Back to School: Moderate Takes

1.) I started back to work last Monday, and hoo boy, did I jump into the deep end. I knew my boss was traveling at the beginning of the week and that our other department member was on her honeymoon, so I felt like I had to get back. I also skipped my regular telework day, as it was my boss's first day in the office. A lot of people were on vacation, so it was a nice, quiet week to get back into the swing of things, but I really hate that Charlie got thrown into the deep end as well.

2.) We ended up working out a nanny share with a family down the street from us. I had been worried about timing with getting to work if I had to drop Charlie off somewhere but I literally cannot leave my neighborhood without passing their house. How convenient is that? The hiring process caused a lot of agita, but much more so for the other family. Their little guy was born in February and the mom was due to go back to work the first week of June. However, the seemingly fantastic nanny we hired showed up on the first day and quit within a couple of hours with a pretty shady excuse. This poor couple was left with no child care on the mom's first day back -- total nightmare situation. It was kind of a blur for me; this all went down on the day we brought Charlie home from the hospital. They scheduled a bunch of interviews over the next week or so, and Mark would go to their house for the interviews. Any contenders were asked to walk up to our house to meet Charlie and me. We finally found our nanny in mid-June, but she wasn't able to start until mid-July. Again, it was no big thing for us, but thank GOD the other woman's employer was super flexible about things. Our nanny was totally worth the wait. She is from the area where Mark and I grew up, is a little older than I am, has two kids, and worked in the same daycare center for 12 years. Most importantly, she is fantastic with Charlie and he seems to be really happy so far, which is a huuuge relief.

3.) Our first day went really well. Charlie hung out in the bathroom with us while Mark and I got ready, and then we had a nice chunk of his super smiley morning time to hang out and play. He had had a crap night of sleep, of course, so he was ready for his morning nap before the nanny arrived and was sleeping when I left. Not having to say goodbye made the transition a little easier, and I didn't cry at all. (I think I got all of my allotted tears out over the weekend. Holy hannah, poor baby didn't need a bath, I spent so much time weeping onto his sleeping head.) I will admit to welling up as I got in the car, but that was because I found a box and card with "Mom" written on it. Mark had printed and framed a bunch of the best Charlie pictures for my office. Is that not the sweetest thing you've ever heard? Love him. Charlie got a great report from the nanny and he looked so happy when I peeked in on the webcam. 

4.) On the down side, I am totally struggling with work guilt. I wasn't quite ready to leave the baby; I would have loved having one more month at home, but it is what it is. I am so glad he is in such wonderful hands, but it kills me to miss so much of his day. Overnight, I went from spending every one of his waking moments with him to getting maaaaybe two hours a day. I have about an hour with him in the morning, and if traffic is on my side, an hour at night. It doesn't help that the transition is wiping him out and he's desperate for bed around 6:45. It's killing me, too, that he doesn't seem happy to see me when I get home. In fairness, Mark is usually pushing him past his preferred dinner time so that I can feed him when I get home, and also, he's just barely three months old, so yeah: BABY. But still, I spend all day itching to get home to that face, and it kills me that he just kind of watches his dad and ignores me, despite my being all up in his business, kissing him all over. I also barely survived Tuesday's fret fest. It was the first day at the other family's house, and Charlie seemed unsettled when I left him. He gave me this look like, "Mama, you're leaving me again??" The nanny is great about sending pictures, but Charlie looked worried in Tuesday's shots. We skyped once Mark got home and the little guy seemed like his usual self, but ugh. Mostly it's killing me that, right now, I know everything about him, and I feel like I'm on the verge of losing this, like someone else is going to need to tell me what my baby needs or is trying to communicate. 

5.) There is also a good side! Sort of. Shame is my biggest (only?) cleaning motivator, so having someone in my house 2-3 days a week means that I'm getting in the habit of picking up and organizing stuff daily. It is astounding just how many things I now plan and prepare for on a regular basis, just because the scramble that results from not doing so is vastly worse. I get home from work and we scramble through the bedtime bottle and getting Charlie to bed. I make dinner (from the planned weekly menu, because there is no more grocery shopping on the way home), and then we have about an hour to hang out before we do the closing up shop chores. Mark does the dishes while I putter around cleaning up -- getting rid of clutter, folding couch blankets, putting away toys, gathering baby laundry that needs to go upstairs, washing bottles, boiling bottle water, making bottles and packing Charlie's bag if the next day is a travel day, packing my lunch, laying out my clothes for the next day, and folding any laundry that's in the dryer. It's so...grown up. I always thought my mom was just a do-er; nope, it's just necessary crap and thus a massive PITA if you don't do it. Being an adult is so not all it's cracked up to be. But at least the nanny won't see my inner slob? 

The Story of Charlie

It is seriously blowing my mind that we have been parents for two whole months. It both seems like yesterday and forever ago that Charlie came to us. Yes, yes, I am a walking cliche, I am well aware. I kept thinking today about what I was doing exactly two months ago, and I wanted to write it all down before my little diary notes have lost all meaning with my sieve of a memory. So here it is, in all of its overly wordy glory: Charlie's birth story.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014
I was scheduled for an induction at 40w5d, which is earlyish for induction, but I had a dear friend lose a full term baby due to placental insufficiency and the thought haunted me. My doctor was not overly comfortable going past the 41 week mark anyway, and the baby was looking robust, so we were in agreement that an induction at this point was a reasonable approach. I was to check in on the night of the 28th, and would hopefully have the baby out within 24-30 hours. I spent the day working from home, as the insane back and rib pain was too much to endure for even one more commute. I studiously ignored the fact that I was checking into the hospital that night until Mark came home and was all, "Seriously? You still haven't packed your bag?" Apparently making lists and pulling out a wee coming home outfit and a hand-knitted hat with matching booties wasn't considered "packing" in his mind. We ate Thai takeout, I threw together my list items, and we were off. 

8:30 pm: Who am I kidding? I was definitely late for my scheduled check-in; it was more like 8:39. Mark dropped me off at reception and went to park the car. The information desk people checked me in and directed me upstairs to labor and delivery. (Yikes.) I waited in a reception area upstairs until Mark joined me, then a nurse brought us back to my room. She instructed me to change into a gown, but then made no move to leave the room. I stood there awkwardly, not sure if I was supposed to just change there with her in the room. She had to point out the fact that there was a bathroom in the room. (She was not my favorite nurse of my stay, as we'll see in a moment.) Once I was gussied up in my hospital finery, she got me into bed, strapped to multiple monitors, and an IV started.

9:30 pm: The induction plan called for a course of Cervadil overnight to hopefully soften and prepare the cervix. Prior to inserting the Cervadil, the nurse wanted to ensure that the baby was still head down, so she brought in the ultrasound machine. She couldn't find the baby's head (wha?), so she called in a resident, who pointed out that the head was still there, but was just very low, so we could go ahead with the Cervadil. 

