Where to Begin

I'm ashamed that I have recently let this documentary of Merrill's first year go by without photos and stories. With each day that passes, I realize I'm yet another day behind in keeping up with how quickly she's changing...and that I'm not doing her justice by postponing it simply because it's overwhelming to try to catch up.

Every day, I intend to dedicate time to this. Every day, I decide I'd rather play in the floor for ten more minutes, dance to one more song, take a walk that's longer than I'd planned for, and the laptop never quite makes its way to my lap.

I'll get there. In the meantime, at the very least, I can post a photo.


Four Months & Counting

So. Merrill is four months old. Four months old and then some, to be precise.


I'm not sure how this happened. I look at her and I have moments where I still see her wearing two t-shirts and a tiny cap, wrapped in two blankets to keep her wee little four pound body warm. I also have moments where I see her stretched out in front of me, all 24 and a half inches of her, all fourteen pounds, and I am so proud and so enamored with who she's becoming.

She has three different octopus toys, and she is obsessed with each of them. Each of them evoke the biggest grins, the loudest squeals, and the most hysterical facial expressions. She hates to take naps during the day, but she is the most amazing nighttime baby. She makes tiny contented noises as she takes her bottle, and she wraps her hands tightly around our fingers as she drinks it. She loves her changing table, and to be naked is pure bliss. Bathtime is calm time, as she stares up at us with a look of sheer content.

There is nothing greater than the sweet smile she gives as she sees our faces peek over the edge of her crib in the morning, and when she is still half asleep and tucks her face into our shoulders for a quick snuggle, it's enough to make our hearts melt. She will turn towards any television showing a football game, and stare wide-eyed at what she sees.

She is beginning to roll around, and we have a tiny glimpse of what life will be like once she becomes mobile. She will not take a pacifier except in the most dire circumstances, and only occasionally we will catch her finding her thumb to nibble on. Her hair sticks straight up after she has a bath, her eyelashes are long, and her lips are still the same pouty ones she had when she entered our lives and changed them forever.

She is my baby, my heart, my world. She is everything I ever wanted, and all of the things I never knew I could have. She is a surprise every day, something new to behold, and each morning when I wake up to her, I know she is the reason I was put on this earth. I miss her when she's asleep, and I yearn for the moment she wakes up again so I can be with her again. I tell her everything, and she has quickly become my most trusted confidante.

She's it. She's all of it.


When You Assume

When I was in high school, I had a boss that used to say "When you assume, you make an ass of you and me" - and I'm reminded of that now as I realize how inaccurate all of my assumptions regarding parenthood really were.

I never thought I'd want to move to the suburbs. I love our trendy neighborhood with our eclectic house and couldn't fathom leaving it to have a typical home in a typical subdivision behind the typical shopping center. Now we find ourselves beginning the process of finding a new home and putting ours on the market. Somewhere along the way over the past four months, we've determined that it's more important to be near a Target, new schools and child friendly chain restaurants. My family lives in a suburb north of where we are now, and it makes more sense to be near them..Merrill's pediatrician is in the same suburb, etc., and so the logic goes.

I always thought having a child meant some changes in your world, but that as a whole you simply had a third person in your midst as you went about your normal routines. Shopping trips would only mean the addition of a stroller, dinner reservations would be for three instead of two, and travel would simply require a second suitcase. Oh, if I only knew how wrong that theory would prove. Even the most mundane tasks such as personal hygiene, cooking, and cleaning become small feats to achieve.

The world I created in my head while I was pregnant included a marriage that would only be enhanced and strengthened once this sweet little baby entered into it. While it is empowering to look at your partner and know you've joined together to create a life, and that you're working together to shape a person's identity, it's also terrifying and paralyzing at times. I've felt more fear than I thought possible in respect to how our relationship may suffer as a result of putting our needs on the back burner and having our bond become an afterthought at times. There is far less time for "we". The conversations revolve around her needs and milestones and the interaction becomes a series of tag-team events. Fatigued bodies and fried minds lead to little in the way of quality communication and affection. It's easy to forget that our love for each other is what got us here in the first place - and it's all too important that we maintain what we have. From the time we began dating, we never really had to work at anything - the relationship flowed smoothly, and falling in love was easy. Things progressed at a comfortable pace, and conflicts simply didn't exist. The realization that we are now in a place of needing to stick together and work at maintaining our bond is unsettling at times.

There are also things I assumed I'd feel that are inaccurate only in the sense that I didn't fathom how deeply they'd go. I knew I'd feel protective towards this baby, and I knew I'd do everything in my power to ensure her safety and happiness. I didn't anticipate how fierce and raw the emotions would be. I never saw it coming...never predicted the intensity of my feelings for her and never prepared myself to be stripped down to the bare bones.

The past four months have been a roller coaster of emotional and physical upheaval...and it's been the most amazing, unreal, and magical ride of my life.


An Open Letter

Since I've had Merrill, I've been incredibly humbled on a multitude of levels. I've been put in my place more times than I can count, have seen the error of my ways, and have learned - perhaps too well - how to say I'm sorry.

I apologize to any mother I ever judged. I never understood how difficult it is to get yourself and a newborn together and out the door without looking as though you've been dragged behind the back of a car for several miles. I could never quite comprehend why it was so hard to get dressed in something other than sweats and a tank top, or why a ponytail is the hairstyle of choice. Now I do. I do.

I'm sorry that since I became a mother, I'm not a very good friend. Girls, I love you - and I want to call/email/visit more than you know - but when Mer takes a nap, it's all I can do to keep myself from exploding as I try to brush my teeth, shower, eat, do laundry, pay bills, download pictures, clean the house, make a grocery list, etc...all before she wakes up again. I'm sorry that more often than not, keeping up with my friends falls to the bottom of that list.

I give a very intense apology to my body - the one that I always took for granted before I got pregnant, and the one that will never be the same again. I took advantage of you, and I'm sorry. You received the brunt of the brutality associated with pregnancy, from the sickness to the aches and pains - and you certainly lost the war of delivery. Since then, I haven't treated you very well - what with my poor diet and lack of exercise (apparently walking the halls with a cranky baby doesn't count as exercise, and cheese doesn't count as a balanced meal) but I assure you, I appreciate you, I miss you, and I vow to get you back again.

Honey, you deserve the most apologetic words of all - and you know it, even if you won't admit it - which is just one more reason you deserve it. You've been the most amazing husband and now you're an amazing father - and I probably don't tell you enough. I'm sorry for the days I act like a martyr, and I'm sorry that there are days I make you feel like a second-rate player in this show. I know I am over the top at times, and a complete hot mess at others, and even though I know I won't ever be perfect, I'm glad you're ok with that.

Lastly, and most importantly....I'm sorry, Merrill. I'm sorry that I've had moments where I've had hot tears falling on your sweet head as I try to rock you to sleep. I'm sorry we couldn't make breastfeeding work. I'm sorry you had such uncomfortable tummy issues early on, and I'm sorry I waited so long before trusting my instincts and switching you to soy formula to make them go away. I'm sorry I have been so tired at times that I don't make any sense. I'm sorry that as much as I wish I could be perfect, I have fallen short on many occasions. I want to be your everything, and I want to give you the best there possibly is...and while it may not always be enough, I hope you'll always understand how much I love you. How very, very much I love you.


The Long and the Short of It

What's been going on around here lately, the short version:

  • Fell into the tub trying to hang towels on the towel rack. Cursed.
  • Packed maternity clothes, pump parts, and baby clothes that no longer fit the chunk. Cried.
  • Booked too many plans for the month. Collapsed.
  • Played with Merrill. Smiled.
And now, if you have any interest in being bored out of your mind....

What's been going on around here lately, the long version:

  • I love our shower. It was one of the things about our house that I loved most when we bought it, and one of the things we get the most compliments on. It's an enormous shower/tub combo, built into a raised section of our bathroom with tile surrounding it. It has an oversized overhead rain faucet. It's glorious. That being said, as much as I love it for the shower, I hate it for the tub. The huge shower I love so much translates into a tub I can't take a bubble bath in, because I can't touch the foot of it with my toes...so I slide. Since it's built into the raised section, it sits so low that you have to lean down into it...meaning it's a bitch to clean. Now I have one more reason to despise it...it's impossible to bathe a baby in. Not a good thing when you're trying to wrangle a slippery wiggly infant. Also not a good thing when you're leaning over the step, trying to hang towels on the towel rack...balance lost, momentum gained.

