SLIDER

Monday, April 30, 2012

6 Weeks








Today marks Francie's 6-week birthday. She is officially the cutest baby in the world. She had her first bath without tears (neither hers nor mine). She is in cloth diapers more than 50% of the time (we still need to buy more). When she wears her BumGenius diapers, her newborn-sized onesies are very nearly too small for her (but are still baggy in the arms and thighs). She is feeding about twice in the middle of the night, and usually keeps me up for nearly an hour each time. We moved the basinet next to our bed, but I still like to have her sleep between us, with my arm cuddled around her. She continues to be most alert and engaged during the morning hours, and is fussiest in the evenings. But really she is more awake and more alert with each day; she likes to look around, especially at lights or out the window. Babies supposedly start smiling at around 6 weeks of age; Francie smiles, but it still seems reflexive rather than directed at either mama or daddy. She sometimes giggles in her sleep. 

I made it my mission to tell the world just how awful labor and delivery was, and I also want to make it my mission to tell the world just how awesome motherhood is. But every time I say how wonderful I feel, or how much fun I'm having, or what a good sleeper the Bean is, I want to knock on wood or something. I feel like I'm just waiting for my luck to run out. Like I got it good when conceiving, during pregnancy, and for motherhood (so far), and that means I've got to have it rough any day now. I hate the fact that I'm expecting the other shoe to drop. Luckily, it doesn't detract from my day-to-day life with her, but is something that occasionally tugs in the back of my mind. Alex tells me that's not the way the world works. That there isn't any formula to determine when and what and how much good or bad a person gets in their life. That it just is what it is, and to just be grateful when we're fortunate. Or, "it's not time to worry," as my mother would say.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Fat is Not Phat

These jeans make me look fat.

Oh wait, this fat makes me look fat.

Even my sweats make me feel large and in charge. So it's time to get down to business. I'm going to start an exercise program of ... walking! That's right, I'm going to sweat to the oldies (or Lupe Fiasco) while pushing a stroller through the Maplewood neighborhood. It's what I call suburban athletics.

In reality, I'm only 20 ell-bees (lbs) heavier than I was when I got pregnant (but 40 lbs heavier than when I got married!). But given my paltry fitness regimen the past year or so, that 20-pound weight gain is fat replacing muscle. And I'm just 30, so that's unacceptable. Plus it make me more susceptible to conditions like osteoporosis, cancer, and heart disease. Dramatic, I know, but I'm seeking motivation anywhere I can. That's the problem - while I want to change my body, I'm not confident I want to do what it takes to make those changes. Eating healthier - adding more fruits and veggies, subtracting candy and ice cream. Exercising regularly (walking the dog a 1/2 mile is insufficient). And stretching (gotta get back into yoga - the only exercise that truly made my body feel good).

While most of my body-related angst does indeed relate to my vanity (I would guess about 99.8%), it is also important for me to set a good example to my daughter. And to maintain some level of fitness that allows me to enjoy outdoor activities as a family such as hiking and biking. And to show effort on my part to be attractive to my husband.

If I stay a fat person it will cost me: money, happiness, health, mental health, marriage ... I'd have to buy a whole new wardrobe. I would likely exacerbate any future health problems and lower my overall immune system. I would complain too much, driving my husband to choke me in my sleep. And I would be setting a precedent for Francie that included eating chocolate while sitting on the couch watching ABC dramas, then complaining about being "too fat to fit in any of my clothes." Not to mention, I'd love to actually curtail my frequency of body-bashing comments.

So tomorrow, April 30th, I resolve to get my (padded) ass in gear. It may be just walks this week, but needs to incorporate strength training or yoga within the month. Fo' sho'. No excuses!

Family ...

Grammy and Papa Pablo were in town for the weekend, and BDA came over for breakfast.

... (and friends) 

Last week Francie was very social. On Monday she hung out with Logan. On Tuesday Cindy came to meet her. On Thursday we went to the Dr., had lunch with Harlow, and then spent the evening with Gus and Hunter. On Friday Grammy and Pablo came into town, and then we had dinner with the Franzke clan. And on Saturday, Francie watched her daddy play in an alumni soccer game. Phew! That is one social butterfly! Granted, she slept through most of the engagements unless they took place in the evening and she was attached to the teat.

Francie charmed the pants off Oma Cindy.


 Alex and AJ make some great papa bears to the lil' Bean and Gus Gus.


Felt Embroidery


I think Alex is ready for me to stop hanging little embroidery hoops all over the house, but I lack any creativity about what else to make. So instead I turn my friends and family members into "victims of my crafting," as my dad would say. The top one, for Francie's room, will join the gallery above her changing table. And the one below I made for my brother. It's not my most mature work of art, but a sweet way to commemorate the Bean's tiny newborn hand for her uncle. I'm liking using felt rather than regular old fabric; it gives a bit more textured of a look.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Old Balls

You know you're A) old and B) on a college campus when you are breastfeeding your baby, drop the pacifier positioned perilously on the stroller, and more than a dozen students make the effort to step over the pink elephant Soothie without offering to pick it up for you. Needless to say, I'm left to scramble to maintain my baby's latch while reaching for the Soothie without exposing myself to unsuspecting freshmen in their dorm's dining hall. And then silently wondering what has come of 'kids today.'

Alex, Francie and I spent the day at OSU for an alumni soccer game. Several of his old teammates came into town for the annual fundraising game they play against the current team. Alex was apprehensive about being "old balls" (fat, aged, and downright out of shape) knowing that he's more than a decade more mature than the current players. But upon arrival we saw alumni from the 1970s. Perfect, he wouldnt be the slowest on the field, afterall. Turns out he scored one of the alum's two goals and assisted in the other, so either he's lucky or he's not as unfit as he feared.

Being back on a college campus was strange. It's been well over a year since I took classes at UO and have since forgotten what university life entails. As for my age, I look and feel the same as I always have; when I look in the mirror I'm still relatively pleased with the age of my reflection (as long as my dad's face isn't staring back at me already then I am all good). But when I'm surrounded by 18-22 year olds (let's face it, they're kids, seriously, just fresh out of their nest), I feel and think and act like I'm 30 going on 70. "Pull your shorts up young man," or, "You should be eating veggies with that pizza, breadsticks and French fries," I think to myself.

On the other hand I'd like to believe that I might be mistaken for a college student. But I think the stroller, my diaper-bag-slash-backpack, my "skinny" maternity jeans, and my overall demeanor reveal my age - having already completed rather than beginning my third decade of life.

