Pregnancy whiplash

Toddler baby bump snugglesPregnancy is weird: It swings you from one extreme to the other fast enough to give you whiplash.

Take yesterday. I had just put Peeper down for a nap when I was overcome with energy and inspiration—a rare combo for this nearly 40-week-pregnant lady. I took the surge out on our Forester and cleaned the bejesus out of it. All of Peeper’s 87 books went into a bag; the car toys went into another bag; random things that accumulated but didn’t belong there (several sippy cups, silverware and—um—a ukulele) journeyed inside. And—get this—I vacuumed the eff out of that sucker. I had no idea how much dog hair, bunny crackers and sand (oh the sand!) had coated every surface.

Then I lay down in bed and ate cherries and read Amy Poehler’s Yes Please for a very long time while Peeper graciously continued to nap.

Another example: I’ll be so hungry that I can literally feel my body breaking down muscles and tissues and important organs to feed itself. Then I’ll look at a sandwich and want to cry because I’m suddenly so full that my stomach is crowding my lungs and I can’t breathe.

The swings can be a little overwhelming, even for onlookers. But somehow I’ve learned to ride the ins and outs like waves. Read more

Ups, downs and change: Our weekend recap

Swimming in the Clackamas RiverWhen I worked at College Possible Portland, a nonprofit that helped low-income high schoolers get into and graduate from college, we often ended the week reviewing the ups, downs and what we’d change. Allow me to steal the format for today’s blog!

Ups

Swimming in the Clackamas River
Peeper isn’t hitting me; she’s getting the baby wet!

Swimming It’s still blazing-hot hereabouts, so we went swimming in the Clackamas River at Milo McIver State Park (yes, still one of our favorite places to be!). Peeper is her happiest in water, and I’m carrying a 38-week-old furnace, so splashing in the river was pretty much the best.

Peeper’s birthday party We didn’t throw a party for Peeper’s first birthday and I knew I wanted to do a little something this year. I considered canceling it (see the downs below) but am so glad I didn’t. Peeper and her friends had a wonderful time painting and playing in the water, and we got to properly break in our newly fenced front yard! More about the party in a later post.

Seeing family Much of my side of the family came in for Peeper’s birthday party, and I’m always grateful when the Ryans are around! After the party we watched the U.S. women’s soccer team beat Japan (in style!), eat pizza and play video games. As we drove away from my brother’s house, I was overwhelmed with the wish that we’d all live near each other permanently. My brother recently moved to Portland, so that leaves only two more siblings to get down here!

This up was a little bittersweet, though, because Eric’s parents were meant to have arrived this weekend, too. They had to delay their trip out to deal with some health stuff (good thoughts/prayers/internet love to my mother-in-law much appreciated!), which is important and necessary, but we still missed them. In fact we re-sang Happy Birthday to Peeper so we could record it and send it to them! Peeper didn’t mind. 😉

Downs

Cornhole
Uncle Sean asks for Peeper’s help to win Cornhole at a 4th of July BBQ.

Fireworks Ah, the holiday my noise-phobic toddler and high-anxiety dog love the most! Happy 4th of July! Call me a grump, but I hoped every single boom was the last. We will not be spending Independence Day in town next year. You can find us running away to the mountains somewhere fireworks are illegal.

No sleep Ironically, Peeper slept a few hours through the fireworks and woke up shortly they were finished—and wouldn’t go back to sleep. It was horrible. She hasn’t had a night like that in… oh, a year and a half? We finally left her to cry herself to sleep and she passed out around 5:30, a half-hour before I’d set my alarm to prepare for her party.

Eating struggles I should apologize to all my friends who have to hear the latest tale about how Peeper just doesn’t eat. Not that she’s picky in a I’ll-only-eat-chicken-nuggets kind of way, but in the sense she’s completely uninterested in food. It was worse than usual on Saturday, which led to my redefinition of a meal on Sunday because hey, at least Ritz peanut butter sandwiches and ice cream are calories!

Change

Here’s where I mess up the format. I wouldn’t change anything (except maybe the fact I got 2 hours of sleep on Saturday). Every experience, both good and bad, shapes me as a person and a mother. I learn from some of it (leaving town on the 4th!) and revel in the rest (treasuring the memory of Peeper “getting the baby wet” in the river).

