Saturday, December 6, 2014

One month old Anna Kate

Anna Kate is now six weeks old! Hard to believe. Honestly, I'm ready to move on from this stage. I know, I know. I should be "cherishing" this time. My opinion is that the newborn days are best as an aunt or grandmother. All the cuddles and snuggles without any of the responsibility (or leaky breasts or sleepless nights that go on and on and on and on with no end in sight for weeks and weeks and weeks.) So, yeah, not particularly cherishing this "stage" right now. That's not to say that there aren't some beautiful moments that I'm soaking up whenever I can. I am. Like Emily's infatuation with her and Caleb asking to "kiss the baby head" and wanting to hug her every day multiple times a day. I love how peaceful she is when she's asleep with her mouth agape and how she is almost immediately calmed when I pick her up and hold her close. But, I can not live in this stage for much longer and so I'm thankful that I know that this too shall pass. My beautiful, needy newborn will grow up and smile at me soon. And laugh. And coo. And I can't wait. I read recently that "six weeks is the height of the awake, fussy stage." I concur.

I am thankful that Anna settles well. She doesn't have colic where she cries hours on end without any way to console her. No, I can always console her with milk or swaddling or wrapping her tight to me with the Moby. Thank goodness. Problem is, I CAN'T PUT HER DOWN! She prefers to be held and to rest on a warm body for most of her waking AND non-waking hours. This, my friends, is an issue. Because I have two other children and a husband and a house that desperately need me, too. Well, the house and hubby aren't all that desperate, but you know what I mean. Oh, and everyone wants to eat at least three times a day and there's groceries to buy and meals to make (or at least serve and clean-up even if it's not "made." ) Anna eats all day and night at least every three hours. Oh, and there's Christmas coming up, too. You know, that time of year that is insanely busy even if you don't have a newborn? Trying not to stress, but at this point, I only have a couple of gifts bought and I will have to start packing up soon. Obviously, going home to KY this year will not be easy.

This month we've tried a million ways to get Anna to sleep some on her own. We have tried the baby swing. We get a few happy awake moments out of this. She has maybe fallen asleep in it three times. We've tried Caleb's crib. This seems to be the best option. I try daily to let her nap in it as we will be transitioning her to this bed really soon. We've tried the pack n play with little success. We've tried swaddling and not swaddling. We've tried sleeping on her stomach. (I know, don't judge. Both of my other kids slept on their bellies after one month or so.) She sleeps on her stomach much better than her back, so maybe this will work better in time. We've tried swaddling her and propping her body up with the boppy or pillow. Sometimes, this works for a couple of hours. Most of the time, not very well. What works? Holding her. Rocking her. Wearing her. These are the only things that you can count on for having her sleep for more than a few minutes. The rest is just sheer luck because usually she wakes up as soon as you take her out of your arms. Jeremy and I have a little routine going where he will hold her after we get the big kids to sleep. Sometimes he will hold her from 8pm-11pm while he rests at the end of the night. Sometimes I can go to bed early. Most of the time, I have dishes or laundry to do or just want a few free moments to myself after a non-stop day. We each take a shift at night or early in the morning so that we can put together a few hours of solid sleep. It's rough.

Anna and me resting during our vacation to Bodega Bay (11/26/14)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Early days at home

We were blessed that both of the grandmothers were able to fly out to spend some time with us after Anna Kate was born. I don't think we quite realized how much they were helping until after they left! While they were here, they helped us get the big kids their breakfast and helped Emily get ready and off for school. Jeremy was able to get a shower and get ready for the day at that time. Since they left, I'm not sure if either of us have been able to be showered and completely ready for the day by 8am!

My mom came first and was here for about ten days right after Anna Kate was born. Obviously, we didn't get out much as I was recovering and nursing all the time. Mom had good quality time with the kids at the park, walking Emily to/from school, attending our church with Jeremy (Anna Kate and I rested at home), trick-or-treating, and many other every day special moments.

