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Love.
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.

November: 

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

October

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

September

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!
 
 
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?
 
 
Age three has been lots of fun, but also somewhat challenging, from the start. I counted the months since Kaspar actually turned three the other day and was shocked to discover it’s only been a few… It’s felt pretty intense and I could have sworn we were at the half-year point by now (nope). Not that I’m rushing things – my boy is growing up WAY too fast and I wish constantly that I could just hit the pause button and soak in his innocence, curiosity, creativity and sweetness. Even his challenging behavior. All of it. But at the same time, age three has been a doozy on the daily and I was surprised to realize we’ve only been riding this crazy train for four months. 

It started, right around his birthday in February, with tantrums, out of nowhere and at the drop of a hat, usually after school. They were pretty low-grade compared to what I know a lot of parents deal with from early-toddlerhood on (seriously, I have seen some things in the supermarket that make me thank my lucky stars for the comparably composed child I’ve been gifted), but our guy has never been the tantruming type, so we were caught entirely off-guard. He got over that initial phase pretty quickly – thankfully –  and has, for the most part, been his usual happy, non-tantrum-prone self since, but he’s also been more physical and just more wired than he was before. There’s a definite boy-energy about him. He also negotiates constantly, over everything, but without a hint of logic, which just gets exhausting. That said, I love that he’s developing his sense of confidence and independence. We encourage it and provide outlets for it as much as possible.  But, still, I’m saying “Please don’t ___,” a lot more than I want to say it in a day, because Kaspar also has to stay safe, and has to accommodate other family members’ needs and desires (sometimes I just have to make a phone call, you know?), and that’s something I also want him to internalize as he grows.   

It’s a daily dance we do, and it’s usually fairly smooth overall, but yesterday, well, we landed in the ER for the second time this year after Kaspar hit his head, at full running speed, on the edge of our bedframe. Aaron had asked him to choose his clothes for school and I was about to get in the shower before work when I heard a horrible thud, followed by Aaron shouting, “Oh, shit!” and Kaspar screaming. (A good sign under circumstances like that, actually… you do not want a head-injured kid to go quiet). We beat rush hour traffic – which is not to be underestimated in Austin – by about fifteen minutes and arrived at the hospital with a still-screaming Kaspar, a towel on his head. (I ran him in – I was barely dressed, barefoot and splattered in blood -- while Aaron parked.) Kas got a heady mix of numbing gel, morphine and valium, as well as six stitches, before we left. He calmed down pretty soon after we arrived, though – the bleeding had slowed significantly during the ride – and he took the experience like a total champ, smiling and laughing (even pre-drugs) through most of it. He’s such a trooper, and a charmer. The doctor said he sees these injuries all the time on the littles, but still, it gave us a good scare, and I think we’ve all seen enough of the ER for a long while. Aaron and I were both shaken. If it weren’t for several stories related by friends throughout the day of similarly gruesome injuries sustained by their kids, I’d have questioned my parenting creds… I’d woken up beside him only hours before his injury; his arms were wrapped around me and he’d looked so peaceful. And now he had a giant gash in his head. It was awful. 
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This is post-numbing gel, pre-drugs. K took it all like such a champ.
We spent the rest of the day keeping a close eye on Kaspar (looking for possible signs of concussion) and attempting to keep him quiet. I kissed him about three thousand times and we made some gummy bears. (We used this recipe, replacing the stevia with raw honey. Yum.) When he got restless, I took him out for a walk in his race car (I push, he rolls), so he’d at least still be sitting down. (Realized during that walk that Texas heat and third trimester pregnancy are, as everyone’s been warning me, a daunting combination. I had to take breaks on the hills, no joke.) He slept like a rock all night and has been back to his normal self today. Which is to say he’s run into a chair and fallen two or three times, per usual, and without major incident. But I’ve been looking around at our furniture and wondering what kind of kiddo-proofing might be in order to get us through to age four. I’ve also instituted a “no running inside” policy. We’ll see if that sticks. And I think we’re going to get rid of our bed. This was Kaspar’s second injury on its frame; the first was a hole in his lip when he was about 17 months old, which did not require stitches and healed quickly enough. Of course, I’m actually talking about Aaron and my bed, not Kaspar’s – he’s never gotten hurt on his own… Maybe we just need a frame with a better design. But we have a baby on the way, right? A mattress on the floor will do just fine for the time being. (Ideas for styling a room around this so as to downplay the college-days look?)

I’m also brainstorming ways for Kaspar to get his energy out when we’re home. He loves to push his trucks around in our front yard, which is nice and physical, and we’re going to get a sandbox for out back. I’m just thinking ahead to breastfeeding, when I won’t be nearly as mobile, much of the time, and wondering how I’ll tire him out when he needs it. He often sits and works on puzzles or plays with his trains when he’s less excited, but sometimes he’s just got that wild look in his eye and, unless we channel it in the right direction, it’s not long before I’m saying “Please don’t try to jump on my head,” or he lands squarely on his own after flipping over the back of the couch…

Have any of you encountered the challenging 3’s? (I’m not going to say they’re terrible, because they’re not… but they are challenging.) Survival strategies, for parents and kidlets alike? How do you get your kids’ crazies out while keeping them safe and, you know, not bleeding?    
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When life gives you gaping wounds, make gummy bears.
PS. You may have noticed that my Parenting.com blog hasn’t updated in some time. That’s because Parenting mag and dot com were bought up by a competitor; publication on the print magazine is being ceased in September (these things are finalized a few months out, so actually it’s an immediate cancellation that won’t take effect until then) and the fate of the website remains unknown. None of us bloggers have heard anything, and the entire perma-staff was laid off, so… RIP, Parenting, we had some good times! I’ve got another major parenting website blogging opportunity in the wings, so I’ll keep you posted on that, but in the meantime all things pregnancy and family life will be documented, more or less, here on Alt-Mama. I know I’ve been pretty quiet in this corner lately, but I’m actually in the making-things mode and have some good stuff coming up to showcase. 
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Cool stuff preview: onesies and diapers get a dye job.
 
