5.23.2016

The Robin Chronicles, Part V: A BERRY Good Start

So, the birdies are eating - strike that - HALF eating the fresh, delicious, sweet, ripe, perfect, homegrown strawberries from our modest little strawberry patch. It is driving me up a wall! I'll waltz over to our patch when my eyes spy an almost-perfect strawberry.

"Look, Little Mouse," I'll exclaim enthusiastically. "This berry is almost ready to be..." And that's when I see it: the anterior portion of the strawberry is that perfect gradient of red-to-white, promising a sweet treat in a matter of days, but the posterior has been pecked to death and is missing completely.

"Never mind," I'll sigh disappointedly as I pinch off the berry and toss it toward the evergreen which houses our Robin friends' nest. I was on the fence about which adorable little critter was to blame until I caught Papa Robin red-throated...er...handed on the way home from the park the other day with the boys. If you're going to eat my berries at least have the decency to eat a WHOLE one, not nibbles of every single berry on the plant! Sheesh.

So we have a rather scant first harvest of five berries. We'll be heading to the garden and hardware stores tonight for a bird bath (in case they're eating the berries because they're thirsty), some wood, and bird netting because I'll be darned if all of my hard work this season goes to waste! Which brings me to the nestling update: 

Looks like Mama and Papa bird have a full nest on their hands still, but one baby Robin is a head above the rest. The one on the far side of the nest seemed pretty unbothered by my camera's shutter clicks. The sibling beside Hungry Bird half-heartedly opened his beak in reaction to the "click-click-clicking." Hungry Bird was...well, hungry. I hope that's really the case and I'm not witnessing the process of natural selection before my eyes. 

Or maybe I should be happy, since this may mean fewer future Robins to dissuade chowing down on the Doremuses' Berry Buffet? I don't know how to feel. One thing is for sure, though: Berenbur the Scaregnome certainly isn't pulling his weight. What the heck, man?!
"Hey, that's just the cute name your kid gave me; you said yourself I blend in too much to be a scaregnome!"
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5.22.2016

The Robin Chronicles, Part IV: They're Already Cute

It's official: There are 3!

We had a windy day yesterday, so I was able to get a good picture of the nest. Mama and Papa bird have three little nestlings, although one of the baby birds doesn't seem to be as exuberant as the other two (you can see just a part of his little beak toward the bottom edge of the nest, between his siblings [insert sadface here]).
 
 
So, I think we'll probably have two fledglings and hopefully two juveniles. But...maybe just one. *sigh* Sometimes, I hate nature.
 


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5.19.2016

The Robin Chronicles, Part III: The Family is Growing!



Our robins are back again this spring! They've tucked themselves a bit farther into the gargantuan evergreen tree that looms over our old house, so they weren't quite as easy to spot as last year. 


As such, we've gotten a late start on our chronicling of this year's activities. And, while we're keeping an eye as best we can as to the goings-on of this year's robin-rearing, we're making sure first and foremost to avoid upsetting Mommy Bird.
 
Hopefully we'll get to see a less chicken-skin-esque baby bird very soon! 
They grow so fast, you know.

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5.17.2016

"Oh where, oh where have the Doormouses gone?"

..."Oh where, oh where could they be?"

I can hear you yelling across the vast expanse of the interwebs, "Have you dropped off the face of the earth? Why haven't you been blogging?!"

No, and two reasons:


Please ignore my ridiculous looking toes.

I've found that in all the hullabaloo of keeping up with two, it's SO much easier to do things on my smartphone (yes, I've succumbed). This means keeping in touch with LOTS of Instagram photos - sometimes captioned with brief snippets, sometimes posted with near-epics. I hope to start blogging more as we continue finding our new rhythm and begin the journey of home educating our boys, but if my promise of writing more on here is anything like the promises I make to myself at the beginning of each new journal entry ("Been a long time since I've written, but I'm turning a new leaf!" HA! Yeah, right.), it's not looking too good.

So, if you'd like to keep more up-to-date with the adventures happening over at The Doormouse House, head on over to Instagram and "follow" me there!

