Sunday, March 30, 2014

...of the best St. Patrick's day ever

The last belly photo.

I wanted to begin to try and record Simon's birth story, knowing that it may take me awhile to actually complete one post (I think I started this a week ago). Three kids is just about as hard as I imagined it would be, even with a very helpful husband staying at home. While Quinn was in the shower the other day, we had an incident where I was holding Simon and Selah found a partially opened container of almonds on Daddy's night stand, which she proceeded to spill everywhere. I set a wailing Simon down on the bed for a few minutes while I helped the kids pick up the almonds and watched Abram bite the end off of one and then spit it (along with a lot of saliva) back into the box. So Selah started putting them in her mouth and then putting them in the box. And it was all so absurd to me. Thankfully, in the moment, I was able to smile about it instead of crying (which I have already done my fair share of). But I know there will be many more moments that will have me on the verge of tears rather than laughter and I'm already praying about them.

Anyway... I'm getting ahead of myself... Let's go back to when we only had two kids and one inside that kept crying wolf...

The two weeks before his birthday, I think we had four or five times where we thought it could have been the moment Simon was going to arrive. One day we even went into the hospital in Dubai, only to have labor stop and be sent home for almost another week. Because of that, I was a little wary about contractions. I couldn't trust them. So we kept waiting and blowing off "regular" and "uncomfortable" contractions that would eventually go away.

I even made it to my 38 week appointment with my doctor on Sunday at 1:30. When she saw me she said "Awww. You look pitiful!" I like that woman. She is very honest. She checked and I had dilated a bit more (less than a centimeter to a 2) and she asked if I wanted her to do a sweep. Katie and I had talked about it a few days before and, as my acting midwife/doula, she had said that with all the early or prodromal labor and the dilation it would be fine to have Dr. Branch do a sweep at my next appointment. So I agreed and she said it might be painful. Painful it was. Not as much as a External Cephalic Version, but painful. I made enough painful noises that she told me she would just do a "conservative" sweep. I agreed.

We talked about whether or not she thought he would come that night and I should just stay in Dubai. She said that if I wanted to make sure that he came that night, she could to a more vigorous sweep. I declined.

I got back to the car, updated Quinn, and we tried to decide what we should do. I had had one intense contraction in the 30 minutes since leaving the doctor's office, but didn't know if they would pick up or if it wouldn't be for another few days. Apparently 24% of membrane sweeps lead to labor in the following 48 hours. So it could have been awhile. We eventually decided I would just come back home, we'd get things sorted out if the contractions picked up, and head back to Dubai that night.

On the way home, the intense ones went from every 15 minutes slowly to every 8 minutes. They weren't painful, though, so I just thought it was a reaction from having the sweep done and not the real thing. When they basically stopped at 6pm and 6 minutes apart, I thought we were done for the night. But at around 7pm, I got a pretty painful one and then they started back up again at 6 minutes apart. I went to lay down and drink water and see if that made them stop. It didn't. They got closer together, not any more painful. I really didn't want another false alarm hospital run (and bill). But since the kids were already down for the night, we thought there was no harm in just starting to head to Dubai. If they stopped, we'd turn around, if not, we'd be there. I called Katie to see if maybe she would come and do a check on me. If I was dilating, then we would know we should be heading in. She started to get ready to come over.

In the next few minutes, the contractions got to about every 3 minutes and were much more painful. I couldn't quite function through them like the previous ones. It was at that point that I think Quinn and I both knew that this was it. At 10pm I called Katie and told her we were just going to come and pick her up to ride with us to the hospital, since the contractions were picking up speed and intensity quickly at that point. We got Katie from her house at a little after 10 and I was having about a one minute long contraction every 2.5 minutes or so.

Quinn sped to Dubai. It usually takes one hour and 15 minutes to get from inside Fujairah to the hospital. It took us an hour. Katie and I talked in between contractions in the car. They were painful and I had to concentrate through them, but I recovered quickly. She's had three natural, home births (and I've had two "pain managed" hospital births) so I asked her about what the intense contractions felt like. She said that when you get to "transition" (which I guess is 7cm to 10cm) you really can't talk at all. The time in between contractions is just for recovering and preparing for the next one. Not like what I was feeling at all at the moment. I was golden.

