Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Pumpkin's First Year - Part Two

When the Pumpkin turned six months old, she really started to show her personality more, and it is a smiley and happy personality. During her seventh month, she got much better at sitting up and went from doing the army crawl to real hands and knees crawling. She even started pulling herself up to standing. We started her on solid foods, her first food being banana (a food that I personally can't stand the smell or taste of, but she seemed to really enjoy). She didn't ingest much for the first month, but she really enjoyed playing with the food and putting it in her mouth. Her sleeping, however, was the toughest thing at this stage. It was starting to impove, and then got bad all over again. We decided that as long as she wasn't sleeping well, she could do it in her own room. So we moved her into her nursery, and when she would wake up after 2, I would go in and cosleep with her in the twin bed in the nursery. So, days were great, but nights were rough.

The eighth month started with all of us sick, which was extra tough on the baby at night. Luckily, it didn't last too long. During this month of her life, we celebrated Halloween, with the Pumpkin dressed up as a unicorn with wings! (I was a fairy and Londo was a knight, because I love a theme.) This month, I really saw a leap forward in her development. She finally started to GET things. If she moved something and it made a funny noise, she would look at it and do it again on purpose. Her moods and your sleep were still a roller coaster, going from great to horrible. But in general, her sleep started getting better and we even had some morning that were pretty easy.

The ninth month included Thanksgiving, which was a great time at the in laws, although the drive was horrible. This was also the month which I started this blog. In general, she slept alright, except for some nights of teething difficulties and when we were visiting the in laws and not in our own house. This month, she started crawling on top of things and climbing up stairs (but not down yet). She also started cruising along the furniture. She was pretty good during the day, but still not sleeping through the night and still fussy and clingy in the mornings. She went through a bit of separation anxiety. But most importantly, she was able to do so much more. I could put her down and let her play with stuff for chunks of time. She started to figure out different games and toys and how her body worked. It was pretty amazing.

The tenth month was even better than the ninth. Things were improving. She was exploring her world, and really starting to enjoy it! Her eating was going well, and she now had 6 teeth. She seemed to enjoy Christmas, even though it was stressful on Londo and me. And I believe this was the month that you said your first word: cat. (Because the cat is always there for you, feeding you, loving you, rocking you to sleep... no wait, that's not our aloof, uninterested cat at all!) This was also the month the Pumpkin took a step on her own!

Then came the eleventh month, in which she started really walking. At times she was clingy and wanted Mama-and-only-Mama, and at other times she wanted to be down and moving on her own. She started really sleeping all the way through the night until morning, which was the bestest thing ever for us parents, although it was not every single night. I also went away for three whole nights, my first ever nights away from the Pumpkin, and she and Londo did fine. She started saying animals noised this month, too! And some words like "dada" although "mama" came not long after. We went to Water Babies this month and had lots of fun. Oh, and she started dancing a bit when she heard music, which was so cute.

This past month, her twelfth month of life, has been so great. She has been a joy to be around during the day, and sleeping almost the whole month through the night. She had some napping issues, and we thought she'd be transitioning to one nap, but then she went back to doing two naps. She became even more interactive and played fun games. She loves to walk around and climb on things, so we tried a Little Gym class and signed up. Mostly, she has just been fun to be around and is turning into a little person. It's the most amazing thing to see. How she went from this little newborn who couldn't do anything but cry and eat to this little toddler who runs around, laughs, babbles and says words and animals noises, points to things she wants, let's us know her preferences for foods and activities and gives us hugs and kisses!

This has been the hardest and best year of my life. It's just incredible that Londo and I made this little being and that she is really her own person. And I can't get over how much babies learn, grow and develop in this first year. I've seen other kids do it, but it's completely different when you see your child every day and realize how much they change throughout the year, especially this very magical first year.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Pumpkin's First Year - Part One

Yesterday was the Pumpkin's first birthday. She is one whole year old. And what a year it's been.

