Goodness, it feels like it has been forever since I have had a chance to sit down and share any type of news with all of you. I have been wanting to write a general family update for weeks, but something always pops up that keeps me away from my computer. It feels like a roller coaster ride with lots of sweetness, but new obstacles constantly popping up. I actually started writing this update before Christmas and life sent us a few new plot twists, so I’m basically scrapping my first draft and trying all over again.
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It has been really difficult to find time to blog for the past three months (more on that soon). Honestly, the only reason I have a chance to finally sit down and write anything is that I came down with a low-grade fever on Tuesday night that turned out to be strep and I was trying to keep my distance from the kids as much as possible. My mom came over to help with the kids on Wednesday and the plan was for me to try and stay locked away in my bedroom as much as possible, but Dessa got very upset knowing that I was in the house and unavailable to her, so I spent part of my time watching her play upstairs while my mom took care of Harvey on the main floor. It’s more of a compromise than I wanted to make, but it kept Dessa calm and it allowed me to stay far away from Harvey.
I have so many things to share with you and I don’t know exactly where to begin, so let’s start on a positive note about Harvey and the very big news that he is now sleeping through the night! My birthday was November 30 and Harvey slept through the night for the very first time that night – a solid 7 hours and 19 minutes of sleep (I know the exact time thanks to the SNOO bassinet we rented that serves as Harvey’s bed right now.) I must say, it was a very thoughtful birthday gift from such a tiny little guy. Harvey has been sleeping soundly through the night most evenings since then and has even worked his way up to 10-hour stretches of sleep. Needless to say, we are very proud of our little man for hitting that milestone.
There are so many things to love about Harvey and he has been the perfect addition to our family. He smiles and coos, love to be snuggled and stares in fascination at his big sister whenever she is around. He also miraculously manages to sleep through all of Dessa’s jumping, screaming, singing and general noisy play throughout the day.
Harvey takes after his big sister in so many ways – including his strength. I will always remember how she came out of the womb determined to hold her head up on her own and Harvey does the exact same thing. He wants to get a good look at everything happening around him and is always trying to push his head off a cozy shoulder to get a better look around.
He also started rolling over when he was 10 days old. (Believe me, I know how crazy that sounds.) He rolled over for the first time right in front of me during tummy time and I thought, “There is no way you could have just rolled over by yourself. You must have been propped on your arms when I laid you down.” So I put Harvey back onto his tummy, made sure to relax his arms and watched him roll over AGAIN. I still didn’t quite believe it, so I didn’t even bother taking a milestone photo because it seemed like such a fluke. When he rolled over again two days later, I finally took his photo with the “Today I rolled over for the first time card.” (Harvey, I’m so sorry that I didn’t believe you the first time you did it!)
These days we can’t get through 10 minutes of tummy time without Harvey rolling over several times. Dessa thinks it’s hilarious and cracks up every time I have to roll him back onto his tummy.
The other big news with Harvey is that he seems to be following his sister’s path in one particular not-so-fun way. The poor little guy has food allergies. Our journey with Harvey’s allergies started in mid-November after seeing Harvey squirm from gas pain for several days. Over the course of the past several weeks, we worked to eliminate dairy and soy from my diet and switched Harvey’s supplemental formula to Nutramigen, which is hypoallergenic and specially formulated for baby’s with dairy and soy intolerance.
Things still weren’t quite right and I suspected that there was a third food in my diet giving Harvey trouble so we tried cutting breastmilk completely and exclusively feeding Harvey Nutramigen. It took a few days, but we soon realized that the Nutramigen was actually hurting Harvey more than it was helping him. The poor boy screamed and had terrible diaper rashes during that time. So, we changed directions once again and I attempted to exclusively breastfeed Harvey for several days. The diaper rash disappeared along with the screaming, but Harvey was still pretty fussy and I started to worry that I wasn’t producing enough breastmilk to sustain the little guy. We made an appointment on Saturday with the pediatrician for a quick check and a weigh-in and then everything changed again.
During the appointment, we found out that Harvey had only gained two ounces in a month’s time and it is a serious cause for concern. We are still trying to conclusively determine exactly which foods are upsetting his tummy and if there is anything else going on in his gut that we need to be concerned about. We switched to a super-special, very expensive baby formula called Elecare that is amino acid-based rather than milk-based and plan to take Harvey to a GI doctor as soon as we can get an appointment. We had to jump through a lot of hoops with the pediatrician and our health insurance to get a prescription for the formula, but were happy to discover that we can order it online at Walmart.com at a significant savings without a prescription. (It’s still not cheap, but we won’t go completely bankrupt if we order it online.)
