Saturday, June 23, 2012

{Aloha!} Squirrely-girl's Birthday Party

Because Squirrel turned five this year, which is one of the years we have chosen to allow a party, she was able to have her first "real" birthday party, with friends, presents, and the whole she-bang! It was really tempting not to do it at all, having just had a baby and all, but we decided to just push it back two weekends and do it anyway.

She chose the "Tiki Room (a la Disneyland) for the theme, and I had a lot of fun figuring how to make that happen. I was SO GRATEFUL for my sister and her mother-in-law who were here to help with preparations and the baby! Otherwise, it would have been a LOT more stressful than I could have handled.
{The happy birthday girl!}

{Hula Dance Lesson}

{So in love with this! Little cousin who had to get in on the action, grass skirt over belly and all!}

{Not much for the dancing, but a big fan of little umbrellas!}

{The food--fruit kabobs, mini-bagel hawaiian pizzas, pineapple punch, tiki shaped chocolates}

{Birthday cake--lopsided as always, but still tasty!}

{Getting sung "Happy Birthday to You!"}

{Cake carnage!}

In the end, she had a blast, and I was glad we did it! 
Exhausted (I think I took a four hour nap afterward!), but glad! 


Friday, June 8, 2012

{Happy Birthday, Squirrely Girl!}: A Letter to my Daughter on her Fifth Birthday

To my dearest, darling daughter:

You are FIVE today! This is a big year for you! This is a big year for me too, because it marks half a decade since you bestowed upon me the gift of motherhood, the most precious gift I have been given and that which connects me most fully to the divinity of my Father in Heaven and within me. There was once a time when I questioned whether I should have children, or even if I wanted them, when I feared bringing them into this big, ugly world. In the instant that I met you, however, and in nearly every moment since, you have shown me that motherhood is the greatest calling I could ask for, that your innocence and goodness is constantly at work, and that the influence we have in the world is real.

How shall I describe you in this past year? You are, as ever, delightful. You are a wonderfully happy child. You go with the flow quite easily, you love to meet people, to talk to people, to make connections. You experience great joy in being acknowledged, whether for doing something well, being kind, or just being you. You are sensitive--you cry when the nature channel shows the alligator catching the bird or the cheetah chase down the gazelle. You are full of wonder; finding seeds have sprouted, seeing a bird's nest, watching daddy pull a quarter from your ear--these are all things that elicit wide-eyed gasps and grins from you.

You are smart and attentive; I love to stop by your preschool class and watch you in circle time, listening attentively, with a very specific and peculiar combination of apprehension and pride when it is your turn to answer a question or participate. You are SO excited to start Kindergarten in the fall, though the thought turns me to great waves of anxiety. You are beginning to sound out words and read. We read together nightly. We've even moved to some short chapter books, your favorites being My Father's Dragon and the Mercy Watson series. You love our weekly trips to the library and picking books, especially silly ones. You love to write notes and letters to people, explaining what you wish to say and then patiently waiting for me to spell the words so you can put them on the page yourself, and with such pride. I love the way you write your capital "E"s, with not three prongs but as many as you can fit. Your "S"s are usually backwards, and your "I"s always topped with a big bubble for the dot.

You love music--you dance even when you're the only one who can hear it; you sing loudly to the radio; you make up your own songs; you remember and sing primary songs; you request lullabies every night; you sing to me when I am feeling ill. You are a story teller--I love to hear your stories you make up, and I love to hear you "read" to your brother in bed at night. You are FUNNY--you are beginning to understand humor in a more adult way, the nuance, the timing, the "punchline" that surprises. Lately, there have been a few jokes that have broken through the norm of confusing knock knock jokes and "why did the so-and-so do xyz?" jokes. And for those ones I truly laugh, both at the joke, and at my surprise that you are so clever. You love to sing, dance, perform. You put on shows pretty much daily for anyone who will pay attention. Even Little Bird is nicely trained to sit and applaud your performances and join in occasionally.

