December 30, 2015

Finally my baby

I'm wondering if what I say will make sense to any other mamas out there. Even if not, I feel way better now that I've pinpointed this feeling.

Since Thomas joined us, it's been a little hard to identify him as "my" baby - mostly because he looks so different from James. Now - of COURSE he's my baby. I grew him from scratch inside of me.

While he might not look just like James, he looks like my maternal grandfather and my brother. (The fact that both my babies look so much like my side of the family is kind of nuts!) But deep inside, I was struggling to reconcile him with... something. What I thought he'd look like? Trying to visualize his place within the family? I don't know.

I think it's also been: lack of time to process (hello, life with a toddler), the fact that he seemed so "tan" at first (had a touch of jaundice), and then came down with a raging rash courtesy of cradle cap in the last week (finally clearing up!). It's just been so much to process. While I've loved him so deep my heart fills up and spills out as tears, I've been peering into his face, wondering when I'd see my son - not just a new baby.

It was yesterday.

Thomas is plumping up - nearly 13 pounds at 5 weeks. He's got these fabulous rolls on his thighs and arms, his rash is clearing up a bit, and his skin is getting that creamy translucence that Alan and I were kind enough to bestow on our kids. ;) All of a sudden, something clicked. He looked like my boy. I was so relieved to have that last piece fall into place. He looks just the way he should - just the way he always has - but maybe now my eyes/brain have caught up with my heart.

December 18, 2015


One of the most common questions I've gotten since Thomas was born is about James' adjustment to becoming a big brother. 

Before I answer this question, I just want to share that I knew this would be a pretty big transition for James. He would be 2.5 years old when Thomas was born, and we wanted to help him (and help ourselves) prepare for this big change. I found a local class through the amazing Family Room that specifically addressed the transition to becoming a sibling, and Alan and I attended in early October. We got some great resources and ideas that we were able to start implementing right away. 

You might remember that we got James a baby doll that would help us start talking about baby brother, and using gentle hands, and how to change a diaper, and how to push him in the stroller. I really think this was helpful. We didn't play with the baby doll every day, but we were able to talk about these concepts frequently and include the doll in our life. 

Too sweet.

We also thought about ways to help James be more independent (like reaching approved snacks in the  pantry by himself, and putting out a basket of clean washcloths ("towels") so James could clean up after himself without us needing to get him a cloth) so that when we were busy with Thomas he could still help himself (at least a little). 

Basically, we tried to talk about brother as often as we could, and include James in the changes as much as possible. While we might not be perfectly successful, it's been a love-filled transition. I feel very lucky and blessed. 

If and when meltdowns happen it's usually because James is over-tired or over-hungry. There hasn't been any animosity or anger or frustration toward Thomas. James loves his brother (tells us often!), and gives him kisses (by kissing his fingertips and brushing them against brother's head). James often requests to hold Thomas, and knows that babies cry because they don't have words yet. They cry to tell mama and daddy that they need something (most often, milk). And the addition of Thomas has made both Alan and me much more aware of the special "James-only" time we get throughout the day. We make a point to get some James-time in as often as possible. 

We're still learning, all of us together. But these loving moments between brothers are awfully special. 

James likes to "help" me feed Thomas by just putting his hand on my chest while Thomas nurses. 

Lots and lots of kisses for brother.

That smile... come on. 

What other questions do you have? Anything else you'd like to know? 

December 17, 2015


I'm sitting here tonight crying. Just crying.

Because as I hold you in my arms, I'm overwhelmed with all the feelings. I'm so glad that you're healthy and strong and gaining weight like crazy (I can literally feel you getting bigger and sturdier day-to-day).

But I can't believe that you're not even a month old and already so much bigger. So different from the tiny boy you were.

There's more of you behind your eyes these days. More awareness. More personality. You smiled for the first time this week - in response to me, your daddy, and your brother. Incredible. I'm so excited to learn more about you - who you are, and what you like.

This time, though, there's a difference. Every single new beginning is tinged with sadness as well as happiness. Because you're my last baby.

With James, there was more doubt and fear on my part... but every new beginning was completely full of excitement, joy, and possibly even frustration. (Teething, anyone?) We were embarking on a blind journey, with so much yet to be experienced.

