Monday, March 30, 2009

S is for...

Super Samuel!
3 weeks old

Sleep: You've been doing a good job most nights, sleeping anywhere from 3-5 hour stretches, but last night we were up every hour on the hour from midnight until 6 this morning. Sometimes you have a hard time settling and your grunts and gurgles keep us both up. You are more and more awake during the day, looking at me with those wide eyes.

Sweetness: You are pure sugar, delicious and delightful and the more of you I get, the more I want. You taste good, smell good and are quite nibble-able. 

Sister: You are obsessed with your big sister. When she is in the room (almost always) you follow the sound of her voice to see just what she's up to. And Maddie loves you; she is always showing you things, talking to you, and giving you big kisses (sometimes it gets a little Days of our Lives, but it is only because she is crazy about you).

Socks: What is it about newborns spreading their toes wide as can be when trying to put socks on? I had completely forgotten the sock phenomenon, but your sister did the same thing and it is darling.

Slurp, slurp: You are an awesome nurser. From the start you knew exactly what to do, and it has made my life so easy! At first I was quite sore from your tenacity but we've come to enjoy a much gentler pace.

Smitten: When your long fingers wrap around my hand or hair or shirt it just melts my heart. You have smiled at me three times since you were born, and each time you were awake so I know it wasn't just dreaming. I wasn't quite sure how the two-child thing was going to work out, but I can say without reservation that it is possible to think both of your children are the most amazing thing ever!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

26 Months

Dear Big Sister Maddie,

Let me start by saying you are amazing. You have weathered yet another month of significant change and upheaval with your characteristic charm and good nature. We brought another person into the house, for goodness' sake, and yet you are just as sweet, gentle and affectionate as always, not to mention funny.

There is practically nothing you like more than making us laugh. If you say something funny unintentionally, you will repeat it later with a gleam in your eye and followed by a pause, as if waiting for the "buh-dum-dum" and laughter track.  One morning you had your dad in absolute stitches as you passed gas on demand. For the record, you are a perfect fit for this family.

You play games all day, imaginative and creative scenarios all of your own making: rescuing people in need, taking care of your "giant," engaging any willing participant in a round of "1, 2...clap clap clap! (or ...pat your knee, kiss the mama, jump up and down, etc.) We love to listen in on your play conversations in which you speak for both yourself and Samuel, one in need of help, one doing the helping. 

You are still exceedingly affectionate, offering kisses and hugs to any and all visitors, with a little extra for your special loved ones. One of your favorite morning routines is to look for Samuel and shower him with good morning kisses. When putting you to bed at night, you will repeat "I love you so much" as you give countless kisses and "BIG hugs" to your lucky parents. You've learned to do gentle pat-pats on Samuel's body (not his face) and you love to rock him in the cradle and sing to him gentle songs.

The new toys you've received this month as distraction from "the big event" have provided hours of fun. You ran right up to your dollhouse (a super hand-me-down from our neighbor) and rang the doorbell. How you knew it would be a functioning doorbell is beyond me. You've also spent a good deal of time "camping" in your princess tent (another hand-me-down). We are amazed by your imagination and the amount of time you spend entertaining yourself. In many ways you seem so much older than two.

We keep joking that Samuel better be a conversationalist (or at least an opportunist) in order to hold his own in this house. Your verbal skills have come in handy this month as you are able to express yourself quite clearly rather than resorting to screaming or getting frustrated, such as when you asked me to "Put Samuel over there and read this book with me." On the other hand, you will sing long, complicated songs to Samuel that you make up as you go along, sometimes sweet and always funny. The influx of visitors keeps you on your toes, entertaining the throngs with music and dance.

Your sweetness amazes us each day. Your sunny disposition and appetite for adventure make each day fresh and exciting. We are so lucky to be your parents and Samuel is so lucky to have you as a big sister. Thanks for being you!



Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Samuel Benjamin, birth story

Samuel Benjamin
born Saturday, March 7th, 2009
5:01 p.m.
8 pounds, 5 ounces
21 inches long

the sweetest, most mellow little guy

The week proceeding Samuel's birth I had been contracting off and on, nothing too painful but as the weekend approached they were growing stronger and closer together. I had my 39 week check-up on Friday and the nurse practitioner announced I was at 3 cm, 70% effaced, and my induction was scheduled for the next day. She stripped my membranes to help get things along.

Friday night my contractions came more frequently and by Saturday morning I definitely felt as if I was in the early stages of labor. We called in at 11 and were admitted shortly after 12:30pm. After the initial paperwork was completed I met the first members of my birthing team, a student nurse and RN Candyce (who assisted us with the start of my first labor). They hooked me up to the monitors and the student nurse got to work on my IV. After two failed attempts, Candyce stepped in for a teaching moment. In the past, I've had two or three vasovagal responses when punctured. Once I passed out on the floor of the John Muir lab after giving blood. Yeah, awkward. The problem is, it's an involuntary response so you never know when it's going to strike.

So I was feeling fine until Candyce stepped in and started explaining what went wrong, how the vein likes to hide when it is invaded, etc., and with the sharp puncture I immediately knew I was in trouble. No amount of self-therapy and positive talk was saving me from the inevitable--I started sweating and feeling nauseous. They reclined my bed immediately, put my head down below my heart, got cold compresses, but my blood pressure was plummeting. 

Dr. Wells, Daddy, Mama & Sam

I could hear Samuel's heartbeat slow drastically in response to my own low pressure. I remember thinking that it was taking me longer to recover than I remembered in the past. I was not yet feeling better. Just as soon as I started to recover, I had a pretty strong contraction. Samuel had recovered quickly but with the added stress of a contraction his heart rate slowed yet again. It was only a few minutes but I was struck with how quickly things could change. If he didn't regain his strength, we'd be off to an emergency delivery.

Thankfully everyone recovered and they decided to hold off on the pitocin until we had a good thirty minutes or more of normal contractions to see how he would hold up. The little trooper did great and by 2:15, almost two hours after arriving, they started the pitocin. Candyce checked my cervix at some point and announced I came in at 1 1/2 cm, not 3, though I was at least 80% effaced. So far, the experience was a little frustrating. 

Maddie sees Samuel for the first time,
"Look, Grammy! It's a baby! A new one!"

But within minutes my contractions grew stronger and longer, causing some pause and requiring deep breaths. In a half hour I progressed from 1 1/2 cm to 5, and by 3:15 I was feeling the pain. After the student nurse came in to check on me, I realized I was ready for the epidural. It was a really quiet day in L & D and the anesthesiologist arrived in less than 10 minutes. But by this point I was really feeling the contractions, down deep, starting out like an intense menstrual cramp and then taking over my abdomen with a hard, tight, clenching feeling. Every time I would close my eyes and try not to fight the pain but reminded myself to open up and move Samuel down.

As I was prepped for the epidural, I noticed that sitting up seemed more productive and when hunched over I felt more in control of my contractions. The placement of the epidural was quick and painless but the contractions continued to grow stronger. Candyce laid me down for another cervix check and laughed to say I was approaching 8 cm, and she was going to call Dr. Wells, my ob/gyn, to let him know this baby would be here soon. I laughed, too, and told Ben that so far this labor was looking a lot more promising than my 18-hour ordeal with Maddie.

Mama loves her little boy

The laughter didn't last long as the epidural was only working in part. My left side was feeling some relief but there was still a strong and undeniable tightness in my lower right quadrant. On top of that, I was feeling the strong urge to pee all over the table. I asked when the catheter would be inserted because I felt like I was working so hard to keep from going to the bathroom everywhere. The nurses let me know the catheter would go in when I was completely numb and to let them know if I felt the urge to push.

I was far from numb. The anesthesiologist came back in 10 minutes and my pain was less but the pressure was huge and my right side was still hurting. He tried pulling the epidural catheter out a bit to see if it would distribute more evenly. By nearly 9 cm dilation, after a number of pretty intense contractions, the epidural finally took. 

big sister Maddie couldn't wait to hold him

Turns out Dr. Wells was in a doctor's office himself, getting some steroid injections in an injured toe, and ordered the team to stop the pitocin because the soonest he could get to the hospital would be 20 minutes or more. I laughed in disbelief as I looked at the clock. My baby would be here by 5!

