taking it easy..?

i’m 37 weeks tomorrow and i had the biggest scare of my pregnancy yesterday: i fell down the stairs. thankfully i was on my backside the entire time and i wasn’t carrying penny. however, the impact did hurt my bottom and as i turned around to bury my face in my arms to cry a little from the shock and pain, i saw penny staring at me in surprise from the top of the stairs. she even said, “아이~야야야야 아파” (“ouch, it hurts!”) and gave me a big cheesy grin in an attempt to make me feel better. i held out my arms and she climbed into them and smiled her toothy grin at me again. how could i not feel better? she’s such a sweetheart.

here’s how the unfortunate event unfolded: it was about ten minutes before 4pm after i had gotten penny from her nap. she had finished helping me load the washer and dryer and we were getting ready to go downstairs. i held a small box in one hand and descended the steps, planning to turn around to scoop penny up to bring her down the stairs. before i had even gone down a few steps, my feet slipped out from under me and i tumbled down. although it happened so quickly, i remember fervently hoping i wouldn’t land on my stomach.

i know my body is getting increasingly off-balance as i get bigger so the fall is a harsh reminder to really slow down and pay attention. i learned to multitask even more so as a parent so i could utilize my time better, but in my case this is not the best time to attempt to do everything at once. i could have brought the box downstairs at another time and held the railing to be safe. i certainly did hold on to the railing whenever i did go up and down the stairs after that incident.

although it is tiring on the days i’m alone with penny, she, herself, has been of great help. penny will want to move from activity to activity rather quickly but if i tell her to help me clean up, she will obey and put things away. she has always been a wonderful listener – if she wants to put something in her mouth or touch something, she’ll look at us to indicate what she wants to do. when we tell her “no” and explain why she can’t, she won’t do it. i think that’s why she’s hesitant when she tries out new toys or food; she’ll look at us for approval and if we consent then will she taste the food (after lots of encouragement) or put a block in a box. i am thankful for this as i don’t have to worry about battling with a toddler every day.

while it’s true that she would prefer having me nearby, if i tell her i need to go upstairs to prepare her meal she will say, “bye, 엄마” (bye, mom) and continue playing on her own. i like to come back downstairs quietly to catch penny talking to herself while playing. sometimes i even try to snap a photo.

penny has also been saying so many two-word phrases lately and even uttered a three-word phrase the other day: 엄마 맘마 됐다, after glancing at my empty plate. it basically means “mom’s food all done.” before she goes up for her nap, she has a ritual of saying goodbye to objects in the room as she leaves like “bye, blue”, “bye, purple” (referring to her paint – she said goodbye to every color), “bye, tea” (her teapot), “bye, 응가” (her potty). it’s really cute and i like how she is working on speaking longer phrases on her own. we speak to her in korean and english so we were initially worried that she would confuse words, but yesterday when i said “strawberry” to dennis she immediately said, “딸기” so she understands that those two words have the same meaning.

i’m hoping i still have a few more weeks with penny, but dennis and i actually wouldn’t mind if ezra came a week early (which, however, would mean less alone time with penny). we just don’t want him to be late.. but it’s not up to us, of course. in the meantime we are putting the finishing touches on the nursery, packing our hospital bags, and thinking of other tasks that we need to do (e.g washing and sanitizing baby bottles – i did this two days ago). whether he comes early or late, we will still have to learn to adjust to becoming a family of five (including yuri, our dog) but also how to handle a toddler and a newborn. that’ll be an experience for sure.

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me at 36 weeks


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this collage makes me laugh

it was warm for a few days so we were able to take a walk. penny loved being outdoors.

we hung up a mirror in the playroom recently and penny loves it so much! she’s kissing a spongebob pez dispenser in the first photo!

she saw yuri napping and said “yuri night-night” and wanted to go lie down next to her.

playing with snow since it was too cold to go outdoors

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washing the toy animals after being in the “mud” (brown paint)


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we recently bought her tempera paint, individual paint cups with lids, and matching brushes. she loves them!


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her masterpiece


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selfie from this morning


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playing by herself while i made her lunch

postpartum depression

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the first month of penny’s life was basically hell on earth. it’s quite harsh to word it like this but i don’t want to sugarcoat what i had endured during that time.

even though i was told by multiple lactation consultants that penny had a great latch, breastfeeding was incredibly painful. despite this, i kept on doing it hoping that the pain would subside. thing is, newborns nurse constantly and – tmi alert – my nipples never got the chance to heal so they were red, raw, cracked and bleeding. every time i breastfed penny tears would be streaming down my face and i’d be gritting my teeth. looking back, i still can’t believe i didn’t give up. my pride and obstinate nature were big factors in continuing this torturous deed but it took a great toll on me emotionally.

