When Nurses Throw A Baby Shower

My sweet, crazy, awesome coworkers threw me a potluck baby shower. Because they are just amazing like that.

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The whole crew (or at least a lot of us). I seriously love these people!

 

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Seahawks, baby!!

 

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FOOOOOOOD! Nurses know how to do potlucks right! I may or may not have eaten six of those chocolate cake pieces….

 

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No vase? That’s ok. We have urinals.

 


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I don’t even know what is happening in this picture….

 

 

Underwear, Socks and Chapstick: A Bedtime Story

Oh Eleanor. Up to her bedtime shenanigans once again. A couple of nights ago, we tucked the girls into bed as usual. Let me set the scene for you: their bedroom is really quite dark. We have a tiny glowing disk plugged in that emits just enough light for Zoey to safely climb down from the top bunk if she needs to, but that is all. There really isn’t enough light to see to do anything else. There are also two small baskets on top of Eleanor’s dresser that hold all her socks and underwear.

After putting the girls to bed, I headed upstairs and turned on the monitor for their room. I heard a bit of shuffling around but no talking so I let it go. About ten minutes later, Eleanor began to talk, saying something about her pull-up. Lately she has been taking of her pajamas after we leave the room and we find her in the morning, wearing just a pull-up. The weather has been unseasonably warm here lately, so I’ve just let it go. I figured I would find her naked once again when I went to her room. I was only partially right.

When I opened the door, Eleanor immediately said, “I ripped my pull-up.” So I turned on the small bedside light to see what was going on. She had removed both her pj pants and pull-up. She had also gotten both baskets of socks and underwear and brought them into bed with her. She was wearing about a dozen pairs of underwear and approximately nine socks on each foot. Her little stuffed dog was also wearing three pairs of underwear and a few socks. The rest of the socks and underwear were scattered throughout her bed, mixed up in the eighteen different blankets she insists on sleeping with each night. All I could do was shake my head and say (for the millionth time), “Oh Eleanor.”

I removed all the undergarments and sorted them back into the baskets, minus three socks that I couldn’t find the mates for. It wasn’t until the next morning, after breakfast when I went to get Eleanor dressed, that I discovered she still had on two pairs of underwear. She had crammed her entire body through one leg of the undies and they were pulled up around her belly, hidden under her pajama shirt. She had slept that way all night long, never saying a word, despite how tight and uncomfortable it must have been. Oh, Eleanor!

Fast forward to last night. This time it was Zach who went down to the girls’ room to investigate when we heard Eleanor talking. Later he told me, “Oh, by the way, if Eleanor smells like lip balm later…” I busted up laughing before he could even finish telling me what she did. I already knew. As the girls were getting for bed that night, I had been tidying up their room. I moved Zoey’s set of three Minnie Mouse Lipsmackers into a drawer on the vanity, instead of up on a high shelf where the girls couldn’t reach them. I didn’t even realize Eleanor had been watching me. Waiting for just the right moment to make her move.

After we had tucked them in and gone upstairs, Ellie once again got out of bed, retrieved the chapsticks from the drawer and proceeded to coat her face with them. Everywhere. And her hair. When I went in to get her in the morning, I was hit by the smell of vanilla cupcakes from three feet away. It took only a moment of piecing together the scent and Eleanor’s greasy hair (which had been washed just before bedtime, I might add) to remember that she’d gotten into the Lipsmackers. She got a shower with me this morning, and her hair washed again. When I put her down for her nap, her sheets and pillows still smelled like dessert. Guess I’ll have to wash those too. In the meantime, I’ve been calling her Cupcake all day.

Overdue Zoo Day

We haven’t had a trip to the zoo in months. Between the kids and I being constantly, repeatedly sick and me being too uncomfortably pregnant to walk very far, it just hasn’t been possible. On Sunday, the weather cleared up just enough to inspire us to embark on a spur of the moment adventure to our favorite place. While all the walking didn’t put me into labor like I hoped, it was still worth it. The weather was unseasonably warm (around sixty degrees) and I got a chance to play with one of my new camera lenses a bit.

Exploring the African village

Exploring the African village

 

Serious drummer is serious

Serious drummer is serious

 

Dum ditty dum ditty dum dum dum

Dum ditty dum ditty dum dum dum

 

"There's a little step ladder!"

“There’s a little step ladder!”

