Pregnancy Update: 20 Weeks

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How far along: 20 weeks

Total weight gain: 14lbs, 4 more than I gained by the 20th week during my first pregnancy. Although I started this pregnancy at a slightly lower weight so I’m still under where I was at this point last pregnancy. (Not sure that really makes me feel any better).

Maternity clothes: Yes! I’ve been rocking the elastic waist bands since week 10, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. In fact, I often donned my maternity jeans in between pregnancies because they are so dang comfy. (and stylish…?)

Stretch marks: No! Although I think this one has more to do with genetics than my healthy eating and exercise habits (which have not been up to my normal standards this time around). Don’t ask me about cellulite and varicose veins. Eek!

Sleep: Much better than expected. I wake up about every 90 minutes, toss and turn for a while, but eventually fall back to sleep. And that’s with all this horrible side sleeping business that I just cannot seem to master. My pregnancy pillow and I are still on non-speaking terms after the last round.

Fetal movement: A few kicks every couple hours, and they are growing in strength. The baby kicked so hard just this morning that I could see the movement from the outside. Although Brad has yet to feel anything because the baby stops kicking the second Brad touches my stomach.

Food cravings: Soup! Panera Bread is going to bankrupt me. Normally I don’t make it at home because Brad calls soup of “waste of stomach space,” but I’ve decided to play the pregnancy card and start making it for dinner anyway. If you have a favorite soup/chili recipe, leave it in the comments! Crock-pot recipes are especially welcome!

Exercise: Thankfully I came into this pregnancy in great shape having run the Toledo Marathon in April. I’m now conducting an experiment to see how fast I can lose all that fitness. Just kidding—sort of. Morning sickness was worse this time which kept me from exercising intensely during the first trimester. I’m finally getting back into the swing of things now though, but sadly no running.

Miss anything: Yes! I want an Angry Orchard hard cider…or a nice margarita…or a glass of white wine. I think there is a theme emerging. I find this odd since when I’m not pregnant I have at most one drink per week, usually wine. I also miss back sleeping, a bladder than can hold more than a thimble’s worth of pee, and running.

Feeling sick or queasy: Only if I take my pre-natal vitamins in the morning instead of at night.

Anxious about: The future. Brad is graduating with a PhD in computational physics in December and has been applying to jobs all over the country. We don’t know when he will land a job or where it will be. Thinking about moving eight months pregnant or with a newborn is daunting.

Excited about: The future. As anxious as the uncertainty makes me, we are ready for a change. Having more to live off of than a graduate student stipend won’t be so bad either!

Belly button: Dangerously close to being an outie, and that’s saying something since before my first pregnancy I had the Mariana Trench of belly buttons.

Best moment this week: Anatomy scan. Seeing the baby again is always exciting. We did learn that he has something called fetal pyelectasis (enlargement) in one of his kidneys so we will go back for a follow-up scan at 28 weeks. I was worried at first, but after a lot of googling, I’m feeling much calmer. I’m pretty sure that’s the first time a google search for a medical condition hasn’t convinced me that I have a brain tumor.

Dad weighs in: The last 20 weeks have gone incredibly fast. “I’m buggin’ out. Does anyone want to give me a job?” (Author’s note: I don’t think he is kidding about that. Check out his Linked in profile here: Hiring Brad Hubartt will be the best decision you ever made.)

Oliver’s reactions: Oliver knows there is a baby in my stomach, and that when the baby gets big enough he will come out. We told him he will get to hold the baby after he is born so now anytime you mention the “baby” he shouts “hold, hold, me.” And then my heart melts. Although not to be outdone by his little brother just yet, this is how he chose to participate in my 20 week photo shoot. Perhaps he’s trying to tell me something…

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Want a more in depth update? Check out the video below.

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Making the Cut

Oliver got his first haircut, oh, about 4 months ago now. I wanted to write about it then, but I was too traumatized by 1) the disappearance of Oliver’s gorgeous blonde locks, and 2) the immediate realization that my baby is not really a baby anymore. Seriously, when did that happen? I had to wait until his hair had grown back a little before I could tackle this post without PTCD flashbacks. That’s post traumatic cutting disorder for those not in the know on my made up lingo.

The actual haircut, like most activities outside of Oliver’s comfort zone, was met with its fair share of (adorable) tears, whimpering, and ultimately resignation. I think it helped that he has an acute awareness that scissors are sharp and potentially dangerous, and it’s best to sit still when said scissors are inches from your face. It also helped to have Grandma there to distract him. Never underestimate the value of a well-placed Grand Parent to help you through a potential meltdown.

