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Sleep On It.

August 27, 2010

I have tried to write a new post for a couple of days now. There have been a couple of hurdles in the way. First is the fact that I am a brand spanking new nursing momma whose brain apparently followed her placenta into the great unknown. I have the attention span of a toddler and no memory what so ever. The only thing that can hold my attention is a certain 14 day old girl and Prison Break. The second thing in my way is my direction. Or should I say, lack there of. I am not sure where to take this little blog. Do I continue the path that I am on and document and comment on my life or do I gear it more towards my slant on parenting. Or are those the same things? Either way, I am going to just continue to rant in any way I see fit and if I have readers after all is said and published than great. If not, well, I will be left talking to myself which, these days, is not unheard of.

So, life has been pretty amazing these past two weeks. Becoming a parent changes how you look at things. Something as simple and basic as sleeping becomes this complex issue. Trying to get enough and figure out the best sleep arrangements for your family is exhausting. (Pun intended). It is amazing at how many people have very strong opinions on the matter. “Sleep when the baby sleeps” is advice I heard a thousand and one times. The only problem with that is that currently Elsa sleeps, nurses and poops. Sometimes all at the same time. If I followed her schedule I would starve to death and never see another soul. (And my dog would run away for sure).

Walking the dog while the baby sleeps. He agrees with my stance. (Photo by: Zachary P. Stephens)

My solution for a better nights sleep is the next thing that rouses some very strong opinions. Currently, Elsa sleeps in our bed.

(Photo by: Zachary P. Stephens)

Commence the strong opinions.

Bed sharing or co-sleeping is either very beneficial or very dangerous depending on who you ask. Our decision was based on my research, Elsa’s needs and our comfort. When put to bed in her bassinet she sleeps for about 45-60 minutes before waking up crying and wanting to nurse. In our bed she sleeps for about 3-4 hours before waking up to nurse. She usually will not cry and instead her little hungry grunts wake me up. This alone was enough to convince me. Additionally there have been studies which show a decrease in SIDS in countries where co-sleeping is the norm. The theory is that the mother and baby are in such close proximity that if the baby was to stop breathing the mother would wake up and stir the baby. There has also been studies that show a breastfeeding mother and her baby’s sleep cycles will sync up and the mother will come out of a deep sleep before her baby alerts her.

(Photo by: Zachary P. Stephens)

I have no issue with co-sleeping if done safely and responsibly. Elsa will not be in our bed forever. We are slowly trying to get her more comfortable with her basinet. I would imagine that being alone at night is pretty scary for someone who, up until now, was always with me. So, regardless of the disapprovers, she will be in our bed until we all are ready to sleep apart.

(Photo by: Zachary P. Stephens)

I guess my take on parenting in general is to do what feels right for you and your baby. Heed the major safety warnings but don’t sweat the small stuff. If something feels right and no one is getting hurt, no worries. There are just too many warnings and “dangerous” things out there. A new momma could go insane trying to do all the “right” things. Certain precautions should be made (car seat) and others can be up for debate (co-sleeping). No matter what you do, someone, somewhere, will have an opposing opinion. That I am sure of.

Oh, and just for the record, this post took way longer than it should have to write. I got distracted by the adorable baby on my lap at least five times and completely forgot my point twice. Oh, and thank goodness for spell check. I hope that wherever my brain is it is having a good time. I sure do miss it.

xoxo

~m~

*For more information on safely co-sleeping please visit: www.babyfriendly.org.uk

The First Ten

August 24, 2010

It has been quite the week and a half here at Stephensville. It has been a blurry whirl of diapers, feedings, naps, visitors and one vomit explosion!! Somehow among the blurry whirly goodness I was able to fall very very deeply in love with this little person. It was by far the easiest part of the week!

Auntie Melissa visits with Elsa and Momma. (Photo by: Zachary P. Stephens)

I think that both Z and I are naturals at this parenting thing. I feel like I have found my calling. Being Elsa’s momma is the best job I have ever had! (And the benefits rock!) We are both at a professional level with diapering and Elsa and I are starting to find our breast-feeding groove. My prediction is that by the end of Z’s two weeks home we will be a pretty functional family.

