ONEderful Wilson

I have been fully anticipating this first birthday of the last baby to be surrounded by ALL the feels. It probably still will be. But here, on the eve of the eve of her turning one, that also happens to be just before Thanksgiving, I find that what I feel most right now is grateful.

The last year has flown by, as they seem to do faster and faster as we age. It has also been a flurry of activity with a house and heart (and van and calendar) full of beautiful children, so it is really no surprise that I blinked and now my baby is turning one. The time warp began, I suppose, during her first three weeks of life at the NICU, when it felt like we lived an entire lifetime on another planet in those 22 days, but now, all these months later, I have finally gained an ounce of perspective and can see it for the blip that so many friends reassured me it would eventually be.

Oh, I am still going to cry on Wilson’s first birthday. Don’t you worry about that. But instead of reliving the trauma and stress of those first, hard weeks, I think the waterworks will be based more in gratitude that we got to survive them and come home with a healthy baby who has made it to the year mark and now has glorious words like “typical” ascribed to her.

Of course to us, she is everything, and I can’t imagine our family without her. I think it is safe to say the rest of the children agree, as they all take such joy in being around her. I mean, she’s clearly been LT’s favorite person in the whole universe since the very beginning, and lately Truman has started calling her “my baby” in conversation, so good luck to those two in figuring out who is her No.1 fan (it’s Lincoln). Raegan loves on her baby sister all the time and has the best-ever baby-talking-to-voice that cracks me up when I hear it because that must be how we coo at WA all the time. And HD has a stellar theory that he’d love to share with you sometime about how babies make everyone happier (he’s not wrong), because Wilson does indeed brighten every day with her snuggles, smiles, and silly sounds.

Many of those snuggles still come directly on my right hip where she still mostly clings when out in public or around non-immediate family. But she also loves to crawl really fast all over our house and she super loves when I get down on the floor with her so she can crawl up, bump into me, spin around, and flop back against my torso in order to lounge belly-up and check out the world (no wonder we’ve started calling her “Puppy” – we totally need to stop doing that, though!). And just like she did in her first three weeks, Wilson has used this entire year to show us that we really don’t know all that much about babies because she has time and time and time again proved that she’s going to do her own thing, in her own way, in her own time.

So here is who Wilson is at One:

She is the baby of head butting and thumb sucking. She clears the entire shelf of board books in less than 10 seconds and then sits in the pile of books playing with them (apple, tree, *ahem*). She wears PJs pretty much 24/7 because she has to be in and out of the van eleventy-billion times each day to get the Bigs to their various schools and footies work better than socks to keep her feet warm. She pulls up next to furniture and is currently flirting with the idea of standing up from her little chair/the middle of nowhere (look out world!). She empties kitchen drawers like a boss and she speed crawls to be next to my speaker so she can sway and bounce and clap to the music I have playing throughout the day (yes, she loves Nahko. I mean, c’mon!). She tucks her head into my shoulder when people try to talk to her and when I sing her a lullaby before naps/bed. She has more hair/curls than any of our others at this age (even Baby HD). She pulls a head-tilt-and-smile charm move that you would swear we taught her but I swear we did not (unless Truman did; that seems plausible).

Even though I will probably spend the next few days reliving the early days of her life to some extent, I plan to stay grounded in the present as much as possible because to be at this incredible milestone with this incredible baby is such a blessing. I give thanks for her every time I get to snuggle her (so, a lot of time each day) and I will continue to do so for all our days.

She is (almost) one. She is full of wonder. She is wonderful. She is, forever, Wonder Wilson.

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Dear Wilson

The thought went through my head today at Wilson’s 9 Month well check, and not for the first time, that I am afraid that I am going to be old pile of hot mess come her first birthday. I mean, wouldn’t the first birthday of the last baby be enough to reduce anyone to mush status pretty easily? As it is, with our Wonder girl, I find myself of course celebrating her each passing month, but even now, at 3/4 of the way to 1, there’s still a bit of lamenting happening, too. It’s like I haven’t escaped the trauma of the unexpected, life-saving surgery and NICU stay yet.

Actually, I know I haven’t.

