Emerson: A Birth Story | Part 2

And so I sat, casting nervous glances at my husband, wondering if my feet stunk, when the last time was that I shaved, how this little person was going to change our lives, if he would get here before my best friend or Marshall's dad left town, etc. etc.  All of it very blurry.  Very much like what I would think an anxiety attack feels like, with a dash of Christmas morning anticipation sprinkled on top.

Then, as if it were nothing at all, my doctor asked when I would like to be induced (within a window of given time of course).  And it was nothing to her, just another day, but to me it was asking someone to choose the date everything would change forever...good and bad.  We made small talk and I chose my day- Emerson's potential birthday- before my best friend and Marshall's dad left home, obviously.  And then she offered to try to induce labor naturally.  An offer I had been told to expect and one I had been told would "feel like a melon-baller to my insides" but I accepted, because, despite all of my fear and apprehension, I wanted to do everything I could to bring this little man into the world in a natural way (up until the point of the epidural anyways).

In a delightful process, deemed 'stripping the membranes', my doctor (for the first time in her celebrated career) accidentally broke my water.  A process she said would have only happened if my body was ready anyways and that it was better to have happened in her office than once we got out to the car.  Ironically enough, Marshall and I had joked about bringing the hospital bag with us to the appointment because we had been told the process was so effective, but of course we didn't.  Pfft.  Parenting newbies.

So she sent us home, to eat a light dinner, grab our bags and with instruction to be back to the hospital by 8 that evening if the contractions weren't firing like a pistol first.  

We drove home, awkward and giggling.  I was thinking I could have babies for a living (ha, bless your heart you naive you) because I hadn't had a single contraction yet.  And then we ate our last meal as just the two of us: toast and eggs and watched a game of the world cup.


Day 2: Registry Must Haves

Yesterday, it got heavy so I'm lightening the mood today.  Because, I'm guessing mama, between all the napping and craving indulging there's a big part of you that is loving the nesting...or at least the shopping.  The registering and the shopping is -for once in your life- something that is an actual to-do on your list, not just a want-to, so live it up!

Okay, but really, don't live it up because the onslaught of baby paraphernalia is going to take over your beautifully designed and decorated space soon and so are the expenses.  And while we're being frank, that Wall of Nipples is probably something you're fretting over because this is the first time you're doing this and how in the world do you decide which nipple, which bottle, which diaper, which crib bumper, etc. to register for?

There are as many opinions as there are cleverly marketed objects (I NEED that extra cup holder to clip onto the side of the stroller we registered for that already has two cup holders because where will I put the baby's bottle when my coffee and the Mr.'s coffee are filling the two cup holders already?).  You won't need that third cup holder, in fact you don't NEED most of the things the stores tell you you do.  Ask your mom, ask your sister, ask your mama friends for their favorites and have them go with you.  Of course, include the Mr. too, but only to the extent that it is fun for both of you, not overwhelming.  For us, that meant the fun trip with the Mr. to register for things like bedding, developmental toys and the jogging stroller, and another trip with my sister to help register for the essentials like bottles, nail clippers, diapers, etc.

The truth is, women all over the world raise happy and healthy babies with nothing more than the bare necessities, but there are obviously things that make the transition into parenthood easier and more fun, so here are my 'must' haves that helped us navigate "the fourth trimester" should you find yourself registry happy.

So Helpful | Because mama you're gonna need and want all the help you can get (mamahood is not a place for pride).

1. Multi-Use Burp and Lap Pads | We never use them as burp pads, but these are incredible for keeping in the diaper bag as a changing pad or they can be used anywhere to ensure dry bedding.  My girlfriend even uses them on top of her changing pad at home so she doesn't have to wash the 'fancy' cover weekly.  At less than $10 for three, you'll be happy you put them on your registry.
2. Flannel Receiving Blankets | Perfect to keep in the diaper bag to turn any floor into a baby friendly space, to use as a double swaddle (a trick we learned from our NICU nurses), a cover for the baby carrier (a must for all those well intentioned strangers at the grocery store with baby fever), to roll and use as head supports in the car seat or to roll and use under the crib mattress to help keep baby from rolling side to side when making the crib transition.
3. Fisher-Price Infant-to-Toddler Rocker | For those moments you need your hands free.  Our little man didn't like the bouncer or the swing, but this rocker, that can double as a cradle?  His jam.  And in turn, my jam, for days.  I also love that it's easily portable and sees them through from infancy to toddlerhood.  More bang for that hard earned buck.  It's also really handy for bottle feeding (more on that later) and no where near as bulky or costly as a pack-and-play.  And, if your baby has dreaded reflux it helps keep them at a tummy happy incline.

