Chicken Little

I’ve lost my groove.  It’s been a seven-month funk.  Nothing like the winter blahs coupled with a dose of postpartum depression to make you feel awesome.

I know that this won’t last forever but when you’re in the thick of it you can’t help but feel stuck.  For me this doesn’t translate into days or weeks of doom.  More like intense moments of panic or anxiety.  Think Chicken Little.  The day is going smoothly and then bam!  The sky is falling.

There’s no doubt that being a mom is simultaneously the hardest, most wonderful, enlightening, terrifying, stressful, joyful thing I have ever done.  But right now there are days when I wake up racked with anxiety, because there are four little people I’m responsible for.  And Alex and I have the daunting task of molding them into decent, kind, good human beings while also letting them blossom into who God designed them to be.  Meanwhile I can’t seem to get the baby to take a nap, keep the three boys from fighting or convince them that the potty talk needs to stop.  I’m sure the sleep deprivation isn’t helping but I also think these struggles are a daily {hourly? minute by minute?} reminder of my own short-comings.  And lately I’ve never been so aware of my own shortcomings {there are many}.

I know that we will work through all of this.  I know that Caroline will someday take a bottle.  Or a sippy cup.  Or she will just be very thirsty.  And then I will have something new to worry about.  But in the meantime it does feel good to at least admit that yeah, this stage right now, it’s hard.

Caroline’s birth story

We were all so ready to meet Coco.  We had been ready for weeks.  Looking back I probably set myself up for disappointment focusing on the fact that William was three weeks early and this was our fourth baby, so you do the math…she was obviously going to come out early.  Right?

Sort of.

I’ll admit that the last few weeks of my pregnancy with Caroline were humbling.  Of course my doctor {who I think the world of} also convinced me that baby would come early.  So for weeks I walked around ready to go, 4 cm dilated with baby at a +2 station.  {+4 = baby’s head is out.}  With each appointment my doctor would remind me not to stay at home once labor had started because this was going to go fast.  I felt like a ticking time bomb.  So yes, I had my game face on.  Contractions came and went.  So did days and weeks.  All of the signs and symptoms were there.  And yes, we even went to the hospital once.  It was a false alarm.  With our fourth baby.  Cue the walk of shame.

two days before baby…photo credit, Henry

No matter, I perservered and kept all my ducks in a row, day after day after day. But really, a girl can only shave her legs for so many days in a row before the novelty wears off.  And it was getting to be exhausting making sure that everyday my house was in order, the laundry was done and my hair was somewhat presentable.  So it was tempting when at my last appointment my doctor discussed inducing me.  But I had a plan, and it involved doing things going naturally, without any interventions or meds.  Amazingly enough even the hormones couldn’t sway me.  So I said no.

Wednesday evening, ready for bed I went for one more potty break.  Low and behold I was bleeding and was pretty sure that my water had broken.  I was officially in labor despite the fact I had yet to feel any contractions.  {I never seem to have regular contractions until transition.  Hate me.}  Shortly after giving Alex a head’s up and calling my mom I realized that I not only had three-day hair, but greasy massage hair from my prenatal massage earlier that day.  Ack!  I let myself go for a couple of days and wouldn’t you know it…

At 3:30 am I woke Alex up, called the sitter and told my mom that we would meet her at the hospital.  We arrived at the triage room by 4:00 am where they checked me and found that I was a good 6.  Whew.  I’ll admit I was slightly worried that they would send us back home – again.

By 4:30 we were settled into our labor and delivery room and my doctor {who bless his heart was already there} checked me and said I was at 7.  He asked me one last time if I wanted any pain relief before he broke my water.  Nope.  You’ll be relieved to know that once my water was officially broken the contractions came on strong and before I knew it I was ready to push.

Looking back pushing was pretty funny.  The contractions weren’t nearly as intense as the transition contractions.  No more deep breathing and low-moaning.  My OB was great about telling me where the baby was and what I needed to do during each contraction.  Now there is pushing and there is PUSHING.  And while I know that a lot of women say they have the urge to push, I didn’t.  Nope.  I even sat through a few contractions.  But once I had my glasses back on {seriously, I was so focused that I just thought things were that fuzzy} I PUSHED.  I may have been relatively quiet through this last stage but on the last push when baby came out Alex claims that it’s very possible I woke up the entire fourth floor.

