Me: If you promise we can go together.
Kaspar: Okay! We'll even include Daddy.
Me: That's so thoughtful. What about Baby Otto?
Kaspar: Oh. Baby Otto will stay here. With a babysitter.
Kaspar: Tomorrow can I go to my shop in the attic and buy some fairy dust and fly to Never Land?
Me: If you promise we can go together.
Kaspar: Okay! We'll even include Daddy.
Me: That's so thoughtful. What about Baby Otto?
Kaspar: Oh. Baby Otto will stay here. With a babysitter.
Things are busy and blissful on the Alt-Mama front. I'm easing out of the "fourth trimester" while rounding the bend on my birthday -- I turned 29 this week! -- and will soon, I suspect, be updating here more. Which is to say I'm starting to feel almost human again in that I'm psyched to wear real clothes (lucked out -- my skinny jeans still fit!), start working on some holiday projects, hit up some yoga classes, and generally, gently rejoin the world at large. With a baby strapped to me. Cuz that's how we roll.
I've actually been feeling quite human on a different, deeper level in that babies are out of this world amazing and I've just been soaking this precious, fleeting, intense, decadent time in. (With many thanks to Aaron, who's rocking the Daddy job with as much grace and charm as ever, but is also busting his ass in the training program he's been in since summer's end. Paid training program. Thus I can have this precious time, after my own work-heavy, very-pregnant summer. Thank you, Aaron!) It's a whole new experience this time around. As you know, Kaspar's babyhood was not at all normal or easy, and Otto's first three months have been (as far as 'normal' or 'easy' mean anything, really) both of these things. So far, babyman is eczema-free, reflux-free, happy, comfortable, super laid back.
It's always made me deeply sad to think of how much Kaspar went through when he was tiny (which is one reason I direct my energy into finding solutions). And he isn't out of the woods entirely yet, although he is certainly -- undoubtedly -- thriving. Having gone through those difficulties as a family, however, has made these past few months all the more special; I was mostly successful in my determination not to let the fear of a recurring baby-allergy situation seep into my pregnancy with Otto; I knew that if we did face similar issues, I'd have been able to help him far more rapidly and effectively than I was able to with Kaspar, because of all I know now. And yet I am relieved beyond words that we don't have to go there. We'll test Otto for food allergies before he starts solids, to be safe. For now, however, he's growing like a happy, healthy little weed on breast milk, and the only things I'm avoiding eating are nuts. (I was prepared to go super hypo-allergenic for over a year, if need be.) Pretty rad.
Rather than regret that Kaspar's experience wasn't as peaceful as all this, too, one of my doulas suggested looking at it from a broader perspective; he was strong enough to handle what he went through. (He smiled almost all the way through it, actually, and he's still smiling now.) And he laid the groundwork for Otto's smoother ride. Their paths are linked in this way, and I am grateful to Kaspar for all that I know now that I'd never have learned had he not been exactly who he is.
In addition to parenting this baby and big-kid for the past three months, I've also been writing over at BabyZone (often with little O on one boob and a pump on the other, and Kaspar on one knee... it's a trip). Yep, that's right. You can get the Alt-Mama fix you keep coming here for via the links below. I've been having a lot of fun with the content, and am pretty proud of these pieces. Read 'em. Send me traffic and comments and love. Then swing on back here, because I meant what I said about updating more. And projects. Oh yeah.
10 Awesome Shoes for Hipster Babies
What You Don't Know Can Hurt You: An Interview with Jennifer Margulis, Author of The Business of Baby
6 Ways to Help Big Siblings Stay Happy with a New Baby at Home
10 Beautiful Books for the Mindful Child
Britain to "Pay" Moms to Breastfeed: Is This Fair?
What Makes a Great Mom-Friend BFF?
7 Ways the Infant Stage Makes me Grateful for Everyday Things
3 Gratitude Practices for Preschoolers and Tots
My Mama Mojo Toolkit
How These Moms Found Their New Normal
You Know You're in the Newborn Vortex When...
