Saturday, August 29, 2009

Back to school

Yes, it's that time of year . . . sharp pencils, new boxes of crayons, crisp and colorful notebooks - all packed into a brand new backpack. Getting textbooks for subjects like math, spelling, reading. Organizing all the classes' syllabi. Meeting your new teacher. Back to school.

I've decided I'm back in school, too, but my supplies are diapers, onesies, butt paste, and moby wrap - all packed into a little diaper bag. My textbook is google for subjects like colic, infant massage, and healthy sleep habits. My syllabi cannot be planned and is dictated daily by my daughter. My daughter is my teacher!

This is surely the most fun school there is, the most rewarding, and at times the most challenging. The lessons are never ending and classes go from morning to night and then through the night. Karis is a wonderful, albeit very demanding teacher. The lessons I'm learning:

It won't be this way for long (yes, Darius Rucker, I know it's true). The statement is true in many ways, both the good and the less than ideal. I won't be able to fall asleep with her on my chest for long. She won't cry from 8 to midnight every evening for long. She won't sleep in the bassinet at the side of our bed for long. She won't be a baby for long! Karis changes every day, she has rolls on her chin and dimples in her elbows. She flails her arms, and she seems to focus in on me when I talk to her. I wake up often and think, "How can I be so blessed to be the one who gets to play with this little doll all day every day?" She fits into different clothes all the time, dislikes diaper changes, and usually enjoys tummy time where she can show off her strong head lifting skills. Karis enjoys morning walks, she usually is alert and content as we stroll the neighborhood. She's recently enjoyed meeting many of her new friends - young and not young. Baby Everett came by for a morning, little Julia and babies Caroline & Jessa are already some of her favorite gals and I know she will be seeing more of them all in the future. Karis also enjoyed her first experience at Caribou coffee with Beth & Lindsay, she loved it (like we all knew she would). Karis went to her first big picnic for Trevor's work a couple weeks ago (where mom had her first public nursing experience - let's just say I'm glad I brought a sweatshirt. Uff da), and last weekend went to her first party with her uncles. She's definitely a people baby!

I'm learning what's truly important - I'm still desiring of wanting to have lists, to cross things of them, to get thank-yous done immediately, to have a clean house, to keep in touch with people, to make sure my brain doesn't turn to moosh with baby talk. BUT, Karis is the most important thing, which is making prioritizing pretty easy lately. I've been surprised at how life seems more simple now . . . I used to think children made it more complicated, but the more I learn from Karis, the more my perspective shifts. A good friend just this week said she feels like through her daughter she's getting to experience life on a whole new, deeper level. I of course agree.

I'll admit that the first couple weeks, I thought - "This is easier than I thought it would be! I mean, she just sleeps all the time!" Well, those thoughts rapidly fled as my dear daughter woke up and found her voice! There were a couple days when I was feeling a frazzled and frustrated thinking, "I seriously can't even fold the laundry or write one thank-you a day. I'm home ALL day. How is this possible?" I ended up reading a couple of things that were (and are) such a blessing to me in answer to those thoughts. One is a post from this blog that I regularly follow, speaking about slowing down, putting aside to-do lists, and enjoying our families (incidentally, the blogger has a daughter named Karis! A friend passed along the blog to me after we'd decided on the name, so I find this to be very serendipitous and feel an interesting connection to the author). I also read a book given to me by a wise woman called Living on Baby Time. As I read the simple chapters, I kept thinking "I AM this woman!" The author wrote about exactly what I was thinking/struggling with an addiction to feeling productive and literally seeing results of what I'm doing. Well, I'm starting to think that a double chin and dimpled elbows are a beautiful tangible result of my days at home. Anyways, the battle with to-do's does and will continue, but I know the lessons and help will continue as well. Like I said, Karis is a good teacher (and God, of course!).

Other things Karis has done lately, besides you know the usual eating/sleeping/pooping/crying more): Karis has been enjoying church, and especially all the loving attention she receives there. She makes funny noises, some of them sound like she's laughing or like she's a billy goat. She seems to be focusing more, we love to watch her bright blue eyes. When sleeping, Karis is so peaceful. When awake, she loves to be held and cuddled and swaddled. And of course, we love when she gives that little passed gas smile - even if it is just a reflex at this early stage in her life.

