Saturday, December 27, 2014

Family Update

Here we are about three months post army life. We are still surviving! FINALLY starting the home buying process, but I fear it will still be another few months before it becomes more of a reality.

Jason has changed his major to Mechanical Engineering - only because he felt he would enjoy the hands on aspect versus the more theoretical aspect of Physics. Mechanical because the school he'll transfer to here, doesn't offer Aerospace which is what he really wanted to do. They do have that minor though, so that's an option if he's not completely burnt out by then. In fact, he had his transfer orientation today! We call it his 'big boy school'. He'll finish his third year of calculus and second physics class at the community college, and take a couple classes at his big boy school next semester - so that will be a challenging schedule, but we can do anything for 16 weeks! And then next year he'll transfer completely and hopefully within 3 years, be a University of Colorado graduate! 

I am still working PRN which is perfect for now because of Jason's ever changing schedule. What's really challenging is that while he's at the community college, a lot of the classes are night classes. Bedtime by yourself with two kids is not fun! But, we made it through this last semester, so we will certainly survive next! Unfortunately, next semester I will probably just be able to work weekends to be able to work around Jason's schedule and the fact that I can't work on days he has class because day care closes at 6, and Natalie isn't even in daycare right now. We just decided we'd keep her out of daycare for as long as we have to solely because we don't want to spend that much money for both of them if I'm not working full time. At this point, Coop could stay home with me too, but he's been at this same daycare since he was 6 months old, and he loves going. It's good for him, wears him out, and he learns so much there! I can't take that away from him, and I certainly can't give him all the opportunities he's getting while he's there. 

So basically, our lives are divided in to semesters for now. And I'm ok with that. It gives us something to look forward to. And flexibility that most families with young kids don't have. We have these discussions at the end of every semester when he's registering for the next. And we have to keep taking in to account how old the kids will be at that point - because thats always changing! It's already a hundred times easier than it was in the beginning of the semester when Natalie was still in the newborn grumpy phase.

Potty training has begun, and I fear it will be a long, painful process. We will probably finish just in time to start Natalie! It is a constant battle of the wills in our house right now. I'm not sure where he got his stubbornness from…

Otherwise, we enjoyed a nice quiet Christmas in our own home for the first time in our married lives. We were certainly homesick, but it was really nice not to have to cart the kids around to different places! We stayed in our pajamas all day and just enjoyed each other. It was the first really fun year with Cooper as he's starting to talk about Santa. He wasn't quite sure how the whole present opening thing worked, but he did figure it out quickly, though he wanted to open every toy immediately and play with it instead of finishing opening the presents. Natalie slept through most of it!

And that's all I can think of that's update worthy at this point. We're living a pretty quiet life here in Colorado, and we're loving it so far!


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Natalie - Month 6

Dearest Natalie,

I can absolutely NOT believe that you're a half a year old already! Amazing. The years are flying by now. You are my content little girl, now. A complete turnaround from your first four months!

You aren't rolling yet, and that has me worried a little. I'm sure you will be ok, and I should embrace the lack of mobility right now, but I do want the world for you, and certainly don't want you behind! I believe you can do it, but I think you are just fine being on your back that you have no desire to do it. You are tolerating your belly much longer now, and have gone from your belly to your back…but only one day.

Your first food was homemade sweet potatoes. You were really indifferent, and only ate a couple spoonfuls.

Your dad has been trying to get you to belly laugh, which you still haven't done, at least to his standards. You will laugh, only if something is really funny. Your personality is starting to emerge, and we think you're going to be so laid back, and very serious. Getting you to smile is getting easier, but you still reserve the good smiles for very special occasions!

You've inherited your daddy's bushy eyebrows…the jury is still out on who's hair you will have!

I'm worried you've also inherited your mommy's lazy eye. So, I'm sorry in advance :(

I had forgotten how easy shopping was with a 6 month old. You aren't sitting yet, either, but you can sit in the cart if I prop you up with blankets. You don't wiggle out of the seat belt or kick or scream, and it's amazing. I can actually slowly wander through every aisle of target like I have been longing to do since what feels like forever. It's almost like a vacation! In that aspect, it does feel like the second baby was so much easier. But not in a lot of other aspects.

You are still sleeping in the pack and play in our room, much to your fathers dismay. He's tired of whispering anytime we go to bed. And it's true, you do need to be in your own room, in your own bed. Hopefully soon, sweet girl. I'm sorry you didn't get a precious pink nursery from day one of your life, those kinds of things are just not in the cards for our family, it seems. What matters is that you are loved AND you are sleeping 12 hours at night :)

You continue to be my happy, observant, girl. We are so blessed to have you in our lives, we love you so much!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Natalie Months 4 & 5

Natty Girl,

These months are starting to fly! I can't believe you're already 5 months old! In the early days, I longed for these months. These are the fun months, I remembered. I was right, but I'm already missing how tiny and sweet you were.

You are actively reaching for toys and trying so hard to roll over, but haven't quite mastered that yet. You are starting to enjoy being on your tummy as well. We have finally figured out that you thrive on a schedule. Which is hard for your Mommy! Today, after sleeping 12hours at night, you went back to sleep at 9am and slept until 1:30pm when I had to wake you up! If you miss that morning nap, all bets are off and we pretty much are just winging it until bed time for you because you won't nap well after that. You don't stay asleep in the car seat if I want to run errands, either. You would rather look around and bat your long eyelashes at everyone you see while we are out! But, we are so grateful that you are sleeping better now! It was a rough first few months, for sure.

