Dear You.

Dear you,

I’ve started and stopped this letter more times than I can count. And now that I’m here I don’t know where to begin. So I’ll just jump in.

It’s been 5 years now since I left you. So much has changed since then. I have changed so much since then. And I’m sure you have too. You may never forgive me for what I put you through, but I’m going to say these things anyway so that I may finally forgive myself.

First, I must admit that much of what we had was good. You were a bright force in my life for many years. You brought me joy and laughter and companionship. You pushed me out of my comfort zone on many occasions. You introduced me to an entire world of people and experiences that I would have completely missed without you. I learned so much from you. And I did love you. Though I know now that it wasn’t the kind of love meant to build a family or a life upon, I did love you. I loved your energy, your charisma, your generosity, your wit and your humor. You were and are a force to be reckoned with, and I loved that about you.

But the truth is that I knew from day one that you were not right for me. There was a quiet voice deep inside me – one that I had not yet learned to listen to – gently whispering “no” for the entirety of our relationship. And while I offer no excuse for how unfair this was to both of us, for me to be so wholly dishonest for so long, I do offer this explanation: I was young and naive.

With the clarity of hindsight and newfound maturity, I can honestly say that I was ill-equipped to handle your love. And I do believe you loved me. I believe with genuine certainty that you cared for me the best way you knew how, despite the fact that it was often not the way I needed you to. I cannot fault you for this – I was never honest about what I needed from you. I lacked both the knowledge of self to even understand what my own needs were and the confidence required to ask for them. This is a battle I still fight. But the ultimate truth is that I could not have known that I wasn’t ready. In all honesty, I now wonder if any 22-year old is ever truly ready. But I had been pulled into the strength of your orbit, and I wanted so badly to be what you wanted me to be. I just didn’t know then how unsustainable that would be.

Looking back now I see that it couldn’t have ended any other way. I needed an Earth-shattering event to shake me awake, to show me how untrue I had been to myself and to offer a path to something more real. But I didn’t go looking for that event – it simply happened. You may never believe that. But after all this time I would admit to seeking refuge if it were true. The truth is that I thought I was happy enough when it happened. I see now that it was probably that contentment that helped me feel confident enough to even start a friendship with Robbie. And I know it may make no sense to you, but I truly believe that what happened next was inevitable. This life that I have now feels so completely right and true to me that I have to believe it is where I am meant to be. I did not seek love outside our marriage. But it found me. And when it did, it was so powerful and all-consuming and so unlike anything I had felt with you that I knew nothing would ever be the same. I knew that even if I didn’t leave you for him, there was no way I could stay. I had seen my true self, and I could never go back to pretending I didn’t know she was there.

So I did the only thing that seemed fair – I left, with haste. I can hear you now: “Fair?! Really? Sure, maybe for you.” But truly, I felt that it was unfair of me to waste any more of your time, to waste even one more day letting you believe that we could be together forever or that I could ever truly reciprocate your love. You deserved so much better than that. You deserved the chance to find someone else to build a life with, who would love you fully and honestly and would give you all the things you wanted without growing resentment.

And I want you to know that what I left you for was absolutely worth it. The love I share with Robbie remains as strong and powerful and all-consuming as it was 5 years ago. Our life and our family are beautiful and challenging and exciting and wonderful. And I say this not to torture you, but rather to let you know with absolute certainty that your sacrifice, though unwelcomed, was not in vain. I did not hurt you for nothing.

So, what I’m really here to say is… I’m sorry.
I’m sorry that I was never honest with you in our relationship.
I’m sorry that I wasted so much of your time.
I’m sorry that I could not love you the way you loved me.
I’m sorry that I married you despite my doubts.
I’m sorry that I ultimately betrayed you.
I’m sorry that my betrayal cost you not only your wife, but also one of your closest friends.
I’m sorry for the shame you must have borne with our divorce, which occurred so suddenly and so soon after our marriage.
I’m sorry that I hurt you so deeply.
I’m sorry for the pain I must have caused your family.
I’m sorry that they must have felt taken advantage of by me.
I’m sorry for the financial and logistical hardship my exit must have created.
I’m sorry for the myriad of ways you must have felt that your life had been turned upside down.
I’m sorry.

