Monday, May 25, 2009

Six Months

Dear Stella--

Today you are six months old--we can hardly believe it! Six months ago, we welcomed you into this world, and you were a completely different little creature, so tiny and defenseless. In half a year's time, you've gone from 8 pounds 13 ounces to 18 pounds 6 ounces. You've grown almost 8 inches longer.

Stella six months ago, coming home from the hospital

Stella now--what a difference!

Now you're bouncing and rolling and teething and laughing and becoming such a little person. We love seeing your personality emerge and can't wait until you can crawl and talk and walk.

Sure, some days are a little more like this:

But plenty of other days are more like this:

You've brought so much laughter and fun and joy into our lives. We love you and can't wait to see all the changes the next six months will bring!

Love, Mom

The Stella Rose of Texas....

Part of my birthday present to myself this year was to take a family trip to Texas so Stella could see her grandparents and meet some of her great-grandparents before too much time had passed. Both of my parents were able to come and visit shortly aftrer her birth, but with the speed things change at this age (see post below), waiting almost a year seemed too long.

Plus we were curious to see how Stella would travel. Frankly, I wasn't particularly optimistic. As many of you know, Stella's quite the kinesthetic girl, moving, jumping, looking around, not the type to just sit back and relax for a 3+ hour flight. But I figured we could handle anything for only a few hours (and withstand the ugly looks from our fellow passengers) if need be.

Surprise, surprise, Stella flew like a natural! The first flight went great, but we also had good conditions--early flight during a typical napping time and an available seat to put her car seat into. We arrived at DFW, all in good spirits--what a relief!

Stella, preparing for takeoff!

Or...maybe for a nap. We weren't complaining!

Arriving at DFW to see Grandpa Bob. Thank goodness the big stranger anxiety phase passed before our trip!

We spent the first few days with my dad and stepmom. Stella got lots of fun playtime, talking a walk to meet the neighbors, going out for delicious Tex-Mex (and grabbing a handful of my guacamole!), and meeting my dad's parents--her great-grandparents--and a great-uncle for the first time.

Practicing standing with Grandma Dixie

Floor time with Grandpa

Dinner with Great-Grandparents Stachowiak and some of the Stachowiak men: Grandpa, Great-Grandpa, and Great-Uncle David

Hi, Great-Grandpa!

Playing with Great-Grandma Jean

Next it was on to my mom and stepdad's house for a few days--more play time, some pool time and even a trip to a museum.

Playing with the bunny

Stella and Grandpapa

Playing in the hippo pool in the warm Texas spring!

Stella's first museum, the Amon Carter in Forth Worth. She liked to make noises in the cavernous spaces and her the sound of her own voice echoing about

With Mom and Nana at the Museum

I think she had a good time overall!

All too soon, it was back to the airport to fly back home. We thought that trip had all the hallmarks of a fussy baby--evening flight, having to be a "babe in arms" for the whole flight--but, again, she did fantastically. As a bonus, we had a clear evening and seats on the right side of the plane to get gorgeous views of the mountains on the way into SeaTac.

Home, sweet home--I just wish family was a little closer....

Stella's a lucky girl to have so much family that loves her so much! Now we just need to get her to the Midwest to meet her other great-grandma and many great-aunts, great-uncles, and second counsins. And since she seems to have possibly inherited some of our love of travel, hopefully that can be sooner rather than later!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

My First Mother's Day, mostly in pictures

This was definitely the Mother's Day where I really appreciated the mothers in my life most fully. I now know how much work a baby really is, how much you love your little ones, even when they're hard and difficult, and how much joy there is in motherhood, to help balance out the sleep deprivation, tiny pinching fingers and poopy diapers.

I swear, she's learned that we like it when she smiles to the camera...

To help us celebrate, Tyler organized a lovely day:

Mother's Day Brunch with Tyler and Stella and surprise flowers

Delicious Turkish breakfast for Mother's Day

You can see that we didn't like it at all.....

And Stella did her part, sleeping until 2:15 and then waking up at 5:15. Much better than the four times a night feedings she's been demanding the past few nights. We think it's the infamous six-month growth spurt.

After the breakfast, we relaxed, then took a walk along Lake Washington, with some beautiful views of the lake and the Cascades. Though we brought the camera, we failed to actually take any pictures. But it was lovely, you'll just have to take my word for it.