In the past few weeks we have come up with several plans to safely feed Harvey and his little gut keeps sending curveballs our way that send us right back to the drawing board. It has only been a few days on the new Elecare formula, but he guzzles several bottles a day, his diapers look a lot better and he’s a much happier baby. I’m optimistic that he is finally on track and will hopefully begin to comfortably gain weight again soon. This morning I took Harvey to the chiropractor for a little reassurance that his body is in fact handling the new formula well. She couldn’t find any issues with Harvey and the Elecare and I am breathing easy for the first time all week. We still need to meet with a GI doctor and it was a challenge to schedule an appointment earlier than mid-March. Luckily, our pediatrician was able to pull a few strings and help us get in to see a pediatric GI next week.
I told you a lot was going on with our family – and that’s just Harvey! Dessa has proven to be an amazing big sister. She adores her brother, dotes on him throughout the day and has been such a great little helper. Dessa has also been going through some big changes over the past few months.
The biggest news is that Dessa completed her first round of ISR swim lessons this fall! ISR lessons are not your typical once-a-week-have-fun-in-90-degree-pool-water type of lesson. Drowning is the #1 cause of death in infants and toddlers in the US and ISR teaches young children to save themselves in a drowning situation. The schedule is rigorous and a big commitment. Dessa’s lessons were for 10 minutes every weekday for 6 weeks straight. Yes, you read that correctly. 10 minutes a day. 5 days a week. One day I hope to write an entire blog post about our experience because it was amazing to see what my little girl is capable of and it gave me hope about water safety rather than fear.
Dessa did a great job with her first round of lessons, but maintenance and refresher swim lessons are highly recommended in the ISR program. Dessa actually started a 3-week course of refresher lessons this week. The schedule is the same as before. 10 minutes in the pool 5 days a week.
She already missed two days of swim on Wednesday and Thursday this week because I was under the weather and Rob’s schedule was just too busy for him to take her. The lessons are tough and she works hard for those 10 minutes, but Dessa is doing a great job in the pool once again.
The other big milestone in Dessa’s life is that she had her first experience in a classroom setting. I enrolled Dessa in a weekly Mommy & Me class at the school where I used to teach. It’s also the same school I attended as a child and I always envisioned my own children receiving an education there as well. For a number of reasons, it makes more sense for Dessa to attend a different Catholic school that’s closer to home, but I love sharing experiences with Dessa in a place that’s close to my heart and she is always excited to go to school with Mommy.
In other news, we started sleep training with Dessa last week to help her sleep through the night. Our little girl used to be an amazing sleeper and for some reason, it all started to unravel this past spring. We would have several weeks in a row of Dessa waking multiple times in the night with an occasional night of sound sleep thrown in just often enough to delay formal sleep training. Rob and I knew we needed to do something to get her sleep back on track, but it never felt like the right time and we figured a calm, predictable schedule and home environment were what she needed.
But then we got a big girl bed.
And then the baby came.
And then it was the holidays.
Rob and I told ourselves that we would ride out the holiday frenzy and then get back start with sleep training after the new year. We had great success getting Dessa to nap in the crib when she was 6 months old by following the advice of Dr. Richard Ferber in the book Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems and reread several chapters as we prepared to get Dessa’s sleep back on track. His method of sleep training is a bit of a process but it basically involves putting a baby gate across Dessa’s doorway at night to keep her in her bedroom and gradually making her wait for longer periods of time before we come to comfort her. Even then, we don’t step foot in her bedroom. We wipe her tears, give a hug and a kiss and encourage Dessa to close the door and climb back into bed by herself. Once she gets a hug from us, she is typically very agreeable to get back into bed.
The first night she just had to wait one minute for us to come and see her. The second night she waited three minutes, the third night was five minutes, etc. It has been nearly two weeks and if Dessa wakes up tonight, she will have to wait 20 minutes for us to come and comfort her. Now that we are pretty far along in the sleep training process, Dessa crawls back into bed by herself within a few minute’s time and a few times she has actually slept through the night! The progress is definitely slower than we would like and Dessa has recently started to resist her naps (which is a whole different story), but the fact that she often goes back to bed by herself without any intervention is promising. We just need her to figure out that would be much easier and less sad if she would simply stay in bed to begin with.
