Wednesday, August 31, 2011

School's In!

Just when I thought I could no longer manage all four kids at home, the light at the end of the tunnel began to shine brightly. The sun no longer stays out until eight o'clock at night and it's too cool for swimming much after dinner. It's time for the new school year to begin!

All the pre-school-year rituals have been completed. We went shoe shopping and spent too much. Katelyn was satisfied once she had a new pair of dress shoes in patent leather and complete with mini wedge heels. Trevor was happy just to leave the shoe store... Then there was the trip to buy all the school gear. $70 later, we go home happy with backpacks, lunchboxes, thermoses, freezer packs, notebooks, folders and crayons. All shiny and new and waiting to have each student's name printed neatly in the corner. I was reminded of the excitement of having brand-new stuff each school year and feeling super organized and so proud.

Finally the big day arrives - the first day of school..for Katelyn anyway. Kindergarten has a staggered start, so Trevor has to wait an extra day, but everyone else starts on Monday, the 29th. We did so well that morning with getting ready and out the door. We only left one minute late! But I forgot that with half the kindergarten class not in attendance, the bus arrives early and so we nearly missed the bus despite the good start... As a result, I didn't get to take pictures until the end of the day. She informed me that she had a great time and that she's happy that one of her best friends is in her class again this year!

Trevor's first day of school was Tuesday, the 30th. That morning, we were more successful in getting out the door on time. All six of us (hubby stayed home to accompany us on this momentus occasion) marched to the bus stop early enough to wait around for a few minutes before it's arrival. We even had time for pictures before school!

At the end of the day, Trevor actually ran off the bus to me and proclaimed that he had a wonderful day! I believe "awesome" was the word he used to describe it. I was thrilled as I had worried that it might be a difficult transition for him, given his difficulties with socializing.

He was so excited to share his news of the day with me; I was really impressed as that goes beyond his typical desires for reciprocal conversation. Usually, he tends to have a very one-sided conversation about whatever crosses his mind. It was a nice change.

Later that evening, he did confess that he was somewhat sad as he tried to make friends, but the other kids wouldn't talk to him during the day. We suggested that perhaps they're having a hard time getting settled into a new schedule and that with time, they will become more friendly. I can only hope that this is the case; I certainly hope that kids aren't picking up on his differences this early. He got along with all the kids in preschool; I can't imagine why kindergarten should be that different... only time will tell.

The next day, Trevor tells me that he didn't have a good day because he was reprimanded for picking up a toy when they were getting in line for recess. But, he did point out that the next day, he would do better and not get a "frowny face" on the board next to his name. One more day until week number one is complete!

As for my days, with the big kids gone, it's certainly much more quiet in the house. It is nice to have time to once again focus on developmental play with Evan and one-on-one time with Levi while Evan's napping. I have hopes to eventually fit in exercise (for me!) and cleaning (more than tidying) the house. I did miss them for a few moments throughout the day, but mostly, it was just peaceful. I look forward to many more enjoyable days this year with these guys!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Great Day!

My oldest son, Trevor, turned five years old yesterday. Unbelievable! Time is such a blur to me these days; I have to work really hard to make specific memories stick in my brain anymore. But I clearly remember when Trevor was just a toddler. He had so many days where everything frustrated him. He had no ability to communicate his desires and his needs and spent so much time crying and having tantrums. I also remember sitting in the rocking chair in the corner of his room and having him slumped on my chest, snoring (with his overly large adenoids), enjoying being loved by Mommy. And speaking of adenoids, I remember his surgery to have them removed as well as the surgery to have his tonsils taken out. All of this time has passed so quickly when originally the difficult times felt like they would drag on forever.

Trevor was my second-born and I don't think it was until his younger brother came along that I really began to understand how important it is to cherish EVERY moment you have with young children because it really is true that you blink and they're headed off to school and then you breathe and they're leaving home! Again, it's unbelievable.

So five years after his rushed entrance into this world, Trevor is a happy little guy who is totally stoked to be starting kindergarten next week. He's excited to ride the school bus and meet new friends and impress his teachers with all he knows. I'm so excited for him to experience all the joys of school when it's brand new. I know it will wear off all too soon but it's so great when it's fresh and novel! He's come so far in such a short period of time and I wish him all the luck in the world. I hope he has kind children in his classroom and I pray that they can overlook his differences in social abilities and play skills and enjoy him for the sweet and caring friend he can be....

To celebrate his birthday (since his party is scheduled late this year), we went to a local amusement center and he and his sister got to drive go-karts for the first time. They loved it!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why Be Sorry?

My husband came to me and asked for advice on how to deal with people who offer their condolences upon learning that Levi has Down syndrome. When the first thing out of someone's mouth is, "I'm sorry...", it makes you wonder, "What exactly are you sorry about?"  Are you sorry we've been condemned to a life of misery? that our child will never have a chance to become president? that we'll be burdened with caring for him the rest of our lives? Logically, I know it's a well-meant phrase, but I can say with certainty that one thing which will NOT help Levi (or our family) is pity.

So what do I say? I say, "Thank you, but we're not sorry." What I've learned in the last 8 weeks since his birth is that preconceived notions of what it means to have Down syndrome need to be thrown out the window. All kinds of possibilities exist, which no one may have predicted in the past. There is hope for the future and that is what matters.

What do most parents want for their children?

Independence & Romantic Love? Monica and David have it...

Independence, Higher Education and World Experience? Luigi's getting it...

Because these people have been raised with love and treated as humans from whom we expect great things, they are accomplishing all kinds of goals not previously thought possible. The medical community is finally expressing an interest in and understanding the need for treatment to assist individuals in reaching their full potential with an extra chromosome. Research is ongoing in places like these:

Great strides are being made to improve the lives of those with Down syndrome and we have no idea what kinds of advance might be made in the near future which could profoundly affect Levi's development and provide even greater chances that he'll be able to live a happy, healthy, "normal" (whatever that is) life.