We got to the hospital at 11. The midwife hooked me up to the monitors, we confirmed I was having a good contraction every 2.5 minutes and she did a check. At 11:30, I was 3cm. Only about 1cm more than I was at 1:30 that afternoon, but progressing. So they admitted me and Quinn and I got into our "we are actually having a baby tonight" mind set. They started me on IV antibiotics, since I was GBS positive, and the midwife asked about an epidural. Now, I definitely wanted one. I'm not like all you super hero women out there who want to do it naturally. I had gotten one for my last two labor and deliveries and I was totally happy getting another one. But I also wanted to make sure that things were progressing before I got laid up in a bed. The contractions were more intense than I ever got to with the other kids, but I wanted to get to 4 cm before getting an epidural. So I got on a birthing ball and sat with Quinn and Katie and worked through about 40 minutes of contractions. At some point, they got INSANELY more painful. I was about the throw up. I started begging for the epidural, wondering why I wanted to wait before. I think the midwife ordered the epidural at 12:30am.

I'm so glad Katie was there. Quinn and I had never been through a birth like this. I had always gotten the pain relief relatively early and then been pretty relaxed and jokey and calm up until (and through) delivery. But this was definitely different. We had not prepared with breathing techniques and calm talking and... whatever... but Katie is literally a pro and she totally got me through it. She kept saying things like "Just breathe through this contraction. Make noise if you need to. Think about what it's doing to you cervix." Stuff that would never come out of Quinn's mouth in 70 hundred years. But his hand was a really really good squeezing hand. I eventually found that if I did make this humming noise as I breathed out, it did help me get through each contraction easier. I also discovered later than I had broken a lot of the blood vessels in my cheeks, which was probably a combination of that and the pushing. Lovely.

At one point while we were waiting for the epidural, the midwife asked if I wanted to use the "gas". I had enough of my wits about me to joke that it had seemed to help the women on "Call the Midwife", so I'd give it a try. I should mention that the midwife was British and (if you aren't aware), "Call the Midwife" is a BBC show about midwifery in the 1950's-60's. Katie and Paula laughed and as I prepared to use the gas, I remember saying: "Everything I learned about delivering a baby I learned from "Call the Midwife". What about you guys?" Paula laughed and said she hoped she knew more than that. I tried the gas and it did NOTHING except make me feel light headed after the contraction and leave a bad taste in my mouth. I did it a few more times just to give me something to do to get my mind off of the pain while we waited for that darn epidural.

The anesthesiologist got there and I signed some papers at a little before 1am. I had been checked an hour and a half before and the contractions were still about 2.5 minutes apart, so no one even really thought to check me again before doing the epidural. He finished doing it while I sat still through a bunch of horribly painful contractions. Come to think of it, that may be when I broke the blood vessels in my face... anyway...

Right as he finished and they were getting me to lay back down in bed, my water broke. All over the place. And I suddenly felt Simon's head right there. I was laying back down and I told Paula, "I think I could push him out right now". She said I should wait. While she could deliver a baby, she wanted to try and get Dr. Branch there to do it. They laid me back and did a check at 1am and I was at 9cm. Actually, Katie said she heard her tell the other nurse to tell Dr. Branch that there was "just a lip", which really means almost a 10. So I actually made it through ALL of the labor with no pain meds! I never ever thought I would be able to say that. Granted, active labor and transition only lasted for an hour and a half. If it had been any longer than that, I may not have lived. Also, if the midwife had checked me before they did the epidural, they would have found out how far I was and I probably wouldn't have been able to get it. But I did and I am glad I did, even though it was only for literally a few minutes before we had a baby.

