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Category Archives: Mommyhood

Time to Play

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Diego hiking 1Diego hiking 2

Diego is now fifteen months old, and life is changing quickly.  He plays now.  I mean, he REALLY plays!  He demands time outside when we get home each afternoon, and he and I spend about 30 minutes to an hour finding things to do in the backyard.  I have always felt dismayed about our backyard.  Grass refuses to grow for longer than one season, and the overgrown trees drop a layer of leaves that quickly becomes unmanageable if I miss a day of raking.  But now, suddenly, I am finding myself keeping up with the raking, because my little boy drags me out to “play”  (do yard work) every day.  As I pull weeds, he pulls grass and leaves; as I rake, he pushes an old broken rake around; as I examine the growing grass and plants, he climbs up on anything and everything.  He is learning to throw rocks.  I am learning to soak in the fresh air and bits of sunshine.  He has discovered the joy of chasing after lizards.  I have discovered the joy of exploring the world through my son’s young eyes.  Does anyone, as an adult, truly understand how miraculous airplanes, birds, spiders, and the moon are?  Diego understands that these are miracles.

 

Diego exploring

Diego’s love for the outdoors has taught me two things:

1.  He doesn’t need more toys.  In nice weather, he hardly touches his toys, because he spends all his time outside.  The living room is a minefield of noisy, high-tech “educational” toys, but he is too busy exploring the real world to bother with fake computer sounds and colors.

2. The time I spend exploring with him is the best thing I do.  It forces me to slow down, ignore the TV and my phone, and just enjoy his company.

I was reading a blog post recently about life being too busy (http://onbeing.com/blog/the-disease-of-being-busy/7023), and I completely agree.  We over-schedule our lives, and we have a difficult time relaxing with our loved ones, or alone.  As a child, I was lucky enough to have only a few activities, and the rest of my time was spent playing with my sister and neighbors, and with my parents.  We were forced to be creative and to make up games, put on plays (which we wrote), ride our bikes, ride horses, have lemonade stands, try different sports (in an unofficial setting), and find ways to get along with one another.  We climbed trees and fences, braved open fields, and dug tunnels.  We had clubhouses and secret hideouts.  The weeping willow in our backyard was an exotic jungle that we cut through with our machetes (sticks).  We camped in the backyard and got freaked out by the nighttime bugs that were attracted to the tent.  We were explorers and directors and entrepreneurs.  If we got bored, we had to find something to do.

I hope Marco and I can arrange our lives so that Diego has the opportunity to learn how to overcome boredom; to learn to entertain himself, and to get along with others.  Free play is the best activity for kids.  There are many articles and studies that argue as much.  Here’s one that stresses the importance of free play in a child’s development: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/06/for-better-school-results-clear-the-schedule-and-let-kids-play/373144/.

As a psychology grad, I have often read and thought about the two hemispheres of the brain.  There is an emphasis in our society on the left hemisphere’s logic, planning, and focused attention.  We must attempt to also stimulate the right hemisphere’s creativity, joy, intuition, and “big picture” awareness.  There is a stimulating TED talk on this subject by Iain McGilchrist: http://www.ted.com/talks/iain_mcgilchrist_the_divided_brain. He ends with a wonderful quote from Albert Einstein that has inspired me to continue to find ways to access the right hemisphere:

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant.  We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.

–Albert Einstein

Our family at the pumpkin patch

I hope I can instill a love for the “sacred gift” in Diego, and inspire him to always see the miracles that exist in everyday life.

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Baby Budget: ten tips for working moms-to-be

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Marco and I did NOT budget for the baby.  We ended up spending all extra funds on fertility treatments.  When Diego was born, I went on maternity leave, and the state disability plan gave me 55% of my salary.  I had paid into a supplemental disability insurance plan, which gave me another 35% of my salary, but it was not enough.  The limited funds put us behind, and we are only now beginning to feel that we are caught up.

We also found that as soon as Diego was born, all of our regular responsibilities were put on the back burner.  Not the immediate back burner, but one far enough in the back to be almost unreachable.  Yes, I was home all day.  No, I did not keep up with my Excel spreadsheet of bills.