She loves bath time! (Photo by: Zachary P. Stephens)

Speaking of Daddy Z, he has embarked on an adorable mission. He has turned his daily photo blog into an entirely Elsa based year-long project. At the culmination there will be 365 photos of our little girl as she completes her first year of life. You can check it out HERE. Elsa has turned out to be quite the little model. She has her demands (like any top model does) but keeps them reasonable. Mostly they consist of breast milk, snuggles and a warm blanket. Easy enough.

"Day 7" from Z's blog. (Photo by: Zachary P. Stephens)

"Day 11" from Z's blog. (Photo by: Zachary P. Stephens)

All throughout my pregnancy we heard warnings about becoming new parents. “You will never sleep” and “Enjoy your freedom while you can, your life will never be the same” were two phrases we heard time after time. People insisted on telling stories and warnings of screaming endless nights and prison like confinement to their houses. We are here to tell all expectant parents that these folks are full of the same matter as my daughters diapers. We do sleep. She is a baby. She sleeps 18 hours a day. So what if they are in 2-4 hour spurts. She does in fact sleep, therefore, so do we. And as far as our freedom goes, not much has changed except we get to use our awesome stroller or baby carriers when we go out. And go out we have. To visit a great-grandmother in Halifax, to the Farmer’s Market, the grocery store and both food co-ops.

Daddy loves the Ergo carrier. (Photo by: Zachary P. Stephens)

Saturday morning Farmer's Market. (Photo by: Zachary P. Stephens)

In the car out and about. (Photo by: Zachary P. Stephens)

Yeah, our lives have changed. But not in a bad stuck at home, resentful, angry, warn poor pregnant ladies sort of way. More of in a happy, content, she is freaking adorable, life is great, she completes me sort of way. Sorry, nay sayers, but we are somewhat well rested new parents who are loving every minute of our new life as a family. Stinky diapers and all.

(Photo by: Zachary P. Stephens)

Nothing has ever felt as natural as having my ten-day old sleeping daughter by my side while I finish up this post. Daddy Z is popping some popcorn and we are about to snuggle our way through season 4 of Prison Break on Netflix.

Popcorn. Mmmmmmm. (Photo by: Michelle Stephens)

Life is pretty damn exceptional.

Allegedly she sleeps like Momma. (Photo by: Michelle Stephens)

xoxo

~m~

August 14

August 19, 2010

*Disclaimer*

Usually when I decide to write a new post, I sit down at my computer and just let my thoughts flow onto the screen. This time is different. This time I am sitting here trying to figure out how to communicate the amazing thing that happened. How do I put into words feelings that are so new to me? And, how do I make all this readable? I am not sure if I will be able to but I am going to try. This post may be long but please bear with me, I will try to make it worth it to you.

After 226 days of pregnancy our sweet and amazing miracle was born. She entered this big world at 8:51 am on Saturday, August 14. We have been falling deeply in love since. I cannot put into words the feelings I have. Words would not do justice to my emotions. Our lives are forever changed and we could not be happier.

Photo by: Zachary P. Stephens

The beginning of the end started Friday. I had felt some cramping while running errands and decided to call my OB. She said to pay attention to them and see if my belly was tightening during the pain. If it was and they stayed regular or got worse to go to the birthing center and get checked.

We had planned a girls and boys night out for our good friends G&G who were getting married the next day. I decided that since I had spearheaded the girls outing and love G dearly, I was going to go out. We met the entire crew at G&G’s house and went our separate ways from there. As I left there were many jokes flying around about me going into labor and Z (also their wedding photographer) not being able to shoot the wedding. I laughed it off and followed the ladies to the restaurant. We had a delicious meal and great conversation. Throughout, however, I was beginning to realize that the cramping/tightening was getting worse. G asked several times if I was OK. I tried to reassure her that I was fine and that I couldn’t possibly be in labor after months of us joking about missing the wedding due to it. We finished up with dessert and said our goodbyes, reassuring everyone that I would see them at the wedding the next day.

Photo by: Zachary P. Stephens

Photo by: Zachary P. Stephens

Once alone I decided to give Z a call. He asked how I was feeling and I told him that I thought that the pain might be getting worse and I should go get checked out just to be safe. He was still out with the boys so we decided to meet at the hospital. We got to the Birthing Center floor at about 10:30pm. My OB was there and checked me for dilation. As she checked me conversation turned to the wedding the next day and how Z was hired to photograph it. I was dilated to 3cm, 1-2 cm more than the day before. As my OB left the room she leaned over and said to Z, “So, what time is that wedding?” I knew right then that I was not going to a wedding or even home. I was going to have a baby.

