We Have a Baby!

We Have a Baby!

FYI: I wrote the bulk of this post when Alice was like nine days old and haven't had the desire/energy/mental capacity to go back and edit/finish it until now. #newmom #sleepdeprivation It's more about the "birth story" and first few days but I'm sure I'll write something that's more up-to-date with our current daily routine if I ever get a decent night's sleep. So, maybe never. 

The title of this post is a bit obvious if you follow me on any form of social media since I've posted about a million pictures since the big day, but still... it's true! Alice Juliet joined us on October 10 and we have spent the last three weeks falling completely in love with her. Here's how it all went down...

On Wednesday morning (the 7th) I woke up having contractions... really the first ones I had experienced during my pregnancy which was kind of a miracle, I'm told. (I think the Lord just knew I couldn't have handled them any longer than I did.) They were anywhere from 10-30 minutes apart all that day but as the evening wore on, they got closer and closer together until they were about 4-5 minutes for a while (and I was hurting really bad... or so I thought, naive little first-time mom that I am. Ha!) My mom and sisters were telling me to go in to the hospital, and I really wasn't trying to be brave and stick it out only to have to deliver at home with only hot water and towels, Little House style. I just didn't want to go in and be sent home, which ended up being exactly what happened.

I decided that if I was still having contractions five minutes apart by 10:30 we would go to the hospital. Jonathan is a doll so he passed the time by cleaning and getting things ready in case we left. The appointed time came and went with my contractions still going consistently so we took a few pictures, looked around in disbelief that this was actually happening, and off we went. As we got closer to the hospital, my contractions were actually getting closer together, about three minutes, confirming to me that I had made the right choice. (HA!)

Last bump picture... taken right before our first trip to the hospital. 

Since it was after nine PM, we had to enter through the emergency room (why are there always such sketchy-looking people in the ER late at night?) and as I approached the desk, holding my huge belly and panting, I was still asked why I was there. (Um, I broke my thumb?) Thank goodness we preregistered so after only a couple of minutes a nurse from the maternity floor arrived with a wheelchair and up we went.

I got into triage and hooked up to the machines... and then things got interesting. As you moms know, getting checked to see if you're dilated is uncomfortable at best and SO HORRIFICALLY PAINFUL at worst and mine was the worst. (Long story and totally TMI but it was truly awful.) I had done fine with the contractions (I mean, within reason) but the exam totally did me in and I was sobbing when they were finished. They asked me a million questions, gave me a huge thing of water to drink because apparently I was dehydrated (a result of being sick of having to go to the bathroom every two seconds, I guess) and left me to be monitored for over an hour. Then they examined me AGAIN... two nurses this time and it was nothing short of traumatic (more tears and more cries of pain.) Anyway, blah blah blah... I was barely dilated so they gave me a shot of Demerol and sent me home around 3 AM. Then I had to roll out of bed to be at my OB appointment by 8:30.

My doctor told me that I wasn't in active labor and that she could tell by looking at me that I wasn't going to go that day. She basically told me I would have to just survive it and went ahead and scheduled an induction for the following Wednesday (as I nearly wept at the thought of enduring this for another six days.) I continued to have contractions throughout Thursday but they were more spaced out. I pretty much didn't sleep at all that night as I was either worried to death about actually going into labor or breathing through another contraction. (So fun!)

Being sent home...

By Friday morning, having endured another night of contractions and having them more intense and closer together, I decided to go in again. More monitoring, another painful exam... and once again, I was sent home in tears. (Fortunately my mom arrived right before we left and that helped a lot.) They told me to come back in if my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart and even more intense (something I couldn't imagine at the time) and after moaning my way through the day, I finally broke down Friday night. I knew that I couldn't handle any more pain... it was absolutely unbearable by that night and my contractions were super close together. I was begging God to let them tell me I was dilated because the thought of being sent home again was just more than I could take.

We got to the hospital around 9 P.M., got whisked into triage, examined, and... miracle of miracles... I was dilated to 3 cm and we were admitted. Even as panic gripped me- hello, you're having a baby!- I was so relieved to be getting something for the pain that I couldn't even be as terrified as I had planned on. The anesthesiologist (my new best friend) arrived around 10:30 and I felt like I could take a full breath for the first time since Tuesday night. Then the waiting game began... my water still hadn't broken and I had to obviously progress to several more centimeters so I tried to just get some sleep.

