Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Day in the Baldwin House

Chandler graciously invited me to share my day; here's to the challenge! 

My name is Julie Baldwin. I am a part-time online United States history teacher who is still on summer break/ maternity leave for a few more weeks. My husband is an emergency medicine resident, which adds variety to our schedule. We have three children under 3 years old, going on four years of marriage, and living far away from our respective home bases. For better and for could-do-better, no day is the same...

Friday - Casa Baldwin - PA, USA

At some point in the morning, I wake up to feed Stephen (3 months). It is still dark out. I peer into his face and his eyes are open. He's hungry! I grab my phone and text my husband Will, who is working overnight in the surgical ICU. He's typing up notes before rounds. Stephen falls back asleep and I plop him into the rock 'n sleep one more time...

The light wakes me soon enough... I fight the urge to ignore reality. I am content to stare at this little pudding pie drowsily.

7-8 a.m.: Get Grace (3) and Laura (1.5) up from their cribs; they are wide awake and done relaxing once I enter their room. I'm lucky they've learned how to stay put/ not scream before 7 a.m. I change diapers, feed Stephen again while the girls run around and play upstairs, test my fertility + chart, take my PPD medicine and move the party downstairs for breakfast.

8-10 a.m.: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are therapy days for my daughter Grace, but this morning, we are relaxing and waiting for Will to come home from the hospital. Breakfast varies based on time and willingness to exert effort. The girls are enjoying half a breakfast burrito each, a banana, milk and raisins. We read the morning prayers and Scripture from my August issue of the Magnificat.

After breakfast, we play inside in the front room and outside on the porch. Grace is very into coloring; I also stretch her limbs out. Laura likes reading, sliding, and building with + dumping her blocks. We hear the “choo choo train!!!!!”. I am listening to The Fellowship of the Ring while working in the other rooms.

I'll clean up the kitchen, eat my oatmeal and focus on drinking my coffee. Few things more important than my coffee intake at this point [in my mind].

Will comes home early before we leave for our appointment, and is immediately greeted by his girls with hugs around the legs. I go high for a kiss and a hug, after which he says he got no sleep and is headed straight to bed. This month is really tough on all of us. I go back to cleaning my desk off and preparing for us to leave the house.

Breakfast: maple cinnamon steel oats in the crockpot, coffee, milk, bananas, breakfast burritos,

10-11:30 a.m.: Today, we actually went to the chiropractor for the first time! I was nervous... but no need. The only thing I had to fear was the insane amount of paperwork needed (times two). Grace has cerebral palsy, which mainly affects the right side of her body. She has been complaining of knee pain, and I am hoping this will help.

The doctor immediately identifies problem areas and was really fantastic with her. I am duly impressed. I was even more impressed at how calm we both remained while 2/3 of my children cried as my appointment started. Grace subsided when the doctor asked her to hold my hand; he meant it for her, but it really did help me as well. Mothering + desk job means more chiro appointments in our future. I thought he was killing me with the number of cracks I heard in my neck, but a lot of tension is gone and there is less tingling in my arms.

I would almost say that this random appointment is normal for us too, since we are always dancing between different specialists - pediatrician, neurology, eye, OB/GYN and coming soon--ortho! This visit was delightful.

11:30-12:30 p.m.: Grace falls asleep in the car, so I put her down for an early nap. Laura stays up with me and we eat lunch. I feed Stephen again; put Laura down for a nap.

Lunch: chicken breast over spinach salad with tomatoes, feta and balsamic vinegar; Laura has mozzarella cheese stick, grapes, goldfish

I love this one-on-one time with my third wee tot! I have had so many interesting conversations with fellow moms about breastfeeding and my advice is always... Do you. For me, that usually involves a weird angle and not covering up in the cape style. I have a muslin blanket that is perfect for extra coverage and any sprayage (or spit up), but I won't totally cover up any more, as I felt compelled to do with Grace. Why? Because breastfeeding is normal. There is nothing gross about it; it's actually miraculous, when you look into it scientifically. It is not lewd (baby covers the nipple, people. That's the feeding part). If it makes you uncomfortable, look away. If you'd rather use a bottle or need to supplement, go for it. But there is no room for prudish behavior towards a mother feeding her baby because it is an absolute act of love. It is hard, it is a commitment and it is beautiful. Stephen is my third breastfed baby. I wanted to quit within the first month because it was so hard with him. But I stuck with it, and it's one of my favorite times of the day now - relaxing into the couch, feeding him and helping him achieve Hulk status.

12:30-3:30 p.m.: This is magical. Laura skipped her morning nap and since Grace fell asleep WAY before her normal nap time (between 2:30-3 p.m.), so I have the house to myself. I try to do my favorite postpartum work-out video; it's the effort, right? I decide to fold the three piles of laundry I washed yesterday while watching Elementary. After an episode, I work on school prep. (I start teaching online again in less than a month!) Then, I get super tired and I take a rest/ nap till someone wakes up.

3:30-4:30 p.m.: By someone, I mean Laura. This child! We play and I continue to clean up a bit. I wanted to fix zucchini bread, but it's still really hot and I cannot imagine turning the oven on right now. Stephen wants to be fed again... Not sure how many times a day I feed him, honestly, but it is way more than I am writing down.

