Monday, March 31, 2014

The next thing

Here's what I'm dealing with right now...

I think (one of) the hardest part of being a military family is all of this moving around. Yeah, military families aren't the only ones who move frequently, but we move a LOT and it's a pretty sure thing. Every 3 years basically. Sometimes sooner than that. So as we inch up to the beginning of our 3rd year in Germany, I feel that itch starting.

The "where-will-we-be-next" itch. It's kind of terrible, this knowing you're leaving one place that has become home and moving to another place that you will have to make your home but not knowing WHERE that will be.

It's kind of sad to feel that slow but distinct disconnect process...the peeling-away of your connection to your current home, location, friends, and life.

If I were reading this rather than writing it, I think I would feel like it was all a little melodramatic. Like, pull it together...you still have a year. A lot can happen in a year. Enjoy it. Take it one day at a time.

Yes, that's all true. But it doesn't stop that "moving on to the next thing" feeling. It's hard to settle in, only to realize you have to un-settle and re-settle all over again. 3 years is fast, friends. It sounds long, but it feels short when you look back on it. That doesn't mean that we don't or shouldn't settle in and embrace our current location and situation fully...it just means that we know it's not long term. The roots are strong and grow quickly, but they don't go deep.

We don't know where we're going after Germany (oh Germany...I am so sad to think about leaving, yet so excited at the thought of being back in the states...it's hard to process those emotions. I think I'll spend the next year trying to work through them). There are options. There are doors that have been closed and new doors that have been opened. There have been discussions about doing whatever it take to get close to our families and discussions about what would be best for Z's career, even if it takes us far from our families again. It's hard. It really is. And we have NO IDEA where the next stop on this journey will take us.

In the meantime, I am trying (as my grandmother would say) not to raise my skirts before reaching the river. I'm taking one day at a time: snuggling Miss Zoe, desperately trying to figure out life with a newborn, adjusting to my current role as stay-at-home mom, making Z my priority in spite of it all...but it's there, creeping in the back of my mind. The fact that each day brings us one day closer to another huge transition. I'm figuring out how to not ignore it, but not let it take away from my current moments.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

We're OK

*HUGE SIGH*

(Eeyore voice) Oh hey guys. Thanks for checking in.

How are we in the days after my parents departure?

We're ok.

We're ok, but I have not yet pulled myself out of the dark pit of despair (not exaggerating...Ok fine, maybe a tiny bit) that I crawled into after my parents left. Really a few days before my parents left, if we're being honest. And we like to be honest.

True story (pitiful, but true): My parents took Zoe for an evening so Z and I could have a date night. This was on Saturday. They were leaving on Monday. We get in the car and we are not even out of our village before I am in tears and Z is all like "um...are you crying? What's wrong?!" and everyone knows that the question "what is wrong?" when you're crying or on the verge of crying is basically a signal to your body and mind to release into FULL BLOWN UGLY CRY, complete with snot and hyperventilating and unintelligible gasps that may or may not be words. And I'm trying DESPERATELY to not be crying, which just makes crying that much more painful and terrible. I'm sad that my parents are leaving. I'm sad that we live so far away. I'm sad that Zoe is so far away from her grandparents. I'm sad that I'm crying. I'm sad that I'm ruining our date night. I'm sad that I don't have any tissues in the car and may have to resort to using my scarf if things don't clear up soon. All of this SADNESS just came tumbling out and probably sounded something like this:


Don't worry, I rallied and we had a wonderful evening out at one of our favorite Italian restaurants. I even had a (very large) glass of wine. What a treat. But not before sitting in the car trying to pull myself together while Z went into a nearby grocery story to buy a box of tissues (thus saving my scarf, whew. He really is THE best). And I was almost sent back into near-hysterics over the fact that all of this crying had basically washed away the makeup that I had worn for our big night out, which is really a rare occurrence these days. Hormones are hard, people. Snowball effect and all of that.

ANYWAYS. So that was beginning of the dark place. And it just grew as Monday, the day of my parents departure, loomed near.

