Toys Our Baby is Loving: 3-6 Months Old

As I’d been warned by friends with kids, the first three months with our newborn were purely about getting through it and figuring out what worked for our new family member. We were first-time parents staunchly in “survival mode.” The products we used the most during the newborn period were basically diapers, wipes, swaddles, pacifiers, and burp cloths. There wasn’t much in the way of toys. Our little one was too busy being upset about being in the outside world to pay attention to things dangling above her playmat.

Three months old was a turning point. She started to sleep through the night (with the help of the Merlin Suit), she grasped objects, and she developed a stronger neck that was better able to support her head during tummy time. Toys could now enter the picture in a more meaningful way.

Sleep-wise, we’ve since suffered through a steady series of setbacks, for various reasons. Meanwhile, the play side of things keeps evolving. She’s almost six months old and our little lady is having fun flipping around and engaging more deeply with the people and objects in her world. I have a feeling that crawling will come more swiftly than we expect. Eep!

The toys she’s enjoyed over the past few months are simple. As it happens, they’re inexpensive, too. Ultimately, it doesn’t seem to take much to capture a baby’s interest.

We have two 10-inch storage cubes basically full of toys, which is too many. To spare you from drowning in doodads, here’s what our girl has liked the most, roughly in order over time:

Wimmer-Ferguson Infant Stim Mobile To Go

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This mini mobile clips easily to things like playmat bars, etc… When she was teeny tiny she didn’t really pay attention to it, but one day the lightbulb turned on and she was all about watching it spin! ($11.17 on Amazon)

Bitty Bite Bug Rattle

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This little buddy may be her ultimate favorite! While small, it has a bit of everything going on: plastic bits, soft fabric bits, crinkly bits (the wings), and a rattle inside. There are lots of different sensations involved with this guy. We wound up buying two so we always have one with us in our diaper bag. It serves as a great distractor. ($5.99 on Amazon)


Atom Teether Troy

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This is great for when they enter the phase of sticking evvveryything in their mouth. It’s softer and more flexible than it appears and makes gentle rattling sounds when it moves. ($8.99 on Amazon)

Freddie the Firefly

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This is another one that she wasn’t so into when she was super little, but has been increasingly engaged with. Freddie’s kind of huge compared to her, so initially she wasn’t able to manipulate him that well on her own. Like the bug rattle, Freddie is a multifunctional dude. He has lots of bright colors, crinkly wings, hard plastic rings to grasp and chew on, and other little surprises. ($14.99 on Amazon)

Skip Hop Vibrant Village Activity Book

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We have been unfolding and propping up this house-shaped toy during tummy time so the little one has something to look at. There’s a black and white high contrast side, a colorful side, and other cute bits included, like a stuffed bird in a pocket and a mirror. She is especially enamored with the side that depicts a little doggie taking a bath, for some reason. Hey, whatever works! ($14.99 on Amazon)

“Indestructibles” books

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Books have been getting more and more interesting to our little lady over time. Initially, it was mostly about the cadence of our voices and the attention that comes along with being read to. Then she got excited by the pictures, too. Now there are two new elements: how they taste and feel! We read her these quick books and then let her grab and gnaw away on them to her heart’s content. They’re easily wiped clean and really do not tear. It’s amazing. ($5.95 each on Amazon)

Pregnancy: Part Three

[Part one is here & part two is over here.]

The Third Trimester

By the third trimester, my “bump” was impossibly big and heavy. Gravity was my foe, making everything difficult. There were no easy ways to maneuver myself around. It all required planning.

I was working from home some days, but on others I went into the office. This meant making my way from Jersey City to Brooklyn, lugging my laptop all the while.

The PATH had planned maintenance that summer. Lovely timing. It was off schedule and often crowded. There were so many bodies packed into the train car that it was hard for anyone to see me. I was lucky if someone recognized that I was pregnant and I got an offer to sit down.

I began to think of my commute into the office as a series of discrete units of travel that I had to navigate. Most daunting were the stairs:

  • One set of stairs down to get out of my building

  • Two sets of stairs down to get to the PATH platform

  • Sit or stand on the PATH train

  • Two sets of stairs up to get up into the Oculus from the platform

  • Walk across the Oculus

  • Three sets of stairs up to get from the Oculus to the subway station

  • One set of stairs down to the subway platform

  • Walk to the far end of the platform

  • Sit on the A train

  • One set of stairs, one escalator, then another set of stairs from the platform to the street

Reverse it all to get home again.

I will note, before you're tempted to point it out to me, that there are elevators available. I did use some of them, though it took me a very long time to get to that point. I will admit that part of that was pride. Somehow, using elevators felt like caving. To who or what, I can’t tell you. I had a need to prove to others that even though I was gigantically pregnant, I wasn't lazy. Then there was logistics. Stations are big and many elevators aren't conveniently located within them. Using the elevator could mean going out of my way, when every step counted.

—-

One day, a kind man in a station elevator with me noticed my situation.

