Friday, October 31, 2014

Visitors From the Kids' Rooms

For the safety of everyone in the house, every family should have at least one light sleeper. That's what I tell myself anyway, to console myself about the fact that every slight thing causes me to wake up at night. There's no getting anything by me in the middle of the night. I'm aware when any of my children coughs, when the dishwasher completes its cycle, when the owl hoots in the woods out back, and when BJ's CPAP machine goes awry. I hear the padding of little feet on the carpet coming down the hallway long before I see the tiny-stature silhouette round the foot of the bed in the middle of the night. The nighttime hours see far more activity in our house than I would like for them to. I find myself amazed that none of these four beings with which I live--the baby, the toddler, the preschooler, and the adult man--ever seem to hear one another in the middle of the night though, as they each wake me with their individual little problems.

For instance, let's consider the sitch a few nights ago. It all began some time around 2AM when BJ, who admittedly assumes an entirely different personality in the middle of the night, ripped off his CPAP mask for no apparent reason. Guess he'd had enough air for one night. Pulling his mask off woke me up, so I woke him up and made him put his mask back on. BJ replaced the mask and within a second and a half was asleep again. Five minutes later as I was drifting back to sleep, I heard the wooden ladder of the boys' bunk bed creaking. In came Silas. A leg ache was on the menu, sadly. So, I created a pallet on the floor for Silas while I rubbed his feet and put socks on him, then tucked him tightly into covers to keep warm. Around this time I marveled about how I'd just spent the last 20 minutes being a caretaker to two people, neither of whom was ever aware of the other's awakening.

Silas drifted back to sleep and I was nearly back to the Land of Nod myself when I heard the pad-pad-pad of a two-year-old's gait. George came crawling into bed crying and explaining what sounded to me like nonsense. I gathered he had had a nightmare. He was inconsolable as the others slept, so I put him to bed between BJ and me while holding his hand. He stopped crying and then asked for "fresh water," so I got out of bed to get that for him. Minutes passed and it became quiet again before George announced he needed to pee-pee. Into the bathroom we both went. Then finally, finally, we all fell back to sleep.

Silas woke me about two hours later, crying because his leg pain woke him up again. This time I got him a graham cracker and told him to eat it while I rubbed his feet. Once he had finished, we got some Tylenol into his belly while I rubbed his foot some more. Then he needed water too, of course. We all fell asleep after this wish was fulfilled, and then an hour later he woke me to direct questions about a dream he apparently had as well ("Why was that tower walking?" What?). All in all, I was out of bed seven times that night and woke up several others just to correct things or console people from my place in bed. Ugh.

The following night's sleep was hijacked by Van, who is usually the one child I have that I can count on to not bother me at night. He woke suddenly at 1AM screaming, and after nursing him and then three attempts to put him back into his own crib, I finally gave up and collapsed into my own bed with him in arms. I woke an hour to find him sleeping soundly on my chest, so I tiptoed him into his nursery and ever-so-gently laid him into his crib. His eyes flew open immediately, and with an accusatory and panicked face he began wailing again. Thus, Van spent another two hours sleeping on my chest before I finally laid him down for good at 4AM. This was, of course, a Monday night before I had to work.

The child-between-us situation brings me to discuss this problem: When am I supposed to be rested enough to diligently return all children to their own rightful beds when they come padding into my room at night? I'll admit that part of me likes the snuggles; the majority of me wants more room to myself though, and could definitely do without the toddler sleep-time gymnastics illustrated here.

Credit Christoph Niemann in his hilarious compilation of visual blog posts entitled Abstract City. Perhaps my favorite read of 2014, this visual book had me rolling with laughter and musing the artist's creativity time and again. His caption for this piece: "Next up: a visitor from the kids' room. They start all sweet and cuddly, but their little bodies become more brazen by the minute."
They start each night in their own beds and sometimes they all stay there, but many nights George comes to our room between 4AM and 5AM, and I'm just too doggone tired to march him back to his room again and again. Occasionally, but not often, Silas will come in and ask me to set him up a pallet on the floor. They never go around to BJ's side, and I never feel awake enough to just say, "Buddy, let's trek it back to your bed" and then get the boy re-situated....if he doesn't throw a fit. Which leads to another problem: if a middle-of-the-night fit is thrown, how in the world is that fair to the other sleeping brother in the room? What do parents of room-sharing siblings do? Feedback welcome!

Two peas in a pod

In the words of Kathleen Kelly from You've Got Mail: "I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So goodnight, dear void." Dreaming of a king-sized bed in the meantime...

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Annual Family Trip to Chester's Pumpkin Patch (and Obligatory Photo Sharing)

Fall has arrived, heralding the transition into my favorite time of year. I'm totally the sucker for all things pumpkin, and come Thankgiving afternoon I become the sucker for all things Christmas. To say that I'm fostering excitement about these holidays in my children is putting it mildly. Yesterday was among our favorite family activities, the annual trip to the pumpkin patch. We followed this up with dinner at our favorite pizza place, where we discovered an unexpected Halloween carnival taking place. It was truly a fantastic day.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The December Birthday Dilemma

Last Christmas Eve, my littlest baby boy was exactly one week old. Born in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Christmas, this child was whisked along with us to intimate gatherings of family and friends night after night leading up to the holiday. He is, and will always be, my favorite-ever Christmas gift.

