Friday, May 29, 2015

Ronan's Birth Part One: The Birthing Games

So  . . . here I am . . . hopefully all caught up on my seven months of pregnancy . . . My son is now six months old (currently napping HYAH!), and I can now FINALLY get on with his birth story.
Which I really don't expect you to read in full. It's really more for me, I guess. Aren't all birth stories, in the end? I wanted to write it all down before it got too fuzzy.
So much happened, I didn't have the time to process all of my feelings. I remember wavering between fear, hope, and disappointment.
And there's just a lot to our story, really, there is.

For one thing, the first part takes place over a week. 

It's actually kind of a two parter . . . or maybe even a trilogy . . . yeah, I'd say it's more of a trilogy:

Part One: The Birthing Games
Part Two: My Body Strikes Back
Part Three: There and Back Again

Yeah, I'd say that's about right. 

And so, we begin . . .

A downright HIDEOUS picture of me, but it's the only one we have from roughly two hours before Ronan's birth.
Here's Chris filling out the paper work and me HATING that oxygen mask . . . and the fact that the didn't let me shower that morning. -_-
Thursday, November 13, I was standing at the counter, chopping veggies, when it hit me. My legs were throbbing, twitching, my whole body felt heavy. Exhausted. The same way I feel when a bad cold or a flu is coming on. Achy. Weary. So I texted my teacher friends and principal to see about getting a sub for the next day because this feeling on top of morning sickness meant I would NOT be making it to class in the morning.  And the weekend proceeds with me wavering between nausea and normality.
But, coming midnight Saturday night/Sunday morning, I started vomiting.
Every forty-five minutes.
Bile and stomach acid so potent it was ripping my throat to shreds so that I was coughing up blood. My throat was on fire.
My meds--usually almost miracle workers--did nothing to stop it.

Normally, I would say that, yes, this would be cause for concern.
Even more so when you're pregnant.
And doubly so when, the last time you were sick to this degree, you lost your baby.
So, I am trying not to panic, while looking at Chris, tears in my eyes, saying, "We need a doctor. This is not okay. This is too much like the last time. This is not okay."
We try my OBGYN. Nothing. I mean, NOTHING. Her office doesn't have an answering machine, no out-of-office message, NOTHING. I hadn't been given an emergency number or contact. So, here I am, hugging my toilet, crying, and no idea what to do.So Chris packs me up, hugging Puke Can to my chest, and drives me to the Emergency Clinic where they routinely process me and basically tell me I'm overreacting.
Or maybe they were just trying to play it calm so I would.
I don't know.
But it felt like they saw me as just another crazy pregnant kid with the flu.

My blood pressure, however, was concerning, so they tried a urine sample, but I could barely pull that off. They tried getting in touch with my OBGYN, and they didn't have any luck either. They did, however, get in touch with my high risk doctor, and, after the urine sample, they wrote me a prescription for stronger anti-nausea meds and sent me home.
As we were gathering our things, the sweet nurse looked me over and said, "Honey, you got a hospital bag packed?"
"No . . . we're only 31 weeks.
"Well, honey, things keep going like they're going, you're gonna have that baby sooner rather than later. Better pack that bag now."

Oh, I wish I had listened. 

Monday, my OBGYN squeezed me in for an appointment (you know, they actually pick up the phone during office hours). 
This is when I should have realized something wasn't right.
You see, before we left California, my previous OBGYN made sure I had memorized the symptoms of preeclampsia because my blood condition put me at more risk than usual pregnancies (as opposed to my current OBGYN's opinion).  If I were preeclamptic, I would have:
  1. Change in vision
  2. Unusual and persistent swelling
  3. A headache that wouldn't go away
  4. Pain in my right side (liver)
  5. High blood pressure
  6. Protein in urine
Unfortunately, I didn't know that sudden weight gain, reduced urine output, and excessive vomiting were also symptoms.
And, apparently, no one else did, either.

Feeling world's better that Monday, I was actually a little excited to step on the scale at the doctor's office because, after a weekend of eating and then vomiting saltines, I thought that I should have lost at LEAST five pounds.
But, no, against all logic and science, I had GAINED weight.
And then the nurse had to take my blood pressure three times with two different cuffs before my blood pressure seemed normal.

My feet were a little swollen, but that and the weight gain were chalked up to third trimester symptoms (I mean, that's what happens, right??? You start to swell and you gain weight even more quickly? Nothing weird).

I was sent home with, "There's something going around--you probably had the flu."

But I had that gut feeling, you know (and I don't just mean the nausea).  The whole time we were in the clinic, I kept telling Chris, "It's NOT the flu. I know it's not. This is too much like the last time. This is hormonal. It can't be the flu."  Still, she was the second professional I had telling me it was just the flu, so it had to be the flu . . . right?