Alex and I reflected back on our college experiences (VERY different) - he mostly recounted the debaucherous misadventures of his soccer crew for the millionth time. I had a very fulfilling time during college, but I was grateful today that I don't look upon the current students with envy, like I wish I could go back to that time. Truthfully, I think life gets better with age. Sure, I have more responsibilities and less free time, but I have more wisdom, experience, self assurance, and stability. Which is what I need for where I'm at now. So yeah, I'd kill to have the 20-year-old ass of those stretchy-pant-wearing co-eds. But I think I might like being "old balls" if that means I get to be Alex's wife and Francie's mama. Petunia Picklebottom bag and mom jeans included.


P.S. Are black socks with shorts the new trend for guys? And when did they make female workout clothes so damned skimpy!?!


Francie "watching" the game.


Friday, April 27, 2012

6 Week Check-Up

Mine, not Francie's.

I saw my OB/midwife yesterday for my post-partum visit. I filled out some sort of depression/anxiety questionnaire, and was surprised by how truly lucky I've been to have dodged even the mildest of Baby Blues. It was one of the things I feared most about motherhood, particularly given my history of generalized anxiety and panic attacks. Then again, I have been on Zoloft for over two years now and have had wonderful results. I continued the SSRI through my pregnancy and now during breastfeeding, and am happy to report that there have been no noteworthy (negative) side effects for either Francie or myself. Or maybe it was the placenta pills that helped me keep it all together post-partum. Or the fact that Francie is a pretty good sleeper. Or that she is absolute delight to stare at. Regardless, I'm grateful for the opportunity to truly enjoy the first several weeks with my new baby girl.

Sarah, my midwife, asked me lots of questions about breastfeeding, sleep, pain, and birth control. She then examined my undercarriage, specifically whether or not the small peri-urethral tear had healed, and the size of my uterus.

Everything looked a-okay, so she said, and gave me the go-ahead to resume sex. Not that I've told Alex, because to be perfectly honest, it sounds terrifying. Terrifying because the last event Down Under pretty much ripped me in half. Terrifying because that very act is how we got ourselves a baby, and one is plenty for now. And terrifying because my vagina is very unlikely to resemble anything like the tight, virgin (ha!) flower it was when Alex and I first got together. Not to mention, when on earth do new parents find time to have sex?!? Seriously, one of us is almost always tending to the Bean, unless it's nighttime and she's sleeping. And then so are we. Plus, she's either in our bed or right next to me in her cradle, and that's just kind of creepy. It's bad enough with Gizzy in the room, and she's just a dog who hides in the corner.

Fantasyland

Since I started walking for exercise (the other day), I've been entertaining a recurrent fantasy. No, not that kind. But about work.

I truly do love my job as a speech-language pathologist, and I love working with the veteran population. Specifically, I love working with survivors of (m)TBI and doing cognitive rehabilitation. I need to return this summer to work at the VA Medical Center because my fellowship goes through September, and I need nine months of full-time work in order to be licensed by ASHA, the profession's governing body. Plus we need the money, particularly if Alex loses his job at Southridge HS.

But my dad was right. He warned me that I wouldn't want to return to work after the baby was born. At least not full-time. While I love my job, I love the Bean even more.

My recent fantasy has been to have some sort of private practice. (Possibly inspired by the ABC show of the same name, which Francie and I have been watching obsessively on Netflix). I don't want my own place or anything, and ideally I'd like to specialize in brain injury and maybe aphasia. The fantasy was spurred by new signage outside a remodeled home just up the street from us in the Maplewood neighborhood. The sign is advertising the opening of a coffee shop, acupuncture, and yoga studio. I was daydreaming about how cool it would be to rent space from them. I could get several private pay clients - maybe my specialty could be post-concussive syndrome in order to cover the age span - and see them in that office for just a few hours each week. Granted, not a lot of people have extra money for such an expense, so I'd have to be crafty in how I attracted clients. Or maybe if I did some research I might find that it's easier to accept insurance than I imagine.

This fantasy involves me keeping my foot in both the Professional world and in the Mom world. I can't bear the thought of being away from Francie for 45+ hours each week this summer (although I don't have much of a choice). But if I can lay the groundwork for really fulfilling part-time work for after I'm licensed, that would be ideal. I didn't spend two years in graduate school to stay home, after all, but I am definitely looking for that theoretical work/life balance.

Monday, April 23, 2012

5 Weeks


Francie is five weeks old today. As of Friday, she weighed 7 lbs 12 oz and was 21 inches. She almost fits in her cloth diapers, and because she poops only every other day, we decided to go ahead and try them out. She continues to be more awake and more alert each day, and is still a good sleeper. She sleeps, on average, in 3 to 4.5 hour chunks at night. During the day, she likes to be held, and likes to be in motion - stroller, car, carrier while walking. She eats about every 2.5 hours, but continues to be fussy and clusterfeed in the evenings beginning around 7 p.m. She is starting to go down for the night earlier, sometimes even at 11 p.m.

She visited the zoo for the first time. Of course, she slept through the whole excursion, but Rachel, Logan and I got to see both a cheetah and black bear right up close! And because the weather has been so beautiful, we had a picnic with the Menne's at Willamette Park for dinner. Again, Francie didn't seem to care about the park or playground, but it was fun to watch Logan enjoy himself. It's hard to think Francie will be that big someday!





Sunday, April 22, 2012

My Baby Daddy





The biggest difference in Alex and my relationship since having Francie is that we have less time (or availability) to hold hands, hug, kiss, and cuddle. It's not to say that we don't still do these things, but not to the same nauseating degree of our formal selves. I do find myself much more caught up with my daughter and her well-being than with my husband. I find myself kissing her first, worrying about her comfort, etc, at the expense of my husband (and my dog!) But one of the other things that has changed between Alex and me - I think I can speak for both of us - is our respect and adoration of one another in our new roles.

Sure, I fell in love with Francie the moment I met her on March 19. But I fell in even deeper love that day too. With my husband.

With our marriage, as with all relationships, ebbs and flows, and I'm sure there will come a time in our lives that challenges us in a way that we might forget what this is really all about. And I want to remember, even if I have to read about it here on this blog, just how deliriously in love I have been and am with Alex.

