Pregnancy

The Six Week Boot Camp: Or, perhaps the most important thing that I will ever write.

 

Screen shot 2014-11-04 at 9.12.31 AMThere are certain things that I definitely wanted to know before having children (the ins and outs of childbirth), things I didn’t want to know (how much they would really change our life) and things that I didn’t know, I didn’t know, but wished I would’ve known. The topic up for discussion, falls into that last bucket.

It’s a message that I would love to get out to all new parents and I feel compelled to now, having just gone through it…for the 3rd and final time.  A subject, about which, I rarely hear anyone discuss.  It’s as simple as understanding that there’s a very difficult time with a newborn, that doesn’t last forever, but may test you, your marriage, your strength and cause you to question your sanity in your decision to ever have had a child/ another child in the first place.

It’s a time period that I wasn’t aware of until we were going through it. A time that no one mentioned to us until we were in it and by then it was a little too late. I’m calling it the Six Week Boot Camp.  Weeks one through six. The first brutal six weeks at home with baby.

Now, I don’t necessarily blame all of my dear friends who mostly had their kids before me, for not sharing this information. It is amazing how sleep deprivation can creep, like a subtle blackboard eraser and wipe out all of the notes and cues that were chalked quickly into your memory bank during the early days of new parenthood. In fact, even after having done this two times before, it wasn’t until my husband and I were deep in the first six weeks, for the third time, that we started recalling hazy memories, “Oh, yes…that’s right….7pm is THE WORST. We won’t get to sit down together at the end of the day for weeks….yes, I remember that now…I had forgotten that game of pass the baby in the evening…that’s right….…Swaddle, shush, swing, repeat.”

The difference for me this go around is that I mentally prepared for this time period because I KNEW how hard it would be. I KNEW it would be a huge challenge. I KNEW that I needed as much mental toughness as physical resiliency. In my mind, and I’m actually not really kidding, I pictured myself putting on a combat helmet, lacing up my boots, head down, determination strong. I had the advantage this time. I KNEW it was coming. I KNEW I could survive it. I KNEW it would get better.

I’ve been thinking about this time in terms of Boot Camp, but more specifically, Navy SEAL “Hell Week,” the most difficult stretch of training that trainees endure on their way to becoming Navy SEALs.  My husband and I are lucky enough to know a Navy SEAL.  A real life warrior.  I know enough about these special forces to be respectful of their accomplishments and in awe of the training process. Stories about Hell Week describe it as a test of physical endurance, mental toughness, pain, ability to perform under physical and mental stress. Additionally, this 5 ½ day test takes place on fewer than 4 hours of sleep.   It’s said to be the greatest achievement in a trainee’s life and leads to the realization that they can do more than they ever thought they could.   To me, the parallels are striking. Yes, different in many, many ways. But, definitely relatable and true, at a high level:  The conquering of a symphonic feat of physical, emotional, mental strain.

I will never be a Navy SEAL. But, I have come to think of those first six weeks as the closest I will ever get to Navy SEAL Hell Week. It’s been my equivalent of Hell Week. And I’m glad that I know that now.

The Navy SEALs have a motto that I think works just as well for the Six Week Boot Camp with your new babe and is oh, so appropriate for new parents to understand, embrace and remember daily: THE ONLY EASY DAY WAS YESTERDAY. The only easy day was yesterday.

So, mama. Remember this: Yes. The only easy day was yesterday. Set that  expectation for six weeks. You will have nights that you may not sleep at all. In fact, you will go for months without any sort of continuous night’s sleep. You may be perpetually hungry and thirsty depending on the number of children in your family, your nursing schedule, and other daily life responsibilities. You will need, in your sleep- deprived state, to conquer tasks of balance, strength and agility.   You will feel the physical manifestations of the emotional stress.  You will have moments when you lose your mental edge and think you can’t do any of it for one more minute. You will give up nearly everything else in your life for these six weeks. You will have moments when you would pay $100 for 5 minutes of sleep or a 10-minute shower. Your baby crying and sometimes, in conjunction with your other crying children will drive you to your own tears. You will need to draw on a depleted tank of intestinal fortitude to put one foot in front of the other. You will put on a brave face for kind visitors. You will mask your pain.

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But, mama, you WILL succeed. HOOYAH! You will conquer this period and come out stronger than before. It may be the hardest thing you ever do. But you will do it. And it will get better. And the fruits of your labor will be recognized. And you will, eventually, get back to being you. And, as a couple, you and your spouse will get back to being a version of the couple that you remember. And you will have fun again. And you will get sleep again. And, happily, mama, it’s actually very likely, that you will have no memory of these first few weeks. You will simply know, with pride, that you survived it all; that you can accomplish most anything else that comes your way. You are stronger than you ever thought possible.

