Surprise! We are pregnant again. It’s been awhile since I last wrote but I have been trying to wrap my head around two kids under 2 as a stay at home mom. Among other challenges of having a toddler, this pregnancy the second time around is so different from my first. For one thing, I can’t tell you just how far along I am. But I do know my due date- December 25, 2016. Second of all, I am so determined to stay fit and healthy this time around so I am equal parts sore and exhausted for both weight lifting reasons and just not being able to do as much as I had been able to the last 5 or 6 months before the second baby became a reality.
The challenges of a second pregnancy are multiple, as so many other moms of multiple kids are familiar with. I struggle with trying to figure out what we’ll need for this second baby- since I still have so many things from the first time around. Last time, Obi Wan decided to stop nursing very early on (4 months) and we drowned in the cost of formula for those last 8 months. So I want to be sure I nurse as long as I can this time around.
Nursing was one of my biggest challenges as a first time mom. Not because my nipples cracked and bled. I struggled with supply issues, the discomfort of engorgement, awkwardly nursing in public spaces, gaining weight when others were losing. The biggest challenge was that it gave me no joy. Just relief that I wasn’t disappointing anyone in deciding not to nurse. I was tied to Owen’s nursing schedule which ranged from every 20 minutes to every 2 hours. And I was filled with anxiety when he was hungry while we were out in public- that someone would confront me for daring to feed my kid when nothing else would make him happy.
Needing a bigger home is perhaps the biggest cost challenge. As a single income family, we are limited in what we can afford. With home prices as they are here in San Diego, it’s basically impossible to purchase a home on a single income. So renting a home isn’t much more affordable but we found an option that will probably work for us.
In the end, finding a balance between two children, and making time for myself and my fledgling photography business is maybe the most important challenge. And accepting that things will take a back seat at least at first. We found out that we are having a girl so the excitement of a girl baby and a new home to raise her and her big brother in occupy my thoughts as I go to my prenatal appointments and swim laps at the Y. I’ll update my progress as I go through my last 5 months- and promise to be more upbeat and positive about things as the due date gets closer. After all, negativity and constant stress aren’t good for anyone.
Its October and that means holiday season. I love holidays- I love the smells, decorations, and cooler weather. This is Obi’s first season of cheer and I am so excited for his first Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. But what can you do with a baby that doesn’t walk or talk and probably won’t remember? Basically, anything you want. At his age (6 months) everything is new and his little brain is picking up so many things at once. Obi especially is fascinated with the world around him so watching his little face as he experiences the world is more fun for me. He’s less likely to remember anything he experiences this first holiday season. That being said, here’s what I am planning on d0ing for the holidays.
October means adorable baby costumes and cute pumpkin patch photos. Obviously without teeth, trick or treating is not really a realistic activity for a baby who can’t even say “Trick or Treat.” But there are a lot of fun activities to take Obi to.
First, there’s Rise of the Jack O Lanterns at the San Diego Safari Park. 5,000 professionally carved pumpkins light up the parking lot of the Safari Park on a 1.3 mile walk. Rise of the Jack O Lanterns is on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays after the park closes at 5pm. The tickets are only available from http://therise.org/sdzweb . Tickets run $22-26 for adults, children ages 3-12 yrs old and seniors 65 and older. Kiddos under 3 yrs old are free. Rise of the Jack O Lanterns has time slots beginning at 6:30 to 10:30pm. We are taking Obi to the Rise of the Jack O Lanterns at Descanso Gardens in Los Angeles.
Second there’s the pumpkin patch. There are a ton of places around San Diego for the pumpkin patch. In the word’s of Linus of the Peanuts, which is the sincerest pumpkin patch? SanDiegoFamily.com has a great list for the available pumpkin patches. Of course, Bates Nut Farm tops the list in Valley Center. Then there’s Pumpkin Station in Del Mar, El Cajon, Mission Valley and National City. Carlsbad Pumpkin Patch in Carlsbad. Oma’s Pumpkin Patch in Lakeside, Peltzer Farms in Temecula, The Farm Stand West in Escondido, Suzie’s Farm in Imperial Beach and Summers Past Farms in El Cajon.
