2014 in review

We are a little bit late on our 2014 year in review post. I've never liked year in review posts that come before the year is up. How can you declare this the "10 most shocking deaths of 2014" or "6 biggest news stories of 2014" with a week left in the year? It's practically daring something to happen. But I meander off topic. Also I am writing about the same time I got last year's post up. Glad I'm predictable. (Please note that I in this post = Elizabeth, Mom = Cleta, Elizabeth's mom and Dad = Ray, Elizabeth's Dad. Everyone else gets first names.)
It's a girl! And a lovely cake made by Elizabeth

It's a girl! And a lovely cake made by Elizabeth

2014 was a HUGE year for us. We toasted in the New Year expecting our first child and overjoyed about it. Shortly into January we found out we were expecting a little girl. We celebrated by having a gender reveal cake at Sunday dinner. Because cake is awesome and any excuse for cake is a good one In February we took are delayed honeymoon, now a babymoon, to Hawaii. We stayed on the island of Maui, relaxed on the beach, went snorkeling, drove the Hana highway, and had an amazing time. There were a few things I couldn't do being pregnant (eat sushi, drink fruity cocktails, and zipline), but a lot of fun things we did do. One of them was going to Warren and Annabelle's magic show. That was fantastic - we recommend it! And by then we had decided to name our daughter Annabelle. David has a grandmother Anna and a grandmother Angeline Ann and I had a grandmother Dorotha Belle.
Hawaii, February 2014. Black sand beach along the Hana Highway.

Hawaii, February 2014. Black sand beach along the Hana Highway.

Maui, Hawaii. February 2014. Driving the Hana Highway. That was an amazing drive, hair raising, but beautiful.

Maui, Hawaii. February 2014. Driving the Hana Highway. That was an amazing drive, hair raising, but beautiful.

The office nook before it became a nursery.

The office nook before it became a nursery.

When we got home, it was time to start seriously preparing for the baby. We were turning an office into a nursery. It involved tearing out a built in desk, some drywall, moving outlets and light switches, framing in a door, redrywalling much of the whole thing, painting, etc.
My favorite part of the renovation was collecting paint samples. I wanted a gray that was mostly just gray not blue-gray or green-gray. Eventually I just had to  choose one.

My favorite part of the renovation was collecting paint samples. I wanted a gray that was mostly just gray not blue-gray or green-gray. Eventually I just had to choose one.

And there was a little bit of project scope creep. As long as we were going to all this work, we decided to redo the floors with laminate hardwood from Costco. We love it, but it did make the project take a bit longer. Especially because we did most of the top floor. End result is awesome though. Fortunately we had lots of help. You can see the end result of the nursery here.
David, Matthew, and Chris work on the flooring in the living room

David, Matthew, and Chris work on the flooring in the living room

Me at the Chihuly glass garden in Seattle, WA. March 2014

Me at the Chihuly glass garden in Seattle, WA. March 2014

In March I took a trip to visit my sister in Seattle. We hung out, went shopping, saw the Chihuly museum and just had some fun in my last days without the baby. After the March trip it was all about getting ready for our baby, getting house, work, and life ready.
A lovely family at our baby shower.

A lovely family at our baby shower.

And the on June 17, 1 day before her due date and 2 days before my birthday Annabelle was born. The full story is here.
And now there are three. The happiest I've ever been. From the set of photos after I brushed my hair.

And now there are three. The happiest I've ever been. From the set of photos after I brushed my hair.

Since June life has been all about the baby. We barely learn one survival technique and then another thing pops up. But every moment is amazing, a blessing. David was just saying that he can not imagine our lives without her.
An extended family at the state fair. Back row (l to r) Margaret, Cleta, David. Front row Elizabeth, Ray, Matthew holding Annabelle

An extended family at the state fair. Back row (l to r) Margaret, Cleta, David. Front row Elizabeth, Ray, Matthew holding Annabelle

I took nearly three months of maternity leave and went back to work after labor day. My parents came up to meet Annabelle and spend some time with us the week before that. I went back to work the day after Labor Day. Dad (Ray) flew home and Mom (Cleta) stayed here. Please note a lot of this stuff has been blogged about before and I'm trying not to show too many repeat photos.
I've got a pink Royals baby outfit and a blue bow. Ready for some baseball!

