Monday, September 30, 2013

Weekends Are For

Weekends are for enjoying the cooler weather by spending the whole day outdoors.  And by "cooler weather" I mean 88 degrees.  Not all that exciting unless you live in Louisiana and have endured a smoking hot and ultra humid summer.  This weekend was nice and we took full advantage: early morning tea on the front porch, digging in the dirt, rinsing off with the water hose.  The girls are the happiest when they can be outside, no rules, no curating, just playing.  We are happy to oblige.  That pile of dirt on the side of our house is better than any playground in their eyes.  River absorbed the sights, sounds, and smells of the day from the comfort of his wrap.  I toted him around as I pruned the rosebushes, served lunch out back, and made room for winter vegetables.  He never made a peep.

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Weekends are for taking a break and enjoying a more quiet and slow pace.  While I took an extra long shower, breathing in the peace and solitude that only a locked bathroom door can provide, Shawn entertained River with his guitar.  Do you remember when the neurologist told Shawn that the nerve damage caused by his accident was so extensive, he would never regain function of his arm and/or hand?  Since that day, those test results have served as the most powerful motivation tool for my husband, inspiring him to work day after day to rebuild his strength and range of motion.  He never misses a physical therapy session, works tirelessly on his exercises and stretches, and reminds me daily: "I WILL play my guitar again".  And friends, he is doing it.  He is teaching his hand to play again.  With his son by his side and his determination propelling him forward, he is strumming his guitar slowly but surely.  He is my hero.

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Weekends are for spending time with family and blowing raspberries.  Brees is falling in love with her little brother more and more everyday.  This weekend, she lifted his little shirt and blew raspberries on his baby belly, giggling so loudly that the whole family was drawn into the room to see what all the fuss was about.  She had a rough time accepting her little brother at first, acting out and completely ignoring his existence.  I can't say that I blame her: SHE was the baby before he arrived.  But, with a lot of patience, some extra quality time, and numerous pep talks, she is beginning to understand that she will ALWAYS be our baby.  Just like Belle, just like River.  We love them all so big because our hearts keep stretching with each child.  She may have to share her parents and sister more now, but she's gaining a new best friend in the process.  

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Friday, September 27, 2013



River at one month:
Weight: 12 pounds (95 percentile)
Feeding:  River has been exclusively breastfed since birth.  For the first few weeks, I fed him on demand but followed the EASY routine.  I've posted on this method before: it is NOT a sleep training method or a strict routine.  It is simply a way to ensure that all of your baby's needs are met and to assist your baby in finding a natural rhythm to their day.  I first read about this theory when I was pregnant for Isabelle and I have used it with all three of our kids.  It is taken from the book "The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems," by Tracy Hogg.  In Hogg's words:
E.A.S.Y. is "a routine that gives the day structure and makes family life consistent, which is important because all of us, children and adults, as well as babies and toddlers, thrive on predictability."  "With E.A.S.Y., you don't follow the baby; you take charge.   You observe him carefully, tune in to his cues, but you take the lead, gently encouraging him to follow what you know will make him thrive:  eating, appropriate levels of activity, and a good sleep afterwards.  You are the baby's guide.  You set the pace."  (page 16)
At around 2 weeks old, River began a predictable cycle of nursing every two hours.  At night, his feedings have spread out to every 3-4 hours.  There are days when he nurses more often, however, and I am careful on those days to follow his cues and feed him as often as he needs.  
At one month old, River and I are settling into a good routine with nursing.  I experienced a fair amount of soreness and engorgement for the first two weeks, to be expected, but those things have settled down and I am feeling much more comfortable these days.  River has a good latch and has not experienced any reflux or colic issues unlike his sisters. Breastfeeding has gone so well with this little guy and I am hoping to continue nursing him well into his first year.

Sleep:  River literally slept through most of his first month of life.  Almost every photo we have of him shows him sleeping in one place or another.  For the first two weeks, he had his days and nights mixed up and typically chose to be awake through the late night hours. The only way he would sleep at night was in my arms and so we spent the first two weeks of his life sleeping in our rocker/recliner in the living room.  I watched more late night TV this month than I ever have in my life.  Sleeping sitting up with a baby in your arms is not the most restful way to spend the night, I can promise you that.  But, at around two weeks old, he started to shift into a more natural rhythm and began a more predictable sleep cycle.  He is now sleeping with Shawn and I in our bed, getting 2-3 hours of sleep at a time and then waking to nurse.  The EASY routine addresses sleep as well as feeding and helps baby to differentiate between night and day sleep cycles.  River is slowly but surely figuring this all out and is getting better rest because of it.  
Health:  River is a big, healthy boy!  He had an ultrasound done to his hips this month due to a family history of hip dysplasia and his very large gestational size but the results came back perfect.  I am learning what I can and can not eat in regards to his digestion and so far have limited my intake of caffeine, dairy, and oranges.

