Tuesday, August 22, 2017

no better way.

This morning, I got up for my two o'clock pump and found you feeding the baby downstairs. I kissed you both good night after delivering the next fresh bottle and headed back to bed, only to hear Rowan start hacking away from her bed. None of us ever really fell back asleep after that, and the baby had a blowout after my six a.m. pump, and both of us have come down with Rowan's cold, and it was raining out, and we were short with each other as we tried to wrangle both kids into the car.

So, basically, a pretty accurate illustration of what this season of our marriage entails, seven years in. Not much sleep, not much patience, a lot of laundry, and a lot of love.

I never got around to posting about our sixth anniversary last year, but it was wonderful. Sunny, hot, relaxing. We took Rowan canoeing on the river and all napped in the afternoon. 

Ahhh, so relaxing. Remember having just one kid?!

This year, as I said, we were all awake all night. We went to library story time in the morning and out to lunch at our favorite deli, where I bounced Calvin in the carrier and tried not to drip mustard on his head while you helped Rowan with her water and wiped her nose a thousand times.

Nap time - and I use that term loosely these days - was spent pumping and cleaning a baby who had exploded of both ends while listening to Rowan jump on her bed upstairs. Calvin had something wet on his clothes, and our conversation went as such: "Is that poop or spit-up?" "I don't know, smell it." "I can't smell anything; my nose is stuffed up." "Bring him here and I'll smell it." Afterwards, we dodged the rain to get our annual picture in front of the red barn on the farm where we got married, and we braved witching hour to get dinner at the pizza restaurant that catered our wedding.

On the property where we got married.

Mmm, Cottage Inn!

Now we've been playing bedtime roulette for over an hour, both kids thrown off by our dinner outing. Rowan has called me up roughly a jillion times (most recently because she was stuck upside-down with her hands on the floor and her feet on the bed omggg), and Calvin just choked on his reflux meds while protesting what is usually his most solid block of sleep. 

It wasn't a leisurely bike ride or a fun canoe trip, and there was a whole lot of poop, snot, and spit-up involved, but I can think of no better way to spend anniversary number seven than navigating a typical day together.

J.J., I love doing this life with you. I'm so glad you're the one I get to laugh with and cry to and raise my babies with. It's even better than I imagined it would be on our wedding day seven years ago - and I imagined it being pretty awesome.

{wedding day}
photo: Michelle & Chris Gerard

{first anniversary}

{second anniversary}

{third anniversary}
photo: Lesley Mason Photography

{fourth anniversary}

{fifth anniversary}

{sixth anniversary}

{seventh anniversary}

Here's to seven more, and then seventy more after that.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

introducing Calvin.

Calvin Jack
June 2, 2017
12:32 p.m.
6 lbs., 6 oz., 19 1/2"

Tomorrow, my new sweet guy will be one week old. This week has been crazy fast, crazy long, and crazy wonderful. One thing is for sure: This birth experience, despite being the same delivery method (planned c-section), has been completely different from Rowan's - and in all the best ways.


We were scheduled to go to the hospital at 8:00 on Friday morning. That left us enough time to get up, shower, and get Rowan up and dressed before we had to leave, which was a really nice, relaxed, easy way to start the day. My girl was so excited:

She had picked out the outfit she wanted to wear ahead of time (I told you she was prepared), so I dressed her in that before we ceremoniously moved the "today" sticker on her calendar to the day we'd been anticipating for so long: Baby's birthday. She and J.J. ate breakfast (no food allowed for me pre-surgery), Gramma arrived with plenty of time to spare, and we took one last photo of us as a family of three before heading to the hospital.

It was hard to say good-bye to Rowan, but I held it together. I was nervous for sure, but so ready for the waiting to be over. Aaaand then we got to the hospital and ended up waiting for hours. Seriously - we got there a little earlier than we were supposed to, around 7:45, and we didn't go back to the OR until almost noon. Oops. They had taken us right back to pre-op and gotten me all set to go: clothes off, gown on, IV in (on the first try instead of the fourth, like it was with Rowan - yay!), fetal monitors going. "Can you feel those contractions?" the nurse asked. "Contractions?" I responded. She held out the recording paper and showed me the spikes indicating contractions. Thankfully, I wasn't feeling any discomfort, and I took that as a sign to send a little message down to the baby: I hope those contractions are semi-real, Baby, because you're about to be born...get ready!

With Rowan, we were only in pre-op for a short amount of time - maybe half an hour? - before they took me back to the operating room. This time, we waited...and waited...and waited some more. Our nurse was called away to a couple different emergency deliveries. We waited. She popped her head in and apologized. We waited. We heard everyone chattering about all the breech deliveries and surprise c-sections happening that morning. We waited.