I've got a pink Royals baby outfit and a blue bow. Ready for some baseball!

Now all along Mom had said she wanted to come out when I went back to work, especially since our permanent sitter was having a fall baby and needed some time to recover before taking in Annabelle. However she also said that if the Royals went to the post-season baseball (mom and dad are season ticket holders), she was flying back for that. Dave and I thought it was hilarious. We told the funny funny story all over town. Well in September they were in contention and Mom flew back to Kansas City. She thought she was going back just for the Wild Card game. That was what her ticket was booked for. She had to change that ticket FOUR times and the Royals went to the World Series. (They lost in a super tight game that broke our hearts.) October was a lot of piecing together various people as babysitters, really stressful, but it all worked out.
Children's literature halloween! I'm the Pigeon (from Mo Willems books) and Annabelle is the Very Hungry Caterpillar

Children's literature halloween! I'm the Pigeon (from Mo Willems books) and Annabelle is the Very Hungry Caterpillar

Mom did make it back in time for Halloween which was good since she had part of Annabelle's costume. See the full costume here. Since she had abandoned us for an entire month, Mom decided to stay through Thanksgiving. Dad was always going to come up for the last week of her visit. And since my parents would be here, my siblings decided to come up for Thanksgiving and meet Annabelle. It was awesome to have everyone together for Thanksgiving. More about the holidays here.
Dude, who are you? Santa and Annabelle

Dude, who are you? Santa and Annabelle

After Thanksgiving, Annabelle started going to her permanent sitter, our good friend Hilary who keeps Annabelle with her own two kids. They go on play dates and outings and do fun activities. We could not ask for a better child care situation. For Christmas we got to include Annabelle in some of our favorite activities, like going to Girdwood for David's company Christmas party, and we got to do some new ones like Santa. (More in that post linked above). I know holidays will be even more fun when she is old enough to understand and appreciate it, but we are savoring every moment.
Merrry Christmas from the Nicolai+ clan

Merrry Christmas from the Nicolai+ clan

In one year we have gone from barely could tell I was pregnant to having a six month old baby who can sit up on her own, eat finger foods (baby led weaning), babble, smile, laugh, and holds our hearts. Oh and news that isn't about the baby? We never got the trim up in the renovation so we still need to do that, summer 2016. David is still at Coffman Engineers and I am still the Youth Services Coordinator at Anchorage Public Library. We sold my Jeep right before year end and bought a new 3 row SUV to better hold more family members. Kinda sad because I bought that SUV to bring me up to Alaska and adventure 7 years ago, but it was the right time.
She can eat real food with her fingers now. It's pretty amazing. 2015 should be an incredible adventure.

She can eat real food with her fingers now. It's pretty amazing. 2015 should be an incredible adventure.

Four to Seven Months

So I forgot to do photos onto the blog (though they made them on facebook) of Annabelle from four to seven months. So now I shall do them all at once with the captions I wrote for facebook.
Four months old Annabelle in a mommy-knit sweater.

Four months old Annabelle in a mommy-knit sweater.

Four months old! Annabelle has improved her reach and grab to almost 80% efficiency. She has added a third step to this process: reach, grab, put in mouth. But that is only about a 50% success rate. When all else fails, she will just chew on her hand and drool drool drool. She's still not a great sleeper, but she loves music and tries to sing along with us. She also loves to grab her crinkle paper, cloth wipes, and taggie fish and wave them around. (PS I knit that sweater)
5 month, super happy Annabelle!

5 month, super happy Annabelle!