Regardless of what lies ahead, I know that right now we have a healthy, happy baby who knows that his mommy and daddy love him and that he has three goofy siblings (and two cats) who are superbly entertaining! For this, I am not sorry and I do not want pity or compassion. Instead, I want understanding that my child is more alike than different and is not a creature to be pitied. I would also like for people to accept that differences (physical and cognitive) are to be valued and not wholly dismissed. There is value in everyone, not despite the differences, but because of the differences. So if someone is going to tell me that they're sorry when they hear that Levi has Down syndrome, then I would have to ask, "How could you feel sorry for somebody this sweet?!?..."

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Tiny Thrill

This is small and I don't have a whole lot to say on the matter, but I wanted to mention the thrill I got yesterday when I took my older children to an amusement park. Katelyn and I were standing in line for the very first ride when I took notice of the family in front of us. They had four children (like me) and the youngest child was standing there, patiently holding the father's hand while waiting. To my amazement, he had Down syndrome!

I say "amazement" because to date, I have not seen a single person in my community with Down syndrome since I was a child. I know that they are out there as almost all of my friends tell me they know of someone in our area, but I personally haven't seen anyone. Anyhow - it seems sort of fortuitous that I saw this happy family enjoying their day at the park. It's not like I'm walking around all gloom-and-doom about our future family adventures, but it's great to see proof that families like mine can still get out and enjoy themselves with the typical family activities without complication (at least that I could see). It gave me a positive boost for the remainder of the day!!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

My First Event

I've made a decision! Our family is going to participate in our first event for our local Down syndrome awareness group ~ hooray!! It's the Buddy Walk, a fabulous opportunity to raise awareness and money for education, research and advocacy...

I'm nervous as anything as I always have a hard time dealing with meeting new people, but I'm also excited. I'm tired of not knowing any other individuals with Down syndrome (personally, that is...I've "met" lots of great people online) and I want a glimpse of what our future may hold. I think I'm ready for this (emotionally), but even if I'm not, this is the path we're taking because it will be the right thing for us as a family and a community!

I feel like I should share more about the event, aside from my feelings on the matter, so here's some info from their brochure:

The Buddy Walk® was developed by the National Down Syndrome Society in 1995 to bring together a wide range of concerned individuals to reach out to friends, family and co-workers to promote awareness and inclusion for people with Down syndrome and to raise funds for education, research and advocacy programs.

The Buddy Walk is a one-mile walk in which anyone can participate without special training. The Walk has grown from 17 Walks in 1995 to 252 nationwide and around the world in 2010. Hundreds of thousands of people walk from coast to coast and abroad each year. The goal of the Buddy Walk is to promote acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome. In 2011, our goal is to have nearly 300 Buddy Walks across the country and abroad.

More than 252 Walks were held worldwide in 2010. For a list of where registered walks were held, please visit and click on the “2010 Walks” link, located under “Find A Walk”.
Approximately $11,200,000 was raised nation-wide through the NDSS Buddy Walk. These funds were distributed among sponsoring Buddy Walk Organizations and the National Down Syndrome Society.
More than 285,000 individuals participated in a Buddy Walk in 2010. Since the Buddy Walk was created in 1995, more than 3,000,000 people have participated in a Buddy Walk worldwide.

The Buddy Walk is a trademarked program of the National Down Syndrome Society and was created in 1995 to assist local groups in their advocacy efforts in their communities. With nearly 300 Walks taking place each year, the National Down Syndrome Society is able to speak with a unified and stronger voice on issues of policy that affect individuals with Down syndrome.

Now to start fundraising...
Visit Our Buddy Walk Support Page  and use the widget at the bottom of the page to donate to the cause and support our team!!

Friday, August 19, 2011

8 Things I Didn't Know

My baby boy is eight weeks old today! The last 56 days have flown by in the blink of an eye and I can't imagine how short a time it will be until Levi has been with us for 100 days and then 6 months and then a year! I used to wish time away; now I pray for it to slow down (except in that last hour before the kids go to bed for the night - by then I'm desperate for me time)

I was thinking about how much I've been changed in these last eight weeks and in honor of this, I'm listing eight things I didn't know eight weeks ago.

1. I didn't know if my heart could handle what I feared when Levi was born: that he had Down syndrome. I felt sure it was going to crumble into pieces. I would cry everytime I began to wonder if it was true. I went back and forth between being sure everything was going to be okay and feeling crushed and wondering, "Why me? Why us?"

2. I didn't know that Evan would be so jealous of his little brother. When our second child was born, our oldest was 19 months old and she handled it well. I presumed Evan (aka #3) would do the same when Levi arrived. What I didn't take into account was that Evan was only 15 months old and that he was used to having me mostly to himself; whereas, Katelyn had been in full-time daycare before Trevor was born. As a result, Evan has regressed in his speech and has become very crabby at his most vulnerable times of day (right before nap and bedtime) I can only hope that once the big kids are back in school, he'll be better off since I'll be able to spend more one-on-one time with him during the day.

3. I didn't know how much I forgot about having two kids under the age of two! I remembered that going from one to two kids was difficult, but that going from two to three wasn't bad at all. I guess that was because the age gap between Trevor and Evan was 3 1/2 years. Now I'm back to needing a stroller for every outing and I have to add 10 minutes to each trip just for getting in and out of the van ~ and that's on a good day!

