Wednesday, July 27, 2016

2 months in: The greatest and hardest days

These are simultaneously the greatest and the hardest days.

I sit on the front porch with Zoe, watching the sun filter through our neighbors' sprinklers and the shadows grow long. Our neighbors come home from work and Zoe waves and yells "HI NEIGHBORS!" before turning to me and asking "Can our neighbor come over to play with me?"

Two-year-old girls are truly delightful.

I smile and tell her the neighbors are going to stay at their house tonight and Zoe turns back to her task at hand: picking "berries" off our bushes and throwing them into the yard yelling "COME HERE BIRDIES!" because I told her the birds eat those berries (a fact that cannot be verified).

She is all heat-flushed and sweaty and wild-haired and bug-bitten and curious and easily amused and the perfect picture of summer innocence. She runs to the garage and comes back lugging two watering cans (one kid-sized, one roughly the same size as she), eager to help out as her daddy comes to turn our sprinklers on. I take a deep breath and settle into a place of contentment.

These end-of-the-day moments are necessary. Sometimes I sit alone, ignoring the mosquitoes and the heat because I just need a minute alone (and maybe also some Vitamin D; I don't get out much these days), sometimes I'm jiggling a fussy Eliza, sometimes Zoe joins me while Zach stays in with the baby...whatever company or solitude I'm allowed in those 20-30 minutes is perfect. Those minutes are the time to breathe deeply and remember these are the greatest days. To step out of the house, the mess, the lovely and harsh air conditioning, the "whatever" that made moments (or the entire day) challenging...that's the nice word for it, right? The "I don't want to complain" word. How are things? Oh they're...challenging. *Strained smile* But step outside for a minute, to exhale and release the hardest moments or revel in the greatest moments and realize it's actually ok because we made it and tomorrow is a new day. Who doesn't love a good reset? 

If it was a good day where naps were long and synced, where obedience won the fierce battle in the 2-year-old's heart, where nursing was easy and the baby was simply fat and full of dimpled smiles after eating well, where communication with Z was effortless and laced with inside jokes and quick laughter...then yes, YES! The day is ending and we get to do this again tomorrow. Thank God.

If it was a hard day where naps ended early and with the entire contents of the dresser blanketing a certain toddler's bedroom floor, where consequences for disobedience were dealt over and over, leaving everyone a little tense and frayed, where nursing was a struggle that ended with a screaming, frustrated baby and a mom on the verge of tears, where feelings are hurt because "seriously I JUST said that, were you not listening at all?"...then yes, YES! The day is ending and we get a new one tomorrow. Thank God. Take 5 to 45 extra minutes on the porch, as needed. 

These days are the greatest because Zoe is absolutely precious. She loves her "baby Liza" and wants to be involved in every part of Eliza's day. She is full of questions ranging from "can Eliza talk to me?" (not yet, but just you wait) to "should we dance in the kitchen?" (always) to "will you play with me?" (as much as I can) to "can I pour my water on Ollie?" (only outside...or if she deserves it) and anything and everything in between. We are teaching her about sin and forgiveness and grace and she said to me "gotta watch out for sin" and followed that up with "Can I touch your sin, Mama?" (So yeah, send help. How do you teach a 2-year-old these things on an age-appropriate level?) She is full of laughter and smiles and songs and questions and it is the greatest.

These days are the hardest because Zoe is two and she is discovering her independence and pushing her boundaries. She's learning how to navigate her new place as "big sister" in the family instead of "only child". She's learning the hard and never-ending lessons about sin and consequences and love and forgiveness. She's learning that mom and dad are not around primarily for her entertainment, which is really distressing to her I think. We're all adjusting to this new life with 2 kids. Z and I sometimes look at each other at the end of the day and feel overwhelmed and inadequate, unsure if we're "doing this right", all of it...the parenting, the disciplining, the adjusting...

These days are the greatest because an 8-week-old baby is pure sweetness. Eliza is all soft skin and rolls and coy smiles and sweet coos. We are delighted by nearly everything she does and there's no shortage of kisses directed at her round belly and chubby cheeks. Watching Zoe love Eliza and Eliza respond to her big sister is one of the greatest things I've ever witnessed. I can't wait to see their relationship grow. Eliza is sleeping well for a 2-month-old, all things considered. She's healthy and (usually) happy and impossibly squishy and snuggly. These days pass so quickly and I am soaking them in, letting dishes and laundry (and sometimes showers, if we're being honest) wait while I hold her close and breathe in that newborn sweetness, working hard for smiles and sweet baby noises. It is the greatest.