  • I decided to pack up my maternity clothes and the various items from my pregnancy, such as vitamins, books, stretch mark creams, etc...as well as the clothes that don't fit Merrill any more (a shockingly large amount) and the breast pump & parts since that is no longer a part of our routine. It hit me with enormous force that I am no longer pregnant, that I have a three month old, and that she is a formula fed baby. I'm still trying to write about my feelings concerning breastfeeding and our experience with it, and I haven't been able to find the right words. For now, let's just say it still gets me. Packing up these items and putting them in the attic served as a glaring reminder that time is flying past me in leaps and bounds, and I'm simply standing with my mouth hanging open, watching it rush past me. Every time I look at Merrill's sweet face, and realize that she's not a tiny newborn any more - and beyond that, no longer being carried in my womb - I am amazed at how much the past three months have changed our lives, and I can't even remember life without her.

  • We've been going nonstop lately, what with a family vacation, my mother-in-law visiting for a week, my husband's best friend from college surprising him with a weekend visit, a trip to Mississippi to visit my grandparents, my nephew's birthday party, one of my best friends from high school coming to town....the list goes on and on. I've overextended us physically and mentally, and Merrill has been a trooper...but it's time for us to slow down and relax.

  • There's not a long version of this one. The short one speaks volumes.


What to Expect When You're Expecting

While I was pregnant, I read a lot about birth plans and how very important it was to know what you had in mind for your labor and delivery. Every book I opened and every website I visited made me feel that if I didn't have a plan going in, I. Was. A. Failure. It baffled me. All I could come up with was that I had no control over the situation, nature would pretty much determine the course of events for me, and aside from knowing that drugs would most DEFINITELY be a part of it, I didn't have any sort of notions as to how it would or should go.

As it turned out, I was right. Developing HELLP syndrome at 35 weeks and delivering via emergency c-section pretty much took any preferences I may have had regarding childbirth and threw them out the window. It was wholly unexpected and entirely out of my hands...and while not what I envisioned, I couldn't be happier with my experience.

I've heard of women who get truly upset when birth doesn't go the way they wanted - a c-section when a natural birth was desired, an epidural that doesn't take place due to time constraints, etc. I've had people ask me how I feel about Merrill's birth, whether I'm upset that I didn't get to experience labor and a natural delivery....and I don't know how to answer what seems like a fully loaded question. I didn't have a single contraction, never went into labor, and never got to push. These are all things that in theory, I'd like to experience at some point in my life. However, our experience resulted in a perfectly healthy, beautiful baby - so why shouldn't that be the ideal scenario?

I think I spent the entire pregnancy thinking about the end result - but I never really thought about how we'd get there, so for me that wasn't really the point. The point was that no matter how our baby was brought into the world, it was the right way as long as everything turned out okay. And unequivocally, without a shadow of a doubt, it did.



Merrill's two month checkup was yesterday - we'll avoid discussing the trauma of her shots, since the entire family would prefer to forget the tears shed.

She is 11 lbs. 8 ozs and 21 inches long - which seems enormous to me - until a friend reminded me that some newborns are that big. Regardless, it's amazing to look at this baby and remember how tiny she was when she was born.

She can almost hold her head up by herself, and she loves to sit and look out the window. She's mesmerized by birds, smiles whenever she hears her dad's voice, and pouts when she's not being held. She makes sweet little cooing sounds whenever she hears certain songs, and she squeaks herself to sleep at night. There are a million other little tiny things she's doing, and I'm desperate to remember them all - because it's all happening so fast.

I rarely get things done during the day, and that's ok. I'm tired, and that's ok too. I desperately need a haircut, I hardly wear makeup anymore, and I live in comfy clothes...but it's all ok.

Because of her.


Beach Bound, Baby!

We are leaving for the beach tomorrow, and in all my life I've never experienced anything as trying as attempting to pack for myself (only 4 lbs. away from my pre-pregnancy weight but oh my LANDS, why do my pre-pregnancy clothes still not fit??), my husband (he'd wear the same shorts all week if I let him but yet he's strangely particular about what gets put into the suitcase for him), and an infant - an infant that weighs less than 10 lbs. and still somehow manages to require quadruple her body weight in clothes, diapers, wipes, formula, blankets, burp cloths and equipment that we will probably never even need.

It wasn't the packing itself that made me crazy...it was the packing while having Mer strapped to me in her sling - since she refuses to be separated from me if we are in the same place at the same time. It's an excellent reminder of what it was like to carry all that extra weight around, and an excellent refresher course on back pain - but to be able to simply lower my head and smell her sweetness, while kissing the top of her head....yeah. It works.

I imagine the week will consist merely of slapping a clean diaper on her when needed, feeding her when she gets righteously pissed off, and snuggling three deep in the bed instead of having her sleep next to us in the bassinette. Oh, and outfits - lots of outfits - since the child has a wardrobe larger than mine and is rapidly growing out of her clothes. I'm thinking wardrobe changes three times daily should do the trick.


Little Sunshine

When I read this, I silently handed the laptop to my husband with the "you have to see this" look on my face he has learned to interpret as such. It is such a succinct and true account of what it's been like to adapt to life with a newborn.

We spent the weekend in Indiana with my husband's family, where Mer Mer got to meet her great-grandpa for the first time and where we enjoyed time spent in the hot tub, glasses of wine for me and beers for him...while family members took turns passing Mer around like a football. Now that we're home, she's very loudly insistent that she be held constantly, in keeping with the past few days - which makes things like laundry, lunch, and a shower near impossible.

With this cuteness as your playmate, who needs food or cleanliness?


The Rainbow Connection

As much as I'd like to skip down the path of "motherhood is perfect" and letting myself live in a world of unicorns made of cotton candy and magical golden kittens, I do have to address the other side. Because although life with this baby is in fact amazing and soul-fortifying to the point of ridiculousness, there are times and pieces that are scary and painful and emotionally exhausting. It's scary to admit them to myself, much less the handful of people that may actually read this - but it's also scary to pretend they don't exist, and it's impossible to float through a trying day without accepting that things aren't always perfect.

I try to remain confident in my decisions regarding the care of Merrill - I try to trust my gut and attempt to feel good about how well I'm handling things - but I occasionally become paralyzed with fear that I'm doing something wrong. There are going to be people who judge me and disagree with me and it will take a thick skin to handle the criticism - much thicker skin than I find myself possessing so far. There is something so devastating about hearing someone tell you that you aren't doing a good enough job, and the feeling of being so utterly deflated while having to force yourself to cope is overwhelming.

I am extraordinarily blessed to have the opportunity to stay home with Merrill as long as I want - at least, that's the situation as it currently stands. We are in a position that allows us to maintain things financially, even without the boost a second income would certainly provide. Until I've made the decision regarding whether or not I'd like to be a stay at home mom indefinitely, I'm able to spend time with my adorable daughter and enjoy every minute of her. I am lucky, and I get it. I'm also envious of my husband for being able to go to work every day, to spend time doing something that requires mental stimulation, to have conversations with people, etc. I feel myself rapidly slipping into a neat little category, where I'm losing my edge and becoming far less multi-dimensional.

I experience guilt on a level I never knew existed - knowing I can't be perfect but beating myself up for it even as I know I shouldn't. I find myself constantly working on acceptance of self, taking things far too outside of my control and attempting to control them anyway. I question whether I'm good enough for her, whether I'm truly doing everything I can, whether it's enough.

Having a baby is empowering and scary and has stripped me down to the bare bones. It has made me stronger, allowing me to keep going long after I think I can't....and it has made me weaker, causing me to feel fear and worry on a level I didn't know existed. It's a constant test that provides constant rewards, and it's an ongoing challenge that provides ongoing bliss. It is not always perfect, and it's not always magical - but at the end of the day, every single dark part is so completely lit by the joy she brings...making it all worthwhile.


Be Careful What You Wish For

Today is my 31st birthday, and Merrill gave me poop. Literally. At 5am, as I opened her diaper to change her, she chose that exact moment to let it fly. It got on me, on her, on the changing table, the walls, the bed, and the floor.

And I couldn't have cared less.


This Little Piggy

It's hard for me to find the place where the paranoia of being a new mother ends and the trusting of your gut instincts begins. As much as I don't want to be "that" mother, the one that panics over every little thing and ends up staring wild-eyed at the computer screen with google results so terrifying I want to throw the computer out in the yard for the dogs to use as a chew toy, I also don't want to be the kind of mother that would ever ignore a potentially bad situation until it is too late.