I first met him in May 2006. I was passing through Tahoe on my way from Colorado to Southern California. I stopped by a gas station in what I now know to be Kings Beach on Tahoe's north shore, and asked, "Soooo, where's Tahoe?" The attendant chuckled, and pointed at the lake. He then directed me to explore Tahoe City. I parked my busted-ass grey Volvo (the indestructable beast I am STILL driving) in the lot of "The Tahoe World," which I presumed to be a restaurant. I quickly discovered that it was the local newspaper office, and strolled in wearing my grungy blue pants and a white wife-beater to inquire about staffing. I had been interested in pursuing a job in "publishing" or "journalism" after all.

I briefly met the three local reporters, and remember chatting about Oregon with the red-bearded soccer player, who also grew up in Portland.

Flash forward almost two months, and I found myself sitting next to that same red-bearded guy in that very same office. We became friends, occasionally eating lunch together. We joked around, he made me laugh, and I divulged too much personal information. I still didn't have a crush on him, but I found myself wanting to spend more and more time with this co-worker of mine. When the guy I was casually dating dumped me, I called my dad, crying because of my bruised ego, worried about the fate of my love life. "I don't want to be dumped," I whined. "I just know I'm going to end up with that guy from work, and I'm not even sure I like him." There was something inside me, something that told me that I might very well marry that guy from work. Not that this necessarily made any sense, given that we weren't even dating.

In August 2006 I convinced Alex to go on a last-minute camping trip with me, to Pinecrest Lake, a place I had spent a week each summer as a little kid. We weren't able to leave until after midnight, when I was finished working my shift as a cocktail waitress at a tapas restaurant. The drive was long and dark, and in the middle of one of the downhill switchbacks on the treacherous mountain road, the brakes on my Volvo went out. I was cool as a cucumber, pulling the emergency brake, casually commenting, "Shit, I think my brakes just went out. Again. Guess we'll have to sleep here for the night!"

We slept in the back of the Volvo, his dog Nesta snuggled between us at our feet. Still, we had never touched. I hoped he would kiss me that night. But at the same time I was scared he might kiss me. We worked together, after all. That could get messy.

And as the story goes, we did indeed get together that summer, just a few weeks after that fateful camping trip. Nearly 6 years later, we are married, own a home, and are new parents to a wonderful baby girl. There were many adventures along the way, both good and bad, that I imagine will help us to be better partners to each other and better parents to the Bean.

So Francie, I want you to know and understand, the reason you are here today is as a product of your mama and daddy's love for each other. Our "love child," we joke. We adore you and are so looking forward to watching you grow. But it's equally, if not more important, that we continue to water each other's heart gardens in order to maintain the solid foundation of this family.

And to Alex: I love you, Penguin, and am excited to see you take on this new role of Daddy. xoxo
















Aunts and Uncles and Cousins, Oh My!

Lots of family visitors this weekend!

Uncle Brian

Aunt Jen

Great Uncle John and Great Aunt Patty

Second Cousin Melissa

Birthday Blowout

Literally.

It was Alex's 31st birthday yesterday. Brian and Jen were visiting, and we only wanted to show them what baby poop looked like. We got more than we bargained for.

Francie hadn't had a dirty diaper in a day or two, so we were excited when we heard a series of loud squishy farts while Jen was holding her. She had been a bit fussy (Francie, not Jen), but after her five big pushes, she went right to sleep, content as could be, in her aunt's arms. We didn't want to disturb her immediately, but then Jen said she felt wet. Alex collected the diaper-changing arsenal and placed Francie on our (new) coffee table for our evening entertainment.. Again, we got WAY more than we bargained for. We're talking elbow-deep in poo. I'll spare you the details (even though I love to provide a good poop account; Alex says it's inappropriate). Needless to say, Francie most definitely required a good bath.

Here she is, in the birthday onesie she made her daddy, with the early signs of her first real blowout - stains above the belly button.





We're just glad we weren't trialling our cloth diapers at the time, given the recommended minimum weight is an 8 lb baby. She would have really leaked everywhere. 

She looks like a baby sumo wrestler.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Birth Story: His Version

***Alex and I decided that we each wanted to write our own perspective of Francie's birth. Here is what he wrote, which I am reading for the very first time***

March 19, 2012

I think we were both pretty scared when we arrived at the hospital.  Jo’s water had broken nearly 30 hours before.  We were pretty sure it was fine that we waited to come in, but in reality we both knew that neither of us had any idea what we were doing.  We were two weeks early for the due date, and she wasn’t really feeling any contractions, so we were still sort of skeptical that this was actually going to happen. 

When we did get settled into the triage room, it wasn’t long before medical staff made us feel like we had screwed things up by not coming in earlier.  They questioned us and implied that we were now at an elevated risk because of our decision.  This didn’t help our psyches.  And then, when the midwife came back to tell us that it was, in fact, amniotic fluid things got really real.  We were going to have a baby… like today.

As things progressed and the nurses slogged through the arduous process of checking us in, we realized that it might not actually be today when our daughter would be born.  Because Jo wasn’t feeling any contractions and mostly likely was not dilated at all, they told us that it could be a day or two before the new member of our wolf pack was finally born.  Despite our desire to have a natural birth experience, they had to start Jo on Pitocin pretty much right away to get things moving.  They seemed very worried about how long it had been since her waters ruptured because of risk of infection.  Again, this didn’t really help our anxiety. 

But at first things were fairly pleasant.  Our labor room at Kaiser Sunnyside had a large window where we could watch the snow, rain, hail, and eventual sunshine while reading and eating animal crackers.  It seemed like things simply were not progressing.  They hooked Jo up to the Pitocin around one in the afternoon, and for the next eight hours we just hung out.  The nurse midwife became increasingly anxious about infection, but we just hung out and watched our baby’s heart beating along with Jo’s steady but minor contractions.  

Our midwife came in the room mumbling about how she couldn’t ramp up the Pitocin because of hospital protocol, obviously miffed that things weren’t progressing.  She rambled on about moving to internal monitoring, which raised our defenses immediately.  But then she told us it was about time for a shift change and that she would be going home.  We both breathed a sigh of relief.  When her replacement, Jody, came in the room with Tamara, our new nurse, everything changed.  Jody was so laid back.  She looked at the monitors and told us that we should try to get some rest.  She was not worried and said that things would pick up eventually.  If they didn’t by morning, we could stop the drugs and restart them again, but that we should just chill out and try to get some sleep.

