Friday, December 16, 2011

Encouraged

our new family of four....


I’ve wanted to get back to writing….for quite a while. But time and ideas haven’t been very abundant. Or I feel like there are things I want to share…but don’t know how to. I keep tripping over my words….even in trying to share my thoughts with Ben (which is usually very clarifying) I feel like I just muddle around and don’t convey anything. :-)

Life has been very full the past 6 weeks. Full in a good way…an abundant and blessed way. And full in a stretching and challenging way.

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Timothy’s been such an incredible addition to our family! And it’s been really sweet to watch Vivi become a big sister and see how much she’s matured. Just this week, she’s started to interact more with Timothy (nicely, yay! that’s been a work in progress…). She tells him about kitty-cats (her favorite thing to talk about- and no, she didn’t get her love for cats from me!)…and she smothers him in kisses. She tickles his toes and shows him her books. And Timothy smiles and coos back at her….already growing enamored with his big sis.

Timothy’s changing so constantly, and growing so fast….what works one day is bound to not work the next. :-) He’s very similar to and very different from Vivi…with his own little set of challenges and blessings.

Family walks are a lot of fun- with Ben and I both having a head peeking out of the tops of our coats. Family walks when, in spite of having two kiddos with us, we can hold hands and catch up on the day.

I think our days are settling into a pattern of sorts- one that changes every time Timothy does! He gets most of his sleep in the woven wrap, although sometimes he naps down in the playpen for a while….and once in a very rare while, he naps for an hour in there. While he sleeps, Vivi and I usually tackle the day’s jobs- laundry, cleaning, cooking, sewing, or whatever else we have up our sleeves. We also play, and read books…reading’s become a favorite activity of Vivi’s! I enjoy getting to interact with her quite a bit- entering her world, and letting her enter mine. I’m working at becoming more creative so I can better “play”….I’m not very good at it. ;-) When Timothy’s awake, we tend to read quite a bit more (it makes a great nursing activity if I’m not tandem nursing!)…and otherwise Vivi tags along and helps with Timothy or joins her daddy in his work arena for a while.

We’ve slowed down life so that more of our evenings are at home, which is fun. Recently, desiring to feel more connected to Ben, I started pondering what it is that makes “dates” (even though Vivi, and now Timothy, tag along) feel special and help us to reconnect. After talking to Ben about it, we decided that the biggest thing is just not having to get up from the table, and not being in a rush to go anywhere or do anything (i.e. dishes/kitchen clean-up…since neither of us are procrastinators). So we’ve changed up our meals a little, and it’s been so much fun- and a huge blessing to our relationship! We’ve started making sure the kitchen is as cleaned up as possible before we eat (if I get behind in the afternoon, Ben always helps me catch up on prep-dishes), and bring the food all over to the table. Meals at home have become much more special and something to look forward to…for more reasons than just fabulous food! Ben’s also reading a devotional aloud, which has sparked good conversation.

Total alone time for me and Ben is scarce right now, but we went through this season with Vivi, too. And after Vivi goes down to bed I can usually get Timothy to sleep and keep him asleep in the wrap or my arms…and Ben and I get to chat, hang out, read aloud, watch movies, etc. So we still get to connect, at least…without much in the way of interruptions.

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That’s on the perfect days. But we don’t have many of those. We have stretches of several nights in a row where Timothy’s up and fussy the whole evening- and Ben and I just hope that “tomorrow” will be the night we get some time together. I have days when I feel touched out….and just really want a shower- by myself- with the door shut. I have days when I let stress creep in and build up to frustration till I snap- and my family pays for it. I want to be a perfect mom who’s patient all the time…but I’m not- patience has always been a struggle for me. And time and again I beg God for more of the stuff…and to not let my imperfections scar my children. And then I fail. Again. And I might vent frustration off on Vivi because she’s not listening, and be less patient or less gentle than I want to be…even if it’s only the first wrong thing she’s done- because it’s the 25th problem I’ve dealt with in a short space of time.

It awes and amazes me how forgiving Viviana is. How it doesn’t matter if I just snapped at her…she’ll still smile and blow me kisses and wrap her arms around me. She’ll still tell me everything there is to tell and get in my face and climb all over me. And I smile and cry at the same time because it’s so beautiful….but gosh, I don’t deserve it. And I want more than anything to keep such beautiful trust forever. But I know I’ll mess up again…so I cling to the hope that as she remembers my mistakes, she also remembers how much I love her under my humanness…and all the times I ask her forgiveness and hold her close…and the times I offer her the forgiveness and grace she gives so freely to me.

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Being a mommy to two has challenged me in many ways. It’s stretched me to my limits. It’s grown me. In spite of all the mistakes, I know I’m a much more patient person than I was a few months ago…because I’m learning through the mistakes and everyday, I grow a little. It’s humbled me…and I think it’s even helping me to hold out more grace for others (weak point #2 for me). I think it’s also changed the way I think a little. Not the core things I believe in…not the heart at the bottom of my ideals. But how they play out? Definitely….multiples is just different, because I’m only one person.

I expected the issues of not being able to meet everyone’s needs at once to be more difficult to transition to than they have been. That’s been a blessing…but more than once, I’ve felt like I’m de-sensitized or something, because “this” should be freaking me out. And then I have to remember that not being bothered…and not freaking out…and handling things in an orderly fashion…is healthier for all of us, and just an unexpected blessing. I’ve left each of them while caring for the other far more than I would’ve ever dreamed of doing with just Vivi. I’ve left Timothy with Ben while nursing Vivi to sleep…even though he’s fussy- because I’m confident he’s only tired and that Ben will be able to soothe him well for 10 minutes- and because my other baby needs me, too. I’ve had to totally leave Vivi when she’s having a melt-down (because she’s exhausted and probably hungry and really just needs me) because Timothy just finally fell asleep and her noise is waking him up. And sometimes….on the long days when neither baby’s having a good day…I’ve had to leave just so I can take a deep breath and refocus. Because they need all the focus I can muster during all the other minutes of the day.

Timothy isn’t forever attached to me like Vivi was. I still wear or carry him most of the day, because it’s what he needs and generally the main place he’ll sleep fairly well. But I put him down, too. Often it gives Vivi and I some nice time together…or sometimes she’s napping and it’s total free time for me. And I’m realizing that’s okay… When it was just Vivi, there were two of us parents and only one baby. Which means that even though she received constant skin-to-skin touch (what she needed, personally), it didn’t always come from me….which is to say, I got breaks. With two little ones, even when Ben’s around, usually one of them is with/on me.

