Monday, August 27, 2012


Me: Hey, let me stick this thermometer in your armpit to see if it's working.
Tom [grabbing it]: Why don't I just stick it in my mouth?
Me [a split second before he put it in]: That's been in a butt.
Tom: grossed out but relieved

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Stella's Birth Story

Stella's due date was August 21st, but Tom and I had a feeling that she might come a little early.  My own birthday was on the 15th, and the whole day, I kept thinking "I hope she doesn't come today!".  It will sound selfish - (maybe because it is) - but I just don't like the idea of having shared birthdays in the family.  I think everyone (uhh, myself included...) should get to have their own special day.  I didn't end up going into labor that day, which was nice, since it meant Tom and I actually got to go out to dinner alone for once while my mom babysat.  But as we were getting into bed that night, slightly after midnight, I said, "okay - my birthday's over.  Baby can come now."  Then I stopped, and corrected myself, "  The baby can come in the morning, after I've had a good night's sleep!" 

Well, she must have heard me, because she decided to do just that!  The next morning, I woke up around 6:30, I believe because I was having a contraction.  I wasn't sure yet if it was the real deal or just Braxton-Hicks, so I went down to use the bathroom.  I had another contraction of two.  Realizing from the intensity that it was probably the start of labor, and I wasn't going to get back to sleep anyways, I decided to just take a shower and wait for Tom to come down to get ready for work (I could already hear his alarm going off) so we could figure out what to do.  That lazy bum just kept hitting the snooze button, though!  I decided to get as much stuff done as I could, before the contractions got debilitating.  In record time, I showered (AND blow-dried my hair!), brushed my teeth, put on makeup for the day (!), and mostly finished packing a hospital bag for me and a "staying with grandparents" bag for Sly.  At 7:10, I was heading back up to the bedroom to get dressed, when I found Tom standing very groggily beside the bed, having just finally woken up.  "Call work, and tell them you're not coming in today", I said as I walked in.  He snapped awake then!  "The baby's coming?!"  Yep.

I started assigning tasks to him - helping me get Sly up and ready, making calls to the doula, the midwife, and my dad (who would be watching Sly).  I  had figured we'd have a little more time before we needed to leave for the hospital, but the contractions were already coming on pretty strong and close (3-4 minutes apart!).  I know that can happen with second babies.  It finally hit me and I said, "We have to go to the hospital NOW!  We don't have time to wait for my dad to get here!  Call him back and tell him to pick up Sly at the hospital!"

Even though this all happened during morning rush hour AND the hospital we had to go to was downtown, we still managed to make it there in fifteen minutes - one thing that's awesome about living where we do.

Once we were out of the car and getting checked in at the hospital, Sly got to witness Mommy having some contractions, and experiencing obvious pain.  This was, understandably, pretty upsetting for him.  I definitely had not planned for him to still be around when I was that far along!  Tom had to start distracting him each time a contraction began.  My dad didn't arrive until we were already in the labor and delivery room (and he courteously stayed outside the door).  When we told Sly he had to leave with Pap, he burst into tears and seemed very concerned and scared.  He's had enough experience with hospitals to know that they are not a place he wants to leave his Mommy!

The midwife who was on call that day happened to be the very one I was hoping I'd end up with - she's the most senior one in the practice, and always seems very confident and reassuring.  She checked me, and I was dilated four centimeters.  After only an hour and a half since starting any contractions, this was definitely moving along more quickly than the first time.

I asked for a birth ball - that had been my saving grace during my labor with Sly.  Our doula, Bethany arrived in pretty good time, considering that she had had to fight through rush hour traffic as well.  I soon stationed her and Tom into the roles I needed them each to fill.  While I sat on the ball, Bethany was on a stool behind me, ready to press on my lower back/pelvis each time a contraction came on.  Tom was at my side, instructed to rub my leg in a very specific intended-to-be-calming manner (and it took him about an hour to finally understand exactly what I wanted!), as a way to help distract me from the pain.

