Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Hey! Watch out for those milestones!"

Sometimes I look at my giant, cooing baby and think, "How on earth did this happen?"  He's amazing.  Beyond his sheer size (weighing in at over one stone, for you measurement fans out there) Walter has gained so much these 2 months.  He's more adept with his hands and more coherently communicative every day.  The milestones are whizzing by and we barely have a chance to note them before we're on to the next big "first."

Holy roller!
This week we had a big one. On Tuesday morning I put Walter down on his activity mat for some tummy time and he immediately rolled over onto his back.  We blinked at each other for a few seconds, shocked. "That had to have been a fluke," I thought. "I must have given him a little push."  I picked him up and put him on his tummy again, grabbing a nearby camera to catch some of his impressive head-lifting.  And then he rolled over again!  This time there was no mistaking it: he'd gone from flat on his belly, to lifted up on his arms, to lifted up on one arm, a little push from that arm and ta daaaaa ... on his back.  Neither of us could believe it.  I gushed effusive congratulations; Walter smiled a bit, puckered his lips and said "Oh!"

I knew exactly what he meant. "OK!  Time to eat!" And it was.   Very effectively communicative, this boy.

Walter holding his own burp rag. Helpful!
On Wednesday morning I gazed at him expectantly, waiting for the next milestone to drop. "Mama?" I whispered hopefully. No doing. He wouldn't roll over again, either, preferring to crumple into a heap and wail every time he was put on his belly.  "Too much pressure!" he cried.  Very communicative, like I said. I put him down on his back in his play yard for a moment, hoping he'd doze off for a bit.  I put a burp rag down next to him, at the ready for pre-nap spitting.  Then I watched as he very deliberately grabbed the rag, brought it to his mouth, and spit up onto it.  "What a smart baby!" I said, very pleased.  Then he put the wet part of the rag into his mouth and started to suck on it. "What a ... good baby," I said, grossed out. "It must be time to eat!" And it was.  That's how all my stories end, I'm noticing.  You don't get to weigh one stone by sleeping through meals!

Oh, sleeping.  Speaking of milestones, Walter started sleeping 5-7 hours a night very early on, with a few bad nights here and there of constant waking and eating.  Now the bad nights have become the norm, maybe from not being swaddled anymore, or that cold he's still getting over, or maybe another growth spurt, or all of the above, or something else entirely.  He hasn't told us what's going on. All I know is that I'm glad today is my day off from work and I'm wondering how Sean is going to function at all at work today (my guess: sleepily.)

Tomorrow is Sean's last day at work before 6 weeks of paternity leave.  He'll be getting Walt's room ready (where Walt will sleep independently through the night very soon.  Yes, he will!) and gradually introducing the little guy to daycare.  That means more hours at the office for me.  I'm glad and looking forward to it--being a pastor is has become a big part of my identity, a part I missed dearly during maternity leave.  Our pediatrician is a fan of daycare, too: good for socialization, development, immunity, etc. In some ways, it's hard to think about having so few waking hours with Walt each day, and to know that Sean and I will miss many of his next "firsts."  But, just as I'm sure he will roll over again (or, you know, skip right to walking) I'm sure we'll make good and loving use of the time we have together, continuing to be amazed by our Scooter.

Pictures (lots of them, great ones) from Christmas are posted here. And now I'm off to put the baby on his tummy again!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas, Walter!

Walt's first picture with Santa ... at church. =)
Dear Walter,

Today is your first Christmas. You are taking a snooze in your swing right now, holding onto one of your monkeys ("Minky") which is a new skill and helping you stay calm and cozy when you sleep.  This has been a wonderful day!

You didn't sleep very well last night ... your pediatrician says we can't swaddle you anymore because you're too strong and escape from your swaddler.  You have an excellent startle reflex that wakes you up, but holding onto a monkey (in this case, "Rumple") seems to help.  You're also getting over your first cold, which makes it hard for you to breathe sometimes.  Even though you've been sick this week you've been so good--giving us big smiles and singing Christmas songs with us (You do the backup singer "oooh" and "ahhh" parts.)


Walter and Minky
So, it was a busy night but not a bad night.  You ate every two hours but didn't do much fussing.  I think you were too excited to sleep for long, knowing that Christmas was coming.  I was too excited to sleep too--very energized by our Christmas Eve services at church.  You went to the 4:30 pm service with Daddy and Grandma Sue.  Grandma got to hold you and give you a bottle while we sang "Silent Night," which was a very special bonding moment for you and her.

Christmas morning started at 6 am with some momma milk and breakfast for the grownups (cereal and the leftover cinnamon buns from your 2 month birthday celebration.  Daddy revived the stale buns by frying them up with some butter.  Daddy knows how to do Christmas right!)

You were in a great mood all morning.  You slept on the way to church, woke up and got a bottle before the service started.  You seemed to really love the sound of the cello playing Christmas hymns. Your grandpa held you and you smiled at me during the service, which gave me the courage to give my first notes-free sermon (I dressed up as Mary and talked about the Christmas story from her point of view.  It was pretty fun and I felt like I could speak about birth with some more authority this year.)

When we got home you had a nice meal and fell asleep. The grownups ate a delicious lunch of creamed shrimp over pancakes (Daddy had his pancakes with butter and syrup instead.)  After a little nap for you and me it was time to open presents.  After a little snack you woke up bright eyed, alert, happy and very interested in everything going on. We got some great pictures, including pictures of us with pictures and looking at other pictures. You are already a very well-documented baby!

For Christmas this year you got two beautiful hats (big enough for your 90th percentile giant noggin!), books from Grandma and Grandpa Edison-Swift, new outfits (at two months old you are wearing 6 month old clothes!), some great furniture for your room from the Albrights, and toys for bath time and tummy time. You are very, very good at tummy time, lifting your head up high and rocking back and forth, trying to roll over.  You're also getting very good at grabbing things and putting them in your mouth.

2 month birthday (a sweet tradition!)
After some spittin' and fussin' (not too much of either, thankfully) you are taking a lovely Christmas snooze (let's make that an annual tradition!)  What a day!  What a week!  You celebrated your 2 month birthday on Thursday and got your first vaccines on Friday.  You were very brave for your shots and stopped crying as soon as Daddy picked you up and I nursed you. Your Grandpa Paul has been with us most of the week, helping us take care of you through your cold.  You love to put your head down on Grandpa's chest, listening to his voice and his heartbeat until you fall asleep.

We are very proud of you, Scooter.  We love watching you grow and change and take more and more delight and interest in the world around you.  Here are some of the things you love to do these days:
**Smile real smiles, absolutely beaming when you're happy
**Grabbing, especially with your right hand
**Spitting up your milk (ick! But it does make you smile. You smile very big when we clean your face with a soft burp rag.)
**Lifting your legs to help us on the changing table (very helpful!)
**Lifting your arms to be burped after meals
**Intentional snuggling, not just passing out after meals.  You get all cozy with us, especially with Grandpa Paul.

Merry Christmas, Walter Paul!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

How many bodily functions can I mention in one blog post

As an early effort in my never-ending quest to embarrass my son, I give you this story:

I'm back at work in the afternoons, which is wonderful but means I have to wear clothes again and shower occasionally.  This morning I found myself alone with Walter and in need of a shower ... it was new and uncharted territory, but I decided I'd look for an opportunity and give it a try.

Walter fell asleep after eating, but I wasn't sure I should move/wake him, so we snuggled in the chair for an hour or so.  I'm pretty reluctant to wake him when he's sleeping.  Finally my need to use the restroom and his early signs of wakefulness convinced me: it was time to move him to the bassinet so Mom could have a bathroom break.  I was sure his eyes would fly open, and for a moment, they did ... and then he looked around, yawned, and went back to sleep.  I stared at him in disbelief, wasting precious bathroom break moments. I went to the bathroom, came back to the bassinet, and stared at him some more.  Still sleeping!  This was my opportunity: shower time was a go.

The downstairs bathroom is on the same floor as the bassinet but not within sight distance ... and yet I found myself keeping the lights off so I wouldn't wake the baby.  I also kept the door open so I could hear him, which would have required extra strong baby lungs indeed.  I showered faster than I've ever showered in my life, including the cold-bucket-of-rainwater shower I took in El Salvador.  Very speedy.  I threw on some undies, a clean bra and robe and ran (quietly) to the bassinet.

There was Walter, eyes open, staring happily at his mobile.  "Oh what a good baby!" I said. He gave me a big smile and said "Ooooh!" (Walter has a very advanced vocabulary of noises.  "Ooooh" is generally a content, chatty noise.  A British sounding "Ow" indicates desire (to play, to eat, etc.) "Eeeeeee" is either the sound of our teakettle boiling or Walter working his way into some serious anger.  "Ah" (as in apple) is indignant, "Eh" is frustrated, "Oh" is disappointment. Etc.)

