Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Blessing of Accepting

Over the past couple of weeks, I've learned something about myself: I don't know how to gracefully accept generosity from others. Help, gifts, compliments -- when they are offered to me, they make me very uncomfortable. This caught me off guard because I am one who very much enjoys giving these things to others, so you'd think I'd enjoy being on the receiving end as well. Nope.

Since Reid's birth, many generous friends have offered to make my family meals, and unless they flat-out say, "I'm coming over with dinner tomorrow," I struggle to find a gracious way to accept their gift of love. I think in my mind, accepting help from others makes me feel like I am taking advantage of people or coming across as a big ol' mooch. And it shouldn't be that way. I should not feel uncomfortable saying, "Thank you! We'd loved a meal on ____ day." But I do. When people ask me if they can do something for me or if we need them to bring us dinner, I seem to find a way to talk them out of it. And it dawned on me the other day what an insult it is to those sweet people to not accept their offer to help.

I love being on the giving end. When friends have babies or surgeries or big life events, I really enjoy cooking a meal for them or picking out a gift. It is a pleasure for me, and if someone said to me, "Oh please don't do anything for me, I have plenty already," I'm pretty sure my feelings would be quite hurt. No one likes to be rejected.

Last week, one of the sweetest women I know asked if I needed a dinner, and I told her no and gave an excuse that I had a ton of meals stockpiled in my freezer. She was completely gracious about my rejection, but after I had time to process things, I wanted to kick myself. It wasn't about the food. It wasn't about her giving me anything. It was about her asking to show love towards me, and I pretty much told her I didn't want it. And to be real here, I really did want it; I just didn't know how to accept it. And in true Erica form, it wasn't until I was driving home that I came up with the response I wish I could have given her: "I'd be crazy not to accept a meal from you. I've heard how great of a cook you are. We would very much appreciate it, thank you." Nothing mooch-y about that at all.

That incident was fresh on my mind on Monday as I attempted to take the boys to the grocery store all by myself for the first time. I was terrified, and I guess the fear showed on my face because as I was walking into the store with my toddler and newborn in tow, an older lady approached me and asked me if I was OK. I brushed her off with an , "Oh I'm fine, thank you." and tried to walk past her. But she continued to talk to me, asking about Reid and how I was doing and then focusing her attention on Cohen. I was uncomfortable. I'm not one to talk to people I don't know, and here this woman was being so nice to me, but all I wanted to do was slink away. We finally got away, and I began my shopping. And just when Cohen started to become a handful and I began to get panicky, that women from the parking lot appeared. She gave Cohen the attention he wanted and me a moment to regain my confidence, and then she was gone. We continued shopping, and when I started to become flustered again, the woman appeared out of nowhere again. She never really said anything to me, she focused all her attention on Cohen -- giving me a few seconds to breathe. This happened 3 more times during our shopping trip. Every time I felt I was losing control, that woman appeared to distract Cohen for a moment, and then she'd leave again.

Halfway through my shopping, I realized that she was not doing any shopping herself. I had met her in the parking lot as she was leaving the store and I was going in. She had already done her shopping. She just recognized that I was an anxious mama who needed help, and she gave it to me in the moments I needed it most. She made my first grocery trip with two children a success. She helped me gain confidence. And if I had refused her kindness? I would have missed out. I would have surely become overwhelmed by an energetic toddler and a crying newborn in the middle of the dairy department. Accepting her kindness was the greatest gift I could have given myself.

So this week? I'm forcing myself to say "No thank you" less and "Yes please" more. Because accepting help from others can be a blessing for all.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

2 Weeks In-- more thoughts

1. Brother love. Omg, I had no idea how strong or how sweet it would be or how quickly it would happen, but these brothers love each other. I have never seen Cohen act so loving and gentle around anyone the way he is around Reid. He never wants to be away from his brother, and it really bothers him when Reid is upset. And Reid? He will cry and cry, but if big brother starts singing to him, he calms right down. And when big brother holds him or snuggles with him, he's as happy as can be. I'm already seeing Reid watch Cohen and focus on his face. I am so excited to see these boys love each other in the coming years. 

