Friday, October 9, 2015

Abel's Birth Story

I know birth stories involving planned c-sections aren't as exciting as other birth stories.  There was no moment when my water broke, no contractions that got stronger and stronger, no moment when I suddenly turned to Sam and said, "I think it's time!"  But it's a birth story, and it's mine and it's something I want to remember.  Also, it may help give someone about to have a c-section a general idea of what to expect.

Sam and I arrived at the hospital at 5:30 on Monday morning.  The nice thing about a scheduled birth is that there was plenty of parking at the hospital and zero traffic to worry about.  It was very odd, knowing exactly when I would have my baby.  I felt a little numb.  Because there were so many emotions and feelings competing for space in my brain, I think my mind shut itself off to everything, making me feel almost nothing at all.  I was on auto-pilot, to protect myself from being too scared or too overwhelmed.  But I was definitely excited and so ready to meet this little man.

We got to our room and the nurses quickly hooked me up to an IV and began walking me through what would happen during the surgery.  It was so helpful to have everything explained to me so thoroughly, and even though I've had a Cesarean before, it calmed my nerves to be informed about exactly what to expect.

Here I am getting warm air pumped into my hospital gown.  Don't I look like a really happy whale?

One of the nurses told me she was on light duty because of a torn rotator cuff, which meant she'd still be in the operating room but wouldn't be too busy.  She offered to take pictures of everything for me which was wonderful.  It was so special to have this done because a blue curtain prevented me from seeing anything during the birth (which is good, because I'd most likely pass out if I saw myself cut open), yet I still have these images of Abel being born.  And most hospitals don't allow anyone except hospital staff into the operating room, so I didn't have the option of those great professional birth photos I've seen on Pinterest.  But iPhone photos are good enough for me.

They wheeled me into the operating room and gave me a spinal while Sam waited outside.  My doctor, Abby, is amazing.  She stood with me while I was getting the spinal and talked to me about Christmas, keeping me nicely distracted.  Abby is the kind of doctor who makes you feel like she's your friend, not your doctor, and that you are the most important person.  I'm so thankful she was the one to deliver Abel.

Soon I was laying on the table and they were setting up the partition.  After determining that I was sufficiently numb, they let Sam come in.  He sat near my head and started talking to me.  They began the surgery around 7:45, and it seemed like it went super fast.  I kept taking deep breaths, trying not to think about what was happening (I was being sliced open) or all the potential problems that might occur, and prayed constantly that everything would go well and Abel would be healthy.  The anesthesiologist warned me that I might start getting itchy, and encouraged me not to scratch.  I remember thinking that was weird.  I also couldn't stop my teeth from chattering.  I wasn't cold, but it was almost like my body thought I was, so I was shivering.

Here I am being cut open! ^^

All of a sudden, there was a slight uproar from my doctor and the nurses.  I heard, "Did you see that?"  "I've never seen anything like that before!"  It didn't sound like it was anything bad, but when you're having major surgery performed, and a doctor is attempting to cut a baby out of you, it's a little alarming to hear things like that.  My mind raced with what could have caused it - was this baby actually a girl?  Was there a second baby inside?  I tried not to panic, and thankfully one of the nurses poked her head around the partition and told me what had happened.  Apparently as soon as they cut through the final layer, Abel's arm shot out of me, as if to say he was ready to come out.  I said, "Like an alien trying to escape?"  She said, "Yeah!  That's exactly what it looked like!"  And for those wondering, no, he didn't jump out and start performing "Hello My Baby."  (Spaceballs anyone? <-- click the link if you don't know what I'm talking about.)

Here's my little prince, straight from ma insides.

(I put this picture in black and white, so those with sensitive stomachs don't freak out over all the bloooood.)

They allowed Abel's cord to finish pumping, then cut it long and took him to be wiped off.  Sam then cut the rest of the cord, and after determining Abel was breathing well and not in any serious trouble, they brought him to me and laid him on my chest.  I couldn't stop crying with relief and crazy, crazy love.  It is mind-blowing to have a new baby.  This person was my tiny companion for nine months, and suddenly there he was, in the world.  With both Ellery and Abel, I saw them as brand new people and knew them.  They seemed so familiar to me, and I had the strangest sense of, "Wait, haven't we met before?"  It's crazy the connection between mother and baby, and for me the intense sense of love and protection for this little person, this person my body worked so hard to grow and develop, is such a spiritual experience.  (I know, I know, I'm such a cliche.)

