Friday, May 27, 2011

Pinching Myself

I keep having moments during which I suddenly look around and can't believe where I am. I can't believe that little ole' me actually managed to conceive, survive a pregnancy for 9 months, deliver, and now nurture a beautiful child who's actually growing and developing the way he should. Those are all things that have seemed so far away, grown up, and, well, inconceivable my whole life. Heck, sometimes I still can't believe I managed to snag a great guy, get married, and that we've survived on our own without adults for almost 5 years. How did this happen?

And then, how did we manage to travel across the world and set up a new little life, albeit a temporary one, in Beijing? Am I really smart enough for all this?


In other news, I'm a bit apprehensive that my little one may be a super early roller and walker. He's already managed to push up hard enough with his feet to fall from being on his tummy, where I had put him for tummy time, to almost on his back. And that was at 6 weeks. I'm not ready for him to start rolling for real! And, even more scary: he can pretty much support his entire weight standing on his legs at this point--with one of us holding his upper body steady, of course. He absolutely loves pushing off with his feet and bouncing--he gets so proud of himself. I'm awfully proud of him, too, but I'm definitely not going to be ready for it when he does start walking. I think he's going to be a super active little toddler. Probably just like his dad--super active and athletic. I guess maybe that will compensate a bit for the fact that he looks just like me.

The rest of the fam is off hiking the Great Wall today. I'm home with the little bean. I've been there before, so I don't feel too down in the dumps being left out this time. The in-laws leave in approximately 70 hours. Not that anyone's excited about being able to finally really settle into this apartment or anything.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

One Week in Beijing: Bite-Sized Version

The past week has been a long one, as first weeks in a new place usually are. But at the same time, I feel thrilled that we've made it through and can't believe we only have 9 more to go. I've been dreading this first week here for so long that I feel like it's been a major accomplishment to survive as we have.

A few observations and tidbits about life in Beijing so far:
  • They really do have nice weather here. I never believed it because I've only ever been to China in July, which is swelteringly miserable, at least in the east. But it's been in the 70s and 80s and low humidity almost every day--just like California at this time of year (with a little extra dust and pollution thrown in).
  • Biking is much faster than walking. Getting more than a backpack's worth of stuff home from the grocery store is still a more daunting task than I'm willing to attempt by myself yet--but at least the trip goes by more quickly on a bike.
  • Biking is much scarier than walking. I really need to get better at pedaling and balancing while going really, really slowly when I can't get around the pedestrians I'm stuck behind on a sidewalk.
  • Chinese people are much friendlier when we have a baby with us. But they also think we are insane to be out and about with a six-week-old. I want to tell them that yes, we are absolutely insane, and not a good representations of Americans as a whole. And don't worry, we really aren't taking Brax out too much. It's just nice to be able to go out all together sometimes.
  • Chinese mattresses are extremely firm. To the point that I have bruises on both of my hips from sleeping on my sides. I say this after all my collective experience of 7 weeks of my life spent in China. Maybe some Chinese mattresses are softer.
  • Having a washing machine in your apartment is awesome! Even when you have to hang all your clothes to dry for lack of a dryer.
  • I should never, ever go for a jog in a new place without a cell phone. I have a terrible sense of direction and am bound to get lost. Which is manageable in the US, but very different when I can't speak the language and don't even know the name of the building I'm living in, which is one of about 50 buildings that all look the same on Tsinghua's campus.
  • I miss cooking. But currently, we only own one pot. We will eventually buy more, but perhaps a few at a time so we can carry them back. And, of course, shopping itself is still a bit intimidating for me.
  • Everything would be easier if I could speak a little Mandarin. I will be getting one-on-one tutoring starting tomorrow for 3 hours a week. Maybe I'll be slightly functional by the end of July...we'll see.
  • Remote controlled air conditioners are a terrible idea. When the remote stops functioning for an unknown reason, you better hope you left the ac on a decent setting!
That's all for now. I still can't post any pictures, even though I have an adorable video of Braxon smiling. Probably just as well--I know you're all inundated by pictures and videos of adorable babies. But everything takes longer to figure out when you're a foreigner.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Writing from Blocked Blogger

No, Blogger is not accessible from China. Neither is Facebook, or, randomly, Google Docs (even though most other Google applications are available). So I'm writing through...a secret location :). And glad I've kept my name off this blog so I don't mind telling you all.