I decided to take Merrill to the doctor to get peace of mind about the drama surrounding the lack of poopy diapers and the increase in her discomfort. My main question was concerning the type of formula she's on, and whether that's the best choice for her. There is nothing greater than hearing a trusted professional tell you that everything is ok and this too shall pass - no pun intended.

In non-bowel related news, this piglet weighs 8 lbs. 6 ozs. - an increase that caused the nurse to weigh her three times and the doctor to do a double take when he saw her chart. Maybe it's the extra calories from her Karo syrup-laden bottles.


Dear Merrill,

You're going to be six weeks old tomorrow - which hardly seems possible - and I want to make sure I'm taking note of every little thing I can right now, because I want to be able to remember each tiny detail and milestone.

I stare at you for hours on end, watching you purse your lips as though you're concentrating intently. I capture the tiny smiles that cross your face, and hope they are in reaction to the songs I make up for you as we spend a lazy day in bed. I laugh at all of the little noises you make, from the squeaks when you're stretching out to the machine-gun sounds that escape your lips after you eat.

You love to lie on your back and stare at the ceiling fan while you get a tummy rub...and you are happiest when you're curled up in a ball on your dad's chest. Last week, when we gave you a pacifier for the first time, you reacted as though it had been dipped in crack. You grab our fingers whenever they pass your hands, and your grip is amazingly strong.

All of these things seem so basic, yet I am filing them all away because they are the things that make you who you are. We are getting the opportunity to watch you grow and become your own person, and that makes us the luckiest people in this world. We are already so proud of you, and we are so amazed and honored that you are a part of our family.

You don't know what you've done for me in the short time you've been here. You've helped me exceed my own expectations of what I'm capable of, while challenging me to be better than I was. You've given me the strength and the patience I was afraid I'd never find in myself...and you've managed to eliminate the selfish nature I was afraid I'd never lose. You let me find rational thought in the midst of fears, acceptance even when I don't have control, and energy on the days that I'm so tapped out I can't think straight.

The past six weeks have been amazing, and we can only imagine where we'll go from here.

In the categories of "I never thought I'd hear myself have a conversation like this" and "One day Merrill will hate me for telling this story"....

She. Will. Not. Poop.

Oh, she's trying to - but because my body decided it was time to stop producing breast milk and so I've had to give her formula, her little stomach is struggling in a way that is painful to watch. She strains, she cries, she gets red faced, she screams - and nothing comes out. I called the pediatrician's office to find out what I can do to help her out (and in turn, help me out because my God, my heart is breaking to watch her in pain and I can't handle it anymore), and so we are now adding dark karo syrup to her bottle twice a day. That did help - once. I'm currently waiting and hoping for it to work again....essentially, praying for poop. Yeah.

I broke down in tears watching her cry, wanting so badly to fix this for her and knowing I couldn't. The feeling that it's my fault overtakes me, because if it weren't for my lack of breast milk she wouldn't be on formula, but that's a whole OTHER set of issues that I can't even go into at this point, lest my head explode. It initially made me feel like I'm not cut out for this motherhood stuff - because if the sight of my baby being constipated makes me break down, how on earth will I ever be able to handle anything big and real that she has to overcome? It took a teary conversation with my friend Jessi, in which she helped me understand that the presence of my caring means I am cut out for this, to put things in perspective.

Oh, and this didn't hurt either.


I decided to take Merrill to get one-month portraits made, in order to have something to give for Father's Day. Several hundred dollars later, I arrived home with these.

I went in thinking I wanted to get one or two shots of her - and while I gave it a valiant effort to narrow down the 100-plus shots they took, I was only able to narrow it down to thirteen.

Can you blame me?



When people asked me what I was getting my husband for Father's Day, I would quickly reply that I got him a baby. We were pretty sure the baby would be here in time, since my due date was 2 days prior, but we weren't expecting our little one to be a month old by the time Father's Day rolled around.

I am usually not one who struggles for words - I can pretty much always convey any emotion I'm experiencing and don't seem to lack for things to say....but when it came time to sign his card, I was at a complete loss. There is just nothing I can say to adequately illustrate how much I love this man, how proud I am to be the mother of his child, and how easily and effortlessly he has fallen into the role of being the most amazing father to his little girl.

He swoops down on her at the end of the day with such excitement at seeing her tiny face - and covers her with kisses as he tells her about his day and how much he missed her. She perks up and smiles when he walks in the door and she hears his voice - and then she curls up against him and sighs contentedly. It's sometimes more than I can handle.

Happy Father's Day, sweets - you're so much more than these two girls could ever ask for.



There are a number of things that are muuuuuuch easier to do without the presence of an infant:
  • Managing to take a shower that's long enough to allow for shampoo, conditioner, soap, and shaving underarms and legs
  • Doing more to your hair than pulling it into a ponytail/headband/braid - forget the flat iron or curling iron (hell, forget the hair dryer most days)
  • Cooking a meal that includes no pre-cooked elements, nothing from a box, and nothing from the frozen food aisle
  • Sleeping. Duh.
  • Having a conversation with your husband about anything other than said infant
  • Waking up from a fog to find it's pouring outside, where the dogs are - and then trying to get two 75 lb. dogs inside, into a bath to wash the layers of mud off of them, drying them, washing the towels used for that bath, cleaning up the pile of vomit from one of those dogs because the rain sent him into a tizzy and upset the delicate balance of his stomach....all while it's time for the baby to eat and all because your husband laughed when you mentioned the thunder and the possibility of rain and the notion that maybe, just maybe, the dogs should be brought in from outside before he left for work.

Then of course there's the things that are impossible to do without the presence of an infant...namely, staring at your beautiful child for hours on end, loving her very presence.



This is Merrill's first day at the pool - and a perfect way to depict her size by showing her in relation to one of her dad's favorite things.



Last night, we gave Merrill her first full-blown bath - I had a feeling it would cause some tears and drama, since the sponge baths we've been giving her have been met with disdain and righteous pissed-offedness. Sure enough, she was not a fan of bathtime. She screamed and shivered and as much as I kept scooping warm water over her while washing her as quickly as I could, she was only content once it was over and she was wrapped in a towel, curled up against me.

(Disclaimer: this photo is terrible, since it was taken with our video camera instead of our regular camera. The regular camera was at my friend Jessi's house, where it was left behind following an afternoon of margaritas. Oops.)


Catching Up

Oh, where to start.....

The past two weeks have been a blur, and as much as I've wanted to sit down and write about the entire experience of Mer's birth, and the days that have followed, I can't seem to wrap my head around it enough to dive into the monumental task of covering everything. (Not to mention my inability to set this angel down long enough to reach for the laptop...)

On the Monday before she was born, I spent the day in a great deal of discomfort. A sensation similar to indigestion started early that morning and by the afternoon, the pain was intensifying and wrapping around my back. I called my doctor and he thought it sounded like a gall bladder attack - so he suggested we head to the hospital to get an ultrasound to check for gallstones. Several hours later, I was being admitted to the hospital overnight for observation after my bloodwork came back wonky and my blood pressure was too high. Fast forward twelve hours, as I sat waiting on a doctor to come talk to me about what was going on - as my husband left the hospital to grab lunch - not knowing our lives were about to change. A doctor walked in and announced that they were delivering the baby - and the response to my question of when was "now".

I was on the phone with my husband telling him to hurry and get back to the hospital as a nurse was prepping my IV, an anesthesiologist was explaining the risks of a c-section, and I was signing paperwork with my free hand. My husband walked in the door as they were wheeling me down the hall, just in time to have a gown and mask thrown at him.

Turns out I had HELLP syndrome, a form of hypertension associated with high liver enzymes, low platelet count, and high blood pressure. It doesn't cause problems for the baby, but is very dangerous for the mother if left untreated - and the only way to relieve it is to deliver the baby.

It was all such a blur, and it all happened so fast - but as I was laying on the operating table, holding my husband's hand and talking to him, I didn't feel fear at all - only excitement at meeting our child. It never even dawned on me to worry about the surgery or having our baby come a month early.

When I heard our baby crying as she was born, and heard my husband announce that we had a girl, I was in complete awe - and when I looked over and saw her for the first time, I couldn't believe it was real. Even now, two weeks later, I still look at her and get overwhelmed with the notion that she is the one I carried for the past 8 months.