Here's the thing. I don't like crying. Not that many people DO, but I especially don't. And if I'm going to cry, it should be in the shower, alone, and out of my system by the time I walk out of that bathroom. I cry a fair amount, I'd say. But RARELY, and I do mean rarely, in the presence of other people (including Z...he spends a lot of time telling me it's ok to cry as I fight off tears or walk out of the room when the tears start). I'm not sure where I got this "don't cry in front of people" thing from, but I have it, it's there, and I don't have the mental or emotional energy to figure out WHY right now. Psychoanalyze that silently, please. Do not report your findings to me. Thanks in advance. Take heart in the fact that I'm at least working out my issues via writing, which is probably super helpful. Then deduct points for the fact that I'm writing via blogging, therefore making these issues very public. Ok, are we good? Good.

Anyways, turns out that saying goodbye to your parents and knowing you're about to be thousands of miles apart is approximately 18,000 times harder when you have a child, their grandchild. For a million reasons. It's safe to say I cried most of the hour-long drive home from the airport. Zoe slept like an angel, so that worked out well. I came home to an empty house...SUPER depressing. And to the overwhelming realization that for the first time in 3 weeks, I was going to be alone with Zoe. I would be the only arms to hold her and comfort her when she cried or bounce her when she fussed. I would be the only one to make lunch and dinner and clean the house and do the things.

I was the only one to clean up the puddle of vomit Olive had projected out of her crate in our absence. I smelled it the second I walked in the door and I almost...ALMOST...had to laugh because of course my huge dog would throw up the minute the helping hands were gone.

But weirdly enough, having to deal with cleaning up that mess was a really calming distraction. Zoe slept and I had about an hour to wash the floor and Olive's crate (and the rug and the curtains...projectile, people) and it was a lovely distraction. It was normal and task-oriented and afterwards I felt like "hey, I can do this. I can take care of our baby. I can take care of our dog. I can take care of our home. Maybe not all at the same time or 100% perfectly but...It will be ok."

(Also, that dog-throwing-up thing? In her 1.5 years of life, Olive has thrown up 3 times. That one time that I take full responsibility for...and the other two have been completely unexplained. Her diet is always the same. Her routine is always the same. Her access to "things to be eaten" outside is always the same. I think it's probably just a conspiracy against me.)

So anyways. We're ok. We've given ourselves permission to lay low this week, to feel sad, to stay in our pjs, to not do anything that feels particularly overwhelming or stressful. Radical self-care, à la Anne Lamott. We're in full introvert mode (or is it social anxiety mode, I can't really tell the difference...). We're fully enjoying the freezer full of meals my mom left for us. And the clean, well-organized house. We're thanking God for sunny days, because I'm just not sure I could bear it if the weather was dark and dreary and I was dark and dreary...We're taking walks and eating Thin Mints and doing yoga and coaxing smiles out of Zoe and slowly getting back into a routine that doesn't include my mom and dad.

We're counting down the days until we see them again in May.

We're ok.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ok fine, more pictures

We also had professional pictures done. I love these because they show the nursery and some of her baby gifts (blankets made for her or passed down through the family), we got some family shots, and also a few pictures of us walking around our little German village. I hope Zoe will cherish these pictures someday. I am so pleased with how they turned out...

Zoe's nursery. The "poof" we use as a footstool was a souvenir from our trip to Morocco. The rocking chair is my favorite part...I bought it for $50 and refinished it. I love it.



He's such a good dad



A friend in my BIble study crocheted this blanket for Zoe. Amazing.

Struggling to focus those newborn eyes :) This quilt was made by my great-grandmother.



Zoe is wrapped up in my baby blanket here.



Family





Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Birth Story

So here we go. This is the PG version. You're welcome, Dad (and every man who reads this blog). There won't be any words like "cervix" or "placenta". I wrote up the FULL version for some girlfriends who requested all the details, but this...this is the reader-friendly version. Some details just don't need to be published, youknowwhatI'msaying?

Here we go.

