I know everyone says this, but I cannot believe I have a baby who is this close to being a year old. I mean, she was just born yesterday.
So, besides ripping my heart out, how is the little stinker doing? She’s amazing. And, also, sometimes a beast.
Let me explain.
Up until fairly recently, in a lot of ways raising Vivi was not totally different from having a Tamagotchi. (I’m kidding; it could not be more different. But bear with my hyperbole for the sake of the story.) She had the same three basic needs, and as long as I was able to care for them, she was happy. She felt hungry? I fed her. She was tired? I rocked her to sleep. She pooped? I clicked the toilet button and cleaned it up.
You get the point.
But in the last month, something shifted. In short, Vivi became a person.
And you know what? People are nothing like Tamagotchis. People get annoyed and take their frustrations out in unhealthy ways. People sometimes just wake up grumpy for no reason. People get bored. People actively choose not to satisfy their needs because they’re feeling ornery.
Vivi is people now.
Which, as you can imagine, can be frustrating. But it’s also really interesting. Having a baby is never boring. The second you think you’ve got this all figured out, you wake up to a new day and a brand new baby complete with new emotions, feelings, and needs. So I’m always figuring Vivi out, whether I like it or not.
Fortunately, most of the time, I like it. It’s amazing watching a baby become a person. Vivi has apparently decided that crawling is not really her bag and has moved straight on to trying to stand up and walk. My heart leaps and my stomach drops every time she pulls herself up on her chubby little legs, always turning to grin at me like, “Did you SEE what I just DID?!”
I see you, baby girl. And yes, you are amazing.
She’s also “talking” more and more, repeating more words and sounds and getting more communicative with gestures and facial expressions. She has so much personality packed into that tiny little body, and she makes me laugh out loud every single day.
The thing I love most about my little eight-month-old baby, though, is her zest for life. Vivi embodies joie de vivre, and she tackles every day with so much spunk and bravery and happiness. Everywhere we go, she grins her widest smile for anyone who will make eye contact with her, and she’s constantly taking in her surroundings and trying to absorb every detail.
Vivi Bean, I hope your tenacity and curiosity never leave you.
So, yes, sometimes she is frustrated because she can’t do everything she wants to do. Sometimes she is grumpy because she is tired but doesn’t want to nap. Sometimes she is whiny and needy and this momma doesn’t know what to do with her.
But, most of the time? She continues to be my greatest adventure.
This happens to me a lot. I have a funny anecdote or thought, but it’s not really worth dredging out into a full post. So, instead, I’m just sharing my funny thoughts. That you may or may not also find funny. Enjoy.
Fact: Canadians are the nicest people. (Honestly, it might just be the accent. It’s almost impossible for them to sound mean.) But also, they are just a very sincere, kind people. If you don’t believe me, I humbly submit exhibit A to the court: I once heard two Canadian guys having an argument in which one of them was literally threatening to STAB the other guy’s DOG , but if you were just judging by tones and expressions you probably would have thought they were two roommates disagreeing about which Netflix series to binge next. If that conversation had happened in New York, it would have ended in a triple homicide and a trending Twitter hashtag. Heck, if two roommates disagree about which Netflix series to binge next in New York, it can end in a triple homicide and a trending Twitter hashtag. Canadians are the nicest; game, set, match, eh?
Et tu, sourdough?
I started using natural deodorant full-time recently. I’ve tried this in the past but with, I’ll be honest, a lot of failure. What I’m saying is that I sweat a lot. Natural deodorant doesn’t seem able to handle that. But I found a brand I like recently called Bubble and Bee (after it was recommended by a blog commenter!). And I also learned from friends (who know these kinds of things) that part of the reason why I sweat so much is because of how much bread I eat. To which I’m kind of like, what’s up with that, bread? First, there was the whole carb debacle of the early 2000s. And now this whole sweating thing? What did I ever do to you? BESIDES LOVE YOU.
