Saturday, June 19, 2010

Happy Birthday baby!

It's finally here. She's 1. At 5:35 PM, 1 year ago, I had just given birth to my precious Emma Claire. My life had changed forever. We went from a couple to a family, in a matter of moments. Before I delivered her I had all of these images of holding my sweet baby, nursing her in the delivery room. She wouldn't leave my side - it's standard for the nurses to give the first bath and check-up right in the room. Brad and I would have a few hours to ourselves, getting to know our new little life. Then we would welcome in our family, sharing her with them for the first time, together. It was written in my birth plan, so it would happen just as I had proclaimed it, right?

Yeah. Right! Moments later I was being whisked into surgery to repair my 4th degree tear and Brad was feeding Emma her first bottle. Well, her only bottle. It was right then that I realized that I had absolutely NO control - God was holding the reigns, just as He always has. Emma's blood sugar was borderline-low and she needed to eat right then. I was bleeding so badly that they couldn't wait for me to nurse her before stitching me up in the OR. They tore her away from me before I was even able to hold her. I didn't get to see who's nose she had, what her eye color was, how she smelled. Brad didn't know which direction to go - follow me, or stay with Emma. I told him to stay with her, no matter what. I later found out, it was in those scary first moments when he was alone with her, her sole caregiver for a little while, that he and Emma found their niche. He felt true responsibility for the first time. He fell in love. After I was out of recovery and in a room, they brought her to us. I held her for the first time, and nursed her. I stared at her for hours. I wouldn't put her down until I decided that after well over 36 hours with no sleep, I had to give in. She was mine, and I was her's. And Brad sobbed like a baby. It was all so real all of the sudden. We were a family and we were in charge of another helpless human life. And it was magnificent. She was absolutely perfect - hairy ears and all. ;)

It has been very difficult for me to accept the fact that once she was conceived, I was no longer in control. I couldn't control my morning sickness, my heart rate issues, my water breaking IN THE BED! I can steer her and I can lead her, but she's got a mind of her own and she steers her own boat. It's becoming more and more obvious that our little girl is hard-headed and determined. She knows what she wants and will do what she has to to get it. And I love it. I love that I have no control. She makes up her own mind. She knows what she likes and doesn't like. And I love it. It amazes me to think that we have raised this awesome little one year old with such strong opinions and such an incredible spirit. She's just perfect for us. She fits in our family so perfectly.

She arches her back when she doesn't want her diaper changed, she makes the funniest face and shoves my hand away when I feed her something she doesn't want, and she will look at me and make the cutest little guilty noise before she does something that she knows she's not supposed to. And I love it. I love every BIT of it. I love her.

And here she is, a perfect 1 year old. I'm planning to have this blog printed into a book very soon, and have been thinking for months over what my last post would be before I print it. I want very much for this to be Emma's book. I have written these blog posts for many reasons - for family, for me, but mostly for her. I want her to be able to look back at this as a woman and know how very loved she is and has always been. That's why I've decided to share with everyone a letter that I wrote to Emma when I was pregnant. It's a personal letter, but one that I want included in her book.

I hope that you all enjoy reading it and that she will one day look at it and realize just how much she means to her Daddy and I and how much I have always loved her - with my whole heart. I love you my sweet baby girl. Now and forever.

Enjoy your book. It's the first of many, as my special gift to you on your birthday.

Written: May 11, 2009

My sweet Emma Claire,

I’ve been meaning to write you a letter for months now, but have spent so much time getting ready for your arrival that I just haven’t sat down to write it. You’ll learn that I’m a bit of a procrastinator when it comes to most things. I WOULD be handwriting this letter, but that would be yet another reason to put it off – typing is much quicker.

I wanted to take a few minutes and tell you a little bit about life for your Daddy and me right now. We’ve been waiting so long for you – only 2 more months now! I’m 32 weeks pregnant this week. It seems like it’s been a long journey, although it’s only been 8 months. In truth, it’s been a much longer journey than the past 8 months. Let me tell you a little bit about that journey.

