Man, life goes fast. So fucking fast. I just want to grab the reins and slow it down, even if it’s just for a single day to soak in every second and memorize it like it is right then, because it’ll change tomorrow.Read More
It’s been since a Christmas or two ago since I’ve gone in and photographed the shop, so we combined the best of both worlds and did shop photos and Record Store Day 2k19 with our neighbors, the near and dear, Vertigo Music.Read More
Elissa and I go wayyyyy back. Like elementary school kinda back. I’ve been following along with her family through social media and their journey with her son’s Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis and have learned a TON about diabetes and insulin. I never knew much until Elissa posted such amazing information about it.Read More
Since this is Michigan, keep an eye out for my ‘Spring has LEFT the building’ post in a couple of weeks when it decides to snow…Read More
I’ve been trying to figure out how to write this post for a while. We get so many questions, I feel bad just kind of shrugging my shoulders as my go to response. So! Let’s start this off!Read More
“How many pets do you have?!”
That’s a question we get a lot. We have a lot. They’re constantly expanding. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. Well, Chris would have, but he recently started looking at frog vivariums and…Read More
“I’m tired of going into work. Maybe I’ll just start selling drugs haha!”
This. This is the shit that will forever send me, my parents, my siblings, my husband, my grandparents, into a blinding hot rage.Read More
I, the perpetually-positive-to-the-point-of-being-annoying person, have about zero good things to say about January except for the fact that it is over with minimal casualties. I have never been so grateful for a January to end.Read More
A little while back when I posted about our 6 weeks postpartum life so far, I wrote about my anxiety. At my six week checkup, I was given a low dose for Zoloft that I started taking. I was a lot nervous to start it, but I did.Read More
This little chunk.
For some reason while I was pregnant with her, I thought the universe owed me a happy, easy baby because Ana was so difficult. The first month of her life, Eleni was so chill and went to everyone. Now, at 4 months, she seems determined to top her sister in the cranky department.Read More
Maybe you’re a poor sap like me who was gifted one of these little bastards, maybe yours is self inflicted. Either way, we’re both less than 10 days into this horrific ritual and I’m already thinking about blowing this Christmas time sham WIDE OPEN.
As most of you know, we moved. Well, we forgot our original Elfie at my in-law’s house. So as I mindlessly scrolled Instagram, a friends “I’m baacccckkkkk!” Elf post made me stop and do the Home Alone “KEVIN!” yell. Not for Kevin obviously, but for our appropriately named “Elfie.”
“We have to get an Elf before Ana get’s home from your parents house,” I told Chris. “We can’t have your Mom bring it with her because Ana might see it and it’ll be ruined.”
So out we went to grab a make-do Elf.
“Damn, these are expensive!” Chris exclaimed a little too loudly in the Christmas section at Meijer. “Don’t they sell just the Elf?”
“I already checked Facebook Marketplace, there weren’t any.” I solemnly admitted.
So we bite the bullet of forgetfulness and bought the ridiculously expensive elf. Get home, have a brilliant idea to make Elfie the Second ride a dinosaur. Success! I had all the time in the day to find the ribbon and tie it in place. It looked awesome. I was super proud.
Last time, Chris would wake up in a rush to move Elfie because I completely forgot all about him. This year, I was determined to be more creative. Night two? Hanging from the chandelier in a swing. Nailed it. So clever.
Night three into the early morning is where it get’s sticky. I put Eleni down, Chris was snoozing away, so I get up to move the Elf. I’m super pumped too because ‘Elfie’ was going to have Ana go on a candy cane hunt. All goes well until I go to get back in bed.
Back lit against the hallway, my footsteps have awoken Chris who loudly yells “AHH! You startled the FUCK out of me!” Not ‘you scared the shit out of me’ like every other human being would have thought of half asleep. Oh no. I have the eloquent sailor mouth in this house. So we get the fucks startled out of us.
Next morning, Elfie is majestically sitting in his throne chair with a candy cane in hand and a left-hand written Elfie note. Ana’s excited. She finds all the candy canes. Then, she has questions. Plural, not just one.
“How can Elfie move? He’s just stuffed.”
“I don’t know Ana, it’s magic.”
“I saw the Elf box. What is that for?”
“That came from storage, it had the book in it.”
“Why does Elfie have a tag?”
Shit. “Because they come from the store.”
“I thought they come from Santa.”
Chris chimes in. “Well Santa wanted every kid to have an Elf, so parents can buy them at the store.”
Ana walks off in thought and I thought I had miraculously escaped the interrogation. Little did I know, she was just waiting until there were no witnesses to continue.
“I know Elfies not real,” Ana states matter of factly.
“Oh really? How does Elfie move then?”
“You move him.”
SAVE FACE ASLYN. Don’t blow it now or it’ll snowball from Elfie to Santa and I’ll be the one who destroys Christmas magic for a 6 year old.
“Why on earth would I do that? I have enough to do, I can’t stay up all night and move an Elf around.”
“Tell me the truth. Do you move Elfie?”
She even leaned in for that one. Existential crisis. Do I lie? Do I do what all the other bahumbug parents do and kill Christmas magic in the name of teaching a lesson to Ana about telling the truth?
“No Ana, I do not move Elfie. If you don’t stop harassing me about Elfie, I’m going to make you clean the cat box.”