No matter, at 5:36 am, baby girl was here.

Immediately they placed Caroline on my chest and we just stared at one another.  Sizing each other up.  Falling in love.  Memorizing faces.  Of course Alex and I both nervously asked the questions neither one of us wanted to ask but must.  Does she look ok?  Is she ok?

She was and is perfect.

Baby girl.  6 pounds 6 ounces.  With the longest fingers and slender feet.  The most delicate features.  The sweetest little cry.

Alex was and continues to be amazing.  I know that the baby stage is not his favorite but he is such a good dad and husband.  And I love that we both love this family we are growing together and the adventures that we share together.

We were both so thankful that my mom was there.

I couldn’t have dreamt up a better labor and delivery.  It was a beautiful ending to the pregnancy/labor and delivery phase of this mama’s life.  It was amazing.

The rest of the day was a flurry of visitors coming to meet our sweet baby.

But the obvious highlight was when the boys met their sister for the first time.

Already it’s been three weeks and we can’t imagine our lives without sweet baby Caroline.  Sure we’re exhausted.  There have been meltdowns.  Some of us are more weepy than others, but we’re doing it.

It’s official, we’re all smitten.

It’s almost summer and 37 weeks.

amen.  

We’re getting awfully close to the end.  The end of the school year and the end of this pregnancy.

Both prospects seem a little scary if you ask me.

I’m doing my best to savor each little nuance of this last pregnancy but at the same time I’m done.  I’ve entered into the last stage of pregnancy when all you think about all day long is that you are PREGNANT.  And that you could have a baby TODAY or you could have a baby in WEEKS.  That alone could make anyone crazy, nevermind all the hormones.

I’ll be honest, the last few days I’ve been crabby.  The irony is that physically I’m feeling pretty darn good for a water buffalo, but I’ve lost control of the filter between my brain and mouth.  This is not particularly helpful when we’re trying to insist on some basic rules with the littles.  Rules like no talking back, no tattling, and please, please, treat each other with some respect.  And let’s practice some self-control and patience while we’re at it.  Funny thing is, “do as I say not as I do” training doesn’t seem to work particularly well with little ones.  Ahem.  Yes, I’m taking notes.  Because even mama needs to practice some self-control and patience.

Thursday is our first full day of summer vacation and I’m a little nervous.  I feel like the stakes are higher than usual and that we need to do something big and fun and exciting before baby.  I also have to be careful not to set the bar too high though, because the last thing I need is the kiddos expecting super-mom all summer long.  Because let’s be honest, this summer is going to be all about keeping things simple.  Think lots of popsicles, turning on the backyard sprinklers and filling up the wading pool again and again.  Maybe adding a slip ‘n slide into the mix to shake things up a bit.  And don’t forget everyone’s summertime favorite; lots of quiet time.  Ha.

Meanwhile I’m spending my time both making plans and trying not to make a single plan.  And I debate important things like, should I make *just one more* big trip to Costco to stock up?  What about all those photo albums I was going to finish?  Or maybe I should just sit at home and enjoy this last little bit of quiet?

I know, I know, all of this might seem crazy because yes, we have done this three times already, but the thing is each new baby is life-changing.  Soon we are going to meet a sweet baby girl who is going to steal our hearts.  And I know it will be beautiful and overwhelming and peaceful and chaotic all at once.

On being a mom, celebrations and 33 Weeks

mom circa May 1979, pregnant with me and headed to the hospital. talk about a blessing, my mom is amazing!

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’m going to say it one more time.  I’m just so grateful to be a mom.  I feel so thankful for the opportunity to raise-up our little ones alongside Alex.  I sure love these kiddos and the {growing} family that we’ve created.

happy kiddos + one tired but very content mama = joy

I’m also so thankful to be surrounded by so many wonderful women who support and encourage me along this journey of motherhood.  Over Mother’s Day weekend I spent time away with my mom, four Aunties and four cousins.  It was a wonderful girl’s weekend of celebration – weddings, birthdays and baby – oh what fun we had.  My trip away was also my last *hurrah* before baby as my doctor has rather strongly insisted that I stick close to home.