Photo by: Zachary P. Stephens

Soon after I was moved from the triage room into my labor and delivery room. As if somehow my body knew where I was, I started feeling real contractions. M2 and our youngest sister were called and told to head our way, a baby was coming.  I think I was still in a state of disbelief. How could I be in labor? I had driven MYSELF to the hospital, my water had not exploded like you see on TV and two of my closest friends were getting married the next day!!! Yet despite all that, there I was, every contraction getting stronger and closer together until they were right on top of each other. Things seemed to be going pretty fast at this point. I was in pain and still trying to wrap my head around what was about to happen.

Photo by: Zachary P. Stephens

My memory gets a little foggy at this point. I know that the contractions were about 90 seconds long and maybe 2 minutes apart, meaning I got about 30 seconds of relief between them. Trying to focus through the pain fogs out most of the details. I do remember asking my nurse if I could have some pain medication to take the edge off from the contractions. She recommended trying a hot shower first. It helped for about 5 minutes until the pain got worse. After the shower I was given a dose of Demerol. It helped the pain just enough so I could rest a little. After resting for a while the nurse came in and checked me. I was still only 3cm dilated. No progress. It was about 5:30 am and I was exhausted. We sent both of my sister’s home figuring I had a while. I tried to get comfortable. All of a sudden it felt like a champagne cork was popped inside me and then a warm rush of fluid. It was 6:30am and my water had broken. I barely got the words out when the contractions came back. In full force, stronger, longer and closer than ever. After an hour of this intense pain with no dilation my OB ordered Stadol through an IV.

Photo by: Zachary P. Stephens

From this point on my memory is a blur. M2 and Z have helped me to recount this part of the story. I received the Stadol at around 7:20am. My OB arrived in her street clothes and checked my cervix at about 7:30am. I was 7-8cm. (A giant thank you to the makers of Stadol.) She left the room to change and Z called M2 and told her to head back quickly. (She was my co-birthing coach). By about 7:50am I was told that I could start pushing. At some point M2 magically appeared by my side and the most amazing birthing team was complete. Z had my left leg, M2 had my right. My OB sat at the foot of the double bed and my midwife cheered me on. We quickly fell into a rhythm. A contraction would start, I would say “legs”. Z and M2 would hold my legs back and I would push. 3 or 4 pushes per contraction and them I would rest. I rested so deeply that M2 said I looked unconscious. “Legs”, push, rest, “legs”, push, rest. Pushing was amazing. I was finally able to do something productive. I no longer had to wait for my body to do its thing. I was now a participant in my labor. I could push through the pain. It felt good. About an hour after my first push, Elsa Mae Stephens made her grand début.

~Elsa Mae Stephens 6lbs 10oz 18"~ Photo by: Melissa Fernette

I will not even try to tell you the rush of emotions I felt. Words would not do any justice and may, in fact, cheapen the experience. It was pure magic. I had our daughter on my chest. Our love, hopes and dreams personified. She was perfect. My life officially began the moment I felt her warm body on mine and her tiny hand reached up and touched my face.

Photo by: Zachary P. Stephens

Photo by: Zachary P. Stephens

The next hours were a whirlwind of bonding and vitals and measurements and blankets and snuggles and tears and nurses and visitors. I would try to recall details but my memory doesn’t include them. I do know that Z was able to spend time with us and bond with his little girl. He was also able to make it to G&G’s wedding that evening but not before picking up a very beautiful bride and bringing her to see our baby. Family came and went. Tears of joy were abundant and there was enough love in the air that you could just about see it. Elsa’s first day came to a close with my mom and I quietly enjoying each others company and becoming closer than ever. I see her through a whole new set of eyes. 30 years ago she was me and I was her new little miracle. Z returned and my mom left our new little family to enjoy each other.

Photo by: Zachary P. Stephens

We are home now and Elsa is 4 days old. Life has never been sweeter. She is amazing. I am beyond blessed. Somehow it worked out that I am to lead an awesome life. I am humbled by this. I am humbled by all the people who are so excited to have Elsa in their lives. I am humbled by all the love our little girl had received. I am humbled by the fact that we have made a life. We have contributed another being with amazing potential to the world. I have shed tears of joy every day. I have spent hours just gazing at her perfect, tiny face. I have fallen so in love with her. I have become a Momma. We have become a family.

