Category Archives: Addison

Dear Addison: Ten Months

Dear Addison,
Last week you turned ten months old! And cue the tears. Mine, not yours, because you rarely cry. Thanks for that, by the way.

I swear I was just sitting down writing your nine month post. This month slipped right by. I have a sinking feeling this is exactly what I will be saying when you start kindergarten, graduate from high school and get married. Or when you get your GED, join the Peace Corps and head to South America.  

What I do remember about this month is that you are indeed a genius. Your imitating skills are clearly superior and you have surprised us by copying the way your Daddy plays the harmonica and the way I dance like a spaz. Most recently you grabbed my phone, put it on top of your head and said hello. We didn’t teach you any of those things, you sneaky little parrot. When you randomly display these feats of intelligence we just furrow our eyebrows and stare at you, look at each other, and then look at you some more. We know that you have already surpassed our measly brains and now we’re just sitting back imagining what you might do next. Your future will be more than we can claim in this life, and that is precisely what parents dream for their children.

Your love for Maya has grown by leaps and bounds. Meaning you leap and bound on top of her. You learned how to “throw” her bone for her (about three inches in front of you), and if she doesn’t want it, you will stick that thing right in her face until she takes it. I’m working on “easy hands,” but you will have no part of it. Before I can say unsanitary, you pluck hairs from her head and stick them directly into your mouth. I guess I should thank you for the free grooming.

You adore music and when I let you roam around the living room, you crawl right over to your Daddy’s guitar, seat yourself under it and begin clapping. Only a fiend would not indulge that request. Even my goofiest songs about putting on pajamas and dry heaving over your smelly diapers are pure gold to you.

We’ve experimented with several new foods, balking at the doctor’s idea to wait four days in between trying something new. Who’s got time for that when there are avocados, tomatoes, black beans and mashed potatoes sitting around? Surprise, surprise—you eat everything. It takes a village to sustain that belly.

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I spent a large portion of our income on a food processor so that I can make you four course meals crushed into mush. I want you to love good food, to appreciate meals with family and friends, and not obsess about calories and jeans sizes. But I also want you to discover whole, natural foods that keep your beautiful body strong and healthy. It’s a balance that I cannot pretend to have found, but I work at it for you, so that you can see a woman who laughs around a table instead of worries, who accepts dessert instead of becoming defensive about her latest diet. It’s a tricky business being a girl getting to know food, and I want your earliest memories to help shape that relationship into an effortless, colorful, joyful experience.

Related: mashed bananas work better than hair gel.

This stage in your tiny life is still full of belly laughs from all those who get to be in your presence, fleeting snuggles when you are just tired enough, and pure fascination with watching your sweet soul take shape.

A shoe on headBut you are also on the move. Constantly. And being with you 24 hours a day is utterly exhausting. So your Daddy and I took a mini vacation over the weekend and left you with BeeMa and Abuelo. Know that I love you with every ounce of my being when I say this: boy was that nice. I think it was healthy for you and me to spend some time apart, to catch our breath and to learn that we can manage a [brief] separation.

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I also want you to grow up in a home where your Daddy and Mama love each other. Not in a we’re-married-and-stuck-with-each-other kind of way, but a genuine, look-at-the-way-they-look-at-each-other kind of way. This is the definition you will have of marriage, of commitment, of respect, of love. Your Daddy and I take that seriously. So when we go out on dates, or take a quick weekend trip, of course we’re doing that for ourselves, to deepen our relationship with one another. But we also do it for you. To show you what it looks like when a husband and wife are intentional about staying mad over each other, about creating time to be together, about being interested in each other as people. We think that’s one of the greatest gifts we will ever be able to give you, so that you know what to hold out for. And what to walk away from.

With every passing day, I am so giddy at the thought of spending this life with you. Of your future bursting into being right in front of my eyes. Surely, what a beautiful dance it will be.

From My Whole Heart,
Mama

Dear Addison: Nine Months

Dear Addison,
Today are you nine months old! I would be in a dark depression over this lightning speed time warp, but you are just so stinkin’ fun right now.

IMG_2963As suspected, crawling serves but one function for you: transporting you to a different location to stand. From the table to the window sill to the laundry basket, you scoot, hoist, balance and celebrate. You’re a pro at leveraging all your baby muscle to get into an upright position. I don’t know if it’s because we’re deliriously biased, but we’ve always thought you were freakishly strong for a baby. This standing business is further evidence of our argument. Beauty, brains and brawn. The world can’t possibly be ready for you.