We were starting to get a bit bored and tired around 9:00 p.m., so we decided to go for a little walk around the ward.  We didn’t make it very far before Jo winced in pain.  It seemed that things were finally picking up.  The next three hours flipped by in a series of pursed-lip breathing, hand holding, body wrenching repetitions.  Jo’s contractions grew steadily more intense with each one, and her rest periods shrank.  She was a beast at dealing with the pain, leaning forward onto my shoulder and breathing through them as if she could teach a class on the subject.  During her rest periods she complained, and gradually got more and more anxious about her abilities to deal with things.  She rotated between a birthing ball and the toilet.  Eventually, when things began to get more painful, she started to ask about epidurals.  Our incredibly patient doula, Melissa, suggested she try getting in the bathtub first.  Jo complied, although she was skeptical.  She continued laboring in the tub for what seemed like 5 minutes but was probably more like 30.  Eventually it became too much, she wanted an epidural and she wanted it now. 

At this point, even though no one knew it, I got angry.  She was doing such a wonderful job and I had read so much about the effects epidurals have on the mother-baby bonding that only happens right after birth.  I knew that she could deal with the pain because I was watching her breath through the contractions and kick the shit out of them.  But I saw her mind getting the best of her.  During each rest period she would think about the pain she just experienced and how awful it was while simultaneously worrying about more coming.  Her rest periods were getting shorter and her pain more intense.  She was starting to panic.  I have never been very good at dealing with Jo’s panic attacks, and this was no exception.  I was watching her do the work and helping her through the pain, but I could do nothing for her state of mind.  I stepped into the other room while Melissa helped her out of the bath.  I took a swig of water and told my self to pull it together.  If she wanted respite from the pain, I had to let go of my selfish desires and get on board.  “Pull your shit together,” I told myself.  It was hard to swallow everything and just help her along. 

She was very angry that an epidural would take 30 minutes to get started.  Melissa got the nurse to stop the Pitocin and unplug her from all the wires, but things kept ramping up.  We got Jo to the bed to lie down and wait for the anesthesiologist.  Literally her next contraction caused her to shriek and her eyes to get wide.  “What was that?  I don’t like that!” She cried.  Melissa got real close and real excited.

“What did it feel like?  Do you feel like pushing?”

Jo’s cute little pouty face washed over her, “I don’t want to.  I don’t like that, I’m scared!”

Melissa told her to listen to her body, to push when she felt like it and it would all be over.  Jo did not want that.  She wanted drugs, she wanted it to all stop. 

“If you push it will stop, that’s the only way out of this,” Melissa told her.  Jo was not happy with that.

Jody came in and checked Jo’s cervix.  She was fully dilated and the baby was coming out.  Jo was scared about that part.  She told us she was picturing a baby sear-splaying her undercarriage apart in violent destruction.  Jody came around the side of the bed.

“Jo, can you look at me?”

“No, I don’t want to look at you,” Jo responded.  “I like you, but I don’t want to look at you.”  Everyone laughed.

“And she still has a sense of humor.”  Jody was immediately endeared. 

For the next 45 minutes (which seemed like 10) I held Jo’s hand through contractions and whispered encouragement into her ears as her face twisted in pain and effort while she pushed with all her might and being to get that baby down.  During breaks between the pain she would whisper “ice chip,” and I would spoon ice into her mouth. 

I have never been so proud of anyone or anything in my entire life.  She was so tired, so scared, in so much pain, but she just kept on working.  She kept on pushing.  And the craziest part of all of it was that the physical manifestations of her anxiety were totally gone.  She was completely calm.  She pushed as hard as she could, and then she went to sleep until the next one came.  It was an amazing lesson in true zen and focus.  It was, without a doubt, the most amazing I have ever seen her.  I will forever be in awe and total love with her because of that 50-minute performance.

We were all coaching her along, telling her to push, and encouraging her.  Jody had stepped out of the room, most likely to tend to another woman in labor.  Tamara peeked under the sheet covering Jo’s lower half.

“Stop!”  Tamara shrieked. 

I wanted to slap her.  We were all encouraging her and she was on the brink, and this woman gave Jo a reason to panic.

“Why, what’s wrong?!” Jo’s face was instant panic and worry.  She looked at me.  “What’s going on?!”  We assured her all was well.  Tamara quickly realized what she had done.

“I’m sorry sweetie, nothing’s wrong.  I have to get Jody, just hold on one second,” She ran out of the room paging the doctor.  Jody strode into the room with three or four assistants.  She slid into a gown and gloves.  “Everything’s okay Jo, I’ve got my baby catching outfit on, let’s do this.”

Jo went back to work.  After three or four more contractions, Jody held up a pale gray splayed out 18-inch long human being.  It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen.  She flopped the baby down on Jo’s chest.  “Look at your baby Jo, look what you did!”

“I can’t, it’s too weird,” Jo had true terror in her eyes.  The speed of things, going from nothing to this in four hours.  She was, in an instant, a mother.  She looked around, looked at the baby, looked at me, looked at the doctors, looked at the baby, put her hand on the child, rubbed her, looked around.  She was in another world.  The nurses poked and prodded little Francie to try to get her to cry or breath, which took a little while, but eventually she started squeaking and pinked right up.  By this time the placenta was coming out.  The umbilical cord was the most amazing piece of machinery I had ever seen.  It was so intricate and beautiful.  Then the placenta came out.  Jody held it up, “look at this, they call this the tree of life.”  She flipped the flat red organ over and the back was shimmering smooth with the veins splayed out all about it channeling down into the umbilical cord.  It looked exactly like a tree, like the tree of life.  It was so magical.

I was not aware until I saw the pictures later that I had the biggest, most cheesy, unwavering shit-eating grin on my face.  I had never seen, let alone been a part of, anything so incredible, so intense, so magical, so wonderful in my entire life.  My baby girl was the most precious and beautiful sight I had ever seen.  My wife was the most amazing, unwaveringly powerful person I had ever imagined.  I hugged them both at the same time.  I kissed them both.  I wanted to meld my very being with both of them.  It was the most powerful connection I had ever felt. 

I grabbed the scissors, cut the cord and then slipped back into the tunnel vision where the only things in focus were my wife and my daughter.  In the background medical staff cleaned, weighed, poked, prodded, massaged fundus (in which, I was reminded, there is NO fun), scooped, scraped, injected….

