Tuesday, April 29, 2014

"We Only Make One Model"

There are some families where each of the children looks fairly unique - different hair color, face shape, etc.  And then there are those families where the kids might as well be clones of each other.  You see one of the siblings who you've never even met before, and you immediately say, "he has to be a Jones/Williams/whatever last name."  Our family is turning out to be an example of the latter.  As soon as I saw Linus' little upturned button nose on his ultrasound picture, I knew he would look just like his big siblings.

I've been amazed how much he looks like Sly, especially.  I keep looking back at Sly's old baby photos to compare.  A few times, I've shown a photo to Tom to have him guess which son it is (he's got most of them correct!).

Here's a silly little graphic.  I feel soooo tech-savvy now that Tom showed me I could use Powerpoint to do things like this ;-)

I feel guilty about it, but that photo of Linus in the bottom right is literally the only picture of him I've taken in two weeks (with the exception of our bad family Easter photo, where he's just a little blurry bit of skin peeking out of a car seat).  I guess that's how it goes with third children.  I still love you, little man!


I think I'm doing better dealing with all the kids now.  I was feeling really overwhelmed and hormonal for the first three weeks.  I had a new house where I couldn't find anything I needed, two "big kids" running crazy, and a baby who needed to nurse every time the big kids were finally distracted by a quiet activity.  I could barely keep up with the everyday stuff like laundry or feeding the kids breakfast before 10:30, let alone unpacking or running errands.  I cried a fair number of times, and yelled at the kids much more than I should have.

Two things have really been a lifesaver for me, though.  My mom's group set up a Mealtrain for me.  We've been getting three homecooked (by other people!) meals brought to us each week.  Usually, the portions are generous enough to stretch it into at least one more dinner and a lunch or two during the week.  Also, my mother-in-law gave us a few months of a diaper service.  Once a week, a clean new load of cloth diapers get dropped off on the porch, and I send off the bag of dirties.  No washing diapers!

I'm finally starting to find my rhythm, though.   We're mostly unpacked now, and starting to move into the "project" phase with the house.  So while the house doesn't look as pretty or put-together as I envision it being in the future, at least I know where everything is, and I'm not stepping around boxes anymore.  I've re-established as much of a schedule as I can with a newborn, and I've even taken all three kids out my myself a number of times (yesterday, we made it to three stores in a row!).  It takes longer, and it's a pain strapping and unstrapping all the carseat buckles and stopping to nurse everywhere we go, but it's doable. (My mom gave me the highly-praised ERGO Baby Carrier as a gift when Linus was born, but I still haven't figured out how to nurse in it).

I find myself going back to read this article again and again.  It's one of the most memorable - and re-assuring - posts I've ever read: The Tunnel of Parenthood.  I'm totally there right now.  I just need to keep pushing through!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter and More Than You Want to Hear About Breastfeeding

Happy Easter to all!

Our Easter was sort of a blur for me, because I was sick for much of it.  I'm pretty sure I had mastitis (an infection related to breastfeeding) over the weekend.  We had all been planning to go to the Vigil Mass on Saturday night.  We were going to put the kids to bed early, then carry them to the car when it was time to leave, still in pajamas, and just let them lay on the pews and sleep through the Mass.  It worked for us last year.  I'd been feeling cold all day, and Tom kept saying I was crazy, because it was so nice out and the rest of the family was in short sleeves, while I was in a sweater and slippers.  As the kids' bedtime approached, it got really bad, and I was developing major chills, soreness, and other symptoms.  It was clear that I had a fever, so Tom ended up going to the vigil alone and I stayed home in bed.

When he got home at three in the morning (he'd gone out for delcicious unhealthy food afterwards with friends, as used to be our tradition before we had kids...I'm only a little jealous), I croaked out instructions to him as to where he could find all the hidden Easter goodies for the kids, and how I wanted them all layed out in their baskets.

Sly was so excited to see his basket in the morning, and kept saying, "I LOVE Easter!".  And we did our first-ever egg hunt for the kids, because we actually have a yard now (have I exclaimed this enough times yet?)

Sly changed into more a Spring-appropriate outfit later

I still didn't feel great, but the fever had broken, so I didn't feel like I was sick enough to miss Easter Mass entirely.  Though he didn't need to go again, Tom decided to come too so we bring the kids. We ended up at the Easter morning Mass, which I don't think I've attended for many years.  I wasn't prepared for it, so I didn't really have an outfit picked out (I feel like the vigil Mass calls for darker colors, and the morning Mass for brighter ones....but that might just be a personal opinion).  It's almost impossible to find a dress in my closet that both fits me and works for nursing.  I didn't even remember to wear a fun hat, let alone a nicer-than-usual veil!

