The big news is that we are finally pregnant again - 23 weeks pregnant now! We found out on the second morning of our trip to Austin that I shared photos of in the last post. It couldn't have been more perfect - a very rare husband/wife trip away (first one ever since kids) and finding out that we'd actually brought one along with us! That was beautiful to me. This baby is looking great, everything measuring normally, feeling lots of kicks and movements, and she looked great on the ultrasound we had two weeks ago. That's right, she - of course, what else did I expect? ;) Good thing I don't have to change my blog name or buy any baby clothes, ha.
But I am definitely planning for and joyfully anticipating this baby, and I thought I'd write down my plans here, because I need to write them somewhere anyway!
Nesting (aka cleaning the house)
Things I Need (aka minimalism with a baby)
Getting Ready (aka freezer meals and prep for postpartum, birth supply list)
The Birth Plans (at home, like, intentionally this time)
Hopes for the Babymoon
Consciously Embracing and Enjoying (in case this is my last baby; I will turn 37 this summer, ack!)
First off, I want to say this: pregnancy following a loss is very challenging emotionally. Lost is the innocence of pregnancy before a loss, where everything is guaranteed to turn out fine. You know now that things don't always turn out fine, that babies die, and so you worry more. Every milestone seems like a huge accomplishment: heartbeat on ultrasound at 7 weeks, heartbeat with doppler at 12 weeks, moving into that second trimester measuring normally at 14 weeks, beginning to feel movements, 20 week anatomy ultrasound, first kick felt exteriorly by husband... age of viability coming up soon for us now. The truth is, loss makes you realize that while each milestone is an accomplishment that improves the odds, there is no guarantee until you have that baby in your arms. Even then, there's no guarantee... you could lose them still in a week or a decade or once they are adults. A loss causes you to think things through more deeply like this, to consider thoughts you'd never had before.
Sometimes you feel a twinge or ache and think, "Good or bad? Normal pregnancy growth feelings, or something is horribly wrong?" This was worst before about 14 weeks for me, but it still never fully leaves, apparently, until the baby is born safely. Losing a baby I never met, then experiencing what I define as being borderline infertility for ten agonizing months, and now going through this next pregnancy with hopes for the best as fears linger in the back of my mind and heart... It is all worth it for the chance at having a new member of the family join in to experience life on earth with the rest of us. But it sure isn't a simple walk in the park!
Going past my lost baby's due date and not being pregnant again yet was awful. Not even knowing if she was actually a girl, wondering if we chose the right name, is a mind game that doesn't go away. How can you be 100% sure of a feeling, a dream, when you never met and held and saw that tiny person? You can't; I don't care how good you think your intuition may be, you just don't know for sure. Knowing a gender for sure might make grieving more... tangible? Not easier, but less like a bad nightmare and more like tragic reality. Then the unexpected difficulty of passing the dates of finding out she had died and the actual miscarriage date... while pregnant again, and thankfully at the start of the second trimester, when we do have more hope that a pregnancy will continue with a good outcome... but wow, I expected it to be sad, but it was worse than I'd expected. I had been generally happy and thankful and relieved to finally be pregnant again, as I had been starting to fear that it was not really going to happen again. But when those dates came... those dates marking when I lost my baby that I never held or saw, dates that I felt the emotions and nobody really even knew because nobody remembered that as a significant date - or if remembered, my lost baby was not acknowledged or memorialized in any way to me in mid-December, one year later... which dragged my emotions into a bad place of, "Did she really even exist? If she's barely tangible to me, then of course she's not to other people; get real, you expected somebody to send a card or mention her name or something?" I understand it is different for a person who was seen, touched, known even if briefly... my baby was none of those, and if I cannot remember her tangibly, then I cannot hope that others will acknowledge her... if she was a her. See what I mean? It was a traumatic ER experience, losing my fourth baby, and maybe it was like a mild PTSD. And again, nobody expects a "thinking of you on the anniversary of your emergency hospitalization" card... so really why was I expecting, hoping for some kind of acknowledgement? I wasn't going to announce the anniversary date to people; I only mentioned to a few others who I knew would understand that it was the date of the loss... other people who have lost, too. I am glad to say that it was only about a week that I was dragged down into that sadness, and now I know that I might go through it again next December, and if so, it will not last. And I will have a new baby in my arms and consuming my time and emotions then, thankfully. God is so good - I didn't have to go through that anniversary with an empty womb. I have also had to tell myself that I don't need to expect anyone else to validate my lost baby to me - she is remembered and loved by me on that date, and nothing else matters. The quote "a person's a a person no matter how small" comes to mind here. She was so small that nobody ever saw her, yet I can still choose to remember and acknowledge her life myself.