I have to say, I think I handled the next few hours pretty well.  Each time a contraction hit me, I was able to just get "in the zone", relaxing my body and letting my mind wander to what it would.  In the time between the contractions, sometimes I would just rest, almost falling asleep.  At other times, I would join in the on-going conversation between Tom and Bethany (which they, of course, paused each time I was having contractions and needed their attention!).  We were all just sharing stories and catching up on each other's lives since we last saw her two years ago, when Sly came along.

I had brought my iPod and the speakers for it.  I am only a little ashamed to admit that I own almost the entire catalogue of Enya's music.  It's the perfect thing to listen to at a time when you need to relax.  So I had Tom play through all the albums during the course of the labor.  I think we ended up listening to eight Enya albums by the time it was all over - even the Christmas one.  I specifically remember "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" playing sometime a little before Stella was born.

When we had first arrived at the hospital, Tom predicted that she would be born by noon.  Given the "fast and furious" start to things, I didn't disagree.  But after a couple hours laboring on the ball, I'd noticed that things were definitely slowly down.  The midwife came to check me again, and I was dilated to seven centimeters.  She said that usually, the water has broken by then, and that this is why things were slower.  When the amniotic sac is pressing on the cervix, it's much gentler than a baby's head.  The same thing had happened when I was laboring with Sly.  The nurses joked that my body must just make extra-tough amniotic sacs.  As I had done during my first labor, I finally asked the midwife to break my water herself to help speed things along.

Once she had done that, things got intense pretty quickly.  Sitting on the ball was no longer working for me.  I ended up kneeling over the raised head of the bed.  I can't say this position was comfortable at all, but I don't think anything would have been.  I'm pretty sure this is when I hit the phase they call "transition."  Basically, the contractions were much more painful, and even in the space between contractions, I still felt terrible.  No more steady, quiet breathing to get through them.  I started whimpering and whining my way through.  I was feeling really hot, so Bethany kept bringing cold washcloths for my forehead.  At one point, I complained, "I'm so hot!", and Tom and her just pulled off my entire hospital gown, leaving me completely unclad.  It wasn't my intention, but it felt better, so I let it go.

It was at this point that I started asking myself, "WHY did I choose natural birth, again?  Why didn't I want any drugs?  How many other women these days understand how much this hurts?"  ...Well, too late now!

I'd say this "transition" phase only lasted a short while.  My conception of time during the labor isn't very strong, but maybe just fifteen minutes?  I could soon tell it was getting close to pushing time.  All during this pregnancy, I'd been thinking I would want to deliver the baby on hands and knees.  I was "forced" to deliver Sly in the traditional lying-on-the-back with knees in the air position, since I was bed-bound at the end of the labor due to preclampsia.  You always read about how that's one of the worst and most unnatural positions to give birth.  But this time around, the hands and knees thing was just NOT what my body wanted.  The midwife had me try out side-lying, which was also absolutely terrible.  I eventually settled on that same position lying on my back, though.  I'm not sure if it was just the familiarity of it, or what.  I have to say, though, it seems to have several advantages over some other birthing positions.  Most importantly, you don't have to support any of your own weight on your legs or knees.  You therefore get a little bit of rest in between pushes.  And the nurses/doula can hold up your knees for you, so you don't have to worry about it.  Plus, they can bring you the awesome mirror on a stand so that you can actually get a view of just what is happening down there.  I found that really motivating while I was pushing ("Ok, there's the head, I'm going to make sure it comes down a little more this time").

According to our doula, the whole pushing phase was about fifteen minutes.  It took a little while to work the baby down.  Once her head was ready to come out, though, it only took two pushes - this is, without a doubt, THE most excruciating feeling ever.  As soon as I felt it again, I remembered.  But at least it goes quick.  And once the head's out, the body just slides right out as well.