She's amazing. She's sweet and cuddly, she makes the most adorable squeaking noises, she has the most gorgeous pouty lips, and she's definitely the same active child that used to kick me and roll around. At her two week checkup, she weighed in at 5 lbs. 7 ozs, which is amazing given how tiny she was at birth. She eats heartily - although I can't even go into the saga of attempting to breastfeed her at this point - and her cheeks have begun to fill out in the most adorable way.

Basically, I'm completely enamored with her - head over heels in love with this tiny little person, and fully aware of the concept of unconditional love and the sense that if anyone were ever to try to hurt her, I'd rip them apart with my bare hands. I'm exhausted yet exhilirated, unable to stop staring at her. Everything I've just written is completely disjointed, and does not even begin to scratch the surface of what we're experiencing, but it's all I can do at this point.



Merrill Elizabeth Reed
May 19, 2009
12:56 p.m.
4 lbs. 12 ozs.
17 inches long
Details to come....



Last night, as I attempted in vain to find a comfortable position, I had a moment where I wished my husband could take over the rest of this pregnancy. When I mentioned that to him, he immediately said he'd be happy to. I get the sense that if this were actually possible, and I were able to hand him the baby to carry for the next five weeks, it would probably result in him being pregnant for about a week before gliding into easy labor and delivering Ferris without breaking a sweat.

When I think about the things my husband (or any man, for that matter) will never understand about being pregnant, I feel it necessary to share them with him:
  • The ability to put your pants on like a normal person will completely escape you.
  • Peeing constantly gets old, fast.
  • Carrying around an extra 30 lbs. is harder than you'd expect.
  • When you can't get comfortable, climbing out of your body seems like the only available option.
  • Hormones. That is all.
  • Feeling pretty when you are bloated, nauseous, exhausted and hot is amazingly difficult.
  • There will come a time when you think you can't possibly drink another glass of water. Drink one anyway.
  • The fear that you'll do something wrong and hurt the baby is crippling.
  • If you love to be the center of attention, you'll love being pregnant. If not, you'll often be overwhelmed and anxious.
  • At the end of a long day, when all you want to do is enjoy a few drinks, you can't.

Now, I know that list doesn't make pregnancy sound appealing at all - but it's not all bad. There are also the wonderful moments a man will never experience:

  • Being able to talk to your baby and feel it kick in response is better than watching your team play in the Super Bowl.
  • Having a free pass to indulge in your cravings without being judged is liberating.
  • The knowledge that you are carrying the child you've created with the person of your dreams is incomparable.
  • You'll never love someone you've never met the way you'll love this person.

On second thought, I take it back - I don't want to give up these last five weeks.



So here we are, with just a little over 5 weeks to go. I'm not entirely sure how this is possible, and I can't decide if I'm ready or if I want to stay pregnant forever - both emotions grip me at any given moment. One of the most common questions I get now is "Are you ready?" - and my answer is always the same: "Physically, yes - but beyond that, I'm not sure."

Ferris is wildly active at this point - and I like to think that the triggers are indicative of what our little squirt's personality will be. I went to a Patsy Cline tribute at the Ryman Auditorium on Friday night, and every time the music ramped up, so did Ferris - leading me to believe that our baby will have great taste in music. Yesterday we went out on the boat for a while, and as Ferris rolled around and kicked, I sighed with relief at the thought that we'll have a little one who loves the water.

Mother's Day in our family is usually celebrated the same way every year - my grandmother comes into town from Mississippi and joins my mom, my sister and I for the weekend. This year we were lucky enough to add my mother-in-law to the mix and it was so inspiring to look around the table at all of these women who have helped shape me and mold me into who I am. I give each of them credit for showing me different things: an insane sense of humor, the ability to multi-task, the tendency to be laid back at all times, fierce determination, stoic patience, and unconditional love - just to name a few. I feel lucky to be a part of this family of strong women, and I know they'll be here for us as we build our family...learning as we go and leaning on them for advice and support.



Today's ultrasound provided mixed results - a very healthy Ferris, although a very healthy Ferris that is still a bit too small. Growth is in the 24th percentile, which is lower than last time - although Ferris did gain a little bit of weight, it's just not the "normal" amount. We will go back in two more weeks for another ultrasound to monitor growth - but in the meantime we can rest assured that all is well.

(I have to admit that I'm enjoying the upside of these multiple ultrasounds - any chance to see this tiny little face again!)



If the old saying "A picture is worth a thousand words" ever had merit, it's now.



My sister and her husband gave us this t-shirt and onesie set and I have to say, it's one of my favorite baby presents by far...although my love for it is not well evidenced by the look of extreme fatigue on my face.



Lately I've really been doing a lot of soul searching. A lot. I've found myself sitting staring blankly into space, only snapping back to reality when a very impatient dog decides that he needs me to pet his head immediately, lest he fall apart into a million pieces, and it's only when I feel the not-so-gentle slap of his enormous paw do I realize I'd checked out.

There are so many thoughts rushing through my brain and trying to get to the front of the line that it almost hurts. It's like a bunch of sweaty, sunburned, badly-dressed tourists at an amusement park in the heat of summer, jostling each other and attempting to squeeze through the crowd. The end result is similar as well - the front of the line means embarking on a 45 second roller coaster ride before it's time to move on, just as I'm only giving my thoughts about a minute to hang out before I send them packing again.

I'm in the midst of trying to figure out who I am and what kind of person I am becoming, along with juggling the notion of what type of parent I'm going to be. I truly thought that after 8 months of not working in an attempt to "discover myself", I'd have more of a clue - but I find myself even more baffled than before I decided a career change was in order. I've always associated myself so strongly with what I was doing for a living, a phenomenon that I think we are all prone to. Our careers become the definitions of who we are...so without a career, I'm unsure as to how I'm defined.

I'm fully aware that once Ferris makes an appearance, life as I know it will change forever and I may never question myself again. I may well find myself in the place I'm meant to be, and the prospect of embarking on a new career may fly out the window...or I could end up needing something beyond being a mother. There's no way to predict it....and it will only drive me nuts to try. The fears and insecurities will likely not disappear - although they may present themselves in new and different ways. The uncertainty will stem from a new set of circumstances, and the learning curve of an unfamiliar place will be challenging. My only hope is that I can rise to the occasion and come out better in the end, tackling it as efficiently as can be done...and accepting that while perfection is not necessity, failure is not a possibility.



Just when I thought I'd gotten used to this whole pregnancy thing, just when I thought I was sailing along in the home stretch with little more to do than get bigger and less mobile...I got thrown for a loop.

At my appt. yesterday, my doctor told me that our last ultrasound showed evidence of low growth - meaning Ferris isn't gaining weight properly and is on the low end of the growth scale. To be precise, Ferris falls in the 37th percentile for growth. This isn't necessarily a cause for concern (as I keep repeating to myself over and over) but to be on the safe side, my doctor wants to do another ultrasound in two weeks to see how things are progressing. There is a possibility that there isn't enough amniotic fluid surrounding the baby, which is of more concern than the growth factor alone.

My initial reaction to this was unease and discomfort at the mere thought that something could be awry - followed by the rational side of me kicking in to bring reminders that until the ultrasound, we don't have definitive answers and therefore no reason to worry. Once my defense mechanism of using humor to handle stressful situations caught up, we were on to comparing Ferris to my mother in her ever-present quest to keep her weight down and her tendency to fast before doctor's visits in an effort to cleanse herself of any wine and food related toxins she may have ingested over the 6 months prior.

A conversation with my sister gave me the reassurance I needed, as always - two of her best friends had this exact scenario during their pregnancies and everything ended up ok - they both delivered perfectly healthy babies, albeit a bit early and a bit on the small side. As long as Ferris is healthy, I'm comfortable with the notion that I'm not facing the prospect of giving birth to a linebacker.

Ferris is still insanely active - yesterday when my doctor was attempting to hear the heartbeat, the squirt delivered a powerful kick that knocked the doppler off of my stomach. At night, we sit and watch my stomach spasm and roll with Ferris' acrobatics. When I place my hand on the right side of my belly, Ferris reacts by curling into a ball and pressing his/her butt up against my hand. I guess it's not the size of the baby in the kick, it's the size of the kick in the baby....or something like that.



We had a baby shower yesterday, and it was just one more milestone that made us look at each other and comment that it is definitely becoming more real. It's humbling to me that we have so many people in our lives that want to celebrate this time with us, and the support and encouragement we're receiving is overwhelming.