Your brother loves doting on you. He soothes you when you are crying, and reassures you that we are near by. He loves to help you play with your toys. He brings you things to hold and turns your music and lights on for you.

You continue to love your baths, talking to mommy & daddy, sleeping in the morning but not the evening, momma's milk, sucking your thumb, and the exersaucer! You continue to dislike playing by yourself for too long, laying down for too long, tummy time (sometimes), being startled by your brother (or dad), and tummy aches.

Different from your brother, you only seem to suck your thumb when putting yourself to sleep. Which is fine by me! It's amazing, actually, to watch you put yourself to sleep. As long as you're not over tired, you go to sleep almost instantly. You put your little arm up over your eyes, and the other thumb goes in your mouth, and you're out like a light! Incredible. All that stress in the first few months, that I was convinced would rub off on you and in turn make you a horrible sleeper, was all for naught.

I imagine this month you will master the skill of rolling over, and maybe cut a tooth or two? You've been chewing on your hands and more recently, your tongue.

Your daddy can't wait to see what you're going to look like, and what kind of personality you're going to have. I, on the other hand, can wait. I love this little tiny you - who plays so quietly on your play mat, doesn't move from where I put you down, and who doesn't crawl around eating all your brothers crumbs or dropped raisins (aka choking hazards). Please stay this size forever my sweet chubby cheeked girl.

We love you sweet girl, you are our blessing baby.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Natalie Months 2 & 3

Dear sweet girl,

One of the first things I realized when I became a mommy of two, was how much less I cared about certain things. Not about you, no no. Baths, for example. Now I have to figure out how to manage your brother while bathing you, or vice versa. And, you are rarely dirty…so you get them once or twice a week. Your brother, maybe three times depending on how dirty or sweaty he is! I also care less about leaving you with your daddy. Meaning, I'm more relaxed about letting him feed you a bottle here and there if I'm out running errands and *gasp* I have to skip a feeding…I've been making myself leave more often because staying inside can make one go crazy! Though, getting out and doing takes much more effort than staying in and sitting, it is good for me, and in turn, good for our family.

Which brings me to my next point - after you were born, I'm pretty sure I went through some Post Partum Depression. Nothing like what you would hear about in the news (that's psychosis…and a whole different ball game) but the sitting in the same spot on the couch every day, nursing you for what felt like all day long, praying you would sleep but you wouldn't, etc. Well, frankly, it got old much faster this time around. And it made me wish for you to be older. Once I went back to work, I found a little bit of my old self again, and am happy to say, I believe I'm on the mend. I'm only working two days a week, and I am so grateful that we are able to do that.

Obviously, I'm busier with you than I was with your brother - because now there are two of you! And you both want my full attention all the time! Which is why you are almost four months old, and I'm just now writing about your second and third month.

In your second month - July - we did a lot of what I just described above. We sat on the couch and I nursed you. I desperately tried to get you on a schedule of some sort because I felt the clock ticking for  having to go back to work (though still weeks away). You refused any sort of schedule. You also refused to enjoy anything but being held by your mom or dad. You did start smiling, though.

In your third month - August - we went to the beach! You were baptized by Pastor Finck, who also baptized me, confirmed me, married your dad and I, and baptized your brother! You have two God Mommies, Krystal and Lisa. They are two of the most faithful people I know, and I can't wait for you to get to know them both. I think you enjoyed the beach, although you didn't have much to say about it this year. Your toes touched the Atlantic for the first time, and you cried because it was chilly. You were bathed in the sink at mom moms beach house. You also met your Grandpop and MiMi and your great grandparents from Philadelphia for the first time in Virginia. Your great grand mom made you a beautiful christening dress that I hope you can pass down to your daughter one day. You flew on a plane for the first time and slept the whole way!

You have been spending full days with daddy when I go to work and the first day was rough. Ever since then, though, you've behaved yourself for him for the most part. You are proving to be a little more high maintenance than your brother. But it should be that way, shouldn't it? You are a little princess, after all.

You have been sleeping "through the night" for a while now, I'm not sure when it started officially, because I wouldn't consider it through the night just yet. You sleep from about 7-8pm until 4-5am. And after a feeding, again until 8-9am. But, you wake up around 12-1am and start fussing, looking around for the pacifier that has long since fallen out of your mouth…and then I spend the rest of the early morning putting it back in, about every hour or so. Finally though, my dear girl, this week in fact, you have found your thumb. I could not be more excited, although I'm sure we will pay for it in dentist bills later. Until then, I believe it is an awesome coping mechanism, and I also believe it's why your brother is such a solid sleeper and self entertainer. Or maybe that's just his personality. Either way, today has been monumental in that you have taken three naps in your bed (!!) and for two of them, put yourself to sleep while sucking your thumb! Huge step! For the past three months you would take a long afternoon nap in the swing, and no where else. I even tried to move the swing upstairs so I could get things done downstairs without waking you, and you could tell you weren't around people…and would wake up after about 30 minutes, never to return to dreamland again. There were days when I really thought you would never reach the point of sleeping on your own, and that I would have to hold you until you were a teenager!

You love sitting up straight - and so you've enjoyed the Bumbo chair much more than your brother ever did. You'd much rather be watching everyone moving around the kitchen than laying under your play mat. You love to listen to mommy 'sing' even though my voice is horrible. You will be starting a baby music class next week hopefully!