As you might imagine, life at home with a baby and a toddler keeps me busy and exhausted. The first day of dealing with strep this week was rough. The second day felt like vacation. The antibiotics had already kicked in to relieve my symptoms and I spent the day quarantined in bed to avoid carrying any other germs through the house. I spent the day curled up in bed with my laptop, sipping on tea with honey, eating snacks and enjoying the peace and quiet while the kids were at my mom’s house. It’s funny that it took me getting sick to finally get a chance to sit in bed and finally get the rest that my body has been deprived of for months. I’m also incredibly thankful that my mom was able to take care of the kids while I recovered. I’m honestly not sure what we would have done without her help.
I am extra thankful for a quiet day and good news about Harvey because these past few months have been tough. Harvey is such a great baby and Dessa is an amazing big sister, but that doesn’t make my job as a full-time stay at home mommy an easy one.
Earlier this summer, Rob and I took a look at our budget along with my daily schedule and decided it was time for us to hire a part-time nanny. We interviewed several candidates, invited two potential nannies into our home, and pretty much tossed a coin for which one to hire because both women seemed perfect for the job.
We had a whole plan for how it would all unfold. I was pregnant at the time and expecting Harvey to be born in early October. Our nanny started the first week in September so that we could all get acclimated and comfortable with each other while life was still somewhat simple with one child. We figured she would have a few days off when the baby finally arrived and I would give myself six weeks to slowly adjust to life with two children before putting any pressure on myself to work. After six weeks, I intended to start getting back into the swing of things and begin creating content again for the blog.
It was a great plan and Dessa absolutely loved our new nanny, but the plan unraveled very quickly due to a lack of consistency. Something was always happening in the nanny’s life that required changes to our schedule. Sometimes she had to leave early, sometimes she needed to reschedule and there were several workdays that were just canceled altogether. She was a lovely young woman and there was always a good reason for the schedule change, but it was killing me. I was never able to settle into a routine. Worst of all, I would be devastated when I had plans to catch up on a week’s worth of errands and work only to discover at the last minute that our nanny wouldn’t be coming over that day and I would have to scrap all that I hoped to accomplish. Things were definitely not working and I didn’t want to disappoint our nanny by letting her go, but I also couldn’t continue on the current path. Thankfully, just as I was about to reach my breaking point, she let me know that she was interviewing with other families and politely gave me her two-week notice in mid-November.
I was happy to be spared an uncomfortable conversation and eager to find a new nanny, but I dreaded starting from square one with the screening and interviewing process. On a whim, I texted the other nanny candidate (let’s call her Jessica) that we invited into our home during the interview process to see if she had any part-time availability. She let me know that she was currently working part-time with a family around her school schedule but she would be willing to consider a move if we could offer more consistency.
Consistency! That one word was music to my ears and I was ready to hire her that very instant. We made arrangements for her to come and visit, meet the baby, and discuss the possibility of her working for our family. The visit was comfortable with easy conversation and we offered her the position on the spot. Jessica requested a few days to consider the offer before making a decision. It’s always difficult to disappoint anyone (let alone a whole family) and I respected that she needed some time to think about the best course of action. I was fairly confident that she would accept our offer because it truly sounded like we were a better fit for her needs, but Rob and I sat on pins and needles for those days as we patiently waited for her response. At last, I received the text I had been waiting for – that Jessica was excited to be our new nanny and would be willing to start after Thanksgiving.
Even though Jessica has only been working with us for a few weeks, she feels like the perfect fit for our family and we adore her. The holidays and my current strep situation have postponed the stability that I have been craving and the six-week maternity leave I anticipated has now stretched into week FOURTEEN. But I’m feeling pretty confident that my productivity will finally take a turn for the better next week.
The past few months haven’t gone the way I envisioned and Harvey’s digestive issues threw us for a loop, but things have otherwise been going as well as they could. I survived the haze of caring for a newborn, feel like I finally got my body back after a long postpartum recovery and Harvey’s gummy little smiles could light up a room. It’s no secret that I’m his favorite person in the world. His eyes search for me whenever he hears my voice and once he finds me, it’s hard to get that sweet boy to pay attention to anyone else.
I find it to be incredibly difficult and stressful to get both kids and all our gear out the door in a timely manner on my own, but each time I am able to get out I feel like supermom. Harvey has already made two appearances at the Moms & Tots group that Dessa and I have been attending for the past year.
I was extra proud when I was able to take both kids to the zoo in our fancy new Baby Jogger stroller on a particularly warm afternoon a few weeks ago. That was an especially good day and I even have photographic proof that it happened (you can’t see Harvey, but sitting behind Dessa in his infant carrier.)
