Elijah’s First Birthday

A few weeks ago, we celebrated Elijah’s first birthday. Although I’ve shared plenty of pictures on here of our Sweet Boy, I wanted to spend this post sharing a little about who our Elijah is.

 photo IMG_1343_zpsb62hit2e.jpg

We call him Lij, Big, Elijah, and sometimes Sweet Boy. He has always been a mellow baby, and very content. When I was pregnant, he didn’t kick or move around very much compared to any of his siblings. He’s always happy to do his own thing: crawl around, eat anything he can find (more on that later), or play with anyone. I think he’s going to grow up to be a relatively quiet boy and eventually become the kind of person who, once he does open his mouth, has very wise words come out.

 photo IMG_1383_zpsv8gebhwk.jpg

He’s also very strong. I’ll probably always remember turning around one morning, as I was preparing breakfast, to see one of our children (who shall remain nameless) standing on Elijah’s back. Just standing there like he was a step stool. I yelped, scolded, and got that kid off of Elijah as fast as I could, but Elijah just lay there mid army-crawl, looking up at me with an expression that said, “What’s the big deal?” He was fine, though the child on his back weighed more than twice as much as he did.

 photo IMG_1435_zpsqgvt2dof.jpg

Elijah is happy to play with anyone who shows him interest. Abby will frequently entertain him while I’m in the kitchen. She’ll hug him, “tickle” him, and wrestle him, and he’s happy just to have the attention. Just about anyone we let pick him up will find a sweet, smily baby, who is, again, happy to interact no matter who you are. But when Elijah gets tired, he wants Mom. He’ll start crying if he sees me enter the room and he’ll army crawl quickly over to my feet. Just like his siblings, he’ll pop some fingers in his mouth (he prefers the pointer and middle finger of his left hand) grab on to my hair or his own, and become quiet and content once more.

 photo IMG_1394_zpswd971rnf.jpg

But, Elijah LOVES his daddy. There’s a Frank Sinatra song called “I Only Have Eyes for You”, and, though I don’t actually know the whole song, that one line from the title pops into my head just about every time Lij spots Dan across a room. He’ll stare at him for so long until Dan finally comes over, gives him some attention and hold him. (Abby was the same way.) “Mom’s great when I’m tired, but there’s nobody like Dad!”

 photo IMG_1451_zpsdrefi8sa.jpg

As far as food goes, Elijah has recently started to eat a lot. For months we couldn’t get him to eat solid food. Baby food of any flavor makes him gag. He won’t touch bananas. Avocado won’t stay down, and even if it could, we can’t get him to put it in his mouth anymore. The only toothless-friendly food Elijah likes are sweet potatoes, and he loves sweet potatoes. Of course, my one baby to skip the purees is also the slowest to get teeth. The day his molars come in will be a happy day, because Elijah will pretty much only eat what we’re eating. And he’ll only eat it if he gets to feed it to himself.

As we approached the one-year mark, Dan and I were DONE getting up at night, but Elijah wasn’t. We tried roughly a million approaches to get him to sleep better: night weaning, feeding right before bed, waking up to feed right before I went to bed, moving him out of our room, letting him cry, waking him up at preplanned times during the night to eat, and always, always, we just prayed that he’d stop getting us up. Finally, when the weather really got cold, we had to move him into Paul’s room because the room he was sleeping in didn’t have heat. Paul handled the transition surprisingly well (but he did keep asking for us to put Elijah in his crib with him, and could not understand why they had to sleep in separate beds. He also likes to give Elijah things to sleep with: blankets, stuffed animals, wooden tools, toy cars, books…). I gave up on “making” Elijah sleep through the night, and we all survived. Now we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel as he sleeps through the night more and more frequently (four out of the last six nights, not that I’m counting).

We feel truly blessed to have Elijah in our family. Every child is different. Every personality is unique. Elijah is our strong, quiet, content, friendly baby with only one major flaw. He. Eats. Everything. I know all babies do this. I know I have three others and I can’t watch him as closely as I did the others. But it’s not just that. This boy has a gift. He can find things even if we just picked everything up. He’ll sneak (yes, sneak!) things into his mouth and then hold very still whenever you look at him so you can’t tell he’s chewing (gumming?) it. Rocks, dirt, leaves, small toys, day-old food, pieces of carpet he tore out himself. This summer, the day before we went on a short beach-trip, Elijah got his hands on a small giraffe eraser. Lydia was the first to notice him coughing and ran to tell Mommy (Way to go Lids!). I quickly realized the problem was beyond me and sent her to get Dan, who was, thankfully, working from home that day. He came down and did everything you’re <em<supposed to do. But when Elijah started gasping for air and coughing up mucus and blood, we called 9-1-1.