Annabelle is 5 months old! She is really good at reaching, grabbing, putting into mouth. She can hold her own bottle, (or mommy's face when breast feeding), suck her thumb, and put her pacifier back into her mouth. She is extremely socially aware and has trouble sleeping when there are people around to watch. She can almost stay sitting up (if you put her there). And lastly, she has learned to cuddle her stuffed toys, especially Hedgie her stuffed hedgehog who helps her fall asleep. We love watching her, she learns something new every day.
6 month baby Annabelle! (Photo taken a little late)

6 month baby Annabelle! (Photo taken a little late)

Annabelle is a very happy and active 6 month old. She is really good at sitting and eats a mix of purees and solids she self-feeds. Her favorite food is butternut squash. One of her favorite things to do is blow raspberries (as she is doing in this photo). She can sleep through the night, but she doesn't always choose to. She is just starting to get stranger danger, but warms up to new people pretty quickly. Her least favorite thing is having her face wiped and taking a nap when she could be looking at interesting things. She is however becoming a reliable night sleeper. Once she has slept through the night, but regularly she only wakes once.
7 month old baby!  (Taken on her actualy 7 month birthday, January 17, 2015)

7 month old baby! (Taken on her actualy 7 month birthday, January 17, 2015)

Annabelle is 7 months old today! I have now realized my folly in choosing a month marking method with removable parts. We tried moving it out of her reach and she kept reaching for it and crying if she couldn't get it. She reaches for everything, is so curious, and tries to put it all in her mouth. She's teething and chews on everything. Except actual teethers. Those are poison and should be avoided at all costs. She's fantastic at sitting (though she is lounging in this photo), is starting to show preference for the color green, self feeds and eats really well. Her favorite foods are banana pancakes, butternut squash, and salmon. She's just starting to get separation anxiety and stranger danger, but still loves to smile and charm the pants off everyone she meets. After a bit of a rough patch during holiday festivities, she is back to being a fairly reliable night sleeper. Most nights she will wake up once or not at all. Love our little bellabug!

Breastfeeding, pumping, and work

One of the things that was very important to me from the get go was that our baby be breastfed as much as possible. I'm not planning on extended breastfeeding (past one year), but I wanted to breastfeed exclusively for at least the first six months. I knew that these things don't always work out exactly as we want and I tried to make it so that I would be okay if we had to do formula or supplementing, but part of me knew I would be heartbroken. Because this is a long text heavy post, I'm inserting several unrelated images of Annabelle sporadically to keep it interesting.
This is Annabelle on a bison robe with said bison's skull beside her. For what it's worth that bison was humanely hunted and fed my extended family for two years.

This is Annabelle on a bison robe with said bison's skull beside her. For what it's worth that bison was humanely hunted and fed my extended family for two years.

We didn't get off to the strongest start with breastfeeding, but not the worst ever. My milk took four days to come in and Annabelle kept falling asleep on the breast so she wasn't getting enough of the colostrum. She lost too much weight. I resisted the doctor's suggestions of formula. Then my milk came in, I got better at encouraging her to eat, she gained weight and we did well. Throughout my maternity leave I was able to do some pumping to build up a small stash. I never was extremely consistent about it, but toward the end I tried to pump at the same time most days. I knew I needed a stash as back up for work and I needed to get my body used to the pump. Before returning to work, I did a lot of reading about pumping. The basic set up is simple, what I pump on Monday is fed to my daughter on Tuesday and so forth. It's a neat system that hopefully evens out. However it doesn't work for a lot of women. I knew that. I also knew that if anyone could make it work, I could. I have a fairly ideal situation: a private office with window blinds and a door that locks, a really supportive boss (who used to be a nursing and pumping mom herself), and a decent amount of control over my schedule to fit in pumping breaks. With all that going for myself, I feel guilty when it doesn't work. So many women struggle through so much more to make it work. This entry has a lot of me talking about emotions, particularly guilt, around breastfeeding. The culture, dialogue, and mommy-wars are so charged around these issues that it becomes a maelstrom of emotions for an already hormonal time in your life. Guilt and pressure are leveraged for a mother to breastfeed because anything less is inferior, but don't do it in public, or do it in public and be proud. The hits come from all sides and it can be hard to deal with all the conflicting messages. Any way you feed your baby is the right choice for you, your family. No one else knows your circumstances or your life, make the best decision for you and your family.
Genetics ed? Sex ed? Good thing she can't read yet!

