29 September 2014

Elliott's Birth Story

This is a long and personal post, describing the labor and delivery of our sweet Elliott. If you'd rather not know the details, now is a good time to stop reading. 

The story of Elliott’s birth begins the day before his due date, Wednesday, August 21st. For most of the day, I had irregular but noticeable early labor contractions and back pain. They disappeared by the end of the day, but I was exhausted from mentally dealing with the contractions and both discouraged and hopeful that the contractions had at least been productive in moving toward actual labor.

On Elliott’s due date, I woke up around 4am with contractions that felt like early labor. Yes! They were strong enough to really get my attention and occasionally need to count through them. After lying in bed for a while, I moved downstairs where I felt like I had good control of the approaching contractions while sitting on the yoga ball and gently bouncing through them. I started timing them, and they were coming regularly. I woke up George to tell him what was going on and suggest that we make arrangements to get Madeleine to our friends who would be watching her during my labor. I had an appointment with the midwives first thing, and I thought it’d be best to get her settled before the appointment so that we wouldn’t have to scramble in case something happened at the appointment. With Madeleine settled, George and I were off to the midwives appointment.

At my appointment, midwife Shana was able to see that the baby was looking toward my hip, which may have been the reason for the back pain the previous day. She suggested that I do lunges to the right and lay on my right side to try to get him to shift. Based on her exam and my symptoms, she felt that real labor was possible that day. Though disappointed that my dilation hadn’t progressed farther, I felt hopeful that we were going to meet our baby soon.

When George and I got home, the contractions started to slow down. I was really disappointed and frustrated because I was ready to have this baby (and very excited at the possibility of having two babies born on their due dates!). I decided that I needed to move around to try to get things going again, so George and I dug in and cleaned the house. As I started moving and felt more at peace, the contractions got into a good pattern. When I stopped for lunch, they slowed dramatically. When I got going again, they picked up again. And so it went until dinner time approached. I declared that I was never going to have the baby, and George went to pick up Madeleine. We had a low-key evening, and I went to bed around 10pm wondering if Elliott would ever make his appearance.

At 1:04am, as I got up to use the bathroom, I was jolted by a huge contraction. Oh! I remember these! Labor! I tried to sleep through this round of contractions, but it was soon obvious that sleeping was not in the cards. I started timing the contractions, which soon intensified to the point that I could not lay in bed through them, and I called the on-call midwife, Heather, when they had been coming every 5 to 7 minutes for an hour. She suggested that I keep laboring at home and timing them until they were 3 to 5 minutes apart and then call again. During most contractions, I would get into a half-dog at the wall position and sway my hips from side to side. When I felt ambitious, I would squat and bounce, as if to encourage the baby to move down, during contractions. After talking to Heather, I woke George to start getting things ready and making arrangements for Madeleine’s care. As the contractions started averaging five minutes apart, I called Heather again, and we agreed that I should come to the hospital, about an 8-minute drive away.

One contraction later, we were at the hospital triage, where we were monitored for about an hour. The contractions were continuing to build in intensity but not getting much closer together or much longer, and my dilation was not progressing beyond 2cm. Heather told me that I could either walk for an hour to see if I would progress or get a shot of morphine to take the edge off the contractions and allow me to go home and get some sleep in preparation for labor. Having spent hours (and hours and hours) walking to try to progress Madeleine’s labor, all to no avail, I wasn’t keen on taking the same approach again. I found comfort in Heather’s comment that she felt the morphine was the best option as labor was imminent and energy sacred. I refused to be discouraged by the facts that this labor was starting out so similarly to my long labor with Madeleine and that my plan for a completely unmedicated birth was already being derailed. I opted for the shot and started feeling groggy almost instantly.

George drove me home quickly to minimize the contractions I had to experience in the car, then walked me to our bed and tucked me in. Although I could feel the peak of each contraction, I hardly noticed that I was waking briefly every few minutes because I was almost instantly back to sleep. A few hours later, around 8:30am, I was only slightly aware that I was having a particularly strong contraction when – POP – I could both hear and feel my water burst. I woke George to call the midwives, as we had been instructed. By this time, Jenny was the on-call midwife, and she told George that we should head to the hospital soon because labor was likely to progress quickly now that my water had broken and I’d already had a good pattern of contractions. In my groggy state, I pleaded for another 30 minutes of sleep. In the middle of the next contraction, I yelled out “change of plans!” We needed to get to the hospital now because these contractions were going to a whole new level of intensity.