Personality:  River is, overall, a very calm and sweet baby.  As the third child in our family, he has adjusted well to life inside this loud, full of life home.  He tolerates his sisters' shrill screams, barely flinching when they run right by his bed making more noise than a heavy metal band.  He loves to be held and worn, spending much of his day in my Solly wrap or Ergo carrier.  He is the first of our children to actually like his baby swing and is content to sit in his swing while we cook dinner or get a few things done around the house. He responds well to music and loves to be swaddled and rocked to sleep.  He enjoys being outdoors and I have found that the quickest way to soothe him if he is fussy is to take him on a walk in the fresh air.  He does NOT like bath time, being cold, or getting dressed.

River is a month old already and I am amazed by how quickly time has flown by.  The first month is always a bit of a haze between the sleepless nights, constant breast feeding, and the overall delirium that accompanies a new life.  It has been a wonderful month, though, as we all get to know the newest member of our family.  We have not traveled far from our nest these last few weeks, instead choosing to hibernate for a while, heal, relax, and spend time with each other in the quiet and comfortable environment of our home.  These days together have been so precious to me and are such a nice change from my usual schedule. We have all been making an effort to practice extra patience and grace with one another, to be understanding of the effects a life change such as this one has on a family, and to make changes accordingly.  I am so proud of our family and have been overwhelmed by the amount of love I have witnessed this month.  It's been an amazing ride so far.

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Are We There Yet?

From the moment we announced that we were pregnant for River, the questions from family, friends, and complete strangers came flooding in: Is this it?  Are you having any more children?  Will you get pregnant again?  Don't you think three is enough?  How will you afford any more children?  It became very apparent, very quickly, that the consensus believed that three is enough, more than enough.  Maybe even too much.  To their credit, these questions all came from a place of love and genuine concern for our family's well being.  They came along with many congratulations and well wishes.  But, they were insistent in their opinions that the modern American family is complete with two children. Anything else is just crazy town.
Shawn and I have always dreamed of having a family, preferably a big one.  Is our definition of "big" different from other parents?  Maybe.  But I think every family has to create that definition for themselves.  For us, the sacrifices of our time, finances, patience, and sanity are worth the joys that children bring.  We measure the amount of children that we wish for not just considering the inconveniences of having small children but by envisioning the love we have for each other growing and growing as the years go by.  We have the same worries as anyone else, considering college tuition and the cost of weddings and the millions of other expenses these little people bring with them.  But, honestly, we know that we will work as hard as we have to and sacrifice where we need to in order to keep our family afloat.  Our priorities in life are family, simplicity, and love.  Finances will come together, they always have, because we are not afraid to make adjustments when they are needed.
In truth, we're not sure whether or not our family is complete yet.  I feel extremely satisfied and grateful for the three beautiful children that we have been blessed with and if we don't have any more children, I will be eternally grateful for the three that we have. However, I don't have a feeling of absolute certainty that this is it for us, not yet anyway. I feel open to whatever fate lies before us, whether that means that our family is complete now or that we end up having more babies.
River has brought so much love and joy into our family and has helped to create a sense of balance in our home.  We have all fallen in love with him and the serenity he has offered our hearts.  If he is the last baby I ever grow, birth, carry, nurse: I will consider myself lucky to have been given such an angel.  He is such a good baby in every way: he rarely cries, nurses like a champ, and sleeps pretty damn well by infant standards.  Truthfully, I'm not sure if he's really all that perfect or if we've just relaxed and learned to deal with an infant with more ease.  Either way, we count our lucky stars daily for being graced with such a precious little boy.  He is everything we could have hoped for and more.  And when people ask us if we're done, we just smile and shrug our shoulders.  We don't know.  We're just deliriously happy right now and living in the moment.  And that's the only answer any of us needs.

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Monday, September 23, 2013

A New Soul

We baptized our baby boy yesterday during Sunday morning mass surrounded by family, friends, and our loving church congregation.  It was an incredibly beautiful ceremony that left us feeling spiritually renewed as we welcomed River into the church.  As the water ran over his head and Father Jose blessed him with his first sacrament, River never cried.  He stared up at us with eyes opened wide, taking it all in.  Dressed in the same christening gown that both of his sisters wore, flanked on each side by parents and godparents who swore to love him and raise him with the values we hold dear, I couldn't help but cry tears of joy for our son.  He is blessed already, a perfect soul beginning his life with a clean slate.  His heart is perfectly clean, open and innocent and full of possibility.  I held him in my arms, in front of a whole community of people who wish us all well, and felt so inspired.  In a world that can sometimes take us under with its conflict and darkness, I felt blessed to be surrounded by such unconditional love, to be able to carry this sweet baby in my arms.  
God bless you, River Scott, as you begin your spiritual journey.  May your life be filled with peace and love.  May you always seek the Lord in everything that you do, in all your trials and tribulations, in all your praise and thanksgiving.  I pray that your heart will be called to be a generous, loving, and compassionate person, that your thoughts and intentions are always pure, and that you will respond in faith to God's plan for you.   
"I brought children into this dark world because it needed the light that only a child can bring." ~Liz Armbruster