Genetics ed? Sex ed? Good thing she can't read yet!

We had given Annabelle a bottle of pumped breast milk at five weeks with no issues. I had several brands of bottles to try since I knew some babies were fussy about that, but she liked them all. She takes bottles very well and usually goes back to the breast with no fuss. She's a good baby like that. (Occasionally in the evenings if she is really tired she won't take the breast because it's more work than a bottle and we have to use a pumped bottle while I pump more.) For the first month or so, it worked really well. In fact I even made an excess to add to, stash or to use for a date night. And then about three weeks ago, it stopped working as well. I upped the amount I put in each bottle since she didn't seem satisfied. I was gauging how much to give to her based off articles from Kellymom. I don't want my child to starve, but I don't want her overfed to the point of vomiting either. It's surprisingly hard to tell with an infant. There are no ounce markings on the side of my boob so I don't really know how much she drinks from me. As my supply started to not being able to meet what I knew she would need for the next day, I grew desperate. I unfroze from stash and tried every trick in the book to up my stash. I drink milkmaid tea daily (which is hard for me as a tea snob; it tastes slightly better than it looks is the best I can say about it), ate oatmeal, got lots of water, added a pumping at work, etc.
Someone commented on how Annabelle smiles in all her photos. So I took a photo of her crying.

Someone commented on how Annabelle smiles in all her photos. So I took a photo of her crying.

A few things really worked for me: watching videos of Annabelle during my pumping, really trying to make pumping sessions go 20 minutes to get the second let down, trying to still pump at least once a day on the weekends too, and massaging breasts while pumping. Also I learned that instant oatmeal doesn't have the same supply building effect that old fashioned oatmeal does, but cookies made with old-fashioned oatmeal totally work. And if you don't have a video of your child, listening to a different baby have a meltdown in the library outside your office is surprisingly effective. And yet none of it was working consistently. I was so stressed which wasn't helping production. I had an in case of emergency formula stash. When I tried to give Annabelle a bottle of it, she wouldn't take it. Freaked me out. Later I gave her a bottle that was mixed breast milk and formula, she took that. By gradually doing mixed bottles, she will now take a bottle that is just formula. However I didn't know at first if I could mix formula and breast milk. As I googled around, all I could find was articles about how important it was to breastfeed. Even consumer reports, on their guide to formula, spends the first half of the article telling you why you should breast feed. What I wanted was practical, helpful advice about supplementing, mixing bottles of formula and breastmilk, that sort of thing. What I got was a huge heaping of mommy-guilt that only served to make me feel like more of a failure. If I couldn't do it with my private office and supportive environment, what type of lazy failure of a mother was I? Every day was a struggle and I would look with dread at the bottles I pumped. I hated going home and prepping the bottles for the next day, especially if I added frozen milk or formula. More than once I had to hide tears as I did it so I wouldn't freak out my husband or mother (who was live-in child care at the time).

Once I cried over spilled milk, literally.  Despite my OCD levels of safeguards, a bottle spilled at work. It wasn't much because I caught it quickly, only a couple of tablespoons, but it was a day when I was having trouble pumping enough. And the level of my reaction would have been more appropriate to being told a beloved pet was gravely ill. That was the moment I knew I had to do something. The googling started again in earnest.

Batman called  he said i didn't have to take a nap today.

Batman called he said i didn't have to take a nap today.

