Gah, I am in love with my maternity leave! Every morning, around 7:15, I am woken up by JR and Max very loudly demanding breakfast or that I hold them. They roll around in our bed, driving Matt insane (as he wants to keep sleeping). Many times, I am nursing Ellie so I lay in bed feeding her while Matt makes the boys oatmeal. Eventually, we make our way out of bed. We slowly get ready for the day. I wash my face, brush my teeth, put in contacts. There is no rush. We have no deadlines.
Eloise and I spend our mornings checking emails, listening to podcasts, drinking coffee, watching the boys play. Our afternoons are spent grocery shopping, taking short walks, running errands. And of course, lots and lots of nursing, burping, changing diapers, cleaning off spit up.
Some days are more stressful than others. Taking care of a newborn and two toddlers is not always easy. Max and JR are still learning the nuances of sharing. Maxwell still nurses at night (but he would love to nurse all day). But without having work on my plate and knowing that my workless days will come to an end, the toddler tantrums are easier to stomach. After all, I get to spend my days with my children. These little people I created with the person I love the most. These little people who love me so much. These little people who have so assignments or deadlines for me to accomplish anything.
And each afternoon, instead of fretting on whether I have had a productive morning full of billable hours, I get to start planning what home cooked meal I’ll be making my family that night. Gone are the days of planning a meal around the fact that I get home from work at 7:00 p.m. No recipe is off limits. If our pantry is missing an ingredient, I can go to the grocery store. If the recipe takes several hours, that’s ok. I can start cooking early.
The slow, mostly relaxing days bring me so much comfort.
Minnesotans express love with warm casseroles we call hot dishes. So this meal reminds me of family. It is full of hearty veggies and cheese that remind you of a dinner you ate sitting at your grandmother’s kitchen table with your siblings. Or a meal you’d share with friends in the church basement at a pot luck.
Typically hot dishes call for canned soups, which are full of salt and aren’t that healthy. But this hot dish subs the typical cream of mushroom condensed soup for Greek yogurt, eggs, and milk. Honestly, you can’t taste the difference but your waist line will. All over, this is a great hot dish.
When I am pregnant, I never get too worried about my weight gain. I don’t eat too terribly. I don’t eat as if I am eating for two. I work out 5 days a week. I try to stay active. Each time, I gained 45 pounds. Sure, this technically is more than what is recommended (35 lbs is the top) but I see no reason to lose sleep over the weight gain. I feel healthy.
Of course, now starts the hard part: losing the baby weight. For me, the first 15 lbs drops off right after the baby is born. Another 10 falls away shortly thereafter thanks to breastfeeding. But those last 20 lbs don’t leave without a fight. And honestly, after JR’s and Max’s births, I didn’t lose all 20 lbs before I got pregnant again. This time I am hoping it will be different. And not only because it is likely that we won’t have a fourth baby (never say never because who knows).
I’ve read that getting back into shape is 20% working out and 80% diet. No idea how accurate that is but it feels right. I have always been great about working out and relatively crappy about keeping a clean diet. It’s not that I don’t eat healthy. It is just that every day I also eat something arguably too sugary, processed, or salty. Right before I wrote this, I shoved three gummy worms and three pieces of chocolate into my mouth. Despite the fact that I ate healthy the rest of the day. I ruined my healthy day in less than three minutes. Clearly, I need to strengthen my willpower. So, what should I be eating instead of my children’s treats for going potty on the potty?
My new go-to lunch meal has been this avocado chicken salad. I’ve made this salad twice since Eloise was born, and she is only three weeks old. It is a heartier salad than most so I stay full longer. You can easily add more ingredients to the salad or keep it simple. The salad does call for bacon, which you can sub for turkey bacon, use just a strip or two, or get rid of all together, depending on how healthy you want to be.
So now starts my journey into losing the 20 lbs. Cross your fingers and toes for me. My sweet tooth will not be kind to me. I need all the help I can get.
