Friday, January 29, 2016

Isaac and his coffee...

Isaac (to me while I am nursing Cole): mom, you know your coffee is ready.
Me: yea buddy, but I will wait to drink it after I put Cole down for his nap.
Isaac: can I have some coffee?
Me: do you know how to make it?  Milk, cream, and two spoonfuls of my coffee?
Isaac: yes, but how about two and a half spoonfuls now that I'm eight? (And then the cutest grin ever.)

Love that boy!!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Cole's Birth Story

We learned I was pregnant with our fourth child, our precious Cole Xander, two days after Christmas 2014.  We had taken a family outing to find after-Christmas sales.  I guess I had a feeling I might be pregnant because I bought a few dollar store pregnancy tests.  We stopped for lunch at Firehouse Subs, and I actually took the test in the bathroom there!  It was positive, and I was shocked!  Steven and I had thought that getting pregnant in spring 2015 would be great, but we had no idea things would happen so quickly and so much earlier than we thought.

So Baby Cole is our early-bird!  In more ways than one...

This is the only big belly picture I have when pregnant with Cole.  I was taking a tour of our new house (the bathroom) when Steven snapped this.

He was due on August 24th.  We had planned for a home birth because my hospital and birth center births were healthy, smooth and medication-free.  It actually was lower-risk for me to plan to have Cole at home.  I found a great home birth midwife and started seeing her regularly.  I also had dual care at the Natural Beginnings Birth Center in Statesville as a backup in case I needed to deliver in a hospital.  (Since North Carolina doesn't recognize midwives, if I were to need to deliver in a hospital, it would look like I hadn't had proper prenatal care.)  So, I got better prenatal care during this pregnancy than any of the others because I was not only seeing my midwife in her home each month, I was also seeing Nurse Midwives for extra care!  I also got 3-4 ultrasounds during this pregnancy!

I was also under the most stress during this pregnancy with all the stress of having our house on the market, not knowing where we would move, showing our house with three little kiddos, trying to keep the house clean between showings, and the weather being SO hot during the summer.  The swimming pool was my happy place, and I didn't mind walking around chasing after Grace because I was at least in the water staying somewhat cool!

On Friday July 31st, our family went to Family Night at our church's main campus.  We had a great time of eating pizza, watching the show, and enjoying the after-party which was an obstacle course outside.  Several of our friends were also there, and some folks commented that I looked ready for the baby to come.  I said, no I probably have at least two or three weeks left.  At least two weeks for sure
I walked around the entire field at that after-party, and I was worn out.  

When we got home, I had no energy to help get the kids to bed.  I laid down for a short nap around 9:30 PM.  I woke up around 10:30 to give myself an at-home treatment for GBS+.  Roughly an hour later, around 11:30, I went to the bathroom and I felt an all-too-familiar gush of water.  I knew what it was.  I knew my water had broken.  I also knew it was July 31st and not August 24th.  I wasn't expecting to have this baby until at least August 16-17th... I began shaking uncontrollably.  My teeth started chattering nonstop.  The only other time I had experienced that was when my water broke before I delivered Grace.  I now knew it was a surge of hormones indicating an imminent delivery.  I was still terrified though.  Steven called our midwife.  I tried to talk to her but my teeth chattered too much that I couldn't speak clearly.  Given the facts that I was early, I was GBS+ (would need an antibiotic) and my water had broken (would need to deliver within 24 hours), she advised us to head to Davis Regional Medical Hospital in Statesville.  She said she would contact the Nurse Midwife from the Statesville Birth Center who would meet us at the hospital.  We got packed up (we hadn't even packed anything at that point, so we were just grabbing whatever we could find!), waited for my Dad to  come stay with the kids, and got in Steven's car to head to the hospital.  By this time it was around 1:00 AM on August 1st.  On the way there, I texted friends to pray for me.  I was scared that my body wouldn't begin contracting and I would have to be induced.  Since I hate pitocin based on two previous pregnancies, this was a scary time for me.  I was absolutely out of control of the situation and had no idea what the next day would hold.  We prayed in the car and spoke over my body to begin contracting naturally.  My home birth midwife said she would come to the hospital once I started contracting.  I felt my first contraction on I-77 heading to the hospital.  Praise God!  When we got there, we had to register and get assigned to a room.  Two sweet nurses came to the registration desk and walked us to our room.  Katy, the one assigned to me, was a super sweet nurse probably in her late twenties.  She seemed very calm, experienced, and was totally respectful of all my wishes to keep this birth as intervention-free as possible.  We learned that her husband was a teacher/musician and she was a traveling nurse.  She was contracted with Davis Regional to work temporarily for them during a nurse shortage.  Next, I had to get an IV in my arm for the antibiotics, and that proved to be a challenge (as is common for me.)  It took 3-4 nurses to get the job done.  That was eerily similar to when I delivered Isaac - a few nurses tried to get the IV in and ultimately they had to call the head maternity nurse.) They had to call the head nurse of the entire hospital this time.  She had been making rounds and was, thankfully, available.  It took her a while to get the IV in.  She was a sweet, soft-spoken gal who had recently had a baby herself.  At this point, the lights were up and I was sitting in the hospital bed with my gown on.  Contractions were steady but not really painful.  I think the time was about 2:30-3:00 AM.  Steven mentioned to the head nurse that he thought this baby would be born around 6:00 AM.  Since I was still very comfortable and talking normallly, the nurse said, "Oh my!  Maybe 6:00 tomorrow!  Not today!  That would be too fast!"  She and I both chuckled, but I was thinking "Not on your life, sweetie.  I am not going to go 24+ hours with this one!!"