The baby nurse said, "Tell me when you start to feel sick, and I'll take him away."  I thought that was weird.  What made her think I'd start to feel sick?  A few minutes later, I said, "I think I'm going to throw up."  She quickly took him over to be weighed and measured and cleaned up, and Sam came over to distract me.  I don't know what it is about the process of being sewn up, but they said there would be a miserable few minutes and then I would feel better.  They were right.

He weighed 9 lbs, 14 oz, just like Ellery, and was 21 and a quarter inches long.  As soon as I didn't feel sick anymore, the nurse brought him back to me, and I so appreciated how quickly they had him next to me.  The whole team was determined to keep him close to me as much as possible as soon as possible.  That's what I loved about my doctor and my hospital; they were focused on what's best and healthiest for the baby, even in the event of a c-section.

Soon we were wheeled into the recovery room where Abel nursed.  The baby nurse and another nurse stayed with us to keep track of our vitals and make sure Abel's blood sugar wasn't too low.  His first couple readings were a little low so they just encouraged me to nurse more.  Thankfully, my body knows how to nurse.  And my babies know how to nurse.  So he nursed and nursed and soon his blood sugar levels were in the safe zone.

After two hours in recovery, we got to go back to our room.  I felt elated, and so thankful that everything was okay.  I was also pretty tired, but enjoyed nursing Abel and watching Sam fall head over heels in love with his son.  I couldn't believe how much he looked like Ellery.  I think Ellery has changed so much since she was a newborn baby, but as soon as I saw Abel, it was like a flashback in time to Ellery's first days.  When he cried and nursed and slept, I was reminded of her.  And it made me so happy to think of how much they look alike already, and how happy I was to be giving her a sibling.  It also made me miss her a lot.

The rest of the day was lots of time being checked on by nurses, and lots of nursing and cuddling and welcoming visitors.  Ellery didn't want much to do with her brother, which seemed pretty natural for a nineteen month-old.  She didn't understand why I was holding another baby, and just wanted me to hold her.

The hardest part was being separated in the hospital.  My mom and Sam traded off taking care of Ellery and helping me with Abel.  They brought her to the hospital as much as possible, and she had fun running around the halls.  It was the first time I'd ever spent a night away from her since she was born.  Fortunately, we only ended up staying two nights!

When I first got pregnant with Ellery, I had such high hopes of a natural birth.  I really wanted the chance to try it.  When that didn't happen, I hoped that I'd get to try a VBAC with Abel, and maybe have a natural birth the second time.  After determining his head was a full 4 weeks bigger than it ought to be, my doctor told me she would support me if I wanted to try a VBAC, but said that with how big his head was, we would probably wind up having an emergency c-section, which is not as safe as one that is planned.  I let go of those dreams of natural birth, and accepted that it's just not meant to be for me.  If I tried to have natural births, there's a good chance my children or I would have had critical medical issues.  I probably would have been one of the women that died in childbirth back before modern medicine made Cesareans possible.  Or my babies wouldn't have survived.  So for that reason, I'm thankful for the way my babies were born.  After all, isn't a healthy baby and mother the end goal anyway?

My recovery was easy and quick.  I had very little pain.  The first time I stood up, which was the same day Abel was born, I didn't have any pain at all.  I had two nurses standing next to me as I pushed myself out of bed, ready to catch me if I fell over from the pain.  But I stood easily, happily surprised at how great I felt.  I only had one moment when I had pretty strong pain, but that passed fairly quickly.  It makes such a huge difference when the surgery is planned and you're able to rest beforehand, and not be on pitocin, because I think that's why I felt so great.  Not to mention, I have two beautiful babies and my lady parts are still fully intact.  Like, I can totally jump on a trampoline and sneeze without peeing my pants.  So you know, pros and cons.  C-sections aren't the most horrible thing in the world, especially when done at a hospital that is so focused on doing everything in the baby's best interest.

And now my baby boy is nine months old!  And I can't imagine our family without him in it.  We love you, little mister!  So thankful you picked us.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

ellery says

Two year-olds say the funniest things.

A few of the latest things Ellery has said:

When Abel kept crawling toward her toys that she did not want him to play with, "Abel's a monster!"

Often if we tell Ellery, "You're a munchkin!" or "You're a monkey!" she answers with, "I not a munchkin, I'm Ellery!"  But then she started saying, "I not a munchkin, I'm a panda bear!"  No idea where this came from, but we're hoping it lasts.

While I was changing my clothes, she said, "Mommy, you're cute!"  That did wonders for my self-esteem that day, and went a long way toward my accepting my flabby, stretch-marked, mom tummy.  (Pretty sure Sam put her up to this one.)

