37 Weeks Pregnant… And Not Feeling Ready At All

Today marks a big milestone: I am officially 37 weeks pregnant, and even though the due date (September 19th) is still three weeks away, baby is technically considered full term now (or early full term at least, according to this). It’s hard to believe — the time really has flown by.

On a whole, I’m still feeling pretty good for being this pregnant. During my first pregnancy, I remember getting to a point where I couldn’t walk all the way to the train station without stopping a few times to rest, but this time I’m still able to trudge (waddle?) all the way there with no breaks and a 12-pound computer bag slung over one shoulder. Maybe some of it is that second pregnancies are easier — although blog evidence suggests that it was a lot hotter the summer I was pregnant with Lillian, so that might be a big part of it too.


(A semi-relevant Instagram photo featuring the baby bump at the train station.)

Not to make things sound too easy, though — at this point I feel like I’ve upgraded from “big lumbering dinosaur” to “beached whale,” especially when trying to do things like climb out of bed or bend down to tie my own shoes. It probably doesn’t help that my weight gain is up to around 50 pounds now — definitely more than the recommended amount, but similar to last time, I’m not worrying too much about it.

On Wednesday, I had a routine doctor’s appointment, and part of it involved an ultrasound to estimate baby’s size. The verdict: she’s in the 88th percentile, estimated to weigh over seven pounds if she were to be born today. These estimates can vary by 15% in either direction, I’m told, but it sounds pretty likely that we’ve got another big baby a-brewin’.

And since I’ve had a previous vaginal delivery, and a history of having big babies (Lillian was nine pounds when she was born at 38 weeks), I’ll have the option of choosing an elective induction at 39 weeks if labor doesn’t start on its own before then. After talking it over with Joe, we both agreed that that’ll be the way to go for us.

But that means we have only around two weeks — maximum — before this little bundle of joy makes her entrance into the world. And boy oh boy, am I feeling unprepared.

The nursery (while getting very close in some ways) is still in a state of chaos, filled with paint cans and drop cloths and nothing baby-related in sight. The crib is sitting disassembled in the dining room. We don’t have an infant car seat installed or a hospital bag packed. Even at my job, the project that I’d been hoping to get (mostly) wrapped up before going on maternity leave keeps getting hit with delays outside of our control, and will likely end up with a bunch of loose ends for my coworkers to deal with — since next Friday will be my last day at the office, unless baby decides to come sooner than that.

On a rational level I know that none of this stuff matters too much in the broad scheme of things, and we’ll be able to scramble to get things together enough to get by even if baby does make a slightly early entrance. Still, I can’t help finding myself hoping that she stays put for another week or two — we still have lots of preparing to do!

Kitchen Upgrades: The Stove, Refrigerator, And Window Treatments

When we bought our house, we knew everything in the kitchen was dated — and if we were more ambitious (and had a bigger budget) a full kitchen renovation would probably be the way to go. Instead, we’ve been slowly making upgrades here and there, such as adding the dishwasher and microwave — and in the time since then, we’ve made two more major appliance upgrades, and also replaced the half-broken off-white blinds with some nicer window treatments.

Jumping ahead, here is a view of the kitchen as it looks now:

Kitchen (Current)

Current kitchen (August 2014).

Which has come quite a long way from what it looked like when we moved in:

Original kitchen (July 2011).

The stove and refrigerator upgrade really made a big difference, though it didn’t happen all at once — the stove actually got replaced almost a year ago (eek, how has it been that long?!) while the refrigerator upgrade, blind replacements, and some general cleaning and organizing all happened the weekend before last in a flurry of manic nesting insanity.

I know what you’re probably thinking: That’s the wrong room, you guys! Second Baby can’t sleep in the kitchen! Which is totally true — although thankfully I’ve been able to redirect some of that misplaced nesting energy toward the room where it’s actually needed (aka the nursery) and happily, we’ve been making some good progress in there as well. More details (hopefully) to follow shortly!

But getting back to the details of these upgrades, we replaced the stove last September. Even though the white gas-powered stove that came with the house wasn’t as old as the fridge (which I’m pretty sure is a relic from the 1960’s or so), it had some issues with the burners and the oven not preheating right. We kicked around the idea of upgrading to an electric or induction one, but eventually decided to stick with another gas model, since we already had the hookups for it and it was what we were used to.

Here is a view of the new stove (beneath the very old rusty-looking range hood that we still need to do something about):

Stainless Steel Stove

Unfortunately I lost track of exactly what model it is, other than that it was a GE, but we chose it mostly because it was on sale at Abt Electronics.