People tell you that the birth of your child is amazing.  Many say it’s the most amazing experience of their lives.  Before you have this experience, it’s sort of theoretical.  In your mind you admit, “yeah, I bet that’s pretty cool.”  But there is no register.  There is no frame of reference for the true magic of this experience.  I was thinking the next day, that if we ever have more kids I will feel bad because it won’t compare.  The first time is so intense because of the unknown that nothing, ever, will compare.  When I gaze across the room and see the soft rain-filtered light washing over my wife as she holds my beautifully precious daughter my eyes get wet.  Raw emotion – love, pride, wonder, amazement – flood through my body in a way I have never felt before.  I am quite certain I will never love anyone as much as I love these two.  And I am absolutely positive I will never experience anything this magical again in my life.

Birth Story: Her Version

Alternate blog titles up for consideration:
The 6 1/2 Pound Shit
That Time I Was Raped by a Donkey
I Just Wanted to Die
Ice Chip
and, Why Me?

Exactly one month ago, to this very hour, I was crying out in pain during labor, only modestly looking forward to meeting my baby girl. And it's taken me this long to finally write about the experience, which has already been dulled and tainted by the passage of time.

Let me begin by saying that childbirth is the most traumatizing, painful, and intense experience I have ever endured. There was nothing beautiful or wonderful about the actual act of labor and delivery. The end result? Yes - a tiny miracle, totally worth the journey. And if given the chance to do it all over again, provided Francie was again the final product - I'd say yes in a heartbeat. But in and of itself, I would never, ever, ever (EVER!) wish to repeat the endeavor. I say screw all that female empowerment bullshit. Plus, I didn't get that ultimate "runner's high" that women who deliver naturally boast about. That was my solitary motivation for going drug-free. Well, that, and the simple fact that epidurals freak the hell out of me (not the needle, but the numbness; who the hell wants to be bed-ridden with zero lower extremity sensation - I mean, what if there was a fire?!?).

To my girlfriends - those of you currently with child and those of you working on getting that bun in the oven - I intend to be perfectly honest about my experience. Bear in mind it was simply my experience, and everyone has a different story. But nonetheless, it rocked my world. My only saving grace in the matter (aside from the Lil Bean), is my ability to have a great sense of humor, also known as "hindsight bias." So read on cautiously.

An additional purpose of this post is to debunk the notion that a fast labor is an easy labor. Au contraire, mon frere. I think of it this way: we all trained for the marathon. But most of us train to walk the distance. A marathon, 26.2 miles, is a bitch no matter how you add it up. Walking for 8+ hours requires both physical and mental endurance. And then there are the rare few who train and run marathons, like, actually run them. In well under 4 hours. Not me, no siree; that's not what I signed up for. But apparently, when it comes to childbirth you don't get much of a say. Needless to say, I completed a marathon distance at a Jackie Joyner Kersee pace. Your body has to do all the same things as that of a woman with a 24-hour labor; there's less fatigue, but more intensity. In other words, a quick labor is just as much work, but in less time.

I suppose Francie's birth story began the day I wrote the Labor? blog post.

Friday, March 16th, I woke up to the first inklings of impending labor. I passed my mucous plug (which I could only identify as having anything to do with childbirth after a Google images search), and proceeded to work what would be my last day at the VA. My coworkers hosted a nice baby shower during lunch that day, where I received gifts, ate cake, and genuinely felt supported by those childless women I previously judged as "baby haters." I felt differently that day - mother's intuition I now know - and warned my supervisors I was unlikely to finish out the month working, as planned.

Saturday, March 17th, I woke up with sopping wet underwear. I suspected my water had broken, given that my cotton hipster briefs were soaked from waistband to crotch line. Really, it looked as though I had taken a dip in the pool in my underhosen. But I also had my doubts, wondering if I'd had a night of hormonal sweats, or if I really was one of those people who peed myself without even knowing it. In hindsight, I recognize this as just another time I've had difficulty trusting my own instincts. I called my doula, Melissa. We talked through whether or not to call the hospital, and Alex and I made the executive decision to give my body some time, to let nature take its course, waiting to begin contractions without the watchful eye of nurses and midwives and doctors. Yes, we were aware of the risk of the ominous "infection," which seemed nebulous but somewhat frightening, but ultimately decided to err on the side of non-Western medical advice (a lot of literature gives a mother ~48 hours post amniotic leak before raising concern). Alex and I spent the day together, cleaning the house, getting our business in order, and enjoying our final hours of the Alex and Jo Show. We ate dinner with friends and got a good night's rest (likely our last for quite some time), knowing that we would be heading to the hospital the following day.

We slept in Sunday, March 18th, packed our hospital overnight bags, and made our way to Kaiser Sunnyside, just the two of us. I wore Alex's FUPA ("fat upper pubic/pussy area" for those of you unfamiliar with offensive male acronyms) t-shirt, in order to set the tone for the humorous adventure we'd desired. When we arrived at the hospital, we spent what felt like eternity in the triage room. The nurse attached me to the monitors, and we waited very patiently for the midwife to come and verify whether I was indeed leaking amniotic fluid. Turns out it was a busy, busy day in the Labor and Delivery department. We were told that they often witnessed an influx of laboring women with changes in the weather, something about barometric pressure (the weather was a mix of sunny, rainy, and snowy, and was damned cold for a Portland "Spring"). When the midwife on duty finally did visit with us, she confirmed the amniotic fluid, and not-so-subtley expressed her disapproval of our decision to wait a full 30+ hours after my water broke to seek medical care. Again, tsk-tsking and waving that "risk of infection" in our faces.


"Where did you get the idea it was okay to wait so long after your water broke?" She asked, a bit sharp-tongued.

I was surprised by how vulnerable I felt, how shamed I was by her disapproval. I started to get anxiety and worried that I had done something wrong that put my precious baby girl at risk. After a bit of questioning regarding our birth plan (she seemed to assume that my aversion to induction, internal monitoring, epidurals and narcotics, and C-sections took root in some hippy-dippy idealized version of childbirth rather than a simple fear of the complications associated with medical interventions), she condescended us a bit more before transferring us to our room.

Once checked-in and settled in our digs, the new nurse on duty explained to me that I was indeed having contractions, just two minutes apart, and that I'd likely been having contractions all along. I was hooked up to fluids and administered the lowest dose of Pitocin via IV, and waited for the show to begin. In the meantime, I read Real Simple, played on my iPad, and ate animal crackers and Jujubes. Truth be told, I was having fun! I thought, "I can totally do this." The nurse continually asked for my pain rating on the 1-10 scale. I found myself bluffing a bit, reporting a "2" or "3" when I felt the equivalent of the baby kicking. I sensed that they wanted to see me "progress" much more quickly.


