Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sisterly love

While we've had a few "Mommy, pretend I'm a baby" moments, Z is already showing real tenderness for her baby sister.

BlogHer download

So, what was BlogHer like? It wasn't the exclusive gathering of hipper-than-thou bloggers I feared it might be. While there were a couple of celebrity mommybloggers on hand, most of the women I met were there for the same reasons I was: to meet the faces behind the writing on our favorite blogs and learn a little bit about how we can improve our game. And it was a lot more diverse than I anticipated. Instead of a bunch of hipsters with red hair and cute laptop bags, there were women from 16-65. Some were professional bloggers, some wrote crafting or cooking blogs. At least two blogged on behalf of nonprofits. Still others hadn't even started a blog yet!

I attended a few sessions on the Business of You and learned that while I'm probably not going to make a fortune from online advertising, I'm too ethically driven to head down the pay-per-post route.

But I learned about other professional opportunities available to bloggers. Some are freelancing as corporate bloggers, some are parlaying their expertise into speaking gigs, and others are expanding their blogs into books. I also heard again and again that the best bloggers--like the best brands--are micro-targeted, covering a particular subject or intersection of subjects in depth.

Which has me thinking. I started this blog as a reflection of myself: a marketer and a mommy. I didn't do it to advance my career, but it has given me insights I've been able to apply to my work and my clients. Do I continue in this line, flitting from product review to customer service rant to birth story, in spite of what I've learned at BlogHer? Do I start a more professional blog that focuses exclusively on marketing to moms and cultivate my reputation as an expert in the field?

Tough questions to wrestle with, huh? Good thing I've got great swag to distract me. Two enormous bags of swag, half from the conference and half from my connections at the Chicago Moms Blog. My favorite items? Chicago Moms Blog and VOX t-shirts (neither of which will likely fit until I quit breastfeeding), The BabyCenter Essential Guide to Your Baby's First Year, FLAVORit medicine flavoring kit, CleanWell natural hand sanitizer, Jif Extra Crunchy Peanut Butter, Innobaby's Packin Smart baby snack stacker, the BusyBodyBook calendar/organizer and a ScrapBlog onesie for A.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

I'm stuck on Mabel's labels

Z starts Montessori preschool this fall, and her supply list arrived in the mail along with a snack list and a stack of medical and dental authorization forms. In addition to requesting specific brand name colored and #2 pencils (sharpened please!), a box of tissues (white Kleenex brand!), 2 pocket folders (make sure they're blue!), slippers (Crocs are okay!) and two sets of extra clothing in marked boxes, we have been instructed to make sure everything is labeled indelibly with her name.

Easier said than done. I've discovered that masking tape is a one-day deal and Sharpie marks disappear when you run a sippy cup through the dishwasher. And in this age of tagless t-shirts, where am I supposed to write my daughter's name?

Enter Mabel's Labels. The company, founded by four equally frustrated Canadian moms, makes a variety of different personalized labels. They sent me a sample of their classic sticky labels, which I pasted onto Z's sippy cups and sent along to daycare. Two weeks of daily trips through the dishwasher, and none of the labels are any worse of the wear. Even our daycare provider is impressed!

Mabel's also makes classic iron-on labels for clothing, as well as a stick-on clothing label for the parent too time-pressed for pressing. Container Store fanatics will go nuts for the household label packages; there's a set for crafters, one for cord control and neat freak kit that lets you put a colorful, cute label every last one of those spice jars and 30 gallon plastic tubs.

I haven't caught the cutesy labeling bug, so I'll leave my storage bins marred with masking tape. But I will be ordering clothing and shoe labels before September comes.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Not without my doula

Check out my Chicago Moms Blog post on how Tricia has got me singing the praises of doulas to everymommy.

It's blogtastic

It's going to take me a little while to comb through my swag bags, digest everything I learned at the panel discussions and check out links to the all bloggers I've met, but I'm happy to say I made it BlogHer with a newborn and a mild case of bronchitis!