We smiled at each other for moment before I scooped him up.  And at that moment, a fountain of spit up emerged from Walter's mouth while he simultaneously pooped with such force and volume that it exploded out of his diaper and up his back.  "Ohhhh," I said.  "Good baby."

We cheerfully made our way to the changing table.  I took off his diaper, which was Walt's cue to tinkle.  And then poop.  And then poop some more.  And then some more.  Seriously.  This went on for a long time.  At the end of it, Walter looked up at me with some concern.  I could tell he was looking for a reaction.  I smiled big: "What a good, good baby! Good job Walter!"  He smiled right back at me.  I glanced down at my bra.  Oh boy.  "And guess what time it is?  Lunch time!" Walter smiled.  "Ooooh!" he said.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What's the fuss?

It's funny the things babies are born knowing and what they have to learn. It's not what you'd expect. Number one and two on the list are, conveniently, #1 and #2 -- peeing and pooping. (Some of them even get a head start on these.) The ultrasound showed that Walt had a head start on sucking his thumb, although he's had some trouble adapting his technique ex utero.

There are the things that seem obvious: Nursing. Well, really, sucking & swallowing; nursing is a bit of a refinement of those concepts that can take some time and practice, as Annie and Walt will attest. Breathing and crying -- even these seemed to need a jump start in the delivery room. Walt has since taken to them like a fish to his/her bicycle.

Then, the surprises. Walt's? Precocious neck control. Delightful, unabashed smiles. A magician's understanding of misdirection.

You see, when Walt starts fussing, my go-to response (after the lullabye) is a diaper check. Invariably wet. Inevitably frustrated by his time on the changing table. So, we continue down the list... singing gives way to rocking, rocking gives way to walking, walking to bouncing, bouncing to swaddling, and just when I think I've exhausted my repertoire, I think, "Couldn't be the diaper, right?" But I check anyway... e voilĂ ! Delightful smile, enthusiastic applause.

As for swaddling, early on we had some real success with Happiest Baby on the Block, particularly that sort of cantilevered, wiggling side-hold. We'd swaddle Walt up, cradle his head, give a long shush and a gentle wiggle, and he'd be a zen master. But the change in his demeanor was spookily abrupt -- stop shushing to catch your breath and he'd pick right back up yowling where he left off. I often wondered if the "calming reflex" was only physical; if somewhere, locked into that little swaddled body, the real Walt was still silently raging against the 1%. At any rate, he seems to have outgrown the position, but we still swaddle to counteract his startle reflex, and he likes a modified side/colic-hold before bed to settle his stomach, so I feel like it's served all of us well.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

By any other name

Our baby started out with one nickname: Scooter.  He got that nickname very early on, in the very early morning when I woke up, compulsively took yet another home pregnancy test, got a positive result, and crept back into bed with Sean saying: "We're going to have a little Scooter!"  It's a good nickname indeed.  

Now that the Scooter has arrived, however, the nicknames are proliferating. We pretty much call him anything that comes into our heads in the moment. Here's a short list of the current favorites (feel free to add "little" before all of these for maximum cuteness):

Check out that monkey butt!
Pumpkin
Babydoll
Monkey Butt
Pooper
Bean
Snookie (Don't judge me.  It just comes out. I won't let reality TV ruin a perfectly good nickname!)
Sweetheart
Squeaker

Some of these are rather specific to infant Walter and I imagine will not continue to be used beyond a certain age.  We got a hearty chuckle, though, out of imagining Grandma Sue meeting Walt's prom date at the door saying, "Oh! Are you here for Monkey Butt?"

Another example of pre and post birth differences in our lives: you may recall that I wrote a beautiful lullaby for Walter.  This lullaby turns out to be completely useless, because I can't sing it without crying. Like, can't get through the first two words.  It sums up all my love for this little guy so perfectly and that's a little too much for me at 2 am.  So, what do we sing while rocking Walt to sleep? Lots of things. We tend to prefer bluegrass, although Walt really seems to dig the "Ta oomba oomba oomba whoa-oh-oh" part of Paul Simon's song "African Skies" (oh the Graceland album!  Baby likes good music!) The best, though, is a cowboy ballad Sean composed for Walt one of his first nights home from the hospital.  It goes like this:

Hey little Walter
Hey little Walter
Why do you fuss do you fuss up a storm?
Hey little Walter
Hey little Walter
You've fussed and you've fussed since the day you was born.

You fuss and you fight and you fight and you fuss
If you could speak well I think you would cuss
You fight and you fuss and you fuss and you fight
If you had teeth well I think you would bite

(Repeat chorus)

This lullaby is much more fun and appropriate for late night singing.  Speaking of sleeping Walter ... he's sleeping again!  The boy took my challenge to make me a liar and ran with it (well ... snoozed with it.)  He had a great nap yesterday afternoon and did pretty well last night, too.  Now he and Grandpa are asleep in the guest room and both snoring quite contentedly.  

A good day. =)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

One month later

"He's still a precious little pumpkin, you know," said Grandpa Paul, getting teary.  

I know exactly what he means, and I'm quite familiar with that persistent wet feeling on my face.  There's been a lot of crying this first month of Walter Paul's life--happy crying, overwhelmed crying, crying at any love song with the word "baby" in it.  The adults in Walt's life are kind of a weepy bunch.  We're a little tired, you know.  And we are in love.

The rarely-seen napping Walter, age 1 month
Crying is also something Walt himself has been doing a lot of ... and by crying I mean screaming ... and by screaming I mean SCREAMING.  I hate to say it but it must be said: colic.  Like mother, like son.  Although, from my mom's stories, I think Walter is managing to be more charming than I was during my colicky times.  As Grandpa noted, he's still a pretty precious little pumpkin.  He's just also an angry little pumpkin who doesn't want to sleep.  (To make me a liar, Walter seems to be sleeping in his bed like a sweet baby right at this very moment.  Make me a liar, Walt.  Go for it!)

Even with the colic to consider, chief among the family criers is me, the Mommy. I'm a little frustrated with my body and it's issues.  Namely, blood that's not supposed to be there in that color and amount and yet is there, and keeps being there day after day.  Doctor M's orders: push fluids, get lots of rest, feet up, no lifting anything.  These orders are familiar from my bedrest during the pregnancy, but now they're a little more difficult to follow.  Not because I can't follow them ... once again, my family has come through and I don't have to lift a thing this week.  It's difficult because I desperately want to lift that baby.  I want to comfort him when he's screaming, I want to be able to offer him love and attention beyond feeding him, which is all I'm really good for right now.  But I'm very grateful that I can feed him, and I'm grateful for my mom and dad and Sean, with their sore arms and their stiff backs and their seemingly endless love and patience for both me and Walt. 

I wish this was a more upbeat update--if it had been written last week, it surely would have been a different story.  But that seems to be how it goes ... good days and bad days.  If we waited for it to be only good days, for that neat ending where we have it all figured out, we'd never write again.  And I do want to keep writing and recording the good, the bad, and the weepy.  

Some of my favorite things about Walt these days: 
**The way he looks after he's been nursing.  He makes funny little old man faces and does big stretches with his arms.  I put him up on my shoulder to burp him and he holds on like he's giving me a hug. 
**Awake and alert times when he's just happy to look around at the world, giving big charming smiles to me or whoever is with him, or even more often to the ceiling, which is fascinating.
**How persistent he is at trying to do things beyond what his body is really supposed to be able to do at this point ... lift his head, move around independently, use his hands.  Walter is strong and wants to move and groove with the rest of us.
**The way he smiles and sometimes even laughs in his sleep.
**The impact he has on the people who love him ... the way he's made me a mommy, and Sean a daddy, and grandparents of my parents, and a tireless protector out of Hank the dog.  Oh, Hank.  The way he barks at everything that passes our door is maybe a little much, but the way he checks in on the baby and gives him kisses on his head and feet is pretty wonderful. 

This naptime of Walt's is really sticking, so I'd better go join him.  Sleep when the baby sleeps!

Happy one month birthday, Scooter.  We love you more than even our tears can tell. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Overdue

More pics at flickr.

We are overdue for an update, indeed!

Through facebook and email and carrier pigeon we sent out the word: Walt was born at 12:35 pm on October 22, 2011.  He weighed 9 lbs 14 oz and was 22 inches tall.  Sean's announcement--written in the days leading up to the birth, so we'd be ready to send it out quickly--included the standard birth announcement phrase, "Mom and baby are doing great."

In truth, Mom wasn't doing so great, but we weren't sure how to communicate that.  The story kept changing before we could tell it.  As my health improved we got more and more busy with the wonderful job of being parents.  At this moment, Walt is (somewhat tenuously) asleep, I am relatively well-rested, and it seems like a good moment to grab and catch up with our story-in-progress.