Ben and I have talked some recently (and then I read some great posts, like this one about the fact that attachment parenting isn’t always easy. It is beautiful…I absolutely love it. I love having my babies with me all the time. I adore co-sleeping. My baby carriers are my favorite toys. I love treating our children like real people- friends. And, I also believe the practices thereof are best for baby. Infanthood and childhood slip by so fast…and we want to pour ourselves into our kids in the ways they need. Lots of touch has definitely been a need for both Vivi and Timothy. Attachment parenting definitely meets that goal. But although I will continue to practice attachment parenting (or, instinctual parenting), and although I’ll continue to praise it’s virtues and encourage others in natural parenting…it’s kind of a relief to be able to admit that sometimes, natural parenting is difficult…and it was even more encouraging to read the post mentioned above- kind of like being given permission to feel human. Because natural doesn’t mean easy. A lot of aspects to natural parenting do make some things easier. Without the tools associated with it, like baby carriers and co-sleeping, we’d be lost. I wouldn’t get anything done, I’d be severely sleep-deprived, and Pizza Hut would probably find its way to our table pretty often. As it happens, our babies seem to need attachment parenting, so it works out for us- and is easier than trying to make them fit in other boxes. Nonetheless…that doesn’t make it actually easy. Because we’re all human…and sometimes it’d be nice to feel like I’m my own body…or to spend some time with just Ben.

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Someday…as more lessons are learned….I’ll figure out better how to share where God has me. Hopefully, I’ll be able to continue to bless other moms in this season, as I share from my heart and figure out where God’s taking me. Maybe I’ll even keep getting better at coming across gracefully- thanks to Ben and life lessons…and a hungry desire for grace to be given back.

So on this new leg of the journey, I’m learning. And living. And stretching. And loving (almost) every minute of it.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Timothy's Birth Story


Dear Timothy Stephen Graber,

We welcomed you into our hearts many months ago….and now, we’ve welcomed you into our arms and lives! You were born October 31st at 10:52 pm. You weighed a healthy 9 lbs 4 oz, were 21 ½ inches long and had a whopper 14 ½” head.

I had a nice, leisurely pre-labor, having consistent Braxton hicks (5-10 minutes apart, mostly….but sometimes 15) from Thursday (the 27th) through Saturday early afternoon. There were a couple spots where they tapered off and became sporadic for a few hours, and then would kick in at a consistent rate again. Saturday afternoon-Sunday contractions were just sporadic…the calm before the storm.

I did a lot of walking during those days, to help keep things moving and tone and prepare my body for labor. It was really exciting to know I’d be meeting you soon, but sometimes all the emotional energy that went into excitement and anticipation, thinking that maybe “this” would be the day things would kick in for real, and disappointment when they didn’t, got a little wearing. Sunday, though, I was able to let it go and move back to focusing on normal life instead of putting all my focus on when you might come. We had a great family day, enjoying a nice hike, and then went out to an afternoon dinner at Hometown Buffet with some friends of ours, the Moffitts and others, who do an annual October get together there.

Sunday night they were still sporadic, but increased in intensity to something like bad menstrual cramps. As soon as I woke up Monday morning, the day of your birth, they became regular, 5-10 minutes apart. At one point, they became a bit more sporadic, getting as far apart as 15 minutes. However, they still stayed strong, and increased some throughout the morning. So I thought that maybe we’d be meeting you in the next day or so.

It wasn’t till 1pm that things really kicked in and I knew almost undoubtedly I was in labor for real. I still didn’t think we’d get to meet you that same day, though- I thought for sure you’d be a November 1st baby, not quite able to believe your labor could be so much faster than Vivi’s. Around 1, when I was nursing Vivi asleep for her nap the contractions started feeling like real labor contractions. Within an hour or so, they were intense enough that I generally had to stop or slow down what I was doing during a contraction.

After Daddy was done with work, sometime around 3, we went for a walk together. Vivi didn’t understand why we stopped every several minutes instead of keeping forward as she’d commanded! It was fun to spend the time with Daddy and Vivi, anticipating your birth and knowing for sure we’d be meeting you really soon! When we got home, I decided to lay down and rest some. The contractions were coming every 3-5 minutes, and by 4 had started getting even stronger. Between 4 and 6 they continued to get stronger and stronger, and Daddy started working to get everything ready. I had tried to get the house fairly ready (cleaned up, all the laundry caught up, etc.) earlier in the day….but Daddy had his hands full filling up the pool, laying out table cloths (to keep the floor dry), helping Vivi, and doing various other odd jobs. He was a great labor mate, and helped me in so many ways!

At 6, I called Cindy Rogel, our midwife, to update her on where things were at. Contractions were getting pretty difficult to deal with, so I decided to try getting in the pool and see if they would still stay steady, or if they tapered off too much. Since it wasn’t very full yet, Vivi came in with me for a while, too, and I spent quite a bit of time nursing her. It was helpful to be able to nurse and snuggle with her for a while….she thought my labor was hilarious for quite a while, but having a mommy who wasn’t available to her was getting to be a little much for Vivi by then. Somewhere in there, Daddy asked if he could call Grandma Carmichael to ask her to come (I’d kept her updated throughout the day), because he felt like things were really moving. She got to our house around 6:30, along with Brylee Kay. At that point, Vivi got back out of the pool, and I ended up following shortly. I was really enjoying the relaxation of the water, but my contractions were spacing out quite a bit, so I thought maybe it’d be better to wait and keep them coming faster.

Shortly thereafter, Daddy called Grandma Graber and asked her to come, which worked out really well. Vivi was starting to have a difficult time with things again, and a grandma totally focused on her was the perfect remedy. She was really excited to have both grandmas around! Around 8:15, Daddy called Cindy to update her and ask her to come, and somewhere around there, I got back in the pool, because I was having a hard time staying on top of the contractions again. This time, contractions stayed 2-3 minutes apart, even in the water. The water was so helpful in being able to relax. I was able to totally phase out and rest during the short breaks between the contractions, and just like during Vivi’s labor, Daddy held my face out of the water for me. The water helped take the edge off during the contractions, too, and overall, although it was hard work, I was fairly comfortable, and managed to stay on top of the contractions fairly well.

Somewhere around 9, Ben put Vivi down to bed for the night. She had a bit of a difficult time, but did much better than I expected, considering everything that was going on. He ended up being in there for 45 minutes or so with her. Around 9 as well, Cindy got there, and set up her stuff. After she’d been there for a while, I asked if she’d be interested in checking me soon, and she said she would whenever I wanted her to. She started getting ready to do so, so she could time it between contractions. Several contractions later, before checking me, Cindy commented that my last contraction had sounded a little pushy, and asked if I was feeling the need to bear down. I told her I wasn’t sure, but that I had never felt an urge to push with Vivi, either…I take after my mom. With the next contraction, I mentioned that I was feeling a lot of pressure in my bottom. Cindy was confident from the way I was acting and signs I was giving that I was about ready to start pushing, but offered to still check me if I wanted to so that I knew. I said I did. Around that time, Ben came out, so he was there when Cindy checked me and said I was fully dilated and pretty much fully effaced. She also checked the heartbeat, which was good and strong. I could hardly believe I was already so far along. Everyone else there thought we’d have an October baby after all, which shocked me….it was exciting to realize that I really might be meeting you in the next couple hours! Cindy directed me to wait a contraction or two, and then try bearing down gently for a few contractions and see how it felt before actually starting to push.