4. I didn't know how much pleasure it would bring me to see my two oldest children enjoy their baby brother. A year-and-a-half ago, Katelyn enjoyed the novelty of a new baby for a few weeks and then moved on until he became more interactive. Trevor was only 3 1/2 when Evan was born and was interested for about 10 minutes! This time around, both Katelyn and Trevor were overjoyed to be able to meet Levi within a few minutes of his birth. From the beginning, Trevor has been proud to introduce Levi to friends and family and strangers alike. He constantly tells me how cute Levi is and how much he loves him. Katelyn is still very interested in mothering Levi. She holds him and plays with him and protects him from any perceived threat. They're the best!

5. I didn't know that less than two months after Levi's birth, I'd be missing being pregnant. I should've known - I've felt this way before. But thanks to a vasectomy, I know for sure that we are done. It's a good feeling in a way because we can move on from the "child bearing" years to the "child rearing" years and we can look forward to all the things that are easier to do when you don't have tiny little babies and toddlers. Beach vacations, amusement park visits and even local trips are all easier once the kids are walkers and talkers and have regular schedules for napping and such. In another two to three years, these kinds of outings should be a breeze!

6. I didn't know that I'd be blogging. As a project, it seemed overwhelming and I didn't know where to begin. I've found that just like any other task, you just start somewhere and the rest will come to you!

7. I didn't know that I'd become so knowledgable about Down syndrome. I thought Asperger's syndrome would be the only disability on which I'd be working on becoming an expert! The genetic counselor we saw when Levi was only 3 or 4 weeks old even made a suggestion that I find a forum to teach others about Down syndrome since I had learned so much even before our first meeting!

8. I didn't know that everything would be okay. I guess in a way I still don't know this for sure. But I'm feeling that it will be and so I guess that's a whole lot closer than I was eight short weeks ago. I'm coping by focusing on the positive aspects of our lives and by doing.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

So Many Things

Perhaps it's the novelty of having something new to do, but I find myself sitting here wanting to write about a million things all at once! Not knowing exactly where to begin or how to pace myself is difficult... I may find myself adding several posts a day until I've finally decluttered my brain a bit!

First things did planning a birthday party come to be such an overwhelming thing? Trevor wants to have a pirate party and I find myself spending what seems like hours online looking for all the appropriate supplies and favors and such and yet I've purchased nothing and accomplished little in the way of actually being closer to being ready to celebrate his 5 years of life. I've got to get myself together and focus...tomorrow...yeah, tomorrow sounds good for that! Procrastination wins out yet again


Levi had his first appointment last week with his physical therapist. There's not a whole lot to be done in his appointments at this point in time, but I did get some suggestions on how to run his tummy time and floor time to promote development of head control. I found a really cool device that I'd like to purchase in a few months to help with his gross motor control. It's called the Wingbo and it's essentially a baby-powered swing for tummy time. I really hope we get to give it a try around the time Levi is about 4-5 months old!

As you can see here, Levi is doing his homework exercises. His therapist said her goal would be to see him holding his head up at four months of age. I'm trying to get some better toys to make his work more enjoyable.  Here's to hoping we get there on time...

Next thing I'd like to mention: Levi LOVES the baby carrier. As I write this, he's been snuggled in the wrap carrier for almost 4 hours, just snoozing away! I've had this carrier since Trevor was born and I've certainly gotten my $40 worth of use out of it and then some. For parents of young infants, if you haven't looked into babywearing just yet, do it! Your baby will love you for it! Levi is modeling it below...just ignore the cleavage.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Looking for a Silver Lining in the Darkness

The day little Levi was born was one of the best of my life. But a dark shadow crept into my heart at the moment I first saw his face; I tried to push it away and focus only on the bright spot - the little angel that had surprised us by arriving three weeks early.

In the moment I first saw my baby's precious face, I also saw something which terrified me. Upturned eyes, a little fold at the inside corner of the eyes and thickened skin at the back of the neck - they immediately made my thoughts turn towards Down syndrome. "Oh no!" I thought and my heart sunk.  I silently chastised myself for being so critical of this tiny human being and made myself forget about that worry for a few hours. The midwife will surely say something if it was a possibility.

After all the examining was done, she hadn't voiced any concerns about him or his health. She gave him Apgar scores of 8 and 9 and left with full confidence that everything was right in our world. I decided to keep my mouth shut about my concern; I would research it further before mentioning it to hubby as I didn't want to seem like I was overreacting.

The next morning, hubby remarked that something looked "off" about Levi and I couldn't help but respond that yes, I thought so myself and that I think he looks like he has Down syndrome. I tried to appear calm, like I wasn't a whirlwind of terrified emotion inside, but I don't know if I was successful. Once I had given life to my fear, it became an obsession that possessed me until the midwife returned when Levi was 3 days old.

She examined him again, this time mentioning the single palmar crease on both of his little hands. I told her that I had read they might be associated with Down syndrome and she replied that they could be, but that they're associated with a variety of different genetic syndromes. I wanted to ask if some were worse than Down's, but was afraid of the answer. Levi was somewhat jaundiced at that point and so we talked about trying to get a phototherapy blanket from our pediatrician. I thought that if we needed to see the doctor, then we should get a blood test done at the same time to rule out or confirm a genetic syndrome.

To the midwife, I pointed out all the characteristics I had found on Levi which indicated Down syndrome: the upward slanted eyes, a flattened nasal bridge, epicanthal folds, double single palmar creases, a sandal gap on both feet and a misshapen pinna of the outer ear. I was hoping beyond hope that she'd somehow be able to dismiss all or most of these characteristics as being attributable to being borderline premature or just coincidental. She didn't. She pointed out that his muscle tone was pretty good; whereas, most infants with Down syndrome have hypotonia (low muscle tone) and she said that there was only one way to be sure.