It was Monday morning, and I woke up at 3:30 a.m. with a contraction. It was strong. I twisted around in bed and tried not to wake Matt up. One, two, three. I imagined myself walking up a hill. When the contraction felt at its height, I made it to the top of the hill. As the contraction waned, I walked down the hill. It took about 40 seconds. Ok, not a minute but certainly not nothing. I drifted off back to sleep. Ugh, it’s back. I grabbed my phone and pushed the side button. 3:36 a.m. glowed back at me. Seriously? Only five minutes had passed. Ok, walk up that hill. Then again at 4:48. And 5:00. By the time it was 6:30, I was exhausted and confused. My water hadn’t broken. I had never had any contractions until my water broke so what was this? I was already two days past my due date so chalking these contractions up to Braxton Hicks seemed patently wrong. But this couldn’t be it, could it? I texted our doula to give her an update and made my way to the bathroom. The side of pants were a little damp. Not enough to consider my water broke. Or was it? I immediately started questioning myself. I mean, three hours of contractions, which had now mostly dissipated, maybe this was my water breaking. No matter what, I decided that I should work from home today. If those contractions worked themselves back up again, there was no way I could drive home. I got ready for the day of working in the basement so I just tossed on a fresh pair of yoga pants and made my way downstairs. Arg, maybe I should call the birth center just to be safe. I dialed the midwife on call line and asked to be seen in the mid-morning. The contractions. The damp pants. Two days overdue. Probably a good idea to go in.
Matt woke up and immediately said, “we are having a baby today!”
“I don’t know. I feel ok now.” I said. I didn’t want him to be disappointed. Still, I wanted him to be right. I wanted to have the baby today.
We grabbed breakfast at Panera and then made our way to the birth center for our 9:45 appointment. From my initial call to the appointment, I had no more than two contractions. They were minor. Yes, they were not comfortable. But since they were spaced out, having 20-40 seconds of pain was more annoying than anything else. It’s just a cruel joke to have this pain when I am two days overdue and it’s false labor.
The appointment was brief. The midwife confirmed that my water had not broke and instead broke some rather disappointing news: it is very common for third babies to be “tricky.” Having labor start and stop is common. Don’t get discouraged. You are near the finish line. But your labor may start up and stop again so get prepared for this. I left crabby and discouraged.
Beyond telling work that I had some contractions, which was why I was working from home, for most of the day, I didn’t tell anyone until late afternoon. Mostly, I didn’t want to give our family false hope that the baby would be born soon. Like me, they too were getting anxious for Toastie Three to arrive. With the sting of three hours of wasted contractions hanging over me, I couldn’t stomach fielding questions and comments about the entire situation. So I told everyone I was at work and fine. Neither were true.
I noticed that if I stayed sitting, I had no contractions. But when I stood up, my stomach would twist a bit. “Maybe that’s the secret. You have to start moving around to get the baby to get out,” Matt said to me. Maybe he was right. I put on my workout clothes and pulled out my pregnancy workout guide to week 40, day two and fit in a workout. No contractions, but it was nice to a solid workout in. At least I accomplished something with my body today.
My work day ended, and we ate dinner together like we always do. The boys were well-behaved and earned TV time, which meant Matt and I could watch the new episode of Shark Tank with no interruptions. It is a 40 minute show, and I had three contractions while we watched it. Ok, so these contractions are coming back. But is this another start stop false labor marathon? We started the bedtime routine and the contractions continued. Just like in the early morning, each contraction was 20-40 seconds long, coming every 5-10 minutes. They were strong enough to make me stop doing whatever I was doing and focus on walking up the hill. “Relax, your body knows what it is doing. This pain isn’t because something is wrong. It is a good sensation” I would tell myself as I walked up the hill.
I couldn’t help Matt get the boys to brush their teeth and into pajamas. Instead I paced from the living room to the dining room and back. Once they were ready for bed, I grabbed Max and took him to his crib. As I nursed him, a contraction came. I held him tight and waited for it to subside. My water still had not broken. This had to be this false start stop labor that the midwife had talked about, and I am not a fan. I laid Max down to bed, went to JR’s room to tell him “The Little Boy Story,” and then headed out to the TV room to relax. The contractions had started to die down again. I was frustrated and needed to unwind. I tossed on a mindless TV show.
It was 9:27, and I had only watched about 15 minutes of the show when I felt a gush of water. Holy hell, my water broke. For real. I immediately texted Matt, who was still in JR’s room waiting for him to fall completely asleep, “Water broke.” “Just like Max” he wrote back.
I texted our nanny and asked her to come right away. Then our doula. Just then, my mom sent a text saying, “Any stirrings?” Funny she should ask. Normally, I wouldn’t have told her until we were on our way to the birth center or if the baby was born. But her timing was impeccable. “My water just broke. I need to get stuff figured out. Talk later” I wrote back.
Matt came into the TV room and started to get bags packed for the drive over to the birth center. I paced back and forth, waiting for the midwife on call at the birth center to confirm that we could come in. It took 7 minutes for her to confirm that we could come in right away.