10:00 pm: The nurse began attempting to insert the Cervadil while I nearly jumped off the bed, it was so painful. It felt like the little tea bag-like suppository was made of razor blades. Nurse Scissorhands just couldn't figure out why I was in so much pain, as it no one else had everrrrrr protested in the slightest previously. (I was cutting a bitch mentally in that moment. Did she seriously just attempt to shame me?) Eventually she gave up and said something passive aggressive about hoping it works since it wasn't in as far as it was supposed to be. A ray of sunshine, that woman. 

11:45 pm: I was half dozing to a rerun of the Colbert Report when the whoosh-whooshing of the baby's monitor slowed waaaay down. I had just shifted positions and thought the monitor had slipped enough to pick up my heart instead of the baby's. I was fiddling with the belt when nurses flooded into the room. One slipped an oxygen mask onto my face and took my blood pressure while another started IV fluids and a third called my doctor. The baby's heart rate had apparently dropped out in response to a long contraction (confusing, as it only felt like light period cramping at that point), but it came right back up after shaving a few years off of my life. Apparently the Cervadil was working after all, so suck it, Nurse Scissorhands.

Thursday, May 29, 2014
12:30 am: The cramping was becoming more uncomfortable. I thought to myself that, if it were an impending period, I would have gotten out of bed to find some Advil at that point. But then it would lessen significantly. And then pick back up. And then lessen. Huh.

4:00 am: A nurse comes in to start a penicillin drip (thanks, Group B Strep!). It buuuurned so badly going into my hand and the pain in my joints was insane. Within minutes, I was shaking uncontrollably. This completely freaked me out (I work in health law products liability; I was imagining Stevens-Johnson syndrome or some other nightmarish drug reaction, of course). Mark was even more freaked and ran out to find a nurse. The nurse assured me that penicillin is supposed to hurt, but she slowed the drip way down and soon the aching and shaking slowed as well. 

6:30 am: Nurse disconnects my IVs so that I can use the bathroom. I shuffle over and pee faster than I ever have in my life, so freaked out was I by the crazy pressure downstairs. I was not about to have my baby fall into the toilet, so I hustled back to my little bed. 

7:30 am: My OB stops in to check on me before office hours. Contractions were feeling like pretty serious period cramps at that point, but I was managing well enough. My doctor was really pleased by the results of the Cervadil, so he said to leave it in until 10, then pull it and start Pitocin. He said he would be back to check in at lunch.

8:00 am: My new nurse (hooray for shift change!) comes in to check on me and said my doctor gave the ok for a light breakfast tray. I ordered a strawberry yogurt and an English muffin, but by the time the food arrived, I was in no mood for eating, as things were picking UP. I had one bite of a dry English muffin before setting the tray aside.

8:45 am: I was worried about asking for drugs too soon, so I started moving around in an attempt to get some relief. Standing felt better than lying down, at least until the pressure became too much. I moved to sitting on the side of the bed.

9:30 am: Things turned very, very quickly from strong but manageable period cramps to HOLY SHIT OW. I gave in and asked for the epidural at that point. They removed the Cervadil and started pushing IV fluids in preparation for the epidural, which was to be administered by an anesthesiologist very shortly. Spoiler alert: The anesthesiologist was NOT in shortly. Unfortunately, there was an emergency on the floor, so it was all hands on deck for a while there. A nurse would occasionally pop in and say that the anesthesiologist was coming soon. In the meantime, I moaned through contractions that were coming without a break. Poor Mark's arms were ready to fall off from two hours of massaging my butt and hips.

11:30 am: The anesthesiologist arrived and promptly threw a hissy fit over my (doctor sanctioned and uneaten) breakfast tray. For the love, woman, I had one bite of a shitty English muffin three hours ago; I think we're good, just as long as you insert the goddamn drugs. It was a little painful going in, and the sensation of the tube snaking along my spine was super unpleasant, but OMG. 15 minutes later, I'd have done anything she asked. ANYTHING. Epidurals are magical; I was high on the sense of relief for daaaaaays.

12:45 pm: My OB returned to break my water. He was thrilled by my progress on the Cervadil; I was fully effaced and 4 cm dilated. He estimated an early morning delivery. Unfortunately there was meconium in the amniotic fluid, but my doctor was unconcerned. He said it was pretty common and that they would be sure to have NICU staff present at delivery to suction him and ensure all was well. (Stuff like this makes me so glad I chose him. I am a pro worrier and he is very much not an alarmist, but the key is that he tells me WHY he's not alarmed, like I am an intelligent person, not a silly little patient to be patronized.) Of course, the baby's heart rate bottomed out again after some tough contractions, but it came right back up with oxygen and halting the Pitocin. 

2:00 pm: I started to feel some uncomfortable cramping again, so they gave me an epidural booster. The pain was much better within 15 minutes, and we spent the afternoon dozing and watching a "Law & Order: SVU" marathon. Hospitals are truly spectacularly awful places to try to sleep.

3:30 pm: The baby jumped and there was a huge, gross gush of fluid. It seems he was acting as a stopper in an attempt to preserve his beloved hot tub. (Cherish every moment.)

4:00 pm: My doctor returned to check on things again. I mentioned feeling a lot of pressure and he thought that was a great indicator of progress. He was expecting that I'd be around 6 cm, but I was at 9 -- progress indeed! The baby's head was still really high though, so he said he'd be back to see me in an hour.

5:00 pm: I was declared ready to push (OMG). 

5:30 pm: Began pushing. So weird, so much grossness. I would describe the contractions as intense pressure, so intense that it was nearly impossible not to push. I was expecting more pain, even with the epidural, but I was never overly uncomfortable. Or maybe I'm beginning to forget the discomfort? I don't know. Regardless, the kid never left my pelvis, so I wouldn't go by my account. 

8:00 pm: After pushing for 2.5 hours with zero progress, my doctor gently suggested that the baby was unlikely to emerge vaginally. I was really reluctant to have a c-section, but once my doctor described the baby's wee noggin as looking like a cantaloupe on a coffee cup (eww, but illustrative), I agreed. I hated the idea of his little head getting mushed with so little likelihood of progress, plus I was really worried about mushing his head further only to have him get stuck. I needed a little time to come around, but once I agreed to the c-section, things whipped into festive action. My doctor left to prep while a new (and awesome this time) anesthesiology team rolled in to prep me for surgery. Everyone was very cheerful and soothing, which was just what I needed. The epidural was already placed, so they just needed to up the drugs so that I would feel nothing and HOO BOY, mission accomplished. I was so numbed up that when they asked me to move my legs in preparation for moving to the OR, I could say nothing but, "Um, nope! I'm going to need some help here. Sorry!" I was also telling everyone and their brother that I didn't want Demerol (it makes everyone in my family vomit relentlessly, so not exactly ideal for post-abdominal surgery). The weird things that stick with you...