So we went to the hospital for a blood test to find out whether Levi needed treatment for jaundice (it turned out he didn't) and I continued to panic silently about the flaws of my no-longer-perfect little boy. I'd hold it together for a while and then I'd just fall apart, crying until my head hurt. I haven't felt heartache like that since the days when Katelyn was hospitalized after her birth and I honestly felt like she might never come home to us.

But this was different; Katelyn's issue was simple and resolved. This (probable) diagnosis lingers and festers forever - or so I thought. We had blood drawn for a karyotype the next day. The nine days we had to wait to get those results were some of the worst in my life. I wanted to keep talking about it with hubby, to work through all my concerns. I felt like if I gave voice to them, they'd seem more irrational and less scary. But hubby and I are different people who approach these things differently. He didn't want to deal with the issue until we knew for sure that Levi's test was positive.

Thankfully, I have wonderful friends who found a sensitive way to reach out to me to find out what was going on and if we were okay. They were a sounding board for me for several days and helped me hang on to a bit of sanity in an otherwise insane moment for me. And while all of this was going on, I'm trying to make myself take time to enjoy the newborn phase with Levi. I know that this is my last baby and that I will regret it immensely if I look back and only remember the darkness of these days. After all, despite whatever genetic flaws this little person might have, they are not his fault and they do not change who he is. He is my son and I love him intensely. I just have to come to terms with the inevitability of this diagnosis.

On July 5th, I call the doctor's office and confirm with the nurse that the blood test results are back. She says she will have the doctor call me and so I wait. Finally the phone rings and with trepidation, I answer it. I don't want to because hubby is at work and I don't want to be the only one to know. She says the words I know are coming, "The results are positive for Trisomy 21, otherwise known as Down syndrome." But knowing they're coming doesn't make them sting any less. When hubby walks in the door less than an hour later, he looks at me and I start crying and he knows. He is able to console me and once again, he is the stoic one, my rock which I can lean on when life gets so hard.

Amazingly, this is a turning point for me. The not knowing was so much harder than this. We start seeing specialists and confirm that aside from a slight heart murmur and a small atrial septal defect known as a patent foramen ovale (PFO), he currently has no physical complications as a result of his extra chromosome. The cardiologist wants us to return when he is nine months old to verify that the murmur is gone as he expects and to evaluate whether the PFO has resolved or at least stayed the same size. The opthomologist only detects farsightedness, which is normal for such a young infant and so we're to return at the age of six months for another checkup. The genetic specialist gives us a whole collection of information, which is mostly overwhelming and is still sitting in it's envelope to be addressed at a later time.

Right now, we know that we have a little boy who has three siblings who adore him. Even little Evan, so sometimes appears jealous of Levi seems to care for him enough to drop toys onto him from the other side of the pack-n-play! Katelyn loves to mother him and protect him from Trevor; Trevor loves to tell people how cute baby Levi is. Levi is one lucky little boy because he has a mother and a father who will do anything to help him succeed and despite our forboding and fear of the unknown which lies in wait for us, we are determined to help him acheive whatever his maximum potential may be.

We're still dealing with the shock of this unexpected diagnosis; some days are harder than others. The process is like sorting through the stages of grief. There was denial and anger, bargaining and a form of depression. Eventually acceptance is reached and I don't know that we're fully there yet. We're getting closer every day and seeing Levi's personality emerge only reinforces our love and our determination.

With taking action, particularly in getting Levi enrolled in Early Intervention to begin physical therapy services, I feel less helpless - less like this is something that has happened to us. I can see a little bit of Levi's personality beginning to emerge and the more I see, the more excited I get about the prospect of our future as a family. I am starting to adapt to our new normal (though I'm sure it will be ever-changing) and realize that although it may be somewhat different than what I initially envisioned, it can still be great! He gives me courage...

The Gang (yes, everyone is looking at something different - it's a talent they have!)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Are You Kidding Me?!?...Again?!?

Time is always moving forward...Evan is no longer a tiny newborn who needs to sleep with Mommy in bed each night. He's a roly-poly infant, sitting up on his own and even starting to crawl when one day I'm watching that horrible reality show, I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant. It occurs to me that one of the situations in the story is oddly similar to my own and I get a nagging thought in my head that I just can't shake. I convince hubby that I need to take another pregnancy test and though we both sort of think I'm being silly, he buys one for me.

After Evan was born, hubby and I were in complete agreement that three children was the limit for us. This is not because we don't love having children, but for all the other "real world" reasons that people limit family size. The cost of raising children is immense and when we're busy raising the funds to do so, it limits the amount of time that we have to dedicate to enjoying our kids and making life enjoyable for them.

So I'm kind of freaking out taking this test and I'm so nervous that I can't even bring myself to stick around for the results. Thankfully my brave hubby once again steps in to save the day and reads the test for me. At first, he's certain it's negative, but then reconsiders and realizes that it seems to be a positive test after all. By now, I'm learning to trust my women's/mommy intuition when it comes to these odd notions...

Eventually, I confirm the test with a digital result and now we're wrapping our heads around the idea of having yet another baby. It's tough to analyze all the the plans that will need to be altered and ways in which life might be different than we planned. But sooner rather than later, I'm able to put my faith in knowing that somehow this was meant to be for us and realize that this unexpected child will bring even more love to our family.

The months pass and the anticipation grows about who this new little person is going to be. I have my anatomy scan in February and we once again have the ultrasound technician write down the sex of the baby and seal it in an envelope. This time, our plan is to have Katelyn and Trevor open the envelope and find out (at the same time as us) whether they're getting a little sister or little brother. I'm super excited and rooting for Team Pink, when Katelyn reveals that it is, in fact, another little boy! I almost expected as much, despite my desire to even out the ranks, and poor Katelyn starts to cry. We console her by reminding her that she holds the special place of being our only little girl and that she'll have three brothers to protect her and stand up with her in the future. Eventually, she gets over the shock of being the only girl and seems to enjoy the thought of a new little one on the way.