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2.15.2016

Introducing Brother Mouse: The Birth Story of Our 2nd Son











UPDATE POST! 
A lot has happened since I last posted an entry to this blog. 
Most notably, Lucas and I welcomed our second child, a son, to our family on January 29th! 
 
This is his birth story...
____________________________________________________________________
 
I knew it would happen early. I knew – for no discernible reason other than that nagging “feeling” – that my baby wasn’t going to stick around, gestating for the prescribed 40 weeks. I didn’t live fear or even worry about this presentiment; I just waited and wondered when he (and yes, I was convinced Baby was “he”) might arrive.
 
My pregnancy with Little Mouse and this pregnancy with Brother Mouse each had their own set of challenges. With the former, I was sick to my stomach nearly all of the 9 months I carried him in my womb; with the latter, I had months of constant round ligament pain, endless restless legs, rhinitis of pregnancy which went on to become the nastiest sinus infection I’ve ever encountered, and finally nearly-fatiguing prodromal labor. The prodromal labor is what finally “did me in.”

Brother Mouse’s arrival into the world was a slow and exhausting crescendo that I hope never to repeat.

The contractions began at 33 weeks as nighttime-only episodes that lasted from roughly 1am-4am every night. I could tell these were not the Braxton Hicks contractions I had experienced before; although they may not have been bringing about detectable changes, my body and common sense told me that these were the rumblings of something else soon-to-come. At 35 weeks and 2 days, the contractions didn’t stop at 4am as they had before. Instead, the contractions continued off and on throughout the day, varying in duration and intensity. I knew this was not “true” labor, but neither was it something to be ignored.  That day, I asked my Mom to come down to help me with Little Mouse at the doctor’s appointment I had made. I was so grateful to have her there, and I secretly wondered how I would make it through the week with a two and a half year old on my own. We went to “Signing Class,” played, had lunch, and went to the doctor’s, where he reiterated yet again: “Lay around and drink lots of water!”

Each day the contractions continued, and each day I felt more depleted of emotional and physical stamina. If my body wouldn’t let me rest, how could I ever make it through a natural labor as I had with Little Mouse? I tried to rest as much as possible while still going about my daily routine with Little Mouse – did we eat? Did we nap? Did we laugh? Then it was a good day. One more day down. One day closer to…whatever was transpiring.
 

January 28th
Thursday morning (35+5weeks gestation), I lost my mucus plug and with that, the contractions changed. I could feel the tightening moving down further than ever before. That amazing bag of muscles flexed from the ceiling all the way to the floor in a fashion so familiar to me that I just knew my time was almost up. I cried out to God that Baby would be ready for the main event. Grabbing my phone, I hastily made another doctor’s appointment, not only because of the loss of the “plug” but also because some little “accidents” left me wondering if I was leaking amniotic fluid.

Lucas came home to chauffer me and Little Mouse to the appointment since I didn’t feel fit to drive. At the doctor’s office, he confirmed I was 75% effaced, 1cm dilated, and that the leaking was “interesting.” Because it was hard to get an isolated specimen (it was seriously such a little amount), though, any tests were inconclusive. We made an appointment for Monday and headed on our way. I knew in my heart we would not need the Monday appointment.

Exhausted, uncertain, and in pretty considerable physical discomfort, I climbed wearily into the passenger’s seat and broke down crying. “It is all too soon, isn’t it? It’s not going to be okay, will it? Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer! (Psalm 86:6a)” But then I remembered the verse that follows: “In the day of my trouble I will call upon You, For You will answer me.” (Psalm 86:7) He WILL answer me – His timing is perfect and this is His will for me and my baby. Lucas comforted me in the front seat as Little Mouse sang along to The Ws in the back. “Frank! Was! A! Contractor! Is he after you?”

We decided to make the most of the evening in town and stop by Grandpa’s work for Little Mouse to see the store’s pole fork lift. The boys admired the machines while I sat and tried to rest. Resting or moving, it didn’t matter – the contractions were getting stronger and stronger. This was it. And so, I decided instead of fighting it or fearing it, I would work with my body. I will prepare for the hard work of labor and trust in God’s timing. I chose to make the most of those last moments of pregnancy, before true labor started.