After a long wait, the paramedics came, repeated everything Dan had already done, and reported to us that Elijah would need to take an ambulance to the hospital where he would probably need surgery. I pulled the mom card (what if he needs to eat?) to get to be the one to go with him, even though Dan wanted to go. Dan graciously stayed home with the rest of the kids and I made a scary trip to Mott’s Children’s Hospital. Lij had missed his nap and fell asleep in the ambulance, which was actually a very good thing, but made for a scary ride. As I was trying to pray, I remembered some words from earlier that week, that an Elder had prayed for Elijah during his baby dedication, “We do pray for his protection. We pray that the Evil One would not be permitted to harm him.” Those words encouraged me. If our elder has been led to pray that only a few days before, and if we had faithfully shared how God had answered our prayers in Elijah’s life, to tell that God really does hear and answer our prayers, surely God wouldn’t intend on taking him from us now.

I prayed that Elijah would cough up the toy he was choking on, and back at home, Lydia was frantically praying the same thing (and that we could still go on our beach trip) with Dan and the rest of the kids. Elijah did cough up the toy just two minutes before the ER team was planning to call in their back-up surgery team (because the first team was busy). After coughing it up, Lij started grabbing all of the medical equipment, trying to pop it into his mouth too, which gave the team a good laugh and caused no one to give me a hard time. Clearly this was a baby who never stops putting things in his mouth. (And yes, we did get to go on our beach trip.)

God has been kind to us in giving us Elijah, and in protecting that Little Stinker beyond what we can do ourselves. When Elijah was born, I had always thought of him as a special gift. Elijah means: the Lord is Yahweh. John, named after Dan’s Grampa, means: Yahweh is gracious. Grace. Gift. Elijah John, you are indeed a special gift to our family. We wouldn’t trade you for anything. There’s no on like you. You remind us, sometimes daily, that God does answer prayer in big and small ways. He has protected you already when we thought we might lose you twice. Happy first birthday, my Sweet Boy. And, please, please, give us a less eventful second year!

Elijah’s Name

Today our family has the privilege of celebrating Elijah’s first birthday! First birthdays are always exciting, but this one holds special significance to us because twice in his short life, we thought we might lose Eljiah. If you haven’t heard it yet, here is the story behind Elijah’s name, shared at his baby dedication a couple of months ago.

Elijah’s Birth Story

Ever since Lydia was born, I have enjoyed hearing others’ birth stories. Some are encouraging, inspiring, or at times, intimidating, but all have been useful in preparing me for another birth. So this is Elijah’s birth story. Here’s my disclaimer: this is going to be long (for the most part) unedited. If you don’t enjoy hearing lots of medical sorts of details, this post may not be for you.

To read about the events leading up to Elijah’s birthday, click here.

At something like 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning on November 20, Dan and I were settled into our triage room waiting for my doctor to come remove my stitches so Baby could be born. My labors have all been pretty fast, and have gotten faster each time, so I was already doing the math in my head and expecting Baby to be born by about 9:00. But, I was also trying to just take things moment-by-moment, because I know nothing is guaranteed to go the way I expect during labor. I had read up, prayed a lot, and was prepared for a completely natural delivery, if possible.

The resident and hospital doctor came into our room to remove the stitches and I braced myself for an uncomfortable experience. (I had a cervical cerclage, or stitches to keep the cervix shut and hold Baby in longer, put in at around 13 weeks.) My doctor was not on call that night and his partner, whom I’d never met, wasn’t at the hospital yet. So my entire time in triage was with the hospital’s on-call doctor and the resident. They had had some trouble getting the stitches out with Paul, and it was a fairly painful experience. This time was much worse.

The resident started trying to get them out, but after several minutes, she gave up and asked the doctor to try. She couldn’t seem to find the stitches. The doctor sat down and started to try to get the stitches out, but she couldn’t find them either. So the two started tag-teaming, trying different tools, angles, and techniques. Thankfully, I wasn’t in too much pain from contractions yet, because the attempts to find the stitches were painful enough. I lay flat on my back, squeezing Dan’s hand tightly with my teeth clenched and eyes tightly shut.

Occasionally the doctor and resident would ask, “Do you want a break?” but I just wanted the stitches out, so I kept telling them to keep trying. I have no idea how long we were in that room, but it felt like a long time. At some point I started praying. Then I started praying more urgently, “Jesus, help them find the stitches…guide their hands…” It started to look like they were never going to find them, and I started to wonder what would happen if they didn’t. Would I have to have a c-section? Would I labor anyway and just tear right through the stitches? I was praying more frantically and feeling pretty desperate.

When I was feeling rather hopeless, urgently praying, suddenly the darkness of the inside of my eyelids seemed to be replaced by a glowing light and I was filled with peace and calm as some verses came to my mind. They weren’t actually verses that I have memorized so the words weren’t clear in my mind, but the idea was there…”When you pass through the waters, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned…” I was filled with trust. Jesus was taking care of me. Then I heard the doctor and resident and felt the pain again and everything was dark and painful and desperate all over again. And I prayed and again the darkness melted away and I remembered those words, “The waters will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned.” Calm washed over me again.

