What I Did on My Maternity Leave

Today is my last day of maternity leave. Not only was it a strange time to be pregnant and give birth, it is also a strange time to have a newborn. Looking back on my maternity leave with Mike (which was really the result of being laid off before he was born) we were on the move a lot – lunches with Daddy, parks, walks, meeting friends and family … that did not happen this time thanks to COVID. To be honest, that might be been a blessing.

I took about 9 weeks and, while I am furious this country doesn’t have better maternity leave practices, I recognize how privileged I am to be able to use my leave bank to have this time.

Here’s what I did on my maternity leave:

{Nap} Good Lord did I nap. If you look at my Fitbit’s account of my nights it is up and down and lots of restless time. If you look at its record of my naps – it is SOLID BLUE meaning I was barely-breathing-might-be-in-a-coma sleeping. I ain’t mad about it either.

{Folklore} Taylor Swift dropped her surprise album Folklore and it has been on constant repeat.

{TikTok} I showed by age lately by wondering what ‘this TikTok new fangled app is all about’. Well I wish I found it sooner. The short videos are perfect for my attention span and the #sirivoiceover has me laughing until I am crying every time. I even tried making a few of my own!

{Moved my FIL to Assisted Living} It was fast and unexpected, but almost immediately after we got home from the hospital we realized S.’s Dad can’t be living alone any longer. Thankfully we were able to get him into an assisted living facility near us and I had the time to make phone calls and manage the logistics.

{Poshmark} I gotta unload all these beautiful maternity clothes I didn’t wear because I worked from home. So I was snapping pictures and making deals left and right.

{Games} Mikey got me hooked on Hungry Shark World and it is a great, mindless game where you are a shark and eat stuff. Also, I discovered Rusty Lake which is an escape room style game for adults. It has beautiful graphics and a rich backstory – definitely needs a trigger warning though.

But what I did the most was stare at this beautiful little nugget and wonder how I got so damn lucky to be her momma. I really took the time to get to know her and get all the baby snuggles.

Oh. And put her pacifier back in her mouth no less than 5,295,820 times during these 9 weeks. I counted. It was ridiculous.

Back to work on Tuesday. From home. With the baby. So basically maternity leave with answering emails and not taking two-hour naps.

Dear Hannah: 1 Month

My Littlest Love –

How on earth did your 1 month birthday sneak up on us? It is such a strange time to be a newborn. I was rereading your brother’s 1 month letter and we were able to go out and about and explore. Sadly, with COVID, that just isn’t an option for us. But we have made the most of your first month at home.

You are a chonk! You are already firmly in 3 month clothes. You have quite a wardrobe too and I would probably dress you up a few times a day if you enjoyed being changed. Any time you are naked, having a diaper change, or getting dressed you WAIL. You are not a fan of being uncomfortable and you make sure we know it.

The only time you like being naked is in the ‘bath’. You doze, kick your legs, and leave your hand under the faucet. It’s the getting out part you hate.

We’ve gotten a few small, maybe intentional smiles from you recently, mostly at the dogs and your brother. Speaking of your brother – he calls you Baby Hannah and is obsessed with you! He keeps saying how ‘adorable’ you are and he is not wrong. He only wants to hold you if no bodily fluids are involved. I must tell him 100 times a day that he needs to give you some space or stop touching all over you while you are sleeping. I can tell you are going to have a strong bond growing up.

You’ve met your cousins and they adore you and love having another girl in the mix. Mollie can’t wait to babysit you!

You are a snuggly little nugget. When you aren’t balled up in someone’s arms, you are in your vibrating chair babbling to the turtle hanging. You are really alert and are always looking around.

Welcome to the world little love. We have waited so long for you and are just in awe that you are here and so perfect.

Love,

Momma xoxo

Baby Birthing Soundtrack

Guess what? Hannah Beth is here! She arrived right on time via c-section on July 8. I will write more about her birth story and how the past three weeks have been going, but first I wanted to share my ‘Baby Birthin’ Soundtrack’.

