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Friday, January 21, 2011

Mira is an awesome big sister.

Mira loves Ellowyn.  I've been so impressed with Mira and her willingness to not only accept Ellowyn into our family, but to show compassion and caring for her new little sister.

The first time Mira saw Ellowyn, we were still at the birth center.  And while Mira was completely enraptured by Ellowyn, I don't think she really understood that she was ours.  The second time Mira saw Ellowyn, it was at home and the first thing Mira did was to walk up to the baby, hold out her arms, and say "Hold."  (She wanted to hold the baby.)  So we put her up on the sofa, and with Brian helping provide support, we put Ellowyn in Mira's lap.  Mira watched Ellowyn, studied her, and then gently leaned down, wrapped her arms around her and gave her the sweetest little hug.  Then Mira put her hand to her mouth, kissed it, and then put it up to Ellowyn's mouth, "blowing" Ellowyn a kiss.  It was enough to bring tears to a hormonal mommy's eyes.

Mira loves to do all kinds of things with Ellowyn.  She likes to help change her diaper; I think she finds it fascinating to see all of Ellowyn's little body parts: her feet, her belly, etc...  She'll bring me the diaper supplies, watch me change her and point out Ellowyn's body parts, and when we're done she'll throw the dirty diaper away for me.  She likes to watch while I nurse Ellowyn, getting up in my lap for a closer look at what's going on.  And she talks about it: "baby eat mommy's milk" (although she still pronounces "milk" like "nupk").  She likes to take off Ellowyn's hat and brush her hair, and I actually feel comfortable letting her because she is soooo gentle.  And one time, she decided that she wanted to read a book to Ellowyn.  Here are some pics from that.

I've been really impressed by how well Mira is taking it: having to share Mommy.  Maybe it's because Brian is home from work and is able to give Mira a lot of attention right now.  But at least so far, Mira seems to be fine with the idea that Mommy has to spend a majority of her time holding the baby.  I have been trying to preemptively give Mira extra attention in order to prevent any jealous feelings on Mira's part.  When Mira comes home or enters the room, I greet her really warmly, offering hugs and asking about what she's been up to.  I talk to her a lot, especially while I'm nursing Ellowyn.  And I put Ellowyn down when at all possible in order to be able to more fully engage with Mira.  And so far, Mira has occasionally shown an immediate need for some Mommy love, but usually seems content to share Mommy with her sister.

I have also been amazed at Mira's compassion and empathy.  The first time Mira heard Ellowyn crying, she looked at me with TEARS in her eyes and said in the saddest little voice "baby cryyyy" and she nearly started crying herself.  Since then, we've talked about the reasons why babies cry and how crying is their only way to communicate.  And now she's less sensitive to it.  Now when the baby cries, she comes to me and says matter-of-factly "baby hungry".

Friday, January 14, 2011

Ellowyn's birth story

Note: This post really focuses on the specifics of my labor and delivery.  If contractions and water breaking and babies crowning is not your cup of tea, then you might just skip this one.

I started having contractions at around 8:30pm on January 11th.  Because of all the pre-labor I'd been experiencing over the last few weeks, I started out trying to just ignore it.  But by about 10pm, I had to acknowledge them, so I let Brian know that I was having some contractions that felt serious and that I'd like to try a bath.  Brian helped me draw a bath and get settled into the tub.  In the water, the contractions were less intense, but their duration and frequency didn't change.  When we timed them, they were about 3-4 minutes apart and took about 50 seconds from the start of the contraction to the peak (about another 30 seconds to come down off the peak).  It seemed like they were coming on fast, but I'd had a recent bout of pre-labor with contractions that were about that spacing, so I wasn't letting myself get my hopes up yet.  But I think Brian could tell by the way I was acting that this was going to be it.  He brought be a drink and a snack to eat in the tub while he got things ready to go.

I got out of the tub at around 11pm and laid down in bed to try to relax.  In pre-labor, relaxation after a bath often caused the contractions to lessen or stop.  But this time they felt more intense.  Brian helped me to relax my body, control my breathing, and coached me into deep relaxation.  As I laid there, I was able to analyze the qualities of the contractions and I realized that these contractions felt different than my pre-labor contractions.  During pre-labor, the contractions were tight and squeezy, like a corset around my middle.  But these felt lower, more downward in direction.  And also they were increasing in intensity and painfulness.  So around 11:30pm, I relented and told Brian he'd better make the calls.  He called my mom to come over and stay with Mira (already in bed for the night), and he called the on-call midwife to let her know that we were in labor but not yet ready to come into the birth center.  The midwife talked to him and me a bit, asked all the normal questions, listened to a few of my contractions, then told me I was coping well with my breathing and relaxation and that I was probably in the middle of active labor.  She told us to call back if the contractions got much stronger and closer, my water broke, or we decided to head into the birth center, whichever came first.

