Margot’s Birth Story

We had another baby!

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Meet Margot Renee, the newest member of the Miller clan.

Margot’s due date was Sunday, March 3rd. With Bonnie, my labor started at 3am on her due date, and Charlie was a week early, so I’ve never had the uncomfortable privilege of being “late”. At my 39 week appointment, my doctor casually mentioned that he was going out of town the following weekend, so we tentatively scheduled an induction for March 6th. I was a little annoyed, but tried not to worry about it, since I’ve never gone that long. I ate spicy food, cleaned the house, ran around after Bonnie and Charlie, and mentally prepared to have a baby sometime that week. So when my 40 week appointment rolled around on Monday, March 4th, and there was still no baby, I was a little bit frustrated and a whole lot tired. My doctor kindly stripped my membranes and agreed to bump my induction date back one day to Thursday, March 7th. I still really wanted to avoid an induction, but had faith that if we gave her one more day, Margot would come on her own.

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39 weeks! Margot had the option of being born during several snow storms, but instead chose the first two consecutive nice days of 2019. We went to the hospital on snow packed roads and came home, finally, to clear ones. May Margot’s birthday always signal the promise of spring and sunshine and new life.

I worked Monday and Tuesday and then had enough – mentally and physically. Steven and I both took Ash Wednesday off work and got to go to mass together that afternoon. We picked up the kids from daycare, finally took the cars to the fire station to get the car seats checked, and then took one last trip to Traditions as a family of four. Matthew picked the kids up that evening to take them out to the farm and Steven and I settled in to try and sleep before we were due at the hospital at 5 the next morning for the induction.

As luck would have it, I started having contractions off and on after we got back from Traditions. I thought they were mostly wishful thinking, as I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions for the last couple of months. I’d had some worth timing over the last week or so, but they always tapered off after a couple of hours and some rest. I finally got brave enough to start timing them around 10 that night and talked Steven into staying up and watching a movie with me instead of trying to sleep. I tested positive for the Group B strep again this time, so I knew we needed to get to the hospital with plenty of time to get a couple rounds of antibiotics going. Rather than waiting until contractions were 5 minutes apart, my lovely doctor told me that if they were getting stronger after an hour, I could go ahead and come in. Where was he when I was in back labor at home for 24 hours with Bonnie waiting for contractions that never, ever got closer together? So after 3 hours of contractions that were 5-10 minutes apart and getting stronger, I decided it was time to go to the hospital.

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Leaving for the hospital! Steven made me do a thumbs up. I wasn’t thrilled about it.

With Charlie, I was convinced that they were going to send me home, because he was so early, and the contractions weren’t nearly as painful (back labor is SO AWFUL), that I think I was in denial for all of the labor process. With Margot, since we had the induction scheduled 4 hours later, and I was already overdue, I felt much more confident about going to the hospital. I did feel a little silly coming in 4 hours early to my appointment, and the lady who checked us in at the ER didn’t make me feel much better when she called to labor and delivery and said, “Yes, she says she’s in labor.”

The contractions were still very manageable, but when they asked if I was ready for an epidural, I surprised myself by saying no. They checked me and I was a 4.5, so we agreed to give it an hour and see if I made any progress. After an hour, I was about a 6, and in much more pain, so I was thankful that we had come in early. Of course, by then, the anesthesiologist was in surgery, so I agreed to the IV pain meds while we waited for him to finish. I’ve never had IV pain meds before, but was mostly just desperate to get some sleep. They didn’t really help much with the pain, but they did make me very loopy, to the point that I had to keep my eyes closed and couldn’t really talk. So I suppose it was helpful? If I had to do it over again, I would probably just take the epidural first thing. I got the epidural around 5 and everything went smoothly, thank the Lord. The epidural is always the scariest part, but it’s such a wonderful feeling of relief once it kicks in.

My favorite doctor came in sometime that morning and complimented me on my decision to move the induction back one day (Margot is so cooperative). He broke my water and I went back to sleep, sure that we were on track for a baby sometime that morning. When the nurse came to check me around 10, I was at a 9.5, so I woke Steven up and we got ready to meet Margot. I noticed that I was starting to feel the contractions again, but only on one side. I tried pushing the button, but it just made my other leg even more numb. I didn’t worry too much about it, since we were clearly so close to the end.

Except that we weren’t.

I stayed at a 9.5 for 4 hours, and 10% of my cervix was still stubbornly hanging around. Finally, around 2 that afternoon, they decided to start some pitocin after all. At this point, I was tipped over on one side, trying to get gravity to kick the epidural into gear on the other side. Sadly, that didn’t work, and after 20 minutes of pitocin contractions, we were finally ready to start pushing.

