The Wonder Weeks: 5-20

IMG_9398I rocked and sang and prayed while you fussed and nursed.  It had been a hard day, smack in the middle of Week 5.  Your daddy had been laid off, I was facing the impending end of my short maternity leave, and I was exhausted, overwhelmed and scared. And then, in the middle of the night, came the message from Hayley, telling me about the wonder weeks.  I downloaded the app and read about your leaps and your sunny seasons and your storms.  Right over the middle of Week 5, I saw a little rain cloud and remembered how Jesus calms the storms.  Tears shone on my cheeks in the glow of my cell phone as I held you tight.  Pure grace, that app in the middle of the night.

And so the Wonder Weeks pass.

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I love watching you learn, Elijah.  You go through leap after leap, and sometimes your new tricks are obvious and important, like holding your head up, and other times, you grab hold of your hair, or you just hold onto your finger for a whole afternoon and I can’t help but laugh.  You’ve conquered smiling and grabbing and chewing and playing with your toes and scooting on your butt and rolling over back to front and you’ve almost got front to back. You have outgrown your chair on the counter and moved on to rockin’ & rollin’ in the exersaucer.  For several weeks you would happily hang out on your play mat for long stretches, but now we play the fun game called Not Where I Left You. You’re on the move, Eggs.  It’s terrifying, but I love it.

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You’ve been on so many adventures already.  At 6 weeks, we packed you up and flew to Seattle.  People thought we were crazy. Maybe we were, but you did great.  And now you’ve been to Kansas, Washington, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan and North Carolina, with airport stops in St Louis and Denver, and you’ve also been to Canada.  That’s the one great thing about your dad being unemployed right now and you sleep so well in the car – it’s easy to go places.  I love that you’ve met all 4 of your living great grandparents and all but one set of your great aunts/uncles, plus lots and lots of our friends.  You were born into a pretty incredible family, Elijah Graham, and you are so loved.

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We’ve pretty well managed to keep you out of the Doctor’s office except for your 2- and 4-month shots.  We’re all about the vaccinations, and we love seeing how you stretch and grow.  You’ve still got your blocked tear duct, but you’ve outgrown your reflux and Zantac, and you had nearly doubled your birth weight by 3 months.  You do love to eat, Nugget.  You’re a champion breastfeeder – easy and efficient – and I’m so grateful.

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We dedicated you to God on the hottest day of the summer. Tim and Cheryl spoke words of blessing over you and our family, and all your friends and relations were there to support us.  You are our son, Elijah, but you are first God’s.  May you always know that God is God.

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You slept like a champ for the first few months of your life and then your sleep fell apart in spectacular fashion.  Months two and three you generally only woke once to eat, and I counted my lucky stars.  Then.  4 months, day 1.  Womp womp. You woke 6 times between 1 and 4:30AM and I thought I would lose my mind. I have discovered that sleep deprivation heightens my anxiety like nothing else, and only therapy and Jesus kept the racing heart at manageable speeds.  We hunkered down, built a routine, and take one day and one night at a time.  It’s all any of us can really do.

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Your daddy’s kisses make you giggle, and you snuggle and wrestle and fly through the air and take the best naps with him.  I’ll say it again, sweet son of ours.  May you always know how much your father loves you.    IMG_0008

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Your hair is growing in like Donald Trump, your skin is soft and white like winter butter, and your smile melts my heart each day.  It seems like every week you have a new expression, and I delight in each and every one of them.  You are new grace in the morning, living, breathing, giggling, squirming.  We love being a 3-family, and we love you so.  Here’s to so many more weeks of wonder.

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We keep your memories on Instagram, and I unapologetically post a million pictures every day. #raisingelijah

L1: Month One

Ooh child, things are gonna get easier

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We sing the song over and over again.  Those five stair steps; we barely know the words, but we’re learning together.  We have SO much to learn, little one.  The first night home, it was your tiny pajamas that drove me to tears on your bedroom floor.  I didn’t know what you should wear to bed and hormones crashed hard around me and all I could do was cry.  Cry, and call for help.  Aunt Sarah to the rescue.

