The past couple of days have been really trying for me as a mother. But even as my heart aches knowing I can’t “fix” my baby, it sings with joy to see her tears of frustration quickly transformed back into her usual babbles and coos of amusement and contentment.

A couple of months ago we learned that our sweet little girl had a very slight case of developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH), but our first visit with the specialist was actually reassuring since he told us that many of these cases simply go away on their own; we’d just have to come back for evaluation every three months.

So now after Nora’s three-month ‘birthday’ we trekked back down to Indianapolis to hopefully hear some good news. In fact, we did hear a tiny bit: her right hip, which was originally the cause of concern, was much improved. But her left hip had gotten worse, so the doctor decided that it was time for a brace.

I was utterly crushed. On top of all of this Nora has been crying her eyes out since the x-ray when we first arrived, and now they were strapping her into this contraption that looked uncomfortable and awkward. I tried to hold her to nurse and could only manage to get her latched while sitting upright on my lap, and still she was pretty much inconsolable. We did get to take the brace back off to fit her in her car seat, and as we got on the road to go home, she finally passed out. I sat in the back seat and wept most of the way home.

Even though I knew better, I wondered if somehow I could have prevented this, or if I had done something to hurt her. Unfortunately her condition is usually congenital, genetics are a ‘factor’, and the highest risk is in first-born females. It can also be caused by tightly swaddling the hips, but we’ve been practicing ‘safe swaddling’ ever since we learned of the risk. So unfair as it seems, there really was nothing we could have done better or differently.

When we finally got home that evening, we were all completely worn out.  After a quick diaper change, we strapped her back in the brace and tried to sort out how we were going to get through the night and the next day. With a lot of trial & error, we finally got into a comfortable nursing position, and many tears later she fell asleep again.

Normally she only wakes once each night, but between the discomfort in her belly (crying creates lots of air bubbles) and her inability to move with the brace, we were up every hour and a half to two hours. By this morning I was so utterly exhausted, I caved. I took off the brace, and we snuggled down for a three-hour stretch. And when we woke up, she was able to wiggle and poop before we dressed & re-braced for the day.

Each passing hour seemed like a struggle at first, just trying to sort out the most basic elements of our routine: nursing, burping, napping, and diapering. She dozed off and on, at first waking up screaming in apparent agony, but slowly realizing that all her needs were being met and this brace is the new normal.

I’m still reserving judgement on saying she’s completely adjusted until we get through tonight, but she really has brought back hope that we’ll all be able to get through this trying time together. Her strength and resilience are a soothing balm for this mother’s heart.

How to not starve

My friend Chrystal who heads up Momodcasts recently did a great podcast on how to survive meal planning with a new baby in the house, and having survived the first three months of mommy-hood with barely having to cook, I wanted to add some of my own survival tips that may come in handy to someone else.

First of all, I attacked my last trimester to-do list like a fiend. And when ‘cook and freeze meals’ came up, I knew this was a big project not to be taken lightly. Unfortunately, a lot of the meals I cooked before-baby weren’t very freezer friendly, so I went on a massive hunt to assemble and taste test recipes that Brandon and I would both enjoy. I used the My Recipes search tool to help with sorting through recipes based on things we didn’t like or couldn’t eat. In the end, I still had to get creative and found out that Brandon isn’t quite as picky as he claims to be.

Once I made a list of all the recipes I planned to cook and freeze, I picked one or two to make each week so that I wouldn’t be completely overwhelmed with cooking. I made some basic things like meatloaf and beef stew, also some fun dishes like jambalaya and a chicken & broccoli casserole. I also realized that I needed to make a checklist of what we actually had in the freezer so that Brandon could pull out meals in advance and not leave us with a bunch of one meal to eat for several days in a row. You can check out my finished product here.

The second BRILLIANT idea I had was a grocery list template. Since I’m the one who does the cooking in our house, and I’m the one who puts together the grocery list each week, Brandon would be hounding me ever single week about what we needed to get at the store if I didn’t give him some help. It sounds complicated, but since I wasn’t going to be cooking any major meals (they’re in the freezer, ha!) I basically just needed a pantry cheat sheet, plus some easy lunch items. It took a little bit of thought and preparation, but I can’t tell you how many Sundays I’ve had to bow out of grocery shopping and Brandon was able to handle things without a hitch. Obviously our list is completely suited to our tastes and needs, but feel free to use it as a template for your own shopping trip. You’ll notice we opted for disposable eat & drink-ware since we don’t have a dishwasher, and doing dishes was pretty low on our priority list the first few weeks. Since then, we’ve mostly switched back.