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Speaking of those growing brains, you are a first class imitator. Being the responsible caretakers we are, in preparation for the brightest possible future for you, we’ve been teaching you how to make fart noises. And we find it thoroughly hilarious every single time you purse those pouty lips together and shoot saliva across the room. You will learn very quickly that being one of us does not always mean being the fanciest or the shiniest, but we hope it means being the funnest. But don’t say “funnest.”

Your Uncle Tony has also been teaching you how to blow kisses. Right now the hand makes it up to your face, and then you lose interest. Don’t worry, baby girl, I know it’s a complicated process and really more of an 11-month old trick. But we have every confidence you’ll master it by 10 months. No pressure.

Yet another adorable attribute you possess is remembering which member of your fan club taught you which skill. When you see Uncle Tony now, the first thing you do is swing that open palm up to your mouth. When you see your Daddy, up comes the floppy waving hand. Sure, when you see me, you still nosedive into my chest, but I can’t really expect Pat-a-Cake to compete with your life supply.

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Last week you were sick for the very first time. If I’d only had your disposition to consider, I never would have known. Most of the time you were just as pleasant and playful as ever. But the certain giveaways were the snot streams trailing down your face incessantly. You slept a little more, and snuggled even more than that. By mid-week, you’d shared your germs with me and we holed up in the house for the rest of the week and weekend. And I gotta tell ya, those colds were probably two little gifts for our family, forcing us to push the brakes on the chores, the commitments, the errands and the socializing.

IMG_3131You, your Daddy, Maya and I had three days of lounging late into the morning, short walks to breathe some fresh air, camping out on the floor with some toys and rare couch cuddles way past your bedtime. Of course in between it all there were the snot-drenched shirts, the disinfecting every surface, the washing of all the bedding and the few times when you clearly (and loudly) let us know you were not feeling well. But what I’ll remember are those late afternoons when we were sleepy but didn’t sleep, reclined in front of some baseball game, and you were content simply poking at the buttons on my sweater. There’s simply no other place I’d ever want to be than completely congested, woozy with sick, but bent into a perfectly shaped Mama and Addison indentation with your soft round head resting on my arm.

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While you may not warm up to new people immediately, you are undoubtedly social. As long as you’re otherwise happy, you usually don’t cry if you get passed around or find yourself in the arms of a stranger. You may toss out a stink eye or six, but that’s just another check in the Gets It From Her Mama column. At your Dedication, you flew from one aunt to the next, cousin to cousin, and didn’t miss a beat. A nursery worker at church said that you tried to comfort a crying baby by patting her on the head. It worried me slightly since I know for you “pat” is code for whack, but it warmed my heart just the same thinking that the seeds of compassion are already blossoming inside you. With the daily inundation of evil and tragedy, these reminders are healthy for my cynical mind. There is good left in this world, and it takes the shape of a chubby baby hand reaching instinctively to soothe the cries of another. Keep reaching out that hand, sweet Addison.

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Way back in March, just barely into your ninth month, Uncle Tony and Aunt Ally watched you for a Mama/Daddy date night. When we came home, they swore you were saying “bye bye.” I didn’t believe it. But sure enough, it stuck, and you will offer up a lulling “buuuuh buh.” Granted, every other word we’ve attempted sounds an awful lot like “bye bye,” but it will still go down in baby book history as your first word at an astonishing nine months. Whenever I actually get around to starting your baby book. You also say “boom boom” (I swear it’s different than bye) and have recently developed this throaty, coughing laugh. It’s eerie how conspicuously patronizing it sounds. Real funny, guys. Look, I’m in stitches. Ha. Ha. Are you already sarcastic? Be still my proud heart.

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The magic of such brightness bursting from such a small creature, radiating onto everyone you meet, it’s simply spectacular. Whether furrowed brows, raspy laughs or gentle sighs, there is no dullness in you. You are movement and concentration and feistiness and discovery. You are stubbornness and strength. You are tumbles and wobbly legs. You are rolling burps and staccato giggles. You are nothing any of us could have ever dreamed up, and as I marvel every day at this little person stepping into her own identity, I confess  

I am so inside-out punch-drunk in love with you. Snot and all.

From My Whole Heart,
Mama     

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Addison’s Dedication

This past Sunday was Addison’s dedication at church. I have to give it up to the other mom who’d been wanting to plan this for helping me tag team the pastor with no less than five emails about setting a date. We finally landed on a Sunday that was only three weeks away, so my family and friends received their invitations about 17 hours before the event. I figured if they’ve ever seen my kid, they know anything that has to do with her automatically takes precedence over work, prior engagements, meetings at the White House, emergency surgery or what have you.

