The Birth of Magdalena Clare

I realized that I hadn’t written this story out yet, so I figured I should do so before the details become hazier. I’m doing better than with Lucy’s though, which I didn’t write until she was about publish until she was one, so I’m improving. If birth stories aren’t your thing, then you can leave now, no hard feelings!

Magdalena's Birth Story

Unlike Lucy’s birth, Magdalena was neither fast, nor early, nor surprising. Add to that the fact that we didn’t have a truly accurate due date, so by the time I hit 37 weeks (according to the sonogram), I thought we were closing in on go time. 37 weeks rolled by, 38, and then 39. I was incredulous. Aren’t all subsequent births supposed to be earlier and faster and easier? Wait, doesn’t the stork just drop them off at that point?

Anyway, I was a little peeved and had to assume that a) my due date was off  and b) this baby was going to be full term plus some and/or c) I would be pregnant forever. I did all the things pregnant ladies are advised to when they want to bring on labor and…nothing. I did have lots of “false” labor, though. That was a lovely experience that entailed being awoken at 3 or 4 AM with contractions that felt more intense than Braxton-Hicks, and timing them up to 7 minutes apart for about 2 hours, only to have them die away the moment I bit into a cracker or sipped some water. So frustrating. So sleep depriving.

image

Oh hey there, full term belly!

I had basically resigned myself when we hit 40 weeks. The midwives weren’t worried at all; everything was normal and great (except my attitude). I’d had two sonograms at 38ish weeks because I was still only measuring 34 weeks, but the baby was fine and the sonographer estimated she was a bit over 7 lbs.

40 weeks and 3 days! Taken 3 days before Lena was born.

40 weeks and 3 days! Taken 3 days before Lena was born.

On Sunday morning, July 13th, I woke up barely thinking, “Maybe today will be the day!” since I’d thought that too many mornings in a row to count. It was the World Cup final and we had plans to watch it at a friends’ house. Tom was also gearing up for his last week directing a computer summer camp at school. We went to 10:30 Mass as usual, and I was struck by the second reading:

“We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now.” (Romans 8:22)

Oh! Labor pains. Groaning. I can take a hint. Sure enough, as Mass progressed, I made a mental note that I was having mild contractions every 12 minutes or so. Nothing crazy, but they were enough to notice, and they were definitely coming regularly. We took it easy throughout the afternoon, and gradually the contractions were about 9 or so minutes apart, but still just moderate at best, and short. We didn’t go to our friends’ since we weren’t really sure what would happen; for all I knew, I could suddenly go into hard labor and progress in the space of an hour (which was what I fully expected given my history). We watched the Cup from home, ate dinner, put Lucy to bed, and went on my last waddly walk around the neighborhood.

At this point, probably around 8:30 PM, the contractions were finally getting moderately intense and spaced more like 7 minutes apart, so we decided to relax for a bit and watch something. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was on, which was perfect. In the middle of watching, though, we suddenly remembered that we needed to clean and readjust the infant car seat, so we took a little break from HP and got that done. I ate almost an entire sleeve of Nutella filled cookies, milking every last minute out of the “pregnancy craving” excuse.

Finally around 11, we decided that things weren’t moving super quickly and we had better try to sleep. I was just flummoxed– why wasn’t this labor rushing at light-speed, as Lucy’s had? Why was it so normal? Should we call the midwives? Wait? What if it all the sudden speeded up? I tried to sleep, but kept getting up to go to the bathroom, check our birth center bags, work through a contraction, etc.. An hour later, I realized that the contractions were more intense, and about 4-5 minutes apart. I texted Kim, the midwife, and let her know what was happening. She said to try and sleep but keep her posted, since her drive to the birth center was an hour. Around 1:15 AM, I told her that they were continuing in intensity so she said she was leaving for the birth center, and we could leave within an hour or so, since my parents were only about 12-15 minutes away.

Poor Tom had just gotten into a deep sleep, and I had to rouse him and start getting our things in the car. We drove the blessedly empty and quiet streets and arrived at the birth center about 12 minutes later. It was so strange getting there in the middle of the night. It was also amazing to drive there while not in transition; I think I only had to breathe through a total of two or three contractions the whole ride. It was a million times better than the drive there for Lucy.

