Monday, October 5, 2015

Birdie - 1 month

Well, it's happened again. I birthed a baby in the heat of the summer and then, I emerge from my den and we're in the thick of fall. After I woke up from the disorienting exhaustion of Libby's first 2 months, I remember having the strange feeling that the world had somehow gone on without me and I was left behind. Anyway.....

I love having a newborn. I love the sweet sounds they make, their jerky reflexes, their cuddles. Birdie is such a welcome addition to our family. I am so glad she's here and I can't imagine our family without her!

Birdie is named after my great grandmother Alpha Birdie Cotten, whom we always refer to as Mimma. I have fond memories of Easter egg hunts in Mimma's backyard in Sweetwater, TX and later, when she moved to an assisted living home in Dallas, going out to eat with her at Luby's. I still have a thank-you card that Mimma wrote to me one year after I had given her a birthday card. That was probably the first time I ever received a thank-you card and it made me feel so grown up! She died when I was 11 and I look forward to our reunion someday! In the meantime, I get to think of her whenever someone asks about Birdie's name.

Alpha Birdie Cotten - "Mimma"
I love this picture of Mimma - classic 20s fashion! Doesn't she look just like Sarah Bunting from Downton Abbey?

But back to this cutie...

My parents were here for the first 3 weeks of Birdie's life, which was so nice. (They had planned to arrive on a Saturday afternoon and it just so happened that she was born early that Saturday morning, so the timing was quite perfect.) They were so helpful taking care of Libby and Piper and giving them lots of needed attention. I got to just worry about me and the baby for the first 3 weeks.

Libby and Piper both really love Birdie. Libby wants to hold Birdie all the time. But since Birdie spends most of her time either eating or sleeping (and is crying if she's not eating or sleeping), there's never enough time for Libby to get her fill.

Piper is obsessed with Birdie. She isn't concerned with holding Birdie, but she cannot keep her hands off her. She is constantly rubbing Birdie's head, giving her kisses, and talking sweetly to her. Multiple times this past month, Piper has been in the middle of a tantrum and then cried, "I want to kiss Birdie!" And with a kiss, Piper is all better.

Birdie is a bit of a fussy baby - if she's not nursing or sleeping, she's crying. She's taken a few naps in the carseat and a couple in the crib, but all others are in my arms or on my chest in a baby carrier. If I put her down in the crib or bouncy seat or swing, I have about 5 minutes before she starts crying. I've actually timed her a few times. If I'm really fast, I can take a shower or load the dishwasher in this time, but not much else. I'm embracing a messy house right now. My kitchen floor is sticky and there are piles of laundry everywhere, but I love the cuddles and I really don't mind.

She looks so tiny in her carseat!

Love those spit bubbles

Friday, September 25, 2015

Birdie's Birth Story

"It is not a slight thing when they, who are so fresh from God, love us."- Charles Dickens

At about 10:15 on Friday night I was sitting on the couch in the basement watching a movie with Jared. I felt a sharp punch to my cervix and then a pop like a water balloon popping. I felt a little trickle so I got up and ran to the bathroom as water poured down my leg. As soon as I got to the bathroom and realized that my water had broken my body started shaking involuntarily. It must have been either hormones or nerves although I didn't really feel nervous at the time - just kind of surprised that I was actually going to have a baby that night. I had thought for a while that the baby might come early but it was still a bit surprising to be a full week early. I went upstairs to be in my own room and started to get things ready for the birth. Jared said he would take care of it all and told me to just rest. But I was shaking so much I couldn't rest even when I was lying down, so I said I'd rather be up and moving around. Jared called the midwife to tell her to my water broken and she said to call back when I started having contractions, probably in a couple of hours. Jared and I sort of scoffed at that - I was hoping and expecting I'd be done in a couple of hours! (I had such a fast labor with Piper - 4 hours total, with the first 2 hours being no more than mild cramping.) I started having some contractions within about 30 minutes. They were really mild at first, but by 11:30 were coming more consistently, so Jared texted the midwife to let her know we were ready for her.

