20 March 2008

who's who?

I've been enjoying all the comments about how Arden looks like Nicky (or like Rowen, or like Max, depending on who's commenting), so I thought I'd post pictures of all four kids at about the same age (approximately 3 months) and see if everyone knows which child is which. ;) (No fair clicking on the pictures and seeing the caption!)

09 March 2008

20 February 2008

two calendar months, already!

Parenthood is such a strange career to get into. Time does very strange things when you're a parent ... it doesn't follow the rules any longer. A day can last no more than a few hours. Weeks pass by in a blink. Months begin to seem like no more than a series of a few days. It's unnerving, I tell you!

And now we're confronted with the fact that Arden is two calender months old. No matter how I look at it, December 20th was ... two months ago. I'm pretty sure that someone stole a bunch of days out of there, somewhere. It just cannot have been that long already. On the other hand, Arden is such an integral part of the family, so deeply entwined in our hearts, that surely it's been years and years since he joined our ranks. I mean, with a new car after 2 months you're still unable to locate it in a parking lot because you haven't yet gotten used to its appearance, right?

Looking back on that wild and weird day that he was born ... we won't even get into the weird days that preceeded it ... it's just astonishing how much living, how much life, can get packed into such a brief period of time! December 20th lasted about a full week for me ... we had to report to the hospital at 7 am, which meant getting up around 5:30 in the morning. Such a surreal experience, getting up so early. And the hospital at that early hour is like another place - quiet, empty, rather disorganized. It's like suddenly finding yourself behind the scenes at a play, when you thought what you'd been experiencing was reality.

The time lapse between the first and second applications of the cervical gel was like an eternity. I was trying so hard to bring on some sort of activity, when it was so obvious that nothing was happening. I walked, I rocked, I did all the things that are supposed to bring on labor. Nada. When the doc came by in the mid afternoon to check on my (nonexistent) progress, I was worried he'd just send us home. Luckily he didn't ... the second application of the gel began having an effect almost immediately. I walked up and down the corridors without cease, determined not to lose the momentum ... my legs got tired, my feet hurt! But it was worth it! By dinnertime, it was obvious to everyone that a new person would join the human race that day! :D

The days and weeks since then have each been filled with their own unique joys and trials. It was very hard to hand Arden over in the hospital when he had to have an IV and remain on the children's ward; on the other hand, it gave me a glimpse into what it is like to have a seriously ill child. Very humbling and frightening. I'm ever so much more grateful than I ever was before for the simple fact that my kids have been healthy. It was such a joy to have him "all to myself" when I was home again - I didn't leave the house for days on end because I just wanted to soak him (and the other kids, who I'd missed terribly while in the hospital) up.

We've been doing alright, I think, making sure that everyone gets a reasonable share of attention and in paying proper homage to the Big Deal Events that have arisen, such as Nick and Rowen's birthdays and Rowen's first days of school, Max's swimming exam, and each other's needs. Some days are a little more rough around the edges than others, I know, but overall I think I'm pretty safe in saying that we're happy most of the time and that there are far & away more good days than bad.

On this, Arden's 2-month birthday, I'd just like to say thank you. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to become a mother again. I'm so grateful for my amazing children (even when they drive me to distraction!). And I'm so grateful for my amazing husband, who makes it all possible. :D

17 January 2008

four weeks old (plus one hour and counting)

FOUR weeks old today (2)

Dear heavens, where have the hours gone? Already, my little traveller looks so much bigger and older, so many things have already progressed from 'newborn' to 'infant'. He feeds on a (mostly) four hour schedule. He sleeps well. He's alert and tracks both our faces and our voices. He loves being placed on his belly so he can do baby push ups. He doesn't cry often, but when he does he sounds so much more robust than the thin mewling he made when he was in the hospital. He's gone from barely being able to hold a 20 - 30 ml feeding every three hours to lustily demanding a 125 - 150 ml feeding every 4 hours. His little legs are long enough that his feet finally reach down to the 'footie' part of his snowsuit. My baby ... is a baby. I'm so glad that I barely slept in the hospital, using every moment we were together to memorize his face, the sounds he made, the way he moved ... it's all passed by. He's so much bigger, stronger - and he looks different!

13 jan 012

Dear Arden, if ever you read these words, the last four weeks with you have been among the happiest in my life. Each of you children has brought out something new in me, and you'll forever be the baby who showed me that I am not in control. It's a lesson others have tried to impress on me but I remained certain that if only I followed the right rules in the right way, I'd still be holding the reins. I did follow all the rules, all the right way, but everything went topsy-turvey anyway. Together I hope we'll urge each other on, support one another, cheer on our successes and sympathize with our failures in this big, unpredictable world.

sweet koppie

The physical aspect of yours that has struck me most deeply during the past four weeks is your steady gaze. You look at a person as if nothing is hidden, and as if there's no need to hide anything. You radiate a calm certainty that speaks of strength and of acceptance. It is quite remarkable.

sweet feet

28 December 2007

where to begin?