Ferris should be weighing in at around three and a half pounds right now - and since the average is an increase of a half a pound each week, I'm looking at giving birth to a very bearable-sized baby (much to my satisfaction). I'm currently experiencing swelling of my fingers, and the discomfort I feel when I try to remove my rings at night leads me to believe I won't be able to wear them much longer.
It's incredible to me that we have less than nine weeks until my due date - the time is flying and it's all I can do not to panic when I look at my to-do list. One by one, the items are getting crossed off, which is just one more reminder that we're getting close to welcoming Ferris into our family.





Today's ultrasound was more statistical than anything, since Ferris is big enough now to be a bit more smushed and thus a bit less visible. We did get this shot of a nose and lips - pouty pillow lips at that.

Ferris is 2 lbs. 14 ozs, and everything is looking good! Hands up by the face, feet up by the face, batting at the umbilical cord the entire time the tech tried to get a good look - typical behavior for a baby that is consistently providing evidence of being a smartass. I couldn't be more proud.



I have written before about some of the things I've learned since becoming pregnant. Since this is a learning process that never quits, I've decided to add to that list.

  • No matter how many times your husband or significant other insists you look adorable, you won't believe them.
  • When you wake up in the middle of the night and think there's a chance your water broke because you're sweating so profusely, you're sweating too much.
  • The first time a complete stranger reaches out to rub your belly, you will likely be too stunned to react.
  • The first thing you will do upon entering an unfamiliar place for the first time is seek out the restroom.
  • People seem to have no qualms when it comes to discussing your most private matters - this is not just reserved for medical staff.
  • Losing the ability to tie your shoes or paint your toenails isn't too disappointing when you can't see your feet anymore.
  • Getting protein from cheeseburgers and calcium from thick chocolate milkshakes counts.
  • Rearranging drawers of burp cloths, onesies, and receiving blankets is a perfectly acceptable way to spend an afternoon.
  • There is a fine line between wanting your husband to understand the wonders of childbirth and wanting him to ever look at you the same way again.
  • Your bladder will wait until the exact moment you are beginning to fall asleep before announcing its need to be relieved. Similarly, your baby will wait until the same moment to deliver a swift and powerful kick to your ribcage.



I've read about it in books and magazines, I've laughed my ass off at blog posts about it, I've seen movies and tv shows that portray it. And now, I have it.

The nesting instinct.

As a whole, I'm a pretty anal person. I like things a certain way (I have a method for loading the dishwasher, a precise way of folding clothes, and don't even get me started on the way books should sit on a bookshelf) and I tend to get a bit over the top at times. Fortunately, my husband knows the signs and thinks it's amusing and endearing when he catches me staring at our kitchen counters, mentally rearranging everything on them...or worse, when I deem it necessary to remove every item of clothing from our closet and dresser and organize them by color and type.

Therefore, given my propensity to fuss over the mundane little things, it's no surprise to either of us that I've suddenly entered nesting mode. What is surprising is the extent of my need to have things in order, and the sheer panic I feel when I realize something's not. I don't even know the reason, but certain little things are making me shrink up in panic and get a little shaky with nerves and dear God, he is a brave brave man for marrying me and he probably deserves a medal or a trophy or at the very least a freaking THANK YOU for putting up with my shit every day.

The dogs must. go. to. the. vet. immediately. They are both due for their annual checkups and shots, and I simply cannot function knowing that there will be a wee little baby in this house unable to protect itself from animals without their vaccines. And yes, I know it's a simple fix and all that's required is a two second phone call to secure an appointment and then hauling their stupid asses down the street to pay too much money to a nice man in a white coat, but still. It is in essence serving as one more reminder that our lives are about to get much more complicated and these "simple fixes" are soon going to be much less simple. And yes, I know we have time, plenty of time, but for some reason I am having the dreaded fear of going into labor early and what if we aren't ready and haven't gotten everything done and why isn't my bag packed yet??????

Ok. Taking deep breaths and trying to ignore the fact that I am at this very moment a raging lunatic incapable of rational thought. Ferris, you have no idea who you're dealing with...good luck with all this.



Today's doctor appointment taught me something very important: I don't do math.

Here I've been tracking the progress of this pregnancy, counting days and weeks, and my doctor glanced at my chart and said "Wow - 28 weeks, 3 days!" ....obviously not the same number I've come up with. I stared at the calendar for about 20 minutes this afternoon, flipping back and forth between months, unable to wrap my brain around the notion that I've counted wrong. I mean, days don't just disappear...do they?

I did my glucose screening today - an extreme sugar rush following the chugging of the sickly sweet fruit punch flavored drink led to jittery shakes and then fatigue so extreme I could have fallen asleep standing up. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my results will come back normal.

I've read several different things about weight gain at this point in the pregnancy, both mine and Ferris'. The "norm" at this stage is a weight gain of 16-22 lbs. for me - I've gained 26. Ferris should weigh anywhere between 2 1/2 and 4 lbs. To this I say screw the norm, pass the cookies. I'm overwhelmingly hungry all the time, and despite my best efforts to eat healthy, I just can't overcome the cravings for ice cream and tacos.

(Side note: a few weeks ago, when my husband and I went out to dinner, one of the people who worked at the restaurant popped by our table to ask me when I'm due, and then proceeded to gasp in shock and proclaim that she couldn't believe it, since I look like I'm about to pop. That little gem was immediately followed by her asking me if I was having a boy, because "boys always make you fat". Um...yeah. She narrowly missed being hit by a piece of bread. I have always had a rule that you should never, ever, ever say anything to a woman that even remotely implies you think she's pregnant - unless you see a baby emerging from her at that exact moment - but apparently not all people have adopted this theory.)

Earlier, our younger dog was resting his head on my belly - his favorite new position - and when Ferris kicked him squarely in the face, he cocked his head and stared at my stomach before gazing up at me with a look of confusion on his face. Oh, if he only knew what he's in for.

We've gotten the baby's room pretty much in order - the crib and bedding are in place, along with adorable curtains that my mom made and a new lamp and laundry basket. I take a moment now and then to sit in the glider rocker and stare at the scene before me, trying to imagine time a few months from now....and failing miserably. There's just no way to fathom what life will be like.



See that number up there? That number that tells me I'm now into my third trimester, that we are in the home stretch, that we aren't that far off from the number 30 which means the number 40 is also close? Yeah, I don't understand it either. It's like time keeps going, or something.

So. Third trimester. Seven months. What do we have? A belly that contains a uterus the size of a basketball (remember when it was the size of a fist?) and a baby the size of a 2 1/2 pound, 15 inch long teddy bear (remember when it was the size of a gummy bear?). A brain that contains too many questions, fears, uncertainties, anxieties, etc. A home that contains a very small portion of what it will need in order to nurture said baby.

Yes, there are a lot of things we don't have. The planner in me panics at the mere thought of being unprepared, especially when my mom calls me twice a day to make sure I haven't gone into premature labor. I know there is plenty of time to get everything we need, and when it boils down to it, as long as we have a car seat in order to legally bring the baby home, the rest of it will fall into place.

So instead of thinking about the things we don't have in a negative light, I've decided to address the things we do, such as a support system of friends and family stronger than I could ever imagine, a marriage that is solid and secure, the financial means to support us, a great home. These things, while not counted among the list of "must-haves" for a newborn, are far more crucial to this baby's well being than anything we could possibly register for. Ferris has no concept yet of the boundless amounts of love and excited anticipation we're feeling, no way of knowing how fiercely devoted and dedicated we are - to each other, certainly, but more so to the family we are in the midst of forming. I just hope that once Ferris does arrive, we're able to deliver on the promises we've made and come through with the intentions we've established.





I’ve been attempting to define who I am as a person, in an effort to correct the many flaws that may negatively impact our child…or at the very least, gain a comprehensive knowledge of those things which need improvements. The realization that we are not only responsible for the physical well-being of a person, but also their mental and emotional well-being, leaves a sense of unease in my mind since I know I’m far from perfect.

For starters, I can be incredibly bratty at times. I’m not proud of this, but it’s something I’ve come to terms with - and when I catch myself in the act of doing or saying something childish, I want to tear out my own tongue. I am the youngest of four children, and while my parents never outright spoiled me - I always had chores, never had an allowance, and got my first job when I was 15 - they were very good to me, and as a result I think I became accustomed to being treated well. In the instance of being told something I don’t want to hear, I am often inclined to pout. Unappealing at best, this trait certainly won’t get me very far in my attempts to raise a child who will not be a brat.

