February 26, 2014

Cedars of Lebanon State Park

Nashville had another gorgeous weekend and we were not going to miss the opportunity to head outdoors. We spent our Saturday at Cedars of Lebanon State Park. This park is 900 acres and is the home to a unique ecosystem, the cedar glades. This ecosystem is made up of shallow soil sitting right above limestone, creating stony gardens. Tennessee is one of the few places that cedar glades can be found. Surrounding the glades are lovely cedar groves. I loved the mix of moss, lush cedar woods and open glades, similar to a prairie. This would be a beautiful park to visit when it is green again. 

The Hidden Springs trail was the perfect 5 mile loop for us. We walked through open glades, cedar groves and across streams. It was a pretty flat trail and a great length for a 2 hour hike. 

(Note to self, if you are going to the park the day after a storm, the trails will be VERY muddy)
One skill I practiced- breastfeeding and hiking :) Baby wearing really is the best!
Where will our next park adventure be??

February 13, 2014

The End of the 4th trimester

How is it possible that my daughter is already 3 months old?!? I hear so many moms say this but now I completely understand. It really does fly by!
We officially made it out of the "4th trimester". We knew that for those first 3 months, all bets were off and we would just learn about our daughter. We haven't been pushy about scheduling, cloth diapers, or night routines. We have just spent the last 3 months observing and experimenting and attaching to our little girl. But now that we are 3 months in, we are ready to start creating some rhythm.

On January 7th (her 2 month 'B-day' and 8 weeks postpartum) I went back to work. Luckily, I am only going into the office once or twice a week. And little baby is staying with her grandmas, Omi and Bibi. It has been a blessing having family around. I still work everyday from home, so about 18-20 hours a week. It has been a huge adjustment but I am so happy. I feel like I never stop and I never get a break - until the beautiful moment Michael walks in the door from work. But even though I am racing around all day, I love having a professional outlet. It has proven to be manageable and I feel a sense of accomplishment each day.

This month ended with her 3 month b-day in Georgia. I just completed my doula training with DONA and I could not be more thrilled to get started towards certification. Lauren, my twin sister, will probably be my first official birth as a doula-in-training. (Anyone else need a doula this year?) But I will share more on that in a later post!

Oh Genevieve, she is growing leaps and bounds. We are phasing out of size 0-3 and moving into 3-6 month clothes and she officially fits most of her reusable diapers. I still don't believe that fuzzibunz one size could ever fit any child under 3 months.

This month has continued with the most glorious smiles! She now smiles on demand and just lights up the room. And how she has added social noises. I love love love hearing her coo and 'talk' to me. It used to be all grunts but now I can tell she is trying to say something. It is adorable and I just sit and listen to her talk about her day ;) Her fussiness has diminished immensely. We have only had a handful of meltdowns this month, which makes so much of a difference. As of week 11, she sleeps 8-10 hours at night! It's been 2 weeks since a middle of the night feeding! What?!? And that's with no sleep training. She did that all on her own. I am very grateful. She still sleeps in our room in the co-sleeper and to be honest, I don't know when I will be ready for her to go into the nursery. I love having her next to me. We aren't in a rush. One week at a time.

This month she has also taken an interest in toys and hanging objects. Her first toy to grab was her o-ball. I was thrilled. Seriously, as a parent it is hilarious how excited I get at small things like, "She is holding something!!" Milestones are exciting. I made a make-shift play gym that hangs over her crib. She loves to watch the animals sway. We also started looking at animal and I-Spy books. Her expressions are priceless. She loves looking at all the bright colors. And sad to say (judge me if you like), she LOVES watching television. Ok, it's really more of a distraction but she really loves looking at the screen. It calms her every time. In her early months she has watched the entire series of Breaking Bad and Sherlock and loves to be bounced on the yoga ball watching The Daily Show with Michael. Thankfully, she was Michael's Australian Open companion because I just don't find tennis that interesting to watch. And another 'proud' parent moment: we downloaded the Fischer Price Black and White app. Oh my word, she is obsessed. It is just black and white animals bouncing around the screen to obnoxious classical music but it buys me 20 minutes to get some work down. I am not complaining. We will certainly have to limit screen time when she actually comprehends it but until then I will do what it takes.