In Defense of Milk Sharing
Why I Want a Sister Wife
Gluten-Free Lactation Cookies for the Milk-Makin' Mama
Pregnant? You Might Want to Move to Sweden
I Ate My Placenta
The Family Bedroom
Family Growing Pains
The Green Layette
What New Babies Bring to 9/11
Otto's Birth Story
6 Reasons I'm Having a Home Birth
Baby Otto was born at home in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, in a flawless (and very intense) two hour labor, followed by a rainbow at dawn. Check out his birth story on BabyZone.com!
Kaspar performs a finger-puppet show for Baby O.
So, yes, I'm still pregnant. (And still not officially 'due' for another week. Tick-tock, tick-tock.) And I don't have any idea when the new little will arrive. I've been having Braxton Hicks contractions for a couple of months; they've been far more noticeable and intense than any I experienced in my first pregnancy. My midwives say that's normal the second time around. I asked, once, how I'll know when I'm actually in labor, since this baby's been so low from the get-go -- lots of pelvic pressure going on here -- and since I'm already having contractions, sometimes in pretty regular patterns. The answer? "It'll be different. You'll know."
Well, two days ago, I felt different. As in, noticeably more uncomfortable throughout the day. Nauseated, even. That night, I had a contraction so strong it woke me from a deep sleep. It really hurt. I actually felt like the bed was shaking, and reached over to feel whether Aaron was breathing strangely or something, only to realize he was lying perfectly still. The bed wasn't shaking -- I was. I breathed deeply for the minute or two the contraction went on (it felt longer), asking myself if I felt pain in my back, as I haven't with the Braxton Hicks but expect to during labor. I couldn't really tell, but this thing, in a word... hurt.
I got up, wandered around, somewhat panicked (thinking, We haven't had our home visit yet! We're not set up. The cleaners aren't coming until next Thursday. Where the hell is my phone? I'm in the middle of a piece of writing. Is this happening? I haven't gotten a breast pump yet, or ten spare towels, or extra-thick maxi pads... and so on). I eventually found my phone, and called my midwife. She was in New York, where she'd flown to deliver her best friend's baby before flying back to deliver mine. (I have another amazing midwife here on backup, too, so our bases are covered.) I asked if I woke her, and she said she was actually at her friend's birth as we spoke. When I described what I'd felt (specifically, "It hurt like a motherf*cker"), she told me it could very well be the start of labor, but maybe not. The best thing to do would be to go back to sleep; if the contractions woke me again, and became regular, I should call her.
I went back to bed and lay there, clinging to Aaron. He asked if I was okay, and I told him about the contraction. "I'm scared," I said.
He answered, "You've done this before."
"I don't think we're ready."
"We're ready... Do you think it's happening now?"
"I don't know. Brielle said to go back to sleep."
I lay awake for a while, my mind racing, trying to breathe slowly and calm down, prepare for the next contraction, which never came. Instead, baby kicked around in my belly and I eventually fell asleep.
I'm surprised by my response to that contraction. I've been feeling totally ready for labor, and actually looking forward to it, even to the pain. But it was the pain that panicked me. Being awaked was probably a part of that -- I was just sort of disoriented -- but I think that contraction was a bit of a wake-up call in more ways than one, a reminder that labor pain is... seriously intense. Having had a chance to process that brief encounter with real pain, however, the kind of pain that's all-absorptive while it's happening, that shakes a room, I now really DO feel ready. I'm grateful for that little warm-up. I know I'm going to experience pain, and likely fear. But I'm not going to run away from either experience. (Because of the type of blood thinner injections I'm on, too, I don't even have the option of an epidural, even if I were to freak out and think I needed one.) Instead, I'm going to walk into this. That, after all, will be the only way through.