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We watched the new Queen movie the weekend before, so Steven really wanted Margot to be born to “Bohemian Rhapsody”. I was against it, because it just seemed too absurd. Luckily, there was enough chaos that we didn’t have time to switch the music, and Margot was born to the soothing sounds of Audrey Assad, just like Charlie. Maybe that’s the key to fast deliveries? Bonnie was born in silence.

With Bonnie, I pushed for almost an hour before the doctor decided that we all needed a little help and used the vacuum to get Bonnie free. With Charlie, the nurse let me do a couple of “practice pushes” before calling the doctor and he barely made it into the room to catch Charlie. So when the nurse started loading me up in the stirrups before calling the doctor, I was a little nervous. I should’ve learned this by now, but I always forget how intensely vulnerable and stressful the end stage of labor is. There are always a million things I want to say or ask, but I can’t bring myself to say anything, so I just look around like a trapped animal and hope that Steven will read my mind.

Is this why they recommend having a written birth plan? How on earth are first-time mamas supposed to know what to put on a birth plan? I’ve had three babies now, and am just now starting to realize what I would put on mine:

  1. Give me the epidural first. No matter what I say.
  2. Peanut ball before pitocin!
  3. Do not let me push before the doctor arrives.

We got all loaded up and ready to push and then waited, for at least 5 minutes, for the next contraction. I could feel Margot’s feet in my rib cage, and I did not enjoy being in the stirrups. The previous 2 labors, Steven and I just held my legs on the bed. It was much more comfortable, but I have to say, I think it did help make the process go even faster. After the interminable wait for a contraction was over, I pushed twice, stopped, and immediately felt an enormous amount of pressure. At that point I was in a complete panic because 1. I had never felt pressure before and was convinced that the epidural was no longer working at all and I was about to experience the “ring of fire” that I had only read about in other birth stories. Also, 2. The doctor was definitely not going to make it in time. I started crying and begged Steven to push the epidural button again and tried to brace myself for whatever was coming. A few seconds later, without another push, I felt Margot enter the world and the nurse called out, “It’s a girl!”

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6lbs, 15 oz, 19.5 inches. Born at 2:34 pm, March 7, 2019.

Luckily, I heard her cry right away, and there were a flurry of other nurses in the room and I remember them asking Steven if he wanted to cut the cord and me answering for him that he definitely did not want to cut the cord. Funny that I can find my voice for him, but not for myself. They took her away to clean her up and she looked enormous – a whopping 3 oz bigger than Bonnie and 8 oz bigger than Charlie, but still 6 lbs. The doctor finally arrived and finished things and checked out Margot and seemed concerned about the hysterical, crying woman with the healthy baby, but assured me again that she was fine. She had some fluid in her lungs from being born so quickly, so we cut skin to skin time short so that they could suck her out, but after that, she was much happier and latched right away, and all was right in the world.

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The hospital does a “celebration meal” after you have a baby. They bring in a table and chairs and meals for you and your spouse and little chocolates and it’s so sweet. Anna was there visiting us when ours came, so we even had a babysitter.

Steven had fasted the day before because it was Ash Wednesday, and I had accidentally fasted because he wasn’t eating and everything either made me nauseous or gave me heartburn at that point, so we were both starving. The nurse brought us sandwiches and apple juice and graham crackers and it was the most amazing food I have ever had in my entire life.

So after all that fuss about an induction, we ended up with 20 minutes of pitocin contractions. After scheduling an induction to make sure I had my doctor there, Margot decided she couldn’t wait for him after all. And after feverishly crocheting a boy blanket in the last month of pregnancy “just in case”, she was a girl after all, just like I thought from the beginning. Precious Margot, already blazing her own path, in her own time, in her own way.

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Old Church Slavonic

–для Чарльза всем сердцем

Because it seems never to be beginning, always picking up in the middle with it’s long resonant tones, which themselves begin as if they’ve always been. Maybe that’s why we love old, sacred music. And by we I, of course, mean my two-year-old Charlie and me.

Charlie is our good sleeper. Usually all it takes is his head to hit the pillow, then lights out, but even he suffers from the occasional nocturnal unrest. On such rare occasions, I’ll find something clerical on Youtube for us to listen to. At the first chanted note–be it Latin or Greek, Coptic or Hebrew or Old Church Slavonic–he settles right down.