Have you ever tried reasoning with a seven-month-old? I mean, really, I have these moments where I’m looking at the baby and she’s holding the spoon that I’m trying to feed her with in her chubby little death grip, and I’m trying to pull the spoon away, and we’re just, like, staring each other down while I’m saying things like, “No, sweetie pie, give Mama the spoon. If you don’t give me the spoon, you can’t keep eating and you’ll be hungry again too soon. And you’re going to just splatter food everywhere, which will make more work for Mama.” And she’s just looking at me, like, not even like, “I don’t understand what you’re saying,” but like she does understand and she’s just thinking nonsense thoughts back. “Spoon dorsal fin rainbows and puppy dogs carpet.” And I’m honestly trying to think of what I can say to get through. These moments make you start to question your insanity.
For some reason, I always looked forward to Vivian being six months old as a sort of distant parenting promised land. Especially when we were in the thick of the “fourth trimester,” when so much of my baby was unknown and scary and messy. I knew (or at least, had been assured) things would improve at three months, but the 6-month mark had been especially heralded as a turning point in development that would make both of our lives a lot easier.
But at the same time…it seemed like a really long way off. Especially when the infant in my arms was vomiting without cause at almost every meal or refusing to sleep despite being exhausted.
That probably sounds naive, thinking that something a mere six months off would take forever to get here, but what can I say? Babies make you dumb.
The point is, the day finally came: Vivi is six months old! And while I can’t really say there was this marked shift overnight (and, let’s be honest, she really is a pretty good kid overall), it is making me reflect on how much smoother life is now that she has a few more months out of the womb under her tiny little belt.
Vivi’s six month brought quite a few milestones, including her first and second teeth. (Both within the second week. Yes, I do accept your condolences.)
She’s sitting up for a handful of seconds at a time, and can even stand while holding onto something for a while before plopping back down on her tush. As for crawling, she’s just now showing an interest in it, and even leap-frogged a couple hops on all fours yesterday. And while the thought of this whirling dervish being mobile is already a bit exhausting to think about, it’s also terribly exciting to see her changing in literal leaps and bounds.
Most of all, though, it is such a joy to see her little personality continue to shine through. Because, Vivi, you are so much sunshine. You are brave and kind, the two things I wished most for you. You love so hard, whether it’s your family, honorary family, or just another baby you happen to meet. You smile so easily, and nothing brightens my day like one of your cuddles or when the mood will suddenly strike you to gently lay a hand on my cheek and kiss my chin.
I am so, so grateful that I get to be your mama.
So, what I’m saying is, six months lives up to the hype. And I hear even better things about nine months.
I wanted to wait a few weeks until I wrote this post. Partly because I realized pretty early on that there’s not an easy answer to the question I pose in the title (and even if there was, it changes pretty much every hour). But also because, for the first two weeks of Vivi’s life, my mom was staying with us, so I didn’t really feel like I was experiencing “real life” with a baby until this past week.
So, you’re wondering, how has it been?
In some ways, it’s a lot how I expected. A newborn is really time-consuming. (SHOCKER.) Mine wants to be held as often as possible. She’s hungry a lot. She doesn’t really do that much besides eat, sleep, and poop. I don’t have any time to myself except for a few moments stolen while she naps or when Joey comes home and can spend some time with Vivian. I’m usually not as well rested as I could be. (Hahahaha understatements!)
In other ways, it’s not at all how I expected. And not always in a good way.
For example, I was really worried about breastfeeding. It was something I felt very strongly about and really wanted to do, but I had heard so many stories of women who had trouble — babies that couldn’t latch, milk that dried up or never came in, intense pain or discomfort that deterred them from sticking it out. It seemed like this supposedly natural process was a minefield of potential parental disappointment.
But I was fortunate. Vivi starting nursing literally moments after she was born, and we never had any issues while in the hospital or the first few days at home.
And then the real milk came in. And (apparently) with gusto. Suddenly, I had a baby that was getting too much milk and who would promptly spit up everything she had just eaten after every feeding. There were days I literally changed both of our outfits upwards of three times, and I regularly found myself near tears that this one thing I thought I had down was suddenly (and literally) backfiring on me.
Thanks to some advice from our pediatrician, though, we got through it. Sure, I still get doused in vomit occasionally (the creed of new parents everywhere), but it doesn’t really faze me at all anymore. (Remember this post? It’s so much worse after you actually have the baby.)
My voracious little eater aside, though, most of the surprises of motherhood have been positive for me.