Steven's thinking was that since Isaac had been born at 12:37 AM, Elise at 2:00 AM, Grace at 4:34 AM... this one was due to arrive around 6ish!  Not bad reasoning, eh?  Wonder if a 5th kid would actually come during the day?!?

Well, shortly after that, our home birth midwife, we'll call her Mel, came.  She came in with her very calm demeanor and we introduced her to our nurse as our Doula (again, because of NC's lack of midwife support, we needed to protect her identity.)  Katy the nurse said that she'd just heard from other nurses that this doula was one of the best!  Mel asked me how I was feeling and how I was being treated.  We chatted a while and the contractions continued to get stronger.  I needed to stand up because my back hurt too bad for me to sit down.  Maybe I was having back labor due to the position of the baby.  Whatever it was, I wasn't able to sit down on the bed again until after the delivery.  I tried, but each time I leaned up against the bed to rest my back, it hurt even more. I found myself leaning on the hospital tray table that sits beside the bed.  Some of the time, I held Mel's arms and pressed into them, but most of the time I leaned my arms on that table.  During this time, I had Steven sing one of his new songs to me, while Katy and Mel listened along.  

I felt the urge to push earlier than I'd expected.  Katy said she needed to check my dilation at that point.  I was 7 cm dilated.  She said I was probably almost in transition.

Shortly after this, the midwife from the birth center, Marcia, made it to the hospital.  She wasn't sure she was going to make it to the birth - she said she was driving over 80 MPH to get there since she knew my body delivers babies fast!  I think she arrived around 4:00 AM.  For the remainder of my labor, Katy, Mel, Marcia and Steven stood around me as I worked through each contraction standing beside the hospital bed and leaning into the little tray table.  There was a Family Fun magazine on it and it was flipped open to a picture of a minion from the movie Despicable Me.  I looked at that minion for a while during my contractions, and then I got to a point where I was feeling them so strongly and I was getting irritable so I said, "I am done looking at this stupid minion!  I'm turning the page!"  And I proceeded to do just that.  I think I turned the page to a reindeer or some animal that seemed pleasing to me in the moment.  I was also sipping water from the plastic mug that the hospital provided.  After another very strong contraction, I said to everyone around, "This is not a good straw!  It tastes like plastic!  It's awful!"  I said it with some silliness in my voice so my attendants all laughed a little under their breaths.  But it did taste pretty bad.

Sometime around 5:15ish... I really felt the urge to push.  I was so tired (from the normal stresses of a Friday with my kids, then Family Night, then walking all around the church grounds, and ultimately from laboring for a few hours standing up.)  

Even thought I've naturally delivered three other babies, I was a little scared in this moment.  It hurt to push and I knew that I had to experience the "ring of fire" for this baby to be born.  I had fears of breaking my body or hurting myself during the delivery, so my mind said, "Let's just push the pause button on this."  I wanted to pause it and come back on August 24th when it was really time to have this baby.  With the other babies, when it was time to push, the urge was almost uncontrollable.  I had to push.  With this one, I felt the urge, but I also felt like I was in control of when I pushed him out.  A little too much control if I was thinking of postponing for a few weeks, huh?!  Well, I decided in that moment that I couldn't exactly wait anymore.  This was the time.  This was the moment for Baby Cole to arrive.  It certainly wasn't my time.  It wasn't my plan.  But it was the right time.  

