Friday, August 17, 2012

S-E-V-E-N ! ! !

Anna banana was up bright and early on her birthday, and got herself all ready for the day staight away.  Bright eyed and bushy tailed.   

Anna patiently waited for the rest of us to get ready before opening her present from us, and having her requested birthday breakfast.  Love the big birthday hugs!

Since Anna's birthday party was the following week (we thought we'd be just getting back from Indiana the day before her actual birthday), we found a different way to make the 4th special.  Shopping and lunch at Applebees!  Anna has been in to "clothes, fashion, and accessories" lately.  It mostly stems from her love of the Fancy Nancy books, and grew from there.  Anna belle has a unique style (everything doesn't always match or look quite right, but I mostly let her dress herself), and I love it! 
So I thought it'd be fun as part of her birthday celebrations, I would take her shopping to choose a couple new outfits for school.  I usually get her a few new things around this time of year, but I don't usually take her or any of the kids with me.  Having Anna help, try on clothes, and give her opinion was fun and special.  Oh, and Gramma Susan came along too, which made it even more special.   
Anna then requested Applebees for lunch (because her Auntie KC had taken her there recently and she had seen another little girl get sung to for her birthday).  She was very chatty with our waitress, and told her it was her birthday, but did get a little shy when they came to sing.  And as you can see, she enjoyed her birthday dessert! 
When we were done with shopping and lunch, there was still plenty of time in the day for fun - parks, wii games (which is a "special treat" for the kids), and a yummy dinner.  Anna Ellene had a very good birthday!  And she hadn't even had her party yet . . .

Anna invited a couple friends to her BEACH PARTY!  (I told her we couldn't have allll of her friends there because we would be in charge of watching them in the water, and I wasn't sure if parents would stay or not.)  It was a good, little group even though we one friend couldn't make it at the last minute.  We had her party at my sister Beth's new house, on their private beach on Lake Superior.  Thanks, Beth and Stuart!  
This was such a simple party, which is why I suggested it to Anna.  hehe.  We just went for colorful, fun and easy.  And it did turn out to be so stress free, and everyone had a blast.    

I LOVED the party favors I put together because they just looked so cute, and as a bonus, almost all of it was on clearance since it's the end of summer.   Each beach pail contained: bubbles, a water ball, squirt gun (so of course we had a squirt gun fight too), pinwheel, little bottle of water, Goldfish crackers, and Nemo fishy fruit snacks (to go with the "beach" theme :).  We played a water balloon toss, and then had a water balloon fight.  We played beach volleyball, and the kids and grown-ups loved it!  And I enjoyed chatting and catching up with friends I hadn't seen in awhile.  
Besides a few friends, we invited both sets of Grandparents, and it was nice to have a few extra set of eyes once we went down to the beach.  Also, I wasn't planning on having any games - but my mom is just fantastic at that kind of thing.  I can't imagine doing a party without her.  Seriously.  :)   

So, all of August has just been beautiful - typical U.P. weather.  Which meant it was actually a little chilly at Anna's party.  June and July were warmer than normal, so I'll take it.  The party day was low 70's, windy, but most importantly - sunny!  The kids didn't mind, and the water felt surprisingly warm.  
The pictures don't do it justice, but the waves were intense!  I was a little nervous watching everyone, but we all survived.  Whew!  (I was informed that the public beaches were closed because of the waves!)  The kids all seemed to have fun, and we did some races on the beach too. 

1)  Anna and Kate - sweet friends.  2)  Benjamin kept getting completely knocked around in the waves - and he loved it!  3)  Beth brought cutie pie Lilly down for a bit. 

"I'm seven!"
We walked back up to the house, dried off, played around for a bit . . . then it was time for CUPCAKES!

Love how the fun and colorful the cupcakes turned out!  And love the picture of Anna blowing out her candle.  (Funny expressions by a few people in that one.  :) 

And in case anyone was wondering what Caleb was doing during all the excitement, he was napping, then playing ball or "bah" as he calls it, playing on the new tricycle my mom found at a garage sale, and snuggling with GraMelissa.  (Doesn't he look almost as big as her in this picture?! hehe.) 