Around 10, I started bearing down. It didn’t feel like it brought any relief from the contraction, as it does for many women, but it didn’t hurt more, either, so after several contractions I shifted to real pushing. It took me a little while to get in a groove- the bag of waters hadn’t broke yet, and I felt like I had a hard time telling if the pushing was even effective at all.

Daddy was a great supporter the whole time- without him, I couldn’t have done it. The last hour was pretty intense for me, and I had a hard time dealing with the contractions and pressure very well. I felt like things easily got out of my control. But Daddy was such a good encourager, helping me to relax, to zone out between contractions, and reminding me many times that I really could do this. The rest of my birth team was great, too- reminding me of the miracle to come, and offering encouraging helps along the way. I didn’t expect it, because I have very positive memories of Vivi’s birth, and overall felt like it was a beautiful miracle, but some of the difficulties of her birth- especially pushing for 2 ½ hours, and holding her head in a full crown for an hour- became a bit of a mental hang up for me, even though I knew it was likely that your birth would be very different, being a 2nd born. I almost felt paralyzed as the pushing progressed and I could feel your head coming down- afraid of how long the discomfort would last and certain I couldn’t handle holding you in a crown for an hour. But Daddy and the rest of the team encouraged me to keep going, and that it would only be a matter of a few more pushes before you were out. In retrospect, it was a good lesson in how much the mental effects giving birth. Although it still went really well, I think the last hour would’ve been even better, and easier to stay on top of (especially considering it really wasn’t all that long a period), if not for the sudden and unexpected mental hang-ups, and focusing on how long it *might* end up being.

Cindy ended up breaking my water for me, since we were so close to the end, and she knew feeling the “bone on bone” would help with the final pushes. It definitely intensified things, but it also made it a lot easier to feel what my pushing was doing, and feel you moving down, which was helpful.

I spent most of the labor in a hands and knees position (with my hands usually on the edge of the pool, in Daddy’s), because that felt like it relieved the pressure and contraction pain the best. Cindy asked how I wanted to deliver you, and I mentioned that I would prefer to deliver you sitting or squatting, so I could see you right away. But I also mentioned that at that point, that position wasn’t comfortable, so if I was still in hands and knees when you were born, I was okay with that…I’d rather be able to stay on top of contractions and push effectively. Once I could feel your head actually coming, I asked with every contraction whether or not you were in a crown yet. I still didn’t particularly like pushing, but it was hard to stop when the contractions were ended, leaving all the pressure just hanging there while waiting for another contraction to hit. Daddy and the water helped me to relax, though, even through the very end of the birth. Every time I started to feel a contraction coming on, I would lift my head out of the water, grab Daddy’s hands and say, “Okay, here we go…” Pretty soon we hit a full crown, and when you didn’t emerge all the way through with that contraction, Cindy told me the next one would be it. The next contraction didn’t bring a head, either, and I panicked that we still had a really long haul ahead of us, just like your sister’s birth, and wasn’t sure how I could keep doing it for an hour. 3rd contraction, though, and a push that used everything I had, brought your head all the way through. I instinctively flipped over to a sitting/squatting position, and the rest of your body slipped out really fast, without any pushing. I didn’t even realize I had flipped over; later I said something to Daddy about Cindy having helped me flip and he said she didn’t….that I just moved myself. I guess my body knew what it needed to do, and I was so glad to be able to see you right away as Cindy lifted your beautiful body up out of the water. We could all see right away that you were a boy, and Grandma Graber and Cindy also noticed that your cord had broken right after you came out of the water, filling the pool with blood. Cindy put you on my chest and we wrapped you in a towel.

You were bluish, probably from the lack of oxygen with your cord breaking so fast. You did cry right away, though, and although you were quieter and a long time in opening your eyes, you still seemed to do really well with it. Cindy helped rub you down well and was watching you carefully….I remember asking her several times if you were okay. My after-birth contractions were really intense as my body worked to birth the placenta, so after a little while I gave you to Daddy for the first time. Daddy adores you, and was thrilled to meet you. Prior to that, Viviana had woke up, so Daddy brought her out to see us. She was a little bewildered at first, and cried as she fully woke up and tried to figure out what was going on….and why mama was still in the pool. Once she woke up, though, she was fully enamored by you. It was so special to watch Daddy introduce you to her, and see how excited she was about “baby”. She took you under her wing immediately, and was very protective of you. The whole rest of the night, she wanted to be right by you, looking out for you. The placenta took an hour to deliver, and between being really tired, and dealing with the contractions, mommy was a little out of it…but not so much that I didn’t enjoy getting to listen to your grandmas, Daddy, and Vivi meet and enjoy you. You got really alert for quite a while with them.

Grandma Graber held you while Daddy, Cindy, and Grandma Carmichael (who also had Aunt Brylee Kay) helped with Vivi and helped get me cleaned up, dressed, and settled in on the couch in the living room. Once I was situated there, I got you back, and you enjoyed nursing and playing at my breast. Vivi joined us, too, which was special- enjoying my two babies together for the first time. I also nursed Vivi some, though you weren’t interested at that point, so it wasn’t till Tuesday that I tandem nursed you two for the first time. I enjoyed snuggling with you and getting to know you while Cindy cleaned up the birth mess, prior to weighing, measuring, and checking you. It was probably 1 in the morning before Cindy checked you out- healthy and good to go! After that, Daddy took Vivi back to bed, and mommy, Cindy, and your grandmas chatted for a while. Grandma Carmichael also got to hold you for a while in there, while Brylee was playing with Vivi. Everyone left between 1:30-2:30, and around 3, Daddy and I settled in to sleep. You were really tuckered out from the birth, so you slept soundly, and didn’t start nursing much till the next day. You were so quiet while sleeping that I kept periodically nudging you to make sure you were okay.

I’m so grateful God blessed us with a beautiful labor and birth experience. I’m also thankful for the wonderful birth team we had, and how perfect they were for me. Daddy makes the best labor partner in the world, always sensitive to my needs, and always strong for me. Most of all, though, I’m just thankful for you- my beautiful and healthy baby boy! God’s blessed us so abundantly in choosing to make you part of our family, and we’re so glad you’re finally here with us! We love you, Timothy!

Love,

Mommy

A few hours old, and all snuggled in with a tired mommy...


Our first day together!

Introducing Vivi to Timothy for the first time....

*Note: for more pictures of our little guy, visit this link*


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Babywearing Through Pregnancy (and a brief update)

Double hammock carry in our woven wrap-24 weeks pregnant


27 weeks pregnant, hiking in West Virginia....due to a more mama-centric week than usual, I wore her a lot this week.