8:30 pm: They rolled me over to the OR and used a skateboard-like device to roll me on to the operating table. The curtain went up and I awkwardly realized that my whole lower half was exposed to the (rather jovial) surgical team. Despite the jolly team, I was still pretty nervous. Jeff, the nurse anesthetist, was great. I was asking for some kind of anxiolytic, but all he could offer was Versed, which was stronger than I wanted, so he helped me tough it out without the meds. Thanks to his care I actually remember my baby's birth. I was pretty desperate for Mark to show up, and it felt like forever before he was there next to me, but then there he was and we were off. There was a lot of tugging and a LOT of strange sensations. It seemed to go on forever, and then...

9:04 pm: He's here! I listened and listened, then heard the sweetest little squeaky cry that quickly turned into his now-familiar BELLOWING. (This child was literally born hangry.) It was the most surreal moment of my life; I'm still not sure I've fully processed things. 

(Poor Mark had no idea that they come out blue and then pink up as they oxygenate by breathing on their own, so when he looked over the curtain and saw a totally blue Charlie, then heard my doctor ask for someone to call the time, he thought for sure that the baby hadn't made it. My heart just breaks for him every time I think of this. Conveniently Charlie debuted his extraordinarily healthy lungs just then, reassuring his dad that there was much Lego building and baseball playing to come, thank GOD.)

Charlie was whisked over to the warmer with the NICU team as promised, though he remained in my line of sight. I shooed Mark over to be with Charlie while he aced his APGARs (9 and 9!) and within minutes, he was back and a nurse was shoving a burritoed Charlie into Mark's arms, much to Mark's terror. Sink or swim, buddy! 

The nurses took our first photo as a family of three right there:

Charlie and Mark were then whisked down to the recovery room while I was reassembled, which seemed to take forever. I definitely regret glancing over and seeing the suction tubes and collection containers. I also regret not asking for a touch of lipo while they were already in there. I was pretty distracted though, as I had begun shaking like crazy. Normally Demerol is used to control the shaking, but where I had refused it, they were limited to oxygen, which helped somewhat but not totally. 

9:30 pm: I was reunited with Mark and Charlie in the recovery room, where Charlie was SCREAMING in fury. The poor thing was ravenous and I was in no position to nurse given the wicked shaking. I asked if anyone had a pacifier, which worked for a few minutes, but lawsy, the SCREAMING. Eventually a nurse offered a wee bottle of formula, which finally quieted the poor starving thing. The hangry has been his defining characteristic from minute one. Mark had called my mom to tell her I had surgery (after it was over -- I come by my anxiety honestly), so I talked to my shaky, teary mom briefly to convince her I was ok.

Friday, May 30, 2014
12:00 am: The recovery team loaded us up in preparation to head up to our room. I had Charlie wedged in beside me (I was still shaking like a leaf and terrified of dropping him) and an oxygen tank between my legs, while Mark schlepped all of my labor stuff. Finally, we arrived in Room 601. 

The Aftermath
I had a surprisingly rough start following surgery. I was on oxygen for the shakes through much of Friday, and I struggled with low blood pressure until Saturday. I would feel really dizzy and lightheaded upon sitting unassisted/getting out of bed. I was finally able to get up and walk to the bathroom early Saturday morning with help and after a couple bags of fluids. I worked really hard at hydrating (such a chore for me) and was doing much better by Saturday night into Sunday. I debated discharge on Sunday vs. Monday. I really wanted to sleep in my own bed, but decided to stay until Monday because of the rough start and because my own doctor would be back to discharge me if I waited until Monday. The on call doc and my amazing nurses agreed; apparently I had given them quite a scare with all of the BP issues. 

We were able to head home around noon on Monday, June 2nd, and we've been living on fast-forward ever since. It seems impossible that it has been two months already, but here we are! This whole experience was nothing like what I expected, but as it brought me a healthy, happy baby, I can be nothing but grateful, even for the grossness. Ok, maybe not all of the grossness...

(What did I tell you? WALKING CLICHE.)

(Lookit that fat baby!)

8 weeks ago today I also watched a "Law & Order: SVU" marathon...

I cannot believe how time is flying by. Charlie is 8 weeks old tonight! Back then, a month at the beach sounded like such a long time, but here we are with a nearly two month old baby and just a few days left of "vacation." (I mean, really, I have a newborn; you could stick me in a spa in Fiji and it still wouldn't really be a vacation.) On the one hand, I'm excited to get home to our own space and to have some time as just our little family of three, but on the other? Man, is this place heaven. We walk to the coffee shop most mornings and the beach is a two minute walk in the other direction. Evenings rocking in the salt air on the breezy porch are what I dream of in the winter. The abundance of fresh, cheap(er) seafood is such a treat. I love being in proximity to our families, and of course, having my mom's help with the baby has been invaluable. I know it's time to go, but I just wish our time here hadn't passed so very quickly. 

Living on fast-forward also means that my return-to-work date is rapidly approaching, despite my doing everything I can to ignore that fact. I'm lucky to have a job with an understanding boss in a family-friendly company. I am also lucky to be able to telework one day a week. However, I'm a professional with responsibilities that sometimes follow me home, plus I also commute nearly two hours each day. I am excited about the nanny we found and know that Charlie will be in great hands. I just worry that they won't be my hands, and that I'll regret all of my time away from him. I'm not someone who lives for her career, but I have invested a lot of time and effort to get to where I am, so I don't know that I would want to walk away, even if I could. Mostly, I know how much I suck at juggling multiple full-time jobs, so I'm worried about continuing to grow my position at work, maintaining things at home, AND adding a baby, even one as delightful as this one is, to the mix. Certainly this is not unique to me; it's your basic modern mothering conundrum. Knowing I'm in good company doesn't lessen the worry and guilt, though. I guess we'll see what happens! 

Until then? I'm going to snuggle my baby and enjoy the hell out of cocktail hour on the porch.

Gratuitous baby photo:

5 weeks, 5 days, 17 hours, and 45 minutes...

Hello! So, hey, it turns out that babies are pretty time consuming. ALERT THE MEDIA. I think the majority of the problem is that this particular baby is so freaking adorable that I spend a large (LAAARGE) part of each day just holding and snuggling him. It's kind of awesome.  

We're doing well for the most part. I came a little close to the edge there toward the end of my in-laws' visit (🍷💊🔪), but it was a 10 day visit starting at 3 weeks postpartum and I didn't want to throttle people for real until the last night, and that includes the time my FIL asked if the baby and I would have died in the days before c-sections. (Most likely! That hasn't been haunting me or anything, so feel free to bring it up in casual conversation!) Anyway, I'm calling the visit a win. GO ME.

The weekend before the 4th, we packed up and headed north to my parents' cottage on Cape Cod. Mark drove up with our giant carload of crap (so much crap for one tiny person!) while the baby and I flew. Thankfully it all went pretty smoothly. The kiddo is loving the salt air and our daily walks, as well as the insane spoiling my parents are doing. We also had a week with great friends visiting. My college roommate and her husband and son rent a house around the corner for July 4th week and we always have a great time with them. We're also really enjoying introducing the little guy to all of his family and friends up here. My sister and BIL were here for my grandma's 90th birthday party, we'll be with our whole extended families for the christening in a couple of weeks, and there's a big 40th birthday party for my uncle right before we head home. (My mom is the oldest of 9 and her youngest brother has Down syndrome; he loves birthday parties and this is a big year, so we're throwing a bash. He's going to love it -- we couldn't miss it!) 