True to form, the Totally Casual picnic turned into multiple trips to my parents’ house for paraphernalia storage, too many Publix runs to count and late night cursing at the glue gun. I’ve come to dread hosting anything now with that judgy jerk Pinterest peeking over my shoulder making sure the cupcakes are arranged in a perfect circle to compliment the color coordinated circles of confetti I spent an hour funneling into clear balloons. Because you can’t just have colored balloons anymore.

Sunday morning was the typical mad dash to pack up everything that’s not nailed down in our house to cart it over to church, baby-in-pretty-dress included. There’s also a lot of prayer and precautionary butt whiffing that takes place when your infant is dressed in head-to-toe white.

I’m proud to say the only thing I forgot was the dog. Sorry Maya.

My sister in law graciously offered to help me set up some decorations at the park before church to claim a shelter before any other group could get their grubby hands on it. She also didn’t outwardly mock me for almost bursting into tears when the helium-filled balloons floated listlessly to the ground. She switched into make-it-work mode and we used an industrial roll of tape to stick those suckers to some poles. Suck it, gravity. We have bested you again. We also troubleshot a major sign hanging snafu. Such significant problems out there in the middle class suburbs.

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So many family members and friends made it to church, which sort of knocked me over when I walked in and saw everyone. Not because they were at church but because they were at my church to see my baby dedicated. If I’d stopped to process at any point throughout the day I would have required an outfit made of Kleenex.

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Clayton and I had no idea what to expect for the actual dedication during the service. We just knew it was happening, but no details. When they announced the other baby, her whole extended family went up to the front. I hadn’t thought about anyone coming up with Clayton and me, but then I figured we had to pull some unsuspecting family members to the front. I mouthed desperately to my sister in law, “Come up with us!” right before we were called, and she dragged my brother and my parents with her. I guess if we really wanted to get competitive about it (and really, when don’t I?) we could have emptied the three rows my family was occupying. But I played it cool, mostly trying not to trip in four inch heels in front of said family.

The pastor asked for both babies. Now, Addison and Jasmine, the other little girl, were born just a few hours apart. But little Jasmine weighs about the same as one of Addison’s belly rolls. I knew I couldn’t say in the middle of the service, “Have you been working out for six months to prepare for holding our baby?” Okay, truth: I probably would have said that if I’d been holding Addison, but Clayton had her and conceded immediately.

The discrepancy between the two nuggets was hilariously obvious. Jasmine remained perched high atop the pastor’s shoulder while Addison’s little bloomers sunk lower and lower under the crook of his arm. Shortly after requesting the babies, he noted, “One of these babies weighs more than the other one.”

And then it got weird. Because then I raised the roof. Leaned back teetering on two-story heels and pumped my arms in the air. I suppose in celebration of my kid’s girth? I don’t know. In most uncomfortable situations I’d just mumble an inappropriate sarcastic comment and move on. But since this wasn’t a forum for that, apparently bringing back an awkward dance move from 1994 was the next best thing. In my head, no one saw me because they were counting down the seconds until Addison completely slipped out of the pastor’s grasp onto the linoleum. Next time, I’ll either 1. Rehearse my dated dancing ahead of time or 2. Maybe just not dance.

If you’re not familiar with a baby dedication, it’s basically an opportunity for the parents to show off their (hopefully) cute babies to the church while also committing to the task of raising them in line with Christian principles. And if you’re in our family, it’s also an excuse to eat afterwards.

We carted sandwiches and sides and cupcakes and cookies out to a nearby park and spent the afternoon catching up and passing around the Diva of Honor. You know, once she finally made her appearance an hour after everyone else arrived. Nap time, folks. It’s no joke. 

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I didn’t hold my baby for a solid three hours, so once we arrived back home it was a snuggle fest of gigantic proportions. We watched Clayton do some yard work while lazily critiquing from a blanket in the grass. Deep down he appreciates it.

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We both agreed that the day was a perfect mix of being surrounded by friends and family and down time with our little trio. We’re so thankful for such a beautiful celebration. And pleasantly surprised our pastor didn’t drop our baby.

Dear Addison: Eight Months

Dear Addison,
Last week you turned eight months old. I am not proud of your for this. I don’t know what mystical wizard you bribed with that two-toothed smile to fast forward the clock beyond all rational explanation, but he’s on my list. Numero uno.

But since mathematically it seems that this must be true, here we go.

First, I will teach you who Oprah is. And then I will sing-chant in my best Oprah-esque voice, “Someone’s CRAWLing!” Yep, you are 100%, can’t-blink-or-you’ll-be-chewing-on-Maya’s-tail, how-much-are-indoor-electrical-fences mobile. Watching you learn this highly complex, systematic motion has been awe-inspiring. You babies sure are tenacious.

