Friday, January 22, 2021

Finance Friday: 2020 Spending

This is certainly the most time consuming post I write each year, but the most useful for me! It was more challenging to write it this year thanks to our clingy newborn! Baby carrier for the win! 

Here are a couple of disclosures before I dive into the numbers:

1. Housing makes up the largest spending category by far as we ended up paying off our mortgage in 2020. I recognize how incredibly lucky we are to be able to do this at our age. I've received questions about why we decided to do this versus investing the money. The primary reason is that we love living debt-free. Phil and I both work in the same incredibly volatile industry so we have no diversification of income. We both feel fairly safe at our jobs, but you never know what might happen. We take great comfort in knowing our monthly expenses are lower thanks to not having a mortgage. Additionally, we both find the equity and debt markets very over-valued - i.e. it's not the best time, historically, to put a large sum of money into the markets. We still max out our 401ks, put money in our boys' 529s, etc. But since the rate on our mortgage was so low (below 3%) we opted to put cash we had saved towards our mortgage instead of investing it in the market. This is one of those 'you do you' decisions and I am sure there are other CFA charterholders (a designation we both hold) that would make a different decision, but it was the right decision for us! Next year our home category should look much more reasonable! Similar to 2019, I took out the payments towards our mortgage - otherwise that piece of the spending pie would be so huge and everything else would look tiny. By taking it out, this pie is more representative of the typical spending decisions we make each year.

2. This chart does not include savings or contributions to things like 529s, 401ks, etc. 

3. This chart does not include payroll deductions for things like health/dental/vision insurance, taxes (I break out extra payments) or charitable contributions. I could easily add these items in but I haven't in the past. The charitable donation is in my control, but the insurance items aren't so I don't feel it's necessary to include them. I do pay the out-of-pocket maximum for insurance each year thanks to my pricy RA meds, but I use my HSA so I don't 'feel' the expense of those items so it doesn't feel like I need to add them to our spending pie.

4. This chart finally includes all of Phil's spending as he added his credit cards to my mint account mid-year. So next year I will be able to make comments about year-over-year spending. It won't be completely accurate since 2020 spending is missing Phil's credit cards during the first half of the year, but he spends so little that it will still be pretty accurate!

Here is how our 2020 spending broke out, with notes on notable categories below!

1. Taxes were once again the largest spending category by far. And this is what we pay IN ADDITION to what is automatically withdrawn from our paychecks! This is the reality of 2 well-compensated people who are married. The marriage penalty is REAL. We both claim 0 allowances and have to make extra tax payments at the end of the year to avoid a penalty for underpaying our taxes come tax season. We have just come to accept this. I really miss my huge refund checks from my single days. Even though I made a similar amount of money, I would always get a refund, even with claiming 1 allowance! That said, we recognize that we should have a higher tax burden than others so I am not complaining about the amount of taxes we pay. 

2. Home was our #2 spending category even without payments toward our mortgage. This category includes home improvement expenses, furniture, house cleaning, and home supplies like toilet paper, cleaning supplies, etc. This line item was higher than usual this year as Phil and his cousin built a new deck, we bought a new fridge, and had the interior walls painted last summer. Plus we bought some new furniture at the beginning of the year as we moved into this house in November so had some purchases to make. We bought end tables, stools, a tv stand, and bedside stands - mostly from Wayfair so they were inexpensive, but still costly!

3. Kids is our 3rd largest category, thanks to daycare! I also went to the trouble of categorizing our Target and Amazon purchases this year instead of having a line item for those stores. It turns out we buy a lot from those stores for our boys! This line item is going to get even bigger in 2021 with a 2nd child in daycare, but it's a worthwhile expense and part of having kids!

4. Groceries was the next largest line item. I didn't have a handle on our grocery spending last year since those purchases were on Phil's credit card (he does all of our grocery shopping - yay!). It's nice to see what we spend and I feel good about it. We tend to not eat out much and that was especially the case in 2020 thanks to Covid (we have only done take-out since late February - can't see us eating in a restaurant until 2022 most likely). Phil started going to Aldi this year and that has certainly resulted in savings! He goes there first and gets as much as he can and then goes to a big box grocery store for the rest. We look at the ads before meal planning so we can take sales into consideration when picking out meals. 