And while we're still on that journey (thank you for joining us, small Thomas), it's different now. We still have so much yet to experience together as mama/son, brother/brother, father/son... and as a family. But this babyhood you're in? It's the last time I'll get to go through this as a mama. So every time we walk together with you in your sling... Every time I breathe in your scent and feel your impossibly soft baby hair and back-of-the-head baby rolls... Every time you reach a new milestone (smiling!) or we have a new breakthrough (nursing without pain!)... it's happiness mixed with a tinge of...sadness? Nostalgia? Longing? Wishing I could somehow keep you tiny, but also wanting you to grow big and strong.

This is stretching me an awful lot right now. In my head and in my heart. And so there are tears. Not bad tears, but "my cup is too full, there's no more room" tears.

I've learned so much since becoming a mama. About myself and the world around me. I have a feeling there is still so much left to learn. Thank you for choosing me to be your mama, Thomas. I am looking forward to everything yet to come.

Preschool Prep

Well, maybe not preschool quite yet, but we're getting close. :) James is in the Early Learners room at his daycare, and his teachers are just amazing. I've been lucky enough to be in the room a few times during the day, and Miss Alisa and Miss Mary work wonders with those 10 toddlers (2-3 years old - can you imagine??). 

During maternity leave, James stays at daycare M-W to preserve some of his routine, give him some "James-only" time, and also give me the gift of solo time with Thomas. It's truly a blessing. Last week was our first Thursday/Friday at home just the 3 of us, and whew. It was intense. 

In my opinion, Thomas is pretty "easy". Eating, sleeping, pooping... pretty basic. James on the other hand... is quite literally like a 2.5 year old Energizer bunny. He's got a ton of energy along with a pretty short attention span. I was worn out, frazzled, and quite honestly - by the end of the days was pretty close to snapping at both James and Alan. :-\ Certainly not the mama and wife I want to be. 

So I thought about it a bit. Pinterested a bit. And asked Miss Alisa for an outline of generally what the classroom schedule looks like at daycare. I figured - if I could model our days home a little more like what James has at school, it would be a comforting, familiar structure, and it would also give us both a little more routine and fun things to try/experience instead of just being frustrated with each other. 

Here's what I've got so far!

I created a visual schedule that should help us as we switch from "school" days to "stay at home" days. I used basic clip art and simple words, and plan on involving James as we work through each item. When we're done, he can pull the item down to designate that it's "done". 

Each week, his class focuses on a different letter. This week, it's "Z". I found some fun worksheets online that use that letter. We can take a few minutes to work on cutting, puzzles and coloring while talking about Z. 

I also picked up some general fun stuff at the dollar store: pom moms, googly eyes, alphabet puzzles/letters, and stickers. We'll work these in to different activities in the upcoming weeks. 

Basically, I had an epiphany: I like this stuff! I used to be a teacher. I was certified K-8, and while I certainly preferred teaching the older kiddos professionally, it doesn't mean I can't tap into those skills for my little one. This was pretty empowering and exciting... and gave me a sense of hope. We don't have to spend our days trapped together... we can spend our days learning and exploring together! 

Can't wait to share with you how it goes. 

December 16, 2015

Breast feeding

So, this just happened, blowing my intended afternoon plans out of the water. But - I think it's a good thing too. A lot of things needed to be said.