At 10:00 p.m., our nanny Zee showed up. Matt had already tossed all our bags into the car. I had barely left the TV room where my water had broke. I was too nervous. As I made my way to the kitchen to leave the house, I got a contraction. It was strong enough that I stopped moving and talking until it passed. We said goodbye to our boys and headed to the birth center.
The drive was quiet. With my boys, the drive was stressful. But now, I wasn’t freaking out that I was going to have a baby in the car (Max) or that the contractions were too strong and I was confined to a seat (JR). I felt fine. Almost foolish that we were leaving so early to get to the birth center. I had 4 contractions during the 20 minute drive but there weren’t that strong. I just squeezed Matt’s hand as he drove down the highway.
We pulled into the parking lot and to a dark building. We were the first ones to arrive. I texted the midwife, who said she was 5 minutes away. I started to get anxious. The birth center is in a neighborhood, and the neighbors had their lights on. I could see them staring at me from the window as I paced. I felt like I was on display, and it irked me. I had one contraction as we waited. It was stronger. More present. I leaned against the car, upset that we had beat everyone and that these random guys got to witness me labor from their window.
Finally, the midwife arrived and by 10:20, we were walking into the building. I had never been fully present when I walked into the birth center in labor before. With JR and Max, I was so focused on the labor itself that I truly have no memory of walking in. But this time, everything was so clear. Watching Matt hurry to bring in our bags. The tub starting to fill. The bed nicely made with clean, white sheets. I leaned up against the counter and stared at the clock right in front of me. It glowed 10:25. I pushed my shoes off and a contraction started to come. MOTHER OF GOD THIS IS TOO MUCH. Matt was on my left, petting my back while he unwound the scarf so he could rebozo my belly. He wrapped the scarf around my lower belly and began to rock it back and forth. Nope, it didn’t help. OMG TWISTING AND TIGHTNESS. The contraction wrapped around my lower belly. Firmly grabbing hold of stomach and twisting and turning it. The pain was unbearable. I told Matt to stop trying to rebozo. No use for him to waste his energy. It wasn’t doing anything. He tossed the scarf aside and told me that he was proud of me. That I was going a great job. I tried to get off my socks. To bend over was excruciating. I barely managed to toss them both off. I couldn’t imagine myself moving from this counter. But I wanted to get into that tub. I could hear the water running, and the midwife said it needed at least another 10 minutes. A second contraction came as the midwife rushed to pull out heating pads and pads to soak up blood. She placed a cuff around my arm so she could take my blood pressure. I twisted and curled as the contraction continued. Nope. There is no way I can survive another contraction like that. This baby is coming out now. I started to push as the contraction waned. A wave of relief washed over me. Pushing felt so good. As if I could control the rising pressure I felt.
I told the midwife to help me take off my pants and take me to the bed. Matt and the midwife complied, and I shuffled to the bed as fast as I could. The contraction was over, but another one would be coming. I did not want to be on the move when that happened. Plus, the pressure in my butt kept rising. I had to get on the bed so I could push this baby out. There was no way I was going to wait another 10 minutes so I could deliver in the tub.
Once on the bed, I felt misplaced. With Max’s birth, the midwife ran the show. She gave me a birthing ball and calmly coached me how to give birth on the bed. But now, the midwife was scrambling. She was still placing pads on the bed, getting things ready. We’d only been in the birth center for 5 minutes at this point, and she still had quite a bit to get out.
“I need a birthing ball,” I said. The midwife handled me a large, silver ball. It was too big.
“Does this work?” She asked.
“No, smaller.” I managed to get out. The pressure was building. I was in between contractions but I knew one would be coming soon. She ran out of the room and came back with a smaller ball. I placed my forearms on the ball. Not perfect but it would do.
“I need a hot towel.” I said. I knew I was being demanding but I didn’t care. For Max’s birth, I had the birthing ball and the hot towel that the midwife pressed against my crotch for perineal support. Those two tools were the things I needed for a birth on a bed.
The midwife grabbed a warm towel and found a place behind me. Matt was at my head with his hand on my shoulder. He rubbed my shoulder, whispering that I was doing a good job and he was so proud of me.
A contraction came, and I pushed. It felt so good to push. As the contraction waned, I continued to push. “If you push a little longer, it’ll be worth it” I told myself. I let out a sigh as a pushed longer and felt a wave of pressure release from me. My baby was out.
The next thing I knew, I was moving myself from my knees to my butt, craning my neck to see if I had a girl or a boy. I swear I could see a vagina, but I didn’t want to be wrong. The midwife eased me to a seated position and handed the baby to me. I took a second look.
“Oh my God, it’s a girl!” I cried.