A contraction or two later, and I was propped outside the car having one last contraction at home before collapsing into the passenger’s seat and insisting that we “goooooo!” As we were pulling out of the garage, I asked George what was beeping in the car, and he informed me that the trunk of the car wasn’t completely closed. I was simultaneously freaking out about the possibility of our hospital bag flying out of the back of the car and totally oblivious that anything could possibly go wrong. One contraction and a long red light later, we were back at the hospital. I immediately poured out of the car and made my way to the check-in desk where Jenny was waiting for me. She would remain with George and me until after Elliott was born. I had two or three contractions right there in the middle of the hospital as people bustled around about me. I could feel their stares but couldn’t care less. Jenny encouraged me to keep swaying my hips and squatting like I had been doing, and I knew we were in great hands. The rest of the labor was a blur. I kept my eyes closed for the vast majority of the time, focused inward on dealing with each contraction and moving toward holding our sweet Elliott.  

Once checked in, we walked to triage, where I continued to come in and out of the morphine fog. While I could fully deal with my contractions, the narcotics allowed me to totally relax and even doze in between their rushes. After Jenny checked me, she told me that I was dilated to 7cm and that our baby has hair!  Seven centimeters! Hair! We’re going to have a baby!

Eventually, Jenny suggested that we walk to my room, and the walking really moved the contractions forward. They were intense and close together, and I did an extreme amount of groaning and swaying with each one. By the time that we got to the room, I was 9cm dilated and felt comfortable laboring on the toilet. George set up my music – a mix of Norah Jones and Steve Gold (who my yoga instructor played a lot during this pregnancy) – and it allowed me to really feel comfortable. Without consciously making the decision, I started to push. That’s when Jenny and George stripped my clothes off and encouraged me to move to the birthing stool.

I must have been complete at that point because the contractions changed to intense pressure, which encouraged me to push. Just over 10 minutes later, and my beautiful, plump, purple, bruised Elliott was handed to me. Like his sister, he had a short cord, and he’d gotten hung up on it while his shoulder passed through the birth canal. In no time, he was crying and turning red with circulation. What a fast ride he’d endured! He was born at 11:15am, less than three hours from when I’d last looked at the clock after my water broke.

In case you're interested in the comparison, this is Madeleine's birth story.

26 September 2014

Elliott - One Month Old

This week, Elliott turned one month old. Honestly, the last month feels like about a year in length. While it has been challenging in many ways, my recovery feels a lifetime ago, and Elliott well and truly feels like he has been part of our family for a lot longer than a month.

Our little guy is rocking a particularly harsh and enduring case of baby acne on his uber sensitive skin. This week, we're hoping to finally kick the diaper rash he has endured for most of his life. Poor guy. None of these things bother him that much, and he continues to grow at an impressive rate. I can hardly believe that I'm already packing away large swaths of 0-3 month clothes that my one month old has outgrown!

Elliott is getting more and more alert and, somewhat reluctantly, finding his voice. I love hearing his squeaks and look forward to our early conversations. He is still somewhat chill, though we definitely notice that we're in the peak infant fussiness zone. While his sleep isn't horrible, I long for those nights where I'd feed him and, upon putting him in his crib, instantly have a sleeping baby until the next feeding. We'll get there again - this, too, shall pass.

Madeleine continues to adore her brother, as you could see from the fox photo, though her enthusiasm has gotten her into trouble from time to time. She often lays beside Elliott in the mornings when he has tummy time and, the other day, she told Elliott, "I love you, Elliott" unprompted. I feel so fortunate to have front row seats to this budding friendship.

24 September 2014

Summer Update II

The changing leaves and grey skies tell the story of fall's arrival. I love changing seasons, and this change gives us a chance to reflect back on our summer. What a summer!

At the beginning of the summer, I shared our aspirational summer bucket list. A bit later, I shared our update from the first half of the summer. Today, I'm happy to share that we made more progress on our list without accomplishing everything.

JUMP AT THE TRAMPOLINE PARK: Just last week, I was finally able to take Madeleine for another morning at our local trampoline park ($5 for an hour and a half of toddler-exhausting jumping is a steal in my book). It was nice to spend an hour and a bit with my girl, bouncing and smiling, laughing and making memories.