Bad picture, but...26 weeks pregnant and using our Kozy mei tai....and, we were at the Kozy Carrier warehouse helping out for the afternoon. How cool is that?!


38 weeks pregnant- everyone has their babies! :-)

It’s been a long time since I’ve written much of anything. Partially because of being busy, but mostly because of not being overly inspired on any particular topic. My thoughts are becoming consumed with baby thoughts…and the days are filled with normalcy, sharing life with Ben and Vivi. Challenges and blessings….changes and same-ness. We’re eagerly looking forward to meeting our little one, and starting a new season of life. Due date was yesterday, so any time now!
In the meanwhile, one topic that has been on my mind some, is babywearing through pregnancy. Especially now that I’ve hit the 40 week mark and can still wear Viviana. It looks different than it used to….it’s probably been at least a couple months since I wore her for more than 45 minutes at one time. It often only happens once a day, unless she’s having a really clingy day and I’m attempting a really productive one. Otherwise, she loves to play together, or spend time near me exploring the world herself. I still usually wear her when we go shopping, but have used the cart a couple times now. She thinks her new cover, and the new experience aspects are pretty cool! Of course, when I’m wearing her, I don’t have to worry about her eating random grapes off the display while I’m bagging ours… :-) But when she needs mommy snuggles…I’m grateful I don’t have to listen to anyone who tells me you can’t babywear while pregnant!
Babywearing has made it much easier to hold Vivi close when she needs it and I still need to finish something. With my large bulge and depleted energy, it’s much more practical to put Vivi in a carrier on me than to hold her (though I still end up doing hours of that per day, too- especially since we’re still working on the walking deal) with one hand and do something with the other. I don’t get tired nearly as fast when I use a baby carrier instead.
The ergo has been my standby in recent months, but we’ve also use the mei tai and woven wrap (double hammock position) a fair amount as well. I’ve pretty well stopped using the sling with Vivi, since I almost exclusively wear her on my back. Anything else works, but isn’t very comfortable- and she’s happy on my back anyway. She loves nestling in back there!
Although I did recently discover that at 38 weeks you can still nurse in the ergo (which means other carriers would be, too). I think I even surprised myself. :-) We were hiking (and Ben was wearing her) and for some reason she suddenly got really hysterical. It was obvious she needed her mama, and furthermore, she really wanted to nurse. I believe it was a teething-related issue, but regardless…she needed me and “niss”. There wasn’t anywhere to sit right where we were, and the ground was really wet, so I put Vivi on my front in the ergo, with the band below my bulge. Having to wear the ergo so low on my hips in order to avoid the baby bump put Vivi at almost the right height already- I just had to loosen the shoulder straps on one side, and reach my breast up to her a bit. Instant satisfaction for a sweet little girl…. Granted- it wasn’t comfortable, and I walked like a snail the entire time she nursed, but….I was so excited that it did still work, at least. It was still doable to meet my little girl’s comfort needs, in spite of being huge- many thanks to a great baby carrier!
I don’t share to elevate us. We are definitely not the first or only pair to keep up our wearing relationship during pregnancy….even if I haven’t gotten to see it in action around here (yet). I think on it out of an abundance of gratitude….I feel so blessed that God designed my body to be able to nurture Vivi in the ways she needs. I’m so grateful for His perfect timing, and that even though our two little ones will be closely spaced (17 months) I still have the energy, tools and support to continue meeting Vivi’s high touch needs. I know part of that is in being blessed with relatively uneventful pregnancies thus far, other than 1st trimesters…no premature labors, bed rest, major blood pressure issues, etc.- and I’m very grateful for that.
I also wanted to share because babywearing through pregnancy- and tandem wearing beyond it- is really rare. I would daresay a lot of people would just assume you can’t do- especially if they’re told so by plenty of well-meaning people. In a society where wearing one is strange (and hardly ever seen), you don’t see pregnant mamas all over Walmart wearing their toddlers. Just like breastfeeding during pregnancy and beyond- more women need to know that they can do it. More mamas need to be told that God created their bodies for this season of life…and fully enabled them, with the right tools and mindset, to continue holding their toddlers.
*Disclaimer: assuming a healthy body and pregnancy, any woman should be able to do extended babywearing. However- in an imperfect world, I know plenty of women do have real health issues that restrict their ability to lift/carry anything, etc. It doesn’t make you less of a mom…and it doesn’t mean you can’t meet your toddler’s needs! There are lots of ways to get touch time in with your little one- babywearing is just one of those avenues. And lots of toddlers like to spend a lot of time exploring on their own, too, making babywearing something they wouldn’t want as much as Vivi does. The important heart behind babywearing….meeting your child’s emotional needs. Even a bed-ridden mama can do that, her relationship with her child(ren) just looks different.*
And lastly….for those moms who are interested, I know personally it’s really helpful to see how it actually looks for someone. Hence, the pictures. It’s not the one right way to babywear while pregnant….it’s really just the way’s we’ve found, through messing around, that are comfortable for my body. I know some women like to wear the waist belt of the ergo super high, on top of their bulge….same for mei tais- but I have yet to get good at tying that high. If you decide to try….play around with different carriers and positions till you find something that works for you and your little one. As long as it’s comfortable for both of you, and holds your toddler securely, you’re doing it right.
Happy babywearing!




40 weeks pregnant and in the double hammock....baking bread with mama! Double hammock works really well for avoiding the belly bump.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Confessions of an Imperfect Mom

I’ve had this sitting unwritten in my draft folder for a long time. Sitting there, because I felt like it needs to be written. Blank, because I’m not sure how to write it or where to take it. I’m not even sure what exactly I wanted to accomplish in writing it, which is unusual for me…but I still feel like it needs to be written.

I think, at least partially…I just want other people to know I’m not perfect. Partially because I know sometimes it’s encouraging to hear about others’ imperfect lives. And partially…because I don’t want my ideals to keep me from being able to be real- from being given the chance to be accepted for who I am, even at my worst.

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I want to encourage people and share high aspirations for motherhood. As a passionate idealist, I have strong ideas and high standards I hold myself to. I desire to be the very best mom I can be….sometimes in a radical direction. I cling to goals and ideas that seem to many to be impossibly unrealistic- I know, because people don’t mind saying so. I throw my whole self into this journey…my energy, my passion, my thoughts. It’s who I am…and in a lot of ways, I think it’s a good thing. I like it….I can’t imagine floundering through each day without goals and ideals to strive for. It helps me to think and rethink through what I’m doing, and what I believe in, and whether or not it’s the very best for our children. I’ll never reach them perfectly…but in striving, I’ll reach higher than I could’ve otherwise.

But my journey isn’t perfect…and like everyone else, it’s fraught with struggles. Because when I don’t uphold my ideals perfectly, I feel like a crashing failure. Many mornings after a long night I’ve indulged in a cry and begged God to help me be a better mother….to help me cling to what I believe and know is best. And yet…I fail again. And sometimes, it feels lonely….because I know that I should be living out my ideals, and what on earth would people think about me if they know that I fail? That I can’t even live out what I passionately believe in?