It's at this time that I transfer my care from my regular obstetrician office, which has seen me through all my prior pregnancies, to a homebirth nurse midwife. It's such a wonderful experience, having her come to see me for the appointments and talking to her for an hour at each appointment instead of feeling rushed to get in and get out!

As I finish the 8th month of my pregnancy, I make sure that all my supplies are together. I've decided that I want to use a birthing pool to deliver the baby and I choose all the people whom I'd like to invite to the birth. I want someone dedicated to taking pictures and video. I want my mom there to watch the other kids and I have a friend who is training to be a doula who volunteers to be present to do whatever I need her to do. This will allow my husband to focus on this experience with me and see me through it.

Everything is in order and now we're just waiting. Finally I reach full-term at 37 weeks. My midwife comes to see me on that day and because I have a history of being dilated early on, she offered to do a pelvic exam to see what my starting point is (if I do go in to labor between now and the next appointment). She says I'm not dilated, but I am about 50% effaced and the baby is quite low. Essentially, whenever he decides he's ready, the stage is set for labor! How exciting!! 

About an hour after she leaves, I start getting some cramping. I know this is normal following an exam and so I don't worry about it. It goes on all day and gets to the point where I can feel the contractions pulling on my pelvis (a very weird sensation). I'm not really in pain and although the contractions are at times only about 5 minutes apart, they don't get stronger or closer together, so again, I try to ignore them.

I go to bed and throughout the course of the night, I am awakened several times by contractions. Obviously they are strong enough to wake me up, but they're not so bad that I really think something major is going on. I do begin to wonder how long contractions typically last when they're triggered by an exam and I decide I should call the midwife at a decent hour in the morning. I plan to ask if she wants to come back to see if I've dilated at all.

Sometime mid-morning, I call her and find out she's going to be in my area around 3:00 pm that day. I don't want to inconvenience her for what is likely a non-urgent issue and so I tell her that should be fine to come and check me at that point. Hubby is at work and is convinced that these contractions are insignificant. Throughout the morning, I do my normal stuff with the kids and the house and notice that the contractions are a little bit more intense and are varying from 3 minutes to 10 minutes apart. When I lie down on the couch and rest for about an hour and a half, they slow down to about 20 minutes apart. Finally, Evan goes to bed for the afternoon and I relax again, but now the contractions are distracting to me. I've been timing them all morning, but now I really feel like they've got my attention. By the time Evan gets up from his nap at about 2:30, I realize I'm probably not going to be able to handle my parenting duties while feeling this way.

My midwife happens to call to tell me she's running a little behind and won't be arriving until about 4:15. I explained to her that I am beginning to think that maybe I am actually in labor but that I think I'll be okay until she gets here. I mention that I am going to call hubby and ask him to come home from work just a little early to help me out with the kids. She says she'll see me soon. I text my doula friend to let her know that I am having contractions, but that I don't know for sure if I'm in labor. I just want to give her a heads-up on the situation. I then call hubby and ask him to come home a little early and he says he'll be home as soon as he can.

Hubby gets home around 3:30 and because I've been busy contracting all day, the house is a mess. He proceeds to start cleaning while I stand around timing contractions. The kids are all still doing their normal stuff around me. At one point, I'm kneeling on the floor in front of the couch on which Katelyn is sitting. I'm swaying back and forth, waiting out the contraction and she leans over and tells me it's gonna be okay and rubs my back a little. If I hadn't been in pain in that moment, I would've liked to have given her a hug right then; she was so sweet!

About 10 minutes after 4:00, I text my doula friend to let her know that I think she ought to come over. Yes, I'd finally reached the point where I was sure I was in labor! I have hubby call the midwife again, because where the hell is she? and why is she not here with me? (I'm starting to get a wee bit emotional)... As it turns out, because it is Friday afternoon and the beginning of rush hour, she is stuck in traffic on the highway. She says she'll be there soon.

I tell hubby that he'd better put some water in the bathtub for me as it dawns on me there's not a chance I'm going to be able to use the birth pool in this situation! I change into my bathing suit top and he helps me into the tub. I haven't yet sat down in the water (I'm standing there sort of awkwardly trying to figure out how I'm going to get my belly under the water in a regular-sized bathtub when I haven't been able to do anything but stand or kneel during contractions...) because I hear the doorbell ring. I wonder if it's the doula or the midwife. I'm shouting, "Who is it? Who's here?" while waiting in the tub, but I get no answer. So I continue to stand there. In another minute, I hear the door open again and I also hear hubby say that I'm in the bathroom, so I deduce that the midwife has finally arrived at 4:30!

She comes into the bathroom, where I'm still standing in the tub. Somehow it never occurs to me that perhaps I should've opted for a shower instead of filling the tub, but I've got other things to consider now. She listens to the baby's heartrate with her doppler and pronounces him healthy. Then she checks me to see how far I've progressed and she informs me that I'm completely dilated. In a way, I'm shocked that the hard part is already over...yet another part of me already knew this to be true.

She calls for hubby who turns the childcare over to the doula and he joins us in the bathroom. The midwife asks him if he'd like to catch the baby and though we hadn't discussed it previously, he agreed to do it immediately! So she sat back and let us go to work.

Before I started to push, I had a few last-minute thoughts pass through my mind. The first was that I hadn't yet gotten my maternity photos taken; they were scheduled for the next week. The second was whether or not the bathtub had been cleaned recently - hubby assures me he's done a decent job of cleaning it in the last few days.

