Saturday, June 30, 2012

Vampire Baby + Breaking Dawn

Oh, how I love these guys!

Especially this guy.

People always lament about the early days of having a newborn, and although verbally I've been saying I'm ready for sleepless nights and all of the responsibilities of caring for a little person, there's no practical way to actually prepare for it. And, man, did we get walloped with REALITY last night!

Everyone at the hospital loved on E.V. so well--from visitors to nurses to other patients--and she was so sweet and mild mannered. A friend of mine who's a baby nurse at the hospital warned us that on Day Two or Three babies "wake up" for the first time, and that this calm and collected child we had with us in the hospital would disappear. I didn't believe her. Not Emma Vance! She's too content in life to barely even fuss for us! Uhhhh...yeah right!

Ryan and I had just finished up our 11 p.m. feeding, then cleaned, swaddled and cuddled our new little girl to sleep, laying her in her bassinet. We settled down to get a few hours of shut eye, but within about ten minutes, she began to fuss. No big. We can handle this. (Which is true, we DID handle it...eventually.)

I'll save the boring details, but a night of madness ensued. No matter what we did, we couldn't figure out how to get Emma Vance content! We went through a cycle--feed her, cuddle her, check her diaper/change her diaper, swaddle her, re-swaddle her (man, that is a learned skill!), let her cry for as long as we could stand it, burp her (from swallowing so much air when crying), "pacifier" her, check her "environment": Maybe there's too much light? Too little light? Is it too hot? Too cold? Does she not like that particular swaddling blanket material? Maybe a shirt instead of a onesie? Naked?...and so forth. NOTHING worked. And when anything did get her to sleep for a few minutes, it was just that: only a few minutes long.

I've never felt so helpless in my entire life. I'm fully aware that sometimes babies "just cry to cry," however, it's the not knowing for sure if the crying is for crying's sake or because I'm not providing something for her that hurts my heart. It was a terrible night, full of prayers and Google and strategizing and handing off. At one point Ryan was so hopeless he actually asked if we should call the ER. (Chuckle.) My nurse friend had reminded me upon check out that I could call her at any time, day or night, if I needed advice, and it got bad enough that I had to literally put my phone out of sight to avoid disturbing her at an ungodly hour; my number one question for her? Is my baby a vampire who just happened to wake up? (And will she always be nocturnal? Dear God, please say no!) :)

In looking back on last night, I'm so thankful that God gave Ryan and I balance as a couple. It was, to say the obvious, an emotionally and physically draining night full of roller coaster sentiments. However, when one of us was breaking down, the other was feeling surprisingly patient and confident. To say the least, if we weren't "bonded" before, we sure are now. I've always known in my heart that trials and tests bring people together, but I've never really experienced the closeness that can come from being in the trenches with someone. We were really trying to avoid any real type of sleeping with the baby, but as dawn broke out over a steamy Georgia summer day, we gave in and Ryan spent about two hours with E.V. in a peaceful slumber on his chest. It was my turn to lay down and rest my eyes (we eventually decided to pull shifts, alternating who was trying to figure out how to soothe her), and when I went to check on them, my heart almost burst. Totally worth it.

Of course, it's been several hours, Emma Vance has been her sweet and contented self all day, and Ryan and I can joke that we've made it through the worst of it. I'm expecting Vampire Baby to come out to play again tonight, so cross finger for us, folks. I think we're definitely better prepared (learning that the Summer Infant Swaddler is at least one key to E.V.'s happiness, as well as some practical tips from the hospital's daytime baby help line...), and although in the midst of the storm we felt absolutely lost and terrified, dawn burned off the stormy skies and our little ray of sunshine made it all worthwhile.

Homecoming Dance

Sweetie girl actually loved the hot, humid weather on the way to the car!

Really? Me? A mom??? Time for a reality check...

After a five day stay in the hospital (little miss took quite a while to make her grand entrance into the world!), Ryan and I had mixed feelings about coming home last night: On the one hand, the hospital was so cozy, so reassuring--our first little home as a family. And if we didn't know what to do with Emma Vance? Ring a nurse, and bam! Professional advice on the spot. However, hospital stays also mean lots of interruptions, small spaces and no privacy...and no Oscar and Olive (although we did devise a plan to create fake "therapy dog" vests to sneak them in at one point :) ). Almost every parent I know gets a fond look on their face when a new baby and a hospital stay is mentioned--and now I'll join their ranks.

We were really worried about E.V. in the heat (man, we've missed some hot ones!), plus we wanted to get in one last afternoon nap before heading into the Great Unknown, so we didn't leave until after 7 p.m. yesterday. Thankfully she was like a bug in a rug in the humid, hot air--I suppose because it reminded her of the womb? However, she did NOT like her car seat (which Ryan put in WHILE we were at the hospital; let's just say we balance each other out on the planner/non-planner continuum), and upon realizing that the only solution to her misery was to head home quickly, we left the hospital with a crying baby and a little anxiety. Thankfully, the second we got on the highway, she passed out from the motion, so Ryan and I were able to relax and enjoy the ride home.

Buckled in... 
...and a little perturbed by it!

On a side note, I thought everyone would get a kick out of this: In 2010 (no joking), Ryan and I purchased tickets for the June 29, 2012 Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil show. For TWO whole years we've been so pumped about it...and all the while, God was smirking behind the scenes at our plans. Unfortunately for our former selves, we pulled away from the hospital as the curtains rose; fortunately for our current selves, it was with Miss E.V.! Who'd have been able to predict that one?