We introduced Karis to our favorite movies, Elizabethtown & Dan in Real Life. Let me tell you, those flicks look different through the eyes of parenthood! That is, we will not let her watch Elizabethtown until she's at least 25. And Dan in Real Life gives a glimpse into parenting adolescents. We also introduced her to The Office (I know, we're horrible parents!). Trevor feels Lord of the Rings would be too intense right now, so we'll wait on that fave. All this to say, we're enjoying some relaxing evenings, as well as the luxury of kind of just taking her wherever we are. I'd like to start reading her the Chronicles of Narnia soon . . .

The rest of the uncles came to meet Karis

Karis's first big picnic/work party/luau

Give me a "K"!

On the way to church . . . (this pic is the most recent)

Hanging out with uncle Drew

Bathtime with dad

Showing off on the changing table

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

And the next Pope is HERE! Part Duo: Birthday Parties

(I definitely started this post on the date above! Time really does fly, it's hard to believe Karis has already celebrated her 2 week birthday by the time I actually get this up!)

I think I mentioned way before the a tradition in my family of celebrating birthdays for a month. We're off to a great start in August and will certainly be celebrating Karis's birthday for even longer than a month! We've been so blessed the past couple weeks to have many family and friends join us in the celebration . . . here's just a few:

Uncle Drew has been a champ for us - he brought us dinner from Quizno's shortly after Karis was born, AND when we got home from the hospital we discovered some birthday gifts: he had cleaned our house! I just about cried to see the vacuumed floors and clean dishes! Even more sweet, he left a card for Karis in her crib to welcome her home, along with an adorable rattle toy. What a guy!

Wonderfully crazy enough, Karis was born on Uncle Steve's birthday! Steve, Aunt Deb, Grandpa Jim & Grandma Linnie came the evening of Karis's birth, she slept through that party but even though the celebration was grand.

Shortly after my dear friend and coworker (okay, former coworker I guess - weird) Kwenen and her hub Jon stopped by. And not only did they stop by, they brought gorgeous flowers and a terrific tub of fresh cut watermelon. I was in heaven (first because of their company, and next the flowers and watermelon!).

The next morning my friends Jen & Alyssa stopped by with their dear daughters Caroline and Julia - sadly, the picture of Jen was taken with a full memory card. =( But here's Alyssa and Julia. So adorable, and Karis already has such great little friends!

Drew, star that he is, brought us lunch again . . .

And that evening our old and treasured friend Dave came by with his girlfriend Betty (again, memory card full. Grrrr.).

The parties continued, first with the Grandma Lorie & Grandpa Bob and cousin Courtney. They brought us lunch and Momma Lorie took Trevor to Target to help with getting groceries and got us more disposable diapers (she's too teeny for the cloth ones, and really, I just can't stand the thought of starting them yet!)

And then Grandma Nancy & Grandpa Kirk, who gracious helped both their children immeasurably during their time here with food (for us) and home projects (for bro). I can't describe the joy in introducing Karis to ALL her loving and doting grandparents. This girl is SO blessed! As are we.

The parties continued with friends and neighbors coming and going . . .

And now for some Karis details:

She changes literally every day. Most recently was the momentous occasion of her umbilical cord stump falling off. AND, I think I got almost 6 hours of sleep (on and off of course) last night. This girl is AMAZING. Can this sweet contentment and sleep patterns of hers last? Well, she'll still be amazing even if they don't.

A memory to treasure: my mom watched Karis on Tuesday while I ran to Target. First, I have to say how odd it was to walk around in public without my pregnant belly. People are SO nice and attentive to pregnant woman, and I'll admit that I enjoyed it. Okay, so the other day in Target I was just a paunchy really tired looking girl who still walks a little funny. Ha! I was excited to get home to Karis and Grandma, where I found Grandma walking around with Karis all alert in her arms. Grandma said she was like that the whole time, and when I walked in the door and she heard my voice, she immediately calmed down. I really am a mom. We all just want our moms!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

And the next Pope is HERE! Part Uno

(the following was written over several days . . . time really is different with a baby around!)