 
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The bossman, kickin' back on summer break.
Kaspar's had a week off from school, so I've taken a mostly-break (save for nap time bare-minimum inbox/paperwork maintenance) from all things work related and kicked back with him. Which has actually kept us pretty busy. My college bestie Chelsea arrived in town on Tuesday fresh outta San Fran; I hadn't seen her since she was in my wedding almost four (woah) years ago. We all had fam-style fun by day: riding the Zilker Zephyr, going to story time at the library, hitting the playground, and so forth, and then, when evening arrived, went out for local eats and some low-key just-girls touristing. 

It was fun to see Austin through a visitor's eyes. It reminded me that we live in an accessible, fun, laid back and in many ways even pretty little city. It has its downsides -- totally insufficient public transportation, year-round seasonal allergies, serious summer heat, Texan politics -- but they're not deal-breakers. Its sights, smells, tastes and sounds all add up to a local flavor that's complex enough to hold your interest without being overwhelming. Chelsea felt very welcome, and I felt right at home. Which, three years in (and in a non-permanently committal kind of way), feels just about right. 
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Downtown ATX at dusk, from the South side of the river.
Meanwhile, I have about three and a half months of pregnancy left to go. Things have been running really smoothly around our place; it feels like the experimental phase of family life is over and and the hard part's officially behind us. We're looking forward to welcoming babyman, even if a lot has to happen before then and some life-things remain in the air. Outside of this week 'off,' I'm kind of taking the summer a day at a time; I have a lot of work ahead of me before September hits and my belly's pretty serious; I'd love to just sit in the kiddie pool with some coconut water for the remaining months before then, but that's just not in the cards. A day at a time, however, makes the reality much more doable. Aaron's been in a hardcore job search for over two months, and it's yielded several good bites but nothing solid as of yet. He's been doing some landscaping to tide the time over, but it's getting hot (HOT) already and that's brutal work... even if it is with a cool organic, local business. That said, and being careful not to jinx it, he's over halfway through a four-stage qualification/interview process that would open a new and promising door for him -- and thus us -- if it works out. We both want it badly for a million reasons, but it's in no way guaranteed, and right now we're just waiting to find out if he's moved on to the final round. I'm proud of him, regardless, for exploring new territory. 

I've kind of let go of worrying about how everything should all come together (and mostly worrying that it won't) into a place of trusting that it will... and not worrying. Instead of selfishly wishing for one thing or another, I'm thus able to appreciate what my partner's going through -- as well as what he does around here, which includes maintaining a pretty even-keeled positive attitude and fathering like a pro -- and I wish his well-deserved victories upon him for the sake of his own happiness, in and of itself. My own shift in perspective has contributed to us functioning more collaboratively and generously toward each other in general; my experience has not been lost in the mix without my focusing on it all the time, and in fact Aaron's own decisions seem to account for it more consciously without my constantly pushing my own agenda. Our work/life balance, as a couple, has long been a (really our only) source of some tension, and, oddly enough, it feels like this recent situation has brought us closer and resolved some of that. I look forward to reporting on some concrete resolution in his work arrangements soon, but for now am content with this moment of growth. Perhaps that's been the whole point of this thing showing up now, before baby makes four... I read somewhere that with new babies often come unforeseen opportunities and shifts, internal and external. This was certainly true for us back when Kaspar arrived, and I feel things moving in those mysterious ways once again. 

June 15, UPDATE: Aaron got the job! HOORAY! Life continues to be cray cray this summer, but it's a serious load off knowing we can now not only afford my maternity leave, but that I can take it at whatever pace suits baby et moi, and that Aaron has new, exciting horizons ahead of him. Meanwhile, I'm amazed at the incredible love and support of our community of friends and fam, and at the synchronicity of our universe. It all comes together just perfectly sometimes. (Even if the good stuff occasionally keeps you waiting for longer than you'd prefer.)
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Last time I saw Chelsea, Kaspar was rounding the first trimester bend in my belly... Now these two are totally buds.
 
 
I've been so focused, these past several months, on getting through the daily grind that I haven't been feeling particularly creative. It's happened before -- there are certain rhythms to these things, and sometimes life itself just demands a lot of immediate attention -- so I wasn't worried about it; I knew I'd hit an inspired spell (slash hormonal surge?) sooner or later. I always have a running list of projects I plan to tackle, and Operation New Baby is a fun one: I'm coming up on my third trimester now, too, so nesting to the tune of setting up the baby's space -- hanging his hammock, framing wall art and perhaps even purchasing some kind of rocking chair -- will not be entirely pre-emptive. In fact, setting up shop in this way will be helpful and necessary, and now, at five and a half (thereabouts) months pregnant, I've finally, as of sometime last week, felt newly energized to do so. Or at least to begin... If not with something necessary, exactly, then with something really personal and fun: A blanket for Baby O! (Yep, we've chosen a name, and will tell you the rest of its letters when little man arrives.) 
I've made a bunch of baby quilts over the past year. I still don't really know how to do much with my sewing machine beyond sewing forwards and backwards, though. Quilts are actually doable within these limited parameters, so I think they're kind of my baby gift 'thing,' even if I swear future renditions off whenever I finish my latest one. (I'm not a patient person, so sewing is a weird hobby to have picked up.) But I'm always drawn back to the fun of fabric-pairing and the satisfaction of seeing a little quilt through to its final, finished stage, not to mention gifting it upon a little person who'll surely keep it for longer than, say, a wipe-warmer. 