Monday, I posted about her birth. I won't go into my time at the hospital, but I left as soon as I could. The next month of the Pumpkin's life, my sweet little girl would not be put down--and for the few two weeks, not even to sleep at night. She also needed constant motion. She was sweet and snuggly, and I loved holding her. She was not used to being in the world; she was used to the warmth, comfort, noise and motion of my womb. So we held her all the time. When we tried to put her down, she would work herself up so quickly that I knew she just wasn't ready. We were able to swaddle her and put her in the swing at night during the end of the month, which is the only way we got to sleep. I also used the sling all the time, and that was a major help.

The second month was much the same as the first. The Pumpkin still couldn't stand to be put down. It was hard on us all, but my mom and MIL helped us out, especially when Londo went back to work. The Pumpkin still needed constant motion and to be held all the time. Who could blame her? She hated the car since birth, and continued to be miserable every time she was put in her carseat, but boy she enjoyed being out and about. My beautiful little baby was a great eater and slept great either in the sling for naps or in the swing at night--in fact she was now sleeping through the night! But she was pretty fussy during the day, especially in those evening hours, when Londo and I and our parents would take turns walking and bouncing her around the house. We both got thrush, and it took until the next month to get on the right medicine and it cleared up, allowing our breastfeeding relationship to continue. And at the end of the month, we finally were able to put her into a bouncy chair for good chunks of a time, even up to 10 minutes! Also, she gave us her first waking smiles this month!

At the beginning of the third month, we put the Pumpkin down in her co-sleeper at night, swaddled, and she actually slept through the night lying down! The month was tough, though, as she went through some especially fussy periods. She did start reaching for things and was becoming more interactive. In the middle of the month, we went on vacation at the beach for vacation with my parents. The three hours there in the morning did not go so great, as she still hated the car, but the trip back when we left after her bedtime was the way to go, since she slept the whole way back. She was great at the beach, and seemed to enjoy the sound of the ocean and walking up and down the shore line. We all had a great time. Being able to put her in the bouncer and her sleeping lying down really made the trip great. The following week, I went back to work, and the Pumpkin started going to my mom's during the day with my niece. She was starting to handle being put down for longer than 5 minutes at a time. She was a really fun baby, and this was a great time of her life.

At four months, we were finally getting into a real routine. Our mornings were tough, and that lasted for many months, but I was able to get ready and get us out of the house and to my mom's. Londo would pick her up, and spend time with her until I got home. The Pumpkin was still sleeping in our room at night, but halfway through the month she started a sleep regression that would continue from age 3.5 to 7.5. This month she started to roll over! She was doing well in general at my mom's house, and I was glad to be back at work. I did miss the Pumpkin during the day, but it was good for me to go back to work. And my mom and the babysitter (who comes in the afternoon) were great with the baby, as was my niece who is a year older than the Pumpkin.

The Pumpkin progressed a lot in the fifth month. There was a little scare at the beginning of the month, when at her four month appointment the doctor noticed she had asymmetrical fat folds on her thighs. This sometimes indicates a problem with hip alignment, so I took her to get an ultrasound with her hips. Luckily, she was fine. She had been rolling over, and we were doing more and more floor time with her. However, she started rolling over in her sleep even with her arms tightly swaddled against her. It was time to take her out of the swaddle, and it was a bit rough, especially because her sleep had been bad anyway. During the day, she became much less fussy. She was smiling and giggling a lot, and she was very ticklish! Also, my supergenius started doing the army crawl! She was interested in everything, and she was finally able to do her own moving, which made her much easier.

During the sixth month of her life, the Pumpkin continued to grow and learn. She continued to army crawl her way around everywhere, although she also went through periods of extra clinginess. She was not only playing with toys but putting everything she could grab into her mouth. It became clear why when she got her first teeth--two of them. Her sleep was still a problem, both at night and during naps. I had been bringing her into bed with me from her co-sleeper next to the bed, but she was getting more and more active in her sleep, making sleep for me very hard. So, nights were still tough, but she was a delight during the day, full of smiles and giggles and very active and inquisitive.