So, the next day, I dress myself up all cute (seriously, I got SO many compliments, and everyone telling me I FINALLY look pregnant, how much it suited me, and I finally felt "fun" pregnant), I go to work, and, by the time I get home, I am WIPED.  Still, it's business as usual.

Wednesday, the hubs and I head to our monthly ultrasound appointment with my high risk doctor.
I've gained even MORE weight.
And, this time, the nurse takes my blood pressure once, and says, "Wow, your numbers are really high."
"Are you sure? I just went to my OBGYN and they said my blood pressure was fine . . . She had to take it three times, but . . ."
"Well, we'll let the doctor give you a look, and then we'll see if we need to take it again."

They didn't.
The ultrasound showed that Ronan's heart was working much harder than it should have been.
They took a urine test . . . and my protein levels were so high that they couldn't measure them accurately.

So the doctor sits me down and tells me that I am severely preeclamptic, that I need to go to the hospital immediately for 24 hour observation. If things get better, I can go home on bedrest and would be induced at 36 weeks on Christmas day. 
If things did not get better, I would have a baby within two days tops.

And that's when the waterworks started.

You see, that morning, my Facebook feed featured a shared post about a family with their little preemie baby asking for prayers, talking about how it's the first time they've seen him without his oxygen tubes so they can really see his little face.  The day before, I had read an article on PTSD in NICU babies. I remember reading all of that and thinking, "Oh my gosh. I can't do that. I just can't. Thank goodness I don't have to go through that."
More than ever before, I KNEW having a baby prematurely was a huge, big deal.

And here we were, my doctor telling me this was going to be our story, and all I could think of was a tiny body hooked to tubes and wires, the pain, the tininess, and I feel myself breaking.  Just withering.  Because I can't do that to my baby. I just can't. I can't hurt him like that.

Here's the deal: life will always take you to your breaking point. It will stretch you and test you and wound you, and you then have the choice to let it crush you or come out stronger on the other side.
This was my valley.
This realization that my body could not nourish a child. That, no matter how healthy I tried to be, my body couldn't maintain a pregnancy on its own. I had to take the blood-thinner injections daily in order to keep from miscarrying (the theory is that "sticky blood" like mine clots in the placenta and starves the fetus).  Even then, my placenta was starting to die.
I know it's not my fault--that I did everything I could--but it still felt like I was failing my son and he wasn't even born.
Well, he was going to be.
And I knew it was a good thing--that this procedure could save his life and mine--but it didn't feel that way, sitting in the ultrasound chair, trembling, fighting back tears.

BUT . . . the doctor said I might still be okay. We might make it four more weeks. So I clung to that like oxygen. 
That things would be okay.
And they were.
They just weren't my definition of "okay."

So we go to the hospital, we are put in one room then another, and I am hooked up to several monitors, hooking up to an IV, and have my blood drawn regularly. I have to pee in a "hat"--an insert in the toilet to catch my urine for testing--and tug around a little IV stand feeling completely exposed in that little hospital gown.
I tell you what, by the time all of this was over, I had NO sense of modesty whatsoever.

The next morning, after night of watching Anne of Green Gables with my mom (always our sick day movie), a male doctor comes into my room. He's tall, with brown hair and glasses, and I have never seen him before in my life, but he says he partners with my high risk doctor.

"Good morning, Sarah. How are you?"
"I'm doing pretty well, feeling better. How are you?"
"I'm good, I'm good.  So . . . well, it looks like you're having a baby today."
"Wait . . . what???? They told me . . . if I felt better . . . I could go home. I can't?"

And he tells me that my kidney levels are falling rapidly, my protein levels are through the roof, and my blood clotting factors are dropping too rapidly, so rapidly, in fact, that they can no longer give me my prescription blood thinners because I will bleed out.
He also says that I will have an emergency Caesarian.

"But . . . but . . . They told me I have a 50% chance of vaginal delivery . . . "
"Yes, but, you see, labor is stressful--for you and the baby--and we really don't want to put unnecessary stress on you two.  We're going to give you a steroid shot now, and, hopefully, we can hold off long enough to give you the second. The steroid's will help with the baby's lung development."
"How long until he can come home???"

That becomes my question for the next three days. Over and over and over again to every doctor and nurse I meet. "When can my son come home?"
And over and over and over again, they tell me, "We don't know. It depends on how he does, but the typical goal is by his due date."
Eight weeks.
That morning, I was EXACTLY 32 weeks pregnant. That means eight weeks until my son can come home.
Two months.