On Thursday, October 20 Sean took the morning off of work to take me for a non-stress test and an ultrasound.  The non-stress test looked great and revealed that I was having contractions.  This was quite a reveal, since I couldn't feel the contractions at all.  An impromptu cervical exam showed no progress on that end.  We'd been looking forward to the ultrasound--getting another little peek at his face--but no doing.  Baby was too smushed to get any kind of good picture, and a try with the 3D ultrasound wand showed some psychadelic patterns but no face ... not enough amniotic fluid for it to work.  We headed off to Erma Bombeck's for a delicious lunch (in lieu of pie, a pumpkin roll with cream cheese frosting. Seasonal and festive!)

We got me home and tucked into bed for an afternoon nap; Sean went to work.  Around 2:30 pm I got a call from Nurse B.: my amniotic fluid amount was too low (2.5 % vs. the preferred 5%).

Sean here now -- Annie's breastfeeding...
So, around 2:25 at work, I get a call from Nurse B., looking for Annie.  Her voice sounds a bit strained, "Sean... I'm trying to... get ahold of Annie... I just called her cell, and didn't get an answer.  Is she... with... you?  No?  Can... you... have her get in touch with me... right away.  I'll give you my DIRECT LINE."  Two distinct impressions were conveyed:  1.  She was in the middle of a HIPAA compliance audit.  2.  Something was wrong.

My smartphone has too many ways to send a message to keep straight exactly how I've been communicating with someone recently.  Chat, text message, google voice text message, skype chat, email -- not to mention actual phone calls.  When I couldn't get her on the phone, all of them were employed in conveying that number to Annie.  Then I set a mental timer for 5 minutes, at which point I would get in my car and speed home.  At 4 minutes, 37 seconds, Annie called me, crying.  "We have to go back to the hospital."  I got in my car and sped home.

(Annie here, again.  Sean is heating up spag pie for lunch.  Walt is chillin' in his rainforest bouncer. My folks just headed home, and Hank is saying "It's not too late!  They're still in the driveway! Stop them!" My dad stayed with us and did the majority of the Walt care our first week home from the hospital.  Can't imagine we would have made it without Magic Grandpa!)

As instructed, we went straight to the Family Birth Center to start the induction. Even though Walt was almost a week late, we'd been hoping to avoid induced labor.  It tends to cause much harder, more painful contractions. My first doctor estimated my chance of needing a c-section as "greater than 50%"  We'd been hoping to avoid that, too, since 2 major abdominal surgeries is already plenty.  I thought to myself, "If I'm certain to have a c-section, why go through labor?" But I didn't say it out loud until later.

When I say "my first doctor" I mean the first of 4 on-call docs I saw during my stay.  Dr. M was on vacation. The docs I saw were not exactly on the same page.  One thought Walt was doing great--no need to rush, I was progressing slowly but I was progressing.  Another thought Walt's numbers were lousy and that I never had any chance of progressing enough for vaginal delivery.

But Thursday night we were feeling hopeful and excited.  My parents drove right up and brought a pumpkin bag full of Halloween candy, which was a hit with the staff.

(All this talk of candy has piqued Walt's appetite -- Sean again.)
Not knowing the exact course things would take, we held off sending out a general announcement, and just filled in our folks.  Anyway, Thursday night, we started in with the gentle approach to induction, with some medicine (Cervidil) to help get the cervix onboard with the idea that Walt's birthday was imminent.  Honestly, Thursday night was a lot of hope and not a lot of action.  We got settled into Annie's room -- a huge suite  compared to most hospital rooms, well appointed, little fold-down couch for me -- ordered Annie some room service from the cafeteria, and enjoyed the anticipation and jello, although Annie's heartburn was still acting up then (add that to one of the immediate blessings of Walter's birth -- heartburn relief, for both of us!)

So listen, we could give you a blow by blow of each of the 42 hours of Annie's labor, followed by her c-section and complications (and the twenty-seven eight-by-ten color glossy pictures with the circles and the arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was) and it might convey the experience.  But I suspect it would really just take something that was overwhelmingly emotional, that absolutely smashed us and built us back up as something new, and turn it into something really kind of tedious for you to read.  The brass tacks: Annie's labor progressed slowly, but steadily, with the help of cervidil, cytotec, and pitosin, but stalled out at 7cm.  C-section went smoothly, delivering our beautiful, healthy son, but Annie's blood pressure crashed immediately afterward.  They stabilized her quickly, and she was breastfeeding (sort of -- she and Walt had a lot to learn still) even as they were administering oxygen.  That same fortitude was tested by a variety of complications over the next several days -- decreased kidney function (particularly terrifying since she only has the one kidney), gi problems exacerbated by her lack of mobility, bladder infection.  But now we're home, resting, recovering, occasionally entertaining visitors, but mostly discovering this new permutation of the Edison-Albright family.

Annie here again, several days later, and grateful that Sean summed it all up ... this is not an easy story for us to tell, but we're figuring it out together (we're figuring A LOT out together!)

Some highlights of the Walt labor and delivery experience:
** Singing through my contractions with Sean, the best labor coach ever.
** Mom leading silent prayer with us before the surgery; feeling God's love flow so powerfully from her hand on my forehead ... knowing it would be OK.
** Seeing Walt for the first time ... so big! Unbelievable how real he is.
** The first time Walter latched really well while nursing.  I thought, "Yes! We can do this!"

I hear a little Walter squeak from the living room, where he's asleep on Sean's chest.  Going to go investigate. Any other highlights/thoughts, Sean?

Sean:
I know what Annie means about him being so real... he's nothing like I imagined, I could never have imagined the reality.

Grandma and Grandpa E-S' help these past few weeks has been absolutely essential.  As have some delicious casseroles from Redeemer friends.

Speaking of friends, we're not venturing out into the storm and snow all that much yet, but we'd love visitors or conversation, so just give us a call if you're interested.

Now let's put this baby to bed.  Metaphorically.  Walt's still eating second supper.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

And a bloody good show it is, too

Progress!  I am in the process of losing my mucous plug.  This is also called "bloody show," yet another fine example of a pregnancy thing horribly named (but, in this case, the name is pretty accurate. Ick.)
What does this mean?  Not much in terms of our timeline.  Loss of the mucous plug could mean labor starts in a few hours or in a few weeks.  It does mean that my cervix is softening and opening, trying to prove that it is not an over-functioning, Type A cervix as some people have suggested, thank you very much.
There'd been some talk of induction today, but that plan changed due the apparent good health of mom and baby.  If Walt doesn't arrive tonight we'll head back to the hospital again tomorrow for some tests to confirm that good health: an ultrasound and a non-stress test.  Sean thinks "non-stress test" has to be the greatest name for a medical test, ever. "For this exam, we are going to make sure you are very comfortable and happy.  May we offer you another pillow? You'll notice that we have very good cable TV, here ... enjoy!" (That's actually exactly how the test goes.)
We'll keep you posted with the postings as much as possible. Thanks to all for your prayers!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Everything is Broken

Bob Dylan's classic 1989 track "Everything is Broken" is a powerful meditation on the seemingly futile case for hope in a world increasingly yielding to chaos. With deft timing and pitch-perfect characterization, "Everything" draws the listener into a journey of the spirit, as the forces of entropy unreel against -- or only amidst? -- its protagonists. Juxtaposed against the approaching birth of their first child, the casual decay of the environment around them is revealed first in a sick dog, a dead ceiling fan, then the failure of a lovingly and meticulously stocked refrigerator/freezer, the appearance of a defective nursery furniture part, the odor of a dead mouse in their Toyota Yaris.

Oh, dear. As it turns out, this is not, in fact, Bob Dylan's classic 1989 track "Everything is Broken," but actually Annie and my life over week 39 of this pregnancy. In truth, I don't believe I've ever heard it, and have absolutely no knowledge of the lyrics or tune -- all due apologies to Bob -- I've just felt inspired by his choice of title these past few days, as all of the above actually did happen to us. Fear not -- Hank's back to his old tricks, replacement parts are winging their way to us as we speak, some already installed, and a feast of salvaged pork chops and fried chicken is a challenge to which we gladly acquiesce.

Throughout all of this, though, one thing has remained resilient -- Annie's cervix.

There is a terribly sad and terribly named condition called "Incompetent Cervix" -- I learned this in my reading -- in which the cervix "ripens," or becomes yielding, early in the pregnancy and the child is delivered too soon. As it turns out, in pregnancy, as in all things, Annie has proven to be hyper-competent, her cervix unflagging in its duty to guard passage to the womb. You can imagine that what was a comfort and a blessing throughout most of the pregnancy has become a bit frustrating to Annie in these later weeks, when we want things to begin moving along. And, given enough time, this too could become medically dangerous. Well, I'm happy to report that today, on Walter's official due date, Dr. M announced the first indications that Annie's cervix was open to negotiations. So, while induction is still on the table, particularly if the cervix remains reticent, this was a bit of happy news.