The first order of business was introducing Olive and Oscar to their new best friend, which we've been trying to plan out for some time. We had sent a baby blanket home for them to sniff and get accustomed to, and then when we arrived home, Ryan and I took turns going inside to say hello to them while the other sat with Emma Vance in the air conditioned car. Then I took the dogs on leashes and Ryan grabbed the baby in her car seat (for a quick exit in case the puppies freaked her out), and introduced them in the yard. (Let's just say it was quite a "dance" in order to make sure that the dogs felt important and validated before meeting their new sister...) E.V. was a bit confused and thus perturbed by cold noses in her face, but other than that, we had no major problems! (Whew!) Oscar, who's very happy-go-lucky, was thrilled, and hasn't left her alone since. Olive, on the other hand, was a little slighted to not be the star of the family anymore and only sniffed her once before literally turning her back on E.V. and ignoring her. Ha!

E.V. meeting the rest of the "fam" for the first time...

...and Oscar falling instantly in love, or a least instantly in fascination.

The dogs are adjusting well: Olive's come around a bit, and Oscar's learning to control his excitement (and, yes, Emma Vance has already gotten accustomed to his cold nose and even tried to suck on it!). Lots of positive reinforcement and treats has been working well. They've been sitting in the nursery with us for feedings, and since Oscar usurped Olive's dog bed, she's been sitting on "her" ottoman at my feet while E.V. eats. Overall, I'd say the puppies get an A+ for their flexibility and understanding.

As for our home life, let's just say that it was NOT as quickly adjusted last night...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What's In A Name?

Emma Mann Vance

We're so beyond thrilled to finally meet Emma Vance! Thank you, everyone, for putting up with our keeping the name a surprise. Now that it's official, here's the background...

My maternal grandmother's married name is Mrs. Emma Vance, and she's played a really important role in my life--and even a bit in Ryan's.  She's got an awesome life story: immigrant parents straight from Hungary, family life as the proverbial middle child, a nurse who met my grandfather (a Navy man) in Times Square and married him secretly at 19 while still in nursing school (big no-no back then). In fact, she tells the story rivetingly, a chance meeting at the Pepsi Cola Canteen, a no-frills "wedding" in Brooklyn by a judge, and literally sneaking INTO her dormitory after the "ceremony" and celebrating...all very "A League of Their Own" sounding.

My grandmother's an amazing woman, and we will be so happy if our daughter turns out like her. She's young at heart and is full of wisdom, evidenced by the fact that she's now in her mid-80's and is STILL a nurse at a hospital in Orlando. (She's one of the longest-standing employees there and manages to keep up with the young folks!)  Despite being a working woman all her life, she also has a keen domestic streak for balance, and as a result, she is notorious for making the best cookies around and her knitting skills are well-earned. Plus, she's one tough, independent lady--no one was ever allowed to mow her lawn but herself (even when my grandfather was alive she did it), and her garden and house are impeccable because she never rests. In fact, when Ryan was a film student in Orlando, a terrible hurricane came through and wrecked the city.  Living only a mile or two down the road from my grandmother, he immediately went to check on her, only to find her on the charcoal grill, feeding the neighborhood until the electricity came back! Seriously, she's an admirable lady and we love her.

My grandmother had only one child, and so we're excited to be carrying on her legacy through her new great-granddaughter. We chose her married name to honor my grandfather, who loved me more than I could have ever asked for. Although he never got to pass his family name down through a boy, we wanted to ensure that his memory would live on.

So her official first-and-middle name is "Emma Vance," and we'll be calling her by that double name or by "E.V."  I like that she has a little bit of leeway to decide herself what she prefers; we figure if she turns out to be super-Southern and girlie, "Emma Vance" will suite her just fine. If she's indie or a tomboy, "E.V." fits perfectly.  For now, we're just going to call her whatever comes out naturally at the time.

On our wedding day almost SEVEN years ago, I was married with my grandmother's ring, just like my mother was.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

40 Weeks

This is as big as it's going to get, folks! Whew...

Today is our official due date! Nothing quite yet, but, man, we've come a long way...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Final Thoughts on Pregnancy

Due date's quickly approaching!

I can't believe that it's finally time! Any day (or moment) now we'll be PARENTS, an adventure for which we feel completely unprepared, but we've decided to go ahead and do it anyway...ha! Just as we were totally naive in the transition from married-couple to parents-to-be, we're about to transition from parents-to-be to family-of-three, and so I wanted to take a few words to recap some of the highs and lows of this whole pregnancy thing...

My oddest pregnancy "symptoms:"
  • Nose bleeds. I know--weird! I have researched it thoroughly, though, and the increase in blood volume plus hormones that mess with the, um, "mucus-y" areas of your body can equal nosebleeds during pregnancy. I've gotten a bloody nose a few times a week from Day One, but besides being inconvenient when they happen in public, I've gotten used to them for the most part. Unfortunately, they can be alarming to anyone hanging out with me during an episode! 
  • Swollen scars. Once again, totally random but totally normal (apparently). About three months in, I noticed that my small scars (from life, childhood and the dermatologist) started to look swollen instead of flat. I guess it's the hormones (the usual culprit)?
  • First trimester skin woes. Mother Nature, this is cruel and unusual punishment for a woman whose hormones are already making her emotional! Thankfully this was a passing phase for me, but I mean, really--a twenty-something woman starting a family shouldn't need Clearasil!
  • Blurry eyesight. I had read somewhere that swelling in pregnancy can lead to blurry eyesight, and if you know me, you know I have terrible eyesight to begin with. I was not surprised, then, when at about 35 weeks my contacts started driving me crazy and my glasses seemed like the prescription is off a bit. I have now resolved to get Lasik post-baby because this stinks.
  • I swear my teeth shifted. I mean, I have crazy, racing thoughts. :) Much like PMS, I believe that pregnancy amplifies existing thoughts and emotions, not creates them, but I have entertained "crazier" thoughts than normal: Yes, including that I'm convinced that my bottom teeth have shifted slightly.  I figure that acknowledging these thoughts' absurdity is evidence that I'm not crazy myself. 
  • Random barfing. I had a pretty typical first trimester, nausea and just a little throwing up. Thankfully the nausea subsided around 16 weeks. However, I have continued to randomly barf at inconvenient times throughout my entire pregnancy. The first time was at Old Navy...then the coffee shop...then the nail place... Basically I've "marked" most Alpharetta businesses. Awesome.
  • Belly button soreness. My belly button never popped out, but it has been almost turned inside out, and so it's been really sore. The skin has never seen the light of day, so there's a really sensitive ring around it that gets irritated easily.
  • Snoring. My throat has been swollen in my third trimester, and so I've started snoring. I would say too bad for Ryan, but it actually wakes me up because it hurts my throat so much. Let's pray that this goes away IMMEDIATELY after giving birth! :)
  • Painful sneezing. As my belly's gotten bigger, sneezing has become a painful ordeal! My whole body tenses up, but my stomach muscles have no where to go. Ouch!
  • Random freckles. I've been avoiding the sun a lot so as not to acquire a "pregnancy mask," which I know I'm prone to because of previously being on birth control. However, despite my sunning limitations, I have had random freckles and small spots crop up on my face, which is disconcerting since my existing freckles haven't multiplied or changed since I was little. Makeup routine, adjusted.