One way I know? When I hear or smell anything that reminds me of the hospital, I get panicky. We’re not talking PTSD here, but still. The smell of hospital brand/grade sanitizer? Yep, that does it. The beeping of a vitals machine as it attempts to take blood pressure and pulse? Oh, wow. That REALLY does it. I flat out wanted to drop kick the little roll-y vitals cart thing at the doctor’s office today because it instantly threw me back into all those times I was trying to hold Wilson in the NICU and the machines kept going off (thankfully not because she was in actual distress but because the little pads don’t stick worth a darn), making it next to impossible to snuggle and feed my baby the way I wanted, longed, wished so badly to do.

Here’s the other way I know I haven’t moved past the trauma of it all: I haven’t mourned the loss of my brand new newborn expectations that I had for her and I, for all of us. And clearly I need to do exactly that. So, here goes…

Dear Wilson,

Sweet, sweet, surprise Baby Girl. When I think back to your birth, it is hands down one of the happiest moments of my life. I had experience under my belt, your daddy at my side, and all the nurses and I were smiling and laughing; and even though of course labor is intense, I cannot think of any other way to describe your labor and birth than joyFULL. In hindsight, I am so glad we did not know what was coming next because I think it would have changed your birth dramatically, and my love, you came into this world in the happiest way possible. What I’m still trying to wrap my head and heart around nine months later is how we had to fight in the days and weeks to come to get back not just to happy but to home.

You were, of course, amazing. Strong, blowing through doctor’s expectations that first week, charming everyone with your sweet face and incredible story (and WONDERful nickname). Everyone surrounding you – doctors, nurses, family, friends, prayer warriors – they were amazing, too. Your dad and I? We flew by the seat of our pants and did our best to rock a previously unimaginable situation that ultimately was so short, so swift, but at the time felt like trying to cross a canyon five miles wide and ten miles deep on foot. That being said, I have never been, for one second, frustrated with you over your first three weeks of life. And perhaps that is why I haven’t found a way to direct my feelings or move past them yet because there is literally no one and no thing that can take the blame for what happened. It just did. And thank the heavens above, we still got to keep you anyway.

What I do feel sad about, mad about, down right cheated about, is not getting to have a typical newborn experience with you. By Baby No. 5 you kind of have a sense for how these things go, but Sweetness, you showed us we knew very little beyond how to love you and hold on for the ride of our lives. I wanted to be at home, curled up in my own bed, nursing you and napping next to your bassinet, and having your siblings loving on us all the time, and your dad home from school for a handful of days, and not too many visitors, and just time to do our thing and start the work of figuring out Life as Seven. Instead we got none of that and my every comfort level and heart string was pushed and stretched tight enough to physically hurt. It still hurts now, sometimes, to the point that I have watched other women welcome babies in the time since your birth and been pissed and judgmental about everything they are out and about doing, only to realize I don’t give a flying flip what they are doing – it’s just that I didn’t get to choose what you and I got to do for 22 days.

22 days.

Doesn’t seem so long when I look at that number now. As you grow, I’m sure it will get even smaller. And of course I know that others have faced far worse, far longer, far less happy in the end. But that doesn’t change the fact that I have yet to meet a mama who would trade to have our birth experience, either. I can’t make it a comparison game, but I can mourn for the 22 days that we didn’t get to call ours alone, that went so far off the plan, they rewrote all the rules. Wilson Ann, you will always be worth it. Never ever doubt that. I am sorry I couldn’t make your first 22 days smoother and less scary (for all of us). But you’ve had my heart from the start. You’ll have it forever.

With All the Love,

Mama

P.S. This is you at 9 months. Total, pure sweetness. img_1297

Velcro Lite

Leave it to Wilson Ann, the 5th baby who taught us that we have much, much to learn about new babies, to continue that trend even as we approach the 9-month mark. True to form, she’s doing all kinds of physical feats early and she managed to pop two teeth months ahead of schedule/her siblings, too. Most remarkable and unique (and exhausting for my back) is her mid-summer appearance of Velcro Baby tendencies.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it’s a pretty aptly named parental conundrum: the baby wants you and only you all the time and how dare you put the baby down ever and therefore the baby is stuck to you as if with Velcro, always. Clever, right? Well, it’s all fun and games until you get a Velcro babe and then, hold on to your hats, folks. Actually, your baby. All you can do is hold on to your baby, so forget your hats.