One week old Baby A was a super conference attendee (and by far the youngest one there). With her on my lap, there was no possiblity of live blogging the event, but I think she successfully igniting baby lust in all the women who came over to admire her. Perhaps we'll see a BlogHer baby boom in 9 months?

Anyway, check out Beth's pics from last night's Chicago Moms Blog/Silicon Valley Moms Blog pre-BlogHer party.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Gasp, BlogHer's almost here!

The world's coolest female bloggers are descending on my fair city for the BlogHer conference tomorrow, and honestly I'm a little bit panicked. It's intimidating enough to see my favorite bloggers in the flesh and potentially talk to women I've only communicated with via comments sections and email, but socializing and attending panel discussions just one week after giving birth? It feels crazy.

Baby A is a boobaholic and we've given the old Over the Shoulder Baby Holder a dry run, but neither of us has that cool nursing on the go know-how that comes when the kid can latch on by herself and--I don't know--hold up her own head! I'm afraid all anyone will remember of me from BlogHer is my nipples. Plus, do I bring a stroller? It seems like too much bulk, but I'm afraid I'm going to look like a bag lady if I try to juggle an infant, a sling, a diaper bag full of clothing changes and try to collect business cards, product samples and tchotckes. (There will be samples and tchotckes, right? It is a conference after all.)

But before the conference gets going, I get to have dinner with my fellow Chicago Moms Bloggers as well as many of the contributors to the Silicon Valley Moms Blog. I'm sure I'll look really cool and put together what with my poochy postpartum tummy and enormous, leaky breasts. What am I wearing? Whatever fits and camouflages spit-up.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

New baby pictures

Who does she look like?
She looks like herself.
Entirely edible piggies
See even more pictures by clicking on my Flickr link.

Boppy for big sister

I'm sure hundreds of parents have figured this one out before, but I discovered a fantastic way to help big sister Z hold her new baby sister. I place a Boppy pillow around her waist while she is seated on the couch. Baby A nestles perfectly on her big sister's tiny lap and I don't have to worry about my two-year-old providing adequate head support for the newborn.

Z loves using the Boppy because she sees me using it so frequently for nursing. In fact, if Baby A starts to fuss, Z runs and fetches me the Boppy and a tube of Lanisoh ("purple cream") and demands I feed the baby right away.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Book review: Body, Soul and Baby

What happens when Parent Bloggers Network asks a heavily pregnant woman for her take on Body, Soul and Baby: A Doctor's Guide to the Compete Pregnancy Experience, from Preconception to Postpartum? You get a personally invested book reviewer who skims over the first half of the book before delving deeply into the chapters on the third trimester, labor and the postpartum period.

Pregnancy--and childbirth in particular--is an intensely personal experience, and I'm writing this just days after delivering my daughter. So my perspective on Dr. Tracy W. Gaudet's book is definitely colored by how close I am to the subject matter.

As the Director of the Duke Center for Integrative Medicine, and Dr. Gaudet approaches the pregnancy experience holistically. Unlike so many pregnancy guides--be them books or online resources--she doesn't treat pregnancy as merely a physical condition. Instead, she offers insight into the emotional journey of pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. While she covers the physical aspects of pregnancy and fetal development in great detail, her focus is always on the expectant woman, and she reminds us at every stage to tune into ourselves, to check in on our feelings and expectations.

But that's not to say Body, Soul and Baby glosses over facts in favor of feelings. Dr. Gaudet thoroughly covers every part of the pregnancy experience with the authority of an experienced physician and someone both knowledgeable and accepting of alternative and complementary therapies like acupuncture and hypnotherapy. It's an exhaustive resource book with information on everything: nutrition, prenatal screening, potential complications, childbirth options, pain management, you name it. Every option is presented respectfully, a refreshing alternative to both the overly medicalized approaches to pregnancy and the scolding, holier-than-thou tones marring the alternative birthing movement. Still, as someone who birthed with a midwife, I felt the author was somewhat dismissive of midwife care, and I personally disagreed with how quickly she writes off water birth and eating food during labor (thanks, but I don't think popsicles and ice chips would have kept me going during my 25 hour drug-free labor).

