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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Surviving Motherhood

I don't care what anyone else says, Motherhood is the hardest job there is. I've done lots of other "jobs." I made it through a rigorous master's/pre-doctorate graduate program, post-degree training, and licensure as a professional counselor. I've worked with some really tough situations in my career as a professional counselor. But nothing, so far, tops the challenges of motherhood.

We are surviving Dear Daddy's departure back to work after being home for two weeks when Zachary was born, but it's been tough. The first day he was back to work, all three of us that were left at home had fits of frustration. Zachary was fussy fussy fussy all morning. Each time I laid him down (praying he would nap) so that I could attend to Zoe, he would last no more than 20 minutes before fussing some more. Each time I picked him up to settle him, Zoe had fits over something. At one point I couldn't handle it anymore, and my still- raging-not-departing-my-body-fast-enough hormones were not helping. I couldn't stop the tears of frustration, which upset Dear Daughter and made her cry more. I eventually just plopped down on the couch with Dear Son crying in one arm and Dear Daughter crying under the other arm, and we all just sat there and cried awhile until I could regain composure.

Three days later, it has gotten better. I'm getting to the pro-nursing stage where I'm finding myself able to nurse a baby at any angle and in the midst of any activity. This morning I was trying to pay some attention to Dear Daughter and was on the floor assembling a puzzle with her when Dear Son decided he was hungry. I managed to get situated with him and begin nursing him while remaining on the floor to help Dear Daughter with her puzzle. However, no sooner had I achieved this task (a challenge in and of itself) when Dear Daughter decided to step up the challenge a bit and announced she had to go "poopie." Those of you with toddler experience know that when a toddler says s/he has to go, you don't mess around. I managed to get up off the floor, to the bathroom, and assist Dear Daughter with getting her britches pulled down, rear wiped, and britches pulled back up, all without disrupting Dear Son's feeding. Don't ask me for more details or for a "how-to" outline, because I really don't think I could tell you. I've decided that as a Mother, you just do what you have to, and amazing skills and abilities surface when they are necessary. Keep in mind that it has barely been over two weeks ago that my abdomen was hacked open to birth Dear Son. I've read that one must remember that a c-section is a major abdominal surgery and so the recovery period includes recuperating from a major surgery as well as all the other postpartum challenges. "Be sure to get lots of rest" the books all say. I would have laughed at that until my sides split if my abdomen wasn't already split. Get lots of rest???????? That's not just a stupid statement, it's a sick and painful, not-at-all-funny joke!

The "Amazing Mom Tricks" continued when later, I managed to nurse Dear Son while reading stories to Dear Daughter and getting her tucked in for her nap. Once again, don't ask me to explain how this kind of multi-tasking can be accomplished. You do what you have to do and in-between the challenges you find those sweet moments like this morning when Dear Daughter wanted my attention in the middle of Dear Son's diaper change. I told her she would have to wait until I was done with Zachary's britches, and she didn't fuss another bit. Thirty seconds later she announced, "I'm waiting for Zachary." Or those even sweeter moments like yesterday morning when Dear Daughter, upon awakening, handed me the balloon decorations from Grandma H's birthday cake, which we had eaten the night before (she insisted on sleeping with them) and sweetly stated, "Happy Birthday, Mommy!" Yes indeed, you do what you have to do, and you straddle the moments of, "How am I going to survive this?" along with the moments of, "How could it get any better than this?" In the end, I believe every mom is both a survivor and a superstar.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Tribute to Great Grandma G

I've neglected to mention that Zachary Noah was born on his Great Grandma G's birthday. Great Grandma G. has since gone to be with the Lord. She has not gotten to meet little Zoe or Zachary, but I can imagine her delight in hearing the news each time she learned she was getting another great grandbaby. I also imagine that on the day Zachary was born (and the day of her own birth) the angels were singing and so so was Great Grandma G., with her voice ringing the loudest above the rest.

Here's a special tribute to you, Grandma G., we look forward to the day you get to meet your great grandson, born on the day of your own birth, as well as the rest of your great grandchildren that you haven't yet met. We are honored that our son gets to share his special day with you!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Another Year Gone By?!

