Welcome baby Baxter!!

“I can’t feel my hands.  How can I sign the paper if I can’t feel my hands?  Also, I have to push. NOW”.  Scribble, scribble.

Surely the nurse at Mercy Hospital thought I was a huge b*tch.  But this baby was coming, and I wasn’t going to have it in the hospital lobby.

The morning had started like most of our Sundays, with breakfast and a long walk.  I went my parents for my birthday BBQ, leaving Fred and Charlotte at home to meet me later.  But within a few minutes of Fred’s arrival, he had me hobbling into the car with contractions that were 6-7 minutes apart, out of nowhere.  “This will take all afternoon” I thought.  I probably had just walked waddled too far that morning.  We drove 2 miles home and mentally prepared to hang around the house….but by the time I got up the stairs, we were turning right back around.

1:40pm:  “Call the midwife!  Tell her…..”  (woah, big one.  breathe, breathe, breathe).  “Tell her I can’t talk and I might throw up!”  She advised us to line up childcare for Charlotte (done), pack our bags (done) and get to the hospital.  This was just an hour after the first contraction.

Fred was breaking every traffic law he could, calling Aunt Julia and speeding through red lights amidst my urging to “go faster!”  Scarborough to Portland is a long drive when your contractions are 3 minutes apart.  Gripping the seatbelt and digging my heels into the floor, it was all I could do NOT to push.  We fled the car and left it (running) in the traffic circle at Mercy hospital, where a security guard sauntered over with a wheelchair.  “I have to push!”  I tried to scare him into moving faster.  Faster!

The moment I stood from the wheelchair, my water broke all over the floor.  “Just breathe through this one, and in between the next we will get onto the bed,”  Ellie the midwife soothed me.  Her voice was the only calm thing in the room.  All around me nurses flitted about and Fred nervously held my shaking hands.  I later found out that Ellie was already holding the baby’s head as I stood in the middle of the room.

Six minutes and three pushes later and I heard the sweet, hiccuping little cry of a baby–a boy!–as I struggled to lay down.  My eye caught on the clock next to the bed.  2:22pm, just 13 minutes after I’d shouted at the nurse who wanted me to sign papers.

Frederick Baxter Follansbee, known to us as Baxter, joined this world ten days early.  6 pounds, 10 ounces and 19 inches long.  Like most things (ok, everything) in my life now, this post took me forever to write.  Things just don’t seem to happen on time, or efficiently anymore!

Baxter’s birth was the last thing that happened quickly around here.  So quickly, in fact, that Papa has already dubbed him “Speedy”.  This boy was in a hurry to join the party, and nothing was stopping him.  But if given the choice between Charlotte’s 14+ hour labor and his 13 minute debut, I’d take his any day!  [click on the pictures to enlarge].

September 7, 2014.


Feeling boobie

I’m in a facebook group for breastfeeding moms called The Boobie Group.  It’s Portland-area moms that have met through Mercy Hospital, Maine Med, BirthRoots, or cyberspace.  All of us have babies around the 6-7 month age, and all of us started out breastfeeding.  We share stories, we ask questions, we seek advice, and we ask for commiseration.  I read The Boobie Group facebook page almost daily.

But here is my problem:

To find The Boobie Group (it’s a secret group), I have to type “BOOBIE”  in the search bar at the top of facebook.  And more than once, I have mistakenly typed “BOOBIE” not into the search bar, but into my own status update.  You know, the one that asks you “What’s on your mind?”  <BOOBIE>  I have caught myself nearly every time (I think?  I hope?!).  But there will inevitably come a sleep-deprived day where my facebook will simply proclaim “BOOBIE” for all the word to see.

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If you see this someday, feel free to raise your eyebrows or write a little joke on my wall.  But it actually might not be far from the truth.  I really am feeling pretty boobie these days.  (think boobie as an adjective, not a noun).