As far as feeling different goes, my midwife texted me yesterday to check in. She said to call her any time if I get spooked, but the go-to game-time rule remains regularity, with intensity. I said again that I wonder if I'll second-guess it, when labor's real, because of these warm-ups, because things feel different already. She texted back, "You'll know."
Baby O turned full-term yesterday, which means this rocket could launch just about any time! (But probably not for a couple more weeks.)
And, while I'm behind on posting, I am T-minus two hours away from finishing up my summer work and waddling (did you notice in the above photo that I can barely stand up? Thank god for vintage Ford pickups to lean on! I'm lucky in that I have only gained about 11 pounds -- I rocked the basketball-baby carry when pregnant with Kaspar, too -- but I'm pretty sure the center-of-gravity situation has reached a point of impossibility...) right into maternity leave. I.e. kiddie pool + coconut water mocktails + do-not-disturb sign around my neck. I am such a happy lady! And I'll get right on the posting thing. Have a wonderful weekend! xo Taylor Alt-Mama
We're in the middle of Kaspar's two-week summer break right now. (His Montessori school has a summer camp through most of the season.) I was hoping to be finished with all of my work at this point (sooooo ready, omg), and while I've stopped massaging -- it just became impossible to go on, physically speaking -- I still have some work for my university job that I need to wrap up. I don't want to be doing it; I've worked a TON this summer and I want to call it good, but I'm staying focused and keeping my eye on the prize. It's a pretty sweet prize, too: I'm going to take six months to stay home with baby boy numero dos. SIX MONTHS. I got a new professional blogging gig (to be announced SOON) that I'll be rocking three times a week beginning in September, so I'll be doing that during my baby leave, but otherwise I have lots of flexibility around massage, and my UT job will basically be in its slow season until February, when things pick up again. While this summer has been hot, and in many ways -- honestly -- kind of hard, the timing of new baby's arrival couldn't be better. Assuming he arrives on schedule, that is. Anything could happen. My belly is HUGE. And I'm having lots of contractions, which had me panicked at first, but my midwife says this is normal for second pregnancies. I suspect the little beansprout might show up sooner than we all think. Of course there's really no telling about that, and I'll be actually done with my work in a couple of weeks, so whatever happens will be just fine. Do your thing, little one; we're ready when you are. (Almost.)
In the meantime, I've been relegating all work stuff to nap times during Kaspar's break; it may be hotter than hell outside and I may be enormously pregnant, but I've approached this short spurt of 24/7 parenting as our little 'last hurrah'. As in, it's kind of our last unstructured time for just the two of us. Of course, I'll make alone time with Kaspar a regular priority when babyman arrives, but there's no question it'll be harder to come by, and our daily routine is about to change. Significantly. Forever. So we've been kickin' it "Mama-Kaspar Camp" style and soaking in the summer fun, sans baby brother just yet.
So what does Mama-Kaspar Camp entail? I had to go to campus to get some stuff updated on my laptop early in the week. I brought Kaspar along, and after the boring computer part, we met up with Aaron -- who's settling into his new job there (I am so proud of him!) -- and fed berries and bananas to turtles in the turtle pond. It was sweet to the max. It also took up most of a morning and yielded a nice long nap later on... after we swung by a baby/maternity consignment shop on the way home and picked up a co-sleeper, too. (Kaspar's still at that age where he actually enjoys running errands.) It's the kind that goes right in bed with us, mostly to prevent us from rolling over on the baby... Rather than to prevent the baby from going anywhere. (I know the knowledgeable people say that animals -- including humans -- have been sleeping with their babies forever, and that instinct prevents a parent from rolling over on a newborn, but I don't totally trust myself under the influence of sleep deprivation.) We also have one of these, for naps, backup night options, or whatever. Kas has been sleeping in the 'big bed' with us a lot lately, so we had a little conversation during our drive about, well, some of the upcoming changes. Namely, there's going to be a baby in the bed, and Kas may want to graduate back to his own bed in the name of actually sleeping. He's slept in his own bed for months at a time in the recent past; I'm not sure how we fell out of that habit, and I may kick myself for my lenience right now, but I'm frankly loving co-sleeping with him again, too. (See above re: last hurrah.) So whatever. We know (well) from experience that family sleep configurations with babies and small kids require some flexibility and often present unexpected challenges -- and unexpected solutions. I'm not stressing it. We'll figure it out.
