Life By Kristen

Go, and embrace your liberty. And see what wonderful things come of it. – Little Women

Thoughts on Maternity Leave

Our little guy is 3 months old today! It’s hard to believe how much he’s grown and overcome, especially considering this time 3 months ago we didn’t know if he’d live through the day or not. We are thankful every single moment for him- even when he’s crying!

My maternity leave ended up being longer than anticipated since my son arrived 4 weeks early. I am lucky to work in a state that provides some paid maternity leave so between sick time and temporary disability/caregiver leave, my leave will clock in at 16 weeks. I go back to work in September so I still have a few more weeks to soak up cuddles and smiles. I am incredibly fortunate that even when I return to work, I will be working a mostly part-time schedule in the office and working from home on other days. We’re also beyond grateful that my mother is willing and able to care for our little guy in our home, saving us daycare costs and letting Gray’s immune system get stronger before he’s out with other babies.

I took my son to meet my coworkers last week and one of them ( a childless man) asked me the other day if my maternity leave was restful, to which of course, I laughed. Sure there were days when we didn’t leave the house and I went from pajamas to lounge clothes to pajamas, but each day of caring for a tiny human with medical issues is definitely not restful. He’s a great baby and so much of his early month of life was filled with tears and stress that even his most crazy crying fit didn’t seem all that bad. But he’s a little human learning something new every single day– I can’t even wrap my head around that or not being able to verbalize beyond crying if something itches or is uncomfortable. All that “normal” baby stuff topped with a brain and body that is healing from trauma is a lot for anyone, let alone a tiny human!

My leave has been filled with doctor’s appointments and visiting nurses which has been a bit of blessing because so many people have been keeping their eyes on him. It should be mandatory that every new mother gets a visit or two from a nurse, especially in those first few weeks you’re home and have no clue what to do. We went through a baby boot camp crash course in the NICU in baby care, getting Gray on a schedule, and so on. I don’t know how people do this without a partner, family, or friends around. It really takes a huge village to support.

I cannot imagine Gray would have had the care he received if we didn’t have amazing private insurance – with the exception of my care and a few of his x-rays, everything has been covered because we met our deductible pretty quickly. If we had to pay out of pocket, Gray’s treatments alone are already above $25,000. it makes me sick to my stomach to think a little baby would get transferred to a lesser facility or be denied care because of insurance or a parent’s inability to pay out of pocket.

One thing I will say about maternity leave is that it didn’t provide me the clarity about life and career that I thought it would. Yes, being away from work so abruptly and taking care of my new human definitely showed us what our values are and that our current jobs are just part of the routine at this point. But in terms of getting a feeling that tells me what  “I want to be this when I grow up,” I think the only thing I’ve learned is family and health are all that really matters– they are non-negotiable to me now. Finding something that respects and understand that– and values it too– are going to be most important, no matter what the job title is. I don’t want long hours, weekends, or something that’s not going to allow me to be at a doctor’s appointment, or in the future, a school play. So for now, until we know more about Gray’s health now and in future, I’ll likely be staying put in my current role. It doesn’t feel like I’m giving up on doing what I want for my life, but it does feel like I’m putting my son and our family first which is ultimately the right thing for us all at this moment.

Advertisements

Alive & Still Here

Reporting live from Babyville, the mayor of which is an adorable almost 11 week old boy who rules the roost and has captured our hearts, despite his endless hunger and crying for more milk!

I’m still alive and still here even though this space has been silent for over a month. I’ve been in an endless cycle of bottle washing, formula mixing, breast pumping, diaper changing, etc. Of course there have been lots of snuggles, smiles, and new cooing sounds every day too. And a bunch of medical appointments, labwork, and scheduling for baby too.

I have just over a month to go on my maternity leave- I’m incredibly grateful I was able to take the entire summer off, plus the extra time from when Gray decided to arrive early. Now that he’s gaining weight and the doctor’s visits are getting less and less, we are venturing out more and that’s been a huge help for keeping me sane. I’m blessed with a partner who believes in sharing the parenting duties as much as he can and family and friends that are supporting me from near and far. Overall, minus the never ending cycle of baby care routine and worrying about his medical conditions and everything associated with it, I’m handling this stay at home mom thing fairly well. I’m not sure it’s for me long term, but my opinion on that may change when I go back to work in September ( and even then, I’ll be pretty much part time).

Speaking of work, I thought that this time off would provide me with some much needed clarity about what I want to be doing for work. It has to a certain extent and in other ways, I still have no clue. I know I want to be in a position that allows me to focus on my son and family so the position I have right now is right for our family at this time, especially as we still have some question marks about Gray’s health.