As soon as the doctor left, I called Chris as he was on his way to the hospital. I had done so well holding it together, but now, I start to cry, not hard, but real tears, real tightening in my chest and throat, the mourning of my pregnancy, of our plans, of my son's homecoming. "Chris . . . um . . . they . . . um . . . we're having a baby today."
"Wow . . . um . . . wow . . . Are you okay?"
I start to compose myself, "Yeah, I think so. I . . ."
I don't remember what else we said, but I remember that soon I was okay again.
We were moved to ANOTHER room where the hospital staff began processing my request for transfer.  Our son could not stay in our current hospital because their NICU didn't cover babies younger than 34 weeks. I didn't want to separated any more than I absolutely had to--so I asked to please deliver in the hospital where he would be treated as a NICU patient.
Miraculously, the request went through and, hours later, I was on an ambulance.
My only complaint was that, in all those hours, they wouldn't let me bathe. I felt like a greasepot. This is NOT how you're supposed to feel before those just-gave-birth photos.
As it turns out, we didn't get to take any of those anyways, so there's that.

The EMT beside me in the ambulance smiled and said, "Don't worry--everything will be fine. I had to have my baby early at 32 weeks, too, and he came home in three weeks.  It's going to be okay, I promise."
Oh, what sweet sweet comfort, what a gift to have as I was trying so hard to be brave. I don't know her name, but I will always thank God for that precious EMT.

You know, I had a birthing plan . . . The doctor told us that we would have to be induced by 39 weeks if I hadn't gone into labor naturally before then.  You see, my blood condition puts me at risk of stillbirth past 39 weeks gestation.  Still, we had arranged to have a doula and try for as natural a birth as possible. Just because I wanted to see if I could do it, because I wanted the experience. We had prayed Ronan would come early so I could have a natural labor without induction.
I guess we kinda got our wish . . . we weren't anticipating for him THAT early, but hey . . . whatever works, right?

But I wouldn't get my natural birth.
I wouldn't even get to go into labor.
Some mamas out there may be throwing up their hands and saying, "You lucky son of a gun! No labor! That's the way to go!"
You want to know what's funny? I feel like I missed out on something.
Sad because I never got that experience, because I never got to feel how strong I was, because I didn't get to hold my baby boy as soon as he was born, because I didn't get to breastfeed him once he was in my arms, because nothing about Ronan's birth was the way things SHOULD have been.
I mourn that.

But that's all okay.
You know why?
Because Ronan came into this world healthy.  Too tiny, but healthy and strong.
I didn't get to breastfeed him in his first days.
But, three months later, I did get to breastfeed him.
If we had not delivered when we had, I would have had full-blown eclampsia and started seizing, and then there would be nothing anyone could do.

We are alive, so it's all okay. It's better than okay.

So it was okay when they gave me my spinal tap, and I sat there, head pressed against the stomach of the doctor, breathing deeply, as they stuck a needle in my back.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah . . . yeah . . . I'm just trying my yoga breathing to calm me down."
And the doctor chuckled.
I must have sounded like I was hyperventilating instead of practicing yoga.

So it was okay when they strapped me down like a crucifix--arms spread wide--and Chris held my hand while the sweet anesthesiologist held the other and narrated everything happening behind the curtain.
"You're going to feel some pressure and some flicking--the doctors are making sure you're numb. Can you feel any pain? Yes? Okay, we'll up the dose a little. How about now? No? Good, good. You're doing great, Sarah. You're doing great."
"They're making the incision, now, you may feel some tugging. You're doing so well."
"Okay, his head is out now. And he's born. He's beautiful."
I remember thinking that she said that just to be nice--that she couldn't mean it--because all newborns look like potatoes.

It was okay that I was shaking so hard and uncontrollably that Chris asked if I was okay, and I said, "Yeah, I'm just scared for him. Is he okay?" And Chris chuckled and kissed my forehead.
And I heard this tiny, mewling wail. Just one.
Then someone said, "Well, it's definitely a boy."
Thank goodness for that.
And Chris tried to get a picture, but Ronan had disappeared through a window and was whisked away to the NICU. Chris only caught a glimpse, a tiny glimpse, and just enough to recognize Ronan when we were finally allowed to see him hours later.

The anesthesiologist squeezed my hand. "You did great.  They're patching you up, now."
And blood splattered the curtain.
Right at eye level.
Okay, so it was more like a squirt.
Just a tiny bit.
Right in front of my face.
And I thought, "Welp, now I'm officially a member of the zombie apocalypse."
Chris laughed. The man actually laughed. I suppose my face was wearing a rather, bug-eyed, horrified expression, after all.