5. Dining out just slightly edged out auto and transport. This category was higher than I expected but over 20% of our dining spending was at coffee shops since I drank a large Starbucks latte every single day during the last 10 weeks of pregnancy which really adds up. This drove my frugal husband crazy but he learned not to say anything. I was in a lot of pain from RA flares and didn't have many treat options due to gestational diabetes so he accepted this as a temporary expense. I can count on one hand the number of Starbucks/Caribou purchase I've made since Will was born so this line item will be back to normal in 2021! We probably order food about 1-2 times/month so we really don't spend much on dining out. Phil buys his lunch on the 2-3 days he goes into the office each week but spends less than $8 so that expense is pretty low. I miss my weekly lunches out when I was working in the office, but will occasionally have him bring me home a salad from my fave place which ends up being $12!

6. Auto and Transport is mostly insurance premiums. We probably drove more in 2020 than years past because Phil drove into work when he went into the office. Pre-pandemic, we took the bus. It's hard to imagine resuming a bus commute for a long time, but maybe by 2022 he can go back to taking the bus. I doubt I will as I think I'll be working from home part of the week going forward (hopefully!). But even with driving in a few days each week, we still don't spend much on gas. This category will be higher in 2021 as we are looking to buy a small SUV like a Rav 4 or CRV now that we have 2 bulky car seats.They do fit in our Camry so we could keep our current car, but we'd also like to have an all-wheel drive car as we've gotten our Camry stuck multiple times when we've had heavy snowfalls. We will sell my Camry and keep Phil's Corolla. I think we will get quite a bit for our Camry as it's only 4 years old and has less than 25k miles on it. When Phil test drove a Rav 4 this month, the sales person was told him our car would be in high demand, especially with our low mileage!

7. Donations and Gifts were split 50/50. My donations used to be a higher percentage of spending but I now primarily contribute to charitable causes through my paycheck since it's easier/automatic!

Other things of note are that shopping and personal care were very low. I can count on one hand the number of times I wore make-up in 2020 and don't expect to wear it very often going forward. This has made my skin VERY happy! I struggle with acne, and had it really bad during Paul's pregnancy but didn't get a single blemish this time around! I did spend some money on maternity clothes, but most were purchased at a pregnancy consignment shop so I didn't spend all that much. I don't expect to buy much for clothes in 2021 either but in 2022, I told Phil I'd like to splurge a bit and hire a wardrobe consultant. A good friend did this and I got to come along on the shopping trip. I'm not great at putting outfits together so I would benefit from having an expert look at what I own, help me determine what to keep, and help put outfits together! I do a lot of zoom calls with clients and would like to look more presentable/polished! But I want to be back at a stable/normal body size so that needs to wait until I am done breastfeeding!


So there you have it! All in all, I feel good about our spending. There are always places that you can cut back, but in general I feel very good about how we spend our money. I know Phil would like us to spend less money because he is incredibly frugal!! But I think splurges like ordering coffees during a difficult pregnancy and hiring a house cleaner are worthwhile and brought me a lot of joy in 2020! We have our cleaners on hold for the first 2 months of Will's life to limit our exposure to others (they do wear masks but a team of 4-6 people come in to clean so we felt it was best to put them on hold). Can't wait to bring them back!

Do you do a deep dive/review of your spending on a regular basis? Besides this annual review, Phil and I sit down each quarter and review our account balances/discuss how we want to invest going forward. 

Friday, January 15, 2021

Baby Will at 6 Weeks

Baby Will is 6 weeks! It’s been the longest shortest 6 weeks. Other parents will understand that sentiment. His birth feels like so long ago and some periods of time feel long (like the difficult nights we’ve had) but the time has gone fast at the same time. He's so much more alert than he was when I last wrote an update at 2 weeks! Here is how he is doing at 6 weeks!

Likes: being held my mom alllll the time. This has not changed a bit in the last 4 weeks. The baby carrier is my VIP baby product. He spends hours in it every day! He also likes to lay on the baby gym when he's in a good mood. 

Snug as a bug in a rug in the baby carrier as we head out for a walk!

Dislikes: diaper changes, baths, being held by Phil (eeks, hope he gets more on team dad soon), pooping and passing gas (he strains so much), and the hours of 5-9 each night. 

Firsts:  He has come along while sledding but is of course oblivious to what is going on since he is in the carrier under layers of warmth. I obviously do not sled with him! I am there to lend a hand to Phil and take videos. We live in a great area for sledding as there are hills just 2 blocks away! 