On to the important stuff: THE BABY. He is an utter doll. He's eating every 4ish hours, then we play a little, and then he naps. He tops out at about two hours of awake time and when he gets a little unhappy, we swaddle him, offer the pacifier and some snuggles, and he's out like a light. The cranks are usually solved with food, sleep, or gas drops; he is totally his daddy's boy. (I'm afraid to even mention last night, lest it never happen again. The kid ate at 9:30, slept until 3:30, ate at 4, and slept again from 4:30-7:30. Clearly we can never have another child, as we already got the best one.) (I know, I know -- I just broke my perfect baby by typing out those words and we shall never sleep again.) He loves his stroller and being outside in general, and he is pretty good about settling himself. He is growing like a weed, and I can't believe how much he has changed in a month. My one complaint is that when he gets angry, he works himself into such a state that he holds his breath to the point of turning dusky blue and you have to startle him into breathing again. It has taken DECADES off my life. Good grief, child...

I can't believe how time is flying by. I'm already nearly halfway through my maternity leave, and I am dreading leaving this little guy so soon. I snuggle him as often as possible, nuzzling his fuzzy little noggin and trying to memorize the smell. We have a wonderful nanny picked out, and our share couldn't be more convenient (the other family lives four houses away from us!). I just hate the fact that he is growing so quickly and I'm going to be missing 40 hours of it each week between work and commuting. I am so grateful for my telework day, when I can at least stick my head out every so often to see him and to squish him with hugs on my lunch break.

I can actually kind of understand the "cherish every moment" old ladies, because even in the thick of exhaustion and crying and constant pooping, my heart hurts with how lovely and fleeting this time is. I feel so very lucky to be this particular little dude's mom. Speaking of the wee one, I'm being summoned, right on cue. Gotta run!


I'm watching the early morning news in my bed, thinking about how I should probably get up -- a pretty typical weekday for me. However, this Thursday is different because right next to my bed is this sight, and it's blowing my mind:
Meet Charlie, everyone! He will be two weeks old tonight, and he is an absolute doll. Seriously, I have no idea how we got so lucky. My general approach to the unknown is to expect the worst and then to hopefully be pleasantly surprised when life doesn't outright suck. I had not even the faintest idea it could be this great, though. 

This kid, you guys. He smiles real smiles. Wide awake, he'll make eye contact and then give us these gummy grins that go all the way to his eyes. He is such a snuggler -- loves nothing more than to be swaddled and held, and he loves digging his little face into your neck. He has some unbelievably impressive pipes, but he reserves their use for truly terrible things, like diaper changes and faint pangs of hunger. (You've probably heard him, so impressive is his hunger fury.) Oh! And his cries! Seriously the cutest thing ever. He SNORTS when he cries. I feel so bad laughing at him, but the snorts of fury are HILARIOUS. So far, he is rocking being a newborn. He eats every 3ish hours and sleeps in between. He's starting to have more awake time during the day, and he's great at settling in at night too. We put him down fed, clean, and awake, and he just ... goes to sleep. (Please, God, may it stay this way.) He has had some gas issues, which was so sad, as he clearly had a belly ache. However, his pediatrician ok'd Mylicon drops yesterday and they are working like a charm. My happy and contented baby is back -- whew!

Thus far, the only disaster has been breastfeeding. My supply is abysmal (PCOS: The Gift That Keeps On Giving), and coupled with his size (9 lbs., 3 oz.!), well, I couldn't sustain his basic hydration, let alone his appetite. The worst part is that attempting to feed frustrates him to the point of raaage. He gets so stressed out, with this terrible screaming cry. It's really awful; I want to cry just thinking about it. I hate upsetting him like that, so I offer the boob regularly but don't force the issue, and I'm pumping as much as I can. Rationally I know he'll be just fine, but it's surprising to me how insidious the "Breast is Best" message is. I had always disregarded such messages, knowing breastfeeding is great when it works, but that it doesn't always work, and the bottom line is that everyone does the best they can with the resources they have. However, now that I'm in this particular position of it not working? The guilt is intense and oppressive, and it is all coming from me. Charlie's doctor, my mom, even the LCs I've met with have been nothing but supportive, and yet I still feel like I'm failing him. Blech. 

I'm choosing to console myself with lots of this and it's kind of awesome:

He's a damn miracle, and I'm weepy with gratitude on a regular basis.

The Last Days

It's such a strange feeling to know you're standing on the precipice of a truly life-changing event. It happens so rarely; even marriage wasn't that way for me. Marriage has been surprising in many ways, and I'm sure it will continue to surprise me, but it never felt life-changing; it was like coming home. I think the only time I can really compare this to is leaving for college. That feeling of leaving behind the only life you have ever known for something entirely unknown, knowing that you're about to meet people who will change your whole future and be central to who you are for the rest of your days. This is kind of like that, but exponentially bigger. 

I am kind of terrified of what's coming. What if something happens to you? What if something happens to me? What if we both make it through just fine, but daddy gets hit by a bus or something? What if I'm a terrible boy mom? What if I'm not a good enough mom for what you need? (Oh, my sweet boy, I pray every day that you do not inherit my crazy. I have enough "what ifs" to cover us both until the end of time. Maybe be a little less robotic than your dad, but oh please God, may you be spared my crazy.)

Selfishly, though, I am running head first (metaphorically, of course; I only waddle these days) toward the scary parts because I'm just so excited to meet you. I want to see who you look like and if your personality is as feisty and funny on the outside as it was on the inside. I want to snuggle you and snorfle your little neck. (I hope you're a snuggler, kiddo, because HOO BOY, there will be snuggles. Mama comes from a very large family of baby hogs, and they haven't had their mitts on a baby in years. You are EAGERLY anticipated to say the least.) Not going to lie, I'm pretty nervous about baths; we may let Nana roll with the first one -- she's a pro. Oh, also the nursing thing. I have concerns that the boobs won't work, but don't worry, we'll sort that out. I promise you won't go hungry. In short, other than sleep deprivation and unfathomable amounts of poop and laundry, I have no idea what to expect, and I really hope we don't eff things up. (I could probably start by working on the swearing thing.)

Mostly, I just want you to know how very loved you have been for your entire existence, even when you were just a robust little clump of cells:
And look how far we've come since then! You're measuring a whole 7 lbs (give or take a pound or so) now!

You know, I remember one night pretty early on, back when I was thoroughly convinced you were a girl, when I had some scary bleeding and ended up weeping with terror in the office bathroom. Rationally I knew it was very early and that taking you home was far from a guarantee, and I knew that we had frozen embryos and could try again, but it didn't matter. I wanted YOU. I didn't know you then like I do now or like we will once you're out and growing up before our eyes, but you have always been the one we were waiting for. I love you, sweet bear, and we can't WAIT to meet you. 