Even though we’ve into a good groove with the little guy, every day looks a little different because of his various appointments so it;s been hard for me to carve out time for myself for anything beyond social media and reading some breezy books on Kindle. I’m committed to writing here, even if only sporadically! And a quick note– you won’t see any photos of my son on this space because his father and I have made an active decision to limit what we’re putting out in the world about him, but if you’re so inclined, Gray will sporadically appear over on my Instagram, so feel free to send me a friend request there!

Hope your summer is full of relaxation and fun!

Post NICU Life

Thank you all from far and wide for the good wishes and support on the arrival of Gray and the month-long stay in the NICU. He was discharged this past Thursday so we’ve been home as a family adjusting to each other and our new schedule. It’s been a roller coaster of emotions from joy to tiredness and frustration– for all of us! Even though he’s a month old, it’s like bringing a complete newborn home and trying to figure out which end is up. The amount of random Amazon purchases for baby that we’ve made in the last few days probably speaks to our often cluelessness about what to do with a new baby.

Some day I’ll have the emotional bandwidth to write Gray’s birth story, if only for us as a family to remember the journey we went through as a family. The month-long saga is not something I’d wish on anyone– leaving the hospital every day without your baby to come home to a house with baby things everywhere is difficult in ways I don’t think I have the words to describe. And yet, I have such an intense level of gratitude for the month that we were there– the care Gray received allowed him to bounce back from what could have been a very different outcome in our life. NICU nurses are true angels on earth not only in what they do for the babies they care for, but for how they support and teach the families- and they do it for more than just Mom and Dad. As we’ve entered into the new parent sleepy phase with midnight and 3AM feedings, I even had a moment of missing the NICU because of the around the clock care that allowed us to sleep every night and sleep in a few weekend mornings too.

Having a baby in the NICU is incredibly difficult in the postpartum weeks- not just the fact that you’re recovering from birth, but missing out on a lot of the early bonding which is so important. Gray was born on a Monday, but I wasn’t able to hold him until late Friday of the same week. And yet that difficulty is also paired with gratitude for having time and space to heal from emergency surgery. There were definitely more than a few tough moments of getting in the car, needing help showering, etc. where I was relieved my baby was safe at hospital while I was healing at home. A million high fives to Moms who have a C-section and then come home with baby 3-4 days later– you are serious real-life super heroes.

Gray’s birth has re-ignited my faith in the power of prayer, love, and things bigger than us. It affirmed my belief in guardian angels, being in the right place at the right time, and counting blessings big and small. It’s opened an emotional part of myself that I imagine happens with many mothers regardless of how their child came into the world. It reminded me that family and true friends who are family rise to the occasion when a crisis happens. Amid the crazy bad news of the world, it reminded me how good and kind people are, even complete strangers who Gray and I will never meet who prayed for our family and his health/recovery.

They say a baby changes everything, but I think Baby Gray has been more of an inspiration than his little 36 day old self can realize.

 

A Quick Update

A quick life update!

Life threw us a huge curveball on Monday, May 20th when our son, Gray, decided to enter the world four weeks early. His birth was fast, furious, and traumatic for both of us, but at least for me I was out of the hospital four days later. Gray is still in the NICU and will be for the foreseeable future, although his dad and I are about ready to steal him away to go home ( is it stealing if it’s your baby?) We’re head over heels in love with the blue-eyes, dark haired little boy who is amazing us every moment at the strides he’s made in his 15 days of life ( now if he could only get the eating/feeding thing down!)

In any case, I’m now in another club no one wants to be in– a NICU mother. It’s heartbreaking, stressful, overwhelming, boring, tiring, and about a million other things in between. The wins are amazing, the setbacks are heartbreaking, and we’ve only been there 15 days. Today I overheard docs talking about a baby who has been there 120 days. l literally cannot imagine because I’m about to lose my mind.

This is all to say  it might be quiet around these parts for awhile. It’s funny because in between Gray’s feedings, meeting with OT, docs, and other happenings, the day goes by quickly and slow all at the same time. Q and I are making it through- he dealt with the brunt of the scary stuff for the first 2 weeks of Gray’s life while I was healing from an emergency c-section that’s left me quite sore. He had to go back to work this week and is trying to spend the nights at NICU with our little guy. As they say, the days are long, but the years are short.

Some day, when I’m off this emotional roller coaster, I’ll write up his birth story, if for no other reason than it might help me put together the timeline of what happened– from the time I called the hospital that my water broke, to the time Gray was born was only about 2.5 hours so it was a whirlwind that I’m still not sure I completely understand ( and not sure I want to quite yet).

