Own your c-section birth story

Now that I’ve entered the club of motherhood, I’ve noticed a lot of women feeling judged (by others and themselves) because they birthed their baby via c-section. Research also shows that dissatisfaction with your child’s birth is linked to postpartum depression, so I felt compelled to address the issue of women feeling as if they had failed by having a child surgically.

I wrote this piece for Fit Pregnancy about how to come to peace—and even embrace—your birth story. I talked with Brooke Kyle, MD, an OB who delivered all three of her kids in the OR.

“I do feel like there are a lot of pressures in my community and nationally that make people feel like their birth is less worthy if they have to choose a c-section, like they’re less of a mother and they didn’t try hard enough,” Dr. Kyle told me. “I even feel those pressures because I aim for a vaginal birth in my practice and that’s what I’m known for. The goal for my patients is to get a vaginal birth, and that was the plan for myself, too.”

Yet childbirth is unpredictable, and many of the things we script out—delivering vaginally, opting for a home birth, going med-free—change.

(A quick aside: Childbirth can be traumatic. It’s important to recognize that many women have a difficult time, and that a bouncing bairn is not the only legitimate concern. Validating mothers’ conflicted feelings around childbirth and their birth story shows them that they’re valued, too—that their worth is not limited to bringing a child into the world at any cost.)

Kyle shared with me a few tips on how she kicked the disappointment of delivering via cesarean and came to love her birth story.

Did you feel disappointed in how your child’s birth went? (No judgment here.) How did you come to terms with it?

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Motherhood this week

“I should remember this.”

The thought strikes me every day as Peeper does something funny or sweet or ridiculous, yet I don’t keep a baby book and I haven’t updated my Peeper journal for months. I’m afraid all the tiny moments will slip into oblivion while I mark only the big ones.

Here, then, are a few glimpses into our everyday lives. These won’t make the front page headlines, but I think they’re worth recording.

Friends with Freddy. Our downstairs neighbors decorated for Halloween, draping the bear statues with fake spiderwebs and hanging spooky critters. They also put up a lifesize paper cutout of a Freddy Krueger lookalike, which bares its sharp teeth at us as we walk toward our door.

Whenever we walk past, Peeper says “Hi!” to Freddy in her cheeriest voice.

“You’ll know to worry if she starts saying ‘hi’ to her closet,” my brother said.

At the park - Ten Thousand Hour MamaPumped up at the park. Yesterday Peeper was a beast on the playground. She was struggling to get up the first big step on the play structure but didn’t ask for help (“hep!”), so I didn’t intervene. She kicked her leg up to shoulder height and somehow pulled herself onto the step.

She was too busy moving on to the next one to celebrate or even recognize her accomplishment.

She climbed up and down the rest of our time there but by the end, she was clearly getting tired. Instead of giving up, though, she’d grunt and yell with the effort of dragging her little body onto the first step. She reminded me of a bodybuilder or Maria Sharipova. Peeper’s a beast!

Toddler irony. Peeper recently discovered my underwear drawer. She opens my nightstand, drapes my bras around her neck and tosses my undies over her shoulder.

I figured that since she was happy and occupied, I’d change her diaper while she played there. When I came back with a clean dipes, I realized she had pooped—on my lingerie.

Well, I guess that’s kind of what it’s for.

The kicker: She’s done this twice in the last week. That’ll teach me.

Ten Thousand Hour MamaFamily plans. Verizon and AT&T got nothin’ on Annie’s. Peeper has been using anything and everything—a box of mac n’ cheese, a cup of crayons, the remote control, a package of oatmeal—to call her grandma.

“Nana, Nana,” she says while cradling the object near her ear.

We’ll see if messaging and data rates apply.

How did you record your kids’ everyday antics?

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15 months

The world is a wacky place, and at 15 months old, Peeper is really starting to grapple with it.

First off, it’s confusing. I’m always feeding Peeper mushrooms and berries at home, but when she tries to eat them when we’re on walks outside, I freak out. What gives? And she throws dirty diapers in the pail, but I take out the toys, magazines and my hairbrush that she oh so helpfully tosses in, too. All these arbitrary rules are hard to follow.

Secondly, it’s scary. Nana got Peeper a book that makes animal noises when you open the flaps, and my bug started crying at the first electronic “moo.” She ran away—and came right back. She seemed to be torn between fear of and fascination with it. I had to cut her off when she started whimpering when we looked at animals in other books.

She’s also pretty intimidated by other kids. When we recently got together with the One Weekers—a group of baby friends born within a seven days of each other—Peeper was a bit out of sorts. The other toddlers just had to look at her sideways to set her off. She required a lot of cuddling when the other kids ran around and fought over blocks.

Crying toddlers - Ten Thousand Hour MamaTen Thousand Hour Mama

Yet Peeper is also overcoming her fears—at least, in one case, with the help of noise-muffling headphones. We went to a Timbers game knowing we might have to bail early, considering Peeper is terrified of loud noises. But once she got used to the cushy headphones covering her ears, she didn’t mind the soccer match. I spent most of it chasing her around the restaurant, but I counted it as a huge win.

Portland Timbers toddler fan - Ten Thousand Hour MamaPortland Timbers toddler fan - Ten Thousand Hour MamaPortland Timbers family - Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Continue reading

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International Babywearing Week

It’s International Babywearing Week—and coincidentally, I switched from carrying Peeper on my front to my back, too.

At 15 months, she’s not exactly newborn-weight anymore, and schlepping her around on my front was doing a serious number on my back. I’m still not super confident about getting her on my back, but I *hope* it’ll get easier with practice.

International Babywearing Week - Ten Thousand Hour Mama

As you may be able to tell, she doesn’t like the backseat as much as riding shotgun, but she still points to things (ivy! gutters! cars!) from her place on my back.