The first six months of the Pumpkin's life were both exhilarating and exhausting, stressful and wonderful. Our first attempt at parenthood was harder than we had anticipated, even though I was prepared for it to be pretty hard. But our baby was a delight in so many ways and our love for her so deep that we went through it all willingly. We knew things should start to get easier in general as she got older, although it would be harder in different ways. We felt ready for the new phases.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cara Figlia - Happy Birthday to the Pumpkin

Buono primo compleanno alla mia bambina (happy first birthday to my baby),

One year ago today was truly the first day of the rest of my life. You have been a delight, bring more laughter and joy into my life and your daddy's life than we ever had before. Your laughter is the sweetest sound in the world, your bright eyes the most beautiful sight.

This first year of your life has not always been easy, but it has definitely been the best year ever for me and your daddy. You were never a laid back, easy baby, but for you that means that you feel things to their fullest. When you are upset, you are UPSET! But when you are happy, you are HAPPY! You cry and giggle with equal abandon, and we love that about you.

Today, I took off work to celebrate your birthday with you. This morning, we had a birthday breakfast with daddy, and your Grandma is visiting and got to play with you after breakfast. Once you wake up from your morning nap, we are going to go to the zoo and see the animals! I know you still aren't a big fan of the car, but I think it will be worth the 30 minute ride downtown to experience the zoo. And your Grandpa might be able to meet us for lunch!

We can't wait to see how you grow and develop in the next year, and every year after. We love you so much, and thank God that you were born to us and are in our lives.

Ti amiamo,
Mama and Daddy

Monday, March 10, 2008

Remembering Labor and Delivery

Please excuse the lack of a Question of the Week this week. This is a very special week for Londo and me, so I'm doing some special things. One year ago today, I went into labor. One year ago tomorrow, our little girl was born. In the past year, our lives changed in ways we never would have predicted. I am feeling incredibly happy, without the words to express it. I'm feeling nostalgic about what happened a year ago (and everything since). I'm also completely amazed that we survived to tell the tale! ;-)

So tell the tale I will. It's long and I'm wordy, so bare with me only if you are up for it. The tale of the Pumpkin's birth is like something out of a sitcom. There is humor, frustration, drama, an EKG machine, a big needle and a knife. And it all started in an unexpected way.

My due date was March 1, 2007. I was prepared for the baby to come late, as I'd heard most first babies do and my mom's kids and my sister's daughter were all late (apparently your labor is often like the women in your family). I just knew she'd be late. Sure enough, my due date came and went with no real sign of labor. I'd had Braxton-Hicks on and off for a while, but nothing to indicate a real labor. As the days passed, I had non-stress tests, another ultrasound, and too many cervix checks.

I was very large, wobbly, tired and a bit cranky (this might be an understatement). But I was willing to wait for as long as I could until the baby was ready to come out. Our doctor would let me go up to two weeks after the due date, but not later. So I agreed to schedule an induction for March 15th. The end was in sight. If the baby didn't come on her own prior to then, she'd be coming out then.

The days wore on. I had been working from home for weeks, uncomfortable at the desk in our office, but at least I was in comfy clothes and not stuck in traffic anywhere. On Saturday, March 10th, Londo and I decided we needed to get out of the house and enjoy our extra days of freedom, and I was going completely stir crazy sitting around waiting for this baby to decide to come. Besides, we joked, one sure fire way to get the baby to come was go out and do ordinary things with friends like have lunch and see a movie.

So we met up with two of our close couple friends for lunch at the nearby diner, dessert at the bakery and then a movie. Walking around, I kept getting abdominal cramps. Braxton-Hicks, I figured. They weren't regular or consistent in any way. Just came upon me when I was walking a lot, so I'd stop and breathe a bit, and then continue on.

The guys really wanted to see 300, but the ladies were not in the mood for such testosterone. So we ladies went to Music and Lyrics. It was very cute, and I was enjoying it. But right at the climax of the movie, just when you know something big is going to happen so that the romantic comedy can end happily, I felt an odd sensation in my pants.