Something I have learned in this is that I want to acknowledge other miscarried babies to their mothers... I know moms who have lost babies to miscarriage before, but have not known one to go through it while I was a close friend or family member. Maybe I won't have to, but if somebody close to me goes through a miscarriage in the future, I will take my own experience and think about what helped me in the immediate days - like the people who watched our other children for us, those who sent cards or other small gift remembrances... but also, I am going to try to remember the date of the loss. Maybe the following year that mother can feel a little better when somebody mentions her baby to her and that he or she is being thought of on that anniversary, or to receive a card acknowledging the day in a "thinking of you" kind of way. These kind of tangible items are very meaningful to those of us who lost babies of whom we don't even have a photo, a piece of clothing they wore, maybe not even a final resting place - or an unknown on whether we actually buried our child's remains or not. The tangibles are not what is truly important because we can't take them with us... but in the imperfect presence of life on earth, they can help to soothe the sadness. If the awful thought can be alleviated in a mother's mind of, "am I the only one today who is remembering what happened on this date?" then that is huge. Even if it is just a text, a passing verbal comment, a little brief note... something I plan to do for any of my close friends or family if they have to go through a miscarriage at some point and I am aware of the date, even the month during which it happened.
So, trying to focus on this fifth baby and all the love and hopes I have for her, for preparing the home and family for her birth... what are some of my plans? What do I need to get moving on and have done between now and June? Looking forward with excitement to this has been another healing part of this journey, and it is one I am anticipating with lots of joy!
I am already having the urge to clean everything lately. My key areas:
* Kitchen cabinets: I already got rid of most of my plastic food storage containers, replaced with glass Pyrex containers with lids that I got for Christmas! I really want to go through all the plastic cups and water bottles that we seem to accrue somehow and purge most of them. More glass and real dishes, and the junky stuff will get tossed.
* Hall closet: I have four bins in there that can probably be partially purged or at least moved to the attic. I mean, do I really need to be able to get to my high school yearbooks easily? Or my childhood Snoopy collection? If I can get those bins out of there, I will have room for more bins for the girls' shoes: we now own every single size imaginable, as Caroline's feet are equivalent to a woman's size 7... Did you know girls' 5 is the same as women's 7? I just learned this. Maybe I can also use the space for the next season's clothes bins. The weather changes gradually here, where you need shorts for a couple weeks and then back to jeans and long sleeves, so this would be helpful. My kids have too many clothes for each season, and as such, I can't just stuff both seasons into their drawers and closets. And I don't have the time/energy to sort through all the bins and decide what to get rid of; usually I will just pull out what I consider to be a non-overwhelming number of items each season and the rest get put back in the attic. I don't mind excess clutter that is out of sight, it is just the process of trying to sort through it all. Cecilia has had, I kid you not, 30-40 shirts in each of the last few season's bins. I do not know how this happens. I only pull out maybe 15 of the nicest shirts, after a few seasons of overwhelmedness with so many shirts she couldn't close her drawers.
* Craft closet: Oh, who am I kidding; that's just not gonna happen. It all stays hidden in there anyway. If I needed more space for craft stuff, I would need to purge it... but as my girls get older, they will like the access to scrapbook supplies and everything else in there.
