Monday, July 21, 2014

Bringing Home Baby Albert!

Alright, I'm about to break the record for most pictures in one blog post because I have to clear off my camera and I have no time for separate posts of all the amazing things that have been going on around here - so I'm dumping two whole weeks of BBBBAAABBBYYY into one post.  Get ready.  It's a lot of pictures.

Our first night in the hospital was easy breezy.  Albert woke up every three hours ON THE DOT to eat and I got enough sleep to power through the next day.  We snuggled and stared at each other for hours that morning until the nurse came to give him his first bath.  He did not enjoy it, but I was glad the nurse did it right in the room, right in his bassinet, and she was F-A-S-T!  I mean, the whole thing probably lasted less than two minutes, start to finish.  She was a pro!

 Then she took his little footprints...

...Then his first (and most important) visitors arrived!

I couldn't wait to see both of the girls, but for some reason, when I saw Margot - my last baby - something pounded in my heart and I just wanted to wrap her up forever!  Sylvia has this big sister gig DOWN PAT and I knew she'd love this baby, but I really wanted to cushion this little fall for sweet Margot.  I couldn't take my hands off of her when she was there.  She was smitten with the baby, of course, and she had a great time visiting.  The extra love was more for my own peace of mind than anything else!

Mom had been taking care of the girls while we were at the hospital.  She was dying to hold this little guy, since she didn't get to hold him the night before!

Professional Big Sister

Mom crocheted the blanket and hat for baby Albert.  It's the softest, warmest thing he owns and we've used it TONS since his arrival!

Margot had some important business to take care of while we were at the hospital...

She's an eye poker, there's just no getting around it.  Sylvia did her best to keep Margot at bay, but...

We read Albert his first book in the hospital.  A family favorite: "On The Night You Were Born," by Nancy Tillman.  If you haven't read it, you need to.  Right now.  It's the sweetest book ever (although...her "Spirit of Christmas" is another favorite and she has a new one called "The Crown On Your Head" that made me weep when I read it at Meijer, so you've been warned.)

His first official non-sister, non-Grammy visitor: UNCLE JOHN!  No surprise.  John LOVES babies.  He sent me a text first thing in the morning to ask if he and Jess could visit.  It's funny, because I remember visiting him in the hospital when he was born.

More snuggles with The Little Middle

Mamie arrived with Albert's Dou Dou Bear (two of them, actually, because one just isn't enough).  My girls are obsessed with their dou dou's.  Sylvia has pink bunnies and Margot has pink bears.  They come from a French company called Kaloo and Mamie Brigitte buys them at a small store in Madison, Indiana.  I'm sure Albert will love his as much as his sisters do!

Gran and Grandpa came to see us that evening, along with Uncle Jordan.  Since I'm a slacker, I have NO pictures of my dad with his first grandson!  Or Uncle Jordan, who came all the way from Louisville.   Luckily, they're family and we'll see them again, so I'll take lots of pictures next time!

We went home on Friday afternoon and spent the weekend adjusting to life with a third child.  The girls are totally in love with baby Albert and if we're not careful, Margot will try to feed him Cheerios, so we have to watch him like a hawk!  Sylvia likes to color next to him when he's on his play mat, and they both love to sing to him and talk to him and rub his tiny baby head. (I've decided his tiny head makes him look like a hippie.  I don't know why, he just has a hippie shaped head!) Albert likes to sleep and eat and sit in his vibrating chair all swaddled and cozy.  He's been sleeping like a champ, too - all day and all night.  I'm convinced that once we hit his due date he's going to wake up and become a raging party animal, but so far...he's pretty chill.

On Monday, his first house guests arrived...Stella and her mama, Lindsey!

 I work with Lindsey, but Stella and Sylvia have become fast friends and they have lots of play dates together.  If you say the name "Stella" around Sylvia, she'll automatically jump up and down and shout, "Yayyy!!!  Stella!!!!!!"  She also refuses to acknowledge that there are any other Stella's in the world other than this one.  This is the only Stella, just so you know.  It was fitting that Stella be the first friend to hold our dear Albert.