After that, the exact order of things are a little fuzzy for me.  I was having to focus fully on laboring and not much outside of that was getting my attention.  At some point, laying in my relaxation position felt no good anymore, so we moved downstairs so that I could try a sitting/reclining position.  (That's about the time that my mom arrived.)  But I pretty quickly figured out that sitting was ALL WRONG and standing was what I really needed.  Brian would stand in front of me and I'd drape my arms over his shoulders, lean on him and rock side to side.  That seemed to be the best thing.  Brian was great and had my try several different positions to try to save my energy, but nothing worked like the standing and rocking.  Somehow, he managed to be there for me to lean on in my contractions and also get the car packed in the 90 second intervals in between my contractions.  I don't know how he did it, but he must've been busting his butt.

At around 2:30am, my contractions were getting much harder to cope with and my legs were getting tired, so we went back to the bath tub to try to give me a break.  The tub did feel better mostly because I could rest my legs, but the contractions were still way strong and hard.  (In hindsight, I was entering transition.)  But because I was so exhausted, I was actually dozing off in between the contractions.  Brian must've been exhausted too, because he told me that he needed to grab some coffee and that he'd be right back.  He was probably only gone from my side for 10 minutes, but it felt like forever.  Everything was worse without him there.  I couldn't do another second without him and when he got back, I told him so.  "I need help."  "I need drugs."  "It hurts so much." These are some of the things I remember saying to him.  His response: "Time to GO."  (And he called the midwife to meet us at the birth center.)

It took some convincing to get me out of the tub; I didn't want to move because anything seemed to only make it worse.  And when I did move, I needed to do it in between contractions but because they were coming so fast, there was not much time between them in which to get moving.  So it took a while to get from the tub to the car.  But at some point along the way, I remember saying to Brian, "Umm... You're right, we need to GO."  I was feeling rectal pressure as I was moving around and knew that it wouldn't be long before I needed to push.

The car ride was thankfully brief and easy.  Brian drove smoothly and calmly but quickly.  Being 3:30 in the morning, there was no traffic and all the lights turned green for us, so we didn't even need to stop once.  We arrived at the birth center at 3:45am.  The midwife was already there and waiting for us, which was good because things moved REALLY QUICKLY from that point on.

I had one contraction while standing in my room and I told the midwife I was having rectal pressure.  She told me that she needed me to lay in the bed so she could check my cervix.  I laid down on my side (and didn't move from that position until Ellowyn was born, a mere 20 minutes later!)  She checked me and said my waters were still in tact and I was at dilated to 8 centimeters with a "VERY soft cervix".  The very next contraction, I had a strong urge to push.  I tried to fight it, knowing I was only at 8cm, but I couldn't stop myself from pushing just a little.  And as soon as I did that littlest push, I felt my waters break.  At that point my midwife said, "Now that your waters have broken, your contractions will probably get stronger and you'll dilate quickly."  All I heard was "contractions get stronger" and I got scared, so scared.  I couldn't DO any more.  I was at my limit already.  It couldn't get stronger.  And I remember saying, "No no no" and gripping desperately for Brian, who was sitting on the bed in front of me as I laid on my side.  And  just then came my next contraction and it was STRONGER and I NEEDED to get the baby out NOW.  But I still didn't think I could push.  And I was scared and it hurt and so I SCREAMED.  One scream.  That was all.  Because then that contraction ended and my midwife said "You may have just finished dilating in one contraction.  Let me check again."  Sure enough she said I could push on the next one.  I think that scream caught Brian off guard and I think that was the first time that he felt at a loss as a labor coach.  But luckily the midwife was with us now and she reminded him to coach me to put my chin on my chest and groan when pushing instead of letting me scream.

