Grady Ocean: 6 Months

Milestones:

  • Teeth!: Grady got his first tooth at 4 months, which felt early to us and  was confirmed when I learned they usually don’t come in until about 6. He recently popped his 3rd tooth (all teeth are on the bottom) and it looks like there is a 4th coming soon as well.
  • Sleeping: We sleep trained Grady two days before he turned 5 months. We followed Taking Cara Babies and we’re so happy he picked it up in about 2 days. He goes down between 6:30-7:00 after a bath, diaper change/lotion, bottle, and lullaby (I sing him You Are My Sunshine and Colors of the Wind, Mike sings him a song he made up). We have been dealing with early morning wakings (he wakes up around 5:30 every morning) which are a bit annoying… but we’re working on it. We’ve also been working on naps. Grady has been a notoriously short napper; as in 30-minute naps are his jam. Mike and I would split the morning and afternoon nap laying with him so he would sleep longer, but since Mike goes back to work in a couple weeks that’s not feasible moving forward. I had been thinking we needed to get blackout shades for a while, so I pulled the trigger a few days ago and his naps have improved A LOT. He’s been napping for 1 hour and 70-90 minutes for the other, plus an always 30-40 minute catnap in the afternoon to bridge the gap to bedtime. We also transitioned him out of the swaddle when he started showing signs of rolling over, and I’m really proud as to how we did it. We swaddled him with one arm out for like 4 weeks, then eventually both arms out, and then transitioned him to the Nested Bean sleep sack. This method worked really well for us.
  • Rolling: Grady now rolls over from back to stomach on both sides, and has started to perfect the back to stomach as well. He’s also showing signs of scooting which will be interesting!
  • Solids: We started solids when he turned 5 months, and I had every intention of doing baby led weaning but it felt too soon at 5 months. So right now he’s on a diet of purées and has had avocado, sweet potato, carrots, cauliflower, zucchini, beets, apricots, banana, blueberries, and apple. He’s liked pretty much everything so far, and he’s learned to bring the spoon to his mouth to feed himself. We started doing Baby Led Weaning this week, and he’s had spears of sweet potato, banana, and blueberries. He definitely loves food and it’s so fun watching him explore.
  • New formula: Because of Grady’s digestion/heartburn issues, we had to have him on a hypoallergenic formula called Elecare (we’ve had to exclusively formula feed- I’ve written about this journey in previous posts). Elecare is really expensive, but luckily through a family friend we were able to get discounts because he worked at Abbott for 30+ years. At Grady’s 4 month pediatrician appointment our new doctor said we could try to wean him off, so now we’re on an organic formula that’s much more reasonably priced (as in 1/3 of the price). He seems to be doing okay with it, so we’re hoping to have him fully on it in the next month or so.

Favorite Things:

  • His Simba lovey: He’s grown quite attached to his lovey over the past couple weeks and it’s really adorable to see. We chose Simba because the first song he ever really loved was “Just Can’t Wait to Be King.” All the mom blogs out there recommend getting at least 2 of the same lovey in case you lose or need to wash one, but I didn’t know if he’d like it so I only bought one. Since then it’s sold out on the Disney website, so I had to buy another off eBay haha.
  • My Mom/Didi: Grady’s favorite person is definitely my mom. She is SO good with him, and gives him his bath every night. He lights up whenever he sees her and their bond is just the sweetest. It makes me so happy they have it.
  • JUMPING: We got him a jumper after another friend recommended it, and it’s been one of the best purchases we’ve made. He LOVES to jump and we put him in it before bed to tucker him out.
  • The Beach!: He was a little skeptical of the water at first, but when I started to put him in the sand and then have the water come up touch him so he could see it, he became a lot more comfortable.

Least Favorite things:

  • His car seat
  • Getting his diaper on after bath
  • TEETHING (poor little guy)
  • Waiting for food (understandable)

Thoughts:

I’ve made it a goal to be honest about how the transition to parenthood has been a lot harder than we thought it would be. Even with the added difficulty from COVID, I don’t think Mike and I fully knew what was in store for us. We’re definitely in a better place than we were a couple months ago (my therapist said she thought we could be “out of the woods”), as we’ve seemed to have gotten into a rhythm that doesn’t necessarily make things easier, but more predictable.

One thing Mike has said is that he’ll never tell another parent “it get’s better at age X.” Here’s why: When you’re in the thick of it and you see other parents out on a walk, who have older babies and who seem to have their shit together, you start to have hope. Hope that your baby will eventually grow out of the crying, fussiness, etc. So when you exchange pleasantries (“how old is your baby, what’s his name etc.”) They will then tell you “it gets better at X age.” And while of course they were being nice, it felt like another arbitrary milestone we couldn’t wait to get to. Because when it didn’t get better at 3 months or 4 months when others said it would, it felt even more like we were failing. For any parents out there, this is a reminder that any advice you receive is based on someone else’s experience, with completely different circumstances, dynamics, and oh yeah, a different baby. I don’t need to tell you that not every baby is the same, but it’s easy to forget when you’re seeing another baby is already rolling over or sleeping through the night. Just like adults, all babies are unique, including in their mental and physical development and growth. 

Mike has been on paternity leave for the last 8 weeks and it’s been so wonderful for all 3 of us. He goes back to work after Labor Day and I’ll admit I’m a little nervous. But we’re at my moms and I’ll still have her help which I’m really grateful for. As for my work situation, I’ve started to poke around at a few opportunities, but I don’t think it makes sense for me to start working until we find our own home. We’ll need to hire a nanny, so having another person at my mom’s on top of my stepdad, me and Mike working would be chaos.

Feelings:

When Grady turned 5 months, Mike’s dad asked him if he thought those months flew by. Mike truthfully answered no, and I wouldn’t say the last 6 have flown by either. They have without a doubt been the hardest months of my life. So much of myself, my identity, my marriage has changed. Some definitely for the better, and of course other changes have been more difficult. For example, I’m a very impatient person; always have been and probably always will be. But with Grady I’ve had to exercise a patience with him that I didn’t even realize was patience until my mom pointed it out and complemented me on it. In this way, I’m better. Conversely my anxiety has tripled since becoming a mom and I (admittedly) take it out on Mike and my other family and my patience has gotten so much worse. 

I saw an Instagram post today that said “Question for mothers. Did any of you grieve the shift from existing in the world as your own woman and moving into your role as a mother?” And honestly, YES, I do and continue to everyday.  I probably will for the rest of my life. Or maybe someday I’ll find a beautiful balance of both. Probably when he’s 18 😉

Day by day we are surviving. And at the end of the day our boy is healthy, happy, eating, sleeping, and loving his family. We are so grateful for him, his life, and what he’s already and will continue to teach us. 

Sponsored Post Learn from the experts: Create a successful blog with our brand new courseThe WordPress.com Blog

WordPress.com is excited to announce our newest offering: a course just for beginning bloggers where you’ll learn everything you need to know about blogging from the most trusted experts in the industry. We have helped millions of blogs get up and running, we know what works, and we want you to to know everything we know. This course provides all the fundamental skills and inspiration you need to get your blog started, an interactive community forum, and content updated annually.

Newborn Must-Haves

I know, there are a million of these lists, and every baby is so different. But you don’t know those people and you know me! So here are the things that have worked for us and helped make the newborn phase manageable.

Ollie Swaddle: We tried the Halo sleepsack swaddle but didn’t love it, and we also had a couple of the SnuggleMe’s which worked fine until he grew out of them. We splurged on the Ollie and it works like a charm. I truly believe it’s one of the components to how we get longer stretches at the night. If/when we have another baby, I’ll be getting a couple more to have on rotation.

