Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Time of Zwischen

I am 39 weeks pregnant, as of yesterday. Baby sister is due in less than a week now, on Christmas Day. I've crossed off the most important items on my maternity leave spreadsheet and Jon has crossed off all the important things I tasked him with. Our Christmas shopping is pretty much under control (though I'm afraid our gifting is pretty much limited to our immediate family that we're seeing this holiday season, despite my best intentions). We just need to wait for the final deliveries and find all the presents and packages that we've been squirreling away in random places. And, you know, wrap them...

I've washed all the baby clothes; rearranged the nursery dresser and closet; purged and organized the hall closet and bathroom; cooked and frozen at least eight meals that we can reheat easily once our hands are full with a newborn. My bag is ALMOST packed, the camera is ready to go complete with a new lens, I've finished the reference document for Alice's daily routines. My mom is here now, helping occupy Alice and helping me cross off the last things on my list, like baking Christmas cookies.

I know I should take advantage of this time to rest, to relax, soak up time with Alice, and enjoy these last days as a family of three. I'm having a hard time getting there. I can't stop thinking of things that could be done, organized, rearranged. I see dirt everywhere and I want to bleach it out of existence. I wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep, I've been searching and shopping the interwebs for Christmas presents and things we need for the baby. I add things to our daily "To Do" list calendar and buy things from my phone, in bed, in the middle of the night. We're getting multiple deliveries a day, piles of packages left on the porch. But our Christmas shopping is done, we have most everything we need, and I'm cutting myself off from internet shopping (or Jon is, he's threatening to turn off the internet when we go to bed. He's tired of waking up to new "To Do" lists).

I still have two more weeks before I have to cross this bridge, but I want to go into labor naturally before my health care providers try to induce me at 41 weeks on the dot. I don't want to have that fight again, I don't want that cloud hanging over me for the next two weeks during the festive holidays. I'm ready to meet this baby. I want to give birth and bring her home in time for Christmas Eve so everyone can have an extra-merry holiday snuggling a new little gift.

In addition to the flurry of holiday prep and fervently wishing that she'll be born before Christmas, I'm cranky and physically uncomfortable. Everything is difficult; sitting, standing, walking, sleeping, rolling over, getting up, sitting down, putting my clothes on. I'm done. And so I'm waiting. Waiting for this baby to make her move. Waiting for my body to give me the signs that labor is starting. I find myself, in the midst of difficult and uncomfortable moments, unconsciously uttering a single-word prayer. Please. 

Jana Studelska calls this The Time of Zwischen, co-opting the German word for between. This is the time between the motherhood of pregnancy and the motherhood of birth and the newborn days. She writes about it much more eloquently and evocatively than I can, in my weary state of zwischen. Her words comfort me, though, and I try to follow her advice and let myself go with it and be OK here. And so, I wait.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Wish List: New Mama

I am counting down the days until this baby is born and trying to find any and every way I can be as comfortable during these last two weeks and for the first few weeks afterwards. Here are some of the things I'm dreaming of! Maybe you know another new or expecting mama that would love to be pampered with one of these, too?