It wasn’t easy for me to leave you – I want you to know that. And I have borne years of shame and regret about our story, afraid until now to really tell it for fear of judgment or invalidation of my current marriage. But now, today, I’m letting it go. And if you haven’t already, I encourage you to let it go, too.

In parting, I want to tell you that I wish good things for you. I see that you’re completing graduate school, and I am so proud of you. I know you will do great things with your degree. I am truly happy for you. I wish you love and happiness and success. I hope that one day you may even marry again, if that is what you want.

Go with peace.

With love,

~Jess

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In Real Life: Week 14

Here’s what week 14 looked like for us…

Getting better at sitting up!

Sunday was the perfect day to watch some opening day baseball (even though the Giants blew it in the last inning, like they always do) and to grill some awesome homemade burgers.

I have walked by this piece of art at work hundreds of times, and only this week noticed that it had faces in it. What?

Mark it on the calendar: little ol’ type-A me went on a trip with my family this week, and didn’t pack a single thing until the morning we left. WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME.

Oliver was sure amused by all the open suitcases, though.

Ready for takeoff!

I was hopeful that Jack might stay asleep for the flight to Phoenix, but he woke up not long after takeoff. Luckily it was a short flight, and he was a good boy the whole way.

Southwest always takes good care of us.

Looking awfully cute in Daddy’s hat.

Jack and I finally got to meet Robbie’s grandparents! Grandma was so thrilled to have a baby in her house again.

Jack – who is now in the “I’m terrified of new faces” phase – was not always so excited.

On our first real day there, we had intended to spend the morning at Legoland and the afternoon at the pool. But then we saw the pool and decided, nah, we’d just stay there all day.

There aren’t words to express how excited I was to dress Jack up in swimming clothes. How adorable is this hat?

My water babies! Jack did not appreciate the cold water of the pool, but he did like the hot tub. He actually seemed to enjoy getting to float and kick!

Not a bad place to be trapped under a hungry, sleepy baby.

This looks like a good place for a nap.

We went to a little western art gallery, too. I was sad that we didn’t get much time there, because I could have spent all day looking at this stuff.

We did finally make it to Legoland the next day. (In case you can’t tell, that’s a giant lego octopus, fighting giant lego spacemen. Obviously.)

The builds were seriously impressive. This spaceship actually blasted off every 5 minutes, complete with “smoke.”

Seriously, so cool.

Oh, to be a ten-year old boy.

All aboard!

They did not spare any detail. Not even for the lighting.

Getting tips from the resident “master builder.”

Jack was pretty amused by the large lego figures.

Then, of course, we went back to the pool.

And then pizza with the whole family!

Doesn’t Robbie look just like his grandfather?

I was kind of in love with all the desert plants.

If only spiders didn’t like to lay eggs inside cacti, I would totally get one.

On our last day, we played a round on the putting green.

We put Grandpa on baby watch.

I kinda wish I could have this sign off the Jimmy John’s bathroom door to hang on my own.

Thankfully, Jack slept for almost the entire flight home. I even got a little nap in, myself!

After a long week, it was nice to just be home today. Robbie grilled a tri-tip, and I roasted some asparagus and broccolini. All felt right with the world.

James was happy to spend the whole day in his pajamas and working on the awesome lego set he got at Legoland.

All in all, a very good week!

Have a happy Monday, everyone!

Jack’s Birth Story

I’ve gone back and forth on whether to write this. Especially now, since it’s been so long (Jack is now 7 weeks old, after all). Plus, let’s be honest… who has time to write a lengthy blog post with a newborn in tow? But I feel like I it would be so abrupt to just leave Jack’s story on that last, 35-week pregnancy post. So let’s do this.