Your Daddy and I got married on October 1, 2005 at Forrest Hills Mountain Resort in Dahlonega, GA. We had been talking about having children for years – we met on November 13, 2000. In fact, we had already planned your name before we had even gotten married – we knew that you would be Emma Claire if you were a girl. A boy, we weren’t so sure about boy names! After I got pregnant with you we decided we liked Jacob Thomas or Ryan Thomas. If you ever have a brother, you may hear those names again! Anyway, we waited until your Dad had a job with Dekalb County Schools and we had purchased our first house before we started trying to get pregnant.

We had no idea what we were in for. No one on either side of our families had ever had a hard time getting pregnant. We were expecting for it to happen quickly and easily and follow our “plans.” We were wrong. After well over a year of “trying” we were getting nowhere. I had always had irregular periods and discovered that even when I DID have one, I wasn’t ovulating. I used ovulation test strips, took my basal temperatures to chart, and kept lengthy records of my monthly cycles. After a year, my doctor decided to do some tests. It was discovered that I had polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and that was what was likely causing my irregular cycles and not ovulating. I began taking Provera to induce my periods. Each month I would take Provera for 7-10 days and then wait. Once my period started, I would chart my temperatures and use test strips. I still wasn’t ovulating. That was when the doctor prescribed Clomid, a fairly strong drug with nasty side effects that is supposed to induce ovulation. I did 2 rounds of Clomid, 2 months in a row. After the second round, I was pregnant! I was thrilled, as was your Daddy. We told our families right away, sure that everything was perfect.

Unfortunately, I lost that baby after only 8 weeks and 3 days. It was the most devastating thing that I’ve ever experienced. Your Daddy was so supportive, but it was something that I really had to deal with on my own. At that point, I was certain that I’d never be able to get pregnant, much less carry a baby to term. The doctors assured me that it was likely a genetic defect that caused the loss, but I was unsure. I had to go back to the doctor every other day to have blood drawn to check my HCG levels until they were low enough – about 2 weeks. As part of the blood work that was done after my miscarriage, a thyroid panel was completed. That was when they found the real problem. I had hypothyroid disease. Your grandma has hyperthyroid, and your great grandma had hypothyroid. It’s considered to be genetic, though I hope it skips you. It causes several things, including irregular periods, blood clots in the umbilical cord, and most likely, my miscarriage.

I went to the endocrinologist and started on synthroid, to correct my thyroid levels. The doctor told me to not try to get pregnant for at least 6 weeks. At the time I thought, “I just miscarried. I’m not trying again for a LONG time.” I was so afraid of losing another baby. Needless to say, within 5 weeks I was pregnant with you! We decided to let whatever happened happen, no testing, no charting, and no stress. And then you happened!

From day one this has been the perfect pregnancy. You have always measured ahead of your gestational age (the other baby always measured behind). I had horrible morning sickness, mostly in the morning when I brushed my teeth and occasionally at night. Do you want to know the truth though? I was grateful for every bit of morning sickness that I ever had. I told God that if I had to throw up every single day of my pregnancy for you, then I would do so happily. God had better plans, and I was over the nausea by 16 weeks. It’s recently come back, but not very strongly. I have also had symphasis pubis dysfunction, something that happens when your body produces too much relaxin and your pubic bone actually separates. It was painful, but worth it.

This pregnancy has been the happiest time of my entire life. I have everything that I have always wanted. I have a wonderful husband, a beautiful house, a nursery that’s almost all ready for you, and a precious baby bump. As I sit here now and look down, all I can see is baby! You weigh about 4 ½ lbs right now. You kick all the time and it’s the best feeling in the world. I think all the time about what you’ll be like when you are born. Will you have hair? Will you look like Daddy or me? Will you be big? Right now you are in the 66th percentile of height and weight. You are the most precious thing to me in this world and I would do anything in the world for you, even though you haven’t been born yet. I just can’t wait to meet you.