Something I've been telling myself over and over, "don't wish these moments away" - because I know you will be a rambunctious 2.5 year old before I know it, and I will want to hold you and have you fall asleep on my chest one more time.

You may be high maintenance - and you may not be. I could be blowing it all out of proportion because having two at once is more stressful and I'm having a hard time balancing it all. But you still are our miracle baby. A baby girl I prayed for for so long. And you're here! And I want so badly to not mess anything up. I want our relationship to be strong and great, all the time. I want a baby girl who will be so confident but humble, and smart but kind and gentle. And so you may only be 3 months old, but I am already wishing the world for you. To have a life full of happiness and ease, filled with genuine people and love.

Everything about you is different from your brother, and that is just how it should be. I will constantly struggle with comparing the two of you, but I know deep down there is no comparison. You are both my sweet babies and I will love you both until I can't anymore.

Your dad and I love you to pieces cutie pie. You are a beautiful girl. (And your eyelashes are beautifully long right now!) In my opinion, perfect in every way possible!

Love you Natalie Jane

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The End of an Era

It happened! It's here! The time has finally come! 

Basic Training Graduation
Now, did I say it would happen while I'm on unpaid maternity leave? Yes. Did it happen that way? Yes. Is that our luck? Yes. (woe is me)

Probably a week after we got home with Natalie, Jason's PEBLO called with the news. His VA ratings hadn't changed, the Army ratings increased 20%, but nothing from the VA. They assured us we could submit claims after he gets out, and that is ratings will "definitely increase". But we won't be able to do that until he's out, and even then, who knows how long the process will take. You've seen the VA in the news lately…it seems nothing good comes out of that organization, and that's really scary!

So this is it, he's getting out!

Talk about scary.

He's on post picking up his clearing papers as I type this. Last night he said "Every time I've cleared a post, it's to go to another one…not to be done forever. This is scary."

It's amazing how something he's dreamt about for so long, probably since he was in basic (ha!), is finally here, exactly 10 years later, and now he's scared to leave it! I can understand, though. I believe the Army brainwashes these guys (especially infantry guys), and it becomes a crutch. They get so used to the routine, being treated like children, and the guaranteed pay, they don't even know where to start when they're out and have complete control of their lives. Jason has it mostly figured out by now, though. He's been through multiple chains of command at the WTU since he's been here 2.5 years waiting for this day, he's had plenty of time to figure out his life after the Army.

The plan stays the same: We will likely buy a house out here (once he's out and they will finally approve us for a loan), he will finish his bachelors degree (which right now he still wants to be in Physics), and then hopefully we will be able to move back East. I will stay at my current job which is one of the main reasons we're staying here for now, it's SO flexible with his school schedule and our daycare is on post which as a civilian, I still have access to. Now, if things could go as planned for the next few years, that would be awesome! But…we all know how that works.

What I'm most excited about is being able to pick up and go wherever, whenever we want! To be able to plan things and trips months in advance! What I'm not excited about? The giant pay cut we're about to take. So far, we've survived my unpaid maternity leave by just sitting at home and hardly eating out/ordering out at all. I'm rather impressed with us. We haven't had to dip in to our savings yet! But, he's still getting paid. Luckily, when he stops getting paid, I will have been back at work for about a month, so we should be OK financially. We will still take a pay cut,  even with me working, but we will survive! We are blessed that he will be able to go to school full time and not have to work because of the GI Bill, and we are blessed that I still won't have to work full time.

Because Jason is in the WTU, he gets the privilege of being put in the lowest financial category for daycare, meaning what we pay is out of this world cheap right now. Once he's out, it's based on income, so I'm hoping it's not too crazy expensive - especially since it will be doubled! I was thinking of keeping Natalie out of daycare a little longer since Jason will have the freedom to stay at home with her while I work.

So, there you have it. Almost three years after he was injured, he is finally getting out. All that waiting and we still didn't get the results we hoped for. We will still have to fight hard once he's out, or he'll likely get lost in the system. At first, it felt like I had been punched in the gut - of course all this would happen now. We just had another major life change with this second baby, why not throw this on top of it. But now that I've had some time to process it all, it will certainly work out. Maybe not as awesome as we had hoped - at least not yet - but the timing really couldn't have been better. He'll be out before he starts school again which means he has the rest of the summer to clear, out process, tie up loose ends, last minute doctor appointments, etc. We'll be able to go on our beach vacation with no worries about leave since he'll already be on terminal leave. And then he'll come home, and start school without having to worry about calling his squad leader every morning to 'check in' and still go to PT and pull duty throughout the semester.

I am so excited for him. This is a huge step! He is handling all this change and responsibility so well! His main concern has always been us, and how he will support his family, which I am so, so grateful for. I've loved him for almost as long as we've been together, he's always been so considerate of me and my feelings, but I love him even more now. After all he's been through, he's coming out on the other side shining even brighter than he did in the Army. He's not letting any of this get him down, he's not milking the system, he's so humble and undeserving, and still so driven and even more motivated now than before.

It will be surreal, I'm sure.  A life without the Army. Many people at the WTU have asked him to work there, to be a staff NCO, or work there as a civilian after he's out. I always thought he should be a prosthetist since he knows a lot about it now, and likes to work with his hands. He said no. "It's already a huge part of my life. I don't want it to be my job, too." He has always said he wants to get as far away from the Army as possible. Unfortunately, now, it will always be a very real, and very obvious part of his life. A story he will tell often as our kids grow older and more curious, as their friends ask about it, and any new friends we should make along the way.