Things I WILL NOT miss about being pregnant:
  • Being thirsty AND having to pee--simultaneously. Ever heard of "in one ear and out the other?" Same concept, but much more annoying. :) In fact, I've started buying water by the gallon and stashing them around the house because I'm so thirsty. All. The. Time.
  • Backaches. I'm "over" walking around like a little old lady and secretly wishing to have a floating handicap bar by which to pull myself up.
  • Swelling. I've said enough on this subject. (But, then again, I could never say enough on this subject...)
  • The feeling in my stomach like when an elevator drops. When the baby shifts from side to side, it's nauseating!
  • Intense emotions. Sorry, Ryan, for crying so easily! :) I promise the old me's still in here and will shortly return!
  • Not sleeping well. Oh, eight hours a night, how I miss you! I'm DONE with the bathroom breaks and pillow shifting. 
  • Watching the scales. I suppose that every woman struggles with this. You can't control it, no matter what you do...and that's depressing.
  • Bumping into things. Beyond my bellyflop, there have been several times I've hit my stomach with objects (the worst of which being a car door...ow!) because I have no spatial recognition left in reference to my body anymore.

Things I WILL miss about being pregnant:
  • People are unnecessarily nice to you. It's actually kind of awkward, but you get used to it. And, since you can't really stop strangers from being kind, I've learned to just take it in stride. However, I have tried to avoid being too needy with Ryan. I'm not fragile or weak, and the "but I'm pregnant" excuse should be limited to a needs-only status in my opinion.
  • Prepping and dreaming and planning! I suppose not all moms-to-be enjoy this aspect of pregnancy, but I loved it and am a little sad to move from dreaming to doing.
  • Her hiccups. This baby's movements have been really inconsistent and erratic, so her hiccups have been such a sweet and reassuring feeling for me. Anytime I've caught myself freaking out because I haven't felt her move in a while, I've prayed for her to get the hiccups because they're a very distinct movement with a long duration.
  • Our dogs' interest in my belly. It's not like they're going anywhere once the baby comes, and I know their curiosity will simply transfer to the baby herself; however, I really have enjoyed my extra attention and bonding with them over the past few months.
  • Ryan's excitement over pending fatherhood. As much as I've been freaked out about being a mom, Ryan's been excited over being a dad. He tends to be a lot more happy go lucky than me to begin with, and so he has very little worries about having a baby 24/7. In fact, he's so excited when he talks about our future family that I'll really miss his daydreaming.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Last Chance Workout

Yes, I will continue to enjoy wearing my yoga pants despite my no-gym status :)

Since finding out I was pregnant, I've trying to make the best decisions possible, especially regarding health. As this pregnancy has progressed, I have become a little lax here and there (mostly with soda consumption--that devil!), but I'm happy to say that I've been able to be relatively consistent in the area of exercise.

Anyone who's gone through this process before knows that a pregnant lady's energy and physical capacity vary throughout the ten months she's carrying a baby. I remember being so exhausted for the first few months that I would work, workout, then sleep. Awake and repeat. (Did I mention napping during lunch?) Thankfully I have some very encouraging people in my life who gave me the best advice I could get about pregnancy and exercise: If you don't start at the beginning, you won't start at all. So, despite the voice in my head begging me NOT to get to the gym, I started early and count that as a large factor in my prenatal exercise commitment.

Because I was so tired in my first trimester, when someone commented to me that the second trimester was the "energy trimester" and that I'd feel great, I did NOT believe them. However, as I watched my heart rate get stronger and more efficient (You MUST monitor your HR, ladies!), my workouts easily become more intense and my motivation sky rocket, I started to believe that my exercise life was back on track. In fact, the gym was almost addicting during those months in the middle; it reminded me that I was still me. I set a personal goal during this time to walk three miles the day before I gave birth--little did I know...

In my third trimester, my physical capacity lowered. It was totally bizarre; it was as if one day I woke up and my body had a mind of its own, and it did NOT want to continue at my second trimester pace. I felt really guilty for a while--allowing my physical pain to dictate the length and intensity of my workouts really made me feel out of control. Then I had a day with a particularly bad workout and I decided to change my attitude: Even being at the gym is a win! So what if my back could only handle my treadmill being on 0% incline? I was WALKING, and, dangit, that was better than nothing.

I've been brought back down to reality somewhere in the past two months, relinquishing my walking-three-miles-before-birth goal because 1.) I don't know her exact arrival date, and I don't want to walk three miles a day for the next week :) and 2.) I don't want to be overly sore while laboring. Oh, and my running shoes barely tie because of the size of my feet. Not to mention that my swollen legs throb every second I'm working out! I've had to make amends with the passing of that goal and remind myself that a physically fit labor (the REAL goal) requires a rested body. (And, really, what was I thinking? Unrealistic expectations? Uh, yeah...)