Nancy came when Anna was about three weeks old and stayed a week. By then, we were able to do a little more. We spent one day at the Bay Area Discovery Museum and another at Children's Fairyland. I went to church with Anna for the first time, but it was still probably too soon. Sure enough, I spent the whole time in the mother/baby room (aka the "cry" room aka the "nursing" room.) Both of their visits feel like a complete blur to me. The time passed so quickly! Here' a few photos of our early days with Anna Kate and the grandmothers.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


Happy Thanksgiving from the Reisses! We did this little photo shoot a week or so ago. Aunt Jennifer made their matching shirts. Anna's shirt says "Lil' Pumpkin" since we didn't know if she would be a boy or girl before she was born.

We just got back from our Bodega Bay trip yesterday and had the best time. I'll do a blog post about that soon. I feel more energized and optimistic that the worst of the newborn sleep deprivation is behind us and things will improve from here. This evening we are having dinner in San Francisco with the Stevens family from church. We are so thankful for the kind invitation and look forward to a wonderful meal and fellowship. Major holidays away from family can be hard sometimes, but we try to stay busy which helps distract us from what we are missing (thus the Thanksgiving week trip.) Knowing that we will see our families in a few short weeks also helps.

My heart is very full of thanksgiving for our many, many blessings.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Halloween 2014

Luckily, Anna Kate came five days early and by Halloween, I was feeling well enough to go trick-or-treating with everyone. Had she been five days late, we would have still been in the hospital on Halloween. Mom was in town to share in the festivities. Alameda REALLY gets into Halloween, especially in the Gold Coast neighborhood near where we live. Growing up, I never saw Halloween decorations like what is done now. One home in particular does a "haunted mansion" theme complete with eery pipe organ music, periodic fake thunder and lightning, spooky characters and a cemetery in the front yard. The sidewalks and streets are packed for the "best" streets in town. Some of the large homes on Grand St. and Bay St. give out 2000-3000 pieces of candy!

Last year, we spent most of our time at Bayfarm Chuch's trunk or treat and a brief time cruising through some of the streets to check out the decorations. This year, I had planned to do the same thing, but with a newborn in tow, it seemed easier to just stay in our own neighborhood. We had a small window of time to go trick-or-treating before it got too late or the baby needed to nurse again. We would have lost at least 30 minutes in travel time to/from Bayfarm and loading everyone into the van. So, we got out our trusty red wagon and planned our mode of "attack."

While I fueled up Anna Kate, Jeremy, Mom, and the kids stopped by a few of our immediate neighbor's homes. Then, we headed up to Franklin Park area and checked out several homes. It was fun to people watch, check out the decorations, and of course TRICK-OR-TREAT!

Princess Ariel at her school's Halloween Parade Oct. 30th. I offered to get her a cool red wig, but she didn't want it. Yes, this is the THIRD year we've had some kind of princess-y costume--Belle, Tinker Bell, and Ariel! 

Lining up by class for the parade

Mom helped us out with the school drop-offs during the week she was here. 
 I was happy that we decided to stay around our neighborhood for trick-or-treating. It was fun! Trunk-or-Treats always feel a little inauthentic to me. You can't beat a cool neighborhood for the atmosphere. We ran into a few people we knew from school and met a few new neighbors, too. We got so tickled by Caleb's trick-or-treating style this year. He was hilarious! He totally "got it" this year. We pulled him in the wagon to help keep tabs on him since there were so many people out and it was dark, too. We would pull over and stop at a home and ask if he wanted to get out. He was like, "Yeah! Yeah!" He climbed out of the wagon and practically bounced up the pathway to the house. We would take turns holding his little hand. He knew just what to say and do. Since the Giants had JUST won the World Series, his costume was a HUGE hit. Everywhere we went, people would yell out, "Let's go Giants!" People giving out candy would say, "Oh, here's an extra piece for our little Giant!" I had decided I wanted him to wear his cool jersey before the Giants were even in the post-season so it was really fortuitous that they won it all! I never could find any uniform pants small enough to fit 2T. Luckily, Nancy came to the rescue and made these. They turned out perfectly!

Rocking his little Giants uniform. (Dinkney made his pants for him!)

Princess Ariel is ready for candy!
 Emily's trick-or-treating style was more timid than Caleb's. Once she had gotten several pieces of candy, she just wanted to sit in the little red wagon and EAT it. We would ask her if she wanted to get out for more and she would whine and say, she was fine. She just wanted to eat her candy. We tried to explain to her that the whole point is to get a lot of candy and THEN go home and eat it. She was ready to quit after going to maybe six houses.