We arrived here last Sunday night after a long but fairly smooth flight. Braxon slept for about 70% of the trip. Those little airplane bassinets are fantastic, as is the white noise provided by the airplane engine. Our only mishap was when we were changing his diaper the first time in the bassinet and he decided to pee (a common occurrence when changing little boys' diapers, and one for which I am usually more prepared). Then I had to change his whole outfit, and they had just served the plane meals, so my husband was trapped in his seat by the meal tray, and I had to pull the heavy roller bag out of the overhead compartment to find a new outfit. I will also say that I've never wished more that we were using formula. Sure, breastfeeding takes up less space, but finding the time and places to breastfeed in airports and in between flights and airplane meals is a royal pain. And I hate having to wear a sheet over myself. I can't see what's going on down there, and it's HOT.

We are settling in pretty well here. Our apartment is a little more spacious than expected. Braxon finally gave us our first night last night of only one middle-of-the-night waking. I think he was on jet lag the first few days and waking at least twice a night and fussing at different times. Then, two nights ago, he was up almost every hour and hungry. Not helping his parents adjust to a new time zone. So I added another feed to his day yesterday, and he made it for two good 4-hour stretches. Ah, sleep!

I'm afraid my picture-posting days may be on hold for a while. We haven't figured out a way to get the pictures from our computer to this...ahem...secret online portal yet. But Brax is officially six weeks old tomorrow and getting soooo big! He's such a happy baby and gives us beautiful big smiles and coos. Other than when he wakes up hungry or has gas, which is infrequent, the only time he cries is occasionally when we put him down for naps. I think he just misses the company. But even that has been decreasing as I've let him cry it out more consistently the past few days (I didn't want to do it too much before we made it through this big transition, and before he was closer to six weeks old and I was more confident that letting him cry is okay.

Six weeks also means that I'm probably allowed to attempt sex, or so my husband is reminding me. But I'm pretty nervous about that prospect. I had to have my "six-week" postpartum appointment a bit early at four weeks postpartum, and at that point, most of my stitches were apparently still intact. So how am I supposed to know if they're gone by now without checking? And while I stuck my fingers up there with abandon to check cervical mucus and position while TTC, I'm a little more squeamish about "up there" after all the trauma it went through. My doctor still gave me the clear to try sex after six weeks, but I'm thinking eight weeks sounds better. And the in-laws will be gone by then...

Speaking of whom, we just realized that they're staying a week longer than we expected. My husband is not very detail-oriented when it comes to dates. It's going okay with them, and I haven't offended anyone yet (that I know of), but two and a half weeks is a loooong time to have anyone stay with you, even if it's your best friend and you have a huge house. They have been a huge help, though. I really don't know if we could have made it through the past week without them to carry suitcases, watch the baby when we both needed to be out (like to sign up for language tutoring), go shopping for us, clean the apartment, etc. But I will be ready to see them off on May 31 (I know the date now).

Time to sign off. Another fun aspect of our internet is that only one computer can be logged on at a time, and we currently have four people who like the internet around here. So must share.

Friday, May 13, 2011

One Day More...

One day until go time! It was two days when I first wrote this post, but stinkin’ Blogger has delayed things (and prevented me from commenting on many of your posts...sorry). I’m feeling pretty on top of the packing. Pete has come through on his promise to do as much of it as he could. We currently have four suitcases packed and a couple more in process. We’ll get 6 on the way over, since the in-laws are coming. We plan to fill any extra space with diapers and then leave at least one suitcase there when we come back. A couple of them are on their last leg, so no big loss there.

I’ve come to a realization about myself in terms of my emotions and stress levels with a newborn. I--and others around me--have been surprised at the seeming stability of my emotions. I don’t think I’ve cried once since giving birth, except for a few tears of joy shed when my son was first placed on my belly. Most moms I’ve talked to remember the crazy emotions in the first weeks and the random tears, signifying nothing except hormonal shifts. But I’ve never been one to experience too many emotional ups and downs that I can attribute purely to hormones, so that’s not too surprising too me.