For those with the cash, and maybe a couple of older kiddos, Halloween at Disneyland is very magical. The decorations are fantastic, The Haunted Mansion is suitably arrayed in Nightmare Before Christmas decor, the music is all Halloween themed and there are fun treats all throughout the park. The cost of a ticket at Disneyland has gone up so much in the last few years that this is really a special treat. I think the main reason is that the park gets so crowded during the holidays so they raise the price as a way to control crowds. As a teenager, I had an annual pass for about 4 years and I loved being able to pop over to Disneyland for a few hours on the weekends. The annual pass prices have just recently been raised again and people are in an uproar because it’s just gotten so expensive. But a trip to Disneyland is worth it if your kids will remember it.
I have toyed with the idea of dressing Obi up in a cute Star Wars costume but I think I will wait until next year when he’s a little more aware of what’s going on. Costumes have become expensive and I still don’t know how to use my sewing machine- perhaps I will learn to make a costume for him next year. Part of the fun of Halloween for me as a kid was that my mom (or Grandma) made my costumes- I had some custom made Disney princess dresses, a classic Leia costume and some others that I remember fondly. Most of that is my mom worked so hard for a costume I wore once- or a couple times while playing dress up. I want Obi to remember his Halloweens like I remember mine. Happy Halloween Everyone!
Before my son was born, my mom told me this story about her nursing me (in 1984) at the San Diego Zoo, next to the orangutan enclosure. As she sat next to the glass, a momma orangutan and her baby came to sit on the other side, and nurse her baby as well. It’s a romantic story, and it’s what helped motivate me to keep nursing my son as my nipples grew sore and my breasts learned to regulate its milk supply. I had visions of me having a moment as magical as that one.
As a new mom, navigating the world of breastfeeding, my biggest source of anxiety was breastfeeding in public. Every so often, the media will report a story in which a breastfeeding mother is asked to leave a place of business. She’s humiliated and takes to social media to report her experience. Then an army of confrontational moms will respond with outrage and storm the gates, boobs out and babies suckling away. I am not a part of this group. I just wanted to feed my son and get on with my day- without confrontation and if at all possible- avoid flashing my nipples to the world.
That’s not to say all moms who breastfeed are walking around topless and asking for negative attention. It’s also important to note that if you are breastfeeding in public, someone is going to notice. It’s what they notice that matters. There are a plethora of ways to do it discreetly. There are basic covers (the terribly named “udder covers”), pashminas, infinity scarves, baby slings, and ponchos all designed to give you and your baby the privacy to feed peacefully and without flashing a nipple.
I can personally testify, none of these covers are easy to set up when you first start out. They all require practice. Additionally, figuring out a way to hold your baby so they can latch properly and your arms aren’t burning from the effort is part of the challenge. I eventually figured it out. Obi preferred to sit up while he nursed. The older he got, the less tolerant of a cover he became.
One of the things that helped me is a lactation group. There are groups through the hospital, La Leche league, or private lactation consultants. I’m lucky to have a free group at my local yoga/Pilates studio. It’s the perfect forum to practice and still get advice from an expert. Part of the appeal of these groups is that all these women are just like me. They have their own questions, need some practice, or have issues that need addressing. It’s a sisterhood of sorts. And while it’s not exactly public, it’s still outside of the comfort of home, without a Boppy pillow, and in the company of others.
My experiences breastfeeding out and about varied. First, it was at the Little Italy Mercato, Mother’s Day weekend. I fumbled a bit, but no one even gave me a second glance as I perched on a wall, and my son happily nursed away beneath an Aden and Anais swaddle blanket. Then, it was at True Foods Kitchen with a girlfriend and her 3 month old daughter. We weren’t the only moms nursing at the restaurant- we all exchanged friendly glances and smiled- that sisterhood again.
I became more practiced with my method of cover and my hold. So I took my son to the San Diego Zoo. As moms walked by, we shared the sisterhood smile, exchanged knowing glances that said they had been there- and some part of them missed those days. I kept an eye out for disapproving glances and imagined what I would say if someone objected to my nursing there. And I fantasized about having my own back to nature bonding moment. Eventually I discovered the Baby Care Center, next to the reptile house and the first aid office. There is a changing platform, a fan, and it is cool and private.