And this was the best family photo we got, after many attempts.

Later, at our big family dinner, my uncle asked Sly, "So did the Easter Bunny visit you last night?"  Sly just gave him a look as if he thought he was totally insane, then said, "you're goofy."  We've never actually mentioned the Easter Bunny to him.  I just think it/he(?) is kind of silly, and doesn't really hold the same magic and legend status for me as Santa Claus.  We haven't explained how the baskets get filled, and Sly hasn't asked, so...I think we're all happy for now.

As the party wore on, I started getting feverish again, so we went home.  I sweated through another miserable night.  In the morning, I called up the midwives, and said basically, "I think I have mastitis, and I need antibiotics!!" But the midwives tend to prefer the least intervention possible, so I was told that instead I should spend the whole day "resting, drinking fluids, nursing my baby, and not doing anything else."  Ha - yeah right.  I think I actually laughed on the phone. 

I didn't get a ton of rest, but I tried to keep my workload light.  Thankfully, I seem to be getting over whatever it was, and the fever hasn't come back.


So I know we really should have done this long ago, but we haven't provided Sly with the actual word for "breasts". He knows all about how babies nurse from their mothers, and he asks me a lot of rather personal questions about it when I nurse Linus.  But each time, he's fumbling around in his speech, because he doesn't have terms for the parts he's asking about.  The other day, he asked if it hurt me if Linus pulled on "those little things" (nipples).

I should probably just tell him what everything is called, but I don't know - I guess I'm embarrassed about it?  Anyone have suggestions?

On a related note, today, Sly pointed to one of my breasts while Linus was nursing, and said "half gallon" then to the other, saying, "whole milk."  Oh my.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Busy Busy: Moving Day and Adjusting to Three Kids

I have a personal policy about never apologizing for my "blog silence" during those inevitable periods where I don't write a new entry for a week or so.  Sometimes, real life keeps you too busy to sit down and record it and there's no reason to be sorry for it!  So I'm not going to be :-)

But I just thought I'd leave a quick post just to check in, because I may not get much opportunity to write for a bit. 

We finally moved into our new house on Saturday.  The move went well, we miraculously managed to fit all our stuff into one load (um, but we may have rented the biggest U-Haul possible, and completely filled it to the brim...), and only a couple things got damaged (which is the price you pay for getting free help from friends instead of paying for professionals).  We've been very busy settling in and unpacking, and I'm not really internet-capable yet. 

I've mentioned before that I only have internet access through our desktop computer (in other words, no laptop, smartphone, etc.).  We did get internet hooked up in the new house, but the modem is in a weird upstairs corner, and the computer is all set up and ready downstairs....with no wireless card.  So I'm writing now from my husband's work laptop.  I asked him tonight if we could please go and buy the little thingy that lets it hook up to the internet, and to my utter amazement, Tom replied, "well...I've been thinking....maybe we should just buy a new computer."  What?!  I've been trying every tactic imaginable to convince him that we needed a new computer for the past two years!  Ours is really on its last legs.  So that should be nice, but we might not get around to going to pick one out for a little while - there is still SO MUCH to do around here.

The transition to having three kids has been...surprisingly rough.  I'm not sure how much of my recent stress has been due to the move, and how much is the adjustment to being completely outnumbered by little ones while I'm home alone with them during the day.  Linus has been a very easy baby so far, and he's still sleeping almost constantly.  But I find myself too often getting frustrated with the older two (Sly especially), and I hope I'm not suddenly expecting more from them than I should.  Having a newborn in the house makes them suddenly seem so big and old, but I have to remind myself that they're only three-and-a-half, and one-and-a-half years old...they both still need some babying sometimes.

I'll write more about these things when I'm able - thanks for sticking with me!  Have a blessed Holy Week.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Linus' Birth Story

"Put me back in!"

I had been warned by so many people that your third labor is often a "wild card."  Starting labor a week late was definitely unexpected, but other than that, the labor was much in the same pattern as my previous two kids.  And if anything, it actually went even more smoothly. I wish I could say that labor is less painful each time (wouldn't you think it should be?!), but it's definitely not.  Each time, though, I get better and better at dealing with the pain, and knowing what works best to help me through it.  So maybe in some ways, I could consider each of my deliveries "easier" than the one before.