The threat was for good measure so she didn’t pull whatever other tactics she had out and finish me off. It worked. She might have walked away with a side eye and very skeptical ‘okay,’ but I won.
So to my Elf comrades, I’m in the foxhole with you staring down that shady plastic grin in the name of fostering a magical Christmas for my child. We can make it. Only 18 days left till we ship that sucker right back to the ‘North Poe’ shoebox in the nastiest corner of the basement with a kick to that little red felt ass.
Well, Chris is 32. Which happens to mark 10 years since the first birthday of his we celebrated! That’s right, we go back a ways. You see, when I first met my own (mostly) polished nugget of gold, he was still sleeping on plastic sheets, smoking a shit ton of Camels, and living in squalor, basically, although it was early adulthood kind of squalor.
The first birthday present I ever bought him was a Hank III tshirt, two packs of cigarettes, and a vinyl record for his 22nd birthday. HE STILL HAS THAT HANK III SHIRT. Ten years later and I still fold it and put it in his drawers.
After that birthday we went separate ways in life until right around his 25th birthday when we reconnected. By his 26th birthday, we were married and had JUST had our little baby Ana. Flash forward, and here we are! This birthday we got him an AMAZING waxed canvas vest from Mercy Supply, who I’ve bought multiple gifts for him from. Wallets, gloves, we even have his pants mended there. We love them.
Any ways, since I’m super awful at keeping gifts a surprise, he opened it early. Then my sister texted him a nicer birthday text message than I’ve ever gotten, my parent’s got him a card that almost made him cry, and Ana and I made him an epic cake. Here’s the recipe for the cake, here’s the recipe for the frosting, and we put a full 32 candles (+ a sparkler) on there with gold glitter sprinkles.
So, Happy Birthday to my number one. There will never be another soul like you and we’re so happy you’re here. Thanks for continuously blessing my life, I love you!
And what better way to immortalize it than a home video? Seriously. There’s just something about home videos that are to die for.
The day before Thanksgiving I feel can be a hit or a miss. Either it’s a peaceful day to reflect on all you have to be thankful for, or it’s a shit show of testing your patience and gritting your teeth, murmuring about how you’re not exactly thankful for THIS part of the day. By the photo above for reference, would you care to take a stab at which scenario was ours?
Yep, it was the shit show. At first.
I think I’ve complained to just about everyone on how much Eleni hates the car. It’s not the normal, cry, fall asleep relationship either. It’s the full blown meltdown until you remove her kind of hate. So when we were still living in Grand Rapids, we agreed to a Thanksgiving an hour away. Well then we moved and it became two hours away. To say I was nervous for the trek was an understatement, but I really wanted to try and make it work. So I called my Dad who flies for work every other week and he graciously booked us a hotel room with his hotel points at our half way mark.
So off we went. Eleni even slept alllllllll the way to the barber shop. She starts crying, we drop Chris off to work. Still crying, head to the hotel, no big deal it’s pretty close. Wrong. So wrong.
What happened in that car made Ana, a child who basically doesn’t go anywhere without food in her hand, willing to forego an entire meal WITH A MILKSHAKE in fear of a repeat of that ride.
So Chris and I made the call to stay the night at the hotel to let Ana’s trauma soften, then head for home the next day. I felt awful. I felt like I was disappointing my husband who had high hopes of spending Thanksgiving with his elderly grandfather (obviously this was just in my head because Chris is an incredibly kind human being,) I felt awful for putting Ana through the misery, I felt awful for putting Eleni through the ride, and I felt awful for feeling awful. I was supposed to be reflecting on how blessed my life was and how grateful I was for family, not ordering Uber Eats and crying.
To take everyone’s mind off of the morning, including my own, we all got our bathing suits on and headed for the pool that Ana was so excited for. Ana got one step in and refused to go any further. It was cold and a lot deeper than she had imagined it would be. Should I have been surprised? Not really, considering this is the child that has to shower with me because she fears the bathtub, but I was beyond frustrated. Not another thing going wrong. I got everyone out of the pool and angrily started the cold trek back to our room.
I watched Ana skip ahead, laughing when I realized I had two choices. I could easily have fumed and been consumed with the disappointment. Like me, Ana had looked forward to something, but it didn’t go according to plan. Instead of being upset by it though, she found happiness in something else. So that’s what I decided to do.
We ran a bath full of warm water and the three of us played in there instead. We broke out the camera and took photos of each other, played a game we like to call “Queen Baby",” and stole Chris’ fries when he met up with us at the hotel after work. The next morning we drove home (yep, still a lot of crying involved,) had Thanksgiving with family, and made an epic Jell-O cake for Ana’s birthday.
This Thanksgiving I learned that I need to be more okay with what is. What works for my family isn’t always what I hope for, but it’s what we’re comfortable with. Life is full of seasons and one day this will just be a past chapter in our lives. I don’t want to look back on it and wish I had just been less stressed about it and taken it for granted.
I always feel like a room is a work in progress. For me, I collect pieces along the way and they seem to find their own perfect spot eventually. A lot of Ana’s room was pieced together with stuff we already had, or stuff we found and thrifted. That beautiful copper ceiling light? $20 Facebook Marketplace find. So while looking at these pictures, don’t think I spent a shit ton of money, because I didn’t. We also still have a couple things left to do. I still need to swap out outlets, install quarter round, and paint the baseboards and door. I have new bedding ($7.50 brand new from shopgoodwill.com) coming too!
