Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Fall Blogger Exchange

It's hard to believe that August is coming to a close, and that Fall is just around the corner. The weather here in Minnesota makes it a little more believable - it's been unseasonably chilly the last few days.

I'm torn - Fall is my favorite season. Bonfires. Sweatshirts. Crunchy Fall leaves. But Fall also means my return to work. I feel like I didn't fully enjoy the Summer. It went so fast preparing for Britta, and then recovering after having Britta and finding our groove as a family of four. And just like that, it's Fall.

Anyways...I digress.

This Spring I did something I had never done before - a blogger exchange. Read about the experience here. I was a little hesitant to participate at first because I don't really feel like a "real" blogger. I follow some awesome, creative bloggers who post regularly, take and share awesome pictures, and host giveaways and sponsored posts. I wasn't sure I could do an exchange justice. But after some convincing, I decided I'd give it a try. I'm so glad I did! It was a lot of fun to get to know some other mama bloggers, and to give and receive fun care packages.

So when Jess approached me to take part in a Fall Blogger Exchange, I knew I wanted to participate. I may have been a little crazy to jump in so soon after Britta was born, but I knew I could make it work. Granted, I was a bit late in responding to e-mails, and sending out the package, but I think I managed okay given a brand new baby.

The way the exchange works is that each blogger is matched with another blogger. Everyone then puts together a care package to send to their "buddy."

This time around I was paired with Leslie and her sweetie pie little girl Mila. I wasn't following Leslie's blog prior to the exchange, so it was fun to "meet" someone new. To get to know one another a bit, we sent a few e-mails back and forth, and checked out one another's blogs. Leslie and her family seem so sweet, and I was happy to be paired with them!

Armed with a bit of information about Leslie and Mila, my family set off to do some shopping! Although I thought Jeromy might drag his feet a bit (he has a tendency to get impatient with extended shopping, and me being indecisive), it was actually great. He had some good ideas, and got into it almost as much as I did! All three of us had fun thinking of fun things that Mila would enjoy.

Here's a peek at what we chose (complete with a Linnea drawing). Hop on over to Leslie's blog to get the full report...

We received our package right before Linnea's birthday (which I think made it extra fun and exciting for Linnea). It's really cool because especially since this is our second exchange, I think Linnea really "get it." She knew that when we were shopping for Mila, the gifts weren't for her (even though she would have liked to have the things we chose). Then when our package came, she understood that these gifts were from the "little girl" we sent gifts to. So fun!

Leslie was awesome and wrapped and labeled all the gifts - most for Linnea, but some for me and Britta too! Linnea was THRILLED that some of the gifts were wrapped in birthday wrapping paper. She didn't waste any time to dig right in!

Leslie and Mila seriously knocked it out of the park! Linnea loved everything they sent. I did my best to capture her reactions. They were PRICELESS.

First up was a Frozen notepad. For a girl who loves Frozen, and is always wanting to color or do stickers, this was well received.

Next came a Minions art pack - coloring book, crayons, and stickers. My camera wasn't fast enough to get her initial reaction. She LOVES Minions, so she had a huge smile and a little cackle laugh too. She thinks they are so funny! (Sidenote: when she dug into this one, she literally paged through the whole coloring book and admired each picture. Each page made her throw her head back and belly laugh. She then showed me every page with a comment like, "Mama! Look at them. So funny."

Also, mamas - have you discovered these little packs? They are the best. Perfect for purses/diaper bags. They are a great size and have everything you need to keep your little occupied.


This next one is probably the pick of the box - for me and Linnea. It's a magnetic "paper doll" Elsa. Basically a little wooden Elsa (like a paper doll) with different magnetic outfits to dress her in. Funny thing - we bought Linnea a larger set like this as a "big sister gift" from Britta. Linnea loves it, but it's too big to travel with. This one is awesome because it is easy to throw in my purse to take with us. (Do you sense a theme? Ha ha ha. Now with Britta I am always in need of having things with me to keep Linnea occupied as needed.) This doll came in handy right away when we needed to go out of town that weekend for Jeromy's cousin's funeral. Elsa did a great job keeping Linnea quiet and busy during the service. WIN!

