Monday, January 30, 2012

Fine Motor Skills

The other day, Audrey and I sat down at her little pink table to eat her afternoon snack of yogurt and berries. She has been practicing with her fork at meal times and was insisting that she feed herself the yogurt. I let her do it, even though it resulted in a yogurty mess all over her, the table, me, and the wall. Not a big deal, but I thought we could try some activities to work on her fine motor know, since I'm home with her now. :)

I pulled out some Q-Tips and an empty water bottle and we went to town. She doesn't struggle too much with getting them in the hole, so I am on the look out for a bottle (or something) with a smaller opening. I also need something heavier so I don't have to hold the bottle the whole time to prevent it from falling over. Maybe a wine bottle? Is it wrong to teach Audrey using an empty bottle of alcohol? I don't think so. Last year we were doing almost the same activity using wine corks and puffs containers. We also do it with corks and a wipes container. Ok, so I drink a lot of wine, whatever.

Anyways, here are some pictures from our new activity. After we did it the second time, Audrey clapped and signed "more" so we did it again! My favorite part of this is listening to her silent, steady breathing as she concentrates. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Last Day, First Day

Today was my last day at work. Tomorrow is my first day as a stay-at-home mom.

Over the years when talking about having kids, Josh always made it clear that he wanted me to be a stay at home mom. I wanted that too, but before having Audrey, I thought it would be nice to continue working after the first kid, and then stay home with subsequent kids, as the cost of childcare would be more than I bring in. When I was pregnant, this was what I insisted upon to Josh. He wanted me home, I wanted to work. Well, here I am 15 months later saying, "Josh, you were right". :) Who's shocked?

I gave my notice in December and it was taken well. They were surprised (really? How could you not see this coming?) but everyone at work has been very understanding and supportive. I planned for my last day to be on December 30th just to round out a year, but I agreed to stay on until Jan 13 to help train my replacement and make up for one team member being on vacation. The extra two weeks wasn't terrible, but it has been the busiest two weeks at work in months. And also the l-o-n-g-e-s-t. Although I've wanted to shut down and go into cruise control, I've actually had to do work and stay on top of the game as this busy season starts.

I am really excited about being able to stay home with Audrey. The stress of being a working mother was much more than I expected. It is far more challenging and demanding than I thought it would be, and I was certainly not prepared for it. I spent the past year feeling like I was just treading water trying to make it through the day/week/month/year. I hardly did anything I consider a hobby, cleaning the house has fallen by the wayside, paper work hasn't been filed in ages, and some days I look at Audrey and feel as though there are gaps in her short 15 months that I don't remember because we were so busy. We moved into our house in September, and yet we have two rooms that we can't use because they are occupied by unpacked boxes (ok, that's also because the house is always under construction, but you get the point). The past year has undoubtedly been the hardest of my life. Leaving my sweet girl every morning was so heart wrenching, I spent many mornings crying on my way to work because I missed her. I spent many evenings driving home like a maniac just so I could get to her faster and pick her up and squeeze her. I know that mothers do this every day under much harder circumstances, and I am grateful that our family is able to make this transition. I know that in the long run this is the best thing for the three of us.

My biggest concern is that I might be doing Audrey a disservice by taking her out of day care. She is such a social little girl, and I absolutely attribute that to her being in day care. She is always happy when she's there, she is excited to go in each day, she hugs her friends and her teachers. I wonder if it will be hard for her to adjust to not being around other kids all day. Obviously I plan to take her out as often as possible, but the truth is that no matter how many play groups we go to it will not be the same as being in a class room with 6 other toddlers for 8 hours each day. She is learning to be well mannered and social there, learning to share, and is learning by watching the older toddlers. I do intend to continue "teaching" her things at home and I have no doubt in my abilities there. I guess I just worry that although this is the best thing for our family as a whole, I am not sure if it is the best thing for my sweet Audrey. I hope she doesn't miss her school friends too terribly.