The birth center was dark and quiet when we arrived around 2:20 AM, but smelled like some lovely essential oil they had going in the waiting room. The birth assistant was in the office waiting for us, and she brought us back to our room since Kim was sleeping. Kim came out a few minutes later and asked if I wanted to be checked. I did, and she asked me to guess how dilated I was. I said 6, based on how long I’d been having contractions and all the millions of Braxtons I’d had. Shockingly, I was only a 3! She asked if I wanted my membranes stripped (which sounds really horrid, but honestly feels like nothing when you’re already contracting). Then everyone left us to rest in the large bed. Tom immediately fell asleep, and I was able to get a few 10 minute stretches in, working through the contractions every 3 minutes or so.

They came in and checked on me a few times, and by 3:45 AM, I really needed a change of pace. The bed was not working anymore. I asked to get into the tub, so they filled it up and I got in. Tom was sitting on the ball by the tub to try and help, but the poor guy kept nodding off so I made him get more sleep, since he really didn’t need to do much at that point. I was just sort of floating, half-sleeping/half-resting, between the every-intensifying contractions. I could tell at this point that things were moving right along, because a) I was wondering why on earth I needed to be going through this and b) was vocalizing pretty loudly during contractions. For some reason, that seems to be the best way for me to deal with the pain– it obviously doesn’t numb or lessen it like meds, but it definitely gives some release. Tom had come back to help me at this point, since he probably couldn’t sleep through my noisy coping mechanisms, and I told him he needed to get the midwives in because I wanted to push. My back was killing, so I figured it was time.

So I started pushing at 4:40 AM, staying on my hands and knees in the tub. I practically pulled Tom’s arm out of the socket as I was using his hand for support/leverage. But it was effective! The baby came out at 5:01 exactly, after about 20 minutes of pushing. Tom thought the pushing was harder or more painful for me than with Lucy, but I don’t really think so, and I was definitely more efficient the second time around. Being on hands and knees was also far easier for me. They helped me sit up, and handed up the baby, who wasn’t crying or anything, just kind of blinking in utter confusion. She was fat and squishy and had no vernix at all, since she was so well cooked. Tom finally got to cut the cord, since everything with this birth was so much slower and calmer.

We got out of the tub and dried off little Magdalena, who had finally squawked a few times. We took guesses on her weight, and I think I guessed something like 7 lb. 6 oz, but she was a whopping 7-14! I could not believe I’d pushed out a baby who was an entire pound heavier than her sister and yet it felt so much easier, and I didn’t tear at all (my biggest fear going into the second birth). Based on her size and the placenta, the midwives estimated that she was actually probably exactly 40 weeks, not the almost-41 weeks were given based on our first sono.

The baby kinda sorta nursed a little, but essentially passed out, and then so did Tom and I for about 3 hours straight (though we had thought to text/email family to let them know and Tom sent a few emails to his camp counselors to run things in his absence). We were pretty exhausted since we hadn’t really slept in 48 hours, and we couldn’t wait to get home. Magdalena got all her vitals/measurements, we got zero pictures except that grainy one below (bad second-timers!), she tried to nurse again, and then we packed up and went home around 11.

Getting measured!

Getting measured!

20140717-124436-45876136.jpg

Right after we got home.

  20140717-124927-46167909.jpg

Lucy had just woken up from her morning nap when we got home, and was really confused about the baby in the car seat. We tried to get her to look at her and say something but she mostly stared blankly and stood still until we kind of pushed her forward to inspect the baby. She warmed up a few hours later, and of course by the next day, “BAY-by!” had been in her life forever and she showered her with “mahs,” by lovingly head-banging her every time she saw her.20140717-124929-46169044.jpg

And that was that. A textbook labor and birth that was actually more like a first than a second, which just went to show me that I should have no expectations, ever. I definitely have more compassion for women that go post-term and have long, drawn-out labors. And once again, I was so, so grateful for my midwives and our birth center. It was an ideal birth, so calm and quiet and dark in the room, and everyone’s presence was peaceful and non-intrusive. Tom was a real hero, helping and encouraging me even though we would both rather be sleeping.