At the bottom of each song are long chains of internet discussions that began and ended before Charlie was born, and maybe that’s why he loves them–their permanence, the fact that these recordings precede him and that the songs themselves precede us both plus the country we live in. With a few simple notes, we’re transported back to an ancient time and then further back still as we pause in praise of Him who existed before the whole world. And it doesn’t matter that we can’t understand a word or tell if this one is Georgian, that one Aramaic.

I do wonder though if all this exposure to antiquity is keeping Charlie, an expressive babbler, preverbal. I wonder if too much Latin is preventing his mind from progressing the requisite millenia to toddler English. Then again, this is just a writerly revery.

I know that he will being speaking full sentences soon, not just isolated words, and when that happens it will be difficult to remember what it was like before he did. Then, we will reminisce about these simpler times when all communication was tone and intention, and we will look forward to all the milestones yet to come. For now, I long for the present, which is simultaneously slipping into history yet constantly with us, like a long, even note–its language indistinguishable, its message universal.

Charlie’s Birth Story

It sure is nice to get to write another one of these.

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Charles (Charlie) Michael Miller (or Charmeachealle, for short). Born at 10:03 a.m. on Friday, January 6th, 2017. 6 lbs 7 oz, 20 inches long.

There’s really nothing more exciting than labor. I know that sounds weird, since TV and movies condition us to think of the process as grueling and terrifying and disturbing and filled with lots of anger and yelling. But really, it’s the culmination of months (and sometimes years) of anticipation and excitement and waiting. I really love the whole process (especially under the influence of an epidural) and I feel nostalgic for it as soon as we leave the cocoon of the hospital and head back into the reality of diapers and laundry and facebook politics.

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Bonnie and Mama and Charlie 1 week before he was born.

That’s why I write these birth stories, and spend inordinate amounts of time reading other women’s birth stories. I’ve been working on Charlie’s since he was a week old, but it turns out that life is busier with 2 kids, so I’m just now getting around to finishing it. I’m sure I’m missing things, considering that Charlie is now a month old, but something is better than nothing, right? Right. Here we go.

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Charlie baby prep consisted of one trip to Target followed by one nap time of unpacking and sorting baby clothes while watching the movie Sully. I was so convinced that we were having a boy that I packed one drawer of boy clothes and put all the girl clothes back in the bottom of the tub.

As we got closer to Charlie’s due date, I started to realize that there was no guarantee that this labor would be the same as Bonnie’s. Bonnie’s was long (30 hours) and mostly in my back (ouch) but after having done it once, I figured I could handle it. Then I started reading other birth stories and realized that it could actually be very different. Duh, right? My denial knows no bounds.

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Bonnie doing her own Charlie prep.

Everything looked good at my 38 week appointment, so I went back to work on January 3rd. I had been feeling some Braxton Hicks contractions off and on for a month or so, but they weren’t anything like the contractions with Bonnie. After my lunch break on Thursday the 5th, I started to notice some stomach pains that felt stronger than normal. Once I took a minute to pay attention to them, I realized they were probably contractions. I also realized that I had been having them on and off all day, so I figured I should probably start writing them down, just in case. I was surprised to find that they were coming regularly, about 8-10 minutes apart.

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First round of timed contractions. I remember casually checking the clock and writing down the time while talking to coworkers that afternoon. It’s less awkward to not tell them, right?

 

With Bonnie, I had a full day of contractions on the 4th of July that petered out that evening. I figured this was the same, but I was excited that something was finally happening.  It had been snowing for most of the day, and was supposed to get colder that night, so I decided to stay at work a little late and finish up some projects just in case the snow kept me home on Friday. Even though the contractions were coming regularly, I was convinced I wasn’t in labor. I had my 39 week appointment the next day, so obviously, I couldn’t be in labor yet. Denial is my superpower.

I finished up at work and waddled out to my car, still surprised that the contractions were keeping up with me. I had tried to get them to go away by sorting the mail, drinking a ton of water, eating, putting my feet up, etc. When I got to my car, I realized I’d have to scrape it before I could drive home, so I contracted and cleaned off the windshield before finally heading home.

Steven’s Dad was in town that night, so we made plans to meet up with him for dinner. I told Steven that afternoon that I had started having contractions, but he didn’t seem too concerned about them either. I guess my denial is rubbing off on him. He seemed a little alarmed when I showed him how long I had been having them and how close together they were, but I assured him it was nothing and so off to dinner we went.

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Round two of timed contractions. I really didn’t want to keep track of them, because then even I would have to admit that I was in labor, but luckily Steven stays sane when I’m not.