Friday, January 30th.
Z and I were at the weekly home church/military ministry gathering that we attend on Friday nights. The potluck theme was Southern food, so I was particularly excited about some good grits, chicken and dumplings...that sort of thing. Friday nights are always a great time and I was enjoying the food and fellowship with good friends and looking forward to our plans for the weekend. The night was delightful, but at 35 weeks and a few days pregnant, I was completely uncomfortable. Throughout the worship and message portion of the evening, I must have been visibly uncomfortable as I kept repositioning myself on the hard folding chair and taking deep breaths every so often to try to move the baby's legs away from my lungs and get a good full gulp of air...afterwards three different friends made comments about how uncomfortable I looked and there were a few jokes about me going into labor right then and there. I took it all in stride but the same thought plagued me...how was I going to do FIVE MORE WEEKS of this? I was miserable. We headed home that evening and went to bed as usual...nothing at all out of the ordinary.

Saturday, February 1st.

At around 2am, I woke up to use the bathroom (as usual). I felt totally normal...got up, went to the bathroom, got back in bed. As I got back in bed, my water broke. But I was in denial...I honestly thought I had just reached the stage of pregnancy that so many had warned me about...where you start to lose control of your bladder a little bit when you laugh or sneeze or whatever. "Well, this is unfortunate..." I thought. But at least it happened in the privacy of my own home in the middle of the night. I got back in bed and about 20 minutes later, a similar sensation. Oh jeez. I pushed away the unsettling thought that maybe my water had broke...I didn't want to even entertain the idea. It was too early...I wasn't ready. No. So I handled it like any other situation I encounter that I don't want to deal with: I went back to sleep. I woke up a few hours later to more of the same. This time I knew I couldn't ignore it...we needed to go get this checked out. I decided to wake up Z, who has the amazing ability to go from being dead asleep to wide awake as soon as I say his name (but can sleep right through all kinds of pushing and poking and shaking...it's a mystery).

"Zach..."
*his eyes fly open*
"We need to go to the hospital"
*sits up abruptly*
"What's wrong?!"
"I think my water broke...but I want to take a shower and pack a bag, so just go back to sleep for a little bit."

It sounds like I was really calm, but really I think I was having a totally out-of-body experience. It felt surreal. Inside, I was freaking out. Z went back to sleep (but he swears he didn't actually sleep) and I got in the shower, got ready, and started packing hospital bags. Yes, bags plural. Still in denial, I decided I needed a bag for "we're just going to monitor you for a few hours and then you can go home" and a bag for "we're keeping you here on bed rest for a few days". I instructed Z to just leave both bags in the car once we got to the hospital. We left the house around 6am...I was very nervous and very aware of how unprepared we were to have a baby so early...there was still way too much that needed to be done. I was also concerned about what could be happening...I was having no contractions, no weird feelings...I didn't feel like I was in labor. It was all very unsettling. We got to the hospital and were buzzed in to the labor and delivery ward.

Both doctors on duty spoke limited English...but enough to know what was going on. We gave them our paperwork and they hooked me up to the fetal monitor while taking about 4 vials of blood (nothing was being explained to me, so I was nervous about everything). They looked over my paperwork and were visibly relieved to see my midwife, Susan, was mentioned in my file. She is fluent in German and English, and I could tell they wanted her there. Z gave her a call and explained what was happening and she said she'd swing by in a few hours. We later learned that the doctors called her back shortly after Z talked to her and asked that she come right away...she showed up about 30 minutes later. The doctors originally told me they didn't think my water broke. They mentioned a UTI and kind of shrugged as if they weren't really sure what was going on...I wasn't dilated, I wasn't having contractions...nothing. Once Susan came, she had no doubt. She talked with the head doctor (who needed to be involved since I was only 35 weeks) and they decided that if I hadn't progressed by noon on Saturday, they would induce via cervical gel (woops, I said I wouldn't say "cervix", minus one Thin Mint for me) and if nothing happened by noon on Sunday, they'd want to do a C-section. Either way, we were having the baby that weekend. Whoa. I must have looked shaken because Susan, who is an angel, diverted my attention by taking Z and I on a tour of the NICU and preemie wards and talking us through exactly what would happen when our little one arrived and what to expect based on which unit she would end up in. After we got back to L&D, Z took off to take care of arrangements for Olive and get snacks and other various items that I wanted/needed for the impending labor, delivery and hospital stay. (Side note: I told Zach that snack-wise, some granola bars would be good. He returned with about 6 boxes of different granola bars. God bless that man.) Susan hooked me up to an IV to receive antibiotics to prevent infection and then I was alone. This is when everything started to sink in. And I was scared. After the IV, Susan encouraged me to walk around and try to get things progressing, so off I went. I must have walked up and down 4 flights of stairs about 100 times. I listened to my worship playlist, I emailed my friends to let them know what was going on, I texted Z...around 9am he encouraged me to call my parents on FaceTime. I was worried since it was only 3am in the states, and I was also fairly sure I would burst into tears upon seeing them...but I did get in touch with them and I ended up feeling much better after talking to them. They were so excited and encouraging and that helped calm my nerves. It sucked to be so far away from them (and in a German hospital) when all of this was happening.