This room was my childhood bedroom. The first time my Mom painted it for me, she asked me what color I wanted and I told her blue with yellow and flowers. Then it was white and I plastered the walls in newspaper, which looked cool, but the ink was atrocious for the nose. Then it was a teal color, and eventually was sherbet orange with dark orange xxxxl polka dots and ceiling, which is what we painted over.
This is NOT the color I had picked in my head for Ana’s room. I wanted an emerald color, she wanted an electric lime color, Chris came back to the paint aisle to us squabbling about whose color would win like a bunch of loons, so we were forced to meet halfway. I HATED this color at first. I swore if a rainbow vomited, it would be this exact color. But then we painted the ceiling, put a new floor down, and finally hung up that copper light and that Dutch Boy Dill Delight became my favorite. I know white wall everything is in right now, but we are NOT white wall people.
Feel free to comment about where stuff came from, but here are some of my favorite finds:
Tyrannosaurus Rex Poster- this came from Microfiches! They make stunning educational posters of all sorts. They have two more dinosaur posters that I’ll probably order soon. They’re also incredibly nice. Our poster was super delayed from the Canadian Post being on strike and they were super helpful!
Framed Birds Nest- Ana and my Mom watched this nest for a while while there was still aa bird in it, but then she wanted me to get it down for her so she could keep it. We were surprised to find there was an egg embedded in the bottom of it, so of course we had to frame it. I had to order a special shadow box from Michaels for it though and since it was buy one, get one, I now have an extra that will get something extra cool in it this weekend and get hung right underneath.
Display Shelf- These are typekit or machinist drawers! I found Ana’s on Facebook Marketplace for $25 and it was the perfect place for her to put her fossils, gemstones, and Lego people.
Wooden Dinosaur Bones- My nephew had these and we had to get Ana some, so it wasn’t a huge bummer for Chris to go pick them up from Harbor Freight. They’re only $1.99, but you have to buy them in store. We’ll pick up a couple more for Ana so she has the Apatosaurus too.
Dollhouse- One Christmas while Chris was going through barber school, we were super fricken poor. I got the idea to build Ana a dollhouse for Christmas since my Grandpa had some plywood he offered to let me use and paint and scrapbook paper was cheap. I sewed little wire dolls of us and gave it to her for Christmas YEARS ago. She plays with it every day still. Now she’s requesting a dinosaur family for it, which I might just break out all my felt for. I still have to attach legs to the bottom since it’s hard to play with on the ground like that!
*Yes, she has a TV in her bedroom. Chris and I made the decision and we’re not asking for parenting advice so you can keep yours!
I haven’t forgotten about the blog, hopefully you didn’t either. Sometimes life makes you take a short hiatus to focus on other things, in our case, MOVING! That’s right. We live in a new zip code, actually my childhood zip code, and we’re officially hunkering down for the foreseeable future. Which is good, because we were starting to feel a lot like nomads. We almost have a camel too if you squint your eyes pretty good at Eloise.
So much has happened in such a short amount of time. Our November was an explosion of insanity. I can’t wait to share it all, but for now, I’ll just tell you about our awesome snow day. Living in Michigan, a state known for it’s snowy weather, it’s not possible to stay inside all the time with a baby. Especially with a 6 (yeah, she’s 6 now!) year old. So we put Eleni in a fleece sleeper suit, then stuffed her in a furry bear suit, and played outside.
I love winter. Maybe because it presents less of a sunburn threat to my pasty skin. Maybe it’s because a good 85% of my wardrobe is magnificent sweaters and I love making all the warm foods. Maybe it’s because snow is the most magical in all the world.
I’ll give you an example of how much we love winter over here. Chris and I take our trips in the winter. We usually go to Traverse City for his birthday in December, which we sadly have to forgo this year, but we’ve hiked trails, climbed dunes, driven to Munising, climbed waterfalls, and visited National Forests in the winter. We do none of these in the summer. There are no bugs, no burns, and if we get too hot we just get a blast of winter air and we’re good!
So for us, winter is something we look forward to every year. What’s even cooler is watching my daughter run around in the snowy yard I ran around in as a kid. Seeing her build snow forts in the same exact spot my siblings and I built ours a good 15 years ago is something I didn’t know would excite me so much. I had an incredible childhood and being in the spot I have so many great memories makes me feel so much at peace. While we were outside I waved to the neighbors who have attended our high school open houses, mowed our lawn while my Dad was at basic training one summer long ago, and even the one who is our very own “that neighbor.” I know them all.
While everything is so much the same though, it’s about to be so new. I can’t wait to share Ana’s room with you, the same room I had all my childhood, in it’s new glory. Here’s a hint: dead bugs. But for now, here’s something that won’t ever change. Our snow excitement.
Oh yeah. That might be the most accurate photo I share on here.
I initially went into the bathroom to get a normal mirror photo, but then Ana took an even better photo. A more accurate and honest photo if I say so. At 2pm in the afternoon, I am still in pajamas, unshowered, leftover makeup and ponytail, with a baby strapped to me, while I poop from cup of coffee number…I don’t know what number, I lost count.
