Thursday, December 2, 2010

Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Ok, so maybe the title of this post is SLIGHTLY dramatic, but it's one of those days where I feel like I can't catch up, no matter how fast I run. I feel slightly dizzy and short of breath. Is this a mild anxiety attack?

I should have known my day would be more bad than good when I saw two very odd things while on the bus into Minneapolis this morning.
The first was a hearse in the Quarry McDonald's drive-thru (so ... you're either on your way to picking up a dead person or dropping off a dead person and you have the sudden urge for a Sausage McMuffin? Seriously?) and then I saw three adults, shivering in the biting 10-degree cold, puffing on cigarettes RIGHT NEXT to the Cancer Survivor's Park on Marquette.
Um, isn't that sort of ... I don't know ... disrespectful?

The heat wasn't working on the bus and my toes went numb (should've worn my winter boots), and when I got to my desk I had four voicemail messages and 26 emails — only ONE "fun" email from my friend Amy, the others from clients — complete with one email marked "high priority" with that annoying red exclamation point and a subject line of "NEW TEXT - please don't get me fired" from a client who has now officially earned "diva" status.
It was all downhill from there.

On the bright side (there's always a silver lining, right?!), I didn't snap at anyone or break down in tears or get up and walk out, and I **think** I was nice to my coworkers, even though I felt irritable. Whenever we felt frustrated, we laughed.
I figure if you can't laugh, you might cry, so you gotta laugh.
Plus I enjoyed a phenomenal Greek salad and chocolate chip cookie for lunch. And I ate the whole cookie, even though it was nearly as big as my head.
And I don't even feel a little bit guilty about it.
Because sometimes it's the little things—like having a sense of humor and enjoying a giant chocolate chip cookie— that help get you through the day.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A few of my favorite things

In honor of Oprah giving her audience "a few of her favorite things" like seven-day cruises, ridiculously expensive jewelry, and designer shoes and bags, I thought I'd make my own list. Plus, it's less than a week before Thanksgiving when everyone gets all sentimental about what they're thankful for, so I thought it was good timing.

1. My boys, my friends, my extended family (cliche, yes, but so true)
2. Good health. Every time I do any sort of exercise, which isn't often enough (shout out to the Guts 'n Butts class!) I try not to get too negative about how hard it is or how much it hurts or how I wish I was on the couch because at least I have the ability to work out. I remind myself that there are people with physical disabilities, people with serious illnesses, people with injuries who—for whatever reason—cannot work out and wish they could so shut up already and hold that plank pose.
3. The clean-cut GQ look vs. the rocker or rugged look
4. Aveda Brilliant shampoo and conditioner
5. Chocolate chip cookies (no walnuts) fresh out of the oven, a top-shelf margarita with a Mexican meal, a juicy burger (California-style) cooked on the grill
6. Sitting around a fire, the smell and crackling sound of wood burning, the mesmerizing glow of the orange and yellow flames, the heat that takes the chill out of the air.
7. Flowerbomb perfume & LaCoste Essential cologne
8. Turtlenecks or t-shirts with blue jeans and tall boots
9. When people do good deeds without needing to be recognized
10. Prince, DMB, Jack Johnson, Dixie Chicks, David Gray, Indigo Girls
11. People who are passionate about their jobs, their hobbies, life in general
12. Those sometimes annoying but absolutely necessary eternal optimists
13. Writing!
14. Christmas and Halloween
15. Sandalwood, vanilla, sea breeze, sugar cookie scented candles
16. Fellow sponges who like to absorb, absorb, absorb
17. Glittery eyeshadow and rhinestone bracelets (sparkle in moderation)
18. Road trips to visit good buddies
19. Bear hugs from people who mean it
20. Good listeners who really listen and aren't just thinking of what they're going to say next
21. Inspiring books and movies
22. Small kids with big personalities
23. Aaron - the most altruistic person I've ever known
24. Dancing at wedding receptions
25. Our goose down comforter
26. Ben's belly laughs and Adam's uncontrollable giggles
27. The Victorian era
28. Mitch Hedberg
29. Friends and family (they're so amazing it's worth repeating)
30. Camping with the crew at Hok-si-la
31. Puppies and kitties (of all ages)
32. A home-cooked meal, by someone other than me
33. Summer weekends with my family, parents, brothers, SIL, and niece in Forest Lake
34. Watching the Olympics - esp gymnastics and figure skating
35. Anyone with an open mind and heart
36. Modern Family, The Office, Ellen (love her!), 30 Rock (big fan of Tina Fey), Glee, DWTS, AI, trashy reality shows
37. Word games, lawn games, bar games, drinking games
38. When the underdogs win
39. Running, snowboarding, softball, shopping, socializing, planning get-togethers, bachelorette parties, baby/bridal showers (more games!), play dates, BBQs, holiday gatherings, milestone birthday celebrations, reunions, happy hours, GNO, dinners with friends/family
40. Uninterrupted sleep

Thursday, November 11, 2010

One year ago ...