It's days away from one year ago that I started this blog. The days and months have flown by. My little girl continues to grow up way too fast. I begged her the other day to stay my little girl forever..."even when she is 30." She has this endearing new way of saying "Honey" in the middle of her sentences. For example, "Can I have some 'bubbles,' Honey?" She calls both her Daddy and I "Honey" from time to time. Presumably, she has decided that since we call her that, it also makes sense for her to call us the same. By the way, "bubbles" means "Sprite."

Here is the little imp in front of the Christmas tree. We celebrated a few days early with Grandpa and Grandma H since Grandpa H wouldn't have a day off of work close to Christmas. Zoe got most of her gifts that day, but we saved a few, including the ones from Grandma and Grandpa M and Uncle Jowell and Aunt Lisa, for Christmas Day. Of course, she's gotten several gifts along the way the past few weeks in an effort to make the transition of adding a new baby easier for her.

She was so excited to get up from her nap and see presents under the tree. She ran around saying, "Can we open the presents?" and was so excited she could hardly stand herself. As you can see, she managed to get one open before we could get her to look at the camera for this picture.

Each day gets just a little bit easier as we try to integrate Zachary into the family. Zoe gets less upset when he cries, but it is still hard for her. He slept for a 5 hour period a couple nights ago, and I was the tiniest bit hopeful that that would be a routine event. I figured it could be possible, given his current size. But the past two nights have not been so fortunate. He is on a three hour around the clock feeding schedule. It's amazing that he seems to awaken at exactly three hour intervals, and not more than a couple minutes longer. I have to remind myself that in the scheme of things, this stage of his little life is but a blink of the eye. Though I cringe as I use that analogy as my eyes have not been getting enoughs blinks, or winks, or whatever you call them, for a very long time. The pain of starving for sleep finally hit me a couple days ago. I didn't sleep well most of this pregnancy, with bouts of insomnia and just general over-all discomfort keeping me up. Then a couple nights of painful contractions before the all night labor and delivery process. Then being on my own in the hospital this time. Last time Dear Husband roomed in with me and got up all night each night to hand me the baby for feedings and to do all the diaper changes. Of course, now there's also the challenge of having to be up and ready for Dear Daughter to get up at 8 am, which is her usual waking up time. No sleeping until 9:30am after the 6:30am feeding like I routinely did with Dear Daughter. And this time I will return to work at 8 weeks instead of 12.

"People do this all the time!" I remind myself, all the while wondering how it is possible for a relatively well-adjusted, mature, nearly 34-year-old adult woman to feel as though she is getting her butt kicked so badly every day by a mere two-year-old and a mere (not quite) two-week-old. How do poorly-adjusted, immature, young people do this? I know there are those much less capable than I in this world trying to parent toddlers and newborns.

What a mystery, that something so difficult can also be something so rewarding. At the moment, I have a snoozing newborn propped on my shoulder, sighing content infant sighs, little back rising and falling with his tiny little breaths. Upstairs I have, what I believe to be, the cutest, sweetest two-year-old in the world napping in her "big girl" bed. I got lots of cuddles and kisses from her before tucking her in for a rest. When she gets up, the first thing she will want is to see "Mommy" for more cuddles and kisses. Indeed it is the hardest and yet most rewarding thing I've ever experienced, to be a child's entire world--their entire existance wrapped entirely around me. While I'm busy trying with everything in me to meet all the needs of a toddler and a newborn, often neglecting my own needs in the process, I am still saddened beyond words by the knowledge that one day the world will expand for these little ones and no longer will I be their sun moon and stars. It's the biggest paradox I've yet to encounter, this parenting thing.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Zoe's "One Girl Band"

That's my girl, already the aspiring musician! Grandpa and Grandma H got her a complete double set of a "band in a box." Here she is working on the harmonica while Grandpa keeps the beat with the "jingle stick." She now has a harmonica, xylophone, maracas, castanets, a "jingle stick", finger cymbals, tambourine, hollow block thingy (not the technical name, obviously), recorder, triangle, and probably some I'm forgetting. Add to this the keyboard and electric guitar from G. Uncle Ron and G. Aunt Pat, and Zoe's got herself quite the music "arsenal."