When all was said and done, Oliver left the hair salon (can I call Great Clips a salon?) as happy as can be, and thanks to his toddler brain, probably has no recollection of ever going at this point. I, on the other hand, left the hair salon feeling so devastated I’m thinking of starting a support group for those with “cutter’s remorse.”

I feel like I walked into the salon with a chubby-cheeked baby and walked out with a little boy—one who will soon be too old for kisses and hugs and cuddle time with his mom.  And while I’ve always known this independent streak would come one day, something about cutting off those few inches of hair made that day seem so much closer.

On good days (the only ones I can seem to remember anymore), I used to wish that Oliver could stay a baby forever. Now, with a fun, spirited toddler on my hands, I find myself glad to be out of the baby stage and wishing to stay in the toddler stage forever. It seems like whatever stage we are in, I just want it to last a little bit longer than I know it can, like clinging to the last grains of sand as they fall between my fingers.

What I’m learning though, is that I can choose to stare at my empty hand, wondering where all the sand went, or I can look ahead, far down the beach, and see that there is so much more.

Out of necessity, motherhood has been a crash course in embracing change. And while I can’t say I always welcome it gracefully, I am learning to accept it, let it settle in, and then reassess. I’m learning that if I keep looking back, I’m going to miss a lot of the present. And missing out on the present will only create more longing for the past when this stage flies by too.

When we got home from the salon, I stuck Oliver’s hair clippings unceremoniously on the kitchen counter. At some point they unknowingly made their way to the garbage. I’m considering this the ultimate lesson in letting go. And not to ever stick anything of value next to the garbage can.

Thankfully I still have the real thing to run my hands through. And while it’s not full of baby curls and surrounding the chubby cheeks of my itty-bitty baby, it is attached to the head of one ever-evolving big boy who is brimming with his newfound personality. And that’s one change I am grateful for.

 

If You Have a Facebook Account, This One’s for You

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If you’re a Facebook account wielding woman in her late 20s, chances are your newsfeed has recently been invaded by an army of chubby-cheeked, diaper-wearing little ones. I know mine has. And I’m not going to lie. I LOVE it.

Watching people you knew way back when—the same people who pushed you on the swings at school or told you boys had cooties—grow up and have kids of their own feels a little like coming full-circle. Not to mention, giant, toothless baby grins and toddlers in oversized overalls are a lot more fun to look at than the drunk college party pictures that once dominated the screen.

But to all my fellow Facebook moms and dads, I have one small problem with all the pictures you post. It’s a problem that is entirely MINE, and not a fault I find in YOU. Let’s clear that up right away. But I think it’s a problem that a lot of people have, so in talking about it, I’m hoping to provide a possible remedy.

So what exactly is my problem? Let me set the scene.

It’s nine o’clock on a Friday night, and I am sitting in bed performing my compulsory internet browsing. You know the drill—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, favorite blogs, Weather.com. (I know. I know. I lead an exciting life.) As I surf through the latest round of too-cute kid pictures, I find myself fluctuating between enchantment and envy.

This is the point where I usually turn to my husband and say something ridiculous along the lines of, “why can’t Oliver be as well behaved as all these other peoples’ kids.” Note that well-behaved could easily be replaced with numerous descriptors—happy, calm, easy-going, giggly…and the list goes on.

I’m rolling my eyes at myself as I type this. It seems so absurd now. But it didn’t when I said it.

At the time I was thinking, come on moms and dads of Facebook, where are all the pictures of your kid splayed across the floor mid tantrum because you wouldn’t give her a cookie? Where are all the pictures of red-faced colicky infants? What about the toddler screaming to get out of his restaurant high chair five minutes after sitting down?

Clearly because you don’t post images of these trying instances, they never happen. Right? Sounds silly, but that is the exact thought process I used to go through. I’d look at your happy, smiley baby, compare her to the fuss ball clinging to my leg, and end up feeling like I must be doing something wrong.

I know I’m not alone in making these kinds of comparisons. There is a whole psychological theory that delves into the intricacies of why we do it and it mostly boils down to determining personal and social worth. In other words, it lets us know how we measure up against others and in doing so, solidifies our identities.

In the Facebook era though, this presents a real problem since the images we use to make comparisons usually only represent the highlights of parenthood. These ideal moments set the bar artificially high, making it easy to feel like you are falling short.

The turning point for me came when I started to sift through the pictures I post of my own little guy. The first image showed Oliver grinning ear to ear during a trip to zoo. Another picture showed Oliver laughing, his face covered in bubbles. And then there was a rare picture of him sitting nicely in a high chair, quietly coloring.