Huh, I thought, I better go to the bathroom and check out what's going on. So I got up quickly, grabbing my purse but not saying anything to my friends. I hurried as fast as my waddling legs could take me down the stairs of the theater. Over halfway down, I felt a gush. That's right, a GUSH! I immediately figured that it must be my water breaking. What the heck else could it be? And all I could think was I better get myself to the bathroom and over a toilet.

Once I was safely on the toilet, completely stunned at what just happened, I laughed nervously and realized the predicament I was in. I hadn't told my friends what was going on, and they wouldn't realize that it was anything more than pregnant woman needing the bathroom. The water kept coming in gushes, especially when I moved, so I couldn't simply clean up and go back out. Even though Londo and I had joked that I should wear a pad in case my water broke, we didn't really believe it would happen, and I had nothing more than a pantiliner on! Stuffing toilet paper down my pants wouldn't last me the time it would take to waddle back into the theaters and find Londo or my friends.

I had my cell phone! Aha! So I text messaged Londo "My w ater broke [sic]" and hit send. Only after I hit send did I realize that I had no reception in the bathroom. Urg! What was I going to do? What could I do. I stuffed as much toilet paper as I could down my pants, and waddled out of the stall carefully. I washed my hands, and the woman next to me noticed my face was all red and asked if I was okay. And of course I told her, "My water just broke. I'm not sure what to do."

She looked stunned but was trying to be helpful. Luckily, my friends entered the bathroom right then. "Are you okay???" They asked. "Yes, but my water just broke!" I answered. They expressed the incredulous disbelief/belief that you'd expect, and they ushered me out of the bathroom, making sure I could walk okay.

I was about to tell them that someone had to get Londo, and there he was standing right outside the bathroom door, anxious and excited. I told him, "My water broke." He smiled, "I know. I got your text message." (Apparently, our phones don't need cell reception to send text messages. Now I know this.) He got it at the climax of his movie, and he and his friends hurried out of the theater. He sent one of his friends to get our car, and the other got the ladies out of our movie (that's why they showed up in the bathroom!). He wrapped someone's jacket around my waist and helped me out to our car. Our friends all laughed at us, and we smiled and waved as we drove off.

We got home, called the paging service for the doctor, called our duola, took a picture of me and my big belly (I insisted on one last picture), called our parents and got our bags ready. The doctor told me to head to the hospital. It was about 4:30 when we got to the hospital. They hooked me up to machines and checked my dilation. Yep, I was definitely in labor and should stay at the hospital. Out of the triage room and into a labor and delivery room. The duola got there soon after we got into the room.

Now, I was not planning on an unmedicated labor and delivery, but because of my Seasonal Affective Disorder and because the due date was early March, I was worried about my energy levels. My biggest symptom from the Seasonal Affective Disorder is overwhelming tiredness, and I did not want to worry about my energy during this very important time. So we got a duola, and it was a fantastic decision. She had been great meeting with us 3 times prior to the birth, and all during the labor and delivery she was such a great support for both me and Londo. I highly recommend getting a duola to everyone!

So let's see. I was doing alright with the early labor in general, I think. We dimmed the lights and put on my favorite playlist on my iPod, which we hooked up to our portable speakers. I had planned to walk around a lot and I definitely wanted to labor in the big tub, since water is such a comfort to me. But every time I got up and tried to walk, the contractions would come more quickly and stronger (very similar to walking around earlier in the day). Just a simple trip to the bathroom for a pee took about a half hour. After using the bathroom and standing back up, I had one contraction on top of another. The duola asked me about the tub, and even though I looked at it with longing, I replied, "All I want to do is go lie down." This was not at all what I thought my laboring would be like, but when you are in the moment, you just have to go with what feels right.

After a while (time lost all meaning), I needed something for the pain, but I wasn't ready for an epidural. As we had talked over with the duola at a planning meeting, I asked for a narcotic. Nothing too strong, but something to take the edge off. Wouldn't you know that this didn't go according to plan either. Later my duola said that she'd never seen anyone have the reaction I did to that narcotic. At first, it did dull the pain enough for me to doze off and get some sleep. But after a while, it just made me feel out of it and unable to deal with the pain I did feel, which was plenty. Oh, and it made my heart rate and the baby's heart rate drop pretty low.