Happy Birthday, Magdalena Clare! Can’t believe this was almost SEVEN months ago!!

Happy Birthday, Magdalena Clare!

I’m so happy to finally announce her arrival!

Magdalena Clare Cox.

20140717-124135-45695763.jpgEntered the world on July 14th, at 5:01 AM.

7 lbs. 14 oz.

20 inches

20140717-124252-45772844.jpg

Very, very loved, especially by Lucy. She chants “BAY-bee, BAY-bee” whenever she’s around, repeatedly asks to give her “mahs” (kisses, which are actually the force of her large and heavy head pummeling towards her tiny sister), and is generally unruffled by her sudden permanent residence in our household.

20140717-124929-46169044.jpg

We had a great birth at our birth center again, and I will definitely write out the birth story later. Despite all my rantings, she was most likely born at 40 weeks on the dot, according to the midwives. She has been a very, very good baby over the past four days. I know she will probably enter the fussy newborn stage soon, but for now, we are relishing in a newborn who actually sleeps and eats well. It’s a whole new(born) world after Lucy!

Thanks for all your prayers and congratulations! More to come, but for now, here are some pictures to tide you over!

20140717-124436-45876136.jpg

6 hours old

20140717-124858-46138766.jpg

Hands frozen in mid-air…we have no idea how she sustained that position as long as she did…

20140717-124911-46151786.jpg

With Bis-Nonna (great grandma)

20140717-124912-46152909.jpg

20140717-124927-46167909.jpg

Magdalena, doing what we both wish we could be doing…

Dolly, her other name for Magdalena

Dolly, her other name for Magdalena

20140717-125504-46504543.jpg

20140717-124942-46182204.jpg

Musings of a Crazy 9-Months-Pregnant Lady

I apologize for the long, long silence on here. We’ve spent the last week thinking that the baby would arrive. Iactually thought that baby would arrive before last week, so as you can imagine, I’m starting to get antsy/impatient/overwhelmed/despairing, etc.. Lucy Agnes just had to come two weeks early with very little warning, thereby setting an impossible standard for all future siblings to follow. And this one hasn’t. We also probably have the “official” due date wrong by about a week, but since I’d been following that thewhole time, I’m having a hard time switching my brain over. Either way, I’m definitely past term, and am either 39 weeks today, or 40 weeks on Tuesday, depending on the due date of choice. Ugh.

Forget those in-front-of-the-mirror bump pics. I'm too lazy, so here you go.

Forget those in-front-of-the-mirror bump pics. I’m too lazy, so here you go. 

I know, I know, most women go a full 40.5 to 41 or even 42, yes, yes, yes. BUT, the timing is just very precarious here. Tom had last week and this week off, and we really wanted baby to come early last week, so he would have time off to be home and help. The week after this, he has another week of camp to run, and then a little time off, and then is off to California for his brother’s wedding. And then he comes back and BAM, we’re moving. So… hmm. No control, that is what we have here in this situation. I’ve had at least 3 “false alarms” where I had contractions for a few hours, only to have them die away at the bite of a cracker or some other nonsense. That never happened with Lucy, she was all, “Oh, real contractions, water breaks, and here I am a few hours later!” so again, I’m trying to adjust to this very different experience.

On a less pessimistic note, we have been doing some fun things to fill the time we have at home before the craziness. We took Lucy to a little local zoo last Sunday, which she enjoyed (though the rocks on the path were maybe a bit more interesting than any of the live animals for her).

Bottle feeding baby goats and lambs

Bottle feeding baby goats and lambs

image

In the Budgie aviary, feeding the little guys

In the Budgie aviary, feeding the little guys

image

 

Lucy celebrated her Baptism day with a cookie cake, or “ke-ca cock” (I know. We tried to correct the pronunciation several times).

image

 

We’ve kept up with the World Cup, and cheered on our national team up to the bitter end.