 

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So happy to be out of the house, climbing and exploring

So happy to be out of the house, climbing and exploring

 

Goats

Goats

 

Tractor driving takes serious concentration

Tractor driving takes serious concentration

 

Just milking a cow

Just milking a cow

 

Looking for the types of ducks we saw in the pond

Looking for the types of ducks we saw in the pond

Processing Why

Sometime around three years old, every child starts to drive his or her parents batshit crazy with the word, “Why?” It is an inevitable, normal, healthy part of childhood. They are discovering the world around them with a new level of comprehension and want to know the reasons for everything.

Zoey is no exception to this rule. She started asking “why” with great frequency not long after turning three. However, it didn’t take me long to realize that she didn’t ask in the same way most other kids seemed to. At that point in time, we had just gotten Zoey started in preschool and settled into a routine with our days. I began to notice that Zoey and I were having the exact same conversations, in the exact same places, at the exact same time every day. Sometimes word for word. I could predict the exact moment when, while driving her to school, she would make a statement about going up the big hill, or point out the dress shop on the corner. Then she would ask the same question about the dresses in the window, every day. It didn’t take me long to figure out that this was a coping mechanism for Zoey. She was trying to process all the changes in her life – with starting school and OT and giving up naps. Having these conversations on repeat every day, while utterly maddening for me, was a way for her to know exactly what to expect, and where and when, each day. She was attempting to be social with me, but didn’t know how to do it without a script.

Often in the past, Zoey would process out loud. For example, if she saw me set a glass on a table she would ask, “Did you set a glass on the table, mommy?” She knew I had, she had just watched me do it. She wasn’t really asking me, she was processing what she had just seen, out loud. I think she formed these observations as questions as a social coping mechanism: it sounds more normal to ask questions than to just give a verbal running commentary of everything happening around you. Also, while the other person was responding, it bought Zoey extra time to process.

It wasn’t long before “why” made an appearance at the beginning of these questions. Now, though, the questions were less about what Zoey was seeing around her and more parroting back whatever was just said. If I say, “Look Zoey, it’s rainy outside today” she will immediately respond with, “Why rainy outside today?” She isn’t really asking why it is raining today, she is processing what I just said to her. This is especially true any time she hears a word or phrase that is new to her.

The maddening part is that it always catches me off guard. The “why” makes me instinctively answer her question, leading to a verbal loop that can only be described as falling down the rabbit hole.

Me: “Zoey, finish your breakfast. We have a busy day today.”

Zoey: “Why a busy day today?”

Me: “We need to get to the store and back before it is time for you to go to school.”

Zoey: “Why before it is time for me to go to school?”

Me: “So you don’t miss the bus.”

Zoey: “Why so I don’t miss the bus?”

Me: “Because if you miss the bus, you will be late for school.”

Zoey: “Why late for school?”

etc, etc, etc.

Inevitably, it dawns on me that we’re in a downward spiral to insanity and I cut it off by changing the subject. Sometimes, when I’m actually well-rested and paying attention, I can stop myself from answering the very first “why.” I simply wait. If she asks again, then she is legitimately asking “why” about something. Often, if she is just processing out loud, Zoey won’t repeat the question. It may not be a perfect system, but it works for us. It gives Zoey the space and freedom she needs to be herself and do what she needs to do to keep up with everyday life, and it prolongs my departure for the loony bin.

Honestly, I have to say I am incredibly proud of Zoey. You have to admit: what I just described is a pretty sophisticated coping technique for a child of three or four years old to implement. She sees the way others interact around her, and desperately wants to join in, but can’t keep up with the ever-changing conversations at the same pace. So she has invented a socially-acceptable way of slowing down the conversations and even steering them a bit. Pretty darn genius, if I do say so myself.

The Best Man

There is nothing quite like being heavily pregnant and woefully dependent upon your partner to make you appreciate every little thing about them. As much as I whine about how much I hate being pregnant, I know that I am not the only one suffering for forty weeks.

When I was nauseated to the point of gagging just at the mere thought of chicken, Zach took over the weekly menu planning, almost all the dinner cooking and much of the grocery shopping. As my belly got bigger, my back and hips achier and the Braxton-Hicks contractions more frequent, Zach took over pretty much all the grocery shopping to save my body the additional strain.

He leaves work in the middle of the day to meet me at the doctor’s clinic for my appointments. He is there to ask questions and hear how things are going, as well as to corral the girls so that I can interact with my doctor uninterrupted.

Throughout the pregnancy, Zach has gently encouraged me to eat as well as I can, never judging when he catches me indulging in obscene amounts of junk food.