Finally I read this article, while pumping in my office, and I burst into tears. I texted it to my mom and David who knew my struggles. What the author described is so exactly my situation, it was such a relief to see someone else write about it.

I am giving Annabelle everything I can. When she nurses in the morning, at night, on the weekend, she gets nutrition and to reinforce our bond. When she takes a bottle of pumped breast milk, she gets that best nutrition/antibodies/etc and to bond with someone else. When she takes a bottle of part or all formula, she gets that bond and she still gets great nutrition designed for young babies. Always her needs emotional and physical are being met.

Pumping is a mixed bag for me. It's hard on my body and leaves me extremely sore. I admire women who pump exclusively, I couldn't do that to my breasts. However pumping forces me to take breaks when I tend to be a very single-minded focused workaholic in the library. Even though I have a hands-free pumping bra (in which I feel like a cow hooked up to a milking machine) and I do keep working often during pump sessions, I also force myself to take a break. With each pumping session, I stop, look at a photo or video of my baby, read an article I want to read, and take a moment to breathe. That is helping my overall stress level and making me a better librarian and a better mom.

As I type this, I've done really well pumping in the last few days/week. I haven't had to thaw breast milk at all this week and no bottles since Tuesday needed topped off with formula. It's Sunday afternoon, the sun is streaming in, my four-month old daughter is napping on me, and there is enough breast milk in the fridge for tomorrow when I go to work. It's an ideal situation and yet I still have tears in my eyes thinking about it all.

Some days everything my daughter has was made by me without a problem, some days I'm pulling from the from the freezer to make that true. (I'm trying to be better about pulling from the freezer. That's what a stash is for and I need to stop thinking about it as a do-not-touch-emergency-fund.)  Some days she gets bottles that are partially or all formula.

So far the most she has had of formula in a single day is 1.5 bottles out of the four that she drinks when I'm at work. I refuse to set a minimum level of breast milk that I want her to have in those four bottles because it would be an arbitrary number and I would live and die by it. It's my type-A mentality. In fact it's a struggle to not make a line like that, even in my head.  But someday if I couldn't make that, it would be another way I failed. Another time I broke down in tears at my desk or at night while pumping milk.

I'm done with tears over milk, spilled or otherwise. I'm giving my family everything I can. Her current mix of mostly breast milk, occasional formula is fine. If in the future I can't pump at all at work to produce milk and she has formula during the day and nurses at night, that will also be fine. If my milk dries up entirely, plenty of babies (including myself and my siblings) were formula fed, it will be fine. It will be more than fine because we love her and will always give all we can to make sure she has what she needs to grow and thrive.

Mommy I have a secret to tell you: you're doing okay.

Mommy I have a secret to tell you: you're doing okay.

3 months already!

How has it already been three months? I've not been great about posting, but work and baby are exhausting.
Annabelle is 3 months old!

Annabelle is 3 months old!

Here's the caption I wrote for Facebook: Annabelle is 3 months old! (I took the photo a couple days late.) She smiles, giggles, reaches for things, grabs thing (though mostly still by accident) and loves to look outward at the world. She enjoys spending days with Grandma Cleta while mommy and daddy work and is starting to respond to her name. Her favorite things are her baby activity gym where she plays "kick the fox", being sung to, reading, and snuggles at bedtime. She's not a great night time sleeper yet, but she is all giggles and play in the morning so she usually gets forgiven. She's doing well with me back at work and takes a bottle like a champ. I'm still able to pump enough, but we tried her on formula. That was rejected soundly. Breast milk with some formula mixed in was accepted though. Hopefully we can keep her on breast milk, but if not we will do a gradual formula introduction. Other things she loves. Her swing: P1000652 Her family:
Top: Margaret and Matthew Nicolai Middle: Cleta and Ray Moreau Bottom: Elizabeth, Annabelle, and David Nicolai

Top: Margaret and Matthew Nicolai
Middle: Cleta and Ray Moreau
Bottom: Elizabeth, Annabelle, and David Nicolai

And pretty much the entire world. She's a happy baby.