At about 1:20 and 20 minutes of trying to keep the baby in, we heard the door open and watched Dr. Branch walk in in motorcycle boots, a leather Harley jacket, and carrying her motorcycle helmet.  It was awesome. She told me later that she had waited to go to bed because she knew I was there and she was sure it was going to go fast - she just didn't think it would be that fast :) They got set up for me to push and I think I pushed through four contractions.  It hurt. But not as much as if I didn't have that lucky epidural. When his head came out, I saw Dr. Branch and Katie look at each other all surprised and Dr. Branch said something like "O.P!" I asked Katie later, because I thought I understood, but wasn't sure and she said Simon was posterior, or "sunny side up". Babies are supposed to come out face down, because it's the easiest way for them to get out. Posterior (or his back to my back) babies usually take a lot of pushing and sometimes they can get a little stuck, but he came out surprisingly fast and neither of us seem to have been more  traumatized than we would have been if he was anterior.

So he came out at 1:38am on March 17th (here in the UAE). It was weird announcing his birth on facebook to a lot of Americans who were still on March 16th, but his birthday was actually March 17th. He was 3.078kg (6lb 12.5oz) and 50.5cm (19.2in). Love having to give everything in both metric and standard. The fun of being an American expat.

Our wonderful friend Randall was in charge of the kids while we were in the hospital. Randall is one of Selah's very favorite people in the world, so I think she was ok with us being gone. They both did great with the whole thing, I think. The day Simon was born, Randall brought them to the hospital to meet him and then to take Katie back home to her own family :)
Our first family of five photo!

Whew! That was a long one for such a short labor. We came home the next day and had our first night with him. He woke up a few times, but went right back to sleep each time. He's still a very sleepy buddy even now. He had high biliruben levels in the hospital and they tested him to see if he needed photo therapy. It wasn't high enough for that, but he's still quite yellow and very sleepy at two weeks old.

We thought that Selah and Abram looked similar when she was born, but that doesn't hold a candle to how much Simon and Abram look alike as newborns.


Simon has more hair that is blonde and not dark like Selah's newborn hair. But he's got his own little personality. Better eater than Abram, more tummy troubles than either kid, but an overall amazingly precious gift of a boy. His brother and sister love him so much and always want to watch him in the video monitor. Every time he comes back into Selah's presence after she hasn't seen him in awhile, she comes up to whoever is holding him, tugs on them and says "ah can't see Simon!" She looks at him adoringly for a few seconds and then continues with whatever mischief she was making. 

Considering the fact that we are now in a situation where the kids out number Quinn and I (our friend Todd likened it to going from man on man to zone defense), I think we are doing pretty well. Selah had a rough week the first week and Abram seems to have picked up the torch this week, but overall everyone is happy and healthy and there haven't been too many tears. 

Praise The Lord!

Simon's verse.

Finally, some cute pictures that most of you have probably already seen on some social media somewhere...

Monday, March 10, 2014

...of the big wait #3

At least we know that Simon is taking after his brother and sister in making us believe he is coming soon and then settling comfortably back in my abdomen and making us wait a bit longer.

He will be full term based on LMP tomorrow (based on our dates, he hit that milestone four days ago). I was dilated to a 1 last week and soft. And yesterday was almost a 2. He has dropped, but is in front of the opening, which makes labor maybe less eminent and exams a lot more traumatic for me. We've had lots of instances of regular, uncomfortable contractions that eventually taper off after a few hours. Last night was pretty bad. They were the most cramp like and painful, but I chalked it up to the exam. They eventually went away and I had a pretty decent night of sleep, praise God. 

I've been wondering all yesterday and this morning if any of the spotting I was experiencing from the exam was the actually the plug. And then this morning, it definitively made it's appearance. So, that's a sign things are progressing. But still no real clue. I mean, it's quite possible he could hang out in there for awhile more, but if my other labors are any indication, it probably shouldn't be too long now. 

I've been trying to prep the kids by telling them what could happen: they could wake up and we might be gone getting Simon out of my tummy in the hospital, or we might have to suddenly run out on them. Our housemate and interns will have the main job of taking care of them while we are gone. They are all single guys, which will be interesting, but they are all great with the kids and the kids love them. So I'm hoping everyone will make it through ok. And one or more of them will be initiated into the diaper changing club soon enough. 