So then, suddenly, there she was.  A tiny, wet, black-haired little girl, shuddering and crying on my chest.  Tom was crying pretty hard too.  I was just filled with adrenaline, shaking, and staring hard into Tom's eyes, trying to communicate somehow the depth of unexplainable emotion I was feeling.  This was 1:38 pm.  Her Apgar scores were perfect.  I think everything went, really, as well as it could have.

I didn't tear at all during the delivery, as I had when Sly was born.  And I have to say, it made recovery MUCH easier.  Two days later, I felt up to normal household tasks, stairs, and all those other things it took me longer to get back to last time around. But the baby belly didn't disappear nearly so fast this time around.

We didn't know yet, for sure, what we would call her.  Stella had always been pretty high on the list.  Once everyone had left us, and it was just the three of us in the room, we tried out all the names we had talked about during the pregnancy, and decided that was the one.

And by the evening of her birth, I was already able to say, "yes, that was all worth it.  The nine long, often miserable months of pregnancy...the agonizing pains of was worth it to get her."  Seven hours of labor, only the last hour of which was really that bad.  And what do I get for it?  A lifetime (hopefully) with my baby, my daughter.  A new human soul brought into the world, and to live ever after in eternity.  How awesome.

Friday, August 24, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 16)

1. I've been typing out my birth story in small chunks.  Hopefully, it will be done and posted in another few days...

2. After Sly was born, my body went back to looking pretty much the way it did pre-pregnancy within a few days.  Within a week, all my normal clothes fit me again.  [Well...mostly.  Skirts/pants and shirts fit fine.  Dresses were a different story, since they're cut to be fitted over the chest, and were all suddenly comically too small in that area].  I guess it was naive of me to assume that my body would have the same amount of "elasticity" the second time around....This probably sounds dumb, but I was pretty surprised (and dismayed) to see that after Stella was born, I still looked pregnant!

Yeah.  See what I'm saying?
Every day since, I have to ask Tom, "so how many months pregnant do I look now?"  The belly is slowly creeping down.  I'm hoping it disappears enough that I get a chance to wear some of my fun non-elastic-banded summer skirts before it gets cold.

3. I finished Stella's baby blanket!  In the hospital, two days after she was born.  haha.  I was aiming to have it done by her due date, but she came five days early.  I didn't bother blocking it or anything, since I'm lazy about my knitting that way.

I'll soon have to find out how it stands the test of the washing machine.  It'll never look this nice again!

4. A very generous blog-reader, Katrina, sent me some adorable handmade bows for Stella.  I love having a girl to dress up now!!  I can't wait until she has a little more hair.

Bows for many different occasions and holidays!

The little snail is one of my favorites

5. My birthday was last week, and I received a few gifts that I'm pretty excited about. My mom got me this beautiful tapestry that I've been eyeing for months now.  It's hanging it our living room.

Tom gave me a pretty print of a sailing ship, a board game I've always wanted (Labyrinth), and a NoseFrida to use on the kids (Click the link if you've never heard of it!  It's a thrill.  But I told Tom he needs to try it out first, so I can be sure it really really isn't as gross as it looks).

6.  Tom has been trying to turn Sly into a fan of what he calls "good music." So for a couple months now, Tom will act all excited and ask Sly if he wants to listen to "Johann Sebastian Bach!!", to which any toddler would, of course, answer yes.  And Tom often shows him Youtube videos of musicians actually playing the instruments, so that Sly can learn which ones make what sounds, etc. (I think it's a little ambitious, but cute to watch).  Anyways, the other night, Sly indicated that he wanted us to turn on the stereo, which he does often.  Tom asked what Sly wanted to listen to, and the response was "Gock!" [Bach, for those of you who don't speak Sly].  His first musical request.  Tom was so proud. 

And then last night, we were scanning through stations on the radio, and passed the classical station.  Hearing about 0.5 seconds of classical music, Sly shouted, "Gock!!".  It was actually Haydn, but hey - close enough.  It was pretty adorable.  So we put that station back on for him.