Feeding: Breastfeeding continues to go well. It is SO MUCH BETTER than pumping!! I have pumped a handful of times but will avoid doing it until I am closer to returning to work. I don’t know how much he weighs but it seems like he is growing well as he outgrew his newborn clothes around 3 weeks due to length! Paul was in that size for 2 months so this kid is so different from Paul!

Sleeping: is still not great. He will give me a 2.5-4 hour stretch at the beginning of the night and then sleeps for 1.5-2 hour stretches after that. Gas/pooping seems to wake him up. His digestive system is still maturing so he really strains to poop or pass gas. I thought maybe it was related to what I am eating but he seems to struggle with it no matter what I eat. I was a bit depressed to look back at my Paul posts and see he was sleeping for 6 hours at the beginning of the night at 6 weeks. Womp womp. That seems so far away for us! But I remind myself we had other challenges with Paul (weight gain). 

Dad:  Phil has been back at work since the week of Christmas. He’s still going on 2-3 days/week which works fine for us since he is honestly not much help during the day since I’m breastfeeding. But he does pretty much everything for Paul! And when he is around during the day he’s great at refilling my water, warming up meals, doing dishes, etc. He has also been cleaning our house as we put our cleaners on hold for the first 2 months of Will’s life to limit our exposure to others. 

Mama: I am feeling pretty much fully healed from my c section. I imagine there is more healing that is happening but I don’t have anymore pain. I have my 6 week check up today and expect to get cleared to exercise. I am taking it easy this month and just going for long walks when the weather allows. I plan to get a beachbody membership in Feb and will ease back into more vigorous workouts then. So overall I am doing well. I just feel really tired and have mastered napping with Will on me during the day. My RA is behaving now that I’m back on my injections so I am tapering off steroids. Getting off those is key as being on prednisone is NOT good if you get Covid! I am still in daily blood thinners injections. I was hoping to be done at 6 weeks but had my evisit with the hematologist on Wednesday and he said I need to stay on them for 6 more weeks. :( I had a blood clot during my last pregnancy and have a genetic mutation that makes me more prone to clots so he feels it’s best to stay on them for 12 weeks post partum. That means I will have been on them for 45 weeks total. I am so glad we are done having kids as I could not go through all of this again. My poor stomach is so bruised!!

Pablo: All in all, he continues to do well. He is very sweet around Will and will ask, ‘are you ok?’ when Will is crying. This week when I was giving Will his bath, he came in and said, ‘I’m here to help!’ I thought that was so cute. He gives Will a kiss on his head each night when he goes up to bed. But he definitely acts out at times. Who knows if that’s related to gaining a brother or just being a toddler! I continue to try to spend one-on-one time with him doing things like reading, playing a game or baking cookies. That seems to really help. The weather has been super mild this month so we get outside after his nap to sled. He has really enjoyed that and it’s an activity that feels one-on-one since you can’t see Will in the carrier. 

We love sledding!

Making monster cookies with mom!

Before Will was born, I told Phil that a baby seemed easy compared to Paul (toddlers can be HARD!) but I am totally eating my words now... It's also a bit more challenging to have a baby during a pandemic as aren't having visitors over so there's no one to hand the baby off to besides Phil. Who knows if that would even help since Will tends to scream for Phil. Ha. But I keep reminding myself that this phase is short in the grand scheme of things and each week should get a little bit easier. And I never take for granted how lucky we were to add a child to our family!!

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Best Books of 2020

Wow. What a week. I'm struggling to come up with worlds to describe how I feel about what went down at the Capitol on Wednesday - but surprised is not one of them given the rhetoric of Donald Trump. I'm just glad there will be a transfer of power in the near future. It won't magically solve the issues in our country but it's a huge step in the right direction.

Now back to the topic at hand - reading! 2020 was an amazing reading year! I know some had trouble concentrating on reading in the midst of the pandemic but I read more than ever and finished 107 books, beating out my 2019 reading by 2 books. When I went through my list of books to pick my favorites, I didn't have a number of books in mind for my best of list - so I ended up with an odd number of 11. I didn't want to pare it back or find a 12th book so 11 it is!