What has been more surprising is that I don’t feel too overwhelmed by the task of caring for a baby. I love almost every minute, though it’s certainly not without its frustrations (as in,  why is he screaming his little head off when he’s clearly exhausted and should be sleeping...). But I feel like I can handle taking care of him day in and day out.

What I’m having trouble handling is pretty much anything else beyond taking care of my little bean. All the visitors who come by to bring a meal and end up staying to chat and leaving me no time to eat the meal before I need to breastfeed the little fella and then would love to head to bed myself. The daunting prospect of packing (though that’s largely behind us now). The anticipation of a long plane ride during which my baby may or may not fuss and make everyone around us hate me for bringing him--or worse, hate him. The family members who want to skype and see the baby.

And, most of all, the in-laws, and the fact that we will be cooped up in a very tiny apartment with them for a week and a half while all dealing with jet lag and adjusting to a new place. This last one has very little to do with who my in-laws are. I do admit that my father-in-law is one of those people who just rubs me wrong in so many ways. But really, both of them are lovely people, and it is fun to see how much they love my baby. And my mother-in-law is pretty sensitive to trying to give me space. I think they would normally offer to stay in a hotel nearby, but, since neither of them has traveled much overseas, I think they are a little scared of staying somewhere without us in Beijing (as if Pete’s one year of Mandarin is going to get us very far). And we have said from the beginning that they could stay with us, and they even helped to pay some of the extra cost of getting a two-bedroom rather than a one-bedroom apartment (why, oh why, did I not anticipate six months ago how overwhelming that would be?).

Now, after all that whining, I just need to add something. I firmly believe that God has brought this situation along, and that he desires for me to truly love the people around me. And I also believe that he will never give me more than I can handle by still honoring him--that he is willing to give me the patience and grace I need to make it through a stressful situation with a peaceful and loving attitude. Right now, that seems somewhat impossible, but I guess that’s why I need God. The question is whether I will be faithful to focus on him and his love and patience with me rather than on myself and how irritated or stressed I feel at any given moment.

So that’s where I am. I know that I will survive the next few weeks, and that it will all probably be much easier than I expect. And I can’t wait until Brax’s six-week mark, when we will have been there for a week, the in-laws will be leaving soon, and supposedly, he will have reached his peak fussiness and be settling more easily into a rhythm. And smiling socially!

Not that I can complain too much about his current rhythm. He does, after all, usually give us 3.5-5-hour stretches of solid sleep at night (last night I actually woke him at 4:30 to feed him because my boobs were sore and it had been 5.5 hours since his last feed!). I’m a mother of an almost-5-week-old who actually feels somewhat rested. But daytime has been very unpredictable, and I’m constantly confused about when to put him down for naps, whether I should let him cry it out or do whatever I can to soothe him to sleep at this point, and what I did wrong when he doesn’t nap. I know, I know, I have it really good, and I’m so, so thankful.

But the six-week mark is only 9 days away...

Here’s a picture from his one-month “birthday” last weekend, which coincided nicely with Mother’s Day:

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day to Everyone Reading

It's amazing when I think back to where I was on Mother's Day last year. I don't know if I'll ever be able to think of Mother's Day in the same way as before infertility, though I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm entirely against the holiday. It's just such an insider vs. outsider day, though, which really is a shame. There should be a way of honoring our dear mothers without making everyone who wishes to be a mother feel badly.

Brax gave me the lovely gift of his best night's sleep ever last night. Very thoughtful of him! He basically slept from 7pm to 7:30am, with feedings at 8:15pm, 11pm, and 4:20am. And the only one of those he woke for ahead of time was the 4:20. I actually went in at 4am to check and make sure he was still breathing, since I couldn't believe he was still so soundly asleep. The good night was especially appreciated, as he was a bit off for most of last week. I suspect he went through his 3-week growth spurt for real, but it's hard to say for sure. He also gave me a lovely card with a poem he wrote this morning, and he's taking me out for dessert later. Such a good boy already :).