I enrolled Audrey in a class at the Cub Run Rec Center called "Fun Fit Tots". It is a class for 1-2 year olds and their parents to get a little bit of exercise and have some fun for an hour each week. The first class was this week and we had fun! We didn't go around the room and say how old our babies are, but Audrey appears to be much younger than the other kids, who are all boys. They are much taller and talk a lot more and just look older. Its so amazing how different a 15 month old child can be from an 18 month old or a 22 month old. Anyways, Audrey follows directions pretty well at home, but yesterday she really wanted to do her own thing. She liked kissing herself in the mirror. She also liked hanging out in the corner along this little ledge that was just her size to sit on. The teacher said it was normal for the kids to do this the first few classes because it is all so new and exciting, but that as the weeks go on they will be more inclined to participate. One of the boys made his mom hold him the entire hour. Another boy just cried and cried. It was quite funny. I'll try to snap some picture one time, but parental involvement is a key part of the class so I'm not sure I'll get a good opportunity to take pics. I've also researched some activities at the public libraries near us and there are some story hours and also sing-along type activities for toddlers that I'm going to check out.

Poster from her classmates 
So here's to new beginnings! Thank you all for your support and love as we start this new chapter!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Christmas and New Years

This year's Christmas was really exciting for me. Although Audrey is still too young to understand what it is all about, Santa, the presents, etc, it was drastically different from last year when she was only 3 months old and was oblivious to everything around her.

We visited the Santa at Columbia Mall with Joy, Ian, Gloria, Pete, and Cheryle. Audrey was in a bit of a cranky mood, so I thought she might cry, but instead she just seemed confused. She came close to crying once, and even stuck out her little lip to let us know she was not happy, but no yelling, screaming, or writhing as though in torture. I thought it'd be cute to get a picture like that,  but Audrey is just too chill. The pictures turned out pretty well, too!

We went and bought our Christmas tree one cold evening, and this is the one Audrey picked out. It ended up being the perfect height and width to fit nicely in the corner of our living room. The tree decorating was interesting. I only put breakable ornaments on the top half to keep Audrey from playing with them and breaking them. She did really well and wasn't as into the tree as I thought she might be. She did sneak behind the tree a few times and hide out, which is funny because I remember doing the same thing when I was little. I put some pinecones down low for her to look at and touch and she liked them. She would sometimes take them off to play with and then get this deer in the headlights look when she saw me looking at her, and then she'd shove it back into the tree. She's so silly.
We found a winner!

Hmm, I really want to touch this tree!
I think her favorite part of Christmas was unwrapping the presents. I caught her opening one a few nights before Christmas. It was like she just couldn't help it - a piece of wrapping paper had ripped in the mail so she could see a peek of the gift on the inside and she just HAD to get to it.  Every day leading up to Christmas she would sit down in front of the tree and look at me, asking if we could open the presents. She had fun ripping some open and then being so delicate with others.

She got soooo many cool presents. Santa brought her only boring things - socks, crayons, two pairs of new earrings, and a DJ spin machine (.....ok, clearly Josh picked that one out). But what Santa forgot, everyone else remembered! She got a little table and chairs from Maria that fit nicely in our living room. The chairs are still a little big for Audrey to (safely) climb into, but with help, she's been coloring and enjoying her snacks here. She also got a Scout and a Violet - they are programmable so that they can say Audrey's name, her favorite food, favorite animals, and sing her favorite songs. She loves them! She also got some trucks, books, clothes, a stool with her name, slippers, some Little People, a Dancing Puppy, a bunch of animals (her favorite!), a magnet animal set, bath toys, a new blanket, and so many more things that I can't even think of right now! She was certainly good this year to get all those gifts.
Enjoying her new DJ toy

Snacking at her table

The days after Christmas left us in a bit of a bind. What in the world do we do with all these toys??! Since Audrey got a fair amount of money for Christmas, we decided to take a trip down to Ikea and pick out a storage solution for her playroom. We found a nice one for a fair price, and I couldn't wait to get it home and set up! It was a great choice - the bins are nice and big so she can organize her toys, and still have easy access to them when she wants. We also picked up a long floating shelf and have installed it on one of the walls. I love it. It is low enough that she can see and touch everything. She already stands in front of the shelf and does her puzzles, so I know it was a great choice. I love how the playroom is coming together. It still has a long way to go, but its getting there. We hung the wire clips for her art work and although I like how it looks, I want to go back and get another one to place directly under this one. I want Audrey to be able to see it, but not low enough to touch it and pull and rip it off the wall (she would). Plus, I think it looks really uneven and off balance the way it is now.