It was a great party!  And a great birthday for Miss Anna Ellene.  And she even has a few more exciting things I'll write about later . . . like a new birthday bike from GramMelissa and Grampa Chuck!  And a special birthday date with Daddy.  And a family outing to the county fair during her "birthday week."  But this will have to do for now. 

So, I keep telling Anna to stop growing up.  I seriously can't take it anymore.  I can't believe she's seven.  I can't believe she's about to start 1st grade.  I can't believe she's so in to clothes and girly things like that (in a cute, sweet sort of way).  I can't believe some of the conversations we have when I think to myself, "She is so mature, and caring and sounds so grown up!"  Anna is still silly, and fun, and creative, and all the things I love about her, but she is also leaving that "little kid" stage.  It's bittersweet.  We love her to pieces, and she really is the sweetest part of our family! 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Anna Ellene's Birth Story . . .

Below - Anna just a few days old.  So tiny!  And Anna Bean on her blessing day in October.  Such a precious, little baby doll! 
Like I said in my last post, I wanted to write the birth story of Anna Ellene since I wasn't journaling on here when she was born.  I've been working on it for awhile - it's long! - and finally finished it up.  (And you can scroll back through the archives if you're interested in reading Benjamin - April 2008 - and Caleb's - November 2010 - birth stories which I previously journaled about on here.)  My pregnancy with Anna, birth, and following months still seems so clear in my mind, but I'm assuming that won't always be the case.  So I better write it down while it's still there.  This is going to be nice and detailed . . . really, really long.  But I want to remember all the details, and I want Anna to be able to read all the details some day.  So, skip or skim, or just check out the pictures. 

First a little background:  When Ethan and I were engaged and newly married (which I guess is technically all within a few months :) we always talked about waiting to have kids until we were done with our bachelor's degrees.  When we got married, we were a few years into our degrees, so we assumed we'd wait a few years to have kids.  For anyone who may not know, it is not at all uncommon for girls in my religion to get married very young, sometimes straight out of high school, and have babies right away.  (Which is why it was important for Ethan and I to talk about it immediately, and see if we were on the same page with timing.  We were.)  Not everyone in my religion does this, obviously, but it's not uncommon either.  Marriage and children, and the eternal family unit are really central to the LDS faith.  And I love that.  However, for my own personal experience, I am grateful I did not feel like I "needed" to do that immediately, or fit a certain mold, or follow a certain time frame.  I felt guided and good about the decisions I was making.  And I love all of the things I did and experienced before I was married - typical college experiences, new friendships, dating and relationship experiences (post highschool, which I feel are the ones that really count :), different jobs, living in different places, going on a mission to LA for a year and a half, lots of different roommates, college classes that really stretched me, etc.  And, good grief, I know that getting married at 22 and 23 - just five years after high school graduation - is still considered pretty young in the U.S.  hehe.  But not necessarily for Mormons.  I did feel like I had some good life experiences under my belt by then. :)  So.  I always felt like getting an education - as soon as possible - was a priority for me.  I felt this desire to get a college degree spiritually confirmed, including the immediate time frame, and it was also encouraged from my family, from church leaders, and others who positively influenced my life.  So, waiting to have kids until we were done with college felt right when we were first married. 

Well . . . We were married at the end of April 2004, and in the middle of October - a mere 6ish months - Ethan and I had a few experiences that prompted us to think it might be time after all.  And not to wait until we were done with our degrees.  We prayed about it.  We fasted about it.  And despite the fact that we had our reservations, we knew it was right.  It felt like a similar experience to when we got engaged - we were a little scared, and it seemed so quick, but we just knew.  So.  We got pregnant that next month in November.  Which was also a little surprising.  I just assumed it would take awhile, at least a few months.  I am grateful that we had that spiritual prompting to change our minds, or I would have been pretty scared.  As it was, I was only a little scared.   

