Monday, November 20, 2017

Tree Decorating at Brookfield Zoo

As part of their Cub Scout Pack, Nick and Henry get to decorate one of the trees at Brookfield Zoo each year. This is our second year participating, and Sunday was a gorgeous, sunny, but very cold day for tree decorating.

The boys made all of the ornaments themselves, and this is obvious when you see our tree. I like it this way-ornaments made by Cub Scouts shouldn't look like a Pinterest fantasy.

Nick and Henry making ornaments Friday night.

No worries about their ornaments looking too perfect. They look just as they should, though my evil nemesis was everywhere Friday night: glitter. I can't stand the stuff because it gets into everything and takes forever to clean up. If you look closely at some of the ornaments, you'll see that some of the kids (Henry included) actually filled up the clear plastic ornaments with a mixture of sequins and glitter. They were heavy!

Just a few of the awesome ornaments the kids made.

Anyhow, we all love visiting the zoo, so hanging ornaments was a great excuse to go out and make a day of it. They alternated hanging ornaments. . . .

. . . with chasing one another around with sticks. Typical boys.

Here are all the boys from their Pack in front of their finished tree.

Henry, Nick, and their Cub Scout friends.

In case you were wondering how my littlest child kept warm in the middle of all the pandemonium, it took a fleece sleeper on top of her outfit, a pair of socks on her hands (her mittens are still too big), a very warm hat, and one of those fuzzy blankets that fits on top of her car seat. Ellie was just fine--she never complained of the cold. In fact, she slept most of the day.

We've always loved Brookfield Zoo, but the admission prices have gone up so much that we don't visit much anymore. Lately, we rotate and get a membership to a different museum-type place every year. So this was our first time to the zoo since tree-decorating last year. It was Ellie's first visit ever, and guess what the first zoo resident she was awake to see was?

Does Ellie look pleased about the fish? Not really.

Yup. She saw the piranhas. They probably thought she was a tasty-sized little morsel. I think she liked the polar bear better. . .

. . . but not as much as the boys did!

This next shot was the boys' favorite. Can you tell why? If not, look to the upper left. I snapped a picture of three Cub Scouts and . . . a polar bear's butt. Those are the most genuine smiles I got out of them all day. The best part? Nick and his buddy are "Bear Scouts" this year--that's the rank they're working towards.

Nick wanted to see how he measured up to an actual bear, and I thought we should see how Ellie measured up. 


Verdict? She's got a lot of growing to do! Henry wanted to see how his "wingspan" measured up to the bald eagle.

Oh yes, I definitely posed my kids on top of the polar bear statues. Not that they were complaining. I don't think Ellie even woke up.

We don't get out too often as a family, especially since Greg works Saturdays and I have been tutoring on Sundays. But it was great to have all of us at the zoo, even though there was plenty of fighting over hats and coats and whining about the cold.

We could feel our toes again once we got back to the van.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Family Resemblance

Everyone seems to have an opinion about who Ellie resembles more (Nick or Henry). I put her brothers' newborn pictures on either side of her, and I still can't tell. It's obvious, though, that these three are related.

Nick was smaller, but I think his hair and eyes look like Ellie's, though Ellie had more hair. I think Nick and Ellie have the same nose, too. I had forgotten what a serious, old-man face Henry had when he was a baby. He's a lot less serious now, at least most of the time. Henry's baby chin looks like Ellie's, I think. His hair was much lighter and sparser. All three of my children had blue eyes at birth, and Nick and Henry still have my blue eyes. Greg thinks Ellie's eyes will turn green like his, but that remains to be seen.

I also tracked down baby pictures of me and Greg. They aren't nearly as cute, since fancy hospital photos didn't really exist back in the 1970s. I think they were more like mugshots.

So she's obviously our kid, but the jury is still out on who little Ellie resembles most. We all agree that she is seriously cute, though.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Eleanor 's First Days

 Here she is, Miss Eleanor Rose, Ellie for short.