Actually, the waiting ended up being a good thing. I grew super nervous when we first got to pre-op, but I calmed way down while we were waiting. And as I kept saying every time someone would apologize to us for the wait: I was just happy that we weren't in an emergent situation ourselves. I would have waited all day and night so that other parents could have their babies delivered safely. (I was definitely hungry and thirsty, though, can't lie.)

I think it was a little past 11:30 in the morning when they finally took me back to the OR. J.J. was instructed to wait in pre-op while they did my spinal block (no big deal - a needle prick to numb the area, then probably a huge needle the size of a garden hose or something, but I couldn't see it or feel it so no problem) and got me situated on the table. I'm pretty sure J.J. only came in a few minutes before the incision was actually made. 

In the meantime, the dreaded shakes took over. It happened when I was delivering Rowan, too - I started shaking uncontrollably, my hands fluttering like leaves in a hurricane and my jaw trembling so hard that I had to consciously arrange my tongue so I wouldn't bite it by accident. I kept apologizing to the anesthesiologists, who were so kind and tried to help by steadying my arms and layering warming blankets on me. One anesthesiologist explained that the cause of the shaking is multifactorial - nerves, definitely, but also swift hormonal changes, reaction to the anesthesia, the freezing cold OR, etc. I tried my best to just breathe deeply and keep my eyes on the prize. The frustrating part was that I didn't feel very anxious at that point, but the shaking made me feel like I was feeling anxious...if that makes sense.

Anyway, J.J. was finally allowed in the OR, and before I knew it...

...there he was. My baby boy, my Calvin Jack. Instantly, the second I laid eyes on him, I was in love. I recognized him. He looked familiar and wonderful and exactly how I pictured him. It took me so long to realize my love for Rowan, but my love for her, I think, set me up to love my next child immediately and intensely. Unbelievable. (For those wondering, I think he looks JUST like newborn Rowan, but with sparse blond-brown hair instead of a bunch of dark hair!)

Oh, I almost forgot to mention - when they lifted him out, everyone was exclaiming about how big he was. They all started guessing weights - eight pounds, seven-eleven, eight-six - until one nurse called out the official weight: "Six pounds, six ounces!" "That's it?" someone replied incredulously. "That's less than Rowan!" I said - she was six pounds, thirteen ounces. My OB insisted they weigh him again, and the nurse thought she was kidding: "No, I'm serious!" my OB said. "Take that weight again!" Ha! Same weight the second time - six pounds, six ounces. He's a teeny guy!

They whisked him away to clean him up, and then I got to snuggle him for awhile as they finished closing me up. The shakes were still intense, but amazingly, they lessened the second my baby was on my chest. 

We snuggled and bonded and I told him how much I loved him already and how happy I was to meet him. He snuggled me right back. We headed to the recovery room, where we snuggled some more. I'd hand him off to J.J. whenever the nurses needed to do something to me, and my shakes would start rattling the entire hospital...and then I'd greedily grab him back, and the shakes would recede.

Then I tried nursing him.

This was one of my biggest fears when we were thinking about having another baby: feeding issues. It was a legitimate fear, considering the time and energy and sweat and blood and tears that went into figuring out how to help Rowan feed when she was having so much trouble nursing. I couldn't imagine facing another year and a half of exclusive pumping. Thankfully, a few weeks before this baby was born, I realized I wasn't afraid anymore. If he nursed, great. If he didn't, fine. If we did a combo of nursing and bottle-feeding, fantastic. If he only wanted or needed formula, no problem. The most important part would be that he was fed, and fed with love, and that my mental health was not sacrificed in the meantime.

Still, though, my preference was direct breastfeeding. We gave it a shot there in the recovery room, and - like magic - he latched on. I could see and hear the sucks and swallows. I'll talk more about it in another post sometime, but somehow, miraculously, this baby is a nurser. And I'm thrilled.

Eventually we were taken from recovery to the room where we'd stay for the next couple days. It was already early afternoon at this point, so I asked our family members who wanted to visit to hold off until the next day. I wanted to make sure we didn't get overwhelmed with visitors (like we did the day Rowan was born), and that I had time to relax and rest, especially before Rowan came. I knew I'd want energy for her, and I was right.

Especially when she showed up wearing this.

