motherhood

ESTHER'S NEST

Unbeknownst to us, when we moved into our current apartment, I was pregnant (or maybe got pregnant shortly after moving in... whatever, don't think about it too much HA). We knew kids were probably going to be in the picture soon, but that didn't stop us from moving into a one bedroom place. People all over the world live in MUCH smaller spaces with many more people, so my hope was that we could do this with one, maybe two kids, for a period of time. This ain't the suburbs, folks, and Seattle is 'SPENSIVE.

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When we moved in, I said, "I'm not moving again for two years. I'm sick of packing and unpacking." Well... that wish may not come true (more on that later), but it's all for the best. 

Anyhow. Once we found out we had a little Stals on the way, we set out to arrange our space to accommodate three people instead of two (plus Butter). Can't be that hard, right? She'll be tiny, how much space does she need? Turns out, it's more about the stuff that comes along with Baby that requires so much space. I vowed to be a minimalist parent, but some things are kinda necessary. Other things aren't necessary, but definitely make life easier (like a designated spot to change diapers at 3am). 

So here's a little peek into how we made our one and only bedroom work for us and Esther. And... in the spirit of real life and transparency, I definitely did a lot of cleaning and de-cluttering before taking the finished shots. Most of the time, our bedroom/nursery looks like the first few pictures, but with more decorations on the walls. JUST SO YOU KNOW. : ) 

It was a slow process to start out. My mom is a wizard with interior design, and drew up a whole plan for us, detailing how we could use this space most efficiently. As we started accumulating more baby gear, we moved our furniture around, using half the room for me and Dave (which is pretty much just our bed), and the other half for Esther's nursery. I made a Pinterest board (duh, of course I did) to keep track of what I liked and condense ideas into a cohesive theme. I'm hoping that most of the decor will grow with her, and not look like just a baby room as she enters childhood. 

The crib provided a useful corral for laundry and baby stuff that hadn't been put away yet. Ten weeks after birth, it's still serving that purpose, as Esther is still in the Moses basket next to our bed. We'll probably transition her to the crib around 3 or 4 months. 

Part of the original plan was to hang a curtain from the ceiling down the middle of the room to create a visual divide. This would make the two spaces feel more separate, and also block Esther's view of us from the crib (which should aid sleep). But since that doesn't matter until she's older, and since we're probably moving out of this place soon anyway, it became a moot point. 

We ditched the hanging clothes organizers that I used in our closet and bought storage cubes and baskets from Ikea. Those are for my clothes and Dave's, and the dresser serves as Esther's clothes storage and changing table. It was a very gross shade of burgundy, and one of my summer projects was to paint it white. Eventually I'll change out the hardware too. 

I saw a pin a long time ago of a black and white version of this crib sheet, which I LOVED. Then I was poking around Land of Nod one day and saw this pink one and snatched it up immediately. Never mind that it was $35 — I still had Crate & Barrel gift cards leftover from our wedding (two and a half years ago — yikes). Land of Nod is totally outrageous, but also seriously adorable. I want all the crib sheets. 

I have a thing for gallery walls (and fur). The wall above Esther's crib has the ugly breaker box for our apartment, and needed to be covered with something pretty. I scoured thrift stores for mirrors and finally found this one at an indoor flea market that  my friend Jordan and I frequent. The frame was originally black, so I spray-painted it aqua. I was going for more robin's egg blue, but it's hard to tell from the paint lid how it's going to turn out. Maybe I'll redo it at some point. 

The animal prints are from Ikea, the butterflies are a gift from Jordan's shop in Snohomish, and the North Carolina flower print is from the cutest gift shop called Gather in Cary. The shadowbox dress was a gift from my mom... the dress was her's as a baby! And the triptych frame was a hand-me-down from a friend, and has Esther's 8 week and 20 week ultrasound photos, and a shot from our newborn session in the middle. Since she looks like a little frog in the 8 week ultrasound photo, maybe I'll replace that one with another picture someday too. 

Inspired by Pinterest, I made a pillow cover with gray fleece and pink and white pompoms. I didn't want the nursery side of the room to look too childish or girly, since Dave and I live in there too, but I did want a few feminine touches here and there. This pillow was for the glider, but has ended up in the crib most of the time. I mean seriously... here I am at 8 months pregnant, SEWING. Do I not look like the nestiest little nester ever? PS - pompoms are a mofo to sew onto anything. There's got to be a better way...