Photo from Bella Baby Photography

She was born September 28 at 9:08 a.m. at 20 inches long and weighed 7 pounds, 15 ounces. Ellie was the longest and the largest of my three children, though she feels tiny to me. She was born a full three inches longer than Nick (17") and one inch longer than Henry (19"). Right now she's happily curled up against my chest in a baby sling. Ellie is happiest when she's being cuddled. Who is doing the cuddling is less important, but she's already getting attached to her big brothers. Here's the first picture of all three of them together. Nick's shirt says, "Big Brother Again!," Henry's says, "Big Brother Finally!," and Ellie's shirt says," Little Sister."

Photo from Bella Baby Photography

Having a baby can take a lot out of you! I've been meaning to sit down and write a blog post since we left the hospital over a week ago, but life got away from me somewhat. I started this post a week ago, and am just finishing it today. Adjusting to being a mom of three while recovering from abdominal surgery has been challenging, to say the least.

Photo by Bella Baby Photography

Right now I'm finishing up teaching a grad school class at the same time I'm taking a grad school class, but dealing with the homework of my two sons this week was more work than both of those combined! Anyhow, I keep this blog mainly so that I have a place to record my thoughts before they're forgotten. Fleeting things, thoughts are, and I want to be able to look back and remember what life was like during these early days of having three children.

So here's my story, and Ellie's, too. If hospital/birthing/nursing stories aren't your cup of tea, you can stop reading here. I promise I won't mind. I always like to read the stories of other moms' birthing experiences, so perhaps someone will want to read mine. TMI warning ahead, I'm afraid.

Greg and I arrived at the hospital very early in the morning on Ellie's Birthday. I was scheduled for a c-section with general anesthetic, so I had to go through some extra hoops to explain why spinal anesthesia wouldn't work for me. Basically, I have severe calcification on my spine, and when I was having Nick, the anesthesiologist tried seven different needles down my spine. I failed the pinch test every time, meaning that I could feel exactly where they were pinching me. I didn't lose feeling at all, and they eventually just knocked me out. I didn't want to let them try again with Henry or Eleanor, because the "trying" they did with Nick resulted in severe spinal headaches, nausea, and dizziness for weeks after his birth. Anyhow, I often describe the experience like this: You go in pregnant and not in labor, they put you to sleep, and you wake up with a morphine pump and a baby. Not too shabby.

There's more to it than that, though. Because they don't want the general to impact the baby, they wait to knock you out until right before they're ready to cut. That means you get strapped down and totally prepped while fully conscious, and the doctor is literally standing there, scalpel in hand, when they have you count backwards from ten. I think I hit seven.

This is what your arm looks like when you fall off an operating table and your IV rips out.

This time, though, waking up was not a gentle process. You see, from what I've heard from all the doctors who were there, as I was coming out of anesthesia, I somehow arched my back and fell off the operating table. The anesthesiologist managed to catch me before I face planted, but I still landed on the floor, on my knees. This knocked out my IV line, catheter, etc. So I woke up to pain like I've never felt before (no IV=no pain meds) as they held me down and the anesthesiologist used an ultrasound machine to try to insert an IV line. I believe I was actually screaming. Not fun, but no permanent injuries.

Ellie, on the other hand, was born with no complications, an 8 or 9 on the Apgar scale. She was also very relaxed, and she had a a decent amount of hair, which really surprised me. Greg got to hold her and feed her as soon as she'd been checked out.

Did you know they don't bathe newborns for the first 8 hours or so nowadays? I guess it is better for them to wait, so they just wipe them down really good and do a bath later. Ellie didn't seem to mind waiting, though she wasn't terribly pleased about her bath when it did happen. I think she just doesn't like being cold.

Let me tell you about my daughter. Wow, does it feel good to say that--there was a time when I thought I'd never have a daughter. Eleanor's eyes are blue, though sometimes it looks like they might turn green. Greg says it'd only be fair if she ends up with his green eyes, since both of our sons have my blue eyes. Her hair is similar to my natural color, a sort of dark blonde or light brown. When she's awake, Ellie is very alert, and she can already do baby push-ups when she's lying on my chest and wants to make eye contact.

