Friday, September 12, 2014

Noah is Three!

Noah turned three on August 1st, and he is getting so big.  I swear, he has aged ten years since the baby was born.  It makes me nostalgic, and I sometimes have a hard time falling asleep when I think about it (I blame postpartum hormones for that).  The other night, we were out for a family walk delivering thank-you notes for baby gifts, and Noah was riding ahead of me and Ryan on his little tricycle (which he is obsessed with and frankly looks too small for him these days).  As I watched him swerving into and out of each driveway saying, "Speedy delivery!  Nope, not this house!" (he has a constant dialogue going with himself at all times--he literally never stops talking), I had the thought, "These moments are so precious."  Sometimes motherhood really, really wears me out, and being home all day with little ones can feel quite mind-numbing at times; but even though some days are long, the years fly by.  I try to remember that when I am in the midst of a tough mothering moment.

Noah and his beloved tricycle
Noah's birthday was pretty low-key due to the arrival of Baby Sally less than two weeks earlier.  On the big day, my dad took him for an early morning walk so I could sleep in, and then I took him for a Mommy-Noah date to get doughnuts for breakfast.  He opened a few gifts throughout the day and enjoyed playing with new toys and games.  That night, we had brownies and ice cream in the backyard and popped our leftover 4th of July streamers.  His cake certainly was not a masterpiece like previous years when I had the help of my mother-in-law and his birthmom, but he was happy enough with a boxed brownie mix.  The next day, we went to a bounce-house place with a couple of his little friends, Stella and Eliza.  He had a great time throwing himself down the big inflatable slides.  All in all, I'd say his birthday was a success.

Cool dude, out for a walk with Bapa
Idaho Boy
My dad had no idea these photos were artsy when he was taking them.
During his birthday "interview" on our doughnut date
Loving the attention
Cute friends
So what is our Noah Boy like at age three?  

He is outgoing and talkative.  Noah loves people, and he is always excited and eager when someone rings the doorbell.  One day, I opened the door to a salesman on the front porch.  He introduced himself and said he was from Big Dog Satellite.  "I'm sure you've heard of Big Dog before," he said confidently.  I shook my head, "Umm, no."  He looked a little shocked.  "You haven't heard of Big Dog?"  (I guess they are a well-known company in this area.)  Noah, who was of course right by my side and listening to every word of this conversation, suddenly piped in, "No, but we do have a little dog!  His name is Daryl, and he sleeps with me at night.  But he's not a real dog--he's a stuffed animal."  I don't think the salesman knew quite how to respond to this precocious little toddler, so he continued with his spiel, saying I could get a great deal on satellite TV through their company.  "Well, actually, we don't have a TV," I said, shocking the salesman yet again.  "You don't have a TV?!" he asked in disbelief.  To this question, Noah confidently responded, "No, we don't.  But we do have an iPad!  I like to use it to watch PBS kids!" :)  I love that Noah will tell anyone his life story.  

Noah is dramatic.  Whenever we go to the grocery store, Noah picks out a mylar balloon to carry around the store.  I never actually buy these balloons--we return them to their spot before we leave--but they keep him happy and occupied while we are shopping.  Well one day not too long ago, the green balloon that Noah was carrying got sucked up to the vents on the ceiling, and Noah was beside himself with grief.  He told every worker that he saw some version of this sob story: "I had a green balloon that I had loved all my life" (never mind that he had only had the balloon for five minutes) "and he got sucked up to the ceiling, and I really miss him!"  He ended this tragic tale by hanging his head and frowning pathetically.  All of the workers thought he was so cute that they gave him all sorts of free stuff to make him feel better--a cookie from the bakery, a dum-dum sucker, a sticker.  One lady even went and got a pole to rescue the balloon, and she paid for it herself so Noah could take it home.  This kid sure knows how to work his magic.  He's generally not using his drama to manipulate on purpose (he has no idea how cute and funny he is), though it does happen on occasion.  I recently left him sitting at the dinner table because I am so fed up with his pickiness, telling him that he had to eat one bite of his chicken before he could be excused, and after shrieking loudly about this injustice for quite some time, he started wailing, "You're making your little boy cry, Mom!  Don't make your precious boy cry!"  I tried not to laugh, but it was impossible.  Oh man, he kills me.  