Day Two: Kaspar and I joined forces with some good friends, a mom and daughter duo, and got our art appreciation on at the Blanton Museum. My New York museum snobbery didn't stand a chance in that place; the collection was super impressive, and it was a pretty kid-friendly place, as these things go. (We were only reprimanded twice, for touching sculptures and running through the galleries. What can you do.) It was the kids' first art museum experience -- Kaspar's been to the Museum of Natural History in NYC, which was all about the dinosaurs -- and they soaked it in. I want to go back so I can linger in a few places we, well, didn't linger in, but the quick trip worked well for the kiddos this time around.
Kaspar had a fever on Wednesday. Bummer dudes. He'd been quite congested for about a week, and suffered a few bloody noses; I'd suspected he was developing a sinus infection. I broke out the saline nasal spray and the Nose Frieda, but I was too late on that train. His fever went up to 102.5 and stayed there longer than I liked. I took him to the pediatrician and he was given antibiotics. They helped almost immediately. I've been giving him tons of probiotics, too, and so far his eczema hasn't flared. It always, always has in the past when we've had to turn to antibiotics, so I'm pretty encouraged that I got on that train in the nick of time. I have a friend who's quite skilled with essential oils, and -- next month (waiting on a paycheck) -- I plan to purchase a diffuser and some oils for Kaspar's room. The fall is always a bad season for him, allergy wise, which is especially unfortunate because the weather is finally hospitable to sustained outdoor play, beginning in about mid-September. Kaspar has asthma attacks, though, a few times a week during the autumn months -- then none throughout the rest of the year. I've got an arsenal of homeopathic allergy remedies at the ready, and am hoping that between those, and the essential oils, we can combat the onslaught of ragweed (etc.) that knocks most of Austin on its ass each Autumn. I'll let you know how it goes. For now, though, my boy is feeling much better, and we were back in business by Thursday morning, bright and early. Thank you, modern Western medicine. Yes, I did just say that. There's a time and a place for everything, y'all.
Did I mention how HOT it is outside right now? It's actually too hot to be outside for any semi-serious length of time. It makes me nervous about the future of our species on this planet, cuz, guess what: the earth is heating up, and this is gonna be more and more normal in more places than just Texas. In any case, I try to put that out of my mind (since denial seems to be working so well for most of us on this subject) and come up with ways to cope with cabin fever instead. We did have to cope a bit this week, to be sure. But we coped well! We played a lot of Candyland, colored, read books, built things with Legos, and, when we couldn't take being indoors anymore, filled up the kiddie pool and got naked. Both of us. Ahhhhh! Splashing around naked in a plastic pool with his mom is definitely one of those things Kaspar will no longer be into when he gets just a bit older than he is now; I feel this poignant sense of time's passage with this pregnancy, I guess, because I found this activity extra sweet this year. As soon as Kaspar got into the water he was ecstatically happy, and he burst into hysterical laughter when I splashed him (and when he splashed me). There is so much joy in simple things, and that is, in itself, a reason for daily celebration.
On Friday, we hit up the library, and, once home again, painted our nails. (Kaspar's sporting a charming sky blue hue, above.) I don't get to do that very often these days, since I usually cut my nails daily to keep them short enough for massaging. And I definitely don't get to paint my nails unless Kaspar gets his painted, too, which is why it's a group activity. But this mama's on baby-leave, y'all, and I'm fine with sharing the fun, so my nails are now glossy and coral-colored (as is one of Kaspar's Thomas toys, which happened to get painted, too...), and I've been admiring them, well, plenty.