Cutest fan

We also went on an epic Ikea shopping trip yesterday and got so many things for the new house. Tom was duly overwhelmed by the maze/trap that Ikea is.

28

And in general, we have been going on lots of long walks, splashing around in the baby pool, and trying valiantly not to think about labor and despair that it will never happen/happen when the timing is poor. This baby has his/her own timing, that is for certain!

 

 

Two under Two: Reflections on the Sneaky Culture of Death

Sneaky Culture of Death

By now, the idea that we are expecting a tiny addition to our family has begun to sink in fully. The shock of it all was pretty real for about the first three or four weeks upon finding out. And with that finding out, so many thoughts bounced around my brain. Besides the ones that had to do with practical aspects (ohmygosh…two under two? Life shall be crazy. I will never sleep again. Lucy will never learn to sleep on her own. The new baby will be a terrible sleeper like Lucy was. I will somehow need to grow a third arm just to get through each day. I will probably never shower or wear non-pj clothing again. How will we leave the house, and return, in one piece?) there were deeper thoughts that required far more wrestling to fully reckon with.

Namely, I was afraid that people would judge me for having two babies in so short a time-span. Guess what? That did not happen. Every person so far, from close friends to extended family to strangers on the street, has only expressed congratulatory sentiments at our news. Why did I think I would get raised eyebrows or secret judgmental thoughts? Probably because that’s how I was judging myself, and others in my situation, in a way. I have come to realize that everyone else simply sees that there is a reason to rejoice: new life, a sibling for Lucy who will (hopefully) be her best friend throughout life. I haven’t needed to make any of the excuses I was coming up with in my head: “Well, it was a big surprise” (even though it was). “Hopefully the next ones will be more spaced out…” (even though I do hope that!). There is never a reason why one should feel the need to make an excuse or apology for the occurrence of new life.

The point is, this was a way in which I’d unwittingly allowed the sneaky Culture of Death to invade my thought process:  yes, children are a blessing, but we should probably be very responsible and space them out at least two years by using NFP, and somehow we’re failures and freaks if we don’t. This, coming from someone who has always wanted to be a mom to a large family and loves babies. I just always assumed (and hardly realized I was doing it) that it would be more on “our” terms, more deliberate.

We had the same sort of thought process when we were praying about whether or not to wait on getting pregnant right after we got married. Thanks to NFP, we knew that there was an extremely high chance of returning from our honeymoon with a living souvenir. We knew that there were no truly serious reasons (financially, physically, emotionally or otherwise) to wait, but we both felt the pull of the world, and the whispering in our ears, “But don’t you just want to have some time together? Who wants to just get pregnant immediately?”  We recognized that this voice and its message had a hollow ring. It belonged to the World, the Flesh, and the Devil, and so we decided the “we want time to get used to being married” argument wasn’t a serious reason for us. It might be for some people, and I cannot judge that at all. But for us, it was just selfishness. We decided to be open to the possibility of a honeymoon baby, if God willed it, and … He did.

In much the same way, my getting used to the idea of this surprise second pregnancy so soon involved throwing off a mindset that isn’t rooted in true selflessness. Part of me assumed that “normal” child-spacing is about two years, since that seems to be the pattern in many families (and I’m talking about NFP-using, non-contracepting families). Believe me, we were doing the whole exclusive breastfeeding thing, but not every woman’s body is the same. Imagine that! I was charting, but post-partum charting is a whole different animal, and I truly didn’t see any forewarning signs. So really, it was again God’s will that this child was conceived. There was no “failure” about it, even if it turned out I had made an error in charting (I still don’t know). There are no “child-spacing norms” we need to conform to, other than the ones that God has laid out for our particular marriage. An NFP manual or doctor can’t dictate that; only a prayerful consideration of our current state in life and trusting in God can.

As always, marriage and parenthood continue to teach lessons about humility and dying to self. I was humbled to realize that I had always considered closely spaced children as something…well, not beneath me, but just not something I’d ever personally do. That mentality isn’t fully open to life. And dying to self, well, see my list above. I know it is just dripping with optimism about life with two babies. But really, I have no doubt that God will teach me some very intense lessons about myself and the degree of trust I need to place in Him to make it through the days. Even if He doesn’t grant me the gift of a third arm.