You are graceful. This one is a bit of a surprise for my sweet little hopelessly pigeon-toed beauty, but it's true. You are just now starting to resemble a real miniature human in proportion. It seems the clumsy toddler in you is melting away and in her place is a girl, even a little lady, who walks on her tiptoes, and lifts her chin high. Of course, there are most days when you are just you, fun and fancy free, but there is the glimmer in there of the beautiful young lady you will someday become.

With the exception of your dislike for cleaning up your messes, you are SUCH a helper and have grown remarkably independent this year. I spent a good deal of this year pregnant with your new little brother, and a good deal of that time very sick. Watching you step up and take responsibility for you and Little Bird was both beautiful and a little painful, but I know you take great pride in doing things on your own and the opportunity to demonstrate your abilities. You like to make breakfast, peanut butter and jelly, and help prepare dinner in the kitchen with me. You help Little Bird pick out his clothes for the day and turn on the light in the bathroom for him when his stool has gone missing. You have spent months anxiously awaiting the arrival of a new baby brother to help feed and dress and hold and sing to. Now that he is here, your joy is even bigger than I imagined. When you are able to hold him or talk to him or kiss him, your face explodes into joy--it's like you literally cannot smile as big as your happy is. You ogle over his tiny fingers and toes, his funny faces and love when you catch his gaze. He will be blessed all his life to have such a joyful sister.

You are imaginative. You and Little Bird spend a great deal of time encouraging one another to "pretend this" or "pretend that" and then acting out such elaborate scenes. I deeply love the way you two play together now, how you encourage each other, wrestle together, imagine together. You also fight impressively at times. I am sometimes astounded at how quickly your little accusations and tiffs can become nuclear. Thankfully, the times you laugh or dance or sleep snuggled up together are worth the struggle of teaching you to get along.

 You care about others and are kind. You pray for family and friends, you sing me songs to comfort me, you write "Get Well" cards to others, and you can be so tender with your brother. There is such a deep well of goodness and beauty in you. I love when you take my face in your hands and I take yours in mine, and we just look into each others eyes. I hope we can do this forever. I sense so much love from you and I hope you can feel all the love I am trying to pour into your soul this way. I can see in you that you have such enormous beauty in you and I am desperate to teach you that beauty has nothing to do with how "pretty" you are, but comes from that light in your eyes of love and goodness.

You love princesses (I hope you know that you REALLY ARE ONE), Hello Kitty, Minnie Mouse, pink, purple, unicorns, coloring, painting (art of any kind), using glue and tape (oh how quickly my tape disappears!), clothes, helping me with "office hours," the movie theatre, movie nights at home, animals, snuggling, jump ropes (even though you can't figure out how they work), bubbles, cauliflower (raw...weird), peanut butter and jelly, pineapple juice, being outdoors, swinging (you will swing forever if I let you), church, parties (pretend, tea, birthdays, you name it), being creative, and your family. Really it's so hard to make a list of things you love, because it would probably be endless. Ultimately, you delight in almost anything and can almost always find something to enjoy in every situation.

Your daddy is still the light of your life, and I could watch you watch him forever. You like to pretend that you too have to take Chemistry or Biology and study for tests. You sneak into his office with excuses to spend time with him, and you love spending time in his lap to snuggle. And he, child, is even more crazy about you. I am so grateful you came along first, softening his heart, his voice, his views on just about everything from that point on because his focus turned to the perfect little girl he was now dedicated to teaching, protecting, and leading. He would lasso the moon for you if you asked him.

There is so much more to say, but the beauty of you is that you can be rolled into a simple statement: you are joy epitomized. Everyday of my life I am grateful for you and pray to my Heavenly Father that I can do right by you, that somehow the light in me will be enough to guide the enormous light in you to become who He has in store. You are remarkable in every way for that joy and light, and I know there will always be beauty in the path behind you, since it follows after everything you touch.

I love you deeply, now and forever, my sweet, growing, graceful daughter. Happiest Birthday, my darling.

All my love,


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Welcome, Baby!

He's here! The newest addition to our little family has arrived.

As with everything else on this pregnancy journey, his birth wasn't exactly what I had planned, but in the end everything turned out great and went well. We are so glad to have him here at last, safe and healthy. Following is what I am sure will be a very long version of his birth story. Special thanks to my awesome friend Torrey for taking the time to come document the birth while we were in the hospital!