Just a couple of minutes later, the doctor declared that she had successfully removed the stitches! There were still buttons in there somewhere, stuck in the scar tissue, but the stitches were removed. (The stitches were tied through a button so that they would be easier to find and cut out. Instead, the buttons got lost and the stitches were very hard to find!) As soon as everyone left the room, I asked Dan to find the passage that had come to my mind. He found it and read it to me:

Isaiah 43:2
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,and the flame shall not consume you.”

Soon we were allowed out of triage (I have no idea what time it was by now) and headed to labor and delivery. We were shown to our room and once there we let everyone know what kind of labor I was intending on having (since we had already been offered pain medicine once or twice). My birth plan was pretty short:

I would like to have as natural of a labor and delivery as possible.
If possible I do not want an IV.
I know that pain medication is available and will ask for it if I want it.
If possible, I would like to hold the baby immediately after delivery.

Our nurse was sweet. She got me all hooked up to monitors and assured me I could have a natural delivery. Then someone told me I had to get the betamethasone steroid shot for the baby’s lungs. I assured them I had already gotten both doses, but they insisted. New research has shown that it can help if Baby gets it right before delivery, any baby born before 37 weeks. Now, that shot takes 24 hours to be fully effective, and 48 hours for two doses to be fully effective. We thought it was silly, knowing how fast my labors are. But we also felt like we were in a position where we would be terrible parents to say, “No”. So, I got that painful shot during labor again. (My doctor later told me that I could have declined, knowing the shot was pretty much useless in that amount of time anyway).

After the shot I was allowed to labor as I wanted. I lay down on my side, shut my eyes, and tried to relax through the contractions. Dan was at a loss as to how he could help and kept asking if I was ok. “I’m relaxing!”, I insisted, “it’s part of my method”. Eventually I couldn’t just relax anymore, so I got up on my knees and leaned against the top of the bed. The nurse offered me a big bean bag to lean up against, and that really helped. By now my contractions were really intense, sometimes coming on top of each other. Dan tried rubbing my back or pushing on my hips to help and I actually swatted him away, thinking, “you’re doing it wrong!”. I’ve always wanted Dan near me and helping me during labor, so I KNEW I was in transition and Baby would be coming soon. I also started to feel like I had to go to the bathroom all the time, but after a couple difficult trips back and forth, I knew it was just the pressure from Baby moving down lower.

When I started moaning more and more loudly through the contractions, Dan and I knew it was time for them to check me. I was a little nervous, not wanted to hear I was only dilated to four. But I was also confident that I was in transition and Baby was coming fast. They told me I was dilated to “six or seven” and I clearly remember thinking, “Whatever. That baby is coming soon.”

I hit the peak of transition and thought, “If this goes on much longer, I can’t do it”. I was moaning so loudly that I heard the nurse saying, “Stay with us Justine!” If I remember correctly, Dan was expressing some concern that, “They’d better get in here!” Then I felt Baby moving down fast and pressure to push. I started yelling (how else could I tell them Baby was coming?). The nurse knew instantly that I was starting to push and she got right up near my face and asked, “Did the contraction stop?” I frantically shook my head no and she told me I had to turn over onto my back during the contraction. This seemed cruel and almost impossible to me at the time, but I was also in a state where I would do whatever I was told. I managed to roll over onto my back and the contraction just kept going.

I was concerned about tearing, and I knew it could be good to stop pushing and wait even if it hurt. I was preparing for that moment, but everything was happening so fast. The next thing I remember was feeling the most intense pushing contraction and the nurse demanding my attention. It took every ounce of will-power to not push and instead listen and obey what the nurse was trying to say, so I opened my eyes wide and looked right into hers. Later Dan told me he would never forget the face I made. He said my eyeballs were almost outside of my head and I looked completely crazy.

The nurse told me to let go of Dan’s hand (I wasn’t even aware I was holding it) and bend my right leg and wait to push. I did. It seems like there were about five people all crowded around me at that point and that a couple of them started telling me to go ahead and push. I have no idea if I was having a contraction or not, but I pushed and then I heard Dan say, “Justine! Look!” I looked down and there was my baby! Well, there was the top half of my baby. I heard one of the ladies there (A nurse? Or doctor? Or pediatrician?) say something like, “What do we have?” and in the next moment someone declared, “It’s a boy!” and scooped him up and put him right up on my chest.

Dan and I both thought it was a girl (again). And I had really wanted a boy. So I was relieved and thrilled and so happy I could cry. They were about to clamp the cord when Dan jumped in and asked if they could wait. They said that was fine, and waited until the cord stopped pulsing to clamp it. (From what I understand, the baby gets more blood if you wait to clamp the cord. Since all of our children have been anemic at some point during their first years, this was important to us.) They left Little Elijah snuggled up on me for the next 45 minutes.

Then my Doctor’s partner came in (he missed the delivery, but I guess I really only did push once or twice). He sat down with the resident and they spent the next half hour or more digging around looking for those long-lost buttons. They finally found them, after a miserable search, lots of hand squeezing with Dan, and lots of sympathy from the nurses. They had to cut them out of scar tissue in the cervix and then stitch up the cervix and a second degree tear.