When she entered the room, I knew something was wrong. She wasn’t smiling. She sat down and stated matter-of-factly, “You’re ten weeks along.”
“I know, I’m SHOCKED,” I answered with a smile. “Two negative pregnancy tests later. Who’dve thought?”
She didn’t return my smile. Where was my congratulations?
“I think the sonographer said I was ten weeks, six days,” I added. “Almost eleven weeks.”
“Are you? I just saw ten weeks on your ultrasound, I didn’t look at the days,” Dr. S responded while pulling out a sheet of blank white paper. Immediately she got down to business by drawing a picture on the paper of a bean-shaped baby.
“This early in a pregnancy we can only look at a few things. There was a heartbeat, so that’s good (she drew a little spot on the bean where the heart was), and the crown-to-rump length is measuring right, so that’s good (she drew an arrow from the top of the bean to the bottom), but there’s one thing that’s concerning to me.”
Concerning? As in wrong? Something is wrong with my baby? Don't panic. Don't panic.
She drew a balloon-like structure on top of the bean and circled it.
“I think there might be a gut herniation,” she said, tapping the circle. “That means there’s a weakness in the stomach wall, and the baby’s bowels and intestines are forming outside, rather than inside the body.”
Gut herniation?
I stared at her face, willing her to say more, yet not wanting to hear anything. Her eye contact was unwavering.
“It could either be gastroschisis, which is a physical abnormality that can be repaired through surgery at birth, or it could be an omphalocele, which might indicate a genetic cause. Most babies with omphaloceles have other serious medical issues.”
Ompha-what? Oh-my-god, oh-my-god, oh-my-god. This isn’t happening. This is a bad dream. This isn't my life. This can't be my life.
“Can you write those words down for my husband?” I finally asked, holding back tears.
She dutifully wrote them down, pausing a second to think about how omphalocele was spelled.
Is this what it felt like to drown? Time was standing still. I couldn’t breathe.She was supposed to be telling me, “Everything looks beautiful” like Dr. E had told me after Adam’s ultrasound. She was supposed to be smiling and sending me on my way.
“I want you to call a specialist today to set up another ultrasound. Sometimes I send people there and it’s nothing, but this looks like something and I want you to have a consultation. They have better ultrasound equipment than we do. If it’s an omphalocele, you can have a CVS test done to determine which genetic markers are causing the problem,” she said.
A genetic marker?
I stared at her, not knowing what to say, how to respond, what to think.
“Let me show you what I’m seeing on the ultrasound,” she said, breaking the silence.
I followed her out to the hallway, where she stopped at a computer, pointed at the fetus on the screen, then showed me what looked like a ball on my baby’s belly.
“Do you see this here? This shouldn’t be here,” she said. “That’s why I’m concerned.”
I nodded. There was no denying that there was a tiny little circle on the baby’s belly. And if she said it wasn’t supposed to be there, she should know. She went to school for this. I just have a journalism degree.
I felt numb. We walked back to the room, where she once again got out her notepad.
“Here’s the number for the Maternal Fetal Medicine Center. I’ll fax over your records so you can make an appointment right away.” She wrote down the number, then looked at me and said, “I’m sorry that I have to tell you this.”
“It’s not your fault,” I answered, remembering my manners. I am, after all, Minnesota Nice, even in the wake of hearing devastating news.
“I think we should still do some standardized blood tests and give you the H1N1 vaccination before you leave here today,” she said. “Do you have time for some lab work?”
I had been at the doctor’s office since 10 a.m., it was now after noon. I had waited 40 minutes for my ultrasound, then another 30 minutes to see the doctor. I felt faint with hunger and worry. I didn’t even know if I’d be able to make it to the parking lot without passing out.
“I need to eat lunch or I’ll faint.”
“Go get something to eat and come back when you’re done. I’ll leave your file at the front desk,” she said. “Come back any time today.”
I left the office, the office that—such a short time ago—had been the place where I had felt relieved, happy, and excited to discover that my baby had a strong heartbeat and I was almost 11 weeks along! How crazy since I had taken two negative tests in September and October and my first positive pregnancy test was taken only two weeks ago. This meant that I didn't have to keep my pregnancy a secret; I could start telling people any time now! That feeling was replaced with a sense of dread and foreboding. Is this how people feel when they find out they have an incurable disease or when they receive bad news that a loved one has died? Like your world has been altered and will never be the same again?
I’m sure I looked like a deer caught in headlights as I passed the other pregnant women in the waiting room and walked out to my car. Dazed, confused, scared to death. I drove across the parking lot to the closest fast food restaurant, not even sure I could eat but knowing I should try, and ordered comfort food: a thick chocolate milkshake and a filet of fish. I almost dropped my money when I was handing it to the cashier.
I felt like saying, “I’m sorry, I’m a little distracted. I just found out my ultrasound was abnormal and, to tell you the truth, I’m absolutely terrified of what that could mean.”
I’m surprised I didn’t rear-end the car in front of me. I pulled off to a corner of the lot, attempted to eat a few bites of my sandwich, took a long, slow drink of my shake, then got out my cell phone. The hard part would be calling Aaron.
I called him at work, no answer. I called him on his Blackberry, no answer. I tried his cell phone and hoped he would pick up. I needed to talk to someone. I needed a friend. I needed Aaron.
He was in a noisy lunchroom, sounding cheerful. As far as he knew, everything was fine. I told him he might want to leave the lunchroom because I had some bad news. As soon as I told him what the doctor had told me, I lost it. I was sobbing. SOBBING. He said all the right things (I can’t remember what he said anymore, but I know he made me feel better). He looked up some of the words online and read the definitions out loud. He volunteered to leave work and go back to the clinic with me. I told him no, that was OK, he was going to have to take a day off for our appointment with the specialist, he should save his vacation time. I’d pull it together. (somehow)
“We’ll get through this. I love you.” It was very reassuring to know he—no matter what obstacles we face—would always be there. For better or for worse. He was just as invested in the health and well-being of our future child as I was. I love him SO much.
I regained my composure, checked my splotchy face and red eyes in the rear-view mirror (I was vain even during a crisis, glad I hadn’t worn liquid eye liner that morning), and went back to the clinic, feeling just as scared but maybe a little less alone. A chatty lab tech drew numerous vials of my blood and gave me the H1N1 shot, congratulated me on my pregnancy, and asked where I’d be delivering and where I’d delivered before and if I had a good experience there, and blah-blah-blah. It was sort of nice that she didn’t know that I had just received news that shook me to my core; all she knew was that I was going to have a baby. She didn’t treat me any different than any other newly pregnant patient. When she was finished, I asked if I could talk to Dr. S again. I’m not sure why I felt the need to see her one more time, but I had the afternoon off and nothing but time on my hands, so I told the lab tech that I would wait as long as I had to. It was another hour before the doc squeezed me in. I can’t remember everything I asked her (it’s kind of a blur) but she was forthright in her answers. I do remember asking, “I can call the specialist when I leave here and they’ll have my records? I don’t have to wait until the end of the day or anything?”
“No, call them right away. I’ll fax this over right now,” she promised.
The sooner I could see the specialist, the sooner I would have answers. I needed answers.
“Am I considered a high-risk pregnancy now?” I asked.
“It all depends on what the specialist tells you,” she answered. “Your baby might need surgery immediately, and if that's the case, you’ll want to make sure you’re at the best place for that procedure.”
Yes, OK, I’ll call them, thank-you, goodbye.
I’m usually a glass-half-full kind of girl; I wasn’t used to feeling weighted down by sadness. I was sad that there could be something wrong with our baby, our poor defenseless baby, and I felt guilty that maybe I had somehow caused this -- I took not one but TWO pregnancy tests that both tested negative, and because I didn't know I was pregnant, I hadn't been exactly careful about my alcohol intake. How many pints of beer had I had in the past two months? How many glasses of wine did I have at that AHA Gala? What if this was all my fault? I was scared that our lives would be turned upside down – lengthy hospital stays and regular doctor’s appointments and always worrying about our child’s health. I felt cheated that we couldn’t celebrate this pregnancy until we knew what was going on. I started thinking about all the people I knew who had perfectly healthy babies and felt a twinge of jealousy. Why was this happening to us? (Isn’t that the million-dollar question?)
When I got home, I felt this compelling need to talk to someone. I wanted to tell my parents, but I didn't want to burden them with worry. One of my best friends, Tonya, is a nurse who lives out in Idaho. She knows me better than I know myself. I decided to call her. Thankfully she answered on the first ring. I spilled my guts. She listened patiently, never interjecting or interrupting or throwing in a forced, cheery sentiment. I (surprisingly) didn’t break down crying, but I came close a few times. I felt so much better after telling her, it was a relief to think out loud after processing the information. She told me not to worry about possible scenarios until I had all the facts. She told me she loves me and she’d be thinking of us and made me promise I’d call her after I made another appointment. She told me she would talk to her coworkers about the situation and see if anyone knew anything. I wish she didn’t live so far away. I miss her.
Aaron came home early with a beautiful bouquet of flowers for me. We hugged. We talked. We sat on the couch together—no TV, no radio, no books. Just silence ... lost in our own thoughts. I was completely depressed. What if it was worse than I thought?
I tried calling the specialist around 3:30 and was told, despite what my doctor had promised, my clinic hadn’t faxed anything over yet. I couldn’t make an appointment until they had my records. I called my clinic and explained the situation. The girl I talked with promised to fax the info over right away. I waited until 4 and called the specialist again. This was urgent.
“We received one page from your clinic, but we didn’t receive your records. I don’t know why they’d do that. They know we need to have your records before you can make an appointment,” the woman said, sounding annoyed. She volunteered to call the clinic on my behalf and “if they send your information today, I’ll call you before 4:30.” She seemed to understand my urgency. I appreciated that.
And then it was time to get Adam from daycare. We realized, with disappointment, there would be no appointment made today. We would have to wait until Monday. Waiting, waiting, waiting.
When we got to Adam’s daycare, the sight of him was the brightest spot in the darkest day. His smile filled my heart. Our pride and joy.
I wasn’t feeling very social, but I tried to act normal when our daycare provider asked why we were both there to get Adam.
“I left early so the three of us could get something to eat,” Aaron lied.
“French fries?” Adam asked. “I love French fries!”
“Yeah, that's what we're gonna have,” I told him, picking him up and kissing his cheek. Oh, innocent unsuspecting Adam.
We went to a chain restaurant, where I have never enjoyed a meal less. I could barely carry on a conversation. I picked at my food. Everything tasted like cardboard.
When we got home, I got on the computer and started Googling right away. I read horror stories and I read medical miracles. Some stories left me feeling even more depressed (babies spending months in the NICU); some stories filled me with hope (gut herniation babies who had grown up to become normal, productive adults. Adults without belly buttons, but healthy adults).
“How can you Google things when you don’t know exactly what the situation is?” Aaron asked.
“I just need to,” I answered. I couldn’t explain why. Maybe because it gave me a sense of control? I don’t know. I went to bed early that night, feeling emotionally drained, but I couldn’t fall asleep. Wide awake, I stared at the ceiling. My mind raced. My heart raced. I tossed and turned. Every time I dozed off, I’d wake with a start and within moments would feel a sense of hopelessness and fear. I did a lot of praying.
The next morning, we tried to carry on as usual. Aaron did yard work with Adam, I cleaned the house. That afternoon, we met my mom and grandma at the apple orchard. I couldn’t stop staring at the healthy kids playing around us. I wanted to tell my mom that I was pregnant but I couldn't. I needed to be armed with facts. And I didn’t want to tell my mom without my dad around. We’d wait until we had more information. I felt like a ticking time bomb.
It was a beautiful day and we spent a lot of time outdoors. The fresh air was great, but I didn’t sleep much better Saturday night.
On Sunday, we drove down to a small town in southern Minnesota to visit Aaron’s grandma Margaret, who—weeks before our visit—had lost her husband after 55 years of marriage. (Adam's middle name is Lowell after Aaron's beloved grandpa.) She was doing amazingly well considering the circumstances. If she could stay strong in the wake of losing her husband; I could stay strong while facing the unknown. For once, I didn’t obsess over the baby and actually enjoyed the visit. Being there with her allowed me to forget my own troubles.
On Monday, I called the specialist, was told my records STILL hadn’t been faxed over, left a voicemail for Marge in the medical records department urging her—no, pleading with her—to send those records so I could make an appointment, then I tried to get some work done at the magazine (key word = tried). At 4 p.m., I called the clinic again and was told, “Christina S.? I faxed your records this afternoon.”
About damn time!
I hung up and dialed Fairview’s number and spoke with a very sweet girl who told me that yes, they received my records and Dr. So-and-So took a long look at my scans and—what I was expecting to hear was this: “And she wants you to come in right away. Can you make an appointment for tomorrow?” But instead I heard this: “She thinks everything looks perfectly normal. A lot of babies look this way at ten weeks gestation. She doesn’t want you to make an appointment here for at least one to two weeks, just to make sure everything is developing properly, but she’s not concerned.”
Say what? I almost dropped the phone.
“I’ve been worried sick all weekend,” I told her. “You don’t even know how reassuring your words are.”
“Oh honey, don't worry. The odds are that this is nothing. Just for your peace of mind, though, we'll make an appointment for around Thanksgiving.”
I could hardly believe what I was hearing. Someone pinch me. That was the best possible news we could have received.
I hung up and relayed the news to the three people who knew about the situation: Aaron, Tonya, and my boss Sara (who had also been amazing and supportive and knew just what to say). I was shocked, excited, and most of all, HOPEFUL. I knew I wouldn’t be able to breathe easy until the baby was born (talk about a crazy pregnancy so far!!) but I was cautiously optimistic. I didn’t want to be too confident just in case there was an issue, but finally, finally I had some good news to hold onto. I could breathe again.

And one year later, this is our little bean. Healthy as any five-month-old could ever be.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Parthenon, schmarthenon

Aaron is here right now.

