mark!).  Keep up the good appetite, little love!  

The 9 months that we have been able to hold you, kiss you, snuggle you, teach you, watch you grow and change and evolve from a tiny newborn baby into a delightful, challenging, energetic, happy, beautiful infant have been the most fulfilling months of my life.  Even though I'm a sleep deprived and busy working mama, when you finally fall asleep in my arms each night, I remind myself to take a few extra minutes and stroke your cheek, kiss your little eyelids, smell the sweet just-bathed softness of your hair, and soak in the fact that now, right now, you are perfect.  I am better because I am your mama. I am fulfilled by the very fact that you are in our lives, and growing more amazing every week. I love you, Miss Norah Annabel, as much today as I did 9 months ago when I held you for the first time. Keep amazing us, beauty. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Wee bit of Mama Guilt

This mama is seriously sleep deprived, and sleep hunger a desperate woman makes.  I "caved" a few nights ago and decided to try giving Norah a small (4 oz) bottle of formula right before bed and then topping her off by nursing to sleep in an attempt to fill that baby belly enough to hold her over for a longer stretch at night. The first night, it seemed to work, and unless I am so ridiculously out of it that I don't remember waking up between 12:30 and 5 AM, my child slept for 4.5 hours without nursing. To anyone used to sleeping all night long, this probably sounds ridiculous. But, for someone accustomed to waking as often as every 45 minutes some nights, this was glorious. Night two, not really so great (up at 2:30 and 5 and up for the day about 6:45) but I have decided to keep trying the formula for a week and see if it makes any difference in breaking some of her less desirable sleeping habits at all. If it doesn't, maybe I'll put it aside and use it later.  But for the love, why do I feel so guilty for even using it at all?

The morning after I gave her the first bottle of formula, I couldn't help but feel like I had just given my baby the equivalent of sugar-laden cereal or ice cream before bed or something (not that I haven't regularly had both of those things myself, but that's neither here nor there, right?).  I went to one of my trusted breastfeeding resources online, for some advice about choosing the best kind of formula if and when one determines that they will supplement, and I'm not kidding the articles on there were SO anti-formula that I truly felt as if I had betrayed my child by letting her have anything but breastmilk, especially when I am not having supply issues or health issues, or any other "issues" related to actually feeding her enough calories for her to thrive. The issues I have are purely selfish - I need more sleep. Now, I understand, that's a kind of selfishness that at this point, 8 months later, that is acceptable to acknowledge and take care of, but when I looked at the ingredient lists on the various types of formulas (and not to mention the price tag on the organic varieties!) I felt nothing but guilt and shame about even considering it.

I know that our society is rightfully putting more emphasis on "breast is best" and the health benefits for both mom and baby from breastfeeding for a minimum of the first year of life. But I also know that there are many reasons why people choose (or need) to use formula and these babies grow and thrive and develop into healthy, smart, well adjusted kids just like kids who were breastfed until they could cut their own meat and learn to read.  I have conversations with parents at the hospital almost every week about cutting themselves some slack when their children medically require supplemental feedings in order to grow.  Logically, I understand that there is no reason that children who have any amount of formula suffer because of it. But why, oh why, when I stood in the Kroger self-scan checkout did I want to turn the can of Earth's Best Organic Formula around and pretend it was a can of coffee?  Not only did I feel publicly ashamed to be buying formula at all (albeit organic, 2x as expensive as run of the mill Similac or Enfamil), but I felt a personal sense of failing my child, even if in the smallest way.  Maybe it's just the exhaustion. Maybe it's living in "crunchy" Ann Arbor and reading too many articles like "One Bottle of Formula Won't Hurt; Or Will It?" that has planted the tiny seed of guilt in the back of my mind.  But nonetheless, I am struggling with balancing my desire to get just a few more blessed moments of sleep and doing what is best for my child. I guess I'm not really all that different from any other mother in the history of mothers, then, am I?

Time to take this twitching eyelid of mine to bed while the child sleeps through her formula-induced dream cycle, hopefully for the next few hours. Wish us all a quiet night :)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Well, as usual my posting habits are a bit towards the belated side of things.  I wanted to write a post summarizing our past year, and outlining my hopes and goals for this newest one right in time for New Year's Eve/Day.  Obviously, we are now into the first week of January, and of course it's not too late, but still later than I hoped.  But, at this moment I don't really have time to write about all the wonders and pitfalls and daily struggles and triumphs of 2011, so I will start with my intentions for 2012.

- Take photos, lots of photos. Not that this is a new goal, but I want to continue to sharpen my skills behind the camera. I also want to do more with the photos I take than simply post them to this blog or facebook. I need to order prints at the very least, and would love to actually get back to scrapbooking someday.  If nothing else, frame and hang some of our favorites so that we can enjoy them off-screen.

- Budget, organize, and plan for realizing our goal of becoming homeowners this year. Last year it just wasn't meant to be, but I resolve that we will see this to fruition this year.

- Actually complete some of the projects I run across and dream about, but then set aside and never do.  Sewing projects for Norah, handmade gifts (actually done in time to give to the recipients by the date of the reason for the gift, rather than just the thought of it and perhaps purchasing materials that sit in a bag and never get used). These don't have to be expensive projects, in fact, all the better if they aren't! Just need to cultivate the craft-loving side of myself that has been a bit disregarded for most of the past year.

- Take care of myself, emotionally, physically. I am the classic mama burning the candle at both ends lately, and some of that is due to working full time and having a child that still doesn't sleep well, and some of it is due to the way I choose to handle things that come my way. Make better choices, and be flexible with myself if I don't always choose the best one, making up for it tomorrow.

- Purge and declutter, and stay that way! I know this is like, everyone's New Year's resolution, every year. And honestly speaking, not something I'm good at, at all.  But moving right before the holidays and still sifting through piles (I mean piles) of "stuff" is making me realize just how much we have that is frivolous, outdated, unused, broken, or just plain unnecessary. Before packing all this stuff up again later this year if we do find a home to buy, I want to sort and purge anything that doesn't fit into our daily lives.  Donate, sell, pitch, whatever.  If it has to sit in a pile/box of "not really something we need", then it should go. Check in with me in a month and see how this is going! Ha.

- Enjoy the precious few moments I get with Norah between working 40 hours, two Zumba classes, to-do lists, chores, etc. She is amazing, and growing up so, so fast.  I looked at her little body curled up next to mine last night, and while she is still so small and precious and new in the scheme of her life, I can't help but think how long she looks next to me in her big-girl jammies, the curves of her profile taking on more unique characteristics and less smooshey baby face.  Soon she will be walking, talking, and turning into a toddler and leaving that tiny baby body behind for bigger and better things, and while I am thankful and amazed that she is healthy and growing and thriving, it is not without a little pang of sadness that I watch the baby-ness quickly passing behind us.

I guess that's a good enough start to the year :) I'll post again soon with new pics of sweet N.