However, I snuggled my Baby that whole time before they took him away to weigh him and clean him off. He weighed 5 pounds, 11 ounces and was 19 1/2 inches long. He was born at 8:38 in the morning, just 5 hours and 23 minutes after my water broke.

 photo IMG_1343_zpsb62hit2e.jpg

 photo IMG_20161120_105125712_zpsigvffxhe.jpg

It took a while to settle on his name, even though we had pretty much picked it out when he was only about 14 weeks along (that’s another story). But soon enough we announced it: Elijah John, and we were transferred to the Mother-Baby room to enjoy the first couple of days with our new baby.

 photo IMG_1357_zpslvuqrz2w.jpg

 photo IMG_1363_zpsdxvavmmw.jpg

Later in the morning, the kids came to visit and meet their new Baby Brother. Lydia very sweetly brought a stuffed lamb for Elijah to sleep with, in fact, the stuffed lamb my mom gave her before she was even born (we told her that wasn’t allowed, but kept the lamb where Elijah could see it.)

 photo IMG_1350_zpspajdubys.jpg

 photo IMG_20161122_140127046_HDR_zpsqthwevzq.jpg

It was sweet to see the kids together, but I especially enjoyed watching Paul react to his new brother. He loves him already, and even though he doesn’t have a lot of words, we’ve heard him say, “Baby” and “Lijah” and sometimes he gives Elijah kisses.

 photo IMG_1370_zpsd29rl9qy.jpg

Like Paul, Elijah got to be held almost non-stop in the hospital. It’s a privilege we just didn’t get to have with the girls.

 photo IMG_1361_zpsrrxoqzxn.jpg

 photo IMG_1360_zpsnkbvoivs.jpg

 photo IMG_1354_zpsmk6w6rya.jpg

 photo IMG_20161120_171357858_zpskfbbtho1.jpg

And after two (sleepless) nights in the hospital, we got to take Elijah home!

 photo IMG_1378_zpsyde77fdl.jpg

The Days Before Elijah

Ever since Lydia was born, I have enjoyed hearing others’ birth stories. Some are encouraging, inspiring, or at times, intimidating, but all have been useful in preparing me for another birth. So this is Elijah’s birth story. Here’s my disclaimer: this is going to be long (for the most part) unedited. If you don’t enjoy hearing lots of medical sorts of details, this post may not be for you.

Since my last update was way back in October, I’ll have to back up a little before I actually tell Elijah’s birth story.

I had been having contractions off and on starting at about 30 weeks. So, for several weeks I was constantly on my toes thinking, “Is Baby going to come today?” However, I had had contractions off and on for a couple weeks with Paul and we didn’t want to put everything on hold just because I was having a few contractions that might be nothing. So I took it easy when I could, but we kept enjoying fall and preparing for Baby. We went apple picking, took the kids to a cider mill, bought pumpkins, and watched some world series games at Dan’s parents’ home.

 photo IMG_1322_zpswg2dce9f.jpg

 photo IMG_20161013_152422_zpsobqiljkc.jpg

 photo IMG_20161029_204823_zpsqpkk98db.jpg

We got our car seat, packed the hospital bag, and set up the bassinet. One by one we were checking items off our “to-do before Baby” lists. I even had a verse picked out that I thought I would be using a lot to get through labor:

Psalms 28:7
The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exalts, and with my song I give thanks to him.

The one last project we wanted to finish before Baby came was repairing our shed. The shed in our back yard was a mess: dirty and rotting. Early in November, Dan started repairing it, knowing that once Baby and/or Thanksgiving hit, we’d be busy and it would get too cold to work on it anymore. We really wanted it done so we could clear out some space in the garage to park the car this winter.

Just before I hit 35 weeks, I woke up one night with pain in my belly. It was, I think, pain from stretching, and I had experience the same sensation about a week before Paul was born. I knew our time was running out, even though I hadn’t hit 35 weeks yet. I got up and headed downstairs where I could try to relax on our exercise ball until the pain would go away. As I leaned on the ball, I started to worry about Baby.

When was the last time I felt him kick?

I couldn’t remember feeling any movement all day.

What if he didn’t have enough amniotic fluid?

What if the umbilical cord was knotted or compressed?

Before long I was a basket case of worry and could hardly think clearly enough to pray. But I did pray and as I did, I felt led to read my labor verse, and the rest of the chapter. (If you want you can go read Psalms 28. It’s not too long). What stood out to me as I read it that night was that God had heard the cry of the Psalmist:

“He has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy….The LORD…is the saving refuge of his anointed…Be their shepherd and carry them forever.”

I felt assured in my heart that God had heard my prayers and that Baby was going to be safe. I gratefully turned off the lights and went back to bed. As I lay down to go back to sleep, I felt Baby kick and I fell asleep with a song in my heart.