For one thing, I was always kind of worried I wouldn’t be that into the newborn phase. They really can’t do that much yet, and a lot of their (extremely limited) awake time is spent fussing because they’re hungry or tired. We usually get 20-45 minutes of happy, fully alert baby at a time. I was worried I would be bored or, even worse, mildly irritated most of the first three months. But I’m really happy to say that I’ve been enjoying it a lot more than I expected. It helps that I just love this little girl so much, even just staring at her while she sleeps feels like a fun activity for the day. But I also just really appreciate getting to be with her every day and watching her change nearly every hour. She’s extremely curious, and I love watching her slowly discover the world around her. She’s also so strong, and it kills me seeing this tiny person hold her head up for the first time or scoot her body around on her play mat.
You know you’re a new parent when: watching a veritable slug of a person kick on their tummy for five minutes thrills you.
Basically, the whole experience has been even more fulfilling than I ever imagined. And now that she recognizes me on sight and can make prolonged eye contact? Well, I’d be lying if I said the first few times she looked at me — really looked at me — didn’t draw a few tears from this new momma. (Though we can probably blame some of the weepies on the hormones and sleep deprivation, right?)
Speaking of sleep-deprivation (because I know you really just want the gory details, not any of this “gosh I love my baby” mush), I’m happy to report that Vivi sleeps decently well. She usually sleeps from 6:30-8ish out in the living room with us (either in someone’s arms or in her swing chair), but I try to have both of us in bed (me in my actual bed, her in her bassinet) by 10/10:30. After that, she typically wakes up about three, sometimes four times, but we usually get two 3- to 4-hour stretches of sleep between the wake-ups. Vivian also takes a short morning nap (about an hour) around 10/11 a.m., and a longer nap (2ish hours) around 2:30 p.m (I try to join her for that one). The rest of the evening is a mix of wakefulness and sleep until the process starts all over again.
If it sounds like not at all a real schedule, it’s because it isn’t. It’s just the life of a newborn — they sleep a lot, but rarely for all that long. In fact, there is typically at least one night a week that she throws the whole thing out the window and just wakes up every hour and a half the whole night through.
Fun fact: That’s also how they torture prisoners of war.
True Life: My baby could be an evil dictator.
But you know what’s kind of funny? Even though I feel like I should be a zombie, I don’t really feel more tired than I usually did pre-baby. These crazy bodies of ours are capable of adapting to just about anything, apparently.
So, yes, I’m tired a lot. And regularly covered in someone else’s bodily fluids. And sometimes (often?) smell. As in, I literally stink. (Post-pregnancy hormones make you sweat a lot.)(GLAMOUR!)
But I really wouldn’t trade a second of it. Because while I’m sure I’m making a million “mistakes” along the way, I feel like I’m good at this. Or, rather, that I can be. I feel like, slowly, I’m figuring this little girl out. And, maybe in spite of everything, having a lot of fun along the way. Because just when I think I’ve hit my limit and might be the worst mom ever, she does this:
And suddenly everything feels like it’s going to be all right again.
So what’s it like to have a baby? It’s overwhelming and incredibly trying. And it’s also completely wonderful.
I’m so thrilled to announce to everyone that our baby was born on September 19th at 6:35 p.m.! (Though, if you follow me on Instagram, you probably already knew that.)
Our first week with Vivian has been amazing and trying and wonderful and exhausting. But I’ll share plenty more on that later. For today, I wanted to share her birth story because I remember getting a lot of comfort from reading other women’s stories when I was pregnant. Hopefully there’s a lady out there that gets some comfort from mine (or at least a better idea of what to expect from a drug-free labor). Before you dig in, this is a long post, and I get into some of the gritty details. You’ve been warned.
The first indications that labor was near started the Sunday night before Vivi was born. From that night on, I went to sleep with Braxton Hicks contractions, wondering if this was going to be the night. (When I would wake up the next morning without having gone into labor, I would always be a little bummed.) My mom got in from Iowa on the 15th, so after that we were just waiting the little lady out.
The night before Vivian was born, I had a pretty good feeling this was going to be the real thing. She was moving a LOT, and my whole belly just looked different — much lower and less like it was integrated into the rest of my body. More like a basketball just stuck onto my middle. Even Bogey was acting funny, not leaving my side and curling around my belly all night. The baby started pushing a lot on my cervix when we went to bed around 12:30, and I had a few cramps.