White Noise Machine: We started practicing sleeping with white noise when I was pregnant so we would be used to it when Grady came. Again, another essential component to our sleep routine.

Rohm portable white noise: We use this in the car or in the stroller when we want Grady to nap on the go.

Night light: Another sleep must-have. This night light is portable, chargeable, and has really saved us when we need to check on him in the middle of the night without turning on all the lights.

Pack n Play with bassinet: We were gifted a mini crib for our small apartment, but we just transitioned Grady into the Pack n Play because of our upcoming trip to Yosemite. He’ll be sleeping in the Pack n Play in the RV we’re renting, so we wanted him to get used to it before our trip. Well, I don’t see us going back to the mini crib until we get a full crib. The pack n play works just as well, and is super affordable. So if you’re deciding between a bassinet (like Halo) for the newborn days or using a pack n play, I would reccomend a pack n play that you can set up next to your bed if you don’t want to spend money on both.

Infant Optics Baby Monitor: Since we live in a one bedroom apartment, we can pretty much hear Grady whenever he’s crying or fussing in the other room. But we did use this when we were at my mom’s and it was really helpful for us. I read some old reviews that complained about it holding a charge, and we were gifted a hand me down of an older model that we used at my Mom’s, which definitely did not hold a long charge and had to be plugged in. But we got a newer one and the newer one holds a charge great, so they must have done some upgrades.

Fisher-Price Bouncer: This was gifted to us and it retails between $20.00 and $25.00 (depending on availability I think). For the price, I would buy 5 of these. He LOVES it, and it’s a God-send for when I’m cooking dinner, taking a shower, etc.

Angel Care Tub: love this tub for his baths, which is part of his bedtime routine every night.

Dr. Brown’s Bottles: We tried many different bottles (Comotomo, Avent, MAM, Dr Brown’s wide neck) but Grady does best with the classic narrow Dr. Brown’s bottles. There’s also a newborn nipple (that I’m not sure is as widely known about compared to the preemie nipple) that he’s been on for a while now and is working great.

Space Orb Toy: Auntie Marisa bought this for us, and it’s hands down Grady’s favorite toy. It’s not technically called Space Orb but that’s the name Mike made up for our house 😉 Grady brings it up to his mouth and it’s taught him how to grab for toys as well.

Stroller: The “cadillac of strollers” haha our Uppababy Vista is another essential for us. We use it every single day and I absolutely love it. It’s definitely a bit heavy but we have an elevator so it’s not too hard to manage. It has probably a thousand miles on it thus far and we love the smoothness of the rides.

Car Seat: We got the Nuna Pipa Infant Carseat, because of it’s ability to not need a base. We thought we would be taking a lot more Lyfts with the baby to go to different parts of the city, but that was definitely naive thinking, and then COVID hit. If you’re getting the Uppababy Vista or any of their strollers, I would recommend just getting the Mesa car seat. Then you don’t have to fiddle with getting adapters for the carseat.

Baby Bjorn Carrier: I know a lot of people prefer the Ergo, and we were given two as hand me downs, but I really wanted a Baby Bjorn too because I thought you had to have an insert with the Ergo for newborns (do you?) I got this on sale during Christmas (it was 50% off at Walmart). I’ve only used the Baby Bjorn with Grady and really love it.

Baby Ktan: We used this A LOT the first month Grady was born. It really helped soothe him and we used it before he was big enough for the Baby Bjorn.

Graco Swing: Grady did NOT like this swing at first, but I think that was because we always tried to put him in it after he was already melting down and fussing. I put him in it a couple weeks ago when he was chill, and he FELL ASLEEP in it. Since then he’s taken a couple of two-hour naps in it, which is an absolute Godsend at this age!

Old Navy baby clothes: they are very affordable, good material, and I like that their sizing is a range (0-3, 3-6 etc). Other brands do just by the month, which I think makes things a little confusing. Plus they are always having a sale!

Pipette Baby Wash: A splurge, but it was important to me that we try to eliminate as many chemicals as possible in his body wash. I love this brand because it doesn’t smell and is really gentle on his skin.

Molly Suds laundry detergent: I wanted a clean detergent for Grady’s clothes and while this is expensive we’re not even halfway through the package since he’s been born- so it lasts!

Baby Gym: We use the Baby Gym every day for Tummy time and for him to work on grabbing the hanging toys. Definitely a staple in our house and he loves it.

Dyper Diapers & Pampers Swaddlers: I was one if those moms with high hopes of cloth diapering (HAHA) but when you live in an apartment building with one shared washer and dryer, it’s simply not possible. I ordered a few different compostable diapers from Amazon before he was born and we loved them, but they are double the price of Pampers. Pampers work okay but sometimes the sizing is off, so we’re trying out Honest right now. I’m sure it will only continue to evolve as he gets older, too!

Pottery Barn & Pendleton blankets: We didn’t really anticipate how many blankets (that weren’t swaddles) we would need so we didn’t get many before he was born. My mom got us a few from Pottery Barn and I got a Pendleton one in Portland when I was pregnant. We use the Pendleton designated for the stroller.

BIBS Pacifiers: We used the Avent soothies while we were in the hospital and bought more when we got home. We tried others (MAM, Itzy Ritzy, etc.) but Grady wouldn’t take them. I bought BIBS one day totally off the cuff, and he LOVES them. I see lots of other babies with them too, and although they are pricey they are definitely worth it.

Taking Cara Babies Newborn Bundle: I’m someone who thrives off a schedule, and just had no idea what the proper times were to feed a baby, for him to nap, etc. We implemented her sleep tips from day one and I really think it’s helped set a good foundation.

Did not love or use as much as we thought: Burts Bees burp cloths (the absorbency on these are not great, and they smell after a day), the million swaddle blankets that were hand me downs (you only need like 5), Dockatot (we just haven’t really used it that much- if you want to buy it from us let me know!)

Motherhood So Far: Exiting the Fourth Trimester

For the sake of transparency, realness, and openness, this post is the truth of my experience as a mother thus far. I’d like to preface by saying that it is not lost upon me that there are other moms out there dealing with far worse circumstances than I, with less and more burden. I think about and pray for those mothers every day. I am grateful to have a healthy baby and the privilege I do. This is simply my personal journal.

A New Normal

“Being a mother is a little like ‘Groundhog’s Day. ‘ It’s getting out of bed and doing the exact same things again and again and yet again – and it’s watching it all get undone again and again and yet again. It’s humbling, monotonous, mind-numbing, and solitary.”- Glennon Doyle

It has certainly been an adjustment to life with a new baby. Our days consist of cycles of him eating, being awake, and sleeping, and at times it feels like my life is defined by these cycles, just trying to make it to the next one. I try as stealthily as possible to schedule phone calls with family and friends or walks around these times. It’s all very calculated. I know part of me will miss this stage when it’s over; I already miss how little he was, the hair on his shoulders he was born with that has since fallen off.  But I didn’t realize just how utterly fragile he would be the first 6 or so weeks of his life. I’ve had more anxiety than I’ve ever had these past 12 weeks, making sure I’m doing everything I can to keep him alive. Half of me feels like a monster for wishing this time away when he’s so helpless and dependent on us. But then the other half of me knows this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done and maybe ever will do as a first-time mom in a Global Pandemic. Which is why I tell every soon to be parent or friends who are trying to conceive that this is the hardest thing ever. To imagine it being the hardest thing they’ve ever done and multiplying that by 100.