(Be warned, this one is long.)

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First, let me say that we had a plan. (Of course we had a plan… this is me we’re talking about.) My doctor wanted to induce on Friday, the 18th. My mom was going to fly in the day before, and we were going to go grocery shopping and finish getting the house ready for baby, and then she was going to take care of James while we were in the hospital. It was all going to work out so nicely.

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So the Saturday before, Robbie had gone to play airsoft and James was with his mom, so I had the house to myself. I spent it doing some last-minute nesting projects. I went to my favorite taqueria for a carnitas tostada (as was my almost daily ritual by this point). An awesome little foot soaker showed up at my door from Sydney, and I soaked my feet for a while in the afternoon. Then I met up with Robbie and some friends for pizza, and we laughed about her experience giving birth in the ER parking lot. We went home and stayed up late watching a movie, planning to sleep in the next day. We left all of the airsoft stuff all over the living room, thinking we’d have Sunday to clean it up. No big deal.

Until I woke up at 4:30 Sunday morning to use the bathroom, and found that my water had broken all over our bed. Funny enough, thinking something like this might happen, I had ordered a waterproof mattress pad from Amazon that was scheduled to be delivered that day. Luckily for us, my type-A medical brain had already put several chucks pads under the sheets on my side, so the mattress was mostly saved.

I phoned in to the labor and delivery department at the hospital to see what we should do. The on-call doctor decided we should come in. Luckily I already had my hospital bag mostly packed, so I threw in the last few things I would need. I showered, thinking it might be one of the last times I’d get to for a while. I texted my mom to tell her she’d probably need to change her flight. I stripped the sheets off our bed and set out our clean set for mom once she got there, unsure if we’d be back to make it for her. I looked at the living room, covered in airsoft gear, and at the piles of towels and other laundry that I had intended to wash on Sunday, and I cringed. I had intended to have my house so much more ready for my mom’s arrival than this. But there wasn’t time to deal with it now. So we  grabbed the bags and the car seat, and headed out the door.

Since I had been told that they probably wouldn’t let me eat while I was in labor, I had Robbie stop at Jack in the Box for a “last meal,” if you will. I knew I still had many, many hours to go, and I was not about to run a marathon on an empty stomach.

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We finally got checked into the hospital somewhere around 6am. Once they got me hooked up to the monitor, we could see that I was having semi-regular contractions, but they weren’t very strong and I could hardly feel them. They chose not to check my cervix, in order to minimize the risk of infection since my membranes were already ruptured. My blood pressure was on the higher side, but basically the same as it had been during the last several weeks of pregnancy. My blood sugar was high, because I had eaten a sandwich for my “last meal”, albeit a very protein-heavy one. The doctor decided we should stay.

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Looking back now, I realize that I probably could have labored at home for several hours had my water not broken. It took quite a while to really begin feeling anything, and there really wasn’t anything to do but walk the halls and watch football. Luckily, the hospital cable had the Broncos game that day (and they did, thankfully, let me eat). I walked a lot and spent a lot of time bouncing on the exercise ball to try to get things to progress. Slowly, they did. By the afternoon the contractions were getting stronger and coming with more regularity (though I didn’t time them, since we were already in the hospital and there wasn’t much point). They began to get uncomfortable, though not much worse than my worst menstrual cramps. I naively thought maybe this wasn’t so terrible. Maybe I could push through and go drug-free.

Now let me say that I really had no expectations going into my delivery. I had decided that I would simply see how I felt as things progressed, and would have no guilt about accepting medications or an epidural if I felt like that’s what I need to get through it. I knew that an epidural could slow my labor, so I wanted to labor naturally for as long as possible, but that was my only wish. Otherwise, I gave myself permission to do whatever I needed to.