At 4 a.m., I woke up with contractions that were coming regularly every 7-10 minutes. I starting timing them with an app on my phone. (It’s called Full Term, and I highly recommend it — there is no way you are going to want to do math when you’re in labor, and this app tells you the average duration and interval of your contractions for the last hour and six hours so you don’t have to think. Plus, if you’re a dork like me and like stats and figures, it’s kind of a fun way to distract yourself from the pain.) When the contractions were consistently around seven minutes apart, I paged the midwives at our hospital just to let them know. I knew I wanted to spend the least amount of time at the hospital as I possibly could, and I wasn’t planning to get an epidural or any kind of intervention, so I didn’t want to head in until the contractions were much closer together or my water broke. I spoke with the midwife on duty, and we agreed I would call back when the contractions were 3-4 minutes apart. I woke Joey and my mom just to give them a status update. The contractions weren’t very painful yet, but I took a bath to relax and ate some breakfast per my midwife’s instructions. (Once you get to the hospital, you can’t eat or even drink water in case you have to go into surgery for an emergency C-section, so it’s good to fuel up before you get there.)
When the contractions were 3-4 minutes apart, I called again. Because my water hadn’t broken and the hospital wasn’t far from us, the midwife told me I could stay home as long at I felt safe there. So I stayed, and two of my friends came over to help distract me and coach me through contractions.
Now, about the pain. (We all know that’s what you’re really interested in, right?) The contractions became more and more intense every hour. I was sitting on the couch, and when I would feel one rolling in, I would lean forward into one of my friends, and Joey would push as firmly as he could on my hip bones since I was feeling most of the pain in my pelvis. This was a technique we had learned in our birth prep classes called the “hip squeeze,” and the counter pressure really did help with some of the pain. We also went for (short) walks every few hours. Walking made the contractions come a LOT more frequently, which was good because it progressed the labor but mentally difficult because I got less of a break between contractions. I took another bath and tried to eat more, but after a while I couldn’t really keep anything down. The middle of each contraction was the worst — I would feel like I was either going to burst into tears or throw up (and several times I did throw up). That made me a little nervous about having enough energy later in labor, but there wasn’t really anything I could do about that.
At 2:30, the contractions were 2-3 minutes apart and I decided we should go to the hospital (mostly because I wanted to get the car ride over with). A different midwife was on duty at that point. She actually wasn’t my favorite when I had met her in my routine appointments because she had a much more matter-of-fact manner, but that turned out to be exactly what I needed in labor. She examined me in triage and found that I was almost five centimeters, so I was admitted. This was my least favorite part of labor because they had to monitor the baby for 20 minutes to check her heart rate, meaning I had to lie on my back with a bunch of sensors wrapped around my belly. As difficult as contractions are in general, they are almost intolerable when you have to lie still on your back during them. I was also on an IV because I had to get a round of antibiotics before labor (I’m a carrier for strep B, so they gave me penicillin to protect the baby), meaning I had yet another tube to maneuver if I wanted to move anywhere. The pain was so intense that I threw up again, but finally it was time to take the sensors off and go to my labor and delivery room.
Once there, I bounced on a birthing ball for a while and tried in vain to find a comfortable position. About 40 minutes later, the nurse appeared again and wanted to monitor the baby for another 20 minutes. I thought I would cry just thinking about it. But this is when my midwife stepped in and basically kicked the nurse out, telling her I didn’t need the extra monitoring anymore so I could be in any position I wanted and having her clamp the IV so I didn’t have to be attached to the tower anymore. I was so grateful to her for looking out for me at a time when I could barely put a sentence together.
I tried a few more laboring positions, but nothing was really helping. Then I got sick a few more times from the pain, and I could feel my energy levels dropping. (Four hours of sleep and no food or water for 13 or so hours will do that to you.) Then my midwife recommended getting in the shower for a bit. The hot water in the bath at home had helped, so I sat on a chair in the shower and pointed the sprayer directly at my pelvis. It actually did alleviate some of the pain — I was even able to doze between contractions in there. I stayed in the shower for about 45 minutes, and Joey would reach in to push on my back during contractions, which also helped.