"And they're all done! You did great! And look! You have your flat tummy back!" She moved the mirror so I could see my naked reflection.
I didn't have the heart to tell her that I'm positively blind without my glasses, so all I saw was a flesh-colored blob.  Or that it wasn't flat.  Or that it should NOT have been anywhere near flat.  Because it was supposed to have gotten bigger. Two months bigger.  But now it wouldn't.  And so they wheeled me into the little curtained recovery area because I was still frozen from my chest down. 

A NICU doctor visited while I was still regaining control of my toes.  He told us that Ronan had made 9/10 on his APGAR test, was breathing on his own, and had the gumption to try to suckle one of the nurses. 
And again, I asked, "So when can he come home?"
And, again, the doctor couldn't tell me.

We were wheeled into the NICU, and we were allowed to touch him, but not hold him.
He was so tiny.
And looked so bewilderingly like a tiny, shriveled version of my father. Nothing like either of us had anticipated.  When we first saw him, we did a double take.  I mean . . . he didn't look ANYTHING like either of us.
And, maybe I'm a terrible parent, but we didn't think he was cute right away. He was so skinny with folds of skin hanging off his tiny, bony arms, and he was all eyes and mouth.  He looked like one of those baby baboons.

Oh, how I loved those tiny arms and giant eyes and wide mouth, that little monkey baby.

And he felt like velvet. To this day, I think he was the softest thing I had ever touched.

He had an IV stuck in his skull because his veins were too tiny.
It broke my heart.

I don't attach easily.
I'm wary of letting things and people too close.
So I looked at this tiny little person and tried to feel like a mother.
It was so surreal and bizarre.
And distant.
To not get to hold him. To look at him through this plastic casing.  To not know what to do.
But I touched him--because I knew I needed to, because, deep down, I wanted to.  This was the little dude who bounced on my bladder every morning at 7:00 AM sharp and kicked like mad when Chris played his guitar. The tiny person we had gone to doctor after doctor for, doing everything we could to keep him healthy.  The little boy we had prayed and waited for with such anticipation.

And here he was:

17 inches, 3 pounds and 6 ounces.
8 weeks early.
Thursday, November 20, at 6:06 PM

And so entered our little warrior: Ronan Oliver

In which we briefly return to California for more adventures . . .

Again, thank the good Lord for Facebook.
I barely had the mental faculties to blog, but I had JUST enough brain power to chronicle our adventures via Facebook status updates.

Chris had started training for his new position in Florida, and it turned out that his boss needed photographs of California employees for the company communication website. You see, Chris's sister was also in the training program (but for a different position) and she lived with us for a couple of weeks while she worked in the California offices. She had begun this project, but, due to scheduling, had been unable to get pictures of every single employee.  Chris would be heading back to fill in the blanks.
Later that weekend, we would also be in Jesse and Sharon's wedding (huzzah!).
And celebrate our five-year anniversary (DOUBLE HUZZAH!!!).

And so began our last gallivanting adventure (before parenthood, of course . . . )

Adventuring Day One
1. Dear First Class Fellow: whoever told you that you should wear flip flops LIIIIIIEEEED. Honey, I have seen better toenails in a werewolf transformation. How did security not confiscate those things? Weapons, I tell ya. Yick.

2. Chris made a friend on the flight to Houston, a little girl about four who LOOOOOOOOVED to chatter and was traveling with her father.
"So where are you heading?"
"Arizona! Daddy's going to see a judge!"
"Oh ....... Well ..... I've been to Arizona. We saw the Grand Canyon there."
Sweetest little pair though.

3. LAX feels like a prison. So completely and totally depressing. Dementors must inhabit that soulless, lifeless, gray concrete desolace .... For reals.

4. "And if I ever have a son, I think I'm gonna name him .......
Bill or George! Any damn thing but Sue!"
Ah, the wisdom of Johnnny Cash ....

5. In-N-Out Burger: reunited and it feels so goooooood.

6. Hotel Cable. Brooklyn Nine Nine premiere. "Every time you open your mouth, I just hear the sound when PAC-Man dies."

Adventuring Day Two
1. Sleeping in a Hotel's King Sized Bed Pros: when your leg suddenly becomes afflicted with pregnancy-induced leg cramps, you can flail about like a crazed cat in a swimming pool and never touch your partner. Seriously, he had no idea it happened.

2. Sleeping in a Hotel's King-Sized Bed Cons: once said leg cramp wears off, you must transform into the human tumbleweed and roll across a vast expanse in order to cuddle still sleeping partner.

3. Waking up thinking your nose is stuffy and discovering, nope, just another pregnancy nosebleed that won't quit. I think the more I expand the more I am slowly falling apart. All temporary and for a good cause, all temporary and for a good cause ..... even if I'm a living example of, "DO NOT HAVE SEX!!!! If you do, you will get pregnant and DIE!!!!"