 

 

 

Babymoon

Tom and I escaped for a day and a half on Monday to the Shenandoah Valley. It was our second (hopefully NOT annual) babymoon. Just to be clear, for anyone who may be confused, a babymoon is simply a little getaway trip a couple takes shortly before the birth of their child, akin to a honeymoon. I laughed at us, because our babymoon during Lucy’s pregnancy occurred two months after our honeymoon, and then we still had seven more months of what I now consider a “babymoon” (i.e. life together, without a baby).

Thus, this second babymoon was truly more a respite from real life and the demands of a one year old tyrant cutie. We snagged a Living Social deal for an overnight stay at a historic bed and breakfast in the small town of Berryville, VA. The whole Shenandoah Valley area is rich in history, and this B&B was no exception, having been owned by Harry Byrd, Sr., and host to many famous people (Einstein, the Kennedys, Nixon, Churchill, and more). The manor was gorgeous and the grounds were too.

IMG_0013

The Grand Staircase

The Grand Staircase

IMG_0790

 

We went on a couple walks while we were there but didn’t really get any pictures, so I’ m borrowing one from their website to show the amazing front porch:

We were so happy to take a leisurely drive into the country, stopping along the way for some shopping at the blissfully empty Leesburg Outlets, some little country towns, and a lovely vineyard for wine tasting:

Sadly, our best attempt at a selfie in front of Breaux Vineyards

Sadly, our best attempt at a selfie in front of Breaux Vineyards

Then we drove into Winchester and stopped at the house where Stonewall Jackson made his headquarters in the Civil War:

Tom helps the docent carry flowers up to the house

Tom helps the docent carry flowers up to the house

IMG_0782

IMG_0783

IMG_0010

IMG_0008

 

We walked around the pedestrian mall for a bit in Old Town Winchester, enjoying amazing sunny skies and perfect spring weather. The next morning we headed out to the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. I wanted to show Tom their impressive gardens, which my best friend had used in her wedding photos a few years ago. It was a bit drizzly, but not enough to deter us from exploring. The place is unbelievable. Just a little sampling…

Tom's model shot in the crabapple covered Peach Allé

Tom’s model shot in the crabapple covered Peach Allé

Baby and I in the Peach Allé

Baby and I in the Peach Allé

The Pink House

The Pink House

IMG_0803

Grand Allé

Grand Allé

Beware of the Geese

Beware of the Geese

Chinese Gardens

Chinese Gardens

IMG_0024

Water Gardens

Water Gardens

Then we went to a local noon mass, grabbed lunch, and used the voucher that came with our B&B deal for a wine tasting at another vineyard.

Check out that view...

Check out that view…

Our last stop on the way home was to join some Trappist monks for their afternoon prayers at Holy Cross Abbey.

They have many cats...here was one. Photo taken for Lucy's enjoyment.

They have many cats…here was one. Photo taken for Lucy’s enjoyment.

As fate would have it, Lucy came down with a head cold right before we left, but she still greatly enjoyed her little stay-cation with Nana and Papa, who put up with her runny nose and unexpected nighttime waking. We brought them two bottles of wine from the vineyards for their pains enjoyment of Lucy! We came back quite refreshed and are ready to get back to our big old to-do list. Send up a prayer to St. Joseph for us if you have a moment, so that we find a place to live soon!