Finally, Linnea got a fun mermaid canvas to color. She was so excited to dig in to this one! Girlfriend loves art.

Not pictured, but equally well received were an adorable outfit for Britta, and a super cute notepad set for me.

We had a lot of fun with this exchange! Thanks, Leslie and Mila for being great "buddies." It's such a cool experience to get to know people in this unique way.

Just in case you were curious, here's a full list of mamas who participated in the exchange:
Amy at Keeping Up with the Smiths
Jess at The Newly
Ashley at Words about Waverly
Sara at Running from the Law
Alisha at Simple Luxury
Bekah at I Prefer My Puns Intended
Jess at Secrets of a Stay at Home Mom
Leslie at This is for Keeps
Becky (me) at B Happy in Today

Thursday, August 20, 2015

One Month!

My Sweet Britta Girl,
Oh my, how are we already a month in?! Your first month has just flown by. It seems like just yesterday that we were waiting on pins and needles for you to arrive, and just like that you've been a part of our family for a month. I just commented to Daddy tonight that it all still seems surreal that you are here, and we are a family of four.

We are adjusting and learning how to be a family of four. There have been a few bumps here and there, but overall the transition has gone so well! You have truly filled a hole in our family, and already brought so much joy in your short life! We love you so much, Britta! Here are some highlights and events of your first month...

You arrived...LATE!
We were certain you would be on time - or even early. Mainly, we thought this because your big sister arrived right on time. You seemed determined to differentiate yourself, and remind us that you were your own person.

After a LONG five days of waiting - each day felt like a year (especially for mama) - you came! Labor and delivery was wonderful. We were so relieved that you came, and you were healthy. Even now, Linnea says how glad she is that you're "out." We all are!

You had lots of visitors...
Everyone was so excited to meet you, and see your sweet face! Of course, the first visitors to the hospital were Grandma and Grandpa, and your VERY proud big sister, and Grammy and Grampy, Gracia, C.J, and Ty.

These last few weeks have been filled with people coming to our house - WOWZA aunties/uncles, some of mama's co-workers, Uncle Ethan, Auntie Rachell, and your cousins, and many other close family and friends. We've had a lot of fun introducing you to everyone!

You attended your first wedding...and your first funerals...
At just two weeks young, you attended your first wedding! Our longtime family friend, Jenny Reiman, got married on August 1st. Jenny and I actually had to be in touch leading up to the wedding - we weren't sure if we'd be able to go depending on when you arrived, and how everything went. But you came without complication, so we went! It was a little crazy, but it went okay (thankfully Grandma and Grandpa were there to provide some extra help).

Unfortunately, your first month also had you at your first two funerals. First, Daddy's cousin Tom passed away on August 9th of leukemia. We drove down to Eau Claire that Thursday for the visitation. It was really quite nice to see lots of family (despite the awful circumstances). For most of them it was their first time meeting you. You did great, and everyone fell in love immediately (I don't blame them).

Going to Tom's services meant staying overnight in a hotel - eep! This made mama very nervous - all four of us in a hotel room! Thankfully, we all made it through without much issue. I was very thankful you are such a good sleeper!

The next day was the funeral. You did great, and brought lots of joy to a otherwise sad day.

The day after Tom's funeral, back at home, you and mama went to our friend Melissa's dad's funeral. He had passed away from lung cancer a couple weeks before. Once again, you did great. We had a nice time seeing our friends the Imbodens (who moved to Seattle a few months earlier), and seeing some other friends we don't see very often.

You went lots of places...
I think that the number of places you went this first month is directly related to you being a second kid. It felt less intimidating than it did with your sister to get out. So we got out and enjoyed summer together.

Right away your first night home we went out for ice cream (it was National Ice Cream Day - so we had to!). We went out for ice cream a couple times this month!