As it so happens, a Goodwill thrift shop is right next door to my father-in-law’s workplace, so after visiting him and seeing not only the pole fork lift but ALSO his super cool baling compactor, we walked over to Goodwill to glance through the preemie clothes. We didn’t find any baby outfits, but Little Mouse found a very small front end loader he wanted to get for Baby, so he would have a gift to give to him or her for his or her birthday! Aware that this may be my last real meal before, I don’t know, SOMETHING happened, we decided to eat out at Five Guys Burgers and Fries (minus the buns, which have dairy), and then made our way to Walmart to get good labor food and call the necessary troops to prepare to care for Little Mouse.

As I settled into bed that night, the contractions stronger than ever, my body did something amazing. It actually allowed me to rest. For the first time in MONTHS, I slept for more than two hours in a row. I didn’t wake to pee, and I didn’t wake to contractions. I awoke halfway through the night and noticed the contractions had stopped. Not knowing whether to be relieved or upset, I stress-ate some strawberry coconut milk “ice cream” and went back to bed.


January 29th • 6:30 am
The next morning, Lucas and I discussed whether or not he should stay home from work.
“I don’t know, honey, they’re so much weaker this morning and spaced out,” I lamented. “Maybe it’s all been more prodromal crap. I really thought this was it, though.” I plopped down on the toilet seat and patted my hair dry. “That shower felt good on my back, at least.”
“Are you still having back labor, then?” Lucas asked from the entryway.
“Well, yeah, but…it’s just so hard to tell, you know?” I sighed. He shrugged his shoulders empathetically.
“I’m sorry, honey.”
There was a moment of pause between us and then…SPLAT! SPLASH!
“Oh, NO!” I yelped, trying pointlessly to catch the explosion. Luke’s eyes opened wide.
“So THAT’S how it sounds!” he blurted.
“Well, no…maybe it’s just pee!” I speculated.
“That was NOT pee!”
“Yes…yes, you’re right. Oh my…oh my gosh. This is it, Luke. This IS it! I wasn’t wrong! Okay, my water broke. Okay. Call your Mom. Let’s…oh…oh gosh…oh…here’s a contraction! WOAH!”

From that point when my water broke at 6:30am until we reached the hospital at 8:30am, the contractions were the strongest they had been. I would venture to say that they started as strong as 2 hours into labor with Little Mouse, and increased in strength from there. I was excited but nervous, and ready for the laboring process; I was ready to meet my baby and trusted that God’s plan was perfect.


8:30 am
Once we reached the hospital, things began to go downhill. I was stuck on my butt in a bed in triage for what felt like an eternity, and in that time, the contractions began to fade and then fizzle to almost nothing.
“They’re still showing up on the monitor,” offered one nurse after I was finally admitted to labor and delivery.
“Yes, but I can’t *feel* them,” I replied, “These simply aren’t productive contractions anymore. We’ve lost time,” I bemoaned.

Thankfully, my OB was on board with trying natural stimulation techniques to try to get labor moving again, but we were given a time frame by the hospital…a time frame that got the best of me and psyched me out (that plus Baby being posterior is what I think stalled labor).


11:00 am
Ultimately, after two hours of unproductive contractions, I was hooked up to an IV and given Pitocin to “get things moving again.” 
Trying to stay positive...
The contractions were fast and strong, and felt different than natural contractions. After a half an hour, they bumped the Pitocin up to “2” and we continued walking our circuit and either walking, slow dancing, or doing floor work on my exercise mat through each contraction. We were thankfully able to walk the halls and move about as we pleased, and were monitored wirelessly for the first two hours. After that, the contractions became too strong to be anyplace that wasn’t private.