Out loud, but speaking to myself, I say, "Okay, well then I guess there's nothing left to do here but have this baby." The midwife asked if I wanted to feel the baby's head - I reached down and indeed, his head was right there, but a soft bubble was in front of it because my bag of waters had not yet broken. With the first push, my water broke. With my second push, his head was delivered and hubby removed the nuchal cord which was wrapped around his neck once. With my final push, the rest of his body was delivered and hubby pulled him out of the water and was holding him. He placed our baby on my chest for me to hold and I was amazed that he was finally here, though it all went so quickly!  Levi Jacob arrives at 37 weeks and 1 day gestation. It is 4:53 pm on June 24, 2011. He has red hair, blue eyes and weighs 6 lbs, 8 1/2 ounces and is 19 1/2 inches long. I am SO in love with this baby!

After hubby cut the cord, the midwife took over while hubby held little Levi. Once we finished in the bathtub, she helped me to my bed and hubby brought the baby back to me once I was settled. This was such a calm and intimate experience compared to my previous births. If I could go back in time, I'd deliver all of my babies at home!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A New Decade Brings Great Change and Another Prince

As I approach my 30th birthday, I know that something must change. I'm a stay-at-home mom trying to balance being a student in nursing school with working part-time in the evenings and making sure I'm really there for my kids during my "on" hours at home. It's hard because I feel like I'm having issues with side effects from some medications I've been using for a long time. I'm frustrated because it seems like I'm taking meds to deal with the side effects of other meds and I'm just sick of it. I announce to my husband that I'm done with it all. I stop taking everything except my required thyroid medicine and I feel super! It was a great change for me and I feel like I'm finally more aligned with the me I'm meant to be.

A little more than two months later and I start feeling ill. At first, I'm not sure what's going on because I've been feeling so good emotionally and physically since my big pharmaceutical change up. Then it occurs to me that a pregnancy test might be in order. Lo and behold it's a big, fat positive and next thing I know, we're gearing up to welcome baby number three at the same time that I'm beginning my clinicals for nursing school. Oy!

Thankfully the morning sickness abates within a week of the beginning of the semester. If you're going to pick a time during pregnancy to be putting in 40 hours a week for school, I'm going to say that the second trimester is the time for it. I can't imagine dragging myself through all of that during the first or third trimesters when I was truly exhausted! I finish up in December and get to enjoy a relaxing last three months before things get hectic again.

One thing we choose to do differently this time around is NOT finding out the sex of the baby. We reason that because we already have a boy and a girl, this is a prime opportunity to be surprised. We have a girl name prepared (well, sort of...) and a boy name that we agree on. We are all set, except that we still have to wait for baby to make it's appearance. Something I forget every time is how hard it is to wait through those last few weeks when every twinge or flicker of pain makes you wonder if labor is just around the corner!

Katelyn was born at 39 weeks and Trevor at 38 weeks, so by the time I get to 37 weeks, which is medically considered full-term, I am convinced that baby is coming any day. Starting at around 36 weeks, I get to track contractions for about six hours on most days and still no baby! Friends and family are on pins and needles, waiting for news but I've got nothing to share... Finally I make it to 39 weeks and I'm wondering if this baby is going to share it's birthday with someone we already know. From the 13th of March to the 18th, every day (except one) is claimed as a birthday by someone dear to us. 

I know that I'm already dilated to 4 cm and so I'm considering things like castor oil or bumpy car rides to try to move things along. I told myself that if I made it to my due date, I'd have to take matters into my own hands! As luck would have it, March 15th rolls around and labor starts on it's own at 1:00 in the afternoon. By 7:00, the contractions are substantially worse, but I'm still not in horrible pain. We leave at 10:00 pm and for the first time, it's a calm ride to the hospital. We snag the last spot in the parking lot for the emergency room and we walk up to labor and delivery. (no wheelchair for me this time!)

I get checked in and when I find out that I'm still only at about 5 cm, I start walking the halls. I have hubby sneak a chocolate milk for me out of the pantry and by midnight, I'm still not in nearly as much pain as I was the last time I did this and so I begin to worry that I might be up all night, running out of energy just as it's time to deliver...

I ask my nurse if the doctor might consider breaking my water for me so we can just go ahead and check this little task off my to-do list. The doctor comes to the room and takes care of this item for me and when the flood ends, I can tell that things are going to ramp up quite quickly. I try to get in the tub, but the heat is too much and I start to feel like I'm hyperventilating. So I head back out to the room and I decide to finish laboring standing up.

Oddly, it feels like just five, but I'm told it's about 30 minutes of swaying through contractions before this baby is ready to make it's appearance. I tell the nurse I must push and she has me lie down and she calls for the doctor, who is sleeping in the on-call room at the other end of the hall. I can't wait and I tell her as much. She tells my hubby to open the door and call for help from the nurses at the desk. They rush into the room to provide assistance and I hear my nurse say something about only having one glove on! The next thing I know, my body takes over and my third child comes into this world and I hear hubby say, "It's a boy!" Evan Jacob is born on March 16th at 2:13 am. He weighs 7 lbs, 13 oz and is 20 inches long. It's the one day of the week for which we don't already have a known birthday ~ hooray! Unlike his siblings, this little guy has a head of thick, dark brown hair ~ what a surprise!

This time around, I'm bored in the hospital. Hubby is home the majority of the time with the other kids and it's kind of lonely with no visitors... Thankfully, we're discharged in two days and our family is all together again. This time, instead of hiding inside and waiting to adapt to this new version of parenthood, we head to the playground the next day and enjoy watching our kids run around and have fun. What a great start to this fourth decade of my life! 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Life Gets Even Better (And By That, I Mean Crazier!)