I read the postpartum chapters through the fog of my own hormone-fueled tears, and I can't emphasize enough how much I appreciate her reminders to own my birth, committing the occasion to memory and reflecting on the accomplishment. Dr. Gaudet doesn't treat the period after birth as a mere footnote--she dedicates a good portion of the book to this sensitive time in a new mother's life. When everyone else has shifted their attention to the new baby, she helps moms continue to focus on caring for themselves.

See what other moms had to say about the book and leave a comment for your chance to win an autographed copy!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Five days old

I've avoided writing because I'm not sure from minute to minute what I want to say about these first few days as a mother of two. Sleeplessness, hormones and a feeling of being completely overwhelmed conspire to keep me in tears at least a few times a day, but I'm fortunate to have the support of Josh and my friends (who've all been there before).

And some of the tears I've shed have been tears of joy. I feel like my heart is exploding with love for both of my children. I worried that I couldn't love another child as much as my firstborn, but I can and I do. Just looking at Baby A leaves me with a powerful lump in my throat.

I look forward to spending the next month or so figuring out how to be a family of four.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

She's here!

After 25 long hours of labor, Ada Lorraine arrived Tuesday night at 10:18pm. She weighed 8 lbs, 1 oz at birth and she measures 20 inches long. She's got brown hair, gray-blue eyes and she's absolutely perfect.

And because so many people are dying to know the details, here's the birth story. (Feel free to skip it if birth stories aren't your thing.)

I felt my first surges (contractions) shortly after going to bed Monday night around 9:30. They were coming every 10 minutes for half an hour, but I was worried it might be more false labor so I ran a hot bath and poured myself a glass of wine. By 11pm it was clear this was the real thing, so I headed downstairs to call my doula. I couldn't get through to her for an hour, but I was managing all right alone. I woke Josh for support around 12:30 and Tricia came over close to 2am, at while point my surges were 7-8 minutes apart and harder to manage.

I put myself in Tricia's hands, asking her for position suggestions and having her help me breath through the pain. Most of the night passed in a blur. Josh and Tricia called the midwives at 4am and Julie advised us to come into the office at 9am to check the baby on the monitors and see my progress. Low and behold, when we made it to the office I was 6cm dialated and ready to be admitted to the hospital's Alternative Birthing Center.

But that's where things got tough. I made use of the labor tub, the birth ball and a variety of different laboring positions, but from 10am to 5pm my surges got stronger and stronger but I wasn't making much progress. I was only 7 1/2cm dialated. I hadn't slept since Sunday night, I was tired of Gatorade and cheese and crackers, and I was getting discouraged. I was beginning to think I wanted to throw in the towel on natural childbirth, get an epidural and go to sleep. But fortunately Josh, my doula and my midwife conspired to keep me on track, and we all agreed that if breaking my water bag and nipple stimulation didn't result in any additional progress, we could talk interventions.

Fortunately, they worked. By 7pm I was 9 1/2 cm dialated, reinvigorated and ready to move Ada into the world. I hopped back into the laboring tub and breathed her down (kind of a soft pushing) for a couple of hours. When the tub water got cold and the pressure increased, I asked to use the birthing stool. Sitting on the stool felt right; gravity was going to help me birth my baby. And indeed, after some manageable contractions I felt a big surge and an enormous need to push. And one huge, animalistic push was all it took. Ada came out wailing and Julie caught her and immediately placed on my chest. She earned perfect Apgar scores and Josh held her as I delivered the placenta, Julie took cord blood for donation and checked me out for collateral damage (I needed a few stitches). Ada nursed shortly after birth and we headed to the maternity ward for some much needed sleep around 11:30.

I'm thrilled I managed to have the drug-free VBAC I wanted, but I couldn't have done it without Josh and the support of the midwife, nurses and my doula, Tricia Fitzgerald. Doula services and Tricia in particular will be the subject of a future post.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

In labor

Eleven hours of labor at home, heading into my midwife's office shortly.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Who me, late?

