Expecting our first baby was a big part of the inspiration for this blog, and so it’s only fitting to have a page about our journey into parenthood. This is the story of Lillian’s first year:
It all started around the beginning of 2011. In those days we were twenty-something newlyweds living in a one-bedroom apartment on the south side of Chicago and commuting to work downtown by train — basically living the classic yuppie lifestyle. We knew we wanted a family, and we knew we wanted to get started on it soon-ish rather than ten years down the road, so we’d decided to start trying in that “let’s just see what happens” kind of way. By the end of February, we had a positive pregnancy test.
The first prenatal appointment was in mid-March, where we confirmed the healthy pregnancy by ultrasound and got to hear the baby’s heartbeat for the first time. And the due date? November 3rd. We felt very fortunate to have our first baby on the way, knowing there are couples who spend months or even years trying unsuccessfully to conceive… But at the same time, we knew we had a lot of preparing to do!
A big part of that was finding a bigger place, since our one-bedroom apartment wasn’t particularly well-suited for a family of three, especially for the long term. So we spent that spring house hunting and jumping through the various mortgage-related hoops that eventually led to the purchase of our first home. (To see more about the house, check out this page.)
Meanwhile, I was enjoying the easiest pregnancy anyone could ever ask for — no morning sickness, no discomfort, no complications or risk factors to worry about. One of the first posts I wrote after starting this blog later that spring was a recap of the already bygone first trimester — in that post, I remarked that I almost felt like I was cheating at the whole pregnancy thing.
One of the most exciting and eagerly anticipated moments of the pregnancy (aside from the birth, of course!) was the big 20-week ultrasound, which occurred shortly before we moved into the new house. Our baby got a clean bill of health, and after months of suspense, we learned that she was a little girl!
By mid-summer, we were moved in to our new house and working on the nursery. We picked a gender-neutral nature theme in pale green, and painted a safari mural on one of the walls. And then there was the business of acquiring all the baby furniture. We bought a crib, which arrived damaged and was generally an epic failure, but we replaced it with another crib soon enough. The changing table was an Ikea dresser fitted with a changing pad, and opting for comfort over style, we chose a Lazy Boy recliner for the rocking chair.
The nursery ended up being a work in progress for quite a while, but we managed to get all the essentials together to create a cozy, comfortable, functional space for our daughter before she was born.
The weeks were flying by, and mid October arrived before we knew it. Our baby had made it to full term, and I spent a lot of time wondering what her birthdate would be — I even wrote a post with a calendar of potential dates here. The prenatal doctor visits were weekly now, and at the 37 week appointment on October 11th, I got the news that I had tested positive for Group B Strep and that the baby was measuring large.
These were the first minor hiccups in an otherwise complication-free pregnancy. And when I say minor, I mean really minor — the Group B Strep status just meant I would need to receive IV antibiotics in the hospital during labor. The large-measuring baby had the potential to be more problematic, since she was measuring 8.5 pounds at 37 weeks (!!!) and there was some concern that by the time delivery arrived, she could be too big to be born any way other than C-section.
A week later, at the next appointment, it was becoming apparent that “things were happening” — cervix things — and there was talk of stripping my membranes to get labor going spontaneously. At this point, it seemed prudent to start my maternity leave (all of this discussed in this post), so I made Friday, October 21st my last day instead of waiting another week longer — luckily the boss was very agreeable about that, and it turned out to be a very good thing! I didn’t know it at the time, but the pregnancy wasn’t going to last another week.
We had a baby shower on the 22nd, and it was a sweet little all-family affair rather than a girls-only party — Joe and I opened the baby presents together, which was awesome. On the 23rd we did a bunch of shopping, and late that evening, my water broke on its own.
At 8:26 pm on October 24th, Lillian Jeanette made her entrance into this world — for the full story of the delivery, check out this post. She weighed a hearty 9.0 pounds and scored a 9/9 on her Apgars, and we immediately fell in love with her perfect round little face and tiny little baby fingers.
And despite the concerns about the possibility of a difficult delivery or even C-section due to her size, things went smoothly for me as well — the vaginal delivery did virtually no damage, and I was even in good enough shape to drive us home from the hospital (with the doctor’s blessing). It was like winning the lottery: after an impossibly easy and uncomplicated pregnancy, and delivering a healthy baby, I got to have an easy recovery too.