It’s the end of summer, and I finally, officially have to go back to work.  I was home with Charlotte for twelve amazing weeks, returned to school for a short bit, then had another glorious ten weeks off with her.  [I am spoiled.  Yes, I know.]  And as I look back on what we’ve done for the past ten weeks, I realize how much fun we had, and how I thoroughly enjoyed it.  But what do I have to show for it?

Not much.

Not much meaning that we didn’t hike a lot of mountains, run a lot of miles, read a lot of books, or travel to a lot of places.  I didn’t leave the country, the same book from January is still on my nightstand, and I don’t have a tan.  I used to measure my summers by things accomplished and fun had with friends.  What have I accomplished this summer?

I’ve changed an average of 9 diapers a day for ten weeks.

I’ve breastfed Charlotte an average of 8 times a day for ten weeks.

I’ve pumped three times a day–every damn day–for ten weeks.

The funny thing about feeding and diapering a baby is that once you do it…you have to do it again.  And again.  And again.  There’s really no checking it off the list.  I read another blog recently about the ‘treading water’ nature of mothering.  Each day is busy and blurry.  You may have done a lot, but you’re not anywhere different the next morning.   aka, feeling boobie.

So tonight, on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, I’m sitting at my computer at 7pm in my pajamas.  My hair is frizzy, my skin is pale, and I don’t even have a glass of wine within reach.  I’m feeling pretty darn boobie.  The milk that I’ve worked so hard to feed Charlotte with this summer?  Gone through her system and out into hundreds of diapers…all of which have been picked up on the last ten Wednesdays by the garbage truck.   My summer cannot be measured, because there is nothing tangible left over.  We lived, eat, slept, and dreamed breastfeeding this summer (fred included–you cannot and will not successfully breastfeed without a supportive and willing partner).

I think, quite literally, all I have to show for it are the few pictures that remind me how much Charlotte has grown and learned in ten weeks:


I don’t mean to sound like I’m complaining.  But let’s be honest, I am.  I’m just feeling pretty boobie about the fact that in a few days, I have to resume my day-care-drop-offs and pumping-at-work-madness.  4pm on a weekday will soon be my new happy hour 🙂

Adventures in sleep training

[Note: I took a workshop at school this week on teaching writing, and the best part was that we actually got to put ourselves in our students’ shoes and write!  Here is the result, with a little bit of help from my peer writing partner!]

It was dark in the room, and so I woke with a fuzzy head.  I had to struggle from under the blankets to be able to see the clock.  1:00am, exactly.  “How funny”, I thought, “that I woke at 1:00am on the dot.  Reaching my arms from under the warm cozy cocoon, I felt above my head for the baby monitor and pressed the VIDEO ON button.  Just as I suspected.  Awake and fussing.

1:00am turned to 1:10am and the fussing dissolved into crying.  1:10 turned to 1:20 and the crying wasn’t stopping.  Uh oh, I thought.  I’m in trouble.

Twenty minutes is a long time.  Should I go down there?  Should I not?  1:24, 1:25…

1:30am, I’ll call Fred.  Hopefully he hears his phone.  He’ll tell me what to do (why am I incapable of being decisive at all hours of the night?  Daytime is a different story.  We have routines and plans, and expectations.  I am the boss.  Nighttime, all bets are off).

“Hello, you’ve reached the voicemail of Fred Follansbee…”

Once, twice, six times, nine times, no answer.  Damn him.  Probably had a couple beers down there in Florida, and maybe even went to bed at 8pm.  Because he could.

I pull the book off my nightstand.  I didn’t bargain for doing this sleep training thing by myself.  Surely reading will take my mind off the screaming baby and hopefully calm my nerves too.  But the sentences blur together, and I read and re-read the same paragraph.  1:46, 1:47.  Should I go down there?

I pull my phone off the nightstand.  Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest.  I try to get lost in the beautiful pictures of things I could make (if I had the time), clothes I could buy (if I had the money).  But still, the crying and the choking sobs pull me back.  I press the VIDEO ON button every 90 seconds, checking for…what?  I don’t know.  She’s still there, kicking violently.  She’s still there, flailing as if she were falling.  Watching her is worse than just hearing her.