And I am here.

It's not Greece, but really, I can't complain.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sunny days, sweepin’ the clouds away …

Adam’s new favorite song lyrics are: “Sunny days, sweepin’ the clouds away …”
It’s weird to hear him singing the same song I used to sing when I was a kid. Who knew Sesame Street would still be popular, 30 years after I watched the show? I can remember sitting Indian style in front of our TV, watching Mr. Rogers and his land of make-believe, the Electric Company (“One-two-three-four-five, six-seven-eight-nine-ten, eleven twe-ehl-ehl-elve!”), and Sesame Street. I remember learning sign language from Linda, Spanish words from Maria, and watching the Twiddlebugs on Bert and Ernie’s windowsill. And I vividly remember how badly I wanted to tell Mr. Hooper when he was talking to “Bird” about his “fictitious friend,” Snuffleupagus, that “Snuffy was REAL! Look! He’s RIGHT OVER THERE! LOOK!”
The song might be the same, but the characters have changed since I watched the show. I grew up without Elmo, Prairie Dawn, Baby Bear, Abby Cadabby, or Zoe … and now that I really think about it, why weren’t there more girl muppets on the show in the late 70s/early 80s? I mean, they hired a multi-racial cast and a woman with a hearing impairment, they had two boy puppets “rooming together,” and yet didn’t create ANY girl muppets to represent the xx chromosomes? What’s up with that?
And even though it’s still educational TV, some of the messages are different today than they were “back in the day.” We watched Sesame Street before it was PC.
For example, Cookie Monster was allowed to eat piles of cookies without introducing a ‘healthy habit.’ We didn’t have to worry about childhood obesity because we were too busy riding our bikes around the neighborhood. We didn’t have to worry about moderation because we knew to only take a few instead of eating the whole box. And we didn’t have the song “A Cookie Is a Sometime Food.” We had “C is for Cookie”!
“C is for cookie, that’s good enough for me, C is for cookie, that’s good enough for me … cookie-cookie-cookie starts with C!”

Another similarity between my youth and Adam’s: Candyland. Only, to Adam, it’s SANDYland, and when we play, he dictates what color your game piece will be (he's always yellow, his favorite color) and he likes to be in charge of drawing the cards. He doesn’t really get the whole winning and losing thing, so we don’t have to worry about letting him win (actually, even if he did care about winning/losing, I wouldn’t let him win). And so far, he’s been a very gracious loser. The last time we played, Aaron won, I finished second, and Adam was last, but rather than letting him think he came in last, we told him he came in THIRD PLACE, GOOD JOB!

He has named various toys Walter, Craig, and Emily. And he still has his baby doll, Sobie, who sometimes acts out Adam’s fears. “Sobie doesn’t want to use the potty because she’s scared of the flush. Sobie doesn’t like the Easter Bunny because he’s too big. Sobie thinks those firecracks are TOO LOUD.”

Adam loves going to Aaron's softball games because he knows he'll get to play at the park.

After we arrive home from daycare, he usually asks if he can have something to eat or drink before dinner, and by drink, I mean he wants juice. The doctor told us that toddlers should drink milk and water and only have juice once a day (at most), so I told him no, he already had juice at daycare.
“I’m obsessed with juice, Mom, right?” he asked with a grin. (Only when he said ‘obsessed,’ it sounded more like ‘assessed.’)
Did he learn that from us? Or at daycare? What three-year-old uses the word obsessed?

He loves to do what we’re doing, whether it’s “lawning” the grass (he follows after Aaron with his toy mower), doing the dishes (resulting in a huge puddle of water on the floor), or helping with laundry (I let him put the clothes in the dryer). He feels so grown up and important when he helps out. There will come a time, in the not-so-distant future, when we’ll have to force him to mow the lawn or do the dishes, so I’m trying to appreciate his eagerness to help before he becomes a lazy teenager.

He's a lovable little goofball.

He is athletic already, just like his dear ol’ dad. He can hit a ball without using a tee, kick a soccer ball across the yard, and make contact with a golf ball. I think that sports will come naturally to him, just like Aaron. And he genuinely enjoys sports. He could spend hours outside, playing ball.
I played summer softball from third grade through high school, I was on the gymnastics and cross-country teams in junior high and high school (my best mile time was 7:30, what I wouldn't give to run that fast again!), and I competed in indoor and outdoor track even at UW-Eau Claire, but aside from being pretty good at the 200 and 400 meter dash and triple jump (love), I was middle-of-the-pack when it came to sports. Average Joe. I would almost bet money that Aaron was picked first in gym class. He’s 37 years old and he can still hit a home run, spike a volleyball, and fearlessly ski or snowboard down black diamond runs. I mean, he finished his first marathon in 2005 in three hours and 30 minutes — just a few minutes shy of qualifying for Boston. He’s "that" guy (without being a pompous a-hole). I’m glad Adam seems to have Aaron’s natural athleticism.

He enjoys meeting new people and having friends over to our house and saying hi to total strangers and socializing, just like his dear ol’ mom.

Good fathers make good sons.

Adam is definitely in the “why?” phase of learning, which I find equally charming and irritating. I think it’s wonderful that he’s curious, unless I’m in a mad scramble to get out the door and he’s drilling me with “What are you looking for? Why can't you find your keys? Why are you wearing your black boots today? Why are you running upstairs? What did you forget? Can I come with you?" and then - when we're on the road, it's more questions: "What are those trucks doing to the street? Why is that guy on a motorcycle? Why are you slowing down? Where is that bus going? Birds fly, right Mom? Why do they fly? What is that billin over there? OH, it's an apartment BUILDING. Why do people live in apartment buildings? Why is that lady standing there? Oh, it's a BUS STOP. Why is she taking the bus? Oh, maybe she doesn't have a car. But we have two cars, right Mom? Why do we have to bring the library books back today? Why is that policeman there? Oh, he's PULLING HER OVER for driving too fast. Are you driving too fast, Mom?"
I try to answer all of his questions, even if I don't really know how. (That truck is fixing the street because it was broken. Birds fly because they have little legs and it's easier than walking. People live in apartment buildings because they like that they don't have to shovel snow in the winter. *Had to get creative there.) I'm just waiting for the day when he asks me why the sky is blue or the grass is green. Better study up on that answer right now.

Sometimes Adam acts so grown up, I forget he's only three.

Yesterday he told me he needs to eat dinner to “keep up his en-erz-jee.”
Omg was that cute.
“Right Mom? My en-erz … en-erj … en-erz … what did I say Mom?”
I laughed out loud as he tried to figure out the correct pronunciation.
“Yes, your ENERGY,” I said.
“Oh, yeah, my EN-ERZ-JEE,” he responded while shaking his head in an all-knowing way.

Speaking of eating, he is an incredibly picky eater. At three years old, he weighs 28 pounds and is exactly three feet tall. We worry about his lack of an appetite because he’s so pint-sized. We constantly introduce him to new foods and encourage him to try everything once. Aaron has used Green Eggs and Ham as an example, and it even worked: “Remember how Sam I Am tried to get his friend to eat green eggs and ham and he wouldn’t try it? And then, when he tried it, he liked it?”
A few of his favorite foods = French fries, hummus with pita chips, rootbeer “popicos,” eggs, watermelon, mac and cheese, sloppy joe’s, bananas, apples, corn on the cob, and hot dogs. I realize this could be a better (more nutritional) list, but I also realize it could be a lot worse.

Adam and his Benny Bobber.

He is a kind and loving big brother and told me that he “protects” Ben at daycare. (From what? Flying peas? Germy hands? I don’t know, but it was a sweet sentiment.)
When Ben is crying, he approaches him with a big smile on his face and says in his cartoon-like animated high-pitched voice, "It's OK, Benny Bobber. It's your Big Brother Adam. Don't cry."

The best thing about digital cameras = capturing moments like this.

He has an absolutely incredible memory. I hope he uses it to his advantage once school starts.

He loves it when he read him books at night. His new favorite is Curious George.

He is strong-willed (aka stubborn) and will sit at the kitchen table for TWO HOURS rather than take five bites of his meatloaf. He has also received numerous timeouts for screaming, running away, and defiantly refusing to listen. Whoever dubbed it the 'terrible twos' clearly did not have a 3-year-old, but I'll save that for another post.

Adam on our vacation in Okoboji, Iowa singing "Tonight's gonna be a good night." He knows almost all of the words and refers to it as "his song."