Monday, December 19, 2005

Zachary's Arrival

He's here! Born Tuesday, December 13th at 3:34 am. Nine whopping pounds and twenty-three inches. I must comment that I feel fully justified for any discomfort and accompanying "belly-aching" (pun intended!) I uttered during the last several weeks of this pregnancy. No wonder I was feeling baby movements in my groin and my rib cage at the same time!

For those interested in the morbid details, I'll share a few. Some of the most morbid and gory details will remain with those less fortunate who accompanied me through the labor and delivery journey (namely my Dear Mother and Dear Husband, both of whom were there for every minute of it).

Sunday, December 11th: Braxton Hicks contractions at 5 minute intervals for an hour or two at a time on and off throughout the day. A couple "real" contractions beginning by 7 pm Sunday evening and lasting throughout the entire night at irregular intervals.

Monday, December 12th: Scheduled dr appointment at 10:00 am. I decided to skip triage and see my dr first to see what she thought. Dr called it "latent labor" and said I was 75% effaced but not at all dilated. She basically said, "See ya next week" (at my next scheduled appointment). I left feeling discouraged and concerned that I would have a week or more of the pain I was beginning to feel with no end in sight.

Contractions continued all day long with a few hours of extremely painful contractions that I felt only in my lower hips and back. This, I believe, is probably what Dear Sister-in-Law referred to as "back labor." By 8:30 pm I was timing contractions at 5 minutes apart and was just tucking Dear Daughter into bed. Dear Mother is a labor and delivery nurse, so I did what any smart daughter in that situation would do: I called her and told her I had an hour of contractions at 5 minutes apart and I thought they may be getting more painful. Now it was 9:30 pm and Dear Mother and Dear Father headed to our house. Dear Father was going to stay with "Sleeping Beauty" (otherwise known as Dear Daughter), and Dear Mother and Dear Husband were going to accompany me to triage.

By the time we reached the hospital at 10:30 pm, the contractions were so painful that I couldn't walk or hardly breathe through them. After donning the lovely hospital garb necessary and bagging my personal items (I had mental flashes of movie clips of soldiers enlisting and thought to myself that I'd rather get a buzz job on my hair, Demi Moore style in GI Jane, than go through what I knew was going to come next if this was indeed "real labor") I was pronouned 100% effaced and dilated to a 7. Woo-hoo, I was headed into the "real thing." My next thought, "Oh, crap! There's no way out of this now!" I knew that either I'd enter the scary and unfamiliar territory of pushing a watermelon out of an opening that I really could only imagine handling a largish kiwi, or--God forbid--heading back into the O.R. for that other frighteningly familiar path of having my abdomen slashed and child ripped from my flesh (well...we can't tell the story without some drama now, can we?)

11:00pm until 1:00am or 2:00am: I'm not exactly sure when the anesthesiologist arrived to pump the drugs into my back. The time span here is a blur with only rare moments of focusing my eyes. The pain got worse and worse and I don't think I stopped screaming the whole time. My dread of the epidural and the dead legs that go along with it faded into, "When is that @&$%*@ doctor going to get here with those drugs?!!!!!" Then... once the drugs kicked in, an amazing thing happened and the pain was literally gone! I could even feel my legs and move them, and I was only mildly weirded out by the sensations. It was much better than the spinal block for the previous C-section, during which I would tell my brain to move my feet and my feet would not respond. That was the creepiest thing ever.

2:00am - 3:00am: or maybe this stage began sooner, I really wasn't watching the time. There was a constant flurry of trying to keep my blood pressure up. I guess it kept slipping pretty low and the baby was stressing a bit as a result. Meanwhile, I did not dilate any further and the baby was not dropping any lower. It was determined that the baby must be facing backward and not turning, which could explain why I was laboring in my back so much. His head was not wanting to turn the right way in order to continue down that path where watermelon-sized babies mysteriously pass through. Attempts to turn him and assess progress left me with visions of other things I've only seen on t.v. Such as when little baby cows are birthed into the world and some unfortunate soul has to stick his arm elbow deep inside the poor laboring heifer to assist the baby's entry into the world. Only I wasn't the unfortunate soul with arm buried elbow-deep, but the even more unfortunate laboring heifer.