"1, 2..."

HELP MADELEINE WITH COUNTING: Counting and ABCs are frequently heard around our house these days. Her counting is coming along but still not perfect; it usually goes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 11. I'm a bit confused about this development as she used to insert 8 as every other number. She can fill in the alphabet when we sing together and is really close to being able to do it all herself, though pronunciation for L, M, N, O, P will probably remain comical for a while. I feel a little guilty about it, but I haven't exactly drilled Madeleine on any of her academic concepts (numbers, alphabet, colors). Rather, they seem to be coming together organically by talking about them in everyday life.

HAVE A BABY: Check him out!

FINISH THE NURSERY: Fun fact: according to my blog history, I finished Madeleine's nursery one day earlier than Elliott's nursery. Given that Madeleine was born on her due date and Elliott one day after his, their nurseries were completed the same number of days in advance of their respective arrivals.

STOCK OUR FREEZER WITH FOOD: Even though I saved it for later than I should have done, I am happy to say that we have a chest freezer full of meals. Most of them were made during the two or three nights of marathon cooking that George and I tackled together. Hopefully they'll be handy as we adjust to the reality of our new normal (ie life after George's parental leave ends).

TAKE MADELEINE DOWNTOWN ON A BUS: I wrote a whole post about Madeleine's bus adventure. Apparently the experience made quite an impression because she requests a repeat pretty much every time we see a bus, which is pretty often.

HAVE A WEEKEND WITHOUT PLANS: It probably defeats the purpose when you have to actually schedule a free weekend, but we did manage to have a weekend without plans before Elliott's arrival. Come to think of it, I think there was only one weekend without plans in the six months or so before he joined us. No wonder we're a little lost now that our schedule is so wide open.

VISIT AT LEAST THREE DIFFERENT FARMERS MARKETS: We made it to three different farmers markets but that was it. I admit that my Saturday morning prenatal yoga commitment precluded a lot of visits we could have made, but I wouldn't trade that time for anything. The markets we visited were fun and full of delicious produce and treats, and one of them was held during a festival celebrating basset hounds. The Basset Bash is another experience Madeleine routinely requests to repeat. Our most recent farmers market included the newest member of our family, who was a trooper until about 3 minutes before we were going to leave.

On top of these anticipated experiences, we also visited the aquarium, had a visit from Grandma Janie, and had a big girl bed transition. Between all of this fun, the second hottest Seattle summer on record, and Elliott's arrival, we won't soon be forgetting the summer of 2014.

In the spirit of the new season, here is a "foxy" picture of our kiddos all ready for fall:

19 September 2014

Recent Happenings

As expected when there is a new baby in the house, the blog has been rather quiet. I can assure you, though, that our house has not been so quiet as we are all learning to adapt to our new normal. Spoiler alert: a new baby is not the only change we've experienced over the last month.

Like Madeleine's growth spurt wasn't enough, she suddenly looked like a giant next to Elliott!

I've spent a fair amount of time - though never enough - admiring this beautiful baby boy.

At his first brunch, Elliott asked to be fed as our food was arriving and, after being fed, was very chill again. 

The week before Elliott was born, Madeleine climbed out of her crib for the first time. We pretended like it was an isolated incident until, first, we watched her on the webcam as she threw her leg up over the side of her crib and then we had to run across the house to stop her from launching out of the crib...two days in a row. After that, we deployed operation Big Girl Bed. 

In preparation, I took Madeleine fabric shopping so that she could pick out fabric for pillowcases for her new pillow. I whipped up a couple of simple pillowcases using this tutorial. This was a big moment for me, handing over design control after pouring my heart and soul into the perfect room for Miss M. Her primary colored underwater creatures now hang out with Christmas puppies and pastel zoo/safari animals. 

On the day of the big move, Madeleine busted out her tools and helped her dad turn her crib into a toddler bed. 

I can't tell, but I think she may have been excited about the results. We've had a few hiccups, but I'd say that the crib to bed transition has gone much better than expected, especially given the poor and sudden timing. If we could only end the nap strike that is nearly a month long and counting...

For Elliott's first trail walk, Madeleine busted out her hoodie and prepared her pockets for trail treasures, though we were sure that the blackberries she picked went in her mouth and not her pockets.