Unfortunately I did not get to have my magical orangutan moment. As I rode the Skyfari Aerial tram to the front entrance, I reflected on the fact that just being able to feed my son was magical enough, seeing him thrive and knowing I am responsible is the best reward. I figured I would have plenty of chances to bond with the primates another time- I have a zoo membership after all.
Conclusively, my fears seem largely imagined. These women in the news must be the exception. Perhaps they are foregoing a discreet cover, breasts akimbo, inciting anti-breastfeeding sentiments across the country. The bottom line is, my anxiety was for nothing.
I would like to note that after a few trips to the zoo, I discovered a Baby Care center. It is located next to the reptile house in the front of the zoo. The area is quiet, cool and private. There is a changing table, a fan and curtains so that more than one mama can breastfeed her child. This became a godsend when it was hotter and Obi would not tolerate a cover. For mamas who bottle feed ( with breastmilk or formula) the first aid station is right next to the center and you can take your bottles in there to be warmed. I recommend using this area as it is private and quiet. At a certain point it was less about not wanting to expose myself and more that I appreciated a quiet place for my curious little one to eat in peace.
At the San Diego Safari Park you can go to the First Aid center and they will provide you with a private air conditioned area to feed your child. After the summer we have been having this was amazing. For more places to quietly and privately breastfeed your child, you can download the Feed Finder app and it will show you a database of places to breast feed.
When I was a naive 20-something, and thought about motherhood, I thought that I would be a working mom. I have been working since I was 17yrs old and wasn’t really able to imagine being a stay at home mom. Of course, as a 20-something, marriage was a long ways off for me as well. It definitely wasn’t in my 10 year plan. When I lost my job at the beginning of 2014, I spent the next 6 months on disability because of a knee injury. I had planned to stay in the restaurant industry because I liked it, but it became clear that it wouldn’t be realistic. Serving jobs don’t give you sick days, they aren’t sympathetic to pregnancy and forget daycare. The cost of daycare far surpasses the amount I made in tips.
I am lucky because my husband has a good job that allows me to stay home with our son. Obi and I go to the zoo, we visit my grandparents, and I am able to be there when he does something new. But financially, things are tight. We live in an apartment instead of a house, and we keep a close eye on our budget every month. As a homemaker I am perfecting my cooking skills, learning how to organize my home, and keep it clean. I am by no means perfect at any of these things. The apartment is often pretty cluttered and messy, and there are days when Obi has taken all my energy and I just can’t make a fancy dinner.
Sometimes its hard to see that what I do has value. It’s not quantified, and I don’t see the fruits of my labor in a bi weekly paycheck. I know that one of the hardest jobs is to be a mom. It’s a 24hr a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year lifetime occupation. And I know it has value when I see my son’s face light up when I walk into a room. In spite of this, I feel like I occasionally lose sight of who I am as an individual. Instead of Sara, restaurant manager, piano teacher and soccer coach. I am Sara, Owen’s mom, occasional blogger and amateur chef de cuisine. I ask myself, would a job help with my individuality? What’s so wrong with being a stay at home mom?
I know stay at home moms, and I know working moms. I have the utmost respect for working moms. They get up in the middle of the night with their little ones and still make it to work. They are the ones pumping breast milk on their breaks so that their supply doesn’t drop. They can’t help but be nervous the first time they drop off their babies at daycare. They work all week and still do laundry, housework, and cook dinner. Being a working mom is really hard.
I also have respect for stay at home moms, because society tells them they don’t matter. That we are probably just sitting on the couch checking Facebook while watching day time soaps. A stay at home mom does all the homemaker things while spending time with a little person who demands 100% of our attention. A lot of my chores get done in between naps. Often I sit my son in a high chair just so that he can see me while I do the dishes and make dinner. I get up in the middle of the night and I don’t get to make up that sleep the next day. I could nap- but there’s always something to take care of. If I’m lucky I can get a shower in.
We are the only country that doesn’t provide national paid family leave, or any kind of support once the baby is born. Women who use food stamps are looked at with suspicion instead of compassion. Moms who formula feed are considered selfish regardless of whether breastfeeding was an option for them or not. Congress is defunding Planned Parenthood which is a pretty strong political statement against the care and health of women. So much of society is looking at mothers and judging them for any choices they make. We can’t win.