Wow. That's all I've been able to say for the past several minutes. 
Because: "Someone reported my photo for containing nudity." My photo was reported for "violating Facebook's Community Standards on nudity" and will be removed if found in violation (currently in review). 
This photo. Wow. 
I have some things to say about this. 
First, I'm not in violation whatsoever with Facebook's policies. Please see: "We also restrict some images of female breasts if they include the nipple, but we always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring."
Second: Nursing/breast feeding is a huge part of my life right now. I'm solely responsible for providing the sustenance this new baby needs to grow up, which is incredible in so many ways. There will be more pictures shared along this theme, probably for the next couple of years. 
Third: I've added some new friends over the past couple of months. If you aren't comfortable with images like the one you see here, please kindly unfriend or unfollow me. My feelings are hurt that you've reported my image, and it might be better for our "friendship" if you didn't subject yourself any longer. I'm not a "belligerent" or "militant" breast feeder. I'm not waving my breasts around in wanton displays. I'm pretty modest for the most part, and I'm always mindful of the fact that I'm connected here with family (my husband, my father, my mother, my brother...) as well as friends. I don't post anything I'm ashamed of, or that I think my family would be ashamed of. 
Fourth: I'm not big on confrontation, and I'm not silly enough to believe that my words here can change someone's mind - whoever felt that this was offensive enough to report. 
But I am big on championing myself and my successes in the hopes that my experiences can encourage someone else. 
One thing I've realized in this second round of pregnancy/motherhood is that I'm much more confident in myself than I was with James. This. Is. Awesome. There was so much confusion, frustration, doubt, and fear when James was so small. Was I doing it right? Whatever the "it" of the moment was? This time, I have a place to start from. I certainly don't know everything, but I know my resources. I know when to ask for help. I know what I'm capable of. And one of the things I'm capable of? Not only creating a human being from scratch within myself... not only birthing that human from my body with no medication... but then being able to provide everything that human needs for sustenance for the first 6 months of life (and beyond). Nutrients. Antibodies. Liquid. Calories. Love. Comfort. Connection. This is freaking incredible - and I get the amazing opportunity to do it again. It's mind blowing. Powerful. And worthy of attention. My attention, if not yours. 
Fifth: It's hard - nursing can be a challenge. With Thomas, I faced struggles in the first few days that I never had with James. My nipples were cracked, bleeding, scabbed - and nursing was the worst pain I could have imagined... and I got to go through that every 2ish hours until we broke through and found a solution. I was crying in the middle of the night, during the day, over and over, with Alan helpless to fix it. He drove me to the IBCLC and attended our consultation in support. He ran out to the pharmacy on Black Friday to get proper medication for me. He never doubted for a moment that we could get past this, and wanted Thomas and I to have the same chances that James and I had. And now we do. 
Sixth: Did you know that I nursed James until he was 2 years old? 25 months, actually. How cool is that? Sure, James started eating table food with us at 6 months, and stopped using bottles around a year old. We introduced cow's milk around a year at daycare, but we still nursed when he wanted to. It was so great - such a source of love and comfort and nourishment. And all of a sudden, it was over. He was done. We went on a trip for Memorial Day weekend, and it just... stopped. Naturally. With no struggles or tears or sadness. I'm so thankful for that journey. 
Seventh: I used to be so ashamed of my body. My breasts in particular. They are so small. They always have been. Certainly NOT the current "ideal" of female attractiveness. I've battled against this awkwardness, this shame, this being "less than" for so long. My breasts have never been able to fill out certain dresses, or bathing suits, or bras. I've always doubted that men could find me attractive. There was always a sneaking doubt when I had a boyfriend. The insecurity that another girl with the "right" body would walk by and remind that guy that - he's dating the girl with the small boobs. 
It's taken me a long time to start loving myself. And a really big part of that? Has been this miraculous ability to nurse my sons. My breasts are incredible. I am incredible. I know this now. Maybe they're/I'm not what "society" thinks is hot. Maybe I'm not lust-worthy to the general public. But that's okay. I'm beautiful to myself and my husband in a lot of different ways. I'm beautiful to my sons as their mother. 
I'm sad for my younger self, for having to fight this silent battle, for having so many years of doubt and questioning my worth and beauty. But I am grateful for the path I've walked, because now I can share my story with others. And hope that my words and images can help other girls or women struggling. 
Eighth: I will be sharing more of my images of breastfeeding here, with the full support and encouragement of my husband. I will be sharing more of my words and thoughts on motherhood, breastfeeding, life, love, growing, learning, and in general continuing to become the person I'm meant to be. If you aren't comfortable with that, please choose to look away.

Nursing Thomas - 5 days old

Nursing James - 11 months old

Nursing James - 11 months old

Nursing James - 11 months old
Nursing James - 11 months old

Nursing James - 9 days old

Nursing James - 9 days old

Nursing James - 9 days old

Nursing James - 9 days old

December 15, 2015

Things James Says

It's been awhile since the last post on this! James has grown SO much, and so has his vocabulary.

He's much more sophisticated with his thoughts and sentences these days. He's certainly continuing to develop his sense of humor which is so much fun to be a part of. 

What the heck kind of jokes does a toddler like?? Well, silly ones. Like "What does a dog say? Meow!" Hahaha. He also says "I'm just kidding!" or "I'm joking!" after saying something silly. What a goof. He'll also repeat back silly statements or jokes he's heard in shows or movies we've watched together. 