I've heard that some women like to labor sitting on the toilet but I never thought I would do that. It just sounded kind of gross to me. But because my water had broken, every time I had a contraction amniotic fluid would leak out so it was easiest to just stay seated on the toilet. This was also convenient because I had to pee every 5 minutes. The contractions hurt much more if my bladder was not completely empty. Eventually I turned around backwards on the toilet so I could rest my arms on the tank and lean over. I was so tired because I was still shaking constantly. I couldn't rest even between my contractions. I was listening to Hypnobabies, which helped my mental state, but I just couldn't control my body. I asked Jared to rub my lower back. I've never had much back pain in my labors before but this time I felt a lot of pressure in my lower back. At one point Jared left the room to let the midwife in. I was still leaning over the back of the toilet with my earbuds in and my eyes closed. I sensed someone returned to the room and put their hands on my back; I noticed right away they weren't Jared's hands, but I didn't care whose they were. For about 5 minutes, I didn't bother to turn around and see who it was (it was Rebecca). I knew Rebecca was the midwife on call, but because she isn't licensed yet (she just graduated from midwifery school) one of the other 2 midwives was going to come, too, and I didn't know who would get there first. Kari, the other midwife, arrived a few minutes later.

My legs started to fall asleep from being seated for so long so I stood up to try different positions. I paced the bathroom, leaned over on the birth ball, leaned against the door frame of the bathroom with a fan in my face. I started to wonder why my labor was taking so long. I was still expecting it to go faster than Piper's. I could tell the baby was posterior because I could feel limbs towards the front of my belly. I wondered if the baby's position might be prolonging labor, so I asked the midwife what I should do. She gave me a few ideas of positions to try. I got on my hands and knees and Jared stood over me, holding a long sheet under my belly and gently swaying my belly back and forth. Next, I tried a really awkward position in the pool with my knees on the ground and the tops of my feet resting on one edge of the pool and my arms leaning on the opposite edge. Basically, my body made a v-shape. Rebecca came over and felt the water and said it would need to be warmer for the actual birth so Jared started adding more hot water. But I was too hot so I had to get out. I tried a few more position changes like leaning on the ball and pacing the room. I also did the lift-and-tuck through about 10 contractions. While standing, I put my hands under my belly and lifted up while tucking my tailbone through each contraction. This is supposed to encourage baby to rotate, but it also puts a LOT more pressure on the cervix - good for moving things along, but also pretty painful. At one point, Rebecca asked me where I was feeling my contractions and I said "my cervix!" That's such a unique and curious feeling - really unlike anything else. Kari suggested I try the shower, so I did that until I got too hot again. As much as I wanted to just lie down, I also wanted to speed things along so I did a lot of upright positions.

Finally, I was so exhausted I decided to lay on the bed for just a few minutes. I laid there for a few contractions and noticed that the contractions were starting to feel pushy. So I decided to get in the tub. It was 3:05 AM. I started on my hands and knees but soon got into more of a squat. Rebecca knew I wanted to catch the baby myself so she showed me what kind of position would make that the easiest - squatting with one of my legs out to the side (like a deep sideways lunge). I put a couple fingers in my birth canal to feel how close the head was - it was right there! I knew I was ready to start pushing. With my fingers, I could feel the head descend during each push and then recede a bit. On one of the contractions I felt the head almost crown and then go back. Rebecca said "don't fear it." That was helpful, because I think I was a little afraid of what was coming. I remembered the"ring of fire" sensation with Piper's birth and how much it stung. But I decided to give it my all on the next contraction and get it over with. With the next contraction, I pushed the head to crowning. This time it didn't recede. That is a strange feeling to have the head almost sticking out for a 3 minutes while waiting for the next contraction. But it didn't sting this time! At this point I needed to lean back so that I would be able to pull the baby up out of the water. I didn't feel like I could sit down though (there was a head down there!), so I sort of leaned back on my hands. On the next contraction, at 3:25 AM, I pushed the baby all the way out - head and body came all at once - and then sat back and quickly grabbed baby out of the water and pulled it to my chest. It was such a relief to get the head out!!! The best pain relief for labor is birth - it's complete and instantaneous.