So Sleepy | Because the more sleep baby gets, the more sleep you get and in the world of babies sleep begets sleep.

4. Aden + Anais Swaddle Blankets | For us swaddling was a must.  Swaddling = sleep.  And sleep = happy baby and a happy mom and dad.  But these blankets will see you beyond just swaddling; they make a great nursing cover in a pinch and the muslin material is breathable enough for all seasons.  For many of my mama friends they have become their children's favorite blanket.
5. Summer Infant SwaddleMe | Should you find yourself with a baby Houdini on your hands, like we did, you'll need to bring in the reinforcements around 4-6 weeks.  We used the SwaddleMe for night time sleep and continued to use the swaddle blankets for naps; now, as he needs the ability to move and wiggle more we're back to the swaddle blankets.  I'd recommend you get 4 of these, because baby laundry is as plentiful as blow outs.
6. Fisher-Price Rock N' Play | Oh if I could sing its praises all the live long day, I would.  Portable, incline, vibration, rockable.  Essentially sleep success with minimal effort.  Our little man slept in it beautifully until about three-and-a-half months when he decided he was ready for the crib.  This will let you shower without guilt or fear, travels easily and is easy to move from one room (say yours) and the next (theirs).

So Soothing | Because a happy baby is a happy mom and dad.

7. The Moby | Or any baby wearing; keeps baby close to your heart, mimics the womb and cuts down on fussiness while allowing you to be hands free and to save some sanity.  It's also incredibly portable and convenient.  Hello laundry, lunch dates, and the grocery store.  You can feel like the Old You all over again.
8. An Exercise Ball | Because your baby will know the difference between an electronic bouncer and your bounce, and if you're going to be bouncing (like we did, for hours on end) you may as well get to bounce on a seat for a bit.  Plus, should you fancy it, you can even exercise with it (oh, the hilarity).  It's also a god send if you have SI Joint issues during your pregnancy, and amazing for rocking your hips through those contractions when triage sends you back home.
9. Infant ProBiotics | For whatever reason, our little one got the dreaded curse of colic and it was a hard fight for all of us.  Mostly because we knew he was in pain (colic is due to digestive issues) and we couldn't do anything about it.  That is until a girlfriend, who is a nurse, suggested ProBiotics.  Little man didn't suffer from reflux (commonly 'diagnosed' as colic), he struggled to work things through.  And most babies, at some point, will struggle with constipation.  Non-addictive and all natural, these gut healing bacteria transformed our sweet man's demeanor practically overnight.  

This post is part of a 31 day series: Hey Mama! A Crash Course Introduction to Mamahood where I share the things I wish I would have known or would have been told throughout my pregnancy, labor and delivery, and into those early days, weeks, and months of Mamahood.  It's part of the 31 Days Movement and it's letting me put ink to the page again- which is something this new mama desperately needed.


Day 1: The Two Fateful Lines

I'm not sure where those two lines found you -if they were a surprise, if they were a prayer answered, if they are still a hope, or if they are a distant memory- but I do know that in that moment underneath all of the feelings of joy, excitement, and shock there was another feeling you'd never felt so strongly before: worry.

There's a difference, at least for me, between fear and worry.  Fear is an emotion while worry is a state of action- a thought process, one caused for me by a complete loss of control for the first time in my life.  It is a blessing and a curse this worry; it confirms that your head and heart are in the right place -that you're on the road to acquiring the selflessness that is required by mamahood. But it also begins the self-doubt, feelings of inadequacy, comparison i.e. Mama Wars, and the "if I just do/buy this one thing -the nursery, the baby, my family- will be just as I pictured".

Well mama, I'm going to rip the band-aid off.  The worry never goes away, but it is one of the only things you'll be able to control in your life again.  No amount of fretting over the Wall of Nipples, the crib bedding, or the way the baby will impact your relationships and social life will make it easier.  You will drive yourself to the brink of crazy and just make mamahood that much harder than it already is.  And friend, it is really, really, hard.