There’s no doubt that mine and Mike’s marriage has also been deprioritized since Grady’s arrival. As Mike has gone back to work and I’ve assumed the role of Grady’s primary caregiver, I’ve felt resentful that he isn’t obsessed over Grady’s schedule and routine like I am. He is able to get a break while my entire day is consumed with the baby. However, I’m also ignorant of the guilt he feels, knowing I’m in the trenches all day while he’s on calls and trying to focus when he wants to spend time with us and help. As much as I hate COVID19, one blessing is that he is home. Because if he was at work and not physically here with us, I really don’t know how I could do this 100% alone.

Expectations

I think many parents go into parenthood with optimism and naivety that they will have a “good” baby. That they’ll have a different experience post-partum than all the horror stories they are told. I know Mike and I did, and I’m not sure why we felt so entitled that we would have a seamless transition. That sounds a bit harsh, but I think we thought we would still be able to live our same lives and Grady would adjust to us and our lives. Boy were we wrong. I look back now and realize we were just a little too narcissistic in our hopes of what parenthood would be like. I knew there would be hard times, an adjustment period, sleepless nights, fits, and crying. What I didn’t know was that it would be all-consuming, frustrating, physically and mentally exhausting, and that the Newborn Stage would be the most challenging period of our lives.

We had talked about Colic when I was pregnant and the nightmare it would be if our baby had it. And while Grady hasn’t been officially diagnosed, the symptoms are there and line up. Our poor little guy has struggled with eating since the beginning, with our breastfeeding issues and acid reflux. Until we got him on heartburn medicine, Grady was screaming every time we tried to burp him after a feed and fussing and crying for hours throughout the day. Many times Mike and I have said to ourselves “we don’t have a normal baby.” As I see those words written out that doesn’t seem fair. Because we placed expectations on our baby’s behavior while he was in the womb. And what even is a normal baby? Because babies cry, right? They are difficult, right? They are simply adjusting to life in the outside world after they’ve been warm, cozy, and content in mama’s belly for 10 glorious months. Grady has certainly taught us that any expectations get thrown out the door once baby arrives, and I’m grateful for the life lesson. We’ve had to adjust our expectations to our son’s unique needs and personality, and I’ve learned to adjust my expectations in other areas of my life as well.

The First Big Disappointment

“This idea of mother as martyr — that mothers have to prove their love by slowly dying, by burying their own needs, and their own ambition, and their own desires, and their own emotions … this is just another way we get women to disappear. … Don’t take culture’s definition of good mothering, because all culture will tell you is to keep disappearing. What I decided is that a good mother is not a martyr, a good mother is a model, right? That children will only allow themselves permission to live as fully as their parents do. And so we must not settle for any relationship, for any community, for any nation less true and beautiful than the one we would want for our babies.” -Glennon Doyle

I shared my struggle with breastfeeding in a previous post, and it was and continues to be my biggest disappointment of motherhood thus far. I had dreams of creating a bond through nursing and producing so much milk that when people remarked on Grady’s rolls or chubbiness I could beam with pride. Wow, somehow again it’s about me. Geez, maybe we are all just selfish narcissists before we have kids.

When I came to accept that the milk I had was only producing 40% of what Grady needed to thrive, I slowly stopped pumping and nursing. The output just wasn’t worth what I was putting in: 8 pumping sessions a day of 15 minutes each, on top of bottle feeding him formula to supplement which took another 15-20 minutes. Some of the loneliest moments of my life were sitting at our kitchen table, pumping at 1:00 am after I had nursed Grady, and given him a supplemental bottle of formula. The sound of the breast pump, fumbling with the parts, cleaning them after, etc. in the dark and cold was downright depressing.

I was sleeping maybe 3 hours a day and frankly losing my mind. My mental health was suffering, and I was evaluating my worth in obsessively counting ounces. Do I wish I had stuck it out longer? Sometimes I do. But I know I had to let it go. Especially during this global pandemic, I didn’t have the support I could have received from in-person mom groups and lactation visits. In the end, a fed baby is a healthy baby. And Grady and I have still created bonds in the ways I dreamed; he looks up at me with his big eyes and places his hand on my chest while I’m feeding him a bottle. Part of me likes to think he knows I tried and he would have told me to do what I did.

Remember Who You Are

When we were down at my mom’s house she would take the baby once or twice a day for his naps. This would leave me with free time to read, workout, and start running again. I stopped running when I was 16 weeks pregnant because I was frankly over it and wanted a long break after training and running consistently for 8 years. When I started back up again about 6 weeks ago, it’s slowly come back to me why I love it so much. When I’m alone running I’m able to think freely or sometimes not even think at all. I throw on a podcast, music, or nothing at all. It’s liberating to get a break from everything mom-mode. I know he’s safe with Mike and it’s a good opportunity for them to get one on one time as well. When people see me out running, they don’t define me as Grady’s mom. Running allows me to feel like my previous self, and keep a part of who I was before I was a mother.

To Work or Not to Work

Growing up my mom was a full-time working mom. She had a career that required her to travel often, and when she did I would miss her so much. But even today, years after she’s retired, she still has pride from her dedication to her career and what she did for over 35 years.

I didn’t know if I wanted that for myself. I’ve built a great career in tech, one where I hope I am well-known and respected. But after a few years of constant change and some career highs and lows, I thought it may make sense for me to take a long break, or even stop working to be a full-time mom. But after being at home with Grady for 84 days now, I know for sure I want to go back to work. I love what I do; talking to customers, strategizing on deals, bonding with coworkers. And not to say that I don’t love my baby, because that’s just ridiculous. I suppose I didn’t realize how much I actually enjoy working until I stopped.

So, all that to say, I’ll definitely be going back to work at some point in the future. I need it for myself, and I also think it will make me a better mother.

Motherhood Sets You Free

Motherhood is a sisterhood I didn’t know existed. It’s sharing advice, stories, experiences, burdens, offering a shoulder to cry on, having a partner to help investigate what’s wrong, etc. I’ve reached out to friends I haven’t spoken to in years, and they have all met me with open arms, ears, and minds. All of the women I’ve reached out to and who have reached out to me have supported me greatly via calls, texts, messages, etc. I’m not the world’s most extroverted person, but lately when I see a pregnant woman or mom with a newborn, I feel an obligation to make conversation. To just let her know, especially in these times, that she’s not the only mom in the world going through the hard days. I’ve met two moms by just striking up a conversation; one at the pediatrician’s office and one at a coffee shop. It’s liberating to bond this way, to take chances, and be friendly.

The Love is Real

People offer a lot of advice that comes from a good place. But we’re all just sharing what worked for us and for our babies; they are not programmable or predictable. One thing I heard half and half about was “instantly falling in love with my baby.” Some people told me I would, others would tell me it was okay if I didn’t. I’d say I fell into the latter camp, as I think I was just too overwhelmed and nervous to feel anything else in those early weeks. But as I’ve gained more confidence in both my parenting and Grady, the love is simply immeasurable. Every little thing he does I’m so proud of and find adorable. He’s started to grab his toys, sit contently and occupy himself in his bouncers, his smiles are getting bigger and bigger every day, and he definitely recognizes us and loves hanging out with us. One of my favorite moments recently was when I was cooking dinner and he just sat in his chair in the kitchen with me, watching as I talked to him about what I was doing. And just when I thought Mike and I couldn’t get any weirder, the songs we make up to sing to Grady have only started to get more over the top. There’s one we sing him about a green sleeve and a blue sleeve, and for a while to soothe Grady, Mike would sing counting down from 10 to 1. Whatever we can do to make our little guy happy 🙂

As we enter the “Infant Stage” I’m optimistic that things will only continue to improve. I know there will be regressions, setbacks, adjustments, more hard days, crying spells, and fits. But we’ve made it this far and have come out of it with a healthy and happy baby. And healthy and happy parents too.