2. Germ sharing.  Not even 2 weeks in, and it happened. Cohen came down with a cold last weekend. I didn't think much of it (because who gets a cold in June?!) and I actually brushed it off as being those molars trying to pop through. Nevertheless, I tried to keep the boys separated just in case he was germy. Turns out, he was, and by Monday, poor Reid had his first cold. It was short lived, thank goodness, but our Monday was filled with a fussy and congested newborn. I'm sure that's the first if many more shared sicknesses. 

3. Baby wearing. I never thought of myself as a baby wearer, but this baby is not happy if he is not being held. I pulled out my Moby wrap from when Cohen was a newborn, and Reid snuggled right in and fell asleep. And I was able to do stuff! So great. So now Reid is worn a lot. And he is one happy baby. 

4. Nursing. It's going so well, and that surprises me considering how uncomfortable I was with it when Cohen was a newborn. I am really enjoying the whole experience. Reid is an excellent nurser and is happiest when he is in my arms right next to his food source. He is gaining weight fabulously (which is a huge praise since he lost so much weight in the hospital and everyone wanted me to supplement with formula), and I'm feeling really good. I've had a few more nursing in my car moments, and I'm beginning to feel more confident about that as well. The longer we go at this, the more I value it and it becomes more important to me. 

5. Cohen. He's all toddler. And we all know how delightful toddlers are, especially when they've been cooped up at home for a few days and left to their own devices. Thankfully, he loves his baby and shows no sign of jealously, but he is testing the boundaries with mommy and daddy. I hate having to get on him so much. He is still very much daddy's sidekick, but I've noticed him letting me back in this week. I've gotten a few snuggles and a couple "I love you"s. My sister spent the night with us this week to spend quality time with Cohen, and that boy was in Heaven. It was so wonderful to see him get that one-in-one attention he craved, and I am really looking forward to getting back to that soon. 

6. Reid. I feel like I am fighting time. I hate that 2 weeks have already passed. I so desperately want to pause life right now and just enjoy it for as long as I can. He's a precious baby. He loves to snuggle and be held. He is impatient and hates being undressed. He is starting to look around. He makes the sweetest little noises when he has a full belly. It is both difficult and so wonderful having him here. I can't wait to see who he'll become, but I also just don't want him to grow up yet. 

7. Recovery. Physically, I feel great. I know I haven't recovered yet, but I feel really good. I have to remind myself to slow down a lot. Emotionally, I'm feeling really good too. The crying sessions have decreased dramatically. I'm still very much on the lookout for any sign of postpartum depression, and apparently so is everyone else I love. I didn't realize how much it affected those close to me last time, but its pretty safe to say that *no one* wants to go through that again. My 2 week hormonal grace period has expired now, so at the first sign of crazy, I'll be calling my midwife for help. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Initial Thoughts on Being a Mom of Two

It's been 9 days since Reid came into our lives. These past 9 days have been all about surviving and readjusting and learning. Here are the highlights:

1. Cohen. Something happened the moment Reid was born. Cohen became a two year old. He's heavier and his skin became a little rougher and his legs are like logs. His diapers are huge and his clothing might as well be that of a grown man's.

It's amazing how big your first baby can seem after just a few hours of holding your new baby.

Cohen has also proven himself to be a great big brother. He's loving and gentle and always wants to help. When he first wakes up in the morning, the first thing he asks for is Baby Brother. When he gets a yummy treat, he asks to share it with Baby Brother. He assigns Reid a toy first thing every morning, and you had better make sure Reid keeps up with his toy. I've not seen any instance of jealousy ... yet. He is just genuinely happy to have his new best friend at home with him.

I have noticed him distancing himself from me, though. He used to be such a momma's boy, but now he's all about his little brother and his daddy. And it just happened overnight. The day before I went into the hospital, he would want me to kiss every little bump and scrape. Now, he rubs the hurt away and will tell me he's fine even if there are tears in his eyes. The last snuggle he gave me was the night before Reid was born.  I'll be honest: it breaks my heart. I am practically begging him to let me kiss a boo boo. I bribe him to get him to sit in my lap for 3 seconds.

2. Reid. Reid was born with "suck marks" on his hands and wrists. He nursed for 2 hours immediately after he was born. So I knew I had a sucker on my hands. But man. This boy is attached to his momma. We are nursing 24/7. A funny thing I've noticed: anyone else can hold him, and he'll be perfectly content in their arms and will readily accept a pacifier from them. But the minute he gets in my arms? He roots around and fusses and acts like he is the hungriest little boy on the planet until I either pass him off to someone else or nurse him. He makes the most sour face when I try to offer him a pacifier. It's like he knows.