The first couple days at home, I was the “I’m NOT going to let myself look like a blog of unwashed human,” person. Eleni slept, Ana didn’t have anything going on, family was constantly roaming through the house, so I showered and did my makeup, and found time to put on real clothes. The peaceful new baby time passed quick though. Suddenly we had soccer practice to go to, errands that needed running, Eleni started staying up more, and it was just me with the two mini monsters.
So, now you see my normal state.
So it’s been six weeks.
Six weeks to try and figure out our new normal and routines, six weeks of healing, and six weeks of trying to adjust. Some of it has gone great, other parts haven’t. But you know what? It’s fine. Anyone who tells you they are 100% prepared to bring a new baby home is only being half honest with you. They might think they’re ready, but in reality, nobody knows what the future holds and they have about as much of an idea of what’s to come as you do.
Take me for example.
I brought Eleni home knowing how to keep a baby alive. I brought her home knowing I had a somewhat traumatic delivery and healing was going to be difficult and long. I brought her home knowing I was predisposed for postpartum mental health problems. I brought her home, but I didn’t really know.
I didn’t know that my healing process was going to take THAT long. I’m still two weeks away from any sort of ‘go ahead’ for sex. The speculum check alone pulled on stitches and made me bleed, meaning I got silver nitrate on my lady bits. And that was after two previous checks at the OBGYN’s for problems with discomfort at my stitch site when I sat. Seriously, I looked insane constantly trying to rearrange myself to find any sort of comfort for the first 4 weeks. I didn’t know that 6 weeks out, I would STILL have swelling and varicose veins in my labia.
I didn’t know my postpartum anxiety would be worse the second time.
I am positive that I ended up with postpartum anxiety after Ana was born. It never left and I have always been more anxious than I was before having her. This time I got it again, but I didn’t realize how bad it would be.
At night when Eleni wouldn’t sleep, I bounced her on the exercise ball and cried because I felt so guilty about not giving Ana the same amount of attention as I used to. Carrying Eleni up or down the stairs or over pavement would automatically induce a reflex when everything tightened; my grip on her, my chest, everything, and I was TERRIFIED I would drop her and kill her on accident. I would be holding her and thinking about how amazing and small she was and some horrible image of a mother losing her baby would sock me in the chest and I was left with a panic attack and the horrifying realization that if it could happen to them, it could happen to me, and I felt guilty for still having my baby and being one of the lucky ones.
All the anxiety would stress me out and cause me to snap at a lot of the people I loved the most.
I didn’t know it was going to be that hard.
I waited it out to see if it was just the baby blues, but at my six week appointment, I knew it was time. I was scared to be honest about it, but I knew it was time to reach out. The only people I really told about it were Chris, my Mom, and my sister. They were the only ones who knew to some extent that this was a problem for me. But I told the doctor and now, with a low prescription for Zoloft which is pregnancy and breastfeeding safe, it’ll start to get easier.
I’m not trying to scare anyone, but I am trying to be honest.
This isn’t the stuff you’re going to read about on Facebook because it’s scary and it’s hard and when everyone is posting about how amazing and beautiful their baby is, your hardship inadvertently makes you feel some sort of failure that things aren’t that happy and beautiful for you too.
Except you do have beautiful moments too. And those people who post beautiful photos and words, they have some darkness too. They just aren’t sharing it.
My number one goal for you to take away, for anyone really, not just mom’s, is that this shit is beautiful AND hard. It’s okay to share both. I don’t ever want to be the one that shares the beautiful photos and spins this false reality for other people to compare their lives to.
SO! You’ve heard the hard part, now here’s the beautiful part…
Eleni is amazing. She’s everything I never knew I needed. She can hold her head up and LOVES to be held on your shoulder so she can see the world. She prefers to only nap in the carrier because she’s the worlds biggest snuggler. She smiles at you when you talk to her and likes to wiggle and squirm.
Ana always wants to hold her, hug her, and love her. When her patience runs thin with me, I don’t mind because her patience with Eleni is endless. Sure she might get frustrated about her lack of “peace and quiet,” but she will give Eleni her pacifier 1000 times over when we’re in the car. She’s the biggest helper in the entire world, even when she really doesn’t want to be. I’ve only received one angry drawing, and she’s still talking to me, so I’m counting it as a win.
Yes, I’ve totally given an enormous amount of screen time to get her to cooperate some days.
Chris is Chris. I probably take his forever calm and happy-ish mood for granted, but he’s a breath of fresh air every time he walks through the door. He takes the screaming, gassy baby so Ana and I can shower, he researches, buys, and uses the best bottles for breastfed babies so one day I can leave baby with him for a stretch to go do something alone. He is the gold that fills in the cracks of our days. He has been quietly supportive, in just the way he knows I need. He makes me feel beautiful when I feel anything but in such a foreign body. He’s been everything.
So six weeks has passed and it’s been like the rest of life. A mix of hard and beautiful, but like everything else, there’s no other place I’d rather be.
My journey is a unique one and I’m in it for every minute.