I quickly discovered that pregnancy and I did not get along well.  I guess it's pretty typical stuff you hear - tired all the time, so emotional, big time cravings (of the mashed potatoes, ceasar salad, and oranges variety) and big time food aversions (could not eat anything fried, fatty, too sweet, soda, "heavy", etc.), morning sickness all nine months, plenty of aches and pains, etc.  In hindsight, the morning sickness and the emotions were the worst with this pregnancy, but I had nothing else to compare it to.  I was going to school full time, and working part time, and giving piano lessons on the side, and in the Primary Presidency at church, and then working full time when the semester ended.  I know there are women out there that have to juggle much more than that during pregnancy, but it felt exhausting to me.  (And I know now that it was a piece of cake compared to having other little kids to take care of while preggers.)  I remember that Ethan took very good care of me, and like all three pregnancies, he really picked up the slack.  Considering that all I really felt like doing was to lay on the couch and wish that I wasn't pregnant anymore, Eth had a lot of slack to pick up.  :)  He is a sweetie.  And that feels like such an understatement.

It was a pretty uneventful pregnancy.  Everything always looked fine, and measured well at the appointments.  Lab results were always in a good range.  Everyone thought I was having a boy, but the 20 week ultrasound pretty convincingly showed us "girl."  I was very excited!  But, we had way more boy names than girl names.  It took awhile to decide on one.  We were drawn to classic names, but none that were popular enough to make it on the current top baby name lists.  About a month after we found out baby was a girl, Ethan suggested the name Anna, and I just loved it right away.  I loved it so much!  (It doesn't hurt that I have a cousin-in-law named Anna, who I love and admire. And I really loved the name Hanna, but I just knew too many little girls with that name. :)  We were thinking of Anna Elizabeth after one of my best friends, but then we decided on Anna Ellene after Ethan's grandmother.  Beautiful.  So, name chosen.  Items purchased.  Baby gear put together.  Generous gifts recieved.   Child birth class attended.  We were feeling pretty ready. . . except for that whole, "birth the baby" thing.  That still kinda freaked us out.    

At 37 weeks, on a Monday, I left work to go in for an appointment in the middle of the day.  My blood pressure was elevated. They wanted me to go on bedrest at home right away, and come back in the next day for another check.  Here is a funny tid-bit I remember:  At the time, I was working at NMU's library.  (I was the book mender, among other things.  Favorite job ever!)  Every year, Northern has to shut down it's AC for a week for maintenance.  That Monday started the week of no AC.  It was a hot summer, and I was extremely pregnant and swollen by then. So, I got to go back to work on Monday, get my things, and tell them I had to go home on bedrest.  In my air conditioned bedroom.  hehe.  My boss jokingly said that they wanted a doctor's note.  (Side note - I really loved working there, and enjoyed the people I worked with.  They threw me a very sweet surprise baby shower the week before.)  So home I went, and I told them I'd keep them posted on any baby news.

Ok, back to bedrest.  At that point, it felt good to lay down in my air conditioned bedroom, and read, watch movies, point a fan right on me, and elevate my feet.  I did spend half a day running errands on that Monday because all of the sudden I thought of a million things I should do before I officially started bed rest.  Oy!  The next day I went in for more testing, and then went home to rest more. Anyone who knows me, will not be surprised that by the second day, bedrest was hard. Apparently I was going to have a baby soon, and I had things to DO. Wednesday morning I got the phone call from Doctor Elliot - my family care doctor who I loved, loved, loved! - informing me that I would be induced.  I was 37 weeks - officially full term - and my blood pressure was all of the sudden elevated significantly.  It was best to just get the baby out of there.  (My blood pressure, and everything else, had been fine until that Monday appointment.)  My Dr. told me to come in to the birthing center at Marquette General Hospital that evening - yikes! - and I would be given cervadil overnight to get ready for induction in the morning.  And I hadn't even had my babyshower yet!  (My sister Beth had planned one for the coming Saturday . . . but it was too late.  It was resheduled for a couple weeks after I had Anna.  So she got to come too.  :)

We were excited and scared all at the same time.  I thought I had at least three more weeks!  I remember we went out to dinner with Ethan's family and my parents at Upfront right before I went in to the hospital.  Everyone was so excited.  This was the first grandbaby on Ethan's side, and on my side the youngest grandchild was 5, so it'd been awhile since there was a baby in the family.  Ethan and I went to the hospital, got comfortable in our room (I loved MGH's birthing suites!), and tried to sleep. . .  of course unsuccessfully for me, but Ethan was out like a light. 