How about you? How was your holiday weekend?

How I’m preparing for childbirth

preparing for childbirth second pregnancy

“Mama has a big big big big belly!” Peeper shouted the other morning as I went to lift her out of the crib. In fact, that was the very first thing out of her mouth. And it’s the first thing that crosses my mind when I wake up in the morning.

If anything reminds me that I’ll soon be giving birth to our second daughter, it’s this giant belly—the bump that takes up so much room, there’s no place for Peeper to sit on my lap anymore. (Never fear, though; we still read and read and read—she just sits next to me most of the time.)

When I was pregnant with Peeper, Eric and I attended a childbirth preparation class at the hospital where we’d deliver. Most first-time parents do, and I learned a lot. Although some of the exercises were a little ridiculous (FYI, holding an ice cube in your hand does NOT mimic the discomfort of labor!), it was helpful overall and I’d recommend it to other parenting newbies.

This go around, though, I didn’t need a primer on the different stages of labor or what our pain relief options would be. I’m prepping for childbirth, then, in a little different way. Here’s how.

Reading. I already know what to expect, so my reading list has changed since my first pregnancy. Currently on my bedside table:

  • Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful by Gurmukh. I appreciate the Kundalini yoga instructor’s take on pregnancy, which was less medically oriented and more about gently transitioning into motherhood. Yes, I’m already a mama, but I welcomed the reminders (and the short-short chapters!).
  • HypnoBirthing by Marie Mongan. This childbirth technique/philosophy is founded on the idea that much of the pain of labor and delivery stems from fear and resistance: that the body’s physiological reaction to fear fights the opening and relaxation needed for a smooth birth. That idea resonated with me, as I was definitely scared—really scared—during Peeper’s birth. The book is full of techniques, which are pretty much mindfulness meditations, meant to make labor easier on mama and baby.
  • Siblings without Rivalry by Adele Farber and Elaine Mazlish. It’ll be a while before Peeper and Kiwi are arguing over who borrowed whose skirt, but I wanted to adopt techniques to keep the peace early. I found the book’s format a little odd (it basically recounts the author’s experiences teaching a class), but it makes for a quick read, and the illustrations and chapter recaps are helpful for remembering the various tips.

Breathing. Of course I breathe, but I’ve been practicing HypnoBirthing breathing techniques during contractions (or, as the program calls them, uterine surges) and whenever I remember—like when I’m trying to fall asleep. I’m hoping that all the practice will make the breathing techniques second nature by the time I go into labor.

Meditating. I’ve never been big into meditation—I always found my monkey mind jumped around to a million to-do tasks, leaving me more flustered than when I began—but a calm, inward focus is helping me connect to this baby.

Most of the day, my attention is on my toddler or my work or the bajillion things I can never catch up to. But a few times a day—especially right before bed—I tune into Kiwi. I send her love or talk to her in my head. I dab lavender essential oil on my chest and deepen my breathing. I imagine my breaths are waves rolling in and out like the tide. Or I envision myself as a tree, drawing in strength from the ground with each inhale and exhaling stress.

Perhaps it sounds woo-woo, but it really helps. I also plan to draw on these techniques during labor.

Letting go. Well, this one is aspirational. I alternate between wanting to DO ALL THE THINGS and just throwing up my hands and saying eff it. We still have a long list of nest-y things to do, like paint and put up those shelves that have been sitting in the garage for, oh, four months, but I’ve (sort of) made peace with the fact most of them won’t happen.

So I’m prioritizing. We recently set up a new desk in the office, which is necessary for my work, and I started packing my hospital bag (which is much lighter the second time around!). Today I brought in the infant car seat to clean and install. These things are important; sewing a baby quilt can wait.

I figure letting go is great practice for when I have two kids: I simply won’t have time or energy to do it all—or even half the stuff I want to do—so I’ll be a pro at letting things slide in no time.

I’m curious—if you have kids, how did you prepare for childbirth? Was prepping for later kids different from your first?