Thermodynamics informs us that with the passage of time comes the introduction of chaos. We've been passing time long enough -- we're ready for our introduction.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Monday, October 3, 2011

Are we there yet? No, we are not.

Last week, it seemed like maybe Walt would arrive any minute now.  This week, I am thinking he's just going to hang out in there for a couple weeks more.  Motherly intuition?  No, this is based on what I learned at our birthing class on Saturday and at my regular check up today.

From here I can easily direct all nesting efforts.
Here are some signs of immanent labor and how I measure up:

  • Nesting: A burst of energy combined with an irresistible compulsion to clean and ready the house for baby.  Does it count if I arrange for other people to do this cleaning and readying?  And, you know, kind of direct the nesting from my bed?
  • Lower back pain: I've got this one!  But not as a sign of labor progress, sadly, just as a sign that I should have been more careful trying out those laboring positions in birthing class.  Dr. M says, "Your round ligaments are stretched just as far as they can be.  So when you bend, they're going to tell you 'Ow! Stop that!'"  I am getting that message, yes.
  • Practice contractions, which turn into real, time-able contractions: Nary a Braxton nor a Hicks to be found here.  Not even a little one.  
  • The bag of waters breaks: Heh. Bag of Waters.  I think there's a town with that name somewhere near here. Good old Bag of Waters, Wisconsin. Has a great Octoberfest! 
  • Flu-like symptoms (diarrhea, vomiting): Like the lower back pain, any recent experience I've had with this has been entirely due to poor choices on my part. ("I will have a mushroom and swiss burger and a pumpkin shake, please! Make it a double!")
  • Cervical pain and pressure: Yes!  For the past few months!  Does that count?
  • Cervical ripening: What a delightful image for this harvest time of year. My exam today revealed none of it--no effacement, no dilation, nothing.  The exam, while painful, was not as bad as last week's.  I used breathing techniques from the birthing class, namely the classic technique: "Remember to Breathe!" 
  • The baby "drops" or The Lightening: Not sure which one of those descriptors is more disturbing.  I'm going to go with The Lightening for it's Stephen King-esque qualities. This may actually have happened sometime last night.  I didn't have any heartburn during the night and slept well (other than the many trips to the bathroom.  "Ow! Stop that!" says my back.  "YOU stop that! I have needs!" says my bladder.)  I woke up this morning without any heartburn and with more space between belly and bosom than I remembered.  Also, I can breathe now without having to raise my arms above my head. These are all good signs ... that the baby is coming sometime in the next two weeks or so.  
I'm going to see how tonight goes before I commit to the idea that this baby has dropped ... he may just be messing with me, trying to see how much he can get me to eat before popping his little feet back up again and kicking me right in the stomach.  Hmmm, that sounds pretty adversarial and paranoid on my part.  I've heard that's a good sign of impending labor!

Friday, September 30, 2011

TTBOOK At Them

Dipping back into the dim and dusty archives of the second trimester here for a post I never quite pulled the trigger on at the time, that seems only to have grown more convincing to me in the weeks since.

Heading over the river and through the woods this past weekend, we happened to catch a full episode of Wisconsin Public Radio's own TTBOOK (To the Best of Our Knowledge, for those of you outside the cheddar belt). The theme of the day: "Does the Soul Still Matter?" We thought this was a particularly germane topic, as:

1. We'd just come from church, Annie is a pastor, and (I believe) we have souls, and
2. Host Jim Fleming's restrained, dispassionate baritone always conjures the spectre of a world-weary man who's born witness to the manifold horrors of a lifetime in radio journalism and come out the other side with soul slightly tattered.

They hooked us with soundbites from The Simpson's, but we weren't terribly moved by anything else on offer -- mostly unsurprising or calculatedly radical opinions from philosophers, writers, scientists, theologians. Oxford theologian Keith Ward's expansive, generous application of the soul was intriguing, at least. I don't recall all the details, but Ward's premise was that the soul is essentially homologous to consciousness, which I think falls pretty closely in line with popular opinion. (Okay, body/soul duality is way outside my field of study, so treading lightly here.) We owe a lot of our ideas about the soul as pristine, transcendent spirit and the body as clumsy, earthy conveyance to the ancient Greeks. It's a line of thinking that plays a hand in the modern concept of an incorporeal, ethereal heaven (despite some fairly direct Jewish and Christian scripture and tradition on the resurrection of the body.)

The dichotomy is easy to believe -- all our greatest works as a species seem to be those of intellect, of spirit, of consciousness. Symphonies, theories, ideals. Sure, sometimes fabricated by our bodies as a necessity of the physical world, but still beautiful and perfect in the realm of ideas. And the body's uninspired output is mostly, to be blunt, crap.

But I've been rethinking that.

Because this little guy that's coming, who is becoming more and more tangibly apparent, is an endeavor orchestrated and constructed by the body, to plans influenced only the slimmest wisp by our conscious will. And I think that if you believe that is a miracle, then you have to consider that the soul is embodied in a way that exceeds simple passengerhood.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The word this week from Dr. M

"It could happen any day now. Get that suitcase packed."

More motivating words have never been spoken. Suitcase: packed. (Or rather, it will be packed as soon as Sean gets back from picking up a few last supplies tonight.  Suitcase: very close to packed!)

A glimpse into our suitcase:
More clothes than I probably need
An absolutely adorable newborn outfit, with hat, decorated with puppies; seems impossibly small
Microwave popcorn for Sean (because we want to drive everyone on the unit absolutely crazy in the way only the smell of popcorn can.  Other option considered: bacon.)
Sean's hat
Sock full of tennis balls for back massage (Hank: "I cannot believe that is not a toy for me.  It simply must be a toy for me.  You people are so misguided sometimes.")
Lip goop
A deck of cards (can anyone say, "most stressful game of Mao in the history of the world?")
Werther's Original hard candies
Make up.  Don't laugh.  It was on the Mayo Clinic Guide list.

And a bunch of other stuff, too.

I've got a bit of whiplash from this sudden change in my doctor's attitude (last week: "stay put, baby"; this week: "let's get that baby out NOW!)  As glad as I am and as much as I want to meet Walt sooner rather than later (me: "Is there ANYTHING I can do about this heartburn? I can't eat or sleep!" doc: "You can have the baby.") I'm still hoping for a couple more days at least.  Tomorrow is my last confirmation class before maternity leave.  Thursday is my last day in the office, and Thursday evening Sean and I are scheduled for a photo shoot featuring my enormous belly.  Saturday is our day-long birthing class (and I don't care what anyone says, I want that class! I need information, people.  I need methods and practices that I can then choose to ignore!)

Also, I'd like a quiet day or two to write thank you notes.

I know I'm on Walter time, though.  And that part isn't as scary as I thought it would be.  We'll be ready when he's ready.

What's keeping me up at night (other than the heartburn) is that we're so close, and I still can't believe we might actually get to have a baby.  I'm still afraid that we won't, that something will go terribly wrong. Praying helps, talking about it helps, but it's a nagging, persistent fear.

I live for the quiet moments I get with Walt, still moving around like a champ even though it's increasingly tight and crowded in there. I love the hiccups, the gentle elbowing, the not-so-gentle kicks to the ribs.  "See, Mom?" he seems to say, "I'm OK.  I'm your Scooter!"

Thank you for your ongoing prayers, love and support!  We'll try keep y'all posted and keep the posts coming in these coming days.  If you have a suggestion for the suitcase, please send it our way!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ready or not ...

It was just a matter of time.  The early signs have all been there these last few weeks: more comments on my belly size, more strangers smiling at me.  But today, we crossed a threshold.  It wasn't anything concrete, nothing tangible, but in the eyes of my congregation members I could see it clear as day:

"Oh my goodness.  Our pastor is going to have that baby right now, isn't she?"

I'm pleased to report that we made it through both services without any sitcom-worthy moments (on some level, this is disappointing to Sean, but on most levels he's as relieved as the rest of us.)  We've definitely entered new territory, though.  I call it BabyComingAnyMinuteNowAndWeAreWoefullyUnprepared Land.

The doc calls it 36 weeks, and my Mayo Clinic guide tells me that Walt could be safely born now, but to hope for a few more weeks for the sake of his health and wellbeing.  I didn't think I'd be saying this, but I'm hoping for more than a few more weeks.  Yes, of course, for the baby.  But also for some more time for me and Sean ... we need to pack a suitcase, people.  We need to set up a crib and have our emergency contact numbers handy. We need to make sure Sean's special labor hat is in the car and ready to go.