In our case, we’ve gotten off lucky (*knocks on wood; knocks over a forest*) in that Wilson did not show signs of severe clingyness until right around the 8-month mark. In fact, the real first instance I can recall is a weekend trip we took for HD’s birthday to a cabin with friends where she chose to celebrate his big day (& my broken toe) by refusing to let me put her down or even hand her off, ever, except to Ben and sometimes not very happily then, either.

Thankfully, when we got back to our familiar territory of home, she was fine. Off and running (jk! crawling at warp speed yet) and perfectly content. But ever since, anytime we go anywhere and anytime anyone offers to hold her, she will NOT have it.

She’s perfected the koala clutch move on our arms and the tuck-head-into-parent’s-collarbone nonverbal cue whenever anyone attempts. She’s cool with Ben, thank goodness, and on rare occasions she relents for a grandma or grandpa, but wow. For the most part if other people are around or we’re in public, she is Velcroed in tight to my side and screams like a banshee if I put her down, hand her off, or heaven forbid, walk out of her sight.

img_1152Oh, sweet girl. Thank you for not doing this before now. Thank you for being the cutest thing even when we’re both dripping sweat and all I want to do is eat with two hands or go to the bathroom. Thank you for continuing to be my tiniest, most humbling teacher of what it means to be a mama. Thank you for at least cutting me some slack and going Velcro Lite on us.

Close Proximity

Crickets here on the blog lately as for the last couple weekends, Wilson and I have been sharing sniffles back and forth and back again. You see, she’s awfully darn cute, so when img_1071I got some head cold germies, it was hard to remember to keep my distance from her (plus we still nurse around the clock, so….) and then when I got better and she got them, it was hard to remember not to let her slobber-bobber-ness get too close to me, so….I’m starting off my second Monday in a row with a head fog.

Fitting as we’ve been in a fog these last couple weeks, anyway, awaiting Ben’s grandma’s funeral (happening this weekend) and trying to wrap our (foggy) brains around the fact that school is starting, well, next week! Ben actually went back today for his first round of meetings and dives in full force with those this Thursday with kids starting classes the following Thursday.

We will have two in elementary and two in preschool (after he officially turns 3, for Truman, but knock on wood, potty training is going well, so looks like it is a go), which means this mama has to wrap her (foggy) brain around all the drop off times and split locations and all that again, which is different this year as our kids’ school is doing a two-year remodel, so they have to be taken to a different location, which feels new and little nervous making for all of us, I suppose, even though I know it will go fine once we get the new system figured out.

But we’ve honestly had a strange summer and a strange year, so shifting into the new school year and all the change that comes with it is making me glad to have at least a few more days here with all my babies under one roof (even if we are sharing too many back-to-school germs before back-to-school has even begun). I like it better when Ben is here with us so we can divide and conquer and enjoy just a tad bit more, but that’s what Paw Patrol is for, right? Right.

It may not have been the summer (or spring) we had planned or wanted, but we have been able to be together just the seven of us a lot, and that is always, always a good thing in my book.

Milk, To Go

It’s been a while since my last update on breastfeeding, and the good news is, the blebs seem to be, for now, at bay. It took waaaay longer than anticipated for them to fade which meant the pain lasted WAAAAAY longer than anticipated, too, but for over a month now, things have been (knock on wood) back to normal/good. Fingers (and toes) crossed that this trend continues.

To be fair, we gave the system a good test by taking it on the road for our SoDak trip. Nursing away from home is never easy with a baby this age (so distracted! so many extra-long stops along the way!), but all things considered, Wilson did a great job of rolling with it and not injuring me again as we traveled.