1:58am, it’s been nearly an hour and it seems as though she’s wearing herself out.  The cries are thinning, and no longer sound like her vocal chords are ripping to shreds.  She even takes a few breaths here and there, leaving me with a nanosecond of quiet.  I close my eyes.  I can, maybe, go back to sleep if she does.  An hour isn’t really that bad, and thank god I don’t have to work tomorr…

1:59 crap!  I jinxed it!  Her cries swell again, and with their every rise I feel new beads of sweat slide down my forehead.  I sit up.  I lay down.  I looked for my Ferber book to tell me what to do.  Should I go down there?

“Hello, you’ve reached the voicemail of Fred Follansbee…”

I can’t.  I shouldn’t.  The last 59 minutes will have been for nothing.  She will only have learned that if she cries long enough, Mommy will come.

It’s another sweaty, guilty nineteen minutes before I resolve that in the morning, we are DONE with cry-it-out sleep training.  As long as she can actually go back to sleep tonight.  Pillow over my head, baby monitor on Fred’s side of the bed.  Somewhere around the 90 minute mark, she stopped.  2:32am.  Will she hold a grudge?

Transition and Adjust

While out for a [rare] run together a few weeks ago, Fred and I confronted a huge hill.  We were running in uncharted territory while on vacation with my family.  And this hill?  I’m talking steep and long–maybe a quarter mile or more.  Per our usual agreement, I let him power up and we’d meet at the top.  I diligently put one foot in front of the other, keeping my eyes glued to the ground.  After a whole song on my ipod, I did what I try never to do: I looked up, thinking I must be almost at the top.  Wrong!  Fred was distantly ahead of me, and he wasn’t even at the top yet.

But, gluing my eyes back to the pavement, something strange started to happen.  My breathing slowed.  My footsteps got lighter.  The hill got easier.  And I began to close the distance between me and Fred, which never happens.

Throughout the rest of our four miles back home, I kept asking myself why–how–did the hill get easier?  We don’t run hills often.  Heck, we don’t even run often.  The hill was steep, and nearly half a mile long when I mapped it afterwards.

So how did it get easier when it should have been the worst part?

The only answer I can think of is transition and adjust.

If you keep going uphill long enough, your legs will get tricked into thinking that this is the new normal.  Your muscles will transition, and your stride will adjust.  What was once hard gets easier.  Uphill feels flat.

So why the story about running on a blog about motherhood?

Transition and adjust seems to be the only thing that is propelling Fred, Charlotte, and me forward these days.  Just when we seem to get a handle on routines, something gets in the way… work, or a new developmental phase, or extended family and special events.  We mastered breastfeeding and it was soon time to transition to bottles and pumping.  We conquered the nighttime routines, and it was necessary to transition Charlotte to her own bedroom, and then go on vacation.  We developed a feed-nap-play schedule, and suddenly it’s time for solid foods and teething.

I’ve often said to Fred that just when I gain my confidence and get a handle on one thing, there is something new to tackle.

If you go without good sleep for long enough, you will get used to the lagging blurry feeling.  You will perform on less sleep than you ever thought possible, and you’ll even find time to work out even though you really could be napping.  Sleep deprivation is the new normal, and so you trick your mind and body into handling it.

If you pump often enough at work, you will get used to the prickly feeling that anyone could walk in at any second.  You’ll find tricks to clean your pump faster, pump your milk faster, and get your work done too.  Pumping has to be a part of the routine, so you transition and adjust.

After my first few days back at work, I tearfully told Fred that I couldn’t do it.  I was drowning in a sea of pumping at work, washing 500 bottles a week, carting Charlotte to and from daycare, and still trying to be a decent teacher and a good mother.  “I can not make all of the milk, make some of the money, make dinner nightly, and make us all happy too.”