Monday, on the heels of Mother’s Day I had a doctor’s appointment and ultrasound to see how baby Coco is doing.  Thankfully baby is looking good and we’re giving praises for placentas that move and for baby’s who are head-down!  Alex and my mom were there for the ultrasound and it was pretty darn impressive to hear Alex giving the ultrasound narrative… “there’s the heart, see the eyes, that’s her profile, oh and that’s a hand….”  He claims not to be into all this baby stuff, but he certainly knows his stuff.

While it’s probably too early to begin counting down to an actual birth day, there’s no doubt that this sweet little baby is going to be here soon.  This means it’s time to actually start preparing for baby and I certainly have plenty of organizing, sorting and baby-related laundry to keep me busy for a while.  For good measure, I’ll also probably move some furniture around the house, putter around the garden, plant and re-plant a handful of poor plants and re-arrange my random knickknacks for the two hundredth time.  Nesting sounds like pure heaven for this homebody.  I’m also hoping to sneak in a dinner date with Alex, a few lunch and coffee dates with friends and plan on taking each kiddo out for some solo time with mommy.  Sounds like fun doesn’t it?

At this stage of the game I’m all about wearing things without a fitted waistband.  Helllooo skirts!  It took me long enough to realize, but my jeans and really anything else with a restrictive waistband was making me grumpy.  My belly is low, low, low this time.  Not sure if it’s a girl thing or a fourth-pregnancy thing, but it’s made for some adventures when getting dressed.  And yes, I realize that if this is my biggest complaint I shouldn’t be complaining at all because in all reality I feel pretty darn great at this stage of the game.

So for now we wait, we dream and all five of us spend way too much time staring at my belly as baby Coco dances and wiggles around.  It’s safe to say we’re already smitten.

27 weeks and a What to Expect giveaway

In my mind I’m on top of things and taking belly shots weekly.  Or at least monthly.  Let’s just settle for a six, almost seven week up-date, okay?

Note to self, it’s time to stop wearing short cardigans, that is unless I’m trying to channel Tommy Boy.

Ironically, not one darn maternity piece of clothing seems to fit right this time around and it just seems too darn soon to be constantly tugging at my pants.

Wasn’t there an entire Seinfeld episode about a white shirt with ruffles?  This looked cute in real life.  Alex said so.  Smart guy right?

Anyhoo.

I’m just getting a taste of third trimester fatigue while clinging to one last week of second trimester bliss.  Wardrobe complaints aside, I feel great {exhausted, but great}, which I’m thankful for.  I’m healthy and so is baby and you certainly can’t ask for more than that.

We’ve been pushing the pedal to the metal around here and I’m trying to stay motivated.  We still have a pretty long to-do list before baby arrives.  A big part of our to-do list obviously involves getting ready for baby.  {No, it’s not all about my random nesting projects like cleaning out the garage or picking out exterior paint colors…}  It might not make any sense, but Alex and I sort of feel like a first-time parents our fourth time around.  Everything feels different.  We’re out of “baby-mode.”  All of our baby gear is supposedly out-of-date and to tell you the truth I don’t remember any of the basics.

Maybe it’s like riding a bike?

Just in case crossing our fingers doesn’t work out I’m thankful to have some new reading material to help along the way.  New copies of What to Expect When You’re Expecting and What to Expect the First Year are now sitting on my nightstand and I’ve been referencing them frequently.

You would think that at this stage of the game I already have my fair share of pregnancy and baby-related reading materials.  I do, but they’re all out of date so I appreciated the fresh tone of the current What to Expect book.  And yes, while not that much has changed {clearly women have been having babies forever} there are still plenty of new tips and ideas and it’s always nice to be familiar with the up-to-date medical information, and advice.

Guess what?  The team at What to Expect.com has given me three books to giveaway.  One lucky reader will receive a copy of What to Expect Before You’re Expecting, What to Expect When You’re Expecting and What to Expect the First Year.

Maybe you’re a first-time mom, or like me this isn’t your first rodeo, but could use a refresher course.  Or maybe you know someone who is expecting…these books would certainly be a welcome gift.  To enter this giveaway simply leave a comment.  And go check out What to Expect.com, it’s a great online resource for new, seasoned and expecting parents.

This giveaway will end on Friday, April 12th at 5pm PST.

21 weeks.

Bam.

And there it is.  We’ve passed the half-way mark just like that.