Now I'm on to thinking about exercise in the upcoming months. I have to admit that I'm a little weirded out by not being able to do much of anything but walk the baby around in a stroller during the typical six-week recovery period: It's perhaps obnoxious to admit, but I really am proud to say that I've consistently worked out four to six days a week over the past ten months (minus two particularly busy weeks), so it's going to be an odd feeling to not be allowed workout. Plus, walking the baby around the neighborhood doesn't seem like an appealing exercise to me right now; I mean, I'm a treadmill girl (Another secret to keeping my workouts consistent? I watch "Biggest Loser" on Netflix while I walk...totally motivating!) because I like to know exactly how far I've gone, how many calories I've burned and how it compares to my previous workouts. And although strength/weight training isn't my favorite thing, it's a part of my life now, and (I can't believe I'm saying this) I'll miss it...

Now that you know my gym history over the past ten months, you can imagine the mixed emotions I had today as I declared to Ryan that this was my "last chance workout" (a "Biggest Loser" term, ha!). I'm afraid that if I continue over the next few days, I'll be sore for the delivery, especially in my lower back and legs, and I really don't want that. (Also, my stomach has gotten so big that even my maternity pants slip down, and, ugh, who wants to be that lady with a belly hanging out while she does lunges? Yuck.) Thus, I *think* I'm done for now. I just wish I knew the exact day she was coming; it'd make my decision to officially stop my routine much easier.

So now I suppose it's just sit back and relax--literally!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

39 Weeks

39 weeks down, a few days to go!

The baby's officially due on Saturday, but I must admit that I'm not anxious for her to be here quite yet. I feel like I'm supposed to be eager and excited and hopeful that it will be sooner rather than later, but I'm just not at that point yet. In fact, every morning I wake up and think to myself, "Yesss! One more day of freedom!" (Isn't that terrible? Ha!) I suspect that it's the sense of impending LIFE CHANGE that's making me want to soak up every final moment of non-parenthood, but at this point, I'll take the swelling and soreness and discomfort for as long as God will give me. :)

So, no, I'm not eating spicy foods or drinking castor oil or any of that nonsense quite yet. In fact, I'll be avoiding those things at least until Saturday (and perhaps a bit beyond!). I'm interested to see what my doctor says on Thursday, whether she makes me talk about an induction plan or lets me just go with the flow if I'm overdue. I have been avoiding the thoughts of induction this whole time, so let's hope that this baby comes not-now-but-on-her-own. I mean, we're ready, but we're not ready, and so I'm just going to be thankful for these final days, which we'll take one at a time!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

OCD Much?

Round one of "Operation New Carpet"

Me? OCD? Noooo...well, maybe.  I've been thinking about this a lot, perhaps because having a kid makes you consider your good and bad traits and how they could get passed down.  I have a really hard time being satisfied with anything I do because I always wonder and linger on what could have been better, gone smoother, etc.  Lately I've been experiencing the extremes of this obsessing as we prepare for this baby, which has turned out to be a good/bad thing.

Take our carpet for example. We've lived in our townhouse for almost seven years (yikes!), and our upstairs carpet was white.  We had it cleaned at two or three times a year, but time and dogs and wear and tear had made it dingy.  As this pregnancy progressed, I started thinking about our baby crawling all over it, and came to the conclusion that it HAD to be replaced.  (Crazy pregnant lady moment? Maybe.)  So we had it replaced.  Since our townhouse is STILL for sale (i.e. not our forever home), I made a relatively quick decision on which carpet we wanted and within two weeks, it was a done deal.

Then, of course, as the contractors left, I sat on my bed, staring at the new carpet I HAD CHOSEN, and thought, "Well, ugh. This is bad."  But what could I do?  The bill was paid, the carpet laid, and I had to live with my decision.  Now, don't get me wrong, it's not bad carpet.  It just wasn't exactly what I had imagined from the swatch. So for the next two months I stared at the carpet, secretly regretting my choice and feeling helpless to change it...basically obsessing.

Then God gave me a small blessing in disguise: I noticed a seam in one of the doorways seemed to be popping up, so I called the carpet company to fix it.  Long story short (and several visits later), it turns out that the problem is that the carpet in our nursery is from a different dye lot than the rest of the carpet, leaving a visible line in the doorway.  They offered to replace it in its entirety so that it would be matching (of course), and asked if I wanted to choose a different style or color.  Huh?  Really?  That easily?  Why, yes please!

Although the new carpet is scheduled to arrive at the warehouse June 24th (one day after my official due date...don't think that will work!), my obsessing over imperfections yielded a good result.  In fact, there have been several things throughout preparing for Baby Shove that have a similar story, and every time the result has been uncannily good.  It has left me wondering, though: Do I want our baby girl to get this trait?

The answer? I don't know. There are pros and cons, and I'm not sure if either side outweighs the other. And, unfortunately, deep down I know that I don't fully have a choice. I can influence her, but I can't change her. I suppose that's the kink in parenting--your kids will inevitably turn out how they turn out, regardless of your expectations. (The ironic thing is, though it tends to manifest itself in different ways, Ryan has this same obsessive nature.)

In talking to Ryan about whether or not we thought our daughter will inevitably gain this particular trait (we guessed "most likely"), it reminded me about all of the "I hope she gets this-but-not-that from me/you" conversations that we've had over the past nine months.  Of course I think Ryan's almost perfect (shouldn't all spouses feel this way?), and so I thought I would share the top three traits I hope the baby gets from him.  (And, once again, although I know we can't make her gain these traits, at least I can hope...)

1. Relationship-focused.  When Ryan worked for North Point Community Church, one of his personality test strengths was "woo-ing" (winning others over).  I admire the fact that he can walk into any situation and connect with others and make them feel important easily and quickly.