Right before going down the slide at the park, she said, "Mommy, behave for daddy!"  (Pretty sure Sam put her up to this one, too.)

When I asked her if she wanted to go to Target, she said no, which was strange, because she usually loves Target.  I asked her where she wanted to go instead and, after thinking for a moment, she said, "Scotland."  Hashtag futureworldtraveler.

This one is more sweet than funny.  As I was tucking her in one night, she said, "Can you keep me safe?  Can you protect me?  Can you snuggle me to keep me safe?"  Yes, my heart melted.

Abel has been practicing standing a lot, so I was explaining to Ellery that soon he'd be walking and running and playing with her.  She bent down and got close to his face and said, in a very motivational tone, "Oh Abel, you can't give up!"

She's in a toddler bed now, so once when I was tucking her in, I put her comforter over her and said, "You're snug as a bug in a rug."  Now she calls her comforter (and all other big blankets) a "snug-in-bug."  "Where's my snug-in-bug?"  "Put my snug-in-bug on."

Once when she was misbehaving, I scolded her and she started laughing.  Frustrated, I told her, "Ellery, I'm serious, knock it off!  I'm not playing!"  She grinned mischievously and said, "I'm playing!"  And she kept laughing and misbehaving.  (I am totally in control as a  mom.  Also, that sound you hear is my own mother laughing.  It seems I have a daughter who is as sassy as I was.  Mom, if I haven't said it already, I'm sorry for my sassy mouth.)

Here's hoping she also gets my delightful sense of humor, that makes up for the sassiness,  (Now that's Sam laughing.)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Spontaneous Thought on a Rainy Day

He wakes at 4:30 to nurse, and finally falls back to sleep at 5:30.  Resigned, I get out of bed, knowing that I can either sleep a little longer or get a shower and a few minutes to myself before the chaos of the day begins.  It's unlikely I'll get a shower if I don't take make the most of the opportunity.  I make some coffee and read a little in my Bible, and in my book about mothering, while Abel sleeps next to me on the couch.  Ellery wakes at 7, and the day officially begins.  Between the two of them, I hardly have a moment to sit down.  When I get Ellery in her chair for lunch, Abel is finally sleeping and there are toys and books and laundry covering the living room floor.  The living room that was spotless in the still-dark hours this morning when I read my Bible and drank my coffee in the quiet.

It's rainy and gray, and I feel like I haven't accomplished anything.  Yesterday seemed so productive, and I felt like I was able to give enough attention to Ellery and Abel.  Today I feel like I'm failing both of them.  The day isn't even half over and I feel defeated.

I lay her down for her nap, grateful that I can perhaps have a few minutes to eat lunch while they both sleep.  But as I shut the door to her bedroom, I hear Abel stirring.  Time to nurse again.  Finally he sleeps again and I eat lunch, only to be interrupted by a crying girl.  She still hasn't fallen asleep.

So I put down my salad and ignore those hunger pains in my stomach, and go get Ellery.  The nurse in the hospital warned me that my oldest might regress and act like a baby again now that she isn't the baby anymore.  But she hasn't started crawling again or resorted to baby talk.  She's as smart and active as ever.  No, the way she has regressed has been in sleep.

Sleep, easily the biggest challenge we've had with this girl.  From the moment she was born, she hated sleep.  It wasn't until now, having Abel, that I realize just how much Ellery struggled with sleep.  Abel fell asleep during tummy time and I was shocked.  He doesn't spend half an hour crying before falling asleep every single time.  It isn't a battle to get him to go to sleep.  And in talking to friends, I hear that Abel is fairly normal in this newborn sleep game.  I knew Ellery had a hard time with sleep, but I didn't realize just how much of a difference it makes to have a baby that actually sleeps.

So during a life transition, she regresses to her biggest challenge.  And yes, I'm pretty sure that's true of me, too.  A big change, one that I didn't ask for or hope for, always seems to bring forth those parts of me that I struggle with the most.

Ellery is standing in her crib and says, "Rock baby?"  Normally I'd say no, but today I just want her to nap.  She has skipped her nap far too often in the past few weeks, and tonight she'll be up later than normal, so I need her to nap.  I'm in that desperate, whatever-it-takes mode.

And so I pick her up and take her to the glider and we rock.  And within minutes, my sweet, precious baby girl is sleeping.  Her body feels so long across my lap, now that I have a newer baby to compare it to.  I study her face, so innocent and cherub-like while she rests.  And I think my heart will burst with how much I love her.  She's growing so fast, and every time I look at Abel I think that it must have been just a few months ago that Ellery was his size.