I had a few more contractions during dinner, but I decided to ignore them and chase Bonnie around the restaurant. When we got home from dinner, the contractions started to get longer and more painful, but I figured I just ate too much at dinner. I had been having terrible heartburn the last 2 months of this pregnancy, so feeling bad after eating was normal. Steven went out to shovel our sidewalk and then drove over to Dad’s to shovel his as well. I told him to give Dad a heads up about the contractions, just in case. If we had to go to the hospital that night, he would need to come over and watch Bonnie until Betsy could pick her up the next day. By the time Steven got back from Dad’s house, I was starting to panic. The contractions were getting closer together and longer and I just wanted them to stop. It was too early. There was laundry to do and dishes in the sink and a bassinet to set up and the weather was complicated and I just. wasn’t. ready.

I put Bonnie to bed and cried as I rocked with her. I explained to her that we might not be there in the morning, but that Poppa would get her up if we weren’t there. She gave me extra snuggles and went right to sleep without crying. I’ve heard that the best thing you can give a child is a sibling, but in that moment, I wasn’t so sure. One night she went to bed and life was normal, and the next morning she would wake up to a totally new reality. A new reality that I suddenly felt completely unprepared for.

Steven started working on some edits that were due and I paced around the house trying to slow/stop the contractions and figure out what all I still needed to do, just in case we actually did need to go to the hospital that night. In the end, I settled on starting a load of laundry, brushing my teeth and clipping my fingernails. I figured the laundry would give us a good end point. If the contractions had gotten worse by the time the load was done, we would go to the hospital. Even if it was too early, we would just go check. We had all the people alerted, it was snowy out, and if we waited too long, Dad would be asleep and then we’d have to take Bonnie with us. Plus, I had tested positive for the Group B Strep this time around, so we didn’t want to wait too long and not have time to do a couple rounds of antibiotics before delivery. Charlie’s whole life had started earlier than we anticipated. Why would his delivery be any different?

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Last time, I didn’t let Steven take any pictures of me before we left for the hospital because I was convinced that they wouldn’t let us stay. This time, I was praying they would send us home, so I made Steven take pictures just to jinx us. Alas, foiled again.

The first time around, I thought that the worst parts of labor were the contractions and the pushing. Having done it twice now, I’ve decided that the actual worst part of labor is trying to figure out when to go to the hospital. I don’t know why it’s so difficult for me to decide when I’m in labor and then when I’m in labor enough to actually go to the hospital and do something about it, but there you go. If only there was a pregnancy test that could tell you exactly when to go to the hospital. You hear that, Shark Tank? Get on it.

Finally, around 10, I decided we needed to go to the hospital, so I made Steven stop editing and pack a bag. I could tell things were getting serious because I was willing to leave the house without making Steven wash the dishes in the sink. Steven packed a bag and packed the car and I paced around, too afraid to keep timing the contractions. We got all packed up and Steven called Dad to come over and… no answer. Of course. Steven decided to drive over to Dad’s to talk to him in person and I crept into Bonnie’s room to spend a few more minutes with her, trying to calm myself and soak up these last few minutes of life at home with one baby.

I had been texting with Betsy for most of the evening and she told me that Abby’s due date was also Friday, January 13th. They had scheduled an induction for that day, but apparently Mom was determined not to have a baby at her age on Friday the 13th, and Abby ended up being born the Friday before, on January 6th. So at least if Charlie was going to come early, he would have birthday buddies. I focused on that story through the worst of the contractions and prayed for Mama strength. I’m still convinced she was tougher than me. With Abby’s labor, she had contractions all through her workday and then came home and made us dinner. Probably. I really can’t remember. The only thing I remember was waking up early Friday morning before school and walking with Betsy through the snow to the hospital to meet Abby.

Dad got to the house and we gave him a frantic list of instructions for Bonnie and then rushed out into the cold. On the short drive to the hospital (God bless Garden City), I remembered that we had never decided on a girl name. We ran through a few and I still didn’t like any of them. I also remembered that I had never finished crocheting the girl blanket. I still wasn’t sure I was really in labor, but I was about 100% convinced that we were having a boy. We had decided on the name Charlie months earlier, and I had felt from the very beginning of the pregnancy that he was a boy, so once we got to the hospital, I just started calling the baby Charlie.

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Pre-epidural Susan gets 2 hospital bracelets and the dreaded blood pressure cuff.