We also went out for donuts, went to lots of stores (Target about a million times), went to the zoo for Linnea's birthday, church a couple times, geocaching a few times, a handful of restaurants, a splash pad/wading pool (to observe your big sister, not participate), the St. Paul farmer's market, and more. Mama was even brave enough to take both you girls to a parade and picnic - on my own - when you were just a week old!Just this past weekend, you went to your first Twins' game! Like some of the other outings, it was a little crazy, and things didn't go perfectly, but we had a good time.  Phew! It's been a busy month. We look forward to even more adventures in the months to come - including your first vacation at the end of September!

You've grown and changed a lot too...
You were a big girl when you were born - and growing every day! When the home health nurse came the Tuesday after you were born (you were born on Friday), you were already back up to your birth weight - the nurse was delighted and impressed by you. A few days later, on Friday, at your 1 week well visit, you had gained an additional 3 ounces! This week I started my "Second Time Mamas" class. While there, I thought I'd weigh you (out of sheer curiosity). You're already around 12 pounds! WOW!

Because you were quite a bit bigger than your sister, we are finding that a lot of clothes that fit her for awhile are not fitting you very well. We've already "retired" our first round of clothes - pretty much all the newborn stuff. You are comfortably fitting into the Carter brand 3 months clothes - without a lot of room to spare! It'll be interesting to see what sizes you land in as the months go by.

You have been in newborn diapers, but we are making the switch to 1s now. You kept blowing out the newborn diapers because they were getting too small! The 1s are still a little big, but hopefully will help to limit the poopy messes!

In the last week or so I've really seen a big change in terms of your alertness. You are awake for longer stretches, and SO engaged and alert during those times. We actually have noticed this since birth - when you are awake you are fully present. Very alert and observant. You have started to coo a bit - you coo the most for Daddy. He whistles at you, which you love! You stare and him and coo away. Although it may be a little early, we feel like you are very close to smiling. You get so close - almost a little smirk. We can't wait for smiles!

Your big sister LOVES you, and has really enjoyed helping take care of you. She thinks everything you do is hilarious and awesome. We tell her all the time that it's just going to get better and better. I'm so excited for you two to be able to play together!

You are eating well (obviously, as your weight gain indicates), and sleeping great - very consistent. So far we've kept you up with us in the evenings. You get a little fussy around 8:00, nurse, and then pass out on my chest for a couple hours (I'm not complaining!). Around 10:30 or 11:00 I change your diaper, get you ready for bed, and feed you one more time. You generally go down without a fight until 2:00 or 3:00. You eat, get your diaper changed, and go back down. Sometimes it's a bit of a fight - I have to get the timing just right. But eventually you settle back down and sleep until at least 6 - sometimes later!

We are thinking we might try to put you down earlier - around 8:00 or 8:30 when you get fussy, but I imagine this will be a bit of trial and error.

Your naps during the day are still inconsistent. I'm trying to get a bit of a routine in place, but for now it's okay that you sleep when you want/need to. We nap together a lot, which is just heavenly!

We comment a lot that you are living up to your name (which means "strong"). You love craning your head around, kicking your legs, and movin' and groovin' as much as you can. I wonder if you'll be an early mover?

We have had such a great month, Britta Alice! You are such a gift, and have brought lots of joy in your short life. We look forward to getting to know you better, and having even more fun in the months to come!

We love you!
Mama (and Daddy & Linnea too)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Britta's Birth Story

I can't believe it's been a month since Britta was born! Time is flying already!!

Anyways...I love birth stories. I loved writing Linnea's birth story - it was so empowering to put into words what the experience was like, and what my body was able to do. I knew that when Britta was born, I would want to do the same thing - to be able to remember the amazing gift of that day forever.

Like I did with Linnea's birth story, I will warn you here...this is a birth story, and I won't hold back details. So if you don't want to her intricate details regarding the birth, stop reading now.