The first thing I did was look to see what we had - it was a girl! I was so exhausted I was still breathing hard, panting really. For the next 10 minutes, I held the baby, rubbing her back and admiring the very thick coat of vernix. Rebecca asked if we wanted to cut the cord yet. I waited a couple more minutes and then said "okay let's cut it. I want to get this placenta out." It was starting to descend and I was feeling the fullness of it in my birth canal. Jared cut the cord and took the baby skin to skin. I sat back up to squatting and pushed one time and got the placenta out. I remember grunting through that push because of the pressure and fullness and the midwife said "this one doesn't have bones." I moved to the bed and Jared brought the baby to me. I was still shaking hard at this point and was exhausted but I was just so so relieved that it was over. And so excited that I finally had my baby in my arms! And thrilled it was a girl!

There's definitely some pain associated with childbirth, but the overarching feeling I experienced with this labor was fatigue. I've never been so tired. My legs and butt muscles hurt for days afterwards because of the hours of shaking. Of course it was all worth it, though. Those afterpains on the other hand...I could do without. If anything scares me away from having more kids, it's knowing that afterpains get worse with each baby. They nearly brought me to tears this time.

A couple other things I want to remember:

Around 2:30 AM, Rebecca asked if she could check my cervix. I thought about it for a few minutes and then said I would let her, but I didn't want to be told how far I was dilated because I was worried I'd be discouraged if I wasn't as far along as I'd hoped. She did the exam and told me I was progressing nicely and that baby was positioned well and was not posterior anymore. After the birth was over, I asked her how far I had been dilated and she said 4 cm, though I quickly stretched to 6 cm as she was doing the exam. With all the contractions I had in the weeks prior to the birth, I figured I'd be already be 4 cm when labor began. I was so glad I hadn't heard those numbers in the moment! But little did I know I'd have a baby in my arms in less than an hour.

My coping strategies for this labor were different than my previous labors. I was so antsy this time. I changed positions a lot and was upright as much as possible. One of the cues that really helped from Hypnobabies was the phrase "every pressure wave is like a strong, warm hug." It really did help to imagine the contractions (pressure waves) as hugs. There was also another cue about welcoming each pressure wave. I latched onto that one as well. I was so anxious for labor to be over that I really did welcome each contraction. Rather than being afraid of the next one, I'd psych myself up for another one to come on, because each contraction got me closer to the end.

Pushing was such a relief. With my first birth, I got an epidural right before I started pushing, so I had to be directed when and how long to push, but I had no sense of how much progress I was making. With my second birth, I never once consciously pushed (other than when birthing the placenta). My body just...expelled the baby on its own and I never had the urge to help it along. This time, as soon as I felt the contractions change to expulsive contractions (what my former childbirth class teacher referred to as "reverse dry heaves") I had the urge to push...hard. And when I pushed, the contraction hurt much less. It's interesting how each labor and birth can be so different.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Summer stories

I used to be better about keeping track of the funny things my kids said, but I haven't done very well at that lately. Here are just a few cute things I can remember that they have done or said in the past few months.


Piper is almost 3 and is becoming more able to tell stories, explain herself, etc. But I kind of love that she still has a few words or sentences that she mixes up. For instance, she asked one day "Can we watch toon cars?" She also calls an umbrella a "barella."

She surprised me one night at bedtime by imitating me and saying in her most grown-up sounding voice "you go to bed," emphasizing each word with a meaningful pointing of her finger at me.

She and Libby are such rascals and anytime I'm upstairs and occupied, especially if I'm trying to rest, they like to go to the kitchen and "be sneaky" by getting into the chocolate chips and marshmallows and cinnamon sugar.

Piper has started taking this one step further and sneaking inside the house when the rest of us are outside. Twice in one day, she locked me out of the house so she could get into my gum in my purse. Luckily the back door was unlocked. Looks like installing a keyless entry lock is on our immediate to-do list.


