Our Mindful Life

Our Mindful Life: July 2011

Our Mindful Life

Our Mindful Life is about paying attention to what it is that we do on a day to day basis and how we impact each other and the planet. We will talk about all of the things that we do here at home to make ourselves and the world a better place.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Life After a New Baby Part 3 - Be Flexible While You Adjust, Adjust, Adjust!

New babies are a great life changer - for everyone in the family!  And everyone adjusts differently. When we had Beanie, the transition from a couple to a family was interesting enough. We were both adults who had an idea what to expect.  Still, an unexpected NICU stay took its toll on us. And we still had to make the usual adjustment to what our relationship would be like with another person involved.  We had to learn that even though I am a very high touch person, at the end of a day of breastfeeding once an hour and carrying around a baby who cried if anyone but me held her, I did not want to be touched anymore.  We learned that there would be no conversation between 7 and 9 in the evening, because Beanie screamed at the top of her little lungs for those 2 hours every night for 6 months. We had to change our expectations of my job as a stay at home mom when I couldn't put the baby down for more than about 30 minutes at a time.  It completely changed our relationship, and while we came out stronger, it wasn't always easy.

When the Bug was born, we had to readjust our expectations again, but we also had to help the Bean adjust.  Teaching a 2 year old how to interact with a baby can be a huge challenge. Luckily, Beanie has adored her brother from the moment she laid eyes on him.  She has always been gentle and careful with him. The first time I laid him in the baby gym, she crawled in with as much care as I could have and lay next to him, batting toys for him to watch.  He watched her instead.  One of our difficulties lay in the area of sleep. At this point, it seemed none of us were getting enough. Bean woke the Bug, the Bug woke the Bean, Daddy was trying to help and staying up late, and Mommy was up all night nursing.  When we finally got the sleeping arrangements figured out at about 9 months, everything went much more smoothly.  By that time I had figured out how to get 3 meals a day on the table again, how to incorporate our new dietary restrictions, how to clean up most of the time, and how to handle getting in an occasional conversation with my husband.

And now, we are five!  This time has gone much more smoothly.  The Bean is an experienced older sister. She has assured herself of her status, knows what to expect of a brand new baby, has been there for Mama's hormonal highs and lows and knows that I always even out and that I still love her.  Seriously, she could give lessons in how to be an older sibling.  The Bug, on the other hand, is struggling.  He adores his baby brother, and is glad that he is here. But he has never undergone a trial so intense with us before, and isn't positive that his place will remain when the dust settles.  He's struggling to maintain impulse control, do things we ask of him, or remain calm in any form of the word.  It's like a probationary period at a new job where you want so badly to succeed and be liked that you get everything wrong no matter how you try.  And getting upset with him only makes it worse.  So, he and I work together to find a place of calm and composure each day. I keep loving him and guiding him through the process as calmly as I can.  He keeps checking in with us and establishing special rituals to reconfirm his place.  And we all keep as much love and patience on hand as we can muster.

The adjustment doesn't last forever.  Calm, love, forgiveness and care are the keys to making it successful.  Apply these things to everyone in the family, including yourself and soon enough you will be back to your new normal!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Life After a New Baby - Part 2 Cleaning Systems

Living in a clean house is important to everyone at this house. Everyone, that is, except for the new baby! But I have found that keeping the mess down keeps the stress down for the rest of us. So, I make it a priority to at least keep the house in a clutter free condition.

To help me in this endeavor, I use a card file system.  I've tried many systems in my time and found that, more than anything, routine is key. It is also important to find your weak areas and address them. For me, focusing on one task at a time, figuring out what needs to be done when, and remembering my task after an inevitable interruption are my weaknesses. My card system addresses all of these needs. I can easily add or remove items as they are needed (or not). The cards tell me what I need to be doing so I am not jumping from one task to another in an endless circle. And if I need to make someone a snack, pick up a baby, wipe a bottom, or help someone with something, I can just go back to my cards and see what I was working on without wasting time trying to remember.

My cards have my daily chores written on white index cards:
Plan dinner, be sure it isn't frozen, get it in the crockpot if needed
Take my medicine
Empty the dishwasher if Papa hasn't already
Clear and wipe the breakfast table
Clear and wipe the counters and stove
Start a load of laundry
Tidy the living areas
Sweep the floor

These are my morning chores each day.  My weekly chores are written on colored index cards so that I can spot them easily:
Clean the bathrooms
Water the houseplants
Wash windows

All of these cards are stored in a pretty box with daily divider tabs. When I do a chore, the card goes to the next day tab. In the morning, they are already stacked up in order for me when I move my day of the week tab to the back of the box!

It seems simple but it makes a world of difference in how much I accomplish in a day.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Life After a New Baby Part 1 - Freezer Meals

Squeaker is, obviously, baby number three for us.  After our experience transitioning to our second baby, I really worked to make this transition easier.  For starters, by the luck of the draw, I had a much more low maintenance baby.  That made the transition MUCH easier.  But since we can't control that, we'll move on to the things we can control.