Shin guards, cleats, bottles, diapers, and newly assumed roles of responsibility. These are the new things in Ana’s life currently and I have to say, so far she’s handled them better than I ever have. When my second brother was born, the legend goes that I didn’t talk to my Mom for a while because I wanted a sister. And if you tried to get me to run at any point in my life, I would have done everything I could to avoid it. Not Ana though.
Truth be told, we didn’t do any of the stuff they tell you to do to prepare your child for a sibling. We didn’t read books about it, we didn’t role-play, and we never visited people with small babies. We were about the laziest we could possibly be about it. Don’t get me wrong though. If Ana didn’t just seem mildly upset about having to share the limelight, we would have done those things. Sometimes I think its simply because she’s older and could comprehend what was happening, that she slid into sisterhood so easily. BUT! I will share what we think made a difference in preparing her and how she’s managing.
Lets start from the beginning. When we told Ana she was going to be a sister, we did it at the same time we told family because she is a terrible secret keeper (thank God.) We wrapped up a ‘big sister’ shirt and a toy and gave her that to open with my mom, while my Dad and siblings opened up a little box with baby booties. The two funniest reactions were:
My brother, who thought the baby booties were for dogs and was super confused when everyone started crying and said: “If I knew dog shoes meant that much to you, I would have bought some…”
And Ana’s, which previously mentioned brother caught on tape promptly breaking down and yelling “I DON’T WANT TO SHARE MY TOYYYYSSSSS!” when my Mom explained to her she was going to be a big sister.
Great start, right?
So everyone in the room assured her she wouldn’t have to share if she didn’t want to and kept the storm at bay. Let me mention now what I believe has made the biggest impact on her acceptance though: no one forced her to accept it. We had 9 months ahead of us to let her process this enormous news.
You see, up until a little less than a year ago and a little while before we moved back to GR, we lived with family because we were pretty damn poor, whether it was during the welding years or barber school years. During all those times, we lived with older kids. All the kids feel like Ana’s older siblings, whether it was her cousins, my siblings, or her great aunts. So in a way, she was used to having “siblings” and she had a ton of people she could emulate. When she asked one of her “what if sister did this” questions, we could point back to a past experience she had and how her make-shift-sibling handled it. So life kind of prepared her in a way I couldn’t have even begun to teach her.
Ana also has a super ‘fact-y’ personality. She loves learning new facts about pretty much anything and it boosts her confidence about subjects. So when I downloaded The Bump and the Babycenter apps, we read off how big baby was each week, the new developments, and we answered her questions about baby. We also took her to almost every OBGYN appointment, except for 2. She was there when she found out she was getting a sister (her response was “oh noooo,”) heard sisters heartbeat every appointment, and learned about what was happening to my body and why. She was there for my glucose test and took great joy in telling me how much of my blood they were taking, and she was there the last appointment when they told me it was time to go to the hospital. We let her be a major part of the entire pregnancy and it made her feel prepared.
That’s about all we did really. We let her be upset when she wanted to be, we assured her almost everything would remain the same minus having to share us, and we waited. During the pregnancy, Ana was never like, “OMG, I CANT WAIT FOR BABY!” She acknowledged it was going to happen inevitably, but that was about it. She had fun picking out baby stuff, but when you asked her if she was excited for sister to get here, she pretended as if you never said anything.
When Chris’ sister brought Ana to meet Eleni for the first time, she held her in my lap and pointed out how small all her features were, and that was it. She was ready to go. She wasn’t mushy gooshy and “oh how cute,” she saw her and was ready to go to her godmothers house and have fun. You bet your ass I was a little concerned inside. I should have assumed this was going to be her reaction based off her attitude towards pregnancy, but I was still a little freaked out she didn’t seem too attached to her sister. But I let it go and hoped for the best.
Chris has been taking her out and about with him as he went after we got home and being a Dada’s girl, she couldn’t be happier. She occasionally wanted to hold Eleni and towards the end of our first week as a family of four, she told her sister she loved her. It was hit or miss on if she would agree to help with Eleni, like grabbing a diaper when we realized they were all upstairs mid diaper change or giving sister her pacifier in the car seat, and she started with small, obnoxious behavior, like climbing on people and generally invading people’s personal space.
We’re currently a couple days shy of 3 weeks as a group of four. Chris has been back to work for about two weeks and it’s just been the three of us. Ana just got her flu shot the other day and right after the shot, while still crying, she asked to hold sister before we got off the table and left. She held her for 30 seconds and said, “Okay, take her back,” and was ready to go. She still tells people Eleni is her brother and his name is Boom-Boom, but she will also lay on the floor with her during tummy time and talks to her and hugs her constantly.
Having a second child is hard.
We’ve relied HEAVILY on screen time during this adjustment period, I feel like a shit mom because I don’t spend the same time with her as I did before, and a little because she doesn’t seem to mind this kind of alone-time. I constantly wonder if she feels left out (when I asked if she felt left out she told me she felt like there was TOO MUCH love…) and when I snap at her for acting out the instant chastising of myself for not being more understanding while she’s figuring out this change too, is unreal.
But we’re getting there. Sure some days I just feel like crying because as a high-functioning perfectionist it’s very difficult for me to accept that things aren’t getting done like I feel they should, but we’re getting there nonetheless. It’s not always pretty (my make-up bag has collected dust, along with anything other than my jogger or pajama pants) and it’s hard, but I try to remember that one day, these will be the good old days. So we just breathe and watch fish documentaries and give sister boob milk.