Same (mean) midwife returned to check on me: "I'd really like to see things pick up. Your contractions are just two minutes apart, but you're clearly not feeling any pain. You came here to have this baby, right? So let's get her out of there. There are rules against upping the Pit, because your contractions are so close together. But I'd really like to see things progress more quickly ... internal monitoring ..."

My mind wandered nervously, as visions of surgery danced in my head. I decided it was time to phone Melissa and have her come in for moral support.

Funny thing, there was a shift change at 7 p.m. that evening. The new nurse, Tamara, was sweet as pie and let me order whatever I wanted to eat off the room service menu. Melissa arrived just a few minutes before our new midwife, Jodi, came to introduce herself. Jodi was great - there was just a positive energy about her. Actually, she reminded me a bit of my BFF, Stacy. She was upbeat, encouraging, supportive, and actively listened to my preferences and my fears. She basically told me that I wasn't a top priority given the number of other births that evening, and advised us to get some rest. She said she would check-in with me in the morning if nothing had progressed. She didn't threaten me with increased doses of Pitocin or push a discussion of additional medical interventions. She was on-board with letting things progress naturally, assuming there were no signs of infection (they monitored my temperature very closely). I felt a weight lift off my shoulders, re-gained my confidence, and crawled in to bed to force myself to rest up before the big event finally began.

Hah!

About 10 minutes later, sometime around 9 p.m., I started to feel cramping, similar to PMS. The cramps were intense enough to merit a slow walk around the ward. Alex pushed my IV pole, and I stopped every few steps because with the uterine pain came rushes of abdominal pain that threatened diarrhea.

Oh wait, no, yeah, oh shit, that is diarrhea. So where did I spend my next hours laboring? Walking around the ward? On the birthing ball? In the tub? Or (D), On the Toilet! That's right, I spent so much time on the pot, both bleeding and barfing out my butt, that I was afraid my baby girl's first view of the world would be the polluted toilet bowl. Did I mention I was also dry-heaving into the garbage can? Kind of like your worst version of food poisoning from eating that undercooked McDonald's Chicken McNugget - and then add in the pain of the intensifying contractions. Alex was a champ. Not only was he ever-supportive, but he didn't fall out of love with me. I mean, the poor guy - kneeling in the bathroom, breathing with me and encouraging me to keep up the good work - was at eye level with all my nasty bits. No man needs to see that. It's one thing to watch your wife endure the worst pain of her life, but a whole different story to bear witness to her bloody show, and every piece of food ever passed through her intestines. Again, at eye level (your eyes are on your face, which is next to your nose and mouth; that's dangerously close).

When I wasn't on the toilet white-knuckling Alex's hands, I did get to labor on an exercise ball. With the pain of the contractions at about a "7" or "8", I still felt like I could conquer this beast (between contractions I let down my guard, complaining: "This sucks," "This isn't fun anymore,""I don't really feel like doing this," and such). But during the contraction, I was able to go inside myself, breathe through the intense pain - less like menstrual cramps and more like being knifed from the inside - and get a few seconds of air before hunkering down for the next contraction. But then, out of nowhere it seemed, my pain level shot up to a "10," and my confidence wavered dramatically. I started to get curious about drugs and epidurals.

Melissa then encouraged me to labor in the tub.

"Why would I do that?" I whined. (Stupid questions asked in protest, despite having included use of the tub in my "birth plan").

"Because it can help to alleviate some of the pressure, to make you a bit more comfortable," she replied, calmly and kind.

"I don't think it will help," I argued. "This is all stupid and I hate it. I don't even want a baby."

Of course, I did comply with the recommendation. I hurt too badly to relocate to the room with the actual "labor tub," so I ripped off my pants and climbed into the small bathtub in my delivery room bathroom.  (By the way, I lost my bet to Alex and owe him $100. I bet that I wouldn't take my underwear off or get naked until I was actually pushing; he argued that I wouldn't care once I was in the moment, and he was right).

Somewhere in there my pain level intensified to a 12 or 13 (yes, on a 1-10 scale). I never knew this kind of pain existed. No longer just a knife searing through my insides, it felt more like both stabbing and burning. And not in a UTI kind of a way. In a way I couldn't have previously imagined. In a way I can just barely recall only one month later. (Our brains, they are impressive. I promised myself I wouldn't forget any detail or horrible sensation, to remind myself that I never want to do it again, and yet the memories are more explicit knowledge than they are experiential. I guess that is why the human race plods on).

There was no rest for the wicked. My contractions were one on top of the other. They took my breath away. Rather, they never let me inhale in the first place. I continued to use the rhythm of what would be my breath, now audible, to ride out the contraction; Alex described me as "a beast" during these intervals. But in between contractions, I just lost it, letting my anxieties run the show, my psyche overrun by sheer terror about the next wave that threatened to wipe me out. 

"I just want to die. Let me die."
"I need drugs. NOW!"
"I hate this. I hate my life. I hate myself."
"Please just let me go. Or MAKE IT STOP!"

All I wanted to do was cry. Or catch my breath. Or laugh maniacally. Anything. I just needed some cathartic release. Or medical intervention.

"Okay, I do want the epidural. You won't be mad at me if I get an epidural will you," I cried to both Alex and to Melissa. "How long will it take? I need it! Now! I'm so scared!"

As I had learned in my childbirth preparation course, the nurse needs to administer a bag of fluids before the anesthesiologist will administer the actual epidural block, to help manage blood pressure and dehydration. Somewhere in there, after deciding I needed either analgesics or an epidural - and stat - I was told I had to get out of the tub and into the hospital bed. I don't recall how I made it that short distance, but imagine I required significant help.

Turns out that whole bathtub scene was me in transition. No one can prepare you for the experience that is transition. Alex said it lasted only 20 minutes. But to me, it felt like a lifetime.

At no point did the midwives check my cervix. Not at the 36-week OB appointment. Not when I was admitted to the hospital (because of my increased risk of infection). Not after they administered Pitocin. And not while I was laboring. In the hospital bed I lay on my right side, still wearing my sports bra and tank top, my knees curled up in the fetal position and squeezed together with a vice-like grip.

"Do you feel pressure? Do you feel like you need to push?" someone, probably the nurse, inquired.