Because of the cholestasis, I had to be induced by week 37, so at 37 weeks one day, we headed to the hospital to start the process. I had been induced once before, with Squirrel, because she was two weeks overdue. It was a long, yucky experience, but having had Little Bird in a VERY quick, completely natural childbirth, I felt confident this one would go much better. We arrived at the hospital around 7:30 AM and started the longest part of the process--answering approximately 97 million questions at least three times each. Once that was done, they started me on the anti-biotic for the Group B Strep and the Pitocin. My midwife, Helene, wanted to get the Pitocin going first to further dilate me and give me the necessary four hours of antibiotics before breaking my water.

{Feeling Good!} 

The next few hours were pretty boring. I was having contractions every 3-4 minutes, but having been through a natural childbirth (and empowered by my Hypnobabies training), I was doing quite well, and the nurses kept coming in to feel my belly to see if I was really contacting as hard as the monitors suggested. In fact, I was feeling so fine, that I sent Rob to his bowling class for an hour, since he was worried about his “team’s” score for the week. Their Aunt Kimber (who came to help this week, and has been SUCH a blessing) brought the kids up to visit for a bit and then have lunch in the cafeteria with Rob.

{Squirrel was pretty disappointed...she walked in, looked around, and then asked where her new baby brother was. She was less than pleased with the fact that he was still in Mommy's tummy.}

{After their initial interest in the whole process of having a baby, 
the kids quickly discovered their favorite part of the hospital--
a television complete with the Disney Channel. Such a novelty!} 

After Rob got back from lunch with the kids, Helene returned too and decided to break my water. I was just getting to the point that I needed a little more focus to breathe through the contractions, since they had been steadily increasing the Pitocin level. As with my last experience on Pitocin, my blood pressure started climbing as well. After they broke my water, the contractions continued to intensify and became more difficult to get through. I was getting pretty restless, needing to get up and down, sit on the birthing ball, and was losing some of my focus. While Little Bird’s birth has moved very quickly and been intense, thanks to my old friend Pit, there was a different intensity with this one that was difficult to focus through.

About this point, I started to get pretty snippy. I didn’t have enough time between contractions to center and completely relax, plus I felt like people were constantly coming in to poke and prod and ask me more annoying questions, like “How are you doing?” “Are you still doing okay?” and “Do you need anything?” I told Rob that I needed him to tell the nurses to shut their mouths, that I didn’t need anyone asking me if I was doing okay or if I needed anything after every contraction. I just wanted everyone to zip it; if I needed something, I would ask for it. In totally sincere, concerned response, he said, “Okay. I can tell them. Is there anything I can do for you?” While I thought about ripping his throat out with my bare hands for that reply, I decided that listening to my Hypnobabies prompts, rather than just do them on my own, might help me to recenter.

Let me interject here that I fully believe in the Hypnobabies method. It got me through Little Bird’s birth so well that I and Rob had a great deal of difficulty even getting anyone to believe that I was in labor. In fact, because I did so well through the entire labor, we ended up sitting in the ER for half an hour, and then couldn’t even get a nurse to check my progress until I was already basically through transition, dilated to a nine, and nearly ready to push. This led to an urgent rush to find a doctor to catch the baby (our own doc arrived about 10 minutes after the main event) and I was really able to talk and joke with the staff about this right through the whole birth. Hypnobabies is an EXCELLENT resource for women who wish to have a natural childbirth, and I fully credit it with my ability to do so with Little Bird.

That said, it was no match for the Pitocin.

As I sat on the birthing ball, listening to the usually calming, lovely voice on the tracks, I found that I was not going “deeper and deeper” into hypnosis, and that I certainly was NOT feeling “more and more relaxed with every pressure wave” (contraction). In fact, I knew I was in trouble when, rather than relaxing, I began to curse this woman, and thought things like, “Shut…up. You are a LIAR, and I am NOT feeling more and more freaking relaxed!” I became so irritated with her that I had to take my headphones back out and resist the urge to smash my ipod to tiny pieces.