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E funny

There’s bubbles in your belly that make you burp and fart and make silly faces and sometimes we can’t help but laugh at you, Mr. Eggs.  But I know you’re uncomfortable by the way you fuss and stretch your little tummy, and all we can do is try home remedies on the weekend (turns out gripe water is for the birds) and wait for Dr. Kurt to come to work on Monday so we can call for help.

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E Dad

One day on week two I lost grip on a diaper tab and the elastic snapped back at you.  Your daddy assured me that you were far more startled than hurt, but you cried a little.  I’m so sorry, baby.  I cried a lot over that, E.  And sometimes my words snap at Daddy and all I can do is cry and say I’m so sorry, and pray for more help, more sleep, more grace.

***

Ooh child, things will be brighter

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We sing a lot of songs at night, you and I.  You’re a pretty good sleeper, but you get hungry at midnight and four and seven and I get up with you.  And He is just the same today, all you’ve got to do is trust and pray.  We rock and sing and change your pants (you are a professional pants-filler, sir).  Great is thy faithfulness, oh God, my father.  If I could sing it in all four parts, I would.  I sing blessings over you and reminders to my weary self.  Mommy gets you through the nights and Daddy gets us both through the days.  He has the harder job, I think.  He’s so good, Elijah.  You have such a good Daddy.

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E Daddy

I think your Daddy loved you even before I did in those first moments of your life.  I’m the one with the squishy baby hormones – my body tells me you’re cute.  But oh, if you could remember just one thing from this first month, Elijah, I would have you know how much your father loves you.  How fascinated by your tiny little self he is, even when you pee all over him.  The sweet words of silliness and delight he sings over you.  The way he stares at you in utter captivation, the special names he gives you.  It’s a strange thing, to love a little person who has no real means yet of returning love.  But son of ours, may you never doubt your father’s love for you.  It runs so, so deep.

***

Ooh child, things are gonna get easier

E Mom

A friend asked about my transition to motherhood and mentioned that photos of you make it look like we’ve settled in well.  I laughed and had to cry a little and we’re just doing the best we can, all three of us.  Many days do feel so light and easy and you’re just so darn cute, and some days I’m crying in Walgreens, overwhelmed by the sheer strength of your need for me, or you’re having a sad and vulnerable moment, but your Instagram scrapbook, well, it makes us smile.

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E mornings

You eat like a champ.  A sprint champ, that is.  You’re not a marathon eater, that’s for sure.  You latch easily as long as your diaper is clean, and your little fingers already grip my robe and my hair and my heart.  You nurse and nurse again, Daddy changes most of your diapers, and I…eat chocolate. No one told me about breastfeeding cravings, but your mama eats her chocolate so we all go on long walks in the neighborhood as life springs up new around us.

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E LaundryYou love the noise of the washing machine and steaming in the shower and flapping your hands, and you really hate having your little arms tucked inside your swaddle wrap at night.  The look on your face is just so sad, but then you settle down into your little glow worm self, snuggle in under my chin and there my heart goes bursting.  The vacuum cleaner, blender and handyman’s power saw don’t bother you while napping, but the soft closing of a door or zipper on my purse make you startle in your sleep. You grunt and snort and raise those eyebrows and give the best side eye west of the Mississippi.

***

Ooh child, things will be brighter

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Being parents is harder than we could have ever known, and we’ve learned that nothing is routine except needing to ask for help. Don’t expect a letter here every month, but morning by every morning, new mercies I see.  You are just so fun when you wake up, Squeaks the Squirrel. You are bright eyes and sticky-up hair and tentative milky smiles and endless diapers and eternal laundry. You light up our world in brand new ways every day, Elijah Graham.  Happy one month birthday!  I’m so grateful you made us a 3-family.

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What I’m Into / March 2015

March, I hardly knew ye.

I spent the first two weeks of March mostly at home, large and pregnant, and I’ve spent the last two weeks of March mostly at home, snuggling and feeding and changing Elijah.