Let me tell you some things that I’ve already learned about you. You hate it when I lay on my left side in particular. You kick me hard and fast and it scares me sometimes because I’m afraid that I’m hurting you – the doctor assures me that I’m not, you just have “attitude!” You like to kick Lucy in the back when she lies against my stomach. When I sit down for too long, you like to kick me in the ribs to make me stretch out more. You hate it when I lean over the counter in front of the sink to wash my hands or do dishes. You love it when I play loud music and take a bath – you kick so hard! You really love Matt Nathanson and Sublime. You kick back when your Daddy pokes my belly – he loves to play with you because you only kick him back. When I had a rented heart Doppler, he was the only one that could find your heartbeat – he used to have to chase you around in my belly because you could feel the pressure from the Doppler and would run! You love to kick my bladder – I could live without that one! You have definite sleep patterns. You usually wake up when I get to work in the morning, around 7AM. You sleep off and on throughout the day, waking up very much around 7PM to play. Your Daddy and I love to sit around and watch my big belly move as you kick and do somersaults. You often lay upright on the right side of my belly looking like a big lump. It makes me laugh, and Daddy says it looks like I have an alien in there. You hate it when I wear pants with a band that goes across my belly. You kick the band all the way around my waist over and over and over again until I change. You’ve given me the best figure I’ve ever had. I lost 5 lbs throughout the early pregnancy and have only gained 7 lbs so far (2 over my pre-pregnancy weight). People tell me all the time how cute I look – I’m only big in my belly, nowhere else. I have you to thank for that! I think I’d like to be pregnant forever. It’s just the best. There is one bad part – sleeping. I wake up once an hour (not exaggerating) to go to the bathroom and readjust in the bed. I have to sleep with one leg over a pillow to keep from rolling onto my belly. You and I don’t always have the same idea as to when bedtime is, so I often get woken up early in the morning to you kicking me because I’m on my side. You have a mind of your own – you WON’T stop kicking until I turn over. I’ve even tried waiting you out. No luck! I’m looking forward to you getting here so that I can get MORE sleep – even if you wake up every 2 hours, it’s still better than I’m getting now!

There are so many things that I’m looking forward to. I can’t wait to hold you, smell your sweet baby smell, and cuddle you. I can’t wait to see your Daddy holding you for the first time. I can’t wait for your grandma to meet you – she’s almost as excited as I am, though she would say more. I can’t wait to breastfeed. I know, it may sound weird, but I can’t wait. It amazes me to think that my body will be making everything that you will need to survive for the first year of your life. It’s such a bonding experience and I’m so excited. I can’t wait to be not only your mom, but your friend. I hope that you will always know that you can come to me and talk about anything in this world, without judgment.

I am planning to cloth diaper you. My mom did the same with me, and it’s a gift I’d like to give you. It’s more complicated and much more time consuming than disposables, but I’m devoted to it. I will have enough time to do the laundry because I’ll be at home with you.

Speaking of being at home, I have 2 more weeks of school until I’m done. I’ve decided to take off a few years to be a stay at home mom. I want to be the one to raise my sweet baby and wouldn’t dream of daycare. We will be on a tight budget just to make ends meet, but things will work out. I’m a little scared about our finances, but I know that God will provide for us. He always has.

I can’t wait to meet you sweet girl. You’re going to make me the one thing in this life that only you can – a mother. Thank you for allowing us to be your parents. I hope that we won’t let you down. I had the best parents in the world and I can only hope that we can be just as good of parents to you. You can always know, without a doubt, that you have always been wanted, loved, and desired. We love you unconditionally and without end. We always will.

With all the love in my heart,

Your Mommy

Birthday Girl

Whew! I can't believe that we just got done celebrating Emma's first birthday. This year has been such a whirlwind.

On Saturday, Brad and I got up early(ish) to finish getting things set up for the party. After a frantic 8:30 AM call to my mom, she came rushing over to watch Emma while Brad and I got things ready. We put her down for her morning nap at 9:30 and she awoke to Party Central at 10:45!

She wore a precious little jumper that I bought for her at Tucker Days this year. I also found a precious handmade hair clip that I attached to a headband for my bald babe. I only made her keep it on for a few pictures, but it was well worth it!