One consequence of the pandemic was that I read less non-fiction than years past as I craved more lighter/happier books to offset the heaviness of life. So only 2 non-fiction books made my "best of" list. Both are excellent. Know My Name is the memoir of a sexual assault victim - our book club read this and everyone thought it was excellent. It's a great examination of how we treat victims. So You Want to Talk About Race is the best racial justice book that I read in 2020. Each chapter delves into a common argument when discussing racial justice. The author weaves in her personal experience and helps the reader discuss controversial topics. This is a book that I would like to re-read as there is a lot to absorb/take in.

Lighter Reads

I read and enjoyed a lot of lighter reads, especially romances, but these are my top lighter reads. The School of Essential Ingredients is about a cooking class that meets at a restaurant once a week. In each chapter, we meet a different class participant and get to know their back story. It was a delightful read. Party of Two is the last book in Jasmine Guillory's romance series - I read all of them during 2020 so that whole series goes on my "best of" list. You don't need to read them in order but I think it's best if you do as characters from previous books make cameos in future books. The Boston Girl isn't necessarily super light but it's not literary fiction so I felt like it fit better in this category. It's an oral history of the protagonist's life when she was growing up in Boston. It was a super fast read so if you need a page turner, check out this book!

Literary Fiction

Literary fiction is my favorite genre so it's no surprise that 6 ended up on my "best of" list! If You Want to Make God Laugh is written by a South African author and takes place in post-Apartheid South Africa. It deals with poverty, class, and race and has 3 narrators - 2 white sisters and a black woman. I love multiple-narrators books and this one was very well done. This Tender Land is by a Minnesota author and takes place mostly in northern MN. It's about 3 orphans who escape an orphanage to seek out a better life. It's so good! Such a Fun Age is an excellent examination of race and class. It looks at the dynamic between a wealthy white woman and her Black nanny. The Dearly Beloved features 2 couples. The husbands are pastors at a church in NYC. It looks at what happens when 2 people in a relationship have different levels of faith. Rodham imagines what would have happened if Hillary declined Bill Clinton's proposal. I had to keep reminding myself this wasn't a memoir and was fiction! Lastly, The Vanishing Half is the amazing sophomore novel from Brit Bennett. I will read anything this woman writes! It's about 2 twin sisters who are lighter skinned Black women. One passes as white, the other retains her Black identity.

And there you have it! William is screaming so it's time for me to wrap this up! What were your best reads of 2020? Did anything on this list catch you eye?

Monday, January 4, 2021

What We Read in December

Happy New Year! Aren't we all beyond thrilled 2020 is behind us? 2021 didn't get off to the best start for my family as my dad needed an appendectomy on New Years Day, but I am glad they were able to do surgery quickly as his appendix was perforated and impacting the tissue around it when they removed it. And he only had to spend one night in the hospital. But hopefully this is the only hiccup for January? 

2020 was a record reading year for me as I read 107 books - 2 more than 2019! I did not expect to read so much in December but Will was up SO MUCH and I read while nursing him so I got a ton of reading in. I did read a lot of light books in December because my brain needed easy reads! I'm hoping to tackle some more heady reads in 2021, but probably not until I'm out of this sleep deprived stage!

Mom's Reads:

I didn't have any duds in December! This first collection of books are the ones I liked best out of the 11 (!!) I read! I'd recommend any of these 4 books! The Invisible Life of Addie Larue took the longest for me to read as I started it right around when Will was born. I was getting 2-4 hours of sleep/night for that first week so my attention span for reading was practically non-existent! But had I read it during a less sleep-deprived stage of life, I would have read it faster. 

This next batch of books mostly features romances with the exception of Open Book by Jessica Simpson and Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout. I enjoyed all of these books, but not to the extent I enjoyed the 4 above. 

Paul's Reads:

Paul received a lot of new books in December between Big Brother gifts and Christmas gifts! I asked him what he wanted for his birthday in March and he enthusiastically said, "BOOKS!" I am so glad we have such a passionate reader on our hands! Here are some of the favorites from the month!

A new "That's Not My" book which was gifted to Will but is something Pablo will enjoy until Will is old enough to enjoy it!

He received 2 Llama Llama books - this is one of his favorite series/authors!

One of several "big brother" books he received. This one is about 2 foxes, which is one of his favorite animals!

"Little Blue Truck Christmas" is easily his favorite Christmas book. There is a tree at the end of the book that lights up. We have all of the LBT books - they are all wonderful!