the pain of breastfeeding caused me so much anger and misery that it was hard to really enjoy motherhood initially. i knew that it wouldn’t be comfortable but i had no idea how much it would actually hurt. i dreaded breastfeeding so much i would cry in anticipation of the impending pain; and during breastfeeding, i would picture myself jumping out a window or hanging myself in a doorway! i was suffering so much i had thoughts of wanting to die. and still, i pressed on. many times i couldn’t take it anymore and would unlatch penny so she could bottle feed.

one particular lactation consultant advised me to take a break so i could heal mentally and physically. that meant i had to pump, and i pumped every. two. hours. even at night. this went on for a few weeks and i wanted to collapse from fatigue. i had white bumps underneath my eyes from lack of sleep and i was unbelievably hostile and irritable. to top it off, i got mastitis (twice), an infection of the breast tissue. the constant pumping and, quite possibly, bacteria entering my body through cracked and sore nipples took its toll.

although i had, and still have, a great support system i still felt helpless and alone. it was difficult to talk about my ordeal with anyone because i didn’t know anyone that shared my painful experience. or so i thought. when i posted about my breastfeeding struggles, i was amazed at the large amount of feedback i received from other mom friends about their own personal struggles. having these women respond to my story and offer words of encouragement and advice certainly helped in my being able to persevere and trying to maintain optimism and hope.

i found using a nipple shield greatly helped penny’s latch while also diminishing pain and discomfort. even though i seemed to have overcome the biggest source of  misery, i was still often unhappy. a lot had to do with being overwhelmed by a baby’s demands and being constantly tired. for the most part, penny has always been a great sleeper. i’m not counting the first few weeks of her life because newborns have to wake constantly to eat. they also have what is referred to as “the witching hour” – from roughly 6-11pm, babies can get inconsolable and refuse to sleep. growth spurts and developmental leaps are usually not fun and affect sleep as well.

whenever there was a hiccup to the schedule that i had for penny, i would freak out. i’m constantly researching articles on sleep and i had learned that “sleep begets sleep.” if penny ever woke up from a “disaster nap” (a nap that is less than 45 minutes), i would get upset because not only would it throw off the whole schedule but i’d worry about her being overtired and waking up at night. i drove myself crazy envisioning possible scenarios and found it tough to cope with unexpected situations. it got the point to where my anger and frustration would boil over and i would lose my cool at penny. how can you get mad at a baby? even worse, how can anyone yell at a baby?

the times i spent an hour rocking penny to sleep only to have her wake up the minute i put her down were usually because she was transitioning to fewer naps. i didn’t know it then and kept trying to figure out what was wrong. i would cry from being angry, tired, and hungry. sometimes i would yell at penny to go to sleep. after penny’s newborn stage, i was mostly alone all day with her and my dog. i was lonely and overwhelmed. i kept praying for patience and endurance, and i would have a good stretch where i felt happy. then something would throw me off and i’d start having a panic attack. often times i felt guilty for feeling angry or sad because penny actually is a good sleeper and such a happy baby. i was also often told that i “should be like this” and “not like this” so that made me feel even more terrible. i knew i had to act before it really started to affect my relationship with penny.

i scheduled an appointment with my ob to discuss the possibility of my having postpartum depression. we found that my type a personality makes it hard for me to be flexible and be able to go with the flow. i’m all about structure and schedules and the unpredictability of a baby basically threw my whole life off course. thankfully, it seems as if i have adjustment issues instead of postpartum depression but i still constantly have to keep working on remaining calm and being more relaxed. i’ve also been taking 25mg of zoloft before i go to bed to help take the edge off and sleep better at night. although penny sleeps 11-12 hours, any little noise that she makes rouses me from my light slumber and i’d lie awake thoughts running through my head, unable to sleep. zoloft doesn’t conk me out but i have a more restful sleep now.

with penny sleeping such long stretches and going to bed on her own, i’ve been feeling more rested and happy these days. i know anything can change… and i still have my bouts of freak-outs but my attitude has improved. dennis says he feels encouraged because he sees me smiling more than i had been before i had gone to see my ob.

parenthood is such a monumental and pivotal moment in our lives – it’s vital to have a support system. i also learned not to be afraid to ask for help and to also r e l a x without the baby. now i feel more comfortable about going out sans penny after having nervously done it the first few times. it wasn’t that i didn’t want to go out; i was afraid that penny’s schedule would get messed up because whoever watched her wouldn’t do it the way i did. even now i still struggle with micromanagement but i’m trying to be more easygoing. the vegas trip helped immensely because i got a much-needed getaway and i learned to “let go” since i wouldn’t be taking care of penny for 4 days.

this friday, dennis and i will be going to punta canta for 5 days for a wedding. i’m nervous again about leaving penny but much less so this time around. she’s on a great schedule and she loves my in-laws so i know she’ll do well. i just have to remember to relax and have fun.

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my friend, ben, came down from massachusetts to visit!