Cooper notices his missing middle finger more than his leg right now. "What happened your finger, Daddy?" while pointing to it. "You got hurt?" "Yes, bubby, my finger got hurt."

If that's all he notices, because his daddy can do pretty much anything other daddy can do, I'd say we're in good shape!

10 years later

Natalie: Month 1

Dear Natalie,

It's almost time for your two month post (you're six weeks old), and I debated doing them together, but I have some time while you're napping, and your brother is occupied with his iPad.

What a whirlwind your first month has been! Maybe not for you, but definitely for your father and I!

Mom Mom and Poppy were here for your first month, mostly to help with Cooper while we learned all about you, and how you like or don't like things.

What we have learned so far: you're very unpredictable, you still haven't found a schedule you like, you get overstimulated very easily, and then over tired, and then you just won't sleep, you do not like having a dirty diaper for long, you do love to be held, you like to be in the swing, you don't like to take milk from a bottle, though you're not a great breastfeeder either, you make every face under the sun when trying to pass gas or poop, you are awake more at night (still!), you do like baths, you will NOT take a pacifier, we are still praying you will find your thumb (you have a couple times, but not for long), and you're finally growing out of your newborn clothes.

I have been beyond stressed trying to figure out some sort of schedule for you. Probably very unnecessarily stressed, as I'm sure it will work itself out eventually. The hardest part is not comparing you to your brother. Even so, he wasn't on a schedule at six weeks. And I specifically remember him getting over tired and then screaming for what seemed like ever, too.

What Daddy and I have decided is that we aren't giving you enough time! You're still only six weeks old! The last two nights you've slept for 7hrs then 6hrs, so maybe we're turning a corner, although I'm not going to get my hopes up!

It sure makes going out a lot harder. Now, I'm afraid you'll get to overstimulated and then it will throw the whole day off. I know you'll get there eventually, and that I shouldn't rush this time, because I know I'll miss it when you're running around like your big brother!

Daddy says he is most excited to see what kind of personality you will have and if you will have curly hair like your brother (I doubt it!). We are biased, but you are the prettiest baby girl we've ever seen!

This one will be short since you don't do too much these days but eat, sleep, and cry!

Even still, we love you, our answered prayer!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Natalie Jane

**Disclaimer - this is a birth story ya'll…**

June 8th, 2014

I woke up around 9am and went to the bathroom as usual. On the way, I noticed a little more than a trickle, but nothing like the gush I had experienced when my water broke with Cooper. So I told Jason, who wasn't sure either.

It was a Sunday, so we didn't have much planned - though I was scheduled to work that day. I had taken myself off the schedule the week before since they thought she was IUGR, and wanted me taking it a little more easy. I texted my L&D friends to ask their opinion on the matter - do I go in and get checked, or not? I was having no other signs of labor, and ya'll know how I wanted to try to have this baby naturally. PLUS we were only at 37.6 weeks! Way too early in my opinion. (since I have control of these things)

I hemmed and hawed over it all. day. We had no plan for Cooper since my parent's weren't here yet. Finally, we decided to all go in and just see what they said. I threw an overnight bag together for Cooper just in case I didn't come home. I had already thrown a bag together for us, but it wasn't my best packing job ever.

By now, it's around 1:30-2pm. Nap time. I picked an awesome time to decide to go in! My triage nurse was due the same day I was supposed to be (the 23rd) - and confirmed the fact that I had ruptured.

Now came the fun part. Remember, I work there. I know and work with everyone I was about to show all my goodies to.  So I was given my choice of nurses, midwives, doctors, labor & post partum rooms, and was admitted.  The midwife 'stripped my membranes' during my first cervical check, and said 'Well you were one, and I took you to about a three…' And I felt all two centimeters of that. There was scar tissue on my cervix that needed to be broken up, and it was not pleasant. But on we go...

Since I had probably been ruptured since 0900, I only had about an hour until they wanted to start some sort of augmentation. I was still showing no signs of labor on my own. Meanwhile, Jason and Cooper are still with me as I'm getting admitted, IV, labs, etc. Signs of nervousness are starting to show as Jason is pacing and trying to figure out what to do with our now napless and inquisitive two and a half year old. He was finding all the things not to touch in the room, and Jason was becoming increasingly stressed.

We went back and forth about child care for a long time. Mostly what it boiled down to was we didn't want to bother others with our crazy child. Finally we decided on a friend of mine from work (who wasn't working, thank goodness). They have a 1 year old little girl, and I was so nervous about Cooper being too rough with her, misbehaving, or not sleeping. I rattled off a list of last minute things for Jason to gather - but I knew he'd be too rushed and forget. I was telling myself over and over that it wasn't the end of the world, but ya'll know how I hate not being prepared! And I was totally not prepared. I mean, I was texting Katelyn about Jason forgetting his sippy cup…not a big deal…but it was to me! And I was mad that I forgot to pack a liner sock for Jason's prosthetic.

We also had a limited amount of time to drop Sadie off last minute at the boarding place. So I can just picture Jason coming home and running around with his heart racing. I know he hated leaving and was afraid that baby would come out any minute. He had to get all Sadie's food ready to go too. I was trying to do what I could from the hospital like arranging drop off for her and texting Katelyn with their ETA. I told him to get dinner on the way back, which he didn't want to do because he felt bad since I couldn't eat. Thankfully I had the wherewithal to know to eat before I went, just in case. Good thing I did! He inhaled Burger King before coming back up to my room.