For weeks, you knew what you wanted but couldn’t quite put the pieces together. You’d get on all fours, and perhaps moving a few milestones ahead, you’d perch up on your feet with your booty high in the air. A better downward dog than I’ve ever achieved in any yoga class. But it didn’t serve your purpose. So slowly, but determinedly, you figured out how to inch one knee forward, and then slap one hand out ahead of you, and voila! Forward progress for you, a trip to the baby-proofing section for me.

A crawl

It’s been less than two weeks since you’ve mastered this crawling business, yet you’re already bored and need to see more, reach higher, stand taller. So you’re hoisting that compact, dense body of yours up on your knees. Oy vey. I really thought you’d save the over-achieving for your collegiate years. I suppose if there are is a foundation that can support the gooey chunkiness of your tummy, it’s those sturdy thighs of yours. They are a force to be reckoned with and gnawed upon.

A maya

The food train is rolling along and picking up steam. You’re trying to ensure any hint of a fruit gets pushed off the back of that train in the black of night so you can play innocent come lunchtime, but I’m on to your tactics, little girl. I am actually lobbying for Mom of the Year solely on the grounds that you’d choose a dripping mouthful of carrots or peas over a sugar-filled heap of pears any day of the week. Thankfully those two a day Dunkin’ Donuts trips during the last month of pregnancy didn’t skew your taste bud development.

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You are loud. I’m sorry, peanut, but there is no prancing around it. When you are in a comfortable situation, say while your Daddy and I are eating dinner and you’re possibly an inch left of being the center of attention, you insert yourself right back in the middle. You’ve discovered screeching and whining. Could’ve gone a few more months without those. But you’ve also found a handful of consonant sounds—B, D, M–that, when strewn together, we’re certain are some form of forgotten German that you picked up from a late night infomercial, making you leaps and bounds smarter than all of us. But we’ve known that since we first saw those alert, studious eyes. 

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In most areas, you are by no means delicate or graceful. I’m not saying this will always be the case, but you are a fidgety bowling ball of rambunctious. You don’t stroke my hair, you find a chunk and tug those strands out by the roots. You don’t examine a new toy, you grab ahold and beat it senseless against the floor. And you still take to grunting when you are deep in thought, working your ever-expanding mind through a problem. Right now you and I have matching battle scars, thin gashes to the side of our noses from your flailing fingernails. Trust me, if you’d ever tried to cut your fingernails, you’d opt for the gash, too. 

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Someone told me soon after you were born that motherhood just keeps getting better with every stage. I was skeptical because I fell so madly in love with you right from the start. I didn’t think anything could be better than newborn naps on my chest or the wild excitement of a few minutes of open eyes. But if I seriously did find that wizard and he would let me stop time for just awhile, I would pause it right here. This month has been pure, giggly fun. You are (mostly) smiley and responsive and anticipate our games and songs with laughs and claps, another check on the genius list. You wave to friends and strangers and recognize people you see frequently, curling your lips into a scrunched up smile and shaking your head back and forth. It’s like uncovering gold when you’re the recipient of that face. Highly sought after around these parts.

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I can understand now that the future does hold the promise of even more words, milestones and memories. But I still cling to today, to the right now, to the footie pajamas and uneven hair growing in spurts, the undecided eye color and the indifference to bath time, the half hour of morning cuddles in our bed and those moments at the end of the day when all you want is my arms. I can’t bear these days slipping by this quickly, not knowing when you will walk yourself to the other side of the room without needing me to carry you, when you will tell people exactly what you want without needing me to translate for you. Yes, tomorrow will be bright. Who you are leaves no other choice. Perhaps, even “better.” But today is such perfection, sweet Addison, and I’m begging tomorrow to wait.

From My Whole Heart,
Mama

Dear Addison: 7 Months

Dear Addison,
Today you turn seven months old!

Food. Mushy, orange and yellow, sticky food. That’s the messy milestone we’ve been working on this month. Around lunchtime, after I find you rolling around in your crib throwing mischievous smiles at me through the slats, you get stripped down (the one time attempting this ritual with clothes was enough) and propped up in the Bumbo.

The first few times we played this game…your faces. Wow. You are your mother’s daughter. Eyebrows flinging all over the place, nose crinkled up, confusion and curiosity splashed across your pupils. I’m pretty sure your internal conversation was something like I think this is a good thing but I’m not positive this feels normal squishing around my mouth but if I just push my tongue out like this I can get it out of my mouth and then oh! that’s fun when it splats on my hands. Look! If I beat my hands on the tray it’s like a carrot fireworks show okay I’m convinced this is totally AWESOME.