Karis (pronounced "care-iss") Carole Pope made her grand appearance to the world on Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 at 2:14 p.m. She weighed a lovely 6lbs 4oz, measured 19 inches long, and came out crying. And now I'm crying as I even write this sentence - it's just too much, God's provision is simply amazing and we feel so humbled that he would entrust us with this gift of life.

As I write, this new family of three is sitting in our living room in a quiet house. Trevor is reading The Hobbit to Karis, and she is loving every minute being wrapped up in her daddy's arms, feeling his heartbeat, hearing his voice, gathering his warmth.

There's so much I want to remember about the past few days, so many intricate details that I'm scared I'll forget. So I'm going to just write and post in increments - more for us than for anyone else, but I hope whoever reads this enjoys the boring details.

There's the technical "stuff" of going into labor of course (and I'm all about being real, so if you can't handle the graphic details, please just skip this paragraph!): my water broke at 11:30 pm and woke me up. However, it was simply a "gush" (you know, not exactly what they show you in the movies!), and I started to get what felt like contractions about every 20 minutes. I kept Trevor posted, but to be honest we were both in complete denial - I mean, we had plans for the next week, you know? I kept saying, "It's probably nothing" and Trevor kept saying "Yeah, it's probably just a leak. It'll repair itself" (I'm sure we read somewhere that can actually happen, I don't know?). Well, by 7am Trevor convinced me to call our midwife. She let me know that I had tested positive for Group B Strep, and said I needed to pack my bag and come in right away to get started on an IV. She said most women will go into full labor on their own, and they would give me a certain amount of time before augmenting my labor with drugs. I wilted. I went to the bedroom in tears and told Trevor what she said as I grabbed my backpack and started stuffing it. Trevor did the same and we just kind of moved around the house in a fog, I sent off emails to cancel all the plans I had with people the next couple days (I finished work last Friday and had packed the next couple weeks with all sorts of "play dates" for myself with friends, hosting people here, bringing meals to friends with babies . . . ). My contractions got a little more regular and I was having to stop in the middle of them and try to relax to get through them. My bro was eating breakfast and we really shocked him with our news! I'll never forget seeing him get choked up when I said, "One way or the other, we're going to have a baby within the next day or two." It was beautiful to see his emotion and helped me get excited for our change in plans. One of the last things I did before leaving the house was to crumple up my current "to do list" and toss it in the garbage - very liberating! I felt like I was saying hello to our new life and letting go of all that I thought "needed" to be done before Karis arrived.

Around 9am we pulled into the parking lot. I'll always remember talking to my mom as we pulled up, hearing the absolute joy and excitement in her voice was such a gift to me and continued to help me get so excited to meet Karis. We proceeded to the hospital triage area where they make sure you're not just faking labor (ha!), and man did they take their time in giving me the ph test to see if my water actually broke. Contractions were getting more regular, praise God, and I was starting to envision a quick labor and started thinking they better get going already. Well, they didn't - we were there for almost 3 hours! Still feeling pretty good, we enjoyed our time snacking on bananas and almonds, texting all sorts of people, just enjoying each other. And of course, getting more regular contractions - the nurse was rather discouraging and kept saying, "Well, hopefully the contractions are doing their job and making your cervix dilate". I was like, "Lady, I get how labor works - don't squash my hopes, okay?" Anyways. They finally hooked me up to my IV for antibiotics because of the Group B Strep risk . . . and then finally the midwife came in and said we'd move to my room soon. By this time, contractions were about 6 minutes apart and it was getting harder to relax through them. No more texting by this time.