So much to write down, so little time ... We are in that cozy cocoon of living simply from one feeding to the next, totally caught up in the wonders of umbilical cords falling off, remarking on the color of baby poo, counting bumps and ridges under soft baby hair, and catching smiles from a contented little face. It's a lovely time, and oh-so-fleeting. Though it leaves no time for the real world!

Arden has been home now since the evening of Christmas Eve, and I'm still pinching myself to make sure it's all for real. He continues to show a lot of yellow in his skin, and to be a lot quieter than Nicky or Rowen were. He's a bit like Max in that respect, but sleepier than Max ever was. When he's awake, he's very alert and calmly looks all around him, taking in his new home and family. He has a most remarkable gaze.

The midwife was by today to check on his growth, but the records from the hospital have not yet arrived, so we have nothing to compare his new weight to. There's a bit of concern about his weight (as in, is he gaining enough) and his navel will need to be looked at again to see if it continues to heal properly, but another midwife will come by on Monday and we'll have more knowledge to work with then.

It's funny - after months of being warned that he's big, than bigger than normal, than so big that we had to get special tests run ... Arden turned out to be a wee little fellow after all. At only 7.3 lbs and approximately 19.5 inches, he's the smallest of the four. All those measurements ... wrong. The one they were right on, but which they retracted, was the amniotic fluid. There must've been gallons of water in there! The midwife and nurse present at the birth couldn't believe it. LOL. Just goes to show that no matter how much we may think we know about the quiet miracles, like growing a baby, Mother Nature will always have the last word.

Since time is rather a difficult commodity to come by these days, I'll break his story down into chunks. I doubt it'll be too interesting for anyone, but I'd like him to know about it when he's older (if he's interested!).

The Labor and Birth
Niek and I were admitted to the maternity ward at IJsselland around 7 am on December 20th. They applied 1 dose of hormone cream to my cervix after monitoring Arden's heart/activity rates for about an hour. A half hour after that, I was allowed up to begin pacing - nothing like a bit of a nudge from gravity. I must've worn ruts into the linoleum in our room, but by the time the 1 pm check-up came, there was no additional dilation, though the attending GYN said the cervix felt a lot 'softer' to him and he deemed it worth the try of applying 2 doses of the cream to my cervix after further monitoring Arden's heart and activity rates. Even before I was allowed to get up and pace some more, I felt this time was going to be different. I walked and walked - only pausing when my back began to bother me too much to continue, but then springing up after a few minutes to walk some more. Luckily, it was a slow day on the ward and I was able to pace one of the corridors endlessly without annoying anyone. By 3 pm, my back was bothering me rather a lot and I decided to sit and rock instead, which did a lot for the back pain while still taking advantage of gravity and motion. By 3:15 pm, I began timing my contractions but still didn't say anything about them - I've "lost" contractions so many times in the past with the other kids that I didn't want to jinx myself. By the time the 5:00 pm check came, I knew I was having contractions that would allow us to proceed to the next stage - no way they were going to send me home to wait it out.

More time was spent hooked up to the fetal monitor, and the contractions were pretty close together though not too severe. Still, it's tiring having your body continually wracked by spasms without much of a break in between to rest. That was a result of the hormonal gel - if it works, it triggers contractions, but they are unregulated (as in a normal spontaneous labor, where you get several minutes between each spasm). I was also having trouble with coughing due to my leftover bronchitis and the fact that I had to lay down for the fetal monitoring. Still, everything was going very well and I was feeling ready to take it to the next level.

We were moved into the delivery room around 6:30 pm, which coincided with a shift change. The young male attending we had was replaced by a familiar and comforting face - Marloes, a midwife who had seen us shortly after we lost Arden's twin, and whose compassion and gentleness made a deep impact on us both. Our nurse was also a dear - very sweet as well as funny. We felt we were in good hands. Marloes decided to put me on an IV to regulate and increase the contractions. The ones I was having were not strong enough to actually birth the baby, and the fact that they came on one after the other without a break would become exhausting. We reviewed our birth wishes with them - everything from the cutting of the cord to handling the remains of the lost twin - and settled in for the duration.