And here's the finished (and cleaned up) product (the pom-pom pillow is in the crib). 

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The glider was a Craigslist find. I knew I wanted one with white wood, and I preferred gray fabric, but chambray was a nice compromise. My mom also found this awesome tutorial (something like this one, but I can't find the original) that I think we'll attempt at some point in the future. 

If you want to know what this looks like on a normal day, picture a nursing pillow tucked next to the bed, a stack of books and technology on the nightstand, Butter and her bones on the rug, a half-used box of nursing pads next to the cubbies, and a crib overflowing with baby gear and laundry.

However, I will say that I make an effort to make the bed every day, because I feel depressed when I walk into the room and the bed isn't made. And it feels so much nicer to climb into a made-up bed at night than one that's still rumpled from the night before. 

I'm in love with children's books. I remember feeling really sad when I was around 12 or 13 and feeling stuck between the children's and adult's sections at the library, not sure what to read anymore. So having piles of children's books sitting around the house for Esther is my FAVORITE. I also love this elephant my friend Lindsey brought me from Kenya. I'm excited to have more spaces for reading and more piles of books as Esther (and future kids) grow up!

This was my mom's ingenious method of keeping the changing pad cover clean. This one is also from Land of Nod, bought with the very last bit of those gift cards. It seems silly to have so many layers for the place where we change diapers, but 1) putting Esther down on the cold vinyl didn't seem very comfortable and 2) I wasn't just going to use a towel. We were using chux pads leftover from birth for a while, but that was generating a huge amount of waste, so we put a thin plastic cutting board on top of the changing pad, and then a hand towel on top of that. So far, it's worked like a charm. 

Because every blog I read about babies and nurseries involves Sophie the giraffe, here's the requisite photo of Sophie the giraffe.

Honestly, I think it's ridiculous whenever moms post about how amazing Sophie is and how everyone needs one and its on the "baby essentials" list for registries. Because we all know that design-conscious blog moms get it because IT'S CUTE. Like Hunter boots. Which I got for Christmas because they're cute. And also because frequent trips to the dog park in a wet Seattle winter were destroying my other shoes. 

Here's my little muffin, who played so nicely on her playmat while I was taking pictures. She really is the best baby. 

Not the nursery anymore, but here's my solution for when I have to shower and Esther's not sleeping. This little lamb chair has been a lifesaver, but once Esther starts getting more mobile and/or has a shorter attention span, I'm going to have to find a new solution. Maybe I can train Butter to babysit...

Putting all this together was so fun. People say that nesting is part of pregnancy, but I think I'm just a nesty person in general. I really feel that your home is your art. I inherited that love of interior design from my mom, but I think the desire to make our home a beautiful, welcoming place has grown since I left my full-time job and now spend more time working from home and caring for Esther. I love creating an environment that feels comfortable, restful, functional, and visually pleasing. Doing that in a small space is an interesting mind puzzle, and is constantly evolving process. I'm looking forward to starting the whole thing over in our next place!

ESTHER NATALIA'S BIRTH STORY

I've tried to write this for weeks now. I had paragraphs upon paragraphs written, with minute, gory detail. Then I decided that some things are better left unwritten on the Internet, and I'd rather just share the extended story in person. So I'll just share a little bit here. 

On Saturday before Esther was born, at 40 weeks and two days pregnant, we went to get our Christmas tree. I had written a little list of things I wanted to do to distract myself during early labor, and getting a tree was on the list (along with a Costco run, making a wedding album, doing some online Christmas shopping, and washing baby clothes). I wasn't having any contractions yet (not even Braxton-Hicks, that I could tell), but since we had friends driving up to the mountains to cut down their own tree, we decided to join in. That was an adventure in itself, and somehow we ended up with two trees (longer story).

This was special because last year we picked up our Christmas tree (at Rite Aid, ha) right after we visited our midwives and found out that I was having a miscarriage. So this year, picking out a tree just days away from meeting our baby felt so redemptive. 