 How was your month of December? Did you read anything great?

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Currently: December

Christmas has come and gone! And December is almost over. Is anyone sad to see this year come to an end? I certainly am not! I know turning the calendar to 2021 won't make all the problems of 2020 disappear, but at least we have hope that 2021 will be better thanks to the vaccine! Here's what is currently going on in my world!

Reading: 2 books - 60 Million Frenchman Can't be Wrong and Vision in White by Nora Roberts. The first book is a non-fiction book about France - it's written by 2 Canadian journalists who move to France to learn more about how the country works. This is my 'daytime' book. Then at night when I am up for hours feeding/soothing Will, I read Vision in White which is the first book in a series coined the "Bridal Quartet." I was never a 'read multiple books at the same time' kind of person but have found I need something very light and easy for those middle-of-the-night reading sessions! 

Loving: watching Will grow and change. He has already grown out of his newborn clothing due to his length. Paul was in NB size for 2 months so Will is quite the different baby! He's getting to be more alert during the day and his cheeks are getting chubbier! I'm looking forward to longer stretches of sleep, but he's sleeping better than those first 10 days so I'm reminding myself it could be worse.

Feeling: tired! But that is to be expected with a newborn. Napping is tough for me as Will does not want to be put down during the day - and really he'd prefer to be held 24/7 but I can get him to sleep in the snoo at night. It helps to have the perspective of having gone through this before, although Paul slept more and didn't mind being put down in a swing or boppy during the day... 

Thinking: about my fitness plans for 2021. Once I get cleared to exercise at 6 weeks, I'm planning to buy a Beach Body on Demand membership. It's only $99 for a year and you get access to so many different programs. Phil is missing working out, too. He would typically workout at the gym in his office building but that is not happening thanks to Covid. So he might try some of the programs, too. I just hope I can get Will to be cool with being set down for 30 minutes so I can workout during the day. We'll see how that goes - hopefully as he gets older he'll be happy to lay under the baby Einstein gym. Fingers crossed.

Anticipating: getting my vaccine! I am not optimistic about getting it all that soon, but hopefully my mid-year we will be vaccinated? I'm hopeful that our parents will be vaccinated in the first quarter, though!

Struggling: to keep track of what day it is. As a result of this constant state of confusion, I missed the first 'second mama' class last Monday. I knew it started on 12/21 but didn't realize 12/21 came and went - I didn't realize I missed the first class until Sunday night as I was thinking about how the 28th is my dad's birthday and had an 'oh crap!' moment where I realized I missed my first mama class. Gah. I am so mad at myself, but that's life with 2 kids during the holiday season. The class is a zoom class, too, and I have a harder time keeping track of zooms/calls since you aren't going anywhere to attend. Hopefully I did not miss too much by missing the first class.

Grateful: for all the meals we've received from family and friends. My mom stocked our freezer with lots of soups and we've had other friends and family send Grubhub gift certificates and meals. I did zero meal prep before Will was born since I was in so much pain from RA so we are super grateful for all the food we've received. I figured we would not get much for our 2nd child so have been very pleasantly surprised1

Working: on getting rid of maternity and baby stuff as Will grows out of it. I sold some maternity clothes on Facebook and will sell the rest when the pregnancy consignment shop in our area re-opens (they are closed right now due to covid numbers). As Will grows out of things, I'm sending the gender netrual stuff to my little sister who is expecting a baby girl (!!!) in mid-February. The boy stuff is going to the daughter of a former co-worker who is expecting a boy this spring. We received so many hand-me-downs for Paul and Will so I am very happy to pay it forward!

Listening: to very few podcasts these days as I'm not going for walks (too cold for a newborn). I try to listen while doing meal prep but I'm doing less of that these days, too!

Watching: so much tv! But that's newborn life for you! I watched "Emily in Paris" in a matter of days once Phil went back to work. Right before Will was born, we started to watch "Homeland" and are almost done with season 5!!! And now I am watching "Sweet Magnolias" on Netflix during the day when Phil is at work. I'm still reading a ton, but am also giving myself permission to watch more tv than I normally would as I know this phase is very temporary.

for longer stretches of sleep at night! Will is up every 2-2.5 hours, and sometimes he's up an hour after I put him down... But I know it should only get better!