When I’m feeding Ben, his jealous side comes out and all of a sudden, no matter what he’s doing, he wants to be right next to me. He'll stop playing Legos or cars and climb onto the couch and wedgehimselfagainstmelikethis. I feel sorry for Ben, who gets jabbed in the head with Adam’s elbow or knee while he’s trying to eat. And even though it can get crowded with all three of us smashed together on one side of the couch, it’s also really endearing. Having little kids is kind of like your wedding day, when everyone tells you to remember to step back and take it all in, because it will be over before you know it. I’m trying, really trying, to soak it all in and appreciate every day.
I hope I will be reading this post one day years from now and the memories will come flooding back ... how small and innocent my boys were and how life was filled with endless possibilities for their future ... how I could grab them and hold them close to my heart and kiss them over and over and tickle them and squeeze them and laugh as they'd giggle and squeal and let me do it. And when we fall asleep at night, Aaron is beside me, Adam is sleeping soundly in his bedroom next to ours, and Ben is sleeping in his bassinet beside us and we’re all together, safe and healthy and happy and loved and in love and tomorrow is another day for more of the same, in only the best possible way.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Everything is going to come out just fine

In every parent’s journey, there are certain challenges and struggles that you accept as part of the parenting process. When I was weaning Adam from breast milk to formula at six months, for example, I assumed it would be a tough transition — but never in a million years knew just how tough. It never once dawned on me that he might have an allergy to the cow’s milk protein in formula, which meant he would have to drink expensive soy formula until he was one, and then avoid all foods containing cow’s milk (fortunately, he outgrew his allergy and now loves cheese, asks for milk before bed, and would eat butter by the spoons-full if we let him).
We thought we were going to be in for a fight when we transitioned him from co-sleeping in our bed to sleeping alone in his ‘big boy bed’ which is one of the reasons we avoided it for so long. I had nightmares of doing the whole Super Nanny thing and silently walking him back to his room over and over again until we were both crying out of frustration and sleep-deprivation. I envisioned him screaming and sobbing until he threw up. I thought he would hate us.
He surprised us and transitioned effortlessly. He has never climbed out of his bed in the middle of the night (it’s like he doesn’t realize he can get out of his bed unless he’s waking up on his own), and now, when we stay overnight somewhere, he wants us to make him a bed on the floor rather than sleep between us. If I had known how easy it would be, I would’ve bought him his own bed much, much sooner.

The pacifier was another bad habit we knew we had to break, yet put it off because we dreaded his reaction. (Really it was just me who dreaded his reaction. Aaron was ready to do whatever it took to get him to stop using a Nuk.) Adam was so attached to his “Nukies” that I expected a great big sob-fest when we took them away. Would he be able to sleep without them? Would he try to steal Ben’s pacifier? Would he start acting out? We told him that babies used Nuks and he told us he’d get rid of them when the baby came – surprise, surprise — that didn’t happen. Then he told us he’d get rid of them when he turned three and, to be honest, that day might have come and gone if not for our daycare provider making the decision for us. The day after he turned three, his Nuks were in the trash at daycare. He didn’t cry without them that first day, and that night he only asked for his Nukies two or three times. Each time I told him the garbage man brought them to the garbage dump and they were gone and he accepted this answer. A few times he’d ask me, “Are my Nukies in the garbage truck?” And I’d somberly nod yes and he’d answer “Ohhh” in a sad way, and that was the end of that. It didn’t dawn on him that we could buy new ones at Target.
Getting him into his own bed and getting him to give up his Nuks were two battles we were prepared to fight — two battles that weren’t battles at all. The potty thing, though, could easily become a real battle. We haven’t pushed the issue too much because, from everything I’ve read, if a kid isn’t ready, no amount of bribing with Skittles or asking him if he wants to be a big boy or praising his cousins or reading potty books or promising him a toy will do any good. It will cause the parents to stress out and feel frustrated and the child to feel stressed out and frustrated and who has the energy for that?
But Adam is three now, and he’s smart enough to know when he’s going and there’s really no reason for him NOT to use the potty. Aaron is getting impatient and pushing the issue more and more and I have to admit, the idea of having just one kid in diapers is very appealing (less work, less expense) so I need to buck up and get on board, too. We recently bought him big boy underwear and he was bursting with pride in his Thomas the Train undies … until he peed on the floor. I'm hoping that he just needs to have one successful experience for it to click. My mom said she potty trained me by stripping me down and putting the potty chair in the living room. We're willing to try this tactic. Fingers crossed.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I am not invisible

At the "Best of" party with my hubby Aaron, SIL Trish and big brother Shawn.

I wish there was a better pic of the dress, but you get the general idea.

ON Tuesday night we had a work event at the swanky W Hotel — our annual “Best Of” party when we celebrate those who have been chosen as the “best in the cities” (best new fitness class, pastry chef, hat-maker, perfume shop, you get the idea). It’s basically a “who’s who” hip party scene; an event that makes me proud to say I work at this mag.
I went to our company’s inaugural “Best Of” party in 2008, missed the party last year due to a family funeral, and was so excited to go this year that we lined up babysitters (my parents) so Aaron could meet me there. My brother Shawn and fun sister-in-law Trish were meeting us there, as were our friends Jodi and Walter.
When I was choosing my attire a few nights in advance of the fiesta, I pulled a dress out of my closet (one I had purchased years ago and never worn), tried it on, thought it looked fine, and basically put it out of my mind. The morning of the event, I packed up my curling iron, some makeup, the brown dress, my comfortable brown Mary Janes, and headed out the door.
Within an hour of being at work, it started. The questions.
“What are you wearing tonight, Kelly?” “Julie, what are you wearing?” “Alex, can I see your dress?” “Will this dress look OK?” “Should I wear the black tights or the grey ones?”
There definitely wasn’t this much buzz the first year we had the event. Some people dressed up, some didn’t. But this was the third year. And my coworkers were all about the fancy.
My friend Kelly’s dress was hanging in a bag in her cube. When I asked to see it, she slipped the plastic bag off the hanger and underneath was a very stylish royal blue strapless cocktail dress. I overheard Julie describing her dress as a little silver and black number that she was going to pair with some tall black boots. Mallika was going home to change into a satiny one-shouldered black dress. Alex’s dress was an adorable LBD with ruffles around the neckline.
“I’m starting to think I’m going to be underdressed” I wrote in an email to my friend Kirsten.
“I am not cocktaily at all... I’m Graysville,” she wrote back. “Gray boots, gray skirt, gray and purple little jacket thing. I never had time to go shopping. I wouldn’t worry about being underdressed!”
I went over to my friend Amanda’s cube. “I think I’m going to be underdressed,” I told her. (Amanda is often my voice of reason here at work.)
“Mary is wearing what she has on right now,” she pointed out.
Mary was wearing pants. Mary is very practical.
Jamie sent me an email asking, “Should I wear pants or a dress?”
“Wear a dress!” I wrote back.
Tabitha emailed me an image of a short, tight, sassy dress she was considering for the party. “Is this going to be OK?”
“Definitely! Sassy is good!” I wrote back.
I was about to realize that I was the one who needed fashion advice.

The plan was for Kelly and I to meet the rest of our marketing team at 5 p.m. to finish stuffing gift bags. At 4 p.m. I headed over to the bathroom to get ready. Plugged in my curling iron, took my dress out of my Lunds/Byerly’s bag (not nice enough to require an actual hanger), set my makeup on the counter. Awesome. I was going to be ahead of schedule. That never happens.
As soon as I had my dress on, I knew it was all wrong. It wrapped around my waist and came down to a few inches below my knees. A silky tank top underneath did an excellent job of covering me up. My chunky heels were way too casual. I stepped in front of the full-length mirror and examined myself from the front and side. These are the words that ran through my head: “Dowdy. Frumpy. Boring. Plain, plain, plain.”
I was glad I was alone in the bathroom. In a split second I hurried back into the stall and took the dress off. It was an alright dress, for a casual business lunch, maybe. But this wasn’t a casual business lunch. This was going to be a cocktail party with no shortage of cleavage and legs — a cocktail party crawling with hip, young, HOT coworkers and clients wearing spiky heels and trendy dresses.
Fuck it. I was not going to wear that thing. I was tired of blending in. I always blend in. I wanted to feel hip and trendy and maybe (gasp, gasp) even sexy.
I feel like I need to preface what I’m about to write by saying that I am madly in love with my husband, he makes me feel beautiful, and I don’t have a burning desire to morph into Kim Kardashian (or some other Hollywood bombshell) just to see what it’s like to be your average guy’s wet dream. But, I don’t know, when you’re married and you have kids and you become comfortable in your routine, you start to feel sort of invisible. The problem is, I have always blended in — even when I was younger (I was never the girl getting hit on. If a guy ever bought me a drink, it was most likely because he was hitting on one of my friends and didn’t want me to feel left out) — and now that I’m 35 (!) and have two kids, I’m a little bit bored with playing it safe and being the “good girl.” I’m finally ready to step out of the box and take certain risks.
I honestly think it took having two kids to get to this point, as backwards as that may be. I am a lot less modest now, that’s for sure. (Breastfeeding will do that to you.)
As soon as I made the decision to reject my dress, my mission became urgent. I just had to find a replacement dress. This was a fashion emergency!!
Even though I couldn’t afford it.
Even though I was supposed to be helping my department stuff gift bags in less than 45 minutes.
I threw my pants and sweater back on, stuffed my brown dress into my work bag (sorry, brown dress!), gathered up my makeup, and prepared to do some serious shopping in record time. (Gotta love the fact that 50 city blocks are connected through the skyway system!) Do I go to Macy’s? Target? Where was I guaranteed to find a fun outfit that wouldn’t break the bank?
I decided to check out the sales racks at Sak’s Off Fifth. I tried on a purple bubble dress with a low back that was straight out of Sex and the City. Price tag = $80 (on sale). I instantly felt hip. It was perfect! I put it on hold. I couldn’t quite commit but I didn’t want to put it back, either.
It’s funny how your priorities shift when you’re in a mad rush to buy something. Normally I wouldn’t even consider spending $80 on a dress like that. And then the rational side of my brain kicked in. How many times would I wear it? Was the quality worth $80? Was it as cute as I thought or was I just desperate? Would it look like I was wearing a short purple bag?
If I couldn’t find anything else, I would buy that dress. And eat PBJ until my next paycheck. “But it’s just a dress,” the rational side of me hissed. “Right now it seems like a necessity, but it’s not going to matter in a few days, once people start forgetting about this party.”
“I don’t care,” said the ‘this-is-how-I-got-into-credit-card-debt-back-in-college’ side of me. “I want to feel cute!”
And with that, off I went to Len Druskin for some shoes. I found a pair of black velvet heels on sale for $20 (half off). They had my size. These shoes were a million times better than my original choice. I was so distracted at the register that the cashier had to prompt me to sign my check card slip. “Long day?” she asked with a smile. If I would’ve been honest, I would’ve told her “No, I’m frantically trying to buy an entire outfit in 15 minutes, even though I’ve had months to prepare for this event because, turns out, I hate the outfit I brought. And guess what? I have about $200 in my account to last me the next few weeks. And yet here I am out shopping! Ha ha! Isn’t that funny?”
“Yeah, long day,” I replied.
I raced down to Marshall’s and went directly to the dresses. In record time I had six dresses piled over my arms. I didn’t really want to buy a black dress since I knew most people would be wearing black (plus I have a number of black dresses in my closet) but when I tried on the dresses, the fun, colorful ones did nothing for me.
The last dress I tried on was a black dress, and as soon as it was on I knew it was the dress: A black tank-style dress with layers of ruffles and little sparkles in the fabric. It was form fitting but not too tight. It was short but not slutty. It showed just the right amount of cleavage without being all 'Hey, everyone, check out these DDs!' It was comfortable. It had just the right amount of glitter to be fun without being obnoxious. And it was only $25! SCORE!
I hurried back to work, changed in record time, put powder on my sweaty face, sprayed on some Flowerbomb perfume, and tried to do something with my pathetic hair (I am not a long hair person and I know deep down that my hair looks a million times better when I have short hair — but it’s taken me so long to grow it out that I’m not quite ready to cut it just yet). I put on the dress, the heels, some dangly earrings and lipstick, all ‘special occasion items,’ and when I was all put together I felt GOOD about myself. I didn’t feel boring and frumpy. I actually felt kind of fun.
I’m not as thin or as toned as I’d like to be, but you know what? I’m not as heavy as I used to be, either. Just a little over three months ago I had an extra 40 pounds on my frame and a nearly 10 pound baby chillin’ in my uterus. And maybe, when I’m older, I’ll wish I had the figure I have right now (imperfections and all) and I’ll be glad I bought a dress that didn’t hide my body but actually highlighted some of it. The questions were: Did I have the confidence to wear the dress without feeling like I needed to keep my coat on all night? Could I wear it without self-consciously pulling it down or tugging it up?
Yes I could.
And I did.
And you know what? I had an absolute blast.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Maternity leave