It’ll be quiet over here for bit until we get Gray home and get our new life together– not sure how long that’ll be, so wishing you all a lovely June and start of summer!

Friday Finds May 2019

Knitting as a World War II spy tool– so cool!

A woman recorded over 30 years of TV history and her collection of Betamax and VHS tapes are now being digitized.

A history of cribs and other contraptions to get babies to sleep over the years— those window cribs are crazy!

Book Review: The Song of the Jade Lily

Synopsis:

A gripping historical novel that tells the little-known story of Jewish refugees who fled to Shanghai during WWII.

1939: Two young girls meet in Shanghai, also known as the “Paris of the East”. Beautiful local Li and Jewish refugee Romy form a fierce friendship, but the deepening shadows of World War II fall over the women as they slip between the city’s glamorous French Concession district and the teeming streets of the Shanghai Ghetto. Yet soon the realities of war prove to be too much for these close friends as they are torn apart.

2016: Fleeing London with a broken heart, Alexandra returns to Australia to be with her grandparents, Romy and Wilhelm. Her grandfather is dying, and over the coming weeks Romy and Wilhelm begin to reveal the family mysteries they have kept secret for more than half a century. As fragments of her mother’s history finally become clear, Alexandra struggles with what she learns while more is also revealed about her grandmother’s own past in Shanghai.

After Wilhelm dies, Alexandra flies to Shanghai, determined to trace her grandparents’ past. Peeling back the layers of their hidden lives, she is forced to question what she knows about her family—and herself.

The Song of the Jade Lily is a lush, provocative, and beautiful story of friendship, motherhood, the price of love, and the power of hardship and courage that can shape us all.

My review: 4 stars

I didn’t mean to read two World War II era novels right on top of each other, but it was interesting to do so because they both were quite different and both exposed stories of World War II that I didn’t know anything about which is always great.

The dual timeline trope definitely seems like a trend in the past few years with historical fiction and depending on how it’s handled, what the purpose is with moving story lines forward and similar questions, I am all for it. It works in this case very well I think because most of the arc of the novel is from the contemporary point of view of Alexandra, as opposed to this back and forth with the historical story and it not being clear what the ultimate story line is.

Buy the book here!

As part of the TLC Book Tour for this book, I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

 

Book Review: Resistance Women

Synopsis:

After Wisconsin graduate student Mildred Fish marries brilliant German economist Arvid Harnack, she accompanies him to his German homeland, where a promising future awaits. In the thriving intellectual culture of 1930s Berlin, the newlyweds create a rich new life filled with love, friendships, and rewarding work—but the rise of a malevolent new political faction inexorably changes their fate.

As Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party wield violence and lies to seize power, Mildred, Arvid, and their friends resolve to resist. Mildred gathers intelligence for her American contacts, including Martha Dodd, the vivacious and very modern daughter of the US ambassador. Her German friends, aspiring author Greta Kuckoff and literature student Sara Weitz, risk their lives to collect information from journalists, military officers, and officials within the highest levels of the Nazi regime.

For years, Mildred’s network stealthily fights to bring down the Third Reich from within. But when Nazi radio operatives detect an errant Russian signal, the Harnack resistance cell is exposed, with fatal consequences.

Inspired by actual events, Resistance Women is an enthralling, unforgettable story of ordinary people determined to resist the rise of evil, sacrificing their own lives and liberty to fight injustice and defend the oppressed.

My review: So far, 4 stars!

I say so far because, in full disclosure, I haven’t finished reading it yet. At 608 pages, it is a pretty dense book and with baby boy arriving in 4 weeks, my brain can only handle so much at one time. It has nothing to do with the writing, the story, or the author’s approach and everything to do with baby brain!

The author has been on my to-read list for a few years so I jumped at the chance to finally read some of her work. Add in my favorite time period of World War II  and I’m really glad I have this book in my hands. As a historian who is particularly interested in women’s history, I am also a huge fan of the publishing trend in the last few years of highlighting hidden women’s stories throughout various time periods, but especially during the life-changing era of World War II.

The book is rich in detail and it’s clear Chiaverini did  A LOT of research on this book which I appreciate on many levels. The book also covers an expanse of time– 1929 through 1946– and follows three women. These factors alone would make the book long, but when Chiaverini adds in her masterful storytelling and dialogue, it’s pretty easy to see how the book came to be 600 pages (I wonder what the earlier drafts looked like!). I appreciate the expanded time period because so often in World War II era fiction it jumps right into Hitler and things going terribly without the slow buildup that led to his rise in power.