Our New Years Eve was quiet this year (a lot like last year). We went to a First Birthday Party for little Ryley, and then went out to dinner with some friends in the evening. We went to Sweetwater like we did last year and we're looking forward to making it an annual New Years Eve tradition. Amy and Brett joined us, and Brett brought her little girl, Ellie. Ellie is 4 months older than Audrey and they had a great time together. They both enjoyed a host of activities including throwing food, knocking over drinks, dumping sugar, screaming, and flailing their bodies all over the place. Yes, we were THOSE people. It was a bit of a stressful dinner (especially since Audrey was on a hunger strike all weekend and refused to eat), but we had fun anyways and it was so nice to catch up with friends we don't see very often.

Overall, we had a busy but awesome Christmas and New Year's this year. It seemed to just sneak up on me and then fly by without really getting to enjoy it as much as I usually do. I already excited for next year when Audrey will be more into Santa and understand what is going on more.

Monday, January 9, 2012

14 Months of Breastfeeding

Just shy of 14 months, actually.

Since I use this space as my personal journal, I'm just going to lay it all out here. I loved breastfeeding and years from now I want to have a written account of what it was like for me. This is that account. Sorry if you don't like boobs. You probably shouldn't read this.

When I was pregnant I never questioned whether or not I would breastfeed. I didn't really give it much thought, just assumed I would. Josh was on board and supportive from the start, and I never doubted that I could do it, or that I'd make enough milk, or anything else. It was just assumed that its what we would do - infant formula didn't exist as far as we were concerned. Maybe this is why breastfeeding was pretty easy for me. Up until she was 8 weeks old, I didn't pay attention to the clock, I didn't give her a pacifier, I didn't make her wait three hours, I didn't encourage her to sleep through the night, I didn't allow anyone to bottle feed her. It was all me, and I think many of these things contribute to my success in nursing. My supply was astounding. Not only early on, but the entire time I was nursing. I had some struggles in the beginning with latch problems, but that was solved with the help of my lactation consultant. We also had a bit of trouble figuring out comfortable nursing positions for the first 9 weeks that Audrey was in her Pavlik harness, but figured that one out by taking the stupid thing off when she ate.  (**Side note - sometimes I forget that Audrey ever had hip displaysia. Isn't that strange? I guess it is true what they say about the bad fading away and only the good things staying in our minds).

When Audrey was around 12 weeks old, she had some blood in her stool that the doctor attributed to a dairy allergy. I cut out all dairy for a few months, only to discover a while later that it was likely not a dairy allergy, but an oversupply issue. Too much milk apparently can be a bad thing! She was getting way too much foremilk and not enough thick hindmilk, and that was causing digestive problems. This ended up not being a big deal anyways, because once I returned to work my supply evened out and became more normal. I added dairy back into my diet when she was about 7 months old and we didn't have any problems, and never have since. That was a relief because I am not prepared to figure out how to avoid dairy forever.

Me, topless of course, trying to wake her to eat
I started to think about weaning shortly before Audrey's first birthday. I wanted to do it gradually and try to make the transition easy, so I started thinking about it a couple months before I wanted to be done. I knew I wouldn't continue pumping at work after she turned one, so we began the transition to whole milk starting around 11 months (and I actually had so much milk in the freezer that I stopped pumping a couple of weeks before she turned one). Once I stopped pumping three times a day at work, I saw a huge drop in my supply (less demand = less supply). I was only nursing her two or three times each day - in the morning before we got out of bed, in the evenings before bed, and sometimes right after work as a way to relax and have some quiet time together. On weekends, I continued giving her whole milk rather than nursing her during the day even though we were together.