Since coming home from the hospital, Ellie has shown herself to be a very laid-back baby. At night, she'll sleep 4-5 hours at a stretch. The second night after coming home, we woke up to find she'd slept six straight hours. Except for two nights where she had some gas and cried a lot, she's been waking up only one to two times at night. (knock on wood)

Ellie is also VERY SERIOUS about her food. When she wants to eat, she is not patient and there's no consoling her. She's 90% formula-fed, and Miss Ellie doesn't care if her bottles are room temperature or straight from the refrigerator. She just wants her meal quickly. I had a breast reduction when I was 17, and they told me at the time I probably wouldn't be able to breastfeed. Well, they were wrong about that, and all three of my children have been able to nurse to some degree, especially at the beginning. I can only make a maximum of 2 ounces every day TOTAL, even if I pump every 2 hours, so I end up mostly pumping. Ellie figured out really quickly that the milk comes out more quickly from the bottle, so I can only get her to latch after she's mostly assuaged her hunger from a bottle. Ah, well. I know she's at least getting some protection from my immune system in the tiny bit of milk I can make.

I'm going to try to write more here while I am on maternity leave, so that I have a record of how Ellie was when she was little. Later this week, I'd like to write a post about Ellie's brothers and how they're adjusting to having a little sister.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Very Last Pregnancy Update: 39 Weeks

How do I know this will be my very last pregnancy update ever? Well, I'm having a c-section tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. Since this will be my last baby, this too will be my last pregnancy photo. My husband took it on Sunday at my sister's wedding.

Yes, I was a bridesmaid while in my 9th month of pregnancy. I only have one sibling, and I wasn't going to miss standing up in her wedding even I had to waddle down the aisle. I also have our last picture as a family of four. Nick and Henry were "ring security," so that's why they are in the fancy tuxedos.

Here's what I looked like just before Henry was born. I believe I weigh a little more this time, and this baby is much higher up than either of my boys was, but I guess my body has the same tendencies in pregnancy. My mom said she was the same way. Here's one of her from 1978. Yes, it's an old picture--hey, at least it's not in black and white!

I'm always jealous of women who stay skinny everywhere but their bellies--I'm definitely in the "childbearing hips" category of pregnant ladies. So here it is, my last pregnancy update ever.

Weeks: 39 weeks exactly today. I will deliver at 39 weeks, 1 day. Since this was an IVF pregnancy, we know the age down to the hour.

Weight: +46 pounds. Oh, well. At least this baby is a little bigger, so I know some of the weight is baby. I can remember being devastated after having Nick and going home to find out I had lost a grand total of 8 pounds (he weighed almost 6). I'm under no illusions that I'll walk out of the hospital in my pre-pregnancy clothing. (Ha!)

Does she look a little squished? This is not the face of a svelte baby.

Me, from 1978. 9 pounds, 14 ounces. 

Do you notice any resemblance? The ultrasound is from almost 38 weeks. The picture below is me when I was first born. I was NOT a dainty baby--I practically broke my mother. I'm hoping this baby is not quite so big, though since I'm having a c-section I'll survive even if she is huge. Their estimate as of a few weeks ago would be that she'd be 9 pounds, 5 ounces if I went to 40 weeks. Tomorrow we'll know for sure!

Movement: At night, plenty! She's rocking and rolling in there. I think a part of me will miss feeling her wiggling and bumping inside me, though I'm very eager to meet her. I'm a tiny bit sad to think I'll never feel a baby moving inside me again.

Exercise: Well, I've hit 10,000 steps about half the time in the last couple of weeks, and my FitBit says I'm averaging over 8,000. I guess that's not too bad when you consider each step is more of a waddle.

Cravings: Burgers, Mexican food, shrimp, chocolate, iced tea, and cheese of all sorts. I'm very anemic, so I bet all the protein cravings are from that. There's no excuse for the chocolate cravings.

Sleep: I miss sleeping. I get between 4 and 6 hours, though I go to bed at ten and wake up around 6. My blood sugar has been dropping in the middle of the night, and between that and trips to the bathroom, my sleep is very interrupted. Waking up constantly is getting a little old, and I know this isn't going to get better once she's born.

Medical: I spoke too soon in my last post about not needing iron. The day after I posted that, the blood test results showed me as needing an iron infusion immediately. I had my third weekly infusion today--the doctor wanted me to get as much iron as possible before my c-section, since you can lose a lot of blood during surgery.