We got checked in to St. Catherine’s and the contractions just kept on going. They checked me for what felt like FOR-E-VER and decided I was probably dilated to a 4, maybe a little more. I was a 6 when we checked in with Bonnie. A 4 is in the maybe range, so they said I could hang out for an hour and then they’d check me again to see if I made any progress. Now I was really freaking out. Now that we were there, I wanted to stay. But I was also terrified that I’d get to a 5 and then stop, and then they’d have to induce, or do something to make Charlie come early, or I’d get an epidural too early and that would cause complications, etc, etc, etc. Then again, I thought if they sent me home, I’d have to come back at 2 in the morning and then who would watch Bonnie and I’d have to go on my own and then Steven would come later and he’d miss the birth and I wouldn’t get the antibiotics and then Charlie would get meningitis, etc etc etc. Y’know. Your basic super pregnant freak out. So I stayed for the world’s longest hour, having contractions every 5-7 minutes of varying degrees of awfulness. It was comforting to be hooked up to the machines so that we could watch Charlie’s heartbeat and my heartbeat and my blood pressure and the peaks and valleys of the contractions, though I’m still not sure we’re reading that machine correctly. After an hour, the nurse came back and checked me again and said I was maybe to a 4.75 or a 5 now? But definitely more effaced? They decided to call the doctor and let him decide if I could stay, but also asked me about an epidural, so I started to feel slightly more hopeful that they would let me stay. Blessed Dr. Stucky gave me the green light to stay, but they told me that the anesthesiologist was on another case, so it would be awhile before I got the epidural. No problem. As long as I could stay and it was coming eventually, I’d be just fine.

I got moved to my permanent room a little after 1 in the morning. Steven went to get all our bags and started texting everyone that we were staying. It was official! Baby time was almost here! The other case was at 1:30, so they got the IV in (my least favorite part), took the blood work, started the antibiotic and got all the necessary information from me. Walking from the temporary room to my delivery room, I could tell that things were definitely progressing, because it was MUCH harder to walk than it had been the hour before. Even still, I asked Steven if I thought it would hurt the baby to get an epidural before I was at a 6. Should I wait a few hours? Should we go home? Do you think they’ll send us home? Are the contractions still coming regularly? On and on and on. We had to wait until a little after 3 to get the epidural, and, of course, finally found a comfortable position about 2:45. Steven turned off most of the lights and rubbed my back and helped me lay on my side and remembered to turn on the playlist I had made for the hospital. I had just fallen asleep when the nurse came back in and said they were ready for the epidural. I was grateful, but scared. The contractions had definitely slowed down. What if labor had stopped? Could I still get the epidural? Should I tell them? What if I said no to the epidural and then they came back and it was another 3 hours? In the end I said nothing (of course) and they came in to set up the epidural.

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Loving that epidural life.

The epidural is both my favorite and least favorite part. I feel like it’s the scariest part of the whole experience because it’s ultimately voluntary, and so I feel like it has the most potential to go wrong and then cause complications. Luckily, it took on the first try, though the anesthesiologist did scare me by saying after, “wow. That’s the easiest one I’ve had in a long time.” Um, thanks? She left and I settled into that nice, warm, numb, sleepy relief. Steven finally got to set up his chair bed and we had a good 4-5 hours of sleep. With Bonnie I was too wired or too tired from the previous 22 hours of contractions to really sleep, so it was kind of shocking to wake up at 7 and meet the new nurse. I woke up in a panic though, because I was convinced that my contractions had stopped and that’s why I was able to sleep. The nurse checked me and sure enough – I had stalled out at a 5.5. Again, I was convinced that they were going to send me home. Even though I was admitted and hooked up to the epidural, I was sure that Dr. Stucky was on his way in and was going to scold me for coming in too early and wasting everyone’s time. In labor Susan is not the sanest Susan. Also, I was using the story about Mom and Abby to make me feel better about having a baby a week early, so if I was stuck in the hospital all day and missed having a baby on the 6th I was going to need a new silver lining. Luckily the nice morning nurse started some pitocin, and Stucky came in and broke my water, though again, it took a super long time, which again, made me think that I wasn’t actually in labor. Those two things did the trick and I jumped from a 5.5 to a 10 in the next couple of hours.

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I swear they brought me a new bracelet every hour.

Our nice nurse got me all set up and called Dr. Stucky back to the hospital and then said that we could start pushing. Um, really? Before the doctor got there? I told her it took about an hour of pushing with Bonnie and she assured me that it wouldn’t take anywhere near that long with this one. And with that, we started pushing. I was confused about why we were starting before he got there, especially because she kept saying things like “not long now” and, “just a few more pushes,” and, “oh look, there’s the head. And a full head of hair!” Still no doctor through all these comments and yet I didn’t say anything, just thought loud things in my head and kept on pushing when she told me to. Maybe I’ll be more assertive with the next one. After the third push, Dr. Stucky came flying in the room, took one look at the birth in progress and quickly traded his coat for a gown. Three more pushes, and there was a head, one push after that and Charlie was born. Steven said that the cord was wrapped around his neck and his shoulder, and I was grateful, yet again, that I couldn’t actually see what was happening. The nurse kept trying to get me to sit up enough so that I could see him down there, but I was content to wait the extra 30 seconds until they put him on my chest.