I remember with Mike asking my OB if I could request certain music be played during his c-section. She was a no-nonsense type of doc and said that it would happen too quickly to really have a playlist. They did have music playing, so our sweet Mike was born to ‘Fifty Ways to Say Goodbye’ by Train. Which was nice because S. and I love Train (and have seen them live multiple times), but it is hardly what I would pick to hear as meet our firstborn.

Fast forward seven years and we are planning a no-nonsense c-section again and two days before Hannah is born, my new OB mentions making a playlist. So I went to researching the perfect songs to listen to while having major abdominal surgery AND bringing new life into the world.

Google was worthless with the majority of ideas since we aren’t really ‘Butterfly Kisses’ type people. A Facebook friend suggested just playing my favorites playlist, but there is nothing appropriate on that list for public consumption. I am going through a bit of a 90’s rap phase right now.

Thankfully I was able to find some awesome songs from my library for my playlist. Without further ado:

Dear Theodosia (Regina Spektor): As a parent and a Hamilton fan, I couldn’t not include this one.

When you smile, you knock me out, I fall apart
And I thought I was so smart

Welcome to Wonderland (Anson Seabra): I am not sure where I first heard this song, but it has such a pretty lullaby type melody and great visualizations.

Welcome to Wonderland
I’ll be your guide
Holding your hand under sapphire skies
Let’s go exploring or we could just go for a walk

High Hopes (Panic at the Disco): Not exactly the slowest, sweetest song ever written, but I love Panic and played them a lot my last trimester. Miss Hannah always responded to them this song and you can’t NOT smile when you hear it!

Mama said
Fulfill the prophecy
Be something greater
Go make a legacy
Manifest destiny

Cecilia and The Satellite (Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness): I loved this song the minute I heard it and when I realized McMahon was the lead singer for Something Corporate, it made sense. He wrote this song for his unborn daughter and the lyrics are beautiful. This is the song that was playing when Hannah was born.

If I could fly
Then I would know
What life looks like from up above and down below
I’d keep you safe
I’d keep you dry
Don’t be afraid Cecilia
I’m the satellite
And you’re the sky

No Plans (Jason Maraz): Maraz always has great, catchy songs and this one is no different. AND it is how I feel about Hannah right now, I have no plans for us – just sitting around loving each other.

If we dream it, we can be it
I’m putting all these feelings
In giving good vibes to you
I could stay right here all evening
Just listening to you breathing
And taking in the view

Daughter (Loudon Wainwright III): My Dad and I danced to this song at my wedding and it is so sweet and has such great memories for me. And some of the lyrics will probably ring true for Hannah!

Everything she sees
She says she wants
Everything she wants
I see she gets

A Thousand Years (Christina Perri): Anyone who has gone through fertility struggles knows this song by heart. It really speaks to how I felt when she arrived. I FELT like I had waited 1000 years for her.

I have died everyday, waiting for you
Darling, don’t be afraid, I have loved you for a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more

Wait for It (Hamilton Cast): Yet another Hamilton song! This has always been one of my favorite songs from the musical and I really like the surface message.

Wait for it Wait for it
I am the one thing in life I can control
Wait for it Wait for it
Wait for it Wait for it
I am inimitable I am an original

A Million Dreams (Anthem Lights): I am always a sucker for a good acoustic or acapella cover and The Greatest Showman is one of my current favorite soundtracks. A million dreams is what I hope for Hannah.

‘Cause every night I lie in bed
The brightest colours fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it’s gonna take
A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make

Don’t You Worry Child (Anthem Lights): I like both the original and the cover of this song and remembered it came out when I was trying to get pregnant with Mike. Heaven did have a plan for us – a family of four!

Don’t you worry, don’t you worry child
See heaven’s got a plan for you
Don’t you worry, don’t you worry now, yeah

Dear Mike: Super Seven!