These days are the hardest because newborns are so. hard. For every night of good sleep there is a night where the hours roll by and we are still awake, walking the halls or rocking in her nursery, wishing I had a Fitbit so I could figure out how many miles I was logging. But maybe I don't actually want to know. I'll just go ahead and slap the 26.2 sticker on the back of my minivan. There is stress and anxiety, wishing this little baby could just tell me what is wrong so I could fix it. Praying she would fall asleep. Feeling alone and frustrated and above all, guilty...for feeling those things, for struggling with those while at the same time bursting with so much love for this tiny little treasure I'm holding in my arms. How do you reconcile those polar emotions in those 3am moments in a dark, quiet house? Maybe just reminding yourself that they are emotions, and emotions cannot be trusted and should not be the boss of us. And maybe also with Oreos. There is guilt over attention that is split between two little girls. There are tears and short tempers. There is the constant nagging question "Is it this hard for everyone? Or am I just especially weak and sensitive and unable to handle this great upheaval, this massive tidal wave of both positive and negative emotion?"  Part of me really wants to know the answer to that question. And part of me is terrified to know because what if...what if it really is so much easier and comes so much more naturally to everyone else? But if not...if this is normal, if this is actually this hard for everyone else, what a huge relief. How comforting and encouraging! We are in this together, moms of little tiny ones. We're going to be ok. Above all, there is the understanding and the reminder that this season is so short, even though sometimes it feels like it will never end. But it's still hard, in the meantime. And I still feel like a cranky zombie when my sleep is cut short.

The greatest days. The hardest days. I recently told a dear friend that I felt like I was perpetually playing catch-up in every area of my life and she responded with "it's more like the best way possible! Drowning in stress and love and anxiety and happiness..." Yes. That is probably a good way to put it. I know it won't always feel like this, so I'm trying not to let it get the best of me. Instead I do my best to pause and soak in the great days, the great moments...and as for the hard days, the hard moments...those pass quickly and a little front porch time does wonders for a weary mama.

And also, Oreos. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Eliza's Birth Story

I've sat down about 400 times to write this and found that I either get too emotional to finish or something more pressing requires my attention (a baby, a toddler, a dog, a husband, a cookie, a glass of wine...) But I feel a sense of urgency to get this down on paper now, before time starts to blur the memory and emotion of Eliza's birthday. So here it is.

May 25th, the day I posted about being pregnant forever, I had an early morning routine OB appointment. For whatever reason, my doctor suggested I have an ultrasound before I left the office, mostly to check on the size and status of the baby. I was going to get the ultrasound and head home; we would discuss "options" at my appointment the next week (my doctor really wanted me to have the baby before she left on vacation, and while I was hoping to avoid induction, I appreciated her enthusiasm and desire to be the doctor who delivered our girl). During the ultrasound, the tech found that my amniotic fluid was low...not dangerously low, but low enough that she called my doctor back in to talk to me.

The doctor expressed concern that the low fluid level could mean the placenta was no longer functioning properly and requested I come back on Friday, May 27th to check the levels again. She told me that no matter what, she wanted the baby out in the 38th week because the risk of her staying in with dropping fluid levels outweighed her making an appearance 2 weeks early. She asked me to talk to Zach and call back that afternoon to schedule an induction for either Sunday, May 29th or Tuesday, May 31st.

I was mildly concerned about the low fluid, but mostly feeling a mixture of relief and apprehension over knowing we would have our baby within the week. I also had to take some time to come to grips with the fact that I would probably need to be induced, something I had REALLY wanted to avoid. Zach and I settled on the Tuesday induction date with the hope of me going into labor naturally before then.

With the induction scheduled, I felt a sense of urgency to get things pulled together before we had this baby, so I went into full-on prep mode...I cleaned the house, did laundry, finished packing my bag, got my nails done (priorities), did last-minute errands, etc. Friday rolled around and I headed back to the doctor, sure that the ultrasound would find that my levels were holding steady and I would simply come back on Tuesday to have the baby. I walked out the door with a quick "bye, love you!" to Zach and Zoe, thinking I'd be back home in under an hour.

The ultrasound revealed that my fluid levels had dropped even further, bordering on "danger zone" level. The tech left to get my doctor and sent me back out to the waiting room. A few minutes later a nurse came and asked me to come back to a little private sitting room where she took a deep breath and said "The doctor would like to go ahead and do a C-section; there's a 12:30 slot available so we'll need to get over to the hospital now. Go ahead and call whoever you need to."

I think I must have just stared at her for a second before saying something eloquent like "Ok. Whoa. Wait a minute. Why do I have to have a C-section? Can I try to labor? Is the baby ok?"

The nurse didn't have any answers (super reassuring) so she left to consult with my doctor while I was left hyperventilating in this tiny little room. I called Zach, but I don't remember that conversation. I called my mom, and I only remember her telling me to breathe (helpful and necessary). In the meantime, I kept being interrupted by 3 different nurses popping their heads in to take my water bottle away (no more liquids before surgery), ask me if I'd eaten, ask me when I ate, and ask me what I ate (yes, 7:30, donuts...just kidding, it was oatmeal. I wish it was donuts). Finally the original nurse came back in and said "Come with me, the doctor will talk to you about what's going on".