What are you reading, anticipating and grateful for?

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Baby Will's First 2 Weeks

Baby Will is 2 weeks old today! His birth kind of feels like a lifetime ago. The first 7-9 days were incredibly challenging but we seemed to have turned a corner (knock on wood) when it comes to sleep so everyone is feeling much more human! Here's a little recap of his first 2 weeks of life.

Likes: being held my mom alllll the time. During that first week of life or so, he really wanted to be held or fed during the night hours. Since I am breastfeeding, he spends more time on me so I can more easily calm him. He's willing to sleep in his bassinet now - more on that later - so that has made a huge difference in how I feel. He also likes to be held during the day, too, but will tolerate going in his swing or doing tummy time on the floor. He also really likes to be in the lillebaby carrier (it's an Ergo-type carrier). I barely used this with Paul because it just wasn't necessary with one baby - but is getting used EVERY day now! I put him in it around 5 so I have both hands free to help feed Pablo/eat dinner/etc. He mostly wants to be held in a cradle hold or against my chest, but he's starting to like laying on my legs when he's awake. 

Dislikes: diaper changes, sponge baths (umbilical cord hasn't fallen off so he can't take baths yet), being cold. 

Firsts:  We started to do tummy time after his pediatrician appointment last week and he shockingly LOVES it. We just put a toy next to him and sit close so we can talk to him/make sure he doesn't fall asleep.

I don't have a picture of this, but he also had his first trip to the park! It was pretty mild on Saturday so we walked to our local park to burn off some of Pablo's energy. Pablo rode in the stroller and I put Will in the carrier. I need to get a carrier cover for these cold winter months - I should be able to borrow one from a friend. For this walk, I wore my maternity jacket, which I could zip about 3/4 of the way, and then I put a blanket over the top of the carrier to keep him toasty. It worked well and he slept for the whole outing. Here's hoping we have a mild winter so we can spend lots of time outdoors!

Feeding: Breastfeeding is going very well for us - so a complete 180 from my experience with Pablo! We did go in for one lactation consultant visit last week to check the latch as I was having some pain and trouble getting him to latch for night feeds. It was super helpful to get some help from an expert. He seems to be putting on weight, as evidenced by this photo taken about a week apart.He was about 3 oz from birth weight at the LC visit last Thursday, so I just assume he's above birth weight now. We will step on the scale with him at some point to get an idea of what he weighs but I am trying to be less obsessive about how much he weighs than I was with Pablo. Pablo struggled to gain weight so we had so many weight checks and LC visits and my instinct is to know exactly what he weighs every few days - but when I look at pictures like the comparison below, I can see it's really not necessary to track his weight so closely. 

Sleeping: was the biggest challenge in the first weeks. We had a string of nights where we got between 2-4 hours of sleep but then my body wouldn't let me nap during the day, so I felt like an absolute zombie. He slept well in the bassinet at the hospital but similar to Pablo, as soon as we got home, he HATED the flat-bottomed bassinet and would wake up as soon as we put him down. I kept trying for several days and then hit a wall last Wednesday and put him in the swing where he slept for some longer stretches. That is where Pablo slept for the first 3 months of his life, but sleeping in a swing is NOT safe so this time around, I knew we had to do something different. So I talked Phil into buying a Snoo off of Facebook. The Snoo is a bassinet designed by Dr. Harvey Karp, who came up with the "5 S's" that are used to calm babies. I can only think of 4 - shushing, swaying, swaddling and sucking. So this bassiet basically is meant to calm the baby - it will respond to them fussing and increase the motion/white noise. The bassinet has a very secure swaddle that you put the baby in. It's VERY expensive brand new ($1,400!!) so we opted to buy it off of Facebook as the resale value is very high. So we figure we will maybe lose $100 round trip on the buy/sell. I will say we are incredibly fortunate to be able to afford to buy this contraption. But it gives me major peace of mind to know he's sleeping in a safe place. It took a couple of days to get him used to it but now he sleeps in it all night and gives me 2.5-3 hour stretches which is amazing!

We experimented with 'arms up' swaddle to get him used to the Snoo but now he sleeps with his arms down.