I kissed my baby girl, still in disbelief. Matt came beside me to get a closer look at our baby girl. She was perfect. 10 fingers. 10 toes. A full head of hair. Everything we had prayed for. I pulled out a boob to feed her and she immediately latched. As we nursed, the midwife tended to my lower parts. She gave me a shot of Pitocin to help bring the uterus down. Then a second dose. I was still bleeding a lot. More than usual. I needed more medicine. Unfortunately, that meant that the midwife shoving four pills up my butt. That was not great. It wasn’t even the application of the pills that was the worst. It the fact that those four pills do not dissolve immediately. Instead, it feels like you have a finger up your butt for about a half hour. It’s not great.
Still, I was losing blood so there was no room to complain. I felt so cold. Colder than I ever felt. As if I was completely naked in ice cube. My bones felt like ice. An entire liter of blood left my body, and it felt as if the blood was replaced with ice water.
I swear, my toddlers either eat everything in sight or they live on air. There is no middle ground. So on the days they eat, I try to load them up with as many vegetables as I can. We’ve been lucky. The boys generally like vegetables. Broccoli is one of their favorite foods. They usually like trying new foods and don’t have fits about texture or taste. Still, we have our days. The boys only want to eat donuts and cereal (they are their mother’s sons). No matter what healthy food we offer, they claim they aren’t hungry. Sometimes we need to be a bit more clever with getting vegetables in the boys’ diet.
Earlier this week was one of those days. Since we have a new baby, people have been stopping by to spend time with Eloise. Along with the people come treats: donuts, cookies, birthday cake and pie. Thanks to the sugar snacks, the boys started to refuse to eat dinner. If the food wasn’t 90% sugar, the boys weren’t interested.
Typically, if the boys refuse to eat dinner, I don’t care. If they are hungry, they will eat what we prepared. We don’t offer alternative meals. Either they eat what is on the plate or they don’t eat at all. I never clear their plates from the dinner table until both boys are sleep in bed so it is easy to direct the boys back to the table if they ask for food.
But this time, the reason the boys weren’t eating wasn’t because they weren’t hungry. They were full of sugar and no nutritional food. I was determined to get something healthy in them.
I recalled seeing a post on Instagram that would be perfect solution. If we put down a bowl of applesauce in front of them, there’s a good chance they’ll ask for seconds. So I used that to my advantage. I tossed a handful of spinach in the applesauce and blended until it was smooth(ish). The plain applesauce immediately was way more fun. It was green. It was a little more chunky (because I didn’t pull out the nice food processor). It was something new and different. The boys devoured the applesauce and got a full serving of spinach. An easy way to get more veggies in their diets without any fight.
So much preparing for a baby focuses on the baby. Diapers, wipes, swings, baby clothes, bottles, baby blankets, strollers, car seats. There are so many list dedicated to the “must haves” when you are having a baby (I am not immune from this: I wrote one back in 2016). But preparing yourself for post-delivery seems to get forgotten. Sure, you literally grow a baby in your belly for 9 months, go through intense labor, and push that baby through your vagina or get a serious surgery to remove that baby (not to mention that after all of that, you then feed the baby you just made). Your body does all of that. Yet, we put all the focus on the baby.
So much so that when I got pregnant, I knew basically nothing about post-partum care for myself. You guys, I didn’t even realize that you had to birth the placenta after you birth the baby! Sure, now it seems so obvious. But when my natural birthing class brought it up, my eyes widened, I sat straight up, and was speechless. Then I learned that I would become very familiar with a peri bottle and that tearing was very common. I quickly realized how clueless I really was and got upset about how much of my future care was a completely mystery to me. Seriously, I knew next to nothing. When I came home from the birth center with JR, the first thing I did was ask my mom to go to the store to buy me Depends. Because I didn’t realize that I’d be bleeding for weeks after giving birth. No one had really talked about the raw details with me. I took a birth class. I saw a midwife my entire pregnancy. But the post-partum care of me was just never really a focal point of the conversation.
After I gave birth to JR, I made a list of “must have” things for mom. I shared the list with pregnant friends. Bought them items off the list. Spilled the gory details of what happens to your body after you push a baby out of it. Because why tiptoe around this part of motherhood? Your body just accomplished something unbelievably remarkable. It needs some extra attention. And that’s ok. There is no reason why we should hide this part of motherhood.
Now with baby number three on the way, I feel incredibly more prepared than I ever have been to take care of my healing self. So here’s my list. After having JR and Max, these are the items that made such a difference in my post-partum care.