And with the next contraction we pushed.  Brian held my top leg up with one hand, held my hand with the other.  I squeezed his hand and his shoulder and he was my rock.  I needed him.  I needed him badly.  Because I WAS HAVING A BABY.  And I was FEELING EVERYTHING.  And it was hard and it hurt and it burned and it couldn't be over fast enough.  And Brian coached me to push and breathe and groan.  And did I ever groan.  I groaned so much my throat hurt afterwards.  And in two contractions her head was crowning.  And there's a reason they call that the "ring of fire", folks.  And then two more contractions and her head was out.  I expected it to feel better at that point, but it only seemed to increase the urgency in me to GET THIS BABY OUT.  So then the midwife said that the shoulders were in good alignment and on the next contraction I could push the rest of her out.  Well, good because I was going to push her out anyway, one way or another.  And then that next contraction came and I pushed so hard because I was DONE with this now, thank you anyway.  And out she came with a gush and a huge rush of relief.

We had arrived at the birth center at 3:45am and, just a handful of contractions later, Ellowyn was born at 4:16am.  Brian timed that rather well, I'd say.

Everything after that was cake.  Delivering the placenta, getting stitched up (I had a small tear as her shoulders came through), the rest of the contractions as my uterus shrunk.... all of that was nothing.  I had my baby.  I had FOUGHT for that baby and now I had her.  It was hard.  So hard.  Mira's birth was nearly 3x longer, but not nearly as difficult.  After Mira's birth, I almost felt like I cheated because the epidural removed me so much from the experience.  But not this time.  I EARNED every inch of that baby.

Ellowyn was born a healthy 8 pounds and 14 ounces (75th percentile), 21 inches long (90th percentile!!).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Welcome Ellowyn

At 4:16am today, after the most physically challenging 8 hours of my life, Ellowyn was born, safe and happy, into the loving arms of her exhausted, but healthy parents.  Her birth story will follow in a few days.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A child of the 21st century

Daddy teaches Mira the joys of smart phones.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Christmas 2010

Since my midwife advised me against travel, we spent Christmas in Austin this year.  I was a bit disappointed that I didn't get to see my extended family in Dallas, but it turned out to be a pretty great holiday anyway.

Christmas Eve, we had my mom, dad and sister over for dinner.  After Mira was asleep, they helped Brian set up her gift from "Santa" (aka Grandma and Grandpa): a new play kitchen, complete with dishes and food!  On Christmas morning, they came back over before Mira woke up and everyone got to see her reaction:

We ate breakfast then finished opening the rest of our gifts.  I got a Fushigi (I call it the "David Bowie Ball", from his trick in "Labyrinth") and some more baby gear that I really needed, including my double stroller.  Brian got some great new shirts and a really nice carry-on luggage piece for when he starts having to travel for his job.  And Mira got some super cute boots from my sister, which she promptly decided were meant for dancing.  But obviously, even super cute boots could not distract her from her awesome kitchen for long:

We spent the afternoon/evening of Christmas day with Brian's family.  Mira got a little pony, a stuffed rabbit, and some sidewalk chalk from her aunts.  And Brian's dad gave us a really great video monitor, which we have loved using to watch Mira go to sleep (we intend to use it to help us determine when she's starting to try to climb out of her crib and when we need to transition to a toddler bed).

A couple days later, my grandparents came in from Dallas and we had a nice visit with them.  They got Mira a baby nursery set, with a swing, a highchair, a crib, and a stroller for her very own baby.  Now Mira can do with her baby all the things that Mommy does with baby Ellowyn.  Here she is "helping" Daddy with the assembly. 

Pushing her baby in the swing.

Feeding her baby.

And best of all, Ellowyn decided to stay put in my belly through the end of the year.  Now that the holidays are over, we're ready to welcome 2011 with a beautiful new addition to our little family.  Any day!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Update on Kronk.

Kronk is recovering from his surgery nicely now.  When his pain patch wore off, we went through a rough period where his pain was not well managed and he stopped eating again.  But we got that taken care of pretty quickly with some oral pain pills and he started feeding himself again, so we were able to stop force-feeding him.  Once he was feeding himself, then we could also just hide his pills in some food instead of having to forcefully pill him by shoving them down his throat.  Which was good because he was really starting to resist that approach.  Shortly after he decided to eat on his own, he picked up dramatically.  He was even feeling well enough to try to rip out his stitches, so he had to wear one of those silly collars for a couple of days until his stitches were ready to be removed, which the vet did yesterday.  We've been able to back off of the pain meds almost completely, too.  Now he seems to be back to his normal happy self.  Maybe happier, even, since we're pampering him food-wise and feeding him canned food instead of his normal dry food.  So short-term, he's much better.  Which is great.