P.S. Can you do Mama a solid and take it easy on your way out? It would be much appreciated, bubs.

Full Term

Hello! It has somehow been more than two months since I checked in over here. Well, it should really only have been 6 or so weeks, but Blogger ate my vacation update (in short: GLORIOUS and TROPICAL), and then I got busy, um, being mired in third trimester misery. You're welcome for my not sharing. 

However, it recently occurred to me that I need to record the state of things these last couple of weeks. You know, so I can properly guilt my beloved child later. I mean, remember every precious moment. So here it is, in highlight form:

🔹The baby stayed relatively internal for a good long while, but he did a whoooole lot of growing in the last month or so. So much growing so quickly that he managed to rip some stuff in my upper rib region. I now have a big patch of numb skin, but the tissue underneath it is itchy and painful. The cherry on top is that, because the top skin is numb, it doesn't register scratching. It's pretty awesome. 

🔹He finally flipped head down last week (OW), and the poor little guy is totally out of room. This has not stopped the wiggling, however. He remains very active, but now we can see all of his wiggles from the outside, Alien-style. He likes to wiggle his butt back and forth, though it generally resides high up on my right side. The new development is a rogue elbow that he likes to shove way out on my left side. He's very sensitive about the elbow, though. Touch it and he'll yank it back in. It's a fun game. 

🔹My back has just about given up on me. Sitting upright is a killer (omg, the desk chair is nauseating by the end of the day, it hurts so much), standing for any significant length of time is a Bad Idea, and even driving gets pretty painful. Basically the one comfy place for me is in the big, ugly man chairs we have in the basement. Its degree of comfort is equal to its hideousness, so I spend a lot of time here, reclining. 

🔹I have reached the beached whale phase. Rolling over in bed requires effort and grunting, getting out of bed on my own requires generation of momentum via frog leg kicking, and my husband often wanders the house looking for me and finds me stuck under my own girth. It's not a huge belly, but it popped up so rapidly that I don't think I had time to adjust properly. Unwieldy is the name of this game.

🔹I went to bed last night able to walk just fine, albeit with a pronounced waddle. However, upon waking this morning, something had very definitely changed. There was a distinct increase in pressure and heaviness in the pelvic region, and MAN, does that hurt. Huuuuurt. At my appointment this afternoon, the doctor declared that the baby had definitely dropped and that his head is quite low, which explains the vast improvement in heartburn recently, as well as my new inability to waddle with any modicum of grace or lack of pain. 

🔹I am still taking Phenergan daily at 37+ weeks, and without it, the gags come back to haunt me. It's awesome. Food-wise, I haven't had a ton of cravings or aversions. In the beginning, the nausea was all-consuming, but nothing in particular really turned my stomach. I ate a Starbucks breakfast sandwich every morning for a while there, so those kind of gross me out now. Also, I think because we hadn't been in our house for very long before the nausea hit, I came to associate a lot of the inherent new house smells with feeling like death was nigh, so it has been fun walking into certain areas and feeling the ugh wash over me anew. Cravings have rarely been of the "I MUST have this one specific thing RIGHT NOW" variety. There was the one night I truly needed Coldstone, but otherwise? It has mainly been an intense sweet tooth situation. Danish (specifically and uniquely Wegmans Kuchen, either apple, raspberry, or cheese) has been very special to me. Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs are always my holiday candy of choice, but I kind of hoarded them this year. I have eaten a metric ton of brownies, but those were for the baby. Brownies, preferably frosted ones, make him lose his fool mind, and the dancing that ensues is too hilarious to resist. Oh! And fruit! Ice cold apple slices were my life in the first trimester. Once clementine season rolled around, I was putting back about a crate a week. Now that berries are looking less winter anemic, giant blackberries are my thing, though raspberries and blueberries are also welcome. Beverages have been tough. I hate water (haaaate), so I've struggled with getting enough fluids in. There has been a lot of watered down Gatorade, some Coke Zero (sorry, baby), and so much squirty water flavoring crap (my #1 is Nestea's Arnold Palmer). Now that the heartburn has abated somewhat, I am favoring the madras (hold the vodka, replace it with water). 

🔹The heartburn was pretty gruesome for a bit there. It was so bad it actually caused referred pain in three spots -- my right ear, the back of my neck, and a spot on my right arm. So weird, and so awful. My voice was hoarse one week, and there was a dark night when I ended up sobbing in frustration. I am beyond grateful that that phase seems to have passed. I did learn one thing, though: vanilla ice cream is a pretty excellent, if temporary, heartburn remedy. But in those 30 excruciating minutes while you're waiting for the Zantac to kick in? Ain't nothing better than a vanilla frosty. (You're welcome.)

So there you have it -- so many moments to "treasure." It's such an odd position to be in, to be so grateful for something that you wanted so desperately and feared would never work out, but that is so physically crappy. I do love love love the wiggling, especially when I see his little butt pull my whole belly up into a lopsided point or when he plays keep away with that wee elbow, but the rest of it all? Thbbbbbttt. Swistle's luckiness/suckiness statement? Truer words have never been written. 

PS -- Baby's room is almost done, so I'll try to post some photos soon. It's looking pretty cute!

A Day in the Life

I have loved reading about all of your daily routines (daaamn, some of you ladies manage to pack a LOT into your day – color me impressed!), so I am writing out my own, even though it is so not that interesting. And even though it will memorialize my shocking laziness. Here's my (very lengthy!) Tuesday:

5:20 am: Mark’s alarm sounds for the first time and he does not respond. Wiggle close enough to kick him until he gets up to hit snooze. He returns to the bed and groggily greets the fetus with a pat. Repeat every nine minutes until he staggers toward the bathroom.

6:10 am: Mark turns on the lights, kisses me goodbye, and attempts to make sure I am actually conscious, as I have to take my mom to the airport this morning. I blearily mumble my usual goodbye: “Love you. Nice day. Lunch.” (He will still forget to take his lunch.)

6:20 am: I reluctantly drag my sorry carcass from the sheets and stumble to the bathroom where I shower, brush teeth, and fix the hair and makeup, etc. It’s an off day for hair washing, so the routine is speedier than on washing days. (This is all set to change, however, as I am getting my hair chopped off tomorrow. HOORAY!! I haven’t had it cut since August and it needs it desperately.)

6:40 am: Head to the closet to get dressed, stopping by the dresser for a hit of perfume. I am already pantyhosed and beskirted when I realize that the cardigan I normally wear with this skirt is in the wash. I grab another black top that I know will make me crazy all day long because the neckline is too big to wear without a scarf and I have no scarf to wear with this skirt. C’est la vie – it’s too late to look for something else.

(I definitely spent all damn day futzing with the neckline o’ regret.)