I’m also concerned with my patience level. This is something I’ve been working on for some time, ever since my husband and I began transforming our casual relationship into something much deeper and more serious several years ago. I can be hotheaded and temperamental, and so I know the propensity I have to snap will require a bit of effort to overcome. Fortunately, my husband is the most patient person I know, so he makes up where I’m lacking.

Another cause for concern is my fear of being judged. I worry too much about what other people think of me, and I’m too reluctant to stand up for myself and speak my mind. One of my biggest goals is to get over this trepidation, and understand that I must do what’s best for my family - critics be damned. When it comes to raising a child, I hope to trust myself enough to be confident in my decisions, despite what others may feel about them.

On a lesser scale, there are things like my love of sleep, my tendency to drink copious amounts of wine, and my desire to eat whatever I want, whenever I want. These things all represent a bit of selfishness on my part, and while I will miss them on a certain level, it’s also something I need to be able to give up - at least to a degree.

At the end of the day, I want to be the best person I can be for this child - the best mother I can be, despite my imperfections and unrealistic expectations. After all, isn’t that the only thing we can aim for?



Aaaaand we had our first encounter with the hiccups.

Let me explain something. I. Hate. Hiccups. I know it sounds bizarre, but I reserve some of my most passionate fiery hatred for the hiccups. They make me irrationally angry, and whenever I get them, I'm typically reduced to tears. In the event of champagne-induced hiccups, my husband will hide from me. So when I woke up at six this morning to the sensation of Ferris jumping, I forced myself to get a grip. I won't deny attempting to startle the baby in hopes it would make them stop, but I also didn't get nearly as angry as I may have suspected.

Lately Ferris has been waking me up at very early hours with jostles and bumps, and for whatever reason I choose those moments to talk to my husband - moments that are absent of rational thought. Therefore, the conversations are usually along the lines of reminding him to take chicken out of the freezer to thaw, asking him if the dog threw up on the floor or if I dreamed it, and attempts to describe the random dream I just had.

Ferris comes in this week at a whopping two pounds, and all I can think about are the number of other two pound things I'd like to enjoy - a two pound box of chocolates, two pounds of buffalo wings, a two pound block of cheese to go with the bread I'd make using Black & Decker's two pound breadmaker, and most certainly a 32-ounce Porterhouse steak. With a two pound twice-baked potato. Mmmm.

Speaking of foods, Ferris' taste buds are fully developed - and in fact, more finely tuned than they will ever be again. This results in swift kicks when I eat spicy foods, gentle rolls after the brownies I made the other day, and rapid rhythmic twists following a glass of lemonade.

I've reached the point of trying to mentally prepare as much as possible for what awaits us. I laid awake for hours the other night - sleep is so elusive these days - and mentally packed a bag for the hospital. Probably a tad premature, since I likely won't need it for months, but my brain takes over when I'm laying in the dark listening to the sounds of my husband breathing and I simply cannot control where it takes me.





This past weekend, we experienced the first of what I can only assume will be many panicked moments concerning Ferris. Late Saturday morning, after monitoring the cramping and pressure in my stomach, and watching the clock indicate a full 24 hours of no movement from the baby, we paged the doctor. Two hours later, having not heard back from him, we headed to the hospital to be checked out.

There was an instant as the nurse searched for the baby's heartbeat - with no result - that I began to really fear the worst. I couldn't even look at my husband at that moment, knowing that if I saw the same fear mirrored in his eyes, I would completely break down. However, she finally found the heartbeat and so we sat for about 45 minutes, with me hooked up to a fetal monitor to track what was going on. Lo and behold, Ferris began squirming within about 2 minutes of the monitor being activated. Figures, right? We determined that we have a very dramatic smartass for a child, no doubt the sum of its parts.

After I spoke to my doctor and we were given permission to go home, the reality of the situation hit me and I shakily whispered "I am so not ready for this." I've been counting weeks and I've felt pretty comfortable with the fact that we have time...time to get ready, physically and mentally. Time to spend together before we add a member to our family. Time to enjoy sleeping late, coming and going as we please, and counting animals as our sole responsibility. Saturday showed me that while we certainly may get that full window of time, we also may not. Ferris may decide to make an early appearance, and as much as I wish we could predict it, there's no one to make an appointment with - no guarantees and no certainties about exactly when we'll become parents.



Today I read about a woman that didn't find out she was pregnant until she was 6 months along. My instantaneous reaction to this is "Whaaaaaaaaaat????" - since I can't imagine having lived the past six months without knowing what was causing the changes I've experienced. On the other hand, I think this woman must have had the best and easiest pregnancy ever, to have survived the first trimester hell and myriad of pregnancy related symptoms.

I hate to judge this person's inability to be aware of such a monumentous thing, but I truly cannot comprehend it. At this stage in the game, I have endured things that I simply could not attribute to anything else - the lack of balance and coordination, the extreme fatigue at all hours of the day, a baby that kicks energetically, and most certainly a change in my figure. I'm enthralled by the notion that someone could experience a full 6 months of pregancy and not know it. I would feel so robbed, so jilted, as though someone had stolen such a precious thing from me - and yet to spend those months without the fear and anxiety of something going wrong, without the morning sickness, headaches, backaches, and more - I feel a special sort of envy for anyone who could pass through those phases virtually unfazed.

We're only two weeks away from entering the third trimester, and it's hard for me to believe that time has passed so quickly - and yet it feels like I've been pregnant for ages. Ferris is a very busy baby this week - the structure of the spine is forming, taste buds are developing, blood vessels of the lungs are multiplying, and those little tiny nostrils are opening up. Additionally, the hands are fully developed, complete with fingerprints - and Ferris has hair on that tiny head, eyelashes and eyebrows. My uterus is the size of a soccer ball, which seems appropriate as Ferris appears to be treating me like a soccer field- jumping, twisting, and kicking all over the place.

The weather has been getting a bit warmer, and it's making me crave the sunny warm days and cooler nights of spring. For the past few years, spring and early summer has been celebrated by afternoon cocktails on the patios of our neighborhood restaurants, lazy boat rides, rounds of cornhole on our back patio along with music and wine, and tending to a hot grill while sipping a cold beer. The warmer weather recently makes me yearn for those days, and I must admit I cannot wait for Ferris to be born so I can kick back with a glass of wine. My husband and I joked the other day that with my lowered tolerance for alcohol, we'll need to sell tickets to my first post-baby encounter with drinking. This weekend, we'll be moving the clocks for daylight savings, and I'm so excited that I'll get to see my husband come home while the sun is still out.



My doctor's visit is over, and with it the anxiety that kept me up all night last night. I lost a pound, which made both me and my doctor extremely happy. The heartbeat is strong and healthy, and my measurements are right on track. I told him about the Braxton-Hicks contractions and he said I have nothing to worry about. I feel as though a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

Ferris is about a pound and a half, coming in at about a foot long. These size increases make me stare at my belly in wonder, trying to understand how I can have something that size inside me - especially knowing how quickly the growth will escalate. I think that I should eat a footlong sub or something, in honor of Ferris.



I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow, and it's shocking to me that my fear of stepping on the scale has turned me into such a jittery nervous mess. It does dawn on me that this is partially due to my own issues with weight gain, no matter how justified it may be. However, I felt judged and chastised at my last visit, when my doctor questioned my eating habits and told me to lay off the sugar. The thought of repeating that conversation and feeling the slow burn in my cheeks as I hear someone tell me that my weight gain is bordering on dangerous makes me extraordinarily uncomfortable. No, I don't want to overdo it. No, I don't want to have issues losing the weight after the baby is born. I don't want gestational diabetes and I don't want to give birth to a 27 lb. baby as a result of my inability to back away from the Girl Scout Cookies. But. I also don't want to spend my pregnancy counting calories and worrying about everything that passes my lips. I don't want to spend more time focusing on the size of my ass than the size of the tiny fingers and toes I'll soon be kissing.

On another note, I've decided to address some of the frequently asked questions around these parts. If the above paragraph did nothing to indicate the level of snarkiness I'm feeling today, let me preface this by saying I'm not trying to be nasty. Ok. You've been warned...read at your own risk.