As for the fridge, we went back and forth on what kind to get — I really wanted a side-by-side model, while Joe was somewhere between indifferent and anti-side-by-side. One thing we agreed on was that we weren’t particularly interested in one of the in-door ice makers, since we don’t use ice that much, and had heard that they can increase the amount of energy the freezer uses. It seemed to be surprisingly tricky to find a side-by-side fridge without the ice maker, though — I can only recall seeing one model while browsing in various stores over the past few years, and it wasn’t very attractively priced.

But then a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon one on Sears.com (a Kenmore 25.2 cubic foot model #41153, product listing here) that looked like exactly what we wanted at a reasonable price — so we took the plunge and just ordered it online. Which felt a little risky / adventurous after that incident where we tried to buy a crib online from Target, but it arrived in one piece, and we couldn’t be happier with the upgrade.

Side-By-Side Stainless Steel Fridge In Kitchen

The old fridge really was on the small side. It was actually more or less counter-depth (from a time before that was the cool trendy thing to have?) and had little in the way of freezer space (made even worse by the fact that it built up frost in there at an incredible rate). Here’s a view of the inside of the old fridge:

Top Freezer Fridge Storage

By comparison, the new fridge is holding pretty much everything the old fridge was, plus two additional gallons of milk, a 12-pack of soda (we couldn’t dream of fitting one of those in the old fridge!), most of a watermelon in that green bowl, and a bunch of additional frozen goodies — and it still looks half empty!

Side-By-Side Fridge Storage

One interesting side note on our appliance purchasing experience: I was kind of surprised at the contrast between Abt Electronics and Sears when it came to delivering appliances, considering that Abt gives the impression of being the fancy, high-end place to go — you walk into their store and it’s all fountains and aquariums and artwork surrounding their huge shiny selection — while Sears comes across as being just your standard run-of-the-mill retailer. But here is how the deliveries went from both places:

  • Abt called at 9:00 in the morning on the day of delivery to confirm they’d be delivering that day, never gave an exact time, then (after calling at least once more later in the afternoon/evening), finally delivered the stove at 8:00 or 9:00 pm. (I don’t even know the details — Joe and I had scheduled a romantic evening away, expecting that it would be delivered long before Lillian’s bedtime, so it was my mom babysitting at the house who let them in.)
  • Sears contacted us the day before delivery to give us a 2-hour window in which they’d be delivering (between 10:00 am and noon in our case), then called again on the day of delivery to let us know they were on the way and would be there in 20 minutes or so — and they were, just as expected. (This was particularly handy with it being a fridge delivery, since we were able to leave our food in until the last minute, then stash it in a cooler so they could haul the old fridge away.)

Not sure if either of these experiences was just a fluke, or how things normally tend to go with appliance delivery from these two places, but it was interesting to compare.

Anyway, the other kitchen upgrade involved the window blinds — I don’t have a close-up of the old ones, but they were just the standard plastic kind, which we decided to replace after Joe tried to open them one day and they just irreparably fell down. When it came to replacing them, we splurged a little to get fancier wood-looking ones rather than the same kind of plastic ones as a replacement (picked out in-store from Home Depot, but I’m pretty sure these are the same ones). I think the end result looked a lot more polished and fitting to the kitchen than the plastic:

Wooden Blinds In Kitchen

And more importantly, they actually restored some privacy after a few weeks of having broken blinds, which should come in handy for the next time we want to prance naked through the kitchen while baking pies.

Another random side note: I did actually have ambitions to write a “kitchen upgrade” blog post way back in January, after we replaced the stove but before we replaced the fridge. I even tried to take a picture, but in the very short amount of time I spent trying to set up a shot of the kitchen, Lillian carried an empty cooler over to the counter, climbed up on top of it, and started ripping open Sweet ‘N Low packets.

Toddler Mischief

I was kind of floored at the speed and efficiency of the mischief. Thankfully for our sanity, it was the first and last time she did that (though it probably helps that the cooler lives in a locked closet now).

In addition to red-handed toddler mischief, the photo above also shows how we used to store a blender and slow cooker in that awkward triangular space behind the sink But, we found that we used them so rarely that they just ended up gathering dust, so when tidying up the kitchen after the fridge delivery, we stashed them in a cabinet and went back to having the little faux flower basket there instead. (Figuring that if something is going to gather dust up there, it might as well be a useless decorative object.)

Anyway, that’s the extremely long rambling update on our kitchen. It feels a bit off topic considering that we have a new baby due in less than four weeks (!!!) — although the new fridge in particular should come in handy for holding lots of frozen pizzas (or as we call them, “new parent chow”) and extra space for storing bottles and formula (since bottle feeding is the plan). The next few blog posts should be a bit more relevant to preparing for baby, so stay tuned!

