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It's interesting to look at your life, past to present, and think: "It has all led up to this...." And then wonder where it will lead to next.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

"Gabriel! Gabriel! Gabriel! GABRIEL!"

That is what Aiden likes to yell in a very loud sing-song voice. Right in Gabriel's face. Usually while he is sleeping. When I try to explain to Aiden that no one likes to be yelled to in their face, especially while they are sleeping, he replies, "I sing the Gabriel song, mommy..." With an attitude that sounds like the word "Duh!" should follow. And so he continues. No matter how many times I tell him to reserve the Gabriel song for awake time, preferably several feet away from Gabriel's face, Aiden manages to sneak past my watchful eye and start the song fast enough to wake Gabriel up before I can get to them. Lucky for me, Gabriel is still a sleepy baby and when he wakes to his brother's charming song, he can usually fall back to sleep pretty quickly (as long as I get there fast enough). So far there has not been any jealousy on Aiden's part. He seems to genuinely love his little brother and has already made it his duty to look out for him. Whenever Gabriel cries, Aiden comes running, "Gabriel, are you okay?" he asks. And because Gabriel often gets fussy when I try to take his picture, Aiden has told me very matter a factly that Gabriel doesn't like pictures and that I shouldn't make him sad. My bad. Anyway, I would like to devote a little blog about Gabriel as several of you have asked what he is like.

Gabriel is awesome. In a lot of ways he reminds me a whole lot of Aiden when he was an infant. He's pretty chill for the most part. Like most babies, he enjoys nursing (which, although still an adjustment, is so much easier the second time around!), pooping (usually while nursing-- it's a good position I'm guessing), being held and walked around (I wouldn't get anything done if it weren't for my moby wrap-- thanks Serenity!), and smiling. Gabriel gave me his first social smile at two weeks. Yes, you heard me. I don't care what the experts say, I know a real smile from a gassy one, and it was real! Now at five weeks, his smiles are becoming much more frequent and cute as ever. He has adorable dimples, dark blue eyes (looks like they may turn brown), slightly darker skin tone than Aiden, and darker hair (though sparse at the time). When I first saw him I thought he looked nothing like Aiden, but as time goes on and I compare pictures, the resemblance is much clearer. They definitely have the same expressions. Gabriel has slightly smaller features, and I am told he looks a little more like me. Aiden looks a lot like Aaron, but with blue eyes and pale skin like me. Gabriel seems like he'll look more like me, but with darker eyes and skin like Aaron. We'll see.

Gabriel is a noisy waker. He doesn't cry much, but makes up for the lack of vocals with extremely loud grunting when waking from a nap. The deeper he sleeps, the louder he wakes. Perhaps I am biased, but I think it's pretty adorable. He gets all red, scrunching his face, twists his body, and makes a noise that sounds like a very disgruntled old man. It doesn't sound that cute reading it out, but trust me, it is. Currently Gabriel is a terrific sleeper. Probably because he sleeps in bed with us. I know, I know... but honestly I think the risk of me rolling over on him is much slimmer than the risk of me forgetting him in the car or something else crazy from not getting any sleep. I kept Aiden in the bassinet, didn't sleep for months (years), and almost had a nervous break down several times (banging my head against the wall, pulling my hair out, screaming curses to the ceiling-- maybe I did have a break down after all). So I just say an extra prayer each night, and we are all sleeping quite wonderfully. For the most part. I like to give Gabriel plenty of space from the edge, meaning I get nice and cuddly-close to Aaron, leaving Aaron the very edge of the bed.

Gabriel is pretty strong. He's been holding his head up quite impressively since he was born, and he rolled himself over just two days after leaving the hospital! Luckily he's not too rambunctious just yet, and has only rolled over twice (just enough to keep me being extra cautious with where I lay him). He loves to look around and can't stand it when I try to lay him on my shoulder facing a wall. He'll straighten his whole body and try to turn himself around in my arms so he can see. If someone else is holding him and he hears my voice, he immediately turns his head toward my direction and, as of recently, breaks into a smile. He's so endearing!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Life With Two. Ah yes, Life With Two.

