Oleh : ArahQQ
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A long (long, long, long) overdue hello from Barcelona! ♡
Can’t believe it has been over half a year since I shared one of these updates. I actually sat down and started writing this post three months ago, back when I was preparing to return to work after maternity leave. But then our life got turned upside down when Teo was unexpectedly admitted to the hospital for a week with — not one, but it turned out — two serious tummy-related issues. And to make a very long story short, we basically ended up spending the rest of our summer in and out of doctor’s offices trying to figure out exactly what was going on and how to help him feel better. It was a hard and exhausting stretch for our little family, watching our brand-new baby get poked and prodded and scanned galore, having to take turns being with him at the hospital because of pandemic rules, all while the three of us were still in the thick of the sleep-deprived new parent fog. But Teo was a brave little campeón (a champ, as the nurses always called him) through it all. And while we have decided to keep his medical details private, I’m so thankful to report that he has now recovered from both issues and is currently doing so, so, so much better. (Big exhale!)
He went from being quite colicky and not feeling well during his pre-hospital months to now being such a smiley and easygoing and happy little camper. And now that his tummy feels better, his appetite has skyrocketed along with his percentiles on the growth charts, and we can’t get enough of those sweet chubby cheeks and ever-multiplying little rolls that are growing by the day. He’s 6.5-months-old now and currently obsessed with broccoli, being outside, trying to pet (more like swat at) our two dogs whenever they come near, reading-slash-trying-to-eat all of his books, “playing” Dad’s ukelele, and charming all of the passersby during our daily strolls around Barcelona. He was decidedly not a fan of sleep until just recently, despite all of the experts’ advice, so there has been a record amount of coffee consumed in our casa these past six months. But we’ve been doing our best to soak up each of these different phases of babyhood with their ups and downs while they last, because what everyone told us is proving bittersweetly true — it really does go SO FAST.
Anyway, I’m finally back to work part time and am slowly — make that, very slowly — getting caught up on things around here. Fall is always my favorite time of year to cook and I have a bunch of cozy new recipes coming your way this month that I think you’re going to love. I also have some long-overdue and incredible updates to share with you about the community garden project that you helped to fund in Mali, so be sure to stay tuned for more news on that coming next week. As for today, though, it’s been forever since I shared with you about our new little family of three. So here’s the latest on life here in Barcelona currently…
Well first off, I want to start by saying how grateful I was to be able to take time off for maternity leave. I know that access to parental leave runs the gamut around the world — from our European friends who have impressively long leaves (Spain currently gives both partners 4 months, which is set to increase to 6 months in 2022), to our American friends who typically have shorter leaves (at least for one or both partners), to so many others around the world who are forced to manage with far, far less. The privilege of getting to stay home together during those first few months and completely disconnect from work and spend full days (and full nights, oh boy) getting to know this tiny new human was something I thought about daily. And while those months were next-level exhausting and humbling and challenging, and the nonstop cycle of newborn routines often felt like our own episode of Groundhog Day, I have to say…I loved newborn life so much. Like, so much more than I had even expected.
If I’m completely honest, as much as we wanted a baby, and as long and hard as we had to work to try and have one, I also absolutely loved the life and home and family that Barc and I had built with just the two of us. And as our due date drew near, I found myself having mixed feelings about closing the chapter on that season of our lives and bringing this brand new, unpredictable, tiny little human into the mix. So many of the clichés around birth (“I can’t even remember what life was like before _____ arrived!”) had me subconsciously steeling myself for this tidal wave of change that was about to overtake our family. And I think especially as an enneagram-3 who has often tied so much of my identity to my career, I was nervous how it was going to feel stepping back from work for a season and immersing myself instead in this unfamiliar new role and extremely different rhythms of newborn life.
But when Teo arrived, I was surprised and delighted to find that he just…fit. ♡
Like…holding him our arms, bringing him home to our flat, and having him siesta there beside us in the kitchen as we heated up our first freezer meal somehow just…fit. It all kind of felt surprisingly undramatic and natural in the best of ways, like his sweet little spirit had somehow always been part of our family. And after a rocky pregnancy, it was just such a relief and comfort to finally have him here.
To be sure, those first weeks and months were intense, as I know that so many of you reading this have experienced. The sleep deprivation was profoundly exhausting and humbling and — despite the books and experts we followed — didn’t significantly let up until just two weeks ago. Teo was also very colicky during his first three months, and watching him be so uncomfortable with no way to soothe him was rough. The relentlessness of 24/7 parenting without any childcare breaks and without family nearby also made those first few months feel like a disorienting time warp, and it was frustrating not being able to be out and about socializing and adventuring around the city as we would have liked during because of the pandemic (especially before we were able to be vaccinated). And of course, just trial-and-erroring our way through the newborn stage as first-time parents — with all of the million little questions that come up with regards to food, sleep, shots, milestones, baby gear, etc — was quite the aventura.
