Thursday, October 30, 2014

Happy 1st Birthday, Forest Alexander!

Y'all, I have so much to blog about but honestly just don't have the time to sit and write it all down right now. We just got back from vacation yesterday, just in time to go grocery shopping and get the house in order for Forest's special birthday guests (Jon's parents) to arrive. All the while we have been making the final push to get all of our ducks in a row for Forest's Halloween birthday party on Friday. I promise over the next two weeks I will be a blogging fool, telling you all about our trip to the Mendocino coast, Forest's birthday party, and the visit from Jon's parents. And of course, Forest is working on his 12 month guest blog in his spare time so you can expect that very soon! 

Anyway, this random tangent is just to say that even though I really have zero time to blog, I would be remiss if I didn't use this platform to wish our charming little pumpkin a very happy 1st birthday. 
Happy birthday, Forest Fire! You keep life fun and chaotic and unpredictable. Years ago I prayed that God would help me become more flexible. He knew what He was doing when He asked me to raise you, my sweet independent boy. 
Everyday you are refining me; making me more patient, less selfish. More adaptable and less stringent. I've loved watching you grow and develop this year and can't wait to see the little boy you develop into as time goes on. 

And also, happy birthday to another one of my all time favorite guys- My dad! 
How cool is it that these two share a birthday? Especially since I think they look like twinsies. 
Happy birthday, dad! I hope that next year we can all celebrate October 30th together!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Highs and Lows: First Year of Motherhood

As Forest’s first birthday approaches, I’m feeling understandably nostalgic. Though we still have 17+ years to go before this baby boy is ready to leave the nest, somehow the 1 year mark feels in its own way like a finish line. Undeniably, it has been the hardest year of my life, while simultaneously being the most rewarding. 

I read somewhere that motherhood cures the disease of self-centeredness, and it’s absolutely true. And while this is ultimately a good thing, it can be quite the adjustment and a bitter pill to swallow. But over the course of the year, I haven’t minded making someone else the center of the universe. He’s certainly the first thing I think of in the morning, and the last thing I think about before I fall asleep. And sometimes when he’s napping I obsessively watch videos of him because I miss him so stinkin much. 
I’ve become totally co-dependent. When I fold clothes, I often times will find onesies in my stack or find my work out shorts amongst his pajamas because I sort of forget that we are separate people with different piles of clothes. Before he was born, one of my biggest fears was that my identity outside of being a mother would completely disappear. As a Stay-at-Home-Mom, that’s a very real conundrum. It is all-consuming, in the best and the worst ways. 
It’s as if I have fallen totally head over heels obsessively in love and I can’t seem to think about anything else. Of course it isn’t like that everyday, but as a whole, yes, I am blissfully in love with being Forest’s mom. And there was a time in his babyhood where I was afraid that would never happen for me. When I was worn thin and battling baby blues and trying to soothe an unsoothable child. 

I can’t speak for years 2 or 3 or 4 or so on, but year one is quite dynamic. It is filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Here are just a few of the high(and low)lights.  As usual, let’s start with the lows and get that negative junk out of the way. 

1) Our hospital stay. 
Fist off, any mom who has to watch her baby being wheeled off to the NICU is probably in bad shape emotionally. But that was just the start of our troubled stay in a Scottish Public hospital. Look, I know I am a completely spoiled and sheltered ninny baby but I just did not handle a community recovery-ward situation very well. 
My curtained off cubicle.

I was exhausted, in pain, and not really enjoying being in a room with 5 other women and their babies. Even though I have a year of separation from this experience, it still makes me shudder. Sharing a bathroom with 5 other new moms? If you’ve ever delivered a child before you know how disgusting that would be…

But the worst part of the whole thing was having to subscribe to visiting hours for my husband. He would have to leave from 8 PM to 9 AM and even during the day he’d have to leave for two hours during lunch as well. It was tough to be a new mom all alone with the baby for the majority of the day. 
Jon has always been the nap whisperer. I couldn't get that baby to sleep if my life depended on it.

One night Forest didn’t sleep nearly at all and was constantly fussy and I thought I’d lose my mind. I spent 5 nights there total and it was just a very difficult experience.  Luckily there was a private room available on my final night and the midwives took pity on me and let me room in there. If not I may have honestly had a psychotic break. 
2) Colic/Reflux. There was one day where Forest seriously cried for 10 hours straight. I am not exaggerating. It’s the worst feeling as a mother to not be able to calm your hysterical baby. 
The final solution =naked in the ergo with a blanket over his head to block out any stimulation, plus really loud white noise.
After that we took action and put him on reflux medicine and demanded to have his tongue tie snipped. After 12 weeks, his colic had basically disappeared. He was still hyper alert and easily overstimulated, but certainly more manageable! 
Looking back, 12 weeks doesn’t seem like so long but I remember when we were in the thick of it, it felt like an impossible eternity. Not to mention the spit up that continued to spew out of him after every feed until he was about 7 months old. Phew, I am so glad that is over!