But, the raw and honest fact of the matter is that, although I strive for the very highest- although my dreams, ideals and ambitions are sky-high…I’m not there as a mom. I wish I could say that we perfectly practice everything I write about here…but I screw up. I wish I could say I had the patience of a martyr…but in the end, I’m just a human. I wish I could look back on my parenting journey with no regrets….but the truth is, there’ve been imperfect days- and especially imperfect nights.

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There’ve been nights- when we’re up at 2 am for the 6th time that night, or when it takes over an hour to get Vivi to sleep- when I wonder what it is that was so bad about cry-it-out. Yes, even though I have very specific reasons for being opposed to it.

There are nights when I get so frustrated with the constant wakings that my frustration turns into stress- and what would’ve been being up for an hour or two with Vivi turns into three, because my stress doesn’t exactly help sooth her to sleep. And it ends with me begging God for forgiveness…and patience to better nurture my little girl at night. And it’s only then that she finally drifts back to sleep “for real” and stays asleep for a little bit….safely nestled against a relaxed mama.

Nights when I don’t even enjoy nursing Vivi, and it’s just a chore…and I would just like space and sleep.

There was a night recently when Vivi was up around 5, crying. And instead of reaching for her and drawing her close, I lay there, paralyzed. Fighting an emotional and mental battle while the rest of me was still. I was frustrated….frustrated that for the past 7 hours, she’d woke up every time I started to drift off. I was desperate to be allowed to just fall asleep. And yet I knew…Vivi needed me. For whatever reason, she was having a hard time sleeping, and I knew she needed my help. But I also knew that if I picked her up right then, it would be in frustration, unless I got past myself…and that wasn’t going to help anyone or be very comforting to her. And, I couldn’t just break through my selfishness to take care of her needs…like a good mom would. Moms are supposed to devote their whole lives to selflessness…and I couldn’t get past this one little thing without a struggle…couldn’t just be rational. And then Ben came (who’s been sleeping on the couch for a long while, now, due to a severely irritating poison ivy rash that makes the living room more comfortable)…and patiently walked with and held Vivi for an hour and half…while I slept and cried and prayed. (Not the first time Ben’s helped in the night…he’s pretty awesome!) When Vivi came back to me, I was ready for her….ready to comfort and soothe and get back at it…

Somehow…I’ve had a harder time dealing with all the nighttime wakings lately. In general, I didn’t have a problem dealing with them when she was younger. But somehow, it’s harder to remember now that this is what she needs. In not remembering…I fail.

There are days when I find myself counting hours to bedtime…even though I want to cherish every moment with my little girl.

Days when I let stress creep in because I’m not getting everything done- even though I know how harmful it is to my family…. when I suddenly realize I need to stop- everything- and sit with my girl and enjoy her, because stressed-out me trying to get caught up while Vivi cries on my back for no particular reason isn’t helping anybody.

There are days when my shower’s a highlight, and I thoroughly enjoy the minutes alone….untouched, unneeded. Even though I’m passionate about babywearing and meeting little ones’ high touch needs, and believe that God gives the grace to fully meet our babies’ needs.

Days when I ask Ben why Vivi can’t be like everyone else’s baby we know and, on a “bad” night, wake up 3 times, instead of 10 or 12. And I have to be patiently reminded that she isn’t “everybody else”…she’s Vivi, with her own set of blessings and challenges…and she needs us to remember that, and to meet her unique needs. (Side note: I’m sure it isn’t everyone’s baby we know that has such good nights….it just feels like it when everyone you talk to has a similar story!)

Days when I’m all too eager to send her Ben’s direction for a while….while I regroup and catch up on stuff that Vivi was determined shouldn’t get done.

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So, we have our moments…and brief times when I consider throwing in the towel on something that rationally, I passionately believe in.

But for the most part, life is good. For the most part, it’s a fantastic journey we thoroughly enjoy as a family. Usually, we have good days and we enjoy whatever gets thrown our direction. Vivi and I have lots of fun sharing life together…and most days are filled with pleasant memories- small and big- to cherish and hold on to. Most nights I smile as I pick up all Vivi’s messes…all the little reminders that she exists in our lives. Most nights I suck in my breath at how sweet she looks sleeping in the middle of our bed…and I enjoy all the midnight snuggles that accompany nighttime nursing. We grow and laugh and play together…and I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. It really is my dream job…and it really is more wonderful than I could’ve imagined.

So I’ll continue….to nurture my family, to meet their needs, to throw out stress, to love life and laugh often, to cherish the little things that slip by too fast, to reach for the best. The thing is, it is a continuing process…continually picking up from a failure, dusting off, and with God’s help, trying harder. Continually moving towards being the better mom I so much want to be….but could never achieve on my own. Life is good, but we haven’t arrived.

Because when all’s said and done….I’m just a mom, and an imperfect one at that.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Organization and Home Management (part 2 of 2)


(see here for part one)

The Folder Sections…

I hope that by now you’re fairly convinced that organization in the management of your home can be a great tool. So now I’ll go into detail with what I do in the various sections I’ve chosen. It’s all a work in progress that’s likely to get changed along the way. And the sections I currently have might not work for you, or you might need others. You might not do any summer preserving, or you might never go on vacations (and therefore not need to keep packing lists and food ideas). You might run a home business and need space for keeping up on different stuff with that. Blogging might be more of a regular thing for you, in which case you might like to keep a schedule of that. Your cleaning schedule will look a lot different than mine- chances are, if you have multiple children, you’ll need to vacuum more than once a week, for instance. So, gather ideas and apply them to what works for you and what your needs are.

Also, there are lots of options for how your notebook looks. You might do it on the computer…an idea I love, but which didn’t seem practical for me, since the computer can’t be moved. However, if you have an ipad or other transportable tool, this could be an option. You can do the binder like I do…or you could buy a notebook to be replaced when you use up all the pages. You can make it fancy or plain.

GROCERY LISTS

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. I personally don’t do anything fancy…I just have paper stuck in there, and keep a running list of what I need as I come across things I run out of. I also double check it/my pantry when making meal plans for the week. One helpful thing has been keeping lists for the places I order from occasionally- various bulk co-op orders. Previously, it’s always been a scramble when we decide to order, figuring out what all things I need. This way, I’ll already have a huge jump start when we order, and hopefully not forget too many important things….unlike the last time I ordered.

Some people like to make up printable check-lists of things they typically buy from various stores, to help make sure they don’t forget anything. I like this idea, except that what I buy is constantly changing as we continue to change our health habits.

MENU IDEAS

This section doesn’t have much….currently, just some lists of new recipes to try at some point. My plan is to eventually have a list of all the meals we eat, with room for adding new ones. That way when I’m feeling uninspired, I can skim through it and find something….too often, I tend to draw a blank on what we even eat! J Another idea that would be really helpful- especially as our kiddos grow- is to have every family member write a list of their favorite meals. It should pepper you with some good ideas, and help to get everyone’s favorites on, too!