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On and on it went, one smiling picture after the next. In fact, out of the hundreds of pictures I have posted, there are only a couple that show Oliver less than exuberant. I am as guilty of only posting the happy moments as the next person. And why not? These are the moments that bring the most joy. They are the moments that make me feel like a confident and competent mommy. Most importantly, they are the times that reassure me that the hard times never last forever. The next smiling, happy kiddo picture is just around the corner.

When I realized the problem lay in my perception and not myself, I decided to take action. First, I recognized that the images I see on Facebook represent a single moment in time, likely one of your best. For every smiling baby picture that you post, I’m sure you could have posted another of your little one crying.

Next, I focused my efforts on limiting comparisons between Oliver and other kids, especially within the context of social media. Comparing my three-dimensional, lived experience with a two dimensional image is not the way to foster happiness.

The last thing I did, and possibly the most important was to choose to focus on joy. So maybe Oliver does cry and whine more than the average toddler. Maybe his tantrums are more epic. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. It doesn’t matter. By downplaying the struggles of parenthood and emphasizing the joys, I find that I am a happier mom, no matter the circumstances.

These are lessons that took me awhile to learn. They are ones I sometimes still have to remind myself on my worst days. But I’m getting there.

So Facebook moms and dads, keep posting those smiling little faces. Keep sharing the laughter and the fun. And maybe every once in awhile, post a picture of your kid screaming his head off. I can promise you that if it shows up in my newsfeed, I will be one of the first to like it.

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Vacation From Mommmyland

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Best part of leaving your baby for a long weekend: 3 days away from baby.

Worst part of leaving your baby for a long weekend: 3 days away from baby.

My mom and I recently had the opportunity to visit my sister in Florida for a long weekend. We left on a Friday afternoon and were back home in time for lunch on Monday. Total time away from the baby: a glorious 72 hours. Or was it a heartbreaking 72 hours? How am I supposed to feel about this again?

Thankfully Oliver was left in the very capable hands of my husband and dad. Surely the two of them together could equal one of me in sheer parenting awesomeness. No? Brad, who often only sees Oliver for a couple hours a day during the week was looking forward to his father/son bonding time. I, who sees Oliver for almost every hour of every day during the week, was looking forward to spending some babyless time with my sister and mom. The fact that my sister lives in Miami is an added bonus.

Before having a baby I viewed traveling as a means to an end, an annoying but necessary step to get me where I wanted to go. After baby, I’m beginning to see it in a different light. What’s that? You want me to spend half the day sitting on my butt, relaxing, reading magazines and snacking on peanuts…without any interruptions? Woo hoo! You might as well be sending me to a spa with how rejuvenating that sounds.

It took a whole five hours before “I’m away from the baby bliss” gave way to “I’m away from the baby sadness.” When the plane landed and I turned my phone back on, a picture text of Oliver popped up on the screen. He was standing in the kitchen, sippy cup in hand, surrounded by every single pot and pan we own. Normally this “game” has me sighing in resignation once I remember it is much easier to clean up than lunch toss, another of his favorite games. But this time it brought a smile to my face. How cute, I thought. I wonder what other sorts of mischief he’s getting into.

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Over the next day, by request, the picture texts kept coming. I’d be lounging poolside with my mom and receive an image of Oliver riding on the back of Brad’s bike. Or I’d be walking along the beach gossiping with my sister and see a picture of Oliver playing with an empty milk carton he’d fished out of the recycle bin. While eating brunch, it was a picture of Oliver sleeping in the car seat after a morning at the zoo.

Two days into the trip I called Brad for our daily check-in and he said something that simultaneously melted and broke my heart.

“Oliver said mama today.”

“He said what?” I asked, unsure if I heard him correctly.

“He said mama. In fact, he’s been saying it all day.”

I couldn’t believe it. Of all the days over the past 14 months he could have chosen to say “mama” he picked one of the few days I wasn’t there to hear it. I looked out over the ocean. I listened to the sound of the waves lapping against the sand and the wind whipping through the palm trees. It was a beautiful sight and an equally beautiful symphony of sounds. But what I wouldn’t have given to hear Oliver say “mama” for the first time instead.

Brad must have sensed my disappointment. “He’ll say it again when you get home. Don’t worry.” I knew he was right. I’d get to hear him soon enough. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t still disappointing.

“Enjoy your mini vacation while you can,” he added. “Because in a weeks time you’re going to want to trade in his endless refrain of mamas for the sound of the ocean.” I knew his was right about that one too. Sometimes my husband is too smart for his own good.