And then I started to think really hard about that epidural.

After only a couple more contractions, I started to feel pressure as well. I made a deal with myself that if I was dilated to an eight, I would forget the epidural, but if I was any less, I’d call for the anesthesiologist. Upon exam, I was between a six and seven, so I asked them to call.

He took a few minutes to get there, and had his own list of questions I had already answered 67 times each, but eventually got the job done. At this point, I was feeling a great deal of pressure, and when they checked, I had dilated to a nine and they were calling the midwife to come down. My blood pressure had still been going up, so they decided I needed oxygen. Helene arrived a few minutes later to find that I was basically fully dilated, and that I’d be able to push whenever I felt the urge. It was at this point that the epidural was just barely beginning to kick in, and I was starting to curse myself for being such a pansy rather than holding out another ten or fifteen minutes. However, in retrospect, I am very grateful I got it when I did.

As they were checking me, Rob decided he wanted to find out what was happening down there too (pretty funny, considering the doctor had to literally force him to look at anything with our first baby)! I guess now that he is a pre-med student, he’s a bit more open-minded. So, he also got his first intro to obstetrics, something that would NOT have happened without the epidural.

{This picture cracks me up...obviously an enlightening experience...totally at my expense.}

A few minutes later, I was feeling a little “pushy” and so we started the long process of moving baby down. This is where the difference between medical doctor care and midwifery became evident. What had gone pretty quickly with my first two definitely did not go very quickly with this one, and with a doctor, I know the slippery slope of interventions would have continued. Instead, even with the epidural, we pushed in just about every position imaginable, including (weirdly) basically being upside-down. 

Lucky for me, I had what must have been a “light” epidural and was still able to move around, stand, get on hands and knees, etc. Finally, after nearly two hours of pushing, our little man decided he was ready to join us.

Unlike Little Bird, who was out in practically a single contraction, this little fellow took a bit longer, and even with the epidural, the pain and pressure was more intense with this one. However, one of the neatest parts about this experience, both because he was a slower arrival and because of the midwife approach, was my ability to deliver him into my own hands, at my own pace. As baby crowned, I caught him in my hand and pushed at the rate that was comfortable for me. It was so miraculous to feel him come into the world into my hand, to hear everyone present ooh and ah as they saw him, and to hear Rob announce that he looked like his big brother. Another push and I felt a shoulder come loose; once more and both were free. Finally, his whole tiny body emerged and with the burst of activity among everyone waiting when baby arrives, I had my sweet, squirmy little man in my arms.

As I held him and marveled over him, the neonatologist gave him a once over amid exclamations from the midwives and nurses about how pink he was, and how well he was doing. He was able to start nursing immediately and did better than either of my other two did right away. It was as if he was out to prove to all of us what a tough little guy he was.

With Squirrel and Little Bird’s deliveries, the most immediate emotion that I felt was joy and pride. With this guy, though the joy was immense, it was relief that overcame me. The relief had nothing to do with the pain or fatigue of his delivery (which were both worse than Little Bird’s birth, and far easier than Squirrel’s), but with all the emotional turmoil I had been experiencing the last several weeks—the fear of complications that could cause stillbirth, the worry that he’d have problems breathing (or worse) from being induced early, the constant back-and-forth in my mind between thinking of the “what ifs” in preparation and trying to stay optimistic and faithful. For me, I was simply so grateful to finally see him in my arms. I kept whispering, “I’m so glad you’re here. I’m so glad you’re here.” Along with all the ailments, he wins another first—he’s the first birth at which I cried, thanks to that sweet, immense relief that he was here and he was well.

In the end, I have been blessed far more than I deserve. Our family has grown, and with it, love expanded. I am so amazed at how well Little Bird and Squirrel have taken to him, how they want to see him and love him, how they know to be gentle and marvel at all his tiny parts, sing him songs, hurry to help, and shower him with affection. 

As always, I am grateful to have my husband as such a powerful support and priesthood leader, and to see his heart just swell with love at these tiny little beings. We are home now, trying to settle in to what will be the new routine of our lives as a family of five, and already it just feels “right.”

This life is a good life.