Oh, and soccer is fun.
Ana seems to enjoy the challenge. It’s also kind of funny to watch her coaches face whenever she talks about “kick ball,” which is what she has branded soccer despite many attempts to correct her. We also will have to undo some of the sharing we taught her trying to be decent parents so she’ll actually try and kick the ball away from the other kids though…
(I’ll do periodic posts about our adjustments over time, too.)
I'm just going to cut right to the chase on this one.
If you read Eleni's birth story, you all know I had to get stitches. Now, I don't know if someone at one point mentioned to my husband or I why exactly I was getting stitches, but if they did, it fell back into the recesses of my brain. I just assumed I had a tear, it was repaired, moving on. So when things started getting uncomfortable at the stitch site, I called my poor OBGYN's office who has answered more disturbing questions from me than I care to admit, and they booked me an appointment.
I took Ana and Eleni with me and the nurse got my weight and all the pre-appointment stuff and asked the standard, "What's going on today?"
"Well, there's a bump at my stitch site that makes it uncomfortable to sit," I explained. I told her it had been about a week since it started and mentioned that I don't know why I had stitches. (Not at fault of anyone except myself.)
"You had a second degree tear." She explained. Now, some of you Mom's out there know what that is right this very moment. I did not. I didn't have any tearing with Ana, I wasn't a birth story guru yet, and I just never looked it up. I figured a tear was a tear.
"Oh, okay." I proceeded to undress from the waist down as the stir-ups and spotlight came out.
The doctor came in, took a look, explained there was pressure on the stitch site and that the bump was from my body putting pressure on the stitches. It will heal itself and the stitches will eventually dissolve. Oh, also definitely do not have sex because there were very obvious stitches that would suffer.
No sex. Second degree tear. Got it.
Flashback to a couple years ago when my Mom and I had my sister trapped in the car and we were going on and on about the horrors of childbirth. Needle in the spine, squeezing something large out of a small hole in your body, the recovery period, painful pooping, etc.
Then my Mom exclaims, "Yeah and sometimes, like with your brother, the baby is too big, so they have to cut your taint and make one big hole!" We all snorted laughing at this. Mostly because of the word taint because we are so mature.
Now flash forward to after the doctors appointment when I wondered, what is a second degree tear anyways? As I read the all knowing answers from Google, my face turned white and I couldn't call my Mom fast enough because you always call your Mom and rant when you find disturbing information and she's the only one who's answered more disturbing questions than my OB. She didn't answer so my message went as follows:
Me, with a frantic voice: "Dad, this message is NOT for you so plug your ears and don't listen. MOM. THEY CUT MY FREAKING TAINT. NOBODY EVER SAID EPISIOTOMY-SO-I-JUST-THOUGHT-IT-WAS-A-MINOR-TEAR-HOLY-SHIT-CALL-ME-BACK."
My next call was to my sister.
"NANNAH. THEY ACTUAL CUT MY TAINT. It's not as funny anymore. It actually happened."
Nannah: "Well yeah."
Me: "How did you know?! You weren't in the room!"
Nannah: "I just kind of figured. [Eleni] was so big..."
So then I felt like an idiot. But my Mom called me back and we laughed about it and the fact I smelled like old boob milk and accidentally wore the same pants that Eleni spit up on the day before that I forgot about.
Actually, I forgot again. I'm still wearing those pants. But hey. At least sitting feels a little better. And I have a brand spanking new taint.
*I'd like to thank my Mom for the excessive use of the word 'taint' in this post. And to my sister who said "I should read your blog soon," I hope this is the first post you read you bastard (Just kidding, I love you.)
With life moving so fast lately, I hadn’t really had time to process the shop turning a year old this month. Between endless amounts of diapers, a very inconsistent sleep schedule (mostly with Ana, not Eleni,) and our daily grind, the shop chugs along smoothly in the back of my radar usually. So when Chris reminded me that it will officially have been open a year in a couple days, I had that “Oh yeah, it will be,” moment.
I’ve already written about how the shop came to be here, so I’m just going to tell you about this past year of being in business for ourselves; the upsides, the downsides, and the things that have surprised me. I’m a list maker by nature (you can ask Chris about my plethora of half filled notebooks that I buy specifically for making new lists and then never use again) so I’m going to do this list style.
Obviously, the success. I'm not going to say "we're one of the lucky start-ups who didn't fail," because business and luck don't really go together. God provided us an opportunity and we took an enormous leap of faith and took the opportunity. We did an absurd amount of market research, searched locations non-stop, put our 150% towards every inch of it, and didn't half-ass anything, which is my biggest pet peeve. The result? The shop grew faster than either Chris or I could have ever dreamed.
All the people we've met along the way. I'm not a face-to-face people person. If I ever wrote a novel, it would be under a pseudonym with no author photo, that's how little of a people-person I am. But Chris is, which is why our business arrangement works, and he brings home stories about clients and we secretly celebrate moments in their lives along with them. Repeat customer left his job that he was unhappy at to pursue his dream job? We talk about how cool it is and how he'll be so much happier. Another client has a third baby? That's cool, does this one sleep better than the last?