 Building Towards Labor

I had been having contractions on and off each day for almost a week before I finally went into labor for real.  There had been so many false alarms and dashed hopes, and it was all very frustrating to deal with.  When labor started with my other two kids, it was very clear - but this time around, I was becoming convinced that my body was trying and just couldn't do it (Tom said it was like turning the throttle without starting the engine).  A number of women who had gone through similar situations assured me that the daily contractions weren't for nothing - that my body was doing real work to prepare for delivery, and that it would make the actual labor go more smoothly when it finally came.  I didn't want to hear that, though, so I didn't really let myself believe it.

Tuesday was one week past my due date.  I spent the morning cleaning the whole house.  What else did I have to do?  I even vacuumed the stairs, which was quite a feat consider the weight of our vacuum and the size of my stomach at that point.  Tom told me to take it easy, but I think my nesting urges were taking over.

I was scheduled to go see the midwives for a non-stress test in the afternoon just to make sure the baby was still doing alright.  While I was lying in the bed strapped to the heart monitor, I had a number of uncomfortable contractions.  The test finished up, baby looked good, and the midwife asked if I had any questions.  I told her that I was pretty much done being pregnant, and really just wanted this baby to come out.  She offered to check whether I was dilated, and to "sweep my membranes" if I wanted.  In case you are unfamiliar with the term, as I was, it is when the doctor/nurse sticks a finger inside your cervix and spins it in a circle to push the amniotic sac away from the cervix (not to break it).  Weird, I know.  Supposedly it releases prostaglandins which can help start labor.  She checked me, and I was already five centimeters dilated (I guess those contractions had been doing something afterall!), and then she did the - quite uncomfortable - membrane sweep.

I went home and settled on the couch to wait it out and see what might happen.  Tom was fortunately working from home that day, since he had needed to keep an eye on the older kids while I went to my appointment.  I continued having the occasional contractions, but wasn't getting my hopes up yet.  But two and a half hours later, things started to get real, and I knew it was finally finally time!  My dad was enlisted to come get the kids.  Unfortunately, it was 4:30pm at this point, and he was working in an office on the complete opposite end of town, so it was going to take him a while to get through traffic.

 The Hamburger Incident

So...earlier in the day, before I had known that labor would actually be starting, I had pulled out some ground beef to defrost, and had a conversation with Tom about all the ingredients I would be mixing into it to attempt some yummy restaurant-quality hamburgers for dinner.  Fast-forward to about 4:00 when contractions were starting to build (and I was already at LEAST five centimeters dilated, mind you).  Tom offered to make the dinner instead.  Fine and dandy.  Now fast-forward to 5:00, when I'm definitely in labor, and having to breathe through each contraction, and getting anxious because my dad is still not there.  Tom says something about how he'll just throw in a frozen pizza real quick instead (I figured he wanted to eat something himself before we left.  I figured the hamburgers were obviously totally out of the picture by that point).  I reminded him that the frozen pizza was all gone.  He said, "oh, well, I'll just figure something out", and went down to the kitchen, fortunately taking the kids with him to let me have some peace and quiet.

About fifteen minutes later, I hear pans banging all over the stove, and the unmistakable smell of hamburgers cooking.  What the heck?  I got really annoyed that instead of getting the kids' overnight bag and the other things I had asked him to collect around the house, or calling up the midwives for me, he was down there cooking hamburgers.  For who?  I certainly didn't want one, and I figured my dad was just going to feed the kids dinner.  We never even eat before 6:00 anyways.  I'm sitting upstairs alone and in pain, and he's down there surely making a huge mess in the kitchen [this fact was very much confirmed later], and he can't hear me when I call to him because he's banging around and sizzling up stupid hamburgers while I'm in labor!!!!

And then the kids must have sneaked away from him, because suddenly they were both upstairs with me, fussing because I wouldn't let them climb into my lap while I was sitting on the fun-looking exercise ball, and I started yelling for Tom to come up and get them RIGHT NOW!!  When he got up the stairs, I started into him: "Why the heck are you making hamburgers now?!  I DON'T WANT A HAMBURGER!!!!!"  He replied that he needed to feed the kids.  I yelled, "WE DON'T NEED TO FEED THE KIDS!  MY DAD CAN FEED THE KIDS!" and then we both started yelling, and things got ugly, and I finally screamed - yes, right in front of my children - "I'M GOING TO KILL YOU!!" and I slammed and locked the door in his face, and went to sit back on my exercise ball, and cry angry tears through the next few lonely contractions.

It was a bad moment, man.  I'm not proud of myself.  Truly, a woman's most animalistic instincts come out when she's in labor.