My Sweet Mikey Pie –

This is not how we pictured your big seventh birthday buddy. We were going to have friends and family to your favorite swim school to hang out, eat ice cream and swim. There would be Titanic decorations (that part I am not sad about – there are not many decorations celebrating the Titanic) and laughter.

Instead, we are limited thanks to a global pandemic. Daddy and I are going to try to make this birthday fun and we know you will take it in stride, like you always do, but man. It stinks. We hope you look forward to presents, ice cream birthday wishes over Zoom and, if the weather cooperates, a trip to Matapeake to get in the bay. You only turn 7 once!

It’s been an interesting year to say the least, Covid or not!

{Titanic} You spent a good part of the year obsessed with the Titanic. I think we’ve seen every documentary about it and read every book. For Christmas ‘you’ got a Lego Titanic and we didn’t realize it was teeny tiny Legos. Daddy painstakingly put it together, basically with tweezers, over the course of a week. Six months later we still threaten you within an inch of your life not to take it apart.

{Monster Jam} In March we went to your first Monster Jam. It was a little anxiety provoking at first because we were really high up and it was loud, but once the action started you were all in and frankly, never looked back. Ever since you have collected the diecast models, watched YouTube videos, ask everyone their favorite truck/stunt/driver, played the game for countless hours on your Nintendo Switch, and probably dreamed about it.

{School} We all absolutely loved your 1st grade teacher. She was so reassuring and helpful for everyone and really was patient with you. We were so lucky to have her during the e-learning experience. Speaking of … you did pretty well with that! It was a bit of a curve ball for everyone and we made it work. Your reading has come a LONG way, even if you say you don’t enjoy it. I firmly believe you just haven’t found the right book yet.

{Adventures} We had a bunch of adventures this year. We had a mini-beach vacation to Bethany Beach with our family – including Uncle Ken and Aunt Linda which was so much fun. We also explored Mommy’s old vacation spot Frontier Town. We loved seeing you hang out with your cousins on the sand like Daddy used to do with his cousins. We followed that trip by our family vacation to Ocean City for a week which was much needed. Grandma and Grandpa gifted you a ticket to the Polar Express in Baltimore and it was a really unique experience. Your first train ride AND it was to the North Pole!

{Hannah} Another little change was I spent much of your 7th year pregnant with your baby sister, Hannah! It’s been a journey and you’ve been there the whole way. You’ve asked great questions and seem really excited to FINALLY be a big brother. Just a few more weeks before you can put your superior baby holding skills into action.

{The Extras} You still aren’t much of a team sports guy, but you still managed to stay busy with extra activities, even if they were cut short with Covid. You continued swimming lessons and even though you told us many times, and spent lots of time stressing about it – you did NOT want to get your face under the water. But when it came time to do it, you didn’t hesitate. You also really enjoyed your art class with your friend and hip hop dance class.

Bug, you are a light and a joy. We love you so much and are so proud of you. Happy 7th birthday!

Love always,

Momma xoxo

33 Weeks: Cauliflower Blossom

How far along? 33 Weeks

Size of baby: The heads of a cauliflower. Last week she was an armadillo!

Total weight gain/measurements: 2 lbs since February. Miss Hannah is in the 70th percentile for her size, which is apparently a good thing.

Sleep: I am having a hell of a time getting comfortable and end up on the couch most nights. I am eating Restless Leg pills like they are Skittles (pregnancy approved) and going through our COVID toilet paper stash pretty quickly.

Best moment this week: It’s been a few weeks since I last updated, but we have gotten her room mostly set up (not organized), but things are in place. I packed HER hospital bag and started mine (totally out of character). And today at my MFM appointment, I was able to see her in 3D! I just wish the boys were with me. She also doesn’t like when I rest anything on my stomach. Hands, phone … no pressure. She kicks like a crazy woman.