Noah is stubborn and independent.  As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I attempted to potty train Noah several times in the past six months, and though he definitely knew how to use the potty after a few days of training, he flat out refused to do it on command.  He hated when I would interrupt his playing and sit him on the potty, and when I told him that he had to use the bathroom at specified times, such as before we left the house, World War III ensued.  Realizing that I was fighting a losing battle--I could force him to stay in the bathroom, but I couldn't force him to empty his bladder--I decided to give it up and allow him to do it on his own timetable.  I tried to totally remove all pressure from the potty experience and not mention it, force it, or act like it was a big deal to me when I was changing his gross diapers (it was! seriously, three years of messy diapers is too long!).  I started to doubt my tactics when he turned three and was still showing no interest in the potty, but sure enough, a week or two after his third birthday, he informed me that he was a "big boy" and "big boys wear underwear."  He hasn't had a single accident since.  When he needs to go potty, he goes into the bathroom and takes care of it all by himself--I don't have to do a thing.  He even wears underwear at night and stays dry.  I am amazed.  I've learned that the more I try to force Noah to do something, the more he resists.  I think this is a good lesson to learn when he is young, so I can carefully pick my battles when he is older and the stakes are higher. 

Noah is persistent.  Going along with being stubborn, once Noah gets an idea in his head, it is nearly impossible to get it out.  If I ever tell him "no," he makes the same request over and over 3,000 times, thinking that my answer might change if he asks it a slightly different way or offers an even better rationale.  Sometimes when he assumes my answer might be "no," he asks a question and then immediately answers for me before I have a chance to: "Mom, can I have ice cream for breakfast?  Oh that's a good idea!  That could be great!" He started climbing trees this summer, and while I am all for little kids climbing trees, it almost gave me a heart attack when I turned my back at the park recently and he scaled halfway to the top of a 50-foot pine tree.  You probably think I am exaggerating, but I'm not.  Now when I tell him that he's not allowed to climb that tree, he says, "But I promise I won't fall, Mom!"  I've tried to explain to him that most people don't try to fall out of trees so his oath to remain safe doesn't really reassure me. :)  He is always making promises like that to me, and he can be surprisingly convincing for a three-year-old.  He recently promised me that he wouldn't spill chocolate milk on his floor, so, like a dope, I let him take a cup into his room.  Within three minutes, we had a nice new stain on our carpet.  How does he convince a grown woman that things like this are a good idea??  It's ridiculous!

Noah is smart.  He has invented a clever word that means "in the recent past."  When he knows that something occurred within the last week or so, but he's pretty sure it wasn't yesterday, he will say "lasterday" instead.  I think this word is super awesome and I am going to start using it myself. :)  In addition to making up cool words, he remembers every word he ever hears.  For example, lasterday he says to me out of the blue, "Remember when we went canoeing and that lady on the paddle board was not wearing her life vest?"  Amazed that he would randomly think back to an incident three months earlier and remember the details with such precision, I replied, "Yes."  He sighed and said, "That was a long time ago.  That's when Baby Sister was still in the womb."  The womb????  I could not believe that he knows that word and used it correctly.  This kid astonishes me daily with the words he uses and the concepts he understands (the other day he asked me why I was being so "aggressive" when I was kissing him and tickling him forcefully).  I swear, if he hears a word used once, he adds it to his active vocabulary.  Makes my English-teacher-heart happy.

Noah is curious.  For the past six months, his favorite question has been "Why?" and he asks it about 45,000 times a day.  Often when I read him bedtime stories, he asks, "Why?" at the end of every page, so we have a little discussion about each situation or the emotions of each character or whatever.  It can be exhausting, but I'm glad he is so interested in the world.  When we go out for walks, he asks me about everything he sees, and it makes our little outings really fun.  His curiosity can also get him into trouble, such as when he asks me things like, "Mom, why is your bum so wobbly?"  Thanks a lot, Kid!

Noah is delightful.  He makes people smile.  When we were delivering those thank-you notes recently, I noticed that everyone who came to the door lit up when they saw Noah standing there.  He really is so much fun.  He talks to anyone and everyone; he says hilarious things; he is cheerful and full of chatter; he carries on earnest conversations; he loves learning, people, and life.  He is truly a delight, and I have at least one moment every day when I look at him and feel that familiar swell of awe and gratitude.  He is certainly a handful, and sometimes his stubbornness drives me absolutely bonkers, but I would not trade a single day of the last three years.  Even the exhausting, discouraging, frustrating days were days spent as Noah's mother--what a privilege.

I love you, my little big boy, and I love witnessing who you are and who you are becoming. 

Happy Third Birthday, Noah! 