Q: What will you do about the dogs? Are you worried about how they'll react to the baby?
A: I must begin by explaining a little bit about our dogs. In essence, they are crazy. They are wild, they are hyper, they have limitless amounts of energy. They don't like cats (especially the one they share a roof with) or strangers. One of them hates to have his paws touched, the other likes to heave his 70 pound body into laps (even pregnant ones) for cuddle time. When we feed them, they behave as though they've gone weeks without a morsel of food. They run up and down our hallway, chasing each other and barking maniacally. They are quirky and stubborn, but lovable and full of a certain charm all their own. That being said, no one in my family thinks they are "good". I always feel compelled to defend them, but deep down I do have concerns about what will happen when a new member of our family threatens to take attention away from them....especially a member that will cry, make strange noises, flail and wiggle unexpectedly, smell funny, etc. So, yes. Yes. I am worried about how they'll react to the baby and how the baby will react to them. That is easily one of the biggest anxiety triggers I have about bringing this baby into our home. And yet...no. No. They will be fine. We will figure it out. I will not get rid of these dogs without first giving them every opportunity to experience this change we're bringing upon them. Sure, in the presence of a threat of physical harm, I'd be changing my tune damn fast, but until then...the dogs stay.

Q: You aren't finding out what you're having? Doesn't that drive you crazy? Don't you want to know? How do I know what to buy you if I don't know what you're having?
A: Our baby, our decision. If we wanted to know, we'd find out. At the risk of sounding bitchy, I'll put it this way: We registered. At two places. If there is nothing you can find there that suits your tastes, either wait until the baby is born or go with the ever-useful gift card and call it a day. I won't budge on my decision to find out our baby's sex based solely on your desire to know if you should get pink or blue socks.

Q: Are you going back to work after the baby is born?
A: To quote my friend Magic 8 Ball, "ask again later".

Q: Have you thought about names? If so, what are they?
A: This question is one I'm always willing to answer, even though I'm rapidly tiring of the looks I receive in response. It amazes me that people are so quick to provide their opinion on something so unrelated to them. However, we have thought about names. They are subject to change, but as of right now we've settled on Merrill Elizabeth for a girl, William (Will) for a boy - and we haven't figured out a middle name for Will yet.

(Note: If you are reading this, and you've asked me any of the above questions, please don't be offended by my answers. It's sheer repetition that has turned me into such a cranky person.)



Yesterday, I experienced my first bout of Braxton-Hicks contractions, and it must be stated with firm certainty that without my friend Jessi and my sister, my anxiety levels would be excessive and unmanageable. After I established that what I was feeling did in fact sound like a contraction of sorts, we began timing their presence and gauging the level of intensity. Lying down and chugging from a giant bottle of water seemed to help, as did the arrival of my husband with a Subway sandwich and a chocolate chip cookie. Later last night, Ferris was more active than normal, and we interpreted it as an attempt to let us know that everything was cool down there.

I stumbled across the online baby boutique Two Blue Peas, and this is the first time I've really wished I knew what we're having so I could order some of the adorable clothes. As it stands, I'll probably be sitting in the hospital with my laptop and credit card as soon as Ferris makes an appearance.

The nursery is slowly but surely coming along - the only thing we lack is the crib, which we'll be getting sometime in March. I haven't yet begun to organize the few items we have, as my obsessive nature means I want to have a better sense of total inventory before I undergo the task of determining which drawer will house blankets vs. onesies vs. burp cloths. My mom and I picked out fabric for the curtains and the cushions on the glider rocker (the rocker belonged to my sister and the cushions were blue, so we're recovering them in a neutral fabric) and while she is holding the cushions hostage for fear the dogs will destroy them, she assures me they look great.

My goal is to get all of the items crossed off our to-do list before it gets warm, so I can enjoy the time before Ferris arrives without worrying about whether the guest room is ready, if the kitchen cabinets have been reorganized enough times (the answer is always a resounding NO), if the railings on the porch need fresh paint, and if this house is as baby-ready as it can possibly be.



Ferris is now joining the ranks as the second member of our family to be packing on the weight. At just over a pound, we're entering the stage of rapid growth - about 6 ounces each week. I'm in the sixth month, which marks the last stage of the second trimester - where has the time gone? At times, I feel like June will never arrive...and then other times leave me struggling with how quickly this is happening and I'm struck by the notion that June will be here before I know it.

As Ferris gets stronger, I can feel the kicks and turns more often and with increasing strength. At times I can even see the twitches in my stomach as tiny feet and fists push against me. Ferris is most active after meals and at night as I lay in bed, and it's become a routine for me to place my hands on either side of my belly to await the rhythm of soft thumps.





A few of the things I've learned so far about being pregnant:

  • The burps that result from Omega-3 Fish Oil capsules are of the devil.
  • Forgetting your dogs' names is acceptable. Forgetting your husband's is not.
  • I miss balance. That is all.
  • It only takes a matter of months to master the act of getting up 5 times a night to pee without ever opening your eyes.
  • Babies R Us is a scary place. Also, they should have a bathroom in each corner of the store.
  • Watching other people drink is boring.
  • Girlfriends and sisters know more than any book, period.
  • A hungry woman in a grocery store can be dangerous. A hungry pregnant woman in a grocery store is a recipe for disaster.
  • When a dumbass stranger at the mall comments that you look like you're having twins, and you aren't, you will forever regret not saying anything in response.
  • Despite the fear of labor that will strike you consistently throughout these nine months, this baby does have to come out - so you better deal with it.
  • Having a husband that endures the mood swings, whims, and cravings is a gift from God.
  • Even if you think the constant nausea will never end, it will.
  • Unsolicited advice comes from everywhere.
  • Laughing until you cry and crying until you laugh is wholly interchangeable.
  • Watching birthing shows on TLC and Discovery is a bad, bad idea.
  • Naming your unborn child is much harder than you'd think.
  • After the first time you feel your baby kick, your life will never be the same.





Most mornings, I wake up to the sounds of my husband getting ready for work - and the sensation of guilt that immediately washes over me. Guilt that he's up and at it again, facing the daily grind...while I'm lying in bed. Guilt that he's bearing the weight of our financial responsibilities, dealing with the frustrations of a job that sometimes takes the spark out of his eyes and the bounce out of his step. Guilt that he tells me on a daily basis that it's not a problem, that I'm the most important person in his life and given the chance, he'd make the same decision again to support me as I left a steady paying career to find myself.

Most days, I find ways to turn my guilt into motivation to find new ways to make our lives better. I stay on top of the housework, I pay all the bills, I clip coupons and try to find ways to cut corners without sacrificing any of the things we love to do. I attempt to maintain a sense of purpose, all the while knowing that there are millions of women who do these things while holding down a job and raising children - many without the help of a supportive partner to ease the load. I try to make our home a good one, a place he wants to come to at the end of the day - and while most days I succeed, there are the days where I want to fall apart. Those days are the days that I beat myself up for being so selfish as to put the burden on him, for putting him into this situation and for allowing our roles to become so clearly defined. I put myself into a box and allow myself to dwell on the mistakes I've made, even as I acknowledge they cannot be erased. I wonder where I'd be had I not found out I was pregnant shortly after leaving my job to find a new one, and then I push that thought out of my head as I realize the what ifs don't matter.

Most nights, I stare at him while we are eating dinner, watching tv or getting ready to go to sleep - and I am overcome with emotion. I cannot even adequately express the amount of respect and admiration I have for this man, the one who loves me unconditionally and takes me as I am. He's the one who wants to spend his life with me, who would do anything and everything to make me smile, and he's the one that has given me the gift of becoming a mother and finding out who I really am in the process. He's allowing me the opportunity to find myself, to figure out all of the answers to the questions I've always asked myself, and he's doing it without an ounce of remorse or resentment. I'm not easy, and I'm not perfect - but as complicated and flawed as I may be, he makes it all disappear the second he kisses the top of my head and places his hand gently on my stomach to say goodnight to our baby before we drift off to sleep. I'm damn lucky, and I'm blessed to be where I am. I may not know all of the answers, and I may not know where we'll end up. But we are a family, and we will figure it out. Together.



According to the books I'm reading and the websites I consult to track Ferris' progress, this week puts the baby at about 8 inches long and a little over 12 ounces. I try to keep that generalization in mind instead of wondering about the actual size of the squirt inside me. Up until that last ultrasound, I was perfectly content putting all my eggs in the book basket, having no qualms whatsoever with accepting that we were going on averages and probabilities instead of actualities. However, after seeing Ferris on that screen, yawning and squirming and swallowing, it hit me like a ton of bricks that this baby is not a part of someone's average - not a piece of a calculated puzzle. This is our baby, and that means a whole new set of circumstances and milestones.