Nurse Kelli came and guided us to our room - that walk down the hall must have triggered something, contractions came every four minutes starting then and their peaks were more intense. Trevor was AMAZING and just kept massaging and coaching me to relax. Our midwife, Pat, set up about four stations around the room for different ways I could labor in a rocking chair, birthing ball, window ledge. She was so respectful of our birthplan, and didn't check my cervix yet (I'd been reading how it can be discouraging to be checked often . . . if you're not progressing you can start to regress, etc.). This was maybe around 12:30pm. Pat left, the nurse went through a bunch of papers for us in between contractions, then Pat came in and out and helped Trevor coach me through some contractions ("Deep low noises! Relax after they peak"). Pat came back and maybe around 1:15 checked my dilation for the first time since arriving at the hospital: 6cm. Over half way there, and as I started to get more miserable (now resigned to bed on my side, grabbing the bed bars during contractions) she said, "You'll probably dilate a centimeter and hour from here - I think you'll have your baby by dinnertime!" And I was thinking, "Um, I can't take this until dinner time." It was getting seriously intense. Not long after that, I was shaking and sweating and having contraction one on top of the other and saying, "I can feel her RIGHT THERE!" And then I thought I had to go to the bathroom (which I knew is a classic feeling for being through transition and ready to push, but I was sure I couldn't already be fully dilated). I got to the bathroom, and the nurse said, "Don't push!" and then she left. And pretty soon I was screaming "I can't not push! Help me help me help me!" Trevor ran to the hallway, the midwife came back, she checked me again and said, "You're fully dilated and ready to start pushing!" That was maybe 1:45. In an instant there were several more people in the room prepping who knows what in a frantic way, it was obvious they were all very surprised (nurse Kelli later told me "I'm still getting over how fast that was"). Anyways, so push I did. Trevor tells me I completely calmed down after that and went into a real zone, resting between contractions and pushing with them as they came about every four minutes. With a few pushes Trevor could see Karis's head and I could feel it! I had heard that the sensation would feel like a ring of fire, and I would say that's exactly right. Pat said I wasn't going to be able to stretch enough for her head to get through without major tearing, so she strongly recommended an episiotomy. And I just said "Whatever you have to do" (so I like to think we had as natural a birth as we could have with no augmentation or pain relief . . . just needing some anesthesia at the very end when she was cutting). Within a few more minutes and a final push, Karis entered the world in one long sweep, crying beautifully as she was placed on my chest. As I write this, I would give anything to go back to that precious moment of seeing her face, looking at Trevor, and instantly knowing that she looked just like him (which I had SO been hoping for - truly!). Trevor said he cried as he watched her come out.

As I was being stitched up, Trevor went with Karis to the other side of the room to be weighed and to change her first diaper - it was beautiful to watch them, listening to Trevor talk to Karis, calling her "buddy" (to which the nurse, Paula, said "You can't call her buddy! Call her buddette!" For the record, she's still "buddy" to Trevor). He changed her first diaper, and then Karis came back to nurse, which she did for a full hour, a sweet time with Trevor by my side, holding the phone up for me as I called my mom and just savored those first moments of bonding. Then Trevor took his shirt off and put Karis to his skin. Next I was in the tub, then Trevor packed up our stuff and we followed nurse Laura to the room where we'd be staying the rest of our time. We got a little settled, and then went to the nursery to be with Karis when she got her first bath. I just fell in complete love with her desperate cry, her trembling lips, her fuzzy hair, the smell of her clean, soft skin. Words can't describe the feelings, the exhaustion, the elation, the complete joy of our first hours of being Karis's parents.

Trevor putting on Karis's first diaper. What a guy.

Can I say again how awesome Trevor was (and is, of course)? His support and encouragement and his love for his girls is overwhelming.

And lest this all sound fluffy, I should also mention the pain was horrible, I screamed like crazy, and many times yelled, "I can't do this!" And the miracle of birth is that I would do it all again.

And I will admit that the initial thoughts of "we have PLANS" were very real and that I felt very not ready. But it didn't take long to see that this was and is THE PLAN, and Karis came right on time. I can't imagine having had to wait another minute to meet her.

On the way from labor room to our "stay-over" room

First bath, how traumatic!