It was fun to embark on this quilt knowing I'd be gifting it to my own little bundle, who's been kicking up a storm on the daily, thereby making his presence very much known indeed. (Omigosh, I can't wait to meet him.) I had some shiny-ish gingham fabric left over from my last project, and went rifling through the free-box outside of Austin's hippest fabric store/sewing school, Stitch Lab, in search of other great finds to include in my creation, earlier this week. The box can be a goldmine, but is ultimately hit or miss, and I didn't see anything that spoke to me, so I wandered inside... something I usually refrain from doing, knowing I'll likely spend a small fortune before leaving. As it happened, the store currently has upwards of ten bins filled with (generously sized and neatly cut) Quilt Con leftovers up for grabs, on the cheap-cheap, and I went a little hog wild... without breaking the bank. It was meant to be. 
I love the fabrics I walked out with. I chose the contrasting patters shown above on the left for the back of the quilt, which I sewed into two large panels. The mod guitar print, and green and blue stripes, compliment the gingham for the main front section, with a fun gray/white/red wavy number as a border on opposite ends. (I'd have rocked the border all around, but my quilt was looking more rectangular at that stage than I liked, so I squared it off instead.) I chose the layout as a change of pace from patchwork -- all of my previous quilts have been of the latter variety -- and this ended up working in my innately-impatient favor; sewing together larger rectangles, rather than countless, smaller squares, was WAY faster when it came to assembly, my least favorite part. (Not only because actually sewing is time consuming, but also because so many things can go wrong... it's more stressful than playing with color.) And I don't think the finished product smacks of slackerdom, either. I'm really happy with the results. 
Everything came together without a hitch in the sewing process, too; I didn't have to undo any work, and I didn't sew anything face down or anything like that. My bobbin did run out of thread near the end, at which point I called my friend Jenn -- who'd sold me the machine when she upgraded -- and she walked we through the re-load over the phone. (She's awesome like that.) Then she came over with her two littles later in the day, to hang out and play; I busted out my masterpiece and her new baby, Big T, modeled it for me, as per the above pic. He approves.
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Kaspar and Lil' J make Big T smile. Cute explosion.
So I'm back in the groove, ready to start making our place really truly baby-ready. (Jenn and I even set up a new bouncer I've kept in its box since purchasing, for Big T to break in. Now there's a bouncer in our living room and Baby O's impending arrival is feeling very real.) I should probably get some work done in the remainder of this week -- cuz, yeah, I pretty much spent an entire workday creating this quilt -- but my list is calling to me, and I have big plans in store. Stay tuned!

How do you like Baby O's blanket? What are some fun projects you did/are doing while in nesting mode? Was five months a magically re-energized point in pregnancy for any of you, too? What are your favorite things to make for new babies?
 
 
My friend Nicole interviewed me recently for a piece she's writing for LiveMom Austin on parenthood-prompted career changes. I thought you might enjoy our raw Q&A, candid and unedited. Give it a read and then share with the class in the comments below: Did you change your work/life arrangements when you became a mom or pop? How so? Was it worth it?

Nicole: How old was Kaspar when you decided to do something different, work-wise? Was the decision a long time in coming, or was it precipitated by some event?

Taylor: Kaspar was six months old when I left my position in corporate media – I worked on the web side of magazines – in New York and moved to Texas. Titles were folding right and left and the industry was changing; although my position was secure, I’d never felt completely comfortable placing all of my eggs in one basket. I watched productive, hard-working people get laid off through annual several rounds of  4th quarter “restructuring” while others who were clearly incompetent were promoted. I liked the people I worked for, and among, at the point I left, but I knew that ultimately my job could end at any time for any reason, and since I didn’t have time to cultivate anything else – or much in the way of savings, as NYC is crazy expensive and I shacked up with an artist instead of a finance man – I wouldn’t have anything to fall back on if I were to lose my job. I’d felt unfulfilled by the corporate game for a while, although I played it well. But when I suddenly had a child in the mix, time took on an entirely new meaning for me; I didn’t want a nanny raising my kid. I wanted control of my days, and my destiny.

I’d always been a good writer, but worked with freelancers (from the inside – we often hired them to write our content) and didn’t envy their pitch-for-peanuts way of life (without any corporate perks… which, by the way, are not 'worth it'). I didn’t even attempt writing in the city. On the day before my wedding, at three months knocked up, I’d gotten a massage, in New Hampshire. The woman who gave it to me wasn't much older than I was. She had a community trade school certificate on the wall. She'd just bought a house in the neighboring town. She made her own schedule, she took long walks and ran errands during her lunches. And she didn't have to report back to anyone upon her return. She was smart and at ease, pretense-free. I thought of my fancy college education, the daily subway commute, the senseless layoffs, tallied sick days, professional titles. I thought of the many salesmen (or whomever) who’d confessed to me in taxi cabs on the way to off-site meetings that they dreamed of quitting, becoming teachers “or something… I could move my family into a smaller house, right?” Even my first boss in New York – a six foot, perfectly polished power-playing blonde who never cracked – once told me in a tipsy frenzy that she feared no one loved her, even her kids, and that she in fact despised herself. When I got that massage, and reflected on all of these things, I thought, "What the fuck am I doing? This chick has it all figured out."

I’d followed a certain path (by day, anyway) that sounded impressive when anyone asked, “So what do you do?” but it wasn’t the path for me. In that respect, the decision was a long time coming, but I didn’t know how I was going to go about pursuing something else until Kaspar was born. I spent my maternity leave scoping out other cities (my husband’s work is portable and had been actually unsustainably slow anyway for about six months by then), and I began writing for some of the parenting-related titles I worked for, for free, to accrue some clips. I interviewed at a massage school in the city, but it would have cost 26 grand (plus 1,000 hours) to attend, which didn't make any sense for me, as a new mom working full time. I went back to work – after negotiating my Fridays off – when my mat leave was up, but I already had one foot out the door. We were just barely getting our sea legs as parents, and Kaspar was having severe skin and digestive issues (it took us about another year to really figure out what was going on with him – he has food allergies – and that year was not an easy one), and he needed me. I think all of these things culminated at a certain point and I knew it was just time to jump. 