Adam (far right)with little friends Ryan, Leah, and Greta at a surprise get-together for Aaron's birthday June 16 (not pictured: Broder, Aliza, and Ben). We had a beer tasting in the backyard, with 12 adults and 7 kids in attendance. It was so much fun we might try to make it an annual event.

Ben at five or six weeks old, wearing a onesie that Adam wore at three months. Ben is now two months old and weighs 14 pounds. Adam is almost three years old and weighs 28 pounds. Soon Ben will be Adam's big little brother.

A typical weekday:

1:30 a.m. - 2 a.m - Feed Ben in a hazy stupor.

4 a.m. - 4:30 a.m. - Another feeding.

5 a.m. - The alarm goes off. Why does Aaron set it so early? He NEVER gets up the first time it goes off. I have to nudge him, tell him "The alarm is going off. It's going to wake up Adam and Ben." and then listen to it go off at least two more times before he finally quits hitting snooze and gets up for the day.

6:30 a.m. - Ben starts stirring in his bassinet. Yep, he's hungry AGAIN.

7 a.m. - Aaron and Adam kiss us goodbye. (Aaron brings Adam to daycare at least three times a week.) Ben is wide awake now, and all I want is a nap. We watch the Today show.
I eat breakfast, check my email, and take a shower to wake up. Ben chills out in his bouncy chair while I shower.

9 a.m. - I feed Ben while watching Ellen - the highlight of my morning.

10 a.m. - 11 a.m. (or around there) - I sneak in a nap if I'm lucky.

What happens around lunch time varies from day to day. Some days, I'm a totally unproductive lump and spend the afternoon on the couch watching Mad Men re-runs or Snooki and "The Situation" act like idiots on The Jersey Shore. On those days, it's all I can do to put in a load of laundry and figure out what's for dinner. I pick up Adam from daycare at 4 and Aaron gets home around 6 so I have plenty of time to be lazy. Other days, I try to visit people or go somewhere just to force myself to get out of the house (Target, Byerly's, the mall, etc.) Sometimes I keep Adam home for these visits and sometimes it's just Ben and I. It's so much more work to keep Adam home, but it's also a lot more fun, esp if we're hanging out with other kids.
Our visits over the past two months have included my mom's work; my SIL April's house in St. Francis (she's a daycare provider so we were able to see her in action with all 10 kids and OMG I honestly don't know how she does it without losing her mind!!); my friend Katie's house while she was recovering from ACL surgery; my friend Megan's house in Anoka; Aaron's work; my friend Beth's mom's house (Beth lives in Kentucky and was in town briefly); my parents' house in Forest Lake; and my friend Amy's house before she returned to work (our maternity leave overlapped for a few weeks). We also made it downtown Minneapolis twice, once to visit the office and again for a co-worker's baby shower (thanks, Katie D., for being such a good buddy & helping me out that afternoon!); Jay, Pete & cousin Max's house twice (we always feel so welcome); my SIL Tricia's salon in Wayzata (note to self: when a 3-year-old is left alone with markers while you're getting your hair done, and he suddenly becomes very quiet, he probably isn't coloring on the paper you provided him, he's probably coloring on the floor, the couch, the table, and his legs. Good thing the markers were washable!!); the Lake Elmo Park Reserve man-made swimming pond with my mom and again with my SIL Amy and nieces Kayla and Morgan (I love how clean it is there - no seaweed, no fish, no cigarette butts or bottle caps buried in the sand); and to the Maple Creek beach in Maple Grove with friends Megan and Sadie. I haven't been to the beach this much in YEARS. On a balmy summer weekday, the beach is definitely a hangout for SAH moms and their young kids. There's no shortage of 30-something women wearing skirted one-piece post-baby-body swimsuits (so long, bikinis!) with toddlers in wide-brimmed sun hats, that's for sure. The SAH mom world is still a foreign world to me. I have nothing but respect for those who choose that path—it's a lot of work (and a lot of rewards) but I know it's not the path for me (as much as I love my kids). Maybe it would be different if we were in a bigger house and a more kid-friendly neighborhood. Maybe not.
During my maternity leave we have had visitors, too - both during the day and in the evening. Daytime visitors include my mom (she has come a few times after work to hold Ben so I can take a nap); my sister Mary, niece Eva and nephew/godson Lou (they brought us some awesome Greek pizza); my friend Kirsten (we had ham sammies together and hung out in the backyard talking about her upcoming wedding); my college friend Leah who made Ben an adorable hat; my friend Amy who brought lunch over not once but twice, first Chinese food and then Mickey D's; and friends Julie & JT who brought us a delicious pie (we watched The Bachelorette together - my guilty addiction. JT and Aaron were even sucked into the show this season, even though Aaron thinks most of it is scripted/fake.)
During the first week we were home, our friends Karla, Tony, Greta and Aliza brought us a pasta dinner; my mom, dad, Aunt Karen, and grandma brought over my favorite chowmein hotdish; and my friend Jodi made us a yummy pan of lasagna. When you have a new baby, meals are SO appreciated. Heck, who am I kidding? Even without a newborn, I appreciate it when someone else cooks for us!
I was hoping we'd get out to Green Bay this summer but it didn't work out. Our first road trip with the whole fam occurred two weekends ago when we went to our friend Julie's cabin near Alexandria for a reunion with Aaron's high school group. There were 20 adults and 21 kids there (most people tented it, I used the newborn card and scored a room in the air-conditioned cabin). Thankfully, both Ben and Adam slept nearly the whole time we were in the car. On Saturday night there was a bonfire and I wound up going back to the cabin with Adam. One of our friends was holding Ben, so I left him with her. He slept in her arms for FOUR HOURS. I woke up and saw that he wasn't in his pack and play next to me and felt a physical ache for him. It sounds silly but I genuinely missed him. It's going to be more difficult returning to work than I thought (I was ready to go back after having Adam). You form such a strong bond with your baby when you spend just about every waking moment with him/her for nearly three months that I think it's only natural to have some mixed emotions about returning to work. I'm trying not to think about it too much. I still have a few weeks left of maternity leave and I'm going to make the most of them!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

One month ago ...

... I became the proud mama of Ben Robert Sorenson. He arrived on June 6, one day before we were going to have him evicted (I was going to be induced) and weighed 9 lb. 7 oz., 21 3/4 inches long. My doctor predicted an 8-pounder when I went in on June 4 for my 41-week appointment but I think everyone was shocked (no one more than me) when the nurse put Ben on the scale and announced that he was over 9 pounds! Now I know why I was so uncomfortable during my pregnancy. That's a whole lot of baby!! Ben has a full head of dark hair, chubby cheeks, and adorably full, kissable lips. He looks a lot like Adam did when he was born. We might be biased, but we think he's pretty cute.