At 12.5 months, we decided to night wean her. Well, I guess I decided. Josh wanted me to keep nursing her "as long as possible". I told him that when he grew breasts and began lactating then he could nurse her as long as he'd like, but I was done. We co-sleep and have done so full time since Audrey was around 6 months old. The whole time I nursed, Audrey woke up 2 or 3 times (or more some nights) to nurse and I was fine with that because all I had to do was roll over and she'd latch on and we'd both go back to sleep. I wasn't losing any sleep in this situation, neither was Josh.  I'm not sure what motivated me to night wean. I don't think there was any real motivation, it just felt like it was the right time. I wanted my boobs and my body and my space back and I felt that at 13 months she was old enough to understand that night time is for sleeping and not eating. Audrey could have gone much longer before weaning, but I decided to do it myself. Some might say that is selfish to not let the Audrey wean herself. Maybe it is. I don't know.

My chubby little girl
The night weaning process was difficult. Audrey did not want to give up her night drinks. We did it over the course of a week and it was miserable for everyone involved. Audrey would wake up and try to nurse and I wouldn't let her. That was infuriating to her! She would scream and cry and Josh and I would lay there with her, cuddling her, kissing her, rubbing her back, talking to her. This did make me feel like a big a-hole mom for denying her something that she so badly wanted, but I never got uneasy feelings or feelings that what I was doing was wrong, so we kept on with it. Within 5 nights, she was sleeping 7pm-5am without waking for milk, and when she would wake around 5 or 6am, I'd nurse her and then go back to sleep (or get up for work). I continued this for a couple more weeks, and was nursing her before bed and in the early morning before work, and then she dropped the 5 am feeding on her own. One night we went up to bed and I nursed her to sleep and that was it. I told Josh that for the next few weeks, he'd have to be the one to put Audrey to sleep and he agreed. Surprisingly, she did not protest that at all. In fact, it was much easier for him to put her to bed and it took him half the time (she has a tendency to climb all over me and laugh and play and be would up when I do bedtime with her).

About a week after our last bedtime nursing session, I got super engorged and my left  boob was looking like a bowling ball and I ended up with a clogged duct. It was truly the most painful thing I've experienced with breastfeeding - worse than cracked and bleeding nipples. It was like a fire hot pain radiating out from my breast and every step I took or movement I made I could feel it. I couldn't take it any longer so one night I woke her up around 3 am and nursed her while I massaged the duct and it released. Best feeling ever. I thought that was our last nursing session...until a week later and the same thing happened AGAIN. So again, I woke her up in the middle of the night and nursed her and released the pain and haven't had any issues since. That was 7 weeks ago.

I had some worries about weaning. I was afraid I might experience some sadness or slight depression, as I've read and heard that this is common for women when they wean. While I did have conflicting emotions about it, I didn't actually get too down about it or feel depressed. Again, I think it was because the time was right for us. It felt like the best thing and I never questioned my decision. I also worried about weight gain after weaning. While I nursed, I had an insatiable appetite and never seemed to put on any pounds. In fact, I maintained my weight at 5lbs less than I was pre-pregnancy. I was (and am) afraid that all that weight would catch up to me once I stopped and my metabolism and hormones all settled back down. So far I have noticed a slight gain (I don't have a scale and haven't been to the doctor so this is only based on how my clothes fit), but nothing too dramatic.

I felt like my breastfeeding relationship with Audrey was perfect. I loved coming home from work and cuddling up with her and reconnecting after being apart all day. It relaxed me, and it relaxed her. Breastfeeding, for me, was never a source of stress, but was more a source of comfort. I'm proud that I accomplished (almost) 14 months of breastfeeding. Sometimes I wonder if it will be easier or harder with future babies. I think back to the first month of nursing when I would actually take my shirt off every time I had to feed her because I couldn't figure out how to do it with a shirt on. Haha. My poor friends and family had to sit there will I sat in only a bra on the couch, sweating and with all that post-partum fat hanging out. Luckily they still love me, and adore Audrey (Thank Goodness). I remember how Josh and I would stare at her eating and we'd laugh because, really, we were staring at my boobs, but to us it was so amazing how it all worked and how naturally it came to Audrey and to me. I nursed everywhere, anywhere. I wonder if next time I'll be more reserved and shy about it? I guess when the time came to feed Audrey, I just did it, I never really thought about it. I wonder how many people I made uncomfortable by nursing in public. Oh well! I enjoyed my breastfeeding journey and I'm looking forward to nursing any future babies as well!