1:00 pm
Lucas ate his lunch between contractions as I focused on letting my body go limp and bouncing on a birthing ball to the symphony of construction work that was going on the floor below us. It was loud and, oddly enough, at times helped to drown out the “noise” of painful contractions. It felt good to not be stuck in one position like I was in my labor with Little Mouse, but these contractions were totally different; I saw my labor with Little Mouse as hard work, but this labor was unbelievable, unnervingly PAINFUL. It took everything in me to focus on relaxing and the laboring imagery I’d learned in order to push away the pain and fear…and there was a lot of pain and fear. With each contraction growing stronger, I became more tired in body and spirit and I questioned whether I could really give birth again. At one point, I silently wished for a C-Section so I wouldn’t have to feel another contraction. I wanted sleep so badly.

And it was then, as I silently prayed for sleep and told myself I could actually stop the next contraction from coming if I focused hard enough, that a nurse came in and turned the Pitocin up to “3.” I turned to Lucas with tears in my eyes as another contraction washed over me like an angry wave in an unforgiving, tumultuous sea. He supported my full weight – both body and burden – as I went limp and cried out louder than ever for relief.


3:00 pm
Though my water broke at 6:30 am, I had only *technically* been laboring since 11:00 am because of all the starts and stops (four hours of Pitocin-induced labor…though if you count it with the starts and stops I had been laboring since Monday [4 days]). I had arrived at the hospital at 1cm dilated, 0 station, 75+% effaced, and was now consistently struggling to stay on top of the contractions; with each squeeze becoming more painful and intense, I felt less and less capable of completing the task at hand. I felt completely out of control.

I needed motivation in a big way and reassurance that we were moving in the right direction, so I asked the nurse to give me an update on my progress. I climbed into bed, onto my back, into the most uncomfortable position possible. The nurse checked me and looked up the bed sympathetically.
“You were…what…a 1 when you came in?” she asked, her eyes almost apologetic.
“Yes…” I answered weakly.
“I’d say you’re a good…2, even 3 now!” Her voice grasped for hope, but I saw through that thin veneer. Another contraction hit me harder than any before, and now, unprepared for it and with a fresh sense of doom and defeat, I grabbed Lucas and held him tightly. He squeezed back just as hard. I couldn’t relax and I couldn’t stay on top of the pain, so instead, I yelled and screamed. The nurse came alongside and squeezed me from the other side.
“SARAH!” she yelled, “Your contractions have been so strong! Your body can do this. YOU can do this!” Having both of them holding me tightly brought me back into focus. As the contraction faded, I stared into Luke’s eyes. My hands were clenched involuntarily from the Pitocin, my body was shaking from all the hormones, and I was at the very, very end of my rope.
“I need something. I’m putting aside my pride. I need something. My body won’t relax through these contractions and I feel too tired to push. I’m too tired. I need something…anything.”


3:15 pm
The nurse administered the absolute lowest dose of Numorphan intravenously at our request to take the edge off of the contractions. She also turned the Pitocin down to a “2” to help me get back into control of my labor. I remember me mentioning an epidural, but the nurse telling Lucas we should wait and it probably wouldn’t be long. Lucas thought I was in transition, so I wasn’t in my right mind to be deciding and agreed we would probably be pushing soon. I didn’t believe either of them, but I didn’t have the strength to say anything more. The Numorphan didn’t feel like it did much in the way of pain, but I was able to finally relax through some of the contractions (loudly, yes, but at least I wasn’t tensing up and fighting them).


3:45 pm
“I NEED TO PUSH!” The urge was unbearable and as much as I tried to fight it, my body did it anyway. I shook as my body squeezed baby down farther and farther. And FINALLY, labor felt GOOD again.

“Try not to push, Sarah! Hang on, hang on!” the nurse hurriedly did another check and this time instead of sympathetic eyes, I was met with saucer-like eyes. 
“You’re 9cm!” 

The relief I felt was overwhelming; words cannot describe the absolute deliverance from defeat that I felt in that moment. I had gone from “2cm, maybe 3” to almost complete in a half an hour! I have little doubt this was in part thanks to the pain medication allowing me to work with my contractions instead of tensing up against them.

For the next fifteen or so minutes, I let my body push for me and relaxed as much as I could through the contractions. I didn’t want a tear or episiotomy from an overly-precipitous delivery.

3:50 pm
I pushed with all of my might for one contraction, then “rested” for one or two contractions. I did this 4 times. The 4th time, I was looking down at my baby’s adorable little face.
“Oh! He’s sunny-side up!” I laughed, tears in my eyes from relief. It’s OVER.