6:45 am: Make the bed, open the blinds, and head downstairs where Mom is waiting for me. Grab lunch bag and start throwing in snacks – a cheese stick, 2 clementinesa yogurt. I normally make a half sandwich for lunch also, but Mom made Italian wedding soup last night (mmm), so I scoop some into a jar instead. Spoons and a napkin complete the bag. I forego making my usual breakfast for the car (2 eggo waffles, toasted with butter, and a half-caff latte) since I am heading out early and will have time to stop at Starbucks.

6:55 am: Mom and I gather our stuff. I set the alarm and we head into the garage to load the car. It is shockingly chilly again and the sky looks like snow is coming; the unbelievably gorgeous weekend we had was such a tease. Into the traffic we go.

7:20 am: I drop Mom at the airport for her 8:30 flight home. She says more of a goodbye to my belly than to me. (The grandparents are kind of beside themselves with excitement. It’s pretty cute.)

7:25 am: I head back out into the traffic in the opposite direction to head to the office. My commute requires driving a particularly nasty stretch of the DC Beltway, and today is no exception. I gladly fork over the dollars to use the express lanes (toll road) and zip past the parking lot that is the main lanes.

7:55 am: Stop off at Starbucks on my way in for a latte and a cinnamon scone. Lovely treat.

8:10 am: Arrive at the office. Gather my work bag, lunch bag, purse, water bottle, and breakfast and schlep it all through the parking lot and into the building. Chat with coworker in the elevator and on the way to our desks.

8:15 am: Start up the computer and head to the galley kitchen to put away my lunch bag. Stop to chat with coworker on the way back. She was out of the office last week and apparently the belly has gotten a lot bigger in that timeframe. We chat about the baby, her upcoming wedding, and the conference that most of my team attended last week while I held down the fort in the office.

8:30 am: Get to work. Check emails, read daily listservs, sort through some researchy tasks, and make my list of what needs to be done for the day.

9:00 am: Check on Mom’s flight via FlightAware. I am a crazy person and do not care for having my loved ones 30,000 feet above the earth in a metal tube, therefore I track their flight’s progress, keeping them aloft with my mind. It’s exhausting, as you might imagine. (I kid, but yes, I like the little altitude graph that assures me that my mommy has not plummeted into Long Island Sound.)

9:54 am: Receive text that Mom has landed safely in Boston.

12:50 pm: Emailing with Mark. He really wants to host a March Madness/Basement Warming party, but we are split on dates. We leave for vacation on Saturday, returning the following weekend, then we have friends visiting the weekend after that. He still has some finishing touches to complete in the basement, so I am of the opinion that we need a weekend to prepare before having a party; he is more concerned with the basketball schedule and the abundance of games that first weekend. I am also stressing about getting the baby’s room together, but I could be just a tad irrational on that topic, seeing as we have a good 12+ weeks to go (I hope, knock wood, etc.). We shall see….

1:05 pm: Head to the kitchen to heat up lunch. Chat with coworkers while soup heats up. Head back to my desk. Soup is delicious, but yogurt was very liquidy and possibly curdled? Ugh, definitely not eating it. Have cheese stick and clementines insteadCheck the news while eating.

1:45 pm: Heeeeartbuuuuuurn. (Daaamn, baby, cut Mama's digestive tract some slack!) Root through purse for Zantac.

2:55 pm: Chin dives are FIERCE today. I am struggling to keep my very red eyes open. Decide that this calls for caffeine and chocolate. Head to the break room, where I also put my soup bowl and yesterday’s mug in the dishwasher. Conveniently, some coworkers are brewing a fresh pot of coffee. I select “Grandma’s Chocolate Brownie Cookies” from the vending machine, which shorts me $.10. (These cookies? They were made by Frito Lay, not anyone's Grandma, and I am pretty sure my Grandma has never made cookies which had shortening and HFCS within the top four ingredients. UGH, desperate times.) Fill up with coffee when the pot is full and head back to my desk.

3:05 pm: Encounter coworker in the hallway on my way back who had just been down to my office to see me. She comes in to chat about an interesting new potential client. There are some questionable regulatory issues happening, so I ask her to set up a conference call on Thursday morning, which gives me some time for research. To the FDA regs I go…

4:22 pm: Mark emails to see if I am still planning to head out before 5 since I was in early. I am hoping so, because while the coffee helped, I am still wiped from the very fun weekend. I mention stopping at Old Navy to look for summery maternity clothes on my way home, seeing as I have none and we are leaving on Saturday. (Here’s hoping my cache of Lands End Fit and Flare dresses will be as forgiving to the six months of baby attached to my person as they were to the severe post-egg retrieval bloat. Mental note to try them on tonight.) Mom gave me a gift card to Motherhood Maternity for Valentine’s Day, which is earmarked for a bathing suit. Looks like I’ll have to stop there on Thursday, leaving Friday open for a mani/pedi and packing. Nothing like waiting until the last minute!

4:48 pm: Note that my liquid intake has been less than ideal today – two coffees and one water bottle does not sufficient hydration make, at least not when I am trying to ward off the scary cramping. Will have to step it up tonight.

5:02 pm: Begin fighting with archaic phone system in order to forward my phone for telework day. It keeps saying that my cell is a non-working number. The hell it is, you effing piece of crap. Decide to cross fingers, as no one ever calls anyway, and pack up. Stop by the bathroom on the way out because, well, pregnant + 30 mile commute. 

5:20 pm: Stop by Old Navy to check out potential options for vacation clothing. Store claims to carry maternity line; store lies. Moving on!

5:35 pm: Decide to try popping by Destination Maternity around the corner from Old Navy if I can find parking. Luck out with street parking and take it as a siiiign. Not much luck with actual clothes (come oooon, Fit & Flares!), but I find the bathing suit I had been eyeballing online in my size and it's not horrible. Put it on hold and plan to come back with gift card from Mom. 

6:10 pm: Return home, fall head first into bag of chips husband purchased (I never, never buy junk food for precisely this reason). Find husband in the basement, putting some finishing touches on the bar. Screw around chatting for a bit, half watching an episode of Ken Burns: Baseball. Laugh when Mark says he cried a little when they talked about the Sox winning in '04. I love nothing more than watching the 30 for 30: Four Days in October with him; it's his "Steel Magnolias." 

6:45 pm: Head upstairs to find my jammies and start some laundry. Remember I have to try on the Fit & Flares. They are slightly awkward, but I can make it work. WOO. Another LE dress fits as well. I also have high hopes for the flared skirts with the fold-over waist bands. Now to find t-shirts...

7:00 pm: Head downstairs to make dinner, completely forgetting to start the laundry. (Crap.) We're making sandwiches with the leftover tenderloin roast from Saturday night's dinner. Heat oven #1 for the baguette and oven #2 for the beef. Slice up the beef and throw it on a small sheet pan to reheat, shove all of the food in the ovens. Mark sets the table. When the food is heated, I cut the baguette in two and slather the insides with this amazing creamy dijon horseradish sauce we found at Whole Foods and stuff the sandwiches with the beef and some arugula. Root through the fridge for leftover roasted veggies and call it dinner. 