To be completely transparent, summer vacation hit just around the time of my breaking point.  We are more than surviving right now.  We have free time!  We run!  We do fun things!  So this is not a success story {yet} but rather a harbinger of things to return in September.

A big transition and adjust will have to occur, perhaps our biggest yet.  I’m not sure what that means.  It may mean take-out more than cooking… or a less than clean house… or even a compromise between a little bit of formula and a lot of breast milk.  But Charlotte will be seven months old, and we will have successfully made it through seven months of exclusive breastfeeding.  A huge steppingstone toward the 11 months that we’re aiming for.

At the moment though, we’re working on introducing solid foods.  It’s not always smooth.  Milk is no longer 100% of the menu, and I’m having a harder time with that than Charlotte is.  But, transition and adjust.  Just when things get easy, they get hard again.  We do nothing constant, except the constant transitioning and adjusting.  Being a mom is like running hills multiple times a day/every day.  And I used to think marathon training was hard?

I would never… (fill in the blank)

With Mother’s Day coming soon, I’ve been thinking a lot this week about being a Mom to this tiny little lady…and my growing and changing relationship with my Mom, now that I’m 31 and a mom myself.

If you were to ask my mom, she’d tell you that I’m a pretty stubborn person.  She’ll also tell you that she knows me so well.  Both things are entirely true.  And both things probably required a lot of patience on her part.  You see, in my late teenage and now adult years, I have been very fond of the phrase “I would NEVER…(fill in the blank)”.  And yet, some of those things that I claim I will ‘never’ do, I end up doing.

When I was a senior in high school and looking at colleges, I told my mom I would never go to college in Maine.  “It’s too close to home, I gotta get out of here” I told her, refusing to look at Bowdoin or Colby.  Offering to take me school shopping in Freeport one Saturday, my mom drove right past the Freeport exit and right up to the Bowdoin admissions office, where she signed us up for a campus tour.  “But Mom,” I protested, “I would never apply to Bowdoin!”

Six months and an early application later, I had not only applied to Bowdoin but had moved into the dorms for my freshman year, a mere 30 minutes from home.  (But in my defense, I steadfastedly refused to call home for the first three months, preferring instead to ‘pretend’ I was far away at college.)

Upon graduating from Bowdoin, I moved myself to Boston and got into a fabulous routine of teaching, running, and making new friends.  I was young!  I was single!  I was living the good life!  “We miss you here” my mom would say.  But I declared, with gusto, that I would never move back to Maine.

Foot in mouth?  I now have a mortgage on a house in Portland.

In my mid-twenties and navigating the ever-confusing world of dating, I would sometimes lament to my mom about the latest guy and what sort of thing he was lacking.  “What about Fred?” she would unfailingly ask (with a hopeful tone in her voice).  “MOM!  I would never get back with Fred.  That is so over!”

Well, Baby ‘Bee is the product of a happy marriage with the one Fred Follansbee.  Apparently it’s not so over like I once thought.

My mom listened to all these stubborn, bullheaded statements with a calm face and never once said “I told you so”  (though she’d certainly have the right).  Whether a gentle question, or a subtle nudge in the right direction, she’s always seemed to really get me, knowing what I want before I really do.  There was never a strong hand, never “You need to do x, y, z.”  I was raised to make my own decisions and to consider all angles when doing so.

Admittedly, I am a slow processor.  It takes me a long while to work through things and make decisions.  But I guess moms have the advantage of distance and experience to sense, to feel, and to really know, what is best for their children.  Even when they are dense and stubborn, like my adult self.

I hope that I can give this same kind of support and gentle guidance to Baby ‘Bee as she grows up.  But so far, three months in, I feel like I know exactly nothing about being a mom.  And seeing that my mom made is through 31 years of mothering three kids, I think I have a lot to learn from her.  Happy mothers day!