It's all pretty surreal that we will soon have another newborn, that Selah will not be our baby anymore, and that our family dynamic will be changing so drastically. But we continue to actively pray that this change will draw us all closer to the Lord, even if it's hard, and we will get to see why God wanted us to add this exact little boy to our family at this exact time. 

So, Simon Paul Smith, we can't wait to meet you and kiss your sweet face and introduce you to the other best kids we've ever known.

38 weeks - Abram
38 weeks - Selah
37.5 weeks - Simon

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

...of fairness

Up until recently, Abram has really been a dictator in his and Selah's relationship. When we get out two cups, plates, bowls, spoons, whatever, he decides what color he wants and gives her the other. When they are playing with toys and she has one he wants, he takes it and she would usually just go and find something else. I probably should not have let this go on, even though she really didn't care at the time, for many reasons. But the main reason being that now she has found her voice. Her literal voice and her opinions. And she's not a push over any more.

Now, when a toy is taken from her, she hits. Not the best response, but I can understand the frustration of having things wrenched from you hands all the time. So we are working on that. She is also learning colors and new words and phrases every day and now when the cups, plates, bowls, spoons, whatever come out, she wants to have a say in which one she gets. Purple is her favorite right now, so if either are purple, that's the one she wants. Problem is that Abram likes purple a lot, too. So we've had some mediation that has had to happen recently over the color purple. Who'da thought?

I remember this from my childhood. My sister and I are just a little bit closer in age than Abe and Sel (maybe three weeks closer) and my parents were constantly having to give us turns picking cup colors, favorite chairs, toys, whatever. They tried to be as fair as possible, but sometimes they couldn't be, or they didn't have the patience and they made the choice. When we would freak out and complain that it wasn't fair, their standard response was, "Well, life isn't always fair."

In looking back on blog posts recently, trying to recall as much information about my past pregnancies as possible in an attempt to predict what will happen this time (futile, I tell you), I realize that Selah got a lot of in-utero screen time. There were weekly belly photos, videos of her wiggling, and a lot of stories of how things were going. Abram was reported on quite often during that time as well, but I wasn't nearly as blog-oriented when I was pregnant with him.

But Simon, poor Simon. I think I've taken two "belly photos" and taken a few videos of him wiggling, maybe one of which has actually been shared. I consider it an accomplishment that there are any sonogram photos of him on here at all and a small amount of text. So I haven't been as fair as I could be, but his brother and sister are a lot more demanding right now than he is. I suppose when he's born, he'l be stealing some of their thunder for awhile, so perhaps it will all even out. I just hope when he nears two years old and finds his own voice and everyone is on a more equal playing field, Quinn and I will be able to oversee fairness among this Smith ranks as much as possible, with reality and grace informing it all.

So, in an effort to be fair to all of my children in this post, I thought I would share videos of each of their most recent accomplishments.  We will start with the youngest:

Simon: Definitely getting longer (although he is apparently at his max length and now just putting on the chunk) and learning to stretch and straighten his legs in there. He's less of a tosser and turner than his sister, so I get more of the same movement over and over: bummy out on one side and feet digging in the opposite hip. Hopefully still head down!  Enjoy this lovely long video of my tummy.

Selah: Talking up a storm. She regularly amazes us with new vocabulary and phrases. She told me "Ah miss you" the other day when I came home from a day away. And last night when I said "I love you" to her before bed, she said "wuv oo too". Also, "No want it" has been a standard for my opinionated girl for awhile, as well as "want it". She told me that her shoes were "too small" the other day. I checked and they were. She likes to name all associated people when we are talking about someone. Like, when we say something about Katie, she proceeds to name everyone in Katie's family. This is a video of her answering the New City Catechism question 3 (her favorite).

Abram: Today we discovered that he can count backwards from 10. For some reason, I feel like this is a pretty big step in his mental processing. Maybe it's not. But it seems like thinking backwards through something takes a certain type of thought that is not used in the memorization and recitation of going through a sequence, like the numbers and alphabet (both of which Selah can do, also, by the way)... (Sorry, this is not Selah's section, it's Abram's. Still working on that fairness thing).

So there you go! A special mention for everyone :)