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If there was one area where your father’s “Me Can Do It” attitude has appeared, it is eating. As soon as the spoon is within reach, your little arm zeroes in on it and before I know it, your fingers have wrapped around the stem and yanked that sucker into (or at least near) your mouth. And then, if you’re not satisfied with that result, you slide your chubby fingers down into your mouth to assist your tongue in scooping the vegetable mush into your cheeks.

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The more we practice, the less mess we make. I’m torn between wanting you to explore your independence and have fun with eating on one hand, or having to invest in a power washer for daily hose downs on the other. Mama don’t have two hours to clean up mashed sweet potatoes from the baseboards.

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Your great grandmother said you are “as strong as a boar.” And while that’s not the most flattering description of a beautiful baby girl, it‘s undeniably accurate. When you don’t like or don’t want something, you’re a fighter. Christina Aguilera-meets-Mike Tyson-style combat. This typically appears when it’s nose-clearing time. Come within two football fields of your snot-draining, miniature nostrils and your neck thrashes with near demonic power. We usually just give up. I think it’s a pretty realistic life lesson to reward you with success by way of simply outlasting your opponent. After all, we do watch “Survivor.”

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The squeals have remained. In new pitches and frequencies. In the aisles at Target. Out of gratitude for a colorful, talking toy. Because there are people in the room who are not giving you undivided attention. During prayer at church.

I should probably be better about removing you from situations that are not complementary to baby excitement, but, well, I’m not. I like hearing you squeal. It hasn’t gotten old to me, and every time, your Dad and I look at each other like “Why is her timing so terrible?” with baffled, embarrassed expressions because we know that’s what people expect. But really we’re thinking, “How cute is our kid?! Like, the cutest EVER! Let it out, girlfriend.”

This month you’ve also come to understand what it means when I am in the room and I am not holding you. You’re not a fan. I have literally crouched behind objects to avoid catching your eye when your Daddy is holding you. Sorry baby girl, but you are not a slight child and Mama’s biceps need a rest.

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Even in those times when a break is very, very welcome, it’s still surreal to think that you—this vibrant, hilarious, smart little person—would want me, a messy tomboy who slinks away from public affection and refuses to call you a princess. Me, who cried over failing at raising a girl because I couldn’t relate to her. Me, who can’t cook or make hair bows or sew you frilly dresses.

Your eyes softening and brightening when I come in a room, your head whipping around when you hear my voice–how humbling that in these seven months I have become the person you search for, the person who can dry your tears and turn a scrunched up lip into a smile. I don’t deserve to be this for you, Addison. You are too good for me in every way. But oh, how I will try to be the person you imagine me to be at this stage, this comedic superhero with magical kisses. I want to be her because you do deserve that.

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I know it’s going to sound so hokey by the time you read these, but Valentine’s Day was yesterday. And the word “love” is so entirely insufficient, just a rain drop in the ocean of what I feel for you. I love ice cream and a good workout and new shoes. You, my dear, are simply a category of emotion all your own. There is no separate file or label to organize it; being your Mama consumes me. Tumbles up out of my heart like a crashing wave and spills over into the rest of my life, altering every perspective I once had. From now until the end of time, I will see the world through an Addie lens. And nothing has ever looked so beautiful.

From My Whole Heart,
Mama

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The Birth Story, Part 4

(Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here)

Pushing was extremely difficult. Because of my asthma, I was never able to hold my breath for the full 10 seconds on the last push of each contraction. That made me feel like I was failing, and I became anxious leading up to each contraction, which only made it harder to give my all each time. I was also feeling a lot of painful pressure and asked for more pain medication, though we would realize later that something must have been dislodged and I was not receiving medicine like we all thought.

Time completely melted away during pushing. All I know is that I felt tremendous pressure and assumed the baby must be so close. My nurse kept saying, “She’s right here. One more good push!” But it was never just one more push. If I ever do this again, I will explicitly forbid anyone to tell me “just one more push.” Every time I heard that, pushed, and didn’t have a baby became utter disappointment piled onto total exertion. My anxiety over not being able to do this “the right way” started to take over my mind, and I was on the brink of an anxiety attack. I began frantically wondering what happens when someone cannot push the baby out. Will Addison be okay? Is she stuck without oxygen? Will I need emergency surgery?