And while I rock with her, I read on my Kindle a book that talks about giving thanks to God even when we don't want to, even on our bad days.  Today feels like a bad day, but it really isn't.  It's just a day that hasn't lined up in the easiest way for me, and it's normally a day that I'd call Sam to complain about.  And then I lay her in her crib, and as I shut the door, I remember a poem I read on a friend's blog the other day.  A poem about how we get so excited as parents for our babies' firsts, and we never know when we'll experience the lasts.

I cried when I read the poem, because it's so true.  Right now I'm still in those precious years when my children are so little, and I know someday I'll miss these years.  I'll miss Ellery's tiny baby voice, and the way her hand clasps my finger as we walk down stairs.  I'll miss the way she says "Mommy."  But probably more than anything, I'll miss the way it feels to have my babies fall asleep in my arms, as if I'm their ultimate comfort and place of safety here on earth.

And as I shut the door to her room, it hit me that God allowed at least one more time for me to rock her to sleep.  I thought I'd already experienced the last time she fell asleep in my arms.  Maybe this will happen again, or maybe this really was the last time.  And if it is the last, I want to savor it and be thankful, rather than complain.  No, she didn't fall asleep on her own the way I hoped she would.  But there is still something to be incredibly thankful for - a sweet moment with my first baby, a memory I can recall and appreciate when she's too big to need her mommy to sleep.

Thank you, Lord.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Something Right

It started at the park.

Ellery went down the slide, normally one of her favorite things, but must have bit her tongue when she landed.  She came up screaming, inconsolable, and when I saw the blood in her mouth, I knew she had reason to cry.  She's generally a pretty tough kid, and doesn't cry when she falls, and we try not to make it too dramatic when she takes a spill, especially since she's inherited my klutziness.  But this time I knew she was in pain, and she needed some comfort and extra love.  As I held her close, I realized how cold her tiny hands were, and felt an extra rush of guilt that I hadn't dressed her in more layers.  The bright sunshine today was deceptive - as is our second-floor apartment that always stays really warm.  I hadn't realized just how cold it was outside and now knew it was time to leave the park, since my toddler really wasn't dressed warmly enough.

But you can't explain that to a toddler, who just wants to keep swinging and chasing the friendly bigger kids she's met at the park.  Her bleeding mouth, along with her desire to stay and play longer outside, made it very difficult to get her into the car.  She protested loudly, giant tears spilling down her cheeks, and I felt even worse.  She hasn't had much time outside recently, thanks to her pregnant, sick mom and the rainy weather, so I wished we could have stayed longer, but I also knew it wasn't good for her to be in the cold without warmer clothes.

So we headed home.  We played for a little while, then had dinner together.  Sam had a work dinner, so I knew he wouldn't be home until after the baby was in bed, which was fine.  We're no strangers to Sam having to work late.

But suddenly, after dinner, everything was wrong.  Everything I did made her scream in frustration, and I couldn't figure out what she wanted or needed.  She asked for milk, but then when I gave her milk, she started crying because I realized she wanted the empty milk carton to play with.  She started putting pipe cleaners into a water bottle, then started screaming again when her little plastic cow from her farm set wouldn't fit through the tiny opening of the bottle as well.  When I tried changing her diaper to get her ready for bed, you'd have thought I was performing a root canal on her.  It wasn't normal for her; she can tend to get whiny, but never has these full-on scream-cry tantrums, especially not one right after the other.

I didn't know if she was just having a bad day, or if it's her age and her desire to express her autonomy, and if we are ushering in a new phase of our sweet little girl turning into an independent, defiant, (dare I say stubborn?) child.  I'm praying it was just a bad day, because I'm not sure I'm ready to handle the terrible twos this early, especially with a new baby coming along next month.  Whatever it was, it was rough.  And to feel hugely pregnant with a stupid, lingering head cold, I didn't feel up to the task of being a gracious, patient mother.  I finally got her into her pajamas and declared we'd start our bedtime ritual half an hour early, because her grumpy demeanor meant it was time for bed.

Once we were settled into the glider, reading her books with her milk and blanket, she was fine.  She calmed down quickly, and sweetly snuggled in to me as I read several of her favorites.  I turned off the light and started singing a few songs while we rocked, as is our routine, and then told her goodnight and laid her in her crib.  Minutes later, she was screaming again.  Frustrated that she hadn't quieted down and gone right to sleep (but recognizing that it was earlier than her typical bedtime), I went back in her room to rock with her a little longer, hoping she'd soon be sleeping, because I needed a break, too.  As I rocked in the dark, holding my sweet babe, I went over the details of the day, thinking of all the things I wished had gone differently, the ways I wished I had reacted differently, all the while growing more and more irritated that she still wasn't sleeping.