Without complaining, he has conceded two-thirds of the bed to me and my giant pregnancy pillow. Still, he allows me to put my icy cold feet up against his legs at four in the morning to warm them after I’ve gotten up for a snack.

When an intense contraction hits, he is there to hold me up, squeeze my hand or place just the right pressure on my hips.

He does all this without my needing to ask. So many times, he comes home from a long day at work and, instead of seeking out time for his own projects and peace of mind, jumps straight into playing with the girls and finding ways to help me. In so many ways, every day, Zach shows me so much love and support. I know I am extra hormonal right now, but I also know that the intense love I feel for this man is more than a product of this pregnancy. His patience and devotion are clear as day and I would be insane not to be head over heels for him.

It also doesn’t hurt that he is incredibly good looking.

I definitely married the best man in the world.

Not Even Born Yet, and Already Giving Me Gray Hair

Tuesday was a full moon. I didn’t even have to look it up. I could tell just by the shenanigans this baby pulled.

As I mentioned a couple days ago, it has been contraction city over here. All day long, especially in the evenings, and even waking me up several times during the night. Often, the trigger for those contractions seems to be this baby’s strong kicks and stretches. Then, when the contraction is over, baby stretches extra hard, as if in reaction to being squeezed. It is exactly as pleasant as it all sounds.

On Tuesday, I kept thinking all day about how good I was feeling. I had been given a prescription for antibiotics the day before and figured my better physical state was probably due in large part to my immune system finally receiving a little extra help. I was also aware of the fact that I was having very few contractions, and the ones I did have were no where near as strong as I had been experiencing for the last week. I moved through my day, happy and enjoying the ability to do a few things around the house without feeling so inhibited in my movements as I have been.

Zach came home in the evening and I left for a prenatal massage, something I’ve been doing once or twice a week lately. It wasn’t two minutes that I had been lying on the table before the realization suddenly smacked me, hard: I couldn’t remember feeling the baby move all day.

I don’t normally do “kick counts.” I’m just aware that baby is pretty much always active, with occasional quieter chunks of time. I know to expect extra movement after a contraction and especially in the evenings. I also know baby tends to get especially active during my massages. I waited with bated breath all through the hour-long massage. I felt absolutely nothing.

With panic starting to build in me, I tried to remember the last time I had felt baby move. I knew for certain s/he had hiccups as I was going to bed the night before, but I couldn’t remember a single kick or movement from that day. Surely there had been something in the morning? I had been so preoccupied with taking care of Zoey and Eleanor, and reveling in a day with fewer contractions, that it had never occurred to me to think about baby’s movement.

It made sense: less movement from baby would trigger fewer contractions. When I got home, Zach could instantly tell from the look on my face that something was wrong. I explained, quietly, that I was worried something was wrong with the baby. I had him put the girls to bed while I tried everything I could think of to get baby to move. I drank icy cold water. I sat very, very still and searched for the tiniest hint of movement. I got up and paced. I poked and prodded at the places where baby’s feet and head usually are. Nothing. We tried listening for baby’s heartbeat with my stethoscope, but could only hear the whoosh of my own pulse through the umbilical cord. I wasn’t sure we should be able to hear baby’s heart without a doppler anyway.

When Zach came back I had him call his sister to come stay with the girls so that we could go to the OB triage. Then I paged the on call doctor. Not five minutes after I sent the page, bump. Bump. Bump. Bump. Hiccups. I smiled with relief, hugged Zach tightly and cried a little. I felt slightly foolish for getting so worried, but mostly just relieved. Kelsie decided to continue to our house and visit for awhile. When the doctor called me back I explained what had happened but that baby was freely moving now and I was no longer worried. He was patient, kind and reassured me I had done exactly the right thing by calling.

All night long, I smiled every time the little bugger kicked me.

Our Little Squishy...in 3D

Our Little Squishy…in 3D

What Labor Is Really Like

Let me start by saying that, for every woman who has ever experienced labor, there is a different story about “what labor is really like.” Every body, every pregnancy, every baby, every situation is different, so of course we will all experience it differently. Clearly, having gone through labor exactly once – albeit for approximately 56 hours – I am hardly an expert. That said, I have had quite a few women who have never given birth before ask me what labor is really like. So here’s my experience.

First off, it is NOTHING like what you see on television. On TV, there is always the sudden “my water broke!” situation or a woman has precisely one contraction (which she can still talk and move around through) and exclaims, “It’s time!” Um, yeah, it does not work that way. Truly. Only about ten percent of the time does a woman’s water break before she gets to the hospital, and of that ten percent and very small number of women experience their water breaking as the very first sign of labor.