4. Oh, California avocado, so moist, so fragrant, so full of fresh flavor, I have missed you, my love. SO MUCH.

5. And we are back to fish tacos from heaven.
This trip is as much about the food as the people, seriously. We have a list of FOODS WE MUST CONSUME because it's just so stinkin good, peeps. OMG.

6. For two years Chris whispered tales to me of the best club sandwich in the entire world, the most delectable collaboration of meat, cheese, and veggies squished between succulent slices of toasted sourdough. We had it for dinner. The kid wasn't joking.

7. We discovered Wildman Mick Dodge on National Geographic. We began by laughing hysterically and then were transfixed with, dare I say it, almost respect and even, gasp, envy.
If you cut out the part where he eats maggots out of a beaver carcass, the man almost doesn't seem crazy.

8. Also we are now inspired to take a rafting trip through the Washington rainforest to the Pacific Coast. How awesome would that be?????

9. Eventually, there will be more to tell than TV shows and food, but, until we are on the road again, that's all I've got, folks.
Seriously, while Chris works I'm just chilling in the hotel because I'm too exhausted and without a sense of direction to wander ........

Chris took many, many, MANY photographs of the celery fields.
The man's got a good eye.
 Adventuring Day Three in which we drive from Oxnard to Hollister 
 1. As we left the Ojai area for the vast and majestic wilderness, we decided we needed kazoos. Why? Because those mountains inspire epic renditions of the LOTR soundtrack, and what better, tiny instrument than a kazoo?

2. The awe-inspiring mountains gave way to a desolace that makes you feel like you're in the middle of a Mad Max movie. No, the moon. No, Satan's armpit. It was BAD, folks.

3. It was so bad that we passed a street literally titled, "Brown Material Road." Like someone just went, "And I have zero craps left to give. We will name this after the landscape ...... or the craps I don't have left any more. Brown Material Road. The end."
And don't ruin our fun by saying it was probably named for a factory or something. Because there was NOTHING.

4. The only way that Brown Material Road would have been better is if it had featured the little Smart Car from LA with the "OH THIT" license plate. I love that witty, little car.

5. We finally made our way back into the hills ("And there was much rejoicing! Hooraaay!") and found ..... A WILD TARANTULA CROSSING THE ROAD!!!! I had heard of the tarantula migrations here, but I had never seen one until that moment. Sure, I would have loved to see a pack of them, but just one meandering the highway like he owned it was fantastic. I even got to take pictures.
And then we saw another, but he wasn't important enough to irritate by shoving a camera in his hairy little face.

6. Proceeding down the winding, mountain road, imagine our great surprise when we rounded a corner and were suddenly met by a pack of ...... alpacas. Chris and I regarded the alpacas in shock, exclaiming, "WHAT THE CRAP?!?! ALPACAS???? ALPACAS!!!!" While the alpacas in turn regarded us with indignant surprise before slowly advancing past the car, giving us the stinkeye as they went (the nerve of some people, driving down the road).
I, of course, was still screaming, "ALPACAS!!!!! ALPACAS!!!!"

7. As twilight fell, we ventured deeper and deeper into the wilderness. Twilight is that lovely, witching hour when wildlife wanders out into the open. We saw turkeys, a massive wild boar, several deer, and--the highlight--a herd of elk. We just sat on the side of the hill and listened to them call to one another in the fading light. If orcas and ringwraiths had babies, THAT'S what an elk call sounds like. It was AWESOME.

8. Driving through the mountains at night is all fun and games until your husband not only recounts a short horror story about hunters and an invisible, man-eating beast, but then dares to mention, "You know, we haven't seen another car for hours. Worst place in the world to break down or get a flat." So you spend the entire rest of the drive going, "Oh, God, please no" every time you hit a bump.

9. You finally arrive at your hotel, settle in, turn on Cowboy Bebop for the first time in almost five years, and call it a good, good day.