Once he was back, the fun really began. They had started pitocin and we were going up by 2 every 20 minutes. I was on the birthing ball, with the external monitors on. Lots of cords and annoyances, for sure. Because I was on pitocin, I couldn't be intermittently monitored. Finally once we got up to 18-20mu of pit, I was feeling them pretty good. But by then it's getting to the point of having to have an internal monitor since the pitocin was getting so high. Before shift change (1830) they did another check and inserted an internal pressure catheter to monitor my contractions better. Still 3cm. Frustration.

New shift, new nurse, new midwife. Of which I knew them all of course. I continued with the birthing ball, the pitocin, and I was really starting to feel them. Got checked again around 11pm, still 3cm. We decided to try a pitocin rest for 2 hours; the thought being that it lets the receptors clear the pitocin, and then when you start it again it usually works faster and the contractions are stronger. She even let me eat in those two hours. I inhaled some cheez its, jello, graham crackers, and I think a soda. We totally didn't prepare enough to bring snacks and had a very minimal amount of vending machine change, so that's all I got. Afterwards I silently prayed I wouldn't puke it all up later. I still had to be intermittently monitored for those 2 hours, but in between I was in and out of the shower.

There's something about being in pain/labor, that makes you feel like you have to tense your entire body, and you can't move. And then when you add external monitors, blood pressure cuffs, pulse ox, and various catheters…hanging…it just all feels so unnatural, and you'd almost rather lay still than get up and move. Though when I did get up, it felt better. It was a mental struggle for me, for 12 hours, while I was unmedicated, to tell myself to relax. When I did relax through the contractions, it did feel better, but to tell yourself that every 2-3 minutes was exhausting. Something I'm sure I would have been better prepared for had I invested in a doula or just educated myself a little better. Hindsight is always 20/20! Jason was great about doing hip pressure, and it really helped. I don't know if it took my mind off the other pain, but it felt great.

When we restarted the pitocin around 1am I think is when we checked again…still 3cm…and inserted a fetal scalp electrode at the same time. THAT was weird. When she would move her head, I could feel the cord moving against my leg. So at this point, I knew my body wasn't relaxing enough to let this happen. I could feel myself tense every single time. Didn't help we were watching it on the monitor and knew when every one was coming. I was already debating the dreaded epidural. And I knew it would take a little while to get things going, so I didn't want to wait too long to decide. I had a gut feeling that I wasn't going to change much on my own, and I was nearing 12 hrs unmedicated, had been awake far too long, and was loosing patience. Here's where a doula would have been beneficial, probably. But, as it was, I decided to get the epidural. Sat up on the edge of the bed as if he would be in there the minute I said the word, and waited. And waited. And got increasingly irritated with the length of time it was taking him. I was trying so hard to keep my sailor mouth in check. I remember with each contraction thinking "I'm not going to make it through this…" and then it would end. And then another would come and I'd be on the verge of tears…"I can't do this!" I remember wanting to scream at the top of my lungs for that man to "Get your F*cking tool box and get the F*ck in here NOW." But! I controlled myself. Finally, it came.

Now we're at about 3am, and the awful numb feeling was here, but I was no longer in pain. Now, I was just worried about the baby not coming down far enough - all the checks had been the same, she was at -2 station the whole time - too high. "Tell me if you start feeling pressure" they said…they said all the same things last time too, and I never felt that pressure. She had me using the peanut ball between my legs, on my side. We rotated sides every 30 minutes which was a struggle with dead legs. Apparently this helps to open up the pelvis, and let the baby come down further. How, I don't know because I was still laying fairly flat. But, these girls know what they're doing so I was just the very compliant patient doing what I was told. ;)

While all this rotating was happening, I was watching I Love Lucy, Jason was asleep, and I tried to sleep, but was getting checked every 15 minutes so it was pretty hard. The whole time though, I was praying I was dilating and she was doing what she was supposed to before this next check. At 0445 she checked again, and we just crossed our fingers, silently praying there was some kind of change. I was hoping for at least a 5 or 6. It's only been about an hour and a half since the epidural, so I wasn't trying to get my hopes up. She said "Ok, I can live with that! Complete, Complete, zero station!" Oh, thank GOD! Wait! What? That happened in an hour?! Holy Shit this is happening!

Then my nurse says, "Ok I'm staying until you deliver!" Meaning she was going to stay over her shift to deliver this baby because it was pretty close to shift change again. I would never wish that on anyone, and definitely not when you're working nights! They decided to let me labor down for another hour, to see if she'd come down any further on her own (We did this with Cooper, too.) so it was decided that at 0545 I'd start pushing. I was feeling tiny amounts of pressure intermittently, but nothing that screamed to me that a baby could be falling out any minute.

I had a very last minute photographer coming, and she hadn't arrived by the time we were due to start pushing. A tiny voice inside of me said to tell them to wait until she got there, but I didn't say anything. I had emphasized to everyone that I pushed for 3 1/2 hrs with Cooper, and that he ended up being forceps. My nurse emphasized to me that she did NOT want me to be her first nurse delivery (where the babe comes before the provider can be in the room to deliver it). So the nurse came in and said we could start pushing, and that the midwife would be in shortly.