Your fears have a place, and they will come -sprinkled throughout the joy, excitement and all the preparations- but don't let them turn into worries.  The first thing you need as a mama? Good people.  So, go get them, reconnect with them, let them know you need them.  Good people will listen to your fears, hold your hand, and help you quiet them.

This post is part of a 31 day series: Hey Mama! A Crash Course Introduction to Mamahood where I share the things I wish I would have known or would have been told throughout my pregnancy, labor and delivery, and into those early days, weeks, and months of Mamahood.  It's part of the 31 Days Movement and it's letting me put ink to the page again- which is something this new mama desperately needed.


Emerson: A Birth Story | Part 1

gentlemans nursery name sign
{Emerson's Nursery via Bon Vivant Studios}

What a wild ride this whole parenthood thing is.  This whole having a tiny human that you're entirely responsible for is.  This little heartbeat that is already his own person is.

And what a crazy love bringing him into the world was.  Emerson Michael Cook, our Little Cookie, was born June 18, 2014 at 11:49 A.M. weighing in at 7 lbs. 14 oz., measuring 20 inches and turning our world upside down and inside out in the best possible way.

It's hilarious really the amount of control you think you have over your life.  Until you realize, through another human being, another soul, that really you have no control at all.  And that is completely unsettling and also really, really beautiful.

Emerson's birthday is confirmation of just that.  He was 'supposed' to join us on June 14th according to the doctor, on June 12th according to my calculations, and even earlier if you asked the secretaries at school or my students.  "Mrs. Cook, I can't believe you're still here."  Every day.  On repeat.  Until the last day of school.

And so I went in for my appointment, my "Hey, I'm officially over due appointment" content and apprehensive: all at once.

I really think I could have been pregnant forever.  Not because my pregnancy was perfect- although, I know I was incredibly fortunate to have it go as smoothly as it did- but because in all honesty I was absolutely terrified of becoming the one thing I had been praying for, waiting for, saving for, envious over for the last five years...becoming a parent.

That appointment made it very real.  I knew I was going to have to schedule a time to meet my person.  And, a time to become an entirely new person.  And even though it was an event I would have control over, one I could write in my planner, it also meant this whole thing was actually going to happen.  And it hit all at once while I sat nervously in my gown.

On that god awful tissue paper.


A Gentelman's Study/Nursery: Reveal

Well since the baby seems to in no way reflect the Mr. and I's stubbornness determined to arrive in his own timing, I figured I may as well make the most of my remaining time as a non-parent by documenting the nursery.  While it still looks photo shoot worthy and before the wee little laundry and and baby paraphernalia takes over in mass amounts.

There isn't a theme per say.  That's not how I roll.  I like what I like and I nested the nursery like I did the rest of our home, with things that I like and with attention to a guiding color palette: black, grey, olive green, and gold accents. 

We knew we wanted his nursery to feel less like a matching catalog set and more like the rest of our home- collected over time.  We filled it with the things we loved and the things we hope he'll love too: travel, books, and pups.  

So here it is: A Gentleman's Study of a Nursery inspired by Hemingway's study and this inspiration board from Lay Baby Lay.

The sign hanging on Emerson's door, made from a vintage chalkboard via Farm Chicks 2013 and leftover decor from the April Showers baby shower.

The gallery wall with the door open.

A portrait of our first 'baby' Clover drawn by my nephew, a print of a vintage Air France destinations map via Costco, and the Be Strong print gifted to me by my sister.

Be Yourself print with book page mat gifted to me by my mom years ago, a vintage map and vintage print of a dog chasing a man mowing the lawn (a nod to our own Harry bug who has a slight aggression towards vacuums, lawn mowers, and hoses) via Costco.

A custom water color of our Clover girl (my wedding gift to the Mr.), a vintage photograph of a pup in Italy, and another print gifted to me by my sister referencing my favorite children's book.

To the right of the gallery wall is the closet, a rocker made by my grandma from a kit, a blanket that has gone through many hands in the Mr.'s family and an ottoman from Target.

The Ikea spice racks turned bookshelves.  Easy- like one evening easy- project.  

An awake/sleeping door hangar gift from my student teaching mentor and dear friend via RedEnvelope.