I progressed bit by bit throughout the night, dozed in and out of sleep, and since I still wasn't quite where I needed to be, they gave me Pitocin around 7 A.M. My water broke a few minutes later (such an odd feeling!) and they began to prepare for the delivery. I'm not sure when I began pushing- so weird! so surreal! so hard! (the epidural definitely didn't dull ALL the pain)- but Alice was born at 8:33 AM! I was thrilled that she had lots of hair and my first thought when I saw her face was that she looked like Amy (my little sister.)

That face!

I just read an article that said it's okay if you don't hear angels singing the first time you see/hold your baby... and that was true for me. First of all, my entire body started shaking uncontrollably and I was sobbing- not even happy tears just "I'm completely overwhelmed, that was incredibly traumatic and I can't believe it's over and she's out" kind of tears. And... this is probably TMI, but #realtalk- something you definitely don't want to hear two seconds after your baby is born is that you can't hold her because the doctor has to stitch you up since you tore through three layers including muscle. Ah! Yeah, that was one of my biggest fears and it came true in a big way. I was pretty much terrified that my recovery was going to be absolutely awful as soon as I heard them say that, but I have to thank the Lord and the amazing doctor (not even my regular doctor- she was out of town!) because it's been really hard but not as bad as I thought. Given the severity of the tearing and my complete lack of pain tolerance, that's a miracle!

SO, I was getting stitched up (ewww) while they cleaned her up but they finally gave her to me and I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. It was like I had been pregnant forever and that part was over but somehow disconnected from this little person who was now out and blinking her big blue eyes at me like, "You're going to keep me alive, right?" Honestly, she's three weeks old and I still hold her and can't believe she's here. It's a little terrifying to think of all of her fitting inside me... no wonder I was so uncomfortable!

So even though people who say "As soon as I held my baby, I forgot about the pain!" are either crazy or lying (hehe), all the craziness and trauma and pain WAS, of course, completely worth it. The last few weeks has been a hazy blur of huge smiles and laughing and a million iPhone pictures, keeping up with medicines and burp cloths and pacifiers, emotional moments where I'm convinced I'll never have this mom thing together, and then feeling my heart explode about a million times a day when I look at my girl's chubby cheeks and realize I just want to squeeze her and never let go. (Ever seen Homeward Bound? Poor Alice is the cat. "Sweetheart, Sassy can't breathe.")

There are so many things about this time, especially those first few days, that I want to remember... putting her in the carseat for the first time, carrying her around to give her a "tour" of her nursery, watching Jonathan be totally paranoid (I knew he would be!) and also the sweetest daddy ever, realizing I've become a person who claps in delight when her baby has a dirty diaper (since that was a concern at the beginning), watching Disney movies all day, eating giant chocolate chip cookies from Costco, staying up late with my mom laughing ourselves to tears over ridiculous Facebook posts, dutifully drinking my weight in water from my huge hospital mug, the way Alice tucks her bottom lip in when she finishes eating, her squishy face when she sleeps, her little hand wrapped around my thumb, how she sleeps with one hand against her face, her snuggling on her daddy's chest, the million (nearly identical) pictures we take a day, the smiles she seems to reserve only for Gigi... I could go on! (P.S. My mom left last Saturday and after a week without her I've decided the only viable option is for my parents to move here. Sorry, Georgia.) 

You think you're fairly competent with a newborn and then your mom leaves. =( We never would have made it through the first two weeks without her! 

I follow a few other new moms on Instagram and sometimes I think, "she looks so happy and put together and she's wearing real clothes... I wonder if she ever sits up in bed at three in the morning with tears streaming down her face because the pain of nursing rivals the pain of labor and she feels like her life is just one big painful recovery in addition to having a tiny human to obsess over and worry about 24 hours a day? Does she lie in bed knowing she should 'sleep while the baby sleeps' but then find herself scrolling through pictures of her instead? Or checking on her even when she's two feet away?" (I bet she does all those things and is just choosing to spend her time curling her hair instead of watching episodes of Diagnosis Murder which is currently my activity of choice. We all have our priorities! =) 

The past several days have been the hardest of my life in terms of pain, exhaustion, and just a complete overwhelming of emotions... but I can't imagine loving someone more. I could (and do) just stare at her and snuggle her all day and thank God a million times over that He gave us this sweet baby. She's pooped on us, deprived us of sleep, and broken our hearts with the saddest, raspiest little cry... and we are loving it. (Well, the poop not so much.) 