My labor and delivery story (better late than never, right?):

My water broke at 12:15 a.m. June 6 — the loud "POP!" actually woke me up — and I announced to Aaron that it was "go time." I was THRILLED to be in labor & relieved to know that I was finally about to meet Button after enduring a pregnancy that seemed to last an eternity. I called the hospital, told the labor & delivery nurse that my water broke, I was already dilated to a four, this was my second child, and I was past my due date, and she announced, "Come in within the hour."
Woo hoo! After two failed attempts at stripping my membranes, two days of false labor contractions, weeks of wondering when/where/how I'd go into labor, this was it!
We woke up Adam, called my parents, loaded up the car and were on our way. Ever since my doctor had set an induction date - at my request - I had felt torn/guilty about it. It wasn't as if the baby was in distress or my health was in jeopardy, I was just incredibly uncomfortable and needed to know when my misery would end. Whenever I thought about the induction, though, I felt selfish forcing the baby out before he/she was ready to come on his/her own. When my water broke on its own, I was relieved that I wasn't going to be messing with Mother Nature.

Aaron, Adam and I arrived at St. John's Hospital in Maplewood at 12:45 a.m. where I continued to gush amniotic fluid. I am SO GLAD my water didn't break while I was at work! I soaked through a thick bath towel during the short car ride over and completely drenched through my capri pants while walking from the parking lot to the hospital. Every time I got up I leaked a puddle of warm water. No wonder the baby didn't want to leave that safe and cozy environment!
Because we arrived after midnight, we had to enter at the ER. A nurse was there waiting for me (with a wheelchair) and I was promptly wheeled up to Labor & Delivery where my parents met up with us. I had only had two intense contractions at that point so we were able to chat for a little while until I felt another contraction coming and then I told my dad he had better go. I didn't want Adam to see me in pain so my dad and Adam promptly left. I felt emotional when I hugged my little guy goodbye. That would be the last time he was my only child. Aaron walked them out to my dad's truck and said we'd see them soon, when Adam would be a big brother, and I think the moment Aaron hugged Adam he felt pretty emotional, too.
My mom stayed with us at the hospital to experience the miracle of birth from a different perspective than being the one with her feet in the stirrups. I was glad she was there in the room with us - she's one of my very best friends and has a very calming presence.

When I was first checked by my very nice nurse Kara, I was only dilated to a four. It was discouraging (I had been at a four for a few days) and I assumed it would be a long, slow labor. Aaron got out the iPod and we started listening to my soothing labor mixes. It was such a good background distraction.

After a negative epidural experience with Adam, involving uncontrollable shaking (Aaron said it was like I had Parkinson's disease) and a heavy feeling of pressure on my chest (my doula told me later that she thought the epidural had been administered too high in my spine) my goal was to skip the epidural if possible. I wasn't adamantly opposed to getting one, but if I could do it without, great. I was glad to be able to skip the epidural. I survived the painful contractions with the help of Aaron's supportive coaching, breathing through the pain (or "riding the waves"), gripping Aaron's hand, and a dose of Nubaine, which took the edge off - like having a few glasses of wine. After enduring round after round of painful contractions — at one point I could feel the baby scraping its way down the birth canal (complete with the ring of fire and everything) and HOLY SHIT did those last few contractions hurt!! — I asked the nurse to check me again and heard some of the most beautiful words in the English language: "You're complete. Let's call the doctor. You'll be meeting your baby soon."
The pushing phase of labor, with Adam, was completely exhausting. I pushed for nearly two hours. I was too numb to know which muscles to use, leaving him hung up on my pelvic bone for what seemed like forever (sorry about that, Adam!) In retrospect, I'm surprised I didn't need a c-section. By not having an epidural this time, I was able to feel every contraction and push the way I was supposed to push, from my bottom rather than my stomach. I only pushed for 25 minutes and with one small episiotomy to make room for the baby's head, Ben entered the world at 4:06 a.m.
My placenta, however, decided to hang out in my uterus for awhile. The doctor couldn't get it to detach. She worked on it for 25 minutes (yanking the umbilical cord this way and that) before asking me, "Did you have problems delivering your placenta during Adam's birth?" No, I told her, it was a non-issue.
"If I can't get your placenta out this way, I'll have to go in and manually extract it. It will only take 15 seconds, but it will be 15 seconds of excruciating pain. Do you want another dose of Nubaine?"
All I could think was "HELL NO, you're not going to stick your arm up me and wrench this thing out after what I just went through! I can't handle any more pain. I WILL GET THIS THING OUT OF ME ON MY OWN!"
I just delivered a nearly 10 pound BABY! I could expel a one-pound pancake-shaped organ!
My beautiful son was in a corner of the room crying on the scale and being oohed and ahhed over by the nurse and Aaron and my mom — after so much time waiting to meet him he was HERE! And I wanted to see him and hold him and ooh and ahh too! — why wasn't this the end of my birth story?
I felt another contraction coming and asked if I could try to push. I pushed with every ounce of determination and strength I could find and somehow dislodged the placenta myself.
Since my experience, I've heard through the grapevine that when a doctor has to forcibly remove your placenta, it feels like being ripped in two.

After I rested for a bit, Ben was placed on my chest and took to nursing like a champ. (We struggled getting Adam to latch. Ben knew what to do right away.) A nurse helped modest me take a bath (weird), I put on my own nightgown (so maybe I am a little bit vain - but those hospital gowns are HIDEOUS!) and at 8 a.m. we had our first visitor, Aaron's mom. After that, we had a steady stream of visitors all day/night Sunday and a few on Monday afternoon for a total of 30 visitors, mostly immediate family and a few close friends. Adam was a proud big brother. He talked to Ben in a high-pitched voice and wanted to hold his baby brother right away. Surprisingly, he didn't seem jealous at all and still doesn't even a month later. (I'm sure that it helped that he received numerous "big brother" gifts from people, too.) The only time he seems annoyed is when I nurse Ben and can't play with him during feedings.
By Monday, Aaron and I were running on empty - three hours of sleep over a 36-hour period, and those three hours of sleep only because we sent Ben to the nursery. Our hospital strongly encourages "rooming in," or keeping your baby in the room with you at all times, but we were both exhausted and needed just a few hours to recharge. We knew we'd get uninterrupted sleep if we weren't constantly checking on Ben.
Even though we were exhausted and I was healing, all we wanted to do was get home, sleep in our bed, and begin our "new normal" as a family of four. We chose to be discharged a day early and actually went out to Chili's with my family after leaving the hospital. In retrospect, that was probably a little over-zealous, but I knew it would be awhile before I'd be having dinner at a restaurant again. Ben slept the whole time in his car seat.

Ben has been a great baby - and super cuddly! His favorite position is up on your shoulder, all scrunched up in a ball. I think that's how he was in utero. So far he lets anyone hold him - it doesn't matter if the person is anxious or nervous or awkward around babies. He's been held by family, friends, and members of our softball team. He smiles already, has rolled over from his stomach to his back a few times, and knows his A,B,Cs (ha ha!) He's extremely strong for being only a month old. I don't know what he weighs, but he wears three month outfits so I'm guessing he's 13 or 14 pounds. My only complaints are that his days and nights are mixed up, he struggles with gas/pooping, and he eats ALL THE TIME (every two hours). I feed him up to 12 times a day, and the constant feeding on demand gets old fast. I breastfed Adam for seven months and that's my goal this time, too, even though I hate the thought of pumping at work again.

After a rollercoaster pregnancy, I'm so, so, so relieved that Ben was born healthy. Throughout my pregnancy people asked me if I wanted a boy or girl, and I don't think they fully believed me when I said I didn't care as long as the baby was healthy. All of the stars have to be perfectly aligned in order to carry a healthy baby to term - so many things can happen to disturb the balance along the way - that when you deliver a healthy baby, you feel truly blessed. And that's how I feel. We have two beautiful, healthy sons. I don't want to play Russian roulette again. I can't imagine going through another mentally and physically grueling pregnancy like I did with Ben, not to mention the fact that my recovery was much, much harder than with Adam (my stomach wall separated from carrying such a large baby, I had painful hemmies, I broke out in a crazy hormone-induced super itchy rash a few days after delivery, etc.)
And yet I don't know that our family is complete. I'm open to the idea of adoption within the next few years. (I can picture us with a little girl from China.) Who knows. Maybe I'll change my mind once Ben is older and my memory starts getting fuzzy.

Right now Ben is snoozing in his swing and Adam is playing with his Legos and I feel closer than ever to Aaron (I love that he loves his family so much. He is an unbelievably helpful hands-on dad). Life is good. I am blessed beyond blessed.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Beach ball

When I dropped Adam off at daycare yesterday, his 2-year-old friend, Morgan, walked up to me, pointed at my gigantic pregnant belly, and announced, "BALL!"
"She was up north at her cabin this weekend, and I bet she was playing with a beach ball," my daycare provider Mary laughed.
"BALL!" she announced again, this time lifting my dress to get a better look.
I laughed and Mary laughed and even Morgan started laughing.
"No, this is a baby," I told her.
"Baby BALL!" she announced.
If you can't laugh, you might cry, so I try to keep on laughing.

I am a patient girl ...