2. Ability to dream...BIG. Ryan never thinks small, and it's been such a great connecting point for us as a couple.  His freedom to dream has really been the secret to his success in life (post-academics, of course...ha!), and I hope he never loses his ability to think creatively and without hesitation.

3. Boldness.  This isn't "boldness" in the traditional sense of being abrasive or obnoxious, but rather the drive to be "all in" without fear.  When he has a hunch about something, Ryan has this knack for being passionate to the nth degree.  He never worries about the what-if's and potential roadblocks in life, but rather embraces the outcome he desires as the only option.

So as I now obsess over the pending replacement of our carpet (did I choose wrong TWICE?), at least I can rest assured knowing that if our baby girl ends up being OCD like us, she can and will find someone someday that will be her perfect match.  (PS: Thanks for marrying me, Ryan. Otherwise I'd be one schnauzer sweatshirt away from official Dog Lady status.  At least I acknowledge it, right?)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"The Chicken and The Egg"

My little chicken and her egg...

I've mentioned in earlier posts that I believe our dogs are aware that I'm pregnant.  They've been sniffing my stomach for the past nine months, and on occasion they've "babysat," laying across my belly (despite the awkward balancing required) to where the baby can hear their heartbeats.  These have been entertaining and endearing habits; ones that I haven't minded a bit.  However, over the past two weeks, something's changed--especially with Olive.

I've started referring to this change as "The Chicken and The Egg" because it's really the best picture of what's occurring.  Oscar, as the "man," has really limited his interaction with me, although he "checks in" (literally, walking up to me, staring at me, then once seeing I'm okay, going about his business) more often to make sure that the baby's still sitting tight. Olive, on the other hand, has become my little chicken, literally sitting on my belly as often as possible.  Now, let me clarify--"babysitting" has really been the dogs lounging, laying, sniffing, snuggling up to my belly. Olive's behavior has been quite different; it's as though her little puppy instincts have told her that my belly is an egg and that she is the mother hen who must warm and protect it.

So she sits on me.  Literally and a lot.  Even when I'm laying on my side, she'll plop herself down right in front of my belly and back her bottom up until the "egg" is nice and cozy.  Weird, right?  The first time it happened, I thought she was just asking for attention, but now it's a common occurrence.  It's as if she's trying to help me "get this thing hatched" as quickly as possible, and despite being a bit, um, inconvenient (?) at times, it's a sweet gesture from woman to woman.  When she's playing mother hen, she often looks back at me with these sympathetic eyes, and I know that she is thinking, "Girl, it's almost over! What else can I do to help speed up this process?"

The one difference between my belly and an egg?  The baby can (obviously) feel the pressure of a little dog sitting on her...and from her previous "reactions" to people, we already know that this baby is quite outspoken.  Thankfully, it seems that her reaction to Olive's "hatching" has been to (essentially) pet her.  What a strange sensation--Olive being rubbed by the baby's hands and feet through my stomach!  But Olive doesn't seem to mind (what dog would turn down a free massage?) and the baby doesn't seem to either; her movements are distinctly "rubbing" and not kicking (which she tends to do when something's poking or bothering her).  I'm taking Olive's instinct to play mother hen in stride and am delighted that perhaps God is giving me reassurance that the baby and the dogs are destined to be lifelong friends.

To answer the age-old question, in the Shove household, clearly The Chicken came before The Egg.  Riddle solved. :)

Monday, June 11, 2012

38 Weeks

Could I get any bigger???

So this week I've officially started receiving the, "Wow! You look like you're going to pop!" comments from strangers.  Joy.  (Actually, I can't blame them because that's how I feel!)

I've felt "physically impaired" for what seems like forever.  In fact, it feels normal by now, so that's not the issue I'm wrestling with these days--it's the swelling.  Really I could write several blogs entitled "Dear Face," "Dear Hands," etc., but that might get redundant.  I would realistically entertain the idea of writing "Dear Knees," but my swollen legs are pretty much one size from hip to cankle, so I wouldn't know where to address the letter to since my knees have disappeared temporarily.  The most entertaining/sad part? My bootcut jeans pretty much look like they're skinny cut these days, so I'm avoiding them and wearing maxi dresses.  Oh, well.  What can you do?  Every week I expect the nurse to tell me I have preeclampsia, but every week she commends my low blood pressure and tells me this is par for the course of a summer pregnancy.  Maybe I need to get myself one of those cat posters that says "Hang in there!" to remind me that it's almost over? :)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

37 Weeks

Almost there!

So after nine airports and three shoots over three days (!), Ryan's FINAL trip before the baby arrives is over! Hallelujah! I couldn't be happier to have him home; it's been a long few months, and now it finally feels complete around here.  Most of all, though his schedule is still pretty packed over the next couple of weeks, I'm feeling much more at ease knowing that he'll be only a phone call away instead of a flight away in case the baby arrives earlier than expected.

In fact, Ryan got home just in time to attend my doctor's appointment Thursday morning (yay!), which was pretty routine.  (I'm going every week now, making for short visits.)  They checked me, and so far, the baby's sitting tight.  At this particular appointment I met with a new doctor, and Ryan got the biggest kick out of his first comment upon examining me, which was, "Oh! Looks like a big baby; definitely larger than average."  Ha!  I just keep reminding myself that if this girl ends up being an almost-ten-pounder (per her dad's genetics), then that just means I'll be down ten pounds automatically.  It's all about the bright side, right?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Baby Training

Andrea and our practice "baby," Jewla :)

We decided, based on our experience with the birthing class, to skip the Newborn Care and Baby CPR classes.  However, because Ryan and I know next to nothing about caring for an infant, we knew we needed some sort of instruction, so we scheduled a day with our friends Andrea and Matt Adkins.