It's funny... you learn during pregnancy that 37 weeks constitutes a full-term baby, and that you could deliver at any time. I laugh now whenever I see pregnant friends posting on Facebook things like, "37 weeks! Full term today! Come on out baby! We're ready to meet you anytime!" Because... no. Sorry sister. That baby is not coming at 37 weeks. Our midwives told me that they don't start thinking about a first-time mom being "late" until she's 41 weeks and two days (or something like that). 

But MAN. You hit your due date, and everyone and their mom wants to know if you've had your baby yet. I got more "happy due date!" texts on December 4 than I do on my own birthday. I started thinking totally illogical things like, "What if this baby never comes out? What if I stay pregnant forever?" Other moms, raise your hands. I know you've had the same thoughts. 

I hadn't wanted to be anxious about Esther's arrival, so I was trying to mentally prepare for being two weeks overdue (at which point I'd have to be induced and have a hospital birth, instead of the birth center birth we were planning).

Saturday, December 6 was the full moon, and I'd heard that the moon can often affect the start of labor. So I guessed that it would start that day, but alas, no. Still waiting. Enjoying our last few days just the two of us... plus Butter. As you can see, she's kind of needy (understatement), and doesn't appreciate when she's not involved in familial displays of affection. Turd.

Dave and I had a really great couple of weekends together before Esther arrived. We got our tree(s) and decorated them, watched some Christmas movies (Muppet Christmas Carol! I'd never seen it before! So good!), had some coffee dates, and walked along Lake Washington during the Luminaria (which is beautiful — do it next year, if you're in Seattle). 

Early labor started for me on Monday (December 8) around 11:30am, but contractions were manageable and I slept through the night. They picked up on Tuesday, and Tuesday night I was awake all night in this position on the yoga ball, coping through them every 7-10 minutes. 

That's Sarah, our doula, with me after we got to the birth center on Wednesday morning, December 10. Once we arrived around 8am, one of my midwives, Christine, checked my progress and I was at 6cm. This was super encouraging, because supposedly, getting to 5cm is really challenging and then your body sort of finds a flow and it tends to go faster from there. So I felt like all my body's hard work since Monday had been worth it. 

I was in this position for about an hour or so, and tried some other things, and then I got in the tub (which was amaaaaaazing - they don't call it "the midwife's epidural" for nothin). I finished dilating in there (took another 5 or 6 hours or so, and in hindsight, wasn't that painful), and then started pushing... sort of. The midwives were getting ready and prepping Dave to catch the baby in the tub because it looked like she was coming soon, but turns out I pushed for FIVE AND A HALF HOURS. Note to people who have never had a baby: this is not normal. In a hospital scenario, I would have had a C-section after like 2 hours of pushing.

Also, second side note: I never felt the urge to push. I guess everyone's birth story is very different, because I'd heard over and over that pushing was the best part, and felt relieving. But this was THE WORST for me. 

(third side note: I'm really thankful for Sarah and Taylor, our other midwife, who picked up our camera now and again and took some photos for us. Not that these are the most flattering ones of my life, but they're invaluable and I'm glad we have images of that day.)

When it was clear after a while that I was not going to give birth in the tub, they got me out of the tub and on a birth stool next to the bed. Dave sat behind me and supported me, holding my shoulders and whispering encouragement all the time. I can't even describe his love for me on this day — it overwhelms me still to think about it. It deserves a story all its own, but it's hard to wrap my mind around how to even share it. 

This was a few minutes before I actually gave birth, so maybe 8:30pm or so. I had been in labor for so long (something like 58 hours since my first contractions, although not all of that time was super intense), and had been pushing for much, much longer than anyone anticipated. At one point, Dave was concerned about how tired I was, and that I might not be able to endure until the end (I hadn't had any drugs at this point, because, BIRTH CENTER). The midwives said their three criteria for transferring to the hospital were 1) baby is in danger 2) mom is in danger or 3) mom is totally losing her coping mechanisms. And none of those things were happening, so we stayed. Also, I couldn't conceive of getting in a car and driving 15-20 minutes to the hospital while the baby was in the birth canal. 

But then the baby's heart rate did start to drop, and so things got very urgent very fast. I summoned some kind of reserves from I don't even know where and pushed Esther out, head and body all at once. She screamed right away, her color was great, she was perfect. 