Home from the hospital

Trevor here. Andrea is the most "self-less" person I know, so time for a bit of info about her. We had attended the "Bradley" classes, had a great teacher, and prayed for, hoped, wanted a birth without drugs to support Karis in health, so Andrea could fully enjoy the feeling of holding our child right away, and minimize any side-affects that may happen. Andrea was unmedicated except for the antibiotic for infection, and did amazing. The hospital staff asked her if she was a runner, after seeing her heart rate and Karis's heartbeat through the birth. All the vital signs were good throughout. In the completely uncertain event of childbirth we take nothing for granted; length of labor, complications, health of mother and baby; it's a praise for how things went, and I will leave it at that.

So, I'm probably supposed to discuss my "feelings" and "emotions" and other things like that during the whole experience. My expectations were scant - who could know except when it happens? The night before, packing bags, driving to the hospital, walking down the looooonng hallway to the elevator, checking in, and sitting in the triage unit were all pretty chill. My mind was a bit unfocused, overwhelmed, but taking in every bit. Things got serious about noon in the birthing room as Andrea felt stronger contractions. She took it like a champ, through some of the worst pain I've seen someone go through. Glory to God, it was short lived, but the intensity looked pretty bad. All in all, I felt a bit useful throughout, as I spoke through contractions with Ang, constantly gave her water, snuck her bites of granola bar, guided her when she moved, and timed contractions to know when the next one might hit and how frequent they were coming. I cried when Karis came out. Not blubbering, just completely overwhelmed with love and awe. Spiritual is a word you could use to describe it. Other words might be getting hit with a train of love, or dumbstruck. Karis was so alert when she came out, looking around everywhere and not crying except 5 or 10 minutes when she first arrived and got cleaned up. As the nurse and I checked some vital signs she stared, gripped my finger, and looked to be loving life.

And now - we're 6 days into the adventure with some tired eyes and overflowing hearts at this child. She has continued to amaze us with how cute she can be, mustard diapers, and daily changes in appearance. Walks around the block have a new meaning. Eating dinner is secondary to the life laying in the bassinette. Getting out of bed... is still not fun. We're thankful and having so much fun with Karis.

Thank you for sharing the experience with us.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

T minus ???? Days

I'm fascinated that we're at the point where everything is "normal" now . . . and then on any given day, all of a sudden, things will change. We'll make our way to the hospital. Things will happen (not sure what it will all look like, but things will happen). We'll come home with a baby! And normal will all of a sudden look much different than it does right now as we sit in front of a Lord of the Rings movie after having a relaxed dinner.

Anyways. On my mind this week in a pronounced way has been the feeling of transition (now that I read that, "transition" could be quite a pun, as it's referred to as a specific and quite intense stage in the labor/birth process!). But no, I mean transition as it relates to stages of life, which this week equates change. My heart is heavy with some and elated with others:

- My bro moved his belongings out of our basement where he's resided for almost a year. He just couldn't stand us anymore! Not true (as far as I know or can tell), but his things are truly gone as he transitions to living in the home he's been renovating for several months. We're thrilled for him to have such a wonderful place to live, but will certainly miss the nightly games of Dutch Blitz, the shared meals, and all the other routine daily-ness that we've settled into. We never knew having him live here could be so wonderful, and we're grateful.

- Our dearest friends here are no longer here, as they packed up to move closer to their families (which happens to be quite far from here). So again, happy/sad. So happy that what they've sought after worked out, but quite devastated that we'll no longer see them on a weekly basis at church, dinners and lunches and parties in each other's homes, youth group planning and activities . . . very heavy sigh.

- I'm transitioning into my new "career" (motherhood) as I finished work on Friday. Again, so very happy/sad (sad to leave work, not sad to enter motherhood of course). I mean, I don' take for granted that I'm able to stay home with our baby for the foreseeable future - what a crazy and amazing gift! But really, I love to work, I enjoyed my work, and I adored the people with whom I was able to spend so much of my weekdays. I'll miss the place and the people tremendously and do hope to keep in touch. And I'll be honest, there's a great part of my identity that I put in my work, so it's a different feeling to lose part of that. The sermon this morning touched on that point - the tendency to attach so much of our perceived worth in what we do. Often unhealthily so. I can't think of anything I'd rather do right now than be a mom, and there is a great peacefulness in that.