That’s right, folks, we had a baby.  !!!!!

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Elijah Graham Wastell was born Sunday, March 15. He is, in a word, adorable.

IMG_7863 IMG_7812Also exhausting and needy and very infant-y, but oh, so beautiful.  We just love him.

I’ll spare you 800 more pictures here and just send you over to my Instagram feed: @annawastell where I typically end up posting several times a day.  There’s just so much cuteness to share.

Elijah arrived with a whirlwind fitting for his name.  Read the whole birth story here.

What I’m reading & What I’m watching
Reading is proving more difficult with a newborn than I had imagined.  It seems overly luxurious to sit down with only a book in my hands.  Watching TV feels far more multi-tasking friendly, so I should probably switch to audiobooks so I don’t become the girl who watches 12 hours of Netflix a day.  On that note, oh hey, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, I think I love you.  Such a fun new show, and just the perfect length for nursing E.

Little things I’m loving: new mommy edition

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Food brought by others. AMEN.  Lasagna, kolaches, groceries, whatever. Food = LOVE.

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Baby K’Tan.  This crazy wrap is saving our lives.  It’s easy to wear, and E loves hanging out in it.  Look mom, two hands!

IMG_8678IMG_8235Spring!  And taking walks with Elijah.  I can’t imagine trying to do these first few weeks at home in the winter.  I would go crazy, I think.

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Maybe in April I’ll have ore interesting thoughts about life, but for now, I’m just going to go back to snuggling this guy and praying he sleeps well tonight.  Wish us luck.

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I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer for her What I’m Into series. Hop on over to her blog for more.

L1: The delivery of Elijah Graham

I did finally make a birth plan.  I outlined a few things we wanted (hydrotherapy, freedom to move, plenty of skin-to-skin time), a few things we didn’t (analgesics, formula, unapproved visitors), and in bold at the top, I typed – in a good font, of course – Goal #1:  all 3 of us make it out alive. 

Everyone has lots of opinions and advice toward the end of pregnancy, but PB wins the prize for telling us to go on a date every night possible the last few weeks.  Those evenings turned into some really special last moments together as a 2-family. We froyo’d with the best of them, we went to Chipotle many many times, we held hands and walked (slowly) around our neighborhood, we tried out a new pizza joint, we arranged an evening with dear friends in Lincoln.

I had been having periodic Braxton Hicks over the past couple of months, and was dilated to a 2 at my appointment on Monday; I had been at a 1 for the previous 3 weeks.  Slow and steady, my OB told me.  I had noticed the onset of very mild, very irregular contractions earlier that week, which meant labor was nearing.  It better be, I thought.  I was 39 weeks pregnant.

39 weeks

As we left Lincoln a little after midnight on Saturday, March 14, my belly was full of steak, and my heart was full of warm conversations with a lifelong friend.  We stopped for a bathroom break at the Waverly exit – never listen to a pregnant woman if she tells you she doesn’t have to pee – and as we pulled onto I-80 heading East, I started having back contractions.  After checking in with Dr. Google, we knew this was it.   We had been to the relaxation classes, discussed breathing techniques and imagery with my therapist, and were mentally prepared (as much as possible) for a long night/day of labor and delivery ahead of us.

At Chad’s encouragement, I busted out the trusty Full Term app (highly recommend) and started timing my contractions as we drove down the interstate.  Thirty seconds long.  Every three and a half minutes.

I didn’t really know what that meant.  In childbirth class, they tell you to go to the hospital when your contractions are 1 minute long, 5 minutes apart, for 1 full hour.  My contractions weren’t long enough yet, I thought.  It’ll barely be an hour by the time we get home, I thought.  Contractions continued at that rate for the duration of the ride home.  Chad held my hand and rubbed a pressure point when they came on, and I focused on timing with the app.  Start.  Count to 30.  Stop.  Breathe.  Relax.