Emma's Grammy and Grandpa (my parents) were there, as were Brad's parents and sister. We decided to keep things low-key and relaxed and invited our best friends and Emma's best little buddies. They guest list: Amber, Jason, and Seth, Mary, Jeremy, and Jack, Elizabeth and Bernard, Rachel, Juan, and Juliette. It was just perfect. I actually got things done ahead of time and was able to really sit back and enjoy the party, our friends, and my baby girl.

Brad manned the grill and, after an emergency trip to Home Depot for another propane tank, the burgers and hotdogs were delicious. I also made potatoes au gratin and Brad's mom made baked beans and a fruit tray. Emma loved her nitrate-free hotdog!

After we ate lunch we sang Happy Birthday to Emma. I cried like a baby. It was a mixture of emotions, all flooding to the surface. We went through SO much to conceive this baby, bring her safely into this world, and nurture her for an entire year. It has been the most satisfying, loving, and life-altering year of my life. I was so happy to see her at her first birthday party happy, healthy, and loving life. I was so mind-numbingly honored to have her surrounded with our best friends who all love her as if she were their own. I couldn't have been more happy. And I couldn't have been more sad. Seeing this year come to an end is just heart-breaking for me. She has been the sweetest, most cuddly, best smelling, most affectionate baby I've ever known. I have seen her grow and develop and change SO much over the last year. Heck, over the last 3 months! I have savored every sweet second of it, taking plenty of time to enjoy her little sounds, her little snuggles, eskimo kisses, and her sweet baby smell. Don't get me wrong - I haven't taken one single second for granted - not ONE. But it feels like we're about to leave her "baby years" behind and move on to the "big girl" years. I'm just not ready for that. If it's all the same to you, I'm going to keep holding, nursing, spoiling, and "babying" my little angel for just as long as I want to. I'm sure no one will mind. :)

After we sang, and I cried. And cried. And cried.....we got on to the "face cake!" She was SO funny! She didn't hesitate for a split second - she dug her hand right in there! She played with the icing and ate a ton of it. She even shared some with me! She didn't have any extra for her Daddy though! I don't think he was too offended. ;)

After she was done digging in it, she just used her face as a utensil. She stuck her little face right in there! She was SOOO cute! Everyone was squeeling about how she knew what to do with cake - and she did! After she had her fill, we took one last picture for posterity and headed to the sink. Lots of soap, papertowels, and warm water later and she was fairly clean!

Brad changed her clothes and we sat down to open presents. She got so many great things! She enjoyed playing with all of her friends - particularly Juliette! After presents, Seth, Juliette, and Emma changed into their bathing suits and played outside in the baby pools that we set up. It was HOT outside, so I MAY have gotten my feet in too......

After we swam, the party wound down. Everyone left except for Amber, Jason, and Seth. Emma went down for a nice long nap - 3 hours! Once she woke up we went to one of our favorite Mexican restaurants (Frontera) for dinner with our company. The waitresses fawned all over Emma - she was making lots of friends by waving at strangers and offering them her goldfish. We enjoyed the live music. We played "name that tune" because the guy was playing some pretty obscure songs. Jason won.

It was the best day ever. Brad and I can't get over it. We both actually enjoyed ourselves rather than being stressed out and in "entertaining" mode. We're both worn out from getting the party and the house together, but it was well worth it.

Tomorrow is Father's Day. On Father's Day last year, my water broke. Emma was born the following day. Her birthday this year is on Wednesday, the 22nd. We're still not sure what our plans are for that day. Maybe we'll take Emma to one of her favorite stores - Petsmart! We have a special birthday plate that Emma's Aunt Claire got for her. She will eat her cake on that plate for her birthday every year and we'll write the date on the back. So she'll be having a piece of her cake on her special plate. I may even let her make it another "face cake."

The day after her birthday is Emma's 1-year check up. I'm dreading it. I plan to refuse the MMR shot for another year or so, so we'll see how they take that. Please pray for my strength in that doctor's office - I will NOT fold on this one!