A favorite quote, Harry and the Lady Next Door a very thoughtful gift from a dear friend (a nod to our pup Harrison/Harry and the perfect match for the room's color palette) and a collection of Emerson's work (he is after all Emerson's name sake).

To the right of the chair: Emerson's window seat and a side table (an amazing find from HomeGoods).

In case you had forgotten who this nursery is intended for.  Left over shower decor turned nursery decor.

Thrift store lamp, Pinterest monogram gifted by a friend and Ikea clock.

A notebook for collecting memories and notes of Emerson's first days from my sister and the adorable Q & A a Day journal gifted by a friend.

Ikea Kallax bookshelf (the Expedit's replacement) and Ikea rocking moose.

Vintage globe, knit pup gifted by a very talented and thoughtful friend, a Scentsy warmer and a large collection of literature already.

Harry the Hippo: our first purchase for Emerson.

Chevron crocheted blanket by my mom.

Graphic wall created with the help of a Royal Designs stencil, plenty of spray adhesive, hours of What Not to Wear during Christmas Break, and good friends willing to help with touch-ups.

Beautiful quilt and crib skirt via my uber talented sister KnittyBitties, Adan and Anais sheet generously gifted by a friend, and plaid rug.

Changing table created out of a beautiful dresser that belonged to the Mr.'s grandma, card catalog via Farm Chicks 2013 painted gold to hold diapering essentials, succulent in a tobacco container via Farm Chicks 2013, thrifted lamp, old classroom globe, HomeGoods Globe, map light switch cover via  Freemont street market (but you could easily make one yourself) and monogram for Emerson Michael Cook put together using dollar spot finds at Michael's, some black card stock and the silhouette.


One Little Word 2014: bliss

I didn't choose a word last year, and I chose VIGOR for 2012 but did very little to actually embody the word and allow it to direct my actions and thoughts for the year.

I want this year to be different.  We have a lot of new and exciting firsts coming our way in 2014 and I want to change my actions, my thoughts and my heart.

I'm not sure what it is about teaching, but it seems to bring out the critic in me.  Not towards my students but instead towards everyone else, their lives, and their choices.  A lot of it stems from that nasty word COMPARISON and it shows a lot about my own insecurities and lack of contentment in my own life.

Their lives are not mine to live and in being so critical of others and investing so much of my energy into 'correcting' their lives, I'm entirely missing out on all of the wonderful things happening in my own.

So, this year my word is:

bliss— n
1.perfect happiness; serene joy
2.the ecstatic joy of heaven

Instead of worrying about criticizing how others live their lives when it has no affect on me, I am going to invest my time and energy into the pursuit of bliss in my own life.  

Bliss captures it all- positivity, intention, peace, graciousness- because I cannot have perfect happiness without all of these.  

In 2014 my life will be filled with bliss- yes, plenty of hardships and trials too- but overall bliss because happiness is a choice and must be actively pursued.  I want my bliss to radiate into my marriage, motherhood, my family, and my friendships.

What's your One Little Word that you want to change your actions, your thoughts and your heart in 2014?

Go learn more at Ali's blog (she's the creative mastermind behind OLW and she's even offering a class to help you embody your OLW in 2014).


Oh The Places He'll Go: A Baby Shower

I received the news that my dear friend Kristen was expecting a baby while I was shopping in the dreaded Wal-Mart.  Immediately I burst into a happy laugh cry (as Oprah calls it an ugly cry); after asking all of the important questions and getting myself together I was so relieved when she asked me to be a part of her baby shower.

You see my friend is an incredibly talented photographer and has a discerning eye; throwing this shower was both exciting and terrifying- it was only the second shower I had thrown and I wanted it to be perfect. But, I also wanted to surprise her.  She gave us some general guide lines and my creative partner in crime and I got to work.

I have a general planning pattern I follow whenever I put together an event: theme or color palette, venue, invitations, food and drinks, decor, favors, activities, & schedule.

When you host a shower it is a gift, however, if you want your shower to be successful and for your friend to be happy- consider their taste and ideas.  Kristen told us she wanted vintage accents, nothing overtly baby and no games.  Done and done.

Your primary concerns with venue should be cost, location, and guest comfort.  We were lucky enough to be given the use of an amazing venue because of work Kristen had done for them.  However, there were still things to be considered- the location was somewhat out of the way so we needed to choose a time of day that would allow everyone to get there without feeling rushed, we could only use the venue on a Sunday, and it was the summer.  