Contrasting statements
Not really sure what to call this, but he'll say the opposite of what we're trying to do, and repeat after me or Alan. For example, he started using chapstick, and for the first time or two I explained that it's just for our lips, not for teeth or tongues. So every time he uses the chapstick, he'll say "Not on my teeth! Not on my tongue!" Or if we're on our way somewhere, he'll demonstrate his awareness of space around him and say "We're not going to school! We're going to the park!" Pretty amazing to hear his level of understanding around concepts. 

Letter/number recognition
This has just continued to develop. James loves calling out numbers and letters he sees in the world around him. Numbers spray painted on a light pole? So exciting. Letters displayed in the grocery store? Awesome. It's very cool to see these pre-reading skills! 

Telling his own stories
James loves to read books, and wants to read them several times with me or Alan before taking the book himself. From here, he'll narrate the story himself, often following the same general plot lines or adding his own twists. Also a super-fun pre-reading behavior I remember exploring back in college. Since Alan and I love to read - this is awesome to see! Go James! 

Can I? 
James has started asking a lot more questions starting with "Can I...?" which is pretty cool. Sometimes it's stuff that I don't feel even needs a question, like "Can I go play in my room?" But it's also awfully nice to hear good questions like "Can I have a snack?" or "Can I give brother his paci?" 

December 11, 2015


This week I took a few quiet minutes while Thomas was napping to write my words for my grandfather. His service is today, and while I was unable to attend - I was hoping that I could still be present, at least in a small way. 

My brother agreed to read what I wrote, if there was an opportunity. I hate the idea of "horning in" on such a sacred time for other people. Clearly, I don't think I'm very important (which should probably be analyzed as a separate issue at another time). But I was hoping that there would be a chance so that my voice could be heard.

Many thanks to Eric for reading this. So much love and happiness in celebration of my grandfather.


Like so many other parts of life, this is harder than I thought it would be. I wish so much that I could be there today to honor your life & memory, but I am comforted knowing that I can remember and celebrate you from here in Colorado, where I can also care for my newborn son – another of your great-grandchildren, and another link in your legacy.

When baby Thomas first arrived in November, Alan and I were startled to realize that – he looks like you! We were both struck by the realization separately, and I thought I was a little crazy when I spoke up minutes after he was born and said, “Hey Alan – you know who he looks like?” Apparently I wasn’t too crazy, because Alan immediately said – “Your Grandpa Payne.” That’s pretty incredible, and I have this overwhelming sense of love – love for this baby, and love from you. You’re always with us in our hearts, but my family is luckily enough to see glimpses of you every day. If that’s not an example of a blessing, I don’t know what is. 
I want to thank you, Grandpa. For your limitless love, encouragement, and support through the days and years. For the lessons you taught, and the examples you set. Thank you for showing me the joy of building something myself – creating something where before there was nothing. Thank you for sharing your love of growth and cultivation – leading me to seriously itch in the spring until I can plant something again and get my hands in the dirt. Thank you for giving me the space and quiet and room I needed to think and dream and wonder. So much of who I am today is from you – and while I’m sad that my sons won’t be able to know you in person, I’m thankful that I can pass along all of the best that I learned from you. "Thank you" isn’t really a big enough phrase, but I think you can feel the love behind these too-simple words. Thank you, and I love you.

December 1, 2015

Thomas Alexander – A Birth Story

Thomas Alexander – A Birth Story

(all photographs from monet nicole)

There was already a lot different going into this experience – Alan & I weren’t first-time parents anymore. Even though we don’t know it all, we weren’t completely clueless about this second pregnancy.

I made a point to seek out a chiropractor who worked with pregnant mamas using the Webster technique. This way we could make sure that baby #2 wasn’t positioned improperly (a huge reason why I struggled so much with James).

We also sought out a facility that would help us with the birth we wanted. Mountain Midwifery Center in Denver was everything we were looking for, and provided an excellent prenatal experience as well as a robust community of like-minded parents.

With all of this in place, we were certainly hoping for a better birth experience. Shorter, ideally. And more in line with our natural birth plans.