I won't pretend to know which day of the week our trip to the park took place.  It all runs together anyway, being a teacher who is off during the summer, but throw a new baby in the mix and my brain is totally mush.  Anyway, I decided to venture out with all three kids just to see if I could do it.  We went to the park (it's only 5 minutes away from our house) and the girls had a blast while Albert slept.  After swings and slides, we agreed to venture down the nature trail for a little while...

Fossils and Flowers: Margot is obsessed with rocks and Sylvia is obsessed with flowers.  This makes a nature walk extremely exciting and a little bit frustrating because we stop every five seconds for one reason or another.  I didn't mind one bit, though, because I wasn't out for a power walk or any form of exercise, I just wanted to have fun and kill some time while the baby slept.  

We went to visit GG one night last week for pizza, baby snuggles, and tree climbing.  GG is my Grandma Neltner.  I could write a book about her life (and probably should!), but for now, all you need to know is, she loves babies, but prefers them to be a little older than "newborn."  When I took Margot to her house two years ago, she confessed to me that she's never cared much for BRAND NEW babies.  She likes them a little older.  Which might explain why she thought Margot was the most adorable and amazing thing EVER on the day we brought Albert to see her!

Grammy got plenty of snuggles, too!

Then my kids climbed this tree.....

Sylvia took her coloring book and crayons.

 This was my "reading tree" when I was a kid.  I don't know what kind of tree it is, but it has this awesome flat space between four giant branches that makes it easy to climb and easy to stand in.  The girls LOVE this tree as much as I did, so they want to be in there every time we go to GG's. 

On another day last week (don't ask me which one, they all run together!), the weather was too cool for any kind of outdoor water play, but sunny enough that we HAD to get outside.  I decided it was time for a walk in the creek.  Don't ask me why I thought this was a good idea - probably because the baby brain has completely skewed my judgement.  Walking in that creek is probably the grossest thing I've ever done.  All I could think was, "What if there are germs?!  Or diseases?!  We could get malaria or some other crazy Oregon Trail disease!  At the very least we're going to get a TON of bug bites and we're going to get wet and this is a TERRIBLE IDEA!"  But you know what?  The girls LOVED IT.  And no one died or got sick.  And I didn't step on a snake or even a bug.  I tried to take pictures.  It was tough because I hated every second of this stupid adventure.

We started by walking down the hill....which I hate doing because we have to walk back UP.

I mentioned to Sylvia that it was cooler than usual.  She chose her outfit accordingly.  Margot has worn the same jacket for three days and throws a bloody fit if anyone tries to take it off.  Whatever.

Between yard and creek there is a barrier of POISONOUS PLANTS OF ALL SORTS!

 Rock walking.  So far....I'm okay with this.

OH MY GOD, GET OUT OF THE WATER BEFORE YOU DIE!!!!  Or...."Heeeeyyyy, is that fun? Hooray!  You're in the creek water!"

"Look, Mommy!  Another deep part!"  Which wasn't deep at all but she was far enough ahead of me that I almost had a heart attack.

We finally left the deadly creek and headed back up the giant hill.  We stopped at the "tree house" which is just a tree with some boards nailed to it that Sylvia likes to climb.

And our final stop was Daddy's awesome new garden!  This I can handle.  It's planned.  And maintained.  And there are nice, neat rows of FOOD!  This garden has single-handedly saved me from the baby blues.  I like to stare at it from the windows sometimes.  Cucumbers.  Green beans.  Girls playing in dirt.  I can totally handle this and I LOVE IT!

Aunt Lori and Abby came for a visit.  Albert slept....

And finally, today my friend from work, Megan, came to see sweet Albert!  I took Albert to a fundraiser on Thursday night and Megan waited so patiently to hold him but when she finally got him he was fussy and it was time to go, so I was glad she stopped by today to hold him while he was more agreeable.  While he easily sleeps anywhere we put him, he does prefer to be held and he curls up into the sweetest, snuggliest ball of a baby that you could ever hope to hold!