5 Pregnancy truths no one told you

There’s practically a cottage industry for literature to tell you what to expect when you’re expecting (along with what to do and what to not do under any circumstances or you’ll ruin your baby forever). Some details, though, seem to get left out. Not to worry, though, Imma share these 5 pregnancy truths with you.

Well, ladies with a bun in your oven, let me enlighten you. Some of these secrets aren’t pretty, but such is life. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The most surprising pregnancy truths no one tells you about! Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

A (very unconventional) baby shower for #2

When my sisters emailed me about the need to start planning a baby shower for Kiwi, I told them no. “People don’t throw a shower for second babies,” I told them.

The idea of registering for things we didn’t need, playing games and opening a mountain of presents in front of guests—read, the usual baby shower—didn’t appeal.

Undeterred, my sisters convinced me by proposing a thoroughly unconventional baby shower (or sprinkle, as some folks call the more minimal baby showers).

Pirate Putt-Putt Baby Shower Black light putt putt baby shower Read more

Spook Club Vice President, at your service

Old photo preschooler Catherine Ryan Gregory
Even as a kid, I delighted in an innocent scare.

When I was little, I was fascinated by feeling afraid.

One night, for example, my dad, sister and I walked from his office to his car past the graveyard on the University of Oregon campus. We made up an entire song (“The werewolf is howling, the vampire is prowling, it’s a fu-u-u-ll moon”) that I still hum to myself when I catch a glimpse of a moon anywhere near full.

And we formed the Spook Club, complete with a “secret” set of hand motions that we’d sign to each other with knowing looks and raised eyebrows. We mostly scared ourselves silly by watching black and white horror flicks, along with some movies of questionable suitability for an 8-year-old. I still get chills thinking of the bleak desperation of The Last Man on Earth, in which Vincent Price spends every day hunting vampires. I remember lying awake on my parents’ bedroom floor after the credits finished rolling, thinking that I’d never be able to carry on if I were that utterly alone.

This is a bit strange to be writing after my last post about children’s books to quell childhood fears, but I found myself thinking about Spook Club last night as I was reading before bed. I’m about halfway through The Boy Who Drew Monsters, by Keith Donohue (thanks for the rec, West Metro Mommy!), and I realized I haven’t changed that much since peeking from behind a blanket to watch The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock flicks. Read more

Learning to feed myself—again

One late night when I was in college, my roommate Cedar walked into the kitchen and found me eating cold refried beans out of the can.

He was mortified. I was mortified.

“At least heat them up,” he said. Oh, the shame.

I had a few semi-legit explanations for my sorry excuse for a meal. I was operating on an average of five hours of sleep a night, was the editor-in-chief of the journalism school’s magazine, tutored other college students 20 hours a week and maintained a 4.0 GPA. Cooking was not exactly at the top of my priorities.

The truth is, though, when things get tough on the home front, I’m terrible at that most basic skill: feeding myself. Worse, I have a very fast metabolism and burn through food like a hummingbird. I’m also the world’s most indecisive person if I haven’t eaten in a while.

Take, for example, one time (or, ah, multiple times) when I was pregnant with Peeper. I came home from work, sat down in the middle of the kitchen and bawled because I was so hungry but didn’t know what to eat.

Thank goodness for cereal, amirite?

Anyway, the notorious night of the refried beans popped into my head this week when I was ravenous and had stuck my head in the fridge for the fourth time only to see that, disappointingly, no fully prepared meals had mysteriously appeared. I ended up microwaving some refrieds and eating them with cheese on a tortilla. Not quite as pitiful as that college snack, but still.

Anyhow. This is all to say that especially because I’m growing another tiny life inside me, I need to be a little more conscientious about feeding myself (and the rest of my family).

You and I already know the reasons to meal plan. It reduces food waste—a huge problem in the US, where we throw out 133 billion pounds of food every year. It saves money. And it saves the stress of having zero clues or inspiration on what to put on your plate each night.

I’ve been utterly crap at my previous attempts to plan our meals ahead of time. But we should never let the past define our futures! (Ok, I’m getting a little ridiculous, but you know what I mean!)

So help me, Internet world: What is your best advice for planning meals? Or are you like me and find yourself settling for canned refrieds for lunch?