* Dining room: We are getting our chairs!! Five custom-made oak chairs and a bench to go with our half antique/half custom made oak table. We decided to go ahead and use some Christmas gift money to buy oak instead of pine - it costs a lot more but is a much harder, sturdier wood that will match the table and stand the test of time. We'll be able to seat at least nine people at our table this way, 11-12 by pulling up a couple more chairs. I love squeezing everybody in at a big table at family gatherings. This is the most we will probably ever spend on furniture, ha ha. I love our assortment of hand me down/gifted furniture. My mom recently mentioned that her old coffee table that we have in our den is from Ethan Allen. Good job, I told her - now I'm never getting rid of that thing!! I don't care if the finish is rubbed off the edges; it is super sturdy and smooth, and what's a coffee table when there are better things to spend money on? It is functional and well-made.
* Speaking of furniture, we got a huge new couch, which has been on the list of home improvements for awhile. It is a sectional, but not the redneck kind with built-in cupholders and made of fake leather. It is high and deep, which I love. And it cost less than the chairs and benches will, yet it was the firmest one we sat on when looking in at least five different stores. Now all we need is a taller floor lamp, since our old one looks pitiful trying to peek over the higher back of this couch!
* Toys: Time to go through them yet again and decide what to give away. Obviously it is not that I have toys they have outgrown, because there are more little girls coming along to move into the right stages for all the toys we have... it's just too much. Like my plastic cup cabinet in the kitchen, ha. Caroline just got a closet shelf organizer installed - she and Chris put it in together. So that will help them keep their Calico Critter and dollhouse things organized, plus make more room for her hanging clothes and the hanging clothes that are between Cecilia and Lucy's current sizes. I already keep at least half or more of the toys in a latched cabinet and let them switch out occasionally. But once that cabinet is full... I'm not going to find another space. The cabinet is at full capacity and I have still not quite evaluated whether all the Christmas gifts have made it into there yet, if they are not some of the current toys out in rotation. The board game shelves are completely full; I should probably purge those and see which ones we have somehow yet never play (first on my list to go would be Trivial Pursuit; I'm awful at that, ha!). But really, do we need real Monopoly and The Simpsons Monopoly? Do we need multiple memory matching games? Do we need a dedicated set of "Old Maid" cards, or can we just be normal people who use the regular deck of cards to play Old Maid? There are some fun strategy type games that I know we will like having as the girls get older, and so I want us to only keep the ones we really want and enjoy. The craft kit and art supply shelf is also packed full right now. Hoping for a rainy day soon where maybe some of those will get enjoyed and moved out. The books... I did a purge/reorganize of adult books and school books when we moved our schoolroom last summer. The kid books: Caroline has a huge bookshelf full of her chapter books. She reads a LOT, so this is good, but there is only so much room. So we took a little shelf out of her closet and moved it into the little girls' room to start moving some of the shorter chapter books onto for Cecilia. The picture book shelf in their room: full. So that is one I need to go through and cull. I am a book snob, trying to keep only quality literature around - because why keep the really lame stuff when there is not room? It is part of my homeschool philosophy; surround them with quality literature as a natural way to instruct them in language arts. So bye bye, Hippo Lemonade; I don't think I can stand reading you one more time, even though you were mine in my childhood. I will, however, keep Moose, Goose, and Little Nobody, because really, some lame books are just beyond any others, in a class by themselves. But these are a major exception and not the rule - as primary educator to these children, I make very considered choices on the books we own and keep. And part of that brings me to the next item...
* School stuff: We have lots of book and paper material in our house that normal people don't have. Most people don't have books and materials for grades K-5 on shelves and in bins and file cabinet drawers in their homes. This takes up space, and is another reason why I can't keep lame children's books or grown-up books that are never referenced or read. To try to explain to people why I get overwhelmed easily when extra stuff is brought into my home, I mention that most people aren't going to keep in their homes every book and material they needed from their school classrooms from grades K-12. But I have to save the 5th grade materials for when the younger kids get there. Lots of books, as we do a pretty literature-based way of learning. So... I need to plan 6th grade for Caroline, obtain the needed books, and then gather up the old 3rd grade materials for Cecilia, so I will be ready for August. And move out anything we don't need or use.