fig. 1: A pedicure. I can't reach my feet. They could use a little attention and some serious massaging!
fig. 2: A massage. Either prenatal, to relax and soothe my poor, achey body and promote labor; or post-natal, to relax and soothe my body after the stress of labor and hormones and infants and toddlers!
fig. 3: Infant Massage by Vimala Schneider McClure - I borrowed this book from the library when Alice was a baby and we enjoyed many a massage session together until she got too wiggly. I'd love to refresh my baby massage skills and think Alice might enjoy joining in, now that she's a bigger girl and can understand and participate in the activity.
fig. 4: Coconut oil - any unrefined/virgin/extra-virgin coconut oil is great for mama and baby. I eat it, cook with it, use it to moisturize face and body, and use it for all manner of antibiotic/antifungal needs. It's great during breastfeeding, both on sore nips and to eat; it's a great source of energy, helps promote mama's healthy weight loss, and provides essential, easily digestible nutrients to the infant and boosts the immune system. It's also great for baby massages, and cures thrush, cradle cap and diaper rash.
fig. 5: Klorane Gentle Dry Shampoo - When a new mama just can't find the time to get in the shower, this dry shampoo can help keep her feeling fresh and lovely instead of greasy and gross (feeling like a person really helps morale when things can start to feel overwhelming!). This formula gets the best rating of all dry shampoos listed on the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep Cosmetic Database, which tests, rates, and lists the harmful and toxic ingredients in the products we use on our bodies.
fig. 6: Milkstars "Erin" PJ Set - Milkstars is an nursing/maternity wear company. Their tops are designed to keep your belly and back fully covered during nursing so you don't have to expose half your body. I haven't tried any of their tops but I'd love one of their tees, or this comfy PJ set to wear around the house.
fig. 7: Pommery Pink Pop champagne - Every new mom deserves a toast! This is a perfect choice for new moms (in pink, or the standard blue). I can't wait to have a glass of wine, or bubbly, and this little bottle means mama doesn't have to share!
fig. 8: Malley's Pretzel Crunch Bar, or anything from Malley's really! Because you need extra calories when you're breastfeeding, right? Right??
fig. 9: Vosges Chocolate Italian Truffle collection - or again, anything from Vosges. Like the Aztec truffle collection, the Exotic or Holiday truffle collections, or the Exotic caramel collection. Makes me weak in the knees...
fig. 10: Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams Holiday Collection - or anything at all from Jeni's! The quality is amazing and the flavors are extraordinary. A true indulgence!
fig. 11: An hour or two of housecleaning service - once or a few times - to give the house a deep-clean before baby and company arrives and/or once we're all on our own again. I can't reach many of the places I keep giving the evil eye and don't have the time or the stamina to give everything the attention I'd prefer. Once baby comes, my body won't be any more cooperative and I'll have even less time to devote to the bigger jobs - let alone the essentials, like taking my own showers!!
fig. 12: Reliable Corporation steam cleaner - Once I have the time and energy again, this will clean and disinfect just about anything and everything in the house, naturally and chemical-free! Great for families with germy little kids!
fig. 13: An iTunes gift card - Great for applying towards the latest baby care app, music, games, or books to keep you occupied during the many hours spent immobilized under a sleeping/eating baby, and/or to keep your toddler quiet and occupied next to you.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Christmas Wish List: Mama in the Kitchen

I have a few serious weaknesses, including cameras and cookbooks. So far, I've managed not to indulge my penchant for photography gear, as the price tags are often prohibitive. Cookbooks are another story...

While I'm home on maternity leave, I'd love to go through the ones on my shelf and see if we can find some new family favorites to fold into our rotation. This year, I've been drooling over a few brand-new books by some of my favorite food bloggers, and dreaming of a few high-quality tools and ingredients that my cupboards are missing. Perhaps there's something here your favorite cook would love, too!