At one point, I yelled, “Just get her out!” I was so worried that I was hurting my baby girl. I could feel her so close to being here, but it felt like it would be a million years before I could finish this. I was losing it. I looked up at Clayton. I found his eyes and I stayed there. I couldn’t move to the left or to the right, not up or down. I knew that disaster and fear and panic were waiting for me outside of his gaze, so I would not, could not, move. I stared at him, terrified, and he stared back at me. He was scared, too. I could see it splashed across his face, but that was the safest place in the room and I never wanted to leave his blue eyes.

“Natalie, what are you afraid of?” Dr. Peden asked with the greatest insight.

Everything! I wanted to scream. That I physically can’t do this! That you’re asking me to hold my breath when I can’t! That I don’t know how to push any harder!

But I didn’t say any of that. I don’t remember what I said, but I know it was a lie.

Dr. Peden directed a nurse to give me oxygen in between contractions. I don’t know if it helped, but it was a heavy realization that I was not handling this well. I dove into the pile of anxieties in my mind and shoved them over a cliff. I didn’t have time to be afraid anymore. My baby didn’t have time for me to be afraid.

On the next contraction, I knew this was it. I knew I would never be able to push the way they wanted me to. So I wouldn’t let myself get to a third push. The contraction came, I curled my back, pulled my knees into my chest and lost myself in that push. I have never worked harder than those seconds. The handful of baby-attending people who had gathered in the room let out a collective gasp.

And I felt it. I knew. My baby girl was in the world with me.

Relief and joy and pride and exhaustion crashed together in a wave through my body and mind. But then it all silenced into the purest, overwhelming love as a tiny, white baby with matted dark hair rested on my chest, floating up and down, up and down, to the rhythm of my heart.

“I love you, baby girl.”

And my sweet Addison Brooke was home.

Then I didn’t sleep for three weeks.

The Birth Story, Part 3

(Part 1 here. Part 2 here.)

Thanks to God’s infinite providence, the doctors had changed shifts, and my absolute favorite doctor from my practice was on duty. She was much less strict about the time limit (I didn’t have any signs of infection yet) and worked with me to try and stick to the non-surgical labor I wanted.

Getting the epidural actually proved more difficult than anticipated. My stubborn defense is that the doctor did a lousy job of explaining what he was doing and alerting me when/where I was going to feel touching or poking. Basically, I was a big, fat flincher. I flinched so hard right before he stuck the needle in that he jumped backwards.

Finally, we conquered that hurdle and soon I was reclined and relaxing on the bed. Around 9:30 p.m. my doctor checked me again. (For anyone who is counting, this makes the 107th time I was checked.) Six centimeters! Woohoo! A hundred hours of labor to get one and a half centimeters, add drugs, and I get to six in an hour and a half. Someone’s uterus was obviously not relaxing going the natural route, but I won’t name names. I was completely thrilled with my progress, and my doctor was convinced I would be at 10 centimeters and ready to push in an hour or so.

Clayton’s mom had arrived by this time, and she hung out with us for awhile, along with my parents who had been invited back to the room once the epidural took hold. We were all in pretty good spirits.

The doctor checked me again around 10:45 p.m. To my surprise and disappointment, I was only 8 centimeters. And I had a fever, suggesting I was finally starting to get the dreaded infection. I know in my core that if I still had the doctor who was on duty in the morning, I would have been wheeled into the operating room at this point. But Dr. Peden agreed to give me just a bit longer, and I am forever grateful to her for honoring my wishes in a safe, reassuring way.

During the next hour, I tried to prepare myself for a C-section. If I had not progressed appropriately, I knew that was what the baby would need to avoid an infection. Honestly, I accepted it. I was ready to undergo the procedure that had topped my list of fears my entire pregnancy. If Addison needed to come safely into this world via surgery, I would give that to her. I fully anticipated that was going to be our story.

Around midnight, Dr. Peden returned for one final check. I locked in on her face, trying to read every eyebrow twitch as good news or bad news. Then she smiled. “9.9,” she said. “I think we can go ahead and push.”

I was ecstatic and filled with relief. I thought it was over, that we had reached our destination. I was so, so wrong.

The Birth Story, Part 2

(Part 1 here)

When we arrived at the hospital, I was taken to a room in the Emergency Department so that the on call OB/GYN from my office could make sure my water had broken. It had. Unfortunately I wasn’t dilated at all. She then casually mentioned that I would be taken upstairs to start pitocin. I’m sorry, do what now?

My doctor explained that because my water broke, I would need to deliver the baby or at least be in hard labor within 12 hours to avoid getting an infection that could pass to the baby. This was vastly different than what I understood from our conversation weeks earlier in her office; I thought I had 12 hours to try and have contractions on my own if my water broke. Nope, 12 hours to get the baby out. Time clock: started. Strike two.