Until next time,

The City Mouse

 

The CPMC “Celebration Dinner.” Aka, my hamburger journey: SIR-MIX-ALOT to Spruce

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I come from a long line of burger and fry fans, on both sides, but particularly on my mom’s side. The genetic code is strong in this area. I fondly recall that nearly every time my brother and I would stay with my grandpa (maternal) for a weekend while my parents were out-of-town, we’d inevitably end up at one of the great Seattle burger, fry and shake establishments. And for my grandpa, I believe, that was his definition of “dining out.”

The places I recall visiting with the most frequency include Burgermaster http://www.burgermaster.biz/, the Seattle classic, Kidd Valley http://www.kiddvalley.com/ and the incomparable, Dick’s http://www.ddir.com/. Dicks: equally enjoyable at 1:00pm and 1:00am, as anyone that went to college anywhere in Seattle knows well. And, for those of you not from Seattle, Dick’s Drive Thru is enshrined for all of eternity in the SIR-MIX-ALOT classic, Posse on Broadway. http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/sirmixalot/posseonbroadway.html

“Dick’s is the place where the crew hang out-
the SWASS like to play, and the rich flaunt clout-
posse to the burger stand, so big we walk in two’s-
we’re gettin’ dirty looks, from those other sucka crews-“

Word.

But I digress…..Even with this strong and early training in the art of savoring a delicious burger, hot off the grill, I, truth be told, now see a burger as a pretty good excuse to devour the accompaniments: fries with ketchup and a milk shake or an icy cold diet coke. And, 99% of the time, you’ll find me ordering a veggie burger, in the case that I’m out with folks for “burgers.”

With this declaration comes one exception, The Great Spruce Burger. This is top of mind now, considering  our recent hospital stay.  Let me explain.

At the hospital where we’ve delivered our children, there’s a very nice tradition wherein you are provided a “celebration dinner” on your last night’s stay at the hospital for both you and your spouse. They provide linens, and from a special menu provided, you choose your meal. The idea is that you and your spouse, enjoy a memorable last night in the hospital with your new, little offspring before journeying home the next morning. Again, it’s a sweet and personal gesture and one in which they take great pride.

A few weeks before we were due with #1, I met a friend of a friend and had an off-chance, random conversation with her at a barbecue. She passed along one of the best pieces of baby advice that I had been given at the time and to this day have ever been given. “Don’t order the celebration dinner,” she whispered conciliatory. “We ordered the steak dinner with our first and it was what you imagined, Hospital Steak. In fact, my husband wasn’t even sure if was beef.” I grimaced. I’m a bit skittish about ANY suspect meat and if given the choice would become a full-fledged vegetarian versus having to face down any slightly suspect meat product on a regular basis. She then shared her secret. “Instead, we ordered take-out burgers and fries from Spruce!”

Immediately, I grasped the brilliance of this concept.  At that point, I didn’t even realize you could order any take-out from Spruce, admittedly, a high-end eatery.

As background, Spruce is a Presidio Heights establishment which has earned a Michelin star, hosts famous clientele (we saw Robin Williams on our first outing, RIP) and is definitely in a category of fine dining or special occasion. With that being said, the bar, although swanky, is replete with tasty nibbles, at a lower price point, perfect for a weeknight date-night (including said burger).

And so, when our #1 was born, we politely declined the celebration dinner at the hospital. This was admittedly and unfortunately, a little awkward since the nurses do make such a big deal of it, starting from about the time your little bundle pops out. “Don’t forget the celebration dinner(!!),” we heard over and over.

Once, we politely bowed out of the dinner, our plan was in place. My husband strode in with champagne and our Spruce burgers and fries and we thoroughly enjoyed a gratifying and savory treat after what had been a frenetic few days of labor and delivery.

So, what makes this meal so memorable? Well, to start, the fries are in another category of fry altogether and the secret, we found out, upon inquiring, is that they are fried in….. duck fat! This may not sound obviously appealing; believe me. It is. Perfectly crunchy on the outside and pillowy on the inside, it imparts such a deliciously fried flavor that you really don’t need sauce of any kind to top it off.