The next morning, they started the pitocen for induction first thing around 8am. I know I technically had contractions, "big ones" according to the nurses, but they did not feel bad.  Around 12, they started closely watching Anna's heart rate.  It started to drop significantly during each contraction.  It could mean many things, but one thing to consider was the car accident I was in two years earlier where I had fractured my pelvic bone.  There was just no way to say how or if that would affect giving birth.  Anna's heart rate situation got serious enough that a c-section was starting to be discussed.  I feel like the doctors approached it very sensitively, as if it would be a disappointment to me.  Which was kind of them.  And I appreciate that it felt more like a discussion as opposed to, "This will happen now."  Again, because of the car accident and the uncertainty of if or how that would affect giving birth, I feel like I wasn't disappointed when that became the reality of the situation.  Also, doing what was best to have a healthy baby was always a top priority for me, as opposed to how I wanted things to go.  (Not to mention - I knew what child birth entailed - I'd seen videos, taken the birth prep class, etc.  There was a big part of me that just did NOT want that to happen to my body.  Which helped.  :)  So, c-section it was.

Even though there was not much disappointment that I didn't get to deliver "naturally", there was a lot of fear all of the sudden.  I had read about c-sections too, just in case.  It is MAJOR surgery!  And I was scared.  It was all a rush and so quick, which was nice that there wasn't too much time to dwell on the fear.  I am so glad Ethan was there with me.  He is such a calming, "everything will be ok" type of person.  I remember shaking on the operating table.  And they kept bringing more and more warm blankets.  I felt much better after Ethan was able to come in, hold my hand and talk to me.  But I could tell he was nervous too.  The c-section felt weird, which was surprising.  I guess I wasn't expecting to feel anything. But there is tugging, and pulling sensations, and a few minutes when I felt like I couldn't breath (when they were pushing very, very hard to get Anna out).  A vacuum was needed; she was very wedged in there.  As potentially expected, things weren't separating like they should because of the previous fractures and injuries, and she really was "stuck" in there.  Anna finally came out, and cried.  It was so good to hear.  They checked her and brought her over to Ethan and I to see and "hold".  She looked so tiny. . . and alien like, in a precious sort of way.  I immediately felt like I was going to throw up.  Which I did.  It's a common side affect of the anesthesia for c-sections, just bad timing as you're holding your first born for the first time. 

Anna needed to go to the NICU for a few hours to have her breathing monitored.  Ethan went with her which is typical of all c-sections - NICU or nursery - and I stayed in the OR to get put back together.  Then I went to recovery until I could feel my legs again.  I think it took about an hour.  The nurses brought me pictures of Anna, which was odd.  I looked at them, and thought, "How am I supposed to feel right now?"  Three weeks early, induction turning to c-section, Anna taken away very soon after meeting her, being alone in a room after becoming a mom for the first time.  I hadn't read about that part of c-sections, so it was surprising and lonely.  Really - one of the biggest moments of my life, and I was alone in a recovery room.  I didn't feel all the things I thought I would feel when I got to meet our baby girl.

When I got back to our room, Ethan and Anna were still gone at the NICU.  They were there within 10 minutes, but again, it felt really odd waiting alone.  I had just had my first baby and I had been alone for almost two hours!  Finally Anna and Ethan came back in, and I was actually able to hold her.  She was so tiny and so precious - 6 pounds and 6 ounces.  Having not read about the "after" part of a c-section, I was a little surprised to learn that I wouldn't get out of bed for the first day, and would be pretty sleepy and out of it due to the medication.  I feel like all of the unknown and unexpected turns at the end of the pregnancy really contributed to some ups and downs... along the "Baby Blues" lines.  I was so emotional for the first few weeks.  Seriously, I could cry for hours at a time, all the while thinking, "What are you crying about?  You need to stop!"  I had a few of those crying episodes while still in the hospital.  It was the weirdest feeling to cry and cry, for no apparent reason.  I'd feel sad, or overwhelmed, during a crying episode, but just couldn't put my finger on the specifics.  And I couldn't figure out a way to stop crying even though *I* thought it was getting a little rediculous.  Hard to explain.  I did not enjoy when anyone else besides Ethan held Anna, or even visited really, which was surprising because I pictured feeling like, "Oh hey everybody - come meet our baby girl!"  That is how I ended up feeling with my next birth experience, but not with Anna Belle.  I felt too stressed to eat, and I just had a lot of anxiety, and worried about everything for her.  Every. Little. Thing!  She was so sweet and precious (and sleepy!), but I wondered if I was feeling everything a new mom should.  Did I love her enough?  Was is supposed to be immediate?   