I nervously entered the examination room and my doctor greeted me with a profuse apology for the confusion and explained in the fly-by conversation she had with the nurse, she confused my situation with another patient (she had 4 patients set to deliver that weekend). She reassured me that I could definitely labor safely and we would avoid a C-section unless absolutely medically necessary. We talked through a few more of my questions/concerns and she confirmed that she did indeed want me to be induced that day, but she left the final decision up to me whether we would risk waiting another 2-4 days. Zach and I agreed it wasn't worth the risk of my fluid dropping even more and potentially putting our sweet girl in danger. We were having a baby...that day.

My mind was racing at this point and I asked my doctor if I at least had time to go home and get my bag, drop off the car seat, eat a donut, etc. She said she would prefer I didn't and wanted to get started right way. I then voiced my concerns about being induced with Pitocin and requested we try the gel instead (this is what was used to successfully induce with Zoe in Germany). I had been adamantly against the use of Pitocin and had voiced this to my doctor throughout the pregnancy. She looked at me and said "Don't be afraid of Pitocin. I won't abuse it." and that kind of closed the door on that conversation. I wasn't upset, just more disappointed and a little afraid. I trusted my doctor, even though things weren't going the way I had hoped.

Everything started moving really quickly then. They got a wheelchair (so unnecessary) and wheeled me from the doctor's building to labor and delivery where I was checked in and given a room. I was left alone for a few minutes to call Zach and my mom back and talk logistics about my parents' arrival, Zoe's care, and getting Zach (and my bag) to the hospital. In those few solitary moments I broke down in tears over the fact that our family was about to be forever changed and I hadn't had a chance to say goodbye to Zoe. It sounds so dramatic, but I tear up even writing about it. All I wanted to do was scoop up my first baby girl in my arms and squeeze her so tight, tell her how much I loved her and how excited I was to see her be a big sister, and kiss her goodbye. I was heartbroken over not having that opportunity.

At around 10am my nurse (Nancy) came bouncing in, handed me a gown, hooked me up to my IVs and said "Ok, do you have a birth plan?"

I hesitated, slightly annoyed at her chipper-ness and desire to discuss my "plan" when everyone knows that things rarely go according to plan when giving birth, before saying "well...not really. I wasn't planning on being induced...or any of this..." and she didn't miss a beat before replying "Ok, but that means you had an idea of how you wanted this to go, so let's talk".

Looking back, this was the greatest gift she could have given me. To push past my initial response and dig deeper...she didn't have to do that. She could have accepted what I said and moved on. Nancy was a God-given gift and I will never forget her.

I took a deep breath and thought about how my ideal situation would be to go into labor naturally, labor at home as long as possible, and arrive at the hospital with plenty of time to have options about how the rest of the labor and delivery went. My "plan" had been pretty similar to my plan with Zoe...just see how it goes, keep an open mind, stay flexible to all options. I had an epidural with Zoe and I wasn't opposed to getting one again, but I also knew what I could handle after my experience with Zoe and I was comfortable with trying to see if I could deliver without pain meds or an epidural. After giving birth to Zoe my midwife had said to me "Your next delivery will be a piece of cake", and I chose to believe her.

With this in mind and the reality of my situation in front of me, I said "Ok, well based on my experience giving birth to our first, I would prefer as little medical intervention as possible" (which is laughable because at this point I'm in a hospital bed, wearing a hospital gown, with an IV pumping antibiotics and synthetic oxytocin into me whilst hooked up to a blood pressure cuff and fetal monitors. But no, let's keep it as natural as possible you guys.) But Nancy, God bless her, didn't laugh or raise her eyebrows or show any sign of skepticism. She simply said "Ok, then that's what we'll do. Here's my rule: if you want to talk about pain medication, you have to ask me twice. The first time you ask, I will not respond. You must ask twice. I will not offer it or bring it up to you. Otherwise, I'm here to help you get this baby out. Let's get you on the exercise ball, keep you moving, try to get things going." I agreed, we talked about a few other things that were important to me (delayed cord clamping, immediate skin-to-skin) and that was that. She said she'd be back in 20 minutes to check my progress and up my Pitocin. 

In the meantime, Zach was getting Zoe settled with our dear friend Laurel who dropped everything to come watch her until my parents arrived, and then got a ride with another friend to the hospital, where he stayed with me for about 30 minutes before taking the van (with carseat) back to our house and returning with his own car. (He also had to leave me at the hospital in Germany as labor was starting, so this felt normal to me). In the short time he was at home switching out cars and grabbing last-minute things I forgot to pack, he FaceTimed me with Zoe so I could have my moment with her before she became our oldest instead of our only. This was the most precious gift and I choked back tears and laughter as she asked me "You gots PJs on? You gots a shot?" and I told her how much I loved her and how I couldn't wait to see what a great big sister she would be. I felt so much better after having that chance to talk to really helped ease my mind and quiet my emotions as the contractions started to pick up. Shortly after that call I texted Zach and said "get here please, these are starting to hurt!"