Katelyn's first birthday nears, but before that, we get to celebrate her first Christmas. As the celebrations wind down, I start to wonder if a home pregnancy test is in order. I take a test and get confirmation that Katelyn is going to be a big sister sometime in the summer! It's a surprise and I have to break the news to my husband. I know we wanted to have more children, but not quite so close together and so I'm worried how he's going to take the news.

New Years Eve 2005 finds us home alone and I choose to break the news then. I'm crying and upset because I'm so worried about finances and how my husband is going to react, but to my surprise, he is once again my rock to lean on. It's going to be fine; we'll be fine... we'll figure out what we need to do to get us through. I realize just how much this man means to me and how lucky I am to have him!

Fast forward to April 2006 and my second-trimester ultrasound. We've decided we do want to find out the sex of the baby, but ask the technician to write it down on a piece of paper in an envelope for us so that we can open it after dinner with our daughter and find out as a family whether Katelyn is getting a little sister or brother. We pick Katelyn up from daycare after the ultrasound and go to dinner at an Italian restaurant. We planned to open the envelope at dessert, but Katelyn's allergies foil our plan and she projectile vomits all over our table. We exit stage left and after getting her secured in her carseat, we open the envelope together while sitting in the car.

We are both certain it's going to be a girl because my pregnancy (thus far) has been identical to my first. We open the envelope and we see a checkmark next to "True Blue, I'm a Boy!". My exact words are, "Holy Sh_t!" and I look at hubby and started to tear up. What was I going to do with a boy?!? I know nothing about boys! Thank goodness I have a few more months to get used to the idea; I'm certainly going to need the time to adjust...

38 weeks and look at those battle scars!! (ignore the frumpy houseclothes)
Fast forward again to August. I'm huge, I'm swollen and I'm SO ready to get this baby out!! Thankfully he has the same idea and when I go to the doctor at 11:00 am for my 38 week appointment, she informs me that I'm dilated 4 cm as the result of prodromal labor contractions that I've been having for 2 weeks. Hooray!! I ask about getting induced if I'm still pregnant next week and the midwife says that yes, that could be a consideration (if I make it that far). Thankfully, baby has other ideas and around 5:00 pm, contractions begin at about 8 minutes apart. They make me uncomfortable, but I'm not in nearly enough pain to head to the hospital yet, so I try to relax and wait. At 7:30, I call the doctor (hey, this sounds familiar) and I'm told to head to the hospital. Somehow, it takes us another hour to get out

of the house, but we arrive at the hospital shortly after 9:00 pm and head right to L&D.

I had hoped to try to labor without pain medication this time since I'm thinking maybe my epidural during my first labor had something to do with Katelyn's breathing issues after birth. But by the time I'm checked in and being examined, I'm rather convinced I'm actually dying and will not survive unless I get that darn epidural! So I cave and ask for the pain meds and spend the next hour begging the nurses to tell me where the anesthesiologist is and why he's not shooting me up with the good

Finally I get the epidural, only to find out that I was actually in transistion and I'm gonna feel this whole delivery anyway since the medication had only been working for a few minutes. It's just a few minutes past 11:00 pm and the doctor says he'll be right back. Hubby warns him not to go far; this part went quickly last time, but doctor doesn't heed the warning and suddenly the nurse is delivering this baby on her own!

She needs help from another nurse since she isn't able to reach the doctor and so she tells hubby to hit the button on the wall (to call the nurse's desk). The problem is that hubby misunderstands and grabs the self-administration trigger button for my epidural, which is located in the breast pocket of my hospital gown. He hits the button alright...quite a few times!! The nurse corrects him and finally he hits the right button - only this time, I'm shouting quite loudly because I had expected not to be feeling this part of delivery and things weren't going as I planned! The nurse at the desk can't hear over all my shouting, so she heads straight to the room to see what's going on... mission accomplished! Our nurse ends up getting her much needed help to deliver our son. And all this time, the nurse in the room with us is telling me not to push and I'm yelling at her that I'm not...but Trevor Jacob decides that it's his time and so he arrives at 11:29 pm, weighing 8 lbs, 0.6 ounces and measuring 19 1/2 inches long. Surprise - it's another redhead!!

I'm so paranoid about my last experience in the hospital that I refuse to let Trevor out of my sight except for the required testing and procedures. Thankfully, all goes well and after Katelyn gets to meet her brother in the hospital, we are released to head home together in just two days!

Now we're a family of four and we quickly learn how challenging it is to go from taking care of one child to two. Anyone who says it's double the work is seriously mistaken! It's more like three or four times the work, at least, especially if you have two children under the age of two!

Thankfully, hubby and I work well together as a team; we really are equal partners in this adventure. It doesn't take long to see that to make things work, someone needs to stay home with the children and so I don't return to my full-time job. Well, at least not the one where I get paid in cash...I've accepted the best job in the world, but probably also the hardest. But I'll take my pay in kisses, snuggles and "I Love You's" instead and be completely satisfied!

The Princess Arrives

The first 2 months of our marriage pass uneventfully and we enjoyed our first Christmas together as husband and wife and our last Christmas as just a couple. My due date for this first pregnancy is January 16th and I'm super nervous about the weather. There is a local event which occurs in our area every year in the same week, the Pennsylvania Farm Show. The weather has a reputation for being troublesome during this week and of course, it's the very same week we're expecting our little girl to make her appearance!

Six days before my due date, a Monday, I start noticing some cramping and contractions around 10 am. Prior to this, I haven't had any practice contractions or any signs of impending labor, so these definitely get my attention. With excitement, I begin to wonder if this really might be it. Of course, I'm new to the whole experience, so I try not to get too worked up because I have no idea if this is the real thing. Around noon, my husband calls to check in on me and I tell him that I think I might be in early labor. He offered to come home early from work, but I tell him I'm fine and that I'll let him know if I need him.