And then, all of a sudden, into the darkness, Ellery spoke.  "Four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten!"  No, the words weren't perfectly clear, but I knew that "Fo, fie, si, se-en, eight, ny, ten!" equaled her counting to herself.  As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I realized she was holding up her ten fingers.  My frustration quickly melted into pride and overwhelming love, as I realized how fast she's growing up and how unbelievably smart she is.  (Yes, I'm that parent that has no idea how smart other kids are, but I'm convinced my kid is brilliant.)

"Ellery, do you want to practice counting?"

"Yeah!"  (Her "yeah's!" are currently one of my favorite things.)

For the next few minutes, we counted to ten over and over, and I was shocked by the fact that she knew all the numbers.  When did this happen?  She counted from one to ten all on her own (only once, and I'm sure I won't be able to get her to do it again for awhile), but I still couldn't believe it.  I realized that she's learning and growing more every day, and observing and picking up far more than I realize.  It reminded me that time is fleeting, and that she won't be my tiny baby for much longer.  And that, though I often feel the opposite, I must be doing something right.

So for all you other moms out there in the trenches, in that phase when your children are small and still require so much help from you, you moms who feel like most of your time and energy is devoted to these tiny people, who have precious little time to yourself, and who feel that you are messing up, making mistake after mistake in your care for these little ones?  You're doing something right.  

If you love your child and do whatever you can to help your child become who she's meant to be, you're doing something right. 

If you're a stay-at-home mom, putting your own dreams on-hold while your children are young, you're doing something right.

If you're a working mom who is trying to balance work life and home life, all while doing the heroic deed of helping to provide for your family, you're doing something right.

If you're a working mom who loves her job and works because she knows she's happier and healthier, and consequently a better mother because she works, you're doing something right.

If you're a mom who daily tries to make the best decisions for your child based on what you believe is right (not what the books say is right, or what your friends say is right, or what your mother or mother-in-law* says is right), then you are doing something right.

So relax, sweet mothers, because it's too easy to blame ourselves for these bad days.  Sometimes bad days are just bad days.  It doesn't mean we're failing, or we are doing everything wrong.  We just gotta keep loving these babies, and loving ourselves, and most importantly, trusting in God through it all.

If we do that, we're doing something right.

*By the way, I'm lucky to have a mom and mother-in-law who are both amazing and gracious and have never interfered in the way I parent.  The above was just a blanket statement that I thought some people might relate to.  Love you, Mom and Noreen!

Monday, November 10, 2014

the big bad c-section monster (and why it's not that scary)

I'm getting closer and closer to having another baby, and it looks like it will be another c-section.  I really wanted to try for a VBAC (and I still may get the chance!), but the odds are looking like I'll have another huge baby.  My gestational diabetes puts Abel at more risk, and so we can't wait around until 42 weeks to see if he'll come out on his own.  Additionally, my doctor can't use certain induction drugs, so if he comes out on his own, before 40 weeks, it'll really have to be a miracle.  (And believe me, I'm still praying for a miracle and think it's possible!  But I'm also preparing myself for another c-section.)

Lately I've been thinking about women who were like me, who never wanted a c-section, but for medical reasons, were forced to have one.  Unfortunately, many of these women end up dealing with postpartum depression because the birth of their child didn't go exactly "as planned".  I am so grateful that I didn't deal with PPD at all, but I know that when you really hope for a certain type of birth, it's hard to let go of that mental image and let something else happen.

Because of this, I wanted to write a little about my experience so that people aren't so afraid of c-sections.  It doesn't have to be the worst thing in the world.  In fact, it can be the best thing in the world if it saves your baby.  I don't want any woman to feel discouraged or like a failure because she had to have her baby cut out of her.

*Disclaimer: Obviously a natural, vaginal birth is ideal.  If someone can safely deliver a baby, then they should never choose a c-section.  All I'm saying is that sometimes, a c-section is necessary for the health and well-being of the mother and baby, and in those cases, it is the best option!  And it's time for women to stop feeling bad about that.*

These are the misconceptions about c-sections that I want to correct, ideas and beliefs that scare pregnant women when the possibility of needing a c-section presents itself.  I used to be naive, so I used to think these same things.  But then I experienced a c-section for myself, and so now I'm experienced and educated.  Here's the truth about c-sections, from someone who has actually had one.  (Don't listen to people who've never had a c-section - they have no room to speak!)