Formula Feeding And “Breast Is Best” — The View From Three Years Later

Around this time in 2011, I was a soon-to-be first-time mom, navigating through a confusing new world of recommendations and ideologies on everything relating to pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. And while there seemed to be plenty of conflicting opinions on many subjects — birthing plans, sleeping arrangements, discipline, child care — one thing was all but unanimous: breastfeeding is the optimal way to feed a baby, and formula is distantly, woefully second best.

And so, like many first-time moms in my middle-class college-educated demographic, I planned to breastfeed. Why wouldn’t I? It didn’t even really feel like a choice — breastfeeding was presented as indisputably superior in every possible way, to the point where any good mother should do it unless she had a compelling medical reason not to.

(Random propaganda-ish breastfeeding poster from 1938, courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

(Random propaganda-ish breastfeeding poster from 1938, courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

In retrospect, I’m glad to say that I never really got too over-zealous about it, and never fully bought in to the more extreme flavors of the “formula is poison” mentality… although looking back, I’m a little unnerved by how subtly, and yet how completely, I had been influenced by the “breast is best” message.

For instance, I would see a new mom’s mundane status update on Facebook about running to the store to pick up baby formula, and I would think to myself, “But why isn’t she breastfeeding? Doesn’t she know it would be healthier and cheaper and more convenient?” Or I would read the lactivist bloggers who aggressively touted the benefits of breastfeeding and risks of formula feeding — shamelessly dismissing any objections from formula feeding moms — and I would think, sympathetically, “They’re just being honest. They have all the science on their side.” I look back now and shake my head at those reactions, but at the time it all just seemed to make sense.

As the due date approached, I had (thankfully) gotten enough of a balanced perspective to have a sense that there are many valid reasons someone might not breastfeed, and that formula feeding wasn’t the end of the world. Still, to give an idea how completely I was expecting to breastfeed myself, when we set up the registry for our baby shower, about the only bottle-feeding related thing that went on there were some fancy glass Dr. Brown’s bottles, and even then, only because it seemed prudent to have some bottles in the house in case we ever needed them.

(Opening the bottle gift at the baby shower, October 2011.)

(Opening the bottle gift at the baby shower, October 2011.)

I remember what I was thinking, almost guiltily, as the above photo was taken: “It’s great that we got these, but they’ll probably just go in a cabinet and not get much use. I’ll be breastfeeding, after all!”

Fast forward to the birth of our daughter, and things didn’t exactly go as planned. My milk supply was very, very minimal, and when it became clear that she was losing weight at an alarming rate and becoming jaundiced, we didn’t hesitate to provide her with formula. Nothing seemed to help when it came to improving my milk supply, and by the time she was two weeks old, she was an exclusively formula-fed baby. The short version is told in this post from just after we made the switch — and while it gives an idea how confident I was in the decision already at that early stage, I’m not sure it fully captures the misery that was involved in our brief and futile attempt at breastfeeding.

It was an exhausting, painful, all-consuming ordeal. I remember collapsing into bed, desperate for an hour of sleep between the round-the-clock feeding sessions, only to jolt awake thinking “How long was I down?! Did I let too much time pass since the last feeding?!” And even at the time it seemed all but pointless, all that endless nursing and pumping to produce only a tiny amount of milk and feed baby mostly formula anyway. It only took a matter of days before my attitude was, “This obviously isn’t working. Enough is enough.”

There’s a certain school of thought that says virtually every woman can breastfeed, that supply issues are largely imaginary, and that virtually every breastfeeding difficulty can be overcome with enough dedication, education, and support. By those standards, quitting after less than two weeks probably sounds premature, and there are probably people out there who would think it’s a pity that I didn’t try harder. Because — let’s face it — there was almost certainly more that I could have done. I could have continued nursing and pumping for weeks or months longer. I could have hired lactation consultants in the hopes that they would know some magic trick for increasing supply beyond what we were already doing. I could have tried every herb, drug, and remedy anyone claimed could increase milk production.

But looking back now, one of the things I’m most grateful for is having decided not to drag it out any longer than we did. Reading about things like “letdown” and “engorgement” and the challenges of “drying up” after switching to formula felt like reading about the biology of an alien species. These were not things that I experienced, and I remain extremely skeptical that a few additional weeks of round-the-clock nursing and pumping and downing supplements would have changed anything, other than turning that precious newborn phase from a happy time into a hellish one.