I was due with baby #2 on 11/15… which went whooshing by. My mom flew into town on the 13th, and planned to stay until the 22nd, giving us a little over a week to catch the new baby’s arrival. HA. I got my first contractions on Friday night at 9PM, the 20th. Previous contractions had just been Braxton-Hicks – slightly uncomfortable, where my belly tightened… but it still left me questioning “Did I really have a contraction?” I figured that when the real ones started – I wouldn’t have to ask.

I was right.

The real ones SUCKED. OW. I never felt anything like them with my previous labor (it was all back labor), so this was a new experience. They hurt badly, requiring lots of focus and intentional breathing. I had them regularly through the night… but while they would space down to 6-7 minutes apart, they would bounce back up to 15 minutes apart. They were certainly long enough this time around at a minute+ per contraction, but they weren’t the “classic” progression from early to active labor. Sounds familiar, right? Ugh.

I called the midwife the next morning around 10 and she encouraged me to get some rest, even leaning on Benadryl or Tylenol PM. Hopefully that would help my body do what it wanted to do. I took some meds and slept for a couple of hours, which was great. Contractions were right there waiting for me later that day, and were getting more intense.

I’m pretty sure part of my water broke around 5PM, but it was tough to be certain. (I was trying to pee anyway.) (TMI, Dad, but I don’t care.) When I called in to check with the midwife, the contractions still weren’t super close together, so she suggested some nipple stimulation. (Fun, right?) I used my breast pump, and monitored contractions after that.

Wow. Ow. They certainly got more intense, if not spacing closer together. I got back in the shower for about the 4th time that day, and decided to give things a little more time to develop. Mom kept popping her head in, asking “Is it time to go to the birth center??”

By about 7:30 PM, I knew it was time to go into the birth center. We left mom and James at the apartment, and made it to MMC. The ride sucked, and the contractions seemed much closer together. (I stopped timing/caring.)

We were met at the door by our nurse (Heather), our midwife (Chance), and our photographer (Monet, who is also trained as a doula, which we didn’t hire her for, but was kind of a big deal). They brought us right into our birthing suite – the Grecian room – and they already had the tub ready along with everything else we’d need. 

To be honest, I was already a little nervous about my progress. I felt like I wanted to push when I got into the water, but after my experiences with James – what if I wasn’t ready yet? 

Chance & Heather encouraged me to listen to my body and do what felt right. So I went through the contractions for a while, but it didn’t seem to be time for baby to come out. We decided to do a quick exam to check me out. I still had my fore bag of waters, and I opted to have her break it (so maybe some of my water broke earlier, but maybe not?). She then told me that I wasn’t ready to push yet – I still had a bit to go, dilation-wise.

Insert freak out here.

Not only were the contractions so tough to bear, but I wasn’t even as far as I thought I was/should be. Mind games started to run amok. I asked for nitrous oxide to help, but while it was certainly welcome and used, it didn’t seem to cut very much of the edge off. 

I struggled. Hard. Absolutely this was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I gave up about 15 times. I freaked out. I fantasized about being at the hospital and getting an epidural, even though I absolutely didn’t want that in reality. Some of the contractions were so intense and painful, I lost all focus and intentionality and just broke. Yelled. Screamed a couple of times. Absolutely cussed a lot. 

Let’s give some kudos to Alan. Because he was right there with me every step of the way, giving encouragement and reminders. Making sure I had sips of cold water throughout this process. Completely committed and present. Always there to let me grab him and squeeze, or hold me up, or brush my hair back. I’m incredibly lucky to have such a man to stand beside, and I’m so thankful for his unwavering support. Not once did he snap and say “Fine, you’re right, you can’t do this, let’s just go home you nancy.” :)

As I was breaking into a thousand pieces, the staff in the room was incredible. Constant reinforcement and encouragement. I must have said Chance’s name 1,000 times – it was reassuring to know she was there. During some of the hardest possible moments, Monet even stepped in to grab my hand and provide reassurance and encouragement, tapping into her doula skills. I’m so thankful for her added level of support, even though she didn’t necessarily expect to get dragged into such a mess. At least I feel like it was a mess. It certainly didn’t feel like the blissful, peaceful, intentional birth process that I imagined some women have. 

In hindsight, I realize now that there’s a reason this was so hard and so much and so big and I so didn’t think I could do it – I was in transition. Chance didn’t tell me at the time (wise, wise woman) but when she checked me and broke my bag of waters, I was only 4cm (of 10cm, remember).