I am sure there is more stuff to clean and organize... and I may not get to it all. I still have a school year to finish up here and would like to make a dent in planning for next school year before the baby is born!
* a new sling. My Maya Wrap sling has been through three babies/toddlers and was used when I bought it, and the fabric is getting slick where the rings are. This makes it harder to adjust and keep it tight. I always loved padded ring slings with babies under six months, but that would be hot in the summer, plus they seem to have gone out of fashion and are hard to find. I loved the Over the Shoulder Baby Holder brand, but I don't think they make those any more, unfortunately. A friend recommended the Lenny Lamb slings. They have lots of pretty fabrics, like this one and this one. They also have soft structured carriers, maybe one of those down the road when baby is bigger, because my Ergo has a loose buckle, and it has never fit me very comfortably on my narrow shoulders... I will need to do some major research first on which type of carrier has straps that are accommodating to narrow shoulders.
* I'm considering a new rocking chair/glider. The one we have has very thin padding on the arms, making it painful to lean against while nursing a bigger baby or toddler to sleep. I can probably hold off on this; I spend the most time in the glider once the baby is 6-9 months and older. I am gathering info on which ones are most comfortable and would have to decide between a more traditional glider like I have already, or a chair with no exposed wood, like this one or this one. Ouch on the cost of that first one especially; the second one might be more comfortable to slouch over to the side in with the wings for head support!
* Evaluate diaper supplies. We use mostly cotton prefolds, and the newborn ones are probably still in excellent condition. The covers will need to be looked over, and the size after newborn probably needs some help, as I think my kids tend to stay in those until they are out of diapers; they never get big enough to need the toddler-size prefolds before they are three. So we've never bought any of those. The Bummis covers we like did start to leak on Lucy and we had to get some more; those will need to be looked over. Probably some additional prefolds, covers, and maybe a few pocket diapers will be helpful. I have been out of the cloth diaper market for awhile; some people are obsessed with buying them and there are tons of brands and patterns. I like to stay pretty cheap with the diapers, so prefolds and basic covers work well, with the occasional pocket diaper or fun cover thrown in here and there. I also love the Aristocrats wool covers for overnight, or as Chris has affectionately nicknamed them, bum sweaters. I have a few of them and will have to make sure they are still in good shape - it has been so long since I've been changing diapers now!
Baby needs nothing else bought, except a car seat. Again, so many new ones out there now that I will have to do some research. I am also looking into a new "chew-raffe." We somehow lost Lucy's; it probably fell out of the car somewhere since we took it everywhere. I contacted the Etsy shop owner to ask if they still have that same fabric that our old one was made from, and they do!!! So I can get this baby the same one.
* Something to consider: placenta encapsulation. Going to ask the midwife about this as she knows people who will do it for you. If you don't already know what that is, then you probably don't want to find out, either!
* Peri bottle... and maybe some nice soothing herbs to soak in the water first. There are also lots of postpartum herbs on the In His Hands site both for steeping for tea and steeping in a warm bath to be soothing in the days after birth. Those might be nice!
* Speaking of herbs that are soothing, I made several of these herb-stuffed pads when Lucy was about to be born... and I only used a few with her as I had no tearing and minimal discomfort. I realized I still have the rest of them in a ziplock under the bathroom sink... you soak them in boiling water and then use them on top of a regular pad. I wish i could remember where I found the recipe... I have no idea what herbs are in them! I made them by stitching together unbleached coffee filters with he herbs in between.
* nursing bras: I could use a few new ones that aren't all stretched out. The Walmart and Target ones only last so long. I really liked the one Bravado bra I had; maybe I will get one more of those. It was very comfy and supportive and lasted through the entire time Cecilia nursed (3.5 years) before it got really pitiful.
* My midwife will let me know if we need to have supplies like chux pads, etc. Some midwives will have the clamp for the umbilical cord; others will include it in the supply kit that you order.