A very different picture than last time, just me, Jason and the nurse (I know all their names by the way, I just don't want to throw them out there like that ;)). I asked for a mirror because I like to know I'm pushing correctly. We lifted my heavy ass legs and I'm mentally preparing myself for a good couple of hours of pushing. I gave half a push and saw white and knew I needed to stop. I don't even know if Jason or my nurse was looking, but since I had the mirror, I saw it instantly. I said "Uhhh I think that's head!" And the chaos ensued. Jason tried to push the staff emergency button and I turned my head to tell him which one it was, I turned back around and her head was pretty much out. Meanwhile four more nurses were in the room, and finally the midwife. I didn't push any more. She just came out on her own.

At first, she looked so incredibly tiny! And then she started looking bigger and bigger when I thought about how she had just been scrunched up inside me. She was on my belly till the cord was cut, and then they took her to the warmer. I believe she was a bit stunned by the quick delivery, and she needed a bit of oxygen to get jump started. After that, she came back to me, and we made sure she really was a girl, and did the full head to toe assessment. She had a nice little groove all along the top of her head where she must have flew past my pelvic bone, but it was gone by the next day.

She was 6 pounds 9 ounces, 18 inches long. Born at 0555, and the photographer did indeed miss it. But she got there right after, and got some incredible shots. So thankful too, because we left our camera's memory card in the computer at home. Ten fingers, ten toes, and no penis!

My recovery was out of this world compared to last time. Now I can understand how some ladies come back pregnant within the year. Last time, Jason wasn't allowed near me for months. This time around, there was a different emotional connection I felt to him. Maybe because we were out here with no family support, really relying on each other to get through and share this huge moment in our lives together. Whatever it may be, we communicated so well over those couple of days, and got a lot accomplished! But, I was never swollen, didn't need any kind of repair, and didn't dread standing, sitting, or walking! The only pain I felt after delivery was the cramping, which still wasn't horrible. Definitely more noticeable than last time, but manageable.

It was an early morning delivery, so Monday felt extraordinarily long. She met all of mommies co workers who were on that day! We took naps as best we could, but as things are in hospitals, people were in and out all day.

We decided Jason would pick Cooper up and spend the night with him at home so he could be in his own bed, and so as to not burden others with him any longer. After visiting with me and meeting his baby sister, they both went home for the night. Jason said he was fairly restless, like he knew I wasn't there. He went to day care the next day and Jason came up as early as he could.

I spent the morning struggling with breastfeeding (again!). I was determined this time would be different, but alas!, it was not. Extreme pain from the very first latch. We decided she's just small, and her mouth is small, and she just wasn't opening wide enough. It was never an issue of not eating, it was more of an issue of getting a good latch. (2 weeks later, we're almost better…still tender, but nothing like last time!)

I took care of some administrative things like turning in my time card, and updating my HIPPA so I wouldn't be locked out of my account upon returning to work…you know, the things one would normally do after just having a baby at their workplace…

And we finally made our way home. A stop to fill out her birth certificate paperwork where we debated until the last second on her name. I was the one filling it out this time, so if she hates her name, I goes I'm the one to blame this time! We weren't totally convinced on it, but decided if we waited, we'd just stress over it more and more the longer we had to think about it. Another stop to pick up lunch, and some other necessary post partum items, and we were home! It felt weird coming home to a quiet house. Cooper wouldn't be up from his nap for another couple hours at day care. We learned early on not to interrupt this process! And, then we learned not to pick him up before he eats his snack there, because he gets really upset about that too. So we had a couple hours to relish in our new baby, at home, alone, before the chaos would ensue. And, relish we did!

We were at home for two days before mom mom and poppy arrived, and it was a glimpse in to our near future. It will be Zone defense once mom mom and poppy leave, that's for sure. The first night home was incredibly tough, she was up every hour for some reason. My milk was already in, and she was feeding fine, just A LOT. It made for a tough next day, but Jason was up with Cooper bright and early (for us) and entertained him all morning until mommy got her butt out of bed and moseyed on downstairs. He was so great. He played with Coop outside, made me eggs and brought them to me IN BED! I had a huge list titled "Before Baby Nesting" that only had about 3 things crossed off it since she came 2 weeks early. He started knocking things off that list left and right without me even asking. It was awesome.

Though I definitely feel like myself again much sooner than I did with Cooper, I am still finding myself in a little bit of a daze as the days go by, and she gets older by the second. I'm trying so hard to relish in every moment as she will probably complete our family. And I'm already trying to work out the logistics of daycare in my head - what time will I have to get up in order to drop two off and get to work in time. This sounds impossible, yet people do it all.the.time. Everyone says we will find a new routine, but it sounds pretty far off right now. How will Jason handle both of them while I'm at work all day. When will we find time for each other, will we come out of this on the other side still loving each other?!

Now, I'm rambling.

So, dear Natalie, we feel so blessed to have you in our lives. Mommy prayed for a sweet, healthy little girl, and someone heard her! Your timing, though early, was perfect. Daddy has the whole summer to spend time with you and get to know you before going back to school and studying hard this fall. Your mom mom already hopes you will give me a hard time like I gave her. I hope you are always content with your beautiful self, and life, and grow to be a wonderful person. Mommy, Daddy, and Cooper will be there for you every step of the way, we already love you so much!


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

was it worth it?