1. Doctors and hospitals encourage c-sections when they aren't medically necessary.

This may be true for some doctors in certain hospitals, but that was in no way my experience.  In fact, my doctor tried to encourage Sam and I to do one more day of labor induction before resorting to a c-section.  I think the only reason she even agreed to the c-section was because of my diabetes, and the fact that it became more unsafe for Ellery the longer she was in the womb.  If I hadn't had GD, she would have never agreed to do the c-section.  It is unfair and untrue to insinuate that doctors want to do c-sections, and do them when it's not necessary.

2. C-sections are bad for the baby.

This might be the misconception that pisses me off the most.  Because it implies that the mother has allowed something to happen to her child that is not in the child's best interest.  (That untrue, guilt-ridden thought would send any new mother into a depression!)  Obviously a vaginal birth is the best option, but the next best option is a c-section.  In some cases, the only other option left is brain damage or death.  To me, that sounds less appealing.  People seem to forget that prior to modern medicine, childbirth resulted in the death of lots of laboring mothers and infants.  And often it was because of complications during birth that could have been avoided if a c-section had been an option.  Once Ellery came out, my doctor realized that she had been too big to possibly fit through me, and that if we'd tried laboring, Ellery probably would've gotten stuck in the birth canal, which would've resulted in terrible issues, possibly even death.  After speaking with the staff at the hospital, I learned that in many cases of oxygen deprivation and major problems at birth, it was because the mother was so adamant against having a c-section, that the baby suffered.  Issues can often be avoided if people listen to medical advice and let the doctors do their job of safely delivering a baby.

Additionally, Ellery has never experienced any side effects from the c-section.  She's completely healthy, and has always developed perfectly normally, even being advanced in most areas.  If you've ever spent time around my child, there's no way you could insinuate that she suffered any long-term affects from the c-section.  (And if she has, she would have been some magical wonder child if I'd had her naturally.)

3. You're too drugged up during a c-section to remember anything about the birth.

This is ridiculous.  I remember every single detail about Ellery's birth, vividly.  I remember being scared, alone in the operating room while they administered the epidural, before Sam was allowed in.  I remember the anesthesiologist at my head, walking me through what was going on, speaking in gentle tones.  I remember Sam at my side, alternately looking at me and then at the surgery, watching as the doctor cut me open.  I remember the pressure I felt as my midwife pressed on my chest to help the baby out while my doctor pulled her from me.  I remember her first cry, and the complete rush of relief that flooded over me, and the tears that immediately came.  They held her over me for a moment so I could see her before they weighed her, and I remember exactly what that view was like.  I remember thinking she had the cutest little eyes.  I remember my doctor exclaiming, "You're heavy!" when she pulled Ellery out, and all the nurses commenting on how big she was.  I remember Sam being fascinated by my being sewn up, and my anesthesiologist telling me that I'd be back in bikinis in no time (and thinking that was really funny, since I've never had a pretty, flat stomach).  I remember asking for her APGAR score, and, upon hearing how big and long she was, asking the nurse to repeat it because from what I knew of babies, 22 and a half inches was really long, and 9 lbs, 14 oz was really big.  So no, I wasn't too drugged up to experience everything fully, and I remember exactly what happened, down to the smallest detail.  (Like I remember the complete mortification of being totally naked and pregnant, lying on the table, while a male anesthesiologist and another male nurse were in the room.  Obviously that whole "mothers have no shame after birth" thing wasn't true for me, because to this day I still remember how embarrassing it was!)

4. You can't bond immediately with the baby, like in a natural birth.

To be fair, this probably depends on the hospital you deliver at, as well as your doctor.  I was lucky enough to be at a hospital that was very baby friendly, and they placed Ellery on my chest right away.  As soon as they pulled her out, they held her over the partition so I could see her, then took her to be cleaned and weighed and measured, and to make sure there was nothing wrong.  She was on my chest in less than two minutes of being pulled from my uterus.  Sam was right next to me, and we just watched her look around, her sweet little face so close to mine.  She stayed right on my chest while the doctor put me back together, and then we were wheeled into the recovery room.  We were allowed plenty of time as just a family of 3, as I breastfed Ellery and she slept on my skin.  I'm not sure what the protocol is for most hospitals, but they didn't even let my mom come in right away because they knew how important that bonding time was.  The hospital in Portland where I'll deliver Abel is even more baby-friendly.  I'll get immediate skin-to-skin time with Abel, even with a c-section, to encourage mother-baby bonding.  (Apparently this hospital is so encouraging of breastfeeding that they don't provide formula unless medically necessary, and they don't even provide pacifiers.)  So even with a c-section, the staff at this hospital has a goal of doing what is best for baby, which includes immediate skin-to-skin, mother-baby bonding, and breastfeeding.