3:00am: The decision I dreaded. Gotta get to the O.R. and get the baby out. He'd had enough. Then there were murmurs of whether the drugs were going to numb me well enough to do the section. The dr began contemplating a general anesthetic. I tried not to panic, which didn't matter, since I was already panicked. We had to wait on the drugs the anesthesiologist needed. I had gripping fears of that stuff you see on t.v. where a person is not properly anesthetized during surgery. "Oh, my God!" I was thinking. "I'm going to feel myself being cut open." I actually wasn't sure if that would be worse than the general anesthetic or not.

It was a long procedure this time, or so it seemed to me. The epidural seemed to work. I have nicknamed my anesthesiologist "The Happy Bartender." He had good humor and was a very nice man. He appeared to be having a pretty good time pumping this and that drug into me. Crank up the epi here, stick in some Demerol there, a little of this a little of that. He kept making cocktails and sticking them into my IV. I would make a comment here and there like, "I've got the shakes really bad" and he would say, "I know, I gave you something to calm you a bit." Then I would say, "I'm feeling a little loopy" or something like that, and he would say, "I know, I gave you something that can make you feel that way." I think he just gave me some of everythng he had behind the bar to make sure I was covered. Then the operating dr says, "We got a lot of scar tissue (from the last section) so it's going to take a little longer to cut through it. Lovely. Just the kind of commentary I love to listen to while I'm hanging out on the operating table. The baby came out and there was lots of whooping about how big he was. Nine pounds...and exclamations of 23 inches. I was only the tiniest bit interested. I couldn't wait to know I was sewn up and off that terrible "slicing table." Then the commentary that ensues while being sewn up...about which layer is complete and how progress is going. Something about a rather superficial nick to the bladder that happened on "disection." Disection? Isn't that something you do to a frog in jr. high biology? Nonetheless, I had to admit, it was a rather accurate description of what I felt like was happening to me. Unfortunately, I've watched these procedures on "Birth Day" and "Special Delivery."

I tried to sing, but I couldn't concentrate on any particular song or melody, so it was random humming in an effort to keep my mind off the whole thing. Yeah, right. It seemed like forever. And then came the awful part where they move you around the table to clean up the blood and fluid splatters (sorry, but it's how it is, and we can't have a story without drama, right?). And of course, being completely numb from toes to above the breasts this time (they really cranked that epi), I felt especially vulnerable as they flipped and turned me this way and that. All the way over to the right side. "Great!" I exclaimed out loud as I focused on a bucket half full of blood. "I've got a great view of this bucket full of blood right now" I was beyond feeling queasy, so I just tried hard to tolerate the flipping and lifting and tried not to dwell on the fact that they could just dump me right over on my face on the concrete floor and there wouldn't be a blessed thing I could do about it. I was wishing "The Happy Bartender" would have given me something to make me feel more happy...like maybe laughing gas.

So...that's the story. And Zachary has arrived. I will spare the postpartum details as I am certain I've already offered more information than many of you wanted.

I'm still left with the haunting question of why do women repeat this experience? I still do not know. I can't believe I went through it twice. I can't fathom why or how anyone could go through it three, four, or more times. Maybe other women's labor and delivery experiences aren't so bad. Or maybe I wasn't meant to go through it twice. Without the advent of modern medicine, Dear Daughter would likely not have survived the birthing process...perhaps I wouldn't have either. I can't believe women did this before there were epidurals and surgeries to save babies and mommies from the pain and, unfortunately death. But...I will not go any further down that road. I have two beautiful children and everyone is healthy and alive.

Zachary is a pretty laid back baby so far. This is good, as Dear Daughter is a total Momma's Girl. My enmeshment with her for the past 28 months has contributed greatly to this, I know. Yes, it's hard. Yes, it's amazingly life changing. But even in these still often "raw moments" of adjustment, I expect that mothering Dear Son will be a repeat (if not it's own rendition) of mothering Dear Daughter, and nothing short of the most wonderful thing that's ever happened to me.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Jumpin' Bean House

We've had some cold days and just a little snow this past week. Dear Daughter was sooooo excited to go out in the snow and grab little mittened handfuls of snow and toss them up over her head. She seemed not to even notice how frigid it was (like 8 degrees or some crazy thing). If this particular pregnant woman felt a bit chilled, you can bet it was darn cold!