7. Stella is getting baptized next weekend, with the traditional Latin rite, which is pretty cool because they do an exorcism first.  So no unclean spirits in my baby - yeah! 

Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

On Having Two Children

Just some reflections so far...

All the parents of multiple children I talk to tell me that the "hardest" transition is either from one to two, or from two to three kids.  It seems like an even split between the two camps.  People all agree, though, that after that number (either two or three kids), adding more isn't such a big deal.  So far - and I realize that I am only speaking from a week's experience, so I may change my tune soon enough - going from one to two has been a lot smoother than I expected.  Granted, I've had help from my mother-in-law.  I still haven't really been put to the test in dealing with them fully on my own.

I have a feeling that "home life" isn't going to change all that much.  It's going to be getting out of the house that presents the biggest challenge.  I just hope I don't become one of those moms who never goes anywhere anymore, because it's too much work!  We have a lot of tools at our disposal to help us, though: a sling, a Moby wrap, a baby Bjorn, a baby backpack, an umbrella stroller, a travel system stroller, and a double jogging stroller (yikes!! no wonder our basement was taken over with baby stuff!). Stella's too small for some of them, and Sly's too big for some of them.  But I can find different combinations for different activities, and hopefully figure out how to keep us from just sitting inside all day.

Stella has been such an easy baby so far.  She's still in the "sleeps seemingly 23.5 hours a day" phase.  But even when she does cry, the only thing she ever wants is to be nursed.  Nursing her will stop the crying 100% of the time.  And then she falls right back asleep.  I really can't complain.  Baby Sly used to just scream for hours, totally inconsolable.  And he was very bad with nursing for the first month or so.  But Stella's just a pro.  I wonder how much of that is "her" and how much of it is because I have a lot more confidence in what I'm doing this time around?

It is fascinating to think how the same two parents can produce such different little people.  Their personalities are going to be all their own.  I'm excited to see how Stella's personality develops.  It's also going to be a good measure of how much any "successes" we've had with Sly are a result of our good parenting vs. just "good luck" in getting a child who's naturally tidy, obedient, or any other valued trait.

When Sly was a baby, it changed my whole lifestyle.  It was a huge transition - learning to care for a little person, figuring out how to get errands done, learning which social activities could still be handled and which ones just needed to be given up for a time.  So I was gearing up for a rough time again with this new little one.  But I realize - babies are so EASY.  Taking care of Stella is nothing - I know what I'm doing now, and my life has already been adjusted to "parent mode".  It's Sly, the very insistent, very energetic toddler that takes so much more of my energy right now. 

We were worried about how Sly would handle a new baby.  I was sure he'd get jealous, and act out a lot.  (Well, he does act out a lot, but I think that's mostly a symptom of being two years old!)  But he has been amazingly sweet, affectionate, and welcoming to his new baby sister.  He can't see her without wanting to plant kisses all over her.  He is very solicitous about her - worrying when she is crying, and wanting to put in a pacifier for her or give her a blanket.  He talks about her with a big smile on his face.  I'm so grateful for that.

Before Stella was born, I kept wondering to myself, "how will I ever love another kid as much as I love Sly?".  But it's just so natural.  From the day she was born, it was obvious to me that I had room in my heart for both of them.  As they say, your love isn't divided amongst each new child that comes along.  Instead, it is multiplied.  How true.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

New Baby Girl!

Stella Maris
Born on Thursday, August 16th
8 lbs 3 oz., 20 inches

We are both healthy and the whole family is, of course, very happy!  I'll write up the birth story soon :-)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

No-Heat Headband Curls!!

So I first heard about this amazing idea a while back from Calah's wonderful blog Barefoot and Pregnant.  A super-simple, no-curlers-necessary way to curl your hair while you sleep.  

 I love when my hair is curled, but it's soooo thick and pretty long, so curling it with hot rollers or a curling iron literally takes me about two hours.  Very rarely worth it!!

