Marriage Maps

The Gottman Institute is a research based approach to relationships. The Gottmans and their psychology disciples promote practices of mindfulness that seek to promote healthy marriages. By striding the line between the art and science of love, the Gottman Institute seeks to help couples in a time when 50% of marriages fail to love, appreciate, honor, and problem-solve together. I was introduced to this group through a few sessions of marital counseling last year. David and I, as I shared previously, were struggling to navigate our different views on how large of a family we each wanted. Motherhood is amazing and I want to be covered in babies, but for David family-size is a little more practical. When weighing considerations like finances, energy, time, lifestyle, and our ability to create opportunities we both feel are foundational for our children, David felt like two children met those limits. On the other side now of many of those tensions, I still get a few positive reminders of the “work” that is needed to continue to have a healthy and loving relationship through these Gottman minutes I receive via email once a week. Often they are a bit cliche, but every now and again the little activity they suggest around have deeper or more playful conversations, makes me smile. Today’s for example asked do you know your basics:

What’s your partner’s favorite food?
Who does your partner hate having to deal with at work?
Who is their best friend?
What is their biggest life dream?

My understanding of David:

  • pizza truck Thursday, Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwich, burgers, good BBQ, kale salad, apple honeycrisp; ******; ME!;  Traveling the world and living abroad and being together as a family.

David’s understanding of Me:

  • Pickles, sauerkraut, Thai food, sushi, coffee; *****;  me, Laura, Kaelin; to be a model of love, paid to learn pottery or cooking

Now is this the stuff that saves a marriage on the total verge of collapse? No. But was this fun and did it make us laugh on a raining, work morning totally. Did it make us take a minute to think of the other? Yes. And seeing that the other was so “spot on” felt good. They listen, see, know, and love. And that always feels good.

models of love….

Ten years ago, David and I would lounge in bed in our pajamas and nap all day long and watch various movies or TV series and talk about plans for the future and our ideas about the spectrum of ideas. It was luxurious and we felt self-important in our lovely perfection of love. Sometimes I would turn to David and say that all I wanted was to work as a “model of love,” where we could just exist like this, be together, adventure, and never have to worry about money or jobs or bills. Maybe if we win the lotto we can revisit that!

This morning we woke up after getting to bed too late, and being disturbed from our blissful slumber by a little three year old seeking some help in the bathroom, and after the alarm sounded to say, “The day begins.” It was less luxurious but even in this moment of sleep-deprivation, David was the person I rolled over to see through bleary eyes. We might not be modeling the best of ourselves all the time because life gets in the way of life when two tiny humans are thrown into the mix of things, but we are still modeling our imperfectly perfect-for-us-kind-of-love and I am grateful and appreciative and very much in love still with this partner of mine. And yes, Hallmark made me reflect today on these sentiments with their manufactured Valentine’s Day, but when we get busy and overwhelmed it is all too easy to forget our beginning and how awesome these ten plus years together have been. The soft-spots in our marriage are inevitable, but I am so glad that I have an opportunity to reflect and love that same man who swept me off my feet. So cheers to the sappy holiday and cheers to renewing our commitment to being “models of love,” (and allowing our love to shift and change and ebb and flow through the different stages and phases).

nursery tour

With only a few weeks to go until the little man makes his arrival, we finally have our nursery completed. It is one of my favorite spaces in our home, which is probably a good thing since I imagine we will be spending a lot of time there comforting, playing, feeding, and cuddling the little baby. In the beginning, the little man will sleep in our room in a bassinet next to  our bed. It will just be easier to have him close during that time when his sleep and eating habits will be more unpredictable and on demand. But, even though he won’t be sleeping in his darling little crib, I am sure we will be in his room to change him, to play on the elephant mat together, and to rock him. All of his little things are sweet and precious and I find myself going into the room to sit down and just exist in that quiet space (which will very shortly not be a quiet space any more!). Everything in there smells like baby and feels so warm and welcoming. It is amazing to think that we get not to only meet him soon but love him and parent him! It is truly surreal.  Bella and Buster have started to spend some time in the room too. We want them to be familiar with all of the stuff before the baby arrives. Of course, we monitor them while they explore his toys, the chair, and try desperately to chew on his elephant stuffed animals. It will be hard for them to restrain themselves from just thrashing the stuffies to bits but David has been working on it and there seems to be progress.  They can now go into the room and just hang out without frantically going after the toys = progress! I am sure things will change once the little man arrives and piques their curiosity but I am excited to watch them sniff, love, and protect him. It will be fun watching the little man grow up with the pups and romp around the house and yard. So even if the beginning months are challenging balancing all of the family needs, it will be well worth it I am sure.