4:04 pm
“It’s a boy!” Lucas announced as his tiny, wrinkled body was born.
“Look at all that vernix!” I cried as I grabbed my new baby boy to my chest and held him close. I breathed him in and soaked up his sweet newborn cry as I gently rubbed the vernix into his purple (but turning pink) skin. “Brother Mouse!” I announced. “You’re Brother Mouse!" (except I used his real name)

He was 5 pounds and 15 ounces, 19 inches long, and scored a 9 on the APGAR scale. 

He was perfect in every way, but because of his premature status, he had to be admitted to the NICU for observation.

So began another battle.

5:00 pm
I insisted on getting down to NICU as soon as possible, and asked to pump ASAP.
“You probably won’t get anything for a while anyway,” the postpartum admitting nurse informed me.
“I don’t care, I want a pump now,” I argued.
“Let me see what I can do for you,” a second nurse said, smiling warmly. She rubbed my arm and gave me a knowing nod. I smiled, but I’m sure my eyes revealed my pain; I wanted to be with my baby.

Fifteen minutes later, I pumped a half an ounce combined and had my Mom bring it down to Brother Mouse ASAP to be syringe or finger fed to him, drop by precious drop. If he was going to succeed in the NICU and if we were going to avoid being “booby trapped,” this is the way it had to be done.

A labor and delivery nurse popped into my postpartum room as my Mom left with the tiny bottle of liquid gold in hand. With teary eyes, she told me how amazing the delivery was to watch.
“I’d been watching your contractions at the nurses’ station since 1 o’clock and they were SO STRONG. It was just amazing…just amazing what you did. I know you didn’t see everyone in the room, but I was one of the nurses in there when you delivered and it was so powerful. Just…so POWERful and natural, and when he finally arrived, the relief was palpable. I just wanted to tell you good job, mama – GOOD job!”

I cried, she hugged me, and went on her way. I really believe God sent her to calm me down and give me a sense of peace about a labor that was physically and mentally exhausting, and darned near traumatizing.

6:13 pm
I was finally wheeled down to NICU from postpartum (a ten-minute hike from one side of the hospital to the other). It wasn’t until I got there that I realized how sad I really was. My mom, my in-laws, Little Mouse, and Lucas all got to be with Brother Mouse, and I didn’t. Everyone but Lucas left and I did skin-to-skin with Brother Mouse for forty minutes, until a postpartum nurse came to take me back for another “frequent check.”

And so it went until midnight: Ten minutes in the postpartum room for a “frequent check,” ten minute wheelchair ride to NICU, half an hour with Brother Mouse, and ten minutes back to postpartum for another “frequent check.” It was exhausting, but I had to be with my baby. Lucas stayed in Brother Mouse’s room overnight and called me down with each feeding cue, even though the NICU nurses were trying to have me only come down every 2-3 hours. It was a battle. I got a little sleep that night, but mostly dozed in an out between nurse checks and trips to the NICU. The postpartum nurses were amazing and so wonderful to work with us to ensure not only that I was always there when Brother Mouse needed me, but also that he was never alone since Lucas didn’t leave his side from the moment he was admitted to the NICU.

Saturday, January 30th
The next day was the same as the day before, except that after breakfast, I was no longer tied to my postpartum room for frequent checks. I hardly stayed in my room at all except for breakfast, lunch, and a brief afternoon nap. There was talk of moving Brother Mouse up to the postpartum room instead of having him in NICU since he was doing so well, but once our nurse changed with the shift change, we lost our biggest advocate and it was decided that he was to be kept under observation for at least another day.

We called our OB and asked to be discharged so I could room in with Brother Mouse since I wasn’t in my room anyway. He checked me over and decided that this was the best course of action for Mom and baby. The day shift nurses weren’t as thrilled about my “gotta be next to my baby” attitude as the night nurses were, so I think they were secretly happy to see me go.