Noon rolled around and Susan came back to check on my progress...not much. I was only at 1cm, so they gave me the induction gel, warned me that it may take 2 or 3 doses to work, and told me to relax for the next hour. Within about 30 minutes I started feeling contractions...I put my headphones back on, turned on my music and tried to completely relax and nap for the next hour. I then texted Z to find out where he was and when he would get back...I was getting nervous as the contractions were coming regularly now, but I wasn't in significant pain yet. He arrived about 20 minutes later, fully stocked with drinks and snacks (so many snacks). At this point, Susan took us to the recovery room I would be staying in. We finally brought my bags in and got settled. After this, we took off on a walk...there is a trail around the hospital and it felt so good to be outside in the cold air as the contractions got worse. We walked and talked, stopping for each contraction so I could breathe through it, squat down, bend over...do whatever to work through the rapidly increasing pain. Contractions were 2 minutes apart now, lasting about 90 seconds each. Zach was incredible, encouraging me through each one, reminding me to relax my jaw and my shoulders and breathe deeply. We walked around the entire hospital like this for the next hour or so. At one point, towards the end of the walk as the contractions were really hurting, we passed a family walking their dog and I said to Z, "I just really need a therapy dog to pet and distract me through the contractions..." and I told him about the therapy dogs that were in the hospice center my grandfather spent his final days in and how much comfort I found in them. Minutes after this conversation, we were back in the hospital and Susan found us and said "Come on, let's take another walk!" So we headed back out...and sitting outside the hospital was the biggest teddy bear of a dog, a beautiful Bernese Mountain dog named Theo. God's little gift to me. He was Susan's dog and she brought him to walk with us...my therapy dog!! He trotted right up to me and let me pet him and love on him for a few minutes before we started walking again. Theo ran around with us, playing in the snow and providing a great distraction. After about 20 minutes, the pain was getting more intense and Susan suggested we head back in and I get in the tub. 

This is where things start getting fuzzy for me...I was completely focused on getting through each contraction, so a lot of the details and timing of things have kind of disappeared. For example, I have no memory of walking back in the hospital, getting things from my room, and walking to the tub room. But OH the tub!! The hospital has two tubs...one in a delivery room that is a huge, medical-grade, self-heating tub (this room was unavailable) and then one "regular" tub in a separate room. Since I had already been told I couldn't have the baby in the tub since my water broke early, I was happy to be in the simple tub room rather than the tub in the delivery room. We walked into this  intimate, dimly lit room with candles burning and aromatherapy and a tub full of hot water...just a small little room off to the side. And OH getting into that warm water was one of THE BEST feelings ever. The contractions immediately were more manageable and I was able to completely relax during the breaks. I had my headphones back in and everything became about resting through the breaks and focusing on breathing through the pain of each contraction. We were in the tub room for a few hours...Susan was in and out checking on us and doing some additional fetal monitoring. Zach was a rock...he held my iPhone so I could listen to my worship music from the tub, he gave me water, he got me ice to chew on and to put on my back during the contractions, and he massaged my back as the contractions got really bad. At some point, Susan had changed into her scrubs and told us she wasn't going anywhere (she had been in and out throughout the day)...this barely registered on my radar, but Z said he knew we were getting close. Susan then brought two women into the room to meet us and explained these were the pediatricians who would be taking care of our baby as soon as she was born...Susan explained we'd have a minute or so to hold her, then she'd have to be taken immediately due to her premature status, so it was really nice to see and meet the people who would be taking her. Just another reason why Susan was so wonderful...