Grady: 2 months

Likes: kisses, his bouncy seats, grandma, talking, baths, the outdoors

Biggest challenge: naps!

Best Moments: first smiles

Well we’ve certainly been through a lot this past month. Since we had to supplement with formula from his very early days, we’ve upped the amount as he’s gotten older to keep up with his hunger and growth. As we did that he was progressively crying and screaming more, to the point where we thought he was colic. It was an excruciating scream; so shallow and coming from deep within him that you knew he was uncomfortable and in serious pain. It would last for hours a day and basically anytime after we fed him he was screaming and crying.

We went to our pediatrician and he recommended we put Grady on probiotics, heartburn medicine, and hypoallergenic formula. Yep, our 5-week old was essentially an old man. We started all of these and also found out from Mike’s parents that he was fed soy formula due to a milk allergy. So, we have a large reason to believe it was the cow-based formula that Grady was having a hard time with. Thankfully on this new formula (albeit it is EXPENSIVE as all heck) he is doing SO much better. He is a totally different baby. He doesn’t scream or cry nearly as much as he used to, only when he’s overtired and fighting sleep.

As we’ve managed to get through this hurdle he’s started to smile and overall enjoy life a bit more. He’s a curious little guy and VERY alert, always looking around to absorb his surroundings. He loves being outside; we often lay on the grass to air him out of his diaper (thanks for the tip Mei-lin) and he’s just a happy little clam. We say Good Morning to the plants, flowers, trees, and birdies. We’ve created a bedtime routine and while he’s absolutely not sleeping through the night, we count our blessings that he’s pretty good at nighttime sleep.

For the past 3 1/2 weeks we’ve been at my mom’s house down in Southern California, and it’s been a game changer. The additional space, extra help, and even the weather have made this an ideal situation for us. We’re going back to SF this week and while I’m excited to get back, I also have anxiety about being in our small apartment again and not having my mom’s help. My mom has helped feed, bathe, soothe, and entertain Grady so much these past few weeks; while Mike is working she and I essentially tag team with the baby. It’s allowed me to go on runs (!), sleep a little more, and have extra time to myself. I can’t explain what her help has meant to me, especially during the pandemic, and seeing her with Grady is also so special. He completely adores her, and gives her the biggest smiles that he gives to anyone. My mom definitely has a magic touch with kids (her relationship with Dinah is also amazing), but seeing her nurture and love my baby… it’s strengthened our relationship too. Not to mention her help with cooking and laundry as well 🙂

Overall the days do get easier and more predictable. But man I still wish we had a library to go to for a story, and there’s a local pool that gives free swim lessons to babies 2-4 months. I’m sad that won’t be us. For him but for me too, so that I could bond with other moms and not just via text. But we will get through it, one day at a time. And it will be glorious when we do.

Grady Ocean: 1 month

Likes: Music (especially the ladies- Maggie Rogers, Stevie Nicks, Mariah Carey, Lady Gaga, etc.), cuddling with mom and dad, his “Grady” blanket, starting to enjoy tummy time and his play gym, and dare I say baths!

Biggest challenges: Breastfeeding, sleep deprivation, witching hour, not seeing family and friends, gas, etc.

What’s surprised us most: Just how hard this actually is!

Quirks: Lots of hiccups (he had them in the womb too), sneezes, all of his faces!

Best Moments So Far: Last Monday morning we went to a local coffee shop, and we rarely venture out in the morning. But we met another 7 week old baby there, who was ALSO named Grady. It felt so serendipitous and really made our week! The other Grady’s mom even waited outside the coffee shop and asked for my number when we came out 🙂

Plus, all of his little coos and looks he gives us where we can tell he knows we’re his parents. There is truly nothing better than my baby looking at me, knowing in some capacity that I love him.

What’s in a name?: Grady is named after Mike’s mother’s father, Grady Leon Walker. Grady Walker was born the oldest of 5 children in Oklahoma in 1915, who all moved out West to California during the dust bowl. The “Walker 5” worked at the Gas Company in Los Angeles and between them had nearly 200 years of service. Grady was the patriarch of their family until he passed away in 2001.

The first time I went to Mike’s apartment, I saw a black and white photo of an older man who liked handsome, distinguished, and kind, all at the same time. I asked Mike who he was, and it was Grady in Yosemite. I’ve always felt a connection to that photo; he looks so at peace and content. You can tell from the photograph he was a special man. When we were deciding on a name we knew we wanted a family name, and I suggested Grady. It was a done deal very early on. While picking a middle name, we decided I could pick it because Grady is tied to Mike’s family. I knew I wanted something unique, and also a little hippie-dippie (because why not being that he was born in San Francisco). We were juggling Tuolomne (like the Meadow in Yosemite) but that was a little too far out there. One day out of the blue I just said “Ocean” and it stuck. We both love the beach, Mike surfs, my brother surfs. It is our unique way of sharing what we love with our son.

What’s Happening?

Grady was born on the day San Francisco announced the first two confirmed cases of COVID19 in the city. On his 10th day of life, Mayor London Breed announced Shelter in Place, though we’d already been restricting visitors prior to her announcement. He has only met a handful of the people who love him, and it makes us sad for him, but also for us.

We go through waves of feeling sorry for ourselves; we would kill for someone, anyone, to come over for an hour so Mike and I could go to happy hour, on a coffee date, even a quick walk around the block, just us. I mourn that I can’t be the cool, cute mom taking my baby to mom meetups, coffee shops, etc. And for our loved ones who have had to cancel trips to meet their grandson, nephew, cousin. I was so looking forward to our family coming, selfishly so I could have someone confirm what he’s doing is normal and I’m doing an okay job.

And then there are fleeting moments of feeling like super-parents. We are being tested, that’s for damn sure. This time has forced us to slooow down, take every moment as it comes, and savor this time as a new family. We’re also lucky that Mike can work from home, and has a flexible schedule so I can get some breaks and help in the day. And, so Mike can enjoy for time with Grady. For that I am grateful, and I know we will look back one day on this time fondly. But right now, the days are long and challenging.

With motherhood comes a level of anxiety and feelings of insecurity, incompetence, and helplessness I’ve never experienced. I’m constantly wondering: Is this normal? Is he in pain? Am I spoiling him? Am I talking to him enough? Are we overstimulating him? Are we over-feeding him? Is this amount of crying normal? Since he napped so well today does that mean he’ll sleep badly tonight? At times I find myself nervous to watch a show or read a book, because I’m worried that if I’m enjoying myself and all is well, in a moment it will be unwell. As if for some reason I don’t deserve a few minutes of happiness because I should only be focused on him, and his needs.