That’s the bittersweet part about time away from your baby. Leaving behind all the unpleasant parts of parenthood also means leaving behind all of the joys. Trading in screaming and crying for adult conversation also means missing out on baby giggles and coos. Trading in sticky fingers and pureed carrots for dinner out on the town means no laughing at spaghetti covered smiles.

And if you’re like me, experiencing the first uninterrupted night of sleep in months means not experiencing the first time your baby says “mama.”

The day we got home I was worried Oliver wouldn’t say “mama,” but from the time I walked in the door until the time he went to bed at night he said it on repeat. And then he kept saying it the next day. And the next day. And the next. And you know what? Hearing it for the first time wasn’t any less amazing because it wasn’t him saying it for the first time. In fact, I think I found it more amazing because my time away gave me an invaluable perspective.

Instead of getting caught up in the up-close, day-to-day struggles of motherhood, from a distance all I saw was the inherent joy and beauty in it all. And when I got home, my experience of motherhood might have gotten a little messier, a little louder, and a whole lot crazier, but with my refreshed perspective, it was all still beautiful.

Yes, even moments like this…

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The Nose

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Most people can attest to having at least one physical feature they are not thrilled about. For me, that feature has always been my nose. Long and slightly downturned with wide, flaring nostrils it has jokingly been referred to as a witch’s nose, a ski slope, a beak and my personal favorite made up by my Sesame Street obsessed sister at age five, Mr. Snuffuleupagus.

As an insecure teenager, I would sit in front of the mirror attempting to contort my nose into a variety of shapes, trying on different looks like I was trying on shirts at the mall. I’d scrunch it up with my thumb into a small button-shaped knob. I’d pinch the nostrils until I could barely breath and push down the tip, all the while imagining how much prettier my face would be if only my nose were less prominent.

Thankfully, my 20’s ushered in greater self-acceptance, and with it came a newfound level of confidence. My nose went from witch-like to Romanesque and from ski-sloped to striking. My days of agonizing in the mirror were over and I made peace with the insecurities of my youth. Or so I thought.

When my son was born my husband and I swooned over every feature on his tiny body. We admired his alert blue eyes, noted his cute dimple, and brushed our hands through his wispy blonde hair. He looked just like his dad—an observation that was confirmed by every family member, friend, and stranger that saw the two side-by-side. What followed the initial observation though, was undoubtedly, “but look, he has his mother’s nose.”

He has MY nose? “That’s unfortunate,” was my knee-jerk reaction. Of all the physical features he could inherit why did it have to be my nose? I disclosed my genetic disappointment with my husband. “Why is that a bad thing?” he asked. “I love your nose.”

“Love? You love my nose? You’re just saying that,” I rebutted as my long list of criticisms came rushing to the surface. Too long. Too large. Too pointy. Too bumpy. Too wide. Too flared. Too…and then I stopped and looked at my son. I looked at his nose, the same nose that sat on my face. And the only descriptor that came to mind was “perfect.” His nose was perfect.

I tried imagining a young Oliver, feet in the bathroom sink as he inched his face closer to the mirror. I tried imagining him scrutinizing his appearance in the same way I did, his self-confidence plummeting. And all because of one inconsequential feature, that in my eyes, was already perfect.

I picked up my son and held him tightly, desperately hoping my arms could ward off the hardships he is bound to face in the years to come. I said a prayer that in addition to my nose, he also travels though life with my eyes so that when he’s filled with doubts and insecurities, he sees himself the way I do now: perfect as is.

That’s the thing about having kids. They have a way of bringing us face to face with the things we dislike most about ourselves. Whether it’s a lack of patience, inflexibility, poor communication skills, or something as superficial as a nose. We are forced to confront, to adjust, to grow, and to transform into better versions of ourselves.

The next time I’m out with my son and someone comments on the similarities of our noses I will simply smile and say thank you. I will take it as the compliment it is. Because if my nose looks anything like my son’s, then I can only think of one word to describe it: perfect.

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9 Months: Growing Up and Growing Out

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Don’t let the smile plastered across my puffy, pregnant face fool you, being pregnant was not fun! And to anyone who says otherwise, please keep it to yourself; you’re making the rest of us look like whiney, complaining weaklings.

Toward the end of my pregnancy, every time someone asked me when I was due, I’d say “soon.” Ah, if only proclaiming that he was coming soon translated into an earlier due date; it was wishful, possibly delusional, thinking at its finest.