You may be wondering why we've let ourselves reach this point without being better prepared.  At 9 months in we really can't claim to be surprised. ("What?! We're having a baby?  No way!")

Some of our unpreparedness is due to physical limitations: I underestimated my 3rd trimester uselessness by quite a lot and Sean's been shouldering almost all our day-to-day life stuff. He's got good shoulders for it, but he's also been getting migraines.  This is new for Sean and, frankly, scary.  I know from personal experience that it might be a long time before Sean and his neurologist find a way to manage these debilitating headaches.  On the (kind of) bright side, taking care of Sean has given me opportunities to feel a little less useless.  And, evidently, my forehead kisses are magical, which should come in handy in the long run for us.

We are praying like crazy for healing.  It's hard not to feel like it's just not fair ... we should both be healthier than we are ... we need to be at our best!  But part of me knows that "at our best" is mostly mythological when it comes to parenting.  We will give everything we have and probably be surprised at the secret stores of energy, health and love we come up with in the most difficult moments.  I've found some of that surprising energy in the last week or so.  That's something to give thanks for, and to pray for, too.

After church today I said a goodbye-for-now to Kate and her baby daughter Mia, who are heading home to Mexico.  I baptized Mia a few months ago (my first baptism as a pastor) and have loved looking out and seeing that beautiful baby girl dancing with her mom and grandma during church.  Today Kate said, "I'll bet everyone is asking you if you're ready.  You're not ready are you?" I shook my head, no. "Good.  That's fine.  No one is ever ready."

It was exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right time.  We are not as ready as we'd like to be for Walt's arrival.  Even if we make it to 40 weeks (or beyond) we won't be completely ready.  But we are ready and excited to meet our baby boy, whenever the time is right for him.

Countdown to maternity leave has begun in earnest, which means this month has been extra busy at work.  I'm hoping to catch up on some good baby blogging soon, though ... there have been fun things to report on, like a baby shower and child birth classes.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

For the record

I haven't been feeling so great.  Today I decided to consult my old pal, the Mayo Clinic Guide to Pregnancy, to find out if what I'm feeling is normal bad or bad bad.  Going to the guide is always a bit risky.  It can be a source of great reassurance or utter terror.

Today, reassurance.  It turns out that all my symptoms point clearly to one thing: pregnancy.  I am definitely pregnant.

A favorite quote from the section I read today: "You may feel as if your legs are becoming detached from the rest of your body--for the record, they're not."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Registered!

We're registered at Target, Babies R Us, and Walmart. Last name, Edison-Albright.  First name, Anne or Sean. We've got a nautical theme going, but the bed linens also feature monkeys and whales, so there are options. =) Gift cards are definitely welcome!  We hope to use those to chip away at some of the higher priced items (nursery furniture, lifetime supply of diapers, baby personal jet, baby caviar, etc.)

The process of registering was both more fun and more overwhelming than I expected.  The fun part: going to the stores and having Sean push me up and down the aisles in a wheel chair while I wielded my registry gun with deadly accuracy.  (Cue Western music, sound of spurs jingling, sound of wheelchair getting stuck in Target's less-than-spacious aisles.) The overwhelming part: there seem to be 20 distinct products with names that are all variations on "mattress pad."  Why are there so many different kinds of pads for babies to lie down on?  Do we need one of each?  Ten of each?

Friends gave excellent advice via facebook and gave me the inspiration I needed to get into nesting mode. On one hand, stuff is just stuff, and not the main event at all.  On the other hand, stuff can be awfully useful. We're grateful for all the gifts, tangible and intangible, registered and otherwise, that we're receiving these days. My favorite gift today was couch time with Walt and Hank the Dog: Hank nuzzelled the belly; Walter kicked Hank; I got to cuddle both dog and baby.  Better than any baby caviar money can buy!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Lullaby

We're well into the third trimester, the trimester in which we are all very sleepy, all the time.  Sean is sleepy because he's doing all the household upkeep by himself.  I am sleepy because I'm 32 weeks pregnant.  Hank the Dog is sleepy because he's bored out of his mind. He wakes up every hour or so and checks to make sure I'm still breathing.  Once satisfied, he goes back to sleep.

You know who isn't sleepy?  Walter Paul.  This baby is all about the moving and the shaking.  So, I wrote him a lullaby.

It goes like this:

Walter, Walter go to sleep
May your dreams be always sweet
God loves you and we do too
Walter, Walter through and through

Walter, Walter you are loved
By friends on earth and friends above
Love surrounds you everyday
And when you sleep, in love you stay

Walter, you're our precious boy
And you bring us so much joy
Tomorrow is another day
To learn and work and grow and play

Walter, Walter go to sleep
May your dreams be always sweet
God loves you and we do too
Walter, Walter through and through 

It's going to be a very lovely and effective lullaby if I can ever get through it without crying. I love this kid a whole, whole bunch. Singing him his lullaby reminds me of all the times my mom sang me to sleep (when I was little, and then sometimes when I was not-so-little anymore.)  I remember the day she told me that she wrote my lullaby for me.  I was amazed.  I was a little skeptical.  "Really?" I asked.  "You wrote the words and the tune and everything?  How did you do it?"  She responded that it wasn't really that hard to do.  It all just came to her.

I remained skeptical.  I tried to write my own lullaby that very night (I must have been 15 or so.)  Nothing doing. I worried that I would be a complete failure as a mother.  Surely my creativity was not going to improve with age.  Where would I get a lullaby?

It turns out that my mom was right.  Once inspired, it's not really that hard to do.  One afternoon I laid down for a rest and got kicked extra hard in an already-sore spot.  I wondered if singing might help.  I started thinking about all the things I wanted to say to Walter in that moment: I love you. God loves you. The whole communion of saints, on earth and in heaven, loves you. And for the love of all things holy, stop kicking me so hard.

The tune and the words came easily from there.  Sean joked that we're never going to remember all the verses.  My mom thinks we will--and we will probably come up with more.  Sometimes babies really, really don't feel like sleeping.  

There's a lot of love in a lullaby that's written just for you.  Not some hypothetical, platonic ideal of love: love inspired by real events, like sleepless nights and cranky days.  When I sing Mom's lullaby now--my lullaby--I think about those real life events, and I'm even more grateful than before (and that's very grateful, indeed.)

Here's baby Annie's lullaby, written and composed by Sue Edison-Swift, inspired by real events.  It's called Tukka Vessa Dokka ... Norwegian-sounding nonsense words, but Dokka means "Dolly" and was what my mom's dad used to call her.

Tukka Vessa Dokka
Annie's getting sleepy
Annie's getting tiah
Now's the time for bye-ah
It has been a busy day
Now let's settle down
Now's the time to dream sweet dreams and put away all frown

Tukka Vessa Dokka
You're our little Annie
And we love you dearly
'Cuz you're part of the family
And we think you're wonderful
And we think you're smart
And we know you've come in the very middle of our heart

Hank the Dog is snoring on the couch.  Sean is upstairs catching a much-needed Sunday Afternoon Clergy Spouse Nap (not as famous a phenomenon as the Sunday Afternoon Clergy Nap, but just as real.)  Walter is kicking me again, but gently.  We are a sleepy family, but we are well, and we are loved. Tomorrow is another day to learn and work and grow and play. 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Quick update before early bedtime

There will be more.  Oh yes, there will be more. But, for now:
  • Michigan was awesome. (Obligatory song reference: "Michigan seems like a dream to me now.")  We got to meet Henson puppeteer Kevin Clash.  Walt got to meet Elmo.  Walt kicked Elmo so hard that Kevin Clash could feel it and was rather alarmed.  It was probably the best moment in our Muppet-loving lives, ever.  I'm planning on writing the definitive review of the film Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey sometime soon.   
  • I did OK this week. On Thursday I hit a wall and was good for absolutely nothing but sleeping and whimpering.  "Don't do that too much," said Sean.  "Walter will get used to it." (Meaning the whimpering.) There is so, so much more whimpering to come. I am sure of it. 
  • My feet are capable of achieving enormous sizes beyond my wildest dreams.
  • Today was my first day back leading worship after two weeks away.  I found ways to sit down for most of the service, but I still had bleeding during worship. Not sure what to do about this. It wasn't a scary amount and it stopped right away.  Strategizing for working through the next 3 months is underway.  
  • I am learning all about help and how much I need it (lots and lots.)  I've always thought I was pretty good at knowing when I need help and asking for it, but this is getting hard. It is good indeed that God's grace is free and unconditional.
  • Next appointment is on Wednesday; glucose tolerance test and a follow up with Dr. M.  Praying and praying for no positive on the glucose test.  Trying to cut down on sugar but it really is the only thing in the whole world my body wants.  Praying that's not a bad sign, gestational diabetes-wise.
It's 9 pm!  The puppy is in his crate, so it must be time for me to go to mine.  Getting to sleep takes some time and effort, these days.  One of the reasons is heartburn, which is no fun.  The other reason is Walter Paul, who moves so much and is so big that my entire belly moves with him, ala that scene in Alien.  It is creepy and wonderful at the same time.  Mostly wonderful.  Off to enjoy some baby gymnastics and some much-needed sleep!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Update from the recently bed rested

I'm learning all sorts of things about pregnancy.  For example: Walter is about 15 inches tall right now, or about one inch taller than a Ken doll.  Neat!  Also: scheduling the my most busy week in recent memory for the week that Sean is out of town at a training is a surefire way to land in the hospital.  Who knew?