Anna Kate (11 days old) rocks her "First Halloween" onesie and Jack-o-lantern hat. She stayed wrapped up in the Moby the whole night during trick-or-treating. 

We finished the night early with our little kids and still had about an hour where the big kids were out trick-or-treating. Emily and Caleb really enjoyed sitting out on our porch steps with Jeremy. They loved seeing everyone's costumes and giving out candy. I think this may have been Emily's favorite part of the night. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Anna Kate's Birth Story

Oh how quickly things can change! We have a newborn in our home again! The weekend before Anna was born, I had all kinds of last minute pampering scheduled--a mani/pedi on Saturday, haircut/color on Sunday, and a wonderful dinner and movie date with Jeremy on Sunday night. While we were watching the movie, I started to feel like I was having contractions. At the time, they weren't that painful or frequent. I had had similar contractions a few days prior that stopped after a few hours. Plus I was still five days before my due date.

We got home from the movies at around 11:30 pm and I started getting ready for bed. Shortly after lying down, I noticed that I was having contractions and they were pretty strong. They were coming far enough apart that I could still lie down and rest, but I couldn't sleep because of the pain every 10-15 minutes. By three am, I got up to sit in the nursery to time the contractions some more and text my sister (She was the only person awake due to our time zone difference.) They were coming every ten minutes and getting more painful, but still very manageable. I could tell that the baby was going to come today, but I wasn't sure when to call our "on call" friends. I was really hoping to wait until six or seven am. I had barely seen the kids on Sunday. Jeremy and the kids went to church without me and then I had the hair appointment and date. Our babysitter had put the kids to bed and I really hated for yet another person to be there when they woke up. Everything I was reading online recommended going to the hospital when the contractions were about five minutes apart for at least an hour. Timing contractions and making the judgment call on when to go to the hospital was new territory with me. With both Emily and Caleb, my water broke first at home before any contractions started and then we quickly headed to the hospital. The labor with Emily was about 12 hrs. (4 am water broke; born at 4pm). Caleb's labor was even longer! (about 16 hours.)

So, I did not think that the contractions would progress so quickly this time. It quickly became apparent to me that we were going to have to go to the hospital before the children woke up. Jeremy called my neighbor, Kristine, and Ms. Pam, a sweet lady we met through MOPS. (She taught Caleb's Moppets class all last year.) Both of them came over quickly. Pam was our on-call night person and Kristine was on-call Monday/Tuesday during the day for us. By the time they arrived at around 6 am, I was in a lot of pain. I could barely walk during contractions. Even in active labor, I was still thinking about my big kids--worrying about who would pack Emily's lunch and pick out her school clothes. (Of course she could have stayed home all day, but we thought it would be easier on our friends if she went to school as scheduled.)

By the time Jeremy and I were getting in the car to head to the hospital, the contractions were about three minutes apart. How did this happen? Seems like they went from every 10 minutes to every 7 minutes to less than five minutes apart within an hour or two! It was a blur of activity. Jeremy and I were running around finishing up packing last minutes items and making phone calls during that time. I had a terribly painful, uncomfortable ride to the hospital. My body could feel every bump in the road. I found myself not even really sitting on the seat but bracing myself with extended knees and elbows to keep from sitting in the car seat. I rolled down the window to feel the cool night air on me. Somehow the breeze made me feel the pain less intensely or just helped me deal with it. Jeremy mapped the route on his iphone and of course the phone would NOT "talk" to us as it normally does. So, he was having to watch the route more closely all the while I'm making him quite nervous with my commentary to "Hurry up!!!" as I cried out in pain approximately every minute or so. Finally, some relief. He says we're nearing the hospital, but it doesn't look familiar. We had just toured the place a couple of weeks ago. Where is the building we were in? Why does this not look familiar? He talked to couple of security guards near the hospital and asked where the labor and delivery area was. They offered to get a wheelchair and take us to the ER. We said that we weren't supposed to go to the ER; where was the labor and delivery area?!! Jeremy drove around some more trying to find some recognizable landmarks in the dark, circled around, and talked to the guard again. She said that WE WERE AT THE WRONG HOSPITAL. WHAT? How is that possible? Jeremy programmed "Alta Bates Medical Center" into his phone, but the phone mapped us to the one in Oakland instead of Berkeley. They are about 3 miles apart, an 8-10 minute drive, when we REALLY didn't have much time to waste.