Coco Pinata will be here before we know it.  Coco Pinata = the baby’s nickname given to her by her big brothers.  And they use it.  After I picked up William from school he asked “Mom, where are the pictures of Coco Pinata that you promised?”  You’d assume that nickname alone would help to speed us along with our name search but nope, not us.

We had our *big* ultrasound Wednesday.  I still get nervous and sweaty each time.  This time Henry joined us for a special big brother moment and to see our little one live.  He loved it and was actually pretty darn good at seeing and understanding what was on the screen.  Our doctor said that everything looks great with the baby and we left our appointment giving thanks and praising Jesus for this sweet new blessing.

doesn’t she look scrunched-up?  based on what I’ve been feeling she likes to go from that position into this:

legs stretched out for optimal kicking.

keeping the family tradition alive with long skinny feet.

Confession.  While I’ve known for almost six weeks that baby is a girl I still had my doubts.  This translated into not making a single pink purchase.  The good news is that today the ultrasound tech re-confirmed that the baby is indeed a girl, so I’m thinking green-light right?

A few things worth noting about pregnancy the fourth time around.

::  I was seriously beginning to wonder if I was ever going to get into this whole pregnancy thing.  I have always been the obnoxious gal who talked about how much she loved being pregnant.  And knowing that this is our last time around I assumed I’d want to savor every last-minute.  This wasn’t the case for the first 16+ weeks at all.  The good news is that I’m finally getting into my pregnancy groove.  Alex could tell there was a shift just by looking over at my nightstand.  It’s overflowing with baby books.  And not the traditional What to Expect books, oh no, I’m waay back into it, we’re talking Ina May and all of the good ‘ol crunchy granola stuff.

:: Time.  I hate to even say this aloud, but it feels like we have the luxury of time and spacing on our side.  After having three boys in four years, it feels down-right luxurious having 3 1/2 years between children.

::  Which brings us to logistics.  We still have some details to nail down, but for now we’ve come up with yet another plan to strategically use the space we have and well, make it work.  Although this time it might involve a teeny-tiny construction project.  And I’ll still keep wishing for that playroom to magically appear.

::  Not only do I feel pregnant but I finally look pregnant.  I’ve never been a fan of that awkward “Is she or isn’t she?” stage.

::  Our bed is already overflowing with pillows.  Alex of course is thrilled.  Ha.

::  Since the 18-week mark I’ve been having steady Braxton hicks contractions.  And no, these aren’t little twinges, these contractions stop me in my tracks and turn my belly into a rock.

::  I’d forgotten about itchy elbows.  There are many weird skin issues that pregnant women deal with, but I’d forgotten that my elbows itch like crazy.  Quirky right?

::  Pregnancy is not the time to start trying out new deodorants.  Especially the *natural* kinds.  Just take my word for it.

::  One word:  jeggings.  Don’t judge, but trust me these should become every pregnant woman’s best friend.  I have them in grey and love them.  And black leggings too.  {Thank you K!}

Pregnacy 4.0 {17 weeks}

It is so hard to believe that I’m 17 weeks pregnant.  With my fourth baby.  For the looongest while, time had been crawling by, but already the days are flying by once again.  Before we know it we’ll be getting ready to welcome this little lady into our family.  {Though I have yet to buy anything pink.}

It might sound a bit extreme but I finally feel like I’m back among the living.  {At least until 5 p.m.}  For the last few weeks {OK, 3 months} I have lived the life of a slug.  Constantly nauseous, exhausted, you get the idea.  Pretty much all of the textbook pregnancy symptoms, only this is the first time I’ve been truly knocked off my feet.  But don’t worry, I landed safely on the couch and comfortably remained there for oh, I don’t know, forever.  Alex deserves a big shout-out for all of his support, love and willingness to run to the store for necessities.  Like frozen yogurt.  7-up.  And bagels.  Honorable mentions must also be given to Curious George, cottage cheese, Perrier and Pinterest.  Without them I’m not sure we could have made it though.

I will also admit that for the longest time I was feeling pretty smug.  You know, because I didn’t become one of those crazy hormonal pregnant women who cries all the time.  Of course I was quickly put into my place when I realized, that nope, instead I’m the grumpy pregnant lady who’s kinda-sorta ticked-off all the time. Ha!  Hoping that tapers off for the sake of my sanity and my darling husband’s.  {He assures me it has.}

So, all that to say … I feel pregnant! I look pregnant, it’s getting real.