Libby is really enjoying playing with neighbors. She especially loves the 8-year-old girl across the street. One day, Libby kept asking me how to spell the names of different neighbors. I knew she was writing them down, but didn't know why. A while later, she told me she needed to go put some notes in the neigbors' mailboxes. I let her deliver the notes, but didn't realize until afterward that she had invited every kid she knows to come to her house on Tuesday the 15th for a playdate. I don't know if she looked at a calendar or just guessed, but Tuesday was actually the 14th so it was close enough to being right that it was confusing for some people. One neighbor asked me if this was actually a real event, but nobody else mentioned it. A few weeks later, Libby asked me when it would be Tuesday and when I told her it already passed, she started crying "nobody came to my playdate!" I LOVE her initiative, so I need to help her plan an actual event sometime.

Speaking of mailboxes, Libby can just barely reach the mailbox now, so checking the mail every afternoon is a highlight of her day. She loves having something she can do all by herself.

One thing Libby and the neighbor kids like to do is tell "spooky stories." One day, I set up a makeshift tent in the front yard with a tarp and the kids all gathered inside and told stories. It was hilarious to overhear. Libby's story was about a ghost that went in a boy's eye and then in his mouth and finally, the boy pooped it out.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The first quarter

Apparently, it's been so long since I've written that I missed an entire quarter of a year. Here are a few random pictures from my phone to document the last 3 months.
 We went for a walk and found this great bent over tree. This was the first day this year I actually felt hot outside and that was a good feeling.
 We went to an Easter egg scavenger hunt at Scheels and met the Easter Bunny.
 Jared and I are so lucky to be in area with and active BYU Alumni group. For our most recent activity, we toured the Salisbury House in Des Moines, a historic house whose library happens to have a broad collection of early Mormon materials including this first edition Book of Mormon.
 We made an impromptu trip to Kansas City one weekend and I was super impressed with their science museum. It was so fun for the whole family.
 In Kansas City, we stood on a bridge over the train tracks and waved at the engineer. The kids were thrilled that he waved back and have talked about it ever since.
 I'm pregnant.
 Piper was sleepy at the store, I guess. I just love how her toes are curled around the bars of the cart.
Piper basically potty trained herself. She got through the first week of potty training with only 1 or 2 accidents and very very little prompting from me. It was awesome. However, she is still terrified of public toilets and has had a good number of accidents in public because she refuses to use the toilet. This day was a bad day to have to go without pants. It was freezing!
Piper is awesome on the balance bike!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Favorite books of 2014

I absolutely love reading friends' book recommendations (goodreads is awesome! add me as a friend!), so I can't help recommending a few myself.

I used to think I didn't enjoy non-fiction, but I think I had just been reading the wrong stuff! I am allll about the non-fiction now, as you'll see in my list below.

Here are the best books I read in 2014:

Thank You For Your Service by David Finkel

This is one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read. It is so emotional, powerful, important, and eye-opening. It follows the post-war lives of several wounded (physically, emotionally, or both) veterans.

The Good Soldiers by David Finkel 

By the same author as Thank You For Your Service, this book was equally as amazing. So well-written. How is it possible to write a non-fiction book about war in such beautiful prose? David Finkel's writing astounds me. Be warned, though - the f word is used at least a hundred times.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Probably the best YA novel I've read in years, if not in my lifetime. I'm sure everyone has heard of this by now. The movie was great, too, but I loved Augustus so much more in the book. Hazel, too.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

This was wonderful historical fiction about 2 of the first female abolitionists (the Grimke sisters) and their family's slaves. I just adore Sue Monk Kidd's writing. (If you haven't read The Secret Life of Bees, check that one out, too. That was one of my favorites in 2013.)

Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor

I loved that this trilogy felt so different from any other I've read! It was so fun!

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout

An incredible account of a young journalist who was kidnapped and held hostage for 15 months by Islamic extremists in Somalia. There is certainly a heavy dose of brutality, but people who are squeamish will appreciate that most of it is not described in detail. You learn more about the author's emotional reaction to her torture than you do the torture itself. Sure sounds like a downer, but it's actually kind of amazing. And she lives to tell the tale and even does charity work in Somalia now.