Thank you so much to everyone who has made this year so special for us and for loving Emma so very much. You all mean the world to us!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Water Baby

I can officially say that we have a water baby on our hands! My parents opened the pool this past weekend and she got her first taste of swimming. She LOVED it! I WOULD have pictures posted, but they all turned out either fuzzy, or very unflattering. Pregnancy and having a baby does terrible things to a woman's body. Let's just leave it at that.

This week we went over to my good friend Mary's house to have a playdate with her little boy, Jack. They got to swim together in the baby pool and had a good time playing while their Mamas got to talk to other adults! It seems like just yesterday that Mary told me she was pregnant and I went to visit her in the hospital just after she had Jack. He'll be 2 in August and she's pregnant with baby #2!

Today we got up and headed out to Thomson to visit my Aunt Claire and Emma's Great-Granddaddy. She had such a good time! She didn't even begin to fuss in the car (either way), took a short nap on the way there and back, and was all smiles. We took another trip on the golf-cart and she stayed awake this time ;) She laughed the entire time! Their dog, Chip, ran in front of us and was galloping through the pasture and the pond. She thought it was hysterical!

When we got back we were burning up. According to my car, it was 94 degrees. Emma's Aunt Claire had a brilliant idea - she filled up a galvanized bucket with water and we stripped Emma down and let her play with some apples in the bucket. She had the time of her life. Brad, Claire, and I took millions of pictures. Each one was cuter than the next. Eat your heart out! I have tons more that are even cuter, but I don't think that "grown up Emma" would appreciate XXX pictures of herself being shared!

Aunt Claire and Em

So lets discuss the elephant in the room. Emma turns 1 year old in 10 days. There. I said it. My baby is growing up. It breaks my heart to think that her first year is almost over. And what a year it's been! It's been the best year of our entire lives. We have savored every single second. Every sweet coo, precious little smile, belly laugh, sleepy little snore. She's just the most precious thing in the world to both of us. She's had us wrapped around her little finger since before she was even born. I can't believe it's almost been a year.

We're going to have a little Baby Einstein birthday celebration next weekend with all of her little friends. We're keeping it small and un-intimidating because she's got quite a bit of stranger danger these days (just ask my grandpa). :( As much as I can't wait for her party, I could definitely push back the tears that will accompany it for a few more months.....oh well. Such is being a mom.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Helen, Part 3

Brad got Emma up first thing on Sunday morning and headed down the street to "Ain't Bee's Bakery" to pick up some breakfast. Apparently, it was a sight to behold. He said that he felt like he was in Mayberry. He said that all of the people there were telling him how much she looked like him and complimenting her on her tan! Thank goodness she got Brad's skin instead of mine. I burn the second I get in the sun, but he tans nicely and so does she.

After we ate and Emma had a morning nap, we left for Cleveland (about 15 minutes away) to Babyland General. I was looking forward to taking her there SO much! I've been 2 or 3 times years ago, but this month they moved to a HUGE new location. Brad kept calling it the "compound" because it really did look like one!

I wasn't sure what Emma would think or if she would really enjoy herself. I had nothing to worry about. As soon as she saw the first babydoll, her face lit up in a smile that didn't leave her face until we left. She had SUCH a good time! She would reach out and touch their faces and smile at them and point to different babies. We saw some vintage dolls on display that are now worth upwards of $15,000 a piece! The solid cloth ones (all of the ones in the pictures) are $200 to adopt. We decided that we'd get Emma's very first Cabbage Patch baby here, but there was NO way that we were going to go home with a cloth one! We found some that were 25th anniversary edition dolls. They were modeled after the few very first dolls that came out in 1983. We narrowed it down to 2 and Emma chose a blond baby with short hair. Her birthday is our wedding anniversary - October 1!

This is a little friend that Emma made - they were so cute!

We haven't taken her out of the box yet, but will be sure to get plenty of pictures when we get home and "birth" her from the box! We left just as they were starting to do a "cabbage section" on Mother Cabbage. There were a TON of people over there watching, so we couldn't get close enough anyway. We stopped to take a few pictures of Emma and her new baby on the bench out front.