There will be no high-maternity fashion on display here.  Only sad, but well-loved maternity threads are left around these parts.

The best laid plans.

September 26th – today was my due date – a much anticipated day for our family for most of 2009.

I’m a planner.  I’m always operating a few steps ahead – strategically mapping out all the details of my day.

But alas, there are some things that you just can’t plan for.  Birth being one of those things – making it an event that causes us all to stop our regularly scheduled lives and enjoy the magic of a new life.

This is the post where I talk about having a baby.  Our third.  William James.  And yes – fair warning – I’m going to be candid.  {What’s new?}

September 3rd.  In preparation for my cousin’s up-coming wedding, my plan was to make the two plus hour drive to Seattle with Henry and Charlie.  Alex would meet us there the next day.  After thinking this through {OK, after my mom suggested} I decided that perhaps I should have another adult in the car with me…just in case.  Thank goodness for Uncle Jimmy, who agreed to join us.  We made it safely to Seattle, got the boys settled at my aunt and uncle’s house and headed out to the rehearsal, where Henry was able to practice his ring bearer skills.

September 4th.  After a relaxing morning with family, I headed to my happy place {The University Village} for a couple of hours of uninterrupted shopping.  Had I known this was my “last chance” to run errands before baby I would have been much more productive.  However, I can assure you that I still enjoyed my time…

That evening we celebrated the marriage of my cousin and his beautiful bride.   Henry nailed it as the ring bearer.  And he looked pretty handsome to boot.

Charlie looked pretty cute himself.

September 5th.  After the wedding we decided to stick around Seattle for a few days – it was a long weekend after all.  Alex had big plans to take Henry to the Husky football game – his first game ever.  And I had no big plans to speak of – and was thrilled.

But there was a change of plans.  Apparently doctors really don’t like sentences that combine the words “bleeding heavily” and “37 weeks pregnant.”  Those sorts of things will land you in the hospital.  No matter what city you are in.  Even if you aren’t having any contractions.  {Yes, even after I tried to convince my hometown doctor that we could drive really fast and make it home in time.}

Talk about a sudden change of plans.  By noon we were sitting around a room at the University of Washington Medical Center – waiting.  I wasn’t contracting {I guess I was…but I couldn’t feel them yet…} so we were just letting my body do its job.  I was officially in labor.

That’s me at the hospital.  Killing time.  Sitting on the “birthing ball” in my stylish gown.  See how I’m doing my best to really use pictures to tell the story?  Not everyone would share such an exciting photo – so consider yourself lucky.  Or something like that…

And yes, Alex had to change his plans.  He gave up his Husky tickets – my brothers were thrilled.  But as a consolation prize, the nurses gave us a super-sized room {to accommodate our large entourage – brothers, parents, aunts, cousins} that came with a pretty nice view of Husky stadium.  So it was almost like being at the game…right Alex?

While waiting for things to get going I couldn’t help but laugh.  How could I – the one who had a detailed list of all that I was going to accomplish in the next few weeks {while waiting for baby} be sitting here in a hospital room?  In labor.  In Seattle.  Without my birth plan.  Or my own pillow.   Or an infant car seat.  I hadn’t yet washed the baby clothes, nor had I purchased any newborn diapers.  And what about my mom?  Alex and I had asked my mom to be in the room for the labor and delivery.  I wanted to do things differently this time and I knew that we would both need some extra support.  But that very same morning my parents had flown to Lake Tahoe for a wedding and were now at the Reno airport frantically trying to catch a flight back to Seattle.

None of this was part of the plan.  My plan.