I went through that phase of labor that’s always remarked upon as the hardest phase – with no meds – and gosh, it felt impossible. (I didn’t do this part myself with James – I was numbed.) I felt a little like I was on a ledge – I had no idea how/what I would find on the other side of this impossible-to-bear pain… but then things changed. The contractions changed. I felt like I wanted to push, but in a different way. More... primal, lower, more… purposeful.

In the meantime, I tried every possible laboring position to see what would help me feel the best and give me the leverage I was looking for. In the tub, on the birth stool, using the sling, on the bed… trying to find what felt right. I felt really restless – not able to find what would work for me. 

At a certain point, Chance wanted to check me one last time just to make sure that final lip of cervix was out of the way – and that seemed to be the game changer. Things finally felt like they were breaking loose, and that I had a chance and a purpose and a goal to reach. It was time. Chance suggested that I lay on the bed and recline on pillows so I could use my legs as leverage while I pushed. (Ha! Of all of the possibilities! Ending up like I would have in the hospital!)

I remember looking at the clock and laughing to myself – it was 11:57 PM on 11/21. This kid wouldn’t be born six days late like I thought he might… he’d be born on 11/22, exactly seven days late – just like his older brother. Jeez.

And wow. The pushing was tough. Lots of energy and focus. But it was GOOD. It had purpose, and power, and I could FEEL it. I was able to focus my pushing, take instructions and suggestions from the midwife, and see immediate results.

I didn’t have that with James – being numbed from the epidural meant my pushes were so broad, they weren’t nearly as effective. This was incredible, and highly motivating.

I felt the baby coming down, and the incredible reactions from Alan. He was so incredibly excited – I could hear it in his voice. He could see the baby’s head! He was nearly here! I was doing it! I felt his excitement and it was the best thing. Push, push, push. I was tired, so I had to wait for the contractions to help me along.

The “ring of fire”? Absolutely true. Certainly uncomfortable and I’d love to not feel that again. Crazy moment? Kiddo’s head was pretty much out, I was waiting for a contraction to get the rest of him… and he kicked me inside! What a shocking, nutty feeling!

With the next couple of pushes, the baby came out. Another impossible-to-describe feeling… but pretty darn incredible. 

Of course, there had to be an element of drama. When he first came out, he didn’t cry. Or move. Or do anything. He was just… quiet. Wet. Not making noise. Chance and Heather were already there, monitoring his heart rate, rubbing him, encouraging us to talk to him. He was a little stunned, we think. It took just seconds, I’m sure, but felt like forever. When he finally started to cry, it was absolutely the best sound. He was full of fluid, and it took him a minute to get it all out and inflate those incredible lungs for the first time.

This time, we were able to do immediate skin-to-skin contact with me, and delayed cord clamping. My placenta came out all in one piece, which is just delightful. So this baby received all of his good blood and had a great transition to the world. We were able to be left alone for nearly 2 hours just being with our baby (I was being stitched up as well, but my injuries were not as bad as what I had with James).

When they came in to evaluate the kiddo and cut the cord/weigh him, I was shocked to find out that he weighed MORE than his brother! Alan had accurately predicted the weight – which is crazy – but the harder thing to reconcile was that this baby seemed so TINY, but he’s actually about a half pound heavier than James ever was. He did great on his examinations/tests, and latched right on to both sides to nurse.

We were kind of amazed. It was done. We had done it. He was here. As I lay with the new baby, I was able to eat some snacks (fresh fruit, crackers, chocolate covered nuts and some apple juice) and just marvel. I was able to get up out of bed right away, and took a short bath to clean up. Baby joined me, since he was considerate enough to poo on me after he emerged. We both got dressed, received discharge instructions, and we all headed home by about 4:30 AM – right about 4 hours after I gave birth. And you’d think to yourself – jeez, that feels quick… but it was just right for us. All we wanted was to get some real food, and get home to show James his new little brother. And of course – to take a nap.

So there you have it. A story completely different from what we saw with James, and I’m so thankful for both. There was strength uncovered in both stories that I had no idea was within me. The trust, the faith, the letting go, the breaking, the putting back together… and finding room inside me for more love than I knew was possible.