By dinner time things had really started to pick up. Each contraction stopped me dead in my tracks. I remember trying to talk to my mom on the phone and being unable to speak as a contraction hit. I had taken to sitting on the exercise ball and leaning over a stack of pillows on the edge of the bed for comfort. By around 7pm I decided to try the bathtub.

The tub was actually really nice. I wasn’t lucky enough to get a room that had its own, so I had to use the tub down the hall that didn’t have working jets, but the warm water still felt really good. But even that soon ceased to provide enough relief. The pain had become so powerful that I dreaded each contraction, and I was afraid to move. And when I finally decided to get out and ask for an epidural, Robbie had to talk me into actually getting out because I was too afraid that moving would bring on another contraction and I wasn’t sure I could handle it.

By 9:30 I gave in and asked for an epidural. Of course, it took some time for the anesthesiologist to arrive and prepare everything, and by then I was borderline hysterical. I could barely talk, could barely open my eyes, and was openly crying. The nurse tried to check my cervix, but I was in too much pain to tolerate her touch. Once the nurse got my IV in she gave me a dose of Fentanyl, which was a total lifesaver. I don’t think I could have gotten through the epidural placement without it. The fentanyl kicked in, they finally got the epidural in, and by 11 I involuntarily passed out from exhaustion and newfound relief.

Somewhere around 1am I woke up very nauseated. After throwing up, I asked the nurse if she could try to check my cervix again. I had heard that nausea was sometimes a sign of transition, and I mentally needed to know where we were at in the process. It’s been so long now, I don’t remember exactly what I was dilated to, only that it was a disappointingly low number, like 2 or 3. I tried not to get discouraged, and went back to sleep. A few hours later, I threw up again. This time I noticed that I was also feeling more pain, especially on one side. The anesthesiologist checked that the catheter was still in good position, and gave me a bolus of medication. He had to do this again later that morning, too, and almost had to a third time until we realized that my catheter was somewhat positional, and a change in position helped the medication reach a more generalized area. Before long my legs felt like they weren’t even attached to me anymore.

Around 6am we noticed that my contractions had slowed. The epidural had slowed my labor, just as I’d feared. By 9am, nearly 30 hours since my water had broken, they checked my cervix again and I was only dilated to 5. With no improvement in my contractions, the midwife (the on call practitioner that day) decided to start Pitocin.

My mom finally arrived around 11:30. As tedious as labor had become, I was grateful that Jack had waited long enough for Grandma to get there. Now we needed him to hurry up! By around 1pm, my contractions had only minimally improved and I was still only dilated to around 7. The midwife opted to increase my Pitocin dose.

Finally, around 3:30, I was fully dilated and ready to push. I had witnessed enough deliveries that I felt like I knew what I was doing, but with the epidural I literally could not feel anything. Robbie held my right leg and my mama held my left, and I pushed. And as long as labor had been, delivery was equally quick. After a mere 45 minutes, my midwife asked me if I wanted to feel his head, and I did! He was right there! And finally, at 4:25pm on Monday, November 14, at exactly 37 weeks, my sweet boy was born. I heard him before I saw him – a perfect, loud, lusty cry. And then they placed him on my bare chest, and I fell in love. Robbie opted to let grandma cut the cord.

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We spent the next few hours getting to know each other, while grandma went to pick up James.

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James and grandma were both smitten.

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The next few days weren’t easy, unfortunately. Jack had some transient tachypnea, and wound up getting 48 hours of IV antibiotics just to be safe. He also got to experience the joys of phototherapy due to a high bilirubin level (jaundice), and wound up staying an extra day once his antibiotics were finished due to that. Luckily for us, our hospital was able to do all of this with him still in our room, so he didn’t have to go to the NICU as he would have at another facility. But between the sleep deprivation, the post-partum hormones, and the stress of these complications, it was a very emotional few days for this mama. And much to my surprise, no amount of NICU experience could have prepared me for how hard it was to see my own baby in pain. I was a bit of a mess.