...and one day you put a crown on your baby and die of the cuteness. We love our princess!

Thank you all so much for your sweet comments and words of encouragement over the last few days! We are super blessed with the best friends and family and can't wait for Alice to meet more of you at Christmas! Keep us in your prayers as we continue to adjust to life as a family of three! (And if anyone truly wants to be a big help, just consider using your Costco membership to send me a lifetime supply of chocolate chip cookies... they're Alice's favorite. =) 


Third Quarter Reading

Third Quarter Reading

Every time I do a reading-related post, I second-guess myself because, you know, who really cares? But then I remind myself that a) I love reading posts like these and b) I get a message from at least one or two people every month saying they've enjoyed these recommendations and I am nothing if not a people-pleaser so let the book lists continue, I say! 

I didn't read nearly as many books this quarter (only 37 as opposed to last quarter's 56) but other than having a lot of baby-related stuff to do (finishing the nursery, etc.) I blame mostly the very real malady of "pregnancy brain" which in my case seemed to keep me from concentrating on much at all for any length of time. (I realize that 37 books is still a lot of books for a 3-month period, but it's really not impressive considering the openness of my schedule. Anyway.) 

I love my Nancy Drew bag so much.

I read a lot of fiction this time around (it's so much easier to fly through a novel than a biography!) but most of my favorites were still nonfiction. Anyway, without rambling on any more, here are my recommendations for you (in no particular order except the order I read them.) 

1. The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly. I'm always a little leery of a book that tries to modernize or "borrow from" a classic, but this story of three sisters, particularly the middle sister Lulu, and their distant family tie to Jo March (in this book, Jo's a real person) did it exactly right. Lulu feels like a bit of a black sheep in her family (don't all middle children?) and discovers a kindred spirit through Great-Aunt Jo and the letters she wrote to Meg, Amy, Beth, and others in her life. Sometimes when a book contains a lot of letters, it's tempting to skip or skim them, but these captured the voice of the Jo we know and love so well that I actually enjoyed them as much as the modern-day story. It all plays out so well, with sisterly dynamics I definitely recognized, that I found myself wishing it would go on for another hundred pages or so. 

2. The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley. Anytime Janssen raves about a book, I know I have to read it, and this was no exception. The author examines the progress of three American exchange students in South Korea, Finland, and Poland and compares their experiences- good and bad- with the comparable education they'd receive in America. I'm not gonna lie- it's a lot of data, numbers, and statistics to wade through, but it's absolutely fascinating to see the way the American education system lines up against these other countries (which have the top three test scores in the world) and the way their approach to schooling differentiates pretty wildly from what we're used to here. (Next time your child complains about homework, you can let him know that students in South Korea spend about 14 hours a day in class or studying with a tutor. Yikes!) 

3. Do Over by Jon Acuff. I love this, but then I love anything Jon Acuff writes (pretty big fangirl here.) His newest book is mainly about, well, a "do over" or fresh start in your career (the subtitle is Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck) and I highly recommend it if you're venturing out into a new job or life change. However, there is practical and helpful advice for anyone in any job, even if you've been where you are for 20 years and have no plans to leave. This guy is super smart but also so, so funny and he takes what could be fairly dry information and makes it engaging and practical. So many career-related books are vague ("chase your dreams!" "be yourself!") but this one, while certainly inspiring, gives advice that can actually be implemented in your life. Snatch it up- you'll want a copy for yourself to underline and take notes in!

4. Move Your Bus by Ron Clark. In case I haven't mentioned it before, Ron Clark is my teaching and education hero. This book is obviously from an educator's point of view but applies to any professional, really. He compares different types of employees (Runners, Joggers, Walkers, and Riders) and offers strategies for dealing with each type (and improving if you're a Walker or dreaded Rider.) I think, because Mr. Clark is single and his entire life is devoted to his school, which is fine, that he is maybe a little too impressed with people who basically have no life outside of work. He does mention that he understands that some of his teachers have families but he expects their full cooperation while they're at school, which I understand. But killing yourself day in and day out at any job, even if it's one you love, isn't really healthy and he kind of glamorizes being a "Runner" who's always the first to show up and the last to leave. That's not really sustainable without some major burnout, in my opinion, but other than that one caveat with his philosophy, I love the book. If you're a teacher, it will definitely get you fired up about being the best you can be (and possibly convincing your administrator to install a giant slide in your school's foyer.) 

5. Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman. Oh man, this was so interesting. An American mom (and her British husband) found themselves raising their new baby (and eventually two more) in Paris and the resulting clash of cultures led to some startling insights as to the different in French and American kids. Basically, French kids eat everything (no tasteless rice cereal!) and have more sophisticated palates than most adults (including me), start sleeping through the night very early, and are just generally much more well-behaved than their American playmates. (The author said she only saw one meltdown from a French kid at the park in the three years she worked on this book. One!) Since one of my handful of nonnegotiable goals for Alice is consistently polite and non-horrible behavior, I am definitely going to be implementing some of this advice. (Sending her on a two-week field trip in first grade? Not so much.) 

6. NurtureShock: New Thinking about Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. Another fascinating look at the myths, legends, and otherwise widely-accepted tales we take at face value as truth about kids and parenting that are not necessarily right. This covers a wide range of topics from lying to racial attitudes to sleep patterns, but all of it was super interesting and made me think a lot about the way I want to raise my kids. The chapter I found most interesting was the discussion on praising your kids and how constant praise actually produces anxiety and a lack of effort in kids who feel their only worth is in being called "smart" or whatever other adjective you choose. Specific, earned praise is much more helpful, and even carefully worded criticism can do more to help your child improve than a standard "You did a great job," "I'm proud of you," etc. I don't plan on being a happiness miser and never praising my kids, but doing it thoughtfully makes a world of difference. Good stuff! (I did find some of the statistics pretty disturbing- especially the study on lying that found that pretty much all kids lie and their parents can't tell. I mean, teaching taught me that but still. I don't look forward to it!)

7. 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam. This book has a lot of negative reviews on Amazon that claim it only applies to upper middle class (or above) career professionals with a lot of disposable income. Well, you could probably make that argument if you wanted to ignore all the helpful information and feel better about yourself, but the truth is there is plenty of advice that can be applied to anyone, even if you don't have the money for a full-time laundry service (one time-saving practice recommended in the book.) Everyone claims to not have enough time to do all they want to do or should do. "There aren't enough hours in the day!" is a fairly common lament from all adults everywhere. But this book highlights the lives of several different kinds of people who actually have fulfilling jobs and home lives while devoting time to hobbies, volunteering, and other pursuits. How do they do it? The author points out that we all have the same amount of time- 168 hours per week- and that by taking a long, hard (and honest) look at what we do with those 168 hours, we can find the time to do just about anything we want. Again, some of what she recommends isn't for everyone (allowing your house to be messy, for example, is not on my list of acceptable exceptions, since that would drive me insane) but there are definitely principles that we all can apply. If nothing else, this will convict you about your social media and TV time, for sure. 

8. Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin. This one might be my favorite of the whole bunch. Not only do I love anything set in the 40s or 50s, but I love baseball, and this book has both. It's a memoir of the author's childhood spent on Long Island as an avid Brooklyn Dodgers fan, an obsession shared by her dad and one that gave them a bond that lasted her whole life. He taught her the game, how to keep score, and the dedication of a truly loyal fan. Since the Dodgers barely missed out on the World Series multiple times during her childhood, she became well-acquainted with the comforting refrain, "Wait till next year." Aside from all the baseball talk, it's a fun look back at an innocent time of tight-knit neighborhoods and communities and just an all-around fun era to live in New York (the three-way rivalry between the Yankees, Dodgers, and Giants was practically a living thing.) The author's life wasn't all happy times- her mother died when she was just 15, and she had to navigate through the uncertainty of the Cold War and adolescence, which some would argue are equally terrifying. But overall it's a very sweet book that reminded me a lot of Beverly Cleary's works, both her memoirs and fiction. And the mark of a truly good author, to me, is if I want to reader of their books. I requested everything our library had by Miss Goodwin so she's a winner. =)

There you go! I anticipate my fourth quarter reading to drop off a little more as we get adjusted to life with a new little person but we'll see how it goes! Maybe I'll include Alice's books to boost my numbers a little. =) As always, let me know if/when you check any of these out so we can have a virtual book club! Happy reading!