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Fourth Trimester


A friend of mine shared this post with me last week, encouraging me with these words: "In your arms is right where that baby belongs. Those moments pass entirely too quickly. Cherish them while you can. Don't resent their need for bonding. Revel in it". I read each word as River napped on my chest, his skin next to mine, his rosebud lips pressed close to my heart.  It was the perfect post at the perfect time, a mama and a baby learning each other and navigating through the haze of infancy.  Each day stretching before us in a series of two hour cycles, nursing and rocking and swaying, a baby protesting every single time I try to put him down.  His swing and boppy pillow and bassinet go unused as he has found great comfort and permanent residency in my arms.  He's my third baby, most likely my last, and this article had me nodding my head in agreement, solidifying what I've been experiencing these last few weeks.  I've stopped trying to put my baby down, I've surrendered to his need to be next to me.  River and I: we are enjoying every minute of our fourth trimester together.  
"The concept of the fourth trimester helps us to understand the transition a newborn must make over their first few weeks earthside and once we understand we find so many ways we can help – but to me the most important facet of the fourth trimester is parental understanding and empathy, once that exists everything else will flow naturally".
Sarah Ockwell-Smith (Mother to Four, Parenting Author and Founder ofBabyCalm Ltd)
The fourth trimester: an idea that encourages parents to practice empathy with our infants, to understand that the reason they cry when we attempt to put them down or leave them alone is not because they are difficult or challenging but because they are adjusting to life outside the womb.  Babies go through an extremely disorienting time as they leave the warm, dark, confined in utero space and become part of the outside world, suddenly bombarded with light and noise and an unlimited amount of space that their reflexes can't quite handle yet.  Those days that we've all experienced, when the baby refuses to be anywhere but our arms: this article encourages us to embrace them and revel in our baby's need to bond.  It reminds us to practice patience as our babies find their way into life on the outside.  
The idea of the fourth trimester is a concept I find so beautiful and real, an idea that rings true to our family. I have held my son and rocked him, worn him, nursed him and slept next to him from the moment he was born.  Learning from my mothering successes and failures with the girls, I've stopped worrying about time and all the pressure it carries with it.  My only concern for the time being is to be completely in the moment, to love my infant in the way that he needs to be loved.  And right now, in this phase of his life, his primary love language and basic instincts revolve around physical touch.  
In reality, our fourth trimester will evolve as I leave the nest in a couple of months to head back to work.  I will no longer have the luxury of spending every waking second with my baby, I will be forced to entrust him in someone else's care as I resume my job as a nurse. Maybe that's why I jump into this role so wholeheartedly, maybe that's why I'm able to look at this crazy and exhausting phase in such a positive light.  This is my time, my time to be everything to this little boy, to hold him and soak him in.  When friends and family urge me to put him down, warning me that I might "spoil" him if I hold him "too much", I shake it off and hold him even tighter.  Soon enough, our fourth trimester will come to a close. For now, I'm going to live it up to its fullest.  I learned very quickly with my older children that this infant phase is over before you can blink and it should be enjoyed for everything that it is, even the hard days.  This is our time, River Scott, and as long as you'll have me, I'll be there.
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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Pajama Party

I never made it out of my pajamas yesterday.  I had every intention of getting dressed and starting my day as I always do: with a freshly washed face, brushed hair, a loose idea of what I want to accomplish.  But, yesterday, those things never happened.  Every time I attempted to walk into the bathroom to put my face on, someone called me right back out. River peed through at least three diapers, reminding me that I have still not mastered diapering a baby boy yet (yes, there is a major difference between changing girl diapers and boy diapers and I have been peed on multiple times thus far).  There was no putting him down yesterday and he spent most of the day against my chest in his wrap.  Brees was up at 6 am doing her best impression of the Energizer Bunny, getting into mischief around every corner and following me around like a little duck.  She was hungry, she was thirsty, she snuck into her sister's room and ransacked it, she peed on the floor after attempting to change her own diaper, etc.  Isabelle called home from school crying after vomiting several times that morning.  Shawn left me with the two little kids and raced off to school to pick her up, Sprite and saltine crackers on the ready.  It was a busy, messy day.
So, I just stayed in my pajamas and embraced my crazy hair and wiped up all the bodily fluids and we got through it.  We set Isabelle up in bed with plenty of fluids and allowed her to watch as much Netflix as she wanted to.  Brees used all of her pent up energy to carry crackers and stuffed animals and any other request Belle had up and down the stairs.  "I take care of my Sissy!" she declared proudly.  And River, well, he just slept happily on his mama and I can't say that I minded one bit.  At some point during the day, we went outside for some fresh air and a little peace of mind.  Brees did some exploring in the back yard and River nursed on the porch while I drank my tea.  In my pajamas.  With messy hair.   And a whole lot of love.
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