I had a brief conversation at church this morning with a friend who has been trying to get pregnant for 2 1/2 years. She and her husband are in our community group, and 4 out of 6 of the couples in our group are having babies in 2011 (including ourselves). It's so hard for her, but she's also in a really good place spiritually. So I truly feel like she and her husband rejoice with all of us. She even gave me some adorable little baby shoes this morning that she picked up at the store just because she saw them and thought they were too cute to resist! That definitely says something--I don't think I probably would have done that for my friends with babies while I was struggling with infertility. But that doesn't take away the pain of what she and her husband, who is actually probably more of an emotional person than she is, are dealing with, and the pain of today.

Those of you who are mothers or mothers-to-be today, please enjoy the day without guilt, and feel appreciated. We really do make a lot of sacrifices for these offspring of ours. For those of you longing to be mothers, know that you are also mothers-to-be, though the timing of when you will meet your children is yet undetermined. I've known a few women in my life who were never able to have biological children--either because they never married or because they dealt with infertility--but who were definitely skilled at mothering. And their lives are beautiful despite and because of the pain they have gone through. I know that's little comfort to anyone in the throes of the infertility struggle right now. So perhaps I should simply say to you, "Happy Day!" and leave it at that, hoping that you do, in fact, find a piece of happiness today.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Long Overdue Update

I thought I would be more motivated to blog once I had a kid to blog about, but apparently I was mistaken. I guess my discomfort with talking about my little world remains. Nonetheless, I will try to keep it up, if sporadically.

Life with a newborn is going well. I generally feel more rested than I think I should, but I have been averaging 6-7 hours of sleep between 9pm and 8am. And two of those chunks are usually 2-3 hours at a time. Not bad for the breastfeeding mother of a 3-week-old. I've also come to accept that my son simply doesn't need the recommended 16-20 hours of sleep per day (for newborns). He gets about 14 hours on his best days and has probably averaged around 12. But since we've been able to convince him that the majority of those should take place between 6:30pm and 6am, I'm told I can't complain about the shorter daytime naps.

All in all, we're told by many other parents that we have a relatively easy child. I can't help but attribute a large part of that to Babywise and the Baby Whisperer. Braxon has taken really well to the 2 1/2-3 hour feed/wake/sleep routine. He's also been pretty good at putting himself to sleep in his crib, though he does often lay there fidgeting (and, rarely, fussing) for 20-30 minutes before really being asleep. And occasionally won't go to sleep at all, just to keep us on our toes.

Just to disprove the naysayers (who claim that feeding on any kind of routine, even if it's very flexible, leads to slower growth rates), he gained a little over a pound in one week last week! I suspect he had his 3-week growth spurt at the end of last week, because he suddenly started waking up hungry from naps and eating every 2 1/2 hours after being happy with 3 hours all week and needing to be woken to eat from many naps. Either that, or we're going to have one huge baby on our hands in a few months.

The icky umbilical stump finally fell off last week, so we were able to give him his first bath. I think he liked it, though it's very hard to tell at this age. We have a really cool bath tub that fits into our bathroom sink--the Puj Tub. I recommend it highly to anyone else living in tight quarters with a baby. We plan to take it with us to China, since it's so light and can fold or roll up, so I'm hoping he can fit in it at least until we get back at the end of July.

Speaking of China, our departure date is looming very close--and scary--on May 14! I'm ready to get all the transition over with and be there and settled in, but I'm nervous about that transition. For one thing, I detest packing because of all the decisions that have to be made about what to bring, and my fear that I'll forget something important. For another, I'm not really looking forward to sharing a two-bedroom apartment with the in-laws for a week and a half after we get there. They are traveling with us and will be a huge help, but also a huge source of stress for me. And the whole flying for 14 hours with a baby doesn't sound very fun, even though we were able to reserve a seat with a bassinet. Then there's the jet lag, which is bad enough to deal with yourself, but will likely be even worse for Braxon, who's done so well at sorting out his days and nights. If anyone out there has any tips for baby jet lag, I'm all ears!

On a lighter note, of course I'll include a few pictures!

Contemplating the bath

Trying out the Moby wrap--I think he likes it, but I'm not a huge fan when it's warm out!