After our walk, Stella spit up and ended up naked having some tummy time with mom on the floor

I love these little moments when she looks into my face

My little naked sweetpea

Besides Mother's Day and growth spurt, Stella's had a few other developments lately:

Stella's starting to be able to sit on her own, but it's still nice to practice on the bed where it doesn't matter so much if she tips over

She's getting so long!

Happy tummy time! And now she can turn from her belly to her back, though she doesn't seem to like to use that skill as much as the reverse

Now the next big question is how Stella will do on the plane ride to Texas this week....

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Thoughts on Breastfeeding

During our hike last week, one of my fellow hikers commented that sometimes while feeding her son, she realizes that he'll never remember this and she'll *always* remember it. I've been meaning for awhile to put together some thoughts about breastfeeding Stella, and that quote--as well as the fact that Stella's quickly approaching her six-month mark and the opportunity to start solid foods--got me thinking.

Hungry girl

Now I'll say right off this post is really just a way for me to think about my feelings and experiences. I'm not writing this to espouse a particular view or comment on anyone else's choices. Breastfeeding is frought with emotion--I've known people who desperately wanted to breastfeed and couldn't, and those who may have chosen not to and can have a hard time not feeling defensive about it, especially in a place like Seattle. Most people seem to have opinions about it--whether to do it, how long, bottle vs breast, when a child's too old, where it's appropriate. So hopefully this post can be taken in the spirit intended.

While I was pregnant, particularly in the last month or so, I had lots of people talk to me about their babies or experiences, and I started hearing an alarmingly common refrain that "breastfeeding was harder than I expected." Now I would probe a lot more to understand what that really meant, but at the time it made the whole thing seem a bit more daunting.

I probably assumed they meant it was painful (chapped nipples) or difficult(hard to get a good latch). For our part, I was lucky from the start. Stella ate well and heartily from the beginning, I've had no milk supply issues to date, and I never even got sore or chapped from the feeding process.

Ater having Stella, the challenges of breastfeeding were a common refrain among new moms I was around. And there have been challenges that I didn't necessarily anticipate.

It really ties you to the baby in a way that's hard to comprehend until you're in the middle of it. Until I started pumping more consistently and she got used to the bottle, we couldn't be apart for any length of time. Even now, contemplating a night out means finding a sitter AND making sure we have enough milk saved up to use for that and to have for my work days away from home.

Before starting work, I worried a lot about being able to continue with exclusive breastfeeding--would I have enough milk? Would I be able to pump effectively at work? Would it all work out? So far, I've found a good routine, pumping once in the morning and once in the afternoon, which is providing enough milk for the next day and a little extra. I'm really fortunate to work in a supportive work environment. But it is one more thing to have to fit into a busy day at the office, timing meetings to not miss the right window of opportunity.

Probably the biggest challenge since bringing her home had to do with gas. From weeks 3-6 or so, Stella suddenly got really fussy, crying, arching her back and seeming physically uncomfortable. Eventually, we put two and two together and realized it was all from gas. Through process of elimination, we were able to figure out the worst offenders--cow's milk, coffee, wine, beans, most cruciferous veggies. But before we figured it out, she'd get hungry, nurse a bit, then pull off screaming. It wasn't fun for either of us, and really demoralizing when I was supposed to be doing this beautiful, natural thing that seemed to just be causing her pain. Fortunately, Stella's doctor was a great support and helped me by saying that although it seemed painful and bad , as long as Stella kept gaining weight, she was getting the nutrition she needed. So we forged ahead and despite the occasional forgetfulness on my part, we worked through it. But whenever she's gassy or has an upset stomach, I feel totally responsible. After all, I made the food to give her, so when I eat something that bothers her, it really falls on my shoulders.

And it definitely means some of the caretaking falls unevenly between Tyler and I. While we tried a brief period of having Tyler take a nighttime feeding, it just doesn't work for us to do that. I'm not interested in pumping more than I already am, and having one sleep deprived person versus two in our household means a happier family unit overall. But it does mean that I'm sleep deprived....and while the end may be coming into view (I have great hopes for the post-six-month period) it's been tough to be a functioning employee/mom/wife when I can count on one hand the number of times I've gotten to sleep five hours in a row since Stella's birth.

One of the things that surprised me about breastfeeding was how I felt about breastfeeding in public or around others. When the baby's hungry and that's how they eat, it was hard for me to feel that I needed to worry about other people's feeling or comfort around it. I mean, no mom would feel funny using a bottle in public, right? And trying to use the cute "hooter hider" or a blanket never seemed to work--Stella would get claustrophobic or overheated, and I couldn't see what she was doing. Sometimes I surprised myself with my feelings of militancy about it. Then again, I'm not much of a crusader. There have been more times than I care to remember when I've been trying to feed Stella, balanced on my lap in a bathroom stall--never the most fun or hygenic-seeming.