fig. 1: Dinner, A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach - I love the DALS blog and would love this resource on my cookbook shelf to aid in the never ending quest to feed a family, including a picky toddler.
fig. 2: Some great salt, like Maldon sea salt and these finishing salts from Williams-Sonoma. And
fig. 3: This lovely salt keeper to go with! From Williams-Sonoma
fig. 4: Waring Quik Stik Immersion Blender - I've resisted getting one for years but I can no longer deny that I make enough dishes where it would be super useful and save me a lot of time.
fig. 5: Benriner Japanese Mandoline Slicer - Another one I've resisted but have recently found myself wishing for more and more.
fig. 6: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman - I love the Smitten Kitchen blog and have read enough wonderful praise of the cookbook that I know it deserves a spot on my shelf and would give me a number of trusty and delicious go-to recipes.
fig. 7: Parents Need to Eat Too by Debbie Koenig - I love this family-friendly food blog and know this book would be a valuable tool in our family's meal planning!
fig. 8: Kauai cutting board - Totally Bamboo - We need a nice, big, wooden cutting/serving board but don't have room to store much (I'd love a legit, end-grain chopping block some day!). I like that this is big enough to be useful, but thin enough to slip into one of our cabinets, or on top of the microwave when not in use. Plus, it's sustainable and pretty enough to use on the table!
fig. 9: Pure Komachi 2 Series Chef's Knife - I hear great things about this super affordable knife. I need a more professional and reliable option to move beyond my favorite $2.99 IKEA knife that I've been using for years...
fig. 10: Some great olive oil, like Katz Chef's Pick EVO or something from McEvoy Ranch, and an Olive oil cruet like this one from Sur La Table
fig. 11: Silicone spatulas like those from Williams-Sonoma. I am woefully bereft of mini spatulas.
fig. 12: Nielsen-Massey vanilla, from Williams-Sonoma. For when desserts really need a top-notch, stand-out vanilla flavor.
fig. 13: Joy the Baker Cookbook by Joy Wilson - Joy's blog is delicious and I have no doubt her new cookbook is as well. Because you can never have too many delicious recipes at your fingertips!

What about you? Any cookbooks or kitchen gadgets on your wish list this year? Have you cooked from any of these blogs or books?  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas Wish List: Crafty Mama

I'm trying to get all the Christmas shopping and wrapping done ASAP before the baby comes, but I fear I'll end up doing most everything at the last minute as per usual. I vowed to have everything done by September this year (as I always intend to do) but I just never seem to have the inspiration until the signs of the season start appearing. And, you know, I've been a little preoccupied this year!

As I try to think up and track down the perfect gifts for everyone on our list, I like to put together a little wish list of my own for any loved ones that ask for a little direction. I remember back in high school, making a wish list catalog by cutting out photos of everything I loved from my favorite catalogs (dELiA*s) and magazines (Seventeen, YM) and pasting the images onto pages that I embellished with my own marker art. Thanks to Pinterest, I can now collect all the lovely little things I wish for all year!

Of course, all I really want is a safe delivery and a healthy baby (and mama) but here are a few other things I wouldn't mind seeing Santa leave under the tree! Maybe there's a crafty mama on your shopping list who would love a few of these things, too!
Crafty Mama Wish List
fig. 1: Tripod - Very handy for taking self-portrait shots, especially with a...
fig. 2: Wireless shutter release - I want to start take photos of myself with my sweet girls, and that's hard to do with just the timer setting on your camera - especially with a baby! A wireless shutter release would be super handy in our house.
fig. 3: Initial and birthstone necklace for mamas - Pottery Barn Kids - so I can keep my kiddos close to my heart.
fig. 4:  My Prudent Advice: Lessons For My Daughter - I'd love to write out thoughts and advice for my daughters, with these thoughtful prompts. I love the Prudent Baby blog/website, and am sure this book is written with the same enjoyable flair.
fig. 5:  Makeup brush set, like these or these from Sephora - because I've been using a pathetic hodgepodge of three old, broken brushes for as long as I can remember...
fig. 6: Narrow hem foot and Ruffle foot - I think both will be very useful in sewing for daughters. I see a lot of ruffles in my future!!
fig. 7: Silhouette Cameo cutting tool - Such a fun and awesome tool that opens up a million new possibilities in everyday crafting.
fig. 8: Watercolors, like these Daniel Smith tubes or this Winsor & Newton artists' set - I took a watercolor class last summer and would love to continue learning and experimenting but had to return the paint set to class!
fig. 9: Washi tape - Because there isn't anything you can't make prettier and more fun with washi tape!