Miss anything? Swimming – which gave me such relief when I was in the home stretch with Mike. Same for my chiropractor and massage therapy. Also, being able to bend over. Now I just kick things I drop to the side and figure they will stay there for a few more weeks or become someone else’s problem.

Food cravings: Caramel, cheesecake, scrapple, sausage

Symptoms: My hips and lower back are screaming, full body fatigue, super emotional … I’m fun to be around right now. Plus I just feel huge.

I Hope You Remember

Dear Mike,

The last few weeks (and likely the upcoming weeks) have been a challenge. We’ve been inside the house a lot and focusing on staying healthy and not sharing germs. It’s been hard for you to understand why we can’t see family, go to the playground, or go swimming. It hasn’t been much fun most of the time, but there have been some good things I hope you remember during this time in quarantine.

{Sleeping in Mommy and Daddy’s bed} It used to be a rare treat, but lately it’s been a nightly thing. You get the best rest there and it gives Daddy and I time downstairs to watch something other than Spongebob. Plus, there are extra morning snuggles. I know it’s temporary, but it is working for us.

{Playing the Nintendo Switch} I never had a ‘gaming’ system growing up so when Daddy suggested it, I was really hesitant. But our vacation was canceled so we had the extra funds and we (finally) found one and it has been an AMAZING investment for us as a family and individually. We’ve started playing it in the afternoons when our day is done and I hope you remember how much fun laughing and being competitive. Then when it is just Daddy and me, we play old school Nintendo games.

{Seeing Daddy and me working} Every day was the same, you went to school and we went to work. Our jobs aren’t so simple to understand like a police officer or teacher. I hope you remember seeing us on the phone with coworkers and working on our computers. I hope you know our work is important and needed during this time.

{Snuggles} No one will argue that this time is hard on everyone, including little kids. You tend to need quiet time to process things and think about things and I’ve noticed you do that snuggling. I’ve kept a quarantine ‘journal’ on Facebook and each day mentions snuggles. Sometimes you just want to lay quietly under a blanket, some days with a book, and some days watching TV. I hope you remember how it made you feel. I hope it makes you feel safe, loved, and adored (because you are).

{Getting ready for Hannah} While we’ve been home, we’ve been getting ready for Hannah’s arrival! You’ve been helping in the room and picking out clothes and reminding us what we need to get (mostly toys). You’ve been a HUGE help and I hope you remember that.

I hope you remember what little things we sacrificed to do what was right for our community. It wasn’t always fun or easy, but we are continuing to do it.

So much love,

Momma xoxo

Dear Hannah: Your First Letter

Dear Sweet Hannah –

It’s your first letter and the start of our last few months ‘just you and me’. According to my app you are as big as a rollerblade. I am pretty sure you will have no idea what those are, so when you are old enough, ask Daddy. He was coordinated when he was younger and can show you pictures.

I must say, growing you has given me a run for my money. You are busy most of the night and a good part of the day. You are refusing to stretch out higher than my belly button so your Irish dancing is doing a number on my bladder. You really like to hear your brother’s voice and any music. Will you be a dancer like Mike? I hope so!

We’ve started putting your room together and gathering what we need for your arrival. It is so much fun shopping for pink and glitter. I figure until you can decide for yourself, you are going to be a walking sparkle. Will you have hair? I hope so, you’ve been given a lot of bows! I know your cousins will be thrilled.

It’s a strange time my sweet girl. Not at all how I expected our first few months just you and me to go. But we’ve made the most of it and I’ve gotten quite a bit of rest and time to think about you. It is certainly going to be something I hold over you for the rest of my long life. I never imagined after two years of thinking, praying, crying, and wanting you I would be giving birth during a pandemic!

Hannah, please stay in as long as you can and keep cookin’. And for the love of all things holy in this world … move OFF MY BLADDER.

With love,

Momma xo

Dear Mollie: Super Seven!