One of the reasons I like historical fiction as a genre is because it brings life to often well-known events and provides creative personal insights. What I like even more is when I learn about something I had no clue about before. I’ve read a few novels about the various resistance movements during World War II (The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah being one of my favorites), but this book is based on the German- based spy/resistance movement based in Berlin called the Red Orchestra, which I had never heard of before. This is definitely the area where Chiaverini’s research comes through because there are a lot of facts and information ( I’ve been googling a lot while reading) but they aren’t boring and don’t read like non-fiction.

I’m hoping this weekend I’ll have plenty of relaxation time in my sunroom to finish the book!

Buy the book here!

As part of the TLC Book Tour for this book, I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. 

May!

What a whirlwind in April! It was quite dreary in my neck of the woods, raining 21 out of the 30 days of the month. There were a few nice days in there, but this past month definitely lends true to the “April showers bring May flowers” rhyme.

With a lot going on in April, I was still productive- we got a roof contractor all set up, mortgage stuff mostly figured out, and got a few small DIY projects done.

Baby’s room is just about ready to go- this weekend, I’ll organize all the stuff we received from our baby shower and fingers crossed, the crib should be delivered on Monday.

I did not get around to selling my wedding ring so that’s definitely going to happen this month.

Q and I also didn’t go anywhere, but we’re still hoping to at least do a little day thing in the next few weeks. I’m fairly uncomfy sitting for more than an hour so we’ll probably just take a little car ride to somewhere fun for lunch on a Saturday or something just to get out of the house and mind off of all the things still to do.

So May is pretty much a continuation of April goals, with mostly more baby prep.

We’ve procrastinated for a long time and are finally reaching the ‘holy krap, there’s going to be a tiny human here in 6 weeks time!’ mode. Car seats to install, clothes to wash, freezer to fill up, and so much more.

The dreary weather of April has us way behind on yard work- every weekend it either rained or we had something going on so between Q and his 13 year old niece is who desperate for her own money, we hope to get a lot of the spring cleanup stuff done and get some flowers before baby comes.

The countdown is on!

 

 

Friday Finds April 2019

I’ve never been to Paris, but the images of the burned Notre Dame Cathedral were just heartbreaking. If you need something to lift your spirits in the face of that sadness, here’s a story about the priest, fire brigade, and human chain that worked tirelessly to save the relics that were in the church.

Novelists who became spies– I think I have a book about writers/artists/actors being spies in World War II on my own bookshelf that I haven’t read yet.

In case you’re enjoying some Easter candy: why chocolate bunnies are hollow.

Speaking of chocolate, Mr. Hershey almost was on the Titanic! 7 famous people who missed the sailing of the Titanic.

How Nancy Drew inspired a generation. I was a big fan of Nancy Drew books too!

Flannels in plaid prints may be on their way out for spring and summer lighter plaids, but the history of the print–more correctly referred to as a tartan is pretty interesting.

The woman who made Tupperware a household name.

 

5 on Friday: Random Thoughts about Pregnancy

  • I’m in the beginning of my third trimester with just about 2 months from my due date in June. So far, so good! Baby boy is healthy and things going along well. It’s still a little strange to think that when the summer comes, there’s a new little human who I’m responsible for and who will rely on me.
  • There are so many things family and friends never told me about being pregnant. I heard about the aches, the heartburn, and pregnancy brain, but no one told me about the weird dreams, the development of carpal tunnel, and honestly, all the gas/burping (sorry if it’s TMI).
  • Shopping for maternity clothes sucks almost as much as shopping for regular clothes does for me. Thank goodness tunics and leggings are acceptable attire because buying maternity pants for work is even more dreadful than buying regular work pants. I’ve scored some great finds secondhand and now that weather has finally change in my neck of the woods, will likely be relying mostly on dresses.
  • There are way too many baby products out there and picking one random car seat from the other really is a crap shoot. Even reading all the various reviews, best product listings, and so on, it’s beyond overwhelming. I don’t know if we chose the right stuff, we just picked stuff based on our gut.
  • I haven’t had any weird cravings. When I was pretty sick during the first trimester, I wanted cold stuff all the time, mostly because it didn’t smell. I did crave pickles a lot but that’s because I had a pretty constant metallic taste in my mouth and the acid of the pickles helped counteract it. Lately, it’s been cold dairy products- cheese, ice cream, and milk. I’ve probably had more glasses of milk in the past few months than I did in the previous 3 years!

Post Navigation