I am still pregnant. It's been draining for me mentally & physically. At my 40-week apppointment yesterday, my doctor said I was 3 cm dilated - an extra centimeter from my last appointment (we went to Stillwater with friends on Memorial Day and did a ton of walking. Maybe that helped?), nearly 100 percent effaced/thinned (my cervix is ready), and Baby is head down and ready to launch.
The doc stripped my membranes, which was more uncomfortable than painful. Basically she used her fingers to 'sweep' my cervix and separate the cervix from the amniotic sac. This is supposed to help speed things up as far as labor, but I think it only works when Baby is ready to arrive. I know people who had their membranes stripped three times with no results, and others who had it done once and said they went into labor less than 24 hours later.
"I'd be surprised if you weren't in labor within the next 24 to 48 hours," Dr. S. told me. "And if, by some chance, you're not, come back in Friday and I'll strip your membranes again, but I really don't think I'll be seeing you Friday."
"What happens if it doesn't work on Friday?" I asked, hoping she would say something about inducing me.
"I don't think that will be an issue. Your body is ready and something will happen after stripping your membranes twice in one week," she told me.
I was in a state of euphoria all afternoon. The end was near!
I went back home and worked for a little bit, got Adam from daycare, went grocery shopping, and made dinner. Bring on this baby!!
Last night, Aaron skipped his softball game because I started having sporadic contractions. They weren't quite Braxton Hicks, they weren't quite like I had with Adam (an intense tightening of the uterus), they were more of a cramping/pelvic pinching pressure and they were coming about every 40 minutes. Could this be it?
We made arrangements for a friend to come over in the middle of the night should I go into active labor at, say, 3 a.m. We put my parents on "high alert." (In other words, answer your damn cell phone if we call!!) We put our hospital bags in the kitchen. I did the dishes and swept the floor (who wants to come home to a dirty house?) and read Adam some books before bed. It was the first time it hit me that this could be our last time together, just Adam and I, before he was no longer our only child. It made me feel sort of sad in a way. He knows Button is coming, he knows he's going to be a big brother, but he doesn't fully comprehend just how much life is going to change. I stared into his big green eyes as I was tucking him in and he giggled and said, "You're looking at me and I'm looking at you."
"I love you," I told him, feeling sentimental.
"I love you," he replied. "Will you read me another book? A little one? I want another book! READ ME ANOTHER BOOK, MOM! I WANT ANOTHER BOOK!! DON'T LEAVE MY ROOM! I WANT ANOTHER BOOK!" (So much for an emotional moment.)
I went downstairs to watch the news with Aaron, then went to bed around 10 p.m. Just like that, my contractions fizzled out. I had a few in the middle of the night but nothing consistent enough to be the 'real deal.'
And so Aaron got up and went to work as usual this morning, I brought Adam to daycare, I came home and worked - very similar to yesterday's routine only this time I wasn't feeling euphoric. I was feeling deflated. When will this little one arrive?!
It's been nice working from home this week, even though I miss the social interaction. I just didn't think I could handle the well-intentioned "STILL no baby?!?" comments in the office. Plus I'm not feeling 100 percent (why am I SO wiped out?), I didn't want to drive downtown and deal with parking, I didn't want to take the bus, and I didn't want to worry about going into labor while at work. Also? I didn't want strangers in the skyway staring at me like I'm some exotic zoo animal. (Haven't they ever seen a really, really pregnant woman before?)
So I made my appointment for Friday morning, all the while hoping that I won't need to keep it. I am grateful that Button will be full-term when I know so many babies are born prematurely — with moderate to severe health issues — but it's incredibly hard not to feel manic depressive when your due date comes (yeah! the magical day has arrived!) and goes (boo! the magical day has gone!)
In the (somewhat modified words) of Fugazi: "I am a patient girl, I wait, I wait, I wait, I wait ..."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

This baby is in no rush whatsoever

I had my 39-week doctor's appointment yesterday and my doctor told me there have been no changes as far as dilating/effacing and it doesn't appear that my body is preparing for labor in any way. She can tell I'm uncomfortable and mentally drained but doesn't want to induce me just yet. And to be honest, I don't really believe in early inductions so I'm OK with that. I mean, women have been delivering healthy babies since the dawn of time, long before the invention of Pitocin and forced contractions and medically-unnecessary c-sections. It's not as if my baby is in distress in any way - it's just ME that's in distress, and I'll survive. "Think of it this way," my mom said to me after I told her about my appointment. "As long as your baby is in your womb, you won't have to listen to it crying." So true! And this way I can look forward to reading the books I just purchased, rather than waiting to read them until I return to work in August. So ... I made my 40-week appointment for June 1, where my membranes will be stripped (that sounds awful, doesn't it? But really I think it sounds worse than it is) and if that doesn't get the show on the road, I will be induced either June 5 or 6. I don't like the idea of being induced, but I do like the idea of having an "end date" and a light at the end of the tunnel, so that's the plan for now. I just keep hoping Button will arrive before then ... maybe this weekend? Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Waiting for Button to arrive

I am SO CLOSE to my due date (according to my 10-week ultrasound I'm due May 28 - in three days, and according to my doctor's office and my estimated last cycle, I'm due June 2) and I feel like a (really round) kid anticipating Christmas. Is today the big day? Will we get to meet Baby Button today? When will we get to know if we have another son or a daughter? Who will Button look like? How big will he/she be?
And then there are the labor and delivery thoughts that follow me throughout the day.
Will my water break on the bus? (God I hope not. "I'm so sorry, sir, you might want to move. You're about to be sitting in my amniotic fluid.") Will it break while I'm walking through the skyway? Will people think I wet my pants? Will it be a little gush or Niagra Falls? I read somewhere that only 8 percent of all pregnant women experience their water breaking, so maybe I'll be in the other 92 percent again. (The nurse had to manually break my water with Adam.)
Will my contractions be the same as they were with Adam, or completely different? Will I know - without a doubt - that I'm in active labor? Will I be able to labor at home for awhile, or feel like I should head straight to the hospital? Will I have the resolve/strength to skip the epidural? (I had a HORRIBLE reaction to the epi when having Adam ... Aaron said it was like I had Parkinson's disease, I couldn't stop shaking, and I couldn't catch my breath - it felt like I had an elephant on my chest.) Will I tear? Will Button catch on to breastfeeding right away?
Yesterday I had a particularly trying day at work. I was tired (sleeping is a challenge now that I'm carrying a mini watermelon around on my belly), I was uncomfortable, I was ANNOYED with the number of stupid people who asked, "Still no baby?!" I hit a wall mentally. I know I only have DAYS left of this pregnancy, but sometimes it feels as if I will be pregnant forever. My boss allowed me to work from home today, and after a great night of rest last night, I feel much, much better. I guess I just needed some quality sleep (and a break from the freak-show stares I receive when I'm working downtown) for an attitude adjustment. I have a doctor's appointment in 30 minutes and hopefully my doc tells me I've dilated even more. I know she can't predict when Button will come, but it sure would be nice to hear these words "I'd be surprised if you're still pregnant in a day or two."
I am so ready to meet this baby.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Power of two

It's been five years (!!) since Aaron and I said "I do." What a wild ride it's been (And I wouldn't change a single thing.) I never forget how lucky I am to have married such a wonderful man. He truly is my best friend ... and a really great dad, too.

What are your middle names?
Michelle and Mark

How long have you been together?
We started dating in the spring of 2000

How long did you know each other before you started dating?
Aaron started working at Lillie News in August of 1999, a year after I started.

Who asked whom out?
He asked me out.

How old are each of you?
I was born in 1975; he was born in 1973

Whose siblings do you see the most?
Probably mine (two brothers and a sister), although we see his two sisters and brother at least once a month.

Which situation is the hardest on you as a couple?
Finding a work/parenthood/life balance

Did you go to the same school?
I took the direct route of graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 4 years, he took an indirect route to the University of Minnesota after going to UMD & joining the Army (Reserves) first.

Are you from the same hometown?
I grew up in North St. Paul, he grew up in Coon Rapids

Who is smarter?
I think we’re equally intelligent.

Who is the most sensitive?
That’s a toss-up.

Where do you eat out most as a couple?
We don’t really have one specific place.

Where is the furthest you two have traveled together as a couple?
Whistler, B.C.

Who has the craziest exes?
Probably me, but I don’t like the word crazy. I’d prefer INTERESTING.

Who has the worst temper?
We’re both pretty laidback.

Who does the cooking?
Definitely Aaron — and he’s really good at it, too!

Who is the neat-freak?

Who is more stubborn?

Who hogs the bed?

Who wakes up earlier?
Me on weekdays; Aaron on weekends

Where was your first date?
Sophia’s on St. Anthony Main and then to Nye’s for polka!

Who is more jealous?
I would have said me in the beginning of our relationship, now I think we have a solid foundation of trust.

What was your worst fight?
Tacos vs. burritos. No, seriously, I can't remember a "worst fight." Any fight is a bad one. Who likes to fight with their s/o?

How long did it take to get serious?
A few months. I liked him from the very first conversation we had (after-hours) at the newspaper, and my crush grew when we became lunch buddies and workout buddies. (Shout out to the NSP Community Center!)

Who eats more?
He eats more when we sit down for dinner, but I snack more throughout the day.

Who does the laundry?
Both of us

Who is more social?
Me. I love meeting people and hearing stories. And staying at wedding receptions/reunions/parties until we're two of the last few standing. (Sorry, Aaron!)

Who is more spontaneous?

Who is more athletic?
Definitely Aaron ... but I enjoy playing softball and kickball and I'm glad I got back into running last year. Oh, and I'm a force to reckon with when it comes to ladder golf.

Who is more well-read?
I am, I am!

Who's better with the computer?
Aaron. He's better with all things technology. I just don't care that much. (I still use a flip phone & I don't text message. Is that so wrong?)