Mollie –

How strange is it I have all the time in the world right now, but have been dragging my feet to get you your letter. It is really a weird time we are experiencing and I haven’t been sure what to say. I just hope when you look back on when you turned seven you won’t remember what you lost out on but what you gained. A Zoom singalong! Presents delivered to your driveway! A family day! This will just be a second of your long life my dear.

Now. On to the fun stuff kiddo. You are still my silly, smiley girl who always has a story. You feel big things and love even bigger. I love to listen to you play with Mike – you always have a pretend story in your head and he more than happy to play along. And soon you will be the OLDEST cousin to a new youngest! She will need a strong girl to follow and I bet that will be you.

One of my favorite memories from this year was our family trip to the beach. One of the days you trusted me enough to hold on to a boogie board and float along the waves with me. I taught you want Grandpa taught ME when I was little. When a wave comes you jump, kick, kick, kick to stay afloat until it passes. We had so much fun not just then, but on the whole trip.

I love you Mols. Be brave.

Love,

Aunt Jay Jay xo

Pregnancy in the Time of COVID

Today I left my house for the first time in weeks. I drove with the windows down, radio up, and took the long way to my high-risk doctor appointment. Mike hasn’t been to school and S. and I haven’t been to the office in two weeks.

I had to go to my appointment alone this time. I had to call from the parking lot to let them know I was there. Then I had to go in to hand a receptionist, who was wearing a mask and gloves, my credit card. I have to admit, for the first time ever, I hesitated when she handed me a pen to sign the receipt.

I returned to my car, alone, to wait for yet another call. Once I was called back into the empty office I was rushed to an exam room. I saw one person who asked me all the normal questions. When I asked if I could Facetime my husband during the sonogram it was a quick and firm no – it is their policy and protocol. But nothing about what is going on now is normal ‘protocol’.

Then I saw pictures of our beautiful Hannah. Our 1.5lb beauty had a button nose, strong heart and very active (I didn’t need a doctor to tell me that). She has no idea what is going on. When I was this pregnant with Mike Sandy Hook happened and I cried. Now, I am too tired and overwhelmed to cry.

After printing pictures, I waited for 10 minutes for my doctor, who was at her house, to review my scans. During those 10 minutes, I texted with S. about whether I should stop at Staples to get a headset for my upcoming teleconference (no, I shouldn’t). Then the same nurse who did my sonogram returned to report back what the doctor said, ending with, ‘we will see you in 4 weeks, but don’t stop at the desk. Someone will call you to make an appointment so we can get you out of here as quickly as possible’.

I know this is going to be an amazing story for Hannah when she is older, and all babies who are born during this pandemic. But I can’t help but grieve for our family who is missing out on so much. So many pictures will be missing from her baby book – S. at doctor’s appointments, a 3D sonogram, grandparents feeling her kick, being celebrated at a baby shower with cute clothes, maternity pictures we’ve been planning for weeks … this is our last baby. We won’t have this time again and based on the pregnancy groups I belong to, I am not alone in this emotion. And creating new memories with us quarantined in the house is important and we are trying AND doing our part to flatten the curve so when July rolls around we will have a positive delivery experience.

22 Weeks: a Barbie

How far along? 22

Size of baby: A Barbie! This excites me to know end hoping Hannah is a Barbie lover.

Total weight gain/measurements: I have no clue. I am sure I’ve lost some since the gestational diabetes diagnosis

Sleep: Crazy dreams, pottying a lot …

Best moment this week: The guys feeling her move! I’ve been feeling her stretching and dancing around for a few weeks now. Mike felt her a few days ago and his eyes got big. Sam felt her last night and thought I was doing the movement on purpose. She’s a strong one!

Miss anything? Eating when I want without thinking. I realize this is not a good thing to be doing in the first place, but the planning is killing me.

Food cravings: Actually, nothing really. I am eating a lot of prosciutto.

Symptoms: Tired, sweaty, obviously more emotional.