After consulting with a couple of oncologists, my vet was able to talk to me today about Kronk's long-term prognosis.  His cancer is a stage 4 leiomyosarcoma, originating from the secum of the intestine.  The "stage 4" means that it was very advanced, having spread to other organs; this is the most advanced stage of cancer rankings.  So that means that his prognosis is rather poor.  The specialists are giving him 6-9 months.

The two options for further treatment are both risky and expensive: chemotherapy or another surgery.  The chemo is hit-or-miss and will make him feel nauseated, which will have to be controlled with anti-nausea medication, and will require vet trips 3 times a week to monitor dose levels, and may not even target his cancer well.  Even if it does target his cancer, it would likely only buy him another year, max.  And more surgery would be very hard on his body, recovery-wise.  And even then, it's likely that because the cancer was so spread through his body, subsequent tumors would not be easily removed.  So we've decided not to treat him further.  And when I expressed that to my vet, she said that she thought that was the right choice, which I greatly appreciated hearing from her.

So basically all that is left to do is to watch him for signs of recurrence.  Since his cancer is one of the GI tract, the most likely signs that it is growing back are reluctance to eat, weight loss, vomiting and dehydration.  We'll monitor him closely for those things.  Also, we will be watching for reluctance to move or signs of pain.  To that end, the vet wants to see him once a month until he's gone, just to help us watch for early warning signs and make sure he's not suffering as he reaches the end of his life.  Until that point, we'll just make him as comfortable and happy as possible so that he can enjoy what time he has left.

Once I was told his tumor was cancerous, I had a feeling that this would be the prognosis, so I've actually had some time to accept it.  And I'm ok with it now.  I'll get to have a few months to say goodbye to my boy, and that's something most pet owners don't get.  We'll be able to really pamper him before he goes, and then we'll be able to confidently say that he knew he was well loved.  And if he has to leave us, then that's the way I'd want it to be.  So I guess we're lucky in that respect.

Pregnancy update - 38 weeks (and 5 days)

Well, still no baby.  I'm now 38 weeks and 5 days.  I gave birth to Mira at 38 weeks and 6 days, so maybe tomorrow will be the day.  I'm in a better place now emotionally and am feeling ready to have a baby again.  At my last pre-natal appointment (yesterday) everything was looking good.  My weight is good (gaining about a pound a week for the last couple weeks, total weight gain for the pregnancy is now up to 9 pounds).  My blood pressure is back down.  We actually opted not to do a pelvic exam, since we didn't feel that one was merited.  The state of your cervix has very little to do with when you'll go into labor, so we didn't feel like it was important to know at this point.

On Monday I had another bout of serious pre-labor.  I was having intense, painful contractions every 3-4 minutes for over 7 hours.  There were a couple hours in there where I really thought, "Ok, this is going to be it."  But then it stopped again.  I'm finding the starting and stopping to be very tiresome, especially since it usually interferes with sleep.  I wish my body would just decide to go or not go.

Also, now that my labor is imminent, I'm finding that I'm getting nervous about it.  In my first labor, I ended up requesting an epidural right about the time that I entered transition (the hardest part of labor, just before pushing).  So I didn't really fully experience much of transition or any of the pushing phase.  And since I've chosen a birth center for my delivery, an epidural will not be an option this time.  I've also been utterly exhausted lately, which I don't remember feeling at the end of my last pregnancy.  So what if it's harder than I expect?  What if I'm too tired?  What if I'm not strong enough?  What if it's too painful?

I expressed these concerns to Brian and, wonderful supportive labor coach that he is, he reassured me.  He reminded me that, while I may not be able to bench press impressive amounts of weight, I have tons of endurance and super high tolerance of pain, both of which are more important in labor.  He told me that my body was built for this and that he had complete confidence in my ability.  And we're much better prepared for labor this time than last.

I'm so lucky to have Brian to tell me these things and to help me through the rough patches.  He's going to be great in labor too, I know it.  I'm sure that, after the baby has come, I'll be saying that the one person who I couldn't have done it without will be not a doctor or a nurse or a midwife, but my loving, protective, supportive husband.  What a wonderful way to welcome our new baby!