Family scripture study before bed
(we did this about three times)
Lovin' his shades at Shoshone Falls
What, Mom?  It's totally normal for a three-year-old to be glued to a documentary about the English translation of the Bible on a Sunday morning. ;)
Baking with Noah...always an adventure
"Tallest tower in the world!"
(And I'm sorry--doesn't he look 15 in this picture???  Too big!)
Thrilled that he has some caps to stack, like the peddler in the story
Riding his plasma car (a birthday gift from Grandma and Grandpa) with Daddy

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Snapshots of Seven Weeks with Sal

Baby Sally is seven weeks old, and we love her!  For the first month, I allowed life to pretty much stand still as I recovered from pregnancy and we all got to know our little Sally Girl.  As difficult as those first few weeks postpartum were in some ways, they were also so peaceful and blissful in others: I did not cook, clean, work on projects, or, in all honesty, shower or get out of my sweatpants very often. :)  Pretty much all I did was snuggle my baby, take naps with her, read Noah books, go for slow and short walks, and enjoy my family.  It's not very often that life "pauses" like that, and it felt sacred.

We were so lucky to have my mother-in-law, my dad, and my sisters all come to help us over the course of that first month, and it was simply amazing to have them here.  Perhaps I will eventually write more about the struggles that I faced those first few weeks postpartum (most notably lots of anxiety as my hormones leveled out and difficulty breastfeeding as my fertility problems prevented me from getting a full milk supply); but for now, suffice it to say that I could not have made it through those first few weeks without the help and support of our family.  I am so grateful to them--words really can't express it.

After that first month, normal life started to resume somewhat, and we are slowly getting back into the swing of things.  It feels good.  Sally has made things easy on me--she is a very sweet and content baby and has honestly been the easy part of this postpartum period.  She does get fussy at times, but she can almost always be soothed with snuggling and rocking, and, really, who can complain about that?

Noah is doing great too.  He adores his baby sister ("Sis" or "Sissy Sue," as we've taken to calling her around here), and he has shown zero resentment toward her.  I am surprised and pleased by how well he has adjusted to being a big brother.  Sometimes I wish his shows of affection could be a little less forceful (he tends to maul her in the process of giving her hugs and kisses), but she doesn't seem to mind his aggression too much, and I guess she better get used to may be the story of the rest of her life!

Overall, life is so good, and I am happy.  I sometimes feel stretched to my limit during the day when both kids need me, the house is a disaster, and I haven't had a moment to sit, eat, shower or rest, but I feel like I am adjusting well and becoming a better mother as I exercise patience with the kids and with myself.  It's good to be stretched, and these kiddos are more than worth it.

So with no further ado, here is the last seven weeks in snapshots.  Enjoy!

First week home
Her bruising from delivery was still healing
Happy brother
First bath
Thank goodness for Grandma's help that first week!!
Family story time!
Noah always requested that "Little Sis" read his bedtime book with him during those first two weeks
Meeting Aunt Ashley
Our Peanut chilling out peacefully at night
Happy Daddy
What is she dreaming about?
Meeting Grandpa Nielson
Snuggling on her quilt made by Grandma Nielson 
A visit from Bapa
Conked and comfortable with Aunt Laura
Snuggling with Mom and Dad
Cute little creature
Two girls, ready for the day
Tummy time with Brother
Chillin' in the backyard with Mom 
Chillin' at the park with Dad
What blue eyes you have
Family Selfie
Sally's first time to church 
Mom's first time doing her hair in five weeks 
Already learning how to pray... :)
"Nuggle Nap" with Aunt Sarah
Morning cuddles
Happiest Mama

Monday, August 18, 2014

Welcome to the World, Sally Grace!

Our little Sally Grace will be four weeks old tomorrow.  I had no idea that life after pregnancy would feel so chaotic and overwhelming.  Between recovering physically, dealing with hormone freak-outs,  attempting to breastfeed, caring for a rambunctious three-year-old, and trying to keep the house at least minimally picked up, I feel like I've hardly had a moment to catch my breath, let alone blog!  (All I have to say is THANK GOODNESS for the family members who have come to stay with us and help this past month--much more on all of that in another post.)  In my last post, I promised more details about my labor and delivery and more photos of Sally "in a few days"...uh, make that a few weeks!  (Better late than never, right?)

I know some friends and family are interested in the gory details of how Sally's birth went down, and although I will try to leave out the gory stuff, I am going to include lots of details here.  I want my experiences, thoughts, and feelings from that special day to be recorded for posterity--especially for Sally.