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But finally, on Thursday afternoon, we got to take him home.

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I was so nervous our first night. I must have gotten up to check on him at least a dozen times.

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But it was so good to be home.

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And now, 7 weeks later, our sweet Jack is a chunky monkey, full of smiles and energy.

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And he’s absolutely perfect. 🙂

Baby Starks: Week 31

Happy week 31, friends! I know I say this every week, but 31 weeks feels like such a big number! Something about being in the 30’s really makes it hit home for me that my due date is coming soon. I feel like there’s still so much to do, and we’re running out of time!

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How big is baby?

Weighing in at an estimated 3.5 pounds and 16 inches in length, baby boy is now roughly the size of a winter squash!

Even though my mom couldn’t stop talking about how big I am the entire time she was here for my baby shower, I don’t feel like I’ve actually gotten much bigger. In fact, I’ve actually lost a little bit of weight since going on the low-carb diet for gestational diabetes. My dietician is actually a little concerned that I may not be eating enough, but man, a girl can only eat so much meat and eggs and nuts. It could be much worse though… there’s a lady at my diabetes clinic who isn’t as far along as I am but is already on two types of insulin to control her sugars. I’m grateful that mine are ok as long as I eat like I should.

How am I feeling?

Well, right now I feel pretty terrible. I have yet another cold, and this one is kicking my butt. I don’t doubt that pregnant women are immunocompromised, because I seem to catch everything this year. I had to come home sick from work on Sunday and took another sick day yesterday, and I still feel pretty deathly today. Aside from sneezing all the time and coughing up gross amounts of phlegm, I feel like I could simply sleep for days.

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Otherwise, my biggest complaints are about my hands. They continue to be numb a lot of the time, and I’m now finding it difficult to hold a pen or pencil for very long, even to do things like write down report at work or color a picture at home. They also now hurt a lot of the time. My knuckles are very sore, and it’s painful to do anything that requires squeezing or pressure from my hands. Mild swelling does not seem to be helping, either, and I’ve given up on wearing my rings.

But enough about complaints… let’s talk about the baby shower! 

We had so. much. fun! My sister-in-law, Chrystal, graciously threw it for us at her house, and she did such an amazing job. From the decorations…

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…to the food…

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…like these adorable baby rattle cake pops that she made herself! I was a good girl all week before the shower, so I ate whatever I wanted that day. I can attest, the cake pops were delicious!

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I wish I’d thought to get a picture of the epic stuffed mushrooms she made. I was too busy stuffing them into my face, because they were so delicious.

We played some hilarious games, like “Pin the Sperm on the Egg”…

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My friend, Lydia, got her little swimmer right on the egg! She’s pregnant, too, due about a month after me, and it seemed fitting for her to have won. 🙂

There was also this hilarious orange drop game….

…players had to put a balloon under their shirts to give them a pregnant belly, then they had to squeeze an orange between their knees (as if they were trying not to pee), and then shuffle a few feet over to a jar that they tried to drop the orange into.

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I don’t think I have laughed so hard in a very long time. Even the guys were great sports.

There was also this awesome photo prop that Chrystal made…

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…it was a big hit, for obvious reasons. 🙂

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And there were so many amazing gifts! The generosity of people never ceases to amaze me. My LPCH coworkers pooled together to get us some big ticket items, like a gliding rocking chair (which I still need to have the boys assemble for me), and the stroller-car seat combo that I never imagined anyone would actually buy for us. I assembled the stroller all by myself the other day, and felt like I deserved a medal after all the swearing from the terrible directions and my belly constantly getting in the way.

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There were also some really amazing handmade gifts, too. Like this adorable Christmas hat that Lydia made…

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…and this picture that Chrystal painted herself, which will go above Baby Jack’s crib.

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The shower was so much fun, and I am so grateful to Chrystal for all her hard work to make it happen! And thank you to everyone who was able to come… you guys know how to make a girl feel loved.