Photo by: Zachary P. Stephens

And all of this just because Z loves M.

Photo by: Zachary P. Stephens

xoxo

-m

P.S. Check out Z’s take on the entire event at blog.zacharystephens.net and swing by zacharystephens.org to see a photo a day of Elsa!

With Thanks

August 10, 2010

Everyone loves a baby. And as it turns out everyone loves to give gifts to babies and momma’s to be. I have recently received surprise gifts from some pretty amazing ladies. It is a wonderful feeling to see what people purchase/make/create for little Elsa.

Recently we were able to spend an evening with a very much missed old friend of mine and her beautiful family. Christina (http://www.paintingsbychristina.com), her husband and their two adorable children were in town from D.C. Along with them came a very sweet gift chosen and presented by their six-year-old daughter, Betty. In addition to the amazingly soft blanket and really cute layette, Christina is going to paint a portrait for us once Elsa shares her face with the world. Truly a beautiful gift from some amazingly beautiful people.

Betty may have to become Elsa's personal shopper. (Photo by: Michelle Stephens)

Speaking of good friends, Z’s childhood friend (and Emmy nominee), Jeremy got married last summer to a kick ass lady, Haley of The Zen of Making. Not only is she a sweet and compassionate girl but she is also an amazing creator of awesomeness. Her newest creation being a nursing top for yours truly. She is documenting the process on her blog and I am getting excited!!  I am honored that I will be the recipient of one her projects. I love following her blog and seeing what this Brooklyn girl will create next.

The very beginning of my shirt!!! Check into her blog to see it progress. (Photo courtesy of: The Zen of Making)

If I didn’t know better, and I just may not, I would be easily convinced that Noelle from Zpots pottery had figured a way to put a touch of magic in her creations. To hold one of her pots in your hands is to feel a connection to something a bit greater and grounded at the same time. Z and I have been a fan of her and her husband’s work for sometime now. We consider ourselves collectors of Zpots (I dare you to find a room in our house void of Zpot presence) and gift them to friends when possible. The pots themselves are beautiful but the real beauty lies in their creators. I received a very meaningful gift from Noelle just a few days ago. It is a dream jar from her poetry and pottery VPots line. Engraved on its surface is a poem by Noelle, “Ode To The Mother”. I am beyond thankful for such an amazing gift. I cannot wait to fill it up with my dreams for Elsa and our family.

My new dream jar. (Photo by: Michelle Stephens)

This last gift is from the wife of Z’s co-worker. Her gift is so sweet in two ways. First, it is a handmade knit bunny. Adorable doesn’t do it justice. It is too cute. Second, not only have I never met this lady but I have not met her husband, either. He is the newest reporter on staff at the newspaper where Z works and happened to have landed the desk adjacent to my husband. I have a deep appreciation for handmade gifts. I feel like the love that they were made with is contained in the gift forever. So, for Elsa to have received a gift handmade by someone I haven’t met (yet) is double the thoughtfulness.

Can you handle the cuteness? (Photo by: Michelle Stephens)

It is truly an honor to be on the receiving end of these beautifully though out and created gifts. To all the ladies, and their families, mentioned here and to everyone else who has generously given something to my baby,

Thank You.

xoxo

-m

Full Term

August 8, 2010

37 weeks. Full term. The waiting officially begins now. We have taken our birthing class, written our birth plan, toured the birthing center, set up her bassinet, gathered diapers, washed tiny clothes and blankets and cleaned our home top to bottom, twice.

Tiny adorable laundry. (Photo by:Michelle Stephens)

She is “allowed” to be born now. She is fully developed and ready for life outside my womb. Funny thing is, I have ceased all contractions. Weeks of threatened pre-term labor and now that she has the green light? Not so much. And not for lack of trying to coax her. We have driven over Putney Mountain 5 times this past week. (Not for the sole purpose of bouncing her out.) Which resulted in maybe a Braxton Hick contraction and a whole lot of kicking by her.