For me, its a double-edged sword. I could go back to work, leave my son at daycare, and earn a paycheck that contributes to a house or a family vacation. I might miss out on his first words, when he crawls for the first time, and his first steps but I would be there in the mornings before work, the evenings after work and the weekends. Or I could continue being a stay at home mom, writing a blog during Obi’s naps, and spending time watching him grow and learn. We may not have the money to buy a house right away and we may not take a glamorous family vacation but I would have the memories of watching Obi grow. As he gets older, having the time to take him on adventures will be invaluable. That time will help shape Obi into a good kid and someday a good man.
In the end, there’s no wrong answer. Every person has a choice to make and it’s not an easy one. For now, staying at home is what I am choosing. When Obi is still so young, its sometimes hard to see the future when we are having a rough day. But I know that for me, being free to go on adventures with my son is the life that I want. Besides, I can go back to work when he is in high school. I hope.
One of the hardest things about being a new mom is that fact that I’m a little curvier than I want to be. My last trimester I think I gained maybe 20 pounds and weighed in at a whopping (and alarming) 207lbs the day I gave birth. Normally a size 8-10 athletic build, I am struggling with being a 12-14 right now. Its extremely disheartening. Everyone said nursing helps the weight come off but I felt like I gained weight while breastfeeding. So what’s an exhausted mom to do?
Of course the first step to getting on track is to focus on a healthy diet. I eat a lot of whole grains, fruits, veggies, drink a lot of water with lemon and sometimes cayenne. I even drink Apple Cider Vinegar- sometimes straight, sometimes mixed with lemon, cayenne and soda water. But I also suffer from a caffeine addiction as well as a sweet tooth. Cutting back on sugar has been so hard. I tried to limit my sugar intake to lactation cookies but trying to bake with a 5 month old is challenging. Finally, most nutritionists recommend that you don’t eat past 8pm. That’s challenging because I may not get a free moment to myself until then. The other challenge is staying on track- sometimes I just am so exhausted I don’t want to cook. This leads to bad decisions and then guilt. I’m sure I am not the only one who experiences this.
A friend introduced me to Blue Apron. Its a weekly mail order cooking company that sends you fresh and healthy ingredients for three meals- specifically portioned out for 2 people or a family. Some of the ingredients are unique- which makes them hard to find if you want to recreate the meals again. But the cooking instructions are clear and straightforward- accompanied by photos so that visual learners like me can see what things are supposed to look like at every step. For two people it usually costs $59.95 and you receive your deliveries on Thursday or Friday. The accompanying recipe cards have the calorie count and each recipe is usually below 1000 calories. Fantastic for those looking to stay below a 2000 calorie intake.
Next, I started to work out again. There are lots of women who go back to working out when they are 6 weeks postpartum but I was still in some pain in my lady parts and the thought of going running or doing crunches was just inconceivable. I met my husband playing soccer and was still running but ended up tearing my ACL and meniscus in a soccer game 6 months before our wedding. Rough. It took some serious rehab to get back on my feet in time to walk down the aisle. Fast forward a month and a half and I was pregnant. It was a full year before I could really start working out again.
When my son was 3 months I started playing soccer again and promptly sprained both knees (who knew that was a thing) but stuck with it until the knees got stronger and I had joined two more teams. Now I am playing three nights a week- sometimes two games in one day. Soccer is a great interval workout. Arena soccer is faster than full field outdoor, and playing co ed is a little riskier for injuries. You really sweat and you do a lot of running. I still feel like I want to add another couple days of workouts. So I’m starting slow. Three sets of 15 leg lifts and three sets of squats, using my 17lb son as a free weight. There’s a row of beach stairs in Cardiff by the Sea, each staircase is about 90-100 stairs and it’s on the beach. I would like to start adding that to my non-soccer workouts.
I don’t weigh myself because I’m less interested in a number and more interested in my clothes fitting me again. I won’t really feel like I am getting results until that happens. Unfortunately it takes time and until that time comes, I need to invest in some new wardrobe pieces. Sigh.