Although I am no stranger to nursing in very public places if need be (can you say Houston Children’s Museum, WHOA), I prefer to sneak away when I can, and fortunately on our trip, 90% of the time, I could do just that. I had one afternoon when we rode the 1880s train from Hill City to Keystone and back where I had to nurse both on the train (for soothing because she HATED it) and on a bench at the station (which was empty when I sat down but then soon filled with other bench sitters even though departure time was still 45 mins out, but hey – we saw a deer up close!), but otherwise we were either back at our cabin with my family or I had access to our van.

Ah, nursing in the minivan. Nowhere near as bad as nursing in a public bathroom (ew) but still strange. But also air conditioned and with the option to sort of hang blankets to block view of the passenger seat and still use my Boppy, so really pretty fantastic. Much of our feedings we looked like this, and yes, most of them also turned into little cat naps for Little Miss:

And really, on our big travel days, the extra long pit stops weren’t such a bad deal, either, because it gave the Bigs a chance to get out and stretch legs, etc. at parks along the way. Bless it, I am a BIG fan of Google Maps satellite view because all you have to do is zoom in and look for a baseball diamond in just about any small town and there ye shall also find a park and public restroom. Modern pioneering, I tell ya.

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Also very modern? Something I discovered (and am very excited about, very grateful for) upon returning home from our trip: a nursing swimsuit! I know, I know. I just bought a new suit this summer, but I am returning it because this is awesome and I had no idea until last week that such a thing even existed. It’s a two piece with extra high, extra comfy and flattering bottoms, and a top that unbuttons from the tops of the shoulders (but still with straps down the front so you still stay covered and everything stays in place) from Latched Mama. I get it that the Internet is a creepy place sometimes, and who knows how it decided to show me an ad for this suit, but bless it (again), I’ll take it!

This will get its official test run this weekend on a little family excursion, but I’m already totally thrilled by the fit and accessibility, not to mention the postpartum-friendly design (no matter how many months or years that’s been, actually). Even though the snaps will eventually be obsolete, I can see wearing this for a few summers for sure.

So, from here to there and there to here, I can nurse just anywhere! 😉

Crazy May

If you’re reading this (i.e., if you’re human), I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how bonkers May is. It is truth. And you already know the hubbub well. If I took a picture of our calendar, it would say much the same (and my anxiety levels feel it, too). But our May is off to a cray-cray start not (just) because of the schedule, but the oddities my children are throwing at us.

860fd21b-d3bb-4cc6-b5e4-f9721a00134dMost current is an at-home with a tummy-bug that started last night RL. She is slowly doing better but she’s super sad to be missing tonight’s Student Success night at school and I haven’t even had the heart to tell her that she’s going to have to stay home and miss her first-ever Field Day tomorrow. For my little Kindergartner who LOVES school, this is like a double whammy of feeling crappy because both her body and her spirit are suffering.

But stomach bugs aren’t all that weird, even this time of year. They seem to suck more when the weather is nice, but they happen, so although not ideal (and definitely still contributing to the crazy), not that unknown.

However, Raegan is not the only girl in our house throwing curve balls this month. On Saturday I walked in to see Wilson on her tummy in her crib which was a HUGE shock because she’s been sleeping the last month-ish in a Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit (worth the look if you’ve never seen them as they are a great swaddle transition) and the whole point beyond keeping them from punching themselves in the face during the night is to KEEP THEM ON THEIR BACKS.

Not my Wonder Baby/She-woman. She is too strong for mere mortals and also for magic baby gear, apparently. So bye-bye Merlin and Hello, Halos, instead! Of course this means she has way more freedom in her crib and as you might remember from previous mentions, she’s in this phase where she often forgets that she can in fact roll from her belly to her back, so now when she should be sleeping or napping, she’s often yelling because she’s “stuck” belly surfing. Heaven help our tired souls (which did not benefit from poor RL being up alllll night with the urps last night, either. Also. Whatever.).

And while this conundrum at this age is new to us, it’s also not that strange. Babies get bigger and they outgrow fixes. In fact, that’s still the best baby advice I ever received from a friend after HD was born: as soon as you think you know what the kid is doing, said kid is going to change. FOREVER.