When we started to put the room together we had one wood dresser. It had been our first home purchase when we moved in together in Boston. It is funny how when you buy a large item for one purpose you cannot image how it will be used in the future. We moved David’s clothes out of this particular dresser and moved it into the baby’s room. Since this piece was an oak color we decided that instead of painting it, we would stick to furniture of a similar hue and add color through linens, paints, and details. The major colors in the room are: blue, grey, and yellow. We wanted the room to be soothing on the eyes but not cold and I think we were able to meet that with our choices.

Here are some of the nursery room details

The changing table is part of the Kendall Collection from pottery barn. We picked it because we felt it was almost a match to the dresser we already had in our home. We were not huge fans of the knobs that came with the dresser though. So we headed to Anthropologie and found these little owls to replace them. The prints on the wall above the changing table are from Aldari Art on etsy.We wanted to add a little bit of color but didn’t want the room to become to overstimulated. Her animal prints are just so cute. They are one of my favorite details! His little hamper with the raccoon bandit is from the Container Store (one of the best stores! I could get lost in there for hours). And, on top of the dresser that we already had, we placed a  basket we received from our baby shower filled with burp cloths and bibs and a little dumbo and his mother stuffy. My mom and dad gave us the dumbo toy. When I was little my nanny would pretend to be Dumbo’s mother and her arm would be the trunk. My brother and I would sit on her arm and she would swing us back and forth singing the mother’s song. This toy is a beautiful reminder of my nanny and how lucky I was to have her in my life when I was growing up and until just last year. Though she will not meet our little one, I know she is still with us.

The yellow bookcase was a recent purchase. We started to receive all these great board books from family and friends and did not have anywhere to put them. We didn’t want to add another piece of heavy furniture to the room and then found this quirky bookcase “manger” from Land of Nod.

When the little man’s crib arrived, David and I would go into the room and ask, “And who will be sleeping here?” Seriously, how is it that we have a whole room set up for someone we don’t know yet? I still cannot believe we will be having a baby!  But, the crib is definitely proof that BIG changes are coming to our family. And if you couldn’t tell already, the baby’s room has an elephant theme. From sheets, to mobile, to stuffies, to quilt, he will be surrounded by his elephants while he is ushered to dream world (where he hopefully stays during full nights of sleep, fingers crossed!)

Ah, and then we get to my absolute favorite piece in the nursery!! I just LOVE this glider from Target. We were on the fence for awhile about whether or not we needed a glider.  Obviously it would be great to have to rock him to sleep, but there was no guarantee that he would (a) like it or (b) use it for very long. Despite these doubts we pulled the trigger and invested in these two pieces if for no other reason than to have a place to put your feet up after a long day! And with the chair we added an ottoman pouf from Aletafae on etsy. It just arrived today and it is AMAZING!

So now we wait, and wait, and wait. This is by far the hardest part.  The pregnancy has been easy but this waiting for the last few weeks and waiting until he is ready to join us is so difficult. I know that the longer he stays put and stays closer to his due date the better, but I just want to meet him and kiss him SO badly. I already love this little person who I haven’t met yet! At least now, while we experience this wait we can relax a little in his room!