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Nothing better than that first hour of skin to skin.

As soon as I held him I could tell that he was smaller than Bonnie, and longer. He was such a long, skinny little thing, but so sweet and perfect and undeniably mine. Instead of trying to nurse him right away, I just let him lay there on my chest and warm up. We laid there for a little over an hour, calming each other down, getting good and warm and sleepy and ignoring the rest of the people in the room. Labor is such a weird experience in that respect – there are a lot of people paying a lot of attention to you, and then once the baby is here and they give him to you, you can just kind of tune them out. They still have work to do and they’re still in the room getting stuff done, but after all the contractions and pushing and monitoring, it is so nice to just lay back and relax and let everyone else work for awhile.

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Such a stud.
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Tiniest toes.
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My boys.

Since I had the Group B Strep, we got to stay in the hospital for 48 hours instead of 24, which I was initially really annoyed about. In Manhattan, I hated being in the hospital. The nurses were nosy, there were constantly people coming in and waking us up, and I had to wear the stupid blood pressure cuff the whole time. The Garden City maternity ward is heavenly. The nurses are great, the rooms are huge, you don’t have to try and change rooms when your legs are still all jelly from the epidural, you don’t have to watch any scary videos about purple crying, and they have special hospital movie channels! It really is the greatest. I highly recommend having your babies in Garden City.

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Another benefit of the hospital? Nurse swaddles.
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First night. Staying up late to watch House Hunters with Mama.
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Bonnie was our first visitor. She enjoyed Steven’s couch bed, but was mostly excited about getting to spend the day with Poppa and the weekend with her cousins.
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Anna was the first cousin to meet Charlie. They bonded quickly.
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First trip in the car seat. He hated it much less than Bonnie did.
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Abby met her birthday buddy (and Godson!) on Sunday. Not even an hour after we got home from the hospital, Steven got the stomach flu and started throwing up, so my first few hours of life at home with 2 kiddos was a little overwhelming. Luckily, Pat brought a lasagna and burp cloths, Abby brought Sonic drinks and cupcakes, and Bonnie watched Shaun the Sheep and snuggled with me on the couch. #surviveandadvance

The first couple of weeks after Charlie was born, I replayed the labor and our time in the hospital over and over. With Bonnie, I remember being nostalgic for pregnancy, and missing my big round belly. With Charlie, I definitely felt nostalgic for labor. I think it was because it happened so quickly, and I spent so much of it resisting, convinced that my body was failing me instead of doing this miraculous thing. Hopefully next time (if we’re blessed with a next time), I’ll do a better job of remembering that.

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Mr. Sweet Face

 

 

 

Sorry, Charlie

-for Charlie (duh)

When my wife, Susan, and I found out we were having a boy this time around, we burst into tears. This is because we realized he would one day wreck every vehicle we owned. No, we cried because we’re the sort of 13th century couple who doesn’t find out the sex of their child until the delivery. So the moment we found out he was a boy was the same moment we found out everything else about him. Also, I’m pretty sure if you don’t cry happy tears at the sight of your newborn, the doctors keep him.

They officially admitted us to St. Catherine’s hospital shortly after midnight. “Did we come in too early?” Susan asked me every time the nurses left the room.

“No,” I explained, “they’re letting us stay.”

Her: No, I know that, but would it have been better if we’d waited?

Me: Better for who?

Her: Whom.

Charlie arrived at ten-o-three that morning and at ten-o-four the nervous energy began to drain from my body. The hours leading up to the birth, you’re carried forward by sheer adrenaline as you wait to see that small wonderful face and hold that tiny body fresh from the heavens. Then, ten minutes later, you realize you’ve been up all night and all morning pacing and encouraging and holding your wife’s foot. Also—and this is roughly as tiring, I suppose—your wife has for close to 24 hours been pushing a human person from her body. The moment your son or daughter finally arrives is like the moment a marathon runner crosses the finish line—you’re exhausted, you feel vaguely like you’re going to throw up, and you smell great. So logically, this is when they decide to send in the visitors.

“You have visitors,” the nurse announces.

“Who? Me?” You wonder who could possibly know you’re here in the hospital. Then you look down at your iPhone and realize you just texted literally everyone you’ve ever met, all in the last fifteen minutes. (“Mom and baby doing well,” the caption reads beneath a blurry picture of your wife and wrinkly, red-faced son, a picture that is only half-obscured by your index finger.)