I was constantly monitored now. They said they weren't worried because we both had very regular beats, it was just on the low side, but they wanted to be safe. So they sent for an EKG machine. The guy who ran the machine hooked me up and did whatever it is they do. He deemed me fine, but they kept monitoring me. When a new nurse came on, she said checked the monitor and looked anxious for a minute. Then she said something like, "Oh, right. If the other nurses hadn't warned me that you have a really low heart rate, I would have been worried." At the time, the words meant nothing to me and just rolled over me. Days later, I remembered it and thought that she shouldn't have said something like that to a woman in labor. If the heart rate is so low that it would worry you, why is no one worried? If you aren't worried, don't say anything. But everyone was monitoring me, so I figured as long as it didn't drop much lower or do anything drastic, it was okay. For the record, my heartrate and blood pressure have always been on the low side.

I just was so out of it because of laboring in general, the fact it must have been the middle of the night, and the narcotic's woozy effect on me. My contractions were never regular and consistent the entire time, and I would often have two right on top of each other. They were getting closer together in general. And finally at one point, I had three back to back to back. Londo said he saw it on that monitor thing, that just as one was tappering off, another would hit. Three extremely painful ones in a row, and that was it. I said it is now time for the epidural. Londo nodded. The duola smiled and said it was great that I went as long as I did. The nurse was informed. The anaesthesiologist was sent for.

Londo had to leave the room, which was fine with us both because he hates needles, and I understand that this particular needle is very long. I wouldn't know, because I didn't look. Just numb me, stick me, and make it all better, k? Thanks! And it did get a lot better. You know, everyone said that the bad thing about epidurals is that you can't move around much for your laboring. But I already didn't want to move much for my labor. I was miserable everytime I shifted positions, and forget about walking! That one bathroom trip was way more than enough for me. Another thing people said is awful about hospital births is that you can't eat or drink anything but popsicles and ice chips. You know what? All I wanted in the world was popsicles and ice chips. It was heaven to me, especially because the popsicle sticks had really lame jokes for 5 year olds, which are my favorite kind! Londo and the duola read those to me and cracked jokes for me throughout the entire labor, which is how Londo and I deal with things and it helped a lot.

It was daytime again, and I was struggling along. The doctor checked my cervix and said I was still at 8 centimeters. Still? I had been there for 5 hours! I knew that wasn't a good sign. I looked him in the eye and said, "Are we looking at a C-section?" He said, "I'll give you one more hour to see if there is any progress, otherwise we are looking at a C-section." I asked if I could try laboring in another position, he said he didn't see why not. The position I was in wasn't doing anything. So the duola helped shift me into a squat. My discomfort at moving be damned, I wanted to try everything I could! I knew there were a lot of doctors who wouldn't have let me stall out for this long without already pushing a C-section on me. My doctor was patient and great about it.

But alas, there was no progress after another hour. And at that point, I was done. It had been 15 or 16 hours, and I was exhausted. The baby didn't want to come out, but I told her that we were more stubborn that she was, and if she wasn't going to come out, we were going to go in and get her. Because I was done, and it was time.

The prep was a blur. I remember being in the surgery room, but not getting there. I remember Londo coming in, looking extremely good in dark blue scrubs, and sitting down next to my head. I remember them strapping my arms down (which unfortunately vividly reminded me of the D&C I had for my miscarriage). And I really remember the nausea and the dry heaving and praying that I didn't really throw anything up, because I couldn't move anything but my neck and any vomit would not make it into the small receptical Londo had aimed near me. (I simply can't throw up unless I'm facing down into something.)