On every warm day we have seized the opportunity to explore the outdoors. I love going to the Shelby Park behind our house for picnics and walks. We also walked all over Nashville one lovely Saturday and started our adventure of exploring all the Tennessee State Parks. Oh I am so excited for warm weather!

And here is some baby spam :)

Sweet Genevieve,
We made through the 4th trimester! I am still in awe at how much my heart can grow each day. One day I think it is as big as it can get and then you smile and coo at me and it grows even bigger. My favorite thing to do is listen to you talk to me. I know I will love those moments at every stage of your life. You are becoming so strong and so curious. We absolutely love sharing this world with you. Seeing you get excited about new noises, textures, songs and lights brings the biggest smiles to our face. You are one deeply loved girl. Thank you for giving me the most wonderful role of being your mother. 
My life is so full with you in it. 

February 6, 2014

Homebirth from Dad's Perspective

I have been wanting to write this post for a while now but I've waited until the dust has settled and Michael has had a spare moment. First, I have to say that my husband is the most supportive partner I could have asked for during this season. Yes, I used the superlative because he truly is amazing. He understands as best as he can the entire healing and adjusting process I am going through. He walks in the door at 5 pm ready to play with baby and cook dinner. He rocks and cuddles Genevieve all evening long so I can rest. He never ever hesitates to change a diaper. He actually made it the norm that when he is home it is his job to change diapers. I never question his ability to watch Genevieve while I run an errand. If it wasn't for breastfeeding, he would know and be able to do everything needed to care for our baby. Starting with the intense experience of birth to watching him fall in love with our daughter - I have never been more in love with this man. 

I gave him 8 questions to respond to involving homebirths, labor, and parenting. He is very blunt and honest. I tend to be more politically correct and cautious but he tells it like it is and didn't want me to do much editing. But it is from his heart and it is something he is very passionate about as well. And I could not have had the birth I wanted if it wasn't for his complete support. 
Minutes after Genevieve was born
Q&A with Michael about childbirth and parenthood

1. What were your initial thoughts about having a homebirth?
I was never in doubt or fear of the idea, though it wasn't truly on my radar until it became important for Merrill. Once I put some serious thought into it and did my research, I realized that it perfectly coincided with our lifestyle, our deeply held principles. For one thing, we both dislike hospitals, so it makes sense that if idyllic childbirth requires the mother’s comfort, the hospital is a bad choice. But more importantly, if childbirth is supposed to be utterly empowering for mothers—a sacred experience that only women can undergo—the American obstetric industry generally contradicts that.  The more Merrill and I researched, the more her enthusiasm for home birth intensified and my suspicion of obstetric intervention worsened. My argument was against something, hers was for something else.

2. What did you feel like your role would be in labor and birth?
I imagined myself in Merrill’s face constantly, not like a drill sergeant but like a rose-colored mirror, reinforcing the beauty and power Merrill was putting on display. I wanted to be with her, holding her through every contraction, bearing as much of the burden as I could without taking away from this intrinsically feminine experience. But I also knew that she’d be liable to punch me if I stayed in her face, so I equally anticipated being flexible and accommodating her every whim, even as I helped stick to the birth plan.

3. Were you ever scared about the process?
Nope.  The medical world is all about expecting the worst case scenario, but we don’t live our lives that way.  Yes, some things could go wrong. If so, we live 8 minutes from Vanderbilt. But Merrill is young, healthy, and educated, which makes her an ideal candidate for homebirth. Plus, we trust our midwife and the midwifery model of care. I guarantee that Merrill got more focused and noninvasive attention from Jennifer than she would by dozens of staff at the hospital. Merrill’s blog about why we chose a midwife explains it well. 
I knew all this to be true so I had no reason to be scared. I did have one moment when I was worried that we may have to go to the hospital, though not for Merrill or Genevieve’s safety but because my wife then wouldn't get the experience she so deeply desired. During the actual birth, there were moments were things could have gone wrong but our midwife was fully capable to handle these issues. 