The burger is served on a self-described “English muffin” which it really isn’t. At least it doesn’t resemble the variety that I’m used to slinging out regularly with peanut butter and honey to my little crew at home. Instead, it’s some sort of crispy, buttery flaky goodness that holds the impressively seasoned and thick patty of beef together. Served with homemade, perfectly cured and thinly sliced pickles, special sauce, slices of thick tomato, onion and picked red onions, the burger is left open for you to determine which combo of toppings to add at your heart’s content. It goes without saying, this is not a light meal. However, after a protracted delivery process and with a couple of sleep deprived nights already under your belt, it really hits the spot.

And so, for us, this has become the new tradition. With #2, we, again, danced around the celebration dinner with hospital staff and ordered our Spruce Burgers. And it was repeated a third time with our newest addition a few weeks ago.

So, for any of you that may be having children now or in the future, somewhere around the North part of the city, you may want to consider crafting your own “celebration dinner” from the menu at Spruce or any of the number of other great local take-out spots. It may be more of the celebration that you’re looking for, or just a way to craft a sweet and personal memory of what is a very special time with your new little family.

Until next time,

The City Mouse

Beautiful torture: The last few days & weeks of pregnancy

pregnancyIf any of you have waited for the labor and delivery process to start, you know well and I am just now learning with #3, how truly torturous this wait can be. Even with the well-honed knowledge of what is to come, I’m still ready. Meaning the real stuff, not The Pottery Barn Kids kind of blissful land of receiving blankets and super-soft stuffed bunnies and perfectly layed out nurseries.Screen shot 2014-07-01 at 10.45.50 AM.
The what’s to come I’m talking about is the no sleep, adrenaline highs, postpartum lows, post labor contractions that bring tears to your eyes, narcotics, stool softeners, donut pillows, crying that just won’t stop (often for mom and baby), creative sleeping positions with newborns in chairs, beds, couches, sitting up, laying down, stress over the other kids waking up and handling the family changes and just keeping the wheels from falling off forever. The fear of setting all the kids up for lifelong adult therapy sessions that were certainly….Your Fault, particularly after the recommended “screen time” per kid, per week was consumed in your first day home from the hospital. Those kinds of what’s to come events. Still. Even with all of that, the difficulty of the last few weeks/days can leave one yearning for the sweet escape of JUST HAVING THE BABY!

At various points in the last few days, I thought the pressure of carrying my 4 year old- 42+ pounder down the stairs might be enough to induce labor right there or just push #3 right on out. No such luck. Or getting kicked in the stomach by the tantruming 2-year old who simply decided a diaper change was not preferable AT THIS EXACT MINUTE! might also do the trick and entice #3 to get the heck out of there and fight back on her own. But that didn’t happen either. I had never paid attention before to those, “How to jump-start labor” articles and tips because I didn’t have to. We barely had our acts together in time for #1 and #2 who were 5 days early respectively. But now, I’m taking tips left and right: Spicy Soup at Dosa? Serve me a bowl, Lyon street steps? Let’s get walking. And I can’t even claim a good, hopeful Braxton Hicks contraction in the last week. ARGH!

I am trying really hard to heed well- meaning advice to enjoy this time and it’s so true and sweet. This family of 4 has an impending expiration date and we’ve been making memories and soaking it in and snuggling in bed with the 4 of us and it really has been important and meaningful. However, the physical limitations of my current “situation” are almost too much to bear sometimes.

For once, we are really ready: the room is set up, hospital bag packed, baby clothes washed and hung, camera charged. And I kind of hate the anticipation. I’m longing for (or maybe just reminiscing about) the situation of #1, where, on my very first day of maternity leave, I kicked into labor unexpectedly and ran around the city like a crazy woman buying all of the last-minute essentials (nursing bras, bouncing chair, etc) that I assumed I had another week to procure. Just in the nick of time actually worked pretty well. Who knew? I’m 39 weeks tomorrow and shouldn’t complain, I know. I mean the due date Isn’t Even Here Yet. But it feels like it should be! And I’m ready to have myself back. Even a sleep deprived, hormone crazed, hanging by a thread version. At least I’ll be able to tummy sleep, have a cocktail and actually hold my other kids on my lap without them slipping off due to lack of room as it is now. Please! Let’s get this party started!!

So, with that being said, I’m going to wrap up this post. I’ve spent too long sitting anyway. I have some serious walking, stair climbing, jumping jacks, child wrangling to do…. If you hear from me next week and I’m still with child, it ought to be a pretty interesting entry. Who knows what kind of creativity that angst will inspire. Certainly something great.

Until next time,

The City Mouse

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