It fits us. The business has molded our schedule and allowed us to be together the way that suits us. Because the shop opens at 11am, Chris is able to help take Eleni to her doctors appointments, Ana to tumble time, and we can get breakfast at Mr. Burger as a family. It also means that our family of night owls gets to sleep in. Ana has never been a great sleeper and I tend to run more efficiently late at night, so making dinner while Chris is at work is super easy for me. Our dinner time is anywhere from 8pm-9:00pm. Yeah, it sounds late, but our schedule starts way later, so we've shifted it. And it works!
*You all know that I'm not one to hide the bad. So yeah, there are downsides to owning a business. I've finally come to the realization in life that admitting things can be hard or not ideal doesn't mean you're not grateful for everything, it's just being honest.
Wearing ALL the hats. I got a taste for how much work it was to single handedly run a business with our photo business. You are everything. You're the creator, the decorator, the finance person, the marketing department, the human resources, etc. The list goes on. And the hard part is, you can't leave your work at work. When Chris get's home, he sorts through voicemails and responds to emails. During the day we have to take time to post to Instagram, Chris cuts the hair, we place orders, contact people about artwork, etc. In the morning we talk over new ideas, collaborate on what step to take next, build things for the shop, etc. It's all day, every day. Sometimes that's fine, but if we're under pressure for a while, it can be a heavy weight to carry.
Balancing small-business sized services to a chain-dependent society. A certain time ago, more jobs were considered 'crafts'. Barbering, butchering, painting, you name it. It was a small business that made up for their smaller operation with quality. With photos it was the same deal. As a society, we've gotten used to being able to get things quickly and relatively cheaply, but we sacrifice quality. As any small business owner will tell you, you get your fair share of people who expect that service from small businesses, but it just doesn't work that way. With both the photo business and the barber business, we care too much about our craft and clients to give them shoddy service just because it's quicker and cheaper, which can be hard to explain to people.
The limitations. We are SO ready to buy a house, but the banks like to see you've been in business for longer than a year with self-employment to lend to you. Do I find it unfair? Absolutely, since at any other place of work, you can lose your job. We've had friends with this same dilemma. Want to do anything that requires proof of income? Good luck and godspeed. Some will deny you right off the bat, others will make you jump through an unbelievable amount of hoops. Systems are not set up or in favor of small business owners, which is total shit.
It's been one big team building exercise. Down to the color of tape we used to repair a ripped seat, (clear packing or red duct tape?) everything has been a combined effort. At first it was really hard and it did strain our relationship a bit. Then we started finding our groove and finally hit our stride. I feel like the rough patch was 110% worth it. Chris and I function better as a team now than we did before this crazy shop started. I have serious respect for all the work he puts in on his end and vice versa.
A little less mushy, it made me realize I do NOT want to barber with him. I love my husband more than anything and he is my perfect team mate, but there is such a thing as too many cooks in the kitchen. We have a perfect ying-yang thing. I'm very type-A, more detail oriented, with anti-social tendencies. Chris is the opposite and putting us in identical roles would be disastrous.
I've learned a lot about myself. Going through a lot of my teenage years and early adulthood, I am ashamed to admit I had a, "it's not me, it's you," complex. Especially if it came to projects. Ongoing work with the shop though was a miserable slap in the face sometimes when I was reminded it often was, in fact, me and not you. My obsession with perfect was sometimes useful, but when it wasn't reined in, was destructive to progress. My temper when things didn't go as planned hurt not only the shop progress, but Chris and Ana suffered from my shit attitude too.
So now you've had a glimpse into small business ownership a year into our journey. I'm stoked to look back this time every year and see how things change.
I love hearing birth stories. I love hearing about the moments leading up to giving a new little person their first glimpse at the world and how other mothers will find solace and solidarity in the stories of other mother’s experiences. So I’m going to share mine and hopefully, there are mother’s out there who will appreciate it and non-mother’s who will get a glimpse into a child birthing experience.
I guess the one phrase that could sum up Eleni’s birth is “It didn’t go as planned,” which I find slightly ironic.
There are some women who have master birth plan in place, down to the last song on their birth playlist. All I had planned on was being in a hospital with an epidural. That’s it. We had gleaned a bit of information at our last OBGYN appointment in the way that Eleni was estimated to be around 7 pounds, head down, and her face pointed toward my spine, so it seemed a lot like Ana’s birth, which couldn’t have gone smoother. So when I scheduled an impromptu appointment for light bleeding, I didn’t have a clue what the next 12 hours had in store for me.
Before the appointment, Ana and I went about a usual day. We put a roast in the crock pot, grabbed a birthday pie for our friend Derek who had come up on his birthday to run the barber shop for Chris “just in case”, grabbed some odds and ends at the grocery store, and Derek’s birthday gift from Woosah. I had some contractions, but the timing was all over the place and I really only had to take a brief pause when they came, which didn’t seem like much to worry about. So I didn’t. Ana and I dropped everything off at home and left for my appointment.
I knew they were probably going to do another cervical check, but it was too late to get a sitter and really, Ana already knew what birth was all about so she came along with me. Sure enough, they did. I didn’t expect labor to be starting. I just wanted to make sure the bleeding wasn’t serious. Only 5% of women ever give birth on their due date and since Ana had been part of that 5%, I didn’t expect to get lucky again. Instead of “you’re fine, go home,” like we expected though, we heard “you’re too far dilated to let you go home, head to L&D."
