Kiwi is five months

DSC_1046The other morning Kiwi woke up from a nap and I startled when I looked at her.

“You got bigger!” I exclaimed.

I swear she grew in the 45 minutes she was asleep. She has changed so much in the five months since she was born.

Yet some things have stayed the same. Kiwi entered the world talking—not crying—and she is even more of a chatterbox these days. She squeaks, coos, gurgles and squeals all day (and, ahem, night) long. She clearly has a lot to say!

DSC_1210Kiwi is rolling over both ways, trying to sit up on her own and laughing up a storm. She has become remarkably intentional in her explorations of the world. She reaches out her hand to bat at a toy or the Christmas tree, and she turns over or contorts her body to get a better look at what Big Sister Peeper is doing.

IMG_4276The two girls are interacting more. One day while Peeper was sitting on the potty, she yelled “ha!” for some reason. Kiwi giggled, so Peeper did it again—and again—and again, eliciting bigger belly laughs each time. And the other morning, Peeper saw me tickling Kiwi by nibbling her cheeks, tummy and armpits, so she copied me. “Nom nom nom!” she said as she gummed her little sister’s side.

IMG_4325At the same time, I haven’t wished for time to stop or even slow down. The last five months have been among the most challenging of my life. Kiwi is napping much better and starting to sleep more at night, but the ongoing lack of rest has been brutal on me. And my transition to mom of two has been less than graceful. So I smile when I look back on newborn pictures of Kiwi, but I don’t want to transport myself back to those days.

Plus, why stop time when every day brings something new? Kiwi is changing by the minute, or at least by the nap.

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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?

The best gift

My parents provided me with so much as I grew up.

They gave me the love of travel. When I was 12, my dad taught in Singapore for six months, and my half-year stay in Southeast Asia inspired my curiosity about different cultures and places.

They gave me a love of words. To hear them tell it, I read book after book (kind of like a certain toddler I know). One of my earliest memories is “writing” letters—squiggly lines across a sheet of paper—that I’d “mail” to family members. I now make my living as a writer and am so fortunate to work in my dream career.

But one thing I value over every other gift: They gave me siblings.

Ugly Christmas pajamas family photo
An outtake from the Ryan Family Christmas 2007 card

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Kiwi on the way!

2015 is shaping up to be a big year for us: We bought a house, Eric will finish his first full-time year of teaching and he’ll graduate with his teacher’s certificate and another master’s, and—drum roll—we’re expecting another little bug!

Kiwi, as we’ve taken to calling Baby #2 (Peeper Jr. just didn’t seem right!), is due mid-July—right after (but hopefully not on) Peeper’s second birthday. So far the pregnancy has gone very smoothly, as long as you don’t count feeling horribly ill for three months straight.

Peeper Mama BeachPeople keep asking me if being pregnant is different the second time around. The most striking difference, I’ve found, is that I got bigger way faster—I’m showing about a month sooner than I did with Peeper. I was also a bit sicker in the first trimester and felt more tired, but that could have been because I was busy running after a toddler and so couldn’t rest as much.

Now, at 21 weeks, I’m smack-dab in the middle of the pregnancy—and the second trimester honeymoon period. I find myself thinking, “What the hell were we thinking?” a lot less often these days. Not that we don’t want Kiwi 100%—it’s just that when your first child is a hot mess and you haven’t eaten anything that wasn’t beige in like two months and you are tired enough to lie down on the kitchen floor and never get up, the thought of adding a nurse-all-the-time, sleep-none-of-the-time newborn into the mix sounds like a lot of crazy. Peeper bump hugSo I’m fully enjoying my in-between trimester. I love feeling Kiwi kick and can’t wait for the first time Peeper feels her little sister move. Sometimes Peeper waves hello at my belly, greeting Kiwi. And in the last week, she has taken to lying with her head on my growing bump as I rock her during wind-down time.

Peeper’s still too young to get that she will soon relinquish her only-child status, but I like to think that she and Kiwi are already forging their sister bond. My siblings and I grew up casting each other in elaborate make-believe games, arguing over whose turn it was to bring down the dirty laundry and relying on each other for pretty much everything. I can’t imagine life without them. And I can think of no better gift than to give Peeper a sibling.