Phil says the Snoo is like a "Clockwork Orange" reprogramming device. Ha. I have never seen that movie so don't completely understand the reference, but I can see what he means. It is a strange contraption - it will increase the sound and motion when the baby fusses. I've opted to keep it at the lowest level of 'soothing' - so very gentle motion with increased white noise. There are 5 levels of soothing and the higher levels seem a bit much for a newborn but maybe we will use the higher levels when he's bigger/more sturdy.

Dad:  Phil has had 2 weeks of paternity leave but has done a little bit of work here and there. Tomorrow will be a bit of a more full day for him as he has trading he has to help out with. But he works for a small company so he has to pitch in when needed. And working a bit here and there is not a big deal. He'll get some days off in the coming weeks to make up for doing so work this week/last week. During the day, I don't really need his help. When mom breast feeds, dad is just a bit less helpful! But he is doing 95% of the work when it comes to Paul. He gets him up/dressed/fed, takes him to school, does pick-up, takes showers with Paul, does bedtime, etc etc. I can not lift Paul for 6 weeks due to my C-section incision so his help with Paul is incredibly key! He also brings me snacks and keeps my water filled, etc. So he helps me out as much as he can but his role is all about helping Paul!

Mama: My RA flares have gotten better - I've had some rolling flares but they are not as intense as the ones at the end of pregnancy. I fully expect to start my RA injections tomorrow after my incision check as it looks good to me. My C-section recovery was definitely better/faster this time around. It blows my mind how fast the body can heal. The nurse anesthetist took photos of the c-section which are 3 second 'live videos' so I can see my doctor and her partner VIGOROUSLY pushing on my stomach to get Will out and there is so much tugging and jerking. I mean, it is not a 'gentle' procedure by any stretch of the imagination. So to think they could do all that and cut through all those muscles - and I feel pretty good 2 weeks later? It amazes me. The first 7-8 days were the worst but now I can get in/out of bed and shift around without discomfort. 

My post partum emotions are starting to fade, too. Thank God. I am not an emotional person but post partum makes you cry at the littlest things. Example: I read Paul's bedtime books on our first night home from the hospital. When I started to read "I Love You Goodnight" I started to cry and could not stop! It's a strange feeling to have no control over your emotions. Logically I knew it was ridiculous to cry while reading a book to Paul! And then I kept crying when I came downstairs which was pretty embarrassing with my parents there. I know they - especially my mom - understood it was out of my control but I hate not having control of my emotions! 

Next week I start a virtual "Second Time Mama" class which I am looking forward to. I took a new mom class from the same organization and had an awesome experience. I have a text group with the 7 moms from that class and we text every week and sometimes on a daily basis! Having a tribe of moms is so key so I'm looking forward to meeting more moms. The class is led by an RN/LC so you also get lots of great advice. 

Pablo: All in all, Pablo has done pretty well with the transition. The return to school has been rough - he went back the Monday after Will was born per the recommendation of his pediatrician. She said to get him back on his schedule ASAP and that we are less likely to get covid from him. Returning to school after a gap in care is always tough - it takes about 3 weeks for him to not cry at drop off. :( He is very happy at school but loves being with mom and dad... Add in a new brother/change at home and it's just making it a bit harder. But I know he will adapt and I know he's having fun there and getting the attention he needs! 

He's very excited about his little brother and wants to hold him often. He does pretty good, we are just working on gentle touch which is tough for an almost-3-year-old to understand! 

We are being intentional about spending one-on-one time with him. So dad plays in the basement with him and I baked muffins and play board games with him. He got a couple from my parents for Christmas and loves them!!

There has definitely been some regression behavior, which is to be expected. He's very interested in the pacifier and has said he is the baby... But I know this phase will pass!

So all in all, things are going pretty well - especially now that I'm getting more sleep! 

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Meet William Otto!

William Otto entered this world last Thursday, just after 8am! I've been meaning to sit down and share his arrival but it's been challenging to find a block of time with an empty lap. But here goes!

Birth Story

Planned c-section birth stories feel like less of a 'story' since everything is so planned out and there is no wondering when and how the baby will arrive. But I will say that a planned c-section was way better than an emergecy one done 29 hours after induction/after 17 hours of active labor! My c-section was at 7:30 - I walked down with the nurse, hopped up on the OR table, got my spinal block, and the baby was born 38 minutes later! I lucked out and got the same nurse anesthetist as last time - I did not remember her but she had clearly looked at my medical records and noted that she was there for Paul's birth - which is pretty cool of her to do. She was so incredibly kind - she held my hand until Phil got in there and took lots of photos of the birth. She also took pictures of Paul's c-section delivery. Medical stuff does not gross me out, so it's very cool to see how our boys came into the world! He clocked in at 8 pounds 4 ounces (so 1 ounce shy of a pound bigger than Paul!) and 21.5 inches. He has a big ol' head - just like Paul, too. 