My blood pressure cleared up as soon as I had her, just like pre-eclampsia is supposed to.  Physically, I felt so, SO great after the c-section - just not to be pregnant anymore! -  and recovered very quickly.  I didn't even fill my perscription pain meds when I left the hospital, I felt so good.  And I lost all the weight (which was mostly the swelling with Anna because I was too queasy to eat much during her pregnancy) within a couple weeks which I credit to breastfeeding and STRESS.  But my "emotional recovery" was a different story.  Dang those post-birth hormones!

So, after a few days at the hospital, we were ready to take Anna home.  Ethan and I were scared!  We thought, "They just let you take this baby, and expect you to know how to raise it?!"  Ethan and I love looking back at the first month or so with Anna!   It amuses us now, but at the time nothing felt funny about it.  It was that typical overwhelmed, exhausted, nervous, sleep deprived time of life.  All while being so completely wrapped up in this new little being.  We loved Anna.  We thought she was the sweetest thing - and after a few months of being a bit of a crier - it turns out she really was the sweetest thing.  :) 

It took a good few weeks for my random crying spells to stop.  I could see things start to get back to normal.  I still felt a lot of stress and worry - maybe more than normal?  Or maybe normal for me considering I'm a little prone to that with my type of personality.  I'm sure it didn't help that breastfeeding wasn't a simple thing - it was challenging!  And I'm sure it also didn't help that I knew I only had three weeks before the fall semester started.  I had scheduled the easiest semester I could while still being a full time student - 12 credits - and placed classes around Ethan's schedule.  Also, Ethan's mom would babysit for a few hours one morning a week, and my mom babysat for a few hours two afternoons a week.  Knowing Anna would be with her daddy or her Grammas helped, but I was feeling so much anxiety about leaving her.  I cried on my way to class a few times at the start of that semester.  But, I also knew and felt like it was right.  And looking back, I think if I had taken that one semester off, it would have been easier to have taken more off, and who knows if I would have gone back to it?

Wow, this really is getting long.  Let me sum it up.  Over the first few months, all of the emotions evened out, and Ethan and I got more comfortable and more confident taking care of Anna.  We quickly recognized what our strengths were as far as taking care of a baby - pretty much Ethan was good at everything, and I tried my hardest.  (Seriously - Ethan was the soother when nothing else worked, he was the night time miracle worker, he was the bather/showerer, he was the one with limitless patience, he was totally hands on, etc.  I was fine changing diapers, kept things organized, loved to feed her, loved to hold her and rock her, loved to sing to her, and tried my hardest at everything else.)  And after having weight checks for a month because it was taking Anna some time to regain her birth weight - at around 3 months she finally plumped right up, and turned in to the squishiest, most adorable little smoo.  She completely entertained us and filled us with wonder.  And we tried to remember what, exactly, we filled our time with before we had her.  Whatever it was - it could not have been as good as watching baby Anna smile, and laugh, and learn, and grow. 

Now, how about some pictures?  So many pictures!  (Since it was so hard narrowing it down, I didn't include any pictures of extended family.  Just the three of us.)  The highlights of her first year -  enjoy:

The c-section and hospital stay.  I love how proud Ethan looks in the third picture.  And I love how excited Dr. Elliot looks in the first picture (dark blue scrubs), even though you can't see her face.  Loved her.
Our first family picture, still in the hospital.  I love that you can tell we look scared, tired and happy all at the same time (and I still look pretty swollen).  Second pic - bringing Anna home! 