Adventuring Day Four:
1. Waking up in the middle of the night to see a tall form hunched over the air conditioner, muttering bitterly and poised for battle. Instead of feeling frightened, you feel something akin to pity and fall back asleep. Chris can't get the air conditioner to stop roaring on in the middle of the night, encasing us in frost and waking us, and, my golly, HE WILL CONQUER THIS BEAST!!! Eventually ..... Maybe ..... My gosh, I hope so

2. Oh, Mission Cafe, with your crisp bacon and fluffy, delectable French toast and quaint, 1950s atmosphere, I've missed you so. And I will miss you again

3. What to do when you have a couple hours to spare before going with the hubs to work? Start working on that baby registry together! Whoot! Scan scan scan scan scan scan scan scan scan! (To the tune of "The Ants Go Marching One by One" if you must know)

4. As the hubs works, you are introduced to various former coworkers. When he tells one that we are expecting, she looks completely shocked.
"When are you due?"
"Oh my gosh! You're barely showing!"
You politely say thank you (I think that's the appropriate response) but think, "Seriously?!? I feel like a FLIPPIN WHALE right now, lady. A. WHAAAAAAAALE. Maybe it's not showing because I've just expanded all over the place simultaneously ...."
Ladies, when they said, "Black is slimming," apparently they weren't kidding. It would seem my black top concealed a six month gestation.
Or she was blind.
Or lying.
I'm not sure which option makes me feel better.

5. Lunchtime Discussions with the Boccis:
Me--"No, the way birds feed their babies is not the most disgusting. Let me tell you about the most disgusting. When baby Koalas are too old for milk but still can't quite digest eucalyptus leaves because they're so tough, they crawl down to mom's bum, and massage her anus with their noses, which causes her to release diarrhea called 'pap.' And that's what they eat."
Chris -- silence
Me-- "It gets worse. Apparently, there's a chlamydia epidemic amongst koalas, which, you know, makes things ooze and can render them sterile, but it also causes them to be incontinent, so they just pee all over themselves. And THAT is the grossest animal."
Chris-- I can't even say their name anymore. Henceforth the creature whose name began with Koa- will now be known as THE SIN."
Me -- "-Villainous Laugh--This is payback for that scary story and comments on our drive last night."
Chris -- "Payback?! Sarah, I shot you with a rubberband. You returned with nuclear weapons and said something mean about my mother. That's not payback."
And, just for the record, I would never insult my mother-in-law.

6. That moment when you're so tired, you don't join the hubs in the bookstore. Instead, you sleep soundly in the car for thirty minutes until you're almost human again.

7. Dinner with lovely friends at our favorite restaurant. Whooooot!!!!!

8. Falling asleep to a John Candy movie and feeling, "Ah, your comic genius left us too soon, good sir."

9. Despite your best efforts, the air conditioner is merciless beast, so the hubs lends you his "smart wool" socks and you spoon for sheer survival.

10. Waking up in the middle of the night again to witness his bitter battle with the beast.

Adventuring Day Five
1. You wake up to discover the shower barely dribbles. Call the front desk and discern through his polite but heavy accent that there's been a problem and all the hot water has been shut off. So you stare into the porcelain and ponder if this is one of those moments that separates the first world girls from first world women.
And then you take the fastest, coldest shower of your entire flippin life.
I have no idea if that makes me a vain girl or determined woman, but I did it.
First world problems, man.

2. While the hubs works, you help lovely people prep for a lovely wedding and enjoy lovely company.
Too many lovelies? No.

3. I've decided I desperately need to learn Vietnamese so I can eavesdrop on the nail technicians.
And I'm not making an assumption about Vietnam--the delightful woman giving me a bridal party pedicure was telling me all about her birthing experiences in Vietnam.
Childbirth--bringing women together since the dawn of time

4. Finishing the girls night with Rifftrax and burgers with one of my favorites! Shella, I've missed you!

Adventuring Day Six:
Sickly. Wedding rehearsal. Still sickly.
And happy anniversary to us -.^

That weekend was an Indian Summer--it was 100 degrees Fahrenheit over the wedding weekend in OCTOBER. OMG. SO HOT. Thank the good Lord for breezes during an outdoor rehearsal, ceremony, and reception.

Adventuring Day Seven
1. Wedding hair: I have never been more closely akin to a hedgehog. There were so many pins in my head ..... but they tell me it was lovely, so that's all that matters.
Lacking eyes in the back of my head, I couldn't really tell. If I did have eyes there, however, they would have thoroughly poked and irritated and, therefore, no good at all.

2. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaay wedding! Lovely lovely lovely! It was so lovely it was fabulous even in 101 degree weather. Whoooooooooooooo!!!!!

(If you'd like to see Sharon and Jesse's professional wedding photographs by their INCREDIBLE photographer, you can check them out HERE and their feature on Wedding Chicks HERE)

When it comes to weddings, I've always been laid back. From a young age, I realized they were ridiculously expensive, and I favored keeping cash in my pocket. I was the bride that would have driven planners crazy because conversations would have gone like this:
"So what's your vision?"
"Oh, I dunno . . . fun, really. And I'd love for there to be blue. But, mainly, just fun, casual. And affordable. You know, whatever, it's all good."
That's about as specific as I got, folks.
Sharon . . . Sweet Sharon was an ENTIRELY different bride.
She had pretty much been planning her big day from the time she was five.
And she had a very detailed, SPECIFIC vision, including a fairy-princess blush-colored dress (which she found at David's Bridal--don't diss it before you try it, folks).  The good thing about those kinds of days is that the bride isn't indecisive--she knows what she wants and goes for it, and the end result is GORGEOUS (really, her wedding was so absolutely beautiful).
But it can be a weeee bit stressful for the wedding party and bride (probably more for her than the rest of us).