The next week Dan attacked that shed with all his energy. But, on Monday morning (the day I reached 35 weeks, and the day Paul was born) I could feel pressure from the stitches in the cervix pulling.

 photo IMG_20161115_074333_zpskfpxjdtk.jpg

Tuesday I had an appointment and my doctor told me the cervix had shortened right up to the stitches and that I should come in if I had any more strong contractions. In that case, he would remove the stitches to prevent their tearing as the cervix tried to dilate.

The rest of the week was a race to finish the shed. Meanwhile, I didn’t have any strong contractions, but I had very steady weak contractions. I was in a dilemma about whether to go in, knowing that they would probably remove the stitches and Baby would probably be born. I was trying to wait for Dan to finish the shed, and trying to give Baby just a few more days. We started to pray that it would be clear when we needed to go in, that something would be an obvious sign that it was time to get the stitches out, or that my water would break like it had with all my other babies. The stitches were pulling more and more and the contractions kept coming.

Friday night, we took the kids out to eat (a reward for Lydia when she learned another Bible verse) and Dan and I chatted about what to do. He had finished the roof on the shed, but still had a lot more work to do. I was worried about the stitches. Dan kept assuring me that he wanted me to go in when I felt like I needed to, but I just didn’t know if I needed to or if I was being anxious for nothing. We prayerfully decided to try to wait until Monday morning (36 weeks), then call my doctor and ask if we should just get the stitches out. Dan even planned on taking the day off work so he could be there for whatever happened.

Saturday was a hard day for me. I was trying to stay off my feet, but I was also watching the kids while Dan and his Dad attacked that shed some more. The day was long. The hours dragged by, but Dan made really good progress and we both felt satisfied that night. Dan had finally knocked the bulk of the work off the shed and I only had to make it 36 more hours before calling the doctor.

Dan was exhausted from working out in the cold all day, and I was eager to get to bed just so it would be the next day, so we prayed again for Baby and for a clear sign if we needed to go in earlier than Monday, and then we went to sleep.

At 3:15 I woke up on my feet, running to the bathroom. I was still only half awake when I got there and it took me a minute to evaluate whether I had just wet the bed or if my water broke. This is the third time my water broke while I was sleeping, so it didn’t take me long to realize that was what had happened. I felt overjoyed that God had answered our prayers again by giving us an obvious sign to go to the hospital before Monday morning, and also that Dan had just barely made all that progress on the shed.

Because it was the middle of the night and I knew Dan would be exhausted, I waddled downstairs to make him some coffee for the long night ahead. At 3:30 I woke him up, “Dan…my water broke.” He got up pretty quick, despite how tired he was, and started making calls to find a babysitter. The first two people on our list didn’t work out, but the third had just called me that afternoon to remind us that she could watch our kids whenever I went into labor. It was so neat how God worked that out so we felt it was ok to call her even in the middle of the night. After we called, she told us that she had woken up at 3:30 and was just wide awake thinking, “I wonder why I’m so awake!” Just a few minutes later she got our call.

By 4:00 we were in the car, on the way to the hospital. Soon we were in triage, where the hospital doctor on call and the resident sat down to remove the stitches that had been bothering me all week, but that had done a good job keeping Baby in for a new record: 35 weeks and 6 days.

To be continued…

Baby #4: 32 and 1/2 Weeks

I am so happy to be passed the 32 week mark! Last weekend I was utterly convinced Baby was going to be born before Monday (the day I hit 32). It was purely psychological, apart from a few random contractions, and I made it to Monday just fine, with Baby still in my belly. But let me back up a little…

Just before 31 weeks I started having some abdominal pain which I suspected to be related to contractions somehow. After two days of off and on pain, I started having clear contractions lasting about one minute, about five minutes apart. They never lasted long, so I didn’t expect Baby to come right away, but I was definitely concerned. This sort of thing started about a week and a half before Paul was born, and we weren’t hoping to have Baby come earlier than Paul.

At my last doctor’s appointment, a few days after contractions started, my doctor noticed some prelabor signs. Baby is head down, and his/her head is getting lower. There is also some effacement going on, probably from all those contractions. I’ve been taking it easy, more or less, as I have been for several weeks now. However, we aren’t putting our whole lives on hold this time. I’m still homeschooling Lydia and Dan is still at work all day. I just try to rest when I need to and avoid lifting heavy things as much as possible. I’m cooking the easiest meals I can think of and my 5-week meal plan (repeating the same few meals over and over), posted on the fridge and crossed off as each meal passes, has become my count down to Baby.

After the last ultrasound, the contractions stopped. About a week later I began to feel more pressure, but only occasionally. I’m guessing that has more to do with Baby’s position than anything else, so I just try to lie down when I notice it.

Meanwhile, we are getting excited to meet Baby! I’m only 17 days from the gestation when Paul was born, and less than five weeks from FULL TERM. I’ve finally packed my hospital bag. I wrote out a Birth Plan and stashed that in my purse along with my camera, so we’re not without either one no matter when Baby comes. We’ve lined up some babysitters for the kids too. So all I really have left to do is pack a bag for the kids and, when we get closer to 35 weeks, set up Baby’s bassinet.