After having a baby, you are going to be taking A LOT of baths. A lot. At least once a day to soothe your swollen self. My husband was great about making sure I got at least one, if not two, baths a day and wanted to make sure I was as comfortable as possible so he got me a bath pillow. Having a bath pillow was wonderful. I have never been a bath person so I wasn’t really into the idea of sitting in a bath each day. The pillow allowed me to relax and spend more time in soaking than I otherwise would have, which helped speed along my recovery. I have the Airia Luxury Quick Dry Bath Pillow. I took off the cover so its just mesh. This way the pillow dries faster, as the soft cover is akin to a towel that holds moisture.
2. Extra Soft Bath Towels
There’s no way to sugar coat this: when you first start nursing, your nipples are raw. I will never forget the first time I got out of the shower after having JR and wrapping my towel around my body. Holy hell, my nipples were pissed. The towel was far too rough for my super sensitive nipples. After that eye-opening experience, I got myself the softest towel I could get my nipples on 😉 It was a game changer. I no longer cringed when I got out of the bath to towel off. Do yourself a favor and pick up the softest, nicest towel you can find.
After pushing a baby out of your vagina, it is swollen. You may have teared and have stitches. Witch hazel can provide some relief down there to smooth your sore muscles. These Tucks pads are incredibly thin pads soaked in witch hazel that help alleviate your swollen self. The fact that the pads are so thin made them less irritating since they really didn’t move once you placed them on. Something to note, the witch hazel has a cooling sensation that either makes you feel better or bothers you, depending on where your stitches are. On certain days, I couldn’t handle Tucks. Other days, they were a life saver. Which is a great metaphor for motherhood. Sometimes what you do works, and sometimes it doesn’t. And Lord knows I haven’t cracked the secret of why. It just is the way it works.
Another surprise for me was that you should not use toilet paper after peeing for a couple weeks after giving birth. Of course, after I had JR, I got it. No way would I let toilet paper near me. The birth center gave me a pedi bottle to use after I peed, but I wanted just a little bit more to feel extra clean. So after using the pedi bottle, I sprayed this Sitz Bath Spray from Motherlove. It has witch hazel in it, which helps soothe and heal your sore perineal muscles. Since the spray is just a light mist, the cooling sensation is considerably less than the Tucks pads. For me, the spray made me feeling like I was “extra clean” verse providing me relief from soreness. Plus, on days when the Tucks pads were too much, I was still providing relief to taper the swollenness.
5. Stool Softener
I am not sure about anyone else, but I swear to God, JR came out of my butt. The pain and pressure associated with pushing him out was so intense that the only sensation I could relate it to was pushing a bowling ball out your butt. So the last thing you want to do is push anything else out “down there.” With this in mind, most birth centers and hospitals recommend that new moms take a stool softener to help with your first double potty (ok, poop. There, I said it. Ugh, I hate that word). Because, you know, softer potty, less pushing. And after pushing a bowling ball out of your butt, I think that buys you a free pass from pushing anything else out for a looong time.
You got to experience 9 months period free. It was lovely and glorious. To make up for that, you now will bleed for several weeks. Maybe just a couple days. Everyone is different. When my babies and I came home from the birth center, we were both wearing a diaper. And I decided to roll with it. Instead of wearing my underwear and pairing it with a bulky pad, I wore Depends. Honestly, I cannot recommend Depends over pads enough. Pads are huge, awkward, and move around as you move. Depends are disposable underwear that don’t have moveable parts so when you move, you don’t have a wad of cotton jabbing your already sore vagina. Depends are so easy to change, and I didn’t have to worry about leaking and ruining a pair of underwear. Plus, then you and the baby get to match since you’re both in diapers #mommyandme 😉
If you plan to nurse, nipple cream is your friend. No matter how much positive thinking and vibes you put out in the world, the first week or so of breastfeeding is generally uncomfortable. Your nipples are not use to a baby sucking on them 12 plus hours a day. Some babies aren’t pros at latching right off the bat. If you are like me, your nipples will chap and bleed until your body gets accustomed to breastfeeding (which will happen! Within a week or so, you will not grit your teeth as your baby latches!). You will play through the pain, but you’ll make it to the other side so much more gracefully if you use nipple cream after you nurse. I lathered it on like chap stick between nursing, applying it no less than 10 plus times a day. Within a week or so, my nipples had adjusted, and the cream no longer had a prominent role in our nursing routine. But without it, nursing my babies the first week would have been so much harder.