It's also influenced other decisions we've made about life with Stella. Before she was born, I would not have guessed we'd be co-sleeping (having her in our bed). We knew we wanted her close in the beginning, with a bassinet in our bedroom for the first month, then three months, now six... And a big part of that is the convenience of feeding her at night. Once I got back to work and was getting so overtired, being able to feed her in bed while half asleep kept me vaguely functional.

Satiated Stella

Overall, I feel really lucky and blessed to have this experience with Stella. And it amazes me to think that until she has her first meal (we're still deciding what that will be!), all of her growth has come from me--nearly 20 pounds, all from my breastmilk. It's pretty incredible. I'll be a little sad to see this phase come to an end, but I'm also really excited to introduce her to new tastes and textures and experiences. I only hope she'll be an adventurous and enthusiastic eater like me!

She may not roll, but she can move!

Stella may not have figured out how to maneuver from her tummy to her back, but she can certainly move herself around when she wants to. I've seen her do it on the floor, twisting her body around to reach another toy or crane to see the cats. But this seemed especially dramatic when I left her in her crib for a few minutes and came back to find her on the opposite side, facing the other direction!

Hello, sunshine!

How did you get down there?

I found a friend!

I love that it was warm enough the day before this to keep the house comfy all night long--hence the nearly naked baby. That will be a bonus when summer comes--lots more nearly-naked Stella time!

A few other recent observations:

Remember the cute raspberry noises she started making? Well, now she does it when she's upset, so it's "cry, cry, cry, raspberry, cry, raspberry." Unfortunately for her, it's mostly just a little pathetic and funny.

She's also gotten totally fascinated by the cats. So far, they're the only thing we've seen her laugh at that wasn't one of us trying to make her laugh. When she sees them, sometimes she'll just start giggling with delight. It's pretty cute, though generally the cats keep a pretty wide berth.

And Stella's also gotten video obsessed, like her friend Ella from our childbirth class. We used to be able to pop in a DVD at night and start watching it while she ate and fell asleep. Those days are long gone. If she's hears anything coming out of the computer, she gets distracted from the task at hand (eating) and cranes her head around to stare at it. It's amazing/scary what a draw it has on her at this young age.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Stella's First Hike (with bonus "car" video)

Today was one of those glorious days that reminds me why I love living in the Pacific Northwest: the sun was shining and every direction I turned revealed beautiful snow-capped mountains, the Olympics, Rainier, the Cascades. It was the perfect day to go on a hike, which was exactly what we did, with another friend from our PEPS parent group and two of her friends from her childbirth ed class.

View of the Olympics from around the corner from our house

I had never hiked Rattlesnake Ridge, and besides the beautiful weather, it was great to go on a weekday (it's close enough to the city that it gets mobbed on the weekend). Apparently we made a notable sight, four women, four babies, hiking up to Rattlesnake Ledge. (Though the father I saw carrying one kid on his back and one on his front had all of us beat!) All the babies did great. I had a little trepidation this morning, sure I would forget something or that Stella would lose it at the top, making for a really long trip back down the trail, but she was either fascinated or asleep. She seems to do well in the outdoors--which is great news since hiking is one of my favorite things to do. I thought I'd need to develop the "10 Essentials" for hiking with baby, but we did OK with one fresh diaper, the Soothie, and a burp cloth.

And we're off!

My first trillium of the season

The view from the ridge

We made it! Unfortunately, it was too windy to hang out here for long

Hiking is hard work, apparently even when you're riding on someone else's back

It was a great day--fun to be in the outdoors, meet some new people, and get a peek into what summer could be like. Besides today's great hike, we've been having the usual daily routine, which has recently included an incredibly happy Stella in the evening when I get home from work. As I mentioned in the last post, she's started hanging out in her "car" in the kitchen while I make dinner. The other night I captured some of that fun when Stella was feeling talkative:


And she's still doing lots of rolling, but no action to get back to her back. The 360 is still to come!

Look at me, happy on my tummy! And still not rolling back yet....

In a week and a half we're scheduled to go to Texas to visit my family as a little birthday present for me. Let's hope the swine flu doesn't cause any problems.... And we'll get to see how Stella does in the heat (and see how cute she looks in her dresses that haven't gotten much air time yet).