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i love having visitors. for a while, i struggled with staying in touch with people because i was so miserable and tired but human contact is so important. having visitors also breaks the monotony and helps the day go by quicker.

dennis could always tell if i had a visitor while he was at work because i’d be happier and smiling more than usual.

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our friend, john, came over yesterday to hang out 🙂

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goodbye to the merlin sleep suit. penny finally mastered rolling over in the suit so she can’t wear it anymore to bed. we were worried about transitioning her out of it but she’s still sleeping wonderfully! she’ll wake up at night because she’ll roll over onto her stomach but she falls back asleep, usually on her tummy.

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penny sleeps in a sleep sack now – still too young for blankets. dennis gets really worried about her sleeping on her stomach especially since her face was right up against the mattress last night. i reassured him that she would wake up if she can’t breathe. she has great arm strength as is evidenced two photos above but admittedly i get anxious too and stare at the monitor to make sure she’s breathing.

this post took a lot longer than i had thought it would. it’s nearly 9pm and i haven’t eaten dinner yet. still, i’m glad i finally was able to post about my struggles because it’s not something i feel like i should have to hide or be ashamed about. if my personal experience can spread awareness and encourage new and current moms, then this has been all worth it.

 

it ain’t over ’til it’s over

remember how i had declared, with much relief, that penny’s sleep regression seemed to have ended? yes, well, forget that, because it’s still in progress. after talking about the sleep regression with my friend, jisun (언니) at church yesterday, she confirmed that the regression can come and go – one night your baby will sleep wonderfully and then the next time she will have multiple wakings.

an important thing that i need to keep reminding myself: penny is just a baby.

watching yuri, our dog.

watching yuri, our dog.

she loves feeling different textures

she loves feeling different textures

she doesn’t intend to wake up, and stay awake for hours. she’s exhausted too – this is obvious because she makes up for lost sleep during the day – and is still trying to figure out how to transition to the different sleep cycles. sometimes she’s successful, and other times she’s not.

saturday night, for instance. she woke up at 1:30am and was moving around, but didn’t cry.. and her eyes were still closed. i was pumping so i let her be. she became more and more agitated that she couldn’t fall back asleep and began crying and trying to self-soothe by putting her hand in her mouth. when her cries escalated, i finally attended to her at 2:30am. she had been trying for an hour to fall back asleep! i ended up rocking her for AN HOUR AND A HALF. during this time, penny’s eyes were wide open but she was quiet. my chronic cough hasn’t gone away and my throat started to tickle, threatening to wake penny up. i put penny down too early because her eyes flew open and i had to start the rocking process over again. by the time she fell asleep at 4am, it was time to pump again!!!!! as i finished pumping, she woke up! this time she was hungry, and had a very wet diaper. she downed 5.5 ounces and when i rocked her, she fell asleep and stayed asleep for over 4 hours.

the first time that i tried putting penny down in her crib, i had noticed that her diaper was full but didn’t want to further stimulate her by changing it so i left it alone. in hindsight, it’s possible she woke up because she was uncomfortable, and that made her realize she’s hungry too.. who knows? again, she’s just a baby. she’s not waking up to annoy us. this is my mantra that i’ll just have to keep repeating to myself when i find myself getting agitated during these frequent wakings.

out of desperation, i had been googling about the 4-month-old sleep regression the past few weeks. a great blog post i came across is found here: help! my 4-5 month old is sleeping like a newborn again!

this post helped me understand what penny is going through developmentally, and empathize with her. around 4 months of age, the “fourth trimester” ends (the first three months of a baby’s life is referred to as the “fourth trimester” because those months are like an extension of life inside the womb.) and suddenly, the entire world is opened up before their eyes. anything, and everything, is fascinating and you may find (like i did) that your baby is highly distracted to even eat which results in night wakings up make up the calories.

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penny has been pursing her lips a lot 🙂

taken just before we left for church this morning

taken just before we left for church sunday morning

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what i also liked about this post is that the writer reassures us, the parents, that we aren’t doing anything wrong. it’s easy to blame ourselves when we are up for the fourth time in just as many hours trying to put the baby back to bed. just like how i had thought if i had changed penny’s diaper, she would’ve slept longer… maybe, maybe not.. she IS going through a sleep regression so she could have woken up around the same time even if she had a dry diaper.

just keep doing what you have been doing: feed/nurse (if necessary) and comfort them. this, too, shall pass. babies especially need you during this challenging time. another helpful point to remember is that soon your baby will be crawling, then walking, and then running… sometimes the days can drag on but as a collective time really flies by… as you cradle your wide-eyed child at 3am, try to keep in mind that she won’t “need” you as much as she gets older and learns how to self-soothe. she won’t hug you for no reason or cling by your side.. she’ll want to be with her friends, or play games on her ipad instead of wanting to be held by her mom. though difficult to appreciate now, please try to cherish these moments with your sweet little baby.

i’m talking to you, jax.