I did quite a bit of freezer cooking before Squeaker came. Ok, really, I did a lot of research, recipe gathering, menu planning, grocery list making, and general groundwork. I did a bit of the general prep work, but mostly, Papa did the cooking that several weeks I was on bed rest. Thank you, Papa.

I planned it so that we doubled recipes that we were having for dinner. We froze a regular size portion at an appropriate point in the process and ate the other portion that night. This gave us quite an array of food for very little extra effort. There are many excellent sources out there for freezer cooking. Just google "freezer cooking" or "once a month cooking" if you are looking for more information. I also searched my library's catalog for books on once a month or freezer cooking and scoured any one I could get my hands on.

I found that there are many, many recipes out there that work for the freezer and our restricted diet, which surprised me. I expected to find mainly soups and casseroles that called for cream of mushroom sauce as the base. Instead, I discovered a pleothera of amazing marinades, recipes to make from scratch items that I think of as only being available in processed form and containing ingredients we can't have. I found recipes for Teriyaki sauce, Worcestershire sauce, gluten and dairy free casseroles, and one dish meals that I had never even considered.  I've found that my favorite freezer recipes are ones that go from the freezer to the crockpot.  How much easier can it get?

When we were done with phase 1 of our freezer cooking, I had a month's worth of meals in my freezer. Then we moved into our maintenance phase. I menu plan 2 weeks at a time, to coincide with paydays. I determined that we eat fish twice a week, which we don't freeze. This left 10 days each cycle. Five of these days, we eat from the freezer.  The other 5, we double batch. If I keep up with my system, we always have a month's worth of meals in the freezer.

Freezer cooking has been such a savings, in so many ways. First, in time. It really is so much quicker to cook this way. It is like doing half the work. It is such a big sanity saver. When I can't get the baby down for a nap at the right time, I don't have to worry about choosing between dinner or him screaming. Papa is much less stressed if he has to come in from work and pop dinner in the oven or make a salad instead of coming home to a frazzled wife and orders to make dinner because I can't put the baby down. And it is nice to have variety. If the only thing on sale this week is pork, we can stock up and still eat chicken and beef that week.

I highly suggest freezer meals amounting to at least a week's worth of food to any busy mom trying to eat better and still save time and money.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Back from Maternity Leave!

Apparently I took a rather extended, and unintended, maternity leave.  Oops!  But, our new addition, Squeaker, is a month old now and we are back in the groove enough that I think I will be able to resume my blogging.  I'll start with his amazing birth story.  Really, it was an incredible experience, and I am so grateful to have gotten to have it.

The names have been omitted for the privacy of the other people involved.  The initials of the birth team will be used instead, to make things less confusing.

Monday June 6 was a long day. I was 41 weeks pregnant and had nothing planned. I couldn’t really find anything to do all day long – so I pretty much did nothing but sit on the porch swing and watch the kids play in the yard. We were all in a mostly good mood and had a fine day, for all we were a bit bored. 

That night, putting the kids to bed, I had a *real* contraction at about 8:00. Now, I am differentiating real from Braxton Hicks contractions or from the ones that I had finally figured out tended to happen when my stomach muscles got tired at the end of the day. Neither of these were causing any progress. But, the one that night I could tell was the real deal. It was a bit intense, but I just went on reading the kids their book. By 9:30 I had gotten 3 whole contractions! I was so excited – I thought we might actually have a baby one day this week. 

By 10:30 I was debating calling the midwife just to give her a heads up, but the contractions were still pretty irregular and happening about every 10 minutes or so. I still figured we might have a baby sometime during the day Tuesday. However, I did make the brilliant decision to text my birth team to ask if they were awake and if they wanted to come over for what might not turn into a birth any time soon, or if they would rather get some sleep. TH was asleep already, but TFB jumped in her van and was here lickety split! 

By the time TFB got here, the contractions were about every 8 minutes, and this is pretty much where they stayed for the majority of my labor. I had used Hypnobabies to prepare for the birth, but unlike the Bug’s birth, I wasn’t able to focus and stay in my zone between contractions this time. I think possibly because they were spaced so far apart and partly because I was the one timing them and thinking about where we were in the game. But my birthing affirmations track was perfect for where my head was. When a contraction would come, I would just relax as much as I could and go over whatever birthing affirmation was on at that moment. I could just zone out where I was and stay calm and relaxed. 

The only place I could get comfortable this time, and relax through the contractions, was pretty much laying down on my side on the couch. I had a pillow under my head and one between my knees. TFB sat across from me and worked on her knitting and I lay there and we just chatted for a while. I think it was probably around midnight or so that I finally had 3 or 4 contractions that were about 5.5 minutes apart. My instructions were to call the midwife when the contractions were 4 minutes apart, but for some reason, I went ahead and called. Thank goodness I did! Immediately after calling, the contractions went back to about 8 minutes apart. I thought for sure that we’d end up with everyone camping out for hours while I labored, since the contractions were intense, but not that intense, and still pretty far apart. 