After that, things got even crazier and I lost a lot of blood and the paramedics came and it was all very dangerous and scary, mostly for Dave. I was too out of it to even really know what was happening, but it was bad. Because this is a blog, this is going to sound like I'm exaggerating, but I'm telling the truth when I say that the midwives saved my life.

You hear unbelievable things, sad and tragic things, about childbirth 100 years ago, or even right now in the developing world, but you really don't expect that it will happen to you in 21st century North America. We're all thankful that I'm here and well and raising beautiful Esther Natalia with my husband.

And the real truth is that the hand of God was protecting me and Esther throughout the whole day(s). When her heart rate dropped, it was down briefly and then came right back up again. When she was born and I hemorrhaged, everything happened in just the right timing so that I didn't have to transfer to the hospital, and was stabilized there at the birth center. He preserved both of our lives and rescued us. 

I can say all this in hindsight, because honestly, neither Dave nor I really "felt" the presence of God with us during labor and birth. It just felt quiet. I keep thinking about that cheesy "footprints in the sand poem," and as I reflect on December 10, I know that God was with us, carrying us, even if we didn't sense it right then. It's one of those times where faith and emotion are pretty separate. Sometimes I want to "feel" something to count it as a spiritual experience, but this taught me that it's not always that way. 

We stayed at the birth center longer than normal, because of the post-delivery complications, and headed home around 6am. I was on bed rest for about 10 days, and was so thankful to have the help of our families, especially our moms, for that time. And to have a husband who lays down his life for me... Dave is such a servant, and I was humbled and overwhelmed again by his love for me. 

And I'm still a HUGE midwife fan, because ours were awesome, and gave the best best best care. They did many of our follow-up visits at our home, so we didn't have to get out the door with a newborn. Esther nursed (still nurses) like a champ and was above her birth weight 8 days after being born. Way to go, baby girl. 

My mom flew in two days after Esther was born and stayed for 10 days to help out. Our original plan was to have time as a new family to bond, just me and Dave and Esther. But we didn't anticipate needing so much hands on help for Esther AND for me. I couldn't get out of bed to do anything without lots of assistance (aka Dave carrying me by the armpits), and pretty much just lay in bed and fed Esther for 7 straight days. I was starting to feel crazy by the end of it, but I know that was crucial in my body's healing, which still took several more weeks.  

Esther slept through her whole first bath, and then pooped in her towel while my mom was holding her. : )

So we're coming up on Esther's two-month birthday, and starting to find our rhythm as parents. I already can't believe how big she is, and how fast she's growing. It sort of blows my mind that she came out of me, equal parts Abby and Dave, and that she's growing JUST from what I'm feeding her. It's amazing, and I'm sure my mind will continue to be blown in the coming years. 

PREGNANCY BOOKS + ETC

It's Friday! A couple of random thoughts before I talk about the thing that the title refers to...

The prettiest dahlias at Tim + Hannah's wedding last weekend. 

The prettiest dahlias at Tim + Hannah's wedding last weekend. 

+I am a pumpkin spice latte scrooge. Seriously? Why the hype? Doesn't everyone realize it's just a marketing campaign to help Starbucks rake in more money? If I'm going to ingest the calories, I'd rather just have straight up pumpkin pie. I also have a theory that the PSL craze is just perpetuated (like many crazes) by bloggers. So here I am as the anti-PSL blogger... Just say no. 

+Guardians of the Galaxy would not have been my first date night movie choice, but Dave and I saw it last night and it was totally hilarious and I loved it. Surprise, surprise. 

+All of the sudden, Baby Stals seems to have seriously POPPED, and I had to go buy more maternity clothes today. Also, I think everyone (even men) should own maternity jeans, because they're like regular jeans except with a STRETCHY YOGA WAISTBAND. They're the best thing since sliced bread, and I'm really not exaggerating. 

Moving right along...

One thing I've found super helpful on other blogs is items that various women have loved during pregnancy — first, second, and third trimester. And let's not forget the infamous "fourth trimester," aka when you still look pregnant for a few months after giving birth. I've found that to be a helpful reality check, especially when buying maternity clothes. What will fit and make me feel decent while still being a different shape than normal for six or so months after Baby Princess makes her way into the world? 

Anyhow, I am a reader, and while I haven't exactly read everything I can get my hands on about pregnancy, there were a few that I found interesting or very helpful in the past few months. Because this IS my first rodeo, and aside from real-world advice from other moms in my life, it's been fun to read up on this season too. 