7:50 pm: Mark loads the dishwasher while I make him a lunch sandwich with the leftovers and wipe down the table and counters. Now? Now it is basement time -- cozy man chairs, a comfy quilt, and House of Cards. I refill my water bottle and we head downstairs. 

9:50 pm: Mark turns into a pumpkin at 10 and I'm too exhausted from the weekend to try to con him into another episode. We tidy up the room and head upstairs to bed. I stop off in the kitchen for my meds (Phenergan: Don't leave home without it!), turn on the alarm, and continue up to bed. I turn on the fan, forage for my vitamins, and set up the iPad and headphones. (Ohhh, the bedtime tv battle we used to have -- I need something to focus on so I can turn off my brain and sleep, he needs quiet darkness. The iPad arrangement has saved me yeeears in prison for Mark's murder.) Mark helps me roll into bed (the SPD pain is getting much better, but getting into bed is still hurty; it helps to have him swing my feet in rather than to go leg by leg) and we're both out within minutes of our heads hitting the pillows. Zzzz...

And then we do roughly the same thing again the next day. I had no idea "Groundhog Day" was so true to life. ;)

100 Days

This past Thursday, in addition to a cozy snow day, we hit the 100 Day mark -- 100 days left until the due date. I was thinking it would be kind of fun to mark. I'm due the day before the 13th anniversary of my college graduation and, as seniors, we planned a huge ball to celebrate the beginning of our last 100 days of college. I'm certainly not thinking about throwing what amounted to a very formal kegger, but I was thinking I'd take a first shot of the belly (it is still very stubbornly looking like a fat beer gut rather than a baby, so I haven't exactly been thrilled by the idea of memorializing it) and would maybe start packing up the stuff that's occupying his room so that we can get to work on a nursery. 

Instead I spent the entire day fretting that something was very, very wrong. I felt kind of off, and I had a wicked backache and vague crampiness all day. By the time we finished dinner, I was DONE and ready for the couch. There the backache developed into distinctly period-like cramps that started in my back and wrapped around my hips and went down into my thighs. It would cramp up, then relax, cramp up, then relax; this went on for over an hour, by which time I was thoroughly distraught. I took a hot shower to see if that would help, but by the time Mark came to check on me, I was all, "WE ARE GOING TO THE ER. NOW."

We headed out into round 2 of the snowstorm, and of course the roads were miserable. The highway was covered in icy slush and regular streets were even worse. We decided to go to the closer Urgent Care center operated by the hospital system rather than continuing to the hospital where the baby will be born. I figured that if things were actually dire, they could send us to the hospital by ambulance. I had barely gotten the words "25, almost 26, weeks pregnant and cramping" out before they called a nurse to bring me back and kept my husband to finish the registration stuff. 

In the exam room, I changed into a gown and they started an IV to draw blood. They had me give a urine sample and then we waited for the doctor, which took a surprising amount of time given that I seemed to be their only patient. (Given his later bedside manner, I'm thinking maybe he was googling "25, almost 26, weeks pregnant and cramping.") The doctor came in with an ultrasound machine and went to work checking out the baby. Unfortunately for us, he looked very frowny and said NOT A WORD for many minutes, until I said in a panic-stricken rush, "Um, YOUFOUNDTHEHEARTBEAT,RIGHT?" He looked at me like I was annoying him and was all, "Yes, but I cannot get a good image of the cervix." 


He eventually pointed out the baby moving around, after COUNTING ON HIS FINGERS to calculate the heart rate. (This is where I reeeally started regretting not trekking to the real ER.) He said that where he couldn't get an image of the cervix, he would have to do a manual exam. I am pretty sure he had not performed a manual exam since med school, if ever. As he was lubing up to do the exam, he said to the nurse, "Oh wait, second trimester, I need sterile gloves." He then proceeded to conduct the most painful medical experience I've had since the egg retrieval. Seriously, the nurse had to remind me to breathe, it was that bad.

One funny thing -- he asked if I wanted Mark to step out while he did he exam. I was like, dude, first, he's my husband; he's familiar with that region. Second? We did IVF; I am utterly devoid of dignity at this point.

Anyway, he left the room to check lab results and then came back in with a diagnosis of -- no joke -- lower back pain. He said the urine results were negative, he couldn't feel anything "bulging around the cervix" (was he expecting to find a baby hanging out down there?), and the baby was doing fine, so he felt comfortable sending me home. The next part was my favorite. He said that he couldn't guarantee it wasn't preterm labor and that he had had one case where a fetus was later expelled (WHAAAT?!), but he thought that would be an unlikely outcome. I sat there, dumbfounded, unable to believe he had really just said that. Like, eh, it's possible your baby could fall out sometime tonight, but you know, try crossing your legs and you should be fine! After he left the room, the nurse started to go through discharge instructions and I asked whether they were going to monitor me to see whether the uterus was actually contracting. She said she thought the ultrasound could tell that, but went out to check with the doctor. Turns out the ultrasound can't see that, and they don't have that kind of monitoring equipment. AWESOME. I'M FEELING SUPER CONFIDENT IN YOUR DIAGNOSIS OF "BACKACHE," SIR.

We were released and headed back into the snow, hoping the car would get up the steep hill we live at the top of. The cramping had subsided somewhat, so we decided we'd try to get some sleep, but would go directly to the ER if anything changed. By morning, I was sore, but the cramping was gone. I called my OB to let them know what was going on. They were glad we went in to get checked, but not thrilled that they had lacked the appropriate equipment. They suspected dehydration and ordered this terrible water drinker to step it up substantially, but said to call right away if the cramping returned and they would send me to L&D to be checked. My next regular appointment is Monday, so they felt ok letting me wait through the weekend as long as there was no more cramping. I started pushing water by the giant bottle (ugh) and spent much of yesterday lying on my left side, but *knock wood* there has been no more cramping. Here's hoping it stays that way...

I did have a wee breakdown Friday night. I was making pizza for dinner and Mark came up to hug me from behind. Unfortunately, he also accidentally clocked me right in my junky sinus with his water glass. My eyes got teary and from there it was aaaaall over. I could not stop the waterworks. He was horrified that I was hurt and I was like, "I'm not hur-ur-urrrt; I just can't sto-o-op, I don't know what's wro-o-ong with meeeee. *SOB*" We were both laughing at how ridiculous it was, but it took me a bit to calm down. Guess my cold dead soul was pretty worried about my wee, undercooked baby. 

On the upside, there's still no more cramping AND my buddy made me breakfast in bed on Saturday. 
He actually bought an ebelskiver pan specifically for a post-Valentine's surprise! How cute is that? He is the best. 

The 100 Day mark wasn't what I expected, but then again, neither was the road to get here. We're hanging in, though, and so very grateful that this was just a minor bump in the road. Here's hoping that the next 97 days (and beyond) will be smooth and boring...


Back again so soon, eh? It'll be a quickie this time -- promise. This one is food related.