That night I roomed in with Brother Mouse and did HOURS of skin-to-skin. I was naked from the waist up darned near all night long with Brother Mouse snoozing on my chest. When he stirred, I would feed him. When he slept, I would snuggle. I knew this was the best thing to bring in my milk and also help him maintain his body temperature and blood glucose levels. Our NICU night nurse was AMAZING and did all the checks she could with Brother Mouse cozy on my chest.

That night was sleepless, but I believe one of the big things that allowed him to “graduate” the NICU so quickly. My milk came in in full force that night, and with that, his blood glucose levels (which were on the low end of normal - the only “issue” he was having) shot up into the acceptable range.


Sunday, January 31st
Sunday was much the same as Saturday. Little Mouse and Lucas spent all day at the hospital with us, and my mother-in-law came in late morning to bring me my pump and stayed with us until we were discharged at around 6pm. We really couldn’t have done what we did without her, my father-in-law, sister-in-law, and Mom’s help!!

Our last nurse, Kristine, was by far the most helpful person in our entire stay at the hospital. I know she had at least a dozen babies to attend to and had a long shift; in spite of this, though, she was never rushed or weary. She always met our questions with warmth and tenderness, had a lot of wonderful suggestions for pumping as additional “milk-producing stimulation” to Brother Mouse’s outstanding nursing sessions, and was behind us 100% in our plan for Brother Mouse’s care; she was the most Mom-baby friendly nurse in the NICU! She advocated for us to make sure the other nurses and doctors knew our plan and lent her expertise as a former lactation consultant as to why our preferences were in fact the best thing we could do for Brother Mouse. When one nurse wanted to administer glucose syrup, she offered that we try a syringe of “Mom’s hard-earned, pumped breastmilk” first. I know all of the NICU nurses had Brother Mouse’s best interests at heart, but Kristine was by far the most compassionate, responsive, and tender of the bunch!

The NICU doctor came around for Brother Mouse’s second check later that afternoon and gave us the all-clear to be discharged. We were sad to leave our new friends, but SO happy to be going home. We left the hospital at 6pm and were all home – finally reunited and together at home as a family – at 6:30pm.


Since being home…
...Brother Mouse has been the absolute best, most typical “baby” baby ever. Little Mouse was such an intense baby, partly because of his MSPI, which took forever for us to figure out and then weeks for the dairy to get out of my system; Brother Mouse, on the other hand, is such the typical baby, I don't know what to do with myself!
 
Where Little Mouse would scream and cry from 10pm-3am and only sleep while being held, Brother Mouse "tanks up" for the night and generally sleeps for 2-hour stretches between nighttime nursing sessions. While Little Mouse HATED swaddling, Brother Mouse seems to know that swaddling means nighttime sleeping (since he's in-arms almost all day otherwise) and sleeps soundly in his sidecarred crib next to me. I did cut dairy out of my diet at Christmas just in case little brother took after big brother, but I'm wondering how much of Brother Mouse's chill disposition can be attributed to my no-dairy diet, and how much is just "who he is." If he fusses, there’s a reason and an easy solution, and for that I am so thankful because it makes having two so much less stressful.
 
Little Mouse was an absolute joy as a baby, but an ENORMOUS challenge. Brother Mouse has not come without his own set of challenges, but I'm so unfathomably grateful for an “easy” baby after a tremendously hard labor and delivery. I was blessed to have almost instant amnesia regarding Little Mouse’s labor and delivery, where mere minutes after he was in my arms, the memory of the whole event was all rainbows and butterflies and “oh, it didn’t hurt at all!” With Brother Mouse, the memory of the absolute torturous pain of labor has only just now, at 2 weeks postpartum, begun to fade; until the past few days, I could recall with disturbing lucidity the physical and mental anguish that came with each contraction. I am so incredibly thankful that I don’t have to contend with a sleepless, intense baby on top of that mental hurdle.
 
So now, I have the daily pleasure of soaking this all in...every last moment. I have such a sense of completeness right now. 

THIS is our family. The four of us. 
 
If you asked me right now, I would tell you that this is it for us. We'll see if this truly is what God has planned in the future, but today, I feel like this is it, and I am happy, relieved, content, and so blessed!

 

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