Fashionably late is not my style. I'm not a procrastinator. I never put off to the last minute what I can accomplish far ahead of schedule. I don't miss deadlines, planes or the best food at a cocktail party. I only pulled one all-nighter in my collegiate life, and it was because I didn't feel like knew the material well enough--not because I hadn't read the book yet.

So sitting around pregnant two days after my official due date is torture. Not because I'm big and swollen and I can't roll out of bed without assistance. Because I feel like I'm letting everyone down. It feels like by not having this baby "on time" or early, I'm missing some important deadline. I've come to dread hearing the phone ring because I know the first words out of Josh's mouth are going to be, "No, not yet." Like somehow we went ahead and had the baby and forgot to let anyone know!

Well I've got news for you folks: I'm not officially post-due until two weeks after my due date. The question is whether my midwives will let me go that long before inducing or scheduling a repeat c-section.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Rockin' my due date

Yesterday came and went without the arrival of number two, but it wasn't for lack of effort. I decided there could be no less convenient place to go into labor than a rock show, so I packed Z into our new stroller and took the El to meet Josh at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park.

Pelvic pain had me waddling around like a caricature of a heavily pregnant woman, but I was lucky enough to get to stay in the VIP area, which offered room to spread out our blanket and free Chipotle and ice cream to eat. What it didn't technically offer is flush toilets, and Z refused to "go potty on the poo-poo" in a port-a-potty. Fortunately Josh's connections won us an escorted trip into the Field House where artists could enjoy the luxury of modern facilities.

On the way home, I hoped that one of the other riders might help me carry the stroller down the steep train station steps while I helped Z down. But the only person who paid us any mind was a certifiably crazy old lady who berated me for not asking her for help. She started yelling something about how I wouldn't ask her because she was Black, but little did I know she's "married to a white doctor" and her name is "Laura Bush."

Anyway, I thought all the stress and exertion might have paid off when I started having contractions around 2am last night. But it was false labor that went away after I'd walked around, used the bathroom and had a snack. But maybe today will be the day; I'm feeling pretty crampy and sore this morning.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

BP isn't doing a little better here

BP (formerly British Petroleum, now Beyond Petroleum) has done a great job of pitching itself as an environmentally friendly oil company. But if their behavior in our backyard is any indication, I think their efforts are looking suspiciously like greenwashing. The Chicago Tribune today is reporting that Indiana is allowing the company to dump even more toxic chemicals into Lake Michigan:

"The company will now be allowed to dump an average of 1,584 pounds of ammonia and 4,925 pounds of sludge into Lake Michigan every day. The additional sludge is the maximum allowed under federal guidelines." Ammonia--in addition to smelling like death itself--promotes algae blooms that can kill fish, while sludge is full of concentrated heavy metals.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Which formula company loves me best?

Those who know me well may be surprised to find I gave my name and due date to all three major formula companies. After all, I'm a dedicated supporter of breastfeeding. Heck, I returned to work with a pump over my arm and nursed Z for a full year.

But the marketer in me knows that no one's mastered direct mail and relationship marketing quite like the baby milk manufacturers. By signing up for their "clubs,' I get to see their techniques up close and personal. And I get free coupons and samples which I can pass along to friends or put to use when I eventually start supplementing!

To even the playing field, I signed up for Similac's Welcome Addition Club, Enfamil Family Beginnings and Nestle Good Start's Very Best Baby in the same manner, online. I joined each program on February 3rd, and I honestly answered their surveys (second child, breastfeeding with some supplementation, due date of July 14...)

All three programs sent me periodic emails on pregnancy and baby's development, most of which I dutifully ignored. Then the good stuff came. Nestle was first to my mailbox with a cardbox mailer containing two high-value formula checks and a DVD on baby care. I passed the checks along to a neighbor since I've never used Nestle and they didn't have generous expiration dates anyway. But my two year old likes nothing better than to watch the somewhat clinical film's chapters on diapering, bathing and soothing baby. Go figure!

A month or so later I got package from Similac containing more formula checks and two small sample cartons of Similac--regular and soy. I'm sure I'll end up giving the soy formula away since I never used it with Z.

But the best came last: today Enfamil delivered two full size canisters of Enfamil Lipil along with a formula check and the requisite pamphlet on feeding.