Who's more romantic?
Aaron. Every year on our anniversary he has sent me a bouquet of white tulips — the flower we used as centerpieces on our wedding day. And it's not just about receiving gifts, he's incredibly thoughtful, too. Sometimes the little things mean more than the big ones, ya know?

What was your wedding song?
"Power of two" by the Indigo Girls

What do you remember most about your wedding day?
Celebrating our love with our very favorite people in the world (when else can you host a big party with so many of your loved ones?), the girls getting ready together, our vows (we wrote our own), our soloist Brooke, dedicating songs to our wedding party in the party bus, stopping at the Liffey for Irish Car Bombs, heartfelt speeches, dancing the night away, feeling blessed and lucky and so, so, so happy!

"Adding up a total of a love that's true. Multiply life by the power of two ..."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dad, I need something!

top photo: Adam in his big boy bed. (Finally!) On April 3, we went to an Easter egg hunt sponsored by the Lexington Fire Department (Aaron’s dad is heavily involved and we wanted to show our support). There was not one, but two Easter bunnies roaming around at the park, which made Adam extremely skittish. You can see here, from the look on his face, that he could’ve cared less about the candy and was more concerned that the Easter bunny might somehow sneak up on him and get too close.

A conversation with Adam in March:
Me: “Good night Adam. Sleep tight.”
Adam, eyes wide open: “Did you hear that noise?”
Me (getting a little freaked out): “What noise?”
Adam (in a terrified whisper): “I think the Easter bunny is downstairs!”
Me: “Adam, the Easter bunny isn’t coming for another month. That’s a long time.”
Adam: “He’s not coming now? He’s not coming tomorrow?”
Me: “No.”
Adam: “Ok. Good night.”

Another conversation April 1:
Me: “The Easter bunny is coming in a few days, Adam. You’ll get to find Easter eggs and your Easter basket! Maybe you’ll even get some candy!”
Adam: “He’s coming now?”
Me: “No, in a few days.”
Adam: “To our house?”
Me: “Yes.”
Adam: “I don’t want him to come to our house.”
Me: “Your dad and I will let him in and let him out.”
Adam: “I don’t want him here.”
Me: “Ok. What if we ask him to drop off your basket with the neighbor?”
Adam: Silence.
Me: “What if we tell him not to come this year?”
Adam: “Good.”

Easter came and went without a whole lot of hoopla this year (besides the fact that Adam was terrified of the Easter bunny). I’m embarrassed to admit that we didn’t even make it to church.
Aaron’s daycare provider had an egg hunt for the kids on April 1, where I discovered that he really doesn’t like jellybeans (what?!) but loves those icky marshmallow Peeps. Guess who ate all of his jellybeans?
On Saturday we went to the Lexington egg hunt in the morning, where he scored a bag of Cheez-its and one plastic egg that we redeemed for a book. He got knocked down about a second into the start of the egg hunt (sheer chaos) and immediately started crying, so it was really Aaron who grabbed the crackers and egg on Adam’s behalf.
We enjoyed a more relaxed egg hunt on Easter Sunday at my parents’ house. This time the eggs were filled with coins rather than candy. His godparents, Auntie Trish and Uncle Shawn, bought him a stuffed bunny and singing card, which he will probably still be listening to in January, and he went nuts over a plastic golf set purchased by my parents (not delivered by the Easter bunny) and had fun “kipping the ball” around their backyard. Aaron has since purchased a “real” club for him from Golf Galaxy because the kid has become obsessed with golf (and baseball … and Joe Mauer … and anything with a ball, really. If he isn’t interested in playing sports when he’s older, I will be shocked.) Aaron has been SUCH a good dad, too, playing in the backyard for hours with the little squirt. I can't wait until I can lift/bend/run again and get my ENERGY back!
At 4 p.m. we went over to Grandma Patti’s house where he was spoiled yet again—this time with candy, toys, and rain boots (Patti used the boots as a basket. Really cute idea.) We ate more good food, hung out with the fam, and visited until nearly 8:30. We celebrated my brother and sister-in-law’s 26th birthday, too (the twins actual bday is April 10). I really am blessed to have married into such a wonderful family.

The big news in our household is that Adam is now sleeping in a big boy bed!!!!!!! We bought him a twin bed and started the transition a few weeks ago and he’s exceeded our wildest expectations. The first few nights I sat next to his bed until he fell asleep, and now we just have to read him a few books and tell him “We’re all in the house together and if you need anything, just yell for one of us.” With that in mind, he typically falls asleep about 10-15 minutes after we leave his room.
Actually, the first night Aaron told him that, about five minutes later—as we were watching the end of Idol—we heard an urgent, “Dad! Dad! I need something!” coming from Adam’s room.
Aaron went up to investigate. “What do you need, buddy?”
“I need something.”
“What is the something you need?”
“Um, I need lunch?”
It was pretty cute. I think he was testing Aaron’s theory to make sure we’d respond asap if he called for one of us.

In sad news, a friend’s dad passed away right before St. Patrick’s Day, at the young age of 69. She was extremely close to him, being the baby in a large Catholic family, and I can’t stop thinking about how final death is. How he was here one minute and now he’s not. How she can’t share news with him and he won’t get to see her kids grow up and she can’t hug him or kiss him or tell him she loves him. How her mom is a widow now. ☹
And another friend of a close friend’s mom passed away—very suddenly—while vacationing in Vegas. She was only 62. One minute she was simply going on vacation; the next minute her kids were flying out to Nevada to say goodbye.
I didn’t like it when my friend’s grandparents started dying, and I hate it now that we’ve moved onto the next line of defense—our parents. My dad just turned 60; my mom just turned 59. In my eyes, they’re both still so YOUNG. They haven’t had a chance to enjoy retirement yet. Can you imagine working hard your whole life and then Death cheating you out of your hard-earned retirement years? I can accept that death is part of the natural cycle of life, but I can’t accept it when someone dies suddenly before the age of 80.

On the flip side, I also have a lot of friends who either just had babies or are having babies, and I love, love, love the “Baby Boom.” Some of my closest friends had babies or are having babies. Karla had Aliza in September, AJ had Violet in January, Amanda had a baby boy, Mason, on April 7, and Amy had a baby boy, Broder, on April 9. My childhood friend Gina is due at the beginning of May, Megan is due with #2 at the end of October (yeah!), her sister is due in July, and two of my coworkers are due in July or August (one coworker is in my department and we’ve become friends through our shared pregnancies, the other is leaving in two weeks and I’ll probably never talk to her again). I keep waiting for other friends—both those here in town and those living out-of-state—to make “the announcement.” Bring on the bambinos!

As far as my own pregnancy, I’m pretty sure people stare at me with a mixture of awe/terror as I waddle into week #34. I hate feeling self-conscious. I especially feel that way when people ask, “You have HOW MUCH time left in your pregnancy?” then try to recover the shock in their voice by saying, “I didn’t mean it like that. You look good! You can’t even tell you’re pregnant from behind!” Well, good, because the last time I checked, I wasn’t carrying the baby in my ass. It’s hard not to feel defensive when someone tells you that you look HUGE.

Speaking of where this baby is hanging out, I think Button recently dropped lower in my pelvic region. Yahoo! I’m feeling so much better than I’ve felt in a long time. I was carrying so high that I could feel Button’s kicks right below the underwire on my bra and I’m pretty sure he/she was squashing my lungs, making it hard to breathe. Now I can get up out of a seated position without huffing and puffing, I can walk without waddling (as noticeably), and I can fall sleep without feeling like I’m squishing my baby (I know babies are cushioned by amniotic fluid but it's still a weird sensation to feel your baby moving underneath you at night, ya know?) I can even lie on my back for a few minutes at night without getting a panicky suffocating feeling. I wonder if this shift in how I’m carrying means Button is head down now? My doc said she won’t check until 36 weeks, so I guess – even if Button is preparing to launch – it wouldn’t really matter just yet, because he/she could still spin around in that little space and wind up transverse. I hope, hope, hope the baby is head down eventually because I would love to be spared a cesarean section.

One coworker said she loved her two c-sections and wouldn’t want a vaginal delivery. Really? She said she’s had friends tell her, “After you deliver naturally, it looks like a bomb went off down there” and “sex just isn’t the same afterward” (I disagree — your body is very, um, elastic and meant to stretch.) Another friend had four c-sections and said it was as easy as “making a dentist appointment and coming home with a baby.” Really? It’s MAJOR SURGERY. It freaks me out to think of being prepped for surgery (with Aaron suited up in scrubs to make it even more scary/real) and it freaks me out to think of having to lie flat on my back on the examining table —all naked and spread eagled … unable to move … as surgeons cut me open and REMOVE MY ORGANS (uterus, ovaries, intestines) to pull out the baby and placenta. It freaks me out to think of the risks of blood clots and painful gas buildup in my abdomen after they stitch me back up and the possibility of the c-section scar getting infected. I don’t want to have to take morphine for the pain and I don’t want to deal with a longer recovery. If the surgery is necessary (Button is breech, distressed, the cord is prolapsed, his/her noggin is just too big to squeeze through my birth canal) then by all means, safely remove my baby via c-section, but if it’s simply a matter of convenience, I’d rather endure painful contractions and an hour and a half of exhausting pushing again.

And last, but not least, spring has finally sprung!!! It is amazing how just seeing the sun again can boost everyone’s spirits.

"April prepares her green traffic light and the world thinks Go."