3) Forest’s trans-Atlantic nursing strike. Right before we moved to California, we started to supplement Forest's diet with formula. Since I was mostly pumping and feeding (because of his medicine) and he was sleeping through the night, my supply just wasn’t keeping up with his demand. He had started to prefer bottles but could still be convinced to breast feed directly with a little coaxing. 

I figured breastfeeding on the 16 hour journey from Aberdeen to San Ramon would be the most convenient way to feed him rather than dealing with a whole mess of bottles. I naively checked my breast pump all the way to San Francisco figuring I wouldn’t need it. 

Well…..Forest decided then and there that he was not going to nurse and would only eat from a bottle. Luckily we had brought a few bottles, frozen breast milk, and premixed formula on board just in case so he was covered with food. But that didn’t change the fact that I needed him to nurse for my own comfort. 

I ended up having to figure out how to hand pump into an airplane bathroom sink (no easy task) and then pumped as soon as we touched down in SFO. It was so painful! The next morning I attempted to breast feed him again and when he refused I decided pretty quickly that we were gonna be a formula feeding family from that point on. I pumped for as long as my supply would hold up but within 2 weeks Forest had his last bottle of breast milk. 

People asked if it was bittersweet and I’m ashamed to say that it wasn’t. I haven’t missed breast feeding for a single minute and just feel like I became such a better mother once I started being able to give energy to something other than feeding my baby. Maybe if I was actually breast feeding rather than pumping I would have felt differently but if you have to bottle feed your baby, it’s certainly simpler just to give formula. I could write a whole post on this topic but that’s a different story for a different day...

4)Teething. Woah. I’ve heard some babies aren’t so affected by teething, but Forest has always been a sensitive guy. I always knew when a tooth was imminent because he would go totally exorcist on me. 
Not to mention the refusal to eat, the refusal to nap and the refusal to let me put him down. Forest has 10 teeth so far and each one was a pretty traumatizing experience. 

I’m thankful that at least now we are halfway through with these stinkin’ baby teeth. The molars have actually been the easiest so far because he continued sleeping through the night (though abbreviated). We haven’t seen the top molars yet so that may change. Let’s hope not! 

5) Nap transitions. If y’all have been following my blog over the past year, you know that I am pretty OCD about Forest’s schedule and sleep training. The thing about the first year is that as soon as you exhale and think you’ve got a predictable routine down, it starts to change.  From 8-10 months Forest was on a perfect, predictable schedule and I felt awesome! But for the past 2 months he has been going back and forth between 1 and 2 naps a day and it is crazy confusing. I’m sure once he finally transitions down to 1 nap life will balance out again but for the time being I’m just trying not to totally lose my schedule-loving mind. 

Ok, that about wraps up the lows of the year. Certainly there were some low moments but also plenty of highs in Forest's first year as well. The thing with the highs is that there weren’t really pin-pointable phases or moments that were totally awesome, but here were a few of my favorite things about my first year as a mom. 

1) When he started sleeping through the night. 
I’m a cuckoo person without enough sleep. I know this about myself and so I read everything I could on how to get your baby to sleep through the night as soon as humanly possible. Unfortunately, Forest was quite a low birth weight baby so we figured that would set us back a few weeks. However, at 8 weeks he started having a few nights where we would put him to bed at 10 pm and he would sleep 8 hours straight. It was heaven. 

By 3 months he would go to bed from about 7:30 PM- 7 AM with us waking him for a feeding around 9:30 PM and putting him right back down. At around the 4 month mark, we dropped the feeding and he has slept from about 7 PM- 6:30 AM ever since…well other than teething episodes and a few sleep regressions of course. He also goes through phases where he wakes up at 5:30/6 too but all in all he’s been a champ at nighttime sleep. 

2) Meeting Milestones. 

This is vague but I swear the most exciting thing about babyhood is watching your baby reach their milestones and develop new skills. Forest’s face would always light up with joy when he learned something new, and it always made my momma heart glad to see him figuring things out. 
His first steps were a particular favorite of mine, just because I felt like he was on the cusp for so long. Everyone predicted he’d be an early walker so when he approached his 11 month birthday without taking those first steps Jonathan and I were a bit perplexed. Then bam- on his 11 month birthday he took 2 little steps but they were so exciting! 

Jonathan was out of town that week so I spent an indeterminable amount of energy trying to capture footage of the milestone for him, which was quite tough without an assistant. 
In the past few weeks, Forest has gone from taking a few hesitant steps to being quite nimble on his feet. He’s still crawling the majority of the time but everyday gets a bit closer to being a full time walker.  

3) Play dates and Momma friends. 

Meeting other moms with babies around Forest’s age has been such a big help with our move to California. The bulk of my current social life comes from getting together for play dates each week. 
It’s fun to watch all of the babies grow and change and to bond with other women who I know are struggling with the same challenges and are grinning over the same achievements. 