Particularly for first time moms, it can take awhile for your milk supply to match your baby’s demand. While your body is learning to regulate how much milk it truly needs to make, you may make a bit too much milk and leak. Or after your body has the supply/demand down, anytime you hear a baby cry, your boobs may leak milk on cue, even if it isn’t your baby. Or if you are me, you leak milk when you get embarrassed or scared. Placing washable nursing pads in your bra helps mitigate milk soaking through your shirt. They do make disposable nursing pads, but I found them to be itchy. Washable ones were far more comfortable, as long as you arrange them right, and since we are doing almost a load of laundry every other day anyway, tossing nursing pads into the wash wasn’t a big deal for me. I got the Bamboobies Overnight ones, which are extra thick, for every day use. They have thinner ones as well, but I found the thick ones were more comfortable, and I worried less about leaking throughout the day.
Yes, more boobie stuff. I was very lucky when it came to breastfeeding. My mother had instilled in me from early on that my body just made a baby–of course it could make enough milk. Her constant reminders to me that making milk was the “easy” part became my mantra–I can do this. Having that mindset made me more relaxed about nursing because I unabashedly decided that no matter what, my body would make enough milk so no need to worry about that. Still, I didn’t go into nursing without setting myself up for success. I drank Mother’s Milk Tea religiously. Every morning, my husband would make me a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of Mother’s Milk Tea. By early afternoon, I’d usually be on my third cup of tea. If I ever got worried that maybe my milk supply was down, I’d gulp down some tea. I can’t honestly say if this tea truly affected my milk supply, but it surely affected my mental confidence that my body was properly fueled to make enough milk. That is good enough for me.
Also, I totally get that making milk is not easy for everyone. It can be a huge challenge and struggle for many. I was lucky to not have that struggle. Instead, my struggle is that my babies don’t sleep 😐
I lived in nursing bras for the first year of JR’s and Maxie’s lives. My entire wardrobe focused on whether I could “get a boob out,” which trickled down to my bra. When you are nursing an infant, you’ll be pulling your boob out every couple of hours, if not more. Wearing a traditional bra can be clumsy, and yanking the cup down time and time again could stretch out the bra. A nursing bra just streamlines the process of getting your boob free without ruining the bra. There are tons of beautiful and fancy nursing bras on the market. If that is your jam, get them. I grabbed a handful from Target that came in a pack of two, and they work just fine and are a good price point for me at $10.00 a bra. I’m on baby number three and still plan to use the same nursing bras since baby number one. I’d say I got my money’s worth on these bras.
Depending on the size of your boobs and/or your comfort, nursing camis in lieu of nursing bras are great. You could wear them together but I wear either the cami or the bra. Nursing camis have a little clip on each side of the top of the cami that pops down so you can easily free your boob and feed your baby. Similar to nursing bras, there are so many varieties and styles of nursing camis. I’ve only worn nursing camis from Target, and they have lasted me through two babies and are still in great shape for baby number three.
And that is how I survived my own post-partum care the first two times around. We’ll see if my body falls in line with baby number three or if some new items will be game changers. If you have any post-partum tips or tricks, please send them my way!
I am a working mother. It is something that I am deeply proud of. But it is also something that is deeply painful. Every weekday morning, I wake up earlier than I’d like so I have enough time to put my makeup on, curl my hair, and get dressed–all while making the boys breakfast, convincing the boys to use the potty, and breaking up fights on who gets to sit on the side of the sink that’s closer to mom. Most days, I am not as put together as I’d like. But that doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is that I leave behind two boys screaming for me to stay with them for just a couple more minutes. To hold them forever. It breaks my heart.
The boys spend their weekdays with our nanny. A wonderful woman who gets to shape and mold my boys. She gets to take them to story times. To the zoo. Museums. The three of them get to have inside jokes that I will never understand. There are entire story lines that I am not a part of. It creates a feeling of emptiness that is unquantifiable.
But I love working. I love being a lawyer. When I was in elementary school, I made the decision that I would be a lawyer someday. Actually, I wanted to be the first female United States President. The fact that a woman has never been elected as president has bothered me since as early as I can remember. So I figured, why not be the person to change it? And modern day presidents go to law school (present president excluded) so that’s what I did.
I get to spend my day working as a lawyer challenging myself–working through litigation strategy, finding pragmatic solutions, and providing advice to those who rely on my expertise. Sure, my days of dreaming for the presidency is behind me, but I still find myself in a male-dominated field where my gender has played a defining role in my career in ways my male colleagues will never understand. So I still get to work on defying gender stereotypes in a small way. And as a mother of two boys, it makes it easier to leave them every day knowing that my work may make a small difference in the future of how women are seen in the workforce, at least in their eyes. Certainly, someday in the future, if a female says she works at a law firm to one of my sons, the first question out of my boy’s mouth won’t be, “oh, are you a paralegal/secretary?”