With both Zoey and Eleanor, I started experiencing frequent, strong-yet-painless contractions as early as 18-20 weeks pregnant. The contractions were so frequent, in fact, that I ended up on light duty at work because being on my feet would provoke even more. With all those contractions being a regular part of more than half of my pregnancy, I wondered how I would know when labor really started. It wasn’t like contractions would be something new for me.

The day I went into labor with Eleanor, I woke up early and couldn’t go back to sleep. Throughout the morning, which was spent at a birthday party for all the kiddos in our mom’s group about to turn two, I kept having contractions. The other moms commented on the frequency and intensity of my contractions, but I brushed it off. They weren’t painful or really much different than what I had been experiencing for months. I took Zoey home around noon and put her down for a nap. That was when it suddenly hit me: while these contractions didn’t feel any different, there was a difference in that they seemed to be coming at regular intervals. I started to time them and, sure enough, every 8 minutes or so I was contracting.

To make a long story short, we ended up at the hospital and were sent home later that evening because my cervix wasn’t showing any signs of changing. I asked the nurse how I would know when to come back: the contractions were every 2-4 minutes, regular, not stopping. They weren’t painful, but there was definitely a feeling of a lot of pressure – enough so that I frequently had to breathe through them and couldn’t carry on a conversation. I was told to come back when I was bent over the bed with each contraction, unable to talk or think about anything else. Doubtful and confused, I just nodded and went home.

All I can say is, the nurse was right. It isn’t a question of pain really, although there certainly is pain involved. At some point, the contractions became so intense that the only way I could cope with them was by being on my hands and knees and breathing in a deep, rhythmic pattern. It was all entirely instinctual. When each contraction hit, nothing else in the world existed except for the contraction and my breathing.

Even at my most exhausted, when the contractions were the most intense for me, I would say my pain never got above a “six” on a scale of one to ten. To be fair, I have a fairly high pain tolerance. I also got an epidural before going through “transition” and pushing out the baby, so it is possible I avoided the most painful parts of the process.

The best way I have every come up with to describe the intensity and discomfort of contractions is this: imagine you have an enormous, aching spasm in your back. Someone massages it for you. It hurts intensely when they push on that knot, but in a good way, right? The pain level is almost more than you can take at times, but you don’t want them to stop because it feels like it is helping. That is what labor is like. Those contractions are incredibly intense, and can push you to your utmost limits, but at the same time they feel so right, so productive and natural. That was my experience at least.

My best advice for new moms facing labor for the first time is this: don’t fear it. The media and society in this country pummel us with the idea that labor is scary, risky, painful. Allow yourself to believe instead that it can be natural, beautiful, and empowering. Because it really is and really can be.

False Labor is Real

Of all the cruel jokes the universe plays on pregnant women, prodromal labor has to be one of the worst. Basically, it consists of lots and lots of exhausting contractions that start and stop for days before real labor finally kicks in. Sometimes, it can even last for weeks. Weeks. 

On Wednesday I was having a lot of contractions throughout the day. While not painful, they are not comfortable by any means, as they tend to involve a lot of pressure and sometimes spasms in my back. Technically these are still Braxton-Hicks contractions, as they are not actually doing anything other than exhausting me and making my life difficult.

On Wednesday evening, however, the contractions shifted and started coming at more regular intervals. I finally picked up on this and started timing them. Sure enough, every seven minutes I was having a 60-90 second contraction. I tried eating, peeing, drinking lots of water, resting with my feet up, walking around a bit…still regular as clockwork. After about two hours of this, I decided to try a warm bath. Still, the contractions continued. I texted my doula and my mom to let them know what was going on, but that I still didn’t really think it was “time.” After three hours of these regular contractions it was 10pm and I finally decided, “Screw it, I’m going to bed.” I figured, the baby would come or not but either way I was exhausted and needed some rest.

The contractions continued for awhile longer, keeping me awake, but eventually tapered off and I was able to get some sleep. Since then, however, the frequency of contractions has greatly increased. Only for brief periods have they been at regular intervals, but they happen all day long. They like to get particularly strong and frequent at night, right when I want to fall asleep.

Part of me is excited because I know that all this means it won’t be long until baby comes. A larger part of me says get out of my body already or let me rest!!!!! Because, you know, nine months pregnant. What more do I need to say?

Soon! Very soon there will be a baby!