Next week is Mama-Kaspar Camp week two. Which means I'd better get on my game and find some fun outings and activities happening here in town, and also brainstorm some new indoor-play ideas so we can finish this thing strong! Any suggestions? What are you and your kids up to this summer? What kind of fun activities do you do to make the most of your time together?
Accounting for Kaspar's food allergies is second-nature to us at this point; we're used to bringing food for him wherever we go, and when we go somewhere more far-flung, we think ahead to how and where Kaspar-safe snacks and meals can be quickly secured. After all, Kaspar is a fast-growing three-year-old, and he asks for snacks pretty much constantly. He's probably the healthiest snacker around, given his options; my boy loves fruit, veggies, raw cheese, last night's leftovers. He's a good eater, and a happy one. He's been opening the fridge lately, just to peruse, which is a little annoying. (I feel like such a mom, "Kas, please close the fridge! You're letting all the cold air out.") But I also appreciate his urge to snack independently, and I think it can be harnessed to both of our benefits, given that we're going to have a baby in our house very soon. I've decided to convert our lowest refrigerator drawer from a catch-all produce bin to a Kaspar Snack Emporium. Stocked with easy-access containers filled with healthy, Kaspar-friendly snacks, little man can go to town whenever he feels hungry between meals. It's very Montessori-esque and it'll make life just that much easier when my hands are just that much more full. (I'll definitely post photos when I've executed this plan. It's on my to-do list for next week.)
As streamlined as our system is, or will soon be, there are moments when I envy the ease with which allergy-free families can feed their hungry kids. I mean, travel is one thing, but even the snacks isle at the grocery store reminds me of the convenience factor we're missing out on. But when I look closely at the ingredients (and packaging, and prices) convenient snacks contain -- even the "healthy" ones -- I realize they're loaded with not only Kaspar allergens, but also sugar, salt and weird, processed oils. They're also a total ripoff. I even checked out a few boxes of gluten-free snack bars while at Whole Foods the other day. I was not inspired.
Well, I take that back. I was inspired to make snack bars at home, for Kaspar -- who's always down for new foods he can enjoy -- and Aaron, who's been bringing lunches to work, and buying sugar/salt/weird-ingredient-filled granola bars when what he brings still leaves his stomach rumbling for more. And for me, because hungry mama + easy, one-handed snacking = breastfeeding win. Thinking ahead! In fact, when I found this recipe via Pinterest, I was psyched; I've been reading up on milk-boosting foods, and apparently quinoa has been renowned for centuries in South America for its breastmilk-makin' properties. So cheers to a quinoa-based snack bar! (Kaspar, who's not big on quinoa taken straight, has been very happy to eat these, too; I'm all about healthy meats, and plenty of them, but it's nice to have a protein-heavy snack option that's non-meat-based, as well.)
Anyway, I modified the recipe a bit to suit our family's tastes/necessary food restrictions/love of chocolate chips. The bars turned out wonderfully; we've all been chowing down. The recipe's original author recommends using the recipe as a base, and switching up the ingredients according to what you like, too.
Here's what we put in ours:
3 cups of pre-cooked quinoa (1 cup of dry quinoa with 2 cups of water cooked for 30 minutes. I soak mine for a day in water with a few tablespoons of whey added, before cooking)
1 cup of gluten-free flour -- I used gluten-free oat flour
1/3 cup of shredded unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup of raw hemp seeds (you can use any kind of seeds)
1/3 cup of raisins
1/3 cup of chopped dried apricots
2 TB of soft extra virgin coconut oil
2 TB of applesauce
1/2 ts. of sea salt
dash of cinnamon
2-3 TB of raw honey
3/4 - 1 cup of milk (I used raw, but you can use a non-dairy milk instead if that's your thing)
1/2 cup (thereabouts) chocolate chips (we use these)
What You'll Do:
1. Mix all ingredients well in a large bowl.
2. Spread evenly on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper
3. Bake at 275 degrees F for about 50 minutes
4. Cool, slice into rectangles or squares, and serve/save/savor.
(A real-life guide to hands-free, happy-baby bliss for all.) Kaspar and Aaron rock a Boba 3G
Thank you to those of you who threw baby wearing quotes my way for my recent editorial piece on the topic! That'll soon go live on a big-name parenting site; I'll be sure to link you over when it does. Meanwhile, have a look at this Alt-Mama exclusive -- an in-depth guide to baby and tot wearing for every kind of mama, papa, family and kid! (I actually wrote this for another site that was bought out before the piece aired; my contract prevents me from shopping it around elsewhere, so instead it gets to debut here at Alt-Mama HQ. Enjoy!)
Baby wearing is a win-win for parents and littles alike. Besides crying less often and sleeping more soundly, babies who are 'worn' in a carrier, wrap or sling are comforted by the womb-like sounds, movements and safety they experience when held, closely and continuously, against their parents' bodies. The results are measurable; babies who are worn benefit from stabilized heart rates, stronger immune systems and improved motor development. Parents, obviously, enjoy this closeness with their infants immensely, while -- hello, convenience -- retaining the use of their hands.
Many of baby wearing's benefits, however, are less tangible, and more personal; from easy-access nursing to subtle, constant communication between babies and caregivers, baby wearing fosters the parent-child bond. This is true even as parents attend to the tasks and interactions inherent in their grown-up lives. In fact, as babies who are 'worn' grow, and become aware of their environments from the vantage points of their parents' bodies, their experience of the world -- and their observations of their parents' engagement with it -- helps them to develop psychologically and socially, too.
In many cultures, baby-wearing has always been a part of parenting life. In ours, it's making a comeback as mothers and fathers alike discover the ideal combination of closeness and freedom the practice provides. "I always felt I could do so much more with Eli in a carrier versus a stroller: take my dog for a walk, go to a museum, or simply go pee," says Stu Weiner, a father of two in New Canaan, Connecticut. "If I was cooking, I'd hand him a piece of whatever I was chopping. I think he eats a more varied diet now as a result of those days. But the biggest benefit has been our relationship. It was easier to talk with him about what we were seeing in the world when he was in the carrier. In the stroller, I couldn't hear him, so I would stop and lean over and deliver the shortest answer possible, so we could keep moving. Having Eli's and my body physically touching instead was great; there is so much that can be conveyed through mundane touch, like being strapped to your parent, that can't be conveyed in words or a brief hug. Eli's now six, and too big to be worn, but we remain close, and we talk about everything."
Many parents continue wearing their children into toddlerhood, as Weiner did, reaping benefits unique to this stage. As Jennifer Luettinger, a mother of one in Leesburg, Virginia says, "I still put Caden, who's fifteen months old, in the carrier when we're out and about. He seems most calm and happy when we have that constant close contact. Whenever we meet strangers, they remark how happy our baby is; I attribute it to long term nursing --we're still going -- and baby wearing. "
Successful baby and toddler-wearing often boils down to finding the best method for your body, baby and unique needs. "Types and brands of carriers are absolutely a matter of personal preference," says Megan McGrory Massaro, co-author of The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby's First Year. "Newborns and preemies tend to do best in snug wraps, with their legs folded under them. As babies grow, and like to move a bit more in the carrier, a mei tai, or a soft structured carrier may work best. Toddlers get heavy, so a structured or soft structured carrier, like the Boba, which accommodates tall kiddos, can be a great choice--especially if mom needs a little extra support for a weary back! Pregnant moms will likely find that a hip (sling or pouch) or back carry is easiest on their growing bellies."
Ready to wear your little one but wondering where to begin? I took an in-depth look at baby wearing's mainstay methods and brands. Read on for an inside look at the pros, cons and price-points for each, so you can find the perfect baby wearing method(s) for your family.
Click "Read More" below!