I’m a fairly bad conversationalist on eight hours of sleep, so you can only imagine how abysmal I was on zero. Luckily, my wife Susan was there to correct me every so often.

“She was five meters when—”

“No honey, centimeters. I was five centimeters dilated when they admitted us. Five meters is a house.”

“Then they brought in the pachyderm to—”

Epidural. A pachyderm is an elephant.”

“And now we have to put Vaseline on it every diaper change until it falls off.”

“The umbilical cord! The umbilical cord falls off, not the—”

Okay, so maybe I wasn’t that bad, but I did say some pretty dumb stuff, which is par for the course. If it ever comes out that Susan does all my writing for me—and not just my editing—I’m certain it will be a shock to no one. Instead, everyone I know will most likely turn to one another and say, “I told you he couldn’t read.”

Even worse, I’m now doomed to say any number of such things to my son. Eventually, he’s going to start talking and shortly after that he’s going to start asking questions—and expecting me to supply the answers… What if he asks me the capital of Washington, D.C.? Or how much Canada weighs? I’ve only been alive 31 years! That’s hardly time to learn both geography and the metric system.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned a few cool things—how to cook large cuts of meat, how to throw a punch (more or less), and how to change a flat—but if Jeopardy, the SATs, and most of college taught me anything, it’s that you’re rarely quizzed on stuff you already happen to know. With my luck, Charlie will want to know how many senators it takes to elect the president. And I’ll just have to tell him the truth: Nobody knows.

Charlie will one day find out his dad doesn’t know everything about everything. (Sorry, Charlie.) It will be a sad day for him, but I’m sure he’ll recover. His dad, on the other hand, might not.

charlie-hospital

Our First Year in the Garden

Well, we did it. We survived our first year in Garden City.

This morning I was sitting in the living room, in our comfy red chair (thanks, Aunt Vernie and Uncle Dennis!), watching Bonnie fly around the living room and drinking coffee and enjoying the beautiful sunlight in the front room. And I thought, for about the thousandth time this month, I am so glad that it is this year and not last year. Last year at this time we were frantically, exhaustedly, packing up more boxes, struggling with Bonnie, and saying goodbye to everything we knew. We were leaving our cozy little apartment and our good jobs and heading west, to a house without running water, or a refrigerator, or even worse, cable and internet. On December 30th of 2015, we weren’t even sure if the heat had been turned on in the house, or if there was electricity, or if U-Haul would really have a truck for us when we showed up the next morning.

 

We were excited, sure. We had been praying and planning and opening our hearts to life in Garden City for close to 3 years. But when it came time to go, to actually turn the dreams into a reality, it was incredibly frightening and uncertain. I had a good job lined up, but at a new college, with new people, in a totally new system. I was terrified. Steven was taking his job with him, but anxious about how it would work via distance, without an office, in a house without heat/water/electricity/internet. Bonnie’s entire world was being put into boxes around her and she responded by refusing to sleep and clinging to us every second of every day. I couldn’t blame her. With every box we packed, I wondered if we were making a huge mistake. With every step toward Garden, I worried that it was a step in the wrong direction. We kept moving forward, and I thought the excitement would overtake the fear. But the fear had remarkable endurance.

 

In the end, we made it. We packed up the U-Haul, said goodbye to dear friends and our beloved apartment, and made it all the way to Garden City, late on December 31st. We rang in the new year in our new place, and wondered what on earth 2016 had in store for us.

 

It was truly an adventure.

 

 

No running water is no excuse for not having freshly ground Bistro coffee on your first day of work in a new job. #priorities
No running water is no excuse for not having freshly ground Bistro coffee on your first day of work in a new job. #priorities
pinecrest
God bless mini fridges.

We spent New Year’s Day unloading the U-Haul with Matthew and Anna’s help. We had heat and electricity and a mini-fridge for Bonnie’s milk. My sisters and Anna had come over the day before to wipe down everything they could with clorox wipes and vacuum carpets and closets. Eventually, we got running water. Until then, we stayed at Dad’s house, ate sandwiches, washed bottles at Betsy’s, lived out of suitcases and boxes, and brushed our teeth with bottled water. The upstairs got all new plumbing. The bathroom got new fixtures and a new toilet and a new floor. We unpacked. Slowly, but surely, we unpacked some more. We got cable and internet and it started to feel more like a home. We rearranged furniture, and had people over for dinner. In March, after several meals on the couch and, in some cases, the kitchen floor, we finally got a real table and chairs (thanks, Linda!) In April, after several floods and more than one plumber, we successfully completed our first load of laundry in the house. We washed bottles in the sink, in the bathtub, at Dad’s house, at Betsy’s house, at the office. With God’s grace, we adapted, and then adapted again, and finally adapted some more.