When I got out, I’m not going to lie, I was starting to wonder if I could do this without an epidural. It was about 6 p.m. at this point, I was so tired after about 14 hours of labor with nothing in my system, and I could barely think straight. But I also noticed that I was feeling a lot of rectal pressure (basically like I had to go to the bathroom…sorry there’s not particularly ladylike way to describe that), so the midwife checked me even though she didn’t think I was ready — after all, we had only been in the hospital for about three hours. Despite her misgivings, though, she announced I was at nine-and-a-half centimeters! I have never been so relieved in my entire life — we were nearing the finish line!
The midwife left to check her other patients, telling me that I could try pushing on the next contraction if I thought it would help, but she didn’t seem to think anything would happen for a little while. Most women will push for an hour or two before the baby is actually born. Remembering some of the labor positions I had liked when we practiced in our birth class, Joey suggested changing position to hold onto the back of my bed. This simple switch changed everything for me. I suddenly had a strong urge to push, and within minutes I had broken my water (it looked and sounded exactly like popping a water balloon) and could feel the baby coming out. One of my friends ran to find the midwife while I just kept pushing through contractions (because, honestly, I couldn’t have stopped if I’d wanted to).
Things sort of speed up into a blur for me at this point. The midwife rushed into the room and tried to find the baby’s heart rate, but she couldn’t with the position I was currently in. I think the main issue was that she was still looking for the baby in my belly and Vivi was already lower than she thought in the birth canal. She made me turn back over, and there were a few seconds we all held our breath until she finally found the heart rate again.
Should we talk about pain again? This probably won’t surprise you, but pushing a baby out does hurt. (STOP THE PRESSES!) But it’s a completely different pain from the contractions because you’re actually doing something (something with an end goal) instead of just gritting your teeth and surviving the pain. I was also very fortunate that this stage of labor went very quickly for me. After about two contractions and two or three big pushes, Vivi’s head and shoulders were out. The midwife told me to grab my baby, and I did without even thinking (I was in animal mode at that point). I don’t think I’ll ever forget the feeling of seeing her face for the first time (she looked EXACTLY like Joey), wrapping my hands around her, and pulling her out the rest of the way onto my chest.
But then she was here!! I tore a bit because she came out so quickly and with one hand by her face (a pose she was in often during her ultrasounds and still strikes when she’s sleeping), but I didn’t feel that at all. Joey cut the umbilical cord, and the midwife delivered the placenta and stitched me up while I nursed Vivi for the first time, which was a really amazing moment for me. All in all, I was in labor for about 14 hours and pushed for about 20 minutes.
Then everyone cleared the room except for Joey, and I got to spend an hour just holding her skin-to-skin and reveling in how incredible this tiny person is (definitely my favorite part of the day). As exhausted as I had been before her birth, I suddenly felt like I had all the energy in the world. We spent some time with our friends and family in our recovery room before going to bed. After 48 hours in the hospital, we headed home and have been enjoying getting to know our little girl more and more every day. She’s pretty amazing, if I do say so myself.
So that was it! (4,000 words later…)
One last thought on the pain: I’m not going to pretend it was a cake walk. I nearly lost my cool a few times, and I threw up almost a dozen times because of the strain on my body. But even though I remember in my mind that the pain was incredible at times (particularly those few seconds at the height of each contraction), I just can’t make myself remember the feeling anymore. Your body really does forget (and therein lies the secret to how so many people have more than one kid). It was some of the most intense pain I’ve ever experienced, but it was also completely bearable in hindsight. I think it helped to go in with the expectation that it was jus tgoing to be the worst pain ever, so that way anything less seems not so bad. I also have to repeat how helpful I think it was to keep working out during pregnancy — I felt strong going into labor, things progressed quickly and regularly, and the mental toughness gave me the grit I needed to get through the rough moments.
Phew, that was a long one. But, really, if you didn’t want a detailed account of a labor, you came to the wrong blog. This one’s on you.
I want to say a HUGE thank you to the staff at Beth Israel Mount Sinai Hospital for taking such good care of us and being so kind as we adapted to our new roles as parents. I’m also incredibly grateful to our friends and family that coached me through labor, brought food, and generally supported us through this whole process so far. We couldn’t have done it without you.
Are y’all okay if I spew a little mush on the blog today?