Our Biggest Challenge of Month One:

Our biggest hurdle, well mine at least, has been that I had a hard time breastfeeding right off the bat. And apparently, breastfeeding only comes easy to maybe 5% of women because everyone I’ve talked to, literally everyone, has shared a struggle they’ve had with breastfeeding too. My experience was that my milk supply was low from the start, and I wasn’t producing enough milk to give Grady a full feeding. This reality caused me the most anxiety I have ever felt in my entire life; I had never cried over something as much, ever. A moment that sticks out is when Mike and I went for a walk when my mom was here, on day 5, and I remember walking down Polk street like a total zombie. Not feeling one ounce of life in my body, just literally dragging my feet in front of the other, feeling a tightening in my chest so utterly debilitating. I had beautiful dreams and expectations of breastfeeding our son, and to have that dream turn into a nightmare the first week of his life was very painful. I read the books and took the classes; I had prepared. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and resentful of my body for not helping me live out my breastfeeding dream. I truly believed it was my karma; we had a fairly easy time getting pregnant and my pregnancy was easy too. Surely, I couldn’t have everything I wanted  

The turning point and my moments of clarity came after we saw the last of three different lactation consultants. She said “You don’t have to die on the cross of breastfeeding.” It was so brutally honest and to the point. And then my father in law asked me “If your best friend called you and was going through the same situation, what advice would you give her?” And I realized I was torturing myself to fulfill an expectation that no one else but I had. Because the answer was I would tell her the anxiety, pain, and stress she was putting herself through was not worth it. No one else had expected me to breastfeed. No one else thought I failed him when I gave him his first bottle of formula. The truth is, as a result of this anxiety, I couldn’t enjoy being Grady’s mother. And for the well being of our family and my mental health, something had to change.

This situation has humbled me and taught me my first lesson in motherhood; sometimes, whether fair or not, things rarely go as planned. We are now majority formula feeding him, and guess what? He’s gaining weight and he’s healthy. And that, truly, at the end of the day is all I care about. I’m not up at 2:00 am, freezing and sitting at our kitchen table in a trance pumping out just an ounce of breast milk. Admittedly I also realized that I had a stigma against formula. I never want to be the kind of person or mother who judges other people’s decisions, especially for something so personal like decisions about their families. This experience has taught me a great lesson in empathy, for myself and for others. Moms are sometimes forced to make choices that are not preferred or ideal because of unforeseen circumstances. I have given myself grace; I freed myself from a situation that wasn’t working for us. And I’m proud of that.

It Really Does Take A Village:

This is a huge adjustment period, for Grady, Mike and myself. I take moments throughout the day to remind myself that we are all getting used to him being outside of my tummy and in the world. I think about how scary things must be for him; when he’s wailing during a diaper change, working through gas, etc. He’s experiencing all these things for the first time; being cold, hungry, sleepy, etc. The amount of patience I’ve had to learn in the past month has been a great lesson.

I’ve had two therapy sessions since he’s been born, endless texting marathons with my sister-in-laws, cousin Caroline, and friends I haven’t talked to in a while from elementary, middle and high school, old coworkers, etc. who have offered foundational support and guidance. Motherhood is indescribable, but it also feels like a secret community where nothing and everything makes sense. The advice, support, love, and affirmations I’ve received from these women has been my foundation. I am so grateful for their support and will continue to pay it forward when I’m asked about this stage to future moms.

I’ve always said that I was born to be a mother; I’ve always loved babies and kids, and I think I’m pretty good with them if I’m being honest. And now that I have my own baby, what they say is true; my heart has expanded in ways I didn’t know were possible and I am forever changed. Grady has given me and my life a purpose that has put everything into perspective. I truly and utterly adore him and I miss him when he’s sleeping in the other room. It has been a wild adventure so far, and I’m grateful for it all.

Reflections on Pregnancy

As I near the end of my pregnancy I’ve taken time to reflect on the journey and what it has been like to grow this baby inside me: the good and the bad. Being my first pregnancy I had some idea of what to expect and absolutely no clue on others. Overall, I’ve been surprised how much I enjoyed it, despite a down period around months 7-8 (more on that below).

The question I’ve received the most is “how are you feeling??” which is a fairly common question to ask a pregnant woman, right? After being asked this question countless times, I’ve unfortunately come to the conclusion that the expected answer is a complaint. And while 99% of the time I had something to complain about because, hey, my body is morphing in a way I’ve never experienced, not to mention my life is about to drastically change, when my answer was something positive, almost every reply was something like “Oh well but I bet you really miss alcohol” or “Yea but are you over it yet?” and so on. It made me wonder: why do we expect pregnant women to dislike pregnancy? Personally, I don’t mind sharing my body with my son, I really don’t miss alcohol, and I feel stronger and more empowered than ever before that my body can and was meant to do this. I know this isn’t the case for all women, and trust me, as I near the end there are moments and days that I really have not enjoyed. But instead of assuming pregnancy is a 24-7 burden, since there is still an expectation for women to have children whether they want them or not, shouldn’t we be allowed to enjoy the process?

Pregnancy is such a deeply personal experience for all mothers, and no two pregnancies are the same. These are some of the realizations I had during my pregnancy:

People have comments and opinions, and they aren’t afraid to share them.

The most surprising thing to me, by far, was just how much people have to say, and their need to say it. These are some of the comments that were made during my pregnancy:

  • You look so big for how far along you are!
  • You don’t even look pregnant! (said when I was 28 weeks)
  • Well she isn’t very big (this was said to my husband, in front of me, as if I wasn’t even there)
  • Turn around, show them how you don’t look pregnant from behind!
  • You’re feeling so well because you were so healthy before
  • You’ll have an easy labor because you’re fit
  • You’re getting SO big!
  • Oh you’re not very big, you’re fine
  • Are you afraid you’re going to poop yourself?? (Said in front of Mike)

Let me just say that I know/hope these comments were intended with good-will and as a compliment, and it’s also interesting to find out just how many people have medical knowledge and suddenly share it with you when you are pregnant! 😉 In all seriousness, when these comments were made, especially the ones about my size, I felt insecure and like I was a cow on display at the fair. When it was implied that I didn’t look “big enough,” it made me worry that my baby was unhealthy or small. I was worried I wasn’t taking proper care of my baby or that already I wasn’t a good mother. When it was said that I’m already so big, it made me worry I was going to gain too much weight and would develop a health condition.

Why is it that (in general) we don’t comment on people’s bodies (at least to their faces), but when a woman is pregnant suddenly the flood gates open and it’s fair game to give your opinion on the size and shape of her body? Especially when pregnant women are already so vulnerable, and don’t have control over how their bodies react to pregnancy? This lack of awareness is something I was completely ignorant of until I was pregnant. So, the next time you see a pregnant woman and you feel the need to say something about her body, I would recommend you simply say “you look great.” Every time someone said that to me, it made my day.

Gender Roles:

I’ve always considered myself a feminist, though I don’t particularly care for the label; it has the connotation of being potentially radical or a man-hater, which I am neither one of. I simply believe feminism is the concept that women should be able to make their own choices without the influence of men, the government, religion, societal pressure, etc. And being pregnant I came to realize just how many gender stereotypes still exist today, and how our government does not support its citizens having children.

There are many discussions about people choosing to have children later in life, if at all these days (the average age of mothers at my hospital is 38). And it makes sense; our world is becoming more and more overpopulated, the number one contributor to climate change is humans, the cost of living has sky-rocketed and become downright absurd, and without standard government benefits, if you’re on the fence about becoming a parent, it’s no wonder more people are (rightfully so) taking more care into the decision to have children.

Admittedly, I hadn’t put much thought into the issue of paid parental leave before I became pregnant; I’ve worked at companies with no parental leave policy and it hasn’t been on the list of benefits I’ve prioritized when choosing a job. Now, however, and especially since we are in an election year, I’m keenly aware of just how much we need to reform paid family leave. Today, under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), the federal government guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth of a child. Essentially, if you can afford to go unpaid from your job for 12 weeks, you can take it. Of course, right after the baby is born, the woman will take this leave so she can recover. And, it probably works out that way for the family financially that it is the father who continues to work, as women make 78 cents to the dollar compared to men.

