Thursday, September 30, 2010

My view at 6:30am

    Early morning is one of my favorite times with Toby. He's super mellow and talk-y, and we "chitchat" about lots of fascinating things while he plays in his crib. When Toby was first born, I was so anxious that I was doing everything right (he was so teeny), but these days I'm thankfully settling in, feeling more confident and just enjoying his awesome company. Oh, Toby, I adore you and your Jack Nicholson eyebrows!Source URL:
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Laughter yoga

    Have you guys heard of laughter yoga? Indian physician Madan Lal Kataria encourages people to get together in small groups and start fake laughing; after a while, he says, the laughter will become genuine and euphoric. Dr. Kataria believes that laughter can cure physical and psychological ailments. It sounds nutty, but my friend Scott recently tried it with a group of friends and said it was surprisingly awesome. Would you give it a shot?

    P.S. Also, marshmallows!Source URL:
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Golden Gate Bridge dinner party

    Whoa! Our girl Jordan just hosted a four-course dinner party on a beach underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. It must have felt so magical to be eating parsnip soup in the cool breeze beneath the twinkling lights.

    Read her full story here.

    (Photos by Paul Ferney for Oh Happy Day)Source URL:
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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wednesday giveaway!

    Today's giveaway is from Chicago letterpress studio Snow & Graham. They're giving away their beautiful 2011 wall calendar, which has gorgeous flower illustrations each month. Wouldn't it look lovely above a desk? (It would also make a great gift.)

    For a chance to win, please visit Snow & Graham's shop and leave a comment below. A winner will be chosen at random tomorrow. Good luck! xoUpdate: Mrs. Dontje is our lucky winner. Thanks for playing.Source URL:
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Helmet style

Maine perfume

    A few years ago, my dad took my sister and me on a fall weekend trip to Bar Harbor, Maine. We stayed in a charming old B&B and made it our goal to eat lobster for every single meal, including lobster scrambled eggs, bisque, rolls, whole lobsters, and even a McDonald's McLobster...
    Even though it rained almost the whole time, the trip was one of the best I've ever taken. So I was psyched to discover this Maine perfume. Wouldn't you love to smell its sea, air, sun, pine and grassy scent?

    (Photos by 3191 Miles Apart and Between the Bread)Source URL:
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Monday, September 27, 2010

Robot man

Stockholm style

Brooklyn Diary

    Our girl Lena just curated a new book, Brooklyn Diary, which takes a look at the daily lives of 21 Brooklyn artists, documented by 10 Brooklyn photographers. They reveal their favorite neighborhood spots and offer peeks inside their quirky homes. Part-coffeetable book and part-travel guide, Brooklyn Diary will be released on October 11th. I'm really excited for it. Congrats, Lena!

    (These photos show Anna and Tim Harrington and their sons Benji and Casper. As lead singer of the punk band Les Savy Fav, Tim is known for his crazy theatrics--he must be such a fun dad. Anna and Tim also run the textile company Deadly Squire. Their photos make me want to pickle vegetables and buy a pool.)

    (Photos by Jessica Antola)Source URL:
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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Have a happy weekend

Friday, September 24, 2010

Toby's belly laugh

    Toby has started doing hilariously awkward belly laughs every few days. Here's one we caught on tape, when Alex was opening a package. He found the wrapping paper totally hilarious.

    P.S. They say the average 4-year-old laughs 400 times per day!Source URL:
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Hot pink lips

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ink + Wit giveaway

    Today's giveaway is from Ink + Wit, Tara Hogan's beautiful letterpress and design shop based in New York. She's offering one reader a $50 gift certificate to her shop. (I love her stamp sets and tea towels.)

    For a chance to win, please visit Ink + Wit and leave a comment below. A winner will be chosen at random tomorrow. Good luck! xo

    Update: Flora is our lucky winner. Thanks for playing.Source URL:
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Wedding rings