Did you feel that work was part of your identity? If so, did you struggle with your decision to make a career change or the transition which happened afterwards? What helped you manage the transition?

I did feel that work was a part of my identity. I secured a job in Austin before moving, an administrative position at UT. It was more than a few steps down, in terms of title and responsibilities, than the rung to which I’d quickly risen (mostly by faking it) on the corporate ladder. I’d enjoyed playing the corporate part in that I was competitive and good at it; I didn’t have much regard for rank and could speak confidently to just about anyone (even if I was totally full of shit... looking back I'm sure many people could see this and simply humored me because I was so gung ho) and I liked that I took people by surprise – from my colleagues in New York to my parents, back home. I hadn’t landed in the corporate world in the way most people do. I hadn’t aimed there all my life or anything. I’m heavily tattooed, studied Buddhism in college, worked as a stripper for a few years towards the end college – I am fiercely independent and wanted real money so I could travel and, essentially, have options (I finished school early, too, as I thought I might otherwise not finish at all) – and I had friends in all sorts of interesting places... but I was clearly not following a prescribed course, and I think many people wondered where I’d ‘end up’. Then there I was rocking it in the big city, running with the big dogs. There’s a lot of ambition in New York, which I love, but there’s also a lot of ego wrapped up in that. There certainly was for me at that time, for sure.

At the same time, falling in love and starting a family brought my more authentic desires and dreams forward; I couldn’t ignore them. They’d never remained far below the surface, anyway. And by the time I took that admin job in Austin (which I still have, and which allows me to mostly work from home, allowed me to go to massage school while still collecting a monthly salary, and allowed me the flexibility to help my sick baby when he needed me most, and now, still, to spend every afternoon with him) I had different priorities. I didn’t care about titles anymore, or what people thought; I cared about my lifestyle and my freedom. People I knew couldn’t necessarily understand why I’d ‘throw away’ what I’d accomplished in my early career, but I knew what I was doing. I didn’t throw it all away, either; having worked on the inside gave me the freelance connections to actually work as a writer from the moment I arrived in Austin. (Which has helped enormously in terms of paying the bills and being my own boss over the last two years.)

As far as managing the transition goes, laying the groundwork by getting a part time job in advance of the move, and setting up some regular freelance jobs (contracts jobs that paid me monthly) helped, but it was hard. We’d just barely gotten married and had a baby, we weren’t getting any sleep, we left our friends and our support system and moved thousands of miles away, and we cleaned out our bank accounts doing so, without much of a sense for how we’d really get by once here. It felt like a huge risk in some respects, and I questioned whether I’d done something truly destructive to my family by following through with this crazy idea in the first place.

When  you were "growing up", did you factor kids into the equation when you decided what lines of work you would pursue? 

Not at all. I was a babysitter for years and years and was often asked if I wanted to eventually become a teacher, but I never considered it. I did dream of having a partner, and kids, of my own though. Education and career labels were really prized in my family and the culture I was raised in, however, and relationships were something of an afterthought, at least in terms of ‘planning’ what one wanted to ‘be.’ I’m actually so glad I got pregnant at the relatively young age of 25, because I wasn’t so immersed in an inflexibly successful career (or the expensive lifestyle that accompanies it) that I couldn’t imagine another way to go about living. But there weren’t a lot of models in my world for truly balancing motherhood with a fulfilling way of working. I knew women who worked all the time, and other women who stopped working entirely, when they had kids. It seemed like an either/or decision. But stopping working wasn’t an option for me, so I invented a new way instead.

What was harder than you thought and easier than you thought about the transition to leaving the 9-5 world and entering the world o' freelancing? Any advice to others who are contemplating a change? 

I had a comparatively easy time of it getting clients and having enough (often more than enough) work. I told myself I’d write for as long as the work was forthcoming, but I wasn’t going to write for free – or pitch – once I got to Austin, and I haven't had to. I can attribute this to an innate ability to identify opportunities before they’re obvious to everyone else, to hustle so that those opportunities become mine, and to perform under inhospitable circumstances. (I spent many nights working for hour-long chunks of time in between attending to my eczema-covered, barely-sleeping baby, in the beginning. Not a lot of fun.) I also would not have been able to do any of these things as well as I do had I not worked on the ‘inside’ – I know how websites and companies work, what editors need and want, and even how to use back-end systems so as to publish my own work (or produce other content, which I’ve done for extra freelance dollars) online. And I know a lot of people who’ve also gone freelance since working for titles that later folded, laid these friends off, or what have you. Like any industry, the kind of freelance writing I do puts me in good company with a small community of people who move around, switch roles, and hook each other up with work as they go. I pay it forward as much as possible, too. Writers and editors are a lovable bunch. 

Juggling everything has been harder than I imagined. I have a part time job that I only do sometimes, I do freelance writing, I went to massage school (on the part-time clock) and now have a massage job, and I’m a mom to a three year old, with a baby on the way. I keep a lot of balls in the air. This is logistically challenging, at times, but the biggest challenge has been learning to stay focused and, more importantly, present. I did all of this so I could love my life, right? If I’m checking my email on my phone, or thinking about a project, or worrying about a paycheck, while also playing with my kid, I’m not doing what I set out to, and the whole thing was pointless to begin with. So I bring myself back to the present moment again and again, enjoying it for all it’s worth.

What sacrifices do you feel you have made, if any? 