This is at a time when almost 47% of US workers are women, and 57% of women work, compared to 33% back in 1950. As gender roles and responsibilities become more fluid and our society becomes more progressive, the structure that is today’s 9-5 workforce is an outdated system that was created by men without women or families in mind. And back then it didn’t have to; women were not in positions of leadership to bring to light these issues. This NY Times article, Why Dads Don’t Take Parental Leave, hits the nail on the coffin:

The benefits of paternity leave are substantial for dads, kids and marriages. And as we’ve noted previously, when dads take leave, it sets the stage for more egalitarian parenting arrangements long-term. A full 76 percent of men and 74 percent of women Harrington and his co-authors surveyed said that caregiving should be shared equally, but only about half of those men and women said they actually did share caregiving equally. If men and women begin taking the same amount of leave, they’re at least getting started on the right foot.

When families are deciding if a parent should stay home to care for their children, for whatever reason (to avoid outrageous childcare costs, have a parent present for school and after school activities, etc.), it makes sense for the woman to stay home regardless if that is her truth, calling, or desire from a financial and societal pressure standpoint, as the shame that is associated with the title of a “stay at home father” is one that doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. Just as feminism has evolved, so has masculinity, in showing affection, being present in the family, changing diapers, etc. aren’t unmasculine anymore, rather are normal displays of men being fathers and shows an active, present father in the family dynamic. In this day in age, it’s time that we allow women to make the choice to stay home, rather than be pressured into it form a logistical standpoint.

I am very lucky in that I negotiated a maternity leave package from my job, and live in California where I have 10 weeks of “disability benefits” (WHY is pregnancy a disability? I am disabled because I’m giving birth??) and 6 weeks additional for family bonding. California gives the most benefits to mothers amongst all states in the US, while 19 (!) states don’t offer a single benefit. We are also fortunate that Mike works for a company like LinkedIn, which gives 12 weeks of paid parental to both mothers and fathers. Between the cost of putting our baby in the care of someone else, I don’t know that I would feel personally comfortable sending our son to daycare while he is so young. I want to stay at home with our son for as long as I can, while I also know that at any moment I can go back to work with the full support of my husband. It’s these choices and benefits that should be afforded to all women, not just in unique or lucky circumstances, to ensure they are exercising all of their options.

Struggling Mentally and Emotionally:

While we have lightyears to go in terms of de-stigmatizing mental health, something I think society has started to do well is talk more openly about postpartum depression. I was keenly aware that many women face postpartum depression and other mood disorders after they give birth, but I had never heard of prenatal depression during pregnancy.

While I won’t say I had prenatal depression, as I haven’t been diagnosed by a medical professional, the months of November and December were some of the lowest of my life. Between everything I was feeling above, the Holiday’s were just all-around rough. I adore both mine and Mike’s family and typically love visiting Southern California for extended periods of time. However, for both Thanksgiving and Christmas we were there for ~8-9 days each trip, and for the first time, I resented it. Between schlepping back and forth between our parent’s houses’, coordinating with family and friends, and just feeling constantly irritable, I found it difficult to enjoy either Holiday, which is very unlike me. I fixated on every little thing that I didn’t like or went wrong. I was constantly in a bad mood and couldn’t get out of my funk. In addition, I was having some big work stress happening at the time, which certainly didn’t help. Every little thing annoyed me, nothing could make me happy and I was downright miserable.

On Christmas Night I had a pretty big meltdown, where everything felt like it literally came crashing down on me. I look back now and recognize this was my breakthrough; I realized that for weeks I hadn’t been feeling like myself, this isn’t who I am and that something was wrong. That night I was able to snap out of it and knew I had to move forward with a different mindset, for my sake, and for the baby.

For the next month, I researched more about prenatal depression and found articles and podcasts that informed me about how mood disorders can occur during pregnancy and not just postpartum. I found solace in this and took time for myself to just work through it. I made it a priority to protect not only myself but also our baby from the stress and craziness at work and took a break from social obligations so I could get a refresh. Between all of the hormones, changes in my body, and stress that came from my job, it’s no wonder I found myself struggling. I just wish I knew this could happen before it did.

(Finally) Loving My Body:

I haven’t always had a healthy relationship with my personal body image, and it hasn’t been until I’ve watched my body grow this baby that I have whole-heartedly started to appreciate my body and what it can do for me. I look back at photos from pre-pregnancy and instead of critiquing my stomach size or thinking my arm looks big, I find myself proud of how toned and strong I look. I stopped running in September because it simply didn’t feel good to me anymore and it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve really missed it. Instead, I’ve enjoyed the long break and have kept up my physical strength with walking, TRX classes, prenatal yoga, and the Tone It Up App Pregnancy classes. I know that I want to get back into running after I get cleared to work out again, but right now I feel very humbled and have no idea how I ever managed to run more than one mile at a time. All in all, I’m proud of how I’ve prioritized exercise and healthy eating, before and during pregnancy.

Appreciating My Mom:

My mom and I have always had a close relationship, and ever since I learned I was pregnant I have needed and wanted to be around her more than ever. My mom has always shouldered the burden for me; asking what she can do, how she can help, what I need from her and so on. She has always said to me that no matter how old I am, she is always my mom and that doesn’t change. I truly feel that she believes her purpose in life is to make my life easier and better however she can. And I have appreciated and seen that love and parenting from her more than ever during my pregnancy, which has made my journey easier to manage.

I realize that the tone in this post may sound negative, cynical or even like I’m giving a lecture. However, it’s important for me to call out my experience, and I can’t ignore the observations I’ve made during my pregnancy. Women are still treated like second-class citizens in our society, and it was more evident than ever being a pregnant woman. If you made it this far, I hope you take away my experience not as a lecture, but as an encouragement to reshape the way you think about, approach, and treat the pregnant women in your lives.

My Favorite things of 2019

Overall, 2019 was a good year. We moved into a bigger, brighter, lovelier apartment (although our landlord is a different story), went on a wonderful family trip to Mammoth, got pregnant (!), traveled to Europe, I ran a few races (and PR’d!), celebrated dear friends weddings in Hawaii, Washington, and New York, etc. In addition to those highlights, these are some of the things I loved along the way:

The Armchair Expert Podcast, and I’ve decided a few things:

  1. This podcast brings me so much joy
  2. My dream guests are Shaq, Jennifer Garner, Michelle or Barack Obama, Magic Johnson, and me haha
  3. Is it perfect? No. But I just adore Dax and Monica, how different they are, how real, etc.

These are my favorite episodes from this year:

  • Malcolm Gladwell: Dax goes ape shit talking to one of his idols and cannot contain his excitement (understandably)
  • TI: This episode aired a couple months after TI’s controversial comments about going to the gynecologist with his daughter to ensure she’s still a virgin. However, they recorded the episode before the comments were made, and I commend Dax and Monica for making the decision to release it. Their reasoning was that they don’t often have guests like TI on the show and it’s important to diversify their guests, which I am 100% on board with. Anyway, I really enjoyed this episode because TI has some crazy stories, and Dax also challenges him to think deeper about his past traumas and how they affect his life today
  • Emilia Clarke: I’m not even a Game of Thrones fan (I know I KNOW) but I could listen to her voice all day long
  • Kate & Oliver Hudson: This episode was so fun.
  • **Monica Lewinsky: THIS episode. If I had to encourage you to listen to one of these episodes, it would be this one. You can read my full review of this episode here, but it was just truly incredible.
  • Avett Brothers: I went to the Avett Brothers concert in August at the Greek Theatre, and it was one of the top 3 concerts I’ve ever been to. Listening to them on Armchair speaking genuinely about how much they love each other, the topic of masculinity, and singing at the end makes this episode one of the best of the year.
  • Bill Hader: I listened to this running around the lakes while on vacation in Copenhagen, and hearing about his crippling battles with anxiety was incredibly vulnerable, honest, and endearing.
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus: The Queen- enough said.
  • **Norah Jones: This interview caught me by surprise with how much I enjoyed it. From her interesting life story to her singing at the end, it’s simply delightful.
  • Gwyneth Paltrow: I wrote about this episode in this post, and it still holds up as an interesting listen.