At my 38-week appointment on Monday morning July 21st, the doctor decided that Baby Girl needed to be delivered pronto because she had been diagnosed with IUGR (intrauterine growth restriction) and her heart rate was dipping during the non-stress test that day.  He told me to go home, get my hospital bag, arrange childcare for Noah, and come right back.  He wanted the baby on the monitors, and he wanted the nurses to get me started on Cervadil.  I was only barely dilated and effaced, and Cervadil was supposed to get things going a bit before they started me on Pitocin to fully induce labor.

It was super exciting to call Ryan and family and tell them that the baby would be arriving in the next 24 hours.  I had gotten an ultrasound that morning to check the baby's growth, and I kept looking at the photos of her squished little face and squealing inside that I would be holding that sweet girl within the next day or so.  

When I got home, Noah and the babysitter were sitting at the kitchen table creating a dot-art picture for "Baby Sister."  When Noah saw me, he lit up and said, "Baby Sister is coming today???!!!" (I had called the babysitter to see if she could stay with Noah until my mother-in-law arrived from Pocatello, and she had told Noah the news.)  He ran over and threw his arms around me in excitement, and I showed him the ultrasound pictures from that morning.  He loved them so much that he almost refused to give them back to me--so I cut one from the roll and put it in a ziploc baggie for him to keep and look at throughout the day.  

I hastily finished packing my bag while I waited for Ryan to get home from work.  When he walked in, he was flustered and grinning, and he said "Wife!!" while wrapping me in a big hug.  It felt surreal and exciting--heading off to the hospital together to have our baby.  Before we left, we gave Noah a big family squeeze.  I said, "We've had a great three years with just the three of us, haven't we, Noah?"  "Yeah," he responded lazily, as if he weren't really listening.  "Are you ready to share Mommy and Daddy with your Baby Sister?" I asked.  "Yeah," he responded again without having any idea what he was actually saying and committing to. :)  I felt nostalgic and a little teary as we left Noah, knowing that it would never be just the three of us again.  Oh how life was about to change!

Once we arrived at the hospital, it took several hours for them to get the paperwork done and the doctor's clearance to start Cervadil.  It was frustrating to just be sitting there for hours with no progress whatsoever being made, but I was grateful to be on the monitors and listening to Baby's heartbeat loud and clear.  They finally got me going with the Cervadil around 4:30 p.m., and they told me it had to set for 12 hours before they could start Pitocin.  So Ryan and I settled in for date night at the hospital.  He ran and got us Cafe Rio (I wouldn't be able to eat once I was in active labor) and we watched a made-for-tv movie about the life of JK Rowling.  (Random, I know!)  It was actually really fun to be together, even if it was in a hospital room.

We also had a visitor come to interrupt our date night: Noah arrived with his Grandma around 7 p.m. to make sure that Mommy and Daddy were alright.  He was super hyper and only wanted to push the buttons up and down on my hospital bed, but it was still so good to see him.  I am a sentimental sap, and I was missing him and wanted him to be as much a part of the experience of welcoming Baby Sister as possible.  I was glad he was able to come be with us for a few minutes.

Ryan and I went to bed early.  Even with the help of a strong sleep pill the doctor prescribed for me, I had a hard time resting because I was too excited and nervous.  I could feel subtle contractions that weren't super regular--and just knowing that the Baby was on her way kept me awake.  The nurse said I could disconnect the monitors while I slept, but I was too anxious about Baby's well-being to do that.  So the sound of her little heartbeat filled our room all night, even as I wrote her a letter at 3:30 a.m.  I loved listening to that sound and feeling her kick and hiccup inside of me.

The nurse checked me around 5:00 a.m., and I had progressed a little with the Cervadil, but not much.  She told me to get up and take a shower, walk around, eat something--whatever I needed to do for a break before they started Pitocin in an hour.  

This is where things got crazy.  The minute that I stood up, contractions started fast and furious.  I mean, I was absolutely doubled over in the shower, crying and writhing in pain.  There would be no eating and no walking around.  With Ryan's help, I stumbled out of the shower and onto the bed, and I thought, "Is this what early labor feels like?  I feel like I'm dying, and they haven't even started Pitocin yet!"  Ryan let the nurse know that I was ready for Pitocin whenever, but when she saw how much pain I was in, she decided to check me.  Sure enough, I had dilated to a 5 in less than an hour, and there would be no need for Pitocin.  My body skipped the whole "early labor" thing.  I never had far apart contractions where I was able to walk around and breathe deep and get counter pressure from Ryan and all of that.  My body had decided it was ready to get that Baby out, and it went into overdrive to make it happen.