We all know how much Facebook has affected our lives in one way or another. Tonight, while perusing the site as usual, 2nd Brigade 4th Infantry Division posted pictures of their HHC 1-67 AR Change of Responsibility ceremony. Yes, they have a Facebook page - who doesn't these days? And nice for all those families of units who are deployed because they get to see pictures of what's going on while their spouse is gone.

In case you've forgotten, this is the unit Jason deployed with to Afghanistan from Fort Carson. I quickly looked through the pictures, your ordinary military ceremony with the flags and such. They are currently deployed to Kuwait and should return this summer.

But here's the kicker…none of them are the same people that Jason deployed with almost 3 years ago. Again, in typical military fashion, most of the guys he was with, PCS'd around September after they returned. You can tell when it's PCS season in a military town. You can just feel it in the air, there are moving trucks on every street, and there's a bit of a lull at the birthing center as everyone comes and goes and gets settled.

So as I'm flipping through the pictures, I'm thinking, "None of these guys have any idea who Jason, or the other two guys who lost their legs for this unit (and country) are."

"The leadership doesn't even know."

"Everyone has gone their separate ways and all but forgotten."

"What was the point?"

I mean obviously, the point was not to have people remember him forever. And even more obviously, there are thousands more who sacrificed so much more.

But I can't help but wonder if it was really worth it.

I am grateful to live in the US, and Jason has received nothing but top notch care from the start of all this - though some believe military care is horrible, I strongly disagree, and will save that argument for another day!

But, almost three years later, am I allowed to wonder why? Because from what Jason tells me, he's fairly bitter about it all, too. Yes, he signed up for it, and he's fully aware of that. So am I. We've never asked for sympathy, just new legs.

He still gets stopped and thanked by strangers, and all I can think is "But do you really understand what we went through during recovery and learning a new normal?" When what I should be thinking is "How nice! Someone going out of their way to show their appreciation. It is rare these days!" So I just smile and answer "Yes he's in the military, yes he lost his leg in Afghanistan…" Then when he comes back, they thank him for his service and say something about how much of a hero he is or whathaveyou. And Jason almost always responds with "Eh it's no big deal, I was just doing my job!"

I hate that response. Yes, it's the truth, but it's so humble it makes me sick! I think sometimes he wishes he had a way cooler story than what actually happened, though I'm quite happy with how it turned out, because it could have been way worse.

This is a long winded way to say - what the hell were they doing over there anyway? What was the mission? Why have I waited three years to wonder this in such detail? Why did three guys need to lose a right leg and change their lives forever? Because the COP they were defending and clearing paths to, is closed now. No one even goes there anymore. So, why?

Does this mean either of us are against what everyone is there for? No. Jason is a honorable man, and will do any job he is asked, regardless of risk - very obviously. But, I might have a little bit of a harder time understanding this. When, in my job, one of the biggest ethos (I doubt I'm using that word in the correct context) is "First, do no harm…"

People lose limbs every day, as we've seen, so why should we be any different? We shouldn't. But when you lose a part of your body so traumatically, grieving still has to happen. We are clearly still going through it. Just the other night, right before falling asleep, he said "I still can't believe I'm missing a leg." While I'm over here thinking "Hm, I'm pretty used to it now, I guess." But I can be, because I'm not the one going through it. He is. He always will be. I get to forget about it. He can't.

And I still haven't figured out why.

Friday, April 11, 2014

thumbs up

Oh my, it's been so long!

I decided I needed to write this down, since this is becoming my baby book of sorts.

The past three days, I have done nothing but look at my son in awe of how fast he has grown and just how smart he is. It is incredible. I can barely put it in to words, but I will try.

For example, Jason informed me that they were grocery shopping, and he pointed out the pitas. Why would he even know what a pita is?! We never say that word, or have taught it to him. Insane.

He absorbs everything.
"Mommy has to do the dishes, bubby."
"Alright, I do dishes."
And he proceeds to pretend do his dishes in his kitchen. With a sponge and all.
What?! You do pretend play now?! You know what that IS?! How?!

And then, to top it off, he starts singing "Let it gooo…" from the movie Frozen. Which we've only seen twice. The first time was his first movie theater experience, probably a little too young, because we spent most of it going up and down the stairs, so how did he even remember that song!?

Tonight, while in the bath, he sang "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star". I never sing that song. They must sing it at school. But geez. Blow me away again why don't you, son.

To all of you who are not parents and reading this, I'm sure you think I'm insane. I'm one of those crazy moms who is obsessed with her child. Maybe I am. Because I'm pretty sure he's the most amazing thing ever put on this planet.

And to think, I have another 'most amazing thing ever put on this planet' growing inside of me right now!

Just his personality, you guys, is out of control. Now we get the huge sighs and he throws his hands up…"Alllllllright" when asked to do something. Unbelievably cute. And we never do or say that. So insane how they form their own little teeny tiny personalities! He's only TWO! Two years of life, and there is so much character and charisma inside of his little tiny body!

He has OPINIONS! How can someone who has only been on this earth for two years have opinions? Someone who was helpless just a year ago?!

"Build Snowman on your phone, Mommy!"
(Mommy translates)
"You want to listen to the Snowman song on Mommy's phone?"
"Where did Anna go, Mommy? Anna go bye-bye?"
"I guess so."
"Let it go on phone, Mommy!" "Let it goooooooooo"

And at 0550 when we're getting ready for school on work days -
"No Mommy, I don't want ittttt" (Whining. Not my favorite character trait. But a very strong voice of opinion.)