We don’t ever know for sure how much money is coming in. That can be challenging, especially with kid-related costs in the mix. Last year was juicy – I had several easy, high-paying freelance jobs come through, and so did my hubs. But he lost his one really reliable gig last month, and my juicy client cut their budgets this year, by two-thirds. Of course we also just paid taxes, which cleaned out the savings our boom year helped us build. Freelancing requires a stomach for the unpredictable, and an ability to evolve. My husband’s had a harder time of it, actually, and is looking into learning computer programming as a reliable way to pay the bills that will still allow him time to do freelance illustration. Likewise, I pursued massage as a way to make money by showing up and working hard (and then, an important point, physically leaving), and I love my massage job; it provides me with a sense of balance, and, yes, some security.

Honestly, though, the 9 to 5 world’s ‘security’ is unpredictable, too; the main title I’ve been writing for (which was housed among the titles I worked with, full time, while in New York) was bought this week by a competitor, everyone was laid off, and publication is being ceased almost immediately. The entire team of people who’ve been working there -- people I've worked with for several years, and who I respect immensely -- are now out of work. It’s awful, and it happens all the time. This isn’t just a magazine industry thing, either. I think the world of gainful employment has changed since the recent economic crash. Everyone is a free agent now; full time, company-signed employment works well for some people and is perfect for certain times in life, but it’s not fail safe, and even the people playing the game know that’s true. Or they should.

What lies ahead for you, career-wise?

I’m going to have this baby and spend this mat leave focusing on being a mom, instead of launching a new career and plotting a move across the country! My part time job is on a yearly cycle, and its annual lull will come at the perfect time to allow me to take this time off for mothering, without a pay cut. Then I’ll go back to massaging a few days a week, doing the part time work mostly from home, and writing (which I might continue to do throughout new-baby days; we'll see). I think, given the general freelance climate and my own recent urge for expansion, I'm even game for a round of networking and pitching; I'd like to write for some new titles and expand my repertoire. 

The other day, someone at my massage job saw me checking online on some comments on an article I wrote. She didn’t know I write, and that I used to run web departments or whatever. She did know that my husband’s been looking for work – i.e. our finances are not always awesome -- and she asked me, upon getting the quick gist that I left one thing to start another, “Was it worth it?” (Climbing down off the ladder…) And, “Will you eventually go back, when your kids are bigger?” I told her it was worth it, and I’ll never go back. Then she paused and said, “I could see you maybe doing this,” gesturing toward the walls around us. “Maybe starting a spa, or a business.” And yeah, I could see myself doing something like that, too, but for now I’m really content to grow what I do by way of natural next steps, rather than another massive overhaul. That had to happen, but hopefully just the one time.

How does your experience in changing careers influence how you talk to kids about what they want to be when they "grow up"?

I try not to talk to kids about that, and instead to talk about who they are now, what brings them joy and makes them laugh and live most fully. I meet a lot of different people and one thing I know for sure is that we never ‘arrive’ in the way we think we might. We are all in progress, always, until the end. I don’t want to trick kids into thinking life is to be lived later. Dreams and goals are hugely important; they allow us to see ourselves in places we haven’t yet explored. They allow us to take steps in those directions. But taking steps at all and staying open to new possibilities is what counts. The world opens up in unfathomably perfect ways when we can do that all the time.
 
 
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Celebrating the Spring Solstice on the morning after the ER. Nothing like a new kazoo to keep it posicore.
We had our second run-in with anaphylaxis a couple of weeks ago, on a Friday night. Kaspar tasted some mustard -- which he'd eaten a few times before without recourse -- with his chicken at dinner, then ventured out to the backyard while Aaron and I finished our meal. The yard is entirely fenced in, and we can see most of it through the sliding glass doors that look out onto our porch; our table sits next to the doors, inside. We've been enjoying Kaspar's recent habit of playing out there after dinner, as it allows us to have a few minutes to actually speak to each other in full sentences while the little man burns off his last bursts of daytime energy before his bath and bedtime routine begin. Kaspar, for his part, has been feeling like quite the independent dude on his solo play-escapes, though he pops up to the porch to tell us things through the doors every three or four minutes when he's out there. I'm sure this makes him feel more secure, and it provides a perfect way for us to keep close track of him while still playing it casual; he doesn't think we're actively supervising, even though we are. On that Friday, he went down his slide a few times, pushed his Tonka truck around the back of the house (the blind spot -- we can't see him when he runs around there) and then reappeared at the doors, all smiles: "Hi!" I took one look at him, slid open the doors and lifted him onto a chair inside; his upper lip was beginning to swell in the middle, just where it had when he suffered a severe allergic reaction to some lentils almost exactly two years ago. During that episode, the rest of his mouth had quickly followed suit; my baby tore at his throat with his hands while he struggled to breathe, and Aaron called 911 while I administered an Epi Pen into Kaspar's thigh. This time, Kaspar wasn't having any trouble breathing, but I knew what we were dealing with, and how quickly his condition could -- and most likely would -- change.

I grabbed a Benadryl (they're pretty much always within reach at our place, although we rarely have to use them anymore), gave it to Kaspar, and then explained to him that his lips were swelling a little bit and that he was probably having an allergic reaction; I told him we might need to go to the hospital, and we might need to use an Epi Pen. I'm not sure if he really even knew what these things meant in practical terms. We talk about food allergies all the time, obviously, and Kaspar's had minor reactions to foods since that terrible ordeal two years ago, but never any facial swelling and never again an Epi Pen. (If his eyes start itching or he gets hives, a Benadryl followed by close monitoring are usually enough to nip it in the bud.) Our allergist told us, during our annual round of testing and appointments last year, to use the Epi immediately if we do see any lip-swelling, but since Kaspar seemed otherwise fine on that recent Friday, Aaron and I decided to give it five minutes post-Benadryl before making a decision: If Kaspar had gotten any worse, we'd have used the Epi pen right away. If he improved, we'd call his pediatrician's after-hours line, get some advice, and continue monitoring. If nothing changed, we decided, we'd call 911 and take it from there. Thankfully, he didn't worsen in that five minutes. But his lip was still swollen. Significantly so. I talked to him calmly about how he was okay, and was going to be okay; I told him I'd be with him every step of the way if we had to go to the hospital. My eyes left his face only to watch the second hand creep around the clock. At the five minute mark, my gaze met Aaron's. I said, "I'm going to call 911."