For Britta's birth story, I back up to the Friday before my due date (I was due on Sunday). I had my 39 week (even though it was closer to 40 weeks) appointment with my OB. I left work that day for my appointment feeling SO certain I would not be back. Looking back, I realize how silly that was. I didn't really have any reason to think that - other than the fact that Linnea came right on time. I guess I assumed that since Linnea was on time, this baby would be as well - maybe even a little early. Ha! Not so.

At my appointment, my doctor and I chatted about how I was feeling (great, actually - though getting impatient), and when we thought Baby Sister would come. She did an exam, and much to my surprise, I was dilated to 1 cm. Now I know this isn't much of anything, but with Linnea I had ZERO progress the day before I went into labor, so I really wasn't expecting to have any sort of progress prior to giving birth.

My doctor seemed encouraged by what she was feeling/seeing, and she was quite hopeful that I would likely have the baby soon...perhaps even by the end of the weekend. Hooray! I left the appointment feeling excited, and certain that Baby Sister was on her way.

Well...my due date came and went without much change. All weekend I was feeling sort of crampy - on and off contractions. Again, not really anything I experienced with Linnea. I didn't know if they were Braxton Hicks, or legit contractions - or something in between. Either way, I'd have contractions/cramps for a bit, and then they would go away. Womp womp.

Monday came, and I grudgingly got up and got ready for work. Seriously, it was painful. When I had left on Friday I had everything wrapped up really well. All of my work for the quarter was done, and in the best place it possibly could be. But Monday was the start of a new quarter, and a whole new load of work. I struggled to know what to do - how much to dig in to stuff, what to focus on, etc. And I had a really hard time focusing. I was on pins and needles, waiting to go into labor.

All week at work was much the same - leaving every day hoping it was my last, only to be back the next day. My co-workers were so kind and supportive - but I ended up answering the same questions every day, all day. I felt like the movie "Groundhog's Day" - the same day, over and over.

By midweek I was actually getting quite anxious. Baby Sister was not moving around as much. I notice this, and start to get paranoid that something was wrong. On Wednesday it got bad enough that I ended up leaving early and going into the clinic to make sure everything was okay. The doctor I saw (who was someone I've never seen - not even the same clinic) was great. She was very reassuring and thorough. We listened to the baby for longer than usual. She explained the sounds and movement she was hearing and feeling. She also checked me - I was dilated to 3! Again, so different for me - to be late, and to have that kind of progression!

That night Jeromy and I talked about a game plan for work. I explained my anxiety and how difficult it was for my mental health and well being to be struggling through work days. We decided that I would work half days on Thursday and Friday, and then be done, whether the baby was here or not (thankfully it didn't come to that!).

On Thursday we attended a closing celebration for Linnea's week at Vacation Bible School. It was hard for me to be there - I had hoped/planned that we would have the baby by then, and maybe even be able to bring her. Instead, I was very pregnant, fielding lots of comments and questions.

On Friday I woke up in the four o'clock hour, needing to use the bathroom. As I crawled back into bed I started having contractions. This had happened most of the week in much the same way, so at that point I just got crabby, assuming it was another false alarm.

But they kept coming. And were quite regular (every 5 minutes or so). And were a little painful (not horrible, but enough that I couldn't really get back to sleep). I woke Jeromy up a little before 6 and told him that today was the day! It worked out great because it was Friday, so Linnea was due to go to my parents (they take care of her every Friday). I knew that we still had a bit of time, so we got up and got ready like any other day (just with some contractions thrown in!). Jeromy and Linnea headed out for my parents' house, and I got into the tub with a bowl of cereal and some juice. Like with Linnea's labor, the tub helped me relax and ease the pain of the contractions a bit.

After a bit, Jeromy came back and started gathering our things. I knew that I wasn't as far progressed as I was with Linnea when we headed into the hospital, but I wanted to go. I was anxious that we'd get stuck in rush hour traffic, and I was worried things would progress faster than with Linnea and we'd risk not getting to the hospital in time.