And now we're waiting for the biggest transition of all, into parenthood. I'm thankful to say this change is all happy. I sat at our kitchen table yesterday morning and just wept to think of welcoming our daughter into our home, to think of all the support and encouragement and love God has blessed Trevor and me with, equipping us to pass that love along to each other and our now to our child. We had a great 37 week appointment a few days ago, and the midwife seemed thrilled at everything. To boot, I feel the best I have in a long time - walking, eating, & sleeping wonderfully.

Thanks to a dear friend's advice, I've been re-reading birth stories from Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Natural Childbirth. Each account reminds me about the beauty of creation, of birth and of the utter uniqueness yet sameness that bonds humankind from all time and across the world. I'm excited to see what our experience will be as the story is going to be written so soon. A sentence from one of these stories resonated with me deeply: "I knew this was the beginning of our baby's new life and the end of my selfishness and the part of me that was holding on to still being a child myself. My life was no longer my own. This was still the happiest and most spiritual day of my life." I'm already feeling some of that - the knowing of what selflessness will be required of me can be daunting at times. And yet I know it just happens (right?). I continue to delight in watching Trevor's enthusiasm and uninhibited confidence in, well, everything, and I am always thankful to share every step of every way with him.

We were SO blessed this week by a gift from someone we actually hardly even know (good friends of my brothers): a bag neatly packed with everything we need for our hospital stay! Toiletries, food, things for baby, everything! Considering "pack bags" has been on my list for a couple weeks, this gift almost had me in tears. I thought packing for the hospital seemed looming enough for me to dread it and put it off, that is until I read a friend and fellow blogger's post about packing for her entire family of four to go to Africa. Suddenly packing to stay in the hospital for a couple days doesn't seem like such a big deal! Aside: I have to say that said friend and her family are going to Africa on a mission trip with our church . . . she told the tale in this morning's service of how it came that her family is going, and it was simply beautiful and amazing.

The lists are back. Lists are scattered everywhere - in my head, on our counters, in my purse, by my bed. I love lists, but sometimes they can be unrealistic or just plain silly. Here are some of mine now:

On my pretty much crossed off list:

- Wash cloth diapers
- Learn how to use cloth diapers
- Learn how to wash actually dirty cloth diapers (my, they look so clean right now)
- Stroller purchased
- Baby clothes washed
- Car seat installed (thanks, Trev)

On my need to do list:

- CHILL OUT. TRY to sleep in for what could be the last time in a while. Take time for quiet, prayer, reflection.

On my don't need to do but seem to think I need to do list:

- Bake, cook, fill up the freezer with meals for postpartum (probably not going to happen)
- Get in touch with friends and family, visit friends and family, run around like crazy doing anything and everything I can think of
- Read about vaccines. Read about sleep habits/methods/theories. Read about parenting. Read frivolous fiction.
- Clean, clean clean (nest, nest, nest)
- Write letters, write cards, write in journals, write about the story of Baby K's name
- Make an e-mail list for announcing Baby K's arrival
- Catch up on photo albums/ordering pictures

Yeah, I'm trying to move the "chill out" to priority. Why is this hard for me? I annoy myself.

Deep breath. Okay, we had a great week and weekend. Yesterday we did the unthinkable: went to both the Mall of America and IKEA on a Saturday afternoon during peak vacation season. Well worth the trip and the walk and the claustrophobia to get to see a cousin who's in town, and then also to get ice cream from IKEA. We were thrilled to welcome another dear cousin here for the evening and had a blast grilling burgers, playing Halo, Blitz, and ending with a bonfire when my bro, one of Trev's cousins and some friends also joined. There is just something so unifying and mesmerizing about a fire - instant hours of guaranteed conversation. Gorgeous.

I did manage to plan something for every day this coming week, and look forward to seeing how it all unfolds - starting with making homemade ice cream with our youth group gals tomorrow. I'm excited. Life is so very good, and only about to get better. As a song in church this morning lyricized, "My heart is filled with thankfulness."