"Do you think we need to?" Aaron said. (Kaspar's condition was alarming but not entirely foreign to us, and on the spectrum of anaphylaxis-related symptoms, his were pretty mild. That said, anaphylaxis to any degree is not, by definition, 'mild.' No one wants to give a kid an Epi pen injection and spend Friday night in the ER, but we both knew that this was probably exactly what we were about to do.)

"Yes, his lip is swollen. People D-I-E from this, Aaron; we have to go by the book. We can wait on the Epi, but I'm going to call."

"Okay, yeah." Aaron said. "Call."

"D-I-E. Die," Kaspar said. We looked at him. (He looked pretty pleased with himself. And swollen-lipped.) Aaron and I talked about this later ("Did you hear him say that? How did he know what that spelled?") but in the moment, we were moving quickly, and we didn't comment. Aaron stayed with Kas while I took my phone into the bedroom and called 911. I explained the situation, and the operator said an ambulance was on the way, and that we'd need to go ahead and use the Epi pen. With the phone on speaker (911 prefers that you don't hang up until in-person help arrives), I held Kaspar on my lap while Aaron gave him the shot. I told him it would hurt, but reassured him that it was going to help him and that the pain wouldn't last for long. He whimpered for a minute and I hugged him tightly. Then we heard sirens, and, a few moments later, opened the front door. As our neighbors poured out of their houses toward ours, four first-responder firemen surrounded us, got a handle on the situation, and then asked if it would be okay if they came into our home. Two minutes later, an ambulance pulled up and two EMTs joined us there.

Kaspar was still doing well; his throat wasn't closing, but the EMTs told us that reactions sometimes quickly take a turn for the worse half an hour, or more, later, and that we did the right thing by using the Epi pen. They took Kaspar's vitals and asked us questions about what had happened, what foods Kaspar's allergic to, his history with all of this, and so forth. Last time, we'd been rushed into an ambulance and immediately to the ER, lights and sirens blazing. This time, the scene felt like it was under control; I was scared, but not terrified. I was focused. We were all mutlitasking -- I was holding Kaspar and answering questions, Aaron was answering questions and packing a bag, the EMTs were asking questions and taking Kaspar's oxygen levels, collecting the used Epi pen and Benadryl dosage information, and so forth. Kaspar was pointing to the machines the EMTs had brought inside and asking all kinds of questions of his own.

We did need to ride in the ambulance (Kaspar thought this was pretty cool), and go to the ER. I rode with Kaspar while Aaron followed in our car, just like last time. I breathed deeply and talked to Kaspar throughout the ride. I focused on staying present, breathing, and nodded "Okay, yes, I understand," when the EMT prepped another epinephrine injection, "Just in case his lips swell any more." The EMT's were kind, and wonderful with Kaspar, and with us. The hospital staff, too, were all attentive, gentle, and kind. We know so much more now than we did last time, and we were able to provide the pros with the right info, and to explain matter-of-factly that Kaspar'd had mustard before but had reacted only this time. They could tell we know what we're dealing with and that we didn't need the regular spiel, during our visit, on the dangers of food allergies. We didn't need to think about anyone D-I-E-ing. We needed to get Kaspar into a definitely-stable zone, and then get our little boy home. We stayed for several hours -- there's a certain amount of monitoring time required after an Epi pen injection -- and then, after Kaspar was given some oral steroids and we received instructions to give him another Benadryl at 1 a.m. (both of these medications would keep him safe from a rebound reaction overnight, and the steroids would keep him in the clear for 36 hours while the allergen made its way out of his system), we were discharged. Despite being hopped up on, um, six or seven little plastic cups of apple juice, Kaspar fell asleep as soon as he was strapped into his car seat. He slept right through Aaron carrying him from the car to his bed when we got home, and through wetting it twice overnight (apple juice revisited), until morning. I slept beside him, in that awake-sleep moms master when we have newborns, listening throughout the night to the sound of my son's deep, rhythmic breathing. 

We'd been planning to celebrate the spring solstice the following morning; Aaron and I made breakfast and then gave Kaspar his 'Solstice Basket.' I'd gone a little overboard with gifts, and at that moment, I was happy to be able to spoil him. He looked a little worse for the wear -- hair matted, dark circles around his eyes -- and he was a bit lethargic, but he was delighted to set up our solstice centerpiece and blow bubbles around the kitchen. I learned the next day, from a coworker whose 13-year-old nephew has had to self-administer an Epi pen due to a life-threatening dairy allergy, that an anaphylactic reaction (followed by adrenaline and steroid treatment) causes a person to feel pretty gross for several days after it all takes place. This isn't surprising -- any kind of severe shock has got to take a major toll on all of the body's systems -- but it did stop me in my tracks as I reflected on Kaspar's enthusiasm for his usual passions during the day after his ordeal. After our Solstice celebration, Aaron went to his Saturday animation class, and Kaspar and I spent the day together at home. He kicked his soccer ball around, asked me to play music so he could dance, and generally romped at about 80% of his usual romp-capacity. I, on the other hand, felt relieved, but wiped out, physically and emotionally. I played with Kaspar, hugged him a million times, felt grateful that our experience the previous evening had been a relatively tame one compared with our first ER trip, but my mind spun: Kaspar's allergies are supposed to be going away. He's not supposed to be developing new allergies. Do we need to start being wary of all spices? (I'd known mustard is related to sesame, which Kas is super allergic to, but very few people have a cross-reaction between the two.) His reaction had happened so quickly; what if he hadn't come running back to the doors, from behind the house, to say hi? How long would I have gone on with my dinner before calling his name and checking on him? And then the bigger questions: is he really safe at school every day? We take every precaution, but what if something like this set in while he was on the playground? Are his teachers watching him? How will he go to high school? Will he have to prepare all of his own meals in college? How will he date? How will he travel? What will his life be like? And the thought I wouldn't let myself think, but that hung overhead like a dark cloud: This is real. This is still serious, it happened again. One mistake and my child could D.I.E. 