Let's begin with the beginning. Post-delivery: the hospital room is a sacred cave. A safe bubble of bonding with your tiny one, filled with sweet tears and kisses. Nurses, who come to your every beck and call, bear gifts of ibuprofen, percocet (oh sweet, sweet percocet!), and extra pillows. They'll change your baby's diaper-- and even your own for that matter. They are sweet beings, and I believe they come straight from the heart of God. While there, in that little bubble of safety, you may find yourself rushing to return home. To bring the joy so overflowing back to the place you live, hoping it will quickly plant itself there and continue to grow. But as you are slowly rolled out the doors of the hospital in your wheelchair by a sweet old woman (who you begin to feel should be the one in the wheelchair), something begins to change. The air is shockingly warm after being indoors for two days and you start to wonder if your child, yet untouched by the outside world, will come to harm in this sudden climate change. (Yes I worried almost as much with my second as I did with my first). As you stand from the wheelchair to get in your car you feel an ache that was not there earlier. What is this? You may wonder. Only to realize the percocet has begun to wear off, just in time for your drive home. Why do they not stock your bag full of the stuff?! You may scream within. But you keep a brave face. As you drive home, cars swerve in front of you, pot holes appear out of nowhere, lights change much too quickly. You look at the world around you with a new found angst. You begin to regret not staying the extra day in your safety bubble. What was my rush? You ask yourself. Then you arrive home.

The closer we got to home, the more anxious I became. I didn't realize how wonderful percocet was until my last dose wore off. I had been living in delusion, thinking my body had recovered remarkably fast from childbirth. I only continued taking the drugs for those god-awful cramps (which at times were almost as bad as labor by the way). As the drugs wore off I began to feel the pain of things not yet healed-- including my back and hip pain. On the drive home, Aaron got a phone call. Things at a job site were not going as planned; the guy he had hired to cut down a tree suddenly remembered he had a doctor's appointment that day and could not do the job (yeah, don't get me started). I saw the look on Aaron's face and my heart dropped. "I'll only be 30 minutes! I just have to meet with this client..." He said with a look that seemed to say he was beginning to realize how hard it would be to actually take off work. I paused for a moment, feeling the tears rise, trying to decide how not to be upset. Nothing came to me, so I lost it. I knew he could only take a couple days off to be home with us and I didn't want even a second of that time taken. And let's be realistic, "30 minutes" in Aaron's world is more like an hour thirty. We arrived at home and as I stepped out of the car I was greeted by my mother's happy face, oohing and and ahhing over how precious Gabriel was and letting me know my dad and sister were inside waiting. Although I had been excited to show Gabriel off, I was also very overwhelmed, emotional, and wanted nothing more than to be alone. Our sacred little bubble was bursting and the real world was pouring in. Who is ever ready for that?

The first week home was both blissful and frightening. Not to sound cliche, but I did in fact cherish every moment I had to just sit and admire my little Gabriel. I was relieved to find that Aiden loved his little brother and was already very protective (telling the nurse at Gabriel's two day check-up "You no hurt him!" while she was weighing him). But I also struggled with guilt. I hadn't imagined I could develop such a strong bond with Gabriel so quickly. It almost felt like a betrayal to Aiden, who just a few days earlier had been my "baby" and was now my "big boy". Although not out right angry with Gabriel's presence, Aiden had many melt downs in response to the change in our home. My connection with him felt so different that it scared me. I was worried we would never be the same. But as that first week came to an end, we began to find each other again. While cuddling with him at bed time one night after a particularly stressful day, he put his arm around me and said, "I miss you mommy." Things started to get better after that. I had a tearful talk with my mom the next day, crying about my guilt and fears, while she shared words of comfort and wisdom from a life experience of child-raising. Unfortunately I can not remember exactly what was said (I really was an emotional wreck), but after we talked it began sink in that, no, life would never be the same. Our family was forever changed. We were no longer mommy, daddy, and Aiden. But mommy, daddy, Aiden, and Gabriel. Two car seats would now fill my back seat (carpooling no longer an option), trips to the park or the store would be a new, slightly more complicated adventure, and at restaurants we would now say "Table for three and a half." instead of two and a half. Life with two. It is indeed life-altering.

And so just as nothing can fully prepare you for the birth of your first child, nothing can fully prepare you for the birth of your second either. I agree with the many who claim the adjustments are much easier from one child to two than none to one-- but don't let the term "easier" fool you. Never the less, I can assure you, it is every bit as worth it. Change, no matter how exciting, can be pretty scary at first. But as we grow and adapt, it's rather remarkable to see how beautiful that change becomes. Soon you find yourself unable to imagine life before it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Birth Story

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

9ish p.m.