My dad finally arrived, and my emotions eventually settled down a bit.  The drive to the hospital was pretty silent, because Tom and I both needed some time to cool off.  Once we arrived there, I think there was an unspoken agreement to just forget it had ever happened, and deal with the business ahead.


My doula, Bethany, arrived within minutes and I got changed into the gown.  The midwife came in and checked me again - almost 8 centimeters dilated already! 

I was ready to get to work, so I asked the nurse to find me a birth ball.  Sitting on the ball had been my salvation with the other two labors - it feels great to just stay on it almost until it's time to push.   The nurse frowned and said, "oh...there are a lot of women here today who use the midwives...all the birth balls are in use."  Me, Tom, and Bethany exchanged looks of horror.  The nurse could see how important it was for me, so promised to see what she could do.  A few minutes later, she entered triumphantly holding a ball....the dinkiest little exercise ball I've ever seen. I'm not kidding, it was about a foot and a half off the ground.  I gave it a half-second chance, and it failed utterly.  I was practically sitting on the floor.  Not happening.

So I ended up just sitting in a chair for most of the labor.  It was a little harder for Bethany to sit behind me pressing my pelvis during contractions (which is always the thing my body "wants."  My labors follow a very similar pattern each time), but it worked.  Tom's job during contractions was the stroke my arms in a downward motion, helping me to stay loose and relaxed. 

I find that I'm very focused and business-like during my labors.  I know what I need, and I just ask for it.  By this point, I'm not hesitant to assign tasks to my husband or my doula as needed.  Between contractions, I either chat with them both or encourage them to chat together while I just relax.  When I feel a contraction about to start, I say, "ok!" and everyone gets into position, and stops talking until it's passed.

When I arrived at the hospital, I was already in the dreaded "transition" phase of labor.  When Stella was born, transition was really rough.  But transition with both Sly and Linus just meant slightly more intense contractions.  I realized later what made the difference: my water had already been broken before transition when I had Stella.  When an amniotic sac is still intact, it makes the contractions more gentle. 

During all of my births, I have had to ask the midwives to break my water for me.  All three midwives have also remarked about the unusual thickness of my sacs...haha (sorry, that's kind of a gross detail.  At least I will not be sharing with you the photo Tom took of it afterwards!).  Labor tends to slow way down for me towards the end, I ask the midwife to break my water, and then things pick right up, and a baby soon arrives.

Baby is Born

The slow-down started happening, and things were getting more painful.   I moved to sit upright in the bed.  Tom and Bethany were enlisted to place icy washcloths on my forehead and chest between contractions.  They were coming farther apart at this point, and between each one, I closed my eyes and almost fell asleep. 

Eventually, the midwife suggested she check me, and we consider breaking my water.  I was almost completely dilated, except for a small "lip" of my cervix.  She did break my water, and then wanted me to try other positions to make that lip move out of the way.  I absolutely did not want to try any of her suggestions.  I wanted to just recline in the bed and not support my own weight.  So I asked if she would be able to move it out of the way manually.  It just took a couple contractions, and she had cleared the way.  Baby was all ready to go, and I had the ok to push with the next contraction.

I was again disappointed my how under-equipped the hospital was that night, because they couldn't find the "mirror on a stand" which I had used when I had the other kids.  Some women have no interest in watching themselves give birth, but I find it extremely motivating to be able to see that my pushes are actually doing something.  The nurses searched every delivery room for the mirror with no luck.  So I had to do it blindly this time. 

It took the first contraction for me to remember what "pushing" is supposed to feel like, and where to focus my energy.  But I was ready for the next one.  In one gigantic and drawn-out push, Linus went from not even crowning yet to being completely born!  I was so determined to just get him out!

They put him on my chest immediately.  Tom started bawling with joy, as always.  I stared into space in shock and relief, as always, my whole body twitching with adrenaline. Labor was about six hours total, which is my fastest yet.

Anyways, Linus was perfectly healthy.  I didn't tear or have any complications, so my recovery has been fine.  I have to say, I am so so happy not to be pregnant right now.  And it's wonderful to have a snuggly little newborn in the house again.  I'm already getting sad because I know how fleeting this time is.

meeting their new little brother

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Baby Number Three!!

Well, he's finally arrived!

Linus Joseph
Born 10: 11 pm on April 1st
8 lbs 8 oz. and 20 inches long
We're all doing well, and I'll give more details about the birth soon.
Deciding to surprise us all by being a week late was his first-ever April Fool's joke :-)