But the luck ran out when it came to breastfeeding. I had planned on breastfeeding, of course — it was impossible not to get the “breast is best” message after it had been hammered home at the class the hospital offered as well as pretty much 100% of what I’d read while pregnant. But despite making every effort, the milk supply just wasn’t there. (For the full story of our breastfeeding struggle, check out this post.) By the time Lillian was two weeks old, she was an exclusively formula fed baby — and since she was completely happy and completely healthy, I was completely okay with that.
After that little blip on the radar, we continued our journey into parenthood at full speed, cherishing the firsts and the milestones and trying not to blink or we’d miss them as they blurred past. Lillian wore a cute little pumpkin bib for her first Halloween, and when she was three weeks old, I started up a photography project where I planned to take her picture with the same stuffed animal every month or so as she grew.
In general, Lillian was a very sleepy mellow baby, not fussy or colicky at all (as discussed in this post), and we counted our blessings for that. All things considered, the trial-by-fire of new parenthood wasn’t nearly as stressful and sleep-deprived for us as it could have been.
Come December, we were loading Lillan up into the car seat and embarking on a road trip down to Pensacola Florida for the holidays, and so she could meet her daddy’s side of the family for the first time. Some highlights from that trip included the four generation photos we took, as well as giving Lillian the opportunity to try out the antique family bassinet. We rang in the new year while we were down there and returned to Chicago at the beginning of January 2012.
Lillian was growing and developing away, and by February, she was four months old and starting to show more interest in playing with toys. As discussed in this post, she seemed to have very specific interests when it came to baby toys at this age — rattles and teethers and the like were too boring to bother with, but my keys? Most interesting thing ever! Once we realized this, we stocked up on a bunch of keyring-like toys, like plastic baby keys, and chains of colorful inter-connected plastic loops.
Around the same time, we started introducing solid foods, starting off with baby oatmeal. We got off to a bit of a rocky start, but once I figured out the right consistency (thicker than what the instructions on the box would make) Lillian gobbled it up like candy, as discussed in this post. And over the next few months, we experimented with a variety of pureed fruits and vegetables, and found it really interesting to see food preferences start to emerge at this early age. Like pears were yummy, and bananas were icky poison — for more on some of her early food preferences, check out this post.
By mid-May, Lillian was six months old, and already tall enough to be on the brink of outgrowing her infant car seat — one of the perils of having tall parents! After shopping around a bit, we broke our streak of largely gender-neutral baby things with a flowery pink car seat — more on the car seat upgrade can be found here.
In June, I wrote about the day we loaded Lillian up in her stroller and embarked on a day of tourist-style sightseeing in downtown Chicago. It was intended to be an experimental trial-run for a trip we were considering taking to New York City later that summer to visit my sister — the New York trip never materialized for a couple of reasons, but we had a memorable day trekking around our own city and coming up with ways to manage with a baby in 90+ degree heat.
In August, Lillian started crawling, at nine months old and after about four months of scooting around on her tummy. When she finally pushed up into a true crawl, there was much cheering, and we were lucky enough to capture the moment on video — check out this post to see it! August also marked the month when Lillian started cutting her first teeth, and thankfully, teething didn’t seem to bother her much at all — there were no sleepless nights of inconsolable crying, or anything of the sort. Just some teeth poking through one day.
Toward the end of August, Joe and I took our first baby-free overnight trip since Lillian was born, enjoying a relaxing cabin weekend in Wisconsin. It was a good thing for us, and we believe strongly in making time for each other like this to keep our marriage strong, but it’s a first that can be a little guilt-inducing. Luckily everything went well and Lillian had a good time with her loving Grandma.
In September, Lillian was approaching 11 months, and we were starting to introduce finger foods. She was also pulling up on furniture and starting to move along while holding onto it — for more info on both of those things, check out this post.
In October, we celebrated Lillian’s first birthday with a little party for the family in our home — as I wrote in the post about it, the party was mostly an excuse for the adults in her lives to hang out and eat cupcakes. We also honored the time-worn tradition of letting the one-year-old make a mess smashing a cupcake, and Lillian had a good time smashing it to bits and then licking the tasty morsels off of her fingers.
And that’s the story of Lillian’s first year! But of course her story is ongoing, and our journey into parenthood is just beginning as well. Lots more adventures to come!