Raising a toddler is hard. Caring for a baby is hard. And the feeling of being cooped up with a baby and a toddler is the hardest of all. I desperately miss our morning walks through the neighborhood and I can’t wait until spring when the weather will finally be warm enough to take Harvey outside for an extended length of time so we can finally get a little fresh air, exercise and a change of scenery.
Now that you’ve had a full update on Harvey, Dessa, and my life at home with the kids, I’m sure you’re curious to know how Rob is doing. Thankfully, there aren’t many changes to report in his life – which is good because our family thrives on anything that’s stable and normal. Rob wakes up early and helps as much as he is able with the kids and a few household tasks before he leaves for the day and I’m always happy to see him walk through the door in the evening.
People often ask me what kind of law Rob practices and I usually say that it’s super boring stuff. Not criminal law, not a lot of litigation. He mostly works with schools and cities. The kind of work that Rob especially loves is helping schools and cities borrow money through bonds. It’s sort of a specialized kind of law and right now Rob is in high demand – which means he has been busy. It’s been great for Rob and his firm that he has so many new clients and opportunities to help them grow, but when it rains it pours. The past few days of me being out of commission with strep have been especially trying for Rob. He worked long busy days, made dinner, put the kids to bed on his own and then had to clean the kitchen, sterilize bottles, and get the house in order before he could finally call it a night. His days were long and hard and I’m especially thankful for his support this week.
I have absolutely no idea how he finds the energy, but when I’m ready to pass out at the end of the night, Rob often kisses me goodnight and stays up reading a book or playing video games. I’m usually unconscious in bed around 10:30 and he somehow manages to stay up an hour (or more) later than me even though we both wake up at the same time each morning. I don’t it, but Rob definitely works every bit as hard as I do and he enjoys the extra time to unwind at the end of the day, so good for him!
Those are all the big highlights that have been been going on with our family these past few months. Things have been crazy and lately it seems like something in our family is changing every single day. As long as Harvey’s little gut continues to improve, Dessa keeps on being a great big sister and everyone stays healthy; we should be in pretty good shape from here on out. And now that we are finally settling into a consistent routine from our new nanny, we hope that you’ll be hearing a lot more from us in the near future.
If you actually made it to the end of the post, THANK YOU so much. Not just for caring enough to stop by the blog for an update, but for reading every.single.word of this incredibly long post. We love you extra for that!
Jena Connaghan says
Any chance you could talk about the hiring process of a PT nanny more? Any tips/advice? Just curious if looking back there is something you should have picked up on? I’m due in April with our first and work from home and will need a nanny starting in July.
Maria Gavin says
That is a GREAT idea for a future blog post and I’ll try my hardest to publish it sometime this spring. To address your more specific question, when I look back on the nanny that didn’t work out, I think she viewed herself as more of a babysitter. And to be honest, she acted more like a babysitter than a nanny. The two nannies that have worked for us had daycare experience and a little more knowledge and insight about caring for children all day on a regular basis. She was also on the young side. Next time we hire, I will interview any good candidates, but favor nannies with daycare and/or long term NANNY experience. It also helps a lot if you give a potential nanny the opportunity to ask YOU questions. If they ask thoughtful questions about whether or not you will use pacifiers, disposable diapers, how you feel about rocking children to sleep, etc. it is a VERY good sign that they take the job seriously.
Mia G says
Oh wow! So much going on! I’m glad you were able to find a nanny that fits well into your lives! I hope that it continues to smooth out, Harvey starts to feel better once his issues get solved, and everything just goes better! Can’t wait to hear more from you :)
Maria Gavin says
Hello Mia and thank you so much for your sweet comment! Harvey is feeling MUCH better these days and I’m so relieved to not worry about his little tummy. The nanny is at the house now and I’m enjoying a bit of quiet work time before I have to race out the door with Dessa to get her to swim on time. Lots of baby steps over here toward becoming productive again :)
Wow- what a great update – Glad you have found some reliable help! I am a Single Mom by Choice- so I had my kids on my own. Just me and them everyday on my own (except for daycare and eventually school)! . They are 3 years apart. I recall those hazy days when the second one was an infant and the older one was in preschool. Getting out of the house with two little ones is a struggle but quite doable if you are organized (I am such a type A that we were still alway early for everything!) Although it was hard, I miss those days – mine are now 17 and 20!
Maria Gavin says
Oh my goodness, I can’t imagine raising two kids on my own and I am seriously impressed by anyone who is able to accomplish it without the extra help of a partner. The fact that it’s winter is KILLING me because everything takes 10x longer when you have to warm up the car and bundle up, but I’m trying not to wish these crazy days away <3