I mentioned Andrea in a previous post; she had done an unofficial birthing class for a friend of ours that I crashed (Ryan was out of town) and found very beneficial.  Andrea's a former nurse, two-time natural birth-er, ideal mother of two fabulous little girls, baby gear expert, bargain hunter extraordinaire--among other things.  Her husband Matt (also an amazing person!) has a lot of insight to a guy's view of labor and fatherhood and has been the perfect compliment to Andrea in these impromptu "classes."  We were lucky enough to have them for several hours today for a major crash course, and at the end of the day, Ryan shut the door behind them and said, "Well, I finally feel prepared!"

Remember, Ryan's a.) been on the road for several months, leaving me to do the researching and "practicing" mostly alone, and b.) he's not the most avid reader.  Let's just say it's been a blessing that this baby hasn't come yet, because he'd have been a little clueless (due to circumstance, not due to irresponsibility).  When we first scheduled this day with the Adkins, Ryan and I deemed it "Baby Training Day," and when a friend texted me cautiously curious to know exactly what that meant, I responded, "A bit of everything baby," which was pretty accurate.

We spent the early afternoon at 52 Bistro in Alpharetta (it was actually mild enough to sit outside...uh-mazing), and started with a recap of the birthing information from Andrea's previous "class." Although I'm sure the table behind us was absolutely thrilled (sorry, folks) to hear all of the gory details, it was really helpful to both Ryan and I: He got a glimpse into what it's going to be like from both his point of view and mine, gleaned some physiological and medical information, and learned (most importantly) the "checklist" of things he's responsible for; I was able to ask a few lingering questions, plus get a refresher since it's been several weeks.  I was so proud of Ryan--I believe he actually retained a lot of accurate information (we made him repeat it back at the end), which was a big accomplishment since he was REALLY inundated.  Ryan's best question for Matt, in my opinion, was what a dad should wear, i.e. "Can I wear my nice jeans, or should I be in 'work' clothes?"  Classic Ryan Shove. :)

After lunch we covered the whole vaccination issue, which is such a hot button topic these days that I was glad to have Andrea's medical and motherly opinion.  We looked up the recommended vaccinations and schedule, went through each one and discussed what disease each shot prevents and how "important" they are at what age.  We worked on a vaccination schedule I can be comfortable with, which will come in handy on Tuesday when I meet with our pediatrician.  (To quell any fears, yes my child will be vaccinated, so when we come over for play dates she won't give your child polio. :) )

Then we moved on to the "basics" of baby care--how to swaddle, diaper, burp, bathe...and though the info was quick (because it's really not that hard, it's just that we don't ever do those things), I feel like if she comes tomorrow, now we're at least familiar with the basic techniques.  Oscar was super curious throughout our practicing, smelling our "baby for a day," Bitty Baby Jewla.  (Thanks, Hallie Adkins, for letting us borrow your baby doll to learn with!)  A bit of infant CPR (let's hope that's info we NEVER have to put to use), and we graduated from the Adkins School of Birthing and Baby Care...maybe not at the top of our class, but we've got our degrees nonetheless! :)

Overall, it was super helpful, more personal and concise than a group class, and reassuring to have gone through this crash course before the baby's arrival.  We're super thankful that, especially as parents of two, we got a day with Andrea and Matt to pick their brains and get their opinions, which seem to match our life philosophy and are great to help guide us in our uncertain areas of decision.  Although I'm sure I'll be calling Andrea in a panic at some point to remind me of something she's already told me, I feel like we're good to go.  Baby Shove, any day you're ready, so are your mom and dad...

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Head Band-ing

A few of the "final products..."

In response to the aforementioned "situation" where Ryan and I were unable to determine if a random baby was a boy or girl (and in conjunction with our not-overly-pink wardrobe per Ryan's preference), I've been hunting down hair accessories to help us avoid the "What a!" reaction and encourage the "What a lovely little girl!" reaction.

This baby girl's closet has turned out to be more feminine than fun, which has made finding coordinating hair accessories a little more challenging than expected.  Really, there are a lot of options out there, but the affordable ones seem to only be available in bright colors and patterns, and the  "softer"/daintier options seem to be way expensive.  After creating my ideal hair accessory wardrobe in my Etsy cart, the final price was a bit alarming--after all, she will be growing out of these things relatively quickly and many of them match only one outfit!  And, of course, there's the artist in me (as well as the Type A personality) that knew deep down I could make these headbands myself...

So I did.  I don't know why, perhaps because I have a million other things I'm trying to accomplish and prepare for in the following weeks, but I really didn't feel like making felt flowers from scratch, which is why I procrastinated so much on this project.  As I sent Ryan off on his final trip before the baby comes, I figured I'd better take advantage of my last weekend at home alone, so I decided to check out the semi-homemade options at Michael's and JoAnn Fabrics...and was surprised.  Although the options on Etsy were definitely cuter and more creative, for the price, the craft store options were pretty decent.

I ended up spending about a third of my Etsy dream cart total, and in about an hour I had 20 headbands to show for my effort! And, truthfully most of that hour was spent configuring the headbands to her outfits.  The lesson here?  Hot glue = miracle worker!  Although I like some better than others, it was a lot easier than expected, and I figure these semi-homemade options will tide me over until my creative energy needs another outlet...because I already have the nagging voice in the back of my brain challenging me, "Seriously, you could make Etsy-ier headbands if you wanted to...and you know you do!"  One day, maybe sooner than later...A nap time activity for mom, maybe?

My favorite? The totally impractical neutral one with the "brooch," which will only be used for pictures. :)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Dear Feet

Hey, everyone has bad days...

Dear Feet,

I know we've had our ups and downs throughout life, but I feel that our relationship has weathered the storm quite well.  I know that we've hit a rough patch as of lately, so I just want to take a moment to encourage you.

I think our problems started at the beginning of May; when the weather turned hot, our relationship turned cold.  You had been so patient with me during this whole pregnancy, even to the extent that I thought we'd be able to avoid the pitfalls that so many pregnant women and their feet fall into, even despite a summer due date.  Perhaps that was my fault--being too arrogant to think it could happen to us.  But it did, and you ended up enflamed.  Literally.