"My braxton hicks seem to be getting more consistent..." I said to Aaron, a little hesitantly, fearing I would jinx any possibility of actually going into labor.
I had tried everything to try and self-induce all week. All the safe, not-too-insane theories anyway. It was a full moon and I was banking on it like it was my last hope because I feared that if it didn't work then perhaps I was destined to be pregnant forever. I was a week over due. Discouraged, depressed, and depleted of any energy. I had gone to a weekly play date that morning and watched as all my friends held their infants and watched their toddlers play and wondered when my turn would ever come. If it hadn't been for their encouragement and knowing they had been where I was not too long ago, I may have lost it completely.
In hopes of distracting myself from getting my hopes up too high I jumped in the shower to try and relax. It wasn't more than five minutes before I stepped back out, breathing through a contraction I managed to mutter, "Yeah, definitely more consistent..." Aaron began timing them. They were about 5 minutes apart and about 30-45 seconds long.

9:20ish p.m.

"I think you should call the midwife, Faith." Aaron said with a concerned look on his face.
I tried to shrug it off, I mean I could still manage a few words during contractions, it wasn't anything serious yet.
"Let's not get our hopes up!" I reminded him.
But after another contraction, Aaron didn't even need to nudge me toward my phone. Taking a look at the call list I was thrilled to see one of my favorite midwives was on call that night. When she answered, I told her my situation. She told me I still sounded pretty upbeat and was probably still early on in labor and to give her a call when things were more consistent. I told her I didn't think it would be too long, and that we would head toward Asheville, possibly walk around Walmart if necessary, just to make sure things remained active. Her voice told me she thought I was a little bit crazy. I told her I'd give her a call when we were headed to the hospital.

9:45ish p.m.

"I really wanted to put in a load of laundry!" I said desperately, my arms full of things I was trying to put away in between contractions.
"The car is packed, Serenity is here, we need to go." Aaron argued. "Look at you. You can't even stand up right! Let's just go!"
The nesting stage had lasted so long, I wasn't sure how to let go without a fight. But I knew Aaron was right, I was being slightly neurotic and really needed to go to the hospital. We got in the car, each made calls to our moms, and headed toward Asheville.

9:52ish p.m.

"I change my mind!" I said after an exceptionally strong contraction while driving down I-40. "I thought I was ready for this, but I'm not! I don't want to do this again!"
Aaron squeezed my hand and told me I was doing great and reminded me I would have our little boy in my arms very soon. I clung to his words as another contraction began and tried in vain to keep my focus there until it passed. Things were happening so fast, my mind was struggling to keep up with my body.

10:45ish p.m.

"I want an epidural!" I cried desperately to Aaron, trying to catch my breath, barely noticing I was still squeezing the life out of his hand.
"What?" He seemed confused like he hadn't expected such a request and wasn't sure whether to take me seriously or not. "Babe, you can do this, you're doing great!"
He seemed to really believe himself. I looked at his face. He was so sweet. How was I blessed with a man so kind and patient? (I tend to get sentimental during labor) But, yes, I was serious.
"Pleeease!" I begged. "I promise I won't be mad at anyone! Just get the midwife-- I need an epidural now!"
Reluctantly, he left to call the midwife (reluctant only because he was unsure whether he was supposed to convince me to go al naturale or not). The midwife came in and asked me how I was doing.
"I can't do this!" I cried breathlessly. "It's too fast... I can't focus... I can't breathe... I am so dizzy... I just need an epidural!"
Very calmly she assured me I was doing great and that I had done it natural before, I could do it again.
"No!" I argued, then paused for another contraction.
"My hand tells me that was a really tough one." I heard Aaron say to the midwife, but his voice sounded far away. I felt like I was in a separate universe, yet could still hear the faint words of the people left in painless reality. How I envied them.
"Please, please..." I pleaded again. "I won't be mad... I promise..."
It seemed like an eternity before she agreed to get the paperwork going. She warned me I probably wouldn't have time.
"I don't care. I just need to try, I just need to try..." I repeated pathetically.
I had been up since 4:00 a.m. without so much as a catnap, I truly believed I did not have the energy to make it.