After a few hours, things had really started to heat up. I was in extreme pain and finding it harder and harder to remain calm and control my breathing through each contraction. I was exhausted and felt like I was losing control. I remember tearing up and saying to Zach "I don't think I can do this anymore..." Susan and Zach were incredibly encouraging and a great support at this point. As I started to panic when I couldn't catch my breath during the contractions, I looked at Susan and said "What are my options?" She told me that there was still time for the epidural, but I asked to be checked before making any decisions. I was 8cm and knew that I would eventually have to get out of the tub (a move I was dreading more and more as the contractions got worse and worse). I decided I needed the epidural (and knew I had to get it soon or the doctor wouldn't administer it...although I'm confident Susan would have advocated for me had he refused. He, as the chief hospital OB, is known to be very pro-natural birth, which is why the hospital doesn't use Pitocin for induction. Had I waited, there is a good chance he would have said I was too close to delivery to bother with the epidural. This is common based on the German birth stories I've heard and I was very concerned.) After deciding to get the epidural, I had to finally move out of the tub and into a delivery room.

This was by far the worst part of the entire process. The contractions I had outside of the tub, moving to the delivery room, and while I was getting the epidural were absolutely excruciating. The doctor administered the PDA (walking epidural, meaning I still had full use of my legs and I still had sensation and could feel the contractions, just without the pain) and within 30 minutes I was a happy camper. As soon as the epi took effect, Susan let Zach know there were some visitors outside. Some fabulous friends dropped by to bring Z a sandwich (how brilliant and thoughtful was that?!) and a bag of goodies for my recovery room as well. By the time Z came back in, it was getting close to pushing time.

I was in no way prepared for the amount of work and the intensity of this stage of labor, but really, who is? I have no idea how long I pushed...it felt like forever, but in reality was probably less than an hour. Susan kept having me reposition myself to help the baby move down and out most effectively, but finally she and the doctor explained that progress was stalled and they were going to discuss suction or forceps...I didn't love hearing this, but of course, wanted her out safely and quickly. They opted for suction and decided to use it only to turn her body and not to "pull her out" (phew). I didn't feel much while they turned her...it just took a few minutes and then I was able to push again. The rest is a blur...minutes later Susan said to me "open your eyes!! Look at your daughter!". I didn't even realize how tightly I had my eyes closed but I'm so glad she noticed and had me open them, because there was our sweet little Zoe Marie, entering the world at 8:38pm! What an amazing moment.

Susan put her right on my chest and I got to hold our Zoe for just a few minutes before they took her away. Z went with the doctors and was able to stay with her until they had her set up in the preemie ward, then he came back to me. They stuck me in a wheelchair and took us to see our girl one more time before I was wheeled back down to the recovery room and put in bed. The whole process, from water breaking to delivery was less than 24 hours, with only about 9 hours of labor.

The rest is history...I was in the hospital for 5 days before being released (which was actually really nice because I was able to spend big chunks of the day with Zoe). They kept her in the preemie ward an additional 6 days for a total of 11 days. We were THRILLED to bring her home and it's been a blur of wonderful and exhausting ever since.

So there is it. The birth story.





Placenta. (Shame on me. No Thin Mints today.)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

All the pictures

 
I think I've taken about 12 thousand pictures of Miss Zoe. And that's probably a conservative estimate.

This is the beauty of iPhones. Think what you will about technology and the decline of civilization and personal communication and oh-the-good-ol-days-when-people-made-eye-contact but let's be real...having an iPhone (or any smart phone) is pretty handy when it comes to taking pictures. (And also Googling...how did anyone know ANYTHING about babies and parenting and all of that before Google? I'm seriously concerned).

I am not one to take pictures, usually...it just doesn't really fly on my radar screen, that whole "I should get a picture of this" compulsion.

But now? With a baby, I am suddenly compelled to take pictures almost every time she does anything. You might think, "but doesn't that mean you're attached to your phone all day long? That poor baby is going to grow up thinking the back of your iPhone is her mother!"

You might think that but I hope you wouldn't say it out loud. At least not to my face.