You have made yourself quite clear--you're done.  Over this pregnancy AND this weather.  And let me say, I agree!  But unfortunately this baby isn't done growing, the summer is just starting, and we made a commitment to stay together through good times and bad.  I'm doing everything I can to ensure that you're happy: I drink water, I stay off of you, I avoid salt...but it never seems enough for you, and I'm at my wit's end.  If only we could go back to how it was before...because we DID have some good times, right?

Remember when we ran that half-marathon?  You thought you'd never make it through alive, but I believed in you.  And we did it!  Remember the sense of accomplishment we felt? And how nicely I treated you after the race?  What about the three years you spent supporting me for 9+ hours at a time "visually merchandising?"  I always tried to keep you in mind--avoiding torturous high heels for much more sensible ballet flats--and in return you didn't give out on me, despite the occasional grumbling and groaning on your part.  And all of those pedicures I treated you to: Did they mean NOTHING?

And now we're having a baby.  We can do it!  Just like everyone keeps telling me how being pregnant is "beautiful" (despite what the mirror says), let me just say that you're still least to me.  And if you ever are feeling bad about yourself and how fat you are, just take a gander at Hands and Face.  They're catching up to you quite quickly, and pretty soon people won't even notice you anymore.  And remember, it's "just water weight," which the doctor says should go away within a few weeks of having the baby.  (Hands and Face, that goes for you, too!)

So I hope you'll stick it out for the long haul, Feet.  We've only got a couple more weeks to go!  We can do it!  And when you're feeling down, keep this mental picture in your head (because you WILL lose that "baby weight" and return to a normal size, I promise!):

Ah, Maui!

Maybe we could get together for a pedicure sometime soon?  For old time's sake?  Just let me know where to reach me.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Grandma Blankets (cont.)

Hand-knit with love by Grandma (or should I say Great Grandma!)
70s for sure!

Earlier I mentioned my grandmother's penchant for baby blankets and my request for one in yellow ombre...and here it is!  I didn't expect it to turn out looking so 70s, but I LOVE that it gives off that vibe.  It was a bit more of a hassle for her than I originally intended, but it was worth the effort because we'll keep it in the baby's "hope chest" forever. :)

A classic pink baby blanket...

Oh, and of course, she also made us the basic light pink blanket to take Baby Shove home from the hospital in...

Friday, June 1, 2012

An Old-Fashioned Book Report

A few items from my baby-belly library...

I love to read, which is definitely a beneficial trait when preparing for a first baby.

We've had a ton of recommendations from friends on books to read, so I thought I'd share my thoughts a few that I've read so far.  (Once again, these are just my opinions...take 'em or leave 'em!)


I'm Pregnant!: When we found out I was pregnant, Ryan and I immediately went to Barnes & Noble to get some reading material and "What to Expect When You're Expecting" was on the top of our list.  However, after seeing how much the cover price was, Ryan convinced me to pay way less and just get a copy on our iPad. Then he started traveling...and took the iPad with him.

Early on, however, a friend gave me a copy of "I'm Pregnant!," which has become my substitute "guide."  I really, really like this book, even though it doesn't seem to be a popular one.  It's written by a female doctor, and because I enjoy knowing the ins-and-outs of every detail, I was enthralled by a lot of the illustrations (bonus!) and information she presents.  

This book starts with conception and gives an in-depth look at the (miraculous) number of things that have to occur perfectly in order to get pregnant.  It was my favorite part and extremely fascinating.  I have read "What to Expect Before You're Expecting," which covers similar material, but I found this book's explanation to be way more detailed and "scientific."

The rest of the book is divided into increments of a few weeks at a time and tells you what's happening with the baby's growth, what to expect at your doctor's visits and changes that are likely occurring with your body (pretty basic stuff).  It explains about disorders and potential problems, why certain tests are performed, etc., which was great for me since I like to know my worst-case scenarios up front.  The book ends (of course) with delivery and is one of the few things I've read that really is objective in presenting birthing options.  Whether you want an elective c-section or a home birth, this book tells you what to expect, good and bad.

The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy: This book came highly recommended to me by a lot of moms, and, although the least informative of my readings, it certainly was the most entertaining.  A copy had been passed down to me, and what I didn't realize before starting the book was that it was an old edition from the mid-90s.  You can imagine my surprise and delight at some of the outdated tips and references, most notably in the fashion section.  At the mention of how stylish Laura Ashley and velour dresses are for pregnant women, I finally clued in and checked the reference page for the published-on date. :)

This was one of the first books I read front-to-back, and it's a quick, easy read.  With a sense of humor and good-natured self-effacingness, this book presents a lot of the grimy details of pregnancy in a way that gives you a sense of camaraderie with other pregnant women.  Overall, it was a funny, light read, very appropriate for the beach or vacation.

I've also heard that Jenny McCarthy's pregnancy books are great for female humor, and although I might still read them, I chose this particular book because it seemed the quintessential option.


Husband-Coached Childbirth (The Bradley Method): The Bradley method basically approaches childbirth as a bodily function that any woman can and should handle naturally.  This seems to be the prevalent philosophy of all of our natural-childbirth-advocating friends, which is why I ordered this book...and then was told it was the wrong one!  Oops.  (There's a basic Bradley Method "workbook" that I should've chosen apparently.)  It had already shipped by the time I realized my mistake, so I figured I might as well read it.  About three sentences in I realized that this particular book was actually meant for husbands to read. Oops #2.  Oh, well--it was here and since I don't own the real Bradley book, I read this one anyway.