And yet the day was fun, exciting, and really quite wonderful. I loved being a part of it and enjoyed so much celebrating the love and commitment between Jesse and Sharon :]

Sharon chose/designed each of her bridesmaids' hairstyles--even helped direct the stylists as they worked to make sure we were as beautiful as she envisioned.

Their Final Fantasy VII wedding cake


Adventuring Day Eight:
One last jaunt through the Aquarium because it's our favorite, one last plate of the best calamari ever, and one last look out at Lovers Point at sunset.
Adventuring Day Nine:
And then airports.
Why oh why oh why are airports such soulless places??? They should be so happy!!! YAY WE ARE ALL ADVENTURING!!!! But instead all motivation to live is sucked from you as you wade through grumpy crowds and lousy food. But it's over! It's done! We are home!
The puppy is absolutely thrilled.
The cats, fish, and lizard are completely indifferent.
Go figure.

It's hard to tell, but that's a mama otter and her baby!!!

The LAST picture of me pregnant at 26 weeks.
That entire week in California, everyone said I didn't look pregnant.
I felt like a WHALE.
Now, I'm wishing I had taken more pictures because, as it turned out, we never did get to schedule a maternity session and I had been too sick to take weekly or even monthly bump photos.

In which we use Facebook to remember what the crap happened for four months . . .

To be perfectly honest, my pregnancy was so jam-packed with major events that the little times in-between fade into some kind of sleepy, sickly blur.

We moved into Chris's parent's house while we waited for our possessions to arrive in that giant moving truck. The rental home we would be renting was cute, exactly what we needed, and, on the surface, appeared spotless. Opening the cabinets, however, revealed sticky residue, dirt, BEARD TRIMMINGS (not even kidding), and a wealth of cockroach turds.
Yes, yes, I about lost it over that last one.

From Facebook: 
  • So today we started cleaning out the new rental because, even though it's pretty nice, the previous boarders didn't believe in wiping down anything.
    I'm pretty sure they were cavemen. Or college students. Same difference, right?
    Me: "Good news! The stuff you thought was mildew--not mildew! Wipes right up. .......... I hope it's not poop."
    Chris: "Yeah, I think that's roach poop."
    Me: "No no no no no no NO. Do NOT tell me that. There's no where to hide. Where could they be?"
    Chris: "In the walls."
    Me: "NO DO NOT TELL ME THAT."Chris: "Welcome to Florida."
    I'm declaring war. All out war, folks.

Followed by this a few weeks later . . .

  • "CHRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIISSS!!!! KILL IT!!! KILL IT WITH FIRE!!!!! IT IS AN AGENT OF DARKNESS SEEKING REFUGE FROM THE LIGHT!!!! I can still see it, signs of it, it hasn't moved, foul demon! Chris! You have to kill it! It may have beat death, but it can't beat you! Hurry! Aaaaaaaaah!!!! It's climbing up the wall! Spawn of hell! Kill it!! KIIILLL IIIIIIIIIIT!!! Oh, thank God. Thank you! No, I won't flush it, I'm above it. You flush it. But I mean, you're above it, too, I mean--"
    "You can flush your own dang roach, woman!"

    I can't sleep now. Everywhere I look I picture them, hiding in dark corners, those wicked skinny antenna twitching, scheming, laughing at the humans who cannot defeat them.

    Stupid bathroom roach. Ruined my bedtime

Just so you know, the roaches returned with the spring rains. In Florida, it doesn't matter how clean your house is--when it rains, the roaches decide they should check-in. You know, make sure you're comfortable and happy SO THEY CAN RUIN IT ALL.
As Aragorn astride his mighty steed urged the men of Gondor to stand against the might of Mordor, so I rallied my strength and declared war on all six-legged demons who dared to invade my castle.
By, you know, begging Chris to go buy a DIY home pest control kit.
Haven't seen one since.
My kitchen, however, is still in shambles and recovering from the attack.
Your kitchen would be, too, if you found roach turds in your casserole dishes -_-

ANYWAYS . . . . 