(The two hospitals have exactly the same name. One is in Oakland; the other one in Berkeley. The Oakland hospital does not have labor/deliver or mother/baby units. It would not have been ideal for us to stay at the Oakland one. I know it sounds crazy that we weren't even in the right city, but these two cities butt right up against one another and it's hard to tell where one starts and the other begins. Also, we spend very little time in Oakland or Berkeley. We almost always have to map things on our phone when we go somewhere in these cities. Jeremy just should have had the exact address mapped in his phone, but neither of us even realized that there were TWO Alta Bates hospitals so close together.)

Luckily, we made it in time to the Berkeley hospital--barely. Jeremy left our car in the valet area. It was extremely difficult for me to get out of the car and walk the short distance to the lobby even with his help. I was able to get into a wheelchair as soon as I walked into the hospital. Thankfully, it all looked familiar from our tour this time. He quickly whizzed me to the third floor and I immediately noticed a half dozen of nurses congregating at the nurse's station. Yay! Help was here! They could see that I was laboring and in obvious pain. I can remember thinking, "Watch this, I bet I'll barely be five-six centimeters dilated and they will think I'm the biggest wimp acting like I'm about to have this baby any minute." They quickly checked me in triage and the nurse said, "she's at ten centimeters." She immediately stopped with the admissions questions and got me to a labor room where I had to scoot off of one gurney and onto the bed. Oh, so hard to do at this point. :(

I had called the OB office before we left our house. I tried to tell the answering service how quickly the contractions were coming and that I thought the baby would be coming soon. However, I don't think the answering service conveyed any urgency to my OB until the nurses called from the hospital with their report of my condition. At this point, there was no way he would be able to make it in time to deliver. I can remember the nurses telling me that there would be no time for an epidural. It takes several minutes for the medicine to take effect and to do the procedure. I would need to be able to sit very still to have it done and the contractions were coming too quickly and too painfully to be able to be still through them. I remember feeling scared about that news. Both Emily and Caleb were big babies, 8lbs 14 oz and 9lbs 3oz., respectively and I had pushed for about an hour with both. I simply could not even imagine the agony of being in this amount of pain (or more) for another hour if this baby ended up being the same. I can remember telling the nurse to "try and try to call the anesthesiologist anyway." Maybe by some miracle, the epidural would come in time?

This labor was so very different from the other two. At this point, my water still had not broken. I could feel the baby descending. I knew I was dilated ten centimeters and I was wondering when I would start to feel the urge to push? There still was no OB in the labor room, but there was a flurry of activity as the nurses all quickly got everything prepped and ready. I remember a couple of nurses calling firmly for a doctor, "we need a doctor in here NOW! This baby is coming!" I remember one of the nurses taking my hand, looking me straight in the eye and telling me that I could do this. That I was going to breathe a certain way, that I was going to push this baby out just like I would push out a bowel movement. She gave me some focus and clarity in moments of craziness. Soon after, my water busted abruptly and there was an immediate, reflexive need to push the baby out. I had read that the pain of the baby passing through the cervix and vagina is like a "ring of fire." And I remember having exactly that burning ring pain and knowing that "this is it. This is what they were talking about." It felt exactly like a burning ring of fire. And then as quickly as that burning pain came on, it was gone. I had delivered the head and with another push, the shoulders were out, too. Sweet relief. I didn't have to push an hour. It was over. At 7:07 am, our baby was here--a mere 30 minutes after we had checked into the hospital!

And then the moment we had waited nine months for. Was it a boy or girl? Jeremy said, "It's a girl! And he cut the cord that had protected and nourished her all this time until now. Honestly, the announcement of her gender was almost anticlimactic because I was still in complete shock that I had just had a baby at all and that it had gone down like this. I had just pushed out this baby! What the what? I just held her on my chest and tried to let all of the craziness of the last few hours soak in. It was all so shocking. I hadn't expected the birth to be like this. I knew upon first looking at her that she was smaller than the other two. She weighed 7 lbs 9oz. and was 20 1/2 in. long.