We chose to host a Sunday brunch shower to keep guests cool and comfortable (no AC or airflow in the building) and to ensure attendance by not monopolizing their entire weekend. 

theme and color palette
After getting the mama-to-be's input consider what theme will best accomplish her vision
; for Kristen's shower a vintage travel inspired theme with touches of whimsy (alla Dr. Seuss' Oh the Places You'll Go) was just right.

When it comes to maximizing your decor go with the color palette of the nursery; that way mama-to-be or the guest of honor can take the decor home and utilize it in their space (much better than having to throw away all your hours of work).  Lex's (Alexander's) nursery is grey, red and aqua.

food and drink
The lower maintenance the better in my opinion.  I always have bottled water, a punch or juice option and an adult beverage available for guests.  Something sweet, and something savory to munch on.  As long as you plan appropriately with your timing no guest will expect a full meal.  Again, respect mama-to-be's cravings and more importantly anything that makes her queasy.  

We went with a veggie tray, hummus, and greek yogurt dip; fresh fruit, and a variety of scrumptious desserts per mama's request.

Since my kitchen is largely decorated in red and aqua and I have a love affair for all things vintage, decor came together quite naturally.  Using a group Pinterest board I posted pictures of my items and asked for my fellow hostess' input.

We utilized favors that doubled as decor but knew there were a few pieces we needed to make to bring everything together.  We wanted centerpieces on each guest table, the food table, and the gift table that resembled hot air balloons and we wanted an eye-catching photo backdrop that also incorporated hot air balloons.  After scouring pinterest here's what we came up with.

  • Hot Air Balloon Lanterns: Large white lanterns ordered here, with stripes of red crepe paper, berry baskets hung from twine and filled with fresh cut sage.
  • Hot Air Ballon Center Pieces: Galvanized pails from my garden, white polka dot balloons filled with helium the day before, anchored with red twine and a weight in freshly cut sage.
  • Marquee Letter A: Inspired by two pinterest tutorials; this decor item doubled as my gift to Kristen for Lex's nursery.

Any time your favors can double as decor you've found yourself a good favor and one that's likely to be appreciated, rather than thrown in the garbage.  In addition to wanting something vintage, Kristen loves organic textures, fragrances, etc.  Cue the succulents.  We ordered them through an etsy shop and then replanted them as the plastic containers they came in weren't all that appealing.
  • Succulent favors: Succulent repotted in recycled baby food containers (use the original soil to avoid plant shock and excess $ spent), wrapped with gold polka-dot burlap squares, tied with twine and finessed until they looked just right.

Some mamas are into the bottle chugging, diaper sniffing, belly measuring, etc. but we wanted our friend to feel special, not awkward or heaven forbid 'big'.  When no games are requested, activities still need to be planned to break the ice and give guests a sense of what's to be expected (call it the teacher in me, but if every moment isn't planned- and your guests should never feel like it is- you will have awkward moments and guests, hostesses, and guests of honor will be uncomfortable.
  • Newly Parent Trivia: We knew everyone would want to see their gifts opened, but that always comes at the end of the shower.  To break the ice, we interviewed papa-to-be and recorded his answers, then allowed guests to participate in the same questionnaire while their eating and mingling.  Kristen then shared her responses and we shared Scott's with the guests.
  • Song Lyrics/Quotes: To help build Lex's gallery wall for his nursery and to allow guests to share thoughtful moments with Kristen we asked them -on the invitation- to bring their favorite song lyric or quote to encourage Lex in all the places he'll go.  We had a table with card stock and pens set up at the back of the shower and invited guests to complete their encouragement at their leisure.  Free nursery decor, momentos of those dearest to Lex and his parents, and many tearful moments as guests shared their responses.
  • Gift opening: To shower veterans this will seem like old news, but to newbies like myself here are some ideas to consider: have someone record who got what for mama-to-be; keep gifts and cards together; make a separate bag for gift cards; have someone deliver gifts to mama-to-be; keep the area in front of mama clean for photo ops and to help speed clean up along.  Finally, and perhaps the best tip- have a box of thank you cards already purchased that go with the shower's theme.  Ask guests to fill out an envelope with their name and address at the beginning of the shower.  Now mama just needs to find the time to write the cards.