I've been having some significant swelling, especially since this late-September heat wave started. My blood pressure has been elevated, too, but that problem should resolve once the tiny human inside of me comes out.

Did you know that instead of tying your tubes nowadays, they actually completely remove them? I guess it really reduces your chances of ovarian cancer. That's fine with me, since I won't be needing my Fallopian tubes anyway. When I woke up this morning, it hit me that this will be my very last day of being pregnant, ever. I documented the occasion at the hemotology office, which has a mirror that is much cleaner than the ones at our house.

I had Open RNY Surgery back in '03, thus the giant belly scars.

Mood: Lots of extreme emotions this week. My sister got married, so I was emotional (for happy reasons) because of that, and my third grader has been not turning in homework, which sparked a very different kind of emotion in me (rage, perhaps, would describe it). While I'm very, very done with being pregnant, I'm also very conscious of the fact that this will be my last baby, so that brings about feelings of sadness. I adore infants--in fact, during my years of working in day care centers, the infant room was always my absolute favorite. This will be the last baby I get to snuggle who is mine. I know from experience how quickly they grow. It seems like just yesterday that Nick was snuggled up in my arms wearing preemie clothes, and now he's going to be nine years old and his snuggling days are over. Henry, who is six, will still snuggle with me, thank goodness, but I know those days are numbered. He's been getting out of the habit lately because I no longer have a lap, per se.

Every time I look at her pink nursery or touch a tiny, lacy sock, I'm filled with the kind of elation that only comes about when a mother of only boys finally gets a daughter. I would imagine the emotion would be similar had I first had two daughters and then a son.

The rest of my evening will be spent packing. I have female OB surgeons doing the operation this time, and I'm generally pleased with the lack of arrogance that seems to surround most of the male obstetricians I've seen. I have to say they were way more thorough in their description of risks and the time they took to explain things, though. I'm a little bit scared after hearing all of the information.

I've been told to expect to come home sometime on Sunday. See you on the other side!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Pregnancy Update: 36 Weeks

Almost there! I had my 36 week doctor's appointment and growth ultrasound this week. There are 21 days, or exactly 3 weeks, until my scheduled c-section.

36 weeks pregnant with a girl, September 2017.

I did a 36-week update when I was pregnant with Henry, and I think I looked about the same size. The only difference is that she seems to be sitting much higher than either of my boys did. Here's a flashback to 2011, when my six-year-old was on the way.

36 weeks pregnant with Henry, May 2011. See Nick in the window?

The doctor said everything looks good, and she weighs 6 pounds, 5 ounces already. That's the 63rd percentile. The ultrasound technician took some pictures of her, and she does look rather squished. No wonder she's been kicking so much!

I've had at least four people tell me she looks like Henry. I guess I'll have to wait 21 more days to find out if this is true. I showed Henry the ultrasound pictures of him and he was slightly confused. He said maybe he was sad because he couldn't breathe in the water. Recently, Henry's expressed some interest in having a sister. Yesterday he asked if he could feed her a bottle. That's a good sign, I think.

Weight: (from starting weight) +36 pounds. I've averaged about 40 pounds per pregnancy, so I guess I can't complain too much. I'm at the stage in my job where I do a lot of paperwork and desk work, and that's been very hard since sitting is quite painful. The extra pounds make me clumsy, but I suppose that's normal.

 Movement: She's an active girl, and especially in the evenings she does what feels like gymnastics inside of me. It makes it very difficult to sleep. I have to keep moving whatever body part is wedged under my ribs down, and then as soon as I move my hands it creeps back up there, making it difficult to breathe.

Exercise: I'm not doing too bad, actually, My FitBit tells me I'm averaging 8,900 steps per day. Not quite at my goal, but considering the back pain I've been having, I think it's pretty good.

Cravings: Chocolate. Burgers and fries. Corn tortillas cooked in a little olive oil and then slathered with black beans, cheese, shrimp, and sour cream. It's weirdly specific, but I end up having a tortilla like that almost every day.