The next step in getting my groove back is usually a hair cut and new color. There’s a rule about not cutting your hair after a major life event (usually a breakup, lost job, etc) but a birth can apply here. There’s a lot of wisdom in that rule. It’s also one I break too often. I had just gotten my hair past my shoulders and my son was getting a little hair grabby so I decided to chop it. I almost always regret it. I have two different hair people. One to cut and one to color. I always love my color- I only dye it myself when going red. I’m a bit of a hair chameleon in that I’m always changing my color. And its not my stylist’s fault if I regret my hair cut. I just really wish I could grow my hair out past my shoulder blades. And then I get impatient and do something drastic.
Getting your groove back takes work. And it takes patience. Patience is hard when I’m looking in the mirror and seeing a tired, super curvy, frizzy haired reflection staring back at me. I just keep reminding myself it took 9 months to get myself here, it’ll take at least that long to get my body back. The trick is to stay positive, eat healthy, exercise whenever and however I can. Focus on the things I can do now like put on a little makeup, get my hair done, or at least get a shower in. What things worked for you?
Every once in a while, the news channels will report on a mother who found their child’s photo on a child pornography website. Horrifying right? So when Obi was born my husband and I talked about our options for safely sharing photos of our little one with family and friends. I have a pretty locked down Facebook profile but I do have a lot of friends on there from college that I don’t exactly remember. I’m working on deleting people but it’s a slow going process.
One option is to create a secret Facebook group and limit members to family and close friends. But I have never been completely sure that the Facebook security was completely locked down. Also, its easy to snag photos from the Facebook News feed. Occasionally I share a photo- for major milestones- but for the most part I try to keep 90% of the photos I take off Facebook.
A second option is the website Tinybeans. Its a photo sharing website that allows you to update people on a specific email list. You can comment on the photos and its limited to the people you have email addresses for. There’s an app for Iphone and probably for Android- I don’t have an android phone so I am not sure. I tried using it before Obi was born but I decided it wasn’t a good fit for me. I have a ton of photography apps on my phone already and didn’t want to add another- they take up a lot of memory. If you are interested in Tinybeans check out their website https://tinybeans.com/.
The third option is Google+. My cousin uses Google+ to share photos and videos of his daughter. Its great if you already have a Gmail account because chances are you have the email addresses of family and friends already through your email addresses and you can just add them all to the subject line. It also shows up on the Google+ news feed even though I don’t really know anyone besides my cousin who uses Google+ as their main social media presence.
The option that I selected was Instagram. I already use Instagram for myself and I can always give Obi the password to his account when he’s grown up and has a cell phone of his own. (EEk!) He can see photos that chronicle his childhood and add his own someday. So I created an Instagram account for photo sharing and use it only for photos of him. The people who follow him are all people I know and talk to on a regular to semi regular basis. Its harder to take photos from Instagram and I was really able to censor his followers.
In the end, everyone chooses what works for them. Technology changes so often there will probably be more options for photosharing.
So, at a meet up for pregnant mamas, someone brought up the subject of baby wearing. There are meetings all over San Diego for moms who want to educate themselves on the finer points of baby wearing. What is baby wearing? It is the idea of using a wrap like a Moby or a woven, a soft structured carrier like a Mei Tei, a ring sling, a full buckle carrier like a Lillebaby, or a Half buckle carrier to carry your baby. These carriers keep your hands free but allow your little one to be close to your body for comfort, nursing, or a nap while out and about. Babywearing is huge here in San Diego. There’s a group for every kind of baby wearer on Facebook.
I always knew about baby wearing because my mother used a Snugli and a sling with me and my brother way way back in the 80s. I just didn’t know it had a name. I didn’t know a lot of things until I joined a few groups on Facebook. The idea of being able to keep my son close to me while having my hands free to do housework, walk around without a stroller, and soothe him to sleep when we are out in public sounded great to me. But the world of carriers is a rabbit hole of names, brands, and people who are strongly opinionated about it.