But while the hard parts of those newborn days were harder than I expected, the sweet parts ended up being far, far sweeter than I expected too. I mean, nothing can really prepare you for how amazing those newborn snuggles feel and how wild it is to watch a brand-new human experience everything about the world for the very first time. We joke that we basically spent the first three months of Teo’s life just staring at him, haha, which is honestly no exaggeration. I was also one of the lucky ones for whom breastfeeding came easily, and I deeply loved being able to spend that time with him and watch my body learn to nourish him. We were also able to fly back to the States this past May to introduce Teo to his American family and friends, and we were so touched by how special that time was. He is the first grandchild for both of our parents, and seeing him as a tiny baby in their arms will forever be one of my favorite memories.
I think one of the other sweet surprises about maternity leave was how special (and unusual!) it was to have that stretch of non-working time at home with Barclay. I had of course been looking forward to having those months at home with Teo. But I hadn’t really thought through the fact that Barc and I have also never had that kind of day-in day-out unstructured time together when we’re home and not working our usual 40 hours a week…which ended up being so fun! I also have to say that, as someone who is accustomed to spending so much of my workweek staring at a computer dealing with techy concepts like search engine optimization or website plugins, I found it surprisingly refreshing to spend my days wholly immersed in the very tangible world of snuggles, feeds, burps, baths and poo. I don’t know, it all just felt so human and I loved it. Especially those snuggles, take me baaack to those newborn snuggles.
Anyway, Barclay and I will probably forever think back on our maternity/paternity leave in two chapters — before the hospital and after Teo was hospitalized. But while the cloud of the latter often tries to overshadow that entire season in my mind, the truth is that those first few months of leave together with Teo were profoundly sweet and special. I’m so deeply grateful we got to be home and experience them with our little guy.
6 Months In
So skipping ahead…what does life look like lately?
As for Teo, I’m thrilled to report that he’s doing great. After the whole hospital whirlwind and subsequent months of tests and check-ups and specialist appointments, we confirmed with another test just this week that his little tummy is now in excellent shape. (No more doctor’s appointments for the rest of the year – hurrah!) Teo now spends his week hanging out with our amazing new nanny, Inés, who watches him part-time while Barclay and I work. He also recently started eating solids, which has turned into a whole neighborhood event since we usually eat out on our back terrace and the neighbors come out to wave hello when they hear his enthusiastic broccoli squeals. He’s also already becoming quite the little traveler, with stamps already on his passport from trips to the US, Italy, and Portugal, plus a few adventures around Spain. But mostly he’s just a really sweet little dude who melts our hearts with his still-toothless smiles and he is quickly growing bigger and more mobile (here we go!) by the day.
As for me, I’ve been back to work part-time and currently feel like I’m behind on, well…everything. That actually hasn’t bothered me too much when it comes to work and household stuff, but it’s definitely been harder than I anticipated not having the time or energy to keep up with friends and family in this season as much as I’m accustomed to. (Especially during the whirlwind of baby life when ironically it feels like new parents need loved ones the most!) Poco a poco, we’re finding our groove with getting out and socializing with a baby in tow, and we’ve really been enjoying hosting dinners and happy hours with friends here at our place after he goes to bed. But whenever any weekend brunches or early morning stroller dates or long-distance video chats or babysitter nights out come around…whew, my heart soaks up that connection like crazy. I also have to say that it’s been really, really special this past year being able to turn to fellow mom friends for advice when it came to pregnancy and, now, parenting. I learned the hard way early on that Google is not a healthy place for a naturally-anxious new mama to go with baby-related questions, so being able instead to lean on the wisdom of trusted friends and also experience that new side of friendship together has felt like a total win-win.
Anyway, as for our little family in general, we’re all really really enjoying this 6-month-old stage, especially now that Teo is so much more interactive and fun and strong and his little personality is really starting to shine through. Barclay is in his absolute element as a dad and loves taking the early morning shift so that he can go for “boys’ adventures” around town with Teo in the carrier. And even though we both have permanent bags under our eyes and still feel like we’re just barely keeping up with the day-to-day, he has been such a great partner and we are just really, deeply happy right now getting to finally experience being parents together.
A Few FAQs
I’ve done a few Q&As over on Instagram since Teo’s birth, but realize that I still haven’t shared many of those responses here. So below are a few of the questions that have come up most often for our familia since Teo was born…
How did you decide on Teo’s name? Throughout the course of our pregnancy, we could not figure out what to name this baby! But the week before he was born, we happened to stumble across the name Teo (pronounced “tay-oh” in Spanish) and it just clicked. We love that it’s easy for everyone in both countries that we consider home to pronounce, we love that it’s both a Spanish and Catalan name (which feels very Barcelona), and we love that it is the name of a beloved children’s book series here in Spain. But what really sealed the deal for us was learning that the name means “gift from God” (which felt especially true after infertility) and it also means “twin” (which was very meaningful after losing Teo’s twin brother during pregnancy). We love the name and it suits our little guy perfectly!
How did your c-section and recovery end up going? Thankfully really well. After all of the anxious build-up to Teo’s birth, not quite knowing how it might unfold with my back issues, the epidural and c-section basically ended up going smoothly as possible and my recovery also went considerably faster than we had expected. I did end up running into some issues with my incision a few months postpartum, but shout-out to the wonder that is pelvic floor physical therapy for helping get those sorted out. (Yet one more reason that I love European healthcare — postpartum pelvic floor PT is standard care here and also supported long-term by insurance in most European countries.)