When we got home (around 1:30 AM), I called Lakeside hospital while Chad hopped in the shower.  Night Nurse Jenna (who would later become my very best friend), told me to drink a lot of water, lay down on my left side, and call her back in an hour.  But first, I had to deal with a crock pot roast I had going in the kitchen, and I couldn’t disturb our Airbnb guests upstairs.  Of course.

Eventually, I drank my water and laid down while Chad put the carseat in the car and assembled the last minute items for the hospital bag from my checklist. He also took out the trash, started the dishwasher and finished cleaning up from the roast. BLESS HIM.  During that hour, I had flu-like shakes, and my contractions increased in intensity and time, landing around 50 seconds long, every three minutes. Despite the pain, I felt calm, and focused on breathing slowly and stopping and starting the app timer.  At the end of the hour, around 2:45 AM, we called Lakeside back and Jenna told us to come on in.

We loaded me up in the car, avoided a drunk driver on Dodge Street, and I started the check-in process at the ER (which was unfortunately not unlike visiting the DMV) around 3:10 AM.  I have mad skills in wristband fastening thanks to my waterpark days, and I made the lady redo my hospital band. I’m not proud of the look I gave her when she put it on me wrong, but I had three contractions while I was sitting at her desk and I was over it.  Jenna took me up to the room while Chad parked and unloaded the car.

I had wanted to labor in the tub, so with the bath water running, Jenna did my first cervical exam at 3:30 AM.  “Oh, wow, you’re at 9, 9 Plus; bag of waters still intact, +1 station,” I heard Jenna say.  Oh, sh!t.

The on-call OB was called in (my beloved Dr. Sullivan was on vacation, of course), and I skipped the tub, and got gowned up and put on the delivery table. I grasped the bed handrail and Chad applied glorious counter-pressure to my lower back during contractions for the next 45 minutes while we waited for the OB to arrive.  Despite some moments of panic and undeniable pain, I felt pretty calm. I was very focused on one particular square of plastic on the handrail.  I don’t know.  It worked for me.

Nothing in the delivery room was actually ready for delivery, so the nurses scurried around completing preparations.  My IV port was inserted and reinserted (I had an epic bruise from the initial port hitting a valve), Chad nervously wondered if my Group B Strep antibiotics would be administered in time.  The hospital’s general on-call physician was called in to the room; the nurses worried that I was progressing so quickly and the on-call OB hadn’t arrived yet. I just tried to breathe.

At one point, I asked if it was too late for an epidural; even at this stage in the game, I still hadn’t quite decided whether or not I wanted drugs – I mostly thought I didn’t, but I was scared of what my body could or couldn’t handle, thanks to 28 weeks of emotionally and physically draining SI joint pain.  Jenna said that if ever there was a delivery to try without pharmaceuticals, this was it.  I had gotten this far already.  The nurses estimated a half-hour of pushing at the rate I was progressing. She told me I could do this, and I believed her.

Moment 1

Dr. Besse arrived at 4:15 AM, broke my water, and I started pushing immediately.  With Chad on one side of me and Jenna on the other, I ultimately pushed for an hour and fifteen minutes.  I burned through ice packs every few minutes, and a back up stash had to be procured.  I finally started ripping open the ice packs myself; I couldn’t get enough of the cool relief on my forehead and neck.  

Pushing was exhausting.  Every muscle in my body was tired, and I very badly wanted to sleep.  At one point, I legitimately considered taking a nap, but ultimately decided that sleeping wouldn’t be productive to actually birthing this child.  And I pushed.

I had noted on our birth plan that Chad should be given the opportunity to catch the baby.  I had neglected, however, to tell Chad about this. He was caught off guard when asked if he wanted to gown up and get ready to catch the baby – I had imagined having this conversation with a nurse hours prior to actually delivering.  He gowned up, moved to my feet, and Ashley took over holding my leg and popping instant ice packs.  “Push-2-3-4-5-6” Jenna counted.  And I pushed.

The nurses advised us that if we do this again, next time we shouldn’t bother calling ahead.  Just come on in, they told us. I laughed.  And I pushed.