10:55ish p.m.

"Eight centimeters dilated," I heard my midwife say. "We need to move her up to the delivery room before she has this baby."
I began to cry as I realized my epidural would not be coming in time. My nurse came to my side, her sweet angel of a face smiled down on me and spoke sweet encouragement I could not understand but had no choice but to trust. When someone came to my door with a wheel chair she reprimanded them.
"She is not getting in a wheelchair!" she said matter a factly as she began unhooking my bed. "Don't you worry honey, no one is gonna make you sit in one of those."
I thanked her and blessed her kindness before losing myself in another contraction.

The lights in the hall were bright and I was thankful for any excuse to keep my eyes closed tight. Catching glimpses of sympathetic stares made me feel like a small child on her way to surgery. I needed to feel strong. To believe I was capable.

Time seemed to stop once we arrived in the delivery room. I guess we were there for about 45 minutes before Gabriel was placed in my arms, but it felt more like seconds. Or days. I couldn't tell. I remember the feeling of despair when they told me they expected me to move onto the delivery bed.
"What? No, I can't move!" I protested.
But they insisted.
I did the best I could, and ended up in some strange position, slightly crooked, half-sitting up, one leg hanging off the bed. I sat this way until my water broke.
"Water!" I half screamed. "There is water!"
I knew to expect it and yet the increased intensity of contractions and urge to push that followed made it scary nonetheless.
"Alright honey, you need to readjust yourself," my midwife told me kindly.
"No, no, no! Don't make me move!" I whimpered.
Aaron rubbed my back in encouragement. I couldn't decide if I wanted to cave into his arms or push him away.
"Please..." I whispered, shaking my head, feeling like a deranged person who desperately needed drugs.
"Sweetie," my midwife said in a voice so calm and comforting I was forced to meet her eyes. "You can't push him out if you're sitting on his head."
I looked to my nurse, who smiled and told me how wonderful I was doing. Then to Aaron, whose eyes told me he wouldn't let anything bad happen to me.
"Promise me you'll get a vasectomy when this is all over..." I pleaded desperately to Aaron.
He smiled and assured me he would.
I barely adjusted my body before the urge to push was so strong and scary I thought I might die. Focus! I screamed in my head when I found myself thinking about what I had eaten for dinner and how badly I wanted to throw it up. All I wanted to do in that instant was curl up in a ball and disappear. But the idea of moving was too much to bare, so instead I mentally slapped myself straight. My mother had given me advice earlier that day when I had shared my fears about pushing. I had been slightly annoyed at the time, mostly because I thought I would never get the chance to even use it (as I was convinced I would never go into labor), but also because it sounded so simple. But as encouragement was spoken to me from every direction-- Aaron, my midwife, and nurse all rooting for me, believing in me-- I began to believe in myself. The pain was more unbearable than I could have imagined and yet my mother's words repeated themselves in my mind. Focus. Breathe. Don't scream. Use every ounce of strength to push. This is the worst of it. The end. Gabriel is almost here. Somehow, it worked. Three contractions back to back. Less than 5 minutes later, Gabriel was lifted from my body.

I couldn't hold him at first. My eyes searched for him, saw him for a second, and then would not stay focused or open. I felt my body shaking uncontrollably. I could not move my arms which were still clinging to the bed holding me up in the most awkward way. Everyone was smiling and laughing but it was hard to hear anything over my own short, fast breaths as I began hyperventilating, unable to catch enough oxygen for my weak body. I suddenly noticed Gabriel was blue and not crying, but no one seemed worried. I heard my midwife mention something about the cord being wrapped around his neck, but she remained calm and even happy as she rubbed him and encouraged him to breathe his first. I wanted to reach for him, to speak, to ask what was happening, but I could not breathe myself. Finally, his screams reached my ears. I would have cried in relief had I been able to. Noticing my desperate state, my midwife made me look at her and told me forcefully, "Faith, breathe! You need to breathe!" I would if I could! I wanted to yell, but before I could realize what was happening, my body listened to her words and I found myself catching my breath, slowly easing my body down to rest. I was still shaking, but I reached for my son. My son! I was holding my son! I reached for Aaron who was already as close as he could get. We laughed, cried, and soaked up those moments like they were the last we'd ever share. Finally, my long awaited. Gabriel Quinlan.