My compassionate, thoughtful girl asked to don her doctor outfit (and bring her doctor bag) over the dress she'd chosen to wear, specifically because she thought her baby would recognize her that way. After all, she reasoned, he had already met lots of doctors and nurses in his short life, but no big sisters. With a doctor coat on, she wouldn't risk scaring him. Yes, I sort of died and exploded and combusted when she said this, in case you're wondering.

And I also died and exploded and combusted seeing my family together for the first time.

When Calvin fussed a little, Rowan asked if she could sing him a song:

She also showed us the cupcakes she brought (remember? White cupcakes with white frosting, so that it would "look like milk" for the baby who wouldn't be able to eat them?), and we sang Happy Birthday to our newest love.

And, finally, Rowan presented her brother with the bear she picked out for him (and - surprise! - he got a special bear for her, too, that says "Big Sister" on it and has a little bear in its arms).

Rowan didn't stay too long that first day, but she and J.J. and J.J.'s mom got dinner together in the hospital cafeteria so Rowan could have some special time with Daddy, away from the baby. Meanwhile, I chilled out in our room with one of my sisters, marveling at how amazingly good I felt.

In fact, that's been the theme for this whole postpartum week - I can't believe how good I feel, compared to my hellish recovery from Rowan's birth. I have almost no pain, I've only had a couple of hormonal sob sessions (twice in the middle of the night, and both for the same reason - I'll get to that in a minute), and I just feel...good. Happy. Confident. Stable. The opposite of anxious. Granted, it's still super early, and postpartum mood disorders can set in anytime in the first year, but it's such a mega relief to feel good right now, as opposed to being thrown right into the pit of postpartum anxiety.

I felt so good, in fact, that I was completely ready to go home on Sunday, two days postpartum, which is when I should have gone home. With Rowan, I had a breakdown when they announced it was time to discharge me - I still couldn't walk without two people assisting me, I was still shaking and getting close to passing out whenever I laid flat, and (oh yeah) my baby had lost too much weight and we needed to make sure she was getting milk through the supplemental nursing system, but we'd only been taught to use it like an hour before, and we still didn't understand it so probably our baby would just starve, as far as I could tell. We ended up staying an extra night that time. This time?

Welllll, this time we ended up staying a couple extra days. But not because of my mental health, or because of anything related to the baby... just because of my stupid blood pressure. I had (have) postpartum pre-eclampsia, or maybe just something approaching pre-eclampsia? I'm not entirely sure. Within a day or so of delivery, my blood pressure readings were consistently high. They kept me an extra night to monitor me, and then another extra night to monitor how I'd respond to the new blood pressure meds. 

Staying longer than expected in the hospital isn't on everyone's wish list, but I have to say...I'm not mad about it. First and foremost, I wanted to make sure I was safe, especially since one of the many panic-inducing articles I accidentally encountered in the weeks before Calvin was born was about a woman who died from undetected postpartum pre-eclampsia. Um, no thanks. Second, Rowan was safe and happy with Gramma and didn't seem too concerned about an extended sleepover at her house. They visited us at least once every day, and J.J. even left to spend an afternoon with her. I felt a little guilty, but not much. Third, I felt totally fine. None of the swelling, blurred vision, headaches, etc. associated with pre-eclampsia - and, ultimately, none of the issues I had while I was in the hospital after Rowan was born. My pain was completely managed, my mood and appetite were good, I wasn't feeling overly fearful and upset, and Calvin was doing great. When our discharge got pushed back yet another day (after we'd scrambled to pack everything up late Monday afternoon to go home), we just shrugged, climbed back into bed, and ordered chocolate cake and ice cream from hospital room service. Essentially, I ended up with a couple extra days of supervised healing and bonding with my baby. And, you know, room service. No complaints here.


Daddy & son together.

Giving me kisses (actually trying to latch onto
my cheek, but it felt like little sweet baby kisses).

Dr. Rowan came to visit wearing her full medical garb so many times that she earned a bit of a reputation on the floor. She even got to assist the pediatric team on their rounds one morning.

I mean, she was just the sweetest with her new brother, showing him all around the hospital room, insisting that we lift him up to see out the window, asking to hold him every time she visited.

Holding her hands out for her turn.

She even brought books to read to me one day - to help me rest and get better, she explained.

We came home on Tuesday afternoon, despite my blood pressure still being pretty high. It's being monitored, obviously, and today I actually had my first completely normal reading, which felt awesome. I've had a few freak-out moments over the blood pressure issue, but all credit to my most amazing, wonderful, caring OB, who responds to my every text and concern and somehow always knows what to say to make me feel better. And top marks to J.J., who's just as relieved as I am that I'm feeling good; his mom, who made it so that I never once worried about Rowan and how she was faring; and my sister, who stayed with me while J.J. left a couple times and helped me feel supported and confident. 