At the 40 minute mark, a new nurse came in and let me know that Nancy was on a break and she was here to check my progress. She looked at my monitors and said "Well I'm not going to up the Pitocin because you seem to be responding well and I know you wanted as little intervention as possible." And she walked out. Again, Nancy...amazing. She had spread the word and they were all working together to be as supportive as possible. (Side note: for Pitocin, they start you at a 2 and it can go all the way up to 30, as needed, to help move labor along. For me, from start to finish, they never went past 6. I'm sure this is partly because I was responding well, but also because I had voiced my desire to have minimal intervention and Nancy took that seriously. Based on how fast and furious my contractions came on, I'm very very thankful I wasn't given a higher dose than I had.)

Once Zach arrived, I told him "I remember this pain. I'm already scared knowing how much worse it's going to get..."

Side note: Zach is a champion when it comes to support during labor. From that point on, he was the voice in my ear that talked over the voice in my head, offering me encouragement and support when the pain started to overwhelm me. He got ice chips, sat with me, rubbed the cramps out of my calves, offered to massage my back, and kept a close eye on my every move, ready to offer support in whatever way he could. He later said to me "Hey, through all of that you only cursed once!" and I, having a very foggy memory, asked when (after congratulating myself on this personal victory). The blood pressure cuff that checked my BP at 20 minute intervals was a huge nuisance and in a moment of pain and frustration I apparently said "Get this damn thing off me" (which he did, and we were scolded by the nurses. Woops).

I spent most of the next 4 hours on the exercise ball, bouncing and rocking and breathing through the contractions, which were painful but still manageable. At 2pm my doctor came in and said it was time to break my water since my first round of antibiotics was successfully complete. I really didn't want this to happen either, but after some more discussion, Zach and I agreed to move forward with it. So my water was broken and I moved back to the exercise ball and asked Zach to pull up Netflix so I could distract myself with some episodes of Fixer Upper (thank you Chip and Joanna).

In a matter of minutes my contractions got much, much more intense. I looked at Z and said "this was a terrible idea." I'm not sure if I meant having a baby in general or having my water broken or not having pain meds, I just know I was in pain and a LOT of it. Zach buzzed the nurse and Nancy came right in. I said something like, "I think I want to talk about pain management..." between contractions and she quickly responded with "Ok, how about we check your progress? You'll have to move to the bed for this."

Once I was on the bed I immediately was in much more pain. Laying down while having contractions was agonizing and I wanted nothing more than to get up out of the bed. Nancy checked me and said something like "whoa, ok you're ready! This is the part where you will want to give up; just listen to me and we'll work through it" and I remember saying something along the lines of "I can't do this!" as I fought to keep control of my breath through each contraction. I could hear Nancy telling me that I was in transition and everyone hits the "I can't do this" point and I just needed to hang in there, and I could hear Zach saying "when you got to this point with Zoe, she was here in less than an hour. You can do this." (when I got to that point with Zoe, I got an epidural...) Nancy got down in my face and looked me in my eye and said "Ok, I need you to turn on your side and lay this way for 3 contractions, and then we're going to turn on your other side for 3 contractions. That's going to move the baby down. You can do this."

Those 6 contractions...there are no words. I held Zach's hand as tight as I could, closed my eyes, and counted my way through each one. By the 6th contraction, I had forgotten all about the rule to ask twice for pain meds (I'm on to you now, NANCY) and was ready to push. This was simultaneously happening so, so quickly and lasting forever. It was incredibly intense, and that is an understatement. At some point my doctor had arrived and I realized "oh my gosh, this is happening". I remember again saying "I can't do this, I can't do this" and hearing reassuring things from everyone in the room (none of which registered with me). The next few minutes were a blur of pushing (which was actually sweet relief from the pain of the contractions) and desperately wanting to be done pushing. I remember at one point looking up and saying "WHY ISN'T SHE COMING?!" and then she was delivered in the very next push.

That moment was the sweetest moment of relief and joy...when they put that naked little screaming sweetie right on my chest where she immediately peed and then stayed snuggled in my arms for the next few hours (this was such a gift as I was only able to hold Zoe for a few minutes before they took her to the NICU). When Zach and I had talked about meeting Eliza, one thing I told him was that I really wanted to be present for the moment when we met her, because with Zoe it was such a blur that I felt like I "missed" the experience of seeing her and holding her for the first time. With Eliza, I was given the opportunity to fully soak in every part of those moments and I am so thankful for that time.

Eliza Rae entered the world at 3:34pm on May 27th, about 5 hours after induction began (not a bad way to go, all things considered). She weighed 7lbs and was 19.5 inches long. She was (and is) absolutely perfect, with the longest toes and fingers and the sweetest dimples from her daddy (the moment I realized she had dimples...oh my gosh).