3) Meeting baby cousin Andrew. 
My sister had a baby boy exactly 4 weeks after Forest was born. Since we live on opposite coasts and have itty babies, it’s been hard to get together. In August, Forest and Andrew finally got to meet and it was so sweet to see the two of them together and imagine what good buddies they might become. 

Forest had another baby cousin born on September 20th so I'm sure that will be a special moment when he meets her over Christmas as well.

4) Just this. 
Just his joyful smile and quiet demeanor. 
His inquisitive mind, insatiable curiosity, and explorer’s heart. His boundless energy and hearty laughter. His need for ‘alone’ time. His willingness to tag along. 
Just watching him develop from a hyper-vigilant newborn into an intelligent, introverted, charming, 1 year old baby boy.

This year was hard. Super hard. Really stinkin’ hard. But it was also incredibly amazing and completely worth the disjointed sleep and wondering so often if I was losing my mind. 
I just feel so blessed that Forest is healthy and thriving. I know those are two things that can be easily taken for granted but I know what a miracle it is. The other day I was feeling mega-stressed as Forest fussily pulled on my leg wanting to be picked up, and I just remembered how blessed I was to have a perfectly healthy baby who was cutting his molars. Yea, not every day is as fun or as easy as the next, but it’s all part of the gig. 
Those of you who’ve been following along know that Jonathan and I tried for years to get pregnant. We had so many friends and family praying that God would make us parents. I remember the pang of bitterness that would strike when a friend would complain about a long night or a fussy baby. I remember thinking to myself 'you're so incredibly lucky to be complaining about this right now...'. And now so often, I am that mother. I forget just how blessed I am to have teething and crankiness and short naps to gripe about.

When Forest was in the midst of a colic attack in his first month I remember dumbfoundedly wondering to myself ‘I prayed for this??????’ I called my sister for support (her first baby was quite colicky) and she laughed and said ‘Yes, you prayed for this. And I prayed this for you too!’. We both had a good laugh and moments like that surely helped me survive. 

In the beginning, that’s all it was: Surviving. One minute/hour/day at a time. But then I slowly gained confidence and competence and now that we are rounding out the first year I can actually say that I’m quite enjoying myself. 
So if you’re just at the beginning of this crazy journey called parenthood, take heart. My mantra was always ‘it will surely get easier....(otherwise every child on earth would be an only child).’ And it's true. Every new development brings adjustment and challenges but as a whole, it's continuously getting easier as Forest gets older. Well, until he turns 2 from what I hear… 

“I swear that it will get easier. Remember that with every piece of you.” –Ed Sheeran 'Photograph' (Seriously, where was this song when I had a newborn and needed the encouragement!?!?!)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Pumpkin Patch Fun!

It’s hard to believe as someone obsessed with all things Fall, that I had never been to a pumpkin patch before this past Saturday.  There are a ton of these around where we live which are all open for the month of October. I simply couldn’t wait to take Forest to one for some photo ops, but since the first two weekends in October were ridiculously, scorchingly hot, we had to wait til the 3rd weekend to make a visit. It was rough, especially since all of my friends from back south were enjoying beautiful fall weather and I had to endure countless adorable pictures of their little ones at the pumpkin patch on my facebook and intsagram feeds. 

It was totally worth the wait though and we had a great time with plenty of photos to mark the occasion. A friend in my moms group hadn’t taken her baby boy yet either, so we decided to make it a double date with the hubbies and met at G&M Farms in nearby Livermore. The first order of business was to take plenty of pictures of the boys amongst the pumpkins and in their wagons. Forest wasn’t exactly cooperative but I managed to get a few decent shots. 

It’s hard to take a bad photo in a pumpkin patch, especially of these cutie pies! After scoping out the pumpkin crop, we took the boys over to the little-kid hay maze. G&M Farms also has a gigantic corn maze, but this smaller scale one was more suited for the toddler set.  Forest’s buddy Bryce is an expert walker so he was cruising through the maze with no problems. 
Forest was a little slower to explore which made it a tad easier to take pictures of him. 

After the maze, we took the boys on their first pony ride. By this time we were encroaching on Forest’s nap time so he was totally uninterested, which is pretty unusual for him when it comes to animals. Still, I think he had a good time on his pony ride despite the intense look of boredom on his face. 

Both boys were fading fast by this time so after the ponies, we made our way to the cow train, stopping to take a few photo ops along the way. 

Forest was totally over it by the time we boarded the train, but he still held it together pretty well. 
When the train ride was over, we knew we had to get Forest home for a nap as he was falling asleep in our arms (very unusual!). He made it about 5 minutes into the car ride home before he totally passed out. Of course he woke up raring to go as soon as we got home but we convinced him to take a longer nap later on. We had a super fun time and I hope to get him to at least one more pumpkin patch before the season ends!