In the end, my month’s worth of meals in the freezer ended up lasting almost three months with a little help from family and carry-out from our favorite restaurants, and I re-made a couple of the easier recipes and restocked the freezer, too. Now that we’re in our third month of parenthood, we’re on a bold new mission to clean up our diet a bit, and still keep our sanity. We’ve started ordering most of our meat from Seven Sons, a local farm that raises free-range, grass-fed animals, and we also just signed up for this amazing organic produce delivery service, Green Bean Delivery. My favorite thing about Green Bean, as opposed to a standard CSA from the farmers market, is being able to customize each weeks order, and still knowing where the food comes from. We’ve had two deliveries so far, and I have to say just how great the quality of the produce is! Plus, it comes right to our door… it doesn’t get any better than that!

So we’re starting to get into a groove around here, and it tastes pretty good!


so far

Second blog post of the month! That makes twice as many as last month!

Well I guess I should try not to be too hard on myself since 90% of my waking hours I have my hands full, quite literally with this baby.

Sometimes I feel guilty about that, or that I’m disappointing some imaginary ‘other’ because it seems so hard for me to simply put the baby down. Sometimes it’s hard because I know she’ll just wake up the instant I try to move her,  but mostly I just like to hold her and be right there when she wakes. I’m so in love with that smile she gives me each time her eyes open and delightfully, mommy (and the boobs) are still right where she left them.

Actually it seems easier for me to get up and get things done when Nora is awake. I can plop her happily in her swing, or strap her to me in a wrap or sling and go about my business while she takes in the world.  And then, of course, we have to talk about it. I do really mean “we” since she also loves to talk, practically dialog back and forth when she’s awake. Even if I’m in the next room I can hear her pipe up with extra loud babbles and coos waiting for me to respond in turn.

She also likes to show off her new physical skills. She loves to sit up, and is already doing so nearly on her own, as well as pushing herself up to standing with some support. And even though she still kind of hates her tummy time, she easily props her head up to gaze around. She’s very close to rolling front to back now, which I know is important, but then we roll back to front too, and that brings a whole new set of terrors for me. What might she suddenly roll off of, or on to, for that matter?

Oh well, I guess that’s just part of the deal. Every day she will become a little more independent, a little less snuggly. I heard once that parenting is just a series of letting-go’s starting the moment a baby is born. Maybe that’s why I hold her so much now, because I still can.

Of course, now that Nora is officially three months old, we’re starting to face a lot of new challenges. For one, our freezer stock has been finally emptied, which means I have to cook real food if we expect to eat. Secondly, it’s really time for me to work on taking better care of myself. I’m finally starting to get the hang of showering (almost) every day, but I still need to get in a bit of exercise. Even though we have gym memberships, actually leaving the house to get there (and then coming home and getting cleaned up again) is way too challenging for this novice. Thankfully I have a stash of workout DVDs and a few of them have short 20-25 minute workouts that I should be able to squeeze in every couple of days. Yeah, it’s not much, but we’re just getting started.

All things considered, I feel so very lucky for how everything has worked out. Brandon has taken such good care of all of us, and I really believe all my successes so far are because of how much he has supported me and jumped in headfirst into this fatherhood thing. We truly are a team and Nora is thriving because of it!

Stuff I got done today…

Most days would be considered a complete waste by any normal person. It’s all I can do to get up, put clothes on, and keep the baby alive and happy. Today, however, I really wanted to do more. And by some miracle, I did!

So far today I’ve…

Taken a shower. Did not get my hair blow-dried or styled, but I’m really truly clean. I even put on clean clothes after!

Painted my toenails. Thanks entirely to the miracle of fast drying nail polish. The entire process took maybe 3 minutes, and the end result may happen to look more like a week old pedi than a fresh one, but I can safely wear flip-flops in public with no shame. Or maybe just less shame. And I kinda feel like a real girl again, not just a dairy cow.

Went to the store.  And the Starbucks drive-thru. Not in that order though. Shopping I’d consider pretty dang successful because I got to actually browse for a few things, not just run around like the baby was a time bomb about to go off. Although she kinda started to as we were checking out, thankfully home is less than a block away.

Wrote a blog post. What? Who am I?

Now I still have dinner to cook and three loads of laundry that need folded, but today already feels like a wild success because we actually got out of the house. Go me.