I'm trying so hard to manage what I eat, hoping against hope that at my next doctor's appointment, I won't see an excessive increase in my weight when I step on the scale. My weight gain so far has been high enough that my doctor warned me of the potential for gestational diabetes and - hold on to your maternity jeans - high birth weight. The phrase "larger baby" is enough to stop me in my tracks and make me forget the fact that all I want is chocolate and Mexican food. So not only did my last trip to the grocery store require walking past certain sections with my eyes closed, meal planning is back and even when I'm not in the mood for roasted chicken with broccoli, it still finds its way to my plate.

After all, it's not really about me anymore, is it?



In contemplating what it will be like to be a parent, and considering the things I want to incorporate into our child's upbringing - contrasted by the things I hope to leave out - I'm drawn to memories of my own childhood.

When I reflect on what it was like to grow up in our house, I'm immediately drawn to the earlier memories and my younger years - the years before our family dynamic shifted seismically due to circumstances both closely within and drastically beyond our control. I prefer to focus instead on the time when things seemed simpler, before we were drawn apart and against each other...before I was forced to acknowledge that shit happens and sometimes the only option available is to deal with it in whatever means available at the time.

I recall snow days, rare as they were in the South. I distinctly remember the smell of a fire in our fireplace, the taste of snow sprinkled with crushed Sweet Tarts, the sight of my mom in the kitchen window holding up steaming mugs of hot chocolate in an effort to draw us in from the cold.

I can feel the slippery plastic sensation of the tablecloth we used as our dinner table, spread on the living room floor as we settled in with loaded plates to watch tv. We never really sat at the table for a meal; instead, we sat cross-legged on the floor and became entranced in Disney movies or America's Funniest Home Videos, silent save for the incessant chatter that would erupt once the commercials began. It was these breaks that allowed us to catch up on everyone's day, sharing funny stories, school concerns, and the latest neighborhood gossip.

Summer days were spent outside, where swim team practice came early and the fireflies stayed late. I have fond memories of donuts at dawn before a morning spent driving my dad around on the golf course; lazy afternoons by the pool, where I'd squint through the blinding sun at my mom lounging on a deck chair; nights in bed, struggling to stay awake by focusing on the glow of my nightlight.

I never questioned the way things were, never doubted that this life was the best life anyone had ever had. I always felt safe, happy, and loved - and always knew family to be something secure and solid, full of sacred routines such as being tucked in every night and being pulled from sleep with the promise of a new day ahead.

These memories fill me with knowledge and inspiration- that providing for a child is more than a fiscal responsibility, more than physical presence and material belongings. It goes beyond putting food on the table and clothes on a back, beyond helping a child maneuver throughout days and nights. It's larger than I can even begin to imagine...and while I know I'll never be perfect, I have a bank to draw from and experiences to call upon as I attempt to figure it out.



It's official - the second half of this pregnancy has begun. 20 weeks down, 20 to go!

I'm reminded of the sensation I had when I was a kid in school - the first part of the school year always seemed to drag itself out, excruciatingly slow....only to pick up steam and begin to fly rapidly following the Christmas break. Before I knew it, it was time to clean out lockers and turn in books. It's almost like a freight train, taking time to pick up the speed before it can truly chug along.

I know the next few months will fly by, and while there is a part of me that is so ready for it to be over so we can welcome this little one into the world, there is another part of me that wants to be pregnant forever. The unpleasant aspects aside, this has been the most amazing and special time of my life - the new sensations, the surges of love and affection towards something I've never met, the planning and hopes and dreams and expectations...

I had lunch with my dad yesterday, and we laughed until we cried as he recounted the names of his family members in an effort to strike inspiration for baby names. I'm not sure what book people got their babies' names out of back then, but...wow. So it's pretty safe to say we won't name our child Truby, Renso, or Ida - but I think we finally have settled on a boy and a girl name. Granted, there's plenty of time for me to change my mind, so I wouldn't start embroidering anything quite yet.

I received a cross-stitch quilt set from a friend yesterday as well - an adorable quilt pattern with baby animals on it. I'm excited to make something for Ferris, and while it's been about 20 years since I cross-stitched anything, I'm hoping it's like riding a bike. I'm heading to Mississippi today for a funeral, and since I get insanely carsick if I even try to read in the car, I'm glad to have something else to do on the ride down.

Some friends of mine were looking at the pictures of Ferris, trying to determine if he/she looks more like me or my husband at this point. It's hard to say of course, but most people have said my nose and my husband's mouth. It's just another reminder that I'm creating a life with this person and we're sharing something so amazing and so surreal - and that thought just floors me, every time.



Oh. Wow. This is real. As in, there is a baby in there. A baby that looks like a baby.

Today's appointment was full of good news (if you ignore the part about how I'm gaining weight too quickly and should...you know...lay off the goods.). Baby has all the right parts and pieces, and in keeping with a stellar sense of humor, wiggled all over and kept those tiny little fists firmly planted up near that tiny little face. We did get to see a foot that seems shockingly long, a yawn of epic proportions, the mouth moving and drinking fluid...and as evidenced in the picture on the right, our little 11 ounce squirt greedily sucking a thumb.

The temptation I felt when the technician told us she knew the sex was overwhelming. I almost caved, and it was only by squeezing my eyes tightly shut and turning away that I was able to resist taking a peek.

We'll go back in ten weeks for another ultrasound. My placenta is very near the cervix and they need to make sure it shifts in order to determine whether a c-section will be necessary. I'd give anything to be able to see Ferris every week, but the anticipation makes it that much sweeter.



At this point, Ferris is anywhere from 6-7 inches long, and weighs approximately 10 ounces or so. We have a doctor's appointment tomorrow morning, and I'm so ready to see that little squirt on the screen. I've somehow convinced myself that we're accidentally going to find out the sex, although my doctor (and my friends who've been there, done that) have assured me I'll have no clue what I'm looking at.

We got bags of blankets and clothes from my sister this weekend, and as I sorted through stacks of navy blue onesies with baseballs on them, socks with "All-Star" written on the cuff, and a hat that says "Daddy's Little Guy", all I could do was smile and fold them back up. I also accompanied a friend to Babies R Us, and quickly became overwhelmed at the variety of items and my lack of knowledge about what's an absolute necessity and what's not. My sister is taking me to register in the next few weeks, and I'm grateful for her guidance and expertise.

As my husband and I walked to one of our favorite brunch places yesterday morning, enjoying the brief respite from the cold weather, I commented that 5 months from now, our walks will include a stroller and a third person. It's little things like that which strike me and make me realize what we're embarking on.

Ferris has begun moving with increased regularity, and we've even become able to feel the shifts from the outside. Every time I feel movement, my husband places his hand on my stomach hoping to get the sensation. I think we have a jokester in the making, as the baby typically chooses that exact moment to be still.

We are still working on names - we're getting closer, but I'm having a hard time landing on something that sounds just right. Certain names, while seemingly perfect at first, tend to fall from the list after we realize that they would likely get our kid's ass kicked on the playground. Plus, there's the whole issue of not knowing what he or she will look like, as that could change everything. How do you name someone you haven't met yet?





As I stepped from the shower this morning, it dawned on me that I've been pregnant for 19 weeks - almost halfway through. I marvel at how different things are now, how much my perspective has been altered as I've progressed through this pregnancy. I think of most things with a different intensity, a far more advanced attention to details and items which previously would likely have escaped me.

This current tendency to delve deep into everyday matters (read: overthink) ranges from the utterly absurd to the amazingly serious....from how it will be if I try to come sit and write in the coffee shop down the street, as I'm doing now, to how it will be if we are faced with a child that experiences any challenges or difficulties. I try to reign in the panic and fear of the unknown and focus instead of the amazing road ahead, treating the unknowns as though they are tiny little surprises waiting to be discovered.

I want so many things for our child and for our family, things that can be influenced by me and things that I will have absolutely no control over, however much I may try. I want our child to grow accustomed to hearing the laughter that constantly rings throughout our house. I want to instill in this tiny little being the notion that we have endless amounts of love and friendship and respect for each other, and that we do anything and everything we can to ensure happiness on every level imaginable. I want this baby tater to feel protected and safe from any of the potentially scary things our world may bring, while maintaining an innocence and absense of irrational fears.

In essence, I want to provide a life that is balanced and even and a semblance of being perfect even when true perfection cannot be found. I want to teach patience in the midst of frustration, adoration in the presence of flaws, strength in the existence of obstacles, and love in the places where an absence of it exists. I want it all....and I believe it can be found, since all of these things are things that have been provided to me in the span of the relationship I've had with my husband.