I’m still craving almond milk, and have a cup every night. (We’re actually out right now, so I’m thinking the weekly Meijer run is happening tonight!) Other cravings come and go, nothing too major. My joints are all getting nice and loose, which makes it hard to sleep and lie down for very long. Between the joints and constant bathroom runs, I’m getting up several times a night some nights now. I’m trying to be disciplined to go to bed early, and I can tell my body needs the extra rest. When I’m not lying down I have an almost constant sore back, something new for me. My babies never got big enough for that before. 🙂 I’m not complaining though! A little sore back and trouble sleeping are far better than leaving Baby in the NICU every night!

I’ve mentioned this in my Instagram posts, but I’ll say it again here. It’s starting to sink in that there’s really going to be a Little Person coming home from the hospital soon. The pregnancy has been so full of medical stuff, praying, waiting, hoping, and taking it easy, that it’s not hard to forget that fact. Lately I’ve been thinking more about our names, imagining Baby and even having Baby dreams. Lydia is practically counting down the days too.

My next appointment is Tuesday, and soon we’ll be going every week for visits. I never know if I’ll have a chance to write another blog update, but mini updates will definitely be in my Instagram pictures. I so appreciate everyone who has been thinking of us and praying for us throughout the last weeks. God has been so kind and is, once again, answering our many prayers.

Baby #4: 28 1/2 Week Pregnancy Update

 photo baby_zpsfiz1yd8o.jpg

Here’s a picture of Baby at 27 weeks. It’s not the easiest to decipher. Baby’s face is sideways with the chin on the left and forehead on the right. The brightest white patch near the middle is Baby’s right cheek and just to the right of that you can see Baby’s right eye and nose as dark spots. Above Baby’s head is one hand and below the chin is the other, both made into fists.

It’s hard to believe I’m already at the point in this pregnancy when Abby was born! I don’t know how often I’m going to be able to give updates, but since I have a few free minutes this afternoon, I wanted to catch everyone up a little.

Things are going smoothly and so far Baby has stayed put. 🙂

I’m up to having appointments every two weeks now (starting this Tuesday) and so far, my doctor hasn’t seen any reason to feel alarmed that Baby might be coming soon. That means I haven’t been put on bed rest! We’ve been getting ultrasounds at every visit to check on Baby’s size and heartbeat, but also to check for signs that my body is preparing for labor. Last visit was the first time we could notice any signs, but they were subtle and not too concerning. (Whew!)

Originally our doctor predicted this Baby would make it 35-37 weeks and we were hoping for 37. However, Baby has measured half to one week big at every ultrasound since the beginning of my second trimester, so it seems likely that Baby might come around 36 weeks. That would put Baby’s birthday the week of Thanksgiving.

Baby is probably closing in on three pounds now (Abby was two pounds and fifteen ounces when she was born), and while that’s not huge, I’m carrying Baby entirely on my right side. Things are getting pretty tight over there. Along with the growing belly, I’m back to some of my less convenient pregnancy symptoms: nausea and food aversions. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been struggling to eat. I’ve also been feeling weak and sometimes clammy, but my blood sugar, blood pressure, and blood count are all normal. I’ve been trying to drink more water, hoping that might be the culprit, but I’m not sure it’s making much of a difference yet.

This is the first time in a pregnancy that I’m feeling Braxton-Hicks contractions. With Paul, and only with Paul, I started having contractions a week and a half before he was born. But those were all quite painful so I constantly thought I was in labor. These contractions aren’t painful, and it’s completely normal to be experiencing them at this point. My first contractions were about a week ago (27 weeks) and I’ve started noticing them more this week.

I’ve been able to keep up with my usual routine, including homeschooling Lydia now, and hopefully potty training Abby next week. We’ll see how that goes. Even though I’ve been feeling nauseous, I’ve still been craving almond milk, sugary sweets, and fruit. I relish my nightly glass of almond milk, try to ignore the sweet cravings (but sometimes I think Baby NEEDS a chocolate chip cookie), and eat as much fruit as I can without depleting the whole fruit bowl in one day.

The milestones are coming pretty quickly now! I’m looking forward to Tuesday’s appointment, where we’ll check one more time if my body looks like it’s preparing for labor. After 30 weeks it’s too hard to tell, since it’s normal to start getting ready for labor at that point.

Baby #4: First Trimester Pregnancy Update

In case you missed the Instagram announcement, Dan and I are excited to be expecting Baby #4 sometime this fall/winter. Our due date is December 19th, and our doctor has high hopes that we’ll make it to 37 weeks this time (a TERM baby!) which would put Baby’s birthday around the end of November (November 28th).

At our initial doctor visit, I was less than six weeks along but we could see a tiny little heart beat pulse on the ultrasound machine. I’ve never had an ultrasound that early before. It was hard to recognize our little girl/guy.