Days 12, 13, and 14

I feel like it is so easy to find joy in our new daughter that I'm almost cheating at this 100 Happy Days challenge. Day 12 (Monday, July 14) I didn't get a photo of this, but we have a milestone! On Monday morning as we were playing with her before David went to work, we saw Annabelle's first social smiles. Not gas, but actual emotion! Now if only I could get her to do that on camera... We've been blessed to receive so many wonderful baby gifts. And some of our favorites are the handmade gifts. On Monday I received a box from my longtime friend Beth with an adorable baby outfit and a fantastic owl she had crocheted. Annabelle seems to really like it. It's pictured with baby A on a lovely quilt made by one of David's longtime friends Becky. Becky also made a beautiful quilt for our wedding. We are so blessed to have such talented friends who share their talents with us!
Annabelle likes her new owl friend made by Beth L!

Annabelle likes her new owl friend made by Beth L!

The quilt Becky made may look too big now, but she'll grow into it.

The quilt Becky made may look too big now, but she'll grow into it.

Day 13 (Tuesday July 15) Annabelle is not overly fond of tummy time. I know it is important for her development so we do small stretches of it. On Tuesday, I assembled her baby activity gym. The cats liked it, she was less impressed. I tweeted some photos with the phrase, "So far the cats like the baby activity gym more than the baby." I realized that thanks to the vagaries of English that could have two meanings. One: the cats like the baby activity gym more than they like the baby. Two: the cats like the baby activity gym more than the baby likes the activity gym. I meant the second, but both are actually true. 20140717-163500-59700122.jpg 20140717-163500-59700489.jpg That evening Annabelle got all dressed up in a fancy outfit for a party to celebrate her Aunt Ellie graduating from art school.
All dressed up and ready to party!

All dressed up and ready to party!

Day 14 (Wednesday, July 16) Wednesday was Annabelle's first trip to the library. She got to meet all my coworkers. I was meeting a new librarian whom I hired before going on maternity leave. We've read almost all of Annabelle's books to her multiple times so I picked up a read with me bag. The read with me bags contain 10 board books on a theme, a toy, and some rhyme sheets and reading tips. It's a great grant funded program and collection and I'm glad to be a part of it. I chose the baby faces bag because Annabelle loves staring at people's faces. From other early literacy training, I knew that developmentally faces are of the most interest to her right now. And sure enough she tracked on the photos of the baby faces far more than she has any other book illustration. She even smiled back at one of the books!
Lots of new books to read! (Posed on a quilt made by her Grandma Cleta who took her kids to the library every week.)

Lots of new books to read! (Posed on a quilt made by her Grandma Cleta who took her kids to the library every week.)

Pregnancy Reflections at 39 Weeks

Look at me! I'm almost ready to pop. Any day now.

Look at me! I'm almost ready to pop. Any day now.

I'm 39 weeks pregnant. The baby will be here sometime in the next week or so. Some days it feels like I've been pregnant for years, other days I can't believe I'll have a baby at home within the next fortnight. We've got houseplants that aren't looking that good and they're letting us keep a baby? (Though the cats are all healthy so there is that going for us.) Note I haven't blogged a ton (or really at all for six months) so this is going to be long. Pregnancy is such a weird journey and I've been trying to sort out my (extremely hormonal) thoughts for the last 10 months. Oh hey, did you know that pregnancy lasts 10 months (40 weeks) not 9? It's a giant cultural lie. Technically two of those weeks are before conception since they count from last menstrual period, but if you have been actively trying (and living by pregnancy rules and diet) before then, it certainly feels like you're pregnant a year or more.
This is where I started, mostly. 10 weeks along.

This is where I started, mostly. 10 weeks along.