He is very much a snuggly baby and does not like to be put down or left alone. While this would have bothered me when Cohen was a baby, I've learned he will only be a newborn for such a fleeting moment, so I happily hold and nurse him all day long. He's a great sleeper and will typically give me a great night's rest. He usually wakes up to eat around 3 and 6AM and tends to go right back to sleep. He hates diaper changes and sponge baths, but is the happiest little guy when I wash his hair. His umbilical cord stump fell off yesterday, so tonight he'll get a real bath, and I'm expecting him to love the warm water.

3. Life. When Cohen was a newborn, life stopped for about a month. We rarely left the house and I rarely got out of my pajamas. We slept a lot and spent most of our days just lounging around the house. This time around, I have a toddler to go with my newborn. Life does not slow down. We were at the park the day after we returned from the hospital. I try to find some excuse to get out of the house every day. Otherwise, we might go crazy. Reid seems to tolerate it well, and I am so lucky that Cohen is such a great listener out in public. He seems to know that Mom is as bit overwhelmed and needs him to be a good boy.

Travis was home with us for the first week, and it was such a lifesaver. I thought I might have a panic attack when he returned to work on Wednesday, but it really hasn't been that bad. As long as I can keep Cohen entertained and Reid nursing, this being a mom of 2 thing seems manageable. I did have my first nursing-in-public experience yesterday in the Kroger parking lot. Cohen was awesome and patient in his carseat, Reid ate to his heart's content, I got to use my neat nursing cover ... all was good. Until a man walked by and proceeded to stare at us for what seemed like ages. Even though I was completely covered, I felt so vulnerable and exposed. My goal is to nurse Reid for a year, but I'm going to have to gain some confidence because yesterday was hard.

4. Recovery. Recovery has been harder this time around. For the first four days, I was so incredibly weak. My legs were shakey, my body was sore, and my midsection felt like jello. I was so overwhelmed with the idea of feeling that way while caring for 2 children on my own. Monday morning, though, everything seemed to magically get better. Physically, I'm feeling 95% back to normal. Emotionally, it's been a longer road. The Baby Blues are hitting me pretty hard. I'm super weepy and emotional, and the frustrating part is I usually don't know why I'm crying. But sometimes I do. I am very much mourning the end of my baby-making days. As I feared during my pregnancy, I am very sad I will never be pregnant again, never have another baby. Realistically, 2 children are all I can handle and all I really want, but the end of this stage in life feels bitter. I'm praying fervently that the Lord will take these feelings away from me and that I can really, truly appreciate this life as a mother of 2.
I've given myself two weeks for the Baby Blues to pass before I call my midwife about Post Partum Depression. I never dealt with my feelings after Cohen was born, and we had a hard first 6 months as a result. This time, I refuse to do that again. There is no shame in seeking help.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

And Baby Makes Four

This post was written on Tuesday, June 4:

A week ago, I was getting ready to take Cohen and myself to our last midwife appointment.

I was 40 weeks and 4 days pregnant and to be honest, I was completely shocked that my due date had come and gone with no baby to show for it.

I made jokes with the nurse about how we didn't want to see each other in the office that day and how I pretty much woke up hating the world every morning I woke up and was not in labor.

I was a little disheartened when my midwife, Jonne, announced I was only 1 centimeter dilated and showing no exciting progress. I decided to let her strip my membranes right there in hopes that the procedure would jump start things a bit.

And then we scheduled the induction.

I was induced with Cohen, and I had a very negative birth experience. Labor and delivery with him were rough on my body and scary to me, and I blame most of that on the fact that my body just wasn't ready yet. I had been adamant from the first meeting with Jonne that I wanted to do everything possible to avoid induction this time around. We agreed that the best thing, barring medical necessity, was for me to go into labor on my own.

But as I approached 41 weeks of pregnancy, the dangers of waiting around outweighed the benefits of avoiding an induction. So I was scheduled to be admitted to labor and delivery at 5AM on Thursday, 5/30.

Cohen and I left the office and ran some last minute errands. At the grocery store, I bought the ingredients I'd need to make one last, fancy dinner for just the 3 of us (Travis was going to take us to dinner on Wednesday night). We got home, and I got the kitchen and refrigerator stocked and ready for our return from the hospital. I made dinner. I played with Cohen.

