Keeping it real is a hallmark trait of mine.
I struggle to be deceitful when needed, like hiding a surprise. It's just not in my DNA. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I have little shame about the truth, even if it's gross, unflattering, or uncomfortable. For better or worse. 😅
Becoming a parent has changed me, slowly but substantially. Along the journey, I have written a lot — to personally process the experience, and in hopes of eventually sharing my experience with others. My hope in doing so is that I can help others better prepare for the huge journey of becoming a parent.
Following the launch of this new site, I will begin processing and polishing my raw notes from the last year, and begin to publish stories here regularly.
For now, I'd like to start somewhere near the beginning, with the birth announcement I sent to our family and friends about 3 months after Owen was born.
My letter to our friends & family
Hello, friends and family!
As an incredibly challenging year came to an end, a huge new chapter began for us - the most important of our lives! 2020 was quite a year to be pregnant. People constantly tell me how lucky I am to have been home during pregnancy. While I would completely agree it was ideal during the first trimester (when I lived primarily on the couch eating carbs and childhood desserts) I would have preferred to spend the rest of my pregnancy surrounded by people I love — (you!) — celebrating our baby and absorbing all the sage wisdom.
It was a hard time to be isolated — the world was changing so quickly and people experienced so much hardship. Nothing felt normal, we had no idea where everything was headed, and all we could do was watch from the couch. Following a miscarriage, our pregnancy was hard to accept at first, also. I felt anxious about miscarrying again. There was a lot going on. We are so grateful to have our health as we come away from such a difficult year, and above all else, a tiny, new family member that we absolutely adore.
Just after the new year, at my 37 week check-up, my blood pressure was slightly elevated. Due to a hospital policy and an abundance of caution, I was scheduled to be induced. That last weekend without Owen in our lives feels like a lifetime ago. We washed and folded his clothes, rushed Amazon orders so we could pack our hospital bags, took long walks, and had big conversations about life. There was fear (mine), tears (mine), and excitement. We didn’t feel quite ready, but quickly learned to drop every expectation we had, as other plans were already in the works.
Our labor was initially very slow. Like, 3 days without much action slow. Being induced during a pandemic means you can’t leave your hospital room, so those 3 days felt extra long. We were suddenly very ready for his arrival, but nothing was working (well, except my uterus — it was keeping him right where it was supposed to!) Finally, something made me laugh and my water broke. We went from not even being in early labor to it being time to push in a matter of 12 hours. After an eventful evening, a glowing, golden sunrise came up over Capitol Hill, and I woke Jim up from a nap to let him know that Owen was ready to make his final descent.
As energy grew in our delivery room with doctors, nurses and midwives zipping in and out, I went to a zen place. I enjoyed the pushing stage because it was the final stretch. I was pushing out 9 months of ups and downs and physically forcing us into the next phase of our lives, a phase we had been ready for for quite some time. I felt strong and my body knew what to do. After 4 hours of being told “PUSH!” and “you’re almost there!” (really, still almost there?) including many moments on the verge of cesarean due to heart rate decelerations, Owen arrived 2 weeks early at 6lb 12.5oz and 21.5” long. Our tall, beautiful boy was here.
Following his delivery, we spent about 12 hours together before our nurse noticed some concerning symptoms. Owen was taken to the NICU for low blood sugar, and would end up staying 4 days for a combination of that and jaundice. Finally, after 10 days in the hospital (with us having to go home one night towards the end of our stay without Owen, which was excruciating), we took our baby home.
Those early days at home feel like a year ago. Owen has grown and changed a hundred times since, somedays looking like a different baby between night and the next morning. We had heard all the stories — like, the long days and short years thing — but parenthood is wild in that you hear so much about it, but never truly understand until it happens to you.
"You always knew the melody, but you never heard it rhyme."
Around 3 months, we left the blob phase (also known as the 4th trimester) and Owen started to become a real human. He’s become very talkative, started laughing, developed a strong neck to start holding his head up on his own, started to roll over, and continued loving to eat, sleep, spit-up, burp, fart, hiccup, and sneeze, often all at once. He is an overall very chill, smiley, curious boy. We have been gifted with a great sleeper who let us get a full night’s rest by 2 months of age. Occasionally, he wants to be held, but more often than not he’s much happier on a hip facing out with the ability to look around and take it all in.