It's definitely written to convince and build confidence in husbands/coaches, which was interesting but clearly not applicable to me as a pregnant woman.  (I did find it a bit repetitive and slow in some parts: Yes, we get it.  You should be sympathetic to your pregnant wife and offer to help her around the house as much as possible.)   However, this book did go over the Bradley exercises, psychology and diet that IS applicable to me, so that was helpful.  I enjoyed the medical tidbits sprinkled throughout the pages but could've lived without the "Go team!" anecdotes. :)  After the third or fourth story of how wonderful it was to see Patient X "smile after giving birth as she walked herself to the recovery room," I had gotten the point...

If you absolutely don't ever even want to consider an unmedicated childbirth, DON'T GET THIS BOOK or (I assume) any other Bradley books.  I warn you simply because they are extremely anti-medicine and take the stance that medicated babies and mothers are at a disadvantage from the start, i.e., you will probably find the material condescending and infuriating.

If you know Ryan at all, you know he's never been "a reader," so I told him that once he's done traveling (one more week!) that I'd read the pertinent parts to him.  That's true love, folks.

As for the REAL Bradley book, I may still get it--especially as we get closer and I'm eager to pass the time.  For right now, though, I think I'll just translate and practice the methods from this book.

HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method: Okay, okay, everyone get your eye rolling done now.  Done? Good.

I almost didn't include this book in my "review" because the concept is a little unusual (read: wacky) by today's standards, but as I have cautiously been mentioning this philosophy to people, I've found a lot of women who have either (somewhat secretly or somewhat unknowingly) used this method.  In a nutshell, the concept is that (similar to the Bradley method) childbirth is a normal human function that the body is meant to perform, and that the notion of a hysterical, overly-painful birth is a modern and self-induced concept.

In the same way that adrenaline is known to make people commit seemingly impossible feats of strength and courage, "HypnoBirthing" claims that the mind can make childbirth (almost) painless.  It focuses on self-hypnosis and relaxation, with the logic that the body cannot experience pain while simultaneously releasing endorphins--which you can train your brain to do on command.  Do I believe it? Well, that's a sticky question...

The short answer is yes.  The rub is that with this method, it's only as effective as you believe it will be, so that if you are unsuccessful in using it, the response by its followers would be, "Well, it didn't work because you doubted it."  After exploring this method and the Bradley method, I don't think they're mutually exclusive, and from gathering our friends' experiences, it would seem that women instinctively used some form of hypnobirthing to get through the pain; the main difference is that Bradley also focuses on the physical aspect of birthing, not just the mental aspect.

I think this book is worth reading--unless you think hypnosis is a bunch of whooey to begin with.


Baby Wise: Clearly this is the #1 philosophy our generation has found to create "well-behaved" babies.  Simply put, the idea is that adults naturally thrive on a flexible schedule, and thus babies (who are people) do too.  Feed, play, then sleep every three-ish hours, and you will have a happy baby.  It might sound crazy to those free-wheeling personalities out there, but my personal observation of Baby Wise babies is that it works.

I enjoyed the research and statistics presented in this book because they appeal to my personality type, but could get boring to people who are blind believers.  Not actually having a baby to practice on currently, I did find myself a little overwhelmed at the different ifs/ands/buts presented: Tell me that I need to start the cycle everyday at 6 a.m./9 a.m./noon/etc., and I'm good.  Throw in the "unless the baby seems to be hungry at 8:30 a.m.," and I'm a little freaked out.  Baby Wise actually discounts both free-feeding and over-scheduling, of which I find myself definitely leaning toward the latter.  As someone who knows NOTHING about babies and is anxious at the thought of being one's primary caretaker, the notion of predictability calms me down, so hopefully our baby will follow in my footsteps a bit and actually thrive on a somewhat rigid schedule...fingers crossed!

Clearly I've never used this method myself, but I think you'd be crazy not to at least read this book and consider this philosophy.   I will readily admit that I haven't and won't read up on the opposite philosophy of this book (free-feeding, co-sleeping, child-directed parenting) simply because it's just not who I am.  (Not saying that it's bad, I just don't live my current life that way and know it won't be a parenting style that works for me.)

As we get closer to our due date, I think I'll be skimming the pages of this book one more time just to remind myself of all of the ifs/ands/buts so that I don't panic the first time that the baby is hungry at 8:30 a.m. :)

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: This is what I'd consider the European version of "Baby Wise:" a little "lighter" and less high-strung in its views.  Essentially, the concept is the same, with a few additions.  The author is British, so warning, if you gag at British euphemisms (she does refer to you as "ducky" and "love" quite a bit), you won't enjoy this book.

The major differences, it seems to me, are these:

1. The author goes beyond the simple scheduling philosophy with the notion that there are inherent personality types that make babies more responsive to different types of interactions.  This was interesting to me, and may prove beneficial if we struggle to soothe our baby.

2. She advocates a schedule from Day One, while the Baby Wise philosophy gives you a bit of time to adjust.  Which is right?  No clue here!  I figure we're going to have to wing it since it's our first baby.

3.  "The Baby Whisperer" focuses a lot on treating your baby like a human, i.e. with respect.  The book talks a lot about viewing your baby as a person and not a "baby," especially in what you explain to them.  (Basically, she wants you to tell the baby everything that you're doing, like wiping their bottom, before you do it so that the baby has fair warning like an adult would want.)

4. The information is presented in VERY anecdotal terms, which isn't really convincing to me (for the most part).  However, the information was a little easier to digest for me than "Baby Wise" because there weren't a lot of numbers and stats to process in addition to the scheduling.  It's a little more feel-good than "Baby Wise," if that's what you need.

You could definitely get away without reading this book and just stick to "Baby Wise;" however, the slight differences might give you an idea that's helpful down the road, so I'd say read it if you have time.

I have read (or at least skimmed) a few other books during my pregnancy, but none of them were really that fabulous (or horrible) to be worth mentioning.  I hope this helps any other pregnant girls out there who are overwhelmed by a sea of information.  Overall, I would say if you hate to read, choose "I'm Pregnant!" and "Baby Wise," and you'll be fine. (Right, Ryan? :) )