Wading into the ocean

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How to do Heidi braids

First days with Toby

    My lovelies, thank you so much for your sweet comments on our birth story. It felt so wonderful to reminisce. Now I'd love to share a few photos of the rest of our hospital stay, if you'd like to see...(This photo above is one of my all-time faves!)
    About an hour after Toby was born, our nurse brought us to the maternity ward, where we would be staying for two nights. In New York City hospitals, you typically share a room with another new mom. (Is that true for other cities, too?) It's totally fine, though, because a curtain goes around your half of the room for privacy, so you feel surprisingly separate; and it's also nice to have another mom around to talk to. (Private rooms were also available, but they cost a whopping $900 to $1100 per night! Yowza.)
    We lucked out and got the bed by the window. Looking over the East River, we watched the sailboats during the day, and the twinkling city lights at night. We felt like we were on vacation.
    I was exhausted after pulling an all-nighter and giving birth, but also so high on life that I couldn't sleep. I felt dreamy and giddy and wanted to soak up every moment with Toby.
    A few friends came by and brought orange juice, sandwiches and bouquets of flowers. (This beautiful bunch is from Abbey, who arranged it herself!)
    One funny thing is that newborn babies are typically sooooo sleepy that they won't wake up even when they're hungry. So, the nurses encouraged us to rouse Toby for a meal every four hours or so. But even when he was eating, he'd fall asleep at the breast, and I'd have to tickle his chin or cheek to remind him about the task at hand. :)
    I adore this sweet photo. He looks just like his sonogram!
    Babies lose weight right after they're born, so in this photo, Toby is a mere 5 pounds 8 ounces. A little sparrow! It's crazy to remember on how small he was (especially compared to how chubby he is now:) He was floppy, smelled like milk, had wrinkly dinosaur feet, and was covered in that lovely newborn baby fuzz.
    A funny thing about staying at a New York City hospital is that they'll bring you free meals from their own cafeteria, but they also have a huge binder of neighborhood restaurant menus in case you want to order delivery. The first night after Toby was born we ordered in falafel!The nurses taught us how to swaddle Toby into a little burrito. Babies apparently love being wrapped tightly, since it reminds them of the womb; they also like rocking, bouncing and white noise--including hairdryers!
    It was such a magical time. We were thrilled with our time at Weill Cornell, whose staff gave us such gentle care (the nurses were wonderful). Thank you again for reading our birth story and being so lovely all along the way. Sending a big kiss to all of you xoxoSource URL:
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Monday, September 20, 2010

Our birth story

    My dears, at looong last, I'd love to share our birth story with you. Here goes...xoxo
    On the warm spring evening of Monday, May 24th, Alex and I were hanging out at home. My belly was getting enormous (and tight as a drum), so we took a few random snapshots, just for fun. Toby’s due date was more than a week away, so we didn't expect to go into labor anytime soon (let alone in a matter of hours!).
    Alex and I had Indian food for dinner, and I roped him into watching The Bachelorette. (When you're nine months pregnant, you control the remote.)

    After the show, we were just hanging out in the living room, when I started getting cramps very low down, like menstrual cramps. At that point in my pregnancy, everything was pretty creaky and uncomfy, so I just figured, “Ahh, more aches and pains, nothing new here.” As Alex and I chatted, I moaned softly and told him about the cramps, but I was convinced that it was false labor, since my belly wasn't tightening, like my birthing books had said it would. Luckily, Alex wisely ignored me and started timing my contractions. They were five minutes apart.
    Over the next couple hours, the cramps kept getting stronger, and I went to lie down in the bedroom. I was pretty uncomfortable at this point, and I admitted that there was a small chance I was in labor, but I still doubted it. (What was I thinking? In hindsight, it was so obvious!) A little after midnight, Alex suggested we call the doctor. The doctor said that we might be in early labor, and if the cramps sped up and became stronger, we should come into the hospital. Shortly afterwards, the contractions became three minutes apart…it was game time!
    Now that we knew it was (mostly likely) actual labor, Alex and I were out-of-our-minds excited. I couldn't believe it was really happening and that we would meet our baby soon. Alex grabbed our hospital suitcase, and we headed downstairs to catch a cab. We laughed at how obvious the scene must have looked to passersby: It was 2 in the morning, and a harried guy holding one small suitcase was flagging a cab, while his enormously pregnant wife clutched her belly beside him. What else would we possibly be doing?
    (This photo cracks me up.) A cab stopped to pick us up, and I clutched the windowsill and tried to keep my moans to a minimum, so as not to freak out the driver. After a twenty-minute cab ride uptown, we arrived at Weill Cornell Medical Center. We were taken to a triage room, where the doctors decide if you should be admitted. They checked my dilation, and it was only 2 centimeters! You have to be dilated 10 centimeters to deliver a baby, so I had hoped that we'd be further along, but was thrilled to get the official word that we were in labor. Luckily, my contractions were so strong and close together that they admitted us. (The admitting doctor at first contemplated sending us for a walk around the block! Yeah, right!)