I had heard that first-time moms are usually in labor for a long time, and I didn't want to have an epidural for 12 hours, so I tried to wait it out a while before I called the nurse anesthetist, who happened to be our good friend from Buffalo, Ben King.  (Crazy, right?)  But within an hour, I honestly felt like I was going to die, so the nurse called him.  When he entered the room, I said, "Ben!  Save me!"  I couldn't believe how much pain I was in.  When Ryan tried to comfort me during contractions, saying things like, "Rachel, you're okay!" I shot back angrily, "I AM NOT OKAY!!!"  Kind of hilarious in retrospect.  I am a somewhat reserved person, and I didn't think I would be willing to make a scene during labor in front of anyone but Ryan--but with that level of pain, I was moaning and acting like a crazy woman when the contractions hit, no matter who was in the room.  I was in way too much agony to even care who saw me in that state.  Ben and the labor nurses certainly saw me at my worst!  (For the record, Ryan claims that I wasn't that bad.  Smart man.)

As soon as the epidural was inserted, the nurse decided to check me again.  She said, "With the level of pain you were in, I guess it's possible that you are almost fully dilated, though for a first-time mom, I highly doubt it."  But to everyone's surprise, when she checked, I was a ten and ready to push.  This made me feel a little better about my dramatic scene pre-epidural.  My body had gotten to a 10 in a ridiculously short amount of time, and I'm pretty sure I was in transition about the time that Ben arrived to give me an epidural--no wonder I was flipping out!

Then it was time to push, which was awkward and hard with an epidural--I kind of hated the feeling of my legs being numb (though I was certainly grateful not to be in agony anymore).  After over an hour of hard pushing, I was super light-headed and felt sick, so they turned the epidural off.  I was still numb but could feel the pressure of the contractions better and had more control, plus I no longer wanted to throw up.  I was making progress but still had a ways to go, so the doctor was summoned, and he was the first person to discover that our little Sally Girl was posterior.  As he felt around, he realized that she was face up instead of face down, which he said explained the excruciating labor pains I'd felt in my back, as well as the lengthy amount of time it was taking to push. He said I should still be able to deliver vaginally since she was measuring small, but the baby's face would likely be very bruised.

After 2.5 hours of pushing, Sally was almost here, but she was also starting to be in distress.  Everyone in the room could hear her heart rate dropping when I had a contraction, and I will admit that I was slightly terrified.  I prayed during each contraction that she would be okay and that I could push effectively to get her out.  The doctor told me that he was going to have to get her on the next contraction, even if that meant an episiotomy and using the vacuum.  Of course, I was okay with that--anything to get our girl here safe and sound.  He did end up giving me an episiotomy but did not use the vacuum.  

When she emerged, she didn't really cry, so the nurses rushed her to the other side of the room and suctioned her mouth and worked on getting her more responsive.  I lay in bed and watched helplessly as they worked on my tiny baby.  I shed a few tears and kept asking everyone if she was okay.  The doctor was calm and the nurses were calm, so I figured she wasn't in any real danger, but I just wanted to hear her cry and to have her in my arms.  After about 15 minutes, the nurses brought her over to me, and I got to snuggle that perfect little bundle to my chest, skin-to-skin.  Heaven.

She was worth every moment of the struggle it took to get her here.  I felt overwhelming happiness and relief holding her for the first time.

5 lbs 12 oz, 18.5 inches of pure perfection

The doctor was certainly right that she would be bruised!  Holy moly--she was our little purple creature for a few days.  Still pretty stinkin' cute, though, if I do say so myself! 

A highlight of my year--maybe my whole life--was watching Noah meet his Baby Sister later that night.  We had talked about the baby for months, and he had been super interested in everything to do with my pregnancy.  Honestly, I am wondering if the kid is going to be an OBGYN or something because he was so fascinated by it all.  He loved watching the videos from the Baby Center app of the baby's development, and he constantly asked me things like, "Is the baby in the birth canal yet, Mom?  Did your water break yet?"  That kid!  Needless to say, he was beside himself with excitement when the moment came for him to finally meet "our baby."  When he looked at her for the first time, he started doing this squeak that I'm pretty sure is his version of baby talk--he just kept pointing and squeaking.  Then he climbed up on the bed next to me and "held" her, and as he gazed down at her, he said, "Oh mom, she's so beautiful!!"  Melt my heart.  He didn't even notice or mention the ginormous purple bruise on her face.  So sweet. 

I love my children.  I am so lucky to be their mom.  Taking our little peanut home from the hospital, I felt overwhelmed but so grateful and happy.  What a miracle little Sally is, just like her brother Noah.  The road to parenthood has not been straightforward or easy for us--but it has been so, so, SO worth it.

Welcome to the world, precious Sally Grace!  You are so loved!