I told Marcia I needed to push.  What should I do?  "Do whatever you want," she said.  Should I get on the bed, I asked.  "Do whatever you want," she said again.  Should I stand any certain way?  Squat?  "Do whatever feels right to you," again she said, so very tenderly. So I squatted, pushed, baby Cole crowned.  Then I put my hands down to catch him, pushed again, and out he came, into my arms!  I was still standing up, but with a tiny, wet, purple baby in my arms.  Then my attendants all helped me get on the bed to get more comfortable.  My back, which had hurt acutely throughout labor and had ached all through the pregnancy, was finally at rest!  I was able to sit on the bed with Cole and cuddle him.  

He was perfect.  His breathing was perfect.  He looked adorable, like all the Steven and Betsy Mauney babies.  The midwives thought he might be around 5ish pounds, but once they weighed him, we learned he was 6lbs, 9oz which is a very healthy weight for a preemie.  He was 19 inches long.  We cuddled him and savored those tiny first moments.  He was here!  And his time of delivery was 5:50 AM on Saturday August 1st (which was the day I was supposed to have my baby shower - which is the reason for no baby shower and no late term pregnancy picture).  Steven's guess for the time of delivery was not far off!  But Cole was still early!  Again, he's an early bird from birth!

We let his umbilical cord continue to pulse and stay attached for a while, maybe half an hour.  Then it was cut and I delivered the placenta, which was quick and easy.  Marcia checked me and said I had not torn and was going to have an easy recovery from this birth.  What a blessing! 

Our first of two sets of visitors were our friends Donnie and (his daughter) Lydia.  They came Saturday and visited and held Cole.  We were so glad to see friends since we were unexpectedly away from home and family for this birth.  

Mom and Dad brought the big kids up on Sunday afternoon to see their baby brother.  They had thought he would be delivered at home and were looking forward to that, so they were a little disappointed that Steven and I had left in the night to deliver him at a hospital.  But once they met him, they were in love.  Even little Gracie seemed to enjoy meeting her little brother.  Isaac was shy and didn't want to hold him, but Elise was quick to ask if she could cuddle.  We had a great visit with them, as well as Mom and Dad.  

Due to his preterm birth, Cole had to have blood sugars checked every several hours and stay in the hospital for two days.  I spoon-fed him colostrum to get his blood sugar levels up above 50.  Once he had three above 50, the pediatrician would allow him to go home.  Thankfully that happened in the first couple days of life, and we were scheduled to leave the hospital on Tuesday morning.  However, we ended up getting some house showings on Tuesday, so we stayed in the hospital until that evening so we didn't have to worry about leaving for the showings!  

We got settled back in at home that night - Steven, Cole and me.  For the next few days, the big kids stayed with my parents and Steven and I bonded with Cole.  It was a precious time with a precious little boy.  

However, Cole had lost almost a whole pound since birth, so I called a lactation consultant to  come to our home and help me with a game plan for weight gain.  She came later that week and spent 3 hours with me and Cole.  She determined that he wasn't able to nurse well because the fat pads in his face weren't fully developed yet.  So, we made a plan for me to pump breastmilk (10-15 minutes per time), try to nurse him, and then feed him with a feeding tube in his mouth attached to a syringe.  I needed to do that every 2-3 hours around the clock until he was able to nurse well.  Needless to say, that plan was a recipe for keeping Cole alive but seriously depriving me of sleep.  It went on for about 2 weeks.  At that point, he was better able to nurse and we were able to stop using the syringe feeding system.  During those two weeks, Mel visited me twice to check on me, check the baby, and help me work through any difficult emotions that come during the early postpartum days.  I had some rough moments during the extreme sleep deprivation (she reminded me that sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture for a reason!)  but once Cole started nursing well and gaining weight, I began to feel better overall.  

I tried to savor that first month because I knew that our move was coming up and would take lots of energy (physical and emotional) from us all.  