And then -

"Call Mom Mom?"
"I'm coloring purple Mom Mom, see?" (As he moves the phone so she can see while they FaceTime.
Two year olds FaceTime. What?

I watch him walk around with very specific purpose. Answering our questions appropriately, and playing with such intent. I can't handle it. I beam on the inside, and sometimes on the outside too, because I just can't help but be so incredibly proud of how SMART he is!

He is so interactive, too. "Play cars, Mommy?" (Mommy strongly dislikes playing cars. It is not in her nature to want to play cars. Nor does she have the sound effects that apparently boys are born with.) "Ok bubby, let's play cars" "Here you go, Mommy, you play with this car."

Ugh, so considerate. So, so polite. I can't get enough. I want to live in these moments forever. When he's so little, and still looks at me with such love and adoration. I never want him to grow up and get married. The pure and genuine love in his eyes for his mom and dad at this time in his life, is incredible. My cup overflows!

Yes, more often than not, our days are difficult. They are laced with bribery which I can't say I'm proud of, but if it gets him to eat dinner, then so be it. Or gets him out of the tub without a fit, OK. Or gets him in his car seat without a wrestling match, I'm ok with that too.

On the days I'm exhausted, and want nothing more than for it to be bedtime, I hope I can remember these sweet blonde curls and thumb sucking snuggles won't last forever.

No matter how old he gets, who he marries, and where he ends up, I think I'll always see my baby, beaming at me from the bathtub as he sings twinkle twinkle…

Friday, January 24, 2014

Cooper: 2 Years

2 years!
Can you believe it?! I can't!

I thought zero to one was a big difference, but one to two felt even bigger. You have grown SO much!

Around 20 months, I got worried that you'd never actually talk. Even though everyone assured me you'd be fine, and you would wake up one day speaking sentences. I didn't believe them, and had a team of people come evaluate you. If nothing else, but to be sure I was doing everything I possibly could to help you along. Sure enough, they all decided you were right on track with your age and it would just be a matter of time. Well that time happened around Christmas. We went home this year, and all of the sudden you were repeating EVERYTHING! Putting words together, making sentences, and even making sense of what you were saying! You have opinions and wants, and are finally able to express them!

Now, I can't even list the words you can say because you can pretty much say them all with our help! Which means mommy needs to start watching her mouth…

You have finally started the attachment phase - I thought maybe we'd skip over that, and was really excited about it. But all of the sudden (again!) after our Christmas vacation, you started getting a lot more clingy when we have to leave you at daycare, or even when mommy or daddy just leaves the house. It's rather heartbreaking actually. At least for me. Luckily you don't let it affect your whole day, and quickly forget as soon as we're out of sight. I always said I'd never be that parent who hangs around and keeps hugging and kissing when you say "Mommy no bye bye" hugging my leg a little tighter. But I'm definitely that mom. A little piece of my heart breaks off each time I have to hear that little voice plead!

But you do love school, and we are so blessed in that we don't have to take you 5 days a week from open to close like some families do. It's just enough for me to feel ok leaving you there, and it's great for you! You can name all your friends there, and we talk about them all each morning we're getting ready to leave. You are really NOT a morning person, and when you have to go to school, unfortunately it's really early in the morning. So we talk about who we will play with that day and what friends we will see. Sometimes that helps you feel a little better about waking up and getting dressed. Sometimes nothing helps.

You have mastered the big boy cup, and eating with a spoon and fork. Although this still isn't always the cleanest skill of yours. Your baths continue to be very short since you insist on standing and splashing water everywhere but inside the tub. You love brushing your teeth at night, and reading books before bed. You are still a great 12 hr a night sleeper, so maybe soon we will try the transition to a toddler bed, although I'm not as excited about that as others think I should be.

We're still working on your expression of anger and frustration. Right now, it's hitting and throwing. It feels like we are speaking to a brick wall sometimes but again they all say 'one day it will click'. As a matter of fact, I got a compliment today on how I handle you which was a little shocking since sometimes it feels like it's all a lost cause.

We have been taking music class for a year now, and just this semester you've started expressing your opinions very strongly during class. So we've had at least two time outs per class so far. You're definitely challenging your mom and dad! But, I try to always remember your strengths, and hope this means one day you will grow in to a very driven and intelligent young man who knows what he wants and isn't afraid to go out and do what it takes to get it!

This might be a 'duh' for some people reading this, but I've found that being outside helps you a lot. Unfortunately our backyard is not conducive to you playing in it, so that's another reason we love when you go to school, because we know you get good outside time and no tv or iPad time. Hopefully soon we will have a real back yard for you!

You are totally a beach boy - as evidenced by this past summer. You would've stayed down there all day if we let you. You were fearless with the waves, and loved playing with and throwing the sand. We can't wait until we can take you every single summer!

You have gotten very attached to your 'Poppy' as you named him. You loved playing pool with him while we were home for Christmas. When we FaceTime with mom mom, you always ask for Poppy and say "Poppy! What are you doing Poppy!?"

We celebrated your 2nd birthday with Livvy, Ben, Micah, and Charlie at the Denver Aquarium you had a blast! You had a cupcake with blue frosting that night, and blew the candle out before we were even finished singing!

Mommy loves you, sweet boy. You continue to amaze us with your smarts and kind heart. You are giving and genuine and we can't wait to see what this year brings. Please stay little just a little while longer!