Dear Daughter has been begging to "go outside" but it has just been too cold and windy. Saturday we decided to let Dear Daughter open one of her Christmas gifts early so she could enjoy some indoor activity. She was sooooo excited to receive her very own "Jumpin' Bean House," which is what she has called jumping houses ever since the fall trip to Campbell's farm where she got to jump in the great big purple dragon inflatable jumping house. This one fits (sorta) in the back of our great room, but fills a big portion of Dear Daughter's play area, especially with the Christmas tree taking up the front of the great room. I'm glad we ended up with a house with a "great" room as we have discovered it takes a "great" deal of space to house the entertainment necessary for Dear Daughter. Where we will put Dear Son and his entertainment factors once he arrives, I am not sure.

Dear Daughter loves to play with the jumping bean house right side up, so she can jump and flop and carry on like the rambunctious 2 year old she occaisionally is. She also loves to play with it upside down, so it can become a play house with a roof on top, which is the way we turn it when it is not in use. This upside down manuever is mainly used to prevent the younger of the felines who lives in our home from marking it with her "special signature." I think she is rebelling against Dear Daughter, who likes to chase her around the house any time she dares show her furry little face. Whenever the afore mentioned occaision of "cat pee" or "cat poop" arises, it is always the younger feline, who is, I've decided, very passive-aggressive. After finding her passive-aggressive feline poop pile in Dear Daughter's wading pool, which was stationed in the great room during one of Dear Daughter's phases last March, we are especially cautious of what and where we leave items that may be just too temping for a passive-aggressive, traumatized-by-a-two-year-old, cat.

Here is Dear Daughter after church Sunday morning modeling her adorable latest attire from G. Aunt Pat and G. Uncle Ron. Of course, upon returning home from chruch, the jumpin' bean house was where Dear Daughter headed immediately. I had to convince her to come out long enough for this picture. She is posing quite nicely though, isn't she?

...and after a good 'n wild two-year-old jump and tumble in the ol' jumpin' bean house, here is what you can expect your two-year-old head to look like!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Geriatric Influence

I just created a new blog post in Zoto, complete with attached photos and sent it on over to Blogger, only to have something get lost in the translation. I don't feel like re-creating the entire post, but here are the pics...

Note the purple toys. Interestingly enough (or not) all of the toys from G. Uncle Ron and G. Aunt Pat are purple, including the keyboard and electric guitar, which are not pictured. Hmmmm...I wonder who picked these gifts out?











Zoe loves to pretend to vacuum up the "cat barf" with her new Dusty vac. Great. As I've previously mentioned, we have a geriatric cat living in our home. That means we have the occasional "geriatric mess." I'm glad my daughter is learning useful life skills. I trust she goes to the church nursery and tells them all about the "cat barf" "cat pee" and "cat poop" which are all interchangable as far as Zoe is concerned. Nevermind the fact that the last two are extremely rare events.

The Icing...

There's nothing like a G Uncle Ron and G Aunt Pat to "spoil" a kid. Zoe thoroughly enjoyed their visit, the attention and presents from them, and getting G Uncle Ron's encouragement to stick her finger in the icing of their 40th Anniversary cake. She is also still talking about the "Red Lobster" restaurant on a daily basis (where we all went to eat one evening) and the fact that "Ron was there" (sitting next to her in the van on the drive to and from the restaurant).

Growing Closer?

...or at least growing. This is 38 weeks. I read recently that after 38 weeks the mother's belly doesn't grow larger. I don't know what sense that makes if the baby is supposed to continue to add a half pound per week at ths point. My Dr. as well as her nurse both commented at my last appointment that I had "only" gained a pound that week. I couldn't help laughing as I questioned whether that made up at all for the previous 45 total pounds gained. Good grief! I think 5 pounds are hanging off my cheeks and chin.

I will sum up my current existence by stating simply that EVERYTHING is difficult these days, not the least of which the normal not pregnant population takes for granted on a daily basis, and includes such primal activities as breathing and moving one's body.