Sleep: It depends on the day, but I'm only averaging 4-6 hours per night. A friend of mine loaned me a pillow called a snoogle, and without it I don't know that I'd even be sleeping that much. It's the only way I can get even a little comfortable. I like how my FitBit shows my sleeping and waking patterns, but sometimes I'd rather not know I was up four times during the night.

Medical: I haven't needed IV iron yet with this pregnancy, knock on wood. I am still waiting on the latest blood test results, though. I've been borderline anemic, but not enough to need the heavy duty stuff. My blood pressure is good, my non-stress tests have gone well, and the doctor says I am not showing any signs of labor, dilation, or effacement. My blood sugar is going down more frequently, so I'm countering that by eating meals in several parts to keep it steady. Oh, and I've been having major back pain and even spasms on and off for the last few weeks.

I got a warning from the doctor's office that if I start having contractions or if my water breaks, I should not eat anything. Since they'll be doing a general anesthetic, I guess they would have to wait hours if I decided to snack on the way to the hospital.

This week, for some reason, my right ankle and foot is swollen and my left ankle looks almost normal. The nurse told me it has to do with where the baby is--all up on my right side. In a few weeks I'll be standing up in my sister's wedding, so I guess it's a good thing my dress is very long. I can cover up both my normal ankle and my swollen one.

Mood: I'm trying to stay upbeat, even though I'm not comfortable. I alternate between irritability and joy. I want to remember what it was like to be pregnant, since this will for sure be my last pregnancy.  Frankly, whatever I have to deal with this month is okay if I end up with a healthy baby girl at the end of it. I've spent the last few years of my life desperately wanting to be pregnant, and now I get to fold pink baby onesies and little pink bows. Greg put together the stroller and installed the car seat yesterday, so we really are ready to become a family of five.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Nick and Henry's Peanut Butter Challenge

This year I've been packing lunches for both Nick and Henry, and it's been a challenge. Neither boy really likes sandwiches with meat in them, and I cannot stand getting their lunch bags back at the end of the day with only one bite eaten. Throwing out food infuriates me, for some reason. So I've been experimenting. Nick is easier to please--he loves cold spaghetti o's, and he'll eat fruit, cheese and crackers, and the fake PBJs made with soy butter. Henry has been more of a challenge. He rejects nearly everything I try, and though he loves PBJs, he won't touch Wow Butter. Tomorrow I'm actually trying cold macaroni and cheese with bacon. (I know, it sounds gross, but he said that's what he wants.)

Henry and Nick love to watch YouTube, and they keep asking me to do a "challenge" like their favorite kids. So we did one with all three kinds of sandwich butters. Neither of my kids has any kind of allergies (that we know about, anyway), but my kids are messy with peanut butter and I don't want to be responsible for another child's allergic reaction. I have friends who have kids with peanut allergies, and it's really scary. Anyhow, my goal was to see if Henry, especially, would like one of the non-peanut butters. Here is the video.

Yay! Henry said his favorite was the Sun Butter. He still doesn't like the WowButter, but that's okay. I can't have soy, either. I was surprised that Nick correctly guessed all three butters. He's the least picky kid I know and will eat all of them, but I suppose he has a refined palate and can easily tell the difference.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Pregnancy Update: 32 Weeks

Today I'm officially 32 weeks pregnant. Coincidentally, I did a pregnancy update when I was 32 weeks pregnant with Henry, back in 2011. I suppose I was about the same size, even though this baby girl is bigger than Henry was at the same age.

Weeks Pregnant: 32 weeks as of today. Depending on the website you visit, she's about the size of a pineapple, a Napa cabbage, or a jicama. Actually, I had a growth ultrasound yesterday, and she's at the 78th percentile, so she may be larger than your average pineapple. They estimate that she weighs 5 pounds, 1 ounce now. That's much bigger than either of my boys, so she's looking pretty healthy. The doctor said that if she continues to grow at this rate, by 40 weeks she'll be 9 pounds, 3 ounces. Good thing I'm having a planned c-section!

This is a 3D ultrasound of her face. They checked all of her organs today and everything looks normal. That's her little hand up by her face, just like the last ultrasound.

Weight: (From starting weight) +31 pounds. No comment.

Nick took this picture around sunset, so the color is a little off. 