Being able to wear Peeper has been key to my ability to care for her and Finn. Our walks rarely stick to the sidewalks, so most times a stroller is out of the question. And having to carry her in my arms—along with a leash, poop bag and umbrella—would be an exercise in insanity. I’m so grateful for my carrier (a lillebaby, which I’ve been very happy with).

Besides walks around the neighborhood, I have also worn Peeper at the store, when hiking Portland’s incredible trails and when interviewing sources for stories I write. Babywearing allows me to be flexible—and to use my hands when I need them and need to keep my little close.

How do you get your little from A to B? Any advice for me as a newbie back carrier?

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Awesomesauce pear sauce [recipe]

In case you haven’t looked out your window recently, know this: It’s fall! The best time of year! The season that smells like crisp leaves and votive candles burning inside pumpkins! The months when you get to snuggle in sweaters and flannel and cozy PJs! The time you dress up and eat candy or stay smugly inside and laugh at all the fools who spend all that time and energy just to be uncomfortable in their costumes!

There aren’t enough exclamation points!

Picking pears - Ten Thousand Hour Mama IMG_4896

To take advantage of glorious autumn, we took a trip to the orchard and picked a bucket-full-o’ pears. Red and green Bartletts were in season, and they were easy to pick from the low branches at Sherwood Orchards. Eric was good enough to be primary Peeper wrangler while I focused on picking pears.

Boy, was I successful (more so than when we tried to pick strawberries while trying to keep Peeper from eating ALL THE BERRIES). We went home with almost 15 pounds of pears.  They were some of the best pears I’ve ever tasted, and Peeper liked them, too: She’d point up to the box of fruit ripening on the counter and stamp her feet until someone handed her one. (Wish we’d gotten a video of that!)

But when you have 15 pounds of Bartletts, you can’t simply eat ‘em all. Enter: Awesomesauce Pear Sauce! We ate this twice a day (and not more often because, should you really eat the same thing at every meal?), mostly with yogurt. Peeper, who’s a light eater, always finished off her servings. One breakfast she had three helpings. Suffice to say, it was a family hit.

I made a big batch with the intention of canning some, but I ended up just freezing several big portions and ate the rest fresh. The sauce will keep in the fridge about one week—if it lasts that long.

Now get going and make this pear sauce. You can thank me later. Continue reading

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4 ways to smile through your toddler’s cold

It seems as if Peeper *just* got over a cold, but here she is, snotty and congested and sneezy all over again.

Being sick is rotten, and I wish I could take away my munchkin’s discomfort. Since I can’t, though, I’m looking on the bright side. Here are my top four reasons to smile in spite of—or because of—Peeper’s cold.

1. Happy! She’s no Pharrell, but much of the time she apparently feels like a room without a roof, if you know what I mean. Sure, she gets cranky and clingy, but for the most part she’s like this, drippy nose or not:

Happy! from Catherine Ryan Gregory on Vimeo.

2. Story time. Peeper always loves a good book, but when she’s sick, we spend long stretches cuddling and reading. These days her favorite books are ones that have pictures of everyday objects. I name everything for her—over and over and over and over—and her pointer finger gets a real workout.

Reading and dog cuddles - Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Finn, not to be left out, joins us, too. And this week we were in luck: My aunt sent a package of books my cousins (the oldest of whom is now in college—what?!) used to read. Thanks, Aunt Anne: You’ve doomed me to page through My First Word Book a million times a day for the rest of time.

3. Laughter. When you don’t know how to blow your nose and adults are constantly swiping at the snot collecting on your face, a sense of humor definitely helps you get through the day.

Sick toddler - Ten Thousand Hour Mama

We do just about everything we can to laugh, including wearing pants-hats.

4. The outdoors. Eric’s dad abides by the philosophy that few things can’t be improved by getting outside and blowing the stink off ya, and I couldn’t agree more. Fresh air and a little exercise may not typically be prescribed for a cold, but we think it’s a pretty good Rx.

Sick toddler - Ten Thousand Hour Mama

When you look on the bright side of being sick, what do you see?

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Tiny bubbles

Not too long ago, my family was in town visiting. We went to nearby Cook Park, where Peeper stared at someone blowing bubbles. While she and my dad watched, Peeper learned the word and repeated it the rest of the afternoon.

“Buh-buh,” she said, walking around the playground. “Buh-buh, buh-buh.”

Later that night, my dad told me that the last thing my Grandma Ryan—his mom—did before she died was sing. She was lying back in bed and before her last breath left her, she sang the old Don Ho hit “Tiny Bubbles.” She had a gorgeous songbird’s voice, though I have no memory of it.

Bubbles - Black Butte Ranch - Ten Thousand Hour MamaBubbles

A few weeks later, we joined my parents in Central Oregon for a few days. My dad brought an industrial-sized bottle of bubbles he’d made a special trip to the store to buy.

We stood among the ponderosa pines and watched as Peeper was mesmerized by the bubbles Grandpa Shempy blew for her. They surrounded us, Peeper rushed to touch them and they floated away on the dry air. Then Grandpa Shempy dipped the wand, took a breath and let fly another cloud of bubbles.

“More, more,” she signed whenever he paused. “Buh-buh!”

My Grandma Ryan died decades before Peeper was born, but I like to think that had they ever met, she would have crooned lullabies and classics and Christmas songs and jingles and silly made-up verses to her great-granddaughter in her lilting soprano, the memory of which still brings tears to my dad’s eyes.

Tiny bubbles
In the wine
Make me happy
Make me feel fine

Tiny bubbles
Make me warm all over
With a feeling that I’m gonna
Love you till the end of time

Grandma and Grandpa Ryan - Chicago - Ten Thousand Hour Mama

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