When the baby is born, she will go to my chest and stay there - no bath. We will cut the cord after several minutes, maybe even after the placenta is delivered. The baby will be weighed at some point, then put back skin to skin with me. It will be warmish, being June, but I will cover her with a hooded baby robe so that she stays warm on her back while having it open in the front for more skin to skin contact. And I plan for us to stay that way for a good long while! I'll eventually put a diaper on her at some point. Those postpartum uterine contractions as the baby nurses and signals the mother's uterus to contract back to its normal size... those get more and more intense with every birth. They are doing their job well!! Those alone are reason enough to stay in bed for a good long while!
I will have some snacks and easy to grab foods on hand for the midwives... in case labor is long, or they are there right at a meal time. I plan to ask them first what kinds of things they'd like me to have there. I also have to consider that labor could be in the middle of the day as opposed to the night (one can only hope - Lucy's daytime labor and birth was so much easier than Caroline's 11 pm birth and Cecilia's middle of the night wakeup call/rush to the hospital!)... if so, the kids will be awake and I will call my mom to come up to hang out with them... probably taking them outside to play or on a walk or to the park for the actual birth part, but keeping them nearby so they can meet their sister pretty soon after she's born. If it is the middle of the night, we will probably just let them sleep and not worry about it! My mom ca come here and sleep in case they need her, ha. The midwife likes there to be somebody assigned to the care of the other children, somebody who is not helping with the birth. My second labor was only 3 hours (maybe less?), my third one was 6 hours. Unless it appears that there is any trouble, then I assume this one will not be too long either.
I would really like to hire a birth photographer for this time. Maybe that sounds weird, or frivolous, but I have a few reasons. Lucy's birth has no photos associated with it. Not one was taken until maybe 45 minutes or more later in the hospital. And she was born in the caul - how cool would that have been to have captured in a photograph! So, I kinda want to make up for the lack of photos from my last birth... and if super lucky, get to have another in an intact bag of waters, maybe? Don't know how likely it is that this will happen in subsequent births. Second reason is because I have no photos of my fourth child. Having that loss makes me want to celebrate this baby even more, to be able to treasure this time, and photos as a way to remember will be a good thing to have. And what if this is my last baby? Might be my last chance for birth photos. These photographers do this very tastefully, I might add... while they capture the actual birth, it is of the baby and not like a legs spread wide kind of angle. They are good at shooting in low lighting with no flash, and at capturing the emotion and beauty of the scene rather than any gory details. I have seen the work of one who lives in the NW GA area, and she also would do a maternity photo shoot at Berry, which I would love. Again, maybe it is a frivolous use of money, but it is about treasuring this baby and the process that I didn't get to have with the last baby and that I only get to have a few times in my life, that each baby will only go through once.
Chris will take at least three or four days off work after the birth, and we will just bond as a family, with me resting and caring for the baby and him taking care of the other kids' needs. Then once he goes back to work I will want family and friends to help! My mom and mother in law both typically come and stay in the few weeks after the birth; their support is crucial and so appreciated so I can continue to recover, nurture the baby and start off with a healthy milk supply, while the other kids are cared for and meals are made for all. I am excited that this baby is due when my mom is off from work during the summer - she's a preschool director - so maybe she can stay for a whole week or more. My only problem... I don't have a guest bed, and I know that does not help with encouraging people to stay and help very long. :/ The kids giving up their beds won't even help - Lucy's is on box springs on the floor under a low loft, Cecilia's is in the low loft that probably isn't even rated for adult weights, and Caroline's is a loft that is six feet off the floor. Not the easiest beds for grandparents to sleep in. Otherwise, we have an air mattress. Maybe I should think creatively about sleeping accommodations in the next few months...
That brings us to...
I will, realistically, have to leave the house for a pediatrician checkup within the first week. Luckily, my midwife comes back to check on me at home, first in the next day or two after the birth and then again at about six weeks. I will also of course plan to baptize the baby pretty soon after birth, by 2-3 weeks ideally. So that will be a trip to the church, but we can be flexible and not tied down to a specific date and time, since my brother will be doing the baptism! One month before, he'll be here doing the First Communion Mass for Cecilia and the other second graders, since we don't have a priest right now and they need extra help from visiting priests with things like that. That will be the first big chance for people to come see the baby and celebrate, but we will keep it casual with lots of food and no real schedule other than going to the church for the baptism and coming back home to celebrate.