I've been dying try this new method since I saw how well it worked for Calah.  I need to get away from my perpetual summer hairdo of "big bun on the top of my head, bangs pinned back, and every strand of hair kept from touching my neck and making me sweat", especially since I have my bro's wedding this Saturday.

Try googling things like "no-heat curls" or "headband curls" and you will find a number of little tutorials.  I watched several of them before I attempted it myself.  Basically, it's as simple as this: you twist sections of hair around a headband that sits on the crown of your head, and then you go to sleep.  And your hair doesn't even need to be wet or have any product in it!  When you wake up in the morning, you have a beautiful head of curls!

Here was my trial run from this morning:

Not wearing any makeup yet.  Proof that me and my blog-readers are tight like that.

My hair is, as I mentioned, crazy thick, so the curls bulked up a lot more at the bottom than they did on most of the ladies in the videos....I think it might look better if I pinned some of the curls up on Saturday to help even out the relative flatness of the hair on top.

Let me know if you give it a try!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Lesson in Canning Peaches

 I've been wanting to learn to can/preserve food for a while now.  It seems like a useful and somewhat lost skill to have.  I was intimidated, though, by what seemed like a too-complicated process, and by the need for special equipment.  But today, I had the opportunity to join my friend Rosemary and her mother for a first lesson in canning.

It wasn't as difficult as I imagined.  The process does take a fair amount of time, though, because you have to wait for so many things to boil.  If you decide to take up canning, plan to set aside about half the day to get it all done!

I actually documented most of the steps with photographs (which I never remember to do!) so I could share the experience here, and also to create a record for myself.  This isn't intended to be an exact recipe or set of procedures (so if you decide to can peaches, please look for a full set of instructions!).  But I'm sure there are other people like me who have been curious about canning, and wondering what the process really entails...I hope you will enjoy this attempt to recount what we did.

We used quart-sized canning jars.  You have to separate the jars from the lids, and sterilize them.  If you have access to a dishwasher (which, thankfully, we did) , all you need to do is run them on hot.  If not, wash them out by hand, and then pour boiling water over them.

 You should use the freshest peaches possible - they will be a bit soft when squeezed.  "Free stone" peaches are best.  I love those beautiful colors!

 We bought a half bushel from a local farmer's market, but we should have picked up an extra peck or so.  We only ended up with nine quart-jars, instead of using all twelve.

Fill up a couple large pots with water

 And put them on the stove to boil

Dump the peaches into the sink
 When your water is boiled, pour it all over the peaches.  This will help to loosen the skin and make them easy to peel.

 We let them sit for awhile....maybe 20 or 30 minutes?

 You can use a knife to help get the peeling started, but most of the skins should just come off in your hands.  Cut the peaches in half along the natural seam, and pull out the pit.  Put them back into the pots.

 Now the peaches go on the stove to boil.

Apparently, most recipes have you make the syrup in a separate pot.  We just made it all at the same time by adding a cup of sugar to each of the peach pots while they cooked.

Give it a stir...

 Meanwhile, you need to sterilize the lids by (you guessed it) boiling them in water on the stove.

 After some time, the peaches start to rise up and foam.  Now they're ready for canning.

 Carefully scoop them up with a slotted spoon, and add them to the jar, with the concave side facing down.

 You want to layer them in nicely without leaving much air.

Ladle in some syrup until it reaches the bottom rim.

 Now you need to get as much air out as possible.  Sliding this little plastic tool around the outside helps bring up air bubbles.  Also, you can press the peaches from the top using a spoon.  Add a bit more syrup so that it's about a half inch from the top of the jar.

 Using a damp towel, wipe off any sticky stuff from the rim, and screw on a lid, tightly.

 Add the jar to the waiting canning bath (oh yeah - that's another thing that's been boiling this whole time)

 Once the rack is full, lower it into the pot.  If necessary, add more water to cover about an inch above the lids.  Put the top on, and bring to a boil.  Let this boil for half an hour.