If you can safely deliver your baby vaginally, that's wonderful!  I'm truly amazed, because my body hasn't worked that way for me.  But if, during your labor, something happens and your doctor suggests a c-section, please be open-minded.  I really hope this post can help people realize that c-sections don't have to be something to be feared.

Yes, the recovery is painful.  But so is labor, right?  At least the pain from a c-section  happens after you've had your baby, so your sweet little person can make everything better!  (And at least it's your abs that hurt, and not your lady parts.)  I'll admit, I did have a particularly good experience with my c-section, and not everyone recovers as quickly as I did.  But just as there are c-section horror stories, there are vaginal birth horror stories as well.  Some vaginal births go super smoothly - so do some c-section births.

Ultimately, I just encourage all pregnant women to be flexible with your birth plan.  Remember that this is one of the first lessons in becoming a mom - that you have no control.  You may have the illusion of control, but you really have no control.  It's a great thing to have an idea of how you want things to go during labor, but if things change, you'll be happier if you can go with the flow and adapt.  Because as any mother will tell you, those babies don't always cooperate out of the womb, either.  And the more flexible you can be, the happier you'll be.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Ellery and Halloween

A tutu, handmade by a friend, a simple white onesie, and white tights.  Fairy wings from the dollar store, and a ribbon crown bought at Enchanted Forest around her first birthday.  Total cost about $10, a simple DIY Halloween costume.  But on this little girl, it sparkled.  My little fairy princess.

The other kids were much bigger and faster.  Repeatedly they were told to slow down and wait for Ellery, who was running the whole time, laughing to herself, glancing up at her dad excitedly as we made our way from house to house.  The first house included some confusion.  She didn't know why she was carrying the empty Starbucks paper bag, or why the door was opened for her, so she just tried to walk in.  At the next house, she meekly held out her bag, as the kind inhabitants placed a small piece of candy inside.  By the third or fourth house, she'd figured it out, and was unabashedly reaching in to the bowls of candy to pick what she wanted.  Granted, she had no idea what she wanted, having never tasted any of this candy before.

The joy was impossible to contain.  She was giddy, and when I asked her if she got more candy, she yelled out, "CANDY!"  She struggled any time Sam or I tried to carry her, saying, "Down, down," until we set her back on the sidewalk.  She would then obediently reach out her hand for ours, and wrap her tiny hand around our index fingers while she raced to try and catch up with her cousin and friends.

It was a very family friendly neighborhood, and most houses were well-lit, with kind people inside who constantly commented on what a precious little fairy she was.  One house was dark except for a glowing red light, and three people dressed in very scary looking skeleton masks were sitting on the porch, handing out candy.  We skipped that house and I clenched my teeth, wondering why some people have to take it too far, and make a day that could be fun into something on the verge of evil.  When you know you'll have young children coming to your house all night, what makes you think it's a good idea to be very scary?  Not just creepy in a fun way, but scary?  And similarly, why would you allow your child to dress in such a scary costume?  We saw lots of Princess Elsas and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but occasionally there was the little boy in the demon mask, or the freakish-looking zombie makeup, and I can't help but wonder what these parents are thinking.  I don't typically like to judge other parents, but in this case, I judge.  Parents, quit dressing your kids up in such evil costumes.  Who cares if that's what the child wants?  You're the adult; say no.

Yes, there were some annoyances, but for the most part it was just a fun night.  It was the sweetest thing to watch her experience something new, to figure out that most of the people were simply excited to see the children in costume, and to happily hand out candy.  Personally, I got numerous comments about whether or not my belly was a costume.  Yep, I really am pregnant, and no, I didn't strap on a fake belly just for Halloween.  Sam and I just laughed and laughed at our little girl, who daily gets more entertaining and fun.  It's the perfect age, and if I could, I'd freeze time right now.  I want to keep watching her learn and explore and discover, to laugh when she realizes that she can fake a laugh, and that when she does, we laugh with her.  I want to keep her at this age where she gives us sweet kisses and hugs, her little voice raspy as she repeats every word she hears.  (I also prefer this age where we can dump her candy back in the bowl for more trick-or-treaters, and she is none the wiser.)

Last night was the first time in a long time I had fun on Halloween, and it was all because of Ellery.  She really does make every experience better.  The only thing I can think of that hasn't gotten better with Ellery around is sleeping, but I've slowly learned to live with far less sleep than I ever thought possible.