Mostly, I remember being scared and knowing that to deal with the situation, I need to go to my happy place. I looked at Londo as they were preparing the area, and I said, "I'm going to the beach, okay?" The beach is my happy place where I go in my head for relaxation and meditation techniques. Londo knows this and knew what I meant. He told me that I should and he'd be right there paying attention to everything. So I went to the beach in my head as much as I could. I tried not to pay much attention to the tugging and the sounds below the sheet which blocked my view. I heard the doctor say, "No wonder you were stalled. I can barely get the baby out through the incision!"

And then, I remember hearing this squeaky little bit of a cry. I turned to Londo, "Is that my baby?" His eyes glimmered, "Yes. It is." I started crying, and I started shaking. My body trembled uncontrollably, and not racked with sobs. It was apparently an effect of the anaesthesia or hormones or a combination. I spent the next however long trying everything in my power to get the shuddering under control. I'm not sure if I succeeded or not. But they did subside mostly. And I did overhear her height (21.25 inches) and weight (9 lbs. 5 ounces). She was a big girl--no wonder she wasn't coming out the natural way!

Then the doctor brought the baby over to see me. Oh my, the most beautiful little thing. All I remember is a red, squishy face, with the rest of her all bundled up. And Londo held her to me. I couldn't move, and there was no nursing her right away. I was still trying to control the trembles and keep from throwing up. Not the most idyllic moment, but such a relief that she was out of me and healthy.

I was taken into recovery, and spent a miserable hour or two trying to feel better. I begged the nurse to sit up a little and for an ice chip because my mouth was drier than I knew it was possible to be! She finally relented and gave me an ice chip. When it didn't make me nauseous, she gave me another maybe 5 or 10 minutes later--time still had no meaning. When that didn't make me throw up and I was feeling a lot better, she let me sit up a bit. I think this was the worst part of it all. I was alone behind a thin sheet partition, a desert in my mouth, a desparate need to sit up, and no knowledge of what was going on with my baby--I hadn't even gotten to hold her yet! I understood why, and I even realized I couldn't hold her or be any use to anyone until I recovered. I knew that my body was in a bad way during and after that procedure. I respect that. And I really wanted Londo to be with the baby, not me. But I was miserable and alone. I drifted in and out of sleep, figuring that was the best way to recover.

Finally, I was good enough. They wheeled me out of recover and down the hall. And who did I see in the hall? My dad!!! They stopped me, and he and my mom hurried over. How was I and how did it go and look through the window, there's my baby and Londo!! They wheeled me to the window, and Londo held up the newly bathed baby. My heart swelled. Okay, I was ready to go in my room so they could bring the baby to me, and they wheeled me in the post-partum room.

Soon after, Londo came in with the baby. Knowing my need was so great, he immediately put her in my arms. Overwhelmed with the urge, without even thinking, I quickly put her to my breast. She latched on like she was born for it (pun intended). Tears streamed down my face. My baby. I looked up at Londo and my heart swelled. I had prepared myself in case I wouldn't bond right away, especially after a C-section. I was fortunate in this regard. I felt the bond with the Pumpkin immediately. It was unlike anything I'd ever felt. She is my little miracle, and that whole labor/deliver/C-section/recovery was nothing, not even a blip, except as a way to bring this miracle into my life.

Worth. Every. Second.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Cara Mama - Little Gym, Lotta Fun

Cara Mama,

That Little Gym class we went to yesterday? That was so much fun!

There were other kids to watch and play with! There was walking and climbing! And running*! I got to hang from a bar with your help! And I climbed up the cheese wedge mat and onto tall mats! You helped me walk backwards** on the beam! There were songs and bells! There was climbing on bars and other mats! There were balls and foam sticks! There was a parachute to go on and under! I climbed up the stairs mat, and you know how I love stairs! You helped me do forward and backwards rolls! There were bubbles! And did I mention climbing?

Sign me up, Mama. That is the class for me. When do we get to go again***?

La tua bambina molta felice (your very happy baby),
Pumpkin

*OMG, my little girl is starting to run. It's scary and delightful.

**Apparently, they do themes, and yesterday was backwards day. It was very cute.

***We did a free trial yesterday. We signed up to start the class in two weekends. Next Saturday is her 1st birthday party and that's quite enough for me her to do in one day.