I found that I was in a joyful fog, with little thought of the future, other than, “I’m sure it will all work out somehow.”  My attitude was terrible, by all rational logic.  I decided that I didn’t care if we went into more debt, or if I lost my job.  All I wanted to do was gaze at my adorable sleeping baby, or care for him while he was awake, or play with him.  This greatly alarmed Marco. Especially when I said, “I’m sure it will all work out.”  He would have preferred that I go back to taking care of my responsibilities more quickly, and with the same gusto as before.  Of course, he was right, but wasn’t I a little bit right?  I mean, things DO always work out…somehow…don’t they?  I guess I was a little like an addict, and my new baby was my drug.

The fog lifted slightly when I returned to work in November.  I am a high school teacher, and that requires a great amount of attention.  However, I was still in a fog at home.  Perhaps the worst thing this fog caused was my complete inability to remember to pay the water bill.  I pay it online, and totally ignore the paper bills.  Twice I forgot completely, and the water was turned off at home.  Poor Marco…he trusts me to take care of those things, because I say I will, but he was trusting a woman who had (temporarily) lost her mind.

I feel that now, in May, the fog is almost gone.  I still feel the joy, but I realize I must attend to other things, as well.  Things like cooking dinner and cleaning the house and paying bills.  I also have a clearer vision of how we did things (or didn’t do them) and what I will change in the future, if we are lucky enough to have another baby.

Here are my tips for working women soon to become mothers:

1. Pay into some type of supplemental disability insurance plan for maternity leave.  You may have to start this before you get pregnant, though.  Talk to the HR rep at your company.

2. Save money!  Even if it’s only $100 a month, it will really help during the time off.  Leave it in your checking account; you don’t want to have to remember to transfer it later.

3. Review your insurance benefits.  We switched to Marco’s plan because it was cheaper, with the same doctors and hospitals.

4. Set up as many automatic payments as you can before you have the baby.  This way, you will have fewer things to worry about when the “joyful fog” surrounds you.

5. Hand over some (or all) bills to your husband or a family member to pay.  You will be unreliable in that regard.

6. Prepare everything you can for your co-workers or substitutes.  Preparation is key.  You don’t want people from work contacting you when you are home with your baby.

7. Clean the house.  This will not happen after the baby is born.

8. Freeze some meals.  You probably won’t be cooking or shopping much after the baby is born.

9. Have a talk with your husband about responsibilities, chores, and expectations.

10. Remember that above all, the baby is the most important thing.  Let the fog wrap you in joy as you forget the rest of the world and focus on this beautiful, wonder-filled new life.

Here’s a cleaning schedule from Pinterest that I like.  Maybe it will come in handy someday:

Cleaning Schedule

 

And always remember:

Best is yet to come

We thought it couldn’t be done…

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After nine months of a spoiled, easy pregnancy, and three lovely baby showers, our due date approached.  And we were ready!  We had taken Lamaze classes, a baby care class, a breastfeeding class, the hospital tour, and Marco did a “daddy boot camp” class.  My due date was July 25, 2013.  Kim Kardashian had her baby 5 weeks early, which gave me hope for an early birth.  Then my son would be a Cancer like me.  Selfish, I know, but don’t we always hope we will share things in common with our children?  Then Princess Kate had little Prince George in the middle of July, and I had no signs of labor.  Then my co-worker, whose due date was a week after mine, gave birth to her little girl.  Still no signs.

But I wasn’t worried.  I had the moon on my side.  I am pretty convinced a full moon helped when we got pregnant (along with the doctor, acupuncture, and fertility meds), and I was almost positive I would go into labor under a full moon.  The full moon was July 22nd; exactly 40 weeks from the day I got pregnant (October 29, 2012).  I kept walking and timing contractions with an app on my phone (which was basically a wasted effort; the app was never helpful) and hoping something would happen. Sure enough, on Monday, July 22nd, something felt different.  I was convinced it was time.  Marco and I were very excited as we called the hospital and were told to come in.  I was definitely having some type of small contractions!  We headed over to Kaiser’s Anaheim Kraemer Hospital and we got admitted.

The nurse called us in and had me change into a hospital gown.  She strapped monitors on me and checked a number of things.  Our excitement and anticipation grew.  This was really going to happen!

No luck.  False labor.  We were sent back home, but they told us to call and come in if there were any more signs.

Nothing changed for the rest of that week.  I saw my doctor on Thursday, July 25th (my due date), and she said she would let me go another week or so, but then we would have to start talking about induction.  That was the last thing I wanted.  I knew from my Lamaze classes that it was best to be as natural as possible.  Any intervention can lead to the need for more interventions, which can lead to a C-section if the baby is in distress.