I'm going to relish these years when Ellery is still young enough to enjoy the simple, fun parts of the day, where it still feels okay and safe to go trick-or-treating.  I still won't decorate my house, though I'm sure when Ellery is a little older she might want to carve a pumpkin.  But I am going to enjoy these years, when I get to see everything through Ellery's eyes, and be reminded again of how fun and special life is, a wide open world ready to be discovered.  This little girl has taken her cynical, somewhat jaded mother and made me softer, happier, and more content.

Thanks, baby girl.  I don't think we could have picked a more perfect name for you, little Ellery, our "bringer of joy".  You bring joy to everyone around you, every day.

Monday, October 27, 2014



Has anyone figured it out yet?  I haven't.  Some days I feel like I'm on top of everything.  Okay, honestly, there have been maybe five days I can remember feeling that way.  Most days my to-do list goes half undone.

After documenting our day on Wednesday, I was discouraged to see how little I actually got done.  I felt busy all day, but in reality, most of the things I had hoped to do that day were left ignored.  It's not for lack of trying; it's for lack of time.  Or, it's for having a toddler that makes normal tasks take twice or three times as long.  Take, for example, getting into the car.  She's at the age where she insists on walking down our flight of stairs all by herself, which understandably takes much longer than it would if I were to just carry her down.

After reading my blog, I also started to feel a bit guilty.  Guilty that I hadn't spent enough time playing with Ellery, that I was too focused on the other "chores" I needed to do.

And I realized I'll never have the perfect balance.  Some days will be much more fun for Ellery, and will include play dates and activities and lots of undivided attention.  Other days will include grocery shopping and cleaning and necessary household tasks.  Some days I'll ignore those household tasks while Ellery naps and simply rest myself.

I've realized that my "balance" simply means my priorities change daily.  And honestly, my priorities aren't always set by me; they are reflected in what needs the most attention that day.  Take, for example, the past few days.  Thursday included a strange nausea that hit whenever I stood up, which meant Ellery and I watched a lot of nursery rhymes on YouTube.  Friday I felt fine, but Saturday and Sunday hit with a terrible sore throat and runny nose, with some lingering nausea that again had me laying down most of the day.  Thank God for Sam, who took Ellery to church and to our small group on Sunday so that I could take a nap and try to get well.

When I literally cannot stand up because of feeling sick, my priority becomes my health.  I'm responsible for another little life inside me right now, so I have to listen to my body when it tells me to slow down.  Housework went undone and Ellery was likely bored most of the past few days because I had no other choice but to take care of myself.

Today Ellery was the priority.  She must have decided to let me know that she was tired of my illness, because she was acting out all day.  She spent about two hours screaming when I tried to get her to nap.  So today, housework went ignored and all my attention was on the kid because I really had no other choice.

I've realized that for me, balance means doing whatever it takes to keep my head above water that day.  When we run out of clean dishes to use, or run out of food in the freezer, the housework and errands will again be prioritized.  And maybe tomorrow will be magical and Ellery will nap perfectly and I'll feel energetic and healthy, and I'll be able to accomplish enough to feel a little bit more on top of things, and a little less behind.  I'm hoping I can feel caught up before this second baby comes, because I'm pretty certain adding another child to the mix won't exactly make things easier.

Speaking of this second child, I finally got around to sorting through some of his clothes today.  This was the first thing I've done to prepare for the arrival of this little guy, which is funny considering that I'll be "full term" in six short weeks.  By this time with Ellery, I'd had tons of crafts and decorations done for her nursery, I had obsessed over a baby registry, and we'd already set up some furniture in her room.  From what I understand, this is pretty normal; with your first baby, you're uber prepared, and with your second, you finally start getting around to doing things at the very end of the pregnancy.  At least I hope this is normal?  I'm not really worried.  As long as he has a place to sleep and something to wear, we should be fine.  Oh, and maybe a few diapers.  I'm trying to figure out how big this kid will be.  With Ellery, I had to give all her newborn clothes to my sister, since Ellery was too big to fit into any of them.  And my mom, who had gifted us with a bunch of newborn diapers, ended up taking those to my sister as well, as Ellery was too big for those.  What if we have a normal-sized baby this time?  What if he feels like a newborn?  What if he could actually fit through the birth canal and I could deliver him like a normal person?!  My mind cannot even fathom it.

What was this blog about again?  Oh yes, balance.  Okay, so am I alone in this?  Is every other mom totally organized?  Do your days go exactly as you plan them?  Have you found a peace about it?  I think I finally have.  I'm okay with admitting I'm not perfect and that I never will be.  Doesn't stop me from trying though!

I found this photo on Pinterest and thought it was hilarious and really fitting today.