Countdown to Baby To-Do List

I realized the other day that I have given so very little blog time to the smallest member of our family. Maybe it’s the fate of the second child, but I do feel bad that I haven’t posted more updates or thoughts about this pregnancy. Of course, since it all started off so inconspicuously, I suppose it just continued on that way, mentally. Physically, I’m quite aware of the presence of this little person. I’m getting quite round at 26.5 weeks, and baby is rolling and kicking a lot more these days. I still don’t think he/she is quite as active as Lucy was, but then again, I was hyper-sensitive to everything during that pregnancy. Lucy accompanied me to my last midwife appointment, and got to sit up on the bed with me to listen to baby’s heartbeat. Then she screamed when we had to take the belly measuring tape away from her. She’s still very sweet and motherly with her dolls (as well as anything soft, including pillows, stuffed animals, a pile of clothes, etc…she’s not overly discerning), and she loves to see pictures of babies. So that’s reassuring.

image

A favorite activity-- carrying baby dolls in her doll carrier

A favorite activity– carrying baby dolls in her doll carrier

Last night, Tom and I were scrolling through his iPhone pictures and we went all the way back to a year ago when Lucy was born. We couldn’t believe how wrinkled and tiny and puffy she was! And before we know it, we’ll have another wrinkled puffball in our arms. I have lots to do before the end of June or early July (I’m voting for end of June, thank you very much).

* First, there’s the business of figuring out what area we need to move to, and find an apartment. This is made extra complicated by the fact that I REFUSE to be more than 20-30 minutes away from the birth center, and that we will be back to one car in about a month. 😦

*I need to fully master driving the stick shift. That way, if and when I do have the car, I can confidently drive without putting myself and two babies in imminent danger. So that’s a little stressful. Tom’s a super patient instructor, but time is not on our side, which is why I’ve had exactly 3 driving lessons between August and November and then none after that.

*I need to have a very organized system in place before the baby arrives, regarding Lucy and cooking. Lucy requires a lot of attention, so I’ll need to make sure I have plenty of stimulating activities set up for her. Also, lots of ready to eat snacks and meals for when I’m one-handed again. If we do move out before the baby comes, I need to cook and freeze some meals and bread.

*Lucy (are you listening?) needs to not wake up at 4 or 5 in the morning and require nursing to go back to sleep. We’re going to work on this one over spring break when Tom’s home. Yeah, his break sounds amazing; try not to be jealous. Considering she screams like someone is pouring boiling water over her if she is not allowed to nurse, well, we’ll see. I’m hoping she can get used to Daddy putting her back to sleep if she doesn’t even see me in the bed as an option. She’s ok with napping but I still need her to put herself to sleep at naptime without needing to be rocked, because I won’t have arms for that in three months!

*Then there’s all the regular getting ready for newborn stuff that will happen in May and June, like packing birth center bags, setting up the co-sleeper and converting my dresser to a changing table, etc. I’m the least concerned about that stuff, especially since we really have everything already. All of that seemed like a big deal with Lucy, but looking at my list above, well, it’s not.

So that’s our rather impossible sounding list as of now, but I’m sure everything will be fine and work out according to God’s plan. Now I’m off to pack for our little trip this weekend– we’re going to Franciscan for a reunion with my household! I haven’t been back to campus since graduation day in 2010…eek, worst alum ever! And Tom’s never seen the school, so he’ s in for a real treat in the form of Steubenville, Ohio! 🙂

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Yesterday, though we are only 3 days away from the beginning of spring, a good 7-10 inches of snow fell and killed whatever spring-like thoughts we were thinking:

image

 

It was, of course, wonderful to have Tom home so I can’t complain (too much). But really, we’ll all be really, really happy to bid winter goodbye ASAP.

Because everyone was off from work and school, we forgot about St. Paddy’s day until late in the morning. My dad dutifully fetched some Irish beers from the grocery store across the street. Tom enthusiastically put green dye in his first, Guinness, with the following result:

Green on top, brown on the bottom still...oh well

Green on top, brown on the bottom still…oh well

Later, he tried again with a Harp. Much better!

Kartause represent!!

Kartause represent!!

I made potato leek soup for dinner and we also had sausage and greens (um, kale, not cabbage!). Tommy’s finger is fractured so he couldn’t take up his fiddle and play Irish tunes.

In other news, watching clothes in the dryer is newly fascinating:

image

image

 

Today also marks 24 weeks for the Coxlet, and he/she is really starting to become a little more active, and has moved up closer to my ribs, making the kicks less fun for me! I’ve been really bad about taking belly shots, but the ol’ belly is getting pretty round, so I’ll try to get one together and up here soon. 🙂