What I really would love is this: if some nice, grandmotherly type woman would buy the house next door to us that is for sale, or ask the people who own the house on the other side of us (which is also empty yet not for sale) if she can just live there temporarily. Somebody who can cook nourishing meals, a grandmother who makes homemade chicken soup from her homemade bone broth, who grows vegetables and brings chickens with her and makes her own herbal remedies and homemade non toxic cleaners, who bakes and cleans and has the older children cheerfully helping her when they aren't just running wild in the backyard and having fun... yeah, okay, that's quite a dream, huh? But that would be awesome. Maybe I will be this imaginary lady when I'm grown up, if my daughters want me to come help for an extended time after they have babies. I know many women say they don't need or want help after a birth, that they feel bad asking for help for more than a few days... but I'm all for it, the longer the better. Ideally, every new mom would have somebody staying with them or living next door who could cook for them and clean and care for basic needs of the other kids, so the new mom has that time with her baby... the time she can never get back, those newborn days, to just enjoy the new baby, to spend time with the older children joining her in bed or on the couch to get to know their new sibling and have mom read them books, talk, other quiet activities that often get lost in the hustle and bustle of everyday living, where mom is often busy with cleaning and meal prep and keeping on top of everyone's activities and schedules... with my first baby, I got cabin fever, because I thought I was "supposed" to find things to do; plus I was used to being busy and having daily things to do - like going to work early every day! More and more I find that I just want to relax at home - we don't have to busy and going places every day. I want to teach my children to be content and be able to be at rest and find the joy in just simply living, rather than living for the next big exciting entertainment that is being orchestrated for them. The more we are entertained, the more we expect it and cannot find peace and rest and contentment in just being, in having free time. It starts with the parents - we have to model that it is okay to not have something on the agenda, someplace to go, most every day of the week. Especially during these newborn weeks, it is important to me to model this.
So, we plan to be done with this school year and I hope to have a big chunk of next year planned out already. If it is possible for me to just take it easy with baby for the days/week that Chris takes off from work, then have my mother and mother in law taking turns here for additional time after he goes back... if I can do at least two weeks of just resting with the baby, not leaving the house other than the ped and then the baptism after maybe 2-3 weeks... that would be heavenly. Especially if I don't get dressed in "real clothes" for two weeks. With my first, I wanted to get out of the house as soon as I could - because I didn't know any better. I was used to leaving the house daily for work. I want to do what is best for my body and the baby at this point, not for societal expectations of "getting back to normal" or anything. It is time we will never have back, and I really want to try to rest and nurture my baby with my complete attention for a few weeks!
So this is where I will hope for help with cooking and cleaning in particular, and general guidance of the older kids throughout the day. This will be the beginning of their summer break, and they will be thrilled to only have daily chores and otherwise unstructured time to peruse their own interests like art/craft things, playing outside in the mornings before it gets too hot, all-day Calico Critter marathon games in Caroline's room... Lucy will be thrilled to have her sisters available to play more since they won't have any school reading to do. I will be able to read to her more while resting in bed with baby, too! And maybe I can spend some of that time pre-reading Caroline's books... she gets ahead of me like lightning with her books she reads for school.
The meals I want to prep ahead and freeze or have made for me during this babymoon period:
*homemade cream of chicken soup
*chicken rice soup from the new LLL cookbook
*lasagna (full of veggies and grass fed beef)
*beef and bean chili - easy to freeze!
*more that I will hopefully remember in time to make ahead - brain not working fully right now! ;-P
A couple blog posts that have parts that I like:
Creating your Babymoon (not really feeling the "plant allies" and crystals or whatever; the practical advice is good, though)
This book looks great!
I know I am forgetting some things... like how I am exercising during pregnancy... but this is long enough that I am going to post it now and maybe add to it later as my list is refined so that I have my hopes for the rest of the pregnancy/birth/postpartum all outlined for my reference!