And around 6:30 PM, I felt a contraction that was strong enough to make me time it. 3 minutes later, I felt another one. This went on for an hour. By 7:30, Travis and I had our bags packed. At 8, we put Cohen down for bed and Travis's parents arrived to watch Cohen overnight. At 8:30, I received the go-ahead from Jonne to go to triage so they could see if I really was in labor. She told me she wouldn't admit me unless I was 4 centimeters dilated or my water broke.

We arrived at the hospital at 9, but I refused to go inside until I walked around a bit to get the contractions to pick back up. I was certain the nurse inside would tell me I hadn't progressed at all and would send me back home. I was hooked up to the monitors at 10, and to my disgrace, I did not have a single contraction the entire hour I was monitored. I prepared myself to be sent home. At 11, the triage nurse checked me, and I was dilated to 3 centimeters. She told me to walk the halls for an hour and then return to see if that would progress things.

Travis and I walked the halls of the Maternal/Infant unit for an hour, passing by the nursery to check out the new babies and talking about our own. 20 minutes into our walk, I began having strong contractions, and they began to come closer and closer together. At midnight, I was checked again, and I was 3.5 centimeters dilated, but I was progressing enough for Jonne to decide to admit me to Labor and Delivery. It was baby time!

By 1AM, I was checked in and hooked up to IVs. Contractions were strong and regular, and we just knew we'd have a baby by mid-morning. At 3AM, contractions had slowed down, so I got up to walk another hour. Contractions started again immediately, and by 7AM,  I was terrified my water would break or I'd be too far dilated to receive an epidural, so I requested it. I got the epidural and was checked (I was dilated to 5) and put on pitocin by 8AM. Now that I had the epidural, I was able to sleep a little bit, and I don't remember much from there. I know I sent my mom and sister to get lunch. Cohen stopped by, and I tried to put on my most up-beat face for him.

Around 2PM, I was dilated to 7-8 centimeters, and the contractions were strong and right on top of each other. Jonne broke my water, and I began to feel tons and tons of pressure in my lower abdomen with each contraction. Soon after, the pressure began to move to my backside, and I knew we were getting close.

I had read about the practice of "laboring down" which means the mom is given the freedom to push whenever she felt the urge, not right when she reached 10 centimeters. The theory is by not pushing, the body is allowed to push the baby down the birth canal on its own, saving the mom hours of unnecessary pushing. I wanted that, but I had never asked Jonne about it. Turns out, that was her plan all along.

When I started feeling pressure in my backside, my nurse called Jonne and told me she was on her way. Many painful contractions later, Jonne was still not in my room. I began to panic that she wouldn't make it in time for me to start pushing (this is what happened the last time around), and I began to cry. That turned into hysterics. Immediately after I began sobbing, Jonne and all the nurses came into the room, ready for business. I haven't been told this, but I think they were waiting for me to get to this panic-y spot.

I pushed through one contraction, and baby's head was visible. Jonne asked me how I wanted to go about pushing, and I said I wanted minimal tearing. She coached me through 2 more contractions (I actually breathed through the contractions and pushed on my own), and baby Reid was in my arms at 4:14PM.

At first I sobbed, and then I began laughing. I looked up at Travis and told him I could do that again, no problem. Reid was perfect and much smaller than I had anticipated for a past-due baby. He had brown hair and little blisters all over his wrists -- the nurses said they were "suck marks" from where he had been sucking on his arms while in my belly. He immediately began nursing and pretty much nursed for 2 hours non-stop.

Once everything was cleaned up, family was invited in the room, and that's when Cohen got to meet his little brother. It was love at first sight. Cohen knew exactly who that baby was, and he wanted to hold him and rub his head. Seeing my boys together for the first time was a feeling I'll never forget. 6 days later, they continue to be sweet brothers.

I am so very blessed. I was terrified going into this delivery: terrified things would go the way they did last time, terrified something unexpected would go wrong, terrified either Reid or I wouldn't come out on the other side healthy. I prayed through my entire labor; I meditated on the Lord's goodness and reminded myself all the ways He had given me the desires of my heart. I praised Him for whatever outcome would occur. And in the end, I got to experience an easy and, dare I say, fun delivery. I got to bring home a beautiful new son. I got to complete my family.