"You have two heavy loads, one in the back [my backpack] and one in the front [my pregnant belly]! Doesn't that hurt?"

"Hm? Oh, no. It's just uncomfortable."

This was a lie. I was in pain, and the weight of my laptop in my backpack did make it worse. I don't know why I lied. To lessen this random stranger’s emotional burden of worry? It feels like so much of being a woman—specifically, maybe, a woman from the Midwest—is downplaying pain.

Near the final leg of my journey into the office, I looked up at the escalator at the subway station and cried. I'm not a crier. I haven't been for a long time. But I cried, which turned into sobbing, loudly.

The sobbing kept going all the way up the escalator and up the stairs. It kept going while I was walking towards the office and while I sat down on a bench to call my husband. I composed myself enough to go inside the building, but then had to sit down again at a desk near the door to cry a little more. It had been such a long trip. I was in pain and I couldn't stop it. The entire situation felt unfair. It felt like nobody was seeing me.

The next day, it hit me. The typical “pregnant waddle” isn’t supposed to include consistent shooting pain on one side. The whole time that I thought I’d been waddling I had been limping.

At my next appointment at the OB, I told her about my pain, which she confirmed was sciatic pain. She wrote a note recommending I be on modified bed rest for the rest of my pregnancy. I continued to work from home, usually while laying on my side in bed. I got prenatal massages, but those didn't help. I got acupuncture, which helped a little. Eventually, it went away, probably because the baby shifted and relieved pressure.

—-

There were so many small things going on with my body, too, but I’ve waited so long to write this (six months?! how has it been six months already?!) that I've forgotten some of them.

There was the heat. It was summer in the city, and I had a whole other person inside of me, which made me hot all. of. the. time. There was the annoyance of having to pee frequently, especially at the office. Attempting to sleep was awkward and uncomfortable. No configuration of pillows would let me get true rest. Pregnant ladies are susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome, so I had to fold my hands under my head before I went to sleep, which felt silly. On and on.

One small thing turned out to be big. At night, sometimes, I felt itchy all over. It was never intense, but it was enough to make it hard to concentrate on falling asleep some nights. I googled it and found some worrying information (trigger warning if you look it up!), so I told my OB. She got a little concerned and ordered tests for me. One of these, a 24-hour urine test, I found embarrassing. I turned in my sample and did my best to remain positive after that.

Nobody had called me back about my test results, which I took to be a good sign. Going into my next appointment, I figured everything was kosher, so I told my husband he could sit this one out. Instead, when my OB walked in she told me that my liver enzyme levels were slightly elevated, which was exactly what had worried me when I’d looked up my symptoms on my own. She was talking on the phone to the doctors at the hospital where I planned to deliver. While my levels were not very high, the negative outcome could be so severe that they thought it would be a good idea for me to get the baby out as soon as I hit 37 weeks. That was a few days away.

I had a hard time processing this information. Despite my “geriatric” age of 34, I had had a very healthy pregnancy up until this point. I was a first-time mom, so had been expecting to go a bit past my due date like our birthing class instructor had told us to anticipate. I had an ultrasound scheduled the following week. I had things planned to do around the house to prepare for the baby. I was still working.

“Wait, what do you mean?”

“I mean that ideally by Monday you’ll be holding your baby girl.”

I walked home as quickly as possible after and shared the news with my husband as best I could. After that, we told our families and madly Slacked our bosses and coworkers. I was going to need to go on maternity leave earlier than anticipated, aka, pretty much immediately.

The days after this were a blur. We were tying up loose ends while also nervously awaiting more specific information from the hospital about my induction. Their system had us waiting by the phone to find out exactly when to come in. Meanwhile, I was worried about the baby. My husband and family were worried about the baby. After a reschedule or two with the hospital, I finally got my time confirmed.

—-

I’ll go ahead and let you know the happy ending right now: After a three-day induction, during which many drugs and objects were put inside me to get things moving, our gorgeous and healthy little girl was born.

Pregnancy: Part Two

[Part One is over here.]

The Second Trimester

The most painful part of the second trimester wasn’t physical. It was making those damned phone calls…

During the first trimester, my OB had recommended a genetic screening test. It'd let us know the gender of our baby and alert us to any serious genetic conditions like Down Syndrome. She told me it’d cost about $200. Yes! Great! Six weeks later, we got our results. It was a girl (yay!) who was not at risk for any serious genetic abnormalities (PHEW).

Then came the Explanation of Benefits from my insurance, explaining that I’d owe $13,000 for the screening.

Yes, you read that correctly. Thirteen. Thousand. Dollars. Sixty-five times more than the amount I was expecting.

Cue me losing my mind. I blocked off time on my calendar so I could call various entities involved in the process. I called my insurance, the lab, and the OB. They all told me something different. I received bill after bill in the mail, each incorrect in a new and special way. As it would turn out, this nightmare would not end until after the baby was born. Hooray for the US healthcare system.