Shortly after delivery my doctor asked me "Ok, having given birth naturally and with an epidural, what will you do next time?!" and I'm all like "THERE WILL BE NO NEXT TIME." but that's probably not true...just maybe it's terrible timing to ask a woman who has JUST GIVEN BIRTH to consider doing it again, regardless of the experience.

My experiences giving birth in Germany and in the States were vastly different, but I wouldn't say one was better than the other and I'm not ready to say what route I'll take if/when we have another baby. At the end of the day, we held a precious, perfect baby girl in our arms and that really is all that matters.

The past two weeks have been filled with immensely sweet and incredibly challenging moments, which I think is probably par for the course when adjusting to life with a newborn and toddler. I am soaking up every sleep-deprived moment because I know just how fast it will go. My heart is so full when I look at our little family of four and I am so very, very thankful. Welcome to the world, adorable Eliza Rae. We are already so crazy about you.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

38 Weeks (or, almost. Just let me round up, ok?)

I'm now 37.5 weeks pregnant, but when anyone asks I round up to 38. I've been doing this since 37 weeks and 1 day because we all need to find our coping mechanisms and this is mine. Well, this and donuts. I came in from grocery shopping today and Zoe's sweet little voice yells out "Mama, you're home! Did you gots donuts?!" and I'm all "sweetie, Mama doesn't get donuts every time she leaves the house; here have these organic, non-GMO, locally-sourced blueberries and act like it's your usual snack " (when in reality the true answer should have been "sweetie, that's only on Wednesdays. Today is Tuesday." and we could share a moment of silent disappointment over this before unloading the donut-less groceries).

Anyways, I just keep getting more pregnant, a fact that continues to fascinate and agitate me with each passing day. Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled this little one continues to cook, but I'm also like "whoa, I'm huge". This invites a lot of comments from strangers, and if there's anything I like less than interacting with strangers, it's interacting with strangers regarding my physical appearance. Wal-Mart brought the greeters back, did you know this? So I go to get my cart today and this elderly gentleman in a blue vest juts his chin out towards my belly and says "What'd you go and do that for?" and I'm still not actually sure how to answer him or how I did answer him because I was furiously penning an angry complaint to Customer Service in my mind, complete with phrases like "way outside of his parameters" and "gross misstep beyond customer/employee relationship boundaries" and "highly offended at the price of fresh pineapple". I really lost momentum after that though and never got around to addressing this method of "greeting" me, but let me just go ahead and say that the ONLY thing that's ok to say to someone who is 9 months pregnant is "Wow, you look lovely." Alternatively, you could say "can I buy you some donuts?" if you feel like you cannot in good conscience lie about the loveliness of someone who is breaking out in a sweat while leaning over the produce bins reaching for an avocado. That's up to you. 

I keep looking for signs that labor is imminent and thus far I am lacking in nearly all areas that Google assures me means I will actually have a baby: nesting, burst of energy, baby dropping, blah blah. Aside from being 2 (2.5, whatever) weeks from my due date, I usually just accept the fact that I will be pregnant forever. In the meantime, Zach has really started nesting hard and I both appreciate and resent this about him. He's over there on a ladder washing our 2nd story foyer and great room windows, getting cobwebs out of the ceiling corners, and replacing the wonky screws on our shower drain (no ladder for this task, just felt like that needed to be clear) and I'm all "my gosh, I love that man, look at him go!" but also "is he trying to make me feel bad for sitting here? Is he passive-aggressively highlighting my LACK of accomplishing anything?" (the answer to those two questions is definitely NO because that is not at all how Z operates, but pregnancy hormones, youknow?) and so I bounce a little more vigorously on my exercise ball as if to say "Look, I AM doing something, I'm working on going into labor. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE LATELY, I'M GROWING A BABY! Step up your game, man." 

In the meantime, Zoe continues to be very interested and concerned about this baby and when she will be here and what she's doing and how I'm doing. I've started taking daily brisk walks (let's use those three words loosely, ok) with Olive to try to encourage progress. Before I leave for these walks, Z or I will usually explain to Zoe that I'm going to "walk that baby out" and she needs to stay home with daddy so I can walk quickly and with a purpose. So at least once a day Zoe comes over to me, places her two precious hands, one over the other, on my belly and asks "You gonna walk that baby, Mama?" She's very perceptive and this is both adorable and alarming, especially since she has started repeating things we say, which has caused me to think twice about the fact that every time I sneeze, Z will say "bless you" to which I respond with a triumphant announcement of "DID NOT PEE!" because my pregnancy app has gotten progressively more discouraging about the symptoms I may or should be experiencing at this point in pregnancy and matter-of-factly stated that sneezing, laughing, coughing, etc. is likely to cause small amounts of urine to leak out as pregnancy progresses. The miracle of life, you guys. So I have to take these small wins wherever I can get them. Anyways, I realized that it's just a matter of time before I sneeze and hear her sweet little voice call out "did you pee, Mama?" or she sneezes and exclaims "did not pee, Mama!" and while this is hilarious to consider, it's also potentially mortifying to think about where and around whom this could occur. We all need to be on our toes over here, for a lot of reasons. 