60 days

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9…..60!  That’s about it from this point. It is amazing to think we are in the home stretch of this long waiting game for baby. But, we are SO very excited to meet this little guy. Last night, we worked on our birth plan “wish list.” Of course, the day of will likely throw us some curve balls, but we are hoping that as long as everything progresses well and the baby isn’t in any distress that we can have the labor and delivery we both imagine. The baby room is coming together bit by bit and last night we washed his little baby clothes. Everything is so tiny! Of course, only he knows exactly when he is coming but we like to pretend that this 60 day estimated due date is it.

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childbirth class

Ten couples sit in a semi-circle in the basement room of the hospital.  We are there to learn about the natural process of childbirth. Sitting there, David and I cannot stop laughing at the humor of this setting. We are all educated adults and yet this natural human act of giving birth to a child is so mystifying that we have all registered for a four week course. The room is quiet when we first arrive as couples check in and get their name tags. I can not help but glance around at all the bumps I am surrounded by.  This was the first time I was in the room with so many fellow pregnant ladies and honestly it felt great. It felt like I was among “my people.” Our instructor is super nice and introduced herself as a mother, nurse, and educator. And with that we began our natural childbirth class.

I am hoping that in the end of these four weeks, I will have a clearer understanding of what “textbook” delivery looks like. When everything goes according to plan: What is happening to one’s body? What is happening to the baby? How can you tell when it is time to go to the hospital? What pain management options are available?  How can you unpack your delivery wishlist? How can I have the delivery I imagine for myself and my baby? It feels like I should somehow know the answers to these questions already. Since I am pregnant shouldn’t my primal pregnant brain take over and just somehow know? Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work like that and I am hoping that David and I not only answer these questions but actually feel prepared for this journey soon.

Scanning the room it was clear that each one of us was having a very different pregnancy experience. Age is not the only indicator, but as we warm up and start to share stories about our baby bellies, it becomes apparent that our symptoms of pregnancy run the gamut. I will definitely admit that having the latest estimated due date in the group leaves me with a little bump envy. I couldn’t help but ask David if we were in the right place and if we were really pregnant?  He laughed and just said our guy is little but yes you are most definitely pregnant! The first night was all about getting to the basics of human anatomy during childbirth and giving an overview of the courses topics. I am currently a little intimidated by all of the reading we have to do.  The cute purple folders passed out contained dozens and dozens of handouts and recommended reading lists.  And, for someone who is SO type A like myself, these “suggested” materials immediately get put under the “mandatory” category in my eyes. Yes, I know every woman’s experience will be different and that there is not “test” I am studying for, but somehow being as informed as I can be gives me comfort (perhaps that is the historian in me).

The best part of the birth class was the last fifteen minutes. Spread out in our couplings, we laid down on yoga mats with pillows, closed our eyes and were led through a relaxation exercise. AH!  It was divine.  At first, I felt so tense on the mat and my mind kept wandering off to my to-do list, but I gently tugged it back a few times and by the end of the exercise, I truly felt like I relaxed. Even the little guy who was poking my ribs and bobbing around in my tummy when I first laid down went completely still by the end. It was actually quite a cool experience. Our only  real homework from class is to practice these relaxation techniques and David is super cute and excited to help guide me through them.  I think these next four weeks will end up being quite insightful, fun, and will allow us to hopefully make friends with other couples in the area who share our June arrival month.

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he moves!

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It has happened.  The little dude inside the bump is not only moving about, but recently I have been able to detect him! While sitting with a student I tutor, I started to notice what felt like little popping bubble sensations.  Thinking, “What is this weird tummy stuff?” it dawned on me that it was probably the little one.  Over the next few days, that little popping sensation happened more often and I decided that this was definitely our little boy making himself at home. The sensation has changed a bit, perhaps it could be described as stronger or perhaps it is just different. Sometimes, I like to pause and try to feel him but those are always the times when he is most quiet or in stealth mode. Instead, he moves around when I am in the middle of something and surprises me with his motion. It will be so fun to share this movement with David and while I don’t want to rush my pregnancy in any way, I am excited for when David can feel the little guy too.