“Do you have someone to watch her?” the doctor asked me looking at Ana.
“Yeah, my husband will get her set. Can I wait for him?” I asked in shock.
“Yeah, but you’ll want to get over to the hospital soon.” The doctor looked at me with a bit of concern.
Ana and I walked out to the car and I panicked. I’m a planner. The only plan we had in place was that Ana was going with Chris’ sister while we were in the hospital. I called Chris and trying not to break down on the phone, I asked him if he was ready to have a baby.
“What’s wrong?” he asked when my voice got squeaky.
“I’m just scared. We’re on our way to get you.”
Yep. I drove off in the opposite direction of the hospital to get my husband from work 4 blocks away. Which makes more sense why when we arrived 15 minutes later, they had my file with a photo pulled up and the nurse was on the phone with the doctor I had just left telling her I was there and I seemed fine.
Then Chris did an amazing juggling act.
When they tell you it takes a village to raise a child, it's also true it takes a village to bring a child into the world. Chris' sister picked Ana up within the hour, our friends Sammi and Jordan went and let our dog out, fed our turtle, and took care of the roast I was panicking about burning the house down, and Derek went back and not only ran the shop, but also moved our car and was with our dog overnight. Our village came through in a big way.
While Chris arranged everything, I got into a gown, had an IV placed and was hooked up to fluids and antibiotics for Strep B (no, it's not strep throat,) and waited for Chris to return and for my water to be broken. They had asked if I wanted an epidural, but I told them I'd wait. Honestly it's because I was terrified to have a needle put in my spine again and I couldn't do it alone without Chris. So I was left in the quiet to breathe through contractions and get ready.
I didn't have any profound thoughts while waiting. I was ready (or so I thought) and when Chris came back, I cried like a baby and cut off circulation to Chris' hands as they placed the epidural I knew I'd need, and they broke my water.
Then we realized Eleni was "sunny side up," or posterior.
Babies normally are born with their face toward their mother's spine. Posterior babies heads tend to not fit through the birth canal the way they're supposed to though. The top of the head is the first through instead of the crown, which is malleable (aka soft spots) to fit through the birth canal optimally. Our nurse, Natalie, our lady in shining armor helped me for HOURS get into positions to try and flip her.
During the flipping process, Natalie noticed bleeding from my epidural site, which can mean the catheter slipped. The anesthesiologist checked it out, but said it was fine. I can tell you from the regaining of feeling in my legs and the pain of the coming contractions though, that it wasn't working the way it should have been. Essentially, my epidural was only partially helping the pain.
It was too far too late though. The contractions were strong enough I could start pushing, so that's what I did. And I pushed. And I pushed. And it felt like I was going to be pushing forever. Then everyone started getting excited and I started entering into some serious pain.
Mother of everything Holy, the pain. Pushing out a posterior baby with a half working epidural made my stomach tattoo feel like a freaking tickle.
The delivery doctor we had, a family friend from church, hooked up the vacuum and Eleni was so close to being here with us. I told the nurse I couldn't do it, she bluntly told me I could and I had to and Chris cheered me on. I remember being in so much pain and both our heart rates were dropping from being in labor for so long, and then realizing the only way I was going to get out of the pain would be to push with everything I had. So I did. And as our baby girl made her entrance into the world, Chris and I cried and we're pretty sure the doctor teared up a bit too.
As they placed her on my chest, all I could do was hold her tight and cry.
She was so squishy, with so much hair and she was so warm and new. Every anxiety I had carried with me throughout the pregnancy and leading up to Eleni's birth I let go of. I think I cried out of happiness, out of love, out of pain, and out of relief. Looking at my husband and holding this brand new person I was flooded with such love for him and gratitude for not only helping me create her, but for never for a moment letting me feel alone through the process. He carried the weight of both of us for months and it was all for this moment.
While they stitched up what I'm assuming were tears with interior and exterior stitches, everyone made a guess on how much our little squish weighed. When they took her to the scale, we all waited while it thought.
That was 2lbs and 3ozs more than Ana had been at birth and definitely more than we had thought at our last couple OB appointments. Everything about this birth had been completely different and completely unexpected. Chris likes to tell people that when she was born he thought, "A toddler just came out of my wife," and while not as 'Chris-ish' we still get the 'Wow! That's a big baby!' and 'You don't have them small!' comments with the occasionally nosey 'Did you deliver her vaginally?'
Yes, yes I did.
Our chunky monkey.
While the recovery from Eleni's birth has been horribly uncomfortable and sometimes painful, when I stop to think about what my body has gone through to get her here, I feel a little bit, okay a lot a bit, powerful. My 5'2" normally 115lb frame labored a 9lb baby into the world with a half-assed epidural.
So yeah, like everything else that's been thrown our way in life, it didn't go as planned. But also like everything else thrown our way, I'd do it over a thousand times if it meant I still get to sit right where I am now. Writing this blog post yelling at Ana to not pinch Daddy and being amazed at what an infant can sleep through.
A HUGE thank you to so many people who helped us over these pst two weeks. Our village is the greatest and we hope one day we can repay you all for all of your help. We love you.