As we drove to the hospital we joked about how it seemed that Baby Sister wanted to differentiate herself as much as possible - it seemed as though everything was different with this labor! We got to the hospital, and made our way up to Labor and Delivery.

I was so much more at ease this time. Yes, of course I was a little anxious, but I felt a boost of confidence having been through the process before. The nurses were very kind, getting us checked in and everything. When they examined me upon check in (around 9:30 or 9:45), I was a "stretchy 5 with a bulging bag of water (gross! ha ha!)."

The nurse asked about our birth plan. We explained that, as with Linnea, we had a "non-plan plan." Ideally, go without medication/intervention, but open to options as needed. The nurses were very supportive of this.

The hospital had been renovated since Linnea was born, and now included water birth suites. I had considered trying for a water birth, but opted not to (mainly because I'd have to switch from working with my OB to the midwives. I'm sure the midwives are wonderful, but I love my OB). I had asked when we had done a tour a couple weeks before if we could request a water birth suite if there was one open. The lady looked at me funny, but said that one could certainly try. So I did - and there was one available.

We got into the room, which seriously felt like a spa. The tub was HUGE - super deep, and easily long enough for me to lay completely flat in it if I wanted to. Additionally, there was a big, flat screen TV with a naturescapes-type channel - a slideshow of pictures/video of animals and pretty scenery. The accompanying music was beautiful and relaxing.

At that point, contractions were quite regular, and a little painful - but still manageable. Jeromy and I chatted in between them. Our nurse (Kate) came in periodically to check on how everything was going.

I stayed in the tub for an hour or so I suppose, and then decided to get out. I was getting a little stir crazy, and wanted the option to move around more. I got out and dried off, and climbed into bed. Contractions were getting significantly more painful at this point. When I was checked at this point I was a 7/8. We checked in about pain management - if I wanted/needed anything. Although it was painful, I was confident that I could once again manage without an epidural. Unlike with Linnea (when I had minimal pain medication), I opted for nothing - feeling like I was managing things well without any medication.

Kate was super fabulous - very encouraging and calming. She was very positive about how I was managing labor, and empowering - telling me to trust and listen to my body. She also encouraged me to try to "shut down" between contractions to get some rest. At first I thought she was crazy, thinking it was next to impossible, but (much to my surprise) I found that I could. I curled up on my side, focused on the nature music, and drifted off in between.

This stretch of labor was fairly uneventful. Regular, painful contractions. Mostly laying quietly, but becoming more vocal with contractions. Kate coming in and out to check on me, and helping me relax and focus my breathing.

At some point Kate told me she was staying until the baby came, and that I was getting close. She again told me to focus on my breathing, since it was getting a little more out of control and frantic as contractions got worse. She gently told me to listen to my body, and that I could bear down if I needed to. She checked me around this time and I was basically at 10 (with just a tiny bit of cervix left to dilate).

Kate had asked me a few times between 8 and 10 cm if I wanted her to break my water. Each time she explained that it would like speed things up, but also make things more intense. Each time she asked I turned her down. I felt comfortable with the speed of how things were progressing, and didn't really want things to get more intense if I could avoid it.

Fast forward to me around 10 cm. It was just me, Jeromy, and Kate in the room. Things were very quiet in between contractions. Another contraction came and I moaned/breathed through the pain. All of a sudden there was this HUGE pop and gush. All three of us sort of jumped/startled. I had this immediate warmth and wetness all over. I heard it splash on the floor. Jeromy still laughs - saying that it was seriously like someone throwing a bucket of water - claiming that it splashed halfway across the floor. My water had, quite dramatically, broken.

Kate was right - immediately things got much more intense. I panicked a little bit, and started to cry. I had come so far, but it hurt so bad now, and I was scared about what I still needed to do. Kate and Jeromy were there to reassure me - that she'd be here soon. At this point it was probably 1:00 or so, maybe a bit after.