A funny thing happened that week with our mindset.  Marco and I both felt like the day had arrived and the event had not occurred, so we stopped really thinking about it.  It was as if we had somehow missed it, and this large beach ball under my shirt was not a baby, but just a strange condition that would somehow resolve itself.

And that is how we were caught completely off-guard on Sunday night.

I talked on the phone with a dear friend that night (July 28th).  She lives in New Zealand and has two children, and we were talking about how her water broke with both kids.  Around 11:30 pm, Marco was snoring, and I was arranging numerous pillows to settle into bed (on my left side, to coax the baby into a good birth position), and as I finally rested my head on my pillow, I felt two small but distinct pops in my stomach.  They felt like gas bubbles, so I ignored them at first and closed my eyes.  Then I shifted positions.

Oh my goodness!  I was not prepared!  I thought I knew everything about birth, after all my research, but I didn’t know this!  The water poured out.  I ran to the bathroom shouting, “Marco!  It’s happening!!”  There was so much water!  I was giddy, and I couldn’t stop laughing with excitement.  I called my friend back and told her she was magical, and that the baby would be born on her birthday (July 29th).  Then we headed to the hospital.

Everything was exactly like reality TV.  The midwives were awesome, and all the nurses were wonderful to us.  We were quickly admitted, and we started calling family members.  My mom and mother-in-law were there quickly.  My dad and sister followed.  I wanted a natural birth, and the hospital staff respected that choice.  Marco, my mom, and my mother-in-law took turns using a home-made massage tool to get me through the contractions.  It’s a sock with three tennis balls inside, and the contractions were bearable if they rolled it on my lower back REALLY hard and REALLY fast.  They were all exhausted, because none of us had slept, and their arms were giving out as I shouted “faster!” and “push harder!”  Marco was awesome.  He coached me, just like we’d practiced in Lamaze, and helped me through the rough times.

Labor was a slow progression.  The contractions never got closer together than about four minutes, but I was progressing.  Suddenly, and too early (7cm), my body started involuntarily pushing the baby out.  The midwives told me to stop, but I couldn’t.  At that point, about 17 hours into labor, I decided to have an epidural.  I felt that I had experienced enough of true labor anyway, and I was far enough along that they would not numb me completely.

What a feeling!  Everything became calm.  No more massage tennis balls.  No more Lamaze breathing.  And then it was time to push.

The baby wasn’t quite in the right position, but I felt it was time.  After an hour of pushing, I started giving up.  I told Marco and the midwife that it wasn’t going to work.  The midwife said, “You can do it! Keep pushing!”  and Marco echoed her.  He said all the right things.  He said I was doing a great job and I could do it.  I asked him later about that, and he said although he was saying it, he secretly agreed with me.  We both thought this couldn’t happen, and we would end up with a C-section.  How CAN it work, really?  It seems impossible.

And then it DID work.  Much to my surprise, I gave the final push (after one and a half hours of pushing), and baby Diego Knight Montenegro was born at 8:19 pm on July 29, 2013.  He was 8 pounds, 7 ounces, and 21 inches long.  The midwife held him up for me to see, and he looked like all those squirming babies on “A Baby Story” or “16 and Pregnant.”

Diego is born

Marco cut the umbilical cord, they measured him, and then he was ours.  He was always ours, I guess, but it wasn’t real until he was there in my arms.

One thing that will always stick with me was Marco’s ability to calm me down.  He talked me through everything, helped me breathe, helped me relax, helped me push, and celebrated with me.  Afterward, I was shaking from the adrenaline rush, and I couldn’t calm myself.  He hugged me, and the shaking stopped immediately.  It started again later, and he hugged me again, and it stopped.  His hugs were instantly calming, and I am grateful to him.

We spent two more blissful days in the hospital, with a wonderful staff of nurses, midwives, and lactation consultants, and then it was time to go home.  We were sleep deprived and nervous, but we had more joy in those three days than ever before.

Diego and Daddy Diego and Mommy

Marco and I always said the baby wouldn’t be cute for the first couple of months, since all babies look like aliens at first, but we both agreed that he was cute from day one.

Cutie First doctor's visit3 people, one nose

Babymooning

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Babymooning

The past year has been the biggest, most important of my life.  In November of 2012, Marco and I found out we were expecting a baby.  We had been working with a doctor for a few months, and on October 29th, we had some help.  Anyone who has questioned their own fertility knows how difficult those doctor’s visits can be, and they said I had a 5-20% chance of getting pregnant.  My age was a big factor, because I was already 35.  Anyway, I was nauseous all day on November 12th, and I finally tested on November 16th.  Positive!!  I laid out the test and a special Darth/Godfather onesie I had purchased to surprise Marco.  Our adventure had begun!