Movement: Actually, even though I have an anterior placenta, I can feel her move much more now. It's still not always easy to do kick counts, but at least she is making her presence known.  It seems she's on my right side and not directly behind the placenta. According to the ultrasound technician, her feet are kicking my lungs and ribs and her head is using my bladder as a pillow. No wonder I have to get up multiple times every night to go to the bathroom.

Nick likes to feel the baby move, and he periodically gets very, very exuberant when thinking about having a baby sister. He's very thrilled, and he loves babies. Nick wants to push the stroller. Based on his scooter skills, I'll have to train him very carefully before letting him do that!

Henry is much less interested. He was also not at all thrilled when he came with me to the ultrasound yesterday. What was he thrilled about? I let him play Minecraft during the doctor's visit. I think Henry is going to have to adjust to being the middle child. He didn't think the ultrasound pics looked anything like a baby.

Exercise: Not so much. I was religiously making 10,000 steps daily until about a week or two ago. Between the foot pain, back pain, and the shortness of breath, hitting 10,000 steps has become less important than simply making it through the day. I've been averaging between 6,000 and 8,000 steps per day, and I'm going to have to be satisfied with that. The doctor said my fundal height is measuring at 37 weeks, which basically means my uterus is compressing my lungs. That brings me to. . .

Nesting: Oh, boy, the nesting has been quite intense this time around. Besides getting the boys' new room ready, I've been planning the upstairs. Greg is doing the actual work (painting and putting in engineered hardwood), but I've been researching things like area rugs, new curtains and lighting fixtures. Renovating our entire home during the 2nd half of pregnancy? Sure, we can handle that.

Cravings: I've been drinking a lot of milk, all Fairlife 2%. That's not really what I crave, though. Lately, I like Mexican food. Fajitas, tostadas, burritos, nachos. Yum. Just like when I was pregnant with Henry, I've had smell cravings, too. I actually enjoy doing laundry lately because of the smell of the Gain laundry beads (weird, I know). It's almost a workout now doing laundry, though, since my belly is so big I can barely reach the bottom of the washing machine.

Sleep: I was averaging two hours or so at a stretch (and maybe 5 hours total) until about a week ago, when my friend loaned me this amazing pregnancy body pillow. It's called a snoogle, and it is gaining me at least an hour of sleep per night. I still wouldn't say I'm sleeping great, but it's a little bit better. Of course, when I go back to work in twelve days (yikes!), I think I'll get much less sleep. 

Medical: I'm anemic, but right now only enough for it to impact me. The doctors keep checking my blood to see if the levels go below a certain point. If so, it'll be IV iron for me. It's obvious, by the size of the baby, that my anemia isn't impacting her. It sure makes me bruise easily, though! My blood sugar readings have been more normal, so long as I stay in air-conditioning. I have had some asthma issues as well, though it's hard to tell if I'm out of breath because someone's feet are in my lungs or if it's because of the asthma. That will only get worse, I think, once I go back to work in my non-air-conditioned classroom. Oh, and my plantar fasciitis has been acting up, in addition to the typical leg and foot swelling of pregnancy. Okay, enough whining. This baby is healthy, and I can make it another seven weeks!

Mood: I've still been pretty anxious, but once I was able to get more than five hours sleep per night, the anxiety eased up a bit. I can be a little, ahem, irritable, but I think that's likely normal at this stage in pregnancy. 

I made it until 30 weeks without buying a single thing for this baby. After years of fertility treatments, I was afraid to tempt fate by purchasing lots of little girl things. It was an anxiety thing. However, I finally gave in and starting getting things for this little girl last week. I started with a few outfits from a garage sale, and then I started to realize all the things we would need. I've been pricing car seats, bassinets, and strollers, waiting for the prices to be just right. We now have a pack and play with a bassinet coming in the mail. Hopefully it'll be set up in our newly renovated bedroom well before this baby makes her appearance. 

Some of my amazing friends from work threw me a "Sprinkle" to celebrate finally having a baby girl. It was sweet and wonderful and it made me start to get really excited about the birth. Opening some of the adorable outfits, I started to get really excited, and this time, I let myself dwell in the excitement. The purple and pink balloons, the cake with "Welcome Princess" written on it. . . . this is really happening!