Mini nap time for us post-feeding.

4:30-5:00 p.m.: Grace is awake and ready to play again; we practice walking down the steps while I hold her right hand. This is a big deal because a) she used to never let anyone hold her right hand, let alone trust anyone who did not also hold her left hand and b) she boycotted walking down the steps earlier this year and we are FINALLY returning to Grace being okay going down (and not just up). We think part of that is because of her eye surgery in July- we're hoping her depth perception improved.

5:00-6:00 p.m.: I start to plan dinner. It's Friday, and I try to serve meatless meals.  The kids color outside on the patio, which is closest to the kitchen.

Dinner: salmon (cooked in a foil packet), brown rice + quinoa, red peppers

6:00-7:00 p.m.: We eat out on the porch tonight. We've been having a lot of picnics lately, and it's just easier to clean up. Will wakes up at some point and comes downstairs. The girls are excited! They climb all over him and forget about dinner.

7:00-8:00 p.m.: More playtime, but we've moved the girls upstairs for a bath. They love it, and they love splashing Will. Jammies, teeth brushed, books read and prayers said.


8:00-9:30 p.m.: Oh yeah. Stephen is still awake. Will and I discuss possibilities for the evening. We clean together, and then he goes upstairs to his computer. Stephen helps me fix a quiche.

Quiche: pie crust, cooked sausage, eggs, heavy cream, milk, shredded cheddar cheese - cook at 400 Fahrenheit for 40 minutes

We do more cleaning. (No, really, when does it stop??) I feed Stephen again and relax into the couch.

9:30-11 p.m.: I take my vitamins and melatonin. Will comes down and we watch two episodes of The Wire, season two - really excellent. Gritty; superb in every respect - acting, story lines, writing, production. For those who have not heard of it, it's considered one of, if not the best television drama ever. (Available through Amazon Prime video!)

11 p.m.-12 a.m.: I try to get to bed before midnight every night. It's my work in progress, as a night owl. I am always trying for 11 p.m. but 11:30 is my current record. Will changes Stephen's diaper, and I feed him again, if necessary. I get ready for bed, we talk about what Will should study (pulmonary something was the verdict) and other related topics, and we say night prayers. Will goes up to his office for the night, so his body will stay adjusted for his next night shift. I settle in for the night/ until Stephen wakes again for another eat. Sweet dreams!

. . .

Read more:

A Day in the Armstrong House
A Day in the Fink House
A Day in the Howard House
A Day in the Smith House 

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

In Defense of Self-Soothing

Imagine a scene of three children and a mother is reading them the charming "Big Red Barn" book before bed. It's quiet in your scene, I'm sure. Meanwhile, in my reality, Stephen is crying his face off instead of eating. Laura is helping me turn the pages and Grace is reading her own book.

A few months ago (about three, to be exact), if this would happen, my anxiety would SAIL sky high. My postpartum depression did not manifest itself in sadness, but irritability and anger. That kind of crying would send my nerves into overstimulation and I'd shut down and have to leave the room.

Will and I are focusing on my coping mechanisms: food prep, cooking, exercise, sleep, and letting chaos reign. It's okay. Even when it's not.

I remember a friend who, a few years ago, was deeply depressed; but, as a nursing student, she refused to go on medication because she knew it changed her body's chemistry. But she was miserable.

I can empathize to a certain point. Will and I talked about a timeline for me to go off my PPD medication as well, and I talked to my OB and PA about it as well. I can feel the difference. I can remain calm in the face of my son screaming even though his diaper was changed, he was fed, and he was being held. Sometimes, the baby is going to cry. Sometimes, the baby is going to self-soothe, and fall asleep via crying. Stephen just did. It seems magical now to hear his little snores. He was just *so* tired.

Haven't you ever felt like a baby? So tired you just want to scream and cry and eat ice cream and sleep at the same time? It's okay. I ate brownies for dinner tonight, and now that the kids are down, I'll go eat a second course of pork, rice and salad. Some days, ya know? Gotta eat backwards dinner. Gotta be alone and not talk to anyone and relish that.

It's been a long day, as well as the end of Will's "staycation" (he had a few days off of SICU in a row, which made this month bearable). I'm working on school prep and wondering if a calm normal exists, or if life is a giant exercise in self-soothing and juggling. I'm guessing the latter. It has never slowed down in my 28 years alive, and - if anything! - kids speed up the process. They also help you appreciate the more important things, like being together, laughing and having fun, and loving one another.

Then again, God gave us toddlers to take everyone's pride down a few notches. Toddlers don't give a damn about anything. They will ignore you and dump all their blocks out and look you in the eye while throwing their dinner on the floor. It's amazing. I am no longer crying over dinners [I spent time researching, preparing and serving] being ignored and thrown on the floor since instituting "toddler tapas" and "picnics" to the schedule.

How do you self-soothe? What makes you tick?

I hope you all are well, dear readers. I hope you take time to self-soothe, and time to re-connect. I hope you don't worry about other people's perception of you, and that you love what makes you tick.

I'm off to eat dinner, watch an episode of Elementary, and maybe fix zucchini bread since the air is cooler now. I wish you good eats and many reminders of what a treat life is, truly, for each of us.

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