So I'm going to have to conclude that Enfamil loves me best. At least until I check into West Suburban Hospital, which has a contract with Similac. Meaning I'll likely get more samples and an ugly diaper bag upon checkout.

And if last go round was any indication, the love doesn't end with birth. I can expect to receive formula checks in the mail for a year!

So green you could puke?

Emily Bazelon's Slate essay Is our family annoying because we own a Prius? is mostly a humor piece, but it raises an interesting issue: by instilling green habits in our children and explaining the very real reasons behind why we reduce, reuse and recycle, are we in danger of creating children as irritatingly self-righteous as those raised in ultra-religious or--G-d forbid--racist households?

No one wants to hear a lecture from a kid on a high horse, be it on how he is headed for an eternity of hellfire because he hasn't accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior or how we're headed for a hellish future on an overheated planet because she drinks bottled water shipped in from Fiji and doesn't even recycle the containers.

So far I haven't managed to mold my 2-year-old into an eco-snob. She knows where we put our recyclables, but turning on the lights and the water at the tap is simply too much fun. And while I've read about the Bisphenol-A in clear plastic baby bottles, when the time comes, I feel it is just as eco-conscious to reuse Z's old Avent bottles than invest in fresh mess of Born Free or glass baby bottles.

Which makes me wonder, does feeding your baby from a Born Free bottle or dressing her in an organic, unbleached bamboo onesie have the same badge appeal driving a Prius? It certainly advertises your eco-mama mindset better than hand-me-downs. But the second-hand goods leave a much smaller environmental footprint.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I'm still here

I visited the midwives again this morning. I'm one more centimeter dilated and my cervix is pretty thin, but Julie refused to guess when this baby might arrive. She gave me a worksheet full of natural tricks for inducing labor but warned me that none of them will work unless the baby is ready to go. Still, we stopped at Whole Foods to pick up some Evening Primrose Oil and Red Raspberry Leaf tea.

I'm not going to get impatient until my due date (July 14) passes. Until then, I'll just keep busy with household projects and get back into the kitchen again. I'm a little rusty behind the stove since Josh took over cooking duty a year ago.

I take some consolation in knowing I'm not alone. The author of the VBAC Adventure blog is four days overdue and going a little crazy.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Not our one and only for long

Dear Z,

You're going to be a big sister soon. You know that, at least on some level. But do you know how much your baby sister is going to rock your world? I know you'll love hugging and kissing her, helping with the baths and the diapers and examining all her tiny little features. You'll want to show her off to your friends and ride together in our new double stroller.

What you won't want to do is share Mommy. I see the green flash in your eyes when I've got another child in my arms or on my lap. You've started pretending to be a baby and you even asked yesterday, "Is it okay if I say I don't want a baby sister?"

You're going to get extra special Daddy time (over and above what he already dedicates to you), and I fear you're not going to relish it. Instead, I worry my heart will be wrenched in two. I'll have your younger sister attached to the boob while you scream "Mommy do it!" as Daddy or Nanny run the bath/cut your food/take you to the park.

But you'll adjust, and it will ultimately be good for you. Having a sibling is a lifelong exercise in learning to share. Take it one big sister to another: your little sister will steal Mommy's attention. She'll steal your toys. Your diary. And your friends. Sometimes she'll be your worst enemy. But more often she'll be your best friend. Your built-in playmate. Someone who admires you (but will never admit it).

So remember to think of all that stealing as sharing. Because chances are you'll be sharing your lives together long after your parents leave the picture.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Yes, I'm still pregnant

I'm afraid to pick up the phone and call anyone for fear they'll assume I've given birth. Yes, I know I'm disappointing friends and family by not going into labor, but this time baby's coming on her own schedule.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Are you ready to pop?

If you're asking whether I'm ready to have this baby, the answer is yes. Particularly now. Three months ago? Not so much.

Besides, laboring women don't pop out their babies. Even a lightning fast c-section requires some serious preparation and equipment. My stomach might be big, but there's a baby, fluid and a whole lot of gunky stuff in there. I don't want it to pop. Unless, of course, that means my stomach would instantly deflate.