Elizabeth Holmes, So Many Thoughts: NO, not that Elizabeth Holmes, although I did love “The Dropout” podcast. Elizabeth Holmes is a journalist who examines what members of the British Royal Family are wearing, mainly Kate and Meghan. She explains the messages they are potentially trying to convey with their wardrobe choices; from the colors, designer, price-point, jewelry etc. It’s an interesting twist on an otherwise potentially trivial topic, but she’s also since evolved into someone’s whose opinion is trusted surrounding discussions about the family as well (i.e. what is happening today with Meghan and Harry). She’s a fun follow and her blog also gets tons of thoughtful and thought-provoking comments that spark interesting conversation.

Headbands: Inspired by Elizabeth Holmes above, I’ve started to wear more headbands this past year as a way to liven up my hair when I don’t wash it for a few days. I get a lot of compliments when I wear them, and while I had to get over the initial insecurity of worrying if I look like a 4 year old, I’ve come to the conclusion they’re cute at all ages 🙂

Tatcha make up remover: THIS. My friends and I often share new beauty products we’re trying out, and Kate recommended this makeup remover at the end of the year. She sold it based on that her mom likes it (her mom is one of my person fashion/beauty icons) and that you simply squirt it onto your fingers, no cotton pad necessary. There are some nights when I get home and immediately use this to take off my makeup, and I may or may not forget to do anything more later in the night. With that said, my skin hasn’t been this clear and free of acne since I can remember. I gifted it to my mom and sister-in-law for Christmas and I know they are going to love it too.

Zella Maternity leggings: I have lived in these leggings my entire pregnancy. They are soft, stretchy, and cover everything.

Ambitious Kitchen:  I was introduced to AK through a coworker, and I love following her on Instagram, in addition to her recipes. I love her healthy-ish take on classic recipes but many of her recipes are unique, too. So far I’ve cooked her a lot of her soups: healthy chicken pot pie soup (I used leftover turkey from Thanksgiving), best chicken soup (this really was the best chicken soup, especially because I LOVE Israeli Couscous), healthy white chicken chili (Mike loved this), and these vegan butternut squash enchiladas. I’m excited to cook more of her recipes and have this meatloaf and these enchiladas on tap for this week.

Round Up: Podcasts, Books, and Bingeing an old show

Podcasts:

Armchair Expert: Monica Lewinsky: Hello, my name is Brittny and I love Dax Shepard and Monica Padman. And this episode of Armchair Expert solidified that love. I was 10 years old when the “scandal” broke in 1998, and I’ll be truthful, I do remember thinking she was a “slut,” even if I’m not really sure I knew the full context of what that word meant. It’s incredible to think about everything she’s been through; her family background is fascinating, she had an affair with the president, she confided in her best friend who taped her phone calls and leaked them to the federal government. But was all in all legal because it was a prosecution trial. She talks so much about how after the scandal she tried to prove her worth and intelligence, which is just so sad. In today’s world, I hope that we would treat her different, but my brain and heart tell me I know better. Anyway, this was one of the best episodes of Armchair I’ve listened to, and really helped me correct my thinking about Monica Lewinsky.

Fresh Air, Lizzo: I was SO excited to see this pop up on my podcast feed, and boy did it deliver! I’ve listened to dozens of Fresh Air interviews, but never once had I heard a guest challenge Terry Gross. I know there are some previous interviews that get a bit contentious (apparently Richard Simmons’ interview from the earlier 2000’s is nutty) but those were before my time. Anyway, in the first 10 minutes of the interview, Terry asks Lizzo about posing nude on her album cover, to which Terry prefaces that it was “bold” for Lizzo to do so. Lizzo eloquently refutes Terry and asks her if she is saying that because she is fat, because plenty of thin women have posed nude on their album covers. It’s an extremely fair point, and was the first time I had ever heard someone push-back on Terry while being interviewed by her, and I really admired Lizzo for doing so. You can hear Terry get a bit flustered, and while I don’t think she intended any harm, it’s clear that she was uncomfortable. But, I was impressed with how both women forged on and didn’t let that hiccup sour the interview. It was still pleasant and enjoyable, as they go on to speak about how Lizzo is a classically trained flutist and her relationship with Prince.

Pop Culture Happy Hour: An Interview with Terry Gross: When I saw this episode pop up on my feed, I thought to myself “I hope Linda brings up the Lizzo interview.” Well, she did, and it delivers. They address it head on, and Terry basically says that any time she sees a woman on an album cover or the like, her concern is that, as a feminist, it’s for men and/or to sell something. However, I think that’s an old feminist way of thinking; I think women now pose nude as a statement of empowerment, and because they can. It’s clear that her views of feminism are shaped from her experiences, where a new generation’s are now different because of how we have evolved. Anyway, they also talk about Terry’s preparation styles for interviews, if she ever gets intimidated when she interviews people she really likes, etc.

The Thing About Pam: It’s been a while since there was a truly good true crime podcast, and while this one I would say is captivating, it didn’t compare to Dirty John, which in my opinion is the best true-crime podcast ever. What’s nice is that it’s a quick listen- about 30 minute episodes and 6 episodes long. Basically, the story is about a woman who is murdered, her husband is charged… but weird facts about her best friend come out. I’d give it a 7-8/10, but it was a good story.

Books:

Normal People: I loved this book so much, it inspired me to do something I’ve been meaning to do for years now, which is start a book club! This book has very mixed reviews, and I can definitely see where people’s frustrations lie: from the author’s writing style (lack of quotations to denote talking amongst characters) to frustrations with the characters themselves (these characters are majorly flawed, but may be the case for how and why they are normal people). I appreciate its rawness, where you could literally feel the anxiety these characters had in various situations.

Three Women: To quote my friend Danielle and her review of Normal People, for Three Women I was expecting “a movie in IMAX with fireworks but instead I got a black and white silent film.” This book tells the story of, you guessed it, three women, and their relationships with sex. I only found one woman’s story, Maggie’s, to be compelling. I thought the other two were either uninteresting or repetitive.

TV:

Downtown Abbey: Mike and I have a bit of a hard time finding a tv show or movie we can both sit down and watch. We’ve had some success with The Crown, Friday Night Lights, Handmaids Tale (only the first season- I had to stop at the second because it got too crazy for me) to name the few. So when we were desperate about a month and a half ago, I suggested Downton Abbey, and he indulged me like the wonderful husband he is. I watched Downton years ago, but stopped watching after an incident in season 4 that scarred me. Anyway, Mike ended up getting absolutely hooked, and we watched all six seasons in the course of I’d say 4 weeks. We ended up having so many conversations about the characters, their depth, the time-period, etc. It was really fun to have a show both of us loved so much, and we can’t wait for season 3 of The Crown to come back this Sunday!