As I write this, Cole is almost 6 months old.  He is such a pleasure to hold, cuddle, nurse, watch... He is such a happy baby and content most of the time.  He has always loved to sleep in our arms and look into the eyes of anyone who will talk with him!  He has discovered his hands and is reaching to grasp toys now.  He can roll from back to front and front to back, but he doesn't really enjoy tummy time.  He'd rather sit up in the Bumbo seat, the exersaucer (his newest thing) or be entertained by the shenanigans of his older brother and sisters.  They all love him, by the way.  They enjoy talking to him, holding him, and trying to get him to laugh.  He is such a treasure to us all!  We are thankful that he is here, that he is healthy, and that our home is even more full of love because of this precious gift.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Grace's Funny Sayings!

Some funny sayings, thanks to our funny girl Gracie Beth from the past couple months:

While cooking eggs with me, Grace asked if she could "Hatch" (crack) them!

Every morning in early December (2015), Grace wanted to help me with making my green smoothie.  Every morning, she would say, "I'm hungry!  I want to help you make a shake!"  She would get handfuls of spinach or kale (she knows the difference between them) and put them in the blender.  Then she would say, "Now we have to blend-it-up!!" When it was time for us to add the fruits, she insisted we put everything in a measuring cup and then pour the cut-up fruit in that way.  When I asked her about adding Chia seeds, she said, "I don't like buh-cheeah seeds!"  Even though she doesn't really drink much shake, she always asks, "I want my el-duh-berry and gummies Mommy!"  (I make homemade elderberry syrup for the kids to take each day for immune strength.  I add it to OJ, so they all love drinking that every morning!!)

Grace's favorite book for the month of December (2015) was The Sweet Smell of Christmas, which is a copy of a book I had growing up.  It has scratch-n-sniff stickers throughout the books with smells of Christmas, such as candy canes, apple pies, hot cocoa, oranges, which were all part of a story of a little bear's Christmas experience.  After reading it every single day of December before naps and bedtime, I shouldn't have been surprised that on Christmas she asked, "Mommy, are you making an apple pie?"  And later, "Mommy, where is the apple pie?"  I had to say, "Honey, we don't make apple pie for Christmas in our family, but we do make dirt pie!!" (an Oreo dessert!)

Grace was birdwatching with me and we had been looking at a red-headed woodpecker.  She said, "I saw the woodpecker but he's not honking!"

Lately her favorite word seems to be disgusting.  For example, I kissed her yesterday and she said, "Ewww.  That's disgusting."  I asked her what she meant.  She said, "Ya mouth is disgusting!" And that's why you can't take anything a toddler says personally!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Betsy's Christmas Musings...

As Christmas Day comes to an end, I am the only one awake in our house at 10 PM.  Well, Grace and Elise have been playing together in their room, but they just had me tuck them in for (hopefully) the last time.  Steven and Cole are snoozing on the couch and Isaac is snuggled in his bed.  I am admiring the lights of our real, 9 foot tree.  The tree that hold ornaments from each year of our marriage and lots of handmade kiddo ones.  While thanking God for an amazing day with our family and extended family, I pondered some moments in the past couple days that really blessed my heart.

The first was at our church's Christmas Eve service last night.  Steven was playing in the band and I had all four kids with me in the service.  The kids did great overall, but I did have to take Grace out during the message and leave her with the toddlers in her usual class.  Once I got back in the gym, Cole was ready to nurse, so I sat between Isaac and Elise and began feeding him.  Shortly thereafter it was time for the candles to be lit.  Isaac and Elise were both excited about this part.  Isaac was on the end of our row, so his candle was lit by an usher who walked up the aisle. I thought Elise's would be lit by the person on her other side who I was watching and waiting for.  But before I knew it, Isaac carefully leaned over me, got Elise's attention and proceeded to light her candle.  She was thrilled!  In that very moment, I was overcome with emotion.  My boy-man, my firstborn was lighting his little sister's candle.  I can't describe exactly what I felt, but a sweet softness in my heart jumped up to my eyes and tears burst out.  I didn't bawl, but my eyes were moistened with those tears for the rest of the singing.  I don't know if it was that they are growing up and this is the first year Isaac actually was able to light Elise's candle on his own... or if it was that he took the initiative to reach out to her and take care of it for her... It was just beautiful and I was so thankful to watch such a small, yet precious, moment occur.