Until we started trying to get pregnant and I read articles, books, got an iPhone app, etc., I didn't know how much I didn't know about my own reproductive system. I'm smart, well informed; I passed health class. (Kinda, I did this gifted kid thing where I tested out of health class, but the state of Kansas declared it good enough for high school graduation.) I vaguely understood the basics, but was woefully ignorant about a lot of the specifics. There's a feminist rant in here about the issues with sex education  in our country, but my mom gave me a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves when I was a teen, I just never read it all the way. Though having worked with teens and the public, I know that lack of knowledge about reproductive issues is widespread.
When we found out we were having a little girl, we announced to David's family at (regulary scheduled) Sunday dinner. Not a full gender reveal party, but we did have a gender reveal ice cream cake. Who can resist cake?

When we found out we were having a little girl, we announced to David's family at (regulary scheduled) Sunday dinner. Not a full gender reveal party, but we did have a gender reveal ice cream cake. Who can resist cake?

For the first few weeks, pregnancy is like a fantastic secret. Well David and I weren't great about keeping the secret and told family and a couple of friends. We alternated between elated and scared and throwing up, but that last one was mostly just me. The first time I threw up a part of me was happy. I was in the pregnant women get sick club! Just like on TV! My body was doing this thing and here was tangible proof. That feeling only lasted about 30 seconds. The vomiting lasted longer. The nausea lasted for months. Pregnancy symptom wise, I have had about an average pregnancy. Nothing horrible and terrible and I feel bad complaining since I have had friends who have gone through so much worse. There was about a month when all I could keep down were plain grains, and raw veggies. David remembers that month as nothing but quinoa and broccoli. I also interviewed for a job when I was 11 weeks pregnant praying the entire time that I didn't throw up in the middle of the interview. (I didn't. I got the job. I'm now the Youth Services Coordinator for Anchorage Public Library.) The constant nausea subsided to only a few times a day by about week 16 (not at the end of the first trimester as I was promised) and the last time I threw up was week 19.
Here I am at 20 weeks. My bump popped out!

Here I am at 20 weeks. My bump popped out!

Weight gain was weird because I could see the difference long before anyone else. Of course I was one of only two people seeing myself naked. I'm not a small person, but I've always carried my weight in my hips and for the first time in my life my stomach was bulging out. Until it started obviously looking like a baby bump it bugged me a lot more than I thought it would. I've never thought of myself as a vain person, so that was a huge surprise to be that irritated by it. I felt a lot better when I crossed the line from "looking extra chubby" to "looking pregnant". That was week 19 for me. Week 18 all my pants fit (some with the belly band or elastic stretcher trick) and week 19 none of them did. I just popped out. That was also when I got my first comment in public from a stranger about pregnancy. And comments about pregnancy from the public, from family, from friends. There are so many.
I tried to take those weekly bump pictures with the same shirt on, but I only got it done about once a month. This is David and I on our delayed honeymoon/babymoon to Hawaii in February. I'm about 22 weeks pregnant.

I tried to take those weekly bump pictures with the same shirt on, but I only got it done about once a month. This is David and I on our delayed honeymoon/babymoon to Hawaii in February. I'm about 22 weeks pregnant.

When you become pregnant, your body becomes part of the public record, public discussion, and public concern in a way that is unprecedented in my life. I had always somewhat agreed with the argument that when a woman is pregnant, her body is not just hers anymore. And I believe that because for all this time I have made decisions that I thought were in the best interest of the child, not just mine. Yet, I was completely unprepared for how incredibly disenfranchised I would feel. Everyone from strangers to casual acquaintances would ask personal questions about our medical decisions. I've heard every lecture on every spectrum, from how we should only do natural childbirth through to how anything less than a full hospital team was criminally negligent. I've gotten bad looks when I bought a latte (half-caf, my allowed cup of the day) or hung out (drinking water) on a bar's porch with friends. Even well meaning family members (whom I adore and love) would send me articles about the latest studies that you should definitely be doing x, y, and not z for your baby. The family members got forgiven immediately because I know they love me, love the child, and want to help.
30 weeks along. I really thought I couldn't get much bigger; Ha!