"I don't know.  I don't know. I don't know. But I don't want to push. I just want to rest for a little bit. What about the drugs?" I pleaded urgently.

And then the midwife, Jodi, did indeed check me. Ten centimeters. Crowning. All that jazz. So apparently it was time to push.

"Sorry, Joanna, there's no time for an epidural," the midwife said gently.

"What about the pain meds? I want those."

"It's too late, it will hurt the baby. You're almost done," she reassured.

"I don't care about the baby!!!"

I squeezed my legs together tighter.

"I don't want to do this! I'm scared. I don't know how to push. I'm just so scared," I cried.

"Bear down like you're going to the bathroom."

I took a big breath in, and pushed down and hard, directing all my energy toward my feet. I took one more large inhale, the same thing. And then one more meek little inhale.

"Am I doing this right?" I asked, sounding a but insecure and mousy, almost like I was learning to ski for the first time, not having a baby.

"You're doing great," everyone encouraged.

I grabbed Alex's hand with my right hand, and Melissa's hand with my left, keeping my eyes closed the entire time. I continued to take these big breaths, pushing downward with all my might, only able to get about three pushes per cycle. In between, Alex fed my single ice chips and I closed my eyes tightly for a few seconds. Although pushing the baby out was some of the hardest work I've ever done, the pain was not like that of transition. Images of an infant head ripping my vagina open threatened my efforts, but I tried to redirect my visualizations to include something more peaceful and natural, like a flower opening in bloom. I pushed for about 45 minutes before Jodi pulled the sprawling grey babe out from between my legs. It was 12:56 a.m. on Monday, March 19, 2012.

I didn't scream. I didn't cry. In fact, I was sort of in shock. 

"This is so weird. I feel so funny. I don't know what to do."

I was dumbfounded, terrified, and totally overwhelmed with the timing of everything.  I did not experience any sort of euphoria, and I didn't even feel joyous. At least not at first. My baby girl was not only more than two weeks early, but she arrived in just under four hours from the time I first started feeling moderately painful cramping. To say it all happened quickly is an understatement. 

My memories of this time period are a bit more hazy. I do recall having the baby on my naked chest. I remember putting her to my breast. I also remember feeling "weirded out" and requesting a few minutes to process the experience. At some point the baby was handed to Alex, who if I recall correctly, was beaming.

I then delivered the placenta, which is an amazing organ. Alex cut the umbilical cord. I had a peri-urethral tear and required just a few stitches. We declared the baby's name - Francine Lynn Close (as if we didn't really know all along; I'm just a commitment-phobe). The nurses pushed on my belly (I think technically they pushed on my "fundis"- which has no "fun" involved and hurt like a motherfucker - to assist the uterus in expelling clots and initiating contractions to begin the healing process). Francie was eventually swept off to the other side of the room for her tests, vaccines and bath, and Alex stayed by her side. This gave me a bit of time to collect myself and return to the present, to one of the most significant moments of my life.

When Francie was in my arms once again, and the storm of stitching, pushing, cleaning and monitoring had subsided - this is when I felt overwhelmed by the love I already had for this child. My heart swelled with pride, and with intense love for my husband. We did it. I never want to do it again. But we did it. And now we're a family of three. (You know, a wolfpack, left to wander the desert in search of hookers and cocaine. Or something like that.)


***
Another perk of hiring a birth doula is you have a default photographer! Alex and I hadn't even thought to take any photos, but Melissa had the experience to know we would later appreciate the documentation. Here are a few pictures from the intimate affair ...

Anyone watch the TV show Lie to Me? This is what terror looks like. You don't have to be an expert in reading micro-expressions to recognize that one. Now, this picture makes me laugh. But I'll tell you, this facial expression doesn't even begin to describe the element of fear I felt on the inside when they handed that baby girl to me for the first time.

Getting a bit more used to the fact that I just transitioned to "mother."

Nothing but love and adoration for my ever-supportive husband.

Baby's first bath.

Getting weighed and measured. 6 lbs 7 oz and 18 inches long.

Nothin' like a baby bum. We're crossing our fingers she gets more of a ba-donk once she fattens up.

Happy new family. (The trick to not looking as though you just gave birth about 1.5 hours prior to your first photo shoot is to throw on a scarf. This was not premeditated. But I do realize we look as though we are visiting someone else's baby. Also, because the labor was quick, there wasn't a whole lot of time to get sweaty or bleary-eyed).

And here we are at 39 weeks/1 week old. 

Dear Bean,
This is your birth story as I remember it one month out. It was horrible and traumatizing, yes, but yielded the best gift yet. I love and adore you and can't wait to watch you grow and get to know you better with each day. You are my sunshine. Thank you for choosing us to be your parents. We are so lucky.
xoxo, Mama

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

If We Were Both Drowning, Who Would You Save

"Mommy likes to pull sound bytes out of context like a Fox News reporter," Alex whispered in his baby voice to Francie.

Sometimes we like to communicate with one another through a third party, like the dog or the baby. As in, "Daddy doesn't like to put his stuff away so mommy trips on it." Or, "Mommy makes daddy cook and clean, even after he works all day." Or, as in this case, "Daddy said he loves the baby more than he loves mommy."

This was prompted, earlier, by a philosophical conversation about whether parents (we) love their spouses (each other) or their children (Francie) more.

I remember one time, when I was about 14 years old, my aunt and I were talking about her marriage to by mom's brother. I think there was some religious talk involved, but she said something to the effect of, "I love my husband more than my kids, because I loved him first, and that's why we had a family ... But that's not to say if the house were on fire I would save my husband before my children." At least, this is how my adolescent mind recalls the conversation. At the time, I thought to myself, "That's crap. My mom definitely loves me more than she loves my dad. And she would save me first in a fire." In hindsight, I realize that my mother likely did not love me "more" than my father, just differently. But as a kid, I thought I was the center of her universe. Like she couldn't possibly have a life outside of her love and devotion to me.

And then a few years ago, Ayelet Waldman, writer and wife of fellow writer Michael Chabon, wrote an essay including her assertion that women should elevate their marital relationships above their relationships with their children. Her (in)famous line read, "I love my husband more than I love my children." Helicopter and liberal moms alike ripped her a new asshole, some even sending her death threats. She appeared on shows like The View and Oprah, defending her position. Personally, I think she's brave to make that kind of bold statement, publicly, and I even admire her candidness. (Sidenote: I highly recommend her nonfiction book Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace, and her novel Love and Other Impossible Pursuits).