I kind of can't believe that I'm getting a dreamy "fourth trimester" experience, one that's a complete turnaround from my first postpartum experience. Mostly, I'm just madly in love with my new little Cal.

Blissed out while getting his hair
combed during his first bath.

So fresh and so clean-clean!

Wearing the same "going home" outfit that
me and my four siblings wore, along with
all of our kids...my mom's tradition!

Ready to see the world!

And now it's 9:30 p.m. on a Thursday night. Calvin turns one week old tomorrow. Rowan is in bed asleep, I still need to eat some dinner, J.J. is playing video games in the basement, and Cal is snuffling himself awake, probably ready to eat some dinner himself. More to come soon on how we're adjusting to being home, but - spoiler alert - so far, so good. Just waiting for my blood pressure to chill out already, and also for Cal's weight to pick up a little bit.

In general, though? This feels like my dream come true, through and through.

So grateful for excellent, affordable health care, for amazing family and friends, and for the opportunity to be someone's mama all over again.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

dear baby...aka the one with the last silhouette picture [again].

Dear Baby,

Tomorrow, we'll meet face-to-face. I'm more nervous this time than I was before meeting your sister. Why is that? I'm scared of the surgery. I'm scared of more feeding issues. I'm scared of a painful recovery. I'm scared of another year of anxiety and mood swings and no sleep.

But then...then I think about you.

That's you back in December - 13 weeks old.

And here's what I know. I know that no matter what challenges we face in adding to our family, it's worth it - a million times over - for the love. I know that for every hard moment we have, there will be exponentially more moments of laughter, of wonder, and of pure, unadulterated bliss. I know that we have a village that's blossomed and grown by dozens since I became a mama just three and a half years ago. That village is already gathering and waiting and watching and ready to catch us. I know that I'm going to love sharing your photos and stories with everyone, because when I share my love, it multiplies. I know that I've felt guilty - for feeling ambivalent about having another child, ambivalent about having a boy, ambivalent about displacing your sister from her only-child throne, ambivalent about surrendering my Self for another couple years to the unrelenting needs of a baby - but that all that ambivalence is normal, and fine, and part of parenthood. And again: so, so worth it.

Most of all, I know that you are already loved. More than you'll ever know. Probably more than I'll ever know.

Your family, waiting for their sweet baby boy to join them.

So, Baby, come on out safely tomorrow. You've got a lot of people who are waiting to meet you. Most of all...

...this girl, your big sister, who's been dreaming of you and talking about you and wishing for you since she could barely talk.

The first picture she ever drew of our family, back
when I was first pregnant with you. She didn't
even know you were already on your way.

You are her dream come true. And mine.

See you tomorrow, little one.


{32 weeks, 5 days}

recitals + mother's day + babies, oh my.

This is me trying to sneak this post in before I have a baby sliced out of me tomorrow morning. Also, this is me trying to distract myself from thoughts of blood clots and post-delivery pre-eclampsia and not being able to stand up straight for a few weeks, yayyyy!

Right. Ahem. This is me posting about Mother's Day weekend juuuust a few weeks late. And, actually, my favorite part of the weekend wasn't Mother's Day itself; it was the day before.

Rowan's first dance recital! I have to be honest: If no one had suggested it to me, it's unlikely I would have ever signed Rowan up for dance. I have nothing against it, not in the least. I just never did dance as a kid and am totally unfamiliar with what all is involved, where the best place to take classes is, etc. But last fall, my mother-in-law brought up the idea, and Rowan was totally thrilled about it. So we signed her up for a "creative movement" class at the same studio where J.J.'s sister danced for years. She was...a little hesitant at first.

She's the short one with a decorative Band-Aid
on her arm and tears in her eyes. Sweet baby.

This was also back when she was starting preschool and no-parent gymnastics for the first time. My poor girl was not keen on the idea of participating in all these activities without me or J.J., and it took her a few weeks to really settle in and feel more confident. But she's done great since then, and she absolutely loves her dance class.

When I found out that all the age groups at the studio - even her little group of three- to five-year-olds - was participating in the end-of-year recital, I was kind of surprised. I honestly didn't expect that my tiny three-year-old would be able to hold it together and follow directions well enough to sit through a bunch of other performances and then walk out on a real stage (at a local middle school) and dance with her classmates in front of a huge audience. 

Apparently, I set my expectations too low.