I learned that the OB who delivered our girl was named Dr. Chen. Thankfully, I "only" had minor first degree tears and she stitched me up which was one of the worst parts even with a local anesthetic. About the time Dr. Chen was finished, Dr. K, my OB, arrived. He hardly ever misses any of his patient's deliveries. I had seen him at every one of my prenatal checks and had hoped that he would have delivered our baby. However, it all went so quickly that I don't suppose it mattered very much.

Having had an epidural twice and a natural delivery once, I've been thinking about how the experiences were different. The epidural allowed me to rest in relative comfort while my body was in labor (which is a wonderful thing.) I could feel and move my legs, but really had no pain. I couldn't really even feel the contractions. When the nurses told me to push, I pushed, but I didn't feel the NEED to push. It was rather artificial. They would count for 10 seconds and tell me when I was having a contraction and push with it. With both Emily and Caleb, I pushed for close to an hour. I needed extra intervention to get Emily out. Of course they were both bigger babies, but I wonder if the epidural kept me from being able to push effectively. The need to push Anna Kate was completely automatic. I couldn't have stopped it if I tried. The pain was super motivating to get her out! :) The early labor was easier to manage in the quiet of my home at night. Had I been in a hospital setting, I know I would have asked for medicine sooner, but somehow it felt more manageable at home. Of course the contractions hurt, but there was a waxing and waning of pain. It wasn't constant. I was able to get up and move and walk, change positions, etc. With the epidural, I was completely confined to bed for HOURS. After the baby was born, I was free of all the medical intervention that comes with it. I didn't have to keep the BP cuff on my arm for hours or have an IV in my hand or the epidural in my back. My back wasn't sore. I was able to get up and move around sooner and my overall recovery has been a little easier. On my own, I wouldn't have chosen to have the baby without an epidural because I was fearful of the unknown and fearful of how bad the pain would be. But, I am strangely thankful to have had a natural birth experience with Anna Kate. I feel like it has revealed an underlying strength I didn't know I had.

Jeremy brought the kids to the hospital that evening. I greeted them at the door and cuddled with my three sweeties in bed. We decided that it would be best for Jeremy to stay home with the kids overnight which meant that I was on my own from about 8pm that evening until Jeremy came back to pick me up the next day at around 1pm. At first, I was nervous about staying in the hospital without him, but the nurses still checked on me and I was able to ask their help with some of the baby care. My mind was more at ease to know that Jeremy was taking care of the big kids. It didn't make sense for me to stay two nights in the hospital. Logistically, it was hard for Jeremy to go back and forth taking care of the kids and checking on Anna Kate and me. My hospital room wasn't nearly as comfortable as my own home would be. Plus, my mom was scheduled to fly into Oakland the next day and we would have her help soon. So, we decided to come home after only one night's stay.

My heart keeps growing as we get to know our baby girl and see the love that Emily and Caleb have for her. Their sweet expressions upon first meeting her will be cherished forever.

I knew immediately that Anna wasn't as big as Caleb and Emily had been!

Sweet healthy baby girl

Getting all cleaned up

My labor and delivery nurse, Sarah, and her student. Sarah jokingly told me, "We have a name for patients like you. We call you 'stop and drops.'" I had a good laugh at that terminology. Pretty descriptive and accurate! 

Finally managed to get a photo in the mother/baby room with Anna.

My sweet visitors! They were so happy to meet their sister!

Emily was very intrigued by the smallness of her sister. She gently patted her head and kissed her. She marveled at her tiny features.

Daddy's girls. We will probably have lots of photos of Emily with the baby and few with Caleb. He can't be bothered to pose or sit still for long. 

Cuddling with my girls. 

Caleb wasn't scared to climb right up in bed with me.

Here's where it would have been nice to have someone with us to get Daddy in the photo, too. :(

Pretty cute even in her hospital issued onesie if I do say so myself! 

Heading home after one night stay! I put Anna in Emily's going home outfit and blanket. 

Someone was REALLY glad to have mommy home. 

Ms. Pam holds Anna Kate for first time. We were thankful she came right over to help us when I went into labor.

Welcome Home Anna Kate!

Nan JUST missed Anna's birth! She arrived on Oct. 22nd and Anna arrived Oct. 20th.

The Girls

Caleb often says, "I kiss the baby head."