Having had the same sort of IV with Nicky, Niek and I knew what to expect and were not at all surprised when the 'gentle' spasms became wracking and painful - but with a decent interval in between in which to recover. The medication used in them also makes me nauseous, but we were ready for that, too. I was able to get up for a little while, which took the strain off my back but made me feel like it was time to start pushing before that was actually the case. So, back into bed. The contraction-measuring device wasn't well calibrated, so unfortunately the nurse was under the assumption that the contractions were still not strong enough - nonetheless, she listened to Niek when he asked her to notch the IV back a bit. Thank heavens! Meanwhile, my breathing exercises and pain management tricks were working reasonably well. If it hadn't been for that rotten cough, I think it wouldn't have been any problem at all. Around 9 pm I told the midwife that the urge to push was growing, even though I was laying down, and she watched my belly through a couple of contractions and said that I wasn't ready. I kept on puffing my way through the contractions, sort of looking inward to feel when they would be strong enough. Awhile later the nurse asked me to turn on my side because Arden's heart rate had begun to drop. On my side, he would get a better blood flow. As soon as I turned, the pain in my back became - in my opinion - intolerable. Niek pushed on my lower back as we'd learned in haptonomy, and the level became tolerable (though barely!). And I started throwing up! That was a first for me! In the process of vomiting really violently, I realized my body had begun to push even if I hadn't, and I could feel Arden already making his entrance. Luckily at that moment Marloes returned and ordered me to turn on my back and stop pushing. I could comply with the first, but not with the latter - I really wasn't doing the pushing. I moved my breathing up into my chest, as we'd practiced, but the baby kept coming out and then he was already there! Thank heavens he was small enough not to get 'caught' as Max did from overly-large shoulders!

Marloes and the nurse immediately popped Arden onto my belly and I quickly pulled him up into my arms, asking everyone and no one if he was okay, if I'd hurt him by it going so fast, and essentially babbling like a woman who's just given birth. He let out a couple of mighty yells and then quickly snuggled into my arms. Niek and I were amazed. We may have four children, but that moment of birth is just incredible. Marloes was spectacular about following all of our requests, and we were able to wait for the cord to stop pulsing before Niek cut it, we kept Arden right in our arms the whole while, we could put him on the breast immediately, etc. It may not have been a home birth, but it certainly was the next best thing.

The delivery of the placenta was a bit trickier and took almost two more hours to occur. To finally get it out, I had to push while Marloes pushed very hard on my belly. When it finally came out, we were able to say goodbye to our lost baby which was difficult and emotional and sad, but also such a release. Everyone's gentleness and compassion made for a very supportive environment.

After that, we were left alone - Niek, Arden, and myself - for over an hour to just enjoy being together after all these months of waiting and worry. It was very private and special. Arden nursed a little bit, Niek and I stared till our eyes were popping ... it just didn't seem possible that this moment had finally arrived and that we were all together.

By then it was after midnight. I had a shower and then was wheeled off to the ward room for new mothers & babies while Niek was free to go home and hopefully catch a few winks of sleep. In the ward room, Arden quickly made his preferences clear - he was happy to sleep through the night, but only in my arms. That was happily arranged, and we snoozed and visited with each other all night long. I tried a few times to nurse him more, but he wasn't interested until around 6 am, when he did a reasonably good job but was certainly not the guzzle guts that his siblings were. Morning found us curled up asleep together, very much the picture of happy content.

25 December 2007

welcome to the world

Please welcome Arden Ellery, born 20 December 2007 at 21:38, weighing 7.3 pounds and measuring 19.5 inches!!

More details to follow, when his mama's brain starts functioning again. ;)

18 December 2007

oddly reticent

Maybe it's the reaction of the couple of people I've told, or maybe it's yet another case of jitters on my part ... but I'm feeling oddly reticent to admit that I got some big news from the GYN at today's checkup. I suppose I'm scared of jinxing the situation.

The good news:
At today's appointment, Dr. Schmitz found Arden's head all-but-engaged in my pelvis, which is very good. And I'm just shy of 2 cm dilation, which is also very good. Not good enough to check me in the hospital today, but good enough to make an appointment on the delivery ward for first thing Thursday morning. They'll check if I'm further dilated and will apply hormonal gel to my cervix to give Mother Nature a nudge in the right direction ... which will hopefully result in meeting Arden face-to-face by the end of the day.

The potential downside:
If the hospital is all booked up, we'll lose our appointment and have to wait for an opening. And there is the chance that the gel will have absolutely no effect and we'll be sent home after a few hours. But the doctor feels that the chances are very good that this will be just the gentle nudge that my body needs. I have had contractions off and on the past few days, but they fade away - I've had difficulty maintaining contractions during all but Rowen's birth ... I guess my body likes being pregnant. LOL.

The emotional weirdness:
It's all kind of huge suddenly and I am having the weirdest thoughts - like 'what if he doesn't like me?' Niek was comparing it to how you feel when you're in a losing position in chess and suddenly have the advantage on the board. I'll have to admit that his metaphor sailed right over my head, but apparently he's also feeling kind of strange. I'm not scared of the birth - after three children, that part doesn't phase me in the slightest - it's more a matter of grasping the reality of it after all the ups and downs we've had during the past months. Can this really be the happy ending (or beginning, to be more accurate) we've hoped for???