Through pregnancy, labor, and postpartum, I’ve stood in awe at how incredible biology is. It has a funny way of convincing us to recreate more than once. I hardly remember those early weeks with Owen, beyond trying on his cute outfits, him sleeping everywhere at all times, eating Dad’s bolognese and Kristin’s enchiladas, and learning about our boy. The hard stuff fades away. Now, as I joke about having Irish twins, I have to strain to remember how miserable morning sickness was: hating the smell of Moose, Jim’s breath, garlic, meat, and vegetables, and feeling like I may never have an appetite again. I can remember feeling like we’d lose the baby in the first trimester, but it takes effort to remember how acute and constant those feelings were. And looking back on our labor, which started with anxiety and waiting and ended in immeasurable pain, I feel so fond of it. Like, I wish I could go back to that day now and re-live it with what I know and feel today. In hindsight, I think it was the most beautiful day of my life.
As we looked back on photos of Owen’s first month of life tonight, we felt the overwhelming love everyone describes. I couldn’t hold the tears back as I looked at how small and precious he was. In those early moments, however, I was so focused on learning and adapting to Owen, and recovering physically that I found myself searching for the raw, emotional feeling others had described. “The moment you see your baby, your heart will live outside your chest.” This didn’t come right away for me, and sometimes I wondered what was wrong with me. I knew to protect and care for Owen, and I wanted to know everything about him. I wanted to spend all my waking moments with him. I wanted to learn who he was and what he needed. I loved him and I was in awe of him. He was so fun to watch and listen to.
By all measures, I was doing everything right, but I had an expectation that it would feel more overwhelmingly emotional, or that I would transform into a completely new person the moment I met him. I was just me, though, and I’m still me — an extremely independent busybody who is now learning to slow down. It’s now such a beautiful and pure love; I never curse a gross diaper or a crabby day because I wished him into my life and here he is. And he’s cooler than either of us could have ever imagined. We say it all the time. Many of the things I thought would be hard aren’t because we’re growing and learning together. (Don’t get me wrong, parenthood is hard, and so is adjusting to parenthood. But the little things aren’t a burden like I thought they might be.)
I hope someone reads this and goes easier on themselves when they meet their firstborn. It can feel any sort of way and that’s okay. We’re right where we need to be.
“The first things that she took from me were selfishness and sleep.
She broke a thousand heirlooms I was never meant to keep.
She filled my life with color, cancelled plans, and trashed my car,
but none of that is ever who we are”
It’s been an interesting experience to focus our lives so inward the past 14 months, doubling down on home life and becoming so used to isolating for the safety of our fragile little human. We’ve created a beautiful homebase to grow a family upon. As Jim often says, “there’s a whole lot of love in this house.” I mean, y’all know how much we love our dog, and I haven’t even mentioned him yet! So yeah, a lot of love to go around, and we are enjoying being here together.
To keep us busy (and to make our home our own) we remodeled our basement and transformed our densely landscaped property into a usable grassy space with fresh sod. We just installed a large patio out back so we can enjoy the long summer nights outside after Owen goes to bed. His nursery is the first room we’ve actually finished indoors, though, and we’ve been in the house 18 months already.
All in all, life is completely different and yet mostly the same as Before Kids (BK), as my parents say. As the pandemic starts to ease and we’ve become vaccinated, we have been able to introduce Owen to family and friends. Everyone he meets is notably impressed with the volume of his spit-up and his big, curious eyes and sweet, sideways smile.
We’re so eager to spend time with all of you, and begin to see more of the world through Owen’s eyes. We are currently debating the age in which a baby can safely go camping, and are strategizing our first weekend roadtrips with Owen. We’re thinking about a Florida trip in October, too, to see Gail and Gary and float in their beautiful pool!
“Oh but all the wonders I have seen I will see a second time,
From inside of the ages through your eyes.”
As the world continues to heal, we wish you all health and plentiful human connection! We can’t wait for everyone to meet Owen.
— Caylee (& Jim, Owen and Moose)
If you enjoyed the lyrics throughout this letter, I highly recommend watching Brandi Carlile’s live performance of “Mother” at Austin City Limits on YouTube