In some ways, I agree with Ms. Waldman, that the marital relationship came first, both in terms of chronology and importance, and should maybe remain so in order to keep the family dynamics intact. Our kids grow up and leave us, after all, so all we really have in the end is our spouses, so we better make damn sure they're still around and loving us come empty nest. But now that I am a mama myself, I'm not so sure I can actually put my love for my family in any sort of hierarchical order. Easiest put - I LOVE my family (caps AND italics added for emphasis, as if that doesn't go without saying), both the nuclear family that raised me, and the new and growing family that I call my own.

During Alex and my discussion on the matter, he basically said that because Francie is new and vulnerable, he loves her more. Trying to back-pedal, he tells me that when he thinks of Francie and loves on her, really, his love for me is growing even bigger.

As it turns out, I did indeed take his comment out of context. But shh, don't tell him of my admission.

So ... who do you love more ...?

Left Out

"I'm an island."

"I'm a nonessential part of this family."

"It's like we were a team before, and now you can do it all on your own."

(Bear in mind he's been back to work two days - just two days. It's not as though I have figured out this whole parenting thing - let alone single parenting thing - in just two days.)

"It's like you don't even need me. Like you know already how to do everything right."

(I'm suspicious he began feeling this way after Francie was fussing - which she does every night around the 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. hours - and when he couldn't calm her down with the swaddle and the Soothie, I put her on the boob. Which quieted her immediately. Obviously.)

My husband played a tiny tune on his tiny violin tonight before bed. I think he's feeling a bit left out - and thus a bit sorry for himself - that he has to go to work every day and I get to stay home and play with the baby. We had such a fabulous time together, the three of us, this last month, and we both wanted to go on like that forever. But alas, real life had to come knockin' at some time.

"Most other guys wouldn't even think like this, let alone talk about it," he says, a hint of shame in his voice, maybe embarrassed that sometimes he'd rather be Mr. Mom than Mr. Breadwinner.

This is one of the things I love so very much about Alex. One of the reasons I chose him, really. I knew he'd make a great partner - for life in general, but especially for parenting. We approached this whole having-a-baby thing in a tag-team sort of way. Co-parenting in the truest sense. Yes, I'd be doing the pregnancy, labor and delivery, and the breastfeeding. But we'd both do the nurturing. We'd both do the diaper changing. We'd both do the snuggling. We'd both do the housework. And we'd both do employment. For the next few months,  I get to stay home, bond with my baby girl, and shirk all professional responsibilities. Then come the first of July, I'm back to work fulltime (choke, tear), and Alex gets to stay home for three months (summer months at that) to walk in the park, garden, and read outside with our little Bean.

I happen to love watching him in this new role. Father. And try to tell him so.

"You are absolutely an essential part of this family."

"We miss you all day when you're gone at work."

"Francie loves her daddy."

"I'd go crazy if you didn't come home in the evening and hold her and stare at her and change her diaper and swaddle her" (and give me a few uninterrupted minutes of having two free hands).

He's not digging this reactive reassurance.

"I don't want you to feel sorry for me. I'm not looking for praise," he says, resistant of the flattery, as though afraid I might think he was fishing for it.

I try a different approach.

"Babe, truth is, we need you. We're a wolf pack. And without you, we just wouldn't be a pack. You know, three of us wolves, runnin' around the desert together, looking for strippers and cocaine."

He seems to accept this. At least for now.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sleepin'

Sleep. I'm definitely getting my fair share of it.

But that's the problem.

Although I suppose the real problem is that I feel guilty about my getting enough sleep. For starters, it makes me feel like I'm not a real mom. Aren't I supposed to be totally run-down without time for a shower, let alone mascara? But second, and more important, is that I probably let my baby sleep for too-lengthy chunks of time. She's capable of one 5-hour stretch each night, if I don't set an alarm.

But really, isn't it totally counterintuitive to wake a peacefully sleeping baby?

On one hand, I refuse to wake her, simply based on it being in complete opposition to whatever maternal instinct I'm trying to develop. But on the other hand, all the professionals - in person and in books - recommend feeding a baby no less than every two hours by day and four hours at night. I sometimes trick myself into thinking I'm following these "rules" by not counting a feeding from the beginning, but from the end instead.

A whole different part of me feels proud that she's been a good sleeper, like her mama. Isn't that what some parents dream of? A child who gets a good night's sleep = a better-rested parent.

And here the Bean is, clearly a recipient of the Hartman napping gene, with her mouth agape, catching flies.

4 weeks

I'm feeling a bit smug, like I dodged a bullet - no inklings (yet) of baby blues, postpartum depression, or even feelings of disappointment the books sometimes refer to. They say that how you feel four weeks out, mostly related to fatigue, is the best predictor for whether or not you'll get PPD at ten weeks. I proudly boasted to Alex that I'd been sans tears or panic attacks. His reply? "So far." Pre-baby I was very worried about how my emotions might play out post-baby, and I'm happy to say that I've been, well, happy. Deliriously happy at some points, even. "So far," I LOVE this mothering thing. It doesnt mean it's all fun and games all the time. But it's a pretty incredible experience.

Except ... I do more laundry than I've ever done before. And the Bean isn't even wearing her cloth diapers yet! For now, we are contributing to the overflowing landfills by using about 8 disposables per day (but doing our part and using Seventh Generation), because Francie's thighs arent nearly chunky enough. In other words, a blowout in the cloth diapers would be a B.L.O.W.O.U.T (caps added for emphasis). The thing is, our laundry is already overflowing with your basic cottons. Why? Because everything now has the hint of sour milk, between spit-up and leaky breasts.

Today was a big day, one for the books, because Alex went back to work. It was my first day flying solo, and I'm happy to report that everything went off without a hitch. No major meltdowns (me) and no major blowouts (her). Granted, we spent most of the day running errands (aka "shopping"), and the Bean is always a quiet sweetpea when we are out and about. It's nice, because it makes me look like a good mom in public when my child sleeps peacefully, cooing ever so softly.

Today marked Francie's four-week birthday. Not much new to report on her development, except that she continues to be awake and gazing around a bit more every day. I suspect she's a curious little thing, and especially looks the part when she makes a little bird face, with wide eyes and her lips pursed into a semi-beak. She gets cuter by the day, and my very favorite thing is cuddling in bed with her in the morning.

Here she is, four weeks big:



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