It’s been a while – like, a few months a while – and it’s so good to be back!
Last time we spoke, I looked like this:
And now, four months later, I look like this:
OMGEE we had a baby!
This little munchkin is baby Lena.
(here she is at one month)
(and here she is at, well, yesterday)
SQUEEEE! She has VERY squishy cheeks and a super easy smile and an incredibly cute double chin, and we just adore her. And I am wearing some very obscure, everything-else-is-in-the-laundry pajama pants in this picture. Thank you for understanding.
I have been out on maternity leave for the last few months, and besides the amazing Plant Powered January series that I put together with our team before my leave, you haven’t missed any other updates about our life with her. I am JUST NOW finding enough margin to even write this post.
It feels like we’ve lived about ten years in the last three months (maybe you too?), so today I’d love to play catch up with you and share a little bit about what’s been going on for us in our personal life over the last few months, most of it centering around – you guessed it – the new Teeny Tiny Squish we’ve added to our family.
A Short-Ish Birth Story
As with all birth stories, please skip over if you are squeamish, uncomfortable or, really, just not wanting to read this for any reason. ♡
In building our family, we’ve experienced three births.
So I guess things could only go up from there, but it’s still worth saying that I think Lena’s birth was the most happy birth experience of the three.
The day before my scheduled delivery, I was totally restless. I couldn’t sleep, I was feeling more frequent contractions, and I just felt off. Because of my medical history with Afton’s pregnancy and birth, my doctors made it pretty clear that I would never be allowed to have a trial of labor and would always need to have an early, scheduled C-section for the safety of both the baby and myself. So as I’m feeling these contractions, I’m thinking… uhh, this isn’t supposed to be happening, and I probably need to make sure that everything is okay.
I kissed Solvi goodbye and anxiously drove to the hospital alone (!!) because the contractions were picking up rather fast and unexpectedly, and Bjork needed to wait until his parents could get there before he could leave Solvi.
TLDR: Once we got to the hospital, the doctors confirmed that it was time for this baby to come out, one day shy of our scheduled delivery at 37 weeks. Bjork scurried over with our half-packed hospital bags, my doctor generously came in to the hospital on her day off (♡) and a few hours later, we had baby Lena in our arms.
What was so incredible about Lena’s birth, and it makes me tear up even now as I think about it, is that she was the only one of my three babies that I was able to hold skin-to-skin immediately after she was born. They didn’t take her away to the NICU, they didn’t clean her up or wrap her – they just placed her up on my chest, next to my heart, just brand new to the world and right there with me. I had seen photos or video clips or photos of this – you know, that powerful moment where the mom gets to hold the baby right after delivery, the one they use in those diaper commercials to get you in the feelings and therefore inspire you to buy those amazing diapers – but I had never experienced it until Lena. And the commercials were right. It was so special. The stress leading up to her delivery, the nerves and tension of being in the operating room, all of it washed away as soon as she was there, curled up right next to my face. I am having trouble even finding words to describe it and it’s hard to not get emotional again just remembering it. It was one of the most golden moments of my life.
As I was holding her, she started rooting around, wanting to nurse, and I panicked – like, I want to feed her but I also I’m like, still in surgery? But amazingly, the OR staff helped prop her up on my chest and she nursed for the first time right there on the operating table while the doctors continued stitching me back together. What in the world.
I’ll never know what it’s like to have a natural birth. And I’ll always have a complicated and kind of sad relationship with the birth process because of what happened with Afton.
But Lena’s entry into the world was so beautiful and special and it redeemed a little bit of what birth means to me. ♡ I’m so grateful.
Lena’s First 3 Months
Coming hot off of that tender and lovely birth story, here is a brief summary of the last few months of our lives:
Speaking very honestly, the adjustment from a family of three to a family of four has been extremely hard. Outside of grief, this has been one of the most difficult seasons that we’ve ever been through as individuals, as a couple, and as a family.
What’s Been Hard:
- Lots of Crying: Lena has, we think, silent reflux – things have gotten so much better with medication, but for the first 2 1/2 months, there was a distressing amount of screaming, writhing, squirming, grunting, and crying. Both Bjork and I have spent so many hours bouncing this little peanut on a yoga ball, walking laps around our kitchen table, swaying her in deep lunges just to get her soothed… it’s been extremely difficult, mentally, physically, emotionally. Poor girl, poor us.
- Very Little Sleep: I know all babies keep their parents up at night, but Lena seems to be extra-good at this. For the first 2 1/2 months, she could only sleep if we were holding her (see point number one about silent reflux). Like, not normal newborn sleep – I’m talking about all night holding her, and every nap holding her. She would be up every 20-30 minutes ALL NIGHT LONG and the only way she would settle was by Bjork or me holding her. There were no 3 hour, 2 hour, or even 1 hour stretches of sleep for a good long while there. Even now, at four months, we are doing 4 hour stretches at night on a good night. We would take shifts all night long to hold her in a chair or in our bed to sleep – things I had previously said I would *NEVER EVER DO* and things that you really shouldn’t do if you are following safe sleep guidelines. We were (are?) just so desperate. I know you might be thinking, “Well, you have to just try putting her down more often or let her fuss a little bit to get her used to sleeping on her own.” I know this because I used to think this way before Lena! LOL. After raising one baby that was a fairly easy little sleeper and thinking that I may have had anything to do with it, this experience has totally humbled me (baby girl already doing her job). As we now know, some babies just cannot sleep when laying flat and/or on their own, and it’s not anyone’s fault, and you might never know why, and it’s so exhausting, and everyone just needs a shower and a hot meal and a lot of grace.