While my aches and pains weren’t unique to me, I certainly felt somewhat isolated when I heard how much other women LOVE being pregnant. “I love feeling the baby move, knowing that I’m carrying this life inside me,” I heard many women say. I wanted to counter with, “I love when the baby decides to stop moving for a moment; my internal organs need a break from the constant beating.” Another one I heard a lot is, “I don’t really feel all that different; I’m just so excited to be a mom I guess I don’t mind the minor discomforts.” Don’t get me wrong; I was looking forward to meeting baby Oliver, but at that moment it had as much to do with wanting to get rid of the nausea, fatigue, stomach pain and pressure, back and leg pain, and constant need to pee as it did with holding him in my arms. Does that make me a bad mother? Was I the only one who yearned for her pre-pregnancy body to come back so she could finally feel “normal” again?

Like most trying life situations, at least I can say I walked away from it with some valuable life lessons:

1) My body has limitations

Silly me, I used to think I was invincible. I believed I could do anything if I tried hard enough: overcome any obstacle, become stronger, faster, work harder, push past my limits, because heck, I don’t have limits. I was a walking, talking Nike ad on steroids. But when I traded in my workout attire and running shoes for maternity jeans and nursing bras, it was time for a reality check. Sometimes, despite my wishing and willing my body to do one thing, it had its own agenda for the day and would not cooperate. No amount of mind over matter powered me off the couch and to the gym when sharp pains were shooting down my back and legs. No amount of determination and will power enticed me to do the laundry or clean the apartment after a sleepless night and a mid-morning bought of nausea. Sometimes, I am limited. Sometimes I have to accept that instead of trying to make my body cooperate with me; I need to cooperate with my body. But that doesn’t make me weak.

2) Things don’t always have to go according to plan

When I was younger, I was fairly inflexible. I believed rules were meant to be followed, schedules adhered to, and organizational systems maintained. Tell me something was going to happen, be it a trip to the dentist or a trip to Disney World, and if it didn’t happen, I became distressed. Yes, I was that kid. And that kid’s attitude still has a way of popping up from time to time in this adult’s life. What can I say, I like when plans are made well in advance, I know what to expect, and I can adjust accordingly. Becoming pregnant set my world off balance a little. In my mind I planned to get pregnant in July, not October, and have the baby in March, not July. By the start of the third trimester I’d be an established free-lance writer with a decked out nursery, and all my little baby booties in a row. Upon Oliver’s arrival I did not yet own a single pair of baby booties. Our nursery was still strewn with shower gifts and little outfits waiting to be washed, and my career as a freelance writer is still a wish simmering on the back burner. I’m guessing like his arrival, most things surrounding our son will not happen on a set schedule, and I’m learning that I can adjust.

3) Becoming an adult isn’t about hitting some arbitrary milestone

Growing up I kept waiting for that magical moment when I would transform from a pimple-covered, pigtail wearing, lunch box toting little kid to a sophisticated adult. When I hit a certain age, say 16 with license in hand or 18 when high school ended and college was on the horizon, then certainly I’d be a grown up. Or perhaps when I land that first “big kid” job, buy a house, get married, or, like my mom always told me, become a parent, then I’m an adult. Well at 28 years old with many milestones under my belt, I’ve come to realize becoming an adult has more to do with an attitude than the number of candles on a cake. It comes from the wisdom gained through life experiences and the new perspectives those experiences offer.

4) Putting someone else’s needs ahead of my own does not mean forgetting entirely about my own needs too

Raise your hand if you’ve even been on a plane. Now raise your hand if you actually pay attention to the preflight announcements. Let me refresh your memory. If the plane cabin looses oxygen all adults are instructed to first place the oxygen mask over their own nose and mouth before assisting young children. There is an important life lesson to be learned here. I bet you didn’t realize there was free advice that went along with those peanuts. How many times have you heard a parent say, “I have no time for myself anymore?” What they’re really saying is “I forgot that I am a person too, and I have needs.” When we forget to meet our own need and focus exclusively on our children, it’s all too easy to become drained, and in my experience a drained parent is also a crabby, irritable, impatient, ready to lose her marbles parent. This isn’t in the best interest of either party. One of the best things you can do for your baby is to take some time for yourself so that you have the ability to be the best parent you can be. That is, to meet your child’s needs it is essential to also take into account your own–to put your oxygen mask on first so to speak.

5) Never underestimate the value of a support system

Toward the end of my pregnant, while I was carrying around a bunch of baby weight I relied on my family to carry much of the weight when it came to….well everything else. Their support then was invaluable, and the same holds true in parenthood. I find in trying moments, when I am at my breaking point, my husband will step up and offers the strength and support I cannot muster. When I am in desperate need of some personal time, my dad or mom will show up at my doorstep ready to take over baby duty. They weren’t lying when they said it takes a village to raise a baby. What they need to add to that though is it also takes a very large, very supportive village to keep a new mom sane.

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