Other nurses and doctors started to come in and prep the room for baby. I was seriously delirious - aware of the action and energy around me, but exhausted and in a good deal of pain. The time had come to start pushing. A resident started me going at first, but I really struggled - I had done this before, but it felt so awkward. I felt unfocused and weak - and unsure of when/how to push, and where I was within the process. After a bit the attending doctor stepped in, which I was so thankful for. She was much more intentional about telling me what to do - counting out loud of the pushes, and telling me which pushes were good.

Each round of contractions came, and I would grabbed the back of my thighs and bear down. The doctor had me push as long as I could at the beginning of the contraction (usually about 15 seconds), take a deep breath and push again. I would get two, sometimes three pushes in with each contraction.

At this point I felt so weak. It took EVERYTHING I had to push each time. Each time a contraction would come I'd start to cry because I didn't want to face it. But each time I summoned the strength within, and pushed as hard as I could. (Side note: later that day, and especially the next I noticed that my arms were super sore. I couldn't figure out why, and then realized it was from holding my legs. My arms got a really good workout that day!)

Maybe it sounds weird, but at this point it was almost an out of body experience. I was quite delirious. I was exhausted and SO hot (around this time I took my gown off altogether because I was overheating so bad). I was making sounds that seemed so foreign to me. Screaming, grunting, moaning, etc. felt like all I could do to get me through each contraction/push. I was oddly aware of myself and the state I was in, but almost felt disconnected - really hard to explain.

From the beginning I had been nervous that I would be pushing for as long as I did with Linnea (2 1/2 hours or so). Kate assured me that would not be the case - that Baby Sister would come much faster. Thankfully she was right, and before I knew it, everyone was excitedly telling me she was almost here. I felt the "ring of fire" as her head came out, and shortly after could feel the rest of her. The doctor announced the time (1:53) and put Britta on my chest. I bawled. Sheer exhaustion. Sheer love. Sheer pride in what I had done.

After a couple minutes, they took Britta to test her vitals and get her measured. Some of the nurses and doctors stayed with me to get me finished up. Another experience that was different with Britta was delivery of the placenta. With Linnea, I have no memory of delivering the placenta. I know it came out, but it didn't hurt and I wasn't aware of it. With Britta, the doctor had to guide me through delivering it - a couple more pushes and some pushing of my stomach on her part. It was a little painful, but short lived. I tore just a bit during the whole process, and needed one stitch.

While this was going on Jeromy was with Britta. When it came time for her to be weighed, he yelled across to me to see what my guess was. On the way to the hospital we guessed her to be about 8 pounds, 5 ounces. I couldn't believe it when Jeromy told me she was 9 pounds, 5 ounces, and 22.25"!! Big girl!

Once they were done with both Britta and I, Jeromy and I each got a chance to meet Britta. She was awake and SO alert. It was surreal to be able to look into her eyes - she was finally here, and she was perfect.

My favorite part of the whole experience came after Britta was born. I got out of bed to get showered off (Rain shower head! Seriously, it was like a spa!). What I really wanted was a bath. When I mentioned that, the nurses told me I could get back into the tub - and then suggested that Britta join me.

So they filled the tub again, and I got back in. They stripped Britta down, and laid her on my chest. They covered her with wet towels so she'd stay warm. She hadn't had her first bath yet, so I got to clean her off- scrub her little head, wipe down her back and legs, wash her tiny toes and fingers. I had tried to nurse her shortly after she was born, but she wasn't really having it. But in the tub she happily nursed well for 20 minutes or so. It. Was. Heaven. I will never, ever forget those sweet minutes with her.

I had been so nervous leading up to Britta's birth - how would it go, how would I manage, would everyone be healthy, would we like the nurses. In those quiet minutes after Britta was born I had a huge wave of relief. I had done it. I was so proud of myself. So thankful for my support team - Jeromy and our awesome nurse Kate. So relieved that she was finally here. My heart was full.

She's here! And perfect, if I do say so myself!

Meeting Daddy...

Meeting Mama...

I couldn't stop kissing her...

My favorite memory of the experience. I may not look it, but this is the face of pure happiness, pride, and relief.