Out of what I'm sure was good intentions by all, BJ and I were repeatedly warned by people that having a baby so close to Christmas was not a good idea. Forgetting the fact that the child was already conceived, people either seemed to think that A) we could do something to stop the fact that our baby's birthday was going to coincide with Christmas or B) we would somehow change it if we could. Truth was, the baby-development train was already underway and going full steam, and the comments about an ill-timed birthday were frequent and disconcerting.

"Van will never really get his own birthday," they warned. "People will only give him one present and expect it to cover both occasions!" The warnings were oft repeated by friends and strangers alike. My common response became, "Well, there's nothing I can do about it now," before doing my best to change the subject. Truthfully, when BJ and I were trying to conceive each of our children, we didn't really stop to consider the timing of birthdays. All we knew was that we wanted a baby at whatever time we could get one, and wasting time didn't seem like a good idea to us. We don't regret that decision, but honestly, people had me second-guessing it when I was pregnant with little Van Owen.

Ironically enough, the people who seemed to think that the coincidence of Christmas and Van's birth wasn't an issue worth worrying about were the people whose birthdays are in December. Each time a person happened to tell me that his or her birthday was in mid-to-late December, I eagerly pounced with questions about if she enjoyed the timing of her birthday, if he chose to celebrate half-birthdays, etc. Of all the people I asked questions, only two people told me that they hated that their birthdays were so close to Christmas (one was actually on Christmas Day and the other was weeks before Christmas).  The rest treated the subject nonchalantly, indicating that their parents had done well to make them feel special on their special day regardless of Christmas, or that they had good friends who never lumped the two holidays together present-wise. Some liked the festivities of Christmas and felt it made their birthdays better. Personally speaking, my birthday is exactly two weeks after Christmas and I always loved it. Everything I wanted that I didn't get for Christmas, I got instead for my birthday! I pointed this out to BJ, but we thought that the proximity to Christmas may be different for people whose birthday actually falls in the Christmas season.

I was dilated to 4 centimeters by Thanksgiving, so there was the thought that Van might not be a Christmas baby after all. However, he took his time and decided that his birthday should be December 17, so a Christmas season baby was had! I found this to be the coziest, most wonderful thing I could have imagined. Middle-of-the-night feedings were done by the light of the Christmas tree, which we both gazed at afterward. Friends and family from far away were naturally gathered for the holidays, so everyone got to meet and greet our little guy when he was still tiny. Van had his own stocking, and Christmas carols last year were particularly sweet with him in arms.

Christmas-tree gazing at 4AM
Each of my little boys has a special song that I have chosen just for him. The songs were selected because I listened to them a lot during the time that my babes were newborns, and hearing the lyrics and melodies take me back to those sweet days. For Silas, it was The Decemberists' "Crane Wife 1," mostly because the lyrics described exactly how I felt about him.  For George, I chose the Fun song "We Are Young" because it was played on TV commercials in the afternoons when I cuddled him on the couch in our bedroom while we both dozed. When Van was born, the selection was easy. To my greatest Christmas gift of all time, I would bestow my favorite version of my favorite Christmas song: Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song" (Chestnuts Roasting On an Open Fire). It's a perfect fit.

 This year as the cold weather comes rolling in and my favorite holidays of all draw near, I will be eager to celebrate my son's birthday as I also celebrate Christmas. His very identity is part-Christmas to me, and I think it always will be that way.  Just this year, in the only year that I will choose his birthday theme for him, we'll have ourselves a rompin' Rudolph Christmas bash to celebrate the second-best guy ever born at Christmas. "Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe (and a sweet-smelling baby) help to make the season bright."

Friday, October 10, 2014

Guest Mama: Ada's Birth Story

My friend Keri is a go-getter with a generous heart. She previously wrote a guest post about her son Callen's birth, and she has once again graciously agreed to share a birth story, this time of her second child. Her daughter Ada was born on September 15, 2014, via a water birth in Keri's home. Indeed, she gave Ada life in the very room where she has given all of her fantastic massages (she's the CEO of Mama Kneads Massage). When she isn't working, giving massages, volunteering with the milk bank, and advocating for mothers, children, breastfeeding, and milk-sharing, she can be found enjoying life to its fullest with her beautiful family, friends, and neighbors. Keri is a positive force in this world, and those who know her benefit from her. Please read Ada's fast and furious birth story in Keri's own words!

 Ada Grace’s Birth Story:

 My estimated due date was 9.9.2014. Almost a week later on Monday, 9.15.2014, I had a regular day. My neighbor helped me assemble a bench, my parents dropped by for a quick visit, and I let Callen play across the street with the neighbor’s kids.