That video is actually from the rehearsal, since we weren't allowed to take videos during the performance, but Rowan did just as well during the real thing. I was seriously in tears watching my baby do such a big-kid thing. I was just so proud of her, and amazed that she's old enough, capable enough, to really pull this off. And the sweetest part is that she loved everything about being involved in a performance - the practices, the stage, the audience, the costume, and the fact that she had to wear a "special bun" in her hair and lipstick and blush on her face. (Side note: I literally do not own lipstick or blush. Thank you, Gramma, for purchasing some for this occasion, and for putting it on Rowan!)

With Gramma, who made the whole dance class
and recital experience possible!

She didn't mind getting flowers from us afterwards, either, or going out for a special ice cream treat.

When I asked Rowan about the recital, both before and after, she claimed she only felt excited, not nervous at all. I believe it. She was in her element. She's put on impromptu performances around the house, like, every day since then, usually while wearing her dance costume. Maybe she was just too young to be nervous, but whatever the case, I'm still so proud of her - and we can't wait for dance to start back up again in the fall.

The day after the recital was Mother's Day, which we started out by going to brunch with J.J.'s mom. And right after this picture was taken...

...I became fairly convinced that I was in some sort of labor. Seriously. I was having contractions strong enough to take my breath away, and bouncing over the bumps in the road while we drove to brunch almost did me in. I was only thirty-six weeks along at that point, so likely too early to be in actual labor, but dude. I was in enough pain that I was like, if this is it, FINE, I'm ready to be done. It was a little hard to enjoy brunch, but I did start feeling better once we ate, and Rowan was being pretty adorable:

She was drawing this on her accord, mind you - it's supposed to be a picture of me holding our new baby in a hospital room, with nurses and doctors and family members all around me. I smiled at her while she explained every detail to me, and in my head, I was thinking, "Um, do you know something I don't know? Am I actually in labor?"

Obviously, I wasn't; I think the baby was just shifting and stretching in some ridiculously uncomfortable ways. Probably just trying to say happy Mother's Day. Thaaaanks, Baby. J.J. and Rowan ended up dropping me off at home after brunch so they could go adventuring and let me rest, which was awesome because (a) nap! and (b) the baby calmed down significantly and I wasn't in pain anymore. And when they got home, they bestowed my Mother's Day presents on me:

The cake was sort of random - J.J. and Rowan happened to stop by Kroger when they were offering free cake decorating, and Rowan wanted to make a cake just for me. She slathered it in pink frosting and yellow sprinkles (her favorite colors) and added some blue sprinkles, since blue is my favorite color. Seriously (sap alert), the look on her face when she brought it over to me was the best part.

She also came up with my Mother's Day present idea all by herself. When J.J. asked her what she wanted to get me, she thought for a minute and then said, "A duplicator!" A duplicator, for those not in the know, is a machine that Calvin and Hobbes make. Rowan and J.J. have been reading Calvin and Hobbes books every night for weeks now, and Rowan loves the chapters where Calvin duplicates himself. J.J. asked her what she wanted to put in the duplicator - "What's something that Mommy loves, or that she loves to give you?" - and Rowan came up with Hershey's Kisses. That's my girl!

Oh, my other favorite Mother's Day present was the card she and J.J. made for me. J.J. asked her a bunch of questions - her favorite thing to do with me, my favorite thing to eat, etc. - and she had cute answers for all of them. The best one was the last question: My mom shows me she loves me with... And Rowan answered, "With her heart!" Awwww.

My Mother's Day weekend was capped off with a "snuggle nap" with Rowan...

...and a barbecue at my sister's house, which was my siblings' way of celebrating our own mom, who would have turned seventy the week before. Her birthday and Mother's Day were easier for me to manage this year than last year, but she was for sure on my mind the entire week. And on Rowan's mind, too: We were at the grocery store a few days before my mom's birthday, and Rowan spotted some bumpy cake, which I've told her was my mom's favorite. When she saw it, she said, "Oh, there's Obee's favorite cake!" And I said, "You're right! Hey, it's almost Obee's birthday. Maybe we should buy some of her favorite cake to celebrate." She said, "Yeah, and sing happy birthday!" Then she paused. "Buuut...she won't hear us, because she's dead." I grimaced and tried to come up with the right response. Before I could, Rowan went on: "But that's okay. We can just sing happy birthday REALLY loud, and then she'll hear us!" All I could do was laugh and squeeze my girl.

Okay, off to enjoy what's left of nap time, considering this is the very last nap time before Baby comes. Because he comes tomorrow. I'M HAVING A BABY TOMORROW. More on that later tonight, hopefully!


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