24 weeks

24 weeks

24 weeks

24 weeks

Side note: I've found What to Expect When You're Expecting (at least what I've learned from their app) to be almost totally ridiculous and unhelpful. The development videos that they post every week are gag-worthy cheese fests. After week 11 or so, I stopped watching, because Heidi Murkoff's blathering was so annoying to me. Also, they say crazy things like "don't eat any soft cheese ever," and "you should be avoiding all caffeine until baby is born" and "exercise beyond slow-paced walking will probably hurt your baby" even though 1) exercise is GREAT for you and baby, 2) pretty much all cheese in the USA is ultra-pasturized and 3) no one says you shouldn't drink ANY coffee during pregnancy. Just not more than 3 cups a day, which I don't. Lord knows I would not have stayed awake for the last 6 months without a little joe every morning. 

25 weeks

25 weeks

26 weeks... taken half an hour before I posted this (thanks Mallory!)

26 weeks... taken half an hour before I posted this (thanks Mallory!)

Also, any app that offers hairstyle suggestions for pregnancy is crazy. My hair is my hair... There is not a baby growing inside my hairs, so I think I'll just style it as usual, thanks. 

I digress. Here are the books I HAVE been reading (and liking, for the most part)... In order of "loved it" to "meh." 

 

Brain Rules for Baby
John Medina

This may have been my favorite of all the books I've read during pregnancy. Much like Origins (see the last book on this list, because it was my least favorite), it talks about brain development during pregnancy, but also throughout childhood (until age 5 or so). Unlike Origins, there's a healthy dose of common sense and "you're doing just fine" sprinkled throughout, so that no one feels condemned while reading it. At the end of the book, Medina says, "The things I've written here are good recommendations, but no one can do all of these things all of the time. Aim for a few here and there and your kids will do great."

I took tons of notes on this book, and read a lot of it aloud to Dave. I love how he discusses emotional development, both in the womb and in infancy. It's SO important to talk to your baby, and as your child grows, to help them name their emotions. I was struck by that, and hope that we remember to do it as baby girl grows up. 

Another big takeaway from this book: 

Write this across your heart before your child comes into the world: Parenting is not a race. Kids are not proxies for adult success. Competition can be inspiring, but brands of it can wire your child's brain in a toxic way. Comparing your kids to your friends' kids will not get them, or you, where you want to go.
-John Medina

Amen. 

 

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
Ina May Gaskin

This is a book for hippies. Total hippies. Of which I am a proud, though closet, member. You wouldn't know it, but I am kind of a hippie at heart.

Ina May is the goddess of all midwives. I have a midwife friend who has a bumper sticker on her car that says, "What would Ina May do?" I found myself rolling my eyes through lots of the birth stories contained in this book, but it is also very inspiring, and a healthy antidote to a culture that says that birth is painful, unnatural, and must be medicated to be survived. Something about that just doesn't seem right to me... Women have been giving birth for thousands of years, and sure, there are some risks, but it wasn't all that long ago that EVERYONE was giving birth at home, without the assistance of doctors and nurses. So I think it's awesome that we have option of very modern medical care in case something should go wrong, but if it doesn't, I'm anticipating doing it au natural (with the support of my midwives and the option of hospital transfer if needed — so calm down, everyone. This was not going to be me and Dave flying solo in the bathtub). Maybe I'll laugh at myself reading this a few months from now, but... 

Anyway, the birth stories in this book are kind of crazy sometimes, but also beautiful and hopeful. There's a wide range of experiences, from women who didn't experience any pain at all, to women who were in agony, but overcame it with a great birth team. There are women who felt super connected to their babies the whole time, and women who didn't feel anything overwhelming for their child until he or she was a few days old. This is comforting to me. Everyone has a different experience, and no one experience is more or less valid than another. It also helps me feel more prepared for labor and birth as I read other women's birth stories (those are probably my FAVORITE kind of blogs to read). 