When it was close to 8 pm, I bent down with my hands on my knees to tell my son Callen it was time to go home and I needed him to cooperate with me. One of the kids, McKenna, scooped him up to carry him across the street for me like she always does. As I stood up, I felt some sort of feeling that was little different. I hurried home behind them and told my husband Phil on the way in the door I may need some help. He was watering flowers by the front porch. He asked what was going on and I said I wasn’t sure yet. This was around 7:45 pm.

At 7:55 pm, I contacted my birth team (Dawn--my midwife, Brandy--my doula, and Tavia--my birth photographer), showered really fast and kind of just stuck around the bathroom as I was leaking water. I told them not to come yet because I wasn’t feeling anything going on yet. I told my mom the same thing. Phil got Callen bathed, wrapped, and packed up food for him to go to Deborah’s house across the street.

At 8:20 pm, contractions started up and I pulled up the app on my phone. I was camped out on the toilet to keep from making a mess. I was tired of sitting there so I started to stand and right then a contraction hit me that made me realize they may be a little more intense than I realized because I was sitting in a squatted position. I told Dawn to go ahead and come my way because she had almost an hour to drive. I got a bath towel and waddled through the house trying to help Phil with Callen, but he told me he had it under control so I made my way to the massage room where my birth pool was set up.

At 8:30 pm, I called my neighbor Tiffany to come help me as I realized contractions were coming harder.  I needed someone to help me gather last minute items like my chapstick, water, laptop with music, etc. How funny that with Callen’s birth, I had a playlist well thought out and this time I had maybe 15 songs that were thrown together…and honestly, I never heard them anyway because things went so fast!

8:45 pm - I got on my exercise ball and would summon Tiffany for hip squeezes between her gathering my things for me. Contractions were less than three minutes apart, which wasn’t too alarming to me since they were close together with Callen as well but slowed down later so I thought it may just be a phase of labor.

By 9:23 pm, I messaged Dawn to ask if I could get in the pool. Dawn said whenever I was ready and she was at El Reno (20 minutes away). I forgot about her answer at first because I was distracted with the stupid app.

At 9:45 pm, Dawn arrived – Brandy came shortly after. Right after Dawn arrived, I remembered I could get in the water. I had asked permission because I was worried about stalling labor if I got in too early. I was dilated to a 5 and 80% effaced several days before that so I should have known things would move fast once labor started! I stepped into the pool and felt so wonderful as I sank into the hot water. I had a few more contractions that were building in intensity. I was sitting upright on my knees but didn’t have my knees far enough apart. I was holding back a little. I changed positions to get on all fours and the next contraction ended with an involuntary grunt and push. Tavia, the birth photographer, arrived just in time!

At 10:02 pm, I felt the baby drop and lots of pressure. Dawn checked and said I was crowning. She told me I could feel the head if I wanted but I waited a moment. I think I was too frozen and had to really concentrate on moving any part of my body. I could feel at least two inches of soft wrinkly head and knew baby was coming soon. At some point I said I felt a lot of pressure on my rectum too. The next contraction helped me push the head out about halfway. It was uncomfortable but I couldn’t feel enough to push without another contraction. I just had to wait for it and sit there feeling the ring of fire. I said it felt “pretty burn-y”. Somewhere in this phase of labor, Brandy said a few brief words directing me to lean back into my position and let go. I don’t remember the words but I remember her calm voice and the reassurance I felt hearing her words. I had a contraction during that time but it was like it was muted while I was listening to her speak.

And at 10:13 pm, Dawn said “Your baby is coming!! Reach down and grab it.” I gave the final push that brought the rest of the head plus the body of our baby. I wasn’t fast enough to catch her myself because she shot out like a rocket. As soon as I knew it, I flipped over and took her to my chest, looking as I pulled her to me to see that we had a GIRL!

Courtesy of Tavia Redburn Photography
 I could not believe labor had been so swift! What a change from my labor with Callen! One of the first things I noticed about her was how perfectly round her head was shaped. We all enjoyed the first moments of knowing she was finally here and I cut her cord. Then, Phil took her while I waited for the placenta to come. I can cover those details later if anyone cares, but it took a while longer than I would have liked. I finally made it to our bed to join Phil and Ada (who didn’t get a name for over a week). Brandy had prepped my bedside and bathroom with all the postpartum things I’d need within reach. Dawn took great care of me. They both assured me that I’d be fine as I worried that I’d not know how to care for a newborn again…that I’d forget to change her diaper.

Tavia Redburn Photography

Dawn let Phil weigh Ada and announce her measurements…9 lb 2.5 oz & 21” long! I’m so proud, and I tell everyone what a big baby she was and that she was born at home in the water. She has been a wonderful addition to our family already and I just love her to pieces. I also think she helps Callen because he loves her so much. I wish I could really soak up these newborn days because I know how fast they fly by but I'll always remember what a trooper she has been on this trip to Denver that we needed to take right away to address some health problems with Callen.

**If you missed the other birth stories, here they are: Van, Callen, Adelaide, Zella, Jane, Gwendolyn.
Like Mikah, Keri also used Moments of Bliss Midwifery.  **