I was pregnant, so there were, apparently, oodles of posts asking about what brand of diaper bag is best or what baby products you can't live without or how tips for trying a natural birth (you want to know how to make your page explode? Ask people about natural birth, vaccines, and politics). There were innumerable posts about puking (forgive me . . . but that was kind of my existence) and a few on weird pregnancy dreams and symptoms.

Nineteen weeks! I just barely had a bump!
From Facebook:

  • Had a dream that Rick from "The Walking Dead" and I were trying to construct a safe haven in a cabin in the woods. Unfortunately, our weapons were not sharp enough and the zombies had evolved to not only speak but use tools against us. The most terrifying bit? All the zombies were former infomercial sales reps still trying to convince us to buy Shamwows for the undead .......
    I couldn't make this up if I tried.
  • Dear Digestive Track:
    Stop this ridiculous nonsense.
    First off, every website, doctor, blog post, Facebook comment, TV show, and book tells me you should be back to normal by now. THEY ALL SIT ON A THRONE OF LIES. A porcelain throne of liiiiiiiiiiieeeesssssss.
    Secondly, stop telling my brain that you're starving ALL THE TIME. You are not a bottomless pit. You have limited space. I cannot possibly fit more food inside you, and yet you're sending very whiny signals to my brain that you really could for more in there. In fact, you NEED more. WHICH IS A LIE. The only place that food is going is straight to my hips, and we most certainly do not need any more of that nonsense.
    Screw it.

    Against all odds and reason, I am starving.

  • "Chris, I had a dream that I gave birth in the back of a fifteen passenger van. At first, the baby wasn't breathing, but then we did like CPR and he was okay, so that was great ...... Also, he looked like a potato alien."
    "Don't you think ALL newborns look like potato aliens?"
    "Well ..... yeah .... but ours especially so. I had hopes he would eventually grow into his forehead."
    So now you know what my subconscious dreads:
    --labor in weird places

    --terrifying complications

    --large-foreheaded offspring that resembles a Mr Potato Head.
 I also ate a LOT of Chick-Fil-A Cool Chicken Wraps.
Because mama got preggo cravings, man. 

 And I was so STINKIN' happy to reach twenty weeks and be halfway done that I did this:

And then I posted it on Instagram for the ENTIRE internet to see . . . . I have no regrets.

  Aaaaaaaand shortly afterwards, we got to make this announcement:

I've gotta tell ya, seeing that little guy with his feet up by his ears flashing us his manhood, I shed a single, quiet tear.
I knew we would adore a little girl to bits and pieces, but Chris and I have always wanted boys--little mancubs to run wild and adventure with.  I've thought little boys were the coolest from the time I was seventeen and started babysitting this trio of brothers who would rearrange the furniture so they could do flips around the living room. Coolest dudes EVER.
And then we discovered we were having one of our own! Chris was proud as a peacock.

 Oh! And I was teaching!
You see, when my teacher friends in Florida discovered I was moving back, they asked me if I would be willing to teach first period tenth grade English. The fun bit? I would have some of my old seventh graders!!! While it was definitely difficult due to my overwhelming I'm-growing-a-miniature-human exhaustion, I absolutely loved it. I miss those kids like crazy.
I don't miss the grading. At all.
But I definitely miss the kids and working in a classroom.

From Facebook:
  • Are we really learning ANYTHING in English II??? Oh golly, I hope so. The highlight today was discussing the potency of the wine Odysseus used to inebriate the Cyclops before stabbing him in the eye ..... which of course led to questions on other alcoholic beverages ....... because, you know, that's an all-important mystical topic of mystery to the American teenager ..... or something ..... Then, of course, they all assumed he was taking molly and not moly to avoid Circe's enchantments ..... Parents, I really am trying to be a good influence, here, I swear ..... 
 P.S. I'd like to think that we DID learn something and had fun doing it, but you'd have to ask my former students about that one.
So, really, that was pretty much life: pretty good minus the queasies.
Oh, and that time the dude at Dunkin' Donuts screwed up my order and my LIFE.
Okay, so maybe it was just my evening, but it FELT like my life.

From Facebook/Instagram:

  • How to Enrage a Pregnant Woman In One Easy Step: screw up her doughnut order. I dunno, maybe it's my fault, but, previously, when ordering a dozen doughnuts, I've listed four varieties and received three of each flavor. Today, he gave me not a mix of Boston Creme, Pumpkin, Blueberry, or Glazed Cake doughnuts. Nope. He gave me ONE of each of the three good ones and NINE cake doughnuts minus the glaze ...... and I didn't notice until I was home and too hungry to care. The hubs and I have each eaten a cake doughnut out of pure desperation and bitterness. There goes my desserts for the week squint emoticon ‪#‎doughnutfail‬