Then you pull out your jars, and set them to cool.  Soon, you should hear the little 'pops' as the lids seal themselves.  And you're ready to store them for delicious eating later on!

All-in-all, it was an involved process, but not as daunting as I expected.  There are a few pieces of equipment (like the canning pot with the special rack) I'd want to own if I was going to do this myself at some point.  I'm not convinced that it necessarily saves any money unless you grow all the food yourself (which, given our complete lack of yard, isn't a possibility for us now).  

I hope this gave some of you a better idea of what canning involves, and perhaps inspires you to give it a try!

An update

Hey - I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who listened to my complaining the other day about all the pain I was having, and also for the offers of prayers!  They have been helping.  I'm definitely feeling a lot better now, and moving around more freely.  I'm hoping it was just that one day that my body needed to get everything stretched and opened up....

I still have that appointment set up with the physical therapist.  I hate to waste anyone's time (my own included), but I'm hesitant to cancel it.  The pain is still there, albeit minor.  And I just know that if I were to cancel it, it would suddenly come back full force, and I'd be kicking myself.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Those Terrible Last Few Weeks of Pregnancy

I'm back from vacation, and happy to report that I did NOT go into labor while out of town!

However, I now have reason to hope that the baby will arrive as soon as possible.  Yesterday in the late morning, I began feeling a lot of strain in the ligaments and muscles near my pelvis.  I know this happens from time to time in pregnancy, as the body loosens up to prepare for labor.  But as the day wore on, it was becoming more and more painful.  By afternoon, it was so bad, I could barely walk.  This was especially difficult, because I had a billion things to do yesterday - washing the mountains of vacation laundry, stocking up on much-needed groceries, taking Sly to an important appointment, etc.  Luckily, I had mostly finished the first two tasks before it got really bad.  But by the time Tom made it home (with dinner in hand!), I was just lying incapacitated on the couch.

Very fortunately, I happened to have an appointment already scheduled last night with the midwives.  I described the pain I was having, and she said it could be one of three things: I was starting to go into labor, my body was having normal ligament-related pregnancy pains, or I was having less common symphysis pubis pain.  After examining me, and pressing various places to see what would make me yell, she concluded that it was a combination of the latter two.  Ugh. 

The symphysis pubis is a little stretch of cartilage between the pelvic bones.  As the pelvis spreads in late pregnancy, it can sometimes be felt as a sharp pain in that area.

The midwife tells me that the only real "cure" is to give birth, and that even after that, it will still hurt for a while.  Man.  I can't imagine feeling this way for two (or more?!) weeks.

 She wrote me a referral for physical therapy, which can sometimes help.  I did make an appointment with them for the end of the week.  But I'm so close to my due date now that I don't know how much it can help.  Apparently, they can give women a special girdle to wear that basically squeezes the pelvis back together.  The midwife also suggested a few exercises/stretches to try last night.  I couldn't even manage to get my legs into the positions, and ended up crying in extreme pain on the floor, and needing Tom to heft me back up.  I just feel so helpless right now.

I think I could deal with this better if I didn't have Sly to look after.  It's one thing to let go of my desire to keep the house clean and get dinner on the table every night (which is especially strong now, with all the "nesting urges").  But I can't just stop taking care of my son.  It's been difficult to do everything I need to take care of him. 

I also worry about what this might mean for the labor itself.  I mean, if it already hurts this much now...and if it's already difficult just doing simple motions like turning over in bed, or putting on am I going to get this baby out of me without fainting from the pain?  Yikes.

Everything else was good at the appointment, at least.  My blood pressure is great, baby's heartbeat is great.  She is head-down, though facing the wrong way.  I'm supposed to do lots of hands-and-knees positions to encourage her to turn (please do turn, baby!).

I'm still two weeks from my due date, but my hope is that baby comes sooner!