And yet it didn’t seem wrong.  My cousins were able to watch Henry and Charlie, which both boys consider a treat.  My aunt was able to step in and offer us support for the time being.  My brothers were in town.  The hospital room that we had been assigned was much more accommodating to the birth I envisioned than any hospital room in our hometown.  There was an in-room jacuzzi, a birthing ball, and a whole list of other birthing “accessories” available for a natural birth.  And the best part?  The amazing nursing staff.  They didn’t bat an eye when I told them my plans – no IV, no continuous fetal monitoring {I wanted to be able to move and walk around} and no pain medication.  Our nurse was amazing.  She was a gift.  She listened to me, she understood what kind of outcome I was seeking and quietly supported me the entire time {even three hours after her shift had ended.}

Around game time {7:30 p.m. the Huskies kicked-off} things started to happen.  I was finally feeling regular contractions that were increasing in intensity.  Things started to quiet down in our room too.  The pizza party had ceased.  ESPN was put on mute.  And I was starting to focus.  Our room was peaceful and calm.  I wasn’t focused on time anymore.  The nurses and doctors had warned me that once I hit transition things would go very quickly.  {This was based on the fact that my first two labor and deliveries were fast – Charlie’s ending with only one push – coupled with the fact that this was my third baby.}  I laughed as we kept waiting for things to progress – I joked with our nurse and Alex that I knew exactly why things were moving slowly – my mom and dad had finally caught a flight back to Seattle and would be at the hospital around 10:00 p.m.  I told them that I had no doubt that my mom was praying hard that she would make it.

She did.  A few minutes before 10 they arrived right as I was headed into transition.  {And my dad headed across the street to catch the end of the football game.}  Things started moving quickly then.  Up until a point.  After two hours of pushing I hit the wall.  Yet the contractions were coming on stronger, and despite pushing for so long, we were still waiting for baby.  I. was. exhausted.  I could have fallen asleep right then and there – despite the pain and discomfort.  Thus another change of plans.  Anesthesiology was called in to give me a “little something to take the edge off.”  I was still able to freely move around, but I was able to push despite my body telling me not to.

Almost one hour later, four other doctors rushed into our room, as did a handful of nurses, oxygen was given to me, and I was told that if I couldn’t push him out they would have to get him out.  I told them I only needed three more contractions.  And he was out.  Thus avoiding any other scary interventions.  Why almost three hours of pushing?  William was born in the posterior position – a.k.a. face-up.  And despite my big plans to have a completely intervention-free birth, I later learned that had I been given an epidural, I more than likely would have ended up with a c-section as a result of not knowing when my contractions were coming and “feeling” the urge to push.  Again, another curve in my carefully planned road.  {And yes, hindsight I realize that some mistakes were made – probably due to my doctor’s inexperience – that the labor could have been made easier, and quicker – but ultimately, the outcome was what I wanted.}

September 6th.  After 13 hours at the hospital William James made his debut.  At 1:10 a.m.  {Although, he wasn’t officially William until much later in the day…say right around the time we were trying to check out of the hospital and needed an official name…}

If we both look exhausted we were.  Three hours of pushing will do that to you.  And no, it wasn’t how I’d planned it, but all of the sudden my plans didn’t matter.  He was here.  He was healthy.  And we were happy.

But by morning we were totally refreshed after our two hours of sleep.  {Ha.}

We welcomed visitors.  Two big brothers – Henry and Charlie.

Henry was thrilled to hold the new baby.  Yet he still managed to notice my gown and commented “Mom, I really don’t like that dress.  I think you should leave it at the hospital.”  Which was shortly followed-up by “But Mom, your belly looks so much better!”  Charlie was much more interested in snuggling with his “Dada.”

After a day full of visitors {the nurses just couldn’t figure out how the “out-of-town couple” could have so many visitors.  That’s the joy of having a large family and friends that are willing to travel from home to see baby} we decided that we had had enough adventure for the weekend and hit the road.  {Don’t worry – after a very long check out process.}

It only occurred to me as we were sitting in the car heading back home that we had checked out of the hospital on the same day our baby had been born.  Who does that?  Again, my plan had been to spend at least two days in the hospital milking that “vacation” {you moms with more than one know what I’m talking about} as long as I could.  Somehow that plan too had been thrown out the window.

Yet it was good to be home.  That night as we were getting ready for bed Alex teased me – saying “you know that you don’t have to take Labor Day weekend so literally.”  This was especially funny as I had done the same thing when Charlie was born – 10 days early – and on Labor Day weekend nonetheless.

It took the birth of our youngest baby to remind me {yet again} that even the best laid plans can be tossed out the window in the blink of an eye.  Especially when it comes to growing a family.  Because it serves as a gentle reminder of the One who is really in control.  And that’s fine with me.