Some of these companies are:
Tula- The brainchild of a multi-national couple who saw a niche in the baby wearing market, they make ergonomic canvas full buckle carriers with fun and unique prints, woven wraps, and woven ring slings. There are two ways to wear your baby in a Tula, a front carry with your child facing you or back carry. There are also two different age groups- the Standard and the Toddler. The Toddler Tula is made to carry kids 18 months to 4 years old and with a minimum weight of 22lbs. They really are works of art- I have coveted the Naida woven wrap conversion ring sling since I saw its mermaid print. These carriers run from $135-$800 depending on the print, whether its a woven wrap conversion full buckle carrier, or if its a simple wrap. Some of the more popular prints have been retired and thus become more valuable. They hold their resale value and there’s a high demand for Tulas here in San Diego- they sell out a lot. Visit http://www.tulababycarriers.com/ for more info and their official website.
Ergobaby- The next carrier is most commonly found at Target, Babies R Us, and Bye Bye Baby. Sometimes you can find them on sale on Zulily. Ergo carriers are a full buckle carrier that allow you to carry your baby several different ways. They differ slightly from the Tulas in this respect. Additionally, you can wear your baby from infancy to toddlerhood- usually until they are 33 lbs- depending on the carry. There are 4 carries available with an Ergo- front inward, front outward, hip and back carry. For more information on the guidelines of these four carries visit http://store.ergobaby.com/baby-carrier/four-position-360?jumpTo=videos
Lillebaby- This is the carrier that I use for my son. I have the Lillebaby Complete Airflow. It’s a mesh Full buckle carrier that allows 6 different carries- fetal, infant, face out, toddler, hip and back. I love it because it keeps my son cool with the mesh breathable fabric. I can wear this for a full day at the zoo and my back does not hurt. It’s also not as feminine as the Tulas can run so my husband will wear him as well. For their website visit http://lillebaby.com/
Sakura Bloom- This company makes wraps and ring slings in linen and silk. They are beautiful in their simplicity and light and airy for warmer climates. There are all kinds of how-tos for wrap carries, I haven’t been brave enough to try them yet but the baby wearing world is full of women who are able to wrap their babes in these beautiful creations. The ring sling is popular for quick carries and for tiny babes. Sakura Bloom wraps and ring slings are for newborns to little ones weighing 35 lbs. Visit http://sakurabloom.com for more info.
Mei Tai- A mei tai carrier is a square- or rectangle-shaped piece of fabric with straps on all four corners. The “traditional” mei tai has a history that stretches back hundreds of years. The carrier has its roots in Asia, where mothers often carried their babies in simple fabric carriers that tied onto their bodies. In the baby wearing world it falls on the line between a wrap and a soft structured carrier. Mei Tai’s are meant for front and back carries for newborns to toddlers. For more info check out http://meitaibaby.com/
Babyhawk- A company that makes soft structured carriers in a similar design as the mei tai. Used for front and back carries. Some of these carriers are reversible and in patterns. To shop these carriers, visit http://www.babyhawk.com
Kinderpack- The Kinderpack features a uniquely styled shaped and contoured body panel, that creates a rounded seat for baby’s bottom. It molds to your child so comfortably and cradles their legs in upward comfort by fostering the recommended “bottom-lower-than-knees” seated fashion. Offering 4 sizes for your child, including one of the only carriers on the market specifically designed for preschoolers. The infant size boasts an adjustable base to change the width of the carrier. The standard size is perfect for those who want to buy once, keep forever. The toddler size is a good choice for your little one that is approaching 30 lbs or 32 inches, and wants to be arms-in. And for those bigger kids there is the preschool size. Preschool size is also a great carrier for older children with special needs. The Kinderpack is similar to the Tula in its selection of cute patterned carriers, impassioned followers and frequency in which they sell out of specific prints. For more info check out http://mykinderpack.com/
With the variety of carriers, carries and safety guidelines. Baby wearing can be intimidating. One of the best ways to decide what’s right for you is to find a baby wearing group in your area. Here in San Diego, Babywearing International of San Diego has a lending library where you can rent different carriers, get educated, and see what your babe likes best. Their Facebook page announces meetings in your area and they frequent various mom and baby centered events. Don’t let anyone tell you baby wearing is harmful to your child, they aren’t educated enough about the benefits to know better. I may not be expert level but it’s worked for me.