In a similar vein, I want my boys to have life skills that traditionally wouldn’t be pressed upon little boys. My boys will know how to cook.
I’m not a great cook. I’m not even a good cook. But that really doesn’t matter. Teaching the boys to cook while I learn to cook means we get to spend quality time together. It is our thing. On Saturday or Sunday afternoons, I’ll look up a various recipe for us to experiment with. We’ll go to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients. JR will want to buy everything in the store. Max will want all the food to be touching him in the cart. We’ll head home and unpack the groceries. The boys will eat the entire carton of berries before they make it to the fridge. Then, the boys will pull up a stool to the counter, and we’ll start to cook.
Since the boys are still young, I cut and measure. They pour and stir.
Through our cooking adventures, the boys have s l o w l y learned to be better listeners. That we cannot rush through steps. That even though we want to toss in an extra cup of sugar, we probably shouldn’t. That they can make a meal for their loved ones, not in spite of the fact that they are boys, but because they love to cook.
I may not be there during the weekday to take the boys to story time. But I will be the person who will teach JR and Maxie how to make sugar cookies, pasta sauce, dice veggies, and delegate the duty of making rice to someone else (because I refuse to make rice). And hopefully, I’ll play a small part in teaching the boys that there is no such thing as a boy job or a girl job. There are just jobs. A mom can be a lawyer, and a dad can be in charge of cooking. And both are ok.
You guys, I am 7 months pregnant with my third baby. How are we already only two(ish) months away from becoming a family of five?!?! We are anything but prepared. Our house only has two bedrooms so we haven’t had to put together a nursery since JR was born. Poor Maxie never got his own room (his crib is in our room, and JR and Max share a closet and dresser). So while we don’t have to worry about designing a nursery, it also means we have no where to put the baby’s clothes or diapers or really anything. Hence why we still need to prepare for Toastie Three’s arrival.
But the lack of preparation has no correlation to my level of anticipation for the baby’s arrival. I am really looking forward to having an infant again. Sure, there is less sleep, and I can only imagine that having three babies v. two babies will have it’s own challenges. But my maternity leaves have always been so much fun.
I have heard multiple mothers say they found maternity leave to be isolating and lonely. Typically, her husband has no more than a week or two of time off after the baby is born. Once the father goes back to work, it is just the mom and the baby alone for a huge chunk of the day. Sometimes the mom has no time to grab a shower or a solid meal since there is no one to help watch the baby and so many babies won’t sleep unless they are being held. I am lucky to have had quite the opposite experience. Since Matt works at home, we spend so much time together as a family. We eat every meal together. Our day starts with Matt making us pancakes for breakfast (because who wants to lose baby weight). While Matt will head to the basement or workshop after breakfast, he joins us for lunch and frequently stops up to say hi throughout the day. I’ve never gone a day without showering, brushing my teeth, or putting on make-up because Matt is happy to take a break throughout the day to help out when needed. And by 6:00 p.m., we are all sitting down together for dinner. Both maternity leaves were so rejuvenating, and I am really looking forward to soaking up the extra family time while we adjust to a family of five.
Still, knowing we will soon have three kids sounds more than just a little overwhelming. And while I know I have Matt to help throughout the day, he does have to work and we have to respect working hours. Ideally, I want to be able to cook dinner and watch the three kids while Matt works. So I’ve been trying to find easy recipes that do not require too many steps. Finding meals that can be made in one pot is even better. Less dishes sounds lovely (for Matt–he is the dish washer in the family).
This soup will likely make a reappearance once the baby arrives. Beyond chopping up vegetables, it consists of just dumping everything into one pot and letting it cook. Also, I love love love cooked cabbage, and the boys always finish their bowls whenever I make it. So it’s a win win.
Every Saturday morning, JR jumps into our bed and says, “How big is the baby?” (Ok, he’s usually already in our bed since he has a new habit of sneaking into our bed in the middle of the night and laying at the end by Pancake so we don’t feel him in the bed right away and move him back). After surcoming to the reality that I won’t be getting any more sleep, I pull up the two baby apps on my phone, and JR gets excited to see how the baby is now the size of some various fruit or vegetable. He looks at the picture of the food, scrolls to see the baby in 3D, and talks about how the baby eats with the placenta.