I wasn't able to do skin-to-skin with William because his body temp was too low so they needed to wrap him up.

But he was able to lay on my chest while they stitched me up - I'll take what I can get! 

We went into the recovery room next and got lots of time to cuddle and work on breast feeding. Those who have read this blog for a long time may remember that Paul did not latch/transfer milk well - luckily I am having a completely different experience with William. He breastfed well from the start. We've had some challenges as breastfeeding definitely takes work and there always seem to be hiccups along the way, but all in all it's going well!

Then it was back to our post-partum room where we could rest and soak up some snuggles with our little guy. 

The Name

His name is William Otto, but we will call him Will. Phil came up with the name and I was totally on board with it. Otto is Phil's maternal grandfather's middle name. Phil was very close to this grandpa so it was a great way to honor their special relationship. We called the baby Taco through most of the pregnancy and half the time, that's what we continue to call him! We'll see if that nickname sticks or not!

Delivering during a pandemic

Overall, Covid didn't drastically change my delivery/post-partum hospital experience. I had to get tested 5 days before my c-section (it was negative thank goodness!) and I had to wear a mask during the delivery. We also wore masks whenever a provider came into our room. And you can't have visitors, of course, but my parents were the only people who came when Paul was born - and it was a very brief visit. The nurses said they think the no visitor policy is actually better for moms and dads so they can focus on the baby/establishing breastfeeding/etc without people coming in and out. Phil was also not able to leave the hospital, but I don't know that he would have if he could have, especially since our stay was so short. I definitely had a lot of anxiety about getting covid before delivery and now I will worry about us staying healthy with Paul in daycare, but the delivery itself felt pretty "normal." We won't be having any visitors at home either which is a big change from last time, but we've had people drop off meals and gifts and such so we are still feeling the love.

Big Brother Paul

I was almost more anxious about being away from Paul than I was about having another c-section. Phil and I have each spent nights away from Paul for work but this was our first time away from him together. I had no concerns about my parents watching them. They had 5 kids, this is their 9th grandchild and my mom was a nurse - so clearly they are extremely capable! But Paul is very sensitive to care providers and is very attached to me so I was worried he would struggle with us being away. But he did extremely well and only cried once on Friday night. Apparently he was extremely well-behaved and a great listener. Go figure he was on his best behavior for Papa and Nana!

We pushed hard for a discharge on Saturday, so a 2-night stay, instead of the typical 3-night stay for c-sections. The nurses and doctors were all on board with this as they are trying to get people out of there ASAP due to covid. So we were home by around 11:30 am on Saturday - after a pitstop at Starbucks to pick up a venti peppermint mocha, of course!!

Paul was jumping up and down and screaming with excitement when we pulled up front. He was very excited to meet his baby brother and loves to hold him! 

Our first week at home

Will turned 1 week old today. We are happy but extremely exhausted. While Paul had to be woken to eat every 3 hours as he was so sleepy/not into eating, it's a whole other story with Will. He seems much hungrier. But he is also much fussier - but only during the night, of course. We had several nights of being up every 45 minutes which is brutal. He seems to just want to be held/cuddle and really wants mom. So we feel pretty bleary-eyed and are hoping for some longer stretches of sleep soon so we can start to feel more human. I am glad Phil is home for 2 weeks of paternity leave to help out and he's been doing the vast majority of care for Paul. I can't lift Paul for 6 weeks so he will be doing the bulk of caring for Paul. I try to do what I can that doesn't involve lifting him and try to make sure I spend some time reading to him each day. 


Even with all the exhaustion and lack of sleep, I will still take this over pregnancy. I was so miserable at the end, and even had flares the night before the delivery that I was icing as we prepared to go into the OR. I had some flares post-delivery but the prednisone seems to be taking care of them now and I can go back on my injections after my 2-week incision check. Fingers crossed the incision looks good so I can get back on my miracle drug!

And that's my lengthy birth story post! Thanks for following along with this pregnancy!