I had some pain relief but was able to feel an intense amount of pressure and the urge to push. Doctor Wells arrived in a polo shirt, khaki shorts and tennis shoes. He asked Ben about his interest in delivering Samuel and with Ben's emphatic yes, helped Ben suit up in scrubs and gloves. They moved a mirror in close so I could see the delivery and as Ben was explaining how to use our camera to a nurse who would film Samuel's arrival, I announced that under no uncertain terms was I ready to push this baby out!

ready to go home, a peanut in his car seat

After about 3 contractions' worth of pushing I looked down to see Samuel just moments away from delivery. With each push it felt like a beehive was buzzing in my nether regions! It took about 15-20 minutes of pushing, an episiotomy and some "gentle tearing" and Samuel was delivered by his Daddy's strong hands onto his Mama's waiting chest. 

Aaahh, relief! In the video I am heard saying, "Oh, it's so much better when he's out!" (meaning, no longer pushing or needing to push). He was covered in vernix, white and creamy, and the doctor remarked on his extra long umbilical cord, more like a jump rope. We joked that Samuel must have been jump roping inside all that time. 

Of course I cried when he was placed on my chest but immediately started laughing with joy at my perfect little boy. He fussed a bit but then settled right down with his big, wide, steely-blue eyes looking all around. I noticed immediately that he looked different from Maddie, his very own little face, and a very wrinkly body whereas Maddie's had seemed so round and filled out. He seemed smaller.

The moment of truth revealed he was about 1 ounce bigger than Maddie, and the same length, with these incredibly long feet and toes. A perfect little bundle! All in all, it took 2 hours 45 minutes from the time the pitocin was started until he made his appearance. He was whisked away to the warmer to regain some of his body temperature and the masses arrived to greet him: Grammy with big sister Maddie, then Great-Aunt Cheryl, Tutu, Boppa, and Auntie Jennie. Kelly, Bridgette and Susan visited in L & D as he nursed for the first time, a whopping 55 minutes of latched-on feeding. Hooray!

Samuel is the sweetest and most mellow little guy. He has completely captured our hearts and his sister Maddie is absolutely smitten. We are grateful to God for an easy delivery, healthy baby, and especially for the gift of another life to love. We love being a family of four!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


My Precious Father God,

Words cannot express the condition of my heart tonight: the fullness, the contentment, the peace, as I laid in bed with my daughter to put her to sleep, and she turned to me to say, "I love you so much," wispy curls draping her sleepy eyes. Moments later, as I pressed my palm to her cheek, praying your protection over her, she remarked, "Mama, my best friend."

How gracious and loving a Father to give me a child with such an enormous, loving, tender heart. I praise You for her sweet and genuine spirit that so clearly overflows with the love of her Creator. I was again reminded of the sweet vision You gave me Sunday morning of Your son, Jesus, holding my two children in His arms as a Shepherd would cradle two little lambs...a generous reminder of the fact that You love and care for and protect my children with a ferocious, tender, all-consuming, mother love.

I have nothing to fear; You hold my children's future securely in Your almighty arms. And You also hold me, gently, as You would a little lamb, so close to Your heart. Your goodness overflows in abundant streams in my life. My children are forever safe under Your watchful care and mighty hand. I have all I need when I depend on You and You alone for my strength, my sustenance, my direction.

Forgive me for failing to be all I should; thank you for being more to my children than I ever can be. Give me new mercies every morning, tender blessings each night, a heart focused on praying for and with and over my children in every moment possible. Surround them with Your angels. Give them hearts that desire nothing more than Your living water and Your kingdom. Amaze me with Your plans for their lives.

I praise you, Most Gracious God, for who You are, for who I am in You, for who You are creating my children to be. You are so, so, so good. 

(as Maddie would say)