Then one day I was at the grocery store, and I saw a pomegranate. I was 17 weeks pregnant, and since we spent our morning gushing over the baby app, I remembered that the baby was the size of a pomegranate. So I tossed it in my cart and brought it home to show the boys so they’d have a better idea of how big the baby currently was. The boys carried it around for a while. And then we ate it.
From then on, we started incorporating the “what size is the baby” food into our meal rotation. We’ve had mangos, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit, pomegranates, and bananas.
And at 28 weeks, the baby was the size of an eggplant. So we decided to eat an eggplant.
I had made eggplant parmesan many times. Each time, I find a new recipe. Each time, the meal is ok. Until this time. This time I finally found the perfect eggplant recipe! Instead of using breadcrumbs or Panko, I used Corn Flakes. This was a game changer. Each eggplant slice was just crispy enough. And since we had a block of leftover Parmesan cheese from Christmas, I shredded it instead of using pre-shredded cheese from a bag. This was a good idea. The cheese didn’t weigh down the eggplant or make it too soggy. Instead it added a dash of salty, sweet element that mixed well with the dollop of sauce.
The meal was a success. JR ate everything on his plate plus some. Matt and Max were into it. Now next time I make eggplant parmesan, it won’t start by me googing a new recipe. I’ll make this one.
You guys, picking a boy name is hard. Just as we did with our first two, we don’t know if Toastie Three is a boy or a girl. So we need to be prepared if we are having a third boy (no need to brainstorm a girl name–we’ve had that one in the chamber since pregnancy number one).
Naming JR and Max was easy. Matt had always wanted a junior. I wasn’t a huge fan of my husband and son sharing a name, but it was so important to Matt that it was impossible to say no. We compromised that we would call him JR (for Junior), and the issue of naming our first born was as simple as that.
With naming Max, I was reading JR the storybook Where the Wild Things Are. The little boy in the book is named Max, and it fit. There was no back and forth on whether there was a “better” name out there. Max was it.
And now we need to find our third perfect boy name. I think we have it. But that is just it. There was no uncertainty with JR’s or Maxie’s name. So maybe we haven’t found it just quite yet.
But the one thing Matt doesn’t wavering on is his favorite, last-minute meal. Whenever Matt and I have no clue on what to make, Matt suggests this Korean beef meal. It is unbelievably simple but fancier than just tossing together spaghetti (another go-to at our place when we are out of meal ideas).
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. It’ll be our seventh Thanksgiving in our house. The house Matt bought when he was 23, right before we got married. I remember when we moved in, the plan was that we’d live in the house for five years and then find our forever home. Or at least a house that was nicer.
As I sit here, pregnant with our third child, preparing to host our seventh Thanksgiving, we are no closer to moving than we were when we first moved in. There are no prospective houses on the market, and there hasn’t been a truly viable house for us since we started seriously looking over year and a half ago. But the fact remains: our house is too small. We need a new home. Max doesn’t have a room so his crib has always been squeezed into our bedroom. This third baby won’t have a room or even its own crib. It’ll share a bedroom with its brother, mom, and dad, until we figure out a way for Max and JR to share a bed so that the baby can have Max’s crib. We have only a quarter of an acre of land that currently houses a monstrous sawmill. Possibly the largest, handmade sawmill ever to be built to date. And it is sitting in our driveway. The amount of wood and slabs on our land is enviable to any woodworker. The basement is cluttered with piles of drying wood that the boys are now masters of maneuvering around. Our house is more than a little crammed.
But there is a coziness to a small home. No matter where you are in the house, you can hear children laughing (or crying because toddlers). I can easily cook dinner in the kitchen while actively watching the boys play in the tv room. On weekends, Matt and I cuddle in bed while the boys bounce around the house and we can always hear where they are. And when there’s an argument, you can only avoid the person for so long. There just isn’t enough space to hide out. So much has happened in our small, little home that could not be duplicated in this huge, Victorian dream home I am looking for.
The sense of home is such a strong, innate feeling. And while there are aspects of our home that I am honestly ashamed of, it’s our home. And that is enough. It is enough.
Certain meals evoke that same sense of home. If you live in Minnesota, tater tot hot dish is likely that meal. This is the authentic, Minnesota meal. When it is cold outside and you need comfort food, you eat tater tot hot dish. It’s the meal you bring to neighbors and friends when a loved one has passed or a new baby has arrived. It’s the meal grandmothers make for the big family get togethers. It’s the meal you make when it’s been a long week and you just want something that is easy and tastes so gosh darn good. It is not entirely healthy. It’s certainly not pretty looking. But it is reliable. It’s safe. It’s so so delicious. It’s the quintessential Minnesota meal that reminds you of the safety of home.