___

The concept of a "babymoon" sounded silly to me. For one, it’s a plain dumb sounding word. But also, I don’t tend to be a fan of things that seem overly self-indulgent. I never took an actual honeymoon, for instance. A little escape before baby arrived, though? That seemed like a sound enough idea. We headed to Austin for a long weekend, staying in a nice hotel that we booked with credit card points.

By that point the intense nausea had let up and I had my appetite back, along with a normal-for-me level of energy. The whole time we were there I felt like my “old self." I was able to walk around, eat tacos, go swimming, and otherwise be a human being in the world. I got a prenatal massage in the hotel spa from a lovely nice lady. I drank delicious non-alcoholic cocktails at The Roosevelt Room, which I highly recommended. The Texas heat did get to me a bit while we were outside, but I kept a big bottle of water on me at all times and was good to go.

I was feeling so great that I started getting a little too optimistic. I hadn’t gained weight above my pre-pregnancy amount yet because I’d been so ill during the first trimester. I didn’t have any stretch marks or dreaded hormonal acne. I looked like pre-pregnancy me with a bigger belly. Because of that, I started to think that maybe I’d be one of those enviable women who quickly "bounces back" to their old selves post-delivery. Oh, sweet past Heather, no.



Pregnancy: Part One

The Way Before

I spent a lot of time in my 20s reading mommy blogs. It terrified the guys I dated during that period. I told them all I was reading them because I was curious about what my body was capable of (e.g. child bearing). Let’s get real, though. You don’t watch hours of “Momversation” unless you want children. I was curious about the physical aspects of pregnancy, but I also wanted to be a mother. I wanted all of the other stuff they had, too: long-term romantic partners, houses, etc... They informed my ideas about adulthood more than I could know. They also taught me about the scarier bits of giving birth, adding words like “episiotomy” to my vocabulary.

To give you an idea of how long ago all this was, the babies from those blogs are young teens now. That’s wild to think about. Blogging then was more about sharing your life and less about satisfying sponsors (“Thanks, International Delight Non-Dairy Coffee Creamer!” etc…). It was a much different landscape. But that is another rant for another time.

The Just Before

I got married to a lovely man in 2015. So it was that last year I found myself not only with a long-term partner, but also financially stable (amazing!). It was feasible to start planning for a kid.

Because this is America, the financial side is important. Here, healthcare costs come at you weeks later at mystery rates. We’d both heard stories about L&Ds that wound up costing upwards of $10k, immediately throwing new parents into debilitating debt. That’s not how we wanted to welcome our little one into the world, if we could help it. We agreed to spend a year creating a decent emergency fund before we started trying to conceive.

The year felt long. I hated the waiting. But I’m so glad we did—not because we wound up needing that extra money (thankfully!), but because I got pregnant more quickly than I thought. For, you see, a 35-year-old woman is considered “geriatric” in the fertility world. At 34, I was on the cusp of being elderly. I figured it’d take ages to get pregnant. Fortunately, I did not have that struggle.

After a couple of months of trying, my boobs felt funny. That’s the only way I can describe it. I had a feeling I knew what it meant. My boss was having a going away party at an axe-throwing bar* that week. I figured that if this was really going to be “it” that I’d go out one last time before I knew for sure. I went, threw some axes with careful vigor, and had one beer. It would be my last drink for quite a while.

I left on the early side, excited and anxious. At home, I quietly took a pregnancy test in our master bathroom. Two lines. I’d secretly bought and hidden away a little green onesie for just this occasion. I brought the test and the onesie out of the bedroom to display to my husband, who was on his laptop in the living room. After a long time wanting, and a year plus waiting, this was it.

* Yes, this is, apparently, a thing.

The First Trimester

There is no nice way to say this: the first trimester was hellish. I’m a lifelong pessimist with an overactive imagination, yet it managed to be even worse than I’d pictured.

There was little throwing up and it sure wasn’t “morning sickness.” I had intense nausea that appeared one day and lasted for months. It was there 24/7 and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I had zero appetite. Saltines, apple sauce, and Annie’s mac and cheese were about all that I could eat. Of all the home remedies, fresh lemon in my water was one of the only things that helped. I bought loads and loads of lemons. I progressed from slicing them daintily into my drink to shoving big pieces into my mouth, keeping them there while I grimaced. After a frustratingly long runaround with my insurance, I got the OK for a prescription for my nausea. By that point I’d already lost a bunch of weight.

I work in an office and managed to go in some days, though I can’t remember much of what I did there, honestly. I remembering stuffing plastic grocery bags into my coat pockets before I left the house to make sure I had a place to barf on the train on the way in. I remember covering my face with my sleeve because coffee smells disgusted me—an inescapable scent in an open plan office. I remember having a conversation with my boss during which I told him I just couldn’t operate at 100% for a little bit.

I’d never felt so devoid of energy in my life. At the end of the day, I’d come home and immediately collapse on the couch, not moving a muscle for hours.

That was the first trimester.