We came back to the cabin and Emma took a short nap. We woke up and had dinner and then headed back into Helen to drive around. On the way back she was fussy, so I pulled over at the bridge over the Smith River at Unicoi. We walked down to the dock that overlooked the water. It was SO pretty - I've never seen lake water that was that blue/green. Got lots of pictures there too!

We headed back to the cabin and Emma got another jacuzzi bath. She's going to wonder what's going on when we get home and there are no jets in the tub! Unfortunately, her sleep was miserable. Once she fussed and I jumped right up to put the passy back in, she realized that I was sleeping right next to her. She woke up once an hour to play! No fun.

It was a wonderful little first vacation! Can't wait to do it again!!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Helen, Part 2

After a pretty good night's sleep, we woke up and had a nice cup of coffee and some fresh strawberries for breakfast. Emma took a LONG (2.5 hour) morning nap. Daddy slept with her, while Mommy enjoyed a dip in the hot tub and checked her email.

When we all got up and ready, we went to Helen for lunch. We went to Hofer's, a German bakery and restaurant that Brad's always wanted to go to. There was a long line, which was a good sign, but not the best when you have an infant. However, Emma amazed us and was an angel. I got a reuben sandwich and Brad had the "wurst sampler." It was VERY good.

Emma had a first while we were at Hofer's - she pointed with her index finger for the first time!! She proceeded to do it all weekend, which is just precious. She also started to throw her goldfish in the floor for the first time ever. She's done it a couple of times since, and mommy's made sure to tell her a very stern "no ma'am" each time, which always causes tears, but makes an impact. I'm hoping to stop it before it gets to be a habit.

We left Hofer's and walked around downtown Helen. It was HOT and there were more people there than I've ever seen. I guess a lot of people had the same idea that we did. We stopped in a handmade toy store and bought Emma a "push duck." It's all wooden and the feet flap when you push it. I had one as a little girl and really wanted Emma to have her own.

We also HAD to stop by my favorite place in Helen - Hansel and Gretel's candy store. They make what I am certain is the best fudge in the world. Everyone who knows about Helen knows about the candy store. We stocked up (and got a box for my Dad too!). After we left the candy store, we stopped to see the horses that pull carriages. I have a HUGE issue with this, as far as animal rights goes, but figured that visiting with them might brighten their day. Emma wasn't sure what to think! She's never seen a horse before - that's one thing that the Yellow River Game Ranch DOESN'T have! She even got to feed Clyde a carrot.


I thought this was the most gorgeous dog. He's half Corgi and half Australian Shepherd. Check out his left leg!

On our way back to the cabin we stopped at Fred's Peanut shop. When we parked and I was getting Emma out of the car I spotted a mom holding a baby with a Thirsties diaper cover - just like Emma wears! I made a fool of myself and ran over and struck up a conversation. It's amazing how excited you can get just to meet another cloth diapering mom! It was the first time I've ever met another mom who CDs! We swapped tips, diaper recommendations, and stories. Brad and her hubby were both talking about how much they love cloth diapering and how much cheaper it is than disposables. It was so cool!

Anyway, we bought some cajun roasted peanuts for Brad and a raspberry lemonade slush for me (did I mention it was HOT!?). After we had our fill of Helen we headed back to the cabin for a nap.

After naptime we got in the car and headed to Unicoi state park. Our cabin is about 2 miles from the park, so it was a quick drive. I really wanted Emma to be able to stick her feet in the river. We hunted forever before we found a good spot where we could get to the river. She LOVED it! She jumped and jumped and squished her feet in the sand at the edge of the water. It was so fun. It's amazing to see new things through Emma's eyes. We went down the slide that was nearby a few times before heading home.

I love this one. Not sure what they were looking at, but she's his little twin.

My goofy husband.

It was an awesome day. In the morning we were heading to Babyland General, where Cabbage Patch Kids are born. We must have worn her out because she slept all night!