My doctor agreed to give me a couple of hours to see if I started having stronger contractions or progressed at all before beginning pitocin. I didn’t. And what had been one of my greatest reservations had to take place. I got an IV and started on pitocin to induce labor around 10 a.m. With the IV, I could only move around with the bulky cart attached to the drip bag. Strikes three and four. I don’t know what game we were playing, but my birth plan was definitely losing.

The contractions began getting stronger and more noticeable. For several hours I was handling them well. Clayton would rub my back and a birth ball and I became besties. Lying in bed was horrendous, so that was nixed pretty quickly. My parents visited for awhile (another no-no on the original plan). At first, it was a welcome distraction to have other people to talk to and laugh with. They brought lunch for Clayton while I munched on the hospital’s finest ice chips. So cliché.

Unfortunately, their visit stretched into the time the contractions crossed over into the much-harder-to-manage range. I had shown my parents how to see the contractions on the monitor, and every time I was about to have one, my dad would announce it from looking at the monitor before I had felt it yet. “Here comes one,” he’d say, making me unable to relax for any extra seconds I might have had before feeling it myself.

My mom could tell we were entering the no talk, no laugh zone and told my dad it was time to go. It was early afternoon when they left, and after that, things got real. The back rubs no longer felt good and Clayton needed to stay a good three feet away from me during contractions. The birth ball was losing its magic. I’m shuttering a little just thinking about those few hours and feeling perfectly content at the idea of Addison being an only child.

The pain got intense. I was having strong contractions every one and a half to two minutes. Despite how uncomfortable it was, I figured at least things were moving along and I could tell through the strength of the contractions that we had to be progressing. I decided I wanted the epidural around 7:30 p.m. My nurse wanted to check me one last time before she left at 8 and asked if I could hold off on getting the epidural until then. I was at the point in labor when I measured time in contractions. I honestly didn’t know if I had that many epidural-less contractions left in me, but I agreed. But I negotiated a 7:50 check.

One and a half centimeters. Thirteen hours of labor for one and a half centimeters. I was stunned and disheartened and totally discouraged. I wanted the largest cocktail of pain meds this place would serve me. I had just writhed in pain for hours and it was completely useless (according to my less than trustworthy reasoning).

Beyond being completely demoralized, my not progressing also made the C-section conversation relevant. We knew that there was a chance I could be forced to go that route if I didn’t get far enough along in the 12 hour window after my water broke. And now I had hit the time limit and was at a ridiculous one and a half centimeters.

The Birth Story, Part 1

It’s been six months, which is way past the deadline to make any returns or exchanges, so I suppose it’s time to share Addison’s birth story. If things like lady parts and uterine contractions are not your bag, I’d recommend returning when regular programming resumes.

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I wrote about Addison’s birth late one night (well, very early one morning) in the darkness of her nursery as she slept a few feet away. I tried to capture the soul-shaking beauty of those moments. But there is also the play-by-play, nitty gritty labor story that needs to be told, mostly because even now, nearly six weeks later, the memories are still tinged with anxiety. Hopefully the retelling will help me put the sharper corners of that day in their final resting place and Mama can move on.

Leading up to labor, Clayton and I were fairly middle ground when it came to our birth plan. For the medical staff, we labeled it our “wish list” to keep those feathers unruffled. I was not adamant about having or not having an epidural and planned to just see how things went. You know, because labor is known for being a very go with the flow sort of experience. Let me just say now: if you go into labor not knowing for sure if you want or don’t want an epidural, you will be getting an epidural.

Other important requests I made were to labor at home for as much as I could, to not be induced with pitocin unless it became necessary, to be able to move around as long as I had not received an epidural (trying to take a walk while my legs were numb would certainly make for a hilarious birth story but do little to actually help the process), and to be allowed to labor at my own pace without an unnecessary time clock being held over my head.

Looking back, I can now confirm what every labor and delivery nurse and obstetrician knows but doesn’t say: birth plans are a crock. You can practice that breathing, attend prenatal yoga religiously, avoid sushi and alcohol like the plague and Kegel your heart out, but after a certain point, your baby and your body are calling the shots. You’re just a passenger on the ride.

My ride began at 5:50 a.m. July 14. I woke up needing to pee and was lying in bed trying to muster up the motivation to get up. And then my water broke. One of the questions I asked my doctor was if I would know for sure if my water broke. I was able to answer my own question. I knew instantly what had happened and sat straight up, blinking in disbelief. I went to the bathroom to “confirm” what I already knew.