Today, our family of 6 spent the morning together opening gifts, eating cinnamon rolls (the greatest kind, by Immaculate Baking Co.), lighting all the Advent candles and talking about Jesus, and napping.  Rather, Steven took a morning nap.  Haha!  About noon my parents, sister, and bro-in-law came over.  We had sandwiches for lunch around the table and then headed to the living room to open presents.  Isaac, Elise, and Grace each opened their big gift from my parents first - a Kindle Fire!  Isaac and Grace were happy and thankful, but Elise was over-the-moon elated.  She couldn't believe she actually had her own device!  Her very own!  And she smiled her million dollar smile and then thanked my parents for the gift.  Once the kids started playing on their Fires, I breathed a minute and looked around the room.  It was perfect.  Christmas music was playing, Christmas lights were on, my family was all around me, my children were happy, my husband was happy (playing with the kids)... it was just the best feeling.  I loved that moment.  I soaked it up.  I am learning how incredibly fast life goes, and if I don't embrace each moment and try to live in the present every day, I miss it!  When it's gone, it's gone for good.  This was an amazing moment... Today was an amazing moment in my life.  There weren't any crazy high dollar gifts, fancy food or ritzy clothes... There was just a bunch of loving each other, hugs with our kiddos, water spills, changing wet clothes, cuddling with Cole, smiling while others opened the gifts we picked out especially for them, and Christmas music... and two funny Christmas movies at the end of the day, which we were honored to be able to enjoy with my parents.  It was a wonderful day and will always be one of those childhood Christmas memories for my kids to hold onto.

When I think that one year ago today we had no idea I was pregnant with Cole (I was, and I found out on December 27, 2014), it blows my mind.  If someone told me last Christmas that in one year I would be holding a 4.5 month old baby in my arms this Christmas, I wouldn't have believed them!  Our precious baby Cole came fast!  The pregnancy came faster than we expected, he was born 3.5 weeks early, and his delivery was about 6 hours from start to finish.  I just know he is supposed to be here and God got him here in the right time, even though we were a little surprised at the speed of things.

So, this Christmas, I am thankful for my big kids growing up into sweet, talkative little people with minds of their own and completely unique personalities.  I am thankful that Grace is the funniest little child I have ever met, with her statements often sounding like this, "You do that, boo boo!"  or "Let's do this, doo dee!"  Or "I love you, Meh-meh!"  I am thankful to have another precious baby to hold and culddle with, and this time around I think I've actually learned to enjoy him.  Even while I am sleep deprived and beat tired, I am enjoying him.  I am realizing how swiftly this time goes and I am determined to make the most of it with his tiny days.  I am thankful for my man, who selflessly works so hard for us to enjoy a lovely home and a safe, healthy, thriving life.

This past year has contained more change and growth for our family than I ever would have chosen for only one year.  Having a baby, selling a house, buying a house, and buying a car all within four months (and the first three were within 8 weeks!) is definitely more than I would recommend to anyone.  But we did it, we survived and we aren't too worse for the wear.  I did feel that I was under the most stress of my life while our house was on the market this summer and I was pregnant with 3 kids and a dog.  Keeping the house clean and tidy all the time was more than I had energy for.  And then getting negative feedback that caused us to continually do small improvements on the house added to the stress for me.  Then Cole came early.  Totally unexpected.  That was a stressor.  And 8 days later (after about 6 or so showings during Cole's first week of life!!) we got an offer on our house.  A lowball offer that we had to negotiate on.  More stress!  And then the inspection and the requests to do silly little things!  Stress!!  Oh, we thought that was bad.  I had no idea a move was kinda like having a baby.  So, we moved when Cole was 8 weeks old.  Much more stress!  It has taken me a while to get those stress levels back down.  In fact, I don't think I'm back to my normal yet, but I am on an upswing from the worst of it.  I am looking forward to some simple, low stress months at the start of 2016.  I know life will contain its share of natural stressors, but we aren't planning anything to keep us busier than the busy-ness that comes with raising four kids and homeschooling them.  My plan is to meditate with the Lord, drink coffee (and maybe give bone broth a try, too), teach my kids in a low-stress, joy-filled way, read good books (to my kids and myself), take baths and learn to work our hot tub, have lots of park days with fellow homeschool Mommas, do exercise that brings me joy, enjoy (LOTS of) rich fellowship with friends, breathe deeply as often as possible, eat delicious healthy food, and hold/hug/kiss my kids as much as they'll let me.

I am thankful for the gifts of 2015 - a LIFE!  a BABY!  a SON!!!  and a house, a new neighborhood, new neighbors (including my parents and sis!), a new van... but I am looking forward to 2016 which I hope will be a year of learning to care for myself, thriving in homeschooling, enjoying my family, and resting in the Lord through it all...

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