Elliott enjoyed his inaugural ride in the Beco Gemini

Another day, Elliott enjoyed his first bottle al fresco. I'm so grateful for the flexibility of having George feed him liquid gold when I want/need to spend a bit of time away from Elliott.

Grandma came to our rescue for a couple of weeks, and we were so grateful for the time she spent with each kiddo, books she read to them, and weeding she accomplished in our yard. While she was here, we went to the aquarium, where the octopus, Delilah, put on a great show. (Madeleine has asked to go back and/or pretended to swim like a diver at the aquarium almost every day since our visit.)

I wonder if the ice cream treat we got while downtown has anything to do with her attachment to the aquarium.

None of us wanted Grandma to leave.

Elliott and I had a great play date with Eloise and Misha. Can't wait to watch these two (slowly, please) grow up together! Hopefully this is just the beginning of regular play dates.

I hesitate to say that we're starting to find our stride as a family of four. Some days/nights are better/worse than others, but we're making it through and trying to take advantage of George's few remaining days of leave by going on some family adventures. We just might survive this period of intense transition.

12 September 2014

Elliott - Three Weeks Old

We got to know Elliott a little better this week. As his vision improves, he is spending more time taking in his surroundings, and it's fun to catch him staring at some little detail that I never would have noticed...like the other morning when I was pumping and he was checking out his reflection in the gloss white paint of his built-ins. He continues to be pretty chill with a flash of drama when he wants fed or has to have his diaper changed. The word content is often used when people see him, though I can tell you that he has the ability to nearly turn himself inside out with screaming, too. I think he's going to follow in Madeleine's footsteps and be a finger sucker, but I think he may be a little quieter as I've only been able to elicit a few little squeaks from him in the vocal department.

Life with a newborn revolves around eating and sleeping. Elliott has been all about eating this week, and he has an extra pound and second chin to prove it. Given our difficult start with his imperfect latch, I was particularly chuffed to have a pediatrician compliment his latch yesterday. Elliott's eating exhausted me earlier this week when he decided to demand milk every 2 to 2.5 hours around the clock for about 30 hours.

Fortunately, sleep follows eating during a growth spurt. If last night is any indication, Elliott's sleep is getting into a better pattern with longer blocks at night. We're still working on getting him to sleep in his crib most of the time and on establishing a bedtime routine. I'm curious to see what his sleep looks like over the next several months because Elliott already wants to roll onto his side as soon as he's laid down and he manages to wiggle around the crib, covering a surprising amount of ground in the process.

I'm pleased to share that Madeleine still adores her little brother. She loves to kiss him, report her adventures to him ("Baby Elliott, I saw an octopus!"), sing to him, and tell him what to do ("Wake up, Elliott." "Drink milk, Baby Elliott."). When I'm feeding him, she likes to crawl up in the chair beside me and ask to have his "piggies" sit on her lap so that she can admire his toes. It's pretty cute.

Speaking of cute, check out our little dude.

05 September 2014

Elliott - Two Weeks Old

Elliott's second week of life included the low experience of being ready to throw in the towel on breastfeeding and the high of getting a great report from the pediatrician. This is the week that Elliott seems to have figured out how to eat, and his mum seems to have figured out how to chill out and trust herself a bit.

Elliott continues to be very chill, though I have seen a stubborn streak show through from time to time. I'm super interested to watch his personality develop. When he starts to fall asleep, he flashes this huge grin, which totally melts my heart. Tonight, his daddy seems to have gotten one of these grins during awake time; I hope my turn is next.

Now that Sir E has figured out how to eat, he seems to be growing very quickly. He is so long! The few newborn items I have will probably only get one more wear, and I'm not sure how long the 0-3 month clothes are going to fit at his current rate. Did I mention that he is one long baby?! As you can see, we've introduced cloth diapers. Because we only have a handful of tiny ones, we're still using disposables for about half of our daily diapers, and I'm anticipating that we'll need to move into the next size of cloth diapers within a week or two.

Although Madeleine did tell us "all done Elliott" this week, she continues to be very fascinated with her little brother. He is the first thing on her mind when she gets up in the morning and has to get a goodnight before she goes to bed at night. She is just dying to pick him up, which keeps us on our guard at all times. I hope that Madeleine's positive affection for her brother continues!