Thankfully, we had a mild winter. Steven washed windows and blinds and curtains. Spring came early and the house got HOT. I missed our basement apartment in a whole new way. We bought a window unit and Steven installed it and we settled in again. Finally – cool air. We sweat a lot, but again, adapted. By the time fall came, we were comfortable. I forgot all about the rough parts. I was amazed to look back and realize just how long it had taken us to get situated. There are still boxes in the kitchen that have never been unpacked. We work around them, never pausing to put them away. There are a few things on the walls, but it’s largely undecorated. Somehow, it doesn’t matter. This is home. Bonnie is cute. Toys are everywhere. We are content.

On Cinco De Mayo, we found out I was pregnant. Bonnie was so small. We were still so unsettled. It was unexpected sure, but a blessing. A beautiful gift. A reminder to be thankful, to refocus, to have a little perspective amidst the chaos. In June, I took a new job. In July, Steven took several new jobs. This fall we worked hard, harder, hardest. Bonnie went back to daycare full-time and flourished. We got more involved with the church and started to build a real community here. We had people over for football games, cooked food, made friends, got busy. Life now looks closer to what I had imagined a year ago. We are here. We are really here, building a life and a family and a home. We made it.

We have learned oh so much this year. We learned about plumbing, so much about plumbing. We learned that living without a dishwasher is not the biggest hardship – it’s living without central air. I learned to just buy curtains. There’s not always time to make them, and they make a world of difference. We learned that when you have wonky plumbing, you should always check the basement. Always, always, always check the basement. We learned just how expensive it is to not check the basement. Seriously, guys. Just go down there. Steven learned the joys of tree removal. So much tree removal. We learned that a wooden spoon is infinitely easier and more effective at keeping Bonnie out of the kitchen cabinets than any child proofing mechanism on the market. We learned to eat meals together with Bonnie and to pray together and to honor bedtime. We learned to sleep train. (God bless sleep training). We learned about Bonnie, about each other, about working hard and communicating and persevering in prayer. We learned to be patient. Patient with each other, with Bonnie, with ourselves, with God.

Bonnie learned so many things in this wonderful house. She learned to sit up, to eat solid food, to scoot, and then crawl, and then walk, and then run. She learned to dance and blow her nose and ask for milk and drink from a cup.  She learned the hokey pokey and the itsy bitsy spider and ring around the rosy. She learned to climb and blow kisses and wrap us around her finger even more.

Bonnie made the website after her second visit to daily mass. St. Dominic's is the best.
Bonnie made the website after her second visit to daily mass. St. Dominic’s is the best.
Helping Dad with the weeding. I have no idea how many hours Steven spent working on the Pinecrest yard this year, but I'm guessing it's somewhere in the triple digits.
Helping Dad with the weeding. I have no idea how many hours Steven spent working on the Pinecrest yard this year, but I’m guessing it’s somewhere in the triple digits.
The day we realized we needed to lower the crib mattress. STAT.
The day we realized we needed to lower the crib mattress. STAT.

2017 will bring even more change. We’ll meet this new baby (boy or girl? I still say boy). We’re house shopping. Maybe we’ll be house buying and moving again and starting all over, with (fingers crossed!) fewer plumbing problems. There might be more job changes, because, with us, there always seem to be job changes. Bonnie will turn 2, become a big sister, change more in every minute than we do all year. She will give us sweet hugs and sloppy kisses and wipe her nose on my shirt and fill my heart with more peace and joy than I could ever have imagined. And there will be another one! A brand new human to love immeasurably, to be changed and saved by. We will be sleep deprived. We will be overwhelmed. Just when we feel like we’re surely drowning in diapers and spit-up and fear and worry and sticky, needy, jam hands, we will be buoyed by love, so much love.

Bonnie has always soothed herself in the same way - one thumb in her mouth, one hand in my shirt.
Bonnie has always soothed herself in the same way – one thumb in her mouth, one hand in my shirt.

May God bless you in your own unpredictable life in 2017. However you can, fill it with babies. They save us in so many ways.

 

PS – You might have noticed that I’m not regularly updating this blog. I switched to a weekly email format in September that has been working MUCH better. If you’d like to get weekly updates on the Miller family and pictures of Bonnie and Fievel, send me your email and I’ll add you to the list!