As it turns out, formula feeding was wonderful by comparison. There was no ordeal each time our daughter was hungry, and no question as to how much she was getting or whether she was getting enough. She did fine on a no-frills generic brand, and the increase in our weekly grocery bill didn’t strain our budget. Joe and I were able to share equally in feeding duties — I even got a full, uninterrupted night of sleep 50% of the time during those first few months. And most importantly, Lillian was content and healthy and thriving.

And looking back now, all of this seems like it should be ancient history. It’s been almost two years since we weaned from the bottle — as crazy as it is to think about, we’ve spent the lion’s share of our parenting journey not having to worry about infant feeding of any kind at all. In the blink of an eye we find ourselves with a big kid, one who eats real grown-up foods while sitting at a real grown-up table, and increasingly the concerns of the baby phase fade into the background as we navigate through a world of kissing boo-boos, potty training, providing consistency and routine and discipline as best we can, trying to teach the correct ways to behave in a grocery store or restaurant, reading her favorite children’s books over and over every night, answering questions like “but why?” for the millionth time, and all the other things that make up the real meat-and-potatoes of parenthood.

Instagram Lilly Sidewalk

(A random Instagram photo of our big kid walking down the sidewalk.)

And needless to say, none of the ill health and all-around doom so often promised for formula-fed babies ever materialized. No chronic illnesses. No asthma or allergies or developmental delays. I can count on one hand the number of times she’s been sick, and that’s with her being in full-time daycare since she was eight months old. This child is as healthy and happy and smart and well-adjusted as any parent could hope for.

In the early days of our formula-feeding journey, I came across the excellent Fearless Formula Feeder blog, which provides a rare and much-needed counterpoint to the usual deafening breast-is-best chorus. In the time since then, I also read books like Joan Woolf’s Is Breast Best? and Bottled Up by Suzanne Barston (author of the aforementioned Fearless Formula Feeder blog), as well as countless articles and blog posts and news stories that explore the science and politics surrounding breastfeeding and formula feeding.

One thing I’ve become firmly convinced of, based on both personal experience and a good deal of reading on the subject, is that it really doesn’t matter how you feed your kid for the first year. That may sound preposterous to some — three years ago, I would have regarded that statement as akin to declaring that the earth is flat — but there really is an enormous gap between the benefits that are often claimed for breastfeeding (Higher IQ! Better mother/child bond! Lifelong protection against everything from obesity to cancer to diabetes!) and the benefits that are supported by any decent quality evidence (such as a modest reduction in diarrhea during infancy).

The problem with much of the science — as many people have pointed out, including the researchers authoring some of the studies — boils down to the difficulties in separating out the actual impact of breastfeeding when a true randomized experiment is impossible, and when the moms most likely to breastfeed are also more likely to be wealthier and better educated and engage in other behaviors that can influence a child’s health and well-being regardless of how they are fed as a baby. Interestingly, a study came out a few months ago that attempted to untangle those variables by comparing siblings from the same family where one was breastfed and one was formula fed, and found no advantage or disadvantage for either feeding method at all.

Maybe that seems surprising — in a world where breastfeeding is often portrayed as the most important thing a mother could ever do for her child’s long-term health, findings like that definitely go against the grain. But I suspect there are a lot of bottle-feeding moms out there who wouldn’t (or didn’t) find it very surprising at all. Seeing your child thrive on formula and then move on — it has a way of making these infant feeding debates look petty, and even making the whole “breast or bottle?” question look like a trivial one. Just feed the baby, whether breast or formula or some combination of the two — the rest of the details really don’t matter so much.

Keep Calm And Feed The Baby

(Made using “Keep Calm” PSD template from here.)

And so on that note… We’re expecting Baby #2 to arrive in just a few short weeks, and we’ll almost certainly be formula-feeding from the very start. Part of that is knowing I’ll be delivering at a hospital that’s going for “baby friendly” status (a euphemism that has everything to do with promoting breastfeeding and little to do with the actual welfare of babies) and if our experience there with Lillian is any guide, they’ll probably be more interested in providing hollow encouragement and getting us out the door checked off in the Exclusive-Breastfeeding-No-Formula column than they will be in whether our new baby girl is becoming dehydrated or jaundiced or losing excessive amounts of weight. And that’s just not the kind of start I want to get off to again, considering that I really don’t expect anything to change as far as my supply issues go.