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It was also just a really awesome weekend, having my family in town. It’s hard being so far away from them, especially at times like these, so I really cherish any time I get with them.

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Aside from the shower, we mostly took it easy and spent as much time beside the ocean as we could. I think my mom would move to Capitola Village if she had the chance.

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It was so hard to say goodbye to them.

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I can’t believe the next time I see them I will have a newborn baby!

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I think I’ll leave it there for this week. 🙂 Until next time…

Baby Starks: Week 25

Happy week 25, friends!

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How big is the baby?

Baby is now the size of a papaya! It’s been a long week, so no produce for comparison, sorry.

The other day one of my tracker apps told me that my uterus was now the size of a soccer ball, and I literally laughed out loud because, no kidding! I’m so big that I’m afraid I’m going to have my own gravitational pull soon.

How am I feeling?

The hormones are raging these days. On one hand, I am not sleeping well. No matter how exhausted I feel during the day, I have difficulty going to sleep, and then half the time I wake up at 3 and can’t go back to sleep. With me still working four 12-hour shifts per week with an hour commute each way, this equates to very little sleep for mama. Which, as you can imagine, is extremely frustrating.

Then, in addition to – or possibly due to – the lack of sleep, I’ve been having major mood swings. I haven’t been teary so much as just filled with rage. I get angry so easily now, and I have very little patience for anything inconvenient. And then pretty quickly anger turns into “fuck it” and complete apathy for anything. Which creates stress because I didn’t do what needed to get done, which turns into anger, which turns into continuing to not care about anything. Oh depressive cycle, how I know you well.

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I’m also constantly hungry, yet I seem to have no room left for food. I’ve been having to take breaks in the middle of meals because I simply can’t fit everything in there at once like I used to. Scoot over, little man! I’m also uncomfortable pretty much all the time. Sciatic pain is a real thing, and I’ve become good friends with the tennis ball and the wall. There is also this one spot on the left side of my belly that randomly tightens every now and then for no apparent reason – it’s very distracting!

On the plus side, baby continues to kick away like crazy in there, so much so that Robbie actually got to feel him kick for the first time last week! James is very excited to feel soon, too. He keeps hoping he might even be able to see a little footprint, but I told him that’s not likely to happen, lol.

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Meanwhile, I’m putting the finishing touches on our baby registries in anticipation of our baby shower next month. I’m so excited! My lovely sister-in-law, Chrystal, is throwing it for me, and my mom, sister, and grandma are all flying out to come! Plus, picking things out is so much fun! I’m trying to stay practical and register for really useful (and hopefully not too expensive) things, and staying away from all of the adorable baby clothes that I could easily fill 5 pages with. I don’t even know if I should register for baby clothes at all, since I feel like people will inevitably buy them for us anyway. And how many newborn clothes do you really need? Who knows how long he will even fit into that size? Maybe he’ll be a complete chunk who fits into 3-month clothes after like 1 week! So many things I still don’t know!

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I feel like I’m really getting into “Plan all the things!” mode, too. I’ve been doing some homework on maternity leave for work, and that has me really wanting to nail things down. And since it’s looking like my leave may be shorter than I would really like, lately my brain has been all abuzz trying to learn about increasing breastmilk supply and pumping schedules and how to store it. Again, there is so much to learn, and I feel like there are way more opinions and strategies on it than I could ever possibly hope to master. So I have a feeling baby and I are just gonna have to figure it out as we go along, which isn’t easy for my type-A brain to accept, especially with a short amount of time to figure it out in. But I’m trying not to stress to much about it.

I’m also pretty sure I’m driving Robbie crazy by brainstorming about other things that don’t need worrying about yet, like what to pack in the hospital bag and where to put our not-yet-existent gliding rocking chair. But hey, I’m a Capricorn… planning is what I DOOOO!

Anyway… that’s pretty much it for this update. See you all back in a couple of weeks!