This is 2005 and before the days of Facebook, so I sit around the house being excited about maybe being in labor and wondering if I should start making phone calls to tell our family. In the end, I opt to wait until my husband gets home from work before doing anything to spread the news. We eat dinner and by then, my contractions are starting to get a whole lot closer together and make me much more uncomfortable.

By 7:00 or so, I'm trying to decide if it's time to call the doctor. I make the call and I'm told to head to the hospital, which is thankfully only about 10 minutes away. At this point, my contractions are causing so much pain in my back that I feel I can hardly breathe through them. Needless to say, it felt like a very long ride to the hospital anyway.

Once we arrive, I find out that I'm not dilated enough to be admitted, but I'm clearly in a lot of pain and definitely in early labor, so they let me stay for a few hours (in the shower with nice hot water for my back) and then check me again around midnight. At that point, I'm dilated to about 4 cm and so I can be admitted and (hallelujah) get my epidural! My poor husband has been working so hard to ease my back labor that he's feeling pretty tired as well.

By 2:00 am, I'm finally feeling comfortable and we attempt to turn the lights down and get some rest, but what seems like just a few minutes later, I feel my water break and I call for the nurse. She comes in and confirms that we're ready to deliver our baby girl. Because it's the middle of the night, no one from my OB office is on call, so the nurse-midwife from another practice joins us and gets everything ready. As it turns out, I was somehow already an expert in pushing and with just a few tries, our little princess, Katelyn Mae, slips into the world at 3:25 am! She weighs in at 6 lbs, 14.9 oz and was 19.75 inches long. The biggest surprise - red hair! In all the times I imagined her pretty little face, I never pictured her with red hair... I am instantly in love!

We get to spend an hour or so together and then head up to the postpartum unit. Katelyn is taken to the nursery for a bath and whatever they do in those first few hours. I am told she'll be brought back to my room by around 7:00 am. I take advantage of the break and try to get a little bit of sleep. I wake up around 8:30 am and realize my little girl hasn't returned. I make my way down to the nursery and see her in all her beauty in her bed, but notice that unlike the other babies, she's hooked up to some extra equipment. I ask the nurse what's going on and I'm told that Katelyn was having some episodes where she would stop breathing long enough to start turning blue. They were keeping her on a special monitor to keep an eye on her oxygen level. I am told not to worry and to go back to my room, that the pediatrician will come and speak with us.

So I go back to the room and tell my husband what's going on. We wait for a bit, but no doctor comes to see us, so he heads home quickly to take care of the dog and get a shower. He tells me he will return shortly. Less than an hour later, the pediatrician finally arrives and apologizes; apparently he was under the impression that someone had already spoken with us about Katelyn's condition. He explains that she is being transferred to the NICU for further care because of the problems with her breathing. I manage to keep it together long enough to call my husband and tell him that he must come back right away, but then I fall apart.

The rest of that day is just a blur to me. I remember riding the elevator down to the NICU and I remember scrubbing in with that awful pink soap they have. Standing by the side of her isolette, the doctor explains to us about her episodes of apnea and what they think may be causing them. But I don't really hear him - all I see is the IV coming out of her scalp and the oxygen tube taped to her face. My perfect little baby now looks even more fragile then she did when she was born. Tears stream down my face and I become overwhelmed with fear and wish that this never happened. Thankfully my husband is my rock and after a short time, he convinces me that everything will be okay and that we just need to stay strong for our baby.

Time passes and they rule out brain dysfunction, infection and heart problems. She is almost a week old before someone decides to test to see if acid reflux is causing her to hold her breath until she turns blue. This turns out to be exactly what is going on and it's a simple fix ~ hooray! She is put on two medications to prevent the reflux and she is monitored until she's 9 days old. She is finally released to come home with us and I'm so relieved to have her home with us, I don't care that she's on a special monitor to watch her breathing. All the days of traveling to the hospital by myself to feed her every 4 hours is finally over! We get to be parents in our home!

So we load this tiny package into her car seat, which makes her look even smaller, and off we go....

Sunday, August 7, 2011

In the Beginning

There are many beginnings in life. Some are like fireworks going off; some happen so quietly, they don't even register in the mind. The first incarnation of my current life began when I was twelve. I moved to a new neighborhood and decided to follow a cute boy to the bus stop. Being twelve and full of hormones and yet slightly shy set the stage for an intense crush that would last many years and blossom into something so much more. At the time, I had only hoped that cute boy would notice me and maybe think I was cute. I had no idea he'd one day marry me!
Fast forward six years and that cute boy and I graduate from high school together; that summer we start dating and six months later, we're engaged to be married! In no particular rush to the altar, we buy our first home and then start planning the nuptuals.

Just as we're finalizing the details on our beachy destination wedding in Jamaica, we get a huge surprise.... we're going to be parents! Sooner, rather than later... So I trade in my beautiful, silver embroidered ballgown wedding dress for an empire-waisted variety which will look oh-so-cute on my frame at six months into my pregnancy.

I'm so proud of us because we're young, we're homeowners, we're newlyweds and we're working together as a team so perfectly....that is how it was, in the beginning. 

Why should I blog?

I'm a person who loves memories. I thrive on keeping track of every milestone my kids reach and trying to take pictures to solidify those moments in my mind. I also like to write about my musings, even if only for my own benefit. Occasionally, I've been known to write something interesting and so I thought...why not share? So here I am.

If I'm lucky, I'll have a great way to reflect on my life and experiences and maybe spare myself a therapy bill! If you're lucky, you'll find something interesting to read and maybe even something to bring a smile to your face. If you're still reading; thank you for giving this a chance!