Maternity Must-Haves (through week 22.5)

Self-Care:

  • Coco Butter Lotion: I’ve put this on since the day I found out I was pregnant. I definitely have some cellulite coming in on my legs, but I’ve found my stretch marks (so far) to be minimal. I’ve always been TERRIBLE about putting lotion on my body, but I’ve been pretty religious about this.
  • Prenatal Vitamins: I used some from Whole Foods, which I really liked, that were Whole Foods brand, for about a year before I got pregnant and into my pregnancy as well. Then I ran out and

Maternity Clothes:

  • Bella Band: I bought one of these bands around 8 weeks, and it has been amazing, especially in those early weeks when I was pretty bloated. I have a few pairs of maternity jeans, but none that I love so far. One pair that I actually hate… why do they make some maternity jeans with the sewn-shut pockets??? They are horrendous. Anyway, in the early weeks when you can pull off wearing your normal jeans but they can’t button or zip, putting this band around my jeans and leaving them unzipped/unbuttoned has been a life-saver.
  • Leggings: I bought a pair of these Zella leggings during the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, and they are my favorite things EVER. I don’t work out in these and mainly just lounge around and wear them on the weekends. They are incredibly soft and stretchy, and just so dang comfortable.
  • Everything from ASOS & Gap so far. Since Gap ALWAYS has sales and ASOS is pretty reasonable, I’ve been able to get a lot of basics through these two sites.
  • Gap Maternity Workout Leggings: I’ve lived in these for working out. There was an insta post from Ashley Graham a while back where she complained about the lack of maternity leggings for women, and it’s definitely been a challenge.

Books:

The other night, Mike said to me “you realize we have 11 baby books, right?” Eeeeek. In our/my defense, we’ve only purchased 4 of them for ourselves, and 2 of them are repeat gifts. I also just like to be really prepared, and I think every parent prepares differently. I have gotten a little overwhelmed with all the information I’ve digested so far, but luckily most of it is the same and not differing. Here are my favorites, in order:

I’ve read so far:

  1. Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy Think of this book as a Wikipedia/Holy Grail. I love it for its simplicity and basic facts, though some of the ordering of chapters is weird to me. If you were only to get one book, I would 100% recommend this one.
  2. Nurture Another great one, as it was written by a Doula that also has recipes in it and a more holistic vs medicine approach.
  3. Baby Bargains: Your Baby Registry Cheat Sheet Okay I was OBSESSED with this book. I love putting lists together and organizing (wow type-A) and this book really helped alleviate a lot of “registry research,” which I think can be overwhelming. I would say 70% of our registry is based off of recommendations we found in this book: crib, stroller, humidifier, noise machine, sleep blankets, bottles, 0-3 month kimono onesies etc. I also found many of the recommendations came with explanations which made me learn a few things along the way too.
  4. The Breastfeeding Book I’ve read the first chapter and like it so far. But I think a lot of breastfeeding is from practice and you can’t really practice without the baby.
  5. Expecting Better I wasn’t crazy about this book, but I found the chapter about prenatal testing to be really informative.

I haven’t read yet:

  1. Bringing up Bebe
  2. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
  3. The Fourth Trimester
  4. Magic of Motherhood

Mike Book’s:

  1. Commando Dad: Mike LOVES this book
  2. The Expectant Father: Mike did NOT enjoy this book

Apps: The Bump is my favorite!

 

 

The Case for Having People Over

About a year ago I listened to this episode of Super Soul Sunday  where Oprah interviewed Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma (which I should probably read) and I could have SWORN I wrote about this podcast in a previous post. If I did and this is redundant, I do apologize 🙂 I really recommend listening to it (it’s 30 minutes long), but here are some of the best quotes in case you don’t:

“For is there any practice less selfish, any labor less alienated, any time less wasted than preparing something delicious and nourishing for people you love… Cooking is an expression of love and if you think back to your grandparents how much of their love was expressed to you through what they made for you and that gift. Any act of cooking is a giving.”

“When you’re cooking in the kitchen, when you’re stirring the pot, just stir the pot. We spend so much of our time living in the future worrying, and in the past, worrying, about what we have done wrong. The present is inaccessible to us most of the time. And in the kitchen you can reclaim the present.” 

“Meals are sacred occasions and we should take them more seriously. As animals we are people who find meaning, and especially find meaning in their food. And we’re giving that up… 46% of meals will be eaten alone we’re giving up the social component, we’re giving up the nature component.” 

“If you’re cooking food you don’t have to count calories because you’ll know what you’re eating. People who eat home-cooked food eat a healthy diet. The reason is you would never put as much salt… as much sugar as a company would.” 

My personal cooking journey started after college, when I lived with a roommate and I couldn’t afford to eat out all the time, and was also trying to lose the college 15. Now I make it a point to cook at home 5-6 times a week; mostly dinners, but sometimes brunch on the weekend or an adventure in some sort of desert like pie, bread, etc. I cook at home for a few reasons:

  1. Health: To put it simply, I feel a bit gross when I eat out too often.
  2. Money: Pretty obvious, but eating out all the time is expensive!
  3. Family & Love: Growing up my mom had a full-time job and traveled for work, yet I still remember her cooking for us almost every single night. We rarely ate out; whether it was takeout or going to a restaurant. She was tired a lot of the time, but I know that’s one of the ways she showed her love to us, and it has been instilled in  me.

When Mike and I first started dating, his dinners were a bit bland, with little effort put into them for max efficiency in budget and time. He often ate cans of chicken and raw vegetables, egg sandwiches, etc. While not the worst, it left room for major improvement. After we moved in together, we fell into a routine of chores that felt natural to us; he cleans daily around the house and does laundry, while I cook, grocery shop, and do dishes. Of course these chores bleed over, but this is the foundation of what works for us.

We then started to have friends over, semi-regularly, for dinner. Now, living in our apartment in Russian Hill, we have an epic rooftop and bigger place that makes it easier for us to entertain. We LOVE having people over; I cook, Mike is in charge of the drinks, and we play games, watch the sunset, celebrate birthdays, holidays, etc. Of course we don’t have every single cooking item and often times when we have 6 more people over we have to get creative with space, but you don’t need everything to be perfect. A lot of our friends live far away from their families, and it’s my hope that any time they come over and have a home-cooked meal, they are reminded of home.

Last week I stumbled upon this NY Times article, It’s Not Entertaining. It’s Having People Over. and it caught my eye right from the title. It gave me renowned purpose for why we love to have people over:

“Not exactly poetry, but it does articulate my general feelings about having people over: Using your time and resources to cook for those you care about is the ultimate expression of love. And love is about expressing joy, not producing anxiety, so the other thing I want you to know is this: You can do this.

I have always been allergic to the word “entertaining,” which to me implies there’s a show, something performative at best and inauthentic at worst. But having people over? Well, that’s just making dinner, but with more people. Unfussy food, unfussy vibes and the permission to be imperfect, no occasion necessary (other than to eat, of course).”

And those are my sentiments exactly; unfussy food, unfussy vibes, no occasion necessary. Not everything needs to be a huge, labor intensive production. I often choose basic dishes, and my signature dish is now veggie lasagna. Shaudee often brings over a salad, Mel & Briana bring garlic bread, Jim, Marissa and Evan always bring wine, and Laura and Mandy bring cheese. Delegating side dishes to others helps cutdown on time, but also allows everyone to contribute to the gathering. In a time where it seems everyone is connected superficially, but lack real and physical, intimate connection, having people over for any reason is our solution to making life more full.

My tips for having people over:

  • Cook an unfussy meal, like lasagna, spaghetti with bolognese (homemade sauce really is SO easy!), etc. Pastas are typically super easy
  • If you’ve never made lobster, pork loin, etc., don’t try it for the first time when hosting others 🙂
  • Delegate to others! Ask someone to bring an appetizer, dessert, salad, side of veggies, etc.
  • Your house doesn’t need to be 100% spotless, but we typically use the excuse of having people over for our once a week deep clean anyway