I keep reminding myself that the end of this season is near (hopefully very, very near) but in the meantime, it's not all so bad. In fact, our current situation is borderline luxurious for me. Zach is on a break from school and I am extremely spoiled to have him around so much and sharing the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities. It is immensely helpful in all areas and I don't take it for granted for one second. I get a nice long nap nearly every afternoon. He lets me sleep in when I've had hours of insomnia the night before. He cooks and cleans and runs errands and plays with Zoe and sympathetically listens to my pregnancy woes and he does all this without expecting the encouragement and praise that I am so needy for these days. He makes dinner like it's no big deal, whereas I ride that wave of personal accomplishment for DAYS. Like, yeah, maybe today I didn't actually leave the house or do anything, but I made dinner a few nights ago, remember that? How incredible! How do I do it? How do I manage it all while being SO PREGNANT? And while staying so humble...

He's going to be so happy when this baby arrives. For many, many reasons.

Oh, at my last appointment my doctor casually mentioned she's going on vacation one day after my due date. In reality, this isn't a big deal. I remind myself I had our first baby 5 weeks early in a foreign country with a doctor that spoke no English and that I had never laid eyes on. But I had sort of latched on to the comfort of knowing and trusting the doctor who would deliver this little one, so here's hoping she comes sooner rather than later. I'm going to keep staying strong. One day at a time. This baby WILL be born soon, one way or another. And tomorrow is Wednesday. Donut day. We can do this. 

Friday, May 6, 2016

35 weeks: Then and Now

I just hit 35 weeks in this pregnancy and it feels sort of momentous, even though I really haven't had all that much to do with it (aside from consenting to weekly progesterone shots to ensure this one doesn't plan a sneak-attack early arrival like her sister). So here we are.

I am approximately 23% bigger (no idea if that's accurate, just going on feeling here) (<--- that should actually be the title of this blog, amiright?!) this time around but equally uncomfortable and possibly (probably) whinier. People who know Zoe's birth story have asked how I'm feeling about hitting 35 weeks and honestly, I feel calm...and also nervous. (another good blog title. Killing it today.) Mostly, I feel like any new pain or twitch or sensation is impending labor, so I'm lots of fun to be around right now.

At 35 weeks with Zoe, I was feeling like I couldn't possibly be pregnant for even one more day, let alone 5 more weeks, but I was in it for the long haul. I knew a lot of first pregnancies go past the arbitrary due date and I was prepared for that possibility (and not at all expecting a baby any earlier than 40 weeks). I was completely laid back in the sense that I felt no real urgency to "nest" or prepare because I had PLENTY of time. My maternity leave had just gone into effect the week before (shout out to Germany for the most incredible maternity policies) so I wasn't working and I felt like I had all the time in the world to finish the birthing books and do things like get the nursery into even mildly functioning condition.

And then my water broke and my midwife said "you're having a baby this weekend" and the panic set in. I wasn't ready. We weren't ready. The baby surely wasn't ready. THE NURSERY WASN'T READY. Also, I hadn't finished the baby books (which was truly alarming to me at the time. I'm rational.) Oh, and our parents weren't set to arrive for another month or so. This realization...knowing we would bring our newborn home and my mom would be thousands of miles still makes my heart sink to just think about it. But then Zoe arrived, scowling and pink and chubby and fine. And we survived. And Zoe is truly the greatest.

So this time, as I hit 35 weeks, I feel at peace. Sure, I'd love this little girl to stay put a smidge longer (and she probably will)...but I'm excited and nervous, just like the first time. Except this time, the nursery is ready (I did feel the sense of urgency this time around). The baby books are still not totally read, but we did ok the first time around so I'm not as twitchy and panicky about that small detail. Our parents are a mere phone call and few hours-drive away (this makes all the difference). Also, we know what's on the other side this time, in terms of what it's like to meet your new baby and the immense joy that erases all of the pain and angst the precedes their arrival. This is immensely helpful...

We don't know how the labor and delivery will go. We don't know if this little sweetie will be ok from her first breath or if she will need NICU time. We don't know a lot, but we do know these things: We know we can do this! We know at the end of it all, our sweet girl will be in our arms. We know that the nurses and doctors will speak English (hallelujah, amen). We know I will not be pregnant forever! (We do know this, right? I'm not always so sure.)