Here's the thing: I'm not totally stupid.  I was getting 12 hours of sleep a night, trying to offset some of the busy-ness during the day.  As soon as I got home each night I put my feet up.  I had a killer, 3 day-long charlie horse that made me all achy and limpy, so I tried to walk it out as much as possible. Which meant I was on my feet quite a bit, limping about.

I blame the charlie horse.

On Friday evening I noticed some bleeding.  It was a little heavier than the spotting I've had throughout my pregnancy, but I decided it was in the realm of normal and that I wasn't worried.  On Saturday afternoon there was quite a lot of bleeding. Oh dear, I thought.  I went back to working on my sermon.  In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes: "We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now."  After unpacking that lovely image for awhile I realized I was writing the most anxious and anxiety-producing sermon, ever. I checked again.  Still bleeding.  I decided a little phone call to the on-call doc wouldn't hurt anything, just ease my mind a bit.

I was totally cool, calm and collected. My doctor, Dr. M, happened to be on-call that night.  He asked me to come to the hospital for an ultrasound.  "You need to make arrangements for tomorrow," he said.  "You're not going to work."

That's about when the crying started.  Hank was very concerned.  I started making some calls.

First: the Andersons.  I got Lydia on the phone, who immediately used her very best non-anxious presence voice and calmed me down quite a bit.  Pastors' kids are so wonderful, you guys, particularly these pastors' kids.  Lydia got in touch with her dad, who was at a meeting at their church--Pastor Dalton called me and said "I'll be there in 30 minutes to take you to the hospital."  The crying slowed down significantly at this point and the breathing got much, much easier.

I was supposed to preach at the river that next day--a big annual ecumenical outdoor event. Because of that event, I'd planned for a very basic, short service at Redeemer with no preaching and no music. I called Dorothy, a retired pastor and member of my congregation, to let her know what was going on and ask if she could preside at communion at Redeemer.  Yes indeed she could.  And, if needed in the future, she'll have a sermon ready to go, too.  At this point I was breathing much, much easier indeed.

I knew that Pastor Al was writing a sermon to give at his church, so I was hopeful that he'd be willing and able to preach it at the river service, too.  I knew I had his cell and home number somewhere and couldn't find it.  Panicked a little.  Pastor Dalton called to let me know he was on his way.  I shared my frustration about the phone numbers.  "Have you tried whitepages.com?  The phone book?"  This had not occurred to me.  This would also not be the last time that evening I relied entirely on Dalton to think for me.  Having friends who can think, and think well, in stressful situations: very comforting.

I found Pastor Al's home phone number online, filled him in and was much relieved: he would preach at the river.  Whew!  Breathing again.

I called the congregation council president and a couple other folks who were signed up to be worship leaders that Sunday: they'd be able to pass the information on to others. In 30 minutes I went from very scared indeed to feeling much, much better. Later, when Dr. M. decided they needed to keep me at the hospital overnight, I called Karen and John, who picked Hank up on Sunday morning and kept him until my dad arrived from Chicago.

This is what the Body of Christ looks like, in action.  Our human bodies, our human plans fail and the Body of Christ is there to breathe the Spirit into us until we can fully breathe again. I am so grateful. As she drove me to my follow up appointment today, Pastor Gretchen asked if I could name some of the "God moments" I experienced through this event.  Even if this were the longest blog post ever (it still might be ... I'm on a roll!) I don't think I could possibly record all the God moments I experienced this week.  But I know those moments are still with me, and I know I'll remember them in the good and scary times to come.

Once safely tucked into Dalton's car (good air conditioning: another blessing) and enroute to the hospital I called Sean.  As we talked, I could feel Walter Paul kicking away, contentedly.  He's a good kid.

When we got to the hospital and checked in I started getting worried again.  I went up to the birthing center and settled into a labor and delivery room (I noted that the room was very nice, indeed, with many lovely amenities which will make my eventual labor and delivery quite pleasant.)  I met my nurse, Kelly, whose baby girl is due the day before Walter (October 16.)  She was wonderful.  Reassuring, smart, caring, informative, everything you could think of in the perfect nurse and more. She got monitors on me for Walt's heartbeat and my contractions.  Walt's heartbeat was perfect throughout our stay.  The other monitor showed "some uterine irritability, but that's to be expected.  You're pregnant!" Indeed.

We didn't have to wait very long for Dr. M, who had some stern words for me about working too hard.  I tried to explain about the charlie horse.  Dr. M said I made a good call on coming in, that they were going to take some blood and a urine sample, that they'd get an ultrasound and keep me overnight for monitoring, and that it seemed like everything was going to be fine, for me and the baby.  Dalton got to go home, but not before he brought me tall glasses of ice water, apple juice, and a delicious peach slushie.  I also got a cup of vanilla pudding.  Project overload-the-baby-with-sugar kicked into full, glorious gear.

Interesting pregnancy fact: if you're worried that your baby isn't moving enough, drink a glass of cold orange juice and lie on your left side.  Wait a few moments for the sugar rush to kick in.  Then prepare to get kicked.  A lot.

I'd already tried the orange juice trick earlier in the day while fretting and writing an awful sermon.  The additional cold, sugary beverages tasted wonderful and sent the Scooter into a scooting frenzy.  By the time we got the ultrasound, he was moving around too fast to get a clear picture.  He also invented his first game: punch the monitor.  He'd feel around for one of the monitors.  When he was sure he knew where it was, he'd aim and punch (or kick, can't really tell the difference) with all his might. This would make the monitor bounce up and down in a very satisfying way.  Sometimes he'd move, making the nurses go find him again with the heartbeat monitor, and begin the game again.

While Walter was hitting the heartbeat monitor, Sean called. Kelly held the phone up to the speaker.  There's nothing that makes a grown man cry quite like his baby's healthy heartbeat. 

The ultrasound revealed a couple of interesting things: first, a very handsome, active baby boy. ("Still a boy!" the ultrasound tech announced cheerfully.) Second, a bit of an overachiever.  He's already rather firmly in the head down position, with his head very firmly down on top of my cervix.  Add that pressure to being on my feet more than usual and the bleeding is explained.

Such a relief. No placenta previa.  No signs of pre-term labor.  Just a little cervical bleeding and a little negotiating with gravity to make it stop.

After a short but fairly restful sleep there was more monitoring and another visit from Dr. M with the verdict: bed rest for the week. Restricted work schedule after that.  Follow up appointment later in the week to reassess.  Allowed to get up and go to the bathroom (thank God) but nothing else.  This was about the time I took my dad up on his offer to come up and help me for a few days.

I was discharged and Kelly, the wonderful nurse, drove me home.  I settled in to the adjustable bed loaned by the Anderson family (don't really know what I would have done without that this week!) and commenced to sleep.

I woke up four days later.  Seriously.  My dad came up, took care of Hank, cleaned the house, completed several major house-related projects, fed me and kept me company while I slept.  I slept day and night.  Occasionally, I read a little.

Dad returned home Wednesday night and on Thursday I woke up and was able to think clearly enough to get some writing done.  Thursday night I couldn't sleep: all that lying down has completely flooded my system with stomach acid.  I threw some of that up and decided I needed a break from bed rest.  This morning, Dr. M agreed: I'm allowed to spend more time upright, to work about half as much as usual, to go on our long-planned, eagerly awaited trip to Michigan.  I am not allowed to exercise.  Under any circumstances.

Me: What kind of exercise do you recommend?
Dr. M: That's easy.  None.
Me: But ...
Dr. M: NONE.

OK, then!

That's my story.  Tomorrow we head off to Traverse City, MI for a week of continuing education (the Great Lakes Theological Institute hosted by Trinity Seminary), BabyMoon and 5 year wedding anniversary celebration.  But no exercise.

Fortunately, no restrictions have been placed on pie.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A sympathetic ear

Well, my strategy of avoiding reading any of our baby books really backfired on me last month, when my sympathetic pregnancy -- deprived of any solid background research -- manifested as high fever, body aches, difficulty breathing... and let's just say plenty of bathroom time to catch up on my reading. Did you know that newborns can identify their parents by smell? Two baby books later and five pounds lighter, I'm rounding out my second sympathetic trimester much more comfortably, thankyouverymuch. (Annie suggests I've gotten off easy, but that's just her sympathetic sympathetic pregnancy talking.)