 

How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm
Mei-Ling Hopgood

I've written about this one before in another blog, but I really enjoyed all of the international parenting perspectives in this book. Argentines don't have strict bedtimes for their kids, French kids eat whatever their parents eat, and the Chinese potty train their kids crazy early. It was a quick and easy read (that I actually finished months before getting pregnant), and offers some helpful suggestions that we may or may not incorporate into our parenting. For example, I hope to goodness that our kids eat everything, and gosh darn it, they are not going to stay up until midnight every night. That just sounds like disaster. 

 

Belly Laughs
Jenny McCarthy

Dave's coworker was SO sweet and gave me this book (and the following one) when Dave told his office I was pregnant. It's a little crass at times, but completely hilarious. In the chapter where she talks about pregnancy hormones, she tells a story about watching a ball of lint roll across her living room floor and bursting into tears. I was in tears reading it to Dave — so funny. Mostly, I just appreciate that she doesn't candy-coat the gross parts of pregnancy, and is able to find humor in them. I didn't relate to everything she wrote, but for lots of it (like wanting to kill someone if you can't get food when you're hungry), it was nice to know that someone else knows how I feel. 

 

The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy
Vicki Iovine

Just starting this one! So far, I like it, but it IS a bit extreme. It's similar to Belly Laughs, but with lots more detail. It's pretty real... hemorrhoids and stuff like that. Ew. I must say, I have been incredibly blessed to NOT suffer from many common symptoms of pregnancy on this first go-round, and I don't take it for granted at all. I still have 13 weeks for lots of ailments to kick in, but the first two-thirds have been pretty smooth sailing, so reading about other people's horror stories does nothing but freak me out. They may still be before me, or I may succumb in subsequent pregnancies. For now, I'm very thankful for the experience that I've had, and will keep reading ahead in case there are other things about the next few months (and especially birth itself) that I should know about. 

I have to say, though, Ina May is making me feel much better about having a baby than Vicki. 

 

Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives
Annie Murphy Paul

Meh. Not a huge fan of this one. I read about this book on a blog and was interested in the idea, but throughout the whole thing, I kept thinking, "this book is meant to thoroughly freak out every pregnant woman in America." This lady wouldn't even take Tylenol for headaches during her pregnancy, fearing her baby would come out with two heads or flunk kindergarten. Um... let's calm down. I felt while reading it that I should be on alert for thousands of unknown toxins and threats in my environment during these 9 months, in order to keep this baby perfectly safe and developing normally. That just conflicts with my basic belief that pregnancy is a pretty incredible time in life, and that women's bodies were made to be pregnant and give birth, and I shouldn't be fearful of everything. 

One thing I did find interesting in this book was how certain diet and lifestyle aspects can impact baby's health later on in life. The author tells a story about mothers in Holland during the German siege, when the Netherlands had huge food shortages. Women who were pregnant during this time weren't getting all the nutrients they should have been, and as a result, their babies learned in the womb that the world they were coming into was a stressful place. Their bodies hoarded nutrients, and so when they were born and the siege was over and they were relatively well-nourished in childhood, their bodies didn't handle the "excess" food so well. This particular group of people now have higher rates of heart disease and diabetes in their 60s and 70s than children whose mothers weren't pregnant in Holland during the siege. Fascinating. 

My takeaway? Bring on the bacon. This world has got lots of good food for you to enjoy, kiddo.

 

Other things I've loved in pregnancy so far: 

+Foot Rubz... LIFE SAVER for sore feet (for anyone, not just pregnant ladies)
+Long walks with Dave and Butter
+Crossfit
+Lime popsicles
+Naps
+Daily cup of coffee (as mentioned before)
+GAP maternity jeans
+Maxi dresses
+Nail polish... because when nothing else fits, at least you still got nail polish
+Pinterest... I love Pinterest all the time, but it's been helpful when baby planning. 
         +Nursery
         +Little Mama
         +Bebe
+
Amazon Baby Registry... so that no one has to endure the horrors of Babys R Us. No thank you. 
+Buy Nothing Facebook group... These exist in communities all over the US and the world, so look it up and see if you can find one near you. We've received tons of free baby stuff from people in our neighborhood through this group (Boppy, IKEA crib, etc), and it will be a money-saver for future kid-rearing, I'm sure! Super huge blessing.

Anyone have further reading/pregnancy suggestions? I've got a little less than 3 months to go, and would love to hear what you loved/are loving in your own pregnancy!

Happy Labor Day weekend!!

Happy Labor Day weekend!!