Food has been a sensitive subject up in these parts for the last five months. We spent the fall slogging through life in general. I just could not deal with grocery shopping or cooking (or living, really), and my husband, while very supportive, is really not a cook. It was also troublesome that one very specific food item would sound slightly palatable at dinner planning time, but in the amount of time it took to acquire that specific item, it would undoubtedly become mostly unpalatable. I had an intense relationship with Starbucks breakfast sandwiches in the first trimester, but our love burned hot and fast. I went through a short Velveeta/Rotel/Hormel chili queso phase, and most recently, had an intense affair with danish (but only Wegmans raspberry or cheese kuchen -- so good). (Danish still has my heart, but I had to break things off before he also got my ass.)

In short, while I'm still not in top form on the food shopping/preparation front, I am doing my best. I phone it in more than I would prefer, and grocery shopping often is more than I can manage, but there is dramatically more real food coming out of my kitchen these days. (Woo!)

Last night, I kind of winged it on a phoned in dinner and it was so easy and delicious, I had to share. I was yet again too sore at the end of the day to buy groceries, so I had Mark stop and pick up some pizza dough and deli ham. When I got home, I threw together a quick calzone and white bean soup from an Alessi mix. 

For the calzone, I rolled out the dough into a long rectangle. I sprinkled a good layer of Trader Joe's Quattro Formaggi shredded cheese blend down the middle. Next came a layer of ham (about 6 oz) and a layer of swiss cheese. I folded the sides of the dough over, tucked the ends in, and pinched everything closed. I flipped it over, gave it a brush of an egg wash, and threw it in the oven. I put it on parchment on a preheated pizza stone. I normally cook pizza at 525, but had preheated the oven to 450. I turned it down to 425 to make sure the calzone cooked through without burning. It took maybe 15-20 minutes, until it was a deep, golden brown and melty cheese started to escape. 

It was sinfully delicious -- the kind of meal that leaves us saying, "Damn, my brain wants more, but my belly is too full." We were both super excited to have leftovers for lunch today too. Stupidly easy and delicious? That is a win in my book.

Hello, old friend!

It has been a while since I checked in over here and HOO BOY, are things better. I would like to kiss the face of whoever invented Phenergan. Seriously. I went from constant, nauseated misery coupled with crippling constipation (a giant bird to you, Zofran) to "I FEEL COMPARATIVELY MAAAAARVELOOOOOUS" with one dose. There were tears of gratitude on more than one occasion, no joke. With time, the nausea has gotten much better on its own too. I am down to one dose nightly, which gets me through the morning, and if I forget to take them, the misery is minimal. Thank GOD; the fall was a dark, dark time over here.

Conveniently, the dramatic improvement in health came just in time for the holidays. We went to Boston for the massive Irish shit show (i.e. Thanksgiving -- it's a lovely tradition, though pretty funny as the sober one). There is lots of delicious food (I come from a family of amazing cooks) and wine, and it's a great day with most of my mom's huge family. She's the oldest of nine, and 7/9 attend with all of their spouses and kids. We missed it last year, so it was great to be back. 

Once we got home, we decorated for Christmas as much as I had energy for, because Mark's parents were coming to us for faux Christmas. I loved having the decorations up; it made the house feel so cozy. 

We had a great visit. We did "Christmas" on the Sunday of their visit, with my MIL making her traditional cinnamon rolls and opening presents. I made a tenderloin roast with horseradish cream sauce for dinner with a potato gratin (Smitten Kitchen's recipe + caramelized onions -- omg) and roasted green beans with a lemon chive butter. We had boozy icebox cake for dessert and sat around on the cozy couch lit by the tree. Lovely. 

We went back to Boston for Christmas proper. We got there in time for the Christmas party with my mom's side of the family, went up to visit Mark's grandmother, and had Christmas Eve/day with my dad's family. We do the whole seven fishes thing on Christmas Eve (my mom hosts -- we have smoked salmon and fried calamari with the apps, linguini with clam sauce, scrod baked with crabmeat stuffing, and baked stuffed shrimp and scallops). It's much more formal than with my mom's family, but my cousins on this side are really funny. I'm the oldest by six years, so I wasn't really close to these cousins when we were younger; I was a babysitter rather than one of the kids. It has been really fun as they've all gotten older too. 

My tiny grandma sleeps over on Christmas Eve (she has done this since my grandfather died in 1996) and we open presents and eat leftover smoked salmon with bagels and cream cheese. We go to my uncle's house for dinner with the same crowd (SO MUCH FOOD AND TOGETHERNESS), and then on the 26th, we have the traditional Day of Sloth. We clean up the presents and arrange them under the tree, shower and change back into jammies, and then we take to the couch. Well, my mom and I do. My dad usually goes to the office and Mark went to meet up with high school friends. It was glorious. I gave mom Downton Abbey on dvd, so she powered through the first season while I napped. We had leftover baked stuffed shrimp for lunch and an afternoon snack of pie. I tried to soak up the gloriousness as much as I could, knowing that next year will (knock wood, fingers crossed) be VERY different. 

On the baby front, all is going well. My biggest issue to date has been some pubic symphysis discomfort. I sleep with a pillow between my legs and sit down to put pants on. Flipping over in bed and putting all of my weight on one foot is pretty painful, and for some reason, walking around grocery stores practically cripples me, but otherwise it's pretty manageable. Baby boy, whom we are calling Billy for the time being (it's a long story, and probably only funny if you know my dad), had his 20 week ultrasound, and he's looking perfectly healthy, which was such a huge relief. He also revealed his funny little personality. My sweet guy is a total stinker. They spent two hours checking him out and I still had to go back for a repeat because he refused to let them measure the structures in his head. He was just as much of a stinker the second time around. They were able to measure everything they needed to, but when they tried getting a 4D image of his face, he hid behind his hands, looked away, and even shook his head "no" (OMG). We did get a profile and he's adorable, of course; I think he looks just like Mark, not that you can really tell. 

The really fun stuff is that he's super active, and I love feeling him wiggling around in there. He's a big chocolate fan, so that always gets him dancing. He totally responds to his space getting squished too. He punches me when I lean over the computer, and he was pissed last week when I wore regular khakis with a belly band. They were kind of digging into the belly, and he spent a good portion of the day punching right where the pants were cramping his style, poor baby. His kicks and punches have gotten to the point where Mark can sometimes feel him too. 

We celebrated hitting the viability mark by ordering his crib, mattress, and changing table, as well as getting baby registries started. Would you please look at these shoes I bought? Have you ever seen anything so wee and adorable?

It is all both awesome and terrifying, because he feels so real now and I love him so much already, and I am absolutely terrified (TERRIFIED) of something happening to him. I know it's out of my control, so I'm trying to focus on the fact that all is going well to this point, rather than all of the horror stories my brain has accumulated over the years and naturally prefers to fixate on. It feels so impossible that we could really be so lucky after so much disappointment; I think I'm just so used to waiting for the other shoe to drop.

24 weeks, 4 days today. We are SO EXCITED to meet you, my Billy. (We'll gladly wait until you're fully cooked, though.)