The jumble of thoughts and words and questions fumbling around my brain can best be described as one of those word puzzles that take the letters from each word and scramble them up so nothing makes sense or looks normal. I didn’t know what to do first. I stumbled out of the bathroom and woke Clayton up.

“Um. My water broke.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. I’m sure. What should I do?”
“Then we need to go to the hospital.”

Such the level headed husband, that one. I continued my internal massive freak out while I got a shower and packed the last few things in my havin’-a-baby bag. Clayton called my doctor’s office and started packing his bag (that I told him to have ready weeks before, cough cough).

So…laboring at home wasn’t happening. Strike one.

Dear Addison: Six Months

Dear Addison,
Happy Half Birthday! Yesterday you turned six months old! I know, I don’t believe it either, but those newborn pajamas sure aren’t fitting up over that belly, so I guess it has to be true.

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If last month was The Month of the Grunt, this month is The Month of the Squeal. You have found a new high-pitched register in your voice and people or things that are worthy enough are met with the squeakiest shrieks of enjoyment. It’s a fail-proof way to elicit some serious smiles.

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I’m afraid I jinxed us by bragging all over town about your mystical deep sleeping habits. I miss those 9-hour nights. The wicked combination of teething, getting arms and legs stuck in crib slats, and discovering the concept of separation has reintroduced us to middle-of-the-night wake ups. Sometimes a couple. Sometimes every hour. No more laying you down and retrieving you the next morning bright-eyed and eager. Back is the creeping backwards out of your room, waiting outside the door holding our breath, and wincing at the monitor at 3:30 a.m.

But it’s ok. I wrote about it in those first months, and it’s just as true these days: when I lean over your crib in the morning and our eyes meet, and your whole face lights up with recognition, there is just nothing that can diminish that moment. Not sleep deprivation, not the previous day’s meltdowns, not even the puddle of runny poop that is beginning to seep through your sheets.

Some may call it chemical, but I plead divine.

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Speaking of those teeth, you’re sporting TWO BOTTOM TEETH! Woop woop, girlfriend. And it only took you a month and half to push out those itty bitty chompers. Seriously, can we not come up with a more efficient way to get this done? It’s 2013, people.

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This month you’ve experimented with some rice cereal and bananas. I don’t know that you actually absorbed the calories from these foods as would be required for actual “eating,” unless those calories can be taken up through your chin, your cheeks, your fingers and your bib. Because that’s where all the food ended up. I am so excited to dive into this real food thing; it will hopefully eliminate the ticking time clock I hear every time we are out and about ominously counting down until “Feeding Time.” Instead of retreating to the car or a bedroom, I can just shove some mushy fruit in front of you. Win!

A banana

I’m not trying to be dramatic here, so I’ll preface this by saying everything is absolutely, 100% A-OK. Nothing to worry about at all, except for some musculoskeletal issues that I’ve self-diagnosed as “Toting Chunky Baby Syndrome.” TCBS in medical circles. But there was a two-week span where I was worried, with scary-sounding “just in case” tests that planted seeds of anxiety and far off scenarios felt like they were closing in. “What if?” games (not the fun kind of game) ran through my mind, and I thought about a future that I wasn’t there to be a part of.

And in those cloudy days, I watched your Daddy close. I watched him come home and mechanically perform the same ritual—bag down, wash hands, tie off, grab baby. I watched him roll over and stumble out of bed at 5 a.m. to soothe your cries. I watched him bounce you on his lap in an unashamed effort to coax out a smile. I watched him make ridiculous faces and talk to you in sing-song lyrics because that’s what you like most. And I knew, no matter what the doctor would tell us, you were going to be just fine. Your Daddy loves you with a love that strangers witness and wish they had, with a love that reminds people why you need more than just a Mama, a love that would compensate for the unthinkable. He loves you that much and more, baby girl. What peace that brings me. What comfort and rest I have knowing that I am not alone in this battle to keep you safe and warm and smiling. He fought for me for years, and now he fights for you, Addison.

A & C

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Some other lessons I’ve picked up this month are perhaps less philosophical but equally important to note.

Skinny jeans don’t work for every body type. Namely, your body type.

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Some days you can fly right down that to-do list making neat little check marks of productivity. Other days, all you get is the satisfaction of opening a child-proof pill bottle with one hand.

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And every now and then, getting louder does in fact get you exactly what you want.

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Thank you for teaching me so much already, sweet girl. I hope I can shape your life in half the way you have redefined mine.

From My Whole Heart,
Mama

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6 months swing collage