MEAL PLANS/WEEKLY TO-DO LISTS

This section, too, is fairly basic- although it’s the one I write in and flip to the most. And if I had to give up all but one part of my notebook, this is the one I’d keep! If someone wasn’t interested in incorporating full-throttle organization into their life, I think menu planning would be the one thing I’d still say is more or less necessary….even if you can scrape by without it. J

I just have blank notebook paper in it. For every week, I date it at the top, and down the left side write the days of the week (one per line- I fit several weeks onto one sheet). I make note of anything special we have going on (potluck at church, going to family’s, etc.) that would effect what I do for the meal or when I get it done. Then, sometime between Friday and Sunday, I fill it in, and add to my grocery list while I’m at it. Sometimes I sit down in one sitting and fill it all out, sometimes I just jot down an idea when I have one over the weekend and don’t spend any concentrated time on it. I also ask Ben for ideas, which helps incorporate his ideas and takes some of the thinking off my brain! Sometimes I write out a couple weeks ahead, or if I have an abundance of ideas one day, at least start to fill in the next week.

Having it written out ahead of time helps in many ways. Not only does it save the time of coming up with what to eat or take somewhere every single day, it also cuts down on prep time- or enables me to prep food more healthily. If I know we’re having pizza, I can start soaking grain the night before. If I know what meat we’re having, I can get it out of the freezer to thaw ahead of time, so I don’t have to invest time in fast-thawing at the last minute. I can spend a minute here and a minute there working on dinner throughout the day, instead of saving it all for 4 o’clock and just hoping Vivi- and eventually future kids- is happy and content and willing to let me spend time focused on dinner. Taking into consideration that for babies, that’s the start of the fussiest time of day, it’s definitely a gamble! Ben finishes work early in the day; menu planning enables me to do my best to work with his schedule and do the meal prep ahead of time so I’m available to spend time with him and Vivi when he’s off, instead of still scrambling to get dinner on the table. It saves the time of having to think about multiple meal ideas because some won’t work due to the time of day and others won’t because I don’t have an ingredient on hand. It saves the time of multiple trips to the store, too, to rescue a situation.

And of course, it saves money….since it’s the 5 o’clock scrambles that cause many people to end up throwing in the towel and ordering pizza. I’m flexible with my menu plans, and if something has to change, it does. But overall, it helps to keep me on track. Typically, if I know what we’re having ahead of time, I can get it done no matter how hairy the day is, because I know what we’re having and that we have to eat….and therefore, that it’s my job to find a way to fit it in. Whereas, a hairy day that ends at 5 o’clock with nothing started and no brainy ideas….is likely to end with take-out. I’m not super mom, and I’m sure there’ll be days when things will go to pot. But thanks to planning, I think those days would be the rare exception to the rule….the rare day when special things come up, or when it really was “for real” crazy, or I’m miserably sick. Not something that occurs weekly or bi-weekly or something that’s almost predictable.

*Case in point: With a sick little girl (and now a sick momma) this week’s had lots of long, low-energy days following sleepless nights. And there was one day in particular when I know I would’ve threw in the towel because I was really exhausted and really didn’t want to spend time in the kitchen, especially since I’d had some running around to do during the day for commitments I couldn’t just bale out of. But meat was already in the crock pot- thrown in with a cream sauce that morning. Which kind of forced the issue of having to just finish up dinner prep! Since I wasn’t motivated, I’m glad my menu plan kept me on track.*

Along the right side of my menu plan I make a weekly to-do list. It generally gets added to throughout the week as things pop up, but it helps me to have a pretty good idea of what’s going to get accomplished ahead of time. I can also use that to help plan meals- for instance, if I’m planning on spending two days canning one week, I won’t have time to make elaborate meals on those days. My cleaning schedule is separate, but if I have anything extra I want to get done, not apart of my regular routine, I add it to the to-do list. Usually my lists are a combination of things that “have” to get done that week, and things I could get done if I have extra time. That way, I’m not caught with extra time on my hands and not knowing how to apply it…but on the other hand, often need to remind myself that I don’t have to complete the to-do list by the end of the week. I’m an idealist; my lists are almost always excessively long. Whatever I don’t finish, since usually there’s some minor projects or something, get carried over to the next week typically.

CLEANING SCHEDULE

I’ve only been incorporating this for a month or two, and I can’t believe I’ve let it slide this long….my house is so much nicer, and it isn’t even taking that long! I put together a cleaning schedule a couple months after we got married, while on vacation….but then I found out I was pregnant and by the time we got home, I was down with morning sickness. One thing led to another….for whatever reason, I let it slip to the back of my mind.

But…better late than never, right? Bascially, I just jotted down what I thought needed to get done daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly (or a few times a year). I’m still working out kinks, and I have some stuff in different categories that will probably get switched around as I do it for awhile and I see how things work out. I’m sure I’ll also discover things that need my attention that I didn’t think to put on the list when I first jotted it out. A new baby could bring changes, too….for sure, it’ll put the schedule on hold for at least a couple weeks, maybe longer. And things will change as the family grows- vacuuming once a week works for our family of three, I’m sure it won’t as we grow!


I’m doing a lot of extra cleaning right now…trying to do all the various yearly things whose month won’t come before baby. And some of the regular weekly/monthly things have taken a lot more time than they typically will, just because I’ve been shamefully negligent prior to implementing the routine. But once things get into a regular swing, I don’t think I’ll end up spending very long per day on cleaning at all…and yet the house will still feel clean and be relatively orderly. At least, that’s the plan... J

While I don’t follow it to a “t”, the cleaning schedule’s been really helpful for making sure stuff is getting done on a regular basis. There are some things, like mopping, that I’ve neglected just because I don’t think about it till I finally noticed major spider webs in the corner. Our floors don’t get sticky very often, since I usually try to clean as I go and don’t have many mess-makers around yet. So there isn’t something obvious to remind me that this really needs to get done. Or vacuuming baseboards... Or things like wiping down appliances that I don’t remember at the right times.