Between sessions of pushing, I was able to catch my breath, recenter, and relax.  I took a lot of breaks.  I told jokes.  I thanked the nurses profusely. I apologized to the doctor for waking him up.  And I asked questions.  Did the nurses secretly know if it was a boy or girl?  No, but they thought it was a girl.  Was I making progress?  Chad ensured me that I was, indeed making progress.  I saw love, pride and encouragement written all over his face.  I could do this, his eyes said.  And I pushed.

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At 5:34 AM on Sunday, March 15, with a burst and a cry, L1 arrived.  Dr. Besse handed the baby’s head off to Chad, and my dear husband delivered our baby from me. He tearfully and joyfully announced, “It’s a boy!”  Our son was very carefully dried off (meconium was present in the amniotic fluid) and he was placed on my chest.  “Does he have a name?” Jenna asked.  Chad and I just looked at each other.  The huge responsibility of naming this person we had just barely met gave us pause.

“He came out like an Elijah,” Chad said.  Indeed.

Moment 3

Team Wastell became a Three-Family.  Elijah Graham Wastell had been delivered from me into this world.  We did it.  

Moment 4Get ready, dear one.  To live will be an awfully big adventure.  

L1: A Very Non-Pinterest Nursery

Leather pouf? Check.  Sheep skin rug? Check.  Handmade mobile? Check.  Color-coordinated chevron clothes sizing dividers?  Check check.

Except, none of that.  Pinterest (and my Facebook feed), is bursting with well-appointed, cutesy nurseries full of beautiful (and expensive) furniture and decor.  I enjoy decorating a room as much as the next girl, and to be honest, I love baby stuff – mostly because it’s all so tiny, and tiny things are cute.

HOWEVER. We don’t know where we will be living this summer/fall.  Maybe business school, maybe a teeny tiny (cute!) apartment, maybe a different home in Omaha, maybe in our current house.  With all those maybes, it just didn’t make sense to furnish and decorate a nursery to the hilt.

Plus, I’m kind of generally annoyed by the amount (and cost) of stuff that babies “need.”  Did I register for a $35 baby tub when a $10 (or free) version would work just fine?  You bet I did, but only because it folds flat. We did buy the most amazing rocking chair, but purged and reorganized the house so I could reuse my dresser and an old bookshelf.  95% of L1’s clothes are from Buy Sell Trade groups.  And, we didn’t buy a crib.  Without knowing how much room we’ll have at our next residence, it seemed a little premature to invest in a big piece of furniture.  So, travel size Pack ‘n Play it is, at least for the first few months.  One step up from the laundry basket situation I’ve been scheming about, I figure.

L1 Nursery

Your room is all ready, kiddo.  Any time you want to join us would be just fine with me.

Ready or not

holding hands

We lay on the couch, blankets tucked around our feet, fingers intertwined.  Frank and Claire’s strange relationship played out before us, and I couldn’t help but cry for everything changing.  People ask me if you’re ready for life to change, if you’re ready to be a dad, if you’re ready to share me, if you’re ready for the not sleeping and the selflessness and the sacrifices that seem to be an inevitable part of this thing called parenting.  People ask me if you’re ready, like somehow I’ve got a leg up on you. Like somehow I’m supposed to be already ready.

Truth is, you’re already the one holding me when I can’t sleep.  You’re the one making 84 trips up and down the steps hauling things too heavy for me to carry.  It’s you who has infinite patience when I’m on the edge.  It’s you calling me beautiful when all I can see is a swollen belly and swollen feet.  The dancing in the kitchen is more often your idea lately, and it’s your songs and silliness keeping me laughing.

Truth is, I don’t know if I’m ready to share you.

Our two-family is becoming a three-family very soon.  L1 will be on the outside, a squirming, squishy Whole Person. I can’t wait to watch you love our baby.  I know how huge your heart is and how generous you are with your love and strength, and I have to trust that your arms are long enough to hug us both.

I love our two-family.  I love being your wife.  Becoming a three-family, becoming parents, is equal parts exciting and terrifying.  There’s no one I’d rather do this with.  I just love you.