Do you know who, on the other hand, is incredibly healthy? With an official prognosis of "strong like ox?" (Well, I made that prognosis, but it's valid.) Walter Paul. Annie's most recent doc visit yielded the attached ultrasound-clip of the boy's ticker. Give it a listen... what do you hear? Do you think he's lion-hearted? Generous? Kind?

Monday, June 27, 2011

6 months and all's ... well?

Yes, all is well.  About a week ago I promised a post from Sean.  Ah, promises.  Let's just say, in the immortal words of Stitch, that this week finds the Edison-Albright family "little and broken, but still good."  Ja, still good.

Let's get the broken part out of the way, first:

Sean: That awful stomach bug that started two weeks ago?  Still hanging around in abnormal and unpleasant ways.  This week added the particularly scary symptoms of shortness of breath and asthma-like bronchial spasms.  Sean went to urgent care on Thursday and got sent home with an inhaler, which seemed to make his breathing problems much, much worse.  He's got an appointment with a doctor this afternoon.  Throughout the week we canceled all our plans for the weekend except a long-standing date to go fishing with friends from the congregation, plans we kept with some worries about bathroom proximity. I'm so glad we had that afternoon/evening out ... I haven't seen Sean so happy and relaxed in months.  He gets on the water and his whole posture changes.  Yes, as the day went on he had more and more breathing problems.  And it was probably a good thing we didn't try to do more fun things this weekend.  But it was worth it for those hours in the sun, by the water, with friends.

Hank the Dog: Hank also had the time of his life on our fishing trip yesterday.  He got to ride on a boat, play with wonderful kids who love him, overcome his fear of water with joyful doggy abandon, wear a snappy new life preserver, run, play, smell new smells ... such a good day.   After dinner he engaged in a rousing game of "STICK!" (chase stick, return stick, try to get stick away from children, jump, steal stick, run with stick.)  During the "run with stick" portion of the game, Hank managed to position the stick between the ground and his soft palate with such force that the game came to a rather sudden end.  It was awful to watch--we were so close and there was nothing we could do.  He cried, he threw up.  We rushed over and he laid down between us, letting me open his mouth all the way to get a look at the damage.  While we're pretty sure he gave himself a nasty bruise, the only visible damage is a tiny, tiny scratch near the back of his palate, which was a little red but not bleeding.

As you can imagine, the experience of watching a beloved creature who depends on us completely get hurt felt rather significant, and I immediately tried to note our reactions and extrapolate to possible future events: "No, Walter. You are not allowed to run with sticks. Trust me."  I think I stayed pretty calm.  I tried to keep the tone positive and reassure our friends that we were all OK and the evening's fun could continue (although we stopped playing "STICK!" and started playing "everyone gather around Hank and pet him."  Hank appreciated the change in activities.)  Sean's reaction ... well ... I'll let him add his own thoughts/correct mine if I'm off base, but I think that when his mouth was saying "I'm just going to take another look at your mouth, puppy," he was actually communicating this: "HOLY CRAP, MY PUPPY!  MY LITTLE DOG IS HURT! CRAAAAAAAAAAAAP! TAKE ME, GOD, SPARE THE DOG!" To be fair, shortly after the accident Hank seemed to recover almost completely and took off running to explore the woods, as he does.  Sean and I watched him go.  Sean said: "It's fine.  He'll come back."  I said, "Why don't you go after him, though" and actually communicated this: "ARE YOU CRAZY?!  GO GET OUR DOG!  HE IS HURT AND UNTRUSTWORTHY AND WE ARE GOING TO LOSE HIM FOREVER!"  Sean went and retrieved the dog, who was fine and, yes, probably would have come back on his own.  Eventually.  Maybe. 

You guys, I don't know if you're aware of this, but being a parent is terrifying.

I don't know how we'll react the first time Walter takes a tumble or puts something dangerous into his mouth.  I can't imagine how we'd deal with the news my parents got about me in October, 1985: it's cancer, final stage, terminal, your daughter is going to die in less than 6 months.  All I know is that, whatever happens, we won't be alone.

As for Hank, he started acting Hank-like again right away ...a happy, social, mischievous, curious little dog. He was (and still is today) a little more mellow and cuddly than usual.  We're keeping an eye on that, just to make sure he's not brewing up a little mouth infection.  We're giving him ice water in his water bowl, (Hank says: "Thanks! That's thoughtful of you.") and also got him a "pup cup" of softserve from Dairy Queen (Hank says: "YOU ARE THE GREATEST PEOPLE IN THE UNIVERSE!  I LOVE YOU! AND ICE CREAM!")  He's not scared.  He trusts us.  He's a little wary of sticks, but certainly not as wary as he should be ... and that's good. 

Fishing: just what the doctor ordered!
Me: Compared to Sean and Hank, my brokenness is pretty unexciting.  On Monday I had the repeated and very unpleasant experience of throwing up immediately every time I took a bite of food or slightly reclined my body from the locked and upright position.  I wasn't nauseous, it was just an instant reflex.  In fact, it was reflux.  Digusting, acidy, day-and-night-ruining reflux.  I called the nurse help line the next day and she recommended Pepcid AC; small, bland meals; no fatty, spicy or acidy foods; staying upright as much as possible (especially after meals); and no food for at least an hour before bed.  "If that doesn't work," she said, "We'll have to check your gallbladder.  And you shouldn't wait for office hours, you should go to the ER."  Never have I put more faith and hope in over-the-counter medications and simple dietary changes.  And it worked.  I have repented of my pie-eating ways.  Mostly.  As long as I don't lie down for a nap right after the pie I seem to be OK.  You know how much I love a good after-pie nap, though.  No one said this was going to be easy. 

You may be wondering, "But how is Walter?"  Walter seems to be doing just fine.  He's started doing this adorable thing where he wakes up right as I'm trying to go to bed and pummels my vital organs with his feet and fists.  Honestly, even when he's taking shots at my one, solitary, incredibly-important-for-both-of-our-lives kidney, it's reassuring to feel him up and active.  This week was hard.  Regular and vigorous Scooter movements were welcome bright spots.

But they weren't the only bright spots!  We have been absolutely surrounded by love and blessings as of late.  The Fites, a clergy couple serving a congregation nearby, gave us a stroller/car seat/baby carrier system that is the coolest thing I've ever seen, along with tons of baby boy clothes, tiny shoes, pillows and carrying devices and all sorts of wonderful baby gear.  A gorgeously illustrated book of Walt Whitman's "When I heard the learned astronomer" arrived from John and Jeannie along with a much appreciated Amazon gift card.  My cousin Rachel sent several classic storybooks ... in Spanish!  Buenas Noches, Luna!  Sean's folks sent us "Christmas in June" gifts that included some particularly adorable clothes for Walt ... Sean especially loves the orange "Rock Star" hoodie combo.  Friends from near and far have checked in on us, prayed for heath and healing, given good advice and offered help in many real and tangible ways.

The most tangible help for me this week came in the form of ... a bed.  A thing of beauty: the head and feet of the bead can be raised and lowered, giving acid reflux a run for it's soggy money.  It also had several massage functions. =)  The bed is on loan from Pastor Gretchen's mom and was delivered by the Anderson clan last night, bless their aching backs!  And I slept, oh did I sleep.  I slept through the whole night for the first time since ... week 6, maybe?

In an email, Gretchen said: "You are loved ... and God answers prayers we scarcely ask."  I can't think of a better way to sum up this week, this pregnancy, this life.

All's well. =)

Me and Hank with Emma, Cooper and Maggie.  For more pictures of our wonderful day with the Behnke Family, including pics of me looking huge and ridiculously pregnant, go to our flickr album.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Celebrating Dads

Note the beverages. =)

I was at confirmation camp all week with no internet connection (you would not believe the amount of sleep I got ... it was awesome!)  Sean was home alone with Hank and some sort of terrible stomach bug (not awesome at all.)  So we're a bit behind on getting our weekly post together.  Here are some Scooter-related items to tide you over until Sean's post, promised for later this week.

First, a gift from Mom and Dad Edison-Swift (or Grandma and Grandpa, depending on your perspective):

 I love it!  Scoooooooter!

Also, I gave a sermon today that prominently featured stories of our Scooter preparations. This graphic is a teaser to pique your interest:




And finally, a family portrait:

Friday, June 10, 2011

Symptoms include ...