Dear Baby ‘Bee (Grampies are the best)

Dear Baby ‘Bee,

This week you are 9 weeks old.  I can’t believe how fast the time has flown!  You have finally met everyone in the family, and you are in high demand around here.  Every time I talk to your Grampie on the phone, he asks me “What is Charlotte doing?”  and says that he goes through “Charlabee withdrawal” if he doesn’t see you for a few days.

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Me with my Nana and Grampie when I was about the age you are now…two months old! November 1981.

Your Grampie just decided to change his name from E.G. to Grampie after seeing some pictures of me with my Grampie.  When I was a kid, we used to have so much fun with Grampie.  He had the funniest jokes, and was always laughing.  He told us probably 100 times “I was on my way to fight in the war…and when they heard I was coming they got scared and cancelled the whole thing!”

My Grampie died when I was in 6th grade.  But I remember so clearly what his voice and his laugh sounded like.  I remember doing fun things like floating in his pool, making gingerbread houses at Christmas time, playing basketball in the driveway, and recording home movies with his giant cam-corder.  The things that we did weren’t always big grand special events.  But because they were with my Grampie, they were so special to me.  I am really excited that you get to have my Dad as your Grampie.  Grampies are the best–there is just something special about their giant, warm, strong hands and the funny jokes that they tell with a deadpan face.  You never know if they are serious.  But really, that’s half the fun!

A few years ago, your Dad and I had to decide whether we were going to live in Boston, teach abroad, or return home and live in Portland.  Although you were just a thought back then, we chose Portland and moved ourselves home all because of you; we wanted you to grow up with grandparents close by, just as we both did.

You are lucky to have all four grandparents just across the bridge in South Portland, and they already have big plans for making special memories with you!  Memere and Papa sign hello to you each time they see you, and tell you they love you when we drive away.  I’ve started to learn how to joke with Papa in sign language, and I’m sure he’ll be excited to teach you that too.  They’ll be taking care of you when I go back to school, and I have a feeling you’ll be signing before you can talk!

hanging out with Papa

Nanny and Grampie just moved to their new house, and it has wooded trails out back and a frog pond!  They keep talking about catching frogs, tromping around in your first pair of Wellies, and riding bikes on their dead end.  Right now though, one of your favorite things to do is rock with Grampie.  You nestle right in and fall instantly asleep.  Maybe someday the three of us will travel the world and teach in some far off place.  But for now, you can see your grandparents anytime you want.


Reading with Grampie in his giant rocking chair. I swear he bought this chair just for you!

You are SO lucky, Baby ‘Bee.  Even the most simple thing like eating breakfast will be fun with your Grampie.  He’s really good at making pancakes in the letters of your name, and he’ll challenge you to eat as many letters of Charlotte as you can!  (When I was a kid, I never made it past B-E-T for Betsy).  Just remember, if you are ever wondering whether Grampie is kidding or serious, the answer will always be kidding!



This is Grampie dancing with Nanny at our wedding...do you see now how you can never take him seriously?!

This is Grampie dancing with Nanny at our wedding…do you see now how you can never take him seriously?!

Keep calm…

Throughout the past 40 weeks, Fred’s tagline has consistently been “Keep calm, carry on” (delivered with a slightly ironic, and always jovial British accent).

No matter the situation–a bout of nausea, a disagreement about names, exhaustion so bone deep that I can hardly move, or a wave of overwhelmed feelings that threaten to crumple me– it’s been enough to make me stop and laugh, and actually take a breath and get some perspective.  I owe a lot of my sanity to him, even though I probably throw a lot of insanity his way.

Anyway, while perusing some of my favorite baby websites, I came across the most adorable onesie and knew I’d found the perfect gift for this new dad.  A lot of my pregnancy books and websites talk about a “push present” ; the [ridiculous] idea that a husband should gift his baby mama with a present for carrying around, and eventually pushing out, their offspring.  Forget that.  Rather, Fred is most deserving of a ‘patience present’.  He has remained unruffled, unfazed, and has truly ‘carried me on’ throughout all of this.  So, now he and Baby ‘Bee can keep calm together  🙂