4. How did you prepare yourself?
It began with The Business of Being Born, a documentary Merrill’s probably mentioned. It’s helpful by setting up the conversation and inspiring more in-depth research. I think it’s also good to get accustomed to the once-gross terminology and the image of a baby emerging from a vagina. Even though I resisted initially, I've seen more homebirth YouTube videos than I can count. After all that, since I was in grad school and taking a Theological Ethics class, I wrote my final paper on natural birth. It was a systematic argument against the traditional obstetric system and for women’s empowerment in birth. The research for that paper particularly helped prepare me because a grade was at stake. We also took the Bradley class, which is partner-coached, natural birth. Jeannie Casey’s class was really helpful for introducing dads to the basics (and then some), and especially getting them used to the lingo. I wish we could have finished the whole course, but alas, Genevieve arrived halfway through the series.

5. What did you and your wife gain from this experience?
A child. But seriously, that’s a huge question. The first thing is that if we didn't already feel like a unified couple, we now feel more trust and affection for each other than ever. For the first three days of Genevieve’s life, she was my second thought and Merrill was my first. Especially because the narrative of our birth was so dramatic and intense, the enormity of what Merrill accomplished made my jaw drop for days. I kept repeating “I’m so proud of you,” though not from a place of authority (like a dad would say it), rather from a deep respect and awe. Merrill is powerful and she will never lose my attention for that. 
In addition, the birth sacralized our home.  It isn't gross that Merrill’s blood covered the bed where Genevieve was born and where we sleep, it’s sacred. It is the holiest experience of my life and it’s recapitulated by our nightly rituals of going to bed at night and cooking breakfast in the morning and watching the PBS News Hour at 6 pm. Never again will this house be ordinary. You can read the full birth story here

6. Do you have recommendations for dads-to-be about labor and delivery?
Can I answer bluntly? Good.
Do it on purpose. Quite simply, you betray your family if you don’t educate yourself about the process, your options, and how you can support your partner.  Learn everything you can, and please get over all the stereotypical worries of not-yet-fathers. Practice saying placenta, cervix, and mucous plug over and over until it’s no longer weird, because it’s not.  And don’t put any sexist burden on your wife of trying to stay sexy while she gives birth; if you’re scarred by seeing your child emerge from your partner’s vagina, then you’ve got a lot more preparation to do. If it still bothers you, keep it to yourself. 

7. What have been the highlights of early fatherhood?
Aside from the typical ones, which include the daily epiphany Merrill and I have that we made a human together and that there’s a baby in our house and it’s ours and not somebody else’s, I like the little things Genevieve does. When she farts, it’s hilarious. When she sneezes, it’s epic. She recently found her upper lip and makes a funny sound when she sucks it in and blows it back out; I can’t imitate because I have teeth.

8. Do you have recommendations for dads-to-be about being a father?
I’m still so new at this, so I feel strange writing advice. But I suppose that I’ll tell dads these two things.
Breastfeeding is hard. Recovering from childbirth (of all varieties) is hard. Everything you do to help in those first weeks (like changing most of the diapers) still won’t add up to the challenges early moms face. Bear her burdens.
Secondly, trust your partner’s and your intuitions. It’s important to be informed and to seek advice, but don’t over-Google. We mammals are preconditioned to seek the best interest of our offspring. Fret not. 
Michael holding Genevieve skin-to-skin an hour after birth while the midwife tended to me. 
Our first morning together. 
Genevieve's first time to the park. She was 4 days old. 
At the park at 6 weeks old.
Our stroll around Nashville
She loves watching TV with daddy. 
Bedtime stories, too
Two amazing, new fathers with their little ones. 
Goodness, I love these two :)