Last night, Ann brought Cecilia and Jonathan by to see baby Albert and we were all having so much fun (in other words, the kids were running around like crazy) that I didn't even snap one single picture!  I'll have to do that next time they come, because Jonathan and Albert will probably be best friends for life. 

Phew!  There you have it.  Almost two weeks of post-baby madness at our house!  I'm convinced that summer is the best time to bring home a baby.  My daily dose of sunshine, warm temperatures, visitors, and lots of things to do have helped me stay sane and keep the baby blues at bay.  Don't get me wrong, I've had a couple of meltdowns, and some days are much harder than others, but so far....these three kids are turning out to be the most amazing thing that's ever happened to me.  I can't wait to watch Albert grow and learn and interact with his sisters.  He's a lucky little guy, and I'm a lucky Mama, to be surrounded by all this love!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Look What We Did - Surprise Edition!

Our sweet boy is HERE and we can't believe it!  He arrived 18 days early and was just as excited to get here as his sisters were.  I'm so grateful that this labor was nearly identical to our first two labors, if for nothing else than the predictability of knowing what happens next.  I've been spending the last two days staring at his sweet face, snuggling his freshly birthed skin, and trying to contemplate the miracle that is life.  When a baby is born, all I can think about is how that tiny little thing was just on the inside and now, they're on the outside.  Almost the same as his inside self, here he is!  Amazing.  His birth story is full of fun, too, so here it comes, without further ado:

On Wednesday, July 9th, I woke up early, got the girls ready for the day, packed my lunch and headed into my classroom.  I felt a little guilty for planning to spend the day there instead of spending it with them, but it had to be done!  My Mom met me at school and we worked, worked, worked all day long to set up and unpack my classroom.  Looking back, I realize now that I had that nervous energy that comes before a baby.  I couldn't sit still, I was moving a mile a minute, and I probably did a little more heavy lifting than I should have (but hey, at 37.5 weeks, who cares, right?).  Mom got up on the ladder to hang decorations while I loaded my bookshelves and organized some materials.  We got a TON done.  When we left, we decided to meet for dinner at Lunken Airport since Sylvain was working that evening and it was a nice night to sit outside.

While we ate dinner, Sylvia commented that it was a "girl party, no boys allowed!"  I'm glad we got one last girl party in before the boy arrived!  Dinner wasn't as good as it usually is there, and on the way home I was feeling...gross.  I was driving and I started to notice that the upset stomach and gassiness was sort of...coming and a contraction...hmmm.  I was also losing patience with the girls in the back seat and I *may* have been the world's meanest mommy while we sat in traffic to get home.  I still wasn't sure if I was in labor, but I knew I had to get the girls to bed and get them out of my way so I could start paying more attention to my body.

In order to speed up our bedtime routine, I let the girls have a dance party in Sylvia's room.  This was a treat because I let her turn on her clock radio, which is usually a no-no, and we danced to whatever songs came on.  I sat on the floor with my hands on my belly while the girls danced in tutus around me.  It was a really special few minutes and I'll never forget it!  Colbie Caillat's "Brighter Than the Sun" came on, which is the song I used for Margot's one-year video.  I forced myself to stand up, hold their hands and dance for real.  I know I looked like a lunatic, but their faces lit up and we spun around in circles and laughed and laughed and laughed, then we all collapsed into a pile of hugs and kisses.  It was a good way to end the dance party and a heck of a good way to start labor!  We brushed our teeth, took our medicine and vitamins, read our books, sang our lullabies and went to BED.  I was hoping to go to bed myself to see if the contractions would stop.  No dice!

I started timing them around 8:00.  For 30 minutes they were about 5 minutes apart, but they still weren't really painful, just noticeable and wave-like.  I spent a lot of time on my hands and knees, letting my belly hang loose and that was comfortable for a while.  Around 8:30 or so I decided I should probably start making phone calls.  Mom had already sent me a text, so I replied and told her I was having contractions.  Then Sylvain sent me a text to check in on us and I told him, too!  I never thought I'd tell them via text, but that's just the way it worked.  Between 8:30 and 9:00 things start to get fuzzy for me, but for the most part, here's what happened.