30 weeks along. I really thought I couldn't get much bigger; Ha!

But I've read the studies. I've read all of them. You can drive yourself crazy with research and worry. The best advice I got was: do some research, make a choice you think is best, and relax and turn off the internet. There were times when I wanted to scream at people, this is MY body, MY baby, and MY choices. Unless you helped make it or I've sought your opinion in your medical office, you don't get an opinion on how I'm nurturing it in utero. So far I haven't actually flipped out at anyone, but it has given me a heightened feminist awareness of the amount of commentary and control our society feels it has the right to dictate and impose upon pregnant women. (And please don't get me started on the state senator who during my pregnancy started making noise about involuntarily committing women who drink during pregnancy.) For months I have a very visible sign that THIS BABY was inside me and that gave the public the right to control or at least comment and lecture upon what I did or did not do with my body. I'm an intelligent woman and I like to feel a highly functioning and contributing member of society. I've been trusted with public money and budgets, grant moneys, staff to manage, a driver's license, a mortgage and a thousand other markers of adult responsibility. Why can we not also trust that I can do this thing and make the choices to grow a healthy baby? And yet I know this is just beginning. For the next 18+ years people will tell me what I am doing wrong as a parent. I suppose eventually that will rankle as well. But for now it is the involuntary loss of my bodily integrity that frustrates me. No one asked if I wanted to become a constant object of public speculation, commentary, and attempted interference. I never ceded my rights to live as an adult and I only ask for those to be respected.
Opening a box from my mom at our baby shower. That doll was my most beloved toy and special friend when I was a little one. Seeing it gave me all the FEELS.

Opening a box from my mom at our baby shower. That doll was my most beloved toy and special friend when I was a little one. Seeing it gave me all the FEELS.

Some people tell you how much they miss being pregnant. I'm not going to miss the swelling, the constant peeing, the back aches, but I will miss some parts. This is the last time in her life when I will know exactly where Annabelle is and if she is safe at all times. I will also miss the kind and friendly smiles, approving looks, and cheerful comments from all the people you meet. Because I'm a children's librarian and a great deal of the people I interact with daily are themselves parents, many with very young children or buns in the oven, I get lots of cheerful encouragement. Mostly it is fantastic and heartwarming,
My fantastic and supportive inlaws at our baby celebration. We did a coed baby celebration and had a lovely time.

My fantastic and supportive inlaws at our baby celebration. We did a coed baby celebration and had a lovely time.

occasionally after the 7th inquiry about my pregnant while on the reference desk for only 2 hours, I get a bit tired about talking about it. However I also feel as though I'm being warmly and enthusiastically welcomed into a club. The joy and happiness our friends and community have felt and expressed for David and me have overwhelmed us. When we announced our pregnancy, almost without fail people told me what an amazing father David will be. And he will be; that's why I chose him. These months have left me feeling incredibly blessed and thankful for the family, friends, and community of love and support we have here and nation-wide. I can't imagine a better environment to bring a child into. She will be loved and celebrated by so many and as new parents we feel we have so many resources and so much emotional and social support. It may take a village to raise a child, but it also takes that village to help lay a foundation and lift up the parents. And we have the best village in the world. I think we're ready. We think we're ready, but we know that is laughable as you can't ever really anticipate how much your life will change. The nursery is done (I'll show pictures this weekend and talk about that process), the laundry is washed, folded, sorted, and put away. The crib and co-sleeper have sheets on them and are awaiting a child. I've still got some stuff to do at work, but I am trying to have it so I can walk away at any moment. We met with our medical professional today and she said at 39 weeks the baby has dropped and we are ready to go any day now. Bring on the new adventure.