The first question everyone asks when they hear the news is: “Are you going to find out this time?” You may know already, we found out ahead of time that Abby and Lydia were girls, but we waited to be surprised with Paul. I loved being surprised and Dan didn’t mind the wait, so we’re waiting again this time. I guess you’ll all just have to wait with us. I have an inkling suspicion that it’s a girl, but, for the record, I’ve been wrong with every single baby so far. 😛

So far, this pregnancy has been the most difficult, with more nausea and food aversions than my other three. Then again, I’m also chasing around three Little Ones this time and I don’t get nearly as long of naps. I’ve been particularly disgusted by lentils, and for several weeks I couldn’t tolerate most foods. There haven’t been a ton of strong cravings, mostly little ones: ice in my water, nectarines, and simple sandwiches with tomato, mustard, and lettuce. I’ve felt well enough to handle breakfasts, but then I’ve been unable to eat much of anything come lunch time. After nap time I’ve felt the worst, and I usually haven’t felt better until after the kids are in bed. Then Dan teases me while I make whatever sort of dinner sounds good to me at the time. Lately, I’ve had a humongous craving for cottage cheese.

I had my second prenatal appointment at eight weeks and everything looked good. (That’s the ultrasound in the Instagram pic.) My third appointment was at twelve weeks, but Baby was measuring closer to thirteen. That was also my pre-op appointment for a minor surgery performed a week and a half later. It’s the same surgery I had with Paul, and the procedure that will hopefully help me carry this baby even longer. My next appointment isn’t until July 12th (17 weeks).

So, other than the difficulty eating, this pregnancy really is flying by. The kids keep me so busy and our summer is just so full of activities, that right now I’m distracted enough that I’m not counting the days. I’ve been trying to cook and freeze meals here and there, but it’s been nothing compared to last time because I’ve been struggling to cook much of anything anyway. Hopefully we won’t really need those freezer meals until after Baby is born!

Little Man is One

I’ve been finding it harder and harder to post on here since these kids keep me so busy running around, and even though it’s almost 4:00 and I haven’t cleaned up from lunch yet, I had to post SOMETHING about the Little Man’s Big Day.

Yesterday Paul turned one.

 photo paul_zpsguejaahb.jpg

He loved his birthday and he loves being one. Grandma and Grandpa surprised us all by coming down to celebrate a day early and they gave him a tee and bat and ball, so he’s more eager than ever to learn to stand up so he can play ball with his Daddy.

Ever since he was a newborn, there’s been an ongoing joke that Paul has wanted some bacon. It became such a big deal that we just couldn’t pass his birthday without getting him some. So we found some less-bad-for-you turkey bacon at our favorite store and brought it home to cook up with his big dinner. Not only did the Big Guy get bacon, he got cake. Yes, he is our first baby who actually got to eat cake on his first birthday because with our other preemies we were extra diligent to avoid all the allergens and sugar. Well, to be fair, this was more of a banana bread than a real cake (sugar free, dairy free, egg free…) but it’s what we call cake and he dug right in.

 photo cake_zps21h4ekvr.jpg

A tradition of mine is that I always make a cross-stitched picture to go on the kids’ birthday cards. For Paul I did a baseball picture of Charlie Brown, because we’ve often told Paul that he resembles the big-headed cartoon character. And baseball because, he’s his daddy’s boy.

 photo mommy_zps6soanurn.jpg

Dan carried on a tradition from his own dad and gifted Paul with the entire set of baseball cards from the year he was born. Paul was so fascinated by them, I could not get him to look at the camera.

 photo cards_zps6gom0vaw.jpg

We spent a little extra time praying for Paul around the dinner table and on the way to Bible Study we retold the kids Paul’s birth story.

Paul has been such a joy, such a blessing to our family. He loves to play, wrestle, eat, and snuggle Mommy. He’s content and cheerful and can entertain himself, and even seems to be learning not to climb up on the dishwasher when it’s open. 😉 His first year has been a memorable one that involved ZERO trips to the NICU, and we still find it hard to believe God gave us a baby we could bring home with us the day we left the hospital. We are eagerly looking forward to the next year with our Little Man and all of the excitement it has in store.

 photo 01_zpsikycuglf.jpg
 photo 02_zpszduly9ta.jpg
 photo 03_zpsu9e4lpl1.jpg
 photo 04_zpsjvlktyyk.jpg

Happy First Birthday Paul!

On His Feet

Paul is closing in on one year, but before he gets there I needed to give an eleven-month update!