I called Mom first, just to tell her what was happening and let her tell me that I'm not crazy.  I was still in doubt because it was so early and I didn't want to call Sylvain at work for false labor!  I decided to time a few more before I called him, but by the time I called him at 9:00, he was already leaving work, thank goodness!  He parks his car across the bridge from the Great American Ball Park, so he had to leave his post at the suites and walk across the bridge before he could even start driving home!  I told him to call me when he got to his car and I'd tell him whether or not to come home or meet me at the hospital.  My next call was to Mom to say, "Yup, this is it!  Get over here, please."  

Next I called the midwives and the STUPID answering service for the hospital asked me the name of my provider.  Remember how I switched at 32 weeks pregnant?  I hadn't even met them all yet and I had NO IDEA what any of their names were!  That was another sign that I was probably in real labor.  I was very confused about the whole thing and I had to look up their website on the iPad to find their names.  Next I called my cousin, Gina, and asked her to come to my house and sit with the girls so Mom could take me to the hospital.  I figured that would be faster than waiting for Sylvain to get home and I wanted Mom there anyway, so it all worked out!  I spoke to the midwife at 9:15 and told her we'd be at the hospital by 10:00 at the latest.  Gina showed up, as excited as ever to be a part of the birth story and I was SO grateful that she lives so close!  When Mom arrived I said, "Take me to the hospital," so that's what she did!  I called Sylvain in the car and told him to go straight there.  He was excited and nervous - I could hear it in his voice.  I cried when I told him, "We're having a baby!"

The drive to the hospital was no fun.  I'm convinced that car contractions are the WORST THING EVER TO HAPPEN TO A PERSON EVER.  All I remember is that I had three contractions in the car.  We were listening to the Reds game on the radio and during a contraction I learned that Brandon Phillips injured his hand.  The announcers were very concerned about this and were trying to convey that Brandon Phillips was in quite a bit of pain on the field.  I did not feel sorry for him.  I was actually a little bit grateful to be hearing that someone else was also in pain.  Is that terrible or what?

Sylvain was waiting at the front door, in full Reds employee attire, which made me laugh.  When we got to triage, the nurse asked, "Are you Trish's patient?"  I said, "Yes."  She said, "You can skip this part, we'll take you to your room."  WAHOO!!!  I was so glad.  The nurse who walked us to our room asked if we wanted them to start filling the birthing tub, which sounds lovely when you're not in labor but for me, personally, it sounds awful once I'm working through contractions - besides, it takes so long to fill it up that I knew there wouldn't be time anyway.  We got to our room and that's when we really got down to business! 

The nurses put the monitors on and I worked my way through a few more serious contractions.  I sat cross legged for a while and held Sylvain's hand.  I was surprised at how many changes my body was going through from one contraction to the next.  The wave would come, I'd get nervous and groany and worried, then the wave would go and I'd get HOT and THIRSTY.  We got into quite a rhythm of contraction...water...backrub...contraction...and so on.  At one point I decided to talk through a contraction instead of groan and that really helped.  I just kind of narrated what it felt like and that made it seem not as bad.  The midwife checked me around 10:15 and told me I was 7cm.  This was a turning point for me because I had a lot to say about 7cm.  7cm is a special time!  I knew the next 3cm would be awful and there would be a lot of pain and screaming before the night was over.  I didn't want any more pain so I cried, felt like a failure, and asked for an epidural.  Silly, I know, but I didn't care.  Sylvain said, "Rach, you don't need it!" and the midwife put her hands on my knees, looked me in the eyes and said, "Listen.  I will not deny you an epidural.  But I can tell you that it won't be here in time.  This baby will be born in the next 30 to 40 minutes."  That was exactly what I needed to hear.  I wiped away my tears and thought, "FINE!  I can do anything for 30 to 40 minutes.  Let's do it."  (Looking back, I noticed that I did the exact same thing with the girls' labors.  This is a textbook labor moment!  Transition.  7cm.  Plea for an epidural.  That means you're really close!)