What is both new AND strange to us, and to others I’m willing to guess, happened Friday night to one of our boys. Not naming because I’m trying to protect anonymity and privacy here, but the gist of the story is that a certain body part on a boy got horribly and inexplicably swollen Friday evening, resulting in a trip to Convenient Care which then lead to the ER (!!!) for an ultrasound to make sure that surgery was not needed on (un)said body part that same night.

Yep. Not even kidding.

The whole thing was a whirlwind and scary but thankfully did NOT result in surgery (for real, I’m cool if #WonderWilson is the only one who ever needs that in our family’s story), and the child in question has been doing pretty OK since. He is on meds and will do a follow up with our family doctor and then later in May a specialist, so I might have more to share then, but for now I’m just starting at the calendar and thinking: good gravy, that’s a lot for a five-day time span.

But that’s motherhood, isn’t it? Lots of plates spinning with unknown new plates getting tossed in to the mix when we least expect it. And so we just keep spinning. Thankful to be doing so for another day, even if it’s a day that requires a lot (a LOT) of coffee to keep it all going.

This Too Shall Pass

Seeing as it has been the fastest-but-longest month (winter) E.V.E.R., it’s both impossible and totally reasonable that we are now in the final days of April. Oh, April. You’ve challenged me before and you’ve challenged me once again. I don’t know why we have this beef, but it seems that every couple years, you come with…..lessons. I really can’t believe how quickly the month has gone but looking back it was also a pretty damn hard month, so I’m not exactly sad to see it go.

It started with the stomach bug that knocked me out at Easter, the very first of the month, and it’s continuing here, four weeks later in the form of continued boob drama. What started as a bleb in one breast and then shifted to a clogged duct in the other then turned into a bleb in the super sore boob and now remains as two just generally cranky boobs. You’d think we just started nursing instead of being five months in based on how I feel and I have zero explanations for it.

I’ve had Wilson’s mouth checked and there’s no sign of a tongue tie or teeth or thrush (thank goodness to all three of those things) but there’s also no clear indicator as to why her latch is what it is (kinda crappy, kinda leaky at times) or why my nipples are so sore. It just is and I just am.

So we wait it out. Give her time to grow and maybe time for me to heal, and we see what happens. 12 months remains the goal and Lord in Heaven, I may have to be VERY stubborn to make that happen based on how things are right now, but I worked hard enough to get her going in the first place to be able to come home 100% breastfed, so I suppose I can somehow get there. Right? Right.

The other “this” that needs to/shall also pass is a different kind of stuckness (nope, not a word), and it has to do with my physical routines.

I don’t have a set time post-baby where I suddenly start working out again,10452ba4-24b1-4483-ad23-6d8a3fe746c0 but around this time the baby tends to get big enough to start straining my back as I carry the car seat (or just the baby in general), which prompts me to start doing more yoga, etc. to strengthen my body. This go-round I had not only the desire to yoga again but also to RUN which I haven’t done seriously since before children; but I couldn’t get it out of my head, so instead I just went for it. And by it, I mean a run – with Raegain and then Lincoln – and it was great. I logged less than a mile total and there was definitely some walking in the midst of that running, but I was excited to baby step my way back in to what once was a big part of my life.

However, right when my legs stopped being crampy from the yoga + running, my boob/side exploded in soreness from the clogged duct and alllllllllll the nursing resources out there say rest, take it easy, go slow when you’re having these problems, and so. Here I am. Taking it slow which looks and feels a lot like still doing nothing. But that’s not really true, is it? Because if you’re anything like me, you know that sitting in stillness is very much not nothing, nor is it easy.

img_9914So no big physical practice for me right now. On the mat or on the streets. Instead I’m committing to Legs up the Wall and a meditation/mantra of being healthy and whole and that’s it. It’s not exactly what I wanted to be doing right now but it is what my system is clearly, loudly, painfully telling me I need.

It won’t always be like this. In a year’s time, in a month’s time, everything will be different, and I’m much closer to having my body be entirely my own again than I have been in almost a decade, so there’s that to consider, too. Time will pass. Circumstances will change. Focus will shift. For now I’ve got to stay the quiet course and that’s just going to have to be OK for as long as time says it needs.