Since I’m staying so busy with all the extra before-baby projects right now, I don’t always fulfill each day’s cleaning agenda on the correct day. Sometimes I save it all and just clean on one or two days, other than the daily stuff. But when life’s more “normal”, and days are chaotic, having it broken down into a daily routine helps to make it feel bite-sized and manageable, instead of having to get a ton of stuff done in one streak. I cheat in other ways, too….my list might make me look like a clean-freak, but I’m most definitely not! You’d find plenty to pick on if you came for a visit. And while I’m really happy with how deep-clean the house is right now, there’s a lot of surface stuff that seems to forever slide, due to the deeper focus. I clean bathrooms weekly, but sometimes I only clean the toilet/toilet bowl and sink. Other times I put more work into a complete job and do the tub and mirror. If the week’s busy and there’s something on the weekly agenda that doesn’t seem like it needs to get done yet, I’ll let it slide. I’ll also switch around what days I do what on to accommodate plans for the week. For example, cleaning bathrooms only takes a few minutes, so I might switch that day with my big project of the week if need be. My daily stuff is Monday-Friday, unless it has to happen on the weekends (say, wiping counters), and not all of it happens everyday. But it’s stuff for me to be aware of and check on. I’m currently having a good week if I clean my kitchen sink 3 times a week. Laundry usually just happens on 1-2 days, other than diapers. So you see…my routine is a guide for me to work off of. And while everything might not happen as often as it “should” according to schedule, it’s getting done a whole lot more than it used to…and I also have a list I can check on to see what might need to get done. Taking all of that into account, here’s a run down of my current daily, weekly and monthly/yearly tasks and how they *should* fit together in a normal week.

Here’s what happens daily: wipe counters/tables, sweep, laundry, pick up, clean kitchen sink, load/unload dishwasher, dishes (the dishwasher and dinner dishes are often something Ben does for me….but I’m working at getting better about keeping up on the dishwasher part during the day so my sink’s clear and ready to be cleaned).

Weekly: vacuum, change sheets, organize/declutter something (closet, pull out season clothes/new size for kiddos, etc.), dust a portion of the house, mop, clean bathrooms.

Monthly: wipe kitchen appliances and clean out fridges and/or freezers and/or oven (week one), dust lights/fans (week two- but this is something that definitely is getting moved to a few times a year project), clean windows (week three- and again, I don’t think it needs to happen every month, unless I just do a couple windows per month). So the only thing that’s probably going to stay monthly is cleaning the kitchen down. The other weeks will go toward the yearly projects and/or just be lighter cleaning weeks (yay!).

Yearly/several times a year: clean van, vacuum baseboards, steam vac carpets, vacuum furniture. Each of these will happen 2-6 times a year, depending on the project and how often I feel like it needs it as we go along. I currently have a tentative schedule laid out, just not sure if it’ll stick. And I know there are a few things I’ve come up with and done recently that needed to be added here, but which I neglected to write down….

In a typical week, that should look like:

Monday- daily chores, vacuum house

Tuesday- daily chores, change sheets, organize

Wednesday- daily chores, see monthly and yearly chart

Thursday- daily chores, mop and dust

Friday- daily chores, bathrooms

However, we have yet to have a typical week…. J

BABY PREP

Right now, I’m living and breathing this section of the notebook…as we excitedly watch the weeks tick down! You can visit here to see what all my goals and plans are with baby prep. Essentially my notebook just has lists keeping track of what needs to get done and what is done, what I need to purchase, and so on. It will, ideally, also contain a list of what all foods I end up having in the freezer exactly.

CANNING & PRESERVING

Here I have a list of ideas for things I want to try/accomplish this year, which gets checked off as we go along. I also have a paper with phone numbers and such for the places we’ll tend to revisit for produce.

The most organized part of this section is a sheet recording what exactly I’ve preserved, how I did it, how much I did, dates harvested, amount paid and where we got it. I also had a slot for mentioning any leftovers we had from the previous year, and a place for recording either when we run out or how much we still have leftover come preserving season next year. I anticipate this being very helpful in making educated guesses as to how much of each thing I should do!

HOLIDAYS/GIFT PLANNING

With twenty-something siblings between the two of us and siblings’ spouses, plus a handful of nephews and nieces, not to mention the need to stay in a very low-budget price range and yet the desire to choose creative and personal gifts…planning ahead is definitely a necessity! I mostly just have a list I jot down my ideas on for birthday gifts for each family member, so I know ahead what to do. So far, it’s mostly been various homemade specialty foods. I also keep a list running of ideas for Vivi and Ben…especially since Ben’s really difficult! He doesn’t try to be…he’s just not a materialistic person, and it can take a lot of thought to come up with new and creative ideas every year for a gift he’d really love. There’s also a Christmas gift list, which is mostly family gifts for our families, and some sort of homemade goodie for married siblings and more “distant” relatives (grandparents, aunts, uncles).

We’ve developed a tradition of hosting a yearly Christmas open house, and plans/ideas for food, dates, etc., are stored here as well.

TRIP PLANNING

Again, this section is very basic. Just a place to store lists of everything we’ve needed to bring on the trips we’ve gone on. It’s helpful to be able to consult the old lists, especially when two trips have many similarities!

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That’s a wrap…and again, that’s how it works for me. It’s not the model notebook, and it’ll probably get changed plenty over the upcoming months. Right now, it’s a giant step in the right direction, so we’re running with it and thoroughly enjoying the benefits! I hope you’ve gained an idea or two for how you might be able to make your life easier through a little bit of planning!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Organization and Home Management (part 1 of 2)

As a lot of readers know by now, I’m kind of a list-freak. I love to be organized and on top of my game. I love having a list in hand. I love checking stuff off the list. I’m a firstborn- the desire comes naturally. But whether you’re a firstborn or lastborn, and whether or not organization comes naturally, chances are high that organization and lists could help your day-to-day life run more smoothly. I’m sure some people really love a “fly by the seat of my pants” philosophy, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all. That said- some aspect of become more organized still might help you.

In recent months, I’ve moved towards organizing my life more thoroughly. My favorite thing about it is the fact that I’m getting so much more accomplished in so much less time. I love not having to think about what to make for dinner or what I should be getting done or what cleaning things need to happen (or forgetting about certain things to clean till…well….). Prior to recent months, I still always kept running lists of whatever….to-do lists, menu plans, and anything else. But after the morning sickness phase of this pregnancy, and finally getting back to menu planning after a few months of not, I organized everything much more thoroughly, and now have a notebook to contain all of my lists and keep everything in order. And I have to say, I’m in love with my system. The only down side is that a 1” ring binder is kind of big to haul around, and it now contains my whole life.

In my folder, I have several sections: grocery lists, food ideas, menu plans/weekly to-do lists, cleaning schedule, baby prep plans, canning/preserving notes/plans/ideas/check-lists, holidays/gifts and trip planning. I’ll outline more of what each of those sections contain below.