What about you? Have you had your shopping done for months? Are your gifts all wrapped and ready to go? What are you wishing for this year?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Dear Alice; You Carry My Heart With You

Dear Alice,

This was my first "official" week of maternity leave. I feel like I have one million things to do before baby sister arrives, but the thing I want to do most is soak up every moment with you as an only child. Even though I know having a sister will be a wonderful gift for you and a joy for our whole family, for some reason, it makes me sad that you will have to share me soon. In fact, that was my first thought and emotion when I saw that positive pregnancy test this time. Some parents worry that they won't be able to love another child as much as their first. I'm not afraid of that, though I can't yet understand how my heart can possibly have enough room for this much love times two when it already feels like it will burst with my love for you.

I joke about a lot of things being my worst nightmare (dropping my keys down the crack in the elevator) but honestly, my very worst fear is that you'll be taken from me too soon and I'll have to live without you. That fear gets more painful with every day I get to spend with you. I can't do anything about that except do my best to protect you from the harms of the world (and yourself), and love you as fiercely as I can each and every day. And try not to worry, but that's a bit of a lost cause.

My next worst fear is that I'll be taken from you too soon. There's nothing I can do about that either but at this point, it breaks my heart to think that you won't remember me and you'd never have the chance to know the depth and breadth and specificity of my love beyond the photos and words that I've shared here, on the internet, of all places.

You won't remember that I call you "Sweet Pea." Or the game we play where I ask how much I love you ("Teeny tiny much?" I say, and you say, "No! Big much!"). You won't remember that we hold hands while we eat breakfast, or that you sit on my lap while I sew and talk about sewing machine foots and bobbins. Or that if I do anything that makes you laugh, I will do it again and again and again, as many times as you ask and more, until you are bored with me, because I love the sound of your laughter so, so much.

You won't remember that I recite e.e. cummings "i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)" when I tuck you in, sometimes two, three, more times ("again?") while I rub your back - under your shirt, as you demand ("open it").

You won't remember how I lift you from your sleep each night; your soft, warm body clinging and molding to mine, how you hug around my neck, still mostly asleep while you perch on the big potty for one last tinkle so you stay dry through the night. I never get to cuddle you in your sleep and you are so tender  and sweet, wrapping your legs around me like a little monkey and burying your face in my shoulder, it makes me want to stay awake holding you that way all night.

You won't remember how I watch you while you play, how I can't believe how breathtakingly beautiful you are and wonder what that beauty will look like when it is all grown up. You don't yet know, because you are too young for me to explain it, that all I want is for you to be happy. I want you to be healthy, strong, confident, passionate and compassionate, to love and be loved, but mostly, to know what makes you happy and to be brave enough to give if to yourself, even if you have to fight for it.

Maybe it's pregnancy hormones but I am acutely aware of you right now; of every touch, gesture, and need. I memorize your face - your beautiful blue eyes; your smile with your little overbite; your impossible curls complete with the little cowlicks that come peeking through your bangs at your temples. I want to remember how you ask "Mama, you're tired?" when I groan and sigh with the effort of this pregnancy. Or how you asked "Mama, you're sad?" when I wept into your hair the other night and I had to tell you that I wasn't sad, I was crying because I just love you too much sometimes. I want to remember how you ask me to kiss you wherever it hurts, even if it's your tongue, and how completely that solves your problem. Or how I offer to kiss your hurts when I think you need it and you assure me, "I'm fine!" when you  don't need me. Or how you assure me (and you) - "Mama, you're fine." - when I hurt myself, or have any complaint, dismissing my plight so it doesn't make you too nervous. Today, you asked me, "Mama, you crabby?" and I just laughed...

I try to tell myself, "i fear no fate(for you are my fate, my sweet)." It was my fate to be your mother and I will always be your mother, no matter however long or fleeting our physical time together may be. I just wish on every eyelash and birthday candle and shooting star that I will live to see you as an old woman with children and grandchildren of your own.

It is true, I carry your heart with me and everything that is done by only me is your doing, my darling. Anywhere I go, you go, my dear. But anywhere you go, I am with you, whether you see me or not. For your heart was formed by the rhythm of my heart, by my very flesh and my blood coursing with love for you. Your heart will beat with my hopes and dreams, my love for you, as long as you live, even if I am not here to tell you what each murmur means.