Eventually I had the urge to get on my hands and knees again, so I turned around and leaned against the back of the bed.  That felt a hundred times better and that's where I spent the next few contractions.  I was here when my voice went from low groaning to high pitched and shaky - time to have a baby!  The midwife asked if I wanted to deliver like that and I thought I did, but I knew I wanted the baby skin-to-skin immediately and that's hard to do when you're backwards.  I turned around and got ready to push.

Mom had to leave the room while I was pushing.  Things got pretty intense and it's hard for her to see me in that much pain.  I'm surprised Sylvain holds up as well as he does, honestly.  I know he got a little queasy during Sylvia's birth, but for the last two he was as steady as can be!  I'd pass out myself if I didn't have to do the pushing!  For the first push, the midwife told us she could see the head and that he had hair!  This was very motivating, but disappointing because when that contraction was over, he was still on the inside and I was still hurting!  She said if I could really bear down with the next one, he'd be out.  I took a few deep breathes, got into the "low growl-y bear" mindset and pushed as best as I could.  I remember being disappointed when that contraction was over because I felt like we weren't done yet, so I just kept pushing.  He was very close.  I thought I was dying.  More screaming.  One more contraction.  One more God-awful, searingly painful, please-let-this-be-over push....and there he was, at 10:58 pm!  When his head and shoulders were out, the midwife said, "You can grab him, he's all yours!" So I did!  I grabbed him and lifted him and laid him on my chest and I CRIED AND CRIED!  Such relief.  All I could say was, "Oh....thank God!  Ohhh....he's here! he is!  Oh...thank God!" Sylvain was smiling.  It was a remarkably happy moment!

And then there's this:
Forgive me for getting too graphic, but there's this special time right after a baby is born and before they cut the cord or before the placenta is delivered.  For a few special moments, that baby is technically still inside AND outside.  You can see him, you can count his fingers and toes and hear him cry, but you can feel him inside and out.  It's a primal, spiritual, Mama-only place.  The only two people who have been through the drama of birth get to have a special place together before the rest of the world rushes in.  It's like a little holding room.  A little bubble for the two of us, where all is right and nothing is wrong.  Some women say this is the moment that makes them forget the pain.  I'll never forget the pain, but instead I think this is the moment that makes the pain worth while and meaningful.  It's the reason I've done this three times without getting scared.  It's three of the most powerful moments of my life!

After Albert was born, there was calm and peace in the room.  Mom came back and we all cried a little together.  The midwife and nurses were busy doing something, but they weren't in our way or asking us any questions.  After a little while, they asked Sylvain to cut the cord.  They did his APGAR right on my chest and said I could have him as long as I wanted before they took him to be weighed.  After they weighed him, they tucked him back into my nightgown for some skin-to-skin and ohhhhhh my goodness, that was heaven.  That's where we stayed for over an hour.  He rooted around a tried to eat a little.  Mom and Sylvain sat by us and stared at him, trying to decide who he looks like (jury's still out, by the way).

We stayed there for a long time until they moved us into another room (we could have stayed in that room, but they were expecting more mamas that night and wanted the tub room to be available.)  It worked out well for us because we've been in a nice, quiet room at the end of a hallway.  The nurses have been amazing and Albert has been doing very well!  He's eating every 2-3 hours and letting us sleep just a little.  Yesterday he met his sisters and grandparents (pictures to follow!) and today we get to go home!  It's been an amazing, surprising and blessed 48 hours!

Welcome, sweet boy!  We are so glad you're here!

Here are Margot's and Sylvia's birth stories.  It's kind of fun to look at all three!  Also, Sylvain tells me I pushed a good 4 or 5 times with Albert. I only remember three, so he's clearly lying.