Some people have mentioned before that they love the idea of being more organized and having more of a “schedule” (as in, cleaning routine, meal plans), but that it isn’t possible with young children because you never know if you’ll be able to get anything done on a given day….whether that depends on simultaneous naps or happy babies or help or whatever rocks your boat. But personally, I think it’s especially helpful in living the unpredictable life of mothering littles. People who don’t plan anything and let everything rest on how the day goes often end up not getting anything done. And while that’s not totally a crime…it doesn’t seem ideal to this productivity-minded gal. If I know what to expect- what has to get made for dinner, what housework needs accomplished on a given day, what weekly projects I have- then I know, no matter what happens, that these things just have to get done. I know that if that means I have to tandem wear or eat a power snack (chocolate, of course!) or whatever, no matter how tired and unmotivated I am (there are exceptions to the rule….I’m not talking about extremes of illness and such), it’s my job to find a way to accomplish the items without neglecting my first job as a mom. Without the list, especially if I was tired, it’d be easy to let everything slide and just make it through the day on a day when Vivi’s extra crabby, for instance, requiring constant attention. Whereas, knowing what has to happen, I can get up the will to go at it, and decide to wear Vivi while accomplishing what needs to get done. Another large advantage on this side is the fact that you don’t have to think on long days. You don’t have to put the effort into figuring something out plus the effort of doing it. Just consult your lists, and go!

On the other hand, one challenge I have to deal with as an idealist who always jots down excessive to-do lists that would never be practical….is being real. Which sometimes means the extras on the to-do list don’t happen. And it might mean that after a whole night of being awake with sick littles, the menu will get changed to something simpler, or something I can get out of the freezer. It might mean there’ll be weeks when I just get the basics (meals and cleaning, for instance) done….but nothing extra. I have to remember that my to-do lists aren’t life-or-death. That they’re a tool to help me, not a weapon to stress me. And that when there’s a conflict of interests between my babies and my lists….my babies win, always, and that’s perfectly okay- even if I didn’t get much done.

Depending on your personality, you’ll probably struggle more with one side or the other, and knowing that can help you strike a balance that benefits everyone. If you’re unorganized or laid back enough that any small excuse is enough to toss the plan out the window, then you probably need to focus on the “this absolutely has to happen today” mindset, or paper-organization won’t help you. On the other hand, if you, like me, are an idealist and tend towards high productivity, you’ll have to work at remembering that it’s okay if everything doesn’t happen….or it’ll just become a stress factor in your life.

Stay tuned for part two, where we’ll dig into what exactly my folder looks like, and how I use it…

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Baby Carriers: Ring Slings


Written last Aprilish....but for some reason, never posted... :-) We still love our ring sling!

*Note: even though I wear Vivi all the time in my maya wrap ring sling, I don’t have any recent pictures. So all of these are fairly old, and they’re all with homemade slings.*

I like variety. And I love variety in my baby carriers. Someone asked me recently to fess up as to how many carriers I have (12-15, for those who are curious- but some of those are available for selling, and most are ones I’m willing to loan), and then asked if I’ve figured out a favorite yet. In short, not really….they are all so useful for different purposes! Depending on the need, the baby, and my mood, I like different ones.

But I’m pretty sure, if someone could have just one baby carrier, for birth through toddlerhood, I’d recommend a ring sling. (That opinion might change if I can manage to fall in love with my woven wrap at some point…if the person was up for the learning curve.) It’s versatile and simple….and there are many gorgeous ones available.

Ring slings are especially wonderful for the early months; maybe birth through around 18 pounds. With a baby that light, the one shoulder system offers plenty of support and weight distribution, and can be worn the entire day. Ring slings are easy to get on and off, and can even be gotten on/adjusted while holding your baby, making them a good option for places where you can’t necessarily set your baby down to get adjusted correctly. However, even though Vivi’s over 23 pounds, I’ve been greatly enjoying using it with her, lately. I can no longer comfortably wear her for the whole day in it (but, honestly, I don’t wear her for the whole day, anyway- she has a world to explore, now), but I can still wear her for an hour or two at a time quite comfortably. For longer periods than that, or something more rigorous like a fast walk or hiking, I would prefer an ergo baby carrier or a Kozy mei tai. Another benefit for the maya wrap and toddlers is how fast it is to put on. It takes me hardly any time to throw the sling over my shoulder, pop Vivi in, and pull on the tail to tighten it. This is especially great if you have a toddler who’s on the go, but still needs mommy snuggles.

A great feature is the ability to nurse discreetly and hands free in it, simply by loosening the back rail while baby’s in the cradle position. When Vivi hit a sudden fascination with nursing around the clock again recently, I started nursing her in the sling a lot. And at a year old and 23+lbs, we can still do it comfortably! I didn’t nurse her in it when she was younger, as I didn’t use it often the first couple months. However, I have fallen in love with it so completely that I anticipate it being my favorite carrier when our next little one is an infant…and an important criteria for a carrier in the early months, for me, is being able to nurse in it. I need the ability to be able to put the baby on the breast whenever they need it, even if I’m in the store, in the middle of a time-sensitive meal, or helping Viviana with something.

One of my favorite things about the ring sling, and something Vivi and I used it extensively for from about 6 weeks-6 months, is the ability to curl the baby’s legs up and face them out in a “kangaroo carry”. You can do this with an older baby, as well, but you may find having all their weight balled up in front of you (instead of distributed around you) isn’t quite as supportive. Many moms give up babywearing with the declaration that their baby doesn’t like it, when what’s really happening is that the baby wants to see. Most babies are attentive and observant, and they want to see what you’re doing. Once they’re older and bigger, they can do this while facing you, or peeking over your shoulder from your back, but as a little one, facing you doesn’t allow much visibility. Viviana loved riding along this way, seeing everything I did throughout the day. She would also fall asleep in this position, which was an easier position to transfer her into bed from, as I could just loosen the sling up, tuck in my neck and slip it over my head, while supporting her with one arm as I eased her down. The kangaroo carry can’t be done in most other carriers.

Once Vivi got quite a bit heavier, I shifted more to my ergo and mei tai for a few months. But recently, I’ve rediscovered the world of ring slings, and I’m in love all over again. It’s almost always my carrier of choice right now for shopping, or quick sessions when she wants up while I’m doing something. For things where I’m doing a lot of bending, like cleaning bathrooms, I prefer to have her on my back in a 2-shoulder carrier. We’ve shopped for up to a couple hours at a time with just our sling, and both of us were very comfortable. She likes to ride on my hip (and so far I haven’t found another carrier with as comfortable a hip ability), and placing her there helps distribute her weight better.

If you’re considering purchasing a sling, I would recommend a maya wrap or a slingified wrap from Sleeping Baby Productions. You can make your own as well, and there are lots of patterns online. But I have to say, after not being able to see justifying spending the $60 to buy one when I could make one for $10, I’ve been converted. I’ve been using a real (lightly padded) maya wrap for a few months, since receiving one for teaching classes, and I’m in love. The difference just between their fabric and what I can find makes an incredible difference. Slingified wraps are also very comfortable because wraps are made out of a supportive fabric…and, they’re incredibly gorgeous! So, if you can afford it, I would recommend going for the real thing. You can get great deals on slings that look brand new on ebay- I’ve bought a couple this way to either resell at cost or have on hand to loan out. Otherwise, making your own is a great option. Also, if you are able to get a second carrier for when your baby’s older, you might find that a homemade one meets your needs perfectly- I didn’t have any issues in spite of wearing Vivi in my homemade slings all day, everyday.