- High Anxiety and Loneliness: The icing on the cake is that Covid and quarantine restrictions have made an already hard season even harder. A few weeks after Lena was born, I called my parents on FaceTime and just started crying as I talked through the what-are-we-going-to-do decision map yet again, knowing that Bjork and I were both losing our minds trying to care for a newborn and a toddler 24/7 inside the confines of our house (thank you, winter), but also feeling so worried about potentially exposing our brand new baby to Covid via our various childcare options, OR exposing our parents or caregivers to OUR exposures, right when things were peaking here in Minnesota. We were desperately needing support but feeling unsure about who we should be seeing or not seeing. Some of that anxiety was normal, and some of that anxiety (hi, it me) was not. As Lena has gotten a bit older, things have gotten better. We have a best-as-it-can-be-right-now situation for childcare and that is incredibly helpful. But I miss my friends. I miss my family. As I’m sure many of you are feeling – Covid + pregnancy + baby + honestly, just ALL OF LIFE = hard.
What’s Been Wonderful:
- Sisters: The day we brought Lena home from the hospital and seeing her together with Solvi… even running on minutes of sleep and being in some crazy state of mind, it was one of the happiest moments of my life. My heart was so full. Solvi was so gentle and sweet, and curiously tried to poke Lena in the eye – the start of an excellent sibling life together.
- Baby Smiles and Cheeks: Lena smiled early (thank goodness, we needed it) and she smiles a lot. Way more than Solvi ever did at this age. It is wonderful. And she has mega squishy cheeks that are just so fun to play with and / or nibble on all day long. No? Anyone? Baby cheek nibbling? This is what quarantine has done to me.
- Learning Patience and Compassion: As a final high-ish point, being in this really difficult state for the last few months has given me a new appreciation for the challenges of all kinds that we all face in our lives. Again and again, we have said: what is this like for people who are single parents? for people whose kids are terminally sick? for people who don’t have enough food? for people who don’t have family or friends nearby? After losing Afton, we know deeply how lucky we are to have the ultimate thing which is a living baby at home with us, and yet even with that perspective, I have really, really struggled in this season. So I hope that one of the gifts of this struggle is that I am learning patience and compassion for myself and others in a new way, because everyone has their hard season, and as a general rule of thumb, people just need a lot of love.
Food That Has Been Saving Me
The photo above was taken on the *one day* in the last three months that I made myself a really good, photo-worthy lunch and had time to a) take a picture, and b) eat it before things went south, so don’t be fooled.
Mostly I haven’t been cooking at all. I’m doing pretty well if I can shower, put on real clothes, and brush my teeth. We’re eating lots of cereal, frozen meals, takeout, and leftovers. This is not an exaggeration.
That being said, I did a bit better in the cooking department BEFORE Lena was born, which is pretty much what we have been existing on for the last few months. Here’s a screenshot of the recipes I made on maternity leave, most of them being from our Freezer Meals post.
That stash lasted us from the end of October through about early January, which was such a lifesaver. Thank you, thank you, thank you to my 8-months-pregnant self for having it together much more than my current 3-months-postpartum self.
The one thing I *have* made during my maternity leave is about 100 batches of these apple muffins. Solvi loves them, they’re so easy, and they’re nutritious enough that I can let her eat like 5 of them per day. So that’s going well.
So What’s Next
Actual footage of editing this post – thanks to Bjork for sneaking this photo. That pile of baby wipes on my desk is a metaphor for everything right now.
This is baby season at POY! In addition to Lena’s arrival, we have several POY team members who are also adjusting to or preparing for life with new babies right now (yay!!). We are going to be pressing pause on new content for Pinch of Yum for a while to give a little time for the dust to settle on all the reduced work hours, maternity leaves, and personal life adjustments.
With that in mind, here’s what you can expect to see this spring:
- February: a content break
- March: spring essentials from the archives
- April: back to it with a brand new recipe series!
I have already started working on the April series and I’m going to keep it under wraps for a little while longer but just… you should GET EXCITED. If you are a person who often finds yourself struggling to get a dinner on the table, a) I am WITH YOU and you wouldn’t even believe how many boxes of frozen sweet potato tots I’ve gone through in 2021 already, and b) this is going to be really awesome for both of us.
Sage says: No I will not sit still for you to take photos of me.
Sage also says: It’s okay to be whatever you are in this moment. ♡ You are doing a great job. You can just be where you are. Radical acceptance and permission to be human. Or dog.
Sage also says: IT’S SO COLD PLEASE BUY ME DOGGIE BOOTS.
Is this a terrible idea of a great one? I welcome your recommendations.
Thanks for being here. Thanks for sharing food and life. You’re at the heart of this space.
See you in a bit! xo