I’m not sure what worked for us.  Maybe it was acupuncture, or modern science, timing, or a wonderful trip to New York in September that did it, or maybe a combination of all of those things.  No doubt we owe a great deal of gratitude to the Kaiser Garden Grove Infertility Department, and to Profound Youth Acupuncture in Corona, but the New York trip really helped us relax and forget about trying to have a baby for a little while.

Times Square  Empire State Building  The best dinner!

These photos really tell the story.  We had the time of our lives!  We may have spent a little too much money, but it didn’t matter.  We saw the sights, and we were able to have dinner with our friends at the famous Momofuku Ssäm Bar.  We called it “pork and cocktails,” and it was one of the best dinners we have ever had.

At 6 weeks, we went for an ultrasound, and there it was!  A tiny heartbeat in the middle of a grainy peanut on the black and white screen.  Only one, thank goodness, because the doctor said we could have had four.  Four!  Maybe we could have had our own TV show??  Marco instantly said he was “going public,” and started posting on Facebook.  He was one happy father-to-be.

6 Weeks

And thus began our “Babymoon.”  We headed to New Orleans for a work conference for me in December, and Marco spent the three days wandering the French Quarter and taking photos.  He even got to attend a Saints game while I was in a workshop.  Our evenings were delightful there, and we will definitely be going back.  Perhaps the most wonderful thing about NOLA is that there are people playing brass instruments on street corners, at all hours of the day.  Brass!  Not just a guitar or drums, but brass!

The art and colors of the city are just beautiful, also.  Here are a couple of photos Marco took on his walks:

NOLA joy NOLA bikes

But if you are traveling to NOLA, the best thing, really the BEST thing, is the food.  The art, music and spirit of the city are all combined in the food.  We had some great meals, like gumbo and jambalaya, but the most delicious were the oysters that were grilled with a butter, garlic, and parmesan crust.  To die for.

One of the things I decided during my pregnancy was that I would enjoy it.  I was lucky, and I only experienced a few days of nausea, and my main complaints were increased sensitivity to smells (taking out the garbage really turned my stomach) and I couldn’t stand the taste of chicken.  I had no strange cravings…just a lot of ground beef!  I followed Princess Kate and Kim Kardashian…both got pregnant about a week before me.  I felt so bad for Kate…so sick and uncomfortable!  And Kim gained so much weight…made me feel good about myself!

In April, we found out we were expecting a boy.  In that instant, everything changed.  Marco, teary-eyed and excited, couldn’t wait to announce it.  I was more reserved.  I was happy, but I had just spent a few days holding two  baby girls, and getting a little attached to them.  It was time to adjust my expectations, and start getting excited about holding a little boy!  From the ultrasound, it looked like he had his dad’s nose and hands.

Ultrasound

We started doing pictures of my belly, but I was reluctant to do the bare-belly pics at first.

This was a photo shoot with Marco at 22 weeks:

22 Weeks

At 26 weeks, I took 3rd place in a pool tournament at a friend’s birthday party (I had a bye, and two of my opponents scratched on the 8 ball…I am not a good pool shark!):

26 Weeks

This is another friend’s birthday party at 27 weeks.  That’s a special, sparkly, non-alcoholic drink they found for the pregnant girl:

27 Weeks

Here’s a shot from another photo shoot with Marco at 27 weeks, at the Great Park in Irvine:

27 Weeks Photo Shoot

At 28 weeks, we traveled to Montana for my cousin’s wedding.  It was beautiful, and we had a wonderful time!

28 WeeksMontana 28 weeks Montana wedding

I wore my regular clothes as long as I could, but eventually the belly forced its way out.  At 30 weeks, Marco took this:

30 Weeks

At 33 weeks, I had my first of 3 baby showers:

33 Weeks

And at 34 weeks, we had another photo shoot (yes, that is a broken cement deer in our front yard):

34 Weeks

At 36 weeks, we went to Disneyland to celebrate my birthday.  We stuck to slow rides and the Tiki Room, but it was very fun!  Here’s a video Marco took as I ate the ice cream he bought me:

http://t.co/uuCc52TM6z 

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