What cultural differences do you notice as an American having a baby in Spain? In general, Spanish culture is just incredibly baby-friendly — babies are welcome absolutely anywhere and people just adore them and always want to stop to greet them. Parenting here is very intentionally laid-back, probably both for better and worse, and kids don’t seem to be as busy with scheduled activities as they often are in the States. There’s also a much more minimalistic culture here when it comes to baby gear. And some things that we didn’t even think twice about as Americans — swaddling, sound machines, sleep training, hospital bills (we paid nada for the birth) — definitely are not common here. For example, we were shocked when the newborn nurse told us she had never seen a swaddled baby at our hospital in her entire career! There are also so many cute vocabulary words in Spanish associated with babies. I’ll have to make a list and share those sometime.
Are you going to teach Teo Spanish? Por seguro, we are super excited about our little hijo learning Spanish. And if we stay in Barcelona for awhile, he will learn Catalan and be trilingual too.
How has it been traveling with a baby? Definitely a whole new ballgame, lol. We regularly find ourselves quoting Barclay’s motto — “it’s either a good time or a good story.” 😉 But our love of travel is one of the main reasons that we moved abroad and we’ve been SO excited to start adventuring around with Teo, especially now that Europe has opened back up. So our philosophy for traveling with a baby thus far has basically been to just book the tickets…and figure it out as we go. 🙂 We’ve already traveled together to the United States, Italy, Portugal and road tripped around Spain. And while I wouldn’t say that traveling with a baby has in any way been relaxing, lol, it’s been a good new adventure for us. We’ve learned a lot and have loved getting to make new memories together now as a family of three.
Favorite Baby Gear So Far
Finally, I promised that I would report back with some of our favorite new baby gear once we’d had the chance to legit put it to the test! So here are a few of our tried-and-tested faves thus far:
- Joolz Aer Stroller: I went down a major rabbit hole researching strollers that would be super lightweight (because of my bad back), narrow (to fit through Barcelona’s subway turnstiles and also squeeze in our elevator), travel-friendly (to fit on a plane) yet still well-made and study enough for every day use (we didn’t want to buy a separate travel stroller). Turns out that very few strollers on the market check all of those boxes. But in the end, we went with a Joolz Aer and I cannot tell you how much we LOVE THIS STROLLER. We have easily logged hundreds of miles on it already with all of our daily adventures around the city, and it continues to drive like a dream and remains impressively sturdy. I also love that its design is so beautiful and minimal and clean, love that it has a bassinet attachment and car seat that go with it, and we can also vouch that this stroller passed the airplane carry-on test and traveled under our seats with us to Italy and Portugal. Anyway, if you happen to be in the market for a lightweight stroller that can withstand the rigors of daily city life, I genuinely can’t recommend it enough.
- Stokke Convertible Crib: There are a surprising amount of American baby furniture brands available here in Spain now, but I really wanted to buy local (or at least, European-local) as much as possible for Teo’s nursery. So we ended up tracking down a used Stokke Sleepi on Wallapop (similar to Craigslist) and have completely enjoyed it. I love its oval shape and clean, classic design. And once Teo grows out of its current size, we look forward to converting it into a little toddler bed.
- Stokke Bathtub: We’ve also used this foldable bathtub for Teo (since our flat only has showers) and absolutely love it. It’s just the right size, packs up easily to bring with us when we travel, and we appreciate that it uses an eco-friendly amount of water.
- Baby Bjorn Bouncer: For our family, this thing is worth its weight in gold. We call it Teo’s “easy chair” because it’s so easy to pop him in there when we need a break and he blisses out in there like an old man in his recliner. I’ve also read that it’s one of the safer containers out there, according to pediatric PTs, when used in moderation.
- Lovevery Activity Gym: I feel like every family I know with a baby has this play mat right now, but it really is wonderful.
- Magic Sleep Suit: We had lots of friends recommend this sleep suit to us for transitioning out of a swaddle and, sure enough, it worked really well for Teo. We also bring it with us on longer plane rides or other places we might be out of the house during nap time if he needs help getting to sleep.
- Ergobaby Soft Carrier: We’ve been using this classic carrier almost daily since Teo was a newborn and it’s been great.
- Other Favorite Stuff: We’re also big fans of Teo’s sound machine, Sophie the Giraffe, Bibs and Hevea pacis, Nuk bottles, super-soft muslins, a really comfortable rocking chair or glider, a good drying rack (for bottles and pump parts), and books books books.
More to come!
Ok, this may be my longest “Currently” update yet, so if you made it this far — you are also a campeón. ♡ Thank you so much again for all of your kind messages and support while I was away on leave. It felt wild not working on this blog each day after having been at it nonstop for over a dozen years now. But the break was good and it also feels good to be back.
Stay tuned for more good stuff ahead this month. And Teo and I are sending you un abrazo fuerte (a big hug) from Barcelona!