After a few days, we'd resumed our normal routine, and Kaspar was doing great. My spinning thoughts had also calmed down. We had our annual allergy testing appointment scheduled for the following Wednesday; I'd thought we might hold off to give Kaspar a break, but the previous Friday felt long past, and we went as planned. We did some skin testing, and ran blood tests a few days later. Not surprisingly, Kaspar's mustard skin test yielded a giant red welt. He is highly allergic to mustard now, and one of only a handful of our allergist's patients who is. It was a relief, in a way, to confirm this; now we know to avoid mustard. And while it was unsettling to acknowledge that Kaspar has definitely developed a few new allergies over the past year -- fish and annatto, a natural coloring -- among them, his overall situation is still steadily (in fact, dramatically) improving. On the skin testing day, we learned that he can now safely eat bananas and avocados. Our allergist also reassured us that tons of research is being done on kids' food allergies; they're now epidemic in our society, which has spurred great progress and funding into finding true cures. (I'd asked "How will Kaspar go to college?" aloud, and he said, "There will be a cure by then.") He also reassured us that families who know about their kids' food allergies manage them very effectively; Epi pens are a must, and they're not fun, but they save lives when they need to. What counts is that we have them. Kaspar is going to be okay. I found this deeply reassuring. But the most powerful information our allergist passed on came a few days later, when he called to give us some truly astonishing news: Kaspar's most severe allergies, across the board, have come down by 50% over the past year. Peanut, two years ago, clocked in at a 70 (lentils were at a whopping 90-something); last year peanut had come down to a 40. This year it's at a 21. Other nuts, soy, wheat, eggs and so forth have likewise followed suit. Oats are probably okay to eat -- 'probably' enough that I was given the green light to try them at home. (Haven't done that yet. We're still partying hard over bananas.) Fish was all over the place. We'll need to re-test that to know what's up.

To provide some perspective, the 'safe zone' for a food is a score of 2 or less. We still have a ways to go, and Kaspar still definitely cannot eat those foods he's allergic to. But our allergist told us last year, and this year, that with this many allergies at these levels, he didn't have any expectation we'd see much improvement, and certainly not at this pace. The chances of kids with one or two food allergies growing out of them are pretty good, but this isn't so -- statistically -- for kids like Kaspar. His initial allergy counts were shockingly high, not just to me, but in the eyes of the allergist, who does this day in and day out. They're still up there, but nowhere near where they were. "Keep doing everything you're doing," he told me over the phone. 
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K, ready for skin testing. Such a trooper.
After the ER, I felt overwhelmed by our situation, which is to say utterly stalled, like we're stalked by a threat that will never let go. Like it happened again, and it wasn't as bad, but it can happen again, with new foods. The questions spun and spun. How will Kaspar have a normal life? Will he ever be safe? Will he be happy? Kaspar lives entirely within our orbit right now, and cooking all of his food, making raw milk yogurt, and ensuring nothing crosses his plate that he can't eat is a matter of daily life for me. But as I looked ahead to school trips, summer camps and soccer teams, I realized how disruptive this could all become for him, how his participation in events and activities will always come with questions about what and how he'll eat. And of course there's the question of access to emergency care if it were to become necessary. A friend recently sent me this New York Times Magazine article about a new food allergy therapy that's shown some promise (our allergist actually does not recommend this at this point; it can cause major side effects like esophagitis -- and definitely anaphylaxis, although that theoretically happens under controlled circumstances -- and results have not been shown to be lasting...); while I was fascinated by the treatment it describes, I was also struck by the description the author offers of her family's own reality, and those of the other families profiled in the piece. She described our reality. And reading it, I realized -- as much as our lives are pretty calm now, as much as we have our system down -- our reality is extreme. And it's scary. At times, any given moment that we don't see coming, when our kid runs around a corner and his mouth is starting to swell, it's terrifying.

But after our appointment with our allergist, and after his phone call... and even now... I am ecstatic. We do have our system. And we have our Epi pens for the scary moments we never see coming, but they are rare. We're prepared for them. Kaspar takes his Chinese herbs and drinks his raw milk and his fresh juice and eats a great, ever-expanding diet (who needs fish?) and his allergies are getting better. Last year was not a fluke. His numbers are coming down. By a LOT. Defying odds. Surprising all of us. When he was a baby, he was miserable and so were we, and it seemed we'd never find our way out. And now I'm allowing myself to think a thought I haven't quite permitted full formation in my mind, because it seemed impossible, and almost too wonderful to imagine, almost scary to imagine for its radical promise, hovering over my head in these years of mothering: when Kaspar goes to college, it's possible he won't have any food allergies at all. This might not follow him forever. Maybe not for much longer, even. These allergies are going away. Every single one of them. I finally, firmly believe that they can, and I'm determined to see that they do. 
 