The Mayo Clinic Guide to Terrifying Pregnant People says to expect these things during the second trimester:

Vivid, unpleasant dreams
Check!  Although they haven't been as bad as my usual anxiety nightmares, just more life-like and frantic.  I'm usually doing something that requires a tremendous amount of energy, like directing a high school musical.  I wake up exhausted.  This morning, though, I had an incredibly vivid dream that I was eating oatmeal.  Then I woke up and ate some oatmeal for breakfast (and some for lunch, too.)  What a helpful dream!

GERD
Heartburn, baby.  Acid reflux-o-rama.  Did you know that all good foods cause heartburn?  Oatmeal seems to be a notable exception.  Milk and chocolate are both on the list of foods to avoid, but for some reason chocolate milk seems to be all good for me and Scooter.  Scooter also likes peanut butter cup blizzards, chocolate milkshakes, and cherry dipped vanilla softserve cones from Dairy Queen.  Not all at once, though.  We are trying to be healthy.

Irrational Fears
I've been really busy this week.  That's the reason I'm giving for the fact that I went a whole day without noticing any Scooter movement.  I'm sure the movement was there (in the days since, there has been tons of movement, including an adorable case of late night fetal hiccups after one of those trips to Dairy Queen.)  I just didn't notice it, and then I noticed that I hadn't noticed it, and then I panicked a little.  Sean was very calm and encouraging.  He put his mouth right next to the belly and addressed the Scooter directly: "Walter!  This is your daddy.  Knock once if you can hear me!"  We waited for about 30 seconds, and then there was one very distinct bop from inside the womb. The child is not even born yet and already the menfolk are in cahoots.

Anti-climactic revelation of baby's name
As noted above. =)  We are quite excited to meet wee Walter and have started using his name with gleeful abandon.  We've been duly warned by many experienced parents: sometimes the baby arrives and does not look at all like the name you've chosen.  We think we're safe, though, because every baby, male and female, looks like a Walter (ie, like an old man.)  We know it's not a particularly fashionable name, but we love it.  He's named only partly after Mr. Whitman (he of our last pictoral clue) and really only tangentially after WALL-E (the lovable robot).  Mostly he's named after Sean's grandpa, his mom's dad, who Sean never got to meet but who he's always loved.   We're planning on calling him "Walt," aware that we may eventually be overruled by the child himself when it comes to nickname preferences (today, for example, we learned that Hank comes very quickly like a good boy when he hears the word, "Cake.")

Attempts to regain sense of drama with the baby's middle name
So, middle name clues!  As Sean noted, it is another family name. Walt will also share this name with someone who shows up quite a lot in Christian iconography carrying a sword and showing off his receding hair line (he's depicted with a "high forehead" to indicate his great intelligence.)  No pictures this time ... the last one I posted actually had the name written in the lower right hand corner, leading Sean to note that the two of us need an upgrade to our monitors or our glasses.

Amphibious characteristics
I have taken to the water.  I spent my free time at Synod Assembly floating, treading, and jogging around the hotel pool.  I've been to two water aerobics classes at the Y and am looking forward to more.  This swimming thing seems to be nothing but good for me.  I am less dangerously clumsy in the water (still clumsy, just not as dangerous.)  I feel light.  The water seems to take some pressure off my innards, leading to better digestion, and the chlorine seems to be clearing up my awful back acne. (I make pregnancy sound so glamorous and beautiful, don't I?)  I've noticed that it seems to already be helping me get my strength and stamina back after those 3 months of near total immobility.  Water is very, very good.  

Even moar weeping
We went to a piano recital of two young members of the congregation last night.  This was the greatest beginner recital I've ever been to--the kids were all so proud, so happy, so confident and just giddy with the chance to do something they clearly enjoyed. Of course I cried.  You would too if you'd been there to hear Cooper's own arrangement of "Amazing Grace."  We got a pamphlet for the program ... it's a music appreciation curriculum that starts with infants!  We are so doing this.  Also, Baby Swim. 

Wonderful gifts
This doesn't really fit with the "terrifying pregnancy facts" theme, although it is related to the symptom described above.  Also, I am a little terrified that I will be too paralyzed by guilt to sit down and write thank you notes, because I'm already so very far behind.  There's my next vivid dream, I predict.  But oh, the wonderful gifts!  There were ladybug cards from Nancy and booties from the Andersons (who have also lent us the most gorgeous crib you've ever seen.  Their youngest son recommends we rock it by attaching a string to the crib and the other end of the string to my big toe.)  There was the blanket from Audrey you heard about before, and a classic text on "Expectant Motherhood" from Shannon (along with a note which I will always treasure.)  My parents sent us Bunnicula II--descended from the noble line of Bunnicula, my all-time favorite stuffed animal and vampire bunny series protagonist.  I got a book on child rearing from my confirmation co-teacher and an adorable bunny figurine from a member of the women's study group.  And today ... today a box arrived from Texas.

The box came from Arwen.  Like the box from Audrey, you could tell right away that it was good because it was covered with stickers. Inside was something truly wonderful indeed. 
A homemade, hand-crafted fraggle!

Arwen remembered that fraggles played a significant role in the early wooing days of Scooter's parents, and she remembered fondly the enthusiasm she and I shared for Fraggle Rock during our time as teachers together. When we started this blog four years ago, Arwen decided to make us (and Baby Edison-Albright) a fraggle.  We've named him Groovy Fraggle and we LOVE him.  But there's more!  Other handmade items in the box: a doozer (we named him Biscuit,) a radish, a cupcake, and a hat for Sean to wear for comedic effect in the delivery room (you can see the hat in the picture, too.)

Little Walt, you are so loved by so many amazing people. Friends and family  from all over have been preparing for years for your arrival.  If you feel the love, knock once. [Bop!]

I leave you with another recent wonderful gift, a link shared by friend Jena from our congregation.  It celebrates Walt's other namesake ... Scooter.  Callooh! Callay!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Clue number two

First, a hint about yesterday's hint : yesterday's date was an important one for the old fellow, as well. (The Scooter has been leaping in the womb lately, but the clue is not Visitation related, although we appreciated the synchronicity.)

And since I'm in such a good mood... another clue: both of little Scooter's names (first and middle) are family names.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

News from the Womb

We learned many things about our Scooter today:
  • The Scooter is limber.  Baby spent the whole ultrasound with feet right up next to face, which is some kind of advanced yoga move, we think.  We have amended our prediction from "soccer scholarship" to "yoga scholarship."
  • The Scooter is coordinated.  We watched in awe as Scooter did the most energetic thumb-sucking the world has ever seen.  So cool!
  • The Scooter has two kidneys, a brain, a heart, a diaphragm, a stomach, an umbilical chord, two hands, two feet, and long-looking arms and legs.  Based on the amount of heartburn I'm getting, we're also thinking that Scooter has hair (the ultrasound did not reveal anything to do with this. The war between my Scandinavian genes and Sean's hairy genes wages on unseen.)
  • The Scooter is terrifically uncooperative.  It turns out that impressive yoga positions are not the best for getting pictures and measurements of the spine.  We tried turning me over on one side, then the other.  Then some walking around, then some orange juice and graham crackers.  The solution ended up being the classic "dig the ultrasound wand into Mommy's belly as painfully as possible" maneuver. The radiology tech's comment: "Oh, the things we do for our children!"
While the Scooter's position was no good for spine-revealing, it was perfect for revealing other important parts of the body.  And, let's be honest, none of us were looking forward to this ultrasound and thinking, "I wonder what the baby's diaphragm will look like!"

The question of the day, truly, was this:

OR


The answer is known and shall indeed be revealed, but a couple of thoughts, first (I'm just trying to recreate for you the experience we had this morning, when the ultrasound tech did every other possible measurement before giving us a blessed glimpse between Scooter's legs.)

First, I'd like to reiterate that "Scooter" is an entirely sex/gender neutral nickname.  It was, in fact, one of my nicknames.  Video evidence exists: during the epic Easter Egg hunt of 1986 one of the clues read, in part, "To the computer/scamper, dear Scooter."  It's also been a favorite term of endearment used interchangeably between me and Sean (see Seinfeld, "shmoopy.")  You can clearly see our preference for the nickname in these photos from the Edison-Albright archives:
Jersey Shore; Wonderland Pier; Circa 2007
Park Ridge, IL; Jewel; Circa 2009

So, no matter what we saw on that ultrasound today, "Scooter" is a nickname we will continue to use proudly and often. (More family name trivia: Sean's mom was nicknamed "Skeeter" by her dad. And my grandpa was named Kermit.  So, a rich precedence for Muppet-related names on both sides.)

Second, keep in mind that the ultrasound revealed our baby's sex, but not our baby's gender.  And that's all we have to say about that. (For actual intelligent discussion on the issue, scroll down to part II of this post, and read the excellent comments, too.)

I'm trying to think of other ways to stall, but I'm all out.  So, if you're still curious about the sex of our baby ...