But the other part is, even if something did change and I did magically start producing enough milk to feed twins… the truth is, I’m really just not that interested. The truth is, I want to be able to share equally in all aspects of infant care with my husband, including feeding. The truth is, I want to be able to go back to work without having to worry about pumping or leaking all over the place. The truth is, I want to enjoy the first days of being a mom-of-two without the stress of worrying about how much nourishment our new baby is getting, or the pressure of having to produce some or all of her food supply. Those are the kinds of motivations that I’m sure some people would judge as selfish and horrible and generally not-good-enough, but I don’t see any compelling reason why those kinds of considerations shouldn’t matter — especially if we’re being honest about the actual magnitude of the risks/benefits involved when it comes to the decision of how to feed your baby.

Thanks to the experience and perspective gained over the past three years, I’m happy to be in this place of looking back on our infant feeding experiences with no regrets, and being able to make plans for our next baby without guilt or fear or shame. And for any other moms out there who may end up reading this, maybe while in the midst of their own infant feeding struggles, I hope this post may provide some small comfort that how you feed your baby really isn’t the be-all and end-all of motherhood. There are light years between what will seem important at three days and what will seem important at three years, and I can only imagine how that trend will continue as we progress another five, ten, or fifteen years along on the parenthood journey.

Neighborhood Block Party #4

This past Saturday was our neighborhood’s annual block party — and since I’ve been blogging about these every year since we moved into our house, I might as well keep up the tradition! (Also, how crazy that this is the fourth year in a row? I’m building up quite a collection here, with editions from 2013, 2012, and 2011.)

As in previous years, our block party was quieter than what we’ve seen on many of the neighboring blocks. It was mostly a day of sitting around in folding chairs wearing flip-flops, chatting with the neighbors, enjoying cool beverages and snacks and popsicles, watching as the kids ran around playing with toy cars and scooters and splashing in the kiddie pool our neighbor across the street had set up… Actually here’s a photo that captures pretty much all of those things in one shot:

Block Party 2014

Lillian really enjoyed that rainbow popsicle, though didn’t quite eat it fast enough before it melted. (I helped out with the last few bites.) Later on, we enjoyed another kind of popsicle that turned our tongues — and entire mouths really — emerald green, which she thought was hilarious.

While we had firetrucks visit during a few of the past block parties, this year we had a police car:

Police Car With Doors Open

It was actually driven by John Garrido, who happens to be running for alderman in our ward of Chicago, so he took the opportunity to stand around making introductions and shaking hands while the neighborhood kids crawled all over the police car, pretending to drive it and so forth while their parents snapped photos.

Toddler Driving Police Car

(Lillian “driving” the police car.)

It was kind of neat, since seeing a police car so close up (as well as the inside) isn’t really something you get to do every day, and I was admittedly guilty of crawling inside as well. As it turns out, the back of a police car (or this particular one at least) is crazily uncomfortable, so I stayed only long enough to snap a quick goofy-looking photo.

Sitting In Police Car

(Lillian insisted that I buckle my safety belt while sitting in the back of the police car.)

Earlier in the day, we set a portable tent canopy (which my mom had brought over) in our front yard, but ironically we probably didn’t spend more than 15 minutes using it. Most of the day was spent going back and forth between a few of the neighbors’ houses, as well as chasing Lillian up and down the block.

Canopy In Front Of House

(A view of the unused canopy on our trim but slightly weedy front lawn.)

Our sentiment at the end of the day (in addition to being worn out from all the fresh air and exercise, and a little overly full from indulging in too many snacks and grilled foods) was to say, “We should totally join in the planning process next year and see if we can get a bouncy castle and stuff!” But if this year is any guide, we’ll forget all about it, and then the block party will sneak up on us, and then we’ll say the same thing again about the next year, and so on and so forth in an endless cycle.

But overall it was an enjoyable day of outdoor summer fun, and something we’ll probably continue to attend as long as our neighborhood keeps throwing these block parties!

Pregnancy Advice From The 1940’s

The year before last, while helping my mom clean out the old house in preparation for selling it after my dad passed away, I came across a book that had once belonged to my grandmother — Expectant Motherhood, by Nicholson J. Eastman M.D. (2nd edition), originally published in 1947. Basically the “what to expect when you’re expecting” of a few generations past. I was intrigued enough at the time to hang onto it, and found it again while cleaning out the soon-to-be nursery — and being pregnant right now, I couldn’t resist cracking open the yellowed volume and reading through to see how much things have changed.

Expectant Motherhood by Nicholson J. Eastman, M.D., 2nd Edition

Granted, I’m no doctor or expert of any kind, but I think anyone who has been pregnant, experienced prenatal care, or given birth in recent years will have at least a vague idea of the state of modern obstetrics — enough to recognize some of the glaring differences between now and 1947. Reading through this book was fascinating, and sometimes funny, and sometimes a little scary — and so for today’s post, I wanted to share some of the more interesting tidbits.  Read the rest of this post →