There are dozens of annoying questions people ask us when we're pregnant or pushing around a new baby.

"Is the nursery set up?" No.
"Does Z know what's going on?" Yes.
"Is she sleeping through the night?" What matters is whether I'm sleeping through the night. "Don't you just love being a mommy?" If I didn't, do you think I'd tell you?

It's enough to make you wish you could just hand them this.
This entry is part of a Parent Bloggers Network's Blog Blast. Hear what other moms had to say by clicking here.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

I'm a Freecycling fiend

I joined the Oak Park, Illinois mailing list for Freecycle, one of over 4000 loosely organized groups dedicated to giving away and getting free stuff. Imagine an even more intimate Craigslist without any profit motives.

I've been giving stuff away on Freecycle for a few months now (everything from a too-tall dresser to a six-pack of Pedialyte), but I never seemed to have the quick trigger finger necessary to nap someone else's goodies. Until now. I was second in line for a Boppy pillow and a bag full of nursing bras, and when the first Freecycler failed to show up, I scored. Surprisingly enough, the bras are in good shape and they fit, saving me somewhere in the neighborhood of $100!

While many Freecyclers give away items of value, it is also a good way to find takers for stuff you might otherwise place in the trash. Think about it--there's no reason foam packing peanuts and moving boxes can't get a couple more uses before they're destined for the dump or recycling center. And plenty of folks use Freecycle to find the materials they need for hobbies and craft projects. I've seen offer and wanted postings for clean baby food jars, plant cuttings and leftover wood, sand and mulch.

It's sites like this that demonstrate the community-building powers of the internet and reinforce my faith in humanity. Hurray for Freecycle!

Maternity leave

Today is my last day in the office for at least three months, maybe four. I had planned to work through Friday, but with labor seeming somewhat imminent, I think it's prudent to wrap things up and head home to stock up on sleep. Besides, it seems I've lost my mind and my productivity has taken a nose dive. Maybe that's my brain pressing down on my pelvis?

I'm really looking forward to this maternity leave. I feel like the timing couldn't be better. I'll get to enjoy my two children and all that Oak Park and the greater Chicago area have to offer in the summertime, and I'll be around for Z's transition into preschool this September. But best of all, I'll get to enjoy the company of two other working moms whose maternity leaves coincide with mine! It's a far cry from my first maternity leave. Z was born just as winter settled in. The neighbors were inside, the parks were empty, and until I attended a new moms group at Parenthesis, I didn't know any other women in my position.

I feel lucky that we can swing a couple of months of unpaid leave. Plenty of women head back to work shortly after giving birth because they can't afford not to. As I've mentioned on this blog before, I hope paid family leave becomes an issue in the upcoming election. As it stands, the U.S. is one of only five countries out of 173 in a McGill University survey that does not guarantee some form of paid maternity leave. The others are Lesotho, Liberia, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Tick-tock, tick-tock

My midwife predicted I'll be having this baby within the next week. Hurray!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Weekend update: Morton Arboretum

Morton Arboretum 5
Four playgroup families met up at the Morton Arboretum for some splashy fun in their amazing Children's Garden Sunday morning. Z had a blast and actually conked out in the car on the way home, something she never does.
Morton Arboretum 1
Morton Arboretum 4
Morton Arboretum 6

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Kidnapped kid hits close to home

Our tightly-knit community was abuzz yesterday afternoon as word quickly spread that a 6-year-old blond girl had gone missing from her backyard about three blocks from our house. By this morning we'd heard through the neighbor grapevine which girl it was and that she'd been found about 7 miles away, in Northwest Chicago.

She had indeed been taken by a stranger, but she appears to have been unharmed. The news I'd heard this morning was that she escaped from his car when he pulled into a gas station and found a mailman, asking him for help. But this report in the Wednesday Journal tells a slightly different story.

A truly frightening story, particularly in a village where parents feel comfortable letting their children run up and down the street with minimal supervision. I'm so thankful our backyard doesn't face an alley.