This month Paul was up to 20.4 pounds. Compared to his sisters at this age, he’s HUGE. And doing a lot more too. I remember at 11 months when Abby army-crawled for the first time. Paul is not only army crawling…

 photo IMG_0537_zps8qign1u0.jpg

He’s getting up on all fours…

 photo IMG_0545_zpsbmiwtkxj.jpg

And standing.

 photo IMG_20160222_132344_zpshdwqih1y.jpg

For weeks, Paul liked to crawl over to our fireplace and push up on the ledge. He’d stand there in a sort of push-up position for a long time. Then he figured out how to pull up on things and now he’s really standing. He has yet to take any steps while holding on, but he loves being upright and almost as tall as Abby.

 photo IMG_0520_zpslcf7fnsp.jpg

Paul also likes to get into things…making my job a little harder. His favorites are dirty diapers (while I’m changing Abby’s diaper) and the toilet. Yup, he’s a boy. Other boy things he likes to do include chasing the vacuum cleaner and climbing on top of Abby whenever she’s on the ground. He’s watched Daddy wrestle the girls enough to know that the person on top is the winner.

 photo IMG_0549_zpsn1nbfxgf.jpg

Paul’s gearing up for baseball season too. He’s thrilled that the weather is getting warmer. We had our first outing to the playground this month and he desperately wanted to get down and crawl all over everything. It was wet, so we had to keep him in our arms that time, but he was super observant, taking everything in.

 photo IMG_0497_zpswrsqsdlw.jpg

In fact, Paul is often observant. He watches whatever is going on in a serious face, preferring to be in Mom’s arms whenever it gets close to bed or nap time. But if you get down to his level and start a conversation, you are likely to see his little grin. Keep talking and he’ll flash you a huge toothy smile (two front teeth now). His hair is getting pretty shaggy, and he’s due for a haircut soon, but right now we are enjoying his bed head after naps too much to cut it just yet.

 photo IMG_0569_zpswhh2ggrr.jpg

Paul is a content and happy baby. Often before going to sleep he’ll just keep looking at me and giggling. When I put him down he lets out some protests but willingly goes to sleep without too much of a fight. With our late night and early morning feeds, he pretty consistently lets me sleep non-stop in between.

 photo IMG_0466_zps3fhc9kah.jpg

He loves to eat and play and I just know he’s going to have a ton of fun this summer when we start spending more time outside. I wouldn’t be surprised if he started walking within a few months, and I’m sure he’ll be hitting baseballs with his dad not long after that!

 photo IMG_0570_zpsixbfocsj.jpg

Little Rascal

This month has been a month of “mores” for Little Man. Paul is 10 months old this week, still weighing in at just under 19 pounds.

 photo IMG_0304_zpsjjvqs42x.jpg

First of all, Paul is sleeping more. Yay! I desperately started cornering moms at church one week asking for their best sleep advice. I didn’t get much that was helpful, but what I did get was prayer. Thank you to you ladies who have been praying!

Normally Paul goes to bed at around 8:00 and gets up at around 8:30 in the morning. In between there I usually stay up a little later before bed and get up at 5:30 to make Dan coffee for work. So, I decided to make use of my already awake time and feed Paul. It’s working! I wake Paul up before I go to bed and feed him, then I feed him again before or after I make Dan’s coffee, and for now, that’s enough to keep him satisfied through the night. Good job, Buddy!

 photo IMG_0350_zpsogxv1uvz.jpg

Oh, and this is Paul’s sleepy face. If you ever see him crawling around like this, it means he is in dire need of a nap. This is also his, “Mommy is holding me and I am content face”. I love the two-finger sucking. Pacifier days are over; we’ll deal with the finger-sucking later.

Paul is playing with his sisters more. Sometimes I’ll send one or both upstairs to wake Paul up from a nap. They’ll talk to him, try to tickle him through the side of his crib, and giggle together. Then, when Paul is not napping, they’ll bring him toys, tickle him and talk to him. It’s super cute.

 photo IMG_0336_zpsbdiwefzw.jpg

Also, I have come to the sad conclusion that good family pictures for the Taylor family are pretty much a thing of the past. These kids…

 photo IMG_0269_zpsi8xvpvgt.jpg

Paul is also eating more. Now that he’s figured out finger-foods (and there’s no going back), we can hardly keep up with him. It’ll be a relief when he gets more teeth and fine motor control so we don’t have to tear or cut all his food into little pieces. Whoever is on Paul-duty can hardly get a bite in between refilling his tray or bowl. Two weeks in a row, we’ve practically run out of food because we’re adjusting to the obscene amounts this boy can eat. You don’t even want to know how many bananas we go through in a week!

 photo IMG_0360_zpsuo4hiacw.jpg

Just for fun, here’s a clip of Paul finishing off some of those bananas I was talking about.

Little Man is also crawling more. I haven’t captured a good picture yet, but he’s even getting up on all fours and rocking back and fourth. Neither of the girls did that, and neither of the girls were mobile until 11 months. Paul absolutely loves it when Dan gets down on the floor and army crawls around with him.

 photo IMG_0401_zpslnxfoltl.jpg

We’re just loving these days with our little Rascal and the Munchkins. Paul is proving to be just as smiley as the girls, and, if you haven’t picked up on it yet from the pictures, he looks very much like Abby. If this appetite of his keeps up, it won’t be long before strangers are mistaking them for twins.

 photo IMG_0399_zpsqhve1dvx.jpg