But the truth is NO. Because did you know about iPhones rapid shot feature? Where you just hold the picture-taking (shutter?) button down and it takes a bazillion rapid-fire pictures. Yes. This exists and it is life changing. So a few times a day, when Zoe is being particularly cute or smile-y, I just hold that button down, take about a gazillion pictures and the it's over. I'll go back later and look at them all, deleting the bazillion that didn't turn out great in favor of the 5 that are just ADORABLE.

Thanks, iPhone. I heart you.

Additionally, a friend told me about an app that has basically performed the task of half of my brain these last 6 weeks. You guys, if you're a mom to a newborn, a soon-to-be mom, or even thinking about being a mom someday, GET THIS APP. Yes, it's pricey at around 5 bucks (for an app). But worth every penny. It's called Total Baby and it basically keeps track of everything you're supposed to keep track of but have zero brain capacity or mental energy to actually keep track of...diapers, feedings, right side, left side, sleep time, wake time, bath time, and so on. Then it has an awesome graph feature that you can pull up to see what your baby has been doing over the past day, week, month...so you can see a schedule start to emerge! And all you've done is push a button on your phone. Bam. Amazing. My mom will ask me "what's she supposed to be doing right now? Sleeping? Awake time?" and I just pull out that app and it tells me! The doctor wants to know how many dirty diapers she's had in the past 24 hours? APP TO THE RESCUE! There's no room in my brain to track how many times this kid poops, ok? That space is being occupied by my running tally of how many Thin Mints I get to eat when I get home.

Ok, I didn't start this post to plug the iPhone and I'm not being paid for that, so let's move on. PICTURES.

Side note: I'm not being paid to blog about Thin Mints or Cheerios either. I STILL don't understand this.

Seriously though. Pictures. So many.


One of the first pictures of her...Z holding her for the first time. Look how annoyed she is about being born. Little stinker.

And now a few snapshots of her first 6 weeks of life...we are so in love with this little one.

Oh, another note. We named her Zoe because we liked it (pronounced Zo-ee) and Marie after my great-grandmother on my mom's side. I love having two Z's in my life.





Since she was early, Zoe spent 11 days in the preemie ward at the hospital. Here's her little setup.

 Pitiful little babe after getting her IV put in her head. Hearing her scream was the WORST.
 


I hate that this picture is so grainy, but I love this picture of my man and his baby.

Finally going home!!
 



 
Olive keeping a close eye on Zoe
 

ROLLS!

I love her little hands.
 


Bodyguard


Ok. We have to stop there for now. It's getting to be too much to handle. Oh we are in love.

 


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Thin Mints: the Dark Side

I currently have 7 boxes of Thin Mints in the house, courtesy of some amazing care packages that arrived this week. All this tells me is that next time I talk about awards, I should discuss awarding myself with hundred dollar bills.

But seriously, SO MANY THIN MINTS. It's truly the greatest (especially because Z hasn't been home so they aren't rapidly disappearing). I'm hoarding cookies over here. 

Here's a true (shameful) story...the most recent box of Thin Mints I opened quietly and discreetly, and then turned the box around so the opened tab wouldn't be immediately noticeable to whomever might open the freezer (looking at you, Z). You see, Zach will eat Thin Mints in great quantity, but once we reach the end of a box, he is not one to open a new box. So I thought, this is great! I'll open the box but make it LOOK unopened. Award for being so sneaky!

But wouldn't you know it, next time I went to (covertly) reward myself, there was a drastic drop in Thin Mint quantity...and I do keep track of my inventory. I knew Zach had discovered the open box. Drat. So I fessed up about my (failed) scheme. I will have to try another tactic next time.

The bad news is that I made the HUGE mistake of telling Z via text message that we got a bunch of new boxes of Thin Mints. If I were REALLY sneaky, I would have kept that information to myself and had a secret stash. The only wrinkle in this plan is that I only like frozen Thin Mints (is there any other way to enjoy them? I think not) and so the plan would get really complicated and involve a secret freezer somewhere in our house and that is just one step further than I'm willing to go. I think. I don't know. It's a moot point now since I did the right thing and divulged our great abundance of those glorious cookies. Sigh. Nobody prepares you for this part of marriage.

Am I the only spouse whose dark side is revealed by the presence of Thin Mints? Surely not.

Anyways, it's out there now, this ugly side of me. Thankfully, that's probably as bad as it gets. I'm pretty sure, at least.