    We moved into our labor room around 3:30am. The room was big and beautiful, and it felt very peaceful and hushed in the middle of the night. We couldn’t believe we were in the place where we would meet our little baby! It all felt very exciting and surreal. Our nurse, Erika, was really sweet and calming and explained that she'd keep an eye on us, and we could buzz her on a little remote control anytime we needed her.

    For the next few hours, my contractions grew stronger and stronger. I tried different labor techniques, including walking around the room with Alex's support, sitting on the bed, lying on my side, splashing water on my face, and picturing my "happy place" (my grandparents' seaside village in England). Alex offered to massage my lower back (we'd even brought a tennis ball to help), but I was surprised to find that I didn’t want to be touched at all. We’d also brought calming music, but I wanted complete silence.

    Another surprise: I’d expected to feel self-conscious about moaning. Weeks earlier, I had even asked Alex if he would “co-moan” with me (which I'd read about in a book) so that I’d feel less shy. (Since then we've laughed about it; it sounded a little ridiculous.) But during labor, I didn’t even remember that. I was just so focused on each contraction that I couldn't think about anything else. I tried to visualize my body opening up to let the baby move down and found it really helpful.

    A third surprise was that I expected labor to feel really long. When I heard that labor can last hours or even days, I figured that it might feel endless. But in the moment, I was so incredibly focused that time passed really quickly. I'd look at the clock, and it would be 4:30am and then I’d glance back up just a few moments later, and it would be 5:30am. The hands of the clock were spinning! It felt almost like a cartoon.
    As I labored, Alex brought me glasses of water and told me he loved me, which was so nice to hear and kept me feeling relaxed. I loved having him there. I don’t know how so many women of past generations could labor without their husbands in the room. (Alex's mom told us that her husband wasn't even allowed in!) Last fall, when we first found out that we were expecting, Alex half-joked, “I might be a hand-out-cigars-in-the-waiting-room kind of guy,” since he was nervous about being there during labor, but during my pregnancy and delivery, he was totally incredible. He’s naturally very mellow (a true Californian), so he brought such a calm energy to the labor room and made me feel safe and supported.

    As the labor progressed, three things helped me more than anything else: Alex fed me ice chips, which were hugely refreshing. He put cold damp paper towels on my forehead and wiped my face during each contraction, which felt wonderful and helped distract me from the intense pressure. Most of all, I responded enormously to his positive encouragement. He’d say things like, “You’re doing a great job; you're so amazing; I'm so proud of you; our sweet baby boy is coming into the world because of you.” (Those words still make me tear up!) Every time he’d say something buoying, I’d feel a huge new wave of energy. I was amazed at how well positive encouragement helped, and I was so grateful to him.

    A few hours later, around 7am, the doctor checked me again. After four hours of contractions, I had dilated only ONE centimeter! And I still had seven more to go. I was a little bummed. The doctor estimated that I'd probably labor all day and deliver sometime later that evening.
    Alex and I discussed my getting an epidural and decided it would be a good idea. I got an epidural at 7:30am (which felt like a rush of ice water down my back), and the pain went away almost immediately. I could still feel a bit of pressure during the contractions and felt in control of my body and labor, but there was no pain at all. The following hour was blissful! Alex even took a nap next to me in a chair. He encouraged me to get some sleep, too, but I was too excited and just lay there thinking about Toby.

    About an hour later, however, my lower back began to intensely ache. The nurse explained that I was having back labor, which was caused by the baby descending and pressing against my lower back. The doctors explained that although the epidural eases regular contractions, there's not much they can do for back labor.

    As the labor intensified, I slipped into a focused zone. I was essentially feeling the contractions in my lower back. I couldn't talk other than moaning during contractions. I felt shaky and a little nauseous. (Looking back, I now know I was in transition from active labor to the pushing phase--typically the most difficult part of labor.)

    Suddenly, around 11am, I felt a strong urge to go to the bathroom. I buzzed the nurse, and when she arrived, I explained, in all seriousness, “I have to go to the bathroom right away. Would you mind unhooking me from the heart-rate monitor and helping me walk over?” (Looking back, I realize how crazy that must have sounded! I just didn't think I was far along.)

    The nurse explained that it would actually be impossible for me to go to the bathroom, since the baby was blocking everything; she said the sensation was caused by the baby moving down into my pelvis.

    “It’s a good sign,” she said. “It means you’re moving closer to delivering the baby."