 
 
 
I've been a little MIA on the blogging scene, both over at Parenting.com and here on Alt-Mama, since the New Year; you may have guessed from my not-so-subtle hints that hormonal things are happening which can explain my relative quiet. As in, I'm a little bit pregnant... about seven weeks. Yay! I'm excited, crazy-hungry, a bit nauseated, and tired; between massage brain and baby brain, there hasn't been a lot of writing going on. That being said, good writing (and reading, for y'all) awaits, as I'm going to be back on Parenting's Project Pregnancy blog -- where I documented all things pregnancy #1 back in 2009/2010 -- shortly. And I have fun things planned for Alt-Mama, too. So strap in. It's about to be bump-watch (plus nesting plus all-around prenatal par-tay) time. 
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Houston, we have a (cute!) heartbeat.
I know I'm letting the secret out 'early,' but I'm okay with this. I actually didn't even know about the twelve week safety zone when I was pregnant with Kaspar; consequently, all of our friends and family knew we were knocked up by, like, four weeks. (As with this pregnancy, I got a positive test very early on.) Only then did someone at work gasp in alarm (pregnancy news spreads quickly) and tell me I could very well miscarry -- she said it just like that -- which sent me into a fit of nail-biting until the end of my first trimester, which, coincidentally, coincided exactly with my wedding day. Now, I know miscarriage is indeed common (20% of pregnancies... that's a lot), and in fact that woman at work who brought me up to speed had experienced a few more than a few miscarriages herself (she has since, through the wonders of modern medicine, delivered a healthy baby boy). But if my Kaspar-fetus survived wedding-planning stress -- which he obviously did -- I know for sure that the experts aren't lying when they say there's nothing one can or can't do to prevent a miscarriage from happening. Either the baby's gonna stick, or it's not. And while I of course feel deeply for mamas who've miscarried or had pregnancy-related difficulties (my own mom struggled with some of this), and I'm well aware it happens to perfectly healthy women all the time, I also try to bear in mind that the stories of multiple-miscarriages others have told me are not my story. I want to be excited, enjoy this first trimester, and -- above all else -- keep fear and 'what if's' at bay.

I believe every woman should handle early pregnancy, miscarriage, pregnancy-at-large and birth in whatever ways feel right to her. Each mama's stories are different, and our stories are deeply personal. So personally, while I feel a sense of community and empathy with all mamas everywhere, living our different lives and our different stories, I'm choosing to focus on positive stories for the purposes of pregnancy #2. I well remember the excitement of pregnancy, but also a certain tendency toward fearful pregnancy that pervades our culture, and is also often, if inadvertently, shared and spread among women ourselves. Whether we're scheduling our next 'screening' for some (barely) potential problem, or hearing other mamas tell of days-long, painful labors and emergency C-sections, it's easy to get caught up in an expectation that, at any moment, something might go wrong. Well you know what? It's not my first rodeo. And I know that, of course, something could go wrong. At any moment. It probably won't, but if it does, I can handle it, and I know I'll have the support and love of our family, our friends, and you good readers out there. In the meantime, tell me positive stories. I promise to tell positive stories, too.

I have a few things I could be afraid of during this pregnancy. I have a blood clot history, and therefore am classified as high-risk; I'd like to have a pretty hands-free pregnancy and a home birth -- a safe and wonderful option for low-risk pregnant women -- but instead I'm working with a wonderful doctor and a doula (TBA), and injecting myself with blood thinners every day. I did that last time, too. Unlike last time, I know what questions to ask and I know what I do and don't want in delivering my baby. As it turns out, I probably won't have to be induced, and I can probably have a natural birth in a hospital setting. So that's cool. The other thing that's nagging at the back of my mind is, obviously, a food allergy and eczema remix. What we went through with Kaspar was really hard for all of us. It took me a while to even consider the possibility of pregnancy again, knowing that a food-allergic baby #2 is indeed slightly more probable for us than for a family without allergies in the mix. But statistics, (positive) stories from other allergy mamas, and my doctor, have assured me that it's far from guaranteed our second baby will have any allergies at all. Doctors have no idea why, but many families have one kid with countless allergies, and other kids with none. And some studies show that eating nuts during pregnancy prevents food allergies, while other studies show the opposite. There's not a lot of rhyme or reason around this topic yet, and not a lot of knowledge. Even so, I'm going to avoid eating the major allergens during my second and third trimester, and I have an appointment scheduled with Kaspar's TCM doctor to see if there are some herbs I can take to help prevent any allergic issues in my baby. And if this baby does show symptoms similar to baby-Kaspar's, we'll know what we're dealing with, and we will be fine. 

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Blood thinner injections. Yeehaw.
I am declaring this a Fear-Free Pregnancy, no matter what happens, and knowing full well that this is life, and sometimes -- in life -- shit goes down. I'm focusing on feeling awesome, and visualizing a happy, healthy me, and a happy, healthy baby. I'm drinking a lot of juice. And eating a lot of carnitas tacos. I'm dreaming up names. I'm bracing myself for two small kiddos, as my one small kiddo creeps up on turning three. Age two was far from terrible -- we had one week of difficulty, which was about the extent of it -- and was a piece of cake, I suspect, compared to what's in store. Kaspar is as joyful and animated as ever, but this age is, um, something. Everything that already took twice as long as it did now takes twice as long as that ("Kaspar, please climb into the car... Kaspar, please get into your car seat... Kaspar, please get in the car... Kaspar, please stop pressing the buttons on the door and climb into the car.... Kaspar-get-into-the-car..."), and Kaspar's constant questions reflect new layers of comprehension that often catch me unaware (yesterday: "If you like what than you should have put a ring on what?"). He hears everything, feels deeply, and talks and moves continuously. This is a fun stage -- this boy of mine is so loving and funny and sweet, it's amazing -- but I'm pretty much exhausted all the time, and it takes a lot to make me tired. I am excited, though, for the months to come, for baby time, and to watch my baby #1 grow into his role as big brother. 
What do you think about the twelve week safety zone, early pregnancy, and first trimester changes? How have your second (or third, etc.) pregnancies differed from your first? Suggestions on great pregnancy books for positive stories? What's essential in a good doula? (We'll be interviewing next week.) Thanks for joining our family on this journey!