Putney Mtn. (Photo by: Zachary P. Stephens)

I think she has come to realize how awesome life inside my tummy is. She is warm, safe and cozy. She gets to enjoy Ben & Jerry’s whenever Mommy does. (Which may or may not be frequently.) She gets near constant back rubs from either me, her daddy or perfect strangers. And, she can sleep all day without waking to eat or have a diaper change. What she does not realize is that we promise to give her all of that PLUS as much space to squirm as she could ever want. (OK, the Ben & Jerry’s is going to have to be delivered via breast milk, but, isn’t that better than via her belly button???)

Super cozy with room to squirm. (Photo by:Michelle Stephens)

I suppose she will eventually figure out that she needs to come out at some point. If I take a step back and look at her family history and all her relatives past and present it should come as no surprise that my daughter is showing signs of being stubborn. I couldn’t be more proud!!!♥

xoxo

-m

Elsa Month

August 2, 2010

It is here. August. Since my first Ob appointment, when I found out that I was due in August, this month has been my beacon. My goal post. My destination. And, as of Sunday, it is here. Three more weeks until that predicted due date. It is amazing that within the next month we will be parents. Elsa will be more than a nudge in my ever-expanding belly. She will be tangible breathing proof of mine and Z’s love to one another. Very, very soon our DAUGHTER will be in our arms.

(Image by: Zachary P. Stephens)

It is crazy to look back and think that a mere 37 weeks ago she was a wish, dream and microscopic cells. Now she is a 6+/- pound 19+/- inch fetus. She is a complete human who feels and dreams. I know how the science works but still believe it is mostly magic and love that has made her grow into what she is so quickly.

36 Weeks!!! (Image by: Michelle Stephens)

Here at Z+M-ville we have made last-minute preparations for her grand entrance. In between contractions (yes I am still having those 5 weeks later) I have managed to pack our bags and start to put together her little room. We still have a ton to do in there but for now I feel like it is starting to come together.

Don't worry, the blankets and toys will be removed once she sleeps in there. I know better!!

In addition to our bags and her room being (mostly) ready, we recently had her car seats installed in our vehicles. It is truly amazing how many little tricks there are to safely install them. We learned that close to 95% of first time parents install their car seats improperly. Craziness. We now feel like we are a bit closer to being ready for Elsa. (We are convinced that NOTHING will completely prepare us, however, we are enjoying the false sense of readiness we have created.)

A corner of her book case. What else does she need?

As I near 37 weeks we decided to do some (most likely) final maternity portraits. Z took them in the middle of the Green River in Guilford, VT. We were a very short drive down the river from the spot where Z proposed to me 5 1/2 years ago. It was a beautiful day and we had a lot of fun. I am so glad that we were able to find the time to do them before you-know-who is born.

*More images coming soon......* (Image by: Zachary P. Stephens)

So, here we are. Playing the waiting game. Every day brings us closer to meeting our tiny miracle. Every day is a new sign that the end/beginning is very near. Our home, cars and hearts are ready, Elsa. Come out come out wherever you are, Mommy and Daddy want to hold you!!

(Image by: Zachary P. Stephens)

xoxo

-m

Dog Days

August 1, 2010

Summer is in full swing here in Z+M world. I fill most of my days either hanging out with Quincy or completely confusing the poor dog by cleaning everything in sight. In return he spends his days making sure that his pregnant mommy is safe at all times. He protects me from the cats, neighbors, squirrels, EVERYTHING. In honor of my amazing doggy and his unconditional love and devotion I give you a glimpse into a normal afternoon with him.

Being way too good for the ground, Quincy starts his afternoon in "his" chaise lounge. (Image by: Michelle Stephens)

Quincy likes watching Mommy groan and waddle her way into the hammock. *Please note that Mommy still has ankles and toes!! This makes her VERY happy!! (Image by: Michelle Stephens)

Once he is certain that I am secured in the hammock he then lays down directly under me so he can protect me from..... (Image by: Michelle Stephens)

......this and..... (Image by: Michelle Stephens)

.....this little guy and.....(Image by: Zachary P. Stephens)

....yup, even her. (Image by: Zachary P. Stephens)

After a long afternoon of hammocks and "serious" threats ice cream is most definitely in order. (Image by: Michelle Stephens)

And that folks, is a dog day afternoon here at Casa De Quincy.

xoxo

-m

&

-Quincy