When we got home, lots of sleeping ensued.  For everyone but me.  I was too stressed - Was she breathing?  I should do laundry, yes? Should I fill out her baby book before I forgot it all?  Where were all her gifts going to go?  What bills needed paying?  Was she breathing?  Could I really go back to school in 3 weeks?  Why did she cry so much?  Why didn't she know how to breastfeed? Why didn't I know how either?  Did we make the right choice?  Was she breathing?!  For sure??!!??  How could I sleep with all those things bouncing around in my head? 
We tried putting Anna in her crib that first day home, and it just looked too big and too far away - on the other side of our bedroom.  So we quickly realized that she would be sleeping with us - in our bed or around the house, next to us in a pac-n-play, in her carseat by us, in her baby papasan chair.  Anywhere but her crib, really.  I think around 10 months we had her sleeping in her crib in her own room?  Maybe? 

Anna is a couple days old in this picture and has red spots all over her (a normal newborn rash).  I think this picture shows best how TINY she was (and a little alien like until she plumped up).  She was 6.6 at birth, and then hovered around 6 pounds for a month or so until I started supplementing between breastfeeding, as it took her awhile to regain her birth weight.  And then Anna really took off!  :) 

I quickly discovered that one of the best things in the world is holding your sleeping baby on your chest.  Love it.
We took pictures - with props - of some of our favorite outfits.  We were really drawn to gender neutral things, and were determined to have a "well rounded" baby and not fall in to stereotypes :).  But now Anna has made up for that by loving all things girly!  And don't worry, she was gifted many pink, girly things to wear.  Second pic - Anna's first trip to the beach only a few weeks old.  Picnic Rocks, Lake Superior.
Ethan quickly took over bathing/shower duties.  He loved this bonding time . . . but I was always too nervous to try it.  Soapy babies are SLIPPERY! 

Our lives revolved around Anna - watching her sleep, teaching her to play the piano hehe, bringing her to the park - even if she would just sleep the whole time. 
Ethan blessed her in October.  Such a special day.  My Uncle Harry was able to make it, and we had lots of friends and family there. 
We continued to amuse ourselves with our sweet baby girl.  Placing little stuffed animals around her that matched her outfit.  Ethan helping Anna make her first snow angel.  And the last picture was part of a game that Ethan affectionately calls "The Ambush." 

And now for the holidays!  Cute, little bunny for her first Halloween.  First Thanksgiving at GramMelissa and Grampa Chuck's - and she couldn't eat any of it!  (We were supposed to go to Indiana for Anna to meet all of her Jones relatives, but there was the traditional Thanksgiving weekend snowstorm.)  And the final pic - Anna trying to eat her Valentine's Day balloon from her grandparents. 
First Christmas - We took cute Christmas pictures for our cards.  I loved the one above, because it was just so "her."  Anna was a serious baby, and didn't turn into her silly, laughing and smiley self until around one year.  The second picture shows how much the baby of the family was showered with gifts and attention her first Christmas.  hehe. 
Finishing up the first year holidays - Anna's first Easter.  We had to cut the sleeves on this dress to fit her chubby, little arms.  hehe.  And finally, Anna's first 4th of July.  So patriotic!

We gave Anna her first tastes of rice cereal around 6 months, and then she tried to eat anything she could get her hands on - like rubber duckies.  I love the final pic - we really did a lot of casual lounging as a little family once we had Anna.  (If there was nowhere we had to be.)  We loved our quiet times at home - all napping in bed together, or just watching her adorable expressions.   

She was in no rush, but eventually Anna learned how to crawl and then around 14 or 15 months, walk.  It was so fun watching her hit her milestones!  We totally got why parents get excited about all the little things.  It's exciting and fun.   
More sleeping, more lounging, and movies too!  (Ethan and Anna are both really asleep in the first picture - and holding hands!  Awww!)

Anna's first trip on an airplane!  We went to Denver/Boulder for my friend's wedding, and to see lots of Ethan's family.  It was such a fun trip.  And as you can see, Anna enjoyed herself.  (And that is Anna's first swimsuit -  loved the little star on her belly!)
Then she turned one.  ONE!  She ate cake (one of her first sweets ever!), and relished in the attention from all the family that were there to help her celebrate and bestow gifts. 

By that point, it was already hard to remember that she started out so tiny.  (Background of above pic is a quilt my mom made for Anna.)

We love our little Anna so much!  She still fills our life with joy, entertainment, fun, silliness, sweetness and love.  We are so grateful she was sent to our family.