So we carry on...and look forward to our newest arrival! Come on, baby girl. We already love you so much; there's a spot in our family that only you can fill. 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Zoe turns 2

My goodness I need to pull. it. together. I just logged on to do some writing and realized I never published this. So I'm publishing it. Now. Although as I reread this I realized I only wrote the good stuff...and that's ok, because honestly, that's the stuff I'll want to remember. But I just need to go ahead and let you know that she's still a two-year-old. There are still power struggles and defiance and tears and disobedience and fits pitched. We're no perfect family over here, but we give lots and lots of grace and hugs and forgiveness, even on the days where I collapse on the couch after saying to Z "YOU put her to bed; I'm done". It is messy and hard and delightful and fun, all rolled into one.

Also, I realized I probably didn't publish this on time because I thought "I'll come back and add pictures". But then I didn't. This is what Instagram is for, you guys. 

I woke up at 2:07am last night to hear Zoe coughing, and then start crying. This is very, very rare for her. I rolled over to look at the monitor and I saw her standing up in her crib, holding her bunny, and crying. I could tell she was still mostly asleep, so I waited to get up and go soothe her. After a few minutes, she laid back down and went back to sleep. 

Me? I was awake for probably the next hour. At first, I was frustrated and annoyed. But then I realized that her little wake-up call was almost exactly the same time that I had woken up 2 years earlier to discover my water had broke. This realization immediately softened me. 

Two years. My big two years old. And my gosh is she precious. When I was pregnant with Zo, I prayed some very, very specific prayers for her. I prayed that she would have a sweetness to her that was deeply ingrained and that she would have her daddy's tender heart. I prayed that she would be strong in that sweetness; that she would have a little spark in her. She is exactly that...completely, deeply sweet with a little spark.

Here's who Zoe is at 2 years old:

For her birthday we got her some big Minion balloons, because she LOVES all things Minions (thanks to her Uncle Max). She is DELIGHTED with these balloons. In fact, they've been with her constantly since Zach brought them home yesterday. She carries all 3 of them around the house, she offers one of them to me or Zach so we can all have one ("here you go, Mama!"), she jumps around with them to see them all bounce together...As I was cooking dinner last night, I heard her jumping around in her playroom with the balloons, laughing hysterically. I went to see what was so funny and realized she was so thrilled because Olive was standing there watching her play and she LOVES an audience, even a canine one (maybe especially a canine one).

She LOVES to do whatever Z or I do. This means we constantly have a little shadow. She says "helpin' Mama!" as she follows me around the house. She has her own kid-sized Swiffer that she calls "good girl" because that's what I was always saying to her whenever she helped me sweep or mop. She pushes a kitchen chair up the counter and stands with me as I cook dinner, wanting to touch everything, eat everything, mix everything, do everything (I found tiny little teeth marks in the stick of butter I pulled out of the fridge yesterday...). She sits down with Z's wireless keyboard while he's studying and says "workin' daddy's computer". When she comes across a slime of Olive's slobber on the floor or walls (I know, so gross. This is what my life is, you guys) she says "Ew, Ollie slobber. Paper towel!" and runs to get a tissue or paper towel to clean it up (this actually works great for me. Go Zoe go!). After she's done, she says "nasty dog" and moves on.

As I'm sitting here writing this, she realized I wasn't in the same room as her and loudly shouts "MAMA! MAAAA-MAA!" She just wants to know she's not alone. Don't we all? She requires frequent "checkpoints" throughout her day. She'll be running around playing, but every so often she comes to me or Z or crawls in our laps or asks to "hold you" and snuggles for a few glorious minutes. Yesterday and crawled into my lap and said "rock baby" and I could have sobbed right then and there as she contorted her toddler body into a cradled position and waited for me to rock her back and forth like a baby. She is SO cuddly and I adore this about her (full disclosure, USUALLY I adore this. Sometimes I'm like "Kid, I just need 2 minutes, ok?" But as she turns 2, I'm reminding myself to adore it even in the moments where I feel smothered or smushed, because I know this won't last forever).

Olive (her "Ollie") is her best friend. Well, Olive and her stuffed bunny...but we really try hard to leave bunny in bed during the day. This is a challenge. EVERY DAY. Anyways. She wants Olive to play with her all the time and Olive is a pretty good sport, but also really lazy. So the house is usually ringing with Zoe's sweet voice yelling "Ollie! Come here!" and Olive maybe rolls over or twitches an ear and I'm all "I know you can hear her, Olive! You go play with that little girl right now!" Sweet Zo just wants a buddy.(This makes me even MORE excited about the arrival of Zoe's baby sister...I cannot wait to watch their relationship unfold and see them play together.)

Zo is talking ALL THE TIME and repeating EVERYTHING (which has been slightly terrifying for me and Z sometimes. You really learn to check what you say!) Today she put her hands on my growing belly and said "Mama's belly sleeping", because whenever she asks about the baby we tell her the baby is sleeping in Mama's belly. She is delightful.