[I almost left these next 2 off, but I think that's only because I read them early in 2014 and I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed them.]

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

This book wasn't perfect (the last third dragged for me) but it was just so darn interesting I have to include it. This young journalist seemed fine one day, then woke up in the hospital completely psychotic. She had hallucinations, couldn't move or speak and didn't remember anything from the prior month. When doctors can't figure out the cause of her sudden demise, they chalk it up to mental illness. Eventually a doctor discovers the cause and she recovers enough to write the book.

Breaking Night by Liz Murray

Similar to The Glass Castle (one of my all-time favorites!) but without all the swearing, this is a great memoir. The tagline is something like "From Homeless to Harvard." Girl grows up with drug-addicted parents, ends up homeless at 13 in NYC. Pretty incredible stories.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

In Which Libby Dresses as an Oven

Starting sometime this summer, Libby began requesting to be an oven for Halloween. When I'd tell people this, they'd universally say, "a what?" Yes, an oven. I don't know where she got the idea, but I kind of loved it because a) I could make it out of a cardboard box and wouldn't have to buy anything and b) she could wear a jacket underneath it. I've had all sorts of great ideas for Halloween costumes for my kids (like last year I reeeeally wanted Piper to be a Treasure Troll) but it's just too cold here on Halloween. Jackets are a must.

We decided to stick with the baking theme and dress Piper as a chocolate chip cookie because again, I could make it out of cardboard and she could wear a jacket. Both of them had a little trouble putting candy in their buckets. People were nice enough to hold out their bowl and let the kids choose what they wanted, but then they couldn't reach their hand across their bulky costumes to drop it in their bucket. Piper wised up and realized she could reach her hand under her cookie, so that worked for her. Libby was just out of luck with her short arms, so we had to help. 

We went to a church Halloween party on Wednesday and then trick-or-treated on Thursday, which wasn't really Halloween and wasn't really called trick-or-treating. Des Moines is weird. Back in the 50s or something, some mom decided that there was too much vandalism going on on Halloween night, so she got her neighborhood to do their candy collecting the night before. Eventually it spread to the entire metro area and it's still going strong. They call it Beggar's Night and kids are supposed to tell a joke or riddle to get their candy. I could go on and on about how little sense this all makes. First of all, Des Moines is pretty tame and most of the "vandalism" involves toilet papering trees and smashing pumpkins. And having Beggar's Night on the 30th and Halloween on the 31st now leaves two nights open to pranksters. My neighbor who is a cop said they get more calls about vandalism on the 30th than the 31st. So...what did that accomplish? But I digress...

Maybe when my kids are older, they will think it's fun to come up with jokes to tell. But this year, it was an accomplishment for them to remember (and be brave enough) to say "trick or treat" and "thank you."

Yeah, she's trick-or-treating with an Easter basket. So what?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Piper is 2

Little Piper turned 2 on October 16.

She loves Libby, dogs, stuffed animals and baby dolls, books, candy, meowing like a cat, looking at pictures of herself, helping in the kitchen, eating, coloring, "Mommy milk," Jared's iphone, and copying whatever Libby does. She can turn nearly any object into a "baby" to take care of - scraps of toast, blocks, dinosaurs, etc. When she's playing alone, she's often tucking a baby into a blanket and saying things like "go sleep? come 'ere. I love you."

She can sing the ABCs and can sort of count to 10. She loves Primary songs, especially the one called Baptism that goes "Jesus came to John the Baptist..." She calls it the Jesus song and whenever it comes on (we listen to the CD in the car), she yells "turn it up, please!"

On her birthday, I took the girls to a pumpkin patch and then we came home and had birthday brownies.

It was a beautiful day, perfect for celebrating this beautiful girl.

Have there ever been two girls who have loved each other so much? Piper is so crazy about her sister that she is even starting to favor Libby over me. If she gets hurt or upset, she will just as soon ask for Libby as she will for Mom. For the past several months, I have been asked at least once a week if they are twins. While Libby is 2 years older and a head taller, I can only guess that people are sensing the closeness between these two. They are practically each others shadow.