    "No," I insisted, "I have to push now. Like really, really have to push. Like, I have this crazy huge urge to push and I just have to do it. Would you mind getting the doctor right away?"

    I could tell that the nurse didn't really believe me, but after some convincing, she called the doctor. When the doctor arrived, she also doubted that I could have dilated so quickly. (After all, they were expecting me to labor all day, and it was only noon.) But when she checked me, her eyes popped.

    “Oh, Joanna, you’re fully dilated!” she said. "It's go time!"

    She pulled on a mask and scrub cap and called in her team of nurses and resident doctors. (The doctor who delivered us was a-maz-ing; she was tall and athletic and had the can-do spirit of someone who would climb Everest.)

    “Dad, grab a leg!” she told Alex. (Before going into labor, I had demurely planned to ask Alex to stay up by my head, but at that moment, I didn’t care at all.)

    The next part was like out of the movies, where you have your legs up and you’re huffing and puffing to push out the baby. It was so, so exciting and intense. I got nervous about the increasing pain, but the doctor said, “When you feel like you need to push, I’ll count to ten, and you push as hard as you can for those ten seconds.”

    It was tough and I got a little freaked out by the pain. I would push really hard for about six seconds and then back off. At one point, I even found myself secretly thinking, 'I don't really have to deliver this baby; I'll just stay like this from now on, no big deal.' But the doctor and nurses and Alex were all cheering for me to push and giving me tons of encouragement. I was pushing and pushing, and at one point, I cried out, “I can't do it!” The doctor's awesome response? “Joanna, you CAN do it…you ARE doing it." Finally, after pushing for about twenty minutes, I thought, 'OK, Joanna, let's get this job done.' So I told myself that instead of being scared of the pain, I would just focus on the doctor's voice counting to ten, and that’s all I would think about for those ten seconds. So, for the next push, I put the pain out of my mind, and did an enormous push while I focused on her count each of those ten seconds. And, lo and behold, the baby’s head popped out! Everyone gave a hearty cheer, and Alex was just staring wide-eyed. The doctor told me to reach down and feel the baby's head, which was totally surreal and amazing and gave me another boost of energy.

    The doctor instructed me to push when I felt the urge, and I kept pushing as hard as I could, but the next few times, the baby only budged a little bit. Then our doctor said, "You're so close, Joanna; this baby could be out with the next push.” And I thought to myself, 'Ok, then, if he can be out, he will be out!'

    What happened next was really strange: I heard myself ROAR. I didn't know I was going to. But I just took a huge breath, squeezed my eyes closed, and put every bit of strength I had into pushing with all my might--and roared like an animal!

    And then, whoosh! The baby slithered out like a slippery fish. It was such a funny, unexpected, amazing, thrilling feeling.
    So it was at 12:40pm that the doctor placed teeny Toby into my arms. He was purplish-red and wet and crying, and my heart felt like it was going to burst. He felt soft and smooth, and I was weeping and laughing. It was so magical to be cuddling our sweet sweet baby in my arms after nine months. I would have a million babies just for that moment.
    His lovely new baby lungs in action! What a little hero!
    After a moment, the baby nurse took him to weigh and clean him. His mouth was so giant; he looked like Mick Jagger.
    The overwhelming love of a mama starts immediately.
    I couldn't stop gazing into Toby's squinting eyes and stroking his wet little head.
    This is the photo we sent to our families from Alex's phone that morning.
    Toby looks so regal and proud of himself in this photo! (And he had the hugest puppy-dog hands! They looked like they were made of clay.)
    There's nothing sweeter than seeing your husband hold your new baby. (Fun fact: Alex had held a baby maybe twice in his life before this.)
    After the doctors had left the room, Alex came close to me, and I cuddled Toby in my arms and gave him his first feed. He latched right on to the breast, and it was so cozy and intimate. I felt such overwhelming waves of love, and everything felt perfect and wonderful. The way our bodies work is so amazing; your body grows a baby (a baby!), delivers it and then feeds it with milk. I also have such great newfound respect for all mothers for bringing their babies into the world, and for babies for doing such a great job being alive.

    Remembering that day still makes me weepy. Thank you so much for reading our story and being so lovely throughout our pregnancy, as well. It has been such a joy to share everything with you. This week I'll share a few photos from the rest of our hospital stay, and Alex would love to share his side of the birth story, as well. xoxoxoxoxoxoSource URL:
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