For about 2 weeks before this night, the kids had been doing all manner of crazy things on my couch, and I had found myself sounding like a broken record telling them to keep things off the couch. On more than one occasion I had said that karma was going to dictate that I would be lying on the couch when my water broke. It’s amazing how psychic I am some days. At about 10 minutes until 1, I was relaxing through a contraction, still lying on the couch, and I thought, “When this one is over, I’m going to have to go to the bathroom!” When the contraction was almost over, I felt the little gush. It wasn’t a big one, just enough that I knew what it was. And this is where it got tricky. I was still trying to relax through the contraction so I didn’t fight it. The Bug had waken up 45 minutes or so before that, and Papa had taken him back up and laid down with him to get him back to sleep – and never returned. So, mid-contraction, I had to explain to TFB where to find a towel because I didn’t want to get the couch if it could be helped. Luckily for me, she found it and got back in time and I didn’t get the couch at all! Once the contraction was over, I jumped up and ran for the bathroom and she ran upstairs to get Papa. Without that water bag there, the contractions gained some intensity, but not much speed. I told Papa to get the pool ready, because I knew I couldn’t be out of the water and relaxing through contractions much longer. 

When N, the birth assistant, arrived about 20 minutes later, my contractions were about 7.5 minutes apart, and still tolerable. I still thought we might be aiming for daybreak – but at least I knew it was the real thing! 

N hustled around and got everything set out for a birth. Papa got the pool all set up and filling for me. S, the midwife, arrived. We woke the Bean up. I got in the tub and we looked around at each other. I said to N, “So, how was your day?” and she just laughed at me! I stopped timing contractions at this point. I had no real idea how close together they were after this, but I felt like we were still having about the same amount of spacing between them.  I learned, reading my chart later, that they were about 4 minutes apart until I gave birth.

I could feel that little body moving down inside of me. There was this dull ache between the contractions. And I felt like I was going to throw up for quite a bit of the labor at this point. I do remember at one point saying to TFB and Papa before N got there that I thought I might be in transition because I suddenly had the shakes, cold flashes, and the urge to throw up with the contractions. But I still wasn’t feeling like it was definitely transition, and the contractions were still so far apart!   TFB told me afterwards, “When you said that, I thought there was no way you could actually be in transition because you said it so calmly!”  Turns out, I was actually in transition.

The pushing built slowly. Sometimes I would vocalize a bit and push just a bit. Sometimes I could just ride it out. They were a bit more intense at this point. N and S began rubbing my back during the contractions and it felt so good that I wouldn’t let them stop in between. It was almost like I could feel them moving him down for me, instead of my body doing the work. 

I had my hand between my legs, and I could feel his head slowly moving forward. Suddenly, I could feel it bulging through the skin, and I had that true pushing urge. I knew then that this was the real thing, and that we really were that far along. I pushed and moaned, and pushed some more. I wanted to stop, but my body kept going. There was simply no turning it off. I was trying so hard to slow down so that I would stretch more and tear less, but I couldn’t make that happen. I actually thought that I did tear, but I was assured that it didn’t look as though I had (I hadn’t). And suddenly – pop! – his head was out! We waited for what seemed like an eternity for his body to turn and a new contraction to push him out. Papa was stretched across the tub, ready to catch Squeaker. And we all just waited. I finally just pushed his body out without the assistance of a contraction, because none ever came! 

They got him up out of the water, and he was not crying yet. S was working on him and N got the oxygen out. I had given birth on my hands and knees, so he was behind me, with his cord stretched out. I was talking to him while S worked on him, but I couldn’t really reach him. S suddenly noticed that I was trying to touch him and told me how to move so that I could get back to him without yanking him away from her. The overhead lights were turned on and N noticed that there was a true knot in his cord. Finally, he started to mew and then to actually cry. 

Once he got going, he was great. We got settled and snuggled. After a bit of coaxing, he began to latch on and nurse. After a bit of that, we clamped and cut the cord. Papa took him and held him skin to skin while I delivered the placenta – so not my favorite part of birth! The couch was covered with a vinyl tablecloth and pillows and I was escorted there and got to lie down. Papa gave Squeaker back to me and went to wake up The Bug. I got to just lie on the couch for about an hour nursing, meeting, and loving my new baby and introducing him to my older 2. Both of the older kids were (and still are) ecstatic. The Bean helped to clean up and pack up the birthing tub. The Bug hung out by the couch, mostly. 

When the cleanup was done, we all assembled around the couch for the newborn exam and the Mama exam. Squeaker weighed in at 5 lbs 10 oz, and measured 18.5 inches. He was definitely a full term guy with plenty of wrinkles in his hands and feet, and was very awake and alert. 

We were up until 5, getting to know each other, getting settled, and getting everyone fixed up. We finally went to bed for about an hour and a half for the grown-ups and 2 hours or so for the kids. 

Squeaker has proved to be a wonderfully happy, involved little man so far. He barely cries at all, and spends quite a bit of time awake and alert, just watching us all to see what we are about. He is already smiling happily at us, and has quite a bit of head control.  He’s even rolled over several times now!  We are so excited that he joined our family, and that he is doing so well so far!

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