Seriously…just a bit? A tiny bit?
Oh wait. This is my blog. I DO WHAT I WANT.
About a month ago, Joey and I decided that not only did we want to take a “babymoon” before our little lady’s imminent arrival, we needed to.
Think about it: A baby is forever. After she’s born, it will never be just the two of us again. Sure, one day she’ll grow up and move out and get a job and her own life and whatever. But really, it will never, ever be the same as it has been for the last four years.
So, even though we are in super-saver mode these days, we ponied up the cash for two tickets to my grandparents’ condo in Florida. Of course, we weren’t being totally reckless. Staying at my grandparents’ place is significantly cheaper than booking a hotel or an all-inclusive resort (the dream), and we would have our own kitchen, meaning we could save on at least a dinner or two and all of our breakfasts and most lunches. And while we would have loved to take a 10-day trip, we opted to extend our Memorial Day weekend an extra day to preserve my precious few vacation days.
Though I will admit that I sprung for the slightly more expensive plane tickets that would give us direct flights to the most convenient airports in both locations. Because what’s the point of taking a relaxing vacation if the trip home is going to get you just as rattled as you were before?
The result of our plans? I don’t want to overstate this, but the trip was, in a word, perfect.
I’m always a little irked by those people who put #blessed in their Instagram captions because, to me, it seems like a fairly overt humblebrag. But after that trip with my husband, I have a hard time describing my feelings any other way. I’m so humbled by the way my husband loves me. I’m so grateful that we have the opportunity and the means to get away from regular life now and then to reconnect. I’m filled with awe by this tiny life growing inside me.
God is so, so good to us, and I hope I can hold onto these feelings even when things aren’t going so smoothly. Because while I don’t feel #blessed, I do feel blessed to live the life I do with the people I love.
So now it’s back to “real” life, with jobs and bills and schedules that don’t include things like “morning swim in the pool” and “leisurely lunch by the ocean whenever we feel like walking to the restaurant”. But you know what? The trips to the beach may be over and my tan has probably already begun to fade, but I think this fullness in my heart will last a while longer.
On this day, April 30th, 2015, four years after marrying my husband, I have officially amended the last vestige of my maiden name: my PayPal account.
Did you guys have any idea how difficult it is to change your name on your PayPal? It’s pretty dang difficult. Even when you have a legitimate reason, like a marriage, you have to provide PayPal with a copy of your marriage license and a photo ID showing your new name.
My bank didn’t even require that much paperwork. (Actually, it might have. But it was FOUR YEARS AGO and I don’t remember.)
Suffice to say, I put it off. For almost half a decade. But after PayPal mistakenly sent one too many packages to Justine Blanchard, prompting the mail carrier to refuse to deliver and me to have to take an inconvenient trip to the post office, I finally decided to bite the bullet and just get it over with.
Plus, I had to provide my office with a scan of my marriage license for benefits anyway.
It took over a week to officially process (I’m assuming a real human being has to verify your “proof”?), but as of this morning, Justine Blanchard is no more on any of my accounts.
I feel like this should feel more momentous to me than it does. But, to be perfectly honest, I never felt that much of an emotional attachment to my last name. (Not to be confused with my family — I am quite emotionally attached to them. The name just didn’t represent anything that crucial to me.) I had always planned on changing it when I got married, and I like how Joey and I have become our own, united unit.
In fact, I often feel this weird sense of detachment when I see my maiden name in print. Like, “Oh, yeah…that used to be mine. That used to be me.” Weird, right?
It could be that I was never really one of those people who went by their last name. In college, a handful of friends took to calling me Blanch, and shortly after graduation, a few workmates dubbed me JLB because I used my full name for my byline. But in general, I’ve always been just Justine.
(Side note: Trying saying “Just Justine” ten times fast without spitting. It’s really hard. See also: “This is Justine.” Answering my work phone is a nightmare.)
But anyway. Instead of feeling sad, I actually feel more complete having this last bit of Blanchard officially transitioned over. I can’t believe it took me so long. I guess it has to do with how I feel like I’ve really come in to my own identity in the last couple of years.
It’s nice to know my Amazon orders will also know exactly who I am.
Did you change your name after marriage? How long did it take? Do you have any last traces of your old name hanging around?