I LOVE watching this little girl grow and learn and change...what a beautiful, sacred gift it is to be her mama. I am SO excited for her next year. She has melted and expanded our hearts and we couldn't imagine our lives without her sweet, funny, precious self!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

New Year, you sure did sneak up on me

Hey, Happy New Year, right?!

I haven't written in a while and it's a fact that the longer you go without writing, the harder it is to start writing again. It gets too overwhelming, you know?

Where do you even start? 

We have finally settled into that happy and very boring stage of life, the stage after the last major transition and before the next...the next being the arrival of Baby Girl #2 in June, which we are ridiculously excited about.

Pregnancy #2 has thus far been characterized as "more" of everything. More excitement, more hormonal tears, more morning sickness (so much more), more whining (less wine-ing, which is just as disappointing as round 1), more aches and pains, more eager anticipation, more dreaming about what she'll be like and who she'll look like (Zach. Always Zach) and what life will be like when she arrives, and way, way more Chex mix. If you knew how many batches of Chex mix I've made since would be mortified. Or I would be mortified. Either way, I'm sure my sodium level is fine. And just think of all of those fortified vitamins and minerals courtesy of General Mills this little baby is getting.

Also, I drive a minivan now. I am equal parts embarrassed and thrilled about this recent life event; the transition to minivan mom. Embarrassed because oh my gosh, it's a minivan. There's just no getting around that. There is no cool factor, there is no denial. It screams "mom". I am one step away from bumper stickers and stick-family decals (but no, never. Never ever.) But thrilled because it is SO FUNCTIONAL. I no longer have to contort my body to get Zoe in and out of her car seat (or worry about hitting her/my head in the process. So many head injuries...). I no longer have to worry about space because we can cram so much in there that it's downright exhilarating. Do we need to bring Zoe's wagon for an overnight trip to Atlanta? No way. BUT IT FITS! Stick it in there. And maybe a few other things just because we can. Zach, go grab the rocking chair. It's just nice to have in case we decide we want to sit in a chair and rock. Also, the doors on the van. They are automatic. The trunk is automatic. I just push buttons and things happen. This is basically all I want out of push a button and things will happen. This is everything.

But anyways, between the kids (whoa, plural) and our giant dog, the van just makes sense. I will drive it until I'm old and grey. So, for like, what? 5 years?

Wait, I just need to say one more thing about pregnancy #2. Everyone will tell you that your belly pops out sooner, that you grow faster, that you're obviously pregnant earlier with each subsequent pregnancy after the first. It's like your body goes "Oh yeah, I did this before. WATCH ME DO IT BETTER, FASTER, BIGGER THIS TIME." I heard all of this and acknowledged it as universal truth, but I did not fully grasp it until here I am at 19 weeks and I'm all "Ok, I'm maxed out, right? We are definitely reaching capacity here", whereas last time at 19 weeks I had people acting shocked when I told them that we were having a baby. Every time I'm at the gym (send me all the awards) or the grocery store I am secretly hoping no one decides to talk to me about how far along I am or when the baby is due because I cannot bear to see the look of shock in their eyes when I tell them that I'm not even halfway there. This is another reason why it's important to just never ask a pregnant-looking (and hopefully actually pregnant) woman how far along they are if they are not an actual personal friend, ok? Everyone will feel better if this question is avoided in casual interactions.

So anyways, there's the baby-expecting and van-driving thing.

And the new year. The new year with it's new goals and new challenges and new experiences. Zoe will turn two. A new baby will join the family. Z will finish his first year of grad school and begin his second. I will turn 30. All of these things are exciting to think about and look forward to, but I'm also actively working on continuing to be present in the here and now (she says as she ignores her child's cries for help to put the socks on that SHE JUST TOOK OFF. Obviously nailing it.) I want to look forward to the future while soaking in the present, because time really is moving too fast, even when the days seem impossibly long. Remind me I said this when I'm dealing with a toddler meltdown after a night of newborn screaming? Thanks. But this, I think, will be one of the biggest foreseeable challenges of this new year...embracing the moment, enjoying the moment, being in the moment, even when the moment is not pretty or happy or perfect or calm or what I would prefer it to be. Especially the moments I find myself wishing away...the pregnancy sickness and pains, the toddler meltdowns, the toys-falling-out-of-the-van-when-the-doors-open, the impending sleepless nights with a new baby, etc. etc. etc... But now, more than ever, I'm aware of how fast it all goes and how sudden it all feels when it's finally behind us. So that's the goal for this year. One of them at least.

I have other goals, but this one seems like a good one to focus on for now. One thing at a time. Otherwise I'll get overwhelmed and suddenly find myself elbow-deep in a box of Thin Mints watching Netflix at 1am (just kidding, that would be ridiculous. I never stay up past 9pm. The Thin Mints part is serious though.)
So we'll start here. Welcome, 2016.